[X] West, down the mountain.
Before I really know where I'm going, I find myself following the sun down the mountain. I still honestly don't know what I'm going to do about anything, whether or not I'm going to trust the disappearing girl, but if nothing else, I'm more likely to find people and a safe place at the bottom of a mountain than at the top.
Unless the people I'm supposed to 'hide from' are down there waiting for me.
It's surprisingly easy to push the unwelcome thoughts out of my mind by focusing on just walking, and that's what I do. The incline here isn't steep enough that I can feel myself descending the mountain, but the forest provides a sign of my progress; the trees get thinner, and I can't have been walking for more than a half hour before I'm in a field rather than a forest. I can see the treetops stretch out before me from here, blanketing the entire trip down with the same colors as the setting sun that hangs above them now. You never got to see sights like this, back in--
"..." I shut down the despair at another memory slipping through my fingers by resuming my pace, and it's not long before I'm beneath the canopy of trees I just saw from above. This stretch of forest never gets quite as dense as the other, though, and the trees are sized down to match, which means no high-stepping to clear roots or dodging overgrown branches that jut out into the only path of travel. All in all, a pleasant walk.
Until the river.
It's fresh, clear water, not flowing too fast, with a short, rocky shore that quickly gives way to the beautiful forest surrounding it. The sort of place you'd expect to see on a postcard before you saw it in real life. Despite my weariness with my whole situation, I'm genuinely happy to have found something like this out here.
Amnesia? Fine, okay. Strange, pale disappearing women who give cryptic warnings? Hey, why not.
But hiking down a mountain in a wet skirt and underwear?
"...the very worst."
Part of me just wants to give up here; sit myself down and wait for night to fall and get eaten by a bear or something. I consider just taking the long way around, traveling downriver until it gets shallower, but decide against it. Following a mountain river isn't going to be the quickest route to anywhere, and I don't have much daylight left.
Of course, there is a solution to the problem of getting my clothes wet, but...
"Ah, fuck it."
My cheeks flush involuntarily at my own foul language, even spoken quietly to nobody but the trees. Well, this is off to a splendid start.
I act quickly, before I can somehow manage to talk myself out of this, and hike my skirt up to just above knee level, bunching the folds up in a single hand to keep it from falling again. My other hand sneaks underneath and hitches around the elastic, and I take short, wobbly steps, one leg after another, to work the underwear down my legs until they're low enough that I can just step out of them, along with my shoes, and let my skirt fall again. Eyes darting left and right like a thief in the act, I hurriedly stuff the offending garment in my...
I don't even care anymore. I just get it out of my hands and, picking up my shoes as well, turn my attention to crossing this river and putting this behind me once and for all.
...Which, of course, if I'm going to accomplish my goal of not soaking my clothes, is going to require that I pull my skirt up above my waist anyway.
"...You're an idiot." Fueled by some unhealthy combination of shame, frustration, and indifference, I just reach down and hike the thing up in one go, trying to ignore the simultaneous warm flush spreading over my face and cool air hitting my lower body as I tie it off just above my bellybutton. A few seconds and a brief hiss as I adapt to the cold river water later, and I'm too far submerged for it to matter, anyway.
The riverbed is slippery with moss, and I take short, careful steps, holding my arms out when needed to keep my balance. I feel some sharp rocks down there, too, but I don't think my feet are getting cut up too badly. More troublesome are the little fish and bits of flotsam that brush past my legs underwater, nearly startling me into losing my balance the first few times they pass. I'm used to them by the time I get to the middle of the river, though, and barely even flinch when something big enough to be someone's supper swims past on its way up the river.
...Or not. It's still there when I take the next tiptoe forward, and looking down though the clear water, I can see the outline of a great gray-blue boulder or something blocking my path. Keeping my eye on the thing as I go, I carefully sidle around it, watching as--
--ack fish. This one, I'm quite sure of; I can see it just below the surface, pausing stunned for a moment, as though it was just as confused about our sudden meeting as me, before zipping off, leaving a small trail of bubbles in its wake. I reorient myself to the boulder, preparing to--
I look down at the rock again, and it's bigger than when I last looked.
