Allen Chambers' Mindways Chronicles - Book 1 - Reflection

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The reunion

Just as they were about to discuss where they might head for, both Carter and Toddy experienced a strong sense of loss. Someone close had suffered a massive trauma, though they both really didn’t understand who. They each distinctly felt the pain and quizzically looked at one another.

“You feeling what I am, Toddy?” asked Carter.

“Yes,” replied Toddy, “the pain’s so real. I really feel saddened. God knows why, though.”

“It probably has something to do with this place, Toddy. It’s rather strange and seems to almost transmit thoughts, don’t you think?” said Carter.

“Seems that way,” replied Toddy. “Anyway, where to? I reckon we should head back to your place. Yes, the CIB will be keeping the place under surveillance but we’ll be arriving via a different route and we’ll get inside unnoticed. What do you say, Carter?”

Carter replied, “I agree. We can get something to eat, rest up a while, then decide on our next move. Plus I can retrieve that glass bead so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Let’s go.”

It was the cold that awoke Sophie. She suddenly came to, yet she still felt drowsy, her moist eyes attempting to focus in the purple twilight. “How odd,” she thought. “It was so hot a minute ago. Now I’m on the floor and it’s dark and cold.” She shivered. “Carter, darling!” she called.

Nothing. A sense of foreboding swept over her. She rubbed her eyes to remove the sleep and enable her to focus clearly. As she opened her eyes again, she realised she wasn’t in the bathroom or the apartment, she was just sitting in a ‘somewhere’ that was cold and misty with a purple backlight, which gave this place a supernatural feel. Sophie looked all around; nothing but swirling mist. No discernible landmarks at all, yet she observed silhouetted shapes in the distance.

“They’re close, yet not close,” she informed herself.

She held that thought in her head, trying to grasp the concept of a nonsense statement, and wrapped her thin cotton nightgown tighter in a futile attempt to ward off the unrelenting chill of this other world.

“Oh, Carter, why are you never here when I need you most!” she chided. “You’re a loving and kind man at heart, a bit foolish at times, but I love you. I desperately need you right now…”

Her soft voice tailed off as emotion got the better of her. She began to weep from the confusion of being at home one minute and somewhere completely alien the next, and all alone!

“Carter, please, I need you now,” she begged, looking through the mist and beyond, hoping for his arrival so he could take control and lead her back to safety.

As soon as Sophie had expressed that one deliberate and essential thought, she suddenly felt her mind drawn, pushed, even guided, towards a specific direction in this twilight world. The sensation of belonging, closeness, safety. Sophie, not wanting to hang around, decided she should get up and make a move. Although frightened of this lonely, unknown world, she was determined to find her love and be safe.

Sophie got to her feet, a little unsteady at first, her mind still disassembled from the confusion of being somewhere totally alien and not knowing how she had got there or where she was going, nor how she was to get there, wherever ‘there’ was. The chill air soon sharpened her thoughts and a fresh sense of urgency and commitment to find her best friend took over. Sophie didn’t concern herself as to which way she should go, she just believed, somehow, that she would head in the right direction and be back home with her beloved.

Her focus regained, Sophie scanned the definition-devoid horizons – a hazy assortment of mist-shrouded silhouettes, shapeless yet with the suggestion that something was there.

“I’ll be on my guard,” Sophie told herself and, without even making a conscious decision, headed off into the purple mist. “Must be right; I feel Carter ahead… and…” curiously, she thought, “two others I know. I sense their presence; one close to Carter, one a distance away, all closely connected. How?” She tailed off. “Nonsense!” Sophie told herself. “How can you sense something? Your mind and your imagination are running wild in this place. Just think of Carter and you’ll be fine!”

As Sophie strode on in the direction she seemed inextricably drawn to, thoughts persisted about three familiar friends.

“Yes, friends,” she confirmed to herself.

