Grave Awakening

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First Impressions

It wasn’t long before that sack of savory, fishy balls was empty. He knew he shouldn’t have devoured the entirety, but it was a wonder that was all the hunger he felt after three years. In truth, he was surprised he wasn’t gasping for water, but at least the fish seemed watery enough to quench that for the time being. Meanwhile, there was still plenty of road left and not much sun. The white eye had already sunk below the horizon, behind the mound ahead, which only grew more daunting as he came ever closer. He knew it was big, but he didn’t see the grasslands around it were carved away for fields, easily four miles of tended soil in twelve neat little squares. Yet, before its presence, they were little more than postage stamps. He could make out something on the top of it, as well as a path all the way to it, but it didn’t change the fact it had become a mountain in its own right... which made him wonder just how tall the actual mountains were.

The closer he got, the more thankful he was that the wind shifted and shown the path. If the mountains was even a possible outcome sent a chill down his back; he would have never met the traveler, whatever it was, he would have never got any food, and would have mostly died before reaching its face. Died again... or would it be simply dead? Did he actually die the first time?

And it all came spiraling back to the question he could not place, and why he wanted that last, red eyesore to set already. If he could see the stars, he could figure out to some extent where he was... but that wouldn’t answer how he got here, or why? He heard stories about this sort of situation in the past, but it was mostly through fiction, myth, and it flies in the face of every religion –that’s not entirely true; Eastern religions about reincarnation came close, but it wasn’t as if he was reincarnated. He was still him... For the most part.

He put a hand to his chest, the red pump inside still inert, like stone, yet his body was still getting oxygenated. He was still able to move, his brain was still getting oxygen. If it wasn’t, he would have died long before, during that three year hiatus –which in of itself was a quandary, but one he did not want to dabble in further at the moment. One moral dilemma at a time, and at least the one he was focused on will give some answers. If only that red bastard would accommodate and go away already; the moons were already peeking, with one peaking. It had shown its face after the white star passed over the midpoint, but it wasn’t until that sun had set and left the sky to be burned crimson by its red counterpart that the sapphire rock really shone its brilliance up there. Unlike Earth’s, it had a smooth surface, almost glossy, and would have assumed it was another sun if he hadn’t noticed its orbit. The other moons were mundane compared to it, pretty much an eighth of its size, but the count was up to sixteen and still rising, to the point he wondered if it was actually a ring, instead, and those were but the biggest to be seen and be picked out.

The sun finally sank over the horizon, and, with it, the sky was left to raise the curtain and reveal its true face. The opaque, blue covering seemed to melt away, pecked away by the heavenly bodies that now wanted their time to shine upon the planet. And did they shine; no pollution, no light outside of the sapphire moon to wash all in a deep blue under its face, left the heavens to show all their splendor. He was right; the planet did have a ring, though it ran from north to south, so all... twenty-four were moons... However, that was the only bit of knowledge he could gather from it all. He could not recognize a single star, the groupings entirely alien to him, and even the wisp of the galaxy running through it all was the wrong... way? The Milky Way would have a whorl through the sky, as it seemed to spiral outwards from the black hole in its center, but this... It was as if it was... moving away from the planet, as if the planet and the solar system it was a part of wasn’t even in a galaxy but out on an outer rim... Another chill surged down his spine, but there would be no way to prove it, not unless he could reach the other side of the planet to observe its sky. However, there was no time for that now when he hasn’t even found his footing in the half he was on, but... the idea of a solar system being between two universes... the space between spaces-

Didn’t he just mention he didn’t have time for this? He groaned, rubbing his brow... and heard the grass rustle. It had been rustling for some time, moving against the wind, but he had been... No. He refused to even acknowledge what he was about to think what he was doing because of what he was looking at, but it didn’t change the face that was the best way to describe it... He hated himself for even thinking it, but... he had been spaced out.

“Fucking hell,” he grumbled, pinching his temple. “I can’t even escape it here.” He huffed... and stopped. The rustling stopped as well, but not fast enough. “All right. What am I going to die? Let’s get this over with.”

He was both a bit frightened by this... and disappointed in himself. After he realized this wasn’t some holy afterlife, he never once gave any thought to the creatures that might live in these lands, what might predate on that thing he met earlier in the day. It was carrying a spear for a reason, and he doubted it was specifically for him. Couldn’t have been for the ants he plucked off earlier, either; those things didn’t seem to want anything to do with him aside to chill in his beard. It was only when he picked them up did they start showing signs of aggression, and if he was manhandled like that he would be pissed as well.

However, after a moment of silence, Nick simply sighed and turned back to the path, returning to his trudge... and so did the rustling. He stopped again, and smirked at he played the puppeteer, taking a few steps, stopping suddenly, even slid back then hopped forward, all while listening to the grass do the same. If only people back home were this compliant, he wouldn’t have had to come here, but no... He grew tired of it soon enough, but not physically. It had to be well over his normal curfew, but he still felt wide awake, without a shred of fatigue; guess three years of rest will do that.

He was growing bored of this game of Simon Says, though, so he pulled out his phone and turned to the grass again, flashing the light into it. Twelve tiny round discs illuminated with each flash, six in pairs, each one scattered a few feet apart in the grass. As he toggled the light, they grew ever closer until one finally reached the edge of the grass, revealing what it was... and what it was took what fear he had held onto completely away. It appeared to be a cat, the face more akin to a lion but its size put it at about a lynx or a mid-size domestic short-hair. Its fur was a deep blue in color, with black stripes, and, with the light off, he could see that its eyes were a deep amber color.

