I guess I went to sleep while pondering all this, because another fearsome image of a specter jolted me awake. Sam was dreaming the same terrifying image of a specter swooping in on her, homing in like a falcon. She didn’t shriek this time, but she would do so very soon.
A thought-mantra of soothing floated up out of old memory, and I began singing it to her. My mother sang it to me whenever I fell down or did something else silly and painful, but it had been years since she had last needed to. I was surprised that I could remember it. I stroked Sam’s shoulder as I sang, and the terrible dream vanished like morning fog.
Is she going to keep having that dream? I wondered. What a horrible thing to have to keep repeating. I curled up again and sang the mantra again, a little quieter, just to help her along. While I watched her sleep, I wondered what people who have nightmares normally do about them. The universe had really messed up, when it put the people who were tormented by such things on one planet, and the people who could get rid of them so easily on another, thousands of light years apart. It seemed like very bad planning.
At the kitchen table, Sam’s mother was on her phone, chattering to someone. “…I just don’t know how much more I can take of this. Do you know, they actually blocked my long distance? I was trying to call my brother in Tulsa, and instead, I get this prissy sergeant, lecturing me about outside contact during a crises. I mean, they intercepted my call! I swear, I do still love the man, but I never would have married him if I had known about the ESDF!”
She was silent for a while, then said something I didn’t understand. “I thought things would be okay for Sammy, after they couldn’t do the complete implantation. At least, chances were good they wouldn’t make her fly one of their damned fighters or something. They say she may not ever be able to channel enough data.”
I wondered what that was all about. They had tried to make Sam a fighter pilot? Could an eighth-grader even be a fighter pilot?…
Probably, I drifted back off to sleep while wondering about that, but I bolted awake again not long after that. This time it wasn’t Sam, though. Mrs. West was still chattering away in the kitchen, but it wasn’t her voice which had woke me, either. Then, my ears flattened out, just like a pissed off cat, as I sensed the waves of violence pouring in from outside. That must be…
I fumbled for the chain and the glass as I came to understand that there was a battle going on, and it was happening right outside. I began scrying hard, trying to see through the walls. Guardians, dozens of them, were facing a wedge of at least a hundred specters. The specters were driving hard, and flying straight at Sam’s house. I had never seen so many specters before.
I sat up and braced myself, ready with my glass in my hand. I was still wobbly, sitting up on my haunches like that, but I held my stance out of sheer stubborn, determined to guard my friend.
The guardians tore the wedge to pieces, but with so many of them, flying hard into the barrage of mind-whips, some would be certain to get through. I started hearing something else, a racket like loud hammers.
Mrs. West gasped and then shouted “Gunfire!!” She stood up, still pressing her cell phone to her ear, and began looking around. I thought she might be wondering if she should take cover.
Then one of the leading specters got all the way through. I am almost certain that thing flew straight through the walls into the house. It’s the only way to explain the path I sensed it take as it came in. It flew right over Mrs. West’s shoulder without her seeing it at all. My mind sang, as loud as it was able, and the creature flew backward, hard. Another push, and it collapsed to the ground.
Mrs. West stared at me in shock, then her eyes turned, without moving her head, to the specter. She was still standing that way as a pair of them flew past her, one on each side, coming straight at me.
I was ready, this time. I couldn’t use it all on one, or the other would get past me to its target, so I split it up between them, waiting until they were right on top of me. Cloaks flared and sparked, and they both drew back, hurt, hesitating. They waited just long enough I could take another shot. I thought one of them looked stronger, and struck it with the whole blow. It fell to the ground right in front of Sam’s mom, who still just stood there, frozen.
The other one began trying to escape, but a guardian and a soldier came bursting into the house just then. It was visible now, and the soldier reacted to it first, leveling his rifle and firing a burst which blew it into the wall. It dropped to the floor, and the room went silent. Both here in the house and outside, the attack just ended. Through my glass, I saw the remaining specters flying back out of range, to circle again.
The gunfire had awakened Sam, and she shrieked, “Wh… what’s going on?” She turned her head rapidly back and forth, confused and looking for answers, then her eyes locked on the spot down on the floor where the specter had dropped in front of her mother. Mrs. West was shaking, looking down at the thing at her feet with wild eyes.
I didn’t know the guardian who had come in. He wore normal clothes, but the way he acted, I bet he was a soldier also. He scried the two enemies, to make sure they were dead, then came over to check on Sam.
I felt something, like a question tapping my brain on the shoulder, and realized he was trying to talk to me. I couldn’t do anything about it, so I just sat there, helpless. After scrying Sam, he asked, “Did it touch you, child?”
“I… I don’t think so….” I saw the image of a specter flying towards her in her mind, again. I don’t get images often, because people usually don’t picture things with enough detail. The image in Sam’s mind was burning bright.
I could hear a tiny little voice screaming “Lydia! What is going on?!” and realized Mrs. West had dropped her cellphone on the floor. She was too terrified to pay any attention to it, and backed into the kitchen. The soldier went in to check on her, and the guardian followed, after shooting me a funny look, maybe ’cause I wasn’t answering.
As she dropped her butt back into the chair where she had been sitting, I could see an image in Mrs. West’s mind too, but it was a picture of me, holding up my glass and blasting straight at her. I had been battling those things right in front of her, but she didn’t see them until after I hit them. She must thought I was attacking her, at least for a moment. She sat there at the table, staring at me with glassy eyes.