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[Alternate Reality Fiction] Alexandra & The Ship of Dreams (CSUDH 2019)

04:13 Jan 16 2019
Times Read: 332


From a young age, Alexandra was fascinated with dragons. At first, she collected small, plastic dinosaurs and set them in many renditions of imaginary nests and battles but, as she matured, and her interest in the giant reptiles and fantastic creatures that populated her imagination grew, she realized that dragons are quite different from dinosaurs in many ways.

For one thing, dragons’ existence is fueled by the dreams and aspirations of people in the world of the living.

Dinosaurs, on the other hand, have been extinct for millions of years. Additionally, some dinosaurs were carnivorous hunters that preyed on smaller animals in the ancient world.

Dragons, by comparison, fed on the magic and spiritual dreams of a select number of dreamers. They thrived when they were spoken of and were attracted to subconscious outlines of their lumbering, scaly bodies and their fiery breath.

Being a college student, it was a challenge for Alexandra to balance her interest in dreams and dragons with the genetic and biological legacies found in paleontology.

Above and beyond all of this was her responsibility to her teachers to study hard and maintain momentum. It was they, her instructors, who supported and encouraged her to maintain her pursuit of a formal education including the mythological world of dragons and its relationship with the dreams and aspirations of the people of Earth.

It wasn’t until Alexandra was in her early twenties and became a student at the local university that she fully realized her desire to study the literary and historical heritage of dragons as they were manifested in the epochs of history. The appertaining documents, spanning many centuries, showed the rudimentary sketches of dragons as they appeared in the imaginations of druids, priests, historians and others who made their career as illuminators of vellum manuscripts.

Other wizards and researchers dedicated their study to the stars and constellations of the night sky.

The positions of the stars frequently resembled the outline of familiar shapes, creatures and the gods themselves.

Living in the city, the cloudy sky made it difficult for the female student to discern the famous constellations.

Alexandra had a telescope, however, and she used it on camping trips to the western desert of the United States. Under the clear sky, she enjoyed taking her time and consulting atlases of known stars to help her identify the phenomena that stood within visible range.

Among the constellations were Orion’s Belt, the Big and Little Dippers, Venus and Mars (actually planets).

In addition to these celestial bodies were the occasional meteor showers that lit up the desert sky.

Alexandra kept up the process of her education, however, and strove to acquire the highest grades possible in each of her classes. Ultimately, she made a decision between the science of astronomy and the study of mythology. She chose to make a career of the legendary dragons.

It was on one of these nights that she encountered a preternatural companion.

He was a reptilian being that possessed green scales and a spiky tail. The creature, staring at her from among the cacti, communicated telepathically rather than verbally.

'Greetings, I am Saurus. It is good to make your acquaintance. I was dormant, here, for some time but was awakened by your proximity. We draconians have been studying the human race of Earth. It is clear that not all people are prepared to meet a dragon face-to-face. You have proven to be an exception to the norm it seems. Perhaps you can help me.'

“My name is Alexandra,” she said.

'It is nice to make your acquaintance,' answered Saurus. 'I was attracted to your potent dragon energy. You, among many, have stood out through your thoughts of us. I am here to ask you if you can assemble a dragon book.

'Our numbers are plentiful, and our features are significantly varied. Just as there are short humans and tall humans, so are there small dragons and behemoth ones. The color of our scales is equally diverse. There are red dragons, silver dragons and fire-breathing wyverns ready for battle.'

“You are right, Saurus,” replied Alexandra. “I am a fan of dragons and have chosen to make their presence known to elites and newcomers alike. It is peculiar that the ancient books contain illustrations of dragons yet, in contemporary time, fewer people indicate interest in them and their magical power.”

'That is to be expected,' Saurus answered. 'Amid their burgeoning technology, many humans have forgotten their dragon heritage. I stand here before you as a messenger. There are turbulent forces in the etherium that have come to the concern of the draconian people and others who reside in a magical realm imperceptible to most humans.

'The dragon world is called Xanadu by its inhabitants. We are studious of the portals that provide us with images of the mortal world but the power of the draconians is not limitless.

'The dreams of you humans have become diffused in recent years and we have found ourselves in need of an advocate and liaison that will turn our energy back to what it was in ages past.

'The great dragon oceans have stilled and darkened as war and violence consumed the 20th century world of Earth. The seas of Xanadu need time and energy from the active and dynamic dreams of man.'

Alexandra was interested in the words of Saurus.

“Perhaps you can help me understand your predicament more fully. What if the dragons are forgotten?”

'If we dragons are forgotten we will perish, and our ashes will be blown to the Astral Plane that surrounds our fading world.

'The Astral Plane is lonely and desolate. Few sentient creatures would venture there willingly.'

