Odd clicks echoed in Nisa’s ears, even before her vision fully returned. Blackness flickered, warring with a kaleidoscope of colors that spun and danced until shapes finally took place. Blue and purple wide, circular-shaped leaves appeared above her head, complimenting the light blue sky overhead with a bright orange sun. Nisa frowned, shielding her eyes as she sat up, blinking to clear her vision. “Wha…?” For a moment, as she looked around, Nisa didn’t recognize anything. She lay on small, smooth stones with larger, cracked steel walls towering above her. Some of them had partially collapsed, whereas other sections of the strange walls looked pointed and jagged, as if they had been sliced off. Whatever ruin this was, it had no ceiling, which was why Nisa could clearly see the sky above.
“I don’t—“ Nisa’s voice cut off as she stumbled to her feet, holding her head as dizziness swept over her. Outside the ruins, bright green and silver grass stretched in a wide field, reaching to the strange blue and purple leaves on what Nisa assumed were trees. Some of them were more closely related to mushrooms—giant domes spread out from the tops of some of those strange plants. As she looked back at the waist-high grass, Nisa froze, unable to believe her eyes. Some of the grassy tips also had domed heads, much like the larger mushroom trees, only these were smaller and each had some type of buds sprouting from the tops.
I’m hallucinating, Nisa thought. The only explanation she had for whatever this strange landscape was, was that when she had placed the artifact in the wall, a secret passageway had opened up and maybe, somehow, she had hit her head. Which was what was causing this odd hallucination.
“Nisa…!” Oliver darted to her from around a corner and she widened her eyes.
“Ollie…? Where did you come from?” Nisa asked.
Oliver pointed to the other side of the half-torn metal wall. “Over there. With Bea, Susie, and Chris.”
At that, the other three walked over to huddle around Nisa and Oliver. Her eyes widened as she stared at his lower side.
The wound was gone.
“Oliver… you were shot!” Nisa shouted, tracing her fingers over his skin where the bullet wound should have been.
Oliver glanced down with his own expression full of shock. “I—I know, but I have no idea how.”
Susie reached a hand out to the metal wall and used it to steady herself. “This is unreal.”
Chris plopped down on the ground, breathing heavily. “We’re probably still in the pyramid. Maybe some gas came out and it’s causing us to hallucinate or something.”
Susie shot him a glare. “How could we all hallucinate the same thing?”
Chris shook his head. “I—I don’t…”
Nisa pursed her lips. She traced her arms with her hands and reached out to grab Oliver’s. He met her gaze and then cast his gaze around the ruins. “This…”
Susie placed her hand on Nisa’s shoulders. “Nisa, what if this is the cursed man’s other world?”
Nisa shook her head, pulling out of Susie’s grip. “No. Other world… aliens, none of that is real. The—the Egyptians didn’t really understand what they were talking about.”
Chris glanced up at her. “They did set traps in tombs, though. We’re probably on some type of gas. Hopefully, it will wear off quick enough for us to find our way out of here before Callahan’s men finds us.”
Bea darted outside the ruins, on the other side of a wall that only had a few feet of it still standing. She knelt in the grass, hands fiddling with the domes and the buds on top of them. “We should explore while we’re here. Find out what we can. This—this is incredible!”
Nisa shook her head, stumbling over to a hole in the wall that vaguely resembled a window. Her arms collapsed on the sill, leaning over the edge so that her head poked out to the grassy plain beyond the ruined building. “I—this—this is all too much,” she whispered. Her stomach lurched and the world around her still continued to spin.
Oliver came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He leaned his shoulder down on hers, so that his mouth rested just beside her ear. “Whatever is going on, we’re together. That’s what matters, Ni. You know I’ll always protect you.”
Nisa whirled around to face him, keeping her hands on his chest. “But your wound… I have to be hallucinating all this, because it isn’t possible that your wound has healed.”
Oliver furrowed his eyebrows, but planted a short kiss on her lips. “Does this feel real?”
Nisa pursed her lips, which tasted like his now. “Hallucinations typically look, feel, and sound real, Ollie.” With that, she gently pushed herself away from him and ran a hand along the wall. It was made out of smooth metal—similar to steel or iron but nothing Nisa had ever laid eyes on before.
“Nisa! Come here!” Susie called.
Nisa sprinted to the other side of the ruins where Susie pointed to one of the four corners of the building. “What is it?” Nisa asked.
Susie stepped aside so Nisa could get a better look.
Silver symbols etched on the wall, far more vivid than anything they had discovered in the pyramid. However old these ruins were, they were not near as old as the pyramid. It isn’t real, Nisa thought to herself. So, stop treating it that way.
There was something oddly familiar about them and Nisa could have sworn most of them were identical to the symbols on the stone tablet she had translated. With a gasp, Nisa reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone.
Sure enough, it winked on and she sighed in relief. She had taken pictures of the stone with her cell phone, so if the pictures were still in here… At least Callahan hadn’t thought to take it from her.
Nisa pulled up the pictures of the stone tablet and quickly read over the Mandarin, Arabic, and Latin sections of it. Without the rest of her research, she wouldn’t be able to properly translate it, but from what she could see, the unknown language on the stone tablet and whatever was written on this wall was exactly the same. She double checked it three times to make sure, but every symbol was an exact match.
“What is it?” Susie asked as Chris and Oliver came to stand behind them.
Nisa pointed to the symbols on the wall. “This is a copy of the story of the cursed man.”
Oliver frowned, brushing strands of blonde curls out of his eyes. “Remind me about that again.”
