Hello, my friends! Here we are yet again for another installment of the rough draft to Left of Midnight. Sometime this year, this book will be finished and be ready to be published on my personal page over on Amazon Kindle. Wonder where that is? Well, just click on my name and follow to get updates on my latest publications by clicking on my name right here–> Timothy S Purvis. At the moment, I don’t know when Left of Midnight will be released. I have some editing to do (obviously!) but the story is, for the most part, exactly what you find here. And so I appreciate your reading and I hope you’re enjoying the story! I do enjoy giving you this opportunity to read the book as it’s being put together.
Let’s not dawdle any further, though, shall we? Let’s get right into our next part and by all means come back next week for the next few micro-chapters of the book. If you’ve been following along, you’ll note that I don’t have normal chapters per se. I have three sections to the novel with each section divided up into micro-chapters. This week, the micro-chapters are a little longer. Yet, it’s making some headway into the tale itself.
Now, enjoy the next selection of Left of Midnight!
PREFECT NINDEMUS MARCHED down the hallway. He didn’t allow anger to cloud his mind. The council reacted just as he expected. Of course, they were only interested in knowing whether or not the two humans were intentionally trying to invade Farediin. Their concerns completely addressed, they settled back into their complacency.
Incompetent fools. Allowing those humans to walk around the city untethered… It’s as if none of them have ever faced a true threat to their sovereignty. Nindemus grumbled and paused near a sequence of five windows overlooking a deep cut gully reaching down into the depths of the ocean flowing around this section of the island. That gully led down to a trench that flowed off towards the Pacific and was of no further interest. Here, though, it was a deep cut into the mountain side that played host to the council chambers themselves. An offshoot that hung over the ocean bed of sediment gliding downwards from the isle proper and into the deeper sea. The gash was a dark wound from this vantage. The rest of the view was at eye level. The edge of the continental shelf drifting over into the continental slope all while the great gash raced off towards a myriad of submarine canyons some distance to the north. No, its depth here was—calming.
His two aides stopped behind him and waited. It was no good to disturb the prefect when he was working through his thoughts. It only led to anger, a guttural addressing to the offending adjutant’s state of mental awareness, and a likely prolonged stint on the far side of the moon. Therefore, nobody interrupted Prefect Nindemus when he was ruminating so. At least, not anymore.
The one called Shōtō… he’s a curious one. Nothing to be done about the American, unfortunately. But the Asian, I believe he could be useful. Nindemus smiled and nodded to himself. I can sense his growing distrust of those around him. His isolated soul. Oh yes, they both were drawn here. He brought them here. Had to have. Why else would I have sensed it? The promise is there! I can feel it! The promise made to me on Dri’non those years ago! Finally! The time is coming! The purification!
Nindemus turned towards his subordinates. “Bring me the human calling himself Shōtō. Let him settle in, of course. But, when he is alone and ready, and I think you’ll know it, arrange a meeting. There is much we can do to assist one another in discovering our true missions on this world.”
The two adjutants looked to one another puzzled. Then both stared at him. “Uhm, sir, why do you want the human in your presence? Isn’t he just some parasitic filth as you said?”
“It isn’t for you to question, adjutant. Just make it happen. Alert me when you’ve arranged it all.”
Nindemus didn’t even bother waiting for the two to salute and give a predictable, “Yes, sir!” He turned away from them and marched down the hallway making his destination Shoenden. There was much he had to plan for. If the purification was on the horizon, he needed to be as ready as possible.
THE CITY WAS massive. In all his life, Avery had never seen another wonder like it. Sure, he’d been to other cities before. Toronto once when his mother had a phase where she was trying to get her former husband to return home. That hadn’t gone well. Then there was Vancouver, Juno, and Anchorage. He’d had no chance to see any of the Hawaiian cities despite joining the Navy. Even so, what he had seen in his short life had been impressive. All were good sized cities with broad reaches of life he could only have dreamed about coming off the neutral territories along the southern border of Canada and the Outlands. He’d been mostly raised in small villages before moving to Alaska after his mother married Captain Jolly.
And none of what he’d seen anywhere had prepared him for any of what he saw deep beneath the earth of an ancient and extinct volcano far to the south in the Pacific Ocean. It was beyond his comprehension.
