Chapter II

     After relieving himself at the edge of the forest, and after the surprise he received due to the plants which quickly sprouted in the soil there at contact, the traveler approached the town and its many wonders. The buildings were not very attractive, but they appeared to be sturdy, apparently the product of someone's careful work. This surprised the boy, never having expected such establishments from beings who were believed to posses terribly pitiful attention spans.
     The most apparent attraction, however, was a bustling marketplace. Yet it was not the unusual assortment of wares that caught the boy's attention, but the vendors and consumers themselves. Creatures hurried about in varying manners, some on two limbs or more, some sliding about on what appeared to be a single tentacle of sucking plates, some bearing large wings, and at least one which rolled into a sphere to move from one table to the next. Exteriors of these locals varied as there were creatures coated in such manners as fur, scales, feathers, excreted slime or tar, stone, and a pair of beings who had skin and insides which appeared to be translucent.
     Suddenly reminded of his hunger by the rumbling in his gut, the boy began trying to locate anything which appeared to be edible.
     "What are these?" he questioned a man at a counter covered with what appeared to be large, green berries.
     "Those damned Interrogatives!" shouted the man. "Always demanding answers and explanations! Leave us alone!" The now hysterical man stomped his foot and the entire counter, along with everything which was upon it, abruptly folded into a small box with wheels on the sides. "No! There's your answer! Ha, ha!" The man stood on the box and rolled away slowly, laughing hysterically, and leaving the dumbfounded boy there. Downheartedly, he continued his search for food, which he felt was sure to be in vain.
     Unexpectedly, a voice spoke from behind him. "If I had an opinion to offer, which I'm not certain I do, it maybe could have been that you appear to be lost."
     Turning, he found the advisor of the cryptic statement to be a short, dark-haired man. "Looking for something?" queried the voice.
     "Yeah," began the boy, grateful that he may receive some assistance at last, "I'm sort of new here, and am looking for something to eat. Can you help me?"
     "I don't know."
     Not expecting such a response, the boy stared at him blankly. "Uh... is there a place nearby where I could obtain some food?"
     "Maybe. Well, I guess... not. No, wait... Maybe."
     "What is wrong with you?!"
     "Um... I have no opinion there."
     "Ok, just give me the facts. Now!" The former deity was growing impatient.
     "My name is Undecided. I have no occupation. The sky is blue. Cuisinart is spelled with a C, not a Q. This story is printed on recycled paper. A steady diet of paprika by itself is not very healthy. 'Raw umber' is..."
     "But what is your opinion on all of these things?" interrupted the boy, beginning to understand the nature of this acquaintance.
     "Well... hm, no. I don't think so. Well, maybe a little. I don't know."
     "Somehow I thought so," concluded the boy.
     "So, You were looking for some munchies, right?" spoke Undecided.
     "Yeah, something like that."
     "Well, I have some butabeef at my home which I could cook up. You're welcome to some of it, if you want," offered the man.
     "What's 'butabeef'?" asked the boy.
     "I don't know," stated Undecided.
     "I probably don't want to either, now that I think of it," agreed the boy. He graciously accepted the invitation.

