Chapter 2, Bugs and Boy
After what might be considered a revelation yesterday, I was confused as for what to do today. Bix was gone and my mother was certainly both angry and worried. Tina eventually woke up and managed to find some left over chicken in the kitchen, it seemed that not everything had disappeared with Bix. At least that was some proof that yesterday really happen and that Bix was actually real.
Even if he wasn’t me and Tina still needed to find a way home. I joined Tina for what remained of the chicken and thought. The only real clue we had was the path Bix had explained last night. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was better then any other choice we had.
All I could really do was put on my socks, which had dried during the night, and search for a way home. I was only glad that Tina was along for the trip even if everything was her fault because I don’t know if I would have been able to do it alone. Tina was her usual wild self. She pestered me endlessly about what I was going to do about the school we were missing, of course she didn’t care if she missed school but she found it entertaining that I did. I bore it for a while before I finally changed the topic by pulling on Tina’s tail. She hates it when I do that.
The outside of the building was the same was when we found it last night. It still looked like a church surrounded by upside down waterfalls. Though somehow Bix’s absence seem to make the entire place less lively. Maybe Bix had become my friend in that short night and I didn’t realize it.
We followed Bix’s directions, maybe through some stroke of luck we would find ourselves home instead of some stranger place like Atlantis. Though to tell the truth last night’s experience had made me want to explore more and to see new horizons in this New World. I had only heard stories about here and now I wanted to see more. Maybe we would see the shining jewels of Paradise or find love at Endless Beach.
Maybe my secret desires created the relative geography of the New World for me or maybe it was like that before I had seen the wall of rainbow fish but my secret wish was granted. However the place we arrive in definitely wasn’t Atlantis.
The air got warmer as the followed the tunnel up. The tunnel was barely lit by a small glow from the moss clinging to the floor and walls. I wondered if my socks would glow after walking on it. Soon we saw a brighter light up, farther along the path. The light nearly blinded us as we escaped from the Buried Sea and found ourselves in a forest of giant mushrooms.
The mushrooms were an uproarious riot of colors and sizes which made me wonder if any of them would be safe to eat. Would the purple spotted mushroom be safer to eat then the red and pink striped one. I heard the loud squawk of what must have been a bird. It made me realize how damp and musky everything had been under the ground.
“Ema, Look!”, that must have become Tina’s new catchphrase, “Those yellow birds are eating the mushrooms. I wonder what they taste like?”
“The mushrooms or the birds?” I asked, though I had a feeling I knew what the answer would be.
“The birds silly, who cares what the mushrooms taste like.”
“What if they taste like birds?”
Tina seemed to ponder that question as if I had truly brought into question her beliefs for the first time. I took advantage of her silence to head off into the forest of mushrooms. Now that we had exited the Buried Sea the directions that Bix had given us was no longer useful. We would have to find someone else to guide us from here. Since I didn’t have any clues as to where to go from here any direction was better then just standing still. Tina followed me still pondering the stumper I had given her. Seriously, was it that difficult of a question for her?
I was still living in an idealistic dream. I knew that the New World was strange, different, and beautiful. Even after the Great Change I had lived most of my life in relative comfort, never having faced any great difficulties before. While my journey to the New World had currently been exciting it had never really been dangerous. That was about to change.
Our first warning was when the bird that Tina had stalking turned it’s head, squawked, and took off. It was immediately followed by dozens of other birds of different species which all took off without notice. The whole cloud of them whirled and sped away. Tina’s eyes twitched, “Ema, I hear something, it sounds like a buzzing of some sort.”
We exchanged uncertain looks, finally I managed to ask “If the birds flew away then you think we should leave too. Maybe it is something else like the Buried Sea flooding?” What do you think are the chances of use running into two possibly dangerous encounters back to back. Well, that chances are quite good actually.
Our second warning came in the form of the ground and mushrooms shaking. Now it wasn’t just Tina who could hear the buzzing, I could hear it too. We barely had time to react before insects began flying out of the mushroom forest. They were small pesky things that one usually don’t worry to much about, however this time there were hundreds of them.
