The Prey.

Been some time since I have posted anything. However, I have been working on this piece of writing for the last couple of months. With this time of year and with Megan and I’s love of horror/thriller movies — I wanted to take a crack at my own horror story featuring one of my favorite creatures. Would love to hear your thoughts on what type of creature it is. I assure you it is generally not the most obvious of one that comes to mind. Though it should be fairly obvious to some.

Not sure how I feel about this piece yet. As usual though it’s not about how I feel about it. I want to know what you, the reader think of this. Please, let me know your thoughts. Would love to know if this evokes any kind of emotion, I have not written anything like this before. Not with the purpose I did here, at least.

The Prey.

They’re out there. It’s far too quiet for them not to be.

Candles burn as I sit at a lone cherry-wood table in the only chair within this cabin. The Moon has waned deeply and there is little light aside from my small beacons.

I cannot see the creatures, or is it creature? Heard so many noises on my way out it’s difficult to tell. I can remember only singular breathing on the back of my neck when I found this journal within the nearby mines.

Looking down at my leg I can see that my wound from the fall has not bled through its dressing. Before continuing with my find I contemplate ripping off the other long sleeve but decide against it.

The book is so burned, dry, and ashen that pages just crack and fall out as singular leaves. Few can be read but one actually catches my attention. It’s barely legible chicken scratch but the point gets across clearly:

It’s true. All of it. Every word.

Many that also could have served me more information are damaged into obscurity. I frantically shift all the loose pages around the table searching for something else to give me any kind of clue what owned that hot breath with stench of rotten flesh. There’s a stain on my left shoulder. A yellow-brown mucous that has hardened and fused to my skin. I refuse to give thought to what it could be doing to me otherwise. There must be answers within the journal. There must be.

Another legible page, though this one is sketches with notes. One of an appendage, curled and many-knuckled. It is sparsely haired with a rough rock bespeckled hide and a long, curved, bulbous black stinger — at its end.

I can’t be bothered with details like those right now, it’s the mucous, what about the mucous?

In frustration and desperation my hands fling the majority of the papers flipping & crashing into the rotten wood floor beneath my feet. Many of the dry pages break into multiple pieces on impact. I can’t be bothered with them any more, just need to wait until the light comes and the doctor will have a visit from me.

Besides, if there is anything about this shit on my shoulder in there it’s not like I can do anything about it until the morning anyways. Just need to calm myself down and try to sleep for the night. The feeling of being chased seems to have gone. It’s not so quiet out there now.

After blowing out the candles, I lie down on my back with my hands clasped over my chest looking straight into the ceiling. For a moment I second guess myself and look back over at the table. Won’t be much use to myself getting to the doctor if I’m too tired to walk in the morning. Gotta go through with it.

Giving an exhausted sigh I close my eyes and focus on the wind.


I can tell it is light out because it is shining through my eyelids. They’re just proving quite difficult to open. If I could move my arms towards my eyes to find out what is going on it would be useful. That’s just it though, I am completely immobile.

Through what seems like an hour of effort I am able to pry my eyelids open. They crack slowly, painfully. It feels as though I have eyelashes pulled out and stuck to each, other lid. With eyes open it’s noticeable I’m still positioned in the same spot lying on my back staring at the ceiling.

It is morning, and the sun is out. Nothing more can be discerned because I cannot move my neck and my eyes can’t see any part of me other than my nose.  That’s when I cross my eyes and see it — the mucous. It’s spread from my shoulder to everywhere on my body, like an infection.

My mind goes into panic mode for a moment but logic kicks in almost immediately. I literally cannot do anything. Can’t jostle myself or move in any way to attempt an escape, entirely immobile and vulnerable. The only thing to be done is hope that the spreading is over and given time the substance will break down and weaken enough for me to break free.

As the waiting goes on and time passes I begin to feel the wood underneath me shift. Though I am unable to move myself it does not seem that I have fused to the floor beneath me.

The panels on the floor move all around me. From head to toe, and left to right. Almost as if the cabin is sizing me up and down — feeling my weight and shape. There’s a discomfort rising from my gut and into my throat. I swallow loudly. Though the mucous has hardened all over my entire body it is porous enough for sweat to make it through. My senses are hyper-elevated, ears hearing the fear-sweat from my head dripping onto the wood.

That’s when I feel and smell that hot breath again. Coming through the floorboards directly underneath my head. Long, slow, hungry breaths. The stench of death overpowering and many layered, all that much stronger than the night before.

Whatever it is beneath me stays for what feels like an eternity. Nothing but that oppressive predatory breathing — smelling of rotten animal carcass left on the road. A pattern begins of three short breaths in quick succession followed by a long inhale and then low, rumbling exhale from deep in the throat.

I hear scratching start on the floor. Can feel the movement of the boards again but this time it is different. It feels more impatient than inquisitive. It’s everywhere below me and sounding a bit violent.

Experiencing this wakes the panic in me again. It’s been a number of hours since the morning and I have been attempting to gain some range of movement in my head and neck. As I suspected the organic mucous encasing me has been worn down from time and all of the sweat that I have been producing throughout the situation. Everywhere else it is too thick around me to make progress yet, but I can feel the encasement finally crack under the strength of my neck; able to look around at the cabin again.

Then I see it.

Just the small tip of a needle. Jet black, and glistening in the disappearing daylight. Darting in and out of the spaces between the rotten boards. All around me, and from what I can hear… taking little picks at the mucous covering my back.

Starting to get very rattled now. Need to find some way to get out of this situation and get more information out of that book. The mucous only seems to be a way to immobilize prey — do not think I am in any inherent danger from the substance itself anymore.  Danger however, is very close. At this point I am almost certain it was only one creature chasing me out of the mines and that it was only ever one creature haunting this region.

Head has full range of movement now and am starting to be able to shift my shoulders a bit. All activity below me has ceased for the time being and outside of the cabin is quiet. The sun is nearly below the horizon. I’ve begun to be able to use my neck and shoulders as a lift to rock back and forth and flip myself over. After a minute my rocking has enough momentum for me to get the full one-hundred-eighty degrees. My shoulder slowly rounds the apex of the rotation until my chest falls flat onto the ground with a thud.

I hear the hardened mucous on my stomach and knees crack and buckle.

Under the new weight, my arms have increased freedom within their prison. As I wriggle them under me I see that my nose lies between two of the rotten boards and there is a sliver about a quarter inch wide through which I can see blackness. There is little light outside and unless I can free myself there will be none inside shortly.

Carefully scanning the sliver of blackness to spot my tormentor I work my arms free of their trappings. The flakes of the broken and removed mucous rap lightly on the floor like rice shaken in a glass jar. Some fall through the space between the boards but make no sound to be heard. Now that my arms and chest are free I’m able to flip over again and begin to pull the cocoon off myself. Starting with my face I rip off flakes of the stuff, scratching all over and rubbing off as much as I can. As if shampooing, my hands frantically run across my scalp. I use as much strength as possible to dig my fingernails into the crust and rip it off.

There comes a point where I see my black hair come off with it, flakes at a time. Then a sharp pain near my forehead and the drip of blood off my brow which I see land on my still encrusted legs. When I bring my hand down from my forehead I can see more blood covering it, and with this newest flake — skin.

So that’s it then, it is truly fused with my skin.

Upon swallowing loudly It feels as if my throat goes down into my ankles. My chest empties and I am struck with the paralyzing fear that if I survive, this disfigurement could be incurable. What would it continue to do with my body moving forward? What is it doing inside of me even now? Forcing logic to kick back in I work my legs free, as much as possible until getting to my jeans.

I am lucky to have been wearing clothes. The mucous fused to my clothing, but not as much my skin underneath it like with my face and head. Though it takes a layer of two of skin with it to start, I am able move within my clothing and not have it injure me by ripping me apart. I leave as much of the shit on me as I can otherwise, just to protect myself and my skin until I can find a doctor. I must look like the thing, made out of what can only be described as rotten Butterfinger flakes. I dare not work my mouth free — and am surprised with all the mucous coverage that my nostrils were mysteriously unaffected.

Now, able to move again I stand up and limp to the table to get the candles lit. I’ve noticed that it has been quite some time since any activity below me. With the impatience of the scratching earlier I find that perplexing. There’s no time to wonder, however. I light the candles to assess my situation and figure out what to do.

With light again filling the cabin around me I try to look at the leaves of paper scattered all over the floor from the night before. It’s no use, the only pages with anything legible are the ones I found already. For all the shifting below me throughout this ordeal the door to the outside hasn’t budged an inch. The windows are still boarded up and the roof still has rays of moonlight shining through.

