A note from ShellBlu

Apologies for the delay.

  The wait was unbearable as Zai tried to figure out the meaning of the scribbles. I say try because it has been almost three hours since we got trapped. Concern about supplied went away as we found a freshwater spring and edible fungus. At least, that’s what Wesson assured me, even if they were moist, cold, and sometimes sticky in the mouth. During this, my light orb became indispensable, so much so that I split it into two, smaller orbs. One for Zai, and the other for me and the trolls.

  With very little happening, I became too aware of my haunting. Or rather, at how quiet they had become. Usually, even in the thick of things, I could still tell the whispers scratching in my mind. The “Say our names”, the “Help!”, the “So bored.”, and so on of the words that slipped from their lips. But not now, even though it seems I have led the others to their trap, they were silent. All that I could feel was their presence, as cold as a wet blanket on a winter’s night.

  I still had my hands tied, but Quentin kept an eye out.

  “Knight,” Zai called out, flanked by Dorn and Wesson. “Get over here. We need to talk.”

  “So what did you find out?” I asked.

  “We’re in a maze,” Zai said. “At least, that was the only word I could figure out from these writings.”

  “Mr. Knight here’s been leading us to quite the places, but I don’t think that means we’re in a maze,” Wesson said.

  Thank you for your faith, Wesson, misguided as it is. I thought to myself. If only these ghosts never appeared at that intersection. Such bad luck, or is it?

  I crossed my arms as best I could and thought deeper. What were we doing before the intersection? Did nothing happen at all? In a magical forest? The memories my mind yielded of the morning walk were clear and obvious. It was smooth and uneventful and safe. Safe? What kind of stupid memory is this? I haven’t felt safe in years. Not in cities, towns, villages, and especially not out here.

  Something was not right, but the feeling itself felt insane. A desire to focus on the problem at hand arose, but I came to see it as an enemy. How could I not when my being had been tampered with so skillfully, so deftly done? Indeed, the more I try to find flaws in the memories, the more they make sense to my mind. If I was not careful, I ran the risk of fracturing my mind with self-doubt and groundless paranoia.

  If someone messed around with me, then it’s safe to say the others were done in as well. I brought my hands to my head to scratch an itch. But when did it happen? At which part? How far away are we from the real road? Right at that moment, I happened to glance at Quentin, who was staring right at me. I looked at the others and saw that they were staring as well, though Zai did more of a glaring thing.

  “What are you guys looking at?” I asked.

  “Well, we’re waiting for you to tell us exactly where we’re going,” Dorn said.

  “We’re going to the Order by using a doorway, which we’re looking for right now,” I replied.

  “No, the truth Mr. Knight,” Wesson said calmly. “The real truth this time, please.”

  “I just told you-” I stopped lying when I took a proper look at the foursome before me. Zai had Quentin's right hand. Wesson had the left one. Dorn? Dorn’s hand rested on Quentin's right shoulder. The gem necklace was in full view, it's light shining stronger this time around. I looked at Quentin and he nodded towards his left shoulder. With some awkwardness not due to my bindings, I took my place.

  “I don’t know where we’re going,” I admitted. “In fact, I don’t think we’ve been on the right road for a while now.”

  “Can’t think of anyone who would go through a cave to get to somewhere,” Dorn said, smirking.

  “It’s more than that. Being haunted by these ghosts is a sideshow. The real problem is how we got haunted in the first place.”

  “Well, of course, we know. We were-” Wesson started, “-walking. Nothing strange going on, everything going smoothly. No problem at all.”

  “I remember the same. It’s not weird to have no problems happening.” Quentin concurred.

  “It was a simple walk, Knight. Nothing happened.”

  “I agree with everyone,” Dorn concluded. “What’s your point, Mr. Knight?”

  “We’re getting there.” I said, “Now, my memories also say the same thing. Everything was fine and the walk was lovely. We didn’t encounter any monsters, or bandits, or problems of any kind. But-”

  “But what?” Zai said, his tone a smidge softer than before. “Out with it.”

