Trees. So many trees. I must be in a forest. When did I walk into the woods? How long have I been here? Hours? Days? I'm so tired, I need water, but I can't stop. Why am I so tired? Oh, I'm running! That is why my feet are aching, why my head is pounding, why my muscles are throbbing. Ok, great, I'm running, problem solved, crisis averted. But wait, why am I running? I should look behind me. No, I mustn't! I should just keep moving, trust my instincts, and keep surging forward. Can you hear them cry? Is that the shrieking of the trees? I've never had to listen to such pain. I can hear it back there and whatever it is, it is catching up to me. If I can just reach that city, the golden city. The answer to my prayers, the solution to my mistakes, the absolution of my wrongdoings will belong to me.
The sun is going down. What once seemed like a bearable darkness is slowly becoming an impossible blackness. If I only I could stop moving my feet for just a brief moment, sit down, collect my thoughts. Perhaps this thing, whatever it is chasing me, is in need of rest as well. Maybe we would both benefit from an unspoken courtesy. Just five minutes, vile beast, is that too much to ask for? My thoughts are slowing me down, I can feel the presence of evil inching closer with every blink, every stride, every swallow of air.
Each twig that cracks beneath my feet, every stone upon which I stumble is making it easier for the voice to catch me. I feel as though it could reach out, extend it’s morbid grasp, and tackle me beneath the earth. The sun is setting and I’m losing hope. I can not be left here alone with this-this thing. Maybe I can hide amongst the trees as running is becoming less and less of a privilege, and more of a punishment. The footsteps are deafening. Keeping my eyes locked straight ahead no longer seems like an option, or even the right choice for that matter. The tenebrous unknown is gaining precious inches with every passing second and panic is starting to set in. How much more can my body handle the rhythm of this chase, the exigency of this forbidden dance? Only a few more strides and swear will no longer invade my eyes. A couple more deep breaths and my legs will no longer buckle from exhaustion. One final leap forward and the golden city is mine.
Chapter 2: Infatuation Has Strangled Me Again
I should have been content with where I was going instead of being obsessed with where I had been. Everything in my mind told me to forget the sounds of laughter and evil behind me but, finally exiting the woods, I could no longer resist the urge to see what was chasing me. As I began to crane my neck to catch a glimpse of what was at my heels, my body was suddenly overcome by an unconscious paralysis. Off in the distance to my right was a woman, a magnificent creature, I could not quite make out her face but her presence alone was enough to make time stand perfectly still. My legs stopped moving for the first time in God only knows how long, but my mind was too preoccupied to experience the relief, or to any longer fear the chase.
The long, flowing gown looked as thought it had been radiant at one point but in the final rays of the setting sun, and on the canvas of a decaying wood, it seemed oddly macabre. The sides of her garb were town and revealed hips that would stop any man dead in his tracks. I was no exception. Her shoes at one point had been lovely stems that I am sure only accentuated her unending and tantalizing legs, but now they resembled a sort of moccasin, sitting flat to the ground, the sides withered from a weary travel. Her face was covered with a veil that somehow managed to still display her radiance. There was nothing that anyone could say or do at this point, no one thing that could happen that would stop me from moving towards her. A slender hand unsheathed itself from the sleeve of her dress and beckoned for me to follow. Not even the promise of perfection radiating from the golden city was enough to persuade my stride in any direction but hers.
It was then I noticed a cease in the approaching footsteps. As I rediscovered control of my body I quickly turned around, but found nothing. Only a soft breeze and a decorated forest greeted my stare. My breathing had steadied itself and I was no longer sweating profusely. My legs did not ache, my muscles were not tired, my heart was not pounding. My Mind was as clear as I could ever remember it being and the paranoia that had gripped me so mercilessly now seemed like a distant torture, forgotten swiftly with little effort. I urgently threw my eyes back to the woman in white. I knew there was no resisting the tangled web of her secret fantasy. In infatuation was strangling me with a fury that I could find nothing that mattered more to me in that instant than the sweet Temptress draped in tattered cloth.
I had not taken notice to the dilapidated house in front of which she stood. I did not see the broken stairs, the sunken foundation, the cracks in the walls, the cobwebs in the windows. I did not see her turn and open the door to the unknown, leaving me alone in the dusk. I only saw her veil blow in the breeze, revealing my weakness, as she crossed the threshold and into the building that I was now standing directly in front of. The golden city was a distant memory. I was no longer being pursued, as the prey had poetically become the predator. I lowered my shoulder and crashed through the locked entrance of my own obsession. If I’d only known the Hell that awaited me. If only I had never witnessed the vile Temptress perched in front of my own prison, I could have spent eternity sipping on blood of the chaste and dining on the body of the austere in a city only dreams are made of. Instead, as I slammed the door shut behind me, I found myself wishing I had heard the vociferous laughter of curiosity one moment sooner; and that I had noticed what was hiding beneath that hideous veil.
