A/N: Here you go, chapter two. This is where things start to get interesting.
I woke, feeling my weight being shifted in a way that alerted my unconscious brain to the fact that I could be falling. When I was fully awake I assured my worried mind that all was well, assessing that I was not falling and my feet were now firmly on the ground. I looked around semi-consciously, and came in contact with a feeling comparable to the one that came over me when I had opened my eyes to blue sky not so long ago. There was a very vital difference, though. This time, I felt it completely justified to scream.
"Shhh!" Lyren grabbed my face and made me look at him, the authority in his eyes silencing me. If he was still here, I must still be in… wherever I was. But the scenery had changed so drastically that there was no way my brain could connect this place and the wilderness I had been lost in as even on the same planet.
We had entered through a very large gate in an even more immense opaque yellow wall. The wall seemed to flicker occasionally, like the holographic structures I was accustomed to seeing in movies. It was eerie, but not nearly so much as the television sky directly overhead. That was so unsettling that I couldn't bear to look at it long before I started hearing the feedback static of a de-tuned TV set. But the solid-light movie-esque barrier and the sky were only the beginning of the reasons for which I felt it was okay to scream. The gateway we had entered through was being guarded by silent robotic sentinels, staring straight ahead with their red LCD eyes like giant gargoyles, baring their monstrous fangs to ward of any evils that would attempt to enter their domain. Turning my head to get a better look, I wondered fleetingly why anyone would want to enter. I turned my other direction and laid eyes upon the most stomach-turning element of my new location.
The city resembled one that a giant child might create with toy blocks, the innocence of their colorful shapes spider-webbed with wires and electricity. The grit and grime was hidden in the over-saturated light of advertisements and other signs, streetlights, and maps--everything was whitewashed with the filthy electric glow.
My morbid observations were interrupted as Lyren handed the reins of his horse to a large dark man who looked more like a robotic gorilla than a person. I had to forcefully hold my mouth shut to keep from gasping when I saw his electronic eye and robotic arm. In the neon half-light, with the hustle and bustle of the metropolis behind me, he looked more like a cyborg than anything, straight out of my nightmares and into reality.
The crowd eddied around us and I had to fight to stay in my place next to Lyren, but I kept my eyes glued to the cyborg man as he spoke to the prince. Had I looked away, I would have missed the kind looks in that monster as her gently lead the horse into a stable yard that emitted hissing noises and steam as its heavy iron doors slid open and closed. When they slammed shut behind him, I felt as if both man and horse had just been disposed of, thrown out in some gigantic garbage disposal—exiled from existence. As it was, the kind looks he had worn only served to make me more uneasy.
Nightmares don't smile.
The prince took a cloak from another stableman, and motioned that I should hide my face. I pulled my hood down low over my eyes, and followed him. Jill emerged from the crowd at my side, and took my hand. It seemed he held it for comfort, whether to comfort me or himself I wasn't sure. We walked along an orange sidewalk that seemed to crackle with some strange and impure energy that felt as if the soul of the raw power were hungry, clawing at the opaque barrier that held it back.
"ID scan. You don't have an ID, but if I hold your hand they know you're friend and not enemy." Jill said quietly, weaving a path between the sea of people for me to follow. "Don't let go, though. The Bots are watching, and they'll arrest you." He warned, gripping my hand a little harder. The serious tone of his voice alone was enough to elicit fear. My mind spun as I hurried along with Jill, trying to keep Lyren in sight ahead. Where was I? So many people… NO trees… I felt claustrophobic after so long alone in the forest. If this was civilization, the trees seemed a much more inviting choice.
A car--I think it was a car, all the vehicles speeding by on the road were hovering, and their sonic hum seemed to add to the static noise of the television sky--stopped next to us, and the prince hopped in. Jill pushed me in as well and closed the door, making sure not to let go of my hand until my feet had completely left the ground.
