3 A Way Out

Fluxy had been teaching herself to read for some time, it hadn’t really been anything more than a time sink. She was board most of the time in the dungeon by herself. So, when she learned the wizard was only in the dungeon at certain times, she jumped at the opportunity to sneak into his lab. And he had books, lots and lots of books. The issue for her at first was that she couldn’t read. And of course, while she had a type of sight, she couldn’t truly see the way humans can. But as she focused more on the ridged physicality of the world around her, she slowly developed sight. She even grew eyes somehow, or something like eyes anyways.

And even after all that it still took her sometime to figure out how to turn the lines, dots, and squiggles into sounds and meanings. She never figured out to make the sounds out load. But as she listened to the casual conversation of some of the adventures, she encountered she learned how the sounds connected to the symbols on the page. Letters connected to make phrases, and phrases made sounds, which could then be put together to make words. Sounds that didn’t have any meaning, given meaning by the person listening.

The wizard had books in many different languages, and while she struggled with a lot of them she did manage to learn two of them well enough to read. The first language she learned was the one that seemed to be the most common, the second was a much stranger language. Unlike the common language she learned, the symbols were the phrase and those phrases were put together into much shorter words.

But on the day the wizard caught her in his library, she had a specific purpose, she had seen the man in the suite the day before. And something lit inside of her, she wanted to know about the world beyond the walls of the dungeon. She had pored over all the books that she thought might have a reference to the outside world. But there was an issue, the wizard had a lot of fiction mixed in with technical books. She had a hard time figuring out what the outside world was. The outside world was either a horrifying post-apocalyptic hell-scape, an idealistic world of love and peace, or anywhere in-between.

She was so absorbed in her reading that she didn’t notice the time passing. The wizard kept a clock in his library, so she always knew when to head back to her room so the wizard didn’t see her. The wizard didn’t know she was more than just a normal slime. Considering the way most humans reacted to her, she didn’t think the wizard would be any more understanding. And she knew that he was not a kind man, she had seen him kill adventures that she had only knocked out with not even the slightest hint of hesitation. But she messed up, she lost track of time. And then the wizard walked in at some point in the morning.

She noticed him right away, there was a tension that the wizard carried with him wherever he went. And so, the moment she felt her slimy body stiffen, she knew something was wrong. Then she noticed him with her heat sense next, his body was much warmer then the cold damp dungeon, and then finally her physical sight, he still hadn’t put on his beard and hair that he only wore when he was there for reasons that Fluxy could never figure out. He stopped and stared at her for a moment, she was used to that. Apparently, she was so strange that human brains took a moment to prosses what they were seeing. She should have used the time to run, instead she stared back.

“What the hell are you,” the wizard shouted as he raised his hands palms out towards her.

She didn’t know what he was doing at first, but that was understandable because to her “wizard” was just his name. She knew what magic was, in theory, she had read all about it in the books in the man’s library that she had so often snuck into. But she had never seen it done before. Never knew what it was like to see a man perform an impossible miracle with the casualness of walking or chewing gum. When lightning shot out of the man’s outstretched hands she didn’t have time to react. It struck her, and tore through her body. One of the advantages of being made from slime is that she had never really felt pain before. Everything ranged from dull discomfort to a tickling sensation most of the time. But when the lightning hit her she knew what pain felt like. Like her body was being forced apart, and then it was. She exploded into a spray of green goo that rained all over the wizard’s books.

Her self-awareness faded, there was still some things she could feel, light, heat, movement. But she couldn’t draw her attention towards anything, and she couldn’t think about anything. She couldn’t tell if time was passing at all or if she was just trapped in one single never-ending moment. There was a noise, but it sounded like static, like the low murmur of people talking in the distance.

Then the single moment ended and time started to move again. The static slowly morphed into the ambient sound of moving air and water, like a human slowly unplugging their ears and finally hearing what was around them. Her thoughts cleared and her senses started to work again. She blinked and looked around at her surroundings.

