What Unbound Us

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Chapter 3: Knight's Tale Part 2

My eyes fluttered open, with everything around me slowly becoming clear. I still wore my armor, and was sprawled across the boulder. Behind me I heard screaming that sounded a lot like Emma. Whipping my head around, I saw the dragon scrambling to grab Emma with one of its claws, but she did a good job of avoiding it by quick side stepping and spurts of running. Most of the villagers ran away by then, but I saw Cedric scrambling through the long grass for something.

I got up off the boulder and looked around for my sword, but I couldn’t find it. Turning to Cedric, I called out to him. “Cedric! Where’s my sword?”

Cedric stopped searching to turn towards me, a look of relief washing over his face.

“Praise be to God! You’re alive,” Cedric cried, running towards me. “That was a nasty toss. We all thought you were done for.”

“Yeah well, I’m fine. What we need to do is kill this dragon. Did you see where my sword went?” I asked, staring down at the grass.

Cedric shook his head. “That’s why I went looking for it. You must have dropped it before slamming into the boulder.”

“Figures,” I muttered.

I quickly scanned the grass with Cedric, keeping my eyes peeled for the shiny gleam of the sword. Sure enough, it was lying in the grass not far from where I originally stood in front of the dragon. Cursing my stupidity, I picked it up and turned towards my adversary. Emma saw me then, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Finally! You were taking forever to wake up,” Emma said, running up to me. “Some knight you are.”

I frowned, and had to resist the urge to give her a sarcastic comment in reply. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this now. Just rest for a bit.”

Emma raised an eyebrow at me, but eventually just nodded and collapsed on the ground next to me. Sweat rolled down her forehead and neck, and she took huge panting breaths in an attempt to breathe easier. She gave me a look that suggested she wasn’t sure of my abilities, and I didn’t blame her because I barely knew what to do myself. Remembering Grim’s face though, and the conversation we had made me grit my teeth; I wanted to prove him wrong, and that I could handle things without his interventions. So I gave Emma’s shoulder a good squeeze in reassurance that all would be okay, and turned back to the dragon.

It stopped not far away from us, laughing at me with the same sinister gaze on its face that it had before I passed out.

“So the knight lives! This should be interesting,” the dragon hissed, lunging towards me.

Before it could swat me again I dodged it, gripping my sword tightly in my right hand. It tried to turn around, but before it could, I slashed it across its side. An earth shaking roar escaped from the dragon, and in anger at being injured it kicked me out of the way. I flew a short distance before hitting the ground with a thud, my whole body screaming in protest. For the briefest of seconds I was surprised by the pain; this being a dream and all, it felt too real. I couldn’t think about it for long though, because the dragon charged towards me, smoke billowing out from its mouth.

My eyes widened when I saw the smoke, and I rolled away right when it released all the fire that formed inside its belly. The place I had just been was now blackened earth, and it made some of the other grass surrounding it catch fire as well. I got up from the ground and saw Cedric running up to me, a mass of sharp rocks in his hands. Emma came too, a similar handful clutched to her chest. When the dragon noticed what the two were doing, it laughed, smoke blowing out from its nose.

“Rocks? Do you honestly think those are going to work on me?” the dragon asked.

“Huh, let me check,” Emma said, throwing one forcefully at it.

The rock hit the dragon dead center in one of its eyes, and it screeched.

“Yup, I would say they work,” I said, grinning.

Blood oozed out of the dragon’s eye, and while it became distracted by the pain, Cedric and Emma threw more rocks at it. Some landed on its torso, some missed it entirely, but one lucky shot by Emma hit it in the neck. The dragon was furious by then, shooting out streams of fire at us. We just barely avoided being burned, and getting impatient with the fight myself, I rushed at the dragon again. This time I clumsily climbed onto it, and without thinking too much about it, stabbed down into its shoulder as it shrieked and tried to throw me from its back. I hung on by my sword and pulled it out when the dragon stopped moving as much, stabbing down again near the base of the neck.

Fire shot out into the air as it howled and slumped to the ground. Climbing up to its scaly neck, I swung my sword up above my shoulders and brought it down with as much force as I could muster, slicing clean through it. Its head rolled onto the ground not far away from its body, the dragon’s eyes forever unblinking. Convulsions rippled through the dragon’s body, and after a minute of that, it slammed into the earth, lifeless. I stood where I was, staring down at the remains in disbelief.

My hands shook from leftover adrenaline, and I dropped the sword onto the ground. To think, I actually slew a dragon; that was definitely something I thought I would never do in a million years. It was one thing to read stories or even play video games where the main character saved the day, but to be the one who did felt odd. A part of me felt euphoric, wanting to run around screaming for the whole world to hear me, but at the same time there was some wariness, not sure if this really could be the end.

