Tag Archives: escape

Ain-Mai – Fantastic Travelogue #13

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, and gave Sing-ga and I a drink to subdue it, but it had the opposite effect on me. We got out and I rescued Ain-Mai by fighting off dragons by punching and kicking them. We escaped into the air vents where the potion wore off, leaving me in terrible pain. Eventually we collapsed and slept.

13 Ain-Mai

I woke up, thinking that my wife was calling me, but instead I saw Ain-Mai bending over me, her long hair forming a curtain around my head. I tried to struggle up and almost screamed at the blinding pain that erupted from all over my body. I had never been in such total pain in all my life. I fell back, gasping and trying not to cry.

Ain-Mai took my hand and caressed it, murmuring soothing words like a mother over a child. It worked, at least enough to calm my mind. It was frustrating to have to lie there, when only hours before, I had been doing feats of superhuman strength and endurance. There is a price to pay for everything, it seems.

The light was greater than before and the tunnel was brightly lit. I noticed Sing-ga wasn’t there.

“Sing-ga?” I asked.

She pointed back down the tunnel and said slowly, “Govre hilisru swai Sing-ga.” I recognized the word swai as “water” from hearing them talk before and I nodded. He had gone to get water, I assumed.

We sat there in silence for a while. The floor near the open end of the tunnel was covered with a dusting of fine, brown powder and I pulled myself onto my side enough to write in it with my finger. “Do you have a mother?”

“I have a mother and father,” she wrote in Chinese characters. “I have two siblings, Hi-Run and Sing-ga.” She read each character as she wrote it so I knew the pronunciation of the names.

“Are you married?” I wrote after a moment. She shook her head and gave me a radiant smile that made my chest hurt a little, it was so beautiful.

“Do you have a mother and father?” she wrote after a moment. I told her about my mother and father and my sisters and as much about my life as I could back in Korea and when I was young. But I did not tell her I was married. It’s not that I was planning on cheating on my wife; the thought had not even entered my mind, but I remembered the smile she had given me and perhaps I thought she would act differently towards me if she knew I was married. I’m ashamed to say it now, but that’s what happened.

My throat was dry and screaming in pain for even the least amount of moisture. I had been holding out, hoping Sing-ga would be back at some point soon, but finally I mentioned it to Ain-Mai. She nodded and put a hand on my forehead for a moment, then stood up and said something. Then she was gone, down the tunnel, leaving me alone, in pain and dire thirst.

I must have dozed because the next thing I remember was warm, but blessedly refreshing water trickling into my mouth. I opened my eyes and saw Ain-Mai leaning over me. She had removed her outer shirt and had soaked it full of water. She squeezed it slowly into my mouth. Normally this idea would have seemed rather disgusting, but I gloried in the water and thanked her over and over again.

Next, she took off my boots and washed my right foot that had been scraped and torn by the dragon’s teeth. The right boot was barely there at all; pretty much all that was left was the upper part, still laced together, and a few scraps of leather. Ain-Mai torn thin strips from the bottom of her long skirt and wrapped them around my wounds. She had the gentle touch of a born nurse and I reveled in the comfort that her ministrations brought. She moved next to my hands, which were a brutal mess of dried blood and bruises. I couldn’t have made a fist with either hand if my life had depended on it. She washed them gently and wrapped them with more strips of cloth from her skirt. I stopped murmuring thank you and just closed my eyes and let her work. Later, I felt her washing my face, her delicate hands running gently over my skin. I remained still, hoping she didn’t notice my heart beating faster.

I woke up suddenly. The light outside was fading into black night and through the steel crossbars, I could see bright, blood-red stars hanging in the evening sky. I moved my hands and found them totally bandaged with strips of cloth. A deep scratch on my arm that I don’t even remember getting was also bandaged.

night window

There was movement beside me in the dark and I realized that Ain-Mai was lying curled up next to me, her back against my side. I looked around for Sing-ga but there was no sign of him. I forced myself into a sitting position, ignoring the protests of pain from my body. I heard Ain-Mai wake up suddenly as well.

“Sing-ga?” I asked her. “Sing-ga? Where?”

