Realities lament - The Chase
The night was bitter. She remained motionless, refusing to shiver. Any movement would be heard by her predators. Even her breathe was regulated and slow, so as to not mist in the unnaturally arctic air – though her heart bruised her ribcage in its frantic need to escape her chest. Her body wanted to fidget, every instinct willing her to move, to run away, but she waited. Listening. Watching.
The pounding footsteps echoed through the trees and she knew she had been found. Adrenaline raced through her veins, her plan played on a loop in her head. Fight. Survive. Run. The wind carried their shrill voices – the strange, animalistic language resonating through the interwoven branches overhead – and she knew that they were coming closer. They were not normal. This whole night had not been normal, from her best friend acting strange; to the announcement of wedding bells between her mother and that filth (otherwise known as her step father Owen) to the chase during the innocent walk home from her night time stroll. The darkness calmed her and yet now she dared not move her head to peer around the tree trunk that was her camouflage. Two pairs of luminescent eyes emerged and the gnarled bodies bounced in her direction. She would only have seconds to react. To jump and to swiftly attack with the blade she always carried for protection. They would come within feet of her and she would have her chance.
Or so she thought.
Without warning, a piercing bright light flared just west of her position causing spots to erupt and dance across her vision. A string of invectives came to mind but she suppressed her urge to curse and rapidly hoped that she had gone unnoticed despite the flare.
You’re a stupid, stupid girl Lyra, she thought as they began to crash towards her. She abandoned the tree that had concealed her and ran. Her breaths were shallow, quick and she sprinted with haste to avoid capture. Her lungs burned, her nerves were frayed and as she turned her head she was sickened by the sight. Malformed heads were turned towards her, a throwing knife poised in a distorted, oddly mechanical, hand. She turned her head just in time to avoid it and heard the thud as it hit a tree just a fraction behind her. The leafy canopy overhead allowed dappled moon light to be seen but Lyra thought she saw a distant light up ahead. She sighed in relief this escape attempt faced its finale. Hopping over upturned roots that threatened to be her undoing she raced towards the light like it was a beacon. Just a few more seconds and she would be free. Weaving her body in between the colossal soldier like forms of the trees the light was in sight.
It was a rock wall with a jagged line of light tearing the rock in two. Her steps faltered. She tripped, meeting the forest floor with a yell of defeat and a mouth full of dirt. Her hunter’s voices were nearer than ever before and she panicked. Crawling along the floor with her hands digging into the rough soil she reached the wall of rock. The light nearly rendered her blind, but the outlines of her pursuers were still distinct. Suddenly three things happened at one: they came into the clearing, Lyra gasped in horror and a hand wrapped around her hand from where it was trembling on the floor and pulled her through the tear.
It felt like being compressed from all angles. The pain was bewildering, her heart rate soared, her eyes were screwed tightly shut and her hand was still being held. Then she felt the tender touch of grass tickling her face. It was so quiet, the only sound was the enchanting bird song above her. A gentle breeze caressed her exposed skin. Her muscles relaxed and she turned. She saw the most amazing sky above her. It must have been dawn as the sun was an arsonist as it set the sky on fire and veils of golden warmth shined on the meadow she was in. She caught something from the corner of her eye and turned, a cloaked figure was scuttling away hiding itself among the tall purple flowers.
Following her instinct Lyra leaped up and followed “Hey, wait up!” she yelled. She knew that this was the person that had dragged her, unwillingly, through the portal. They were much faster than she was; they were slinking stealthily around obstacles and never looking back. Their cloak and hood were the colour of ancient parchment and they billowed in the wind never snagging on any arm like branches. Speaking of which Lyra scarcely noticed that the amber and russet hues of autumn were slowly moulding into the lush greens of summer. There was nothing else but this stranger, she wanted answers and it was annoying her to no ends that the person who knew them kept flitting in and out of her sight. Eventually she saw faint sparks crackle from in between outstretched fingertips and they stopped. She faintly recognised the tell tale signs that she was standing in a shallow pool of water and as she looked down her whole surroundings changed.
Suddenly she was a bystander to a series of horrific events. She saw a fierce battle set out on a terrain much like a chess board; both sides were fighting with equal venom and inflicting such threatening wounds. Then she saw mounds of dead, piles and piles of rotten corpses with glassy eyes and rivers of blood running down mutated limbs. A cackle ignited the air with malice and the gleeful words of “I won, I won and now it’s all mine. I won!” cut through the blood tainted air. The last one was the event of a castles death. The structure succumbed to the merciless creature of fire as it destroyed eons of work and beauty within moments. But this time it felt as if she was trapped within the confines of the burning castle. Her lungs burnt as she felt the trails of smoke slowly choke them. Her eyes streamed with not only the heat of the flames but tears of seeing something, that she had somehow become enraptured with, be destroyed and panic stole all of her logic. Her limbs fought and fought but somehow she was lodged within the fire. She felt the flames slowly creep up to her and lick at her skin she screamed and screamed until her voice went hoarse but the fire engulfed her and she was left to utter blackness. Within the veils of darkness she heard screams that were not her own, she felt oddly detached from everything and everyone but still she heard the sounds of pain and horror. The swing of a sword and pain filled screams, the crackle crackle of flames and groans as materials gave way. The shouts for mercy and the taunting words of enemies and then she heard something so strange that didn’t belong in the nightmarish atmosphere. “Oh little one, little one who does not deserve to witness scenes she cannot undo nor forget come out from the dark and wake.” These words were crooned softly in her ear and then the darkness retreated.
