Week 12 - Novel - Dreams Part VI - August 19-25
“There are a couple of ways of doing it, depending on the harnesser, the stone in question, and if you’re part of a collective harnessing force or harnessing on your own. What you saw me do earlier was harnessing a personal stone using a personal device. What we do to harness those massive pillars is a bit different. The pillar itself is encased in a harnessing device, and the city basically recruits an army of harnessers to work together to use the thing,” Tan explained.
“It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. In fact, it’s probably one of the most unpleasant things you can do. I feel like a slave when it’s our shift. Imagine a hundred people all lined up in a circle for hours at a time, in total unrelenting exhausting concentration, unable to move or do anything but focus on harnessing the stone to do what we need it to do,” Ardin added. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. “I hate it. As much as these stones make our little city a paradise, they make our individual lives a living hell.”
“That sounds terrible,” Jo agreed. She didn’t know what else to say.
“It’s not so bad,” Tan ventured. “On the plus side, we get a ton of experience with harnessing stones that we’d never otherwise be able to afford practicing with. They teach us for free and feed us and our families. It’s hard work, yes, but it’s far better than the alternative.”
Ardin rolled his eyes. “Even your positivity can’t spin the fact that we’re indentured servants, Tan. But yeah, I guess it could be worse. Anyway, we’re almost here. Follow me.”
They had reached the end of the alleyway and emerged onto yet another open street filled with traffic and commotion. Ardin peeled right, and Jo followed. A few hundred yards ahead, she could see a massive marble column, perfectly cylindrical and rising several hundred feet into the air. The column was directly in the middle of the street, which bisected to curl around it.
“Where are we going?” Jo asked.
“Up ahead to the marble,” Ardin answered. “That’s where we’re on duty to harness today, and I figured we could give you a little tour before we get to work.”
Jo had nothing better in mind, so she nodded. It was nice being with Ardin and Tan. She felt more comfortable, and less singled out. People still stared, but less so than when she was on her own. She still stood out, but now, at least, she was accompanied by people who definitely fit in and knew what they were doing and where they were going. Even better, she could just follow Ardin’s lead, and didn’t have to stand paralyzed with indecision trying to figure out what to do next.
Before they had gone much further, however, she heard her name being faintly called from behind. She turned around, bewildered, and saw Elvir running at full speed towards them.
“Jo!” he shouted. “It is time for you to leave!”
No one else seemed to notice Elvir. He ran right through them, knocking them to the ground as he charged towards Jo. He was still a few hundred feet away, but gaining ground quickly.
Tan noticed that Jo had turned, and halted Ardin and walked up to her.
“Jo? What’s going on?” he asked.
“Do you not see him? There’s a dragon charging right at me. I’m…thinking we should run.” Jo replied, and turned to dash back into the alleyway where they had come.
As she took her first step, however, the ground began to violently tremble, and she tripped and fell to the ground. Dozens of others on the street similarly fell, and she could hear their cries clamoring through the air. Tan and Ardin ran to her side and tried to help her up, but the trembling had turned into full on quaking, and it was all they could do to keep their own balance.
The cries in the streets turned into screams of terror, as buildings began to collapse around them with deafening roars as the violent earthquake continued. Jo held desperately onto Ardin and Tan, one hand grasping an arm of each, as they all tried to support one another.
“Tan, pull us up!” Ardin shouted. Tan, comprehending the plan, desperately fumbled for his glove. In that moment, however, the earth split underneath them, and they fell into nothingness.
Jo screamed. She screamed into nothingness as she fell, clutching still desperately onto Ardin and Tan. In her final moments of consciousness, she thought she felt talons piercing into her skin, clutching her and pulling her away from the darkness. Then everything disappeared.
Jo woke with a start, and found herself on the floor in front of the couch in her living room, clutching desperately to the legs of the coffee table. She groaned, feeling battered all over. Instinctively, she reached to touch her back, where she had felt the talons claw into her skin. Gingerly, almost afraid of what she would find, she touched her back and felt a sharp twinge of pain. Wincing, she pulled back her hand and saw blood staining her fingers.
“Jesus!” she shouted. She scrambled to her feet, adrenaline coursing through her. She screamed again at the top of her lungs, mind unable to properly comprehend what she was experiencing. She hugged herself, hyperventilating, and tried to calm herself down.
“Okay, Jo, one breath at a time. One breath,” she told herself. “Think. What does this mean. What should I do. Okay, let’s go to the bathroom and try to fix this mess.” She found that talking out loud to herself helped calm her, and let her focus on the immediate problem at hand, which was determining whether or not she was bleeding to death, and what to do about it.
Still clutching herself, she climbed up the stairs to the bathroom, shivering and finding it hard to keep her balance. She wasn’t sure if the lightheadedness she was feeling was just from her shock or from excessive blood loss. She tried not to think too much about it.
Reaching the bathroom, she flicked on the light-switch and carefully lifted up her t-shirt, peering into the mirror to assess the damage.