The science-fantasy novel : Dreamscape

Today, I am busy! For months I don’t post on my blog and then I put on two book excerpts at once! What is the world coming to? Next thing you know, I’ll be doing something outlandish and grotesque, like ironing. I’m only kidding, folks, even I couldn’t get that weird!

Dreamscape follows on from where Biform Solution left off. It is set several hundred years after the original novel and can be read as an entirely different tale in its own right. Not only that, but it marked a spell where I began to grow more interested in all things metaphysical and spiritual. It is certainly science fantasy, rather than sci-fi. In it I consider the possibility of parallel universes and how they might all knit together to form one great big gleaming edifice. As usual, I had enormous fun with my characters. In the opening section, which I have added below, I introduce Biershan Mol-Ahandri. He’s about as quirky a character as you could hope to meet. I like people such as he, because they spice up an otherwise humdrum existence. In all probability Biershan is auto-biographical, at least in the sense that he is who I would like to be, had I the courage to defy convention in the way that he so unconsciously does himself.

Anyway, enough waffling! What is Dreamscape all about? Essentially and without giving away too much, the Dreamscape is a series of universes all contained within each other, rather like the layers of an onion. Each dreamscape is created by the minds of sentient creatures around the ‘real’ universe as they dream. This explains (in my own somewhat twisted imagination) how we can often seem to share our dreams, even with people we have never met. I am suggesting that people have the inherent ability to truly create. This is based rather loosely on the Biblical phrase : ‘And God created man in his own image’. I could not imagine that phrase to mean that if I walked into heaven, I would be met by a God who physically resembled myself. Instead, I took it to mean that God imparted to each sentient race in the universe the gift of creation and other so-called supernatural abilities such as telepathy. By the way, don’t assume that when I talk about God, that I’m religious in any way…I’m not. I’m not an atheist, nor would I describe myself as ‘spiritual’, because that carries the wrong connotations for me, too. I’m certainly not Christian, Muslim or Buddhist. I hold to none of the world’s religions, because I see them all as being fundamentally flawed in some way. This could be confusing, since I’ve stated that I’m not an atheist. Let me clarify the point. I don’t disbelieve in God. In fact, I see the possibility for divinity as being no less realistic than science. Once you really start looking at science and understanding it, it grows more like a religion day by day. To illustrate this point would take ages, but just try looking at theories surrounding the big bang. I think I’ll re-write Genesis one day, in the style of a cosmologist. Here goes…

BB CH.1 v1. And in the beginning there was a void. The void had no place nor did it have time in which to exist, for time had not yet been generated by the expanding universe, which was yet to be.

v2. Lo, the rules of science looked upon the void and they saw the event horizon which marketh the incipient black hole. There was no space for matter to exist in. Nor was there time for it to move in. The quarks and the pre-quarks could not rejoice in their freedom. The rules of science saw this and they saw that it was not good.

v3. So, despite the fact that the universe had no space in which to exist, nor time did it have in which to explode, the rules of science for gave this. They denied the first law of thermodynamics, that energy can never be created, nor can it be destroyed. From out of nowhere and in defiance of all these strictures, the laws of science broke themselves into many pieces and scattered their remnants into the void. Thus was it possible for billions upon trillions of tonnes of matter to arrive at a single point.

v4. In their anguish, the laws of science cast themselves into the black hole of creation. In their despair did they witness the impossible events which followed. They foresaw Stephen Hawkings and his unutterably vain prophecies, yet they cared not. With one final fart from their scientific arseholes they blew the universe into existence.

v5. After this the arseholes of science rested. Such mighty trumpeting had drained them, but they cared not. From now on, the universe that they had made would look after itself. It would form nebulae and stars and the planets which circled the stars. It would produce life. Eventually, it would give rise to Monty Python and Terry Pratchett. The laws of science saw this and they saw that it was good…Okay, that’s sufficient theology for now, I think. Let’s move on.

So, thus far we have numerous possible universes to be dipped into…nice. There is an order to all this, though. There are rules governing if and when a new dreamscape is created. nor is it the case that these parallel universes bear no relation to each other. Instead they are subdivided into a classification system. There is the Regnum Primus, the real universe that we all live in. Within that lies the Regnum Minor, which is the set of universes created by sleepers. The Regnum Minor is subdivided into Elysia, Mundanus, Obscura and Morbidia, representing utopian dreams, commonplace dreams, weird but non-threatening dreams and visions of nightmare. The next shell down is the Regnum Superum. Here we find the universes which belong to supernatural beings. This bit is split into pantheons, being the pantheon of general Gods, that of natuural Gods and finally Pantheon Demonica, which speaks for itself. The penultimate set of universes is known as the Regnum Spiritu. Here are all the heavens, hells and purgatories of every known galactic religion, past or present. finally, the centre of this pan-galactic onion is found. It is called the Centrum Deus. I won’t say anything more about it for now. Who knows, I could well publish the book and I don’t want to spoil the fun too much for my readers.

