The damp air, though rather unpleasant, was a welcome change from the cruel dryness of the desert. The four Embers had walked several days since their pitstop at the oasis, and were now trudging through woodlands. They had spent hours upon hours discussing the Water Walkers, and the revelation that their very own species was composed of several breeds.
“I thought Embers were just Embers!” ERL7 remarked at one point. “But come to find out, we’re land Embers, and there are water Embers too? What other kinds of Embers could there possibly be?”
“Well, clearly not sand Embers,” said KEI2. “The only living things we found in the sandy region were nothing like us.”
“But there was one Ember back there!” CAM4 added.
“Yeah. A dead one,” said KEI2. He wanted to chuckle, but decided not to make light of the poor Ember’s fate.
“But he did live in the sandy region at one point,” said CAM4.
“True,” said KEI2. “But he lived in that underground building in order to survive. I think he was a normal Land Dweller just like us.”
“Mmmrf. Hrrgm?” FER5 posed a question to the group.
“The man of few words is wondering about the aquatic Embers back home,” said ERL7. “Ya know, the ones who mostly stay in the ponds. Are they Water Walkers?”
“I think they may be Land Dwellers too,” CAM4 answered after a moment of thinking. “They could still survive outside of water. The guys we met in the oasis said they could never leave. So I guess any Ember that can live on land is a Land Dweller… and any Ember that needs to live in water is a Water Walker.”
In the following days, the group continued to discuss the fascinating possibilities of different Ember subspecies. ERL7, like a giddy child, could not stop himself from imagining countless types of Embers. By the time they reached the woodlands, he had created a list of far more breeds than could ever exist. But his friends did not thwart his imagination. His energy kept him walking excitedly on his feet, rather than perching on one of their shoulders.
Gargantuan leaves hung from the branches of the trees surrounding the Embers as they walked through the woodlands. Their ears became accustomed to the constant hum of insects and the sound of water delicately sliding through crevasses in the bark. They were no longer phased by entering an environment other than the Land of Hope; at this point in the journey, novelty was expected with every place they visited.
ERL7 approached a tree and placed his ear to the trunk. He gestured for FER5 to come closer.
“What do ya say we try some foreign food?” he smiled.
FER5 grinned and prepared to strike the tree, as he did every morning back home, to send ERL7’s breakfast bugs scurrying out.
“Wait!” shouted CAM4. “You don’t know what kind of bugs might be-”
KABOOM. The bark was surprisingly fragile. FER5’s punch caused fractures to spread quickly throughout the tree. He pulled back his fist, which was now covered in shreds of wood. Horned beetles flew out of the cracks, buzzing and fluttering furiously around FER5 and ERL7. They were easily ten times the size of the bugs ERL7 was used to eating, and a hundred times more aggressive.
FER5’s protective instincts kicked in as he swooped up ERL7, shielding him from the swarm. A bite from one of these beetles would be painful to a giant like FER5, but could possibly be lethal to a small creature like ERL7. He stood still as a rock, trying not to provoke the swarm any further. Many beetles landed on him, but very few punctured his skin.
KEI2 and CAM4 ducked behind nearby trees, hoping not to be seen. Eventually, the beetles decided to travel elsewhere, and they flew away angrily. As the noise faded into the distance, the Embers slowly looked up to be certain every last beetle had left. They breathed a collective sigh of relief. FER5 dropped ERL7 to the ground. He shook his hand around, letting the wooden debris fall from his fur. Then he massaged the punctured areas of his skin. They were becoming more swollen by the minute.
“Are you alright?” asked KEI2.
“Hrrmg.” Being the stoic he was, FER5 tried to shrug off the pain.
The group stood there for a moment, collecting themselves, until FER5 took the initiative to move forward. He led the group deeper into the woods. ERL7 walked by his side. His respectful silence served as an apology. FER5 gave a reluctantly forgiving head nod.
The path was much of the same for a while longer, but the four friends eventually arrived at the entrance to a cave. There were multiple well-lit ways to avoid the cave and continue moving onward, but FER5’s curiosity told him to stop.
“Mmmf,” he said, staring into the darkness.
“Buddy, remember the size of those bugs?” ERL7 raised an eyebrow, surprised that FER5 had even stopped to look at the ominous cave entry after their encounter with the beetles. “I have a hunch that whatever’s in this cave may be slightly bigger.”
“Hrrm. Mmm. Ffrrg.”
ERL7 looked at FER5 as though he had just said something delightfully profound. He understood the grunts to loosely mean The darkness wounded us once, but that doesn’t mean we should forever stay in the light.
“What did he say?” asked KEI2.
“He wants to go in the cave,” said ERL7 with an eye-roll.
KEI2 and CAM4 looked at one another simultaneously for reassurance. They each saw the hesitation in the other’s eyes. But together, they embraced the fear. CAM4 slid her hand over KEI2’s and clutched his fingers tightly.
“Let’s do it,” said CAM4.
