The Cursed Land
Chapter 1: The Cursed Land
What happens, when a man or woman fulfills their only purpose in life that kept them there in the first place? What would come after? To keep living and find another purpose or simply end it all there? My life feels empty yet I remain here contemplating day and night about whether to keep living or not. In the end, I decided to look back on the journey that brought me here into contemplation writing it all down. And hopefully, at the end of it all, there would be a clear answer if Levi Carter should continue having a future or end it here.
It began on one cold night washed ashore unconscious after the prisoner boat we road in was hit with an unfortunate violent storm. I was a prisoner on that boat wearing wet brown pants and a shirt that was not comfortable in the slightest and made it worse being wet. I woke up coughing as a bit of water and sand lingered near my throat while I was utterly freezing. However, the climate air wasn’t what was causing the extreme discomfort but something else, something more sinister full of hatred, sorrow, and death. I could hear the numerous voices speaking to me from every angle of my body as I felt the cold breath of death passing through my skin. Something was there with me talking and touching me yet no matter where I looked or where I tried flinging my arms there was nothing present or existing within my senses.
“Who’s there!? Where are you!?”
I yelled out constantly turning around in confusion in the middle of a shore shrouded in complete darkness with the only thing visible being the full moon. It wasn’t just faint voices but I also heard movement like something was indeed nearby walking around me. My heart raced so fast out of fear that I was afraid it would burst and I began to have trouble breathing.
“W-Where are you!? Show yourself!”
It felt like screaming into a void of nothingness and panic began to set in as I was slowly losing my sanity and oxygen. Not knowing what to do I ran to my left hoping I could find some light or at the very least get away from the mysterious cold and presence of someone or something. As I ran for my life breathing heavily, I could still hear ominous voices of a mix between women, men, children, and even babies. Varying from a haunting laughter to an agonizing scream from every direction closing in onto me and I was nearly about to give up hope thinking I would die at that moment by whatever was hiding in the darkness. But that would not be my fate that day as I spotted a light from a distance ashore. Not just one light but a few that gave me a small sign of hope and I ran with everything I had exceeding my normal speed limit at that time just to bathe myself in that light among the darkness.
“Please! Let me live! I can’t die here! I can’t here! I can’t die here! Not yet! Not yet! Not yet!”
I chanted over and over in my head as I tried running faster than the speed of sound until I eventually fell flat with my legs and body having given itself out near the place with light which was a small camp.
“Huh!? Who goes there!?”
A man with similar clothing like me who was also a prisoner sitting on a crate stood on his feet and picked up a lamp to shine light towards my direction. Thankfully, that man had enough curiosity and willingness to check what the noise was and spotted me.
“Hey! We got another one here!”
The man yelled out and rushed over to me with the lamp and the light oddly enough gave me such warmth and ease despite being only a lamplight. Just by spending minutes in utter darkness feeling and hearing such ominous voices and cold was something I would never wish to experience ever again but unfortunately; I later find out such a thing would be normal in the place I washed ashore.
“Jesus, he nearly got killed staying out there in the middle of the dark.”
“Do you know him?” Another man arrived to help the other prisoner carry me into the camp.
“Don’t remember his face, but since he’s also wearing a prisoner uniform he must have come from the same boat.”
The other prisoner with the lamp and another man who wore a uniform spoke to each other about me when they dragged me towards their camp.
“Is that the only person? Was there no child?”
A woman rushed over and asked worryingly which made me guess there was another boat that got swallowed by the storm and had its people get washed ashore.
“No, just another prisoner. Sorry.”
“W-Water… pl... please…”
I uttered as my throat felt utterly dried out.
“Get some water, hurry!” The man in uniform told the woman.
The woman quickly rushed to a tent as they stopped dragging me and put me near a bonfire to give me light and proper warmth.
“Here, some water.”
The woman handed a metal cup with water to the other male prisoner and moved the cup over to my mouth.
“Here, drink it slowly brother.”
I didn’t listen to his advice and tried chugging the whole thing in one go and ended up choking on half of it.
“UGHNN… GUUHH!” I tried catching my breath again and the second time I took it slowly savoring the freshwater.
“You alright brother? What’s your name?”
Before answering I took a few seconds to collect my thoughts and composure and looked at the other male prisoner and then towards the other man who wore a police uniform but without his long black trench coat and the woman wore a very worn-out discolored dress with the trench coat of the police officer.
