AWAKENING PART 5C
Day 2; 1042 (Morning)
513 startled himself awake, mid-snore. The stench of his own rancid breath drifted in the air, overpowering the pleasant scent of the moss covering his body.
He had been asleep for over twenty hours, trapped inside an endless buffet of heart-breaking memories -- memories that had started to meld with his own.
Four -- the number of inescapable tragedies he had to live through inside his mind. At first, he thought the mountain of tears associated with each memory would lessen over time, but he was wrong; the feeling of numbness and disassociation he had hoped for, never came. Instead, for every recollection, he was met with a new, conveniently packaged set of emotions unique to each misadventure; it was an emotional nightmare, filled with nothing but despair, guilt, and regrets.
Forcibly opening his eyes, his gaze fell on the dimly lit stone ceiling of his makeshift shelter. [Am I awake?] He thought to himself as he hesitated to move an inch -- his experience in the dreamscape had warped his views of reality.
Moments pass as his vacant look remained locked on the smooth stone ceiling. Shadows cast by the makeshift wall blocking the entrance, danced in the dim light that had managed to leak into the dark, damp shelter. The silence that preoccupied the air was cut abruptly by 513’s muffled whimpers of sadness.
His hands moved towards his face to wipe away tears that flowed from his eyes; the burden of emotions he carried in the dreamscape was leaking into reality. The little boy, the elderly woman, the young girl, and the woman that claimed to be his wife -- each one of them were loved, each one was important, and each one died in his arms. They were only strangers to 513, but their deaths made a lasting impression.
He frowned as he pinched the bridge of his nose -- it was action he saw people do in movies and television shows to stop crying -- but the tears kept flowing. [Bullshit.] He cursed inwardly, frustrated the remedy failed him.
*CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP*
Switching to a more tactile form of motivation, he clapped his hands on his cheeks. [Times a' wastin'.] He told himself, switching mindsets. His options were to either:  wallow in self-pity and lapse back into the dreamscape,  give up, or  get-up and continue to survive.
He chose to survive.
After peeling the moss blanket off of his body, he moved towards the sunlight that had penetrated his barricade to check his injuries. [That’s convenient. All healed.] He mused to himself -- even his helical leg wound was nothing more than a collection of scabs now.
Making up his mind to leave the shelter, his hands fished around the moss to look for useful materials he could take with him. Finding nothing of merit, he motioned to get onto his feet. It was at this moment when a sudden, eerie feeling overwhelmed his senses.
His body tensed as he breathed-out a shaky sigh.
The stone wall beside him warped into rippling waves, like a disturbance overtop a tranquil lake. [Another hallucination?] He thought while readying himself to evacuate the confines of his shelter. Soon, the rippling stone condensed and combined together, eventually taking the form of an enormous set of crooked teeth.
Inching his way towards the opening, he tilted his head to check above, below, and around him. [Nothing...yet.] He murmured inwardly.
Just as his foot touched the barricade blocking the exit, dark, viscous fluid gushed out from the cracks on the stone walls. The heavy scent of iron filled the air. [Blood?] He questioned as the dark fluid pooled around him, engulfing his bed of moss and soaking his makeshift boots.
Instead of panicking, he remained calm while planning his escape. Only a few days had passed since he had woken up in this strange place, but already he had become accustomed to the unreasonable, illogical, and irrational.
A smile appeared on the enormous set of crooked teeth as it observed 513’s motions to leave. Amused by his scheming, it spoke up.
Stone Mouth: "FRESH MEAT!"
It boomed out, causing the entire rocky hill it was attached to, to shake violently.
The loud, guttural scream dazed 513, but only temporarily. After regaining control of his senses, he immediately pummelled through the barricade made of fallen branches and moss. He flew out of the alcove like a cannonball.
The enormous stone teeth chased after 513 as it furiously bit at the air. It extended itself quite a distance out from the alcove 513 had made into a shelter, before giving up and returning empty-handed.
513, who was still miraculously sailing through the air like a projectile, was looking back in terror as the stone teeth came uncomfortably close to mangling his legs. Luckily, he was spared that pain.
*THUD* *THUD* *THUD*
His flying escapade was short-lived as his body ragdolled upon impact with the rocky terrain. [I meant to do that.] He joked to himself while dazed. He was likely concussed, but alive.
Gritting his teeth, he stumbled up to his feet. His head throbbed from all bouncing he did when he landed.
He softly groaned as he checked-on his fresh wounds. His theatrical escape netted him some new bruises and scratches, but nothing serious.
Looking back, his shelter was no more. The alcove he took refuge in had completely disappeared -- replaced by a series of cracked stone teeth, lining the location where the entryway would have been.
513: "So...not a hallucination."
He said aloud in exasperation.
His eyes wandered towards the debris left over from his makeshift barricade and was left speechless. Where he currently stood was thirty meters away from where he had slept; it was a distance far too great for a simple dash-and-tumble away from danger.
