Hello again, faithful reader! Welcome back to another offering of Left of Midnight, my latest book in production as we speak! We’re getting along pretty far into the story and I hope you’ve been enjoying the narrative so far! I don’t think I really need to say a whole lot about the tale itself (two enemies in World War II get into a dogfight and crash land on a deserted island–isn’t that cliche’, eh? Well, it’s meant to be! It’s the beginning of the second section where the main story begins!). If you’ve been following along, you already know all that you need to know about the story overall. So, keep going and you’ll see where the plot is being carried! Woohoo!
Anyhow, I really don’t have a whole lot to say as I often don’t. I just like to let my stories speak for themselves. I really, really, really am not good and explaining why I wrote something (this was based off of a dream I had once involving nightmarish creatures, old world war 2 planes, and a creepy volcano) but I think I’m doing alright giving a sort of insight into my madness in how I write.
Alright, let’s not dawdle anymore. This next section is a single section because of how long it is. Therefore, please enjoy the next offering of Left of Midnight.
AVERY EXITED HIS bedroom and stretched. It was refreshing having finally had a real bath after so many months. He’d briefly contemplated just making it a shower, but the idea of the simple act of soaking for a while was too much temptation to pass up. He was also pleased to have discovered that the dressers and closet (which was built right into the wall beside the bed) were stuffed with clothing that seemed designed just for him. How they’d made that determination (whoever ‘they’ were) was beyond him. Then again, the whole existence of the underground city and the peoples peopling it were beyond him as well.
Now, he wore a long sleeve shirt made of a material very near to wool and designed like a light blue plaid with buttons nearly flush with the fabric itself (there were other choices, of course. Most were silky and soft. However, there were a few shirts, like the one he chose, that just reminded him of home. And maybe that was the point, he suspected).
Over the top of that, he’d discovered a black vest with a dark blue backing that he thought complimented the ensemble well. The pants he’d found were similar to denim. A dark blue as well. Yet, they weren’t tight in the crotch. Comfortable one might say while still feeling right for where he’d come from originally. Another homey touch. However, the belts were rather unique and were designed unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Rather than just being one long strip of knitted leather, most of these were woven together slats of fine strippings of some sort of metal or fiberglass. Some were blue, others white, or green, or red, and occasionally black. Then there was the one that looked as if the celts had gotten ahold of the substance and made intricate knots out of it to form one long pattern stretching around the waist ending in a buckle with a symbol so ancient it might’ve been one of the icons on the interface panel. So, he went with that.
At the bottom of the closet, he’d found a wide selection of footwear. Several boots, shoes, sandals, and some leg length number he had absolutely no interest in. He selected a pair of knee high boots that looked like a cross between the old renaissance and something military approved. They slid over the ends of his pant legs with little issue and were as comfortable as any boots he’d ever worn. There was a bootlace that ran through loops all the way up to the top portion where two straps awaited fastening. Now he was ready to hit the town.
Avery walked across the common room and up the several steps to the front door. “Hey, Shōtō! I’m going to go investigate this burg. Wanna come?”
There was silence from the other apartment. Avery sighed and traipsed down the middle hallway and stood at the front end of Shōtō’s apartment.
“You here? Shōtō!” He saw that Shōtō’s bedroom door was shut and no sounds were coming out to greet him. “Suit yourself. I’ll be back sometime tonight then. Why don’t you go out, see if you can find something to have fun with?”
Avery frowned and turned back to the front door. He grumbled to himself as he walked away from the other apartment. “…man wants to make a hermit of himself and hide away fearful of his own shadow what the fuck am I gonna do about it? He’ll have to wait til tonight for me to give a shit then, cause I’ve got other things to do. Ain’t waiting around all day…”
He exited the front door and let it slide shut behind him. He remembered that there were a series of lifts just around the bend to his right that would take him down to one of the streets of Farediin. The corridors were empty as he made his way along the hall and towards the lifts. It was a smaller space in these particular lifts but no less impressive in their design.
“Let’s see, street level must be… here?”
