Sunday, March 23, 2014

Short Story - Carcerus

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fantasy horror

How long have I been trapped inside this house? Weeks? Months? Possibly even years? I've long since lost track in this world devoid of light. I don't even recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Long, brittle hair falls over my bony and wrinkled face, all the way to my shoulders. It had such a lovely shade of black but now it's just gray, white and dirty. And my flawless body had taken on a truly horrendous appearance. I've become so scrawny that most of my bones are clearly visible. Not much of a surprise when my entire nutrition consists of rats. Every attempt at discerning their entry point has proven futile, however, otherwise I might have long since escaped.
The other thing that has kept me going is the foul smelling water in the basement. No one in his right mind would consume dirt-colored fluids but it's not like I have a choice. I've gotten used to it over time, though, at least in so far that I'm not throwing up anymore.
Logic would dictate that none of that could have sustained me for very long, but this place doesn't seem to care about logic, else I would have escaped a long time ago. It looked like a normal, if somewhat desolate, house at first. It wasn't. Far from it, actually.
There are dozens of doors spread across three stories and a basement, none of which lead outside. It does have windows, though, but they can neither be opened nor broken. I've thrown and smashed hundreds of objects into them and couldn't even create a scratch.
Seeing as the obvious escape routes didn't work I had to create one by myself and began to painstakingly remove one brick after another, only to find even more bricks beyond. I took a short nap before proceeding but my entire work had been undone when I woke up.
Following that setback I became desperate and climbed into the fireplace chimney. With my back pressed against one wall and my feet against the other I climbed and scrambled towards the top. Hours passed and the floor vanished into the distance, but whenever I looked up the exit was as far away as it had always been. Trying to escape is futile, isn't it?
In the end I just gave up and returned to the bottom. Is there even a point in escaping? The landscape beyond the windows was nothing but a barren wasteland. There were no trees, no stones, no hills...not even a sky! All I saw was a sea of gray surrounded by eternal darkness.
There was also no life inside this world. Apart from the rats, that is. I did spot something moving through the darkness, though, but I'm not sure that it could be classified as a lifeform—small orbs of light that were scouring the horizon. They came closer with every passing day, till they were right on my “doorstep”. I pressed my face against the windows, trying to see something, anything, but those orbs were just that, no matter how long I gazed at them. My initial description had been dead on. They didn't seem to be dangerous but their numbers grew steadily. If I listened very closely I could even hear faint voices from outside. They made me feel uneasy although I couldn't understand a word they said. It's as if something deep inside my mind was telling me to avoid these creatures. I didn't understand why and I'm still not entirely sure, but I've learned to avoid them.
One day I was watching them like usual when a beam of light hit me squarely in the face. Seething pain shot through my body and I tumbled to the floor while the entire windows was lit up My memories are slowly but surely fading away. I barely remembered anything to begin with, but since then I've forgotten who I was, where I came from and, most importantly, how I ended up here. Was I kidnapped by extra-dimensional beings? Was I in the middle of a magical experiment that went awry? The last one feels a more reasonable and familiar but I simply can't recall anything. Perhaps I don't want to remember.
Anyway, some time after getting hit by the light I was awoken by a series of tremors. I was terribly confused at first and ran up and down the stairs, searching for the cause. You might assume that I'm an idiot who didn't know what an earthquake is but that's not how it felt like. It came and went in waves and there was a certain rhythm to it.
After listening to it for half an hour I finally connected the dots: someone was knocking on my house! I know it sounds ridiculous, but what better way to “knock” on a building that has no doors than by shaking it? I had no idea how to respond to that, though.
Who's there?” I yelled into thin air without expecting any result whatsoever.
The “knocking” stopped instantaneously and that was it.
I went downstairs to see if anything had changed. The uncomfortable couch with its rickety table was still there. So were the bookshelves that contained nothing but empty volumes. I don't know why I was even checking the furniture. There was no reason for it to change unless something got knocked over.
My gaze wandered across the walls but there was still no door. Disappointed I tried to get a fire going while I listened to the endless ticking of the clock behind me. It took forever to light a single piece of wood and the flame was suffocated by the stifling air soon after.
What did I do to deserve such a fate?” I screamed and punched the wall in frustration. My knuckles cracked painfully and I howled in pain. “Please, I just want to go home! Haven't I suffered enough?”
Depressed I shuffled up the stairs, returning to the bedroom on the second floor. I closed the door, locked it for no particular reason and gazed out the window—the orbs were still increasing in numbers—and pulled the curtains shut before I went back to sleep.