Oddly, there’s rays I remember seeing the night before that seem patched up now. Am I remembering correctly? Easily could be not thinking clearly right now. I haven’t had any food or water in almost twenty-four hours. At this point don’t believe I have any choice but to brave the outside. Not spending another day with that creature below the floorboards.

After gathering my things together into the backpack and throwing it over my roughly encrusted shoulder I step towards the door and open it with a creak. On the swing of the door I hear an immediate whoosh above the roof and the rays of moonlight I remember within the cabin re-appear.

Now, frozen solid at the threshold of the cabin I re-assess my decision. Are there two creatures? One above and one below? Which is the better course of action? To die of dehydration? Or… whatever fate waits for me out there.

Deciding there’s no going back I step out into the woods. Small fallen twigs crunch beneath my foot on the very first step. I wait, nervously. There are no other sounds. Then I look up into the sky and see a cloudless night — lit by a crescent moon. We’re waxing now, it is larger than the night before. There’s slightly more light to go off of. Craning my neck all around I see no sign of the thing that made the noise above the cabin.

I start hobbling, slowly, towards outside of the woods and back to my car.


Eyes having adjusted to the night at this point, figure I have made it about half of the five miles from the abandoned mining town to where I have parked. The forest has stayed eerily silent this entire time. All I can hear is the shuffling of my right leg dragging behind the stomping of my left. Flakes of the mucous are still falling off me with every step. My skin dry, cracked, and in constant pain. Blood, seeping from where the joints bend.

Then, a shadow overhead. I feel it wash over me and watch it slink across the forest debris below. I can’t believe with my eyes the shape of the shadow itself — and when get the courage to look up at the place it came from, the forest is too thick above to see through.

This shadow had a great bat-like wing span, wide body, and lengthy pointed tail. It doesn’t make any sense. Nothing about this makes sense. All I wanted to do was find out more about the mysterious disappearance of an entire town and mining operation. Gone over a hundred years ago in one night. None ever to be seen again.

Now I’m limping ever more frantically towards my car, maybe another mile to go? Starting to get more confident that I may get out of this and be able to get to an urgent care. Breathing heavily through my nostrils I can feel the wound on my leg crack open from the trek.

I fall with a muffled scream, something’s very wrong. Upon looking at my right leg I see that the mucous had found its way through the dressing and inside of the wound solidifying the flesh within. My leg has snapped in two just above the knee cap. Separated entirely from the rest of my body is my knee, shin, and foot. Just lying there. Dead and decaying.

Instinctively touch my forehead to feel the spot where I had ripped off some of my flesh with the mucous. It had already hardened again. Heart pounding in my chest I start to pull myself forward with my arms. Dragging myself across the earth and pushing with my left leg. Muffled grunting and screaming with desperation I see the glint of moonlight reflecting off my car’s windshield maybe five-hundred feet ahead of me now.

Then a crushing weight on my back. Enough to stop me in my tracks and make me cough through my nose. Five claws pulsate entering and exiting my lower back at once, in close proximity. Breathing on the back of my head again. Three short breaths in quick succession followed by a long inhale and then low, rumbling exhale from deep in the throat.

My chin dug into the ground I can at least see straight forward. In front of me is the appendage from the journal. Dancing around from left to right stabbing the dirt and leaves in front of my eyes, playfully. Now I know my time is up and have to look. Have to see, just to know before the end.

When I start to turn my head I hear a whoosh, and bat-like wings envelop me removing all light.

Next I smell and feel the wet stench of death, closer than ever before. Saliva dripping onto the back of my head, jaws envelop my skull.

It’s true. All of it. Every word.

 

Thank you for reading.

If you have interest in reading anything else I have written please check the Table of Contents, here.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photo by littlenySTOCK edited by Trevor Elms ©2017

G.E.P.

This was something I wrote as a writing prompt for my college English class (2008). I believe it was for my final. I edited a chunk of it some time ago (August 2015) but I believe it is still pretty rough. I was doing a lot of drugs at the time of originally writing it.

I originally had a plan that spanned tens of thousands of years and included intergalactic space travel. This is yet another world in my head that has been abandoned and stagnant since the last word I put down.

Let me know your thoughts.

{Goldschmidt, Eldredge, Pinker}

1

“Ouch that’s friggin’ hot!” 

I had just burned my hand on a fresh mug of coffee. My palm felt the painfully cool sensation of a new burn. It slowly transformed into the nag that is a lingering tingle of pain.

The perfect cherry on top of a wonderful week! I thought to myself as I scratched at what was left of the saggiest, wettest, most boring pile of scrambled eggs I have ever ordered. Why did these crazy diners excite me so much as a child? I looked up from my disgraceful plate to see a young man walk in, he stumbled a little as he got to the counter… seemingly addled.

Taking a sturdy seat next to me to support his shivering shins the man ordered a glass of lemonade. I didn’t mean to judge, but I thought it odd that a man with his… style would order anything less than a beer in his condition. It may have been 7:38 a.m., but were I in such a condition I would order heavier.

He sported a dusty, sweaty dark blue cap, which was supported by a mat of unkempt light brown hair. He had a few scrapes and shiners on his face. His clothing was covered in dirt, the button-down dress shirt was tattered in awkward places all over his chest and back. His Khaki jeans seemed to have seen better times. However, what truly caught my attention was the look in his eyes. He was drenched in the gaze of complete and utter shock. When I took the last bite of my plate I looked up at the cute girl behind the counter and asked for my bill. She had a smile I feel I’ll always remember.

My coffee still had a ways to go, so I took the opportunity to try and spark up a conversation with the man who sat down recently. I picked up my mug and sipped from it. I looked at the clock and said “I knew someone had a rougher night than I did, care to share?”

I had only begun to speak the first word when he jumped in surprise. He was obviously still on edge so I spoke as calmly and monotone as possible. I’ve found speaking like this is best when dealing with someone who’s not entirely in reality. They don’t feel patronized or attacked.

The man slowly turned his head towards me and said quite excitedly, “Man, I would love to tell you, really, but it would take way too much time — and honestly, I know I look crazy as it is… but this will only make you think I’m fuckin’ insane!” He exclaimed this in an unexpectedly jubial tone, and I was reaffirmed not to assume anything in life.

“Well, I don’t have a single obligation to fulfill today and I’m just driving my truck to wherever roads take me at the moment. We’re kind of in a barren, useless stretch of land. I see you have no mode of transportation. Going anywhere?”

“Nope, not going anywhere… don’t know where I am really, that’s a part of the story. Would you mind a tag-along adventurer?” After this I turned from looking into his eyes back to the clock. 7:46, eight minutes and my coffee was gone?

I played with the coffee spoon in my hands, twirled it finger by finger thinking to myself. I didn’t normally do anything this spontaneous. Strangers, most people bothered me incessantly. I finally swiveled back into reality and responded.

“Actually, no. We both have stories… and I could use the company.” He smiled and went back to drinking his lemonade grasping the cup with both hands. I came to the decision at that moment that he was an odd fellow, but I liked him. The girl had dropped the bill off earlier and I hadn’t given a thought to it. 27 cents… I threw in two quarters just for the smile. I felt a better about myself.

Next, I looked over and the odd man was on the last few sips of his drink. “I’m Remy by the way” I said extending my hand towards him. He hunched over a little more and tilted his cup to drink even faster; wiped his lip with his hand and then grasped mine with the same. I felt a wet lemonade embrace and he bellowed

“I’m Gep! Nice to have a direction!”

“Well Gep, I believe it’s time we head out, did you pay your bill?” He nodded so we started to walk towards my truck parked outside. I pointed to it and mumbled “It’s not the best beast but she still fires up and goes wherever I need her to.” Gep just looked at the dark green Chevy 3100 and once again nodded. I figured he was deep in thought, so didn’t comment on his recent silence. Reaching the driver’s side I pulled open the rusty door and plopped down into the seat sighing heavily. I looked to my right and noticed what Gep was doing. Moreso what he wasn’t. He just stood there – staring at the door. “Gep, you okay man?” he looked up at me instantly but it took him a few seconds to process the question.

“Yeah… yeah! I just, I don’t know how to proceed from here.” This took me off guard completely. Who in their right mind doesn’t know how to open a truck’s door? It’s not like they were recently invented. It’s 1955 for God’s sake!

