“Hands in the air!” an Equilibri screamed, raising a blaster that was hundreds-of-kilograms worth of bullets. “Do as I say! If you don’t surrender-” he then snarled, before saying, “You know you will anyways. Here is the thing. If you don’t obey, we’ll have a little bloodbath for your super-early birthday.”
Crimson sighed. “Thanks guys. My birthday’s next month, actually. Regardless of that, though-” she raised her revolver that pointed straight at the Equilibri’s chest, “I think I can replace my bloodbath with yours.”
Her fingers were already on the verge of clicking the trigger, but Jake whispered in a rush, “Crimson. We’re talking about real deaths here. Not like… well, Fhrore- Fr- oh whatever that town was called anyways!” When Crimson didn’t respond, he asked a much simpler question; “What are you doing!”
“You’ve done that hundreds of times! Be more creative.”
“Okay… something impossible.”
“Impossible is a myth, dummy. What else you’ve got?”
“Fine,” Crimson said. “Something schizophrenic.”
At that one word, she slid herself between the masses of the purple aliens- a bang at every turn. Jake ran in the opposite direction, playing distraction for the day. Grenades exploded at every five seconds or so, wih debris flying high like birds, and bullets ricocheted like burning jets in a world war falling from the sky and onto the ground.
Their plan slightly worked- but with the crowd of enemies surrounding their path- how were they supposed to escape? That thought wasn’t on Crimson’s mind because she had to concentrate on firing the small, sharp weapons- every shot counted.
By the time of 20 minutes, Crimson had barely any more bullets left. All her hope was placed onto the shoulders of her small but agile pocket knife. But it wasn’t even close to defend her! Crimson needed luck- a whole lot of luck- and she needed it, fast.
Good thing luck listened to her wishes.
A earthquake-making screech that could give you a headache for days rang throughout the room. Rising from the midst of the purple Equilibri was a 30 foot, scaly and scary, full grown Dragon endorsed with horrifying claws and a back-shivering stare.
Its scales contrasted between a dark silver and a fading but noticeable turquoise that contrasted finely with its bronze eyes that were slanted and enormous. Teeth slithered down from the narrow opening of its mouth. Its wings were like an eagle’s; widespread of feathers and beautiful. Rivers of steam floated out of its nostrils.
The Dragon gave a terrifying roar, and the Equilibri were of horror.
Not Crimson. She rolled her eyes, crossed her arms and shook her head with unimpressed feeling. Crimson muttered softly, nearly laughing herself off in the unfortunate situation, “Oh, show-off.”
Suddenly, a voice spoke to her mind, “Crimson.” She jumped, and look around. It wasn’t the Equilibri, of course- the voice was rather soft and tired. “Crimson. Can you hear me? I’m using a bit of Dragon telepathy signals and all…”
Crimson widened her eyes in surprise, “Jake? Is that you?” Her mouth widened and her face scrunching in disbelief. “Oh God, no way you can-”
“Oh, just shut up and listen,” Jake spoke in her mind. “Two things though; one, do not call me a show-off. I was literally saving your arse from dying. Yes, your very welcome.” He sighed dismissively. “Next, you’ve gotta climb. Like, climb me. If that’s possible. I can help you with a distraction.”
Wait, what distraction? Crimson thought.
“On three: one… two… three…”
And that is how the universe accidentally celebrated the official Equilibri BBQ too early.
Running past Jake’s blow-torching fire, Crimson bolted past the screaming Equilibri and managed to escape the horrifying, fiery death. In an instant, missing the burning flames by inches, she crawled the spiky silver scales (and prayed that she wouldn’t look down or even fall!) with careful agility.
Now on the Dragon’s back, Crimson hugged (the small percentage) of the neck, holding on for dear life. Jake the Dragon buckled as he shot fire from his mouth, disintegrating the hundreds of thousands of Equilibri in the room. Some fled by cheap but helpful (and rather cheating) teleportation devices while others faded into the ashes of non-existence.
After a few minutes, Jake couldn’t handle staying as a gigantic Dragon any longer. The Dragon form closed its eyes and its scales turned into feathers, the feathers faded into starlight and the starlight vanished instantly. And Crimson felt herself falling through the air, unable to scream, panic in her lungs.
Falling wasn’t the NYX in Hyperspace.
