I leaned against the window, my head resting gently against the window as I watched the scenery rush by. Pelican town my grandfathers home, or at least it had been. I could remember days on his farm when I used to visit but those days seemed so long ago. I glanced down at the folded letter in my lap thinking over my grandfathers last words.
“If you're reading this, you must be in dire need of a change. The same thing happened to me, long ago. I'd lost sight of what mattered most in life... real connections with other people and nature.....”
"It was a nice thought grandpa." I said. "But I'm afraid that's just not an option for me anymore." I spoke to the letter as I opened it once more and read the words feeling my heart ache. He'd died forever ago, he'd given this letter to me when I was still just a girl probably with the hopes that I'd take over his old abandoned farm and make something of it once again. And long ago I would have loved to live on his farm, own a flock of chickens and milk a cow everyday. But years changed you and I no longer had such aspirations.
Truth be told. I was coming to this quite little valley to spend my remaining time in the peace and quite of fresh air, and with no one to miss me. I'd come to this place to die.
I stepped down from the last step on the bus pulling down my wide brimmed hat as I did, shielding myself from the sun as I pulled my small backpack over my shoulders.
"Hello!" A voice called to me making me look up to see a smiling red head. "You must be sugar?"
"that's me." I responded quietly with a pleasant smile. I could tell as the women looked over me she wasn't sure what to make of my pale appearance and unusual pink eyes. "Its okay." I said finely. "A lot of people are taken back by my appearance at first. I'm a bit of an albino so I burn easy." I said tugging on the brim of my hat. I was a short beanpole I knew that much, I had little muscle and even less figure.
"Ah." The women said offering an apologetic smile. "My names Robin." She said offering her hand to me. "I'm the local carpenter. Mayor Lewis sent me to show you to the old farm. he's there right now tiding it up a little."
I took her hand and gave a light shake. "Thank you." I said kindly adjusting the strap on my bag as she waved me to follow. We walked from the landing and down a little dirt path to the right eventually coming to an old house. It looked a little worn but almost just as I remembered it from my child hood memories. I paused for a moment before I turned to look at the fields. Or... what had once been the field. Now it was just wilderness, grass grew right up to the path, trees in every direction. "Oh..."
"Ya, its a little over grown." Robin said quietly looking over the space. "But its good soil under all that, with a little time and work you'll get it all cleared." Robin said encouragingly.
I offered her a smile before looking up at the house as the door opened and an old man stepped through. "Ah! welcome Sugar." the man smiled through his mustache before coming down the stairs to shake my hand. "You were this tall the last time I saw you." he said holding his hand down to his knee.
I chuckled a bit as I shook his hand. "Yes, it has been a long time." I could feel him taking a good look at me and I could see the worry in his eyes. I gave a small pat to his hand to let him know that they could talk later. "How is my grandfathers house holding up?" I asked.
"Its a little neglected, but Robin can fix that." He said nodding the women.
"I'll get right on it." She said with an enthusiastic smile.
"Thank you." I said. "Both of you." I said swinging my backpack off my shoulder and tossing it onto the porch as I glanced at the sky. "For now I think I need to make friends with our resident doctor?" I said looking to the mayor. "Make sure all my medical records have been received."
"Of coarse, I'll walk with you." Mayor Lewis smiled holding out his arm for me to take.
"Meanwhile I'll take a look and see what needs to be done to the house. leave it to me!" Robin said turning to look at the house as I followed the mayor to town.
It felt like forever dragging myself along int he darkness, over piles of garbage and through puddles of liquid of substance I didn't care to think about it. I didn't know how long I'd been crawling but I could definitely say that the light was getting closer now. It was way above my head, but I was certain now that I could see the faint shadow of a ladder leading up to it. That should be the second level, the only level I didn't know anything about but it had to be better dying up there then in this stinking mess so I continued my crawl towards the light.
As I grew closer the dim light very faintly showed me the outlines of piles and junk sticking out here and there. And things... I didn't care to inspect. I was almost there, and there was most definitely a ladder going up.
