This is the FIRST DRAFT of the novel, flaws and all, that I am writing for National Novel Writing Month 2020. Please refer to these posts to see the entire creation of this, from scratch, should you desire. Comments will be closed as of January 1, 2021. For any comments prior to that, please… be kind. This is a first draft! It’s just meant to help inspire anyone to write anything, whether good or bad.

“That’s usually a sign that we need to start moving,” came a voice from behind them, and the purple energies that made up the shape of Cochava approached. “Any sign of movement you hear could indicate we’ve been found.”

Again, Vaeda teetered with the thought of the truth. He didn’t know if it would be any type of benefit for him to be open and vulnerable like that, especially if they tried to use this information against him.

“Either that, or we could encounter more friends,” he said instead. “That’s how we came across the three of you, after all.”

“I couldn’t argue with you there,” she said. “But I could also say we might not always be as lucky.”

“There’s no way of telling friends from enemies down here,” offered Go’Ranashu. “But distrust opens. The pathway to conflict more than anything.”

“It isn’t you two I don’t trust,” said Cochava, her voice lowering in case anybody else had woken. “In fact, quite the opposite here. It’s that Yaga. I don’t know, I know I’ve shared my thoughts on her with you, Vaeda. There’s something about her that doesn’t sit right with me.”

“Is there any particular reason why?” asked Vaeda.

“Yes and no. I struggle with thoughts that remind me none of us know why we’re here. Our levels of awareness in the present may allow us to trust each other while we move through this imprisonment, but what if…”

She trailed.

“What if what?” Vaeda pushed.

“What if it isn’t wrong for any of us to be down here? Trust me, I hate the thought even coming through my mind, let alone verbalizing it as such. It makes me sound like Yaga, or that Runavan character you lot run around with. But…” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “What if we all deserve to be here?”

Vaeda thought about this for a moment. The thought had already occurred to him, of course, but hearing it spoken from someone else only furthered his irritation toward their predicament. In his own walk of life, he merely wished he could remember, for himself, what got him trapped here. If what Cochava suggested were true, as was the thought that had already run through his mind, how could he believe he deserved freedom?

He shook his head; he wasn’t all the way sure where the doubt had come from, but he didn’t like the subsequent feeling that warned him the doubt was implanted, not intrinsic.

Cochava’s purple energies blinked for the slightest millisecond, and Vaeda held on to the thought there was more to her than she let off. 

“I have thought the same,” said Go’Ranashu after the infiltrated silence between them had become almost unbearable. “And yet, as I continue to move about without knowing the cost of my sign that landed me here, I also have thoughts that occur that tell me otherwise. That say I deserve the freedom as much as my heart tells me.” The blue lights of his energy dimmed a tint, and his voice carried the sadness it implied, “But I do not know. That is what makes this all the worse.”

 “There have to be answered hidden here somewhere,” suggested Vaeda. “We’re going to have to start moving, soon, if we want to find them, I’d think.”

“Especially if you’re hearing things out there,” said Cochava again, turning her attention in an opposite direction as if making sure they were safe from all sides. 

“I’m not sure if I did or not,” said Vaeda, trying to steer the conversation clear of what had really happened. “With how quiet in here, someone could sneeze and I’d hear it a mile away from the echo.”

Cochava chuckled. “I suppose there’s some truth to that.”

The smallest grumbling noise vibrated in Vaeda’s belly, and he remembered he’d still yet to eat. Apart from the lack of appetizing options at his disposal, he was surprised his body had survived without any nourishment like this. He hadn’t so much as taken a sip of water since he’d become “aware.” The small groan of hunger from within him should have at least started coming off with the slightest hint of desperation.

“Are you hungry?” asked Go’Ranashu.

Still unwilling to consume human flesh, and now curious as to how long he might be able to survive without food or water, he said, “No. But thank you.”

“There you are.” A wave of yellow energies joined the voice of Surid as he approached them. “We were looking for you three. Yaga suggests we move on, if we want to find any food today. We finished the rest of the leftovers last night.”

