by TINMAN 4000
What happened to Ferren?
| Please do not read this unless you've read part one: "The End of Time" by TINMAN 4000 . Otherwise it would not make any sense.
"Where's Ferren?" A child asked as we entered the camp. I knew instantly that it was his son and I could tell he already knew the answer. He was prepared for this day to come, yet it came unexpected. I stood in front of him, he was a tall, striking image of Ferren. I leaned forward and hugged him, only then did he begin to cry a loud, strained sob. He held me until he fell asleep and I carried him to his tent and laid him in his cot, he would wake up hoping it had been a dream, that his father would have survived and came home. Grief is a merciless tide. I left the kid in his tent and went off to my own. I walked through the maze of tents, one of them was open, it was Ferren's. Karen sat inside, holding a fur pelt. She was crying.
"I loved him." She said through her silent tears. "I would've never admitted it, but I did."
I came in and sat next to her on the cot.
"He was a lot like you when he came here, curious." She said, shaking her head. "Then he became a leader. He always had that kind of.... aurora. Ya know? If you believe in that sorta thing."
I chuckled. "Yeah, I only knew him for a little while, but he seemed like the guy who knew all the answers."
She chuckled too. "Yeah he did." She paused for a while, then she frowned. "But he was acting odd today. Wasn't he?"
I nodded. "I guess he seemed quiet. Even quieter than Derek."
"Yeah, he was an interesting fellow, wasn't he?" she said, her eyes starting to close and her neck relaxing.
"I think you should get some sleep." I said. She nodded silently and laid down on the cot, I slid a pillow under her head as she fell asleep, she didn't notice when I left. I came into my own tent and put my bag under my cot. The crystal floated in, its slow, pulsating glow was a blue shade.
"I know I haven't given you a name yet, I'll think of one tomorrow." I said, I could tell it understood. "I don't know what to do." tears finally came. "I may have to spend eternity here and surviving for just a few days is nearly impossible!" I sighed. I knew I had to sleep before the world is destroyed. "I don't know if you sleep, but you may have to dim down a bit so I can sleep." In response, it flashed twice before darkening and sinking to the ground. I laid down on my cot and closed my eyes, my head was still swimming with thoughts when I fell asleep.
I fell to the hard, tile floor, gasping and coughing, I rolled onto my back and looked up at the ceiling, the smell of anesthetic filled my nostrils. I was at St. Luke's hospital. but why was I here and not the cemetery?
"Geez, do you wake up like that everyday?"
I flinched and twisted around to look at the source of the voice, it was Ferren, healthy, bright-eyed, and alive. Sitting on a chair.
"Ferren?" I asked, getting up. "You're alive?"
"More alive than ever." He said with a grin. Something about him felt malicious.
"How'd you survive the End Demons?" I asked, his grin grew wider.
"Taylor, there are a lot of things I need to tell you, and it may very well go against everything you know about Heure De Fin." his tone was odd, playful, and almost otherworldly.
"Screw that! We need to get out of here before the End Demons come!" I yelled and made for the door.
"Stop!" He screamed and I suddenly felt my body being forced onto the bed. My entire body felt as if it were vibrating to the point it felt numb. Ferren stood and calmly walked over to the bed, his voice was soft. "Now, before you rudely interrupted me, we may now continue our little conversation."
"How.....are......you...doin' this?" I strained to say.
"Right! We'll start there." He said, my jaw clenched tighter and my teeth grinded together. "You see, Taylor, when reality is screwed up like this, it becomes easily manipulated. You may have even done it before without even noticing it." He leaned in closer and whispered. "I've been practicing it behind their backs." He stepped back and faced the window that showed a devastated Duluth,"That's how only a few people ever left Heure de Fin. I put a powerful spell on the End Demons that made anyone who has seen one to immediately forget about leaving." He turned to me again. "End Demons are misunderstood creatures, because they're not Demons at all, they are our salvation!"
I used all the energy I could muster to shake my head.
"No, you don't agree?" He said, disappointed. "Think about it, Taylor, they've already given us immortality, haven't they? But they want to give us so much more!" His eyes lit up with passion and delight. "Don't you see, Taylor, they want to give us everything! A new universe where we are Gods!"
