The Message

The Message

A Story by Elfinlocks
"

The message has to be delivered to the emperor, or else everything is lost.

"

From the dying man's mouth came the message that I was to bring to the emperor whom resided in the capital.  This man, the dying one, made me repeat the message a hundred times before he met his fate on that road which was so lonely.  I was now the messenger, he told me, and I was carrying a message that would save everything. 

The road I walked was long, and seemingly endless, on both sides was a deep woods that I didn't know too well.  In fact, I was now somewhere I didn't even know existed, and I was on the way to the capital, which, as of just a couple days ago, I also didn't know existed anymore.  The messenger told me that I had to find the capital, in order to save everything, of course,and that if I did not, everything would indeed be lost.  I had so much I wanted to ask the dying man, but all he seemed concerned about was relaying the message, which was so very important.

That was a few days ago, that is, when I saw the messenger die.  I had yet to take a turn or even see any other one of us.  The road I was walking was empty, that is, except for me of course.  I looked into the forest to get my mind off of the road in front of me, and it was then and there that I realized, to my horror, that I was not alone.

I didn't see it, but I felt it.  Something was there in the forest, just inches off of the path, and then another bit of the messenger's dying words flooded my memory.  He told me not to step off of any artificial path.  At the time I had no clue what he was going on about, I thought death had already claimed his mind, but now, in that moment, I knew that the messenger was not mad when he spoke those words.  In the woods was a presence, one that just thinking about filled me with dread.  I didn't know what to call it, so I simply referred to it as my stalker.

After another day or so my hungry began to grow inside of me, I remembered that I had not eaten in quite some time, all I had been worrying about was the message, which was indeed the most important priority I had.  I looked up the road and saw strawberries growing on a bush not far off the road, maybe only a foot. 

Looking into the woods, I didn't feel that my stalker was there like I usually did when glancing into the vast trees.  I ran up to the strawberry bush, grabbed some, and then it lashed at me.  I fell onto the road, looked down at my knee and saw a gash.  Not a big one, but it was bleeding.  It seemed my stalker fell short of his attack, which was most fortunate, for if I died the message would die as well, along with everything else.

I ate the strawberries, but I would no longer take chances of even taking a step off of the road.  I only had one foot off of the road when the thing attacked my, seemingly it came out of nowhere.  That day I had figured out a hard way that my stalker was capable of quite a lot, and it should not be messed with at all.

The stalker was starting to taunt me as I walked further and further.  Occasionally it would let out a heart-shattering roar just to show me that it was there, and that it would always be there.  Sometimes it would roar throughout my sleeping time, but sometimes it would let me sleep, as if hoping I would roll or sleep walk, or do something to put myself into its grasp.

I came across a camp one day, it was filled with a whole bunch of us, but I knew none of them were the emperor, I also knew that that camp was not the capital.  Surely the capital would be grander.  I stole an apple after sneaking past them, I didn't want to risk them being hostile, because if they were, the message would die with me.

The first bite of the apple was sweet and juicy, I enjoyed it.  The road was still going on forever in front of me, and glimpses into the forest showed my stalker still to be there.  I repeated the message in my head, to see if I remembered it, and I did.  That was good, because this message was very important, it would save everything. 

Repeating the message reminded me that I did not know who the emperor was, or even what he looked like, and I most certainly did not know what the capital looked like, or even what its name was.  I didn't even know where it was at.  I had a mission, I affirmed myself, this message needed to reach the emperor.  It needed to.  So I walked on down the road.

The apple core was all that was left in my hand, I decided to see something.  I threw the apple into the woods, just a bit off the road.  Before it hit the ground it was in shreds and my stalker was roaring, as if angered by the fact that I was not the apple.  Or maybe it didn't like sweet things.

My journey grew tiresome quickly after I lost count of my days on the road.  I didn't remember when I had last eaten, but I was not hungry.  All I knew was that the road stretched on forever, and so did the accompanying woods.  My entertainment came from thinking about the message, which I knew was to be important.  The message was rapidly growing into the only important thing in my life. 

To break the monotony, I looked up into the sky, and then quickly back down to the ground.  I remembered once more why I didn't look up to the sky anymore.  The sun was shining brightly, which caused me dismay.  How did I forget not to look up at the sky?  Such an act was enough to crush my soul many times more than the stalker ever could.  I continued my journey, still repeating the message in my head.  It was so important, the emperor needed it.  All of us needed it.

The road opened up one day to reveal a lake.  I almost ran for joy into the water that was such a delightful change of scenery until I remembered that my stalker still could be watching me, and that water was not an artificial road.  It was then that I looked around and saw buildings, and on the short a bit away was a lot of us, at least twenty of them.  I wondered to myself if this place was the capital, I had not seen so many of us in a long, long time.

