"Enlightened: When Nightmares Become Reality" is a novel by Richard A. Rowell. It is a mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and psychological thriller. Chapter Three introduces an odd blue-haired, blue-eyed girl named Callista, and Ezri helps out a good friend in Tika.
Thumper was just minding his own business, taking a sip from the water cooler. He was a bit unnerved to get an uninvited tap on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, Mr. Bunny," said a sing-songy female voice.
Thumper turned around and suddenly he became unnerved in a different way. A pair of impossibly big and bright eyes was staring at him.
"Uh, yes, miss?" Thumper asked.
"Do you happen to know where the Office of Ezri Kerren is?" the blue eyes asked.
"Thanks, bunny!" the stranger thanked him. She finally backed away. The girl was beautiful, but very strange. She started to rush down the hall. Why was she in such an awful hurry? Thumper thought.
"Now wouldn't be a good time!" Thumper squeaked. Wait, Thumper thought, does she even understand me?
"There's no time to waste!" the girl shouted.
Apparently, she did.
When the girl got to the office door, she knocked. The only answer was a wail. The girl opened the door slowly, which apparently was not locked. Ezri did have an open-door policy, after all. But this seemed an inappropriate time for a solicitation.
"Excuse me, Miss Ezri Kerren?" the girl asked Ezri, who was still in a heap on the floor.
Thumper hopped in. "I tried to tell her, Ezri."
Ezri wiped her face and got up. "It is OK, Thumper. I need a distraction."
The visitor couldn't have been taller than five foot. She was remarkably beautiful, decked out in a sea-green and dark blue outfit that went well with her impossibly big and bright blue eyes and navy blue hair. Her hair was done in a fancy updo. She looked like a princess from another world.
Ezri was partly correct.
"My name's Callista," the girl said, holding out her hand in friendship. Ezri took it gently. "But you can call me Callie." She giggled.
"How may I help you, Callie?" Ezri asked, taking a seat at her desk. She didn't want to feel imposing.
Callie sat in one of the comfy guest chairs and crossed her impossibly long legs. Her proportions seemed to defy reality.
Or maybe Ezri's eyes really were going.
Or this girl was just really weird.
"I heard what happened." Callie explained. "So tragic."
"Yes, it is," Ezri said, clearing her throat. "I am afraid I have little time before I go down to the Town Hall to discuss compensation for the families of the victims in the bombing."
"That's not why I'm here, though," Callie said. "I am missing something."
"You need to file a claim?"
"Yeah, I guess you could call it that."
Thumper shot Ezri a nervous glance. He didn't like where this was going.
"What is it that you lost?"
"Well, it sounds silly," Callie laughed, but then became quite serious, looking Ezri dead in the eye. "I lost my Sword."
Ezri deadpanned. "Your what?"
"My Soul Sword, Symponia. She's missing."
"I see," Ezri said with disbelief, twirling a lock of her hair. Was this girl just wasting her time?
"You don't believe me."
"I am not a private detective," Ezri clarified.
"I know," Callista said. "You're an attorney, and you're the most trusted person in town. I did my research."
"I would not know where to start looking for a soul sword," Ezri admitted.
"Did you speak with the police?" asked Thumper.
"Yes, Mr. Thumper," Callie said with a condescending air. "They said I was wasting their time. They were too busy investigating. Not sure what was left to investigate."
"I am sorry. I cannot help you right now," Ezri said. "If you will excuse me." She got up and towered over Callie, who didn't appear the least bit intimidated.
"Well, if you change your mind," Callie giggled and handed Thumper a small silver disc. Ezri shook her head and looked up at the ceiling, as if to say, why now?
When she looked back, there was a light blue mist where Callista had been. The door was wide open and Thumper was just staring down the hall.
"That was different," Thumper observed.
"Yeah, it was," Ezri grumbled. "Let's go see Tika."
Tika turned the red summons envelope over and over in her hands. It was a letter saying that she was being called to the state capital of Unita for placement in a temporary home. It was some three or four hours away even by car.
But she wasn't interested in anyone taking her to the capital. She didn't want to leave her hometown and bounce between home to home until someone decided to want her.
She was only fourteen. She had already lost both her parents in a fiery car crash. Now someone had blown up her last remaining family out of anger over an unpaid hospital bill. Yeah, it was a sad story, and very unfair. But what was more unfair was that her loving aunt and brother were gone.
