Don't Eat The Foliage - Part Seven
The snoring became unbearable. Brand rolled over on his cot and glared at Buba, who'd finally gotten back to sleep. The time was a mystery to Brand as he picked up a candle near his cot and stepped outside. However, the annoying bear calls coming from Buba's throat were still audible on the other side of the tent. He had no idea how Megan could possibly sleep with that noise filling the tiny tent.
The moon hung low, lazily sinking beyond the mountains in the distance much as the sun had done earlier. Right now, as the world prepared to rise for another day, Brand was still very much stuck in yesterday. He hadn't eaten in so long that he was so hungry that he wasn't hungry and sleep had been a thing of the past. The cool morning air flowed through his lungs with each breath, waking him up even more. The deadness of the camp gave Brand the impression of being in a ghost town, while he knew all the tents surrounding him contained the people of this little village.
Briefly he wondered what was happening at home. Would they be missed by now? Buba surely would be. He'd never missed a day of work in his life. If he didn't show up without so much as a call, someone would be searching for him. Images of hound dogs pulling along a search party as everyone in town searched far and wide for the missing giant flicked through Brand's mind. He chuckled. As for himself, he doubted anyone would even notice he wasn't around. Except for that oriental fellow, his name always slipped Brand's mind; he would definitely notice the missing Brand, but only because he wouldn't be able to keep winning the local karaoke contests and rubbing it in Brand's face. For that, at least, he was grateful to be away. With luck, by the time they got back, that oriental guy would be gone.
Brand spun around quickly as a hand rested against his shoulder. He stared, bug-eyed, at Megan with his heart flip-flopping every which way. "What's the matter with you," he managed to stammer out.
"You're one to talk," she replied as she rubbed her eyes. "Buba keep you awake? I slept through it all right, but when I woke up that was it. I couldn't get back to sleep."
As he regained his composure, Brand nodded faintly. "Yeah," he said. "Let's go for a walk."
He blew out the candle and set it on the ground. Megan hooked her arm in his and together they headed toward the nearest gate leading out of the camp. A large, armored guard nodded once as they passed but did nothing to try and stop them. He did, however, eye them oddly after they'd gone by.
A small path led them through a large grouping of trees that towered into the sky. For the most part they walked in silence. Once, Megan stopped them and mentioned the lack of sound. They were in the middle of a forest, more or less, but there wasn't a single sound within. No birds where chirping, no insects were buzzing around, silence was the main sound here. For a few minutes after that startling revelation, they walked a little faster. Soon they followed the dirt path out of the trees and into a clearing. Rolling hills covered the land to the sides, while straight ahead they found themselves heading toward a sharp cliff. Out past the edge of the cliff, down more feet than Brand cared to even think about, a raging river flowed peacefully. Megan and Brand settled down next to each other, draping their legs over the rugged side. The light of day was upon them, rising with each passing breath; moment by moment they witnessed the world around them coming to life with color.
"Peaceful here," Megan said softly.
A dazzling display of color etched its away across the sky. It was the most exotic sunrise that Megan had ever witnessed in her life while at the same time it brought an immense sense of peace and tranquility into her very soul. Blues, oranges, reds, greens, whites, grays, purples, and yellows sketched across the sky. That was normal enough. At the same time, though, the colors were swirling and mixing, forming new colors that neither of them had ever seen before.
"What are we going to do?" Brand asked. He'd been working up to this and now, in this moment, he finally felt he was ready to do what wasn't easy for him. He would admit he wasn't in control to the only person he'd ever be able to admit it to. "I mean. I," he sighed. "I'm lost, Megan. I have absolutely no idea what the hell I've gotten us into."
"We'll do pretty much what we just did," she said, linking her fingers with his. "We'll follow the path and see where it leads us. As long as we stay together, we'll be fine. Like you always say, between the three of us, we can get through anything and we have countless times."
"And all this insane voodoo shit?"
"It's not voodoo for one thing. For another, why are you so intent on not believing it? Look around you Brand. I know you have trouble believing in things you can't see, but really what have you heard that you haven't actually seen as well? Look up into the sky if you need proof we are not in the... I don't know, the reality we came from."
And he did just that. While the colors continued to twist and turn into each other, Brand watched and frowned. So much was wrong about what he was seeing; so much didn't make sense. What did I do to deserve this? He asked himself. Did I screw up one two many times? Is this actually hell and have I actually dragged my two closest, my only two, friends with me? He looked over at Megan but his eyes didn't reach her face. Instead they were lowered to her belly. There was no sign of her pregnancy, at least not yet there wasn't, but he knew. Had he also dragged his unborn child into hell with them? "Why do you believe what that Vulcan wanna-be told us?"
"The better question is why don't you believe it, Brand?"
"How is that a better question?" It angered him but he had no idea why.
"I can't tell you some revolutionary thing that'll suddenly open your mind into accepting what Adara spoke to us about. Only you can find the truth within yourself." She squeezed his hand, leaning her head against his shoulder. "Until, if ever, you find that, there is nothing anyone can do or say that will show you how to believe. To answer your question, nothing makes me believe her. I just feel that it is true."
His anger had passed as quickly as it had struck him. Again he found himself staring at the wild arrangement of colors in the sky. The sun was peeking over the tops of the snowcapped mountains miles away as the moon disappeared below the mountains behind them. It dawned on him then how much the camp had felt like a prison and now the world itself felt like a prison around the prison. He was trapped in his own mistake for yet another time in his life. Only this time, no amount of influence from Buba or love and friendship from Megan would be to make the mistake go away. Everywhere he looked, the mistake glared at him and wouldn't let him forget. No, this time he was going to have to fix it himself. This time he was going to have to take the responsibility in full. All his life he'd hid behind his friends without ever allowing himself to believe that he only got away with things because of them. Then he knew just how lucky he'd been in the past, because nothing would save him now.
"I think," said Megan. "That this is the most peaceful place in all reality. If I could choose the place of my burial, when I'm gone from this life, it would be right here where I could see the sunrise every morning and feel this overwhelming sense of ease every time that sun poked its enormous head up from behind those mountains."
You think it's heaven and I think it is hell, Brand thought. He squeezed her hand once more and together they headed back along the path to camp while the colorful sky faded into a pure crystal clear blue. Somewhere behind that sky, the gods of the land had been watching them. Somewhere behind that sky, the echoing silence of Brand's future actions was already sending a wave of chaos through the heavens.To be continued...