He paused and took a deep breath. "Now, I didn't want to hurt you, I'm actually quite fond of you. I want you to be on my side when I create this new universe. But not yet, not until you see my side." He promptly left the room, slamming the door behind him without touching it. Suddenly the force confining my body released and I scrambled out of the bed and onto the floor. I forced my wobbly legs to lift me up and towards the door. I opened it only to find a brick wall. When I pushed my hand against it, it was totally solid. I turned to the window, but what once took up most of the wall was now a tiny foot-by-foot window high above the floor. I sat down on the bed where my crystal floated patiently, but it was still glowing red from the last encounter. I pulled my bag out from under the bed and pulled out my notebook to rewrite the entries that were screwed up when the crystal floated in front of my face and flashed angrily, scattering red sparks all over the floor. I knew what it meant: do something.
"I am a writer, a journalist, I'm supposed to record events like this, not be a part of them. I'm not some sort of a hero." I sighed as tears came down my face. I looked up at the crystal and as it began to turn blue. "I wasn't made for this." I looked down as the crystal floated back and drifted to the floor. I continued to write until the small coffee can of water on the floor began to rattle. It began spilling out white sparks and arcs of white electricity and a hand reached out to pull a body out that wore a white skull mask, spilling water everywhere.
"Ghost?" I asked as he pulled his mask off to cough up a bunch of water. Lightning continued to trail from him to the ground as if he were a thundercloud. "Is that you?"
"Taylor." he said, standing up. "It's been awhile. You've always called me Ghost, and I've always called you Steve." He looked down at his sparking hands. He was the most clear-headed I have ever seen him. "And if I am a ghost, consider this as me moving on." he kneeled down to look at me face-to-face. "You helped me move on, now I can help you defeat that Devil."
"How?" I asked, not questioning weather I was going to or not.
He grinned and the lightning became more frequent and rapid, crackling loudly. "Use my disguise. Defeat Ferren. And maybe then you can move on too." He stood tall, extending his arms out and suddenly exploded into a flash of blinding white light with a boom.
As my vision returned, I found the brick wall still solid and the window still small. The crystal was darting around, flashing from yellow to white. So much for helping me. The crystal whizzed around me, trailing yellow light.
"What's wrong with you?" I said. Then I had a sudden idea. "Wait, can you find my friends?" It stopped and bounced up and down in the air before darting out the window, leaving me in the dark.
I managed to find a lamp that took about an hour to get to full brightness and continued to write as fast as I could while I waited for the crystal to come back. The door opened abruptly and I instinctively shoved my notebook into my bag.
"How's everything in here?" He asked casually. "I thought I'd stop by to see how you're doing."
"Things can't be too good when you're held hostage by a psycho." I snapped.
He smiled as he sat down cross-legged, facing me. "Some of the greatest minds in the world were thought to be crazy."
"Like H. H. Holmes?" I asked mockingly.
"Not quite." He frowned. "His goal was to take lives, I aim to extend them."
"How do you know about H. H. Holmes?" I asked. "He wasn't around in your time."
"A while after I arrived, I started to read history books." He was smiling again. "I wanted to learn more about what happened, in my future." He looked up, going back in his memory. "Then I met the End Demons. They showed me my true future, here on Heure de Fin."
"And what's that?" I asked.
"Me, as a God, sitting on a throne of gold, in a palace higher than the sky itself."
"You're delusional." I said coldly.
He grinned. "I'm not the one who came up with it."
His face turned to a suspicious frown. "Where's your handy little crystal?"
"He's uh...." I thought quickly. "Sleeping."
His expression lightened little. "Alright, I'll trust you. But soon enough you'll trust me, too." He got up and left the room. I gave a sigh of relief when he closed the door. I waited for several minutes and then opened it only to see that the brick wall had reappeared, but this time it was made of solid gold, as a message that wordlessly says: "We could be Gods."
