Blank: You Heard Me

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I was submerged in an alien ocean.

Fluorescent centipedes the size of garden snakes inspected me with their beetle eyes.

I couldn't tell if they were curious or hungry.

Murky waters kept me from seeing beyond anything that didn't glow. One of the feather-legged creatures wrapped itself around my waist. Another around my arm.

I untangled them from my body as nine more water serpents swirled around me.

A slithery tangle trapped my thigh. As I unraveled it from my leg, another whooshed by my head; its body smacked my face as it wriggled away. One more twisted itself towards my neck.

I thrashed my limbs around, attempting to repel the creatures. They continued to swarm me. A dozen more serpents broke through the abyss as they advanced in my direction.

Hands grabbed my blazer from above and pulled me upwards.

I now stood on a thin ledge below ground level with the man I had met only minutes ago.

"Had to make sure the surveillance above didn't see us," he said. A night breeze swept through his long black hair. My own dangling strands chilled my face.

"Could have chosen a tamer hiding place," I said.

We hoisted ourselves up to the ground where a girl in a white dress draped in a sapphire cloak was waiting for us. She had been the one to bring me here. I guessed her age to be around seventeen. Long wisps of blonde hair around her pale face conveyed an air of innocence--though her uneasy gaze revealed a soul tainted with suffering.

"Ezra, I beg you to hurry up with your explanation," the man said as he brushed the dirt off of his caped tunic. "What do you mean she was an Unlisted?"

The creases in his brown skin appeared harsher as he frowned at the girl.

"That's what she told me, Renan. Go ahead, ask her yourself."

They fixated on me. I returned their stare.

"Can I have that cloak back?" I asked, eyeing the black garment Renan had snatched from me before dunking me in the water.

As he handed it back to me, I continued:

"I thought maybe I'd become a snack for those water worms."

I patted myself dry with the cloak before draping it over my body.

"They're harmless," said Ezra. "They're snacks for the big fish."

"Big fish, huh?" I asked, lifting the hood of the cloak over my hair.

"Lacuna 88 is mostly a water planet," she said. Renan chimed in. "Big fish is an understatement."

He glanced around before adding:

"We should get going if we're going to do this."

He stepped off the promenade and started down a dirt road without pause for confirmation.

We were on our way to his home--a home packed with forbidden technology.

Ezra scurried to catch up to Renan. She was--as I was told--the seventh wife of Great One. I had not asked what had happened to the other six.

We walked along the winding road flanked by mud-brick houses. A distant silver orb bathed the neighborhood in moonlight. Great One's golden pyramids loomed high above the makeshift homes.

I glanced up. Unknown constellations blended into a glittered flurry of stars.

I spotted wings as they glided through the air and covered patches of the night sky. Glowing red eyes surveyed the ground below.

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