Archive for the ‘the Hole World’ Category

‘The Hole World’ should seem familiar to those that have been poking around here a bit, as it was mentioned to be the universe that my ’11 NaNo was set in (well, half of it anyway). This is part 2 of 4 of a group of short-stories that I did for a character in ‘the Hole World’ to help me figure out his back-story. I’m starting you off with 2, and probably won’t post the others because they are a bit overly revealing… if ‘the Hole World’ is ever finished and published, then posting those here now would ruin a plot-twist–although, I will perhaps post them some time in the future after publishing (assuming that part happens).

The Hole World

the Message

Clearcut Formerly Known as Forest. The "B...

Clearcut Formerly Known as Forest. The “Black Hole”, near Clayoquot Sound. For scale, see the tiny person in the center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A burning star tore through the morning sky. Da’ande has seen many stars fall from the heavens of night before, and he has often heard from the elders that these stars were messages from the gods, but he knew there was something different about this star though. The fact that it was being sent during the daytime alone must mean something of importance. A message from the gods so urgent that it must be sent outside the usual tradition.

He watched it as it continued its decent, leaving a thick trail of cloud behind it. As it seemed to become closer he thought he heard what sounded like a distant scream coming closer and closer. Who has ever heard of a star screaming as it fell, screaming with an increasingly monstrous shriek that could rival that of the roar of a giant coludra. As the star was almost directly above his head, the screaming became so great that he was forced to wrap his whole head with his arms to block out his ears as they rang, causing him to almost writhe in pain.

As the star passed over, Da’ande saw something gleaming like the surfaces of the Sespa’ag Caverns. What could this mean, a screaming star falling with the shine of caverns that no one has ever seen the like of anywhere else in the world. Da’ande couldn’t conceive of any answers to his growing questions, but he knew that he had to know.

In the direction of the star’s decent and echoing scream, there came the noise of a crash that sounded as if the whole forest had suddenly exploded. The sounds of trees crashing and birds flapping and animals crying and scattering in fear came through in all directions. The gods’ message was apparently as unexpected for nature as it was for Da’ande.

Finally, after listening to the forest rumbling like distance thunder for several minutes, there came a stilling silence. A few birds still flew, trying to find their flocks that left them behind, and the subtle sounds of rustling leaves and falling branches settling to the ground. But all else was as silent as it was before the star was ever sighted.

Da’ande stared into the forest in the direction of the star, he thought to himself, It must have found a nesting in the ground somewhere, I should hunt for it to discover the message of the gods so it does not go unheard. Then the sudden realization of terror came across his young face, What if it went into the mountains of the beasts, what if it is found by a Loostrem, or Virdra first. I must hurry, even if it is at the risk of my own life.

Da’ande cupped his hands to his mouth and levered his arms as high as he can, filling his lungs with as much air as he could, and then quickly dropped his arms forcing out all the air almost at once, releasing a high pitch shriek that resonated through the forest, echoing until it became a sound of a beautiful song far in the distance.

As he listened to the distant song, he remembered back when he was first shown this magic of the forest by the elder, Edjode. He remembered how he had to force himself not to cover his ears as he was commanded against, even though the shriek was almost unbearable. But he remembered how the forest turned the painful noise into such wonderful singing.

From the near distance came the trampling and rustling sound that he was waiting for. Crashing through a line of brush, with a beam of sun light shining down on it revealing all the fine lines of its muscular detail through its fine pure white coat. The sight of the quine’s two long spikes protruding from its head ripping through the low branches made Da’ande almost sigh in disappointment because he knew already that it was a male that had responded to his call, so the travel would be on land, and hence slower. But either way, it would still be faster than on foot.

Da’ande wrapped his arm around the neck the quine to lever his balance and flung himself onto its large back. He gripped its long white mane and turned it into the direction of the fallen star, kicked his heels against the quine’s sides, and it took off into a swift charge.

He had ridden quines many times before, when he learned the call and first saw the magnificent beast crash through the forest from what seemed out of nowhere. Edjode had to lay a comforting hand on his shoulder to keep him from backing away. Even now it seemed huge, but back then, it appeared like a giant mountain towering over him. Its sharp horns protruding and making it appear so dark and menacing. It completely terrified him when Edjode made it apparent that he intended them to ride it.

As Da’ande watched the forest whip by with such speeds that the trees seemed to form a single solid wall and the horizon before him continued on forever, he remembered how Edjode lifted him on his shoulder and commanded him to mount the great beast. Da’ande’s body was trembling so badly that it almost made his muscles ache. As he gripped his knees against the quine’s body as tight as his small legs could, he could feel the coarse lines of each hair in its fur. His stomach turning from each of the animal’s subtle movements, its back and shoulder muscles contracting as it snorted and thumped its hooves at the ground.

Edjode mounted behind him and commanded the animal to walk at a slow pace around the area a few times. As it went around, Da’ande with drenched eyes began to realize how unfounded his fear was, and he began to relax his posture, and his stomach began to settle. Then out of the corner of his eye, he sees Edjode’s foot move, slightly kicking the animal’s backside, and in a brief moment the whole world became a complete blur.

It happened so fast that his mind didn’t even have time to try to regain its fear that it had just gotten over. All he could do was find himself with a smile on his face so wide that it began to make his cheeks sore. The feel of the wind blasting in his face, blowing his long hair back so fierce that he had to wonder if he was blinding Edjode.

Da’ande traveled into the direction where the fallen star should now rest until the sun had reached almost directly above him. He commanded the quine to cease its unrelenting stride, and he slid off from its back—if he didn’t still have an arm resting on the quine, he probably would have dropped instantly to the ground, as he’s forced to realize the effects of riding for so long.

Legs still tingling and muscles still painfully slow to respond, Da’ande guides the quine to a nearby stream to drink, and finds himself a well shaded tree with a soft patch of grass and moss to recover beneath before he continues onto his journey. He watched the animal as it wondered about and grazed on some of the longer grass along the bank of the stream in a seemingly random pattern, and took in the smells of the blooming flowers filling the air, and the soft sounds of chirping birds hidden in the trees, and finds himself drifting off.

