"I have seen the darkness,
I have seen a man's legs blown off,
By a tank,
I have seen the cold fire in the eyes,
Of a man set to kill another.
I have seen the abuses of the weak,
By the strong.
I have seen the darkness,
And I still believe in you.
So believe in yourselves,
And each other."
He had never heard of the Cedarium before, and it sounded rather ominous when it was spoken out loud. But once they were away from the strange black building his mother assured him that it was nothing to be concerned about. It just meant they had to move–of course he didn’t want to move, he hated change. But he always seemed to be alone on that point. So he did his best not to think about it as he packed up all his things–and said goodbye to the scant few friends he had made in Steamford. And that was it, just like that he was in a moving van driving across Clunux.
It was a beautiful state, with forests, and lots of rivers and lakes. He had only seen deserts on TV, and even then they seemed like something that existed more in fiction then in real life. He had always loved green trees, and he liked water too–he was a particularly good swimmer for his age. Everyone complained that they were too close to Elvin territory, but all the political drama with the elves had happened before he was born, so he had no reason to worry about that.
He stared out the window and the scenery as it flew by, daydreaming as he always did. They had managed to get Chain into a carrier that was sitting at his feet in the van. Cryptix couldn’t be loose in moving vehicles–or at least that’s what his mom had said.
“Poem,” his mother said, he looked away from the window and twordes her, she didn’t look back at him though since she was busy driving the van. “I just wanted to tell you that you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know,” that was just the way Varis was. Understanding other people and how they felt was hard for him. Even with everything he had heard at the Government building he still didn’t fully understand why they were being forced to move, or why the women with the sword seemed so angry. But that was okay, because there were lots of things that he knew that his mom and the other adults could only dream of.
“What kind of place is the Cedarium?” he asked looking back to the window again.
“It’s a place for Linkers and their families to live–it’s–well–we’re just about there….”
There was that strange word again–Linker–everyone had been really obsessed with saying that lately. He had gathered that he was somehow a Linker now, and people had started calling him that as soon as he jumped through the strange hole and into the other world beyond it. He had come back with Chain and everyone seemed really scared of the cat Cryptix, or at least nervous around it. And he didn’t really understand why. It did have a sharp looking, knife like bone tail, but it had never once tried to hurt anyone.
As they kept driving he noticed something looming in the distance. At first it was nothing more than a shimmer on the horizon. Then he saw it, a city sitting inside of a glass dome, like a summer snow globe, glistening in the bright sunlight. Skyscrapers towered near the top of the globe. But as they got closer he could see many smaller buildings and houses scattered about as well.
“Is that–Cedarium?” he asked–even though he already knew the answer.
They pulled up to the front gate, a simple building built only on the outside of the black dome. Then there was a fancy looking mechanical gate with all sorts of gears and chains on it, as though the city was being protected by added complexity. From the looks of it they would barely be able to get the moving truck though the gate.
A man walked out of the building and up to the driver side window of the moving van. He had one of those strange swords that Poem had been seeing so much of lately. His mom twisted the handle to roll down the window.
“Good afternoon Sir Hunter,” if the hunter was impressed by his mom’s level of politeness he didn’t show.
“Do you have your documentation?” His mom nodded and reached into a folder that she had been careful to make sure she had, she had triple checked, and several times through their ride she had reached to the folder as though she was afraid it might have not been there anymore. She handed the whole folder to him, and the man looked it over carefully.
“Where is the Cryptix?” he asked.
His mom nodded to Poem and the boy grabbed the carrier by his feat to hand to his mom, and she handed it to the hunter. He looked into the box and a look of abject horror worked its way onto his face like a slow creeping realization. Poem rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of a full grown man with a sword being afraid of a tiny cat.
The man double checked the paper work quite a few more times before he seemed satisfied that everything was in order. He reluctantly handed the carrier back and his mom quickly handed it back to him.
“Alright, there will be a car waiting for you on the other side of the gate,” the man explained. “Leave the moving truck here and we’ll move things to your new apartment. For now just take the Cryptix with you.”