As the thoughts gathered strength, her pace quickened. The silhouettes in her peripheral vision, behind and ahead, were always close, yet distant, imposing, threatening, watching. The journey progressed with urgency at first, with Sophie keen, perhaps desperate, to get to where she wanted to be as soon as she possibly could. Yet time never seemed to pass. The passage began to feel epic the further she went. There was a sense of travelling, going somewhere, yes, but the landscape was ever the same – monotonous, endless, the silhouettes persistently menacing. Thoughts became memories, and memories lost causes as the journey stretched on and on and on. Time, distance, time – it all seemed endless.

“It’s like I haven’t gone anywhere and it’s taken ages to do it,” she laughed nervously. “Must keep on. Carter, I need you, like now…”

Her mind strayed back to worrying about how long it seemed to be taking. Hours, if not days, had passed. Who could know? There was no comprehension of time. There was no let-up. The purple misty haze, the silhouettes, the intimidation, the cold, the damp…

Sophie joined in vocally with her mental ramblings. “The distance, endless upon endless, nothing, time means nothing here, it appears not to exist, the only tangible thing in this world is thought?”

Sophie forced herself to halt abruptly. The look on her face was a picture of a true eureka moment. Her natural analytical ability had just discovered how this place worked.

“The mind, thought, suggestion... Whatever you think will be!” she exclaimed excitedly. “I think about Carter, I sense him, and others I must know. I appear drawn to them. A bond exists – physical and real. I head off deliberately and precisely towards them. At the same time, I let my mind wander, allowing my thoughts to turn to time and distance, the long journey in the place which is no place, the fear it holds, how it manifests into what I am thinking and I go nowhere, get nowhere! Just walk and walk and walk. I think more about this than where I want to be! Come on, Sophie,” she told herself, “prove it, girl. Think about Carter, your love, your life. Think! Keep thinking. Be there with him!”

Sophie crowded her mind with images and thoughts of Carter; happiness, love, warmth, fun, yearning, need, desire.

The strength of positive thought overwhelmed her and she cried out tearfully, “Carter! Carter!”

They both moved off, though they never questioned if the path they had chosen was the right one.

Toddy grabbed Carter’s arm and said, “We’ll need to concentrate our thoughts on your apartment, Carter, so we’re sure we’re heading in the right direction.”

“You’re right, Toddy,” replied Carter. “Never gave it a thought just then. This place will take some getting used to. I do miss Sophie. I hope she’s all right?”

Suddenly, although he should have been concentrating his thoughts on the apartment, his mind became totally full of Sophie – her beauty, innocence, cheeky smile and lilting voice.

“Oh, Sophie,” he sighed.

They trudged on through the silent mist, the only sound their rhythmic breathing. They seemed to travel for hours. The eerie purple haze illuminated their way. The distant silhouettes always kept pace with them. It was as if they hadn’t moved at all. They thought they hadn’t moved in ages when Carter, his mind still full of Sophie and home, stopped dead in his tracks.

“You know, Toddy, I’m sure I see someone in the distance off to the left, keeping parallel with us. Too distant to make them out, but I was sure I heard my name. In fact, goddam it, I think it’s Sophie!”

He raced off towards the shadowy figure in the distant mist, shouting, “Sophie? Is that you, Sophie?”

“Carter, you fool, wait for me! Don’t lose me! You don’t know who that is. Could be something nasty!” Toddy cried. He followed quickly in Carter’s footsteps, taking a long look behind him as he did so. “Someone’s there behind, following. I know it,” he thought.

Toddy caught up with Carter, not because he was any faster but because of the fear of what might be behind them. It took what seemed an age to get any closer to the figure in the mist, but the more Carter called for Sophie the more the image gained substance and became clearer.

“Sophie! Sophie! Over here! It’s me, Carter. Hey!”

