adventure

Chapter 4 – Saci

Josh and Anna waited for Boris to continue and say something else but Boris just kept quiet and kept his thoughts to himself. They now knew as much as they could, they knew that they were stuck here in Scriven and the real question was what next? What could they do to get back home. The only clue they had and the only person they could ask was standing right in front of them.

Anna and Josh shared a look and it was Anna that turned to Boris and asked ‘Do you know how we could get back home?’

Boris didn’t answer immediately he just stared towards the distance at nothing in particular and eventually said ‘To get back home you will need to move your physical body there.’

‘Like teleportation’ Josh interrupted.

‘Teleportation?’ wondered Boris ‘I am not familiar with that word.’ He added looking at the two.

‘It is the term people use, when they immediately transport themselves from one place to another. Although I don’t know if it is the same thing to go through one universe to another.’ Boris answered.

‘Ah, yes. To do that you need someone that can open the space between universes.’ Boris said ‘Not an easy thing to do, I am not even sure it is possible without help from the side you want to get to.’ He added pondering the issue.

At this both their faces dropped.

‘Don’t look so sad’ Boris quickly said ‘there are people who can do, this teleportation you speak of, but I am not sure that they can bridge two places.’

At this both looked slightly less depressed, but they still had no tangible answer for their immediate concern. So they kept their hopes to a minimum and just listened carefully.

‘The most obvious example I could think of, would be the Djinn. They continually go through places popping up and causing trouble. They could do it, but to get a Djinn to help you is another matter all together. The only way you can get a Djinn to help you, is by getting the artefact they are attached to, usually something old and inconspicuous looking, like rings, chains, lamps or lockets and pendants.’

‘So where can we find a Djinn’ asked Anna excitedly.

‘Beats me.’ Answered Boris simply, he eyed them both and added ‘But at least this gives you a starting point.’

‘Could you come with us?’ asked Josh hopefully.

Boris looked at him his eyes squinting, Josh felt as though he was being scrutinized, finally Boris answered simply ‘No.’

Josh was slightly taken back by the answer. He though that Boris would have helped them on their way, he surly didn’t expect him to just answer negatively, especially after all the answers he had given them and all the help he had already given them. He lowered his head slightly and decided it wasn’t worth making a fuss about it. Instead he said ‘could you point us in the right direction then? Maybe a place where we could find some answers, or clues to where we can find a Djinn?’ he asked.

Boris stared at the two his eyes sparkling in mischief. ‘You are asking me for advice?’ he asked.

‘Yes’ Josh answered.

‘Well, you should go to the cities of Muspelheim, Xibalba and Irkala, there you should be able to find some answers.’ Boris said smiling a wide grin that looked slightly frightening. ‘It will be difficult to find them though, but I think if you keep walking towards the forest,’ he said pointing towards the east at the outline of which a forest was just visible. ‘you might get there.’ he added cryptically.

‘What do you mean “you might”?’ demanded Anna.

‘Well the Djinn are not very sociable to say the least, in fact they loath company so they reside in little pockets in space that they create in inconspicuous and difficult to get to places, or things. Those cities are the first difficult places I can think of that might offer you some answers.’

‘Are you sure, you won’t come with us?’ asked Josh again.

‘Not in a million years’ said Boris ‘actually make that an indefinite number of years’ he added after thinking it through.

‘It isn’t anything dangerous, is it?’ asked Anna

‘Oh, no. I am sure that a couple of smart ones like you will be able to handle anything thrown at them with little to no problem.’ At this Josh smiled, Anna had a doubtful look on her face that stayed there for an uncomfortable time.

‘If it is easy then why won’t you come with us?’ asked Anna.

‘Because you could say you are now in my home. And with all due respect to you too I do not want to leave my family behind for a journey that could take weeks to complete.’

‘Weeks?!’ exclaimed Anna.

‘You want to get back home, even if you knew exactly what you needed to do and where and how to use it, you still have to get it and use it which won’t be easy. But now you don’t know where to go, or what to do and even if you do there is no guaranty you will find everything and get it to work. So yes weeks is very logical.’

‘Alright, thank you very much for everything.’ said Josh, extending his hand and shaking Boris’s hand vigorously in one big swoop.

Anna on the other hand didn’t share Josh’s enthusiasm; instead she just stared at Boris carefully and said ‘If everything goes according to plan we won’t see you again. If it does not, we will’

Josh stared at Anna in shock, not sure what to do with Anna’s threat. To his pleasant surprise Boris just smiled and said ‘May the sun follow you on your way.’

Anna and Josh started walking in the direction that Boris had pointed to. Josh was waving back to Boris for quite some time while they walked at first Josh could still recognize Boris’s figure standing in the fields but quite quickly he was just another part of the scenery, unrecognizable. Anna walked on, she didn’t look back, her back straight, she walked on firmly and unconditionally towards the forest, unflinching and not turning back to face Boris even once.

After they had walked for about 30 minutes Anna suddenly stopped in her tracks and turned to face Josh. ‘Do you think Boris pointed us in the right direction?’ she asked him her eyes stern and her face set firm.

‘Why wouldn’t he?’ answered Josh.

‘I don’t know,’ answered Anna her face deep in thought staring at the sky. Finally she faced Josh again and asked ‘but what should we do? Continue walking towards the forest or walk to the west instead to the mountain range.’

‘I think we should continue in the way that Boris told us.’ answered Josh.

Anna looked as though she was about to argue, than thought the better of it and without a second word she turned around and continued her march towards the forest. Josh stared at her Anna’s back, she wore what she always wore to school, a red and black shirt with blue jeans. It was simple but probably comfortable and it suited her. It fitted well with her character while dresses probably didn’t. Josh didn’t really know Anna, he was never the extravert type of person but he did want to get to know Anna a little better. Although with Anna it was always difficult, she was always a very closed and introvert person. She kept to herself and never talked to anyone, as far as he knew she had no friends in school. He always thought they were a little similar, he never talked to too many people either, but the big difference between the two of them was that he at least had some friends, and good ones at that.

Josh stared at Anna’s back again and thought that maybe Anna was playing a part in school, a theatrical role and that maybe she was a different person when she was at home, maybe she liked to wear dresses and skirts when she was at home for example. At school there were no real rules for what they were allowed to wear, as long as it wasn’t too revealing. Many girls wore skirts to school but Anna never did, she always wore the same kind of shirts and jeans. Josh was sure that skirts and dresses would have suited her too.

He tried to speak to her several times previously but she never really answered back to him. Or she was just being outright distrusting and simply pushed him away. That wasn’t going to deter him though, he kept at it and slowly she did open up slightly. Although maybe open up was pushing it a bit. It was more like she now tolerated his presence rather than shoed him away immediately. She still didn’t say much though, but it gave Josh the impression that even she ever wanted or needed someone she might call upon him. He was after all the only person in school she communicated with, even if it was only on rare occasions, so he really was the only her only option. He tried to come to terms with the situation and where he stood when Anna abruptly stopped and he very nearly bumped into her.

She turned to face him again and said ‘I think Boris lied to us’

‘Why would he do that?’ retorted Josh slightly resentful

‘I don’t know, but did you see the sly smile he gave us? It was a sneaky smile. I have a feeling he was not telling us something, almost like he wanted us to get into trouble or something.’

‘But Anna that makes no sense, he was helping us already by answering all of our questions. I mean he didn’t have to do that, but he did.’ Pleaded Josh

‘Exactly, he didn’t have to answer any of our questions and he could have told us anything and we would have believed him. Because the truth is we are stuck somewhere and we know nothing. So maybe he has some kind of secret agenda, I don’t know yet.’

‘That makes no sense, maybe he was just nice. Or if we assume he wasn’t nice then maybe he didn’t really care if we knew or not. Either way the only thing we can do now is go wherever he told us right?’

‘No. That is not the only option, we can choose to go the other way and make our own decisions based on what we saw. I mean, yes we are in some strange place, but no we don’t need to believe Boris. I don’t trust him.’ Anna stared at Josh waiting for him to talk her out of it, but he didn’t. Instead he just stared at her, waiting for her to make the decision.

‘Well?!’ Anna asked looking directly into Josh’s eyes.

Josh stared back and then quickly lowered his eyes to the ground ‘I don’t know. I think he was just being nice. And honestly the forest sounds better than the alternative.’

Anna stared at the view in front of them: to the left stretching as far as the eye could see was the forest, the first option. To the right was a stretch of sand and in the back of it far beyond was a large mountain range. The tips of the mountains were covered with a small layer of white snow. She tried to clear her mind and think which way would be better when she was interrupted by the growling and grumbling noises of her stomach. She stared at her little black wristwatch.

The black wristwatch was a gift her father gave her for her 8th birthday. Now a few years later she still had it and she wore it constantly. She only took it off when she went to sleep.

The time was 12:00, normally at school this was when she went outside took out her sandwich and ate it in silence, now though everything was different. She didn’t let it show but when Boris said that their journey might take weeks she was frightened. She quickly pushed that little part in her down and shut it up, but it was like trying to hush a waterfall, she could still hear it echoing in the far recesses of her head.

Three weeks? We have to survive on our own for three weeks? That is impossible! What will you eat or drink? Where will you sleep? And what about your father?!

She knew the voice well, it came to haunt her mind on many occasions and it was doing so now showing her; her failings, her insecurities showing her everything that could go wrong and worse of all it showed her, her dad alone, lost without her.

She bit her tongue trying to keep her emotions away, keeping her emotions in check. Over-thinking the situation was useless, she had a current problem and she needed to solve it. She tried to think of the situation objectively, tried to think what direction would offer the best solution or at least the least problems. She had to take into account that food could be a very real problem. Their first concern should be food and because they had nothing with them they needed to go somewhere where there was more chance to find some. If she looked at it that way the decision was easy to make.

‘I think we will go to the forest.’ Announced Anna finally ‘but not because Boris told us to go there. I think we should go there because that is our best chance to find food and maybe water.’

Josh smiled and simply said ‘that’s good thinking, I’m actually getting hungry. Do you think we will find food?’

‘Sure we will, who ever heard of a forest that has no food in it?!’

‘Yeah you’re right, we will find something for sure, I just hope we will also find this Djinn thing.’

‘For that we first need to get to the forest and don’t kid yourself it will be long.’

‘Alright’ said Josh his face set in unprecedented firmness and determination ‘Then we should get going.’

With that they stopped talking and focused on spending their energy on making their way to the forest. They weren’t sure how long it would take but they were now at least set to the same goal and with their destination clear a new determination guided them along the way.

About an hour or so into their march Josh started walking next to Anna instead of behind her. Anna was glad for this change; she didn’t much like walking in front of him, it just that she made a decision and went with it, for some reason it was as though she was the natural leader of their little pack. She didn’t want the role of leader or its responsibility that came with it, she thought that just taking care of herself was difficult enough. The only reason she was in front up until now in the first place, was because Josh for some reason known only to him decided to walk behind her rather than next to her. It made her feel slightly better knowing he was walking next to her.

They were walking for hours and they were becoming increasingly tired, so Josh suggested they should take a short break. There were no trees to offer any shade from the sun so they just squatted on the grass and took a short break to rest their legs. Anna stared at her watch it showed the time to be 2 in the afternoon. Anna hadn’t eaten or drank anything from 8 in the morning when she had her breakfast of cereals. Worse than the hunger however was the thirst, she was really thirsty now. Walking in the hot and warm air left her particularly parched. Her throat was dry and she felt an uncontrollable itch developing in the back of her throat in a place where she could not reach. She craved for a glass of fresh orange juice, or even a glass of cold water. She was never really a fan of water, she preferred juices but now she could do with some fresh water.

‘We shouldn’t wait too long, or it might be dark.’ Said Anna ‘plus the longer we wait the thirstier we will become.’

‘I am not that thirsty’ said Josh ‘and I have some orange juice in my pocket.’

‘You do?’ exclaimed Anna in surprise ‘Maybe we can drink a little?’ she asked.

‘Well I want to keep it for an emergency.’ Answered Josh. ‘Are you upset?’ asked Josh when Anna didn’t answer.

‘No’ she responded ‘I am just really thirsty but I understand. We should keep it until we feel we can’t go on without it any longer.’

Josh nodded and breathed a sigh of relief.

Anna allowed herself a little smile ‘what?!’

‘I just thought you might be angry with me.’ Answered Josh smiling a broad smile. They sat down for several more moments enjoying the temporary silence and rest before deciding it was time to get up and get going once again.

An hour later the first features in their immediate surroundings began to change. The grass around them was the first thing they noticed changing, at first when they sat out the fields were green and lush with a fresh smell hanging around, now though the lush green grass was becoming drier, the green fading into a dry yellow straw. The closer they got to the forest the drier the ground was which according to Anna made no sense. A forest needed water to prosper and from looking at the grass it looked as they were steadily heading to an area that had less water. Maybe the rainfall diminished but there was an underground current running that the trees were tapping into suggested Josh. With the uncertainty looming around them like a veil they marched on, somewhat reluctantly but without choice now. They were too far to change course and so stubbornly against their better judgment they trod on heading closer to the forest, that now seemed rather dark and uninviting and not at all the little piece of hope it seemed only moments ago.

The closer they got to the forest the more things around them changed. At first the ground changed from a fertile green grass to dry weeds and then completely dead barren with nothing growing in it at all. The ground turned hard and dark brown full of lumps and uneven, it was difficult to walk on it. But it wasn’t just the ground that changed it was the air around them. At first they hardly noticed but as they got closer to the forest it became more apparent. The blue skies were slowly turning into grey and the air around them which smelled fresh was now becoming stale, heavy and humid. The ominous feeling that they were heading to a place of darkness only intensified. They stopped just in front of the forest in unison and stared.

The trees were dark, dense and it was difficult to see anything through the thick brush of branches in front of them, anything at all. It was as though shadows danced in front of them blocking their view so that they could see nothing beyond the branches that blocked their passage. Anna and Josh stared at one another, they were feeling reluctant to enter the forest now that they were face to face with it, but neither of them felt like saying anything out loud. All thoughts of food and thirst were now of no concern as they faced the strange forest. They shared another look and then Anna stared coldly at the forest, searching for signs of weakness. She sighed and then took a step forward. Josh wanted to grab hold of her hand to reassure her as well as reassure him that everything was fine, although he knew the feeling deep down in the pit of his stomach told him to stop kidding. He wanted to walk calmly beside Anna but his feet were telling him that only a fool would enter a forest that was this dark when it was still light outside. But it was too late already Anna had already entered the forest and he had to quickly catch up to her, now if only his legs wouldn’t stay rooted to the ground he could get a move on. He tried to call out to Anna to alert her to his predicament but he was surprised to notice that when he tried to do so no sound would come. He tried to shout as loud as he could, but nothing happened. His voice just like his feet was not working properly. Fear slowly crept over him not because he was now rooted to the spot without any way to call for help, but because Anna now walked into the forest alone without him.

He pulled with all his might at his now frozen and motionless legs, trying to get them to cooperate but it was of no use. It was like trying to pull a truck. Josh tried to move the rest of his body only to find that it too was now beyond his control. Slowly but surely his body was not his to control anymore. It wasn’t as though he felt a numbness coming over his limbs it was as though all form of feeling was just gone. After his torso and hands were similarly irresponsive, came his neck and head until finally the only thing that he could maintain some control over were his eyes. He could blink and move them left and right without any problem; the rest however was now just flesh. He expected his body to fall forward but it didn’t, he was standing perfectly straight like a lamppost frozen to the spot.

Josh stood there for several moments where nothing happened, he was still breathing which meant that all the involuntary muscles weren’t similarly affected and for the moment there was no one around him. The feeling of dread slowly faded and there was not a lot he could do now anyway except looking around. He was concentrating on the sounds around him. When they first arrived this close to the forest he thought that all sound was gone, that they entered some closed environment, but now that he had some time to listen he noticed that wasn’t the case. There were sounds around him they were just muffled, as though his ears were padded with some gaze. He didn’t recognize the sounds he heard but they were definitely there. Soft throaty chirping sounds and other strange things that didn’t seem to go together, such as a gul-gul-gul sound similar to the sound you make when you drink combined with a tssss sound which sounds like a can of coke opening. Josh couldn’t make much out of the sounds but they made him slightly uncomfortable, more so because he couldn’t move and was now a target for anyone.

Several more moments passed and Anna still didn’t notice he wasn’t behind her or perhaps she was similarly stuck. Or maybe someone had taken his place. Maybe a monster of some sort transformed itself into him and was now walking with Anna. The thought of Anna being in danger made Josh increasingly anxious when suddenly standing there in front of him was Anna staring at him. Her mouth was opening and closing and it took him a while to realize that she was talking to him. Only he couldn’t hear her, whatever she was saying the forest was swallowing the sounds, or maybe his ears had been affected after all. Anna was becoming increasingly angry with Josh, he could tell because she was now opening her mouth wider when she was speaking and her face was contorted with a frown appearing above her nose. When Josh didn’t respond she put her hands on her hips muttered something and walked straight towards him and then just before she could reach him she looked like she hit something, she stumbled backwards in surprise and took a good look to see what it was that she hit. When she stumbled backwards Josh could hear a hearty laugh close to him, but he couldn’t see anything what it was. Anna probably couldn’t hear anything or if she did she did not appear to take any notice of it, instead she walked carefully towards Josh, arms stretched forward.  Then just before she could reach Josh she stopped and like a mime miming a box she did the same. There was a wall or something between the two of them.

‘Is this it?’ asked a voice behind Josh ‘I thought I could get at least a few more funny moments from the both of you.’ The voice sighed and then just as though nothing had happened Josh had control of his body again.

Josh flailed his body back and forth in joy taking immense pleasure at the simple movement he could now do. He had a big smile on his face as he quickly walked towards Anna. He checked once just to be sure and sure enough the invisible wall had disappeared.

‘Anna, thank god you’re ok, I was stuck in the position you saw me in and I couldn’t move or anything and I thought maybe a monster pretended to be me was walking with you and…’ Josh trailed off because Anna wasn’t looking at him she was looking open-mouthed at something behind him. Josh completely forgot about the voice that was talking when he was stuck. He was so happy to be able to move normally again that the voice and more importantly its owner completely vanished from his mind.

He turned around afraid of what he might see and stared open-mouthed at the creature that was standing in front of them. It was humanoid only it was standing on only one leg; he was wearing red pants and had bright red hair, other than his pants he was naked his skin dark brown. He was holding a pipe in his hand which he was lighting; when he lifted his hands Josh was shocked to see that there were holes in his palms. After he lit his pipe the creature turned his attention back to the two of them.

‘So humans huh’ he said puffing on his pipe ‘I have not seen any humans for a very long time. But where are my manners, let me introduce myself I am Saci.’ The creature said and reached out his hand.

Josh was the first to close his mouth and snap out of his trance. ‘Pleased to meet….’ Josh couldn’t complete the sentence because before he could reach the creature he fell flat on his face the wind completely knocked out of him. The creature burst out laughing. Josh got up slowly and looked at his sport shoes. The laces of the one shoe were tied together with the laces of the other shoe. Josh sat and started undoing the knot ‘did you do this?’ he asked.

‘Me?’ answered Saci feigning innocence.

‘Why did you lock Josh up?’ asked Anna. It was the first thing she said to Saci and her voice was venomous.

‘Because it was funny! You should have seen your face you looked like you were about to explode when you thought the boy wasn’t answering you and then when you hit the barrier that was just priceless.’ The memory of the moment sent Saci back into a fit of laughing that ended with him laughing so loudly he halfway started coughing. He hit his chest several times and then said ‘this pipe will be the death of me.’ This was apparently again very funny because he launched into another fit of hysterical laughter.

‘Comeon let’s go’ said Anna ‘This Saci is a nutter.’

‘What is a nutter?’ asked Saci.

‘It’s a crazy person.’ answered Josh.

‘Hey’ objected Saci ‘I could be offended by that, but I am an optimist so I gather it means that I am a genius in disguise, because everyone knows that the true crazies are all geniuses!’

Anna and Josh turned their backs to Saci and were about to enter the forest when Saci interrupted them. ‘I would not do that if I were you.’ He said cryptically.

‘You won’t do what?’ asked Josh.

‘I would not enter the forest.’ Answered Saci simply.

‘Why noug…’

Saci burst into another burst of laughter.