While he continued to scan the stoney field, he found pieces of his barricade strewn about, much further than where he had landed. His explosive exit must have launched them away with more force than he had thought.
Rather than think deeply about the matter, he shrugged it off. [Trying to make sense of things now won't get me anywhere.] He told himself, shelving the topic for later.
Turning his attention back to survival, he dusted himself off and searched for a straight, sturdy branch to use as a walking stick. He stretched out his legs and torso while scouring the land. A few moments later, he found an ideal branch for his needs. If he could find a good, sharp rock, he could even turn the branch into a spear.
Before venturing back into the thickets of the forest, he took one last look at the place he once called his shelter. He wasn't sure what exactly had attacked him, but he was sure of one thing -- that he needed to get something off his chest.
513: "Fuck you."
He said in frustration, then made his way towards the woods.
513 fell to his knees just as he reached the tree line. His sense of direction had gone haywire as a sudden bout of vertigo consumed him. [Shit, I'm fucking defenseless.] He worried in his mind. He tried to claw up a nearby tree, but his arms and legs felt like puddy -- useless.
513: "Fu...eugh…" *retches*
*SPLAT* *SPLAT* *SPLAT*
He started to vomit uncontrollably. It was a confusing matter, considering he hadn't eaten anything since arriving in the forest.
Tears obscured his vision as he planted both hands on the ground to support his listless body from collapsing into the pile of filth that steadily grew underneath him. [What the fu-] His mental complaint was cut short as an explosion of filth erupted from his mouth -- he projectile vomited like an uncontrolled fire hose.
He began to panic as worries of suffocation and drowning came to the forefront of his thoughts. He needed to do something quick, but before he could act, his body started to change.
His watery eyes turned red as clumps of blood oozed out from his tear ducts. Mucus and debris lodged in his sinuses slowly dribbled out from his nose, effectively blocking his airways. Pus and wax flowed out from his ears like a fountain. Searing heat radiated out from his bones, pushing impurities out from his body through the pores of his skin. All forms of muck and grime were being discharged from his body as if he was undergoing a process of extreme purification.
His lungs burned as they were starved of oxygen but he stayed conscious in the midst of the pain; he didn't want pass-out over a slurry of filth -- or drown in it.
Eventually, the uncontrollable vomiting ceased, allowing 513 a few moments of respite. For him, it meant cursing in between breaths.
513: *gasp* “What-” *gasp* “The-” *gasp* “FUCK!” *gasp*
His vision returned to normal as the clumps of blood finished oozing out from his tear ducts. He would've recovered his sight sooner, but he was afraid to wipe his eyes with his filthy hands; his entire body was covered in sludge so foul that he could taste the smell.
Spotting a large patch of damp moss, he stumbled up to his feet and carefully walked around the pool of vomit and discharge. As he approached the patch, he wicked away muck and grime off his arms and torso, while stripping his body of his sludge-soaked clothing. By the time he reached the moss patch, he was completely naked.
He immediately went to work, ripping-off manageable sheets of moss to use as damp towels to wipe his body clean.
While removing the greasy sludge off his arm, he noticed the moss start to foam as he scrubbed his skin. [Soap bubbles?] He questioned inwardly, while he sniffed his arm. [Unscented...well, at least it got rid of the smell.] He continued his internal monologue before quickly throwing away the moss. [Shit, what if it’s lye reacting to my skin?] He panicked, realizing he had just wiped his entire body with moss that could potentially cause chemical burns.
Moments pass as 513 stood frozen in place, waiting for some type of reaction to occur. He didn’t have any acid to counter a strong alkaline like lye. But nothing happened.
513: "Fuck me."
He cursed under a sigh. [Magic lye? Or soap moss?] He mused to himself, relieved that he wasn’t burned...this time. [I wonder if I can 'wash' my clothes with this.] He thought excitedly, while picking up a new piece of moss to scrub his body with.
After clothing himself, he replaced the moss inside his makeshift boots before tightening them up -- he was preparing to venture back into the thicket. He was happy to be able to wear clean clothes again. Earlier, he found success in cleaning his garments by individually scrubbing them inside balls of moss.
He whispered to himself, reinvigorating his motivation for venturing back into danger.
He had thought about squeezing water out from the moss and drinking it, but decided against it; he didn't know enough about the moss' properties to deem the water squeezed-out from it as safe. What if it turned out that the moss was harmful to his internal organs? He wasn't willing to test that hypothesis out.
While still at the edge of the treeline, he took the opportunity to look for shadows on a large, sunbathed boulder. He was attempting to approximate the time-of-day by measuring the sun’s location in the sky using the shadows of a large object -- in this case, the boulder. [Looks like mid-day.] He told himself as he finished patrolling around the shadowless lump of stone.
With the time-of-day acquired, he was finally ready to set out. [Am I forgetting anything?] he asked himself while scanning his surroundings one final time. [Armor...I need armor.] He mused inwardly as his eyes locked onto a new patch of moss.
One hour later, a short, stalky clump of plant matter silently wandered into the forest -- searching for clean, drinkable water.