Dimension 8 – A random island, ??
Author's note: If you are new to my use of a "fourth-person" AKA an "obviative/proximate" pronoun system, you are in for a wild ride starting from this chapter, perhaps. You may take a little while to get used to it. I could be a normal, reasonable writer, but at this point, I am in too deep and have fallen in love with this new system to want to go back to the usual English third-person pronoun system, so you can get used to it or put down the book. Cheers!
April 3077. 08:40. Five hours after the arrival.
As Kiri rowed, she managed to grasp a clumsily executed rhythm. She could only imagine the few video clips she had seen of people rowing. (They did it backward for whatever reason). However, she was doing something right, as the little island slowly came closer and closer. A light morning mist that had made it appear blurry began to fade as the distance closed.
She could now see that the artificial structures were abandoned. Perhaps an old military post? A little past the island and in the sky flew lines of hovering… trains and ships? They seemed to be disappearing into a circular structure nested at the top of two very tall metallic towers. She could barely see what was going on, where the vehicles were going, let alone who—or what—was controlling them. But she nervously gulped at the prospect that this was not, in fact, just a dream or a hallucination.
She considered that it might be better to row to the big island which appeared to be inhabited, but it was so far away and her arms felt like burning jello.
Upon reaching the small island, she positioned the boat between a couple of concrete slabs that had broken off from one of the decimated buildings. She carefully snapped the oars back into their original positions and looked around with wide eyes.
There was no sign of life besides the trees and the vines covering the eerie gray buildings. A high-pitched tone rang in her ears just barely over the waves lapping over the chunks of concrete and rebar that lined the shore.
She hoisted the boat as far as she could onto the rocks. She carefully climbed over them towards the crumbling road. Its edge hung down precariously over the water as if the weight of a pin could've sent it tumbling. She hopped onto the road, avoiding the edge. Started to meander inland.
“Hello?” she said quietly.
Immediately, she slapped her hand over her mouth. She hadn’t considered that maybe there were beings that weren’t humans on this island. For all she knew, she could be brutally abducted and tortured for 10 days straight. Or maybe she would be poked, prodded, and cut into for their scientific experiments.
Was this really worth possibly not starving? She hated games of chance. No wonder she had never made a real effort to leave her boring old town.
“I’m really doing this,” she grumbled.
Against her will she walked further and further inland, jerking her head around as if something would jump out at her any moment.
Suddenly, from behind one of the nearby buildings, a rusty-sounding, high-pitched yell pierced the silence and caused Kiri’s heart to nearly burst. She jumped back and gasped. “What the?!”
The yell sounded like a curse, but not in any language she recognized. But it definitely sounded like a human language with a human tone. This was somewhat of a relief. However, she hadn’t considered that she might have to deal with a language she didn’t know.
She continued to move forward even more cautiously. Her brain knew it was less risky to stay put. Her stomach insisted otherwise. It growled incessantly now. Might as well have been handed a microphone and amplified times 20. She clutched her stomach and winced. “Please shut up…” she whispered.
The voice continued to yell out foreign words in quick succession. Definitely sounded human. She continued to walk until she saw blue steam rising from behind the nearby building. Silhouetted in the steam was what she perceived as a human with a feminine appearance. This human person was waving her hand in front of her face and coughing wildly.
Kiri let out a relieved sigh but then held her breath again as she approached the stranger.
It should have been a comfort that the stranger looked human, but she looked rather angry. She rummaged in the open hood of a strange-looking car that had an unusual windshield stretching far back over the ceiling and small wheels that couldn’t possibly have been used for driving. Was this one of the vehicles that were flying into that circular structure?
The stranger was several centimeters taller than Kiri with a thick frame and slight musculature. She easily lifted out a large device from the hood and placed it on the ground with a loud bang. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and her dark brown skin glistened in the sunlight. Her frizzy black hair was tied up in a messy ponytail. Her dark brown eyes narrowed as she sighed and looked pensively at the car in front of her.
“Jit. Tchin’a sli accha,” she mumbled.
Kiri’s tentative “um” sound emerged from her throat unintentionally. She clapped her hands over her mouth.
Too late. The stranger looked up and spotted Kiri.
Both of them paused.
With wide eyes, Kiri waited, frozen. It wasn’t as though she looked much different from the stranger in terms of human-ness, but still…
After several long seconds, the stranger finally smiled. Kiri loosened slightly.
“Kahtn yono,” the stranger said. “Maryoi sa nakot?”
Kiri hesitated with her mouth open agape. “Oh, um.” She cleared her throat and waved awkwardly. “Hello. Um, I don’t speak—uh, your language it seems.”
“Ay, ay, cortuumo ashi kon.” The stranger sounded understanding and nodded. She walked around the strange vehicle and reached through one of the open windows. As she took out a black leather purse, Kiri took a step back. The stranger snapped open the purse and fiddled around inside it. Kiri considered running away but ended up standing there frozen.
At last, the stranger clicked her tongue and whipped out a simple black cube. Looked at Kiri again and smiled. As she approached Kiri, she held out the cube toward her.
Kiri looked down at it hesitantly. Seeing this, the stranger gestured for her to take it.
Kiri lifted one shaky hand. Slowly reached for the cube, then took it.
What am I doing…? she thought. I’m gonna die, aren’t I…
The stranger then pressed a button on the watch she was wearing and a hologram appeared out of thin air. It looked like a phone screen because of the various symbols Kiri could only assume were applications.