“Levi… Levi Carter. W-Where are we?”
“Where are we? Brother, if you’re a prisoner then that answer should be obvious since you chose to come here.”
“Are we finally here?”
“That’s right, we’re in the so-called lands that makes death look like a blessing. The land of Velorian.”
Velorian, a large land once inhabited by a few hundred thousand long ago that was yet undiscoverable by other major countries. Once such land was found out five of those countries waged war to obtain such precious land. The conflict lasted fifty years with nothing but death and suffering to the point where the lands eventually started to become utterly cursed with an unpleasant miasma one would think they’re living in hell. All five of the major countries pulled out no longer finding any value in obtaining such cursed lands ruining a once peaceful and quiet soil with hate, anger, pain, and sorrow of those who suffered and died in vain.
However, despite the lands being cursed, it didn’t change the fact that it was still open land with no major government superpower ruling over it. But trying to create a proper society would be extremely difficult yet primarily the poor class makes the journey to Velorian with optimistic expectations. Not understanding why there’s a reason the country where I came from gives criminals with death sentences the choice to get executed or get exiled to Velorian. A fate that is similar or worse than execution.
“Tell me, did you see a child!? A young boy of eight!?” The woman quickly asked me once my senses were returning to normal.
“Pithra, don’t bother. The man was in the middle of darkness with no light and even if he heard something it was probably just those strange ominous voices.”
“I could still hear those voices from here, telling me how much they hate me and how much they want to kill me. Don’t understand why a poor woman like you would even come here? And you even brought your child. All those stories weren’t enough to keep you away?”
“You think I had a choice? We were barely living back in our homeland!”
“And because of that you probably condemned your boy to something worse than death.”
“That’s enough! Criminal scum!”
The police officer pointed his gun at the other prisoner’s head to shut him up. But as he pointed his gun, Pithra walked over to the prisoner and spat on his face.
“I’m going to look for him!” Pithra angrily said and grabbed the lantern next to the prisoner.
“W-Wait! It’s too dangerous to carelessly head out in the night!”
“I can’t just sit here patiently and wait knowing my child is in danger!”
The police officer chased after Pithra attempting to stop her from acting carelessly knowing she would end up getting herself killed.
“Jeez, I was merely speaking the truth here. Oh, I forgot, my name is Jackson Reed. I got caught stealing too many times to count but let’s just say it was enough to give me the choice of getting my head lobbed off or live-in hell.”
Jackson introduced himself as he cleaned the spit off his face from Pithra.
“So? What did you do to end up here?” He asked me curiously.
“… I killed someone.”
“Murderer, huh? Who you killed?”
Jackson casually asked without even batting an eye to the fact that I was a murderer or if what he asked was intrusive. But before I could answer I hear Pithra scream in a struggle with the police officer who tried forcing her to stop heading into the darkness alone. Eventually, the officer simply dropped Pithra to the ground with force and gets behind wrapping his arms around Pithra’s neck to choke her unconscious.
“Well, isn’t he quite the gentlemen,” Jackson said not show much care about the officer choking Pithra.
“Should we just let him do that?” I asked not caring much either but only wondered if the officer would have intentions of hurting us as well.
“Do you think someone like him would do such a thing to Pithra without a reason?”
“… Are you talking about heading out alone in the darkness? Is it really that bad?”
“This is just mere tales but… if you end up getting consumed by whatever is out there. Then you’ll live out the rest of your life in torment. If that officer there was willing to go as far as to tackle that poor woman and choke her out just to stop her from going out there. Then, he must know the consequences of this so-called fate worse than death.”
As I listened to Jackson, I watched as the police officer carried the unconscious Pithra back to the camp and placed her inside a small tent.
“What’s his name?”
“Kyle Adams, he wasn’t in the prisoner boat with us. He was on the ship that takes anyone willing to have a one-way ticket to Velorian. Most likely someone hired him to keep things in order on that boat.”
“You two! Get up!”
Kyle demanded as he pointed his gun at us after putting Pithra in a tent.
“Relax, we won’t… I mean, I won’t do anything. We’re in this hell hole together.”
“Shut it, you’re still criminals. You, Levi, what did you do?” Kyle asked wanting to know what crime I committed.
