I – Village
I heard their wretched cries approaching and knew I could give no adequate recourse. The feminine of their group had entered our village before; leaving tears to stream down the face of my brother’s widowed bride. How she prayed for them to take her and spare her child, but they would not. They knew their purpose and would not be dissuaded by the laments of a mere human. Their laughter filled the woods as they left with their child-acquisition. My brother’s widowed bride spoke not again and within days we found her battered corpse at the foot of the highest tree in our village. She had climbed to the top only to throw herself down. The tree branches are strong and did not break as her body bashed against them on the way to her self-made demise.
We threw her body into the woods as the sun beat down with its mocking lightness. The faces of those left living in the village wore a strange look of pity and jealousy. Pity for the woman whose husband and child were taken; jealous of the peace-in-death they knew she was now experiencing. But what if there is no peace in death? Those we hide against in the moon’s light seem not living or dead. They exist and that is all. As mortals our time is precious. The Myths have no need to justify their time and/or existence. They belong to the world that is theirs. Their justification is in their very presence.
When it was only my child left in the village, I knew the feminine of their group would return seeking my child’s life. They come from the castle where the King allowed them entry into our world through his foolish act of opening the Gates. The castle is home now not to a human King, but to an un-dead one. The feminine of their group scour the barren land for food to appease their master’s sick taste. The children are all but gone; my child remains for as long as they allow.
A few of the headstrong men decided to take action and have not been seen since leaving the village; it is certain they will not return. The woods we once hunted in have become where we are now hunted. The Myths shape our miserable lives to their whim. We are all equal now in this new world created. Humans are what we are: flesh, blood, bone, and Spirit. The first three they can take away, but the Spirit…
I fear my wife has lost faith. She knows what waits for us and isn’t able to cope with its dim reality. She is but skin and bones, trying unsuccessfully to nurse the child that will soon be taken from us. If he were not taken – if by some chance we were allowed to remain a family – I know it would not matter. We shall all starve before our next birthday. Our child shall starve before his first birthday.
Madness and despair shape the daylight hours. The village of friends and family has become the village of the uncompassionate and distraught. To try and comprehend the fate we have been given is too much weight upon the mind. As Faith is lost, so is humanity. As the Spirit gives in, so will the mind. I pray for the strength of my heart. I pray for the sanity of my wife. I pray for a quick death for our son.
They are approaching. The darkness of night is their time. From all sides they emerge. From above they descend. From one home to the next they search. I can see their pale, winged forms as they sniff the air with crude smiles formed upon their red lips.
They are coming! They know what prize we hide. My beloved wife holds our child close to her bosom. I know this is the final event that will break her apart. Will her fate be the same as the widowed bride of my brother? Outside the door I hear their feminine whispers. The door opens and naked before me stand those who are to take my precious son. My beloved kisses her child one last time. Her sobs are too heavy for me not to join in. Our son is in the hands of destiny. A new destiny for all the young: To be fed to the leader of these filthy creations.
Wings beat hard against the ground and then elevate to the highest clouds to soar off to the castle; the castle that allowed the Myths to enter this world: The castle that is now the abode of the dead.
II – Loss
As I feared, the loss of our son has proved too much for my beloved to handle. For too many nights she has not slept, and in daylight she does nothing other than stare at the tree line of the woods no one dare to enter. On an afternoon where sleep forcibly took hold of her body, I heard her lips speak words her dreaming mind created. She spoke of revenge in shallow whispers, adding desperation to the already desperate tone of her voice. Venom I knew not possible was emanating from my beloved, a separation of Spirit and heart was occurring before my very eyes. When she awoke I begged her to speak to me of her dream, but silence spoke more than any words uttered could have.
A chasm formed between us, but my love in no way waned. I looked upon her as I always had. Love for her is what my world was, is, and forever shall be. I massage her stiff shoulders when she allows me to touch her, and even in those moments of closeness her body is not with me. Her mind is off somewhere: I want to bring it back; but I fear my beloved does not want to be brought back from the misery into which she has entered. I feel the only thing she now wants is that which she cannot have: our child.
