Ancestral *NaNoWriMo Entry*

This science fiction novel will be set among a variety of post-apocalytic/future worlds where the protagonist Charlie is trying to find the origins of his home and existence. In each world Charlie takes on a different form. In each chapter, Charlie meets his nemisis 'C'. C is determined to kill Charlie, but why? In each world the mysterious ancestral symbol appears to confuse and tantalise Charlie (and the reader). Will Charlie survive? Why is C trying to kill him? Can one exist without the other?
****** Our class is writing this******

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7. Labyrinth

Charlie's eyes were heavy, and his head felt terrible. Darkness surrounded him. He felt like he was going to throw up, not that he had eaten much lately. Those spots of light – so familiar now – also surrounded him. They looked like colourful, twinkling stars. People usually get used to most things, some quicker than others. Charlie had certainly gotten used to his apocalypse world fairly quickly. But this – this darkness, this sickness, this was something he would never get used to. Every time it happened he felt terrible, and it didn’t go away when it was meant to. It stayed like an annoying fly on a hot day. No matter how many times you try to get rid of it, it comes back just as fast as you had tried to swat it. It finally stopped, and Charlie fell through nothing and something at the same time. He hit the ground with a thud, a ground that he couldn’t see, and the world finally started materialising around him.

“I wonder what I’ll look like this time…” he muttered in his thoughts. When he jumped through dimensions, he was always slightly paralysed in one way or the other. For some reason, this time his head was paralysed. He couldn’t speak. The world finished materialising, and Charlie felt his head seem lighter. He could move it. Taking advantage of this, he looked around. He seemed to be in some sort of forest. He was surrounded by trees with extremely green leaves and dark brown trunks. They seemed very healthy. There seemed to be trees everywhere except for where he was standing; that area was a small grassy circle, devoid of any trees. It was strange. Close-by was a small rock. It seemed to be making a humming sound. Now that Charlie’s hearing had returned too, he started to hear other things. Those noises frightened him, because what he could hear was a soft chanting. It appeared to be in some foreign language that Charlie could not understand. As much as he hated it, Charlie decided to look at himself to find out what he looked like. He figured it would be better to just get it over and done with. He was shocked. From what he could see, he looked totally normal. But that didn’t mean much. He had to find some way of seeing what he looked like. He decided to test his speaking.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me?” he yelled. It sounded normal. No strange accent, no growl, and certainly no scream. He was getting excited. He had to find out what he looked like! He used a stick to draw a marking in the ground; the symbol that always seemed to find its way into his life, and ran through the forest, hoping to find a stream or a pond. He got what he wanted. He saw a large lake, about the size of a football oval. It, too, was surrounded by trees. But not just surrounded – in the very centre of the lake was a small grassy hill, protruding just enough to see. In the centre of that hill was another tree, but this tree was different. This tree was huge, tall, and wide. It seemed somehow kind, and inviting. Charlie shook his head to get rid of these stupid thoughts – trees aren’t sentient. The bottom of this tree looked like it was hollow. How something that huge could be hollow and still stand up Charlie did not know. He looked in the lake to see his reflection, and almost fell in. He was normal. He was him. He was Charlie. He wasn’t a dog. He wasn’t some 19th century British elf. He wasn’t anything but human. The only difference was that now, the symbol that liked to manifest itself anywhere it wanted was embedded into his face, on his right cheek, and his eye colour was a light red. Now that he knew this, he decided to find out what this chanting was. Judging by his experiences in the other worlds, dimensions, or realities, he didn’t really have that long before something came along and decided to end his life. He ran back through the forest in the same direction. He hadn’t had to turn at all when he was looking for the lake, so it was easy to get back. He ran back to where he was sure the small clearing was. It wasn’t there. Charlie looked down at the ground to find the symbol. It was there. The clearing should have been right in front of him, but it wasn’t. He shook his head in disbelief. Where the clearing should have been was replaced by trees. He couldn’t waste any more time trying to figure out what had happened. Curiosity had gotten the better of him, so he ran in the direction of the chanting. He was getting tired of all this running; he wasn’t very fit. He finally made it to the people chanting and immediately hid behind the nearest tree, which wasn’t very hard to find. The people were standing in a much larger clearing, just bigger than the lake, with some strange stone temple in the middle. It looked like a huge boulder with a hole cut out in the front, about half the size of the boulder itself. The boulder was high enough to reach the top of the trees and just poke out a little higher. In the hole were stone stairs with rails down both sides, leading down underground. And to Charlie’s utter shock, above the hole, or doorway, was the symbol, carved into the rock. That same ribbon looking symbol, in the shape of a harsh, sharp looking fish. He looked at the people running around the boulder, chanting. He still couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but their voices all sounded dull, and monotone. He looked closer. Their body shapes were slightly similar to a human’s, however their heads were large and rectangular, and they all seemed to be made out of wood, the same type of wood that all these thousands of tree trunks were made of. They wore no clothes, and ran around doing that same chant that seemed like a few lines, repeated again and again and again. They really just looked like big tree people. And they were big. Much taller than Charlie. About three or four Charles stacked on top of each other would be closer. The chant started to ring around Charlie's head. He was getting a head-ache. The words (if you could call them that) bounced around in Charlie’s mind, ringing and ringing, repeating themselves and not stopping. It was completely different to when you had a regular song in your head, because that didn’t hurt. It was just a minor inconvenience in everyday life. This chant seemed significant, seemed powerful, so powerful that Charlie had to grab his head with both hands, at the temples, and move a little further away. Well, he tried to move further away. The chant was so strong and powerful that his legs buckled as soon as he tried to move. His head felt like it was about to explode. He couldn’t even crawl. He was reduced to dragging himself along the ground, and got about three trees away before he passed out.

