Story excerpt, one of sixteen found inside the pages of the short story compendium
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The Questing Man
“How could you forgive him?” The voice echoed from within his mind. Despite the repetitive query his body continued its labour, climbing ever upwards towards a peak that seemed hidden behind the clouds of a damp mist. The voice asked him again as he bit down on his lower lip, the cold embracing him as he reached higher and higher. Water pelted across his being as he struggled with his grip it was a rain of both intensity and inconsistency, the outcome was the same however, he fell damp beneath its flow. Though he was not naked, his flesh was exposed to the cold elements. His muscles though aching as they throbbed continued to pull and claw his bulk onwards as he ascended slowly despite the height and distance. Rock and moss that had never felt the warm living touch of a man remained wet and lifeless beneath his many prying grips. Upon his back he dearly carried an ancient tool of both symbolic pride and murderous intention, a heralded sword of forged perfection rested in its scabbard.
The voice asked him one more time its echo no longer haunting, instead it tormented him. “I have not!” He declared as he pulled himself up onto a ledge, there was no more mountain to climb. He took in a cool lung of thin air before he looked over the edge, he could not see the ground from where he was. He could only appreciate the distance of his climb as a dizziness trembled throughout him, his wits and senses polluted by the effort and height of his exertion.
He cautiously explored his new footing, flat stone unpolished though perfectly cut provided him with a sure place to step, large stone seats and tables randomly decorated the distance, no man or beast that he knew could dare climb onto them, let alone fill them with any comfort. The stone shapes of utility seemed to him as strange monuments. He looked around, stopping only when he found dangling coloured cloth its usage and scale uncertain from where he stood. Instinct instilled by years of conflict and seasoned fury ensured that he remove his sword from his back. Its weight in his hands offering him little comfort as he strolled onwards, the sharp iron glinting in the sunless light.
Nearing one of the monuments, a table of bland ivory, he looked up one of its many legs. He could see the netting of webs and decayed insects as they dangled long ago dead. Hiding behind one of the tables long and thick legs, he felt the shiny surface as it pressed against his arms. It was unlike any ivory that he had ever felt, it seemed like a dusty marble though its look and texture defied how it felt. His mind no longer concerned with his initial quest or the tormenting mantra of the questioning voice. Instead he was focused on the peculiar surroundings that he had now found himself among.
As he walked beneath the many legs of the giant table, he found himself among vibrantly coloured shapes and objects, they lay strewn among obscure and pagan words impressed on each of their sides. He caressed one of the shaped blocks, it was wooden and painted over with faded ink. He ran his fingers along the grooves of the lettering, up and down, he broke contact from the block when out of his periphery he saw a strange figure approach in the distance.
The figure was clad in all green, a strange costume of neither knight nor peasant, the all green attire was a contrast to his own barbaric fur and leather padded vest, while he was exposed in his legs and arms, the strange green figure was covered all over except for face and hands. The green figure yelled out an indistinct challenge. He barked back at it with his own tongue, his words stern though harsh. An explosion erupted nearby throwing him heavily onto the stone ground. He cursed as he lifted himself upwards, his sword heavily hanging in his hand as he walked towards the green figure who continued to jerk menacingly towards him. Another explosion erupted nearby as the strange green figure fumbled with a long black cylinder, the very cylinder that seemed to be causing the explosions.
He began leaping with long strides towards the green figure, once he was close enough he swung his sword hard its blade slicing deep into the green figures body, it was a man not unlike himself both were of similar size and scale. The green man died from the swords cutting blow, he felt no remorse, he had taken life before. Turning away from the green corpse he sought more answers. Stepping across the stone floor he found a great lip, below it ran a river of polluted waters and beyond that the tall green blades of an endless jungle canopy. He considered the green expanse to perhaps be the home of the strange green figure that he had recently killed. Upon his conclusion he decided to not enter another’s territory while alone.
A large slobbering beast, covered in hair and with a lengthy tail rushed upon the scene. Its sudden emergence startled him as he rolled away from its on rushing pounce, despite its great size and mass it was quick and moved with speed. As he continued its pursuit of him he dashed towards the long tall legs of the table monument, the hairy beast too near the entire time. Once he had managed to hide among the pillars the beast sought him out, smelling the area as it did so. Hiding behind the thickness of the tables leg he clutched onto his sword, the beast nearing him. It turned the corner, both of their eyes met, a long wet tongue fell from its mouth as it pressed its steaming and fowl smelling mouth close to him, rows of teeth filling its jaw. Swiping at the beast with his sword he cut its tongue, slicing into the thick pink flesh as he did so. The beast backed away yelping in pain with a high pitched cry as it pelted away from him, disappearing with as much suddenness as it had appeared.
Sighing he felt as determined as he was before to continue his quest. Long hours passed as he journeyed along the great lengths of the stone expanse, objects and plants of great scale disfiguring the landscape with as much familiarity as oddity. Eventually he found himself at a great gate, an entrance into a realm that he somehow knew yet was uncertain of its details. Pulling himself up its tall ledge, he found himself upon the lip of the entrance, the interior realm was warm and smelt different to the stone mountain top that he was recently acquainted with.