Ain-Mai jumped up with a start. “Sing-ga,” she said—the worry evident in her voice—and started down the tunnel. I sat up, trying not to groan, and listened. The world had gone quiet; even the wind seemed to be holding its breath.

The next sound I heard was a distant scream that stabbed at my heart like a needle. I tried to stand, but fell down with a fresh burst of agony. Still, I struggled down the tunnel until I reached the intersection. In the cold light that filtered down into the tunnel system from behind me, I saw Ain-Mai appear, trying to support Sing-ga, who staggered and fell with almost every step. He was covered in blood and my heart seemed to freeze when I saw how much blood he was leaving behind on the stone floor of the tunnel. I took his other side and the three of us struggled back up to the opening.

(to be continued…)

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Like Rats in the Air Vents – Fantastic Travelogue #12

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages. I rescued her, fighting off dragons as I did. We got away, but they tore my right foot up a bit.

Rats in Air Vent

I have never been on drugs, so I don’t know what it’s like to come down from a high, but after my experience in that cavernous, dragon-infested fortress, I think I have some idea.

Ain-Mai, Sing-ga and I were moving as fast as we could down the corridor we had come from, away from the room with the cages. I was in the lead and was at first thinking of going straight back to the round transporter room—just powering through everything and risking everything to get back right away. Then the pain started. This was troubling, since I hadn’t felt any pain since they had forced that potion down my throat, even when I was punching dragons in the face.

It started as a dull ache in my foot and hands and just kept growing. I looked back and realized I was leaving bloody footprints from my right foot where the dragon had ripped off my boot. After that, it only took a few minutes for the pain to grow to the point where I could barely walk. Sing-ga was still lethargic from the potion they had given him, and Ain-Mai was shaken up from being in the cage and being attacked by dragons, so none of us were in great shape.

The pain was starting to overwhelm my senses. I felt Ain-Mai take me by the arm and lead me to the side, into darkness. We were walking through a small, fetid passage, barely big enough to stand up in. The floor was rough and bolts of pain shot up through my injured foot with every step. After a while, we were in total darkness and felt our way forward with our hands outstretched. The air was moist and warm and smelled like mold.

I don’t how long we went like that, but it was probably about an hour. Before long, I was crawling on hands and knees. We passed shafts cut in the walls with water pouring down through them and even drank a little. The water was hot and tasted metallic, but it quenched our thirst. Ain-Mai was leading us now. I don’t know where she thought she was going, but we followed her instinctively, going further and further into the dark labyrinth.

We seemed to be in a system of air vents. They criss-crossed at intervals and strong, warm wind blew in from some. We heard snatches of sound from cross-tunnels: rumbles and roars as of huge machinery, and screams and yells of monstrous beasts, or something worse. The sounds rose and then faded and died away, like the turning of a radio dial.

At last, when I thought I could go no further, we saw light ahead: warm, tan daylight. It was coming from a cross-tunnel and a strong, dry wind blew out of it. We pushed against the wind until we came to the end of the tunnel and looked outside.

Rats in Air Vent

The opening was barred with a cross of metal, but we still could have squeezed outside if we had wanted to. We were very high up—at least 5000 feet, I would guess, and I looked out over a wide, desolate landscape. Far below were the remains of towns and cities, dry riverbeds still crossed by bridges, and roads bordering dead fields. Everything I saw was brown and withered.

As I watched, a dragon floated into view far beneath me. I craned my neck to see where it was going and saw that we were in some sort of monstrous tower, with walls that fell away almost straight down. The outside surface was covered with plates that stuck up, just like the cage room. Here I could see dragons hanging off them and I realized that was what they were for. The dragons used them to hang on and rest, like birds perching on a branch.

Sing-ga was already lying down on the passage floor. I mimed sleep to Ain-Mai and she nodded. She lay down in front of Sing-ga and motioned for me to lie down in front of her. I lay down on the hard floor and felt her warmth behind me. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I felt her hand on my shoulder. With that simple act of human contact, I realized how much I had missed it. Ain-Mai’s hand on my shoulder filled my mind with peace and helped to soothe some of the throbbing pain that wracked my body. Still, when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of my wife standing far away, across an abyss that I could not hope to cross.

