Chapter 32: All Going Down
I looked at the sky one more time, wishing I could just simply rise, jump on one of the white clouds racing smoothly across the sky, disappear beneath its cream puffs of vapor, and get a ride out of this wretched place, and destiny. How I wish I could back to my old life, a life which didn’t even exist, I knew that now. The life I knew had all been imaginary; it had all been a farce. Everything Abby said had been very far-fetched, me being the light, the existence of the protectors, the neutralizers, the Goddess, the Drakons on earth, but I was not fooling myself into thinking they were tales to be discarded.
I had heard them all before, in bits and pieces from grandma. She had been trying to protect me from the Drakon boy, Seth who was after my light, which by the way, my birthmark hid. Didn’t I already know something had been wrong with the birthmark? Hadn’t it been raw, red towards the end, sensitive, itching, and even painful at times? Check. Hadn’t Baran tried to keep me away from Seth, even at the expense of almost fighting with him? Check. Hadn’t I been inexplicably drawn to Seth all along, despite my efforts to hide it from everyone? Check. Hadn’t I seen visions of this world when I touched him? Check. Hadn’t we ended up in this weird world when we died? Check. No, this was no tale, though it all sounded like the ramblings of a mad mind, it had all happened, and I’d been surrounded by all this weirdness for far too long to ignore it.
It was the world I thought I knew, college life, classes, exams, a typical family, a boyfriend, loyal friends, which had instead been fictional. I felt like I’d been sleeping all along, and I’d just woken up with a bucket of chilled water to confront the truth, and accept the harsh reality. But, the task ahead was not something I could accept as of yet. How could I tear Seth from my heart? Yes, he’d disappointed me, yes, he’d given up on us, but there was no switch button to reverse my feelings from one extreme to another. How could anyone expect me to kill him? How could I not, if my return to earth and the existence of the humankind depended on it? My head felt as if it would burst with all these thoughts swirling in my mind; I rubbed away tears of frustration now falling in a downpour, releasing my inner emotions like a flood overflowing from a broken dam.
“Baby, what are you doing there alone, all wet, and crying?” asked Baran, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” I said, stepping on the emergency brake over my overflowing emotions. “I’m fine; I was just stressed.” He didn’t remember a thing anyway, talking with him would be futile.
He sat down next to me, and took me in his arms, pressing my face against his chest, as his hands softly caressed my hair and back. It felt good, and now I knew what had transpired with him, I felt more secure in his arms than ever before. Still, the past was not entirely clear. A small mist continued to overhang over all the facts, making it impossible to differentiate between the truths and lies.
“Sierra, what is it?” Baran asked again, his soft voice like a lullaby, soothing the terror in my soul. I allowed it. Though I kept my silence, he recognized my acquiescence. For the first time since I saw him back in Rawonia, I was treating him as the friend I once knew and loved, even if nothing more. I didn’t know what the future would bring with him, this was surely a step in a positive direction, but I knew I was not yet ready to let go of Seth. I started laughing like a madwoman, as it suddenly dawned on me that though I was not ready to stop loving Seth, yet I was expected to kill him.
“Baby, you are worrying me,” he said. “And, you’ll get sick, we need to dry your clothes.”
“And, now, so are yours,” I said, continuing to laugh.
“Okay, do you want to tell me why you are wet?” he asked, turning my face towards his, his eyes inquiring, yet soft.
“No, not really,” I said. “Okay, fine, I just thought a dip in the lake would do me good in the morning, satisfied?” I replied as I got up.
He didn’t say anything, but the worry in his gaze was apparent. It was obvious he was lost on me, period. Since the first day I attacked him, he’d been in a mist of confusion about who I was, why I’d changed, and how to bring back the girl he loved. I almost pitied him.
“C’mon let’s go back, you are right. I’m beginning to feel the chill; we’d better dry these clothes,” I said, much preferring to deal with trivial matters such as these at the moment, rather than the overwhelming responsibility of saving the world.
“Okay, good,” he said, relaxing.
We lit a fire back at the camp site. Baran took off his shirt and handed it to me. “It’s still drier than yours; you should put this on and take off everything else,” he said.