Finely reaching the pile that made its way up to the ladder, I began to climb up with a little more speed, with the light I could see better where I could go, though I was still cautious not to shift lose things to much for fear of causing a garbage slide. As I reached the top I could make out the outlines of eyeless skulls, and other bones human and otherwise. I felt my gut knot up. They must get thrown down here... form the upper levels... Or maybe these were the people who just didn't make it up the ladder, or worse... they made it up and were thrown back down. I skirted around as many of the bones and rotting body parts I could making my trip understandably longer until they could no longer be avoided.
I took hold of the rope ladder gazing up into the dim light that shone from above. I was to tired already but I couldn't wait to get out of this hole so I mounted the ladder, holding tightly to the rope as it swung around under my feet, making it hard to keep my balance as I slowly pulled myself up. This is probably how they fell to their death... how old was this ladder? Actually I didn't really want to think about that so I focused on each foot hold and hand hold as I climbed with the goal of getting to the next level.
with each pull upwards I could make out more of the hole that the dim light came out of, not that there were really many features to see. when I finely reached it, it was nothing more then a smooth round hole in the rock above the cavern. By how worn it looked this opening was old and had been used a lot. I supposed... that didn't surprise me.
I grunted as I latched into the edge, trying to keep my grip as the rope ladder twisted around threatening to throw me off and far below. I pulled myself further up, feeling around for a hand hold, anything but the ground was smooth. "Come on!" I hissed holding tight to the ladder as I stepped up another rung and reached out. There! just the smallest bump. I was going to risk it. I let go of the ladder, quickly swinging my hand up and latching onto that one small grip as I started to pull myself up, using the rungs to push myself up higher until I'd finely pulled myself safely over the ledge. I rolled onto my back with a taking in heavy breaths as I studied the ceiling above me... which was only a few feet away. Looking around it seemed to be that way as far as I could see, It was more of a crawl space... was this level two or something else?
I rolled back over, taking a look around. The faint light I had been following before grew stronger here. and I could see Several vents where the lights shown through. I laid still for a while to regain my strength. The ground here was dusty, but cool. At this point it didn't matter what I was coverd in now.. but it was nice that it wasn't wet here. With no sound echoing through the crawl space I rested for a while. If this was truly level two then it seemed like a good place to just stay, compared to level one it was fairly comfortable. I watched as a shadow passed over one of the vents, squinting for a moment before I heard a thump somewhere off in the dimness followed by the scuffling sounds of someone... or something crawling towards me.
I rolled over, getting up into my hands and knees, reaching into my bag. Though I knew full well I had nothing to defend myself with maybe if I looked as if I did then I'd be left alone. Even though I knew my chances were slim it was a reaction out of the will to live. I could see the shadow moving towards me and as it got closer to the hole it seemed to notice me to and paused.
"W-whos' there?" The voice was shaky and timid, clearly male. I wasn't sure if I should answer or not. but it crept closer.
"Stay back!" I called making it pause again.
"Y-you just came from below?" It rocked back and forth in the darkness, cocking its head. It was a man... a very thin man. "W-wont hurt you. Just want down."
"Down?" I mumbled glancing at the hole. "Why?"
"F-food." the man said in a high pitch voice. I didn't think he was quite right in the head... but... I suppose that made sense, it was a waist there was likely to be left over food or worse..."W-want no trouble, Promise." he stuttered. Was it wise to let him pass? But he was in my way... there was a way to the next level if I was correct in my assumption that beyond those grates was level three. I needed to get past him. He seemed to think I was a danger... and it was best if he kept thinking that.
"Fine." I said pushing away. "Go on then..." The man timidly crawled forward, peering at me through dim green eyes. His body was thin and he was coverd by ragged filthy cloth, he was littered with scars. and he acted like a timid animal, his eyes darting around and then to me and then the hole as if he expected me to spring forward. "Hurry up." I said.
