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Fiction Fantasy Friendship

For an entire half-hour, Cynthia threw up what felt like her body weight in blood, and by some miracle, she did not die.

Passing out would’ve been nice. Her throat and stomach burned like she had drunk raw acid. Still conscious after the vomiting, she stared at the pool of blood drowning the blue grass. Blue grass. The grass glowed with an azure hue. This couldn’t be Earth anymore, could it?

“Can you stand?” a quiet voice asked.

Her arms trembled as she held herself up. It wouldn’t be long until they gave, and she would then fall face-first into her blood. The body of an ant, see-through with a cyan tint, floated in the pool. The distorted noise of alien-like crickets wavered somewhere nearby.

“Help me,” Cynthia mumbled, blood dripping from her lips.

“I’m with you.” Two hands gripped her sweater and held her steady. “Do you think you can stand?”

“Stand? Did…did you not see any of what just happened?” She coughed out the blood drying at the back of her throat. Tiny cobalt specks of what looked like glass coated it. “Oh, god,” she said, “what is happening?”

“You’ll recover fast,” the voice said.

“Am I dead?” Cynthia licked at her teeth. The blood coating them tasted of sour copper. Her vision split into three, then two, as she looked up at the midnight purple sky. Hundreds of stars stared back at her—not a trace of light pollution. That sealed it! She could no longer be on Earth.

“Answer me, voice,” she said, “because I feel dead.”

The voice sighed. “You’re alive. I need you to stand. I need to find us water, and I can’t leave you here.”

“Where the…where am I? Who are you? Where are we?”

“I don’t know.” the voice said. “I didn’t bring us here.” Both arms reached under her shoulders to help her stand. Cynthia stumbled back as she stood, her head spinning at the rush of motion. She tripped over a coral-like branch and landed beside a glowing set of indigo-colored mushrooms. Their light flickered. A spider with amber skin and two extra legs dashed past her.

The figure who helped her up rushed over.

“You need to be careful!” she called. “This is a rainforest, it’s dangerous and I can’t let you get hurt.”

“I barely remember how I got here,” Cynthia said, rubbing her forehead. “God. Did I overdose? Or drink too much? I had it coming.” She looked to the voice, a short girl who couldn’t be an inch taller than five foot three. She wore an olive green jacket with a gear heavy wrist-mounted crossbow beneath the right cuff. Her ears, thick and curved, jutted out of the top of her head like those of an animal.

“Oh, you’re not human.”

“Great observation,” the girl whispered. “Of course I’m not human.”

“No,” Cynthia staggered forwards, and the girl rushed to grab her, “you can’t even be real. I don’t believe it, rabbit ears.” She reached to touch the girl’s hair, who recoiled and loosened her grip around Cynthia’s shoulders.

“Don’t do that!” the voice snapped. “I’m real, got it? And don’t call me a rabbit. I’m real, my name is Mai, and we’re not friends. Now be quiet and follow.”

Mai looked up to the sky, then took off south, her hiking boots breaking apart branches of a coral-like plant. Cynthia brushed off a tube snouted mosquito from her shoulder and caught up to the girl.

“Where are we going?”

“Water,” Mai said.

“Is that supposed to tell me something?” she replied, ducking beneath a vine. “We’re going to get water? Cool, I hope they have crushed ice here. Let’s forget that I’m on an alien planet and my tour guide is half rabbit. Oh, and I vomited enough blood to kill me. Did you see the glass or whatever that was in my blood? What does it mean?”

“Don’t be racist.”

Cynthia brushed off another of the mosquitoes. They buzzed around the blood coating her sweater.

“Racism,” she said, “that’s what you got from that?”

“I’m not a rabbit. Don’t call me one, it’s offensive. I’m Anarhi.”

“Sure, my tour guide is an Anarhi. An angry one at that. What fantasy world do you come from?”

She didn’t reply. Cynthia dodged around a patch of luminescent mushrooms, following behind her. They passed trees wider than any she’d ever seen, spotted with holes where violet feathered birds nested. One turned to her and let out a distorted caw. She could see their organs through their transparent eye sockets. Eerie.

She swatted at another tube snouted mosquito that buzzed around her sleeves.

“Alright, you wouldn’t have bug spray on you by any chance?”

No reply. The Anarhi knelled to brush the dirt off the path, inspecting a set of prints.

“You’re a quiet one, Mai, ain’t you? Here’s an easier question, why are you here?”

“I was chosen for this.”

Cynthia stopped walking to laugh. “Is this some destiny cliché? If it is, no thank you, send me back home. When I used to read, I’d drop most of those books right away. What kind of lazy god-”

“My people chose me. Not the goddess. And destiny or not, we have no choice.”

