Shades of Light

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Chapter 10

Alex moved through the dark forest in a haze of exhilarating relief. His heart was still pounding in his ears. He was pretty sure that a few of those shots had hit their target. It didn't matter though. If he had known that it could be this easy he would've done it immediately. This world was alien to his hunters and without their armies and toys there were small. He was right to fear them, with their death dealing machine, but fleeing from them was not necessary. He finally realized how powerful he was. He had always known that he was smart but here, in this Realm, he was also fast and strong. Trees zipped by as his strides lengthened into bounds. Nothing challenged him. He could be the master of this place if that was what he desired.

His route went away from the little house with the siren and the female hunter. He didn't want to go back to the city either. His mood darkened as he tried to think of where to apply his power. No matter where he went, the guardians of this world would not stop resisting his presence. Going back to the In-Between Realm wasn't a possibility either. He wouldn't know how to get there and soldiers would undoubtedly be waiting for him on the other side. This Realm would have to be his new home...but where could he find a place for himself within it? The young invader stopped at the edge of the forest. Endless fields stretched out before him. The sun rose slowly from the horizon. Small, furry creatures with long ears hopped across the grass. A few stared at him with the wary eyes of prey-animals. Alex had probably looked around like that too, in his previous life. He wanted to catch one of the creatures to replenish some of his energy but his limbs felt heavy. A few new patches of blood, his blood, were becoming visible in his clothes. He sat down and tried to apply pressure to the wounds. It was nothing to worry about, not here anyway, so he pondered what he would do with himself now. He had lectured the Empress on having goals in life but what were his goals in this life? Before, it had always been about getting out of that terrible realm and away from danger. He hadn't really wanted anything concrete. Women, food or a pack of his own weren't really that important to him. Petty goals for the small-minded and poor. Setting something up like the Empress had had did sound appealing but he doubted that it was really feasible. Bullying the natives was fun enough but it was almost too easy and hardly changed anything. He needed to know more about this world if he wanted to find a good way to use this opportunity. He needed a Teacher.

First, though, he would need to rest. A shiver went down his spine as he forced himself upright. A road sliced through the fields and went off into the distance. From experience he knew that civilized peoples, ones unlike his own, made roads to go somewhere important. He decided that he would follow the road, hoping that it would lead to food or a hiding place. Perhaps he would encounter travelers. This world was kind enough to just hand him a meal like that.

The fresh green fields eventually made way for carefully cultivated fields of tall, yellow, grass-like plants. Alex sampled some of the small fruits which grew at the top of the long stalks. They were dry and tasteless. It was quite disappointing to find out that not everything in this world was sweet. He continued on until he saw a family working the field. One man and one woman, accompanied by seven children, were slicing at the plants and gathering them up in bundles. They sang as they worked. The song was inspiring and it gave Alex the impression that some of his strength was returning from it. Their voices were pure and innocent. He decided to leave them alone. There was a cluster of buildings visible in the distance which he chose as his next destination. As he approached, amazing scents were carried to him by the wind. One of the larger building had to contain food. He quickened his pace and, after checking that he was alone, he kicked the door open. The scents immediately intensified. A large pack lived here but none of them were present at the moment. Their food was stored in many different pots except for the salted meat and fish, which hung on a rack. Alex ripped the rack from the wall and gorged himself. When he was done he cast it aside and turned his attention to the pots. The smallest ones only contained powders and dried fruit, each with its own alien smell, but a few of the the larger ones contained chunks of some kind of fatty substance. A large jug contained the milk of an animal which he poured down his throat after a moment of hesitation. It tasted wonderful. He couldn't imagine what kind of animal, or person, the milk had come from. A small wooden barrel contained a liquid which smelled spoiled and it foamed when he poured some into his hand. The scrapes on his hand started to sting from it and he quickly wiped it off. It was probably some kind of cleaning solution and not for consumption. He put it back where he had found it. As he made another round through the kitchen, shouts started to come from somewhere outside. The singing had stopped. Alex tensed and listened carefully. Something was getting closer to the house. He dove through a window on the opposite side. Luckily, the windows did not have any glass in them. He crouched down and listened.

The family from before was going through the house.

“I told you I saw somebody!” Alex heard a child shout.

“Who would do such a thing?” an older, male voice grumbled.

“Somebody who was very hungry, pop,” somebody replied. Alex smiled and started to sneak over to the next building. There was only one window on this side of the large, wooden structure and it was located almost at the top. It still wasn't much of a problem to get up there. When he looked through it, he saw that this building was largely empty, except for stacks of the yellow grass. The closest stack almost reached to the window. Alex let himself slide through the window and onto the bundles of grass. It sucked him in and provided a comfortable little niche for him to curl up in. He fell asleep as soon as he closed his eyes.

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