Chapter 1: The Cave Wall
|“Kill it, Isog!”
“What are you waiting for?”
“Kill it! Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!”
These voices kept screaming in Isog’s head. They didn’t stop. They never stopped. Isog tried to focus on the target as he felt his strong, muscular arms ready. He held his corroded steel spear in his left hand very tightly. Then, he raised this three feet long weapon above his head, walked quietly with his bare feet towards the river. He aimed at the target for a second; then, he powerfully stabbed his spear into this slimy, green serpent’s other head in the water.
This two-headed snake twitched as the other head reached to bite Isog’s right leg. The young man managed to pull his foot up and thrust the other head against the rock.
“We got ourselves dinner!” he proudly exclaimed.
He took the spear out of the calm water. It pierced the snake’s skull while its body hung lifelessly. The other head was crushed like a rotten pear. It was about an arm length and two inches thick, enough for one meal.
Isog was an orphan ever since he could remember. He had been living alone in the middle of a dying forest in the northern mountains. Getting out of the place he had always called home was something he had rarely thought of. Isog had been hunting for food alone all his life. He didn’t even know how old he was or how he managed to survive as a child. All he could remember were the voices inside his head directing him to do things – most of them were helpful, but one kept telling him he'd be better off dead.
You’re useless! You should just throw yourself off a cliff and die!
This one voice sounded like an old frog whom he called Sumpa. He had ignored this voice since it instructed him to make some soup made of wild herbs and had him drink it. It was fortunate that the other three voices squalled at him to throw it away enough for him to jerk out of surprise and spill the soup. He could clearly remember how the grass withered to ashes as soon as the liquid poured on the ground.
Do you still remember that poison? Come on. Let’s do it again! You’re no fun, Isog.
“Shut it, Sumpa!” He always hated this voice. So, sometimes, he just cursed at it and then turned a deaf ear.
He put his slaughtered prey around his neck and walked away from the river towards the graying forest.
The sun started to withdraw its light while tiny raindrops began to fall. Isog ran fast as he could, bumping the rotting gray vines dangling from the dried-up trees on his way. He did this almost every afternoon, so he was already used to it. Some small rocks and surface roots pained his naked feet but he didn’t mind it at all. Soaking wet and cold, there was nothing to trouble him either.
Finally, he stopped as his body dropped on the ground still catching his breath. He had already been running for half an hour now, and he wanted to rest for a bit. He lay down on his back on the wet soil while gazing at the leafless branches of trees in the reddish skies above him.
He wondered about his existence and his purpose – like how the hopeless trees were still standing every day. He felt like his life was one big constant loop and he was trapped for eternity. For a very long time, he insisted to live unaware of his past. He didn’t even know anyone or anything living except the wild snakes and frogs he hunted for food, and the voices in his head.
“I’ve never seen someone who looks like me. I’m too scared of the thought that if I went down to the lowlands, I would see people like me. What if there weren’t anyone like me in the first place? Wait, what if they were not like me? What if I was the serpent they were looking to hunt? And I’m here for the reason that I am supposed to be away?” he kept mumbling to himself.
You’re thinking about it again. You were never alone, Isog. We have raised you like our own, and you have now grown up as a strong young man. Adversities are part of who you are today. You don’t need anyone or... anything.
Isog recognized that soothing voice. He named it Giya. Together with Ig-agaw and Ig-soon, these three had been helping him feel relieved and encouraged.
Well, you have to keep living like we do. Now, stand up and make us dinner. Ig-agaw and Igsoon always spoke in unison. They sounded like a very sweet echo in a cave – always in good harmony.
“Thank you. I can’t imagine how I would live without you guys,” Isog always talked to himself as if he was talking to the voices as real people.
With these loud thoughts in his head, he smiled as he stood up with pride again. He picked up his quarry and spear from the muddy ground. He took a few steps more to the exit of the woods.
