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A story set in No Man's Land


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won't tinker it anymore, here it is


 November was fading.
Gloomy clouds, moving like a herd of bufallos on the celestial plain, were shielding the earth from the light. On the Plains of deceit, three small figures were wandering - blue shadows in a ash-green field. The children were out to play.
 Look, a beetle! said the boy, beding over a small creature.
Startled - or maybe just shy, the bettle spread its flippers and flew away.
 You scared him, Asthir, said the girl beside him, with a giggle. You bug repellant, you!
Asthir sulked, but he went on, searching for things of interest. Grasshopers jumped in his footsteps and small insects buzzed around him, their peace disturbed by this rowdy giant. Here and there, a poppy intruder emerged from the withered grass. The weather wasn't sunny, but it was still warm; oddly warm for this period of year. The smaller girl, a five-year old, holding a plush toy, stopped by a mullein and picked a flower.
 Leave that be, Sysy, said She of Stars.
 Why? I like it, replied Sysy, and walked further away, holding the yellow flower in her half-opened hand.
 Sysy, wait up, said She of Stars, annoyed. Stick to us, don't go too far.
 No, I can walk on my own, turned Sysy. You don't have to take care of me.
She of Stars wanted to object, but thei attention was drawn to a whizzing sound. They raised their heads and Asthir pointed to a point in the sky.
 Look, a stag beetle!
It was indeed a stag beetle, and it flew in circles lower and lower, until at last it set upon Asthir's hand, chattering its jaws fiercely. She of Stars screamed:
 Throw it away, throw it away! Don't let it bite you!
But the beetle didn't bite. It just settled in the shaking palm, looking at the three with its red eyes, twitching its feet in an odd manner. They all gathered around, to see it better. The coal black bug looked like it was covered in steel plates, shining like blades out of their sheathes. It was big and didn't look alive, for some reason -  but it was moving.
 Wow, I never saw one this close, said She of Stars.
 Let me see it, I wanna see it, too, cried Sysy.
Asthir lowered his palm and Sysy chuckled, looking at the beetle. It shined like a dark treasure - or a brand new toy. She stretched her arm to grab it, letting the mullein flower slip. Suddenly, a gushing wind blew and threw them on the ground. When Asthir rose, he found no words to describe what was in front of him. He stood in wonder, while She of Stars and Sysy rose slowly. They weren't hurt - just got frightened by the sudden shock. When their eyes looked up, they saw a huge stag beetle, the size of a house, in the middle of the field, feeling really out of place. They blinked repeatedly and Sysy rubbed her eyes, but none would utter a word. Then, before they could speak out,a staircase slowly drove out with a swish, from the beetle's rear. It looked inviting enough, with ligh brown tuff stairs, but scary nonetheless. Asthir made a few steps in its direction, but someone grabbed his hand.
 No, Asthir, please! cried She of Stars. Let's go back!
 But...it's not dangerous, replied Asthir.
Sysy grabbed him by the legs and wouldn't let go.
And so they stood for a while, holding to each other in their own way and looking at the strange being. The beetle twitched, turned his jaws towards them - that looked like he broke in half - and his giant red eyes watched them. Then, it started to drive up the staircase, little by little. Asthir cried and rushed towards it. She of Stars grabbed Sysy by the hand and ran after him. The staircase stopped, rolled back and waited. Asthir peered into the inside of the machine, but only a diffuse light came out. He then made up his mind and with a frown climbed a stair. The girls followed. As soon as all three stepped on it, they felt drawn inside of the beetle's belly. The staircase slowly got them into a lighted place and stopped. Behind them, the aperture shut.
Yet it wasn't fear they felt - but sheer amazement about the place. The floor and the walls were covered in light brown tuff and there were bright lights coming from lanterns hung up from the ceiling. On the right, there was a wooden counter, with mugs and glasses all over it, framed tightly by two big barrels. Behind the counter were shelves, going from ceiling to floor, with all sorts of drinks. Also, there were a few barrels of a smaller size, stacked upon each other, close to the wall. On the left, there were round tables surrounded by chairs, with napkins, glasses, plates with bites of food on them. The windows on the left wall had wooden blinds down, but it was hard to believe there was something else than hard rock underneath them. So why the blinds? A larger round table, with a small inscription on a side, reading 'Live Help Operator', was placed somewhat in the centre, closer to the bar. And at the end of this room, there was the contour of a door, but there seemed to be no way of opening it.
Sysy rushed to a cube she saw under the big round table and started to play with it, while She of Stars and Asthir were moving about. She of Stars asked:
 What is this place?
 It looks like a tavern to me, said Asthir. But all the bottles and glasses are empty. Barells sound as being full, though, he said, knocking on one.
 Don't even think about it, Asthir! eyed him She of Stars.
 I wasn't, I was just... stating a fact.
They heard a noise and quickly turned around. It was the cube Sysy found; she had tapped it with her fingers and a melody started to pour out, filling the room. A flame was kindled in the fireplace, just like that, and the room was getting warm.
 This place is fantastic! cried Asthir.
She of Stars started swirling, with her arms wide apart, laughing. She soon got dizzy and rested on the wooden counter. There was a golden bell there and she rang it, amused. A drawer popped out from nowhere and she saw a curious book with no covers in it. It seemed to say a great deal about people from a distant past - maybe not even people - and it was a tale of struggle and journey into the unknown. She rested upon a page which had something like a map drawn on it - but it was an unfolding map, with its lines and points merging into other lines and points. It was growing and growing, ever larger, getting out of the paper, and her sight was expanding along with it, while Sysy played the cube, giggling.
Asthir took a roundabout of the table, ignoring the pack of cards thrown carelessly near a pint, and approached a curious thing - it was a chess board, placed on a barrel. There were two chairs to its sides and Asthir sat in one. The chess figures were weird, as if sucked out of a dream, carved in a flickering stone. He took an aramor rook and placed it two squares forward. He chuckled, thinking it was the turn of his invisible friend. To his suprise, he heard a murmur and an aperture was opened where once was a closed door. Sysy and She of Stars heard it too and they came with their toys by Asthir. They decided to explore the next room.

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