The closer he got, the louder was Sophie’s voice calling for him. The figure suddenly came alive and turned to face him. Almost instantly they were together in each other’s arms. Sophie, naked beneath her flimsy cotton dressing gown, shivered with the cold of this misty nowhere and sobbed incessantly out of pure joy at seeing Carter and the relief of being safe in his arms. She hugged him like her life depended on it and buried her face in his chest. She raised her head after a few long minutes, her misty eyes full of love for Carter, her lips still quivering from the aftershock of crying for so long in this desperate wilderness.

She whispered to him, “I thought I’d never see anyone ever again, especially you, Carter. I’m so relieved – so, so happy to see you again, darling. Don’t ever leave me. Please. I couldn’t bear it; I’d certainly die.”

“Hey, hey. There. There, little princess, you’re safe,” replied Carter lovingly, squeezing her tightly. “I thought I’d lost you too, darling. I’m so relieved you’re safe. Here, take my jacket, you’re freezing. We need to get out of here. Toddy, come on. Let’s concentrate and get home.”

Toddy was staring into the misty bleakness from where he thought they had come. He was sure there was someone there; it was definitely a different type of silhouette to the shapes that were always in the close distance and one that was less menacing.

“Carter, Carter, CARTER!” he shouted. “There’s definitely someone or something following us and it’s close. We need to move and move damn quick!”

Carter and Sophie, still moving ahead of him, both turned and looked back to where Toddy was pointing. They saw the shadowy figure following – never urgently, just keeping pace. They slowed, it slowed, they quickened, it quickened.

“Toddy,” began Sophie, “before we came across each other, I felt the presence of three familiar people – very strong sensations that I couldn’t doubt. I have two of those by me, the third is near and I can’t feel anything other than friendship close by. I do believe we know them but I can’t say who it is.”

Carter agreed. “Toddy, I sense it too. Sophie’s right, you know. Surely yo…”

Toddy cut him short, saying sharply, “Yes, yes, I do. It’s just this place spooks me a little. I want to get out soon. I need a break. After all, I’ve been in here the longest and I know things that aren’t so friendly frequent this place!”

“Look,” began Carter, “whoever it is doesn’t pose a threat. I think we all sense that, yes? Anyway, I feel – that is, we feel – the need to get to a place of relative safety. Let’s all, at this moment in time, just concentrate on getting back to the apartment. Sophie, you also think about Gus. Then, when we get home, we worry about this stranger, right?”

Toddy and Sophie, both nodding in agreement and desperate for respite from the eternity of this boundless and timeless domain, began harbouring deep and unrelenting thoughts of the home they desperately craved. And Sophie also thought of her beloved Gus.

“Sweet, sweet Gus,” sighed Sophie.

The power of their combined thoughts and desires brought them almost immediately to familiar ground – a secure haven to take stock of the adventures they had been collectively lured into and to contemplate what they were to do from here onward. Sophie was immediately drawn to a view through her full-length, antique ‘Chinese urns’ mirror from the early 2000s. The living room beckoned and compelled her to enter; it seemed safe and secure. She faltered, wary of stepping through a plate glass mirror. Her immediate thought was of Gus. Without warning, and as if on cue, Gus sauntered casually from the living area and approached the mirror full on, sat on his haunches and proceeded to wash himself without a care in the world. Sophie could do nothing but admire his selfish nature; he was, after all, her precious little prince. Gus sat preening himself for a few minutes more before proceeding to stare, not at his reflection in the mirror, but, as all cats do, through and beyond all reflective surfaces.

If anyone is not already familiar with the feline species, it is perhaps a good time to try and get acquainted. They are, in fact, an extension of the human psyche and have a long-established relationship with humans over many aeons, including the devout belief that they are incarnate of other life. Cats, domestic or wild, are revered by many, are independent, demanding and require unadulterated affection on their terms. They are nervously and acutely aware of all that’s going on around them despite the many hours spent napping. Cats are quite selfish, territorial and controlling – your home isn’t yours, you’re an interloper in their world yet they’re kind enough to allow you to live with them. Have you ever noticed how they sit and stare into reflective surfaces, mirrors and window glass? They appear to be observing something, someone, or activities somewhere other than in the reflection of the mirror or through the glass. Their spiritual nature means they exist between worlds, can enter and leave at will, and at times when their relationship with their ‘owners’ is extremely strong, are sentinels against evil and emissaries for good.

