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Adventure Fantasy

My eyes suddenly opened.

It was like waking up from a dream; the slight disorientation, the uncertainty of what was real and what was not and then the slow realization that it had indeed been all a dream.

I looked around in panic, but there was nothing to be seen. Everything was dark and blurry. I couldn’t even tell what I was lying on. But I was moving, that I was sure of. I grabbed at the darkness, trying to catch on to something, but all I felt was empty air. I lowered my arms, trying to get a feel for the thing I was standing on, when suddenly my hand slipped into something. Liquid. Cold. Water. A stream maybe? That would explain the subtle breeze ruffling my hair and yes, if I focused hard enough, the soft sound of trickling water.

As though on cue, the darkness slowly began to lift and I started to make out certain shapes. I was drifting down a river on some sort of raft, not much bigger than myself. Apart from that, the scenery looked pretty dull. A starless sky, the bare riverbanks, no plants growing on either side and the river itself, like flowing ink, a black road stretching out for miles in front of me.

I shivered. I didn’t like being alone. I never had. The whole idea of it filled me with dread. And my creepy surroundings didn’t help matters.

I clutched at the ends of the raft, thinking of what to do next, when suddenly a muffled sound caught my attention. I strained my ears. A low sound, like mumbling. Was it the wind? No, I’d never heard the wind utter the words “damn it” before. As the answer dawned on me, something bumped into my improvised boat, almost tipping me overboard. I turned around indignantly, only to find… another raft. And a humanlike figure sitting upon it.

The figure cursed as he lost his balance and promptly fell into the water. He emerged a few seconds later, soaked and probably annoyed, though it was too dark to tell. I quickly covered my mouth to stifle a burst of laughter, though why I found the situation funny I had no idea. Thankfully, the boy, for that's what he was, didn’t seem to notice.

He climbed back onto the raft and shook the water off, reminding me of a wet dog.

"Sorry ‘bout that", he muttered. "I’m just not a big fan of… well water." 

"Are you okay? You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?" 

He shook his head.

After wiping the water from his eyes, he looked up.

I wish I could describe him for you, but honestly, he was hard to see in the darkness. He looked about my age and I suppose he kind of resembled a raggedy doll, his clothes hanging loosely around him as though they were a few sizes too big, with a few tears here and there, and when the moon shone the right way, one could catch a glimpse of his ginger hair which was now dripping with water and possibly algae.

After a few seconds of awkward silence, he spoke.

"So who are you anyway?" 

Looking back, I guess it was a respectable enough question, but at the time, I found his tone rather rude.

"Who are you?" I countered.

"I asked first." 

"And I asked second, what’s it to you?" 

That settled it and we fell into silence once again.

After another few minutes, it was my turn to speak.

"So… "I ventured, "do you know how you got here?" 

The boy shrugged his shoulders.

"I just woke up. You?" 

"Same here." 

"Huh, that’s odd", he mumbled, crossing his legs and resting his head in his hands.

I nodded, though I thought that was kind of obvious.

Silence again.

By this time, I was starting to feel bad about my rudeness from earlier, so I burst out:

"I’m Rebecca, by the way. And you?" 

He gave me a long look, then shrugged again. I rolled my eyes.

"What? Now you’re not gonna tell me?" 

"Why? Do I have to?" 

"No", I said crossing my arms defensively. "It’s just what you do when someone introduces themselves to you." 

"Really? Even after they refused to do so after you inquired the first time?", he asked, grinning from ear to ear.

"Forget it", I muttered.

The boy chuckled.

"Come on", he said. "We shouldn’t fight, at least not until we’ve figured out what’s going on. Are you sure you don’t know how you got here?" 

I shook my head.

"I just woke up on the raft a few minutes ago. I’ve never seen this river before in my life." 

"Neither have I." 

He frowned.

"Well, might as well enjoy it, huh?"

I stared at him in awe.

