As he stepped through the Gate he felt a warm breeze caress his face, and then he was blinking in bright sunshine. It was immediately warmer and all around him was a vast plain- a waving grassland and blue sky. He could hear the faint humming of the machine behind him, but otherwise it was quiet save for the sloughing of the wind. As he looked back at the Gate he could see air shimmering like heat rising off pavement. It was blue- gray metal, with the usual runes engraved on it. You could, of course, see right through it- but at times the view would change and you would see swirling mist or strange colors, and sometimes even other places, landscapes. But for now the Gate was clear, there was no indication that mere moments before he had come through from another place, another world- another time.
This one had been close. He looked around and all he could see was grass- tall, waving in the breeze- as far as the eye could see. No sign of life, other than the gnats and dragonfly- like creatures he saw, and what looked like birds overhead. It was so quiet. Any direction was as good as any other, so he started walking. There were a few clouds on the horizon, and the sky looked like home- so maybe he wasn't too far away. That made him smile. Right.
The sun was high so he figured it was about midday. He had water and a little food, but a river would be nice. And habitation, if he could find it. He shouldered the pulse rifle and kept moving, feeling a little panic inside as he contemplated the fact that there could be nothing here to find- but he squashed that down and focused on his first priority- water. Better too if he didn't dwell too closely on what had happened on the other side. No going back there. He felt a twinge of guilt as well- had she made it? He had stayed back, to cover her escape- he could still see her face as she went through, fierce and hopeful and sad, all at once- and he almost lost it right there. But that would accomplish nothing, wouldn't help her- so he squashed that too and kept moving.
At some point a smudge on the horizon became more and he quickened his pace. In the distance over the swaying grass he could see ruins- an immense city long since abandoned. As he got closer he could see the extent of the disrepair. Towers and columns reached for the sky even as the outskirts were littered with debris, huge boulders and blocks of masonry. As he entered the city he could see strange bird- like creatures on some of the crumbled towers. Something about them seemed off somehow, so he kept his rifle close. There were no other signs of life, it was a dead city.
As he picked his way through the rubble he heard a screeching cry, and one of the creatures overhead peeled off and dove at him. As it got closer the only thing he could think of was harpy- there was certainly a resemblance, since the creature seemed to be a mashup of human and bird. The teeth and claws were no joke though, he could see that, and he squeezed off a pulse that tore through the creatures wing, causing it to screech in pain as it plummeted to the ground. He immediately began backtracking, heading for the outskirts in a tactical retreat, as more of the creatures joined in the attack.
What a ghastly chorus, he thought as several of them now swooped to the attack. He squeezed off a few more rounds but didn't go crazy, he needed to conserve his rifle charge as long as possible. Still he took a grim satisfaction as green beams of light took out two more of the things, causing them to thrash on the ground in their dying. Then there were wings beating around him, in his face, and he felt something bite deep into his side. Desperately he whirled and swung the rifle like a club, feeling something break as he connected, and he fired again, point blank, all around him as panic almost overcame him. He had a respite then, as several of the creatures hopped away and then took wing, and one who had been shot in the face lay smoking in the dirt.
He was back on the outskirts of the city then, and he collapsed against a pile of rubble to catch his breath. He could still hear the screeching, and saw dark shapes swirling deeper in the city. He checked his rifle charge and found it dangerously low. Typical. He was going to miss that comforting wump-wump when it was gone. As he sank to the ground, the adrenaline slowly leaving his system, he touched his side and his hand came away all blood.
How much longer can we do this? When does it all catch up to us?