  “That can’t be true. The other day, I had to fight a large snake-snail soon after waking up. It was big, nasty, and quite venomous. I barely escaped with my life.” My sides winced as I recalled the pain. “And that’s not the only time I had to fight to survive in this forest. Bears, wolves, caions, fishers; the list goes on. Safety is an illusion here.

  “And yet I felt safe when I recalled today’s morning walk. The "me" in my memory didn’t feel danger from every corner, shadow, or sound that came about. All he had to look for was the road ahead, wherever it led. Tell me, what were you thinking about during the morning walk?”

  “Hmm, I was…did not think much.” Quentin scratched his nose. “I can’t remember at all what I was thinking. Weird.”

  “I’m sure I thought of cooking. Back home.” Wesson added. “Or was it stuff I wanted to eat?”

  “I thought of a flutist I met in Ronigant.” Dorn grunted. “No, wait, I was thinking about my flute, Roegard.”

  “I had no thoughts,” Zai said flatly. “None meant for you anyway. But I see your point.”

  I smiled at Zai’s remark. “So none of you blame me for getting us lost, right?”

  “ ” ” “We are.” ” ” ” They said at the same time. Creepy.

  “It’s something to think about later, Knight. The more pressing problem is the maze you led us into.” Zai said, “Ask for more favors from your ghost. Your damnation will be our salvation.”

  “Charming.” My hand nearly slipped as I chuckled. “I’ll ask it for advice on my firstborn as well if I live long enough to have one.”

  “Guys, something is happening.” Quentin interrupted our merry gathering. “The trees. They’re shaking.”

  And indeed they were, vigorously too. A sudden fear of a cave-in came and went as the stands looked firm as ever. There was also a lack of falling rocks and screams. No, the bark-skinned things were quivering like a frightened child. This then gave way to a throng of movement no one ever thought trees were capable of. Spinning branches, clawing leaves, dancing roots. It was a cursed dance.

  “The guests have arrived.” I heard my ghost's faint voice speak through the magic protecting me. “We need to be ready. The main course is not ready. What do-”

  “Mr. Knight, I need to get ready for what’s coming,” Quentin said, making me realize I was the only one still touching him. “Don’t get lost now.”

  I parted as requested and took my spot behind my captors. Fear joined me like an old lover, though I kept it at bay with a good glass of willpower. The trees were leaving their seats, walking with the swaying of a drunk on roots bored deep into the walls. It was a pregnant sound, of crushed rock and thick pounding. As the trees stood on level ground, the trolls and Zai made ready to do battle the only way they know. But the trees did not ready to charge, preferring instead to root in and stare, in a manner of speaking. A flower bloomed on the tip of one, and a voice came out:

  “What is the meaning of this? Have I not told you to keep the peace in these sacred lands?”

  “We beg your forgiveness, Angan. There was an agreement, and we thought-.” My ghost started talking, while its companion whimpered. From the looks of the trolls and Zai, theirs seemed to do the same as well.

  “SILENCE!” The flower's voice boomed. “I care not what your plans are. All that I care about is that you have led the destroyers here. Truly, the company that my brother keeps are fools.”

  “We…concede to your great wisdom. Please forgive us.” The ghost said, releasing its nasty grip upon my soul. The rest followed suit and with a chill wind, they were gone. My sight returned to normal and my light orb dissipated, leaving us all in complete darkness.

  “Ah fuck.” Dorn cursed. "Your orders Zai!"

  "Pray," Zai said solemnly.

  “Now, destroyers. You made a grave error coming here. Prepare yourself for death.”

  With that one announcement, everything turned crazy. The trees screeched and I heard them crashing onto the trolls and Zai. I dodged as best I could, hoping to find a hole somewhere I could fall into and hide from the ensuing carnage.

  Something large and prickly gouged my left thigh. I shouted and fell, chipping my tooth and, face in the fall. I tried vainly to remove the intrusion from my leg, but its owner did not budge. My attempts to escape grew weaker and weaker until I laid still on my side, my mind swarming with feelings. Fear had left after the pain came and then all that remained was the coming cold from my fingers. The dread of the nothingness awaiting me crushed all hope, and I cried.

  Eventually, I ceased to be.


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About the author


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Bio: Currently writing a story one word at a time.

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