Chapter 7: Waking Up
I stretched back as comfortably as I could on the ground, and closed my eyes, and then opened them again, hoping I’d be waking up back in my soft bed. Alas, I was still lying on the dirty ground, suffering in the clutches of this nightmare. I pinched myself a few times, but it didn’t do me any good. This was getting extremely weird, and my fear level was escalating by the second. What was happening to me? My ankle was throbbing painfully and though one could certainly feel pain in a dream, would it be this persistent? This was looking less like a dream, and more like a bizarre reality.
I closed my eyes, holding my temples, trying to remember my last memory before going to sleep. And then, I screamed, forgetting about all the creatures who could flock around my voice like a siren. The last thing I remembered was my boyfriend, Baran pulling the trigger on me, and Seth and Grandma lying dead on the kitchen floor. I held my stomach with the pain of that memory, unable to prevent the bile rising in my throat, and I turned sideways to throw up. I was dry heaving, with nothing left in my stomach, yet I couldn’t stop. I clutched my stomach, taking long deep breaths to control my nausea.
I began to think. Was I dead? I looked around, my shoulders shaking with silent tears, but though this certainly was not my definition of heaven or hell, the fire did give me pause. Did the fire mean I was in hell, and were the dragons the hounds of the devil? Could one throw up in hell? It was not as if I could check this information with the devil himself, or the manual on hell. So, I could not, with any great conviction, claim I was not in hell. That much I knew.
I was stuck in here all alone, in a world, whether hell or not, unknown to me, and I had no clue of what to do. I felt my spine go cold, as if my body recognized the truth before I dared to. I wanted to see my grandma, I wanted my parents, my brother, Travis and I also wanted to see Seth, the carefree looking bad boy, who had taken the bullet intended for me, none of which seemed possible. I was feeling hollowed inside, as if my whole past was stolen from me, yet I was not so gone as to be oblivious to my present woes. I was scared shitless, which meant I had not given up on today, or tomorrow. That was good.
A shiver squirmed through my body, my teeth were chattering and my whole body was shaking with chills. I tried to get up and get away, as wherever I might be, I was going to do my utmost to survive. But, I fell immediately on the ground, my ankle gave up on me, a deep pain radiated deep from the bone. It was obvious that I was stuck here until the time I could step on it.
I rolled down on the ground behind a large tree trunk, I needed to rest till morning, and hide from the creatures at the same time. I would be silent, get some rest, let my ankle heal, conserve my energy and wait for the dawn, then I would take off stealthily to find the place where Pietro was supposedly taking us. It couldn’t be far away as he’d said we’d almost made it. I was relying on that. I had nothing else to go with.
I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating and breathing heavily, afraid of another dragon finding and snatching me away just like it did to Pietro, but the night seemed to have settled into silence. I shivered in remembrance of poor Pietro, though I hadn’t known him, he seemed like a good person, a very selfless person in fact, who had tried to help me since I’d woken up in this nightmarish place. I hoped to God, he was still alive. Lost in thought, it took me a few minutes to notice the dark figure sitting right across my lying body. Was it his nonthreatening posture, the air of familiarity around him, or my desperateness which had seeped the dose of calmness into my body, but I neither screamed, nor tried to get away. It was not a dragon, and I desperately needed help in this world. I just shifted into a sitting position as I asked, “Who are you?”
“A better question is, who are you?” he said, with sarcasm.
“I’m Sierra,” I said. “Is this hell?”
“Some might call it that,” he laughed. “Since the war began, life has become hellish for everyone.”
“No, I mean in the literal sense, what is this place?”
“This is Rawonia. How come you don’t know that? Do you have amnesia?” he asked, seriously.
“So, this is not hell, and you are not dead? Is that what you are saying?” I asked, one more time.
“Do I look dead to you?” he joked, moving closer to me. When he was within touching distance, I could finally make out his facial features. And, I touched him, my fingers wandering on his face in disbelief. “Seth, is that you?”
“How do you know my name?”
“Seth, oh my God, you’re alive,” I said, not hesitating to jump at his lap with clumsy movements, given my still hurting ankle. I had known Seth very little back at home, but seeing him here, it felt like I’d known him all my life. I was ecstatic, suddenly this place didn’t seem so bad after all. But, then suspicion began to show its ugly head, marring the beauty of running into him. “How is this possible, that both of us are here together, when both of us were dead, if this is not the place for the dead?” I asked, aware of how weird it all sounded, even to my own ears.
“We are not dead,” he insisted. “How do you know my name?” he asked, as he shook me rudely off his lap.
“Seth, it’s Sierra.” I said, not understanding why he was acting so strange. But, strange was now my middle name, it was as normal as drinking a cup of water, or walking, or sleeping. There was absolutely nothing strange about strange in my life anymore.
“I surely don’t know any Sierra, and I surely have never seen you in my whole life.”
“Are you pulling my leg, this is so not the time,” I said, getting angry.
“Pulling your leg? Why should I touch your leg to pull it?” he asked, astonished. “You sure talk strange.”
“That’s it. I am about to lose it all, this has been a very trying day for me, I have no frigging clue what is going on and I’m losing my patience with whoever is pulling this nasty trick on me,” I shouted, as my voice started getting shrill and loud at the same time.
His hand closed around my mouth.” Ssh, are you nuts, do you want to draw the Drakons here?
The words spouting forth from my lips were mumbled as he continued clamping his hand on my lips, and he finally had to loosen his hold on me as he said, “Promise not to shout.” And I nodded.
“Drakons? That word again...Grandma had used it, what the hell is a Drakon?”
“How come you don’t know that? Aren’t you an Andra?”
