Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019

In the Valley

The two men didn't know each other. They weren't allies, nor brothers. Not friends or colleagues.

They didn't know this part of the world, much less the valley they found themselves at opposing ends of.

Their stories were as different from each others as they, themselves, were and yet they were the same in many ways.

The valley itself was nothing special. There was nothing that made it stand out from any of the other valleys in these foothills. It was several miles long and just under two at its widest. A river ran from north to south down the western side and in the middle were two or three small shacks which sat on the edge of a thick swampy forest which covered almost the entire southern and eastern halves of the valley.

The first man, who had come in from the north, was unaware of the other man. He had crossed the mountains, after being separated from the rest of his expedition, and had survived the treacherous crossing. But while he didn't know where he was, he did not consider himself lost. There was something about this valley that made him feel at home. He followed the groove in the rock that the river had worn away over many years and after almost another full day of hiking, arrived at the valley floor.

The grass that covered the floor was thick, soft and full of small yellow and white flowers that attracted many insects of all sizes which flew off in all directions as he disturbed their peaceful existence.

He had seen the shacks as the valley had opened before him in the hills above, and had seen smoke issuing quietly from one of them. But now that he was down on the floor, not only was the smoke gone, but the shacks themselves weren't anywhere to be seen.

The man in the south was cautious about entering the valley. The swamp beneath him implied a water source but, as of yet, he had not found it. He knew this happened sometimes, and swamps were fed from underground sources, but as he looked down from his vantage point and saw the swamp and its thick, humid air below him, his gut told him something else was wrong. Then again, someone was clearly living down there; shacks don't build themselves after all.

The swamp was full of strange noises. Frogs jumped out of his way as he moved through the soft mud, avoiding any obvious puddles and mosquitoes kept him company the whole way.

The trees, mostly short mangroves, were what he was used to back home. But these felt off too. Different in a way he couldn't put into words.

The one thing he could put his finger one was the darkness that existed under the canopy of the few taller trees that grew in the mud. It was mid-morning when he entered; the sun had completely cleared the side of the valley. But here, in among the trees and mud, it was perpetually dusk. The man had to force his way through some brambles and without a light, his forearms and face took a heavy beating.

The sun shone down, bright and warm. He walked along the edge of the river, eyeing the clear water suspiciously. He looked up and in the distance, maybe a mile or so away, the water disappeared into the mangroves.

The man pulled the hood of his coat up over his head, and looked back at the water. A cloud passed over the sun and the valley fell into shadows.

The earth shook and he fell to his knees. Another earthquake. There had been several in the last few days. None of them strong enough to do any real damage, but as he had come through the mountains, he had nearly been caught by a large avalanche.

The cloud drifted on and the sun came back out, although it wasn't as warm as it had been. He who had followed the river covered his eyes and stared up at the sky. There was something up there. Something watching. He couldn't see anything, but he knew it was there.

The man in the swamp picked himself back up and wiped the slime and mud off his clothes. He had been annoyed by the quakes as he had crossed the plains towards the mountains and this one was no exception. He trudged through the mud, eyebrows furrowed until he reached the treeline and the valley proper.

The sun was out and it was almost directly overhead. He emerged into the light, expecting the same warmth he had felt outside the valley, but it wasn't there. It was almost like something was blocking the heat from reaching him.

The smoke he had seen from the top of the valley was nowhere to be seen now and he began to think he had imagined it.

But then he saw him. The other man. A stranger very clearly from over the mountains. He, too, was looking to the sky for answers. He stared at the other man, wondering why he had this strange feeling he had met him before.

He looked up at the sky, wondering if he was staring at something in particular, but as before, there was nothing up there.

“There's something up there,” the man from the north shouted. The man from the south started and looked over at the other man who was now staring directly at him. “There are no shacks or fire either.”

“What is there then?” the man from the south asked.

“I don't know. This place is strange.”

“I see it in my dreams,” the man from the south said before he realised he was saying it. “I don't know why I told you that.”

“I see it in my dreams too. But,” the man from the north trailed off.

“The shacks,” the man from the south said.

“They're always there. But they're empty.”

“Not abandoned,” the man from the south nodded. “Waiting.”

“So where are they?”

“I think we have to make them?”


“To make the dream come true.”

The man from the north looked at the man from the south and swallowed. “What else do you dream about?” he asked carefully.