Gus’ concentration never wavered; he sat transfixed on the activity beyond the mirror, sensing a homecoming. He cocked his head to one side, eyes fixed on something dead ahead, ears alert for the slightest whisper. He knew Sophie was coming. He rose and paced up and down in front of the mirror, mewing and purring loudly in anticipation, his tail set high, signalling his confidence and satisfaction. He again turned to face the mirror and stood observing, with exceptional clarity, every minute movement, listening to sounds so faint and beyond the capability of human ears. They were here.

Carter grabbed Sophie’s wrist and said quietly, “Wait, I need to go first to check on something, then I’ll come back.”

Sophie nodded knowingly as Carter checked the mirror’s surface carefully before stepping, still warily, through the glass.

Gus, although aware that something was behind the mirror, was startled and arched his back, hissing at Carter’s sudden appearance. Carter ignored Gus and disappeared off into the bathroom, reappearing moments later with a smile on his face. He stepped back through the mirror and immediately hugged Sophie.

He pulled back a little and whispered, “Open your hand. Here, take this,” and he placed the glass bead he had found after her disappearance into her open palm then closed her hand around it.

Sophie immediately sensed a stronger belonging to the strange world in which they all stood, a kinship that was close and complete.

“You’ll need this to leave as well as enter this place, darling,” said Carter, giving her a gentle shove through the mirror.

Sophie scooped Gus up as she crossed the divide between the two worlds as if it was the most natural thing to do. The boys, on the other hand, still cautiously probed the back of the mirror, testing the barrier before awkwardly stepping through.

Once through, Carter grabbed Sophie’s and Todd’s arms at the same time, raising a finger to his lips. He went over to his desk in the corner of the room and picked up his scanner, the one for detecting electronic bugs and video transmitters, which the CIB were renowned for using at every opportunity. Carter had always owned one, bearing in mind the work he carried out. He needed to know his sources hadn’t been bugged or his discreet venues hadn’t been compromised. He scanned each of the rooms meticulously, top to bottom, but found it odd that there was nothing.

“All clear,” he breathed hesitantly and replaced the scanner on the desk.

Toddy reminded Carter, “We need to search for the glass bead; otherwise it might fall into the wrong hands!”

Toddy eventually found the bead behind the nest of tables close to the urns mirror.

“Here, Carter, I’ve found it!” he said in a stifled shout, remembering they didn’t want to raise suspicion.

Meanwhile, Toddy and Carter discreetly checked all the doors and windows, ensuring the venetian blinds were firmly closed and there were no signs of potential trouble. Sophie, on the other hand, oblivious to the boys’ intense search, was sitting on the couch, smothering a rather perturbed Gus in kisses and cuddling him extremely tightly, to the extent that he was close to losing one of his precious nine lives. Gus, although appreciative of attention when he wanted it, was somewhat reluctant to put up with this unsolicited and excessive attention; all he really wanted at this point was feeding.

Sophie looked up at the boys as they returned, worry clearly etched on their faces due to the uncertainty of what to do next.

Sophie noticed this and spoke softly, “We’re home safe, aren’t we? Let’s worry about the detail later. I’m so cold and tired, I need sleep. You must too!”

“Yes, I suppose so,” replied Carter, subconsciously rubbing his freshly scarred cheek. “It’s been quite a journey so far and having a good rest makes sense. We can talk later. Toddy, you’ve got the couch!”

Sophie finally let the protesting Gus go; he was clearly agitated at the unnecessary attention, more specifically from the mother of all kisses he had just received.

Carter decided to take charge and said to no-one in particular, “I’ll make sure this place is as secure as it can be. Also, we mustn’t use any unnecessary lights during the night. No doubt the CIB are watching this place. I’ll get the torches from the kitchen. I’ve also made sure, should we need to make a quick getaway, that the urns mirror is free of obstacles. Sophie, you’ll need the glass bead to access the portal. Keep it safe and close at all times.”