And now she was "damaged goods." That what she overheard people saying, even one of the social workers who tried to talk to her.
Right now, Tika wished she had the amazing beautiful hawk-like body she had in her dreams. She could blow all of them away and be left alone.
And the breeze was strong and favoring her intended direction, which was out to the country. So it was not the most laborious flight, had she had the wings to do so.
To not respond to a summons was a crime. But she wouldn't let anyone take her. To her, going to juvenile detention would have been no different to her. Where she ended up now would be of little consequence to her. As it was, her nightmares were taking over her mind and spirit.
At least she could ponder out her remaining days while being fed and cared for in a penal colony, she figured. Although, the penalties for ignoring summons were rarely so severe. Tika was getting way ahead of herself.
She was still puzzling over the summons when she finally saw someone she actually wanted to see. It was her Aunt Jenna's best friend Ezri. She had practically been her big sister when she was very young.
Whatever this was about, she was happy to see Ezri. It had been too long. Ezri was such a powerful attorney, and way too busy for life anymore it seem.
"Tika, it is good to see you!" Ezri said, meeting with Tika on her front steps.
"They're taking the house," Tika said blankly.
"Why is that?" Ezri wondered.
"Social workers won't stop talking to me. They said my aunt and brother had to pay their debts or something. So they are taking the house." She handed Ezri the summons.
"You are not going to Unita," Ezri assured her. "I will personally make sure of that."
"How are you, Ezri?" Tika asked.
Ezri sighed, a tear falling from her eye, “You and I both have lost someone dear to us. I will make sure that I can take care of you.”
"I'd really like that," Tika said. Then a dark look came over her face. "The dreams are getting worse."
"I am sure," Ezri agreed.
"So what are you doing over on this side of Petro?" Tika asked.
"Seeing you, actually." Ezri explained. "I want to take you to the Town Hall with me. I have business there. While there, I will make sure that I can keep you here in Petro temporarily. If you do have to go to the Capital, I will vouch for you. You can always stay with me. Damn the state."
"That's why I love attorneys," Tika laughed.
"Ah-ha, I am no magician but I know the law. Your aunt and brother had plenty of life insurance. It will be sorted out. I will buy the house if necessary."
"I don't really want to talk about this right now," Tika groaned., twiddling her thumbs.
"I am not letting the state take advantage of a young girl who just lost everything."
"I am not a young girl," Tika protested.
"No, but you are below the age of consent. That is all they care about."
"They took the car. I saw them tow it from the hospital."
"I will get it back," Ezri promised.
"Why are you being so extra nice?" Tika seemed annoyed. "You don't have to do that."
"That is why. Because I do not have to, but I can." Ezri explained. She could afford it all. After all, they were assets. Her father always taught her to appreciate assets, even old cars. Ezri was going to be sure that when Tika turned fifteen she would get the car, and at sixteen, the house. That was her aunt's will.
But Tika didn't want her life being planned out right now. She had bigger problems.
"You want to hear something funny?" Ezri asked her, changing the subject.
"Sure," Tika said with a shrug.
"This strange girl with blue hair came to me looking to see if I could help her find a Soul Sword. Is that not odd?"
Tika didn't seem amused. She was fascinated. "A Soul Sword?"
"Yes, it was very strange. The police thought she was crazy. She probably is, but someone does not simply come to me for nothing."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"I figured you could use something else to think about."
"Symponia," Tika blurted out. She had no idea why that word came off her tongue.
Ezri couldn't believe her ears. "How did you know?"
"I don't know," Tika admitted. "One of my dreams there was a blue-haired girl with a sword she called that."
"We definitely need to talk about this later," Ezri told her.
"OK," Tika sighed. "Not like it will change anything."
Ezri rubbed her chin. "It might. Let us say hi to Thumper in the car and get down to the Town Hall. I am already late for the meeting with the hospital people."
Tika nodded and they went to the car. It was going to be a long afternoon, Tika knew.
It would be an even longer night.
"Enlightened: When Nightmares Become Reality" is a novel by Richard A. Rowell. It is a mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and psychological thriller. Chapter Two introduces Ezri Kerren and her talking hare, Thumper.
She couldn’t believe what she was reading. Ezri adjusted her reading glasses on her nose to get a better look at the memo she held in front of her. She cursed her poor eyesight, but she made out enough of the words to understand something tragic had happened.