“I get the idea,” Alexandra observed. “Maybe my friends and I can help. We are an astronomy club that also dabbles in the preservation of tracts of mythology and ancient lore.”

'I will return before you soon,' Saurus said.

The draconian’s appearance began to fade and then vanished entirely.

Alexandra shut down her telescope and lay down in her tent. She was tired. The dragon researcher had studied much of the night in the attempt to become as familiar as possible with the material assigned for the history mid-term exam at Jefferson University.

She slept through the night soundly and struck camp the following morning so that she could return to her studies at school.

Once she arrived at her apartment in the city, night had fallen again and a storm was approaching.

Alexandra lifted her gaze from the empty street to the darkening sky.

The wind grew stronger and pine-cones fell from the neighboring trees.

'I better get some rest,' she thought. 'I’ll hand out more flyers asking for volunteers tomorrow.'

Alexandra slept deeply and dreamed beyond space and time. She had foggy visions of scaly, reptilian flesh, dragon’s teeth and fire. Some of the images from her subconscious mind were similar in shape and color to Saurus. She sensed her newfound acquaintance’s ethereal energy and they entered a state of communion where Alexandra’s mythic force energized Saurus and the draconians’ force charged her spirit, in turn.

Then another, alien entity emerged in Alexandra’s dream. It spoke to her in a resonating, grumbling voice.

'Aargh! Saurus! You have said too much. Xanadu is ours. Do not deign to establish a connection with the denizens of Earth. We servants of Daizan will reign supreme!'

Alexandra tossed in her sleep. Her thoughts were unclear, and she contested the new, aggressive voice. She felt the presence of a potent, titanic entity.

"Who are you?" she asked.

Alexandra wanted to make things safe for Saurus and his people. In the back of her mind she considered that if there are peace-loving humans who supported and energized the realm of dreams so might there be malevolent humans bent on destroying and eradicating Xanadu altogether. The bearer of the telepathic speech may be one of the latter.

'I sense your presence, young human.'

The ominous, telepathic voice continued.

'Your awareness of alternate universes is exemplary. You remain in the dark, however, for I am Mephisto. I am the guardian of the gateways of time and space. Here, you may skip ahead to the future, but no one can travel back in time. Thus, the changes that have exacted their toll on the current oceans of Earth may prove challenging to reverse or harness with a semblance of atmospheric control.'

"What can I do, Mephisto?" asked Alexandra.

'You must answer for the faulty consideration of your species. If some draconians and other, lesser dragons work to restore ethereal balance to the fading Xanadu a majority of us have faded too much, vanishing before being able to share our arcane knowledge and titanic abilities with future generations. The wrath of my cohorts and I has reached a boiling point.

'Behold the power of Daizan sent to Earth from the Astral Plane. Your days grow short.'

Alexandra was shaken and sat up in her bed as a deep, guttural rumbling shook her apartment.

Byron, Alexandra’s cat began wailing from the kitchen.

The sounds increased in volume and the apartment swayed as it was struck by an earthquake.

Alexandra stumbled her way over to Byron and picked him up.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” Alexandra yelled.

The temblor decreased in intensity and then stopped altogether.

Alexandra grabbed her car keys and smart phone and put Byron in his travel box. She sprinted to her car and put her key into the ignition. She turned onto the main street and headed her vehicle to the nearest freeway.

Alexandra activated her hands-free headset and speed dialed her friend, Coraline.

“Cor, are you there? It’s Alex.”

“Hi, Alex. How are things going in your neck of the woods?”

“Not so good. It seems that amid our study of the stars and galaxies we attracted the attention of some preternatural entities, not all of whom are sympathetic to the causes of we humans.

"I was contacted in my dreams by an ethereal agent calling himself Mephisto. He claimed to be a representative of Daizan, an obscure entity and power monger in the Astral Plane of the Earth’s dreamers. Based on his own words, Mephisto claimed to be exerting cosmic energy to initiate an earthquake here, in Los Angeles.

"At this point it seems the best plan of action is to assemble our modest group and attempt to generate an ethereal response to Mephisto’s trans-dimensional attack. Perhaps, once gathered, we can stockpile our energy in an attempt to dissuade the denizens of Daizan from assaulting the Earth and its residents.

"Let us gather our group, the Ship of Dreams at the Griffith Observatory tonight. As captain I’m prepared to gather the waves of energy from our collected subconscious and do what we can to safeguard the lives and structures of the general population.

“Cor, I have Byron in the car with me. He was shocked as much as I was when the earthquake started. We’re both safe, now, but must take action against Mephisto before more of the infrastructure of Los Angeles is damaged or destroyed.

"There are potentially millions of lives at risk here and it would be wise to additionally seek the counsel of the professional geologists and astronomers in the area.