He skittered forward slipping through the hole skillfully and latched onto the ladder. I peered down the hole to find him looking up at me with wide eyes. I grimaced. He had every right to be frightened so I started skirting around the hole, keeping my eyes on the opening. Once I got a good distance away I turned around and crawled back slowly to peer through the hole again, The man was half way down the swinging ladder. He apparently had lots of experience going up and down that contraption. I didn't envy him. feeling only slightly safer now I turned and crawled back the way he'd come, keeping my eyes to the ceiling. There had to be a door, or trap door here right? After a moment I spotted an indent in the ceiling and made my way over to it.
This was it, it had a piece of thin mettle covering most of it, light crept through a few holes and it wasn't very heavy so I didn't have to hard of a time lifting it and pushing it out of the way. Level 2 hadn't been much more then a crawl space, unless this was really level two. I pulled myself up out of the hole and looked around. Sandy stone walls, curving halls. This looked like level two this is where the viewing of the games started. I peered around but I couldn't see a camera. This level wasn't very exciting, a few people remained on this level and I guess much like the man from before they went to the disposal to scavenge for a living. That was an option... but just the thought of it made my stomach revolt so I turned to slid the metal piece back over the entrance and put my hand on the left wall to began walking into the level.
If I remembered correctly this was a very maze like Level, with hidden alcoves, twisting condors, low hanging ceilings in some places but the traps wouldn't start till level four, which meant I would only have to worry about getting past the few people that decided to remain here on this level. But going above most certainly meant death. I wandered through the twisting condors with my hand remaining on the left wall. as I thought. I had come this far so I might as well go as far as I could, though at the same time the idea of becoming amusement for those watching annoyed me. The craziest idea to have at this moment would be thinking about spiting them by reaching the twelve level but that was not only crazy but impossible.
I started to wish that I had payed more attention to the TV's when I had to chance, to study the lay out of the levels , or at least discern some form of land mark. The walls all looked the same, a dull sandy color in the dim lighting. Others seemed to have had some ideas of marking their way, I could find faded etches in the wall but they were so well warn that they were hard to see. And they only seemed to appear near small alcoves, and what looked like tunnels. I had really yet to come to a real split off in the path and yet to run into anyone else, though I was convinced that I could hear scuffling somewhere. I continued on further my eyes roving from one crack in the wall to the next.
The elements say very little about their involvement in turning what was once a waste of shadows and rock into the plentiful grounds we now roam upon.
One by one life began to take root in the footsteps of the elements, water burst forth from the crevasse, plants began to flourish under the bursting light of a new sun. Creatures begin to crawl forth, some on two legs and some on four.
Life before we had known it, began. First the nature spirits, and then their cousins the fairies then Dragons and Giants, Dwarves, elves, Orcs, and all manner of other races awoke. For centuries these individual races flourished across the lands, watching the footsteps of the elements spread to the far reaches of shadow and rock.
And when they thought there could be nothing more that could rise from the footsteps of the elements a new race appeared, weak and fragile and few in number.
The other races saw them as children, and while some were unsure if they should parent them others hesitated not to bring the children of the elements under their care. This race was known as human.
They struggled in this land of wonders and dangers. To find a foothold, to find their place, to co-exist.
The other races observed their behavior, how sporadic their nature was. They could be violent, but nurturing, Greedy but giving, curious and adventurous, innovative and destructive. Their nature varied so wildly that no one race was quite certain how they would fit into their realms, their world.
Nature spirits eventually concluded that this young race had more potential for growth than any of the elder races did. And their world would significantly change as the humans progressed in their growth and multiplied.
This disturbed the elder races at the implication of what their world could be thrown into in the future. A debate over whether or not they should be allowed to remain and spread over the earth.
Ultimately they decided that it was not their decision and would leave it up to the Elements and the earth as to weather or not these humans would thrive.
I glanced up at the sky and wiped my brow with the back of my arm. It had been about a week and a half now , Robin had taken care of the major repairs to the house so it was livable and quite cozy.
I sighed and settled back on my legs, on my knees in rich soil. Robin had been right. But clearing the weeds and debris in just a large enough patch to grow some vegetables had taken it out of me and it felt like more weeds had sprung up while I’d been resting.