However everything went from bad to worse when the ground shook again and mushrooms fell to the ground as the largest beetle I had ever seen burst through the trees. It was at least as big as a horse and probably bigger. The smaller bugs swarmed around tiny whirlwind. Through the whizzing bugs I could see its thick black carapace. It had large pincers coming off of its mouth that were larger then my arms and probably sharper then a knife. I think I was more scared at that moment then I had even previously been in my life.
I mention that I couldn’t remember the number of times my life had changed. Well, this was another point. However it wasn’t the horror of the giant beetle that changed my life. Had it just been that then I doubt I would have changed, if I had run away and escaped I probably would have stayed the same. I would have thought that there was nothing I could do. If that had happened I would have stayed a coward. No, it was what happened next that changed me.
Tina hissed at the giant beetle though I could see that her arms and legs were shaking uncontrollably, mine probably would have been too if I hadn’t sunk down onto my knees. The beetle advanced on us and just as it got too close for comfort I saw a flash of light. Something human sized leapt from one of the larger nearby mushroom trees. Everything then happened so fast that I could barely register what happened. The form was carrying some long metal weapon... a sword? It crashed down on the beetle, the blade of the sword pointing down. It sunk into the carapace of the beetle almost up to the hilt. A moment later the sword had been pulled clean, slicing through the thick armor like it was butter. The person landed next to the beetle and in a single motion wiped and sheathed the sword.
The buzzing subsided as the bug, bereft of their leader, flew began flying away. The figure turned toward us and was finally able to get a clear look at him. He was young, maybe about my age. He was short, just a couple inches larger then me. His blond hair was shoulder length which give him an almost delicate look. However his eyes were a deeply piercing shade of red almost like you could feel energy coming from him. His movement were smooth and fluid which made him look like he was almost dancing. His clothing was as flowing as he was. The dark silver of his clothing was as distinct as its cut. His shirt was little more then a tunic, leaving his, too thin for his arms, bare. His pants were loose around his legs to allow easy movement.
I hated him. The moment I caught a glimpse of his piercing red eyes I knew I hated him. He may have saved me but he had seen my moment of weakness and he was standing there cool and calm as if his actions had been nothing important. I hated him, but I hated myself more. This boy, who couldn’t be older then me, had just done something I had been too afraid to even try. In front of this calm figure my weakness was even more pronounced. I never wanted that to happen again.
All of this however seemed to be lost on Tina. She seemed to recover almost as soon as the boy had defeated the giant beetle. I even her ability to bounce back like that and not dwell on matters like I do. Instead she seemed to have fixed her attention on the boy. Meeting new people always interested her and was usually enough to bring her out of any cloud of depression. (No that that happened to her frequently)
While I was still recovering from my shock and embarrassment, Tina decided to size up the boy. I felt it was unnecessary, we had just seem him kill that beetle in only a few seconds. However even she stopped when the silver clothed boy shot her with a violent stare.
“Leave this place, Now.” The boy’s voice was soft but threatening, or maybe what we had just seen made it sound threatening. He turned and without another word leapt up onto one of the larger mushrooms.
Who was this boy who could make such a fantastic leap. He didn’t look like a Zoomorph which might have explained his physical prowess. Maybe he was a metahuman, that could certainly explain what he could do. However, for some reason, that didn’t sit right with me. Somehow I felt that this boy wasn’t so different then me, maybe that was part of what made me hate him.
I couldn’t do much more then stand up and brush off my clothing as the boy whose name I didn’t know ran away from tree to tree. He was as fast as Tina and I knew I would have trouble catching him if I followed, I didn’t even know if I wanted to follow. We had met someone who might give us direction and he turn out to be a kid that I hated. The world is funny like that.
The only thing left to do know was decide what to do. We could follow the boy despite his warning to leave or... Or we could what? We didn’t know where to go even if we wanted to leave. We could return to the Buried Sea but how would we get home from there? We could try searching somewhere else in the mushroom forest, but who knew if we would encounter another giant beetle. Did we really have any other choice but to follow the boy. I consulted with Tina and she seemed to be in agreement with me, there did seem to be anything else we could do. I also just couldn’t let things stand with him, how could I after what happened.
So we followed the silver clothed boy who name we still didn’t know into the forest, though in hind-sight it might have been better to heed his advice and try another way of going home. To bad hindsight to useless when you are actually living life. I told you have have lost track of how many times my life had changed didn’t I?