With his attention still focused on me through the dusty car window I replied, “Just push in the little silver button on the right of the handle, and pull on it.” Gep did this and jumped back in surprise as the door swung outwards towards him.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at his actions; his oddities grew on me every minute I spent with him. I motioned him out of his daze and into the truck so we could get a move on. Once inside the truck he didn’t close the door until I explained why it had to be closed in the first place. I turned the key, fired up the engine and rolled away from the diner. Gep rode quietly next to me for a short while before he commented.

“I like this thing, it’s rugged and I can feel the ground moving quickly beneath me, what do you call it?”

I had to use all of my self-control to not give him a confused look and just replied without thinking. “It’s an automobile, more specifically a 1953 Chevrolet 3100. It’s brand new actually. Well, to me it is.”

“Automobile huh, and you take this anywhere you want?”

His questions reminded me of a small child, perhaps it’s why I enjoyed his company so much.

“Well, anywhere these roads go. I could take it off-road, but it would be pointless and against the law.” I knew answering this would only lead to more questions, but I might as well. The added company took my mind off of more depressing matters.

Gep turned away from me to stare are the road ahead, his head cocked a little. I saw him rise suddenly to ask a question but he stopped himself. I took the opportunity to turn on the radio for a little time to process all that happened to me in the last 72 hours.

Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes was playing… not really my kind of music but it was background noise. I noticed, and should’ve guessed that Gep would be staring at the radio intently. I didn’t bother him for a time. I felt like a little silence in the drive would be soothing.

As we continued on I was deep in thought for a good ten minutes before I looked over again. He was still deeply focused on the radio, “What’s up Gep?” His reaction to sound was always so instant. Then it took him a little longer than I’m used to for him to to respond.

“…Oh, just surprised by the technology present is all.”

“You can change the station if you’d like, I don’t have a preference to what is playing” as I spoke I turned the knob on the right a little to show him how, the station changed and Mystery Train by Elvis chimed in from the static.

“No need, I like this one”

After this, Gep laid back in his seat and closed his eyes. I thought he must be tired so I drove on and let him sleep. We were driving east towards Boston, almost as far I could get without flight. So I quietly drove on with “Mystery Train” leading the charge. It was fitting, for I had no idea what was in store for the future. I was doing what I always did. Living in the present.

I was hoping to reach Denver sometime tomorrow, so I kept my foot on the gas and hoped for the best. I found it interesting that between songs on the radio I couldn’t hear Gep breathing. He was so calm and quiet as he slumbered. The complete opposite of his coherent self.

It started to get dark on I-15, and I had to get to Fishlake national forest at some point to take a rest. I would’ve handed Gep the keys and told him to drive. It was just with his reactions to just about everything car related  I wasn’t up for the mental stress it would cause me.

As the road continued on it was straight, empty, and boring. An ever growing black line that shoots off into the distance.

I fell into a zombie like trance. Foot – steady, unmoving on the gas pedal. Eyes – locked and focused on the darkness in front of me. My mind was empty for the first time in days, regardless of all the odd happenings that occurred since I left San Diego. It was blank, and content.

Then I heard it. BOOM! Like a sawed-off shotgun had gone off directly under my front right tire. In that moment Gep snapped out of his slumber instantly. His arms flailed and went straight to the dashboard in front of him and he screamed “Ack! Nuclear blast! We’re doomed!”

I of course, knew both that we weren’t doomed and that my tire had just popped from a bit of bad luck. So I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped slowly. The brakes of my truck screeched a little as it came to a stop. I coughed and looked over at Gep for the first time since his outburst. He was wide-eyed and panting heavily, absorbed in absolute fright.

I snapped my fingers twice in his direction while saying his name and he slowly turned his gaze onto me. “Gep, Nuclear war? We’re the only ones with A-Bombs, and we dropped one on Hiroshima and Nagasaki nearly ten years ago. What’s got you so freaked out?” His face suddenly grew calmer and more relaxed. He turned away from me, shook his head and didn’t even respond. I took this as a cue that he wasn’t ready to tell me too much about himself yet. So I opened the door and went to take a look at the tire.

I was lucky to have a spare in the back, otherwise I wouldn’t have been nearly as cool-headed at the time. There was a chill in the air as I walked around to the back of my truck, back in California I rarely saw my breath, so I zipped up my brown flight jacket and flipped up the collar.

The bed was rusted shut so I had to grip the side with my hands and hoist myself in. My jack and tire were laid out in the scratched up bed like they had been sliding around for months. Though I had only put them in there recently. I picked up the tire and felt my fingers begin to numb from the weather.

I gotta get this shit done with quickly, I thought to myself as I tossed the tire to the ground. It bounced once and landed with a thud on the pavement. I had to be a little more careful with the jack so I knocked on the window behind Gep’s head to get his attention. I think he was starting to get used to the way I would interact with him because this time he didn’t jump so badly. He turned to look at me and asked “Yes, Remy?”

“Could you come help me get this jack out of the back of my truck? I need to hand it to someone. ‘Cause getting out of this thing is kind of a hassle.” He immediately had a bit of a trial with getting out of the truck, but this time he just figured it out for himself.

After finally popping out of the door he walked to the side and held out his hands as if he were accepting a present from a god. I smirked at him and placed the jack in his waiting arms just to see them drop quickly from a weight he wasn’t expecting. It took every fiber of my being not to laugh at him when I asked the question “Did you not expect that hunk of metal to weigh anything, bud?” This time he responded instantly without looking.

“Guess I’m just not used to this gravity.”

As he mumbled he was intently inspecting his hands. Now, I knew when I met him, Gep was different. However, his answer was a little more startling to me than anything else he had ever said. I better confirm I heard correctly

“Did I hear you right? Did you just say you’re not used to gravity?” There was a long silence that followed after the exchange where the two of us just looked into each other’s eyes. It was the first time I noticed his eye-color. A light grey, they almost glowed in the moonlight.

I could sense him thinking around in his head for an answer and had the feeling my night was going to get a little weirder.

2

The expression on Gep’s face gave me the impression that he was conflicted on how to reply. His brow finally un-furrowed and he spoke to me like I had to him for the whole day. “Okay, so you know how I said in the diner that if I told you my story, you’d think I’m crazy? Well here goes — I am not from this time period. Where I come from radios don’t exist anymore, they are obsolete pre-apoc technology. I do not live on the planet Earth, and I’m not used to its gravitational force. You could not possibly understand the type of trouble I could cause for telling you what I just have.”

It was at this point I dropped everything I was doing, jumped out of the back of the truck, determinedly walked to the passenger side of the car, ripped open the glovebox and opened my wooden lockbox. Inside was a pack of Lucky Strikes I had saved for when I just couldn’t handle it any longer.

I knew when she left me I’d eventually start back up, I guess now is prime time to do so; I thought as I lit up the first butt. Immediately satisfied from the head-rush and body buzz of extra nicotine flooding into my system I leaned up against the wheel well and turned my head to look at Gep, who was still watching me intently for my reaction.

“Okay… okay, okay okay okay, so… so assume I believe every word that just came out of your mouth.” I was stumbling from not knowing where to proceed with the conversation. “What year, exactly, are you from then?”

He sighed and said “The year 3422 A.D. as you would understand it, but it’s more the year 1410 Terrestris Divexo, or T.D. After the destruction of earth.” Before I asked him the next question he answered it “No, the homo species has not created time travel technology yet, I am here by coincidence only, and before I get into the whole story of how I got here or what I plan to do, lets finish getting this job of yours done.”

I looked at my still-burning cigarette and saw that it was already halfway gone. Another one would find it’s way to my lungs shortly after I took my last hit from it. Not only did I have some labor ahead of me, but I had just been hit by a ten ton truck of crazy and I wasn’t sure of what to believe. There was something behind his demeanor that gave me the feeling I was caught up in what was truly history in the making.

After applying the spare and an awkward long silence between the two of us I made my way back to the front seat.

Replacing the tire had given me time to think on the events that had transpired. I had decided that Gep was a raving madman, maybe one of those hippies who ate too many drugs and lost his grip on reality. There was no way in hell anything he said had any actual substance. Though, since he seemed very convinced of who and where he came from, I decided to not delve any further into his personal life. I wanted to show him I still enjoyed his company by telling him a little about myself.

I looked over at Gep subtlety to get insight on his mind before grabbing his attention. He seemed closed in and quiet – resolved. Almost as if he was punishing himself mentally. His eyes were closed, and he stood very still with a grimace upon his face. His breathing was far too erratic and and untimely for him to be sleeping. Something about what happened earlier in the night had affected him greatly. Was he speaking the truth?

