"Isle of Dreams"

Isle of Dreams

By Ethan Vandervelden

Zander pushed his body up from the sand, the exhaustion of what had happened weighing on him heavily. They shouldn't have been out there, but he loved to watch a good storm. A streak of panic shot up his spine as he thought of the others on the deck of that ship.

His whole family had gone on a cruise to celebrate his grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. Zander's Grandfather Elmer had done quite well financially, especially so in the later half of his life. So, after selling off the shares of his hardware chain "Jenson's", he splurged for a trip for his whole family, along with many family friends that joined.

This was not however where Zander's mind was right now. He was focused on the night before and struggling to remember what had happened. Some of his cousins, as well as his girlfriend Silvia, were in the main cabin of the yacht his grandfather had rented. His cousin Joe had brought along a little weed to smoke and pretty much everyone over 14 had a few puffs.

A storm was rising rapidly. Out the door and onto the deck they scrambled. It was dark, and the wind picked up. Minutes later the rain came, then lightening and the thunder. The yacht that some of the younger children had dubbed Sinky McSink Face, began to sway side to side. Zander loved it, and with the joint he had shared with Joe earlier, he was feeling pretty good.

At first, they were just getting wet, but the storm moved quickly. The waves were now tossing the boat wildly. Lightning clattered across the sky and thunder filled the group's eardrums. It was no longer fun to be outside and the older part of crowd sought refuge in the cabin. Silvia let out a little squeak as the side of the boat came up and she slid across the deck to the railing.

As Silvia tried to steady herself, Zander shakily walked towards her. But he never made it that far. The pot smoking that night had thrown off his balance, and the deck of the ship was slippery. Zander's feet went out from under him and he landed hard, smacking his head against the edge of a bench on the way down. Then it went dark.

Author Notes Thank you for reading and reviewing, I have been working on the rough copy of this novel for the last two years, and am editing as I go. It still isn't done but I need to do something to keep the story moving forward. Any words of advice or storylines that you can offer or suggest are appreciated.

Chapter 1
Isle of Dreams 1

By Ethan Vandervelden

Zander stood up on the sandy beach, feeling lightheaded and nauseous. Looking around, he could only gather that whatever beach he washed up on was not in the five-star section. The sand under his feet was rocky, coarse and there were palm branches and shells scattered all over on the ground. "It looks like they haven't ever raked this mess." he said aloud to himself. He moved towards the water to pull the now deflated life raft on to beach. Looking down, he spotted a dead crab, rotten and putrid smelling. His stomach turned, sushi would not be on the menu anytime soon. Disgusted, he turned away, looking inland.

Having never seen a beach outside of a resort or the well manicured beaches of land-locked lakes, Zander was surprised. It was run down and left barren. On his left all he could see was jungle, and on his right was just more jungle. There weren't any paths, trees lay fallen and dead, and there were birds everywhere. Taking a few steps forward, he paused and wondered where he could be.

He concluded he must be on a private beach. The owners had clearly not been using it for many years. Geographically, he assumed he was in Brazil, as their yacht had been somewhere in that direction last he remembered. Assuming there would be a cottage or vacation estate nearby, he elected to walk up the beach, rather than through the unknown of the jungle.

Zander had not collected his bearings enough to determine what direction was which. His head was still pounding, and he felt groggy from the knock he took the night before. Knowing towards the sun meant South, and unable to determine any other direction, he started walking toward the bright yellow ball in the sky.

The squeaking of his wet shoes was annoying but walking barefoot on the rough ground seemed like a worse option. Soon he felt his inner thighs begin to chaff against the wet grey pants he wore. His off-white button-down shirt had begun to dry in the sun and slight breeze coming from the sea was warm. The weather would have been quite pleasant if it hadn't been for the fact he was stranded. Mostly though he had questions. Where was everyone else? What had happened to them? Was he the only one who apparently fell off the boat? He feared the worst as he trudged towards the sun.

Zander's last totally clear memory was of him and "Cousin Joe" enjoying the devil's lettuce together. He had walked for what felt like an hour, but he couldn't be sure. His cell phone was on the boat and he'd never worn a watch. "If there even is still a boat." The feelings of uneasiness and fear grew stronger as he continued to walk.

The thought of what Grampa Elmer used to say to him as a child entered his mind. "Son, you'd best leave the yellow streak behind you, God hates a coward." Zander had heard that phrase from him a lot growing up, but at least it was kinder than the names Joe and some of his other cousins called him.

He forced his mind into believing everyone else was OK. He would soon find a house and borrow a phone. Then, he would probably hire a boat to take him back out to meet them. Not that he had any money or even a wallet. But he knew his dad would pay for it if he could just get there "Do they make taxi boats?" he pondered. He had spent his whole life on dry ground and knew very little about life next to water. Concluding that it didn't matter he continued walking.

Up to this point the terrain had changed very little. Now it was beginning to turn grey and rocky. It looked like the kind of lava rock that people used for landscaping, or putting potted plants in. Zander chose to take it as a good sign. He had told himself that any change is good change. Even if it seemed bad, the worst it could be was more life experience, he tried to tell himself.