Da’ande sees himself on the back of a quine flying high above the world. The air chilled his skin until it’s nothing but bumps as he commanded the quine to rise higher and higher, and then dove into a large cloud. The smell of the thick mist filled his sinuses to almost make him understand how it would be to breathe underwater, and flooded his eyes until there is nothing to see but shades of white and gray.

He exited the cloud with a huge swirling puff behind him, and felt the cool breeze as the sun turned the moisture coving his face to vapor. The quine free glided on the invisible streams of air as if the hands of a god were guiding its great wings along its path. Da’ande looked down at the tops of trees with their patchworks of fields and water flowing by with such perfect grace that it was almost hard to tell who was really moving—was it them, or were they simply standing in place while the whole world moved around them.

He looked behind him, and he saw the flaming of the falling star coming towards him. The sun glared off its surface almost blinding him and forced him to squint his eyes as he focused on it. As he continued to stare into the burning star and his eyes adjusted, he began to make out a face inside of it—the face of a child—no, the face is his age—no… the face is an old man.

As the falling star began to pass him, he heard its great scream. Shrieking louder and louder until it made it feel like his head was about to explode. He tried to cover his ears to block out the falling star’s painful screaming, but it didn’t help. It just continued to get louder and louder and—

From somewhere in the distance he’s awoken by a scream, and he jolted himself upright. Da’ande looked around to reorient himself and remembered where he was. The sun was now directly above him, so he hadn’t slept long.

He remembered back to his dream, the faces in the falling star, and the scream, The scream that woke me—was it just fragments of the dream, or was it real?

Then he heard the scream again echoing from just a short distance up the stream. I know that was real.

Da’ande jumped to his feet. He noticed that quine he rode there on wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and he didn’t have time to try to find it or call another one. He quickly looked up at the branches of the trees around him seeing how close together they are. He rocked to the balls of his feet, and in an almost effortless stride, bound up to the first crotch of the tree he was just resting under. Da’ande sniffed the air, he takes in a couple of smells that stand out but the smells of the stream’s flowers are too over powering to be able to identify anything.

He looked at the limbs of the next tree in the direction that he heard the scream and quickly analysed the sturdiness, and bound from his tree to the next, and then to the next after, and again with gaining rhythm and speed that it becomes as natural as walking on the ground for him. In the midst of each jump, he takes in another taste of the air in hopes of identifying what he’s about to come up against before he arrives, but the wind is failing to play in his favor.

He heard the scream again as it is broken off into a muffle, and he suddenly came to a dead stop. He stopped himself so quickly that he almost threw himself off balance as he lunged for the base of the tree with as much grace and silence as he could. He crouched, and looked down at a mass of movement only about a stone’s throw away.

beast-of-bray-road-625x450Snarling and brandishing their teeth in a swarm of chaos, with their hard shelled clothing, long spikes on their heads and in their clawed hands made from what they stole out of Sespa’ag. Bellutors. Why would they be this far away from Loostrem, even they wouldn’t bother trying to claim hunting grounds here. Then Da’ande’s eyes widened, They must be searching for the trail of the fallen star too—but… what was the scream?

Da’ande inched his way around the tree to try and get a better view, and as a bellutor slightly moved, he caught a glimpse of a frail arm covered in marks of blood weakly struggling in its movements. And in another glimpse, he saw the half open eyes of a young girl. I have to help her before they kill her—if they haven’t already.

He stood-up, finding a sturdy balance, and cuped his hands to his mouth, levered his arms as high as he could, filling his lungs with as much air as he could, and then quickly droped his arms forcing out all the air almost at once and the quine call shrieked and echoed off the trees with its beautiful song—the bellutors’ ears could never hear it.

As the song rang, he could see the eyes of the girl widen. Looking around as she continued to helplessly fend off the bellutors, and her eyes locked on Da’ande’s silhouette perched in the tree high above them.

As the song continued to reverberate off the trees, Da’ande saw a white streak moving and weaving through the trees like a phantom from the direction of the stream he was resting at, Looks like he didn’t go far after all.

The quine charged directly to the bellutor party without hesitation and with its head down and two horns forward, it drove the spikes directly into the nearest bellutor’s back, completely cracking and shattering its shell as easily as if it was never there. The quine lift its head driving its horns deeper into the bellutor’s back until the tips just peaked out the front of its chest, then the quine violently shook its head flipping the savage into the crowd of stunned onlookers.

The bellutors stood in stunned indecision as the quine flails to its hind legs, its front legs thrashing violently while it let out a large booming sound—a sound that Da’ande had only heard in the darkness of night in the distance of the forest and could never even had guessed that such a terrifying sound could have ever come from an animal like the quine. As the quine dropped its front back down, it landed with a thunder that visibly shook the ground around it. And in an instant, the bellutors charged.

Their hand-spikes flailed in the air glaring of the light of the sun, striking the quine at random as they clashed with its powerful horns. With each bellutor that finds a place to charge, another dropped to the ground and dies with gouges and eyes ripped from sockets and jaws and limbs lying to the opposite side of the clearing from the bodies.

The quine kept fighting as unrelenting. Out of the whole group, there now only remained four bellutors. With their numbers thinned, fate forced them into a simpler strategy to overwhelm the quine with their blows while being able to easily avoid the quines blows.

A bellutor’s spike suddenly rose to the air in a beam of light that made the whole thing almost appear to glow, and it dropped down with brute power. Da’ande heared himself let out a loud “No!” as he saw the quine drop to its knees with a force that caused its face to almost bounce off the ground as it struggled to get back up beneath the continuing blows of its attackers. Just as he realizes what he did, Da’ande saw two of the bellutors look directly up at him with their narrow blood filled eyes.

Da’ande frantically looked around him thinking, I can’t run, if I do, the girl will die, and now the quine will die too, but if I stay up here, I’ll be sure to join them both on the other side.

Then as he looked down near the base of the tree he perched in, he noticed the gleam of a bellutor’s hand-spike. I can’t, we have been made to swear never to use the shards of Sespa’ag to draw blood.

He then saw the bellutors knock the quine to its side as its movement slowed—while one remained to hack and prod at the animal, the other went back over to the girl whose eyes were no longer open—and looked down at the two now charging to him with foaming sludge oozing over their teeth as they whipped and snarled.