They entered the village again last night and, finding there were no children left, attacked a few of the old and then departed as quickly as they came. The elderly lie bleeding and unattended to. We stayed in our homes watching them die, to afraid to exit and give assistance. Come morning they will finish their transformation only to be destroyed by the sunlight. Why do they not kill and only maim? Why do they spread their disease to those who do not know how to handle it? So many times we have had to lock our doors to those who were infected. Slowly they transformed and grew more violent. With the sunlight they cease to be; victims of a curse brought on by the cursed.
I search these morning hours for my one true love. She is not here and I know now her dream-speak was that of self-prophesy. What evil has befallen my beloved’s once pure heart? For now she is one of them; not cursed, but hunter of the hunting. She is mortal, but for how long? I stand on the edge of the woods and look in. The sunlight shows normalcy; how extravagantly inappropriate. My beloved has left the village to go in search of our child! How far will she make it and to what end?
I glance at the village – starved, lonely, destroyed – nothing is left here for me. My child and bride have gone. To be with them again is all I wish. To hold my beloved’s hand for one-second more before my life’s end is all I ask. To gaze upon my child’s smile…
But alas, it is too much to hope for in this new world created. What is love in a world of lies? No! I will not let them take that from me. I will not let the Myths take away that which is human, that which is my Spirit, my love, my family. I will not let emptiness claim me in the name of solitude. To stay in this village would be to wait for my own end. To enter these woods would be to summon my Spirit’s strength. What fate lies waiting does not matter. The fate I chose for myself is what counts. Better to choose my own end than to allow someone else to.
III – Woods
Sunlight, a bitter reminder of the old days, shines down uncaring. The woods appear the same as always, save for the absence of creatures scurrying to and fro. The animals who remain stay as hidden as the humans try to. The leaves crushed under my feet seem as much apart of the curse as the air I breathe. To turn back now would be for naught, for I would not reach the village by nightfall. The fear I hold in going forward is the same I feel towards returning back from whence I came.
The sun begins its descent; can I still appreciate the beauty of nature? I must, for love is apart of human nature, which is apart of all. The sun sends color spraying across the low hanging clouds and for a moment I feel my beloved is with me watching this beautiful sight. Wherever she is, I know she is not admiring this beauty as I am. Her thoughts have disconnected form the past realities; her mind taken in her pursuit of revenge and appeasement. My only hope is that she will turn back to me. If I am to perish in this night’s arrival, I wish that she were her to fall with me. Together we could go to the other world where our son is waiting for us.
The moon signals for the Myths to emerge from their daytime slumber. With the final rays of the sun come the final glimpse of what once was. Darkness sets quick. Lit only by the pale moon, I feel life start to emerge around me. But it is not life that I sense. The cold breeze I feel does not disturb the leaves at my feet. If this be not a wind I feel, then what?
Despair enters my mind. These are the ones who couldn’t fight. These are the ones who lost what is human to them, only to be forced to stay in the state in which they died. Those Without Life circle me, calling on me to share the life I posses. They seek to drain me of what they no longer possess. But I have barely enough will and strength to support my own Spirit. To try and share with these wanderers of the nether world would only make me one of them. My Spirit is mine and not to be shared…even if I could…
With loneliness and longing they call out to me. Transparent forms traveling in a directionless mass. I quicken my steps to be rid of these apparitions but they are as much apart of the night as the fear in my heart. How they vex me! Upon my knees I pray for their deliverance from the anguished state they are in. Feeling my positive intentions only encourages them more. They see my willingness to help as a sign that I can help…but I can’t.
I know not what they are or what they will become; possibly this and only this will be their un-life. I must not spend too much energy trying to help those who have no hope. For I have hope, and to stay amongst these restless wanderers will only drain that which I need to move forward. I cannot block my ears from their cries, but to block my heart will have to be enough. Will my son be damned to this fate, or will his soul ascend to its proper place? Will my wife become one of these tortured apparitions?
My wife…my beloved. Darkness has set on her also. Do those who surround me surround her? Will she notice the despair that permeates from this group, or is her heart too broken to break as mine is? Those Without Life, the ghosts of humankind, must be ignored while on my search. My child I know I will not find; my wife…I fear how I will find her and in what state she will be in. Keep walking and shut down the desire to help those who cannot be helped. It is not on me to provide for all that are immersed in this terrible time, it is my accepted quest to help the only one I feel I can help, and who in turn will help me. Together with love is how we should spend whatever time is left for us.