So the two of them got out of the truck, with only the carrier in tow. The hunter waved to someone in the building and in a moment the fears and chains started to move, and the gate slowly opened. It felt like they were being let into some sort of medieval castle. He half expected to see knights on the other side. But the people on the other side of the gate were just as ordinary as they were–whatever that meant.
There was a simple black car waiting for them on the other side. The driver held open the door for his mother, Poem just let himself into the car. After they were buckled in. The driver started the car and looked back at them through the rear view mirror.
“I’ve been instructed to take you to the Albern apartments near the center of the dome,” the man didn’t wait for either of them to ask any questions before putting the car into drive and heading off.
As they drove he looked around trying to take in the strange domed city. But it wasn’t odd at all as far as cities go. They drove through outlying suburbs with cookie cutter houses, a river side area with medium sized buildings that were built between the Clunux river. And large ten story buildings clustered near the center of the city, almost as though the city was designed all at once. Then they passed all the tall buildings and onto the other part of the city where the Clunux river originated from High Gate Lake. And near that lake was a small apartment building that was their destination.
The apartment building wasn’t much to look at. It was made of simple multicolored bricks. Four stories tall and ten windows across. There was a playground behind the building, and near the playground was two strange courts of some sort. They weren’t basketball courts, he could tell because there were no baskets anywhere to be seen, and they weren’t tennis courts since there wasn’t a net dividing the courts down the center. But there were no other kids out playing to give him some kind of hint as to what they were for. So all he could do was shrug and add it to the constantly growing list of things he didn’t understand.
The building where they would apparently be living from that point on was connected to another building by an atrium, the second building had a fenced off playground that was somehow different from the one that was behind the building they would be staying at. It didn’t look like there was a way to get into that fenced off area either.
“Why don’t you stay here and play with Chain for a little bit,” his mom said once the car had dropped them off. “I have a few things to take care of.”
“We can let her out of the carrier now?” he asked, looking up at her.
“Chain can wander around as much as she wants as long as the two of you are in the Cedarium dome,” she explained.
So he set down the carrier and opened the door, the strange cat poked her head out cautiously at first. Then when it was clear that nothing was going to harm her, she jumped out all and once and started to sniff the grass nearby.
“I’ll be back,” his mom said simply before heading into the building’s atrium.
There were no other kids around, but he wasn’t really in the mood to play with other kids anyways. But he did notice something interesting. The strange courts that he had noticed earlier had a third sibling. And the third one was made out of sand. So he took off his shoes, and ran around in the sand with Chain. He didn’t really know why, but he liked the feeling of sand between his toes.
He hummed to himself as Chain ran around burning off some of the extra energy that he had built up from being trapped in the carrier all day. He wasn’t really aware of time passing at all. And then something happened–another hole opened up near by where he was standing. He remembered the first hole he had jumped into, where he had met Chain. And he had no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to get back before his mom was done with whatever she was doing.
So he jumped through–and on the other side of the strange hole in reality–was a strange multicolored beach. Red, green, orange, blue, purple indigo, and violet, those were the colors of the sand, formed in waves across the beach. Vividly colored crystals sprang up from the ground in hague columns all around the beach, and some of them even sprouted out of the red colored water that the beach led to. He had never seen anything quite like it, and few ever would.
“What do you think, Chain?”
“Meow…” the cat monster said.
“Yeah, that sounds about right.”
Cryptix swam around in the water, fins and frills of various kinds moved around just below the surface. There was a strange cat-like monster that was colored like a goldfish with the tail of a mermaid. A strange finned pixy monster that was barely a foot tall, strange mice with scales and gills. A turtle-like creature swam out of the water, and kept swimming–through the air.
“Poem!” he wanted to stay, but he heard his mother calling from the other side of the hole that had stayed open behind him. And so he turned around and stepped back through to the normal world.
I am a hunter, what does that mean? It means that when I show up people look at me with fear and concern on their faces. It means that when the time comes to kill, I’m the person people call to get it done, and not have to worry about it anymore. I am darkness, and shadows, and all the things people fear.
