ThreeA Chapter by Domenic Luciani
the second character to enter the city.
July 26, 1942
It started with a slow, steady creaking. Somewhere far off, the sound of a ship in motion as it moved like clockwork became evident; steam pouring out of a rusty pipe, men scrambling around, boots on metal, clinking, shouting, voices, and too many other things for him to distinguish as he began the arduous process of waking from unconsciousness.
Then the cold set in as he regained feeling in his limbs. One by one, he moved them, making sure they were all there. His heart pounded with the fear of finding an arm gone, or a leg. After a few moments, however, he found all were present and accounted for.
He tried to open his eyes and found the problem.
His head, from the top of his skull to the bridge of his nose, was wrapped in thick gauze. A metallic scent lingered in his nose, and as he tried to ease open his eyes, he found them gummed shut with dried blood.
He lifted his hands. He wasn’t a prisoner, or else they would have been tied down. He managed to sit up, but immediately felt light headed and slumped back down.
Hello? he called out. Is someone there?
No answer. He waited a little longer in the hope that someone would come by and explain to him what was happening and . . . who he was.
He lay there, still as he could, trying to draw up some memory that would explain what had happened, but there was nothing. His mind was a black abyss. It took him a minute to realize that the steady rocking was not some form of dementia, but the natural movements of a ship as it plowed through water.
As he sat up again, a warm liquid began to pool and soak the underside of his bandage. Whatever his wound was, it hadn’t healed yet. But the gauze was becoming saturated, and he couldn’t stand the thought of all that blood pooling against his skin.
Standing up, he began feeling around the small room for something to cut the gauze with. He was obviously in some kind of infirmary; all sorts of medical instruments were lying askew on desks and carts. On one of them there was a surgeon’s knife. He placed it beneath the gauze in the gap between his nose and eye, splitting the section of bandage in half. After that, the gauze fell away easily.
At first, he only allowed the section covering his eyes to come off, and then scraped at the dried blood until it had come off enough to the point where he could see.
By dim morning light that flooded in from round portholes in the walls, he realized he wasn’t alone in the room, and it was larger than he had previously thought. There were rows of beds with excessively bandaged men. Some with their arms or legs in slings, others were largely encased in casts and looked something like mummies. All of them were covered with dense scarlet blotches. He himself wore only white slacks with a bare chest.
He looked back at his bed. A note with the number 3 hung just above it. Three, he thought. What a strange name. . . .
Finally, a doctor rushed in, his face in a panic. He glanced at Three, who simply stood there with half a bloody gauze dangling from his forehead. Three was young; mid-twenties, maybe, with thin features and black hair that clumped up from the blood. The doctor had no time for this man.
Get back in bed! the doctor bellowed angrily. He grabbed a tray of surgical tools and left in a great hurry. Three stood up and followed him out.
The hallway beyond was narrow, and as the doctor went left, he went right. Following the piping along the dark walls, Three came to a stairwell that led up to a heavy door. After taking a moment to figure out that the wheel in the center needed to be turned in order to get out, Three made it onto the deck.
He was met with an enormous commotion.
On any given day, a man with a head full of blood-soaked gauze would stand out like a sore thumb, but not on a battleship - much less a battleship in the middle of a war.
The minute he blinked the sunlight out of his eyes, Three noticed men were dashing all around him, yelling things he didn’t understand. Above, grey turrets set with gargantuan barrels swiveled in a slow, drawn out movement towards a black shape on the horizon. In an instant, the cannons had erupted in a seemingly unstoppable torrent of fire at the enemy vessel. Sounds so loud, Three felt his ears might explode. He threw himself to the ground and covered his ears as jets of yellow flashed out of the barrels and landed with a spray of water near the dark shape.
For a second, the firing stopped and Three recovered quickly enough to witness the shape drift below the water. Had it been sunk? If it had, it would be a cause for celebration, even delirious Three could understand that. However, the men around him were deathly quiet, even sullen.
Then it all began again. Only this time, it was the battleship that was taking fire. Three couldn’t see where it was coming from, but could hear the muffled boom as shots were fired and the first horrible explosions occurred. Heat pulsed against his face as the metal floor beneath him burst into a cloud of shrapnel and flames, a plume of black smoke unfurled into the air.
Three had been tossed like a ragdoll into the air and onto the second level of the ship, where he landed painfully on his shoulder. All around him, the hull began to quite literally shred apart. Men were being tossed over the edge as more and more of the ship became a roaring surge of heat and flame. Enormous strips of metal were ripped away, sent spiraling into the air, and fell, impaling another section of the ship.
Finally, the entire rig made its slow dying decent into the sea. Three was in a panic. He ran to each side, shrieking for help, confused, and above all - frightened. He was met with water, and realized that he couldn’t remember how to swim, or rather, the dead ship began to pull him under in its terrible wake.
In this world of inescapable blue, Three discovered how easily he could lose hope. He hadn’t even tried to swim upwards, and instead allowed himself to drift slowly to the bottom of wherever death felt like bringing him for his final moments.