Upon answering Kyle’s question, I saw the look of fright in his eyes and I knew at that moment he would pull the trigger. For a second time that night, I thought I would get killed until the only thing I could hear is only a click. Both Kyle and I blandly looked at each other in such awkwardness and I took the initiative to rush over and fight him. Since he had the intention of killing me right then and there just because I was a murderer then I had no reason to hold back in fighting for my life.
We both grappled each other trying to take control of the gun and throw a few punches and knees in our scuffle. Jackson simply stood out of it watching us both try killing each other enjoying the show. Kyle was more experienced having gone through training as he punched me which knocked me to the ground but I was still conscious. He attempted to shoot once more but his gun was in poor condition and gets jammed. As he quickly tried fixing it, I secretly grabbed sand on my left hand and stood back onto my feet.
I rushed in a second time baiting that I was just rushing in carelessly. Once Kyle let his guard down, I tossed that sand onto his face, blinding him.
Once I took out his vision, the rest was easy as I threw a hard knee onto his gut and pushed him to the ground. From there I mounted him and swung my fists like a madman landing blow after blow as Kyle desperately tried blocking while still being blind from the sand but eventually his arms gave out and his face turned bloodied from not just his blood but from my own as well that came from my fists that had bruises and cuts after swinging with such force into his skull.
“HHHAAA! HHHAAA!” I breathed heavily after exhausting myself a second time and got off Kyle who was barely alive.
“Hmm, well, that was quite an unexpected escalation.”
Jackson said with a careless expression and still had no intention of helping Kyle or me. Which made me wonder why he helped me when I reached the small camp but figured it was because I was a fellow prisoner and Kyle was being untrusting towards Jackson. From what I was able to tell at that moment is that Jackson seemed to be the careless type not picking any side readily.
“You’re indeed a murderer brother, good to know you weren’t lying.”
“HHHAAA…. HHAAA… What now?” I asked Jackson wondering what we would do in Velorian.
“Nothing for now brother, have to wait till morning. One of the prisoners told me he had a friend once that managed to return to the homeland and mentioned a town existing in this godforsaken place.”
“A town? Here?”
“It’s just what I heard and it could be all bullshit. I don’t know much about this place or what these ominous voices do or how it exactly works. So, our best bet is to just stay here till morning and try finding this town.”
I slowly regained my normal breathing and stood up from the sand.
“There’s some luggage and crates over there Kyle and I managed to grab from the water, might find something to wrap those hands of yours,” Jackson said and walked over to Kyle’s unconscious and barely living body. He took the gun from the ground but had no intention of trying to use it right away.
“Shouldn’t let this go to waste, even if it doesn’t work anymore. We could still bluff idiots like him.”
“What should we do with him?”
“Kyle? I don’t plan to do anything. If he wasn’t trying to act like a prick with authority, I would have maybe helped him out but… well… I don’t care about him. If you want to help him be my guest brother.”
I glanced over to Kyle’s bloodied face and recalled how he had no hesitation in pulling that trigger. In Kyle’s perspective, he saw me as a threat like I was a cold-blooded murderer who finds killing fun. But he thought wrong and there was a good reason as to why my hands were stained, however, I wasn’t a good-hearted enough person to forgive. So, just like how he had no intention of giving me a chance to explain then I also won’t give it and I let him rot on the ground with his blood and mine.
The cold night went on as no more problems arose thanks to the light which back then made me guess was the only way to keep one safe from whatever lurked in the darkness. I knew there would be much to do in Velorian for the sake of my only purpose that continued to bound me into this world in which I found no worth for the past year. Logan Campbell, a man who I would dedicate every single ounce of blood that runs through my veins to find. But looking for Logan Campbell in Velorian, a land where prisoners choose to get exiled here over execution was something that had a very unlikely chance of me ever finding him alive or even dead. Yet, for me, it didn’t matter if I spent my entire life searching for a dead or alive body. Even if my bones and skin reached the old senile age I didn’t care, I made up my mind to forever search for Logan Campbell until I would die.
Once my first night in Velorian came to an end, I awoke to the sound of a screaming woman early in the morning.
I quickly stood up from the few crates I laid on using a few ripped clothing to keep me warm and rushed over to the scream that came from Pithra. Jackson ran over as well who also got woken up by her scream.
“What happened to him!?”
Pithra asked out as she was near Kyle’s body trying to find a pulse but he was long dead as the blood ended up blocking his nose and mouth from properly breathing.
“Fucks sake woman, here I thought it was something serious,” Jackson said and turned around to go back to sleep.