My dreams were nothing but a mess. Silhouettes, shadows, life, death, war, peace...everything I might have experienced in my previous life but none of it clear enough to understand its meaning. Something had changed on this particular day, though, something I couldn't quite grasp as it was hidden in the deepest depths of my mind.
...n...p! …u...o....c...e!”
I wasted weeks, maybe even months, before I realized that someone was calling out to me. As the days passed the voice increased in strength and despite being unable to comprehend what it said I still noticed that it had a certain sense of urgency towards it. I slept longer and longer in a vain attempt to venture into the depths of my dreams. It almost cost me my life.

The door hinges squeaked and my eyes snapped open. My back was turned towards the door, making it impossible to see what was going on without making a noise. How is that possible? There's no one here but me and I locked the door from the inside!
The temperatures dropped by several degrees while the room grew brighter and brighter. The floor creaked and a sickening rattling breath echoed from wall to wall. My skin crawled, my heart raced and my body trembled as I slipped under the covers as silently as possible. I might not remember much about my life but I'm almost certain that I have never been so scared.
I turned and stopped. The stupid bed was as brittle as the entire building and even noisier than the goddamn floor.
Come out...come out...wherever you...are!” demanded a deep croaking voice, followed by three hurried footsteps.
My blanket flew into the air as I crashed onto the ground, instantly rolling under the bed. The room was engulfed in an explosion of light while the air was filled by an otherworldly humming noise. I held my breath and pressed my hands onto my ears. All I could see of the intruder were two glowing legs. They looked similar to the orbs of light but I had never seen something like this among them. If I inched a little bit closer...
The creature fell onto its knees and a distorted visage stared at me. Although made of light its eyes and mouth looked like miniature black holes ready to consume me. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember a saying about people accessing tremendous power in times of danger and that's exactly what happened to me. Despite the fragility of my body I managed to overturn the entire bed, burying the intruder underneath.
I huffed and puffed but there was no time to relax. The air itself began to vibrate and the bed shook violently. Grabbing the key I fled into the hallway, slammed the door shut and locked it from the outside. I had barely reached the stairs when the hallway was covered in a rain of splinters.
Another illuminated figure exited a room in front of me and judging by the lighting downstairs more of them had to be waiting below. I hurried upstairs without any plan whatsoever. As long as I could escape everything would be fine! As fine as this world allows, at least. Taking the first door on the right I ran down another corridor and then another and then another.
It should have been impossible but there seemed to be no end to the building. I've scoured it from top to bottom without ever encountering such an anomaly. I don't have the slightest idea where it came from and what it meant, but it sparked the flame of hope inside my heart.
Please, let this be my chance!” I begged to...who knows. I certainly don't believe in god.

Hallway over hallway, door over door, room over room. The layout changed but the location did not. Had I escaped my pursuers only to end up in an even bigger house? I was about to curse my fate when I ripped open a door and fell into the abyss. I tried to grab onto the doorknob the instant I noticed the lack of a floor but it was already too late.
I tumbled through the air, pointlessly trying to steady myself. There was nothing but endless darkness all around me, apart from the quickly receding doorway at the top. The moment it disappeared from sight my legs crunched, my knees broke and my face met the floor with a repulsive thud. It seemed to be made of stone and was unbelievably cold, except for the spot where my blood was gathering. Something white was swimming on top of it but my vision was too blurry to make out any details. I tried to move my arms and was surprised to find out that they had remained mostly intact. Waves of pain shot throughout my burning body with every attempt to push myself off the ground, though.
With nothing else left to do I grabbed into the pool of blood to make sure that those were actually my teeth in there. One, two, three...I must have lost at least half of them on impact. The entire lower half of my face had to be covered in blood and there was no way to stop the bleeding.
Tho thif is how it enfs...” speaking clearly proved to be impossible.
I should have been happy to find salvation at last, even if it meant that I had to die, but something deep inside of me didn't want to let go. I could even feel hot tears streaming down my face. But what was I supposed to do? My body was broken beyond repair and all I could see was darkness...and two yellow dots that stared at me from beyond. My heart skipped a beat and I managed to push myself off the ground only to fall onto my ass.
Pleashe, juft leave me alone!”
As if any predator would oblige the pleas of its wounded prey. It jumped towards me, smashed my legs with its paws and opened its jaw as wide as possible, baring its humongous fangs.