I have to…

In a single leap, Da’ande jumped from his branch and landed in a crouch. He quickly bound over to the hand-spike that he found to be still clenched in the dismembered arm of a bellutor. He pried the spike from its owner and took grip of the handle. He tried to lift it and almost pulled his shoulder from its socket. He looked at the charging bellutors closing in. He took the handle with both hands, struggling with what feels like every muscle in his body ripping out. He lifted the spike to the air, and swung it with all the force he could find in himself, connecting with the neck of one of the bellutors. The head flew off the shoulders and struck the other in the chest, he stopped as the head lay rolling back and forth at his feet.

As the body dropped, Da’ande just stared at it completely stunned at what he just did—as stunned as the bellutor. The other bellutor glares at Da’ande, and charged at him swinging his spike for the top of his skull, but Da’ande quickly bashed it with his own spike. He then swung back thrashing his spike across the bellutors chest, but as it struck the bellutor’s hard shell it only made a loud bang that knocked both back a step.

The bellutor swiped his spike at Da’ande again, and Da’ande quickly ducked—the spike removed a lock of his hair from his head. He raised his spike, striking the bellutor’s shell-exposed arm, sending it flying in the air with its spike still in hand. The bellutor yelled a horrible howl of pain as its blood rained everywhere, turning the ground around him to mud, and dropped down—still flailing and clawing at the ground, and grasping his stump as he writhed.

Da’ande looked over to the other two bellutors who were now taking notice to the turn of events, and started towards them. He met with the one that was at the quine half-way and clashed spikes with it. As the bellutor took another swipe, Da’ande dropped to a knee and bashed his spike across the bellutor’s legs as hard as he could, creating a spark against the shell, sending the bellutor’s legs behind him, and the bellutor face down in the ground. Da’ande rose back up, and plunged his spike down on where the bellutors neck connected to his shoulders, and pulled it back out with the spike covered in blood and dirt.

Da’ande then turned to the final bellutor who was hovering over the girl. The bellutor came charging at him with full speed, and as he opened his mouth and bared his teeth letting out a savage snarl, Da’ande plunged his spike down his throat, and pulled it out, and the beast dropped.

Da’ande looked around. The bellutor with the severed arm’s flailing slowed to barely anything, and then came to a complete rest. Da’ande looked at the other bodies, and then down at his hands completely covered in the blood of the bellutors as they still gripped the bellutors’ spike. He suddenly dropped the spike to the ground and backed away from it, and then dropped to his knees. He looked at the ground caked in blood filled mud, and looked at the blood covering most of his body. He just stared with his mind racing and numb.

He heard a low moan from off to his side. He suddenly came to his senses and remembered the girl. He ran over to her, and knelt beside her, putting a hand by her face to feel for breathing. She’s still alive, but I need to treat her wounds if I expect to keep her that way.

He quickly gathered all the roots, and berries that he could remember their magical uses for and some short branches and large leaves for splints and bandages. He dressed all her wounds and splinted her broken arm and leg, and forced the juices of a berry and root mixture into her throat and let her rest.

He looked upon her. Her long flowing hair like nothing he had ever seen before. Like the color of the blood that flows through his body, with its magic of life. The very fine detailed lines of her lips, and her face. He stared at her, watching her in awe, and finding himself completely breathless.

As he sat letting his own body recover, almost allowing himself drift away, he felts a hand lightly touch his arm. He looked over, staring into eyes with sparkling colors he had never seen anywhere before. He forced his composure, “You’re alright…”

She gagged for words at first, then she spoke with a voice that sang to him like the song of the most beautiful bird, “I… think so. But, how? I remember hearing the quine call… then you… then… nothing.”

He looked over at the quine that sacrificed itself for them, and then down at the blood that still soaked him. He couldn’t say anything.

Her eyes looked down at the blood covering him, and looked up into his face, and he knew she understood what he did.

“What’s your name?” he finally got out.

“Tolypa Tanrue.”

“’Tanrue’? That’s atleast two suns from here. What are you doing way over here?”

She slightly hesitated, looking at the ground and then back up at him, “I was flying on a quine, and allowed myself to lose track of how far I went. But then… something fell from the sky—not like anything I’ve ever seen before. It looked like a star, but… something came from it and struck the quine’s wing and I had to let it land. And then I just traveled on foot for awhile trying to make it back towards the valley, until it’d be safe to call another quine. Then the bellutors came. I wasn’t expecting them to be out this far, otherwise I would have never traveled on the ground. I… I thought I was going to die… I thought… but then I saw you. I wasn’t even sure if you were real until I woke up and you were still here. You…” she looked down again at the blood covering him, “…you sacrificed everything to save me… you didn’t even know me. Why?”

Da’ande looked into her eyes as they shimmered in the light, and he looked at the ground with blood pooling as it dripped from him, and he just stood-up and walked over to the battered body of the quine. He spoke to its spirit with his mind, he thanked it for making the sacrifice it made for them, and he begged it and the gods to forgive him for letting it all come to this, for the sins of shedding blood and desecrating Sespa’ag. He repeated his pleas over and over again until he felt cold droplets of moisture stream down his face. And he felts a gentle hand lay upon his shoulder.

He glanced up at Tolypa, “You shouldn’t be walking until I’ve had a chance to get you a walking stick…” he said with cracking voice.

Tolypa just wrapped her arm around him and held him close to her as he continued to silently plea and cry. He lay his face into the quine’s bloody body, digging his eyes into its fur soaking it with his tears. Then he suddenly held his breath. And just lays there completely silent and still. As he felt his face very slowly rising and falling, he realized, The quine’s not dead.

His head quickly propped upright, his eyes wide in disbelief, he looked over at Tolypa, “Do you know if the magical roots and berries work on quines too?”

Before she even had a chance to respond he was already on his feat and running to the forest for more roots and berries. He came running back minutes later with his arms as full as he could get them, and started to work on crushing and mixing everything, as Tolypa came hobbling over and began helping him.

Da’ande spent nearly ten suns treating the injuries of the quine and Tolypa, running back and forth to the stream for water, and tracking down things that were safe for both to eat—and staying up at night to stand guard against anymore bellutor parties that luckily never came. As the time went on, Da’ande was finding himself more enchanted by Tolypa, sitting for hours talking with her whenever he had the chance. And Tolypa was beginning to find him equally as interesting.

