The pain at the bottom of my skull roused me back to reality from my useless existential wandering, and I found myself still mechanically wading through the waters, again unaware of how much time had elapsed. All I knew was if I didn’t know I had been walking, I’d think I was still precisely where I had begun. I took notice of the intensifying pain and concluded that I was indeed awake, and in this fucked up nonsense place.
I was drenched, pissed off and shaking; exhausted and longed to lie down, but there was nowhere to rest amidst the waters. I couldn’t think clearly and felt my mind retreating to somewhere else; but I needed it to stay here and figure out where the hell I was going and what I was going to do. Unnecessary panic rose in my tight chest. I reached up to my temple,squinting now through blurring vision, and attempted to reassure myself that I was simply overtired.
I again began to hear voices, whispering. They were coming from every direction- or perhaps they were only in my head; I could not discern which, but the poorly hushed whispers grew in urgency as though a small counsel were debating some crucial matter. I couldn’t make out any clear words, though it still didn’t sound like any language I knew of. I suddenly was reminded of the messenger bag I had grabbed in my hasty exit and the scroll the man had instructed me not to open. I pulled it from the bag, otherwise empty, were it not for the knife remaining in the bottom. Come on, how could he expect such instructions would do anything but increase my curiosity? Perhaps it was a map or had some kind of instruction.
The quarreling voices abruptly silenced, as though they were waiting- or watching. Reaching for the Red seal, the pain suddenly grew, shooting up my spine and turning into a nauseating ache from the back of my neck. My hand jerked away to grab my neck. I did not know if the pain was associated with the scroll, but quickly returned it to its place in the bag, deciding against any further interest. The voices now began speaking in a plain tone and volume, almost as though in tandem with the pain coursing through blood and sinew. I had first felt the pain when I took the vial the nameless man had given me- what a fool I was to trust anyone. I could not deny however that I had not yet hungered or fainted, as I had always had a propensity for.
I decided against allowing any impairment to hinder my progress in getting where I was going- or at least out of this now swamp.The useless voices were dizzying in their unintelligible chatter. Was there anyone even there? I just needed to rest and I was only growing more and more angry and disoriented with all of these cumulative annoyances. I continued on, trying to regain my easily fractured composure. The light of the beaming moon was now strangely distant. I decided to try lying down in a muddy though shallow rise of the floodwaters. Propping my head up on a rock, I fell asleep to the sound of the voices fading into the distance.