“Then what are we doing?” Cynthia asked. She leaned back against a tree. “Are we on a journey to reach the dark tower? Destroy a ring? Restore the order of the knights radiant?”

“I don’t understand these references.”

“Look, rabbit ears.” Mai scowled at the name. “I need to piece this together somehow. There was a party. Then the guy in the black and purple robes came up to me, and he opened a portal as I stumbled to the bathroom. I tripped through and started vomiting. That’s all the context I have, and I think it’s fair to ask for more.”

An orange-spotted snake making the skittering sound of a centipede crawled down beside her. Cynthia yelped, then dashed forward to catch up with Mai.

“Okay,” she said, “rabbit ears. This is an actual rainforest. My life—our lives are in danger here. We haven’t seen a real predator yet, and unless you’re lightning quick with that crossbow-”

“I am.”

“You better be accurate too, or we’ll be dead. How about we regroup with the others? You know, why didn’t they come with us? And come on, honesty, why won’t you tell me anything?”

“Because,” Mai said, turning her back to her, “you smell like nicotine and alcohol. You talk a lot and provide no useful skills to the group. Soon enough you'll be going through withdrawals, and then dealing with you will be even worse. I want to enjoy the quiet while I still have it.”

Cynthia let out a puff of air. “Okay. Feedback…taken. Got it.”

“I’m sorry,” Mai whispered, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Yeah. Let’s just find water.”

The distorted noise of the violet birds and animals unseen echoed through the rainforest. A ticking on the trees, a deep growl somewhere further off, and the hissing of a dozen different bugs. The ground rumbled and the oval-shaped leaves above them shook. Mai raised her fist for them to stop until it passed. They walked until they emerged from the path to find a wide pool of water.

One rust and one silver-colored moon lit the water with a serene glow. Cynthia relaxed—she could see a lot further now out of the rainforest and could tell a threat from a distance. She swatted at another mosquito before taking off her sweater.

“I’m going to try and wash off the blood, alright? It might get these mosquitoes off me.”

“Don’t!” Mai called, rushing up and grabbing her by the stomach.

“Get off me, you rabbit-”

“No! My people chose me to keep you safe. Look into the water, Cynthia, in the mud! There are eye stalks and they’re waiting for an animal to drink before it pounces. Look at the corpses in the water!”

Cynthia broke from Mai’s grip and stepped back. Sure enough, the tips of what she thought to be alien seaweed blinked from beneath the water’s surface. The bulbous eyes watched her and swayed from side to side. Bones laid around it like crushed rock.

“We’ll head back for tonight,” Mai said. “I wanted to find a stream or a river, not a lake, but this is a start. Follow close, got it?”

Her body shaking, she followed Mai back into the rainforest.


- - -


Cynthia laid down on the azure grass and scrolled through her phone. She had little charge left, but what did it matter? It’s not like she could call an Uber out here, even if she had service by some miracle.

The two others, despite the jungle’s noises, had somehow fallen asleep. It left her awake with Mai sitting across from her. The girl fiddled with her crossbow, her fingers turning the gears.

A blue-spotted frog leaped down from a tree and landed on Cynthia’s chest. Its webbed legs stuck to her sweater, and its cerulean tongue shot out to impale a mosquito. Cynthia dropped her phone.

“Don’t move,” Mai said. “Do not touch it-”

Ignoring the words, she swiped at the frog to push it off, the oil-secreting from its back sticking to her fingers. The frog emitted a high-pitched squeal and leaped to the side. The oil sank into the pores of her hand—black spots bloomed in her vision.

“What the-”

Spades of warm colors followed, breaking into triangles, rotating, spiraling into serrated, zig-zag patterns. Cynthia sunk down and watched the sky, her body numb. An emerald shone in the middle, glowing, shattering into overlapping, translucent spheres. They melted into a liquid and dripped down into puddles.

A voice whispered to her from eons away.

Can you hear me, Cynthia? I’m with you, okay? Breathe.

A set of scarlet fangs growled in front of her, opening, stretching into nothing. Eyes in the surrounding fog watched, each set a deep red, shadows approaching one step at a time. Cynthia screamed, yet made no noise.

I’m right here beside you, you’re alright. Deep breaths.

Deep breath. She opened her eyes.

“Mai? My god.” Cynthia sat up and brought arms around her knees. Mai sat right beside her with her legs crossed. “I’m scared straight off drugs. That was terrifying.”

“It’s the frog’s defense mechanism,” Mai said. She took Cynthia’s hand and washed it over with a canteen. “How it wards off prey. Are you okay now?”

“I’m cold, but I can see again.”

