Author’s note: This is part of a short story that I’m working on for my upcoming game Exoworld, which you can find a development log for at my game design blog.
“Don’t go off the path.”
“I just need to take a piss. I’ll call when I’m ready to come back.”
Marn’s footsteps were silent as he left the marked path. He knew there wasn’t anything to fear. The path–if it could be called that–was just a bunch of beacons left along gentle terrain. He’d walked up and down it dozens of times since he was a boy.
The belt around his waist was made of cloth. Easier to tie a knot in, save a little metal on avoiding a buckle. He pulled it loose like he was unwrapping a present.
But he hesitated when his finger felt cold as he fumbled with the button of his pants. The air wasn’t that cold, and the fastener had been covered.
He told himself it was nothing. He’d carved it from one of the fractal spires, smoothed it down and carved holes in it. Outsiders were superstitious about the March.
But he’d grown up on journeys across it, and he knew that the inert stuff was an excellent substitute for wood. Weathered better, too.
No matter. He opened the front of his trousers and let fly.
Something moved in the dark. Probably just his eyes playing tricks. The abstract geometrical forms created optical illusions. That’s one reason for the beacons.
Then it spoke. “Who are you?”
The voice was unfamiliar. It had difficulty producing the sounds it was trying to make, like one of the old Spurned who couldn’t figure out the Originals’ tongues. “What?”
The dark did not respond.
He realized he had lost his way back to the path. He could call the others and they would answer. But the thing in the dark made him curious.
Curious and afraid.