"The ghost of cosmic war and the fluctuating power of the world of the dragons has ruptured from their ancient restraints, making we, the dreamers of dragons and the Astral Plane the new custodians of the welfare and well-being of unsuspecting humans.”

“Wow! That’s troubling news, Alex!” replied Coraline. “I was just working on some physics notes here when you called. Give me a couple of minutes to assemble my equipment and I’ll start calling the crew of the Ship of Dreams.

"They will have their own ideas about how to waylay Mephisto and Daizan before they exert lasting damage to our plane of existence. Give me about twenty minutes to make the calls and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

"Be careful out there, Alex. Don’t do anything foolish before the rest of us arrive at the observatory.”

“Thanks, Cor. I’ll see you soon. Let’s keep in touch. Bye.”

“Alright, bye Alex.”

Alexandra carefully disconnected her smart phone’s headset and focused on the projected road map on her car’s Head’s Up Display. She had time to drop off Byron at a friend’s house before starting the trek to the famous Griffith Observatory.

'I wonder what, if anything, has become of the stellar bodies in the nighttime sky of the Earth’s northern hemisphere,' Alexandra thought. 'I must attempt to trace the force that Daizan is tapping. No one summons that much energy out of the blue.'

The would-be leader of the Ship of Dreams thought again of the dragons in the Astral Plane.

'I don’t believe that all dragons and their ilk are hostile toward humans. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say.

'At this point we should try attracting a dragon of a different color. The metallic-scaled dragons are Lawful and frown on interfering with the residents of the world of the mortals. The metallic-scaled dragons, if notified of our situation, may consent to intercede on our behalf. The gold and silver dragons are reputed to be perceptive and sympathetic to our agenda of peace and inter-dimensional coexistence.

'I’ve got to contact Saurus. That’s something I’m not sure how to do. I’ll drive to the Joshua Tree state park and activate my telescope there, tonight.'

Although terrified by the alien hostility of Daizan and his cohorts Alexandra acknowledged to herself that something must be done on the behalf of humanity.

She set a modest campfire at a desert clearing and directed her telescope in a similar manner to the night when Saurus chose to appear before her.

She had tracked the stars for half an hour when she was relieved to hear rustling and movement in a cluster of cacti and bushes nearby.

“Saurus! It’s good to see you. I wasn’t sure how I might go about contacting you if the need arose. I notified my gathering of friends, known as the Ship of Dreams, that I was reached by you the other night.

"Since then Mephisto has been on the prowl in this mortal realm. He invaded my sleep and would not be bargained with. Apparently, there is a growing wave of hostile, draconian energy entering the realm of Earth from the deep cosmos."

Alexandra was relieved to see Saurus. She’d been wondering how she would manage to contact the reptilian humanoid outside of the deep desert.

The pair of friends chatted under the starlit sky for a few minutes. Each of them respected the needs and concerns of the other.

There was a lingering meteor shower that streaked the sky and horizon while they spoke. Alex took a moment to re-align her professional telescope and attached camera.

The orientation of the optical device in relation to the heavenly bodies was intact.

Alex had already taken the initiative and entered the astronomical co-ordinates of a series of stars. She was especially interested in constellations named and identified by the research of the ancient Greeks.

Alex looked at the illuminated navigation screen built into the telescope’s remote control device. She pressed the icon representing the co-ordinates for Orion’s Belt. The electric motor of the professional telescope whirred and clicked as it moved to focus in on the current, temporary position of the selected stellar body.

'That is interesting,' Saurus intoned. 'You humans have done well to equip your optical devices with notes of the circling heavens. We dragon-kin have used similar devices in the past…most notably in locating regions and planets in space that may prove hospitable to draconian species.

'Rarely do we encounter solar systems that are young enough and fertile enough to support a substantial dragon delegation to the neighboring worlds.

'Alas, this is the age of our diaspora. Our people must move on, both physically and spiritually. Such a thing is not easily done, however, and our dwindling resources have forced us to petition the guidance and assistance of humans.'

“That’s fine by me, Saurus,” replied Alexandra. “I think it’s time to contact the other members of the Ship of Dreams.

"I spoke briefly with Coraline who was encouraging of your proposal. She gave me her new phone number. Here, I’ll call her now.”

Alex touched a different icon on her phone’s screen. It was an emoji of the grinning face of a cat. The call took a couple of seconds to connect and she was through.

“Hello, Alex. This is Coraline. How are things going for our Ship of Dreams?”

“We’re doing alright, Cor. Listen, I restored contact with a draconian agent in the field, here. He is adamant about securing peace and safety for his fellow draconians.

"Please contact the other active members of the Ship. We need to hold an official meeting and solicit the opinions of our fledglings and veterans.”