I finished all my journal entries up until the present. So I began to try to find a way out. I moved the bed by the window and looked through it. The beam had still not touched the lake but it was close enough to reflect brilliantly off the surface. The weight of the silence was heavier than I have ever noticed before. But I still heard a faint noise, the sound of distant tapping with an echo. I leapt down from the bed and put my ear to the golden wall where I could hear the tapping clearly. My Morse Code skills are a little rusty, so I could only make out two words: GET BACK. As instructed, I stepped away from the wall and waited until the tapping stopped and I began to notice a part of the wall glowing hot. It heated until it began to drip to the floor. The spot of molten gold slowly moved in an oval shape around the edge of the wall. It fell to the ground with a crash, cracking the tile floor. In the place of the wall stood Karen, holding a large, steaming rifle. Behind her was Derek, Margaret, and the crystal, which turned yellow and whizzed around me happily before stopping at my side.
"It wasn't hard to find you, thanks to your little friend here." She said, stepping into the room.
"Where'd you get that?" I asked, looking at the rifle in her arms.
"I got it from an Omniportal!" She squealed excitedly.
"It's impossibly rare to find two useful items from Omniportals in a row, something is definitely up with the paradox" Derek said, inspecting the golden wall.
"How so?" I asked.
"We've noticed an acceleration of strange events, like the unusual amounts of End Demons and other anomalies" he said.
"I thought those were normal."
"Yes, but now they are even more common, and potentially dangerous." He said. Just before the coffee can, which had been crushed by the wall, popped out the top, flat as paper, spinning several times before turning into a ball and liquefying. "See what I mean?"
"I see, but how could that be dangerous?"
"Not that specifically, I mean this." He said with a dramatic gesture to the gold wall. "Teleporting in your sleep and doors sealing themselves with gold. If the windows sealed themselves, you'd suffocate."
"Oh!" I said, recalling what happened to me. "I need to tell you guys that this was no random anomaly, I was taken here."
The cheerful mood of the reunion went to hell. "By the End Demons?" Karen asked.
"No, it was Ferren." I said. "I don't know what happened, but I think the End Demons are messing with his head or something."
"That's impossible." She said darkly. The sudden change in mood frightened me. "I knew him longer than you have, he would never do anything like that."
"I know what I saw." I said, getting my bag and slinging it onto my back. "I'm not saying he did it on his own, I'm saying he was under the influence of something."
She fell silent and hung her head in thought. Derek broke the silence. "Alright, let's get outta here." Karen nodded in response and lead us down the hall and down the stairs at a fast pace with her rifle pointed forward. When we left the building I caught Karen staring at the sky, my head naturally tilted upward and I saw hundreds of pieces of rock and rubble flying through the sky, circling each other, smashing into others, only occasionally dropping to the ground.
"Gravity spots are all screwed up." Margaret said. "Stay careful, you could get torn to shreds at any moment." Karen raised her gun to fire a bright green beam of energy at a car that was headed straight for us. With a boom the car turned into an End Demon which then turned to wood and exploded.
"This has happened before." She said as she led us past a building that was crushed into a perfect sphere. "Many people were killed...."
"Look out." Derek said, shockingly calm as a large, blue, shelly creature roared and charged at us. Karen raised the gun and melted it's head. The body of the monster went limp and fell into a portal that closed as soon as it fell through.
"Wonder which planet that abomination came from." She said, ducking under a piece of flying concrete. She lead us on and stepped over a puddle of water with a soaked top hat in the middle of it.
She turned and shot at a man in dark robes with a melting face and speaking a strange language, but before the green bolt reached him, he disappeared with a cackle.
"Is that Caesar?" I exclaimed, pointing at a young man in bronze armor and red cape on a panicking horse.
"It's a rare possibility." Karen said, raising her gun.
"Wait, won't we screw up time if you kill him?" I said, recalling whatever science fiction stories I read, some were oddly similar to this.
"Time is already screwed up." Karen said aiming the gun, but before she could fire, a large boulder fell and crushed him, which swelled and contracted as if it were breathing. "Just look at this place, it makes just about as much sense an a Cyriak video."
