This is a continuation of a story begun in the post “Chapter 1. Part 1.” If you enjoy it, please like and share it with others!
CHAPTER 6: AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
I was falling into a dense jungle with a dead white Umbili attached to my waist. I let out a yell as I cascaded into the foliage, but when we were about thirty feet away from the ground, our descent began to slow. I felt Shishu bend his legs as he gracefully landed on the jungle floor in complete silence. He then placed me gingerly on my feet and said in his emotionless monotone, “Wait here.” He bent his legs to an extreme angle, lowered his head, and just as his hundreds of spindly hair-like fingers touched the ground, he rocketed from his spot and soared back up the cliff and out of sight due to the colorful treetops.
I glanced around at the jungle. Not many realize this, but from the inside, all jungles are pretty much alike. They are hot, but shaded, and full of trees. The only two differences that I could see about this jungle and any on earth were the concrete wall to my back, which led up to where the group was standing, and the fact that this jungle had a variety of colors spread through its trees instead of the standard green and brown. I sat in the clearing for a few moments when I heard a familiar buzzing in my ear.
“Doctor Lee?” I asked.
“Indeed it is. Did you enjoy the ride Nicholas?”
“Oh yeah, it was great. I always enjoy it when I get flung off of a cliff without warning,” I shot back sarcastically.
“No need to get snippy. We’re simply using a sink or swim sort of method. Luckily you swam.”
“Oh great. And what happens if I had sunk?”
“Then I suppose Chak would have made a few more trips back to earth to see if anyone could answer that question in the same manner that you did.”
“How do you know about that?” I asked.
“Brew filled me in,” he said quickly. “Pretty impressive I must admit: deducing your true nature and all. I would enjoy analyzing your thought process some time about—”
“What’s so impressive about it?”
“Well, few beings can detach themselves from their own situation in the way that you did and admit that their life really is worthless. No one wants to think of themselves as a nobody. Everyone wants to matter in some way, to someone.”
I thought of Pathena when he said this.
“It takes a special kind of person to be so, shall we say, reason-driven.”
“I don’t think there’s anything special about it. I’ve been average my whole life. The fact that I’m reason driven has never helped me out until it brought me here.”
“But it did bring you here.”
I hadn’t yet thought about this. What had Chak said back in that storm? Do you want to change your purpose? I didn’t get any time to think about it because at that moment the trees above us broke and Shishu descended gracefully with Flye over his shoulder. Again he took off back up the cliff and brought back Brew, followed by Fwish, and Plink. After the dades came Fwik, Chak, and Thrump pulled up the rear. Seeing the massive frame of Thrump perched on Shishu’s shoulder was a particularly amusing sight.
“Alright troops. We’ve got one sight-length to cover before sundown. So let’s get moving. Fwik you’ll be in front, and Brew you will be in back, Nicholas make sure you stay between the two of them. Shishu and Thrump, you guys hang out in the middle and watch the peripherals. Everyone else, fill in the gaps. We move as a group. Fwik, Fwish, you two will have to control yourselves. Do not get too far ahead, understood? Let’s go.”
Chak threw his hand forward and started walking. The key members of the group fell into their designated places and I slunk back towards Brew’s end of the pack. The group, as a whole, kept a brisk pace. I was definitely walking as fast as I could through the jungle to keep up, but they weren’t moving so quickly that I had to jog. Fwik and Fwish had a tendency to burst into a run every now and then, and we could see them stop a ways up, running in place, waiting for the rest of the group to catch up to them. Everyone else seemed to trudge along except Shishu. Shishu bounded places. One stride for him was like a long jump for anyone else. I asked Chak about this, and he explained that Umbra can jump great distances as they weigh almost nothing.
“At times it can seem like they are flying, but they just have great hang time. A falling leaf can do what they do, and wouldn’t take up as much space,” Chak chuckled.
I was shocked by his words. “Why do you talk about them so passively, so angrily?” I asked, trying to admonish him for his lack of tact.
“What do you mean?”
“You talk about Umbra like they’re not people, or Umbili, or whatever. You talk about them like they’re a lesser animal rather than an equal.”
“They are a lesser animal,” Chak said with a little sneer in his tone. “Remember, an Umbra can only be created in very rare cases. It’s a punishment as far as I’m concerned. Umbra deserve to be treated less than fairly. They’ve earned their lower status. They shouldn’t have gotten themselves killed.”
“It seems to me that they are better than you,” I shot back haughtily. “They can jump farther anyway.”
