Me From Another World
The fish, if that is what it could be called with its scales, snout, and tiny legs like a crab’s despite having fins, didn’t taste so bad. Wet and raw, but not bad with the appetite Arlo had. Has it been a day? Two? Having been locked inside with no window messed with his sense of time, worse now in the cave that remained unchanging.
“Could have used a little pepper,” Gham murmured at Arlo’s side. After discovering that the lake was fresh water and populated with numerous edible creatures Gham made himself right at home as he leaned back on a mound of dirt. Arlo frowned at him and when they made eye contact Arlo motioned towards one of the numerous tunnels. “Don’t be so eager to starve,” Gham said. “We need to collect our strength. If we wait ‘till I start to molt maybe we can start a fire, eh?”
Or maybe you can check how deep the pond goes.
Gham seemed to catch on to Arlo’s thought and chuckled. “Guess Senna’s humor travels through worlds too, then.” With a sigh he scratched at the feathers along his forehead. “Brilliant little bastard. Just when I think I know him, he surprises me.”
Arlo frowned and cocked his head. All Gham seemed to think about was Senna.
With a click of his tongue Gham said, “You have no idea what Senna did, do you?”
Arlo shook his head. Not a clue.
“Started a war. Hmm, maybe not started it—tension’s been there already. He made sure it would happen. There are those that want to kill him for it. And the number will grow once they have an excuse for revenge. We’re tumbling down a spiral of revenge with no way out now.”
Bile collected like a lump in Arlo’s throat.
Gham rubbed at his face with both hands. “If only I caught on quicker. I should have…”
Whatever regrets Gham had he didn’t share them. Instead he said, “Senna killed the leader of our clan on the night he was to marry the princess of the human kingdom, rendering peace between humans and aves impossible. Not that it’s your problem, huh? You just want to go home. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to fix it all this time. So long as I’m with you we’ll sort this all out. Got any leads?”
Yes! Now that they were thinking ahead, Arlo smoothed out a patch of sand and bit at his lip as he drew. The cave Arlo first appeared in was their biggest lead and though the markings and bones didn’t mean much to Arlo, Gham might be able to understand and maybe undo it all. Then Arlo could go home!
“And what’s this supposed to be, Not-Senna? Hm? That the castle? And all those little houses, the city then? And…a hole? Ah, it’s water, the pond then. And next to it, a rock? Boulder? Another pond? Ugh, our mysterious lead then. Whatever’s next to the pond is our lead.”
It’s a cave! Arlo wanted to scream. The moment Arlo got his voice back he’d make sure Gham knew his brain was closer to a bird’s than a human’s. The point was that Gham knew where they needed to go. And as for how to get there…
Arlo felt the vibrations travel from his legs up his entire body. He searched for the source in alarm, horrified that an earthquake would bury them. Although Gham remained still, his fingers curled into the sand. “Don’t worry,” Gham whispered. “The sand giants aren’t violent; we just need to stay still.”
Arlo waited for the inevitable, body tense and eyes darting at each tunnel. Movement from one to the far right caught his attention and an enormous, bulging beatle wiggled out. The creature was easily ten feet tall, if not taller, and body twice as long, bulbous at the front and flattening out at the other end. Numerous legs carried it towards the water where it paused to drink. As it did so, soft speckles of blue that coated its rough shell floated upwards towards the blue orbs above and joined the cluster, forming new orbs.
“So that’s where they end up…” Gham said, then snickered. “People pay good money for their shedded skin if it’s coated in azuel—that blue stuff. And if this is pure azuel,” Gham held out the orb he’d plucked earlier, “it’ll be worth quite a lot.”
The creature, or sand giant as Gham called it, finished drinking water and carried its great body towards another tunnel and vanished.
“If so much azuel accumulated here, the sand giants stop here regularly. How boring, to go from the same ditch to tunnel’s your entire life, only to pop above ground for a bite of fruit. Those things go crazy for fruit.”
Arlo had stopped listening before Gham finished talking. In a flurry of movements Arlo started patting his body and removing the outer layers of clothing.
“Uh, Not-Senna? I don’t think going for a swim would be wise.”
Not bothering to attempt to answer Arlo focused on the pouch that was tied around his waist. He emptied the contents on the floor—rolled paper, pen, stones and such—he measured the length of it before tossing it aside.
Arlo beckoned Gham close as he drew out his plan: a poor rendition of a sand giant and two stick figures riding it. Then he held out the pouch and pointed at the leftover bones from their meal, pretending to pull out a piece from the pouch and eating it.
Gham clicked his tongue. “Carry supplies and ride them out of here, eh? You know, those that have tried so have never been heard of again. Yet, they were trying to come in, while we’re trying to go out…”
Arlo nodded with enthusiasm and waited for Gham’s verdict.
“It’s possible. Sand giants resurface at intervals. If we can just hang on until it does, we can escape.”
Grinning, Arlo tried finding ways to tie the clothes he removed into some form or rope.
“Wait, that pendant…”
Arlo paused and peered down at the pendant hanging off his neck. The soldiers in the cell had paused because of the same pendant. He started to remove it to hand over but Gham stopped him.
Slowly, Gham reached into his own clothing and pulled out an identical pendant, same deep green and size. Gham swallowed and in a grave voice said, “I don’t know if you understand what wearing that means, but no matter what, even if you’re starving and someone offers you a meal, don’t ever give it up. Understand? I’ll…I’ll tell you when to hand it over. Promise me?”
Despite his confusion, Arlo promised only to lift some of Gham’s distress. Gham was Arlo’s only ally in this strange world. If he asked for something Arlo had little choice but to listen.
Gham tucked his away. “Good. Only aves carry these. The only way for a human, for Senna, to have one is to receive it. We can’t take it away.”
Arlo hid the pendant beneath his shirt. Aves, this was the second time Gham mentioned that word. It was probably what the bird people referred to themselves as, and there was a war going on between humans and aves. One that Senna made sure wouldn’t end anytime soon. But why? No matter how much Arlo learned about Senna, there were only more questions that those living in this world might not even be able to answer. Maybe no one in this world or any other world could ever understand Senna.
“We’ll sort it out once we’re out of this place,” Gham said. Then, with a click of his tongue added, “I’ll get Senna to explain.” Gham huffed and straightened his posture, clasping Arlo’s shoulder with renewed fervor. “Time to prepare ourselves. Who knows how long we’ll have to stay on that beast’s back.”
Arlo agreed and he set aside all thoughts irrelevant to their escape. Senna would have to wait.