That's how Zade felt when he woke up.
He was lying down on the cold, harsh ground, his body shivering furiously. He opened his eyes, and for the first few seconds, he thought he was blind, because everything he saw was a harsh white.
Zade wondered if he was dead, for only death could feel so miserable. He wanted to look beyond the white, beyond the oblivious illumination.
Then, his eyes adjusted, glancing upon the glistening sky, streaked with arcs of marble white, and auroras dancing across each nimbus.
He tried getting up, but felt the ground beneath his feet get pulled out, as he slipped and hit his head on the ground.
Zade lay there for a minute or so, taking deep breaths. His arms were paining immensely, and so did almost every other part of his body. His eyes, already weak, were dry as well, and his skin was irate with itchiness.
Zade tried recalling why he was where he was, but drew up a blank. Along with that, the only thing he did remember was his name.
In desperation, he let out a scream. “Is anyone there? Please, help!” With a hoarse voice and a sore throat, Zade felt like clawing at his jugular.
I need to get out of here, He thought. Exerting his body, he managed to get up, still numb in several places.
The wind was blowing, whistling in his ears.
He looked down, and saw what he was wearing. A jacket, torn jeans, and shoes.
“Think, think!” Zade looked around. There had to be something, anything that could help him. He simply refused to believe that he was in utter desolation.
Then he saw it. A dim flare beyond the horizon.
Zade’s sense of hopelessness decreased by a fraction of a degree. Considering how bad of a condition he was in, he estimated that the journey would take several hours.
He started walking cautiously, but every step was difficult. Zade’s bare feet on the frozen ground made him feel as though he was walking on shards of broken glass.
Just then, it happened again. Zade lost his balance on the icy canvas that was the ground. Blood trickled down his forehead in streams of crimson, soothingly warm at first, then glaciating to form shards of crystalline beads that broke as they fell before his feet.
As he got up, he felt irregularities in the floor beneath him. At first, Zade thought nothing of it, but as he managed to pull himself to his feet, he saw cracks spreading out from where he stood.
Easy, Zade chided himself, standing as motionless as possible. It’s probably nothing. To his astonishment, the cracking stopped.
“Whew,” Zade breathed a sigh of relief, “It actually held toge-”
The layer of ice collapsed into a crevice. Zade leapt with all his might, which unfortunately, wasn’t much. He managed to grab hold of the edge of the opening, but those blood-soaked fingers and dead-tired arms of his gave up.
“No, no!” Zade yelled as he fell down the crevice, and the darkness engulfed him.
He woke up eagle-spread on a much softer surface.
Zade could only open his right eye. The other one was stuck shut due to the blood that had frozen between the eyelids.
He wanted to vomit, but his stomach was empty.
Zade wondered how much time it would take for him to die if he simply gave up and rested there.
A horrendous shriek that tore through the cold air threw that thought of his out of the window.
He gulped. What the hell was that?
Zade got up with all his remaining determination. He didn’t know what caused that abrupt cry, but he wasn’t keen to find out. He brushed the snow off his clothes, then wiped the blood off of his forehead and nose, and looked around. It wasn't as cold as above, given that the winds didn't flow at all.
The walls of the gloomy crevice were composed of frost-covered stones. He put his hands on the surface, and as he did, he felt a wave of sheer cold wash over him. He shuddered, and withdrew his hands, rubbing them together.
He glanced up, looking for the hole though which he fell, only to find nothing. Everything above him was dark as midnight. Zade figured that his inability to see with his other eye was the reason everything appeared so misty.
He turned his head downwards, looking for a way out. He staggered around a bit, trying to feel his way through the cave. The only escape he found was a narrow path at the far end of the crevice.
Zade’s instincts told him to turn back.
He started seeing some light at what he saw to be a trail at the far end of the cave. He walked towards it, and at the entrance of the path, Zade stopped. All his senses were going insane, telling him not to go forward, and trying to prevent him from budging an inch.
But he had no other option. Cursing under his breath, he trudged along the low and sleek path.
As he walked, he noticed some disturbing details on the walls of the cave. At some places, they were stained red.
Zade’s foot hit something hard, but he maintained his balance. At his feet lay something that was completely frozen, something that looked like a sphere of marble, embedded into the snow. He bent forward, his hands shaking with anxiety, and tried to pull it out. It slipped out easily, and then he turned it around to take a good look at it.
