John O'Brien



She ‘hears’ another message. It’s one of danger from fire above. The message conveys the danger of the sound she faintly hears. Hide. And then come, the ending message says. She turns in the direction of the one she senses. She can only feel him from this distance because of his strength. She begins to run through the night in his direction. She will come.

The chilled night air blows against her face as she jogs through the darkened streets. Her pack follows behind, the sound of their many feet echoing off the silent buildings. She still feels caution at bringing her pack to join with others but the call is persistent. The faint rumbling from the night sky becomes louder as she heads north towards the strong one she senses. Periodic flashes of light materialize from the sky in the distance. The horizon lights up a second later followed by a thunderous roar. She feels the earth beneath her feet shake with each explosion. She doesn’t know what is causing the light and roars from above but carries the image sent by the other one telling of the danger and the demise of packs. Whatever is in the sky is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.

She and her pack continue through the streets. Gazing up into the night with each explosion, she senses her pack’s apprehension with each flash of light and roar. If the sounds draw closer, she will scatter them into the neighboring buildings as per the images she “heard” earlier. Smells of food rise from time to time, coming from side streets as they pass but she only hesitates for a moment and then pushes on. Her goal to reach the other one stays strong with her. She senses the other pack leaders who joined her earlier hesitate with each fresh scent and they query her. “Push on” she sends back. They hesitate a moment longer and pick up their pace to catch her.

She rounds a corner and comes to a stop. A large, domed building rises in front of her. This is where she senses the other one along with many other packs. Her caution deepens as she inspects the structure and outlying area. She’s wary about joining a larger pack as she doesn’t know what position that would put her in. She knows she will be taken care of as she is carrying a young one but she enjoys leading her pack and is secure in the knowledge that they can support themselves. If she joins another one, it will be more difficult to hunt and find food for so many. On the other hand, she knows with so many, they can track and trap food easier but they will have to journey far to find enough for all of them.

The others around her sense her apprehension and mill about scanning the heavens as the droning nears from time to time. She shakes her head dispelling these thoughts. She answered the call so she will continue on knowing she can take her pack and leave at any time. A thunderous explosion fills the night and shakes the ground as if signaling that it’s time to get inside. Sending a signal that she is arriving with her pack, she steps forward and trots to an entrance door.

She enters the building as another booming explosion from nearby vibrates the ground. Proceeding through another door, she enters the interior. The room is vast and will easily hold both packs with room for others. Pack members mill or stand still on the steps and seats surrounding a large wooden floor. With each blast outside, they stop and gaze nervously at the high ceiling. She strides across the polished wood floor which feels cool and slick beneath her feet toward the one she sensed. He is squatting in the middle of the floor with others around him staring at the ceiling like the others. His eyes meet hers as she draws near. Her hand drops and subconsciously rubs her stomach as if consoling the young one who resides there. With her pack fanned out behind her, she comes to a stop before him.

“Welcome. I’m Michael,” he says, rising.

His introduction with a name confuses her. She has never heard of a “name” before and his naming himself in such a manner ripples through her mind. It jars something loose in her. The remembrance of another language comes to her, one that is sound rather than images. Then, as if a dam breaking, a torrent of images and thoughts flood her brain. She recoils and feels her knees grow weak as dizziness descends. Thoughts race through in an unrelenting rush. After several moments, they steady and the dizzy feeling ebbs. She knows she can speak and understand the language of sounds. The name Michael makes sense and she knows it is a form of identification. Images swirl haphazardly, memories flicker.

“I’m Sandra,” she sends.

“You and your pack are welcome here,” Michael says.

A muffled blast from outside causes a tremor to run under their feet. Their heads turn toward the entrance door as the sound rolls over the building like thunder fading from an angry sky. The rumbling dwindles into nothing with leaving only the perception of something droning in the sky outside.

“What is that?” Sandra asked, sending her images to Michael.

Michael looks around as heads turn towards him waiting for his answer. He says nothing contemplating his answer. He doesn’t want to have the others around him “hear” his answer. Even if he turns down his projection of images to a near whisper, those close by would still “hear” him. He switches to the vocal language hoping she can understand.

“Can you understand this?” He asks, looking back to Sandra.

The vocal language sounds both familiar and unfamiliar to her. She has a hard time at first even understanding that words are spoken but, after an internal struggle, her mind clicks and understanding follows. It seems to her to be a more cumbersome way of communicating. The images she was accustomed to convey so much more in a shorter period of time than the sounds and words of the language that Michael is using.

“Yes, I can understand,” she says, tentatively.

The sounds that issue from her throat and mouth feel strange. They come out raspy and feel like an unused and rusty part of her as if they haven’t been used in a long, long time. She has a hard time not converting the words to images.

“Good. I don’t know what it is. It’s something in the sky that flashes light and I feel packs vanish whenever the flashes occur. I think it has something to do with the two-legged ones,” Michael answers, his words also raspy.

“Then we should attack and eliminate them,” Sandra says.

“I’ve scouted their lair and didn’t find a way in. Right now, we need to avoid the two-legged ones to save the packs and hunt,” he says.

Sandra doesn’t agree. Her thought is to attack the lair with all of the pack members and eliminate them but she doesn’t voice her opinion. She wants to look at the lair for herself first. Memories arise of the two-legged one who brushed her mind not so long ago. A flush spreads through her body with the remembrance and her hand once again unconsciously drifts to her belly. No, this is not the right time. She and her pack will attack to keep the packs safe but she envisions having the two-legged one for herself.

“You’ll keep your pack as we hunt but will take your direction from me,” Michael says, switching to image communication.

Sandra compresses her lips together and nods. Yes, later I will lead the packs against the two- legged ones.

Surfacing In Wonderland

I am being shaken but it’s a while before I realize someone is trying to wake me. I am barely able to open one eye but make out Lynn standing over me.

“Jack, wake up,” she says.

“I had better be on fire,” I say hearing my voice as if at a distance.

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