"I guess so." I said, looking at the carnage of reality around me, but it all suddenly stopped, snapping back to normal Heure de Fin. It was like coming back from a vivid daydream, I didn't even know if it was real or not.
"Thank God, it's over." Derek said, flashing from his adult self to his regular self, his voice changing pitch each time.
"Yes but there may be some aftershocks." Karen said as her hair and fingernails started growing uncontrollably before snapping back several times.
"Gaesh, ligrek micias lotos." Said Margaret, as a little girl. I began to recall journaling things that made sense at the time, but now seemed totally bizzare. I grew dizzy trying to grasp reality and fell onto my back, but everything snapped back to normal again before I hit the ground.
"This is worse than it has ever been before." Karen said shakily, getting up. "I'm afraid Heure de Fin is collapsing, we need to jump into a portal."
"No, we need to stop him." I said, standing up. "He's doing this."
"Ferren?" Derek said. "How could he do this?"
"He's found some sort of way to manipulate the nature of Heure de Fin. He's been doing it since he arrived here, it's why we haven't gone into any portals."
Karen stared at me without the slightest hint of emotion in her eyes. "Then let's stop him."
"He could be anywhere." Margaret said.
Something in the distance caught Derek's eye. "I wouldn't be so sure of that." He pointed to a growing, golden tower in the direction of the cemetery. "He's building his palace."
"Let's go there." I said, the crystal flashed in agreement.
"Yes, but first we need a bigger team." Karen said.
She led us back to camp and we got out all the weapons we could find and began handing them out, grenades, swords, axes, and machine guns were distributed out among all the camp members who agreed to come. Derek Gave his gun to another kid and got out a grenade launcher, I traded my pistol for a light machine gun and Karen got an unusual gun that seemed to shoot syringes for Margaret.
"We can use the drugs we got at the hospitals in this." She explained as she loaded it. She stood up in front of the armed crowd. All of their attention went to her. "You all probably knew Ferren in some way, this is a small community." She told them. "I'm sorry to say it, but Ferren has sided with the End Demons and he has some control over the nature of Heure de Fin, we may have no chance against him, but we need to try, now I'm not making any of you do this so, if you want, you can set your weapon down and return to your tent."
Over half of them left.
"I guess this will do." She said with a shug. "So we will be storming that golden tower in the distance, we don't know what's in there, so be ready for anything." She looked to make sure they were still paying attention. "Several of you have grenades, these will be used to barricade and trap whatever's in there so we can pass, any objections?"
The crowd stood silent.
"Good" She said, picking up a round grenade. "You are to use only these round ones, any others are shrapnel-based, which will be of no use to us. You will follow Derek here, and you'll go first. And for all of you that have the heavy-hitter weapons will follow closely
behind with Margaret here, the rest of you will follow Taylor and I." She looked around once more. "Are there any questions?"
"What do we do when something goes wrong?" A native man asked.
"When something goes wrong, which will no doubt happen, I expect you to use the instincts that have kept you alive here for so long." She said to the crowd. "Anything else? Good. Let's go."
Without allowing them to respond, she began to organize them into their respective groups. People gathered around me, eyeing the crystal, which floated by my ear, humming softly. Karen tapped my shoulder.
"I'm going with Margaret's group, I figured I have more of a heavy-hitter weapon." She said, gesturing towards her large energy rifle. "Just follow my group, trust your instincts, and you'll be fine." She left without letting me say anything as I looked around at the expectant faces around me.
The large group filed out of the stadium and started towards the gold tower, which now curled and waved like a colossal blade of grass. The long line of people weaved through the rubble-filled streets like refugees leaving their home country.
"I've heard of you." A girl said, walking up beside me. "A lot of us have."
"Really?" I said sarcastically.
"Yep." She said. "You're sorta famous here, coming out of nowhere and all these weird things start happening."
"I thought weird things are normal here." I said, the crystal turned white as we got closer to the tower.
"Well, yes." She said, crossing her arms over her sweater and rubbing her arms. "But not this weird, not this often."
"Are you cold?"
"What?" She asked. "Oh, yes I'm always cold. That's why people call me Chilly Milly."