He suddenly snapped out of his introspection and spoke up. “Sorry, to ask this of you, but may I inquire, where we are headed…” he paused for a moment then continued “…and if I’m not probing, why?”

I pulled out another cigarette. I sparked it up and blew out my first hit; things are shitty enough without inhaling butane. After taking my first real drag I responded.

“So, we’re about to get to Fishlake national forest to rest for the night. You know I’m driving a far distance but I haven’t told you why. You see, I’ve been living in San Diego for the past few years with my Fiancé. We were happy… for awhile. She did all she could to keep me on track in life. I was healthy for myself, so I could live a long life with her.

And then it happened, she was ripped out of my existence. One second I was assured on where my life was going, and the next thing I knew, she was just a body I had to identify at the morgue.” I could see a tear roll down the right side of Gep’s face from the reflection in the window beside him.

“And so, I sold everything I owned, bought a decent rig to carry me where I wanted to go, and I’m headed for Boston. I don’t know why, I may find a reason before I get there. Or, I may get sidetracked on the way. All I know is, I don’t plan to stop until life gives me a sign that it’s not all pain, persistence, and punishment for past deeds done.”

Sadness welled up inside me after the last sentence, I had to hold the tears back even though I could feel the hard shock through my body to just burst out in wails of depression. Now was not the time, gotta keep composure until he’s asleep.

I had refused to look Gep in the eyes the whole time I was telling him my story. There was something within them that pierced me. Like he could feel what I felt. it was an odd connection that made me a little uncomfortable. It was something that took me years to develop with my fiancé, or any person for that matter.

What was so different about him? When he turned to look at me we finally locked our gazes and he responded softly. “You should not blame yourself for the natural.” Gep blinked and then turned to stare at the road through the windshield.

We passed a sign:  “Fishlake National Forest 15 mi.”

I was relieved to see it, I felt it was time to stop for the night and rest. It was one eventful and tiring day. “See that sign Gep? That’s where we’re headed to rest for the night.”

I drove the next 15 miles with hopes that my dreams would sort out the puzzle within my sub-conscience.

When we finally pulled into the national forest and parked. I turned off the car and realized that neither of us were going to sleep comfortably. That night we had a truck, in the cold, with nothing but clothing to keep us warm. I wasn’t sure if Gep had figured this out for himself so I turned to him and said “Hope you’re ready for a long night, it’s gonna be cold.”

He just nodded, closed his eyes and immediately grew calm. I was jealous of his body’s self-control, and still chilly from earlier in the night after changing the tire. For some reason my hands just refused to get warm, and that made the rest of my body frigid. Maybe I was just focusing on it too much. My mind  then wandered to less negative things. The warmth her smile would always shower me with, the calm nature of her touch, and the energy that filled me from her laughter. My breathing grew more relaxed, and my eyes began to stay closed without effort. Maybe I’ll see her there…

When I woke up to the sunlight beaming on my face in the morning, I looked to see if Gep was up. He was still in the exact same position as before, and once again I could not hear breathing. Though the stillness of death was surely not present.

My dreams were… surreal to say the least. I could not label them as a nightmare. Though I did have to re-live multiple dimensions of the same scene, repeatedly. Most was a blur, but what I remembered was the general idea. I had to keep moving forward.

I opened the door slowly and as quietly as possible to not startle him. My feet went one after the other to the gravel crunching beneath them. There was still a chill in the air, the oxygen I breathed was crisp and seemed fresh. Well, I am in a national forest.

I shook my head and continued to pace away from the vehicle. I reached into the front pocket of my flight jacket and fiddled around for my pocketwatch. I had to see what time it was, regardless of not having a plan, I had shit to do that day. 7:38… why did that have a familiar ring to it? Well, at least I knew the sun would be out for awhile.

My hand went to the cigarette I had left in my ear the night before, and there was nothing. I grasped naught but a few pokes from my buzzed hair. The next thing I knew there was a presence behind me. I didn’t hear him, but Gep had come to my side and brandished a worn, sweat stained cigarette in my peripherals.

“Looking for this?” I turned my head slightly to focus on the cigarette, grabbed it gently and popped it in my mouth. “You know. When I come from, those things don’t exist anymore. They have no point but to diminish your health.” My eyebrow raised in response and I looked Gep in the face.

“Ha! You know, if these are what kills me, that’s the last thing I’m worried about. At least they keep my mental health secure. This when you come from, where do you live? What do you do?”

His eyes closed and he breathed deeply while thinking for a response. His arms raised in direction of the sun and he uttered boldly and proudly. “Well, in the Year 2012, four years into the tenure of the first African American president of the United States of America. World War III broke out. The civilized world as we knew it, was blown off of the face of the planet. Only the tallest peaks, and the most secluded islands were saved. Billions of people’s lives were swiped clean of nature’s soil, and the Human race as it was known was reduced to tribes.

People would scour the planet’s ruins to come together as one, just to survive. When it came to it, we all gathered in the place where humans themselves started — Africa. The dense jungles and arid deserts were one of the few places left where life didn’t necessarily thrive, but it endured.

For a few decades people gathered, gaining strength and numbers, intelligence and order. When the collected population of the known human race grew to about a thousand strong, they moved. North from Africa they traveled, their destination? What you know now as the U.S.S.R.

They were trying to get to the space center. If there was any hope for survival of the human race, it was no longer on Earth. They had to get to a space-faring ship and similar to your Pilgrims sail into the black abyss of the universe hoping for the best.” It was at this point I was finally snapped out of my awe-filled stupor and had a question to ask.

“Wait, hold on. Spaceship? We haven’t even gotten one man in Space yet. How do you expect me to believe a thousand people were just going to fly out into space and hope for the best, what are they to survive on? They can’t bring food or water for a thousand people that can last for years. Show me this spaceship of yours.” When I rebuked Gep’s eyes jarred open, he looked at me for the first time since he started his monologue, sighed, and continued .

“I was going to get to that if you would let me explain. 1467 years of human history is a lot, and this is extremely condensed.”

He paused again, I must have made him lose his train of thought for a moment. “Due to radiation mutation, water no longer sustained the people who survived on earth’s crust. It was a catalyst for gross mutations of the human body, people had to survive off of the material that was left behind, metals and soil. Water as we knew it became a liquid of death.

Some wildlife existed to be eaten, but it was few and far between. These new humans had changed. Their teeth were stronger than anything before and could cut through steel. Their bodies were rough and agile from traversing the ruins and living off of barely anything. Chemistry of the human body had changed.

However, their minds had not. Intelligence still grew, and evolved just as fast as their bodies. When they arrived in the U.S.S.R. they gathered all the materials they could, and spent another 30 years developing new technology – preparing a ship that could fit all those gathered, and sustain them for however long was needed.

Luckily there was enough raw metal around to sustain those people for thousands of years. Something positive about the destruction of the iPod age I guess.” iPod age? What is he talking about? “When the ship was built they set off not knowing where their decision would take them. Just hoping that our species could survive to continue the chronicling of our existence, to be eternal.”

This explanation of the planet’s future had me taken aback. It all sounded far too much like story-books and radio-shows. I had to wonder why Gep didn’t look like the beings he described.

“Why don’t you look like those humans, Gep?” I stared intently at him, probing, hoping for some sign of dishonesty.

“Because Homo-Sapiens no longer exist. I may look similar to you, but I am wearing a guise. The Homo base still exists, but races as we know it, are nothing. The Homo genus has rapidly evolved into multiple separate species in 1300 years. That ship, the H.S.I. Darwin, stopped at different planets within the Milky Way galaxy. Those thousand beings, came off the ship, 50 to a hundred at a time, wanting to carve out our existence on multiple stations. So what happened to our Mother Earth, may never happen again.”

Just like when I told the story of losing my fiancé, I saw a tear roll down the side of Gep’s face. I felt like there was a lot of deep thinking I had to do, and that it was time once again. To move on…

3

We had left the National forest hours before. Not a word had been said since the future of the human race had been explained to me. I personally didn’t know what to believe.

It all sounded scripted and way too well thought out. Too much like one of those science fiction novels. There was something about his demeanor, it gave me that one bright nagging thought in the recesses of my mind. What if it’s all true? If it was, I could live to see the day of Earth’s destruction. It was 1955 and I was 24 years old, I would be 81 when shit hit the fan. Even if I do decide he’s crazy, this reality of his is going to screw with me forever.

