The Alterverse Twenty
The Alterverse Twenty
Starla and I were the only ones left – the two surviving humans after the latest croll attack. We had only existed eleven years after the Greater Being created us at the relics. Back then there were twenty of us in all, just taking a shot at survival here in the Alterverse.
When the Greater Being created us, he sent us out with relic supplies to help us get started with our lives. But those supplies ran out within a few days, just barely enough time for us to find an ample amount of berries and other sources of wild food in the forest beyond.
There were several different animal species in the Alterverse, although none like our own. Most of them were completely harmless…even beautiful. One species however, the croll, hunted us for food. Every few months it seemed like one of us would disappear into the night. Often screams were heard as the person was eaten alive.
We didn’t exactly know what the croll looked like because they only came out at night and were too fast to be seen clearly. No matter what effort we took to protect ourselves they always came. There was nowhere to hide and nowhere to run…until now.
For a long time, perhaps the last five years, three of us remained. But then Casten was taken. It was at that point which Starla and I decided to take the journey back to the relics to visit the Greater Being with hopes that he would protect us. It had always been thought that the croll were afraid of him.
So there I was, standing on a hill watching the sunrise peak its way between the relic structures off in the distance. The third moon was setting at the edge of the sky, while the other two were almost directly overhead. Starla was still asleep by the fire. We had taken turns during the night watching for the croll and my turn was the last of the morning.
As I looked down at her, I couldn’t help but think about the unique feelings I possessed about our friendship. It was strange, something I never felt with any of the others. I always liked talking to her by the stream near the cliffs that overlooked the relics. She never failed to have something to say that made me think about things I had never thought to think about before.
She was also beautiful, much like a flower or a lodna as it flew through the sky. It made me look at her often, but she never seemed to notice. Maybe it was her face, or her eyes, or both. It might have even been her overall appearance. But whatever it was, I had always been drawn to her.
“Starla,” I whispered as I shoved her out of slumber. “Starla, wake up. We need to move.”
Her blue eyes pierced the morning air. “Noven…is everything okay?”
“Yes everything’s fine. But we need to keep moving.” I then helped her onto her feet. “The sun is up, so it’s safe.”
There had never been a croll attack during the day, so that was the time we did all our work and other activities.
“Come on,” I said as I stomped out the fire.
Starla slung her knapsack over her shoulder as I followed suite with mine. The large relics weren’t far. We were already in the midst of the smaller structures that seemed to surround the larger ones that marked our destination.
We walked in silence for several hours. There was nothing to say really, and all we could think about was finding our way to the Greater Being. After all, it was crucial to our survival.
It wasn’t hard to find the structure we emerged from at the time of creation – it was the largest of them all. We had to be careful when we made our way inside because of the broken rocks and other relic ruins that were scattered everywhere.
“The earliest I can remember existing was towards the top in a special room,” Starla said.
“Yes I remember walking down a passageway with the supplies provided to us by the Greater Being. Let’s see if we can find it.”
The search didn’t take long. The passageway turned out to be behind a door marked “STAIRS.”
There was very little light in the passage, so we paused to allow our eyes to adjust to the darkness.
When we were only a small part of the way to the top Starla paused. “Noven, I’m afraid. What if croll are here?”
I put my hand on her shoulder. “Now why would there be croll here? It’s daytime. The sun is up.”
“Yes but not in here.”
I knew she was right. We may as well have been doing this in the dead of night. If the croll were afraid of too much light, they had nothing to worry about here.
There was no reason to add to Starla’s fears, so I did my best to counter them. “The Greater Being lives here. We have nothing to be afraid of.”
No sooner had the words left my mouth when a loud shriek echoed from somewhere above. It sounded distant enough that I knew we were in no immediate danger. Starla looked at me, but didn’t say anything. She trusted me, and with that I knew I was responsible for her life.
“Don’t pay any attention. Perhaps it came from outside.”
“Outside there’s daylight!” she whispered loudly. More shrieks and snarls could be heard overhead.
“Let’s go,” I said. “If they are here, we need to hurry.”
The higher we climbed, the louder the noises became. Even still, Starla never said a word. Once we reached the top, however, a peculiar thing happened: all became silent. A slight draft of air could be felt coming from below.
“Why did they stop?” Starla whispered.
