I felt like I was tumbling through space for an eternity. My fear was building but I was falling so fast my scent was whisked away quicker than I could detect it. I couldn’t tell if I was falling down or up or some combination of the two. I had the random thought that I was like Alice, falling through the looking glass. I tried to look around me as I fell but it was pitch black, and not the kind of black caused by a starless night. This was the kind of dark that could eat you alive and I couldn’t see or sense a single coherent thing. I tried to call out to Carson but the sound was absorbed by the darkness.
All of a sudden I was tumbling on the ground. I lay stunned, my breath knocked out of me. My body felt incredibly strange and I swear I saw stars behind my eyes. I had sharp pains and throbbing aches in my shoulders and knees where I had hit hardest as I rolled. Wait a minute, why was I experiencing pain? I never really had before but instinctually I knew that’s what was happening in my body.
I stood up slowly and looked around. The first thing I realized was I was the bottom of what appeared to be a vast crevice. Cliff walls rose sharply on either side of me, the span between them was about 20 feet, and although the path was wide, the never-ending height of the cliff walls made it seem claustrophobic. I could not see the top of the cliffs because the area where the sky, or a ceiling should be was the inked blackness I had fallen through.
The second thing I realized was the color. Everything around me was varying shades of red and orange, appearing to glow from within with some otherworldly light source. The path before me was dry and dusty with deep cracks running through it, like a sea bed that had suddenly been vested of its water causing great fissures to open up in protest of being sucked dry. All of a sudden, I was experiencing an incredible thirst as I contemplated the path as it wound its way through the cliffs.
A drop of sweat trickled down the side of my nose and I tasted its pungent saltiness as I licked my lips. This was the first time I had ever sweated in 300 years. I realized rivulets were making their way down my back and my clothes were sticking to me. I could feel the heat coming off the cliff walls and rising from the path in waves.
I heard a thump and a yelp, and whipped around to see Carson had fallen and rolled much the same way I had, a dozen yards from where I had landed. I ran to him and helped him up. He looked around, eyes open widely and his mouth ajar in shock.
“What the…?” he started to ask. He was cut off by an enormous rumble that seemed to shake the cliffs, followed by a sharp crack reminiscent of lightning striking a tree. A figure appeared before us, dark and shadowy, vaguely in the shape of a man, but the edges all blurry. The shape seemed to be somewhat amorphous and as soon as I looked directly at it, it blurred further and I couldn’t quite make my eyes focus on it. Although I couldn’t seem to see exactly what it looked like, there was no mistaking the waves of menace and evil emanating off it.
Carson grabbed my hand and squeezed tightly. I squeezed back and kept my hand in his as the figure moved towards us.
“You will come with us.” It hissed. I found myself moving forward instantly. I made myself stop and raised my voice. “Who are you? Where are we? What do you want?” I hated the quiver in my voice, and had to clear my throat as my heart seemed to be lodged in it.
The dark figure seemed to throb in place and grow darker and even more malevolent as it hissed with more insistence, “You will come with us!”
Once again my feet started moving forward and Carson’s next to me followed suit. I felt Carson’s hand grip mine more tightly as he dug in his heels and rooted himself in place. “No!” he yelled. “Answer her questions!”
All of a sudden his hand was ripped from mine and he was flying through the air, thrown hard against the cliff wall, then tumbling the 15 or so feet down to the ground. He landed in a heap at the base of the cliff and was still. I screamed his name and ran towards him, only to find myself trying to move through what felt like a solid wall even though I could see nothing in front of me. I pushed harder and flailed uselessly.
Nothing was at it should be and nothing was making sense. I was relieved when I saw Carson slowly sitting up and shaking his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from being tossed around like a rag doll. He was alive. An hour ago it would have never dawned on me him or I could be anything but.
A horrible screeching noise was coming from the blurry figure. The cadence of the noise sounded familiar and I realized with horror it was laughing. Now I was mad. I rushed at it, figuring if I could get my hands on it, perhaps I could do something harmful to it. I got about 5 feet away from it and was again stopped by the invisible wall. I danced around, jumping up and from side to side, trying to see if I could find a limit to my barrier. The figure had stopped the horrendous racket and seemed to be watching me, as if amused at my antics and wondering what silly thing I would try next. I tried to ignore it and continued trying to find a weak area to get past the wall. It wasn’t working.
The air was filled with several loud cracks, one after another, and there were suddenly half a dozen blurry figures. Quick as a blink, about half of them were on me, and the last thing I saw through the blackness was the other half surrounding Carson. Then I could see nothing, and though I squirmed and struck out with my feet and fists, it was to no avail as I felt myself being whisked through the air towards some unknown destination. I didn’t know whether to hope the other group was bringing Carson to the same place they were taking me or not.