(to be continued…)


Cage Jumping and Dragon Punching – Fantastic Travelogue #11

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages.

Cage Jumping Dragon Punching

I leaped, straight out over two hundred feet of empty space and landed on the top of the nearest cage. It was a crazy thing to do, but luckily my confidence in that accelerated state was equally matched by my ability. The cage started to swing as it reached its apex, I leapt again, bounding from cage to cage, towards the cage where Ain-Mai was trapped.

As I was jumping from cage to cage, I began to notice details about the room and cages. The ones I had landed on were empty and the bottoms were open on all of them, as if the bottom had split into four parts and fallen open. There was a wide lever on top of the cage that I could see was connected to the cage floor. The floor of the room far below was stained and splashed with red and tiny white bones were scattered wantonly around. It didn’t take long to put all these implications together.

This was the dragons’ feeding ground. People were kept in the cages until a dragon pushed the cage’s lever and the prey fell and died on the hard floor, far below. Then the dragon went down and ate them.

They’re like vending machines, I thought with horrified fascination. I am still glad that I never saw one in operation.

empty cage

I was getting closer to Ain-Mai’s cage. It had stopped descending about ten feet above my current level, just five cages away from her. I couldn’t tell if I had been spotted or not, but I couldn’t turn back now.

Ain-Mai saw me just before I leapt onto her cage. The look of hope and amazement on her face was clear. I jumped and landed on the side of the cage, my fingers clinging to the bars. I tugged at them, but even as strong as I felt, I couldn’t tear steel bars away.

“Hold on!” I said, miming for her to hold onto the bars with her hands and feet. When I saw that she had, I climbed up to the top and stomped on the iron lever. The floor of the cage collapsed and Ain-Mai gave a little scream.

I was still just working off adrenaline and drug-induced bravado, which was probably good, since otherwise I would never have had the nerve to do what I did next. I climbed down the side of the cage until I was hanging from the very bottom. Then I reached inside, through the pieces of the collapsed floor, and grabbed onto the bars on the inside. I swung down and started climbing up the inside of the cage, next to where Ain-Mai was clinging on for her life. She was crying and holding onto the bars with a death-grip. It took me a lot of coaxing to get her to take her hands off the bars and scramble onto my back. Then she was on and death-gripping me around the neck instead.

She was pretty light, thankfully, but going back was much slower. There was a very tricky moment at the bottom of the cage. I was hanging on by one hand on the inside and reached out to grab the outside of the cage. However, with Ain-Mai on my back, we couldn’t fit through the triangular pieces of the floor that were now hanging straight down. I yanked and jerked us back and forth, scraping her back and my front pretty badly against the metal floor plates. Finally, what I had to do was relax and let myself hang down as far as I could go, all our weight on four of my fingers. Then, finally, we slipped through and I could start to climb up the outside again.

I had been too busy to notice before, but we had definitely been spotted now. People were shouting above us and I could feel the cage start to rise. I leapt off, just making it to the side of the next cage. My hands didn’t hurt, but I could see that they were pretty badly scraped and both were bleeding.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, here came the dragons. I guess they didn’t like me running off with their food. The first few just flew nearby, but then one came straight it us and I kicked it in the snout. I couldn’t jump as far now with Ain-Mai on my back so I had to get the cages swinging and wait until they were close to each other to jump across. It was slow going.

They were a bit like this, except with no ridge on the back and their legs were shorter. Source.

They were a bit like this, except with no ridge on the back and their legs were shorter. Source.

On the fifth cage, two came at me at once. I punched the one under its jaw and tried to kick the other one, but it bit into my hiking boot and ripped most of it off, tearing into the sides of my foot with its teeth. This was how things went for another five minutes or so. I fought them off as best I could and slowly, cage by cage, moved back towards the wall. I was mostly worried about Ain-Mai, that one of the monsters would come up from behind and snatch her off my back. I kept whirling from side to side, keeping them all in sight.

I looked ahead to the wall and saw that Sing-ga was climbing up the plates on the wall. Idiot, I thought. There was no way he could do anything except get himself killed. He was moving painfully slowly. The dragons were still intent on me, but if they saw him, it would be like a drunk geriatric fighting a tiger.

