Laika (underground) Pt. II

Laika (underground) Pt. II

The next step in a surreal journey through the unknown.
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(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)

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

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What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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20 Really Good Stories About Dogs Being Amazing If Hooman Politics Has You Depressed AF

Forget hoomans and their political agendas. Dogs are where it's at.

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Politics are crazy in general, but with the upcoming election next month, politics have been a hot topic now more than ever. What we all love, though, is a good dog story.

Here are 20 stories to get your mind off of everything political in the world.

1. "I made sure he hadn't hurt himself before laughing..."

"I was using a retractable leash and walking my dog down my street that doesn't have a sidewalk. He saw a rabbit run across the street and he took off after it. He got almost all the way across when I locked the leash which caused him to slide across the cement... into a parked car. I heard the thump of him hitting the front bumper over my earbuds. He continued to slide under the bumper and came to rest against the tire. He laid there for a couple seconds before trying to go for the rabbit again. I made sure he hadn't hurt himself before laughing and continuing our morning walk."

2. "What's it take to get a refill around here?"

"When Annie was about 3 months old she came with me to visit my family for the weekend on the other side of the city. I brought her food, but we just used some Tupperware to put her food and water in the back bathroom away from my parents' dogs' food and water in the kitchen.

We were all sitting and talking in the living room. Annie wandered into the bathroom, presumably to get some food/water. A few minutes later she comes trotting into the living room, shaking her head, and plops down on the floor and stares at us, with her empty water bowl in her mouth. Everything about her movements/posture said that she was thinking, 'What's it take to get a refill around here?'

3. "He looked so proud when he finally did it."

"My dog is a lab so, naturally, he loved to fetch tennis balls. The first time we gave him two balls at once, he was torn between them so he spent 20 minutes trying to fit both in his mouth. He looked so proud when he finally did it."

4."... She just nudges it until you attempt to throw it."

"My dog likes to play fetch with tiny objects. She has brought me a blade of grass, a tiny stone, blossom, a seed, stuff so small that it just sticks to her tongue and she has to lick you a few times to get it to stick to your leg. Then she just nudges it until you attempt to throw it."

5. "... an office dog named 38 Cents"

"My sister is a veterinarian and they once had an "office dog" named 38 Cents because that's how much change they recovered from his stomach."

"... eating the entire pizza from the box."

"Years ago (before my husband and I met), he had a neighbor help him install a doggie door and then they proceed to try to get his dog, Tucker, to use the doggie door. The neighbor goes outside with a dog treat in hand and my hubby stays inside coaxing Tucker out the door. Tucker's not having it. Since Tucker is a very food oriented dog, hubby goes and gets a slice of pizza from the pizza that was just delivered. He goes outside with the slice of pizza and now he and the neighbor are trying to tempt Tucker out with the food. Still, he's not coming out. What?! Tucker loves food! What gives? They open the flap to see what's going on and Tucker, having now gotten them both out of the house, is up on the coffee table eating the entire pizza from the box."

7. "It was a mixture of guilt, embarrassment, and shock."

"Winston has always had pretty bad separation anxiety. When he was about 6-8 months old, my downstairs neighbor said he had started howling when I was gone. I had never heard him howl.

One day, I got home from work early and I must've been quieter than usual because when I walked in the door, he didn't greet me. I heard the howl coming from the bedroom in the back of the apartment. I walked in the room, watched for a minute, then cleared my throat.

He stopped mid-howl and looked at me with the most "busted" expression on his face. It was a mixture of guilt, embarrassment, and shock. I could not stop laughing.

According to the neighbors, he stopped howling after that."

8. "He's a hero!"

"I stopped at 7/11 on my way home from the dog park with Brody. I left him in the car with the windows down, as I have frequently in the past 3 years. When I came back out, he was gone! I panicked and called him. He ran over to me, but when I opened the car door and told him to get in, he took off and ran behind the store. I followed him because this was very out of character for him.