Anna looked at Josh his speech sounded slurred ‘Are you alright?’ she asked.

‘I m fn m ong s nm’

‘Oh your tongue is numb.’ Anna said trying hard not to crack and smile.

‘O gn na ma mt s nm’

Saci burst into laughter again his eyes were tearing. Anna was biting hard on her lips trying not to laugh herself there was something about Saci’s laugh that was contagious. She took a deep breath and looked at Josh. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth and he was now drooling. His eyes were said and he looked like he was begging Anna for help.

‘Saci, could you please do something about Josh?’ she asked the laughing Saci. He nodded.

‘That’s much better.’ Said Josh smiling. ‘Could you maybe stop doing these pranks on me.’ Josh asked.

‘Oh come now this is a joyous occasion for me I have not seen humans in centuries or is it longer than that? What is more than a century? Well whatever it is that is the answer.’

Josh looked at Anna she didn’t seem to understand it either. ‘What does that have to do with pranks or with what you are doing to me?’

‘What you have never heard of me?’ Saci asked in surprise.

Both children nodded their heads.

‘But I am famous. I am a legend in South America and in Europe. Have you really never heard of me?’

‘No sorry.’ Answered Josh.

‘Well I was always known for my pranks and I was an adored figure across continents although for some reason at first everyone feared me which was weird, but we all straightened it out.’

Josh and Anna shared a look, they had both never heard of a Saci. It was clear though that he had some strange powers and that he knew about earth.

‘Why shouldn’t we go into the forest?’ asked Anna again.

‘Because it is dangerous if you do not know your way around it. I would suggest to go back home, where you came from. There is nothing here. No humans, that is for sure. I have seen many creatures though. One thing I will tell you, do not try any pranks on the creatures in the forest they do not take jokes lightly! Which is strange in and of itself because how else can you take a joke?’

‘We can’t go back home’ said Josh ‘we are stuck here and Boris told us that the only way we might get back home is by teleporting there. So now we are searching for someone who can teleport us there.’

‘Well you are lucky you ran into me first because it could have been a lot worse you could have run into a dingonek or a unicorn.’

‘A unicorn?’ exclaimed Josh ‘I love unicorns’

Saci stared at Josh strangely ‘are you sure you are a boy?’ he asked.

Josh looked embarrassed and stared down to his feet.

‘Alright enough of this can we now enter this stupid forest? I am hungry and thirsty and tired from all this walking.’

Saci scrutinized Anna ‘are you sure you are a girl?’ he asked. When she started to look slightly embarrassed as well Saci burst out laughing again. ‘Do not worry you little heads I shall take you to my home and you shall be fed and on the morrow I will explain the forest and the things that lie in it and if you still feel like venturing into it I shall at least make sure that you are in good company.’ With that said the saci looked around the two and puffed on his pipe.

Josh and Anna stared at one another, they didn’t have much choice in the matter and it was better to be in the hands of an otherwise harmless prankster then in the arms of an unknown danger.

‘Alright Saci let’s go to your place.’ Said Josh.

‘Excellent’ and with a puff of smoke they were gone from where they stood.

