Day 19 – 1712 words and a total of 29 891 words! Catching up slowly…
Steik wiped his forehead as the five crossed the river onto the sandy shore on the other side, the sweat pouring down their faces a few moments after they touched the hot sand.
“Is it just me,” Leddy panted. “Or did everything just get hotter the moment we crossed the river?”
The others shrugged wearily, and after traversing back and forth across the river, it soon became clear that the temperature on either side varied greatly.
Leddy took a drink of water. “I think we should just travel on the forest side of the river… we’ll still be able to see the other shore, and we won’t be anywhere near as hot.”
The others quickly agreed, and they crossed the river once more to continue walking on the forest-covered side of the waterway.
They followed the river for about half an hour, until they reached a beach, where its banks suddenly widened and the water flowed out into the sea.
Stikky knelt down and filled his hands, cupping them to stop the water flowing out as he took a sip.
“It’s salty,” he said simply, allowing the rest of the water to drain out of his hands. “Which means that the sea flows into the river, not vice versa.”
Turning around, they walked back the other way, tasting the water once more just to make sure, but Stikky’s theory held true.
After another few minutes they stopped to have lunch, and sat down on the bank of the riverside to eat, the water lapping at their feet.
Biting into a cold potato pasty with vigour, Stikky chewed thoughtfully as he tried to imagine what else they would discover as they explored.
He noticed Leddy was staring at the desert side of the stream, deep in thought.
“What is it?” he asked curiously, as his younger friend shook himself and looked at Stikky.
“I’m still trying to think about this peculiar climate,” Leddy explained, scratching his head as he finished the last of his lunch. “It’s really cool, but also extremely weird. How does the temperature just change when you cross the river? It doesn’t make sense…”
The others listened carefully as Leddy explained, each nodding in agreement. “I’m just curious what else we’ll find!” Stikky added, looking over at the hot sand dunes that lay barely fifteen metres from them. “I mean, if this kind of thing is happening, what else could?”
The five stickmen jumped as the sound of an explosion echoed over the sand dunes behind them, making them all jump to their feet and look around in fright.
A huge column of sand burst into the air from behind a sand dune, the ground rumbling under their feet as another explosion filled the air.
Cautiously lifting his head and uncovering his ears, Stikky looked around nervously, then beckoned to the others as he began to splash across the river towards the desert on the other side.
Climbing carefully up a sand dune and peering over it, perspiration running down his forehead and neck, Stikky looked around. The only thing he could see was sand, with small cacti poking up here and there. So what had that explosion been? The only other things were those small holes that looked like rabbit burrows-
Stikky leaped back in fright as a huge column of sand erupted out of one of the holes—this one atop the dune he was standing on—showering him as he fell back onto the others who were climbing up behind him and knocking them over.
Groaning as he picked himself up, Stikky looked around sheepishly as he helped the others to their feet.
Taking another, even more cautious look over the top of the sand dune Stikky watched in curiosity as fear left him and he saw a column of sand erupt out of one of the small, round holes in the ground, showering the area with the hot and gritty substance.
Standing up, and keeping a safe distance away from the one atop the dune, he watched with growing interest as another hole erupted, and then another.
Turning, he looked down at the others with excitement, jumping in fright as another column erupted out of the ground beside him.
“What are they?” Leddy asked in curiosity, holding up a hand to shield himself from the spray of sand.
“I think they’re some kind of sand geyser,” Stikky decided, watching with interest as he stepped down to the bottom of the dune to watch from an even safer distance. “And shoot sand up into the air instead of water…”
They watched the geysers for several more minutes until they all began to feel hot and thirsty, and decided to move on.
After crossing over onto the forest-covered side of the river once again, they continued on their way, soon growing used to the constant explosions and small earthquakes that shook the far side of the waterway.
It was just as the sun began to dip towards the horizon when they discovered the lake, almost directly at the centre of the island, Stikky thought.