The road had been nothing but canyon and switchbacks for miles, it was hard to not go into a trance. The back and forth repetitive nature of the trek began to wear on me. I had passed a sign a few miles before, I was only 130 miles from Denver. It wouldn’t be too long now before I could relax in a bed, and have true alone time to gather myself.

I most definitely did not regret picking up a mysterious eccentric stranger at the diner. Yet I still hadn’t had time to escape into myself fully.

There wasn’t an awkwardness between Gep and I, but I could feel a conflicting energy. I felt like he understood my emotions. Why at times I wouldn’t respond, or even truly acknowledge his presence. Though I knew like me — there were times where his thoughts would cross into wondering what gears truly were turning in the other’s head at the moment.

Just to have something to do I tried turning on the radio. Static, just as I thought.

These mountains gave a very secluded, commanding presence. Back in California I rarely visited the peaks to the north, so visiting a different aspect of the nature within the world was enlightening. Even though I didn’t fully, or even really remotely believe the information that flowed from his mouth, there was a strong message within it that I took to my advantage.

Respect this planet, love it for the things it brings into my life, because one day, it might not be around to bring everyone their personal joy.

We reached Denver sometime after noon of that day. I was relieved for I could find a place to sleep comfortably, and by my lonesome. There was something about the state of Colorado that I was drawn to. It may have been the majesty of the mountains in the west I had driven through, or the calm plains in the surrounding area, but it had an energy to it that I fell in love with instantly.

Gep had been quiet the rest of the drive. We had not spoken since the time at Fishlake. There was a small motel on the outskirts of the city that I felt was the right place to post up for the night. The parking lot was empty except for another truck. I couldn’t tell the make or year by the rust encrusted over the whole body of it, but I assumed it was owned by whoever was running the desk at the time.

I turned to Gep and smiled “Well, here we are. Denver, Colorado — this is where we’re going to stay for the night.” All the response I received was a nod, I felt like there was something going on that Gep wasn’t telling me. As I stepped from the car I lit up another butt. Gep did not follow immediately and for the first time, I truly didn’t care. I was on a mission, and it was going to be accomplished.

The sign above the door read “Motel, 6c a night” it was plain, and straightforward. There was no name to be seen or any commercial likeness attached to it. I may have lived comfortably with my wife, but when male instincts kick in, I really just want instant gratification.

The door was covered in old cracked green paint and when it swung open it gave a loud creak, there was no bell to acknowledge the man at the desk that someone had entered.

I supposed the door itself was warning enough, for the grungy man behind the counter was staring in my eyes before I noticed him there. He obviously liked his tobacco, for there was a spitoon just inches from his reclined chair beside him. “Can I help you?” the man asked with a grisly tone, had he not attempted a smile I wouldn’t have noticed the missing teeth in his grimace. What teeth left were rotting out of his skull.

My disgust must have been apparent on my face because he frowned immediately after.

I lowered my gaze to recollect myself and responded when I reached the counter. “Yes, I Would like to rent two rooms please, smoking.” The man spit and spun around in his chair to face his back to me. I heard him rummaging through an iron lockbox and the rattling of several pieces of metal being tossed about. Next thing I knew, there were two keys thrown on the counter. One had a diamond shaped wooden keychain with the numbers 738, and the other a square with the numbers 696. Is that number following me? I thought to myself as I grabbed the room-key out of superstition.

My right hand started towards the other key when the pale hand of Gep snatched it up himself. I looked to my right and there he was. I never even heard the door creak when he came in. The man behind the counter pointed to the cup to my left without looking from the novel he was invested in. I took this as a cue to drop two nickels and two pennies in it. When I turned to leave the main building to head to my room, Gep had already left the premises. I was starting to wonder if I had somehow insulted him earlier.

Once outside I flicked the finished lucky strike to the ground beneath my feet, the ember exploded into a firework of sparks. I reached the door to my room and turned the key to walk inside. There was a musty air to it, like no one had taken refuge inside for years.

Why I was assigned to the room farthest from the main building was a wonder to me, though maybe my reaction to the man behind the counter was good enough reason. Either way, I could finally relax in peace. I looked at the clock on the bed stand and it read 3:15. 738… 7+8 = 15… 3:15. Maybe I was thinking too much again, when it comes to numbers, if you’re looking for something, you’ll find it. I decided that since I hadn’t slept so well the night before, and that I was still emotionally drained, that I was going to turn in early for the night.

I went to the bathroom and splashed some water on my face. As I looked up into my reflection, I saw a figure in the shadows behind me and spun around instantly with my left hand raised in a fist to protect myself. Though I almost immediately realised it was Gep leaning against the wall beside my door. “Jesus Christ, man! You have to stop scaring me like that!” Gep frowned and responded.

“Please, don’t call me that, it’s been a common misconception ever since a band of fools decided to record what my people have taught, they changed names and interwove their own stories and teachings of a false GOD”

Now this, was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, I believed in God, he may have taken my Fiance from me. However that was for my past sins, and I was paying for them now. “Excuse me?! God is not false, and you are not Christ, he will return to usher all good to the heavens.”

Gep just smirked, I felt like he was laughing inside… it made my stomach turn and I almost felt a hatred for him.

“If by heavens, you mean outer space, then he has returned multiple times in the past to teach the one true religion on this, our Mother Earth. Peace, intelligence, and self-preservation through acts of self-sacrifice. Do not fool yourself with the teachings of an omnipotent being that has a plan, the only plan there is, is to stop the coming apocalyspe. Which won’t happen. However, you my friend are a piece of the puzzle that will save the human race.”

With this last response Gep left the room as quickly as he entered. Which was all good with me, because at this point I was seething in anger. If there isn’t a God, then why am I paying for what I did in adolescence? I sat myself in the chair on the far end of the room and lit up another cigarette before I laid down to sleep that afternoon.

4

I woke up to a thunderstorm hours later, the wind was blowing heavily and it was raining outside. Lightning crashed all along the horizon and I could not go back to sleep. I flicked the switch in my room to turn on the lone lamp on the bed stand, it enveloped the room in a slight hue of yellow, and I could see the dust floating all around me. Oh, isn’t this healthy. I looked over at the clock expecting it to be somewhere around midnight, but it was 7:38 P.M. I thought back to all of what Gep had spoken, from the time with the tire, to his absence of knowledge about automobiles and the altercation we had just before I went to sleep. Just a few hours ago. I decided I should pay a visit to him and apologize.

I had taken off my clothes before I slipped into bed so I dressed myself in a thick pair of jeans, my flight jacket, and covered my head with a towel from the bathroom. The door to my room had swung open from the wind, so I was lucky I had awakened at that moment before rainwater began to ruin the carpet. Gep’s room was a good hundred or so yards away, so I moved at a brisk pace to keep from getting drenched by the storm.

When I arrived at his door I went to knock and it swung open with his figure standing straight ahead. He beckoned me inside and I went for the chair in his room. Either it was in a different spot originally, or he had moved it beside the bed, expecting a conversation with me. I felt like I wasn’t ready for what I was about to experience.

Once he closed the door, Gep walked silently and gracefully to sit in a Half-lotus position on the bed in front of me. He stared deeply into my eyes for a moment, that greyness. Piercing was truly the only word to describe their essence. “Tell me, Remy, what is that short for, anyways?” As he inquired I could see that his demeanor when I first met him was the guise he spoke of. I didn’t understand why he asked the question, but I responded immediately.

“My given name is Datorem – I prefer Remy”

“What is your full name?”

“Datorem Biblia Vitae”

After this, Gep smiled for the first time I had met him… an array of sharp metallic teeth shone in the dim light. Why had I not noticed this before?

“Tell me, Remy, do you know any Latin?” I shook my head and his smile vanished. “Well, were you to, you would know that in latin your name means New Giver of Life. Your seed is the one that will bring humankind to its resurrection after Nuclear War tears this world to pieces.”

I could not believe the nonsense that was spouting from Gep’s mouth. Then again, just like when he told me he was not from this time period, there was something about him that made it very convincing.

“So what, what is it you’re telling me Gep?”

“I’m saying that you have a responsibility to fulfill on this planet, you will die before the apocalypse, those things you smoke are going to kill you before the age of 81, however, you will have a child within the next 3 years, and he will have a child at the age of 30. This grandson of yours will be the savior of the Human race, the one who leads them to the U.S.S.R. To shape the universe, in a peaceful image.”

