Bioluminescence - A Downward Spiral
Bioluminescence - A Downward Spiral
A Witch roamed through, lost in a delusive landscape in the very core of the world. Limbo - the small place in the middle, just below Ahbon, about thirty miles beneath the surface, long deemed inaccessible by the select few who knew of its existence.
She was accompanied only by Shigenobu Yoshinjiro, a man who could tell you more about the surroundings within a mile’s radius just by slapping a rock than he could about a home-made beef pie.
This was, generally, because the man - known to most as Shai - never bakes beef pies, and is quite good at obtaining information about the surrounding area within a miles radius simply be slapping a rock and deciphering the micro-vibrations that it creates.
“Welp, here’s your way out.” Grim said, gesturing to the little rowboat that bobbed just out from the ultramarine shore. “I’ll take you as far as I can alright, but I’m not coming with you all the way, I wouldn’t be able to find my way back here if I did.”
“I don’t think that boat likes us. ” Said Coda.
Grim raised an eyesocket, then looked to the boat. “Whadya mean, kid? It’s a boat.”
He had a point - it was a boat. How could it have any sort of feelings whatsoever? Coda was surprised to find that this time, the boat did not float away from her when she came close, and the three entered it, making it sink down a bit. “Nah this boat’s all outta whack. I can feel it.”
-You lost your marbles already, kid?- Grim thought, and sat at the back on a small wooden beam, and Ink sat with Coda nearer the front. The Skeletal Reaper looked back at his cabin before taking up an ore and pushing the boat away from the shore.
Little, silent waves tickled the underside of the boat - the gentle grace of the dark behemoth of an underground aquifer. Ahead, the blue waters faded into complete darkness, and it was into this darkness they headed, it’s abyssal mass, the surface of which was barely even scratched by Coda’s light. She clenched her fist, and her hand glowed a little brighter - but before she could illuminate the dissappearing cave roof, ever so high above them, other lights blinked and opened up like flowers on the ceiling. These lights - that were in fact flowers on the ceiling - sparkled and leaked twinkling pollen downward as they opened like something out of a hay-fever-dream.
“Woah, do those things have teeth?” Coda asked.
“’Fraid not.” Said Grim.
“Dag. Would be really cool if they did though. How do they eat?”
Grim thought about this for a minute, and replied, “Good question”, and said nothing more.
Only a couple opened at first, but the light they produced invited others to join them, and the blue light spread across the crystaline ceiling. Suddenly the abyss was not so dark - as now shown was the sea, and the walls that held it all in, but disappeared up ahead. Where the walls stopped and buggered off indefinitely, a small island sat deadly like a pile of stone and non-life in a giant yet still far away chamber.
Suddenly the scale of things jolted Ink’s mind, finally waking him out of his sleepy brain-fogginess. Feeling quite seasick all of a sudden, he stopped looking past Coda to the horizon, and looked down over the side of the rickety boat. The water smelled cold and damp, for it was. He dipped a hand in - it was absolutely bloody freezing. Freezing, not unlike the Blackwater, but with an actual water-like consistency as opposed to the thin, almost ghostly feeling of the river that sat like a chasm of doom by the Witch’s cabin.
“I’d keep your hands out of there if I were you, kid.” Said Grim, before reaching in himself, which Ink found odd. He squinted an eyesocket before yanking out a slimy mass of see-through tentacles. “Lucky for me, I ain’t you and don’t have skin, cuz these suckers burn through flesh like… I dunno, fire? Acid? Lime? Tea tree oil? Any of the above and more.”
Ink watched as the skeleton chucked the mass back into the water, and the tentacles became lethally invisible as they sank back into the water.
Coda also came to realisation of the immense scale of the cave, and could only imagine how far down the sea must go here. It would have been a horribly daunting feeling for her, had she not looked at the even bigger picture and realised that she was by far the most significant thing in that cave.
And Parallax floated along as usual, not saying much, not doing much, but always there.
The boat creaked, and after seeing what invisible horrors lay just inside the water, Ink’s horribly overactive imagination started to show him all the grim possibilities for events that could transpire.
“You got weak bones, kid.” Said Grim to Ink, and set the oar down in the boat.
“Your bones. They ain’t great, and you should eat some yoghurt and get plenty of sunlight.” Grim had quite good bones - they had been exposed to an amount of sunlight that had not before been experienced by any of his family since the Reaper-Valen wars of the Afterlives, and thus had absorbed more vitamin-D than any other Reaper.
