Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 3 - The Change

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 3 - The Change

This is part 3 of a four-part short story (4000 words) that I wrote recently for a Blog Chain at Hope you enjoy!

Kor hung stiffly on the green stem of grass for a very long time. His skin dried and cracked and peeled around him. The air turned cool around him, and the sun sank low beyond the soaring trees.

In the late afternoon hours, his breathing became labored, and he kicked and struggled to crawl out of the hardened shell lying dead around him. He was hungry - starving, really, and needed a meal and some air. He felt trapped in the death that enclosed him.

With a wriggle and a thrash, he felt the shell across his back split and crack open. He clawed and pushed upwards, crawling out of his dead skin in a slow shove.

The shell of his body clung firmly to the stem, and Kor was able to hang on to it as he pulled free and clung to the paper-thin model of the 'older' he had been.

He glanced over at Xana to see if she was watching, but her brown body seemed frozen in place right where it was last time. "Xana!" he called. "Look at me! I am different!"

Several things seemed very different about him this time. For one thing, his rear end, instead of being a bulbous appendage, was a curved question mark, long and thin, in many blue sections. As this new skin dried out, he watched as the curve of the tail instinctively straightened out.

Meanwhile, something new on his back, four gossamer appendages that had been folded and crushed inside his shell, began to straighten and unfold, sticking out at right angles to his body.

The cramped feeling dissipated in the cool evening light. A mosquito droned by, and one of Kor's fresh arms reached out and snatched it, shoving it into his open maw. A second mosquito quickly followed the first, and then the mosquitos seemed to get the message to avoid the proximity of the strange creature on the stem.

The sun set, darkness enveloped the area, and Kor rested and grew on the stem.

* * * * * * * * *

The morning dawned slowly with a thick mist spreading out over the water sluggishly moving in the drying ditch. Kor twisted his head to get the kinks out of it, and the new world spun dizzily around him. Instinct drove him to flex his wings. He was interested to note that they all moved independently of one another.

He flapped them rapidly, and thrilled to the lift they gave him, pulling him up into the air, against the clawed foothold he had on his old shell. Perhaps he could swim through this 'new' water, after all.

"Hey, slowpoke!" called a voice above him. It was Xana. She was flying easily through the air on newfound wings. His pulse quickened as he saw her easily darting back and forth, left and right, hovering above him, even when a gust of wind blew.

He buzzed his wings in reply, giving himself a lift, finally abandoning the old shell that represented his limited life below the surface, in the cramped and shrinking confines of what appeared to be a tiny part of the greater world. The world about him was huge, much more expansive than he could ever have imagined.

He leaped off the stem, shooting across the short expanse of water, across the dry hump that separated the backwater from the greater ditch. Xana followed him.

"Where does this new world end?" he asked her, as she caught up with him.

"It seems to go on forever," she said. "This morning I flew past this ditch onto the field above. There are quite a few of our kind there, but there are also great predators some of them call 'birds' down there." She indicated a great cliff before them. "It is up and over this cliff."

Kor fell back a little, experimenting with the new wings he'd been given. It was exhilerating, being able to stop immediately, turn a flip, and twist from side to side, all in the air. He did several somersaults, spinning almost out of control until he came close to the surface of the ditch. He stopped his fall close to another dragonfly, a light blue variety smaller than him.

"Hello," said Kor. "What's your name?"

"Tarin," the beautiful sky-blue dragonfly said. "I came from an eddy further down towards the street."

"Street?" said Kor. "What's a street?"

Something pink and sticky shot out across the ditch and struck Tarin. An instant later, she was gone. A huge green creature near the shore burped, and turned a pair of golden eyes on Kor.

Immediately, Kor rose above the surface of the ditch, zipping back near Xana. "Did... did you see that?" he asked.

Xana didn't answer directly. She headed over the top of the brown rise ahead of them, moving at a pace Kor had to strain to match. "This new world is full of danger, Kor," she said. "You must keep all your eyes focused and ready to dodge."

They came out into a large open field, with tall grass all over. Dragonflies darted across the field, snapping up flies and gnats that rose like a cloud.

A shadow fell across them, and Kor dodged right while Xana dodged left. A huge black shape dropped between them catching a nearby dragonfly below them that was in the process of catching a fly.