He instantly wished he hadn't.
It was a skull, with sharp, brazen teeth, and for a moment, Zade thought it was smiling at him.
Zade instantly dropped it, and bit back a scream. If the cold wasn't going to kill him, Zade was pretty sure that another shock like that would.
He journeyed across the cave, cautious of every step and every breath he took. His heart was beating furiously, and Zade feared he might just die of heart failure.
Walking further, he saw a beam of light emerge from within a small hole. It was the brightest thing he had seen in a while. He decided to go through it. It was a tight fit, but fortunately, Zade was skinny.
As he slipped past the blockade, his eyes recoiled at the stark contrast to his previous surroundings, as celestial beams of light penetrated his dilated irises. After a few seconds, his vision adjusted. He was standing in a massive opening as incandescent as it could be.
In the middle of the room, Zade saw a huge spiral of ice. Stained with suspiciously brighter stains of blood splattered across the icy structure as well as the walls, the place radiated malice. Zade gulped with anxiety, as he saw even more skulls littered everywhere.
One of them still had flesh on it. Raw, pale flesh.
Then, when Zade thought things couldn't get any creepier, he started hearing strange noises. He looked around, his senses alert and body tensed, trying to locate the source of the sound, when it changed from an emanating voice to a growling one. The tension in his mind made him even more aware of how tired his body was.
His left eye was slowly opening. Even in the dire cold, his body was starting to perspire.
Zade slowly turned around, his heart trying to burst out of his body, and came to stare into the eyes of a huge, extremely scary beast, as it emerged out the shadows of the cave room.
The creature was massive. Zade wondered how something so humongous had hid itself so well. If he hadn't heard it, he would have been dead.
Not that he was in any better of a condition, now that he stood face to face with the beast, whose very breath was enough to lower his morale even beneath what he started with.
The quadruped beast was white as freshly fallen flakes of snow, with streaks of a dark turquoise spreading across its sides, razor-sharp daggers for teeth and steel talons in its paws.
The only detail that helped Zade see it without having any trouble was the creature’s eyes. They were a brilliant purple, dazzling, and were hard to look at. It bared its sharp fangs, and focused on only living thing in the view: him.
Decision time: Either Zade could dash through the opening that had led him into the opening, thereby trapping himself inside the cave, or he’d have to fight his way up the spiral and out of the cave. Zade chose the latter, which was his mistake.
Zade started backing away slowly, looking for a chance to make his move. The creature, as if beckoned, moved towards him at twice the speed. He feinted a dive to the right, and the creature played into this move of his, clawing ferociously where it felt the prey would move.
Unfortunately, Zade wasn’t the only with smarts. As soon as he made a run for spiral, the creature leapt at him, and pinned him to the ground. It scrutinized him, and all he could do was stare into the beast’s eyes. Zade looked around, searching for anything that could help him escape, just anything.
He turned his hand and saw a cluster of icicles of the size of spears, and tried reaching for them. The creature bared its fangs, and was just about to strike, as Zade grasped on of the icicles, and stabbed it into its paws. The beast let him go, and he stood up. He slashed at the beast’s legs, and they started gushing with ooze. But the creature barely took notice, as it struck Zade with its paws, and sent him flying, and he crashed into the wall.
By then, Zade’s head was bleeding horribly, but the rush of adrenaline kicked in, whisking away his sense of pain. He tightened his grip on makeshift spear. The creature cavorted on all fours, before tensing its legs, and with full vigor, it leapt at him.
Zade was ready, though. He ducked under the beast, rolled to a side, and as the opportunity arose, he stabbed it in the gut.
The creature cried out in pain, and Zade saw his chance. He took out the icicle, and made a run for the spiral. His frost-worn fingers mustered all their might as he climbed his way to the top. In a matter of seconds, he rushed to the pinnacle of the spire, and as he pulled himself out of the huge opening in the ground, a howl of vengeance raced its way through the air.
The weather of the whole area had taken a one-eighty degree turn. The sky had gone black with the winds blowing with so much force that Zade was almost lifted off his feet. The now- incandescent ice emanated glowed brightly, illuminating the ground.
The flare Zade had seen earlier was now gone. He wondered how long he had been down there.
Zade didn't get the time to register the weird change, because the creature emerged out of the crevice, shattering the ice around him, and leapt towards the frozen ground, and looked for him, its eyes burning with rage.