Avery leaned his hands against a guardrail causing the three of them to stop. Shōtō came up beside him after giving off an impatient huff.
“What are you doing? The councilor is taking us to our quarters.”
“Just look at it… How would you even describe such a place?”
“The apex of hubris.”
Avery glanced at Shōtō. The Japanese pilot wore a scowl across his face and his arms were crossed over his chest as he stared out into the depths of the pit where the city proper sat. Avery frowned and clasped his hands together to let himself rest more fully on his forearms as he leaned forward and stared down at Farediin. He heard Er’ra Zel chuckle and her silky robe give a slight ruffle as she too came to the railing and rested her hands on the surface.
“I think you’re being too harsh on us, Mr. Ryūgawa,” Avery could almost hear the smile in her words as she spoke. “Farediin has had millennia to grow and to expand. This isn’t even the main city. This is the suburb of Urudii. One of the older settlements. When the council chambers were first built, we had only this side of the island to work with.”
A shudder went up Avery’s spine. The suburb’s title was familiar to him in some way but he couldn’t quite place it as he stared out at the place. Tall golden spires, trimmed in silver with flushed windows showing no framework, rose up out of the ground and up towards a ceiling of stone. There had to have been dozens of the tall buildings. All different sizes and lengths, but all eliciting the mind to think of fat, round tipped darning needles stood on end. The tops of the buildings didn’t quite touch the ceiling of rough-hewn stone, but they came close in several instances. Their bases, on the other hand, vanished from sight far below. The only ground he could see from his perspective were the walkways set in square patterns intermingling at their corners in various intersections and levels. He couldn’t quite tell how they were attached to the buildings (or even if they were at all), but some encircled the building framework, while others became flat plateaus with small trees and bushes at irregular intervals. Like parks that simply hung in midair over misty clouds of foggy voids where the buildings sunk through.
Whatever light source kept the city so well lit, he couldn’t tell. However, he could see another one of those glass light ceilings far to his right that gave a view of the sky beyond. Ocean water lapped at part of the surface while the rest was free to see the clear afternoon. He imagined it was the kind of view one would see if the beach was completely glass and you were buried beneath the sand looking outward. Both unsettling and awesome in its scope.
“I thought Shoenden was the oldest city here?” Shōtō inquired and glared at Er’ra Zel. Avery pursed his lips. He only wanted to admire the view, not start a verbal war. “If this is the oldest settlement, then when was Shoenden founded?”
Er’ra Zel turned to Shōtō and offered up a bright smile. “You are most correct. Shoenden is the oldest city here. By about two hundred years. However, it is considerably deeper than Farediin. Its breadth is at the heart of Odjemir, the volcano we inhabit, some eight thousand two hundred and twelve feet below. It never grew larger than five thousand one hundred eight feet and remained stable at roughly ten levels. It was, in its inception, a military installation. Civilians rarely went there as it was so far isolated beneath the earth that no one could remain there longer than a few months without going insane. Save for a few, of course. And, at the time, the only means to the surface was via an ancient lift that went to the interior of the hollowed-out interior of the volcano itself. If I remember correctly, that lift is still there. I think. Not used anymore, of course. But impossible to access as there is an opera house built around it.
“Anyhow, Farediin was built to relieve the stress of such a solitary life. This is the first settlement in that endeavor. And a source of pride for the inhabitants. I’m sure you noticed the view of the ocean? Many from the main city itself come here to take in the sights. In fact, if you want, I can give you a tour of the area at some point. There’s an open gallery that lets out onto the beach above where the air is simply sublime.”
“Curiosity,” Avery said standing fully erect. “Why would you people build a military installation on an island in the middle of the ocean nearly two miles beneath the surface of the Earth underneath a dead volcano?”
Er’ra Zel pushed away from the railing and folded her hands before her. “It’s a secret. Besides, I don’t believe you’d be willing to hand over state secrets involving your installations, now would you?” Avery opened his mouth to respond but she raised a hand. “Mr. Wilkes, it is just a matter of little consequence. In fact, that you’ve already seen so much is troubling to me. However, there isn’t anything I can do about that.”
“You can just call me Avery,” he smiled.
Er’ra Zel returned the smile and gave a subtle nod. “Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Ryūgawa is correct. I have many responsibilities and I need to show you to your quarters. I am glad, though, that you find our city fascinating. I hope to be able to show you around more in a day or two.”