Kor watched in silence as the sharp yellow talons caught the dragonfly. The bird flew rapidly up into the sky, and enjoyed its meal on the wing.

Kor shuddered. "Are you all right?" he asked Xana.

"Yes," she said hesitantly. She led him down to the level of the grass. Another bird flew by. They clung to stems and watched it strike another dragonfly.

"This area is a death trap!" Kor exclaimed, watching the birds dropping repeatedly to catch dragonfly after dragonfly. "Let's get out of here!"

Xana nodded, spinning her head around to face him. "It wasn't this bad earlier." She rose to fly back to the relative safety of the ditch, but a black bird, a little smaller than the others, struck her in its talons.

Kor shot forward, unthinking, and grabbed the bird by its right wing as it rose to dizzying heights far above the field. Kor held on to the wing and listened to Xana's struggles in the talons below the bird.

The bird turned it's head to stare, unblinking, at the dragonfly on its wing. Kor held tight to the wing, opened his maw, and tried to take a bite out of the bird's wing. All he managed was a mouthful of tiny black feathers. But the bird tilted its head, and it's yellow beak opened, emitting a shriek.

Kor watched the bird, and leaped off as it struck at him. The bird managed to bite its own wing, cutting into it. He braked to a standstill as the bird sailed past, screaming defiance.

He buzzed after the bird, hurling insults at it. The bird turned in the air, now coming after him. His heart thudded in his chest as he turned from the attacker to the attacked.

The bird still had not let go of Xana, and was going to quickly have Kor as well; a dragonfly in each talon. He turned and fled in terror from the huge creature. His eyes, twice as big as the rest of his body, watched as the bird came closer. At the last minute, as the bird dropped to snatch at him, he darted to the left, just missing the disappointed bird's wing.

The bird soared forward, approaching the end of the field. Kor looked ahead beyond the tall grass, and saw a huge black river ahead. Yellow stripes split the large black river, and white stripes divided it up even further. Great creatures, much larger than the bird, fled down the black river.

Kor's heart skipped a beat as he considered feeding the bird to one of the great beasts travelling the flat black river. The bird wheeled around in a circle and sailed after him again, still fixed on the task of paying him back for the pain in its wing.

Kor dove rapidly down until he was dodging in and out among the great beasts. The bird followed him. He noticed that the beasts left the white and yellow lines alone, so he flew up to a white line, the bird close behind him. As he crossed the line, he stopped and dodged right and down. The bird flew past him, screaming in rage, until a great white beast struck the black bird, sending a shower of black feathers into the air. The beast squealed in anger, leaving two trails of darker black on top of the black river. As it passed, the wind of its passing yanked Kor forward into a tailspin, tossing him into a corkscrew that he had to fight to combat. he struck the hard black river, gripping the white rocks embedded in it.Further ahead, the big black bird, now devoid of many of its feathers, dropped to the river, exhausted. Xana was not in its grip.
The bird ignored him now, just trying to get off the river without being trampled by another beast, a blue one this time.

A bang sounded ahead of him, coming from the great white beast. "Dad!" exclaimed a giant creature's voice, looming above the bird. "It's not dead!"

An even larger creature, unimaginably hideous, loomed behind the female creature. "Leave it alone," the hideous creature boomed in a deep male voice. "We can't pick up every poor animal that gets in our way, especially when we're going fishing. Or would you rather give up the fishing trip to help this old bird?"

The female shook her head.

The male grabbed her arm as another beast flew by. "Get back in the van before you get struck by a car too!"

The female creature made a whining sound, but disappeared back into the belly of the great white beast. The male stared down at the black bird for a moment, and then helped it get off the road.
He looked back down the river before returning to the great white beast.

"Xana!" Kor leaped into the air, ignoring the defeated bird and the male monster, and looked in the sky all around for her.

"H-here," her voice came to him faintly. He headed in that direction, and soon found her gripping a black twig on the front of the great white beast. He dropped down out of the sky and landed on another twig nearby. His irridescent skin shone in the morning light, and he glanced at her critically.

"Why are we on the beast?" he said. "It may eat us, though it doesn't seem to eat birds."

"I'm worn out," she said. "I need to rest."

"Then we will rest a while," Kor said. And that is when the beast started moving down the river.

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