She was still underground, but the warm, weathered bricks that made up the dungeon were gone. And instead the floor was made of gray, unfeeling, concrete. She tried to move, but her body wasn’t cooperating. She looked down to see why, and was shocked to see she didn’t have any arms or legs. Looking around in a panic she saw that small blobs of green slime, were crawling towards her, rejoining with her and slowly rebuilding her body bit by bit. She just had to be a little patient and she would be back on her feet in no time.

She decided to spend the time trying to figure out where she was. It was defiantly some sort of underground tunnel. There was a wide ditch in the ground near where she was, and brown water flowed in it like a raging river. She couldn’t smell, and that was probably a good thing, because she guessed that the smell would be awful. Condensation dripped from crakes that had formed in the concrete celling, a mark of the wear of time.

She was almost certain she was in a sewer of some kind. She knew what sewers were, she had read all about them in one of the wizard’s books. There were lots of sewers all over the world, many were older then then the cities above the ground where the humans lived. She didn’t know how that was possible and the books never explained that part, the authors that did address the issue didn’t seem to understand why either.

There was a dumpster nearby, and a trash bag that someone had tried to get into the dumpster, but they must have thrown it and it must have fallen short. Why they didn’t just pick up the bag and try again she didn’t know. But then she took a closer look at the black garbage bag. It had broken open, and a large amount of the moving slime bits were emerging from the garbage bag.

It made senses, she was the garbage the wizard had tried to throw out. She was the garbage that wasn’t worth walking up to the bag when he missed the first time. That made sense to her. She decided not to think about it anymore then she already had, instead she focused moving her legs which had just reformed as she had been thinking. She tried to use her legs to push herself to her feet, but it was hard to get up with no arms, she couldn’t keep her balance and ended up falling down every time she tried.

Eventually though enough of her body had returned to her where her arms and hands reformed. She had never really been able to from completely humanoid hands, instead her hand was shaped oddly, she had two long finger and a thumb, the thumb was backwards on her hand facing up towards her fingers. She had tried to form more human hands once but they had just fallen apart. Her arms and her hands were good enough to grab things, and more importantly, to help her keep her balance. She stood up at long last.

She regarded her surroundings one last time before deciding what to do. She had no idea how to get back to the dungeon, and she had been thinking about leaving to explore the world anyways, so her unplanned departure had really been for the best. The only difference was she would have to find a different place to live once she had finished exploring the world. She had always planned on going back to the dungeon once her travels were done. It was still home to her despite everything, if it hadn’t been, she wouldn’t have bothered defending it from all those adventures. 

She shifted her mind to get her body to spit up one of the metal tubs she kept in herself as storage, there was a map in the one she wanted that might help her. But she panicked for a moment when nothing came out. But how could it, she had exploded recently and everything that she had been holding inside of her had probably dropped on the floor of the wizard’s library. That meant that she had just lost everything she owned, as meager as that might have been. That meant her sword was gone as well. That sword had gotten her through a lot down in the dungeon. She would also miss her shiny coins and rocks that she had worked so hard to collect, those things wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. But to her they represented a lifetime of work and collecting.

There wasn’t anything she could do about it though, and even if she knew where to go to get back to the dungeon. And even if she did she wondered if she would have the courage to go back. If the wizard could take her out with a wave of his hands—was there even any point? Not that she could see. As things stood she had nowhere to be and nowhere to go. But nowhere somehow seemed preferable to going back. Besides she was thinking of seeing the world anyways. It might not have been on her own terms, but she could finally what the outside world was like.

Though if this is what the outside world looks like I’m not really impressed, she thought as she looked around at the flowing brown water and discarded garbage scattered around her. Well I know I’m in a sewer underground somewhere, maybe things will look better once I get above ground.

With that thought in her head she decided to look around for a place where she could go up, up to the surface. Presuming such a place existed. All the books she read said it did but being able to write something down in a book, didn’t mean that it existed. That’s what fiction meant, she had learned that early on.