“We did it! We defeated the dragon!” Emma cried, interrupting my thoughts.

She ran up to me as I jumped off the dragon and got tackled into a hug, Emma squeezing me to her. Laughing, I returned the hug, relieved that it was over.

“Yes, and now the town is saved,” Cedric said, smiling at us.

I smiled back. “You have nothing to worry about now. Repairs on the town can start soon.”

“I’ll go tell the townspeople,” he said, already running down the hill. Emma and I watched him go, the two of us shaking our heads and laughing.

“This is incredible. I’ve never finished a story before,” Emma said, smiling broadly.

“Then this is definitely a good sign. Do you think we can leave now?” I asked her.

She was about to speak when the area around us started to morph before our eyes, and once again the world spun, a feeling I could only equate to having vertigo. I tried to stabilize myself, but by the time I even had a grip on my surroundings, we were back in the bookstore amongst the shelves in the exact same spot we were before we left for the story. I blinked a couple of times to make sure we were really there and laughed. Our clothes had returned back to normal, with Emma back in her blue and white polka dot dress and me in my dark ensemble. Emma had a huge smile on her face that barely contained her glee, her hands clasped together in front of her.

“Well that was fast,” I said, sitting down on the carpeted floor.

“It was. I guess I’ll give you some time to rest, but we really should be looking for another book,” Emma replied, looking around at the shelves.

“What are you talking about? You completed a story, doesn’t this mean we can leave now?” I asked.

“No David, I don’t think that’s how it works.”

“How would you know? Isn’t this the first story you’ve completed?”

“Well yes, but it doesn’t feel like I can leave.”

“What do you mean? How would you know what that’s like if you haven’t done this yet? I bet the entrance is open now. Come on, let’s go check,” I said, getting up from the ground.

“David, I’m telling you, I don’t think it’s open yet—”

“And I’m telling you that you won’t know until you look!” I yelled, getting impatient.

Before Emma could get another word in, I ran off down the aisle towards what I thought was the entrance of the bookstore. My feet pounded on the carpet as I heard Emma’s disgruntled cry of surprise.

“David! David, wait! You’re going to get lost,” she said, and soon afterwards I heard her running after me.

Ignoring her, I sped by the bookshelves, slamming into a couple as I took sharp turns around the shelves. Soon I got dumped out along one of the built-ins with tables in front of them, and followed them along their perimeter. All the while Emma trailed after me, telling me to either slow down or stop. I didn’t want to listen to her though, because all I wanted was to be able to get out of there and wake up and…do what? Where would I be when my eyes finally opened to the real world again?

Who knew, but my patience with this dream and with the mysterious figure Grim wore thin, fueling my ability to run through the bookstore. Plus, we did what Emma initially thought we had to in order to get out of the dream, so didn’t it mean it was over? Shouldn’t we have been able to leave? Maybe all Grim wanted me to do was motivate her to get towards the entrance, and if that was all, then we would both be out in no time. All I had to do was find the entrance.

Then in the distance I saw what looked like the front registers, and sped up to reach them. Eventually I stopped to catch my breath, and take in the scenery around me. Now that I wasn’t near the shelves, I could see how this was a bookstore. There were a total of five cash registers, all of them unmanned, but they had little book displays promoting “new” books, as well as upcoming sales. Standing there, I felt unnerved by how empty it was, with no employee to say “hi there, did you find everything you were looking for today?” like they usually did.

Not far away there were two glass doors that marked both the entrance and the exit, and as I approached them I noticed how dark it looked outside. Pressing my face up against one of the glass doors, my heart sank in my chest at the view. Outside all I could see was blackness, with little pinpricks of stars, just like the weird nothingness I was in not long ago when I met Grim. Reaching out for one of the door handles, I tried to pull it open, but instead it stayed shut, the door not budging one bit. My fingers slipped away from the handle and I backed up, a numb, helpless feeling taking over so that I could only stare at the doors with what I felt as a blank expression on my face.

Behind me I heard Emma’s soft footsteps on the carpet as she caught up to me, and soon they stopped. I didn’t turn around to look at her, and instead just continued to stare at the doors.

“David?” Emma asked from somewhere close behind me.

“The doors. They won’t open,” I said.

“Well yeah, I told you that would happen,” she replied.

“I didn’t want to believe you. I thought we would finally be able to get out of here.”

“I had a feeling it wouldn’t be that easy.”

“Hey, Emma?”

“Yeah?”

“Why? Why can’t we leave? More importantly, why a bookstore of all things to dream about? This could have very well been a library or anything else really,” I said.

