As she came to, Serena felt sore, a dull ache that pulsed through her form. Her fingers grasped lush green grass and she dug into the cool soil, pulling herself up with muscles that locked like jail bars. She could barely see.
“Kenji?” she croaked, a cough racking through her throat.
A low murmur drifted out from the brush to her right and she peered over, thinking wherever she was, her partner must be with her. The voice halted immediately. Out of the bushes emerged an awkward creature brandishing a sword and badgering her in a tongue of which Serena had never heard. Its face was painted and grotesque, a long nose protruding from dark holes. In her weakened state, she could barely crawl towards the closest rock so she could use it for defense. Before she could, however, a cold hand tightened around her calf and a chill swept along her neck. She found herself staring into eyes behind the black holes.
Instead of some odd creature, Serena realized that it was a human wearing what was probably considered a war mask over some kind. The man’s chest was painted with symbols of squiggled lines and geometric shapes and weird animals. He was sinewy. He wore rolled up pants that had the color of natural dye.
He lifted his mask, “Oun tora ni bu nama?”
He moved towards her and held out his hand. She would have struggled but there was no point. He pulled Serena to her feet, wrapping her arm around his shoulders and supporting her torso. When they turned around, she saw a magnificent stone bridge crossing to a grand city of spiraling stone and plush forests.
Fishermen were towing in their catches of the day and checking traps for fresh nutrients. Candles were being lit in homes that were stacked on the cliff face like precarious crates each more elaborate as her gaze climbed towards the apex. Set apart from the rest of the village was a grand temple with graceful statues that threw their shadows across the stone steps below. A fluorescent sun was dropping behind the mountain radiating its last rays across the slopes. Directly across from it the moon rose full and brilliant along with two smaller, waxing moons; it was a strange sight. How could there be a sun and three moons underneath the earth?
In what appeared to be the market district, the man exchanged words with someone then he guided her to a cart so she could sit down. They made their way up winding, grass spotted trails towards the temple on top of the cliff. As they passed by homes, citizen tilted their head and did not continue their routine until the man had passed further up the trail. Serena found their reactions odd, almost like that of feudalism Europe. Then she noticed how decrepit and aged the other citizens were, huddled forms of regret and remorse. As she peered closer, she saw scratches carved into their skin, ugly markings that glowed like fire’s embers. A shudder gripped her bones. Her eyes wandered up to the nearest individual’s face and what she saw was unimaginable. Instead of eyes, instead of whites and irises there were ferocious embers with black figures that writhed within the sockets. A tear of flame melted down his cheek and scorched the earth.