"It's because there was a draft in my house the night the world went under. And since you probably know that the state that people fall asleep in is the same state they wake up in every day in Heure de Fin, I am forever cold." She said with a shudder. "We call it your temporal curse."
"When I wake up I'm gasping for breath, but I'm not doing it constantly. So why then are you always cold?"
"Well I guess for me it's different." She said grudgingly. "But at least I wasn't sick or had to go to the bathroom or anything, then this place would actually be hell."
"Yeah I guess so." I said when suddenly all the features around me me melted into the ground. Buildings, hills, and mountains were now nothing but a featureless plane. There was nothing but the ground, the sky, and the writhing tower.
"He knows we're here." Someone behind me whispered grimly. The group continued in silent dread. Until Derek reached the base of the tower which was made of small, gold bricks. As he reached out to touch it, the tower snapped straight up, making several people jump and someone accidently fired.
"Settle down!" Karen bellowed. "And prepare yourselves, for this could be the end of Heure de Fin as we know it."
Everyone seemed to freeze at the sound of these words, as if everyone seemed to collectively ask themselves: "Are we really doing this?"
When no one said anything Derek spoke up. "We are humanity, aren't we?" His prepubescent voice chirped, but the intelligence in his voice made him sound clear and strong. "We have lived for thousands of years, if not more, and we have invaded each other's lands, broken covenants, and hunted disciples. We've lied to each other, stole from each other, and declared war each other." He stopped to take a breath, all eyes were on him. "And now we're here, finally united. We've achieved our ultimate goal; world peace. But why stop now? We haven't even been able to do anything with our newfound unity. But I can imagine the possibilities. There is very little chance we'll make it, but in the end, it will be worth it." This seemed to bring everyone to their senses. Derek looked up to see a small hatch. "I will open this hatch, but it is your choice to come with me."
"Damn." Milly said under her breath. "That kid always surprises me."
"But how is he supposed to get up there?" I asked, looking at the hatch, which was at least ten feet high.
"I don't know." She said, grinning. "But I have a feeling he's gonna make it."
Derek turned away from the crowd and walked toward the tower. When he was close enough to touch it, he was suddenly forced to the tower. The entire crowd gasped, but he stood up, still fixed onto the tower, and walked up to the hatch.
"What's the matter? It's nothing you haven't seen before." he said before opening the hatch and diving through.
"Well that worked." Milly said, breaking the silence that followed.
"Well c'mon then!" Karen said, running on the side of the tower and jumping through the hatch. The group followed reluctantly.
"You first." Milly said after the other two groups went through. I let myself get forced to the tower and I stood over the opening, which showed nothing but darkness and faint colored lights. I sucked in a deep breath before jumping through.
The inside of the tower was filled with nothing but a black, empty void. The lights swirled and darted around me. It was quiet, peaceful. It took me a while to notice that I couldn't feel my body, did I even have one? I panicked, was this a trap? Did Ferren make a tower that was just a portal to another dimension and watch as we blindly jump through? How could I have been so stupid?
You're not stupid, you know Ferren can mess with your mind.
I should have left when I could.
You can't stop now.
I don't really have a choice though. I'm trapped here forever.
Not forever, you're almost to Ferren's palace.
The lights are getting brighter. Who are you, anyway?
See you around, Steve.
The lights swarmed around me, forming into shapes and objects. My vision cleared and my senses returned. I was in a corridor made of gold bricks, I breathed a sigh of relief. I looked to my crystal floating beside me. It was white, but turned yellow when it noticed me.
I held my gun in front of me as I crept down the hallway. I rounded the corner, the corridor opened up to a large room full of people, my people. I searched through the crowd to find Karen.
"What's the scoop, Karen?" I asked.
"What?" she said, turning around. "Oh, you made it, we're waiting for the rest of the group."
"They should be here soon." I pointed at the large double doors labelled 'Room One' at the end of the room. "What's that?"
"Where we go next." she said. I shot her a puzzled look. "Ferren already knows we're here, we have no choice now but to follow his lead and hope he lets us get close to him."
"Not much we can do, huh?" I said with a sigh.
