Chilley started walking towards the hills to her left. Her fears turned to wonder. "Boy," she thought as she finally discovered a way to pass through the hedgerows. "If this really is Anakaland, it sure is lovely; not anything like the horror stories they made it out to be." All she could see in front of her were endless green gardens and hills. “But if this ski mountain is really Muhadao, then why the hell don't I head home?” But she already knew the answer: the daily grind. She knew in her heart she didn't want to yet, and she actually laughed. As she strolled through gardens her mind started to ponder about the Boring Realms.
“Do I really want to go back to that? Do I really want to save that?” A tempting notion started forming in her head, and it wasn’t the last time it would appear and cause her to question her decisions. Cutting through more countryside Chilley got into a debate with herself. “Are the holes in the sky a good thing? Kick in the ass? But not everybody’s life sucked,” she thought. “It's not all that bad. Some people are just trying to get by -- and for others, there’s no way things change so easily once one makes their bed -- is there? Shouldn't something try to save them?” At least the idea that she thought she knew the direction home gave her comfort. "I just need to look around a little longer," she said with resolve. For the next forty minutes she meandered around the gardens with the carefree inquisitiveness of an animal -- ever getting closer towards the hills.
"I need a better direction of where I'm going," she thought after a while. "Or at least knowing what to expect." Immediately her hand fumbled for Esoteric Myths and a handful of berries from her supplies. It was a miracle nothing had fallen out of her bag. She discovered a nice pond nearby with another pile of smooth stones by its edge. Reclining on the appealing rocks, Chilley closed her eyes and smiled: despite the ludicrousness of it all, she imagined herself by a poolside in paradise. She figured she could afford to not worry for a bit.
"After all I've been through, I've at least earned that," she thought. Like a relaxed tourist, she opened up the book and started munching on the 'gummie' snacks she found. She hastily flipped through a few of the pages again. The chapter covering the landscapes in Anakaland was too long to read through right then and there: it would take a few hours and she knew she was going to need to find a safe dwelling sooner or later. So she started skimming the preface instead...
Now it was a strange thing, but the pinkish-ivory color of sky above didn't seem to dim at all. Maybe she was having another lucid dream – although this was so confusing. She thought the ‘gummie berries’ had revived her completely, and she had to have been awake for a long time now. If anything, the sky wasn’t dark green anymore. In a quick fit of irrational desperation, Chilley ran into a tree as hard as she could to wake herself up.
BANG! Temporary blackout, but when she recovered, she was still here. "Well, since I'm wide awake anyway, I may as well use the daylight and study some more," she thought to herself feeling really stupid. She rubbed her arms.
Soon Chilley got up and started exploring again. Where was the gateway to the hollow Earths? What were the hollow Earths? She wished there was a library nearby where she could just spend a few days and study everything with ease. She wandered around to the left side of the gardens again from where she woke up; occasionally stopping by to examine a strange looking botanical growth. Many of the plants literally looked alien. Whenever she would find something that resembled fruit, she was tempted to try it: everything appeared bright and inviting. Then she would slap her hand away. This went on for quite some time: wandering around the western side of the valley she was in and ever steering towards those mysterious western hills in the distance. Surveying the scenery surrounding her, she weighed her options.
"Those tilled gardens are pretty lovely," she had to admit. "But who in the world could have landscaped all of this? She stared at the plush landscape of rolling hills behind the gardens and pine trees to her right.
She decided to walk closer towards those hills. Eventually she passed a cluster of deciduous trees and soon she could see giant grass-covered mounds disappearing into the pink-purple horizon ahead. They looked like they had been mowed. At the top of these were large, jet-black polished rocks. As she climbed the nearest hill to inspect one, she half-imagined it may have served as some sort of ritualistic object built for extraterrestrial communication.
“I’m turning into Dixie,” she snorted. Maybe that was a good thing though; deep down; she always thought him the smarter one: he never really panicked and kept a level head. Toward the far-horizon of those hills, she could make out shapes that looked like giant blue blocks protruding out of the top a dozen of them.
Suddenly somewhere behind, Chilley-Sue heard a noise: it was the same low-baritone cricket sound she had heard before, followed by the beastial sounds of wailing nearby. It was right at the threshold of earshot, but it made her jump out of her skin.
"Which way to get out of here?" she thought desperately. Away from the sounds was the most logical choice: they were coming from the direction of the mountain. She decided to try her luck and run towards the giant mounds.
