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Emyrond Dream

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Emyrond Dream -- by Jean Graham

Excerpted from Sheba's personal log:

He was the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen.
"Magnificent" was the word that actually first came to mind, and it
describes him better. Oh, I know we're used to thinking of any
winged species in terms of the majestic, but he was that and more.
I thought so from the moment he dropped out of the sky and fanned
those incredible wings at me -- on a planet all the surveys claimed
supported no life...

Technically speaking, I could draw a reprimand (or worse) for
not reporting all of this officially, but there's no way I'm going
to do that. I mean, I couldn't tell them the things I'm putting in
this log -- I'd end up in life station wired for a psych-adjust.
Computer surveys just don't lie, you know. There wasn't any life
on that planet, so I couldn't possibly have seen any.

But I did.

Starbuck, Apollo and Jolly left me setting up camp while they
scouted the area with hand sensors, mapping the tylium deposits for
the mining teams that would follow us. We were nightside of the
planet with sunrise imminent, but the towering rock formations with
their weird, finger-like shadows were making me a little jittery in
spite of the no-life report. Two of the moons were up, making the
shadows even longer and casting them in gray, overlapping
duplicates of themselves. My mental discomfiture wasn't helped,
either, by the fact that it was unpleasantly dry and cold here --
an utterly dead world shrouded in suffocating silence. Not even a
breeze...

I jumped at the sound. The porta-lamp I'd been lighting
clattered to the ground, but I didn't pick it up again. I didn't
need it -- I could see just fine by the double moonlight, and what
I saw was no illusion.

My ancestors might have mistaken him for an angel. He did
look vaguely human, but only insofar as there were two legs, two
arms and a head all arranged in the "proper" symmetrical positions.
The resemblance ended there. Wings -- enormous, filigreed dragon's
wings -- rose in graceful arcs from his back to a point high above
his head. They dominated his being. In retrospect, I've wondered
whether something like him might have "been" had my myth-making
ancestors ever conceived a creature half human and half dragon.
But even that, I think, would have paled beside him.

I wonder how long we stared at each other, he from his perch
of overhanging rock, and I from the midst of my half-assembled
camp? Everything I might have done, everything I had been trained
to do in the event of an alien encounter, seemed altogether
pointless in that moment, and inexplicably, not even the knowledge
that our surveys had confirmed a no-life status here gave me reason
to worry. He'd already told me, just in the way he looked at me,
that I had nothing to be afraid of. I know I ought to explain
that, only I can't. I just knew, that's all. The deep-set eyes in
that not-quite-human face were so gentle, so expressive...

He opened his wings, spreading them outward like a giant
banner unfurling in the non-existent wind, expanding until they
dwarfed the rest of him and threw a W-shaped shadow over the spot
where I stood. The wings fanned slowly, twice, and somehow to my
mind the gesture said, Come, see, follow...

I felt incredibly, helplessly stupid. "I can't," I remember
saying aloud, then repeating dumbly, "I can't."

Disappointment crept into the large, dark eyes, then fled
again, replaced by something more akin to pity. Was he sorry for
this puny, wingless creature with no inherent means of following
him aloft? Where did he want to take me?

Some little nag inside my head prodded me then for not
grabbing my comlink and recalling the survey party immediately, but
in the moment it did, he moved again and I forgot the notion
entirely. With the wings resuming their fanning motion, he
extended one of his "hands" -- long, incredibly slender appendages
with four taloned fingers -- and I knew that this gesture, too, was
a message. Its words flowed effortlessly into my stream of
thought. Dream, it said cryptically. To the dream, all things are
possible.

Dreaming is exactly what I'm doing, the cynical half of my
brain had interrupted. There's no life on this planet ...

I am what Emyrond's life was once, and will be again.

Those words had not been my own, yet they'd rushed across my
negative thoughts like a viper cutting off a Cylon raider.

Dream, it said again. Dream, and you will follow.

When I was little I used to dream about flying. Oh, not just
in vipers and shuttles, but really flying, sans aircraft. Everyone
must have had that dream at least once; you know, where you find
yourself drifting in the air, looking down on all the places you
have to walk over when you're awake?

Well, that's the dream I had in the camp. Funny part of it
is, I don't remember falling asleep...

This is the part of the narrative that self-explains why I've
put the entire entry under voice-lock. I can't think of anything
that would be more likely to convince the Commander my psyche
needed rearranging. Frack, even I started doubting my sanity when
the dream began and I found I was...