 

Charlie woke up in the same small clearing that he originally had. He looked around. It was exactly the same, a small clearing totally surrounded by a seemingly infinite amount of trees. The marking that he had drawn with a stick wasn’t there anymore. His muddy footsteps that he had made on his trip back from the lake were gone. It was almost as if the world had reset. He was deeply disturbed. The only comforting thought that ran around in his mind among the hundreds of other panicked, uncontrollable thoughts was the fact that he hadn’t died. Just that one thought seemed to make him feel a little, tiny bit better about himself. He could still hear that faint chanting that he had learned to hate. This had to be the loneliest forest he had ever been in, and in his short life (or lives, now), he hadn’t been in many. He curled up into a ball, leaning against a tree, and cried. If anyone could see him right now, he would honestly look pretty pathetic. He cried and sobbed and sobbed and cried for about 20 minutes before he managed to get a hold of himself and calm down. The ground around him was wet with tears. He got up from his pathetic little corner and sprinted. He sprinted in the direction of the chanting. That small amount of time, which had seemed so long, had given him time to think about what to do, and made him more determined. He sprinted furiously towards the chanting with his head down, and finally saw the boulder, with those odd tree-people running around it singing that terrible, deadly song. Charlie didn’t stop running this time. He kept on sprinting, with his lungs burning and his head pounding, right up and past the tree-people.

When he ran past them he saw some of them turn their heads, with shocked expressions on their wooden faces, but they never stopped chanting and they never stopped moving. It was almost like they couldn’t. Charlie stumbled on into the boulder temple. Just before he did, he caught a glimpse of the symbol above the doorway starting to glow a deep yellow. It made a faint humming sound. He ignored it and ran into the cave. His head really was pounding now. He couldn’t hold on much longer. He ran down the steps, holding on to the rails, never stopping, just running, running, running, until he made it to the bottom. He looked around frantically. This place was a labyrinth. In front of him was an empty doorway, the same as to his left and right. And when he turned around, he saw that the steps had disappeared, and in their place was another wall with an empty doorway. The chanting was completely sealed off now, but Charlie was also completely lost. At least his head wasn’t pounding anymore. That’s when he noticed that his head was wet. He felt a cool liquid running down both sides of his face. He looked at his shirt, a nice shade of blue, and saw a dark red blotch on it. He put his hand to his face and looked at it. It was covered in blood. He ran his hand along both sides of his head to pinpoint where he was bleeding from, and found it. His ears were bleeding. Blood was running out from both ears and onto the ground and his clothes. He felt lightheaded. Then he realised how lucky he had been. One more second near that chanting and he could have died. He didn’t want to have to go through that one more time, that horrible feeling of sickness when he was being pulled this way and that through different dimensions. It seemed like every time he was starting to settle in and get used to the new world that he was in, he was killed and dragged back out into a new one. He wasn’t going to die this time. He put his hands to his ears, as if that would stop the bleeding, and chose to go right. He tripped and stumbled through the corridors that were only lit with flaming torches in metal holders, turning this way and that. He realised that the bleeding had slowed, almost stopped. That was relieving. He took his hands off his ears, and noted that his hands were now completely and totally caked in blood, and continued to stumble on through the corridors. He turned left, right, forward, down, back up, right, left, up more, down more, left again, right, back around in a circle and right. This random choosing just kept on repeating itself. These tunnels seemed to go on forever, and they were completely devoid of anything but torches, Charlie, and themselves.

