Two moons over, p.32
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       Two Moons Over, p.32

           Levi Shipley
 
right. Cecil used his sword to cut a slot on top of a jutting stone below this drawing and placed the picture inside. Doing this put a smile on his own face.

  Eleven

  He got back onto the north bound path, climbing over a boulder to do so. A few miles up it converged with the path that had gone to the right and became one again. The trees grew fewer in number here until there were none. The ground began to dry as he walked until the path disappeared into sand. He entered the Scarab Desert for a second time.

  Cecil followed the same path he had two years ago. He passed up the place where Dahzir stole the map and never realized it. Had Cecil stopped and dug through the sand for a few hours, he’d have found pieces of his old armor. He saw great cacti and walked over mountainous dunes. The traveling was hard and found himself sliding often. The sun was down over the horizon now, and soon he’d be traveling at night.

  Darkness came but the moons did not. The sky above him was filled with innumerable constellations, and he paused frequently to gaze up at them. The air was crisp and dry, making him feel like there was nothing but distance between him and the stars. He wondered if perhaps he still was somewhere in the same universe as Earth, and that maybe his old friends were looking up the same stars but from another side. By now they’d have given up looking for him, but the idea of being connected through the stars comforted him.

  But memories were not always pleasant things. He found himself thinking of Cathrine, someone he’d almost forgotten again. How stupid the two of them had been, he thought. The weight of what she did felt so heavy to him then, but Cecil had done much growing up since his departure. He thought of how much sorrow had overtaken him over the little drama that they had. And did he love her? He thought he did, as many teenagers do. But few of them know. He thought that he did not and was just caught in the emotional heat of it all. If only they had been a little more mature, but then Cecil knew he’d now have to deal with that loss if they were.

  Then he thought of Salina that night back home. It was dark and he had forgotten to cut down roasting sticks for the fire. Again he thought of just how young he’d been two years ago. His friends awaited his return, not as eagerly as young Cecil might have thought. And he, of course, dropped his electric lantern, as he was clumsy in those days. The junk shut itself off when it fell. And she was there the whole time. He wondered just how long she’d been watching him and just how much she knew about him before revealing herself that night. Cecil thought of the fear when he knew he wasn’t alone. The only one there was a woman smaller in stature than he, but the fear had been large. What a coward he must have been, but at least he held his ground. But was it just out of fear that he stood still? He thought not. He was able to talk to her even if he trembled. And that could’ve been love too for all he knew.

  And she’d changed him that night. She made him an offer he feared to refuse. But Cecil knew what was before him, a long life of the hard way. It was the only thing for him, he knew. He had to use all that strength of spirit he was given. And if it was used to save the people of a foreign world from a tyrant, so be it. Someday his soul would be at rest, but trials aplenty would come first. He remembered the first transformation, the one he could not control. The power that had surged through his body almost stripped away his sanity. He felt himself being lifted up. The urge of his muscles to spasm and cramp. And then came the calm control. The strength at his disposal was immense and (he knew now) beyond his level of responsibility. He was just a young fool with a mind too smart for its own good and the common sense of a child. He understood why Arthur had been upset.

  Twelve

  Cecil became so lost in the flow of his memories and thoughts that he almost tripped over a shovel. If he had, he would’ve entered the old mine tumbling head first and feet in the air. There was yellow tape at the base of the entrance warning him to stay out. A white sign that had been new only months ago now showed worn letters and bare metal. It said MINE CLOSED DUE TO DRIED VEINS. NO LONGER UNDER INSPECTION. DO NOT ENTER!!!

  Cecil understood there was a good chance of him getting trapped inside if something collapsed. But his memories would come at a cost that he must be ready to pay. The overwhelming rush of memories trying to break free of their deep mind confinement drove him forward. He broke the tape and entered.

