The Spawning Years, Chapter I

 


Survival Mode, Volume I – The Spawning Years

Chapter I – Awake


 

I suppose I was asleep before. After all, when you fall asleep, it’s a gradual change. You never quite know when you lose consciousness, or when you’re truly awake again. That’s the only explanation for this, or whatever is happening to me.

I’m starting to wish I wasn’t this… awake. An aching echoes through me; the longer my eyes are open, the less strength I have. I see grey, just grey. A light rain soaks my lifeless body, and my first strained breaths taste what seems like musky sea air. I could just lay here, and that’s really all I want to do. But my heart is beating too fast for that; I can hear it thumping and hitting the ground. What’s got me so worked up? It’s uncomfortable. So I can’t stay lying here.

I stretch my fingers, feeling my way around things. It’s sand, definitely sand. It’s wet, like me. I’m becoming more aware of my surroundings; I can feel it underneath me, and covering me, to an extent.

How long have I been laying here?

What is this place?

The questions, which my groggy brain can barely process, force me slowly to my feet. It’s almost like every cell in my body had been asleep, like blood is suddenly rushing to all the places it couldn’t before. A tingling and prickling sensation overcomes me and, with a rush to the head, I fall to my knees. Maybe I’m falling back asleep.

* * *

When my eyes open again, my heart rate has slowed and the rain has stopped. A few things become clear. It’s a beach, all right… and it looks like the sun is just coming up to my right. That’s the east, then. The thick clouds block out most of the light, making this scene almost colorless. That grey color must’ve been the sand, which is soft and sticky near my feet–where the tide is coming in–and coarser up near my face.

I lift myself up, and though there’s some tingling I don’t have the same bodily failure I had before. I wipe my eyes to clear the dirt and water from them. From the impressions in the sand I can tell that I’d been laying there for quite some time, facedown, just stupidly spread-eagled like that. No wonder I can hardly breathe. I try to cough up some of the sand, but there’s not as much in my airway as I’d thought. Mostly I just spit the salty stuff out from between my teeth, and smack my lips to get rid of that horrible morning taste.

Thankfully, I’m clothed. Upon examining myself, I find a turquoise-blue shirt, collared at the top and crudely laced together down the middle (it’s a little big on me) and below that a set of dark blue trousers, which drag with the weight of all the rain that’s soaked them. My shoes, which are boots of a plain gray material, are in surprisingly good condition. But everything is soaking wet and encrusted with sand. If I don’t dry soon, I could start chafing, and… ugh.

I look back in the water to get a better look at my own face, but I’m instead greeted with a wave that makes it a bit farther than the others and licks at my boots… so much for that. Oh well–I’m sure I look fine, besides the sand in my hair. A quick brush across my chin with the back of my hand reveals that I have a little stubble growing in… when did I last shave?

I don’t remember.

So I abandon the thought altogether. I find myself gazing out on the open sea–how peculiar that I’ve turned up on the ocean shore, of all places. These tides, which are coming in quite strongly not too far from me, must have helped soak me earlier–even now, fresh foam is washing up next to me. It’s a shame it had to rain too, and that it’s so cloudy, almost foggy. I suppose that’s what’s to be expected on a coast, though.

But I don’t see something else I expected to see: other people. Past the incoming tides, there’s nothing but dull blue-grey ocean on the horizon. Sure, it’s a nice view, and there’s a cool, salty breeze coming in from that direction, rustling my clothes–but there’s no other land in sight. No ships, no boats. I scrub at my eyes once again and squint, trying to see past the waves and clouds, but… nothing.

Not even debris… I mean, this happens to people all the time, right? Ships wreck just as often as they make their journeys, I’m sure. But I see no remnants of such an event, and I hear no cries from other survivors…

Other… other people. Where are they?

My heart, starting to beat too strongly and sharply out of rhythm, indicates that I have begun panicking.

Glances to my left and right, along the shoreline, yield nothing–and this beach seems to stretch around for miles, with me standing on the furthermost point. I turn around and see that the beach continues there too, similarly empty, being primarily flat as far as I can see–at least until it ends and meets the earthy cliffs in the distance.

I start walking, slowly, in that direction, and the brunt of the realization hits me right in the gut: I’m really alone.

…which I ordinarily wouldn’t really complain about–but suddenly an emptiness has begun to set in. I’m dreading the idea of being the only one around this coastal wilderness. It’s a bad vibe… maybe even a bad omen.

It can’t be true. They must be here, somewhere… friends, or family.

I’m not old enough to be a father–at least, I hope not.

Would they call my name? What is my name? Should… should I be asking these sorts of things?

I increase my pace until I suddenly break into a run. I’m going as fast as I can, stumbling across the sand dunes… but I can’t escape the dread these thoughts bring. They’re terrifying, because I don’t know their answers.

The run exhausts me; breathing hard, my innards still churning with worry, I slow to a stop and collapse onto the sand once again.

You should know your own name, I think to myself.

I can’t do this… there’s no running from this. But I’m sure I can calm down, somehow. I just need to focus. So I put my pounding head in my hands and bite my lip to hold back what seems like tears.

I do that for a long, long time.

* * *

By the time I pick myself up again, most of the clouds have drifted away, the sun is higher in the sky, and my clothes are dry–but unfortunately still dirty with sand. The coarseness is starting to annoy me.

I’ve had a good long think about my predicament, and I’ve come to a temporary conclusion. The idea of me being spontaneously and completely alone on this coast is frightening, to say the least… and so is my apparent lack of memories. But it’s all so absurd. Things like this just don’t happen–so there must be some explanation, like, I don’t know, amnesia.

Even so, I can’t go running off looking for answers just yet. The fact of the matter is that I am alone–for the moment, anyway–and, even if that is rather ridiculous, survival must be my top priority. Yes, I see it now… if I work hard to provide for myself, then I’ll have a greater chance of finding someone who knows what’s going on. And I expect that to be sooner than later; there must be people around here. It only makes sense.

I sigh to myself, concluding that I’ll know my name soon enough.

For now, I think it’s time to get off this beach–and those cliffs (hills, really) to the north seem to be my best bet. They’re masses of green and brown, their colors now more prominent now that this place is getting some sun… and I suppose I could scale them. If that’s where the mainland is, then that’s where I’m going.

Who knows? Maybe there was never a shipwreck; I could have fallen from one of the higher cliffs and hit my head. Well, they’re quite far away, and I’m not hurt, so no… I really don’t know anything, do I?

Oh, or I have some kind of unfortunate condition. Now, that… that would be even worse than a concussion.

With another sigh, I turn and take one last look at my “starting place”… creepy. I brush some sand off of my clothes and out of my hair, and begin walking north.

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