He found himself passing a room of immense size and unfamiliar strangeness only to open himself up to a corridor of length and height. He continued, he had somehow seen this before he figured, perhaps in some dream. Though he knew that he was on a quest he did not entirely understand the scale and details of it. Only that he was wronged and sought a rectification.
While walking along the sides, he skirted the dirty under growth of the spongy lengths of the furry floor, dust and flakes of decay intermingling to create a putrid top layer only to be disturbed by his every step. He made it to an end palace, another room of immense scale and size. He entered it carefully as loud music cascaded from within. It was repulsive in its melodic ambience, staining his ears with its dull notes and tones. He cursed it though his voice was drowned out by its loudness. The further he entered the large area the more that the music seared at his ears. He cursed some more, in his frustrated rage he noticed a large and tall giant.
“How could you forgive him?” The voice asked once again from within his mind.
The giant turned and looked down at him, its smiled as it did so. Slowly reaching down it reached for him, he braced himself as its large hands wrapped around his waist, with ease it lifted him from the ground and bought him closer to its face. A broad grin opened across its fat and ugly face, it peered in detail across him as he remained still holding his blade in hand ready for his moment.
“I thought I had sold you” The giant muttered as it clutched onto him, reviewing him with a lustful analysis.
The voice whispered from within his mind one last time, “how could you forgive him for betraying you?” His mind spat out his indignation, He was a warrior, a noble born and this beast dared to sell him as some common slave.
“I have not!” He yelled before plunging his blade deep inside of the giant’s eye. The tall beast of a man squealed, reaching with both hands to cover his lost eye the giant dropped him. He felt heavily onto the soft and fluffy ground, the height and impact was not enough to kill him. Lifting himself up he ran for cover as the giant with one eye sought after him, yelling and spitting with rage as it did so. Strange orange balls with the scent of so many banquets fell to the ground to be chased by a cold dark brown liquid that spilled and splashed with a sticky nectar across the soft floor. Some of the dark brown liquid catching him, its sweet tasting juice sprinkling his lips as his tongues instinct flicked across it enjoying the taste despite the moments peril.
He hid beneath mighty objects that he did not understand, across from him he saw naked female flesh imprinted on tall pages of a lost manuscript. The images both aroused and haunted him. The giant yelled before its large hands stumbled nearby, seeking him out with blind determination. Gripping his sword, he hit down repeatedly onto one of the its large fingers, his blows hard but his steel was unable to penetrate to the bone. The gashes that he did deliver however were deep enough to slice and draw blood, again the giant screamed removing its fingers and hand from before him. Glancing one last time at the pages of naked womanhood he ran from the palace and back down the lengths of the great corridor. From behind him the giant wailed with indistinct sentences all that he could hear was the constant repetition of one word “MUM” over and over again the giant called for “MUM”.
He covered the distance of the corridor with surprising speed, his vengeance was satisfied. Memories from before his great climb was now returning to his mind, no longer could he hear the voice ask the same question over but now memories of torment and abuse played repeatedly inside of his mind. He cursed himself that he had not done more to the sadistic giant. He stopped before he could escape the gates of the interior of the giants dwelling. “The others, you have left the others behind”
He turned and looked behind him, he could hear the thumping sounds, the ground shook beneath him. The giant and perhaps another were nearing. A coward would run, a hero would stand and fight he decided. Two large gigantic beastly beings towered over him, the one eyed wailing one and another long haired female. Both squirmed and squealed when they saw him. He stood fast, his blade upright as he awaited their attack. The one eyed giant raised its leg high, with a mighty downward thrust it dropped its bare foot a top of him, defiantly he held his blade upwards. The blow was heavy and hard, though his sword penetrated deep into the foot, it continued downwards crushing him deeply into the ground. The giant squealed, sword deep into his foot, but beneath the blade he lay dead and crushed.
“Mum” echoed the wailing giants voice as he drifted beyond the corporeal torment of his broken body to a place as strange and unfamiliar the journey was dizzying though painless.
He awoke, he was bound around his torso, legs and arms tight hard ropes held him in place. He could not move, he stood upright hanging impressed against a board of sorts. Before him a transparent prison, he could see through it with distorted vision as strange colours filled rows upon rows across from him. He struggled and writhed as best as he could but he was trapped. Hours passed as he remained frozen in his transparent prison when he heard that familiar word again “Mum” it was followed by strange incoherence though the “Mum” was distinct to his ears, even despite being trapped inside of the clear prison. He felt himself and prison rise, a strange weightlessness thudded him about.
He spun strangely from about the place all the while he remained locked against the board, his body strapped firmly in place by the hard bindings. A sudden twist lifted him around so that he could see upwards through the clear and transparent prison, the one eyed giant stared at him, a patch covering his wound. The giant smiled as it stared at him.
“I want this one Mum” it said before throwing him atop of a pile of others, each as trapped and bounded as he was, lost behind transparent prisons of torment and misery