The Boy, Part Two
I needed a moment to gather my thoughts. Or rather, I needed the whole night. No sane person goes around like that, swinging steel at ghosts. My clothes are drying and I’m lying on a bed which happened to be in a decent state.
Though I may look rather peaceful, I’d say that I’m in critical state. The Follower is only two yards away from me. I can feel its desire to consume me. I seriously need to do something. Maybe I should run South for as long as I can and hope for the best. Maybe I’ll find her.
Thankfully, I’m not hungry. There’s an apple tree nearby which I’d used to fill my bag yesterday before nightfall. My clothes are somewhat dry, just slight moisture left. I think I should take my leave already. I don’t have much time left.
I check in the storage rooms for one last time. I found some useful stuff earlier, so I’m not expecting to find anything. When I’m done, I’ll start climbing the wide hill I saw yesterday. With a lit candle, darkness hinders me only by little. But since I’d salvaged everything already, I can’t really find anything here. Oh well, it was good to ensure it. There might have been something I’d not noticed at first.
Soon I’m all geared up and ready to go. I exit the fortress and hurry towards the hill. I’m seriously scared. The Follower is almost hugging me even as I run. Once it starts sloping upwards, I run even faster. Obstacles be damned! I ignore whatever should slow me down. I almost twist my ankle between rocks as I run up the hill, but so what?
There’s the painful sensation of muscles growing tired. Even my stamina isn’t enough for running up a rough slope like this. The higher I get the thicker the terrain becomes. Before long, I can’t even see what’s before me some yards away. No matter, I keep running with all I have.
Then suddenly, a bright light almost blinds me and I stumble face first to the ground. I stop for a moment in body and mind, like the time was frozen. My breathing is rough due to exhaustion. Then I feel it. I feel the cold touch of death creep on my skin. It’s like the coldness was slithering on my skin. I cry for one last time. My face becomes moist due to tears and mud. The Follower has to be devouring me. So, in the end, my greed gave birth to a sin I couldn’t ignore for rest of my life and succumbed to regret after two years.
I take a quick glance at what’s on top of this hill, assuming I got enough time to do so.
What…? I… Am I, seeing things? There’s a huge crater. No, this isn’t a crater, but a valley, surrounded by a wall of land which is this hill. But it seems that getting out of that valley is impossible since the inward ledges of the hill surrounding this massive valley are bluff cliffs. I can’t see the whole valley from this posture, but what I can see well is a massive castle in the middle.
I sit up and a smile spreads across my face. That castle is no joke, its highest peak is at the height of this cliff where I am. Its towers are like spires, and the whole thing in itself looks majestic. The valley slopes down towards the center where the castle is, so the lowest point of the valley is truly far below. By the way, the cliff is somewhere between a hundred and two hundred yards high, and the valley is vast. Also, there’s a waterfall which turns into a river down in the valley. The river ends to a pond next to the castle.
Just where did I get? And where’s the sensation of immediate death? Nay, where’s the Follower itself? Ah, I suppose I gained new vigor. But then again, that castle, it’s like I’m drawn towards it. Maybe that’s the place I’ve been looking for all this time. Maybe, just maybe it’s the sight of that castle which made the Follower flee.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find her.
I’ve been walking the ledge for quite some time now. I’m looking for a way down. There has to be one if there’s a castle down there. But now that I think about it, isn’t that castle perfectly positioned? No siege engine can fire that far from these cliffs, and getting siege engines down there could be troublesome. Or maybe it’s not that great a place after all…
Nevermind that, I’m no war strategist, just a fisher, and a hunter. But how was that castle built? There are no apparent paths that lead down there, so where did all the supply come from? I don’t see any fields for grain. Where did all that stone come from? I don’t see any quarry. Oh well, maybe this valley itself is the quarry. Don’t care.
I’ve got a better view of the castle as well now that I circle the ledge. It looks like there’s life in that castle, for it’s maintained well. But then again, I don’t see any life over there. It’s confusing. This whole place is a mystery. Which country is this even? Or what language was used here? I doubt my language, for I come from a place too far from here.