But why would I choose to be a hunter? Some adults look at me with pity. And when I turn my back they wispier. “Look at how young she is, can you believe she has to be a hunter at that age?” I hate pity, I hate it because they think they’re stronger than me–but their not–and they never will be. But there is a reason why I became a hunter so young.
Five years before I was born the world ended. Black clouds sprang up into the air and blotted out the sun. I’ve never seen the sun, the stars, or the moon. Those are just words to me, meaningless. But in this world only power lets someone survive the darkness, and there are only two kinds of power, the power of a group, and the power to kill. The hunters gave me both.
“Tene, your spacing out again aren’t you?”
“Sorry Lux, I was thinking about something else again.”
My friend Lux looked at me with concern as we walked through the Sleeping Woods, a long-dead forest of nothing but lifeless trees. It would have been pitch black with no way to see anything save for one fact. Lux glowed, she was her own light source. The adults called her a celestial, but that word didn’t mean anything to either of us. To me she was just Lux, it was an appropriate name as far as I could tell. But being a celestial was certainly important to other people. My fellow hunters heated celestials, especially the hunters that were born before the disaster that took away the sun. But none of them could give me a good enough reason to hate her too–so I became friends with her instead.
The other hunters hadn’t figured out that I was friends with a celestial then. And that was probably a good thing, though it didn’t make me feel good like I was hiding my friendship–like I had some reason to be ashamed of my friendship with her.
“Are you sure about this Tene?” Lux’s face was a mask of blankness. She tended to stare with an intensity that could be intimidating. It was something she had learned to survive in the dark world. Emotions were dangerous and needed to be hidden. But her voice was filled with concern. She was kind, far too kind for her own good even though she didn’t seem like it on her surface.
“I’m sure, think of how cool it will be to be the first hunter who’s also a Linker.” Ahh words, words that you probably don’t know what they mean. But bear with me here everything will be explained.
“Yeah but…” Lux hesitated–trying to find a way to express what she was thinking. “All the adults say your black blade is poisonous to Linkers. What if you become a Linker and then just die from your own power.”
I resisted the urge to put my hand on the hilt of the long sword that was safely sheathed at my side. When I touched the sword it made people nervous, I had been taught that early on by the others. We hunters were supposed to be symbols of safety, of course, that was before the disaster, but the older hunters all believed that the sun would come back and the hunters would reassert ourselves as the main peacekeeping force just as we had been before.
“I really don’t think that will happen, hunters are resistant to the effects of our own black blades. And besides, aren’t you at least a little bit curious if what Narmin said is true.”
Lux looked away from me, her face impossible to read. But I was almost certain she was just as curious as I was. The old paranoid man who really hated Lux, had yelled at her to make sure she didn’t go around bewitching people and turning them into Linkers. Words again, words that mean a lot, and nothing at the same time.
“I am, the old paranoid man said I could turn people into Linkers, right? And when he said that something felt right, like I understood what he was talking about even though that was the first time the thought even crossed my mind.”
“Exactly, so let’s try it, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Before Lux could respond another creature appeared from the woods. It was a wolf-like with pure silver eyes with no pupils. That was Alpha, Lux’s Cryptix, I think it’s species is moonlight wolf or something like that. Once it was back safely into Lux’s sight it started to glow a faint blue color, it could glow much more intensely if it wanted. But there was no need to draw more attention than necessary.
I hope my Cryptix is as cool as Lux’s is. I thought while admiring the creature.
“Nobody followed us,” Lux said nodding. “Let’s hurry to the hideout.”
We moved quicker than before, jumping over roots and rocks, making our way to the secret base. It was a place that only Lux and myself were aware of. Nobody else in the community knew. Of course, nobody else in the community was willing to risk leaving the safety of the well-lit underground without letting somebody else know they were leaving. As the commander always said that was a “recipe for disaster,” but both of us were born in the darkness, and moving around in it came as natural to us as moving though the woods came to a Cryptix. The adults were so afraid of the darkness that they let their whole lives be dictated by that fear. And that made them all idiots.