He ran his finger over the display over the panel and selected what looked to be the bottom level of the building. The lift hummed to life and dropped. It wasn’t a fast drop but he felt it in his gut nonetheless. He had to work to suppress the urge to throw his arms up in the air and yell out ‘weeeee!’
It took nearly five minutes and he was starting to get antsy when the lift stopped and the doors opened. He stood staring at the sights before him. It was a wide open area. Almost completely dark. Little more than a plain flat floor stretching outward into the dark oblivion. The only light being cast was that from the lift interior.
Avery reached over to the panel again and selected the next level up. The doors closed and the lift ascended. After roughly thirty seconds, the doors opened once more. Here, he saw yet another wide room. Only this one was fairly well lit. He saw a myriad of what looked to be craft of some sort. Some round. Others cigar shaped. One was a box. None seemed to have windows and most were in the color variance of grey to silver. A few white, and a couple jet black. Each one sat on a series of legs that were devoid of wheels.
“Now what the hell is this shit?” Avery shook his head peeking out of the lift and looking around without exiting the transport. “I’m going to have to ask Er’ra Zel about this. Because it looks like… a hangar bay on an aircraft carrier. Like any one of these things can be taken to the flight deck and launched. …Why are you talking to yourself, jackass? Jesus!”
He stepped back and triggered the interface panel once more. The lift went up another level. Opened out onto yet another wide area. This one full of smaller vehicles and construction equipment. He triggered the panel again. And would do so another four times. Each time, he got a glance at some portion of the undercity that performed a function that he might recognize from his own world. A storage facility here, a mass transit system there (what looked like a train station at one point yet there were no people there), and one level that looked like an old warehouse no longer in use.
“Where is the fucking ground level?”
Then the doors opened out onto an open aired walkway. He didn’t see any people but he was absolutely thrilled to be in an area that looked reasonably out in the fresh air. He stepped off the lift and looked left and right. The left went along a corridor and beneath another section of building hovering above him. Like a highway through a mountain. He sighed and checked out what awaited him to the right. He stayed in the lift doorway so it wouldn’t close on him so that he could try a few more levels if he needed to. If nothing manifested itself, he’d just try to get back to where the apartments were and attempt to contact Er’ra Zel from there explaining that he’s just some poor lost soul in need of salvation.
A section of stairwell led up to another plateau. The building above him seemed to dead end just at the edge of the stairwell and he could hear sounds coming from the top. The sounds were electrical with some that almost came across as alive. Animals or people, he couldn’t say. But it was better than the nothing he’d run across as of yet. Avery left the lift behind him.
“Stay frosty, lifty. I may have to return.”
He let the door slide shut and worked his way down the wide path, that may have been fifty feet wide, and walked up the concrete looking stairs. They let out into a garden beyond the edge of the buildings cattycorner to one another. To his right, the flat wall of the edge of the apartment complex rising so high that the lighting above was as if Heaven itself was shining upon him. The buildings were nearly of one construction from this point of view so he walked leftward and along the pathway of zig zagging sidewalk. It traveled between the buildings like an alleyway that had been livened up by garden beds of flowers and ferns. He followed the way hoping that he’d be able to find his way back to the complex but fearing that he may just have to throw caution to the wind and, when the time came to return, find somebody to show him the way.
The building edges were massive. Some round. Some square. All of them looked as if they were built into one another at random intervals. An M.C. Escher painting turned into an actual city. All he could do was stay on the path as it went around the buildings, between them, under them (and over one section that seemed to vanish underneath another tall structure that straddled it as if it meant to step over the place), and eventually he came out into an area full of life. Life that he could hear clearly even before seeing it.
Avery walked up a curving stairway leading from the entrance of yet another building interior and up to a presidium full of trees, grasses, sidewalks of metal and/or concrete (or something like it), and a swell of people reminiscent of not just the council, but others as well. They were walking to and fro, chattering amongst themselves or going about whatever pressing business they had to attend to. Tall and slender bald headed creatures with dark eyes and flowing robes. Short and stout toadish creatures with spikey heads and/or rough black hairs sprouting all across the back of those heads and their necks, and wearing leatherish clothing of various makes. So varied, it baffled the mind. Human sized creatures with spikes for ears and slits for mouths, with hands of only two or three fingers, and sporting the sort of outer wear one might don in the more frigid regions of the world. Reptilians, feathery beaked bird people, the amphibious, and, of course, the horned people Shōtō thought of as the Oni.