“A day or two?” Shōtō queried and dropped his arms to his sides. “How long are you keeping us here?”
“Are you in a hurry to go somewhere else? Last I saw, you two were living out of a cave near Lake Nia’ra.”
“You were watching us?” Avery cocked his head. “We never saw anyone save for ourselves. You could have helped out, you know? Gotten us home.”
“It isn’t our business to interfere in human affairs. And, yes, of course we were keeping track of you two. It’s not everyday that a war comes to our doorstep,” Er’ra Zel spoke pleasantly but Avery noted a note of bitterness in her tone. She raised her right hand and upended her palm to indicate that they should follow her. “Now, gentlemen, I’d like to escort you to your housing. I’m a little pressed for time today, sorry to say.”
“Hey, no, it’s cool. We appreciate it,” Avery said with a grin.
Er’ra Zel turned and they followed her away from the overlook and down a long corridor. The construction of the interior was of a similar look to the buildings in Urudii. A golden bronze colorization with certain sections in a turquoise and azure. Trimmings tended to be silver or copper. The floors had a metal sheen that looked almost marble and colored in an off-white slightly blue steel. Avery could see their reflections staring up at them as they walked. Footsteps echoed back at them constantly and the denizens they happened to pass were of the myriad of species he’d seen on the council and then some.
What is this place? Avery found himself staring at a bald-headed woman with pale grey flesh and an elegant silky white robe as she walked by them. Her feet were adorned with what seemed to be some sort of sandal causing very little sound to emanate forth as she walked. Her large oval black eyes didn’t even bother to give him a second glance as she passed.
Avery twisted back around trying not to trip over his own feet in the process. They had walked for what felt like miles down several corridors, down half a dozen short stairwells with open ceilings giving a view of the fancy overhangs far above, saw several areas where hanging gardens were apparently a thing, and across a rather spacious atrium with a bubbled roof adorned with fancy arches. Here, the gold bronze colorization, prevalent throughout much of the city he’d already seen, shifted to an almost opal white with adornments of sapphire and jade.
“A little ostentatious…” Avery muttered taking the scenery all in.
Er’ra Zel turned her head. “What was that?”
“Just… I’ve never seen anything like this place. You said Shoenden was nearly two miles wide? Just how big is Farediin then?”
“The city takes up the majority of the northern island. With a wide swath under the seafloor. I’d say maybe all together an average area of five miles give or take a dozen feet here and there,” she looked forward once more guiding them down another long corridor that ran deeper into the complex network of structures. “As far as depth goes, there’s at least three dozen levels at various junctures. Not including individual building floors, of course.”
“Of course,” Avery swallowed hard.
He said nothing more as the group proceeded down the hallway and across several more intersections before eventually winding up in a massive corridor with an arched ceiling brightly lit by a source Avery couldn’t see. It was like the lights just existed. On the other side of the hall across from where they left the corridor, were a series of ornate doors. Er’ra Zel waved a hand in front of a panel next to one of the doors and it slid open to reveal a lift similar to elevators Avery had seen at a few hotels he’d stayed at from time to time. Only this one looked large enough to hold two elephants standing comfortably side by side.
Shōtō glanced up at Avery. “Not afraid of enclosed spaces, are you?”
Avery quirked a brow. “Are you kidding? It’s like an apartment in there.”
“For you maybe. I could furnish it and have room left over for all my extended friends and family.”
Avery snorted a chuckle.
Er’ra Zel entered the lift and tilted her head. “We’re almost there, gentlemen. Only a little bit farther, I promise.”
They entered and the doors closed. She pressed the panel interior and Avery noted a projection of some sort in the air just beyond the wall that her fingers were dancing through. Then, the lift moved upwards with a light hum. The movement was subtle, almost imperceptible. After a few more minutes, the door swished back open and Er’ra Zel guided them into another intersection of halls and continued down the one straight ahead of them until they reached an area that looked much more like an apartment complex. Though, the décor was more elegant and the walls looked metal instead of some cheap plaster and wood he was accustomed to. There were also the arched ceilings. All of it presented in that same bronze gold from the early areas of the city they’d been escorted through that was somehow both vividly bright and serenely dull.
