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First pages

The stench of rust and iron hung heavy in the air, the carrying container shifted with each bump in the trail below its wheels. A loud ‘clang’ echoed off of the walls as one of the contestants slipped sideways from his seated position into one laying the floor. His eyes flew open, two of them trying to figure out where he was, another two inspecting his body for wounds, and the remaining one trained itself on the being sitting opposite to him. He yelped and jolted to sit up, scrambling backwards with such speed that his pair of horns knocked against the steel wall.

“Hello,” The person chirped out, their faceplate-like mandibles clicking softly as they spoke, “I did not think you’d be startled so easily.” They drummed their claws on the metal floor, crossing their legs. Their huge, black eyes tracked their colleague, expressionless. “Are you okay?”

“Good morning,” Two of the horned creature’s mouths said instinctively, “Who’re you? Where, um, where are we?” The longer he spoke, the more unnerved he became as he stared into the abysses that served as eyes on the stranger.

“You don’t remember me?” The insectile person was taken aback, running their hand over the ridges atop their head, thinking about their next words. “I didn’t think you- you really don’t remember me?”

“I can’t say I do, sorry.” He sat back on his furred haunches, his long tail curling into his lap. He took it in his fingers and fiddled with it, trying to recall anything at all about his situation. The container rocked, and he was flung forwards, onto his chest. “I’m drawing a blank.” He muttered from his spot on the floor.

“Oh,” Their dark eyes scanned him worriedly, the two antennae on their head pointed down at the horned creature. “Well, I’m Kyache!” Their sunny disposition returned nearly immediately. “Do you know who you are?” Kyache leaned in, providing no time for the other to answer before they continued, “Bayir, you really got hit hard.” They reached out and pinched one of Bayir’s ears in their claws. The container jostled again, but Kyache did not falter in their attempt to sit up.

“Oh.” Only one of Bayir’s mouths spoke that time. “Where are we?” Tears were already welling up in his eyes. “I don’t know what’s happening.” His voices were thickened with worry and confusion

“No, don’t cry.” Kyache took Bayir’s wrists in their hands and pulling him towards them. Bayir remained on the floor as Kyache placed a hand on one of his curved horns. “We’re going on a field trip.” They pointed to the corner of the container they were in. Cradled by the steel were two backpacks, stuffed full. Though the alembic they were in had no light sources, save for the cracks at the junctions of the walls and ceiling, Bayir could make out the back packs.

“Field trip? I graduated a year ago, I think.” He muttered, recalling at least his age. He pulled his legs forward and sat on them, barely a couple of feet from Kyache.

“Field trips don’t need to be for school. This is an athletic field trip we’re on. Once we get there, we’re going to be in a race.” Kyache’s voice was barely audible over the rumbling wheels of the container. Their eyes gazed into a pair of Bayir’s, warmth and kindness radiating from them. “We have a day before the race starts, but we’re going to need these.” Kyache stood up shakily, hand bracing the wall as they moved, chitin clicking against the floor. They returned to Bayir with the two gray bags from the corner. They pushed one into Bayir’s chest, “Yours.”

Bayir immediately unzipped his bag and plunged his hand into it, rummaging through its contents. Even with all of his eyes, he could not tell what was in it with the lack of light. He closed it and slung it over his shoulder.

The container rattled and shook, the tremors becoming more and more intense. Bayir braced himself against the wall, the quakes unceasing until the brakes let out a squeal as the vehicle that was towing came to a halt. The vehicle’s door made noise as it opened, then closed. Several loud raps came from the metal walls as something from outside hit it. Kyache skittered over to the end of the container as a couple loud ‘clicks’ sounded off the walls, the container’s walls all fell to the side of the floor, opening it up.

Bayir squeezed his eyes shut as light burst into his vision. The air was fresh, cleaner than that of the container, despite its stink of sulfur. Kyache stood to their full height and stretched their arms over their head. Bayir took note of Kyache’s gray and green color scheme, and how they nearly blended in with the surrounding mangrove. He turned his eyes to the sun and took in the warmth that they gray sky gave him.

