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A Night of Loss and Grief – Fantastic Travelogue #14

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, but Sing-ga and I got out and rescued Ain-Mai, although I got quite injured in the process. We took shelter in the air vents. Sing-ga went to find water, while Ain-Mai bandaged me and took care of me. Sing-ga finally came back, bleeding badly and very injured.

Night of Great Loss

I had never seen anyone die before, but I was there, kneeling next to Sing-ga when he died. I heard his breath catch, as if he were choking on something and then it just stopped. I kept waiting for him to breath again, but he didn’t. Ain-Mai, on his other side, was starting to become frantic. She was hyperventilating and shaking him, calling his name. Finally, I reached out and touched her arm and she wilted, her arms falling down to her sides.

In the faint light of the moon and stars that was coming in through the opening, I could see that Sing-ga’s arms and face were covered with circular bites. If he had been attacked, how had he gotten away? And could there be things that were still looking for him? I wanted to get away, but I wasn’t sure where to go and I was in no shape to travel.

A light, skittering sound came from up the tunnel. Ain-Mai didn’t seem to notice. She was smoothing back her brother’s hair and crying softly.

“We should go,” I said. She paid no attention.

Something the size of a dinner plate flew out of the darkness at me. All I saw were thin, clawed legs outstretched towards me before the thing wrapped itself around my arm and I felt the sharp pain of it biting into my flesh. I shouted in terror and ripped it off, hurling it savagely out through the grating and into open space. More came leaping at me and I fought them off desperately, pure adrenaline overcoming the pain of my injuries. From what I could tell, they were like huge spiders, with clawed legs and a sharp-toothed mouth in the middle of their body. Even now, I sometimes have nightmares about those horrors jumping out of the darkness at me.

Mouth spider

One got caught in Ain-Mai’s hair. She screamed, but it roused her to action and she fought back, lashing out at the monsters when they jumped at her.

“We have to go!” I shouted, not caring that she couldn’t understand me. I started to move in the only direction that was open to us, out the opening and onto the sheer outer side of the tower. I hesitated when it came to actually stepping out of the opening and onto the rough plates of the outer wall, and it was Ain-Mai who took the lead and held out her hand for me to come out.

I had just taken her hand when one of leaping spider-mouths latched onto my shoulder and bit in deeply. I writhed to get it off and felt myself slipping. Ain-Mai pulled me back to the wall and reached down to rip the vile creature off my shoulder. It gave a thin cry as it disappeared into the darkness far below us.

I did not wait to see if more were following us but gripped Ain-Mai’s hand and followed her along the ridges of the wall. They stuck out at an angle from the wall and were easy to hold onto, but they were also irregularly shaped. My right foot was bandaged and extremely sore, so I hopped along on my left.

The spider-mouths didn’t follow us out. I thought this was strange until I remembered poor Sing-ga’s body lying just inside the tunnel. I was sick with horror, but it came out as anger. I shuffled along, swearing under my breath, spitting out profanities with every hop. I’m not even sure who I was angry at: at the spider-mouths; at Hengfel for bringing us to that terrible place; at myself for getting Sing-ga and Ain-Mai caught with me and in doing so, causing his death. I was thankful for the calming effect of Ain-Mai’s hand in mine, which kept me from doing anything stupid.

We came to a hollow in the outer wall a minute later, which was fortunate because I could not have gone on much longer in my condition. It was probably a dragon nest at one point, but it was deserted and we collapsed into it. I put my back against the stone wall and tried to regain my strength and calm my mind. Ain-Mai slumped down by my side, sobbing. I put my arm around her and she drew closer.

Night of Great Loss

Ten minutes later, she had quieted and lay still against me. I had my eyes closed when I felt her stir. The next thing I felt were her lips on mine. She was kissing me in a quick, breathless way, not romantically, but as someone desperately needing comfort in the midst of despair.

For a moment, it was as if time stopped and the Choice stood in front of me. We were alone together in an alien world. Ain-Mai had just lost her brother and was overwhelmed with grief. She needed me. As for myself, I was lonely and tired and she felt so good next to me that in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to abandon myself to her kisses and caresses.

But then I thought of my wife–by herself and worlds away from me. I imagined her going about her daily life, wondering where I was, hoping I was safe, and I realized that she was the only one I really wanted. Still, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done to pull away from Ain-Mai’s embrace. “I,” I said, and then took her hand and drew out the character for “married” on her palm. I guess she understood my meaning one way or another; she nodded and then put her head back down on my shoulder. She started crying again, very softly, and I put my arm around her again. I didn’t know what else to do.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes to see the sun breaking over the far horizon. Ain-Mai was sleeping with her head still on my shoulder. Then I noticed with a start that a large bird-like creature was perched on a wall plate next to the hollow. It had wings folded behind it and small arms in front, each with a large golden bracelet on it. We looked at each other for a moment until it put its hands over its eyes and bowed deeply to me.

(to be continued…)


Ain-Mai – Fantastic Travelogue #13

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, and gave Sing-ga and I a drink to subdue it, but it had the opposite effect on me. We got out and I rescued Ain-Mai by fighting off dragons by punching and kicking them. We escaped into the air vents where the potion wore off, leaving me in terrible pain. Eventually we collapsed and slept.

13 Ain-Mai

I woke up, thinking that my wife was calling me, but instead I saw Ain-Mai bending over me, her long hair forming a curtain around my head. I tried to struggle up and almost screamed at the blinding pain that erupted from all over my body. I had never been in such total pain in all my life. I fell back, gasping and trying not to cry.

Ain-Mai took my hand and caressed it, murmuring soothing words like a mother over a child. It worked, at least enough to calm my mind. It was frustrating to have to lie there, when only hours before, I had been doing feats of superhuman strength and endurance. There is a price to pay for everything, it seems.

The light was greater than before and the tunnel was brightly lit. I noticed Sing-ga wasn’t there.

“Sing-ga?” I asked.

She pointed back down the tunnel and said slowly, “Govre hilisru swai Sing-ga.” I recognized the word swai as “water” from hearing them talk before and I nodded. He had gone to get water, I assumed.

We sat there in silence for a while. The floor near the open end of the tunnel was covered with a dusting of fine, brown powder and I pulled myself onto my side enough to write in it with my finger. “Do you have a mother?”

“I have a mother and father,” she wrote in Chinese characters. “I have two siblings, Hi-Run and Sing-ga.” She read each character as she wrote it so I knew the pronunciation of the names.

“Are you married?” I wrote after a moment. She shook her head and gave me a radiant smile that made my chest hurt a little, it was so beautiful.

“Do you have a mother and father?” she wrote after a moment. I told her about my mother and father and my sisters and as much about my life as I could back in Korea and when I was young. But I did not tell her I was married. It’s not that I was planning on cheating on my wife; the thought had not even entered my mind, but I remembered the smile she had given me and perhaps I thought she would act differently towards me if she knew I was married. I’m ashamed to say it now, but that’s what happened.

My throat was dry and screaming in pain for even the least amount of moisture. I had been holding out, hoping Sing-ga would be back at some point soon, but finally I mentioned it to Ain-Mai. She nodded and put a hand on my forehead for a moment, then stood up and said something. Then she was gone, down the tunnel, leaving me alone, in pain and dire thirst.

I must have dozed because the next thing I remember was warm, but blessedly refreshing water trickling into my mouth. I opened my eyes and saw Ain-Mai leaning over me. She had removed her outer shirt and had soaked it full of water. She squeezed it slowly into my mouth. Normally this idea would have seemed rather disgusting, but I gloried in the water and thanked her over and over again.

Next, she took off my boots and washed my right foot that had been scraped and torn by the dragon’s teeth. The right boot was barely there at all; pretty much all that was left was the upper part, still laced together, and a few scraps of leather. Ain-Mai torn thin strips from the bottom of her long skirt and wrapped them around my wounds. She had the gentle touch of a born nurse and I reveled in the comfort that her ministrations brought. She moved next to my hands, which were a brutal mess of dried blood and bruises. I couldn’t have made a fist with either hand if my life had depended on it. She washed them gently and wrapped them with more strips of cloth from her skirt. I stopped murmuring thank you and just closed my eyes and let her work. Later, I felt her washing my face, her delicate hands running gently over my skin. I remained still, hoping she didn’t notice my heart beating faster.

I woke up suddenly. The light outside was fading into black night and through the steel crossbars, I could see bright, blood-red stars hanging in the evening sky. I moved my hands and found them totally bandaged with strips of cloth. A deep scratch on my arm that I don’t even remember getting was also bandaged.

night window

There was movement beside me in the dark and I realized that Ain-Mai was lying curled up next to me, her back against my side. I looked around for Sing-ga but there was no sign of him. I forced myself into a sitting position, ignoring the protests of pain from my body. I heard Ain-Mai wake up suddenly as well.

“Sing-ga?” I asked her. “Sing-ga? Where?”

Ain-Mai jumped up with a start. “Sing-ga,” she said—the worry evident in her voice—and started down the tunnel. I sat up, trying not to groan, and listened. The world had gone quiet; even the wind seemed to be holding its breath.

The next sound I heard was a distant scream that stabbed at my heart like a needle. I tried to stand, but fell down with a fresh burst of agony. Still, I struggled down the tunnel until I reached the intersection. In the cold light that filtered down into the tunnel system from behind me, I saw Ain-Mai appear, trying to support Sing-ga, who staggered and fell with almost every step. He was covered in blood and my heart seemed to freeze when I saw how much blood he was leaving behind on the stone floor of the tunnel. I took his other side and the three of us struggled back up to the opening.

(to be continued…)


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