Chapter 5:


Me From Another World

They pooled together all that they carried, which wasn’t much. Their most helpful tool was the knife Gham had with him. With it they prepared food, made crude pouches from clothing, and Gham somehow used it to start a fire on debri they collected and feathers Gham painfully sacrificed. Not only that but Gham had a couple tins on him before they were transported. Of course, Gham finished off the contents in one go so that they could fill them with water.Bookmark here

“So what’s the me of your world like, huh? Handsome?” Gham mused as he lay on his back and preening the feathers on his arms with his long nails. “Majestic feathers adorn him too, I bet.”Bookmark here

Arlo glanced at him as he packed smoked fish. A drunk Gham was more talkative and it didn’t matter to him there was no response. Bookmark here

“But considering how different you are from Senna,” Gham went on, “the other me might be a bit of a brute. Considering what a gentle soul I am. And considering that there is a difference as we are two different beings, one must be better than the other, and thus I name myself as the better me.”Bookmark here

Arlo sighed.Bookmark here

“What interesting conversations we could have, me and the not-me.”Bookmark here

Sure, sure, Arlo thought.Bookmark here

“Why, we could down cups and cups, all night long.”Bookmark here

Uh-huh.Bookmark here

“I wonder if he still has his brother?”Bookmark here

Arlo paused his packing, turning towards Gham. His voice was softer, quieter.Bookmark here

“Not-me might be ruffling his feathers right now. My not-brother would ask not-me to teach him something and he’d learn on the first try. They’d laugh—what I’d give up to hear him laugh.”Bookmark here

His rambling wasn't meant for Arlo at this point. Gham’s loss must have been hard, and Arlo didn’t miss the weakness in his voice throughout their time together. This whole thing with Arlo served as a distraction and Arlo couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or bad. Still, Gham was in this mess because of Arlo and deep down, Arlo was a little glad he hadn’t been sent here alone. Gham was his stability right now and Arlo wanted to pay that back even if a little.Bookmark here

He picked himself up and sat down beside Gham. Since Arlo couldn’t talk he did the only other thing he could think of and patted Gham on the shoulder. Gham flinched and blinked at Arlo with droopy eyes as if remembering that he was not alone. Gham returned the gesture, his eyes sleepy. Bookmark here

“Oh Senna. There’s nothing courageous about war, nothing prideful about killing someone’s family. Only death wins. Only death wins glory…”Bookmark here

And with that Gham was gone. His quiet snoring filled the silence as Arlo bit his lip. He didn’t like being confused for Senna, but just this once he’d forgive Gham.Bookmark here

Arlo yawned. Going to sleep now didn’t sound like a bad idea. He finished storing the meat and then huddled into his little ditch with the orb of blue close to him. It soothed him enough to forget where he was and be able to find sleep.Bookmark here

When he woke up to the sounds of splashing water he did so in a confused dazed. He was alone half buried in sand, mind going into a panic until he saw Gham washing his face in the pond. Arlo followed him and washed his own face, missing hot showers back home. Bookmark here

“I’m taking a long soak the moment we find town,” Gham said with a laugh. Bookmark here

You and me both, Arlo wanted to say. He was happy to go along with Gham more cheerful mood and not question Gham’s melancholy from the night before. Bookmark here

“So what do you think? Ready to get out of here?”Bookmark here

Arlo nodded and showed him what he’d packed. There wasn’t much but because they’d be using most of their strength to hang onto the sand giants they didn’t want to carry too much. Each of them would have a share of the food and own tin for water. Additionally, Arlo would have a pouch of fine sand to coat his hands. It was their best idea since, unlike Gham who had talons and sharp nails to help him hold on, all Arlo had were his sweaty palms.. Bookmark here

“Once we jump on, we can’t back down,” Gham said in a serious voice. “Be it hours or even days, if we let go or fall off we’ll be stuck in the maze forever. The sand giant will have to surface and we have to hang on until then.”Bookmark here

Arlo tied his supplies around his waist. His hands twitched and he curled his fingers tight. He wasn’t afraid to admit he was nervous; Gham was too. Arlo heard it in the way Gham forced his breath to remain steady. They had to steel their wills and take this one chance at escape.Bookmark here

