Welcome to Illara
(Based on the novel Bound to You by AR DeClerck)
“Welcome! Please, come closer, gather around.” The tour guide stood at the giant set of doors, her arms held wide. She smiled, the customary slim pants and dark red top of the Ferrell Terraforming Inc. uniform complimenting her dark hair and swarthy complexion. “There are wonders to see inside, so come!”
She turned as the doors opened, and the crowd gasped at the room before them. It was empty.
“What kind of joke is this?” one man called out, “We paid to see the ancient civilization.”
“Enter,” the tour guide urged, waving them on, “and see it!”
The crowd moved inside and the doors closed silently behind them. Their hushed voices were hollow in the cavernous room. Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the floor vibrated with energy.
“Now,” the guide’s voice held a hint of mischief as she spoke over the alarmed murmurs, “You will see all you were promised.”
The walls around the group shimmered, and the holograph panels covering every inch of the room came to life in a shower of light and sound. The narration track began, the man’s voice a deep baritone as he told the story of the ancient people of Illara.
Long ago an advanced race of people inhabited this planet you now visit. Their cities were grand, their people full of hope and promise.
The crowd ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ as the plasma panels lightened. They stood in a massive open-air market, surrounded by the bustle of a busy city. The sky, orange above them, was bright as the sun beat down on them from above. Tall buildings of gleaming metal blinked in the light as the people moved in the streets. A woman from the touring crowd gasped as the hologram moved by her, brushing her arm. The crowd watched as the Illaran people moved around them in the midst of their daily lives.
The men were tall and broad with long hair adorned in sparkling crystals. Their chests were bare, golden circlets around their biceps and low-slung pants encasing slim hips. The women were shorter, curvy bodies with ample hips were draped in fabrics resembling silk, wrapped and tied to allow for movement and the elegant flow of the material as they walked. Their jewels glinted against their cocoa skin, their hair covered in nets of bright, finely-woven gold and silver.
But life on Illara was growing more difficult. An energy crisis had come, and the Illaran people were scrambling for new ways to light their homes and carry their goods.
The scene faded, a laboratory appearing. Illaran men and women moved about quickly from com to com, their faces stony with disappointment as data scrolled by.
And then, like a miracle, the answer appeared in the sky.
The roof to the laboratory opened, showing the dark sky above. The tour group gasped at the sparkle of the stars in the clear sky, but cried out as the light grew brighter and an undulating vortex of light appeared. The scientists took up their equipment and began to study it as the group from the future looked on in amazement.
The Illarans learned to harness the energy from the vortex, piping it to their homes. With the crisis averted, life on Illara seemed utopian.
The scene shifted again, leaving the tour group inside a small home. A fire burned merrily in the rounded hearth as a small child lay near it, reading. A shaggy animal with four legs lounged near, its long tail moving contentedly. The home was cozy, the adobe and brick lovingly painted with intricate designs on every wall. Comfortable pillows and small tables sat here and there, offering space to sit, to eat and converse. Woven rugs and heavy curtains in bright colors made it inviting. The child looked up as an older man and a woman, his parents most likely, entered with steaming bowls. They waved for him to join them around the low, round table and family ate, appearing happy and carefree. The tour group’s whispers of “lovely”, and “how quaint” met the ears of the tour guide and she grinned as the scene changed again.
But, all was not well in Illara. The energy source was alien, and with it came danger. It began with the children, as sleep became impossible. They could not close their eyes for the nightmares they saw were too horrible to imagine.
The small boy lay in bed, crying out for his mother and father, who looked on with horror. He had grown thin and pale, his face streaked with tears as they held him. The tour group gasped at the change, their eyes wide.
The called the sickness Verhagnis. A virus so invasive, so virulent, that the infected’s mind became a playground for his greatest fears. No one was safe, and yet, the Illaran government refused to warn its citizens. Without their newfound way of powering their planet, all would be lost.
The tour group cried out as the boy’s bedroom became the same open-air market from the start of the tour. Now, instead of happy, content people the market was filled with crowds of raging, violent citizens. The scene froze as the tour guide spoke up,
“Please avert your eyes or request to leave the room if you feel this is too graphic. This is, however, the fate of the Illaran people you so graciously requested to see.”
The crowd was silent, so she raised her hand and resumed the playback. The screams of the Illarans were animalistic, and several of the tourists shivered in response. They attacked each other, biting and savaging each other and the tourists covered their mouths in horror at the scene. They all breathed an audible sigh of relief as the narrator spoke again and the scene began to blur.
Verhagnis was strong. He invaded the Illaran people through their power grid, inserting himself into their homes and their minds through the very energy they needed to maintain their society. He enjoyed their pain, and fed from their bioelectric energy, gorging himself on their fear and their pain.
“Wait! You said ‘he’, was Verhagnis an alien?” a petite woman who’d paled at the violent scene questioned.
“Indeed,” the guide answered, “Verhagnis was a creature made of energy. Something wholly foreign and he was hungry.”
The Illaran people realized that Verhagnis could control them, and that he wanted to spread his infection through the universe, gorging himself on the life and destroying all civilization in his wake. And so, they tried to fight back.
The panels around them became a dark series of twisting tunnels. As they moved, the tunnels opened into a large underground laboratory, staffed by a few Illarans. They were all similar, and the tour group began to whisper among themselves that they were all members of the same family. The view focused in on a machine at the center of the room, a long bed with a domed cover. The room shook, the ceiling pouring down dust as the Illarans cried out in terror, and a few of the tourists followed with the same.
But their work could never be tested. The neighboring planet, Ritaria, had discovered the horrors on Illara, and they had decided to intervene. Before the Illarans could test their machine, Ritaria dropped a tectonic explosive on the planet. A few Illarans were saved, but the rest of the planet was seized with destructive earthquakes, and the Illaran civilization was buried.
From high above the planet the tour group saw the land rise up and enfold itself, pulling the remains of the Illaran civilization far below the surface, burying it.
“That can’t be the end,” one tourist said as the lights went up and the panels went dark. Once again they stood in a large, empty room. “Verhagnis wasn’t destroyed. Surely something else happened, or we wouldn’t be standing here now.”
The tour guide smiled as a tall man with long dark hair and faded blue eyes stepped to her side. She smiled up at him, with love in her eyes.
“Should we tell them the story?” she asked.
He chuckled, and dropped an arm around her shoulders. He was glowing subtly, the tourists began to realize, a light shining from within him and casting them all in shadow.
“I guess we could,” he answered, “it was a helluva ride!”
READ THE STORY OF VERHAGNIS AND THE FATE OF ILLARA IN BOUND TO YOU BY AR DECLERCK
Love is the greatest adventure.
AR DeClerck is an adventure romance writer who lives in Illinois with her husband, 2 daughters, 2 crazy dogs and a sneaky cat. She works hard as a dialysis technician when she’s not writing. AR enjoys reading, listening to music, her favorite tv shows, and movies. AR is the author of several novels in many genres, including scifi romance, steampunk and fantasy romance. Her favorite characters are the real ones, with flaws and crazy schemes, and she always gives them an adventure on the road to love.
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