She figured she should follow the water, but the question was, should she follow the water in the direction it was flowing. Or follow it back to its source. She thought about it for a moment, the water probably flowed down from the surface, she didn’t really want to see where the disgusting water ended up. So, she started making her way upstream.

When she first started making her way up there were no humans around even though the evidence of them was everywhere. She came across more dumpsters, she had no idea why there were dumpsters down in the sewers if there were no people to use them. She didn’t have to wonder for long. She started seeing humans, many of them dressed in clothing that looked old and ragged. Many of them were sleeping against some of the dumpsters, she also started to notice that some of them were sleeping in the dumpster, she even saw one human sleeping in the brown river. She started to think that they had been there when she first woke up, but they just camouflaged into their surroundings so well she couldn’t tell that they were there.

She decided to switch to her heat vision so no humans could sneak up on her and try to hurt her like they did in the dungeon. But she didn’t have to worry, even the humans that were awake didn’t even look twice at her. She switched off her heat vision and as she walked by a group of humans huddled around a fire, she waved at them. One of them did a double take but then they just shrugged as she walked by them.

So far everything’s going well, no one’s attacked me yet, she thought. I don’t understand why the humans that came into the dungeon were so determined to attack me when the humans here don’t seem to care at all?

There was definitely something wrong with the humans she saw there. They didn’t look—healthy—yes that was a good way to describe what she saw. They didn’t look sick, or at least not all of them did.

As she walked the river she followed seemed to grow deeper and it flowed faster than it had further down. She couldn’t believe that something like that could have been man made, but there was no way the underground sewers were natural. It was rather grand in its own way. She even walked up several stories of stairs as she followed the brown river back to its source. She couldn’t believe how deep the underground was. And she didn’t know for sure but she was starting to suspect that the dungeon where she had lived was somehow connected to that deep sewer. She even started to wonder if the surface was a myth just like she feared. Maybe the whole world was just a bunch of never-ending tunnels that sprawled out in different directions.

Before she had time to despair in that thought she noticed a hand reaching out of the river in panic. She didn’t even think about what she was doing, she stretched out her right arm and grabbed hold of the panicking arm. The person struggling just below the surface of the river couldn’t see the monsters shape of the hand that had reached out to help. So, the person grabbed on to the hand for dear life. Fluxy then drew her arm back to her like a fisherman drawing in their line.  

The person that she pulled to safety was a worn looking man with pale skin and dark eyes. There wasn’t much light left in those eyes. But he still seemed to have a will to live because he coughed up the brown water he had inhaled.    

“Are you okay?” The voice that had spoken was unlike any voice she had ever heard before. It was loud and high pitched, it was feminine and somewhat childish. It was her voice, she realized, she had talked, something that should have been impossible. She felt around her face for a mouth that may have suddenly formed. But her face remained mouthless.

“Ahhhh–uhhhhhh—uhmmmmm,” she said testing her new voice, making sure that it truly was her voice before trying to say anything. She pushed back the logical part of her that said that it made no sense that she suddenly had gained the ability to talk. After all there were a lot of things about her that didn’t make any sense.

“I’m—fine,” the man said between coughs. “Feeling a little stupid, but I’ll live through that.”

“Ordell!” Fluxy looked up to see a short bespectacled man running towards them from further up the river. He had a long white coat on that shinned with a witness that seemed to repel the grim and the muck of his surroundings. His glasses were unnaturally clean, and he wore a belt with many different pouches attached.

“Hay Doctor Cynical, I’m fine, this nice monster saved me,” there was something about the way he said that, an odd bending of his tone that made him sound insincere or even sarcastic. But Fluxy only heard his words.

“Monster!” Fluxy shouted angrily without thinking, her new voice cracked a bit under the strain. “I’m Fluxy.”

Both the man named Ordell and the one named Cynical blinked at her in combined surprise. Ordell’s surprise was quickly scattered by his next round of coughs, however. Cynical glanced down and his friend with concern on his face and moved to help the man. But he’s pushed away for his effort.

