I awoke to a strange and trembling new terrain about me,
Popping with the white-hot glare of a sandblasting heat,
And an enormity that flashed in all directions in my ears,
But the most strange and trembling part of it all,
Was that I had awoken fully awake, and standing.
The last thing I remember was drinking coolly of the murk
Of a dark and deep cave, grimy with the silt of the ages.
A small black cavecat skittered right across my pass,
And hovered a moment, head backturned to study me,
Eyes all aglow and flaming as a falling sun set behind.
And the sharp and angled shadows that had followed me,
Fell into grey and blurred figures of dissimilarity, so that
I could tell no longer the fine details in the cracked rock,
Or the floating speckles in the water, and soon my hand
Was gone from the end of my arm, as was the nose from my face.
It could have only have been a couple of seconds,
And then again it seemed that I lived several lifetimes,
And perhaps I was awake for it all, or maybe I slept.
But what affronted my eyes when I snapped awake,
Was a terrible and nightmarish sight like I had never seen.
A procession of swimming, blubbering, insectoid larvae,
Each shiny in its beetle’s shell, its legs instead discs of cool flame,
Pushed along like smooth caterpillars with hard organs,
Following an invisible river, a path cut deep into the ground.
But they appeared to overtake each other like minnows.
Indeed, they swam as in a school, lined up in neat trembling rows,
Like the paired segments of the carnivorous desert bandiwurm,
Old myths, but I have seen them in my traversing the far off dunes.
And this travel had become a frightening one, everything disjointed,
An unforgiving apathy of all the interconnectedness around them.
The shimmering, glassy foreheads of each of these monsters
Housed demons, eyes piercing into me with a truth that I couldn’t know.
Almost hairless, and quivering with sadness and turmoil and paranoia.
They stepped into and out of their host creatures as they pleased,
And were garbed in the most fantastic and peculiar of ways.
Looking down to shield my eyes from the glare of the sun,
I noticed that I was wearing a coat of flat animal’s skin,
Green and brown and black and the soft color of wet stone.
Like a pressed reptilian leatherskin padded with foliage,
But it had not the weight nor the texture of such a makings.
As my eyes adjusted to the day I noticed two things;
Those singularly beautiful and indescribable clothes,
(With the nagging wonder as to the point of their origin),
And the cold. For despite that incandescent ball of day,
A biting chill explored my extremities and slowed my blood.
I lifted my hand from my eyes, cautious against my surroundings,
And took a hard, squinting look from beneath the stabbing shadow
At the forms and figures that passed this way and that.
Many wore dark cloth, and carried taut packages at their sides.
Most of them hurried as if to a hunt, but walked in a straight line.
They reminded me of the familial people of my home,
In the land of the craggy caves and crooked rocks.
For protruding from the ground were hills and mountains,
But I saw that they were sheer as if crafted by these demons.
And many had pointed juts that cut into a familiar sky.
Towering, shimmering immensity, they must have housed giants,
And I thought that they would awaken from their shapely
Cocoons and make with their attack at any moment.
And the one largest before me had a cavernous carved opening,
As if its inhabitant had recently emerged and bounded away.
As dusk fell, the earlier secret eyes of the swimming bugbeasts,
Awoke into yellow flame against the rainy snow and erupted with a crackle.
I fell to sit against flat stone and held myself warmly, awake with fear.
Images and colors I had scarcely seen, shot me like lightning bolt arrows,
Whenever I flickered my eyes, trying to sense an imminent attack.
As my breathing calmed, I stood once more, and my blood stirred from it.
It didn’t look like I was in any of harm’s way, and no longer panicked.
But I kept my wary guard and balanced evenly on the balls of my feet.
I looked to the sky directly above me, and saw the stars shyly emerge.
Hidden behind a murky veil, I struggled toward them to see.
The clouds had grown here, presuming this was at all like my home,
To encompass a sky once lively with wood and leaf and birdlife.
Never before but on the mountains and plains had such a sky been seen,
Presented and obscured at the same time by the contempt of the wind,
And the temperamental spirits that control its destiny over climes.
Far on the horizon, my sharp eyes cut through the sheer rock faces
To witness a pink and dying sunset, hidden by a veil of rainless rain clouds.
The wind sprites had long abandoned their posts here, or perhaps,
Had never graced this land with their benevolent dance of balance,
Instead leaving only these demons, and I thought at once that I was in hell.
Had I died in that cave, and gone to the dark place for my final trial?
Perhaps the legends had been wrong about our gods and demons,
And this ‘other-world’ was all that had been real, for it was too real.
Had I been alive, I wondered, in that cave I had known since my youth,
Which was the dream, and was this some god or wizard’s intervention?
As if in answer, the vertical hills and mountains filled with sorcerer’s light,
And the dead leafless trees themselves lit in defiance of the moonless night.
Luminescent as the day must be in hell where no sun can survive,
I rubbed my hands together to bring life to my crackling digits and joints,
And tried to ignore the jungle-roar of my neglected and long-famished belly.
Though I dare not move from my post, as any good hunter has learned,
I thought it best to acquaint myself with this alien terrain and peoples,
If anything to better prepare myself to survive this new life, or afterlife.
In no direction was a path home to be seen, and I tasted an acrid copper
Smell in the air, heralding a burning death that permeated this place.
I had passed a dozen eyes before I realized that these were no demons,
But passive, cold humans, each aimed directly towards their destiny,
That little beyond the ebb and flow of the invisible river could hinder.
They had in them the warm blood of life, though I had no way of knowing,
If perhaps this was some trickery, or still the suitable case of being in death.
And that’s when I saw a young human, timid and weak for survival,
Who averted his eyes from mine, his elder, and challenged no one.
He pulled himself back into his skins and cloths, and sneezed.
I reached out to him in a moment for information, for simple guidance.
He reeled when my fingers curled around his arm, and as they did…
…I had this dream last night that I was back in high school,
And that was also Strategic Air Command for some reason,
And that for some reason we were located in a box canyon,
And that a deadly sandstorm was barreling down to kill us all.
And so I went to find my old high school girlfriend (how lame),
And couldn’t see over the tumultuous panicking crowds,
And each of the escape pods in the plastic tubes jettisoned,
And so I made my way towards the center of the school,
And retrieved my jet pack from its locker in shop class.
And as the flesh-searing sands stormed closer, I was off.
And I searched and I searched for my lost sweetheart,
And just when I thought that I saw her amongst the throng,
And the deadly tearing particles of dust inched ever closer,
And her eyes finally met mine…
I lost control of the nonsensical vision, of the stalwart spirits between us.
A highly confusing affair, the information seeped into the crevices of my brain.
I lost grasp of the man, the parasite for whom these angels of night suckled.
He walked faster past and away from me, and I fell full onto my front,
And tasted the cold stony air of the hard canyon that grew above me.
I had read his dreams, like the old ones of my people were learned to do,
As I, my father’s son, would have been taught to do, had it not been for–
I firmed myself, convinced that these demon people were as real as I,
This place simply their fantastic village, as in stories told by my well-traveled uncle
And fully accepted that I was trapped in a world of evil gods, or the dead.
I approached a woman of this massive opal-smooth chasm of echoes,
Hoping her matronly ways and instincts would convince her to help me.
As I spoke and stumbled, she moved away, perhaps afraid of my kind?
With a start, she was gone, and my vision darted, suspiciously grasping.
Could it be that these demons were afraid of a man, a man such as I?
Is it possible that I was brought here against their will, not in accordance?
Had I power over their monstrosities? Would I battle their highest king?