Kyache was enjoying the feeling of the sun and the space surrounding them. The chitinous plates on their back had moved, exposing the glassy, translucent wings beneath it. Bayir staggered off of the container, clutching the straps of his backpack. As soon as he disembarked, the container folded itself back up and the vehicle in front of his towed it away, further down the muddy mangrove path.

Bayir frowned at the mud left on him by the container’s movement as he trotted to Kyache. They pointed at the sun that hovered above them,

“We have until that sets to get ready. When we see the first star, the race starts.” They explained, stumbling through the mangrove until they found a grassy spot that was relatively solid. They sat down cross legged, as they had in the shipping container, then plopped their backpack in front of them and began looking through it for the first time. Bayir did the same.

Kyache pulled out the contents of the bag one by one. They retrieved a large blanket, fleece lining something that crinkled. They laid that out on the grass and placed their belongings on top of it. An empty plastic bottle, a couple meters of twine, and a small knife. They turned their bag upside down and shook it, then became frustrated when nothing came out. Beside Bayir was a pile of identical objects. Kyache hummed in disapproval,

“Well,” They said, bundling up their things and shoving them back into their bag, “I guess that’s what we have to work with.”

“I don’t even know why we’re racing,” Bayir groaned, “and I don’t see a race track anywhere. Why do we even need this stuff?” Kyache looked down at their backpack, pausing for a moment to contemplate their next words.

“We’re racing across the whole country. We have a couple days, but there are no rules. Keep an eye out and try to be friendly.” As they finished explaining, Kyache spotted a group of people not too far from them. They held up a clawed hand in a wave, only one of the group’s members waved back. “Come with me.” They grabbed Bayir’s wrist and led him over to the crowd.

There were five beings that made up the crowd, each of them cast a cautious gaze to the pair approaching them. The one closest to Kyache was almost completely made of some sort of opaque green-brown sludge, the ooze occasionally parting to show gray bones and shells. The other four followed the same archetype, with slight variations in their colors and the location of their bones. Kyache could barely make out a humanoid shape in them.

“Greetings.” The mud colored being said. Though, without a mouth, its voice simply transmitted itself into Bayir’s mind. The young being lurched back as he heard the sounds finding their way into his head. Kyache was not as shaken as he, they waved slowly,

“You’re here to race as well?” They asked. The being in front of them made a gesture that resembled a nod,

“Yes,” She said, “My name is Mik. My compatriots and I are from Werrat, as you can see.” She motioned to the four beings that stood behind her. “I have never seen anybody like you two, are you from the same planet?” She asked. Kyache nodded,

“Yep, I’m Kyache, this is Bayir.” They pointed to their timid friend. “We are both from Cazhar.” Kyache explained with a smile.

“Ah, it seems like a very diverse place.” Mik glanced over to her friends, who were glowering at her. “I must return to my allies. I wish you luck in the race.” She turned her back on Kyache and went back to their group. Once they were out of the hearing range of the group, Bayir tapped on one of the spikes on Kyache’s shoulder.

“What was that about? Why are there people from other planets here?” Bayir’s tail waved behind him as he attempted to process what was happening. He shut all of his mouths, pursing his lips.

“We are in a really big, universal race. We bring people from other planets too, we all come to this one, Kamna, because it has a country that has all the extreme terrains we could race in.” Kyache talked as they scoured the area for more people to meet.

“Oh.” Bayir muttered as he followed Kyache around the mangrove. “Why are we racing in the first place? What do we win?” Kyache began leading him around a small hill, tapping their mandibles in thought.

“We get…” Kyache paused, “We get to take a bunch of resources to our planet. I don’t think you remember, but Cazhar is kind of dying.” They spoke as though they were asking a question. “It won’t grow any plants anymore, and winning this race will let us take the resources to our planet, so that we could have life in our world again.”

“Ha!” A laugh barked out, just a little ways away from Kyache. There was somebody sitting at the top of the small mound of ground. They stood up and approached Kyache, their metallic feet making no noise on the grass. “You think you can ‘bring life back’ to that sorry planet?”

“Um, who are you?” Bayir asked, peeking out from behind Kyache. The being held out a hand to shake, sharp, pink, metal claws glinting in the setting sun.