The quine proved to be a fast healer, and was soon showing almost no sign that it had ever seen the sight of battle in its life. Tolypa’s wounds healed well enough that she no longer needed a splint, but she still had to force herself to use the aid of a walking stick, and often the quick reflexes of Da’ande as she lost her footing—sometimes on purpose just to have him catch her.

When Tolypa was well enough to travel, and the quine could be ridden at atleast a moderate pace, Da’ande prepared to return in search for the fallen star. Not far from where they were, they were able to find the place where it first struck the forest, shards of destroyed trees lay everywhere. They began to follow the trail that it left, which appeared to be a trench deep enough that the edge came up to about Da’ande’s waist.

As the sun reached directly above them, they saw the gleaming of the star in the distance nested at the base of Virdra. They approached it with caution, Da’ande constantly sniffed the air and checked the ground for any traces of bellutors or angdra—nothing significant was found.

They reached the object that appeared to be a large rock from Sespa’ag, but somehow, it seemed different—like it was more than just a rock. He walked over to the rock and suddenly stopped, and crouched to the ground analyzing it.

He looked up at Tolypa still mounted on the quine watching him, “Something was here, but I don’t recognize the tracks. It appears to travel on two feet like us, with foot coverings, but it’s too small to be a bellutor.” He follows the tracks for a bit, “They seem to go all over the area like whatever it is was exploring. But, from what I can tell, it came out from the rock.”

Tolypa looked at the large rock, “It fell from the sky—what would come out of a rock that falls from the sky?” She stopped and thought about her question, “Is it a god?”

Da’ande looked up at her, “I don’t know. Why would a god fall from the sky, they don’t belong down here.”

“I’ve heard elders speak before of gods being thrown down from the skies as punishment for evil deeds. Maybe the god is evil.”

“I don’t—“ Da’ande’s eyes followed a trail that lead away from the rock, and standing before him he saw all the faces that he saw in his dream.

{I was only able to get through decent for the first couple days, then the day job decided to go from almost no hours to I have no time for anything but working and sleeping. I got to 6,544 words. This is still unedited, but to at least hold you over a bit ‘til December, I thought I’d share. I do have plans to finish this someday since I do actually like the direction it was taking, but as it is, I haven’t even looked at it since last year. I never came up with a title for the story, although it takes place half as almost a complete autobiography (with only slight alterations for story’s sake), and half in the universe I use for ‘the Hole World’ (I have short-stories scattered all over the net for ‘the Hole World,’ plus it is the novel that I have declared must be written before I die—at its present progress, I’m going to be immortal). Enjoy…}

The chains couldn’t have weighed more than a few pounds, but they have grown to feel like mass tons, with the combination of drudged-up dirt and rock, plus the effect of overall fatigue. But he took another step forward, dragging against the chain’s resistance around his feet.

He picked a decent rock as his target, and pulled up his pick-ax that greatly competed with the weight of the chains. Lifting the ax over his head, he focused on the rock and allowed gravity and what was left of his strength to force the ax down as it pulled him down with it.

The thud to the ground knocked the wind out of him, and left him slightly dazed for a moment before he realized with alarm what happened. Oh no, it’s going to come for me, he thought panicking to get himself back to his feet before he’s noticed. But the sound of snarling above him told him it was already too late. He could feel the hot breath on the back of his neck, with its putrid stench to follow like a thick cloud.

Forcing himself to turn and look with every ounce of fear in the world holding him back, telling him it will go away if he just doesn’t look—but still, he looked. He pried his peripheral vision to catch a glimpse just as the sharp clawed hand quickly tore into his shirt and pulled him up, forcing a full-on view of the horrid beast. It pulled him closer, with its mouth dripping and snarling, and its claws digging deeper. He could do nothing but watch as those yellow teeth came closer and closer—but then, from somewhere, he heard the sound of a bell ringing.

Steven woke-up with a puddle of drool pooling on his desk. He looked around in a daze, noticing other students doing the same. The ending of Mr. Wicks’ English class, the final hour of the day. Mr. Wicks was a well intentioned teacher, but unfortunately, he seemed to have been cursed with an extremely mono-toned voice that even the strongest willed students couldn’t help but fall prey to. If any student here ever went on to do a research paper involving the benefits of subliminal learning, it’d be unavoidable that they would somehow include Mr. Wicks’ class as an example.

Steven got up from his seat, stretched his muscles and wiped the stream from his mouth. Gathering his books, he headed for the door, nodding a departure to Mr. Wicks’ who was already lost in whatever piles of papers teachers seem to always have to get lost in.

He went down the steps, across the hall, and up the next set of steps to his locker, without a single glance or gesture of any kind to anyone around. He exchanged the books in hand for the books that had homework associated, shoved them into his backpack and grabbed his jacket, and just as routinely, went back down the steps. He glanced at the school library, deciding if even felt like stopping in for anything. Without pause, chose against, and walked out the door.

This was how almost every day went for Steven. He had developed very little social connections with the other students at school, that so rigid of a routine was all there really was for him. He developed this habit as a result of the first five-in-a-half years of him attending the school system of Park Wood he had not actually lived in the city due to issues with his parents’ finances, plus numerous delays in selling the house in the other city. Because of this, he was unable to let much of anyone into his life for fear that they would discover his less-than-legal living arrangements, and be expelled from the school system. Although he presently lived only two blocks from Park Wood Secondary, the habits still remained.

And so Steven cut through the student parking lot, and walked the two blocks towards his house. Once he got to the back corner of his yard, he threw his bag over the chain-link fence, and, with little effort, jumped up with both legs split to his side, parallel with the fence, just barely tapping the fence with his forefingers for momentum, and landed the opposite side. A talent that he discovered he could do by bored induced accident, and, even though it became as much a part of his routine as everything else in his day, it was something that still always amused him. Not just because of the super hero-like skill, but from it being one of the few things he could do that seemed to get equally amused attention from other students walking passed.

He grabbed his bag from the ground and walked in the backdoor. He greeted his mother and whatever child she was watching in her in-home daycare that day. He took a cup and bowl from the cupboard, filled the cup with pop, and the bowl with chips, and headed down to the basement.

