XXI: Faint Meanings, Fading Thoughts

Dave sat in the rickety old chair in the dusty workshop thinking to himself, reflecting for a few minutes upon what he had so far gleaned from the ancient red tome. He decided to shove the little old book deep into one of the many folds on his shirt and continue looking around the room for any other helpful clues as to a route out or other helpful instruments to pick up. “Good thing I’ve got some enormous pockets…” He chuckled under his breath, continuing his search.

He searched about for a few more minutes, finding nothing of real consequence and deciding to continue on his way. He huffed a dejected sigh and slowly crept back out of the room, careful so as to avoid stubbing his toe or possibly tripping any traps he may have somehow missed on the way in. After retreading the same path he had ventured in through, he noticed something odd- the rumbling of water had been replaced by…silence.

‘Oh, this doesn’t bode well at all…’ Dave thought as he paused, wondering if his mind was playing tricks on him and he just was mishearing things. Try as he might, he couldn’t hear the water at all anymore. ‘Oh, come on! Surely the water-portal thing hasn’t closed or anything… It’s been open at least for decades according to that book.’

Suddenly there came a tumultuous roar as the water resumed flowing from wherever it had receded to, now with even more pressure it sounded like. Dave breathed a sigh of relief, ‘Ah, back to normal no-‘

A giant wall of water slammed into him about chest high and swept his feet out from beneath him, bumping him along the wall he’d been feeling his way around. He cried out in shock at the cold water swirling around him and felt the red old book tumble from the recesses of his pocket and watched as it whirled away in the murky depths. The water was not only moving quite rapidly but rising as well, which was not a good sign at all- especially underground as this was. Dave tried hard not to panic and to think of a rational way to get himself out of his current predicament, however that was a lot easier said than done with frigid waters closing in around him and the ceiling that had once seemed so far away rapidly approaching. ‘Okay, okay- with all the water here and the fact that it suddenly came with full force from somewhere…surely there’s an exit of some sort leading back outside or anywhere other than this musty, crappy old citadel. I hope I find out before my head gets bashed across a pillar or something…’ He frantically thought as the ceiling continued to near.

He was now picking up even more speed, hurtling and losing his bearings every few seconds thanks to the pounding water spinning him in dizzying circles as he tried desperately to stay above its choppy tides. The water continually crashed into him, mostly passing over him as the ceiling neared- twenty feet, fifteen, ten. Suddenly the top of a broken off pillar came spiraling towards him as he was spinning uncontrollably, thrashing in the water and trying to avoid it. He tried in vain to dodge to one side or the other, finally managing to go over the rough stone at the last second, scraping painfully along his stomach as he did so. He was probably hurtling at about twenty miles per hour around the room, spinning so much that it felt like he was going in circles.

In fact, he was going in circles. ‘It’s spinning around like a maelstrom in here now- like some sort of tropical storm, and the workshop area was the eye. How did I not get trapped by the rising waters when I entered the room? It must be like the ocean and recede or rise with the tides and ebbing, flowing… Weird…’ He couldn’t muse much further as suddenly his head bumped the ceiling and he almost blacked out, finding himself suddenly cut off from any oxygen without time to take a last breath.

He fought against the panicky thoughts rising in his mind, as well as the urge to lash out violently for something, anything to grab on to. ‘I can’t believe this might be it- this might be the final time I’m able to coherently think or breathe. This may be my-‘

Suddenly he found he was able to breathe again and for one second wondered how this was possible before realizing he was hurtling through the air, falling faster than he had been spinning. Falling…up?

“Gahhhhhhhh!!” He coughed and spluttered before giving a throaty yell. ‘Well, at least I’ve survived another five seconds, even if I do end up falling off of the side of the planet or something now. Better than drowning I suppose, although just barely.’

Apparently the water had been some sort of teleportation device or had magical properties, as there was now no water to be seen- not that he could see much as he was once more thrust into gloom, this time murkier than ever before. ‘It feels like I’m falling up, but then again I can’t really see, so who knows…’ He continued to tumble, thankfully not head over heels, for what seemed like an eternity before he felt a slight difference in the air temperature which slowly gave way to a plummeting feeling in his stomach as it grew icier around him.

