Chapter 16

Chapter 16

A Chapter by Iron K. Tager
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The sixteenth chapter.

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Thick splashes of mud and water quickly followed one-another as Jeremy pursued the mysterious, sickly green light further down the street.  He turned left on his heel and rushed down another street and against the wind, which was now blowing the rain directly into his face.  The rain was still falling heavily, and night had fully set in, with barely any lights from the buildings around him to light his way.  He was breathing heavily as the rain soaked his clothes and pricked his face like cool needles falling from the sky.

‘Ahh!  Where is this thing going?’ he thought to himself, slowing down.  ‘Better yet,’ he stopped in his tracks, ‘what was that feeling back there?’  Jeremy looked down at his wet clothes and the mud beneath his shoes, and then back up to see the green light slowly fading away.  ‘It felt"that feeling… it reminded me of mom... Of…’  Jeremy tried to recall the name of the other person, who seemed to also come to mind next to his mother, the one who was with him in the hospital.  It was on the tip of his tongue, but he could not remember, and it made him uncomfortable. 

He wanted to know, and the only way to know was to follow it.  However, the more running he did, the further the light seemed to drag off into the distance, and the rain was not letting up.  The buildings were starting to grow closer together, but shorter ever so slightly as he moved closer to the edge of the village.  The path ahead seemed to get darker and darker the farther in he looked, and he knew he was leaving the village at this point. 

Jeremy ran past the last building, slowed down a little, and saw there was a tidy, but still muddy path that went forward a ways into the darkness and seemed to turn to the left.  Now jogging, Jeremy looked around himself at the dark woods and wet trees, whose leaves tapped incessantly with every drop of rain that hit them.

‘Come on, wherever this thing is going can’t be too far, right?’ he thought to himself as a small pit of fear began to form in his stomach.  Regardless, even if he made a deal with himself to turn back after a ways, there was nothing that would stop him from finding out.

He turned left at a practically right-angle turn in the road, and looked far into the distance now ahead to see an opening in the trees.  He couldn’t see the green glow anymore, but instead a pinkish glow seemed to take over. He slowed even more into a walk, noticing the road narrowed into a path, and the rain started to let up along with the wind.  A silence crept up on him, and the only noise he could hear was his own breathing, the muddy steps he was taking, and the faint whisper of the wind in the distance.

The tree’s branches arched over him from and blocked the dark and cloudy sky from over his head.  A breeze shifted the leaves and blew across Jeremy’s soaked clothes, but he did not seem to notice the sudden cold.  Step after step, he moved closer the glow, until he could see gray cubes and independent trees through the small opening the path was heading to.

He was confused, but also captivated by what he was slowly coming up to.  He snapped back to what he was doing.  ‘Make it quick.  Find what the light is, then go back.  Yes, that’s good.’ 

He took a deep breath, and then stepped out into the opening just beyond the trees and onto a stone.  He looked down, and followed the stone to another stone, and noticed that many flat stones were arranged to form a path.  Following the path, he could see the cubes, or more like rectangles, standing on either side of the path.  These were made of a different, more refined-looking stone.  The stones had words and symbols chiseled into one side of them facing the paths, and patches of seemingly perfect grass surrounded the larger, stones and other random areas where it seemed no one would walk. 

“What’s… no, this place looks like…” Jeremy whispered to himself looking at the trees dotted around the open area, which were covered in pink and purple flowers.

Suddenly, large steps could be heard slowly coming closer to him, stepping on the stone path.  He turned around to see an enormous figure towering over him.

“Hello, little human,” a deep, familiar voice boomed out with seeming restraint to its volume.  Looking up at his face, Jeremy could see the spiky, white hair and two horn-looking stubs on either side of Badak’s head.  “What brings you here?”

Jeremy looked up at him for a minute, surprised to see the Rhino here.  He then looked around him, trying to shake off his surprise.  “You didn’t see a green light, did you?”  He asked.

“Green light?”  The Rhino looked at him with a big smile.  “I have seen plenty of green lights around.”  He laughed sparingly at his own joke and patted Jeremy on his shoulder.

Jeremy didn’t get the joke, and went on to ask:  “Well... first off, where… is this place?”

“This is a graveyard,” Badak explained.  “A place were humans put dead humans to rest.  Though you already knew that,” he smiled.  “Nice and quiet place, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Jeremy said as he looked around, feeling stupid for asking that question, but stealing himself away to look around.  The rain and wind had completely stopped, but for some reason it looked like it was never raining here in the first place.  A comfortable feeling enveloped the area, and a glow of sparse lamps against the pink and purple flowers of the trees created a soothing glow. 

