After I wrote about the destruction in Japan, a massive swarm of tornadoes struck the southeast US and killed hundreds. Since the media is covering this tragedy in great detail, I figured we could all use an escape from reality in the form of fiction.
So here's a little story to carry you away.
* * *
The sky is the color of iron. Lightning arcs amongst the clouds. Hard rain forces my head down, and the cold drops sting the back of my neck.
I am lost.
The trees are black. A fire would be good. But it's hard to imagine the rain stopping long enough for a fire to take hold. Fire. I pick up a short branch next to my boot. It crumbles in my hand, leaving a brown smear. Blink some drops out of my eyes. My hands shake and a ripple runs through my shoulders.
There are no leaves. No pine needles. No green plants of any sort. This forest is dead. This world is dead. Even the mud sucks at my boots, reluctant to let any living thing pass by. I wish for a horse, but what would it eat?
I keep moving. I can sit down and shiver to death or I can march. I wish I had my sword. It's lost, probably in the castle. I have a knife--the kind you cut food with. Its blade is the color of the sky.
Feel like screaming, but don't. There's no one to hear me, so it's pointless. Anything that heard me here I wouldn't want to meet with only my little knife.
As I leave the wood, I see round, gray stones scattered across a field in front of me. They look like millstones. Now there's half a pillar. I stop and touch it. It's cold. I don't know why it would be anything else. There are lines on the pillar. It is segmented. Built from the pieces lying all around me. I didn't know that. I thought pillars were all one piece, but they aren't. They're just stacks of round stones cut to the same size. I've never built a pillar.
I've seen cities before. They were dense and noisy and they had walls. The city across the field has no walls. I move closer. Everything about the city is wrong. The buildings are all broken, roofs fallen in, walls collapsed. Doorways to nowhere left standing.
Enter the city. The scale is all wrong. The shapes hurt my head. Stairs go up but then stop. The steps are so high I have to jump to grab the bottom edge. I hang for a second, then slide back down the wall. The rain has soaked through my cloak and the shivering is worse.
When I look at the ruined city and try to picture it whole, pain erupts behind my eyes. Walls slant and bulge. Straight lines warp. I shut my eyes for a moment until the feeling passes.
There are ramps everywhere. Some go up, but most lead down into the dark soil. Nothing makes sense. It's as if mad titans built everything, then tore it apart in a fury. Maybe they did.
I crouch by one of the ramps and look down. At the bottom there are three walls and a roof. The roof is level with the ground.
I descend to get out of the rain, but the room at the base is dim. The ramp levels out and my right boot comes down in water. I stagger. Fall backward. Squint in the near darkness and see the outline of a wide pool, like a well without its wall. The pool is perfectly circular. I stare into it. The water is black, and I wonder how deep it is. I cast a stone. Splash. Despite the wind and the thunder, it is terribly loud.
The ripples spread over the black water, lap the edge of the pool and die.
There are bones next to the pool. They are not bleached white by the sun, but wet and gray and old like everything here. One small pile is a foot, a human foot or perhaps an ape's. I have seen bones before on old battlefields next to rusty axe heads and red-brown links of mail and forgotten dreams.
The pool stirs. Overflows onto the floor. Something rises from its depths.
I run up the ramp, racing half blind through the rain.
I have to find a gate. The man in the orange mantle shut the last gate behind me. There will be no escape there. I must find another.
* * *(Part 2 will soon follow. Thanks for reading!)