I awoke dazed and bound, too close to the fire, its heat keeping me in an endless sweat. I couldn’t see much past the flames as my eyes struggled to adjust to the ever-shifting light of the campfire.
After a bit of subdued squirming, I managed to take a look at the bit of noise that was coming from beyond my bound ankles. Charlie stood there rifling through my bag.
“These could bring in a small penny, from the right buyer,” he said, asking in the direction of the table. “You don’t mind if I take them, recover a little of my investment, right?”
Mark’s smoother voice came through the crackling of the fire from near the table, level but with a hint of darkness to it.
“You will put the scrolls back in the bag before you damage them. And then bring them to me.”
“But Mark, You owe me f–”
Charlie seemed to realize he was messing with powers beyond his understanding, as I was starting to believe I was too. He took special care to replace the scrolls in my bag as carefully as possible before handing it over to Mark.
“I see you’re up,” said Mark from overhead. “Good. It’s almost time to toss you into the fire. You’ll be our test subject, the first to cross into the nexus.”
“You think,” I spit out some of the dirt that was pasted along my tongue,” the nexus is real? The magical source? Ha! With my luck you’ll send me floating up to the stars, if anything happens at all.”
“Oh, it’s real. I’ve talked to someone who’s been there before. How do you think we got this far?
“Jacob, lean him against the table so we can toss him in, will you?”
I felt hands pull me roughly to my feet in a few jerks before Jacob could slide his arms under my armpits and drag me around the fire. He slipped and dropped me face first into the dirt.
I heard Charlie whisper “idiot” before Jacob picked me back up.
I was facing the table and Mark. And near the center of the table sat a thin dagger rested on top of a bowl of blood. Jacob shuffled me forward and with a push sent me slamming into the table, almost sending the bowl and dagger flying. But I cupped them in under myself as I landed just feet from Mark. I knew it wouldn’t matter if I took down his cohorts, he was the true monster of the group.
Locking eyes with Mark, I tried to give him my most furious, damaged glare, which wasn’t hard, as I wrapped my bound fingers around the handle of the dagger.
“You’ll thank me once you’re over there,” he said, his smile all too handsome.
I spun, slashing up with the knife in a straight line, slicing lip and cheek before it grazed his eye.
“Aaagrgh,” he screamed as he flailed at me, knocking the dagger free and throwing me to the ground.
“Mark!” Jacob rushed to his side, but Mark held him back.
“No,” he mumbled, wiping blood from his face. “We send him now. Toss him in once I start.”
Mark turned and I would have cowered if not for the ropes around my wrists and ankles. He looked like an eagle had clawed at his face, slicing right into the left eye. I smiled.
Jacob and Charlie lifted me and held me there, partially suspended over the flames, once again feeling the intense heat as sparks popped on my torn tunic.
“Donae aras atano ise sha ise,” said Mark, or something that sounded like that. And deep in the center of the flames, a miniscule violet ball came to life, an emptiness beyond the darkest black of night. “Ti’eh nos,” he finished, and then I was gone.
No, at first I’d thought they’d all vanished, but then I realized it was the world gone and I’d left it. Or they’d replaced it somehow. The feeling is hard to describe, like a pineapple falling through a drop of ink.
And all I’ve found over here is a room empty but for a table, a notebook, and a pen that doesn’t seem to provide its own ink like the new ones out of the east. I’ve searched it from end to end, though for every time I examine the edges of this auburn, self-lit, room they seem to vanish, as if some sort of fog holds me here. My wounds were healed when I arrived, my bonds gone. And I never seem to hunger or thirst, though time over here is just as much a mystery.
So, I shall begin my study of my works from memory and see if I can conjure up some weapons or a way out for when the boys arrive. Who knows. Maybe I’ll surprise them with a little hocus pocus of my own.
Come back Wednesday for the latest speculative fiction story from Fictive Mists.