"Not when you're fighting a God." she said grimmly. "We really have no chance, don't we?"
"It's like what Derek said, it's worth a try."
"Yeah I guess so." She looked around. "Looks like everyone's here. Go do a headcount for your group and we'll start heading through the door."
"Right away, boss." I said with a chuckle.
The massive doors groaned as several people forced it open, revealing daylight shining through a forest of large, leafy trees growing from moist dirt. As we filed through the door, I realized what they were; grass. Many blades of grass.
"Oh my God." I heard Karen say from her group. "I don't know how Ferren would've thought of this. Hey Taylor! Come up here."
"Yes?" I asked when I jogged up to her. "So we're tiny now, then?"
"Not just tiny, look." she pointed up to where I saw a mountain-sized man sitting on his cot, writing in a journal. It was me.
"So we're tiny, and sent back in time." I managed to say.
"SHH" she said, pointing to the giant me again. I looked up again to see Giant Taylor turn his head and set down the notebook, listening. He picked up his camera and ran out of the tent, his footsteps sounding like distant thunder. We followed him as fast as we could through the grass until we were outside. In the distance were a group of giant people, fighting an End Demon. Karen sat down on a rock. "He sent us back to the day you arrived. I'm not quite sure why, though." The sound of distant wailing caught her attention. Her eyes widened, she had an idea. "He sent us back, to before he was this powerful."
"So if we stop him now..."
"He wouldn't be able to create the tower." She said.
"Great plan!" I said enthusiastically, but then I frowned. "But what if he's thought of this?"
"Then he'd be expecting us."
"Alright let's go!" she said to the crowd and continued jogging through the grass, towards the screaming tent.
"I wonder why he did this." Milly said with a shudder as I re-joined my group. "It seems odd, ya know?"
"Boredom I guess..." A gold spear flew past me and sliced through a blade of grass.
"GET DOWN!" I instinctively yelled, forcing Milly to the ground. The air filled with the sounds of gunshots and the slow whooshing sound of grenades exploding. I crawled behind a rock and peered over it to see a golden knight, riding an ant. A barrage of bullets ricocheted off its armor, barely denting the gold. The knight pulled out a large sword out of nowhere and raised it, ready to strike when a green bolt of energy blasted through its head and it fell limp to the ground. The ant squirmed out from under the knight's legs and skittered off into the dense grass. Karen walked cautiously up to the Knight's rigid body, poking it with the red-hot barrel of her gun.
"Carry on." she said emotionlessly, re-joining the group. We continued on through the grass forest, more vigilant than before, towards Ferren's tent.
When we came near the entrance of the tent, a bolt of lightning struck the ground in front of it, revealing Ferren, the same size as all of us, grinning as an army of golden knights lined up behind him.
"Why are you doing this?" Karen demandes.
"For fun." he said plainly. "There's two more gates, and if some of you survive, I'll let you join me." He vanished with a flash of light as the knights charged forward.
"RUN!" Karen screamed, firing at them. The entire group scattered in all directions, diving behind rocks and weaving between blades of grass. One knight grabbed her neck and lifted her off the ground, forcing her to drop her gun.
"No!" I yelled as the knight pointed its sword at her chest. I knew I had to do something. But what? My eyes were drawn to the gun. I lunged for it, latching my hand onto it and raising it up to slice the knight's arms off.
"Thanks." Karen said, prying the gold arm off her neck.
"No problem." I said, blasting the armless Knight's head off and handing the gun back to her. "It's very handy, you know."
"Yes, but it can't fight them all off at once." She said, shooting another one. "We need to hide."
"I agree." I said, sprinting to a distant tent. I was darting through the thick grass when my leg got caught on a stone and I fell to the ground, scraping my hands in the dirt.
"Ow." I said, pulling small pebbles out of my palm.
"Taylor?" A voice said from behind a rock.
"Milly? Are you okay?" I asked.
"Yeah, I think so." she said shakily, standing up.
"We need to hurry, or they'll find out where we are." Karen said, pushing us gently before we continued sprinting to the tent
Drenched in dew, we squeezed through the tent's entrance.
