Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Strange New Land

A first installment of a story I'm writing as part of a challenge:

Robert peered at the unfamiliar landscape from the safety of his hiding spot.  The large rock he cowered behind wouldn't protect him from anything that might fly overhead or come at him from behind, but he was mainly worried about the herd of animals to his front.  Antelope?  Deer?  Elk?  Whatever they were, there were hundreds of them, and many of them had Robert-goring antlers on their heads.  That, and they were all headed somewhere fast.

And they were purple.  That part bothered Robert more than the horns; he'd seen creatures with antlers before.  Just--not purple ones.

He quickly removed his eyes from the surging herd to scan for--whatever, something, anything menacing--to the sides or overhead.  He didn't think anything was there, but he wondered how he would know menacing when he saw it.  The only thing normal about his new strange location was the rock, after all.  The grass, what little he could see, stood in clumps colored different shades of blue.  The sky overhead, meanwhile, was green.

How is that even possible? he wondered.  He vaguely remembered something from school about how the sky was blue because of something in the air.  The air was different here--wherever here was--obviously, but he was still able to breathe somehow.

Well, that was one good thing, anyway.

He turned his attention back toward the stampede to his front.  Slowly he leaned more of his body out from behind the rock he'd scrambled behind when the noise had startled him.  The animals didn't seem to notice him, which was probably another good thing.  They were larger than the deer he'd seen before, nearly the size of a small horse, and all speeding across the land with strong muscles rippling under their--purple--coats.

How strange.

He was tempted to leave the safety of the rock for a closer look, but then again something must have caused the large purple animals to stampede, and whatever it was might not react well to seeing an ordinary, unarmed human loitering in its lands.

The moment passed.  The herd continued, a few smaller members bringing up the rear, along the path that Robert couldn't quite make out.  As they left his field of vision the noise of their gallop drifted slowly away into the distance. Finally Robert found himself trembling to eerie silence, crouched behind the rock that now mocked his timidity.

"Well.  That was fun," he said as he straightened up.  "Great, I'm already talking to myself, and I've been here alone for all of fourteen and one-half minutes."  He chuckled to himself over his own joke, one that he knew would have fallen flat had anybody else been there to hear it.

He looked down at his clothes--yep, same jeans, t-shirt, and shoes he remembered wearing to the bar the night before.  He pulled out his wallet and inventoried the contents; he'd spent more than he realized on drinks, which wasn't a new thing, but it didn't look like anything important was missing.

Not robbed, then.  He didn't feel like he'd been--um, violated--either.  He wasn't even hung over.  He just didn't remember getting home, if he'd made it home at all, nor did he remember traveling to wherever here was.  Instead of the nice bed in his flat at 613 King Street, he'd woken up in a strange landscape to a strange herd of frightened purple fuzzy things.

"Okay, so this is a dream," he muttered.  Reaching across with his left hand, he found an exposed spot of flesh on his other arm and did what everybody did to wake themselves out of dreams in the stories.  "Ow!" he yelped as his mind registered the pain.  He looked around hopefully, and then shook his head.  Nope, same place.

He was definitely awake, though.

Robert walked back to where he'd been lying when the sound of hooves had roused him, hoping to find a clue.  There!  He spied a envelope, about the size his cable bill always arrived in, tucked under a nearby rock.  Hungry for answers, he ripped the top open.

Sorry, old chap, to do this to you.  It's for your own good, though.  You'll get home, in time.  I'd say trust me on that, but you wouldn't.  You probably shouldn't.  You'll need food, though, so I'll offer the following suggestions.  First, the small black berries you'll find in abundance are not only edible, they're quite good too.  You'll find a deep blue plant that usually grows to waist high up along ridge lines like the one to the north of where you're standing now.  It bears an orange flower that extends from the end of a blood-red fruit that looks like a cucumber.  The fruit doesn't taste anything like a cucumber, but it's good to eat regardless.  All the water you'll find, if you find water, is okay to drink, and all the animals are okay to eat.  If, that is, you can catch them.  You'll find a cache of weapons and tools, in addition to further information, about a full day's hike to the north, tucked in and around an old cabin beside a stream.  Oh, and you don't want to be out, especially in the valley you're currently reading this in, after dark, so you'd best chivvy along.  No, I'm not kidding.  Go, now, before the tigrons that spooked the herd find you.

"My own good?  Thanks a lot," Robert said to the nobody who wasn't around.  "Great.  Weapons and tools, a full day's hike from here?"  He sighed, having never hiked for a full day in his life.

"And what the hell is a tigron?" he yelled up into the air.

When nobody answered once again, Robert started walking north, away from the ridge line.


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