I turned around to look at Emma then and she sighed, running a hand through her hair. “To your first question, I have no clue why we can’t leave, but I felt that as soon as we came back here it wasn’t over. It didn’t feel complete. As to your second question…I don’t know. Maybe it’s because in my real life bookstores are my usual haunt. I go to them more than libraries or anything else to escape to, and I know that makes me the clichéd English major, but it is what it is and my subconscious must be projecting that.”

“You’re an English major? You know, that doesn’t surprise me at all,” I said, smiling.

Emma rolled her eyes but grinned. “Yes, I am. I normally love it, but I’m starting to regret it now since my love of books is turning against me.”

“Well, we couldn’t get out through the front door, so what should we do now?”

“What I originally told we had to do when I met you. We need to find the right book that will get us out of here. It has to be the stories that are the key to us leaving. Why else would I get transported into them?”

I groaned. “Did going into that book even help you at all then? Sure, we completed the story, but it doesn’t seem like it made a difference at all if they’re supposed to be the key!”

“I think it did. It made me remember something. Something my mom used to tell me about bravery,” Emma murmured.

I raised an eyebrow at her. “And that was?”

“That bravery comes not just from overcoming fears, but also overcoming the things you don’t like. Sometimes people are thrust into situations they don’t particularly like, but to be brave about it is saying to yourself that ‘yes, I don’t like what’s going on, but I’m going to do this anyways because it’ll not only help me, but help the people I know.’ I used to live by the philosophy. I forgot about that until now.”

I stared at her then, surprised by what she just said. I felt a growing respect for her at that moment, because what she said really did apply to how people decided to live their lives. Some people could never be brave enough to continue living past unfortunate situations, so to keep some kind of positive light on it was admirable. It also made me feel optimistic about what was to come; that maybe the two of us would be able to get out of this dream. At the same time, I kept remembering what Grim told me about Emma.

Some kind of inner demon was keeping her from getting out of here. Something that made her forever searching the shelves for the right book. Was it as a coping mechanism, or to find something she lost? It was hard to tell, because I couldn’t even remember my own dream before this one for insight. I was also tempted to tell Emma about my whole experience with Grim, but I held back.

For one, Grim’s visit still put me ill at ease, and secondly even with all Emma shared it was hard to tell if I could really trust her yet. She probably wouldn’t like the fact that Grim basically psychoanalyzed her, or that I sadly was doing the same to figure out what the hell was going on with this dream.

I realized I had been staring at Emma for what was probably longer than necessary, and she gave me a funny look. I took that as my moment to speak up. “Well then, how about we go looking for another story? It looks like the only thing we can do right now.”

She smiled at me and nodded, taking off back towards the shelves. I followed her once more, watching as the same furious trance came over her again. That time we drifted through the store for a lot longer, with Emma growing even more frustrated by the minute as she tried to find the right book. Finally we came to a shelf not far from the tables and she stopped, staring at the books’ spines. She pulled a book off the shelf after a while and inspected it. The book was green and small, with the title The Jungle’s Wrath being scribbled in gold on the cover.

The Jungle’s Wrath? I think I read that book a long time ago, but I don’t remember much about it now,” I said, staring at it.

Emma frowned deeply. “I read it about two years ago. I picked it up randomly at the local bookstore and....” She paused, turning the book over.

“There must be a reason you found it,” I said. “Do you even remember what it’s about?”

“Yeah. It’s about these two explorers who go on an adventure through the Amazon and find these people who are plagued with a disease that turns them into animals. There’s this conspiracy thing with it too, but I don’t remember much about it,” she said, still staring at the book.

“Ah yes, I remember that book. I had to read it in high school. Well, do you want to go into it?” I asked her. As soon as I said that though, I froze as a realization dawned on me. I really did remember that book, and it wasn’t a pleasant story.

Emma sighed; she looked torn. “I don’t know actually. I’m getting a weird vibe from this book, but like you pointed out, there must be a reason why I found it. We’re going to have to be careful in this one. A lot of crazy stuff happens in it.”

I shuddered, remembering one scene in particular that I hoped we wouldn’t have to act out.

“Let’s do this then. I’m ready when you are,” I said, holding my hand out for her to take.

Emma smiled, taking my hand in hers. She flipped the book back over to the front and opened it to the first page. The two of us started to read the beginning of it together, as everything faded around us. When the book began dragging us into the story, I gripped Emma’s hand tighter, knowing that this was the time for both of us to be brave. I hadn’t told her that the book used to give me nightmares when I read it back in my freshman year of high school, but I definitely wasn’t aware of the fact that the story haunted Emma for a different reason entirely.

When I finally found out why, I wished I could have turned back time, because what awaited us in The Jungle’s Wrath changed the course of our adventure forever.


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