“And here we are,” Er’ra Zel stopped before one of the doors about halfway down the corridor. Avery saw that the hall ran down a dozen feet or so before bending left and out of sight. “We took the liberty of setting you two up with one of the twin apartments. You’ll each have your own small domicile but there is a connecting throughway in the commons room.”
“Yeah, sure, why not,” Avery nodded. “We’ve been cooped up in a small little cave for a while. Sure this won’t kill us.”
Er’ra Zel smiled and pressed the panel beside the doorway presenting yet another of those strange displays in the air that was both there and not, and relatively transparent. There were symbols that he didn’t understand that she pressed through and then waved her hand across an image of a fat line with two dots at its end. The door opened up and she motioned for them to enter. Avery led the way with Shōtō close behind. Er’ra Zel waited a moment longer, then followed them inside.
Avery paused a few feet within. The room was roughly rectangular. Where he stood, the floor was just a few steps higher than the rest of the room running across and towards a massive floor length window reaching from the left wall to the far right. Two steps led from this top floor to bottom. The bottom floor was well furnished with a long couch and three comfy looking chairs. They looked like stone, though. Strange etchings were in their sides and backs. The color looked like some sort of metallic leather with the edges a dark copper. The seat cushions had blue silky upholstery.
Beyond the seating arrangement, the walls were lined with shelving that looked built into the surfaces. Yet, they weren’t quite wooden, and not quite metal. Avery mused that it looked like what he’d imagine how a dwarf’s workshop would be designed were he the richest, most lavish dwarf this side of a Viking overlord. And all of the shelves were filled with various nick knacks, books, unusual objects that he’d have to examine closer to discover what they were, and statuettes of animals, people (creatures of mythological proportions, really), and one really proud looking tree on one square shelf right in the middle of the wall to the left.
Whereas the far right wall contained an entry point to another room towards the window in the corner, the left side harbored that throughway on the top floor near the doorway. It led straight into another room that Avery could tell was the mirror image of this one. Replete with the sort of amenities to keep a person occupied all of his years, and then some. The ceiling was almost domed with four curved sections that came to a semi-point in the center. The floor was carpeted with a series of maroon rugs that held intricate designs of a nature he couldn’t even begin to describe while to the left and right of the main entrance were consoles wedged into the wall that rose to the waist and ran from the far right wall and all the way through the throughway.
“Just what exactly is your definition of ‘small’?” Shōtō asked, his mouth just as agape as Avery’s as he took in the sight for himself.
“Yeah, I haven’t even seen the bedroom yet…”
Er’ra Zel chuckled coming inside and around them to step down the two steps to the bottom floor. “For the rest of your time here, these will be your accommodations. Through the far door there, you will find the resting chambers with the bathing facility attached beyond.”
Avery frowned and sniffed his left shoulder. Though Nindemus had been kind enough to clothe them in whatever strange garments hung off of their body (he still wasn’t keen on the weird red robe slung over his shoulders), he knew that a good long bath probably wouldn’t hurt. God, I must stink to her. No wonder she’s keeping a good distance between us and herself. Er’ra Zel stifled a broader smile.
“The other side is just the same as this apartment,” she continued. “Regrettably, there’s only the one entrance in and out of the apartment. The facility was designed with the needs of a pair of families in mind. Both resting chambers can be furnished to comfortably host upwards to eight individuals per apartment.”
“That’s great,” Shōtō grumbled, his eyes fixated on hers. “But what are we supposed to be doing here? Why did you bring us to this place? We were doing just fine on our own.”
“Jesus, Shōtō. Relax a little. We get this lap of luxury thrown in our faces and you immediately go into combat mode. I thought I was the asshole here?”
“Who says you’re still not? We’ve been pulled against our will into this subterranean pit of opulence where we even understand these hidden oni and we’re just supposed to be okay with this? What are we supposed to do, Averysan!? Wander around this dark gold lined abode until we drop dead of boredom?”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” Er’ra Zel stepped forward and raised her hands for calm. Her face displayed a calm rationality that Avery appreciated. He tore his gaze away from Shōtō to fix it on Er’ra Zel and prayed for a reprieve for the heat brewing in his head. “You’ve both been through trying times. It’s time for a rest. I know this has been thrust upon you suddenly. I know that there is a great uncertainty as to where we go from here. Trust me, I know it. And I don’t have anything more comforting to offer than to say the council is evaluating the how’s and the why’s. For now, let the tension go. Take a bath, in fact. The water here is the freshest you’ll ever find. And the minerals that naturally occur within it will sooth your soul in ways you could never imagine.”
