“Reaction” (Part 2)

Marn stepped out into the clearing, wild fractals fracturing under his boots.

The figure couldn’t have gone far. He rubbed his eyes, trying to clear them. Maybe it was just the spires playing tricks on him.

People hear odd things in the silence. That’s why people don’t go into the March alone. It’s too strange, too alien. There aren’t enough landmarks, no way to find your way back.

He glanced over his shoulder. The faint orange glow of one of the path-beacons beckons.

He knew he could still find his way back.

“Are you lost?”

He took the light from his belt, pulled the housing back so it would light every direction. Then he set it down. A beacon to lead him back to the beacon.

As always, he thought himself to be quite clever.

His statement echoed back from the darkness. “Are you lost?”

It was speaking more clearly now, whatever it was. Marn moved toward it carefully. He wasn’t even certain he was moving the right direction. “I was talking to you.”

The spires rippled, even though there wasn’t any wind. He felt an urge to turn around and run, find the beacon again and reunite with the others.

But he found himself fascinated by the shifting patterns and the softly glowing light they emitted. After a last glance at the light he’d left behind, he rounded the corner to where the voice had come from.

There was a gray figure crouched in the darkness. It looked human, almost. But the lack of color and details shook Marn’s spirit. It stood and took a step toward him, and he froze in place.

“I know.”

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