Authors: Jaymin Eve
“Remember, you have to be all inside the shield before you step free of the doorway. The
suns will incinerate you instantly. There will be no time on the other side.”
“Yes, Dad, I remember you drilling it in to me over and over this morning.”
He almost looked like he was going to roll his eyes. But his thousands of years of maturity kicked in and he refrained.
“And one more thing,
” he said, reaching into his large jacket pocket, “Grantham believes you will need these to be able to see in the harsh light.”
He handed us each a set of what looked like heavy
-duty sunglasses with large wrap-around sides. As I put them on they cut out almost all of the light in the cave system. Josian waved us forward.
then, what are you waiting for?” His voice went a little gruff.
y face softened as I blew my parents one last kiss. I was so torn between wanting to escape and hating to leave them.
I could barely see through the dark lenses
as I groped to pick up my pack from the ground. We each had a small shoulder bag with basic essentials and a few days’ food supply which we hoped we wouldn’t need. Moving closer to the doorway, we linked hands and without looking back stepped through.
Since I had come into my Walker powers I
’d never felt uncomfortable in the vacuum that was a doorway linking the worlds. And because Talina and I were both half-Walkers, it was in our nature to walk between the worlds. She helped me balance the other two, who weren’t very stable in the vacuum.
It took awhile
to travel the distance. Josian’s planet and Crais were many galaxies apart. But eventually we reached the junction of the red land. I closed my eyes, sending my consciousness inside to my centre of power. The limitless well of energy responded to me immediately.
this energy, and then, as I had been perfecting for the last few days, sent it free from my body to form a bubble of protection around the four of us. The complicated part was making sure that it was completely smooth and there were no gaps or tears. And it had to be large enough that no one accidentally penetrated it while moving. Any body part that left the protection would be incinerated.
turned to me. I gave the shield one last cursory glance, allowing an extra portion of energy to run along, checking it for faults. It was perfect. I nodded once, our signal that it was fine to step free from the doorway. Then, as we had practiced, moving as one, we exited the doorway.
My first impression of Crais was death. A dead land without a single living entity. I don’t know about the other three, but I couldn’t hide my shock and interest as I stared around wide-eyed, taking in as much of the red expanse as I could. Luckily we had the glasses, because even through the dark lenses it was out-of-control bright.
A quick glance either side assured me
everyone was just as stunned as I was by the landscape surrounding us. Lucy opened her mouth, but then probably remembering Josian’s warning slammed it shut again. We’d decided not to talk; we needed to conserve our oxygen. I couldn’t replace it, only prolong the amount that was in with us at the time.
Through my shield I could feel the intensity of heat, although i
t wasn’t directly affecting me. Visible heat waves shimmered off the cracked red dirt and bare rock-faced cliffs. The two suns seemed to be on opposite sides of the red sky at this point. The smaller one was so bright I couldn’t look directly at it, even with the sunglasses on. The other was larger but less intense.
Talina caught my attention as she pointed
toward a huge set of cliffs close by. Josian and Lucas’s information was that there were many entrances to the underground and our best chance of finding one was along the cliff faces. At this stage I felt no discomfort or fatigue from the shield, but I needed to keep a close eye on it. I’d managed to hold one for hours while practicing, but according to the Walkers the heat here was like a direct attack, and I would be expending much more energy than in practice. The moment I noticed it starting to drain, we had no more than an hour of shield time left.
Moving as one
, we crossed the cracked, parched land. It was so leeched that there wasn’t even a layer of dust to kick up as we walked. Instead it was as hard and compacted as cement. And through the insulated boots I could feel the heat. My protective sphere did not cover the ground under our feet. It sat flush with the red dirt in a dome shape, and was about fifteen feet in diameter. Luckily it was adaptive, moving and shifting as we walked and the land changed. The gravity here was similar to First World and Earth so we could walk without burden, my pack light enough I forgot it was there.
Once we reached the shade
of the first craggy cliffs, I felt an ease on my shield, a reprieve from the suns’ deadly embrace.
Lucy pointed to the right and the rest of us followed in a single
-line formation. I had no idea what we were looking for, some type of crevice or trap door. There was no way to know how intricate or well hidden their entrances were. My eyes skimmed the expanse, the dark glasses making it difficult to judge the shadows. I wanted to lift them up to rest on my head but I was worried that the light would blind me.
