The little photographer did his best to not slip on the stepping stones in the river. There was absolutely no way he would let anything happen to his camera, and to a lesser extent, himself. This was the only way across the river to the hillside.
One hop. Two hops. In no time had he crossed. Simple enough.
Now all that was left was to aimlessly wonder about, and hope to stumble into the hive. The other Photographer had not left much information on how to get there.
What if it was dream, Alray? Then what? What am I looking for?
Another memory came to mind about what his friend had told him.
"I know my memory is a little foggy, but I know for certain it was real! In the cave I had pricked my thumb on a pink thorn, and by the end day the mark was still with me. Strange though. I don't remember how I entered the cave, or how I left. Why in the world, would I see a beautiful place and not take a photo? I don't fully understand it myself, my small friend."
Cameron sighed. At this point he wasn't sure what to believe. His story didn't add up right, but he had no reason to lie, and this place something that Al was very determined to rediscover, and since he was no longer here, Cameron was determined to do his best to fulfill his dream for him.
It's not like doing this will bring him back... He's not coming back even if you do this.
Annoyed, Cameron responded to his own thoughts aloud, "No. I just want to do this to honor his memory. This could be closure."
But what if the hive doesn't even exist, huh? Even if it did and you found it right now, will it really fix everything? It's not your fault he's gone."
Cameron shut his eyes again.
His footing slipped and he tumbled downwards, hitting a few smooth boulders on the way, landing in a patch of soft dirt. He was unharmed, but he had the feeling he was going to have an ugly bruise or two for a couple of weeks.
"Oh great job, ya frickin' moron! Next time watch you're going and maybe you won't fall right in a-"
He stopped and looked around his dark, rocky environment. Soft blue lights from bioluminescent mushrooms allowed him enough light to make everything out.
He checked to see if his camera was still working, and took a picture in the direction he had tumbled down. The flash briefly lit the cave enough for Cameron to make out a high ceiling. He looked at the picture to see a some light where the entrance of the cave was, and next to it were long, pink, thorny vines.
Pink thorns? But there are pink plants with thorns everywhere in glade. That doesn't mean anything just yet.
He followed a trial of mushrooms a bit deeper in the cave. As he walked the mushrooms grew in numbers, and eventually started appearing in different colors. First blue, then green, then yellow, orange, red, purple, and pink. The walls also become more textured, and engrained with crystals, just like the ones at the fairy council.
His state of awe was broken when the trail of mushrooms had stopped at a broken geode-like rock near a small glowing pond.
So this place was really was like a nursery for ludivs.
He touched the colorful, bright crystal walls, and took a step back, taking in his current environment. It really had to be one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen.
"Well," his voice echoed, "I'm here Alrayzen! I made it!"
His echo served as a reminder that he was all alone in this once lively place.
"I made it, but... you didn't."
Coming here was his dream, not mine.
"So what's even the point? I mean... this doesn't change anything. You're still gone."
Tears quickly flooded down his face.
"I'm still never going to see you again, right? What was I thinking? Coming here alone... I don't want to be here if it's not with you!"
He continued to cry, sitting himself down, and tucking himself into almost a fetal position.
"I don't want to take pictures without you! I'm sorry! I should have done more to protect you! I loved you more than anything in the world! You knew that, right?"
It's not your fault.
"Maybe it is my fault... I could have done something, anything. I could have... I don't know..."
It's not your fault Space Mama disappeared. It's not your fault the pirates came. It's not your fault they enslaved all those people... and Alrayzen.
His breathing slowed a bit.
Turn around, Cameron.
Cameron immediately felt weary and confused by this sudden thought, but he obliged.
A familiar face stood in front of him.
"Alray? Al?! Is that really... No! It can't be!"
The shocked teensy could only think this was another cruel mind game. Another nightmare, only this time in the flesh.
The original Photographer signed, "I'm sorry. It's me, but it is also not me. I can't tell you for sure."
"My... sub-conscience?" It was the only explanation that didn't frighten him but also made some sense.
Alray considered this, "Perhaps so..."
The little teensy knew this wasn't really him, but still slowly approached him and considered his next move. After looking at him for a few seconds, he opened his arms and hugged the limbless thingamajig, almost expecting to not feel anything upon contact, but to his surprise, his hug was returned.
Warm, just like I remember him.
He felt his knees give out, and he sunk to the ground still holding on to the image of his lost friend.
Alray leaned back, taking his hands away from the teensy just to communicate, "Still a softie, how unsurprising." The little Photographer couldn't help but laugh, despite his face still being wet from all the crying.
"Before this ends, my friend. I must tell you something."
Cameron felt his heart racing again. He couldn't speak, despite how much he wanted to. The air even felt colder to him. All he could do was nod.
"You must promise to not blame yourself anymore. You must also promise to not blame Polokus either. Life can feel unfair and cruel, but it can be so wonderful and beautiful too, so take lots of pictures of it. Don't forget that, okay?"
Cameron could only nod. He could only hold on to his friend for so long before beginning to feel lightheaded. It was like his conscience was drifting away again. Miles and miles away.