The twilight tried to shed its remaining light for Isog. There he saw his moss-covered cave before him. He could see its small opening from afar. He went in and fitted through it as if it was holed for his size. The room of the cave was surprisingly larger than what it seemed outside.
Isog didn't feel anything strange about everything at all since it had been the same things he saw every single day, except for one that had baffled him - those puzzling, mysterious symbols carved on the cave wall across the entrance. For as long as he could remember, he had been living in that cave alone and always thought about what those symbols were and what they meant.
Hey, stop thinking about that. You always get headaches because of it. Now, come on man. We’re hungry. The twin voices spoke again in agreement.
He took his eyes away from the wall as he put his things down.
“You guys are going to die if I don’t hunt,” he chuckled.
He took off his thin clothing made of snakes’ skin covering his lower body. He was naked and cold. So, he hurriedly headed to grab his obsidian rocks and made a spark of fire timely before the darkness swallowed the little light coming from the outside.
He can easily make a big balefire out of these little-dried woods just in seconds.
Are you not tired of hearing these amazingly annoying twins every single time?
Even if you speak a little sense Sumpa, Isog will never listen to you again. After what you did?
Isog seemed to hear everything, but sometimes he just let these voices argue inside his head. He then skewered the snake and placed it on the fire. It was still half-cooked, but he enjoyed every bite of it.
I tell you this many times, Isog. If you die, you can get out of here. You will be free. That’s what you always wanted! Sumpa attempted to get Isog’s attention again.
Why do you want him to die? Besides, Isog has already been free. He is not in chains. He doesn’t owe anyone. He doesn’t need help either. So, getting away or giving up is never a good idea. Giya spoke out this time.
Isog didn’t realize how exhausted he was. So, he dozed off and finally went to sleep next to the fire.
“Isoooooooog! Have you been sleeping again?”
He heard a familiar voice, but it wasn’t from the four voices he knew. He woke up.
He then gently opened his eyes and moved his head up. Though it was a little blurry, he saw his two hands turned red on top of the wooden desk. His forehead actually sore for a while. He didn’t realize he had actually been sitting on the chair sleeping. He stretched his body up leaning at the back of his seat.
“Ch-chair? Desk?” How do I even know these words... these things?” he murmured.
It was the first time he saw those things, but strangely he recognized them very well as if he had been using them all his life.
“Isog, what’s going on?” It was the same voice he heard calling his name when he woke up.
He looked around figuring out where the voice came from. A lot of people were there, gazing at him. Then there was this middle-aged man with clear glasses, standing up on a high wooden platform in front while holding a book and a small wooden stick.
“W-where am I? Why am I here? W-who are you?” Isog jumped to his feet, scared.
He was shaking wondering where he was and how come he could understand everything around him that he had never seen and heard before.
All his classmates were just looking at him quietly, speculating about why he had become so strange all of a sudden. Isog somehow knew that they were his classmates and the man on the platform was his teacher.
He found himself very confused at the moment. He scrunched his face while moving his eyes around the room. He stood right there, still. Then, he faltered as he walked out of his seat.
“Don't forget your backpack, loony tune." One of his boy classmates threw him his bag while everyone started to laugh.
“This b-backpack? It's mine?” Trembling and disoriented, he grabbed his bag and raced to the door.
“Isog! Go back to your seat! Mr. Isog Ganahan!”
His teacher tried to stop him, but he was too quick to get away. He bolted down the hallway away from his classroom.
“Giya!... Ig-agaw!... Ig-soon!... Answer me! Where are you guys? Where am I?!”
The students were staring at him, thinking he looked like some psycho shouting. He held his backpack pressing roughly to his chest. He kept on running so fast like he was in the woods, but he seemed to know where he was going to.
He saw the gym. He hid behind the hanging mats. Peeking out, he saw the people again in this world. He thought about how he looked like them. The sounds were crashing into his brain. It looked like it was killing him. He looked down and saw his odd clothing. He wore black pants covering all his skin below and a white cotton dress shirt top with his high-school logo on his left breast. He recognized them all.
