Friday, April 13, 2012

More Bedtime Stories

by Greg Mitchell -

Dressler awoke on rock. Vision blurry, he heard the drip, drip, drip of water echoing in a cavern. Above, he glimpsed wet stalactite, glistening with reflected ethereal light.

Am I dead?

His head ached, but his thoughts were his own. Private once more, as they ought to be. The monster in his mind was dead—he could feel that. He’d done it. He’d killed the blasted devil.

But where am I?

Groggy, he stood, covered in cuts and bruises, sopping wet. Looking about, he saw he was in a cave, a giant lagoon at his feet. Was he still underwater? Had he floated up into some kind of air pocket after the blast? Kneeling to the edge, he peered into the water—


A host of fish-like “angels” floated just below the surface, all of them staring back at him. He fell back on the seat of his pants, backing away. “No, no!”

{Wait} a soft voice implored him psychically, patient and kind.

“Where am I? What do you want?”

{You were foolish to come here}

“Yeah,” he said at length, standing again, feeling in no immediate danger. “I know. I’m…sorry.”

{We guard the Trench. There are many secrets in the depths that man should not know. We were trying to warn you, when you evaded us}

“It was a mistake…I didn’t know…”

{The dark can be deceptive and alluring. We understand how weak you can be, more than you do, it seems}

At the time Dressler was about to take offense, the angel’s soft voice soothed his heart. {But we also see how strong you can be. You have killed a terrible foe. And you did it at great personal sacrifice}

“How did you know?” he asked, then shrugged it off. “Forget it. I don’t want to know.”

{You have impressed us—one most in particular} A lithe feminine hand emerged from the lit waters. In its scaly palm, a tiny mess of tentacles, dark green in color, and squirming comfortably.

“What is that?”

{He doesn’t have a name. He believes in being defined by one’s actions. By your act of bravery, he recognizes you as kin. As family}

“He…thinks we’re related?”

{Of a sort. You would sacrifice your life to save your people from a wayward of our kind. He would like to return your generosity}

“I don’t understand.”

{Take him to your child. Fix him to her breathing port—her mouth. He will breathe into her. She will be cured of her ailment. He would consider it an honor to die so that his kin might live}

Dressler stepped forward. “Wait, die?”

{This act will be his last. He can save her, but he will die in the process}

“I-I can’t,” he said, painfully.

{But you must. That is what family does and he considers you family now. Do not dishonor him}

Dressler focused on the writhing thing in the outstretched hand, gently writhing, waiting for him to accept its sacrifice.

Carefully, he extended a hand in gratitude.


“Daddy? Tell me about the angels. The ones who saved me. And Crazy!”

Dressler pulled the covers to Edilyn’s neck, red light from the small bunker window painting her face in soft contrast. The sound of dirt and grit brushed against the pane glass, a constant white noise that Dressler found pleasant and reassuring these days.

“Come on, Lyn.” He grinned. “How many times have I told you that story?”

“Not enough.”

There had been five Approachings since bringing back Edilyn’s cure. The little squirmy angel did it, breathing new life into his daughter, clearing her ash lung, and softly giving up his spirit in the process. Dressler didn’t know what “peaceful” looked like on an angel, but he’d liked to think he’d seen it.

Lyn was fine, running and playing again, living life. Dressler returned to hunting, even had a new partner. Yulaura was a pistol, a rough and tumble sort that kept Dressler on his toes, and so far, had shown no signs of being under some evil angel’s thrall.

He liked that best about her.

Life had returned to a modicum of normal, but Lyn still wanted to hear the stories.

“Please, Daddy,” she begged, healthy and full of life, his every prayer answered.

Maybe Trebs—as barking mad as he was—had been right: His faith had been rewarded. Dressler had never considered himself a man of faith before that day at the bottom of Eclectia’s oceans, but Life had a funny way of changing things.

“Okay,” he laughed easy, before kissing her cheek. “I tell you the story. One more time.”