Cage rises to his feet, grimacing as pain bolts up his leg. After looking around, he finds that he was on a mountain himself, and fortunately, the cave was near the bottom of the gargantuan mass of rock. Though it seems the climb to exit the cave took most of his energy, and despite his attempt to head down slowly, Cage slipped and tumbled down to the rocky black field.

Cage removes his hand from his knee, forehead wrinkling with confusion as he sees the wound beneath, a shallow gash, the largest of the many scrapes left by the fall. However, there is no blood or flesh exposed, only a black smoke-like substance. As he studies the wound, the pale skin surrounding it grows inward until the gash is gone completely.

Cage blinks hard a few times, rubbing his eyes. He opens them, looking over his naked body. The other tiny scrapes are also gone. Did he imagine the injuries? Is he still waking from his thousand-year slumber? Or is starvation causing him to hallucinate?

It must be the hunger.

Cage walks with sluggish steps across the black rock with no goal or wish other than to find something to eat. Anything. He doesn know where he is, why he is here, or when a planet as torturous as this one came into existence.

The rocks are uneven, and Cage guesses that the entire land used to be lava. Though the memories are still blurry, he remembers seeing pictures of lava fields in his previous life. Lava flows from a volcano, and cools after some time, covering the surrounding land in black rock. This place is much the same, only the uneven, hard rock stretches as far as he can see. Is the entire planet like this? No way, Cage thinks, there must be water or grass beyond what he can see.

The river of lava that he saw earlier is near, just off to the side of his path. Under the light whistle of the wind, Cage can hear the river crackling and bubbling. The blistering heat from the lava prickles at his skin, but he does not move away. He fears that he may lose consciousness if he does.

The alertness that Cage felt earlier is gone, and gnawing fatigue takes its place. Along with the hunger, sleep calls to him, and each step he takes only makes the taunting voices scream louder. Food. Cage needs to find food. Yet no matter which direction he looks, black rock and boiling lava are the only things that greet him.

Cage halts his steps as he hears something. Its quiet, buried beneath the crack and bubble of the lava. He gazes at that burning river, the lava a bright orange-yellow, thick with a slow-motion flow. The edges flow a bit slower, in the process of cooling with tiny spots of yellow visible underneath the layer of black. Cages black eyes follow the river, his brows furrowed, searching for the source of the noise. He cringes as the sound becomes louder, a scratching noise like a rusty swing set.

One of those strange trees rises before Cage, and now that he is only a few feet away, he can see the lava-filled veins running along the pitch-black bark clearly. The bark looks more like scales, sharp and pointy triangles overlapping and rising to the top of the trunk. Those orange-yellow veins pulse every few seconds, like the heartbeat of a man taking his final breaths. The eerie rhythm of the pulse sends a shiver up Cages spine, but that discomfort is soon overtaken as the scratching noise gets closer.

Cages eyes widen as he falls witness to a hand clutching the bank of the river, an arm extending from it and into the lava. The grey fingers are long and bony with short claws sprouting from the tips. A further inspection is halted as a head rises from the lava, and Cage jolts with terror, turning to walk as fast as his malnourished body will let him.

Not taking any chances, Cage thinks. He had not seen much of the creature, but there is no chance something that looked like that is friendly. It was not the hand that unsettled him, or even the blank face of the creature. No, the thing that causes his hurried scuffle is what was underneath the blank face. The skin stretched as if there was a mouth underneath, opening wide to release a silent scream. The eyes were empty sockets, covered by that same thin, dry layer of skin.

Cages body begins to ache as he hurries over the land, his heavy limbs begging to rest. He does not slow in the slightest, and with good reason.

Click, click, click.

The sound rips the feeling of sloth from him as if it were never there. Even the hunger is pushed to the back of his mind by the panic. Cage grins, revealing stainless white teeth between his dry lips. If the creature catches him, then he will return to that dark place, and that thought terrifies him. But, what if he can get away, or even kill it?

Am I going insane?

Click, click, click.

Cage continues on his hurried path, nearly tripping due to the abrupt rise and fall of the bumpy rocks. He glances at that mountain, or rather volcano that he had climbed out of. Its far off now, and even if it was close enough, the lava now leaking from the spiky mouth of the volcano blocks any hope of escape. Cage curses under his breath at the realization. Had he really been walking for so long?

Click, click, click.

Cage looks to the left, panting. Black, flat land. He looks before him. Black, flat land. Everything is the same. Though hes now far from that mountain, the other volcanoes are not any closer. How in the hell does anything even live here?

A gasp echos through the ash-filled air as Cage nearly falls over the edge of a ravine. A slice through the land that spans for miles on either side, narrow and deep. The walls of the ravine are smooth and shiny like a black diamond. Off to the side, a rope ladder drapes over the wall, stained black by the falling ash. Cages grin widens. He must be going insane. Who would grin in this situation? Insane people, thats who, Cage thinks.

Click, click, click.

Cage limps over to the rope ladder, glancing over at that monster. His heart drops to his stomach as he can now see the creature in its full gut-twisting glory. Just the same as the head, cracked grey skin stretches across a lithe body, and worm-like protrusions wriggle under the thin layer of skin. The limbs are long with skinny muscles hanging from the bone. They twist to allow the creature to crawl on all fours. It moves slow, almost like its tired, staring at Cage with unblinking eyes under the sunken skin.

The noise that had unsettled Cage to no end comes from the creatures black claws clicking against the rocks. The man rips his black eyes from the creature, taking the chance given to him by the its sluggish movements. He lowers himself onto the rope ladder, and the last thing that enters his vision before the wall is that creature and its silently screaming mouth. Cage sighs as he climbs down, and his cheeks begin to ache with the constant grin plastered to his face. Relief washes over him, ”I did it… Holy… I actually did it, ” Cages nervous chuckle reverberates through the ravine.

Cage stops his descent suddenly, leaning back to peer down into the ravine. The ladder swings with his weight, extending all the way down into the darkness, ”How far- ” a rock cracks against his skull and Cage winces, craning his neck to look up. The creature is there, peering over the edge. Cages eyes widen as those bony fingers wrap around the wooden rungs, and the creature skulks down after him, staring at him with those empty eyes.

Cage descends the rungs in a frenzy, that adrenaline bursting back into his body. The darkness inches closer beneath. The ladder jolts with a sudden movement, and Cage raises his head. A gasp escapes from his dry lips as the creature falls toward him, those black claws outstretched toward his face. The skinny hand grips his jaw, and Cage is ripped from the ladder.

The predator and prey freefall together, the hand tight over Cages mouth. The creature pulls him closer until its grey face is inches from his own. Cage squirms as he falls, throwing a weak punch as darkness envelops him. The freehand of the creature catches his wrist, and Cages screams of pain are muffled as the blood-boiling sound of tearing skin echos through the black veil. Those black eyes lose their light… if they had any to begin with.

The darkness is dampening to the senses, and the burning, piercing pain in Cages shoulder fades with his consciousness. Before the dark takes him, something crawls down his throat, sinking to his stomach and funneling through the rest of his body. He fights against the encroaching dark worming its way into his mind, but to no avail. It takes him, and the splash of flesh to stone is unknown to Cages slumbering mind.

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