(Original Title: Theatre of Dreams)
Ordinarily, Amanda was an attractive girl, but who said there was anything ordinary about Mondays. Everybody seemed to agree on one point: everybody hates Mondays. Cut and dried.
Amanda looked at her mussed auburn hair and into her own soft brown eyes. The mirror betrayed nothing, right down to the slightly dark rings under her eyes. This did nothing for her fair complexion.
She looked at her shallow cheeks which were usually cherubic. There was a large purple bruise on her right cheek bone. Amanda had gotten into a fight with her two-timing boyfriend's new girlfriend. Amanda had won, surprisingly, since she'd never been in a fight before. There had been no one to break it up and few witnesses, thankfully.
Amanda splashed water on her face then dried it. She looked into the mirror again. It hadn't help. She proceeded removed the make up from her face. Amanda then made for her bedroom, set her books on her desk and lay down on her bed.
Amanda's head had hardly settled on the pillow when she was in a deep sleep. And as she slept she dreamt. But this dream was unusual in many aspects.
Amanda was perfectly conscious she was dreaming, being one. Perfectly conscious she was dreaming in her dream, but it was a matter of coincidence, unimportant.
Another difference she was perfectly aware of was that, unlike most dreams, which were in black and white, this dream was in full color.
There were several “physical” differences in the landscape. The big one was the sky. It was red. Others were pink clouds, two blue suns, brown pine needles on green oak trees and brown grass. The rocks in the road she was standing in were multicolored. But one thing remained the same on close inspection. The dirt was still cold and gray.
"Awful cool for two suns," Amanda said to herself nonchalantly -- more to hear a sound other than the wind, which blew coolly across the brown moor land.
Amanda reached into her rough blue denim coverall pants pocket and pulled out a large silver coin. She looked at the “heads” side with its neeling man pouring water from a clay jar.
“Aquarius,” she said. “Oh joy,” she cried with obvious false heart. She looked at the other side with its blazing sun in the center and zodiac representatives surrounding it. Above each sign were the dates they applied to.
Amanda thought for a moment.
“Heads we go that way,” she said raising her left arm. Tails we go that way,” raising her rigth arm.
She threw the coin high into the air watching as it fell. She caught it in her right hand and slapped it onto her left wrist.
"Heads," she said. She thus set off to the left, then made a one-eighty and went on her way.
After about a half hour Amanda began to hear sounds she was sure she'd never heard before but were strangely familiar. And something was burning; the smell of it was rancid, like like something rotten, dead.
The noises, apart from the strange birds that wheeled overhead, sounded to Amanda like the noises made when you hit a power line with a stick. Sort of a "t-tewhk" sound.
Almost every time the sound occurred there was a flash of green light sometimes followed by a scream of pain.
There was a steep high hill between Amanda and the battle as she had identified the sound.
Amanda lied down on the hill and looked cautiously over. The sight that meet her almost shoced her awake.
The combatants of the battle weren't human. Neither of the two sides were human, though the larger force looked more human. The defeated side didn't even attempt it.
The larger side were tall, averaging about six feet and well-muscled, the lot of them. They wore leather jerkins and helmets similar to those of the Trojan uniforms.
Amanda could see the pointed ears and slanted eyes from the hill. She could also see the three fingered hands holding guns similar to M-16's. From these came the odd green light. The victim struck by the beam of light would scream and fall down -- dead.
"Lasers?" Amanda wondered.
She watched the smaller group. They were shorter, in the lower end of the five foot range. They were also visibly weaker.
They were more catlike, having fur, retractable claws, and huge teeth. They looked ferocious, wicked.
Amanda hoped the larger group was the police taking the smaller group -- obviously criminals -- to prison. The smaller ones frightened her.
"You're wrong you know," said a voice sofly in her ear, causing her to jump back, stifling a scream with the heal of her hand at the sight that met her eyes.
"Who," she began weakly, then stronger as some primeval instinct sensed this creature didn't mean to hurt her: "Who are you?" she asked.
"I am Herbek, leader of the resistance you just saw crushed. We are Mystics. Welcome to Exodus," he said in a sibilant voice.
"Who are the others?"
"They are Overlords, Amanda."
Amanda was instantly frightened.
“How did he know my name?
"I'm telepathic. All Mystics are."
It never occured to either one of them how it was they understood each other. They simply accepted it as one of those things.
"You can read minds?" Amanda asked, not so nervous now she'd heard the simple explanation.
"And some of us are even telekinetic."
"You said the Overlords were breaking up a resistance. What are you resisting?"
"The Overlords tyrannical rule."
Amanda suddenly noticed something odd about this Mystic.
