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The Antar Chronicles, Chapter 11: I Have a Dream...
Reply to Alex Parrish
Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 27, 2004
Now, you know that I am not a vain person. OK maybe a little. But I've gotta tell you that I look damn fine in a uniform. This one was a deep red and had a lot of gold braid and bric-a-brac, and fit me quite nicely. A good meal (sort-of,) a shower (sort-of,) a shave, and clean clothes; what more could a weary space traveler ask for?
Well, there is one thing. It should work this way: the handsome King sleeps, and the handsome young officer comes along and kisses him and the King wakes and they live happily ever after. It should work that way. It should!
Even before entering the quarters, I could tell there was no change.
"Oh my! Look at you! Kyle, you look... you look so handsome!"
I did a full turn so that Liz could take-in the whole effect. She even whistled.
After an abbreviated description of my experiences at the Mess and in the cleansing station, I sent Liz off on her walk and told her not to return until she had eaten and cleaned herself up. She left reluctantly, but she left.
It felt so good to be cleaned-up, I decided that it was the least I could do for Max. I stuck my head out the door and called for Jaffier, who was stationed just down the hall. He practically ran to the door. I told him what I wanted and he returned in less than three minutes with everything I needed. Jaffier asked if he could help me, but this was something I wanted -- no, needed -- to do by myself. I felt so powerless to help Max. I felt the very least I could do was to shave and bathe him myself.
He had not shaved since the day we left earth, and his beard was getting very heavy. I had a package of 8 disposable razors in my emergency backpack and had used two myself since I had left Earth. It took all of the remaining six to get Max shaved. I didn't want to nick or scrape his skin. When I finished I stepped back to admire my work. No one was around, so I checked my work by kissing each cheek, his chin, and then his lips for good measure. With each kiss I imagined he would wake. I WILLED it to be so, to no avail. I had requested actual water (gen-u-ine H2O!) to bathe him. I had soap in my backpack and Jaffier had supplied a cloth and a towel. I pulled off the blanket and began.
Max and I had bathed and showered together before, but that had always been a joyful, sensuous experience. This was different. I had never washed an inert body before and as much as I tried to block it out of my mind, the thought that it was like being an undertaker, or that I might be bathing him for his burial, was never far from the edges of my consciousness. As breathtakingly beautiful as Max's body is, there was absolutely nothing erotic about this task, not this time. When I finished I replaced the blanket and could not resist one more kiss on the lips.
Max slept. I sat silently with him.
About half-an-hour after I finished, Liz returned. She had Isabel and Jesse, and Michael and Maria with her. Once again we were all together, except, of course, Max.
Everyone was cleaned-up, and Jesse and Michael were in uniforms identical to mine. The women wore the female version. It had a shorter jacket which was fitted differently, but otherwise their uniforms seemed pretty much the same as the mens. We looked like we were about to have a parade. They had eaten together and I asked what they thought of the food. Isabel and Michael agreed that it was good, but Maria rolled her eyes as only she can do. Jesse and Liz just laughed.
Then Liz's tone sobered a little. "Kyle, we were talking during our meal, and we kind-of agreed that perhaps a dreamwalk is something that could help. We didn't want you to be left out of the decision," (how very Liz-like) "so we're here to ask what you think, and to do it if you agree with us."
I interpreted that as, "We've all decided that it's time for a dreamwalk. so you may as well agree with us because it's gonna happen." Actually, the thought had already occurred to me both back on Maroon and, later, here on the flagship. I agreed with them. I was 'all for it.'
I did insist, however, that Isabel should do it. I had never dream-walked anyone but her, and she had far more experience. I knew in my own mind that I could do it, but I also sensed how much Isabel wanted to be the one to do it. I got to bathe him, I reasoned, so she should get to try the dream-walk. She needed that.
We dimmed the lights and Michael and Maria slipped out to the hallway, peering in through the door, so that we had a little more room. Jesse stretched out his six-foot-one frame in my pod and Isabel curled up next to him and closed her eyes to enter the dream. There was silence for about 5 minutes.
As she came back to us, she was clearly upset; she was crying.
"He's so confused... so confused, and he's hurting. Oh! He's in pain! And I couldn't... He wouldn't let me...
Jesse was right there in the pod with her, holding her and Michael and Maria crowded around the door and peered in to see and hear as much as they could. Liz and I bit our tongues; we were both bursting with questions.
