Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Adept Tales 03 ~Shattered Dreams~ "The Morning After"

The world is often confusing when you first wake up. Shattered dreams blend into the day leaving traces of fantasy behind. It’s strange that I can still clearly remember the dream I was having that day. I was walking through a dark forest that wasn’t a forest. Everything bent and changed around me, forming into something new. Something that was somehow still surrounded by trees but on the edge of being something else. A figure began forming out of the darkness. I could almost make out the wavy face when the dream shattered.

“Wake up Joshua. It’s time.” At first I thought it was the dark figure who said it, and sometimes, looking back, I think it might have been. As the world began to refocus, I saw my father standing in my bedroom doorway. Whatever piece of the dream world that still had me washed away when I saw his face. His eyes where red and puffy like he’d been crying, but the expression on his face was emotionless.

“What is it? What’s wrong? Time for what?” I asked as I frantically got up from my bed.

“Just get dressed and meet me out back.” His voice held the same emotion his face did, none. In 11 years of life, I’d never heard my father talk that way. It frightened me in a way I’ve never experienced since. With that he turned and walked away, leaving me in my confusion and fear.

I got dressed as fast as I could, afraid to leave the man waiting too long. He had always been stern, but something about the way he was acting made me believe the consequences would be great if I wasn’t prompt. As I headed through the house to the back door I noticed Abigail’s door was open. She wasn’t in her room which, normally, wouldn’t be strange all on its own, but with our father acting like he was I began to wonder. I stopped in the hall and listened for signs of life. Our house was small enough and old enough that just about any movement made some sort of noise. I strained my ears, but there was nothing. As far as I could tell no one was home. Maybe she was outside too.

It’s strange now to remember that I wasn’t the least bit concerned about where Mom was. For some reason it didn’t seem out of place even though it was as well. My only thoughts were of Abigail and my father's strange mood. I hurried toward the backdoor with renewed apprehension. Maybe the answers were outside too.

Our house sat nearly hidden in what passed for a forest in the mountains of Southern Nevada. Our backyard wasn’t much more than a small clearing. As I emerged from the back door I nearly fell as I struggled to comprehend what I was seeing. My father stood in the middle of the clearing, head down, arms clutched behind his back. There was a circle of strange symbols burned into the ground around him forming a wide circle. I stopped, mouth gaping open. If I hadn’t been confused before, I was then.

When my eyes could finally stop to focus on one thing, what they chose was my father’s eyes. His head was still down, but his eyes were turned up to me, piercing me. His gaze was like a weight or maybe gravity. I suddenly felt separated from my body and I had a sense that I was taking a step forward. Even now I don’t know why I resisted it, but I did. In my mind I fought for my own control, and as if a fog lifted, my senses rushed back into my body. I took the step back, fear dancing through every inch of my nerves.

“Come to me Joshua.” I felt the sensation try at me again. It was like an invisible force was trying to push me aside. I braced myself, stood my metaphysical ground, and felt the force wash over me and recede. My father’s facial expression never changed, but he raised his head and gave a small nod, “Very good. Now, please, enter the circle and stand before me.”

Maybe it was the please, or that I was able to consciously resist the second wave, but I did as he asked. I slowly walked forward and crossed over the symbols etched in the earth. As soon as I was across I felt something break over me. A sensation unlike anything I’d ever felt before surged through me, and I felt within me a spark spread to meet the growing energy. When the initial rush faded I was left breathless, but I felt energized, like I could do anything. I could still feel the power, but I was riding with it instead of being ridden.

“This is a training circle and has been used for a thousand generations to hone the skills of our people. It is designed to amplify the Shine inside you.” He spoke as a lecturer does to his class. The words seemed official and bland, as if he’d said them a million times.

I knew I shouldn’t ask, but the words formed before I could stop them, “What’s the Shine?”

Anger flashed on his face for only the briefest of moments before returning to his emotionless mask, “The Shine is a powerful energy. It seeps into the cracks of reality and binds with it. It also flows through us, is one with us. We use the Shine to help us bend and shape reality. When you are skilled enough you will be able to use it to manifest your will.”

“Manifest my will?”

“Yes.” He seemed sad when he said it though his voice and expression hadn’t changed. I realized with a shock that I could actually feel his sorrow coming off him in waves.

“Father, where’s Abigail?” There, just for a flash, the sadness filled his eyes, then gone. I felt him draw back his emotions, felt a barrier crash into place blocking me out. His eyes went cold and distant, even more so then before.

“Abigail’s gone.” He continued on like the question was never asked or that the answer was sufficient, “You’ve already had a taste of the first lesson, but let’s explore further.” I felt his essence crash into me. I tried to resist, but it was stronger this time. “You must first learn to protect yourself. Block me out, push me aside!”

I felt my mind open to him, felt the walls that held me together crumble away. I knew, without knowing how or why, that he had me. Every thought I ever had was laid bare. I knew he could destroy my mind, or even rebuild it if he wished. I screamed wordlessly and fell to my knees gripping my head as if it would help. I felt everything wash away, and I was left floating in blackness. Then there was nothing and I was gone.

After what seemed like an eternity, I came back to myself. I was floating in blackness, surrounded by a strange web of purple energy. My father’s voice came out of the darkness, “This is the Spirit Web. It binds all things together.” As he spoke pieces of the world began forming in the web. Even now, I’m not sure how I knew, but I could tell that each partial of reality was attached to the web. I could see almost without seeing as the threads intertwined and connected the trees, our house, even me. “The Shine allows us to see the web,” and as he said it I could see the Shine as well.

The light of it seemed to fill every space on and between the web. The sheer magnitude of it was overwhelming. It filled me and seemed to burst from my pores. The feeling was too much. I screamed again, trying to push it all aside. Suddenly it was gone. I was left panting on the ground inside the training circle, the web and the Shine seemed to disappear, but I knew they were still there.

“Very good,” my father said with a strange smile on his face, “there may be hope for you yet.”


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