This was a writing prompt proposed to me by Mentor and user jouzinka at my introduction thread which can be found here:
The promt was:
"You just woke up. You snuggle under the blanket for a while, then you stretch on the bed, open your eyes... wait! Something's just not right. You just woke up in your favorite bedtime story! Describe to me your surroundings.."
The writing bug sort of bit me, so instead of a few paragraphs, I've apparently written a 3.400 word monstrosity.
The piece can be accused of Mary Sueness, as part of the writing prompt challenge was that I myself figured as the main protagonist. Having said that, I hope you enjoy it, and here's hoping I'll be allowed to rear my head on these forums more often!
- The Bandhite.
“THE RED PARDON”
Clash of Beasts, Fall of Man
“My Most Unfortunate if not Worrisome Account of a Disordered Land so Very, Very Far Away”
▬ ▬ ▬
CHAPTER 1: “One day, I woke up..”
I find solace in a good nights’ sleep. Any acquaintance of mine would eagerly provide testament to that fact – pity the fool who ever tried to reason or influence me after my appointed bedtime has been crossed, for they’d earn themselves a pair of quite unsympathetic snarls. But give me my daily eight hours of slumber and I’m a beam of sun-shine, suffering fools and chumps with a near legendary patience. So I have been told, at least, and I might add I myself in no way appoint this to paper as if it was the gospel truth!
That’s why, when I’m finally coiling and churning amidst bed sheets and pillows, my attention to my surroundings is pitiable. In particular, my favorite period is when you’re technically awake, but you know by gut instinct that the alarm clock won’t tear into your reality for another thirty minutes or so – you’re then allowed to say your farewells to Sleep and bid Sleep a good day until you meet again some fourteen hours later (assuming you’re aiming for a healthy diurnal rhythm).
Plenty of interesting things can occur in this period: Like for example, slipping in and out of the ghost of a dream that beckons you to go deeper; you can’t exactly pinpoint what the dream will be about, but your mind is bombarded with flickers of images, echoes of sound and a few, fleeting stings of the sensations imbedded in that wispy vision. Or maybe your active senses sharpen – suddenly, you find yourself noticing small sounds that otherwise drown in your daily humdrum: the hiss of tires against asphalt emitted by the cars whizzing by outside your apartment window, the occasional hum of your refrigerator, eating away at your electricity, the muffled sounds of tenants living below and besides you. I’m surprised how much you can discern through the thick floor boards if you really just take the moment to listen.
Other times, however, your mind joshers with your perception of reality: Remember when you’ve been sleeping at a new place for a few weeks before returning to your own bed very late in the evening? Remember, when you wake up the next day and your mind boggles, telling you that you’re not in the hotel bed you’ve been using for a lengthy period of time? In a jolt you’re that much more awake as your body is called into action: Where, exactly, are you? Of course, once you realize you’re at home, sweet home, your mind lowers to Defcon 5 and the familiar drowsiness makes a feisty comeback.
On that fateful day, when everything turned topsy-turvy, the first mind-boggle I made myself acquainted with was the odd, faint invasion of a pleasant, homely odor of timber. It wasn’t unwelcome, mind you: I cherish the smell of forests as well as the smell of a wood-workshop. What initially hit me was that my smallish apartment wasn’t exactly top heavy in the department of wooden walls. I made a mental note to discern the source of this welcome perfume once I bothered getting out of the exceedingly comfortable bed.
I never considered actually opening my eyes – it takes a gargantuan effort early in the morning for such a simple act and to say I was alerted was a gross overstatement. It’s all about choosing ones battle, isn’t that right?
I would have been slumbering away for another thirty or so minutes with not a care in the world, were it not for the second objection from my annoying, always inquisitive mind: My bed sheet seemed rougher in its texture today, didn’t it? I couldn’t recall I even owned a bed sheet with such a rough texture as the one I clutched.
I amassed the will to moan with irritation: I wanted to nap, not to test my senses with frivolous questions, all of which probably had a perfectly valid explanation once I pestered myself to get out of bed.
It was then, however, that I heard – or rather, consciously noticed - the feint crackle of fire in a fireplace.
I could dismiss the smell of wood – I could with some conviction ignore the fact that my bed sheet didn’t feel like a bed sheet, but more a large fur carpet: But I kid you not when I know for a certainty that my first-floor apartment does not, and never has featured a fire-place. Mind you, if I ever found apartments featuring a fireplace in a newspaper ad, I wouldn’t even consider them what with my limited budget.