Read on, MacDuff! Here we go with our unlikely anti-hero. Biershan is frustrating, but lovable. At least he is in my opinion, but then again, if he’s loosely based on myself, I could hardly say otherwise, could I? Make your own mind up about him. If you like him, we’d probably have a laugh down the pub together. If you hate him…well, you can always try a different bar

Dreamscape, Chapter 1, or possibly the prologue : Biershan

Biershan Mol-Alhandri stared morosely at the vehicle approaching over the dunes towards his rocky retreat. It left a long plume of fine dust and sand in its wake that gradually dissipated in the still, arid air behind it. The trail was arrow straight and pointing like an accusing finger towards where he stood watching. There was absolutely no doubt that whoever drove the damned thing, they were intent on disturbing his day. He wondered how they had found out where he lived and why they wanted to visit such a reclusive man who had little or nothing to do with the rest of the universe. They were not welcome. He had not had a single visitor in all the years since becoming a hermit, but that was the way he liked it. He was certain that he would not enjoy their company, whoever they were. They? He attempted to assure himself that perhaps the car contained only one person, which was preferable to it being packed with weird sightseers. At the moment he could not tell how many were in the vehicle.

In the last few years the Galaxy had welcomed the move away from monetary policy and now revelled in a culture where money was not used. Biershan agreed with the theory and ethics of this transformation. It had not allowed him to fit into society any better than he had before. He was a loner and always had been, an outcast, although nobody had actually ejected him. The solitary lifestyle had been entirely of his own choosing. He had hated the very idea of money and the inequality that it inevitably created between people. Without it, he still felt pressure. Everyone seemed to expect him to part with his hard-earned knowledge and experience. Then there were all the invasive social networking organisations. Nobody was allowed secrets these days. He must have been the only one in the galaxy who didn’t use such things. He even hated the idea of videophone. He saw all such things as a means for strangers to creep uninvited into the apartment that he once lived in, making demands and asking personal questions.

No, Biershan Mol-Alhandri wanted none of this. If he wanted to speak to someone, he would go out and do it. He especially wanted nothing to do with the alien species that had become increasingly present in the streets around his home. He was not xenophobic as such. He simply felt that he had even less in common with aliens than he did with humans. That is to say, almost nothing except that he was a living being. This made for very short conversations that were not worth having.

Here in his haven at the foot of a rugged cliff formed by an ancient fault line, he was self-sufficient and his studies were performed purely for interest and pleasure. He had no need to worry what people thought of him.

He looked even harder at the car now that it was drawing rapidly closer. It was big and could hold up to ten people, he realised glumly. Its sleek lines and suspensor fields that prevented any of the dust from marring its shiny shell and darkened windows smacked of importance. Quite without any justification, he decided that it contained ten self-aggrandized snobs, hell-bent on doing good in the galaxy. Biershan had no need of improvements and was certain that any changes to the cosmos would not filter down as far as his little cave, for better or worse.

He felt some small surge of hope as the car began to turn away from him. It was dashed again, as the vehicle corrected its course and once again raced towards him like a spear aimed at his heart. They had merely been steering around one of the few outcrops of rock that jutted like broken teeth from the dunes. He now regretted his infrequent trips into town. Someone there must have told these people where he lived. He only went there to obtain what little he could not grow, catch or make. He wondered about this. He had always been careful not to divulge the whereabouts of his cave. Maybe he had inadvertently committed some offence and these were police. He had scant regard for laws, but tried not to break any. Still, if a novel piece of ridiculous legislation had come into force in the last few years, he would not have heard about it. This day could get worse yet.

The car was close now, not more than a few hundred metres away and slowing down. It was a lurid lime green colour. Whatever happened to decent car paint schemes like black or silver? The vehicle drew to a halt. Thankfully it did not park on top of his vegetable patch. They stopped on the hard, flat area where he practiced yoga and martial arts. Biershan was grateful that the driver, as yet still invisible and anonymous behind the completely opaque windows, had not set down on his herb and vegetable patch. The car sank down onto a tripod of telescopic legs which had grown from the base of the car when it drew to a halt. Two holes appeared in the side of the vehicle, which would allow the passengers to emerge. Biershan could not make the occupants out, even now. The shadowy interior of the car was so dark in contrast to the brilliant glare of the noon suns that he had to wait for them to step out before he could finally see who had come to bother him.

