They lurched at me simultaneously and as one. That made it so much easier to dodge. There isn’t any intelligence in it, just hunger. One of the tentacles whipped at me with an uncanny speed. I fell to the edge of the path, engulfed in two entities of pain.
No, I couldn’t give them a chance to grab me. Pushing and standing to face an oncoming bloody monster, I heaved out three rounds of force. The demons squealed. Two of the tentacles retreated. The third, a persistence bastard, whipped forward, smacking me in at least five different places.
The teeth in the chasm seemed to chomp and clatter harder, as if expecting me to fall in. I tried to manifest a gun, but nothing happened. Could a bullet even damage a creature like that in this place? Well, won’t be finding that out. The tentacle pulled back for what was going to be a lash that could guarantee my end.
Yeah, fuck that.
“Just piss off already,” I snarled as I unleashed six rounds of bashing-force. The tentacle squealed, not used to pain, and after a few seconds of dramatic pause, pulled back into its abyss.
I wasted no time, dashing into the forest. A bright light covered my vision briefly then…I found myself in Paradise Realm, sitting at a table in front of a restaurant, my brother, Hialucus opposite of me.
I tried to remember what just happened, but drew a blank…What was I doing before this?
“You’ve looked like you’ve seen a ghost, little brother,” Hialucus said. “Finish eating.”
I looked at my half-eaten plate of unrecognizable food, but didn’t have much of an appetite.
“I’m good. Not feeling it right now. What’s…going on?”
“You really are sick or something,” Hialucus said. “Or are you nervous about your wedding tomorrow. Who would’ve thought that the Valkyrie princess had her eyes on you in secret for a long time. I mean, they don’t get paired up with someone at birth, but to pitch for the next universal ruler, bold woman.”
“You were born with no destined one. We were worried for a while—can’t have you trying to woo the angels or sneaking to earth for a go at human girls.”
“What are you talking about, I’m paired with Amelia,” I said.
Hialucus’s expression darkened. The blue sky filled with dark clouds at that moment. I felt tension and almost flinched from the look of distaste he gave me.
“You dare mention that slut,” he barked, uncharacteristically. “She slept with Yulese’s son—no. No. No. You’re still blind. Blinded in love with that slut. I’ll fix this. I’ll fix you before father sees this disgrace.”
His eyes went frantic. Suddenly, he pulled a jagged knife from nowhere—as if the air had pockets.
“You’re not Hialucus,” I said, unable to explain why I knew this, but couldn’t recall anything else. He swiped the knife at me but I just managed to dodge back, only to feel an intense pain plunge into my back.
I slowly turned around, to see hundreds of gods, angels, and misthangers, all with the same frantic look in their eyes. Some of their faces were half-shadowed with needle-tooth smiles.
Before I could run, force smashed and pinned me to the ground. A frantic-eyed Amelia lookalike was the first to jump on top, starting the stabbing game.
Then all of them.
I felt everything from the repeat stabbing to the oozing and spraying of blood. Even my eyes were gauged over and over and over. I…felt some much pain and it wouldn’t go away. My body wouldn’t die.
When they pulverized me to goo, I managed to let out one last gurgle of a yell before finding myself in a forest.
My memories returned. I was panting, scared as fuck, and truly, TRULY just wanted to go home.
I considered praying desperately when someone screamed. My head jerked to the left to see a man, a wandering soul, dressed in brown rags, snap out of his dream presumably. He looked at me, the guy dressed in the clothing I died it.
“Hey, you, can you please help me,” he said, his voice barely louder than a whisper. He was about twenty or so yards away. Moonlight casted down on him, though for the most part, the forest was dark. Very dark. And silent. I didn’t want to imagine what lied within it. “Please, man, help. Is there any way I could get out of this? I need redemption…what happened…I.” He slowly moved toward me. I stepped back, unsure if this was another trap.
Just then, a giant spiked fist, the size of Mount Everest plunged from above and obliterated the soul. I realized that he’d respawn in the forest in order to have the same thing happen to him again. Maybe until his mind broke.
Well, I didn’t just stand there. The fist scared the ever-living shit out of me. I’ve faced many things from standard demons to even falling, but in here, fear felt palpable. One slip could mean getting lost. I stopped when moonlight casted three more visible spots.
Two men and a woman dressed in rags, were shivering. I paused, not wanting them to notice me. One of them seemed to be calming or reassuring the woman.
“Take a deep breath, it’d be okay,” he said softly. “If we can find the refugee camp, we’ll be able to get through this. It may take a million prayers, begging for forgiveness, but we can regain hope.”
The woman with tears falling from her eyes, whined, “I don’t think I’ll be saved, Jack. I…took their lives. All of those poor children. I…took the word of the duke over those pleading kids. In order to save face,” she sniffed. “I listened to the words of my greedy advisors, the cruel duke, and the nobility. I ordered the executions.” She let out another cry.
“That happened a long time ago, right?” the same man said. “Living in the camp is much better than being out here, away from everyone. I’ve heard it was an underground city, hidden away from the monsters.”
“This place…” the woman started. “I still remember everything as if it happened a minute ago. It continues to replay, twistedly.”
“I’ve had false recollections,” said the other man who was silent at first. He had a thick Texas accent. “Spent about fifty years, living life. Ate, drank, got laid too. Then one day, everything just started melting. People and all, horrific expressions. Even my wife…who wasn’t actually real. That’s when I realized, time is nothing to these sons of a bitches. They’ll let you live in comfort for as long as they want, forget about you, then come back and crush you into pieces.”
I flinched. There’s only one type of demon that would be so nonchalant like that.
The night terror appeared in front of me as if on cue. It grinned, then put a finger on its lips, indicating I shouldn’t say a word.
“You speak, you’ll regret where I’ll send ya,” it said then melted into a lump of darkness. The distortion moved toward those humans.
I picked a different direction and bolted. The horrific screams of those souls almost made me drop a tear. I know that seemed cruel to leave them, but the night terror was right. He could place me in a world of his choosing, of his imagination, and let me suffer. I needed to get the fuck out of this forest—even if it meant using the lost as a distraction. This wasn’t a time to play the hero.
Too bad I heard the laughter of the night terror and rustling of leaves and snapping of branches, behind me. Of course, it’d chase.
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- The Enlightener
Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne (It's a joke. These are among my favorite authors) , he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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