Kiri nearly gasped when the stranger touched the hologram as if touching a physical object. The stranger tapped on one of the applications. Then tapped various other buttons labeled in the language Kiri didn’t understand.
Something seemed to pop in Kiri’s brain. Like an actual pop.
Words got jumbled around in her head. Huir head. (Zei now could relate enself to a genderless pronoun).
For a moment, it even seemed like zei had blacked out for a split second…
Kiri jumped and looked into the stranger’s eyes. Huir own (the first person’s own, or Kiri’s own) eyes were wide and huir mouth gaped open. Nei (the second person mentioned by name, or the stranger) took back the cube and pressed neir watch. The hologram disappeared.
“Now you understand me for the most part, right?” nei asked.
“Not possible…” zei whispered, now in the language zei didn’t know existed until a few seconds ago. Zei covered huir mouth with huir hand. “I—speak a other language now. I—I mean, how?”
It was like the words were making en see the world differently—in the most literal sense possible. Was this what learning a language was like? Except… not in three seconds?
“They have these duderinos in many languages. I’m sure they could easily make one in yours based on your neural configuration.” Nei tossed the cube up in the air. It spun around rapidly and nei caught it gracefully as it fell. “Kinda expensive and rare. Very sturdy, though. It translates pretty damn accurately, but might take some time to fully grasp everything.” Nei smirked.
Kiri looked dazed. The stranger’s casual demeanor was somewhat jarring. “Ah, is that so…?”
“Anyway, the name’s Sage,” the stranger said coolly. “You?”
“Oh, ah. Right, um—I am named Kiri.”
“Cool name!” Sage said. “I forgot which language it’s from. May I ask where you’re from and uh, how did you end up on this island? You’re not from Risenen, are you?”
“What? Risenen? No I—I don’t even know what is this place.”
“Oh? What do you mean?” Sage asked.
“I was just sleep in a random boat in this—these plains. Er, please ask not why. Where I lived, there was no water or anything. But then I woke and I was here in the sea. And, um, there were these islands. So I moved the boat to this nearest island.”
“Huh. I did hear that there are some traditional rowing clubs on some islands, so that makes sense. But then does that mean you just—well I don’t mean to sound judgy or anything. But how’d you end up all the way out here with a boat? All the boating clubs are like, the complete opposite side of the realm basically. And there’s no portals out here or anything, so…”
“Portals?” Kiri’s eyes glazed over.
Both of them stood there awkwardly.
Sage suddenly perked up. “Wait… you said sea. Where you were before, you said there’s no sea?”
“No sea,” Kiri said and shook huir head.
“Then that means—” Sage looked taken aback suddenly. “You came through a new portal?!”
Kiri averted huir gaze. “I, uh—I am not sure. I slept as it occurred. I remember a dream that the plains formed a big water—er, a sea?”
“So what you’re essentially saying is that where you were before also had the grassy plains, and now you’re in a different grassy plains…” Sage placed a finger on huir cheek, (huir own cheek, that is, since zei is now the first person mentioned by name). Zei looked lost in thought. “So then… that means you’re basically an alien!” Zei looked back at Kiri with bright eyes which might as well have been glittering. “But then, you also look exactly like a human. So maybe we are offshoots of the same species!”
Kiri’s mouth hung open agape and the words got caught at the back of huir (Kiri’s) throat.
Sage bounced on huir (Sage’s) heels like a jittery kid. “Oh man, this is great. I always had a sneaking suspicion that there could be a portal leading to a new planet somewhere, but this is literally happening!” zei squeaked.
Kiri laughed awkwardly.
Sage also laughed and looked as though aware zei was acting foolishly. “Right sorry. I get excited easily.”
Kiri waved huir hands. “No, no. I am just full of wonder what this place is?”
“Right! You have never been here ever… This place is called Sooted Star.”
“It’s kind of a weird place, as you probably already know. It’s actually not a planet. It’s a realm between five planets in their own dimensions. This realm has a bunch of portals, each leading to one of the 5 planets. Honestly, it’s kind of a lot to explain.”
“I don’t know…” Kiri said. “So you say, then, a portal opened to my planet and brought me here?”
“Only plausible explanation,” Sage said and shrugged. “Unless you’re lying and actually just came from that portal over there.” Zei pointed through the trees at the circular structure nested on the two towers that Kiri had seen on neir way to this island (neir being Kiri, the second name mentioned and therefore assigned the second genderless pronoun. Kiri was still making a mental effort to keep track of this).
Sage continued, “Although, I’d have no idea how you got through there unless you had a vehicle.”
Kiri shook huir head “I did not have any vehicle! I really did just sleep on the boat and awoke here. I can show you…”
Sage laughed. “No! No, I’m just messing with you.”
Kiri didn’t look any more relieved. “I did not believe the legend was a truth…”
“Pardon?” Sage asked.
“Well, buddy.” Sage lightly patted Kiri’s shoulder and nei tensed up even more. “If you’re from another world, then I welcome you! I really want to know what your world is like. And I am super excited to show you this one! As soon as I’m done replacing this stupid filter, of course.” Zei stuck out huir tongue and looked at the steaming car.
“Ah, right,” Kiri said and nodded slowly.
Despite everything that had just occurred, it still hadn’t quite hit Kiri that this was no longer home. Zei was going to take a long time to get used to the new language. The fact that this wasn’t even just a dream. The fact that zei had no idea just how much not only huir life, but huir whole world would change from now forward.