“Holy shit…” Avery said stopping at the summit of the stairwell and holding on to the white railing running down the edge.
Avery looked to his left and saw a male something staring at him. It was half his size and looking straight at his face. The male looked like one of those toad creatures and his facial features were scrunched up like a pug’s. Lips almost downturned, though whether that was because he was angry or not Avery couldn’t tell. His long arms dangled to his sides and he stood there waiting for an answer.
Avery shook his head and met the brown green thing’s gaze with one of his own. Hopefully, he hoped his own look wasn’t as bewildered as he felt.
“No… just, taking it all in.”
“New here, eh? Well, welcome to Farediin, friend.”
The creature held out a four fingered hand that looked dry and unpleasant. He took it nonetheless and was surprised to find that the palm of the creature’s hand was actually fairly smooth.
“I’m a dananite. Trop’s the name. Don’t have to worry bout remembering it. Human I take it,” the creature named Trop gave a smile that looked more like a grimace and pumped Avery’s hand. “Hope you do well here. Lots and lots of species call this place home. Been living in Farediin for the last ten years myself. Great little city. Nothing compared to Buodae. Old home city for myself. Course, we don’t talk about that. Now, if you’re really wanting to understand Farediin, just keep walking that a way. Gonna find the Byr’chiss Festival in full swing. Every culture you could want to even imagine is there taking it all in and having a blast. Good luck to you, son. Maybe I’ll see you around again someday.”
Trop let go of his hand as Avery stood stunned staring at his hobbling retreat. “Birches festival… right.”
Given there wasn’t any other idea in his head, Avery took the being’s advice and started through the crowded walkways and towards the area Trop had pointed. He walked amidst the throng of peoples looking at the various species and came out onto a pavilion wider than the previous presidium and surrounding by the tall spires of buildings rising up out of the mists of the chasms beneath the walkways. He stopped by one railing and looked down. It wasn’t quite the endless abyss it appeared to be from the apartments, but it was pretty deep. Stone constructions held up cliffs harboring the building bases and then dropped off into the dark depths further down. Some waterfalls fell off certain areas which he saw created much of the foggy mist flowing up towards the city proper.
He stood back and looked around the pavilion. Dozens of shops surrounded a massive sunken amphitheater where a band played otherworldly music that apparently was a big hit to those in the bleachers attending as they were mostly dancing and singing along to whatever the lead singer on the stage sang. Avery walked around that pit and looked into the various small buildings scattered all around the leafy tree strewn pavilion. One walkway formed a circle following the whole circumference of the festivities. At least, he assumed. It was hard to keep track of with so many people bustling past and around him. It was so much Avery started feeling a sense of panic.
Keep it together, man. You knew you were in an alien world… just didn’t know how alien… He saw one of the small buildings near him. It was open faced with no windows. Like you’d find with a tented merchant facility at a fair. And the smells coming from it were incredible. These weren’t tents, though. They were hard structures that reminded Avery a little bit of a drive-in diner where the jukeboxes were always raging and the girls on skates always lively. He walked inside, under the great canopy of whatever metal it was, and took a seat at the bar surrounding the central kitchen where three beings walked back and forth helping the customers looking for a good meal and a drink. Strangely, Avery didn’t see anything actually being cooked. Yet there were still the strong smells of smokey barbeque and sizzling fish fries.
“Welcome to Dreadnoughts. The finest in street foods!” The being leaned over the counter and placed two of his broad hands on the countertop. He was tall, maybe seven foot, and had four arms. He looked like some sort of walrus made human. Though he had tusks, they weren’t so long. Just barely came beyond his bottom lip. “Well, blessed be the keepers. A human! I haven’t seen one of your kind in decades. I’ll imagine that’s a story for the books!”
His laugh was hearty and full of joy. Avery just stared at him uncertain as to what to say.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue? That is what your people say, isn’t it?”