I was curtly informed by my now battle-ready mind that, indeed, something wasn’t as it should be and my eyes flew open with a pang of momentary surprise.
My convictions that things weren’t as they should be was cemented when I barely could see anything – my apartment was during the summer months lit from around six o’ clock in the morning: but right there, I was staring into the sort of darkness you’d expect from a winter dawn. What I could discern through the gloom was that my apartment wall wasn’t my apartment wall, but a sturdy construction of logs piled and fastened atop each-other. A cabin wall. I wasn’t in my apartment any more.
I was wide-eyed in surprise, feeling the encroaching panic bubble through every nerve ending in my body. I wasn’t home any more. I was somewhere else, and the worst part is that I hadn’t been part of this relocation willingly. For a long moment I just glared at the wall with disbelief, my heart rate rocketing, the rhythmic thump-thump-thump banging in my ears. And then I began to speculate what the hell was happening: This led to the logical question “How did I get here?”, which further led to the question: “To hell with how, where IS here?!” which spawned another question, and another, and another…
I’m certain civilizations rose and fell during the time I was locked in bewildered confusion to my bed – I dared not move but a pinky, as if fearing that any physical acknowledgement of my current predicament would result in reality unraveling around me. After curtly deciding that this was either a very lively dream or a prank (Either very tasteless or very elaborate – the verdict was still out), my first decision was to brave the possibility of premature dematerialization and take a gander at my surroundings.
Against all my predictions, the room didn’t spontaneously snap back to its comfortable white colors associated with my apartment: As I rose up in my bed, I noticed that the “bed sheet” I was clutching white-knuckled was fashioned of what best could be described as fur. Across the end of my bed, imbedded in the far wall was the source of crackling fire: With equal measures of shock and awe, I glared at the broad, stone-fashioned fireplace mocking me from across the room. The comfortable, stinging warmth wrapped around me carelessly, removing any incitement to pinch my arm: No dream I had ever had was this lively or convincing. This was real.
The cabin shack – I decided – was fashioned entirely in wood, bar the stone fire place. It was a simple rectangular room and it’s only furnishing beyond the fire place was the large, sturdy wooden bed in which my baffled corpus made home underneath a white fur carpet. The first outstanding detail beyond the Spartan furnishing was that there were no windows and only one door against the left wall. The second detail to notice was small pieces of paper – no, parchment – hanging from linen strings from various points in the ceiling. The nearest piece of hanging parchment was to the right of my bed, marking the start of a line leading to the last, most absurd detail: A metal hook gracefully hoisted the following articles:
- A rough, deep ochre linen shirt. My brief encounters with medieval re-enactors reminded me that this wasn’t a modern cut you could buy in any down-town Jack N’ Jones.
- A pair of linen hoses in a light brown, complete with wooden buttons.
- A pair of dark chestnut-red wide sleeved leather leggings, featuring a string-tie clasp to the front.
- A – by the looks of it – sturdy leather torso armor in the same chestnut-red as its leggings counterpart, black decorative lines imbedded in its surface, depicting motives of the woodlands, sleeves cut at the shoulders.
- Big, black, brutish boots made for walking.
- A pair of big, sturdy heavy duty leather gloves in a waxed black color, its border composed of thick brown fur to encapsulate warmth for the wearers’ fingers.
- A robust belt, complete with smaller leather satchels attached to its sides.
- A large sack; the way it sagged suggested something was inside.
- And finally, the most outstanding article: a beautiful, lavish hooded cape in the sharpest, most color-saturated scarlet-red.
I glowered at the full suit of armor with the same measure of distrust – I knew instinctively that it had been custom tailored to fit my average size and height just by giving it a second glance-over.
I waited. I found it a sensible choice; wait until a voice would announce the game-shows start or disclose the details of a hoax I was part of. I waited for a hidden mobile phone to buzz or chime me back to even the slightest semblance of reality. I waited for the lone door to my left spring open to reveal my host, of whom I could unleash an ungodly fury for spelling me away to this poor excuse of a joke.
