First chapter of Outworld. Previous chapter of Outworld.
I picked my way through the sand of the dry ocean after Cain, sweating and staring up at the rusted wrecks that littered the sands. I had to ask. “How did they come here?” I wondered.
Ahead of me, Cain merely responded with another shrug. I had discovered that a shrug was his default, and indeed preferred, method of answering. “The same way everything gets here,” he replied. “Magic.” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not. “They’ve been here ages, though. You can tell by how they’ve settled. Picked clean, too, unfortunately for you.”
I had another question, but Cain suddenly held up his hand, a universal sign for quiet. I obediently shut my mouth, watching as he unslung his rifle and raised it to his shoulder. He fired a single shot, and I saw something small jerk in the sand, maybe sixty or seventy feet ahead.
Cain lowered the rifle, a rare smile passing briefly across his scruffy features. He hurried forward, with me close behind. He reached down and scooped the carcass of a desert hare up off the sand. “Dinner,” he said triumphantly.
That evening, camped in the shadow of a battered derelict that might have once been a battleship, we built a fire from salvaged scrap wood and cooked our meal. Cain had bagged two other hares during the afternoon, and the smell of them roasting made my mouth water uncontrollably. We eagerly devoured the meal; my first food since arriving in Outworld.
The sun had nearly vanished beneath the horizon when we finished. Cain dragged a couple long stringers of wood over, laying shorter cross pieces on top. Platform complete, he stretched out on top, somehow looking comfortable. “You’ve got first watch,” he said, passing me his rifle. “Wake me up when the first moon hits the horizon.”
“First moon?” I asked, confused, but he merely waved a hand at me dismissively – his second favorite gesture, I would soon learn. He closed his eyes, and I was astonished to hear the faint but unmistakable sound of snoring within minutes.
I looked up at the sky. Sure enough, I could see two moons rising against a backdrop of twinkling stars, one of them decidedly larger than the other and moving more rapidly across the sky. That must have been what Cain was talking about. Something about the two moons didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t remember what was off.
Picking up the rifle, I examined it, locating the safety and figuring out how to position it against my shoulder. Clutching it to my chest, I crept closer to the guttering fire, staring out into the darkness of Outland.