Carpathia III: Episode 11 - Earth and Light


Rising Falls

Days were starting to become weeks as Adell and Artemis remained stranded with the old man on the island surrounded by the rising falls. The days were still agonizingly long and made it impossible to simply count in order to compare to Carpathian days. The only references they had to the passage of time familiar to them were Adell's galaphone and Artemis's computer, both of which indicated that they'd already been on the island for nearly three weeks.

For a long time, both Adell and Artemis were focused on nothing else but eating, sleeping, and finding a way out. It didn't take long to explore the island and they didn't find much.

Most of the few structures were built by scrap gathered up by the old man and the rest, such as the cemetery on the small island, was there before even he arrived.

The graveyard was of intricate construction and expert stonework, far more sophisticated than anything the old man was even capable of building. Someone built it and that someone had to get on and off the island. Though Artemis was becoming more and more skeptical, Adell was sure there must be a way. They just had to find it.

One possibility was to find a cave behind the falls, which presented the obvious problem of how to explore behind it. Artemis frequently sent Phobos to explore the area around the rim, since he didn't need to worry about breathing and he was strong enough to fight the currents, but he never returned with good news. All he ever found behind the falls was solid rock and wide cracks beneath the surface where the water rose. While Phobos was gone, Artemis spent all of the rest of his time either exploring the rest of the island or working on completing Deimos, Phobos's counterpart.

With Phobos doing most of the remaining exploration work, Adell was stuck with nothing to do. For a short while, he wandered the island, but he quickly tired of that. Water was everywhere, but there was not a place to swim, and he desperately wanted to do so to escape the searing heat, if only for a little while. The pool between the island and the falls was relentlessly turbulent with geysers and spouts bursting up from various holes somewhere far beneath and the water rushing towards the falls. Adell quickly discovered that he could very easily be sucked into the rising falls and stuck at their base, turned over and over until he drowned.

When they first arrived, Artemis conducted a simple experiment. Push a heavy tree trunk into the water and see what happens. The results were terrifying. It drifted swiftly away and they watched in horror as it churned in the base of the falls for days before it broke apart into pieces and was finally carried, bit by bit, up the falls.

Driven by both a desire to swim and to give himself something to do before he went crazy, Adell began to fashion a place to swim for himself. He decided to build a barrier of stone that would calm a small area of the turbulent waters around him. Bit by bit, he carried stones from wherever he could find them and dropped them into the water. It was tedious, heavy work, but it was something to do. In between the times he spent fetching stones, he foraged for fresh, edible plants or caught fish, both of which appeared to be, fortunately, plentiful.

The old man, at least, was in a very good mood throughout the entire time, cheerfully cooking dinner and helping them out with whatever they needed, including helping Adell find stones for his makeshift swimming pool. He never once spoke at all or made the slightest noise with a voice, and they got used to communicating with him by way of facial expressions and gestures. Once in awhile, if it was a more difficult topic, they would resort to drawing crude pictures in the dirt with their fingers.

What amazed and puzzled them most about the old man, however, was his apparent ability to start a small fire at will with the snap of his fingers.

Adell lay in the sand near the water in the shade of the forest behind him, taking a break from the arduous task of finding stones for his pool. The days, fortunately, were quickly getting noticeably shorter and the nights longer. Seasonal changes on this planet, he thought, appeared to be fast, though the heat persisted, much to his dismay. He was beginning to think he had been too ambitious in the size he decided to make the pool, but the longer it took, the longer he'd have to occupy himself with the task. He never took breaks for too long, however, for his mind quickly turned to unpleasant thoughts whenever he was idle for too long.

From behind, he heard the sound of footsteps crunching towards him on the gravel path leading to the water's edge.

Artemis: Taking a break? Where's the old man?

Adell tilted his head back and glanced at Artemis coming up behind him.

Adell: He went to go get something. I think that's what he's doing anyway.

