Stories

The Ring, Part Two

I found a gold ring while jogging. When I put it on I fell unconscious and woke up in a place with Mongol amazons. The woman taking me to their capital has just asked a simple yet strange question. (Part One is below).

* * *

“Okay Buster, where are you from? Give me the city, state, and planet. Tell the truth and I just might be able to get you home in one piece. Bonus points if you can tell me who or what gave you the ring.”

“Um, my name’s Roger and I’m from Calgary Alberta. I found the ring in the grass beside a bike path. What’s going on here?”

“You forget to mention the planet. Is it Earth? Terra? Gaia? Sol Three?”

“Earth, I guess. Where are we now?”

“It’s called Earth, but not the one you’re from. Based on your clothes I’d say you come from somewhere near the Reservoir. Congratulations, Roger, you’re on a different planet.”

“A different planet? Like in outer space?”

“Not quite. More like an alternate world. We don’t know how it all works, but most worlds are like Earth but with a twist of some kind. In this world women are in charge and men are an endangered species. When it’s safe I’ll get you off this world and onto one where you’ll fit in better.”

“When it’s safe?”

“There are two people on horseback following us. They’re trying not to be seen.”

She urged the horse to go faster and took out a crossbow. She started rocking gently from side to side and the horse shifted its gait to a kind of left-to-right shifting motion. I couldn’t decide which was worse: seasickness or getting punched in the gut repeatedly by a saddle horn. She put her hand on my back to steady me.

“This is going to get rough. Try to stay on the horse.”

The horse turned and I saw what she meant. I had a tendency to slide, and only her hand on my pants stopped me from falling off. We picked up the pace.

I looked forward and finally saw our attackers. Two women in barbarian-type armour on horseback, both with spears. There was a loud ‘thwok’ above me and one of them sprouted an arrow in her chest. The other spurred her horse forward.

There was a creak of leather stretching above me, followed by a harsh click. The woman with the spear got closer. I could see the determined look on her face. All other sounds were being drowned out by the ‘cluff, cluff’ of two sets of hoofbeats.

At the last moment my horse veered to the side. I lost sight of the spear-woman just before fire and force struck my ass. The impact was substantial; I’ve been hit by a car once and this felt every bit as hard. I flew sideways through a sack of meat and hit the ground hard. Pain shot through my right shoulder. I heard words that I couldn’t make out but sounded like swearing.

I lay there trying to get my concentration back. My hands were still bound behind me, with the added benefit of searing agony in my right shoulder and my left buttock. I looked down and saw a wooden shaft sticking sideways out of my hip.

As I lay there spear-woman came into view. She had a snarl on her face and a wicked-looking knife, and she was looking at me.

“I’ll make you beg for your life, man.” She spat that last word like a venomous snake. “Then I’ll take your parts and watch you bleed to…”

She fell over, the knife dropping just a few inches from me. An arrow stuck out of her back.

A few moments later my original captor crawled into sight on her hands and knees.

She stopped and rasped out, “You still alive?”

“Yeah, barely.”

“That spear in your ass is only a flesh wound. Anything else wrong?”

“I think my shoulder’s broken.”

“And my ankle twisted when I was dragged by the horse. It looks like we’re stuck here for a while.”

She felt my shoulder and I screamed. Then she rolled me over onto my face and dug a knee into my back. The pain in my shoulder was even more intense for a moment, then faded to a horrible ache.

“You just dislocated it. It should be feeling better now.”

“Better is a relative term.”

“Whiner. Anyway, the real problem is that spear. It’s not going to kill you unless we pull it out and it starts bleeding. I can treat it if the horse comes back.”

“What happened?”

“That spear-hit knocked both of us off the horse. My foot was hooked in the stirrup and I was dragged several yards. I don’t know why they attacked; probably because you’re valuable as a slave or for parts.”

“Parts?”

“Well, one part. Guess which one.”

“Ouch. How did this get started, anyway?”

“No idea. You’re in the Foam; worlds come and go for no reason we’re aware of. There’s no instruction manual for a planet.”

“We? Who are you, anyway?”

“My name’s Jessica. Yesukai here. I’m from another Earth, though mine seems to be gone now. I’m with a group called the Foamriders. We travel from world to world and catalogue them.”

“Why did you call that woman mother?”

“Apparently I look like her daughter, who went missing years ago. It’s as good a cover as any while I’m gathering information. At least it was until you came along.”

“And now?”

“And now I have to decide whether we jump to another world. There’s no guarantee it’ll be any safer or friendlier than this one.”

(Part Three)