Floating. Not flying, exactly, but floating, airborne, over
the campsite like a human-shaped helio balloon. I drifted
weightless over all of those needle-tipped rock pedestals, watching
the sunrise begin to tinge them pink and gold and muted yellow. I
even thought I felt a faint, stinging mist against my cheeks. Some
special effects, for a dream, huh?

None of those flying-away-from-your-troubles dreams I'd had as
a kid were ever like this, and I know my imagination in its most
overactive moments could never have conjured the vision of this
alien in flight. He was a being born to the air, as graceful and
natural there as I was awkward -- embarrassingly so. I watched him
glide above, around and below me on widespread wings that made his
flight seem effortless. I felt like a tub shuttle with a combat
viper escort.

Dream of flight, the voice inside my head whispered, and
flight is. You are only as real as you dream.

I stopped trying to fathom that when my feet touched something
solid--the "balcony" of what I could only call an alien
"skyscraper." The walls, however, were giddily indefinite, almost
as if they weren't really there at all, and the building's shape
was irregular, like the round, distorted sides of one of those
"stretched" glass bottles. The whole thing was weirdly
insubstantial; unreal enough to panic my waking-self. But in the
peculiar logic of dreams, nothing about it, not even the way I got
there, seemed the slightest bit unnatural.

The Emyr (how had I known to call him that?) walked with me
into the structure's interior; into an expansive, circular "room"
bathed in the dawn light. It streamed through glassine walls, that
light, and its prismatic rays bounced off the only object in the
room -- a glittering thing that I'd taken, at first, for a
fountain...

Your race seeks a home.

The sentence startled me, less because it had interrupted my
reverie than because it was suddenly so forthright--and accurate.
That this alien's thoughts were somehow appearing in my head didn't
seem unusual to me at the time either, even though awake I have an
absolute phobia of anything -- especially an alien thing -- reading
or tampering with my mind. The only thought I had about it at the
moment, however, was to wonder how this alien knew about our quest.

"We're looking for Earth, " I told him timidly.

Earth, or any like world upon which your race may thrive.

That was when I turned to look directly at him for the first
time. In the gleaming sunlight, he was even more impressive than
my first dim views of him had implied. Pale silver-blue from foot
to folded wing-peak, his magnificent quasi-human form was covered
not with scales, as I had wrongly assumed, but with soft, fine fur.

How did you know? I asked him, and shuddered when I realized
I had thought the question instead of putting it into words.

The Emyri also sought a world once, he answered, and thrived
upon this one.

If any race had ever "thrived" here, our sensors had failed to
find evidence of it. There were no ruins, no artifacts, not even
so much as a lowly petroglyph to hint that anything had ever lived
here at all. And the plant life was so sparse...

Some among you would remain, he said, interrupting my thoughts
again. This cannot be.

Again, I was baffled by his seeming omniscience. There had
been a petition to colonize this planet, from one of the Virgan
ships. Adama had received it just before our survey patrol was
launched. Reading my mind couldn't have told the alien about it
though--I'd forgotten all about it until just this very moment.
I'd been about to ask him how he knew, when it occurred to me that
wondering was silly -- I mean, if I could accept a winged alien
existing on an uninhabited world, a transparent skyscraper and a
trip through the air without mechanical aid, I could probably
accept anything; why should omniscience be an exception?


"Why can't it be?" I asked instead. "Is there some reason?
Some danger?"


His answer was another puzzle.


Go and touch the tree. There, find memories. There, mourn.
With his left wing, he made a broad, sweeping gesture toward
the center of the room, toward the thing I'd earlier mistaken for
a fountain.

It wasn't a fountain at all. It wasn't precisely a tree
either--at least not any kind of tree I'd ever seen. When I looked
at it again I saw a glittering cascade of droplets, each suspended
like a tiny jeweled pendant from one of a dozen crystalline
branches: a sculpture made of tears frozen in graceful, delicate
symmetry.

Touch the tree, he had said.

As though detached from them, I saw my fingers, trembling,
reach outstretched beneath a single droplet, starting when I
touched the smooth, solid base and felt it come away, cold and
glassy in my palm. No sooner had it nestled there than a miniature
fire came to life within it; a tiny flash of star blue light that
warmed my palm -- and triggered the vision.