“Hospital bombing,” she read aloud, “Out of nowhere, someone came into the hospital lobby and set off a suicide bomb. Killed fourteen, injured dozens more.” She paused as she read the next words.
“Past due bill. They were taking his house, he said.” she read herself aloud. “How did this even happen?”
There was a light knock on her office door, which was open a crack. It creaked open.
It was her pet hare, who stuck his nose in between the crack. He looked concerned.
"Oh, Thumper,” Ezri said with a frustrated sigh, “Please come in.”
Thumper, as he was called, had been Ezri’s pet since she had been a little girl. Even now, he came to work with her at the Great Forks Insurance Agency. She represented many high-profile clients, including many politicians.
Ezri Kerren was known for her great capacity for compassion and kindly wisdom. She was also well-known for her love of animals. Ezri was always kind and gentle with them and treated them like members of their families.
She also could talk to them.
“You seem upset, Missus Ezri,” Thumper said, his big black eyes full of concern. He adjusted his dark brown waistcoat, as if something were wrong with it.
“I know you can’t read Thumper,” Ezri said sadly, “But I seem to be struggling with my eyes lately. I swear that this says that the hospital where Jenna works was bombed. I hope she wasn't killed.”
“Bombed?” Thumper asked. He understood the meaning of the word, but seemingly not the context, “What do you mean?”
“Collections!” she cried out suddenly, “Who would bomb a hospital over a bill?”
“May I speak freely, Missus?” Thumper asked.
The tall, heavyset Ezri sighed and groaned for a moment before nodding her approval to Thumper.
“In your great compassion, is it not possible to understand the great stresses that the financial burdens of those who must take on great debt to cure their ills must endure?”
“We are all victims of terrible healthcare policy!” Ezri said, looking out the great window of her office. “I feel compassion for every life that is lost, including those who cowardly take their own lives and others with them.”
"To be angry solves nothing," Thumper observed.
"Apparently, this man lost his house, his car, and his wife walked out on him with his kids. Collections took everything for his overdue hospital bill. He could have come to me! I would have helped him pro bono!"
“Yet you do not seem to sympathize with his situation.”
“Sympathy is not the problem here,” Ezri said, slowly turning around and not meeting Thumper’s curious gaze. “The problem is that the media is turning him into a martyr. No regard for the innocent lives that a crazy person took!” She picked up the paper again, then tossed it down.
Thumper reached into his waistcoat pocket. “Missus, I almost forgot. I have something to give you.” He handed Ezri a red envelope.
Now Ezri looked directly into Thumper’s gaze, “A summons?”
“I might say so,” Thumper said, backing up a bit, feeling intimidated.
She opened the summons and was glad to see that it was easier for her to read, typed in bold black text. Ezri wasn’t glad for long, though, as it confirmed her fears.
“The hospital has summoned me to file claims for damages... to their facility and family compensations.” Ezri said.
“May I come?” Thumper asked, tapping his foot excitedly.
Ezri wanted to chuckle, but it didn’t seem the proper time, “I don’t see why not.”
“What else does it say?” Thumper asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.”
Ezri began to choke up with tears, “Confirms what the report said,” she said breathlessly, “And it has the names of those injured or killed for compensation to their families. Including…” She burst into tears and fell to her knees with a loud thump.
“Missus!” Thumper cried, hugging Ezri to console her as he had done so often as a child. Every emotion hit Ezri hard. Thumper realized she’d lost not only her father, but someone else dear to her.
“Poor Jenna! And Andre… too young…” she managed to say.
“Andre? Andre Gerry? Jenna's nephew who works at the Stop N Go?”
Ezri nodded emphatically.
“They were good people. Especially Jenna,” Thumper said with a sigh, patting Ezri on the back. “Your best friend.”
"I need to call Tika,” Ezri said, choking up but able to speak again. Her dark green eyes were red with tears that were still falling down her cheeks. She tossed the summons aside carelessly. "Andre and Jenna were the only family she had left.”
"What will happen to her now?"
Ezri threw her long black mane over her shoulder and began to brush it with her long black fingernails. It was an old nervous habit of hers. “If her brother and aunt are gone, Tika will end up in the System. I cannot let that happen.”
“She would have no choice, though,” Thumper said. “Right?”