Images of night VIII – Changes

I am walking through the old city, a city carved in stone that stretches over the landscape like a blanket. It is almost as vibrant as I imagine it once was, full of shops and entrepreneurs looking for a new fix. When this old city was first built there was no electricity so the streets were lit by candles or oil lamps, making the already ominous streets all the more ominous, now though it is mostly full of tourists, taking in the sights and going through the shops and boutiques that make as much part of the scenery as the old brick streets are. There are small slits in the walls; those are most likely the only remains of the old oil lanterns. The city is surrounded by an old brick wall that is mostly torn down; it used to have several gates that were the entrance and exit points of the city. Each gate had a designated name, I know that much although I don’t know the names of the different gates. I don’t even know why certain parts were named a certain way. I imagine that most large cities had similar protective walls around them, with these large double door gates, although none of the gates have those doors anymore, just a large hole in the wall.
I continue marching through the city, every street corner and every several feet a salesman tries to sell me something. Sometimes bags, something clothing, jewellery and sometimes things I can’t really recognize. I try to keep my conversation with them to a bare minimum because I really don’t wish to buy anything and they usually are very leach like. They attach themselves unto you and don’t let go until they sold you something, an attitude I tend to dislike.
I continue to march through the city until I reach the coast where the sea greets the remains of a castle. At least so I am told, there is very little to see of the castle itself, most of it was destroyed I think. There are two broken down fortifications still present, but those are very low and resemble a path that leads to what might have been the castle, the only evidence that a castle was ever there. I stare at the blue sea there are seagulls everywhere they flock around in search of fish that they try to grab from unsuspecting fisherman or even tourists that walk around. I turn away from the beautiful sea and head back to the old brick city.
I reach the old city and enter it through the large gate. As I walk through the street there is a sudden shift, almost like a rift that is going through me. It passes through everything and right in front of my eyes the tourists that cluttered the streets change slightly. Their clothing changes into a multicoloured facet mostly with checker like patterns and bright colours. The hair is also something else it is high voluminous and very out there. The jeans that most of the people are wearing are very tight I would almost say these are women jeans. Several more moments pass as I stare at the crowd and they back at me and then without a doubt in my mind I know what this is. It is the 80s, the era where guys wearing extreme colours and crazy hair-dos were ok. It took 10 years of this mess and many people hating it for it to turn into the boy band 90s.
I snicker, and swallow a laugh as several incredible characters shuffle past and decide to make the most of this day. There was one thing I forgot about this era I notice, everyone around me is smoking and it takes mere seconds for the smoke to cling to my cloths and skin. Back in the 80s smokers were not restricted to a handful of places only, and it was common to smoke everywhere, then my ear twitches as I recall something else that is so very commemorative of the 80s. I quickly walk down the street when I hear it, the radio music of the 80s, the single most impressive era in music, because in one little swoop it forced every band to include synthesisers and a generic beat. Although for many it was also the birth of many different styles many of which I enjoy tremendously.
After the first wave of laughter falters and I can stop myself from continued outbursts, I try to figure out what has happened. It seems as though I have gone back in time, or that time somehow changed. It would also mean that my flight back is now cancelled, so I can’t use it anymore. This posed a little problem, but considering it is 1980 or at least somewhere in that time frame I can at least buy a ticket for a much cheaper price. I smile a big smile but it does not last as I don’t have access to my account, because I haven’t even opened it yet. So that means that the cash that I have is all the cash money I have at the moment. That would not last a very long time; I would have to find something to give some much needed cash quickly.
I try not to panic and keep calm. There must be some logical explanation for everything that has happened and if I can’t find it at the moment than I must do something to at least be able to survive in this era. I know the 80s well form the party’s we had and the themes I had played with myself, so there must be some way to make money of it. I know what companies will make money in the future, but of course to invest the little cash money that I have into the stock market won’t work, maybe though I can do something else that will give me some money, something that won’t require stealing money from a bank or living on the streets begging for money.
Winning the lottery would be a good option but I don’t remember the numbers that won back then, but maybe I can make a bet of some kind. I look through the city to see if there is something I know that I can use. First I need to know the exact date, as well as which events are taking place and what bets I can make. This proves to be easier said than done, the date is easy enough. I find a local newspaper stand that shows the date (I am almost positive that I did not see this newsstand on the way here) to be 12th of September 1985. The date means nothing to me, I know there is no soccer game at the time no world cup. The tennis tournaments that I watched are mostly already over, I can think of nothing that I can use to my advantage betting wise. Regrettably I give up on the idea and look for something else that I might be able to do.
I walk through the city for most of the day thinking about what I can do, but nothing comes to me at the end I am just tired and hungry and annoyed. I get some food and count the money that I have, it is enough for a small dinner and that’s it. I decide to go get the dinner and think about the problem later, I might find a better answer on a full stomach.
It is night, there are people walking through the street that are real characters and I still haven’t found a place for the night. The money I have left is not enough for a hotel or anything of the sort and my backpack is filled only with useless things. A change of clothes my camera and a bottle of water. There is also a map of the city but other than that there is nothing in that could help me. I walk onwards through the endless streets and start to feel slightly dispared, the hours pass and still I have nothing. I ask the people for help but I am shut down quickly and efficiently. Perhaps I am doing something wrong, they all speak English as a second language and maybe my needs do not come across. Either way it is difficult to communicate with them and I have no experience in talking to them, I have never found myself in a situation where I have no home, no house or place where I can sleep. I also have no experience in asking people for help or in this case begging. It is a humbling experience that I hope I will not have again.
It is the middle of the night when I finally rest next to a somewhat shady building. My legs hurt and I decide that I had enough, I am too tired and I the place is too inviting and I just sleep there.
A kick from someone wakes me up, and angrily I get up. I get shouted at by some old lady who says something I don’t understand. I try to make myself at least partially understood but she just nods her head in disgust and leaves me. After that rude wakeup call I look back at my surroundings and the hope that it was all a figment of my imagination dissipates together with the smoke from all the cigarettes. I get up and take several steps when suddenly I see a bubble in front of me. It looks like a soap bubble that increases in size until it engulfs the whole path in front of me. I turn to run from it but it increases in size much quicker than I can move and just like that I am sucked in. A flash of light blinds me and I hear the hustle of people walking past me. I stare around and find that I am back. I am in my own time I let out a shout of joy and get several odd looks, but I don’t care. I quickly go to an ATM and take out a large sum of money. It is a reflex that I would have never done if I wasn’t stuck in this situation for fear of getting robbed, but now that is but a small thought. I quickly go to the hotel for the sleep I had last night was a bad one and a nice sleep will do me good.
The hotel is exactly as I have found it and a smile finds its way to my mouth as I think about going inside and getting into my comfortable bed. I go inside immediately to my room, take a shower and crawl into my bed wearing my pyjamas. But before I can fall asleep something strange happens around me. A smoke like substance blinds my vision and in the space of breath that it takes for me to blink, I see that something has changed. The lighting in the room I am in is different, even the bed I am in is different. I look around and see that my things have disappeared, replaced with things that I don’t know, the large television set that was hanging on the wall is gone and there is no television anywhere in the room.
I try to think clearly and come to the conclusion that I have been moved once again. I am in a different time again; therefore this is most likely someone’s home. I move quickly and remove my pyjamas. There are some cloths that resemble old gangster cloths in the wooden closet, old suits that were famous in old movies. I decide to quickly take one of these suits, wear it and get out as quickly as I can before I am caught in a situation I can’t explain. I get out of the front door and find that the hotel is now a residence, I quickly close the door behind me and run out of what used to be the hotel and look at the street that is in front of me. It is different than what it was like previously. Not so much because of the walls of the city, because those look very similar. At first sight they are the same old walls that were there previously, but on closer inspection they are dirtier. There is something else, it is the air, it smells of coal not a lot, but as though there is someone burning coal close by. I continue to walk and try to figure out when I am. There are still some cars around but they look old, classic. I must then still be in the 1900s maybe 1940?
I notice the attire of the people around me, and it is definitely before my time. I have seen it before however in old classic movies. There is one thing I also see everywhere; Soldiers, they speak French and they all carry firearms. I don’t know what is going on but maybe this is an aftershock of the world war, if I could only figure out the exact date I might know a little more. The other thing that strikes me is that there are hardly any coloured people around, when I arrived here there were many Chinese and other Asians walking around the city, but now there are none and except for the Muslims who were part of the population at the beginning, there is not much else other than the French army. I reach a small newsstand and this time it is again slightly different. It is blue and looks like a weird booth, on the papers I see to my surprise that almost everything is in Arabic except one newspaper that shows the date: 12 June 1950. I am further in the past still, just as I thought but if this continues on I will find myself stuck somewhere without a way back. My French is not good enough to understand what is written and I have learned already from previous encounters with the French that you can’t expect them to speak any other language other than French.
Luckily I took out enough money before leaving to eat and perhaps get another place to stay. I walk towards a small diner and ask for food in English. The waiter smiles not really understanding but gives me a menu anyway. The menu is split between Arabic and French and so I try to just say to the waiter that I want something simple with salads. At the end I get a large plate of all sorts of things that look and smell delicious. I eat with vigour and enjoy it immensely. When I am finished I signal the waiter and get the bill. I put more than the amount that is written and give it back to the waiter. The waiter takes the money smiles at me and walks away. I get up to walk out but before I can leave the waiter comes back and shouts something at me pointing at the money. I don’t know what it is and I try to ask what is wrong with the money. He pulls out a different bill and points to it; I stare at it and realize it is completely different from the money that I am holding. There must have been a currency change between 1950 and my time. I try to apologize and motion that the money is very valuable and that they should keep it. But the waiter is having none of it and I get shouted at whole heartedly. Just then two French soldiers enter the diner and the waiter walks towards them explaining the situation. The soldiers look at me and laugh they point to the back and I am pushed by the waiter to the kitchen where I am put to work. I spend the whole day in the kitchen cleaning dishes. It is hard work and very tiring, when I am finally done the day has passed and it is now dark outside. The waiter and whole group of people are standing around me ready to kick me out. I leave them and once again I now need to find a place to stay. But knowing that my money is of no good I reluctantly search at the outskirts of the city.
Before I even reach the outskirts of the city, lamps are suddenly lit everywhere. Not the lamps I saw hanging just seconds ago but rather florescent neon lights I smile in hope that I have perhaps moved back to my time. I run through the streets and notice that there are many people around of all races and colours. I am back in my time and because of the darkness I didn’t even notice. I quickly go to my hotel not caring if I wake up in someone’s personal flat or not. I very rapidly reach my room; take a shower and fall asleep exhausted.
I wake up rested and content; I get up happy to see that I am still in my hotel. I get up, get dressed in a comfortable long-sleeved T, jeans and hiking shoes. I walk out of the hotel after enjoying a hearty breakfast many glasses of fresh water which I gulp down eagerly. I entertain the thought that maybe this ordeal is over with and I can now continue a normal holiday, but just as that thought enters my mind reality wavers and I see it change again. Everything around me wavers and dissipates and this invisible wave changes many little things until it stops. This time the sky takes a dark black colour and I stare at it in confusion. The smell is that of burning or a grill or something. It is hard to pinpoint but it is a strong smell. The bricks around have gotten black stains on them, but other than that it doesn’t seem like any more changes have occurred. That is until I notice the people around me and the ground.
The people around me have changed their appearance again as well. I take note that the women are wearing large dresses, and everyone is wearing hats. There is shit on the ground, it belongs to horses and the wet smell of a manure is everywhere. In front of me I see a horse and carriage pass. It must be a long time ago, much earlier than the 50s at least. Maybe the industrial revolution or something like that, depending on whether I see any large machines maybe or… And then it hits me, the black clouds, the smell, the dark patches, the burnt like smell, it is coal that much is clear. Therefore the time must be the industrial revolution and I have now travelled further backwards in time than previously.
A thought strikes me I have now gone back twice and to two different times now the third time is further back still, maybe I will continue to go back until I am stuck somewhere in time where I can never return… It is a thought I don’t want to contemplate and I try to force it out of my head. Instead I decide to focus on becoming a little less conspicuous as I stand out too much. Specifically because now there is no one that dresses like me and I can’t just say I am from out of town, or perhaps I can, although I doubt that they will believe me.
There are people walking through the streets, there are French again everywhere and Arabic people. Although I stand out the people are not paying much attention to me, I continue to walk through the street trying to find out more about where I am. There are children running around and it smells everywhere. I am not overly thirsty yet but I know it is only a matter of time. I know now that the next time I get back I will prepare food and water, if I don’t I might have other problems. Still until this time the maximum amount of time I was gone was a day therefore I just have to make it one day without food or water which shouldn’t be too hard to do.
Suddenly before I can do anything else a rift appears and everything around me disappears. The stone covered pavement that I was just walking on is gone, and for several moments I am stuck in a place where I can only see ripples, colours and shapes surround me and become visible when a ripple nears me. I can feel no wind, no air, nothing that normally would tell me something. It is as though I am stuck in some sort of limbo between waves of time. One such ripple leaves the others and is coming towards me, it engulfs me and the nothingness I had just been in is changed to a specific place and time. I am in the same place I was only now it is somewhen else again. The stone covered pavement I walked on is a dirty brown with patches of dark matter everywhere. The beautifully decorated shops disappear to reveal a dirty and work like atmosphere. The signs, the fashionable oil lamps, everything is gone almost like in a magic show, to be replaced by wooden signs depicting the sort of shop that is found at the location, little black structures are struck with pins into the walls and it takes me a moment to realize that these are the oil lamps, only much more primitive. The worst thing however, is the smell. I pinch my nose several times to try and overcome the smell but it is like an essence here. It is almost like a gloopy syrup that glues onto your skin and enters your pours and presses all around you like a blanket. The worst of all is the physical feeling the smell leaves on your skin, it is like a layer of invisible clothing almost covering you from head to toe, in mere moments of being in it I feel dirty myself and it serves as a reminder that it is here to stay.
I try not to gag as I rush through the now alien streets and in horror realize I have stepped into something. I look down and see that my sport shoes just entered in a large pile of waste. The once white and clean shoes are now brown and disgusting. The people around me are giving me strange looks; they are wearing sheets of clothing most of them brown with shoes that resemble a cross between a cowboy boot and a farmer’s one. Their faces and skin are equally brown and look dirty; their teeth are yellow and gingivitis it seems has found a place where it can prosper. On closer examination I notice that what I had taken to be the colour of their cloth is actually shit or waste. They all look like peasants to me, or something resembling farmers because they carry large baskets with what I think is food. But there is no way I can eat that, it looks dirty and I am almost sure that if I would eat it I would get a severe case of dysentery or food poisoning.
I try to make sense of when I am again and I know that wherever this is it must be earlier still, the way people are dressed and what the smell of dirt and shit means this must be somewhere around the Middle Ages or maybe earlier or maybe later. I am not an avid learner and history was never one of my strong suits. I suddenly remember something, the castle at the beach or better yet the lack thereof. That could prove as a marker for the time I am in. I remember that when I was walking down to the sea there was a pathway and that was the only thing left of the castle. It was built somewhere in 1500 and destroyed sometime after. So if I see it there I will know roughly when I am. A second thought than reminds me that it doesn’t really matter when it is as long as I can just avoid too much attention.
The language around me is also different, they no longer speak French but rather something that sounds a little like Spanish. I try to walk through the city as though I belong there but still there are many people around that are staring at me. They are pointing at me, most likely commenting at my shoes and cloths, or maybe it is my clean skin. I notice that I am one of the only ones that is clean shaven most of the other people around me have beards or stubs and the smell when they just walk past me is horrible.
A group of somewhat better dressed individuals are riding a carriage across the road from me. The carriage stops and the driver motions for me to approach him. Not wishing to attract attention, I come towards him. He says something in a language I don’t understand and motions to the door. I nod assuming that he wants me to approach it before I open it I can already smell it, the smell of cheap and very strong perfume. A smell so potent and disgusting that for a moment I don’t know what is worse the smell of shit that looms everywhere or the smell of cheap and strong cologne that masks a smell of shit. It is then that I also realize that it isn’t just the smell of shit; there is a smell of sweat, musty and old. The smell is of someone that hasn’t showered for a very long time. The perfume is most likely used to mask the smell of shit and dirt and the fact they have not had a shower for a long time.
I turn around take a deep breath, turn back and open the door. A woman is sitting there looking at me. She is wearing a large dress with a corset and she is looking at me expectantly. Not knowing what to do I smile at her. This was apparently the wrong this to do for she gasps in shock and quickly shuts the door. The driver quickly drives off leaving me somewhat perplexed on the paved road. I shrug and continue my walk to the sea.
I reach it with little difficulty and although every single person that passes me by stares at me (including the many baggers that are sitting or lying on the floor), no one makes an attempt to stop me. I look at the castle and can’t help but smile; there standing in front of me is the foundation of what is supposed to be the castle. This means that it must be early in the year 1500. Even with all the dirt, the work looks good it is not something that people do anymore in my day, but to see it built is a joy.
I sit down at a reasonable clean place and watch the workers go at it. Every now and again I can see what looks to be soldiers pushing people around. They hit people without any regard for anyone but themselves and for a moment I am afraid that will come for me. To my relieve they don’t, they are only interested in the work being conducted on the castles, for from my vintage point I can see another one being built on an island a little further from the coast. Large cannons are strategically placed all around the castle and it looks as though the Spanish are preparing for war, or at least for a contingency plan.
Looking at the castle being constructed I try to understand what is happening to me. I have now been zapped into the past several times, each time further into the past, each time first back to my time before ending up even further. This time though I was in a crossroad of sorts and I didn’t end up back in my time but rather I was immediately whisked back to where I am now. There must be some kind of pattern that I am missing, something that would tell me at least why this is happening and how I can control it.
As these thoughts rummage around through my head I fail to notice the things that happen around me. A group of soldiers have apparently noticed me and have made up their mind are now approaching me. I panic and quickly get up I run quickly down the street in opposite direction from the soldiers. I sprint as fast as I can, not looking back to see if they are following me. It is only when my breathing comes in gulps and I heave with the effort that I take a look back. My chest hurts and I nearly vomit from the effort, but fortunately I have gotten away and no one is behind me. I want to smile and laugh at my brilliance when in front of me is a shift, a tremble that looks like a drop that is hitting the water, it resonates sending pulses of waves through everything and just like that reality dissipates and I find myself in the crossroads once again.
This is the second time that I have ended up here, each time the way to get in is slightly different and each time I move through time there are differences. I am still nowhere nearer to finding out why all of this is happening to me. The ripples are almost tangible, as though I can reach out and grab them. I look at them and notice that there are different ripples all through this room, if I can call it a room. I am standing on something although I can’t see what it is. The first time I was here I was so captivated by seeing nothingness or perhaps just the darkness being interrupted by the mist and ripples that appeared in front of me that I failed to notice anything else. Like the fact that I was breathing, walking and doing everything a normal person does, in a place that look similar to a vacuum. I have a few moments before the ripples start and I try to find a way to get back home, this trip down history lane was fun for a moment, but that moment has now passed and I would like to go home.
I search around me for clues; there must be something that could lead to one way or another, something that will let me regain control of when I am going. Around me though there is nothing but darkness, no sound, no wind, no air to breathe although I am clearly breathing. My lungs are taking in air from somewhere, even though it appears not to be this room. I try as hard as I can to come up with an answer, if there is something that happened to entrap me in this contraption, I can’t recall what that something was, but maybe that is not important. All I need to do is find a way out, but before I can think a little longer about what my options are I can see the ripples of time around me. It feels like looking through a tainted opaque glass that distorts everything that you see. I try to make out what is there, but the image is too distorted and slowly the ripples are coming towards me and I am in a new place once again.
The castle is gone, the old city is gone. I am close to the sea where just moments ago I witnessed the building of the castle, but now there is nothing to even prove there was something there in the first place. I look around and all I see for the most part is landscapes filled with sand and some vegetation. In the distance over the hills there are several small houses made from stone.
I try to grasp when I am now, for it is clear that I am much further in the past. If I was somewhere in the 1500s before I am now significantly before that. I don’t remember when the old brick city was built but it was old. Older than the castle that is now also gone. I walk along the coastal line locked in thought. I have again not moved to my present time, this movement through time to the past must have something to do with the ripples I saw. The ripples must be time itself or at least a moment in time, it is this moment that I keep finding myself sucked into. The ripples also seem to take longer each time to transport me, or get to me almost as if the space within the darkness is growing, or standing still perhaps for longer periods of time. Maybe this is what affects the ripple that I see the longer the distance the further away I am moved through time. But then why was I moved back to the present the first two times?
It takes me some time to figure it out, but the only change was that the first two times I did not see the ripples or the dark place. All I saw was my reality change or disappear around me until everything changed. As soon as I found myself in this in between place I could no longer move forward, or back to the present, I could only further back. But as far as I could tell there was nothing else in the room that I could manipulate or at the very least change.
A tap on my shoulder disrupts my thoughts and I turn to look a 40 year old gentleman standing in front of me. He is wearing a yellow coloured bag-like tunic attached to him with clasps and thongs. I look at my shirt which has one little decoration like button on it and back at this gentleman who has clearly never seen my kind of cloths before. His face is in awe and he keeps touching my shirt and button with a twinkle in his eye. I try to politely leave but the man doesn’t let me, he says something I don’t understand, his hands are rough but strong, he is nearly my height and although I assumed the people further down the past would be weaker than us in the present that is apparently not the case. The man in front of me is definitely not weaker than me, if anything I think he is stronger than me. He pulls at my shirt and shouts something in my ear. I push him back violently and he takes several steps back. This makes him stop and for the first time he looks at me, not at my cloths but at my face. His face is hardened, his mouth tightly shut and he looks like a man that has seen his share of troubles in the world.
Without a word he walks away towards the houses in the distance. I let out a sigh of relief and sit down. Several moments pass as I try to gather my thoughts and reclaim my calm, I look at the cloth of the long-sleeved T that I am wearing, the jeans and the hiking shoes. They do not fit the scenery and naturally I do not fit here, but for the moment there is not a lot I can do and so I leave it alone and just try to relax. My throat is soar and I am thirsty, it has been a while since I drank and the hours are taking their toll on me. Or at least it feels like hours, it is hard to tell. I suddenly remember my phone, with everything that happened I completely forgot about it. I take it out and have a look at it. It is off; I turn it on, but for some reason that doesn’t work. I feel like throwing the piece of garbage on the ground but I refrain from doing so and put it back in my back pocket. Even if I could get it to work there would be no reception here anyway.
A shout shakes me from my thoughts and I turn to see the man approaching me with what looks like a small girl. When they are close to me I look at the girl, who looks like she had suffered though trials worse even than the man. I feel horrible for the poor girl, she can’t be more than 12 years of age and she wears a similar bag-like tunic to the man.
The man looks at me and says several more things in his language, he points at the girl and then points at me shouting something incoherent. At first I don’t understand what he means but after several more motions the father gets angry. He rips takes the girls tunic off, who is not protesting and pushes the naked girl to me. I am so mortified that I avoid her touch and body like I would avoid the plague. I do the only thing I can think of which is turn tail and run. Shouts and what I assume to be pleas follow me, but I don’t stop and continue running along.
I stop when all is quiet and I am out of breath. I am becoming increasingly tired and thirsty. I feel a throbbing in my head and I have to take a moment to sit down. Before I manage to sit down though, the lights of the world suddenly turn off and somewhat startled I find I am back in the dark place. I sit down on the dark floor and reach down with my hand to see if I can touch something. To my surprise my hand is going down through where the floor should be and continues to go down below the level where I sit. In horror I pull my hand up, I try it again with the same result. I look around and decide that I have to change the way I think of this place. It is not a room or chamber, I am not sitting on the floor, I am in fact sitting on nothing. I clasp my hands together and now they do not go through one another, therefore I am at least tangible and real even if everything in the room isn’t.
It is then that I look at the ripples around me, during all this time of experimentation they were slowly moving forward to me, but they are somehow slower than before. Maybe the speed of the ripples is an indication of the time? I decide to try a new experiment but before I can do so the ripples are already surrounding me and with a curse slipping from my lips, I find that it has happened again. I am back in a strange world that is not my own.
I look around trying to get a handle on my surroundings. The brick houses in the hills behind me are gone; in fact all sign of civilization has disappeared. At least those next to the coast I am now sitting at. I look around at the sea and a gasp escapes my lips before I manage to stop it. There sailing the seas I can see ships, not one or a few ships but rather a vast number of ships, stretching all around me and as far as I can see. Interested I walk to a better vintage point to see if I can see who is on the ships and what is going on. I walk up a small mountain that is part of a range that I hadn’t noticed previously with the buildings and the other things that were here, or perhaps it wasn’t here before. The climb is not a long one, but I quickly feel my head turn and again I am reminded that I did not drink anything for a long time. I need to find water quickly but with no signs of civilization there is not much I can do.
I reach the top of the mountain and look down at the ships that are sailing past. They look like a swarm of ants marching for war. It must be an incredible campaign and when I look closely I notice that the ships are full to capacity with people, some are rowing while others are shouting out orders or just sitting looking at the water. There are large metallic shields everywhere on the ship and it is this that lets me know who these invaders are. These are roman soldiers out to conquer lands for their emperor.
One ship breaks formation and stops at the sandy shore not too far from where I have made my climb. Soldiers are getting off the boat and before they can finish their stretching another ship lands on the beach next to the first one. I get down and lie as close to the ground as I can, hoping that I won’t be seen by the soldiers. I have seen enough movies to know that being a Roman slave is never a good idea.
Crawling over the ground, I follow the Romans as they make their journey through the seas and the other smaller party that is now on making their way on land. The smaller party is carefully walking in a structured form down the valley. But before I can wipe the sweat from my brow in relief, I notice that several soldiers are making their way up my vintage point, most likely for the same reason I have.
I try to think of something to do so that I can avoid detection, but my mind is drawing a blank and all I can think about it is the pain I will be in if the Romans catch me and torture me. I try to make myself as small as I can and crawl to the place I think is least likely for the soldiers to come to, close to the other side of the mountain but being so preoccupied with the group climbing I forget to look at the other side of the mountain and there nearly on top of me is another group of Roman soldiers making their way to the top. Their ships landed just on the other side of the mountain.
The Roman soldiers are now so close to me that I am surprised that they have not already seen me, I can hear their heavy breathing their high strung voices, I can smell the strong scent of sweat coming from them. I have no more alternatives they are nearly on top of me and if I want to get out of this I have to act now or I will be gone. I slowly get up and in a dash using all my strength I bash straight into the first Roman that I see using my shoulder as a bettering ram. He flies backwards and tumbles down the mountain in a heap of bungled up tissue, metal and leather. The hit is so powerful that I feel as though I have shattered my bones hitting him, I don’t have time to think about it though for two more soldiers are coming up the same side. I jump kick at the first guy who is still a whole march lower than me and therefore an easy target. The kick unlike the shoulder bash is less successful in causing the guy to fly back. Instead he stumbles a few steps back and then straightens himself and lifts his sword towards me. Acting purely on instinct I jump forward grabbing the arm wielding the sword before the soldier has time to move and with a quick pull and turn I manage to get behind him while still holding his sword and use the soldiers own considerable weight to lift him and through him down the mountain. With a shout of terror the soldier tumbles down until he utters no more words.
Without looking back I run down the mountain and see that the cry from the soldier has altered everyone on the beach. The mountain is now surrounded by soldiers and I am now running down it towards my doom. I stop mid run and look up the mountain. There above me I can see two more faces looking at me. Down below there are now rows of soldiers organizing themselves in battle formations. I know it now to be a lost cause, there is nothing more I can do and as I stare at all the soldiers ready to take me out I feel grief, sadness and fear. I don’t want to die, I didn’t want to be part of this, I didn’t ask for any of thi…
I look around at the darkness and it is the first time I am truly happy to see it. The soldiers and everything else is gone and I can take a much needed rest for at least a moment or two. I sit down and try to catch my breath, the questions I had previously about what it is that I am sitting down and all the other mysteries leave my mind, as I am too tired to think and too thirsty to question foolish things like what happens around me. I lie down and relax and slowly I feel my weary eyes and my sore aching body just detach and flow like the leaves of a tree carried by the winds, my eyes are growing heavy.
Startled I wake up I am no longer in the same place. The temporal shift that has moved me from place to place has moved me again. The ripples of time have moved me when I slept. I look around me trying to figure out where I am, the mountain I was on is gone I am no longer at the coast but rather in a field, not a cultivated one or even a proper field; it looks more like swamp that has many different sorts of vegetation growing in it. At first I thought it was a field because the vegetation is all around me, but on closer examination I can see that the ground is humid, wet and there is all manner of bugs and insects around. I hear strange noises around me, and the plants look strange to me, alien. They are high and look like they haven’t been touched in a thousand years.
Wherever this is, or whenever this is, it seems I have travelled farther than even human life, or maybe civilized human life. For all I know this might be before human life, which means I am now in a very clear danger. I have to find some protection from whatever is out there, be it animals or bugs, plants and all other things alike. I stare down at the rags I am now wearing the journey I have taken, the crawling on the sand, the dirt, shit and the rest of the things I have witnessed have left a mark not just on me but on my cloths as well. My long-sleeved T is incredible dirty there is a small cut on its side, but for the most part it is still ok. My jeans on the other hand are in tatters, it has multiple rips along the knees and it is extremely dirty as well. My shoes fair slightly better as they are still whole.
My situation surmised I go in search of the most important part in all of this fresh water. Because I am in a swamp like area the water that is everywhere in the ground must be coming from somewhere, maybe from an underground source. If that is the case then maybe, finally I’ll be able to quench my thirst. I rummage through the greenery making sure that I don’t touch anything that could be a potential dangerous insect or, animal or, perhaps even a plant. Although the ground is humid I can see no water, so I continue on my search following my instinct, or more accurately put my random guess on where the water could be. When I stand I feel hardly any pain, when I bend though I can feel my ribs aching. I am not sure if they are broken or not but for now I give it no thought. The most important part now is to find fresh water; I am becoming increasingly dehydrated and really need the water.
My search leads me along to a place where the greenery is abundant and most likely there is also water. I go through the large bushes and rough plants to find only more plants and trees, it is becoming increasingly dense to spot anything, but I press on assuming I will get to the water source eventually. From the distance up in front of me I can hear a roaring continuous sound, that raises hope in my heart and I slightly quicken my pace. The greenery is now so dense that I can hardly see in front of me and so I push the large bushes and plants out of the way until suddenly just in front of my feet a chasm opens and I stare at a 65 feet drop into a large lake. On the right a large waterfall smashes into the lake causing an incredible loud roaring sound. The water looks clean and I decide to slowly make my way along the edge until I will find a way to get to the water.
It takes me an hour hike but at the end I arrive at a lower ridge that I can climb down. The way down is painstakingly long and because my head is aching, my ribs are sore and my body feels physically fatigued and I am mentally at my breaking point. When I finally do reach the bottom, the water is not as clean as I had hoped, but at least the water is running and I am too thirsty to care. I crouch next to the lake and scoop the water eagerly into my mouth. I gulp the water down as though I haven’t drunk anything in a very long time and when I finally feel like my thirst has been quenched I take a moment to look around me.
Standing there on the opposite side of the lake looking at me with interest is a human I have never seen before. It some sort of primitive man, wearing hardly any cloth except some kind of contraption made from leaves and some branches that cover the intimate parts. Other than that this primitive for of man is quite hairy and has a much heavier bone set than me, but even with those modifications it is clear that this is one of our distant ancestors. It strikes me that the creature is not afraid, it stares at me with a keen interest waiting to see what I will do next, but it is most assuredly not afraid of me, rather curious.
A noise from behind me makes me turn and there standing on two legs slightly bent over is my ancestor. It stares at me in surprise behind him several more of his group show up. I assume these are all males, they looks strong. Their heavy set bones are impressive and I am slightly apprehensive to which direction this would go. My body is still painful and I do not feel overly assured that I can get away from them.
The creature in front of me says something to me, or at least it seems like it does but there is no way I can be sure. It reaches its hand to me touching my stubbed chin, he then jumps back and shouts something and everyone joins him in his cries. I don’t know what exactly is happening but I have a feeling this is not something dangerous rather intrigue at what exactly I am. It is almost emotional and I am slightly overwhelmed when somebody flicks the light and I find myself in the dark once more.
I sit down in the dark alone once more. It is almost like this place has become my home. At first I think about what could cause all of this, but as I have no idea how all of this started I quickly decide that it is not worth thinking about this matter. I move on to finding a way out of the black place. I take roughly a 100 steps forward without anything happening I do the same to the left, when in front of me I can see the rift slowly moving forward. It is coming for me once more; I decide that this time I will get away from it. I turn to the opposite side of the rift and begin to run. I sprint forward but after only a very short dash I have to stop for here as well I find the rift. I turn again and run to the left but there just like before is the rift, surrounding me like an animal surrounding its prey. I have no way out and just like all the previous times the rift is there to suck me into it and go back through time once again.
The now all too familiar rift bursts around me. The last two times were difficult and if I continue going backwards in time, there will be nothing left. I have already seen the primitive Neanderthal or whatever it was and considering the amount of years that pass by each time it is almost as if it is exponential. This leaves me truly terrified for I don’t know what will be in front of me. The rift fades and I am in an area that looks even more alien then the place I was just in. It looks savage, almost like no human hand has ever touched anything in it. Unperturbed I walk through the large trees and the strange plants. They seem more colourful somehow and I have never seen anything like them. They do not resemble the plants or even trees that I know, they look more menacing. They are of all colours and they have the strangest flowers I have ever seen, some are large some small but all look like they would gulf you up if you would come too close. There are strange noises around me too, they sound like animal cries but it is something that I can’t place. It is not human that is for sure, but it is also not an animal that I know. It does not sound like a tiger or an elephant or something that I could recognize; instead it is more similar to a shriek. A shriek that sends shivers down my spine. It is a shriek that resembles the sound nails that are run down a blackboard, squeaking in protest. Or like metal objects creating a high pitched sound when they are brushed against porcelain. It is enough to give you Goosebumps, and make you curl into a ball and mumble in fear.
An enormous roar shakes the air, and disrupts me from my frozen state, I stare at the direction of the scream that sounds like a cross between a giant elephant and the roar of a lion and there stretching above the highest trees I see something. It takes me several moments before I understand what it is that my eyes are gazing at. Several critical moments where I am entirely defenceless from the danger that this incredible beast represents, it is with shock and almost incredible reluctance that I must face the threat and reality of what is looming high above me. An animal extinct during my time, but here staring at me with its large eyes, it is very much alive, and I am very much out of place. It roars again sending shockwaves that shake the trees and ground around us. I nearly fall to the floor by the force of the cry and it takes some effort and the help of a nearby tree to keep me from flying backwards. Luckily I am able to hold on.
Years ago when I was a child, I knew all about dinosaurs they were some of my favourite playthings. The large reptiles that ruled the earth but were now long gone. I even knew their names, but now those days are long gone and I struggle to remember even the most basic of dinosaur names. All I can I say is that it is incredibly big; it has pointy things on its curved and incredibly large back which look like huge menacing needle like thorns. There is hair everywhere as well, which from what I remember from dinosaurs is not supposed to be there, but it is. It has a large giraffe like head, only slightly shorter, its broad neck is connected to an immense body that resembles an anteater or something of the sort. It has a large tail as well, most likely to balance its massive structure. I look up and I have to stretch my neck as far as it can go to see its eyes, or face. I decide not to focus on it and try and find a place to hide instead. I am too small for the gigantic creature anyway and he quickly walks away to search for prey.
I breathe a sigh of relief and get out from my hiding place which was a giant bush. An itching sensation assails me, and I feel like my skin is on fire, I look at the place where the burning sensation is coming from and see bubbles of red appear just underneath the skin. It quickly spreads to and I look back at the plant with malice. The plant must have infected me with something, or perhaps I am having a reaction to the plant. Maybe an allergic reaction, or maybe even worse, maybe the plant is poisonous. I refrain from touching the red bubbles that are sprouting like a fungus all over my bare skin. For the moment the skin that is behind the rags that I wear is still alright, without any sign of the burning and itching. I run through the forest in search of water, or the sea.
Back several centuries or more, when I was here last in the future I was close to water, there must be some around here too. The burning becomes intolerable and I need something to sooth it. I run and can avoid scratching no longer, the pain is tremendous and the fire that I feel in my skin threatens to stop me in my tracks. I continue to run with no regard to myself, I stumble into branches, bushes and large holes, none of which feel remotely as painful as the red dots that have now spread. The pain is no longer retained only to my bear skin, but is moving towards the skin that hadn’t even touched the plant or plants, it is steadily moving towards my chest as well. I don’t why but I am filled with fear by this notion. However, as long as it is only the skin, there shouldn’t be any problem, I should be able to just continue on and the inflammation of the skin should just resolve itself, just like any other rash. I continue on my way to the ocean, but it appears as though I am further away than I thought I was. Or maybe now the continent changed and I am now somewhere else entirely. The doubts swarm through my head like flies stuck in a jar and there is nothing I can do about them except keep going and hope that I can disregard them.
Finally in the distance I see my salvation, water. I quicken my pace and my heart that was already racing goes just a beat faster in anticipation of the cold water. I reach it and eagerly jump in them, they are not completely clear and have a slightly green hue, but I don’t let it bother me for the water is cool and fresh to the touch. I rinse myself in it and happily jump in it. The burning rash slowly subsides and I allow myself a little smile of victory.
I take several more steps and then turn towards the beach. A sudden sharp pain runs through my foot. I have stepped into something, my first reaction is that it must be glass, but that can’t be, there are no humans yet. I walk out of the water clutching my foot, the pain increases amplifies as though the first shot was nothing but a taste of the pain I would feel after. It quickly becomes an incredible searing pain and I bit down on my lip hard to stop myself from screaming. Blood drips down my chin but I can’t even feel it, the pain from my foot is so bad that I can’t even walk and I fall down on the sand just outside of the water. I feel the pain increasing burning and suddenly just as quickly it disappears and I feel numb. I try to move my leg but I can’t, it feels like a dead weight. Quickly a similar sensation occurs to the rest of my body and as I lay there on the beach my limbs immobile and completely useless, I feel incredible venerable. I want to scream, move my head but just like my limbs and the rest of my body that too is now immobile. My lungs are now slowly burning and I find the air that I am breathing now, comes in small little gulps until that too disappears and I can’t breathe anymore. I fight to draw a breath but there is nothing there, it is like I am breathing an empty bottle of air, there is nothing to suck and I am becoming dizzy. I feel a small pain in my chest and then that too stops…
***
His eyes open slightly taking in their baring and when he knows where he is again he turns in his bed to continue his sleep. He is slightly cold because the blanket that covered him completely at the beginning is now only covering half of him. It was most likely removed when he turned during the night. He lifts it up to his neck and rolls in it, with a sigh and a deep breath of comfort he falls back to sleep…