I shrugged, trying to make my own fears invisible. “Maybe it was just a bunch of lodnas that flew away when they sensed our presence. Let’s keep moving.”
We pressed on down a nearby hallway. I wasn’t sure how I knew the way to the special room since I had only been there once before, but it was as if I had visited the place every single day of my life.
“This way,” I said as I turned the knob of the door that led to the room. I wasn’t quite sure how I knew to do that either – it just came to me, as if by instinct. I pushed the door open.
Inside there were plenty of relic machines that lined the walls of the room. I had no idea what they were used for, but one of them blinked a red light when we entered. In the center there was an arch shaped object that appeared to be just large enough for a person to walk under. I was certain that I was dangerously close to knowing what it was.
“Starla do you know what that is?”
“Maybe it’s our way of getting to the Greater Being.”
“Yeah I think you’re right. It doesn’t look anything like the relics we’ve seen before.”
Starla walked over to it. As she examined the arch it seemed to become aware of her presence. Various lights blinked on and off on its side.
I figured I should do the same so I went over to examine one of the other machines in the room. But suddenly, as fast as I turned away, Starla let out a blood curdling scream.
There it was, a croll sinking its teeth into her left hand. I had never seen one before. It was covered with hair like most other animals, but it had white eyes with blood-red centers. Its size was about the same as a human, only it walked on all four legs.
“Help me, Noven!!!” she screamed.
I didn’t spend any time thinking about fighting the croll – I just did it. I jumped onto its back and dug my fingers into its eyes. It shrieked loud enough to hurt our ears as it released her. Fresh blood dripped onto the floor from Starla’s hand.
The croll moved so fast that I was forced to let go. But it didn’t leave the room. I picked up one of the relic machines, the largest I could carry, and threw it into the beast. It fell to the floor motionless, its side crushed by the blow.
I ran over to Starla, even though she was only a few feet away. “Are you all right? How’s your hand?”
Tears dripped from her eyes. She sat down on the floor. “It hurts so bad, Noven.”
“It’s okay. I won’t let you out of my site again. We just need to find the Greater Being and everything will be okay.”
More tears came. “What if he’s not here anymore? What if he left?”
Although that exact question was running through my mind as well, I took special care to hide it from her. “He’s here. I know he is.”
Just then a blinding light flooded the room. When it dimmed there was a bluish green shadow that ran all the way from the top of the arch down to the floor.
“Look, Starla!” I said with excitement. “There he is! That’s how we were created! He sent us out from that object into the Alterverse, and that’s our way back to him!”
A glint of hope twinkled in her eyes. “Should we walk through it?”
“I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.”
“Yes I agree. Let’s go,” she said.
It occurred to me that she would need to be helped to the arch since she was hurt. There was no way I was going to go first and risk her not being able to make it through. “You’re going first.”
“I am?” she asked.
“Yes, you’re hurt. I want to see you through before I go.” I then took her by her good hand and helped her to her feet.
She walked over to the arch and turned around, a sheepish smile on her face. “You’ve always been there for me, Noven. Don’t let that change now. I’ll see you on the other side.”
I laughed. “Yes, Starla. See you on the other side.”
She turned and disappeared into the shadow.
Silence. That’s all there was…just pure, clean silence. I was the only human left in the Alterverse, and once I stepped through there would be none at all. But now that Starla was gone there was only one place for me to go. I smiled and turned to the arch. It stared back at me, inviting me to walk through. “You’re the Greater Being,” I said out loud. I then stepped through.
It was so fast. Everything around me vanished. Suddenly I was in a room almost identical to the special room with the arch. Strange lights glowed from the ceiling and every relic machine was alive. The walls were clean and smooth as opposed to the cracked ruins before. There were other humans there too, each one dressed in some sort of white clothing. In all my memory I had never seen so many humans. There was something comforting about their presence, like a longing in my heart that had finally been satisfied.
Some of them were escorting Starla out of the room. “You’ll need stitches on that hand, Stacy,” I heard one of them say to her.
A man dressed differently than the rest turned to me. “Nathan! Welcome back to the Universe. Are you okay? Stacy had a severe wound on her hand.”
It was at that moment when I remembered everything about who I was and what had happened during the past thirty-seven years of my life.