"OK. I'm... I'm OK now. Just give me a second."
We all gave her several seconds and Jesse gave her his handkerchief.
"Something's gone terribly wrong in his mind. He's everywhere and there are, I'm not quite sure, about 20 of him running around in his dream. One moment he was 5-years-old and holding my hand, and the next he was yelling at me that he would do whatever he had to do to keep me from leaving Roswell. Then he was punching Jesse in the eye, and then he was holding his baby, and all the Maxes were mixed up together and there was one in the corner screaming. It was so chaotic, but through all of it he was in so much pain. I just couldn't stand to see him like that. I had to leave."
I was no longer biting my tongue. I didn't need to, I could think of nothing to say or even ask. Finally, I said, "Maybe I should go into the dream and see if I can make sense of it." No one challenged my notion -- dubious as it seemed --that I might accomplish something in the dream-walk which Isabel couldn't. We were grasping at straws.
"I... I wish I could go with you." Liz was looking at me wistfully.
"Maybe you can." Isabel, now a little more in control, looked as though she suddenly had a plan. "Once, when we were back in Roswell, I did it. Remember the autistic boy, Samuel? Max was sure the boy could communicate with his son. Well, the boy couldn't, but that's beside the point. I was able to join both his parents into the dreamwalk and then they were able to communicate with their child. Kyle, you could dreamwalk Max and bring Liz into the dream with you."
"I don't know... I've never tried that, and I'm not..."
Isabel interrupted. "Kyle, you're as good at dreamwalking as I am, probably better, and you know it. You can do this. I know you can." She explained to me, and to all of us, how she had searched the dream and located the other participants, and then woven them into one dream. It sounded possible to me, but I felt a little insecure. I was really feeling the pressure to perform once we decided to try it.
Liz eagerly agreed to join in and climbed into her pod immediately. We gave her a few minutes, and she drifted off into sleep.
I got in my pod, closed my eyes and cleared my mind. Before long I found that I had entered the dream, and before I looked for Max, I looked for Liz. I wasn't sure of what I was looking for, and I hoped I would know it if I found it. All at once, over at the edge of my dream, I sensed a presence -- a powerful intellect, but at the same time a sweetness and a kindness and a sense of fairness and compassion -- and a deep devotion -- which felt familiar to me. As I turned my attention to it, there was Liz, just like that. We embraced.
"Brace yourself. I think I can feel Max, and it's a pretty shocking feeling. I think it's going to be rough." What I didn't say was that I could already feel some of the pain he was experiencing.
Hand-in-hand, we walked to the far edge of the plane of my dreamscape and entered a cloud. We stepped into unbelievable chaos. Everywhere I looked there was an image of Max at some point in his life. There had to be thirty or forty of him. Liz and I separated, and some of the Maxes drifted towards her, while others drifted towards me. I began to realize that the images hovering around me seemed to be related to things Max and I had experienced together, as if my presence was focusing his mind on just those experiences. I wondered if Liz observed a similar gathering of experiences. I reached out to an image, but it drew away from me. It was immediately replaced by another image at another point in our shared life. The one thing they all had in common was that they were surrounded by a cloud of confusion and as each confused image morphed into another, it left behind a gaping hole of pain. I reached out towards the pain, and it did not pull back. I stuck my hand and arm into it, and was instantly overtaken with the excruciating pain, ripping at me, burning and trying to pull me apart. I jerked back my hand and the pain made no move to stay with me. I thought for a brief moment that I might be able to absorb the holes of pain, one by one, and foolish as it was, I tried to surround a hole and take it into myself. It nearly tore me limb from limb but still I tried to carry it away from Max's image, but when I moved, the pain stayed right where it was. It was Max's pain, not mine. I could share in it, but I couldn't take it away. It wasn't long before I knew I couldn't stand any more. I called to Liz and she was instantly beside me and, hand-in-hand, we walked away from the cloud, and away from Max. I willed myself to wake.
When I found myself awake, I rolled out of my pod and gently touched Liz's head with a kiss and she woke as well. Neither of us could speak for a while. The group had the good sense not to overwhelm us with questions right away.
After a few minutes, we began to describe what we experienced in the dream-walk. For a while, it almost seemed as though we had brought the cloud into the room with us. Everyone was breathing gloom. We talked about what we might do to try to bring some order to Max's mind, but no one had any actual ideas. For lack of a plan we decided that Liz and I should each make a list of the moments in Max's life which we had observed him reliving while we were in the dream. We weren't exactly sure why, but it was something we could do. We each wrote down those we could remember. We each read our list aloud.