“Sareo.” He creased his brow and shot Bayir a puzzled look, though his brown eyes were teasing, bragging as he spoke to the Cazhians. “Cazhar is a dead planet. It’s dying because the universe wants it so. You cannot stop the divine will of existence itself.” He hissed out.

“Yeah, well,” Kyache snarled, “You can’t tell us what we can or can’t do about our own planet, Sareo.” Their shoulders were high as their back tensed, wings flitting to and fro.

“I was last year’s winner, I know a couple things on the limitations of the prizes here.” The red pair of metal sheets on Sareo’s back angled themselves. With the fangs in his mouth, the claws on his fingertips and the wings on his back, it was understandable that he won the race last year. “Give up now, you might not get life.”

“What? Life? I think I want to live, thank you.” Bayir sputtered. Sareo froze and made eye contact with one of Bayir’s pairs of eyes. His lips were pursed in thought, then revealed his fangs as he snarked another laugh,

“You don’t know, Bayir?” His voice was screechy as he howled with laughter, taking such joy in seeing Bayir confused and embarrassed. “Let Kyache explain it to you, I need to go and get ready.” Sareo waved to him as he turned his back on the pair, showing off his red plane’s wings as he sauntered off. Bayir thought, confused about how Sareo knew their names.

“Life?” Bayir repeated softly to Kyache. They sighed and looked away from Bayir. Just as they opened their mouth to speak, somebody came rushing up to them. Uneven steps squelched in the mud as the person occasionally lifted off the floor using the force of the wings attached to their arms. The heavy bag they carried rattled and clanged as it bounced in their arms while they bounded over mud puddles.

“Competitors! Racers!” She called out, scaled feet skidding to a halt in front of Bayir and Kyache. She ripped the top off of the bag and shoved her arm into it, yellow eyes scanning its contents. Pulling her hand back out, she presented to Bayir, a small, metal object. It was a semi-sphere that only barely fit in her hand. Bayir took it in his own and examined the black screen on the front of it, and the small port on its underside. “That’s your official codex. You’re going to need it, keep it safe.” She shouted, walking away and over to Sareo. Kyache observed as she then offered one to the previous victor, who declined the device. Bayir ran the pads on his fingers over the screen a couple of times, trying to activate it.

“It turns on when the race begins. What do you think of that Sareo guy?” Kyache changed the topic of conversation. Bayir fell silent, tail swaying close to the floor.

“He seems dangerous. I don’t like him, but as long as we’re faster than him, we should be fine. Right?” Bayir held the codex close to his chest, two of his eyes focusing on it, examining it as he spoke.

“That’s the thing. I don’t know if all we have to do is be faster than him.” Kyache began to lead Bayir around the small hill that Sareo was perched on before. “He doesn’t seem like the type to just race.” As they cleared the hill, the starting line became visible. The white line over the dirt of the mangrove stretched for miles. Crowds were already congregating near it, and closest to the line was Sareo, who was filing his nails and testing the point on the dirt below him. When the cyber-organic spotted Bayir he shot him a fanged smile and flitting wave before returning to his task.

Kyache found a comfortable spot to sit next to a slim channel that housed fish and a couple of the more aquatic oriented competitors. They patted the ground next to them and Bayir took the offer, kneeling down next to them.

“The race takes us across the entire country, and I explained before that we’re going through all kinds of terrain,” Kyache swung their feet out, dipping them into the stream water. “You can hurt other people in this race, you just do what you can to get to the other end first. That’s why I’m worried about Sareo, he seems like he wouldn’t have a problem with hurting someone.”

“But maybe he won’t do that?” Bayir asked hopefully. Kyache shrugged and shook their head at the same time. Bayir’s shoulders tensed as he recalled the sharp claws and fangs of his competitor.

“This race is going to take us through the mangrove first, then a swamp, then a forest that tapers off into a desert, then around or over a mountain, and finally through an icy tundra.” Kyache used their claws to trace a map into the sulfurous mud in between them and Bayir. They jabbed a hole into one end of the map. “We’re here. The record time for clearing the race was four days, and you know who got it.” They pulled their muddy claw out and pointed it at Sareo, who was sitting at the starting line, the sunset silhouetting him against a dull orange and pink gradient. Both the edges and ridges of his helm narrowed into sharp dagger-like ends that pointed back, and his broad metal wings gave him an easily recognizable shadow.