Chapter 3 – Scriven

The shadows had disappeared as did the school. They were standing in a green and lush meadow, filled with grass and several different sorts of plants and small flowers, a large forest lay several kilometres in front of them and behind them they could just make out the start of a mountain range. The sky was blue, with a yellow round circle of fire and there were no clouds anywhere. It looked like they were in Switzerland now or at least something similar. Anna had seen lord of the rings several times and this looked slightly like middle earth or maybe New-Zealand. It could have even been Scotland on a good rainless day, although that was harder to believe.
Anna stared at Josh he bore a large foolish grin on his face and looked as though he at least thought everything was back to normal ‘we are home’ he stated.
No we aren’t Anna wanted to answer but for some reason she didn’t. She looked around again and had to admit that it did look like home, they were somewhere else maybe even close by to where they were previously but it could just as well be somewhere further away.
Josh was still grinning; a big happy grin, Anna looked at him and almost absent minded started counting how many teeth he was showing. There were quite a few of them. As Anna stared at him a strange shift was happening to Josh’s grin, it was slowly retracting and morphing into something different in fact his whole face was morphing and contracting in fear, his eyes were not focused on her though they were staring at something in the sky. Anna followed Josh’s gaze and saw a large beast flying past, she stared open mouthed at the creature of legend, of fantasy of her very own imagination. The creature had two wings and a large tail, it had dark red scales and Anna loved them, she even had a poster of several of them in a multitude of colours hanging on one of her walls in her room. It was a dragon. The red dragon was a fire breathing dragon, Anna recalled, there were also blue dragons that breathed out ice and lived in frozen lands and there were also green dragons, although she couldn’t recall what they breathed, poison? She remembered that there were also Chinese dragons but those were very different and she wasn’t completely sure about black dragons.
It was Josh who shook her out of it, not by physically shaking her but by screaming something incoherently, it was the scream that finally made her stop staring in shock and understand that they weren’t home yet. Anna grabbed Josh by the hem of his shirt, covered his mouth to stifle his scream and pulled him down to the ground. Dragons had very good eyes although they could get really bad eyesight depending on their age. Whatever the situation it was a bad idea if a big red dragon saw you or heard you which it most likely now did.
Josh stopped screaming and was now cowering on the grass, they were relatively lucky that the grass was long and so could at least offer some protection, Anna in turn was glancing every now and again at the sky trying to see if the dragon was coming for them or not. It seemed that they were safe for the moment, the dragon flew past very quickly, it almost seemed like he was being chased but what could possibly chase after a dragon?
Flying high above them in the distance was another creature, it was this creature that was giving chase to the dragon, it was still far away and they could not see it clearly, but as it was nearing they noticed that it wasn’t just one creature it was a flock of them. They all looked alike except for the leading creature. The leading creature had the face and body of a woman but it definitely wasn’t a woman for intertwined within the arms, hairs and waist were serpents, their mouths hissing and tongues sticking out. It wore a black robe and had large black wings that carried it very swiftly through the air. The woman’s face had a cruel and ugly twist to it, it was a terrifying sight, one Anna knew she would never forget, the beast was flying very quickly and it looked as though it was catching up with the dragon, which was lucky for them, she had the feeling that if the animal would have seen them they wouldn’t be around for much longer. There were about 12 monsters of a different sort but still quite similar flying behind. They had the body of a large bird and the face of a woman, although the face didn’t really resemble any woman, for if it did it would be the ugliest woman Anna had ever seen. They were all flying in formation chasing the dragon.
It was only when the beasts and monsters were far away in the distance that Anna allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief and remove her hand from Josh’s mouth and they both got up. ‘What was that?’ she asked Josh.
It took Josh several moments to compose himself enough to actually manage an answer. ‘You mean the dragon or the Erinyes?’ he asked.
‘The Erinyes’ she answered somewhat surprised that Josh knew something that she didn’t. For some reason it annoyed her that Josh knew the name of the second animal they had seen.
‘That’s from Greek mythology’ Josh answered and looked at Anna. She motioned for him to carry on and as he did his eyes shone with excitement ‘they are one of the worst monsters in Greek mythology they are very intelligent and vicious, I think it was responsible for the torture of the dead in Hell or at least it was something like that, I don’t really remember the details. I think they used to punish the wicked but because they were so vicious no one dared speak their name, they are bad news. They have a sort of servant I guess which work for them and those are the Harpies that flew behind them.’
Almost as if the Erinyes heard them a screech echoed through the open space and they both stopped talking and crawled quickly back onto the grass. After several moments of cowering in the grass with nothing coming after them they got back up.
‘Do you think it was chasing the dragon?’ Anna asked.
‘It could be, I don’t really know why it would but I guess a Erinyes and those Harpies could attack a Dragon. I’m not sure if they could win against them, although the Dragon was running away. Erinyes are immortal so maybe that’s why the Dragon flew away.’
‘How do you know so much about Greek mythology?’ she asked.
‘I love Greek mythology’ he answered with a shy little smile ‘Not just Greek mythology though’ he added ‘I love fantasy as well and everything from dragons to dinosaurs and I love the Neverending story…’
‘Book or movie’ Anna cut him quickly.
‘Book, definitely.’
Anna stared at Josh with new found respect, she always assumed he was just a little cry baby it took her by surprise that they shared so many common interests. Strangely it annoyed her slightly as well, that Josh knew all about the Harper or Harpy or whatever that thing was and she knew nothing at all about it. She was always proud of her knowledge on almost any fantastical subject and here was Josh who seemed to know more about it then she did. But she smiled, dragons was her subject he wouldn’t more than her when it came to dragons. ‘What about the dragon we saw?’ she said ‘Did you recognize it?’
Josh looked shyly at the ground. ‘That was an evil fire breathing dragon’
He was good she had to admit that but… ‘How many different kinds of dragons are there?’ she asked confident that she could name more dragon sorts than he could.
Josh stared at the sky in thought and finally said ‘I’m missing a few but there are red, blue, green, white, yellow, grey, purple and black coloured dragons. There are also the metallic dragons that are silver, gold, bronze and all of those and there are other ones that I’m forgetting’ Josh paused for a moment trying to remember which ones he was missing. ‘Ahh’ he cried suddenly remembering ‘There are also rainbow dragons and brown, did I say brown already? That’s all I can remember now’ he resigned.
Anna stared at him in shock he knew more about dragons than she did. She made the list in her head just previously and forgot all about the rainbow dragons, she wasn’t actually even sure they existed and she forgot about the white and black ones which she knew about but simply forgot. The metallic ones were new to her as well; in just two little answers Josh had shaken her belief to the core, from the fantasy queen she thought she was, she had descendent lower than Josh. How many others were there that she didn’t know about? She always felt that she was a loner stuck in her own imagination, much to her own pleasure but maybe she was wrong. She pushed the thought away from her mind; it would do her no good now, the only good thing the questions gave them were a few moments of peace and escape from the harsh reality they were in. It was time now to face reality again and get home. Josh probably still had the ring, so all they needed to do was use it and get out of here. She didn’t have her toy anymore so it was all up to Josh.
‘Let’s get out of here’ she said to Josh ‘do you still have the ring?’ she asked. Josh nodded. ‘Good then use it and let’s get out of here as soon as we can.’
Josh took the ring out of his pocket and put it on his finger, this time Anna grabbed hold of him, she wasn’t going to let him go and disappear on her again. Josh grabbed hold of the ring around his finger as he has done previously with one finger on the rock and one on the other side. He tried rubbing it, turning it, twitching it, but nothing seemed to work. Josh didn’t disappear and they were both still standing in the same place.
‘Let me try’ said Anna. Obediently Josh took off the ring and handed it over to Anna who put it on and tried the ring out as Josh had done. But just like before, it was clearly not working anymore. They were stuck in this alien place, with no way to go back home.
It was the monsters that they had seen that made them stop thinking about home for the moment. They needed to find somewhere safe, that was the first priority then and only ten they could try and find a way to get home. So without a too long pause for sorrow or letting depressing and sadness take root Anna said ‘Let’s get out of here before we become lunch to the next monster that passes us.’
Josh didn’t argue and just nodded his head. He didn’t question her on why she asked him all those questions previously he just followed her. This is why she felt he was spineless, it was the same in class he was always quiet afraid to say anything. This was the first time he had actually talked, or maybe he talked to other people, she never really did pay attention to him before.
Anna marched in the direction opposite to the forest. She decided that the forest would be more dangerous than the opposite although they couldn’t really say anything yet, in the horizon that could see a mountain range with what looked like snow covering the peaks but prior to the mountain range they could see nothing. Anna felt as though it was going to be a long walk indeed.
‘Anna?’ Josh hazards a question.
‘What is it Josh?’
‘Where do you think we are?’
‘Must be someplace where fantastical creatures come alive, or something like that’
‘Do you think it’s only evil creatures or do you think there are also good ones around?’
‘I guess both of them are here, but I can hardly know can I?’ she retorted.
‘Maybe we can cry for help and one of the good ones will come to save us?’ Josh said hopefully.
‘Look Josh, think about it, what did you see flying above us just now? Do you really think that if we call for help it will just arrive?’
Josh didn’t answer her; he stared at the ground slightly embarrassed. She didn’t mean to make him feel bad, but he had to face facts. They were somewhere strange and magical where several creatures from the imagination and mythology just showed up, that meant trouble. Crying out for help would only make things worse, they had to fight for themselves and get through this. If she had to carry Josh with her she would.
Without looking back, Anna started walking along the long green grass towards the mountain range. Josh said nothing and hurried after her. They walked for several miles and the mountain range seemed no closer than when they started. It was still a long way away, and although Anna decided that was the best way to go, she now was not so sure anymore. She looked up at the sky, the sun was in the middle of the sky (she couldn’t tell the difference, if indeed there was a difference, between this sun and the sun of back home), noon, normally she was having a sandwich right about now, although she wasn’t really hungry now in this weird place, it was strange how familiar certain things were and how alien at the same time.
‘Ouch!’ cried an unknown voice from beneath her.
She stopped in her tracks as did Josh. She listened carefully trying to make out another cry, but there was nothing. She looked through the grass looking for the origin or the owner of the voice when suddenly it started laughing uncontrollably.
‘That isn’t even close to the direction I was in’ it said and it was now clear that it came from behind her. Anna turned around and looked at Josh. There was no one else there except from him.
‘Where are you?’ she asked.
‘Right in front of you’ said the voice.
Anna turned to the front, but again she couldn’t see anything.
The voice laughed again ‘Not there look down’.
Anna bent and looked through the grass until she saw a little figure of about 10-30 centimetres in length. At first she thought it must be a dwarf, but it looked nothing like a dwarf. It wore an all white suite and had long green grass where hair should be. He had a large beard and his eyes were really strange too, one was blue and the other was green. Anna stared at the creature suspiciously; she turned to Josh who looked just as astonished at the creature.
‘Do you know what this is?’ she asked him.
Josh shrugged his shoulders, nodding his head. It was clear he hadn’t seen it either.
‘That was very rude!’ said the creature ‘You could have just asked me what I was. But now, I don’t think I shall tell you.’ The creature turned his back to them in contempt.
‘I’m very sorry mister, we only just arrived and we don’t know where we are, or even what this place is and we already saw a dragon and some winged woman thing…’
‘Harpies and a Erinyes’ said Josh quickly.
‘Yea those’ confirmed Anna ‘and all we really want is to go home’
‘Go home?’ asked the creature. ‘Where is home then?’ he asked.
‘Home is earth’ said Anna.
‘Earth?’ ventured the creature.
‘Yes you know, big planet with a lot of sea and cities and buildings and other things like that’ replied Anna.
‘I don’t think I have ever heard of it’ said the creature. ‘And if I have never heard of it then you must have made it up.’ The creature concluded.
‘No I promise we didn’t’ said Josh desperately. ‘We are just really lost, and we need to find a way to go home’
‘But’ said the creature ‘if you only just arrived here and you don’t know anything about this place how do you know about Harpies?!’ asked the creature. ‘If you know about them it means you are from here and you just made up a story, and I will make sure that you will be punished severely for it!’
‘No please’ cried Josh ‘we are not lying, those things are part of our mythology. We made them up a long time ago and somehow here they are real’
The creature listened to this contemplating, rubbing his chin with his small hand, finally he said ‘Tell me, is there a land on this earth of yours, where they call themselves slavic?’
Anna stared at the creature, than she turned to Josh who was staring up into the sky, deep in thought. ‘Is that related to Slovakia, or Poland?’ Josh asked.
The creature thought for a minute and smiled ‘I think it must be Poland’ he said. ‘That’s where I am originally from you know.’ he said tapping the side of his cheek. ‘They had really good fields there’ he said wistfully.
‘How did you get to be here?’ asked Josh.
‘Well the world, just sort of exploded one day.’ The creature said, he wasn’t done though as he seemed to mule this over and added ‘But not like a real explosion, more like a ripping of the world. It was like the world tore itself apart.’
‘That’s not what happened to us’ said Josh. ‘we got sucked into this world, actually it was more like we passed through one place and then found ourselves here’
‘Well if you passed through you must be able to pass back’ said the creature.
‘Yeah we tried that already’ said Anna ‘and it didn’t work.’
‘Maybe somebody made you pass through to here.’ Said the creature.
‘Yea maybe’ conceded Anna, the thought sent shivers down her spine, so she quickly continued ‘now are you going to tell us what and who you are?’
‘Oh, yes sure. I am a Polevik my name is Boris.’ He said smiling.
‘Well I am Anna and this is Josh’ she said pointing at Josh who was still standing behind her. ‘We are both human’ she added not completely sure if that was what Polevik meant. Or did he mean species? ‘Or Homo sapiens. That also works’ she added.
Boris the Polevik simply nodded to her, but Anna wasn’t sure he understood.
Josh who was quiet most of the time suddenly said ‘wait, if your world tore itself apart from ours and we have no record of it anywhere on our world, then that means you must be really really old.’
‘Well not really old’ replied Boris the Polevik ‘rather immortal.’
Both children stared at him open mouthed and gasping. Boris didn’t seem to think too much of it though. ‘Almost everyone here is immortal or very close to it. If they are not immortal than either they are very difficult to kill or they are protected by something.’
‘Protected by what?’ asked Josh when he was able to speak again.
‘Oh the usual: Amulets, rings that sort of thing’ Boris answered casually.
‘Does that mean that I can become immortal?’ asked Josh unable to contain his excitement.
‘Sure, not sure you would like it though. It sounds good at first but then when you realize you will go through every day forever, it is actually tedious. Don’t get me wrong I don’t really want to die either,’ Boris added quickly ‘but it’s just so boring here.’
Both Anna and Josh didn’t really know how to respond and so they just kept quiet. Anna decided it was best to just change the subject altogether. ‘Boris, what species are you?’
‘Species?’ asked Boris.
‘Yes, are there more Polevik or other things like it?’ asked Anna.
‘Well Polewiki are I guess part of the faeries or pixis. We don’t really get along with the others though. Most of them are too rude and quite annoying actually.’
‘Wow, faeries. Like the tooth faerie?’ asked Anna.
‘The tooth faerie?’ asked Boris.
‘Yes, you know she comes to you at night when you lose your milk teeth and if you put them under your pillow, she takes them and leaves you something nice in return. Usually money.’ Explained Anna.
‘What does she do with the teeth then?’ wondered Boris.
Anna stared at him in surprise ‘I don’t know’ she finally replied.
‘Sounds fishy to me, but it could be something faeries do. Most of the ones I know, would terrorize you, or try to manipulate you. They wouldn’t give you anything in return unless it was something cursed. I haven’t really been in contact with other faeries for about a hundred years or so, so it might be different now. But generally they are a bad bunch, can’t be trusted.’
‘That doesn’t sound like the faeries I know about.’ Said Anna.
‘Well…’ said Josh ‘I have read some stories about faeries where they are usually evil creatures that only look after themselves.’
Boris nodded in agreement ‘Now that sounds like faeries.’
‘But you just said you are a faerie.’ Called Anna.
‘I did’ said Boris smiling a big smile. ‘But don’t worry the worst I used to do was send people the wrong way. Or punish some lazy people, but that’s about it. Now I just like sitting in the fields and relax.’
‘Don’t you have a family.’ Asked Josh.
‘Sure I do,’ answered Boris ‘why do you think I’m in the field? Can’t stand being in the house the whole time. Every day the same things, go do this go do that, so instead I just stay here in the fields.’
‘Where do you sleep then?’ asked Josh
‘Here in the field, weren’t you listening?’
‘But then when do you see your family?’
‘Oh once a year.’ Replied Boris nonchalantly.
Anna and Josh both shared a look. To see your family only once a year was an insurmountable amount of time. How could you not miss them, or at least visit them in the holidays like you did your aunts and uncles? It was a difficult idea to grasp, and both had problems with it. But if you were immortal maybe things like that didn’t matter anymore. Actually maybe nothing mattered anymore when you were immortal.
Josh who was still not clear on several issues asked ‘Boris, when the world tore itself to this place, how did that exactly happen?’
Boris thought for a moment and then said ‘The world used to be a big ball, it was then broken into a separate field, there was this really big light when that happened’ Boris seemed deep in thought, going back a long time in his memory. ‘I don’t know if it was the light that split the world or that the light was just the after affect. But what I do know is that after the bright light, we were all shut off from the light. It was as though the whole world. No the universe itself, shut off. There was no light, or stars or anything in the sky, even the bigger gods and more powerful deities could do nothing but stare and wait for something to happen. Eventually something did, when the darkness passed there was another moment of brightness where the stars and the universe came back. Only there were changes, the gods could not move between realms anymore, and the people were gone. People like you, we had no idea where you all went to but you all disappeared. That meant that all the gods and creatures that lived off of souls died. All the other realms collapsed and that is it really we have been living here ever since.’ Finished Boris his history lesson.
‘What do you mean the other realms collapsed? What other realms?’ asked Josh.
‘Well places like Hell or Heaven, and all the equivalent realms that were run by all the different gods and deities, they all disappeared and the gods that ran them ended up here.’
‘Didn’t that cause a lot of problems?’ asked Josh.
‘Oh yes, there were years or centuries, I don’t really remember, either way it was a long time where everyone tried to get the upper hand. Fights broke out everywhere and that quickly escalated to all out wars. At the end the world got split into several different places of which this is one.’
‘Is now everything ok?’ asked Josh.
‘As ok as it can be, I haven’t really been part of any of it. I found it stupid to go to a full all out war between immortals. The most that you can hope to achieve is to destroy the world or trap the others. You could never really erase the others, so I just kept out of it. Luckily no one cared about the fields here, so I just stayed here and skipped the whole war thing.’
‘I have never seen a war.’ Answered Josh gravely.
‘That’s a good thing.’ Said Boris. ‘Although if I am honest about it, now there are even more problems than when there were wars. Now everyone is looking out for themselves, so they do whatever they please. It’s a good thing no one ever bothers me here, well except for you too.’
At this the two of them felt slightly ashamed. But at least now they knew a lot more about the place they arrived in. In shock Josh realized they had forgotten one important question. ‘Can I ask you one last thing?’
Boris shrugged.
‘Could you maybe tell us what the name of this world is?’ he asked.
‘It is called Scriven.’ Answered Boris.

