Into the Mouth He Goes

I was being pulled down lower and lower, closer to Tam. They watched me get closer, our eyes met. They reached out toward me. I reached out and took their hand. “It’s not over yet,” I told them. “We can still get out of here.”

“Oh,” Tam whispered, thin tendrils stuck to their face. “How?”

“We’ll find a way,” I told them. “We always do.”

“Do we?”

“We do,” I assured them, though things were looking pretty grim, all of us captured by these tendrils, our live energy being sucked out of us. The Sheriff and his deputies were already too weakened to help. And me being pulled down further toward hole at the bottom of this cave. I could see it beneath us, widening, undulating. This was where the tendrils had sprung from, this was where the monster lived. It reminded me so much of a mouth that it was hard not to believe that this creature was trying to eat me.

“Hold on, Frank!” I heard Crag yell. I glanced over and saw him still climbing down the wall. “I’m coming!”

Crag was still free and mobile. He was the only hope we had left, that I had left, but he was still several feet up and many, many yards away. It seemed impossible that he could reach me in time. But, then, to my utter surprise he made the stupid decision to push off of the cave wall and let himself drop down to the cave floor. No, I wanted to yell to him, don’t. Stop. It was suicide. He was going to hurt himself. But, even if I’d had the energy to yell loud enough so that he could actually hear me, it wouldn’t have mattered. It was already too late. He was already falling. There was no stopping him now. All I could do was pray that he’d survive it.

Crag dropped like a brick toward the bottom of the cave. But there was one thing I hadn’t take into consideration, that I hope he had, and that was that the cave floor was covered in tendrils. It wasn’t the rocky cave floor that he slammed into, but the rubbery tendrils laying across it. Crag bounced when he hit and went flying back up into the air. He came down again and bounced again, coming closer and closer. By the third time he hit, the impact had diminished enough that was able to turn it into a run. But before I started to have hope, I realized that it was only a matter of time before those tendrils turned on him. Sooner or later they’d grow tired of being stepped on and they’d wrap themselves around him and he’d be ensnared like the rest of us.

But did I even have that long to wait? I was being pulled even further down. My feet were nearly at the gaping mouth. I clung tightly to Tam’s hand. Even though they were very clearly weakened, their grip was still surpringly strong. I could feel myself being pulled between them, between Tam and the tendrils, between the tendrils holding me and the tendrils holding Tam.

Suddenly, Tam let out a pained gasp and I realized that it wasn’t just me in peril here. Tam was being pulled at, as well. Holding their hand, tugging on them, was hurting them. They were weak and I was pulling at their arm while the tendrils holding the rest of them there, suspending them. I had to let go. I was going to pull their arm out of their socket and I couldn’t bear to hurt them anymore. Tam tried to grab me again, but they were in no position to help, not anymore. With nothing holding me back, I was pulled down quickly toward the gaping mouth. My feet disappeared inside before I heard the scream.

It was Crag. He was running toward me with long bouncing strides. “Hold on, Frank! I’m coming!”

Desperately, I tried to find something to hold on to, something to slow my descent. I was too far away from Tam. I couldn’t reach them. I was now halfway down the hole. Everything below my waist had been pulled into the creature’s mouth. Crag was still bouncing toward me.

“Frank!” he yelled, as he came ever closer. But he would be too late. I was sinking lower and lower. He was getting closer and closer, but I was now pulled down below my chest. I had to crane my neck to see him and only then when he bounced at the top of his arc.

I was down to my neck. I held my hands out, reaching for him, even though I knew he’d never get there. I was being pulled lower and lower. I could see Crag running. I could see him dive toward me as I slipped beneath the hole.

I remember thinking it was the last I would see of him, the last I would see of anyone. The only place to look was directly above me, to Tam lying there, suspended in the air, unable to move. My hands were the only part of me above the hole. It was down to my elbows, my forearms, my wrists, my palm, my fingers… I was almost completely consumed. All seemed lost. I thought that was the end and then…something grabbed me.

to be continued…

The Source Revealed

I continued crawling onward, closer and closer to the red light. Warm became hot, bright became searing, the itch became a burn. But I was getting closer. I was nearly there!

But then a tendril curved down toward me! I didn’t see it coming until it was too late. It grabbed me and wrapped itself around me. I reached out toward the figure at the center of it all, the source of the light, but I was being pulled up by the tendril, away from the source. I yelled at it in desperation and, to my surprise, the figure turned its head and looked directly at me. I gasped. I knew who it was. I think I did. It was hard to see. But I think, I’m pretty sure – I think that the figure was Tam!

