Darkness reigned in the subterranean passages. The darkness and cool, crisp air caressed her like a silken wrap. Her eyes shut as the alien voices chanting in the distance drifted to her. Weaving its usual peaceful atmosphere, the song ensnared and relaxed her. Cass always enjoyed this part of the dream, and despite the delicate balance of comfort and claustrophobia, she gave herself over the strange voices. They enticed her, tempting her through the passageway, and she danced forward, heedlessly drawing her fingers along the roughhewn walls.
Then something changed. Tendrils of energy infused her body, tangling her limbs and sensitizing her skin like sunburn. She cringed and stumbled, her eyes snapping open.
A striking man knelt at her feet as if proposing, and her pain receded as she admired him. Long, ice-white hair curtained his bowed head, concealing his features, and dark, faintly iridescent clothing covered his slim physique. Cautiously reaching out, she touched the crown of his head. Hair like silken feathers met her burning fingers, and a faint blue glow emanated. A static shock and a faint scent of ozone struck her. Her knees quivered, and she swooned–light-headed–before locking them straight and regaining her composure.
“My queen, the time is nigh,” he said. His baritone smoothed over her, scattering the ashes hiding the embers of her passion.
“Tell me your name,” she said.
“You know my name.” His head tilted up, exposing his face.
She inhaled, pinned by his bright, indigo eyes, and his dilating, catlike pupils. With his pale, sharp features, she recognized him as humanoid but not human, though unbearably beautiful. Could a man be beautiful?
“You’ve always known my name, my Cass, my queen.”
“Tell me!” She gasped, bolting upright into darkness. The caves… She was still dreaming! No! She clenched a cotton sheet in her fists. It bunched at her rapidly rising and falling chest.
Her bed … she was home.
Dr. Cassiopeia Baros leaned over and snapped on her nightstand light, her fingers fumbling the switch at first. Faced away from Julian, her fiancé, she rolled over and smiled in relief at the sight of his very normal–human–body in repose. Having gotten used to her weekly troubling dreams, he didn’t stir; but eventually the light woke him, and he shifted awake with a concerned frown marring his softly handsome face.
Blue eyes blinking and squinting as they adjusted without his glasses, he spoke in a gravelly voice, “Hon,” he reached out and caressed her arm, “that dream again?”
“Yeah…” She entwined her fingers with his and lay back down, concentrating on keeping her breathing slow and even.
“Sort of … part of it was different this time.”
“Really?” He sat up, instantly perkier. “Wanna talk about it?”
Did she? The intensity in his gaze unnerved her, and she compared his eyes to her dream man’s. What did that say about her? Probably nothing good, definitely nothing she wished to delve into presently. No, she really didn’t want to talk about it right now, especially not with Julian.
“Not now, hon, maybe later?” She hoped he wouldn’t push. Additional details would send him into a frenzy of scientific discovery that would end with her being questioned the rest of the night. If, however, she set him up to pry, maybe he’d back off for now.
“Oh … okay.”
Bingo! Then she quickly added, “I’m just tired, and we have a big day at the lab tomorrow.”
“You’re right … I just thought. Never mind.” Julian yawned. “We can still get a few more hours. Think you can get back to sleep?”
“No problem.” After turning her light off, Cass snuggled under the covers and cozied her back to him. Julian draped a slim arm around her waist and tucked her in close. A short time later, he lightly snored while she studied the gloom, her mind reverberating with the image of the extraordinary man.
Who was he? Was he real? What did his appearance and statement mean? He sounded so … reverent when he spoke her name and called her queen. And how had she understood him, yet none of the other voices?
“You’ve always known my name, my Cass, my queen.”
She shivered, not entirely sure why, and tried to sleep.
They conducted their usual routine before work: Cass lingered in the car while Julian grabbed two Starbucks coffees. Neither had eaten real food for breakfast since their freshman years in college. Coffee was her primary nod to a modern vice–steaming caffeine, whipped fats and sugary syrup satiated her better than any street drug.
Staring out the passenger window, the rustic golds and russets of the turning leaves burred as she tried analyzing her dreams again. Encompassing all five senses, they were extremely realistic, which gave her an advantage when exploring. Unfortunately, their intensity tended to overwhelmed her and made them self-limiting, however much she tried to stay. This, more than anything she suspected, kept her from unraveling the mystery she’d carried since puberty.
Enough wandering… She banged her head mildly against the window.