Mai undid her jacket, then wrapped it around her shoulders. The warm, fuzzy material broke the wind, and Cynthia pulled it tight.

“Won’t you be cold?” she asked.

“It’s warmer here than it’ll ever be where I’m from. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re really kind, Mai,” she said, exhaling. “Look, I’m sorry for how I treated you earlier. You saved my life at the lake, and I’ve been nothing but rude to you. Can we start over? Since we’re both stuck here?”

“Of course. It’ll be easier that way,” she said. “My people chose me to take care of you. I’m not too sure what’s going on myself, and the others,” she looked over at them, still asleep, “they’re leaving me in the dark too. Know that I wouldn’t want this to be destiny, either. That would be lazy.”

Cynthia laughed, and Mai smiled.

“What I do know is that you’re manabound, Cynthia. It means you have the power of pure energy. When you came through the portal, it charged your blood. That’s why you threw up, and those shards you saw were pure mana. It’s why you didn’t die. It’s regenerating your cells rapidly.”

“Really now? Any idea why it’s me in particular? I had nothing going in my life other than drinking.”

Mai went back to pushing the gears around on her crossbow. “Somewhere in your bloodline, there is someone like you.” She stood up and brushed herself off. “You should get some sleep.”

She did.


- - -


ONE YEAR LATER


Mai sat at the cliffside, watching the waters crash into the base of the mountains. She was getting used to seeing with only one eye. Her mind adapted to that darkness on her left, feeling more natural by the day. She turned to her friend, her mind wandering as she watched the waves.

“What are you thinking about?” Mai asked.

“Hm?” Cynthia looked over, her brilliant cerulean eyes sparkling with energy—not a touch of white left in them. Her once blond hair, now silver with blue strands, blew behind her with the wind. “Do you remember the azure rainforest?”

“Of course,” Mai said. “That was…a year ago, right? That’s when I met you.”

“We didn’t really get along back then.”

“We did not.”

Cynthia snapped her fingers, and blue sparks shot from her palm.

“Destiny or not, I’m glad it was you I got stuck with,” she said. “I still remember that acid trip, with the spotted frog. I focused on your voice. That’s what got me out of it.” 

“I think it was just a low dosage, but that’s a kind thought.”

She laughed. Mai breathed in the salt-tainted air—the comforting scent of the sea. She didn’t talk much, but Cynthia never seemed bothered by it. They could sit together in a companionable silence that didn’t make her nervous.

“We still got a long way to go, don’t we?” Cynthia said.

“Yeah. The journey has only begun. I’m happy to be by your side for it, friend.”

“As am I, Mai.”

The waves crashed below, and Mai smiled.

July 26, 2021 19:34

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33 comments

Amaranthine Sky
13:46 Jul 29, 2021

Wow, this is an amazing story! I want to read more about these characters...especially Mai 😉. Great job; I loved this! As other people in the comments have already stated, a sequel would be fun to read.

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Alex Sultan
20:15 Jul 29, 2021

I could write a whole novel about Mai! I have so much planned for her character. There's a lot of depth to her and her world. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this :)

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Arthur Alexander
15:05 Aug 01, 2021

Wow... this is the first story I've read of yours. This is fantastic! I really loved both the charecters. The plot and the way you've described everything is absolutely phenomenal. Overall an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G job done :) PS: I really like Mai :)

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Alex Sultan
18:46 Aug 01, 2021

Thank you for reading! I'm glad it caught your attention and that you liked it. Mai is one of my favorite characters I've drafted - I tried to get all the key points of her character across in this short story, and there is still more to her. It is nice to hear you liked her character.

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Keya Jadav
17:23 Sep 20, 2021

Dipping in an ocean of fantasy....can't be better. Your descriptions and way of narrating caught me again, it is just so amazing to read your stories, each one gets better. I liked how you ended it, bending it into a full circle of satisfaction. Great Job!

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Alex Sultan
21:20 Sep 20, 2021

Thank you, Keya. This is my favorite story on my profile, Mai being my favorite character I've written, and I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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A B
19:23 Sep 08, 2021

Really great!!! I loved the story! Would love a backstory for Mai and a part 2!! Amazing!

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Alex Sultan
05:10 Sep 09, 2021

Thank you! This is my favorite story on my profile, and Mai is one of my favorite characters I've drafted. I have a lot more in store for her - I wouldn't be able to get her entire character across in just a short story.

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A B
13:22 Sep 09, 2021

So true! love all your work! you have true talent!