Chilley soon discovered a path that was sandwiched between several hills. It led down to a steeper ravine that bypassed half a dozen more hills with little effort. Soon the ravine brought her to a fork that split in two directions. Towards what she guessed was the direct west, the ravine steered towards a series of grassy hills spread out around a small forest ahead. But Chilley could see an avalanche of various objects rolling down a few of these hills. She looked at the scene with wide eyes.
"Rock waterfall," she mumbled with awe. There were rocks coming out of the tops of some of these hills like fountain water coming out of a spring. A few of the more gigantic round ones were terrifying to watch as they shattered through the plants and trees below. Many of then would fall into random gorges at the base of the trail and disappear into the earth again. But what she really found unsettling were the rocks which she could see burrowing out of the grassy hilltops from out of nowhere. These rolling rocks appeared to have wills of their own: nothing seemed to instigate them and cause them move in the first place. Some of them would unfasten themselves from whatever was anchoring them in the ground; others just broke out of the grass mounds the way a pimple suddenly breaks into the surface of skin. She saw a few of these boulders and monuments rise out of the ground and roll down below, and then other rock objects perched near the top of some of the hills started following suit. Chilley immediately recalled the last passage she had just read.
"Maybe -- probably, really," she thought: this area might very well have been infested with...what was the word she had heard Dixie talk about? She couldn’t remember at the moment, but that had to be it.
Instead of further strolling though this ominous ravine trail, Chilley decided to hike the hillsides to the right of the valley. Luckily, these hills did not appear enchanted: there were no signs of any rock avalanches coming down on her. As she scaled the nearest slope, she pondered the surrealness of it all.
Despite having to fight the idea that inanimate objects came to life here, the familiar shape of many of the larger monuments and pillars everywhere gave Chilley-Sue comfort: even if there wasn't any sight of living inhabitants for the present, this place must have cultivated by humans at one time.
It was while she passed one of these structures that she realized something: some of the catacombs in the hills might provide shelter -- especially against all but the largest of magic rolling objects. As Chilley followed the ravine through a tree-covered trail that led her to a clearing between two bald hills, she noticed a particular nice-looking catacomb carved into the base of the hill with a huge overhanging doorway. It was a short distance ahead of the tree clearing and to the right of the trail. It looked thick in design, and if she could somehow pry it open, it could serve as a bunker. It also looked well kept. There were no dirt piles hanging around the doorway, and the doors looked like they had been recently scrubbed. Chilley thought it very strange, but she was cheered -- for it seemed plain to her that if someone had bothered to construct all these structures and maintain them well-kept, then maybe somebody did live around here after all. "Whatever. It must be way past bedtime.”
Right at that moment she heard a loud howling sound from the other side of the hill that she had just hiked. It was completely unfamiliar and it sent shivers down her spine. Chilley-Sue stood frozen by the catacomb -- unsure of what to do. Suddenly the howling broke the silence again, but this time it was much closer. She immediately ducked behind the overhang of the catacomb while frantically trying to open its doors, but they would not budge. Now Chilley heard a loud rustling sound coming from the trail she had just tread on. As she peeked her head around the doorway, she saw the shape of a large, bluish-purple-furry creature who’s upper body could only be seen because of the decline in the trail. It would have looked rather cute to her had it not been for its large muscular humanoid body that soon followed suit as it approached; that, and the fact it had fang-like horns that sprung out of the fur of its body upon noticing her. And as the creature continued to stare at her, more fangs kept protruding out of it its body -- with particularly larger ones covering practically all corners of what should have been a face. Some new slits opened up on its face, and soon Chilley could see a pair of slanty blood-red eyes located underneath the upper fangs: they were either eyes or horrible flaming-red nostrils. Unfortunately, it couldn’t have been more than one hundred-fifty feet from where she was standing.
Chilley-Sue bolted. The thing watched her make it up a nearby hill before it gave chase. How far a typical person can go being pursued like this is relative to someone's genetics and cardio – not to mention how interested a creature like this was intent in capturing its prey. This one seemed to be toying with her.
The gummie berries must have been helping her, because although her life was on the line, Chilley was surprised at her continued endurance. She raced up another hill, never looking back. She could feel the presence of the feral creature radiating closer and howling behind her like a rabid werewolf. “Oh, dear God please no!” she whimpered. She could also feel that she was coming to the end of her limits…
Excerpt from Book II: Adventures in Anakaland
Copyright 2019 Octavio Rhodes
"Note the excerpts have been slightly edited and abridged for non spoiler content"