[Outworld] Welcome To The Desert, We’ve Got Death And Games

The first chapter in the Outworld saga.  Previous chapter in the Outworld saga.


As Salvation faded into the dust behind us and the desert stretched out endlessly in front of us, I couldn’t help but wonder about my traveling companion. “So, they knew you back there,” I ventured, trying to cautiously broach the subject.
All I received in response was a wordless grunt, but I decided to press my luck. “Did you do something against them in the past?” I asked, trying to keep my tone light and nonthreatening.
Cain grunted a second time, but he slowed his pace slightly, falling back to walk alongside me as we trudged through the sand. “This place, Outworld, it changes a man,” he said. I fell silent, waiting for him to continue. “Or maybe it doesn’t, and we were all this broken before we got sent here. But the gods would have to search a long time to find a good, honest man here. Everyone’s got an agenda. Everybody’s after something.”
I didn’t speak, but I could feel the unspoken question hanging palpably in the air. Cain must have sensed it too. “These days, I’m just out to survive,” he said with a bitter, cynical laugh. “But back then, I was after answers. I was a fool, thought that if I just learned enough, I could make sense of this whole place. Get a handle on it.” Staring down at his feet, he shook his head. “But Outworld doesn’t have answers, just more questions. Everybody’s spirit is broken eventually. Now, I’d probably settle for just some refuge, someplace safe.”
An oasis,” I said.
Yeah, exactly. An oasis from the insanity of this place.”
No,” I interjected. “Look, over there. I think that’s an oasis.”
Cain followed my pointing finger. “Looks like it,” he agreed.
As we changed course towards the small clump of green that I had spotted, I watched him ready his rifle with trepidation. “Are we in danger?”
Never hurts to be cautious,” he replied, his tone barely above a whisper. As we drew closer, he changed his gait to a predatory stalk. “Around here, if you’re not cautious, you’re a dead man walking.”
As the sand beneath our feet turned to clumps of grass, however, the oasis continued to appear serene and peaceful. A small pool shimmered in the twilight, surrounded by several tropical palm trees. Thick clumps of grass blades were crushed beneath our feet, only to spring erect after our passing. A cricket, hidden somewhere in the tall grass on the edges of the pool, chirped softly.
I stopped at the water’s edge, lowering the pistol in my hand. “Wow, this is really calm,” I said. “I was expecting a monster or something, but this is just relaxing.”
Cain glared around at the deepening shadows, still clutching his weapon. I watched with some bemusement as he kicked at the trunks of the palm trees. “It’s never this easy,” he insisted. “There’s something here, something hiding. The razor blade’s hidden somewhere.”
When I knew that his back was turned and he couldn’t see my expression, I allowed my eyes to roll theatrically. “You know, maybe you just need to unwind, let out some of that tension,” I said. “I’m looking around, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary at-”
My companion spun around as my sentence ended abruptly, his rifle rising into a firing stance. He followed my gaze into the center of the pool, where a pointed shape jutted up from the water. In the long shadows of the setting sun, I had assumed that there was a rock at the center of the pond. Now, with the moon’s rays starting to shine down upon us, we could see that the protrusion was clear, like ice. We could also see the unmistakable shape of a hand, trapped inside the frozen prison.
Although the muzzle of his weapon didn’t move an inch, Cain let out a low chuckle. “Rule of Outworld,” he commented. “If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s a surprise waiting somewhere.”

What waits inside the crystal? Find out in the next chapter!

[Outworld] Old Friends . . . Can Kill You

The first chapter in the Outworld saga.  Previous chapter in the Outworld saga.