Chapter 3: If You Think This Is Fun, Just You Wait Till I’m Done!
The smell hit me like a freight train, it’s power unrelenting. Overwhelmed by bewilderment and disgust, a stench so incredibly rancid forced me to my knees where I lost the contents of my stomach with the first breath I tasted. It was more than just foul it was sinister. My mind reeling, I scrambled to get back up and collect myself.
Focus and figure out where you are, first and foremost. I am in a house. I chased the beautiful woman in white, the sweet Temptress inside. My shoulder hurts, why? The Door. I crashed through the door. What is that God awful smell?
The culprit was in the corner of the dark, windowless room. This small, disgusting den was covered in excrement to the point where not a single patch of bare floor was visible. What I could not understand was why, as sickening as this place seemed to be, the room was almost- glowing. It sparkled in its vulgarity with an almost royal disguise. Stunned, I soon realized the bog of filth was riddled with gold and jewels. It was a king’s ransom, a bounty of deceit buried beneath the sewage. In the midst of it all was him, the kind of the damned, the purveyor of evil, the Fiend himself. The creature sent a chill down my spine that gripped my very being, a corpulent blob with pale, waxy skin lay in the corner of the room. He was wearing a jeweled crown, necklaces of gold and silver, rings of rubies and emeralds, all still smeared in unspeakable shit. His face was nothing of this world, not for it’s distinct features, but rather for the lack there of. His sweaty face had no affection that even suggested he was once a man, save for one very trenchant exception: His gaping, carnivorous maw. Oh, and that mouth was brought to full use, shoveling the treasure, the feces, everything his polluted hands could reach, into that widening aperture. The sheer horror of what I was witnessing held me captive. I could not move.
Run, you idiot, run! Find a way out. Find a door; a window, anything. Don’t just stand here and admire the abomination, run! Find her, find the Temptress! Go, now!
It was in that instant that the eyes of the Fiend locked onto my own. His pleasure turned to disgust, his crooked smile to a sneer. In a voice so boisterous, so piercing and powerful, the vile beast warned: “Imprisoned soul seized in a chamber of felucent horror! Suffer all you must, but suffer silently! Still your cursed tongue, stay your blighted abandon! In your eternal death you hunger for rotten mire for in your mortal life it was this in which was your gift to man! God can’t help you and angels won’t save you! Your unrequited prayers will be the bane of your existence! Prepare to walk hand in hand with the damned!”
With that the Fiend lunged forward, tossing aside riches and rubbish. I finally found my legs and dodged his blow with a split second to spare. I spied a key hole opposite the way I had entered. With no other clear escape, I waded through the filth and the fortunes and crashed through yet another passageway of doubt.
I can only hope she is there waiting for me on the other side of this door. I don’t trust myself, I’m trapped, drowning in despair. I am poisonous. But oh, sweet temptress, before you push me away, let me try to change your mind.
Chapter 4: The Road I Walk Is Paved With A Thousand Unmarked Graves
A leaky faucet was the only sound in the room. I crawled towards the wall with what little resolve I had left in me and wrapped my mouth around the cool drip. I drank for what felt like hours and finally collapsed. Days may have passed before I finally woke. Did time even exist in this terror? The room felt safe, but I knew better than to place hope in that illusion.
I sat up feeling ready to figure out the nightmare my life had become and began to scount my surroundings for an escape. Unlike the intensity of the last room, these quarters had a much more stoic and cathartic feel. All of the brick was white, or had been at some point as much of the paint was peeling from the stifling heat. Several overturned plastic chairs accounted for the only furniture and with the exception to the steel basin protuding from the wall to my left, the room was a perfect square. A dingy lightbulb swung on a single cord hanging from the ceiling. Dirt caked the floor and there was a smell that could only be described as death. I had never actually been in the prescence of a dead body, but an innate human instinct seems to be able to alert your senses and tell you things you otherwise would never know, or comprehend.