But as their colorful feet stepped forth toward the calling darkness, a great rumble emerged. The cave released a thunderous bellow. A massive figure appeared from the deep black cavern. First, a set of tremendous tentacles latched onto the outer layer of the cave, pulling an even more enormous body behind them. The creature’s vastness cast a shadow over the Embers, who now felt smaller than ever before. His body, blue and powerful, rested in a deep green shell. His muscular neck held up a head that seemed aged with infinite wisdom. His face was fixed in a grimace, and he squinted as if this was the first light he had seen in days, or perhaps even weeks. One of his pupils was blank white, and the surrounding tissue was scarred. His other eye was large enough to look directly at all four Embers without shifting focus. This beast’s peaceful rest had been disturbed, and he was displeased.
“Is this guy an Ember?” ERL7 whispered, struck with both fear and amazement at the magnitude of the being standing before them.
“Yes,” replied the unusual giant.
ERL7 took a few steps back. He did not expect to actually be heard. The towering Ember’s ears seemed miles above ERL7’s height.
“What’s your name?” asked CAM4. Her voice was a bit high-pitched with nervousness. It was hard to feel confident in the presence of someone who could most likely squash her if given a reason.
“My name…” the Ember hesitated. He had not spoken his own name in what felt like an eternity. “My name is BOK9.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, BOK9,” she said, regaining her confidence. Assigning this monster a name made him a bit less menacing. “We did not mean to bother you. We thought the cave would be empty, and we were about to explore it. But please, continue resting. We’ll be on our way.”
“The cave may as well be empty,” said BOK9. “I may as well not even exist.”
“What do you mean?” asked KEI2. He could hear a certain agony in BOK9’s voice. The type of agony from an age-old wound that never fully healed.
“Your kind…” grumbled BOK9. “The Embers… wronged me. After the fight against The Demolisher.”
“How so?” asked KEI2.
“Let me ask you, little man, what story have you been told about the battle?”
“Well, from what we understand… the Embers united in the Land of Hope and defeated The Demolisher together.”
“Lies, complete and utter lies,” said BOK9. His speech was becoming slurred with frustration, which was much scarier than his mildly agitated voice. His girthy tentacles curled, and he brought his face lower to the ground so his furious expression could be seen. “The Embers were losing miserably. They stood no chance of defeating the machine, even with their combined might. The unity was a failure. If not for my intervention, they would have all perished.”
“So you helped them win the battle?” asked ERL7, a bit confused.
“I single-handedly won the battle,” said BOK9.
“Well, to be fair sir… you’re huge. Probably the same size as The Demolisher itself. It makes sense that you’d be the only one who could fight it.”
“I take no issue with the helplessness of the small Embers,” growled BOK9. “It is how I was treated after the victory that makes me detest them. Some of the self-appointed leaders convened… they decided to erase me from history. They thought a tale of togetherness would be more inspiring. The Embers collectively agreed to remember the battle as if I was never even there… and The Demolisher had been defeated by their unity rather than me.”
“Well I’ve got some good news for you,” said KEI2. “Nobody in the Land of Hope even remembers the battle at all! In fact, my friends and I got our information about The Demolisher from some dead deserter.”
“The Land of Hope… what a mockery of the truth,” groaned BOK9. “And how could you Embers possibly forget such a pivotal moment in history?”
“Well, we’ve lived in the Land of Hope as long as we can recall,” said CAM4. “But we don’t remember any battle. We also don’t remember how we got there, or where we’re truly from. For all we know, we could’ve been part of the battle ourselves… we have no clue.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of this… the gradual memory loss of Embers… for some reason I’m unaffected,” said BOK9. “I suppose the Land Dwellers have forgotten both histories… the false and the true. Regardless, your society cast me out of its story.”
“I’m not sure if it means anything coming from me, but I’m sorry,” said KEI2. He felt genuine sympathy for this sad old giant.
“So you haven’t lost any memories?” asked CAM4. “Do you remember anything else about the history of our species?”
BOK9 sunk a bit into his shell. A tear welled in his glossy white eye, and he bowed his head. “I remember being young,” he said. “Yes, I remember my youth very well. I remember exploring this world, back when Embers were spread far and wide. I couldn’t wait to find… a family of some kind. After saving the Land Dwellers and joining them in their sanctuary, I thought I had found what I sought. How wrong I was.”
FER5 walked over to one of BOK9’s coarse tentacles.
“What are you doing, buddy?” asked ERL7 worriedly.
FER5 placed a single rugged hand on the weary monster. He made no sound. It was a simple gesture of compassion and comfort. It said more than any words could. BOK9 glanced down, and nodded. It was the first act of kindness he had received in ages. He considered, for once, that perhaps not all Embers were malicious. And maybe time had changed some of them into decent creatures. Of course, this was not enough for BOK9 to find true and complete forgiveness, but it was enough for his stubborn brain to give the notion some brief thought.
FER5 lifted his hand after another moment.
“Grrhf,” he said.
“Count yourself lucky,” said ERL7, hopping onto his friend’s arm. “He doesn’t say that to just anyone.”
The group turned to walk away, and BOK9 began slumping back into the abyss of his cave. But KEI2 glanced back at him one last time.
“We believe you,” he said.
BOK9 masked his eyes in shadows as another tear began to form; this time not from painful reminiscence, but rather a glimmer of hope that he may one day return to the light and be greeted by Embers understanding of his pain. However, he did not allow himself to embrace this hope, and he retreated into the blackness of the cave and his own sorrow. He pitied himself for his solitude as he heard the four pairs of footsteps slowly trailing away.
One thought on “Abandoned Destinies Ep 6: Forgotten”
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