As the dark figure in the entrance to the saloon raised his gun, Cain moved so fast that he blurred. Spinning around and sweeping his rifle up from the counter, he pointed it at the doorway, firing one-handed as he threw himself sideways out of the path of the bullet.
With a cry of pain, the figure at the front door fell forward into the room, the pistol sliding from his hand to rest near my feet. The other patrons of the bar, however, had seized the opportunity to draw their own weapons, and I felt Cain’s hand grab my shirt and yank me back towards the bar as shots flew overhead to shatter bottles above us. As I was hauled bodily backward, I had just enough presence of mind to grab onto the pistol, bringing it with me.
I winced as glass rained down on us. “What do we do now?” I yelled to Cain over the ringing gunfire.
Cain glared back at me as he reloaded his rifle with a fresh cartridge. “We fight back, of course!” he replied. “You’ve got a weapon, now use it!” With that sage bit of advice dispensed, he popped up over the top of the bar, blasting away at the other bar patrons.
I looked down at the gun in my hand. The pistol was large and silver-plated, with a six-round revolving chamber. A logo stamped into the handle read “Tet Corporation.” Hoisting the gun in my hand, it felt unusually heavy. “I don’t know if I can actually shoot somebody!” I called out.
Instead of responding, I felt the sharp pain of Cain’s boot connecting with my backside, shoving me out from behind the relative safety of the bar. I rolled across the floor and found myself staring up at an equally surprised man attempting to reload his own pistol. He frantically tried to snap his gun together, but without thinking I whipped around my hand and squeezed the trigger.
I stared in horror as the man’s chest exploded in a shower of red and he collapsed forward. I could have remained on the floor, transfixed, but another round dug itself into the rough wooden floor only inches from my ear, and I pulled myself up behind one of the flipped tables.
Peeking over the top of the tabletop, I saw that the last two patrons had emerged from behind their shelters and were approaching the bar. I could hear Cain cursing, and guessed that something had happened to his gun. I took a deep breath.
Standing up, I leveled my pistol at the two men. I pulled the trigger four times in quick succession, putting two rounds in each man.
As my revolver clicked empty, a silence fell over the ruined bar. Cain rose cautiously to his feet on the far side of the bar, yanking a jammed round loose from the rifle’s chamber with a grunt of frustration. His expression shifted towards grim pride as he surveyed the dead bodies. “Not bad,” he nodded. “Gather up the bullets and anything else that looks useful. We’re leaving Salvation.”

Don’t stop reading! Click here for the next chapter of the Outworld saga.

[Outworld] Salvation’s Danger

Previous chapter in the Outworld saga.  First chapter in the Outworld saga.


After the first of the two moons reached the horizon, I woke Cain for his guard shift, albeit with great difficulty. The man was a very sound sleeper. I was forced to roll him off his makeshift bed platform onto the cold sand.
Despite borrowing Cain’s blanket, the night was long and cold, and I awoke feeling miserable. From the depths of his pack, my companion managed to scrounge up two bars of some unidentifiable protein, disguised in a shiny plastic wrapping with language I didn’t recognize. “Everything ends up in Outworld,” was the only response I received when I inquired as to their origin.
We resumed walking through the desert, past the abandoned ships. After several hours of plodding through thick sand, I finally asked where we were going.
Salvation,” Cain replied over his shoulder. I paused to consider this response. As a newcomer to Outworld, I hadn’t given up on hope that all this wilderness had an edge, that civilization waited just around the corner. “It’s a dump, of course,” Cain continued, dashing my meager hopes. “Desert town, mainly just folks drinking away their days out here. But it’s better than the wilds, at least.”
The next couple of days passed in a blur. The days were spent hiking, keeping our eyes open for game, and the nights were spent shivering in the shadows of ruined ships. Soon, dust still swirling around our boots, we stood at the outskirts of Salvation.
I stared in dismay at the collection of ramshackle wooden buildings, seeing walls made from salvaged plates of corrugated steel and wooden roofs sagging inward. “It looks abandoned to me. It looks like it has been abandoned for years.”
Cain merely grunted. I watched him unshoulder his rifle with apprehension. I followed closely behind him as we entered the town, scanning the boarded windows for any signs of life or movement. I saw nothing.
The largest building, at the center of the town, was the first to show signs of life. The shutters on the doorway swung slightly in the dry breeze, and the wind bore the faint sound of an out-of-tune piano to our ears. Still holding his weapon in one hand, Cain pushed through the shutters. I hurried to stay near him, hiding in his shadow.
Inside, I had to blink several times before my eyes adjusted to the dim interior. A long bar ran the length of the room, across from us. Behind it, a wiry man in a dirty apron polished the stains on the bar with a rag in one hand, while the other hand gripped something hidden below the bar. I had little doubt that it was a weapon of some sort. Several other grizzled men, seated at the bar on wooden stools, had also turned to watch us. Their hands rested on the pistols in their belts. In the corner, the small fellow seated at the upright piano had stopped plinking the keys and was eyeing us over the lid.
Cain only gave the spectators a passing glance, his eyes sliding over them without pause as he headed for an open bar stool. He nodded to the barman, who didn’t change his suspicious glare. “Drink?” Cain said quietly.
The other didn’t move. “What brings you back to Salvation, Cain?” he asked. “Last time you were here, you made your intentions plain. We weren’t sad to see your backside.”
Cain nodded over to me as I pulled myself onto a stool with difficulty. “Newbie. Just looking to get him on his feet.”
The barman’s judging glance pinned me to my seat. “Doesn’t look like much. Bill’s gonna be here soon.”
In response, Cain merely hefted his rifle, placing it sideways across the bar. He also reached down and removed his sidearm, placing it on the bar in front of me. He opened his mouth to say something more, but was interrupted by a loud bang as the shutters on the front door were thrown violently open.
Cain, you son-of-a-bitch!” came a yell from the entrance, as the outline of a man filled the doorway. “I warned you what would happen if you showed your face around here again!”
I watched as my companion’s fingers tightened on his rifle. “Our score is even,” he replied. I could hear the undercurrent of tightness in his voice. “I’m just bringing in a newcomer. Nothing to do with you.”
P’ah, it’s too late for that!” came the cry from the door, and the shadowy figure in the doorway raised the outline of a gun and pulled the trigger.

