He awoke with a start, shivering despite the heat of the day. The terror and despair of the vision lingered even as the memory began to fade. These dreams fatigued him emotionally. While the dream would only last the night and the memory quickly disappeared, the feelings, especially the intense ones, stayed and tainted his mornings. Once the last vestiges of the dream ebbed away, he found his body torn and tattered. Lacerations, small and large, ragged and straight, clean and dirty, all evidenced a night spent rolling around scratching at himself in a vain attempt at extinguishing illusory flames. He cursed. Already, his nights were filled with horror, did they have to taint his days as well?
As if in answer to his unvoiced question, the ground underneath him burst outward. He was showered in scalding hot debris, blasted with with a wave of hot air and shocked into attention at the sheer fury of the event. For the first time of the day, he focused his attention outward rather than inward. He looked around, taking in his surroundings. Shaking his head he closed his eyes. He took a deep breath. When his heart slowed, he dared to open his eyes again. When he did, dread filled his heart.
He dreamt of terrors that infected his body well into the day, now he found that his dreams had grown into reality. All around him the world was aflame. The ground seemed too hot to touch. Wisps of smoke rose from the blackened land, rising to merge with the dark miasma above. Smoke and ash filled the air filled the air creating a false night, lit only by the sporadic bursts of reddish lightning. Pools of steaming liquid, surrounded by orange, yellow and green crystals dotted the blackened land. Behind him sat a vast lake, unlike any he had ever seen. The lake sparkled, not with the reflections of the sun but with its own internal illumination. Yellow and orange with a thin layer of broken black covering the surface, the lake roiled and bubbled and burst. Sometimes there would be small geysers of the viscous, golden fluids, spewing forth high into the sky before darkening, stained by the soot and falling back into the lake. Those drops that did not quite return to the lake would splatter against the earth and give rise to new rock amidst a torrent of smoke and steam.
The sounds of the land were everywhere. There was a tremendous roar emanating from the lake, much like the ocean but much much louder, only the thunder from above was louder. The rumble from the ground was palpable. As the stones rained down from the fountain of gold they chattered, announcing their conception. Some, not read for the world, fell back into the glowing lake with an audible thwack. There were other sounds, sounds that he could not quite place. A crashing perhaps? Hissing? He was unsure whether the sounds were unknown to him or that they were being obscured by the dominant noises of the area.
A thousand fragrances floated through the air. Burned rock and ash were ubiquitous, and made the air difficult to breathe. The air was hot but not dry. In fact, the air was humid, something that he found quite unusual. Though the crystal-lined pools steamed, they did not seem to dissipate and were unlikely to have caused the amount of moisture in the air. A smell, reminiscent of rotten eggs, emanating from these crystalline pools, turned the air rancid. Rotten though they may have been, the scent of eggs stirred within him a fierce hunger. For a moment, he lost himself in his hunger and let himself dream of nicer things. He dreamt of honey soaked bread and a cold mug of mead. He shook himself. He could not be entrapped by his daydreams.
Leaving took top priority. The ground was frying him and the hot and humid air was steaming him; he was being cooked alive. He began to walk away from the molten lake, towards one of the crystalline pools. He leaned down to the foul-smelling water and touched his lips to the water. He scrambled away from the water, wiping his lips with his hands like a mad man. Looking down upon his hands, he saw blood. The water had burned him! Even his arm was beginning to burn, the hair shriveling and his skin curling. What kind of cursed land was this where even the water burned? There was no alternative. He had to escape and he could not dally. He ran away from the lake, dodging any of the burning pools that came in his way. He had not gone twenty steps before the ground cracked and gave way. His foot slipped into the hole, as if he had stepped on thin ice. Underneath the thin sheet of rock hid a reservoir of water. He screamed as his foot was enveloped in pain. The land was intent on killing him. He crawled, burning his hands upon the ground. At last he came upon the end of the land. He found the source of the mysterious sounds and scents, he had come upon an ocean.
Looking around him, he discovered that he had awoken upon an island of fire, surrounded by the sea. The ocean crashed upon shore. Where the water touched upon the land, vast columns of steam would be born and sometimes, the land would crack. The smell of salt and water displaced the smoke and the ash and burning rock. He began to despair. How could he escape? The land was too hot to bear and the water burned like liquid fire. Was he expected to fly? Once more he began to wonder what this land was. Had the Sun descended, burning away the water and giving birth to new land while willing its properties upon the water? Perhaps he had not been only been cursed but honoured as well. He could be witnessing the Sun reenacting the miracle that began the world.
Miracle or not, he was still stranded. He could neither stay upon the land nor swim away. That is what he thought. That is, until the mist from the surf met his skin and did not burn. He inched forward, unwilling to risk the possibility that his senses were misbehaving. When he felt the splash of water again, and observed that his flesh was still whole, he rejoiced. Not wasting another moment, he dove into the sea. In his haste he forgot one important thing. Sea water makes wounds sting. Upon entering the water, he was inundated with pain. His face, arms, and foot were afire anew. The world darkened and the pain disappeared.