Of Life and Limbo
Through the pink desert sand walked a traveler from Earth. Her body shaken, but soul strong and head held high. She held her head so high in fact that the strange desert plants around her shied away, but still marveled at her beauty all the while. Rocket turned her head slightly from one(1) of the two (2) suns that somehow managed to hold their place in the sky. Quivering ever so slightly in her presence. The sand moved around her like waves---or appeared to do so, it had been hard to adjust to the first few weeks, but now as a month had passed it had grown easier. As Rocket went on she couldn’t help but wonder what kind of trial they would put her through to become a peacemaker. Peacemakers as the name suggested were around to keep the peace between planetary systems. They would go far and wide to understand one another and planets they cherished. Each planet would pick two(2) Peacemakers as representatives, and every few decades the planets would pick new representatives; and as Rocket was finally of age she had done everything in her power to be able to take the test. So, here she was.
Here she was indeed.
Rocket took a deep breath, held it for a moment (the sun dipped behind the clouds) and when she finally let it out (the world brightened again) she shook her head, doing her very best not to think about the test. It wasn’t for a few hours and she needed to relax. Just relax. Rocket shook her head again. After a few more steps she entered an outdoor market, her ears filled with words she couldn’t make out and languages she couldn’t understand. In a way it felt like home, like Earth. There was a particular stand Rocket had grown fond of, it moved everyday but somehow she always found it with ease, this day was no different. Approaching it the manager dipped their head, knowing very well by now that they did not speak each other’s language, but remaining friendly all the same. Rocket bowed her head in response as she passed. She ducked under the ceiling of what appeared to be some sort of windchimes and made her way to the back toward a cooler with various drinks. Carefully she reached into the cooler, shuffling drinks out of the way until she found the soft pink colored can she was looking for. The text was unfamiliar to her but when she cracked open the can an all too familiar smell reached her.
The smell of peaches.
She paid the cashier, gave them a slight nod to which they replied with a confused tilt of the head before she ran off once again.
Under the circumstances she should be more nervous but no. With her peach drink in hand she was calm, much unlike her fellow competitors that were also roaming around the market. All of those who looked at her spent no time shooting her a nervous glare. Rocket didn’t mind so much, that’s what was supposed to happen, right? She shrugged at the thought, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she get to the competition hall on time---early, that she get there early. There was something strange about the way Rocket was handling this, this, perhaps the biggest day of her life. Even having to run the dryer at home an extra time made her nervous, but this? It didn’t feel real. Perhaps it wasn’t. Rocket shrugged again. Finally taking a sip of her drink, its sweet taste filling her mouth, it tasted like real peaches, not an ounce of artificial flavoring. She smiled, revealing a pair of gold fangs, and gold bottom front teeth. The gold complimented her dark skin and deep brown eyes beautifully. She walked someone else going the opposite direction who she was sure would be competing against her---but they didn’t look nervous. They looked calm actually, smug even, and when they caught her eye they stuck their tongue out. But in that cheesy sort of selfie kind of way where they bite their stuck out tongue and throw up a peace sign to complete the look; and they did exactly that, giving her a green eyed wink at the end of it. When Rocket paused for just a beat, just a fraction of a second a powerful grin broke out on their face. They were certainly human, bright green eyes, lavender hair spilling over their shoulders and kissing the back of their sun kissed neck. Even their stubble was lavender. Just as they passed Rocket took one last glimpse of them, she noticed that their hands were covered in runes, and the bat they held was covered in the same runes. Oh.
They were a witch. Go figure.
Rocket placed a hand on the back of her neck, staring after the witch and waiting for whatever sort of glamour spell that radiated off of them to subside. Perhaps they were just that pretty. Or…
Or they had already become a Peacemaker.
Rocket’s breath caught in her throat, the mere possibility that someone had already gained the title pushed away her calm and left a wave of burning anxiety in its wake. She swallowed, and realized that she had been holding onto a swig of peach juice, the flavor no longer as sweet as it had been just a moment ago. Though one(1) of this planets suns were still shining she checked her watch, here on S’quiahna it was 46:06. With the press of a button she flipped through a few other time zones, none of them what she wanted them to be---oh! On Earth, in her hometown the time was 00:00.
She was going to be late.
She began running, running as fast as she could on sand that if she looked at it for so long she would get ‘sea sick’.
“Nyoom,” Rocket muttered, regretting it instantly.
Eventually the building came into view, and with a groan she picked up the pace, sprinting now and in the distance she could see someone else running too. At home and on the Oasis (classification: NTW7) she ran, just in case the test would be physical but this---well this was just terrible. Maybe she should have run more. After quite some time she made it to the entrance, nearly wheezing as she stepped inside.
The inside temperature felt no different, but the air felt clearer and for that Rocket was greatful. She tried to chug her drink but found that only one swallow remained as she had spilled most of it on the way over. When she was finished she tried to crunch the can against her head like she had seen one of her mothers once do but when Rocket couldn’t she just recycled it instead. She checked her watch again 00:05, she was too late to be as early as she would have liked, but at least she wasn’t late late. She would have just enough time to wash her sticky hands and make herself appear less sweaty than she currently was. Rocket glanced around looking for a bathroom, but all she could see among the lavish stone walls was the other person who she had seen running burst through the door, and a small group of mantis like creatures. Without hesitating she approached them.
“Excuse me,” she said.
They turned and clicked at her, and when they noticed she was human they tucked their arms in.