“Hello?”, I rattled into the air once I had enough of waiting for what I already knew wasn’t going to happen. I surprised myself that I was able to construct a simple word, this absurd situation taken into consideration. But as I now begrudgingly expected, my greeting was met with only the faint popping of the nearby fireplace. Next, I inspected the surrounding areas for possible cameras pointing down on me with steely gazes. I mean, it wasn’t unfair to think I was part of a new, smart reality-concept to suffuse the national TV stations like the Black Plague of the Medieval Ages – one could say I was grasping at straws to make sense of it all.
I found no cameras either: unbidden, uncomfortable scenarios were now up for debate in my consciousness: Was I a victim of a criminal and murderous mind. My neck hair stood attention at this scenario – I found it in no way a charming thought to be at the mercy of some Machiavellian mastermind, although I couldn’t for a fault find any reason why I of all people should be chosen in these “Saw” inspired games: I understand that stealing a splotch of someones' milk for my cuppa’ down at the studio was worthy of a scolding, but murderous mind-games seemed a pretty steep response…
I slowly swung my legs out of the bed: Thank god! At least I still had my last clean pair of boxers on – by now, I was trying to expect the unexpected. Immediately, this momentary feeling of comfort was whisked away: What if I –was- a victim of a coming crime? I inspected my body briskly for any signs of injections and found none. I couldn’t decide if that was a good or bad sign. I then spoke three poetic words that any sensible and logical man born with expectations of realism would say in my position:
“What…. the hell?..”.
I glared at the parchment hanging close to my head. The parchment glared back at me; or would have, if a piece of paper owned eyes and the mental capacity to glare at anything. We shared our one-sided staring contest for a few useless minutes before I finally rose, crossed the three step distance to the paper and took ahold of it. Raw parchment, woven with what I would assume was professional care – the face I was looking at was blank, but once I turned it, I caught myself taking a sharp inhale: Someone had written something on it – on English, no less. “Steel your Heart, young sir – I wish you no willing hurt.”
, the first parchment read in dapper letterings.
The appearance of this banal example of archaic writing stung in my eyes – more-so, was I perplexed that nothing beyond the peaceful intentions of the parchment had been uncovered. Another piece of parchment beckoned me over.
“Couldn’t she just tell me everything on one page..?” I instinctively snarled out aloud, not knowing why I was convinced it was a “she” being the perpetrator. My second thought was how “she” knew I was a “he”, and for a brief moment, I contemplated the conundrum: What if I was a woman? Someone down in the “Mysterious Messages Department” would have some answering to do then!
I devoted my attention to this game for now, spurred on by the desire to find answers, turning the next piece of levitating parchment:“I ask forgiveness for my methods must be – regretfully - curt.”
“You can say that again…” I hissed with puzzled irritation, before reaching for the next parchment in line:
“Cry “Help!”, however it has been placed as my charge.”
The next read:
“Menace, Danger and Threat is in My Home at large!”
I paused, glaring at the next unturned parchment: Beyond the risk of suffering more of these “rhymes”, I felt my heart slowly sinking. Menace, Danger and Threat were three words I rarely connected to my state of being. Living a protected life in a wealthy western nation meant you normally had to fight hard to end in a dangerous situation. While I wasn’t willing to conclude all this was “real” yet, the longer I pondered, the less anything I was experiencing made sense. Danger, however, began sounding more and more possible.
Was I really standing with a bona fide dramatic warning in my hands? I was positive that questions were beginning to take numbers for the queue clogging my brain: Right now, a particularly noisy question prompted me: “Am I in danger –right now-?”.
Reluctantly, I turned the next parchment:“Look forth! A suit of Shields is yours to Cherish and Own.”
Huh. So the suit of armor was mine, hm? I inspected the suit of leathers again, almost expecting them to become animated and lurch at me hungrily – this unwelcome thought caused a chill tumbling down my spine, forcing me to glance across at my shoulder: the cabin was as empty and unchanged as before, though the dancing shadows from the orange light danced with a foreboding liveliness.
Maybe a warm suit of armor wasn’t so bad after-all.
“Okaaaayyy…” I muttered to no one in particular.. “I’ll play along then…”
As I suited up – a process that demanded almost my entire attention – I tried to rationalize everything. Every scenario that I could conjure having root in a realistic context crumbled away faster than I desired. Before long, in between sliding my foot into the two sturdy boots, I was reluctant to admit that I couldn’t explain any of this from a logical or even remotely rational point of view. This realization terrified me.
