As we approached the Wall, it continued to get larger and larger. Soon, all we could see was the Wall. There was no sky, only Wall. We started seeing small villages pop up. Occasionally a villager would ask us where we were going, to which Tug would gleefully reply, “The Wall!” The villagers would then plead for us to turn back, to not go forward, but Tug would not listen to them. He would just continue on. Sometimes he would laugh.
That did not make me very eager to follow, but what other choice did I have? How else was I going to get home? They said the Wizard could get me back to my own dimension and I saw no other options. What made things worse is that the Sharkwoman seemed uncomfortable, too. She no longer went ahead. If anything she seemed to linger behind. But despite it all, we all continued on.
Closer and closer, we came and before I was ready and much later than I’d expected, the Wall was right before us. It stretched each way endlessly, as if it just went around the whole world. Just a stone wall, unbroken by any kind of decoration or adornment. There were no banners or abutments. There were no windows that I could see. There weren’t even any guards. It was just a large, never-ending wall. “How are we supposed to get in there?” I asked.
“The usual way,” Tug said.
“Knock? Knock where?” I looked the Wall over again just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. “There aren’t any doors.”
Tug laughed. “Doors? How very Human of you.”
We approached the Wall and I was surprised that no one stopped us. I saw no guards, but I still expected something to try to bar our way. Nothing did. Tug simply stepped up to the Wall placed his hand against it. Curious, I did the same. It felt like normal stone to me. He ran his hand along the Wall, walking a good twenty feet down then stopping. Open handed, he slapped the wall once, twice, three times, then he stepped back and winked at me. We all stood still fore several seconds as nothing happened then suddenly the Wall snapped open like a trap, causing me to jump back in surprise. I looked in wonder at the new doorway. “How’d you know there was a secret door there?”
“Secret what now?” Tug laughed as he walked inside.
I looked at the Sharkwoman. “Are you coming?”
She growled and once again Tug laughed. “Don’t be frightened, Gruesser!” he teased.
“I am frightened of nothing!” she proclaimed before swimming inside. I followed her in and the door slammed closed behind me. Inside the Wall, it was dark with a slight blue glow coming from the walls, a bioluminescent algae? Or something more magical? I didn’t want to know. “So now what?” I asked.
“Now…” Tug began but he was then interrupted by a loud thud. “Now, we might want to run.”
There was another loud thud. Then another. “What is that?” I asked.
“Something you probably don’t want to meet,” Tug replied. “Might I suggest turning around and running?”
I didn’t argue with him. He knew this place better than I. I’d already met more than enough monsters. I wasn’t eager to meet another. I ran the other way doing my best to keep up with the Sharkwoman. Tug pointed at the stairs. “Up!”
“I don’t think we should…” the Sharkwoman began.
“You’d rather spend time with what’s chasing us?”
“Is it safer up the stairs?” I asked.
“Just go!” Tug leapt up the stairs and continued without us. I looked at the Sharkwoman. She did not look confident, but she glanced backwards into the darkness and then flew upwards. I followed. How bad could it be?
I ran up twelve flights of stairs and still there were more stairs. Endless flights of stairs going up forever. It was a good thing I had lost my heels a while ago. I don’t think I would have been able to make it with them on. I was barely able to make it now. The Sharkwoman was waiting for me at the next floor. “He went that way.”
I looked down the hall. “Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“Should we follow?”
“We should leave.”
“Do you know your way around the Wall?”
“I mean leave the Wall.”
I nodded. “Do you know how to get to the Wizard from here?” She didn’t answer. “Do you even know where we are?” Still nothing. “Do you know how to get out of here?” She turned away. “Ok,” I continued, “well, then I guess we should keep following Tug.”
We caught up with the furry little creature at a large wooden door. “Nice of you to join me.”
“What are you doing?” the sharkwoman said. “Scared to go in?”
“I just thought you’d like to be here for this.”
“For what?” I asked.
“The next step of the journey.”
“And what step is that?”
“The careful one,” he warned. “Every step we make must be very careful. A misstep and they will know that we are here and then they will come.” Tug pressed on the door and a hole appeared. “Come on,” he whispered. “Watch your step.” He climbed through the hole.
The Sharkwoman flew in after him and I climbed through as well. On the other side was gloom and it smelled of mold. “Where…?”
“Shhhh!” Tug hushed me. He signaled ‘no’ with his hands, then covered his mouth. I nodded. Quiet. I could do that.
Tug led us deeper into the room and I did my best to follow him, but I started seeing things in the shadows. They looked like very large mushrooms. Were they very large mushrooms? Or were they something else? Would it be a good thing if they were just mushrooms? What were mushrooms like in this world? I decided it was best not to find out.
We continued deeper into the large room. I heard distant growls and I was happy for that distance. We had been going for an hour when Tug turned around. He looked frustrated for some reason. “We must move faster. Remain quiet and watch your step. But we must move quicker!”
“Why?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
“Faster!” he hissed. Before turning around and bounding off. The Sharkwoman gave a wary look, then rushed off after him. Once again, I was without choices. I began running, too, but it wasn’t long before I tripped. I looked back to see what I had tripped over and it appeared to just be a root. Some tree root growing in the middle of the floor in the middle of a gigantic wall twelve stories up, but still it was just a root. Or so I thought until it began to curl. The Sharkwoman came back and pulled me back up to my feet. “Hurry!”
Another root up ahead began to thrash about. Great, I thought, that’s just what I needed. Angrily moving roots underfoot as I ran in the darkness. Suddenly, a loud shriek filled the air. “What was that?”
“The alarm!” Tug yelled from up ahead. “They’re coming! They’re coming for us! Run!”
to be continued…