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Escaping the End Chapter Seven
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Mykala carried on for a few days, through dense forest and over large swaths of untouched land. He was sure he had lost several units of weight and all attempts to catch food ended in failure. He tapped the nanite unit on his chest in thankfulness as it would be sure to keep him alive, even through starvation.
Just then he looked onward and noticed some strange bulbs hanging from a tree and he felt a leap of joy from inside. He dashed across the root-mangled ground to the tree and looked up in childish delight at the bulbs. They were unlike any fruit he had ever seen, full of empty pores and hanging from an irregular stem. The bulbs were of a yellowish tint and very dull looking, and slightly bigger than a single fist. None of the fruit was hanging low enough for Mykala to reach, even so he could smell the sweet aroma they produced.
With Mykala’s weakened state and the height of the fruit he would have to find a stick to knock a bulb from its stem. Luckily the forest ground was littered with old branches and trees that did not make it through a season. Shifting through several piles, Mykala finally found a long and forked stick and ran up to the tree on a side densely populated with bulbs.
Angling the stick, he hooked a bulb on it and wrest it from the stem it was on, causing a loud snapping noise. The bulb rushed to the ground and bounced off a large root and rolled a short distance away. Mykala sprang for the bulb only to be welcomed by the rising noise of what can only be described as the angry beating of tiny wings. The Bulb blurred out of sight as hundreds of small black bugs emerged from the pores.
Turning to run, Mykala noticed the leaves on the bulb-bearing tree were suddenly alive in a fever as it ebbed and pulsed in a rhythmic fashion. He was tempted to stop, stunned by the sudden emergence of so many bugs, but the need to survive kicked in with instinctual reactions he had little time to contemplate on.
He turned back toward the way he had been running, recalling a nearby river. His weak body struggled to keep up with the pace he was forcing himself to run at, careful to leap over any high root or log. The dense forest was not easy to work through and it showed as Mykala had to swat the tiny insects from his body, taking several bites as he ran.
A small clearing before the river afforded Mykala the opportunity to sprint freely, his legs feeling heavier with every plunge forward. As he put space between the swarm of thousands of angry insects, he stepped precariously into a cavity in the ground that was hidden by tall grass and weeds. His ankle went one way as he went another; with only losing a bit of momentum Mykala fell to a hand and knee and thrust forward in a loud grunt.
Having lost considerable speed through his limping, his pursuers were nearly upon him as he dived into the cool water. However, having misjudged the remaining strength in his legs, Mykala’s dive to safety fell short as he struck a large and worn boulder just above the water’s surface. Having hit the boulder chest first causing the nanite assimilator to rip from the bonded flesh, cranking it slightly sideways and for blood to ooze around it.
Mykala screamed as he fell into the water, losing all his breath and in his pain he gaped in a mouthful of water that flooded into his lungs. Mykala was rushed down stream as he writhed and choked in pain, only gaining his balance long enough to break out of the water and onto a grassy shore. He collapsed as he vomited large quantities of water and watched a cloud of insects in an angry rhythm, go to and fro for several seconds before returning to the forest. His vision hastened into a dark haze as his mind became foggy. Mykala attempted to get up only to collapse back to the ground. Quickly, with each passing moment, his sight grew darker and his thoughts more distant until he drifted into unconsciousness.
Mykala woke in the dark of the night to a canine-looking animal investigating his body, it’s rusted fur matted and thick with a strong scent of feces. Fierce eyes beneath a shallow forehead gleamed a slight yellow in the light of a the moons. Mykala froze in fear for a second and then the thought of food entered his mind. The animal was not very large, smaller than most domesticated animals, but food nonetheless. Mykala reached in his pocket for his utility tool, careful to keep the rest of him as motionless as possible. He opened the blade portion of the tool within his pocket and in one clean motion he pulled the knife from his pocket thrust it for the canine’s neck.
Even with his surprise attack, Mykala missed completely and immediately yelled in half frustration and half in pain. The canine animal was taken aback by Mykala’s outcry and darted into the dark forest. Mykala slowly sat up, investigating every ache he felt along the way, but nothing felt anything more than just bruised. Even his ankle felt okay to stand upon, and Mykala was thankful that his trip down the river yielded only minor injuries.
Then he noticed he felt slightly less than healthy and looked down at large dark stains upon his shirt. He lifted the clothing up, revealing the nanite assimilator sitting funny in his flesh. Mykala try to push it back in place, but the pain was too intense. He attempted to start the holographic pop-up to see if he could tell the nanobots to repair it, but nothing came up.