Tina may be wild and ditzy some times but she can be really reliable. Her senses of smell and hearing are far better then mine. It would have been hard to follow the silver clothed boy with her senses, sometimes I wonder if she is more dog then cat. She’ll be angry if she ever reads this, she hates being called a dog.
We followed the boy’s trail through the mushroom forest, following small clues and smells that only Tina was able to notice. It reminded me of trying to play hide-and-seek with her when we were children, I always lost.
We finally exited the trees to find ourselves in front of a walled town. I could see the roofs of houses above the stone wall surrounding the town. High above all the houses I could see a castle rising out of the town. It felt like the entire thing had come out of a fantasy novel.
“Ema, these walls, they look new.” Tina pointed at the walled and I got closer to take a better look. Tina was right, the none of the stones in the wall seemed very weathered like the wall was only a couple of years old.
“Your right, it does look new. I wonder who would have made a medieval style city way out here.” It this is where the silver clothed boy went to maybe this was his home, but if that was the reason then why would he tell us to stay away. The whole thing seemed a bit queer to me. I really should trust my instincts like Tina does.
After we were done examining the wall we walked around the side looking for an entrance, after all there must be people inside this town. I was wrong. We found the gate, which was also in medieval fashion, portcullis and everything. However is was open as if left open for visitors. Even stranger still I couldn’t see anyone in the town.
“Nobody is here Ema. I can’t hear anybody.” Whispered Tina to me, I guess she really was worried after the beetle attack because she normally didn’t act like this. I guess wonders in the New World really don’t cease. But Tina was probably right, if she couldn’t hear anyone here then there probably wasn’t anyone here.
However it probably hadn’t been very long since people had been here. Things were left out on the street as if people had just dropped them and left. Everything seemed as if it had been untouched since then. As we walked through the streets in hopes of finding someone I noticed a few things. While the style of everything was Medieval they were bunches of modern conveniences. All of the buildings seemed to have been wired for electricity, though where the wires were or where the power was coming from was a mystery to me. Unfortunately for me and Tina there didn’t seem to be any phones of any kind. Maybe phones weren’t able to connect from the New World to Earth anyway.
“This place in lonely” Said Tina as she peered through the windows of the houses. “Its like these houses are waiting for people.” She actually sounded serious, “I wonder where everyone went.”
“I don’t know but it doesn’t look like they just went to the store. Maybe something scared them way. Do you think it might have been that giant beetle?”
“Hmmm, I don’t think so Ema. That beetle wouldn’t have been able to get through those walls.” She looked up at the castle, “Maybe we can find some answers there. I have a feeling we might see that boy with the sword there.
I followed her gaze up to the castle, “I think your right. We will probably find both the answers as to what happened here and the boy up there. But the castle might be where the boy was warning up away from. But we don’t really have much choice do we, I mean do you have a better way of going home?”
Tina shook her head, “Nope, going to the castle seems like the best idea to me too.” We were in agreement then, our only choice was to see what was happening in the castle.
We wound our ways through the empty streets up to the castle. Without people in the city surrounding it the castle seemed proud and mournful. The castle seemed larger the closer we got to it, almost like it was waiting for us to get closer to show us its true size. Like the walls outside the stones on the castle seemed new, who would have made such an enormous building way out here and why would they have done it?
As we got closer to the castle gates, which were also open as if inviting us in, Tina sniffed and said, “He is here, the sword boy. There are also some other people, I can hear them talking.” I nodded, slightly worried. What might it be that the silver clothed boy was warning us about, I guess we were about to find out.
We tried to move quietly as we moved through the castle following Tina’s sharp senses. I did the best I could at staying quiet, though Tina was definitely better at it then me. You path lead though the castle and to a set of stairs leading down, “Are you sure this is the right place Tina?” I asked, it wasn’t that I doubted Tina but I was starting to get worried.
Tina only nodded before leading the way down the stairs. As we walked down the stairs I began hearing people talk, this must be what Tina was hearing.
“Why won’t you stop this.” Came a voice from down the stairs. I stopped because I instantly recognized the voice as the silver-clothed boy. Who was he talking to.