I feel that in her quest, my beloved has allowed them to win. The anger and savagery they produce in her are just as bad as any physical torture that can be had. Without infecting her physically, the Myths have stripped away the human that is my beloved, leaving only a shell holding hatred, loathing, and contempt. And what if I find her safe and she does not look upon me the same? The light in her eyes has drained over time; what light, if any, shall they hold now?
Oh, Those Without Life are having their way with me. My hope is waning in the face of their desolation. I must steel my reserve and push forward through them. They will not bother if they know there is nothing to take. To stay positive is my only hope, and in turn possibly the best gift I can give to these pitied poltergeists. Although they might not appreciate it, my living human Spirit is a testament to what they were. I realize they are not against me, only for themselves; as I am for my beloved.
Passing through brush, I feel them leaving me. Even in death, the unsatisfied shall not persevere; reaming unsatisfied as if to justify their existence. Or maybe my Spirit did have an effect. Perhaps they left me be because they know I am much like them, or soon will be much like them. But I will not be like them! I will pass when it is my time. I will not stay attached to the world, stubbornly trying to change that which cannot and will not ever change. I may give my life, but I will not give my death.
IV – Graveyard
The misery of death seems not so in times such as these. I break free of the woods to find myself at the sight of my village’s graveyard. A body has not been buried here for as long as I can remember, the dead instead being left in the woods for the night creatures to partake upon. Fourth row back I find my father’s grave. The stone is aged by the forces of nature; making the epitaph hard to read. Visions of my father’s funeral recall nothing of the graveyard in which I now stand. The sunny day we buried my father is a childhood memory I usually keep hidden. Now, kneeling before my father’s grave, I’m glad he is in the safety of the ground and not above in the world as it is now.
It is almost as if I can hear my father’s voice calling out to me. I fight back a tear as the fantasy voice continues its lament. Graves surrounding my father’s are empty; dug up or dug out of, I do not know.
In the woods! I hear labored breathing; a wheeze mixed with guttural hunger. Did my beloved stop at her parent’s graves as she passed through? Did she hear the cries from the other side and the creatures in the woods? My father’s voice, it seems so real. It is as if I hear it coming from below. Beneath my knees, below the dirt…
The horror! A hand, the hand of my father’s, reaches out of the ground to lock its fingers around my ankle. I am frozen in fright as my father breaks through the dirt to face his child once again. His voice, what despair it holds as he calls my name and looks upon me with sightless eyes. I move away, but his grip on me is strong. I pull him free from the dirt that has imprisoned him. To his feet he arises! I, on my knees, break down and let the tears flow. My father moves towards me. I realize he wants what Those Without Life want – what I cannot provide. I scurry away but am unable to take my eyes off him. An unseen open grave swallows me in. I fall and land hard six feet below. On my back I look up at the stars and the moon; they are as they always were, yet they now belong to something that never was.
My father stands above me looking down. If he enters this grave with me I fear I will lose my sanity. Against my back I feel not dirt, but the hard wood of a coffin. My father releases an anguished cry and I realize where I lie: in my mother’s grave. Quickly I’m up and out of the hole, standing on the opposite side of my father. I felt no presence of my mother and am relieved that she has not been forced to become as my father now is.
The graves that are not emptied begin to. Hands break free through the dirt, quickly followed by head, neck, torso, and legs. They move towards me with hunger in their lifeless eyes. The creatures in the woods can still be heard, and I wonder if their intent is the same as the Undead standing before me.
My Mother! My once beautiful mother who I hoped was resting peacefully in her grave. I see know that she has been watching me. Against the tree line she stands bathed in shadow. She doesn’t move towards me as the others do, but looks upon me with a seemingly indifferent air.
They move towards me slowly; my father leading the group, my mother staying behind. I can easily run past them, but I feel I must take in this spectacle for as long as I can. This group of once-humans is not the enemy. They do only what they feel they must. Not out of spite or anger do they wish to destroy me, but out of an unquenchable hunger that drives them mindless towards their goal.
The creatures in the forest seem to be coming closer. I sidestep the slow moving Undead and step towards the back of the graveyard as the first of the hyenas exits the woods.
