Hi guys! This is the second installment in our Life 2.0 story series! For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page. You can also find Julian and Marcus on the YWW community this week!
With this new installment, Julian and Marcus followed the advice of Gloria and Anna. Thanks for commenting, guys!
Bright and searingly hot, the desert sun beat down on the two brothers. Julian slowly rubbed his itchy eyes to distract him from Marcus’ scrutiny. He squinted into the horizon, and for the umpteenth time surveyed the two boxes. Neither looked particularly promising.
“Why me? Can’t you choose?” Julian snapped back at his brother, who still held a stupidly oblivious grin on his face.
Marcus flinched at the proposition. Of course he was unsure; he could never make a decision about anything other than following Jesus. Even Marcus’s own college was selected by their parents.
Running a hand through his thick hair, Marcus muttered, “That doesn’t sound like a good idea.” Julian snorted at that.
With a slightly hurt expression on his face, Marcus shuffled his sandaled feet through the sand. He shielded his brown eyes with one tan hand, gazing across the twenty yard expanse that separated them from the ominous boxes. That hoodie was still flung over his head, like it would protect him from any particular danger that came from this seemingly impossible place. Julian was starting to feel the effects of standing around for fifteen minutes in the baking sand. He was about to suggest they go into the white scraped one, when Marcus abruptly asked a pointed question.
“I wonder what that red substance is?” His voice cracked abruptly.
Julian had assumed it was blood, but it could be anything. Actually, he would quite prefer it to be something other than blood. Without another word, Julian started the dismal trek across the shifting sand towards the seemingly vague cubes. He could hear Marcus following him, his footsteps seemed lagging.
Julian slowed down during the last couple feet. Someone could still be in those buildings. The six-sided room wasn’t nearly as small as he had first anticipated. In fact, it was quite ginormous. Twelve feet on each side, they loomed overhead and the black peeling surface shimmered in the heat.
“That’s impossible,” Marcus approached with heavy breathing on Julian’s right side. He had finally taken off his hoodie and wrapped it around his waist, “It seemed only six feet on each side when I looked at it from back there.”
Before Julian could express his agreement, Marcus let out a gasp. The sand dune where they had just stood minutes before, was now replaced by a sheer ledge. The sand beneath their feet ended abruptly about six feet behind them. A flat faced cliff plunged into a black void instead of more sand dunes. It stretched forever downward, but not a single gust of wind swept up from it.
Julian let out a groan; his heart doubled its speed. Now they had no choice but to go into one of these boxes. This was all so terribly haunting. Perhaps they had accidently taken a large dose of drugs and were having hallucinations together. How did one unintentionally take narcotics? Whipping his head to look at his younger brother, Julian found him with closed eyes, breathing slowly. His face was at some amount of peace. He was probably praying to his god, madly hoping that he could retrieve them out of this unnatural occurrence.
“This could be your testing ground, Julian.”
The college student angrily turned on his brother. With a two inch advantage over Marcus, he stared into the kid’s eyes. They stared steadily back.
“This whole place has already challenged every bit of rationality that I’ve assumed was true,” he flung up his hands into the air, “Of course it has certainly tested my viewpoint, as well as my sanity,” Julian bit his lip unsurely, “I just don’t know if it will account to anything.”
Nodding slowly, Marcus thankfully didn’t reply with one of his spiritual tidbits. They needed to make a decision soon. Who knows what laws applied here? Julian started to make his way down the slope that led to the hut. It looked as if the whole cube had just been dropped in the middle of this vast desert, and created a gaping empty basin.
Salty sweat dripped into his eyes as the rough grained sand flowed into his new running shoes. Suddenly, he figured out he had too much momentum. Before he could slow down, Julian slammed into the dark door of the room. It felt like ice on his chalky skin. As smooth as anything he had ever felt, there was no apparent blemish on the solid entry path. Julian soon found that his right hand had dipped into one of the patches of red. It felt warm and almost… alive. The liquid seeped into the creases and cracks in his palm, flowing through the maze. A rusty smell emanated from it, like the odor of Julian’s old bike at home. There was an odd comfort in it, yet there was a loneliness that could not be quenched.
He gulped slowly, “It’s blood.”
Marcus approached slowly behind. He reached out and touched the dripping blood. A light dawned in his face. Julian wiped most of the liquid off his hands on his jean shorts, and started backing away.
“There’s no possible way I’m going in there,” he shuddered at the peeling black, with the stark white peeking through, “There could be thirty dead bodies shoved inside.”
With a furrowed brow, Marcus turned away. He still stared at his red finger intently.
“What-what if we just glanced in and checked to see what’s inside? It seems familiar,” the younger man’s voice shook as he spoke, “Yet I can’t quite grasp why.”
Julian slammed his hand against the sand as he tried to climb the slope.
“No! We’re going into the black one!”
Ignoring whatever Marcus’ next pathetic attempt at persuasion was, Julian struggled to the top of the crater. His breathing came in ragged gasps, but he pushed on. The fear of what would happen if they did not enter one of the cubes was like a whip to his back. As he got closer, a gentle pull started in his mind towards the vast darkened block. It was undeniable, and he had no doubt that this was the correct one. This one was even larger than the last, with edges as sharp as a knife’s blade. Like the last one, there was not a single blemish on the pitch surface. Marcus struggled behind, and cowered beneath the behemoth wall’s shadow. A large handle, which seemed incredibly out of place on the twenty foot door, protruded on the right hand side. Julian ushered Marcus over as he grasped the cold metallic surface.
“Quick, help me get this open!”
Fear and agony made Julian struggle as he pulled on the handle with all his might. Marcus had just arrived, grasping onto Julian’s shoulder, when the door suddenly disappeared. Blackness enveloped them. Julian could hear his brother’s panicked scream through the haze. He felt like he was floating, with nothing under his feet or over his head. His body was moving of no accord, and it seemed that he was floating above his own physical body.
Just when he was sure he would pass out, pain lanced up his cheek as it slammed into something. In fact, his whole body ached. He soon realized that he was lying on a hard, rough floor. Letting out a small whimper, Julian shakily pushed himself into a sitting position. Instead of the warm, resolved feeling he had been hoping to feel in this cube, absolute insecurity reigned. There was a cold light illuminating their surroundings, with no particular origin. It just was. There was a narrow stairway to the right, covered in rounded arches. To their left, was another intricately designed door. Blocking the fancily carved entryway, was a tall man with skinny arms. The presence of another human being was startling. A pair of wire rimmed glasses were perched on his thin nose, and his sparse eyebrows moved continuously. His back was leaned up against one of the dark walls, legs crossed. A fat book was balanced in between his fingers, and his lips moved silently.
The silhouette of Marcus shimmied rigidly over to Julian’s side. His breathing was shallow, and it was the only sound apparent. His face was carved in a grimace.
“Who is he?”
Shrugging distractedly, Julian tried to calm the ringing in his ears. It was like the whispers of a thousand demons.
Then Marcus asked the inevitable, “Should we go deeper?”
The stairway loomed darkly. Julian brushed off some of the dust on his clothes. His mind was racing, and he was trying to ignore the strange familiarity of the man that stood in the doorway. The old man swiftly looked up from his book, seemingly unsurprised at their arrival. His dull grey eyes pierced into Julian.
“Will you follow me into my home?” he waved dismissively over to the door, “It’s obviously your best option.”
Once again, Julian wasn’t sure what to do. Of all his life, he had never faced such uncertainty.
Should they. . .
Follow the man into the door? Go deeper into the cube and take the stairway up? Or something else?
Comment below and join the adventure!