How can a world like this even exist? There's not even anything to burn, not grass, not trees, just the earth itself wreathed in crimson flame. There are no stars. No moon. Just fire below and darkness above.
This is stupid. We heard a voice in a cave and now we're marching across the least hospitable land I've ever encountered. We'll probably die out here. It's not as if there's anything to eat or drink, and the heat has me dripping with sweat.
We should have stayed in the cave.
But that voice... it compelled me. Irresistible, powerful, but more importantly, it moved me on without me feeling the call. Maybe, just maybe, if I found it, it could send me home.
"What do you think it was?" I ask Hayley, raising my voice over the constant, maddening crackle of the flaming land. We stopped holding hands a while ago. "The voice, I mean?"
"God?" she replies. I can't tell if she's being sarcastic or not. "I don't know," she continues, "but it doesn't matter. The voice knew about us, what's happening to us. We have to find it, don't we? How could we not? I don't know about you, but I need answers."
Her thoughts echo my own. We follow the path through the flames for - I don't know how long - as the heat dries our throats and skin, but the bottles in our packs only hold so much water, so we resist the urge to glug them down and instead get by on small, unsatisfying sips.
Our path leads us up onto a low, flaming hill, and as we reach the top, we both stop, awed despite our exhaustion. The hellscape stretched out before us is... spectacular. Orange flames cloak the land, for as far as the eye can see in every direction, from the hill we stand on to the jagged mountains in the distance, every metre of charred black earth covered by the inferno save for the dead straight path that runs from here to the cave and on, down the hill in front of us.
My eye follows its route, and a little beyond the bottom of the hill, through the fire I can make out...
"A city?" Hayley asks, squinting against the light of the flames.
"I think so," I reply. "Yes, yes it must be." The more I look, the more I find I can see. The city is huge, taking up a vast proportion of the visible land before us, though it's hard to make out through the perpetual blaze. The buildings are tall, modern-looking, like skyscrapers, though every one of them is broken and crumbled, and wrapped in the omnipresent fire. Between the great towers lie myriad smaller, perhaps residential buildings, lining streets that criss-cross the city in a regular, efficient grid. It reminds me of New York, though I never managed to go before I left our world.
Our path cuts right through the middle of the city, disappearing into the buildings, and though I can't follow its precise route I can see it does not continue beyond the city itself.
"I guess that's where we're supposed to go," Hayley says.
"Must be," I agree. I offer her my arm in a mock-gentlemanly fashion. "Shall we?"
She snorts, and elbows me aside. I shrug, and we start the descent together.
Our water supplies are uncomfortably low by the time we reach the city border. Both our bottles are down to less than a quarter-full, and we're almost gasping with thirst, not to mention shattered from the heat and the exertion. I pray without much hope that there might be water somewhere in the city.
Tall buildings burn on either side of the road as we follow it into the city, only a few degrees away from being parallel to our path. As such, the road slowly veers to the right of the corridor in the flames, so we move further and further left, until most of the passable route is now buildings with no obvious doors, with Hayley and I confined to the raised pavement between their walls and the flames to our right.
YOU ARE READING
Lonely WorldsScience Fiction
Felix Aiden Lewis is alone. Somehow displaced from his home reality, he wanders from world to world, surviving however he can, never encountering another living soul - until today.