Xorsis : Invasion\Lost
“I don’t believe it!” Aez spoke, looking up at the branch of the tree, his eyes widened in shock. “Five - no, ten. Ten years. How is it even possible?”
Was that really a person? How could a person stay like that, with no damage, no wear - for TEN years? The mere possibility of that event seemed impossible if that was a human. But from the shape and size of it, it seemed nothing less than a human. Nia was sure it wasn’t an undead, it definitely didn’t have that raggy look about it. No, it had to be a human. But how? A human body definitely decomposed in eight to ten days, and therefore, by now, it shouldn’t be possible for the person to stay there. Unless, it wasn’t the same person at all, unless it was someone else entirely. But the branches that enclosed it were dark in colour; they in no way seemed to be recent.
Nia was wondering whether it’d be logical to avoid her. But she was interested in it now. She was curious, she had to know what was going on here, and unless she did it, she’d probably regret it. She peeked at Aez curiously, who was still scrutinising the body with squinted eyes.
“We need to cut her down.” he finally said, his eyes still fixed there. “I don’t believe that person is the same one as then, but even if they are from a few days ago - if they are alive, they should be able to tell us something about this attack, right?”
That’s true, Nia thought, she didn’t think of that. She contemplated. What if something unfortunate happened again? She was a bit paranoid. Were those undeads able to disguise themselves? It didn’t seem so though. They seemed to have primal instincts only - to kill, to slaughter. Something intelligent like disguising oneself to lure out the preys - no, it definitely didn’t fit the picture of the undeads that they had seen.
“At least we could help one life,” Nia shrugged, preparing to climb up the tree, “If they are still alive.”
“That’s true too,” Aez agreed. “Please cut her down, Nia.”
Nia nodded. Sadly, Aez didn’t know how to climb trees; Nia always had been the sporty type among them. Aez on the other hand, preferred to stay with his academics mostly. Fortunately, Nia climbed trees a lot during the school sports events, or just generally, when she played with friends as a child. So, climbing up the tree would be no problem to her; the only concern she had was, what would come after it. But just standing out there wouldn’t help them at all, and so, she made the decision.
As Nia was about to climb up the tree, suddenly an idea dawned on her. She turned to Aez and asked, wondering whether that thought had occurred to him as well.
“That’s right. We are standing here for a while, aren’t we? But they aren’t attacking us. I don’t think we can hide very well, do we? But look - no one is coming after us.”
Aez pondered, “That’s… not what I was thinking about. It could be just a coincidence, I guess? But, look, I don’t know what is going on here,” Aez said, his voice heavy, “I can’t term anything as ‘logical’ anymore.”
He was right. Undead, in this world? That was impossible - except, that had come true now. Nia had read many mythological books, they mentioned many creatures, and the most famous creature was ‘fiend’, but undead? No, there wasn’t any historical article about them. Sure, in fiction, they appeared often, but fiction couldn’t be termed as historical books. They could reference anything - after all, sometimes external enemies were often termed as ‘demons’ or other stuff in some ancient texts. So, one really couldn’t say undead existed just by looking at some fictitious tales.
Nia started to climb the tree. Once she reached a thick branch, she sat on it. Then taking a quick few steps, she sat on the same branch the person was held up. The branches around the person were blackish. Nia stretched her hand and caught hold of one of them. She had expected them to be very hard to break, but surprisingly enough, they weren’t. If she applied more pressure, she could break them off one by one. But, if she broke down the cage-like structure here, at this height, the person probably will have no unbroken bones left.
Hesitating, she looked at Aez. He was looking up. She was thinking about asking him for ideas, then suddenly, everything around her trembled. An earthquake? Now? That’d be terrible timing.
But no, not everything, Nia realised, just the whole thick branch trembled. A bunch of leaves fell down. She grabbed the branch of the cage tightly, trying not to fall down. If it breaks down, forget about the person and the cage - even I won’t survive! The thought made her afraid, and shivers ran down her spines. She looked at Aez, her hands gripped around the branches shaking as well. “Aez?” she croaked, her throat dry with fear, “What should I do?”
“Hang in there!” Aez shouted back at her, “Don’t lose grip okay?”
Of course I know that! Nia couldn’t help being annoyed, If only you had better advice than that!
The branch of the cage she was holding snapped under the pressure of her hand, and hurriedly, she caught hold of another. She stared at a rock on the ground. Calm, calm. She told herself. If I panic now, I’ll probably increase the chance of my death - she gulped, I’ll be okay, I’ll make out of this -
Then, she noticed something strange. The rock on the ground seemed to get bigger every second, didn’t it? What? She asked herself, but, how could that be even possible? She turned her gaze to Aez’s face. Aez face, his whole body was growing bigger in size.
