The Red Hand Part 2
by Shane Migliavacca
Part Two Stranded
How long have I been walking now? Minutes? Hours? Wish I'd worn my watch today. Maybe It's been days. The first thing I did after the initial shock had worn off was look for a way back, some kind of portal or rip where I'd come through. Nothing. Then after a bought of tears followed by rage, kicking the strange sand about. And throwing rocks into the distance. I fell to my knees laughing at the absurdity of it. Serena Van Allen, city assessor in a strange land. I thought I'd seen smoke off to my left, near a mountainous looking area. So, that's the direction I've been walking in for however long now. The sun in the sky was tiny and distant, dwarfed by the twin planets. Was this world inside the painting? Or was I on some alien world?
Thirst and hunger were starting to nag me, although I'd managed to ignore them so far. Sooner or later that nagging would turn into a need. I held back the tears I felt forming. Hopelessness pulled at my heart. No! I wasn't going to let that pull me down into some needless self-pity. I thought about the time when I was ten and fell off my bike. Banged my knee up real bad, blood pouring out. I still have a nice scar on my knee from it. I remember my mom, she said. "It's not as bad as it looks. Nothing is ever as bad as it looks honey." She kissed me on the forehead. One of the very few times I can remember her doing that. My mom never showed much affection. She was very reserved. I'm sure it had to do with dad. He died before I was born. They'd been very much in love from what my grandparents told me. His death, a car accident, had devastated mom. She'd never really recovered. Even my birth couldn't bring back the person she'd been before. She never gave up. No matter how little we had then, she never gave up. More than ever I wanted to see her. I promised her. No matter what, I'd get back to her, tell her how much I loved her.
I kept trudging on. Sand. Sand everywhere. My mind started to drift off. I was tired. I never noticed the ground disappear out from under my feet. The next thing I knew I was rolling down a sand dune. When I came to a rest I had sand everywhere I didn't want it. I sat up, spitting sand out of my mouth.
That's when I hear it. It large wings flapping loudly in the sky. I press myself back against the sand dune. Whatever is making that noise, I might not want to be its friend. My eyes dart around. Scanning the sky. After a few frenzied seconds of looking I see it. Up ahead. Something out of a nightmare. A large lizard like thing, with clawed talon feet and bat wings. Circling around in the sky. Had it seen me? Or was it looking for something else? I held my breath. Wishing I could melt into the sand. It made terrible high pitched shrieks as it circled. Finally it gave up. Flapping off to terrify someone else I hoped.
I wait there awhile. Dozing off for a bit. When I wake, the sky is darker. I feel a little better after my catnap. I get up. Brushing the sand off me. I decide to keep going towards those mountains where I saw the smoke.
I'd been walking a little while when an all too familiar shriek makes my heart stop. I turn. Lizard-Bat is back. And he's happily flapping towards me. I turn and break into a run. I hear it chasing me. Damn. I must look great to weird monsters today. I run my legs straining. But it's not enough. I feel a rush of air as the thing swoops down at me and misses.
I jump out of its way, falling face first into the sand. I don't get to lie there feeling embarrassed long as Lizard-Bat decides to grab me with his talons. Yanking me off the ground. Just like that we're airborne. I can feel its talons ripping into my blouse. Clamping onto my shoulders. I scream every obscenity at it I can think of, but it just screeches. I reach up, trying to punch it. Landing blows on its legs. Then I dig my nails into its legs. But none of this seems to faze it. Of course should it drop me, I'd have a long ways down. But it's preferable to being monster sushi. I watched helpless as the desert passed by below me. We came finally to some stone outcroppings not far from those mountains. It flies low over them. Maybe it's got a nest or something near here. If I could drop down here, wouldn't be much of a fall. If I can get away from it anyway. Then I feel like an idiot when I realize something. My car keys! In my pocket. Frantically I reach for them. I just pray they haven't fallen out on my little adventure. Finally some luck! My fingers close around them and I pull them out. I make claws out of the keys. I punch Batty hard in the leg.
It lets out a screech of pain. Felt that huh? I do it again and get the same response. I follow it up with two more blows. On the fifth, he finally lets go. I brace myself as I fall a few feet to the rocky surface.
I skin my knees, like falling off a bicycle. The Lizard-Bat thing isn't giving up on me that easy. It flaps it wings and lets out a screech.
"Oh yeah?" I scream at it.
I grab some loose rocks and start pelting it with them.
I pick up a larger rock with two hands and hurl it right into its chest. It must decide I'm too much trouble as it flies off, screeching as it goes. I sit down after I'm sure it's gone. My knee is cut pretty good. I rip off some of my blouse and make a bandage. If this keeps up I'm be returning home nude.
I rest a bit before climbing down off these rocks. I'm not far from those mountains now. I walk a bit till I reach their outer most edge. There looks like some sort of opening there. A cave perhaps. Between my winged stalker and the encroaching night, shelter seems like a very good idea.
I enter, expecting my bat friend to be in here perched. Lucky for me it's not his home. The entrance is just big enough for a couple people standing side by side to enter. Inside it opens up after a few feet into a larger area. There's another opening towards the back. I decide to stay here though. Any exploring will have to be left to daylight. Whenever that'll be.
I curl up in a corner. Trying to get as comfortable as possible. It's not long before I drift off to a fitful sleep.
