“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary
Ch 16 ~ The Way
Recent developments in this otherworldly place weighed a bit heavily in the air. Dryst walked quietly through the upside down woods, carefully avoiding the swaying treetops that circled lazily near their bodies. The tip of Dryst’s tongue rolled just as lazily between the edge of his teeth. He grimaced tightly — while the butterfly purred a lulling soothing and every so slight sound along the edge of his ear — at the realization that the woods weren’t the only thing topsy-turvy. Somehow the butterfly’s nearly silent song comforted, and for this comfort, Dryst was glad.
Things had become strained between the two men. Not terribly. But enough. They had had a bit of a standoff. They had walked in silence for a good while afterwards. But, he shrugged in his mind, Dryst had made his intention clear. And he meant it.
Got it, kid, Spence thought.
So, while this was good, it also brought an imbalance into stark relief…although ironically enough, Dryst felt little relief from it. There was still much that Spence hadn’t been forthcoming about with Dryst. And so they continued to walk deeper through the darkness.
Another time, maybe I’ll tell you, kid…another time…maybe.
Time, itself, was quite another matter here. Time was a concept that Dryst had lost all sense of in this world. The colors in the atmosphere remained shrouded perpetually in a purple-grey mist; there was no change in light to mark any passage of moments. Except there was a glow that seeped upward from the forest bed. There, the galaxy brought a glimmer of stars and light to ooze up from below, but it wasn’t enough, no matter how the sciences would have it , to illuminate the surroundings.
“Feels more like how Limbo would look, doesn’t it, kid,” Spence said at last.
“Yeah,” Dryst broke through his own silence and managed a soft chuckle, “yeah. Like how ‘hanging in the balance’ would look.”
And Spence smirked and nodded his head. In a way that hinted at a handshake or a truce. And Dryst nodded in return and accepted. Quite readily but not at all blindly. There was more to this man, that much Dryst knew. He just didn’t know…his thoughts trailed off and he began to gently laugh to himself. Then, just in the moment that the words were forming in his mind and putting meaning behind Dryst’s amusement, the butterfly lightly sang in his ears, “We don’t yet know what you don’t know.”
Dryst smiled. His lips nodded up in agreement then Dryst mentally added, Yet.
“Huh,” Spence muttered. He had stopped in his tracks and stood with his arms crooked at each elbow to hoist his hands facing upright to the tree roots. “Snow,” he muttered with tiny surprise. “Now…who would have thought it,” he said rather casually, “that from purple-grey clouds, we’d have snow.”
But that wasn’t the half of it. The snow was pink, which wasn’t the other half of it, but it was peculiar enough to mention. Dryst looked up and felt the softly pink flakes land delicately along his brow and tug themselves snuggly in between his eyelashes. Just then, the butterfly rippled its wing in a show of happiness that somehow also seemed to be a mix of surprise folded over with a dash of caution. He lightly trilled a cautiously playful breeze along the tiny hairs of Drysts’s ear. “Don’t yet know what we don’t yet know,” the butterfly repeated in a musical tone.
Surely part of what the butterly was singing about, Dryst decided, had something to do with the fact that the pink snow fell along a narrow path that ribboned itself around and through the upside down forest. It was as if the slightly girly shower was pointing the way, laying a path before them. And it just so happened it was the very path on which Dryst and Spence had found themselves, although they hadn’t had any rhyme or reason as to where they were going. It just seemed that they needed to enter this world fully if they were going to find Mya, and Dryst was going to, by moving away from the threshold, which pulsed with enough light that Dryst was certain they could find it again when they wanted to return to their world. And even if it didn’t glow brightly enough – as odd as that seemed considering the fact that it was, afterall a galaxy – somehow Dryst knew that the portal would lead them back here, straight as an arrow. But that time – whatever the sense of time was in this land – was not now. Not until Dryst found Mya.
“Look at that,” Spence pointed his head to the edges of the pink storm.
“Yeah, I noticed,” Dryst acknowledged.
“It’s like a beacon, kid,” Spence agreed. “Maybe a bit too convenient…but it leads somewhere. We could check into it. See once what’s ahead.”
Dryst paused, “Sure,” he said after considering.
“Maybe you’ll find her, kid.”
Dryst nodded, and thought, And maybe you’ll find those shapeshifters, old man. Then what?
The Fierce One and Locomotive, along with their army of cloned replicas, noiselessly collected any random weapons (although virtually none could be found because a warehouse of them was already strapped to their bodies) and began to move to the perimeter of the large room.
Mya’s head twitched from side to side. She watched the Company of Warriors part their motley ranks like the proverbial Red Sea. She watched them press the full weight of their bearings into the blackened sides of the cave. But the startling thing was that when they did this, they appeared to move invisibly through the black mineral. Some began to lose their form as they penetrated the blackness to enter what Mya could only assume was the edge of the plateau where the little one had led her. Some stood half in and half out, frozen in place as Mya suddenly said quite loudly and with some alarm, “Wait! Um, don’t mean to hold things up and all, but, um, what’s the strategy?”
