Posts Tagged ‘original stories’

I awoke, not in a bed or on a table as I had before I began my quest, but on the jungle floor. The foliage was quickly replaced by tan cobblestones that pained my already weary body as the rhinocydonts dragged me in the net. I attempted slicing through it, and succeeded in making an opening large enough for my arm to reach through it, only to receive another intense shock.
A rhinocydont walking alongside the two that were dragging me held a cylinder in his clawed hand that must have been the catalyst for sending the electric pain into my body whenever he wished. He glanced at my screaming form for a moment, then grunted in satisfaction.
“Let me go,” I shouted. “I’ll kill every single one of you! Face me like men, you cowards!”
“We are not men, armored one.”
I was stunned to see that they could speak my language, what with them also being from a different world and all, but then I remembered Alpha telling me that he had conversed several times with their leader, Dienok.
“Dienok,” I panted. “Let me see Dienok! I am a friend of Alpha’s.”
All three dragon warriors chuckled.
“And you think that will help you,” said the one holding the cylinder. “Alpha is no friend of our race, no matter how hard he tries to be. We only stand by each other, not with anyone of your weak race. Yes, we trade with the small ones for wine, but – “
“Oh shutup Trikor,” interrupted one of those who were dragging me.
“This creature is only here for entertainment. Not conversation, you half wit.”
I asked what he meant by ‘entertainment’. Their only reply was to send another searing pain of electricity accompanied by their satisfied laughter.
Monsters. I thought to myself. Sadistic, merciless monsters.
I was dragged through what seemed to be a courtyard. Stone effigies of dragons were scattered throughout. The biggest construction was an immense wall in the center with a beautifully detailed mural etched upon it. It showed two rhinocydonts, a male and a female, standing under a tree. I could distinguish their sexes, for unlike the ones dragging me and the few I saw bustling their way around the courtyard, these two in the mural were naked. The female was shorter and had breasts, which disgusted me. Coiled on the tree was a colorful serpent. It had a piece of fruit in its mouth that resembled an apple. I didn’t know why at the time, but the image seemed oddly familiar.
I didn’t see much of Dragonopolis on that day, but as my captors dragged me through a dark tunnel, I could hear what sounded like hundreds of rhinocydont voices cheering.
As two doors of thick stone opened, I was thrown into a chamber of utter darkness. The doors closed with a heavy thud that echoed in the walls of the room as well as in the walls of my mind. Then, I heard a metallic, hissing sound that was followed by a strikingly bright green light coming from a shimmering golden pyramid on the floor. As Alpha had informed me previously, this race truly did possess an extremely advanced technology.
The electric net suddenly vanished into thin air, making my vision much clearer. Also, the greenish light seemed to have enhanced the features of the three dragon warriors. Each one had shorts on that resembled the ones Alpha wore.
Belts carrying complicated looking devices and weapons were around the waists of each. Their bodies were a grayish green that had patterns of spots resembling those of a leopard. These ones were apparently males, for their muscular chests were bare. Each one of them carried eccentric looking guns in their right hands. The claws on the hands were even bigger and more fearsome looking than the claws of Snapper. All of their features made them look completely identical, save for their heads, which did however all seem to share the same basic plan and shape. But each skull had a uniquely shaped frill at the top of the head with sharp horns of different number and position. The mouths were like the beak of a bird. Their eyes were black, as black as death.
“Quit gawking at us, scum,” yelled the one called Trikor before punching me in the face. I was too dazed to stop them from wrapping a chain around my waist that came from the pyramid.
A system of sliding mechanical plates twisted apart on the floor near me. Strange, yet also delicious looking vegetables rose from the center on a large plate. The rhinocydonts then left the room.
Because of distrust and suspicion, I almost didn’t eat the food set before me, but no matter how hard I tried to resist, the aroma completely overwhelmed me. I just had to regain my strength so I could find a way out of here. For Happiness. Alpha. Emanuel. Steer…
Recalling the heroic horns of my best friend, I sprang into action. I tried everything. My sword would not cut through the chain, my punches would not crack the walls, and the pyramid was indestructible. The chain I was bound to possessed a good deal of slack. I pulled on it and rolled it into a ball, with a considerable length continuing to drag out of the pyramid.
What could have been the purpose for this? A chain that would allow me to pull out lengths of it long enough for me to question what it was chaining me from?
After what seemed hours of testing its length and pacing around the room, I gave up. Leaning against the wall opposite the doors of my prison I was led through, I discovered the reason for the chain’s length.
I fell backward as the wall I leaned against opened without warning, bringing blinding sunlight into the chamber. Upon looking up, I saw something that I just could not believe.
Rhinocydonts. Hundreds of them. My dungeon chamber was apparently right in the midst of a massive arena. All I could see was a writhing mass of reptilian flesh in every direction. The balconies reached to an even greater height than the immense trees of the jungle. Every single rhinocydont was standing and cheering, apparently awaiting a spectacle. They did not have to wait long. The ‘entertainment’ was about to begin.
Directly in front of me by about a hundred feet, a wall under the balcony slid up to reveal a dark chamber that looked the same as my own. Within the darkness, the figure of a man began to advance slowly into the arena. It was strange for me to see him, for up until that moment I had only met one man, Alpha(if he even was human). He had no distinguishing physical characteristics aside from a sword and a shield. His waist was bound by a chain in the same way mine was. We eyed each other curiously for a few moments and then cautiously began to approach each other. The chains would have prevented our meeting even if he had succeeded in taking three full steps out of the chamber, but, as it was, something else hindered him. And killed him.
Being still partially inside my own cell, I was as oblivious as he was to the winged monstrosity that charged him from his right. Claws and teeth literally shredded the poor man to bits before he could even scream.
This creature was a devil out of hell, and yet strangely beautiful at the same time. Though shaped like a bird, it only possessed feathers on its wings and tail. Silver, metallic looking talons were attached to its fingers and toes. One claw on each foot was much larger than the rest, and this specialized claw was obviously the beast’s preferred method of killing. One of its feet was bound by a chain, which kept it from flying too high and escaping. Two horns protruded from the back of its head, and from the mouth that foamed with its victim’s blood came a high pitched shriek that sent immense pain to my head.
The crowds of rhinocydonts were going absolutely wild for their vicious dragon pet. I knew that I was its next combatant, and quite possibly its next meal; that is, if the creature even devoured the things it killed. The remains of the hapless man were still on the ground, and not one bit of his flesh was swallowed by the dragon. It seemed to simply just enjoy its art of disemboweling victims with its claws. But it was still just an animal, not really a monster. No, these snarling, vicious rhinocydont masters of his were the real monsters. Because of the sickening way in which they used this arena to entertain themselves, I immediately began to despise them just as much as I despised the Omega drones.
Just as the dragon set his gaze on me, I felt another one of the rhinocydonts’ cruel jabs of electricity. Spinning around, I saw two of the warriors facing me from my now dimly lit cell. They were carrying long metal sticks that produced electric shocks whenever they prodded me.
After the electric current surged into my body for the third time, my fear and anger transformed into adrenaline. Despite the fact that I was chained, I was still able to jump high enough to land on one of the guards, slit his throat, and stab the other one in the face. I had hoped to anger the audience by killing one of their own, but they only cheered louder. No matter who it was that died, the monsters would be entertained. They seemed to thrive on the shedding of blood.
My disgust of them was completely forgotten when a second winged killer charged me from my right. Its claws slashed against my sword, and the battle began.
He was slashing me much more frequently than I was him, causing me to curse the fact that I must have left my shield back in the Jungle. A normal man would have perished quickly, but, thankfully for me, my armor was resilient.
The dragon spread its wings and flew around in circles as high as its chain would permit. This behavior only lasted a few seconds, but it was just enough time for me to see what was happening with the other dragon.
Two more guards had appeared out of nowhere. They were holding onto the dragon’s chain, letting it drag them as it flew towards my current opponent and I. To anybody unfamiliar with the rhinocydonts, the reading of their facial expressions would prove to be impossible. I, however, had come to know them so intimately on this day that I could instantly tell that they were smiling. Smiling with bloodlust. But their smiles faded away quickly as their dragon spun around and pounced on them both. I saw enough rhinocydont blood to make me the one who was smiling.
My grin, however, disappeared even quicker than theirs did, for my dragon had clenched his jaws onto my arm while I was distracted. I attempted to thrust my blade into his side, but was blocked by the reptile’s clawed hand. These attempts at attack and subsequent blocks continued long enough for the other dragon to reach us. Both of the guards who had attempted to lead him to me were on the ground in pieces. I hardly need to mention the crowd’s reaction to this. If they had paid money to witness a legendary brawl, then that money was well spent.
A dragon on my arm and an unchained one flying towards me were all I could afford to worry about. In the next moment, my sword and I both learned that we were not fast enough for an unchained dragon. Its snarling, ferocious form leapt on me and sliced my armor with its foot claws. Taken to the ground, I was released from the jaws of my first combatant. This angered him deeply. Amidst the sparks of claw against armor, the dragon pounced upon the one who had stolen his victim. I rolled away, watching with a sick fascination as the beasts fought each other to the death.
But it was very obvious which one had the advantage. After brawling for a while, The one without the chain flew above the enraged bound dragon and seemed to taunt it. Despite being animals, these beings were obviously intelligent. I almost came close to believing that the taunting one was laughing as the other one was hindered from reaching its new enemy by its chain.
I almost felt sorry for the chained dragon as I pulled its taut chain towards me and sliced open its belly, which resulted in bloody intestines falling on my face. Yes, I really did almost feel sorry for it.
The dragon still living quickly abandoned me and flew towards the crowd of rhinocydonts. I believe it was more out of its hatred for them than out of any fear it could have had of me. No wonder all the peaceful dragons left Dragonopolis ages ago.
One of the audience members was picked up by the dragon’s feet. He was decimated very quickly in midair by the predator’s claws.
What happened next gave me more anger and disgust than I have felt in my life. Not only was the crowd nearest to the victim cheering, but they were also laughing. How could a person laugh at their own brother dying? Why were these creatures so corrupt?
My immediate thought was to leap onto the balcony and slaughter as many rhinocydonts as I could, but before I could act, white hot lights of every color imaginable pierced the flying dragon’s abdomen. I shifted my eyes to the ground and saw three dragon ‘people’ aiming their sinister guns at the flying one. They did not stop shooting until its deceased body collided with the earth.
I raced towards them. As far as I was concerned, they and every other member of their race deserved to die. Forcing random warriors to fight impossible battles. Laughing as their own brethren were slaughtered. Raising simple animals that belonged in the wild to become killing machines that mirrored the hearts of their masters…
All three sadistic warriors pulled out whips from their belts. These whips, like most of the rhinocydonts’ technology, produced electric energy, but to a degree that shocked me more painfully than ever before as they coiled around my body like evil serpents. I pondered for a moment why they would not just simply kill me, but that thought was checked when I discovered that at least one of them did desire my death.
A blast from his laser gun exploded against my shoulder. My sword shoulder. The three of them slowly advanced towards my screaming self. My pain, though very strong, was not as powerful as the single word that echoed within my head. Death. Death. Death
I had never before, or since, heard a voice so loud. It came from a new rhinocydont that had jumped down into the arena from one of the balconies. He wore a long, shining robe of scarlet that reflected the sunlight so much that it hurt my eyes.
“You fools! You damned, idiotic, pathetic fools! Hell itself would be a paradise compared to the wrath you have stirred within me!”
The newcomer mercilessly assaulted the guard who had shot me. The speed, precision, and sheer force of his blows shocked me more than all of the rhinocydont electricity combined could have. Even the crowd became silent.
The victim, though granted the grace to even still exist was beaten to a bloody, silent pulp. I began to fear this robed rhinocydont much more than I had feared his dragon pets.
“You listen,” he shouted in dominance, not just to the guards, but to the audience as well. “This one is different. Do you understand me? In my thousand years of life, I have never, EVER seen such skill as to match this one. He is our captive, our entertainment. Our new and only entertainment for eons to come. I command you all to respect him. He shall never be unfairly touched by weapons that can kill. I desire watching him fight for centuries. What say you?”
The crowd’s roar of excitement and approval was loud enough to drown out my hopeless, defeated, and utterly heartbroken sobs. I hadn’t even cried that loudly when Steer was murdered. It agonized me beyond measure to know that I would forever remain nothing but a tool for entertainment. A pet, forced to endure the tortures of battle for all eternity, just like their dragon pets.
No one paid heed to my emotions, save for the robed speaker.
“Do not fret. Do not cry.” He lifted my chin at an attempt to encourage me. If my helmet was off, I would have spat in his hideous face. “I have given your life a purpose. Meaning. Your abilities shall be used and displayed for all of my kind, from the most fearsome warrior to the smallest of hatchlings. Do not dwell on dreams of a lost and lonely maiden. Yes, yes, Alpha has told me who you are and what you are trying to do. Would it please you to know that he came to me yesterday literally begging for assistance? My army sent him running like the true coward he really is.”
I wanted to cut off his head, but was impeded by a guard stepping on my sword. The robed rhinocydont, who I now realized to be their leader, Dienok, laughed softly.
“You will find that Alpha and I are more alike than I admit to him. Just like your training with him, you shall not rest between battles. We have another one for you. Don’t get me wrong, warrior. I do respect you. But I do think you should pray for a quick death from your next opponent, so that you won’t have to fight against his brothers for the rest of your fantastic life.”
He left my presence, and the guards dragging their beaten comrade followed him, the electric whips uncoiling from my body and receding back to their holders. I followed their movements for as long as I could before the ground began to shake.
Sliding plates like the ones in my chamber, though much more massive, were grinding and sliding apart to reveal something much larger than a meal of vegetables.
On a platform that was like the plate carrying food in my cell, only huge, stood a dragon at least twenty feet tall. Its build was similar to its predecessors, but much, much bigger and more heavily muscled. It did not possess special foot claws, horns, or wings. The arms were embarrassingly tiny compared to the rest of its body. I would have laughed at this had it not been for the creature’s enormous skull with massive jaws, serrated teeth, and eyes that burned to the soul of anyone unfortunate enough to gaze at them. It also had another alarming trait, at least to me. Feathers, which looked more like spikes or quills, christened the back of its head and neck like the crown of a king.
As it roared and shook the earth with its colossal footsteps, I realized that the painful laser gun wound in my shoulder was going to severely impair the use of my sword. As if this wasn’t enough, the giant did something that made me wish I was fighting ten of the smaller ones at one time instead of him. Fire erupted from its hellish mouth, a burst of flame so massive that it made the fire of Vengeance look like a spark in comparison.
The massive jaws lowered and sent the flames in my direction. I scrambled up to my feet and ran as fast as my weakened legs would permit. But no matter how fast I could have ran even at my full capacity, it would have been all but impossible to avoid the speed of the monster’s deadly breath. My shell was charred to black from just one lick of the flames. It is difficult to describe the feeling, for not too many people have smelt their own flesh being cooked and then lived to tell the tale. My armor protected my human flesh for the most part, but it could still feel the immense pain from the fire. Having armor that can feel the sensation of pain is not an enjoyable thing.
I leapt into the air as my back was turned to the monstrosity and landed atop his colossal head as he continued to race forward. The flame stopped abruptly and was replaced by a deafening roar of frustration. It was all I could do to hang onto that ugly dragon head, latching onto it like a parasite with my arm and my legs. The pain I felt from the burn was still nothing compared to the searing pain left from the laser gun in my sword shoulder. Thus, my attempts at stabbing the beast between his eyes resulted only in small cuts that further enraged him. His skull was too thick for me to deliver the killing stroke, so I had to think of something else. I had to think quickly though, for I knew that the beast would get me off of him very soon.
He did so the very next moment by violently shaking his head back and forth. My limbs lost their grip and I plummeted earthward. The dragon opened his jaws wide and lunged towards me, ready to swallow me up forever. The pain of my weakened sword arm was unimaginable, but so completely worth it as I shoved the blade into the roof of his mouth and out the top of his scaly head. The death was so instantaneous that he didn’t even make a sound. As his massive body collapsed to the ground in front of me, I pulled my sword out of his brain and saw the beginnings of flame spark from within his throat. Though dead, the beast apparently still had one more shot of flame left.
A powerful force that felt like more dragon flesh tackled me to the ground from my left. Looking up, I saw the face of Dienok, which was unreadable, with the flames of the dead dragon dancing behind him and burning off his robe. Consciousness fled from me in the next instant.

