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Ad Infinitum

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Green light filled her eyes and the pain in her wrist was agonising. Swallowing a moan, Liz cradled it to her stomach and blinked, trying to clear her vision, trying to make out what was around her, peering through the smoke. Smoke, but no fire she could see, beyond the green lights that were plaguing her.

Rubble. Gradually, rubble came into focus, hewn pieces of granite. And beneath them, what looked like twisted pieces of burnt fabric-

No, not burnt fabric. She blinked again, smoke stinging her eyes, tears pouring down her cheeks in an effort to wash the ash away, trying to disbelieve what she was seeing.

Bodies. Twisted limbs, arms and hands and the occasional foot twisted an an impossible angle, burnt black and unmoving, some joints unnaturally spindly where the flesh had been burnt away. Suddenly she was aware of the smell in her nostrils, carbon and burnt flesh, like the one time she'd forgotten a joint in the oven and realised only to the acrid smell that seemed to stick to her lungs.

Someone touched her shoulder and she jumped. Trying to ignore what her eyes and nose were telling her had meant she completely missed she couldn't hear anything either – the only thing she could was a roaring in her ears, a deep ringing noise that seemed to come from inside her head.

She looked up, to the person touching her. They seemed covered in metal and shiny. A voice boomed from the person, but it was too loud – the ringing blurred it and meant she couldn't make out so much as a syllable. She blinked blearily, and opened her mouth to explain she couldn't hear them-

A harsh croak was all the emerged, swiftly followed by a horrible choking sensation – both hands flew to her throat, feeling torn wet flesh. She gaped, gasping and unable to draw breath, staring at the metal person above them in horror.

They stepped forward and grabbed her, just as the world went black.

 

The next time she woke, it was on a cot. Or...actually, on closer inspection, it was a blanket slung over a pair of haybales, but it wasn't body strewn rubble, so it was better than it had been.

As she blinked, the world came into view once more, and she realised she was in a tent. A long tent, and it wasn't quiet. All around her, people bustled, none of them even looking at her. Most of their attention was focused, instead, on those around her, who all seemed to be in far worse shape than she; she could see blood pooling on floors, and from the crowd of people at the other end of the tent, she could hear what sounded like muffled screams.

The urge to help, to do something in the face of so much pain and suffering, was overwhelming, and she shot upright, then regretted it when the world spun. 'Oh crap,' she thought, willing her stomach back into place when it had lurched out of it. 'I'm actually injured.'

It was something of a shock, facing her mortality in such a brutal fashion. But she didn't get much time to consider it.

A woman had separated from the bustling and was stood at the foot of her bed. They stared at each other for a moment, Liz still feeling woozy, herhead not quite stopped spinning and like she ought to sleep for a week.

“Has benitha och ta,” the woman said.

Liz blinked at her.

“What?” she tried to say, but no sound came out, only a wheezing choke, and then she burst into a coughing fit.

She calmed down and looked up to find the woman offering her water in a carved wood cup, looking slightly impatient. “Init mosta hufrite. Has benitha och ta,” she said again, her tone less understanding than it had been the first time.

Liz could only blink at her again, desperately trying to understand. It didn't sound like any language she knew. Or even she had heard – not French or Spanish. Not Mandarin or Cantonese. But other than that... she cursed her lack of ability with language. She'd been just like any other English speaker, arrogantly assuming her own tongue would get her by in any country she cared to visit....

...Visit. Helplessly, she tried to indicate with her hands to the woman she couldn't understand her while trying to remember where she was. The last thing she remembered was being on a bus. She had been travelling...somewhere. Where? Where had she ended up?!

The woman, obviously out of patience with her, turned her head to gesture to a man, and it was then that Liz's brain froze, unable to process what she saw.

The woman had pointed ears. Not just a small point either, the sort cosplayers did with a little glue to look like Vulcans – these were longer, stretching back halfway past her head, twitching as she spoke, like a dog would move it's ears to communicate mood. She was short and very slender, and now she looked closely, her eyes were just a little too big for her face.

The woman stood at the end of her bed was, absolutely, positively, but unnervingly subtly, not human.

She stared, and then, with growing desperation, glanced around the tent. Now she looked, she could see others like her – men and woman that were shorter than they ought to be, unnaturally slim in a way that seemed they'd never fit all their organs inside them, eyes that dominated their faces in a way that seemed appealing in anime characters but when confronted with in real life, was just a little too out of place.

Elves, and Liz felt her head spin at the realisation. Trying to make her brain wrap around this new fact, she clutched her hair, and carried on staring.

A shorter – much shorter – woman walked past. Unlike the elves, she was sturdily built – wide hips and shoulders, thick arms and legs that all suggested she could lift far more than her lack of height would suggest she could. As she turned, Liz caught a glance of a snub nose and no-nonsense features and Liz estimated that had she been standing up, the woman's – the dwarf's - head would have come midway up her rib cage and no higher.

A hand waved in front of her face, and she realised she had been staring open mouthed around her.

A man – a human this time – was crouched down by her bed, robes pooled around him. He said something, and she shook her head. Her head was spinning more and more, her stomach felt queasy and her eyelids had weights on them.

She retched and threw up on the man next to her, who recoiled. She tried to burble 'sorry' as consciousness escaped her, but again her voice failed to respond to her commands, and she fell into darkness.