Next chapter in the Outworld saga.

[Outworld] Food in the Dry Ocean

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.  

Next chapter.

[Outworld] Cain’s Primer on Outworld, Lesson 1

Author’s note: Previous Chapter.  First Chapter.  And, of course, your musical accompaniment: 

After this lovely introduction to Outworld, the other man turned and began making his way back into the forest, away from the clearing. I considered letting him leave, but he seemed to have a vague idea of where we were. That was more than I had. Ignoring the growls now coming from my stomach, I began hiking after him.

We proceeded a couple hundred feet before he turned to look back at me. His expression was unreadable, but he seemed to be waiting for me to get closer. I made my way to his side, trying to keep down my panting. The man moved surprisingly fast for his bulk and load of weapons.

“Do you mind if I accompany you?” I asked, once I had regained some semblance of breath. “Sorry to impose, but I don’t have any real idea where I’m going.”

“No one does,” the man scoffed, but there didn’t seem to be any malice behind the retort. “Yeah, try to keep up. I’ll take it a little easier, maybe try to explain this place a little.” I nodded, and thus began my first primer on Outworld.

The man introduced himself offhandedly as Cain. When I asked if it was his real name, he smiled humorlessly.

“First rule of Outworld,” he said, sticking up a stubby finger. “Whatever you were before here, it doesn’t matter. Not that anyone has a clue. None of us remember our past, or anything beyond this place. And knowing what I can do, I don’t think I want to remember,” he added, looking down at the ground. I wisely didn’t probe this topic.

“Us?” I asked instead. “Are there other people here?”

My newfound companion started to nod, changed it to a shake of his head, but ended with a shrug. “There’s a few,” he said. “Outworld turns you into a survivor pretty fast. I bet there were probably more out there at first, but most of them don’t survive the first encounter with the wildlife.” He winked sardonically at me, and I remembered the horror that had been disguised as a little girl.

“But there are some that manage to get by, fight them off,” he continued. “Take me. And a few of them have tried to settle down, make some sort of settlement, but those don’t often last too long. A Stomper comes wandering by, that’s the end of that.” I wondered what a Stomper was, but I was fairly sure I would be more distressed by the answer than by not knowing. “I come across newbies like you, occasionally. Most of the time, they’re already face down in the dirt, though.”