Then, he heard water running and followed another boy through the door. He saw water coming out of a strange object and watched how it is turned on and off. His hands seemed to know what to do with them. He tried and water sprayed him from the force he turned it on. He turned it off and on wondering at the feel.
Breathing heavily, he felt like he didn't have the strength anymore. He crept towards the mirror and held the sink with his shaky hands as he stared at himself for a few seconds. He saw his reflection like how he used to see at the still waters of the river back home. However this time, he didn't have any beard all over his face. Then, he touched his neat and well-combed hair. Though this time he appeared... younger.
“Why is this happening? Who am I? What world is this?” He felt like he had gone mad.
Everything seemed to be very common, but he was so sure that it was the first time he'd been in that world. He rubbed his hands to his face with water.
He closed his eyes.
Suddenly, he felt something strange, but familiar.
The air had become warmer while he stopped hearing noises the students made. He opened his eyes and saw his reflection on the water. Kneeling at the riverside, he saw his thick facial hair all around his chin and face. He closed his eyes again and opened them to see if he was really back.
"I'm back!" he yelled.
The calm water of the river was right before him. He felt relieved thinking maybe he was just daydreaming caused by ingesting a strong hallucinogen from the snake he ate last night. He thought it was normal and tried to calm himself.
“What?” He saw something.
It was there. It was beside him.
“T-this?” he continued to mumble.
Without saying more, he managed to unzip it and reached for a book inside. When he opened it, the funny lines he didn't know before moved around the page and his eye saw them as words as his brain looked straight at them. He was able to read them.
Science - the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic stu...
“Sumpa? You can read it?” he called Sumpa for the first time.
Of course, I can. Did you ever ask?
Now when he saw the words, he could understand what they mean.
“Why do I understand them? Why can I read them?” he continued to think out loud.
Are you fine, Isog? Finally, he could now hear Giya’s voice.
“D-do you see this? This book? This symbols... letters? I... I was calling you, but you guys didn’t answer. When I was there... the other world... y-you didn’t seem to hear me at all!” His voice was shaking.
I’m sorry, but we didn’t actually see you coming here either. You know we are awake when you are. Giya explained it in a very comforting voice.
So, these strange symbols you see in this book... they look like... Are these the same symbols in the cave? the voice added.
Isog stopped to think about what the voice said. He recalled similar writings on his cave wall. He suddenly felt something inside him trying to crawl its way out. He thought he knew something, but he just didn’t know what.
He stood up and ran back to the cave. He had to check what that was on the wall again. He thought it could be the answer to his past, or who he really was. He thought he could be someone he didn’t know. There were so many questions in his head left unanswered that he could go insane because of this.
You’re going crazy. This is the right time you kill yourself. Sumpa started to tease Isog again with its ridiculous evil laugh.
However, Isog was thinking only one thing – he had to see what’s on the wall.
Finally, he arrived. The light from the cave’s opening made the wall with the writings visible for Isog to decipher. He tried to relax as he took some steps forward.
Isog stood still before the stone wall. He thought it was some ancient scripture of some sort at first, but now he couldn’t believe what he saw. He stared at the symbols as he started to recognize each one of them. He couldn’t believe how he could understand these on this very wall that he wasn’t able to do all his life living here. He felt horror.
The voices in his head started to sound very close to his ears.
I told you Isog. The only way out is to kill yourself and be free. You've always wanted to get out of this hell you, yourself, made.
It’s nonsense... Isog, listen to me, I have been guiding you and helping you survive. You are a very brave person and you are already free. There's no reason to leave.
Isog, for the first time, ignored Giya. He opened his mouth and read the writings aloud.
“Y-O-U-R-E -N-O-T -F-R-O-M -H-E-R-E. G-E-T O-U-T N-O-W!”