The second dawn came soon after the first, the second ball of fire a fraction smaller but just as bright as its twin binary star. Silver-hued rays fell on leaves of semi-transparent flesh that shone in prismatic arcs with the light. Fiendrish stood on the small hillock of pale green blades of grass, eyelids squinting over his obsidian eyes. The quills that covered his slightly bulbous head bobbing in a faint, fragrant breeze that flowed through the slits that served as his nose.
He could smell the urine of the animal he was meant to bring down as a rite of passage, his manhood ritual, in a way. He had lived for 33 revolutions around the twin stars at the center of the galaxy. He gripped the stone-headed spear, and started in the appropriate direction. His seven-toed feet gripped the soft, springy ground beneath the ticklish blades of grass. The spear in his grip bobbed in time with the movement of his double-jointed legs.
He halted at the edge of a grove of tall, twisting amber-colored trees that shimmered and glimmered in the twin solar stars. The silver-colored leaves bobbed and rustled in the breeze, and the hunter’s large eyes swiveled to each side, searching for signs of a trail. He found a well-traveled path, and deeply inhaled again, the scent again letting him know that he was on the right trail. The brightly-plumed flying lizards roosting in the trees took wing as he started down the path.
As he came over a small rise he saw his quarry, walking with a small pack of creatures identical to it. The things were quadrupedal, with large, powerful legs and tails accentuating their squat, powerful bodies. Their flesh was smooth, and colored in varying shades red and orange, their markings along their flesh in odd placements and patterns. Their heads were long and serpentine, lined with rows of razor sharp, saber-shaped teeth.
Fiendrish took two short steps back, moving around to flank the creatures, halting along his way to gather a few medium-sized stones before he sped in his pace, legs acting as sort of springs, lending him a loping gait, and long stride. He had passed his prey, and then started moving toward the trio again, sucking the scent into the slits in his face, mind calculating the best way to separate the chosen beast from the other two.
A new, more acrid smell drifted into his nostrils, and alarm bells started ringing in his brain. The fact that there were three of them started to make sense, the females were in heat. The hunter reached the edge of the path, just behind the beasts. He stabbed his spear into the spongy soil and moved the hand that had held it to the thick belt at his waist retrieving a small, amber-colored whistle, carved from the same type of wood as the trees around him, from it, placing that against his mouth-slit.
He inhaled through his nose and blew into the device, the sound mimicking that of his prey. The male, his target halted in mid-stride. The two females ignored the trembling, trilling note as he sounded the whistle again. The male started back in his direction and he reclaimed his spear, running back toward the place he had first spotted the trio of creatures. Fiendrish’s twin hearts raced as he ran, blowing the whistle again, abandoning the stones, a new plan forming in his mind as he moved through the forest.
He stopped blowing the whistle and crossed the path, eyes again moving independently of his head rapidly. Blew the whistle again near the small clearing, finding a path to the top of a small rise, where he could lay prone and watch the creature as it approached without being seen himself. The thick flesh of his eyelids blinked over his large eyes as he blew the whistle a final time, the creature finally drawing near the small hill.
The hunter sprung into action, leaping over the rise and running full bounding stride toward the creature, already thrusting the spear before the thing noticed his swift approach. As the stone tip struck true, the creature’s flesh resisted, but he punched through into the muscle just behind the front leg. The creature withdrew, and the shaft of the spear slipped out of his grip as it retreated. When it charged he rolled to one side, collecting stones once more.
He threw one when he stood up, overhand, and struck the creature near the wound. He had just missed the end of the spear, which had been his intended target. It seemed to hurt his quarry however, which pleased him. He moved quickly toward the treeline before the thing could charge him again and it gave chase. He climbed one of the amber-colored trees rapidly, and the beast roared angrily below him, staring as he perched on a thick branch.
He shimmied his rather substantial body along the length of the branch until he reached, the seedpods, his long digits wrapping around the baseball sized pod. The poisonous, dry spores inside the thing rattled when he removed it from the branch. The beast stared at him, growling and roaring upward at him. He dove toward the creature, angling his hand to throw the pod into the thing’s mouth, landing on the beasts back.