“Watch the way you speak to me human.” Chak sounded scary for the first time since I had met him in Troy. “You need to remember your place a little bit better here Nicholas. Simply because you were chosen does not mean you know everything, and you have developed quite a head about yourself in the short time you’ve been here.”
“I’m sorry,” I quickly replied. I had obviously struck a nerve. I tried to change the subject. “So how does the sun work here? Does it decide not to come up every once in a while?” I asked.
Chak relaxed as if his previous outburst had never happened. He immediately resumed his jovial instructor attitude. “It works a lot like it does on earth. Eventually, on earth, people will start measuring time in hours. It’s twenty four hours per day on earth, but using the same measurements here it’s twenty seven.”
“Ok, and you mentioned a ‘sight-length’ earlier. What’s that?”
“It’s a distance measurement. It’s how far you can see standing still in the Syllogy of the Universe. Since our world is flatter than yours, you can see farther. Your world is shaped like a ball, but ours is shaped like a curved disc. The radius of the curve is larger which means farther sight. One sight-length is about the same as fifteen miles.”
“What’s a mile?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll deal with the distances, you just keep up and don’t lose that seed.”
“Fine. One more question. Why do we have this big group of Umbili to take me to Mendrax’s realm?”
“Well this trip is going to be more than just a casual stroll Nicholas. For one thing, Mendrax knows that we are trying to fix what he’s broken. He’ll be sending the Umbili that chose to follow him to try and stop us at any cost. For another thing, here in the Wilderness of the Syllogy, there are other beasts around. Umbili and some animals, such as Dr. Lee, inhabit the city, but outside the city walls there are all sorts of dangers that could harm a human like yourself.
“Essentially, each one of these Umbili has a special skill that will be useful in getting you safely to Mendrax’s realm. And thirdly, it’s an adventure, and one that will bring glory to whomever is involved. These Umbili seek the chance to have the glory of the Higher-ups bestowed upon them for successfully saving this world. That’s why this group is here.”
Hearing this made me look at Flye. I could see everyone’s purpose here but hers. Fwik and Fwish obviously had battle skills and quickness. Chak had said as much earlier. Thrump’s massive size and muscle would come in handy; Shishu had already proven his worth in getting everyone down the cliff. Brew’s planning, packing and supplies made her a must, and Plink’s beauty and obvious battle prowess would no doubt be useful at some point, but Flye seemed so plain. She was like a frightened little girl caught up in a voyage much too big for her. I looked at Chak out of the corner of my eye as we continued to make our way through the jungle, trying to pry into his mind and discover her purpose. He was intent on the group as a whole, and after tripping over my own feet, I decided to put my thoughts to rest for the time being and focus on my surroundings.
We walked for a long time, long enough that I started to be hungry. There were a few scattered conversations amongst the group but for the most part we trudged on in silence. My feet became heavy and tired and what little sunlight that had been peeking through the treetops soon faded away. In the dim light that still clung to the air, it became difficult to see where to place my feet and their tiredness did not help the situation at all. I began to feel like I was back in Athens marching with the legions. Just when it became almost too dark to continue, I spotted a huge blackish something ahead of us. We appeared to be headed for it, and once closer, I realized it was the base of one of the large gray spikes that I had seen jutting up out of the jungle when I first arrived. There was a clearing of trees about one hundred feet in every direction from the spike and Fwik, Fwish, Shishu, and Plink were all sitting near it when the back end of our group finally arrived.
Chak strolled up and stripped the pack off of his back. It fell extremely quickly to the ground with a loud clunk. He opened it and pulled out three clear balls and tossed them in the air. Just as they reached the height of their upward climb they stuck in the air and began to glow. He then pulled out the four large rolls of fabric and I realized that they were tents. He tossed two to Plink and two to Thrump, both of whom caught them easily, and he continued to dig around inside the bag. Thrump and Plink proceeded to set up the tents rapidly. I tried to offer help only to realize I would have been a hindrance. The tents were massive and once Plink had finished assembling her first one, I walked over to it. It was a ten-foot tall box with a twenty-foot floor plan in both directions. I peered in the flap and saw hammocks strung from wall-to-wall. A grid of metal pipes covered the walls, and various bags and knick-knacks were tied to the grid in different places.
I exited the tent to see that all the Umbili had gone about different tasks, making me feel particularly useless.
Want to keep reading? Go to the next section! >>> “Chapter 6. Part 2.”