But something felt odd. He opened his eyes against the salt water, against the horrible burning that he would much rather be without in his last few seconds of life, to witness the ship’s broken hull floating above him. How could that happen? The ship should have sunk much faster than he. Yet he was still being pulled down. Any light that had made it through the water was gone and Three’s surroundings were cast in complete darkness.
His breath was running out. He accidently allowed a tiny burst of precious air to escape his lungs. The water that filled his mouth when the bubbles had drifted past his face tasted odd. Not at all like salt water, but more sewer water (not that he recalled ever tasting sewer water, it was more the smell of it). There seemed to be a sudden shift in gravity, too. Three noted the next time he let air out, that the bubbles would appear to be moving up, but would then stop in front of his nose, and resume movement downward toward his feet. After that, though, the bubbles returned to heading in the proper direction.
Three’s lungs started to burn. He contorted into a ball and waited until his body could take no more, and he would, at last, be rid of whatever thoughts had burdened him. When, quite suddenly, a light dawned on him through the murk and the contorting darkness of his eyelids. He looked upward and saw surface. Without a seconds thought, he propelled himself upward in desperation.
If you’ve ever been near drowning, you know that the first breath you take when you finally come up for air feels like the sweetest you’ve ever taken. However, when Three broke through the water and breathed in a deep lungful of air, he found himself coughing and sputtering more than he would’ve if he’d taken in sea water. Though he didn’t know for sure, the air he smelled might have been the foulest he’d ever had the misfortune of inhaling.
A boat was drifting by. Three almost shouted a warning about the enemy vessel that attacked from beneath the water when he noticed something. He had come out in a very different place than he had come from.
The sky was a dense mass of black cloud and the water around him was a horrible shade of green, nothing else existed, save for the boat that sat quietly a few yards from him.
He waved his hand in the air to try to get whoever was on its attention. A man leaned curiously over the edge, his lazy eyes peeled open in surprise.
Noken barlo, si den prien. Se conde’? Whatever language the man was speaking, Three didn’t understand it.
The man in the boat motioned for Three to come aboard. Once hulled in, Three tried to ask where he was, but the strange man only watched with eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He seemed middle aged, with a halo of dark hair, a strange orange tunic and breeches, and with dark circles under grey eyes.
Could you tell me where I am exactly? Three asked again and again, going slower sometimes or putting emphasis on different words. Finally he just waved his arms, Forget it.
You speak strange, what language this? The man asked.
So you do speak English! Can you tell me where I am, then? Three asked again, more hopeful this time.
English? You speak in strange tongue. Moto understand though, The man said.
Jeezes Christ, Three groaned. If you don’t speak English, how can you understand me?
Moto from City of Sound. Understand any language. Even ones Moto never hear.
Alright, so then Where the hell am I? Three asked, growing frantic.
Moto pursed his lips as if trying to figure out the answer to a particularly difficult question. Hell?
Three washed back his hair in an attempt at containing his frustration, noticing for the first time the gauze was gone, most likely had gotten lost at some point along his journey. Where are we?
Oh, we in Sea of Thought, Moto said, as if it had been obvious the entire time.
The Sea of Thought? Never heard of it. Is it near America?
Forget it. Anyways, can you take me back to land, I should find out how to get home, wherever that may be.
If washed all way out here, only one place to come from. You come form City of Senses.
Something had been nagging at the back of his head for a while now, and Three was beginning to realize what it was. He was nowhere near home. In fact, he most likely wasn’t even in the same universe. Moto began to paddle the boat back to this . . . City of Senses place, and Three was terrified of what he might see.
“So they -” the gentleman started.
“Yes. They both ended up in the city.” He said.
A third glass of wine had been consumed and now one of water stood in front of him. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had had a glass of water, but, unfortunately, he needed to stay sober.
“It was at the point where Moto was taking Three back to land that he told the boy of the city, and how it was divided into smaller cities, each representing one of the five senses. Even though his memory was shot, Three could tell that this was not his world.”
“Fascinating, without a doubt. And that ship! I’ve never heard of anything like it. One that works under water as well as above it . . . incredible.”
“Only because nothing like it has ever existed here. Compared to the speed of advancements their world is making, ours is nothing. Mere arts and crafts. It’s been several years since they began selling microwaves, and still, only restaurants and the rich have them. Pathetic, really.”
“When one considers the prospect of this other world, of course.”
“True.” He said, gulping down his water.
The gentleman took a moment before he asked his question. “I presume we will not learn next of what happens to this Three?”
“Well done. No, unfortunately, Three’s story must wait a little while longer. There are still characters whose stories need to be told. But do not fret. Three’s part in this story is far from over.”
The conversation had been started, and now, there was no going back.
© 2010 Domenic Luciani
Added on August 26, 2010
Last Updated on August 26, 2010
The City of Senses
AboutThat is my real name, and that is really me in the picture. Like Patrick says, I'm not in the witness protection program. I mostly write books and stories. I like fantasy, or fiction, but if.. more..