Brief enough that its image faded before its horror could set
in, the light bequeathed me a vision of death. A city of crystal
towers shattered and fell; fire poured like crimson hail from
swollen yellow skies, and a race of winged beings huddled, dying,
in dank, smoke-filled caverns.

The light and vision both faded together, and I remember
closing my hand on the droplet as it once again grew cold.
Unbidden, the memory of a tape I had viewed of Caprica's
destruction rushed in to compare itself to the fleeting nightmare
I had just witnessed. I forced it away, but not before it had
posed the inevitable question. Had some enemy destroyed this world
as the Cylons had our own?

"Tell me what it was, " I begged. "What happened to them?"

The fire returns, was all he would say. There is death here.

I shivered, suddenly cold in spite of my jacket. "I don't
understand," I said candidly. "If nothing can survive here, how are
you here? And what kind of 'fire' do you mean? How will it return?
When?"

He responded, after a fashion, to only one of my questions.
Emyrond is remembered only in tears, the voice in my mind said
sadly, and I am as the tree of tears. I am dream. One day we shall
be again. Today, we are memory.

Again, he opened his wings, and in the same moment I felt my
feet leave the "floor," heralding the now-familiar sensation of
rising unassisted into the air. I remember starting to protest --
I wasn't ready to go back yet; wasn't willing for the dream to end.
There were too many things I wanted to know...
 

"Sheba? Hey, shake it up, will ya? We're due back aboard and
you haven't even started breaking camp!" Starbuck's voice startled
me awake -- I sat up amidst a tangle of half-folded bedrolls,
blinking in the bright sunlight. Immediately, my eyes were drawn
to the rock formation overhanging the camp, though there was, of
course, nothing there. I kept looking at it anyhow, as if my
staring could somehow recreate the lost "reality" of my dream.

"Apollo and Boorner are coming in northside," Starbuck was
saying. "Gotta wrap up the survey report before we take off, even
if the mission is an abort."

Some of what he was saying was finally beginning to penetrate
my mental fog. "Abort?" I echoed. "Why are we aborting? What
happened?"

He looked at me a little strangely, blue eyes wondering
whether my questions were in jest. "You didn't hear the
Commander's message?"

"Oh..." I glanced at my comlink, still on the food ration
plasti-crate where I'd left it. The signal should have awakened me,
but somehow it hadn't. "I guess not, " I said lamely. "I ... fell
asleep."

Apollo and Boomer had returned in time to hear the last of
this, and Apollo laughed at my confused expression. "That's the
last time I leave you on guard duty," he chided.

"So why are we aborting mission?" I persisted, annoyed at his
ribbing.

"The Galactica's scanners are picking up an asteroid cluster
moving on an elliptical orbit through this system, " Boomer said
patiently. "Projection indicates they periodically bombard this
planet, and they're close enough right now to make any mining
efforts around here a very high risk operation. Not to mention
colonies. So much for the Virgan petition, huh?"

A vision of ocher sky streaked with trailing flames flashed
into my head and bumped squarely into waking-world reason.
Coincidence, reason said. Or perhaps your minor-level clairvoyance.

Nothing more than that ...

"Hey... are you all right?" The concern in Apollo's voice
melted the last traces of my annoyance with him. "You're shaking
like a raindrop in a high wind."

Pushing back the vision that brought to mind, I mustered a
weak smile and took his proffered hands in mine. "I'm fine, " I
lied. "Just had a... dream ... that's all."

Starbuck and Boomer were already busy breaking camp around us.

Apollo gave both my hands a reassuring squeeze, then let loose to
went and help them. Shivering again, I thrust both hands into
the soft, lined pockets of my jacket, where the right one collided
with something cold, hard and tear-shaped.
 

I'm going to keep this under voice-lock... probably forever.
When I die the machine will erase it -- part of my automatic will.
(No great-grandchildren of mine are gonna call me crazy.) When you
come right down to it, I'm not even sure why I entered the thing to
begin with, unless it was to reassure me that I'm not crazy.
Anyway, I have something to prove (if only to myself) that I'm not.

I have the teardrop.

I kept it in a para shell box with my off-duty jewelry--no one
ever looks in there but me. The tear doesn't glow anymore, but
every time I touch it, it evokes a memory: the memory of a gentle
voice inside my mind that said, To the dream, all things are
possible ...

-- End --

See all of my fanfic and links to my pro fiction at http://jeangraham.20m.com.