Hyenas with exposed teeth growl and circle the Undead, corralling them into the center of the graveyard. I feel I must run, but am unable to. My presence is ignored and anticipation and curiosity as to what might happen next forces my legs to stay still and my eyes to stay fixed upon whatever horror might occur. My father and mother stand close together, but neither acknowledges the other’s presence. The hyenas have the small group of Undead surrounded; is their fear in the eyes of the Undead?
What are these creatures I see emerging from the woods? They stand as men but are nothing human. Burned, deformed skin covers their naked bodies. Dark eyes set in excited faces expose the hungered state they are in. The Undead moan as the hyenas slowly back away. The creatures are quick to attack and I realize these are the Eaters Of The Undead.
The feeding frenzy before me is sickening. The Eaters tear at the Undead in a savage joy the likes of which I have never seen. A clawed hand pushes its way into my father’s chest only to pull out the heart of the man who raised me. My mothers neck is bitten so ferociously that it can no longer support her head.
The Undead are reduced to a pile of bone and gore as the Eaters Of The Undead feed themselves to the point of gluttony. My fathers dead eyes fall upon me as his head is thrown aside. I stare at the face I haven’t seen in years and will never see again. Will my eyes fall upon my child in the same way? Or will my child’s eyes fall upon me in the same way?
The Eaters Of The Undead have had their fill and are returning back into the woods. The hyenas quickly pounce upon what is left of the Undead. How their teeth cut through bone so easily I do not know. What is left of my mother is devoured with casual acceptance by these animals who have found their place amongst the Myths. The pack finishes and I am thankful to be spared of another sickening second.
Why! Why must it come to this? In the village I am sure they are experiencing their own laborious night, but why could I not be there now with my beloved? What did she hope to accomplish by leaving me? I, who love her so and wish only for her best. What could I have done differently to make her stay? What pain could I have ceased in order to break her from her deranged pursuit of our child? But it is not deranged for a mother to go after her child; even if she realizes the futility of her actions.
And what of my action? Is it futile? Am I setting myself up to find my beloved in a state of…No! I will not think the worst. Doing nothing is futile. I search for my beloved as my beloved searches for our child. Which quest stands more of a chance of success…it does not matter. To try is to do. To do is to accomplish something, anything, while in the face of unrelenting reality.
As I stand above what remains of my parents, I feel accomplishment already. I was here to witness my parent’s second passing. Hopefully, for their sake, a permanent one.
V – Abandoned Village
I am lost in thought and direction. By the grace of some divine hand I find the first traces of the approaching morning sun. I am weary and look forward to the sleep that only the safety of pure daylight can provide. A break in the trees ahead provides even more elation. A village! With smoke rising from chimneys! The smoke of cooking and food; the smoke of human occupancy. I quicken my pace, anxious to again be amongst my own.
Standing in the center of town with the dawn’s light on my back, I find no human lives within this once-human place. The crude jewelry scattered about shows me who now dwells in this place. Behind those closed doors and hidden from the sun, the Large Ones sleep.
I have heard stories of the Large Ones, as I have heard stories of all the Myths that have been released. Never have I seen half of that which has been spoken of, therefore I know not which parts of the stories are true.
There is movement inside the homes. They are not asleep. A large pit filled with burning embers means there must be some food I can take. Disgusting! That they would chose to kill and eat the Eaters of the Undead is too much for my empty stomach to handle. If I had eaten one bite of food within the past days I surly would be expelling what little was left in my stomach. Thankfully the Large Ones have caught some hyenas as well. Cooked meat is exactly what I crave after running like an animal through the night.
They are exciting the houses! They can barely squeeze through the doorways and I am thankful for the time it gives me to run. They have my scent and curses on me if they don’t run as fast as the wind. Almost had me! Their size makes them clumsy in this thick forest. If I can keep at a good pace for a while I’ll be in the clear. If only I could’ve had one more bite of food, I would have the energy needed to put some good distance between them and me.
My head is bleeding. I can feel it wetting my hair and dripping down my back. I felt the impact this time: they’re throwing rocks. Shoulder is in pain and my arm is tingling. I can still run but the headshot is making my vision blur. I fear my blood loss is rapidly draining me of energy. To the hip! My left leg is slowly becoming useless. Rocks landing all around! Tree stumps crash on all sides and I feel that I will not survive if I am hit by one of the bigger objects being thrown.
