Although the muffled horizon grew deep, we did not falter. The rigid wheels of our travelling creaked in a condescending silence, as the future settled around us. Still we did not falter. The four of us, each here for one sole purpose, knew our underlying stories could only save us if our lies were embedded with truth. And I knew, though maybe the others did not, that hope had left us far back.
Crackling water surrounded us, streaking away from sight. Somewhere, I knew, somewhere I dared to believe, a chance awaited us in the reaches of water, a chance that could only be waited for. Bare tracks beneath were soon covered with our expanse, then again soon released to once again lay open to the skies. The win shifted, and our sail, the faithful sail, strained to keep up with it, whilst our moving stunted before heightening. The planks that housed us dared to break, but frantic prayers kept it together.
To whom we prayed, we did not know. The future maybe. Or was there someone out there, listening to our hurried gasps. For me though I did not believe, I still prayed, knowing that to not do so would shape the last shards of hope held by my companions.
Through the shrouding cover that hid our sight, a shape appeared. Only a second opened itself to our eyes, but still we saw it. A ragged block, teeming turrets.
"It looks like a castle." It was not me who spoke, though the same thought had passed through my mind.
"A castle." Exalted, the one who spoke began to rise, turning to face us all. "It's there, it's there. I saw it there!" His voice rose with him, his ecstatic face paining the different reflection of mind.
"Sit down," I commanded, my teeth clenched to the words.
"But it's there, we're going to make it." And so the words escaped his frozen lips, and quietly, with barely a tear in the silence, a beast lunged from the water. It passed from one side to the next, grabbing him in his small talons. His mouth opened, but no sound emerged before he was flown into the encompassing depths.
"Don't stare," again my voice came, no longer clenched. "Forget him." But I knew that the thought continued to pass over the hopeful face that had left with him.
"Forget him!" And then, softer, "maybe he will meet us there." This false truth was known by all to be what it was though.
Silence once again reprimanded out trip. The fog growing denser, until only the sail parted it from our right. Breathing parched in my throat, I allowed only a small slit for the fog to be consumed.
I could hear the beginning of tormented lungs beside me, the ragged breath that stunted. A coldness descended on him, one that could not be extinguished. Fear emanated from his body, and though I did not speak, I acknowledged that the cold was only a trap, a warning of what could come.
But still it grew, until… we stopped, the mist still covering our sight. And as we waited, a soft wind came, and pushed it away.
Before us lay no more track, a great tear in the earth blocking out path. A single stretch of land ran across it, enough for one foot forward, one foot back.
"Let's go." We moved quietly, unlatching the sail that we would not need, but did not dare let anyone else find.
"I'll take it." The one who had been cold was no longer there; already he folded the sail into his pack.
I nodded, reaching behind to pull my own pack off my back. I would not need it.
I went first, not waiting for a moment's pause as I balanced on the ridged. Step after step I paved the way, the others following behind. A stone would crumble if I were to fall, but now, no stone dislodged. The world below was unbeknown to me, my eyes not flashing to what lay beneath.
My foot reached the edge. I stepped onto the large ground, but relief did not spare me. Another pair of boots passed where I had just been. Only one remained to leave the balancing act.
A stone crumbled.
"Phew, we all made it." His foot had touched the solid edge, but the other still lay on the ridge.
Without a moment's breath it cracked, his body, tumbling with it, the sail fluttering beneath him.
"Forget him." I started to walk, finding him soon beside me.
"Are we nearly there?" He asked. He was the youngest, barely older than I had been.
His steps grew weary, his body callous.
No words came to encourage him further, my silence like the rest. Tunnels met us, each leading to a repeatedness of rock. Until… a light penetrated out eyes. Small though it was, it paved a way for our steps.
"Does this mean-?" he didn't have the chance to finish what he said, his words pulled from him. The rock face came to meet him, enclosing him in its greedy grasp before returning to its callous plain. "Forget him." Though there was only me to forget his hopeful face.
Alone, as it was meant to be, I continued to the prick of light. With each step it grew, until it became a darkness, a surrounding asp that welcomed my steps.
And then, with a shuddering thought I looked upon the sight before me, its fear filled expanse horrifically beautiful. I had forgotten how beauty came in darkness.
The landscape changed with each movement, once green, now blue, once bright now dark.
My aim, now completed, waited before me as I stopped, a single sheet of paper suspended in the air. I took it, and I could feel its words fluttering through me, examining the past I had seen. The truth of my eyes covered the lies I spared, as I knew it must.
With a click the paper folded, flickering as it did to the ground. I picked it up, feeling its creases in my cold fingers. Without a tremble the contents came to rest between my hands. Three aces flooded to my sight.
Around me everything dissolved, the darkness covering me with light. And then, once again I was there: staring as the muffled horizon grew deep; delivering my three companions into death's waiting hands.