“So what do I have to do? If what you speak is the truth?” It was then I began to believe in the words this other worldly being was speaking.

“You, Remy. Datorem Biblia Vitae, will travel to Boulder, and wait there for the woman in the diner that you gave an extra quarter to today. She’s fallen in love with you and knows where you are headed. From there, only time will tell if you have saved the human species.”

I woke up in a cold sweat, frightened. What happened to being in Gep’s room? Why did I wake up in my bed? I ran outside and bolted towards the direction of Gep’s room. I passed each door from 737, all the way to… 697… there was no room 696… Where could it have gone, I was there just last night! Since I was so close to the main building I walked inside and saw the same man sitting behind the counter, the clock above his head read 7:38 A.M. Panting heavily I asked “Excuse me sir, but where is room 696? My friend was staying there last night.”

The man now gave me an odd look and responded. “Look, I don’t know what mental state you’re in stranger, but you came here alone, talking to yourself. I gave you only one room, there is no room 696.” After this I ran to my truck and on the hood was a wooden square that read:

G.E.P. # 696

©2008 Trevor Elms

Mirrahk (Working Title)

This was a novel I set out to complete more than two years ago. (December 20, 2014)  I got about a week into the endeavor and then abandoned it. This is a common occurrence, you’ll find. The last I edited, not added to this piece was March 26th, 2015.

If you have any thoughts, please share them with me.

1

I sit here in the dim light of an Ether Lamp. Lost technology that is scattered around this Orb we call Mirrahk and as precious to us as food or drink. Lost technology, because we barely understand it. The only legible documented history we have — began only 400 years ago. There are tattered books and parchment around me littering any free space that could be put to better use. It is places like these; lost libraries and ruined structures that I strive to learn about all that it is we’ve lost.

Unfortunately it is not the books themselves that I am looking for; I think to myself as I tear up the pages of an illegible tome. Even still, if I could make out the ancient text on the pages it is not as though I could easily read them. My people may know what happened within the last 400 cycles but that does not mean the lost histories happened directly before the current age either. I have gleaned enough about our world to know that when the Ether was at the whim of my people it was more than a millennia ago. Ether, such a curious and dangerous thing. It’s as if it is alive, and yet, not. It seems to have a mind of its own, however through the tapestries and intact sculptures among other artifacts I have come to know that there was once a time that it and its essence were a slave to the will of my people.

My people, how far have we fallen? What happened? The book I had begun tearing apart moments earlier is now just a pile of fine shreds, ripe for lighting. All I need now is a bit of legitimate fuel. “Pike?! Piiiiiike! Where are you my girl?” – I wait in silence for only a moment before I can hear the click-clack of my Wortbeast’s hooves. She comes at a gallop through the large stone archway at the back of the room with a triplet of thick logs lodged within her curled tusks.

When Pike drops off the logs at my feet she takes a big snort and twirls three times to the left in her excitement for getting her task done. The tuft at the back of her hind legs is waving relentlessly behind her. “Yes, yes, good and smart girl you are. Here, a krabble for you my friend.” I toss the stocky, six-legged, and razor-backed creature one of the small rodents I had caught earlier in the day. She catches the bugger in mid-air and swallows it whole. Pike then stares at me for a moment, mouth open and head cocked to the side fishing for continued praise. When it is not given to her she moseys on over to my pack and lays up against it. Waiting for me to light the logs I have just placed on top of the shreds of tome I had made for kindling.

I grab the Ether Lamp and open a small window on the side. Ether Lamps may be one of the rarest of the Artifacts on Mirrahk. Part of what makes them so desirable is the flame within never dims, nor does it ever flourish. It stays the same constant light and requires no fuel. It, to an extent, seems to be a conduit to the Ether itself. The life force that permeates every facet of this world and was once the source of all technology. As an Archaeologist I have learned enough about the Ether to Weave small pieces of it to my advantage. Ether-Weave is what we called it. Controlling the forces of Mirrahk to do whatever we needed it to.

Once I feel ready, I bring my open hand to the window of the lamp and concentrate on what I want the Ether to do. I envision the flame extending like a hand to light the firepit in front of me. Slowly, it begins to extend and vine its way to the destination I request. Tendrils of flame slip in to every corner of the structure I had placed in the pit and sit still. After a moment all gets silent and suddenly the fire pit erupts in full force. Ready to keep whatever may be looking in the distance exactly where it is for the remainder of the night.

It is good that fire keeps one safe, as the art of Ether-Weave has some very dire consequences. Once my concentration is broken and the flame is lit, the Sickness comes upon me. Not a debilitating pain, but hallucinations. Ones that make any kind of concentration nigh impossible. The books littering the floor of the ancient library are now an ocean in every direction around me and move back and forth like the waves themselves. Pike is ready for this. She positions herself thusly to protect me if anything is to go awry. I have only weaved a small amount of Ether so the hallucinations do not stay for long. Perhaps five minutes have passed before the reality that is given to my eyes goes back to the familiar.

Not much is known about the Sickness and why it is now caused by Weaving. To some, it is believed Anathema – cursed by the priests of the old world when it fell.  To others, a taint; caused by some attack on the Ether by a force unknown. There are few now with the ability to Weave at all, let alone Weave with success and not be so affected by the Sickness.

It is this reason why I search for our History. I search for why we fell, how the Sickness came to be, and how I can conquer it. I’ve come to this Library in search of a map to an ancient Lucracian city. The Avian People of Mirrahk who fell from grace even before the Humans themselves. Or so I have attempted to piece together in the years since I began this journey.  It is there, in the city, I believe I can find some kind of clue to the Origin of the Sickness. Perhaps, I can even find some insight to the Lucracian’s history and their relation to Ether-Weave.

I must wait for the light to return, I think to myself as I begin to unravel my bedroll from the pack Pike is sleeping against. It is in the light of day that I will journey deeper into the library in hopes that my clues to the location of this map did not lead me astray.

Tomorrow we discover a path. – Is my final thought before drifting off to sleep.

2

Rays of sunlight proudly hammer against my eyelids through the crumbling roof above my head. I wake up to the early morning chirping within the forest. Looking about my surroundings I can see nothing has moved from the night before. The scattered objects around me seem to have only been moved by Pike’s own brutish “organization” in attempt to clear an area we no longer need. Everything is pushed aside from where the fire had burned itself out and from where she had decided to sleep. There is also a nice spot cleared around a pile of dead krabble she expects me to prepare for breakfast. There is no time for cooking at this moment, I shake my head with a smile at the beasts attempt to tell me what to do.

Once I have everything packed up, and the Ether Lamp safely attached to my belt I set out to find Pike before delving into the wet corridors below this eerie place. I could call her, but this is a moment of peace and certainty before heading into the unknown. The Sickness is not just what happens to people who attempt to Ether-Weave. As Ether lives within everything on Mirrahk whether it be stone or soul; there are a great many things that have been twisted by the Sickness itself.

From what I have learned, there are animals of Mirrahk that used to be attuned to the Ether in ways us Humans were. The difference being that they could not choose when or when not to tap into it. They were always living in tandem with the Ether. When the world fell, so did they. They have become twisted mirrors of the elegance they used to project.

Now, these creatures are the Forsooth. Rabid and dangerous beings that will break your mind before devouring your flesh as you scream in madness. I can only hope that we do not encounter one today, as I search the surrounding flora and fauna for my Wortbeast.

Of course, it does not take me long to find her. Krabble hunting is definitely something she favors in this life. I come upon her whooping and snorting up a tree in attempt to catch one that has gotten away from her. Krabble’s are not the smartest things around, but they do have personality. This one Pike had been chasing has decided to toy with her and sits perched upon a branch throwing seeds between her eyes to be antagonistic.

If they weren’t such ugly creatures inside and out, I might feel bad for what I was about to do next. It’s only a little, it should be worth it. I think cautiously as I pick up a palm-sized pebble from the dirt at my feet. I again open the window of the Ether Lamp on my waist and hold my palm out flat with the pebble resting in the center. I concentrate on what I want to happen with my free hand hovering over the open window. With just a flick of my thoughts the pebble rises an inch from my palm and crack! It travels at indiscernible speed towards the target – hitting it square in the skull. The krabble topples over the branch and in to Pike’s awaiting jowls.

This was an even smaller Weave than the night before. So small that the only effect is to enhance all the colors of the forest and make my eyes sensitive to sunlight. It gives me a small headache and I sit down for a moment to catch my bearings. Pike prances over to me with her prize and nuzzles her snout into my chest. When the contrast of the world has gone back to normal and sunlight is no longer blinding; I rub her head and grab the krabble to stuff in my pack.

