Welcome back to another offering up of Left of Midnight! Hope you’re enjoying the book so far! Herein you will find micro-chapters 1.23-1.24. They’re longer than previous offerings so I just included them together. Okay, I won’t waste anymore time talking. Get your read on now and enjoy LOM MC 1.23-1.24!
CONSCIOUSNESS GRIPPED HIM like a mad macaque shaking and screaming and clawing at his shoulders. Shōtō’s heart raced and he gasped, slinging himself forward into a sitting position so fast he was nearly to his feet before remembering where he was. He let himself fall back to his knees, reality swimming in surreal circles around his head and a sudden faintness gripped his head. Shōtō brought his hands to his temple and leaned back onto his buttocks grumbling in low tones to himself about how he wasn’t quite ready to be awake.
Tittering cries of wildlife (birds or elsewise, Shōtō wasn’t sure) surrounded him on all sides as his eyes came into focus in as slow a manner as he’d ever experienced in his life. His eyesight grew from a murky swill of watery blur into the ever increasing clarity of perception. Then his brain awoke and the dim dreams that had haunted his night scattered ever further and he saw that he was at a lake’s edge, looking down the shoreline some half dozen feet where the nearly still surface lapped stealthily at the wet sands rolling at a slight incline towards Shōtō.
Gods, that’s right. I’m still here… He sighed catching his breath and trying to stifle the nausea working its way through his gut and up his throat. The was a choking sensation up high and he tried swallowing. The spit stuck halfway down and he sensed a gag threatening to strangle him. Then, Shōtō’s stomach lurched and he leaned over to vomit all over the ground. He couldn’t stop even when he was doing little more than dry heaving and spitting up specs of bile. After a while, he leaned staring at the sullied sands, his hands before him bracing his body in a near prostrate posture demanding he postulate his current predicament.
“I’ve got nothing…” Shōtō mumbled and worked his way to his feet and stumbled towards the lake edge, walked out into the water a short distance, and fell back onto his knees to splash water into his face.
His chest was still bare, his body was sticky with sweat, and his pants clung to his legs despite his practically sitting waist deep in the lake. He was roasting. Even the cool water couldn’t seem to make his temperature go down. He stared up at the sky. It was clear blue, though still tinged with deep blues over the edges of the forest across the lake. The sun wasn’t quite into view just yet indicating it was still early morning. Shōtō brought another handful of water to his face and meticulously massage his temple with it. The clear liquid poured down his face, streamed off his chin, and still he worked feverishly to cool his temples. It helped a little. He supposed.
Ugh. I can’t be getting sick. Not now. Shōtō closed his eyes and leaned back onto his haunches desperately wishing away the fever growing ever brighter behind his brow. Okasan doesn’t even have my medicine yet…
His eyes came open and he stared at the treeline across from him. Of course, his mother wouldn’t be coming with his medicine. For a split second, he remembered his childhood when kept home from school with the worst illness in his young life. His fever had felt like a flow of lava. His eyes seemed to want to burn out of his skull and it hurt to open them. Just a hint of light caused bright bursts of light to flare into reality behind his eyelids. He hadn’t wanted to eat a thing, though his mother kept forcing him to consume as much as he could of a broth she loved to make.
‘Shōtōchan, you must eat! It’ll make the bad spirits leave you…’ She had told him then, spooning the admittedly tasty concoction into his dry lips. Still, it was like imbibing boiling hot water steeped in spices.
Shōtō sighed and stood up unsteadily. He would have to force himself to keep moving. Though to where he had no idea. Water fell down and into his pants and it felt as if he were wearing a tightly packed rubber boat around his hips for a moment. Then the water was draining back into the lake and the steady dribbling of streams of liquid cascading down his overly saturated pants was the loudest thing he could hear. Even so, birds were cackling haughtily all around the forest interior. He even spotted a few brightly colored specimens flying from one perch to another.
“Nobody asked you,” he said and walked out of the water and back onto the shoreline.
He approached his knapsack where it still lay in the dirty sand near his morning upchuck and picked the sack up. Fortunately, it wasn’t as wet as it’d been the night before. Yet, he was still determined to see it completely dried out. He let a quick ‘ha’ leave his lips as he gripped it tightly.