I would need to go to the store soon, not just for food but seeds, that is if I wanted to plant anything this month. I gazed at the overgrown field before me and sighed. Was it worth trying to clear all of this out? Or should I just get a few chickens and let them forage? That would be a good use for all that over growth. Maybe a few goats would clear it out.
I sighed as I started pushing myself to my feet to head inside to get some water. I just planned on trying my hand at a small garden but chickens were sounding a whole lot easier right now.
As I climbed the steps to the porch I heard the crunch of gravel under foot and paused to look down the path that led to the bus stop and then town.
“Good evening Sugar!” Harvey called.
“Hello Doctor Harvey.” I called back, turning to him as he stopped at the edge of the stairs. “What brings you here?”
“I just came to check up on our new resident and see how your settling.”
“That’s very kind of you.” I offered him a small smile before gesturing to my door. “Coffee?” I offered.
“No, I have to get back to the clinic, but thank you.” He smiled before he gave a little wave and started back down the path. He paused before turning back to me. “By the way, the egg festival is coming up.”
“Oh? When is it?”
“The 13th, If your feeling up to it, we’d love to see you there.”
“Hum.” It could be fun I thought for a moment. “I’m certain I’ll have enough energy for the trek into town.” I offered another small smile. “We’ll see.”
“Don’t push yourself too hard.”
“Don’t worry doctor, I’m quite aware of my limitations.” I said more quietly before quietly waving as he started down the path again.
They had settled quite comfortably among some scraggly trees clinging to the rocks and grassy ground. Divven hung from one of the branches in a small makeshift hammock his tail dangling out as it swung gently to and fro.
Nabutan slept below on the ground, his head resting back on his hands as he stared up at the black sky, small sparkles littering the darkness above, in the distance small lights floating to and fro lazily. He sighed softly a smile touching his lips as he closed his eyes in thought.
He hadn't realized it but he dozed off only to be roused by, a feeling. Rolling over her tried to ignore it unconsciously trying to doze back off into a deeper sleep but this feeling persisted and eventually roused him enough to open his eyes.
The world was dark, the fireflies no longer drifted around the air and the stars seemed to have hid themselves, it was so dark that he could not even see Divven who was only a few feet above him. He started awake and set up as he looked around desperately trying to make something out. But there was nothing to make out he could not even hear his friends breathing.
“Divven?” He asked quietly when he got no answer he raised his voice a bit more. “Divven!”
“Huh...” Divven’s voice was faint as if far away.
“Can you hear me?!”
“Y-ya....” There was a muffled sound, like he was yawning. “You can come closer Nabutan...”
“I’m right below you...”
“Huh?” This seemed to rouse him a bit. “Why... Where are the stars?”
“I can’t see them either.”
There was some shifting from above and then a sudden thud and grunt from right beside him as divven tumbled out of the hammock. “W-whats going on?” He asked quietly as he felt around, Even as his hand brushed his he could only faintly hear him as if he was across a large room.
“I don’t know.” He responded pushing himself up slowly and squinting into the surrounding darkness. There was nothing not even a breeze.
“I don’t like this...” Divven said his voice quivering in fear.
“Relaxe...” Nabuta said back moving slowly and feeling his way he stumbled as his foot caught on something. There, a rock and there were plenty of them when he fell asleep. Reaching down he felt his hand around where he had stumbled until he grasped something and pulled it up with some difficulty. It felt surprisingly light and long.
For a glorifying instance a glow illuminated their space, as if a deep dark cloud had been blocking the way of the moon. For a horrifying instance bones, and skulls, body parts littered around his feet.
“Nab!!” His friend squeaked pointing behind him, Nabutan only had enough time to whirl around before he was slammed into by a large creature. Large claws dug into his chest squeezing a gasp of pain from his lips. The gray skinned monster above him was like a large snake with thin membrane wings and large clawed feet much like a chicken but much much thicker. It swung its human like head around on a snake like neck to face him, its eyes pitch black with no intelligence just an animalistic hunger to them. It opened its maw to show two large fangs and many smaller ones, no doubt for ripping flesh off.