He placed the cup and bowl on the end-table next to the old ‘70’s styled couch. Threw his bag and jacket onto the cot he set up not too long after moving into this house, after coming to the conclusion that sharing a room with his poor-hygiene-alarm-sleeping-through-snoring of a brother wasn’t going to work out anymore. He had already been staying in the basement for most of his day to watch TV, play video games, and “work” at his desk as it was, so what difference did it make to add sleeping to the list. The steps that led below the ground, into this whole other place where no one else went for any reason other than to do laundry became a path to a sanctuary from the world outside—a place where he could become lost in his thoughts and not be bothered by anyone.

Jumping over the back of the couch and plopping down in the spot that had become perfectly curved to his form, he clicked the remote to whatever cartoon was coming on. It didn’t take long before he heard the sound of tapping coming down the stairs from his well-aging dog, Scraps, paying him a visit to listen to his mind ramblings, and barter for a share of the chips. He watched as Scraps, who stood just barely short of the couch, measured to jump with less certainty than she used to have. With as much thrust as she could push out, she jumped up with a half climb, to get her back half all the way up, and plopped down next to him with her waiting eyes. Steven smiled, mussed her head, and rubbed behind an ear and tossed her a chip that she munched up with barely taking time to chew.

Steven then allowed his attention to be taken by the TV for a couple minutes before his mind started wondering back to the strange dream that he had in class. The details of the dream weren’t actually what he found strange at all—he actually had that dream, or dreams similar to it many times before, for as long as he could remember. But what was odd about it was the timing of the dream. Normally if he fell asleep in class, the closest to dreaming he ever did usually was in some surreal relation to whatever was being discussed in class as he was still listening to everything while he slept. However, this time he had a dream that he’d normally only had when he slept at night, when his mind would have reached a deeper level of sleep.

Of course he remembered this dream, he actually remembered a lot of things, plus he only had a small number of dreams that he considered to be recurring types. There was the weird dream he sometimes had about driving a car off a bridge which commonly ended as he forced himself awake in mid-flight, unless he couldn’t, then it ended after the car plunged into the dark waters below and slowly sank, and choked the breath out of him—he never understood where that dream came from, but it had been something he’s placed in connection to his fear of heights, bridges, and dark-water. Then there was the dream that he hadn’t had in awhile, but he had it enough in the past that he still clearly remembered it. It was the one where he’s running from a large dog that eventually catches him and begins to eat him—that he attributed to being mulled by a dog once when he was about 4 years-old. Although he still remembered the event that once haunted his dreams, he didn’t fear dogs as a result, he felt it made no sense to hold an entire species accountable for the act of only one of them.

And then there was the dream he had earlier in class, the one where he’s a slave working in dark, grimy tunnels filled with other kids his age, and some younger. He sees the other kids fall in exhaustion only to be picked up and devoured by a large beast that he could only describe as a grizzly bear on steroids. This was another first detail, though, the part where this time he was the one that fell and was devoured.

He was in the habit of trying to analyze and determine logical reasons for why things are, and constantly reading to gather more information to refine conclusions. Though, despite all his efforts, he couldn’t determine the meaning behind this dream.

He looked at Scraps after relaying all this out-loud as if waiting for a response, and she just gave a baffled looked and glanced at the bowl on the table. Steven tossed Scraps the last chip, and flipped himself back over the couch and walked towards the desk in the corner covered with pens and assorted papers and books. He sat down and opened the cabinet next to the desk and pulled out a drawing pad filled with sketches of comic book heroes, cartoon characters, and then, finally, the images that have been coming to his mind more commonly—images of fierce battles between a strange warring race of what looked like bipedal snakes, and the large “steroid grizzlies” clad in spiked metal armor, brandishing blood-soaked swords, and axes.

He flipped through the numerous drawings, viewing fight after fight so brutal from both sides that for anyone who didn’t have the dreams he did, wouldn’t even know how to determine who was the “bad-guy” in the scenes—assuming there was actually a “good-guy” to begin with. He searched, hopelessly to try to find logic or reason that he some how missed the many times he analyzed the drawings before, but was still left with a loss. So he closed the book and chucked it back in the cabinet in frustration, and began pulling out the night’s homework.

Even as he worked out math problems, his mind was still wondering its focus on to the dream, and the images in the drawings, which continued until he finally retired for the night. Pulling back the sheets and blankets from the cot and slipping himself beneath. He made mental noted plans to visit the school library during lunch period tomorrow, closed his eyes and drifted off.

“Are you Ok?” a small voice asked from behind him. He turned, looked around and saw nothing. “You look a little shaken still—but I can’t really blame you, that was definitely a close one.”

Still looking for the source of the voice, he suddenly saw a small figure, about four inches tall standing on a rock in front of him. At first glance, it looked like a small toy action figure, but it moved freely and glistened of flesh. Steven fell back in surprise, and knocked the wind out of himself for a second, “Wh—what, are you?”

The small figure looked at Steven with a confused expression, “What do you mean, what am I? I’m Beag… I’m your friend.” The small figure called Beag suddenly paused and began looking around and sniffing the air, “Oh no, their coming… I was afraid they might try. Escaping makes them mad enough, but after what you did to that guard—I think they might have taken it personally.”

From somewhere in the distance, Steven could hear the sound of the snarling that he heard so many times before getting closer, and closer. “What is that—what’s happening?”

“Come on now, Rohe, we’ve got to go. Let the running clear your head, but we have to go now.”

Beag’s line of reasoning made as much sense as anything could, so Steven forced himself to his feet and started running. He didn’t really know where he was running, except he was running in the opposite direction of the snarling sounds.

“Rohe, this way!” Beag called out.

Steven looked over and noticed that Beag was now fluttering on dragonfly-like wings. He pushed the shock of this sight aside for the moment and began following Beag towards a wall of trees that seemed to instantly dissolve any traces of daylight. Ducking under branches, and jumping over fallen limbs, he followed the small figure moving in the darkness like a humming bird in the night, doing his best to keep his balance through it all.

As he ran, he could feel his chest constricting, as his body began reaching its limit, but as soon as he was about to slow down and rest, he heard the snarling again as loud as if it was directly above him. He then pushed himself forward with a renewed burst of energy.

“Come on, Rohe, we’re almost there!” Steven heard Beag call out from somewhere in the darkness ahead. Aside from the occasional silhouette fluttering in and out of view, he could barely tell if he was still following Beag at all anymore. So, he just kept running forward, until a tree root caught him by surprise. Before he could dodge it, his foot hooked it and threw him hard to the ground. Pain shot through him in more places than his body knew how to respond to, and he could feel the warm ooze of blood covering across his right forearm that he apparently gashed.