I awoke bathed in sweat and raised my upper body from the bed. My gaze wandered from one end of the room to the other before I threw off the blanket and stared at my bony but otherwise intact body. Had I really imagined all of this? Perhaps. Something seemed off, though.
The instant I stepped out of the room it dawned upon me: this was not my house! It looked remarkably similar but was much bigger and the stairs towards the top continued endlessly, whereas the ones into the basement had disappeared. There was still no door, though.
I stared into the ocean of gray and black outside the window. There was not a single orb of light in sight.
Scouring the house from top to bottom revealed nothing of use, apart from the endless corridors that I had seen inside my dream. One of them had to lead towards the exit but every time I tried to enter those corridors I saw myself falling, splattering, dying, eaten, hence why I avoided them like the plague.
It went well for about a week, which is when I realized that I had nothing to drink anymore. I'm not sure if I could actually die inside this place but the thirst was real enough. I must seem like a lunatic as I actually tried to quell it with rat-blood, which went about as well as you'd expect. My lungs were burning, my throat was dry and it got harder and harder to swallow my meals. In the end all I could do was waste away or enter the maze upstairs.

I wasted three days walking through hundreds of doors and all I realized was that the house was screwing me with. As I lacked the materials to draw a map I pressed my left hand against the wall and followed it throughout the house, only turning around when I stumbled upon a door that led into nothingness. I marked certain spots with rat cadavers, which proved to be entirely pointless as they vanished into thin air somewhere along the way. And no, I'm not just imagining this! I actually put a corpse into the middle of a corridor, walked around and corner and went right back only to find it missing.
I had almost given up hope when the knocking returned. It wasn't like the first time, though, as it was an actual knock that wafted down from upstairs.
Who is it?” I yelled into the air and the knocking intensified.
I ascended the stairs and followed the sound around dozens of corners, turning on my heels every time I perceived it as getting weaker. About an hour must have passed when it simply vanished, leaving behind nothing but a faint echo. I ran as fast as my legs would take me, opening every single door along the way, but I had missed my chance.
I plopped onto the floor, put my head between my legs and pressed my hands onto my forehead. “Why couldn't you wait for me? I was so close! Just a few more seconds...”
I cried and sobbed like a child, never even wondering where all that liquid came from. I'm sure I could have a filled a couple of cups with it.

