I walked along holding my brother’s hand, laughing at a joke that I struggle to recall. We walked through the sun kissed acres and glistening rivers toward our village, me, my family and friends. Standing faint in the distance amongst the pine and rolling hills, I could faintly spot a circular ruin. It struck me as the only thing around that could be described as unsightly, the cobbled stone ruin with its litter of moss and rotting wood. Even at that age I could feel it had an air of doom that screamed, ‘don’t go here!’, but with the golden sun shining across it that ruin failed to frighten me. There was a hole in the wall that I could make out, just big enough to crawl through in sight, and in that moment I felt that irritable, insatiable twitch that tells you to explore.
Dust and webbing covered the entrance of the ruin. The room that lay before me was a small circular hall with a low stone ceiling which was dark and dusky. There was a scent of musty leather that hung heavy in the air, but the space wasn’t expansive, you could have walked around the entire thing in a couple minutes. I ran my hand along the inner wall of the ruin, day-dreaming as I felt the dust kick up beneath my fingers until, suddenly, my fingers slipped away. No more cobbled wall to run against. A gap in the wall, the size of a doorway, disheveled, cracked and clearly not a part of the original structure was before me. Cold air bristled against my skin as it whistled through the gap in the wall.
Stepping through the gap things became clearer, showing a ground that was wide and expansive but nearly flat, save a few raises in the ground and odd shaped lumps. Made of what looked like black sand, I felt queasy realizing the never-ending landscape before me defied that small gap in the wall that laid behind me. Before I had the chance to take more than 3 steps through the gap I clasped with a shudder when a soft croak of a voice came from behind me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood tall and I snapped around but nothing was there, apart from the spiders and their intertwined webs. Confusion had no chance to settle as my entire body turned to stone when I felt a hand grab my shoulder, a hand that pierced my skin, a hand made of nothing but bone.
I flung backward, nearly tripping over thin air if it wasn't for the hand that held me, finding a man like no other before me. In a matter of seconds it felt like all joy had been stripped from the world. It had no legs to speak of, only a black mist pouring from a ragged cloak, the faintest hint that the garment was once gleaming white showing at scuffed edges. The arms were all bone, black and shimmering iridescent, like if oil could hold form. Finally the head, hidden among the cloak and wispy black smoke, you could make out the faintest glimpse of what looked like a skull, with deep sockets where eyes might have once lived and yet, you could still feel them looking. Looking intently. Looking right at me. “This will do” the voice croaked again as its stare shifted briefly to look towards the hollow landscape. I stayed frozen. “You will do.”
Its words were a blur while it continued to speak, a scarce sentence or two broke through my unfocused state while I fixated on the feeling of its hand on my shoulder. Occasionally it would look into the horizon of the wounded lands we stood in, as though checking for someone’s thoughts. Inside I was screaming but outside I was pale. My mind was drawn towards anything I could latch to and immediately it clung to the chalice. It wasn't a chalice, but I couldn't call it anything else. It leaked the same black smoke that oozed from that being’s cloak. Nothing about it made sense, from the grooves in the metal that shifted and swirled to the fluid that bubbled and hissed as if it tried to reach out and attack me.
Courageously yet stupidly I tried to knock the arm from my shoulder and run, but I barely turned around before I felt the arm on my shoulder again. A slow bubbling sizzle came from the ground as the arm I knocked from its shoulder layed there melting away, while a new arm, the arm now gripping my shoulder tightly again, had grown rapidly in its place. I lost focus again.
It wanted to enlist me, to help bring people back there, that wasteland I know to be hell and, feeling a fear that was beyond anything I had experienced before, I didn't put up much of a fight. Before leaving I felt the need to ask something… "Are you the devil?" I said. The creature chuckled lightly and turned toward the horizon. “Did you hear that? He’s asking if I’m the devil”. In an instant the blackened foggy sky was set blazing with red light stretching from the horizon. At that very instant a gut-retching cackle boomed from that same point, loud but far from deafening as it echoed along the planes of black sand. The red light slowly died out as the fog on the horizon settled back in, and for the briefest of moments I saw something… A large looming figure, its shape and size too difficult to make out, but for certain, it was looking back at me too.
A pounding erupted in my chest like I had never felt, never before had I been confronted with such primal fear. I ran backward without turning, my body begging to flee, to the ruin once more, to some kind of salvation. The creature's hand released me knowing full well its intent was achieved and that something great had been set in motion, not that I realized at the time. “Do come back” it said in what could be described as a slightly sarcastic tone. I ran. I ran. I ran.