“Dry! Right! On an island such as this, dry is a thing!” He laughed harder and then brought his right hand up to his forehead. “Ow… Okay. Limit that.”
He looked around once more, his head pounding, and decided he was going to have to figure out something to eat. His stomach growled and rippled. Several of those brightly colored birds flitted from branch to branch and he wondered.
“It’s spring, isn’t it? If they have eggs…” he nodded at the thought.
He didn’t like having to depend on wildlife for his own survival. But he knew there were few other options available. There might be forms of seaweed or kelp, or even types of reeds here and there that he could use as his vegetable portion of meal time. Yet nothing quite hit the spot like some protein rich fauna. Shōtō went up the shoreline looking for a stone or something equally large and capable of drawing heat from the sun. He wanted to lay his satchel on top of it so that when the sun was high in the sky it could dry out the damp sack. Then, he’d look into what sort of offerings were to be found around the ringed island.
I guess a few days here wouldn’t hurt. It’s not like I’m in a hurry to get anywhere. He considered and saw an outcropping of stone rising up out of the lake on the opposite side from where he stood. There seemed to be a collection of them. Perhaps individuals. Perhaps part of the same steep mass flowing out ten feet into the watery depths. Either way, it would make a good sunning area and possibly a temporary campsite. Wish I still had the parachute. Shame it got tattered so bad. If only I hadn’t lost the damn sewing kit…
AVERY WATCHED THE pilot throughout the next couple of days. At first, the man only wandered around stealing bird eggs and catching fish barehanded. Something he watched very closely and with quite the bit of respect. He’d never seen anyone fishing with their hands before. Of course, given the lack of supplies, he supposed one had to work with what they had. And the Jap pilot was extraordinarily good at it. He’d even managed to build fires with little more than some stones and wooden sticks.
Who the fuck is this guy? He’d heard some of the other enlisted men talking about their times camping with a father here or an uncle there. And occasionally they discussed things like starting a fire with twigs and flints (he thought that’s what they’d called a certain type of stone), but he’d never had the opportunity to engage in the practice. Now, he was studying the aspect very closely without being discovered himself in the process. He’d tried it a few times since watching the Japanese pilot perform the act. But had yet to successfully pull it off. Much to his utter chagrin.
Now he sat watching the man just sitting under an alcove he’d taken to inhabiting to the rear of the inner island ring. It was a stony outcropping rising out of the water with a section hanging over dry land like a short, three-foot roof. Within that tiny alcove, the pilot had continued to build his fires, and cook his fish, eat his eggs, and suck on long reeds for whatever reason. He constantly was rubbing his head and seemed to be sweating more and more profusely.
He looks sick… Avery furrowed his brows and chewed on some meat he’d stripped off a lizard. Oh, he’d killed it first, but he wasn’t able to thoroughly cook the damn thing. All he could do was try and roast the flesh the best that he could on some hot and exposed stones under the sun high in the sky and hope for the best while chasing away small predators looking to take his offerings for themselves. Fortunately, none of the creatures within the ringed forest were as frightful as he’d expected. He thought there would be some sort of feline or canine predators. Instead, he’d discovered only turkey sized rodent like beasts with fanged beaks, feathered limbs that ended with clawed toes, and long prehensile tails that curled in anticipation every time he started laying out lizard meat. They scattered easily when he lunged after them. Their calls were more than a little unnerved though. Almost laughing shrieks that echoed out into the chasm with a reverberating return that sunk deep into the soul. Alarming if one had never seen one of the things before.
Avery leaned back against a tree where he sat within some dense foliage. A copse of brush, ferns, and tiny trees. From here, the Jap was maybe two hundred feet away. He could see him clearly enough but not see his eyes. However, he didn’t think that a necessity. The man was once more pulling his knees to his chest and staring deep into the firepit at the center of his little alcove.
I’m going to have to move on him soon, Avery thought. There isn’t much more to learn from here, I don’t suppose. I don’t know what he prays to, but he does it frequently.
Avery jolted forward and stared intently at the pilot across the way. A bead of sweat swam down his brow and over his cheek. He didn’t even notice as his intense focus was on the fellow rocking slowly back and forth on his buttocks.