Nisa pursed her lips. “A man came to Egypt from some foreign land and the Egyptians believed he and his homeland were cursed. When they found out he and the Egyptian princess were secret lovers, they tried to send him back to his home, but we think he ended up locked up in the pyramid, buried alive, basically. We never did have a chance to exhume the sarcophagus, though.”
Chris sucked in a deep breath, but it was Susie who spoke first. “Wait… So, we know that the pyramid had been set up for the cursed man’s… quote, afterlife, right? And you saw a piece of the wall missing and put an artifact against it, which should have opened up a secret passageway of some kind, right?” Susie glanced at Nisa.
“Yeah. And?” Nisa prompted.
Bea darted up behind them, holding up one of the strange buds from the flowers. “And this is actually the cursed man’s homeland!”
Nisa stared at Bea, gaping at her in shock.
Chris shook his head. “No. That’s—that’s impossible. Other worlds aren’t real. I mean, for us to get here, that artifact would have had to open up a portal of some kind, which would complete defy the laws of physics…”
As his voice trailed off, Nisa turned to Oliver, who stared at the field beyond the ruins. “You’re being quiet. What do you think?”
Oliver’s eyebrows furrowed, but he didn’t look at her. “If we were hallucinating, we wouldn’t realize it. Hallucinations trick the mind to believing them to be real, Ni.”
Nisa shook her head, pressing her hands on her forehead. “N—no. This—this can’t be right.”
Oliver finally turned toward her, placing his hands on her shoulders which forced her to meet his gaze. “Nisa, listen to me. Remember back at the pyramid, we talked about you having to face the truth of what was going on?”
Nisa nodded, feeling tears burning her eyes. “Yes, but you said you didn’t believe all of it. That what we discovered was just a first for human history!”
Oliver gently stroked the side of her cheek and placed her black hair behind her ear. “I didn’t. But, Nisa, you’ve always been searching for truth, for answers. You found jars with liquid that had chemicals not found on earth. A language previously unknown, writings about other worlds and aliens. Plus, everything Callahan did to keep this all a secret from you.”
Nisa’s eyes widened and she collapsed, but his strong arms caught her. “Ollie… y—you’re right. Bu—but I don’t—”
“Guys…” Bea’s voice trailed off as she pointed to one of the collapsed walls. In the field outside it, medium-sized… plants… sprinted across the grass.
Nisa clenched Oliver’s arm firmly and stared at the scene before her, unable to fully process just what they were all seeing. The plants walked on roots—four to six of them in most cases—with a single stalk that formed into several branches at the top, almost like spiky hair. Some of their branches at the top held small fruits in between the size of a berry and an apple. Nisa’s breathing and heart rate froze as she stared at the plants that literally galloped across the field, like a herd of animals.
Bea squealed, staring at them with eyes as large as quarters. A loud roar made Nisa flinch and Oliver immediately jumped in front of her, gun aimed ahead of them.
A beast towered at least fifteen feet high with its chest puffed out. Beneath that, it walked on a single leg in the front, but two in the back. It had two eyes on either side of its head and its entire body was covered in scales. The creature tilted its head to look at them, just as three more joined it.
Bea collapsed onto her knees, pointing to it. “Th—th—th—th… That’s the statue. That’s the statue. It’s—it’s… it’s the statue.”
Nisa gripped Oliver’s arm tight enough with her hand to leave a mark. “If they attack…”
Oliver gritted his teeth as Chris came up to stand beside him with the other gun aimed.
“Don’t you dare shoot them!” Bea hissed.
“If they attack, I’m shooting them,” Chris muttered.
Susie shot him a hard stare.
Chris shook his head at her. “Would you rather be eaten?”
The creature closest to them gave them no time to respond. It lifted its head into the air and gave out a mighty roar that echoed through the entire area. The walls trembled and Nisa was surprised that the rest of it didn’t collapse.
Within a few seconds, the other three creatures joined in and the sound was so loud that Nisa covered her ears, which rang furiously enough to make her head ache. She lost track of everything around her and collapsed onto the ground for a moment before she finally caught her breath and her vision returned.
Then all four creatures took off running. They circled around the plants, almost as if they were herding them.
“Those beasts are herding them! They’re herding them!” Bea shouted.
Chris and Oliver just stared after them, guns still raised, with dumbfounded expressions on their faces.
Nisa stumbled to her feet, watching as the creatures led the herd of… plants down a dirt road she hadn’t noticed before.
“If they’re herding them, then they could be owned by someone. If we find people, we might be able to find out more about where we are,” Susie said.
Nisa shook her head, breathing heavily as she stumbled over to the corner, staring at the symbols.
Oliver slipped his gun in his back pocket and took her hand. Gently, he kissed it and met her gaze with his firm, green eyes. “If we want to find out the truth of where we are and what happened to us, then talking to someone is our best choice, Ni.”
Nisa felt tears leaking from her eyes as she bit her lower lip and stared at him, the man she had loved for so long. “How can you accept this so easily, Ollie?”
Oliver shook his head. “It isn’t easy for me, Ni. I think I’m better at compartmentalizing than you. I just want the truth and if—if we are in another world, we need to find a way home. Finding someone is the best way to do that.”
Slowly, Nisa nodded and wrapped her arms around his waist. For a brief, wonderful moment, she took comfort in his embrace and at the fact that his wound had been completely healed. If she had been hallucinating, wouldn’t her mind have left his wound where it was, since she had been so worried for him?
The strange chemicals, the unknown language, the mysterious cursed man and his princess lover…
Was this truly another world? Nisa didn’t know, but she was determined to find out.