“Come, Pike. We have pressing matters to attend to.” I speak with fervor to get her to focus. We are not far from the Library, and the day is early – but it is getting drearier by the minute. I am hoping to be in and out and have the Sun still about when I am done with my rummaging. However, if the weather turns I may just dawdle until it passes.

When we make it back to the night’s camp, everything seems to be normal. I am slightly paranoid about things that go bump in the night. They just don’t ever keep it to that time of day. Bandits especially can be troublesome and I would rather not have to spill any blood if I can avoid it. Just in case, I do an equipment check.

My belt is tightly secured around my waist, Ether Lamp clipped to the left, and my Schiavona sheathed to the right. I pat my hands down the length of my leather trousers to check their fidelity. The crisscrossing leather threads on the sides that keep them tight-form to my legs are still taught. They have no signs of wear beyond what I already know. When I get to my boots I check the double straps and buckles. I tap on the hard leather soles to make sure they are still in place. With those taps I can feel my dagger is still lodged on the inside of my right boot.  

I can sense the weight, but for some reason I still need to check my chest and make sure my shirt of light mail is still exactly where I left it. My padded leather vest completes the ensemble and I feel like I can move forward with my task confidently. There is something I am missing… what is it? Ah! The inner monologue reminds me that I hate having my hair in my eyes while I work. I pull back most of my blonde hair from the front and put it in to a half tail in the back with a leather strap. That should do it!

I complete the equipment check and feel comfortable with myself; so I take the camp pack and attach it to Pike’s frame. She comes up to my waist so it is easy to get to, and she takes major pride in protecting our things. I just always hope it doesn’t slow her down too much if her more feral side is ever needed.

 And down we go…

3

I am not sure what time of day it is any longer. The deeper we go the less cognizant I seem to be of my surroundings. This ancient place is so thick with the Ether I feel like I am swimming in a torrent of my own thoughts. I have to remind myself why I am here. The map! We must find the map!

My torch from when we first entered is still burning brightly. The last thing I want is for it to go out down here. It is dark, and the Ether is thick. Were I to Weave right now I am not sure how long and how intense the hallucinations would be. I have heard stories of Weavers who got over-confident and boastful. There is not one who has come out of their stupor.

Pike is pulling up the rear and rifling through everything she can manage. I’ve been able to translate a loose idea of what we are looking for to her. Enough for me to be convinced that she could be the one to happen upon it herself. I just hope she doesn’t get too excited and impale it on one of her tusks.

I can see a corridor in the distance. Shelves of ancient publications line either side, and give the impression of funneling any curious individual in that direction. As uncomfortable this place made me feel from the poem a seer in Raghasbad had given to me. This hallway made it seem like a children’s tale.

The Ether is so thick it is visible to the naked eye. Or is it? This place is like no other I have been to in any of my travels. Raw Ether is playing with my mind. Digging inside of the folds of my consciousness, sewing doubt and confusion wherever it sees fit.

The green mist stuffing the corridor is moving. There are varying waves of thickness pushing each other around. Some up, some down, some – fighting itself? Snap out of it! You knew of the risks, you came anyways. Push forward, Heric.

 Each step is deliberate. I keep my torch arms’ length in front of me and motion Pike to stay alert. The closer I get to the mist the more my sense of reality twists. I look down at my feet to try and anchor myself to something real.

 This doesn’t help.

My feet are not moving at the same speed as my body. I move 5 meters forward, or, it seems so. Yet, I have only seen myself move one leg and take one step, and my legs are behind me. I decide it is best to keep my head up as I am pushing forward. It is better, if not by much. I can only hope at some point it subsides. There is no way I will find the map in this condition.

I am nearing the end of the corridor. The shelves on either side of me are breathing. Expanding and contracting at the same rate as my own lungs. I can now make out an archway through the mist. It is my sole desire to get there and hopefully out of this mess.

The mist is getting thinner, the archway becoming more clear. Not much farther now. I look down at my feet again and they are moving in unison with my body. Thank Mirrahk! I think the worst of it is over. It comes to my attention that I have not paid any mind to my faithful Wortbeast, not a single thought since I first headed in to the mist. I had her keeping up the rear and did not once check on her.

When I look behind me she is not there. I cannot even see enough through the mist to make sure she is okay. For now, I must press on. There is no way of finding her through that forsaken trap even if my life depended on it. I can only hope she could not bear the Raw Ether and is awaiting me at the far side.

The archway beckons me.

*******

“You are sure that is where you’ve sent him?”

“I am sure of where it is that he was told to go. I am not sure that is where he currently is at this moment.”

“We cannot afford any mistakes. This could be the difference that brings Mirrahk out of the Dark Ages. I will not allow some urchin of an Archaeologist, some madman of a Weaver to jeopardize everything we have worked to accomplish.”

“Ye of little faith – he will return. We will earn our prize, and we will not have to worry for much longer than necessary.”

“He better. I do not know how much longer we have. The moons are converging, sister. The Orange is overtaking the White. If we are to succeed, it must happen quickly.”

“Remember your texts, Father Hallow. Lean on your clairvoyance and trust your instinct. There are only three like him that we know of and two have gone insane. There was no choice in this matter. It is a good bet you’ve made when you can see the outcome beforehand. Steel yourself and be the pillar of our order we need you to be.”

“Just be sure that we do not fail.”

*******

Droplets of rain are softly tap-tapping on the lone crooked window sill of the Seer’s Queers. A small oddity and trinket shop run by Sahela Runwick in the port city of Raghasbad. The weather has turned sour from earlier in the day. It started out with rays of light and not a cloud in the sky. Sahela is sitting cross-legged on a stool in back of the store’s counter. Chin in hands, staring out the window.

She is wondering how it is she got into this mess, and what is going to come of it in the end. Her eyes keep darting to the empty baggage on the floor. She almost gets the courage to stand up and begin stuffing anything valuable she owns into it. Then stowing away in the belly of a Galleon set for pilgrimage to the Wyrdland. A place even more unknown than the Vulkland itself. Nobody ever again hears from the people who make that pilgrimage.

This may be the only opportunity that Sahela has to wipe her hands of the situation. Her eyes glance at the baggage one final time and she makes her move. Sahela stands up straight with a flash as the stool scrapes on the rotting wooden floor of her establishment. At that very moment the door opens and she is startled by the disturbance. Her hand instinctively drawn to the shiv tucked into the left sleeve of her dress.

A slender and cloaked figure slips through the doorway. Sahela cannot make out the face, but it is easy to tell this figure is a woman. The cloak clings to an hourglass frame and hides what is clearly an impressive chest. All the more pronounced by a gold amulet. It has the shape of two crescent-moons. They are facing in opposite directions and touching at the back.

The owner of the Seer’s Queers takes notice at the fact that even though it is raining at a fair pace outside, this woman’s deep maroon covering does not have a hint of dampness to it. It is as though not a single drop has fallen on it. Which of course makes no sense. Then again, light was unnaturally refusing to reflect from the cloak as well.

“Welcome to the Seer’s Queers! What oddity can I dig up for you today?” Sahela sprouts with a smile. The woman takes her hood back with a sweep that is wanting of fanfare. Underneath is a pale angular face with raised eyebrows and thin, blood-rich lips. Straight, stark white hair drapes from the crown of her head to fill the folded hood at her neck.

Sahela stiffens and clears her throat. “Ahh, hello there – it would be my pleasure to assist you again. How may I this time?”

“I am under the impression… that the man I had told you would come. Has. Did you give him the information that I provided you with? Did you give him the poem?” There is a frigidity to her voice. It could make even the most courageous individual look within themselves for comfort.

“…Yes, I have. Though he had more questions for me than I was prepared for. Also, I am afraid he did not have much trust in me as he went on his way.” Sahela makes as if she is itching her arm. Upon finishing she brings her palm back to rest on the counter.

“Do you think he had enough trust in you that he has made sense of the text and has headed to the library?”

“I am not sure it truly mattered whether he trusted in me or not, Ma’am. There was determination there I don’t believe an army of Forsooth could deter.” There is clear perspiration on Sahela’s forehead at this point. To call it intimidating would be an insult to this woman’s aura.

“Good. We will be in touch then.” The woman gracefully brings her hood back up as she turns for the door and leaves.

Sahela crumples to the counter top with exasperated relief.