Silence fills my ears. I feel only the beating of my heart. I run yet I don’t know how. My beloved, where is she? Did she pass this village of brutality? I won’t believe she won’t survive. As my love for her will pull me through, her love for our child will pull her through. But the fate of our child is known! That’s what weighs on my heart most of all. My beloved entered the impossible, so I must do the same for her. No! This is not impossible! As I am alive, so shall she be. Our child, a defenseless infant, is no more, but we shall not succumb to the evil.
I can’t breath and it forces me to open my eyes. The stench that emanates from the mouths of the Large Ones is putrid. The hand around my throat seems to be deciding whether or not to pop my head off. My feet dangle above the ground and if he doesn’t put me down soon I will suffocate. The rest of the Large Ones appear from the woods. My vision is blurring and I’m relived to feel the grip loosening. Thrown to the hard rock next to the river, I look up at the group. Laughter like I’ve never heard comes from their rank mouths.
My body is badly hurt. The rocks shredded layers of skin and I’m unable to tell if my head has stopped bleeding. The river is flowing steady and down stream I can see it breaks into rapids. The Large One is swinging his foot back and as he brings it forward I can’t help but think that I’m about to be kicked the hardest I’ve ever been kicked.
…Momentary unconsciousness…the frigid water is waking me up and shocking my body. I tumble in the first set of rapids and know the Large Ones have cast me aside. The rocks smash me from every angle. If I can try and float on my back I might have a chance. The water is getting a little shallower; I can almost catch my footing. My leg! The rocks seem designed to cut and shred. One more hit to the face…
VI – Death
On the edge – feet in water – body on land. Are my eyes open? Or is what I’m seeing not…the sky is clear. Heartbeat weak. My beloved…our child…
Owls of pure white float above me. Their wings extended, riding on a wind that I cannot feel. They stay in perfect form. Coming closer. Dropping down so close that I could touch them if I was able to move my arm. Between them a light forms. The white of their bellies is nothing to the white materializing in the air between where they float. Water fills my mouth, coming from my stomach. I feel as though I’m drowning.
Not her! Anyone but her! I beg, send the Myths upon me, but keep this Truth away. Her white robe doth flow just as they said it would. Her beauty is unmatched by any human. Please, don’t allow me to admire for too long, I do not wish to be taken by her now.
The sword! She has the sword of choice! It is not my time, but why must she tempt? I will not ask for it! I am not defeated! My body will move, my Will shall move it! Yes, she is beautiful; I will not deny myself that. Look at how perfect her gaze is. She understands my pain. Has she seen my beloved? Has she tempted my beloved? My beloved! Death is certain; life is not. If my beloved has passed then I will see her there. If she is alive…do I doubt that she is? Must get up. Expel the water in my lungs. Sit up.
The owls fly higher and I see no trace of what was just between them.
VII – Lake
The water is clear. I know where it leads and feel it is the safest route to the castle. With luck I reach the lake with sunlight to spare. To soak my aching body and cleanse my tempered mind is all I wish for the moment. Colder than expected, but it sooths. I could stay here for the night, just floating and staring at the stars. What beautiful sounds the water makes under the breeze, I can almost make music out of what I hear. Yes, I hear voices singing. How heavenly, how divine they are as they sing their glorious chorus.
My beloved! I see her! Out in the middle of the lake she waits for me, if only I could swim faster, if only I wasn’t injured….but how can this be? Two of my beloveds, singing to me from the center of this…my eyes are deceiving me. As I swim, with nothingness below my feet, three of my beloveds appear before me!
How could I not have known? The daylight is a devil also. The Myths have left no stone unturned. Will they use nothing to destroy me? And to what end? What could Those Who Sing possibly gain for playing their cruel hoax on me. To lure me with beautiful melodies and wishes pulled from my psyche is a crime amongst crimes. And their goal is simply to drown me in a fit of ecstasy. That is what gives them pleasure. They can tell I’m not falling as easily as some others may have. I know reality even when reality’s definition has been redefined. The stories have been told about these seductress’, and to ignore them is to make them go away.
I must swim back to the shore. They are changing to their natural form. I can’t look; I must swim. Keep my back to them. Oh, their voices! The sun sets and I wish not to go back into the woods. I would let them sing to me forever if only I didn’t have to…what beauty they possess. White-haired; glowing green eyes – three of them – one more beautiful than the next. I’ll just swim closer to get one last look before I leave. The night will be cold and these harmonious sounds will keep me company. They sing to me alone. So beautiful, so white…as white as the owls!
