My boots are soaked with snow, and my body heat crashes against the cool evening air. Stars begin to blink against the deep blue sky, as I trudge what I can only assume is north. I begin, between heavy breaths against the cold, to sing. Initially a song that had been stuck in my head, then random songs as they pop in my brain. I sing a lot, which usually surprises people. They get it into their heads that I’m, like, a brooding seventeen-year-old with lots of dramatic thoughts or that I think I’m too cool for that. But I like how it breaks the silence.
Finally, the trees become few and far between, and what I can only imagine is a field spread out before me, soft snow stretching out in front of me. I hesitate at the edge of the wood, feeling safer with the cover, but then my eyes catch a glimpse of something brown in the distance. I continue, slower, with my sword at the ready.
The brown in the distance is the crest of a building closer up, a small hut of sorts, but built rather odd. The posts holding the decrepit thing up are slanted in all different directions, a mess of something somehow creating a home. It is unlike any building I’ve ever seen. But the weirdest thing about it is the lack of a door. Rather, a shoveled path of grass under the snow winds around to the back of the building, presumably leading to an entrance there.
I don’t want to find out. This shambling hut looks quaint, but I watch horror movies. I turn from the weird place, only to see another about ten feet in front of me. I quietly move past this one then stop abruptly as my foot collides with something hard. Whispering an expletive, I look down to discover I had stumbled on the beginning of some sort of road made of paved rocks. With more huts popping up, I can assume that I’m in the middle of some village, and I move slowly into the more populated center.
More populated by houses, I mean. There are no people—or weird bear things—in sight, which makes the whole thing just ten times creepier. I mouth some words to a pop tune to keep my heartbeat in check, but all I can think is that people must have built this village. But they’re not here now. Leaving two options, but I don’t see any corpses. Which means that they left. Probably for a reason.
My mind realizes how bad this could be only when I finally reach a different structure amidst the strange huts. It looks more well-built than the others, and it looks newer too. And larger. At least two huts wide, the structure is flanked by tall, rickety towers, presumably for keeping watch for the first door facing the street I’ve seen. A town hall? A church? A demonic temple?
“Only one way to find out, I suppose,” I say, so soft yet jarring in the stark landscape. I tread lightly on the steps leading to the building, wincing as the wood groans under my feet. I hold a breath subconsciously and put a hand lightly on the door. I give the lightest push, and it swings inward. The building somehow manages to be darker than the twilight outside, but as I step in, I see nothing. There’s just one large, empty room with two others hanging off the right side, the room on the far left completely caved in by the snow. I tip-toe toward the other room, suddenly hyper-aware of my surroundings. I reach for the door, but before I touch it, I glance at the rubble to my left.
Eyes. I see eyes. In that millisecond in which I inhale sharply, big blue eyes narrow at me. It’s another one of those bear creatures. This one with snow white fur, blending in with the snow-covered rubble. Patches of fur are missing, scars cut jagged all over this thing, and it’s huge, bigger than the other, haunches rippling and teeth bearing.
Before I even exhale, I’m running, crashing wood bursting out behind me as the thing bounds at my heels. I’m out of the building, which is now destroyed, wood flying everywhere, and snarls force me to keep running, to not look back, to ignore the sword in my hands.
I’m nearly at the end of the paved road, running faster than I thought I could, when my brain begins to work again. I can’t outrun this thing. I certainly can’t hide from it. A step before the paved road ends, I plant my feet abruptly, right in front of left, and whip my sword baseball bat-style at the thing’s face. It screeches, an attack the last thing it expected, and then roars, fangs an inch from my face.
So, I stick my sword down its throat.
The movement felt so natural it was unnatural, as I yanked my sword back as fast as I had shoved it in. Purple blood splatters everywhere, and the creature screams and recoils. But, it isn’t dead. No, now it’s just angry. It lunges, and I fall backward to the ground. But it doesn’t bite me.
From my new perspective, I see an arrow sticking out of the beast’s center. It died in midair.
It falls right on top of me. The stenches of blood and grime and death cover the thing—and now me—and I heave the thing off of me and lay flat on my back.
I hear footsteps approach the dead thing, and I still don’t move as the owner of the footsteps tear the arrow from the thing’s chest. I study the sky, letting the cold seep back into my body as the realization of what just happened seeps back into me too. The footsteps stop on my left side.
A gruff voice. A man. He’s wearing a long brown coat. That’s what I notice first, and it’s so ridiculous. I start to laugh, and a puzzled look slowly flows across his weathered face. I prop myself up on my elbows and continue to laugh.
“What?” The question takes a few seconds to come out, as he carefully plans what to say.
I raise my eyebrows. “It’s that coat. It’s ridiculous.”
He looks slightly hurt. Now I feel bad.
“Okay, not ridiculous.” I say softer, not thinking he’d be the kind of person to take a stranger’s word to heart. “Just a little overkill, that’s all.”