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19:31 Aug 06, 2021

Hi Alex, I really like the world building in this and the assortment of animals and plants in the forest. I agree with the previous comment that you may have gone a bit over to top on the different shades of blue, but I suppose if everything in the scene is blue it is difficult to find other ways to describe it. I only spotted one error: No reply. The Anarhi knelled (kneeled) to brush the dirt off the path, inspecting a set of prints. I have to admit I got a bit lost with this section: The two others, despite the jungle’s noises, had ...

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Alex Sultan
02:48 Aug 07, 2021

That one error will haunt me. I'm glad you pointed it out - I know to avoid it now. For every other point you've made, I do agree with you. Even to me, it doesn't read as much as a short story. I re-wrote this scene inspired by a novel I plotted out years ago, so everything unanswered is meant to be that way - there's supposed to be another 200 pages for it, and this scene is around the 30% mark of the book. I can see why it makes this story a bit confusing to read.

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18:12 Aug 06, 2021

Great story! You really set a lovely pace and I commend the way you were able to create a world in 3000 words or less.

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Alex Sultan
02:50 Aug 07, 2021

Thank you, Natalia. I really like the imagery I got across here. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Hans B
15:42 Aug 04, 2021

Wow, amazing! I loved the descriptions you gave about the wildlife and the clash of personalities between the characters. Definitely a fun read. Throughly enjoyed it and yes, this needs to be a novel. Awesome!

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Larry Kindred
14:42 Aug 04, 2021

Nice story! It'll be fun to read it in a more expansive novel. Try not to overemphasize the fact that everything in this rainforest is a shade of blue, though. It can get redundant, and try to blend some descriptions into the narrative so they don't stick out like sore thumbs. Great job author! When you can, give me some feedback as well!

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Alex Sultan
00:26 Aug 05, 2021

Thank you for the feedback. It is something I wouldn't have picked up as the author of the piece. I agree with you on it, there are sections where I could've gone easier on the blue colored imagery.

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Larry Kindred
14:41 Aug 05, 2021

Yes, but it's a nice story nonetheless. Good job!

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Ravi Srivastava
13:58 Aug 04, 2021

Amazing story! The words build up a vivid picture, and you never lose the thread. The characterization is very credible. Great job!

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Jane May
02:47 Aug 01, 2021

Very colorful, vivid imagery. It felt like a page out of a bigger book. Would love to read more of the Azure world.

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14:40 Jul 31, 2021

Fantastic story!! I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I absolutely loved the characters and the plot, amazing job! As literally everyone else is asking, please make a sequel :)

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Alex Sultan
21:09 Jul 31, 2021

Thank you for the kind words. I might write a second part regarding the two other characters, but most likely I'm saving the bulk of it for a novel.

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05:15 Aug 01, 2021

Can’t wait to hear more!! Especially if it’s a novel :)

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Ed F
07:07 Jul 30, 2021

I really enjoyed reading this story. I think you write really well, and your descriptions made it very easy to imagine the world they were in and what was happening. The dialogue between the characters flows nicely as well, moving the story along and developing the friendship between Cynthia and Mai. Well done :)

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Annalisa D.
03:35 Jul 30, 2021

I really enjoyed reading this. I liked the nice friendship, excellent character development, and cool world building.

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Madison Farren
18:23 Jul 29, 2021

I seriously would read a full novel around this story. Nice job!

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Alex Sultan
20:14 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you for the kind words. This is one of those stories I could definitely see myself writing a novel around.

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Andrea Magee
20:17 Jul 28, 2021

Please make this a series!! It's a great storyline and you are an awesome writer!!

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Cuppa Chae
18:25 Jul 28, 2021

Woah, this was amazing :o I love how you laid it out in a Fantasy setting, definitely not something I would have thought of. I really enjoy your style of writing too, and the imagery you weave is beautiful :) thank you for the entertaining read!

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Alizah Muhammad
17:37 Jul 28, 2021

Very well written, Loved it!! 😁😁

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Zz Entwistle
15:30 Jul 28, 2021

The detailed imagery of this world really set up the story, and the characters were well-thought out with believable dialogue. I'd love to know what happens from there - perhaps you could make a second part? Well done :)

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Rachel Deeming
11:51 Jul 28, 2021

Super imaginative and had me invested from the get-go. You've complimented me on my dialogue and I return the favour. Your characters are vivid as a result. But what happens to them? I want to know!

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Alex Sultan
20:57 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you! This is my favorite story I've written in terms of dialogue - at times it felt like the characters wrote themselves. As for what happens, it would take a novel to write it out. I have so much planned for them :)

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Jon R. Miller
10:00 Jul 28, 2021

Wonderful job! I really liked the feel and vibe of this, not to mention the excellent description of the world. I was drawn in immediately and read right through. :>

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