“In her condition, I may need to seek an injunction.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tika must be a wreck right now. She does not need to deal with bureaucracy deciding who will watch over her.”
“She must think only of death,” Thumper said.
“And in her youth, she was such a happy child,” Ezri said. “Now she is so troubled. This will not help.”
“I'm sure you can help her,” Thumper said.
“Yes, but this summons. I have to deal with healing a lot fo wounds. I am not sure I can handle it. Not with Tika involved.”
Thumper stood still for a moment pondering Ezri’s words, “You are strong, Ezri. I love you and know you can do this.”
“I do not know how to break this to Erik and the boys,” Ezri said.
“You can take me,” Thumper said with a smile. "I'll stand by you."
“I couldn’t ask you to do that,” Ezri said, beginning to choke up again.. "This is something I have to do myself."
“I mean... Tika… She needs to learn how to… live again…” Ezri finally collapsed in a heap on the ground.
As much of a giant as Ezri was, Thumper knew, when she got like this, it was best to let her cry herself out. “I’ll make arrangements,” Thumper said.
Thumper hopped out of the room, closing the door tightly behind him. Ezri’s wails were quite audible even down the hall as Thumper made his way to the nearby water cooler.
This was going to be a long day.
It was about to get even longer – and stranger.
"Enlightened: When Nightmares Become Reality" is a novel by Richard A. Rowell. It is a mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and psychological thriller. Chapter One deals with the protagonist, Tika Gerry, who is dealing with a couple nightmares of differing kinds.
The nightmares had returned.
This is only a dream, Tika told herself.
But it all felt too real. In her vivid dream, Tika’s eyes scanned the desolation of what once had been a vast landscape of greens and golds. They were once open fields full of buzzing life and thriving plants.
She could feel the dust and ashes under her feet. But they weren't her feet. She looked down and saw she instead had talons, which dug into the scorched earth.
It was as if she were at the scene of the aftermath of a terrible battle. Somehow, she felt responsible for it. And as bad as things looked, it seemed she was on the winning side.
But if this is what victory in war really looked like, Tika wanted no part of it. If her own allies had been the "good guys," what good people sensibly could launch an assault like this? She couldn't help but feel overwhelming remorse for the life that had been so swiftly and violently snuffed out!
Tika had something else about her strange dream body. She felt her powerful wings fluttering in the intense, dusty breeze. They felt like both a blessing and a curse.
In previous nightmares, those very wings had delivered powerful downbursts which cause major devastation on other battlefields. Those downbursts were combined with firestorms her allies provided for her to spread with those graceful wings of silver, gold, and bronze.
Usually, Tika's feathers would shimmer in both daylight and sunlight. But the sky was so full of the smoke and soot from the scorching of the assault. Those same feathers looked drab as the dust and other dark particles coated them as she walked through the desolate fields.
This was the ugliest scene yet. And she had no idea what these battles even meant or how they came about.
Suddenly, a friendly soldier came up beside her, but he showed only half of his face to her. “This is the greatest victory the Enlightened will ever know,” he said.
Enlightened? Who could be Enlightened and unleash such intense and inhumane fury? And how could she play such a grand role in it?
Tika stopped and cocked her head to see the other side of his face. The flesh had been melted away, revealing bone and charred muscle. Still, this soldier smiled an ugly, half-melted smile. The shock of the sight made her turn away almost instantly.
In shock, she tried to run through the fields. But she lost her footing, as the ground was so soft from the scorching. She tried to take off into the air with a running start, but her wings felt so stiff and sore from the labor from the assault. She dove head-first into the dust instead of the sky. It didn’t help that her wings were so coated with dust and ash, either.
As she lay there, helpless, shadows began to envelop her as she began to be surrounded by ghastly figures. She managed to look up and her gaze happened to catch one of them in the eye. Their eyes were cold and dead. They were all mostly skeletal, with some still having beating hearts visible to the eye. Flesh covered only parts of their bodies.
Even stranger, some of these creatures clearly once had full fur coats. But now they had skins of patchy burnt fur and charred hide. Others were missing limbs and still were crawling towards her at an alarming pace.
Some of them were shrieking. Others cried out in agony. Some made terrible noises, and some had bones that clattered as they moved. It was as a heart-wrenching scene to hear as to see. As soon as a bunch of them went to touch her and try to start pulling her apart, she awoke.
