My name is Felix Aiden Lewis, and I am alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the “never-had-a-girlfriend, nobody loves me” kind of alone, but more the literal “I haven’t seen another human being in over a year” kind of alone. As far as I know, I’m the only person on this planet. And that’s kind of hard to come to terms with.
Where am I? God knows. Does it even matter? Somewhere flat, with plenty of grass, the occasional twisted shrub, and nothing that moves whatsoever.
It’s not a dead world, but it might as well be. And that has its perks. Nothing’s trying to kill me here, which is a welcome change, and while the shrubs taste of dust and little else, they seem to be keeping me alive.
Water is trickier. It does rain, but the water drains into the parched earth so quickly it’s hard to collect much. I haven’t come across any rivers or lakes, but what I’ve found is that the grass itself is the best solution. Mash it up, pour off the liquid, boil that, and drinking it seems to do the job. It’s not exactly pleasant though, and eating and drinking the same thing every day’s giving me all manner of deficiencies. So in that respect, it’s fortunate I’ll be moving on soon. I always do.
I look up at the two suns hanging like a pair of unblinking red eyes above the burnt-orange horizon. It’s strange here, I can look right at them both and it doesn’t hurt. Of all the worlds I’ve visited, this is the first where you can stare down the sky…
I walk for another few hours, until my pack feels heavy on my shoulders and the suns are low. I’ve come to a tree, huge and wild, its great green branches stretching out high above my head. Might as well make camp.
“What do you think?” I ask the tree. “Reckon it’s safe here? Not hiding any snakes up there, are you?”
Only a couple, I imagine the tree replying. But they’re the fluffy, cuddly kind.
“That’s a relief,” I tell the tree, which I decide looks like a Fred. If I told you the loneliness didn’t get to me sometimes, I’d be lying.
I sling my pack down on the dirt and pull open the drawstring at the top. I lift out my tent - probably the most useful thing I’ve found since everything happened.
It was the vultures that led me to them, the best part of a year ago. A world similar to this one, arid and dry, but not as devoid of life. I saw them wheeling in the sky, flocking to some fresh meal. I’d seen wildebeests earlier from afar – if I hurried, I could probably make it there while there was still some meat left. So I practically sprinted across the savannah, but what I found was… unexpected.
Eleven of them altogether. Young, by the looks of the bodies. My age.
That could have been me, I remember thinking. I’m still not sure what exactly killed them. Something big, judging by the depth of the footprints, round and pointed like some giant insect or a spider’s, and the jagged wounds in their corpses could only mean it had very big and sharp teeth. I didn’t hang around to find out exactly what. I just took their tents, their food, a Trangia and some fuel and left. The vultures could finish them off.
I often wonder where they came from. Home, by the looks of things. Maybe they never even realised they’d changed world. But how had they done so? Were they like me?
Nobody’s like me.
As I wake the next morning, I can feel it pulling on me. The call to move on.
It’s hard to describe. Kind of like an itch, but… not. I know that makes no sense. It’s instinctive, certainly, built into my subconscious, and when I try and pin down exactly what it is, I just can’t. It’s like trying to imagine a new primary colour, or a five-sided square. I just know I have to go, and it builds and builds until there’s nothing I can do to resist.
It’s strong now, and I’ve had enough of this dry, empty world anyway. So I pack up the tent, say goodbye to Fred, put out the fire and… I go.
I don’t know how I do it, or why I have to. It’s just one moment I’m on this world, and the next, I’m there. Somewhere else.
And this time, it’s immediately apparent that something is trying to kill me. Literally, I arrive, and it’s just in my face, this huge snarling reptilian engine of death. Kind of like a velociraptor, only bigger and very, very scary. It roars, and its breath stinks of rancid meat. It doesn’t seem startled by my arrival, just… hungry.
Unsurprisingly, I turn and run. I’m a good runner, even with my pack on – I’ve had to be this past year or so. It gives chase, bounding across the forest floor – it’s a forest I’ve appeared in, a thick, dense mess of gnarled, twisting trees and thorny undergrowth. I know I won’t be able to outrun it. Maybe I can fight? It’s huge, and I have no protection against those claws and teeth. I wouldn’t stand a chance, but then, what else can I do?
Maybe I can move on to another world? I don’t feel the call, but perhaps I can will myself over. I try as I run, striving to imagine the sensation, to recreate the mental state, but I can hardly focus on anything as the branches whip by and the ground blurs beneath my feet. I glance over my shoulder – it’s nearly on me. With no other options, I draw my knife and turn.
I’m on the ground.
My knife sinks into flesh.
Its teeth close over my shoulder.
The beast collapses, an arrow in its back.
A figure approaches.
I pass out.