Ink looked at him with disinterest, and barely even bothered to look confused.
“Your powers are underdeveloped - you can barely hold a barrier before blanking out. You don’t got no mojo, they’d say. It’s weak.”
Ink groaned internally, rubbing his eyes. “And what does that have to do with my bloody bones?”
Meanwhile, Coda shot a few crimson laser beams into the distance as she waited to catch the pollen that was falling from the flowers on the ceiling. There was no draft, but there was still air resistance, and the sparkling powder took its time to reach the boat.
“Well,” Grim continued, “All forms of magicky spells and powers come from the bones. I figured that out, you know? Probably one of the greatest discoveries in magical history, yet they sent me away down ’ere. Those frickin wizards, I tell you.”
“...Right.” Replied Ink. He stopped listening after that, and watched the pollen fall upon the boat like snow. Of course, it had never snowed in the Dimmer, where the only weather was rain and fog and sewage, and so Ink had never really seen snow. It fell in shiny dust-like pearls - Coda caught some on her tongue, but the stuff made Ink’s eyes itch even more and turn red.
They had almost reached the point where the walls of the cave disappeared and expanded, and they entered the massive chamber of darkness that was so big that it could have housed a world of its own, and Ink had a strange feeling that the island that loomed in the middle was actually the center of the entire universe.
Grim cracked his knuckles (which he then had to partly reassemble) and said, “Right, you ready to witness the true power that comes with strong bones?” He outstretched his hands.
Ink said nothing - as I said, he was no longer listening.
“Knock yourself out.” Said Coda eventually.
Suddenly, nothing happened. This was a bit underwhelming, but then, very slowly… The world was changing. Gravity seemed different, and the voidal waters contorted. The island in the center of the chamber grew taller somehow, wind picked up, and a rushing sound of the heaviest rapids Ink had ever heard filled his ears and rumbled the boat.
“What the bloody -” He began, before he realised - they were moving very fast in a circular motion, a gargantuan whirlpool encircling the central island, the tides of which had now lowered over a hundred meters, and exposed the mass’s pillar-like shape. Ink grabbed on for dear life as the boat lunges forward all of a sudden and accelerated at an allarming rate. He yelled nothing intelligent, and the little vessel’s course tended more to the center of the whirlpool. Their trajectory took them closer to the island, and closer still. Ink shouted again and ducked to the floor, closed his eyes and disappeared along with the rest of the world - or rather, that’s what it looked like to him.
To Coda it looked like fun, so she raised a hand and caught the droplets that sprayed up from the front of the boat, and watched the pillar island spiral near. They passed right by it, and under a rocky loop - had the water been a meter higher or lower, they would have been decapitated or legbroken, or worse - smushed! Parallax kept up, and their momentum carried them up the slope of the downward spiral and away from the island’s crashing water waves them goodbye, and they rose back to the top of the whirlpool faster than they had ever descended. It took not a few seconds, before the boat crashed over the whirlpool’s event horizon and gained some airtime, belly-flopping down against the calmer, leveller waters. This knocked Ink out of his skin, as his face had been pressed against the boat’s belly when it had flopped.
And just like that, a few seconds of calm, plain sailing. Only a few seconds, and then Grim released the whirlpool, and the sudden rising motion of the water’s levelling caused a giant, circular wave to spawn around the island and flay out in all directions.
“Oh, no.” Ink said after looking up, too lethargic to scream again. He ducked, having nothing else sensible to do, and the round wave collided with the rickety little dinghy, rumbling and propelling it forward, straight towards the cave wall.
But the fastly-approaching cave wall was not destined to be fatal to the dinghy or its passengers, as aided by Grim’s unthinkable power, an entire section of it - two cubic miles of ten-meter-thick rock - lifted into the air weighing in at roughly the weight of all the sins ever committed by people wearing tweed hats. The vessel passed right under it, the wave pushing it out of the natural aquiferical chamber and into an otherwise thin, dry ravine-like structure. It’s floor sloped down, and the boat followed the floor, followed by Parallax who didn’t realise at first. As bone dog chased bone, Grim released the wall behind them. The almighty crash it made was not heard by anyone on the boat, as the sound of the rushing water drowned anything it could get its tendrils on, including sound. The boat gained even more speed, traveling down the ravine ’til the ground completely dropped away and the rapids turned into a waterfall. And soon they were headed straight down, reaching terminal and very fatal velocities.
