Io Deceneus Journal of a Time Traveler Fantasy and Science Fiction book
Chapter 1 Prologue
They have cast my life like dice, in a game that is not a game. The unusual erupted into my life like a storm; I mean unusual in my actual perception of things. Do not mistake me; I never dreamt of danger, and nobody asked me if I really wanted an extraordinary life. That is not entirely true; I was asked, in the way a child seeing a cake is asked if he really wants to eat it.
The white wolf turned his head with animal leisure, until I met his eyes – black pits of charcoal in all that snow – so close, that shades appeared in their darkness. Don’t panic. Don’t… I turned around: only me and the wolf, his tongue hanging out. Where is everybody? A crystal twig cracked under the snow, and three times the raven cawed in a human voice: “Wolf-man! Wolf-man! Wolf-man!” Unimpressed, the wolf howled in my face, and I howled back, to smother his howl, to smother my mind. A howl … another one… In-between, silence flows, and the mind sees all that you are not searching for. Fangs…
“Duras, no! Come back.” Whistling between the snowdrifts, the wind carried voices over the ridge.
A small voice, a girl… What is she doing here? I blinked: the lone wolf was backing off, his lips half writhed into a snarl. In the valley, a pack of gray wolves split in two wings – ready to hunt.
“Some scared wolves… Girl, we can’t go back; death is waiting there.”
A man’s voice … almost a man’s voice. “Listen to her,” I shouted, and frosted leaves whispered under his small, uneasy steps. “The gray wolves … they split.” … Nothing… They can’t hear me.
“The white wolf is reborn!” she cried through chattering teeth. “The Hidden Passage will open. And you are not much older than me.” Higher in pitch, her voice was now more furious than scared, and the wind swept down in cutting blasts, whose whistling cadences echoed around, laughing at her.
“I passed the rite of the cold fire when The Moon wedded The Black Companion, and Armin, the Erin, searched the Lines of Time for me; they were all good. Well, almost… I am a warrior now,” Duras bragged, trying to deny his worries; the wolves were closing round on us. “Roasted meat!” he sniffed the cold. “Coming from nowhere… This is not from my own mind, it’s real; I’m not hungry.” Strained was his voice, but he marched further – the steps of a man trying to avoid a ghost. “Stay there, Delena.”
“I told you,” the girl said with a deep breath, unsure if it was the right time to be right.
“You told. You told…” Sliding forward with quiet steps, he cut the snow at my feet. “Here … the scent comes from here.” His sword arched again.
“Freeze!” I screamed, and the sword stopped, still arched over my head. I dared not breathe. Duras stared through me with wide-open eyes, his lips tightened together in barely suppressed anger. They can’t see me. On his chest, a red, yellow and blue Draco, a dragon with open wolf-like jaws on a white shield: the ancient Dacian symbol. Somewhere in the valley a wolf howled, then another one, and I was suddenly tired; there were no hungry wolves and no Draco warriors in my world – in my safe, boring, real world.
Distant laughter, sharp as the cold, scorned my fear. “Wolf-man!” the raven cawed again. I turned: a black wolf leaped forward, and the wild pack followed like one single hunter. Ten, I counted … and the white one. Where is the white one? Where…? Foreign awareness invaded my mind, and time slowed, stretched in minute-long seconds of silence. A flash revealed my body in colors I could not easily understand, another flash … a running wolf. Images shifted in hiccups – me, the warrior, the running wolf – leaving behind strange feelings never sensed before. Animal stench. Human scent. Wilderness. I am in the wolf’s mind.
“Kill the meeeeeen!” the wolf howled. “Kill! Killllll … the men,” the pack answered. Trapped inside the wolf, I lost myself, and we growled together: “Flesh…” Wild hunger gnawed inside me – my mind absorbed the taste of blood, from the many hunts of his past, and I enjoyed that taste, when his feelings became mine. “Kill!” we howled, running as one, and each leap shrank the distance to the frozen men. Seventy feet. The pack was behind: snarls, snow swishing, wild scents, all mixed with human fear in the forefront. Fifty feet. The wolf sped up, bounding across the snow, excitement flooding veins that were mine too, and he clamped with savage teeth, ready for man’s flesh. Forty feet. I stretched my mind to feel more than animal emotions: the regular cadence of his paws, the fluid workout of his stringy muscles, heartbeats. Twenty feet. Coming from the icy snow, tickling sensations moved into my fingers, with each step he took – the rhythm slowed down, for the final jump. Tension filled him, filling me at the same time. Now! I wrenched my left hand; his foreleg contracted too, missing the step, and we rolled down in the snow.