“I’m going to go talk to him.” Bayir declared, standing up and dusting some dry mud off of his furred legs. Kyache shot up as well, eyeing down Bayir with a disapproving gaze,

“You’re being ridiculous! I am certain that he’s killed people, we should just stay away from him.” Kyache stood on their toes to intimidate Bayir, but they did not close the height gap between them by much. Bayir’s tail swished behind him,

“You talked to those Werrans, I can try to talk to him. You said it yourself, we should try to make friends.” Bayir was adamant in his will. Kyache groaned and extended their arm, allowing Bayir to proceed to Sareo.

Bayir’s hooves made no noise on the grass, but Sareo still sensed him approaching. Sareo stood up before Bayir got too close. A hand on his hip and a tilt of his head, the organic machine smiled at Bayir.

“Hey, cuties. You jumping to the winning team?” Sareo closed the distance between Bayir and himself. Bayir shook his head side to side slowly, unsure.

“I just wanted to talk to you.” Bayir stepped backwards, nervous. Sareo barely let out a hum of understanding before he took Bayir’s face in his hands, claws tingling on his jawline and his cheeks. Kyache jolted as they barely restricted themself from leaping out and tackling Sareo away from Bayir.

Sareo tiled Bayir’s head to the side and pushed his thumb against the lips of one of Bayir’s mouths, the one that had its place on his cheekbone. Bayir grew fearful under Sareo’s scrutiny. Just as he was about to pull away, Sareo lifted his hands off of Bayir’s face.

“You’re an interesting one.” Sareo’s pupils narrowed and near changed shape as he looked Bayir up and down, then did the same to Kyache, who was snarling behind their mandibles. “It’s hard to believe you both came from the same planet.” He plopped back down, sitting with his legs out in front of him, heels almost touching the white starting line. “You can sit.”

Bayir obeyed and took a seat next to Sareo. Kyache reluctantly joined him. Bayir’s eyes stayed glued to the muddy grass in front of him, his muscles tense as he started thinking about the race.

“What’s wrong?” Kyache leaned closer to him. Bayir shut his eyes and shook his head.

“If people can get hurt, then I don’t think I want to do this race.” He glanced to both Sareo and Kyache as he spoke. Kyache pursed their lips, hesitant to speak. Sareo was not as reluctant,

“it's too late to back out now. If you’re here, then you’re going to race.” He stated, a smirk on his lips. “Though, did you all not hear that I would be racing? You don’t have that great of a shot against a couple hundred others and me.” He taunted, only making Bayir feel more unsure. “If you’re so scared, why’d you enter to begin with?” Bayir pulled his legs closer to him and dropped his head onto his knees.

“I don’t know!” He cried. “I’ve got no clue why I’m doing this, or where I really am or what I was doing before I got here! Why would anybody want to take part in this ridiculous event?” He pulled his backpack in front of him and flopped onto his back. Kyache scooted closer to him, about to console him when a loud ringing noise interrupted them. They snatched Bayir’s bag and opened it, taking out the codex that the person running around had given them.

‘20:00’ was illuminated on its screen in bold, blue lights. The display showed the clock ticking down and the words ‘Please gather at the starting line!’ beneath it. Sareo glanced at the sunset and stood up, stretching his back.

“Well, good luck. I’m going over there.” He distanced himself from the pair and began eyeing his competition.

“Sorry, Bayir, but can you tone down your crisis? We need to get ready for the race to start.” Kyache helped Bayir up off of the floor. While they were adjusting their backpack straps, several groups around them were praying, including Sareo. Kyache did not make any moves to send their wishes to a deity before they began, and Bayir could not remember whether or not he was a religious person.

Bayir stood at the starting line, legs trembling as the codex in his hands counted down the final few minutes until the start of the race. Kyache caught his eye and offered a reassuring smile. Bayir found warmth in the small gesture, managing to calm his heart at least a little.

Until a deafening siren sounded out, signaling the beginning of the Amnesty Race. Kyache immediately broke into a sprint, leaving Bayir to clumsily gallop up to meet them. Bayir spared a glance behind him, back at the starting line, where his eyes found Sareo.