Hours must have passed when my body instinctively froze. My dream seemed to be coming true as somewhere in the vicinity a door was opened. The stifling air got even worse, barely allowing me to breath. I tried to stand up but my feet had fallen asleep. I rubbed them, pinched them, hit them, but it took forever for the numbness to go away.
What little light there was began to flicker and I could hear something being dragged across the floor. Every time it moved it made a sickening slurping sound.
Move already!” I demanded through clenched teeth but my legs didn't care.
Panicking I turned around and used my arms to drag the rest of my body forwards.
Come on! All I need is another door!”
I crawled, robbed and dragged myself towards the edge of the corridor, all the while trying to avoid looking backwards. Curiosity got the better of me when I reached it, though, and I stared at a giant formless shadow that was occupying the junction behind me. A deep, menacing growl was carried towards me and my legs finally understood the severity of the situation.
Jumping to my feet I hurried down the hallway and ran around a couple of corners before I finally opened one of the doors and hid myself. For once I had actually found a normal room instead of a hole or another hallway. There was a wardrobe, a trunk, a bed and even a window. I'm not sure if I imagined it or not but somewhere in the distance was a structure that reminded me of my house. Not that I had ever seen it from the outside.
Looking behind me I realized that a key was stuck inside the door. I turned it around, pulled it out and opened the wardrobe. It was devoid of garments and I was about to step inside when I realized that this would be the first place anyone would look. Perhaps under the bed? No, that's even worse!
I opened the trunk, which actually contained a couple of moth-eaten clothes, and stepped inside. It might have been a little tight for anyone with normal proportions but I was bony enough to fit right in.
Moments after closing the lid I heard a bloodcurdling scream echo through the hallway. Doors were ripped from their hinges and an atrocious smell began to fill the air. Nausea spread throughout my body and my heart felt like it was about to explode, but I just pressed my face into the clothes and tried to keep it in.
Something smashed into my door. It makes no sense that a mere lock could have stopped the creature's rampage, but I've already mentioned that this place doesn't care about logic.
The doorknob rattled. Slowly at first but the more it resisted the stronger it got. The entire room shock during the next impact. The creature screamed horribly and began to throw its entire body against the door.
Don't come in, don't come in, don't come in, don't come in, don't co—”
The door literally exploded into a million pieces and something huge and heavy fell onto the trunk. I pressed my lips onto each other, clenched my fists and closed my eyes while sweat ran down my forehead. My hiding place had to be exposed any minute now.
But it never happened. The monster let out another bloodcurdling scream before it disappeared into the maze of corridors. Leaving at that moment would have been insane, hence why I decided to cuddle into the clothes and fall asleep inside the trunk. It was far from comfortable but certainly better than anything this creature would do to me.

