Some years. No, many years ago, a group of school kids came across a peculiar fish in the middle of the schoolyard, a fish out of water upon parched earth. The fish was dark, volcanic rock in both colour, and texture, the fish was a stonefish, many miles inland from where it should be, here in a parched country, but there it was, alive and waiting. The strange occurrence above happened decades ago, but the story below draws on its influence for the first third to the short story below to venture further inland…
It’s been months now since I’ve heard this story, it was real to a friend, they experienced it, or so they conveyed to me, and then they disappeared again, but all I can remember, is these few pages of what they shared, their journey when caught by the Nether.
It had been days since I escaped that town, the one that’s not even on a map. Cut, bruised, and battered from running for days somewhere out beyond Burke, half dead from thirst, and hunger… Nevertheless, all I can hear is the parched crevasses of earth cracking and breaking away beneath my feet. My feet, look as busted up as the shoes, which still attempt to protect them from this harsh place.
Stumbling through the waves of heat shimmer, my throat and lungs on fire from the hot dry air, I’m sure soon I’ll be a dry carcass for carrion to fed from, as again I fall hitting the ground hard, but again I get up, must continue. When out of the day’s scorched haze, there it is, miles from any sea, ocean, or coastline for that mater, or maybe I’ve walked clean across country. No, that would take weeks, months to do, but still there it is, in a charcoal black on the parched crackling of the red dirt, a Stonefish gasping for air, as so it seemed.
Then a sound, the sound of a door slamming upon its frame, back and forth where no wind blows, yes, no wind has blown for days, not even a whimper, or a wisp of a breeze to cool ones soul while standing half crippled here in this oven, staring at the peculiar looking Stonefish, while behind it, an old house half-fallen from its stumps, piers, more of a weather-assaulted shack if it must be described as anything without value other than shelter. There swinging in the air, three large hinges to which perhaps once a door had once been attached, but they were only swinging through the air, hitting nothing, and yet the sound of a door slamming back and forth engulfed the surrounding air.
I don’t know, maybe I’m on my way out, and this be a lucid dream, maybe when I fell a moment ago I did not get up again. I look back upon the ungainly Stonefish, upright upon the fissured earth, when a voice erupted from within its most desolate presence.
“Enter, for refuge lies within beyond the slumped door frame, step forward to find food, and water inside the habitat. Believe me in what I say, and take me with you, shade me from this harsh Sun, this scorched light of day, for I am but a lone fish out of water, and in need of help, and refuge too.”
I paused for a moment as I felt dizzy, and light headed, the Stonefish spoke to me, surely I’m still flat out on the hot ground, and as I cook beneath the Sun, my mind is choosing this strange last attempt to survive. However, I still feel the pain of my last few days on the run through this bush land, hence so figure, perhaps this is real. So I bend down to pick up the Stonefish, and as my hands near it, the Stonefish contorts in laughter pricking the palms of my hands, blood drips upon its back.
Water, vast amounts of saltwater begin to erupt from the Stonefish’s flesh, bubbling in a vast volume, for soon I’m more than knee deep in a new sea as the Stonefish laughs more, and more, I slip, and the bitter sea takes me under. With what little energy I have left, I burst to the surface, and start to run towards the sound of the slamming door, and the rotting house from which it seems to be coming from, the only sign of refuge. Well as best one can in waist deep water that is still rising fast. I struggle against the water, its swirling currents, but soon reach the steps of the hovel to climb the steps to buckled verandah, as I glance back to see a frenzied sea of green. Once more, I turn darting through the doorframe, as slam. I’m launched, hurtling through the vacant air of a dark room, I hear the sound of a door being bolted.
Now lying sprawled upon a timber floor, the remains of my shoes gone, clothes torn and soaked right through, thunder, and lightening all around. A storm! I roll over as the floor boards turn to hard jagged rocks, and the thoughts of being in a room evaporate in an instant from my mind as I leap to, and make for the door. But it’s gone, and the sharp rocks have torn into my feet, while now such ice cold rain rants upon my face. Where is this, what in name is going on?
A voice rattles its way through the wind, yes wind inside what seemed to be a dilapidated shack on stumps in the middle of nowhere. I’ve now almost forgotten about my imprisonment in an unknown ramshackle of a town, my escape, and the three days spent evading my captors.
The voice, “Move now, move quick, heed to with your feet before the entrance here too is swept away.”
Feeling somewhat lost inside of myself now, I reverse, and head deeper into the darkness of this storm of unknown proportion with its flickering moments of charged light. Where will it take me, I progress, but my feet feel cut to ribbons, then I see it, rays of breaking light through the storm as I seem to be now gingerly attempting to run uphill. A huge opening arrives in sight at the cusp of, as if I’d been running through a cave, or the remains of some lava tube.
Both feet now red with blood, but no let up here though with the inhospitable storm behind me, the earth begins to shudder, tremble beneath my feet as rocks begin to fall about me, and only bright solace of unknown light in front of me. In having no inclination to return the path I’ve just traveled, I put one foot in front of the other to sprint as fast as I can, pain or not, to launch from this gaping hole into… The strange from hence I came, to here now a fence, a wild, but coherent web of blue-green vine, and a notice that read. “Herewith on this the 15th day of duel regulation, the lower Entrance of Wynsong is to be set for demolition by the Storm Larches of The Parched Nether.