The others started to rustle around and wake up, everyone except for Travis. We waited for another hour, just stretching lazily under the sun. When my clothes finally dried, we started getting ready for the trip ahead of us. Travis had still not woken up. I moved next to him and nudged him softly. “C’mon sleepyhead, we need to get moving,” I said. He didn’t open his eyes; I touched him on the arm, which was the moment when I felt him burning. I moved my hand over his forehead, and he was burning to the touch. Damn it; it felt as high as 103-104 degrees Fahrenheit.
“He has a high fever,” I said, panicking. “He must have been chilled last night.” I had already started taking off his shirt, “Help me strip him of his clothes, we need to bring down his fever. We may have to cool his body in the lake,” I said to the others.
“Let me see,” said Elvan, pushing me away. She touched him, looking up at his skin. She turned him around, leaned in and examined his body, her fingers finally settling on a spot right at his side, just below his armpit. It looked swollen, purplish.
“What are you doing?” I asked, not liking this thorough inspection. “What is that, for God’s sake?” I cried out.
“Oh, no!” Mina said, covering her eyes.
“What’s going on,” I said, now completely feeling the pending doom.
“A dragonfly but him,” said Baran. “Sierra...” he said, not finishing his sentence. But, his eyes said it all, they held a pitch of worry, sympathy, and sadness, all brought together in a bitter recipe of regret.
“How bad can it be? What medication do we need, and where and how do we get it?” I asked, ignoring their looks of pity.
Baran came slowly, and took me in his arms, yet again. “Baby, there is no cure, I’m sorry,” he said. “We can wait, but it can take up two days, and he will not be conscious during that time. But, then Seth can find us.”
“What are you saying?” I said, pushing him away. As crisp clear as his words had been, I still needed to hear his meaning, as my brain refused to decipher it.
“He is going to die no matter what we do; there is nothing we can do for him now. The venom is already in his system. We need to get moving.”
“Venom? What? Wait...you can’t be telling me he’ll die from an insect bite? That’s utterly stupid!” I yelled. I knelt down in a rush, trying to suck off the venom from the rotten looking flesh.
“The venom, once it enters the body, travels very fast Sierra. That won’t do him any good,” he uttered.
I didn’t care; I had to try. Yes, they’d been warning me about the dragonflies here in Rawonia, but how could anyone expect me to believe they were lethal, that my brother was dying simply because he was bitten by one.
“Sierra, it’s true,” Mina said, sadly. “Everything Baran is saying is the truth, I’m very sorry.”
“Does anyone have a knife?” I asked, my voice getting shrill, my movements hasty with rising panic.
“Why,” Baran asked, as he took the knife tucked in his boot.
“Do you have anything to clean it with?” I asked with a glimmer of hope.
“Nope,” he answered.
“Okay, the lake will have to do then. Please wash it in the lake, and bring it to me, and hurry,” I ordered, as I continued to take off Travis’s trousers.
Everyone was looking at me as if I was crazed.
“How can he be the only one who is bitten? Shouldn’t we all have been bit?” I asked, no longer questioning the consequences of the bite, but that it happened in the first place. Perhaps, this was something else; I hoped that would prove to be the case.
“It must be one dragonfly isolated from its herd. And, probably it found Travis’s blood to be more appealing. It happens, I’m sorry,” Elvan explained.
Somehow her words rang true. Hadn’t it always been Travis who was bitten by mosquitoes every time our parents took us camping, and he would relentlessly complain afterward? My God, how could this be happening? Would I get no break in this life? It had first started with being killed by Baran, then I had found myself in this world, after which I had to run away from the Drakons. Then I’d taken part in a battle against the Drakons, fought to death in Travis’ place, been sentenced to a death row, and finally, escaped just to find out the burdens of my mission. And now, it was this. How much more could I be expected endure without breaking apart?
“This is bullshit,” I replied, cursing at the fate. Thankfully, Baran had brought the knife which he’d cleaned in the lake. “I started cutting off tiny chunks of infected flesh, I had to stop every minute and clean up the excess blood, but the color was not improving to a healthy red color. “Damn,” I cursed, unable to continue any longer. If it had been his arm, I would have happily chopped it off at this point, but I couldn’t go on carving him like this. There was nothing further I could do now, but wait and hope for him to get better.
“We are not leaving him here,” I said, not budging on the issue. “We shall carry him.”
“Sierra, I understand how you feel. I do, but he will slow us down, and we are moving into the Drakon territory. It’s not just Seth who may be after us. You know that, right? Just think about it, and we’ll do whatever you feel you must do. Just, take a minute to think about it, that’s all I ask,” Baran said.