His long, multi-jointed fingers curled around the shaft of his spear just as the seed pod burst in the jaws of the creature. The beast made a harsh coughing, gagging noise as he freed the tip of the spear, raising it over his head, jamming the weapon through the flesh at the back of its neck. He forced the head of the spear in between two of the monsters vertebrae, separating its spine from its brain. The thing thrashed once more and its legs twitched and jerked as the last impulses faded away.
The hunter found a thick vine and uprooted the thing easily, stripping it bare of his broad pale green leaves and orange-petaled flowers, fashioning a noose at one end of the vine. He threw the vine over a lower hanging branch of the tree and then looped the thing around both the things powerful back legs. He hoisted the massive creature halfway off the spongy ground, and had to halt in his efforts, resting as much as he could.
When he eventually managed to hang the thing about seven inches from the ground, he tied the vine around the trunk of another massive tree. After that was done, he approached his fallen prey, slitting its throat before cutting it from the tip of its chest plate to its loins with the small dagger strapped around his upper leg, digging his hands into the innards, carefully removing the large heart. He wrapped the organ in the large leaves that he had stripped from the vine.
When that was done, he finished gutting the beast, then lowered it to the forest floor once again. Fiendrish fashioned a sort of harness from the vine he had used, attaching that to his unfortunate quarry again, and started back along the path to the clearing, his progress much slower this time around, though, with the animal dragging the ground behind him. He had to camp on the other side of a wide, slow-moving pale blue-green river. Thankfully there was a low, practical plank bridge. The wood here was different, so dark brown it almost looked black.
He had used the passage once before, when he’d tracked the thing the day before. He slept next to the corpse, his spear close at hand in the event a scavenger caught wind of his kill. It didn’t happen, and the dual sunrises woke him. He refastened the vine harness over his chest and pushed along on his journey. He reached his village just before night fell, and two of the older members of his tribe helped him remove the burden from his elongated torso.
When he was freed of the animal, he was led to a low, dark clay hut, which he was ushered into. Soon, the elder appeared in the doorway, carrying a pair of pouches in each of his hands. The first contained a dark blue dust which the elder used to draw intricate designs over the hunter’s face and neck, and his bare chest. The rest of the powder he dumped into the fire pit at the center of the hut. The next pouch contained a small, elaborately decorated bone pipe which the elder handed to him.
He placed the contents of one pouch, small, orange flower-pods, into the bone pipe. The last pouch contained two stones the older tribesman used to spark a fire in the pit. They shared the pipe in peaceful silence, and as they did, a pair of females brought two cups, made from the same clay as they structure they were sitting in. He drank the murky green liquid, as did the older being. Then the elder stood, and he and the servants left the hut.
When they left, unseen members of his tribe started enclosing the doorway in the soft clay that they had created the small sweat lodge from. He started to feel his mind, and the very spark of life inside him expanding and opening like the petals of a flower even before the hut was sealed completely. Soon, the only light was from the small, flickering flames, the sweet-scented smoke flowing into his nose-slits, as well as his narrow mouth, the burning blue medicine lending a slightly acidic flavor to the vapor.
His mind opened further and the flickering shadows faded from existence, his vision fading to darkness. Brilliant points of light appeared to him, swirling and careening through abyssal blackness. The scope of the vision that the hunter was experiencing was disorienting. His view spun and rolled, and then seemed to sort of stutter, blackness blinking and interposing over the galactic light show he was being given.
Dale was in a hurry to return home, the small glass vial in his pocket weighing heavily there. He walked along the streets, the sun setting behind him as the worn soles of his shoes impacted the sidewalk. His excitement for what lay ahead was only rivaled by the stress he was trying to escape. He halted as the street light in front of him turned red, and he waited patiently at the cross-walk for it to switch back to green, crossing the street.
He stopped by a small gas station, buying a bottle of water with the last crumpled bills in his hip pocket opposite the vial of LSD. He continued on his walk home, passing a pair of raven-haired children, playing in their yard. He didn’t linger, but the simplicity and the purity of their laughter lifted his spirits as he strode along his way. He rounded the final corner onto his dead-end street, the sun sinking lower past the horizon.