When I wake up. I'm stiff as crap. It takes a few minutes of moving around before I'm sure I can move okay. I'm not sure how long I was out. Outside a strong wind has kicked up. Some kind of sandstorm. I don't dare get to close to the entrance. I can hear small rocks or stones being whipped around out there. Some striking near the cave opening. This only leaves me with one option, going further into the cave. The passage leading in further is a bit smaller. I have to squeeze through to make it. It's dark in here. Darker than I anticipated. Duh! You’re in a fucking cave idiot. The tunnel goes on for a while. Feeling my way along. I stop a couple times to rest my feet. Maybe I should have stayed near the opening.
A little later. My heart has started to sink. It's like this tunnel never ends. I tell myself a little further and I'll head back. Then I see it ahead. Light! I try to hurry along the tunnel without falling over my own feet. The tunnel opens into a large cavern. After all the darkness of the tunnel, it takes my eyes a moment to adjust. It's lit by a large hole in one side. Letting a shaft of light in. Looks like a good place to climb out of here. There's a hill of broken rocks there, where it caved in. I can see the light reflect off something in the distance. Water! The bottom of the cavern is partially underwater. It looks like a big underground lake. Immediately in front of me is a large ledge. It is covered in a sort of lush blue moss. I touch it tentatively with my foot, just to make sure it's not some killer Moss Man. I step out onto it. The moss squishing underfoot. As I climb down, I realize I've done more climbing in the last day then I've done in most of my life.
I notice the moss is all over the cavern floor as I walk towards the lake. I feel so dirty, so thirsty I want to dive in. But what if it's poison? Or worse something is living in it? Something looking for a quick meal. I stop in my tracks. There's a flurry of movement just ahead and then a splash. I crouch down and hide behind a stalagmite. There's something swimming in the water. It circles a few times in the water. Just a shape. Until I realize it's a person. A purple colored person. It gets out of the water. It's female. Well, that's my guess anyway. Because there's what look like breasts. Her body is quite like a humans, except she has scaly purple skin. Her hair is vivid red. It's long and looks like it's made of porcupine quills. She's a little taller than me. From here her feet look claw like. There's something quite beautiful and elegant about her. Near where she got out I see clothes draped over a large rock. She shakes the water off and lies down on the moss covered floor.
Should I approach her?
Are you kidding? She'll probably kill me.
I decide to wait her out. Then try and follow her. Maybe she'll lead me to a way off this world. I sit. Crouching down and waiting for her to leave. My stomach doesn't cooperate with me though. It grumbles with hunger. It's been awhile since I had that cake. I hadn't expected that. I peek around the stalagmite. Wondering if my new roommate heard.
Shit! She's gone.
Too late I hear a sound to my right. I spin around to see her there. Her bright green eyes blazing intensely. She's still nude. In one hand she's holding some kind of weapon. It looks like a knife made of crystal. I do the only thing I can think of and throw my hands up in surrender.
"I give up!"
She hollers something at me in a guttural alien language.
"Hey. I mean no harm."
She holds the blade close to my face. I can hear it making some kind of humming noise. With her free hand she touches my hair. She leans in and sniffs a strand.
"Not on the first date."
She barks something at me.
"Take me to your leader."
My new pal, marches me over to her clothes. She points to them.
"Want me to give them to you?"
I go over and pick them up. It's armor of a sort. Some type of uniform. I consider trying something and I can tell by her body language she's thinking the same thing. But I don't like my chances against her. Besides, maybe she can take me someplace where I can find answers. So, I play nice. I hand her her stuff and back up. Raising my hands again. She watches me as she dresses. She goes barefoot. But if I had clawed feet like that I imagine finding footwear would be a bitch.
"Listen. If we're going to be BFF's, I need to call you something."
She looks at me like a long suffering mother with an idiot child.
"How about Byz? Like the color Byzantium. It suits you."
We climb up towards that large hole, over the hill of broken rocks. Byz makes me go first. About half way up I stop. I'm sweating pretty badly and I'm really dry. I sit on a flat rock. She stops climbing and comes over to me. I'm expecting her to bitch at me. But she shocks me by handing me something from her belt. It's curved, looking like a fang from a large beast. There's a leather cap on the top. She motions for me to open it. After a few seconds of trying to figure it out, I flip it open. Inside it's filled with water. I take a long sip. It could be poison to me. Here on this alien world. But the thirst is too much. I take a second, smaller sip. It tastes incredible. I could drink the whole thing down. Feeling guilty I'm drinking all her water, I replace the cap and hand it back. As she fastens it to her belt I start to wonder about my new companion.
We start up again. Finally reaching the outside. There's no more sandstorms raging. We're in a valley between the mountains I had been walking towards. There's what appears to be grass here. It's yellow. And mostly due to my hunger, makes me think of french fries. Nice greasy french fries. The two of us walk through the valley. Side by side now. Byz puts her hand out, stopping me. She points to what looks like another cave opening.
"There?" I point.
She pulls me along by my arm and we head towards it.
Right away I can tell this cave is different. There's symbols carved into the entrance. I follow her in. There's a tunnel that slopes downwards. The rocks here have crystals embedded in them. Very much like Byz's knife. They glow as we approach them. Lighting the tunnel as we descend. At the end of the tunnel is a large fur curtain hanging. Byz pushes it aside and pulls me in. There's a large area behind the curtain, cluttered with all sorts of weird homemade trinkets. There's a wood table and chairs. And another area. Separated by another large fur curtain.
That's when I hear the voice. It says. "What have you brought me child?"
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