He takes a few minutes to process my words, and the silence is filled only with my petering chuckles. Eventually, he offers his hand to help me up.
But I push myself up on my own, discovering the scratches and cuts on my hands and knees and inspecting the closed wound on my back. He waits for me to say something, as I study his appearance.
A man in his upper twenties, this guy has seen some shit. It’s not hard to tell, scars covering his body. He wears light clothing under the ridiculous coat, despite looking perfectly fine in the frigid cold. He has a crossbow on his back—explaining the life-saving arrow—a sword quite like mine at his hip and a grappling hook at his belt. His coat is all flappy, looking so stereotypically adventurous that made me want to ask where his weather-worn fedora is.
He looks back at me, gently letting me take in him and everything that has happened.
Finally, my brain finds my mouth again. “Well, that was weird.”
He chuckles. A soft, airy laugh. Sounds out of gas, like he hasn’t had much to laugh about. Ever.
He sighs, looking back and forth between me and the creature, muttering under his breath “Where to begin?”
“You’re F, aren’t you?” I cut him off.
He looks up, surprised.
“Yeah.” He says, much softer than anything he’s said in the past few minutes. He smiles. It feels like that doesn’t happen a lot. “Yeah, the name’s Finn. Finn Doyle.”
He holds out a gloved hand. I glance at it, slightly amused. He looks at me with a strange expression; I can’t define it. Hope? I take his outstretched hand. I’m a little concerned that I trust this guy already. I know I shouldn’t, since I legit just met him, but I can’t really explain it.
“Elizabeth Shelley. So, where the hell are we?”
He drops my hand and, walking over to the beast, rubs his neck.
“Hm.” Finn says. “Yes, well, that is the question, isn’t it?”
I open my mouth. Then close it. The heat from my short battle is leaving my body, and I grow colder by the second. Wrapping the end of my sleeves around my hands, I give him a puzzled expression.
He returns the expression to me.
“You…don’t know where we are.” More of a statement than a question, I smack my sword end on the cold ground in frustration.
“Well, not specifically.” Finn says apologetically. “I mean, I know we’re near Dendria, but it does look a little like Fideon in their springtime…”
“What the hell were any of those words?” I’m so tired. I’m hungry. I’m frustrated.
“Oh! Oh, yes, um.” He pauses, giving me a wary look. “You know, maybe we’d better head inside one of the huts and…”
“No, how about you tell me what is going on?”
He gives me a look. The nerve of him, giving me a look. If anyone has the right to give a look in this situation, it’s me.
“You really have a habit of interrupting, don’t you?” Finn says impatiently.
“Yes, I do.” I raise my eyebrows. He does the same.
Then, he huffs. “Alright, well if you let me get the words out, I’ll explain. Although, in my defense, they were supposed to explain, not me.” He spits out the word they.
“This,” Finn gives a small hand gesture indicating our surroundings. “is a realm, as we call them. A realm meaning a dimension. As in of the other world kind.”
I open my mouth, but he gives me that look again. I close it but keep my very puzzled expression.
“I know, it sounds insane.” He begins to pace around, seemingly examining the terrain. “But like, this world is another entirely. Hominia,” he gestures at me, “is our dimension. This…is…a separate one.”
He looks at me with a hopeful expression. I raise my eyebrows.
“This is a point when I want you to talk, yes.” He rolls his eyes. I smile, deciding to humor him.
“Alright, I get it. So like, parallel universes are real. Like Donnie Darko.”
Finn sighs, relieved. “Yes. But, not exactly parallel universes. Well, there are a lot, actually, an innumerable amount. But there’s this thing called the Planescape. Basically all of the dimensions that are tied together, close enough that we can jump between them. Think of it as…as a bookshelf. All of the books—realms—are lined up horizontally, with their own histories and futures and stories. But, see, there are holes. In the books.”
I make a small whimpering sound at the image of books with holes in them. How dare this man hurt my imaginary books in this horrible way!
Now Finn’s right in front of me, gesturing with his hands and growing with excitement. “But the holes connect one book to another. Only two books are connected by one hole, and they’re scattered all over the books. Those are Doors, portals between the worlds. We went through a Door between this world—wherever it is—and Hominia .”
He catches a breath, indicating I’m allowed to speak.
I sigh. “That’s all?”
“’That’s all?!?’” Finn repeats incredulously.
“Well, come on.” I snort. “You can’t just throw me into a forest with some weird…things and call it another dimension.”
I walk past him, patting him on the shoulder as I go. I can’t help myself; I like him. “And I love this dimension story, I really do, but I’m going to need a lot more proo…”
Halfway through the word ‘proof,’ Finn grabs my arm at the same instant I look up to see a tall woman walk out of literally nowhere. At about halfway down the graveled path and to the right of the large hut, she legit steps into existence. My eyes go wide, and my mind is still racing as my exhausted body decides that’s all it can take today, and I pass out.
To Be Finished in The Beginning Part 3
Featured Image found at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cold-snow-nature-forest-5313/