Taking careful note of their surroundings, the five realised it was almost like a meeting place, the river they had been following combining with two others, both from different directions to form the lake.
The land surrounding it was made up of three very different terrains; the first, the forest-covered area; the second, hot and desert like; and the third, a flat, green, grass-covered flat land with hills in the distance.
After spending about half an hour travelling around the perimeter of the lake—Steik and the twins going left, and Stikky and Leddy going right, so as to do it twice as quickly—they met up at the halfway point, just at the edge of the flat land, just like they had planned.
Looking across the plains at the final third of the island, Stikky peered forward as something atop the ring of hills in the distance.
“Guys…” he said uncertainly, not sure whether he was seeing correctly, or if it was just a trick of the light in the growing darkness. “Can any of you see that?”
The others looked in the direction he was pointing, squinting in the failing light.
“Where?” Asked Stif, scratching his head as he looked around in confusion.
“Over there,” Steik explained, polishing his glasses in hope of being able to see better. “But what is it?”
Stikky looked around at the others, all with puzzled expressions on their faces except Leddy, who had seen it clearly too, and then spoke.
“That, right on the top of that ring of hills way over there, is a village.”
Night had well and truly fallen as the five weary stickmen finished climbing the top of the hill, looking up gladly at the collection of houses growing closer and closer.
Groaning as he took a drink of water from his waterproof leather canteen, Stikky stifled a yawn, got his breath back, and set off towards the unlit village, the others following close behind.
A shiver ran down his spine as he approached the curiously-built houses; he could tell something was slightly off.
“You’d think they’d have some kind of light,” Leddy remarked from behind him, almost making him jump. “Something’s not quite right.”
As they crossed onto the rough gravel path that joined up all the ancient houses, Stikky touched his hand against the wall of a building, recoiling in horror as it crumbled underhand.
Staring at the hole with suspicion, he put an eye to the hole and peered cautiously into the room. It was empty.
Hurrying around to the door, Stikky knocked nervously on the door, wincing as the wooden rectangle shuddered, but held.
“Hello?” he called, stepping back as he heard a noise from inside—or had it just been the wind?
After waiting about ten or twenty seconds with no answer, he knocked again, waited once more, and attempted to turn the door knob. It fell off.
Looking around at the others in confusion, he looked in through the broken window, returned back around to the door, and gave it a slight push.
Stikky jumped back in alarm as the ancient piece of wood fell backwards into the room with a loud bang, making the others leap back in fright.
Peering into the room, Stikky stepped forward, wincing as the door cracked loudly beneath him.
An old, ancient bed sat in one corner of the room, a half-decayed cabinet opposite it. A lantern hung from the roof, unlit. The only light entering the room was moonlight coming through the small hole Stikky had accidentally made.
Stepping out of the room, slightly dizzy as he tried to push the horrible thoughts flowing through his brain away, he looked around as the others one by one looked around the room in silence.
Hurrying up to another house, Stikky looked in through another window—this one not broken—only to realise it was in a similar condition to the first.
One by one, they searched every single house, only to find them all in the same condition. Abandoned.
Staggering slightly, he leaned against a fence post, looking around wildly at the deserted, broken-down village around him as the fact he had told himself could not be true became real.
“This village,” he announced vaguely, pulling himself together as he stated the horrible fact none of them wanted to say. “This village… it’s been abandoned.”
Steik shuddered. “I could tell it was something like that,” he remarked quietly. “Something similar to the castle attack must have happened here… you can see from what’s inside these houses; everything was left.”
Leddy picked up a piece of splintered wood and examined it. “Actually,” he observed, studying it carefully. “This is a lot newer than any of this other stuff. I think this happened more recently, though still quite a long time ago.”
Turning around, Stikky looked back off the hill at the island that stretched out before them, studying the three rivers that split the island up as hard as he could.
Then realisation dawned.
“This whole island,” he said slowly, turning to look at the three different types of terrain that made up the land. “Is not just one big thing. It’s three!”