Harbingers of death and destruction; you three are nothing! I must swim back to shore for my beloved waits for me! My beloved is safe and sound and I must find her in the same fashion.
Yes, the shore! I can’t look back. I must take the long way around the lake. They must not deter my quest. I will have to transverse the mountain in the daylight, which means I must find a place of security for the night.
VIII – Cave
The dark of night falls too quick. But what does it matter when the light of day proves to hold no tranquility. The mountain cannot – will not – be traveled over in the dark. What lies waiting at its top I do not know, and I wish not to find out under the pale moon’s glow. But this cave, how am I to feel comfortable in its darkened drafts? Is there no other place for me to rest my head far enough away from the voices of Those Who Sing. I must enter and give myself to whatever fate the rock and dirt tunnel holds.
It is empty! Alas, good luck may still shine down upon me time and again. I have reached the end of the cave to find myself alone and grateful. The wind is picking up force outside and I can hear the rain begin to fall. Thank-you for this night’s respite. A drip from the ceiling falls in precise monotony to the floor at my feet. I am alone with this forming pool of rain, which, like I, has found its way into the safety of the cave.
Push aside some rocks and find a flat level of dirt to rest my weary head. The ache in my body is surpassed only by the ache in my heart. What loneliness I find on my search for my beloved! The longing, the yearning; why must it all be so?
Movement! Above me, something rouses me from my half-sleep. All is dark, save for the palest of moonlight that enters through the same tiny crevasse that allows the rain to drip ever so slightly. The ceiling is not a ceiling! Awakening slowly above me are bats; suddenly I feel not so alone. The sounds they make would once have made my skin crawl, but now I welcome them and the company they provide.
Do not leave the cave, my friends! Stay with me ‘till the morn. But they must leave. Their ways of the night predate the Myths and I am jealous of the way these hairy, wide-eyed creatures continue on with their old ways. If I could carry on with my old ways…
IX – Mountain
The bats return to their perch above me. The morning sun approaches and I am thankful for my night’s rest. I wish to stay here in the darkness with my winged friends, but I know what lies before is what is important. I must leave this community of old and travel through the new. The sun is bright; I shield my eyes. The last squeaks and cries of the bats fade away as I leave the mouth of the cave and begin up the side of the mountain.
Of all the stories referring to the Myths there is one that is told in a slightly deferent way. When usually the stories are told as warning, the stories of Those Who Fly Atop The Mountain are told in awe. I could travel around the base of this gigantic obstacle, but on my way to the castle I feel it important to take in the sight that so few Humans have seen. The sun beats down hot and sweat drips from every available pore on my body. If only it would rain, then I could drink some of the water I so desperately need.
Hours have passed and if I don’t reach the summit soon I fear I will turn around and give up my side-quest. Through the clouds I pass and…Yes! I see the top! Only a few more ledges to conquer and I will reach the summit. I see not the Myths I hope to find, but the story says they will appear to those who wait.
The clearing at the top is flat; before me I see the starved wolves. Pity onto them! The old lie withered and dying, the young already dead. Those who would be the leaders stare at me too weak too attack; too weak too acknowledge the food source I could be.
Never in my life did I think I would be able to approach a pack of wolves as I am doing now. So soft is their fur, so weak is their Spirit. I understand their plight and am reminded of my village’s plunge into despair. No food means no life sustained. The dead cubs…what tortures hath befallen us all?
There! I see them approach! The wolves sit with me, and I with them, as we watch the approach of the soaring, scaled forms of Those Who Fly Atop The Mountain. They are as large and as glorious as the stories have told. They feed on nothing and live only to fly free above the lands. Fire shoots from their mouths ever so often, but they stay at heights too high for the fire to do any damage. I wrap my arms around the wolves who are cuddling close to me. I see now the beauty that is the motivation for my quest. I feel now the warmth and togetherness that waits for me in my beloved’s arms. I feel the grief in these wolves that is my beloved’s grief.
Oh, scaled ones, continue your flight for all time, unfazed by what might happen on the ground. Stay free in the air and away from the misery unfolding below. Wolves, I pray for thee, as I feel you pray for me.