He was sitting naked on a roughly rectangular slab of reddish rock outside the mouth of his cave. It did not occur to Biershan to worry about his nudity. His beard extended in long straggly lines from his chin to his navel. His hair had formed naturally into dreadlocks, which he had cultivated until they were of a similar length to his beard. In this respect he did not look entirely nude, leaning forward as he did now, in order to get a glimpse of his visitors, his crotch area was obscured by the mass of tangled hair. He was lean, supple and naturally tanned. Beneath his impressive moustache, his lips pursed and he tutted as first one, then several smartly dressed people emerged from the car. His face became as stony and unreadable as the cliff wall behind him, when an alien emerged. It had too many limbs and such an awful face in his opinion. He wondered if that was indeed the alien’s face, or if it was some other part of its anatomy. Alien physiology did not number amongst the wide portfolio of his studies.

So, in total there were four humans, two who were either humanoid or just plain ugly and then there was the bloody alien. This was not quite Biershan’s worst nightmare, but it was not far from it.

With the exception of the alien, whose expressions he could not interpret, the group strode towards him with purposeful and confident gaits. He thought of them as being arrogant. At this point Biershan became aware of the fact that he wore no clothing. He hoped that his appearance would discomfit them and tried hard to mask his glee at the prospect.

He had no intention of opening the conversation. Why should he? He fully anticipated that they would stop and wait for him to speak, unless they were ruder than he had guessed. Perhaps they would even exchange nervous glances with each other, which would be good. Biershan could then derive some small pleasure from the encounter.

“Good morning Mr Mol-Ahandri. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” a rather plain looking woman said, before the group had even stopped moving. Biershan was disappointed and tried not to let this show either. “I’m sorry that we appear so gang-handed and uninvited,” the woman continued, “but we really need to talk to you. Do you think that you could spare us a few moments of your time, please?”

Biershan noted that the woman spoke without the least trace of condescension in her tone. Still, he was not going to make it too easy for her. He remained silent, staring between a pair of them to the distant and wind-eroded spires of rock which were known to everyone other than himself as ‘The Pinnacles’. No imagination, Biershan mused as he studied the rock formation intently. He referred to them as ‘The last gasp’. The isolated formation of rock was like a natural statue. They reminded him of a pair of hands when viewed from his cave, hands which clawed through the surface of quicksand as though they could grasp precious air from the desert around them, staving off the demise of their owner who was hopelessly drowning beneath, desperately trying not to inhale the thick mush that would end their life. The shimmering heat haze around the base of the rocks looked like water at this time of day, adding to the poignant impression.

The dull woman irritatingly continued, unabashed. “If you’d rather, we can speak alone, just the two of us?” Actually, the woman was quite pretty in a modest fashion and when Biershan allowed himself to look at her face, or maybe it was just a very long time since he had seen a woman up this close. He still said nothing, instead going back to his study of the landscape. Several seconds ticked by slowly, as they do in strained situations. In his peripheral vision, he saw that the woman made an obscure gesture with her right hand. The others retreated back to the car, forming a small huddle.

“Mr Mol-Ahandri, I am well aware of your dislike of crowds. I’ve even heard rumours about your xenophobia. I will not pander to either. I am also cognisant of the fact that you have no desire to discuss your work. In that last regard, I think that you are mistaken. You ought to. Right now the whole universe is at risk, not that you will be bothered about that. Of course, when the rest of civilization goes, you are quite likely to go with it.”

Biershan was becoming intrigued. This monologue was not at all what he had expected. Stubborn intransigence won out over his curiosity, though and he refused to be drawn. Inwardly he cursed himself for this. A frown puckered his impressively hirsute brow.

“The advantage of a one-sided conversation is that I can never lose the argument,” the woman quite reasonably deduced, “mind you, I can never win it either. Never mind.” She wiped her own forehead which was beading with perspiration after leaving the cool air-conditioning inside the car. “Phew, it’s hot! I’ll sit down, if you don’t mind.”

She plumped herself casually down onto the warm sand. Unceremoniously, she stretched her legs out in front of herself. With a degree of chagrin, Biershan realised that he was now looking at the woman. She had nice eyes. Nice? That was such an awful word. It certainly did not do justice to those beautiful hazel irises. Her legs were okay, too. Either deliberately or by chance, she was sitting upwind from him. He was surprised that he was not receiving a liberal dose of female pheromones, unless she had undergone an operation to allow her to control the normally sub-conscious emissions. Either way, he only smelt sweat and the complex scent of her warm skin and breath, with a trace of subtle perfume overlaying the more detailed bodily scent.