Liz's ListHe was drunk and trying to get me to run away from Roswell with him, just the 2 of us.
We were breaking up for the first time.
We were in bed and he was telling me how much he wants us to have children.
He saw Kyle and me in bed together.
We were on the roof at the Crashdown, and he was giving me a diamond and asking me to marry him.
He was a pallbearer carrying Alex's casket.
It was our wedding night at that little hotel in Nevada where we stopped for the night and we were getting ready for bed.
We were faking a holdup so that he could locate the alien spacecraft.
We were at the Christmas service in the park in Roswell.
We were in the Granolith cave and he said "it's the four of us" and he meant me -- not Tess.
It was the day he got stopped by the state trooper, and Isabel made his shirt disappear.
My ListHe was at our wedding in San Francisco, and he was repeating his vows.
He was wearing only boxers and his head was shaved. There were black circles under his eyes.
He was shirtless and dancing, obviously high on the marijuana smoke at Babylon.
He was putting sunblock on my chest.
We were on the Titanic and he was teasing Isabel about breaking in on us.
He was pulling me from the cave where the Gandarium had trapped Alex and me.
He was holding me as I woke from my coma at the lodge.
It was the afternoon Michael nearly caught us 'in the act' at his apartment in Roswell. (Michael demanded to know about that. I told him I'd tell him later, guessing he would forget.)
He was cheating at counting-off to race with me the night I got him drunk.
It was the evening I realized I could read thoughts, and he was thinking a sexy thought in front of everyone just to embarrass me.
It was the day Albert was channeling Larek, and Max really took on the role of leader seriously.
It was the first time I spent the night in his bedroom in Roswell, and Isabel almost caught us.
Just about the only thing we discovered from our lists was that at least some of the Maxes were reliving good memories.
"So what do we do with all these manifestations? What good does it do to list them all?" Maria looked really depressed.
Jesse spoke up. "The really important question here is, Can we get him to do something to pull all these things together? Something so important that everything else pales and he is compelled to pull all the Maxes into one?"
Silence. More silence.
Finally, Michael spoke, dryly and rather matter-of-factly. "The Crashdown, the day Liz was shot. The first time he ever used his powers for a human, and exposed us. That was a seminal event. None of the stuff that has happened in the last three-and-a-half years could have happened -- at least not in the way it did -- if he had listened to me and walked away."
Liz slowly shook her head. "I don't know how we could manage to do that. I can't dream-walk without Kyle or Isabel."
No one spoke again for a while. The frustration in the air was palpable.
"I think... I can do it." I didn't say it all that loudly because I wasn't all that sure, but I was desperate to do SOMETHING to help Max. "I think we could both enter the dream, but I could construct something to hide behind -- to take the focus off me -- and then he'll be forced to concentrate on saving you. I can't guarantee it, but so far, his personalities in the dream seem to respond to my dream construct, at least I think that's what is happening. Liz, I wasn't at the Crashdown when you were shot, so I'm going to have to rely on you to construct that. You'll need to try to have a clear idea of what it was like when we go into the dream." We talked a little about how it looked and felt to her so that she was comfortable with her perception of the incident.
Isabel was hesitant. "Do you really think this will work? That experience was so significant that reliving it might just make him more upset and confused and increase his pain. How do you know you won't be hurting him more?
"I don't! I don't KNOW anything except that we have to do SOMETHING! We can't afford to just stand-by while he slips further and further away from us. It's time to get off our royal alien asses and try." I suddenly realized that I was almost shouting at Isabel, and she was cowering. "I... I didn't mean to shout. I'm sorry. I know that we've all done the best we can and, Isabel, you know that I would never, ever, purposely hurt Max, but I'm just afraid that if this goes on for much longer we may lose him... permanently."
"So am I," She practically whispered. She was no longer cowering, and looked more like she was resigned to it. "Let's do it."
It took a few minutes to prepare. Liz and I arranged ourselves on a single sleeping pod this time. She kind-of curled up into me. It felt nice. I noticed her hair smelled really good, and I wondered how that could happen. Did she get to wash in a different kind of goop from me? Then I closed my eyes and began to concentrate on the dream. I was getting pretty good at entering the dream at will, and it was easier this time to find Liz. It was as if she just seemed even more familiar to me, and I knew exactly where to find her.
