Ben had tried to explain everything and had told me how important it was that I find Alex, but now that I was in the Other Lands, everything seemed vibrant and interesting. Every sight tugged on my curiosity and filled me with awe.
The Other Lands seemed like Earth before humans covered most of the globe; natural and filled with a beauty not seen in many years. The large building I was next to didn't stick out against the natural beauty, instead it was built specifically to emphasize the world around it. I stared at the massive structure, my eyes following the flowing terraces and the columns that lined the walkway to the entrance.
The more I stood there looking, the more I noticed the silence of the place. The more I noticed the silence, the more unsettling it became. There were no noises from within this giant building. The air of abandonment was very evident as I stepped up to the entrance and read the words above it aloud, "The Academy." My voice echoed off the walls of the building.
I pushed on the heavy oaken doors and was surprised that I didn't flow straight through them. For the first time since I'd gotten here, I noticed that most of my ghostly properties were gone. I was still slightly translucent, but I couldn't travel through solid objects like I could on Earth. Here, I could feel my mortality, while on Earth I lacked the feeling of being alive. I knew as if by instinct that I could die here and I shuddered to think of what happened then.
The doors opened easy, swinging wide and slamming loudly against the walls. Stepping into the hallway, the first thing I noticed was the mess. It looked as though a battle had taken place inside this building, complete with broken furniture and dark brown bloodstains splattered on the walls. The place became intensely more creepy on the inside, but I was still led by my curiosity.
The door opened into a hallway and that hallway opened into a large courtyard. The plants of the courtyard had become overgrown, making it difficult to see across to the other side. The paths had survived the overgrowth, leaving natural hallways with walls of dense plant life. The sight was as breathtaking as it was disturbing. No one had been through these halls in many years. No one had been here to take care of the garden or clean up the place.
I climbed over a fallen archway and made my way down the path behind it. After a few minutes, I found myself staring at a tall, naked man standing in the middle of the walkway. The man was very pale and thin; skin hanging on his bones like clothes on a clothesline. His face was completely covered with what looked like a black, plastic bag tied tight around his neck. Even as I approached, the man didn't move. He just stood there, his arms slack at his sides and his head tilted as though looking at the floor.
I was terrified by the sight of him. He stood there still and silent, his chest not even moving to draw a breath. I pushed myself against the walls of green as I squeezed past, never taking my eyes off his thin frame. Who ever and what ever it was had left me utterly shaken, forcing me to increase the distance between me and it. I quickly turned my back to it and continued down the pathway.
I had made it about ten feet when a noise behind me made me freeze. I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart leap into my throat. I stood quietly listening for any sounds of movement. Hearing nothing I slowly turned around, and found myself staring at the black-bagged man. He stood three feet behind me unmoving again. He was facing in my direction, his head tilted like a curious child, though it was anything but endearing. The shock of him being so close nearly made me scream, but I grabbed my mouth. I fought to keep it in, fearful that if I did scream, what ever this thing was would hear me. The silence of the courtyard filled my ears as I sat there staring at the naked man.
Then it moved.
Slowly it stepped forward, so slowly that at first glance you would have never noticed. Even though the black bag kept me from seeing its face, I could tell it was staring at me. I began to crawl backwards, desperate to get away from the horror of its presence.
The further I moved away, the faster the black-bagged man moved. I spun to my feet and began to run, no longer trying to be silent. Fear filled me as I heard its heavy footfalls behind me. It was running too. I didn't glance behind me knowing that it was only a few feet away.
To the right near the ground I spotted an opening in the plants and dived through it. I pressed myself against the opposite wall as the man's arms stretched through the opening toward me. It tried to pull itself through the small opening, but soon quit trying when it realized it was too big. I breathed a sigh of relief. The relief didn't last long.
An ear-splitting scream, like something from the depths of Hell exploded from the pathway the creature was on. The sheer volume of the sound caused the sudden onset of a painful headache. When the sound had faded away another sound took its place. From all directions, the sounds of distant muffled screams slowly filled the silence.
This place was infested with these black-bagged people, and now they were all looking for me.