  The forest had not been as dark as this. The utter blackness around him was absolute, and he could see nothing. He found himself bumping into walls often, but everything seemed open. No blocked passages yet. Somewhere in the dark he could hear breathing that was labored and awful. There were other noises also that were far more frightening to think of, but Cecil dismissed most of these as his mortal imagination coming forth to stir up survival instincts.

  He came to a short set of stairs, which he fell down. The sounds of whatever was living in this place now became more evident. He decided it wasn’t his imagination, but Cecil also decided none of it was to be feared. Had Partheus been the one to fall down those steps, he’d have been set upon and dead within seconds. The mutants that seek darkness always find it in short order, and sometimes they are led to it. However, these monsters sensed Cecil’s power, as creatures like this often can, and stayed at a distance.

  Cecil walked through an open steel doorway into a large chamber. There was light pouring in from a sizeable maw in the ceiling. And though it was still very dark, Cecil could comprehend what everything in the room was. There had been small stationary towers, but they were all torn down. Bits of leftover drilling equipment were scattered about along with small steel anklets and collars. There was glowing purple sludge built up in a trench that provided a bit of extra light against the far wall where another steel doorway was.

  Cecil stepped onto the short set of stairs going into the chamber. It promptly collapsed under him. The sound of bent metal and crunching rust gave Cecil the impression that the steps were massive. The next impression he got was that mining gave dirt a bitter taste. He picked himself up off the floor and dusted off his food is good shirt. Then he spit out all the dirt that he could and walked to the center of the room.

  Thirteen

  A malignant pain came bursting out of his chest as he let starlight rest on his shoulders. He fell to his knees and clasped his chest. His eyes closed and he watched himself press a button under a steel panel. He watched slaves run from the chamber that had been filled with artificial light. The sound of pounding pickaxes and squealing drills stopped and Cecil heard screams of triumph and terror mingled together. He watched a younger self follow the free outside, and horror came over him at the sight of their sundered bodies.

  Behind himself in this vision he watched an armored man slide down the arch and send sparks in every direction. He saw the young Cecil turn with fright and disgust in his eyes. The man looked at Cecil with a grin so genuine it threatened to turn his empty stomach. The man mocked Cecil and the escapees and drew a sword as large as Bane Edge. Cecil felt the blows come down on his forearms as his younger self blocked the sword. He saw the ecstatic face that Dahzir was stealing from Hodge.

  And he felt the forward motion of his younger self pushing Dahzir away. He felt the heat on his face from his young self’s anger, as the man walked away laughing. He felt the shame of his running away. In Cecil’s mind he remembered it feeling like days of running though it had been only a few hours. He watched with grief as he saw the boy he had once been kill a dragoness and her hatchlings. How he wished it had not come to that, for in a way he did just what Dahzir had done on the bridge. And he saw himself enter Redora, where he hid from the truth.

  The pain in Cecil’s chest stopped. All the mutants had crept from their holes and shadows and watched the newcomer’s torment from the edges of the room. Cecil felt electricity run through his nerves, as every muscle tightened up. He felt his jaw break forward and his forehead slope. A wonderful sensation bubbled in his hand that made him feel like his finger
tips were shooting lightning. His nails turned black and curved into claws as did his toenails. He felt the growth at the small of his back where a tail was growing out. His ears came out from his head and pointed upwards. The nose above his extended jaw caught up to the bottom row of teeth. Cecil felt each individual strand of fur that came rising up from his skin. He felt his hair recede and be replaced by thick soft fur. His heart began to beat again.

  He let a howl rise from his core. It was short and low, so he gathered up all the air his lungs would allow and howled again. He might have been a wolf twice the size of those giants based on the sound he made. It was deep and heavy. The sound of it resonated and bounced off of every inch of the mine. It collapsed many chambers throughout, but he kept going. This was the only thing he could do to keep the energy from eating away at his mind. All the spectators that had gathered swiftly hid away and ceased every sound that they could make.

  And he roared afterwards the way one might after winning a great victory. And that is what he had just done. Cecil conquered his weak mind and restored that which had been lost. And he felt his
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