"This is the kind of positive attitude that makes you better than the next guy." He said aloud to himself. The self-pep-talk did help his mood, but he was in bad shape overall. Wounded and sore, no real idea where he was, still in wet clothes, and suddenly noticing how thirsty he was. It must have been hours since he had drank anything. If he didn't see anything soon, he would have to venture inland.

Within what he guessed to be another hour he hadn't seen anything resembling a house. The grey rocky ground was starting to turn very dark, almost black and it had a certain sheen to it. Some pieces resembling broken glass. He had seen something similar that he and Joe had collected while hiking back in Utah. Zander didn't remember the name of it but chose to collect a few pieces to bring as mementos. Keeping with his attempt at a positive attitude he tried to view his predicament as an adventure rather than a disaster. But no matter how hard he tried he couldn't shake the gnawing worry he felt for the unknown fate of his fellow vacationers on the yacht.

Noticing the sun was much lower in the sky than when he had first begun walking, he elected to start heading into the jungle. It occurred to him that he had no idea what time it was when he first woke up on the beach and it could very well be late afternoon. He was now feeling exhausted, hungry, and above all very thirsty. Water became a priority in his mind, and he needed to find civilization to get it.

As he walked, the jungle became a little more thinned out. At first it was horrible trying to siphon through the mess of trees and dead undergrowth but now at least there was a bed of grass beneath his feet. It was still wildly overgrown, but dirt was better than rock on his sore feet. The breeze was blocked by the forest of trees surrounding him and he felt the humidity rising. His head was still thumping and he elected to take a break against half dead palm tree.

Sitting down, he started to notice the vegetation growing everywhere. He had never seen such a variety of plant life except in a botanical garden. He couldn't put a name on any of them, but plants were never his thing. It was hard not to appreciate the vast ranges of red and blue and orange flowers sprouting up from the jungle floor with the trees adding some green and yellow leaves along with brown trunks.

Aunt Maggie would have loved to see it. Maggie grew up in time when a vegetable garden was necessity, and her love for making things grow came naturally. She had opened every single garden section of every Jensen's Hardware there was. Outside of work, she had her own flowering garden, a separate vegetable garden, and a small green house attached to the side of her garage where she grew exotic plants that wouldn't survive in cold winters. The vegetables she grew were state fair worthy and she had the ribbons to prove it. Everything from pumpkins and celery to corn, peas and root veggies, she grew them all.

Under Maggie's leadership, the garden section had flourished at Jensen's. Grampa Elmer was "some kind of glad" she had talked him out of firing her after the numbers first came in. One of her key skills was talking her way into, or out of things. When she heard about the trip to celebrate the 50th anniversary Elmer didn't even get a chance to invite her before she had invited herself along. But that was Aunt Maggie for you, and she was more than welcomed by most. She may have been "cantankerous and yappy" as Elmer would say, but she was hard not to like.

Zander had sat long enough, and his thirst was starting to become unbearable. At least his mind was more clear, and he could differentiate what East, West and North were instead of only South. When he had turned to walk inland he had turned left, and since he had been going South, he must now be going East. This created a problem for his geography reckoning. The coast of Brazil runs a curved line North to South. If he was walking South the Atlantic should have been on his left. But he had turned left to go inland. "Basically," he reasoned, "I am either on an island or I am in Africa." Africa seemed unlikely since their yacht had been thousands of miles from there.

Armed with this new bit of information, Zander's mind flooded with fear. He suddenly realized he might never find civilization. This island might not have food or water. What if he never found people? He would turn into Robinson Crusoe in the Daniel Defoe book he had read as a child. Living off the land and building defenses, fighting off savages, and saving the life of a black man who would become his slave. At least that's what he remembered from the book, he hadn't read it since he was a child.

Water, he had to find water. Zander tried to push down the sudden wave of emotions he was feeling at the thought of being stranded forever. He marched on. Exhaustion was at its peak but he wouldn't stop. He couldn't stop. At a guess, he had been without water for at least 16 hours. Given the fact it appeared to be around 4:30 in the afternoon and he had been on the boat at least until 8:30 the night before.

He knew humans could survive without water for about 3 days, which meant he wasn't in imminent danger, but that knowledge didn't quench his thirst. Sweating like mad and the fear of dying from the heat pushed him onward.

Having walked at least an hour into the jungle Zander was soon relieved. As he stepped into a clearing he could hear voices. He began to run to where sound was coming from. Seeing no one he stopped and listened again, silence. He yelled. No response. Zander yelled louder. As loud as he could manage. "HEY!!! ANYONE THERE??!!" He paused and waited for a reply. None came.

Frustrated, Zander swore aloud. He looked all around and saw no one. He knew he had heard voices. They weren't in his head. Now they wouldn't even respond to him. At least his anger yielded a renewed energy. Now he knew he wasn't alone. But what kind of people had he found? His panic rose as he wondered if it was friend or foe hidden in the vast jungle.