Sophie sensed the warmth in her clenched fist – a strong sense of belonging and safety. She opened her hand and cradled the clear sparkling bead and wondered at its beauty. Sophie considered how she could keep it safe and realised she could use the gold locket she had always worn ever since she was a child. She popped it into the locket and shut it tight, clasping it securely.

Sophie got up to go to the bathroom, hesitated and turned to Carter and whispered, “Carter, last time I went in there, I didn’t come out. Will you stay with me while I pee?”

“Course, I will,” he replied and entered the bathroom like the proverbial all-conquering hero. He scanned the slightly dulled mirror, inspecting it for any signs of activity. The remainder of the bathroom was clean and tidy.

“OK, Soph, it’s fine. Come on in. I’ll stand guard and I promise I’ll look away!” he added cheekily.

Sophie entered the room and cuffed him across the head as she passed.

“Silly!” she retorted.

But she was happy he had checked and she felt a lot more secure.

Toddy had felt ravenous a long time before he had entered this other world; even though time had practically stood still, hunger gnawed at his empty stomach.

He whispered to Sophie as she returned from the bathroom, “Any chance of something to eat before we turn in, Sophie? I’m seriously underfed, you know!”

Sophie giggled and headed for the kitchen.

“Fajitas OK, Toddy?” she called, as she surveyed the fridge’s contents.

“Absolutely!” replied Toddy as he sat down, his stomach rumbling in anticipation.

Sophie busied herself in the kitchen preparing the meal with Gus for company, where he took it upon himself to wrap himself in and out of her legs. His rhythmic action triggered a need in Sophie to take hold of her locket and again experience the warmth and security that flooded through her lithe body, causing her to relax totally. She started singing one of her favourite old classic Adele songs, ‘Someone Like You’.

“Sophie’s happy again,” thought Carter, as he listened intently to her beautiful voice. “Though I’m worried it’ll be short-lived as I don’t really know where we go next or how we avoid the CIB,” he concluded and proceeded to slip into a melancholy mood, trying to understand what had happened to them all and where was it leading.

“It’s ready!” Sophie called as she walked over with a laden tray and placed it on the coffee table. The tray was followed closely by an expectant Gus who sniffed the air, his tail bolt upright, signalling I’m here!

The smell of the fajitas brought Carter out of his mild depression, his mouth salivating at the thought of food filling his empty belly.

“Thanks, Sophie, you’re an angel!”

“Ditto that comment, Sophie,” added Toddy as he dug into the food without any ceremony or manners.

They all partook of the minor feast, their hunger apparent from the prolonged silence that hung between them. Gus, however, was very vocal at being left out. Sophie secretly slipped him a couple of pieces of chicken. He wolfed them down and sat by her side on the arm of the couch, keenly watching every movement, waiting patiently for some more. Carter, having sated his hunger, wiped the corner of his mouth with his napkin and looked across at Sophie and Toddy with a serious expression.

“Guys,” he began, “at this moment in time, I can’t think what to do next or where to go, no matter how hard I try. I reckon I’m so tired I can’t think clearly enough and agree with Sophie that we should get some rest and discuss it in the morning with clear heads. You both agree?”

They both nodded, still chewing their last morsels, Gus looking on forlornly at the empty platter. Sophie got up, collected the tray and took it to the kitchen, clearing everything efficiently whilst Toddy lay down on the couch, too tired and full to contemplate bedding down properly.

“Good night all,” he muttered and closed his eyes.

No sooner had Toddy drifted off than Carter had turned to Sophie in the kitchen, taking her hand and looking deeply into her pretty hazel eyes. A true bond of love and friendship existed between them and it showed. No words left either of them yet their actions heralded a love story beyond comprehension.

