Chapter 7: Who
The stone underneath my body had a cool temperature. I found it relaxing and nice, as if I'd been wanting something other than warmth. After rolling over, I could tell it was moonlight that was wanting to shine through my closed eyes. I opened them. Above me, I could see the silhouettes of leafy tree branches against the midnight sky. So many beautiful stars twinkled around the full moon. Just as I went to sit up, a shooting star cut through the sky.
The last time I ever saw a shooting star was on my thirteenth birthday, I thought.
I found my feet and stood on the stone. I looked at the gloomy forest around me. There were no leaves on the trees. All I could see were the long structures of tree trunks. All the leaves and branches were at the tops of the trees.
The ground was covered in these large, smooth stones. Trees were shooting up from between the stones, but how? This wasn't the right area for trees to be growing.
I gasped and ducked down. I could feel whatever was after me glide with the wind. Then it was gone.
I looked up at the trees without taking my hands off the top of my head. I searched for my alleged attacker in the darkness, but I couldn't spot anything peculiar in sight. There was only one type of nocturnal animal that I knew of that would attack like it just did: an owl. I suddenly knew the culprit.
My head whipped around after hearing a crackling of wood. I looked up into the tops of the trees, but still couldn't see anything weird.
I screamed and ducked down lower. What kind of nightmare was this?
My ears detected the movement of the owl as it broke through the still air. Instead of going back up into the trees, it continued past me while flying downwards. At that moment, I heard a ghostly thump.
I looked behind me. The majestic bird I was anticipating wasn't where it landed.
This greatly confused me. I looked around for the owl. Had it already killed its prey and left? But it was so quick and nimble!
I pressed my palms to the stone to support my body better. That was when I saw someone disappearing into the gloom. All I could recall was a human body without any details. I suddenly wanted to follow the mysterious stranger, so I picked myself up and chased after him/her.
Whoever this person was could run fast. I was surprised I could keep up. We both hopped over rocks and hurried past trees. The stranger kept his/her gaze focused upwards. I found it unusual that he/she could maneuver around obstacles without even looking in front of himself/herself.
The trees began to severely thin out. We were leaving the forest. I started to realize that the stones were becoming boulders, too. The stranger should've climbed over a lot of the rocks, but I watched as he/she would simply leap over them. Somehow I could do the same to keep up.
Now we were out of the forest. The boulders didn't get any bigger, but I did see a mountain ahead of us. The stranger didn't hesitate. He/she kept heading for the mountain. I refused to slow my pace. I had to know who this person was and where he/she was headed to.
We quickly got to the base of the mountain. The stranger started climbing a protracted flight of rock stairs. I stopped at the first step and looked up at the stranger as he/she continued to ascend.
What's at the top of the mountain?
I stepped onto the first step. The stranger was out of sight now. I quickly started running up, not feeling worn out at all. The stairs winded up the mountainside perfectly. There were no sudden turns or stops. While I was running farther and farther up, the steps started getting steeper. The direction changed to the right. I looked up ahead of me and found what was at the top of this mountain. It was some kind of building with very prodigious white walls. A vast door stood in the middle of it all, welcoming the steps like family inside the walls of the building.
Is this a fortress?
I slowed my pace to a walk. I approached the great door with awe. I wanted to feel the ancient wood it was made up of.
"Am I being watched over at this very moment?" somebody asked.
I froze in place, my hand extended toward the door. I had been caught. Worry flushed through my body in waves of heat. I didn't know what to do.
"Does someone live in the stars tonight? Is my presence known to that person?" the stranger continued.
I looked over my shoulder, where the full moon shined brightly against the surface of the mountain. I could see the stranger blocking the shape of the moon from my view. The silhouette revealed the stranger to be a man. I could tell he was sitting on a stone. He was having a conversation, but it wasn't with me. Was he talking to the moon? How weird.
"I don't understand why my life has come to this. Why am I surrounded by people who accept me for who I am, yet still treat me differently? This wasn't want I anticipated when joining them. I don't want to stay, but I have to. Here I have a home. Here I have my duties. I cannot abandon these people, for they are the only family I know."
I listened intently to his conversation. I felt sorrow for this man. Whoever he was, he was struggling with his life right now. Was he adopted? I wasn't sure. His words didn't direct to that exact explanation.
"The possibilities of finding the answers to my unanswered questions seem slim to none. I just wanted to know…to know the truth. But now it appears that I must start a new search." I watched him as he stood up on the stone. He stood tall and straight. I didn't know if he was going to turn around to look at me. "If there is anybody that lives with the stars, please hear my prayer. Please bless me with love, love that someone else can give me. I want to love someone who will share her life with me. If I could find her, then I wouldn't need anything else in my life. Please bring her to me, I pray. Please bring me my mate."
I gazed up at the stars. Were there really people up there? Spirits of deceased people? Could they really hear his prayer? My wonderment was interrupted by a dark shadow covering up the moon. The silhouette of the stranger vanished before my very eyes. I didn't know what was happening. The scene caught me by surprise. I took a step backwards and fell. I looked around wildly for a place to hide.
The moon returned, crimson with blood. Where the stranger once stood now stood a hovering outline of something I couldn't describe. I looked down at the stone. The stranger lay there, blood gushing from where his throat should've been.
I jerked. My head bumped into the window. "Ow!" I softly winced, rubbing the side of my forehead.
Linus looked in the rearview mirror. "You okay?" he chuckled.
"Yeah, I guess so," I replied. I looked outside and saw that we were deep in the Sea of Sand. I looked at the front seats. Linus was driving like he was before I slept. I could see Trent's head slumped over as he slept. Beside me, the food was untouched. Jen was still perched on top of it all, staring into her fantasy. "How long have I been asleep?" I asked Linus, ripping my gaze from Jen.
"Just over five hours," he said. "I'm actually kind of glad you woke up. I'm starving. Can you hand me an apple?"
I looked at the bag on the floor with the water bottles. I reached into the bag and pulled out a Red Delicious apple. I set it beside him on the compartment.
"Thanks," he said, taking the apple.
I pulled out a snack-sized bag of Cheetos and a water bottle for myself.
"You looked like you were about to murder someone before you woke up," Linus commented.
I unscrewed the water bottle. "I did?"
"Yeah. What were you dreaming about?"
"Something that made absolutely no sense."
"Was it better than the dream you had that one time about the Eskimo kid?" he laughed.
"Eh, I don't know. It was just a dream." I took a sip of water for my dry throat. If I had slept for five hours that meant there was still twelve hours left. I put my headphones over my ears and started playing music. This was going to be a long day for me.