“Well, thank you for saving me,” I responded automatically.

He shrugged one shoulder. “Just delaying the inevitable,” he said. “This place gets everyone, eventually. ‘Outworld – where you’re already on the way out.’ But it does get lonely out here, with everything always being foreign. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone to talk to.”

He sounded uncomfortable about expressing so much sentiment. I decided that it was time to change the subject. “So, where did you get those?” I asked, gesturing to the rifle slung over his shoulder and the automatic strapped to his leg.

Cain ran a hand over the butt of his pistol. “Found them,” he replied. “Salvage. There’s a lot of that out here. Probably the best way to get your hands on things in Outworld, at least if you don’t want strings attached.”

I was about to inquire what he meant by salvage, but then I remembered the half of the sailing ship where I had first awoken. I mentally kicked myself for not searching the wreckage for a weapon. “Are they all boats?” I asked instead.

“Boats?” Cain glanced back at me, surprised.

“Yeah. I woke up on a boat. Well, half of a boat. An old sailing ship, I think.”

To my surprise, Cain chuckled. “Man, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” he commented, his voice taking on a Western drawl. “Eventually, everything ends up here in Outworld. Most of it I don’t remember until I’ve found it, but we get it all. In fact, you’ll see in just a few minutes for yourself.”

What? I looked at him, puzzled, but he merely nodded forward. I pulled my gaze up from the path to look ahead. I had become accustomed to the sight of the gigantic trees, stretching on endlessly into the gloom in all directions, but in front of us they seemed thinner, and rays of light were shining through. We were reaching the edge of the forest.

We climbed one last ridge, stepping around the large boulders sunk deep into the mossy peat, and the landscape opened up in front of me. At the ridge’s top, Cain paused, gazing forward expressionlessly. Hands on my knees and sucking in breaths of air, I blinked as I stared into the brightness, trying to understand.

On the far side of the ridge, the mossy earth gave way to sand, and rolling dunes stretched out towards the horizon. From where we stood, it looked almost like an ocean of sand, shimmering in the sunlight. Scattered among the dunes were the wrecks of dozens of ships of all sizes and types. Off to our right, I could see the stern of an aircraft carrier, rusting and half-buried in the sand. Atop another dune stood a lighthouse. It was listing alarmingly and the red barber-pole stripes painted on it were so faded as to be nearly indistinguishable, but the building was still unmistakable.

Beside me, Cain chuckled dryly. “Outworld,” he said simply. He waited a minute longer, and then began slowly descending into the dry ocean. I followed carefully, trying to keep my footing in the treacherous sand.

[Outworld] Others Are Out There

Author’s Note: Previous Chapter.  Musical Accompaniment.

I stared up at my imminent death, the all-consuming fog of happiness still keeping me paralyzed. All I could see was the dark red of the creature’s maw, surrounded by haphazardly placed fangs. A tiny voice in the back of my head shouted to run, to strike out, to do something, anything, but its cries were ineffectual. The long, twig-like arms, fingers spread and interlocked to form a loose cage, surrounded me and kept me from fleeing, even if I had the willpower to resist.

Suddenly, the creature jerked, once, twice, three times, as loud cracks rang out from behind me. As the body of the monster reeled, some small measure of sanity returned to me. Those sounds – were they gunshots? I railed at my muscles, sluggishly pulling myself to my feet.

Two more reports rang out, the sound seeming to come from the edge of the clearing. This time, I caught sight of the rounds tearing through the bestial creature, leaving splatters of dark ichor across the grass.

I didn’t know how long my protector would stay, or how many shots he had. Turning to face the cage of branched fingers, I swung my foot around and was pleased to see the bars shatter like toothpicks. I kicked several more times, widening the hole and eliciting another roar of pain from the broken monster. The hole was now wide enough for me to duck through, and I wasted no time in escaping the trap. I half-ran, half-stumbled to the edge of the clearing as the last vestiges of the happy fog retreated from my mind.