“Strategy,” Cy asked in a rather non-plussed manner (which led Mya to wonder if non-plussed was somehow associated with the phrase ‘zero sum game’). But no matter. Her mind idled on what she perceived to be Cy’s tone and on the trivialities of linguistic basis that she started exploring within that perception because she was, frankly, worried. The warriors were moving, and they were not exactly a very talkative bunch, so that could only mean…
“The strategy,” Cy said, interrupting her internal ramble, “is to seek and destroy the Non before they seek and destroy us.”
Zero sum game. Mya sat, her expression non-plussed. But then she stood and in the standing watched the Cyborg Collective begin to hum and whirl, writhe and groan in an elaborate and deeply personal act of joining and creating new information and new meaning. As she waited for them to release the new information, she noticed that softly curling fireworks had resumed firing themselves off from within the lions of the cyborg and that Cy’s foot had begun quietly flapping again. Mya waited until Cy’s foot verily exhaled and relaxed and then asked, “Yes?”
“There is suddenly snow on the Internet,” Cy reported. “It is somewhere near the location of the Non.”
Snow, Mya’s brain blinked. “Is that interference?” was all she could manage to think and then manage to ask.
The gears in Cy’s eyes whirled and the cogs spun. Suddenly the various prongs that had been eagerly jacked into the various orifices of the Collective and of the Individual began to release themselves. Their connectors were guided back onto their respective owners by the relentless pressure of long, winding chords that writhed tightly along the metal bodies like cascading ribbons. The Collective sighed one last joined breath before degrouping – or Mya thought more appropriately, before their system disconnected from the Internet – and their engines and motors hummed and whirled as softly and seemingly independently as they had before they had ever plugged in.
“It is snow,” Cy replied to Mya’s question at last. “But there is something more. There is a connection made by this snow that leads from one part of the Origin to another. And two people of your kind walk that path.”
Mya’s pupils burst wide open like a supernova. It had to be Dryst. She could feel him in her soul. He was here. He had made it here impossibly so, improbably so, wildly crazily so, but he had and she had known it without even hearing confirmation of it. Her adrenalin coarsed through her body with such force that she found herself panting and acting entirely on instinct, consumed by an energy she could barely control. She bolted toward Cy — grabbing his metal arm and dragging him forcibly with her as she ran — and gasped wildly, “Tell me everything. Tell me where he is. Tell me how I can find him. Tell me how he is. Tell me everything, Cy.”
“Cy,” Cy queried his internal database. “What is a Cy.”
Mya turned and laughed and barked at the same time. She pushed past the mountains of Warriors that seemed to know nothing of what to do with her except to punch a hole into a new dimension, kidnap her to it, and end up standing and staring over her as if guarding her. Their weapons clattered as they gave way to her and the Cyborg, but they quickly formed ranks and followed suit.
“You are a Cy. Your name is Cy,” Mya laughed and snarled deliriously with joy and barked overwhelmingly wrecked with anxiety and the want to know that Dryst was uninjured and unharmed as he somehow wandered through this strange dimension alone. And then Mya realized with a jolt — as she felt her form slice into the black wall with Cy in tow and the other members of the Collective rapidly following and the Company of Warriors steadfastedly in lockstep pace — that Cy had said two of your kind walk the path. Two. She knew in her heart Dryst was one. Mya’s mind hyperventilated. But she had no idea who the other was, and the lack of knowing this generated within her a weighty anxiousness; a gutteral primal understanding of and appreciation for the strategy to seek and destroy the Non before they could seek and destroy Dryst.
It was still dark, the land blanketed in a purple-grey mist, when Mya and Cy and the Warriors and the Collective spilled out from the sides of the cave. She saw the snow, and it was shaped like a tunnel. It was pink; even from a distance she could see the strange hue. Perhaps it was the purple-grey bending itself into what she normally thought of as white snow and giving it a strange cast. She didn’t know, and she didn’t care. She only cared that Dryst was there, following a path…walking through this odd, unnaturally naturally-made tunnel of snow…that looked, from where she stood, like a riverbed trailing and winding from the forest off to some type of mountaineous area in the background. And he was not alone.
Ophania had bullied her whisk up and steered herself out of the tree roots to embark on the flight back to the south. The call from the mountain had been released in the air. The signal had been given. The white tunnel had been lit and remained so. Ophania half scowled in pleasure at the pink cast that was painted onto the snow by the purple-grey mist. White was such a troublesome non-color, Ophania muttered. But no matter. They were moving. And so was the Clan of Ophania, even with the rebellious yet now severely scarred Cherubia in formation. Her wound had healed on the surface, but Ophania knew that it still lay deep within still the younger witch. How human of her, Ophania muttered in her thoughts. And that was precisely what she counted on with these travellers…the weakness of their humanity…as she led her Clan back to the south and to the mountains.
National Novel Writing Month: Chapter 16 total wordcount: 2030 (not including this notation). Total total count: 27,330. (still massively behind gah! but determined…even though this is really really really hard!)