Quinton had been laying there for at least 20 minutes. Not that he knew where 'there' was.
He seemed to be in a sort of grassy forest-like area. He could hear some birds and see some trees in the distance. He hadn't tried to get up yet.
He remembered dying. Suffocating in his own bed, like a horrible vivid nightmare. It can't have been fake. Maybe he was dreaming? There's a thing people do where they pinch themselves and wake up right? He pinched his forearm, hard. Nope, nothing. Just pain.
So this must be some kind of afterlife? It certainly doesn't look like any kind of hell he'd ever seen in movies. Not that he thinks he did anything worth going there for. So was it heaven? He doesn't think he really did anything that put him in there either, it's not like he had lived very long after all. It certainly looks very green. Maybe there was some sort of middle ground afterlife.
He took a deep breath.
No pain. No coughing. His throat wasn't sore and he didn't feel dizzy at all.
Was he... completely healed? Of everything? Well, he supposed it kind of made sense that dying gave your body a factory reset of some sort. You probably can't die once you're in the afterlife, right? Who's he kidding, that doesn't make any sense, but nothing about this situation does.
Quinton's thoughts raced, but he tried to keep his mind off of the fact that he'd never see his family again. Maybe he was in shock? He certainly remembers the terrifying shitshow that happened not even an hour ago.
Or maybe it was longer? He has no idea.
He finally sat upright. He didn't mind the cold feeling of the grass on his legs. It had been so long since he had felt grass, probably a year at least. Looking down, the boy noticed he was still in his hospital gown. That's a little embarrassing, but he supposed that if everyone here showed up in the clothes they died in there would be a whole bunch of people in hospital clothes.
Were there other people here?
Quinton hadn't seen anyone but he hadn't really been looking. That would really suck. If he was stuck in here forever by himself. He valued his alone time as much as the next guy but he'd definitely go nuts after a while.
Quinton looked up at the tree line to his right and sighed. Wherever he was certainly was beautiful, the leaves on the trees were so green. Were trees always that pretty? Did he forget what they looked like from being inside for so long or were the trees here just supernaturally nice-looking?
Quinton finally stood on shaky legs. He wished he had a walking stick or something. His legs were obviously not the best, but he didn't feel the usual dizziness from standing and he definitely had more strength than he did this morning. So he stumbled forward. Towards what looked like a pond to his left. Maybe the water would also be supernaturally pretty.
Walking felt nice. Not physically, though. It hurt like a bitch, he felt very achy, like how he imagined people felt after waking up from a coma. But it had been so long since he could go anywhere without someone helping. It calmed him down. He could be himself again. Be in control. Go places without bothering anyone. Do things without being a burden.
He slowly, painstakingly made it the edge of the water and sat to stare at his reflection.
He looked good actually. Well not really, he was still pale and he never really liked his lips, they were always just big enough to look weird. But you couldn't tell he was sick (or used to be sick) just from looking at himself anymore. His hair was a good 2 inches long and he actually had some colour on his face.
He wondered if he'd get a tan from being out here. Can you get a tan even if you're dead? Hm, that's something he'd never thought of before. He pictured Carmen's beautifully tanned skin and wondered if he'd ever look like that.
He doesn't notice the first tear until it drips into the water below him. Even if he did get a tan it won't make any difference now, would it? He won't see them again anyway. He won't see anyone again.
He didn't want to break down here, defenceless and confused. He had been planning on getting his bearings first if that was even possible. But it was difficult not to think about everything he'd lost when he was out here all alone, staring at his somehow healthy reflection.
Quinton hoped they would be okay without him. But part of him also selfishly wondered how long it would take them to forget. To forget about the wonders and horrors that they shared. His sister's nicknames for him. The songs his mom would sing on the bad nights.
Because that's when you're really dead, isn't it? He thought, When they forget about you.
How long will it take me to forget them?
Maybe he wasn't completely healed because, as he cried uncontrollably into the pond, Quinton felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach.
And for the first time in his life, Quinton wished he was still sick in that hospital bed.
He'd probably been sitting there moping for almost an hour before he finally heard something other than the birds. Sticks breaking somewhere in the forest. Maybe a deer or something?
Or maybe it was a person.
He wiped his face on his only article of clothing. If it was a person and he didn't get to them, who knows how long it would take the next one to come. It's not like there was anyone to greet him when he got here like in that one Harry Potter movie, and he certainly can't survive in the wilderness on his own.
Quinton had drunk some of the magic pond water. Probably not his best idea, but he was already dead, right? He had no idea how he would find food. He used to have quite an appetite before things got really bad. Did he still need to eat in this place?
It took him about a minute or so to wobble his way to the edge of the forest, from there he could hold onto the trees. He probably looked like an escaped mental patient, complete with a hospital gown.