The interior of the car was relatively close to what I was used to as far as cars went; I sat back in the leather seat, exhaling slowly, catching my breath. Outside images of the metropolitan monster flew by too fast to catch, with only the occasional skyscraper littered in neon insignias staying in view for more than a few milliseconds. I descried an illuminated billboard bearing the image of a barely clad woman and the headline, "Love or Die." For a moment, as well. Further investigations of the vehicle produced the nervous observation that there was no driver. The bucket seat bench the prince and I shared was the only furnishing the vehicle boasted besides one large screen, presumably showing the route planned to the final destination. It occurred to me to wonder where the final destination was. The silence that reigned as the car flew along began to disturb me, and I wondered where Jill was and why he wasn't filling the air with his chatter.
"Why didn't Jill come?" I asked finally, trying to sound casual and at the very least calm. Lyren was taking off his cloak and fastening his jacket, and looked frustrated. He spent a considerable amount of time on the fastenings of his jacket, they appeared to be the Chinese sort where the fabric ball goes through the loop. They weren't agreeing with him. He straightened his clothes, miraculously untarnished by the rain, and tried to flatten his hair. He didn't look at me or answer until he was finished and presentable.
"…He has to take Kirin back to my uncle. He's a servant, he has errands to run," he afforded me, with a hint of regality in his voice. "I'm taking you to the palace, you can wait in my sector while I report to the King." His chin was high, his voice properly condescending now. The very image of a responsible prince. I simply stared at him. There were so many questions to ask that I was beginning to think I didn't even want to know the answers to them. Not now. Maybe after the world stopped spinning, stopped changing its mind… Later, I would ask where we were. Why I was here.
Why couldn't the world make up its mind?
I realized that the prince was staring back at me. His eyes were kinder, his expression empathetic. I didn't want his sympathy.
"Don't pity me." I said blankly, my voice feeling cold as it left my lips. The prince had shown me kindness, and I had no reason to distrust him, yet. But he had no right to pity me.
The prince sneered, eyes suddenly sharp. They seemed to flash in the bright reflections of the never-ending holographic blitzkrieg outside.
"Pity? I have no pity for you." His voice was low and gravelly, and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. "You dare to accuse me of pitying you in this place?" He growled low in his throat, "Feel lucky, girl. Had you not met me in that forest you would be starving alone in the wilderness. Until you met Royal Guards, who would have killed you on sight, or gypsies, who would have raped and enslaved you, of course. And had you met with either of those fates, I still would not pity you. Not here, oh no. Not here," he laughed, then. It held no mirth. "You thought you were in a Fairytale, didn't you? Assumed yourself the damsel in distress. Oh, you didn't like it, but you assumed." He laughed harder, "oh, maybe I do pity you. You poor wretched creature, living in such blissful ignorance!"
I did not flinch through his beastly monologue. The truth spilled from his jaws, in all its caustic splendor. I had cast myself as some unwilling damsel in distress, caught in the illusions of a fairytale forest with unicorns and princes… The world had gone black, and I had no illusions to hold on to here.
I should have been terrified. The truth which I had so easily ignored was all I had left, now. The world which I had landed in was no peaceful scene for a fairytale. But I felt no fear. I could not, after searching my soul for any last traces of hope, be propelled to feel fear.
Because one must have hope to fear losing it.
I stared at Lyren. His visible eye had turned golden and his pupil had stretched out to form a star-form, reminding me of some modicum of a black hole. He gazed at me through that golden eye coolly, waiting for me to snap.
There was nothing to break.
"You're strange, girl," the prince decided, his grin creeping up to show long canines. "You are strange indeed."
Only at the end of all things, when hope is lost and darkness unmarred by light, can one appreciate the beauty of raw madness. I saw it there, behind those golden irises. I saw it there, and I was comforted by it.
The vehicle stopped, and someone helped me out.
"Take her to my sector, A4972-UX," the prince ordered of the men who had helped me, his eyes once again icy blue and his fangs returned to their normal size. He strode off through the entrance before us, and I managed to look around before the men rushed me in after. The giant block with smaller blocks attached, the square of surging light and energy, the centerpiece of the neon-electric surge that was the City, entered my mind as only The Palace. It was foreboding, and had I not lost my means of attaining the state of terror, I would have been in such a state. I shivered, even so.
I followed the black-suited men through the doors that weren't doors, and into my future.
Who could have ever known I would ever be capable of missing my past.
A/N: ponders Well, tell me what you think! I'll try to organize the next chapter shortly.