“Why are you here?”  Jeremy asked.  ”Paying your respects?”

Badak chuckled a little.  “Not really.”  He looked at a second area of the clearing, which was higher up than the one they were standing in.  Holding up the earth on another flat area with similar grave stones, a stone wall kept up the ground and stairs led up to it, along with a black, metal railing at the top.  “Just leaving something.”

“Oh,” Jeremy said.  “Well-”

“I think I will go now,” the Rhino interrupted, smiling at Jeremy again.  “See you later, little human.”  He walked away into the tree, simply disappearing into the darkness.

Jeremy watched the trees were Badak had gone, and then turned back around, and began to slowly walk further along the stone path.

Most gravestones were the same size, but a noticeable amount were different in their own ways.  Some were shorter, taller, wider, or thinner than others; and some were perfectly square on top, or had a pyramid top.  He looked up in the sky to see if there was any break in the clouds, but there was no way to tell; it was completely black, and no light managed shine through. 

Walking further along, Jeremy saw that places on some gravestones had been cut.  Small slices seemed to cover one to his left as he passed by, and the one right after it had a small part of its corner chopped off.  Not by any natural means, but by a person’s doing.  The grave stones on the left looked to be a little older, or as if they had been there longer than those on the right.  Continuing on, he noticed a grave stone to his right that had been cleanly cut off diagonally at its middle.  He stopped and looked on the ground next to it to see that the top was laying to its right, between a stone path and a patch of grass. 

Jeremy slowly and cautiously lifted up his hand to touch it.  ‘A clean cut,’ he thought to himself, fanning his fingers out on it and sliding them down the diagonal surface.  ‘I wonder what could have done this,’ he thought to himself at first, but stopped himself as the top of the stone began to glow green.  Surprised, he took a step back and removed his hand from the gravestone, looking at it intently.  The light began to collect itself into a single spot in the middle of the cut.  His clothes and the nearby gravestone to the left were glowing as well, but Jeremy was fixed on the light emanating from the stone. 

He looked up, and saw the source of the green light floating in the air only a foot above his head.  It was a yellow-green, tennis ball-sized sphere with what looked like flames of the same color enveloping it.  It didn’t look too dangerous, and Jeremy looked around cautiously to see if anyone was controlling this from somewhere else.

“Hello?”  Jeremy called out, looking suspiciously back at the sphere.  There was a long pause.  After no response, he turned fully toward the ball floating in the air.

The green sphere remained still, floating without a noise.  “Yes?”

He stared at the glowing orb for a moment.  “Did you... just talk?”  Jeremy asked the orb suspiciously.

“I did,” the orb responded to him.  They both remained still and silent.  Jeremy could not tell if the orb had eyes, but he could tell that it was looking at him.

‘I shouldn’t be too surprised by this,’ Jeremy thought to himself.  ‘The ball can talk, that’s different.  What do I do now?  Start a conversation?’  “So...  what’s your name?”  He asked the floating ball.

“My name is Verona,” the orb responded.  The voice did not seem to have any distinguishable gender to it, only a monotone voice that spoke in a concise way.  “What is yours?”

“I’m Jeremy,” he responded.  “So, um, what are you doing here, Verona?”

A silence fell again.  “Look out,” Verona advised as they began to float higher into the air. 

“What?”  Jeremy followed them with his eyes, and then heard tap not far away. 

Before Jeremy could turn around, a girl’s voice, with a strong tone, began to speak to him.  “I will take you to see Morpheus.”

Silence fell as Jeremy tried to process this information.  He felt the urge to turn around, and his thoughts suddenly went wild, but he seized up.  It was almost as if that phrase had opened a door in his mind, and he was reliving the moment he spent with that silhouette, but something did not feel right.  He was curious as to who he was and what was going on, but he tried not to show it.

‘I always do try to play it safe,’ Jeremy recalled.  “What if I said no?” he asked.

He turned around to see who it was, but was quickly struck hard in the stomach with the knee of a dark figure.  He bent over in pain and the figure lightly placed their left hand on his shoulder, and moved their other arm upwards as if to strike with their right elbow down on him.  Jeremy saw this, quickly jerked himself to the side, and jumped backwards, out of the way.  In a split-second consideration of fight then flight, he quickly jumped forward and threw his fist in an upper-cut to get the figure to retreat.  His fist brushed against something below the figure’s face and glided up a piece of cloth before reaching its chin and lightly tapping it as it missed.

