Niv stoked the fire with a long stick. It was cold in the wastes. He sat huddled in his roche blanket watching the embers rise up into the night sky. The cliff face at his back protected him from most of the wind, but tongues of the cold air still lapped at his face when they got the chance. He didn’t want to be out here. This wasn’t his world. If it had been his choice, he never would have left Gehenna. He never would have assumed this ridiculous disguise. Who would even believe it? He missed the warmth of the brimstone in his room. He missed the volcano. He even missed Esrith, the old bitter chambermaid who took care of him when he was young.

This was the only way, though. As the youngest, he had no claim to any kind of power. Ba’al would never recognize him unless he completed his mission. He was the only one who could do it, after all. He hated this skin. He hated this place.. He hated the smallness of his new body! He didn’t even understand why his father or brothers wanted to be able to leave Gehenna. The rest of the world was cold. What was the point when they had the best home in multiverse?

Apparently his father and brothers didn’t see it that way. They still felt slighted for the events of two thousand years ago, for which Niv hadn’t yet been born. His name wasn’t even Niv, but nobody was supposed to know that here. It’s not like he came across very many people, anyway. Couldn’t he slip into his old skin for just a little while? It was so much more comfortable.

He heard a rustling on the cliff above him. It was probably just the wind. He didn’t feel it pushing its way down the cliff face, though. He heard a rushed panting sound, and an “oof!” and a “gah!” followed by a sudden scream. He leaped to his feet, and at the same instant a body came down from the cliff at him. He put his arms out and was knocked backwards as the mass of body tumbled on top of him.

The air was knocked out of his lungs and he wheesed as he lay there, still. The body on top of him pushed itself up with long pale arms. Curly dark hair framed its face, and large liquid eyes peered out from the curtain.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” It jumped back, falling onto its own backside. Its gaze darted around his small camp. His eyes were probably as wide. He hadn’t ever seen anything like this creature. Like him, it had a head, two arms, two legs, a nose, a mouth, and two eyes, but that was the end of their resemblance. Its skin was milky pale and the hair on its head was wild and long. The eyes were what caught him off guard the most. They were round and dark, while whites clearly visible at the edges. He knew there would be species he’d never encountered before in this world; he had been prepared for some pretty bizarre features, but this thing was… soft, and scared. It reminded him of pray, but it didn’t smell like pray. He had never seen such curly hair before. Everyone in his family had the same straight locks or no hair at all.

The thing crawled backwards on its hands and feet. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… I’m so..”

“It’s okay, you don’t have to be scared, I wont hurt you,” he said, putting his hand out to the creature to reassure it, like it was an injured animal. It could be, for all he knew. He was shocked that he understood its words. He figured he could at least assume it was a person. Whether it was intelligent or not he would have to find out.

He patted his chest, “My name’s… Niv.” He paused, unused to using his assumed name for introductions.

“I’m Alex. Alex Pierce,” it said, mimicking his chest pat.

They stared at each other for a moment. Niv began to get up and move towards it, but it pushed itself further away in surprise. He imagined he must look as odd to it as it did to him. “It’s okay…” he intoned again in what he hoped was a comforting voice. He looked up the cliff, then back to the creature. He had come over that ridge to find this alcove. There wasn’t much there. It was mostly a flat expanse for miles. “Where did you come from?”

“I don’t know,” it said. “I was in a car with my friend… he was driving, and we were laughing about something and… I think we were hit. We were in an accident, oh god…” its voice choked off, and he could hear a strangled sound from its throat.

Is it… crying? he thought.

It looked at him suddenly in wide eyed terror. “Am I dead?”

That was an odd question. The dead couldn’t talk, let alone ask such a question. The dead where he came from just ceased to be. Once you were dead you just weren’t a person any more. Or so he had always been taught.

“I don’t think you’re dead,” he said.

It heaved a sigh and fell back again. “Then, where on Earth am I?” it asked.

“On where?” he asked. He’d heard that word before, Earth. That had been a place once, hadn’t it? He was sured Esrith had taught him about that at some point. Was that a place people could be?

“Earth,” it said hesitantly. “Am I on Earth?”

“No,” he said, and it fainted.

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