“What!? How could you… “Pithra just then remembered me and Jackson were originally prisoners who got exiled to Velorian. “Heartless bastards! Are you just going to leave this man here!?”
“Sorry, but he tried to kill me without a second thought. He’s not deserving of my sympathy.” I told Pithra.
“Y-You killed him!?”
“That’s right, I’m only a murderer to those who give me a strong reason to kill them.”
“W-We helped you! He helped you!” Pithra shouted to me as she began to feel scared of me.
“Stupid woman, he only helped me because he didn’t know I was convicted of murder. Once he found that out he immediately tried to kill me. So, again, I’ll repeat this one last time. Don’t give me a reason to kill or hurt you.”
Pithra then stood up and walked over to her tent and started to pack things to quickly run away from me. Even though Pithra was exaggerating her thought process that I would kill her or worse. I didn’t care what she did since there was nothing Pithra could have that would help me in finding Logan Campbell. Pithra only took five minutes to pack and she ran off into the forest trees.
“Now then, what to do.” I wondered and looked around wondering what was my next course of action.
“AGH! Can’t sleep anymore. Huh? Where’s Pithra?” Jackson asked me.
“She already left.”
“Damn, here I was hoping to ask for morning head. Wouldn’t hurt to ask such a thing sometimes, could work. Ah well, you leaving as well brother?”
“Sheesh, no one likes good old Jackson? Well, I guess we can’t exactly sit around the shore for long.”
“Yeah, we best of buds are we not? Besides, better to have someone watch your back in a cursed lawless place like this where criminals from our country are exiled, don’t you think?”
“… Just don’t do anything that would make me want to kill you.”
“No problem! Before we set off anywhere, we should fill up our stomachs first. Haven’t eaten anything for a while.”
Jackson and I scavenged through the remains of the luggage and other crates to find any form of food and water. Luckily, one crate had some but most of it was spoiled leaving only a bit to be edible but enough to keep our bellies satisfied. I also made sure to craft myself a weapon by breaking apart a piece of wood from a wooden crate to make the tip of it pointy like a small spear. Jackson does the same since the pistol from Kyle didn’t work and he would need a backup in case no one would fall for his bluff. We also made sure to wear different clothing and not look like prisoners in case someone like Kyle would see us as a threat immediately.
“Shit, damn clothes are tight!” Jackson said who wore an old dirtied light-blue suit that barely fit his fat physique but it was the only thing big enough for him.
“Let’s go,” I said only wearing a simple vest and worn-out loose jeans in which I used a piece of cloth to tighten them and act as a belt.
Despite the sun shining brightly in the morning with little clouds we still felt that same bitter cold and occasionally hear those echoing voices from all directions. However, compared to night time it was more bearable and kept me less anxious about something unknown killing us. Even the trees themselves looked sinister with the color of leaves fading into a dry brown color. Some were utterly dead leaving behind only a trunk to at least remind someone they were once brimming with life.
“Hmm…” As we walked through the forest, something kept making me feel uneasy. “Jackson, do you feel that?” I asked him.
“Yeah, like there’s a lot of eyes watching us from every direction. Barely been a day and this place keeps freaking me out.”
Every time we suspected something from the corner of our eyes we would glance and see nothing. Normally, it wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary but when it constantly happened where I felt something was hiding behind a tree observing us is what bothered me to no end. We kept our guard up prepared to fight or kill whatever would appear before us with similar intentions.
“Whoa…” Jackson who was in front suddenly stopped as he spotted a dead body in a short distance.
“He’s wearing a prisoner uniform,” I said noticing it.
“We should check it out.”
“Why? Doubt he has anything valuable.”
“Of course, he has something valuable. Information.”
“Information from a dead man?”
“… And you call yourself a murderer? Information to see what killed him if it was anything we could conceive as normal or something unordinary by some monster.”
“Well, that’s true,” I said not having thought about that, and complied.
“I’m starting to think you didn’t last long being a murderer back in our country. They must have found you out easier than a kid stealing food.”
“I didn’t get found out, I turned myself in but that’s not important right now,” I told Jackson and went ahead towards the dead body.