I was hearing everything he was saying, and there was truth to it, I had to admit. And, as Abby had confirmed, this world was not real. How could I leave Travis to die alone in here? He was my brother, whether we were in Rawonia or not. I simply couldn’t. And, what if this world was now all I had, what if I could never go back? Unfortunately, this trip had not come with a return guarantee, and I had to make sure I could live with my decisions should I be stranded here forever.
“We will carry him,” I said, resolute.
“Fine, let’s get to it,” said Baran, slightly exasperated, but didn’t utter another word during the time we built a stretcher from the branches, and vines long enough to carry Travis. Travis had been unconscious during all that time, just as they’d they’d warned me. It was extremely hard seeing my brother that way, his eyes closed, his face burning red, lying immobile on the stretcher as if dead, not speaking, not even groaning to express his pain. I hated it. I dabbed angrily at the tears welling in my eyes; that was my little brother over there, and I couldn’t save him.
“Let’s carry him to the lake first; the water should help clean his wound, and cool him off,” I said, touching his forehead once more. “He’s still very much burning.”
We carried Travis to the lake, and slowly lowered his body down the fresh lake water such that it covered his whole body. We dipped him in the water several times, each time keeping him there for at least 5-10 minutes. But, in the end, there was no trace of improvement in his situation. He was still highly fevered.
My friends were silent, Travis was silent, and I was silent, as though all of us were in agreement of the futility of changing his destiny. We took turns carrying the stretcher. Baran always held the pallet where Travis’ head was, and two of us held the other end. He never took a break, but one of us girls could rest from time to time. It was hard, and it was slowing us down. We had to stop several times to catch our breath. Especially when the terrain got rugged, we had to be extremely careful not to trip and fall. We carried Travis for a whole day finding some fruit along the way to sustain our energy, which was far from being enough to appease our hunger. What I wouldn’t give for some of my mom’s lasagna now, the imagined taste of it was sufficient to make my mouth water. When the night replaced the day, we had blistered hands from holding the stretcher, our backs and feet were hurting drastically, and our moods were sour. Travis was not faring any better, I touched his face and was dismayed to see that it was even hotter now, if that was possible. I sighed in frustration, sat on the ground, and just closed my eyes to shut out this whole nightmare.
“I told you,” said Baran, as he sat next to me. “There is no curing him.”
I didn’t say anything. Knowing was not the same as accepting, and I would continue to hope.
But, things got worse within seconds, as two Drakons emerged in the sky, out of nowhere. We tried to find a hiding place while dragging the stretcher behind us. Mina, tripped trying to run, and her painful gasp along with the fall of the stretcher from her hands, echoed around us. Travis rolled on the ground, but before I could even help put his body back on the stretcher, we were spotted. One of the Drakons was immediately alerted to the sounds, and its enormous body changed direction in the sky, while it cried a furious roar, an indication he was coming after us. The second Drakon soon joined him, and they began to hover right above us. They both flew down, not even cutting on their pace, their massive bodies thumping to the ground, tearing up the earth and grass, before drawing to a halt a few inches before us. It was one hell of a show I had to admit and had I been watching this in a 3D movie theater; I’d be awed. But, seeing it all happen right in front of my eyes, I was scared as hell.
I heard Baran’s curse as he drew his gun and shot one Drakon right in the torso. It was then the Drakon emitted another roar and opened its jaws and drew in a breath, and fire began to swell in its throat, which was followed by a jet of fire blazing everything around us. I tried to dodge but couldn’t avoid the burn of my whole left arm, the pain of which was enough to paralyze me. I fell, unable to breathe, and so did Mina who’d been scorched as badly. Elvan and Baran were the only ones who’d been unaffected, and they kept shooting, yet the two Drakons advanced, completely undeterred by the bullets. Soon, one was right in front of my face, I tried to move, but it pinned me right there with its massive tail. When it opened its jaws to roast me fully in the face, a miracle happened. I heard another roar in the sky emitted by a third Drakon. Its battle cry was heard all around us. The Drakon looked at me, and then at the heavens, and then rose high up to engage the newcomer. I knew who that was, the shape and the colors of the dragon in the sky were familiar to me as my face and body. I was just thankful that he had arrived.