“What the hell have I gotten myself into?” Charlie muttered. His voice echoed through the hallways, but there was nothing to hear it. He kept on running and running until he finally found something. This something was a dead end, with a door. The door was made of rotting plywood, with a metallic handle. It was strange seeing something wooden in a place made entirely of stone. Charlie turned the handle and slowly opened the door a tiny bit. He peeked through the crack. He could make out a huge hall-looking room, with stone walls. He opened to door a bit more. Now he could only just see the hall with two flaming torches on metal stands. He opened the door a little bit more just one more time. He could now see an altar, with four flaming torches on fancy-looking metallic stands on each corner. The altar was made up of two steps that went around the entire perimeter of the altar itself, and the top of the altar. It was also completely made out of stone. The altar was about 6x6 meters in size. At the top of the altar, at the centre, was a small stone rectangular prism with its top cut off diagonally – it looked very similar to a podium. The cut off part was facing the front of the altar – facing Charlie. He swung the door open and walked up to it.

Looking closer, he saw that there was a small hole cut into the top of the podium. In the small hole was that small, stone object that had dropped next to him so long ago, back when he was in his own reality, back on Earth. Here it was, sitting in a small hole in a podium on an altar in a labyrinth in a temple in an infinite forest in an alternate dimension. It seemed impossible, but Charlie had learned long ago to forget everything he had ever been told about things that are possible and things that aren’t. He reached into the hole and pulled out the stone, which was now wet with his blood. Oops. That blood had reminded him that he was still bleeding – and it reminded him that he was feeling extremely light headed. He looked out the doorway, into the empty corridors, and found that he had Hansel-and-Greteled his way through the whole temple. With his blood. How could he have forgotten? How could he have not felt it, not even noticed it? He quickly scolded himself for being so irresponsible, not taking care of himself, really just sounding like his mother so long ago. He couldn’t even remember what his mother looked like now. He grabbed the stone and ran back through the corridors, following his own blood trail. He somehow eventually got back to where he had started. The beginning of the temple. He looked at the wall with the doorway that had replaced the stairs he had used to get inside, and saw that the symbol was carved next to the doorway. The carving was the exact same size as the stone. Acting on complete instinct Charlie slammed the stone into the carving. It was a perfect fit. The stone began to glow, and he heard a faint rumbling sound. The doorway in front of him began to collapse, revealing a slimmer of light on the other side. It had worked! He heard more crashing and witnessed a rock fall from the ceiling, inches away from smashing him in the head. That’s when Charlie realised that the temple was collapsing. He was going to die.

“No, not now!” he screamed. Of course nothing could hear him. He grabbed the stone and kicked the already shattering wall. It collapsed. He blindly sprinted out, up the stairs, out into the light, up to the last step, and jumped.

 

It’s a weird feeling when you are flying through the air with your eyes closed. It’s like you are completely free from the boundaries of the world. That’s what Charlie felt like when he made that final jump, that last life-giving leap, out of the collapsing temple. The roar of rocks falling, the boulders cracking, was deafening. But nowhere near as deafening as that horrible chant. Charlie opened his eyes, still flying out of the temple, and to his surprise, that chant was gone, and so were the tree creatures. He smiled. He was home-free. Of course, he had no idea what he would do next, how he would continue, but he knew that for now he was safe.

It’s bad to assume things like that.

Charlie went sprawling through the air, and hit the ground with a satisfying thud. That whole jump had seemed to go in slow-motion. Now he realised that he hadn’t jumped all that far at all. The temple continued to collapse, and Charlie was only just free from being crushed underneath. The massive doorway, the entrance to the temple, also collapsed – and crushed Charlie’s foot. He would have been free. He would have ran away happy-as-can-be. But now he was stuck, because he was stupid and ignorant and didn’t realise what little distance he had leapt. Well, at least only his foot was trapped. He howled with pain, and the temple finally finished collapsing. It was now nothing but a pile of rocky rubble. It’d never be recognised as a temple again. Charlie wasn’t sure if he’d ever see it again, because now he was trapped. He was hungry and thirsty, and his foot stung with pain, the worst pain he had ever felt by far. He didn’t scream, it was too painful for that and every exertion of energy sent even more pain shooting up his leg, but he clamped his teeth together, so hard he thought they’d break, shut his eyes closed, so hard he thought that his eyelids would shatter, and lay there. It was almost impossible to deal with the pain. Charlie had no idea how long he’d be there for, but he knew that he would have to find a way of coping. There wasn’t a way. So he lay there, with his teeth clenched and his eyes watering. He lay there for a few hours or so before he finally passed out.