A loud screech froze us to the spot.
I spun around, searching for the cause, but beside the suns the red sky was empty. We’d had no indication that anything lived on the surface of this planet. All I could see was the cracked red land, craggy cliffs and maybe some withered tall tree in the far distance.
The screech sounded again, but it was further away this time. With another quick glance
over my shoulder, I indicated that we should start moving. We didn’t have time to waste.
We had no luck with the first set of cliffs, our quick circumnavigat
ion finding no entrance. At that point we stepped back into the sun, and I almost dropped at the sudden weakening that flowed through me. The heat was brutal.
Lucas touched my arm, his eyes questioning. I shook him off, before straightening and nodding. I was fine
; I just hadn’t been ready for that.
along, searching, braving the sun, stopping only for food and drink from our packs. I felt a slight lift in energy at these moments, but I knew our time was growing shorter.
traversed about five miles in the direct sunlight to reach another set of cliffs. It took us an hour and I finally found some Crais life, a few small lizard-looking creatures scurrying around. They were much more scaled and spiked than anything I’d seen before, but seemed to have no problem in the harsh suns’ heat.
Lucy waved a hand in front of my face
. Shaking my head, I focused on her. Had I just zoned out for a moment? She raised her brows, her expression holding concern, and lifted her hand with one index finger raised:
was I in the last hour countdown?
I shook my head
. Once we stepped into the shade I’d be okay.
Lucy moved her hand
again, reaching over to wipe at my face. Small droplets rained off me before disappearing into the hot land. I hadn’t noticed but beads of perspiration were dotting my forehead. I shook my head, glad I’d tied my curls back in a braid. Right now I didn’t need any more heat on my neck. Actually the air was starting to get a little stuffy in this shield. Josian had shown me how to purify particles, but it was only slowing the gradual breakdown of oxygen.
we reached the next set of shaded cliffs I sighed in relief. They were massive, much larger than any I’d seen yet, and they were our last hope. I couldn’t cope with any further journeying through the sun that day. If we didn’t succeed now, we’d just have to come back and try again once my energy had recovered.
s I was thinking this I noticed the two suns, which had been steadily climbing in the sky, were starting to overlap each other. The larger, less bright sun was crossing in front of its smaller and more intense mate.
Then it was a
s if a magical button had been pressed; the land started to come to life. Small scaled creatures, followed by larger, less reptilian but still almost snake-like animals emerged from the cliff where we stood. The general strain I’d been feeling on the outside of my shield lessened and the world began to cool down. Even the heat waves were less visible.
As we walked around the cliffs, the animals that were leaving gave us a few glances
. One even hissed as it came closer, but mostly they left us be. I couldn’t see where they emerged from. Not that it mattered; we would need a much bigger entrance than any they used.
And then, when the suns were halfway across
each other, the first inhabitant that resembled us emerged from the cliffs.
The man see
med to unfold himself from a seam in the rocks. His skin was as black as any I’d seen; it had an almost purple sheen to it. He slithered low to the ground and dashed across the parched land until he reached a nearby rock face. Not once did he waste time looking left or right. I wasn’t sure at first what he was doing until I noticed the small lizards gathered in his hands.
He wore just
a simple leafy belt covering his groin, leaving the rest of him bare. We watched as he tucked the limp lizards into the front of the leaf belt. He was turning to scurry along the ground again, in pursuit of another animal, when he finally noticed us.
I hate to point fun
at anyone, but the way he fell face first into the hard dirt was a little humorous. Judging by the look on Lucy’s face, if we’d had more oxygen, she’d have been on the ground herself, laughing hysterically.
He crouched low to the
red surface again, facing us, in a fight-or-flight stance. He was definitely unsure whether we were friend or foe.
We all spun around when the same loud screech from before echoed above our heads. And
, I’m going to be honest, when I caught sight of the creature circling above us, I almost dropped the shield. And peed myself.
It was a freaking dragon. Almost exactly how I pictured one
: four large taloned legs, shiny scales reflecting the light, a mouth full of huge razor-sharp teeth, a long snout, and muscular wings. It was red, with visible blue veins running throughout its massive body. It screeched again as it circled above us.
We faced each other
. Everyone’s expression said the same thing: ‘what the eff?’ and ‘oh, shit’.