Intertwined

‘I don’t understand’ asked MarT ‘Why do you need it? I mean you already own half this city an incredible amount of the money why bother with this little trinket?’
‘This is precisely the reason why you never made it big. There are no small trinkets. If you think there are you will never make it in this world of ours.’ answered G1M angrily, he has been trying to get through to MarT for a long time, but some people just didn’t understand the way the world worked. No matter how many times you tried to explain it to them.
‘Get my Jet ready’ said G1M and with that he left the study room and walked into his inner sanctum, which was several doors further along a corridor. His inner sanctum was a serine place in the mad tower that was his place of business. It was here that he went before any mission to clear his head to get inspired. Back in the old days, before he gained his fortune, this was but a small compartment in his mind; now from a small compartment he created this incredible place.
The entrance to his inner sanctum wasn’t really hidden but rather elegantly disguised as part of the decor in the corridor. The corridor was all set in dark oak with wooden beams running along the ceiling. On each side of the corridor there were unique pieces of art, and large oak doors in a slightly different shade of oak. The door at the very back of the corridor was the exact same shade as the rest of the corridor making it difficult to distinguish. What made it even more difficult was the fact that it didn’t look like a door. The only strange little detail that might have drawn attention to it, should somebody scrutinize over it, was a small little bump in the wall. A closer inspection would show that this bump was in fact a button.
G1M pressed the button and a door slid into the wall itself, as G1M entered the door closed behind him. The room was filled with little plants and maps and many little unique items. Ownership of just one of those items would make a poor man very wealthy, but that wasn’t the most impressive part of the room. The most impressive part was the view. Stretched in front of him like a small toy city, was East side bay. He owned most of it except for some minor properties which were owned by petty lowlifes. He built it from the ground up. He started like so many other people here, without any skills, without any knowledge, but slowly through years of hard-work he amassed a fortune which he used to build an empire. His empire.
Besides the view, the room was full of little acknowledgments, little bits and pieces that were either taken or given to G1M as he accomplished deed after deed. A large safe build into the wall stored all of this; it was in here that G1M kept his most prized possession. He reached for the safe and after a complex code which he entered, as well as a DNA sample and a retina scan he was allowed into the safe. Inside he took something that looked like a simple piece of paper. On it were a list of numbers and figures as well as a character chart, the interesting part was that the numbers were not constant they kept shifting as though they were affected by the things around them.
G1M studied the paper intensively before putting it back in the safe. He had an eager look on his face, determined he got out of the door ‘I will win’ he said to the empty room behind him.
***
Private vendor stared at the plane landing, it was an unusual thing to see but he knew he would come. If not him than another big client would eventually come, it was all the same to him. He waited with his little product on the ground, for the noise to die down. When it finally did and Plane was still, the door opened and a young man carrying a briefcase stepped out. He blinked several times, his eyes adjusting to the sun and looked around. He seemed annoyed at something, he quickly walked out of the plane followed by most likely his assistants or bodyguards either would be a good guess.
The business man looked around searching for something and when he spotted the vendor quickly walked towards him his party in toe.
***
G1M was annoyed; he was told there would be a limousine there to take him to the meeting but now it turned out his meeting was with a generic Private vendor, and there was no limousine in sight. Still if the data he had was true he could get a trump card right now.
He walked down the small airway strip towards the vendor, the air was warm and stale and it felt like it was going to rain soon. Banana trees were shaking slightly and G1M felt on edge he looked around, it would be stupid to make a mistake now when he was so close to winning. He took a long hard look at his surroundings, a small deserted building from the looks of it, served as the control tower and other than that there was nothing man made, only some tropic trees, sand that was yellow red and the vendor. When he was finally satisfied that he could see nothing or no one he told his group to keep a close look out and sat down in front of the vendor.
‘Do you know something about 9am3?’ asked G1M.
The vendor looked at him and smiled a broken tooth smile. ‘Thank you for coming.’ he said ‘Please come again.’
G1M looked at him with suspicion ‘Tell me about 9am3’ he said.
The vendor looked at him and smiled a broken tooth smile. ‘Thank you for coming.’ he said ‘Please come again.’
There was a rustle from behind him and he turned to see five people wearing black suits, and sunglasses as though they were the epiphany of gangster wannabees. They all had their weapons still in their holsters, but they were edgy and waiting for something. G1M decided to wait for them to make the first move. Things usually worked out better that way. Two of the guys were circling his little group now they were clearly trying to stop them from communicating with the merchant, but that won’t do. He had an ear piece connecting him with his two bodyguards, and he quickly issued orders. One bodyguard was to take on the guy on the left the one that was trying to corner their little group by circling to the left, and the other bodyguard was to take the guy doing the same but to the right. That left three for G1M.
G1M looked amused the three people were no match for him. He could tell from the way they were standing that they were basic professionals but not nearly high calibre enough for him to even break a sweat. The only reason he kept the bodyguards in the first place was as cannon fodder. One of the key reasons he became such a big man was his skills not only in strategy but in physical and mental endurance. After he made his first bit of cash he exhausted himself on martial arts lessons, conditioning and peak endurance. He was a Dan 7 kendoka and master in 7 different martial arts: Krav Maga, Thai boxing, Kyokushin Karate, Capoiera, Wing Chun, Pencak Silat and aikido. He dabbled in others as well but was nowhere near the level he was in the others.
G1M stretched his legs slightly, put the briefcase he was holding on the ground next to him and walked comely forward, the three gangsters were nervous but did not move.
G1M smiled an innocent smile and said ‘How can I help you gentleman?’
Without a word the person in front of him reached for his gun, but he never reached it. G1M with three quick steps grabbed hold of the guys arm folded it until it snapped and the gun fell helplessly to the ground. The two others now had enough time to react though and had pulled their weapons out and were holding it to him. In one fluent movement G1M jumped back and kicked both guys in the lower back sending them flying to the floor. He was on top of one of them before he could even move and with one quick hit punched his nose so that it caved in. He didn’t push it upwards needless killing was not one of the things he believed in. A sharp pain from his shoulder told him he got cocky, he had missed a person there were six not five. He turned to face the new assailant and casually kicked the person that was on the floor struggling to get up, in the face, sending him back to the floor unconscious.
Unlike the others this guy was wearing cloth that matched the surroundings better; they were yellow brown with patches of green. He stared at G1M coldly holding a large knife in one hand and a pistol in the other. He smiled and threw the pistol away; G1M took this moment to survey everything around him. There were no other people around, his bodyguards had taken care of the hired guns and there was one remaining. He was still bleeding from his wound, but it wasn’t serious he took his shirt tore off the sleeve and tightened it around the wound. With that done he face his enemy.
This person was completely different than the others, to the untrained eye he stood very relaxed, but G1M knew better than that. He focused on his feet the joints, the cloth were tight enough to show that the person was applying pressure on the leg he was keeping in front as well as the leg that was back. This person was ready.
G1M motioned for his bodyguards to stand back. He walked towards the new guy and stopped just out of reach. He stared at the guy trying to see if the person had any hidden things on the body that he could use to figure out where he came from and more importantly what he wanted. There was remarkably little to go on. The cloths seemed to be generic army like cloth with no patterns or markings of any kind. The shoes were brown and although they were laced you could not see the lace itself. His face was brown from the sun and his eyes a light colour somewhere between blue and green. It was hard to tell how old he was, but he looked like he was at the peak of his health. His smile was closed lips, revealing no teeth, and they way he played with the knife showed that he knew how to work it.
G1M fainted a movement to the left, which the guy immediately reacted upon. He was quick, but from what G1M could see he lacked sharpness. His knife went to the area but without the precision he expected him to have. So maybe G1M misjudge, or the guy was testing him as much as he was testing the guy.
G1M decided to wait for the counterattack to come. He stood ready and looked at the guys eyes for any flicker, it was so quick he nearly missed it, but by focusing on the eyes and not on the muscles he nearly made a beginners mistake and got a knife wound for his troubles. As luck would have it because he was just a step out of reach the movement needed to bridge the gap was enough for him to block the knife wielding hand with a kick aimed at the knee. The kick didn’t connect as the guy stopped just short of it. The two were now circling each other looking for openings. It was the guy who took the initiative and jumped at G1M with several quick and broad slashes. That was a mistake the first broad slash went wide and before the slashing movement could return, G1M was already beside it. He grabbed the hand wielding the knife with his right arm quickly twisted it, blocked a punch from the left with his left hand and aimed a kick at the right knee. The knee shattered making a crunching sound and causing the guy to fall to the ground. G1M wasn’t content with that however; he locked the arms and head of the guy, by sitting close to him, his knees and legs blocking the arms and his arms holding the face.
‘Now you are going to tell me everything I want to know’ he said smiling. ‘Or I am going to be very upset. And trust me you don’t want to see me very upset’
The guy opened his mouth but no noise came from it. The guy had no tongue.
‘Great’ muttered G1M, then it was time to ask the other guys on the floor. He asked his men to check them while he quickly took care of his wound. He walked to his briefcase the merchant was gone, which was no surprise, opened it and took out a small metallic little cube. He sat down on the ground and pressed the cube in several points. The cube opened up revealing little metallic legs. He posed the figure on his shoulder near the wound and the little robot started working on removing the bullet and cleaning the wound. The robot’s small legs could easily dig into the tissue and get to the bullet, when the robot was finished removing it, it then sealed the wound be generating heat its side and gluing the two pieces of skin together. The pain was horrible but withstand able. G1M had experienced it many times and by refusing to use medication he felt somewhat more alive, as though he had passed another test.
Suddenly a figure shot out from a hiding place and quickly, while wielding a katana sliced G1M’s entire group before they could even life their hands. The figure was wearing a tight black suite with a hood covering its face. The figure was clearly a professional assassin, most likely hired by one of the other big shots.
He stretched his legs slightly and got up, the figure stood in front of him, it was remarkably small, its sword was already sheathed. He assumed a typical open position and waited for the figure to strike first. The biggest mistake most martial artists made was a lack of patience and let anger or other emotions get the better of you.
The figure moved in an instant it was remarkably quick, blink and you would miss it, G1M arched his neck and body backwards as the sword whooshed passed, if he would be even a second slower he would have lost his head. The figure continued the movement of the sword in a circular motion to G1M’s legs. It was too quick however and G1M couldn’t evade it completely, it took all his training to be able to evade it as much as he did. Whoever this was they were on a whole different level. He had never witnessed anyone as fast or as sharp as this. The figure took a step back and was ready for another strike. G1M wiped the blood from his leg where the katana scratched him, if it had been a proper hit he would have been cut to the bone instead of just a flesh wound.
G1M was at a disadvantage, the person in front of him was an amazing swordsman and he needed an edge, he couldn’t keep his eyes away from the person and the blade for even a second, or it would cost him his life. He decided there was only one thing for it he needed to be the dominator, he knew his skill was unequal he tested it against the best and he always won. He just needed to catch the figure by surprise, make a move that it wouldn’t be expecting.
With a quick dash G1M was in front of the figure, he jumped and launched a precise kick to the figure’s face. To his surprise he found that the figure was already gone from that place. In the instant that G1M jumped the figure moved at a speed that seemed unnatural, he was so fast that there was nothing he could do. His training never prepared him for something like this. While still in the air he could feel the figure and the katana at his back, he didn’t know how he knew this but he could feel his hairs standing on end, and before he even touched the ground the katana sliced him clean.
He fell to the ground his legs buckling under him, his face staring up. This wasn’t supposed to happen, this was wrong. He was the hero; he should have gotten the information just like any other mission, with enough time to get to other fun stuff. Not all was lost though; he recently got an upgrade on his hardware which he could now use. He whispered several orders into his headset telling his little robots to setup a perimeter and get him back to health. Just like the cube technology he used, he had a small chip in his arm that let him communicate with all his technology he was using that now to set some things in motion. However, something was wrong. The connection was being interrupted, which was impossible the connection was never interrupted before, the connection was in him. There shouldn’t have been any problem. All he heard though was connection error.
Above him the figure stood looking down. The hood flapped slightly with the wind and for a second he caught the figure’s face, an impossible face, the face of a young girl. Before he could raise his voice the girl raised her katana and with a quick swipe it came down too fast for him to even see.
***
LIRA closed her eyes and stared at the list that appeared in front of her. She finished the last list and it was time for the new one. The new one had 15 names, there were powerful names on the list, but also very low level names on it. She had to move quickly though, the community was already whispering that something was up, a cleanup operation that had been dubbed the surge was what the latest whispers said. This meant more work and more efficiency. Next time there won’t be a kill there will be complete removal.
She looked at number one on the list N00B52. She opened up her file, a workaholic spending hours on the job until it was done with a ferociousness that put the biggest guys to shame. However, she did not like to get her hands dirty she preferred to play a much more manipulative game and so she build layers around her, as protection, but also to help her find any rotten apples within her organization and remove them as efficiently as possible.
The base of operation for N00B52 was the docks; her home base was spread between Barcelona Spain, Moscow Russia and Zurich Switzerland. Her leisure pleases were also diverse but luckily LIRA knew exactly where she was. She closed her eyes and looked at the maps in her head, she scrolled through them until she located a blinking red dot with the name N00B52 on it. She zoomed out to see where the target was, and set off to make plans. N00B52 was in her base in Switzerland, this meant that she hired a lot of help, it would be difficult to enter that place it was a fortress. It would be easier to lure her out like she did the others but N00B52 never got out. She had to find a different way of removing her, something that would erase her completely as though she never existed. She thought for several moments, running different scenarios through her head until finally she found one that she was happy with.
She started by building the tools she needed for the job. For a job like this all you needed was technology and she knew exactly what to do. She had an affinity with technology a second nature almost. When she needed something done she found that she usually could just do it. She didn’t need to understand it or even follow the logic behind it, she just used the parts that fit in her head and build whatever it was she needed. For this job she needed an identity eraser, something that would remove the identity of a user. To do that all she needed to do was create a bypass, that way when information like security would be needed it would automatically be led to the bypass and there no information would be available. That would efficiently remove N00B52 from her environment or at least from her comfort zone.
However, N00B52 was a loner and distrustful of people in general, this meant that the tricky part in the whole operation was not hacking the system but rather finding the right location. LIRA quickly build the bypass device, she would now need to physically let in incorporate into the system at N00B52 residence, then wait until she got signal and she could start fine tuning the search for her.
Just to be on the safe side LIRA sent the bypass to all the possible centres N00B52 could be located in. This meant at least 5 different countries; she sent her information through to a 3D digital printer located near those places. The bypass would then walk to the residence and start the deletion procedure. As soon as it was build it should emit a signal so that LIRA would know that phase 1 of the plan worked. After completion of the second part another signal would be sent, after which the Bypass would self destruct and leave a little puddle of goo but nothing more. LIRA could have chosen to send the program directly into a 3D printer in the compound but that would mean an additional risk, if anyone would have found it, or even leftover data from the printed order the whole plan would be ruined.
LIRA waited patiently, after she finished her work and tested that her model system worked, for a signal. 10 minutes was when she got her first signal, 2 minutes later another and 5 after that the rest of signals arrived. This was normal, different places had different printers and each printer had their own work speed. It took several more moments until she got confirmation from all the little bots that everything was going smoothly. She closed her eyes and looked at the 5 screens that opened up there. In her mind she quickly scrolled through them.
The first place had nearly no people and everyone was very relaxed, there was no special security and only a handful of ordinary workers were in. First place could be removed from the list, she continued on to the second third fourth and fifth. Eventually, only one place showed any activity at all and that was the fifth place, the place in Zurich. What set that place apart from the rest was not that it had increased its security or workforce, but rather that several rooms on the second floor were completely cut off. They had no cameras there, no technological readings of any kind. This was too suspicious, and was most assuredly the place N00B52 was currently residing.
There was one problem, if she could not access the place than removing the details from the rest of the house would not mean a lot. Unless there was another system somewhere, but if even she couldn’t see it right now then she needed to go there in person. That was the only way, go there and remove her.
***
In the cover of darkness LIRA conveniently moved cameras and other sensors to exclude her, as she now had complete access to the facility she could just quickly sneak into the room she needed to get to. The closed and as of yet blind room was located on the third floor a quick look through the surveillance camera told her everything she needed to know; Where the guards were, what route to take and how to get in.
She quickly and with astounding agility leapt up the floors, avoiding the help and security until she stopped in front of a large door. She already knew she wasn’t going to enter the room through that door, it would take a much simpler approach, first she needed confirmation that N00B52 was here. She walked down the hallway and straight to the window, once there she opened it and climbed out towards the window that the room had. She just needed to get one good look at her and that would be enough. She got just next to the window using a little tool she constructed to keep her hooked to the wall and carefully balanced herself so that she could take a look into the room. Inside the luscious room there were two ladies, one was clearly meant to be N00B52 and the other the servant, but that wasn’t the truth of it. It was a show, she could see it clearly N00B52 was the servant. That meant she had to take out the help with a minimum of fuss, she had no tools with her to deal with such a job and going back was no option at the moment either.
She got back inside and stood next to the room, she needed more info. She went to the office of the head of security and prepared a little syringe.
She gently knocked on the door ‘lunch is served’ she said.
The door opened and a large man got out. ‘Lunch? What lunch if anything it should be dinner now’ he said angrily.
LIRA smiled an innocent smile and pushed the syringe into his back before he could say anything she pushed him into the room and closed the door behind her. Inside there were no other guards. She pushed him into the seat, the shot was already taking affect and he was looking very groggy. He didn’t even put up a fight which was strange, as usually most security she met at least tried one last resort.
‘Have you ever seen N00B52?’ she asked him.
‘No’ he replied automatically. His eyes were glazed and unfocused.
‘How does she get her food?’
‘It is delivered on a plate directly into the room’
‘How big is the plate?’
The guy motioned to a tray that stood on the table where he most likely got his lunch on. The tray was big enough for a large turkey; this meant she could most likely get in. People usually assumed she was incapable or innocent, both of which she made very good use of. Most people did not live long to regret their decision.
LIRA turned the guy back to his screens, in 10 minutes he would be back to normal with no memory of the last 20 minutes. She quickly got out of there and went into the kitchen. There were people bustling with activity. People were fussing around in the kitchen, which also worked in her favour; it meant she could blend in. She got a white overall from just outside the kitchen and got in as though she belonged there. A quick survey of the place let her through to the only place where the dinner could possibly go through. It was a small trap door and she could by flexing her body get into it. She waited for a bit doing little things the chefs told her until the food was ready to bring up. It was handed to one of the sous-chefs that went into the other room to put it in the hatch. He lifted it and before he could press the button he was stabbed with a small syringe in the back of the neck. He was pushed towards a chair and LIRA took the meal and put it in his hands. She quickly got in the door and asked the sous-chef to press the button which he obediently did.
It was very dark in the latch and LIRA closed her eyes, focusing on the job ahead. It was most likely N00B52 who would open the latch door, so she should be ready to take her out, she had 4 more syringes ready. She held them expertly in between her fingers.
The small elevator stopped and before the latch could open all the way, she had already thrown two syringes one into the person who opened the latch and one to the person lying on the bed. The syringes were a sophisticated little system that LIRA constructed. They had a small little chip in them that told them when to release their content, she designed them in such a way that as soon as they came into contact with buffered solution they would release their content automatically.
LIRA had a long and thorough look through the room; there were no other individuals here. She closed her eyes to make sure she got the right person. A little blinking mark told her that she did. She opened her eyes again; she walked to N00B52 and took out another syringe. This one was not to make you docile this one was to erase your mind. She knew now that this is what she should have done for the others. She pressed the syringe into N00B52’s neck and got out of the room and on to the next person on the list…
***
Kim opened her eyes and blinked several times. Her eyes hurt as though she hadn’t used them for a while. At first she was disoriented and a little lost, but then things slowly came back to her. She removed the extremely dark glasses that covered her eyes and shut down the world from her. Attached to the glasses was a wire with two earpieces that she forgot about, in her hurry to pull off the glasses she pulled the earpieces, which were firmly lodged into her ears, out. She rubbed her ears which were slightly red and irritated and stared around her. She was in her room, but what had happened? Why did she get out? She picked up the glasses again to see if she was disconnected from the server for a specific reason. There was a message waiting for her.
N00B52 has been disconnected from the server. LIRA protocol has been activated (Local Integrated Removal Application), this is security measure installed for users that spend over 30 hours in a row playing the game. As recommended by the health associations around the world after 30 hours of game play the LIRA protocol is initiated to disable the connection. Please log back in at a later time, your account has been saved and will be re-instigated when you are ready to continue.
Sincerely yours,
Garidion games
Kim stared at the text she completely lost track of time in that thing. She suddenly felt afraid of it; she very nearly got stuck in it. She put the glasses away, thank god they had that security protocol or I would really have a problem she thought. Then another thought struck her, what if the first people didn’t have this protocol and got stuck in the game? Or maybe she was still in the game…

Chapter 2 – Entrance

Alright, try to think about this logically what was Josh doing just before he vanished? He was playing with her ring, the ring she got from the cereal box. He was trying to get it off when he was suddenly whisked away. Did the ring take him somewhere? If that was it then she had to find another ring like it and that would lead her to the same place. Whatever that other place was she was sure she could get him out of there, she had some money on her all she needed to do was to go to the shopping centre and find some cereal boxes that contained the ring. School was now an afterthought and she quickly left the school yard to find another ring.

