The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Hal was sitting at a table, it was familiar to him, and the people around it were familiar. His mother’s fresh-cooked meal was familiar. Everything was as it should be. Before he could take the last bite, the scene changed. He was a young boy standing in front of a set of tombstones. Three green-haired girls were weeping in front of him. He fought to hold back his own tears, he was the oldest, and he would take care of his sisters.
When he turned around from the gravestone, he was standing in front of a small, cracked building on the city's edge. The original Netzians had built it, but it was long since abandoned. He sheltered his family there and became a wanted thief.
A crowd chased him, more than any had done in reality, as he carried a single cracker.
‘It’s all wrong. This isn’t how it went,’ Hal shouted. The scene shifted.
Now he stood before his sisters. He recited a silly poem to make the two youngest laugh. The eldest sister rolled her eyes. Hal smiled, but it was short-lived.
Smoke began to pour in from under the door. He grabbed each of his sisters and ran out; the rundown house had gone up in smoke. The Netzian army detained him. He ordered his sisters to run, but each was captured—one by one. He was forced to lay on the ground and watch as handcuffs went around their tiny wrists. All the while, he cursed the cruelty of it.
Hal found himself in a cell. His stomach ached from hunger and punches, but he refused to break. They thought he knew more, but he knew nothing.
The suns set and rose so fast they looked like a blur, the scene shifted at an incredible speed, until in a sudden moment, they froze in the sky. The flying animals froze in the air, and the guard outside his cell was a statue. Only one figure moved in the scene. She walked in with a confident stride and stood in front of the bars.
Hal looked up. His then long green hair parted to the sides just enough for him to see.
Feya, the Netzian Dare, stood in front of him. She waved with a scaly hand and smiled.
“So, you’re the troublemaker I heard so much about!” she chirped.
“My sisters?” Hal asked in a hoarse voice.
“Oh them, we’ve been caring for them at the palace. They’re really sweet girls, you know!”
Hal was shocked; she was the first to tell him what had happened to the three. He would have been suspicious, but his year in confinement left him desperate. He accepted the answer.
“Take care of them,” was all he said as he let his head hang.
The Dare laughed a loud belly laugh. The boy had been serious for so long that he had forgotten he was only a child. She quickly relayed the forgotten information back to him. The frozen guard moved at Feya’s request. He entered the cell and unshackled Hal.
She held out a scaly hand.
“I think I like you; why don’t you come live with me!” she said with a casualness not typical of the situation.
Hal reached out his hand. Then the dream ended.
Rheba was sitting in a crowd of Bentulousians. The seats curved around a stage like a Greek amphitheater. On the stage stood the three active Goliaths. Zenith, with her black and white stripes, stood proud in the center of the other two. To her left was Cleo, a Bentulousian with black fur. She had painted golden lines around her eyes and wore a golden necklace. To Zenith’s right was Aaralyn, who had puffy snow-white fur and crystal blue eyes.
The crowd cheered for the Goliaths as they began to speak.
“Warriors! This day we fight!” Zenith shouted.
The battles began shortly after. The crowd was pitted against each other in a tournament, and Rheba quickly felled foe after foe. Her final opponent was to be Zenith herself, and Rheba wanted a match against her mentor more than anything.
The two were face to face faster than they would be if she had been awake, but Rheba was focused on charging at the black and white warrior in front of her.
Rheba’s world spun in a flash, and she landed on her back. Then the dream ended.
Harlan stood in her lab. Her scaly elbows leaned on a table, and she gleefully watched some animals run in circles in a cage. They were equivalent to mice but with short faces and long fur. Next to the cage, a beauideal concert-match was airing. The Zenotote scientist’s face was curled into a happy smile.
Mixolydian entered. As he pushed through doors, which would ordinarily open by sliding automatically, they burst into pieces. Harlan’s lab was no match for her imposing father as he marched across the room. Every step cracked the floor, and glass seemed to shatter as soon as he looked in its direction.
Harlan shuddered and turned to her father. He said nothing but grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out of the lab. She refused and complained, but her father did not attempt to respond. Instead, he threw her through the shattered doors.
She seemed to fall into a dark abyss with the doorway from the lab floating above. As the Zenotote scientist descended, the floating doors shattered along with the image of her father.
She landed in a new room; a single Zenotote sat on a chair in the middle of it. He was strapped to the chair and cried. His left arm had been replaced with a mechanical one, and the foreign arm sought to choke its new owner. Only the binding to the chair kept the arm from ultimately strangling him.
Harlan was handed a knife, though no one was in the room to do so. She looked at her face in the blade's reflection and gritted her sharp teeth. The scientist wasted no time raising the knife in preparation to stab the man. Her father's words echoed in her mind: ‘For the Zenototes’.
In a flash, she was sitting in the chair instead. Her ideal self was in front of her, still holding the knife. A Zenotote with a long face and beautiful eyes. One whose shoulders held firm the same way her fathers did. One that was confident.
Her ideal self stabbed her, and the floor gave out. Once again, Harlan fell into a dark abyss. To her left, her ideal self swooped in close to finish the job. From her right, a new form came.
She had experimented time and time on herself with her ability. She could modify creatures to reach new heights, so she thought she could become her ideal, even if only for a few minutes every two months. Unfortunately, the scientist quickly realized she could not shape things in any way she wished.
The creature the ability acted on had to have the potential to become what she changed it to, and she made the sad discovery that her body had no potential to be beautiful. Not wanting to give up, Harlan focused instead on creating a powerful trump card, no matter how ugly, and that form swooped in on her right.
The Zenotote scientist closed her eyes and held her hands close to her face as both versions of herself came in close. Then the dream ended.