Adell sighed deeply, his mind racing from thought to thought. He ran his hands slowly down his chest and stomach, both of which were already beginning to ripple with muscle due to his new diet and level of activity. He never imagined being anything but the skinny twink he'd always been and he was feeling very pleased with himself. However, that pleasure quickly turned to depression once again when he remembered he had nobody to share his newfound sexiness with.

Adell: Why did I have to get stuck here with you anyway? Why not Toma or Jaze... or both?

For a brief moment, Adell smiled, finding pleasure in his newly lightning-quick imagination, until Artemis broke him from his reverie.

Artemis: Well, excuse me, Mr. Queeny McPervert, but it's no fun for me here either, you know. At least you get to imagine what might have been. I was stuck in the sausage truck to nowhere with no hope of having any girls end up here with me.

Adell, with no desire to continue the argument any further, sighed again.

Adell: We don't even know if any of the others are here on this planet or not. I hope they aren't. And what if we can't get back home? I don't think we're ever even going to get off this island, much less back to Carpathia.

Artemis: Well, something brought us here, and that something can get us back. We just have to find it. The sooner the better too. We've been here, what, three weeks already?

Artemis sat down next to Adell and swished his tail into his lap.

Adell: Almost. No question we've been reported missing by now. And by now either my parents or the police have gone through my room trying to find something to give them a clue about where we went. Oh my god, I don't even like to think about that...

Artemis: Well, it's not like they're going to find anything to make them think we're here, but why are you so nervous about that? It's the least of our problems!

Adell: I had sort of a crazy rebound after I dumped Mitani, and I'm over that now, but those things are expensive, so I didn't throw them out... They'll find my whip, my restraints, my handcuffs, my ga...

Artemis waved his hands and shook his head frantically.

Artemis: Okay, okay, you can stop now! I get it! I take your point though. Same for me, I guess. They might think I blew us all up or something.

Adell: I still think you might've.

Artemis let out a grumbling sigh.

Artemis: How many times do we have to go over this? I do not know how to make a wormhole! And even if I did, the power necessary to transport so much as a breadcrumb through subspace would be enormous!

The familiar sound of the crunch of gravel underfoot stopped the budding argument. Both turned instinctively to see who it was, though they already knew. The old man walked up to them clutching some sort of object, about the size of a baseball, wrapped loosely in a piece of cloth. Adell sat up and turned to face him as the old man sat down and crossed his legs.

The old man carefully unwrapped the object he was carrying. When he was finished, a brilliant, red crystal lay in the wrappings on his hand. It appeared to be quite raw and unfinished, with small, jagged spines worn down not by crafting, but by sheer age.

Adell gazed at the crystal in awe, feeling somehow drawn to it. Instinctively, he reached out to touch it, but the old man immediately pulled the crystal away from him and shook his head. Adell stopped where he was, cowed by the silent admonishment. The old man picked up the crystal and let the cloth fall to his lap. He then grasped the crystal, with one hand on top and the other on the bottom, and shook his head. Then he removed his bottom hand and raised the crystal up slightly, keeping his bottom hand a few inches below. Then he dropped the crystal into his bottom hand. After that, he looked directly at them and gave an exaggerated nod.

Adell: I don't think I get it.

Artemis: I think he's saying that two people shouldn't touch the crystal at the same time.

The old man pointed excitedly at Artemis and nodded.

Adell: I see. So you want us to hold it?

The old man nodded again.

Adell: May I ask why?

The old man opened his mouth as though trying to speak, but no sound came out. For a few moments, he fidgeted around and swept his hand in the dirt and finally stopped, hanging his head low.

Artemis: I don't think he knows how to explain.

Adell: Well, what harm could come of it? I'll go first.

Adell held out his hand as the old man beamed excitedly. He reached out and took Adell's hand briefly and held it steady, indicating that he wanted him to hold it where it was. Then he released Adell's hand and slowly moved the crystal towards him. When it was a few inches over his hand, he released it and Adell caught it. Though he had braced himself for its weight, he found it surprisingly light in his hand and warm to the touch. He slowly brought it closer to his face and looked closely at it. For a moment, he thought he saw the crystal shimmer as a feeling of placidity washed over him. A moment later, the crystal turned brown and he saw many things.