It was a quick walk to the supermarket where Anna bought a pack of cereals. The pack looked the same and there was nothing there that made the pack looked different. Excited she walked out of the supermarket and sat on a bench in front of it. She opened the cereal box from the bottom of the pack instead of the top, it was a little trick her dad taught her. The toy is usually heavier than the cereals he used to say, so when the pack is moved from the factory to the supermarket it finds itself at the bottom of the pile. At the bottom of the pack she could already make out a price, she quickly opened the bag and took out the toy.

She stared at the toy in surprise it wasn’t a ring like she expected it to be but rather a small red toy car made from plastic. How was she supposed to use the car to get to where Josh was? The ring was a simple matter, at least she assumed it was an easy matter, she just had to put it on her hand and that would be that, but with the car things were more complicated. Assuming that car even worked and got her to the same place what was she supposed to do with it?

Anna closed the cereal box and put the car on the bench next to her and ran it back and forth. She stared around her hoping that perhaps something would have been different but it was all the same. The bench, the supermarket everything was the same, she hadn’t left and was still stuck in the same boring reality while Josh was lost somewhere. She tried to think about it a bit further, what would Josh do if he found himself in a strange place? He would most likely just cry or be utterly useless. He was hopeless without her, she was sure that it was her only option. She had to help him somehow she had to find a way to get to him to save him from whatever horror was assailing him right now. Secretly she was hoping he needed her, she tried to reassure herself that nothing too bad was going to happen to him but that he would be just scared enough that he would need her to save him. For that she needed to get to him however.

She got up and walked back into the supermarket, she needed to buy another pack of cereals and try to get one that had the ring in it. She entered the supermarket and was surprised to see that it was empty. She was just there and although it wasn’t very busy there were several cashiers and several costumers walking through the shop. Now she stood there on her own.

She walked through the empty supermarket, looking for costumers, workers or any at least someone that could confirm that they were just there. She sat only moments on the bench it was impossible for everyone to leave while she sat there. And why would the cashier leave? It made no sense. She passed aisles and rows of products but she could find no people anywhere. If they were here they were hiding very well. She wasn’t afraid of the sudden change only surprised. She walked to the cereal aisle, if there weren’t any people around she might be able to get the ring she needed. She went to the cereal the she ate this very morning and reached out to grab it. She gasped in horror as her hand went right through the box as though it wasn’t there. Anna stared at her hand in shock and when she was reassured that her hand was really there she stared at the cereal box, it looked just like any other cereal box. It was blue with a large white bowl on the cover and a slogan in red and the price in every box caption.

When the fear had settled a little and she was now sure that nothing would attack her and that she was more or less safe for the moment at least she reached out for the cereal box again. Again her hand passed right through it, as though it stopped existing on this plane of existence, or maybe there was something else going on. She tried to touch other things in the supermarket but she couldn’t. Everything was rooted to its place and she could touch nothing.           Fear slowly crept back into her heart like a leech tugging at her, what could she do now? What would she eat or drink? She couldn’t hold a book in her hands anymore, or play videogames or even use the toilet.

Maybe it was a joke? She thought hopefully. Yes that must be it why else would there be no one around. The whole shop or aisle at least must be a hologram or something. Maybe a projection of some kind aimed to trick me.

‘Ha good try! But I got you now’ she called out to no one in particular expecting people to jump out from behind hidden areas in the shop and shout surprise or something. Although it wasn’t her birthday and she was now actually breaking the rules by not going to school, her little break was now no longer a little break but rather skipping class…

She waited several more moments until she decided to give up on waiting for someone to jump out of his or hers hiding place. If they didn’t do so already it meant that whatever was happening to her was most likely real. Another thought occurred to her, what if the things that happened around her weren’t actually happening to the things but rather to her? Maybe she was now where Josh was? If that’s the case then she needed to get her toy back, the little red car, she left it on the bench outside. She had a nagging suspicion that it was too late though.

Outside the world was still, the wind, birds, cars and all manner of sounds and smells were incredulously absent. She did let it get to her and continued to walk towards the bench, she saw the pack of cereal sitting there and next to it was the little red car.

She bit her lip and reached out to hold the car in her hand. Her hand slipped right through it. How stupid could she be? She just lost her only way back out of this… whatever this was.

When Josh vanished she was jealous of him, she thought he must have disappeared to a miraculous place filled with wondrous animals, beasts and many other rarities only available in her own imagination. But now that she was here she couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed. There was nothing of what she wished for, and worse still she was all alone without the ability to interact with anything and the strangest part of all was the people. Where did they all run off to? Why couldn’t she see them or interact with them at least?

She clutched her head in frustration, how could I have been so stupid? She cried. She wasn’t alone Josh went to this strange place too right? So he must be somewhere next to the school, or maybe he went home when he couldn’t find anyone, she decided not to think about it and headed out to the school.

It was eerie the way the streets were empty of all the people. It wasn’t just the people though, there was nothing alive anywhere, no animals or at least no pets and birds, she didn’t check the zoo but she assumed that they were similarly empty. As she continued down the street to her school she realized that the absence of people and animals was only one part of the strangeness around her. She didn’t notice it before but as she was walking she noticed that there was no air around her, it wasn’t the wind that just stopped blowing but rather the air itself that was strangely still. She tried to take a deep breath expecting to hear the suction of air into her lungs but when she took a deep breath she noticed that no air was coming into her lungs. There was no air for her to breath. She wasn’t dead though she was sure of that and even if she was dead then where were all the other dead people? She didn’t know how many people died, but she knew that history was only about people that died, so the streets should be packed with people and not empty.

It was the same with sounds. There were always sounds around, from cars driving around and the people chatting or walking or listening to music but now it was as though all the air and noise was sucked away and she was walking through a plastic replica of her world.

There were other things as well that kept nagging her, things that were not normal but she couldn’t tell what they were. One of them though clarified when she looked up, she didn’t notice it at first because she hardly ever looked at the sky anymore, not like when she was younger, she used to love looking at the sky then she could spend days doing nothing else. For a moment the sky seemed normal she could see clouds and a big ball of fire and light above it slightly blinding her, on closer inspection though the sky seemed very different. The normally white or grey clouds weren’t white at all they were dark black and the sun was a strange mixture of colours. It looked like there was some brown and black there but also some dark green or blue, she couldn’t really tell but it hurt her eyes to look at it too long which made it at least a little similar to the normal sun. She knew now without a shadow of a doubt that she wasn’t home anymore, that this wasn’t her world but a mirror image of it.

When she reached the school she first went to the back of the school to where she and Josh sat down when he vanished. The place was empty, no sign Josh was ever there.

Alright she thought if I was Josh where would I go? Her first thought was actually where is that good for nothing fool, but she then thought that that wasn’t very nice and that she had quite a fright herself when it first happened to her. Although Josh was now much longer here then she was so maybe he lost hope of ever going out, or maybe he put the ring on and off again and got out of this place, leaving her stranded here. She pinched herself painfully in her arm for allowing herself to think that way and went back to the front of the school.

From the corner of her eye she thought she saw something move, she turned to look at it, but there was nothing there. She shrugged and walked into the school. She walked up the stairs and straight to her classroom, she walked quickly and got to her classroom in no time. She opened the door and looked inside. The room was empty, it was a strange sight she never saw the classroom empty before. There was always someone there when she arrived at school it was scary to see the class ready for a lesson but without pupils to fill the chairs or a teacher to stand in front of it.

Anna quickly closed the door and walked down the hallway, could she have missed Josh? Was she now stuck here forever? The thought never entered her mind but now she had nothing to hold on to. She hated to admit it but she had put her hope on Josh, he was supposed to be here, he was supposed to be the one to take her back, so where was he? Did he go back already when she went to get the car from the supermarket? If that’s what happened then this was it, her life was over.

She broke down and sat on the floor in the middle of the hallway, tears were now running down her face she couldn’t control them and they fell in large puddles on the floor. Her thoughts swirled between her family and the few good friends she had, now forever lost, which only increased the flow of the falling tears that were now accompanied by all out crying.

She suddenly stopped, there was something wrong. Fear came over her again and she quickly got up, something made her stop a noise or a movement of some king. She listened carefully and heard a clinking coming from somewhere in front of her. She walked slowly but steadily to the origin of the sound. She stopped in front of a maintenance cupboard and slowly opened the door. Inside cowering in the corner sat Josh, his head held down his body rolled into a ball. Anna’s emotions ran from happy to pity to simple confusion in seconds.

‘Josh?!’

Josh slowly lifter his head and stared surprised at Anna. ‘Anna?’ he ventured.

‘Yes silly. What are you doing in the maintenance cupboard?’ she asked.

He looked at her closely and asked ‘were you crying?’

‘No I wasn’t’ she said a little too quickly and tried to wipe away the remainder of the tears that were still there. ‘More importantly what are you doing?’

Josh suddenly shook himself as though he forgot something important and grabbed hold of Anna. He pulled her into the cupboard.

‘Hey what do you think your doing?’ she called angrily.

Josh motioned for her to be quiet. ‘Did you see the shadows yet?’ he asked.

‘What shadows?’ she asked. It was then that she realized what had been disturbing her this whole time. There were no shadows, although the trees and buildings were all there as well as a fake sky, they cast no shadows, it was only now when Josh had mentioned it that she noticed that they were strangely missing, there were no shadows anywhere.

‘The shadows move here, at first I thought there were no shadows but that’s not true there are shadows you just notice them at first’

Anna looked at Josh he seemed so sad so fragile. ‘What happened to you?’ she asked.

Josh looked at her and then past her to a place only he could see. ‘I was sitting on the bench and then I was here. I thought it was a trick or something but when you didn’t come back I headed back to class but I found no one there. I thought maybe I would just wait for my dad to come and pick me up that’s the first time I noticed the shadows. At first they follow you from the corner of your eye keeping just out of sight almost like they are studying you. But then they stop following you and try to attack you, several of the shadows chased me down the building until I found this maintenance closet and hid in it’.

‘Don’t worry Josh’ Anna said ‘they won’t attack the both of us right?’ she asked trying to reassure him.

He looked doubtful ‘I don’t think that’s how it works’

‘More importantly, do you still have the ring?’ she asked him.

Josh looked at her blankly.

‘The ring you took from me!’ she said angrily losing her calm.

Josh seemed to remember and reached with his right hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out the ring, silently he handed it over to Anna.

Anna looked at the ring pleased with herself. Now they could both get out of this strange place. She opened the closet door and got out.

‘Wait’ called Josh ‘it’s dangerous out there’

‘Don’t worry with the ring we can go back home now!’ Anna said smugly.

‘Really?’ asked Josh a glimmer of hope returned to his eyes.

Anna put the ring on her finger, now all she had to do was rub, or hold the ring like Josh did and she would be back home. But what about Josh, she had to take him with her somehow. Suddenly from the corner of her eye she saw something move, she turned to face it and saw a shadow move quickly towards her. This was what Josh had been talking about; she pushed the fear down and swallowed hard, if only she could get the ring to work for both of them they would be out of there. Shadows were now visibly moving out of their own accord towards her she stared for a moment in pure shock, she was surrounded by shadows that started walking or crawling or gliding towards her. Next to her Josh was shaking visibly.

Anna grabbed Josh with one hand and told him to grab hold of her. Josh very slowly as though he was dazed grabbed her arm.

‘This should work…’ She said out loud trying to comfort herself as much as Josh but Josh wasn’t looking at her his gaze was focused on one thing only a large shadow that looked like it was standing in front of them. Anna then held the ring like she saw Josh do and pulled it slightly…

The Gravel Road

            He looked at her, her fragile body sitting in the wooden chair, rocking back and forth. She sat outside catching the few last rays of the setting sun. She was planning something again, she was always planning. He made her the way she was and she in her turn made him. How he hated her… He knew there was only one option left, she made sure of that.

He looked up at the sky the sun was slowly dying away, the last sunrays vanishing beyond the horizon leaving the ground to the dark night. If only he could die just like her, that would be better but he couldn’t. things could never be that bad. He sighed and sat back on his wooden chair. Their houses looked like replicas in front of one another stuck in an endless struggle a struggle he was now losing, why he was losing he did not know. The centuries long fight was finally setting the end stage it was time to end it.

He looked down, at the desert road between their houses. A swift wind blew some dried out bushes on the desert road there was only one thing now he had to be ready…

           

The ground shook, Richard had to grab hold of the wall next to him to stop from falling.

“What the hell is going on?” he cried.

“It’s an earthquake dude, can’t you tell??” answered Michael.

They ran out of the house and looked at the street. Everything was shaking, the ground seemed alive, about to devour everything and everyone.

“This must be at least an 8.5!!” called Richard.

“No way man, I felt an 8.5 once and it wasn’t like this at all. It was a lot worse. Half the houses were breaking and me and Lisa were running as far away as we could…”

“You were with Lisa?!” Richard interrupted looking at Michael in disbelief “You lucky dog”

“Lucky?? I finally get a date with Lisa and there’s a fucking earthquake!!! And you call me lucky?”

Richard smiled. They watched their house shake. The shaking stopped as abruptly as it began. Car alarms sounded all along the streets. They waited a few more minutes before they went back in the house.

“Well that was exciting” said Richard as they walked towards the sofa.

“Yeah right” answered Michael sitting down.

“So how come I never heard about that date with Lisa?!” asked Richard, sounding somewhat annoyed

“If I would have told you anything, you probably would have shown up at the door and ruin my date” answered Michael knowingly.

“Yeah well, you had an earthquake, so there are other forces at work here to stop you from dating that hot chick” Richard said smugly.

“I have a date with her on Tuesday so how’s that?!” He said, regretting saying that as soon as the words came out of his mouth. Richards face was worth it though. He looked shocked, for the first time words failed him which was a big thing with Richey.

“You have a date with her Tuesday?” he said finally in disbelief.

“Yeah, she said I was an old style knight with the way I protected her against the earthquake” Michael said proud of himself.

Richard burst into laughter. “That’s really what she said? Man, I thought she was hot I guess she is also as dumb as a shoe” he said laughing.

Michael’s face turned red. “It was romantic you idiot. She’s very smart, she has all these imagination games she likes to play and I was the only one who didn’t just try to get into her pants so there!” Michael said with conviction.

“Just so you know, if a girl actually says that, she means you are a loser and you will never get into her pants” Richard returned.

Michael looked at him angrily. “You are just jealous; you always were a sore loser”

“A loser?! me?! I don’t remember ever fighting over her or even trying to pick her up”

“Just forget about it, I had enough arguing about it.” Michael shouted and went to the kitchen.

He returned with two beers, one in each hand.

“Here” he said and handed a beer over to Richard.

“Just so you don’t get too pissed at me, here is too a good date between the both of you” Richard called lifting his bottle in the air.

“Thanks mate, appreciate it” Michael answered lifting his bottle in turn, hitting his friends bottle gently.

They both took a big gulp of beer.

“Just for the record, not that I’m jealous or anything, what did you plan with her?” Richard asked eyeing Michael curiously.

“Well, I didn’t really plan anything just a romantic kind of get together nothing else really”

“Don’t tell me you don’t want to get into her pants!! I can’t believe that, she’s so fucking hot!!” Richard said loudly nearly screaming.

Michael stared at the floor. “It’s not that I don’t want her, it’s just that it feels good. I don’t have to have her. At first when I saw her I really thought she would turn out to be stupid and I would just bone her and that’s it. But it was great, we talked really talked and I had a lot of fun” he paused contemplating “I never even thought of sex” he added.

“Bullshit!” interrupted Richard. “I don’t believe any of this drivel, how the hell can you sit here next to me and lie?!”

“I’m not lying” Michael replied somewhat annoyed, looking straight at his friend.

Richard looked back at Michael and sighed. “Ok maybe not. I’m happy for you, don’t look at me like that, I am… really”

Michael eyed Richard somewhat suspiciously, waiting for Richard to make some kind of comment, but he said nothing being uncharacteristically quiet.

They spent the rest of the day sitting on the sofa drinking, until the early evening when Michael got a call from Richard’s mother telling him send Richard home. Richard left and promised to come back some time later.

            Michael sat bored at home by himself. His parents divorced a long time ago. He lived with his mom who worked about 10 hours a day, leaving him to do whatever he liked for most of the day hours. This usually wasn’t much. He looked at the time; it was nearing 22:00. He wondered if he should call Lisa, their date was in 2 days, but he really couldn’t wait to hear her voice. After picking up the phone and putting it down again a few times. He cursed for his nervousness and quickly dialed the number before his courage could fail him. He was just about to hang up again when a feminine voice spoke on the other line.

“Lisa?” Michael inquired, not completely sure he recognized the voice. Lisa and her mother had very similar voices over the phone.

“Yes, who is this?” she asked.

“It’s Michael” he answered.

“Oh, hi Michael I was just thinking about you” she said laughing.

“Cool” he said smiling, then realizing she couldn’t see him he laughed awkwardly.

“Thing is, my mom just told me there is some kind of air show in the army base next to here and she already bought the tickets”

“Oh…” She was going to cancel the date. Michael thought and felt his world slowly cave in.

“Wow you sound bad, what’s wrong?!” she said with concern.

“Nothing, I… I just thought we had a date and…”

“Silly I didn’t say the show was in 2 days did I?” she said amused.

“I eh… assumed it was” he said feeling stupid.

“It’s tomorrow, and I thought you might like to go with me” she said.

“oh… Oh? OH!!“ It took Michael some time to realize she was asking him to come with her. He was in the game now, Richard and his stupid ideas.

“What’s with all that moaning? Are you coming?” Lisa sounded impatient.

“Yea, of course I am!!” as soon as the words came out he regretted them. He sounded too anxious, he should play it cool. That’s what Richard told him. He thought about it and changed his mind it was Richard who got him in this mess in the first place.

“Great, I thought you might have something else to do, Mary told me the soccer team had practice”

They did have practice but Michael quit the team last week because of a big argument he had with the coach. But Lisa didn’t have to know that.

“I would prefer you over practice any day” Richard said.

Lisa burst out in laughter. “Trying to be smooth?” she said still laughing.

“No, I was being honest…” He was surprised to realize he really was.

“I’m sorry, but it sounded like a line from a movie. I didn’t mean to laugh. So I’ll meet you at my place?” she asked.

“Sure, when?”

“Come at 14:00, mom will be at work and the show starts at 16:00”

“Ok, great I’ll see you then” Michael hung up and jumped in the air. Not only did she ask him out she also wanted him to come early! That could only mean one thing; they were going to make out or maybe even something better if he was lucky. Michael jumped around the room and stopped only when he crashed on the sofa and fell on the floor. But he hardly took notice of it. Everything was going along great.

 

The wind was slowly picking up. She was definitely planning something, shaping things to suit her needs. She had to move quickly she was almost out of time.

A man of average height, and age, sat in an armchair, looking at the wooden house across the street. The sun was shining brightly. It was always shining so that you could always pay attention. The man smiled. There was no joy or happiness in his eyes, they were cold. Very cold, as though the life that once flowed within them was sucked out leaving the cold lifeless stare of a corpse.