A sudden dread filled Mykala as he immediately realized the unit was not functioning properly. He cursed outloud the little droid for not programming the nanites to fix their own housing in such an event.
“He thinks of everything except the obvious!” Mykala exclaimed in frustration.
He knew the catastrophic result of the malfunctioning unit as the nanites would eventually stop replenishing their energy. Likewise, the assimilator would not produce anymore units and every bit of damage he took would use more nanites, taking from other vital functions. Eventually, everything keeping him alive would die as well, unless he could make it back to civilization.
“Well…” Mykala’s mind was in a frenzy, “I could… no! I might end up killing myself in the process.” Mykala paced, “I have roughly a few days before the first nanites start to die… Unless I exhaust my own energy supplies, then the nanites will feed me theirs and die off sooner.”
Mykala swore under his breath and continued in a rushed whisper, “I need to find a food source and find it now! What kind of forest has no kind of berry!” Mykala said turning toward the trees recalling not seeing a single source of fruit or vegetable in his travel.
“Transient!” Mykala yelled, bringing his lab to the forefront of his memory, but nothing happened.
Mykala swore again, “How far out does that contamination go?!”
Then he remembered the sweet smell from the porous bulbs, “Well… do I have a choice?”
Mykala knew the insects resembled bees from his homeland and recalled those bees slept through most of the night. He would have no choice. He sighed with discontent and went for the river, pushing across the moving water. The water came no higher than to the bottom of his chest and his feet sunk only a few inches into the sediment of the river floor.
Having made it across the river and field without struggle, Mykala now stood before the bulb he knocked on the ground ealier. He pulled the utility tool from his pocket and pulled a small bead from it, pinching it hard between his finger and thumb. The bead lit up, and he held it aloft as if placing it on a surface and let it go allowing it to float. The light was a pleasant light that brightened a large area with dim shadows being cast by the surrounding trees.
With great hesitation, Mykala extended the blade on his tool and began poking the bulb with baited breath. When nothing emerged, he went all the way and plunged the blade straight into the middle of the bulb and watched cautiously for nearly a minute. Again, nothing emerged and he grabbed the bulb with his hand and began working the blade about the circumference of the bulb until it was cut in half.
To his surprise, not a single black bug was inside, though it was clearly a nest. To Mykala’s delight, there were no larvae within the bulb or maturing otherwise. The tiny bees were clearly getting ready to lay their larvae into the hundreds of holes as it was all filled with a viscous, but a sweet smelling liquid.
Mykala broke a piece of the honeycomb off and took a small bite, quickly spitting it back out. The wax on the outer layer was gross in texture and made his tongue tingle. He had learned from Alex some cycles back that anything that made the tongue feel funny in the wilderness, should be treated as poisonous unless proven otherwise.
Using the side of his blade, Mykala meticulously scraped the wax off, even making sure to get into the comb a little so as to be sure none of it was present. As soon as it was all off, Mykala took another small bite and in seconds he took several large bites, chewing little and swallowing quickly so he could fit another bite in his mouth.
He then found another forked stick and plucked several of bulbs from the stem. As they would hit the ground a few insects would crawl out and investigate and return to inside the bulb, not to come back out again. After he had about a dozen down Mykala removed his shirt, knotting his sleeves together, hooking the open end of the shirt onto the forked end of the branch where he then placed all the bulbs.
After grabbing his light, Mykala carefully made it to the river, so as not to disturb the insects anymore than he had, though he could not be sure if would even matter. At the river side, he placed the light out again and dug out a small, but deep hole and made a small spring from the river to the hole and another leading out, with a small partial dam to keep the bulb from escaping the hole.
He emptied the shirt out into the water hole and pushed them in and out of the water, smiling at the success of his work. The water would rush into the bulbs and clear out the black critters, which would wash through or around the small makeshift dam. However, the dam was big enough to hold all the bulbs easily.
Once he was sure the bugs were washed out he began pulling the bulbs out and shaving them of the wax and cutting them into easy to handle pieces. Once done with procuring food and sneaking a few more bites, he headed out in the same direction as before.
To a great sigh of relief, the night was largely uneventful as the sun broke over the trees. Then, what was first mistaken as just a god-ray, a gleam from a reflective surface shone bright in Mykala’s general direction. It moved only slightly with the gentle morning breeze. At first he stood still, trying to be logical on his approach, but before he could stop himself Mykala was in full sprint for the source.
