(Read Part Two)
It didn’t take her long to reach the edge, though clawing up its unsurprisingly unstable surface certainly slowed her escape as the sand repeatedly gave way and smoothly rolled downwards across itself. Finally over the top she groaned, spitting sand as she got her bearings again. Directly in front of her, only about a kilometre or two off, was a grouping of the same kinds of craggy rocks she had seen earlier.
Hoping against logical hope that the shopkeeper's final statement wasn’t some farcical trick Laika pushed onwards. The arid atmosphere was beginning to really get to her and if there was some way to wake herself up or get out of… whatever the hell this was… then she would gladly take it. Clamouring over and around each unwelcoming geological formation wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience either. She repeatedly thumped and scraped against the harsh shapes, cursing and mumbling the whole way through.
After a particularly nasty flop headfirst into the sand (swiftly followed by a creative string of salty language) she finally came across the door. Just like the last one it stood by its lonesome, in a small circular clearing free of the pesky rocks she had quickly grown to hate. If this is locked I swear I’m going to go back there and kill him. Though, to be completely honest with herself, she knew she was far too unnerved to ever go near that hole in the ground again.
She sucked in a breath, puffing her chest outwards in a show of dominance to no one in particular, and opened the door. Once again she found herself stepping into darkness. Once again she felt organs shifting as if falling into a deep, unknowable cavern below.
Laika coughed, feeling the course grime sticking to her face as she looked up. She was on a beach, no, an island. A perfect circular little island of light, pleasant sand. A far cry from the harsher browns of the desert world beforehand, but it was still sand. What is it with all this fucking sand?! She swung herself about to face the door only to find that nothing manmade stood in the miniature desert. Around her she could see nothing but ocean and cloudless sky stretching out for miles. The floaters and dancing atoms of her vision coated the oppressively blue scenery, a layer of TV snow she often forgot was normal in human eyes.
"Wh-what the hell?" Laika shouted into the serene emptiness that expanded endlessly in every direction. She stood up and brushed the excess sand off her clothing, still feeling the harsh particles nestling into obnoxious positions against her skin. This is even worse than the desert!
She was yelling in her head, trashing an imaginary hotel room built specifically for catharsis. On the outside she just looked sour, annoyed and vaguely disappointed by the door’s false promises of reality. Though, to be fair to the door she had been projecting her hopes onto an inanimate object, which wasn't exactly healthy behaviour.
Laika walked around the island in circles, searching desperately for something, ANYTHING to break the monotony of the latest world she had fallen into. She kicked at the ground, little grains dispersing into the air before showering down into the calm waters below. Each impact a tiny ripple almost indiscernible to a human observer.
Her foot tapped, her nostril twitched. She needed a cigarette. A loose cigarette was yanked greedily from her pocket, followed by the Zippo lighter that at one time had made her feel so cool and adult. She lit up and puffed nervously, almost cartoonish in her anxious jittering. “There’s nowhere to go! At least in the desert I could walk around or SOMETHING!” She shouted, pulling the cigarette from her lips to tap the sullen ashes out over the water before returning to suckling it once again.
She stood there, internally stumbling through one angry lack of possibilities after another. Her first cigarette fizzled to its filter, tossed aside for another as she stood there on the pointless little island.
Laika glanced at the water, a weird, stupid, impossible thought growing in her head. She wiggled her toes in her crusty shoes and shook her head. Well, I guess I’ll find out if I’m dreaming or not.
She walked forwards into the water, following the downward slope of the sand as the waterline crept up her body. It was cool, but not cold. Soothing almost actually. Cigarette still hanging from her mouth her head disappeared beneath the glasslike surface with nothing but a gentle plop to mark her passing.
Okay, definitely dreaming. She thought to herself, and with good reason. She could breathe perfectly fine. Her walking was slowed as she made her way to where the ocean floor leveled out into a mixture of muck and sand, plumes of dirty water kicked up with every step, but she could breathe with ease. The sounds around her were still muffled as they should have been, and when she tried to speak it gurgled and formed bubbles as was normal. Yet there she was, walking and breathing as if strolling through a park in slow motion.
Glittering streaks of light pierced the depths creating shimmering pillars around her as she walked steadily forward to nowhere in particular. Though there was nothing in the way of fish or crabs or any other marine animals for that matter there was a great deal of flora to admire. Seaweed and other strange plants of varying colours rippled as if caught in the gentlest breeze. Her cigarette, which had gone out by this point, floated away as Laika’s mouth hung slightly open, her anger and fear from before almost drifting away with whatever light tides this strange place experienced.
She could have been wandering for hours, days even, mesmerised as she was by the oceanic wonderland she found herself exploring. All time disappeared, all anxiety dissipated, as if caught within some sort of lilting trance, a siren’s song of scenery.
Laika was almost angry when she found her leisurely stroll abruptly interrupted by a large, solid object. She stepped back, rubbing her forehead where it had thunked against whatever she had walked into. To her great surprise, and sudden joy, it was another door. Alone and in the strangest of places, as usual. It was a little worrying that the phrase “as usual” could now be applied to this situation, but there wasn't much she could do aside from continuing on.
Taking one final glance around the serene wanderlust that had occupied her mind for a now unknowable stretch of time, Laika grasped the handle and made her way inside.
End Part III