She felt trapped within a nightmare, in a state of perpetual awareness.
She was unable to wake up, trapped within an abandoned city with blood-red watching intently. The sun, a black, pulsing orb, was nothing more than a black hole threatening to swallow everything in its path. This world, this dream, was a nightmare unlike any she had ever encountered. She eyed the sky, a sense of unease cutting into her mercilessly.
From the depths of the darkness, a deep, growling-like mantra echoed. The words were growled, deep and rumbling in their force. Those words carried, resonating through her bones and blood. Then there was the ringing sound of a bell, the clapper hitting both sides of the bowl repeatedly. It rose above the chant, clear and bright against the dark, rumbling growls spoken in a tongue she couldn’t comprehend.
She could hear the bell ringing, a distant call beckoning her forward. She turned, staring into the shadows. Stone walls wavered around her, abandoned buildings that were as good as forgotten in this place of darkness and terror. The walls were slick with water that oozed from the sky, a steady drizzle that soaked her clothing the longer she stood out in its presence.
As she took her first step towards the growling hymn, she realized she was somewhere slowly sinking underground. It was cold and wet, the air alive with the constant hum of something inhuman and the song of something monstrous. It was dark, the sky bloody and the sun nothing more than a demon waiting to consume all below it.
The water rippled around her feet with every step she took, the cold liquid drawing her from the unease she felt being out in the open. She wrapped her arms around herself as she walked, eyeing the shops and their broken glass. Cars littered the street, some with their hoods smashed and crushed. A lonely baby carriage was toppled over, the blanket inside was torn and painted a deep, brown-red.
In the distance, another voice rose above the dim. The rumbling, chant-like growls drifted off until only a single voice sang into the darkness. The language was one she could not understand, those the words she could clearly hear. As she ventured further, dark shadows climbing the walls as a drum-like beat began to pulse through the air. She felt each cry within the heart of her being, within the fabric of her soul.
As this lone singer sang, the chanting began anew. Now it was quieter, quiet and static. She rubbed her palms across her arms, skin rippling with goosebumps as she made her way down the water-laden street. Overhead, a coffee shop sign hung on a single wire that swayed ever-so-slightly. At that moment, she wanted to turn around. She wanted this to be a dream, to be a nightmare, and then she’d wake up and everything would be okay.
She ventured deeper into this place instead, knowing, somehow, she could not turn back. Lights bleed through the darkness, now. Pinpoints of red that floated above the ground. As she came closer, she realized they were flames. People were standing, hunched over, with their left palms aloft and upright. Those red flames floated over their hands, casting small shadows in every direction. Their eyes were hollow, unseeing.
The chanting was closer.
Soon she was making her way through hundreds of the still figures, skin crawling as lifeless eyes followed her. Their heads faced her direction, glazed eyes tracking her every movement. Not a single one spoke, their bodies unnaturally still. She was too frightened to touch them let alone speak to one of them.
Ahead, something massive and broad parted the darkness.
She slowed, eyes widening as she watched monolithic figures amble through the shadows. On either side of her were the unmoving ones, the haunted, unseeing army – not a single one was further than where she stood, most looking out where the larger, bulkier beings walked. When she looked down, she saw a line of red chalk etched into the stones beneath a film of cold, stagnant water. She looked up to see the large beings moving about, fluid despite what the shadows of their size told.
Exhaling, she stepped over the line. The larger ones swayed around her, hands as large as her body ghosting past her body as they continued to chant. She could see their elongated mouths moving, see their chests rumbling with every word they spoke. A few looked down at her with burning, crimson eyes. They were animalistic, these creatures.
Tall, broad, powerful – a sense of coldness circled them as they spoke, their songs each overlapping with the one nearest them. One’s arm slowly lifted, one clawed finger pointing at a distant light. She made her way in that direction, the glowing beckon of pulsing, dark green energy her target.
The tall monsters walked around her, stepping over her as they weaved in and out of their own kind. An intricate dance, always moving and singing. Soon they faded from her thoughts, their song hanging over her as she closed in on the massive, enchanting light.
Leading up to it was a massive, stone staircase drenched in ever-moving water. She let her gaze go up to the altar at the top, to the stone hovering over the black, onyx surface and the mist-cloaked figure standing before it. The tenor that sang came from this one person, she realized. It was his song. When that figure turned, she saw only shadows and a blurred, unfocused image of what should have been a person.
When the shadowed figure before her asked for her name, she had no answer. It was a whisper in her mind, something cold and sinister that caressed her innermost thoughts and memories. Streets of mist, of water and a blood-red sky. Again she got the feeling it was asking for a name, her nose oozing crimson.
“I don’t know my name,” she told it again, angry. It swayed off to the side, the rising mist wafting off the streets swirling endlessly through the air as it vanished from the altar. In that moment, she felt its stare, its unseen eyes, demanding answers when she had none. She knew it circled her, felt its cloak brushing her skin, as she said, “I don’t know where I am, let alone who I am. I just want to wake up.”
A pale, white hand grasped her shoulder from behind.
Lips brushed her ear, a mockery of a kiss. “There is no home left to go to, child.”
The green light pulsed, the mantra rising high and deadly. In the background, the streets burst into a river of flame as a cold hand threw her upon the stone altar. The green crystal hung overhead, chains slamming across wrists and ankles as she cried out in surprise. A hand brushed her hair from her face as the monster before her smiled, a loving touch gliding down her face to her neck.
“Your home is gone,” he told her as he withdrew a blade from his cloak. Her eyes widened as she caught the gleam of the silver, her gaze jumping from the weapon to the man holding it. “You became mine the moment you damned your people.”
“I want to go home!” She thrashed against her bonds as he laughed.
When the blade caressed her neck, he grinned. “You are home, child. And you’re mine.”