“Sure thing, Alex. Give me about twenty minutes to make sure I have the most recent phone numbers and e-mail addresses in my computer system. I’ll get back to you, soon.

"By the way, is that rustling behind you Saurus? I heard mention of him yesterday…Hello, Saurus!

“With the help of our Ship we will contact others of your realm. Hopefully our petition will reach the full dragons who most need the energy of Earth. A silver or bronze dragon would do nicely at this point.”

Alexandra was heartened to have succeeded in establishing contact with both Saurus and Coraline.

She started a small campfire as she waited for Coraline to return her call.

The night moved on and Alex drew her jacket about her shoulders in the stinging wind of the high desert of California.

She had just started a fresh pot of coffee when her smart phone chimed.

It was Coraline again, she finished contacting the other members of the Ship of Dreams and forwarded their updated addresses to Alex.

All that was needed, now, was the intelligence about the Astral Plane that Saurus could provide.

The sometime astronomer chatted with her draconian friend for a few minutes, then turned in for the night.

Saurus hummed an unfamiliar tune outside of Alex’s tent as she fell into a troubled sleep.

Upon the dawn Alexandra struck camp and loaded her small truck with her equipment and supplies. She made her way to the highway and drove back to Los Angeles.

'I continue to be concerned regarding the presence of Mephisto and Daizan. They do not belong in the spherical plane of Earth.'

Alexandra’s thoughts turned to the metallic, Lawful dragons. They might be the only means with which to turn the invasive entities from the beyond. Their location and mindset, however, were not common knowledge, and Alex was challenged to use all of her skills to establish contact with a dragon of a color that was neutral or friendly when dealing with humans and the lesser draconians.

She took some time to review parts of the existing documents in her possession that contained information regarding the existence and location of the metallic dragons.

There were also scrolling tracts and hand-made books written in Latin, Greek, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Russian.

The descriptions and details, however, were sparse and vague. There was little or no reference of a summoning place or pool that allowed individuals to dive deep and emerge in a different pool elsewhere.

The existence of such a network of summoning pools had been the subject matter of Saurus’ and Alex’ evening conversation.

The aspects of the Pond Garden constituted the bulk of the content that Alex read. She turned to additional chapters that differed greatly in their renditions of the dragons in question.

Some had four legs with no wings, others had two legs with massive wings even more had no legs or wings at all and moved by coiling their cylindrical bodies and slithering on the ground.

There was mention of the metallic dragons but there was no phone number or mailing address with which to contact them.

The illustrations in Alex’ books were artfully contrived. The dragons’ scales glistened in the light and their muscular bodies flexed as they wrestled with kindred of a different ethereal persuasion. Some emitted flames at human wizards while others were actually mounted by humans that were well-trained.

Alex was captivated by the dragon riders. They were shown diving into the pond garden to emerge in different environments and regions of undetermined energy.

Surprisingly to Alex the draconians were more docile and communicative than the majority of the full-sized dragons. Alex gazed attentively as she perused an illustration of a red dragon breathing fire that was attacked by a silver dragon just as she emerged from the surface of a nearby pool.

The irises of the mythological beasts were dilated, and their snarling maws revealed sets of spear-sized fangs.

In the same image cowering draconians, also of diverse colors, dove to escape the flaming red and were soaked in the water of the Pond Garden.

'I wish there was time to study all of these books,' thought Alexandra. 'We must get Saurus and his people the help they need.

'If we are able, Coraline and I should delegate a different pair of magic pools for each of the members of the Ship of Dreams.

'If the metallic dragons are hard to find, dividing ourselves into groups might be a good idea. Someone somewhere is bound to make contact with the proper type of dragon indicated.

'It’s time for the Ship of Dreams to leap into action. Let’s be on our way!'

Alexandra progressed, quickly, through her daily schedule of classes at Jefferson University and prepared herself to hunt for dragons under the cover of night.

In Los Angeles, however, the cover of night protected only so much. The well-illuminated freeways and city streets shimmered with light from the modern city’s substantial infrastructure and public resources.

Alex drove Byron, her cat, to her friend’s house as quickly as possible and made her way as expeditiously as possible to the Griffith Observatory, Coraline’s chosen rendezvous location for the other members of the Ship of Dreams.

There were no additional earthquakes over the course of the last few days and Alex began to feel better and sleep at night.

She wished the best for her cat and took care to avoid leaving her pet alone and without adult supervision.

It was that night when Mephisto returned to contact Alex.

'Saurus has done it! We dragons will not stand to have our business shared with the residents of Earth. You, Alexandra, are treading on eggshells with us. Do not test our wrath. We will make things difficult for all who would intend to drain us of our rightful power.

'Desist your search for the others...they have their own skins to worry about, not yours.'

