Chapter 1 – The Last Giraffe
Every journey begins with the first step… unless you step into oblivion.
Then your journey becomes quite short and manageable.
Until oblivion spits you back out.
“Come on JD! I want to see the giraffes!”
The little girl continued to tug on the coat sleeve of a young man, beautiful amber puppy eyes doing their best to control the willpower of anyone within a five-foot radius. The individual in question sighed, before rolling his own eyes in exhaustion.
“Julia, I’ve told you before. We already promised to meet mom and dad at the main gates. We don’t have time to go look at anything else.”
“Please! Pretty please! Just a quick look, then we can go!” The little girl smiled her best and most adorable smile, all while pretending not to notice the “aww”s from any nearby passerby’s.
At first, it seemed if all her hard work was for naught; but then her older brother grinned.
“Ugh, fine. I suppose one look won’t hurt.” He scooped her up as she cheered in happiness, landing her atop his broad shoulders. “Come on little sis. You gotta be higher if you want any of the giraffes to notice you!”
Taking a quick turn at the next corner, he continued to follow the posted signs leading to the proper animal enclosure. “And here we are! Current home of the..” He squinted at the sign in front of the fence. “Cervus Camelopardalis? Ehh, or the giraffe, as it’s most commonly known. Say hi sis.”
The little girl gleefully obliged, waving both hands erratically in the hopes of gaining the attention of some of the nearby long-necked creatures. After a few minutes, it seemed to work, and one of the animals stretched forth its head towards the duo in the hopes of obtaining some food these weird two-legged creatures always seemed to bring. The little girl gasped as a rough tongue licked over her fingers, and quickly jerked back her hands against her chest, though she couldn’t stop giggling at the proximity of one of her favorite animals.
After several minutes had passed, the young man jerked and pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Alright Julia, time to say goodbye. Mom and dad are waiting for us.”
“Awww…” a drawn-out sigh was her first response, but she quickly brightened up and began to wave a farewell towards her new friend. “Bye buddy! Have fun eating trees!”
Her brother set her down on the ground with a laugh. “I’m sure that’s all he does here. Eat and eat and eat till he pops!” He gave her stomach a quick tickle and grinned as she squealed and tried to escape.
“Alright, come on. We’re really late now, and I’m definitely getting in trouble. We need to hurry, ok?”
The little girl nodded happily, and together they began to move quickly along the winding paths of the zoo. The young man was fairly sure of a great shortcut through the bird compound that would cut off a few minutes, and so took his little sister’s hand and directed her through the expansive glass ceiling enclosure. The cacophony of noise in the building was weirdly pleasing to the ears, though it did restrict the senses quite a bit. Keeping a tight hold on his little sister, the young man began to speed quickly through the maze-like jungle interior. There were only a few people in the building, probably because of it being so late in the day, and so close to closing time.
On the one hand, this was great because it allowed a fast pace while traversing the bamboo covered pathways, but on the other hand, it was hard to tell where people were exiting. Somehow, he misjudged a turn, and together they found themselves in a dead-end facing a large bamboo wall. “Well shoot. Gotta backtrack a bit. Wonder where I went wrong?” The young man murmured to himself as the little girl watched. Turning around they began to head back towards the center of the building… until they were jerked to a stop.
“What the h…” the young stopped speaking as he glanced towards his sister. “Sorry, sis. Uh, can you walk at all?”
She shook her head, muscles in her legs straining to take a step, but unable to.
“What’s happening JD?”
Frowning, the young man tried everything possible, but it was as if his legs were glued to the floor. An icy itching sensation began to climb its way up his feet, quickly winding it’s way to his waist and continuing higher. The little girl was crying at this point, but neither one would let go of each other.
It was then that he noticed the lack of sound around them. Where once birds had called incessantly, now only a soft murmur could be heard.
“It’s going to be alright Julia. Just hang on ok?”
His encouragement sounded fake even to his own ears as he desperately tried to pull his phone out of his pocket. Every muscle in his body felt heavy and unresponsive and he started to hear a crackling sound that seemed to fill his consciousness. “Come on!” He finally managed to grasp his phone and yank it free, but by this point, his chest and shoulders were also feeling that freezing itch that had spread so quickly. With his right hand grasping his sister, he fumbled with his left thumb quickly trying to dial 911 on the device. A moment passed and the call was initiated, but only a few seconds later the freezing itch reached his hand and to his terror, the phone slipped out of his grasp and rebounded off the floor.
“Aargh! Just hang on Julia, I know it hurts but just hang on!”
At this point, tears were streaming down the little girl’s cheek, and her large eyes were completely focused on her brother. In agony, he stretched his head to look at her; quickly noticing their surroundings. A light was beginning to seep through the ground, and small motes of azure energy began to crawl across the branches of the trees around them. An intense motion had began to circulate, centered on the two of them. Crackling electricity and waves of light began to dance in an ever-building crescendo of power and momentum, following a beat of unknown potential that contained a rushing, tearing force of the universe behind it. It demanded attention, it declared its intensity through laws written in time. A vortex… that slowly began to revolve with profound presence.
This feeling could not be described, for it wasn’t purely pain. It was both destruction and rebuilding, a separation of atoms and a combination of something else. In that singular moment, the young man realized that death had called… and he could do nothing to prevent it.
With eyes wide open, he could only watch as the building energy spiraled around them, collecting every particle in the nearby area. Another few seconds passed as the buildup increased… and then, the crescendo. Both the young man and the little girl disappeared in a flash of powerful energy and a void of space, leaving behind the only world they had ever known.
A few minutes more passed and gradually, the birds began to resume their songs.