He started moving backwards, slowly, so as to not startle it. The creature looked at him, then at its injured paw, and let out a scream that him like a sonic boom. Almost knocking him down.
Zade took that as his cue and ran for it.
He shouldn't have done that, because 1) He was outmatched in speed and strength and 2) He had no way to defend himself except for the now ooze-covered icicle.
The creature ran after him, but he somehow found a way to keep ahead of it. But Zade knew that he couldn't keep it up for long, because he was running on fumes.
The creature, on the other hand, was full of energy, except for the wound, which he was sure was just a minor issue for it. The fierce wind was anything but helpful, as it made running more difficult for him.
Glancing around, he saw that the creature was closing the gap between the two.
He should have realized earlier, but running on the ice and looking behind was probably not the wisest thing to do. He slipped, but this time, Zade used the momentum to skid on the ice, then jumped and broke into a run again.
By then, he was exhausted, but he had to keep going.
Just run. Don’t give up. The words seemed empty in his mind, but it was all he had to go on.
That's when he slumped to the ground, breathing hard. He had run out of energy. He saw the creature, a couple of meters behind him, and it had also come to a halt. The thing glared at Zade, its eyes dripping with malice, and its fangs sharp as a dagger.
He realized that this was where he was going to die, and wondered whether or not he was missing from somewhere, or if anyone was looking for him or not. He was going to die, all alone, forgotten.
The creature made its move. Leaning back, it pounced, and with all remaining energy, Zade jumped aside.
The creature snarled, obviously not pleased with missing its target. It turned; ready to strike again, but Zade had had enough.
He wasn’t going to go down without giving it his all. He had lost all memory of who he was, but if there was one thing he knew, it was that giving up wasn’t in his nature.
Standing up, and raising his spear, he glared at the beast.
The creature understood. Malicious as it was, even it respected a solid resolve. It gave out a loud cry, then it charged, and so did Zade, with only his will and rage fueling him, and his desire to live awoke in him a craziness, as his icicle met with the creature’s paw.
Zade managed to jab out its eyes. But unfortunately, it smashed Zade’s leg. And yet, it raged on, as though losing its eyesight wasn't enough to hinder it.
It charged at him, knowing that one final attack and its prey would be dead, and this time there would be no short burst of energy.
He shielded his eyes, waiting for the end to come.
Suddenly there was a sound of a squeal of pain, and then of a large thud, as though something heavy fell down…
Zade opened his eyes, and instantly wished that he hadn't. He wanted to claw his own eyes out, because the sight before him was as horrible as a dark nightmare. The mighty creature that had tried to kill him was now impaled in all places, head to tail, with large dark icicles that were erected from the ground and glowed, rising several meters above from its base. White ooze tricked down from the predator’s corpse, spilling on the icy ground, and instantly it crystallized.
Zade had absolutely no idea how that had happened. He sat up, his hands gripping his damaged leg, gazing at the impaled creature. Despite the fact that it had tried to kill him, he felt sorry for it. A tear trickled down his cheek as the relief of having survived the ordeal finally registered.
Just then, something flew above his head.
When he saw what it was, Zade squinted to make sure he was seeing things right.
“Am I hallucinating?” He said out loud, as a motorbike flew around the area, spectating the scene. An engine the size of a cannon let out a stream of bight flares, which he figured was what he had seen earlier.
“Hey!” Zade yelled, still seated on the ground. “Help!”
It turned, and hovered in the air, before finally coming to the ground. Riding it was an old man, wearing a black jacket, beige pants, snow boots and a pair of snow goggles.
He got off the motorbike, pulled off his goggles, and took out a sidearm, or what Zade thought was a sidearm. As the weapon was aimed at his head, its body expanded. Twin barrels emerged to supplement the main one in the middle. Bolts of green charged at each end. “Identify yourself,” the man shouted, “Or prepare to be vaporized.”
Zade wanted to speak up again, to let him know that he meant no harm, and that he needed help, but he didn't have the energy to speak up.
Even if Zade could, he couldn't exactly tell him much. The old man gestured for Zade to start talking. Zade hesitated a bit, not knowing what to say or do.
Suddenly, immense pain shot up his leg. He had forgotten all about it, but now, the pain broke all the remaining determination Zade had left. He crumpled to the ground, and the last thing he saw was the old man walking towards him, and then Zade blacked out, feeling broken from the inside.