Arrival: Sulfur and Methane

Arrival: Sulfur and Methane

A Chapter by DeathbyGarlic

Already Max's least favorite thanks to my friend, I decided to dig the hole deeper...


Light rushed in from all around me, the pressure on my body almost nonexistent. My foot landed on the sandy ground and slipped. I managed to catch myself with a hand and stood up straight, eyes adjusting to the bright light. I frowned and wrinkled the bridge of my nose as the smell of sulfur wafted through the air.

Then it hit me; like someone tightening a vice grip on my temples, the stream sickness came on strong and fast. My ears rang, my heart throbbed behind my eyes, the bright light became painful and the world became my enemy.

Matt, as I noticed a second ago, was sprawled out on his back, probably from attempting some sort of leap or dive into the event horizon. He was laughing " he usually did when on his back from some failed stunt. I felt a hand clasp on my shoulder as I groaned for relief from the headache. Max let go of my shoulder and gave me an unfriendly pat on the back, “you’ll be fine in a minute,” he said.

I could hear Shawn throwing up to my right, it sounded like there was a lot of it, too.

“You shouldn’t have eaten so much before we left,” Shannon said. I could tell from the sound of her voice that she wasn’t standing next to him. “It smells like sulfur and methane here.”

She knows what methane smells like? Even I couldn’t smell methane over the sulfur and I took a natural chemistry course in the academy.

“That’s right,” Max said, “we’re not far from the city of Stadt. What you smell are the heavily polluted the rivers north of its borders.”

My headache was starting to go away and it didn’t hurt my eyes to look up and see everyone. Sure enough, Shannon was standing a couple yards away from her husband while he gingerly wiped vomit from the corners of his mouth. Max stood next to the younger guide, Paul, who looked more nervous than I would have liked. Matt finished dusting himself off and took a couple steps to stand next to me.

“Yo,” he said quietly, smiling.

“Hey,” my answer sounded more like a groan.

“Where’s Skiff?” Shawn asked; looking around, concerned.

Matt ignored the gasp from Shannon as she realized a member of the group had vanished. “Get that headache again?” He spoke quietly, not wanting Max to reprimand us for a lack of concern.

I nodded, “yeah. What did you do, front flip through the stream?”

Max turned away from the group, looking into the woods, his head moving front side to side just slightly, “where is he, Paul?”

“More like a belly flop " not for a lack of trying, though.” Matt’s grin grew wider.

Paul looked a bit surprised, “I’m not sure-“

“What do you mean, you’re not sure?” Max squared his shoulders to the younger man, “you went through first; Skiff was after you, where did he go?”

I wanted to explain to Matt the error in his attempted front flip, “I’m not sure that it’s physically possible to-“

“I’m right here.” Skiff’s rough voice had a bit of a traditional twang to it, almost as if he grew up in 22nd century Alabama " which, I suppose, was possible. He emerged from some large bushes to my left; the river was in that direction. “I figured that while we were here, might as well get some torches.” He had several sticks trucked under his arm, each one wrapped with fabric on one end.

As he handed a torch to me, I sniffed the tiny bubbles scattered along the fabric. Uhg "what is that? I quickly jerked my head away. The expression on Skiff’s face was as casual as I would expect it to be as on a night in front of the TV. He must have done this before.

“I just figure, why wait ‘til our flashlights die to use torches? If we use torches now, while we got plenty of fuel just over there,” he flicked his wrist in the direction of the river, “we can save our flashlights for emergencies.”

“Skiff, what the hell fuel are you talking about?” Shawn asked, obviously having the same reaction to the smell as I did.

“Gasoline, there are a few drums of it half-buried on the shore just south of here.”

Max rubbed the bridge of his nose impatiently, “Skiff, our flashlights won’t die.”

“Oh, that’s right. Ya know I keep forgettin’ how damn long ya’lls batteries last. I’m still used to those lithium ones.” So he is from the 22nd century!

Matt, probably the most enthusiastic traveler on this particular trip, decided to put in his two cents. “I think we should use the torches.”

Max turned his glare to the two of us, already his least favorite.

“No, really, think about it; a wild animal isn’t going to be afraid of a flashlight but fire might do the trick. That way we can save ammo.” Apparently, my friend was thinking of this trip as a game. Still, I had to inwardly applaud his effort, misguided as it was.

“The torches will give off a smell which will attract not only wild animals but any people in the area.”

After a moment of silence, Matt gestured in a half-shrug, “so… Does that mean no?”

“Croe, don’t test my patience.”