Avery forced a nod. “Uh, yeah… some of us, anyway. I, uh, was just taking in the sights… smelled something awesome, and thought, sure, what the heck? Got a menu?”
The walrus man smiled and pulled his massive head full of matted brown fur back and laughed again. “You really are new here, aren’tcha? We don’t use menus!”
“Well, uh, how do you know what you want?”
“What brought you in here?”
“Well, I thought I smelled the smells of a tasty barbeque. Tangy ribs, cornbread, grilled corn on the cob, and cheddar macaroni.”
“Yeah? Good old home cookin’, eh?”
Avery smiled. “Oh yeah. Some of those old street festivals back home you just had to see to believe. Kinda got nostalgic walking along the walkway, I guess.”
“Well, then just place your hand right on that interface panel there.”
Mr. Dreadnought (which is how Avery was coming to think of him as) motioned towards a slightly raised metal panel on the surface of the counter before him. Avery placed his right hand across the surface expecting a menu to spring up into the air like the interface panels for entering rooms and buildings. Only, there was just a blue light that flowed up and around his palm and then nothing more.
“Uh, what now?”
“You just sit back and you wait. Thirsty?”
“I could use a beer.”
Mr. Dreadnought turned and looked at a display on the central pillar in the middle of the kitchen. It was a large round pillar that took up the majority of the kitchen now, that Avery was paying real attention to it. A moment later, Mr. Dreadnought placed down a hefty mug of Ballantine and Avery was blown away. He didn’t think he’d ever taste that IPA again, yet, here it was, the bitter full flavor cascading over his tongue in heavenly bliss.
As Avery let lose a satisfying ah-h-h, Mr. Dreadnought brought over exactly what had been on his mind when he first smelled the restaurant booth to begin with. He was stunned to look at the plate on the tray and to smell the smells of a legitimate barbeque from his childhood.
“This is real?”
Mr. Dreadnought laughed. “As real as any food you’ll find. You should try coming around here more often. Those other mooks don’t have as reliable of a replicator as I do.”
“I think that I just might have to,” Avery smiled and dug into his meal. It was just as savory and filling as he had imagined.
After he’d finished, and gave his thanks and well wishes for a good day, Avery left Mr. Dreadnought’s diner and took his time looking around the festival grounds. He noted that there were several structures on the perimeter that seemed to be only two stories high and contained overlooks on top. At least, that’s what it looked like based on the dozen or some revelers he witnessed leaning against railings looking down at the area. He made his way towards one of the buildings and entered through an entrance without any doors that became a long hallway leading through the structure and deeper into another building further along the way. Before getting there, though, there were two sets of wide stairs leading upwards from both sides of the hall. He mounted one set and worked his way to the top floor.
The stairwell let out on a flat deck full of lounging chairs, tables, and some long, waist high planters with leafy bushes at regular intervals along the railing lining the circumference of the deck. The railing ran from one side of the stairwell, where it exited the building rising up behind it, to the other. There were just over a dozen people hanging around up here with half of them watching the festivities at the railing. He walked over to one edge and looked outward.
The grounds were much wider than he anticipated at first glance. For starters, people seem to be congregating along three different levels over some thousand feet or so. It looked like three football fields could be jammed inside the grounds and there’d still be room left over. The main plateau harbored the amphitheater and the dozens of open-faced diners with their hardtop roofs that were flat and shiny and colored in the spectrum of every metal imaginable. The walkways were arrayed in square patterns moving outward from the amphitheater and connected by the great circular path encompassing this upper level.
Just below the main plateau (with the first section slightly out of sight from Avery’s perspective), and accessible by a stairwell curving downward and vanishing from Avery’s view, was what appeared to be the entertainment plateau. There, children of the various species ran between the myriad of pill shaped structures that had lights built into their outer walls displaying strange symbols that reminded him of the arcades out by the boardwalks back home. At the center, there was a large building shaped like a ‘W’ with a line across the central connecting junction. Whatever was in those buildings, people seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Only thing missing are the rides…
The final plateau was on the far side of the grounds. It was raised to almost the same level as the main and accessible by another wide stairway coming off the entertainment plateau. There, it seemed full of great swaths of parks and some sort of displays. He wasn’t sure exactly what since there were trees rising up at the perimeters to block a lot of the view to one side. But the other way showed him people gathered in groups at various intervals.