“Tam!” I yelled as the tendril pulled me away.

The figure raised their hand to reach out toward me, but I was much too far away. I couldn’t reach them and they couldn’t reach me. They disappeared beneath the bright light, but I swear I heard them say, “Frank. Help me.” I swear I did.

“I’m coming back!” I yelled, hoping they could hear me. “I’m going to save you. I promise!” But the tendril had me and it was pulling me up and further away. I could feel it leeching energy from my body. I was going to have to escape soon or I’d never be able to escape at all.

Then I heard a voice. It was soft at first, but it got louder. I could tell they were calling my name. “Frank!”

“Tam!?” I yelled back.

“Frank!” I heard again, louder this time. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but it didn’t seem to be coming from below me. There were echoes and reverberations in this large cavern, but it seemed like the yelling was coming from above me. I looked up and saw Crag waving his hands and yelling. He was still alive and he was free! The tendrils hadn’t captured him again! It looked like my attempts to free myself hadn’t been for nothing. Yes, I was captured again, but at least he was still free. Someone could still save us.

“Crag! The source of the light, it’s my friend. They’re down there! You have to go down there and save them!”

“Ok.” He looked down from the cliff he was standing on, then back at me. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know,” I told him, “but do it quickly! I don’t know how much longer the rest of us can survive like this.”

“Oh, great,” he muttered loud enough so I could hear, which may have been a volume that disqualified it from being a mutter. “No pressure.”

Crag began climbing down the side of the cave. I wanted to hurry him on, but I didn’t dare rush. I knew how hard it was what he was doing. Still the tendrils were draining my energy, I could feel it being pulled out of me. And I knew the others were even worse off than I was. Crag was our only hope and I knew that he knew that. I didn’t want to make an incredibly difficult task even harder.

I watched impotently as he climbed down the cave wall. As he started to slip out of view, I began to look for ways that I could help. I quickly found there weren’t many options. I was really only left with the same choice I had been left with before: using my teeth. So I opened my mouth wide and I prepared to bite down, but, to my great surprise, a small tendril grabbing the back of my head stopped me. Even smaller tendrils shot out of it across the rest of the back of my head, taking full control of my ability to bite down. Then the largest tendril let go of me and I was left hanging in the air by the tendril holding the back of my head. It was not fun.

I grabbed at the tendril with both of my hands and tried to pull it off, but it held on too tightly. I tried to pull the tiny tendrils off individually, trying to dig my fingers beneath them, but I couldn’t get them to pull free. But, too my shock, I realized I was going down anyway. The tendril was slowly lowering back down to the bottom of the cave. Why was it doing that? I couldn’t comprehend why it would. Was it bringing me to Tam? Why would it do that? It couldn’t want me to free them. Then why? Was I to join Tam on the ground to have my lifeforce drained from me? Why’d it need me down there to do what it was already doing?

As I got closer, I saw Tam begin to rise. They were being held up by tendrils, too, but they looked like a different kind of tendril, different than the ones holding the rest of us. Their color was darker and they were much thinner. Liquid dripped from them. I saw more of them rise from beneath Tam. As I was brought closer, I could see that they were indeed a different kind of tendril. They were covered in a saliva-like moisture. I could feel the moisture as they grabbed onto my legs, seeping into my pants legs. The sensation was pretty stomach churning. They wrapped around my legs and began working their way upward. The tendrils on my head let go. I now belonged to these new ones.

These lower tendrils coiled their way up my legs to my waist to my chest. I tried to struggle against them, to fight them, to pull them off. But they wouldn’t come off. I couldn’t get myself free. I was stuck. I was trapped. They began to pull me down.

to be continued…

Mysterious Cloaked Figures and the Mysterious Things They Do

We all began to run, but the stormhorses were much quicker than us and, though they were still pretty high up in the air, they easily began to close the vast distance. “You have to stop them!” G’fon yelled.

“You don’t mean ‘stop them’,” Lu huffed back. “You mean ‘kill them’ and I will not do that. I cannot!”

“‘Cannot’? Like literally ‘cannot’?”

“All you need to know is that I won’t. Not while there’s still another way.”