In an instant, Adell felt as if he was flying through the air, watching as visions passed before him. First, he saw a tall, craggy mountain looming high above the landscape below. For a time he flew closer to it and circled around, close enough to see the uncountable number of sharp, jagged rocks that made up its slopes. After that, he flew rapidly over the bare soil, freshly tilled and strong with the sweet smell of fresh, damp earth. Image after image of earthen and rocky landscape features passed before him until finally, he found himself standing in a field. He reached down and scooped some dirt into his hands and rubbed them together. Finally, he awoke, finding himself laying in the sand by the water's edge, the sound of the roaring falls pounding in his ears once again.

Adell sat up and looked around. Artemis looked at him in puzzlement while the old man simply smiled. The old man had the crystal in his hands once again, cradling it in the cloth. It was still brown.

Adell: How long was I out?

Artemis: Just a few minutes. You feel okay? You looked like you were having a very nice dream or something.

Adell held out his arms and turned them over, stretching them out. He then squeezed his hands into fists.

Adell: Surprisingly good, actually. Really good. Like I could lift up a house if I wanted.

The old man clapped his hands excitedly. He pointed to his eye and then held his hand to his mouth and gestured outwards.

Adell: What did I see? I saw several things. I saw a tall mountain. After that, I was flying over a long stretch of dirt. Not all exciting, really, but it all felt so real.

The old man covered his eyes and then flapped his arms. Neither Adell nor Artemis knew what he might be saying.

Adell: I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're saying.

The old man hung his head low, as though disappointed. Adell wasn't too concerned about that. He felt great, better than he ever had.

Adell: Artemis, you should go next!

Artemis looked at Adell disbelievingly. For a few moments, he looked back and forth between the old man, whose eyes were filled with eager anticipation, and Adell.

Artemis: Hmmm... I'm not completely comfortable with this, but I'll do it. Just to satisfy my own curiosity.

Artemis took off his glasses and handed them to Adell.

Artemis: Hold on to these.

Adell: Sure.

Adell took the glasses from Artemis's hand. Artemis then held his hand out just as Adell did earlier. The old man gently took the crystal from the cloth once again and held it over Artemis's hand and dropped it just as he did before. Artemis held it for a short time, studying it intently. Then, the crystal turned light green and he found himself flying as well.

First, flew below a cluster of fluffy, white clouds. He reached up and put his hand inside and the moisture twisted elegantly around his hand. Then, the clouds parted, sending warm beams of light scattering in all directions. Soon after, he suddenly found himself in a field of flowers and trees, surrounded by white feathers fluttering towards the ground. Beams of pure, heavenly sunlight penetrated the the leafy, green treetops and bathed him in a warm, comforting glow.

Finally, Artemis woke up, laying on his back just as Adell was. Adell looked at him expectantly.

Artemis: I'm not sure what mine means. I saw clouds and lots of light. There was one bit with feathers too. I don't get it. What does it mean?

Adell: Do you feel any different?

Artemis looked down and squeezed his fist just as Adell did before.

Artemis: Hmmm... I don't feel any stronger, but I do feel different. I'm not really sure how to explain it. It's nice, though. I can say that, at least.

Before Artemis could consider his experience any further, they heard splashing coming up from behind them. Phobos emerged from the water, soaking wet.

Phobos: I have completed today's reconnaissance behind the waterfall. I still find nothing but solid rock.

Artemis: Dammit! There's got to be some way out of here!

Phobos looked up at Artemis mournfully.

Phobos: Master Artemis, I would really rather you didn't ask me to do that anymore. It's dangerous behind the falls.

Artemis turned and glared at Phobos, wide-eyed and confused. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his control device for Phobos and frantically tapped the display.

Adell: What's wrong?

Artemis: His personality is set to absolute obedience. He shouldn't even be capable of saying something like that.

To be continued...

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover
Thatwildmary

All city pictures from SimCity 4
Rising Falls image from SimCity 4 and modified by Jporter

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