I carefully walked to the dead body looking at every angle to catch any signs of traps or someone hiding in wait. And as I got closer, I noticed how the dead prisoner’s skin seemed old and wrinkly. Upon reaching close in touching distance, I saw no blood or any form of cuts or deep impaled wound. Didn’t dare to touch the body and simply walked around to the front to see his face only to find the eyes seeming like they were utterly dried out and aged including his teeth. There was still no wound visible anywhere nor blood which confirmed that the prisoner died of unnatural causes only possible in Velorian.
“I sure as hell hope that wasn’t painful,” Jackson said only worried about that if he ever met the same fate.
“Look, another prisoner,” I told Jackson when I spotted another dead body to the left from a distance.
Those two weren’t the only dead bodies as we found a few more along the way both prisoners and travelers who came to Velorian themselves or by boat ride from whoever offered it. It’s illegal for people to make money off taking people to Velorian back in my country but the law was ever barely enforced since the government wanted most commoners to go there to reduce the overpopulated land but had to keep appearances to prevent a backlash that would lead to riots and revolts.
Anyways, almost everybody died the same way with no wounds anywhere and their entire skin and eyes seeming like they dried up of their bodily fluids. A few bodies did show some form of a struggle between another person but it wasn’t by anything mysterious for it was easy to tell it was a prisoner or someone simply attacking another.
“Idiots were most likely running around the forest during the night. We should avoid doing the same until we hopefully find someone who has some experience with this land and is willing to share their insight.” Jackson said as he tried scavenging through the bodies without touching them.
“We don’t exactly know if it’s safe to walk around during the day either,” I said as the voices grew a bit louder and clearer. I faintly heard them begging for help in an unpleasant manner. “Let’s keep moving, ever since we came across these bodies that strange cold sensation is becoming more apparent.”
“Right behind you brother.”
After two hours of heading towards one direction away from the shore, the trees no longer showed any sign of life and everything was lifeless tree trunks that sat there dejected. It almost seemed like anything relating to life in the land of Velorian would be cursed from life as it gets sucked away from the strange invisible miasma.
“I got an idea!” Jackson told me and he climbed up one of the tallest tree trunks to get a higher vantage point. Surprisingly, despite having a physique one would say belonged to a fat drunken bastard he was capable of climbing that tree without an issue.
“See anything!?” I yelled out while looking up at Jackson.
“Well, would you look at that!” Jackson shouted out in excitement.
“What is it!?”
“I could see an actual town! About half an hour or more west north from here!”
“A town? Could it be an abandoned town!?”
“Don’t know, a bit hard to tell but I do see some movement. Whether or not that’s just wind blowing or wild animals… we’d need to confirm that by getting closer.”
Jackson climbed back down from the tree and we quickly set out towards the direction of the town which we had no idea if it would be inhabited by people or not. We also had to consider the possibility that if it was people living there then we had to make certain they weren’t crazy people with no sanity. Either way, three hours of aimlessly walking began to take a toll and the little food and water we had at shore couldn’t sustain us for long. And I was afraid Jackson would resort to trying to eat me since I still didn’t exactly trust him.
Once we got closer to the town, we were able to confirm that it was indeed occupied by people living in it and everything seemed normal. The land around the town was mostly barren with no trees in sight for some distance.
“Hmm, they have outposts and guards… with guns,” Jackson said as we kept our distance on the ground staying hidden and observing.
“It all looks like a normal town; I could even see kids running along the empty streets,” I said not expecting such a sight.
“Living normally in a cursed land? One couldn’t even live normal in a non-cursed land.”
“What I’m trying to say is that they figured out a way to stay alive without worrying about whatever it is that killed those people we came across.”
“So? What do you want to do brother? I don’t mind heading there to see what their reception is like. Don’t have many options anyway.”
“… I’ll go with you; it would look suspicious if I went after you should they be welcoming. And I don’t want to wait for hours without water.”
Not knowing what to expect, Jackson and I slowly walked towards the town doing our best to not look hostile or suspicious in any way. Once a guard standing on an outpost spotted us, he raised his rifle and aimed straight at us. At that moment, we quickly raised our arms to show we had no intention of fighting. I was entirely focused on that one guard aiming who rang a bell to alert others of our presence. Didn’t know how Jackson felt throughout all of it but for me, I started to sweat nervously watching that guard and then more with guns showed up to gather at an entrance gate also aiming and waiting for us to get close. At that point, any kind of movement either me or Jackson made whether it’s trying to run away or dodging would be pointless as a bullet would certainly hit both of us from multiple shots from the distance. There was no turning back.