Falling wasn’t jumping off the roof of a house.
Falling felt more like flying at an ever-going speed of infinity.
In most theoretical books back in Crimson’s school that studied the Gravitational Physics chapter, she knew that if you don’t break the pressure, you could die. But that was falling towards water. Crimson was about to fall towards solid ground- rocky and hard. Breaking pressure was a dream. It needed immense power to break it.
The fall can be broken if something is under the crashing force, maybe, Crimson thought.
That was where Jake came in.
Crash! Crimson toppled over Jake with such immense force the two fell down to the cold floor below their feet. It was like at the alleys of Fhroreevere Town, but (fortunately) they did not land on each other in a such embarrassing way.
“‘Fanks,” Crimson thanked. “But we are never doing that again,” she added while brushing and scraping off the remains of whatever from her knees and elbows. Jake just nodded in reply, exhausted from the fight. Crimson saw him limping slightly, his skin rather pale and blistered. What shocked Crimson the most was the bloody stains and scratches on his clothes and body.
“You badly need some rest. Those tiring transformation processes are literally killing you,” Crimson advised Jake whose head slept on her lap as she held a book, reading quietly. “I think we could call it a day… a rest for a few hours should do.” Jake mumbled some unknown words, probably sleep-talking (as Crimson assumed).
As Crimson read, she thought of how to escape this one room. Since there was no Equilibri with a living soul… well, they still got that terrible stench, Crimson decided to do some exploring. Leaving Jake sleeping on his bundled-up jacket and making sure he was safe, Crimson took her reloaded revolver and a Headlight Torch to do some exploring.
The room they had been fighting in wasn’t that vast, but enormous enough to fit a Dragon and an army of horrible beasts. The floor was actually made of a breed between marble and Glitenium while the walls were the soft echoes of rippling obsidian. The place was absolutely marvelous- well, if you substrated the blood and all- even though how simple-looking it was.
“This won’t be too hard,” Crimson told herself assuringly. “I’m sure I could manage. Maybe. Sort of. Hope so.”
Apparently, she was very wrong.
Half an hour passes and still Crimson had not found any exit or so to get out of the wretched place. She pounded and pulled on platforms and planks, she banged her gun on the floor several times- nearly waking up her resting friend. At last, Crimson exclaimed, dragging herself on the wall in a leaning kind-of-way towards the floor, “Okay! Fine! I give up. Room, help me. I need to get out of here.” Crimson shook her head. “Why the hell am I talking to a room?”
We would love to reply though, said a voice behind her. Crimson jumped- or she sort of, as she was still sitting- and yelped with surprise.
“Who’s there?!” Crimson asked, pointing her revolver towards her surroundings as she stood up and walked around the middle of the room.
The girl is worried! a different voice laughed, rather more high-pitched than the other. Scared, though she has the blood of the brave.
Such a pity, another voice moaned sadly.
Pity, pity, pity… the mysterious voices sang in a chorus (with an additional bunch).
“Oh shut up,” Crimson told the voices. “Just tell me who or where you are and I’ll be done with, thank you very much.” Crimson was rather frustrated at their mocking, sing-song words.
We are in the walls, said one.
And we are also within the floors, two added.
The ceiling too! another chimed in.
We would like to offer some help- but you wouldn’t offer yourself to want, the first voice said. But we would give it to you anyway- because we care-
But we need proof! exclaimed the high-pitched voice. Is she the real Crimson Roth? Is she a Roth? Is she called Crimson?
Dear me, I’ve forgotten, the first voice said calmly. Oh well. We’ll find that out easily. We always do. But I need to talk this out physically. Handle it all.
A fight, ma’am? a sorrow voice muttered.
I hope not, said the motherly voice. I know she wouldn’t. I hope she wouldn’t.
Then the walls began rippling like water, the obsidian liquified…. and solidified. A body morphed out of it like a statue being carved. First the thin legs and then the torso, followed by the stomach, arms and a long neck. Finally, a head grew with long wavy hair atop of it. The woman was of stone, and the woman smiled.
“Hello Crimson,” said the woman in her motherly voice. “I’m sure you’re not familiar with our species- whether or not you’ve learnt us at school or home- but do you know the Nheiter?”
