Under the Shadow of Night

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Chapter 11

I walk through a tunnel. My steps echo, the sound surrounding me like a pulse as if the tunnel is one of the Earth’s veins, its heartbeat matching the rhythm of my own. A soft light slowly comes to my vision. Eventually, I enter a circular, domed room with a single, circular window at the top through which I can make out stars in the night sky. In the center of the room, an upside-down pyramid hovers over a pedestal. A subtle spectrum of colors dances along the surface of the object, coalescing around its edges. Although it is made of one material, the faces seem made of glass, while the edges are more concentrated, giving the impression of a dark mother-of-pearl colored metal. 

Within the pyramid, a light pulses, slowly at first. As I approach, the pulse becomes stronger, faster, and more vibrant. Colors begin swirling around me, and streams of light pulse outwards from within the pyramid. I then realized the pyramid’s pulse matches my own heartbeat, and this realization makes my heart beat faster, my mind race for an explanation. Panic begins to overtake me, and the colors flash, cascading upon me like the sun until all I see is brilliant white.

 

 

The burning hot, red room flashes in and out as I struggle to regain consciousness. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep, but my experience now feels just as surreal as my dream as I lay on the heated dusty floor. 

The darkness that had encompassed me before is no more than a layer of numbness that slips from me when I try to grasp it, desperate for some stability, somewhere to hide. I eventually give in, and feel myself being pulled back to a reality in which I don’t deserve to live. The world slowly settles. I open my eyes and am blinded by the rays of light that beat down on my numb body through the red room’s only window, despite the absent sun. The demon is gone, and, I note with disbelief, a bowl lays in front of me, filled with some strange looking fruit, as well as some sort of flatbread; near the bowl is a cup of what looks to be cold tea. But I cannot bring myself to sate my hunger or thirst.

Why should I even want to? I think to myself. Everything’s gone. Everyone is dead. I killed them. 

Once again, memories trickle into my mind, but now as soft echoes. Some of them are the memories of me as a child, when I felt so angry and alone that I couldn’t bear anyone to be near me, no matter how much I wanted them to be. I remember how Sarya, Essa, and Rimor had slowly coaxed me into trusting them until they became my family. I remember the way sunlight beamed through leaves, how wind and water cooled my skin after a swift run, and how content I had felt when I finally began to feel loved, even though I had often felt isolated. Then, I remember what I’ve done, and the painful destruction of my home shatters those fragile reveries and robs them of all that is sacred to me. 

Tears blur my vision, but I will myself not to care enough to refocus my eyes or blink the tears away. Caring will give the world what it wants. To care, I have to grab hold of that first rung on the climb back to living. But life can’t crush me further if I lay alone at the bottom of the Abyss.

You cannot break what is already broken, a dark voice inside me, that I don’t think is mine, says inside my head. 

I smirk, and that small spark of caustic humor triggers a pleasant sensation that begins to throb in my chest. As the sensation rises within me, whirling into a storm, I realize it is rage, churning and grasping for something to destroy. My broken heart curls around the name Kira’thaz and I see now I have a choice. Continue to wallow, broken and pathetic, or rise and burn my hatred and anger into Kira’thaz. 

Then, I realize how foolish I sound. If Kira’thaz is the Lord Regent here, and it took an entire city of humans to kill one demon, I literally don’t have a chance in Hæll. My rage crumples, fragile like burning wood, and is extinguished by my hopelessness. But I can’t stay here. I have to find some way to get back home, find someone to warn, anyone who will listen.

It feels as if I am a single wound being torn open, but I grit my teeth and swallow my pain. The world is cruel and heartless, and although I am terrified and filled with self-loathing, I rise from my despair, wipe the tears from my eyes, and instinctively begin replenishing my ravenous body with the food and drink,.

The sustenance clears my head and brings life back to my body. Soon, I find the strength to put on my boots that lie nearby and cautiously explore the room. It appears to be some sort of storage room, filled with goods of various kinds, mostly scrolls and trinkets, though some curious artifacts I cannot guess the function of lie organized and curated on shelves.

I walk to the entrance of the room to find myself several hundred feet off the ground in the recess of a mountain shaped like a column. Vertigo washes over me as I gaze out at the bridges seamlessly emerging from neighboring columns, connecting what looks like a forest of stone trees that seems to stretch endlessly into the desert horizon. 

Once I recover from my amazement, I think it most logical that the exit would be located at the outer spires, and begin walking through the stone towers. 

The sky above me is darker than any I have ever seen during the day, as if night swallowed the sun. Even still, sunlight illuminates the sky and burns my skin. The desert is windless and eerie, and the only movement I can see in the barren wasteland is the waves of heat dancing in the distance. 

Although the path I take is relatively linear, the vast array of rooms and connecting passages makes me feel as if I am in a maze. I think I can also hear soft whispering, like wind passing over sand, echoes of voices falling down corridors, but whenever I turn to investigate, the barely audible voices disappear altogether. My nerves shiver uncontrollably as I walk through the strange compound, my heart leaping up into my throat every time I look around a corner, though each time I see no one else.



David Rauenzahn

Edited: 29.07.2019

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