She could never find the singers nor understand their words as chanted a language wholly unfamiliar. The air was always cool and smelled musty like a recently disturbed tomb, and the lighting dim. Now this man … this beautiful, alien man.
Slowly tracing her fingertips through her breath’s condensation on the window, she considered him. His presence was unsettling, though not necessarily unwelcome. Perhaps he might move her deciphering efforts forward. Clearly years of intensive study and therapy hadn’t cracked the safe of her subconscious. She would apply this new data to the puzzle and call her psychiatrist, Dr. Newton, for a session.
“You okay?” Julian’s question cut her high-speed thoughts, and she accidentally smeared her abstract finger art on the glass as she twisted to face him. He already sat in the driver’s seat; she hadn’t heard him reenter the car.
“Mm-huh.” She gave him a reassuring smile as he handed her a coffee. Sweet, supportive, predictable Julian, she mentally sighed. He was an important part of her life since they’d met in their first year of graduate school, and one of the few people who not only utterly believed in her project, but also truly understood her singled-minded pursuit of it.
Reaching over, Cass curled her fingers around his free hand as he drove, his hand reflexively tightened. His callus-free skin felt soft and warm, soothing her, and bringing her back to reality.
“I’ve been thinking…” he said. “If the power-up is successful, maybe we can start making wedding plans?”
“Nothing fancy, just you, me and our closest friends.” Julian’s single hand on the steering wheel blanched as his gripped tightened. “No family of course.”
She snorted. “Of course.”
“I just want to make us official,” he said, adding a wistful, “finally. Don’t you?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes. Absolutely!”
“Great, it’s settled,” he said before they lapsed into silence.
She’d agreed to the engagement more out of obligation and to satisfy Julian’s male territorialism rather than any feminine, biological imperative. Not that she didn’t love Julian–she did, very much, or at least as much as possible for her. She’d just never had a pressing desire to tie herself to any man. Love and romance seem to be as unlikely as anything in life to guarantee happiness. So she pursued her research, her passion.
“We’re here, hon.” His fingers tugged hers, and the easy drone of the engine was missing.
She’d done it again, dammit. Wandering in her musings, she’d lost track of time. She really needed to concentrate on her present surroundings, to avoid her terrible tendency to detether mentally, occasionally at inopportune moments as her mind problem-solved.
“Oh, Jules, I’m sorry.” Cass shook the cobwebs away. He’d already parked in the MIT faculty lot. She must’ve really zoned out this time since it was at least twenty minutes from their usual Starbucks to campus. How often did she lose herself these days? Hard to remember, but Julian always gently pulled her back to the world, kept her grounded, even when she resisted and resented him.
He gave her a wry smile, then winked. “It’s okay. Let’s just get inside before the team gets too antsy.”
“Good idea.” They grabbed their bags and locked the doors. Slinging her stuffed leather messenger bag over her shoulder, Cass walked next to Julian through the morning college crowd.
Generally, they avoided public displays of affection on campus, preferring an air of professionalism. But some days, like today, Cass’ excitement bled over in a rare urge to grasp Julian’s hand as the romantic architecture and landscaping touched a sliver of her softer emotions. She admired how the crisp morning sun illuminated his blond, all-American features. She forgot sometimes.
Julian started when Cass’ hand slipped into his. “You okay?”
“I’m great, why?”
“Oh,” he nodded to their joined hands, swinging them upward and arching a brow, “no reason.”
“Just feeling good this morning.”
“Me too.” He squeezed her hand, subtly leaned toward her and said, “It’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks.” By unspoken agreement, they released their handclasp, but continued smiling.
They headed to their lab in the physics department’s subbasement, isolated from the main building for security and safety reasons. As they drew closer to their goal, more students and staff members recognized them and greeted them with variations of, ‘Good morning,’ and both returned polite nods.
Several minutes and an elevator ride later, Cass’ excitement became harder to hide and she fidgeted and added a skipping step. A smirk pulled the corners of Julian’s lips as he sidled a glance at her. Though she knew he’d control his laughter at her expense, she did her best to keep herself understated. It wouldn’t do having an MIT professor acting like a fish.
But she couldn’t help it.
They powered-up her project for its first field test this morning. Of course, it couldn’t physically leave the lab, so it was more a conceptual field test rather than literal. Even so, the power-up was real and the results, hopefully successful; otherwise the last fifteen years of her education and research were a massive waste.