The wind blistered through Coda’s hair, or rather, Coda’s hair blustered through the static air.
Ink thought the end had come, as it certainly seemed that way.
But Grim thought not, and just like that, Ink was gleefully wrong. The boat slowed - a circular, holographic barrier suspending it from underneath. The dark disc slowed as it took the boat into a room of a different light - no longer one of bioluminescence and fungal blue, but one of natural, cool lighting that wasn’t quite sunlight but something vaguely close.
The last of the temporary waterfall dropped behind them into a calm pool of warmer water, and Coda examined the room. It wasn’t quite as large as the previous chamber, but was still quite big. They floated down and touched the water gracefully, and on either side an aisle of crystals, semi-opaque with white veins. Ink wrenched himself up on the side of the dinghy, and drooped his head over the edge, feeling sick as a dog - but Parallax had no guts, and came to rest upon Coda’s head like a bone-white crown. And just like that, all was peaceful and quiet again - and as the sick Reaper raised his head he realised - it was also beautiful. He breathed a single breath of the fresh, breezy air, and suddenly felt a lot better.
“That’s it, kid. Get some fresh air!” Grim took in the sights.
The walls had holes in them - great big holes, through which light shone and refracted of the crystals that poked out of the water, which was now clear yet unseeably deep. It was undeniably beautiful. Everything here looked so clean and, well, clear. A few black leaves drifted on the water, as if floating on nothing.
“Cool ride, ah?” Grim grustled, and scraped some algae off of his teeth.
Ink glared from the corner of his eye, and said nothing.
“Yeah!” Enthused Coda, and picked the guitar up onto her knee. She plucked at it, but it made no more sound than a civilised conversation. She would have to steal an amplifier when they got to Atlantis.
“Is that daylight?” Ink asked with stars in his eyes, as soon as he felt motivated enough to talk again.
“Nah, not really. The sky’s just sort of light grey here. There ain’t a daylight cycle or nothin’.”
“Oh.” Said Ink, but the sight still made him emotional.
“So where the hell are we then?” Asked Coda, “We still in Ahbon?”
Grim sighed, “Sorta. It’s hard to explain - this is basically a little prison world between Ahbon and The World Under-”
“Wait wait wait,” Ink Interrupted, “If this is a prison world then shouldn’t there be guards?” Ink raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah and death traps and spikes and moats of lava??” Added Coda.
Grim choked, for the question had him taken aback. “Eh, yeah. I am the prison guard, I guess you could say.”
“Mhmm,” Ink continued, “Where are all the other prisoners, in that case?”
“Well, the minister usually sends them down ‘ere, and I usually immediately terminate them and take their life force so that I can keep on livin’ the life, y’see? So I guess it’s more a death sentence than imprisonment.” He shrugged, “But of course, I’m willing to make an exception for my great great great grandson, uhh… What’s your name again?”
Grim snorted, “Pah! What a stupid name!”
“Mh.” Said Ink, and went back to concerned silence. The light at the end of the room edged closer, and the only sounds were that of Coda’s guitar, and the odd flies that had buzzed over to come and inspect them all.
“So why the cool scythe?” Asked Coda.
“Come now, I’m a farmer!”
“And the cloak?”
“It’s a Reaper thing.”
“And the Bones?”
“That’s… a sensitive subject.”
“And the Whill-o?”
Grim faltered, “Hey kid, don’t you know that curiosity killed the cat?”
“Well I’m a dog person so your cats can suck it!”
*Plop* Went the enchanted Soultrap dagger as Ink dropped it into the water.
“Did you just throw that knife away?” Coda glared at Ink.
“yes, it could kill me if I fell! I can’t be carrying knives around in my pocket!”
“I have a bag, you know!”
“That’s still dangerous!” Ink didn’t necessarily trust Coda with a knife.
Grim interrupted, “Kid, you can’t do the cool things like I can do yet, alright? You ain’t very powerful. You can make a few little barriers for a while, maybe tie your laces without having to bend over or whatever, but you can’t handle yourself out there. Maybe it’s best you had yourself a weapon!”
Ink felt that one, “Hey!”
Grim rested the oar in his lap, and passed him a small blade with a leather sheath.
“Here, just put the cover on it when you’re not using it. That way if you fall on you’re not going to die, maybe just get a little bruised or something.”
Ink took it, but didn’t want to accept it. He knew Grim was right though, it would be nice knowing he had a weapon on hand.
