The group ran for a good thirty minutes then stopped by a waterfall, although Grace should have called it a Water Rise. The strange thing about it was that the water fell up a cliff face and re-joined the river on top, instead of the other way around.
She stared at the phenomenon until Ug, who had carried her the whole time dumped her on the ground.
“Ouch,” she said and rubbed her behind.
“Sorry,” The caveman replied.
“Mnmnmmmmn llet us outmmnm,” came some mumbled voices above her.
She looked up and saw the habit of the nun being held there. The nun waved her hand and the cloth parted and the three souls tumbled out. The Scientist and Senator fell out legs first and landed reasonable comfortably. The boy however fell out and landed on his face right next to Grace.
He mumbled something and collapsed in a heap.
“What shall we do with him?” Og said holding up Multa by one of the horns on its head. The daemon was still out cold and just hung by the caveman’s side. It was so small compared to Og, it was like the caveman was carrying a teddy bear, albeit an ugly teddy bear.
“Dump it in the water so it wakes up.” Ug said.
“Right,” and Og raised the Daemon over his head and tossed it into the water of the nearby river that ran to the reverse waterfall.
As the daemon entered the river its splash sent a wave of water over Grace and the other three souls.
Grace, the Scientist and the Senator looked at Og in anger as their clothes were soaked.
“Whoops,” Og said.
“What, what? Where Am I,” the boy said roused by the splash of water. “Where am I?" he repeated.
“Soul separated from body, fallen into the Soul Life, be quiet please,” Ug said, not looking around.
The boy’s mouth opened three or four times as if he was going to ask more questions, but he shut up when he saw the malfunctioning waterfall and just stared at it.
Multa was coming round as well and it rose to the surface of the river and roared in anger, throwing water everywhere. Its snakes whipped up, but they were grabbed by both cavemen who pulled it out of the water and held it between the two of them.
“You’ve made a big mistake.” Multa said, its lips peeling back over its teeth in a sneer, just like a monkey.
“Hello...Multa is it? Please tell me why you have been collecting the souls of scientists that have fallen into the Soul Life?” Ug asked.
“I will never tell you,” Multa said. “You pathetic humans, no matter what you do you can’t stop the Daemon Kingdom,” Multa said.
“Alright then,” Ug said and let the daemon go, Og did the same, and Multa was surprised by this.
Ug turned to Og. “We picked the wrong one, this daemon doesn’t know anything.”
“I know that soon the Daemon Kingdom will be more powerful than ever before,” Multa said reeling in its snakes, but not using them, wary of the cavemen and the nun.
“You don’t know anything, you’re a worthless daemon,” Og said.
Multa breathed in deeply and puffed out its chest. “I know that soon you will bow down before me,” it boasted.
“Your suffering from short daemon syndrome Multi, the only time I would bow down before you would be to tie my shoe laces,” Ug said, “which I have not got,” he added looking down at his bare, bear like feet.
“It’s Multa, and don’t be so sure of yourself,” the daemon responded, its cheeks turning grey.
“We’re wasting our time with this one, let’s go back and get another daemon,” the nun said.
“Sister Mary’s right, this chap doesn’t know anything,” Og said.
“When we get our hands on the Pharaoh you will regret those words,” Multa said.
“The Pharaoh? Why do you need him?” Ug asked innocently.
“He is crucial to the machine,” Multa said. “And when the scientists have finished building it for us we will...” Multa trailed off as the cavemen smiled back at it.
“Knock him out again, we’ll talk more later,” Ug said turning away from the daemon and rubbing his chin in deep thought.
“Wait,” Multa said, but Og’s massive fist crashed into its face and the daemon fell back into the river and lay there in the water. The nun’s clothes wrapped around it and pulled it out then dumped the small creature on the bank.
“Machine? Hmm, what machine would the daemons need to build?” Ug mused.
“More importantly why the Pharaoh?” The nun identified as Sister Mary said.
“He is one of the oldest souls here and he’s powerful,” Ug mused.
“Yes, but maybe...” Og began.
“Excuse me!” the Senator said.
Grace who had been enthralled by the banter between the cavemen and the daemon was irritated by the American’s interruptions.
“What is going on?” the Senator said standing up and brushing down his immaculate suit.
After they had explained how the Senator had arrived here they began detailing the mechanics of the world he had arrived in.
“Think of this world as a mirror opposite of the actual planet Earth except for a few strange things,” Ug said motioning towards the water fall that flowed upwards behind him.
“It is world made for souls to live in, which is what you are, not a flesh and blood body, your actual soul. You may have noticed that you’re wearing different clothes to what you were wearing when your soul was separated from your body. These are the clothes you feel most comfortable with and believe define you.”
“Define us?” The scientist asked.
“Your clothes are a part of you, they are part of your image, and how you want to be seen.” Ug turned to the scientist and addressed him specifically, “You’re wearing a lab coat because you’re a scientist and feel you are one because you wear it. You are just like Sister Mary here,” the caveman said indicating towards the nun.
They all turned to Sister Mary who sighed then reached down to the hem of her habit, just above her shoes, and surprisingly pulled it up.