“Another way, like what?” Kink asked. “Like running? If you hadn’t noticed, they’re catching up to us. Running might not be an option for very long.” Her wings flexed behind her. It became clear that she was preparing to take off. I began to wonder if she would take any of us with her. I couldn’t help but think the only reason she hadn’t taken off already was that Tam was still unconscious in her arms. If she hadn’t had the extra weight, she might have been gone already. I had to wonder how long Kink was going to let that slow her down.

“We run until its no longer an option.” It was obvious Lu was struggling with this decision. He, like the rest of us, knew that running wasn’t going to save us from stormhorses. “When we reach the point where we can no longer…” Lu interrupted himself with a scream as four cloaked figures popped out of the ground. We tried to stop ourselves and wound up falling to the ground in the process.

I glanced up behind us. The stormhorses were still closing in on us. These new figures hadn’t deterred them in the slightest. I could see the lightning flashes in their eyes, hear their thunderous hoof steps. They had every intention of trampling us.

I turned back to the cloaked figures in front of us. Maybe it was because I couldn’t see their faces, but they didn’t seem frightened in the least. They stepped forward, moving toward us, and reached out with their hands. Their hands began to start to to glow ominously, as the stormhorses drew ever nearer. We were caught between them. We couldn’t escape. I tried to get up, so maybe I could do something, so maybe I could help us escape, but I knew I was going to be too slow.

The stormhorses were nearly upon us. Behind us all I saw was their approaching darkness. We were only seconds away from being trampled. “Disperse,” the cloaked figures said, then suddenly the horses began to fade. The stormhorses hit us, but instead of stomping on our bones, they floated past us like ghosts. Their forms quickly because unstable and soon they were just like fog scattering amongst the wind.

We were safe from the stormhorses. They had been defeated. I almost breathed a sigh of relief, but we weren’t out of danger yet. We still had to deal with the four mysterious cloaked figures standing over us.

“Thank you for helping us,” Lu said, though I could see he was still conflicted about the need to destroy the stormhorses. That these cloaked figures had eliminated them so easily on their account did not sit well with him. And I imagine he was also uneasy about the true intent of these new figures because I certainly was. “My name is Lu Wu, guardian of the realms. I don’t believe I’m familiar with you.”

“No guardian,” one of them said. “I don’t believe you are. But we are familiar with you.” The figures raised their glowing hands and the ground erupted sending dirt and dust everywhere! I couldn’t see anything. I had to cover my eyes to keep from getting gunk in them.

When I uncovered my eyes, there was still muck in the air. I had to wait for the dirt to settle. When it finally did, I realized there had been more to the figures’ actions than mere distraction. I didn’t know if it had been an attack or not, but I could see that all my friends were gone. Or, based on the fact that I was no longer on that desolate hillside, maybe it was me who wasn’t there any more. There were a lot of question marks racing around in my head, but the one thing I knew for certain was that I had been teleported away.

Now that I could see again, I looked around. I appeared to be in the middle of a bar. Or maybe ‘tavern’ was a more accurate term for it since this place was giving off more of a ‘middle ages’ quality to it, though it’s patrons were most decidedly not human. A group of what could only be described as ‘trolls’ rose from their seats and approached me. They looked down at me with angry grimaces. “We don’t like your kind around here.”

“Oh,” I said, not sure exactly how to take that. It was hard to be optimistic, however, given the circumstances. “And what kind is that?”

“Magicians.”

That was a little bit of relief. Had they said ‘humans’ I knew I’d be dead. “Well, then we’re in luck because I am most certainly not a magician.”

The trolls weren’t buying that. “You just magically teleported into the middle of the room.”

They had me there. “That’s a good point, but I didn’t teleport out of my own free will so…”

“So what?” the lead troll said. “What are you trying to say? You telling me you ain’t no magician?”

“Yes. That is exactly what I’m saying.”

“I don’t believe him,” said a blue troll with dark green hair. “Throw him in the magician tank!”

“Magician tank?” But before I could wrap my head around that idea, a red troll with multiple piercings grabbed me and lifted me off the ground. “Hey!” I yelped. “You don’t need to do this. Trust me, I’m not a magician. I have no…”

“Shut it!” the troll snarled into my ear.

He carried me toward a door in the back. The door swung open and a pair of trolls came out tugging on ropes, pulling a large barrel nearly the size of a small swimming pool. Liquid sloshed over the sides. I hoped it was water.

to be continued…

The Flirting Before the Storm

We were walking for a little while before Kink finally woke. I didn’t realize it until she said, “Now, if you only treated me like this when we’re alone.”