“The entire town is gone, most of the were driven away by your madness. But there were still others when I left, what did you do with them?” The boy continued. There was a long pause, I held my breath as I waited not wanting to miss what was said next.
“Answer me sister, what have you done!” The boy was yelling now. His sister? I motioned Tina and we took a few more steps down the stairs.
“SILENCE!” The high ringing tones came up the stairs. This loud frozen voice was definitely not the boy’s. Was this his sister’s voice?
“Sister, can’t you see what you have become. Look at yourself, your not even remotely human anymore.” What was happening down there, I really wanted to see for myself. I continued to creep down the stairs trying not to make any sounds. I assumed Tina was following me.
“FOOLISH BROTHER, I HAVE’T BEEN HUMAN FOR TEN YEARS NOW. WHY SHOULD I PRETEND TO BE HUMAN NOW.” That voice, it seemed to freeze my blood. What sort of person could sound like that? It was like nothing I had ever heard before. However I was soon able to see what sort of person could make those sounds. I had reached the bottom the the stairs and judging from the voice I was very close, I only had to peek around the corner.
It was all I could do to avoid screaming. Across the room I could see the silver-clothed boy. Yet behind him was a monster, that was all I could describe it as. It was tall, bordering on eight feet, and icy blue. It still almost looked human, I mean it had two legs and two arms... yet it was wrong. The legs were no longer shaped right, it was light the broke into a thousand little pieces at it approached the floor. It looked more like dress made out of spider webbing then it did like legs. The arms were more recognizable, yet they were long, skinny, and clawed. However even the arms were long, they looked as if they had no joints looking more like clawed tentacles then arms.
But I think the scariest thing was that the face seemed normal. It was a woman’s face that stared out with pure blue eyes. She would have been quiet beautiful if it wasn’t for everything else. But her hair broke the illusion, it spread out behind her and seemed frozen in place and yet it moved. It seemed to flow together and looked like flowing frozen water. The silver-haired boy was right, his sister was not even remotely human.
“Why sister, why have you done this? Why did you abandon your duty to the kingdom that father left to us? Why did you stop being the kind sister that I loved?” The boy’s voice sounded desperate. As I watched I almost felt that seeing him like this was part of my revenge against him. It was as if seeming him so out of control dulled my anger at letting him see my weakness... and yet seeing after seeing his sister I still felt my weakness clearly. Was there nothing I could do?
“THE KINGDOM BETRAYED ME! NOBODY CARED ABOUT ME, AS SOON AS YOU LEFT THEY ABANDONED ME! THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SO KIND TO ME WHEN YOU WERE AROUND THREW ME ASIDE AS SOON AS YOU LEFT. THOSE FOOLS WHO PRETENDED TO BE HUMAN DESERVED EVERYTHING I DID TO THEM.”
It was hard to tell from where I stood but it seemed like the silver-clothed boy looked very very sad. Finally he spoke, “Sister... no I really have no right to call you that anymore. Jamel, even if the entire world abandoned you I would have protected you... but for the same reason I can’t stand back and let you turn into a monster.”
“MONSTER!” The monster, Jamel, began laughing. It almost felt like icicles would appear around me the voice sounded so cold. “MONSTER, WE ARE ALL MONSTERS. CAN’T YOU SEE! YOU ARE NO DIFFERENT FROM ME BROTHER, YOU JUST HIDE IT BETTER. BUT NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU PRETEND, I CAN SEE THAT YOU ARE JUST AS MUCH OF A MONSTER AS ME.”
I guess I really should have been paying more attention, I hadn’t noticed Tina sneak up behind me and grab onto my arm. It didn’t notice her eyes grow wide or her fur prickle up. It didn’t notice her tighten her grip on my arm as she watched more and more intently. I did however notice when her claws begin to dig through my shirt and into my skin.
It was only a small sound that I released, but in this tense silence it was enough. Jamel and the silver-clothed boy both instantly turned. There was one long moment when Jamel and I met gazes.
The silver-clothes boy began to yell, “Run!” before being interrupted by a loud piercing scream from Jamel. We barely had time to see Jamel lounge toward us and the boy draw his sword before Tina grabbed me and began bounding up the stairs. I heard a load crash from down below as Tina and I bolted up the stairs, away from the monster Jamel and toward safety, at least for now.