X – Evil
All that keeps me from my beloved is the trees and the night. The mountain blends in with the rest of that which is behind me as the sun sets and the moon begins its night pass. Something is different. I fear not the dark, but what emanates from it. Something is approaching yet I hear and see nothing. I can only feel the presence. A chill passes through my body. My thoughts, they are clouding over. My quest…what is it? Where am I going and why am I out here in this forsaken land risking my life? It comes closer, ever closer still. I cannot fight whatever it is. I know not how to fight, or what to fight for. So cold and…so alone…
It is on top of me, I feel its weight. It crushes my heart. My heart? Do I still feel? What do I feel for? Love! My beloved! Remove this weight and disband this dread! I must stand as human and fight with the only weapon I have: my Spirit. But it is so cold in its grip. My legs shake and my mind…
Those Without Life, please, not now. When I am losing a battle against the Evil these formless wanderers appear! They call to me but there is nothing for me to provide them. The Evil takes hold of my mind if I drop my defense for even a moment. I can do nothing to help these restless souls without endangering myself. I will not succumb! My Will shall not succumb. One foot in front of the other, that is how I shall reach my beloved.
But what is this? A graveyard, a sight I wish not to see. I must keep walking before…No, not now, not here. They are rising from their silent slumber. They smell my flesh and it arouses them so. Dirt lines their fingernails as they dig themselves out of the ground. Lifeless eyes stare upon me and I am thankful for their slow movements. I can escape these pathetic bodies without much effort. But the Evil, it catches me when I forget to defend. It is the real enemy here, not the restless Spirits or the Undead looking to feed. The Evil tests me as no other can. Others will only distract me, and then the Evil will see its opportunity to claim my soul.
The hyenas! How can they sniff out the undead so quickly? I can’t bear to watch. The hyenas surround them and the movement in the woods signals me as to what will happen next. The Eaters Of The Undead! How glad I am that they pay me no mind. They are quick and I could not escape their hunt should it be turned on me. Savages! The undead are torn limbless and devoured. The hyenas quickly consume the scraps that fall. Nature will always find its way.
The Evil…Those Without Life…they drain me so…must stay focused and continue on.
Footsteps, heavy and fast they approach. The Eaters Of The Undead know whom approaches, and judging by the fear in their monster eyes, I can only assume it is those who eat the Eaters Of The Undead: The Large Ones. Trees are knocked aside as the Large Ones club their way towards the Eaters Of The Undead. I cannot tell what is corpse of human and what is corpse of nonhuman. The Large Ones swing wildly; tearing apart all who stand in their way. The Eaters Of The Undead are falling in pieces to the ground. The hyenas have run off and I am doing the same. The Large Ones have proven that they have no want for me, so I have no need to stay and witness the gore unfolding. The Evil will stay where the violence is and the Those Without Life are not following. What terror I feel!
XI – Moat
Can it be? Yes, the castle is within sight. I can barely make out its broken form, but I see it just the same. Daylight is far off, yet I cannot wait to enter and find my beloved. Since she is not out here, she must be inside that wretched tomb of monstrous filth. I quicken my pace and come within full sight of the stone structure. Silence…like none I have ever known.
The drawbridge is destroyed. My feet stand on land’s edge, my eyes look down into the murky depths of the moat that is blocking my entrance to the castle. I see that something is circling within the sickly thick water. Two somethings! What are they and what will they do to me if I enter this water with them? If? When I enter!
How cold it is against my skin. Just a quick swim to the other side and then I can find my beloved. Tightly I’m grabbed! So tight is their grip as they suck me under. I feel my bones will break if a scant bit more pressure is applied. I feel no teeth bite down upon me, so what can these foul water creatures want from me? To simply snuff out my life can’t possibly be their aim. But how am I to know what their desire is? They swim in circles for all-time, how must that be? What kind of life is theirs? To kill me would be to do something. To spare me would give them no joy, this I can tell. So tight…too tight. Underwater I can’t breath. They will not let me go.
The light…the white! I see it above the water. Not now! Not while I am so close! The owls float above the water, between them forms the Truth I wish not to see. Light is fading from my eyes. Vision is blurring under this dark, rank water. The tip of her sword drops below the surface. The choice is again mine to make: Life or Death. But now it seems I can’t fight, so how am I to choose.