He paused, his hand gripping what looks like a huge oak tree. What if the noise did come from an animal, but like, a big dangerous people-eating kind of animal. What if he just walked to his death?!
Another noise. Closer. Quinton turns his head as fast as he can without losing his balance.
Oh, it's just a guy.
Not very evil-looking but certainly seems like he's judging him on his clothing choices.
"Uh, hey?" Quinton blurted out eloquently.
The man seemed to be a bit older than Quinton, maybe in his early 20's. He had tan skin, brown eyes and fairly short curly brown hair. His lithe muscles and that fact he was almost a head taller than Quinton made him a little jealous. Not to mention those killer cheekbones. He was wearing a straw hat, which, along with his smooth-looking skin, made him seem pretty young. But his expression had a sort of seriousness to it.
"Hello traveller, do you require my assistance?" he replied.
The guy talked like he came out of a movie, very fancy and proper. Maybe he had died a while ago? He seemed to be wearing some old-fashion clothes. A dark blue vest over a loose long-sleeved white shirt with black knee-high pants. He guessed it would make sense that people would keep the quirks and stuff from when they lived. God, this was so complicated. Did living here come with a guidebook?
"Um, sure. I just recently, um died. Do you know where I am?" Quinton asked.
He didn't seem to understand, maybe there was a different word for it here? They could have their own unique society and language of different time periods all mashed together. Quinton pushed back a pang of grief thinking of how much his sister would have loved this. He wished she could have been here.
"Uh-huh, so where are we?" he hoped the guy could understand that at least.
"You are on the outskirts of Ravenswood." he paused, then after Quinton didn't react added, "It's west of Dar mountain."
Quinton looked up and turned around a bit, squinting at the harsh sunlight. Oh yeah, he could see a mountain, that must be east then. That told him shit-all though, as he didn't know where he was going anyway.
"Do you know how to get back to, like… other people? some sort of town maybe? Or, I guess I could follow you to wherever you're going. What's your name, by the way, I'm Quinton." he said, giving him a, hopefully, friendly-looking, Smile.
The guy sniffed "I would prefer it if you didn't."
Ouch okay, Cheekbone-man doesn't like him too much. Well, he supposed the guy could be going to a private place or something, and he has no reason to trust him.
"Do you not have any companions in which you share your travels?" he asked, irritated.
"No? I just died remember? I didn't take my friends with me like some sort of psycho." Quinton replied.
Was this guy not listening? Or did he just not understand? If he had other people with him then he wouldn't be asking a complete stranger for help. Especially help getting to literally any random town. He ran a hand through his blond hair, grimacing when he discovered some twigs stuck at the back.
"I believe I fail to understand your meaning. You 'died' is that some sort of hu- some sort of colloquialism?"
He seemed to be getting more and more pissed off, which didn't bode too well for Quinton survival status.
"Hey man, I don't know what that word means, okay? I barely made it to 10th-grade English, gimme a break. I mean like... I stopped living and I woke up here. Is there another name for that?"
His rambling didn't seem to be helping things, but it had been so long since he could talk this much without getting tired. He was drunk on his new somewhat-healthy body, not to mention still freaked out about this whole situation. His friends had told him he was too quiet. But when he gets stressed out, hoo boy.
"Yes, that has the same meaning here. But if you died how are you still drawing breath? Were you revived by someone?" the man hopped on his feet in a jittery way, the smooth movements barely shaking his loose shirt.
"No I was- wait you mean you haven't died? Isn't this some sort of afterlife?" he asked. Oh my god he was making a complete fool of himself, wasn't he?
Cheekbone-man raised a single eyebrow and smirked at him "You believe to be… in heaven?" He chuckled.
He stared at Quinton differently now, less as if he was bored of him and more like he was having fun questioning his mental state.
"Well, I don't know!" Quinton trough up his had that wasn't anchoring him to the tree "I remember dying. In a hospital. And now I'm here, totally fine. So I obviously assumed this was where people go when they die." He blurted out defensively. Glancing up at the sky, he noticed it was starting to get dark. God, how long had he been out here?
"This is most certainly not where the dead are placed and you are not one of them," he said in a calm, no-nonsense voice. It reminded Quinton of how the nurses talked to him sometimes. Used to talk to him.
If the people here weren't dead… then where was he? Was this his own personalized afterlife where everyone was fake except for him? Nah, that seemed like a lot of work to have one of those for everyone.
"Now if you'll excuse me, you have kept me long enough." the man announced, as he started to turn around.
That sure tore Quinton from his thoughts.
"W-wait you, you can't leave me here!" he yelped.