With aching chest, and gasping breaths Mykala came to the base of a large hill with a structure atop of it. Moving for it, he realized how hard he was pushing himself and worked toward calming down. He took several large breaths, easing his anxiety as he hiked toward the structure. Moving closer, the structure was an odd mixture of a milky stone base, some metal reinforcements, mud-brick used for repairs and wood interweaving around it into an outpost that was considerably taller than the trees.
As he came within walking distance of the structure, it was clear that it was made by a more advanced civilization that either declined over the ages or replaced by a technologically inferior one. It was also obvious that though no one was around, it was being well maintained.
Wasting no time, Mykala ascended the tower by way of a ladder on the back of the building that lead to another series of ladders. Each ladder was in varying degrees of craftsmanship with replaced rungs and braces along cracked parts of the rails. On his climb up, he stopped a few times to rest by locking his arms through the rungs for several minutes; during which Mykala would also coach himself through the fear of going up a few more steps.
Upon reaching the top he found what caused the rays of reflected light; several polished metallic plates with a curvature that would focus the light hung along the outer walls. Climbing over the last rung and into the outpost, Mykala was generally impressed with the solidity of the structure. The floor was coated in some thickly weaved material which served to mask the otherwise uncomfortable nature of walking across rounded logs for too long.
A small central roof was also made of the same weaved material, but was done so more tightly and braced by branches from the central beam. The walls were a mashup of a mat of sticks poking from the edges of square clay plates that were shoved together, causing the sticks to lock them into place. Then a bracing of long sticks worked as extra support. The wall came up to about Mykala’s neck with peeking windows, and a small exit unto a barely walkable outer deck wrapping the entirety of the outlook.
Quite suddenly, as he looked through one of the windows, a the sun hit an object far in the distance causing a brilliant flash for a moment. The flash was so large it at first startled Mykala into thinking an explosion had gone off many miles away. However, once his mind recovered, it was clear the light struck the magnificent and mammoth structure of some kind.
Thanks to the very flat surface of Dimerion, and only a few hills present, Mykala could see what appeared to be a massive archway the size of a small mountain. It was also so far away that the archway blended in with blue of the sky, making its outline the only part of it visible.
Closer yet were the jagged edges of many ruins jutting through the trees. Mykala wanted to yell out in excitement, as he was sure he knew what he was looking upon, but kept his excitement to a minimum. Then he noticed a gray smoke slowly rising from a break in the trees at the edge of the ruins, no more than a day and half travel away.
Without losing any time Mykala made way down the ladder and toward the smoke; being careful to use the compass on his utility tool to be sure he continued to head in the correct direction. As he traveled, Mykala tried to use transient on several occasions, once even nearly fading into the black abyss between places, only to be returned. As though that were not bad enough, he returned to his location in the wilderness missing the end of his stick that carried the food he gathered the night before. Also missing were the edges of his hair and several chunks of fabric that were hanging loosely off his backside.
The result of which caused Mykala to sigh loudly, “Great… well, it is rather unimportant I suppose.”
Written by JL Tracey
Other Fictiional Writings
About the Author
Born in 1986, J.L. Tracey was given to a loving family, and brought up by good parents. It was at a young age that J.L. Tracey began to study and learn about Jesus and eventually give his life to his Lord and Savior. Though gaining a desire for writing in his early years, J.L. Tracey’s passion did not blossom until his adulthood; with the aid of his wife and support from his family. Before writing more full time, J.L. went on taking various jobs and gained valuable skills and a strong work ethic. Eventually his career choice settled on Computer Engineering and he started off by going to technical school ATI in Florida. There he learned a wide variety of skills pertinent to the today’s rapid growth in technology. While attending ATI, J.L. Tracey was married to a beautiful young lady, who would become his best friend. Through the next few years they started a family with two wonderful little girls and the story of Last Hero slowly unfolded and evolved. After the unfortunate passing of his mother to stage four lung cancer, J.L. Tracey and his wife moved to Michigan to continue to raise their children and grow in the Lord as a family. After just a year, J.L. Tracey’s life was further changed by an accident that led to back surgery and kept him from doing many physical activities for the next couple of years. However, what was at first a tragedy became a blessing; affording him time to work on his book and spend time with his family. As of this writing, J.L. Tracey and is wife are the proud parents of five beautiful children, has a second edition of his book “Last Hero” out, is working toward the goal of competing in the Iceman Challenge, is working on the second book in the Last Hero series and online series Escaping the End.