Me From Another World
Arlo swallowed, his parched throat hardly able to do that much. His water ran out half a day ago and he nibbled on the last piece of smoked fish. The sand giant had left ages ago too, leaving Arlo sitting at the entrance to the tunnel with the ants. Funny that ants existed here like in his world.
Arlo had considered going back into the tunnel to find Gham but it would be pointless if Arlo got lost too. How far back did Gham fall? Was it when Arlo almost tumbled off, when Gham helped him Gham was the one to lose his hold? And Arlo didn’t notice a thing.
But maybe Gham would find his way. Arlo waited and waited, jumping out of his half-dreams thinking he heard Gham but waking up to an empty hole.
Just as the sun was setting Arlo stood and went towards the fruit trees nearby. He could collect a few to eat before squeezing into his tiny den of sticks and leaves to sleep. And when Gham finally finds his way out Arlo could surprise him with some sweet fruit.
The fruit tree wasn’t tall, but wide with thick branches weighed down by pinkish, spiky fruit. Since the fruit on the ground was a dark hue Arlo figured the pinker the ripper and picked those. From above Arlo couldn’t see much of the landscape beyond the taller, fuller trees around him. But once the sun vanished the smoke began to rise. Arlo stared at the black clouds with both hope and fear. There were people there, but without being able to communicate everyone would mistake him for Senna. But the loneliness and desperation was getting to Arlo. Soon he’d need more than fruit, he’d need water, and he’d have to make a decision.
Arlo jumped down and collected the fruit he’d toss down. He brushed one clean with his sleeve and took a bite. A little bitter, but Arlo liked his fruit tart. It was probably a fruit that should be peeled, Arlo figured since the prickly spikes poked the sides of his mouth and gums.
Arlo froze and looked around him in the darkening woods. He gulped down the bite he took, spikes and all, and slowly walked backwards to his little den. He strained his ears for any sound. Through the hooting birds, buzzing insects, Arlo couldn’t pick out anything else. All he had to do was stay out of sight and the larger animals would leave him alone, right?
The sound was closer this time, from behind the tunnel entrance. Arlo crouched down, hands searching blindly until he grabbed his pack and a long stick with a pointed end. He narrowed his eyes, finally spotting the source of the sound.
A bulbous figure, maybe shorter than Arlo but wider, without a defined shape. But it was moving, two stumpy legs inching forwards, snapping twigs underfoot. It had hands, a flat head. It was moving forward, but something about it also shifted. As it got closer, Arlo lost his breath when he realized its skin—if it could be called skin—moved, as if covered by a layer of slithering, black worms.
Fear seized Arlo, his skin itching at just the thought of a worm touching him. Even as the creature drew closer, raising its hands that dropped worms like water droplets, Arlo couldn’t get himself to move. Arlo was clearly the target, Arlo knew so.
The voice that had aided Arlo’s escape from the castle resurfaced, breaking Arlo free of his shock.
Don’t let it catch you!
Arlo kicked dirt as he scrambled up and took off. He didn’t know what would happen if the creature caught him but it wouldn’t be good. Just thinking about its touch made Arlo want to throw up.
Arlo didn’t stop until he collapsed, tripping over a tree root. Wildly, he searched around him but didn’t see the creature in the dark. Whatever that thing was it was straight out of nightmares. If that was what roamed the woods or forests at night then it wasn’t safe. But Gham…
Arlo clenched his fist into the dirt. He didn’t want to leave the tunnel behind. It was a betrayal to Gham, abandoning him twice despite all the help he’s given Arlo. But Arlo had nothing but a stick in his hands.
What do I do?
The voice that had warned him was gone too. Well, voice what the closest Arlo could describe the strange information that suddenly popped in his mind. It was more like details he’d learned long ago, but from someone else. With all the people messing around in his head it could be anything. Memories that rose when he was in a panic, when he was more susceptible to it. Maybe.
Arlo brushed himself off and continued moving. He’d taken off in a vague direction towards the smoke. Looking up into the sky, Arlo hadn’t strayed far. The smoke was clearer, bigger, and he could smell burning wood.
If I could just rest…Exhausted, Arlo went for the mysterious fire. At the very least there was some safety in numbers. Still, Arlo pulled his hood over his head and hid his face as best he could.
Arlo heard the hushed talking first. Crouching behind a large bush he peered at the small town he’d come across. Simple houses were spread out, a large fire flaring in the center where the dirt paths came at a crossroads. Humans sat around it, both children and adults, as they sipped from mugs. Some people laughed, others finished packing equipment away.
Arlo pulled his head back out of sight. It was risky to appear at night and possibly scare them into an attack. But the creature, that shadow of worms, could come after him.
Quietly, Arlo snuck closer, choosing a secluded spot behind a house with lots of low trees near to hide behind. What he needed was proper rest and once he woke up he’d decided what to do.
Arlo removed his bag and pulled out one of the three blue orbs he’d taken with him. Gham had three too, claiming that three was enough for them and their children to live comfortably off of. That also meant that murder was worth the price to steal them. So he wrapped two and hid them in different pockets and the third he laid over cloth and smashed with a rock. With no knowledge of how currency worked he’d have to do with trading pieces for food and supplies.
After sorting it all away he leaned against a tree with his stick on his lap. Arlo slept there, not dreaming of anything.