Crumbling Earth

While we all go about living our lives, a small group hold, possibly, the most important information in the world. The Earth is crumbling.

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2. Chapter 2

Darkness whirled before Kailen's eyes - as much as darkness could. A dizzying pain hammered through her head and, if she was honest, she couldn't decide whether her body was horizontal or vertical. Dry, rough feelings had settled at the back of her throat. The world refused to reveal itself to her senses.

 

This has to be the worst hangover I've had since Dad left Vodka lying around when I was nine, she groaned. Sensation returned gradually to her limbs, only to awaken a pain she wasn't aware of. She bit her lip to muffle the feeble cry that flew from her hoarse vocal chords, only to release the chapped flesh moments later to crack open her eyes. To say that the world spun would be an understatement. Oh, damn, Kailen thought, freezing in her position until the false motion passed. It was then that she saw the room clearly. The bland, grey walls were ones she didn't recognize. She was sprawled out across the near-white sheets of a bed, squashed into the corner, set on similar material to walls. Grey's head lolled, and rested on his shoulders, beside her. Kailen hauled her arm over and nudged him. However, his only response was to remain a dead weight.

 

"If the storm doesn't calm down in the next hour, I'll have to put the next level of security measures in place," a female voice uttered. Kailen turned her head (as far as she could with the restraints of the bed's position) to locate its owner.

"You don't need to worry, Trecia," a deeper, masculine voice replied in an equally hushed tone. Kailen's vision found the forms she sought - a man and a young woman almost huddled by the door. Trecia, the girl, had pale yet imperfect skin, cascading black hair and concealed eyes; her companion was taller with hair so red it seemed to be ablaze, at first glance. His blue eyes gave the impression of sinking deep into his eye sockets. But that was just an effect, no? "You know very well that storms have been happening for centuries."

"I do, but the barrier was significantly weakened when she tried to get through-" Trecia was cut off by a drawn-out grown. All three pairs of eyes landed on Grey, watching while he stirred and attempted to force himself to a sitting position. Then he froze, fingers clawing at the wall. Kailen bet that he was experiencing the same commotion she had.

 

"I'd suggest you don't try and sit up too soon, but I can see that'd be a little too late." The male approached Grey to push him back onto the mattress. "I'm Xander Callindri."

"Where are we?" Grey slurred out. The two strangers exchanged a glance that made Kailen's brow crease. She propped her head up against the wall, at a right angle to her shoulders.

"That's not important right now. But we'd love it if you could tell us your names," he replied.

"Gr-"

"Why should we?" Kailen raised an eyebrow as she cut into Grey's sentence. He merely inclined his head towards her, as though he were trying to decipher her plan.

"Because," Trecia spoke this time and Kailen held her breath, expecting a snarl or shock, "I am the only one who can heal you further. And... Well, I'd rather not have to make threats."

Heal us further... Further? Kailen pondered on the other woman's words. She already healed us? So I was worse than this?

"If I tell you our names, you get me food and an explanation. Okay?" She reinforced the urgency of her demands by jutting her chin out. Xander nodded.

"Alright. Trecia, I'll go and help Naid with their meals. Can you manage?" He rested a hand on her arm. Trecia smiled in reply, covering it with hers. Satisfied, Xander slipped out the doorway. Which left the black-haired woman, who was nestled in a corner of the room, to recount her knowledge and listen to her two peculiar visitors.

 

"So, what is this place? I'm presuming it's not Miroria because there's nowhere in The Bin that's this clean and nowhere in the rest of the city that's this...grey," she reasoned then added, as an afterthought, "no offence, Grey."

"I'm sorry, but we had a deal, I want your names first. No names, no food. No food, no healing." Trecia shrugged matter-of-factly. She observed the two teenagers. They only seemed to be a few years her junior but her mind presented them as immature and unbroken. Cubs in a pack of ferocious lions. Grey's eyes were firmly focused on Kailen as he tentatively allowed her, for once, to take the initiative. The brunette just stared right through their hostess. "Okay... What if you just tell me your first name? You can say your full name, though." She gestured to Grey. "And I'll tell you a little about this place and make sure you get fed. Is that a deal? It's the best I can offer you. Ask anyone around here - we don't do info freebies with newbies."

"Just accept it. I'm starving." Grey sighed, more than a little disgruntled. Kailen blinked once. Twice. Three times.

 

"Foster. Grey Foster," he interjected. Trecia nodded along.

"Pleasure. Trecia Aundara." She resisted the urge to hold out her hand. Kailen tilted her head and squinted at her.

"How old are you? Just curious - eighteen? Nineteen?" she questioned her, almost as if she was playing 'bad cop' in an interrogation.

"Your food should be here in a few minutes," Trecia replied, nonplussed.

"Anything we'll like or is the food as strange as the interior design?" Kailen quipped. A smirk rose to her lips even when the comment failed to extract so much as a scowl.

"I'm not sure what it'll be. Our food supplies have been low, lately."

"Right. Low supplies. Anyway, where is this place? I'm pretty sure we're not in Kansas anymore." She shrugged at the measly joke.

"This is Namardea. We're exactly the same size as Miroria but our population has been whittled down to four. And one of us is a wolf called 'Bernis'," Trecia pointed it out with a little amusement.

"I guess a lot of people move away, huh?" Grey smiled. He straightened up before slouching back against the wall. The view wasn't any prettier - he was still sat on grayed bed sheets and surrounded by grey decor - but it was certainly clearer.

"You could say that..." And, all of sudden, Trecia became distant. She averted her gaze to evade their eyes. Her form seemed sorrowful. In that moment, Grey wanted to reach out and offer his comfort. If he wasn't bound by unnatural exhaustion (or the fact that she would probably reject him without a second thought). In her favour, she miraculously righted her demeanour when the door swung open and a boy strode in, balancing two kitchen trays in his arms. "Ah, this is your food."