"I know," said Herbek. "I'm larger than other Mystics. I am a mixed breed between our races. My father, Torbek, was an Overlord and my mother, Hertof, was a Mystic. That's why I'm so big and it's also where I got my name. H-E-R from Hertof and B-E-K from Torbek."
"Are the Overlords telepathic?"
"Only their leader, Son-Dar, seems to have the right alignment of synapses and neurodes in the motor circuits and the 'thought' areas of the brain for telepathy and tele- or psychokinesis."
Amanda decided to go back to her original subject.
"Before you ask your next question," Herbek began, "we need to get somewhere safer.”
He stood up, then helped Amanda up. "Come."
They ran down the hill to the road where the resistance had just been captured. The road was clear now except for the Mystic weapons. Amanda picked up one of the M-16 like guns.
"Hurry, Amanda, they'll be back to collect these. I doubt they'll miss that one so keep it. You may need it."
And they were on their way.
Later, after the blue suns had set and the orange moon had risen, Amanda and Herbek sat around the stone fireplace set into the floor of Herbek's stone house with its tar and thatch roof.
"You had a question forming in your mind before we left. What was it?" asked Herbek.
"If you Mystics are telepathic, can't you communicate?"
"You mean talk to each other in our minds? Of course. Why?"
"Have you ever tried to move objects with your mind?"
"Well, yes. Rocks too big to pick up, dead animals, things like that. What are you getting at?" Herbek was getting irritated, not being able to see into Amanda's mind clearly.
"Just a minute," said Amanda excitedly. "Where do the Overlords take the prisoners?"
"Back to the compound. They are forced to work in the mines."
"Could you send a message to someone inside," Amanda asked.
"Not at this distance," said Herbek.
"But could you?" Amanda insisted.
"Yes, but Amanda, please, get to the point!"
"I want you to inform someone on the inside that you are going to form a gestalt."
Herbek's face went blank, confusion in his eyes.
Herbek sat back in his chair.
"I don't know that we can do that," he said at last.
"Why not? Just tell the others to concentrate on someone else's mind. That person would be the focus point," Amanda explained. "He would be the trigger of the gun and they would be the ammo."
Herbek thought about it. Theoretically, it was possible.
"All we can do is try," he said after some consideration.
"That's the spirit!" Amanda shouted, jumping up and hugging Herbek around the neck, nearly knocking the chair over.
They turned in for the night. Herbek, in his room, slept uneasily knowing what he had to do. But Amanda hadn't told him why they should form a gestalt. He reached into Amanda's mind. She was trying to compare him with the smaller Mystics.
"Six feet four?" she asked herself. "And huge muscles. Quite handsome really. I wouldn't mind...," then she drifted off to sleep.
Herbek really didn't want to know more anyway. If Amanda liked him that way he wouldn't mind in the least that she was five feet six and sixteen.
But Amanda’s dream disturbed him.
It was black and white, unlike anything he’d ever seen. If he’d been Human, Herbek would have recognized the empty gymnasium.
There was a girl lying on a weight bench doing bench presses. The numbers read forty pounds on either of the lead disks, eighty pounds total.
She pushed the weights up five times, then let them rest on the rack made just for that purpose.
The girl in sat up. Herbek caught his breath. Amanda had just bench pressed eighty pounds five times in her dream.
But there was somebody else in the gym. Amada gaped at the newcomer.
Amanda was staring at herself.
“Hello, Amanda,” said this twin. “I’m Vronda, your conscience. Your very strong for such a small girl.”
“Thanks,” said Amanda shakily.
“Don’t be frightened,” teased Vronda.
Amanda boldened. “Oh, don’t worry.”
Vronda grinned. “No need to be sarcastic. I think you know I’m mentally stronger. I could destroy your mind and take it over. No one would know the difference.”
Herbek wondered. It was just a dream, right? Or was it?
Amanda laughed challengingly. “Do we know that?” she asked.
Vronda tensed. “Why not let’s find out.”
She sat down on a weight bench next to Amanda’s.
“A battle of wills?” Amanda asked.
“Exactly. No outside interference.”
And so they began to concentrate on each others minds, staring intently into each others eyes. The battle for control was on.
At first it seemed Vronda was winning, her face muscles going taut with the stress of concentration, Amanda’s with defense.
Then, suddenly Vronda’s nose began to bleed and she was distracted. This distraction was all Amanda needed to gain the upper hand.
Her breathing furious, her face purple, Amanda slowly put Vronda on the floor.
“Stop!” cried Vronda. “You win.”
“Sucker!” Vronda laughed and unleashed a psychic attack on Amanda that sent her reeling backwards onto the floor.
Amanda finally managed the mental strength to sheild herself, but she knew she’d have no chance of winning now.