     Undecided's hut looked well enough from the outside, but upon entering, the boy was shocked. The decor of the interior was a shambles of different colors and styles. A shelf with kitchen utensils at one end supported workman's tools on the other. One wall was partly a shade of green, then abruptly changed yellow, with a sickly violet at the other end. On a different wall hung a painting, one portion of which depicted a landscape and the rest a portrait of a dog-like creature. Undecided's inability to firmly make a single decision was evident.
     "So this is your home?" spoke the boy.
     "Could be," replied the man.
     "How about this? True or false?"
     "All of the above."
     "This can become somewhat irritating," assessed the boy. "It's no wonder we locked you all away like this."
     A shattering noise spread across the room. "W-what?" stammered Undecided, standing over a broken plate. "How do you mean that?"
     "Um..." Realizing the slip he'd made, the boy scanned the room for an emergency exit. One worry he'd had since becoming mortal was that of the tempers the isolated beings of the World of Affliction probably possessed. The only exit he noted was the door through which he'd entered, just beyond where his host stood.
     "Hm, funny," continued Undecided. "It was almost as if you were speaking as one of those decrepit divinities who sealed us all within this terra." The man began picking up the shattered dish but then shrugged and left the pieces there. "However, you do seem odd. Not odd in a normal sort of way if you will, but normal in an odd sort of way."
     "Huh?" was the boy's response.
     "You aren't from this world, are you?"
     The boy became nervous once again, but he knew that he'd eventually have to explain something. "Maybe," he stated.
     "I see," answered Undecided, who lit a fire in a crude stove. After putting a slab of meat above the flame, the man resumed his talk. "So tell me, were you recently thrown into the Bane World by the demented deities, or did you somehow find passage here on your own? Don't be afraid, I can tell you're an Earth dweller."
     Remembering the fact that he now most closely resembled a human in structure, the boy decided to leave it at that. "I'm from Earth," he lied, "and I angered the gods. As punishment, they sentenced me to conclude my life here." He spoke the last part slowly, as he had not before thought about his possession of 'life.' He suddenly realized that in his new state, regardless of how long he could elude Death, his life was to be concluded here eventually, whether it was to be taken by another or if he simply died of age. This realization angered, and then terrified the once- omnipotent boy.
     "That seems an odd explanation," spoke Undecided, poking the meat with a stick. "I don't believe I recall those gods ever punishing Earth-dwellers with anything besides death and an occasional curse. In fact, the only people I'd heard the gods to have actually had any contact with were just conceived by their peers as religious nut cases."
     "Wait a minute!" interrupted the boy. "How do you know about anything beyond this plane? How do you even know about humankind?"
     "Um, well, maybe, I don't know, well..."
     "Oh, for heaven's sake, just explain the ordeal!"
     "I'll have you know that I do nothing for the sake of heaven, boy!" shouted Undecided.
     Struck by this remark, the boy stood silent for a moment. After a lengthily pause he carefully rephrased his statement. "Tell me the means by which you are aware of occurrences beyond the Bane World," he muttered.
     "Well why didn't you say so?" began the man, now seemingly in a good mood once more. "I shouldn't expect you to know too much about our world, but if you plan to get by in here, there are certain aspects that you should be aware of. Here, we are all beings of free will. We are all sort of immortal in a certain way, that if one's body is ever killed, his spirit is trapped here and able to regenerate a new infant body after approximately five years. This does end the 'life' of the being, but he never truly dies, you see."
     "Sounds nice," replied the boy.
     "Not really," continued Undecided. "It's all part of our imprisonment here. Never possessing an afterlife is a Hell within itself. We've all roamed this earth for centuries and accomplished nothing! Is it any wonder we all long for a way to leave this tiny world?"
     With that, the man jumped up, took the meat from the fire, sliced it, threw it onto a plate, and slid the dish across the half round, half square table to the boy. Pausing a moment for the poor presentation of his meal, the boy then quickly indulged in his hunger. After a few minutes of savagely tearing away at the meat, he looked up and noticed his host merely picking at his portion of the dinner. Observing this, he stopped.
     "I never did catch your name, boy," spoke Undecided.
     "I was known as a recent," he replied.
     "Arressient? Odd name for a human," assessed the man. "But that may benefit you here. If word gets out that a human has entered the Bane World, many could suspect you of somehow being the key to getting out. Too many here are desperate for such a chance, and I'm not sure you'd want to hear the means they'd take to achieve such a goal. Best to keep a low profile, if possible."
     "You never did explain to me how you know so much about humankind," pointed out the boy.
     "True," was the response.
     "Do tell."
     "Well," he began, sipping his drink, "the World of Affliction is tightly bound with the human Earth, more so than the gods originally intended. I don't know what other creatures live on that world, but the human race has many people also with high concentrations of free will. Thus, a few of the banes here are sometimes able to form a link between themselves and certain few dwellers of their world. I know one such bane personally, and I believe that the elder of the brothers Psycho also has this ability."
     The boy was intrigued by this. All the time he'd lived among the gods, and he'd never known that such 'links' existed. "So you mean that the irrational action of humans is partially the result of the influence of the Bane World?"
     "Um, maybe, I don't quite..."
     "Never mind. Just go on." The boy could feel his eyelids becoming heavy, but thought little of it. He had never experienced drowsiness before.
     "There's also a device, a large one in the city. Actually, the city was sort of built around it. Some number of decades ago, a team of "builders" created a large screen or something. I'm not sure quite how, but someone was able to enchant it in such a way that it now constantly shows images of human Earth. Many of the images it produced inspired the builders, who went on to build things depicted on the screen. When the rush of people swamped to the area, both to see the contraption and in search of an exit from this place, the builders were delighted to construct "skyscrapers". In fact, the builders were responsible for most of the facilities and gadgets in this world. Anyway, that's how we learned much about humankind. Of course, this was before the city... well, it's not all too important right now. Hey... are you OK?"
     Undecided watched as his guest slowly put his head down to the table and entered a deep sleep. "Is my cooking really so bad?" No response. "Strange human," he thought. "Almost may fit in, here in the Bane World, given some time. Well, if he lives long enough that is." The host wrapped the meat from his plate and took the dishes away.

[Chapter I] [Chapter III]
Last page update: 10-10-98