“Do I get one?” Coda asked, watching Ink take the blafe out of the sheath, it’s silvery metal straight until it came to a point a few inches from the handle.
“You’ve already taken enough from me!” Grim accused, and got back to rowing.
The blade’s sheath had a buckle to hold the handle, and was obviously made to fit onto someone’ s belt. Ink pulled his robe aside, and fit his trouser belt through the leather straps that held the sheath. He felt like it was safer there than in his pocket, despite having the cover on it.
Soon, they reached the mouth of the cave, and as grey light shone upon their faces at last, Grim pulled the boat up to a grassy bank at the edge of the water.
Ink’s mind raced - this feeling was so surreal. The light that to anyone else would seem dull, to him was a spectacle, and he stepped out onto a bank of blue grass. A cool mountain breeze swept his hair, and as he stood awe a chaotic landscape unfolded before him.
Ahead were great clumps of land and vegetation, floating above the ground in all directions, and they were all moving. Great spires of mud, roots, rocks and plants that passed, levitating on front of them. They were currently standing on a sort of cavemouth balcony on the edge of a mountain, and it was a very long way down by the looks of things. Grim stood in the boat by the mouth of the river that led back to the cave, and pointed past Ink and Coda, into the distance.
“There’s the door.” He said.
Ink’s eyes followed his direction past the floating spires, and looked towards a far-away door. It sat level to the cave, one one of the floating spires of land that have red above a very far-down land.
“How do we get over there?” Ink asked.
“I dunno.” Said Grim, pushing himself away from the bank, “I’ve never been over there.”
He seemed eiger to leave.
“What! Hey! How are we supposed to - ”
“Figure it out!” the skeleton grumbled, paddling away from them.
“No! Get back here!” Ink cried, chasing the boat along the river bank.
“Sorry, good luck!” Grim shouted from over his shoulder. Ink cast a barrier on front of the boat, but Grim broke it instantly. Coda followed Ink, standing by his side, still smiling as usual. The Grim Reaper disappeared back into the darkness, leaving the two alone.
“You bugger!” Ink yelled, and turned to Coda. He looked out across the land to the door, then down , “What now?”
She shrugged, “I dunno. Do we need him?”
“Well, yes… Don’t we?”
Coda squinted into the distance at the far-away door, which stood alone on top of on of the levitating pillars. “Nah! There’s the door.”
She looked around for any way to go, “Come on, we can get over there!”
And so they walked to the edge of the mountain balcony. They couldn’t scale down the cliff into the misty below - it was far too steep, and why would they? They couldn’t seem to find a way to scale the mountain either, despite Coda’s attempt - she fell and grazed her knees, which is not the worst injury one might obtain when scaling a rockface without a harness.
There was only one possible path - a sharp ridge like the pinched edge of an astronomical pie. It led to a peak, that stood seemingly alone and without any apparent usefulness. Though, it was farther from the mountain, and close enough to the levitating clumpy pillars that when one passed by, they saw that the roots from the vegetation that dangled down from it draped across the peak. Ink also now noticed that the pillars orbited the central ‘door-pillar’ in an elliptical fashion, and always followed the same orbital pattern, with many on the same orbital planes.
And Coda had a bright idea.
“Hey, what if - ”
“Not a chance.” Said Ink, dull as ever. “We are not doing that.”
“Got a better idea, then?”
The Reaper was silent, and silently they precariously stepped down from the grassy balcony onto the top of the ridge, a steep descent that flattened out onto a knifes-edge wall-like structure, and ascended again like a tombstonely parabola to a point.
Coda slung her guitar around her back, and downward they climbed.
Ink’s instinct was to feel bloody terrified, but he did it anyway, and tried not to look down too much - which was hard, as it was all he ever did. The amount of natural light still had the Reaper’s mind occupied with new sensory information, and the sheer chaos and confusion of it all - outside and inside his brain - had him quite dizzy.
This descent was slow and careful, but soon the stone curve started to flatten and Coda started to hop playfully over the rocks.
It was a chilling air - they could see their breath accumulate on front of them, and there was frost on the rocks and grey grass. The skies were overcast with dark clouds, but nothing fell from them.
And then, the ground trembled. Small stones fell from the cliff face with the tremour.
“What was that?” Ink said, Coda shrugged.
Then an almighty roar echoed throughout the place, the sound bouncing across the chaos that was Limbo. It sounded less like a roar and more like a deathly howl, but whatever it was, it sounded bloody terrifying.