WWW #1 – A Fork in the Road – Text #3

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Lost in a Strange Place

by Hailie Andersen

In the year 421, Claire visited a mage. When he touched her hand to catch a glimpse of her destiny, he intercepted an image so strong that it sent her away to a distant future.

Claire was walking down an extremely large road. She had no idea how she had landed in this strange place. There was not much that was familiar about it. She knew she was still on Earth. She could hear the beating at the planet’s core, and the rhythm of nature piercing through the austere environment around her, though it all sounded very peculiar. It was not a loud bustling melody anymore, only a shy murmur. There were not any animals in sight. Life was still present, but it was not showing. It was hiding. It was as if it had lost all remnants of positive energy. She could feel survival, but no joie de vivre. Living creatures were at war in this strange place. There was no doubt about it.

There were so many questions popping up in her head. There seemed to be no one around to answer them. She was not sure what to do. She did not know how the people living in this place would react upon seeing her. Would they greet her? Highly unlikely. She had travelled around, and she knew welcoming populations were the rarest sorts. They would question her presence. They might even hold her in captivity, until they would be reassured that she couldn’t arm them. Depending on their standards of analysis that might be never, because she could hurt them. If they didn’t give her any reason to, she wouldn’t though, but how could they possibly know that? Only one thing was for certain, it was obvious seeing her that it was in her power to cause them pain, if she desired so. Trust is a tricky feeling to instill in an unknown people, especially when you, yourself, can’t predict your own actions around said people.

She walked for a while. She had decided she would do so, until she would come across a place were human-like people could live. Then she planned on observing them for as long as she could, until she could come up with a fitting plan. So far the huge road she was walking on seemed to stretch endlessly. A barrier bordered it on each side. It seemed to be made of metal. She had never seen such an odd construction before. She wondered what it was for.

There were no reliefs to be seen. The land was mostly flat and barren. There were a couple of trees here and there, some clumps of grass and a lot of reeds. The soil was gorged with water, so much so that it seemed hazardous to leave the grey turf. The land was too moist to walk on. It was covered in ponds and swampy land. That was it. Not the best place to settle indeed.

She did not have the slightest idea of where she had landed. She had been walking for hours now, and she had encountered no sign of human life so far. Still the road stretched infinitely. She walked on some more for what seemed over an hour, and came upon a crossroads. She couldn’t read the language that appeared on the signs. Obviously it was indicative of a direction, that much she could guess, but she had absolutely no clue on how to pronounce, let alone understand it.

Since the larger road she was on seemed to stretch as far as eyes could see and beyond. She decided she was better off trying to head to that fork in the road. So she walked. On and on, she walked. She saw more roads, yet met no carriages or anything of the sort. There weren’t any signs of animal excrements on the roads either. That was really odd. Either they have very efficient cleaning services or this stretch of road must be brand new.

Nothing could explain the total absence of movement on the road though. Moving around must be forbidden for some reason or another in these parts of land.

Day light had been getting dimmer for the last hour. The sun was getting ready to set on the horizon to the west. She hastened her pace, hoping she would reach a town before it was totally dark. There was no saying what dangers could lurk at night in such a remote area. Even she could find herself in no position to fight a strong enemy. Especially after a whole day of walking and nothing to fill her stomach.

She arrived upon a larger crossroads offering no less than five different directions. She still had no clue where those roads would lead her. There was a sort of haze on the ground too. It was probably caused by the damp lands she was surrounded with. She took out her amulet hoping that the gods would come to her rescue and show her which way she was supposed to go. She mumbled a prayer, and started making circles with the amulet hanging on its chain. After seven turns she stopped and the amulet suddenly shifted its course. The strange thing was it did not indicate a way forward but a way back…

Her reason fought with this new element. She knew she would die of fatigue and hunger if she headed back. She couldn’t walk on indefinitely. She had to meet living people, restore herself with proper food and find a place to sleep. She could not live on roots eternally and she had not had a drop of water all day. She would die in the next twenty-four hours if she headed back that way. Yet her amulet had never failed to show her the way. She had never second guessed its indications in her own land. Here in this strange godless place, she wondered though. Was there anyone pulling that string? Any force? Or was it just physics or dumb luck, some random magnetic field?

It was a tough choice. Her life was on the balance. She had always been a believer. However this was not her realm. The rules were unknown to her. She pondered and ran it through her amulet again. It refused to move this time. After the seventh turn, it dropped speed suddenly. Telling her she should stay exactly where she was. She could not do that though. This erratic change in direction breached her confidence in the devoted object’s premonition. She opted to follow her reason, listen to her own voice, her own instinct and cast away superstition.

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