“No! No, no, no. There’s no time for resting yet, Rohe,” Beag said, fluttering back to Steven, hovering just above his head, “You have to get up, the passageway is just over there.” Beag pointed at what looked like a random brush by a tree about twenty feet away.

Steven pushed himself to his knees, with pain shooting in all directions, and thrust himself towards the targeted tree. Once he got there, his body gave in and he threw himself to the tree’s base only to unexpectedly fall right through it. He didn’t know what just happened, but he was too tired to care, and so just lay with his back flat on a dirt floor, surrounded by stringy looking roots covering the walls and ceiling.

Just outside the hole that he fell through, he heard the snarling of the beasts. Branches shattered beneath their heavy foot steps, and their growling increased as their numbers caught up to each other. All at once the snarling and growling became the sounds of snorting, as if they all began sniffing everything. The snorting sound of one got close enough to the hole that Steven could see the wet nose poking through the brush in front of him.

He was frozen with panic. He was exhausted, and cornered. The beast in front of him suddenly turned his snorting into a growling howl, and tore the brush away, giving Steven a full view of this giant beast. Its yellow eyes stared into him, as its fangs dripped. Steven could do nothing but allow reflex to force his arms over his head as the beast was about to leap at him.

The alarm clock began to blare and threw Steven awake with his heart racing. He looked around confused with the images of the dream still rushing through his head. Steven pushed himself upright to make his way across the room to hit the alarm—having it across the room made it easier to get moving and wake-up for the day—but as he rolled and got up on his elbows, he immediately pulled his right arm back in pain. He examined it and noticed he had blood seeping out of a cut across his forearm. Looking at his arm in confusion, he couldn’t figure out what could have happened while he slept. He looked at the cot he slept on to see if there was anything that could have cut him, but aside from the blood that was beginning to stain through to the mattress, he saw nothing obvious.

He got out of bed, and slapped his alarm off. His mind fluttered through reasoning, finding himself having to remind himself multiple times that the cut on his arm couldn’t have anything to do with the dream—if anything, what happened in the dream was somehow a response to what must have happen for real… now if he could only figure out what that was.

He went up-stairs, no one else was up yet—he usually woke-up earlier, it was the easiest way to get first dibs on the bathroom. He went to his bedroom where he still kept his clothes. He opened the door while covering his nose and holding his breath in preparation for the plume of stench that his still sleeping brother, Shaun, would have collected.  He walked passed the unrealistically loud snoring and over to his closet. Without even needing to turn on a light, he was able to pull out a black long-sleeve shirt—he had the entire closet purposely organized so he could easily get dressed in the dark and still know exactly what he was wearing. He pulled the sleeves up just before the cut—so he could still be “styling,” but without the need to worry about explaining the cut to anyone.

He went into the bathroom, relieved himself, cleaned his face, and fixed his hair, and left towards the kitchen just as his older sister, Kristy, was zombie-walking her way into the bathroom behind him.

Throwing a frozen waffle into the toaster, he heard his mother shuffling in. She went over to the coffee pot and began the process of preparing her start-of-the-day fuel to start sipping at before the first of the kids arrived. The silence was broken with the sound of an alarm clock blaring from his closed bedroom—that wouldn’t be getting turned off for at least an hour later.

“So, when’s your next tournament supposed to be?” His mother said out of nowhere.

It took Steven a moment to even place what she was talking about, but was able to respond with, “I’d have to check, but I don’t think there’s anything ‘til next month.” Since he was 12 years-old, Steven was taking martial art classes. It was something he was interested in since he first saw a Bruce Lee movie when he was 3, plus, it was the only sport neither of his siblings did. It was something he considered himself good at, and his skill with jumping techniques was admired through the whole organization.

“Well, let me know, so I can arrange my schedule for it…” His mother said as she began to move herself to the recliner in the living room, with coffee mug in hand.

Steven poured milk into a glass and grabbed his waffle from the toaster when it popped. He placed himself at the dinning table, with his napkin folded with pre-folded side folded in towards the plate, and with the knife placed, blade-in, and then the fork on top of the napkin, while placing the glass directly above the plate. He was very particular about these details, there was something about it that just made the universe feel “in balance.” His father, in a teasing manner, had a few times moved Steven’s setting before, while he was getting up to grab something from the kitchen. It was nothing more than simply moving his glass a little over, or switching the order of his silverware while his dad chuckled. When Steven sat back down and glanced at the setting, he said nothing, despite the storm that was forming in his mind. He simply moved the glass back where it was, and placed the silverware back in its “proper” order—and the universe was right again.

Steven heard Kristy finally getting out of the bathroom and coming towards the kitchen from behind him.

“Morning, swine…” she muttered as she passed him and headed for the fridge.

Steven just rolled his eyes, “Morning, sow…”

She came back with half of a grapefruit with a light brushing of fake sugar on top and sat at the head of the table, “So, what do you have planned today?”

Steven lifted an eyebrow at her, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to school. The state does still require it, doesn’t it?”

“Smart-swine,” she responded with Steven narrowing his eyes at her “swine” addition, “That’s not what I meant. It’s Friday, are you doing anything after school?”

Steven had actually forgotten that it was Friday at all. Mostly because he really didn’t have any plans for it any differently than for any other day, except maybe wait for Saturday morning when he had martial arts class for two hours, then go back to waiting for the next day, which mostly just involved waiting for the next day, and so on.

“I have no plan at the moment—why?”

“Well, I have a home game right after school, you could stop by there and cheer us on.”

What season was it for her, now? Volleyball, soccer, cheerleading—did cheerleading have a season, or was it just whenever? “I don’t know, maybe… I’ll see, I guess…” He actually was in a genuine indecision about if he was planning to go. Although he had no noted plans aside from the library at lunch, there was nothing, but the need to work his way up to altering his set routine—which felt like straining a muscle trying to lift double his body weight.

He went back to eating his waffle while trying to mentally wedge his sister’s game into his day when he was pulled out of his focus, “What’s that?” He heard Kristy say, only half realizing she was still speaking to him.

