The Archer

The Archer

~ a short story

After he fired the little knives from his string, The Archer was not one fit for standing still. He was a man of action, in his prime, and trained for such adventuring within the wilderness.

And yet, every passage frayed his memory. Every passage made him question his sanity.

Every portal contained its secret, and given time, he’d find them one by one, arrow by arrow. With a half-smile on his face, more tricks in his quiver than any foe he’d yet encountered, the archer aimed and fired with equal conviction.

But after many travails now, manifold blinks of disparate struggles and near-deaths under his belt, always alone, always running… a cage sprawled itself around his heart. He’d long since forgotten who he was let alone why he traveled; The archer was more weapon than man now, one long hunt without the head of its hunter…

He stepped into a forest. The resounding chirps from the birds high in the trees calmed his exterior. Familiarity. He walked, bow by his side. A place he could abide. Somewhere he could breathe and be alive again. He walked, not too fast, not too slow. A blazing, nearly blinding sunstripe fell over his eyes as sweat beaded at his temples.

He ducked his head back in the brush to recover his sight and stay alert. He gazed for game; he listened for threats.

Stepping in near silence, over the shimmering, flowering rings of strange material that covered the floor of the deep blue woods, the archer blinked away the thoughts. He just looked at the wonders of the blue leaves, blue brush, blue grass all around him here.

He shook his head and shut his mouth and focused. Gripping his ancestral bow with the same fervor of his very first jaunt into this strange multiversal arena, he picked up his pace.

The Archer is a boy no longer, he reminded himself.

The tatters at the edges of his cloak were blackened and singed; the last trip had been to the surface of a volcano, the lava slowly choked him for an hour, burned his clothing. Breathing still hurt at the moment. The archer did not know why.

As the archer stalked into a clearing, he stopped, cautiously considered the aura in the air about him.

He’d been walking for a while. There was no way of knowing what kind of world he’d be heading to next.

This was his life now.

And though he could not remember–

The Archer jerked around on reflex. From above and behind, a small sound of a pounce from a beast twice his size. Before it had closed half the distance, killing claws and jaws angling for his neck, the archer turned from his quill and fired three arrows. Each aimed for critical points, designed to deal death fast, he was rolling away in the instant after the loosing.

The archer did not get to see the results of his work, or even an unblurred view of the predator that had tried to take him in that plane. His dodging leap led him away. Away. Into another world.

This one is made of stars.

It was cold. But he was still alive. Every quadrant of his surroundings stretched infinitely far; yet another “Zone.” He stood, with knees weak and eyes flashing from the sudden change in stimuli. No “world” in sight. Less ‘plane’ and more… just empty space.

It was a place for a head to dream. And before not too long, die in.

“Hello!” he called out. The sound fell away instantly, if he heard his own voice at all. He couldn’t be sure. For some reason, he wasn’t eager to try to call again.

He stood upon a night sky, impossibly so. Stars speckled his glances. On every side of him, a starscape, a total sphere of sky. The stars were small and impossibly far. But they were lights. They were … something. Something to behold.

He breathed in their sights astonished but numb. The rays of alien sun from those woods, discolored as blaring white but intimately warm, were being completely exiled from his perception. Those strange blue trees too. As he glared into the void, they faded away moment by moment, scene by scene. His every affinity and feel or memory from that place was going, going… gone.

Total void lay around him.

The weight of his lack of volition weighed on him again. He held no control, not only over the destinations, but the timing of passage. All he knew is that he would, before too long and without fail, be going. Going elsewhere.

They were less portals and more teleportations. It was only he that traveled. There was no other, no other person. No hand to grab to go together with. Through the planes and zones, through the multiverse. He went by himself, just him and his bow and his arrows and the cloak on his back.

Why?

He had no idea.

Thus far, he knew well at least one pervading truth about his trail: He never traveled to the same realm twice.

Pure movement. A fast life lost slowly, in isolated blinks.

The archer sighed, stowed his bow back, and sat down in a cross right where his form had been summoned from that one universe and into this other. He observed his placid, far-stretching environ with unblinking, unfeeling eyes. Scanning for danger, waiting for whatever may come next. Powerless to do anything more, The Archer sat and watched the world he’d fallen into.

It was a good thing indeed that he’d long ago cut his desires. ~