I am released. I float to the top of the water and quickly pull my self onto the land. The castle door is at my back, yet Death stays floating above the water. She is not here to give me a choice. She is tempting Those Who Live In Water. The two creatures huddle close under her blade. They choose not the life they are given. To circle to no end is not their fate, they choose the sword of Death. They choose to exit this world of monotony and enter whatever waits for them on the other side. The owls fly high and Death disappears.
I must stand and enter the finale of my quest.
XII – Castle
Those Who Drink Blood have claimed their home in this once majestic place. I see and hear nothing to make me believe I am not alone. Through these halls I find no one. The first floor appears desolate, but wait, through large glass doors I can see what once was used as a room for throwing balls and dinners fit for a king; now I see bodies lying in darkness.
Human victims, I fear…my beloved! Could she be amongst this fallen group? I turn over the first body and find these are not humans at all. The heads have been severed, the mouths sewn shut. In their chests have been plunged wooden stakes. Scattered on the floor around me, Those Who Drink Blood lie slain.
Could this be the work of my beloved? This savagery, this violence; I cannot picture my wife, the mother of my child, my beloved, acting in such a way as to leave these killers viciously destroyed. I must leave these victims of…
Staircase leading down. A fire burns in a fireplace, take a torch from the wall and light it. Down the stairs I travel slowly. It curves in a never ending arc; circling down, circling down, circling down. She might be down here…I do not know. To find her is to look everywhere.
Dungeon filled with sights I wish not to be seeing. What tortures were done on these sick devices? What pleasure did the hand that turned the wheels (making this instrument of pain work) find? Who slipped the latch and let the blades drop? What victims were made in this den of perversion? Victims of the king, and now I see there is someone in there. This unused room by the Myths contains now only one tortured human. His crown doesn’t shine as it once did, and to say he is living is to state an uncertainty. I fear getting too close, for I know not what I will find waiting for me in his stare. Yet I must free him if he is still alive! I must get close enough to see if his Spirit is still of this…no, it is not. I have to look away, to pity him would be to great and futile an act. He is gone; flesh and hunger are all that remain.
Back up the stairs and through the ballroom. I can almost hear the music that was once played in here. It’s as if it echoes in time; a memory of gaiety and joviality. I step over these decapitated victims of possibly my beloved’s hands and feel her presence.
My beloved! Even through this dreaded stone I can feel her with me. She is calling out to me not in voice but in heart. Staircase to the second floor is worn out; the carpet rips under my feet. Endless hallways meet innumerable doorways. Where can she be? Where are Those Who Drink Blood?
The third floor hallway is filled with them. It looks as though they were brought here and piled up. A pile of heads sits next to a pile of bodies. The mouths are all sewn shut, the eyes lids left open. The heads that are facing my direction seem to be begging me for help. To walk passed them would be to crawl over them. So disgusting the carpet is. The stench of these hacked horrors is so putrid. They are warm to the touch. I must make my way over them and…oh, the blood I must now wear: How it stains the skin!
Stairs leading up. The roof is gone and I can see the stars shine. The moon is full, how beautiful a sight. I find myself overlooking the woods. This side of the castle has been destroyed. There is carpet under my feet, but no walls around me, no ceiling above. Behind me, the top of the castle points high into the air.
A child crying? In the tower…I hear a child crying! I must muster of all my strength to climb up the side of the castle. Onto the stone my fingers are pressed tight. I have come this far not to be dissuaded. I pass a window and see another pile of decapitated Myths. The top window ledge is just within my reach. If I were to fall right now, surely I would meet my end.
XIII – Tragedy
From the top of the tower can be seen all…all of which I wish not to see. The crying child is mine, yet no longer the same. My beloved, she looks upon me with eyes no longer her own. In her arms she holds what once was ours.
Tragedy upon tragedy! She has not been successful.
In her slaying of Those Who Drink Blood she was inadvertently infected. The child was already lost to us! She found nothing of which she sought! Revenge…unsatisfying revenge! That is all she found here.
She comes towards me not as a lover, but as a killer. She wishes to feed on me, and I wish to wrap her in my arms. But it is not she! This is not my beloved! What is left of her I do not know, but this creature before me is not…but it is she…of course it is. And that is our child lying on the floor. Yes, wrap your arms around me! Sink your teeth into my neck! Do with me what you will in this foul and beautiful world we now live in…