"How can you say that? We don’t know where we are, there might be crocodiles around and we could be heading towards a waterfall! Plus I thought you didn’t like water." 

He shrugged and leaned back on his raft, folding his hands behind his head, one leg crossed over the other.

"A guy can change when necessary", he said nonchalantly.

I grunted. How could he be so calm?

Suddenly, an idea came over me. I reached out and grabbed one of his shoes.

"Hey!" he yelled. "Give that back!" 

He tried to snatch it away, but I quickly hid it behind my back. The boy groaned.

"Are you five by any chance? Give it back!" 

I grinned.

"Sorry, but I need your shoelaces." 

With that, I started pulling out the laces from his sneaker.

"Just my luck to be paired up with some crazy person", he muttered.

I ignored him. After I’d pulled it all out, I grabbed one end of his raft.

"I’m afraid to ask, but what are you doing?" the boy asked.

"Wait a second", I mumbled.

After a few minutes, I’d successfully managed to tie the two rafts together, more or less.

"There, now we don’t risk one of us being taken away by a current or something."

He rolled his eyes.

"That’ll never last and by the way, I liked that shoe." 

"Calm down, I’ll give you the laces back once we reach some sort of land. Speaking of, we should probably try doing that."

The next half hour was spent attempting to steer our rafts towards the banks, but each time we came anywhere close, a current would always end up pulling us back to the middle of the river.

"No use", said the boy, catching his breath. "We might just end up crashing into a rock or something. I say we try something else." 

"Okay", I agreed reluctantly. "What do you suggest?" 

"Sleep?" 

"That’s not a valid suggestion." 

"Fine, let me think." 

He knitted his eyebrows, his mouth drawn in a stiff line. He looked kind of amusing that way, his clothes still dripping, missing a shoe, a serious expression on his face. I stifled a laugh. This time he did notice.

"What’s so funny?" 

I resumed a normal expression.

"Nothing." 

He eyed me suspiciously, but left it at that.

"Anyway, I was thinking, do you remember what you were doing before you woke up?" 

I frowned.

"Of course I do. I was —" but no words came out. I blinked in confusion. "I was —" nothing.

I laughed, trying to ignore the panic creeping up my spine.

"This is — this is silly. I was —" 

"You can’t remember either, right?" The boy asked slowly.

I looked up at him. He was being serious.

"No", I stuttered, "that — that can’t be. I can’t have forgotten!" 

"Rebecca, calm down." 

"No! I mean, there’s no need to calm down ‘cause I’m perfectly calm. I’m just tired, that’s all. Tired." 

"Rebecca, it’s okay." 

His tone was soothing, but it didn’t help matters. I hugged my knees to my chest, trying to make the fear disappear. But the boy was right. I couldn’t remember anything. The space in my mind where my past must’ve been was blank, empty. I felt sick. Something incredibly vital was missing, and I wanted it back.

The boy inched closer to me, careful not to fall into the water again.

"Rebecca, we can figure it out. Remember, you’re not alone, okay?" 

I nodded, but I wasn’t convinced. The boy sighed.

"My name’s Ian", he said suddenly.

I looked at him in surprise.

"My name’s Ian and I hate water, especially rivers and that’s all I can remember", he said again, all in one breath. "What about you? Try and recall some odd fact about yourself." 

I thought for a few moments. As I did, my gaze wondered, stopping at his mess of ginger hair. I gasped.

"I used to have a raggedy Andy doll when I was little!" I exclaimed. "It had red hair, like you!" 

Ian doubled up with laughter.

"Hey! What’s so funny?" I asked, though it took all the self-control I had not to laugh along with him.

He didn’t stop.

"You’re saying I look like" — he chuckled — "like Andy and Ann from the children’s book?" 

"Well, I meant Andy, but yeah, a bit." 

Ian shook his head in disbelief.

"Well, there you go! You do remember something, see?" 

I smiled and nodded.

"Thanks for that." 

He cracked a smile.