 

Charlie was thoroughly sick and tired of passing out. He was sick of it because he didn’t like his body making him do things he didn’t want to do, and he was sick of it because every time he woke up again he was extremely confused. He was in a cottage of some sort, with wooden log walls. He couldn’t seem to see any doors. The room wasn’t really decorated that much, except for a plain pink rug in the centre of the room, and a bookcase with lots of tattered, old looking books. He was sitting on a very uncomfortable, relatively modern-looking couch, with a blanket on it. There were no light sources whatsoever, not even any windows, so it should have been pitch-black, but Charlie could see everything clearly. It was light as can be. Charlie sat there for a while, with his mind utterly disorganised, until he remembered his wounds. He put his hand up to his face and touched it. It was completely fine. No trace of blood whatsoever, and his hands were clean. Then he got out from under the blankets and looked at the grizzly part – his foot. He flinched when he knew that it was in sight. When he opened his eyes, he was so stunned that he nearly fell off the couch. The foot was completely fine. Fully repaired, no cuts, bruises, smashed up stuff, not even any blood. Even his toenails weren’t cracked. He moved his new foot, and reached over to feel it. Normal, human, smooth skin. He was relieved. So relieved, in fact, that he went back to sleep without even meaning to.

 

When Charlie woke up again, he was in the same place. He sat there, smiling, cheering in his mind for about five minutes. That’s when he became terrified. He was sitting there, kicking his legs back and forth on the couch, beaming, when he heard a cracking, rumbling noise in the furthest wall. “Oh god, no”, he said. The wall made more rumbling noises, until it started to morph. It was like a liquid. It just morphed out of the way, revealing a very slight glance into the next room, until it closed again. And what had walked through it made Charlie go whiter than he was when he was running out of blood rapidly in those tunnels. It was one of those damned tree-creatures. Charlie recognised it as the same one that was closest to him, the one that looked extremely shocked when he had ran past it. It slowly walked up to him, and he slowly shrank back. If he could have morphed through the wall like this thing had, he would have. But it smiled. Through that old, broken face that seemed to be etched into this old, broken head, he smiled. And with a scrawny, wooden hand out-stretched, he handed Charlie the stone. The pendant that he had found in the altar, the pendant that he had used to get out of those cold, lonely tunnels, the pendant that had dropped next to him so long ago, the pendant in the shape of that familiar symbol that seemed to ring around in Charlie’s head. Charlie hesitated. What if this tree thing was evil? What if this was a trap, and it was going to eat him or kill him or turn him into a tree creature, or all of the above? The creature frowned. It moved its hand further towards Charlie. It seemed to make a persistent ‘Hm’ noise when it did that. Reluctantly, Charlie slowly reached out his own hand and took the stone. The tree creature smiled. It walked backwards, and made a beckoning gesture with its finger. Charlie had to oblige. There was nothing else he could do but trust this thing. He got off the couch, expecting a stinging pain from his leg, and remembered that it was fixed. He followed the creature. The creature walked towards the wall and blended through, disappearing. Charlie only had to be confused for a split second because a wooden hand immediately shot out through the wall. Charlie held on to it, and was pulled through the wall, morphing into it just like the creature had. It was only a few seconds before Charlie was on the other side. He felt a sting in his finger, and realised he had a large splinter. A drop of blood oozed out. He almost laughed. Before this whole adventure had happened, before he was dragged through dimensions, this would have shocked him so much he would have fainted. Now, after everything he’d been through, it was one of the least threatening things there was. The tree creature didn’t think so. It made a panicked ‘Hm!’ noise, and rushed over to Charlie. It lifted a finger, and a leaf grew out of the tip, a beautiful, elegant, green leaf. It was the only leaf on the whole creature. It pulled the leaf off with its other hand, and placed the leaf onto Charlie’s finger. It made a light humming sound, and both the leaf and Charlie’s hand began to glow. It glowed a blinding light for about five seconds, and suddenly stopped. It didn’t fade away, it just stopped. Charlie looked down at his finger. The splinter was gone, the blood was gone. There wasn’t even a scar.

