Friday, February 26, 2010

Chapter 127: On the Veldt

~ Takyle took a surreptitious look around the rolling grassland, but there was no one else in sight. She took a tentative step toward the girl.

"The game within the game? What's that supposed to mean?" Takyle demanded. The girl laughed her starched laugh again.

"It means whatever you want it to mean," she said, shrugging her thin shoulders.

"You're going to have to do better than that. Tell me what you want, and while you're at it, if you know so much, tell me what I want." The girl shook her head.

"If you want answers you must play the game," she insisted. Takyle stopped herself from outright sighing in exasperation, but couldn't keep it out of her voice.

"Fine. What game? Tell me what you want!"


Andrew whirled again to a rustle behind his back, desperately searching for the source of the sound. With his knife clutched in his right hand, he fumbled to get his radio out of his belt with his left. In his haste he managed to drop the walkie talkie once it was free of the pouch and he cursed under his breath as it hit the ground with a soft crack. A quick glance down revealed that the radio had struck a rock at his feet, its back cover jarred open from the impact and the batteries knocked out.

"Shit!" Keeping his eyes up, he stooped down and felt for the batteries and the scattered parts of his radio. He cast his eyes down for a moment to pick up the plastic back cover, and when he looked up again his heart fell to his gut. Staring, unblinking, out through the stalks of grass a pair of orange eyes bore through him.

Andrew made every attempt to keep his breathing in check as around the eyes he made out the spotted and unmistakably feline face.

"Alright... Alright, stay calm. The important thing here is to stay calm. No sudden moves," he thought to himself. He exhaled slowly and shifted his weight to carefully rise to his feet. The big cat's eyes followed the minute change in his body and Andrew stopped.

"Ok, maybe no moves at all." ~

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chapter 126: Interplay

~ Jaden crested a hill and in the distance saw a speck of white. For a moment he stood still, shielding his face with one hand against the glare of the sun, unable to even tell if his eyes were deceiving him, let alone what the object was. He finally decided that there most definitely was something there. Jaden glanced back to the direction he had been traveling, and then again at the object in the distance. He waited in conflict for only a brief second before deciding that he needed to find out what it was.

"After all, you have no real reason for continuing in the direction you were going. You picked it at random!" his mind told him as he started across the plain toward the white speck. As he grew closer the shape resolved itself into a box, and then finally into a media station.

"Yes! I rock," Jaden murmured to himself as he quickened his pace. This had to be what he was supposed to find. Why else would a media station be set out here?


Glancing up from the brambles that she was picking her way through, Takyle caught sight of a flash of red disappearing into a shallow dell. She shook her head as if to clear her vision. She could have sworn in was a young girl. Takyle ran up the hill after her, only slowing near the top in order to peak over into the hollow. There was nothing there, but as she straightened and turned she heard a laugh. She spun to her right just in time to see the same glimpse of loose red cloth and flowing auburn hair disappear for a second time.

"The hell?"

Again Takyle followed, again to find nothing. Just as she turned around to go back to her previous path she heard a voice behind her, small and innocent, yet strangely passive for the words.

"Please help me."

Takyle spun toward the voice to find a girl, 13 or 14 years old from the looks of it, standing only a couple of yards behind her on the declining slope.

"Please help me. If you help me I will show you what you're looking for."

"How do you know what I'm looking for?" asked Takyle. The girl laughed again with the same passive voice.

"I am the game within the game. I know all the secrets." ~

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chapter 125: The Unknown

~ Andrew stood up from re-tying his bootlace, and immediately pulled a pad of paper, a pen, his compass and a stick of gum from his utility belt. After folding the gum into his mouth, he started a crude map on his notepad, sketching in the identifiable characteristics within his sight. Without further ado he aligned his compass to North, marked down his heading on his map, and headed off, singing quietly to himself.

"Joy to the world, all the boys and girls. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me..."

Half an hour later, as Andrew moved to the fourth stage of his grid search, he fell suddenly silent when he heard a twig snap behind him. For a moment he stood frozen, concentrating hard, wishing for Jaden and his near bionic hearing. The only sound that greeted him was the whispering of the prairie grass in the wind. Andrew had dismissed the sound to his imagination and started forward again before it hit him: just the wind? What happened to the cricket song?

He spun around, searching the tall grasses behind him for movement, but all he could see was the waving of the dry stems. For a moment the wind stilled and in the distance he could hear oblivious birds singing. Again he whirled when he thought there was a rustle to his left, but he found nothing there either. He stood with his feet set wide, pulling his dagger with one hand and fishing with the other for his radio. He felt him legs and back tensing as the silence around him seemed to deepen.


With a sigh and a shrug Takyle pocketed her radio and, judging from the position of the sun, struck out in a Southwesterly direction. She walked briskly, pushing her fatigue, her throbbing cuts and bruises, and the deep ache in her limbs to the back her mind, forcing herself to not slow down.

"Why are you so devoted to winning this?" Andrew had asked her two long years ago.

"I want to. I have to."

"You know there's a very good chance we'll lose?"

"If that's the attitude you're going to bring into this I'll find someone else," she had informed him coldly.

"Why am I so devoted to winning this?" Takyle asked herself, trekking up yet another rolling hill.

"Ask yourself that when the race is over," she murmured harshly. ~