"So what do we do now?" I asked Karen.
"We need to find the others." she said, looking out through the cloth opening. "But I don't know how we're gonna do that."
"We could use the crystal." Milly said. It flashed at its mention.
Karen nodded. "Yes, but I think it could be easily spotted."
"Crystal, can you do anything about that?" I asked. It bobbed a few times and disappeared, but the light it provided stayed until it reappeared.
Karen's eyes widened. "Did you know it could do that?"
"Nope." I said, watching it whiz around happily.
"Crystal, can you find everyone and lead them here?" she said. The crystal bobbed again and darted out of the tent, leaving us in the dark.
"So now we just wait?" I asked.
"Yep." she said, leaning on a grass blade. I sat on a pebble and gave a heavy sigh, I wondered why Ferren would do something like this, or if it was even real.
And there I was, questioning reality again.
"What was it like, before all this?" I asked to get my mind off things.
"Disappointing." She said quietly. "We always expect the future to be some grand new world, but that's rarely the case. We did have a few golden ages, sure, but in the end Malus wins."
"There was a war." Milly said quietly. "The kind of war that is fought with nothing but the will to survive."
I sensed Karen nod in the darkness. "There were only a few countries that weren't conquered by Malus. We survived for over 25 years. The U.S. became a militaristic nation, I was a medic."
"We were all relieved when it all suddenly stopped, but then we realized what really happened." Milly said. "We don't even know how long we've been here."
The tent was filled with warm, purple light, Karen stood up and Derek appeared in between us, winded. The sleeves of his yellow jacket were torn, revealing bloody scrapes underneath.
"Jesus, Derek, what happened?" Karen said, rushing up to him, brushing dirt away from his wounds.
"They attacked my group." He said, kneeling. "They got two of us, I barely managed to escape."
"Oh my God." She gasped. "We've ran out of time."
"I have an idea." I said suddenly. "Karen, what time is it?
"Almost five." She said. "Why do you ask?"
I smiled. "We need to move fast, Crystal, can you lead everyone to the edge of camp?"
The crystal spun and disappeared as purple streams of light branched from the spot and flowed out of the tent.
"C'mon, we need to hurry." I said, running through the tent flap.
"Wait, where are you going?" Karen called.
"Follow the light and stay ahead of the knights!" I said as she began to follow. "And keep your gun handy."
As we ran through the grass, jumping over pebbles and ducking under twigs, I started to see more streams of light leading the other groups.
"We're almost there!" I called back when I saw the orange emergency tape far above me.
"About time, they've almost caught up to us." Karen said, shooting the knights behind us.
"Good." I said as the group organized themselves at the edge of the field past the area surrounded with orange tape.
"Wait, why are we here? We're cornered!" She said, joining the group but still shooting.
"Wait for it..." I said as everyone looked up.
A missile was drifting down to the grassy area.
"Oh, I get it now." Karen said softly.
The missile hit with a slow whooshing sound as it broke apart and engulfed the knights with flames. The fire grew into a wall that drifted towards us, stopping at the orange tape.
"So, what do we do now?" Milly asked, noticing that the explosion blocked our way out.
"We wait until it clears." Karen said, sitting down, facing away from the explosion. "Nice going Taylor."
"We still have time." I said in an effort to cheer her up.
"Time doesn't exist." She said bluntly.
"Exactly, if we're lucky, time might not be moving where Ferren is."
She let out a cold and quiet laugh. "You are quite an optimist."
"Are we even sure we want to kill Ferren?" Milly said, blocking the light from her eyes as she scooted closer to the explosion and pulled her hood off. "I mean, he was our friend, shouldn't that have counted for something?"
Karen was silent for a long time. Somehow I could tell that she was remembering all of the moments she's had with him. A feeling told me that there were a lot.
"I know he was our friend but...." She paused. I could see her eyes shimmering in the light of the explosion. "But when I saw his eyes, the man I knew for so long wasn't there. They were so...... empty."