Don’t forget to read Chapter One as well, but start here if you want!

From the lush, colorful, moist treetops of the jungle, the flock of grotesque fairies fluttered their wings in unison against the afternoon breeze. As drops of saliva and blood rained down from their bodies, two eagles soared up and ahead of them. The fairies cackled with mischief and flew rapidly in circles around the avians. The birds squawked in confusion as the fairy generated cyclone forced them down to the earth. The fairies howled in amusement and flew out of sight. “Stupid birds! Stupid birds! Hehehe!” They were having fun on this day.

Surprisingly, after my duel with the Snapper zombie and in spite of my confusion over Alpha leaving, I felt good as well. Steer had led me to a creek surrounded by horsetails and buzzing dragonflies after we had walked for an entire night. We bathed in it, becoming absolutely rejuvenated by its magical qualities. According to Steer, it was called the pool of Amoris. The witch who wrote my prophecy composed it on the bank of this very creek, seconds before an Omega drone pierced her heart with a scimitar. As she took her last breath, she fell into the water and became one with it, forever transferring her magical essence into every single molecule.

Sunlight beamed down upon us and caused my wet armor to glisten. That was the only time I can now remember seeing it as beautiful. Throughout most of my journey, I had perceived it as an ugly curse separating me from Happiness and from the rest of the world, despite the fact that it served as my nearly impenetrable protection. This one instance of joy with myself, as well as my ever increasing hope for Happiness, invigorated me. The journey had at last begun.

We walked, talked, and smoked for hours after we had left the creek. We were both taking advantage of these moments we had together, for, as Alpha had said, I had to complete most of the journey on my own. Already missing Alpha, I dreaded the parting that Steer and I would have to eventually face.

“Steer,” I began as I put his pipe back into the cloth sack atop his back, “Why must we go our separate ways? And when? I don’t believe I can finish this without you.”

“I’m sorry, my warrior-friend. It is necessary. For one thing, your shell possesses enchantments that work against the deep, magical traps that Omega has laid out for you within the Jungle. I, on the other hand, do not possess these gifts of yours. Remember the clearing where I got lost? Eventually, the jungle will simply not permit me to go on after a certain point. Only you and the gargoyles in the service of Omega are invulnerable to the hindering curses within the foliage. It is most unfortunate that the gargoyles are not on our side, for they impede the Jungle’s magic even for those who travel with them.”

I frowned in bitter disappointment. “When will that certain point arrive, friend?”

“I know not. I am truly sorry, my brother.”

Joy disappeared, and I wouldn’t experience much of it for quite a while. No longer wishing to carry on with this painful subject, I asked Steer about the undead, and now most fully dead Kappa.

“How did Alpha do that? What was the black magic?”

“You see, Warrior, Alpha knows every single word etched onto the walls – or that were etched onto the walls – of the training field. He came across a spell that could bring the dead back to life, though not fully. Only the evil will within a being could be resurrected by the Omega spell. It also required the sacrifice of blood from two creatures that were not evil – yours and Alpha’s.”

“But how did Alpha get my blood?”

“While you slept, he drew some from your wounds. But with your blood, strength was drawn as well, for you were the one to fight the Kappa. All that there remained to do was to attach the chain of resurrection to the monster turtle’s shell.”

I wondered for the first time if Alpha ever actually slept.

As the sun began to set, we came across a tree with a gigantic hollow within it and rested. Steer snored loudly, which probably would have kept me awake even if my mind wasn’t so full. Thoughts of Alpha, Emanuel, Snapper, and my beloved, beautiful Happiness raced through my mind continually.

Eventually, after hours of thinking, I actually did begin to desire sleep so that Happiness might visit me in my dreams. But my anxiety, as well as Steer’s snoring, kept sleep far away from me no matter how hard I tried. It is absolutely dreadful to lay awake for a full night doing absolutely nothing at all. I would have explored, but the honest fact of the matter is that I was afraid. Feeling shame, confusion, and deep depression, I almost wished that I could be blotted out of existence like acne on the face of God.

When the morning arrived, we headed East. Steer said that we would change direction often so as to avoid the known Omega drone camps, as well as Dragonopolis, the city of the Rhinocydonts. I was relieved, for I was still too frightened and uneasy to want to fight. Thankfully, I could lie to Steer and act like I was ready for any challenge. He could not read minds like Alpha could.

“Why avoid them,” I asked. “We must fight them and show them that there is a new sheriff in town.”

“And what exactly,” replied Steer, “Does that mean?”

I laughed, remembering that Steer and I came from two different worlds.

“You know, Steer…I’m not even sure myself. I just know that it means I am the one to bring about justice, order, and restoration.”

“It sounds like a silly word, friend. Let’s just stick with, ‘Warrior’. Here, let’s stop for a moment and smoke.”

I reached into his pack and felt something else besides the pipe and tobacco. As I pulled out the contents, I discovered two sacks tied together. One of them contained hay for steer, and the other one contained horsemeat for myself. After lighting the pipe and putting it to his lips, I opened up the bag of horsemeat and devoured it ravenously. With all the excitement and confusion, I had completely forgotten to try eating the day before. It felt wonderful to consume the meat without vomiting it up. Strength and joy were mine once again, but only momentarily. Steer was looking at his hay, but not eating it.

“Are you not hungry, Steer?”

“You remember the deal, friend. For every day that you do not eat, I shall abstain from doing so for two days. Or did we decide on three? I can’t remember.”

I began to feel guilt that almost crippled me.

“Steer! It’s alright! You need to eat! I’m sorry that I forgot to yesterday, but let’s just forget about it, ok?”

“No, Warrior. I am a cow of my word.”

I continued to protest and threw down my meat in frustration.

“Steer, if you don’t eat that hay, then not only will I not eat, but I will not help you smoke.”

“As you wish. But you will only be increasing my days without food. I am not backing down from this.”

There was nothing I could do. He smoked and I ate in silence, making sure that I didn’t eat too much so as to conserve the food for rations.

After a few more hours of walking, Steer possessed a concerned look on his face.

“Steer? Are you ok?”

He exhaled a deep sigh. “Well, we are drawing near to Dragonopolis. We could avoid it in a few miles by walking towards the North, but I feel like something dreadful is about to happen.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…the jungle’s Omega magic feels very strong towards the North. Meaning I may not be able to go with you much farther. Reach into my bag and pull out the piece of parchment.”

I did as he said, unrolled it, and gasped. It was a map of the jungle; but not just any map. The landscapes looked real, almost three-dimensional. Letters forming the names of places quivered as I held the map up to the light. Even the trees were shaking, as if being blown by the wind.

“Amazing,” I said. “Is this like the hologram?”

“A bit,” said Steer, his smile returning. “You know, it makes me happy seeing you be so enthusiastic about this world. I can tell, even with your helmet on.”

Beneath that helmet, a smile formed on my face.

“What are we going to do Steer? When will Alpha meet us?”

“You mean, when will he meet you. I am unsure. He only told me that he had to run an errand that might restore some peace.”

“Peace between whom?”

“Now, that is the question. I haven’t the faintest idea. The Rhinocydonts are a doubtful answer, for they have never listened before. Perhaps the drones who have not completely turned yet…” He stopped speaking and seemed to be wrestling with his thoughts. I believe he was thinking of his former angel friend, who was now one of the demon slaves. A single tear slid down his face. I rushed forward and embraced him. Instead of again consoling him by saying I would never turn to the dark side, I poured my heart and soul out to him.  I blubbered about my fears and uncertainties, and I begged him to never leave me.

“I’m sorry,” he cried, “But I cannot stay with you for the entire journey. If only – “

A fearful, bloodcurdling scream tore us from our embrace.  It sounded like someone being attacked. I somehow recognized the voice of the screamer, but at that moment I could not place.

As I raised my sword and shield, prepared for anything, Steer and rushed towards the direction of the disturbance. It could have been a trap, but we didn’t care. Somebody needed our help, and we were the only ones who could give it.

A few yards away, an ugly grey beast with a massive yet delicate looking wingspan was pinning a frog prince against a tree. Its hind legs held it in place while its forelimbs slashed deep gashes into the wailing frog’s bright green skin.

“Please! Please stop! Y- y –y – ou have goodness in your heart. I – I can s – s…”

Emanuel’s pleading was replaced by a shriek of pain, worse than all of the others combined.  We sprang into action, Steer ready to trample the monster to death, and me ready to cut him into little pieces with my sword.

The creature turned towards us and let out a screech of fright. Releasing our friend, it flew over our heads, probably thinking we would rush to Emanuel before pursuing him. He was correct, but the stupid creature flew too close to my sword. I slashed at him as he flew past, screaming in pain.

“After him, Steer, “ I cried without turning around. “I will help Emanuel.”

As I held my wounded friend with my sword-less arm, I could hear Steer racing hard towards the monster and shouting out obscenities at him. As his hoofbeats faded away with the distance, I cursed myself for only having one arm to steady Emanuel with. My sword was far too sharp to be of any use.

“W – w – warrior,” He whimpered, using every ounce of effort to speak fluently. “You arrived just in the nick of time.”

“Yes,” I answered in relief. “We will make you better.” But upon examining his wounds, I began to doubt that we could really save him.

“No,” he began, “But you arrived just in time for my purpose to be availed. H – here…NO! I shall not die as a weak stutterer!”

His voice now sounded stronger and more robust than ever before, but the light was fading from his eyes. I tried desperately to encourage him and hide my sobs of grief.

“ will be okay. Steer w…will come back. He will know w..w…what to do.”

Emanuel smiled.

“Once again, now you are the one who is stuttering. Take this.”

He handed me a shimmering blue cube that was larger than his webbed hand.

“Do not doubt yourself, Mister…Ah. I do wish you had a name. You will save Happiness, my friend. I believe in you.”

Emanuel breathed his last and closed his eyes. The smile still remained on his kind face. My friend was dead, and I wanted to completely annihilate the murderer.

As if on cue, Steer came into view, dragging the disgusting beast by the neck with his jaws.

“Poor frog,” chuckled the monster in spite of his pain. “If only his body was not so frail….”

My sword was pressed lightly against his chest within an instant. Lightly, because I wanted to cause as slow and painful a death as possible. The creature howled in pain, apologized, and begged my forgiveness. It almost sounded genuine.

Steer’s mouth released him, but then one of his hooves pinned him to the ground.

“It’s a good thing your weak wings will not allow you to fly high, gargoyle!” Steer seemed even angrier than I was. He had known Emanuel for centuries.

“Please,” begged the gargoyle. “Don’t kill me! I can help you! I swear! I swear by the power of Omega…”

Steer’s other front hoof kicked the gargoyle in the jaw.

“Shutup, you worm,” shouted Steer. “How dare you? Only Alpha and the creatures on the side of Happiness possess grace.”

At the mention of my beloved, the gargoyle’s face became grave and truly remorseful. He looked at me and once again began to plead.

“I love her too! She is our mother…our love! Its not my fault! Notmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfault!!!!” He continued spewing those three words. Steer and I did not stop him for a while, shocked by the apparently genuine guilt he possessed.