The chaos was greater than ever. There must have been 50 Maxes and for a moment I almost lost my concentration. Then I gained control of the dream again.
"Liz, stand right over here and begin concentrating on the Crashdown. As soon as I see it materializing, I'll hide myself."
It was fascinating to see the Crashdown just appear before my eyes, and I thought I could even smell real food. I almost forgot to hide. Then a shot rang out and things crashed all around, and I could see a small spot of red appear at Liz's stomach as she lay on the floor. In a moment, there was a Max, right there in front of her. He placed his hand on her, but the blood still flowed. It appeared as though the Max kneeling in front of Liz with his hand on her stomach was becoming less opaque, more dense than the others, but the other Maxes were still there. One or two floated towards the denser Max and disappeared into him, but there were still quite a few of him around, and Liz was still bleeding. Blood was running onto the plane which formed the floor making a creeping puddle. A few more Maxes joined the dense one, but there were at least 30 other Maxes still carrying on with their own piece of existence. Blood flowed.
"Kyle this isn't enough. It isn't working. We've got to do something more."
I was desperate. I moved more on instinct than thought. I came out of hiding and found myself lying on the floor right next to the most dense Max, close to, but just opposite Liz.
I felt myself cough and I looked down at my chest and saw the deep crimson dot spread to a circle and begin to cover my chest and run down onto my sides and my stomach. My blood was pumping like "Old Faithful" from the hole in my shirt.
I heard my father's voice cry out. "Somebody help me. Save my son... please!" (He sounded so desperate, almost crying. I don't actually remember that, so where did it come from?)
Max reached out with his other hand and placed it on my chest right in the middle of the red flood of what was left of my life. His eyes were closed -- the opposite of what he did in reality -- and as he seemed to concentrate, other Maxes drifted towards him and began to merge into this one Max. As more merged with him, each made him appear a little more dense. He was sweating, trembling, and his breathing was labored. Still the blood flowed -- less quickly, but yet still flowing. I didn't think there was this much blood in my body. I wondered, if I died in the dreamwalk would I really die? Would Liz? I just didn't know the answer, and it was far too late to turn back.
"Save us, Max. Save Liz, save me."
Even as I spoke, more and more images of Max were drifting in and merging with this one Max.
Suddenly he opened his mouth and his eyes, and let out the most horrifying scream, and there was a bolt of lightning and then... everything was quiet. Only one Max remained. The blood was gone; all of it, Liz's and mine. We were whole. He smiled and reached out gathering both of us into one embrace, then I was squirted out of his dream like a seed from a grapefruit. Splat!
I opened my eyes. His were already open. He was awake. That's probably what ejected me from the dream. I was holding Liz and she was rubbing her eyes.
"Liz, are you OK?" I had no way of knowing if the dream had done any physical damage. I felt OK, but I was afraid to look down at my chest just yet.
"Yes. Yes! Max, you're here!" She pulled herself out of my arms, off the pod and covered Max's lips with her own.
I let it go on for fifteen or twenty seconds before saying, "My turn." Liz giggled and climbed to the other side of the gurney.
Max propped himself up on his elbows. The blanket slid down, exposing his chest, and he lifted the blanket enough to peer under it and to notice he was naked. The questions came pouring out of him. "Where are my clothes? Where am I? How long have I been sleeping? I'm hungry. What's going on here?"
I stopped the questions with my kiss, but Liz and Michael had begun laughing and it was contagious. We were all giddy with joy. Maria was jumping up and down and Jesse was practically dancing. Jaffier came running from his post to see what had happened, wedging himself between Maria and Jesse, and when he saw Max he turned and ran, presumably to the bridge. We were still doubled over with joyous laughter when the communications system announcement came ringing through the whole ship and I translated for the group.
"His Royal Majesty Zan VI, Sovereign King of the Antarian Federation, and Emperor of Antar, has awakened. Long live the King!" Then there was music. I somehow knew it was the Royal Anthem, even though I had never actually heard it before. It sounded glorious! We could hear the crew joyously singing at the top of their lungs throughout the flagship. As it concluded, the Commander of the vessel appeared at the door, standing at attention, and beaming.
For the very first time, I began to feel truly ready to travel to Antar. For the first time it felt right and good. For the first time I began to feel that I might, in fact, be going to someplace that could become "Home."
Continue to Chapter 12
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