“Do you know where the bathroom is?” She continued.
They looked at each other for a moment, sharing a different series of clicks amongst themselves. Carefully one stretched out an arm, pointing down the hallway.
“Thanks!” And with this she waved them goodbye and they mimicked her as she walked away. Down the hall were a series of doors, each appropriately labeled and each label changed into words she could understand as she looked at them. Everything on this planet was programmed to fit the needs of different species across the system, and though it was still being worked on as there are a lot of needs, they made progress each and every day. She found the bathroom, washed her sticky hands, took a piss, washed her hands again and made sure she looked presentable before stepping back out. Only when she did walk out she was in an unfamiliar room perhaps she had gone through the wrong exit----the door she came through was gone. Rocket frowned and walked further into the room, and as if she were playing a video game the textures of the room began to load around her. On the floor a rock appeared, causing her to stumble just a touch, strange. Rocket paused and waited as the textures slowly finished loading. Of all the things to happen to her on this planet this wasn’t the strangest one, in fact this was pretty mild. With a huff she went on, running her hands along the now moss covered walls in search of some sort of exit. When she found nothing she closed her eyes tight.
Rocket opened her eyes again, and again went around the room, pausing extra long and a place where she thought there was just too much moss to be on this particular patch of the wall. It turned out to be an entirely normal patch of wall with moss on it. This time she tripped over the rock, and fell to the flo---and fell and fell until eventually she was in back in the hallway, face down with a full can of unopened peach juice in front of her. She grabbed for it, attempting to cronch, it didn’t work. Rocket sat up, letting out another loud huff but refusing to get up immediately. 00:08. Despite her better judgement she opened the unattended drink and took a sip and when she swallowed she realized it was dark---had been dark even. Perhaps it had been for several minutes no, no, a few hours. Perhaps it always been dark and after a minute or so that felt like hours that felt like years that felt like eons it was light again A light so bright she began to feel it in her bones in her lungs in heart in soul
And then it was a like a breath. Crisp, clear, the sort of feeling that blends with a soft aching feeling in the middle of summer. Something brave, and something dear. Another breath and though she had not previously noticed they had been closed Rocket opened her eyes; and when she did she was in an entirely different room. Great.
“Terrible,” she grumbled as she stood.
In this room there was just a chair, a window and a door. Not one other thing. Carefully she took a step, no rocks. Another step and still no rocks. Rocket bounced a little, oddly excited about the lack of rocks. When she went to the door and reached for the handle she found herself back on the floor in a blink. Groaning she sat back up, only this time she noticed that there was someone else in the room, sitting in the chair across from her was a turtle. Just a turtle. It looked at her and blinked slowly just as she assumed a turtle would do, shaking her head she went toward the door again, but before she even made it halfway there she was on the floor, and now the turtle was using her as a chair. Slowly she rolled over, allowing the turtle to slide off of her back and onto the floor. Once on her stomach Rocket picked up the turtle, and held it over her, it looked down at her.
“Sorry, did you want to come too?”
It said nothing. But she could swear it smiled.
Determined Rocket sat back up and once again made her way to the door, turtle in her arms. To her relief she managed to open the door without being reset. On the other side was an arena, filled with many faces staring down at her.
“You really oughtn’t mess with the guests, Squeeze” came a voice; and though she had never heard it, she knew it belonged to a Peacemaker. Rocket stiffened.
It’s fun,” replied another voice, probably Squeeze.
“Regardless, we have a schedule,”
“Hullo hun,” came the first voice again, “the name’s Jonesy, this is Squeeze and we’re your local Peacemakers, what’s your name hun?”
“Rocket Bao,” Rocket replied slowly, unsure if this was real or illusion.
“Rocket? That’s interesting,” said Squeeze, scribbling something down.
“Your name is Squeeze,” Rocket said under her breath.
“Alright well we’ve already elected one person to take my place. Have any questions before we start?” Squeeze continued, seeming bored.
Rocket thought for a moment, “yeah when you spend enough time on S’quiahna do you suddenly not sleep as much?”
Squeeze stopped writing.
“Uh, no,” Squeeze replied, “you still should sleep just as much, I’m very tired.”
“That’s my only question.”
At that Jonesy snickered.
“Alright sugar, let’s begin.”
And it did.
Rocket woke up in a sort of haze, her arm wrapped around the turtle she had found. For about an hour she struggled to get up, finding herself unwilling to lift herself out of her selfish haze. But when she finally did get up her consciousness came to her in a jolt, the turtled looked up at her, having also been asleep, it must have frowned at her she was sure of it. She couldn’t tell though because it nestled back up against her rather quickly.
“Nuh uh,” Rocket mumbled, standing, stretching and picking up the turtle, “there’s something we have to do I just don’t remember what.”
The turtle sighed.
“I think it was important though.”
Rocket found herself in a dirt clearing, she could feel some of the dirt in her mouth the grit just a tad unpleasant. She looked around, every direction seemed the same, lots and lots of dirt. She went left. It seemed like left was a good choice because in just a short while she could hear a river. The closer she got to it the more the turtle started to wake up and squirm, and when she reached the river she set it down and let it drink. The turtle drank for a long time, Rocket leaned down and gave it one(1), two(2), three(3) pats
And on the fourth(4th) her hand hit the air, and in front of her was Jonesy and Squeeze.
“Back already?” Squeeze said, this time with surprise, “what a shame.”
“Oh, well sorry hun,” said Jonesy “but you’ve failed.”