“What are you trying to say? That we stink?” Avery grinned and Er’ra Zel quirked a brow, her own lips twitching upwards in response.
“I would never be so impolite, Mr. Wilkes. However, let’s say for posterity that you and Mr. Ryūgawa are… a little ripe.”
Avery leaned his head back and gave a hearty laugh. Shōtō scoffed and braced his hands on his hips. Er’ra Zel folded her hands before her and blink twice before continuing.
“Anyhow, once you’ve found a little release from the time you’ve spent just surviving, feel free to utilize the interface on the wall.”
“The what?” Avery scrunched his brows as Er’ra Zel walked up and past him and pressed her hand on an embossed panel (it looked made of marble and was a bluish white square) and one of those same projections hit the air.
“See this icon right here that immediately jumps forward when you wave your hand like this?” Avery nodded as she looked to the both of them. Shōtō only stared at the symbol which looked like a stylized skull of some kind of creature. “This is a directory. Watch.”
She twisted her hand over until it was palm up and then flicked her index finger through the icon. A display of six more symbols came into existence all in a list form top to bottom. Each one had a sequence of dots streaming from left to right until they stopped at what Avery could only assume was a word. Though the text shown was of a language he could only begin to guess at. Perhaps akin to Egyptian cuneiform or other equally archaic language.
“Current building, district mapping, city mapping, shopping, entertainment, and emergency connections,” she said going down the list without really touching the icons. “Each is easy enough to access and when you remove your hand…” she did the such and the images in the inches of air before the panel vanished. “The interface resets. Now,” she placed her hand back and continued on with her tutorial.
Avery was fascinated by the whole thing but Shōtō looked as if he wasn’t interested in the least. He frowned and went back to listening intently to Er’ra Zel. He had to admit, he was more interested in her than he was the lessons in interface interactions. She went through the displays of the building which showed floors, access points, emergency shelters, and various amenities provided without having to leave the complex if one so desired. She went through the city maps showing the various locales of Farediin and Shoenden should they fancy the urge to go exploring, and noted the interface obelisks throughout the cities that operated as ‘you are here’ junctures should they get lost in the process.
When she got to the shopping icons, he stopped her. “Okay. What’s this all about shopping? What do you mean that it will be delivered to us if we don’t want to leave the building? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Er’ra Zel looked at him with a wry expression. “They don’t have grocers where you come from, Mr. Wilkes?”
“Don’t be silly. Of course, we do,” Avery quirked a brow. “Just none of the grocers deliver to the house. At least, beyond the milkman anyway.”
“Well, here we do. The selection menu under shopping will bring up all the vendors in the city you wish to patronize. Once you’ve determined which articles you’re interested in, the delivery will be made via the transportation ducts scattered throughout the city. Come,” she wagged a finger in his face and walked down the connecting hall between his and Shōtō’s apartments. About halfway down, she stopped. Avery followed her and noted she was indicating a section of the wall. She pressed her hand against the surface and a panel slid aside. It was so flushed with the surface of the wall he’d mistaken it for just a tile. Yet, it was a large enough to accommodate a fairly good sized TV, if they had those that was. She waved a hand at the interior which looked little more than a storage cavity behind the wall. The left end of it stopped just a few feet inward while the right side ran off into the dark distance. “It’s a conveyer system. Most anything you could want would be delivered via cart.”
Avery nodded with his lips slightly downturned in a knowing way as he returned to her a ‘mmm-hmm’ and then crossed his arms. “And what if I want to order some furniture? They deliver that too or are we stuck with the basics?”
Er’ra Zel drew up her brows and crossed her own arms as she stood eye to eye with him. Avery noted the only way she was taller than him was by a horn’s length. Not that he minded or anything. It was nice not having to look downwards for once.
“And just how long were you planning on staying, Mr. Wilkes? Thought you wanted to get home?”
“The way I understand it, we’re not being given much choice here until you guys determine what the hell to do with us,” Avery tried not to let the grin grow on his face but was struggling immensely even so.