4

It is quiet. All that I can hear is the dripping of condensation that collects on the ceiling and walls of this place. I am alone, with naught but my curiosity and fear as companions. Once I had stepped through the archway I felt a cleansing wash over me. My mind is now no longer fuzzy and I feel less bombarded by my own thoughts. Now is as good a time as any to remove from my vest pocket and re-read the poem that attractive seer gave to me:

Down below the trees of the Vulk

In books and blasphemies plans are placed

Through the mist and further the spiral

Beware the box it is carefully cased

Looking at it now, it feels like I was insane to head this direction in the first place. Such vague details to go on! The pieces seem to fit though. I am in a forest in the Vulkands, and within a place that holds ‘books and blasphemies’. I had just recently passed through mist, and staring me straight on was a spiral stone stairway that continued my descent.

I’ve come this far, no sense in turning back now. I assure myself as I take each smooth stone step farther down into the bowels of this decrepit nightmare. The stairs go on for a long while. I make sure to take count so as to know how far I have traveled. Also, to check on my mental stability as I delve towards my goal.

At this point I have descended a total of 743 steps. The end is approaching however, as I can see light seeping around the corner. There is now another archway. I take a look at my torch again to check how much time I have. It is still burning as brightly as it was during my passing through the mist. As I walk through the archway I can feel the difference of air pressure. For the first time since I was above ground I am in a large and mostly open room. To my left I can see an unlit brazier. I walk over to it and begin to light it with my torch. One brazier being lit grants enough light to present more to me. I take the time to search out every one and give them life.

When I finish my rounds of the room it is completely lit up. So much so that for the time being my torch is no longer needed. I tuck it in to the sconce near the archway I entered from. This way I can have a free hand. I turn around to take in what it is I have discovered, for the first time.

As I suspected originally; I am in a room larger than any standing building of the current era. The Galleons docked at Raghasbad could fit lengthwise four by each and widthwise two by each. Its enormity was enhanced by the immense pillars bespeckling the room to keep the high roof from crashing down upon my head. Each pillar itself is the circumference of standard housing for a family of five.

On the far side and very center of the room is the single largest attraction, a statue of a humanoid figure. I cannot easily say what the statue is made of. It seems of metal, but of what kind I do not know. It is not a terribly imposing figure. It is very skinny, the legs and arms are barely any thicker than skin on bone. It is wearing rags on its crossed legs for clothing. Its arms come together outwardly at the center of its chest. Hands open, each making a “C” shape. With one just crisscrossing past the other. Were one hand not in front of each other, the backs of the palms would be touching. I study up past the bare and skeletal sternum to the face.

I admit, it is the face that gives me chills. The bald angular brow protrudes inhumanly, it is sharp and aggressive. There is a deep, jagged scar across the crooked downturned nose. The creature has no lips, just jagged teeth and gums. Lastly, there are no ears. Just two holes, one on each side of the head. I falter at any attempt I make to look away. It is terrifying, but I know there is something important I am missing.

My eyes are drawn back to the brow. Sitting at the top of it I can make out a box. Beware the box it is carefully casedThat’s it! I’ve found it! My heart pounds with the excitement of reaching my quarry. Now that I no longer need to see the entire figure I start towards the statue to begin climbing it.

I place my hand on the cool surface of the effigy and it reacts to my touch. The emerald metallic surface ripples in response. This is incredible! I need a sample! I turn behind me to reach into my pack and… I am reminded that Pike is not currently with me. With no way to go in to my equipment to procure a sample I do the next best thing and scrape the exterior with my fingernail. I attempt to, at any rate.

There is no scraping to be had, I feel nothing underneath my nail as I repeatedly and harshly scratch against the statue. I only succeed at making hundreds of ripples throughout it. How very odd. I muse within myself as I pace nearby. After a short moment of not being able to even hypothesize what I was dealing with – I decide to try my ascent.

My first instinct is to give it a running start. The room is quite long so it is made easy. I position myself around 50 paces directly in front of statue where the legs cross and at the lowest point of contact possible. I do not want to damage my equipment in the attempt, so I remove the Lantern and sword from my belt.

With a deep breath I push off my left foot and stride towards my goal as quickly as I can. I throw all of my energy into each pounding of my feet on the dusty marble. I can feel my thighs straining as I give it all I have. When I am 3 meters from the statue I push off my right foot, I can feel my Achilles almost snap from the amount of effort put in to it. My outstretched hand slaps over the crest of a shin.

It makes no sound.

There is no grip! Just like when I tried to scrape at it with my nail. I cannot physically interact with it! Races through my mind as I tumble towards the floor and land flat on my back with a thump.

“Ooohhhhh – Dhhhhheeeaarrr” The pain forces me to lay in silence after that for a good, long while. My focus is transfixed on how I can get to the box. Or get the box to me. Each way I approach the matter leads me to the same conclusion. The box was designed to be obtained in one way only.

I must Ether-Weave. The thought sends chills down my spine. Pike is not currently with me so I have no way of being defended when the Sickness forces me in to a stupor. My biggest worry is that the statue, being so similar to the mist, is a dense, Raw Ether. The likes of which I or anyone has never encountered before. The repercussions of a weave could be exponentially exacerbated by any interaction with it.

There is no question that this map was left here with purpose, designed to only be procured by a Weaver. The gauntlet of torn realities that I could be put through very well could put an end to my ability to function. If I want to continue forward with my goals there is no turning back.

I get up and retrieve my lantern. I decide it would be best to be sitting down for this, and move to sit cross-legged about five yards in front of the statue. Sweat is beading on my forehead, my heart is pumping furiously at the thought of attempting to Weave this much and be so alone while doing so. The lamp is placed in front of me. Moving towards it I open up the window on the Ether Lamp and begin to concentrate. This time closing my eyes. At first I begin to focus on the box and try to nudge it a little. I can feel that there is no movement so I begin to push harder with my thoughts. There continues to be no movement and it becomes all too clear to me that what I feared must be the case. I must manipulate the figure itself, manipulate raw Ether and risk all sanity to move the box.

I’ve already earned myself a hazy mind. When I open my eyes all is blurry and my vision is filled with swirls of the colors within the room. Thankfully the figure is large enough that I can still make out most, if not all the details.

My head is spinning. It makes it difficult to concentrate. I focus on the figure’s hands, I want them to separate and move towards the box to pick it up. I’ve decided to keep my eyes closed in the hopes that it helps with my hallucinations. The Ether is heavy, I can feel it slowly moving and adjusting in the way my thoughts provoke it to. With each passing moment of my concentration I can feel a weightlessness enter my physical frame. My arms especially lose most of their feeling. Then I hear a clink and that signals to me that the hands have reached their position on either side of the box.

The sickness is getting worse. Even with my eyes closed there are spots and colors going every which way within my “vision” – the blackness I was using to keep my wits about me is starting to become as much a hindrance that keeping my eyes open would have been. Keep pushing – I think to myself as a large bead of sweat drips off my brow and smacks on the marble floor breaking an otherwise uncomfortable silence.

I risk opening an eye to double check my progress, just to see if the hands have contacted the box as I was comfortable to assume. As I suspected, there is not much that can be made out. The Sickness has not affected my ability to be aware mentally, but looking at the physical world is like looking through bubbled glass. From what I can tell the figure has shifted, what I can make out as arms do seem to be above the head now with hands touching at the top. That is all I can make out as the room has become a series of dancing colors and movement all around me. The Braziers that I lit earlier are waltzing back and forth like leaves in the wind. I mustn’t lose my concentration.

I take a deep breath for my final push – concentrating on the hands bringing the box down level in front of me. As I push harder and harder the weightlessness encompasses my whole body. It feels as though my head may release from my neck and fly into the ceiling. Now all extremities out to my toes and fingertips are completely numb. I am just a mind, a mind beginning to forget where I am and what I am doing.

The colors within my eyelids are zipping to and fro at a pace that is dizzying, sickening even. There is little I can do to keep concentration focused so I open my eyes.

Whatever progress I have made is forgotten the moment I see what is in front of me. The face, in all its terror is only a few inches from mine. The eyes have become hollow sockets with all manner of insects crawling out of every orifice. The teeth are dripping in a black substance and I can feel a hot breath being exhaled. I turn to run away as quickly as possible from this terrifying effigy.

 My limbs being both numb and weak slip out from under me almost immediately causing me to smack headfirst into the ground.

Blackness.

©2014 Trevor Elms
Featured image by HipHopMummy