“It will be easier if you breath slowly though your noise. You have to remember to breath or it’s just going to get worse.” Ordell glared at the doctor but he took the advice anyways and the coughing slowed, and after some time subsided.

Ordell didn’t seem like he belonged in the sewer, his clothes were a little worn but nowhere near as worn as those of some of the other humans she had encountered. His hair was nicely combed even covered in disgusting sewer water it retained the shape of a business casual haircut. Which of course Fluxy didn’t know much about at the time. But it didn’t matter she could still tell he was different.

“Ordell let’s get you out of here this isn’t doing you any good,” Cynical pleaded.

“No, I’m not leaving not until I find…” he trailed off and his face tightened with pain.

Cynical looked at the man with a strange expression Fluxy didn’t understand. But that wasn’t very surprising since she didn’t understand most facial expressions. To her all faces were like masks, strange and unintelligible. The look must have meant something though because Ordell looked away from the Doctor in response.

“She’s not down here Ordell,” Cynical seemed to do everything he could to soften the blow, but it didn’t matter.

“I’m so sick of being told crap like that,” Ordell yelled. “If you’re not going to help me then get out of my way.” And with that the man that Fluxy had just saved ran off into the depths of the sewers where she had just come from.

Fluxy was confused, she had no idea what she had just witnessed. But it didn’t really bother her too much. The fact that Ordell had called her a monster was still annoying but he was clearly not feeling very good about something at that point to she figured she would let it go. Cynical on the other had was exasperated, he looked like he wanted to run after his friend for a moment. But then he sighed and let his muscles relax as he seemed to change his mind.

“Sorry about that,” Cynical said looking at Fluxy with one of those strange human expressions that humans have. It didn’t mean anything to her, but it was an expression no one had directed at her before, so she figured that was at least a good sign.

“Uhh that’s OK,” she said not sure how to best to talk to someone—at all. She figured she should start by thinking about the dialog in some of the books she had read down in the wizard’s library. Still books were always the same no matter how many times you read them. And people were not nearly as predicable.

“So, you said your name was Fluxy—or are you a Fluxy.”

“Yes,” Fluxy said as both were true to some extent.

“That’s not helpful—but nothing about this day has been particularly helpful so par for the course I guess.” The man sighed and extended his hand to her. “I’m Manic Cynical, thank you for saving my stubborn friend.”

Fluxy didn’t hesitate, no one had ever offered her the kind of kind civility that Cynical was offering her before. And that meant the world to her, at that point Fluxy latched onto Cynical in her mind, a strange sort of connection that would never really go away. 

1. A World Without a Name

Sometimes she wondered where she came from. She had no memory of being made, no memory of being born. That was normal of course, no one remembers their birth. She didn’t know that though. How could she, when her whole life had been lived mostly alone in a dark dungeon. She wasn’t a prisoner though, in a way, she was the guard. 

She lived in a room guarding a single leaver, she had no idea what the leaver did but it must have been important because people kept coming into the room to try and pull the leaver. Everyone who came into the room was heavily armed, they had swords and guns, armor and shields, spears and axes. Originally there had been more things like her, well things that were sort of like her. They looked like her, but they didn’t act like her, they couldn’t talk or think, when something moved they moved towards the movement to try and eat it, even if it was something like a falling rock or a moving shadow cast by a tricky light. But she was different, she could think, she knew that the falling rock didn’t taste good, she knew that the shadow wasn’t really there. She could think, and feel, and ponder.

When the heavily armed people came into the room they slowly killed the others, she didn’t know for sure why they killed the others that were like her—but not. She couldn’t really blame them though, because as soon as they walked into the room the others tried to eat them. The people must have thought that she was going to try and eat them too, because they tried to kill her as well. But they could never kill her, no matter how hard they tried they could never kill her. And so slowly the others died, and she was left alone. Not that there was much difference, the ones who looked like her we’re never very good conversationalists. 