Jeremy took a step back, and the figure flipped back, hitting Jeremy off balance as it stepped on his shoulder, and landed on its feet only a couple of yards away.  He was frightened by the sudden actions, and tried his best to override his fear.

“Who are you?!”  Jeremy shouted in obvious fear.  He felt pain in his stomach and put his hand on it.  Looking up at the figure, he saw it was wrapped completely in black, from its head, to its fingers and toes.  On its face was a white mask with a few red and green lines, sparsely populating it in a square opening not covered by the cloth.

The figure suddenly made a dash to its right, and a second figure came out of the first one as if it had kept still, making two figures that both turned to Jeremy at the same time.  ‘Unfair’ he thought to himself.  ‘I can’t handle this.’  Looking to both sides, he couldn’t find a good way around them, and he could tell they were about to make a move. 

Jeremy ran straight for them with his right shoulder forcefully leading the way into a charge.  The figure on the right caught his shoulder in its hands as the other one moved to grab him.  Jeremy quickly pushed himself into a spin off the first figure, who lost their grip, and with the momentum, Jeremy swung himself down into a low, sweeping kick at the other one’s legs.  The figure on the left stepped back to catch itself and the one on the right jumped to the side to dodge his low kick.  Jeremy, without a second delay, quickly jumped up and bolted for the opening in the trees he had entered only moments before in a mad sprint.

After jumping over the final brick in the opening, which only and inch higher, he landed on the path through the brush and continued running.  The rain and wind began to pick up the farther he got from the graveyard, until it was pouring out once again.  Turning to the right he hoped to see the village off in the distance between the walls of trees, but he could not see it through the darkness and rain.

Jeremy felt a sudden pain in his side again as he turned to the right to compensate for a meander in the path.  His body was in full flight mode now, and he felt near weightless as he sped towards the village.  A green light slowly descended next to him as he ran, and managed to remain next to him through the sprint.

“You live in the village,” Verona said.

“Yeah,” Jeremy responded, not feeling like talking.

“You are a human, then,” Verona stated.

“Yeah,” Jeremy responded again.  He glanced at Verona, who was floating along side him.  “You?”

“A soul,” the green orb stated plainly after a slight delay.

“Ok,” Jeremy said oddly, but again quickly.  He could not be bothered with the details at the moment.

Suddenly, loud rustling sounds came from what seemed like the entire forest.  A black figure instantly appeared yards in front of Jeremy, putting its leg out in front of it and tipping its toes downwards.  They quickly made a line that separated the path from itself, and then stepped over to the left of it.  The second figure appeared out of the trees to the right and took its place on the other side.

‘No good, I’ll have to run through,’ Jeremy thought as he continued to barrel towards them. 

Right before reaching his interceptors, he slammed his foot into the thick mud, trying to direct all of his momentum and jumping off to the right.  The line exploded upwards in a wall of thick mud at the same time as he would have been crossing it.  He leaped his way further to the right, and grabbed hold of a low-lying branch on the tree next to the right figure, swung himself while pushing off with his right leg, and throwing his left leg at them.  The figure quickly dodged the attack, and Jeremy failed the landing that followed, tumbling off the path.  The left figure jumped towards him with an attempt to grab, but Jeremy quickly caught himself upright and pressed off the slightly less muddy ground on the side of the path.  He dodged a tree that he used to shield himself, and shot forwards with a slight trip, bolting once more towards the village. 

The rain continued to soak every inch of his clothes and keep the mud thick under his feet.  Running as fast as he possibly could with Verona, who seemed to disappear during the last scuffle, keeping up only a few feet away, he could hear the leaves on either side of him rustle in sync as the branches bounced under a weight.  Looking at the trees on the side of the paths, Jeremy saw green bolts of light shoot in his direction.  He hopped to the left, then to the right, and then diagonally back on track as he dodged to incoming attacks, losing a majority of his momentum as he did.

The village was only a few seconds away when he heard the clinging of chains on both sides.  Jeremy jumped over a chain that rigidly hit the ground to his right, and ducked under one that went straight for his neck.  Only a moment from entering the village, chains started to wrap around the trees on either side and extend over and on the path, making a wall to block it off.