“I’m sure it will only be a matter of weeks. However, we can have that conversation later,” she reached a hand out and mocked brushing dust off of his arms. “Now, if you’re finished, wouldn’t you like me to finish your tour?”
“Darling, you can give me a guided tour anywhere you’d like.”
He let his smile broaden then and she clenched her eyes and shook her head, the smile on her own face gentle and compassionate. “You’re not really as charming as you seem to think you are, Mr. Wilkes.”
She walked past him and he followed chuckling. “Give it a minute. I’ll grow on you.”
“I hope not. That would mean I’d need to go to the disinfecting stations to have a fungal growth removed.”
“Damn. Ouch,” they returned to the panel and Avery frowned. Shōtō was no longer there. He gave a brief glance around the room and saw the man standing at the window looking out on the cityscape. “Hey, man, you want the rest of the information or what?”
Shōtō shook his head without looking back, his arms crossed over his own chest. “I’ll let you handle those details. It’s all over my head anyhow.”
Avery sighed and turned to Er’ra Zel who was watching Shōtō with a mixed expression of concern and scorn. “Alright, looks like I’m dealing with all of this. However, there is one serious concern I do have. A question, really. Does any of this have an English setting? If I’m going to be ordering food and whatnots over the home shopping network, I’m going to need to be able to understand what the blasted thing is telling me. Right now, it’s just… gibberish.”
Er’ra Zel turned her focus on him and shook her head. “I’m sorry. there is only the one language setting. Ancient Ante’an. There are just too many different languages present for the system to be able to replicate. Besides… uhm…”
“Everyone can understand everyone else already. I’m getting that,” Avery said and scratched the left side of his mouth with his right hand as he stared down at the floor not really looking at anything. “Which brings up a pretty interesting subject. How is it we can all understand one another? Shōtō’s Japanese. I’m American. You probably don’t speak English naturally. And I’m going to go out on a line and suggest nobody else in this city is from here originally either.”
Er’ra Zel bit her lower lip as she stood silent for a moment. Then, “Yeah. There’s a reason why the council isn’t in a hurry for you to leave our ranks just yet. And Nindemus is never going to hear the end of it for bringing the two of you inside the city.”
“I bet,” Avery looked back at Shōtō and then to her again. “Just what the hell is going on is this place, Er’ra Zel? What is this place? I’ve been very understanding so far, but, there’s just too many damned questions popping up.”
“Goddamnit… Can’t you just call me Avery? It’s easier than all this mister this and that shit.”
Er’ra Zel glanced to the floor briefly, “Okay. Avery… I… I don’t want to get into it right now. Besides… I think you’re needed more than me right now. And I’m already running late for another appointment.”
They both glanced over at Shōtō who now had his right hand placed on the window before him running his palm down the surface. “Maybe you’re right.”
Er’ra Zel turned to the panel and brought up a map of the city. Avery watched her zoom in on a park located at the edge of the map and towards a series of what looked to be caverns on a lakeside.
“At seven o’clock tonight, I want you to meet me here at D’lintra Park…”
“Drill lentra park… got it. Uhm, how do I know what time it is when?”
“We run off the standard military time systems much of the world utilizes,” she pointed to the corner of the map. “You can see it is currently eleven oh nine in the morning. So, when it’s nineteen hundred, just be somewhere in the park. I’ll find you. If there’s any questions about time if you choose to be out and about, trust me, you’ll know. There are information obelisks at fairly regular intervals. We can talk more about everything then. Right now, I really have to go. I’m sorry. I should’ve been at my meeting ten minutes ago.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to hold you up.”
“It’s not your fault. Honestly, they should’ve realized it was going to be a little problematic when I was assigned to seeing to you and Mr. Ryūgawa’s needs.”
“I take it this meeting was arranged before that scoundrel Nindemus decided to make us his prisoners.”
Er’ra Zel let a light laugh fall from her lips. “You take it correctly. Now, do you think you can work the map system even without understanding the symbols in the short term?”
Avery nodded. “Yeah. I think I can manage. Seven o’clock. D’lintra Park.”
Er’ra Zel sighed in relief and triggered the door. As it slid open and she stepped through, Avery cleared his throat. “Thanks for everything, Er’ra Zel. I really appreciate it.”