He finally approached his small, single bedroom house, unlocking the door eagerly. His scuffed, dirty walking shoes carried him into the kitchen, grabbing a small box of sugar cubes. He placed a single cube on a small plate and dug the bottle of drugs from his hip pocket, the little thrill already fluttering through his guts. He squeezed the small eyedropper top, filling the small glass tube. He dropped two fat droplets on each side of his sugar cube.
He screwed the lid back on the vial and placed the small, sweet square into his mouth, the thing melting away over his tongue, and he swallowed the sweetened saliva. He drank the rest of his bottle of water, placing the empty on the small coffee table. He relaxed into the small couch, waiting for the psychedelic in his system to kick in, staring at the smooth, white ceiling. His hazel eyes were drawn to a peeling patch of paint in the corner.
He stared at the dark material beneath the paint, the familiar feeling between his ears coming into existence. Everything seemed to brighten and dim, flickering back and forth for a moment between blindingly bright but painless light, and total darkness. The darkness became the only thing that he could see for a moment, and he felt as if he were falling for one infinite moment, and then he saw brilliant pinpoints of light popping to life.
Galaxies swirled and cavorted in front of his eyes, the man unsure whether they were open or closed as his mind and soul stretched up and out, into the abyssal, airless expanse of space. He felt like his fingertips could have skimmed the surface of one of the stars. The picture began to spasm and twitch in his mind’s eye. The visual began to clip and flicker like damaged film. After a few moments he felt like he was falling again.
Suddenly he saw flickering shadows, as if he were sitting by a campfire. The shadows on the dark brown walls were strange, and so were the thoughts that flowed through his mind. He saw visions of creatures that couldn’t live on Earth, as well as odd-looking amber trees that stretched taller and wider than California Redwoods. His pulse raced and his body twitched. He inhaled deeply, and the faint smell of lavender and vanilla, along with something spicy and unfamiliar.
Fiendrish’s obsidian eyes rolled open wide as he felt himself plunging into the far-reaching abyss below him. When his world-view stabilized, he saw things that boggled his own mind. The place around him was obviously a dwelling of some kind, and strange words and ideas filled his mind, somehow the hunter understanding the foreign, alien language that flooded his brain. The hunter’s mind filled with confusion quickly.
‘What the hell?’ came a phantom question. Somehow, again he understood the words. He also knew how to respond almost instinctively. ‘That is what I would like to know.’ the hunter projected. The man, on the other side of the exchange, was just as taken aback and disoriented by the connection they seemed to be sharing panicked slightly, and the emotion bled into the hunter, causing his twin hearts to work harder beneath his thick breastplate.
‘I don’t understand what is happening to me.’ the hunter projected again, a groaning keening sound issuing from his throat, echoing off the enclosed clay hut around him. Dale willed himself to relax, focusing on the creature’s response. ‘Neither do I. Not really.’ he replied. It had to be the drugs they both thought in unison, their combined brains arriving to the conclusion at the same time. Their minds seemed to further open, allowing them to do more than just see through the others eyes.
They both shifted their views of the foreign worlds at the same time, and both could feel the differences in humidity and air pressure between their worlds, Fiendrish feeling like he was in a desert of sorts, his throat becoming dry and hot. Dale practically felt like he had went swimming, or was sitting in the middle of the amazon, the air warm and wet. The smell of exotic spices and lavender was much stronger this time around.
Fiendrish’s vision moved downward, looking over the being he had been connected to a little more closely. His physiology was strange, with single jointed limbs and short fingers missing a knuckle on the digits. That thought seemed humorous to the human and his curiosity piqued, he took the opportunity to shift his own focus onto the hunter’s body. He was fascinated by the springlike joints in the knees.
He was also slightly amazed by the two extra digits on Fiendrish’s feet, and as if in response to that thought the toes twitched and scraped at the soil beneath them, much as his own body mirrored the movement inside his shoe. The hunter was intrigued by the thing the human wore below his ankle, the feeling strangely claustrophobic. A wave of unpleasantness rolled through them both and then ebbed away.
The shared connection, or mutual hallucination, whatever both individuals were experiencing started to flicker and weaken, static filling both of their vision for a moment before both came back to themselves on their respective worlds, sweating, panting and confused. Both creatures sat stunned and silent for a long time, wrestling with the things they had seen and felt, a piece of one another seeming to forever after long for a friend a billion light years away.
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