There was plenty of parking and Alexandra easily found a space for her compact truck in the observatory parking lot. She was encouraged to see other people there as night began to fall over the cities of Los Angeles County.

The variety of visitors shared an interest in the movement and chemical constitution of stars. Part of the aspiring astronomer wanted to mention the dragons and other preternatural entities that she had seen in recent weeks to the tour guides, but she thought better of it.

Alex marched up a flight of stairs below the hemispheric shape of the housing of the main telescope.

In a matter of moments, she began to recognize friends of hers that were members of the Ship of Dreams.

Several of her acquaintances expressed interest in interacting with intelligent life that had originated elsewhere from planet Earth, such as Saurus.

Coraline arrived with her laptop computer in tow.

The group sat together in the main reception chamber of the observatory and gathered around Coraline as she brought up images of stars that were occasionally darkened with circular spots passing in front of the much larger, luminescent spheres of hydrogen plasma. They were planet-laden solar systems and as Alex gazed at Coraline’s research she felt a chill.

'There must be dragons out there,' thought Alexandra. 'The evidence is increasing on a nearly daily rate. I must find a reliable way to contact Saurus. Let’s see what we can divulge from the images of outer space, tonight!'

The lingering members of the astronomy hobbyists made their presence known to the others and they queued up in the line of visitors that were anxious to view highly magnified images of the solar system and the stars beyond.

They took turns looking through the eyepiece and discussed their impressions among themselves over coffee.

Alexandra was ready to give the full scoop of her recent encounters with Saurus and the servants of Daizan.

The young men and women gazed at her intently as she made the case that life is not limited to the Earth alone. Some bore expressions of mild apprehension while others jotted down notes on their respective laptops as the crowds of visitors passed them by, curious to see the images of the Griffith Observatory for their own consideration.

“My friends, I am concerned about the messages that I’ve been receiving from a benign agent of the draconian realm. It was his opinion that there are other, malevolent beings that are considering using our solar system as a quarry for hydrogen, water and cheap labor.

"Such an entity, by the name of Mephisto, has also contacted Saurus (a draconian humanoid of my acquaintance) and myself. There is a possibility that dragons of a Chaotic persuasion plan to attack the cities and factories of the civilizations of Earth.

“I have requested your presence, here, this evening to petition your advice and recommendations regarding this issue.

"The words of Mephisto could be tantamount to an invasion. As the voice of Daizan, Mephisto’s power is lessened when traveling through the spatial continuum from his home world. This is not to say, however, that he could yet assail our humble, human settlements with his limited, ephemeral energy on Daizan’s behalf.

“Through the intelligence offered by the friendly draconian humanoid, Saurus, it has come to my attention that we are entering a phase of conflicting diasporas.

"As the residents of Earth are preparing to create a lunar way-station, allowing ships to refuel for the trip to Mars, so, too, our reptilian competitors have the power to ride the cosmic waves and gamma radiation in a full invasion of our developing settlements on Mars and the Moon.

"It is not enough to send military robots and armed androids to the other points of interest in the solar system.

"Little or nothing can withstand the breath of fire that the hostile dragons will unleash. The flames of their slavering maws can melt metal as well as circuit boards, communications and medical equipment. This must not come to pass.

"We, too, are rightful partakers of the resources of the stars and, if necessary, we must take action to defend ourselves and our mechanical investments.”

A younger member of the Ship, named Cynthia was the first to respond to Alex’ warning.

“Dragons? Here? In this era? How has this come to be?

“Clearly something must be done to bring awareness of an impending attack to the attention of the rest of the world and its diverse governments and economic infrastructures.”

The member of the Ship of Dreams had brown hair and a pretty face. She gazed at Alexandra through a pair of prescription glasses.

“Alexandra, you know this Saurus better than the rest of us. Is he trustworthy? I understand that he is not a metallic dragon. Couldn’t all of this be a trap?”

The director of the Ship of Dreams chuckled as she contemplated the ramifications of the young woman’s questions.

“That is a remote possibility, Cynthia. I think we’re safe in trusting him, however. He approached me of his own volition and did his best to divulge details of what his Chaotic kindred are conspiring to do in the near future.

"Saurus could have left us in the dark and waited for the greater dragons to do their work in obliterating us, unawares.”

Cynthia smiled.

“Thanks for your perspective, Alex. It seems that we humans are between a rock and a hard place. Let us review our research of the stars, tonight, and reconvene tomorrow. Responsibilities such as work and school can be put on the back burner, as it were. We must do what we can to protect our own species and those of our planet that share resources with we humans.”

Coraline was the next to address Alexandra and the Ship of Dreams.

