Dark Icon Original Fiction. SciFi/Fantasy/Horror

Other Side of the Eye

Table of Contents

Page 12

Getting out took longer than Dee expected.

The structure, or "Temple", or whatever it was, was massive. Dee had never visited the pyramids, or the Parthenon or the Coliseum, but the crumbling temple she found herself in now seemed to dwarf all of them. The mountain of stone where she originally arrived was near the very heart of the structure, but it was not a singular feature. Huge portions of the walls and ceiling had collapsed inward, creating a maze of truncated columns and piles of broken stones even larger than the one on which she'd landed. The place was a small city, certainly bigger than the subdivision where she'd lived.

Fortunately, Dee had an idea of which way to go, and the ruins themselves helped her find her way.

She'd seen the soldiers attempt a retreat when they'd been attacked, so she went the same way they'd tried to go. Then she followed the tracks that the men and their wagon had made through the dust on the stone floor when they'd arrived. The path wove through the broken columns and mountains of debris, leading to what Dee hoped was the entrance. As she and Treach walked, the hiss of decomposing vines and the thud of falling corpses fell quiet behind them. The... creature... used only a small portion of the ruins for its nest, and Dee breathed easier as the signs and sounds of its demise died away.

The sun came up as they walked, and Dee paused to look up at the sky through a collapsed portion of the ceiling.

It was wrong.

The sky was too blue... too dark, even as the overly-bright orb rose to blazing prominence. Dee squinted at the wispy clouds. They, too, looked wrong, but in a way that Dee couldn't identify. Something about their texture... about the way they hung in the air, low and thick.

She wasn't surprised. Of course the sky was wrong. Everything was wrong, and Dee figured that every ounce of surprise had been wrung out of her. There was none left. She simply regarded the sky with a sigh and kept walking.

Less than a minute later, she found the body.

It was one of the soldiers. He sat half-propped against the base of one of the columns, having fallen to one side as he died. The knife was still in his hand. Dee knew he was dead from the large pool of blood that splattered the stone floor in front of him. No one could loose that much blood and live; not that this man had wanted to. He'd clearly slit his own throat. Dee saw why when she was a few steps closer. The man's right foot lay at a sharp angle to the rest of his leg. He'd either broken it while fleeing, or one of those... things... had grabbed it. Either way, he'd decided not to face what came next and put his blade to this throat.

"Sit," Dee ordered. Treach sat. He whined when Dee left him to get a closer look at the man. She approached from the side, trying to avoid the blood. A few seconds later, she was beside him.

He was young. At first, Dee thought he was in his teens. His features had the softness of youth, but the skin was marred with a pockmarks and a trio of scars that added years. Maybe he was in his late twenties. Maybe he was in his early twenties with a few very hard years behind him. The man's eyes were open and staring, his bloody mouth yawned. A second, bloodier mouth gaped below the first.

She reached out and closed the young man's eyes. Then she did what she had come to do.

The "uniform" was just a thick coat and pants made from a grayish-brown material that Dee didn't recognize. The front had been soaked with blood; Dee pinched the sleeve and ran the material between her fingers. It almost felt like wool, but.... slicker. There was no nametag or insignia on the front, but the left shoulder had a shape stitched into it. It looked like a wheel, and at the center was something that might have been a crude fist. The wheel had eight out-thrusting daggers instead of spokes. Below this shape, a single stylized lightning bolt stabbed downward. Both shapes were stitched in simple black thread.

None of this meant anything to Dee. She knew of no army or country that had such an emblem. Dee tugged at the lapel, pulling the coat open. The shirt beneath the coat was a lighter shade of gray, except for where the copious blood had colored it a slick, red-fringed black. The fabric was somewhere between cotton and silk... nothing that Dee recognized. It was plain, with no clues as to who this man was or what nation he had died for.

"Well, this was a waste of time," said Dee. She stood, then paused. "Hmm..." Dee reached down and retrieved the knife. Dee knew nothing about knives, but this one seemed well made. The heavy, pointed blade was six inches long, and the hilt was wrapped in some black leather-ish material. It had a spherical pommel that bore the wheel insignia she'd seen on the jacket. Dee had a knife in her backpack, but it wasn't as big as this one. Or as sharp. Her knife was a tool... this was a weapon. Dee wiped off the blade on the dead man's jacket, then removed the leather(ish) holster from the man's belt. She took both with her.

It was perhaps another ten minutes before she found herself outside. She followed the trail of footprints and wagon wheels around two large stone heaps, and then she was in a large, wide, roughly circular space. The stone floor continued forward for another few yards before ending abruptly. There were bits of stone embedded in the ground beyond, giving the impression that the path had once continued further.

Dee stepped onto the blue-green grass and looked up once more. The sky looked stranger than ever... the sun was too large, and the light made her skin tingle. The temple sat atop a large hill, giving Dee a good view of the land around her. She saw fields in the distance. Corn or wheat or... something else. Dee couldn't tell. The fields stretched a considerable distance, almost as far as she could see. But she caught a hint of green on the horizon. For a second she thought something was glowing, like a giant emerald... but it must have been the sun reflecting off trees in the distance. Dee's mind wandered to the red gemstone she carried in her backpack. She pushed the thoughts away.

Dee saw a well-worn path leading down. She followed it with her eyes, and saw that it eventually became a road bisecting the massive fields below.

"Farmland," she said. "So... what do you think, Treach? The hurricane brought us to Kansas?"

Treach looked up at her as if he were seriously considering the question, then he sneezed and started toward the path.

"Kansas. Yeah. Let's forget about everything that's happened so far and go with that. Kansas sounds good to me."

She started after Treach.

"...please let this be Kansas."

They reached the path together and started down.


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