"Finally," Kailen beamed. Her eyes surveyed the contents of the plates: cheese, ham, bread and some strips of a meat she struggled to recognize. The boy placed the trays in their laps, before scurrying back to Trecia's side.

"This is Naid." She patted his shoulder while the two launched a famished attack on their food. "He's eleven. My little brother, too."

"I'm guessing you're not the dog, then, little guy?" Kailen chuckled. Naid shook his head, close to frantic. Holding him by the shoulders, Trecia steered him out of the room, shut the door and turned back to Kailen and Grey.

"Sorry, he gets a little nervous around new people. The only people he's ever known have been here," she explained. "Never mind that. Are you ready to see what's left of the city?"

Miroria's two latest departures locked befuddled gazes before Kailen spoke for them.

"As we'll ever be."

 

 

The first thing that hit them was the dimness of it all. Everything lacked its bright accompaniment. There were clouds but no light shining out of the spaces. There were tall buildings but the windows were black and sunken. There were streets and (what could have been) reflective objects but no daylight to bounce off of the surfaces. Cement had crumbled from the sidewalks onto the roads. Alleyways descended into darkness.

"It's not still night, is it? We must've been out of it for longer than that." Grey breathed. Kailen stretched out a hand that grazed the wall of the building they'd just left.

"No, it's early afternoon. So you were," Trecia informed them. Upon hearing Kailen's sharp intake of breath, she gave them a knowing smile. "We're used to it. As long as the clocks hold out and candles still exist, we'll survive."

"Don't you have any outside support? Charities, disaster relief... Nothing on this scale happens and goes unnoticed. It would've been all over the news. Even people on the cheaper, smaller television packages would've heard about it. I would've heard about it," Kailen protested.

"We have issues. Reasons. And no help." The seventeen-year-old sighed. "We preserve what 'regular' food we can for celebrations and force ourselves to get used to what we can grow or hunt. But we don't get many guests, and we couldn't give you our idea of a meal, so we weren't exactly prepared for you. Culinary or otherwise."

"So, no help from the rest of the world?" Grey enquired, almost afraid of what the answer would be.

"No help from the rest of the world." She pulled her lips into a tight formation.

 

"What do you do about water?" Kailen snatched her attention away. "I'm guessing the plumbing's in a similar state."

"You have good intuition," Trecia replied. "Luckily, we managed to find a small, natural source. We can treat the water."

"Sounds...nice," Kailen said, before her eyes proceeded to wander absent-mindedly. Grey took it as his cue to step in. He had one more question before their little trip was over.

I wonder if you have a 'reason' for this one, he mused internally.

"How do you know about Miroria if you're kind of 'cut off'?" Grey felt a leap of satisfaction when she responded with a monosyllabic sound of surprise.

"Well, we haven't been cut off forever. And we haven't lost our atlases."

Grey narrowed his eyes and Trecia's heart beat faster against her ribcage. He wasn't sure whether to believe her. She wasn't sure whether to deceive him.

 

 

The fluctuations increased in strength, battering the structures that surrounded a young schoolgirl. They conjured up wind that fluttered about the hem of her dress and toyed with strands of stray hair. And they struck fear into her heart. A woman came rushing along the pavement, rubble and dust tumbling down behind her.

"Trecia! Trecia, darling, come inside," the woman, who appeared to be her mother, called. Although, much to her chagrin, the girl didn't budge. Her feet were glued to the floor, just as her eyes were fixated upon the tears in the atmosphere. The way their world's very existence was threatened was so curious to the eight-year-old.

 

"What is it, Mummy?" she asked without looking away. Her mother stopped and knelt by her side.

"It's a special storm. You've been taught about them in school, haven't you? They happen every fifty years and open up a door to our mirror city. But it's so tiny that you can't get through."

"That's not a special storm," the child corrected her. "That doesn't look like the pictures."

"It is now. They're stronger," she whispered. Awe escaped the middle-aged woman on this matter - she knew what it really was. It was a forced storm. Over-charged, unintended and unhealthy.

It'll have crushed half the food stores, she mourned mentally. And the medical stores. Thank goodness we took further measures.

 

"Please, Trecia, come inside," Trecia's mother was begging now, pleading as the city collapsed around them. The downfall of a fragile community that was already in decay. After a moment, the little girl nodded and allowed herself to be carried away as her mother thanked whatever idol remained that her daughter hadn't questioned the origin of this storm (or the past ones). Little did she know, Trecia had clued herself in - she'd crept into her father's study while he was away with her two-year-old brother. She'd searched his files and the answers she found struck her to the core. The knowledge would mark her soul forever. Trecia Aundara would never forget the day that a killer lightning bolt struck her world.

 

 

"Is it her, then?" Naid fired the question at Trecia seconds after she stepped into their joint 'apartment'. Trecia scowled and seated herself at the worn wooden dining table.

"I can't be sure. Yes, she's from Miroria. But she won't tell me her last name and I've never heard of her friend."

"But you have to find out! She could be dangerous..." The eleven-year-old's grey eyes widened. "Trecia, she could do what that woman did when we were little! When the storm was really rough..."

"You can't remember that, Naid. You were two years old. And I won't let anything hurt you," his sister soothed.

"Okay..." He drew in a breath.

"Listen, I will find out eventually." She gave him a pointed look. "But I can't just go up to her and say that a mad woman tried to take a trip to our world and destroyed it in the process, so I need to see if she has the same last name as her. She doesn't even know that she's in a 'mirror world'. She thinks we're in some isolated, disaster-struck city on her Earth. In time, I'll find out if her or her mum's surname is Port."

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