Surrounding all of this grandeur, were the rising columns of buildings penetrating the mists of the depths and disappearing into the great ceiling of stone far above. Like the mythical Red Woods far south of where he grew up. Forging a wall of cylindrical rods for as far as the eye could see. The craggy ceiling sloped at an angle towards his left far off into the distance.
Avery shook his head as he let his gaze once more slide across all that could be seen. He stopped at his far right when he noticed a projection along the side of one building that would be easily noticeable anywhere on the premises. It was a display of information that he still could not understand. But the time in the upper left-hand corner was clear enough. It was just after noon.
Okay. Er’ra Zel wants to meet at 7 in that park. What was it? Delos Park? Indetra Park? No, it was D’lintra park. That was it. Let’s see if we can find ourselves a map. Probably won’t be a quick thing to discover where that park is. But, got plenty of time. He smiled to himself with this thought, his lips taut and his demeanor determined.
Avery turned away from the view and made his way back down towards the festival grounds. What he suspected about the second plateau was correct. There were buildings there full of strange games for the children, a dancing facility for the parents, and various entertainment for those others who preferred more solitary pursuits or a game of tabletop something or another. One even reminded him of billiards. Though the tables were more ornate, made of one solid block of metal material, and involved three sticks per person. He didn’t bother hanging around to discover the rules.
The large W building harbored halls where people called out numbers in a bingo styled game, one room dedicated to exercise, and what looked to be a massage parlor. There were various other rooms as well, but he got the general idea and moved along.
Plateau three was a little more unique than he expected. It was a general history of all the various cultures present throughout Farediin. There were a total of fifteen different species represented with spots for three more once more was learned about them. He perused several of the species (including the horned species that Er’ra Zel was. Turned out she was a rhe’toran from the Rha’tos system. Apparently, their homeworld had been decimated by an unknown entity some seventeen thousand years earlier. They were one of the first to migrate to Earth. They’d been wanderers for some two hundred something years before discovering the human homeworld. Of course, at that time, humanity was still in its hunting and gathering phase and were little more than wandering animals).
After having his fill of the plethora of information, he moved along the pathway out of the rear of the third plateau and left the festival grounds. He had no idea what his destination was (other than attempting to find D’lintra Park, of course). For over three hours, Avery wandered the various walkways, atriums, and pavilions scattered around the city proper. At irregular intervals, he discovered display maps on curved announcement boards encircling fountains in the middle of this park or along that street corner giving him a fairly decent idea of where he was heading. The park was still on the far side of the city but he was getting a good taste of the architecture employed throughout much of the underground nation. For instance, the festival grounds location seemed newer and more pristine. Utilizing an almost art deco style with elegant constructs showcasing that this was the center of the new world. That this was the place to be, daddy-o’s (as one of his friends back home liked to say. Apparently, there was a movement protesting war and that society should endeavor to be more scholarly in their pursuits. He once heard said, ‘Daddy-o is going to be the next big thing because those war guys want to be the big daddy-o, man!’)
Further along, he came across the older part of town. The buildings there seemed stacked upon one another. As if the city had expanded upwards rather than outwards. Or had stopped being able to expand outwards and had no choice but to build the boxy, ancient constructs one upon the other. Here, the buildings still had that bronze gold colorization, but there was a weathered aura. Like it was a buried city only recently uncovered and now on display for the curious anthropologist or archaeologist. There were still a good many people walking about the halls of this region (halls that ran through the network of structures as if a roadway tunnel through a mountain). The ceiling was closer to the surface of the walkways here allowing a better view of the craggy terrain playing host to the great city state. He was also able to note a series of parallel tubes running from end to end, disappearing into the walls of the craggy volcano’s insides and through various sections of the city (they looked like extremely long test tubes flowing from one section to the next). He wasn’t certain what they were but he thought he saw movement in one or two of them as he continued along his way (pill shaped things jetting through the inside of those tubes reminding him of something stuck in a straw being blown outward).