Minutes later Zander was relieved to hear water running in the distance. He pushed onward and soon came to a small stream. It was maybe 5 feet across and two feet deep, the water being clear enough he could see the bottom. He may not have been thrilled to be drinking from a stream, but thirst overcame and he dropped to his knees. Dipping his hands in the flowing water and making a hand cup he brought the water to his face. It smelled fresh, and felt cool on his hands. Before taking a drink, Zander stuck his tongue in the water to make sure it wasn't salty. Happily it just tasted like water, and he drank deeply. After many handfuls of water Zander sat back.

His main priority now dealt with Zander realized it was getting quite dark. He had no shelter and walking through the dense growth with no idea what kind of animals he would stumble upon seemed like a bad idea. The reality was that he was too exhausted to carry on even if he wanted too. Concerned for his safety, Zander found a fallen tree and broke off a sizable branch to use as a club if the need arrived. Once he had cleaned off all the leaves and small pieces off his club, he set about finding a suitable place to lie down.

Soon, he found a place about 30 feet from the river that was flat and didn't have too much growth. He sat, leaning his back against some sort of smooth barked tree. It wasn't particularly comfortable, but he was so exhausted it didn't matter.

Lost in thought about everything that had happened caused him to be restless for awhile. He hadn't stopped thinking about the voices which disappeared. However his body's need for rest soon took over and minutes later he drifted into a slumber.

Author Notes Thank you to all who read and review this story! I appreciate you time and input! I have been writing this book for a few years and it is a just a draft so all thoughts are welcome!

Chapter 2
Isle of Dreams 2

By Ethan Vandervelden

Zander sauntered to the bathroom; his eyes groggy as he woke up. He brushed his teeth and put some style into his hairdo. His summer job at Jenson’s Hardware took up most of his weekdays. He didn’t care for it very much, but it was still better than school. After getting dressed and grabbing a bagel out of the fridge he dashed out the door to run to work.   

Stepping through the back entry, Zander heard a ruckus coming from his dad’s office. He rounded the corner of the hallway and stood beside the door trying to get a peek inside.   

"What do you mean you want to ‘talk about my customer service’ skills?" Aunt Margret asked, her boisterous personality shining through. She was in her late sixties, full bodied and appeared to be a sweet old lady, until she opened her mouth. Not to say she wasn't well spoken, her use of English was very functional; it just wasn't usually polite, kind, or with appropriate grammar. 

"Maggie, we are here to serve the customer. Just because you think it's too late in the year to plant potatoes doesn't mean you can tell the client to . . ." Zander’s dad, Geoff looked across his desk for the complaint form. 

"That he may as well plant them up his own ass?" Margret finished for him. Resting his forehead against his left-hand, Geoff nodded. "I was doing him a favour," Margret quipped, "saved him some money on potatoes that wouldn't have grown in time for harvesting. Who wants itty, bitty, taters anyway?" Zander could hear his dad sighing; he knew he wouldn't get a word in edgewise, so Geoff let Margret ramble on. "These young kids don't know nothing about gardening, and besides . . ."  Zander knew his dad regularly considered firing Aunt Margret. 

That would never do. Margret, or Aunt Maggie, as she was affectionately called, was the first non-family member his grandpa Elmer ever hired. She had been with them for almost 40 years and had at one point in time or another worked in all 15 stores. Elmer had tried to fire her once. Maggie tore a strip off him about why that would be "a brain-dead idea" and ten minutes later walked out with her job intact and a raise to boot.

As Margret finished her rant, Zander watched his dad put the complaint beside all the others in her thick file. "Just try to play nice, if they want seeds just sell them some seeds. OK?" 

"Well don't think I won't offer them some friendly advice if they need it." Zander knew that was as close to win as Geoff could get, and he opened the door for them as they both headed out to the storeroom.

The remainder of Zander’s day was less than memorable. He worked till close at the store, only stopping for a brief lunch. On the way home he called his cousin Joe and made some plans to go fishing on the weekend. Shortly after a hasty supper of frozen pizza he fell asleep on the couch watching TV, as was often his custom.  

Night Two

Zander awoke from his sleep beside the old tree, club still next to him. Darkness surrounded him, not even a hint of sunrise yet. He had a mild headache, but nothing compared to the pounding of the day before. Clothing still damp, he stood up and surveyed his situation. The time change from Utah to wherever he was now had fooled his internal clock and he hadn't any idea how long he had been asleep. Although tempted to lay back down and try to get more rest, Zander wondered what had disturbed him from his slumber.

Perhaps some animal, he proposed to himself. But what about the voices he had heard the day before? Had he been delirious? People don't disappear, and surely they would have yelled back. If they had been spying on him, they would have approached while he slept. Maybe they did! Maybe that's what woke me up! In a full panic he rushed to the stream, club in hand. He dropped to his stomach and tried to listen. Peeking through the tall grass he looked for signs of people.