Carter said softly, “Darling, we need to rest. Toddy, bless him, is off in the land of nod. We need to join him.”

He gently tugged Sophie’s hand and she followed without any protest. She, too, was tired – so very tired after the stressful events of the day. She subconsciously clutched the locket, holding the glass bead, and felt the warm and comforting sensation again as it flowed through her body and soul. She was happy and safe. Nothing could harm her whilst the bead was with her.

The early morning sun peeked through the slats of the venetian blinds, showering Toddy in warm golden rays. The brightness of the light as it flickered across his face caused him to stir and turn over. In that transient state, neither asleep nor awake, he felt extraordinarily at ease, secure, faraway and somewhere strange – different, yet homely. This place inspired the mind, filled the soul with untethered life; it was free yet full of dread for an event yet to unfold. That last thought troubled him. He dreamed on. “Why, when I feel so wonderful and full of life, do I sense foreboding?” he asked himself.

A familiar voice answered, “It is because we are under attack, along with all the other life forms. Demons(8) from the underworld have somehow breached the divide between their Dimensions and the Mindways(9).” There was a pause then the voice continued, “In the early annals of time, the Gods of the Higher Circle created the combined Universe within which they secreted twelve Dimensions, a home for each of the Gods(10).” The voice paused, as if reminiscing, then went on, “Yes, twelve Dimensions where the Gods then created the Mindways, which bound the Dimensions together – a tangential link where the Gods could time-travel between each other’s domains simply by thought alone. Within their respective Dimension, each God conceived of their own design, life and habitats of many forms on planets with suns to nurture them. They fashioned creatures, lands, seas, mountains and stars; their Dimensions were places of order and beauty created by the Gods to study, play and sate their passion for creation. Time was never spent in the Universe of the Gods and it soon came to pass that the two youngest, Thanatus and his sister, Nyx, had become bored, meddling with simple life forms, worlds and galactic wonders. They quarrelled and argued for something greater, far more spectacular, but were refused by their Peers for fear of altering the equilibrium of existence. This resulted in The Great Rift, a tumultuous and catastrophic clash of philosophies between the Gods of the Higher Circle. Thanatus and Nyx broke away from their Peers and undid their creations, destroying what they had by encouraging greed, war and pestilence. At the same time, they danced with The Darkness(11), our nemesis from the past, creating grotesque underworlds of monsters and changelings full of evil and hatred.” The voice paused, as if reflecting on this moment.

“Go on,” said Toddy, eager to hear more of the dream.

The voice continued, “Following The Great Rift, the Dimensions tainted by Thanatus and his sister were now made of dark matter and continue to be places of pure evil, containing life and worlds too hideous to describe. It wasn’t long before Dimensions collided and The Darkness crossed the divide, wreaking death and destruction across worlds and Dimensions too fragile and unprepared for Thanatus and Nyxs’ malevolent hatred for their Peers. Both of them had sworn to end the bloodline of the Gods by destroying their offspring. The Gods of the Higher Circle were mortified that their kin had drunk from the chalice of Seth, Lord of Chaos(12) and held such little regard for the order of existence. The final insult to the simple order of the Universe was the demise of The Queen of the Gods, Eurydice at the hand of the jealous Nyx who, following an argument, cast her into the depths of Hades to suffer eternal damnation. The collectively powerful Gods of the Higher Circle elected to war with their rebellious siblings but, before unleashing their full might, some secreted their own children to a minor planet in an unremarkable solar system in the Milky Way to protect them from harm.”

The voice paused for breath, before continuing thoughtfully, “Gods and their offspring are reincarnated but not able to choose how; they evolve by karma as decreed by Tyche. The children of the Gods have been here on Earth in one guise or another, prevented from showing their true calling, their memories suspended for fear they would fall foul of Thanatus and Nyxs’ spies of death. The war raged for eons; the Universe was fractured, the Dimensions ravaged, the Mindways tainted and corrupted. Eventually, the near-exhausted Higher Gods triumphed but at a severe cost; six of the twelve Dimensions had been cast – broken and mortally wounded – into deep space, lost to time and we do not know where. Having overcome the malignant siblings, they elected to punish both Thanatus and Nyx by permanently isolating brother and sister from each other, the Universe and all other Gods by creating an impenetrable shield surrounding their Dimensions that prevented access to the now-fragile Mindways. They were both locked in for eternity, or until such a time as they had repented of their ways.”