She looked over her shoulder. “You’re most welcome… Avery. Good luck and I’ll see you tonight.”
With that, she was gone. Avery smiled and nodded his head.
I won’t call it a date, I won’t call it a date. But, damn, those eyes, though. He turned towards Shōtō and saw that he was still standing there, palm on window and gaze out to the beyond. He walked down the short series of steps and headed over to the man to lean against the window beside him. Shōtō dropped his hand and stared at Avery apprehensively.
“Careful! You don’t want to break the window… You’ll fall to your death.”
“Don’t worry. I doubt they built these things,” with his left hand he made a knuckle with his forefingers and rapped the glass in a stern enough manner to assure himself that the window wouldn’t break, “to be weak. Damn, look at that view.”
The two of them stared out over the breadth of the inner city. It was much like the Urudii suburb, but here the buildings weren’t of various sizes as they all rose up and through the stone ceiling above the complex. An archway of the bronze gold construction flowed over their window and across towards Shōtō’s side of the apartments. The rest of the building was above that elegant arch, Avery figured, blocking off only some of the view of the rising towers of metal. The city center itself went on further than the eye could see and was lit under that unseen lighting source somewhere in the ether. The city shone like golden columns (both round and angled) full of windows and balconies and surrounded by those squarish walkways joining one another far down and into the depths beyond sight.
He paused for a moment when he saw three circular parkways just hovering out in the middle of nowhere seemingly attached to nothing.
I’m never going to get used to this place. How can so much of everything just be suspended out in the air? He noted a subtle fog far below the cityscape. Almost an ocean of dim clouds wafting away underneath all of its civilization.
Avery looked over at Shōtō and saw the man staring into the abyss below. There was a look on his face that Avery had never seen before. It was full of fear but also rage. It was the look of a man who had just stared into eternity and didn’t like what he saw.
“Are you alright, man?”
Shōtō said nothing for a long time. Only kept his stare out the window at the brightly lit interior of an eternal city. Avery swallowed and allowed him to think and just looked at the cityscape as well. Thousands of the buildings were aligned like supporting balusters of a myriad of designs and presentations. A bronze and gold sea of elegant splendor holding up a roof of rough black stone. The undercarriage of the volcano and the island he supposed.
“It isn’t right here,” Shōtō said and looked to Avery then. “None of it is right. What kind of place is this? I noticed that Er’ra Zel isn’t interested in sharing that information right now.”
“She’s just concerned for your well being.”
“Listen to you, Averysan. You act like you know her, but we’ve only just met. She’s one of them. Likely an enemy. I can feel the hate welling up from the surface below.”
“I wonder if there even is a surface…”
“Of course, there is!” Shōtō pushed off the window and paced in tight little circles. “We’re prisoners! Prisoners to whatever it is they’re holding down there! And that woman… I know you like her hips, and her butt, and her breasts, and maybe even her face—”
“Hey, buddy, I like all of her just fine. Starting with how nice she’s been to us, okay? She’s the one who rescued us from Nindemus. She might have, y’know, horns, but so what? That doesn’t make her one of your… what do you call ‘em? Uni?”
“Oni. Uni is sea urchin. But maybe that might be just the same! You’re thinking with the wrong head!”
Avery gave a harsh laugh. “Please, I’m thinking with just the right head, thank you very much. I’m not seeing the same thing you’re seeing. Why are you so angry? You’ve been on edge ever since we arrived. Well, I mean, we were taken prisoner by aliens, apparently, but look around you! This could be our new home! Didn’t you keep saying you didn’t want to return to your homeland? That Nippon is under the command of tyrants now? That’s what you told me. And here we are in this truly amazing underground city, and you are flipping out like Satan himself has just returned and is after your soul.”
“Maybe he has,” Shōtō stopped and turned on Avery. Avery pushed away from the window himself and clenched his hands at his sides before bracing them on his hips. “There are beasts out there. And they’re not our friends. Listen to our tongues. Can you not understand me clearly and without a conscious effort? You were learning some of my language before, but I did most of the talking. We come here, and suddenly it’s like we’ve both been speaking to one another our entire lives! It’s an evil side effect of this place. We have to leave. Return to our cave and hunker down. Never let them find us again.”
“You seriously want to go back to living in squalor? Now, I know we haven’t seen the bedrooms yet, but I gotta tell you, I’m looking forward to an actual bath again.”