The slim mech was straddling one of the larger creatures. Sareo had his long claws plunged deep, directly into the creature’s abdomen, and his fangs sunk into its collar bone area. Hot, red, blood gushed out around his teeth as he pulled back. He shot Bayir a grin as he licked his fangs and fingers clean. Bayir twisted back to Kyache and tapped their shoulder, panicked.

“Come on, move!” Kyache shouted. As they both ran, mud and water splashed up around their legs. Bayir gasped as he felt his legs being dragged back by the mud. Kyache was using their wings to keep the majority of their weight out of the sinking ground, but Bayir had no such assistance. The heaviness of his mind, having witnessed what it just had, did not help in maneuvering the heaviness of his body. The crimson images of Sareo flashed in his mind, something felt wrong in Bayir’s chest and stomach. The feeling distracted him for no more than a split second, but it was long enough to to make him lose balance.

Bayir’s legs stalled and he was plunged into the muddy mangrove water. Kyache’s wings chattered as they spun around to run back to their ally. Bayir grabbed one of the mangrove roots and pulled his body back up, shaking his head. On his forearm, a bruise was already beginning to form.

“We need to move.” Kyache quickly inspected Bayir for any serious injuries before ushering him to in front of them. Bayir started trotting, then picked up into a sprint when a shriek echoed from near the starting line.

Once they cleared the mangrove, the water turned to the thick ooze of the swamp. The putrid stink of sulfur was even more assaulting there than it was in the mangrove. The sludgy water clung to Bayir’s legs, but slipped off of Kyache’s easily as they moved.

Passing through the swamp was significantly more difficult than the mangrove. The viscosity was proving to be a challenge for Bayir, gasping and panting for breath while he barely kept up with Kyache. The splashing and sloshing of their footsteps were soon singular, the only sounds that they could hear.

“I think we should stop.” Kyache touched Bayir’s shoulder. “You’re having trouble.” Kyache began to trudge through the muck, ushering him to a small patch of swamp that was crowded with aspen trees. Once they were in the center of the miniature forest, Kyache strung their bag on a branch and sat down, bog water reaching their chest. “You don’t have to sit if you don’t want to.” While what they were allowing Bayir to remain standing, he felt as though they wanted him to sit. He hesitantly squatted down into the thick water, his tail floating on the surface.

“They shouldn’t be able to spot us, right?” Bayir asked. Kyache shook their head,

“My chitin is gray and green, your horns are the same color as the trees around us.” They muttered. They reached up and retrieved the codex from their bag. They placed it on top of the water, letting it float. A small diagram lit up on the screen, showing them their location on a map. “We’ve got a long ways to go, but after we get through here, walking should be easier. Tell me when we can st-” Kyache was interrupted by the sound of something ripping across the sky. They turned their eyes to inspect the darkening evening atmosphere. Set against the pitch and the stars, a bright red object shot across, over Bayir and Kyache’s heads. Bayir pushed himself deeper into the water, hiding from Sareo above him.

“We need to get going.” Kyache rose and pulled Bayir up with them. The muck dripped off of Kyache’s shell, but Bayir had to put up with the stickiness in his fur until he could find clean water. Kyache picked up their bag, as did Bayir, and they began moving once more.

Kyache opened up the cover over their wings and hovered over the swamp. Bayir only barely manage to follow, constantly turning and twisting to look over his shoulder. He jumped when something bubbled, then splashed, in the water not too far from him. Just above the water, the branches of one of the trees rustled. He planted his hands on Kyache’s back and gave them a shove, drawing their attention. They yelped and spun around, huge, compassionate eyes staring at Bayir. All he could do was point, shaking, at the source of the bubbles.

Nothing stood there, save for a few stray reeds and a pair of trees, but Bayir could not shake the sense of fear from his frame. Kyache’s brow creased as they pinpointed their attention on the patch of swamp that generated the noises.

“Keep going,” Kyache muttered, wings taking them closer to the area. Bayir stepped backwards, none of his eyes leaving Kyache’s cautious figure. Slowly, a pair of silvery-yellow eyes rose from the water, and before either of the competitors could react, a pointed, slender and scaled maw full of yellow fangs clamped down on Kyache’s leg.