“You’re awake,” I said, glancing back at her face.

“Are you sure? Because being in your arms, feels like a dream, Franky.”

I rolled my eyes and lowered her to the ground.

She pressed herself up close against me. “You don’t have to put me down so quickly. You can hold me longer if you want to.”

“You’re too heavy,” I said, stepping back away from her.

She pouted at me. “Well, that’s not a nice thing to say.”

I kind of felt bad for saying what I had, but I was no mode for her shenanigans. “Yeah, well, maybe next time you see me don’t have giant eagle wings, ok?”

“And ‘next time we meet’ what would you like me to be wearing?” She stepped closer to me. “Something skimpy and tight?”

But before I could say anything, Lu growled at us. “Would you two stop flirting?”

“I’m not flirting,” I told him. Had he not spoken I would have shut her down immediately.

“Well, whatever you’re doing, stop it. We have somewhere to be.”

“I can walk and flirt,” Kink said. “I can do most things and flirt. There’s not…”

“We get it, Kink,” I interrupted her. “You’re great at flirting.“

“Aw,” she said, rubbing my arm. “I didn’t know you liked it so much, Franky. Maybe…”

“Walk!” Lu shouted. “Start moving already!”

Kink closed her mouth and stared daggers at Lu as we walked on. We weren’t walking long before G’fon asked, “Anyone want to help me with this one?”

“Let me guess,” Kink grumbled. “They’re heavy.” She spared a glare for me. I guess she hadn’t forgotten what I said. I was surprised to see that it had effected her so much. She always seemed to let that sort of thing roll off of her.

“Well, yes. They are,” G’fon replied.

“Oh, are they? I thought you were supposed to be strong.”

G’fon didn’t react well to that slight. “Don’t give me that. It’s not as if anyone else here is doing any real work. Just me.”

“We’ve all done work, G’fon,” I told him, hoping I could bring this conversation to a close. “I was just carrying Kink…”

“And now you’ve put her down. I should be able to put Tam down, too. It’s only fair.”

“Oh, just give me them!” Kink snapped, taking Tam from G’fon’s arms. “You’re such a whiner.”

“I’m not…”

She stabbed a finger at his chest. “Whiner.”

“I’m not whining, I’m just…”

Kink snorted and spun around, holding Tam in her arms. She walked away and the rest of us were left with no choice but to follow behind her. “You got them?” I asked, catching up to her.

“You worried about me, Franky?” she asked with a sly smile.

“Do you two ever stop?” Lu groaned.

“I’m not flirting with her!” I snapped at him. I was getting tired of getting lumped in with her. Nothing I had said had been even the slightest bit flirtatious. “I was just making sure she was ok. She’s just woken up and Tam…”

“Quiet!”

“I’m trying to explain…”

“I said, ‘Quiet!’.”

“What?” G’fon asked, finally catching up to the rest of us.

Lu looked at him, then at the rest of us. “Don’t you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“That!”

By then I had heard it, too. It was the sound of horses galloping. Many big, loud horses galloping toward us. I looked ahead and saw nothing coming. I looked behind us and saw nothing. I looked to the left and the right. I looked all around and I saw nothing. “Where are they coming from?”

“Up there.” Lu pointed toward the sky.

I looked upward toward the horizon and there I could see over a dozen dark gray horses racing toward us down from the sky. But they weren’t just normal horses, clearly. I noticed they seemed a bit strange and not just because they were trotting on air. Despite not galloping on the ground, their steps were loud. It wasn’t until a bolt of light passed between them that I realized what that sound reminded me of. It was thunder. They were clouds. Those horses were clouds. There was lightning passing between them. And their hoof beats were thunder. They were stormhorses!

“Does anyone have an umbrella?” G’fon asked.

“An umbrella will not keep us from getting trampled on,” Lu replied, irritably.

“Then what will?”

“Running!”

“Always with the running,” G’fon complained. “I thought you were supposed to be a topflight magician.”

Lu was reaching the end of his rope. “And you want me to what? Kill them? They have done us no harm.”

“No, but I think they’re going to give it a try.”