Vaeda pursed his lips and swallowed a bout of fresh bile. In some odd ways, the cannibalistic tendencies down here influenced his questions about the level of their innocence. Since he refused to touch the human flesh himself, he wondered if that also influenced his own inner questions about his innocence. He’d rather die than eat someone who’d beat him to it — surely a criminal worthy of being thrown into the Lanniswell Hollow would consider doing far worse.

Like killing for the meat.

Vaeda pushed the voice away again. He couldn’t fault everybody here for their desire to survive, and from what he understood, the hunt often came as a form of self-defense more than anything.

“Oh, Yaga says we should move, then?” snapped Cochava. “I supposed we’d better get right on in to moving then, shouldn’t we?” She spat. “She touted all this madness yesterday about how pointless it was to keep moving, didn’t she?”

“And yet,” came the annoyed drawl of Yaga as her fiery energies joined the rest of them, accompanied with the green vibrations that made up Runavan. “We moved, didn’t we? Otherwise we wouldn’t be here with these others, no?”

Vaeda didn’t need to see to feel Cochava clench her fists. “We may have moved,” she said, her slow and staccato words matching the condescending tone of Yaga’s, “but that came after hours of a headache as caused by you. A headache which, a day and a half later, I find still throbs the edges of my temples.”

“Sounds to me like you put too much energies into the doings of others,” said Yaga. “Perhaps if you cared more about your own actions, you wouldn’t be so bothered by mine.”

“We don’t have time for this,” said Runavan as Cochava moved forward, perhaps to even physically harm Yaga. “As of now, we all agree we need to move on from here. Yaga said she heard something nearby.”

“Vaeda said the same,” said Cochava, who had calmed herself and returned to Vaeda’s side. So long as she and Yaga didn’t get too close to each other, everything would be fine; shouldn’t be too hard to coordinate.

“It sounded like a Veruxian to me,” said Yaga.

A shudder ran down Vaeda’s spine. Even outside of the Lanniswell Hollow, people knew of the Veruxians, the vampiric creatures that surfaced from the cave every so often to feed on more… lively prey. Some rumors even stated it was the Veruxians that captured the slaves that ended up down here.

Those same rumors suggested that the Veruxians consumed some sort of life force from the prisoners before throwing them down in the caves. If that were all true, perhaps that explained… well, a lot, really. The lack of memory from the “before,” the uncertainty of the amount of time spent before the “awareness.” If the Veruxians truly did kill the prisoners before it threw them down here, however, Vaeda couldn’t think of a reason they’d want to attack them again.

Unless it was simply to make sure they didn’t get out.

“Whatever it is or isn’t,” said Runavan, “I’d think it best we move forward.”

Without waiting for anyone to agree or disagree, Runavan started walking, and they all fell into line behind him without any argument. 

So much curiosity spread through Vaeda now as they walked. He thought about the lack of sleep, food, and water he’d had, mixed with the energy he still had, as well. He wondered if the others didn’t have to eat, either. Perhaps down here, the basic functionings of human life weren’t as necessary. Now he thought of it, he wasn’t even sure of the last time he’d relieved himself or had a bowel movement. 

As the thought crossed his mind, his eyes grew wide. He supposed he had some form of graciousnesses toward the darkness around them, for he was happy with the chance to work things out on his own without people questioning his thoughts via his expressions.

The thought that ignited his interest was one that suggested the consumption of fellow humans, and the desire to maintain any form of a normal human lifestyle was what altered their memories. Vaeda had seemed to grasp onto at least one or two here and there, which seemed like more than anyone else as of now. 

If there was some sort of design down here that none of them were aware of, some power that controlled what happened to them, could it be that they’d implant these attacks to further hinder the progress of the prisoners? That every time they were close to finding a way out, something — or someone — would come and attempt to kill them. The fight would ensue in at least one death, and when the victor consumed the victim, the cycle of the lack of memories restarted.

Sweat grew on Vaeda’s palms as he considered this. It made sense to him, on more than one level. If it were true, he wondered how closely they were being watched. Was whoever — or whatever — behind this going to notice his lack of appetite? Or perhaps know of his questions?

Another shudder ran down his spine as the thought crossed his mind.

Read Chapter Four Part One

Read Chapter Four Part Three

Read the full story here.

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