“Me, an Andra...yeah right!” I said, with no clue about the word. “Just indulge me, will you?” I said, impatient to find out.
“An Andra is a human fighter. How is it you know nothing?” he said, exasperated.
“Of course, I knew that,” I said.” And, sure, I’m one of those Andra,” I confirmed despite his mocking, thinking it would not do to devalue myself in this world. I would be less indispensable if they thought I some skills in here, wouldn’t I? Of course, I had not missed the emphasis on human. Again, there was nothing unusual about it, after all, I had seen one non-human creature right in the flesh, staring and roaring at me a few steps away, so it was no biggie.
“Yeah, right,” he said, sarcastically. ” And, Dragonman... That’s what a Drakon is.”
Now, that certainly got my attention, his words which had blown my mind away. “Dragon and man together, you mean like a werewolf?” I exclaimed.
“What is a werewolf? ” he asked, dumbfounded.
“Never mind. It’s a fictional character.”
“Then why do you bring it up?” he said as if I was pestering him.
“Seth, how do we go home, how do we get out of this Rawonia?” I asked, discarding his stupid question. I didn’t know how I had ended up in here, but I could imagine it had something to do with the mystery surrounding Grandma’s behavior leading up to that tragic event in the kitchen and our deaths. However, we may have ended up in here, I was ready to leave now.
“You are so strange,” he said. “There is no way out of Rawonia. This is home,” he laughed. “But, tell me, why are you here alone? It’s dangerous out here, don’t you know that?” he asked, gently.
“I don’t know anyone, I had only one friend and this dragon took him away, right before my eyes. I don’t know where to go, can I come with you Seth, please?” I begged. But, I was just playing nice cause whether he wanted or not, I was not letting him go. He was the only person I knew in here, and whether he remembered me or not, I cared not. He was my cup of water in the desert, I would not survive without him. It was as simple as that.
“No, you can’t come with me, are you crazy?” he replied, too hastily for my liking, as if the answer was way too obvious.
“What do you mean, why?”
“There will be others looking for you, I’m sure of it. You belong with them, you know. You said you were an Andra, remember?” he said.
“Seth, I don’t care who you think I am. But, we know each other. You are the only friend I’ve got in this freaky place right now, believe me. You are my anchor, the only reason why I’m holding onto my sanity here, even if barely. I need to come with you, please.”
The dawn was settling in as streaks of gold and yellow painted the horizon in its beautiful glow. The illusion of warmth and normalcy penetrated the air as if the day was finally waking up, freeing itself from the clutches of invisible evil forces, to a world where dragons and burning skies did not exist.
As the sun’s first rays illuminated the dawn horizon with a subtle iridescence, I observed him, basking in the familiarity of his facial features. Seth, however, was too silent, as if deliberating on my words. His face was unreadable, but I prayed I was getting to him. “Sierra...” he started, but then he paused. “Listen,” he said.
I did. Beneath the silence of the night, I could hear a female voice.
“Sierra, where are you? Damn it, girl, where the hell are you?”
Someone was calling out my name, but how was that remotely possible? Perhaps that was another Sierra. I didn’t really know anyone in here, except for Seth.
“They are here for you,” Seth muttered. “Just as I said.”
“That can’t be me,” I said, with confidence.
“Here you are,” said a girl clad in stretchy black trousers and combat boots who popped right in front of us. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Why didn’t you answer? We thought they had you for sure. Where is Pietro?”
“He’s gone. A dragon took him,” I managed to say, despite being stupefied with astonishment as to how she knew me. Indeed, how did she and Pietro know me? And yet Seth didn’t, the one and only person who had the right to claim that familiarity with me? Nothing made sense anymore.
“That’s too bad. You must be devastated. We’ll find him, don’t you worry Sierra. You know how he is, it’s like he has nine lives, he’ll find a way to survive, he always does,” she said. “But, now we need to leave. There is still intense Drakon activity around us, they are looking for us.” She noticed Seth next to me, and smiled, “And, who might this be? Are you new? I’ve never seen you before.” Her hand instinctively went to smooth her hair. It seemed, the female reaction to seeing a hot guy was universal.
“They’re here, damn it!” she cried out, as the trees ahead of us suddenly lit with fire. “They’re coming,” she said, pulling her gun. Her actions were hurried, panicky as she turned around a few times to gauge the direction and extent of the threat.
“I’m not even sure I can run with my ankle. I hurt it badly,” I said, limping. ” You guys should leave,” I said. The dragon had taken Pietro because of my clumsiness, I was not sacrificing them, too. And, perhaps once I was dead in here, I would wake up. I still had not given up on that hope.
“This is so not the time to come up with excuses, Sierra. You know, I can’t leave you. You are my friend, and he’d have my head,” the girl said, as she jerked me towards her. “That makes two great reasons for why we are sticking together, capisce?”
I gasped with pain, I clamped my fist on my mouth, trying not to make a sound. Whoever she meant, didn’t matter at all. I wouldn’t make it out of here with the dragon being in such close proximity to us.
It was Seth who turned to her and said, “Take her and leave. You don’t need to hurry. I’ll keep them away from you.”
“Are you crazy? We are not splitting, and I’m not making you prey to dragon fire, so that we can get away,” I said, holding onto Seth.
He looked at me intensely, and then he shook his head, as if regretfully.” This is where this all ends Sierra. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. But, now you need to go,” he said and then ran away towards the erupting light beneath the trees, right amidst the creatures.
“Seth,” I cried out behind him.
“C’mon Sierra, let’s not have his sacrifice be for nothing. Let’s go,” she said. I had no other option, but to follow. And follow I did, half limping, half holding onto her, as I bit my lips to restrain the tears. He was gone. Would he make it? And, would I ever see him again?