After what must have been many minutes of waiting, he thought he heard something. It was faint and sounded far away. Zander's heart was beating fiercely, and he struggled not to make any noise. The sound was not distinguishable as human, perhaps more of a wail or scream. It was definitely a living being of some sort. Unsure if it was an animal or a human, he tried to slow his breathing and weigh his options. 

He could stay where he was until daylight; searching in the day would feel safer. On the other hand, that might mean the screaming would be gone and he would lose his chance at finding civilization. A shiver went down his back as he dreaded the thought of being alone any longer.

If he found somewhere with good elevation, he could see some clue as to where the voices were. Perhaps there would be a cabin or campsite. Anything that would give him some idea of where he was seemed like the best choice. He would head upstream, hoping to find the source of the wailing. If that failed, he would just follow the river till he found the source of the flowing water, hoping that would lead to high ground. 

Before beginning his trek, Zander took the few steps to the stream and drank a few refreshing handfuls of water. Food was on his mind, but he knew he wasn't starving yet and surely he would find something soon. Collecting his club, he began hiking towards the noise that had now silenced.

An hour of walking had passed, and the sun was finally starting to come up. He had seen very little other than foliage, birds, and trees. Occasionally he heard movement in the trees, but it sounded like a squirrel or something smaller scampering away. He had stayed within a few feet of the stream, which had now widened to the point it would be considered a river. 

Zander's stomach was now growling, and he decided to take a few minutes and head towards a large cluster of trees which he hoped contained a fruit tree. As he got closer to the mess of trees he heard something. Crying. Distinct human crying, and it wasn’t far away. Zander ran stealthily in the direction of the sound. He wouldn't make the mistake of alerting them this time. He traveled about 30 yards and hid behind a tree. In the morning light, he peeked out to where heard the sound.

No more than 15 feet away sat Aunt Maggie. Her floral dress almost blended into the jungle. She was sobbing heavily. Zander shouted her name and ran to her.

"They were here!" she bawled "They tried to get me." She was near inconsolable. Zander knelt beside her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"It's ok, I'm here Maggie. What happened? Where are we? Who tried to 'get you'?" Unsure what “get me” even meant he didn’t wait long for an answer.

"The grey people! The vanishers!" She is clearly in a state of delirium, Zander thought without saying.

"What do you mean the vanishers?"

"They just disappeared! They were right beside me, pulling on me, then gone." She was hard to understand between all the sobbing. Clearly she is losing it. But for just a second Zander thought of the voices he had heard the night before. Just disappeared.

"K, Maggie start at the beginning. How did you get here?"

"I don't know! Last night I was on the yacht and today I woke up here by the cocoa trees." She gestured to a patch of thick trees, with hanging fruit that looked a little like squash. "The grey people they were all around me when I came to. They dressed like Tarzan and they must have been cannibals!"

"What!? How do you know that?"

"They had necklaces with teeth on them! Human teeth!” Maggie was shaking as she recalled the memory "Great big brutes of men, and vicious looking! And they were poking at me with glowing spears. One guy, he was the leader, babbled to the others and then two of them grabbed me and started dragging me that way." She caught her breath. "I couldn't understand them, but they must speak some English 'cause I could pick out a few words. Then suddenly they were gone. They just disappeared. It must have been you scaring them off."

Maggie suddenly appeared grateful, realizing that Zander had probably saved her life. "Thank you, and hello by the way. I'm sorry I forgot my manners." Zander nodded acknowledgment without saying anything, secretly thinking that Maggie had never been one for manners. "Those devils were going to eat
me; I just know it."

"Do you have any idea where we are?" Zander wanted to keep her talking, though still distraught, she had perked up a little and the flow of tears had stopped.

"Well..." She looked around and wiped her tears. She appeared confused, but thoughtful. Zander waited patiently for an answer, "I guess by the equator somewheres. The plants say so."

"The plants say so." Zander repeated her. He shouldn't have been surprised at such a queer answer, knowing she was the "Plant Lady". At least that's what people called her at work when she wasn't around. He tried to think of somewhere that grey-skinned people existed.

"Are you sure they were grey?" Zander's memory had revealed nothing useful. 

"Grey like stones. I'm as sure as my dress is red." Maggie replied. 

Zander looked around, feeling eerie, "How long have you been here, you must need something to drink?" Zander wanted to get moving but didn't want to let on how scared he really was. Maggie nodded her agreement and suggested they go back to the river and try to figure out where they were.

A shrill whistle blasted their ears and caused them both to jump. Having no sense of where it came from, they both crouched immediately. Zander's heart began to race, it sounded close whatever it was. Maggie suddenly pushed him over till they were both prone on the ground. Zander looked at her angrily and was about to speak but the urgency in her eyes stopped him. She wasn't looking at him.

Three of them, not even 50 feet away. Tall, at least six and half feet, muscular, lean, and grey. Just as grey as Maggie had said. Why have I never heard of grey people before.

A loin cloth draped from each one’s waist, and all of them carried short spears barely longer than their arms. The spears had coloured tips, that seemed to glow and led a trail of faint, spiraling light towards their owners’ hand. The light stopped on the shaft where it was gripped and seemed to enter the holder's hand. Each one of them wore a necklace but Zander couldn't tell if it bore the teeth Maggie had described.

