Lost Fire and Footprints

Having lost track of the distance we’ve covered or the time it has taken, the sense of endless walking through the desolate landscape weighs heavily on me—I can’t find my way.

It feels like an eternity since I discovered Cerby hiding in the rusted truck, but in reality, it’s only been mere hours. This is the first time since finding myself here, devoid of any memories of my past or comprehension of my present, that fatigue gnaws at my consciousness. Interestingly, it’s not hunger or thirst, but an overpowering need for sleep.

“Why am I not hungry?” I ask, trying to make sense of this strange feeling.

I believe it’s part of how this place works. You won’t need sustenance in the usual sense. Your physical needs here aren’t the same as they were… before.

The response offers more insight than any previous explanation, soothing some of my anxieties. “That’s more than you’ve told me since I first heard your voice. I guess it’s good to know I don’t have to worry about food.”

Yes, food and water may not concern you in this place. Your primary challenge is time and the obstacles that lay in your path. Keep moving and stay focused. Remember, the sun is still setting.

“Right,” I say. “I’ve noticed it continues to set, but not at the same rate that I think it should.”

I glance over at Cerby, and perhaps it’s my fatigue coloring my perception, but he appears tired too. “Can we rest for a bit?” I ask the voice.

You may rest, but I’d advise against staying in one place for too long. Time is a strange and unreliable entity here. And remember, the sense of being watched has not diminished. Stay vigilant.

“Oh. Thanks for reminding me of that.” I’m not proud of my bad habit of speaking with sarcasm. “I don’t know if we should be worried about another black-robed mumbler or a pack of demon dogs.”

Neither do I. That’s why vigilance is crucial. But remember, you have shown resilience and resourcefulness in your encounters so far. You should trust in those qualities now more than ever.

As I step off the well-trodden path, the sense of both fear and curiosity mix with a bizarre sense of confidence—a stark contrast to the landscape’s desolation and the mysteries it shrouds.

I find myself drawn towards Cerby, whose alert form and focused attention intrigue me. My usually lighthearted companion is unusually serious now, his nose sniffing around something that initially appears as a random pile of trash, strewn haphazardly in our way.

I squint, trying to see in the dimming light. I tread lightly towards Cerby, each footfall on the grit echoing in the silence that surrounds us. My eyes slowly adjust, and the obscured details start emerging. The heap is not just a random pile of trash as it had appeared from a distance; it bears evidence of deliberate human action.

Small pockets of glowing embers smolder under the iron rails, as if someone lit the path for us to follow. Next to the tracks, Cerby discovers a recently abandoned campsite. His tail wags in measured beats, his body language a clear display of his investigative instincts at work.

Guided by Cerby, I follow his gaze eastward, where the mystery unfolds. There, etched in the dusty soil, is a trail of footprints. The impressions lead away from the campsite, in the opposite direction of the beacon that has been our north star.

Who left these footprints? The poetic reaper? Someone else?

“Now what?” I ask the voice.

It is a question not just of curiosity, but a profound desire to understand the enigma of this place, the beacon, and now, these solitary footprints leading away from the beaten path.

You’ve encountered signs of another’s presence. It’s your decision how to proceed. Follow the footprints, investigate further, continue on your current path or find a safe place to rest? What feels right to you?

I notice Cerby’s tail wagging, his keen nose pointed in the direction of the footprints.

“I’m not tired any longer. And the beacon doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Should we follow this person’s trail?”

The decision is yours. Remember, the beacon is your primary objective, but this human trail might lead to useful information or potential dangers. Can you handle both? The answer to that could guide your decision.

“Not helpful.” I say, but on reflection, it is. The voice in my head has been driving me onward, its incessant insistence on reaching the beacon in the tower, a continuous undercurrent in my thoughts.

However, right now, it seems strangely subdued.

I tap my leg twice, signaling to Cerby our new course of action—we will follow the footprints. It’s an unsettling decision. Straying from the beacon is discomforting. Its looming presence has been the only stable fixture in my turbulent existence here.

Every decision brings with it uncertainty. It’s how we navigate it that defines us. So, let’s see where these footprints lead. Stay cautious, and remember, you’re not alone in this.

The voice, an invisible mentor in this surreal landscape, couldn’t be more accurate with its observations.

I look at Cerby, leading us away from the worn path and towards a greater unknown—an apt metaphor for life.

The rhythm of Cerby’s movements changes. He is no longer the playful pup that was bouncing around earlier. Now he is a vigilant tracker, his instincts taking over as we venture into uncharted territory.

Perked ears, his tail no longer wagging. His eyes, the color of molten gold, flicker with an intelligent gleam as they scan the path ahead, watchful of every movement, every anomaly. His snout hovers above the ground, examining every scent.

As we venture deeper into this mystery, an unsettling sensation crawls up my spine. The silence here grows more profound, more intense. There is a sense of being watched, of eyes tracking us from unseen corners. It feels as though we are being moved across a grand chessboard, a surreal game where we don’t know the rules.

We might be walking into a trap.