And so she lived like that for awhile, chasing away humans who wandered into her room. She never liked to kill them, but sometimes they were stubborn and wouldn’t run away. Eventually she learned how to knock them out without killing them. But when she did that a man would always walk in and kill them while they were knocked out. The man referred to himself as only “the wizard” and apparently, he was the owner of the dungeon. He never talked to her, but he was rather fond of talking to himself. So that’s how she learned as much about him as she did.  

One day a group of humans came into her room as they frequently did. This group however was a little more talkative then most who simply walked in and tried to kill her right away.  

“I’m telling you we have got to get a better name then the dungeon crackers,” one of them said.  

“Its simple, elegant, and people understand what we do. What more could you want from a company name.”  

“Guys I hate to interrupt this—extremely—interesting conversation. But we have another monster to deal with,” one of them said while pointing to her.  

There were four people in the group of humans. That wasn’t surprising, sometimes the humans came in one at a time, other times they worked in groups. This group had two men and two women. One of the women was wearing a robe and a pair of glasses that she adjusted as she examined the ‘monster’ that they had just run into.  

“How strange,” she said. “Its an Ooze sometimes referred to colloquially as a slime. But they usually move around in groups, why is this one alone?”  

“Who knows, who cares,” one of the other humans said. “Let’s take it out and be done with this dungeon already.”  

Weapons were drawn, swords and guns, spears and shields. The group moved carefully around her trying to encircle her with the practiced skill of a honed military group. She had seen some unpracticed adventurers rush at her with nothing more then a scream and courage. But those humans knew what they were doing.  

She knew what she was doing as well. The green blob that made up her form shifted it’s self into a coherent humanoid form. She gained two arms and two legs and a head. Though she had not learned how to form a mouth ears or eyes yet. But she could still clearly see though she didn’t really know how. She hadn’t leaned how to talk, which was the most frustrating part since if she could she would have just asked the intruders to leave her alone.  

Oozes like the ones that had shared her room for a time with would try to eat anything. But they couldn’t digest anything made out of plastic, wood, or meatal. The result was that oozes carried around a lot of money and valuable materials inside of them. She had learned to use this to store weapons and other useful things inside of her. So as she took on a more human form a broad sword she had taken from another adventurer made it’s way through her arm and into her hand in a most unnatural way. She was still made of semi-transparent ooze, but now she looked at least a little more human.  

“What—what is that?” one of the humans asked with fear entering his voice.  

“Fascinating,” the women with glasses said. “Some sort of fluxuating ooze creature perhaps.”  

It was a strange moment for the slime creature, it was the first time anyone had bothered to call her anything other than a monster. She didn’t really have a name for herself, but she wanted one. She craved an identity beyond just being something that kept people from pulling some pointless switch in a dungeon in some forgotten tunnel. So, from that moment on, she decided, she would call herself Fluxy. She didn’t know what fluxuating meant, but she liked the sound of it for some reason.  

“Do we rush it?” one of the other humans asked. 

“Honestly I would like to collect samples if we could,” the women with glasses said as she checked the safety on the gun she was holding. “But that will be easier when it stopes moving.”  

She shot at Fluxy, once, twice, three times. The bullets hit her and entered her body, but slowed down almost immediately caught up in the viscus slime that made up her body. To her it was nothing more than an uncomfortable pinching sensation as the bullets entered her body. She didn’t really like bullets though, they always tasted of the gunpowder used to make them. She spit them out—well in her case it looked more like the bullets were just pushed to the front of her body and fell out harmlessly. It was a good thing she did too since just a few seconds after the bullets exited her body they exploded with the bang of a fire cracker. Fluxy jumped back in surprise managing to dodge out of the way of the explosion that was meant to separate her into gooy bits.  

“Do you think it might be intelligent?” one of the other humans asked.  

“I doubt it,” the glasses girl said. “Probably just adapted to deal with explosions like a virus. Explosions are a common way to deal with slimes after all.”   

