My vision blurred. Was I crying? I sat up, my head throbbing, moaning again.
I saw two objects in front of me, and I knew I should know them, but I couldn't identify them. I saw ink on my skin, and read about the entire journey, my memory slowly returning.
The ground was black, like coals. I realized I was not crying, but sweating from the heat.
The stuffed animal beside me sat up, startling me. I had not expected it to actually wake up, hoping it had all been a dream. But he, and Shredded Cloth, stirred.
There were tears in my dress, my hair was singed off to a pixie cut, and Bear and Shredded Cloth both had bruised seams.
We reacquainted ourselves and assessed the situation. The frozen wastelands were gone, and we had woken up in a soot-covered world of red and black. I could see flames flickering all over, and it was filthy. I was covered in soot and dirt and grime by the end of the first hour.
We found our possessions alongside the glass that had been formed by the beacon scattered around, and spent the remainder of the day gathering them up. There was no sun, the sky was lit by itself with bloodied fire clouds that morphed together as one, solid background.
I rubbed my sore feet, almost bloody with the strain of the rough ground. I decided it was made of charcoal or coal, which kept the small fires burning forever.
|Yes I did draw this.|
There was no food or water, and quickly I became hungry and thirsty.
I knew this wouldn't be as easy as the frozen landscapes, but now at least I knew what was going on.
Bear, Shredded Cloth and I sat down to discuss strategy.
ME: It appears we were to collect a note, decipher it, and deposit it into the beacon.
BEAR: We must receive the next note and locate the beacon.
ME: Let us go and slay some beasts, then.
SHREDDED CLOTH: Let us not be hasty. We may not survive long in this wasteland without proper food, shelter, and water.
ME: Which, by slaying beasts, we can obtain.
SHREDDED CLOTH: I do not see any beasts in sight.
ME: But the last ones we faced rose up so suddenly, we didn't see them coming, either. I suggest we just do as we did last time; pick a direction and start off in it.
That proved difficult. As soon as we entered the fourth mile, I collapsed from exhaustion, and no matter how thin I was Bear and Shredded Cloth could not drag me any farther.
BEAR: I suppose we will camp here for a while.
ME: I miss the sun! Where are the days?!
SHREDDED CLOTH: One might go a bit insane in a place such as this, I suppose.
I licked my dry, cracked lips.
ME: Do you hear that?
We paused. A small, horse-like whinny rang out not far in the distance.
SHREDDED CLOTH: Is that a pony?
BEAR: It can carry us on our journey!
ME: I'd rather we eat it. We have fires to cook it on.
BEAR: We would benefit longer from riding it.
ME: I... suppose.
We hobbled away, following the sound. Eventually we saw a white speck in the distance, and broke into a weak jog.
As we closed in around the pony, I discovered it was not a horse at all but a giant, floating creature.
The beast opened its mouth, and spewed a fiery blaze at us.
I dove for shelter behind a coal boulder, coughing from the dust kicked up by the commotion. The creature was sweeping its flame back and forth, trying to locate us. I observed, that despite its three eyes it could not see well.
Bear and Shredded Cloth hid behind a smaller rock a few feet away, and we whispered harshly.
BEAR: What do we do?! This is unlike any other foe we've faced!
SHREDDED CLOTH: We should flank it from all sides!
ME: No, you two are too flammable. It is best if I defeat it on my own.
BEAR: You are just as flammable as us.
ME: How about if.. *whisper*
We formed a sloppy, uncoordinated plan. As soon as the beast came near enough, Bear leaped out from behind the rock and started running. The beast whirled around and began to pursue him, and, not wasting a moment, I lunged for Shredded Cloth, grabbed him, and twirled him in the air.
He flew like a bird over the beast, and landed undetected on its back. As soon as the creature sucked in a breath, his flames stopping, Shredded Cloth threw his ripped part over its neck and squeezed tight, trapping him.
BEAR: Tire him out, SC! Break him in! Then we can ride him!
The beast let out a sputtering burst of fire again.
ME: He cannot be tamed! He will burn you, Shredded Cloth, just kill it!
I reached into my bag and hurled the knife at the beast. It stuck cleanly in its kidney and the beast wobbled on its legs and collapsed.
ME: Kill it! Don't let it suffer!
With a clean slice, Bear chopped its head off, and the carcass burst into flames. We let it die down for a while, breathing heavily on the side, until we found six bottles of water, a slightly scorched empty notebook, a miniature pickaxe and some packages of crackers in its place.
We shared one full bottle and split a packet of four crackers. I was happy that now I had a book to write our story down rather than my skin, but I secretly relished the ink on my skin since it was like a significant tattoo.
Instead, I wrote about the new sorts of plants and animals we had discovered, and I named them.
After writing and resting for a while, I urged my friends onward and we continued along, chatting happily.
BEAR: What do you suppose the pickaxe is for?