A reflection bouncing off of a puddle of water in the center if the room, created by a leaky ceiling and the pouring rain outside, alerted me and directed my focus towards a window I had not yet noticed. It was odd because although the sun was echoing off of the ground, it appeared to be dark outside. Soon, I would give up trying to understand anything in this deadful house. Time wasted on figuring out the twisted world I was trapped in would only slow down my pursuit of the Temptress.
You have lead me here to this lair of iniquity and yet you are still all my mind can focus on. Do you need any help? Have you lured me here by way of some twisted cry for help? I will not let you press on alone. You need me, I can feel it. Perhaps even more than I have come to need you.
I lifted my exhaused limbs from the ground, staggered over to the window, and peered out into the blackness. Confusion made it hard to see as I struggled to understand why the hell I was here to begin with. Self pity would do nothing right now.
Concentrate, damn it.
I peered out the window and saw her instantly. Standing at the edge of a cliff on the backdrop of a breathtaking mountain which rose to the heavens, she again gestured for me to follow. The thing that stunned me the most was how beautiful her outfit had become. The tattered material at her sids that had once revealed soft skin were now replaced by the seams of a steady hand. Her once battered paws exposed by the holes of worn out shoes had become elegant feet elevated on perches of divinity. The straps holding the gown to her skin had gently fallen over the crest of her shoulders revealing a sexiness that imprisoned my eyes. Still, her face was covered by that damned white veil.
I should turn and leave, go back the way I came. I can handle the smell of shit once more, the foul odor of tortured souls. I’m not even sure what riddle I am looking to solve. What I do know is I will see her eyes. I will touch her skin. Her kiss will soon punish me, ruin me: A ghost of such elegance.
Chapter 5: The Temptress Of The Night
Without warning and seemingly without purpose, other than to taunt me further, the Temptress leapt from the cliff and plunged to the uncertainty below leaving behind only those magnificent shoes. I should have digested what I’d seen before leaping through the window. I should have drank from the leaky faucet once more in case it was the only water I would find for some time. I should have stood still and let my mind devise a proper plan to escape my nightmare, but all I could think about was saving her. I never even took a second to realize that the reflection in the window was not of me. It was not of any person I had ever seen. Hell, I’m not so sure that there was even a reflection at all.
On my feet and out of that damned house at last, but what a sordid arena had I stepped into now? Much to my surprise, the Temptress had not plummeted some thousands of feet to the murky sludge below, but was standing one hundred yards from my reach, positioned distinctly and deliberately on the other side of the gorge where I had spied her form only seconds ago.
I gaze across the chasm that divides me from her, my prize, and drink in her beauty.
I stood at the edge of the great canyon, a fissure spanned only by a creaking rope bridge. A warm wind buffeted me, a welcome change to the stuffy aid I had been inhailing in that depressing house. The wind was so sweet, sickening in fact; it was drenched with such an intoxicating odor. My head drowned in it’s fragrance as I greedily inhaled deeper and deeper. I listened to the screams of my pounding heart reverberating in my temples as they shouted past the wailing and moaning of the sensual gusts; the bouquet quite literally aroused me. Oh, how this very same wind seemed to dance upon her fully ripened form.
I let the heavy aroma of perfume riding on a hot wind saturate me. I train my ears to the creaking of the bridge spanning the gap to her.
I could swear that her attire had been less revealing before, or maybe I just hadn’t had a chance to properly observe her allure. Her gown was almost transparent, leaving litle of her curves to the imagination. Never had I pined with such a lustful fury to lay with a woman before. She was truly bewitching and my imagination was running wild with the endless possibilities of carnal delight.
I throw caution to the wind of passion and continue down the path; the path to the unknown.
I began to make my way across the bridge, propelling all of my inhibitions into that sticky, sultry wind. I ran with a desperation and an acrimony that can only be born of an animalistic desire for flesh. As my feet anxiously traded places with one another, one by one each plank began to disappear beneath me. In a flash I snapped back into reality as I realzed what was happening. In my haste to join the Temptress surely I had examined the stability of the bridge, right? Before I could even finish that thought, I was falling. I peered down into the dark abyss into which I plunged and listened to the violence of the waves below. Oh, delicious fate, I would not die this very moment. I took one last mighty gulp of precious air and plunged into the sea. leaving my addiction standing alone, miles above the earth.
Chapter 6: Human Reason Is Washed Away
I hit the water below with so much force that for a brief moment I thought I had broken my legs. I would return to that dreaded forest and run for an eternity if it meant never having to experience this agony. I could not even see an inch in front of my face. I was dizzy from the rapid spinning of the waves, and I was swallowing what seemed like gallons of water. Only, it didn’t taste like water. It was salty and acidic, almost a copper flavor, and it was heavy on my tongue. The ocean seemed to be clawing at my skin and it burned with such a ferocious intent.