Fluxy wanted to tell them to stop attacking her, she wanted to scream that she didn’t want to fight them. But she didn’t know how to talk, she didn’t even know if it was possible for her to talk. And so, the group of humans started to move in closer getting ready to stick. Not wanting to wait any longer Fluxy swung her great sword in a circle. The practiced motion caught the group off guard, but not off guard enough to be hit. They all jumped back fueled by nothing other than instinct.  

“I’m starting to think that this one might be more dangerous then we…” Before the human could finish Fluxy formed two additional limbs. This was a trick she could perform to catch people off guard. The limbs she formed didn’t have hands but rather hardened hammers at the end. The limbs stretched out and hit the human who was talking hard on the head sending him to the ground. He didn’t move after that though he was still breathing.  

“Oh-oh,” was the only sound the girl with glasses could make for a few moments as she absorbed what she had just witnessed. “We should go.”  

The remaining three humans grabbed their friends’ unconscious body and quickly retreated from to room. They had been a smart group of humans. Some who came into the dungeon pushed even though they were clearly at a disadvantage. But she didn’t have to worry about it that time. So, she returned to her formless state and continued to wait.  

She lived that way for some time chasing out those that would enter her room. She couldn’t conceive of a world outside that room. She knew it existed, but she never thought about it, never imagined it, never truly believed…. 

One day the wizard came into the room, he didn’t have much reason to enter the room she lived in very often, so she almost never saw him even though she knew that he existed. But that time was even stranger than most of the day’s he entered her room. He had someone with him.  

This wizard looked exactly like someone who had the title “the wizard” grey hair, long gray beard, and long dusty robes that had one point been purple but had been dyed black by time, and probably blood. The man who was with him was a contrast beyond Fluxy’s imagination. A type of person that she had never seen before or even knew existed. The man who was with the wizard was young with shiny and slick black hair and a three-piece suit that had been cleaned and pressed to perfection. At the time she didn’t even know what a suit was or that what the man was wearing was called a suit.  

“Wizard, why is there only a single monster in this room,” the suited man said with professional confidence that bordered on condescension.  

“Yeah—I’ve been putting off making more oozes. The chemicals used to make them are expensive,” the wizard said much more awkwardly.  

“If you need more funds you can just ask,” the suited man said. “This sector is very important, we need to make sure that it’s well protected.”  

The two men kept talking for a bit, pointing at different parts of the room and making suggestions for improvements. But Fluxy was curious about the strange suited man. So while maintaining her formless ooze like state, she started to slowly crawl over to the two men. She knew that humans were less likely to notice her moving if she just crawled slowly.  

“Well despite a few concerns I have about the security of the dungeon here, it is a fact that not a single adventurer has gotten though your sector. That’s refreshing considering how many freelance and government sponsored adventurers keep coming down here. Wait—is that monster coming towards us?”  

Fluxy had been spotted, the suited man was much keener eyed then the normal kinds of humans who entered her room. Sometimes she could get right next to people without them noticing. 

“Uhh, it’s an Ooze sir,” was the Wizards only response. 

“You’ve explained that part, but I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of strange creatures that you do. So, I’ll ask you again, why is that Ooze moving towards us?”  

“Excuse me sir, Oozes eat anything that moves, if you throw a rock they will slowly make there way over and absorb it if they can.”  

“So, it’s literally going to try and slowly eat us, that is both disgusting and disturbing. I’m not even sure how this trap keeps adventurers from getting past your section considering how slowly it moves. But I can’t argue with results,” with that the two men headed out of the room talking about something else that Fluxy didn’t understand. 

“…that being said,” the man in the suit said. “You’ve done well, and I’ve always been impressed with your intelligence. How would you feel about a promotion?” 

The man in the suite made Fluxy realize something that she hadn’t considered before. There was more to the world then the dungeon she called home. He was just so different then anyone she had seen before, he wasn’t like the Wizard at all, and he was nothing like the adventurers that so often tormented her. Seeing him was the first time she wondered if there was something else out in the world worth seeing. Something she had never even considered before. But there was something more important then any of that, it was the first time she imagined something.