I made a leap to the last cage, only to see a dragon rushing at me from below with jaws open wide. I manage to twist in the air to avoid getting my legs bitten off, but then I was falling. I reached out blindly and grabbed the dragon’s body as it went by.

There wasn’t anything else I could do, but this was danger of an insane level. The dragon responded by snapping its body violently like a whip, trying to shake us off. Ain-Mai was gripping my neck so hard it was cutting off my air. I reached around the dragon as far as I could reach and started squeezing it with all my strength. I heard a few bones crack and the dragon gave a roar. It slammed us against the nearest cage and then headed to the wall to scrape us off there.

It turned towards the wall, and there was Sing-ga, clinging to the wall and swaying like a drunk. The dragon seemed to forget about us for a second and went straight for Sing-ga, jaws open. Just as he got there, Sing-ga stuck out his hand and I saw for the first time that he had a piece of broken spear in his hand.

When had he picked that up? I marveled at the presence of mind he had to pick a weapon on our way out of the room. His hand was shaking as he held it but the dragon did not have time to turn away. The spear went straight into the dragon’s mouth and out through the back of its skull. I managed to leap from its back and grab the wall plates as it crashed down.

I learned something about dragons that day: they are cannibals. As soon as the dragon we had been clinging to plummeted to the floor below, the rest of the dragons sped straight down, fighting each other to get at the body first. Apparently dragon meat tastes delicious.

Ain-Mai slid off my back and onto the plates on the wall, but she was shaking so hard I had to keep an eye on her, as well as Sing-ga. Somehow we all got back down to the corridor. I was bleeding from my foot, my hands and several other places and the other two were exhausted and Sing-ga was still not doing well. My dizzying self-confidence was starting to dim a little, but there was nothing to do but go back down the corridor. So that’s what we did.

(to be continued…)

 


I am . . . a Superhero – Fantastic Travelogue #10

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me.

I am a Superhero

Sing-ga was acting like he was drugged. He was moving slowly and unsteadily and seemed to be having trouble staying awake. I was having the opposite sort of experience. Whatever they had forced us to drink had made me faster, stronger, and smarter than I had ever been before. It was the same liquid, so obviously, the stuff had a very different effect on my physiology than on the others. I honestly think that while I was in that state, I could have learned a language in a day. At least that’s how I felt.

I tried to explain to Sing-ga how I wanted to escape, but he was not in any state to communicate. Not that my plan was all that complicated: punch the guards and run out, try to find Ain-Mai, then get back to the circular room and . . . I honestly don’t remember now if I had an ending to that plan. I had a lot of confidence though.

The guards came back ten minutes later and I could tell immediately they were furious that we hadn’t changed. The lead one started yelling at us and lowered her spear at me. I grabbed it by the shaft and pulled it out of her hand. Then I cracked it in half. I can tell you, there is no greater feeling of satisfaction than snapping a two-inch-thick spear in half like it’s a candy cane.

It was on then. Forget getting me to change clothes—they were trying to kill me now. I ducked under a spear, punched the lead guard in the chest, probably breaking a few ribs. The other guards backed off a bit and then I was suddenly surrounded by guards, maybe fifteen of them. However, I could tell that some of them were illusions. They all moved the same way, like puppets on the same string. That must have been what had happened in the forest when I tried to escape.

Honestly, I don’t exactly remember much about what happened next, except that it felt really good. It was a confusion of ducking spears, punching, and kicking whenever I saw an opening. The next thing I remember clearly was the guards lying around, unconscious, injured and bloody. There was also a man on the ground whom I had apparently punched in my excitement. Oops.

None of the other men had really reacted, although they were all watching by now. I felt like uttering a William Wallace yell and leading this rag tag army to freedom, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So I grabbed Sing-ga and pulled him out the door, taking one last look at the defeated guards lying on the ground as I left. Man, I wish I had my camera!

I didn’t know where Ain-Mai was, but I went in the direction I had seen them take her. Sing-ga seemed to have recovered a little and was trying to keep up with me, although it was hard. I was probably sprinting. The corridor we were in was mostly deserted. I say mostly because every now and then, we would come across one of those funny little four-legged creatures about a foot tall that moved really slowly. We flew by them and they didn’t seem to pay us any attention.