-skinned man moved then. He didn’t hesitate, dashing toward the cliffs.
Despite the stuffy air, I wasted oxygen screeching when Lucas
threw me over his shoulder and took off after him. Lifting my head, I was relieved to see Lucy and Talina keeping pace. Lucas must have noticed my exhaustion and realized I didn’t have the stamina for a race across the land.
my head again, trying to see what was happening. The man was a few paces ahead of us. We weren’t going to reach him in time. He gave us one last look before slipping through the wall again and disappearing.
Two steps later and we were standing
at that very spot, but there was no visible opening. Lucas lowered me to the ground, holding on to me for that extra second as my legs wavered, my energy lower than I’d expected. I pulled away as soon as I could; he gave me a measured stare before turning to help Talina and Lucy. They were scrambling along the cliff trying desperately to find a hiding place. I concentrated all my energy on holding my shield. The screeching sounded above us again, and I mean right above us.
Tipping my head back
, I watched in horror as the creature descended, its four powerful claw-tipped legs extended. The sunlight glinted off the red of its scales, blinding me in the last moment before it would snatch us from our position.
Desperation surged through me
. It forged past the exhaustion to gather my remaining energy. A blue spark fled my body and crashed into the creature. The last thing I remember before my knees hit the ground was an intense burning heat engulfing me. I face-planted, tasting blood, before everything went gray around the edges.
My skin was burning
. My screams seemed extra loud as I thrashed to escape the powerful heat. And it was strange: I couldn’t cease my screams and at the same time I also couldn’t breathe.
I could hear my friends, but the pain was too intense to open my eyes. A firm grip on my legs increased my panic. Did the creature have me? The high
pitch of my screams increased as my body was dragged across the rock-hard ground. A bump knocked my head into a stone. At the same time the light and heat were cut off. I let myself drift for a moment, hoping to escape the pain.
“Abby ...” The words sounded from far away, disturbing me in my darkness.
I wanted to respond but I couldn’t feel my lips. How did one speak without lips
? Maybe if I lay there a little longer that annoying voice would disappear. And maybe my lips and eyelids would return, because I couldn’t feel my eyelids either. That was weird, right? I used to have them.
As clarity returned, and my strange inner voice quieted, I
realized that I was in a reasonable amount of pain. My skin felt as though someone had left me in the oven and now I was crispy and well done. I attempted to moisten my non-existent lips, but my tongue was a swollen hot lump inside my mouth. The air tasted dry, dirty almost, as if a layer of something else was mixed in with the oxygen. It did nothing to soothe my ravaged skin.
I must have made a
pained sound, because rustling echoed around me.
“Get her more water
. She’s drying out again.”
recognize the harsh, guttural tones, but the words were understandable.
Look.” I heard Talina’s soft voice. “She’s starting to heal.”
“Thank eff for that
. Red might be Abby’s color, but all-over third-degree burns was taking it too far,” Lucy joked, but I could hear her worry.
I jolted then as a cascade of water covered me, starting at my hair and working its way
along my body. The burning pain receded as the soothing liquid was absorbed into me. My mouth opened, despite the lack of lips, and let the liquid flow into my body. I expected to choke, since I was lying down and unable to move any muscles, but I absorbed the fluid without any problem.
“Someone tell me what the hell just happened.” My words garbled over each other, my tongue still too swollen for articulation.
“Geez, one would think a little sun-baking would lessen your bossy-ass nature.” Lucy sounded closer.
My eyelids were back again
. I fluttered them a few times, testing for pain, before slowly opening them. The light was dim enough that there was no disorientation.
? I think maybe you mean oven-baking.” I was relieved to see my friends’ worried faces as they peered over me.
I noticed everyone had the thick glasses pushed up to rest on top of their heads. I could feel the brief weight of my own on my curls.
“Word.” She nodded.
“You really should be more careful, Abby.” I flicked my eyes across to Lucas
. He was slouched against a rock wall. “You saved us, but it could have cost you your life.”
didn’t answer straight away, as I was struggling to sit up. Lucy’s arms flapped as she attempted to find a non-painful spot to jam her hands and help me. Finally she slipped them under my armpits, which must have avoided the worst of the burns, because there was no pain. Once I was sitting, I breathed in the thick air a few times, letting my body adjust to the new discomforts. After a few moments I glared at Lucas.