Suddenly a bone whirled through the air hitting the creature dead center in the forehead making it shreek and lift into the air.
“Nab get up!” Divven begged tugging at his arm.
Feeling dizzy the older boy picked himself up before shoving his friend off. “Run!” Again Nabutan was filled the urgency to get away and pushed his friend a bit more urgently as the two began to run over the bones scattered across... everything they could see. Suddenly it was pitch dark again, the cry behind them long and angered, wings battered the air.
“Can it see us?” Divven gasped as bones clattered together form their stumbling gate.
“I don’t know keep running!” Running was far more difficult to do in pitch Blackness their stumbling gates often brought them down from the smallest of stumbles. They had run for who knew how long, no sound followed them but still they run. Until suddenly Nabutan felt something heavy take hold of his shoulder.
Eyes snapped open he set up wildly trying to shake off whatever had a hold to him.
“Whoa whoa!” Hands were gently placed on his shoulder holding him down for a moment as he struggled until he lay panting. “There you go lad just lay back and breath....” Nabutan’s eyes finally cleared allowing him to look up into the face of a slightly older man, but still young for a guard. There were more men standing around watching intently.
A moment later he let out a moan as the pain in his chest pulsed through his body making him look down to see dark stains starting to seep into his shirt. “Divven... wheres divven!?” He started to struggle up again as he got no reply. He scurried over to the shivering form of his best friend. It hurt to breath let alone move but he made himself bend over his friend shaking him with urgency.
“Get off!!!” The furry boy pushed Nabutan off holding himself as he shook.
“Divven its me...”
“N-nab...?” He could only nod before divven shuddered. “I-it was horrible...” he stuttered as the men gathered around. “I-it was d-dark a-and t-that thing it....” suddenly his black eyes widened as he spotted the spreading blood on his chest. “I-it...” he couldn't get out what he was saying.
“I saw it too...” Nabutan said slowly understanding immediately what his friend had seen.
“Okay so tell me what are two boys doing out in the middle of nowhere?”
Looking back the two saw just how many men were there, around a dozen give or take a few.
“W-we were heading for the gates.” Divven replied. “W-we were going to leave this place.”
For a moment the man just stared at them before he slowly nodded.
“We thought you were gonners.” One man spoke up. “You weren't breathing and for a while there we couldn't wake you.”
The two looked at each other for a long moment.
“And you...” Another said quietly looking at Nabutan and then his chest. Causing the boys to look themselves.
“Tell us what happened while we take a look at you.”
Nabutan and divven explained as best as they could what happened right before and when they fell asleep. The guards in turn listen intently to their explanation and did not right away put it down as a fantasy, good reason. The deep marks in his chest where the creature had punctured with its claws were good proof.
They began to move to the outpost, it turned out they were a lot closer than they had thought. The men wanted them to explain more but there really was nothing more to explain. When they were inside the gates of the out post both boys could not help but look around them in some awe. It was a different picture than what they had been told. Men stood on the ramparts with spears looking as vigilant as knights. Down below some men tended horses, a few women went about other chores But for the most part men overpopulated the women here.
“Whoa...” Divven was almost over his earlier fright And Nabutan was able to breath easier again.
“Ya...” Nabutan agreed as the two boys slowly stepped in a circle to take it all in. Shortly after they found themselves in a smaller room two women checking them over, fortunately the only wounds they found where no Nabutan’s chest and they were far from being life threatening.
“They’ll be right as rain on the morrow and you can send them back.”
“Send us back!?” Divven pipped up.
“From the looks of you, you don’t have much on you, let alone enough to pay the toll.””
“You didn’t know?” The women asked. Despite the question she didn’t seem all that surprised by Nabutan’s question.
The boys looked at each other. “Those who leave don’t come back.”
The women nodded while the guards sighed. “Sorry kid we can’t let you through... We’ll escort you back tomorrow when we can spare some men.”
Neither one said anything, it seemed their hopes of getting away from this forsaken hole where cast away...