The corridor ended before too long, opening into a monstrously big room and even as hyped up as I was, I stopped short in amazement. I couldn’t tell how big the room was—perhaps half a mile square and a few hundred feet high. It was filled with thousands of cages suspended by chains from the ceiling. A lot of the cages were empty, but I saw figures in some of them. At the same time, there were cages being raised and lowered from holes in the ceiling.

I didn’t know what to do. The corridor ended here and I couldn’t see Ain-Mai anywhere. Sing-ga was gasping and reeling behind me as if he had just run a marathon.

empty cage

A cage began to descend from the ceiling, about two hundred feet away from us, and inside I saw Ain-Mai. She was crouched in the corner of the cage and a few strands of her long, black hair came out through the bars and floated in the open air.

I didn’t think hard on the situation; I just acted. The closest cage to me was about fifteen feet away horizontally, but also about twenty feet up. The walls were covered with overlapping plates that stuck out and gave a lot of good hand and footholds. I bounded up this, and then, when I was a little bit above the closest cage, I leaped.


The Universe of Five

This story was inspired by the picture for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. I was originally going to use this story idea, but it proved to way too long, so I wrote it up properly here. I feel like I should continue it, but I don’t want to dilute the original story theme. Read it and let me know what you think.

cogs

She counted to five, because there were only five things in the tiny cave that was her whole world.

  1. The Bed, where she slept.
  2. The Hatch, where her food and water appeared while she slept.
  3. The Hole in the floor where the smelly stuff went that came out of her body.
  4. The Wheel. The Wheel was her life. She turned it in long, slow revolutions, around and around and around.
  5. The Light that was built into the ceiling and illuminated her world in a sickly yellow glow. When it came on, she got up and ate and began to turn the Wheel. When it went off, she went to sleep.

It was not a life without thought, but it was a life of small thoughts. She was not sure how she had ever learned how to turn the Wheel, or why she turned it when the Light came on. That was just life. She did not worry about how her food got there; the process was invisible and did not warrant thinking about. All that was real was in her small cave.

She counted obsessively. “1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch, 3: the Hole, 4: the Wheel, 5: the Light. 1: the Bed, 2: the Hatch . . .” She did not count with words—she knew no words—but only saw the images in her mind as she went through the list. She did not count her food. It was there, but then she would eat it and it would disappear and become part of herself and so ceased to be truly real. She did not even count herself. She could see her body, but it disappeared out of sight around her chest and shoulders. Her head was invisible to her and anything that was invisible was not truly real. So she moved like a ghost through her world of five real things.

Time was binary: there was dark and then there was light. The dark was the empty place, when things ceased to be real. Then the light came again and the world was recreated. Every time the Light came on, she would get up, count the world, and then eat. Then she would squat over the hole, and then begin to turn the Wheel. She had no memory of past events, because all events were the same.

universe of 5

Until the dark time when the Light did not come on.

She became aware of lying on the Bed in a world of nothing. This happened sometimes, but then the Light would come on. So she lay there and waited. The next thing she noticed was an uncomfortable feeling in her body. She needed to eat, and to squat.

She wondered if the food was there. That was impossible, since the Light wasn’t on. A thought occurred to her. Was the Hole there? It was a strange thought and at first she dismissed it. The Light wasn’t on, how could it be? But maybe it was like the Bed. The Bed winked out of existence with everything else when the light went out, but it still cradled her formless body as she slept. It had a sort of dark form. Could the Hole have that too?

After a few heartbeats, she crawled forward and felt the floor beyond the Bed. She kept moving and her probing hand felt the floor disappear in a small circle, just like the Hole. By now, the urgency in her body was frantic and despite the absurdity of the situation, she positioned her invisible body over the non-existent Hole and squatted.

When she was finished, she wondered if the Wheel was there. Did everything have a dark form? She moved forward and found the Wheel. She could even turn it. The idea of turning an invisible wheel seemed ludicrous to her and she laughed.