Kink nudged them both with her wings because her hands were filled with Tam. “Just run, you idiots! Standing around’s going to get us all killed!”

to be continued…

Fighting the Forest

When I could use my eyes again, I could see that the branches blocking our way were gone, as were the ones that had been holding Kink in the air. She was now on the ground, having had fallen there, and was laying unconscious. The rest of the forest, however, was not taking her attack very well. The trees began to shake violently, all of them at once, shaking in one giant spasm. “We need to get out of here,” I said.

“Agreed,” Lu replied, before making signs with his hands. We all slowly began to rise from the ground, even Kink.

The trees immediately began to close in around us. Lu, in turn, began to raise us up higher, quicker, but the trees were no growing out from the ground. “Faster!” Tam yelled, nearly panicking. And she had good cause, the branches were closing in on us, reaching out for us.

“I’m trying!” Lu screamed.

The trees continued to rise higher and higher, closing on us like a bear trap. I could see whatever this forest really was freeing itself from the dirt. It was going to snap down on us, cage us, very soon, and then we’d be in serious trouble.

“That’s enough of this,” Tam decided. They jumped into the sky and their suit began to glow. Dagger’s of solid light shot from their suit, slicing the branches, shredding them. The daggers emerged seemingly at random several at a time. I covered my head as limbs flew all around us. The barrage of daggers of light finally came to an end when Tam’s suit stopped glowing. They collapsed into my arms.

“They did it!” G’fon exclaimed. “We’re saved!”

I looked all around us. The forest, or whatever it had been, looked like it had been decimated. Tree limbs were lying everywhere. It seemed, if it were even still alive, that it was no threat to us anymore. But then I noticed that we had another problem. “Uh-oh,” I said.

“What?” G’fon almost shrieked, he was filled with such residual terror.

“You know how the forest was holding back that giant cat thing?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, its not holding it back anymore.”

The giant cat monster raced toward us. Lu did his best to try to move us away from it, but his spell wasn’t fast enough. The cat was coming toward us much too quickly. “Lu!”

“I’m doing my best,” he said, “but there are a lot of bodies here.”

“A lot of dead bodies if you don’t do something quick!” G’fon screamed.

The giant cat monster raced toward us, its mouth wide open, its massive teeth glinting in the sun. It was nearly upon us when it pounced into the air. The giant cat monster was now flying toward us. There seemed like there was nothing we could to stop it. I knew there was nothing I could do. G’fon seemed as helpless as I was. Kink and Tam were unconscious and Lu seemed to have his hands full merely keeping afloat. We were in serious trouble.

And then what remained of the the broken forest rose up out of the ground and snapped closed on the cat, pulling it down into the dirt. The cat monster tried to fight it, but the forest was too strong and too hungry.

“Oh, god!” I shouted. I had enough of all of this. “Get us out of here, Lu! Get us out of here now!”

“Yes,” G’fon agreed. “Do it before whatever that is finishes with that giant hairy creature.”

“I’m doing my best,” Lu said, as he directed us away. We floated away until Lu couldn’t keep us aloft anymore. “I’m sorry, but teleporting us here took a lot out of me.”

“Levitation…” G’fon began to argue, before I cut him off. Whatever he had to say was nothing any of us needed to hear.

“No need to explain, Lu. You saved us. We’re safe now, so walking will be just fine.”

“Safe?” Lu snorted. “Don’t think just because you don’t see the threat means that we’re safe. The worlds of the omniverse can be very dangerous.”

“So what you’re saying is that if you put us down,” G’fon asked, “the ground could open up and eat us?”

“That’s not what I was saying. But yes, that is absolutely a thing that could possibly happen.”

“So, maybe you shouldn’t put us down.”

“Or maybe,” I suggested, “Lu could do some kind of check to make sure that nothing down there will eat us?”

“I can’t do that,” Lu said. “But I can send out feelers to see if there’s signs of life beneath us.”

“Fine,” G’fon said. “Do that.”

He waved his hands back and forth. “Everything seems to be clear.”

“‘Seems to be’?”

Lu sighed. “I’m putting you down.”

He lowered us to the ground and when we weren’t immediately attacked, I took that as a good sign. “Which way now?” G’fon asked.

“I believe the nearest city is that way,” Lu said.

G’fon looked out at the empty landscape. “Ok. How are we getting there?”

“Walking.”

G’fon pointed at Tam and Kink, who were still unconscious. “And what about these two?”

I bent over and hefted Kink onto my shoulder. “We carry them until they wake up.” G’fon looked at Lu, who stared back.