I’m the one who has to swallow water? That’s what I get for chasing you. Am I the first to bne fooled by your dirty little trick?
The anger of the water eased long enough for me to wipe my eyes and clear my thoughts. I reached down to feel my legs, fully expecting to find torn skin and exposed bone. Much to my relief, i seemed to be physcially intact. The water was boiling now, steam rising, bubbles forming. The pain was unbearable. I opened my mouth to scream but was choked by another wave of wrath. It was not water, after all. It was blood. How had it taken me this long to realize I was drowning in a violent mixture of crimson and rage? My body crashed into something beneath the water, knocking the wind out of me, and I grabbed on for dear life. Strangely, what I was holding on to seemed to be gripping me as well. My attention was drawn to the walls of the cavern and to my horror I discovered that these were no ordinary walls, covered in rocks, dirt, and wildlife. They were the bodies and souls of the damned screaming in pain, begging for solace, for relief, and for the agony to end. Their limbs flailed so wildly that the boiling blood stirred with a vengence.
A bone chilling cry erupts. I’ve seen those eyes but not that smile. I’ve seen those eyes but not that sinister smile. I’ve seen those eyes but not that blank stare. I’ve seen those eyes but not that stare. The tides of sin are stained with blood.
Before I could react, the immobile body that I had been clinging to for dear life fired me into the wall of souls across the way. The many hands along the impediment clamped onto every inch of my being, forcing my attention forward, the blood still crashing into my face in undearable bursts. My eyes were cursed to see a most foul and hideous beast. His feet were calloused and bruised, his arms thick and covered in puss. He stood at least twenty feet tall and each sound that roared from his saliva soaked face was deafening. I’ve seen that mouth once before, but where? Ah, yes! The room of foulness just beyond the gates of this hell that I had so hasitly and fatuously entered. The difference now was the very same face had eyes filled with the deepest hatred man can comprehend; and he was staring straight at me. His gaze was destroying me inside. I could no longer breathe and my heart felt as though it would erupt inside my chest. Suddenly, as if on cue, his attention was distracted. I followed his wandering eyes and there she was, swimming through the carnage. She glided with such an elegance that even the wake of this abhorrent massacre she glowed with an artistic grace, seemingly penned by the hands of God himself.
She followed me here. I knew she would. She is only playing games with me, the thrill of the hunt, the power of flirtation. Of course! How had I not recognized this sooner?!
I finally broke free from the grasp of so many tortured souls and began to swim towards her. Spying my desire, the Fiend moved wth inhuman speed and snatched her from my approach. His powerful claw was no match for her gentle poise. He held her over his head, ignoring her for the time being, and glared into my eyes as he proclaimed, “You will be sorry when he spills the blood from your throat!”
He laid her down on the rocks at his feet. The water stopped moving, the afflicted souls ceased to mutter their cries. The silence was terrifying. Without warning the ground started to shake, the walls began to crumble, and the wind attacked with a resentful ire. At the top of his lungs the Fiend bellowed, “You’ll be torn limb from limb, tramp! There will be hell to pay!”
With all of the power and fury in his iniquitous control, he mauled the limp body of the Temptress to shreds, leaving behind only the battered and bloodied veil. The sheer terror of what I had seen caused me to lose conciousness, and I floated away along the now calm tide of the bluest water you ever did see.
I can’t stop the bleeding. Your dying eyes tell a story of poisonous passion. Oh, the violence.
Chapter 7: Caution Must Be Obeyed On An Island Of The Decayed
I curled my hands into a closed fist and felt the sand between my fingers. Every few seconds I was greeted with a cool, gentle wave of water. I could feel some seaweed stuck in my hair. Birds were singing in the sky above and the trees seemed to be laughing with joy in the warm breeze. I tried to open my eyes but the bright sun made it impossible. I embraced the peace.
She is gone. The Temptress is gone and now I am trapped here all alone. But where am I? This does not feel anything like the places I’ve been since entering that house. Get on your feet, forget about her. She is gone, bested by the hands of the Fiend. Forget vengeance, save yourself. Open your eyes, damn it.