I swung the pickaxe with one hand, grinning as I almost dropped it.
ME: To mine the coal?
BEAR: Why would we need to?
ME: I don't know.
SHREDDED CLOTH: Guys?
ME: Maybe we can trade it as currency when we find civilization.
BEAR: We could make a coal business! There's enough of it.
SHREDDED CLOTH: Guys!
ME: The thing about people is that if they have a lot of something useful it still is in high demand because everyone's too lazy to collect it.
BEAR: Wow. You should take that to the bank.
SHREDDED CLOTH: Guys!
BEAR AND ME: What?
SHREDDED CLOTH: There's a herd of Flying Dragon Squids approaching.
I laughed, not quite registering what he was saying.
ME: Excellent name for them! I'll write that down.
I took out my book, and then realized.
ME: Oh. Yeah. Should we run?
BEAR: They haven't seen us yet. Let's go around them.
SHREDDED CLOTH: We could farm them and collect the rewards.
BEAR: There are too many, we'd be overrun.
ME: Yes, best to avoid trouble.
After walking another sixteen miles, we took a break and decided we were getting no where. By now we would be where the ice landscape was, but it wasn't happening.
ME: Are we going in the wrong direction?
BEAR: We shouldn't be.
I hopped onto a large boulder and spread myself out wide, feeling my already-tan skin sizzling from the heat.
SHREDDED CLOTH: What was that noise?
We fell silent, listening. There was nothing but the crackling of a few nearby fires.
SHREDDED CLOTH: Bang on that boulder.
I knocked on the boulder once.
BEAR: It sounds hollow.
ME: Precisely! Get the pickaxe, please.
Bear handed me the pickaxe.
ME: Thank you.
With a mighty swing, I smashed through the rock and fell right through.
I tumbled down in darkness for a solid minute before crashing down into a murky liquid.
Seconds after, I heard two other splashes. I struggled against a strong current as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I latched onto a rock and looked around frantically for Shredded Cloth and Bear. I saw them clinging to each other on a rock just nearby. I realized they still had the bag with our things in it.
ME: Bear! SC!
BEAR: We are here, Girl!
ME: Is the bag wet?!
BEAR: It's dry enough!
ME: Light a match!
He did so, and a few moments later the cavern we were in was filled with dim light.
ME: Hurry SC! Reach over so I can climb to you before the match dies out!
Shredded Cloth flung himself over the side of the boulder he and Bear clung to and latched onto my own. I leaped off my rock, nearly getting swept away in the violent current, and climbed my way over to Bear. The match touched Bear's finger just as we finished reeling Shredded Cloth back in, and Bear dropped it down into the murky river, instantly leaving us in blackness.
The darkness came so abruptly I cried out and nearly let go of the slippery rock.
BEAR: Hold on!
His voice echoed scarily along the cave walls. I looked up, trying to get a glimpse of the light of the surface, but we were too far down.
ME: At least I'm not sweltering hot now.
SHREDDED CLOTH: How do we get off this blasted rock??
ME: Why don't we just let go?
BEAR: We could tumble down a waterfall.
ME: Do we have any other choice?
We thought for a moment.
BEAR: Not really. And what do we have to lose?
ME: Our lives.
BEAR: But we don't know who we are, and why this all is happening, so it makes it all valueless, eh?
ME: Life is always more valuable than anything.
SHREDDED CLOTH: We could set a match afloat in the bowl to see if anything is ahead before our next resting point.
ME: That risks losing our bowl and a precious match, and what if the stream goes on forever?
SHREDDED CLOTH: Let's try it. We can make another bowl with our new found pickaxe.
I shrugged, and rigged up the said contraption.
All together, we pushed the bowl off, watching it bob down the tunnel for a few minutes before...
Immediately, we hopped off our boulder and struggled to the other one, and finally latched onto the second boulder just as the light went out.
As I washed out the bowl, Bear and Shredded Cloth discussed strategy.
SHREDDED CLOTH: As it appears beneath such a fiery desert is humid wetness the best strategy would be to remain beneath the ground so we don't fizzle up.
BEAR: At one point there will be no more stones protruding from the flow and we may drown.
SHREDDED CLOTH: But, this allows us to submerge and cool off whenever we want to, as hot strain exhausts us far more quickly but while remaining cool we will have more energy to last longer in between boulders...
I tuned out their boring chatter until I heard a slight crinkling noise as Shredded Cloth adjusted himself on the rock to illustrate a point by gesturing around, and then I heaved myself up next to them.
ME: Lift your tail, please, SC.
Shredded Cloth obediently raised his corner and we all gasped simultaneously.
ME: 'Lose Trust'... sounds a bit sad.
BEAR: This is definitely not going to be as fun as the iceland note.
As we pondered on the ominous meaning to this note, we heard a noise.
All of us jumped out of our skin.
To be continued...........