When Tiana opened her eyes, she saw Dante bent over her. His eyes showed concern while the rest of his face was stern and serious. His electric blue eyes glowed in the dark as he stood.
“Good, you’re awake. When you’ve recovered, we’ll start walking.”
“Walking where?” She asked, slowly getting to her feet.
Dante sighed, pointing a pale finger towards a shadowy place under a cliff’s edge. “It’s called A.F.T.E.R. Shock. We’re heading for the cliff where it’s located.
“You’ll see when we get there.” Dante lowered his hand, his ears perking up as if he was picking up a noise like a cat. “We have to move, now."
He said, picking up a belt of bullets and two pistols. He handed Tiana a hunting knife. “I’m not taking chances if you don’t know how to shoot.”
Tiana nodded, looking around to see what startled Dante so bad. A little ways to the cliff, she broke the silence. “What does A.F.T.E.R. Shock stand for?”
“Certain things that you’ll learn later.” He said quietly. Tiana was thinking of another question when he stopped and turned around.
“You’re old enough to know the difference between real life and fantasy, right?”
“Yeah, I’m eighteen. I should hope I know, Why?”
“What do you think this is?”
“A bad dream, I’m going to wake up and see my little brother’s face smiling at the table and criticizing how I’m dressed for work.” Tiana said, looking up to see Dante’s face.
Dante shook his head. “No, this is real, Miss Byrne. Very real. This place is called Outer Dimension, or the O.D.” He turned back to the cliff.
“We need to find a place to stay the night… I’ll ask one of the villages we had passed a few minutes ago. Let’s go."
He turned around again, then started walking towards the village that lay a short distance off.
The village was bare, except three corpses who watched in cages with their blind eyes, white hair flying in the wind. Tiana shivered under their blank gazes as they hurried past the gate.
“Hello?!” Dante shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth. His voice echoed back to him. “No one’s home.” He whispered, walking down the empty, muddy streets.
Tiana followed closely, eager to get away from the village.
They checked all the buildings, but found no one and nothing that would indicate anyone was still there. They waited outside the only hotel-like house, watching a new storm roll in.
Flashes of lightning lit the dark clouds with a faint, eerie glow.
Dante pulled Tiana inside the building as the rain started to pour. She watched the rain from one of the few glass windows, pressing her hand against the cool glass.
Dante was busy rummaging through cabinets, looking for supplies for the long trip they had to make to the cliffs.
Tiana walked away from the window as the lightning started to light up the trees a little ways from the village. She went over to Dante, twisting strands of brown hair between her fingers.
“How long is this storm gonna last?” He shrugged, packing two knapsacks. Tiana sighed, picking up some of the books that had toppled onto the floor before they got there.
The books had soft leather covers with their names painted in black ink on the bindings.
Tiana opened one, but the writing was smeared in something red… Was that blood? She quickly closed it, then set it on a shelf.
Some of the blood had gotten onto her fingers when she turned the pages, so she wiped them on her grey jeans.
Dante looked up from his packing as a lightning bolt set fire to one of the houses across the street. Tiana jumped as the thunder rumbled loudly above them.
He handed her a knapsack, and a gun he found in the cupboards. “Is it loaded?” She asked, taking the revolver. Dante nodded, slinging his sack across his back.
His black suit was dusty and torn on one shoulder.
Tiana looked down at her dark green sweatshirt and grey jeans. Her knees had holes in them from slipping down steep hills, and her sweatshirt had a tear on one of her sleeves.
She sighed as she took down her hair, watching Dante look out the window and frowning. Tiana put her hair up again, then walked over to him.
“We aren’t going out in that, are we?” She asked, scowling at the storm that blew on.
The fire on the other side of the road grew higher, spreading to the other houses on that side of the slick, muddy road.
Dante looked at her. “Do you want to burn to death or catch a mild cold?”
“Preferably the latter.”
Dante nodded. “Then we are going to go out in that downpour.” He opened the door so that it swung on its hinges, banging into the wall outside.
“Coming?” Tiana nodded, following Dante out into the rain. She pulled her hood over her head, tucking her low ponytail inside it. Dante looked back briefly to make sure she was still following.
As he walked, sparks shot out from either side of the road.
Tiana hurried to his side, avoiding the spitting sparks as best she could.
Dante looked down at her, then looked ahead, increasing his speed as another bolt of lightning hit the houses ahead.