I found him sitting by a dumpster being hugged by a 10-year-old boy. I tried to ask his name, he didn't say a word. I called the police. It turns out someone in the neighborhood called in a missing autistic child. He's a hero!"

9."... I couldn't even keep a dog safe for two days."

"I adopted my dog from the shelter when I was finishing grad school. I was driving through campus one day with him in the car and had to drop off some paperwork (this was seriously like the second day I had him) so I parked in front, cracked a window MAYBE 5 inches, and ran inside. Couldn't have been 5 minutes, I come back, and my dog is gone. Obviously, I was really upset, thinking I couldn't even keep a dog safe for two days. I called campus security and told them to keep an eye out and began looking around myself. A few minutes later, a girl comes out of the building I had gone into carrying my little dog. He had tried to follow me into the school when he saw me go, somehow squeezing himself through the tiny gap in my window, and made it inside when the girl found him. I couldn't even be mad, it was so cute."

10. "and had swallowed it before I knew what happened."

"One time I had a cookie that my dog wanted. I wasn't going to give it to him, but as I sat down in a chair in my living room, he leapt off the ottoman from about 8 feet away, snatched it out of my hand in mid-air, and had swallowed it before I knew what happened. Didn't even touch my fingers. I was left with the pinch my fingers were holding."

11. "... and the boy bursts into tears and tries to come with us."

"We were walking at the park one day and a man and his little chubby two-year-old were coming toward us on the path. The boy looks really interested in Scout, so the dad (who seemed to only speak Spanish) looked to me and gestured to my dog, so I made her sit and let the kid come to pet her and it was just the sweetest thing. She sat so nicely and the Dad told the boy how to pet her, and he gently pet her head and her side and was just enamored with her. Scout was so good. She gave him a tiny lick and just sat patiently, loving it. So the kid just keeps petting and petting, and the dad's going "Vámonos!" and the kid just keeps petting her. So after a little bit longer, I tell him we have to go, and tug Scout along with me and the boy bursts into tears and tries to come with us. The dad had to pick him up to get him to stop following us. It was kind of sad to have to leave that poor kid crying, but it was sweet that my dog could transcend language barriers and make a connection like that with a child."

12. "I figure the ghost of Christmas past is coming to get us..."

"I went hiking with my pup the other day through an old abandoned military fort. It's covered in interesting graffiti and really cool to walk through. The fort is also supposedly very haunted. There are no lights in this place and we enter a pitch black hallway that is relatively short so we decide to go through.

Halfway through, in the complete darkness, my dog starts going ballistic at something, which was scary in itself because I have the happiest-go-lucky dog. He's snarling and barking in this one direction and is refusing to move as a desperately pull on his leash. I figure the ghost of Christmas past is coming to get us and we are going to die because my dog thinks he is a ferocious lion that can take it on. Somewhere in this panic, I decide to turn on the flash light app on my phone.

It was a big rock, about knee high. Once he saw what it was, he turned and gave me that famous smiling puppy face. We carried on our merry way."

12. "Did you really think I wouldn't figure that out?"

"My current dog is a little shit. I love him dearly, but he's too smart for his own good (poodle/terrier mix and he got the worst qualities of both). I got him when he was 8 weeks old from the local shelter. The second day we had him we put him in his kennel and left for about an hour. We came home to find he'd dismantled his kennel and had clawed his way onto the couch (he was too small to jump). We figured it was a fluke and the next time made sure all the latches were shut. He did it again. I later observed him putting both feet in the door to lift it up and then pushing out with his nose to slide the gate out of the kennel. He has an enormous amount of energy and is obnoxious so a few weeks later (about 16 weeks old) I got him one of those puzzle balls that releases treats slowly. I gave it to him, turned around to do something, and then turned back around to find him sitting there, all the treats at his feet, and a smug look on his face like, "Did you really think I wouldn't figure that out?"

14. "I've never seen anything like it."