"Well we couldn’t have you throwing a" — he stopped, his gaze darting passed me, eyes widened in horror. "Hold on to something!" he yelled.

Before I could react, the world tipped. I suddenly found myself falling and everything became a blur of crashing water and rocks and algae. My eyes stung and my lungs begged for air. A part of my mind screamed “not again!”, though why I couldn’t imagine.

But then, as soon as it had begun, it was over and the world was calm once again. Calmer even than before.

I opened my eyes to find Ian and I huddled up together, clutching each other’s jackets for dear life. How we’d managed to hold on to one another I have no idea.

"Still here?" he breathed.

"Yeah", I managed.

Ian let go of my jacket and wrapped his arms around me, holding me tight to his chest.

"Well that was something." 

I agreed, though once again I thought the comment was rather redundant.

"You were right about the waterfall anyway", he muttered.

I smiled.

"Of course I was." 

"And it seems you were right about the rafts too", he added.

At that I slowly disentangled myself from him and looked back. Sure enough, my little raft was still tagging along.

I turned back to Ian and grinned.

"And you said the shoelaces wouldn’t last!" 

The boy frowned.

"No need to get cocky. Now… I guess we should take a look around." 

As I mentioned previously, the river was calmer than ever, almost like a lake, but not quite. The current, though weak, was still leading us somewhere. This time though, the sky was nowhere to be seen.

" A cave", Ian gasped.

Sure enough; a rocky ceiling loomed above our heads with stalactites threatening to impale us at every corner and the riverbanks were lined with stalagmites as far as the eye could see, like a gate between us and land. Except this wasn’t really a cave, for it seemed to go on for miles and miles. More of a tunnel really.

"Where do you suppose we are?" I asked in a whisper.

"I’ve stopped asking." 

"Oh, no, you should never do that!" 

Suddenly, our two rafts came upon two beautiful columns, one at each side of the riverbank. And between them, stood a woman. At first glance, she looked as ordinary as ever. But when you do eventually meet her, I suggest you spare her another glance. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and yet she looked like a queen. A goddess. Her dark hair which seemed almost blue in the light of the torches flowed down to her ankles and a delicate pendant shaped like an ankh (symbol of life) hung from her neck. She smiled sweetly.

"Never stop asking questions, Ian, she continued. Even in death one must not be too certain of what he sees." 

"Wait, who are you? How do you know my name? And what do you mean “in death”?" 

"I am Nephthys. I will be your guide today." 

"Neptune what?" 

"Nephthys" , I echoed.

The name sounded familiar.

"Isn’t that the name of an Egyptian goddess?" 

She smiled knowingly.

"Welcome to the Underworld." 

And then it clicked. Well, not entirely. But things started to make sense. Why we’d both randomly woken up on a river. Why we couldn’t remember our past lives.

"We’re dead, aren’t we?" 

Ian stared at me in disbelief.

"Did you knock your head or something?" 

"I’m afraid Rebecca is right", said the goddess.

The boy stood silent for a few seconds, then turned to me in panic.

"Pinch me. I must be dreaming. Wake me up." 

"Ian, think about it", I urged. "We both woke up, memories gone, on a river. In Egyptian mythology the way to get into the afterlife was often sailing down a river. It fits perfectly!" 

"A little too perfectly. Besides, why can you still remember having a raggedy doll when you were little? No, I say we were both drugged and all this is a big joke." 

Part of me wanted to agree with him, but something else inside me also felt that he was wrong.

"You don’t need to believe it", said Nephthys cheerfully. "Though it might make the next part a bit easier for you if you did." 

"Next part?" 

The woman/goddess laughed.

"Well, you didn’t think dying would be easy, now did you?" 

That’s when it dawned on me.

"Don’t tell me we’re gonna have to fight serpents and stuff like in the legends?" 

"Oh no, Anubis and I figured people in the twenty first’s century aren’t quite as adept at fighting monsters as people were in our times, so we’ve changed things a bit." 