Crimson nodded. “Of course I do. You’re a Nheiter, aren’t you?” The woman smiled as to reply a “Yes.” Crimson continued, “They’re like guardian angels are they? To help their masters in need if they really need it.” Crimson frowned afterwards. “I never thought you would be real though. A myth, or a legend. Folktale even.”
Said the woman, “But you know I am. Now, please cooperate- we haven’t have any much time. Hold out your hand where the palm is facing the ceiling- like that…. yes! Wonderful.” The woman traced her finger onto the soft lines of Crimson’s palm.
“Palmistry?” Crimson asked.
“Yes. Everyone’s palm is different. I know yours quite clearly. I’m just checking.”
“Who are you anyways?”
The woman paused. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know who you are? That’s ridiculous!”
“A Nheiter does not have an identity. We only have personality- that’s our identity. If you had to pick any other Nheiter to come out of the wall or floor and solidify, they would look just like me,” the woman explained. “Now stop fidgeting around, dear. This is urgent-”
“May I call you Miss Stone?” Crimson asked, interrupting the now-called Miss Stone. “It’s really tiring to talk to someone without a name.”
The woman raised her eyebrows suspiciously, but then lowered it. She sighed, “Oh well… If you insist on it.”
After a short while, the woman finally finished her examining. Said Miss Stone, “So you really are Crimson Roth. Your ancestor is very proud Crimson. All the way to here- and still sixteen.” She held her hand onto Crimson’s cheek. “Be strong, girl. You’re nearly there. No one has ever achieved this far- well, unless you’re speaking about Time.”
Continued Miss Stone, “This room is all about logic. If you were a person who built an extremely ordinary house, where would you put your door?” Crimson pointed at the bottom-middle of the wall. Miss Stone just nodded. “Alright. Now if you were to put a door that protected yourself from a great zombie apocalypse, where would it be?”
Crimson paused to think, before saying, “Of course, the first thing is that the door must be unseen. Maybe invisible, I guess? And unreachable. Maybe around this ceiling.” Before she knew it, she just answered her own question.
A fleet of stairs grew out of the floor, but it was just as tall as a regular tree. When Crimson stepped on one of the steps, the top of the first stair divided into two other stairs and began growing steps.
“You’ve got to make choices Crimson,” said Miss Stone as she watched from below. “All choices have sacrifices and consequences as much as their rewards and safety. Choose wisely.” As she saw Crimson struggle, Miss Stone continued, “The mind is a thing or so to help you think. But the heart? It’s like a one-way ticket to death or more life.”
Crimson nodded, but how was she supposed to know? She took a left, another left and her first right and finally reached the ceiling. When she was at the top, she saw a door materialized at the stair across her, but then it dematerialized. Again, she caught a glimpse of the same door flashing behind her back before it quickly popped out of sight.
Crimson knew the room was playing tricks on her. If getting to that door was easy, that was no test. So she tried to find one of the harder, more obstacle-like stair that wouldn’t be one of her first choices to even climb. Then she saw it: a crumbly staircase of rock that led to a door that rather stayed put longer in the same place than the other ‘fake’ doors.
But the staircase was about four meters away.
She had to take a leap of faith.
She had to.
But could she?
“A dreamer always needed to take a leap of faith, of course. Not only dreamers, but warriors. And pursuers, all those kinds of people,” said Miss Stone. “There is no such thing as safety in a quick jump. There is either a land or a fall. But you still have to jump- or take the forever-regretting long way around. Which one do you choose, Roth?”
Crimson had to make a decision. She though… and she though… and finally-
She picked the first choice. Feeling herself fly through the air, her legs stretching like a ballerina, Crimson jumped. And she landed… no, she did not. She was hanging for dear life. She had to hold on, she had to. Putting a lot of pressure on the breaking stairs, Crimson grappled it and pulled herself up, the sharp rocky sides scratching her stomach. It was painful, but she had to keep her cool.
Crimson sighed in relief as she reached the top. Before she knew it, the staircase of insecure rock transformed into steps made of Glitenium. Crimson though, Thank goodness! She looked down and saw that Miss Stone wasn’t there anymore, and the other stairs had disappear.
A few minutes later, Jake felt himself being rocked and pulled and shouted by a very annoying and rather exciting voice, “Jake! Wake up! I found a way to get out of here!”