Maggie whispered something so quiet Zander couldn't hear, not that he would have noticed. His full attention was focused on the beings before him. What are they? Something undiscovered? Something tainted by the surroundings? Zander didn't believe in aliens, but if someone had told him that’s what they were; in that moment he would have believed them.

Their arms were covered in black markings like tattoos. The shortest of the three had the markings enveloping his torso. This short grey appeared to be the leader; he was shouting in angry tones whilst waving his arms, gesturing to the others. Another who appeared aged and ragged, had far more marks down his arms and appeared sheepish and uninterested in whatever the short grey was saying. The third grey was much younger and had just a few tattoos. He cowered from the angry grey as he shouted. 

Zander had only just noticed how the spears seemed to interact with their owners. The short one’s spear had a red glow that flashed brightly as he gestured and yelled. The oldest grey's spear had a steady blue aura to it, while the youngest's flickered and danced with energy that flashed from purple to red and orange.

Maggie and Zander strained to listen to what they were saying, but it was completely unintelligible.

The angry grey leader was getting more annoyed and advanced towards the youngest. Backing up as if expecting a blow, the younger didn't turn to run or block himself. His challenger gripped his spear by the end and continued walking. Zander heard the eldest speak. His voice was deep and calm. The eldest shared a moment of eye contact with the youngest after speaking. All fear left the youngest as he straightened up and stood, awaiting his fate, 
With an evil smile the leader swung the spear as if one-handing a baseball bat. A bright red flash appeared as the spear connected with the younger's shoulder. Falling to his knees and writhing in pain, a shrill wail filled the air. He lifted his spear and the tip glowed bright white. Then he vanished.

Zander jumped and he felt Maggie do the same. Gone. All that remained was a faint white fog that quickly dispersed. “See!! I told you!!" Maggie could hold it no longer and had spoke aloud. Zander's heart dropped. The two remaining Greys immediately looked their way. Their eyes pierced the area around them. Zander knew they were about to be found. Keeping his eyes trained on them he reached for his club. The adrenaline continued to fill his veins as his body prepared for fight or flight.

The two Greys were 35 feet away and approaching cautiously. Zander weighed his options. They could hide, they could run, or they could fight. His heart was thumping, and he could hear Maggie's fearful breathing. Hiding was a bad option given that the two Greys had heard her whisper from 50 feet away.

Now maybe only 25 feet away, the Greys were couching as they approached adding to their already menacing appearance. Fighting was almost certainly out of the question. He had a wooden tree branch he called a club and they had magic spears. If they ran, they stood slim chance of getting away. Maggie was almost sixty, short and stocky. Not what you would call an athletic build. He had a chance, he ran almost everyday back home, and the vanishers would stop once they caught Maggie. Leaving her behind might give him a shot.

At only 15 feet away he could clearly make out their tattoos. It was now or never, he either ran or stayed to be captured. He had only seconds to decide. His heart ached as he struggled to decide whether to stay or run. 

He remembered how Maggie had been when he found her. Terrified. Fear of being eaten or worse. He couldn't leave her to be captured. She was petrified beside him, hardly breathing. But fear overcame him, "Better her than both of us" he thought at the last second.

In that moment, when they greys were 12 feet away, the length of a room, he bolted. Scrambling from face down to running, he headed for the trees to his right. It wasn't much of a head start but Zander was fast. Hearing them yell behind him pushed him onward. Jumping over fallen trees and zig-zagging through the forest he could hear them tromping in pursuit.

He heard a terrible scream from Maggie as the greys descended upon the position he had just left. But the crashing sounds continued behind him, suggesting they hadn’t bothered to stop for her. Why hadn't they stopped for Maggie! He thought his heart might explode as he stumbled through the thick vines grabbing at his clothes. He ran for all he was worth, knowing the chances of outrunning the greys was slim to none. With Maggie as his sacrifice he should have been dozens of yards ahead of them. But the Greys hadn’t slowed for her, and they gave up nothing in speed. Their long legs and agility clearly made up for their extra weight and size.

Fear drove Zander to push even harder through the brush. They were on his heels, hunting him down like the scared animal he was. If only they had stopped and grabbed Maggie instead. I would have got away. He heard his pants tear as he jumped wildly over a dead palm. Searing pain shot up his leg as he landed and tumbled hard to the ground. 

The greys were on him in an instant, the eldest thrusting his pulsing blue spear against Zander's chest so he wouldn't move. The leader stood looming over him, his face looking less angry and more perplexed. The necklaces of yellowed teeth hung from their necks with a thin hemp rope. Undeniably human teeth. 

Agonizing pain throbbed from his ankle but he couldn't look away from the sight before him. The large brutes had been everything Margret had described. The tattoos that covered their arms appeared to be tally marks. Four vertical lines with a diagonal strike through each set of lines. The marks across the leader’s chest were similar to hieroglyphics that he had seen in pictures of Egyptian pyramids. 