He could feel things slowly taking shape; she was too busy to notice he changed something as well. Let her go on; let her have the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately she will fail.

The wind blew dried out bushes on to the empty desert road.

 

Michael looked at his reflection in the mirror, scrutinizing for any faults.

Richard looked at Michael his face contorted into disgust. “Damn man, it looks good, will you stop already”

Michael put a hair back in place and said “I have to look good man; I don’t want to be all messy and stuff”

“Look at yourself! Your putting every single hair back in place, I mean enough is enough go already”

Michael gave the mirror one more look and turned to face Richard

 “ok I’m ready, let’s go”

“Finally”

            Richard brought his car, so he could drive Michael to Lisa’s place. Richard had already passed his test a year earlier, while Michael still needed to pass his. When they finally arrived, Michael got out and went to Lisa’s house. “Good luck” called Richard from the car. “Call me when your back… I want to know everything” he added. Michael smiled and set out for the business at hand. He stood in front of the door a few moments building up his courage and rang the door bell.

The door opened and Lisa stood in the entrance “Hi Michael” she called “Come in”

Michael obediently stepped into the house. It was a big place very different from where he lived. He walked into a spacious living room. At the right side of the room was a big sofa with a 50 inch TV in front of it. On his left was the kitchen. In front of him were steps leading to a second floor. Lisa led him up the stairs to her room. The second floor was a hallway with some closed doors. Lisa opened one of them and they entered.

“This is my room” she exclaimed “maybe this time there won’t be an earthquake” she said smiling.

“With our luck we will have some weird fire storm or something” Michael said smiling.

Lisa’s room was a typical girl room, or at least that’s what Michael thought. The leading color in the room was pink. A vast amount of items was all colored in various shades of pink. The curtains, the bed cover were all pinkish. The funniest however was the small TV. It had a fur like cover surrounding it also in pink.

“Your room is eh… very pink” Michael managed finally.

Lisa smiled “You don’t like it?” she asked.

“Yes of course I do, it’s really nice…”

Lisa burst out in laughter “its ok you don’t need to lie, you don’t like it do you?!”

“Well eh… no” Michael admitted “It’s really way too… pink”

“Do you want to continue talking about the room or should I show you what we will see tonight?” she asked.

“Sure”

            Lisa took a big flyer from her desk in the corner of the room and came to sit next to him.

“Here you have a map of the army base and the aerial show they have planned. There is also some lunch they provide for us and there are also tours of the base” Lisa stopped and looked at him waiting for some reply.

“Cool” It was the only thing he could come up with. Lisa seemed a bit disappointed. Richard told him that if she seemed to expect something it usually was a kiss. Thinking of this Michael moved his head closer to Lisa’s. He pressed his lips together and slowly moved with his head forward closing his eyes.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lisa demanded.

“I… I wanted to kiss you” Michael said and lowered his head in embarrassment.

Lisa lifted his head looking straight at him. “If you want to kiss me why don’t you just do it?” she asked.

“Never mind just forget it” Michael muttered

Lisa looked at him amused. “Haven’t you ever kissed a girl before?” she asked.

“Of course I have I’m not 12” he answered angrily.

“So what is the big deal? It’s only a kiss”

“What do you mean it’s only a kiss?”

“Well you know everyone kisses, it happens like all the time”

“Yea well, It’s only because you’re so beautiful and it makes me nervous” It escaped his lips before he really noticed. Great. He had better success when there was an earthquake. He turned his head away from her. Her hand reached out for his and grabbed it firmly. He looked up at her. She was smiling.

“You know” she started “You are the first guy I’ve met that’s not afraid to say what he thinks and feels”

She grabbed hold of his head with her other hand and pushed it towards her. She kissed him hard on the mouth and let go.

“We can practice again later” she said winking. “We have to go if we want to get there in time”

Michael’s head was spinning “Go where?” he asked.

“To the show silly, remember?”

“Oh yea, right” he replied feeling somewhat disoriented.

They went out, Lisa locking the house behind her. The Army base was a 25 min walk from Lisa’s house in an area just outside of the small village. The village of Knowringle was so small you could cross it from one side to the other in about an hour walk, although nobody really walked anymore, why walk when you can drive? There weren’t any other cities in the area, just mountains. This was probably why the army chose this area from the beginning. It was isolated, there were no neighbors who could complain, just a natural mountain range stretched far into the distance adding an extra plus for survival exercises that the army regularly preformed.

Michael and Lisa chatted happily while walking on the road towards the base. The day was perfect for a hike. The heat wasn’t too bad and a cool wind blew every now and then. They were absorbed in their conversation until suddenly a strong gust of wind thrust them backwards a few steps.

“What the hell was that?” asked Michael

“I don’t know, sometimes the winds can pick up from one second to the other” the words were not sooner said, or another gust of wind hit them, this time bringing sand and dust with it. The wind slowly swiveled and turned becoming stronger and stronger.

Dust blew inside of their eyes causing them to be temporarily blind. The noise of wind became increasingly loud; they couldn’t hear one another and were stumbling blindly. Michael grabbed hold of Lisa when the wind had picked up, but he lost her when her hand was swept away from his when the wind suddenly picked up. He couldn’t see where she was, the dust was burning his eyes. He screamed Lisa’s name but it was no use, he could barely hear his own voice, it was drowned by the endless winds surrounding him. His shoe hit something hard and he fell forward hard on his face. The air was knocked out of him, the dust burning his lungs, he felt as if his throat was on fire, his lungs burning with an excruciating pain. He felt his mind drift away into unconsciousness. He tried to fight it but he could hardly even breathe let alone get up. Darkness slowly surrounded him, and he drifted away…

 

Michael felt a searing pain in his eyes. He blinked a few times to get the dust from his eyes; he could breathe although he was coughing a lot, the taste of sand lingering in his mouth. He could see a desert seemingly going on forever. All sign of the road he walked on was gone. He looked around; Lisa was nowhere to be found. He called her name a few times, but no one responded. He was alone, with nothing but sand to keep him company. It was then he noticed the mountain range had also disappeared. No wind could have pushed him that far away he thought bitterly. The mountain range was visible for about 100 miles all around Knowringle. Wherever he had arrived it was far away from home. He checked his pockets looking for his cell phone. It was gone; it had probably fallen out of his pocket when he was tossed around by the wind. He was pondering what the best thing to do was when a distant cry made him literally jump. He turned towards where he thought the sound was coming from and slowly walked in its direction. It could be Lisa he thought and broke into a run. Images swept his mind, Lisa hurt, tortured, maybe even killed. The anger combined with fear made him run faster.

After about 10 minutes he could see some shapes in the distant. It was hard to make out what they were. The desert heat, which was considerably hotter than in the afternoon, made everything look as though it was on fire. Circular lines faded in and out in the distance making it very hard to see anything clearly. As he got closer he could see the shapes were actually two wooden houses facing one another. A gravel road appeared a few steps before the two houses and created a way between them. The strange thing was that that same gravel road disappear some steps after the houses. Why would anyone make a gravel road for just a few meters? Michael pushed the thought out of his mind and carefully walked towards the house on the right.

The houses looked just like the ones in the old western movies did. They were made from a dark colored wood and had a big porch with an armchair on it. At least that meant people lived there, Michael thought. As he got closer to them he noticed they both looked exactly alike. They were both of same height and color. Even the armchair looked the same. Michael noticed there was but one window in the houses and it overlooked not the desert but the house in front of it. Whoever lived here was very strange, all alone in the middle of nowhere with a window towards one another.

Michael decided to just knock and enter the house on the right. If Lisa was anywhere the people here could probably help him. They might even have a phone or something he thought, although no power lines were visible anywhere. Maybe they were underground he wondered. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. To his surprise it opened immediately and he very nearly fell in. In front of him stood a black woman, he couldn’t tell what her age was. She seemed old but there was something young about her as well, she stood straight and kept her hands at her side. Her blue eyes watched him closely like a hawk studying its prey. It made him feel uneasy; her eyes seemed old somehow, as if she had seen many things. She must have been very beautiful once he thought. Her eyes, although they were still blue seemed to lose a bit of their color, as if for a split second her eyes rebelled, soon however the color was the same as it was and Michael doubted seeing it.

“Hello Michael, I was expecting you” She said and pulled Michael inside.

Michael was so surprised that everything he planned to say just flew away from his mind.

“I’m sorry, this must be quite a shock to you, but there is no time to explain. Falcner has Lisa and he will use her to his own benefit. It’s all my fault but that can’t be helped now. I don’t have much time left” She stopped and looked at Michael. She sighed.

Michael was caught off guard only thing he could think about was Lisa. This woman knows where Lisa is. But before he could ask anything the woman already answered. “Yes I know where Lisa is, I told you Falcner has her, if you want to save her you need to trick him into letting her go. I guess I have to explain although we really don’t have much time” She took 2 chairs and sat herself in one of them. Michael sat in the other one.

“You arrived at the gateway between times. We are the last keepers of this way. Don’t look so surprised” she added seeing Michael frown “there are many things that exist not only in legend. Falcner thinks this is a competition he has forgotten his true self. He only wants to win he doesn’t understand that to win, one must first lose. It doesn’t matter. I’m dying I am nearly gone already” The woman looked down at her hands and gritted her teeth in disgust; she quickly regained her posture however and continued.

“I thought I could persuade someone to take over. You see, this gateway is always open. Sometimes people from many different times reach it. We keep this way closed to them. One cannot move through this way without causing another way to close. You see this gateway could transport you in time, but there is a catch. It is based on laws that exist in this world. One of the laws states that there is always a loophole, meaning a way out. But to use this loophole is to undue everything that has been done. I know it’s hard to understand” she said looking at the perplexed look on Michael’s face “I am the last of the first guardians. I was here when this gate first opened because of someone’s thought. There were two of us” Her voice broke off and it looked like she was struggling with something. “Time flows differently here. Minutes are hours and hours are minutes. One day someone broke the code and arrived here. He was surprisingly quick; he realized what we were and understood what needed to be done in order to go through the gateway. He killed Shar who with me was the first. We learned to read thoughts, emotions and Shar had to end his life in order to keep the gate closed before everything was undone. You see death is an end and a beginning and with a sacrifice must come hope. It was enough for a new guardian to appear from a different time and to send the one who broke the code back to wherever he came from. The new guardian Falcner slowly lost his mind. He thinks I tricked him and that when I die I will win. I thought nothing of it and sent for a new guardian”

“How can you send for a new guardian when that other guy had to die to get one?” Michael asked. This story was bull, she was lying. Who could every believe anything like this?!

“I… “The woman looked embarrassed “Cheated. I called on a new guardian by moving time around”

“Of course” Michael said sarcastically “Forget this, just tell me where Lisa is and how I get out of here”

“Falcner who lives in that other house, has Lisa. I don’t know of any way to leave the gateway when you haven’t broken the code”

Michael was losing his patience. Anger rose within him, he had had enough. He walked out of the door without looking back. His eyes were temporarily blinded by the sharp light. He went straight towards the other house and without knocking went in. The house was empty from the looks of it no one had lived there for a very long time. He turned around in anger the old woman was playing some very sick game with him. The door to her house was still open; he walked in and saw to his surprise a man. He quickly walked in “What the hell is going on here?!” he screamed. The man turned around. He had grey hair and was white, this was too weird. “Who the fuck are you” he shouted back at him.

“Where is Lisa?” Michael demanded

“Who?” The old man replied.

“Don’t play dumb, the old woman told me she was here”

“Then I’m very sorry to say that she lied. Stupid bitch wouldn’t know anything anyway. Thinks all these weird things all the time, but she won’t win I won’t let her” The old man was whispering, it appeared as if he had forgotten all about Michael being there. He continued whispering Michael only got little bits and pieces. “I will manage… Wait and see… Sun all the time…”

“Are you Falcner?” Michael asked finally

The old man turned to Michael and seemed surprised to see someone standing there. Then slowly his face registered recognition. “Yes, I am my boy. Are you my grandson?”

“No, my name is Michael I’m searching for Lisa…” Michael replied his voice breaking, despair slowly drowned him. He had no idea where he was, Lisa could be anywhere as far as he knew, and no one could help him.

“Do you mean that young blond girl?” Falcner asked.

“Yes” Michael answered a flicker of life returning to him.

“I’m sorry my boy but I threw her in the gate”

“What?” Michael’s head started to throb. All this talk of gates just went pass him. He couldn’t understand anything anymore.

“Yes, it was the only way to save her. You see Dianova was going to use her for a mind switch. That would mean she could be free and be able to go into the world. I couldn’t let that happen, I had to do something” the old man seemed sincere.

Michael straightened his posture and looked at the old man. “Tell me your story Falcner, I need to figure out what the truth is” he said.

“If that is what you want, have a seat my boy. You see we are at the gate to the world…”

“The world? We already are in the world” Michael interrupted.

The old man smiled a sad smile. “If only it was that simple. The world as you know it is incomplete. There are fragments of it moving in and out of time. Some times centuries separate it; this is a gateway that connects time together. A long time ago someone tried to change the flow of time. That someone was me… I was young in those days and I thought I could combine time into a singular level. Let’s just say it didn’t work. I’ve been trying to undo what I’ve done; you see time shifted even worse when I tried to get it back on track. I had a young assistant to help me. He at the end stabbed me in the back; he got the secret of time from me and opened a gateway. He was going to control time, but that is impossible. Time cannot be controlled, he would have destroyed time. I managed to separate the area before the gate from the regular flow of time. It should have worked perfectly but it didn’t. Simon my assistant managed to trap me at that same area as well. Only difference was, Time changed. I was stuck in a slow time pocket and Simon in a fast time pocket. This means he gets older a lot faster then I do. He already created 2 time changes. In the first one a black woman called Dianova arrived here. He used her and was able to switch minds with her. He had to do that because he was close to death. Same as now, only this time I pushed the girl into the gateway before he could use her. You on the other hand, I don’t know. What did he, I mean she tell you?”

“She said she was expecting me and that I had to go and save Lisa from you. Then she talked about guardians and stuff, I didn’t really understand any of it” Michael stopped abruptly “There was one weird thing though. I walked to this house and it was empty then I turned back to the other house and you were there”

“What?” A look of shock appeared on the old man’s face. “He tricked me, it’s over” The old man put his head between his hands.

“What? I don’t understand what’s wrong?” Michael asked. The shock on the old man’s face couldn’t be good news.

“Simon switched times; he used you to turn time against himself”

Michael looked at the old man. After a few seconds he said “I still don’t get what you’re talking about”

“I told you I set this area off as an out of time area. This means you can’t come to this place unless you manipulate time. You and Lisa were manipulated to come here. I thought he would use Lisa to do another mind switch, but as it turns out that’s what he wanted me to think. He needed to break the time barrier in order to be free and he just did that. He used you, you walked through the gateway and came back in, so the gate was momentarily open and he could have gone wherever he wanted”

“That’s bull; I didn’t pass through any gate. I only walked from his house to yours.”

“Look out of the window and tell me what you see”

Michael walked towards the window and stared. The desert had disappeared behind a moving transparent wave like substance. It looked like a little like water, the only difference being the changing background. It seemed as if nothing could make up its mind. Everything morphed into different things never staying always changing.

“It’s like there is an ocean or something and behind it there is like things changing. I can see parts of the desert changing into sky or something. It’s really weird”

“Then it is as I feared. He succeeded in freeing himself, thus breaking the time pocket I created” Falcner looked as if he had suffered the worst defeat. He sat on the chair his head lolling down towards the floor.

“There must be some way we can stop this, I mean can’t you make another force thingy or just change things back?” Michael asked. He felt his head throb when he tried thinking about what was going on around him.

Falcner looked up from his seat. “I can’t just create a pocket like that; I don’t even remember how to manipulate time. I’ve been here for so many years; I nearly forgot my name at times. The only thing I lived for was preventing Simon from getting his will and now I failed” the old man seemed broken; the sparkle he had in his eyes gave way for despair. Michael felt pity for this man, this weird old guy. Slowly the pity subsided and anger rose. This was entirely his fault in the first place!

 

Michael felt anger mount within him. Everything was out of his control slipping from his grasp. This morning the only thought he had was kissing Lisa, and now? Everything was in danger because some idiot was playing with time. Everything he knew would be gone. Lisa would be gone. Richard…

Well there must be something he could do! Something this old guy could do.

“There has to be something we can do! I mean this is just too absurd. You are supposed to be this great time expert and your assistant beats you?! How pathetic is that!” Michael screamed. He didn’t know what he was saying anymore, he just wanted something to happen, for someone to take control of the situation and do something about it.

“Look at me, I’m too old. I’ve been here for so very long. I just want it to end” Falcner said, he lifted his face and looked at Michael. His eyes were sad, thick lines encircling them.

“Ok, fine then show me what I can do”

The old man smiled a sad smile. “Wish I had you as my assistant, maybe then things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did” he said.

“Well science was never my strong side” Michael muttered. He was still too angry to except any compliment. He had enough of the fantastic tales he had heard. All he wanted was for things to go back to the way they were.

“There is one thing I still have to tell you. I’m not sure you will understand it now, but when you will you will be able to… let’s just say your limits will not be the same” Michael muttered something under his breath. Falcner heard nothing of it and continued. “You live in a place that thinks time is just another phenomenon, and moves forward as a constant. This isn’t the case. Time is dynamic, it can expand and retract, it moves differently, in impulses we don’t really understand yet. As soon as you realize time is not a constant you will be able to see the different forms of time in a manner of speaking…”

“Yea man, whatever” Michael interrupted “Why don’t you tell me something useful like how to freeze time or something?”

“I can’t, you have to understand it that’s the only way” Falcner opened his mouth to continue his explanation but closed it again. There was no use. He could only hope that when time would be right Michael would at least be able to do something. “Good luck” he said. The sad smile returned to his face. “But what am I supposed to do?!” screamed Michael “how do I get Lisa back how do I do anything?”

“I’m sorry, the only thing I can tell you is that the only way to help your friend is to go through the gate and stop Simon”

“But how can I stop her, him whatever the fuck he is!!”

“Go through the gate I will try to help you from here” Falcner turned his back to Michael and stared out the window.

            Michael walked out the door and towards the end of the gravel road. The light flashed in his eyes once more, blinding him temporarily. He had the strangest feeling of Déjà vu, walking on the same gravel road again, with the wooden houses on either side. As he reached the end of the road, he felt a slight fear creeping up from inside of him, slowly making its way up from his stomach to his mind.

Michael shook his head and quickly walked the last steps the fear turning into anger.

            A dazzling light shone into his eyes. His step faltered, he nearly lost his balance for the ground seemed to slip from beneath him. It wasn’t the hard gravel road anymore, it was moving as if alive, Shaking like a big jelly being from one side to the other. He tried to see where he was but the light was too strong to make anything out, he continued walking forward careful not to lose his footing.

            As the light slowly resided he could make out his surroundings for the first time. Lines of gold surrounded him, tracing the strange kind of hallway he saw in front of him. It was a strange feeling, looking at all these strange gold lines running through and around everything. On both sides he could see some kind of glass structure going as far as he could see. It seemed like a big looking glass cracked in many different places, all of which had their own story, but somehow still connected to this one massive piece of glass. In certain glass pieces he could see people at others landscapes. Some were with strange animals and others with animals he recognized.

            Michael had the feeling of walking through a museum of some kind. He had actually expected the different things in each glass to move, but they were all frozen. It was then he noticed how silent it all was. There was no noise of any kind, and he had the strange feeling of walking not through a museum but rather through a tomb. He looked down at the red jelly like floor which was the only moving thing. A shiver ran through him. He turned around. The strange hallway like place seemed to continue on without an end in sight.

            Falcner hadn’t told him anything about this. What was he supposed to do now? Walk through this endless place?! Not knowing what to do, he continued walking occasionally looking to his sides at the strange picture like things.  A flicker of movement on his left caught his attention.