They yelped as a crackling noise sounded from their ankle. The monster’s jaws did not close entirely, it had not crushed Kyache’s limb fully as their chitin held up. Kyache’s wings did not falter as they raised their arms and drew them down, raking their sharp claws along the snout of the reptile. They wedged their fingers into the gaps in its teeth and pulled, tugging and thrashing, they freed themself.

Kyache zipped back to Bayir, eyes wide as the creature behind them gave chase. The monster darted after them. Kyache flew, not touching the water. Bayir forced his legs to move faster, but with the swamp terrain slowing him down, the monster behind him was gaining fast.

Bayir turned around and spotted the beast’s eyes fixed on him. He saw the flash of yellow teeth and shut his eyes, throwing his arms up in front of him. Kyache gasped and raced to his side, but they were too late. They did not reach Byar before his disappeared, but they did see the creature slash back into the water, its jaws shut on nothing. They creased their brow, glancing around them and rising higher above the water and away from the beast.

Bayir felt something sharp poking him in one of his arms and his side. The cool air swirled around his body and something icy cold was pressed against his back. A familiar cackle echoed through the sky and his eyes flew open.

Clasped around has arm and side were pink painted nails. He twisted his head and spotted the red-silver chestplate of Sareo pressed to his back and shoulders. Beneath his feet was a stretch of air, before the swamp, and surrounding him was the night sky. Kyache flew up to meet Sareo.

“Oh, you two are so fun to watch.” Sareo’s eyes found Kyache’s injury, their yellow blood dripping through the cracked chitin armor. “That must hurt,” He drummed his claws on Bayir’s flesh. “Where do you want him? There?” Sareo threw a glance at a patch of solid land, just clear of the swamp. Bayir clutched Sareo’s hands as he stared down at the drop below him. “Poor thing, shaking like a leaf.” Sareo commented as he brought Bayir down to the floor. He placed him lightly on the grass, then took off, returning to the sky.

Bayir immediately fell back on his haunches, hands closed tight on the leaves around him, all eyes wide and worried. Kyache winced slightly as they sat down next to him. They closed their wings and tried to make eye contact with Bayir. He stood back up and shook his head, squeezing his shoulders in his hands.

“We need to keep moving,” He muttered, “Is your leg okay?” Kyache held their limb out in front of them and inspected it, not daring to touch anywhere near the crack.

“I think so. My chitin is strong and I heal fast. Let’s get moving.” They dropped their leg back under them. They remained hovering just above the ground as they began to look around and get their bearings. “We’re in the forest now. This part’s longer than the swamp, with more hiding places and less open areas. Keep a look out.” As Kyache spoke, they took the small device out of their bag and examined the map. THe codex let out a soft ‘ding’ and a blue box appeared at the top border of the screen.

‘I aligned our codexes. Now you can see me win. -S’ was written in the box. A second red dot appeared on the map, just slightly ahead of Kyache and Bayir’s. Bayir looked over Kyache’s shoulder and spotted the message, a chill running down his back as he thought of Sareo.

“I guess we don’t need to be afraid of him, right?” Bayir asked. Kyache shrugged and stowed the codex.

“He’s just a hedonistic egomaniac. I can’t tell what he’ll do if we actually pose a threat to his victory, so we should still be careful.” Kyache began leading Bayir through the forest, weaving around the slim, short trees.

“These are hardly saplings.” Bayir’s fingers brushed over the leaves of one of the plants. Kyache pointed up ahead, where the trees got denser and taller.

“It gets worse, just keep going. In a little bit we can find food and get some rest.” They suggested. Bayir’s stomach twisted as he saw the colossal trunks ahead of him. He nodded and followed Kyache’s, considerably slower than before, pace. They often flew on ahead of Bayir and dropped down to sit on the floor, taking frequent breaks.

“Hold still for a little while.” Bayir whispered, catching up to Kyache. He sat down next to them and looked at their leg. The dull green plating had a dark crack rippling through it, about halfway between Kyache’s knee and their foot. Yellow blood was trickling out of the fissure, but it had slowed significantly from when they first sustained the wound. Kyache leaned back, pressing their body against a tree.

