Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 2 - Beyond the Sky

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 2 - Beyond the Sky

This is the second installment in a four-part short story (4000 words) I wrote recently. Enjoy!

Kor watched as Xana climbed through the blue cieling and disappeared. He rapidly followed without another comment at Nikko. His face approached the smooth surface of the sky, and he reached forward with his left front leg and touched it tentatively.

Ripples spread out softly from the point where he touched, spreading across the sky like one tiny drop of rain. Kor breathed water once more, propelling himself forward and upward, until his eyes touched the sky.

He was surprised to feel the sky dragging at him as he pushed his face against it. Perhaps the pond wanted to keep him in. But for Kor, life and instinct drew him inexhorably onward and upward. He shoved hard against the surface tension, and dragged his body slowly up the stem.

Movement in the water below him distracted him from his exodus for a moment. He looked back down at two youngers looking to make a meal out of his legs. Nikko struck them from the side, and thrust them away.

Kor turned his attention back to the stem and the push. He thrust through the surface tension, and suddenly a flood of new experiences struck him. First, it was the deeper blue of another sky, lacking the silver sheen, so high above him that he couldn't comprehend it. Next, he felt the extreme dryness of everything around him. The water drained off his body as he climbed higher up the stem, moving out of reach of hungry jaws below.

Movement beside him caught his attention, and without consciously thinking about it, he reached out and snatched at it, dropping his mask and stuffing a mosquito into his ravening maw. So. there were mosquitos of a different sort up here - ones that swam through this new sky on tiny whining wings.

Kor gasped and strained for the last vestige of the oxygenated water draining off his drying body. He cried out in horror as he realized there was no water to breathe beyond the sky. How could any dragonfly live with no water?

The water exploded outward from him, it's oxygen used up. Instinctively, he gasped, drawing in raw air where he had been drawing water before. A burning sensation spread through him, dry and hot as fire, as the richer oxygen in the air dried out his internal harvesters and supplied his body with more oxygen and power than he'd ever felt before.

Energy blasted through him, enough to supply the strength necessary to crawl an additional two inches up the stem. Here, he paused, panting this new air. Simultaneously, he was struck by the feeling of intense heat coming from the sun. In this new world, there was no water to protect and dissipate the sun's blasting heat, and his water-soaked body dried quickly on the stem.

But there was water in the air here, too. He could see it spread across the surface of the water below him, though his many-faceted bulbous eyes saw it as a cloudy movement of thousands of tiny panes of light and dark.

Not far away, Kor saw Xana on a neighboring stem. "Move higher up," he called to her, his voice sounding faint in the air.

Xana didn't move. Faintly, her voice came back. "I can't. Watch out for the flying things."

Kor nodded his stiffening head. "Good eating."

Xana visibly shuddered. "Not the ones I'm talking about. They are bigger than us, as much as we are the mosquito flippers."

Kor growled. "We are the predators."

Xana shook her head. "Not anymore." That was the last thing she would say on the matter. She had become a dried-out statue, frozen in position. Even her skin seemed dried and brittle, turning brown as he watched.

The mist moved across the water in a slight breeze that rocked the stem he was on gently. The swaying motion soothed him. He heard buzzing by him, and saw movement, large flying things that hovered and swooped. They looked very similar to him, but they had long gossamer wings that buzzed and flipped them this way and that.

Higher above them, he saw the edge of large green bushes waving slowly in the hot breeze, and beyond the bushes, things with tall thin gray stems that reached far up into the sky, spreading a green canopy across the sky.

And above and among the green canopy, unimaginably huge dark shapes sailed through the air, soaring from tree to tree, and watching... hunting for prey.

The soft breeze cooled and dried the stem under him, and the skin around him. The heat and dryness enveloped him and dried out the exoskeleton that housed him like a pliable skin. His skin stiffened and cracked painfully, from the tips of his clawed feet to the facets of his eyes.

The world began to turn brown and faded, and he became very sleepy as he froze in place and began to change. And this time, he was sure, the change would be different.

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