Steven looked up at her, “’An introduction of a subordinate clause expressing a statement…?’”

“What?”

“’That,’ it’s ‘an introduction of a—‘”

She interrupted him with an annoyed grunt, “Shut up, that’s not what I meant. I mean what’s that cut on your arm?”

Steven looked at his arm. Apparently his sleeve got pulled up slightly while he was moving and slightly exposed his injury, “Well, apparently it’s a cut on my arm.”

“Will you stop being a smartass—“

With that, their mother looked up from her coffee mug and looked from around the recliner at them, “What cut?”

Steven glanced at her and went back to cutting at the last bits of his waffle, “It’s nothing. I just got scratched by something when I was sleeping.”

“I told you, you shouldn’t sleep down there. Who knows what’s down there, you might have gotten tetanus or something,” His sister put in.

“Why would I not know what’s down there? It’s just a basement, what could possibly be down there that isn’t also up here? Besides, I’m up-to-date on my shots—although, when’s the last time you went to the vet for yours?” Steven responded grinning as Kristy just stuck her tongue out at him.

“Well, try to be more careful,” his mother said as she turned back around and replaced her attention to her coffee.

“Um… ok, I’ll try to sleep more carefully, I guess…” Steven responded as he picked his empty plate and glass up, and carried them to the kitchen sink. He rinsed his utensils and joined everything with the already forming stack in the sink, and flooded them all with soap and water to soak and wait to be washed later.

Steven ventured back down the basement steps to gather his bag and jacket. As he went over to his desk where he left everything the night before, he heard a sound that made him suddenly stop. The sound came again, almost like fluttering, in the cabinet next to his desk. He just stood and stared at the door suspiciously, trying to think of everything that could be in the cabinet that could some how make that noise, but he couldn’t think of anything.

He slowly began moving his hand towards the cabinet knob at a rate that made the distance seem like miles. Just as his finger tips were about to touch the knob, the fluttering came again with a sudden loud bang against the door, that made Steven jump back with his breath caught in his throat. Steven quickly glanced around for anything he could grab to try to use as a weapon, but unfortunately, the pillow from his cot was the only thing that came to hand.

With pillow bravely raised up and ready to strike at anything, he counted off to push himself, “One… two… three!” He instantly grabbed the knob and pulled the cabinet open. Quickly, he stood back to take full view and search for his target. He saw art tools on the top shelf next to a couple of never-opened model car kits, and on the next a few reference books of random subjects, from Greek myth, to how-to build a cabinet, and the next was a collection of his notebooks which include notes from science classes that he felt would be interesting to hold on to for later, to his writing and drawing books.

As he let down his guard and placed his weapon back on the bed, he stared around the cabinet in confusion, and even looked around it incase whatever the culprit was somehow got passed him. But he saw nothing obvious.

Convincing himself that he must have just been hearing things, and trying to be somehow comforted by that idea, he began to close the cabinet. Then he suddenly stopped. It took him the moment for his head to clear to notice it, but once he did, he couldn’t imagine how he didn’t before. His drawing notebook that he was looking at the night before was slightly off angle. Not a lot, but it never took a lot for him to see that it, or anything, wasn’t where it should have been.

Steven called up the stairs, “Was anybody down here when I was sleeping last night?”

“Yeah, you were!” Kristy called back down as if she had just finally beaten him in come-back remarks.

“Not that I know of,” His mother responded, “Why?”

“Certain things have been moved from where I put them.”

“What can’t you find?”

Steven looked up the stairs in frustration, “I didn’t say I couldn’t find something, I said things were moved.”

“Well… how do you know something was moved if nothing’s missing?”

“What do you—because it’s not where it—you know what, nevermind…” Steven went back over to the cabinet and examined around the notebook for anything else out of place, and noticed nothing.

Picking the notebook up, he started flipping through it. He saw nothing noticeably unusual until he was stopped at his last drawing. Nothing about it really separated it much from the other drawings of the battles. It had a snake-man in the background flying on the back of a long dragon stretching off-page, while, in the foreground in a rock overhang, an armored beast had just decapitated a smaller snake-man with a blood-soaked sword. What drew his attention wasn’t so much what was there, but what wasn’t there. The whole page was full of rocks in the foreground, and even a full moon in the sky, and the top of what appeared to be part of some tower shadowed in the background—the page was completely full in everyway, except for one little corner. Just behind the armored steroid grizzly, further inside the overhang, Steven couldn’t help but notice a spot that was completely blank. Not even a pencil smudge, just… nothing. The white paper of that one small spot sat as completely virgin as a brand new notebook, and Steven, for some reason, could not think for the life of him what actually should have been there.

Even when he drew something that had little to no thought behind it, and just simply drew whatever came out of impulse, he still would normally remember everything about it. He would have remembered simply for the sake that he usually remembered everything he ever saw. However, scanning through his head in everyway he could, he couldn’t think of what it was.

“Steve,” His mother’s voice pulled him from his thoughts, “you better get going or you’re gonna be late.”

Late? Right, school. Steven put the notebook back in the cabinet in its proper place, and closed the door, gesturing to it as if telling it and its contents to “stay.” He threw on his jacket and grabbed his loaded bag, and ran up the stairs and out the back door. He normally would have gone to the back corner of the yard and jumped the fence, but lost in his thoughts still, he simply went out the side gate instead.

He walked the two blocks back to Park Wood Secondary, crossing through the student parking lot, passing the presently closed library, down the hall and up the stairs to his locker. Steven’s mind floated across more thoughts than he could keep track of. Trying to figure out the strange dream from yesterday in class, trying to figure out the even stranger dream from last night that seemed to even leave him with battle scars, and now, trying to figure out what the deal was with that notebook.

He spun through his combination lock with reflex action and threw his jacket on its hook and his books in order of the hour they came in by habit. He then went down to his first class, art. He got to the room, the door was open already, but the teacher, Ms. Ealain, was off doing whatever teachers do when they’re not in class. Only one other student was there working on some painting, Steven didn’t remember what his name was, he knew he was an upper-classmen, but he never bothered talking to him for any reason.