The bubbles rising before me are getting more violent now.
A clammy sensation brushes against my inner thigh.
Something pure black breaks the surface; too stringy to be an animal and too thin to be seaweed.
And I stumble backwards, the puzzle finally assembling itself in my mind, as a mottled pink hand and an arm in a gray-blue sleeve break the surface after the head of hair. I barely have time to process the body's existence before it's floating towards me, drawn in by the current. I feel myself slipping as I instinctively scramble away, and my arms fly out in a desperate attempt to regain balance.
And regain balance I do, but at the cost of movement; the corpse bumps my stomach headfirst, not swaying my stance, but sending a shiver of revulsion through my whole body as the wet, slimy hair touches me, somehow colder than the lake around it. I have no particular desire to touch any part of the corpse, but I don't really want to move with it grinding against me, and so I reach out to the thing's shoulder with the hand not holding my shoes, gently pushing it against the current away from me--
--and as I touch it, the head jerks clear of the water with a splash and a wheezing gasp, a pair of deep blue eyes flying wide open to gaze directly into mine, no more than a few feet away.
" Any sense of restraint is gone now, and my first move is to spin and run at full speed, water be damned, making my second move a face-first splash directly into the river. I flounder to regain my feet, but a cold, heavy weight on my shoulder sends me scrambling, and my head dips below water as I try to surge forward to the shore that looks so far away now.
And then my feet go completely out from under me, and it's all over; I flap my arms, but it only seems to push me deeper under, and all I manage to do with my legs is flip myself over, looking up through the clear water at the evening sky. My mouth opens at some point, and I feel my lungs trying to suck in water, and all my flailing just pushes me deeper, and I can't see the sky anymore through the disturbed water--
--and then with a 'whumph', there's something on top of me, there in the water, and I'm grabbed, pulled in tight by a pair of iron bars locked in place behind my back, and then with another 'whumph' I can breathe again, and my entire body goes limp with relief, taking heaving, choking breaths over its-- over her
"Okay. Oookay now. There you go, now you're alright." I can hear her whispering gentle, comforting nothings into my ear, but I don't have the strength to respond for a long while, and after a few minutes, she removes one arm from behind my back to lead me to shore with the other one, her strong, tight grip keeping me safe from any more slips or falls.
I half-sit, half-collapse onto the shore with a wet plop, throwing my drenched skirt (the knot keeping it up around my waist undone in the struggle, mercifully) out to cover my outstretched legs and propping my upper body up on my arms... and the 'corpse' comes to sit on my lap, of all places, her legs stretched out past my torso as she smiles in my face. Honestly, she still looks a little like a corpse to me; her skin tone has gotten a little more lively, but those wide, dark eyes and the wet hair plastered over her cheeks and forehead don't do her any favors.
"So, uh, hi!" She's a perky one, for someone who just came out of the bottom of a river and prevented a drowning death.
And not of a sense of personal space, as she puts her hands on my thighs and leans in even closer than she already was.
[ ] "...Sanae." This girl just saved my life; I owe her far more than an introduction, but it's a start.
[ ] Say nothing, yet. If what the blonde girl said is true, it may not be safe to say anything of what little I remember.
[ ] Struggle. She's on top
of me; what is she trying to do?!
[ ] Pass out. My body's had just about all it can take of this for one day, I think.
A little bigger this time, since I missed yesterday. I don't intend to go any larger/slower than this unless the plot demands it, but speak if you have a opinion on update speed or size. >>21440
It was easier and more rewarding than flipping a coin. I'll try not to make a habit of it. Judicious application of meta-knowledge might have given you a clue as to likely encounters in either direction, of course, but that's neither here nor there.