"The fire is clearing!" Derek shouted hopefully as the light began to dim. We stood up, waiting for the heat die down. We pushed shrapnel out of the way as we walked through the crater. I was scanning the scorched earth for any sign of the knights when a flash of gold light shone from a large object in the center.
"Wait, what's that?" I said, pointing at the round shape.
Karen raised her gun. Her eyes were still puffy and wet. "I don't know, we'll circle around and get a closer look."
As we got closer, I noticed that there were golden roots branching out to different parts of the crater from the object.
Then we saw what it was.
"It's shaped like a skull." Derek said, stepping closer to it.
"How did this happen?" I said, reaching out to touch it's perfectly smooth surface.
"Wait, it might still be hot." Karen said.
But it was so cold that my hand instantly began to hurt.
"We should get going, before it eats us or something." Karen said, leading the group away from the skull.
When we made it out of the crater and onto the grass again we heard Ferren's distant screaming.
The plan will continue.
As we approached the tent, his screams grew louder and louder. Karen stopped at the entrance and turned around.
"We all knew Ferren in some way." She said, making sure her voice was heard over the screams. Amazingly, we could hear her perfectly. "To some of us, he was just a familiar face." She looked at Milly, Derek, Margaret, the crystal and I. "But to the rest of us, he was our brother and our friend. He was the person we came to when we felt lost, frightened or confused."
She paused, and, for a moment, there was total silence, despite the screams. "But good things never last." She pushed the tent flap open and people began reluctantly pouring through with weapons raised.
But something wasn't right.
When we entered we didn't find a giant version of Ferren, writhing in pain, but a smaller version of him, wearing that stupid smile.
"Wow I always thought that you all were feeble-minded, but I didn't know you were so stupid to think that killing my past self would keep me from building my tower." He said with a strange laugh. "But you were clever enough to do that little trick with the missle, and for that, I'll let you continue to gate two, but this time things won't be so..... dumbed down."
The tent around us faded into gold bricks but Ferren stayed as he was. "Now, in all honesty, I want you to succeed. I want all of you to be gods with me, to make reality ours!" He sighed. "Well I thought you'd be more enthusiastic about the idea, because you all know how hard it is to live in Heure de Fin, now imagine if it could be as wonderful as we choose. Just think about that as you go through this next room." He disappeared with a flash of light.
Everyone stayed silent for a while and then began to stir. Karen sighed before screaming DAMN IT across the entire room.
Karen took the head count as everyone checked their ammo and tended to their wounds. I watched Derek clean the scratches on his arms as Milly huddled in the corner next to him. Karen tapped my shoulder.
"How bad is it?" I asked her.
"Bad, we're missing eleven, forty two are wounded." She said, looking at all the hurt faces. "Taylor, I'm afraid that they'll be too scared to continue."
I put a hand on her shoulder. "Karen..... They trust you, there isn't a dimension they wouldn't follow you into."
"Okay, we'll wait here for as long as we need." She said when the wall in the back of the room suddenly jerked forward several inches. "Oh, great, now he's impatient."
Panic filled the room, I could tell he was enjoying watching us squirm.
"Alright, everyone move out, single file." She called out as people swarmed around the giant gold door. I looked past it and saw nothing but eerie darkness. The feeling of dread flowed through my body and everyone stopped dead in their tracks. The room was filled with stone-cold silence as everyone stared into the black void.
The back wall groaned and creaked, everyone came to their senses and began filtering out through the void, but some people seemed to hang back reluctantly. Each time I saw someone go into the void and smash themselves out of existence, I was overcame with the strange feeling of grief that hurt in the pit of my stomach. My eyes filled with tears that I didn't understand. My legs grew weak and I fell to my knees. Karen looked down at me, I could tell that she felt the same thing.
"I--I--I think we need to go." She said through her tears. "I know it hurts, but..... we can't stay here, we have to face it."
"Okay, but we have....to go.....together."
"Yes, yes of course." She said, grabbing my hand. I pulled myself up on top of my legs and walked with Karen to the edge of the void. "I hope I'll see you again, Taylor."
"And if you don't, I'll remember you." I said as we stepped through the darkness.
That was supposed to be the end.