‘C’mon, faster!’  Jeremy thought to himself demandingly as he began the push his legs to go faster and faster, straining to gain more speed.  Right before hitting the wall of chains, which was still constructing itself, Jeremy dove with his arms forward and his legs behind him straight through one of the last holes in the wall down near the ground.  He hit the muddy path and rolled, popping back up on his feet covered in mud and continuing to run after another trip past the first building.

Only moments after entering the virtual safety of the village, his legs began to hurt from their constant work, his chest pained in labored breathing, and his steps were growing out of sync.  Jeremy slowed to a normal walk with his shoulders drooping and his head trying to stay up as he tried to calm his breathing.  Most of the lights in the village were out at this time of night, and he concluded that asking for help might not be the best of ideas for many reasons.

Jeremy’s steps became so out of sync that he tripped on his own foot and almost feel down, staggering a bit.  The rain was still falling steadily, and he let out a sneeze.  After he felt he was safe, or at least safe enough to keep at a quick pace and remain vigilant.

“Ugh.  Who where those guys back there?  Friends of yours?” he asked Verona, who had succeeded in continuing to float next to him.  She had stopped glowing as brightly as before, and wasn’t glowing brightly at all.  He wanted to ask why she had remained with him until the village, but decided that it did not really matter.

“No, she is not a friend of mine,” Verona said monotonically.

Silence followed her words, and nothing but the rain and the occasional splash in a puddle by Jeremy’s heavy steps could be heard.  Walking by a fully lit building with its door open, and muffled sounds came out of it of people talking and a little commotion, but Jeremy’s legs would not stop, and he continued to drudge forward towards Lance’s shop.

He turned a corner to the right to the street the shop was on.  Sneezing again, Jeremy whispered to himself, “finally.”  Suddenly, he heard a series of taps on wood in the distance behind him, and then a second set of taps quickly follow that one.  “Ah, come on!  Give me a break.” Jeremy sighed heavily. 

He began to force his legs to start going faster, slowly picking up speed as his feet hit the ground.  They burned and strained to give him more than they felt comfortable giving.  ‘The shop is only half a minute away.  They wouldn’t attack me in there, would they?’ he thought to himself. 

He continued to pick up his pace.  The wind pushed him along as he got closer and closer, and he looked over his shoulder for a brief second to see if they were behind him, running on the rooftops to his right.  However, the second figure had disappeared, and now only one was following him.

‘Good, the lights are on,’ he thought to himself as the shop came into view.  Suddenly Jeremy heard the rattling of chains again and looked up to see a long chain bolting down directly at him.  Right before hitting his arm, he relaxed his right leg and fell into the mud.  He quickly grabbed a hold on the building next to him and threw himself back onto his feet.   He then leaned his body forward and pushed off the ground with his feet, ducking under another chain as it came towards his throat again.  The sound of chains came once more, and he pushed off as hard as he could into one last sprint for the door, barely dodging a chain that was coming straight down for him.

Making a final slide on his feet across the slick mud, Jeremy reached the door and quickly turned the knob.  Throwing the door open, he jumped inside, with a little help from his hands, and hit his face hard against Lance’s stomach, and then stumbled to the ground, barely able to land on his hands and knees, and leaving a smudge of mud on Lance. 

“Jeremy!” Lance exclaimed as he looked confusedly down at Jeremy.  “Are you alright?!”  Jeremy lifted himself up on his hands and knees, then placed one foot on the ground, and used that knee to hoist himself up as Lance hovered over him, ready to give help if he needed it.  Wobbling a little, he turned around to look out into the rain through the open door, and Lance’s gaze followed.  The figure with the black clothes and white mask was standing on the other side of the road, staring at them.  Its empty gaze made them all feel cold, and Jeremy even began to tremble, either from the sprinting, the fact he was wet, or his own fear.

Lucia came running downstairs and stopped in the hallway.  “What’s going on?” she asked as she looked confusedly at Lance, who blocked most of the door from her vision, and the wet, filthy Jeremy standing in front of the door to the shop.

“Stay back,” Jeremy commanded, as he slowly reached across Lance to try and shut the door.

The figure continued to stare at them.  Then, a chain quickly shot out from over its shoulder, coming straight for Jeremy’s neck.  Jeremy quickly threw the door closed to intercept it, and the chain knocked the door back open.  It retracted, leaving a mark on the door, then slowly the figure lifted its head as if to look past Lance and Jeremy at Lucia, who was standing at the front of the hall, even more confused by the noises. 