“Wait, it’s breaking?” Nia said in surprise, “But, gravity doesn’t work like-”
“It’s not breaking!” Aez replied quickly, “I don’t know how, but the branch is just coming down!”
“What? That doesn’t make sense! It can’t happen in real life, it happens in books!”
Before she could figure things out, the branch really had been lowered to the ground, forming an arc. Breathing out in relief, though she was still in disbelief, Nia jumped down easily. The person too, slid from the branch and fell to the ground.
“I’m never climbing a tree again,” Nia exclaimed, “That was… close. How many trees have I climbed now? Not a single one was like that! Geez, isn’t this forest way too weird?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry,” Aez mumbled, sighing. “I’m glad you’re okay though. I swear I’ll learn to climb trees on my own when… when…”
Nia shrugged, and mouthed a “Suit yourself,” and then they both got to work. It took a while, but they successfully snapped all the branches and broke the cage. They dragged the person out from the remaining branches. It was a girl, who looked a few years older than them.
“Why would anyone do that to her?” Aez whispered.
“As if I know,” Nia said, sighing, “she seems unconscious. Maybe some water.”
Aez nodded. “There is supposed to be a river that runs through the forest right?”
“I think the river was deeper into the forest. Maybe if we go on a little more, we’ll be able to find it.”
So saying she grabbed one hand of the girl while Aez took the other one.
The girl’s face was blackened, possibly due to staying enclosed here for years. Her wavy black hair was tied in a tight bun, and her dress was something like they had never seen. It was coloured like soil and tree bark, with weaves across it that resembled leaves. If someone stood wearing that in the woods, there was no way one could notice her easily. It also had many pockets, and Nia wondered what she carried in those many pockets. There was a hood at the back of her neck, which had torn off at many places. That was one strange attire, Nia thought. It was a lot like… like those assassin-spies Dottonex had many years ago. Though, truth to be told, she looked like a real mess more than anything else.
The river was nearby. As they approached, they heard the sound of the flowing water. They splashed water on the girl’s face. Slowly, the blackness was almost fading to reveal the tan skin inside.
“Hey, wake up,” said Nia, tapping on her shoulders, “Get up.”
The girl opened her eyes to reveal beautiful blue pupils. It took a moment, but then, all of a sudden, she was startled and stood up at once. Her readiness alarmed both Nia and Aez, and they took a few steps back.
“What are you doing in the forest?” Nia asked. “No - maybe that’s not the question I should be asking first. Why are you still alive? How long have you been here? Did you see undeads here? Tell us anything!”
The girl didn’t answer and merely looked around, her expression grim.
“Uh hello?” Aez asked, waving his hand in front of her face, “What’s your name?” he asked.
“I-I’m - forget about it,” the girl replied, sighing, “the forest, huh? That was a… let’s say, a very long dream. I wish it had broken before. I’m tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. But,” she looked around again, “The river. On the other side, there should be Nevidilandi. I’m surprised, the Nevidilandians didn’t come after me. I’m pretty sure even though the escape was a success, they did see me,” she mumbled. “But… where is it?” she was searching her own pockets, “It’s supposed to be here…”
The girl had a strange accent to her voice, which Nia and Aez had never heard before. But there were stranger things about her.
“What Nevidilandi?” Nia asked, startled, “You do know that there is no nation named that right now?”
“Oh.” The girl didn’t seem surprised. “After all those things - it’s very plausible. So yeah. Crilania is the strongest, eh? They destroyed Pensylan in the first war. Then they destroyed Nevidilandi. Who’s next, Dottonex?” she glanced at Nia, “What, why are you making such a weird face now?”
Nia remained silent for a moment, squinting at the girl. “Well. You do know that, it's the year 1966 now, right?”
Hearing that, the girl freezed and stared at Nia. “What?” she asked, astonished, “That… that’s impossible!”
“You know about the wars. And it doesn’t seem like a bookish knowledge, it’s like you personally visited those ancient nations like Pensylan and Nevidilandi,” Aez said in a low voice, “And from the way you are - there’s no doubt. You’re the one. You - we both saw you when we were children. A few years ago. Then too, you were here. On that same tree. Caged like that by that tree. You were there for years. You didn’t die.” Aez said, “I think you owe us some explanation, girl.”
With a pause, he continued, “Tell us. What do you know about this apocalypse?”
Nia shook her head. “No, Aez, I think it’s pointless,” she glanced at the girl once. The girl had a blank expression on her face, and Nia was sure that she was an amnesiac. “She was shocked to know it’s 1966. Do you think we are going to get any reliable information from her?”
But the girl didn’t seem like she was listening to them.
“1966… 13 years?” she seemed horrified, “What-what was I doing? Why can’t I remember anything?”
“Er, you seemed asleep-”, Aez answered.
