Bewildering Stories

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Chapter 6: The Volcano
part I

by Tala Bar

Gaia began in issue 88.
Chapter 5 concluded in issue 107.


Zik was dreaming about the orphanage. The building looked both familiar and strange, having its outside walls hidden behind a thick growth of climbers. Large blossoms of brilliant, fiery red blinded his eyes. He closed them, and when he opened them again he was inside the building, standing in the busy corridor. Children and adults were passing to and fro, not noticing the boy who blocked their way. He had a feeling of being quite transparent, and the people seemed to pass right through his ghostly form.

“What do you look so pale for?” He heard a voice next to him, turned and saw his friend Romen. “Are they going to put you in the Dark Room?” Romen was a regular visitor to the Dark Room, being a free spirit and sure he could do anything he liked. He did not mind the punishment; the Dark Room never frightened him (well, maybe a little, at first only, but certainly not when he got used to it...).

But Zik was different. Nothing frightened him at the orphanage as much as the Dark Room. His active imagination presented his mind with all sorts of monsters lurking in the dark, and he knew, he absolutely knew, that once he was put in the Dark Room he would never come out alive from it. So he was a good boy. He never deviated from the straight and narrow, never took part in any of the pranks Romen was the center of. It was strange that most children did not begrudge him his straight behavior, perhaps because he was good at school and was always ready to help those children who were less clever at their studies, Romen first and foremost...

He looked now at his friend with wide-open eyes, full of deep concern with nebulous fear lurking not far behind. “Has Mother Mella found out?” the dreaming Zik saw himself asking with a trembling, husky voice. For one short moment he was wondering why that tough, hard-looking woman was ever called “Mother.”

“Found out what?” Romen asked with interest. He seemed curious to hear about Zik’s unusual activity, which would lead him, first time ever, to be locked up in the Dark Room.

Zik’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I’ve been very bad. I did something terrible and I must be punished. But I don’t want to be locked up — not, I mean, in the Dark Room...” he finished quickly, his voice fading out.

A thick fog dropped suddenly over the busy corridor, the darkness in it became heavy and dense. In some way Zik felt he had been moved into the Dark Room... Romen had vanished. There was no one there as far as he could see, and the quiet oppressed him as no noise ever had. His heart was racing, his breathing became short and shallow; he wanted to shout, but his voice caught and his scream was silent. As he was standing there, immobile, the dark room suddenly filled with the bright red flowers that had covered the building outside; blossoms of fire bloomed all round him, burning, scorching... Deafening screams burst out of his mouth — shrill, inhuman sounds filled the air — yells — shrieks — howls...

With his heart pounding and his head burning, Zik sank into a deep, consciousless sleep...

Proceed to part II...

Copyright © 2004 by Tala Bar

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