After a few seconds of studying the men, Zander noticed they did not appear angry or pleased. Bewildered, is perhaps what he saw across their faces. They whispered to each other as Zander lay frozen in fear. He wanted to speak but no words came out when he opened his mouth. Finally, managing to break his paralysis, Zander looked to his lower leg. His pants had ripped from the cuff to his knee, exposing a twisted, bloody mess with a small bone sticking out the side just above the ankle.

Author Notes Thank you for reading and reviewing!

Chapter 3
Going Fishing Ch.3

By Ethan Vandervelden

Looking back at the men, Zander summoned his courage, "What do you want from me?" They were silent. "Who are you?" The older grey leaned closer to him, "Where am I?" He asked shakily, unsure if they could even understand him.

The leader looked to the older grey "Kava tu caan, enesta neoh."  His accent was harsh, and he spoke directly. Zander had little time to think about that. The elder nodded and stretched his spear down touching Zander's chest. A white glow started to appear from the base where the spear was held and slowly chased the green up the shaft. Zander could hear a shrieking whistle getting louder as the whiteness overtook the green and started to glow brighter and brighter. Brightness blinded him, and the whistle was burning his ears.

The last thing he saw has the older greys face directly in front of his own.

“Now you sleep.” The words had come out forcefully and clear, and it was the last thing Zander heard. Then there was nothing, and Zander’s consciousness slipped away from him.
“Grampa says you always use too big of hooks and that’s why you never catch nothin’ ”

“Oh shut it Steph. Read your book or something.” Zander replied to his little sister unenthusiastically.

“Gladly, you guys are super boring anyway.” The little redhead replied.

“At least she’s easy to babysit.” Joe said with a wink towards Zander.

“I don’t need a baby-sitter, I’m twelve. Mom just wanted to be alone. Like she always does.”

“Come here hun, I’ll braid your hair while the boys do lame boy stuff.” Silvia dropped her rod on the grassy bank and joined Steph under a tree.

“Ok!” Steph happily agreed. She sat in front of her and plucked weeds while Silvia drew out her hair and began the braids. “You know what? You’re the best part of Joe. I hope you guys get married and then you can be my cousin forever.”

“Married?” Silvia laughed “We haven’t even finished high school yet!”

“Well, I don’t mean tomorrow Silvi. Like someday.” Steph’s green eyes twinkled against her fair complexion. “You’re blushing.”

“You’re such a dreamer sweetheart.” Silvia instinctively put one hand against her bronzed cheeks to see if they were warm. “How’s that?” she asked holding one of the braids for Steph to see.

“Nice hair, Pippi.” Zander teased, looking back at them from the edge of the water.

“Shush! Yer’ scaring the fish.” Joe said punching him in the arm.

Just then Zander’s rod started twitching. “Got a bite!” Zander yanked the rod upward, “It’s a big one too! I didn’t scare the fis. . .” He stopped as his rod flexed hard towards the water.

“Hang on I’ll help ya.” Dropping his own rod Joe rushed to help Zander. His reel was practically singing as he tried to wind the whopper in.

“You really snagged him good.” Joe said while trying to pull in the line.

“Yeah. . . I really . . . urgh . . . did.”

“He might be state record! Look at the size of him! Silvia, get me that net!”

Silvia sprung to his side, net in hand, and watched Joe wade into the water to scoop him out. Zander kept the line taut and kept reeling while Joe went knee deep with the net.

“I’ve got you now!” Joe hoisted up the net with the biggest Lake Trout any of them had ever seen.

Zander immediately looked to Steph, whose eyes had grown three sizes while watching. “Big hooks mean big fish!”

Zander was groggy when he managed to open his eyes. It was dark and he could feel his whole body swinging as if he was in a hammock. Trying to sit up, he realized he had been tied down across the chest. His arms were still free, but he felt a heavy, rough blanket over his entire body. He kicked at the blanket trying to get it off, but pain shot up his leg from the wounded ankle.

He cursed in pain and heard a mutter in reply from above his head.

"Hey! Let me out!!" Zander screamed.

In return, he heard voices speak to each other in words he didn't understand. Zander swore angrily at his apparent captors. He felt around, looking for a weapon or something to free himself. Feeling nothing in arms length, he reached into the top corners and tugged at the blanket trying to remove it. When that failed, he felt the poles beside him that were bearing his weight. A soft fur greeted his fingertips as he touched the material he was laying on.

He continued to struggle, trying to wiggle free. Suddenly, he felt them stop moving. Immediately he was struck across his chest with a blow that left him gasping.

"Viisa hown!", a voice commanded. He tried to regain his breath and respond but was struck again before he could.

"Leesta tu bae", it had been a different voice this time, spoken much more softly and Zander couldn't tell if the voice was for him or speaking to his attacker. He heard an irritated sigh and felt them begin to walk again.