"I have a Treeing Walker Coonhound named Lizzy who I rescued about 3 months ago. She was shy at first but has obviously come into her own goofy self. I walked down the stairs one morning and found her on the counter, which is a 3-foot high one, but she doesn't have a problem getting on a 4-foot high one we have in the house. Anywho, she was sitting on the counter, looking out the window at our neighbor's dog, and drinking my father's coffee. I've never seen anything like it."

15. "I ended up paying for a lot of drinks."

"I have my dog at an outdoor cafe, sitting with my friends enjoying a beer in the sun. His leash is wrapped around my thigh. Some guy comes down the street walking a ferret on a leash. Drogo has never seen one before and he lunges for it. Now, I'm a big guy, 200 pounds. He gets the leash around the leg of the table and flips it over, I'm dragged along. Me and table get the next table as well. He literally throws the entire patio into chaos. The man with the ferret has scooped it up and is running away. Drogo is trying to drag me and the mess of tables and chairs down the street after him. I ended up paying for a lot of drinks, and he lost his cafe pass."

16. "He didn't have to protect me, but he did and knew how to."

"One of my best memories of my 1st Aussie is when he saved me from a dog trying to attack me. We were out for a walk on a quiet street that went to some trails. A large lab had escaped his yard and decided he didn't like me. It was odd because he was only interested in attacking me not my dog. My dog was off leash maybe 10 feet in front of me and stopped when he saw the dog coming at us. Every time the dog lunged, he blocked him. The dog tried to circle and get behind me and my dog continued to block him. Eventually, a car came by and actually pushed the dog away with the car. The person opened the car door and my dog and I jumped in. My dog only ended up with minor scratches. The owners of the other dog decided to put him down when they found out what happened. I think it was pretty brave of my dog and intelligent too because he was off leash, he didn't have to protect me but he did and he knew how to. The other dog was also a good 20 lbs bigger, but that didn't matter."

17. "Well, now he thinks it's the greatest thing."

"One of my favorite stories was with my wolfhound/husky pup that happened just the other night. He had thrown up and was really thirsty so he kept going to the shower to try to find water (good boy stayed out of the toilet!). He didn't want to leave me, so he wouldn't go downstairs. So I turned on the bathroom tap, put his paws on the counter and let him drink.

Well, now he thinks its the greatest thing."

18. "... the look of surprise on her face was classic."

"We adopted Atticus in May and trained her vigorously in time for the summer camping season. Her recall was excellent but we decided to get a game of frisbee in before dark and didn't want to have to worry about her wandering during the game, so we tied her to a lawn chair and put down her blanket so she could snooze. I should mention she's previously neglected, mistreated and was a breeder for a large puppy mill in Louisiana before coming to us. That being said, she spooks easily. She must have woken up and jiggled the lawn chair because that was enough for her to take off across the entire campground with this freakin' chair trailing behind her. Obviously, we felt terrible that she'd been so scared, but the look of surprise on her face was classic. She eventually snagged her chair in a bush, lucky for us because even with a folding chair attached to her, that dog is FAST. We'd still be chasing her."

19. "... my dog had stolen a pear!"

"One day my girlfriend and I were outside a fruit and vegetable shop discussing what to buy. My girlfriend went in and I walked off with the dogs. I suddenly realized the small one was very quiet and walking nicely (which is always suspicious) so I looked down to see the end of a pear vanishing down her throat! I wanted to go back and pay for it but I just couldn't stop laughing at the idea of having to explain to the shopkeeper that my dog had stolen a pear!"

20. "It was so random and so sudden."

"When my dog was a year or so old, my mom and I were sitting in the living room watching TV. My dog ran up, jumped on my mom's lap (which wasn't uncommon because he liked to be a lapdog), stood up with his paws on her chest, and promptly peed all over her. It was so random and so sudden. I found it hilarious, but my mom not so much!"

*Responses were edited for clarity and grammar.

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