As I reached the edge of the clearing, I scanned the shadows for my savior. Looking around, I saw one shadow that seemed deeper, more substantial, than the others around it. I stepped forward towards it, but pulled up short when the muzzle of a decidedly-nasty looking automatic weapon emerged to point back at me.

“Don’t move if you value your brains,” came a raspy voice from the shadow. I was more than willing to remain where I stood as a burly, muscular man moved cautiously out of the shadow. He said nothing more, staring at me, rifle still raised to his shoulder. There was little for me to do but stare back, examining the man who would become the closest thing Outworld has to a friend.

I estimated that my mysterious protector was in his late thirties, although his face was obscured by stubble, a black eyepatch, and a filthy-looking handkerchief wrapped around his forehead to hold back a shock of unkempt black hair. He wore a vest of black combat armor, panels wrapped over his hefty shoulders to further add to his bulky appearance. He looked thoroughly imposing, especially with the scowl currently plastered across his features.

“So,” he said at length, biting off the end of the vowel. “Who are you?”

Once again, I strained to remember anything about myself, but once again came up empty. “I don’t know,” I said honestly. The most common phrase in Outworld, it turns out.

“When did you get here?”

“Hold on,” I interjected, momentarily forgetting the situation. “I don’t even know where ‘here’ is!” In response, the man simply adjusted his grip conspicuously on the assault rifle in his arms. My burst of outrage deflated rapidly. “About two days ago,” I added. “I think. The whole day/night cycle seems to be kind of wonky here.”

The man lowered his weapon at this response, and I took the opportunity to grab a quick breath. “A newbie,” he said. I couldn’t tell if the emotion in his voice was disgust, resignation, frustration, or some combination of the three. “Well, allow me to be the first to welcome you,” he said, briefly adopting a false air of jollity.

“Welcome to where?”

The man spread his arms wide, gesturing with the assault rifle at the trees around us. “Outworld,” he said simply. “A whole new world, going on forever, filled with all sorts of wonderful sights and unique creatures, like the one you just met. “ He dropped the act, and spoke the most honest words I have ever heard another human being utter.

“You’re going to hate it here.”

Will he?  Perhaps the next chapter will be revealing . . .

[Outworld] No Longer Alone

Previous Chapter.  And of course, here’s your musical accompaniment for this chapter.

So here I was, trapped in some oversized forest with no idea where or who I was. And what had I brilliantly decided to do?  Start walking away from my only landmark. Brilliant, I know.

I walked for a long time. I couldn’t see the sun, and although there were periods of darkness, they didn’t seem to be the same length. Sometimes the darkness would last for hours, other times it felt like mere minutes. Later on, 

I learned that different places in Outworld have different days. Just another bit of unfamiliarity in this place.

As best I can tell, I walked for about two days before anything changed. There were pools of water here and there at the roots of the massive trees, and my thirst quickly overcame my concerns about disease. The gnawing hunger was slowly growing, but I was able to ignore it.

I was struggling to make my way over the humped roots of an especially large tree when I spotted a small clearing just ahead. Finally, a change in the scenery!  Throwing one leg over the root, I hurried forward.  There was even sunlight entering the clearing through a hole in the trees above!  To my gloom-adjusted eyes, it seemed like a blinding heaven.

Arriving at the edge of the clearing, I paused for a moment before stepping forward into the tall, gently waving grass.  In the middle of the clearing, a figure was sitting atop a large rock.  The light was still overwhelming my eyes, but I squinted to see what details I could.

The figure appeared to be a young girl, clothed in a simple white dress.  Her blonde hair hung in waves, and she was smiling happily.  I guessed that she couldn’t be older than six or seven years.  She was gazing off into the distance, looking towards the far side of the clearing.

I felt a wave of paternal instinct surge through me.  Who had abandoned this girl, this angel, out here in this empty forest?  Who would leave her behind?  As I stepped forward to comfort her, a small part of my mind wondered if I had perhaps been a father, before awaking that first day.  Perhaps that was from where my protective instinct arose.  Sorry, still no answers there.