He gasped and wondered if a rib was broken, judging from sharp pain every time he inhaled. He resolved not to struggle any further, and the feeling of claustrophobia began to set in. His heart was racing, his body soaked in sweat from the heat and lack of fresh air. The terror of being a captive was finally settling in. All he remembered from earlier was being touched by the spear and the white light that had shone so brightly even in the daylight.

Who are these people? What are these people? How could I never have heard of grey people, and how do the spears work? What is with the tattoos, and the necklaces made of teeth? Why do their faces look so ordinary when they are clearly not normal? What did they do with Aunt Margret?

These thoughts flew through his mind just like cars down a freeway. One after another, not able to focus long enough to come up with an answer. The paranoia and fear were breaking his spirit, and a same wave of emotions rushed over him as he wondered if he was headed to his death. What about everyone else? Steph, Joe, Silvia, Grampa Elmer and everyone else?  

In that moment if he could have curled into a fetal position and bawled, he would have. An inevitable outburst was delayed by the sound of a crowd, faintly in the distance.

The voices were getting louder as they continued walking. Of course, they are taking me back to their leader, but then what? He dreaded what might happen to him, especially as he thought about the many teeth hanging from the necks of the two greys that had captured him.

Within a couple minutes he could clearly hear the voices. One voice shouted what sounded a speech and the group responded with a chant that he could make out as "Kepa Essi Fentay!"

Midway into the speakers next monologue, Zander felt his carriers stop and lower him to the ground. He was hanging in mid-air about two feet off the ground when he felt the poles vibrate with an after-thud as he ceased moving. A breath of fresh air caught him as the rough blanket was finally pulled off his sweaty face. The sunlight's bright rays blinded him for a second. Then he saw something he could never forget.

A civilization of Greys. 

Author Notes Thank you for reading and reviewing! I really appreciate any feedback you can offer.

Chapter 4
Pillar of Fire Ch.4

By Ethan Vandervelden

They had taken him to a gate with a black stone wall surrounding it. The gate was made of thick dark timbers and hung open like double doors. Brass trim adorned the latches and hinges. The black stone wall was rugged, fifteen feet high and amongst the dark grey mortar and black rock, small pieces glistened in the sun.

The gate was open, and he could see inside its daunting walls; houses made of stone. Spaced evenly and all in perfect rows with a pathway as wide as a narrow alley. Towards the end of the alley stood a great building, Zander strained to see it, but the straps held him back. Compared to his captors’ savage-like attire, what he could see of the inside of the village could be described as elegant.

Just inside the gate, he could see a courtyard as large as a football field. Fruit trees were arranged thoughtfully with stone paths leading to unknown destinations. Across from the courtyard, a stone wall with a few wooden doors down the side appeared to be an armory or barracks of some kind.
Dozens of Greys were gathered in the courtyard, all facing away from him, towards what Zander assumed was a town gathering. The great voice continued to speak, and the Greys stood at attention. Some were dressed more eloquently than a simple loin cloth and wore pants made of the same rough fabric he had been covered with. Very few of the males wore shirts, though a gathering of what must have been blacksmiths, had aprons made of leather.

Zander looked up at the Greys who had been carrying him. Three stood above him, staring, their expressions a mixture of disbelief and distrust. Two of them were the original ones that had captured him after he had run, leaving Maggie behind.

To his surprise, the third was a female, dressed in the same loin cloth as the males, with brown cloth tied across her chest which appeared to be more for function than modesty. Her complexion was a dark grey and she had hieroglyphic tattoos similar to the leader’s across her muscle-ridden stomach.

Her body was muscular, not skinny, but strong. Her grey skin showing obvious darker areas which resembled a tan. With a tall and upright stance, her narrow shoulders were pushed back and her chest out. The same short spear as the male Greys carried hung in her grip with a pale blue glow emanating from the tip. It was the first time he had seen a Greys' eyes. Hers’ were light green and twinkling with life. So bright they were almost out of place against the greyness of her face and her silvery hair tied in a milkmaids’ braid with light bangs covering a portion of her forehead.

The female spoke in whispered tones to the elder and he nodded, their gaze never leaving Zander. He watched nervously as the female took the front of the poles and the elder took the rear, picking him up with ease.

The leader grey strode alongside, with a proud, smug expression. They marched through the courtyard while the leader barked at the Greys who stood in the way.

"Gerta caan hen vee!!" The leader pushed as needed and most Greys jumped out of the way with gasps as they saw Zander laying on the rudimentary gurney. The crowd stared at him as if they had never seen something like him before. He stared back in astonishment. The whole crowd appeared to be of a similar age, maybe thirty years separated the youngest from the oldest. Perhaps age 20 to age 50, no children, no old. In fact, the oldest he saw looked to be his captor who stood at the rear, carrying him.

Zander realized he was a captured prize. He wondered what that would mean for his future. A common denominator among the group was the toothy necklaces many of them wore. Their faces showed no fear, only curiosity, and twinges of anger as he passed them by, helpless to do anything if one of them was to attack.

Craning his neck to see where they were going yielded him nothing; the bonds holding him were too tight. At best he could see the female Grey's silvery braid against her bare shoulder as she led the way through the crowd. Looking towards his toes he watched the elder Grey, his hands gripping the poles supporting him, and his face expressionless, staring straight ahead.

Having covered what Zander guessed to be a hundred yards, they stopped. Zander was about to get a look at why the Greys had been gathered in the courtyard before he was there. His carriers stopped and turned. Before him was a platform made of dark red wood, large posts on stood across the front with hemp rope binding the cross braces together. The flat of the stage was made of the same-colored wood, planed and smoothed to create a base. Upon the top at the rear were six thrones made of glassy black stone and inlaid with gold strands.

Seated in the three thrones to his left were three Grey males, and on the right, three females. They were dressed in much finer clothing than anyone else and all held ornate staffs of varying design. The staffs were glowing from top to bottom with a royal purple hue.

The grey standing beside him turned and began to loosen his bonds. Zander felt relief as he could finally breath deeply again.  

"Gerta feh, binay hin." He motioned for Zander to get up. Sitting up, he surveyed the crowd, the stage and those around him. "Hasta feh!" The Grey commanded aggressively, throwing his arms open in frustration.

Zander started to swing his legs over the edge and pain soared up his leg. He let out a little yelp and began to protest. "I can't!" He pointed to his leg, "Look at my ankle. I can't wa..."

"Ossalis!" A voice from the stage boomed. A humble crown sat upon the speaker’s head. The king nodded to the female who had carrying Zander’s gurney, and she motioned for someone nearby to take the poles which held him up.

She walked deliberately towards his feet and held her spear, now glowing bright pink, near them. Ossalis leaned forward and her long braid fell over her shoulder and brushed Zander's leg. While murmuring in her foreign tongue, she held her spear close to his ankle, almost touching. Zander had to look away from the bright light as it pierced his eyes. Placing her free hand just below his knee, Ossalis began to slowly slide it down his leg and towards the wound. Her hand became encompassed in the glowing light, and bolts of magic leapt from the spear to her arm.

Ossalis stopped speaking and closed her eyes. There was a flash that surrounded Zander for a second, then the glow was gone. Ossalis stood, only a tiny pink glow from her spear now, no more than a matchlight. Breathing heavy, and with sweat on her brow, she turned to the stage, nodded to the seated eminence, and turned to face Zander.

He looked at his ankle, it was completely healed. Not a mark on it, save for a scar where the bone had previously been poking through. But it looked like an old scar, years old, not something that had just healed.

“Kelta hene veem,” Ossalis spoke in a gentle, yet direct tone. She stood to the side and allowed him to get up motioning for him to stand. Zander moved slowly, not quite trusting his healed ankle. He placed his full weight down on his feet, then stood on just one leg, testing the repair. It felt solid, though his legs shook in fear and disbelief at what he had just experienced.

She stood beside him and delicately placed a hand on his back and directed him forward, walking beside him towards the steps on the platform. Zander moved slowly, taking his steps only as Ossalis pressed on him more firmly. Eight steps later, and they were at eye level with the seated dignitaries.

Zander hadn’t seen it from the ground, but between him and them was a great metal bowl. Copper in color and heavily dimpled like a golf ball, it was sunk into the platform about four feet, and was as wide as a small room. He guessed it to be a burning pit, though it contained no ashes or remnants of a fire.

Those seated took their staffs, which lit up with different colors as they grabbed them. He watched, as they gracefully strode to the pit, until they were all gathered in a semi circle around the pit. In pairs, they touched the rounded copper edge of the pit with their glowing staffs. Flame flickered across the pit, its color matching the blue and yellow of the first two staffs. The pit groaned with the sudden exposure to heat. Like two snakes moving around, the small flames danced up and down the great bowl, chasing each other as they went.

The next two Greys reached down and touched the copper rim. Green and pink joined in the fray of flames flowing about in the pit. The first flames grew larger as the others swirled about them, as if being fed off each other. Zander tried to take a step back from the flames, but Ossalis pressed him forward and didn’t allow him to move.

Only two left, the king holding a white staff, and the other female holding a red. Finally, the crowned one looked to his partner, who Zander noticed was dressed more elegantly than anyone, and they touched their staffs to the pit. The flames flashed high. Past their heads and into the sky. The flames went up with a blur but never went outward of the pit. A multi-colored pillar of fire stretched for the clouds; all colors distinct yet blurred together.

Zander looked up, the rush of the flames still in front of him felt like a jet engine in the face. He stared in awe for a few seconds and looked to Ossalis who had her head back, eyes closed and, oddly, a smile across her face.

As he watched the pillar, a feeling of euphoria began to creep into his soul. He felt alive like he never had, almost like he was floating and carried by a force he didn't care to understand. Closing his eyes and leaning back with his arm outstretched to his sides Zander relaxed. A wave of life inexplicably coursed through his body. In a few seconds more he would feel nothing at all.

Author Notes Thank you for reading and reviewing. I appreciate critical reviews as this chapter is in second draft. Thank you to supergold for the image! Hope you enjoy!

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