MIT’s disappointment would be directly proportional to the amount of grant money they’d invested solely upon Cass’ rational, yet passionately delivered proposal–said finances which trickled to an end within months. This power-up needed to work or they were unemployment line bound with tainted reputations. A ball of dread settled in her gut. Her life and career would both dead end, but at least Julian should be able to go since this has always been my project.
Julian held open their lab’s door. The glass read: Einstein-Rosen Bridge – Theoretical Traversable Lab – Dr. Cassiopeia Baros/ Dr. Julian Saunders. Cass smiled a ‘thanks’ as she entered the carefully organized chaos. A cacophony of light and sound assaulted her as lab assistants, interns and students scurried within the morass of exotic scientific equipment, handcrafted by her and Julian. The lab buzzed with an atmosphere of barely contained enthusiasm, creating palpable electricity zipping along her skin. God, how she loved days like this! So much concentrated passion and brainstorming–the possibilities for discovery were endless!
“Dr. Baros! Dr. Saunders!” the voice of their primary assistant, Brian South, sliced the din. “You’re here, finally!”
“It’s not even eight o’clock, Brian,” Julian said, while Cass smiled. “We’re an hour earlier than normal.”
The strawberry-headed young man jogged up to them from across the room, dodging equipment and people, his lab coat flapping. “But today’s the day!”
“Yes, we know.” Cass took a slow sip of her coffee. Julian mimicked her.
Brian huffed and plucked a pen from his coat pocket. “How can you both be so relaxed?” he asked, his voice pitching higher as he fiddled with his pen. “We’ve devoted years to this!”
“And now we’ll discover if my wormhole theory is correct,” Cass said, sipping her coffee again.
Julian waved a hand, nonchalant. “The preliminary tests are positive. We don’t see any reason for apprehension.”
“Ugh! You two … I … I just can’t believe you’re so blasé about this!”
Julian set his computer bag down, leaned on a work table and crossed his ankles. “Would you rather we acted more like you?”
“W-well … no … but,” Brian shook his head and yanked at a tuft of hair, “you could at least be little excited, show a bit of concern.” He tugged on his lab coat as his neck flushed. The pens in the breast pocket shifted, nearly tipping out, and he almost dropped the one spinning between his fingers.
“Brian, just worry about prepping the Chamber. Okay?”
“Yes, Dr. Baros,” he straightened and exhaled. “It’s about ready to go now. I’ve got the interns finishing the vacuum, and we’re tapped into the main power grid.”
“Already?” she asked. “You have been busy. How long have you been here?”
“Since a little before six.”
“Well, if I didn’t know better, I’d think this was your project.”
“Oh, no, Dr. Baros! I’d never …”
“I know.” She touched his upper arm, chuckling. “I’m teasing you. I’m just grateful you work for me.” Brian sputtered as his flush moved up to his face.
Julian stood abruptly. “Come on, Cass. Let’s get into the groove. Can’t wait to see it in action.”
“Alright!” Brian said, depositing his pen back in the pocket with its mates. Rubbing his hands together, Brian followed his bosses to the Chamber’s small control room.
Cass entered, sudden anxiety churning her stomach. Blinking red lights on the control panel indicated an active vacuum; they reflected off the Plexiglas like a flat Christmas tree. Through the window, white walls contrasted with the black rubberized floor, and a three-foot hole in the center housed a high energy generator with an airlock to one side.
It was a perfectly round twenty-foot diameter Chamber. Every inch of it was burned in her memory. It should be since she’d invented it, drawn the schematics and supervised the construction. She knew its functionality was surpassed only by its safety.
So what about the Chamber frightened her, today of all days?
“You’ve always known my name, my Cass, my queen.”
Chills raced over her upper body; she shivered, and vigorously scrubbed her arms. Biting her lower lip, a new, unbidden fear struck her.
What if it works too well? What then?
This is the first chapter of my first novel to be self-published Dreams of the Queen; later chapters have mature content.
Thousands of words worth of changes, new scenes, dialogue and updates to this final draft.
Official release date is Nov 1, 2012
$9.99 Paperback will be available at my website for $9.99, autographed. site [link] and
$12.99 Amazon.com and Createspace estore [link] for $12.99 not autographed (print on demand has pricing differences)
$4.99 Kindle and PDF direct from my website listed [link]
Ebooks will be available in all formats in a few months.
*DON’T COPY MY ORIGINAL CONTENT. IT’S UNCOOL.*