“Alex and the rest of you, I have reviewed images taken from Alex’ telescope and those we collected from the observatory, here, tonight. There is indeed change in the cosmos to a degree unseen since the time of the ancients.

"Some scientists have described the phenomenon that I am observing as Red Shift. This is when the universe ceases to expand and begins to contract. There are various opinions regarding the significance of Red Shift.

"Some astronomers have theorized that it represents the half-life of the universe.

"Other scientific pundits have asserted that Red Shift is just a natural retraction of the stars and that there are still millennia before the denizens of Earth are affected by the change in stellar movement.

"Ultimately, the change from Blue Shift to Red Shift might indicate that the cosmic clock is ticking faster and, if we humans wish to leave an informational and technological legacy, it must be done as soon as possible.”

“That is profound knowledge, Coraline.” answered Alex. “I agree that action must be taken. Let me try one more time to generate contact with Saurus. The moment to act is now, and his feedback regarding a defensive strategy combined with the potential support of Lawful, metallic dragons may prove to be the means to our salvation.”

Before Alexandra had the opportunity to review any more of her stellar photography Saurus appeared before the entire body of the Ship of Dreams as they overlooked the shimmering lights of the nighttime landscape of Los Angeles.

'Alexandra, we meet again. I see that your companions are also here. I’m sure that their concern for the welfare of your species mirrors your own. I was listening to Coraline as she described the predicament of this solar system.

'She is an observant person and her understanding of the potential cosmic changes from Blue Shift to Red Shift are significant.

'We dragons hunger as humans hunger. Our galleons and nests need energy that can only be fueled by the elements and compounds of untouched worlds.

'Yours is such a planet.

'If you so wish, let me summon my metallic, dragon companions on your behalf. The hostile dragons are on their way to your solar system and will glut themselves on the resources of Earth unless they are impeded by a similar, powerful force.

'A friend of mine, Anaximander, is here with me. Anaximander is a bronze dragon and he has heard your words and concerns for the preservation of your world.

'He has agreed to appear before your observatory and give the lights of Los Angeles a fly by. Look to the sky!

'Here he comes!

'Hello, Anaximander.'

All of the Ship of Dreams looked upward as a deafening, bass rumble shook the foundations of the Griffith Observatory.

The dragon flew at close range up and over the California mountains.

The glossy, reflective scales of the bronze dragon were enhanced additionally by the neon lights and street lamps of the sprawling industrial complex of Los Angeles.

Alexandra saw the reflected lights as they streaked over the dragon’s shiny skin, generating a series of multi-colored rays and neon emanations that pulsed in a nearly mechanical rhythm over Anaximander’s massive, reptilian body.

Anaximander turned his body in flight and scanned the urban scene through his diamond-shaped irises.

Los Angeles was a large city and the night life thrived when other businesses closed for the day.

The full-sized dragon chuckled as he perused the civilization sprawling before him.

“Saurus! You had gall to summon me here. These people are in the nascence of their ascent toward a participating role in the Astral Pantheon of worlds.

"I have emerged from the Pond Garden and have marked the passage for future reference. Would you have me confront Mephisto here?

“Such a fight would surely threaten the safety of these mortals.”

Alexandra’s eyes followed the dragon in flight as she sensed the thoughts of Saurus although she did not see him.

'If need be the answer is yes. There is too much to lose with an uninhibited attack from this servant of Daizan.

'I urge you to allow us to discuss this matter in person. My friends and I await your support at the observatory. There is room for you to land and prepare for the coming invasion of the ephemeral entities.'

The bronze dragon did as his smaller companion suggested and perched on the edge of the parking lot leading to the Griffith Observatory. Anaximander stood nearly 20 feet tall as his spiked tail knocked over a storage bin.

Alexandra strode toward the ethereal being from her vantage point closer to the main telescope. She continued to sense Saurus’ projected words as she paced toward the dragon.

'Mephisto is close. Anaximander, you must act on our behalf, now. Please use your strength and fire to turn the approaching attacker. The lesser worlds depend on you for your intercession.'

Saurus remained out of sight but Alex saw the bronze dragon respond to the draconian’s request. The metallic dragon flapped his sizable wings and rose into the hazy, night sky of Los Angeles.

A bone-chilling rumble dispersed over Alexandra’s location and a pair of glowing, emerald eyes pierced the layer of clouds to form iridescent, searching beams.

“Rarrgh! I have arrived,” growled Mephisto. “Do not impede my siege of power, Anaximander. You know me well enough. The interests of Daizan are all of our concern.

"Someone must control the access to the Pond Garden. From there a prepared force can lay siege to many worlds throughout the cosmos. Red Shift is upon us and the elastic retraction of the constellations demonstrates the march of time closing in on us.

"Earth is ripe for the taking and will be a splendid trophy in Daizan’s collection of territories and acquisitions.”