Shōtō frowned and crossed his arms again. “I’d rather live in ‘squalor’, as you say, than be a prisoner of these demons!”
“Shōtō, they’re not demons. Just people living their lives,” Avery exhaled sharply and turned his face up to the ornate ceiling. “I for one want to know more about this place. You have to understand something, none of our people are coming for us. If we want help, we can only find it here. Or we can go back to living off the wild. Where every day is a struggle to survive and get food. Personally, I was good at it. But I didn’t like it. Now we don’t have to do that anymore. And if you decide that’s what you want to do, I’m not going to stand in your way. Maybe the council will give you what you want and just let you live out your days as some backwoods savage. Or, maybe, they’ll give you a lift back home. With the caveat that you never speak about this place again. Who knows?”
“I don’t want anything from these people! I want to go back to the cave!” Shōtō dropped his arms and flopped his right hand through the air in a gesture of irritation. “I feel nothing but on edge being here. How you do not, is beyond me. Especially given how you came after me so hard not even a few months ago. But now you just want to accept their generosity and act like nothing’s wrong? It’s just the tip of the iceberg that we’re seeing. There is a menace here. And we saw it clearly when we were forced to fight one another after so long. They are here! Waiting to take us to the underworld.”
Avery waved his hands in the air in a gesture of disbelief and scoffed. “You’re panicking. Those shadows were just phantoms. Gases from deep underground screwing with our heads.”
“And our newfound ability to speak to one another without even so much as a hesitation?”
Avery stood for a moment staring at the front door. His mind automatically went to his dreams of Neti and Urudiin. Wasn’t that suburb called Urudii? No. Just a coincidence. Shōtō is just losing it. He thought back to the tall tower. However, wasn’t there a legend you’re forgetting? A legend of a tower that scrambled people’s languages? No. Don’t be stupid. It scrambled languages not united them. Right?
Avery sighed and glanced at Shōtō as he made his way to his bedroom. “You know what, I need a bath. Then I’m going out on the town. You’re welcome to join me when I leave. But, I highly recommend you get yourself bathed as well. I think you’ve spent too much time out in the wild. It’s messed with your head.”
“Right. Because it didn’t do a thing to you,” Shōtō said to his back.
Avery ignored him and entered his bedroom. The room was large and the bed at the back wall taking up the central section of the bedroom looked so comfy he was tempted just to throw himself onto it and fall asleep. The light inside grew brighter with his presence. It showed him a dresser to his right and several shelves lining the walls made of some sort of wood looking material. To the far right was the entrance to the bathroom. He ignored everything else and entered.
The lights came on. There was a mirrored surface over a large sink that took up half of the bathroom to the right. To the left, a large tub colored a golden and dark jade that was oval and built into a block of equally jade material.
“Ostentatious,” Avery muttered gazing at the walls of the bathroom that were a similar dark jade with golden inlays of designs and lines. “Still, it’s going to be great.”
He went to the mirror and stared at his reflection. His face was dirty and his cheeks and chin full of a wispy scattering of light brown hairs. There were bags under his eyes and his hair had grown long. It was now to his mid back and he never even noticed.
“That’s what being a Wildman will get you,” he muttered and reached to the base of his garment (a white shirt with intricate patterns in sapphire and gold) and pulled it off over his head. Then he yanked down his silken white pants and went to the tub to fill it full of water.
If Shōtō wants to race back off to the world of nature, who am I to tell him no? He smiled then as the water steamed out of the faucet and the tub began to fill. There were salts and a strange array of pebbles on the edge of the tub closest to the door. He tossed some of both inside the tub and then lowered himself down determined to let the day’s events dissipate with his tension.
There we go. The end of these couple micro-chapters. Story is moving along quite nicely, yes? Well, there is so much more to go! And I’ll see you next week for the next few installments! Thank you for reading this and I can’t wait to share more with you guys!
~Timothy S Purvis
Since you’re here and I’ve already shared this link before, why not head on over to my author’s page and check out other works I’ve written? I promise, they’re all as entertaining as this was! Just click on my name–>Timothy S Purvis
Also, why not check out my best novel to date? Released last year, this novel really showcases my writing ability. At least, I think so anyway. I would really appreciate the support: