Laika (underground) Pt. II

Laika (underground) Pt. II

The next step in a surreal journey through the unknown.
4
views


(Read Part One)


She remained silent for a moment, jerking her head around to face the door. It stood alone, no house or support structure, just a wooden door jutting upright out of the sandy wastes. The door seemed incredibly confident in its existence, as if it had always been there, as if it was meant to be there. A lonely statue erected in the name of nothing but spite to logic.

“Holy shit,” she stood in utter astonishment, “I… I must have hit my head in the house. Oh god, I’m unconscious in the middle of the woods!” This seemed to make the most sense to her, although everything felt so real that there was already a well-embedded seed of doubt.

Despite actively convincing herself that this was all a dream, that none of this existed in any tangible, physical sense, she called out. Her voice echoing a fragile “Hello?” across the curves and bulges of the unfurling wastelands. The sky had a greenish tint to it, the clouds appearing more as a nuclear haze than the fluffy greys and whites she was used to. It was all deeply unsettling, dreamlike in its worrisome reality.

Laika turned back around to try the door, yanking and jiggling the loose handle as best she could. Nothing. The damned thing that had dumped her out in the middle of this extreme nothingness remained quite stubbornly closed. That fucking figures. Her shoulders slouched, defeated by the sheer absurdity of it all. “Is it so hard to have a nice coma dream?” She asked the open air around her, glancing at the off-putting sickly colours up above her head.

With no other options at her disposal she huffed, shifting to trudge through the sand to see if she could find something. If this was a coma dream she might as well explore it before she either woke up or died out in the real world. The worn leather of her shoes sank into the unstable ground as she precariously shuffled further from the door. She knew that the tiny grains would be inundated in her socks and the the crannies of her footwear before long, but it wasn’t like she had a choice. The last thing on her mind was to wander barefoot in a place like this.

The air was surprisingly cool, an odd reprieve from the pulsating humidity back in the woods. Might as well enjoy something I guess. She mused, almost smirking to herself as she surveyed the wide expanse before her.

Laika wandered for what felt like an eternity, or two at this rate, who knew how the time difference between dream and reality worked, before noticing something new. Off in the distance, past a small clump of desert scrubland that likely hadn’t seen a drop of water in ages, was a depression in the sand. As she approached the image of this strange formation grew clearer. It was a massive circle, seemingly perfect in its rotundity and curvature, that sank below the rest of the desert landscape. From the floor of this odd pit to the edge of the sand above looked to be about the height from Laika’s feet to her boyish chest.

From her vantage point Laika could see a dark brown rectangle at the centre of the depression, with a small pop of blue flapping at the top. Is somebody else actually out here?! She hopped down over the edge, bending her knees slightly as she hit the ground below. It felt different here, as if something solid stretched into the abyss below and the sand simply acted as a light carpeting.

Undaunted she moved on, the object revealing itself to be an old wooden stall standing lonely amongst the eternal browns and decaying greens of this unearthly place. Above the stall’s counter a blue cloth banner rippled in the the soft, inconsistent breezes that would randomly quell the stagnation. The lettering across the banner was an uncomfortably bright red, a red that stung the eyes the longer you looked at it. As far as Laika could tell it was gibberish, a madman’s spasm of angular jolts and curving strokes that seemed to go nowhere. It was certainly no language she had ever seen.

Behind the wooden counter, a jagged looking thing that would probably give you the worst splinter of your life then laugh gleefully at the nuisance, stood a ridged old man. He looked unreal, like a wax figure, in his trancelike immobility. The man’s face was gaunt, sunken in at the cheeks and ever so slightly off tone from a healthy person’s colour palette. Grizzly five o’clock shadow peppered the unnatural flesh, adding texture to what otherwise looked like a poorly made mask wrapped tight over bone.

Laika sauntered up to the counter, eyes shifting across the barren shelves of the stall. “If you try to cheat me,” the zombie of a man began, “I’ve got that.” He jerked a thumb mechanically backwards, pointing out an old double barrel shotgun, hanging lonely on a wall rack. It looked almost comical to Laika, so prominent in old films and cartoons that it almost didn’t seem real.

“Uh… well…” she looked back to the solitary shopkeeper, “What are you even selling?” And who the hell are you selling it to? She thought to herself.

“Husks.” He retorted plainly, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Laika paused, for a moment, a look of concern knit across her face, “Husks?”

“Yep. How many coins ya got?” He asked, still unsettlingly expressionless.

“Coins?” Her head pulled back slightly, confused by the question. In her head she imagined gold coins from fantasy games or pirate movies, but somehow knew that that wasn’t quite right.

He sighed, the most human action he had taken thus far, and looked blankly at her jacket pocket. “Coins. Money. Change. You look old enough to not be asking stupid questions, girl.”

Laika rifled through her pockets, not sure why she was listening to a creepy old guy in the middle of a nuclear holocaust desert. I’m a real god forsaken genius. She mentally sighed and continued her search, fumbling with her lighter, cigarettes, and assorted pocket lint until she produced two dimes and a nickel. She looked hard into the palm of her hand, scrutinising the money and deciding whether or not playing along would be a good idea, before holding out her meagre offerings.

“That’s good for one of these,” both hands raised up from behind the wooden countertop, each one holding a small ragged photograph pinched between his index finger and thumb, small enough to slide snugly into a wallet. The picture in his left hand was of a desiccated rabbit, the small creature’s body browned and seemingly crumpling in on itself. Hollowed eyes a deeper black than anything Laika had ever seen stared glumly from the two-dimensional image. In his right hand the stall keeper held the picture of a human corpse, stood upright, and in much the same condition as the rabbit. One photograph made her feel queasy and sad, like a child first being introduced to the concept of death, while the other frightened her to her very core.

“Are these… supposed to mean something?” She asked, gesturing to the strange photos, husks captured before disintegrating into the sand of the desert around them.


“If they mean something to you then they mean something to you. None of my business.” The man gruffly retorted, brows lowering with what looked like disgust. “You gonna pick one?”

Laika shifted in place, her stomach turning sour as her eyes drifted from one unpleasant picture to the other. She didn’t really know why she was getting so worked up over this, as far as she knew it was an arbitrary decision with no consequence and she was still stuck in some drug-addled dreamland anyway. She placed the coins down in front of the otherworldly shopkeep and went to lift her hand, noticing that it quivered ever so slightly. Just pick one dammit. Her inner monologue goaded impatiently. Laika’s right hand lifted and pointed at the rabbit. As creepy as it was it seemed a great deal better than carrying around a picture of a human corpse in her pocket.

“I see.” the man spoke sadly. His breath splashed against Laika’s face and brought back the sticky weight of the air back in the woods. She shuddered and watched as he slowly placed the rabbit on the counter and slid the coins towards himself. His skin dragged against the edges and shards of the counter until the change fell off the edge, clattering to the floorboards below. The man reacted to none of this, simply lowering his now empty hand.

The right hand stayed in place, arm crooked as he held the picture. The picture then crumbled in on itself, seeming to burn from the inside out with no flame to provoke such a result. It shattered into particles of ash, coating his decrepit hand in greys and blacks.

“I, uh… I have to get going…” Laika quickly said, snatching up the picture and shoving it into her pocket. The queasiness had only grown as she watched the photograph ignite of its own accord and she wanted nothing more than to be far far away from this strange pit.

“So does everybody else.” He said, more like an old man berating someone for trying to cut in line than the lone occupant of a vast nothingness. The shopkeep was entirely unfazed by both the picture’s destruction and the girl’s anxious escape. “The next door is in the rocks,” his expression remained unchanged though the volume of his voice had grown enough to reach Laika as she stumbled towards the edge of the sunken platform.


End Part II

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr Photograph (Wadi Rum - Jordan by Eric Montfort)

Popular Right Now

'Difficult Women' Book Review

How Roxane Gay changed how I saw myself
7
views

Roxane Gay is an extremely talented author. I fell in love with her writing after being assigned a section of The Bad Feminist in a creative writing class. I was instantly sucked into this world of someone who expresses sentiments I had not been able to. That got me started, from there I began Difficult Women. As I was wandering through Square Books, it was the title that caught my attention. As a girl I often here comments on how "crazy" or "dramatic" I can be. I could not help myself, I grabbed the book and ran home to start it.

For me, the first few pages makes - or breaks - a book for me. I flew through the first chapter and turned the page ready to find out more. But I was shocked to find that an entirely new story began. Slightly perturbed I started the next chapter expecting the third chapter to go revert back to the trials of the characters in the first chapter. It never happened. By the seventh chapter I was so enthralled with the stories of all the women presented I completely forgot that I wanted some resolution for the sisters in chapter one. The struggles of the women broke my heart, made me want to fight for them, give them and hug and cry for them.

It was then I realized I had a literary crush on Roxane Gay. She exposed the stories behind so called "difficult women" and made the world recognize that those supposed crazy moments were the product of outside events. I felt justified. I felt that as a women someone was finally shedding light on the reasons that I sometimes overreact or get emotional when people do not understand why.

If you are looking for a good pool, beach or airport read I strongly suggest this book. It is one of the most humanizing books with elements of fiction to make it appeal to a wide group of women. The short story style keeps it interesting from start to finish and allows you to decide what the fate of the women may be or for the story to end there and you allow the thoughts of the author to carry on difficult conversations in your thoughts.

Cover Image Credit: LibroMobile

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Teddy And Owen Show All That Not Waiting For Your Best Friend Makes You A Strong Woman

Shonda Rimes shows young woman that valuing yourself in a relationship for two is a strong decision.
Avani
Avani
10
views

Shonda Rimes, the creative genius behind "Grey's Anatomy," has done some crazy things in this 14-season-and-still-going-strong show. From tragically ending the McDreamy storyline to starting the Avery-Pierce romance, Shonda has thrown every sort of curveball for the doctors at Grey-Sloan.

However, in the episode entitled, "One Day Like This," Shonda kicks up the heat with Owen Hunt and Teddy Altman only to end it with a semi-familiar message: even if he is your best friend, you do not have to give up everything for him.

For those that need a quick recap of the relationship between Major Owen Hunt and Major Teddy Altman, their relationship started out on their Iraqi tour where they were both stationed as trauma surgeons. While it was evident that they had some chemistry, Owen, unfortunately, was engaged to Beth at the time.

When Owen was done with the army, he took up a job (post-breakup with Beth) at Seattle Grace where he was wooed by the snarky Cristina Yang. However, never once was Teddy thought of until Christina wanted to learn from a cardio god after Burke left.

Teddy, in every sense of the word, was a badass at cardiology. Cool, collected and a wealth of knowledge, Teddy offered a wide variety of expertise to Christina while still maintaining her composure regarding her feelings about Owen. As a good best friend to a guy, she kept it on the lockdown about how she was the right person for him.

But with Shonda, such feelings have usually been kept a secret for long (otherwise what happens to the good television ratings), and Teddy spills everything to Owen who ends up pushing her away and turning to Christina. And to really top it all off, Owen manages to be involved with her late husband's, Henry's, death.

So when Owen finally gets his life together post-Amelia and goes after Teddy, she gives him a chance. An almost 24-hour chance. Once Owen mentions it was Amelia that brought him to her, Teddy kicks him out and closes the door behind him.

This may disappoint a lot of viewers given that Teddy and Owen are made for each other, but I believe that Shonda Rimes is making an underlying point that waiting around for your best friend is undervaluing you as a woman of power.

Teddy and Owen's relationship is exactly what girls should not do for their best guy friend because all it ends up proving is that the girl puts herself second in the relationship. No woman should ever put herself in the position of waiting for a man to notice her.

Teddy is beautiful in many ways and Owen is only realizing her beauty now. Smart, charismatic, dedicated and caring, Teddy would have loved to have Owen by her side. But time and time again, Owen pushed her away for what he thought was something better.

When Teddy was faced with the decision to have her happily ever after come true, she decides to let it go forever which makes her even more beautiful in my eyes than ever before. Instead of holding on to Owen to complete her, she comes to her senses and lets him go because her own value matters more than what he thinks.

To get to the essence of this moment, Teddy is a stronger, independent woman because she did not fold in the face of Owen promising to be there for her because he wants to. This poignant moment hits home for me because it shows women that for every guy best friend they have, it does not make them weak for giving into them or strong if they don't. Instead, it makes her human.

Then again, we would all be human because choices like that aren't easy. Making the right choice for you regarding your best friend is important because it only accounts for what you want. Not what is good for the other person which ultimately is not selfish at all.

Cover Image Credit: ABC
Avani
Avani

Related Content

Facebook Comments