The source of the emerald beams of light broke through the last cluster of low-lying clouds and revealed his features to the attending members of the Ship of Dreams.

Mephisto was an alabaster-scaled frost dragon and his breath exuded hyper-cooled liquid nitrogen, freezing and shattering a group of pine trees on the neighboring hills.

Anaximander was quick to locate Mephisto and the two, adult dragons growled in agitation at the presence of the other. The muscular, flying beasts clawed and grappled for position in mid-air.

Anaximander’s bronze scales deflected the brunt of Mephisto’s scythe-like claws.

And the Lawful dragon swiped his opponent in turn making slashing cuts with his own, shining claws.

It was during this conflict that Saurus chose to emerge in material form before the members of the Ship of Dreams. The human-sized draconian hustled to guide the unsuspecting astronomers and historians into the comparative safety of the hemispheric housing of the central telescope.

'Please, my friends, this fight must run its course. The covetous whiles of Daizan must be curtailed. This world is meant for humans and peaceful beasts. Any tyrant with intentions to dominate the Pond Garden must be shown the error of his ways. There is no place for raw hostility amid such an extensive and comparatively advanced civilization.'

Saurus’ words were laden with concern and Alex’ friend continued his task of guiding the Ship into the observatory.

The fight continued in the skies over L.A. and other residents became aware of the conflict, sending video images of the dueling dragons through their smart phones.

As Alexandra’s friends and companions ducked for cover in the historic building Coraline gestured for the coordinator of the group to join them in their hiding place behind the reception desk.

“Get down here, Alex!

"There’s no need for you to stand there, staring at the dragons.”

“Okay, Cor. The video of the dragon battle is going viral.”

Saurus guided the last of his friends indoors as the conflict between Mephisto and Anaximander increased in its intensity and fervor.

The foundation of the astronomical site shook as the dragons rolled over the hills of L.A. to fly again and fight in mid-air.

It was then that the National Guard made its presence known.

Several squad cars had already parked with lights flashing before the entrance point to the observatory.

The armored vehicles and troop transports moved in as a serious theater of war was underway.

As the massive pair of dragons of opposing colors and inclinations continued their scuffle over the hills of the Griffith Observatory Coraline used her smart phone to address the other members of the Ship of Dreams as a single entity.

“To all members of the Ship,” Coraline spoke into her phone. “The National Guard is outside along with other law enforcement agencies. Let us make a hasty exit from this place. None of us have the strength to affect the outcome of the inter-dimensional battle at hand.

"The armed forces outside have a better chance to stop the violence using conventional arms. They should be trusted to their own tactics and technological weaponry.”

Alexandra agreed with her friend’s assessment of the situation. She guided her companions to the nearest exit as they emerged from their hiding spaces in unison.

As the dragons roared and bellowed in the space overhead Alex was again contacted by the thoughts of Saurus.

'Alexandra! Leave this place with your friends. The dueling dragons must be left to fight it out. Hasten to the Pond Garden. I’ll show you the way. Mephisto is not the only dragon with a penchant for mortal realms.'

“Thanks, Saurus!” replied Alexandra. “If you can generate a spatial portal all of us will flee this combat to the locus of the pools.”

The sounds of helicopter blades and someone speaking into a megaphone emanated from the air outside of the observatory.

As Alexandra and the Ship of Dreams crowded through the exit and stood in the open air outside, Saurus succeeded in generating an inter-dimensional rift in the fabric of space.

Alexandra peered through the ovoid portal and saw the shimmering pools and verdant trees of the ancient hub of worlds on the other side.

Once the Ship was in the comparative safety of the Pond Garden Coraline was the first to speak.

“How do we know where any of these ponds lead?”

“I’m not sure, Cor, but it’s my guess that we are meant to feel our way through these mysterious passages.

"Saurus showed me how to do it, once. Unfortunately, we were short on time, however, and the only pond I identified was the one that lead to the Astral Pantheon.”

Coraline hummed, deep in thought for a moment.

“Maybe we should speak with Saurus, then. Is he here?”

Coraline and Alexandra looked into the lingering portal with the rolling police lights and dragon’s fire shining through from the other side.

It was then that Saurus emerged, the last of the escapees. Once within the safety of the Pond Garden the perceptive draconian turned and deactivated the planar gate with a brief gesture.

Alexandra’s longtime friend found himself quickly surrounded by the members of the Ship. Several of the would-be astronomers and historians immersed the draconian with questions about navigating the ponds and sensing where each of the pools might lead.

'I’m sorry, my friends, you mustn’t all speak at the same time. I cannot focus on your words when you address me in such a manner.

'As Alexandra mentioned it is possible to identify the places and energies within the Pond Garden. I have used it to travel to many locations throughout the known cosmos.