I flipped onto my hands and knees and crawled away from the frightful shoreline, not wanting to take any chances with what may have still dwell beneath. I stumbled up the dunes and gazed upon an island of paradise. It was unlike anything I’d ever laid my eyes on; a perfect vision od ecstasy, a dreamy palace, home to the soulless. I had nearly forgotten the very concept of serenity, but here it was, a sanctuary from the madness, an island of reason. I looked back out upon the once screaming sea and began to weep. Was this pitiful beach the last and only vestige of sanity in this world gone mad? I had never felt so lost. The woman that guided me here had been torn asunder before my very eyes and all that was left for me was to die on this beach or press on in a hostile realm of torture and strife.
There must be a point to all of this! Am I being tested? Is this serene bit of earth truly meant to draw me away from my true path? I must press on, as much as my soul aches to stay.
A foreboding wilderness stood off in the distance. It was mocking me, challenging me to press on. I knelt down and closed my eyes, found the Temptress in my thoughts. If I stayed here, I would most certainly die, but at least I would die in peace. If I press on, I might find answers. It was no longer my decision as my body had already begun approaching the jungle. There was something terrible in those woods, I could feel it. But, what did it matter? Fear was no longer going to slow me down. Time to reap the whirlwind, time to solve this enigma.
What’s the point of fighting when there’s nothing to save? Time is melting away. I can’t explain, but my eyes are begging to stay. I must say a sunny day helps to push the memories away. However, caution must be obeyed on an island of the decayed.
Chapter 8: Sing A Touching Lullaby And We’ll Watch The Angels Cry
Regret gave way to desperation after walking several miles in the hellish wood. The sense of loneliness somehow attached itself to the feeling of being watched with a quiet and calculated dread. Visually, everything else I had experienced up to this point was far more intimidating, but this forest had been a presence that was very real and very upset. It did not like the fact that I was there. Yet, nothing truly unexpected had happened. Then again, maybe I had just come to expect so much worse. Perception is reality. I walked and walked and walked and, with exception to the mental agony caused by the unknown, I was essentially left alone. The trees were decorated by the features of man, almost faces if not for the leaves and branches distracting these characteristics. In fact, they were similar to those I had encountered on the walls of that dreaded sea of blood. Only now, they seemed more lost, more abashed. It felt as though they had given up what little hope that could possible still exist here. Unless I was losing my mind, which was very possible, I could have sworn the trees were whimpering.
My own misery is taunting me. The air stings my lungs. I can barely see. Wicked eyes surrounding me, the trees are watching silently. I could try to run, but I don’t see the point.
It was becoming easier and easier to fall victim to my surroundings, to succumb to the torture. Had these trees once been a mere man such as I, struggling to understand where he was or what he was becoming? Would I just continue to move forward until my body gave up? Would I die here, my body decaying into the ground and becoming just another piece of this depressing wood of suicide? I slowed my pace, spun a full circle trying to spy any semblance of an escape, found nothing. Exhausted, I fell to my knees. The forest was getting exactly what it wanted as it watched me slowsly slip into despair. I found a rather large branch and began sharpening it into a blade with one of the many rocks on the ground beside me. I would die here, I knew that much, but it would be at my own hands, not those of the sick, twisted evil that has created this Hell.
I’m tired of trying, I’m sick of the waiting, if there’s nothing that I can do. A pitiful lullaby to sing the tortured to sleep. Please, oh please, dear Temptress, come back to me. Show yourself, answer my cries, show me the way. Allow me to make you mine. We could settle down and change the end, nothing but time, start over again.
Footprints. A straight line, a steady flow, created by a pair of magnificent shoes. They were right in front of me. Had they been there all along? Was I too busy wallowing in self pity to notice I was not alone anymore? I traced the footsteps with my eyes, slowly raising my head, and there she stood as beautiful as ever. This was not possible. I watched her destroyed beneath the crimson with my own eyes. Had I willed her to return? Had I made this happen? Had I figured out this funhouse of insanity? I decided to test the theory and spoke out loud, “Oh, master of this maze of wonder, creator of this den of torment, show me a way to press on and continue down the path to the unknown!”
With that, the Temptress urged me forward with her slender, delicate hand. As I moved forward, trusting her gesture, the wall of the mountainside in front of me began to quiver and quake. An entranceway to a dark cave unveiled itself to me. Without hesitation, I followed the Temptress into the shadows and fog of the dank, cold cavern.
I have been reborn! I have broken free! I’m free! I’m free of all the shackles of your control! I have figured this place out! Throw everything you have at me now, I dare you! You can’t deny me! Do not defy me! I am drunk on lust and sovereignty! I have been reborn!