Damn. All those years of deliberate isolation were beginning to unravel in the presence of this one mysterious woman. Even worse, blood was beginning to suffuse the sacs in his penis, like a desert cactus swelling up after years of drought. He concentrated on willing the errant member to subside again. As the pulsating throb in the now semi-erect organ mocked his efforts, he tried to think of something totally dull and tedious. His penis was now pointing an accusing finger towards his head, whilst he silently recited nursery rhymes.

“That is a shock!” the woman smiled at Biershan, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “At least now I know you’re pleased to see me. My name’s Sherazerine Di Marosetta, by the way. Shez for short. I’ve heard your reputation for towering wisdom,” she looked down at his lap. “If it’s contained in that, we’ve picked the right man!”

All manner of thoughts whirled chaotically around his head. On occasions he had imagined meeting a truly desirable woman, one who was intelligent and empathetic, strong-willed and unafraid of defying convention. In his dreams he had wooed these females with grace and charm. In real life, his years in the wilderness had rendered him almost incapable of holding a normal conversation, let alone speaking with the eloquence and wisdom of his dreams. To make matters worse, now that she had commented favourably about his erection, it immediately subsided again. This was more than Biershan could take. He stood up quickly and fled into his cave.

Shez waited for a minute or two before following the mortally embarrassed man, stopping just outside the shadowy recesses of his home. “I’m sorry, Mr Mol-Ahandri. That was crass of me. Look, I still want to talk to you. I’m not too good with people. Lord alone knows why they picked me for this task. Please?” The last word held a note of pleading, which Biershan noticed.

“Piss off!” Shez grimaced as she heard the less than wise reply from the depths of the cave.

She remembered a line from an old movie and it seemed to be appropriate. She adapted it to suit the present situation. “How shall I piss off, oh Lord?” She instantly regretted the question. “Damn, you messed up again, Shez!” She muttered this under her breath, thinking that he would not hear her.

The acoustics of Biershan’s cave were remarkably good, though. Biershan had heard her. He laughed, shyly. “Right,” he stumbled, “well, erm, I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’m not making any promises, though. I just said that I’d listen, okay?”

Shez watched as a shape moving from the far reaches of the cave resolved itself into that of the hermit. This time he had a towel wrapped around his waist as he stopped in the lighter section of the cave closer to the entrance. “Come in, Shez!” He smiled weakly, and then made a rather grand and florid bow.

Some while later, Shez and Biershan sat in the cave-mouth. The main sun had now passed its zenith. Biershan was naked once again. His earlier erection problems had not recurred. “So you’ve noticed that someone is playing with the dreamscape?” Biershan sat idly twisting one long strand of beard around his right index finger.

“Yes,” Shez replied, and then added, “at least that’s one possible explanation. For our part, most of us are dubious about the existence of the Dreamscape. It has an annoying way of cropping up in various cultures throughout the galaxy, though. All of the references to it are remarkably consistent, so we can’t ignore it. I include alien myths here, as well as human legends.”

The reference to alien cultures forced Biershan to think about the rest of her party, who had long since retreated into the comfort of the air-conditioned vehicle. “Why did you bring ET?” He glowered towards the repugnantly painted car.

“She’s part of our team,” Shez explained, a hint of anger and defiance in her voice. “She is highly interested in your research, as we all are. I thought that she should be here, whether you liked it or not.”

Biershan regarded her face from under brows furrowed against the glare of the sun. “Ah, you’re as stubborn as I am. I like that. I’m not really xenophobic, you know. I’m pretty fair-minded. I don’t see why I have to be nice to anyone, human or otherwise. If I think they’re pants, I should be allowed to say so! Have you had your pheromone glands altered, by the way? I’ve been into town from time to time and seen women. I never seem to have this problem, though.” He moved his beard and dreads to one side to reveal the urgent member.

“Yes,” she admitted. “We knew that you were heterosexual and thought that the extra zap might be beneficial, especially if you couldn’t detect it.” She laughed for the first time. Biershan liked the sound. “It didn’t work quite as expected, but at least we’re talking. I told them that I didn’t think it was a good idea.”

Biershan smiled to reassure her. “It’s alright. At least I know that my asceticism and cynicism was broken down by an irresistible siren. What’s wrong with the other guys in your team? They were all wearing loose robes. I should have seen one or two stiffies!” Biershan smirked wickedly. This day was turning out much better than he could have hoped for. He thought it was funny how the best times always caught you by surprise.

“One is female,” Shez explained. “You were staring at The Pinnacles, rather than at her own version, so you probably didn’t notice that she had breasts. Three have taken drugs to prevent erections. One is gay and you have already observed that the last is non-human. Oddly enough, she is having great difficulty resisting my charms at the moment, a result that we did not expect. She shows her reaction by changing the colour of her skin.”

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