‘Great! I trade dark, musty, hot underground deathtrap for frigid, endless underground pit!’ He thought, despair beginning to find its way back into his mind, having been waiting on the edge for the last few minutes. With nothing better to do, and at least wanting to die in ‘comfort’ when this fall finally ended, if it ever did, Dave crossed his legs, leaned back, and closed his eyes. Not that it made much of a difference as there was absolutely no way he could fall asleep between the cold and the fall itself, and it was about as black on the inside of his eyelids as it was with his eyes open. ‘Still, it’s the thought that counts.’

*****

Cameron awoke once more. It had been days, maybe weeks since his last pause in meditation and he still hadn’t felt the pangs of hunger- something he was at least thankful for concerning his dreadful situation. In fact, it may have only been five minutes- time was a tricky thing in this place, ‘Whatever and wherever this place is…’ He thought to himself, marveling that literally nothing had changed thus far about his metallic surroundings. The small area had not magically shifted in size or proportions yet, but that was not to say it couldn’t do such a thing to make room for any other captives or lost souls- it just hadn’t. Then, something he hadn’t heard in ages piqued his hearing, starting off as a faint whisper at first, gradually becoming more apparent as it grew closer- noise.

Cameron jumped to his feet, not bumping his head on the ceiling although it had seemed so close when he sat- ‘Even space and size is wonky here,’ he noted, eagerly straining to decipher what he could possibly be hearing. Some new arrival? An adventurer come to free him? ‘What could it be?’ He thought, growing more concerned than interested, wondering if it were possibly some other infernal trap or another, or perhaps simply his mind playing tricks on him- a slow descent into madness.

There it was again! He was sure this time. He’d heard a faint, ‘Gahhhhhhhh!’ moments before and now it came in again. It seemed to be wavering, as if it were being yelled from a great distance…as if someone were shouting in fact. As it seemed to near it became apparent that somebody was indeed shouting, as if they were falling rapidly towards his position. Suddenly the noise ceased and he heard a massive thud somewhere up above. Had someone landed on the ‘roof’ of his prison? He didn’t hear them stirring… Maybe they were dead or stunned from the long fall? He had so many questions and yet infuriatingly none of them could be answered. He sighed, sat back down, and waiting intently, stared in what he assumed was an upward direction.

*****

WHAM! Dave’s stomach cracked painfully into something metallic as he finally ‘landed,’ his upward descent- or rather ascent, halting suddenly. Surprisingly, although his vision was coming and going and he knew he should be dead, he obviously wasn’t and was breathing slowly to make sure nothing was damaged. ‘Maybe a lower field of gravity or something?’ He puzzled, ‘By all accounts I should still be dead- that was a long fall, or ascent or whatever, and I hit pretty hard.’

He noticed as he slowly came to his feet that he was in fact righted, not standing upside down like something out of a movie, but rather normally. Pursing his lips at this odd feat of whatever planetary genius had created the place, or whatever magical mumbo jumbo kept it running, he caught his breath for the first time in ages. ‘It’s been quite a day… Nothing quite like it before in fact. I wonder where those creatures went, and what they were… or if I’ll find out.’ With these thoughts and many more running rampant through his throbbing skull, Dave almost didn’t hear the knocking coming from below until he took another deep breath. At first he paused, thinking it was his heart beating a steady thump, but then the knocking came again- hollow yet resounding clearly.

‘Well that’s odd,’ he thought, leaning down to place his ear to the metallic surface for a good minute before hearing it yet again, ‘there it goes again! Whatever could be making that noise? It sounds…it sounds almost like Morse code! Wait a minute-‘

Going back through his muddled thoughts, he tapped out the knocks silently on his leg and stood up in shock- the tapping, if it had in fact been Morse code which seemed highly probable, had said, “Hello, are you okay?” He nearly jumped for joy- someone else was there! He hurriedly tapped out a response, “Yes. Am a friend. Who are you?” What came back shocked him more than anything to that point yet had- “I am Cameron.”

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