“Are you going to…”

“G’fon,” I warned.

“Fine,” he huffed and picked up Tam. The three of us began to walk across the strange and barren landscape.

to be continued…

Attack of the Forest

Tam was the first to run after Lu. Kink then grabbed me and took to the air, flying us both down the mountainside. G’fon was the last to follow. I looked back at him and he seemed like he wanted to stay. I don’t know if he wanted to fight or what, but eventually even he started running down the mountain. Unfortunately, so did the giant cat monster.

“This plan does not seem to be working,” Tam yelled. “The creature is still after us!”

“We just need to reach the forest up ahead!” Lu called back.

The two of them managed to reach the forest safely, but G’fon was having a harder time of it. Because he had hesitated, the cat monster was now right behind him. It seemed from my vantage point in the sky that the monster was almost about to catch him. It even swiped at him with its paw but G’fon dove head first into the forest out of its reach for the time being. Unfortunately that meant he was on the ground while the cat was still on its feet in pursuit. It seemed that he was going to be a goner, but surprisingly instead of jumping into the forest after him, the cat creature skidded to a halt just outside it. The large cat-like creature prowled back and forth outside the treeline but didn’t dare go any further. Watching that had me a bit worried.

Kink didn’t seem to be suffering from the same trepidation as she lowered us down to the ground through the jet black leafless trees right in the path of the others. “All right,” she called to them. “It stopped.”

“It stopped because it couldn’t get through the trees?” Tam asked suspiciously. At least I wasn’t he only one concerned about the cat creature’s actions. “Or because it seemed unwilling to try?”

It didn’t try. Clearly, it saw it wouldn’t be able to get through…”

“Did it? Is that what it saw?”

“What are you saying, Tam?”

“I’m just wondering why a giant feline-like creature wouldn’t even try to make its way through an obstacle to come and get us. Did it not care enough to put in the effort? Or was there some other reason?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I’m just wondering allowed, Frank. That is all.”

“Wondering what exactly?” I knew exactly what they meant, but I was hoping that I was wrong.

“Wondering that there might be some reason why that cat creature might not want to come in here? It came down the mountain after us, but it stopped at the edge of the forest? Why would it do that? The only reason I could think of is that maybe it knows that this forest is dangerous?”

“Dangerous?” G’fon asked, trying to hide his growing fear. “Why would you say that? Why would think this forest would be dangerous?”

“There is no reason to believe that this forest is dangerous,” Lu said.

“Except that that giant creature was afraid to follow us,” Tam said.

“There are many reasons why that creature wouldn’t pursue us besides this forest being dangerous.”

“Like what? That it’s not interested in us? If that were true, then why hasn’t it left yet? Why is it still out there waiting for us?”

“This is another dimension. Why its denizens do or do not do things do not have to make any sense to us. They are alien to us. Why that creature hasn’t come after us does not necessarily have to have anything to do with the forest.”

Then the trees began to move. The branches shook, but I could feel no breeze. It was as if the bare, leafless branches were moving on their own. “Are they supposed to be doing that?” I asked, staring at the tips on the branches. They looked quite sharp.

“I don’t plan on finding out!” Kink said, flapping her wings. I was surprised that she had been so spooked so easily. It made everything all the more frightening. It made me wish for a second that when she took off that she had taken me with her, but that was before one of the trees snatched her out of the air.

“Hey!” I yelled moving toward the tree, but the next tree over bent to block my path, turning its sharp branches on me. I took a step back. My bravery had reached its end.

“Now what are we supposed to do?” Tam asked. “Fight a forest of trees?”

“I don’t think these are trees,” Lu said, studying the ground.

“What gave it away? The fact that they’re moving around?”

“If they’re not trees,” I asked, “then what are they?”

“I don’t think they’re a ‘they’ either,” Lu said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” G’fon asked.

“It means, I think these aren’t individuals trees. I think they’re all one thing, that they’re all the same organism.”

“You mean it’s not a forest. It’s some kind of monster?”

“Yes. And we just stepped onto its back.”

“Now that you’ve figured that out,” Kink yelled at us, “maybe you can get me down from here? I don’t want to find out what this thing is planning on doing with me.”

“Don’t worry, Kink,” I said. “It probably won’t eat you.” I turned to Lu. “Right?”