"The closest welcoming village is in that direction, about 5 hours." he pointed to his right as he wandered off, disinterested.
"But it's getting dark and I-I'm sick!" Quinton protested, attempting to hobble after the man, "Oh. I'm not sick anymore actually… But I still can't walk that good!" he called. The guy ignored him, walking a bit faster.
Quinton swallowed as he started to panic, he could almost feel the blood drain out of his face as he realized how bad of a situation he was in. Completely alone in the wilderness with nothing but a hospital gown. How cold would it get? What kinds of animals were in this forest? What things were edible? He didn't even know where he was, let alone how to survive outside here in the wilderness. God, Cam was right, he should've been a boy scout.
He let go of the tree and steadied himself. No, he can't survive out here.
Not alone at least.
"Wait, I'm sorry! Please don't leave!" Quinton yelled as he took off running. Well, it was more of a fast stumble. It seemed to do the trick though, as it didn't take long to catch up to the man, who turned and scowled in his direction.
"I will not be saddled with your madness, you are not my problem, child." he sneered but didn't run away or walk any faster, which Quinton appreciated. Small mercies.
"Look I'm not mad, and I'm not a child either, you can't be that much older than me anyway. I just-" he bit his lip, "I know that I won't make it out here on my own, and I really don't want to die. Again." he added and felt his voice crack. "Please, I'll leave as soon as we meet other people, I promise."
"Absolutely not." the man growled, "I am not travelling to a place where you would be allowed nor do I want to be seen with you."
Many things happened at once.
Cheekbone-man had looked like he was about to start full-on power-sprinting away, so Quinton, in a panicked act of desperation, grabbed onto one of his baggy sleeves. This caused the guy to side-step quickly to the left, to try and shake him off. Right into what must have been a thin layer of dirt or plants or something with nothing beneath.
And so the man, and the boy attached to his sleeve, fell through the ground into a newly opened hole.
Quinton felt the impact of the bottom before he could register what the hell just happened. Luckily, he seemed to have landed on his back and hadn't broken his skull on a rock. Unluckily, the hole was still pretty deep. And he. Couldn't breathe.
Oh god, he can't take a breath. He's going to die again.
How could he be such a screw up to have his life back for a single day, only to die in such a stupid way? He finally took a few gasping, much-needed breaths. Okay, not going to die. He wasn't dying. Not yet. He tried to calm himself down, sitting cross-legged he held his head in shaky hands, breathing deeply and as slowly as he could manage. He knew that hitting your back like that knocks the breath out of someone, he wasn't an idiot.
So why did that freak him out so much?
He felt around his own still-trembling body like he learned in that first aid course he took a couple of years ago but he doesn't seem to be bleeding from anywhere. Just really sore. Wow, he really got a body upgrade coming here, didn't he? This was almost a video game.
Quinton looked up at the Big Hole™. It wasn't as high as it had felt, maybe about 14 feet deep, but it didn't look like there was anything around he could use to climb with. If the two of them- wait. The two of them.
That guy hadn't said anything yet. Oh god, was he dead? This was all Quinton's fault, did he just kill a person? He should've just minded his own business and wandered the forest alone like the socially awkward wimp that he was.
He turned to find cheekbone-man… frantically searching the ground. Uh, okay. Did he lose something? He wasn't wearing glasses before, was he? Must be something important by the desperate way he was looking for it. It explains why he hadn't said anything yet. Not that Quinton was complaining, the guy didn't seem to like him before, he must be absolutely furious now. And he never did do too well with raised voices.
Oh, duh. He was missing his straw hat, that's what he was looking for. Now he could see the rest of the guy's loosely curled dark hair and his… hm. His ears were very pointed at the tip. Probably some sort of birth defect. Oh, that could be why he really wants his hat. He must not be confident with his ears. Quinton felt horrible, it was his selfish ass that caused this mess.
He took a deep breath.
"Hey, I'm really sorry I made us fall down here." he rubbed his hands together, "It's totally my bad, I shouldn't have grabbed you like that." He stood up and began to make his way towards Cheekbone-man "I'll help you find your hat, then we can try an-"
"Get away from me, human!" he snarled, still crouched and threw a handful of what was probably dirt in Quinton's direction. He looked very pissed off and… did he have an accent now?
"Woah, okay." he stumbled back a bit and put his hands up in surrender "I'll…uh, look over here then. I won't touch you, I'm sorry." they stared at each other for a few seconds, the man's intense dark eyes seemed to bear into him. Quinton swallowed nervously. He felt really bad, he didn't mean to ruin this poor guy's day.
"You know." He exhaled deeply.
"You know that I am an elf." the man said with a deadly serious, almost determined voice that made the hair on Quinton's arms raise. "And now I cannot allow you to leave here alive."