S O M E W H E R E E L S E
I open my eyes and I am home. The sea of blood before me, warm and sticky beneath my feet, reaching out across the horizon and further yet. Mounds of bone spiralling up into the sky, grotesquely beautiful architecture that scrapes the orange-yellow veil of clouds. Trees, crafted from tissue and flesh, throw thin shadows that crawl across the ocean surface like the legs of a spider, trunks of muscle bursting from beneath the sloshing waves. I listen to the chittering under that crimson cloak, feel the hum of a heartbeat beneath its veneer, hidden from sight but nothing else. There is life there, everywhere, in the branches, through the waves, above the clouds, sewn together in a quilt that is noise and energy.
This is the Red.
And in the centre of it all, upon their thrones of ivory and skulls, sit the Parliament. Ignatius, the Sphynx cat which towers above the bone mountains and purrs with a power that resonates in your flesh. Orion, the fleshless ape, broad and sturdy with a lipless grin and burning eyes. And Primus, the lithe man-goat, leaning on his staff of arteries and cartilage.
Others sit, too, numbering in the dozens, the hundreds, thousands, reaching further than the past and future. A Parliament of Limbs.
"Rannik Telo of Korugar," the hircine ancient bellows to me, through me, and I feel the voices of thousands of others behind his.
"I seek counsel, fellow Totems. Counsel for... Troubling visions."
The flesh trees shake quietly, and I hear a disquieted rumble in the distance.
"Visions," purrs Ignatius, and I feel the tissue leap off my bone for a sweeping moment. There is something in his word, something... Wrong.
"I see blood. So much blood. And I feel.." I pause, the words balling in my throat like bile. "I feel so much death. So much fear, anger, pain."
My hands tremble, and I ball them into fists, trying to steady myself. The blood sea begins to sway.
"Yes, youngling," Primus reaches forward with his staff, thrusting the bottom below the surface of the sea and sending ripples outward towards me. "We understand these visions. These dreams. We live them through you."
"What do they mean?" There is a desperation in my voice. I know what they mean, deep inside me, and I am suddenly aware of an acute warmth surrounding me.
"They are signs of things to come. Things you cannot change. Things you will try to fight, but fail."
The ripples, they crash into each other, again and again and again and again, and the sea becomes restless.
"But... But am I not one of your avatars? A conduit of the Life Web? How can I not hold back this... This tide of death."
A crack above me. The sky is bright now. So bright it hurts to gaze into. A wind erupts and slices at me with a primal ferocity.
"Life," Primus murmurs, but you cannot mishear him. "Is about blood. It is about struggle. It is about overcoming that which will cause you harm, to become better, stronger."
The blood pulls at me, and I am being pulled down, to my knees, my waist, and the branches of the flesh trees shudder violently. I hear cries hidden within their bone branches.
"As life does, you will have to overcome what is to pass. You will lose much, become tempted to stray. And you will blame others and yourself. Do as life does, Rannik Telo..."
There is a desperation, a fear I don't quite understand in his words, and my chest is tight as I am drawn into the waves, the bubbling heat around my ears, my mouth. "Wait--"
"Evolve or die."
I am beneath the surface. There are shadows with me. Claws hooking into my chest, puncturing my lungs, my heart, and I scream out, tasting the copper of the blood sea, and the light begins to die out around me.
July 3rd, 2020 | 7:16p.m. | Happy Harbour, Rhode Island
Rannik hit the floor with a thud.
The cool vinyl flooring was a relief against his skin, burning hot and damp with sweat. Wincing, he felt the thumping of a headache behind his eyes, sitting up and surveying his surroundings.
His room. Empty and grey, excluding the bed and computer he had been assigned. He had flipped off the lights to help him concentrate, to focus his connection with the Web, and now found himself sat in a dark and empty room. A shiver ran up his spine; the quiet and loneliness usually weren't his favourites on good days, but after that communal with the Totems...
He slowly picked himself up off the floor, clothes damp with sweat, and quickly decided to change. Tee-shirt and black shorts. Strange human garb. Walking over to the door, the familiar swish
as it slid open, he looked back at his room.
Nothing. No warmth. No light. Nobody.
His gaze lingered for a moment longer before he walked, briskly, over to the elevator...
July 3rd, 2020 | 7:24p.m. | Happy Harbour, Rhode Island
Rannik jumped, startled at the voice, and caught himself in the doorway. "Who has the best costume and why?"
Confusion. Something the Korugaran had become accustomed to on Earth."Uh,"
he murmured, quizzically gazing at the other earthlings in the kitchen. "I don't really... Know..."
Hostility. It tasted like bitter leaves of the jarnas tree, felt like needles of a p'aaran dungworm beneath the skin. It was a sensation Rannik had also
become accustomed to on Earth. With Fenrir as your partner, it was difficult not to.
He reached back out into the Web, subtly brushing across the sensations around him, and quickly realised Stephanie's goal."Well,"
he began, stretching his red arms wide and smiling broadly, his yellow eyes lighting up. "On Korugar, this is the norm. The more color, the better. When people notice you, it means you stand out, it means you are special. So, really, our "costumes" all look quite similar to me."
He wandered over to Andy, the fiery light in the image of the Web, and slapped him on the shoulder."Except you. You are exceptionally boring. Like the Batman."