“That’s amazing!” Charlie exclaimed.

The tree spoke for the first time. It seemed to have an extremely hard time doing it, as the words sounded forced and strange. “My name Maakia. I am living tree. I have unique power of healing. My friends not have this. You very lucky. My friends not like humans. They think humans bad. They say humans kill us. I not believe them. We all see you when you run into sacred temple. You destroy sacred temple. That bad. I forgive you, because you not know what you doing, right?”

Charlie nodded.

“I know this. My people not. They looking for you. When they find you, they kill you,” Maakia continued. Charlie shuddered at the way Maakia had said ‘when’. “They not know I save you. I save all humans I see. Humans not meant to be here. Strange things happening. Other humans been here before. I keep them in my home”.

That was all Charlie needed. “Humans?” he yelled. “You’ve seen other humans? Please, take me to them!” 

Maakia frowned. “You want see humans? OK, I take you to humans. But careful. The humans I find very aggressive. You are nicest human I ever met. I not know why the other humans mean, after I save them.”

Maakia beckoned for Charlie to follow him again, and Charlie obeyed. They morphed through about 3 more walls, which Charlie decided that he didn’t like doing, until they finally made it to a small room. The room had 2 sets of bunk beds, one on each side of the far wall. On one bed was a small boy, around the same age as Charlie.

“I thought you said there was more than one human”, Charlie said.

“I did? Sorry, my human speak is not good. It not native language”, Maakia replied. Charlie studied the boy sleeping on the bed. He actually looked very similar to Charlie. He had brown, messy hair, and light skin. He was wearing a stale brown shirt, with long, black tracksuit pants. Charlie went to move a bit closer, but the floorboard he stepped on was a bad one, and it made a loud, creaking, horrible noise. Charlie flinched as the boy’s eyes sprung open. His eyes were a light green colour, pretty much the absolute opposite to Charlie’s light red eyes. The boy jumped up in shock, and banged his head on the bottom of the top bunk. He made a strange shrieking noise, and recoiled, holding his head. When he finally opened his eyes again and sat up extremely carefully, rubbing his head, he studied Charlie. And almost immediately gasped. He nearly hit his head again.

“What’s wrong?” Charlie asked.

The boy didn’t answer. His mouth curved into a wicked smile, not a nice one at all. Charlie felt extremely uncomfortable.

“So we can finally meet properly, ‘brother’”, the boy said.

“Excuse me?” Charlie asked.

“Oh, don’t play dumb, C. You know who I am.”

“I’m sorry, I really don’t…” Charlie started.

The boy interrupted him. “Please, save the vagueness. So it looks like we have both jumped into this dimension as ourselves, huh? Well what luck. Looks like the universe just wanted us to meet now, doesn’t it? That is, if there even is a universe anymore. I’m really not so sure anymore.”

“I really don’t understand. Who are you?” Charlie asked.

The boy just laughed. “Haven’t you realised how similar we look? Oh, you have no idea how amusing this is”, the boy teased.

Charlie was already sick of this. “Stop talking like that! If you know so much, then tell me what the hell is going on! Why do I keep changing worlds? What is this place? Tell me, dammit!” He shouted.

“So ill-tempered! Please, just calm yourself. It’s not the end of the world. Oh wait. Never-mind, it is!” The boy laughed at his own joke.

“Stop laughing and tell me what’s going on! And if you won’t do that, the least you could do is send me home! If you’re so smart then you should know how to do that!” Charlie yelled. “You’re starting to annoy me. I don’t really like being annoyed. It’s so weird, we are the same person, yet so different. I can’t believe my doppelgänger is such a Numpty”, the boy said.

‘Numpty’. The word rang around in Charlie’s mind. Where had he heard that before? Right now he was too confused to remember properly, let alone think at all. Sometimes Charlie wished he wasn’t so hopeless.

“Numpty…” Charlie started.

The boy smiled again.

“Anyway,” he said, “I guess if you want to go home so badly then I should probably help you out a bit, right? After all, it’s what ‘brothers’ do. Well, I can’t guarantee that you’ll go home, but we can hope, can’t we? It’s kind of all you’ve got anymore. After all, we’re only human… sort of!” Before Charlie could reply the boy had already jumped off his bed, pulled out a switchblade and plunged it deep inside Charlie’s chest. Charlie felt cold. As the world started to fall away from him, he saw one final sight – the boy’s hand. And on his hand was that same familiar symbol.

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