But that day, I ran forward without concern into that clearing.  My arms were open.  What for?  Haven’t the foggiest idea.  Maybe I was going to sweep her up in a hug, maybe I was going to protect her from all the horrors that I would eventually discover lurking out in Outworld.  But all I knew was that I was happy – no, that the child would make me happy.  That I would only be happy as long as I was with her, that I would do anything to protect her, to keep her happy, even if it meant my own demise.  

As I approached, she turned to smile at me.  Her smile was even brighter than the beams of sunlight.  There was no trace of fear in her expression, only serenity.  For that moment, as we were about to touch, I felt fulfilled.  For that moment, the last moment in a very long time, there was no trace of worry or confusion in my mind.

And then she reared up to strike.

Suddenly, through the haze of brilliant sunlight, she was growing taller, stretching, elongating, unfolding.  The folds of the white dress opened up, and the inside was blood red and lined with bladed fangs.  Her arms grew impossibly long and thin, wrapping around behind me like a cage.  Mind clouded with the fog of happiness, I couldn’t fathom what was happening.  Her mouth stretched, the bottom jaw falling away to reveal a hole, dark and red, reaching out for me . . .

Don’t stop now, go on to the next chapter!

[Outworld] Awakening

Author’s note: I think a lot of stories could use some musical accompaniment, to listen to as you read.  Here’s the song for this story.

There is one activity, I can guarantee you, that every person on earth does immediately after waking up.  That activity is checking their memory – trying to determine how they got there, what they were doing before they fell asleep, and what they need to do now.  Waking up and finding that memory missing, having no knowledge of where you are, how you got there, is one of the scariest feelings I know.

At least, I thought it was scary once upon a time.  I’ve seen much worse since then.  Welcome to Outworld.

I can still remember that first morning, waking up there.  Here.  I couldn’t tell you how long ago it was, though.  Could’ve been a few weeks, more likely a lifetime.  Time and space are funny in Outworld.

I opened my eyes, and for a moment felt the brief sense of confusion that every person feels before they remember where they are.  But that time, for me, that confusion never faded.  At that moment, I couldn’t tell you where I was, couldn’t tell you the date, couldn’t even tell you my name.  I still can’t, for that matter.  There’s still not much I can tell you about myself.

As I sat up and gazed around, still searching my head for something that wasn’t there any longer, if it had been there at all, I realized that I was sitting on an old sailing ship.  Well, half of one, anyway.  The prow of an old three-masted frigate was nestled into the earth at the foot of a massive tree; a god’s knife had cleanly sheared away the back half of the ship.  As I sat up, my movement sent a small barrel tumbling over the edge to land with a thump on the forest floor below.

Nothing made sense.  I climbed awkwardly to my feet.  I was dressed in a set of sturdy work boots, a pair of Levis, and wearing a North Face jacket.  That’s what the labels said, at least.  The canopy of leaves, seemingly miles above my head, tinted the world in shades of green.  For as far as I could see, massive trees reached up into the gloom.  Looking at the nearest of these trunks, I guessed that twenty men could not wrap their arms around its girth.

Well, there were coils of rope still on the decks, and I threw one over the side, lowering myself down to the spongy moss below.  Once my feet were upon the ground, I sat for a while in the penumbra of shadow cast by the ship, trying in vain to remember.  Nothing.  Not even a name.  As I sat, the shadows shifted around me, but I couldn’t tell what time it was.  The sun was obscured by the trees above, and only diffuse shafts of weak light filtered through to the forest floor.

Eventually, there was nothing left to it.  I stood up, stretching my limbs.  What direction?  I turned in a circle, but the woods all looked the same.  Eventually, I decided to head out in the opposite direction of the ship.  I figured maybe I’d find the other half, the stern, wherever it might have been left behind after being sliced in twain.  Just maybe there’d be some answers there.

Looking back now, I shouldn’t have bothered trying to make sense of what had happened.  I’ve learned that there’s darn little sense to be found in this place.  Just when you think you’ve seen the weirdest thing, something worse is waiting around the corner.  But that’s life in Outworld.

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