'The first step, if I may be so bold, is to relax and contemplate the aura of the pools, here. There is ancient magic that binds our world to its current manifestation.

'Even dragons and their kin were not the first travelers to make a home of Earth. There is a legacy shared by all life in the universe. It binds the dragons to their realms insomuch as the gravity and atmosphere of Earth allow its own renditions of life to survive and thrive.

'It is no coincidence that much of plant life consumes carbon dioxide while other, animal life consumes oxygen in order to facilitate breathing.

'There are several symbiont-possessing worlds with systems of interdependence that are unique to their own species.

'If, when resting, the suggestion of dragons or other creatures emerges in your mind then it is most likely that is what you will find if you venture into that particular pond in this arcane garden.

'In addition, if you find yourself envisioning snow-covered mountain tops or vast and turbulent seas that is probably what you will encounter were you to dive in at that location in juxtaposition.'

Alexandra was the first to respond to Saurus’ explanation.

“Thank you for the details, Saurus. You have proven to be a helpful friend to us over recent weeks.

"I regret that I don’t have my telescope, here, but am willing to learn more regarding this enchanted and timeless place. It appears that the more these waters are traversed the greater our familiarity, confidence and ease will increase."

“I regret,” Alexandra continued, “that the Ship of Dreams was not able to do more for Anaximander in his fight with Mephisto. They are powerful and shrewd dragons and neither of the pair would willingly acquiesce territory to the other without a fight.

"If anything, we humans and draconians would only get in the way or become unnecessary casualties in the ongoing cosmic struggle. The melee has been extended to human forces deployed there, now.

"Let us leave the National Guard and other law enforcement agencies to their own tactics and weaponry. They will evaluate the degree of the crisis that has unfolded over the flood basin of Los Angeles County. If anything, they will notify the fire department and petition their assistance in protecting the property and housing of the residents of the burgeoning Southern Californian cities.

“Saurus,” Alex asked. “What is the likelihood that Mephisto or Daizan will follow us to this place? Is their ethereal power a threat to these aquatic portals?”

'Certainly, Alexandra. While those malevolent entities yet draw breath, their presence is a risk to the lives and well-being of the rest of us. It is my advice that your Ship of Dreams unite in fortifying and watching the numerous mortal realms that are accessible, here.

'Our observations, of more than just the stars and their constellations, can help identify the weak points and tactical vulnerabilities here.

'I recommend that you and the Ship next visit the Astral Pantheon. The entities there are quite different from those you know. More than anything you may gain spiritual intelligence as to the causes and effects visible in the system of worlds.

'Let us be on our way. The pool leading to the Astral Pantheon is over there. I’ve used it before and learned much beyond the barrier in little time.'

Alexandra and Coraline trusted Saurus. His advice had proven to be of great assistance to their quest for knowledge of the stars above and the energies within.

To Alexandra the internal and external energies that motivated her research were of like forces. Just as she was inspired by the courage and vehemence of the giant dragons, so was she interested in learning more about the Pond Garden and its availability as a launching point for future expeditions set on establishing contact between Earth and the functioning system of worlds.

'I wonder what it must be like to be a dragon,' thought Alex. 'I guess it’s not my lot in life, but it never hurts to dream of such things. I must remember what Saurus said about being a draconian. I’m sure it’s more than just fun and games.'

Before following Saurus’ advice and venturing through the pool leading to the Astral Pantheon Alexandra took a moment to check on Coraline, Cynthia and the other members of the Ship of Dreams.

Each of the sometime astronomers and metaphysical historians had taken some time to eat dried food from his or her travel pack. They also refilled their water bottles from the Pond Garden and reclined on a nearby tuft of grass.

Once relaxing, with a full stomach, Alexandra and her friends did begin to sense the features of the planes within the pools.

Some accessed deserts and oceans while others seemed to enter places consumed in darkness.

At last Alexandra summoned enough courage and curiosity to approach the gateway to the Astral Pantheon.

The mystery and obscurity of the sizable pool drew Alex to it. She wanted to know what lay beyond. She thought again of the pyrrhic battle between Anaximander and Mephisto. She realized that theirs was an ancient conflict laden with internecine sabotage and a rivalry of different inclinations that spread to the outer reaches of the spiritual network of worlds, both mortal and otherwise.

'I must hone my power. I don’t feel safe relying on Saurus for energy and information.

'The Ship of Dreams must learn to fend for itself and accrue experience at the same time.

'I’ve seen the stars and know that there is more to be learned than any one person or being can acquire in a single lifetime.

'There are Black Holes and White Holes.

'There are giant suns and ancient supernovas. And what’s more there are planes of existence enigma to Saurus himself.

[To be continued.]


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