I remembered someone calling out to me. They said something important as well, but I don’t remember what. The voice was warm, parental, but strange and distant, like someone calling to me through a radio with low battery. I remember thinking, it’s time to go. But that didn’t mean anything to me–or at least I didn’t think it did.
So you can imagine my surprise when the dream ended and I awoke someplace entirely different from where I had gone to sleep. A bed of moss growing on shallow rocky dirt. The occasional red, blue, and purple flower sprang up from the moss to greet the bright afternoon sun.
I sat up in a panic looking around to try to figure out what was going on. It was a cave, rocky, and damp. But there was a hole in the ceiling where the sun shone through. My warm bed and blanket were nowhere to be seen. The usual smell of my mom cooking breakfast was replaced by the damp smell of dirt.
“Mom?” it was a waste of time, I was alone in that small cave. But calling out to her first seemed like the right thing to do. Maybe I had sleepwalked right out of the house and she was running around frantically looking for me. But if a place as cool as that cave had been anywhere near my house I would have found and explored it already.
I wasn’t wearing my pajamas either, the comfortable cotton shirt and pants had been replaced by a short purple silk robe, with loose silk pants. It was a little creepy that someone had changed my clothes.
The cave wasn’t that large, so I could see from end to end without much trouble. The light that was shining in from above allowed some plants to grow. But the light that had woken me up was already fading, the small hole was only big enough for the sun to shine through for a little bit. And the worst part was the hole wasn’t even big enough for me to crawl through. And I was rather small and skinny then. But even if I could fit through the hole there was no way I could climb up the side of the cave since it was slick with mud and water.
I stood up, it seemed too pointless to bother. There was no way out of the room, no door for me to walk through, no hole for me to crawl through. There was no way I should have been able to get into the cave, to begin with.
There has to be a way out of here. Giving up isn’t something I’m good at. Mom always said that learning when to quit was just as important as spirit and willpower. But that never made any sense to me.
I took a step forward–and immediately tripped on something. My arms instinctively moved to protect my face. But the ground was still wet and mossy where I landed so there really had been no need. Then the thing I had tripped over started to move. I jumped moving my legs away, as though whatever was moving might bite me. But all it did was arch it’s back.
I scrambled around to face the other living thing in the cave with me. It was an odd cat-like creature, it had green fur, with grass and flowers growing out of its body so it camouflaged in with the mossy ground almost perfectly. While it was mostly green it had slight blue streaks that moved from the front of its body all the way down to it’s–two tails? Yes, it had two cats like tails instead of one, both of which originated from the same spot on its butt. Its eyes weren’t cat-like at all though, they were a solid blue color with no pupils that made it impossible to tell where the creature was looking.
“I’m sorry,” the cat spoke somehow–though it wasn’t sound that it spoke with something else. I could understand it perfectly, probably better then I understood other humans. “I took a break to photosynthesize, I hope you don’t mind.
“Wha…?” There really wasn’t a whole lot I could think to say to the creature that shouldn’t have been able to talk, yet did. But after searching for a while I did finally find something to ask. “Who are you?”
“How forgetful can you be, forgetting someone’s name so quickly, especially after asking them for a favor?”I stared blankly at the cat monster in response. She stared back, her strange eyes impossible to read.
“My name is Roygi–it’s uhh–nice to meet you.”
“Well, Roygi you certainly are a strange human. You personally asked me to bring you with me and then somehow forget who I am.”
“I don’t remember asking you for anything, where are we, who are you?” I’m not usually prone to panic. I’d certainly done stupid things before in the name of adventure. But I remember all of those. “Can you bring me home at least?”
“Unfortunately I can’t take you home even if I wanted to, we’ve passed the Aeon Boundary, it’s a one-way trip.”
“So you’re stuck here too then?”
“Well I want to be here, I’ve heard there was a spot that was a paradise for monsters like me.”