Eventually, using the occasional map display and basic instinct, Avery found his way to D’lintra Park. It was a wide-open area tucked away into what seemed to be the very edge of the volcanic underside itself. The ceiling wall sloped down until it tapered off to the other side of a great lake on the other side of the park. There, a network of caverns ran off into different directions. Some even seemed accessible by grassy islets. Likely, one would have to use a boat to get over to them, he guessed.
The rest of the park looked as any other park he’d seen. Full of vibrant trees fluffed up searching for any sort of sunlight (the ambient light coming from nowhere far above must have contained some sort of sunny splendor because the plant life he saw seemed quite well managed and lively), grasses rolling over hills, meadows, and small areas that were practically plains. Playgrounds of strange equipment were filled with children and park benches were scattered hither and dither.
Avery walked along one pathway until it curved around and towards the lake side. There, he found a railing on a bridge reaching over a small canal running up one hill and into the earth. The water flowed underneath him and out into the lake. He leaned against the railing and braced himself on his forearms. Across the lake, he saw a pair of boats with four people spread between them just floating merrily with no particular destination in mind. Movement caught his attention and he saw a few lanky birds spread their wings and fly off to some other recess of the lake around a bend blocking his view to his far right. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that a cool wind blew across the lake and caressed his face. He didn’t know where it was coming from, but he figured that they must have some means of circulating the air if there were so many people living the subterranean lifestyle.
And the sounds. And the smells. And the feeling that it all invoked. The cawing and cooing of local wildlife, birds hooting, fish leaping here and there breaking the surface of the lake. The sweet freshwater scents bringing a cool sensation to his soul as well as his skin. The rippling of water lapping loosely at the shore…
It’s so peaceful here. I should be losing my shit… but I’m feeling absolutely… Avery inhaled again and exhaled slowly allowing his eyes to close in the process. Free from the rage that’s been driving me for what feels like an eternity. Oh, brother, would you like this place? Did you ever dream of a city of this size, of a place so… mystical?
Avery opened his eyes and gazed into the water. Light reflected off the surface but didn’t seem to be coming from any one particular source. This had the effect of the water beaming brightly from nearly every angle yet he could still see his reflection clearly in the surface.
Then a frown broke his smile.
Shōtō… you still in your room? Did you have a chance to come out and experience this awesome place? Or are you still troubled by the rage disturbing your peace? Avery sighed. Really wish he could meditate and get on with it again. Hasn’t been the same since he’s gone all sourpuss on me.
He clenched his eyes and ran his palms against them to rub any doubts away. “Welp, that’s his choice, ain’t it, Ave? He could have come along and enjoyed the sights and sounds as well. But, no, he’d rather mope in his room ruminating over phantoms that don’t exist. What is his problem?”
He exhaled sharply and dropped his hands. No, he wasn’t going to let Shōtō’s imagination determine how he was going to live his life in exile from the rest of civilization. Sure, the war was raging on. Somewhere out there, beyond all of this splendor. The fleets might have even engaged the Japanese on their shores by now. Last he heard, the plan was to take each section piecemeal and work their way towards Tōkyō. However long that took. He was finding more and more, he no longer really cared. He could just stay in Farediin for the rest of his life if it meant no longer feeling so much hate and rage, suffering and uncertainty.
Besides, there’s that sweet lady called Er’ra Zel that’s stricken my fancy. She’s got all sorts of peace that can keep me sane. Avery let the corners of his lips tug upwards and then turned from the view and started whistling as he took step after step down the pathway. He wasn’t sure what refreshments there were to be found nearby, but he figured he still had a few hours before Er’ra Zel showed up and he could fill his time just enjoying the park. ‘Something’s not right’, indeed. Not seeing anything evil or dark here, Shōtō old boy. Just a lot of unusual folks living their lives. What could be wrong with that?
This brings us to the end of another week of LOM material. I trust you had a lot of fun reading this and will be back next week for more! I do have some other stuff happening and I hope to bring you updates on that when it’s available. Until then, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll be back next week for some more Left of Midnight! Thanks again and read to you again soon!
See you then!
~Timothy S Purvis
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