It seemed obvious now, but it had never occurred to her before. Everything must have a dark form. But already her mind came up with an objection. How could the Light have a dark form? It was a contradiction. That, at least, must be impossible.

She made her way to the Hatch and found that it was there, but with no food or water. That made sense, since the food came with the light, but she could not understand why her body wanted it so much. Noises came out of her middle. There was an indentation inside the Hatch where the food always appeared. She felt around with her hands, but nothing was there.

While probing with her hands, she found a small opening further up. She put her arm through it and continued to probe. She felt a dark form she had never known before—smooth and hard with small bumps. There was a bigger bump and when she pushed on it, part of the Hatch fell away and she tumbled forward, through the hatch and out of her known world.

It was still totally dark, which was almost comforting. It meant it was still like a dream. Perhaps it was a dream. She started walking, hands out in front, seemingly floating through an abyss of emptiness. Walls came up against her touch, but she floating around them, letting them effortlessly guide her progress.

She walked in a sort of reverie and it was a shock when she realized there was light up ahead. It was not the Light, but a different light. This was grey and faint, unlike the dull, yellow Light that she knew. It kept getting stronger until she saw that she was in a cave that was very long. All along the sides were things that looked like the Hatch. She could not count them, but there were more than five.

Ahead of her was a kind of floor that went up. It was the shape of the Hole, but much bigger. The light was coming from it, far, far above. The pain in her middle drove her on and she walked, up and up in a circle, going towards the light.

She came to the top, where there was something like a large hatch and something like a very small wheel on it. It turned like the wheel and then the large hatch opened. Light poured in.

It was a cave without walls, huge beyond imagining and filled with light and far, far too many things to count. The size, the colors, the numbers all overwhelmed her. She wanted to run back and hide, but she stood as if frozen, trying to take in this whole new world at once.

*         *         *

Captain Nuris piloted the jump-craft just above the blasted landscape, surveying the site of their victory. Not much was left; the enemy capital had been fire-bombed into oblivion. Smoldering wrecks and piles of rubble showed where the once powerful city had stood.

“No signs of life yet, Captain,” his navigator said. “Wait. There’s someone over there. It’s a woman, I think, but naked and filthy. Just look at that tangle of hair! How do you think she survived?”

Nuris stopped the jump-craft and looked over at the figure, standing frozen in front of a door. Behind her, a massive building lay in shattered ruins. “Must be one of the Cogs that powered the machinery,” he said. “This was a manufacturing plant here, I think.”

“I thought they were supposed to be non-intelligent?”

“Well, this one had enough sense to escape.”

“What should we do: pick her up or leave her?” the navigator asked.

“It’s been three days since the bombing—she’s got to be hungry. If she’ll come with us, we’ll take her.” He turned the jump-craft and started towards her.


Ghoulish Dilemma – Friday Fictioneers

Another story for the Friday Fictioneers writing group. I had several ideas for this picture, but ultimately went with this one. I have another one that is a bit longer I might post later, which is also based on this picture.

Ghoulish Dilemma

Ghoulish dilemma

Bruce looked up from the note, to the high stair where a scrap of cloth hung. He started forward, but then hesitated.

What if the shirt was an illusion too?


The Great, Terrible Stone Circle – Fantastic Travelogue #8

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here. From now on, I’m going to include a short synopsis at the beginning for those who haven’t read the previous episodes and don’t have the time. Skip it if you know the story.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I met a young woman sweeping a stone circle. She was friendly but then she and some other women locked me in a room; for my safety, I found out later. That night I heard weird sounds and noises coming from the woods. I escaped into the forest and saw a creepy woman standing on the stone circle. She mesmerized me and I went over to her. She couldn’t speak my language, but brought me to a building with a golden dome and showed me a map of the area, which wasn’t Korea. That scared me and I managed to get away. I met up with the young woman I had first met and through Chinese characters, we were able to communicate. Her name was Ain-Mai and her brother was Sing-ga. The creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. She came there to eat a certain fruit called gaan-shi and also kidnapped all the men she found, which was why they hid when she came. The brother and sister tried to help me escape but Hengfel’s guards overtook us in the woods and captured us.