She cursed her passionate, sensitive nature.
“Help me,” Amanda cried. “Help me, Herbek.”
Herbel started out of Amanda’s mind. She had cried out from the bed. It was a nightmare.
He went to check on her, to wake her from her dream, but stopped short at the door.
Amanda lied thrashing about on the bed, her nose and ears bleeding.
“Help me, Herbek!” she cried out.
Herbek went into Amanda’s mind again.
Vronda was strangling Amanda.
Herbek lent Amanda his mental strength. Amanda focused on Vronda. Suddenly Vronda went sprawling. Amanda glanced at her and she went limp. Amanda checked her pulse. Dead.
Amanda came out of the dream, sweating and crying.
“I killed her.”
“We killed her,” said Herbek. “The gestalt worked. It really worked. But surely that was a dream?”
“No. Vronda was my dark side. I guess.”
“If she is part of you, then she isn’t dead, only unconscious. Your dark side is in remission. You see, you can’t have a light side without dark nor vice versa.”
“Then, if she had died -”
“So would have you.”
“Oh, god!” Amanda cried. “I wanted to kill her.”
“That was your light side wanting to put the dark way. Go to sleep, Amanda. Now that the dark side is in remission the dream won’t occur again. Not tonight.”
“Know so. Good night, Amanda.”
“Good night, Herbek.”
And so they slept.
Until morning when they could get close enough for Herbek to get a message through.
But the trip was unnecessary. The Overlords had the captured Mystics on their way to the mine when Amanda and Herbek arrived at the hill where they'd met.
"Ichtar," Herbek called out in his mind.
One of the prisoners looked up.
"Herbek?" came the telepathic reply. "Where are you?"
"I had to get away. Listen, I’ve got an idea and I think it will work."
"Let's hear it."
"You need to focus your minds on one Mystic, me; my mind. I'll do the rest. Tell the others."
“Everybody focus your minds on Herbek’s. We’re about to escape.”
The Mystics looked up, confused.
“What have we got to loose?”
Suddenly Herbek felt the power of their minds focused on his. He sent out a psychic blast to the minds of the guards. They all fell flat, noses bleeding with the expansion of their sinuses.
A cheer went up as the Mystics realized they were free. They ran to Herbek but stopped short at the sight of Amanda.
"Don't worry, she's with us. This was her idea."
"It’s called a gestalt. I'm called Amanda.”
Greetings went up.
“Now just how powerful is this Son-Dar?” she asked.
“More than us,” said the one called Ichtar.
It was agreed.
“Seperately maybe, but together - in a gestalt?”
Cheers went up again. And with this in mind they marched upon the compound, minds on Herbek.
All opposition was put down. But the final test was yet to come.
Son-Dar was a very large Overlord with dark hair and eyes. He waited for them. He knew what they were doing and how. But he had a few tricks of his own.
Suddenly they were in his room.
"You dare try to oppose me," Son-Dar challenged.
"We dare," said Herbek. "I challenge you to a battle of wills."
"So many against so few," replied Son-Dar, mockingly, black eyes twinkling. "I wonder if it's fair."
"After the injustices done to us by you, it's more than fair. It's down right lenient."
“Very well. I accept.”
The psychic blast from him sent all but two people to the floor, unconscious: Herbek and Amanda.
"You and I, Herbek," said Son-Dar.
And the battle was on. It was like a see-saw, the winning side going from Herbek to Son-Dar and vice versa. Meanwhile, Amanda checked on the other Mystics. Alive, all of them.
A cry from the battle brought Amanda back to it. Son-Dar had a gun. He was loosing but not by much by the strain on Herbek's face.
Amanda thought about kicking the gun out of Son-Dar's hand and suddenly it wasn’t there. It was on the floor in front of her.
The distraction gave Herbek his chance.
“Die, Son-Dar!” And he gave out a huge psychic blast.
Son-Dar gave one little croak, the died.
When the other Mystics woke, they found the Overlords had turned themselves over, seeing Son-Dar dead.
And later back in Herbek's house, Amanda rested peacefully. In her mind she felt as though she were falling through space.
She sat up suddenly on her bed. She looked at her clock. Asleep ten minutes? That was all. With the dream still fresh in her mind, Amanda went to the bathroom again.
Again the mirror betrayed a gruesome sight. For one fleeting moment thought she saw dried blood on her upper lip and down the sides of her face from her ears. And was that a laser burn on her shoulder?
But then she saw her own self again, hair frazzled, face bruised, mind battered.
A black and white image came to the mirror. Vronda.
Amanda screamed and the image disappeared.
"It was just a dream," she told herself. Or was it...?
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