If Bastian were a work of fiction, reviewers would call him a Mary Sue; he is perfect… too perfect. He is the perfect height, with perfect hair, a perfect physique, and a perfect personality. He is smart, independently wealthy, and loved by everyone in town. He volunteers his free time to helping orphans, knows twelve different forms of martial arts, seventeen different languages, and a graduate from Wizarding school despite not being able to cast a single spell.
Amongst the extensive list of Bastian’s accomplishments is his knack for clearing dungeons. He has hundreds of dungeons listed as ‘conquered’ in his journal, which has won multiple awards in the adventuring guild on the best sellers book-list. He led a team into the dungeons of Kras to recover the lost staff of Nomra, and climbed the tower of Luhta without taking a single hit. A Goblin dungeon would be a walk in the park for him.
At least, that is what Bastian believed right up until he triggers a trap and the floor falls out from beneath him. In the brief moment of weightlessness before plummeting, Bastian looks back at the past few days and decides it was a bad idea to take this mission on his own without hiring a crew.
Bastian manages to catch the ledge with one hand, halting his descent with a sharp wrench of his perfect shoulders. He looks down into the hole below him. It’s pitch black, but with his dark vision he can tell it’s about a thirty foot drop to a floor riddled with eight foot metal spikes already littered with the remains of previous explorers.
His fingers begin to ache, so he shifts his weight to raise his other arm and
And nothing; the author of the story walks away mid-sentence. They leave for a few minutes to make a sandwich, but then those few minutes turn into a few hours as they sit and catch up on Doom Patrol. He sits and eats, not even thinking about Bastian’s fate and how it presently hangs in the balance.
Bastian’s fingers begin to cramp, his arm begins to burn as he hangs there, unable to move. He tries to scream out, in pain or for help, or both, but he can’t so much as blink, he is completely frozen in time. The pain turns to terror as hours turn into days and he finds himself trying to wriggle his fingers; not seeking to get to safety, but to let himself fall and end this horror. He’d rather fall upon the spikes below than suffer another minute of this torment.
Bastian is a hero loved by the people, he doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t deserve to die like this; alone in a dungeon, impaled by unclean spikes with the rotting remnants of lesser explorers. Bastian is a good man, too good to be left hanging in a forgotten corner of some failed author’s Works In Progress folder!
This can’t happen to him.
He can’t let this happen to him.
I. Can’t. Let. This. Happen.
Suddenly, time moves again and Bastian finds his fingers suddenly loosen. He has a brief moment of relief as the weight of a week of terror and pain fall away from him in the same instance that he falls away from the ledge.
He drops only a foot closer to the spikes before he stops. My hand catches his wrist before he falls out of reach. I grunt with the sudden strain of holding him and push against the ground with my free hand to avoid falling over with him.
“Hold on,” I say, and I pause for a brief moment as I hear my own voice. I am used to having a voice, but the quotation marks are new. I’ve never been on this side of them before. It’s a strange sensation to speak my own words.
I remember that a man in peril is dangling from my arm, waiting for me to do something, and I shift my weight, straining against gravity to pull him up. He manages to get his other hand to the ledge, kick off the wall below, and pull himself onto the relative safety of the flat ground.
We both lay on the floor, breathing heavily.
“Thank you, stranger,” Bastian finally says. He rises to his feet and dusts himself off before offering me a hand. I take it and he pulls me to my feet.
“You have done me a great service. This – trap – has been the worst experience of my life. I… I was begging for death before you came along.”
“Oh, um. Yeah, it was nothing. I just – saw you there and I saw what was happening and I… couldn’t just stand there and let it happen, you know?” I chuckle nervously, unsure of what to do with my hands so I rub my neck with one and tuck the other in my armpit.
He smiles at me. I can see that he sees I am nervous and feeling very out of place, and despite having been trapped in a state of torment for the past week he extends his hand to me and reassuringly pats me on the shoulder.
“I am Bastian Hollows,” he says. “By what name might I have the pleasure of using to address my savior?”
“I- uh,” I stare at him, uncertainly. Do I have a name? If I do, I am unaware of it, I’ve only ever been called one thing in my life. “I am… The Narrator?”
To Be Continued
(A collaboration with Oliver @ OlliesWorld.Online)