Great Terrible Stone Circle

The woman known as Hengfel walked towards me, smiling in triumph. She ignored Ain-Mai and Sing-ga and came right up to me. She said something to me, very slowly and deliberately, enunciating every word. Of course, I didn’t understand any of it, but I replied, very slowly, “You’re a hideous old crone, who walks like an arthritic baboon.” It was childish and it wasn’t true, but I also knew she couldn’t understand me. I was about to keep going when she slapped me and walked away. I guess my tone was clear enough.

They sat us down together at the edge of the clearing, surrounded by four guards. The other two—Ain-Mai and Sing-ga—looked dull and defeated, but I wasn’t going to give up yet. If I could get away into the woods—even with restraints on my hands—I could still make it up the valley by nightfall. I hadn’t really looked at the guards closely before. The night before, it had been dark and when they grabbed us, I didn’t really have time, but now that I looked at them, I saw they were different from the other women I had seen. They were definitely female, but muscular and very serious. They weren’t paying attention to me; just staring straight ahead.

I inched my way backwards, and then in a moment of breathless apprehension, stood up slowly. Still, they didn’t notice me. I looked down to see Ain-Mai looking up at me, a tragic expression on her face. I motioned with my head for them to come with me, but she just looked back at the ground.

Well, I was going. I took two steps before my foot cracked a dead twig on the ground. Then I was off, running for all I was worth, not looking back. As long as I could lose them in the woods, I could make my way back up to the ridge.

I had gone about 200 feet when a guard appeared among the trees just ahead of me.

You got to be kidding me! She has guards out this far? I thought.

I changed direction , but another one appeared in front of me there as well, pointing her spear at me. I tried another direction, but the same thing happened. I stopped and the guard stepped back into the trees. A moment later, I felt a spear point in my back. It was the same guard and with an impassive expression, she led me back to the clearing. Sure enough, there were only three guards there now. But how could they be so fast? Unless it was just an illusion. We got back to the tree where the other two were and the guard suddenly hit the back of my legs with her spear, knocking me flat on my back.

I wasn’t ready to give up, but the hopelessness of the situation began to dawn on me. Two of the four guards remained facing us with their spears leveled. So instead, I watched the activity in the clearing. Women from the fortress village were bringing baskets of the yellow gaan-shi fruit and putting them next to the stone circle. Hengfel wasn’t in sight, but she appeared as the sun was setting.

The guards got us on our feet and moved us closer. I started to get a feeling of apprehension deep in my stomach and all I could think of was what Ain-Mai had said about them taking men and them not coming back. I was getting frantic to get back home. I thought of my wife back in Jeonju, not even knowing that there was a problem yet. My plan had been to go for six days and although I usually called every day, she would just assume I was out of range or that my battery had died. I had left my phone back with my backpack and I wondered if she had called.

Strange Meeting

Hengfel stepped onto the stone circle. The clearing had darkened and I could barely see her, until a glow started to form around her. It grew stronger until it lit up the whole clearing and cast strong shadows. A pillar of white light formed around her and she held her hand straight up. I saw that she was holding a medallion, with a complicated, snaky pattern on it. Ball lightning formed on the medallion and shot out into the forest. A sound like a scream began to build to an ear-splitting pitch. My hands were bound in the front and I put my fingers in my ears. I saw that the women from the town were doing the same. The guards and Hengfel herself seemed unaffected.

The scream built into a high, shuddering roar. The light seemed to thicken, however that’s possible, until it enveloped Hengfel. Then she was just gone, just like that.

The guards nudged us forward.

As I looked at the column of pure light and felt the sound reverberate inside my body, I felt like I was approaching a guillotine. Sing-ga finally found his spirit. He sprinted to one side, but it was far too late for that. A spear shaft caught him on the side of the head and he crashed to the ground. One of the guards stooped and picked him up with one arm and motioned for us to follow. Watching a woman carry a stunned man in one arm like a rag-doll gave me a very strange feeling inside. I looked over at Ain-Mai and saw that she looked terrified.

A spear jabbed me in the back, going through my fleece and breaking the skin. I lurched forward, staying just in front of the spear until I climbed slowly onto the stone platform. Light surrounded us, taking us into itself, until the rest of the world disappeared.


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