“You know,” he said to himself, “it’s the little things.”
Like The Sunset? the other voice asked.
“Sure. It is beautiful,” he replied.
And it was. The clouds glowed orange off to the west as the sun set and lit up the minor moon, which hung just above the horizon. Further over to the east, just outside the tendrils of twilight sun, the major moon sat, imperial and gleaming, the Mega Cities answer to the majesty of nature.
“But also being stupidly far away from the fire.”
Do a double take under the major moon. Those aren't clouds lit by the sunset, that’s smoke, lit by a raging, unnatural and permanent wildfire. Creeping across the face of the world like some terrible juggernaut.
“Maybe it’ll rain tonight.”
Rain Is Not Likely.
“Let a guy dream, will you?”
We Should Focus On Pressing Issues.
“Ain’t nothing we can’t deal with that won’t be there tomorrow. For now we rest.”
He considered his predicament in silence. Spoken out loud would invite commentary he wasn't ready to hear.
He was one of the lucky ones, an individual born to one of the Mega Cities. However, there were rules and he had broken them and now he found himself here, Onix.
Onix was a small planet, no bigger than the largest landmass back home. You, if you were so inclined, could comfortably walk around its equator in about half a year. You wouldn't, of course, even without the fire there was the issue of the gangs and they were nothing compared to the creatures. Even here, where he had been hunkered down for a few weeks in the lava fields, there was no permanent safety. He had avoided the fire as it engulfed the fields, lighting up brilliantly as it found pockets of gas released from deep inside the planet, but he was still on lava fields, and as careful as he was, accidents happen. Plus, the creatures weren't as afraid of the lava as he had anticipated. He had more than a few scars to prove how dangerous they were. Still though, lava beats creatures every time.
There was no goal to Onix. If you were here, you were here. If you survived, well good for you. If not, tough luck. His goal was to get inside the city. The fire had passed it a few hours ago, and while he could have started before nightfall, he would have ended up on the volatile fields trying to find a safe place to camp for the night instead of this precipice overlooking them.
He stared at the city, sitting in the middle of the fields. It looked like a mesa rising up from the ground but it was impossibly tall; a column of rock that stabbed into the clouds above. Inside was the only way off of Onix, or so he had heard. He had head a lot about the city, including that it was the lair of a sleeping creature, and that it was where everything was controlled from, and even that it was just a natural formation and was solid rock all the way through.
No, he thought. It’s hollow. And it’s mine.
He just had to get inside.
It’s Not Actually A City. The voice echoed inside his head, not painfully but certainly uncomfortably. The way it always did when it took him by surprise.
“I know, I know. But everyone calls it that.”
Why Must You All Persist In Incorrectness?
He knew it was a rhetorical question, but he knew it was still one of the questions it would always sincerely want an answer for. “I don't know,” was his only reply. “It’s part of who we are I guess.”
The city was the only feature of the lava fields, and maybe the planet, which had anything resembling non-natural markings on it. It was why he had chosen to make camp on this side of it and risk the fire. This side, the southern side, had a giant circle right in the centre. The circle was almost white, especially compared to the darker tone of the rock the rest of the structure was made from. He couldn't see from here, but he imagined it being a different material altogether.
There Are People Down There.
“Well, it was only a fleeting hope that I would be the only survivor. It does make things a little bit harder though.”
The Others Will Return Very Soon. The Fire, As You Call It, Will Only Keep Them Away For So Long.
“Why must you persist in telling me things I already know?” he sent a glare at it and smirked in satisfaction when he heard what he considered a laugh inside his head.
I Only Wish To See This To Its End And Move On.
“Well, what if I get in?”
That Is Something I Will Deal With If It Happens.
He considered his companion quietly. It wasn't something he enjoyed doing, but he found himself doing it more often than not since arriving at the fields.
He thought of it as a type of dog. It had four legs, which it used as a dog would, a tail which didn't so much wag as flicked. It had nothing he considered fur and even if he could bring himself to touch it to find out what it had instead, he was certain it wouldn't be a pleasant experience. It was somewhat larger than a dog, maybe half again as big as the dogs his sister used to breed. Its eyes were fierce and white, which stood out against the shadow-black of the rest of it. Its snout was very dog-like, if a little longer. It didn't open its mouth, and he just had to assume that inside was analogous to a dog; again, he didn't want to check for himself. Along its spine were half a dozen bony protrusions. He had seen others of his kind on his travels across Onix, and their protrusions had all been long and spindly, like a porcupines spikes. This ones were short and stumpy, as if it had lost them somehow. His favourite part of his companion was, of course, its horns. The way they burst out of the top of its head and flared back like a goats gave him, for some reason, comfort.
None of the others of its kind he had seen had such impressive horns and they had seemed to make them all keep their distance. One day he would ask about that, but for now it was time for sleep. For him, at least. His companion didn't sleep. It watched in silence. Always in silence.