Calming his fear, Jeremy slowly moved his left hand towards a tall bucket full of brooms and walking sticks for something to use as a weapon, trying not to get noticed by the figure.  “When I say so,” he whispered to Lance over his shoulder, keeping his eyes on the figure.  “You duck down, got it?”

“Right,” Lance confirmed, whispering back as Jeremy took a firm grip on a staff.  Silence gripped the scene, and all except the rain outside could be heard.  No one was making a move, and no one said a word.

Jeremy reeled back, squinting his eyes and lifting his left hand as if he was going to sneeze, and the figure quickly took a flying leap into the shop.  ‘Got ‘em,’ Jeremy thought as he spun to his left, taking the staff out of its holder.  “Duck!” he called, and lance ducked down as instructed as he swung the staff around.  The figure dove right next to Jeremy as he came around with the staff and whacked them directly in the face with all of his force.  Two cracks could be heard as the figure’s momentum was mostly lost, and fell limply over Lance and onto the ground.

Jeremy quickly took his hands off the staff and rubbed them to regain feeling he had just shocked out of them, and then quell the burning sensation.  “There’s a crack in it now,” he said, observing it as Lance stood up.  “Now, time to see who this is, right?”

“Indeed,” Lance confirmed as he grabbed the figure’s arm and tried to turn them over. 

Suddenly, the figure wrapped their legs around Lance’s arm and kicked their feet into his face.  Lance let go of the figure, retracting his arm as he tumbled back.  The figure rolled backwards towards the hall, but only to push off and fly to the door.  Jeremy quickly moved around to strike at its left with the cracked staff, causing it to screech to a halt and turn its attention to him, putting up its hands and catching it.  Chains came from under the figure’s wrists.  The left one wrapped around Jeremy’s neck, and the right one around his shoulder joint, lifting him off the ground and pinning him against the wall.

Lance came from its right as the chains began to squeeze down, moving his entire body forward with one motion and hitting the figure with a hammer-like fist, launching them out into the rain.  The figure rolled once, then popped back up onto its feet to see Jeremy come back to the ground, unchained and massaging his throat.  It then took an explosive leap into the sky and was gone.

“And don’t come back!”  Lance yelled out into the night.

Lance turned to look at Jeremy, and Jeremy exchanged looks with Lance as he rolled his shoulder and continued to rub his throat.  They both smiled, relieved that whatever that was, was over. 

“Oh!  Sorry about the staff, and these clothes,” Jeremy laughed awkwardly as he handed the staff over to Lance, who accepted it.

“Don’t worry.  It was well worth it,” Lance continued to grin as he put the staff back in its place.  “An antique is still an antique, even if it’s broken,” he chuckled, trying to lighten things up.

Jeremy’s smile did not last much longer as he turned back towards the door.  “Any idea who that was?” he asked.

“I thought you might know,” Lance commented back.

Jeremy sighed.  “I have no idea; came out of nowhere.”

“That…”  Lucia slowly walked from out of the hallway and into the shop.

Lance quickly turned around.  “No no, it’s nothing to worry about.  I mean, we-”

She cut him off, yelling.  “That was Awesome!!!”  She looked at Jeremy with a sparkle in her eyes and a big smile across her face.

“R-really?” he half smiled back at her.

“Yeah!  They were coming in here and you all whacked them in the face and then- and then... it was just awesome!!” she continued, excited by what just happened.

Jeremy rubbed the back of his neck, looking off bashfully.  “Well, y’know…”

Lance looked Jeremy over.  “I’ll have to get those clothes mended and washed.  Just where did you go out there?”

After hearing that, Jeremy’s legs suddenly felt hollow, and he fell onto his folded legs, still smiling.  “Oh wow.  I feel terrible.”  He tried his best to hold himself back from getting sick. 



© 2014 Iron K. Tager


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Added on March 4, 2014
Last Updated on March 4, 2014
Tags: Break Down the Unknown, Chapter 16, 16, Jeremy, Lance, Lucia, Figure, Verona, Graveyard, chains, storm, shop, village


Author

Iron K. Tager
Iron K. Tager

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Hello! I'm not really that good of a writer at all, but I do enjoy writing. I tend to only write things when I feel like it, so sometimes I go long stretches without putting anything down. I wrote .. more..

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