Nick knew that big cats were dangerous, especially when hunting in packs. He knew all too well that even the domestic variety could ruin your day if you weren’t careful, but, as he watched this cat step onto the path, testing the stone as if it were water before finally letting its big, puffy paw settle on it, he simply... couldn’t. Even as the others joined it alongside, all six of them sitting, looking at him, distinct in their own ways but not worth his time to note, but he did not feel fear looking upon them. And they didn’t seem to be afraid of him. Instead, as the old saying goes, they were curious.

“I’m not what you guys were expecting, was I?” He said, pocketing his phone. He sighed, and took a step towards them. They hopped back, landing sideways, and he couldn’t help but laugh at this line of “Halloween cats” that stood before him, all puffed up and turning their heads sideways. They started towards him, but he simply swung his phone back out, putting on a rather... abrasive song. Those screechy guitar licks and gruff singer sent them flying into the plains... and made him wince at just how loud it was. It had been a while since he threw on anything from THAT band but he could have sworn it wasn’t as... migraine-inducing as he remembered.

The fun was over now, though. He turned off the war crime that was calling that music once upon a time, and returned to his journey. The grass didn’t rustle for the rest of the night, which made him wonder... Were those considered the apex predators around these parts? If so... how? He might have been the fish out of water, an anomaly so everything would be wary, but it was still a beast. It shouldn’t have shown that much intellect and perception if it was truly out hunting. Especially in a pack. Unknown or not, they had the advantage in terms of numbers and positioning, yet they... lined up for him. Single file... Were they really what the trader was packing a spear for? Then again, maybe it was carrying for other reasons. Bandits were a thing in these underdeveloped areas, right? Maybe there was no true fear from the wildlife but from their fellow monsters.

In any case, the rest of the night was drab and mundane. He didn’t get any answers, but at least he was closing in on the mound. Looks like his perception was off; it only did take one day to reach it. All it took was him not stopping all night... The first sun, the white star, released a flash across the plains when it first topped. The night, the stars, the dusk; all of it was burned away in that flash, returned to the pale blue by that mite sentinel. The grass around buzzed, and bugs rose, welcoming the warmth of the day. There were some of the red ones Nick had encountered before in that swarm, but they were slimmer than the few he pulled out of his beard and but a small part of a kaleidoscope. So much color, so many different species, all rising as one; their wings seemed to create a rainbow across the green grass, captured in the dew on their tops, shimmering in the dawn.

Nick tensed as he watched them... but eased as the swarms on both sides headed deeper into the grass rather than towards him. He watched them for a moment, listened to their drone fade away, and took a moment to pull out his phone, checking the time. He pondered for a moment if he should do something about that now, but he decided to simply put it away and focus his attention... towards...

The mound before him, the side that face him, was carved away. It was squared off before being gouged, replaced by a thick, wooden frame and, as it refracted off it, glass. Long lines of color shined off that easily mile-long pane, casting it upon the fields he was fast approaching and the path that passed under its splendor.

Lined with the things that he met before, and armed with bows, all knocked, aimed, and readied. At him... Nick could understand not noticing the glass before the morning. It was dark, and he was still so far away... How he didn’t notice the creatures gather- the bugs! They conspired against him.

He shook his head, and continued to approach. It was a sound tactic; if they wanted him dead, they would have fired by now. So, he had to push, see how far he could before it was too close. He waved at them, but it seemed only one had any real manners and it was long gone, leaving these barbaric heathens to greet him.

He managed to make it a stone’s throw away, little more than a dive and a slide, before one yelled at him. Once more, it was in that alien language, but he could understand, “stop or you’ll become a pincushion” in practically almost every language. He didn’t, though, and kept walking, humming softly, only stopping when the order came again and all the arrows jerked up. He was in arm’s length of their bows, as well as their arrows, each a miniature replica of the spear he had seen the day before.

The archers fanned out around him, covering from all sides, and he simply smirked as one approached him. They looked about the same as the other one the day before, but he could tell that this one was female. She had breasts, filling out the top of her burgundy-hued tunic a bit more than the male’s flat chest did the day before... though not by much. Unlike him, as well, the hair on her head... and arms were far longer, and, in the case of the plumes on her arms, far silkier. They even had a bit of a shade of yellow, flowing down to their tips which just tickled at her wrists... and her hands... He looked down at her feet, and was surprised to see she only had three fingers and a thumb and three toes instead of the six from the one he met. Unlike him, though, she sported a rather nasty spike on the back of each of her ankles, at least as thick as his wrist.

It spoke to him, her voice deeper than the one he conversed with before, and he could only assume she was asking who he was and what he was doing there... Slight problem, though; she was dead. Killed by her own people, as the rest of them laid dead, too. And all Nick could do was laugh at their idiocy as he picked himself up off the ground, completely untouched. Screams erupted from on high, and he simply stood there, in that circle of the dead, fishing his phone out of his pocket to turn his alarm off. His back might have hurt, but that was too perfect... He had a feeling it was a good idea not to turn that off yet, and, though more came down from the village, carrying spears and readying to run him through, that was well worth it.

“Perfect first impression,” he said, and laid down on the ground with his hands behind his back. He didn’t know if that was their custom, but it should still signify that he was completely submissive... Plus, one look at the surroundings should give enough of an answer to what really happened.

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