Vague gurgling, coughing and other cries of bodily pain interrupted my sleep. I woke to pitch black night.
The noises became more obvious with dull thuds, angry curses, trampling boots, screaming, chanted curses and mechanical screeching.
Panic stirred my mind into action.
I groped the futon next to me for Pesti and felt my heart about to jump out of my chest when I couldn't feel him.
"Pesti," I whispered and yelped when a hand covered my mouth.
"Quiet Onii-san." Pesti's whispered voice flowed into my ears.
I kissed a sigh of relief into his hand.
He released my mouth and gripped my arm for me to follow his lead.
We gathered our tunics and dressed as we crawled our way to the far corner of our room.
A memory of a lecture with Bulldog surfaced to my mind.
"Boys, if yah ever find yahselves in danger make sure yah go down a hatch."
Were we in danger? The increasing din of terrifying noises left no reason to doubt.
Pesti carefully pried open the hatch (disguised as a prayer mat), so as not to make a sound.
I followed him through the hatch, making sure the lid was carefully closed back into place, and down a secret hole.
The hole opened into a narrow tunnel that we had to crawl through.
A few times we had to block each other's noses from sneezes spurned on by the showers of dust that rained on our heads every time the floor above trembled.
We crawled to a three-way fork that had paths going off into unfamiliar areas.
"Which one do we go down?" I whispered to Pesti.
"Crap - I d-dunno," Pesti whispered.
Dirt and dust rained down harder on us from the commotion happening on the floor above. The eerie screams and unworldly screeches increased in volume.
"Ugh!" Pesti cursed before slamming a hand over his mouth.
I saw his body trembling with fright at the hairy spider dangling off the edge of his fringe.
"Small Cap." I extended my hand, relieved to see my eight-legged friend.
He jumped off Pesti's hair and landed on the back of my hand.
I lowered my nose close to his body.
"Hey, you know the way out?" I whispered as quietly as I could.
Small Cap rubbed his forelegs together before he turned and scurried down the left path.
"Let's go." I prompted Pesti.
We followed Small Cap away from the din.
The tunnel eventually gave way to a dead end and closed hatch surrounded by scrawny tree roots.
I felt my knees scrapped and damp from moss and wet soil. Scents of morning dew and fresh foliage wafted up my nose.
We paused for danger. When we felt the coast was clear, we pulled aside the tree roots and pushed open the hatch with all our might.
My heart ached at the sight of demon orange and red lights dancing about my eyes. The monastery was engulfed in an uncontrollable fire.
I coughed at the taste of burnt material and smoke quickly contaminating the air. The sounds of people and creatures suffering pain were deafening to my ears.
"Death, War!" I cried out and scrambled into a blind run for the temple gardens and path back to Sangha Hall.
My way was cut off by Bulldog and some of the monks sprinting in our direction.
"No! Go back! Too late!" Bulldog yelled out as he grabbed my arm and forced my sprints back to the secret hatch and the wall nearby.
"Small Cap!" I called when I saw him perched on the hatch.
He skillfully leapt onto my shoulder and scurried into my pocket.
I stumbled to a rest next to Pesti with my chest heaving for breath.
"Please, Bulldog, we need to get Death and War." I panted, receiving a head shake for an answer.
"What's the meaning of this?!" I screamed hysterically.
I was slapped back to my senses by Pesti's hand.
"Onii-san. We've to find a way out first before we can go back." Pesti coolly reasoned.
Of course, what he said seemed the most logical approach, but my uneasiness wouldn't calm.
"I'm anxious to see they're safe too, so let's trust in Bulldog and the monks." He gently added.
I glanced at Small Cap's tiny head poking out from my pocket. His earnest stare, from all of his eight eyes, seemed to be saying the same thing.
Bulldog and the monks chanted in a low hum. Their arms drew an intricate symbol of a third eye cakra into the air before us.
The symbol glowed with a brilliant blue light. It became solid as the monks' chanting increased in volume. It smashed against the moonstone wall's surface like glass.
My eyes bulged at a sight of a frozen, white, world beyond the opening the cakra symbol had created in the wall.
"GO!" One of the monks shouted.
I was pushed through the opening along with Pesti.
The sounds of fire, destruction and calamity were replaced with howling winds as we sprinted through snow that whipped at our skin and stung our eyes, barely keeping track of the orange from the monks' billowing kesa.
The snowy landscape wasn't showing changes in scenery. My legs were about to collapse.
We stopped suddenly. The monks threw a strip of brown, talisman, rice paper into the air.
I gawked at the sight of aurora lights dancing about the white snow.
We were ushered into the lights and found ourselves entering the comfy warmth of a hunter's log cabin.
Bulldog guided us to a calming fire at the cabin's hearth with orders of resting on the rug.
"Bulldog. Death and War..." My voice trailed off with doubts of their escape burning on the tip of my tongue.
No. They were our strong and smart older brothers. I had to believe it was their fate to survive and be with us soon.
Pesti's mouth opened to say something then closed without uttering anything.
I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight.
Our eyes drooped with sleep as our bodies thawed under the hearth's warmth.
I was on the edge of a deep sleep when I felt Pesti's body tense; my eyes opened to his expression of terror towards the cabin's window.
I turned my head to see what he was looking at, but he yanked my head back, so our eyes were on each other.
"What is it?" My voice trembled.
Pesti answered with a tighter embrace.
"Famine," he whispered my name.
High pitched shrieking smashed through the cabin's window and brought an onslaught of snowy winds and near-blinding blue flashes inside.
The hearth's warmth was snuffed out.
I screamed and struggled against the invading monstrous tree like men in black suits that were yanking Pesti and myself apart with abnormal hands and branch-like fingers.
"Pesti! No, get off me!" I screamed for him, desperate to keep hold of his hand.
High-pitched shrieking attacked my ears. The stench of fresh blood wafted up my nose. I felt the brunt of a dull object knock me unconscious.
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