            On the glass in front of him stood a picture like the million others he saw all around. But something was different. He looked at the picture closely, another flicker. Some things in the picture were moving. He felt an urge to touch it, grab hold of something real in this deserted place. A gasp came out of his lips as he moved his hand forward in order to touch the glass. His hand went right through the glass as if it didn’t exist. He quickly pulled his hand back staring at it in disbelief. He tried touching a different picture but that didn’t work. The glass was cold and uninviting stopping his hand from reaching the picture. He thought for a second. He tried a few more pictures all with the same result. The only place he could enter was the picture that had some movement in it. He stood in front of the moving picture. This was the only way back into time he thought because this is the only moving picture moving. Does this mean there are many time lines? Or does it mean that everything is frozen except for one instant? It was no use thinking about the different things the only option he had was going through the picture. Everything was better then walking aimlessly through this quiet hallway. Michael took a deep breath and walked forward through the picture.

            Colors from every spectrum flashed around him. It was such a strong contrast to what he had just come from that he stumbled a few steps blinded. He noticed that the further he walked the more colors appeared. There were reds, blues, and yellows all around him. The combination of so many colors made everything seem black or sharp white. It made his eyes water forcing him to blink a couple dozen times in an effort to block out the colors. The colors disappeared just as sudden as they appeared.

            Michael stood in a vast grey landscape. He could see people around him but they were all frozen, stuck in whatever they were doing that moment. He walked towards a big guy and experimentally waved his hand in front of his eyes. The guy continued to stare straight in front of him his mouth open as though he was talking, presumably to the girl standing next to him.

            Michael looked around trying to locate the movement he had seen before he entered. Slowly as his eyes got used to the grey frozen picture around him he could see long thin golden lines. They looked like small rays of light. The same ones he had seen in the hallway. This is time he thought. I can see these threads because time is frozen. But how can I make it go again? As he was thinking his hand absent mindedly went up and down through the air, the fingers fumbling the dead air around him causing thin golden threads to swirl and turn. Sound, very slowly moved away from him carried on waves through the air. He abruptly stopped moving his hand, trying to focus on the origin of the sound which was now fading. He stared at the small fading golden threads noticing them now for the first time. Michael moved his hand in an effort to recreate the threads and saw to his great surprise that new golden lines moved away from him. As he was slowly realizing what was going on he felt a tug, as if something was pulling the picture. He moved clumsily forward, learning as he goes how to move in the awkward environment. He could now feel where the push came from, this must also be where time was being forced to except something he realized. He ran and at the corner of his eye saw a guy he assumed to be Simon, holding Lisa.

“Stop!” Michael shouted, regretting almost immediately he had done so.

Simon turned towards him, a big smile showing a row of teeth, covering his face “Well well, if it isn’t the little idiot. Come to stop me have you? That’s a laugh” The guy laughed loudly at his own words.

“I will stop you if you don’t stop right now!” Michael retorted. It was an idle threat but it might buy him some time.

“Foolish boy, have fun with this while I take care of some business” With a quick move of his hand circles of light appeared and came racing towards Michael.

Michael, more out of reflex than anything else, moved his hand in a circular motion. A golden circle appeared swallowing the created riffs. Simon looked surprised and stopped to appraise Michael a new. “How did you do that?” he asked after a short pause.

“None of your business” he answered “Now let Lisa go!”

“What for? There is nothing you can do for her” Simon let go of Lisa and Michael saw she was the same grey lifeless image everything was.

“Free her!” Michael shouted

At this Simon laughed. “I can see you have no idea what you are doing I guess it was a lucky shot what you just did. Let me explain something to you. I can manipulate time by giving it memories. If I give it memories I can flex areas of time involving myself. The more memories I have the more control I can exert. I can tell by the look on your face that you have no idea what I’m talking about, so why don’t you go back to where you came from and get lost.”

Michael stared around him there must be something he could do.

Take mine echoed a familiar voice inside Michael head. He turned around trying to find where the voice came from. Simon in the meantime started moving his hand again in a complicated movement. He had to buy some time. “What did you do to the body of Dianova?” he asked. This seemed to stop Simon.

“Let’s just say she is gone, she was just a shell anyway” he retorted, he seemed cautious however.

“I don’t believe you, I think she was regaining control, I don’t think you can just perform a mind switch, you can only push her back and like a leech try to suck her dry, but she was fighting back wasn’t she?“

I will meld with you, and I am not alone together we can win the voice this time it seemed like two voices a female voice that was cold and angry, and another old voice. Falcner? Michael wondered. And Dianova. Prepare yourself.

The voices disappeared and Michael’s mind was flooded by memories. Thoughts of two people were now mixed with his own. He immediately saw all the patterns of time, millions of lines intertwined with one another.

Michael fell to the ground the weight of all the new memories literally pulling him down. Michael fought for breath as an amazing amount of memories surged through him, filling everything, lives went past, years, centuries, as slowly everything began to reside he knew where the memories had come from, he knew what he had to do. “You always were too obsessed” Michael said in a calm voice.

Simon was startled and with a few quick moves pushed a spiral of gold towards Michael. Michael lifted his hand and with a few circular motions let go of an exact replica of Simon’s spiral.

Simon smiled in triumph “I knew you had no idea what you were doing” he laughed “now you just added your memories to increase the strength of mine”

The two spirals now stood fully in front of one another, circling around one another. Simon’s spiral started to swallow Michael’s spiral sucking more and more from it, instead of stopping however Michael continued releasing more spirals creating a line of spirals that were all slowly consumed by Simon’s spiral.  Simon looked at the continually increasing size of his spiral and a look of doubt crossed his face. “What are you doing?” he asked

Michael didn’t reply he continued his movements, creating more and more spirals. It was now so big it easily topped the world’s highest building and still it looked like there was no stopping it. It increased into the air soaring like a pillar from the heavens and still it grew taller, its edges flowing through the atmosphere. Fear washed Simon, a moment ago he had complete control, he was about to devour all the memories and body of a young girl. He could now easily defeat even Falcner, what was going wrong?

The spiral reached the edge of space where it appeared to be stuck, there it grew in width until everything looked unstable, time shook violently and cracks started to appear on the until now dead image. Simon screamed in agony as he was sucked into the spiral. Michael felt his body growing weaker and weaker. This was the final moment he knew; he had to break Simon’s hold over time. He had to break time itself in order to set it free to roam as an entity by itself, uncontrollable from any outside interference.

He had nearly nothing left, he felt torn, his last feelings, thoughts, ideas sucked out of him, leaving him with a dreadful nothing. An empty shadow of what he once was a broken shell. His knees started to shake, his body as young and agile as it was, was still human and although bendable still sustainable only as a human.

Dizzy he stared around him and saw he had nothing left, he would fail.

A figure slowly stood up and stumbled towards him. “I am here, let me help” said a female voice, Michael knew but couldn’t place anymore, a beautiful voice filled with color and light. Gentle hands held him and he felt something of what he was come back to him. With the last power he could muster he gave one final push and collapsed on the floor. His eyes shutting…

“Michael? Stay with me please…” a voice soft and frail, tinted with a heart wrenching sadness, beckoned to him.

He looked at the figure that was now cradling him, his eyes were open but he could see nothing.

Fractures appeared around him, the spiral was destroying the picture, sending shards to every direction shattering every image on its way. Time slowly moved again and each movement, his own.

Well done my boy echoed a familiar voice in his mind I could have never done any better.

“What will happen now?” Michael asked his body unwilling to move.

Time will go on moving, and because all my and Simon’s memories are gone there are no strings attached, time is free in its own way.

“So what will happen to me then?”

You need to make friends with time…

The voice faded away. “Wait what about me, what will happen to me?” called Michael

“Michael? Are you alright” asked a worried female voice.

Michael looked up to see Lisa holding him in her arms. He was lying on the flood in some strange place, he struggled to get up. “Are you alright?” he asked looking at her with concern. “Yes I think so, but what happened? And where are we?”

Michael looked around and saw millions of colorful pictures all around him. You are outside time. The words echoed silently in his mind, he remembered where he was.

He looked at Lisa she was beautiful. What could he say to her?

“Lisa I’m sorry for all of this” voice trailed off. He couldn’t face her, he stared at the floor. Hands lifted his head up. He was surprised to see Lisa was smiling. “It’s not your fault. So why don’t we find a way out of here”

Michael smiled and held Lisa in his arms. “Well for that we need to make friends first”

 Notes: The gravel road (2007)

I had a picture in my head, way before I set out to write anything, of two small barn like houses facing each other, placed in the middle of a deserted gravel road. This image haunted me for a while and I kept seeing it over and over in my mind. Somehow these two houses were alone, and together they possessed some power as if they were the center for some event, or a doorway perhaps. I could see all this quite clearly but I had no story to attach all this to, so I came up with this story all so I could get rid of that image from my mind.

Part I

Note: 

A long time ago I had an idea to combine a large array of different nightmares and/or dreams into one big landscape. This landscape was set as one night following someone’s dreams. I wrote each dream as a short story and so spanned into a long time frame. Every time I had an interesting idea for a dream or nightmare I would write it in here.

Several of the stories were in my mind a long time before I came up with this scenario and when I finally came up with this they fitted in perfectly. Now for some facts: Each person dreams roughly between 100-250 dreams a night out of which only about 7 are remembered (if at all). The interesting bit is that dreams a lot of times are seen as fragments of many different images, emotions and other flashes from either out imagination or our memory. This gave me a very broad canvas in which to develop my stories. And I thought it might be fun to combine many different things to it. In my 2 month vacation/PhD position search I wrote the first three stories and a rough sketch of the 10th story.

 

Images of night… story 1 – the adventure (2008)

The first story the adventure was actually based on the very first nightmare I could remember. I was about 6 at the time, and the nightmare I had was so vivid that it never left. It was slightly different then the story in here but the general idea and the cave are taken directly from it. 

Introduction

Night crawled onto the world like a snail leaving a thick and gluey trail behind it as it passed slowly across the skies removing the last bits of light from it. For most people the time of night is when fatigue slowly takes over and lets the mind drift up to the point where mind and body are asleep. Sleep is in most cases a necessary and important part of life and although dreams are an essential part of a good night sleep they not only are poorly understood but are very hard to control. In certain situation however controlling ones dreams becomes a necessity that is hard to ignore.  

           

He lay in bed tossing and turning, he knew he should get some sleep or he wouldn’t be able to properly do his job but this thought was useless at the moment. His mind was tired, he felt fatigued but for some reason his body wasn’t. He felt as if he could run a marathon at the moment which was ridiculous because he needed to sleep! His thoughts slowly turned in circles going over what he had to do tomorrow and what he had actually prepared today. He had so much to do and he really needed to get a good night sleep. He closed his eyes and tried to count sheep. Although this stupid technique never worked for him as a kid it just might work now.

1… 2…

He envisioned the place where all the sheep were kept. A huge farm with thousands of sheep running around everywhere, so many sheep that he couldn’t keep track which sheep he counted already and which he hadn’t. What a waste of time…

 

1 – The adventure

A big light is shining in my face. It blinds me. I blink a few times and slowly my eyes get accustomed to it. I’m standing on the balcony of my castle. Underneath me the eyes of my people beckon. They wait for my words, they wait for my command. I take a few deep breathes and start my speech.

“The people of Encore, My people, I regretfully inform you all that the marriage between me and the princess of Slova has been postponed.”

I stop and look at the people. They mutter, some are shocked and stare up at me with their mouths open, some shake their heads in disapproval; some are talking to their neighbors. I wait a few more moments before I continue.

“My princess and your future queen was kidnapped by our hated enemies from the land of Gillard.”

I wait once more. The crowd is now angry I can hear its restlessness, feel their eagerness to do something about this terrible deed.

“I have chosen a party of men led directly by me to bring my wife back. I believe that we will return victorious, in the time of my absence my brother will temporarily take on my duties, I take only a few well trained men with me for we alone have better chances of success”

The crowd is restless they want to join in, but I cannot risk all out war, I know the men are not prepared for it. I pray they may never need to but this they do not need to hear.

“However when the time comes we have to be ready, we have to be prepared to fight, we will not be conquered and let our enemies take us lightly! We will not be subdued! We will fight! And we will win!”

The crowd cheers. Hands rise from the crowd, my heart warms from their support.

“My brother will start recruiting people for the barracks, I want everyone who can to join and help protect the land of our forefathers. Together we will survive; together we will destroy our enemies!”

I leave the balcony with the cheering crowd behind me. Tonight will be the most important night of my life. Tonight I will get my wife back. I lost my wife for a mistake I shall not make again. I left her for but a moment, alone in the bedroom, and in that moment I heard her scream, a noise that will hunt me forever; a cry from my beloved, a cry for help that was not there, a cry that was left unanswered. By the time I reached the room she was gone with nothing but the faint scent of smoke to indicate a spell was used. I know how it was done and I know who is responsible: the wizard Lorak. The teleportation spell is one Lorak has used often. A spell he has learned in my court, the same court he left as soon as he thought himself stron enough. He now serves the land of Gillard and he will be punished for his treachery.

I summon my group. Five men stand before me. The first is a young man thinly built; he has a big grin on his face and a spark in his eyes. His sharp nose and slightly narrow forehead make him look almost like a hawk. Kira the magnificent is how he calls himself; I call him Kira the thief. He has escaped from my dungeon 12 times the last time he did so in one hour. If there is a way to get into Gillard he will find it. I have known Kira since he was a child a good kid but always loved to get into trouble and although he does get arrested on a regular basis he finds it the greatest challenge in breaking free. His one fault is his arrogance in himself.

The second man is an older man he is the strongest man I have ever met. His size is impressive for all that survey him. He is strongly built and the largest and tallest man in our group. He is very calm and quiet and has a heart as big as his body. His black hair has streaks of grey in it. His compassion and gentleness are his greatest strength and the biggest weakness. He is known as Ali the giant.

The third man is shrouded and slightly bent forward. He wears a large black robe and leans on a wooden staff. He is very sharp and extremely intelligent. He understands the ways of men and his understandings in magic are of the highest order. He is our only hope against Lorak. He never says a word and usually keeps to himself, but during my years as king I have learned to rely on his advice and have asked continually for his ideas. He calls himself Jourbayeff.

The fourth person has the eyes of a hawk, he carries a bow with him and can see as clearly at night as the shining day. His stamina is unprecedented and his tactical intuitions have proven themselves time and again on the battlefield. He is called Statislav.

The fifth is no man. This brash and often irrational woman is my sister Wilalma. She sometimes plays too much with men to my liking but her skill with the sword is equal to my own if it has not surpassed it by now. She is sometimes reckless but I am very proud of her. She can hold her ground in front of any man; she has not yet met the man who could beat her and although brass she is courageous and skilled as no other.

This group of five and me will enter Gillard and free my princess from captivity.

I do not need to speak to this group we have been talking about our plan ever since my wife was taken. We will be transported by Jourbayeff to the border of our lands as close as we dare without being seen, after which Statislav and Kira will take the head, behind them I will stand together with Wilalma and bringing the rear will be Joubayeff and Ali the giant.

That night when all is ready we set off. Joubayeff quickly takes us to the border using an ancient incantation. Darkness surrounds us and small damp bushes scrape against our legs as we set out. Statislav quickly goes forward leading us together with Kira. We quickly reach a small patrol of three men, the patrol carries small charms that will make a terrible noise if these are activated we need to take them out quietly and efficiently.

Joubayeff casts a sleeping spell and the patrol falls asleep. Kira after a quick search of the men finds a pair of keys which he places into one of his many pockets. We continue on our way, in the distance Statislav announces is the castle we are not far from it, we need be very cautious here. Kira together with Statislav go forward to gather information while we remain hidden in the damp bushes. We freeze as we hear a couple of guards talking just in front of us.

“Think the princess will really become the queen now?” we hear one guard ask another

“I don’t know, I hope not, she’s not even from here. I heard she came from Encore!”

“Really?! How come I’m always the last one to hear about these things?”

“That’s because you never listen to anyone you just talk all the time”

I fight the urge to hit the guards and clench my teeth to keep from charging at them.

The voices slowly fade away and we breathe a sigh of relief. A moment later Kira and Statislav are back, they tell us there are few guard patrols walking the grounds but nothing that will pose as a serious threat, they believe the princes to be locked in the dungeon  located somewhere near the castle, although they can not confirm this as none of the soldiers on patrol knew. We decide to go on and try to locate the dungeon.

We head out in formation once again slowly crawling forward until the first of the towers become visible in front of us. We stop and Joubayeff closes his eyes and uses his staff to draw something on the ground, he mutters something that I do not understand and small dots appear on the ground.

“What is this?” I ask

“This is a map of the castle and all its dungeons, the dots represent the living creatures stuck in these dungeons” Joubayeff answers.

I stare at the dots, there are 4 dots I can see. “Does this mean there are 4 separate dungeons?” I ask.

“Indeed, we are momentarily here” states Joubayeff pointing his staff at an area of the map that isn’t lit. A dungeon can be seen to the left of it, 2 in front (most likely under the castle) and one to the right.

We decide to split up I ask Joubayeff to cast a communication spell which will allow us to keep in contact with one another. Joubayeff and Ali the giant go towards the dungeon to the right of us, located under a separate tower, where according to Joubayeff Lorak is located. Statislav and Kira go towards the castle as they are our best chance to go unheard and unnoticed. Wilalma and I take the dungeon to our left, which is the closest one.

We walk slowly towards the entrance of the dungeon when my foot steps on something hollow. We stop and I remove the leaves and bushes. Underneath concealed we see a wooden door leading to some kind of cellar or possibly jail or dungeon. I look at the latch and pry the door open with my sword by moving the bolts out of the hole. The latch opens with a creek and I decide to enter. Wilalma stands guard outside and communicates our progress. The other teams have not yet reached their targets. I slowly go down a cold metal ladder that descends into darkness.

I reach the floor and the smell of damp and wet rot assails my nose. I try to block the scents by holding my hand over my nose. A feeling of claustrophobia and unknown terror binds me to the floor. I sit down on the ground my feet unable to move and my hands and knees shaking not from the cold but from fear.

A whisper from above wakes me from my shock. “Are you alright?” echoes the concerned voice of Wilalma.

“I’m fine it’s just very dark in here I need to wait a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dark”

“Just hurry, I don’t like staying here like this. It feels like a trap”

I stare into the darkness in front of me and slowly I manage to move forward one slow step at a time. I can now make out something on the wall to my right; I walk towards it and reach out my hand to grab hold of it. My fingers touch something slightly damp made of wood. It’s a torch!

I reach for a match in my bag and after a few tries a small beam of light shines.

I now make out a stone wall to my right and metal bars on the left, and realize I’m standing in a jail. I walk forward trying to see into the cells, I make out some shapes that seem to be moving but I can’t be sure, the light from the torch flickers and it is hard to see what is real and what a figment of my imagination.

I slowly move forward not knowing what I will find. Then a breeze of cold air hits me bringing a strong smell of damp rot. I shiver fearing what I will see. The walls seem to close in on me and I almost fall to floor in a fit of panicked fear. I struggle forward and notice I am reaching the end of this cave, on the left I notice to my horror that the cell at the end is open. My fear is nearly overwhelming me I cannot hold my torch anymore without shaking, causing the light to flicker erratically. As I near the last cell I suddenly hear a whisper that I can not make out, it sends shivers down my spine none the less and I can not move. It is only then that I realize I am in front of the open cell. I look to the left into the cell, I can see nothing but shadows, and it appears to be empty. Suddenly I hear the whisper closer and shadows moving towards me. I shake in fear the smell of rotting flesh is overwhelming and I stumble backwards in panic until my back hits the grounded wall. Panic sets over me and I turn towards the cave’s entrance. The torch falls to the ground as I run to get away from whatever it is that resides in the last open cell. Darkness is immediate, I can just make out the ladder and I jump to it trying to climb as fast as I can. I am free; I quickly climb up the ladder no longer caring what noise I make. A whisper then reaches me and to my horror I realize I recognize it.

“Don’t leave me…”

Something cold grips my foot and I let out a scream as I notice the door above me is shut and I’m trapped inside.

 

Sweat covers his face as he jumps up from his bed. The memory still vivid and real in his mind, already however the details become blurry. He quickly touches his leg expecting to feel a cold mark. All he feels however are the drops of sweat that cover his warm leg. He lets go of his leg, not sure why he was reaching for it in the first place, the feelings and memories slide back into his unconscious. The amazing sensation of fear is dissipating with the knowledge of what made him scare fading into the recesses of his mind. The names, smells and all that was become a blurry mash where nothing is coherent and all is turbulent.

He lies back down and wipes the sweat from his forehead and slowly slides back into sleep.