It should have been obvious that sleeping inside a trunk was a stupid idea. The instant I woke up I gasped for air without getting any. I pushed at the lid but it wouldn't budge. It must have been deformed by whatever fell on top of it. I moved onto my back while my lungs ached. I kicked at the lid again and again and again.
I gagged and kicked and struggled till my feet smashed through the wood. Sawdust fell into my face and my eyes burned, but all I cared about was the “fresh” air outside. I pressed my mouth against the hole and breathed in deeply.
Somewhere in the vicinity a series knocks could be heard. Agitated I ripped the hole wide open and jumped outside. My tattered clothes were ripped to shreds and I suffered minor injuries, but none of that mattered.
I ran as fast as my feet would carry me, despite still being out of breath. The knocking got louder and louder and when I finally reached the door it was coming from I threw every caution out the window and plunged right through it.
Time seemed to be slowing down when I saw the darkness beyond. I turned around in midair but it was already too late to grab onto anything. However, instead of tumbling into the abyss I landed on something soft and slippery. I spun downwards, barely able to see what I was lying on. It seemed to be white, milky and was glowing from the inside. I tried to grab onto it to stop myself from spinning, but there was nothing I could do.
I managed to catch a glimpse of the way ahead every few seconds and there didn't seem to be an end in sight. It might have been better that way as the air was filled by screams of agony and pain. If I had known that this is what lay beyond the borders of my house I might have never tried to leave.
Eventually the spinning slowed down and the ramp was beginning to level itself. Shortly afterwards I came to a halt and threw up all the rats I had eaten during the last days. My vision was spinning and I had a hard time getting to my feet.
Move!” a familiar voice echoed through my mind, repeating itself over and over again.
Who are you? Where do I need to go?”
There was no answer, just endless repetition.
I shook my head and slapped my cheeks to regain control of my senses. Still a bit unsteady I took in my surroundings. The milky path I came from continued on ahead but there were quite a lot of holes along the way. Somewhere in the distance stood a building that reminded me of a temple. It had a spire on top that was shooting a continuous beam of light into the darkness above.
Move!” the voice demanded, more urgently this time.
I didn't have much of a choice, seeing as there was only a single path. It took me only a few minutes to reach the first hole, which was about two steps wide. My body might not have been in the best condition but such a jump should have been manageable, if not for the wind.
I was getting ready to leap when a gust of wind grabbed onto my hair and blew it downwards. Its source seemed to be the darkness above the hole and it was aimed straight at the abyss below. Not even a sturdy human would be able to bridge the gap during that moment, hence why I had to jump just after it vanished.
It took me a while to memorize the pattern, but as soon as I did it was child's play. I jumped and leaped and vaulted over all the holes without any problem whatsoever. And then I got cocky. I had passed the halfway point and was so excited at the prospect of leaving this place that I forgot to check if the same pattern applied to the entire route.
I stood a few feet in front of a hole, the wind blew, I took a run-up, the air calmed down, I jumped and, as if on cue, the wind returned. My thin body was blown downwards like I weighted nothing at all. I barely managed to grab onto the edge of the path. It began to transform, bending itself towards the abyss. I tried to scramble upwards but the wind failed to cease, as if it knew that someone had gotten caught within. I was steadily moving down while my hands began to slip.
This might have been the bitter end of my story, if not for a miracle. Something cold and inhuman grabbed onto my wrists and pulled me back onto the path. I couldn't see anyone, though. I did notice something else, however: a wall of flames that was moving towards me from the slope. That must have been the reason the voice told me to move. The message was still repeating itself but it had gotten substantially weaker after my rescue. I sprang to my feet and ran towards the next hole, this time checking for any irregularities before I jumped.
I was standing in front of the final hole—a hole that was much bigger than the ones before it—and I had no time to think about anything as the fire was dangerously close. I could already feel my back blistering. I prayed, which still doesn't make any sense, and jumped with all my might.
My feet touched the ground just beyond the edge and my right ankle twisted itself at an impossible degree. Trying to cushion the fall with my arms only lead to a similar result in my left wrist. Waves of pain shot throughout my body and I yelled terrible curses into the darkness.
I leaped onto my left foot and began to hobble forward, all the while hoping that I had passed the final hurdle and could leave this place at last.
The moment I stepped in front of the stairs the air itself got thicker, as if it was made out of rubber, making it nearly impossible for me to jump. Instead I fell onto my knees and crawled forward, trying to ignore the pain in my wrist and ankle.
Why are you trying to keep me here?” I asked through clenched teeth without understanding a single word of it.
It looked as if time itself had slowed down as it seemed like I was moving at a snail's pace. I prevailed nevertheless and the world gave up.
I was finally standing at the entrance to the temple, if you can even call it that. There was a giant hole inside the ground, surrounded by six smaller ones. Together they emitted the beam of light I had seen earlier. Behind them was a set of stairs leading up to podium. And beyond that was a humongous green curtain that framed an azure-colored portal. Someone was staring at me from the other side—a young, handsome man with raven hair and a matching cloak that made him look like a nobleman—and he was pounding his fists against the barrier between worlds, yelling words I couldn't understand.
I hobbled towards the stairs but with every step I took the portal grew weaker. If only I hadn't twisted my ankle. I could have left this place behind! Instead I reached the podium just when the portal flickered out of existence. I hammered against the wall, yelling for it to come back, but all of it was in vain. I slid downwards, covering the floor in tears.
Malicious growls were carried towards me and the moment I stood up I saw three dog-like creatures moving towards me. One from the left, one from the right and one directly ahead. There was no escape!
The monsters jumped towards me, opening their jaws as wide as possible, ready to devour me on impact. I covered my eyes with both arms and hoped for a quick and painless death, but the world seemed to have other plans for me. A tremor went through the building and I noticed a flash of light, followed by the smell of burned flesh. When I lowered my hands the creatures were gone. And so was I.