Then time came back, and my mind left him alone. The wolves can see me… They were everywhere, and they looked like death to me. “Unfreeze!” I screamed in a grating voice, jumping aside, and the frozen sword arched down as if it had never stopped, slaying the black wolf. I was inside him. Wolf-man? Dead wolf-man? Snow touched my skin and melted. It’s cold … it’s real. When I found the courage to look again, bared fangs snarled at me from the red snow. Just bones, they can bite no longer. Relief and a deep feeling of loss engulfed me – through his mind, the cubicle man drank the wilderness freedom, a potion more enthralling than the strongest wine. Could I keep everybody alive? In that strained moment, the wolf became almost human to me.
“What happened?” The young girl came closer, keeping a terrified eye on the wolf. “I was caged in a stone, having the shape of my body … when the wolves… The wind set me free.”
“Just fear,” Duras lied to her. “Look,” his leg pushed the carcass. “Nothing to fear.” Somewhere far off, a honking horn pierced through the silent cold. “We have to go.”
“Do the Travelers really want to kill us?” Delena asked, in a voice squeezed between panic and innocent curiosity.
“I don’t want to know,” he shrugged. “Things from far away are stirring the winds of war. Maybe Armin is wrong; the last war was one thousand years ago, before the Great Drought. How can I know? He’s never wrong. He said that help would come from the Other Side of the Mirror … whatever that means.” Feeling the fear still gnawing at her, Duras lowered his voice. “Don’t worry, I will protect you. I will always protect you.” For the first time the long sword trembled in his hand, from the cold, or perhaps from fear.
“A Field Dream is an inception point.” Coming from nowhere, the feminine voice swirled in the wind, and an odd feeling of being watched by the unseen swept through me. “And a test,” the voice almost smiled.
Wake up, I shrugged, this dream is way too long. A dreamer can wake himself once he knows he is dreaming, but I never could, and the gradual understanding of a beyond my control cycle of thrilling events was long and painful.
“Are you afraid?” she asked, and filled with mockery, a pair of predatory bird eyes, ice color, opened in the sky.
Who is the prey here?
“You dream of change. You are afraid of change.” Her voice was now soft and tempting, and with a last vestige of self-control my lips tightened around my mouth, with the awful feeling that she sensed my wobbling, ready to exploit it further. “A Field Crawler found the mind pattern of a long dead Traveler in you, and opened the Passage, for the first time in two thousand years. That makes you the right and wrong person, but change will come to you. Take it as a gift.”
I want nothing from you, I tried to say, yet my mind betrayed me. “Traveler? It’s only a dream.” Just a dream… Repeating a word, as a talisman against evil, empowers and reinforces the will. That, and curiosity, reduced my discomfort to a more manageable level.
“We shall see.” The predatory eyes sank into mine, leaning closer, their lashes surrounding my head. My discomfort turned into fear, and while I knowingly remained in the dream, I knew that I would remember it when awake. I always remembered them, keeping the excitement with me, within me. Is the thrill what I really want? “The Travelers are coming.”
The shadow of my body, lying down in the snow, changed as if I were wearing a large hat. A black-gloved hand gripped my shoulder, pushing me down on my knees.
“Be careful of your wine.” The neighbor winked, releasing my shoulder. “Did you see a zombie?”
From my glass, a pair of ice color eyes glanced at me in silence and vanished. It was a warrior, and a young girl, and… A wolf was still howling in my mind, and white patches of snow were scattered in the green of my garden, but no one seemed to care. “I had a dream,” I whispered. With a wave of my hand, I sent the stubborn snow away. Did I pass the test?
“Wake up, it’s your birthday party,” he smiled. “The steak is ready.”
The steak … I salivated, caught once more in the net of domestic fragrances; the dream vanished with the party. The day-to-day mask was already painted on my face and nobody could guess what was hidden behind it, in the deep corners of my mind, not even me. What is a Traveler? What is a Field Dream? Was it really a dream?
End of passage
Io Deceneus Journal of a Time Traveler
Science Fiction book