...and emerged on the other side.
Ken Parker-Stone paused. Whoa, what had just happened?
He was standing on the side of a hill, somewhere near the top. High enough to scrape the undersides of thick, fluffy clouds. Grey mist billowed around him. The air was damp and slightly chill. Weather-beaten rock formations loomed out of the fog on either side of a seldom-travelled path.
Okay, what the fuck was he doing here? Ken thought.
He looked behind him. The path carried on beneath a worn stone archway that stood alone on the side of the hill. Whatever structure the arch had once belonged to had long since fallen to rubble. It stood alone. Its stones had been scoured by the elements and were covered in lichen. The whole arch listed to the side like a battered hero—mortally wounded yet defiantly refusing to fall.
The mist was thickest beneath the archway. Ken couldn't see through to the other side. The same thick fog shrouded his own memories. He tried to recall how he'd got here or even what he'd been doing moments ago. Nothing. The fog between his ears was just as impenetrable as the fog beneath the arch.
At least you still remember your name, he thought—Kenneth Parker-Stone. And who are you and what are you doing here, Ken Parker-Stone? he thought.
He turned away from the arch and saw he was not alone on the path. A few metres further down an attractive woman in bright blue clothing sat on a flat rock next to the path. She spotted Ken and gave him a friendly wave.
Ken waved back. He walked down the path towards her. Maybe she knew who he was.
Maybe she'd also been brought here mysteriously, same as him. She certainly wasn't dressed appropriately for hiking up the side of a hill. She looked like she'd just stepped out of a fancy city-centre party, possibly one with a fetish bent. Her long, frizzy hair was dyed bright electric blue in colour. As bright as her hair was, her outfit—what little there was of it, as it was skimpy and covered little of her flesh—was brighter still. Shiny blue rubber was stretched taut across her chest and formed a V as it covered her crotch and little else. She wore thigh-high boots and elbow-length gloves made out of the same glossy material.
She must be freezing, Ken thought. Much of her cleavage was showing as was a circular patch of her flat stomach. As good as it was at emphasising her gorgeous figure, it was not an outfit for hiking up hills on a damp, chilly day. Not that she seemed bothered by the cold air at all.
Ken paused as he approached her. There were horns growing out of her voluminous electric-blue hair. They were long and swept back in an elegant curve like the horns of a goat. What he first took to be a coat or cape resolved into folded up bat wings—dark blue in colour—behind her back.
Was he dreaming and her some fantastical manifestation of his sleeping imagination?
And a fucking smokin' hot manifestation at that.
No. The mist might have leant his vision a dreamlike haze, but all his other senses told him this was real.
A word for her appearance entered his mind—cosplay.
What she was doing in cosplay on the side of this forsaken hill was anyone's guess.
What he was doing on the side of this forsaken hill was anyone's guess.
"Um, this is going to sound really weird," Ken said. "Do you know me? You see, I think I might have slipped and banged my head. My memory is all messed up and I don't remember how I got here or what I'm doing up here."
"That'll be the arch," the girl in blue said.
Ken noticed her costume also extended to contact lenses that made her eyes the colour of glittering rubies, or freshly-spilled blood.
"There's enchantment on the stones to cloud the memories of all who pass beneath," she explained.
"It makes you forget," she elaborated.
"Forget what?" Ken asked.
Why would he want to step under an archway that made him forget? What was it he wanted to forget?
Why was he even taking her words at face value when they were obviously crazy?
"It's a purification ritual," the girl continued. "It's to remove all impurities from the mind so there's nothing for her to latch on to and exploit."
"It's the first step for all embarking on a quest to slay the demon queen."
Her words weren't getting any less crazy, Ken thought.
"I take it you are on a quest to slay the demon queen."
to be continued...