Dark World

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When Leviathan swallowed me, and I awoke with Trancy taunting me from the hollows of his mouth—then she vanished, in a gust, down his throat—I was stricken with such a sudden hunger, I cast the very spell I used to hate, "Fire," and wandered into the deep dark.

Yet I hadn't concerned myself over why my hunger was so painfully sudden; what was the wind that pulled Trancy into the unknown; where did the sea-mucked, serpentine throat go; and most importantly, when would the pathway end?

The older I get—regardless of if I'm aging in days, or years—the more I become aware of these deeper questions. Now they're questions that keep me up at night.

Through intestines and stomachs—across bile Shiva froze into harder terrain—and at the guidance of Ifrit, I'd journeyed from teeth to wall-to-wall passages to a great city ruled by a four-faced Eidolon who offered to be my new Mother, and still the world opens wider as we pass along the edges of smithies, suburbs, and royal treasuries guarded by Alraune, twilight-colored creatures with the upper torsos of naked women, the lower torsos of oversized, hairy tarantulas, and the stink of brimstone and salt.

"Is this," I start, feeling my throat clench up. It's like I can't breathe. I lift my hands to just beneath my collar bones, trying to push the bubble of pressure out of me.

"Anxietyattack," Rob says, spinning in circles around me. "JustbreathebreathBREATHE, onetwothree, onetwothree, onetwothree—"

Shiva and Ifrit are a fair amount of distance ahead, but not so far they can't hear Rob's antics. After they glance over their shoulders, Shiva hurries towards me, snarling, "Shut up, Bomb; she's already stressing out—don't need you making her heart explode—"

My heart's going to explode!?

Am I having a heart atta—

"You'll be fine, Rydia!" Ifrit shouts. "I have panic attacks all the time!"

Shiva places her hand on my chest, just below my neck, and closes her eyes. I try to breathe in, in, in, until Shiva says, "Exhale," then I breathe in, in, in very deeply, and Shiva whispers quieter, "Good, now exhale," adding with a half-smile, "and stop skipping between breaths; just take air in and out, nice and ease... Smoother, Rydia. Breathe in one, calming motion."

She's gesturing slowly with her hands, and it mesmerizes me right into the Slow spell, which feels very strange,—stacked atop Trancy's Haste spell—and I—am eerily—light-headed—

In this enchanted state, I can actually see the fine motions between Rob's otherwise blazing hands. For some reason, the Slow spell doesn't speed him up; he also Slows down. He has eight fingers, which move in intricate lines, similar to how Mother used to weave great Blizarra, Firaga, and Thundara into the air...

But his fingers aren't quite those spells.

Is he trying to cast something enormous, beneath all that pent-up energy?

"Are you okay, Rydia?" Rob asks, and I'm freaked out by the space between his words.

"Rob," I stammer. "You're—talking—normal."

The tiny little Bomb quirks an eyebrow; plays with the edges of an amused smirk.

"Rydia—," Shiva blurts. "Justgetsomeair."

Ifrit smirks at Shiva and topples out, "Isn'tSlowwhitemagic?"

"What'sittoyou—," Shiva retorts.

That's right; didn't Shiva chastise me for using white magic? Talk about the icy pot calling the kettle frozen. I wave my hands in front of me, marveling at how dumbly they react to my incredible speed. 

Rob starts wiggling his fingers in the air all weird again. He glances at me, then back at his hands, asking, "What were you so anxious about, anyway?"

"The cave," I say, equal parts certain with, and startled by, my answer. My brain feels like a huge mess. So does my heart. And the growing pains in my feet, those are a disaster, too. It's like I can feel the hyperdrive in slow motion, and it's rubbery and odd. "Why does Leviathan's stomach keep getting bigger?"

"What?" Rob asks. He looks genuinely riddled.

"First, Leviathan's throat got this big," I tell him, measuring with my hands. Then I whip my arms out wide, "and then this big, and—"

"Leviathan's throat is a wormhole, silly."

I try to blink away my shock.

"It opens to the deepest depths," Rob continues. "Even deeper than the ocean."

I can't get rid of shock fast enough to prepare for the next wave of shock.

"That's why the Dark Library," Rob says. "Why all the cave systems. You're underground. Leviathan took you far, far down in the planet, beyond the Light Crystals."

"This is the Dark World?" I stammer.

Rob nods. "Yep. Land of the Dark Crystals."


First draft: July 18

Second draft: August 18

Word count: 769

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