“Only a little while, then we’re moving again.” They groaned. Bayir was kneeling down just in front of them, fiddling with his tail. He hunched down when a twig snapped behind him. “It’s just an animal. Calm down.” Kyache said. They opened their bag and took out the codex again. The screen was darker than it was before, and the map’s illuminated image was severely distorted. “I think something’s wrong with our codex. Or the forest is messing everything up.” They held it out to Bayir before dropping it back into their bag and pulling out the knife that had come with the bag. “We need to hunt something down.” Kyache pushed their body up and off of the floor.

“No, no. You sit back down.” Bayir stood up as well. “I can do this.” He took the knife from Kyache’s hands and inspected it. His facial expression displayed how unsure he was, but he was also unwavering. Kyache sighed, then nodded and sat down.

“Scream if you need me.” They submitted easily. Bayir nodded his head and ran off, hooves taking him quickly and quietly through the woods.

He clenched the knife tightly in his hand and tried to calm the loud heartbeat in his ears so he could listen for something moving. He held his breath and pricked his ears, looking out for anything that he could catch.

Do I know how to hunt?’ He thought to himself. Bayir took a moment to examine his posture. Hunched down to run, knife held so comfortably and expertly in his palm, just the fact that he knew what to do in order to try to find something suggested that he had some experience.

Something piqued his interest. A soft scraping noise, like something being dragged through the grass. He turned to face it, his eyes pinpointing the movement. A large lizard was slowly pushing itself along the forest floor, through the fallen leaves. The reptile before him was nowhere near as big as the one that had attacked him, but it would certainly do fine as sustenance for the pair. He readied himself, then dashed out, after the lizard.

He closed much of the distance between him and the creature before it was alerted of his presence, but once it knew he was there, it vanished. Bayir dove to the ground, hoping to grab it, and was disappointed when his hands only found a pile of leaves. Bayir dropped his face into the leaves, groaning that he missed his chance.

As he was getting up, another sound echoed through the woods. He spun around, quietly as possible, to lock eyes with a four legged, tall, furred creature. It had antlers, a too wide and too long muzzle, and piercing yellow eyes. The creature broke into a sprint as soon as it saw Bayir, leaping and bounding over tree roots.

Bayir gave chase, hooves carrying him as fast as possible. Though he had impressive speed, it was no match for the creature he was in pursuit of. Just before he lost sight of the being to the darkness, he shut his eyes and followed muscle memory and instincts. He drew his hand back and over his head, then flung the knife forward. He heard the steps of the animal stutter, then slow, then stop completely as it fell to the floor with a ‘thud’.

He rushed over to the animal, which lay dead and bleeding on the grass before him. Bayir leaned down and braced the animal’s head with his foot, then yanked the blade from its skull with a sickening ‘crack!’. He took hold of the back legs of the creature and began pulling it back with him. Bayir carefully retraced his steps, proud of how well he performed. While he was contemplating how he would show the massive catch to Kyache, a bolt of fear and confusing shot through him as he recalled just how little he knew about his situation. Another twinge of panic found him when he spotted a fire. Against his better judgement, he dropped the animal and approached the light, tiptoeing.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Born in Florida, but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Morgan found a common interest among the people in both schools' countries: storytelling. Writing and reading stories always gave Morgan a known place to call home, even if it was a fictional world.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
Honestly, mostly because I don't have anything else to do. I write when I get bored, or when I feel like I have something I need to put out into the world, even if it is a simple short story.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
The amount of strangeness you can pack into Sci-Fi is what makes it so interesting. I have never been one to just make a new species that looked human, so in this genre, I can do something about that. I can give my characters goat legs and three mouths, and bug eyes and mandibles. It's just fun.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
A couple, actually. I want people to know that you are YOU, however unlikely, and that is amazing. I also want them to always question what they are told, think critically of what information they are being given. Finally, friendship is powerful and amazing. Don't underestimate it.

Next in:
Science Fiction
How the World Ends (Book Two)
At first it was just about survival.
Crafter's Passion
The Game-Master AI wants a few favors.
The Patriot Knights
America has fallen, but not vanquished.