The wait lasted hours for Arlo. Everything was set; they were ready to risk their lives the moment a sand giant came. The longer it took for one to appear, the more nervous. Arlo became. Those creatures were giant, how was he supposed to jump on one? And what if he fell? He’d be wandering in complete darkness until he died.Bookmark here

Gham elbowed him on the shoulder with a grin. “I won’t let you fall. Just think about how rich we’ll be once we’re out.”Bookmark here

Arlo gave him a small smile and patted the bulky pouch tied across his back. They each had three blue orbs with them. It was thrilling to know he’d come across something no one else ever had. Bookmark here

Then the tremor began, signaling the return of a sand giant. The creature looked bigger than normal, though it could’ve been Arlo’s nerves making it seem bigger. As it drank Gham and Arlo went around it and, at the count of three jumped on and scurried up higher. The sand giant didn’t react and went on its way through another tunnel. Arlo held his breath as the enormous body eclipsed the hole and at last entered, engulfing them in pitch black. Bookmark here

The sound of rough shell scraping against rock deafened them to any other sounds. Arlo thought he heard Gham say something but couldn’t make it out. It didn’t help that he had to keep his head down to avoid bits of debris falling into his face. Bookmark here

And so the time passed.Bookmark here

Minutes.Bookmark here

Hours.Bookmark here

Scraping, waves of rustling feet. The sand giant moved fast, devouring dirt in one end and ejecting it just as fast from the other. No wonder the floor was so loose, Arlo thought. Bookmark here

Too quickly Arlo’s body alerted him of the unnatural strain he put on it. His arms and legs were splayed out, constantly gripping with muscles that weren’t used to it. His shoulders groaned and his thighs burned. When he felt his hand start to slip he slid each hand, one at a time, into his pouch of sand to soak up the moisture. As he was pulling out his second hand, his foot lost its hold and he started to slip off the side. His heart jumped into his throat but he was quickly saved by a tight grip on his arm and he was yanked back up. Bookmark here

“You’re fine! You’re up!” Gham yelled over the noise.Bookmark here

Arlo swallowed and readjusted his body.Bookmark here

Some of the pain subsided to numbness, but not everything. He hated having to eat but not only did his body need the energy, he needed it as a distraction. He forgot that he wouldn’t be able to sleep; that was the toughest battle. The line between reality and unconsciousness was too blurred. Were his eyes opened or closed? Was he still holding on or had he fallen asleep and only dreamed he was on the sand giant?Bookmark here

Days.Bookmark here

They have to have been on this endless ride for days now.Bookmark here

I won’t die here. I won’t die here. Arlo repeated the phrase in his mind. He screamed it to feel some movement on his face. Bookmark here

And worse than eating, drinking water proved to be worse. Arlo waited until he couldn’t stand it anymore and pushed his strained body to bring the tin to his mouth. Just a few drops. All he needed was a sip.Bookmark here

The opening missed his mouth and water dribbled down his chin. A waste but not a tragedy, that is, until the water ran down the shell to wet his other hand. Arlo realized what the cold sensation was too late and he lost his hold. Bookmark here

His body flipped upside down as he descended. His stomach churned with the certainty that this was the end of his life. Bookmark here

Claws ripped into his shoulder as Gham once again caught him. This time, just by a miracle. Arlo scrambled to get back on, feet flailing and kicking against hard shell that did nothing to bother the sand giant. When Arlo had a firm grip again, the adrenaline was enough to keep him awake for a good while. Bookmark here

I’ll give Gham all of my blue orbs, Arlo swore. Bookmark here

But sleep was persistent. It started to creep in again, forcing Arlo to bite his lip until he bled because he knew he wouldn’t make it a third time. The sand giant had to surface. Bookmark here

And suddenly, light. Arlo squeezed his eyes, cold air hitting against his warm, sweaty face. Arlo breathed open air, tasting nature on his tongue. So shocked by the change, Arlo’s body went limp and he tumbled down onto forest floor. Bookmark here

We’re out! The pure excitement and relief gave Arlo the strength to push his body up and turn around, ready to give Gham the biggest, happiest embrace. Bookmark here

But Gham wasn’t there.Bookmark here

Between the tunnel entrance and the sand giant munching on fallen fruit, Arlo was completely alone.Bookmark here

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