The air was thick with an earthy smell. It infiltrated into our nose, into our lungs. We coughed it out. We’d never make it to our house.
His chant was too strong, his words backed by conviction, unrelenting in their pursuit to banish us.
“You, not me.”
“But we are one.”
“And we need to stop.”
“We need to get to the chamber.”
The knife is what you want.
To cut his tendons at the ankles and bring him down to us. Old man with his cross – should have killed him when we had the chance, but you wouldn’t allow us.
We dragged ourselves over the dirt, gripping the side of the opening to the chamber, pulling us into the dark room. We scratched and squirmed, pushing and pulling our body farther into the room. Once inside, near the far-left wall, our hands swept over the dirt floor as I pushed myself along.
Decker’s chanting echoed, calling out to strike us down—a string of words, each one sharpened to a fine edge, cutting into our existence, damning me for what I am.
We were getting closer, nearer to Alarbus’s remains. Decker hovered just outside the chamber.
The old man was no fool, though if we could break his hold, we would make him a fool. He wouldn’t die, no. We would do better than that—Decker would wear a cap, sewn to his scalp, his ears cut from his head, his tongue from his mouth. His hands I would stitch together, each of his fingers, making him invalid. His feet I would keep intact so he might dance for me as a fool does to amuse his master.
I felt my hand grope, and grope, pushing at the dirt, dragging it then groping again, searching for the bag. I finally felt the strap, pulled it to me, heaving the bag and what remained of Alarbus to my side. I ran my hand inside. My fingertips wrapped around a cold limb, and out it came, tossed to the side. I found another body part and tossed it to the side.
My hand brushed across something cold and biting, a sharp edge, cutting the skin just enough for me to feel the sting. We pulled back, nursing my cut for a brief moment, then thrusting my hand back inside. We took the blade out, gripped the knife by its hilt, and waited in the dark.
He needs to come closer.
He needs to come closer if he is to beat me.
And when he does?
I will cut at his heel, and bring him down.
The light from Decker’s lantern pierced the darkness, exposing me. I saw him at the door, holding the lamp, his talisman out in front. The light grew brighter, and brighter it seemed to the point I had to raise my hand to block its shine. It was then I saw her, a woman, in the doorway dressed in white. She was sleek, elegant, her chin sharp and thrust upward as if she were of nobility. She came to Decker’s side, but he took no notice.
The light got brighter, and brighter, expanding out from her, encompassing her body, saturating it before it overtook me.
There was a tug, at my belly, at the navel. It dragged me across the ground, swept me up, and sucked us into the light where we were propelled by great speed.
The light expanded. We were moving, caught up in the light, traveling to where I had no knowledge. I lashed out at the light, tried to close my eyes, push it from my mind, but it was of no use.
After what seemed several minutes of movement, of being completely enveloped by white light, it collapsed on itself leaving darkness in its wake and a sweet, pungent zing in my nose similar to the scent before rain begins.
I could feel my hands pressed together. My face felt as if on fire, my body heavy as though weighted down. My back was against a stone wall, the cold leaching the warmth from me.
I ran a hand over my arm in the dark and felt cold iron clasped around my wrist. I went to move my arm, and I heard the clink of chains. My arm could go no farther. I jerked the restraints several times, causing loud rattling of metal. After a few moments, I gave up, wondering what was happening to me. I touched the chain. It ran from my wrist to the wall. My shoulders sank low. I dropped my hands to my side, and the chains clinked once again.
I felt stings on my arm and ran my finger across it. There were cuts, nearly one every two to three inches apart. I could feel blood seeping from them. I threw up my hands, rattling the chains once more – and trying to recall what had happened. Searching for the reason of my current state I tried to figure out how long I’d been here, and how I got here.
A faint light appeared above, allowing me to see. I searched for its source, from where the light had come. Was it a candle? A lantern? Squinting to make out its shape, I thought it was the latter. Though I was glad to have it. I could see my cuts more easily, and the bruising of my arms, and legs. I still didn’t know how I got them. Nothing came to mind. Did Decker beat me? Did he take the knife we had, and cut me? I gave pause for the thought came to me – were they from Decker’s words?
I heard the voice again. When one hears a voice, which is not their own it often gives rise to the pulse and quickens the blood. And when one senses something nearby, not just a voice, something physical, present. It throws you back to a time when you were young, and that whatever was there in the dark, was better left in the dark.
I heard a low snort. My heart leaped, skipping a few beats. I slowly turned my head toward a large mass lying on the ground three feet from me.
What is that thing? A dog? I scooted away, as far as I could, a mere six inches before the chains gripped me still, keeping me from escaping the hideous thing that lay beside me. I noticed more chains on my ankles, but they did not go to the wall—they ran across the cold stone floor and connected to the creature, chaining us together as if we were convicts on a work farm.
I saw its chest rise and fall, its large back flexing with rippling muscle. That’s not a dog. It’s too large, and though it resembled a dog, its head was shaped differently, flatter, no snout, no large ears flopping on the sides or perked with alertness.
Then the mass of muscle moved, this time pulling slightly on the chains connected to my ankles—clink clink clank—causing me to inch closer, but I grabbed them and held the chains fast. After several minutes my arms began to shake, the weight pulling downward to a point I released the chains, letting them go slack against the ground—clink clink clank.
When the thing moved again, the chains were drawn toward it.
—clink clink clank—
I also was drawn toward it. I tried to scramble, making a racket with the chains
—clink clink clink clank—
causing the thing to suddenly sit up, turn its head to me, and look at me with those black onyx eyes.
“What are you?” My voice cracked, and I tried to move away from it but couldn’t. The chains rattled
—clink clink clink—
as they held me in place.
The creature drew closer, pointing its finger in my direction. I froze, wondering what to do.
I felt my brow grow tight, and my face drew down my mouth opening. “Help!” I screamed. “Help me! Anybody!”
I tried again to move, yet the chains sang out their song of restraint—clink clink clank.
The creature inched closer. It smelled sweet and musty. It ran its hand through my hair staring into my eyes as if trying to communicate, and then I heard a voice. It was low at first, but then it was as clear as any voice one might hear.
When the pain comes, it will only last a moment. The voice was inviting, sincere, even welcoming.
I heard the words, but they weren’t mine, they were from it.
You must do what I tell you when it comes. The voice came through, this time it reminded me of how a father might speak to his son when discussing a very important topic, or event that is to come.
When it comes? I wondered what it meant, feared what it meant. When it comes? What is coming? What’s not here already?
It smelled my hair, sniffing me as if it were an animal.
Do not move when it starts. Wait as long as you can bear, then wait longer. Do not speak. Pay no mind to the light. It will be very painful. When the pain grows to a level you feel you are being ripped apart, you come back. When you come back, I will be here to help you, and we shall continue. You must endure.
It turned its head toward the light that came from above. The creature stood. I recoiled at its massive, nearly seven feet tall stature. I shimmied against the wall as much as I could, keeping away from it. The creature put its hand around the lamp’s glass, lifted it, exposed the flame within, and blew it out.
Dark fell upon us.
You must exit out into the dark, not the light.