The voice sighed and fell silent as if drained of strength by the effort used to tell the tale.

The prolonged pause pained Toddy, whose thirst for this history lesson caused him to demand in his head, “Hey, buddy, don’t give me half a story here!”

The voice stifled a cough and replied, “Sorry, my son, the wrench of having to hide one’s children and the effort, over millennia, of warring with kin, eventually to imprison the younger sibling Gods, has taken a heavy toll on the Elders, both physically and mentally. Despite their immortality, the Gods were fully spent of energy but, at the same time, utterly relieved that they had stemmed the tide of hatred. The Darkness had ravaged unchecked across countless worlds, destroying at will for so long, but the Gods had finally extinguished the fires of hell, leaving The Darkness leaderless and this gave hope to their inventions who could now begin to fight back and regain order.”

Toddy had been listening intently as this story had unfolded. He was also quite aware that he recognised the voice, but just could not remember from where. He felt an overwhelming closeness, a bonding with the source.

“Just can’t place it,” he sighed.

Although he was a little apprehensive of this surreal intrusion into his dream, he was intrigued by the concepts of Gods and the Universe, Dimensions and of extra-terrestrial beings transcending time and space, though the thought of The Darkness did trouble him. “Perhaps the apparition I came across in the forbidden zone was one,” he thought.

The voice responded, “Yes, unfortunately for Earth, that is one – a Shadow Wraith; one of Nyx’s creations. Deathly quiet and difficult to see as it is a shadow that hides in shadows. It envelops its quarry and sucks the life from it, devouring its very soul.”

“How did it manage to get here?” questioned Toddy, now totally absorbed in his dream.

The voice continued, “I believe Thanatus and Nyx, even though living in isolation, have continued in their pursuit of all things evil. We don’t know how deep they have delved into the bottomless pits of The Darkness but we have observed things not seen before – the Shadow Wraith and other beings far more dangerous it seems. It appears they have been sent into the Mindways to search for a far superior being, one yet to reveal itself. This being is of evil decent and was born of humankind here on Earth by some trick of a universal time-shift and dark magic and it is slowly evolving. It is superhuman, evil beyond measure, and is getting stronger each day. Soon it will breach the Mindways. Once this happens, it will have access to all Dimensions and, as its power grows, it will threaten again the very existence of all civilisations across time and space.”

Toddy felt a shiver run down his spine at the thought of something so powerful being here on Earth, and the prospect of its access to other Dimensions through the Mindways was chilling. He couldn’t help but think that this dream was pretty scary and bloody realistic.

The voice responded to Toddy’s thought. “It is real and…..”

There was a very long pause.

“Well?” asked Toddy, beginning to sense something extremely profound was coming.

The voice continued, “And you and your friends, Sophie and Carter, as well as two others yet to reach us, are my children, children of the Gods.”

The voice tailed off and Toddy was, for once in his life, lost for words.

He woke abruptly, sat bolt upright, sweating profusely. He rubbed his sleepy eyes, and sucked in a deep breath while waiting for his eyes to focus clearly. Gus lay by his side, aware yet still prone, in a state of semi-sleep.

“That was so real!” exclaimed Toddy to no-one in particular.

He looked at and admired the sparkling dust particles gliding effortlessly in the air, lit by the golden rays of sunlight, dissected by the blinds.

“Son, I did say it was real and it is happening far too fast for comfort; we need to make plans.”

Toddy swung around and almost fell off the couch as his eyes met those of old Mr Gayle sitting in the armchair opposite the window.