The leather armor was comfortable, the thick scarlet cloak large and warm. It easily covered front and back, a centimeter dragging along the floor when I stood up. A line of hanging parchments led towards the door. I knew, by following these parchments to the exit, I was about to oblige to a scenario that no manner of training in the world would prepare me for – I had a sneaking suspicion that I probably wouldn’t use that door again once I stepped “outside” (Who knew what was on the other side?). Slowly, my quaking hand, irregardless of my minds objections, took ahold of the next parchment:“A Road lain before you is one of Blood and Sorrow sown;”
“Reassuring..” I squeaked with the mother of all uncertainty taking abode in my corpus.
“Answers lie to a South; Pick any south and commit!”
Pick any south? The poorly conceived rhyme was failing hard to explain my predicament by now. I should file a complaint for bad wording.. after I filed a complaint for the myriad of other atrocities that had and could be committed to me. I progressed:“Wolven eyes and wolven minds will wisdom permit.”
“Contrary to you..”, my equally poorly conceived insult mumbled through my mouth.
The last parchment was hanging just before the door. It was noticeably larger than the others – with unwilling steps I approached and turned the parchment around. The same dapper lettering delivered the tacky punch-line to this fragmented attempt at rhyming:
“Hope always dawns at the hands of a Lumberjack.”
I blinked. I was losing the context again. Damn poet isn’t worth a da-
A sharp, sinister wooden CRACK! joshed my attention: I spun around to glare at an unchanged cabin interior. Then, a second later, a log from the ceiling slammed into my large bed. Before my shocked gasp had died out in my throat, the entire far side of the cabin began collapsing in a cacophony of churning wood, snapping timber and deep thuds of impact: This scene of destruction rolled towards me with great expediency, and I was quite certain I screamed at the top of my lungs as I threw myself sideways out of the door to escape death by falling logs.
I rolled sideways away from the exit, throwing a spray of snow around my leather-clad body in the process. The roar of the collapsing cabin stung harshly in my ears as I came to a stop flat on my stomach, hands on the back of my head and my left nostril inhaling said ice-cold snow forcefully. With a ear-thumping heartbeat, I lay as still as my spluttering and coughing permitted.
Everything fell silent shortly thereafter – deathly silent, in fact. My hands clutched into the fabric of my heavy, scarlet cloak as a seeping chill began invading. Finally, after a few, long seconds I opened my eyes and tilted my head upwards to avoid suffocating.
I glared into my horrified expression, reflected in the blade-head of a hatchet sunk into the snowy ground before me. The handle was pointing up in a dramatic, forty-five degrees indicating someone had meant for me to see this axe.
I didn’t think, really: I sort of let my instincts guide my terrified body as I scuffled forward with various groans and yells of desperation: I stumbled to my knees and clasped the axe with both hands before part crawling, part falling pushed myself away from the ruins of the cabin. I got to my feet and spun a full three-sixty, the axe held before me more like a shield than a weapon.
To my bottomless relief, I was alone. And outside.
The cabin was reduced to a dusty heap of crumbled and broken timber. The fireplace was extinguished, it’s right side still intact. I stood in a white clearing between large evergreen sentinels on all sides. It was snowing and had been for a long time, judging upon the knee-deep level of snow I was standing in. The deathly silence was typical for such weather, but in the context of collapsing houses and nerve-wrecked victims like me, I wasn’t exactly reassured.
Adrenaline pumped mercilessly through my blood streams: even after deducting that no brigands or monsters stood ready to jump on me, I was still holding the axe with quivering, tense hands. My eyes darted back and forth, my perspiration was tested and swift.
“This isn’t happening..” I muttered meekly. “This isn’t happening..” I began repeating for myself as I realized how endless the woods seemed all around me in this even light from a grey-clouded dawn above me. I forcefully closed my eyes, teeth grinding: I hoped right there and then that everything ended, that the nightmare I was experiencing with all-too-much immersion shattered. But no respite came – I could still feel the chill of snow snugly sticking to my leather armor. I could still feel the hard, wooden handle of my newly acquired axe through my leather gloves. I opened my eyes and emitted a pathetic squeak of absolute desperation, seeing that the crumbled cabin and its damned wooden backdrop still remained.
And then, I ran. I chose a direction that led away from that accursed cabin and I stumbled, fumbled and ran as if running for dear life. I cared little for whether it was south, or north or west for that matter. In fact, I could only care for one thing – one irrefutable fact that thundered in my mind repeatedly:
I wasn’t home anymore.
▬ ▬ ▬