"Okay, great. Then what’s our challenge?" 

"Well, though the medium has changed, the end result of those tests should still be the same. You see, fighting monsters provided a way for the dead to let go. In confronting this new and dangerous reality, people could forget their past reality and thus pass into the afterlife with no regrets. You two must somehow manage the same thing."

" Well that’s perfect!" I exclaimed. "We already don’t remember our past selves." 

"Woah, wait a second" , said Ian. "Who said I want to go into the afterlife?" 

"I thought you didn’t believe all this stuff." 

He hesitated.

"I don’t." 

"Then what’s the big deal?" 

"It’s just… I don’t like this." 

"Ian illustrates the point I was about to make", said Nephthys. "One cannot let go of his life until he knows exactly what he’s letting go of." 

"So… we have to remember? But how?" 

Nephthys smiled.

"Figure it out." 

With that, she was gone.

"Huh, well thanks a lot. Some guide, huh Ian?" 

But Ian didn’t answer. He was sitting crossed legged on his raft, deep in thought.

"What is it?" 

"I’m trying to remember." 

"I don’t think it works like that." 

"Then how?" 

I pondered for a few minutes.

"You’re afraid of water, right?" 

"Yeah, so?" 

"Why?" 

"I’m afraid of drowning." 

"Why?" 

"‘Cause my little brother drowned last year." 

His eyes widened.

"My little brother." He sprang to his feet. "His name was Richard, but everyone called him Andy ‘cause he was the spitting image of —" 

He stopped and stared at me in wonder.

"Of the neighbour’s girl raggedy Andy doll." 

"He loved that doll", I whispered.

"So you’re the Rebecca he always talked about. The older sister he never had." 

"And you’re Ian. He talked about you all the time, how he wanted to be just like you." 

I paused.

"I never knew what happened to him." 

"He died in a boat accident about a year ago." 

"And we did too." 

"I guess we did." 

"Do you know how?" 

"It’s still blurry. You?" 

I closed my eyes. Nothing. Nothing but the blackness of my eyelids. Well, not really black. More of a dark shade of blue, probably from the light of the moon. Yes, blue, spreading out in front of me, like an ocean. Yes, an ocean, and in the middle of it, a brown patch, rocking to and throw against the waves. A ship, and inside the ship, numerous other shapes; people laughing, dancing, talking, and me amongst them, laughing, dancing in the great hall, holding onto the rails and gazing down at the waves crashing into the mast, talking. I remembered the feasts, the parties… the tilting of the ship, the water rushing in, the screams, the shock of the frozen waves and the pressure in my lungs, the panic, the darkness…

I opened my eyes.

"So, do you remember?" 

I sighed and nodded. It was too much to comprehend. Dying, Nephthys… why she had appeared I’ll never know. Perhaps this was the Egyptian afterlife. Or maybe she was just my subconscious eager to speed things along. Whatever the case, it had worked.

"Well?" Asked Ian.

I turned to him, smiling. 

"Forget it. Let’s go see Richard."

August 28, 2020 08:15

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4 comments

Bel Blue
05:36 Sep 02, 2020

I loved this story and the intrigue it proses! If I were to make one suggestion it would be to fix the ending so it’s not as abrupt. Otherwise great job!!!!

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Julie Emma
07:36 Sep 02, 2020

Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I know it's abrupt. I realized too late that I was about to exceed the word limit😅

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Bel Blue
16:08 Sep 04, 2020

Hate it when that happens! Sometimes I wish Reedsy offered categories of larger word limits. I was really sad though when I found out this didn’t win! It deserved to!

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Julie Emma
18:36 Sep 04, 2020

Oh wow, thanks a lot! I really appreciate that.❤️ Yes, sometimes I wish there was a larger word limit too. Still, I think the point of it is to make the writer get their point across without rambling on. That is a very difficult thing to do, and these types of tasks kind of help you with that.

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