“Look, all I’m saying is that we paid to take this vacation and now you’re telling us what we can and can’t do.”

I shook my head and sighed; Matt was easily the best friend I could have but his persistence got him, and often times me as well, into a lot of trouble. I learned quickly that he only took no for an answer if it were given to him by someone he cared about. Why he felt so strongly about using the torches I couldn’t imagine; perhaps it would make him feel more primal.

“Matt, do the torches really matter that much?” I put a hand on his shoulder, hoping he would take the hint.

“Yes,” he replied, pushing my hand off, “they do.” He stepped into the middle of the group, “just because Max has done this one hundred bagillion times doesn’t mean we have to follow his every instruction to the T.”

It was then I realized he didn’t care about the torches, not in the least; he was just having some fun in his own, unique way. It probably didn’t occur to him that we’d both be sent home tonight for it.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t come here to be kept in a bubble or be babysat. I came here because I was sick and tired of my bubble!” It took considerable effort not to laugh at his mock independence speech. “I came here because I wanted adventure, danger, mystery and most of all, an adrenaline rush like never before!”

He flicked open his lighter, igniting the torch to emphasize his point, “I say we use the torches when and how we please; this is our vacation!” He thrust the flame into the air a look of determination on his face.

I admitted to him later that night, when no one else was nearby, that his speech was impressive, given that it was off-the-cuff. At the time, however, it was met with silence from our group. Matt didn’t seem phased in the least. Instead he suggested we vote on the issue. It didn’t happen.

We hiked a little way from the river, maybe three miles and set up camp for the night. Max and Paul would take turns guarding, since they were both on what you may know as the Uberman Sleep Schedule. Max took his hour nap just after camp was set up, then relieved Paul as we were all going to bed.

“Rudd, you mind if I have a word?” Max’s voice filtered through the fabric closing the entrance to my tent.

“Come on in,” I answered, sitting up to make room.

He lifted the fabric and ducked his head inside, the rest of his body following suit. “I need to talk to you about your friend,” he began, “I need to know that he’s a team player and that you are, too.”

“Look, Max " err " sir,” I wasn’t really sure how to reassure him, or if it could be done. Am I about to get sent home? “Matt has his own brand of humor. I can’t really stop him from having fun but neither of us plans on dying out here.”

“Can you work with everyone else, to ensure none of us get hurt?”

“I can’t speak for-“

“You see, I thought for sure the woman would be the weak link, but now I see it’s you and your friend. There’s always a weak link in every group,” he was practically snarling at me, “one or two individuals who refuse to act with the team.”

At that point I realized we weren’t going to be sent home; we’d just get bitched at " that I could deal with. I’d dealt with plenty worse for sixteen years from my father. Besides, Max was a Darwinist, which wasn’t a trait I was fond of in anybody.

“Well it wasn’t very ‘team-like’ to decide for everyone else that we weren’t going to use torches.” I gave him the most sarcastic smile I could muster.

“You clearly don’t understand how dangerous it is out here.”

“Oh, I do. So does Matt. You see, we read your book. In fact, that’s all you talk about, is how dangerous it is. You might as well just put up signs at the agency saying ‘don’t take this trip’ in bold letters.”

“My efforts are-“

“I’m tired, Max, so if you’re not going to send us home I’d like to get some sleep. Or I won’t be on top of my game " and that could affect everyone.”

Max looked like he wasn’t going to say anything as he lifted the fabric to leave. I hoped he wouldn’t speak; if only I could be so lucky.

“If you cause any more trouble, I will not hesitate to leave both of you behind.” The fabric flapped closed behind him.

© 2010 DeathbyGarlic

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Yay! No history lesson this time. This Chapter was much better as far as charactor development. I am starting to get a sense of what each person is like. So well done there. No real plot development yet, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, yet. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Yeah, this one is much, much better than the last one. Now we actually get to learn a little bit about the main character, and Max and Matt (too many M names) as well. You're still not sucking me in, but I'm going to read the next chapter all the same in hopes that it continues to improve where this one left off.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Yay! No history lesson this time. This Chapter was much better as far as charactor development. I am starting to get a sense of what each person is like. So well done there. No real plot development yet, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, yet. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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2 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on January 9, 2010
Last Updated on January 10, 2010
Tags: arrival, time travel, apocalypse, sci-fi




I'm Adam, I live in north Florida and I've been writing fairly often for a few years. I'm turning my focus to other things, now, but still want to keep up with my writing since I enjoy it. I figured .. more..