“What are you doing?” the Senator said shielding his eyes from what he thought was going to be an indecent view.
However instead of revealing her underwear Sister Mary revealed that she had no body whatsoever underneath her clothes. The only “flesh” she had was her hands, face and feet. She let her habit fall to the floor then pulled up her sleeves revealing that there wasn’t anything there either, just a disembodied hand.
“People only see the habit,” Sister Mary began. "So that’s all I am,” She added.
"Do you mean this is my actual soul, my real soul?" the Senator said pointing at his body as he did so.
"Yes it is," Ug replied. "Your belief in it is fully justified, Humans have souls," he added.
The Senator smiled a wide open smile full of happiness, as if receiving the best news of his life. “Score one for the Bible belt,” he muttered. “So who are you people?” the Senator asked.
“There are two ‘governments’ in this world the Daemon Kingdom, which is any territory under their control. Then there is the human city, which is basically a group of human souls who haven’t returned to the Normal World and have banded together to stop the daemons from making slaves of every soul who comes here,” Ug said.
“We roam the Cradle trying to recover those souls before the daemons get to them. Recently however the daemons have been avoiding some obvious targets and picking up specific souls. We’ve been investigating this change in behaviour,” Og said.
“The Cradle?” Grace asked.
“The Cradle is an area of the world where all souls arriving from the Normal Life sprout. Souls don't appear anywhere else. We have to scour it for them regularly as do the daemons.”
“What do we do now?” the Scientist asked.
“You can join us or go back to the Normal Life,” Sister Mary said.
"We can do that?" the scientist asked.
“How?” the Senator asked.
“Climb the mountain,” Ug said, pointing behind them.
Grace looked behind her and saw the black mountain that seemed to follow her, which was now on the horizon. She noticed however that out of the corner of her eye the scientist was looking straight up and the Senator was looking into the distance. The boy, who had been sitting quietly the whole time was looking around as if he couldn’t see anything at all.
“It’s so tall,” the scientist said straining to see the top.
Grace followed his gaze, but didn’t see anything.
“What are you looking at?” Grace said.
“The mountain,” the scientist said pointing at it as if it was right in front of them.
“There’s nothing there,” She said.
“What’s that then,” the scientist said lightly punching the air as if knocking on a door. Grace could even hear a soft thump as if he was hitting something.
“The mountain appears to be closer or further away depending on how strong the urge to go back to the Normal Life is,” Ug said.
The scientist stopped thumping the invisible wall. “It’s right in front of me,” he said.
Ug came over and crouched next to the man. “If it’s that close, then you really want to return to your body,” he said softly.
"I was in the middle of some critical research, I can't just leave it," the scientist said.
“Ug we need to move on, this isn’t important,” the nun said.
“This is the most important thing in this world you know that,” he said sternly to Sister Mary whose jaw clenched then she looked away.
Ug turned back to the Scientist who was staring up the mountain, “has it moved further away?”
“Then I would start climbing,” Ug advised.
“Why?” the scientist asked, “don’t you want me here?”
“I think you should go because your Normal Life means a lot to you, it’s something you can’t bear to be separated from. This place is not for you,” Ug said.
The scientist looked into the eyes of the caveman then got up and flexed his muscles in preparation to climb.
“One thing, the time it takes you to climb the mountain is how long your body will be in your coma in the real world. As you climb your body will age in the Normal Life, climb quickly or you will lose the time you have in the Normal Life. When you reach the top you will find yourself close to your body just touch it to return to it and your Normal Life will continue,” Ug said.
“How tall is the mountain?” The scientist asked.
“That’s up to you,” the caveman replied cryptically.
The scientist considered this answer then nodded and raised his hands, grabbed an invisible rock on the mountain that Grace couldn’t see and hauled himself up.
For the briefest moment the man was floating in mid-air and then he disappeared fading away as he reached out with one arm to grab another part of the mountain and climb the rest of the way.
Every soul that was nearby watched him go.
“Is anyone else seeing the mountain up close?” Ug asked.
Grace looked and saw the mountain closer, but still in the distance. “No,” she answered.
“No,” the Senator said.
“I can’t see it at all,” the quiet boy said.
Ug was looking at something that might have been quite close then he broke his gaze away and smiled at the boy. “You are going to like it here,” he said slapping the boy on the shoulder who noticeably jolted under the impact from the giant hand.
“Since you all want to be here let’s move on, we’ve got a job to do and for now you will accompany us. Sister drag the daemon along behind you we may need it.”
The group moved off crossing in front of Grace’s eye line as she looked at the Mountain. Multa’s leg was wrapped up in cloth then dragged behind the nun. Its head bounced on a rock and its horns snagged on small plants. When that happened the nun just pulled at it roughly until it was dislodged.
The boy who looked a bit befuddled turned back to Grace who stayed where she was, eyeing the Mountain carefully.
“You coming?” he grunted.
Grace didn’t immediately respond.
She then tore her eyes of the giant black rock wondering why she didn’t want to return to her parents, friends and the real life and instead was exchanging it for a world that was strange, terrifying and dangerous, but also wonderful, amazing and fascinating.
“Yes,” she finally said and got up and followed the group with that thought still lingering on in her mind.