Who are you praying to, bastard? What are you praying to? That should’ve been the question all along, shouldn’t it have? Oh, yes, Janus. Oh, yes. It should’ve been. He’s plotting something. Maybe he isn’t here for me. Or maybe he is and I’m part of the plot… Maybe there is something more to learn.
He furrowed his brows and thought on this for a moment longer. And then his mind twisted over the journey he’d already made across the island. His first stop upon leaving the cave filled with its monstrous voices (voices I’ll wager Mr. Jap is controlling!) had been the carved out mountain he’d crashed into. He wasn’t entirely certain if the pilot had escaped or not. But he found the cross channel over the top of the mountain summit and had climbed steadily up the steep side of the formation until he’d found himself in a narrow gully. It was perpendicular to the valley cleaved down the center of the mountain and towards the mesa surrounding it all. This gully was practically the very tip of the mountain as he traveled between the raised stone walls on both sides of him rising up a dozen feet. There had only been the strip of sky above him to really appreciate as he followed the gully rising up steadily and at a narrow increment until he was staring down into that great forested valley. The other side of the mountain didn’t seem to have a gully there, just the rising stone that came to a sharp point a few dozen feet above the very top of the valley. Both sides were connected at brief interludes by arches of stone reaching over like skinny fingers trying to stitch its wound back together. The arches were mostly just rounded stone tubes rising up and over the valley. But a few had tops flat enough to walk over if one were so inclined.
He was not so inclined.
What struck him as irritating, though, was that there had been no crashed Zero. No remains of a Japanese pilot to be found anywhere along the narrow little cavity not even eight feet wide in any given direction.
How the fuck did he navigate this!? Avery had wondered as he marched back to the edge of the mountain gully. Once back to where he’d climbed up, he sat down and dangled his legs off the mountain side. From there, he’d had an expansive look over the breadth of the island (of course, he hadn’t been able to see the great chasm he currently resided in then; just a misty haze far off in the distance where the place thrived). He’d pulled out a small book while there that was full of generally blank white paper. That was save for the pages he’d already filled up with drawings and details. Details of the island interior and where he’d already explored. It was a journal of sorts and right then he took out a pencil that was in his knapsack and started drawing out the view, making notes here and there where he’d expected the Jap pilot to have crashed.
What if he didn’t crash? What if he managed to escape the island?
Then he’s out to sea!
What if he’s not? What if he crashed?
Didn’t you just say he escaped!?
I’m just asking questions…
Stop asking questions! I’ve gotta think!
Avery worked feverishly drawing every little detail. He’d yet been to such a vantage and if it was true that the pilot had managed to crash land and survive, then it was up to him to find the bastard and put him down for good. Not even the voices talking and competing for dominance with his own mind were going to stop that from happening. Some even welcomed his endeavors. Others (especially Janus!) were concerned that his path was a little less than honorable.
He ignored those particular thoughts.
After he’d finished, he’d climbed down and made the determination to figure out what that hazy mist was far in the distance. It’d been as good of a destination as any and the worst thing he could do was sit still and do nothing of consequence. So, he’d managed to make his way back down the mountain, taking a few hours to do so, and started out across the island depths.
Who are you praying to? Who!?
Avery leaned back forward and furrowed his brows. The Jap was moving and seemed to be readjusting himself into a different position. At first. The pilot looked anxious as he stood up and walked up and over onto the top of the stone pile he seemed to be calling home for the moment.
That light in the sky… Avery felt his eyes bulge and his face flush. That’s it, isn’t it!? You’re talking to them! You’re summoning them! Oh, you cunning bastard! Aren’t you the clever little Jap! Aren’t you!? But you’re not fooling me! Oh no you’re not, you bastard!
He watched as the pilot paced a circle for a moment and then slowly took a seat, pulling his legs underneath of himself until he was sitting on his calves. The pilot raised his hands before him, elbows to the sides of his ribcage and Avery knew then deep within himself.
This is it! That Jap bastard is calling them now!
He rose to his feet stealthily, his eyes trained on the pilot across the way. He could make it before the creatures of the shadows from the depths of the stars above came down to destroy all that they knew and loved. But, then again, he figured, wasn’t that what the Japanese armada was all about?
And there we go! So ends this post of the next offerings of Section One of Left Of Midnight! Come back next week for more and thanks for reading!
~Timothy S Purvis