There was a fork in the road at the beginning of the lake and both went off to equally promising horizons.  I took the road on the left, I knew that the emperor was that way.  The left road took me past the group of us, I saw small children playing in the water as their parents watched happily.  Did they not know what was happening?  Had they not looked up at the sky?  Surely they knew, so why were they happy?

I didn't stop to talk, the emperor needed the message that was so important that it would save those on that beach.  Up ahead I saw that the road turned into a small path that led back into the woods.  I walked down it.

The once wide road was now a thin path, and on one side was water, on the other was trees.  Oddly enough, when I looked at the water, I didn't feel the beast, but when I looked at the trees it was there.  The stalker didn't like the water I presumed, but I didn't want to chance it.  Regardless, the emperor was not in the water.

Soon the water disappeared, and once more I felt the stalker on both sides of me whenever I looked.  Dread filled me when I looked on and saw that the path was growing thinner still.  Just inches away from me on either side was the stalker, waiting for one misstep, for one mistake that would send me into its grip.  I stopped walking to take a break, as I did the stalker roared into my face, I felt its breath.  I decided then not to take anymore breaks on the thin path.

Another fork in the road greeted me as the path grew wider once more.  On the right was a bridge, and I knew the emperor was that way.  But, on the left was yet another path, which I took.  I don't know why, I knew the emperor was down the right path, but yet I needed to take the left.   I didn't think about that choice that day.

The water joined me once more down the left path, and I rejoiced, for that was now a way I could look without feeling the stalker watching my every move.  I still repeated the message in my head every chance I got, but at least now I had something to look at other than a path.

I saw a turtle getting some warmth in the sun further down the path.  I decided to try and sneak up on it to entertain myself.  I managed to creep a foot or so away from the shelled thing before it launched itself into the water, I laughed at the sound it made.  Then I remembered the message, and the stalker, and I got serious once more.   I had a mission to deliver that message, I scolded myself, I shouldn’t have been getting distracted for even a second to play a one sided game with a turtle.

It was the next day that I started having regret for my choice of taking the left path.  I had come along nothing other than the water and the turtle, which were both merely distractions from the message.  I thought about heading back, but I knew I couldn't.  The dying messenger told me to arrive exactly on time, not one second too late or too early, he told me.  For some reason, I knew I was running late.

Later that day I came upon an abandoned camp site, the fire was still smoldering in it.  I didn't know what had happened, maybe the old inhabitants realized what was happening.  That was when I heard a banging noise.  Up ahead one of us was banging a hammer on a pole in an attempt to try and fix it.  There was one other man with him watching a fire.  I should have asked them what had happened to the camp, but I didn't.  That would have wasted time, and I was already behind schedule.  The message needed to get to the emperor.

Before I realized it"as I was too busy repeating the message"a cedar bog encompassed me on both sides.  This was bad, as cedar bogs were places of sinister magic and omens where I had come from.  Back where I was from, stories were told that said what was happening started in a cedar bog.  But where I was from didn't matter anymore, I didn't know how I remembered even that small fact, because I remembered little else of my home.  All I was remembering was the message.

I couldn't even feel the stalker in the bog, even that thing had stayed away.  I found relief in this, as now I had time to think about the message without fear of stepping off the road, which was wide once more.

The cedar bog ended, I don't know when it did, but it did, and now I was once more surrounding by road and woods.  The stalker was back, to my dismay, but at least it was not roaring anymore.  I got so used to the noise that I became good at ignoring it.  The thing seemed to notice that I barely even knew it to be there anymore, so it stopped making noise.  This made me become fearful of it once more for some reason, and it knew this, which is probably why it began to be quiet.

A man was at the far end of the road, he was walking the opposite direction as me.  I said hello to him, and he said hello back.  I knew then that he was one of the other messengers.  The dying messenger had told me that there were many other messengers, each, who like me, had to get their part of the message to the emperor precisely when they needed to.  He told me not to ask any of the other messengers if they were a messenger, for then neither of us would reach the emperor when we needed to.  So I kept walking, even though I wanted to turn around and talk to the messenger that was now behind me.  We both had messages, and they both had to reach the emperor, or else everything would be lost.

The next day"or at least I think it was the next day"I looked down, for what reason, I don't know, but nevertheless, I looked down.  On the ground I saw a lone white stone, I picked it up and kept it in my hand.

The swamp was where the madness started to set in, or at least I think it was madness. Two things were in my head, and two things only.  One was that I had to reach the emperor, and I had to give him the message; the other was the message itself.  In the swamp the path was blocked in many spots by fallen limbs or even water puddles.  I looked off the trail, which was where I needed to go, and I didn't feel the stalker.  I stepped off the path, and nothing happened.  I went around the obstacles and continued on my way out of the swamp.  The stalker didn't attack me.  I looked down at the rock in my hand and knew that it was what had saved me.