“What the fuck? Mike? You… what… what are you doing here? Are you messing with my mind? I’ll knock you from here to New Jersey!”

“That is no way to speak to your Father now, is it? I am Chronus, Father of Time. I have simulated Mr Gayle’s identity to avoid the attentions of The Darkness. Mr Gayle is safe in a dream world. When I have no further need of his character, he will resume life as if nothing had happened. I am your father. I have many children, including your cousin and sister next door. You are my progenies, young Gods yet to realise their true being, but most definitely mine,” boomed old Mr Gayle resolutely.

As he did so, an aura of intense brightness and beauty enveloped him and he grew in stature. His features changed to a rugged elderly handsomeness as he looked down proudly on one of his long-lost children.

“My son, I named you Hermes(13), he who provides. Carter, as you know him, is your cousin, Hyperion(14), Lord of Light and Justice. Sophie is your sister, Artemis(15), Goddess of the Hunt and wild animals. We have no time for questions now. We must wake your cousin and sister and organise ourselves, we need to find another before it is too late.”

Toddy sat stupefied by the revelations. “Me? A God? What a joke! I’m no more a God than he is,” he thought, looking at Mike.

“Son, please,” said Chronus and he raised his hand, palm facing Gus, who lifted his head from slumber to look at Chronus. As he did so, Gus began to change shape, growing, shifting and taking on human form.

“Hermes, meet your elder cousin, Ares(16), God Protector, who has watched over you for three aeons.”

Gus was gone. In his place stood Ares; proud, handsome, imperious, tall and muscular, dressed in a white chiton, gathered at the waist by a golden cord that matched the colour of his short curly hair. Around his neck was placed a golden chain with a glass bead clasped at the end.

He spoke in a condescending tone, “Father, I salute you. This fool knows not what he says.”

Toddy sat bolt upright, mouth wide in awe.

“Mike, err, sorry, Father,” he corrected quickly, “I’m having a little trouble adjusting to all this. The others, well, God knows what they’ll think… excuse the pun.” He laughed nervously.

“Hermes,” boomed Chronus, “I said we do not have time. Go and wake the others now!”

For a brief moment, Toddy looked around for Hermes before realising Chronus had meant him.

“OK, OK. Got to get used to this Hermes thing!” he said as he got up and went over towards the bedroom door, turning to look back with an expression of incredulity on his face.

He softly knocked on the door and said in a croaky whisper, “Carter, Sophie, ahem, it’s time to get up. We need to make a move, like now, dudes.”

Not a stir. He looked back towards Chronus, who shooed him on. He decided to open the door and enter.

Carter and Sophie lay entwined in each other’s arms, peacefully oblivious to the goings-on next door. Toddy went over to Carter’s side and shook his shoulder, lightly at first, then a little harder when the first attempt to rouse him failed. Carter stirred slowly, stretching, yawning and blinking as the first light of the day confused his vision.

“Toddy?” he questioned drowsily. “What’s up?”

“You need to wake Sophie up. There’s someone you both need to meet. And quickly too. There isn’t much time,” said Toddy with urgency in his voice.

Carter jumped up suddenly and hissed, “What? Who’s here? Not the CIB?”

Sophie stirred, realising all was not well.

She looked up at Carter and asked, “What’s going on, sweetie? Is everything OK?”

“I don’t know. Ask Toddy. He says we need to meet somebody. Who is it, Todders?” asked Carter, chasing for a quick answer.

“Guys, it’s safe. Just come and meet them, please. I can’t explain, but it’s OK,” replied Toddy sensitively.

Sophie looked deeply into Toddy’s eyes and saw the truth behind what he was saying. A sixth sense told her it was OK. She also felt an extraordinary desire to go into the sitting room. She got up and wrapped herself in her robe.

“Carter, come on, my love. It’s fine, were safe.”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the door. He followed almost meekly. An understanding let him be led by his one love. The three friends made their way into the sitting room. As they did so, the room filled with a bright heavenly radiance.

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