And Tika was relieved. The nightmare was over. At least, for now,
She felt her shoulders where those wings had once been. All she felt was her soft black hair and bony shoulders.
Good, Tika told herself, I'm just a girl again.
But with these recurring dreams, Tika almost wished that an army of skeletal remains truly had in fact pulled her apart. She felt such powerful sadness and regret. She wished that she had been left to die on that field. Her sanity had already died there.
It was so more than just a dream. Why did she keep assuming such a strange form?
The desolation stuck with Tika as she tried to "rise and shine" and get on with her day. The smell of burnt flesh and ashes remained in her nose as she slowly got dressed. She was so exhausted even after a full night's sleep.
She looked in the mirror. Her hazel eyes looked so tired. Her usually copper-toned skin looked pale. She felt ill looking at herself, even though she was a pretty girl.
Tika didn't feel pretty at all. Not after all she had been seeing, night after night. The nightmares had left for about a week. Now, these horrible scenes were realer than ever.
It suddenly dawned on her that in every one of these nightmares, she had helped commit great atrocities against living things. Somehow, every night she was capable of even greater violence. Those damned wings, once things of beauty, had been turned into a deadly weapon.
Were these actually things of fact? Was she recalling a past life on a world a galaxy away, long since turned to dust?
She hoped not.
But whatever the case, Tika needed help.
It was Saturday, fortunately. At least she didn't have to get ready for anything special.
But she felt so cold, even though it was a fair spring day outside. The sun was bright outside. Still, she dressed herself rather warmly. For a time, she laid back on her bed, pondering. She was safe and warm in her own home. But she didn't feel so safe.
Strange thoughts were now going through her head. They would get revenge, all of those poor souls. They kept haunting her.
Fortunately, her brother would be back soon from his night shift. Both of her parents were gone. She lived with her aunt, along with her brother. Her aunt worked the night shift, too, and Saturday was a double shift.
So, at least, she would know someone was around. Tika really didn't want to be alone right now.
She alighted to the to the first floor and went out the front door of her simple, but pleasant looking home in the town of Petro. It was awfully quiet. It was the weekend, but she knew by where the sun was in the sky that it was at least ten o'clock.
By this time, kids would be playing, at least. But everything was silent in her part of the neighborhood. She walked along, wanting to see for herself just how quiet things actually were.
Then, she thought about taking flight. But, of course, she had no wings.
It wasn’t until she reached the nearby town square that she realized that something was truly wrong.
It seemed the whole town was gathered around the fountain. They were almost dead silent. They seemed to be in mourning for something.
Tika rushed in, yelling, “Coming through!” Many of her neighbors recognized her voice and parted a way to the fountain. At the fountain, there was a post. Years back, when the Country had been involved in the Holy Wars of the Back East, there would be a list of names of local folks who had been killed in action or missing in action.
But those wars had been long over. And no one she knew was in any war right now.
Yet, there was a list. People were looking at it, and sobbing.
When she got to look at it, people looked at her sadly. They looked sorry.
Tika looked at the list quizzically for a moment, without actually reading the names, as if its very presence there was an oddity to her.
“What is this list?” Tika asked one of her neighbors. "What happened?
"You didn't hear?" the neighbor responded. He sniffled. “You may want to look at the top names. I'm so sorry, Tika.” He then walked away, looking down at the ground in mourning.
Tika now read over the names. A lot of them looked very familiar to her. Many of them that she had gone to camp with in her youth. Some of them had fought in the wars, but all had returned. But she didn’t believe the top names. She read the list over three times completely before it finally sunk in what had happened.
Tears began to well out of her eyes and she collapsed to the ground.
"Someone BOMBED the Hospital?" Tika fell to the ground sobbing.
Several of the townsfolk walked over to comfort her. But as they did, she collapsed.
But in her mind, she spread her wings and shot into the air with such force that the posted paper flew off the post. Much of the water in the fountain splashed a great many of those around it.
In her dazed daydream, Tika circled the town in the air several times before finally landing in a great tree on the outskirts of the village. She buried her head in her chest, her beak sealed tight.
The once proud Native girl now had not only lost her sanity after the horrible campaign that she had helped to complete. Now she had lost her brother and her aunt, her only remaining family, as well.
Now, an even worse nightmare had become reality.
And it was worse than she'd ever imagined.