I looked around at the small moss-filled cave. It seemed like it might be nice–but I didn’t think it looked like paradise. I must have worn my thoughts on my face because the Cat monster laughed at me. Her laughter sounded very much like a bunch of high pitched meows.
“Don’t worry we’re not there yet–like I told you earlier–once we got beyond the boundary I stopped to photosynthesize. I cannot teleport unless I have enough energy. And even going with the flow getting beyond the boundary is taxing.” The cat monster paused and examined my face for a moment. Seemingly pondering something deeply. “You know, you had said you didn’t want to stop and take a break–when I asked why–you said you had a time limit. That didn’t mean anything to me then, but something seems to have happened to you. You’re different now.”
I wasn’t really sure what to say to that, was there some other kind of person living inside of me. And if there was why did they want to go somewhere that they were never going to be able to come back from? There were too many disturbing thoughts racing through my head–and I don’t have words for some of them.
“Well, there’s nothing you can do about it now Roygi–so my advice is don’t worry about it.” The plant-covered cat started to lick itself, my mom once told me that cat’s do that instinctually to groom themselves. Of course, that was when I refused to take a bath and she was trying to convince me that it was a good idea to clean myself. I had started licking myself in response–she hadn’t been happy about that.
Suddenly the cat stopped licking itself and looked back to me. “Since you don’t remember my name is Magicae.” It was a strange name for a strange creature, but then again I didn’t have any right to talk. I was called Roygi for some reason.
“Well let’s get going to wherever you’re going to take me.”
“Come over here and put your hand on my back.” There wasn’t anything else to do or say, so I walked over to the cat and put my hand on her back. This is just the start of my story.
It was never going to be easy,
I don’t know how,
You convinced yourself it would.
What grand delusion?
What strange drug?
Made you live in the world where this would be easy.
Oh sorry–I didn’t see you there,
I was just talking to myself in the mirror.
“For some reason I will probably never understand. It was more important for you to be right then to be helpful. So yes, you’re correct, in the most technical of ways, for the most technical of reasons. I will admit that your technical precision, and technique are more impressive then I’ve ever seen.”
“But that’s not what you asked me.”
“You wanted to know why everyone hates you so much. So I’m telling you now even though I know it’s hard to hear.”
“You never share your correctness with anyone. You horde it for yourself greedily licking up every last drop, as though your thirst will never be quenched.”
“Every Facebook post, every tweet. Seemingly the hottest of takes. Carefully thought out and considered so no one could ever find fault in you.”
“But believe it or not–people forgive fault, and imperfections. They can empathize with those. But this strange obsession you have with always being right. People struggle to understand why. I struggle to understand why.”
“Perfection is beyond our ability to understand. So your perfection, fake as it may be, is incomprehensible, and strange. So people look away in disgust.”
My brilliant strategy was quickly formed,
To distract and deceive would be my goal,
I picked up a rock that lay nearby,
And with a swift pitch let it fly.
The Starlight Wolves looked away,
Their natural born instincts leading them astray.
And then I chose a gap in their number,
And ran through it.
They didn’t have much time to react,
But react they did,
bitting at my heel as I flew by,
Forcing me to greet the Earth with my face.
Bearing me down,
I was in trouble,
That much was sound.
I turned to run,
But those glowing blue eyes,
Barred my way behind,
And both sides.
I would have to use my brilliant mind,
to come up with some strategy,
To escape and confound.
With me I had a weapon, a sword from my families vault.
I didn’t know how to use it,
But I hadn’t yet figured that out.
My head was filled with hopes and dreams,
Almost ran into a merchants cart, honestly.
“Watch where your going, you idget,” he swore.
“I have far to many important things to export.
I apologized to the man, and explained I was on a quest.
His only response at first was to raise his eyebrow in judgment.
“There are far to many monsters out here,
For an ordinary man like you,
To dream of adventures,
That life can’t be for you.”
Note: All text stories are a work of fiction and have not been taken from real phone conversations in any way. Any similarities to real text conversations are purely coincidental.