Eventually, Steer kicked him again and asked him how he thought he could help us. The horror’s eyes locked onto me as if he didn’t want to look at Steer. I stared back at him and noted his features. I called it a ‘horror’, for that is what the beast truly was. It looked like a reptilian bat with charcoal gray skin that reminded me a bit of the fairies. His teeth reminded me of the ‘annoyance’ as well. Above the jaws were two murky black eyes that looked like blackened glass, and above those eyes were two long, sharp horns that gave the gargoyle the impression of a demonic unicorn.

“If you wish to save Happiness,” he wheezed, continuing to stare me down, “You cannot do it without my aid. I can make you immune to the traps of the jungle.”

“That’s what you think,” bellowed Steer. “Ugly, stupid creature. My warrior friend’s suit shall protect him even better than your pathetic Omega charms can.”

The gargoyle sniggered.

“Ah, yes. But can they protect you?”

Steer’s open mouthed silence was his answer.

“You murdered our friend,” I said. “Why should you want you to help us? How do we know this isn’t some sort of trap?”

Without the slightest hesitation, the gargoyle answered.

“I love Happiness. I love her so much that I have never even tasted the plants.”

I could swear that the beast knew of my weakness. But even if he did, he couldn’t have known that I had already conquered it.

“Your bovine friend,” the gargoyle continued, “Should be with you for the whole journey to help you. Is that not your desire? And this is no trap. I want her rescued.”

I drove my blade a bit further into his skin. “Then, why did you kill Emanuel?”

“He wouldn’t let me see her,” he said between his squeals of pain. “I tried to be reasonable, but he just wouldn’t let me!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, my curiosity completely piqued.

“The cube in your hand,” he answered. “Please let me see her!”

I inspected the object and pressed a button that was on the bottom of it. A tiny opening on the top let out a bright light that began to materialize into a miniature version of my beautiful maiden. It was a hologram. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped inside of my helmet. She – well, the hologram anyway – was looking at me and smiling. Then, to my immense pleasure, I heard her musical and infallible voice.

“My love. My rescuer. My King. Emanuel has taken a great risk in carrying my message. He is the only one in the jungle with the gift to hear it. Plus, magic can always be useful, of course,”

She laughed, sending chills of excitement down my spine.

“You have a task,” she continued, “That would break the spirits of just about anyone. But it shall not break you. I know you are different. You are the one. Once again, as I have said before in your vision, well done, my love. You have gotten far already…but, I am sorry to say that it is as proportional to the whole journey as a foot is to a mile. Omega is furious. Especially the beast he dwells the most within. The minotaur. My ‘guard’…..”

I could tell that she was sad and disgusted. But then her face brightened again.

“But you are my true protector. I must warn you – he is strong. Take all the help you can get. Remember that if somebody says they love me, they mean it. Even if it is a love distorted by evil. The purpose of this message is to give you hope. Remember what I have said. And think of the dragon monsters…the rhinocydonts. I’m not sure why, but I feel that they are a force you must reckon with in some way or another. Give Emanuel, Steer, and Alpha, my deepest gratitude. But my gratitude towards all of them does not come close to my gratitude towards you. Save me, hero. The only hope for me Is you.”

With those last few words, the hologram disappeared. Then the blue cube shrank and shrank until it became nothing at all. Exactly as I was doing, Steer stood awestruck and spellbound by her beauty, even though she was of a different species.

“Its been so long,” he said, “That I had forgotten what she looked like.”

“You must save her, warrior,” screamed the gargoyle. “You must save her and you must let me help. All three of us can save her!”

I looked up at Steer, pondered the options for a moment, and gave the winged monster my answer.

“You shall come with us. You – “

“But he will lead us into a trap!”

“No, Steer. Even if he wanted to, we shall not let him. Besides, I don’t think that he does want to. He loves Happiness. And if he can keep you with me for the whole journey, then all of the Omega, all of the Rhinocydonts, and all of the other beasts of this jungle will have no chance of stopping the two of us.”

I looked back at the gargoyle, who was now grinning with excitement. “I know that you want her rescued. Swear by her name.”

“I swear, friend! I swear on the name and honor of Happiness! Thank you! Thank you for sparing me and accepting my aid, my wondrous friend!”

I punched him in the face with all of my strength. It felt wonderful to have a working arm again. As the gargoyle hissed in pain and confusion. Steer grinned in satisfaction.

“Do not call me ‘friend’,” I snarled. “I have only had three friends. Because of you, however, I only have two. You are nothing but a murderer, and you are only still alive so that we can use you.”

“I’m sorry! I only wanted to see her! Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!”

“Quit your wailing worm. You’ll have to somehow prove yourself worthy of forgiveness. Emanuel risked everything in facing the jungle on his own to deliver me hope. He died for me. We shall now resume the journey, but only after I – “

Turning around, I looked down at the deceased frog prince. Tears of grief flowed from my eyes like rivers. I could not leave my friend’s body out in the open where scavengers could find it and desecrate his memory.

“Take the gargoyle a good distance away from me,” I said to Steer, who was also sobbing. “I shall bury our brother.”

Steer bit the gargoyle by the foot and began to drag him away, but not before I turned to face them and sliced off one of the murderer’s wings. He shrieked in agony as Steer’s face brightened in satisfaction.

“If you hadn’t killed Emanuel, I would have just bound your arms and mouth. So let that be a lesson to you. Remember your place, One Wing.”

As steer dragged him away, I used my blade and my powerful left arm to bury my comrade. I only paused once for a second when a tree swayed its limbs in an odd fashion. As I continued to dig, I wrote it off to a mere trick of the light.



“Speed up, filth!”

After walking a few miles North, Steer was getting sick of our prisoner who was lagging behind on all fours. Steer had released his grip on the gargoyle’s foot, saying that we had no reason to drag something that had no chance of escape, but I believe the true reason is that the captive’s rotten looking gray flesh tasted vile.

“Forgive me, cow,” said the murderer turned servant. “But its just a tad bit difficult to walk when you have an excruciatingly painful stub where your wing used to be.”

“Wow,” laughed Steer, “You can use big words? Perhaps you aren’t as dumb as you look.”

“Shutup, cow. If you were not a friend of the hero’s, I would bite your head off and pierce your abdomen with my horns. Its too bad that you don’t have horns of your own to defend yourself with.”

Because I had been counting, I knew that this was the seventh time that Steer, out of anger, had kicked the gargoyle’s repulsive face. This kick was the hardest, for Steer had told me before on occasion that he greatly envied anything that possessed even a small horn.

“We aren’t just born with them,” shot Steer with a hateful glance. “Us noble bovines have to earn them. We aren’t just born with them like your spoiled and undeserving species.”

“Whatever you say, Mister Udder.”

I lost my patience, and not just with the gargoyle.

“You two are behaving just like children. Just ignore him, Steer.”

“How can I when he cannot keep his putrid mouth shut? Let’s just bind him like you suggested earlier. Or, maybe we could remove another wing.”

The gargoyle hissed in anger.

“As for you, gargoyle – “ I said before he cut me off.

“I do have a name, warrior. It is Edshu. Please, do not bind Edshu! And please let me keep my wing so that Happiness will only have to regenerate one after we save her.”

“Listen here, Edshu. Happiness wouldn’t waste her breath on you. Your ‘love’ as you call it is corrupt. Anyway, why are you so angry with Steer? I was the one who cut off your wing.”

“Because you will rescue her! Because you are powerful! Because you are merciful! Because you are my friend!”

“He is not your friend,” retorted Steer. “But you are right about his mercy. Most people would completely slaughter you and string you up like horsemeat. ‘Most people’ includes myself.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Udders!”

I was getting sick of this.

“Edshu,” I exclaimed fiercely enough to make him jump.”If you utter one more word, I will slice you just enough for you to be paralyzed but remain alive so that we may use your magical defense.”

Edshu became silent, as did my companion and I.

As Steer and I inhaled puffs from his dragon pipe, we continued our trek. Eventually, the silence became nerve wracking.

I began to feel extremely paranoid, imagining every sound that could be heard throughout the jungle to be a Drone or a Kappa. I was like this for hours, once even drawing my sword for battle as a small bird rustled a bush and flew off into the sunset. Edshu chuckled at my fright, and was punished by Steer with another fearsome kick. I actually scolded Steer for this, knowing that on any other occasion the both of us would have laughed it off.

“But he is a murderer. And a traitor to his very own brotherhood of evil. He is also a coward,” He turned to the sulking gargoyle, who had used whatever strength he had left to keep the pace so that he couldn’t receive nearly as many fearsome kicks.

“Remember, gargoyle, that when we came upon you assaulting our friend, you flew as high up as your weak wings could carry you to attempt escape. At least the warrior raises his sword and braces himself when he senses danger. Doesn’t fly away like you, One Wing.”

Edshu must have felt about his wings in just the same way that Steer’s kind felt about their horns. In the blink of an eye, the gargoyle pounced on Steer and gave him a nasty bite before being kicked into the air, this time by four hooves. My sword was to the beast’s throat at the instant he collided with the ground.

“If you do something like that again,” I began as calmly as possible, “Your new name will be ‘No Wing’. Understand?”

Edshu’s snarling face turned into a face of fearful contrition. I knew that I shouldn’t have believed his shame to be genuine, but I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Emanuel’s murderer anytime he made a face like that.

“I’m so sorry,” wailed Edshu. “Please forgive me! Both of you! I just became so angry because the bovine is right.”

Tears literally jetted from his eyes. They didn’t just stream and flow like mine even at my worst moments.

“I am a coward. Traitor. M…m…murderer. Omega….the drones…the Minotaur….they all lied to me! You are what Happiness needs. I only want to help you! Then I wont be so worthless!”

He was either an extreme hater of himself or a very convincing con artist.

Steer, getting up and dripping blood from the attack, could tell what I was thinking.

“Why,” he began, “Are you even considering his fate? You believe this charade? He is a part of the Omega. He killed Emanuel!”

I remembered the words of Happiness about those who loved her despite their corruption.

“He wants us to save her, Steer. Can’t you tell? Yes, he is a pathetic murderer, but Alpha said that even Snapper could have changed. But I do not fee; as much sympathy for him as you think. I only want him with us so that you will be able to travel with me. He would be dead already if he was of no use to us.”

I wasn’t so sure of my words, because my heart was actually breaking for Edshu. He must have been blinded and changed in the same way as I had been with the plants. But I conquered them, so why shouldn’t this gargoyle be able to conquer his own sins?

“He stays alive, Steer.”

“Oh, thank you,” cried the relieved Edshu. “Thank you so much, warrior!  After you rescue Happiness, I shall forever bow down to you as your slave.”

Then he jumped up and embraced me. I almost even embraced him in return, but then I remembered Emanuel’s pain and I hurled the sickening lump of gargoyle flesh away from me.

“Don’t ever touch me. Ever.

We once again resumed our quest, Steer cursing, Emanuel humming in delight, and me silenced by deep contemplation. When darkness arrived, Steer came to a halt.

“What is it,” I asked.

“Well…what happened the first time that you and I walked into a moonlit clearing?”

We had indeed come to the edge of a clearing, and Steer had once again forgotten the way.

“Get me the map,” he said.

I reached for it, unrolled it, and gasped once again. Not a gasp at the beautiful, animated scenery of the parchment, but a gasp at nothing. The scroll was blank.

I showed it to Steer. His face became graver than ever.

“Curse them! Curse the Omega! All of them! The drones, the bad kappas, the energy possessing the Minotaur, the – “

He shot a sudden glance at Edshu.

“You! I thought you could make it to where spells wouldn’t affect me. What trickery is this?”

“No trickery. You know that my kind make all who are with us immune to the Jungle. But apparently, the Jungle is far more powerful than any of us had thought. My magic has protected you from its spells…at least the important ones. You know that I am correct. If the noble warrior had not spared me, you would have been hindered by the Omega glass that springs from the earth to stop all who can be affected by the magic.”

For some reason, Edshu’s tone of voice disturbed me. It sounded hollow, cold, and emotionless.

“Perhaps,” he continued, “The spells haven’t really affected you at all. Only your map. Maybe you are just becoming forgetful.”

“Shutup. What shall we do, warrior?”

Before I could answer, Edshu resumed speaking.

“I know the way to the Sphinx. We will run into men though, but that would be better than running into the dragon people.”

“What about drones,” I asked. “Where are their camps?”

“There are none. They keep far away from the Rhinocydonts, many miles away in fact.”

What were these rhinocydonts? To have a power so great that even Omega’s armies fear them?

“Very well then,” I said. “Lead the way, Edshu.”

Emotion returned to his face. He literally skipped to the left with a giddy smile upon his face.

“Once again, warrior, thank you! Thank you for giving me a purpose.”

I began to follow him, but then I noticed that Steer was reluctant.

“Come on, buddy,” I said. “Everything will be just fine. We can avoid Dragonopolis and the drones. And just look how happy he is to be of use.”

My friend sighed.

“Alright. But I’m not taking my eyes off of him, not even for a second. I still do not trust him.”

We began to follow Edshu – or at least we tried to follow him. With Steer’s reluctance to go forward, the gargoyle must have gone on without us, for he was nowhere in sight. I called out his name many times, but to no avail. Edshu had vanished.

“I told you – “

Steer’s voice was cut short by a wall of glass that shot out of the ground in front of him. I barely saw it shimmer in the moonlight, but I could easily tell that it was the same Omega glass that had separated me from Happiness in my dream, for Steer had collided with it, and I could see his face pressing upon it in vain. I cursed myself, finally seeing that Steer had been right about Edshu all along. The double timing traitor’s magic protected my friend from Omega’s cruel powers no more.

“Steer! I’m sorry! You were right! After I find a way around this glass to get to you, I will make him wish he had never been born. The trickster!”

My brother’s face was panic stricken. I knew the exact reason at that very moment, for his mouth was moving in speech, but no sound came from it. The evil glass blocked his words, which meant that he must not have been able to hear me either.

“Hold on,” I cried, even though I knew that he was deaf to my voice. “I’ll find a way around it!”

I ran hundreds of feet to the left and then to the right. It was useless. Omega had finally separated us.


I continued to wail in desperation, despising myself for not seeing what Steer had seen all along. Edshu had this planned the entire time. Even if he truly did want my Happiness saved, he still clung to the empty promises of Omega. Edshu travelled with us no longer, which could only mean that the separation from Steer that I dreaded had finally happened. I was wailing in emotional agony, knowing that this was the fault of no one but myself. Steer needed me, and I needed him.

As I continued to bawl and hit myself because of my own stupidity, Steer did something that broke my heart. Pressing his right hoof against the glass, he smiled. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t speak to each other. We both understood one another completely. I lifted my hand and pressed on the glass directly opposite his hoof, but then something happened that had me frozen immediately. His loving, brotherly, valiant, understanding eyes were replaced by eyes of fear and pain.

Five arrows were protruding from his back. It had happened so quickly that I didn’t even see them until after they had pierced into pierced his flesh. I hacked against the glass with my sword and then punched it with my hand, but it was all to no avail.

“They promised me, fool!”

The voice was from Edshu.

“They promised that when you were defeated, I would get to live with Happiness and enjoy her forever!”

I wanted so badly to rush at the gargoyle and stick my sword into his mouth, but I would not abandon my fallen friend. Looking back towards the glass, I saw Steer being dragged away by two black, six eyed monstrosities. Omega drones. As I heaved my body against the glass, I saw a sight that gladdened my heart before the glass vanished and I fell to the earth. My wounded friend had broken free of the monsters’ grip and had kicked them with a force that I had never seen nor felt before. Steer was wounded, but he was far from beaten.

After falling to the earth, I lifted my head to see him knock the maces out of his now standing attackers’ hands. My grin lasted but a moment, for Steer had fallen down and was grunting in pain. The drones rearmed themselves quickly and began to close in on him. I raced forward, but was heeded by a sharp pain in my back. Spinning around, I saw another drone staring me down and already stringing another arrow. In one quick motion, I sliced off his arms, legs, and disgustingly foul head.

“Bless the Energy, O my soul!”

The voice belonged to a once hornless bovine. Steer had always been a bull in heart and action, but he now looked the part. Immense, razor sharp horns as long as his body were protruding from his smiling face and were skewering a horde of drones that had snuck into view from behind the trees. I joined in the action, knowing full well that Steer’s joy did not take away the pain of his wounds.

Dodging arrows, maces, scimitars, and axes, I counted eight drones that I had killed. Steer, on the other hand, pierced eight drones at once with his horns on at least three separate occasions. It seemed that victory was near, but then I gasped as an arrow in my shoulder caught me off guard and revealed to me what was upon us.

Legions of black, skeletal, shrieking drones were charging us. They numbered well over a hundred. Steer and I charged them right back, blocking but still receiving many arrows into our skins. Steer was hurt far worse than I was, but he seemed to be stronger and more confident nonetheless.

“Come on, filth! I shall slaughter every last one of you!”

Steer stopped abruptly just as he finished his war cry. A single drone was pushing past all of the rest and speeding towards us with his arms waving in the air. As far as I could see, he had no weapon. He also looked drastically different than the others. The six eye sockets all possessed eye balls, unlike the blackened and burned craters of the rest of his horde. His skin was more white than black, and I could faintly make out tiny, vestigial wings sticking out from behind his shoulders. His face also possessed emotion, something that his troop obviously lacked. They were all still a good distance away from us, but this strange one reached us far sooner than his companions did. I raised my sword for the kill, but, to my surprise, it clashed against one of Steer’s horns instead.

“Steer! What on earth are you doing?”

“After all this time,” said Steer, though apparently not in reply to me. “You have returned, Malchus. Why?”

I realized with a shock that this was none other than Steer’s corrupted angel friend.

“Brother Steer,” replied the drone Malchus, “I only wish to be free of the clutches of Omega and his sickening fiends.”

At this, the other drones halted in unison and let out maniacle roars that I could see were the closest the monsters could come to laughing.

“Save me, Steer,” cried the once beautiful angel. “We are friends…brothers. I – I – “

All that now came from Malchus’ mouth were gurgling attempts at words. His tiny wings fell, his skin darkened, the eyes became empty sockets, and bones began to appear on his outside rather than his inside- an exoskeleton, eerily familiar to my own. What was worse was that the fingers on his left hand merged together and lengthened into a blade much like my own, though much longer and nastier looking. As this last horrific bit of transformation occurred, the drone Malchus set his gaze upon me and smiled, as if to show me that I could become wretched and betray Steer in the same way he had. But if he had already betrayed Steer in the past, it was nothing compared to what he did next.

Before I could even flinch in reaction, his blade pierced into Steer from under his jaws and out between his two shoulders. I screamed so loudly that it shook the earth and caused Malchus and his drone army to stumble backwards.

From that moment onwards, everything was a sickly blur of anger for many minutes. All colors were now grey, an even darker and more evil grey than the vision the plants had given me. All I can remember perceiving was the howling laughter of the drones, my blade clashing with the blade of Malchus, black splashes and jet streams of blood, and Malchus collapsing to the ground, begging my forgiveness. His eyeballs returned to their sockets for a split second and they were gushing out streams of tears that mixed with his blood. One by one, they were all stabbed out with my blade, slowly and methodically. I cannot fully remember what I did to him in his last few moments of life, but to this day, I can still hear his screams echoing within my conscience.

Color returned to my vision as I saw the drones, who were no longer laughing, running away in panic. I began to pursue them, but ceased immediately and turned around so quickly that I felt my spine almost break when I heard the sound of Steer’s voice. He was still alive.

Kneeling over him and caressing his forehead, I prayed the most sincere prayer for healing that I had ever or will ever pray.

“Hello, friend,” said my dying companion. “I am so happy to have guided you on your quest. Forget what Malchus did, and don’t you ever doubt yourself. You will never become like him.”

I was crying so much that I could barely speak.  When words did leave my mouth, I couldn’t believe that they were all I could think of to say at that moment.

“I like your horns, brother. You always had them in your heart.”

He laughed. “ I like them too, my friend. Thank you for giving them to me.”

His eyes were fading and he began to cough out blood. I couldn’t believe that he could still speak.

“Vengeance…no…don’t…ven – “

“Steer! Please! Stay with me! I love you! Don’t leave me all alone! Alpha can save you.”

With a smile, he then uttered his final words. “I love you too, warrior.”

I wanted to lay with his body for eternity. My entire world had been completely shattered. Then my sobbing was replaced by fierce roars that sounded even to me like those of an evil monster. I had remembered the drones.

My pursuit for them was a short one. Vengeance was mine. I will not go into detail about what transpired when I found them, but I will say that it wasn’t even a fight. Every last one of them paid severely. I slaughtered them in such a fashion that when I was finished I could hear many of them still moaning in agony. It had to be that way. They deserved to suffer and perish slowly.

I then realized the folly of my tortures, as well as what Steer had tried to tell me before he died, when a massive tree dropped off its leaves and branches to reveal a gigantic, gray, six eyed monstrosity with hundreds of swaying tentacles. Vengeance had been following me ever since I cut the wing from Edshu.

Too enraged to even notice my fear, I charged towards the monster only to be knocked down by a tentacle. As I began to rise, I felt and saw his massive jaws sink every one of their serrated teeth through my armor and into my flesh. He lifted me into the air and shook me around, his teeth digging inches deeper with every passing second. Then, his jaws opened and I fell to the earth. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t move a muscle. A colossal foot stepped on me as I began to fade out of consciousness.

Then, something happened that jolted me right back into consciousness. My body felt an intense shock of electricity. Vengeance felt it as well, for he shrieked in pain as miniature lightning bolts surged all over his body. He lifted his foot from me and ran away.

I felt another intense jab of electricity and found that I was wrapped in some sort of steel net. Even without the electricity completely immobilizing and eventually knocking me out, I would have been too weak to fight back whatever was attacking me. Actually, at that moment I doubted if I could have fought back against my captors even with my full strength. Their reptilian, humanoid forms with horned heads and muscles that matched those of the Minotaur seemed like they would have been too much for me. I thought one word and said it out loud before I became fully unconscious.


In the desert, you really never had any time to cry. You had to walk the blistering sands without stopping, hoist supplies on to the camels, and remain ever vigilant against the fiery serpents.

Sure, there were poisonous snakes aplenty, but my father had told me legends about giant ones that could devour Bulls and camels whole. Though I had loved listening to the stories atop his lap as a boy, I never really paid them much mind.

the scorching heat and constant walking was enough to worry about. My father and I were poor, so our camels were both old and frail. We ended up having to walk on foot for at least half of our journey. But eventually, my father did stop walking. And that was the only day I ever found time to cry in the desert.

An adder had shot through the sand like an arrow and latched onto Father’s leg. I’ll never know whether he had stepped on it or if it was just cruel fate. All I know is that he died on that day.

That was yesterday. Yesterday, a year ago, I don’t even know anymore. But I will never again cry in the desert – I haven’t the time.

James Mauldin didn’t want to go to sleep.

For 5 days now, he had been on a strict regimen of coffee and diet pills. Hallucinations had begun to bombard him, but he didn’t mind. A shadow here, a whisper there – he knew they weren’t real, so it didn’t matter to him at all.

But the dreams…or whatever they truly were…were very real to James. That’s why he hadn’t slept in 5 days, why his wife had left him, and why he had lost his job.

It had always been the same way. A palpable force of some kind seemed to permeate every molecule in the air right as he began to fall asleep. He would fight it – trying to move, trying to scream – but it never worked. The darkness enveloped him every single time.

He would be transported to a farm house with a white picket fence surrounding it. It was always a starless night, with nothing but a faint and foreboding glow of scarlet emanating from some unknown source and illuminating everything to where it looked like blood.

Invariably, James would grab onto the fence with both hands. Whenever he did this, he would feel pain from every nerve in his hands and pull them to his face. Once his palms turned upward, sunlight would flood the area and replace the red glow. His hands would be bleeding in a thousand places and the white fence would now be rusted barbed wire.

Slowly, a dark cloud would move towards him along the ground. He knew from the start of these recurring dreams that the cloud was there to consume things. Love, his family, his confidence, his sanity. And he knew that someday, during one of these dreams, the inevitable would come – his life would be consumed as well.

Unbeknownst to James, his five sleepless nights had actually been years. His mind could no longer accurately perceive time, or anything else for that matter.

“Don’t let me sleep! Don’t let me sleep!”
The guards sedated him, tightened his straitjacket, and turned off the lights.


this was inspired by a childhood dream of mine

“You had some real guts out there kid. Everyone else who messed with vengeance met a bloody death.”
Those words were my wakeup call, and I heard them coming from the same unknown voice that had put me to sleep. But now it wasn’t just a voice. It was a man, standing in front of me.
“Greetings, newcomer. I am the Alpha, secret revealer of Happiness, and, her home and creation, the Jungle.”
I sat up straight, making a drowsy groan in doing so, and then beheld the man’s features. He seemed to shimmer as sunlight burst through the still unmoving cascade of water. What struck me the most was that he looked very familiar to me. He was dressed in brown, tribal looking shorts. Adorning his skinny body were many markings of a language I did not know and trinkets of gold and bones pierced into his flesh. He had long, black hair, big green eyes, big ears, and a smear of what seemed like black war paint on the flesh around his eyes. The rest of his skin was pale white. He looked like he had lived wild and free, like an animal, all his life. At the same time, there was a hard look of weariness upon his face. As I looked closer, I could see at least a hundred small scars cut into his face as if by a razor. So much pain, so much anguish, so many things lost. These were the things I felt when looking at him. I also felt a strong connection with him. I knew he could give me answers, and he seemed a lot more intelligent than Steer or the fairies, so I immediately began trusting him. It felt like I was looking at an old friend.
I noticed that Steer was eating a large quantity of hay. “Good morning, Youngling,” he said to me between chews. “Good morning Alpha!”
“Good morning Steer,” Alpha said. “I am very proud of you for getting the boy this far. If you wish to, you can accompany him for a while longer, though at some point you will have to stop, for his destiny is that he must do this on his own. Now, man, I trust you are wondering why you are here, who I am, who you are, and why the water doesn’t move unless life touches it. Which question shall I address first?”
It was very strange that this man knew exactly which questions I was thinking of at that moment. I had a sick, uneasy feeling that he could enter my mind as he wished. This thought made me feel vulnerable and I did not like it one little bit. But for some reason, I really wanted to know why the water was the way it was. “Why isn’t the water normal?” I asked.
“Normal?” he replied. “What’s normal? Why do you think you have pre-assumptions about how things should be? I’ll tell you why. It’s because you’ve gone mad. There is no reason to make assumptions on how a thing should be. The important thing is how a thing is. But yes, I know it must be confusing. You seemed to have just been created. You have no idea why you have these ‘memories‘, if it is fit to call them that. Perhaps you had experienced a vision, perhaps even a vision that lasted a lifetime, before you became conscious in our world. I don’t know if you have had a past, you or any of your predecessors….well, actually, it is more fit to say that I do not know what your past consisted of. You, at least, are a warrior with a true past, as it says in the prophecy. I don’t know about the other ones. Hundreds have appeared, all attempting to complete the destiny that belongs to you alone. Still, not much is known for certain. But I can tell you one thing. There is no such thing as normal. Things change, everything. Nothing is exempt. It may take a while, say, thousands of millennia, but it all eventually changes. Nothing stays the same. Nothing. No “normality”. And to explain our water a little better, I’ll have you know that water is the basis for all life to exist. You are pretty much made out of it. So, naturally, the only thing that can go into the water is life itself, just as water went into life at the creation. And why would it flow or evaporate? It is eternal, always still and always good. Objects with no life, with no water, cannot disturb it. Oh, goodness! What a wonderful morning! I can hear the mountains whispering far off into the distance.”
I was in deep thought about what he had just said to me. No such thing as normal? A world that constantly evolved, never to be trusted? What was he talking about? What did these things mean? And who were my so called predecessors that he mentioned? The water dilemma made perfect sense though. It seemed as though all life was connected in this world, sort of like the group of grotesque but graceful fairies with one directing mind. Everything, in a sense, moved and breathed in unison. What surprised me is that this was not much different than my preconceived notions of what normality was. I somehow knew that water connected all life. All drank it, all were made from it, and some even breathed it. Still, I would have never guessed that water in this world would repel nonliving things.
Did I have a past? A different life in a different world perhaps, memory warped completely by an unnatural transfer from world to world? Or was I simply just created? The latter is how it seemed; but then why did I have preconceived notions of how things should be? And what was this man saying about a prophecy? It was all so difficult to grasp, but unlike with Steer, I had virtually no issues of distrust with this man. He spoke with eloquence, yet at the same time I felt a tone of simplicity in his voice. Not stupid simplicity, but pure simplicity. Untouched. Undefiled. For some reason, I felt like he was perfect. He just had something about him, something familiar, as if a deep, unknown longing of mine had been met by his mere presence.
I decided to ask him about something he had said. “You mentioned creation. Was there such a thing? Or has everything somehow always existed?”
He smiled. “Yes. And no. As I have said, we are all connected, all bound together, by water. Has water had a beginning? You could say so, I suppose; that certain chemical reactions occurred and a composition for water was put together. But, what of the atoms that the chemicals themselves are composed of? And what of still smaller objects of matter that make up the atoms? And could there even have been things put together that weren’t even matter that created matter?”
Once again, I was dumbfounded at how I knew what “matter” and “atoms” were. He continued.
“In a sense, everything has a beginning. But in another sense, everything has existed and will exist forever. I will tell you the tale of what you may call the beginning of this world. And it will answer all of your questions as well. You should be very glad that you found me, because if you hadn’t, you would never know the answers. I am the only creature permitted to tell you the things of your journey and the origin of this world. And I am one of only three creatures who have actually experienced it
Too long ago to even be measured, all that existed was energy. This energy created matter, things such as rocks and soil and mountains, things that didn’t live. No animals, no plants…simply a desolate earth. But the energy decided to do something new, something that was precious, something beautiful beyond all words. Life. But not just any form of life. It created the most important entity that will ever exist. Her name is Happiness. You saw her in your dream. She created all other forms of life, for them to enjoy her, simply out of her conscience. But that’s not all that erupted from her pretty little head. You see, once the energy was breathed into her body, it changed. It had never changed before, and this moment I am speaking of is what you may call ‘the beginning‘. It split itself in half. No one, not even Happiness herself knows why or how. It was as if once there was a mind other than the Energy’s in existence, the Energy could be controlled and shaped as if the creation was creating the creator.
The halves of the Energy were good and evil. Right and wrong. Left or right. Pairs of opposites. Whatever you choose to call it. So, at once, the energy entered a civil war. This all came from the very first thought of the creature Happiness, the second she was conscious. And since they came from her, they were each at a war to eliminate the other for complete ownership of their beautiful maiden creator. One’s desire was to help her, to be consumed by her. The other’s was to consume, control, and use her. To fight this war for the soul of the very first life form, they needed to become life themselves. The evil one possessed a body and called itself Omega. The reason for its name is that it represents death, which could be looked at as the end of all things. His desire is to conquer and enslave all life. He bewitched thousands of simple souls who he had promised to give good things. That is the monster’s greatest strength, that he can disguise himself as good. The real good force possessed the body of the creature standing right in front of you. I am Alpha incarnate, protector of the beginning, destroyer of the end. But the life force is greater than I…it knows all, and will someday give all the knowledge it has to me. So for now, though my knowledge is extensive, it is incomplete. This whole world is. But not for long. You are the chosen one.”

It was very difficult to make out in my mind exactly what he was talking about. And I once again had that queer feeling that I had known bits and pieces of what he had said my whole life…whatever sort of life it was before I came to call this jungle “reality”.
A word, out of nowhere, entered my mind which I believed for some reason to be the definition of his philosophy.
It seemed to me that he was saying there were two independent and opposite powers called Alpha and Omega (or “good and evil”) who were at an eternal war with one another, each being equal in power and ability (although I had a notion that evil currently had the upper hand). I had an objection, so after a few moments of pondering and of watching Steer make a funny looking sort of cow-smile, I returned conversation.
“I disagree.” To this, Alpha smiled, kindly, but also in a challenging sort of way. “I don’t think,” I began, “That good and evil can be equal and independent. For some reason, God only knows why,“ – Alpha bowed his head at the word ‘God‘, but I could tell he was still listening – “I feel like evil is dependent upon good and not eternal.”
“I admire your noble heart and words,” began Alpha in response, “For it is your heart, your very soul that is telling you that this cannot be so, that evil is something temporal that should not have existed. But let us discuss for a moment, ‘existence’. Is it not true that good and evil can only exist once they are perceived by a consciousness other than pure energy, or ‘God’? It is in the very heart of the creation of consciousness that there are two very real, very different paths. Something has to be conscious or rational, to understand evil. Something other than God has to first exist in order to go the completely opposite direction of God. If you like, think of evil as a piece of fruit that began as voluptuous and juicy, but fell off the tree and became rotten and selfish. Or, my personal favorite example, a heavenly being that rebelled and tried to overthrow its creator. Or you could just call evil a nasty damned parasite. As I said before, there are many ways of describing the only real Fact. Please bear with me. For now, your words will be few and mine many. Do you have any questions before I continue?”
“No,” I said without a moment’s consideration. I needed to know about this woman ‘Happiness’. “I want to know everything you know. Then I may ask questions.”
“Very well then,” he continued. “There are many more ways of explaining all of this, but put them all on hold in your mind. A description is not a point. The single point, the single eternal fact if hope prevails, is love and love alone. The creature Happiness…she loves all creations and finds beauty in them even after her conscious has wrecked them and they gain the ability to turn on her. And believe me you; they have done so on innumerable occasions. I cannot even begin to tell you the tortures they put her through…all for their own sick pleasure. They rebelled against her beauty by becoming ugly; she rebelled against their ugliness by shining even brighter. They have not been successful in corrupting her…so they locked her up. She is guarded by the evil beasts and men of this fallen forest, and most fiercely by the Minotaur in her labyrinth. Evil has no personality…all its servants are mindless pawns, once they choose that path. But the Minotaur…it almost has a personality, but only because it is the most evil and corrupted creature of them all. Long ago, it stole someone else’s personality. That’s all evil can do…steal, kill, and destroy. But it cannot create. Good things can, however. And that’s where you come in.
As the ancient prophecy foretells, the savior is the one who lacks selfish pride enough for the helmet to connect to the suit. For the rest of your journey, you will face many tests against your own selfishness. But do remember this: in the Law, rebellion as betrayal will always possess a venomous sting of death. I’m sorry if I am speaking too much. All these words will mean nothing And everything at the same time when you are reduced to wobbly knees and a loss for speech when you at last gaze upon her beautifully formed face, sculpted with the very energy and essence of God.”
I opened my mouth to speak, to inquire further, but he wasn’t finished.
“Only if one’s helmet connects can they begin their quest to free her by love. This is all about love. No one has ever been able to wear the suit you are encased in and still focus on the outside world more than its own prideful mind. You are carrying quite a heavy burden of selfishness, passed down through the suit by your predecessors. But you alone out of the many others before you have a shred of innocence in your heart. These times are rough, in every single conceivable world. The disease itself is so poisonous that it has the capability to turn from even the most beautiful creation of them all. And it has proven itself capable. It is the joy of all who possess good, pure hearts to aid the hero with love. We love the Lady too…but it is for you that she was made. I don’t know why The Creator has allowed so many failed attempts to save her. Why didn’t he send you in the first place? Is it his cruel punishment to her for creating Omega? We can only guess…and some just wither away in doubt. But we must not blame him or her for the way things happen as they do. The only way to persevere is to believe that he has a greater purpose behind the tortures. A seed, after all, must essentially die to become a tree. And that is what your shell represents…the shell of a seed.”
His words surprisingly didn’t inject fear of death into my heart. All I could think of now was the hair of gold, lips of crimson, eyes of ocean, skin of silk that I could only scarcely perceive from my blurred dream. And this filled me with anger, because I was already love struck. I needed to continue this journey to gaze upon her beautiful form in full. I needed to see her…she seemed even more beautiful with every passing second of thought accompanying her. But then I felt a dreadful stab of guilt. Alpha said I was the One, her one. But I had begun the beginning of my quest with moments of fear, cursing, pride, and even revenge, which so far seemed to be the worst demon of them all.
How could Alpha be right? If I was doing such a horribly pathetic job of focusing on her rather than myself (a fact that bewildered me, for she is a thing, no, the thing, the single clear manifestation of beauty, kindness, faithfulness, innocence, gentleness, creativity, and love), then how evil and barbarically selfish the men before me must have been! I took some comfort from this, that this burden of selfishness I carried was passed on to me by those who came before me, and also from the fact that, at the start of my journey, I didn’t know what my purpose was. I didn’t even know about her. But I was still guilty.
Oh the pain! Oh the pain of beauty! Alpha and Steer’s faces grew somber as they watched me fall to my knees. I was feeling what must only be a small proton of her agony. And that proton alone was unbearable.
“In my dream,” I began mumbling with a heavy heart, “She was the true physical embodiment of pure ecstasy. How can she experience so much pain?” At this point I was sobbing uncontrollably. “And…how is she so beautiful?”
“To your first question,” replied Alpha, tears flowing freely down his cheeks, “My answer is: Fix it. That’s all you have time for. Thinking, pondering, analyzing, feeling sorry for yourself…these will get you nowhere.”
He stopped speaking and it seemed that the earth herself did as well, as well as the wind, birds, beetles, and bumblebees. He and Steer faded from my sight for but a second, and I relished what replaced them…a momentary glimpse of the emerald green eyes of happiness herself. Then it all went black, but I could hear Alpha speaking again.
“To the second question…taste and you will see. Think of those eyes at all times. There is a literal ocean within them known as love. Fight for it at all costs. Don’t disappoint her, for I can see now that her eyes are becoming blue,” – and there the beauties appeared to me again, this time crystal blue indeed. “That is her sadness. It is beautiful, but at the same time, evil, undeserved madness. She is on the complete verge of abandoning hope. Make her eyes green again.”
When the last word left his lips, I rose to my feet, head and sword held high. I could do this. I would do this, willingly…for her. Beaming grins appeared on the faces of my newfound companions.
“Now,” I said, “What’s next?”
Alpha looked at Steer, then back to me, and answered with only a single word.
Then he began walking towards me. I thought he was coming straight to me, and he had a look of determination on his face that frightened me. The closer he got, the more frightened I became. He looked angry. But he walked right past me. I looked at Steer, hoping to get some sort of explanation for Alpha from him, but he only smiled. I looked behind me, where Alpha was now at the back of the cavern, facing the shimmering wall of rock. I couldn’t see his eyes, only the back of his head, but I could tell that he was staring intently at the wall. “What could be behind that wall?” I wondered.
“I’ll tell ya,” said Alpha. The mind reading thing still gave me goose bumps. “What’s behind that wall is the place where you are to be trained. You will need it for the dangerous demons that reside in our forest. Omega Drones, Gargoyles, Sprites, Kappas, Rhinocydonts, men, and much, much more that I will explain to you better later. This will all be after the ceremony of course. Come, you and Steer. Stand on each side of me. We need to hold a steady ground in case something happens.”
“What are you doing,” I asked. “What sort of bad thing could happen to us in here? The fall protected us from Vengeance; can’t it protect us from everything else?”
“I am opening up this wall using sensitive magic. The musical incantation I must use has the potential to demolish this whole place, no matter how careful I am. This whole world is unpredictable, even for me. Now stand at my sides brothers.”
I looked at Steer and he replied with a shrug. He then trotted to the left side of Alpha. I, however, was hesitant.
“Come on,” said Steer. “We must make haste!”
“Please don’t say that again,” I spoke with a laugh. “I don’t wanna think about that memory right now.” He laughed, and Alpha beckoned to me. I swallowed my fear and stood at Alpha’s right side. Then he began to sing. It went like this:
This was never their world
They took the angel away
Evil left innocence
Lost, without a way.

With these first four lines, which were being sung in an absolutely beautiful, enchanting, but still altogether somber way, I felt shakes. No, not trembles from Alpha’s endearing falsetto poem, but violent shaking accompanied with dust and crumbled rocks and such. I spun my head around and around scanning the cave, looking for what I was afraid to see. And I did see it.
On every side of the save, enormous cracks were being torn through the rock walls. These cracks kept getting wider and wider in such a fashion that the walls were being broken into sections, rolling and grinding against one another. They were also approaching us. The place was caving in at Alpha’s song. The whole process of it seemed to be more than just a geological disturbance. The cave seemed to be doing it itself, as if it had a mind. And it must have been an evil mind of course, what with trying to crush us and all. I had an intuitive feeling that it didn’t want us to begin the journey. Alpha’s face turned pale, and it was noticeable even under his already pale white face paint. I felt that he and I were thinking the exact same thing – that this was the work of Omega.
Steer was mooing the word “NO!” over and over again. He was almost as bad as he was when we had our encounter with Vengeance. “Damn the Omega!” he hollered. “Damn them, damn them, damn them!” Steer and I seemed to share a less brave outlook than Alpha.
His wailing continued until Alpha, still singing, smacked him in the face with a backhand. Steer stopped fretting immediately and muttered a soft apology. Alpha’s gaze remained fixed upon the wall before us.
Amidst the thundering noise of the cave collapse, Steer’s cursing, and my own bottled up fear that probably showed up very well on my face under the helmet, I still heard every word of Alpha’s song. The walls were rolling closer to us by the second, and I felt that we may die, but I Still held on to every note of the song. Besides, this wasn’t the first time I felt impending death, so why not die to the sound of a peaceful melody being sung by a friend? He didn’t finish until right before we got out, which would end up being around thirty seconds after this whole ordeal began. Altogether, starting after the first four lines, this was what he sang:
She possessed only joy
The joy that you destroyed
You robbed her innocence
Used her like a toy.
But lo
And also behold
The savior from ages old
Every story
Every world
Has men like him
To pierce their swords.
Right into the flesh of bandits.
None of you will be left standin
Here he is, dressed in machine
Through it all his heart still gleams
Open and ready
To strike fear into your hearts
And embrace his love, they’ll never part.
Over the mountains and over the seas.
Only love is forever free.
Our cause will never leave.
Omega drones
Rhinocydont bones
Will never crush us
The hero and his comrades
Will be but forever glad
To fight against your lustful lies
Because in the end, one of us has to die.
The evil or the goodness
That brought forth her, in all her bliss.

When his lips closed for the final time, the mass of rock began crushing us into the wall. I felt immense pain – but just a moment later, all I could see were beautiful lights up in trees. Then I saw nothing but the grassy ground…for my face had landed on it.
The wall had opened up and we had fallen out onto a patch of green, fresh smelling grass. It was now night; and the darkness was for some reason comforting to me. But it was daytime only a moment befofe! How could this be? We all turned around to see that the wall had sealed itself back up.
“Steer,” said Alpha. “Please forgive me for hitting you my friend. But I needed you to just shut up.”
“Oh,” began Steer, “It’s all fine, mate. So the wall of transportation was cursed?”
We all stood to our feet and Alpha continued conversation. “Yes it was. See what I meant by unpredictable? This is terrible news. Much worse than I had thought. Even the most sacred of places can be cursed by that evil Omega. They must all know you are here, warrior.”
It felt very good to be called that. But I knew that pride would be very deadly on this quest, so I swallowed it. “Wall of transportation?” I asked. “You mean we aren’t behind the cave? We’re somewhere else in the Jungle?”
“Yes we are,” said Alpha. “Hundreds of miles away from the cave. And a few hours ahead of it as well. Much time has passed while we were falling out of the cave. It’s a form of future travel…well, at least it used to be. We have used that wall for centuries, using different incantations to get to different places and times, though only spans of hours of time in the future. Now we have no protection against Vengeance. But this is where our journey must begin, with the ceremony, which has been waiting here for you since the dawn of time.”
I looked up ahead. There were tall, slender trees scattered this way and that around a path of red earth that I could see twisting into the distance. This was definitely a different part of the jungle; it didn’t even look like a jungle. The trees were further apart from each other, and the grass looked different than where I had been before being in the Cave. In the highest branches of the trees were bright lights of yellow, orange, and red. Along the path were floating lanterns that emitted a green light. Beneath the lanterns were two ropes strung up by a row of pegs on either side of the path. Somehow, it all looked very familiar to me. The moonlight cast from the sky, along with the many stars, accompanied this beautiful path and made it even more beautiful. Next to my lovely maiden Happiness, this sight was and always will be the most beautiful sight my eyes have taken in.
“It’s all for you Youngling,” said Steer. “Alpha says that it was made specifically for you; all your favorite colors and smells are thrown in.”
He was right. I could smell the fresh grass, the warm air, and the sap of the trees. I felt so strongly that wherever I had been before arriving in this world, these sights and smells were abundant. It felt like home.
“Well,” began Alpha, “We must carry on. At the end of this path is your magical welcoming party. Our words will be few, for this walk will be a walk of contemplation and purification. With every step, vengeance, anger, and all other vices will slowly drop off of you. For instance, you won’t provoke Vengeance as easily as before. It is integral for your journey ahead. But the vices won’t stay gone. They will come back, but not nearly as strongly as before. Without this purification, you will not last one day in this Jungle. Omega has, as I feared, injected its evil into the very air we breathe. We can speak only a little so that we can concentrate, but if necessary, don’t hesitate to talk to me. The right questions to ask will come into your head as we walk. Let us begin.”
We began to walk down the path. As soon as my foot stepped onto the red earth, my feelings of fear dropped immensely. New feelings of confidence and inspiration were surging through me. What surprised me the most was that I didn’t have any pride from being brave either. It seemed as though I was set free from all evil, which felt absolutely incredible.
We ended up walking for what seemed like miles, and I was in such a blissful state that it didn’t even matter. “We’ll get there when we get there” was my general outlook. I truly did feel that the scene before me was made specifically to fill some niche in my soul, with some sort of strong, rather, very strong connection to memories that I must have experienced before I came to the World and set out to free my gorgeous maiden, the ever consumingly beautiful creature Happiness.
As we walked on, my two focal points were the beauty of Happiness and the painting of forgotten memory I was walking in. The beauty and wonder of both of these was all I could think about, so I wasn’t even growing impatient. Alpha and Steer had practically vanished from existence in my mind, as well as the Fairies, the Water Sprites, the cave, Vengeance, and whatever on Earth those Rhinocydont creatures Alpha spoke of were.
After maybe a few hours(my mind could not be subjected to time as I was in such a state of ecstasy), I began to think of much more than just my own joy. More than just the beauty of the things I loved. Happiness didn’t just need to be pondered to suit my fancy, she needed to be rescued. And she herself even seemed connected to my forgotten past; the beauty of which lay before me I was also pondering. The selfishness! I needed to know when we would reach the ceremony, the first step I had to take to free my love. So I asked.
“This is the first question you needed to ask, and you are asking it at the right time, my friend,” said Alpha with a big smile. “You have broken past selfishness, even amongst ecstasy and your own wishes. Even good things consumed you with selfishness because you did not think of them for them; you thought of them for your own blissful imagination. But friend! You have broken passed it with flying colors. We will reach the ceremony soon. Still, there are a few more rites of purification on this stroll, a few more questions you will need to ask.”
Still walking, and just when the last word had parted from his lips, I asked him another question.
“Do you know anything about my memories? About what scenes in time these trees, lanterns, and pathway have come from?”
“The Creator put these things here because they remind you of your strong connection you had with him in your previous life,” answered Alpha. “They are small tastes of eternity’s glory.”
“How do you know this?” I replied.
“The Prophecy reveals many things about you. Including a bit of your past.”
To think it! I had connections with the eternal otherworldly abyss in my previous life. Why did it seem so absent from me in this place?
Something changed. I felt my cheeks under the helmet grow red and pulse with blood, and I could of course feel my living helmet pulsing as well. I felt a scowl form on my face as I realized what I was feeling: burning hatred for Alpha. He had known of my past. How could he not have told me? I stopped in my tracks and raised my sword in fury, ready to cut Alpha in half. I lunged….and stopped.
I looked into Alpha’s eyes and saw sympathy, consideration, and compassion. I remembered who he really was: my friend, my ally, my revealer of truth. I shuddered away from him in shame. Steer’s gaze caught my eye, and I could see the same benevolence in his eyes. He laughed and spoke.
“He has serious anger issues Alpha. But I’m glad he caught himself with you.”
Oh! I still to this day loathe myself for hurting Steer when I met him and for wanting to kill my humanoid guide. I looked away from Steer and just watched the ground. How could I ever have been so selfish and impatient as to do these awful things to my comrades. I could feel tears running down both my metallic and my organic face. Alpha and Steer were simply laughing, in a very merry way. They at least didn’t seem hurt, but I was still feeling horrible guilt. Their laughter sounded victorious and proud. Alpha’s answer showed me why.
“My friend, my friend, my glorious friend! You have broken through anger and malice. Another very wonderfully executed rite of passage! Let’s move forward.”
“Alpha…I’m so…,” I began, but he cut me off.
“Alas! You needn’t worry my friend. You have done beautifully. Now, let’s keep moving, only another four hundred yards to the ceremony.”
I was still feeling guilty for almost attacking him, but both of my friends’ smiles assured me that I should move on from my ghastly mistake of betrayal and press forward. After all, what can one do after a mistake but try to move on? Forgiving yourself, however – now, that’s the trick. For so many of my mistakes, like these for instance, I tried to find solace in excuses. I was a lost, confused, and scared stranger when I met Steer. And I was feeling betrayed and lied to when I lashed out upon Alpha…and yet it is at these very thoughts that I shudder. Excuses, excuses. How one handles himself under pressure is the true mark and revealing of one’s own character. But why wallow in self pity over mistakes when there are better things to accomplish further along the path? And beyond that, Happiness herself. So I decided that all the mistakes I had made so far in this journey, and, unfortunately, the ones I would make in the future, would be reversed by me rescuing my Destiny.
I started paying more attention as we walked. There were shadows of living, walking beings all around us. They may have been there for the whole walk, or they may have only showed up at this point. But one thing was for sure. Their presence was accompanied by a thickness of the air, as if it was caked in smog, and also by a feeling of dread. The moonlight seemed to dim, and I felt uneasy enough about the shadows to ask Alpha about them.
“Oh, those,” he began. “They are nothing to dread. Look closely at them. To your right are good kappas, fierce turtle warriors of who unfortunately most belong to Omega. They are flawless in their battle strategy, using their armor and cannon blasts to obliterate all in their past. Another unfortunate thing, however, is that the Omega ones are tougher. To your left are the princes of the Frog kingdom. They are ALL on our side, because though they are weak physically, their hearts are as strong as the shell of the Kappas. None have been veered to the serving of Omega’s evil purposes. Toads are evil though, which fits for they are putrid.”
The kappas were frightening to look at. As I squinted my eyes in the now fading moonlight, I could see that they were walking with us, the frogs too. The frogs were timid and graceful looking, but the Kappas gave me a feeling of fear. But Alpha said they were on our side, so I tried to get past the glowing orange eyes, spiky skin, terribly tough looking armor, and those razor sharp teeth that showed through the sides of their mouths….
Both sets of creatures were walking forward, following our path at the sides. Every single set of eyes was on me though, and it gave me a weird feeling watching them walk with us with their reptilian heads turned towards me. Still, no creature on the side of Happiness should give one a feeling of dread, so there had to be something else.
“Yes, something else,” Alpha answered my thoughts. “But nothing that walks. Watch out for everything around you, warrior. Looks deceive. Amongst all of this beautiful flora is a monster disguised as grace.”
There were flowers all around us, arranged into sections. The colors, I knew, my world must have lacked, for most other color in this Jungle was familiar to me. I had seen colors I couldn’t recognize earlier in my journey, and those were undoubtedly not from my world either. But these flowers were of a different sort. Through my peripherals I could see the Kappas waving at me wildly, as if they wanted me to stop doing something…as if they didn’t want me to stare at the flowers. But they were so beautiful, so graceful, so….
In the middle of each section was flower with a color that I did recognize. They were green flowers, and I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw them. I stared intently at them, unable to unfix my gaze. Though they weren’t moving, I could somehow feel that they were pulsing with life. Not just life, but joy….ecstasy. I then began to smell them in the air.
At once I bent down and snatched one up. I put it to my face. It smelled divine! I wanted to see what they tasted like, so I took my helmet off. Everything became a blur of sensations. I could hear Steer, the kappas, and the frogs yelling, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Nor did I care. I tore off a small piece and shoved it into my mouth…and my own helmet’s tentacles wrapped around my arms to try to stop me!
More yelling, more struggle with my tentacles, more voices. Much more voices. Voices of singing…singing a downright perfect melody. I punched my tentacles and felt their pain, for they were a part of me, but at even this I didn’t care. I kept throwing punches at them, giving me horrible stabs of pain. But the pain was short lived with every punch, for with every bite of the flower ecstasy flowed into me. Even though it was all a euphoric blur, I was also conscious of hitting Steer back a few times, as well as some frogs. Then I heard a voice that was understandable. It was inside of my head. I need not tell you who it belonged to.
“Warrior,” alpha’s voice said with ferocity, “Stop! STOP!! STOOOOOOPPPPPPP!!!!!”
I looked up. Alpha wasn’t even looking at me. He was looking sort of downward, as if he was ashamed of something. As if he was ashamed of me. Kappas were rushing towards me, but alpha stuck out his hand, which of course made them stop. They, the frogs, and Steer, were all glaring at me with a painfully strong look of sadness on their faces. The euphoria I had experienced moments ago was quickly extinguished. I must have done something wrong. I felt sick.
“I’m sorry warrior,” began Alpha, this time speaking openly. “You did not pass this test. I was afraid of this…”
He must have seen the look of maddening guilt and confusion on his face, for he started talking differently, in a lighter, more assuring tone.
“Its alright. Now we know what your weakness is. We can better equip you against Omega…though this is a very difficult obstacle to overcome. Let us continue walking. I will explain to you what just happened. Put on your helmet.”
I obeyed, and stood up. Steer must have also been able to sympathize with me, for he nuzzled his nose against my hand and looked up at me with deep, understanding eyes, accompanied by a soft, reassuring smile. We all began walking again, and Alpha began to speak.
“You see, youngling, when that vile Omega began his reign of carnage in this Jungle, he did it by inhabiting a body, as did I. His body is the Minotaur. But our views on life and love are not the only things different about us. For some reason, he was able to actually materialize into a new species of flora, a beautiful one. Its colors captivated unsuspecting victims. Once they got just one single bite of it, they craved for it for the rest of their lives. It drew them in, and they could never get out. It would give feelings of pure ecstasy, unmatched by anything else the victims had experienced in their lives besides being created by Happiness. And a lucky few of the victims had even met Happiness in trying to stop the Minotaur from locking her away. Despite these blessed souls’ peaceful assurance that came with meeting Happiness, the weaker ecstasy still prevailed. The flowers are obviously a lie, something omega uses to take souls. The victims crave them so much that they will even follow his orders and worship him. They become mindless savages, all love and beauty replaced by addiction and unfulfillment. Empty is what they are, truly empty.
Many who fell to this illusion were of the Kappa race. The few you see standing around us are all scarred by their family members’ departure into oblivion. They are more depressed than you can comprehend, but not as depressed as Happiness is over her whole jungle being perverted with lies and filth.
And these captive agents of destruction of his are another thing he uses to infiltrate the Jungle. They obey his orders to torture people, making them join him by force. They also can sometimes simply persuade someone to join them. They are very good at deception, as they have done the ultimate deception to themselves; trading the peace of Happiness for a lie. You would be surprised how easy it can be to betray Her.”
I lowered my head in shame, knowing that I had already betrayed her with revenge, despair, anger, and those awful, vile, sickening damned plants.
“Happiness is probably curled up and enticed with pain at this very moment,” I thought to myself. Alpha answered my thought. And as he did, he stopped walking and looked me squarely in the face.
“Friend, don’t fret about the mistakes you have made. Many have done much worse, and still been forgiven and freed. You are much stronger than you see yourself to be. The plants affect you worse than they affect anyone else, and you still haven’t considered joining Omega’s most wicked game. I am very proud of you.”
Beneath my helmet was a smile. Oh, the joy! Not all hope was lost. I was stronger than I had perceived. I really could save her…yes, yes, I really could save Happiness! And Alpha, my glorious friend, was pleased with me.
“Look onward my friend,” he said. “Your ceremony awaits you.”
I looked at the scene before me, and I gasped. There were thousands, no, millions of little golden and little green lights flying speedily in circles over a wide clearing. The earth below them was covered with moss mud, and water, but of a most exquisite sort. The moss and mud was actually very beautiful, both with the way they looked naturally and the way that they reflected the lights. Beneath the water were fish, namely, cat fish. They flopped out of the water every now and then with a splash and during their short time in the air they always looked at me and smiled. Everyone was smiling. Alpha, Steer, the frogs, the kappas, and every new creature before me was smiling. And there were MANY new creatures.
The way they looked and what they were was obviously designed specifically for me, for these must have been my favorite animals in my past life. The names of many I could not make out, and a few of the nameless were reptilian. But they were also birdlike, not ungraceful like a reptile. I could think of one word for them, though I had the strangest feeling that it was not the word I chose to call them by in my past. The word I connected them with is Dragons. They were covered in scaled as well as beautifully colored feathers, and they danced gracefully like little sparrows. Other creatures I saw were birds themselves, of the regular blue jay and eagle sort. I wondered why the eagles didn’t eat the jays, but I realized that this place was a perfect place of harmony and peace between living beings. Predators and prey in peace. Lions and lambs lying together beneath the flying lights; green cheetahs lying beside graceful gazelles; and even sharks and catfish, swimming together in the ponds of the clearing.
What was I to do next but only step forward and welcome this ceremony with open arms…or with one open arm and a sword hand at least.

“I see that you have an intense interest in the dragons,” said Alpha, as his green eyes gleamed in the lantern light.
“They are very beautiful,” I said. “I think they were called something different in my world. Are they dangerous?”
“Many are, yes. But all the ones here are sentient and herbivorous. The carnivores live deep within the jungle in the arenas of the rhinocydonts.”
I asked him what exactly these rhinocydonts beings were.
“They are the strongest and nastiest of all dragons. They are the smartest as well. In fact, their technology is extravagantly complex. They have guns that shoot out a white lot light of many colors that they call laser guns. They are less destructive than the Kappa cannons, but much faster, much more efficient, and much more effective. Their technology is what landed them here. They come from a different world, you see. Like you. But probably not the same world. The dragons you know of from your previous life couldn’t have been these ones. I have had several conversations with their leader, Dienok, trying to persuade him to help us save Happiness. They are a selfish, vile people who only care about getting their race to the world that their religion calls, “heaven”. In attempting to travel there, in using their advanced technology to cross over to other worlds, they ended up here. Because of this, they have a love-hate relationship with their technology. Now they focus on the mythology of their homeworld that was forgotten long before they entered this world. All they do in their city, Dragonopolis, is study mythology, debate on if or how they should use their technology, trade goods with the men of the jungle, and train inside of arenas with gladiator fights. They are not evil, but they are of no help to us. Sometimes, they have even, kidnapped people of all races in this world and make them fight their dragon pets just for their own entertainment. I sincerely hope that you don’t run into them. Don’t seek them out either, for I can see in your mind that you are curious. No, my friend, just focus on these dragons. They left dragonopolis ages ago. They were sick of the confusion and chaos of their rhinocydont superiors. Focus on them, my friend, please. The rhinocydonts may still play a part in your journey, though for good or ill I do not know. But never seek them out.”
As i was pondering this, a frog prince came to me and gave me a silver platter with sweet smelling meat on it. He bowed low to the ground as he offered it. Then, after I took it, he scampered off to join those of his own kind. The meat smelled divine and I was about to remove my helmet to consume it when I noticed something unsettling. It was steak. And as far as I knew, steak was made from cows. Like the one whom I began my journey with and now called friend.
“Oh calm yourself youngling,” said Steer as he trotted to my side with a smile on his face. “This is not from my kind. It is from horses. This is horse steak, one of the most favored dishes in all the jungle.”
“Are horses sentient?” I asked.
“Yes, a few. There are three species of horse. One is the common horse. I believe I compared myself to one earlier. They are annoying to the utmost degree. I only say they are sentient because they can speak, but to me, their speech is stupid. They ramble on and on as if the day would never end.”
Sure enough, I began to make out a very fast paced conversation between two horses a few yards away from me. Steer looked at them with displeasure.
“But are they what this steak is made from?”
“No, No my friend,” began Alpha. “Remember, there are three separate species. You are about to eat the non-sentient species, the one we breed as livestock. ”
I removed my helmet to eat, but still had a look of confusion on my face, which Alpha noticed.
“You do not suppose it is like this in your world, do you?” he asked.
“No. I feel like the natural thing my world used for livestock was cattle.”
Steer and Alpha roared with laughter.
“Are you kidding me?” Steer said. “Even if that is true, your world must be very strange, for horse meat is much more filling and delicious than the flesh of my kind. You believe that in your world you ate of my kind? To think of it! Its ridiculous!”
As they continued to laugh, I looked for a place to sit and asked Alpha where the silverware was.
“What’s that?” answered Alpha.
“You know,” I said, “Blades and such for dining.”
Steer and Alpha both looked confused. This surprised me. People in this world seeming so wise and intelligent like Alpha and Steer had never used tools for eating.
“Yes,” began Alpha, “We do use blades and such for cutting food into appropriate servings, but everyone eats with their hands, except for Steer’s kind of course. It is the custom of all, Alpha and Omega alike.”
The wild, untamed nature of the people in this world was clear. I began to feel a twinge of animal in me myself. I reached down and then brought a hearty chunk of reddish cooked flesh to my mouth. It was delicious. It was my first true meal in this world, and I could tell within a second that it must have been much better than the food of my home world.
“Here,” said Alpha, “This will wash it down nicely.” He handed me a glass full of red, strong smelling liquid. The glass sparkled with a colorful shimmer that I immediately recognized to have to do with magic.
“Good guess,” continued Alpha. “Sorcerers of long ago figured out a way to make certain minerals into glasses that could harness the still waters. The men of this jungle then found a way of using certain berries to make the water become this enchanting wine. The rhinocydonts trade goods with the men for loads of it. They only have anything to do with the creatures of this world if they can get a deal out of it.”
The wine sent glory down to my stomach, encouraging and strengthening me. This was shaping up to be a wonderful welcoming party.
In the air, fireflies of many colors were moving in groups and changing shape. Clusters of them became trees, lions, dragons – and some other species that greatly aroused my curiosity. Three clusters of green, orange, and blue were now three horses with a magnificently long horn on each of their heads.
“Unicorns,” said Alpha with a smile. “Wisest and most beautiful of all beings And the third species of horse. They rarely fight, but when they do, those horns of those are unmatched. Or….I should say they used to rarely fight.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well…they only fought the rhinocydonts on grounds of self defense. They were the first from our world to speak to them. They tried to welcome them, tried to make them calm down and abandon their overworked and regrettable technology…and they only defended; they never launched an attack outright. But the rhinocydonts struck them on many occasions.”
My heart sank. They were so beautiful.
“Are they all dead?”
“No. A few linger on. But they haven’t been seen in centuries. I believe they will only return if someone can unite all the forces of this world together, rhinocydonts included, for the sake of Happiness. But I don’t think anyone could ever do it. Not even…”
He did not answer.
All of a sudden, everyone began walking away into the darkness beyond the light of the fireflies.
“Time for bed,” said Alpha. “You have a big day ahead of you warrior.”
I was disappointed, but I didn’t object. I had already eaten three plates of the horse meat as we conversed, and I was now beginning to feel tired. Alpha, Steer, and I followed one of the unicorn shapes up a smooth paved slope. Despite the fireflies’ brightness, as well as some torches hanging up on walls, I could only see very faint silhouettes of architecture. We were walking in something like a city.
I was very sleepy indeed. The last thing I remember was hearing Alpha speak to me.
“Doubt is an illusion, my friend. A tricky one. It robs us of our hopes, dismantles our dreams, and can blacken even the purest hearts.”
Nothing after that. I do not even remember going into my bedchamber to sleep that night.

“You said they were vegetarians.”
“You said they were vegetarians. That isn’t true. I watched them eating their young.”
I started this conversation with the cow after I had awoken to find myself being carried on his back. My helmet was now clipped to a belt on my waist, which allowed me to begin eating the strange candies that the cow had given me. Even though I wasn’t sure if I could trust this cow, I was still famished enough to eat what he gave me. Surprisingly, I felt no pain from the kick he had inflicted earlier. It was very dark. Moonlight stabbed through the branches above, taunting me with its beauty. I remembered dreaming about a beautiful woman during my cow induced sleep. I loved her hair….silky, golden, and mesmerizing. It was to my enjoyment that I remembered her because she took my mind off of the horrors I had faced previously and that I would probably have to endure again in more dreadful, terrifying ways. Still, the dream was like a blur…upon awakening, I could not envision her fully. I had only caught a blurry glimpse of what I would later come to find was the most utterly real and beautiful thing in existence. Was she from my past? Did I even have a past before waking up in this world? Could I ever see her face to face?
But it was hard to find solace in thinking about her, because the cow I was with knew things, things of this world, and I didn’t, so I had to talk to him. He didn’t answer my question, so I asked again.
“Cow, they aren’t vegetarians. I saw them…”
“Address me as Steer, young creature. Or, if you prefer, sir. I am much older and wiser than you. Every creature of this world is older than you. Centuries old. Though none of us really know how to explain it….oh silly me, I’m rambling like a common horse. You want me to tell you of the Fairies? They are a dreadful annoyance, every time someone new comes along, they have to frighten them. They are not evil or even formidable in the least bit. That display, young man, was the fairies feasting on their own bodies…..why so shocked? Your face is sickly pale….well they don’t like eating anything else with blood filled veins, and their wounds recover instantly when inflicted by themselves. Their main diet is fruit and leaves, but eating themselves allows them to live forever. Most boring creatures, all controlled by one simple mind and vocabulary….”
“Why is nothing here normal?!?!?! Cows talking?!?! Creatures that eat their own flesh?!?!?! A suit of armor that is somehow alive?!?!? Tell me now or I’ll slice you with my sword, I swear…”
The cow simply laughed at my interruption. I was in horror, and this creature who acted as if he was my helper did not even give me pity. He replied, with a look of self righteous satisfaction on his face.
“You cannot harm me, silly one. I am noble servant of the Alpha, as are you, and I know that each of our brains are too large to permit us such stupidity. And what, exactly, is normal?”
I could not answer him.
“As I had thought. Cut me with your sword indeed! Even if you truly wanted to, I am much faster than you, and…”
I rolled off of his back and kicked him hard in the face. Vengeance was mine. I didn’t care to know how he could help me anymore. His assumed authority over me (that’s how he seemed, anyway) was unbearable. I put my helmet back on and ran off laughing as he howled with pain. Yes, it did sound very much like a moo, and it was hilarious.
“COME BACK HERE YOU FILTHY COWARD!!!” He began to chase me with surprising speed. I sped off into the jungle, wanting to look back, but not daring to. I cut through vines with my sword, smashed tree roots with my colossal feet….and then I tripped. I could hear him calling behind me. I waited for a laugh or another fearsome kick from his hoof, but neither came. As he approached me, I could see a look of what seemed like fear upon his face.
“You have called Vengeance,” he said. “You have called it…it will be here shortly, we must make haste. Terrible mistake you have made! Terrible!”
If this cow, this Steer, this sole creature I knew that had answers was frightened, then I knew I should be as well. He seemed to know this world so well, acting as if he had survived centuries grazing amongst the place. What on earth could frighten him?
“We must make haste, we must make haste,” he said in a terrified whimper. “Vengeance is coming, we must make haste! Get on my back.”
Fear was now coursing through my veins, but putting my helmet back on gave me courage. I got onto Steer’s back and held tight. He zoomed off into the jungle even faster than I had done just a moment before. His strides shook the jungle floor, scattering birds and fairies from the trees and into the night sky.
“Where are we going?” I said.
“We are going to the waterfall, the only place that can protect us from Vengeance until you are trained. What a considerable amount of mortal peril you have gotten us into…hold on tight!”
We continued our race through the jungle. I had a feeling we were out of harm’s way, for nothing seemed to have been following us or anything, but then something broke that illusion. I heard a bloodcurdling roar that shook us hard enough for Steer to trip over his own feet and fall face first into a puddle. I fell off his side and rolled down a hill.
“Youngling!”, he yelled as I tried to grab hold of a branch, a vine, anything that could keep me from rolling further into this unknown called a jungle. I finally gripped a slimy toadstool protruding from the earth that didn’t break or even budge as I latched onto it. It held my weight and suspended me over what I now saw was the edge of an immense cliff.
I began scrambling up the cliff face, hoping that whatever produced that roar wasn’t waiting there to face me. As I pulled harder onto the toadstool to lift myself up, I saw that it was not a toadstool at all. Two big yellow eyes were perched atop its head. Slowly, it lifted up out of the ground to reveal a body covered with feathered tentacles. It made a disgusting shriek that was echoed by my own, for I was in deep fright. An evil mushroom, for pity’s sake! In this moment of fear I made a terrible mistake and let go, falling thousands of feet down, down to certain death below, down to the end of all things…
But I was saved.
I had almost reached the bottom when slimy tendrils coiled around my head, legs, and arms. The cables jolted with the speed and weight of my falling body. I looked up and saw that the fairies had rescued me.
“Look alive, ninny!” they laughed. “We’ll have ya back to your ugly cow in no time!”
My saviors carried me up to the top of the cliff. They released their hold on me and I roared with pain as I fell to earth.
“Would you rather us have let ya fall down there?” they shrieked. “We can still do that if you’d like! It wouldn’t hurt at all when ya landed!” They howled with laughter into the moonlight.
“No, thank you,” I said. I didn’t much care for them, but they had just saved me for a second time. “Thank you for saving me.”
They continued to laugh, acting as if they didn’t even hear me. Then, Steer appeared and trotted towards me.
“Time to go,” he said. I climbed onto his back and we set off once more. The earth was still shaking, due either to the deafening roar, or perhaps the footfalls of the thing that made it. I apologized to Steer as he ran.
“No time!” he said. “No time at all. But apology accepted.” He was breathing very heavily. Many twists and turns later, we found ourselves in the middle of a clearing. Yellow and violet flowers were scattered all over the ground amidst our presence. I was attracted to them, like I was to so many other frightening, terrible, and beautiful things of this world. They were absolutely gorgeous, so pure and colorful that it just didn’t seem right, especially so because we were running from some sort of gigantic monster.
“Why did we stop?” I said.
Steer hesitated to reply. He was muttering what may have been curse words under his breath. His fur was soft and wet from the trees we had clashed against in our run.
“Steer,“ I began to plead, “Why have we stopped?”
“At least now you’re being polite,” he replied. “You are learning young one. Now let’s see…no, not that way…maybe there perhaps…ah yes it is this way…oh dear, I am mistaken.” His head was jerking rapidly left to right. It was obvious that he was unsure.
“Are you lost, oh noble, wise, intelligent servant of the Alpha?” I knew these words seemed like harsh sarcasm fired back at his all knowing disposition, but in my heart I meant them. He may not have been as fast as he said he was, but he definitely seemed wise, though I suppose any cow with formal speech could be considered wise, compared to other cows.
“Oh calm yourself, creature. I know exactly where we are going. I don’t appreciate sarcasm by the way.”
“Which way, then?” I asked impatiently.
“In the direction of the Alpha or course! Now, which direction that is, I haven’t the faintest idea.”
He seemed less frightened, but still I could hear the uneasiness in his words.
“So you are lost?”
“Of course I am,” he replied. “But you know even less than me! You don’t even know yet where I am taking you or what wonders you will see…that is if your stupid, careless mistake didn’t land us in the belly of Vengeance. Why, you practically offered us up as a buffet!”
“What is this “Vengeance”?” I queried.
“It is where you are wronged and you try to give the perpetrators what they deserve for it. You didn’t even know that?”
I was annoyed. If this cow wasn’t my only way to knowledge, I might say I’d be very happy to slice him with my sword and roast his ribs on a fire. He would have made an excellent steak, and I could have used his pelt for a bed. At this thought came another, a humorous but at the same time vile one of a steak talking to me, saying things like “Youngling” and “I know exactly where we are going”. No, killing him probably wouldn’t do, as insane as this world was. I’m not even sure if I would have been able to kill him. My sword was heavy and it was very difficult to lift. Instead, I simply just returned to our conversation.
“Of course I know what vengeance is. But you are speaking of it as if it is a beast, as if it is that creature that produced the roar.”
“Is it not a beast?” Steer said.
“Yes, I suppose,” I replied with annoyance. “But last time I checked, it didn’t roar or have legs to chase us with. Or does it fly?”
“It can take many forms. That is why it is so dangerous. Vengeance and demons like it affect you and your predecessors much more than creatures like me. That is why your seemingly trivial action against me called it out. Alpha shall explain more when we find him. You wanted vengeance on me, and there it came. Trouble is, vengeance doesn’t just kill the antagonist. It kills the poor soul that conjures it to life as well. So its after you too.”
“What variety of forms can it take?”
“Well, let’s see…the ones I’ve seen it take are a vampire bat, an elephant, an immense tree, a toadstool, a giant reptile, and a lake. But it can transform into virtually anything.”
I shuddered at my realization. Perhaps the toadstool I grabbed was the very monster we were trying to avoid. When I told Steer of this, he fell silent for a few moments.
“Steer?” I said. “Why are you lost? I thought you knew this jungle.”
“Know it?” he said in a soft, frightened tone. “I know it very well. But some places are cursed, and if you go for a run at night, or are placed into deep trouble by a fool such as yourself, you will wind up in said places. They turn you around…confuse you…try to stop you. They are not of the Alpha. They are evil.”
“What are we to do then if we are in a cursed place?”
“We must simply guess at the right direction, and seeing as we are in the same predicament with the same advantages, you get to choose the path until I remember where we are going.”
“Why must I choose?”
“You are the chosen one, my friend. In situations like these where all hope seems lost, you are the one to eliminate the dirty, clouded illusion of fear and doubt, and bring order and direction to the world.”
Pride and determination flooded my being. Could I truly be the savior of this Jungle?
“You simply guess?” I said.
The cow nodded.
“Alright,” I said with confidence. “We go that way.” I pointed to the left, where the trees were the most colorful and beautiful in the moonlight.
“As you wish,” he said, and then cocked his head to the right. “Oh no, now that is it.”
“That’s the right way? But I thought you said you didn’t…”
“No. That is Vengeance.”
I looked to the right and felt my jaw drop inside my helmet. If I had been afraid before, it was nothing compared to this. In the tallest trees, I made out a shape that seemed reptilian, but gargantuan, simply colossal. Its horse like head parted the branches as if they were mere twigs. I saw six eyes with teeth for brows, curved teeth in its jaws, a long, forked tongue, and tentacles coiling out from all over its body. So far, every creature in this world besides Steer seemed to be related to an octopus. This newfound terror’s color was mottled gray, and the moonlight seemed to have enhanced its horrific appearance. Blue crocodilian spikes christened the monster’s gigantic back. Its appearance almost made me want to embrace death with open arms.
The beast stared us down with a look of pure evil. We were both petrified in fear, with no hope for escape. I could feel Steer trembling beneath my legs. I’m sure we both thought that this was the end.
But then I remembered something.
I was the chosen one.
“GOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs and thrust my sword towards the left side of the clearing. With my excitement, the blade wasn’t even heavy. I felt ready to take on this whole world and all its vicious monsters. Steer regained composure and ran as fast as he could to the left. Tentacles swayed from Vengeance as he let out a deathly cry and began to pursue us on two gigantic, birdlike legs. One tentacle slammed into my back so hard that I almost fell off of Steer.
“Hang on!” he cried.
A tentacle soared over my head and attempted to knock me off again. I was quicker. With a flash of gleaming silver, I cut the tentacle in two with my sword as Vengeance let out a howl of pain. Thick, blue blood splashed all over me.
I rode Steer further into the jungle. The trees were closer together now. It was to our misfortune that there was hardly any space between them, for Vengeance was still in pursuit, rearing his ugly head up into the bright light of the moon. He kept roaring, and it was filling me with fear again.
“I can’t do it!” I yelled to Steer. “I can’t go on! I will simply die!”
“Don’t you talk like that!” he barked, losing his breath with his run. Every word was rushed and separated by heavy breathing. “Doubt…is…an…illusion. You…are…the…chosen…WAAAAAHHOOOOOOOOO!!!” He screamed the last word of his sentence as a tentacle wrapped around us and lifted us high above the treetops. We were being carried higher and higher towards its mouth.
The colossal jaws opened and let out an ear shattering roar that literally made me go deaf for a few seconds. The ugly beast reared its head back and spat out fire that seemed to engulf the moon with ruby red flames. It was a most horrible sight. I was laced with sweat and couldn’t breathe. Steer, on the other hand, kept screaming so helplessly that it nearly brought tears of sadness to my eyes. They were already soaked with sweat and tears of fright anyway, so tears of sorrow wouldn’t add much to their already sopping wet sockets.
Despite my fear and sympathy being combined into a ghastly emotion that one can only get by being lifted into the air by gigantic monster, I was not ready to die. I had a survival instinct, and I knew I had to use it. My purpose was to get myself out of tough spots without letting fear stop me or slow me down. This was my chance and I decided to take it.
As we got closer to the mouth of the dreadful, roaring beast, I swung my sword into the tentacle wrapped around Steer’s body and my legs. A howl of pain was emitted as we began to fall from the severed set of tendrils. Then, we were caught again by another appendage and carried once more towards the mouth. This time, the tentacle coiled itself around Steer and I in such a way that it seemed impossible to lift my sword for another strike.
“Punch it! Punch it!” cried Steer
I took his advice and began punching the slimy tendril with my sword less arm. The tentacles seemed to have their own form of life themselves, their own form of mind; for when I had struck it with my fist I could hear it emit a squeal of pain amidst the colossal roars of Vengeance. I kept punching and the tentacle seemed to only tighten its grip. I could feel the monster’s hot, sickly breath on the skin of my armor. We were inches away from its gaping jaws.
As I kept punching, seconds away from being swallowed, Steer leaned his head back in such a grotesque way that it seemed to me that he had snapped his neck. His jaws clamped onto the tentacle and bit right through it, freeing us and my sword. As we fell and screamed, another tentacle lurched towards me, but I was too quick. I sliced and diced about ten tentacles in all on my way down. I began to think I was getting the hang of this warrior thing.
We fell into a pool of water and I could hear the beast of Vengeance no more. I looked down, scanning the bed of the water pool for those hairy beasts I had seen earlier in the river. There wasn’t anything but black, shiny stones with a colorful aura around them. They intrigued me, for they were colors I cannot describe, and reminded me again of how I seemed to remember certain things such as color, light, speech, and water, but not much else. I quit thinking about this and pushed Steer towards the surface. He was unconscious. I heaved him onto the bank with surprising strength. He was light; a cow that probably weighed at least a ton was light for me. I felt good that I was this strong.
I knelt over him and his eyes slowly opened. “The Fall,” he said. I replied, asking if he meant the fall we had just experienced. “No,” he said. “The Fall behind you.” I looked behind me and gasped.
In front of me was an enormous, beautiful waterfall. The water was bright white with hints of blue. It almost looked like frozen water or crystallizations, for like the rest of the water in this world, the waterfall was not flowing. The falling water was simply suspended in midair. It was such an incredible sight.
“Get us behind there,” said Steer. “We will be safe there.”
I lifted him to his feet and we began walking towards the fall when I heard an ear piercing roar, more dreadful than any sound I had ever heard. I looked back and saw Vengeance coming at us fast. He looked angry and even more terrifying than earlier.
“Run!” cried Steer. We ran as fast as we could through the huge sheet of enchanted water and tripped on a large stone, falling a few feet into a brightly blue lit cavern. There were stalactites and stalagmites everywhere. I looked towards the sheet of water and saw the immense shadow of Vengeance on the other side. He roared in fury, walked in circles for a bit, then ran far away until his screams became distant, and eventually, inaudible.
Steer began murmuring in a panicky state, “The Alpha? Where is Alpha? He said he’d be here! Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no.” I tried to calm him down by telling him we were safe here, though I did not know why we were. This mere waterfall had protected us from a creature of unspeakable evil and colossal height. But why?
“You don’t need to ask questions yet,” said a sweet sounding voice that echoed through the cavern walls. It seemed like singing. Steer was still huddled over in fear, obviously too shaken to pull himself together.
“Did you hear that voice?” I asked. When it spoke he didn’t seem like he took notice of it at all.
I got my answer not from Steer, but from the voice itself.
“You need rest. Badly. You look terrible. Go to sleep and I will reveal all things to you in the morning.”
“But I don’t want…” I started, but the voice cut me off.
“It’s not what you want or don’t want. It’s all about what you need. That’s all anything is about, in the end. And right now, you need sleep.”
The voice seemed male, but at the same time kind, smooth, and reassuring. I wasn’t even afraid.
“Steer did you hear that?” I said. He replied, saying something I couldn’t make out much of through his muffled sounds. “Voices, oh……………no one here…..we’ll be alright though won’t……tentacle tasted dreadful.”
He began asking me if I was alright when I heard the voice again.
“Only you can hear me. Now sleep.”
Instantly, I felt a weight of drowsiness pressing upon me. I fell to my knees. It would be impossible to stay awake. But could this be a trick?
“No trick,” said the voice.
As I faded out of consciousness, I saw a blurry white figure of what seemed like a skinny man standing in front of me. He seemed to be shining bright. He was the last thing I saw before I fell asleep, and the last thing I heard was Steer.
“Alpha! Alpha! He is the one.”