My body had been obliterated but my soul remained trapped in a world devoid of anything. There was no light, no darkness, no sounds...just an endless void stretching into infinity, which was made all the worse by the fact that I still felt hunger, thirst and fatigue.
Excruciating pain wrecked my soul but I endured for months, years, centuries...or maybe only a few days. It's hard to tell without any reference points. I would have long since turned into a mindless specter, if not for the spark of hope buried within my mind. They still believed in me and have been carving paths into the darkness in the hopes that I would follow them into the light. I don't remember who they are but a soothing warmth spreads throughout my soul every time I think about them.
My nonexistent tongue felt like dry paper and the yawning void within my imaginary stomach growled like a mad beast. There had to be a way to leave, to return to the starting point! How did I get there in the first place? The house couldn't have been my entry point. Trying to ignore the continuous pain I closed my “eyes” and concentrated.
Flashes of crimson all around me. An ocean of hands trying to grab onto my body. Screams of agony in the distance. A huge beast slumbering in the darkness. Yes! Yes! I remember how I got into the house! If only...
Something tugged at my very existence. I'm not sure if it was my doing or if some monstrosity was trying to consume my soul, but I had to stake everything upon this chance and surrendered myself.

I smashed through the roof of a dark house. My bones cracked and blood shot from my mouth. There was no time to react before I rammed the floor, taking it with me in the process. Splinters ripped through my flesh. I smiled despite screaming in pain.
I must have crashed through five stories before my body sank into the couch on the ground floor. It wasn't comfortable anymore as soft hands were trying to pull my inside, returning me to the darkness. My body flailed about and I bit into the padding, ripping it out with my very teeth.
The beast hollered with pain, spit me out and tumbled into the abyss. The house wasn't safe anymore as my fall had breached all of its barriers. The hole in the ground was getting wider by the minute but I had to walk back as the table had been replaced by a piano. There was no time to play a song but such a plan would have been stupid anyway. Instead I grabbed the single sheet of paper with my left arm, the only one that was still intact, and retreated towards the stairs.
U L L F R F F? Those aren't notes!”
And that was only the beginning. The page was filled from top to bottom and with the way things were going I couldn't afford a single mistake. I ran upstairs and the house screeched like a living being as the air was sucked into the darkness.
Running, turning, smashing, got increasingly harder to concentrate on the path as the house was hit by one shockwave after another. Doors flew open behind all around me and the lights flickered or vanished outright.
Something grabbed onto my hair and I was glad to be in such a terrible condition. The skin was ripped from my head and I continued my flight with a bald and bleeding scalp.
I don't know how long it took but when I stumbled upon the final door I smashed it open and jumped into the darkness, trusting the decisions family had made! As my body revolved I saw the entire house fold in on itself till it was nothing but a giant lump of wood. It glowed ominously for a couple of seconds before it was blown into a million pieces by an ear-shattering explosion. A rain of splinters descended upon be, turning part of my body into mincemeat.
The darkness vanished, the sky turned blood red and my spine was smashed into tiny bits upon impact. I was lying in a barren wasteland filled with life. The dog-like creatures from earlier were staring at me and so were giant shadowy beasts that could have crushed me with a single step.
Get up a...north! The exi...” the voice was barely audible but I understood more than enough.
Despite suffering severe injuries that should have paralyzed me I managed to get onto my feet again. I was covered in cuts, bruises and torrents of blood, but death was not so easily achieved in this world.
I turned on my heels, never even realizing that one of the monsters had sunken its fangs into my right arm. It came right off and a torrent of blood stained the ground. My tattered body screamed at me to give in and get it over with but I defied its request and ran as fast as it would carry me. There would be no further chances. Either I escaped or I was done for.
The ground exploded under one of the giant's feet. The dog-creatures howled in agony as they were turned into a bloody pulp. I was flung through the air and my limbs flailed around like those of a marionette cut from its strings.
My jaw met with a craggy rock and was torn to shreds. I scrambled to my feet and screamed in bloodcurdling anguish, all the while trying to continue my escape. My body was getting weaker, though, as if all the damage was finally catching up to it. My legs caved in, I tripped, floundered, hobbled. Dizziness was taking over and I was close to failing when a building appeared on the horizon. It seemed to be an exact replica of the temple from earlier.
I breathed in deeply, only now noticing the smell of sulfur that pervaded the air, and gathered all the strength I could scrounge together. There was no need to think, to smell or to feel. All that was required of me was to sprint straight ahead, jump over the hole, ascend the stairs and delve into the portal.
Huge chunks of flesh and bone were ripped from my back and my sides. Every mortal being would have long since collapsed whereas I prevailed. Death might have been a certainty but I'd rather die back home than in this nightmare.
The moment I stepped over the temple's threshold my other arm was lost and my feet would have suffered the same fate if I hadn't jumped over the hole. One of the dog-beasts fell into the bright abyss while the entrance exploded under the assault of the giants. During mid-air I caught a glimpse of the appalled expression of my savior. Not very surprising when I must have looked like a shambling corpse.
I took the stairs three steps at a time, narrowly avoiding the loss of my head when one of the beasts lunged at from the podium's handrail, and dove straight ahead just as my feet touched the top.
My body was swallowed by the swirling barrier between worlds.