From the design of the castle alone I can tell that this is a foreign country to me. Oh well, does it matter? I just need to get down there! Damn it. I walk over to the very edge, eyeing for any possible path or a cliffside which I could climb down.
I scratch my head as I look down. I doubt I could climb down from anywhere. To think that I’d run into a dilemma like this…
“Need help?” Something asks me behind my back.
“Who…?” I ask as I try to turn around, but who or whatever asks me pushes me down from the edge…? “The hell!?” I scream as I fall.
Shocked, I don’t know what to think. I’m falling to my death, yet I feel like my head is empty due to the shock. And I never met her, damn it! I don’t want to die like this! I don’t!
And soon enough, I plash against the stony below.
“Welcome to madness.”
Such a voice rings in my head. No, I shouldn’t wonder that one, but rather, how the hell am I alive? My back aches, but otherwise I’m fine. Shouldn’t I be a pool of blood right now?
The thought chills me. I should definitely be dead, yet I live. How? No, stop thinking about it. I got to find her, everything else is just meaningless garbage. I’m well and alive, that’s the only thing that matters. Also, I got down to the valley (somewhat) safely.
Whoever it was, I suppose I should thank you for pushing me down. Who knows how long I’d have circled the cliffs if it’d not been for that mysterious entity. Yes, an entity, I doubt it was a human. But the hands that pushed me down felt like child’s hands, so I don’t know, I didn’t see anyone behind with the quick glance I got. So the entity was small.
Let’s stand up and look around for a bit. The land is rocky here next to the cliff, but some hundred yards inward and there’s grass growing. I guess I forgot to mention it, but there is not a single tree in this valley, and thus the castle is well in my view. I got some distance to cover, but I’ll get there before dark, that’s for sure.
Words to actions, I’m already walking down the valley. The grass has clearly grown wild here. Young children would get lost here, for they couldn’t see what’s in front of them. Thankfully, I’m a young adult.
Surprisingly enough, it’s not hot here, although the eternal ball of light high above the clouds just keeps raining its rays of heat down upon me. Okay, that was a bit too poetic, or rather exaggerated, but anyway.
There isn’t much to wonder here on this endless lea, and so I focus my thoughts on the castle. The main gate isn’t visible right now, for I’m somewhere on the left side if the point of view is from where I saw the castle for the first time. From there the main gate was visible. It didn’t look like it was made to last a siege, but rather, the gate looked like it was meant to welcome anyone, though closed it was.
So because of my location, I’m not walking directly to the castle, but circling around it as I walk closer. The castle is massive, so I don’t like the idea of betting on another entrance. I’ll just go to the main gate and knock it. If need be, I’ll start climbing from somewhere and get inside through a window.
Later when I get to the main gate, I stand still to wonder at the thing. I’d bet twenty yards. That’s how high the gate is. There are some markings on the gate, making it look mystifying, and maybe even interesting. I knock the gate thrice and wait patiently.
No one comes to open the gate. Just what am I expecting? All human life disappeared two years ago. But for some reason I knock again, hoping that if there’s someone in there. Maybe the resident(s) isn’t nigh to the gate and is hurrying to open the gate even now. I mean, I can hear the echoes of my knocking well and loud. No one can’t miss it. And thus I knock thrice for the third time.
And instantly after the third knock, the gate opens inward. There’s a sight before me I’d not expected. I stand frozen, not believing my own eyes.
There’s a girl before me. A human girl. She’d opened the gate on her own. Just how strong is she? Or is this gate really that light? No, I’ll leave that for later. Is she, her?
“Are you… real?” I ask her.
“Dan?” That’s the answer I get. Now I have no idea what’s that supposed to mean, but I can tell from her expression that she’s just as puzzled as I am.
I can’t help it. I walk over to her, she seems unsure, insecure, if not even terrified because of me. However, when I hug her, she stops shaking. I can’t see her face now that I hug her, but I don’t care. Also, I can’t stop the tears. I’d been totally alone for two years, just touching a human is enough to make me cry out of joy.
“Thank you, for being alive.” I blurt that.
She hugs me back now. I can hear her sobbing as well. Soon enough we are both on our knees, crying in each other’s arms in this vast and dead world.