Her eyes opened and she stood in that pool of water again. She looked ahead and the figure was gone, she looked behind her, to the left and to the right but the voice that had took her away from those terrific things was nowhere to be seen. What were those things? How could she even see them? Who did the voice belong to? She looked around and saw that she was in a mesmerising clearing with ancient trees that held so many secrets, that had a meandering ribbon of river that was somehow crimson and animals, that sat as still as sculptures, were by the bank.
“What is this place?” she enquired before the hairs on her neck bristled and the leaves to her east rustled. A man with a machete hesitatingly made his way towards her.
“Cog what are you doing her in this sector?” he hissed menacingly and pointed the blade at her. Cog? What a strange thing to call her. The man also wore strange black armour and a permanent scowl marked his features. Lyra wanted to retort something her mother used to tell her (if you keep on scowling, your face will be stuck like that) but felt that she would rile the stranger up who looked like he would laugh as he plunged the blade into her heart. “Well, I asked you a question Cog?”
“What’s a Cog?”
He stared at her with a look of disbelief, “Oh come on, a Cog, a term for mortals that are brought through here by the automatons.” He stalked towards her with a lowered sword and gripped her arms tight to avoid any fighting. Lyra was stilled with fear. She could only watch as the boy rolled her torn jacket sleeve up.
Pale, unmarked skin met the stranger’s eyes and he gasped. No, it cannot be all mortals have a cog tattoo on their arm he thought as he could not fathom it. He checked the other arm but that one was the same.
“Where am I? Who are you? Wait – automatons?” The girl was clearly in some sort of shock. Well who wouldn’t when you’ve been brought into a strange place and a stranger wielding a deadly weapon comes up to you and checks your arms for the tattoo of the Queens lab rats. This was why the automatons drugged the mortals upon entry back home he thought and sighed.
“Hold up princess, one question at a time.” He could barely bask in the flicker of anger that crossed her face before he restarted. “You are in the magical place known as Keriko – the deadliest place to be under the Dark Queens rule. I am the wonderful, charming, handsome Raven and the automatons are the robots built by the Crowns (or the Queens government) who go around capturing humans from Earth. Now since you are not a Cog I really need to take you to The Knight.” He felt as if he had said enough and promptly locked his lips, much to the annoyance of Lyra who tried to engage him with her endless questions. Raven had had enough. He roughly pulled her by the arm and left his weapon in front of him to cut down obstructing branches and in case of any danger. When all of her questions went unanswered Lyra became intolerable and dug her heels in the earth. “Hey that is precious soil there. One of the few untainted things left of the Light ages I would appreciate if you would not ruin it with your mortal stubbornness,” Raven said and pulled her onwards.
“Well if you would just tell me where you’re taking me!” Lyra yelled exasperated and several birds were dislodged from their nests from her shout.
“Shhh. You could wake the dead with that shout and I don’t fancy being beheaded or burnt at the stake anytime soon. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your emotions drained like all the other mortals,” he muttered but realised he had said too much. Damn, he was never going to be like the elite at this rate. Lyra became paralysed and Raven sighed before gripping her more firmly and dragging her through even quicker. They passed tree after tree and Raven constantly looked out for any sign of trespasser or unwanted noises. Lyra knew they had to be quiet but her curiosity was just too strong. Despite Ravens hushes she made small declarations of amazement.
Finally they came out of the forest and entered a small deserted village. The houses were crumbling and servants of nature and looked as if no one had lived in them for a very long time. Lyra began to struggle and become worried that this stranger, that had only given his name, did not have good intentions. But with all of the things he had said what intention in this world of Keriko seemed good?
He looked around him constantly his onyx eyes always shifting from place to place, searching through the shadows and through every nook and cranny. Lyra tried everything to get free but nothing would work one turn of his body and that machete would go through her and that was enough to stop her futile attempts of escaping his iron grip. He directed her through a few more turns from the street which gave Lyra a view of hastily put together graves in the front garden of one house and she recoiled in disgust. This got a look from Raven but otherwise he kept going until he reached a dilemma in the street.
A giant skeleton dragon lay in the middle of an alleyway. Its chest rising up and down and curling wisps’ of smoke arose from its nostrils. Lyra almost screamed but found that she could not. Through its ribs Lyra could see that the alley was a dead end anyway and so the only way was to turn back but Raven didn’t make a move to. He let go of her arm and made his way to the dragon. After using a few odd hand gestures the dragon subtlety moved its huge ripped wings and shifted his foot and Raven skirted passed the colossal creature. On the other side he gestured for Lyra to do the same. She took baby steps towards the creature and then rushed to the side with the most available space. The dragon growled with a deep rumble and Lyra cowered and ran past.
“That was almost suicide,” She hissed at Raven who looked behind them and then lightly touched the wall. Vines crawled up the brick work and created a winding pattern of a ‘w’ and then crumbled into nothingness. With awe Lyra walked inside and caught the sound of the wall coming back up again, Raven pulled her down a flight of stairs and together they descended into darkness.
With only the hand of Raven to lead her in the unknown Lyra quickly lost her wits. Here she was in unfamiliar territory with a complete stranger who she had begun to suspect had lied about his name (who would name their kid Raven but then again who possessed the power to sprout vines from a single touch or to even get past a dragon?) Lyra then heard whispers all around her; they were a constant buzz in the air.
Cold blue lights began to appear and her eyes took a long time to adjust. However, when they did they caught sight of loads of bodies hiding in the shadows on either side of her. She had never been more afraid in her life since she had appeared in this world of Keriko. Finally everything became light and it wasn’t synthetic light but pure raw sunlight even though it seemed like they were underground. Ahead of her rose a massive building that seemed like an ancient library with welcoming doors and windows lined with rows of books upon books. Onyx eyes stared at from every angle.
“Welcome to the Writing Desk,” Raven murmured, “Let’s hope they decide not to kill you.”