Steven went to the storage cabinet assigned to him and began pulling the clay sculpture that he was halfway finished with and his paint supplies. The sculpture was a snake. He originally started it entirely to be a smartass—the teacher assigned them to work on clay sculptures, so he started rolling it into a long clay snake, like any kindergartener with Play-Doh knows how to do, but then he started adding more, and more detail to it, posing it so it coiled, and sat up right like it’s about to strike; etching very detailed scales and colored diamond designs down its back; smoothing out extended flaps off the sides of its head; stretching very thin fangs; as detailed as a snake of clay and paint could be.

It wasn’t long after he finished re-wetting his paint and started detailing the lines of a diamond down the snake’s back that a few under-classmen came in. Russ was someone that he started talking to near the end of last year. He happened to run into him in the library while Russ was messing around on a computer. They started talking about nothing, mostly mindless commentary about the present state of the music played on radio—the mindlessness of it alone actually amused Steven.

This year, Russ and Steven shared a couple of electives, and as a result Russ introduced Steven to a few friends that he pretty much grew up with and also shared the class with. There was Jennifer, who seemed to have some odd new-wave-alternative-punk-grunge thing going on with her shaved hair, flannel shirt over cartoon character tee, and safety-pinned shoes—despite any first thoughts, she had a boyfriend, so clearly she wasn’t a lesbian. And there was Jamie, who was normally a fine person to talk to about anything, until someone somehow brought something about religion into a conversation, and then suddenly she was bent on saving them all. And finally, there was Lynne, who Steven couldn’t help but feel some draw to, and not just because she was cute, because even Jennifer was cute in her own shaved-head sort of way. However, Lynne came with a considerably more troubled life that seemed to always draw Steven in, more out of a need to try to help her than any physical attraction to her—although, she also had a boyfriend.

The four continued whatever projects they were working on and started going on about whatever topic that Steven was finding himself only half paying attention to. The other half of his attention seemed to still be more lost on the earlier events of the day and night. He started thinking about that small man from his dream. The one that looked like a guy somehow had a baby with a dragonfly and made… that. What did he call himself? Beag? Did things usually name themselves in a dream? That seemed to be a first as far as Steven could think of, which would be among the many details he would try to look into when he visited the library at lunch.

Just as he was sorting through his mental list of things he needed to look into involving the dreams and the small winged man, Steven notices something small quickly move out of the corner of his vision. He looked over across the room where he saw something with what looked like small shinny wings fluttering quickly behind an easel. Steven looked at the windows on the exterior wall behind him to see if any of them were left open, that maybe some insect might have gotten in through. All the windows were sealed shut.

He heard a rustling sound coming from behind the easel, that he couldn’t help but think was similar to what he heard in his cabinet at home earlier. He stared in wait for another glimpse of whatever was over there.

“Oh, my God, Steve, are you ok?” Steven was pulled out of his trance at the easel by Jennifer’s panicked voice.

“What…”

“Your arm—it’s bleeding. What’d you do?” she gestured at his cut arm that seemed to be now flowing as if it was just newly formed and began to darkly redden his black sleeve.

“What the heck, dude, what’d you do?” Russ put in.

“I… don’t know. I got a scratch from something while I was sleeping—“

“That’s more than just a scratch,” Jennifer said while dropping whatever she was working on to the table and getting up. She returned shortly with a handful of paper-towels. “Let me see that,” she said as she grabbed his arm without choice, forcing the paint brush from his hand, and slowly rolled back his sleeve to expose the rest of the cut.

“Oh, my—I can’t look at that,” Lynne said getting up as if she was about to be sick, quickly went over to Ms. Ealain’s desk and began talking to her, frantically pointing back in his direction.

“What did you do?” Jamie added on top of everyone else’s identical question.

Steven started getting frustrated with everyone being overdramatic about nothing, “I told you, I scratched—“ What the hell did I do to my arm?

Steven looked down at what Jennifer had revealed beneath his sleeve. It was very clearly way more than a scratch. Although, it was clearly just a scratch when he woke-up with it mysteriously there, and he was pretty sure it even was during breakfast. Now, however, it was a rather deep, flowing gash.

Jennifer placed a wad of the towels on the wound with enough pressure to pin his arm to the table, but the towels soaked up blood faster than she could attempt to stop it. Steven looked over and saw Lynne returning with Ms. Eelain in tow. As he watched them approach they seemed to start becoming blurry, and then he started hearing a strange high-pitched sound from somewhere in the distance.

He looked back at Jennifer disposing of a dripping wad and grabbing a new batch—the sound seemed to be getting closer, and the edges of his vision started getting dark. He saw Jennifer look up at him with panic on her face and reached out for him in slow-motion.

“Rohe? Rohe, are you awake?” Steven heard directly in his ear as something small poked at his cheek.

Steven groaned, and slowly opened his eyes. He was lying on the ground of a small tunnel lit with a dim, white-green glow that seemed to emanate from the root covered walls and roof. “What… where am I?” Steven uttered as he tried to get up before being forced back down by a pounding in his head.

“Oh, good. I was beginning to believe I had lost you to the permanent sleep, Rohe.” Beag said as he fluttered and landed on Steven’s chest, “You must have fallen into a patch of codlata vine, it cut into your arm really badly and left its bad juices in you.”

Steven lifted his arm and noticed it was wrapped with a cast of leaves, “Codlata…?”

“Yes, but don’t worry, Rohe. I covered the wound with solas syrup,” Beag pointed at the glowing walls, and Steven noticed for the first time that the glowing spots were moving, “They mix their own magic with the tree’s and make the syrup very good for healing almost anything.”

Steven lifted the leaf cast against its binds to peak under, and what he distinctly remembered being a blood flowing gash was now just a red jagged line covered with shiny goo. He replaced the leaves upon his still slightly tender wound, and began examining the rest of him. The clothing he was wearing was composed of mostly sleeveless rags made of what felt like some sort of very crudely processed cotton, with his feat wrapped in the same material.

As he tried moving around, he noticed that his skin felt stiff, as if it was completely caked with some dried up grime. Steven began brushing himself off, and paused as he noticed in the dim light, that the flakes of grime had a tinge of dark red—dried blood. It was covering him, as he touched his face, everywhere, as if he was not long ago drenched in it. “This can’t all be my blood, can it?”

“Oh, no, I’m afraid that no amount of solas syrup can ever heal him again, Rohe,” Beag responded with a cynical grin, “That’s what remains of the Loostrem you destroyed.”