The next part of my journey is a giant blur.  I remember walking down a path, and I remember the message being always on my head.  That is it.  My very mission was consuming me to the point of becoming me.  I remembered nothing other than the message, and the emperor.  Well, until I reached the hollows.

Before me was the hollows and instantaneously the message and the emperor faded from my mind at the horror of what was in front of me.  I was always told that the hollows were nothing more than a legend, but yet, here they were in front of me.  The hollows, in its essence is a dead forest, but, it did not die of normal means.  We did something to make the hollows the hollows, meaning that once a peaceful forest existed, but something so terrible happened that the forest died a painful and sadistic death, thusly transforming it into the hollows.  I knew that the stalker was gone, not even it would follow me into this place.  I then remembered the emperor"whom I did not know"and I stepped onward.

The path disappeared, which I figured it would, three steps into the hollows.  I felt the presence of something more dreadful than the stalker in the midst of that place.  Before me was only dead leaves which dropped from the trees above a long time ago, the path was gone.  I stepped, for in a weird way I knew where the path was below.  So long as I kept to it, I would stay alive, which, of course, meant that the message would as well.  The trick was, I remember being told, to feel confident in every step, only then would I survive the hollows. 

A day passed of my blind stepping, and I was almost out, I saw a clearing up ahead.  I looked to my right for a moment and spotted something shiny.  I stopped and looked once more and saw a chest full of gold.  I knew that this was a trick formed by whatever entity inhabited the hollows to lure me off the path.  I was told before that the spirits did this as a last attempt to get you.  I walked by the chest.

Soon I was out of the hollows, and then, right at the beginning of the clearing I saw a bench.  I realized I was tired and I decided to sit.  I sat down.  Horror filled me as I realized my mistake.  I went to shift sitting positions, but found that I couldn't.  In fact, I couldn't move at all.  Behind me I felt a tremendous force drawing closer.  I looked down and saw that there was still pine needles and leaves from the hollows on the ground.  The gold was not the trap of the hollows, the bench was.

In front of me was a lake, I looked down at my hand as I felt the force behind me draw closer, I still had the white stone I had found.  Upon looking at the stone, it fell out of my hand and rolled towards the lake a bit.  I knew then how to stop the thing behind me.  I picked up the stone"without moving my legs"and knew that I was sacrificing my safety from the stalker, but nonetheless, I threw the stone into the lake.  A plop sounded as it hit the water, and the force behind me subsided.  I started walking again.  The message needed to reach the emperor.

I was back on a main road after emerging from the hollows.  I wondered if the emperor was close, or if that other messenger I had passed had found him.  I hoped that he did.  For without even one messenger being successful, everything would be lost.  I looked to the sky, even though I didn't want to.  The sun was still shining brightly from its perch just as it had for the whole of my journey.  I lost count of my days not simply because I stopped counting, I lost count because night was no longer a thing.  Time had seemingly stopped one day, and since then, the sun had yet to move.  Even if one were adept at keeping time, it would be impossible to keep count for more than a day or so.

A day after looking at the sky I stumbled upon a man fishing with a group of kids.  He was wearing very tall boots, and a fishing hat, he had glasses, and his hair was gray.  He looked like any other guy, but I knew he was different.  I don't know what set him apart, but something did.  That was when I sat down next to him.

"Hello."  I said.  I knew he would say hello back.  The message needed to be delivered.

"Hello."  He said.

"Catch anything?"  I said.  He would say that he had caught one pike.  The message needed to be delivered.

"One pike, that's about it."  He said.

"Better than nothing."  I said.  He would say that he should be catching more.  The message needed to be delivered.

"I should be catching more."  He said. 

I said nothing back.  He would ask me how many I think he should be catching.  The message needed to be delivered.

"How many do you think I should be catching?"  He asked.

"Twenty three."  I answered.  He would nod.  The message had to be delivered.

He then nodded, reeled his line in, and told the boys fishing with him that it was time to head back to camp.  He looked up at the sun, then back at me.  I couldn't read his face too well, it was either one of great joy, or one of great despair.  I didn't know.  I knew that the message needed to be delivered.  If it wasn't, or at least, if a messenger made even one mistake, everything would be lost. 

Then, as they were walking off, I wondered if I made a mistake, or even if the dying messenger had made a mistake.  Then I thought about how many messengers there were, and if they would all make it.  The message had to be delivered.  It had to be.

 

 

 

 


© 2013 Elfinlocks



Author's Note

Elfinlocks
Didn't proofread, needed something to do, wrote it in the last hour or so.

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Added on April 14, 2013
Last Updated on April 14, 2013

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Elfinlocks
Elfinlocks

NJ



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