Cold blessed rain fell onto my skin while most of my body was burning as if it was aflame. My eyes were slightly ajar but all I could see was the blurry face of the man beyond the portal framed by a green background. Judging by the sound it made upon contact with the rain it must have been the crown of a tree.
Tender hands caressed what remained of my cheeks. “Welcome back. I'm sorry it took so long.”
My upper jaw moved without emitting a sound. I couldn't even breath. It was only a matter of moments till my essence faded away.
The sky was split open by a bright lightning bolt and the booming sound of thunder reverberated throughout the world, drowning out the man's following words and illuminating a dark figure towering behind him. Its silhouette was more than enough to tell me what it was. My savior must have followed my eyes as he looked over his shoulder for no apparent reason.
Two more men appeared in my field of my vision. One of them looked strange as his feet were unnaturally close to each other while his arms were bent behind his back.
The first man pulled something from beneath his clothes—two objects, one of which melted into the background while the other emitted a faint crimson light. My eyelids were getting heavy but I didn't want to miss what would happen next. I still couldn't remember a thing, but somewhere in the back of my mind I realized what was about to happen.
The third man grabbed the odd one by the hair and tilted his head backwards, exposing his throat. The first one moved his right arm from left to right in a swift movement. Gurgling noises wafted towards me as the light began to pulse in the rhythm of a heartbeat.
Someone screamed fearfully in the background and the third man disappeared, allowing the second one to drop to his knees.
Don't worry!” the first one yelled. “You'll be next.”
He turned towards me and smiled. My upper jaw moved once more, wasting all the energy I had left. Darkness engulfed my mind as my consciousness faded away. My heart pounded twice in quick succession, then once and then it stopped.

I screamed in unbelievable agony. My eyes snapped open, revealing the hand of my savior above my chest, glowing with the crimson light of a jewel he had rammed into my body. The sky was aflame with lightning as pillars of smoke shot from the earth, wreathing my body in darkness. My heart raced as if I was running a marathon while the remnants of my body turned into dust. This, however, was not the end!
An enormous shockwave grabbed a hold of my savior and flung him through the air while the earth around me was pulverized as if a meteor had crashed into it. I rose to my feet and stared at my renewed limbs, turning my arms over and over as if I couldn't believe it.
A smile crept onto my lips as I climbed out of the crater. Shadowy figures were visible out of the corner of my eyes but they didn't dare to move. I walked forwards till I stood in front of the battered body of my emissary. He was beyond saving, even for me, as he had sacrificed his life essence to restore my former body.
His unfocused eyes were moving rapidly from left to right, only coming to a stop when I entered his field of vision.
Do youu...remmemba...who...youu...arr?” he asked with a slurred voice and his final breath.
I smiled sadistically. “I am Dorr'n Selkesch, lord of Gana Borodem”—I kneeled down, sullying my shredded trousers in mud—“And I am humbled by your sacrifice.”
Sadness flashed over my face as I closed his eyes. His body crumbled to dust as his entire existence was obliterated. Would he take my place and suffer for all eternity? Most likely, but there was nothing I could do.
Let us honor his sacrifice by returning to the shadows! Gana Borodem will rise from the ashes and will never fall again!”
My pale skin turned black as I returned to my original shape at long last: a living shadow. And then I took on the form a giant dark knight—a form that everyone in the world had feared before the land of shadows was obliterated.
Shortly thereafter I vanished into thin air, taking my loyal followers with me to revive my kingdom and retrieve the blade that I lost in its ruins.

The End

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