He shrugged. “Ummm…”

“What!?” Kink yelled. “Well screw that! I’m not dying here!” Then she let out a loud scream and light burst forth from her skin, blinding us all.

to be continued…

Fear of Burrowing Whales

G’fon looked around. “Well, I don’t see any whales anywhere.”

“Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there,” Lu warned him and the rest of us.

“Invisible whales?”

“I was thinking more along the line of underground, but sure, some large animals have chameleonic capabilities too.”

G’fon looked worriedly up into the sky, then down at the mountain beneath us with an even greater concern. “Yeah, maybe we should go somewhere else. Preferably somewhere with a rocky ground that isn’t so easy to burrow through.”

“All right, Lu,” I said. “Lead the way. Take us somewhere safe.”

Lu nodded. “Safe is a relative term, I’ll take you to the nearby city. That should be ‘safe’.”

“There’s a city near here?” Tam asked, looking down the mountain at the barren landscape.

“Yes. It’s not too far. Just a little walk.”

“And it’ll be safe there?” G’fon asked, staring warily at the ground beneath his feet/

“Sure. There’s safety in numbers, right?”

“Unless some of those numbers want to hurt us,” Tam said.

“It is very unlikely that any of the inhabitants will want to hurt us.”

“But not impossible?”

“This is another dimension,” Kink said. “It’s likely that almost anything will want to hurt us.”

“That’s not completely true,” Lu said.

“But not completely false either?”

“No,” he admitted. “Not completely.”

“That’s fine,” Tam said. “It’s not like we want to stick around this place. We’re here just to regroup. We need to formulate a plan and get moving, start fighting back.”

“Agreed,” I said. “So what do we have in way of plans?” We all turned our heads to Lu.

“It’s up to me, is it?” he asked. I nodded. “Well,” he said, “I guess what we should do depends mostly on what we aim to achieve.”

“Stop the Time Cops.” G’fon said

“Yes, but how? I mean, we don’t want to just eliminate them from existence, do we? From what I’ve heard that has been tried and it failed miserably.”

“Yes,” I looked at Kink. “Eliminating the Time Police all together did not work out well.”

“Maybe we can make them forget us?” G’fon suggested.

“Yeah right,” Tam replied. “And how long will that last? Like any of us could keep from breaking any of their rules.”

“That’s true,” I said looking directly at Kink.

“Hey!” she exclaimed. “They meant because of how harsh the Time Cops’ rules are. Not because of what any of us may or may not do.”

“I meant that trying to get the Time Police to forget about us would be pointless,” Tam said. “They exist throughout time. None of us are likely to lay low for the rest of our existence. They’d be aware of us again instantaneously.”

“Not to mention,” I pointed out, “that making them forget us doesn’t solve the actual problem of the Time Police and their excessiveness. We need something that would calm them down, something that would make them return to their original way of doing things.”

“Or maybe a little more, I don’t know, let’s say lenient.”

“Kink,” I admonished her.

“What?” she asked innocently. “Just because we’re trying to save all of existence doesn’t mean we can’t make things a little better for us while we’re at it.”

“Yes, it does,” Lu said. “Selfishness is the destruction of the many.”

“What now?” Kink said.

“To achieve our goal, our hearts must be pure.”

“So you’re saying I should just leave then?” Kink began to laugh at her own joke. No one else did.

“I am being serious. This is a serious endeavor. The righting of the universal order. If you are not serious about this, perhaps it would be best if you did leave.”

“I should leave?” Kink said, growing angry. She and Lu seemed to be getting along like fire and dynamite. “Maybe you should leave! I started this! You’re the new guy! You don’t even care about any of this!”

“Ok, calm down, Kink,” I said. “He didn’t mean it.”

“I meant it,” Lu said, glaring at her, his stoic demeanor breaking. “You asked for my help. I am not here to play games.”

“Games!” Kink snarled. “My life is on the line here! My very existence! I’m not playing any games! I’m dead serious!”

“Good, then perhaps you should act that way.”

“All right, primitive man,” Kink replied. “Give me lessons on coping mechanisms. Because there’s certainly no way the understanding of the human mind has evolved past what you know in the past several thousand years.”

Lu was taken aback by her outburst. “Apologies.”

“Save your apologies,” Tam said, cutting in. “And let’s instead worry about whatever that is.”

We all turned to see what looked like a gigantic cat racing up toward us. I looked at Lu hoping he’d have a spell he could sling to save us. Instead, he simply yelled, “Run!” and began to race off the path down the mountain.

to be continued…