“Unconscious,” Nia corrected.
“What happened to Nevidilandi?” the girl asked suddenly. “Did Crilania destroy it?”
“Cridelford, it’s no longer Crilania - they didn’t,” said Nia, “Nevidilandi - sort of disappeared on its own.”
“We can talk about this later,” said Aez, interrupting Nia, “look, girl, we don’t know why you were here and to be honest - I don’t care, not right now. To speak in simple terms, we are in the middle of an undead invasion and I don’t think it should be safe to spend any more moments here. We were just trying to rescue you-”
“Invasion?” she was startled.
“You are right,” Nia said, “let’s go. You can walk on your own now, right?”
“Yes.” The girl replied.
“I’m Nia. And he’s Aez.”
“Call me Mers.”
“Mers?” Nia said, looking at the girl suspiciously, “That… I don’t think I’ve heard of a Dottonexan name like that; in fact that name reminds me of the Estoycan name Mers. You aren’t from here, are you?”
They started to walk. Strangely enough, the undeads weren’t around right now.
“Estoyca?” asked Aez.
“You probably won’t remember,” Nia said, answering Aez’s question, “Estoyca was the country just near the seas. Its neighboring country was Pensylan, the plains were of Crilania’s, which is the modern Cridelford. And Nevidilandi was located near the forest. The thing is that Mers sounds close to the name Mersoy, which was also the name of an,” she gulped, “assassin in the middle medieval ages.” Then looking at Aez’s shocked expression, she smiled in pain, “An… interesting coincidence, isn’t it? The last thing we need now is an assassin following us around.”
Mers didn’t say anything. She seemed deep in thought, though, what she was thinking about - no one could tell, really. She had a strange unreadable expression on her face. Glancing at her, she then looked at Aez, and nodded. Aez nodded back, getting what she wanted to say. Mers didn’t speak to them at all. Is she really quiet? Nia thought, or is she hiding something from us? But she was suspicious.
Seeing that there was no one trying to attack them now, the three headed towards Cridelford as their brother had suggested.
They traced back their steps and reached the place where they had left Aaron. They didn’t see him anywhere, but the area had so much blackish liquid. Undead blood, that’s what Nia decided to call it. But something else grabbed their attention.
At one corner, under a tree, there was red liquid. Blood.
Nia’s heart skipped a beat. Both she and Aez rushed at it. No. It wasn’t Aaron. But both of them still started to cry seeing the body.
It wasn’t Aaron, but it was their dear dog - Leo.
Leo who had been there on so many of those rainy days. Leo, whom Aez and Nia, both had found together. Leo, the one dog who was precious to them, because he was like a string that attached them all together.
Nia teared up wordlessly and dropped to her knees next to the lifeless body of the dog. There was a pain in her heart she couldn’t explain. The beautiful golden skin now had blood all over it. The tears were making the sight blurry. And the images came in front of her eyes.
All those days - the day they had found him - the way he had grown up in front of their eyes. Every time Leo circled around her. Every time Leo stayed by their side whenever they were upset…
There’d be no Leo coming for them again, there’d be no Leo jumping at Nia, or asking for attention from Aez.
“He fought till the end, didn’t he?” said Aez, his voice heavy. He sat down beside Nia. Nia sobbed, and then replied through her crying voice.
“He was a good boy. He was the best.”
“Leo, rest in peace,” said Aez, quietly.
“Leo. Don’t forget about me… when we go home… I-I’ll think about you everyday. You - you were the best. You were there… always… ”
Nia couldn’t speak anymore and burst into tears. They buried the dog inside the forest, a beautiful place with many flowers and shrubs. There would be no one to disturb his sleep here, Nia thought, he would be resting here… in peace… always. Mers helped them to make the hole with some tools she always carried. Aez covered the hole. Nia put some flowers over the grave.
“Everyone… gone,” Nia was speaking, the pain in her heart growing more. “Why, why do they always leave us?”
“Nia,” Aez was looking at her, his eyes swollen.
“Our parents. Granny. Leo. Everyone. Everyone we knew in our hometown. Why do the most horrible things keep happening to us? Why? My grandmother was such a good person. Leo too. I had dreams, you know?” she looked at Aez, “A dream where you would be a scientist. And I’d be a teacher. We all could live in peace. Why, why do our dreams keep getting broken like this?”
Aez looked at her, and then he covered his face with his hands. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I wish - I only wish I had more power… to save everyone…”
They looked around. Mers approached them, with a sad expression on her face. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. She wasn’t crying, but her face bore a sorrowful expression.
Nia couldn’t control her tears. She started to cry hysterically, forgetting where she was.
“Granny… Leo… I’m sorry I wasn’t able to protect anyone… I’m sorry… I left you to die...”