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The elevator doors slid open, and as I stepped out of it, I almost immediately flinched. For right next to the right of the elevator, leaning back against the wall, was someone who was completely covered from head to toe in black. The only things visible were the top of his nose, and his unnaturally dark blue eyes. His clothes were strange, as if they were some kind of hybrid between cloth, leather, and fur all wrapped together into one piece of material. At his side was the sheath of a weapon. Although by its shape, I would have guessed that it held a saw.

As I was looking at his attire, I felt a chill run down my spine as the hairs on my arms rose up with goosebumps. I knew, somehow, that I was staring at someone who had spilled an ocean of blood. Even now, his very presence exhumed bloodlust. Yet, there was something even deeper. Almost as if it were there to contradict that bloodlust, there was an iciness to him as well. It was like he desired the death of all things, but at the same time, wanted nothing and couldn’t care less.

I don’t know how I was able to tell all that. But in that moment, there was a very large part of me that wanted to run away, screaming. The only thing that kept me from doing so was this… I refuse to call it an ordinary person’s… presence. It was the only thing that kept me paralyzed in place. However, as all of these things processed through in my mind in less than a second, it all suddenly vanished. The bloodlust, the chill, all of it was gone. As if it were never there in the first place.

Without even glancing at me, he simply uncrossed his arms and pointed to the hallway to our left. After he did so, he walked away towards the opposite hallway. Once I lost sight of him, I released the breath that I had subconsciously been holding without realizing it. Whoever that man was, I instinctively knew that he was dangerous. It was as if I had been standing in front of a coiled snake, one that could bear its fangs and strike out at me at any time. I tried to shake off this feeling of being near death as I went to the right hallway.

For a part of the way, the hall was the same as the one downstairs. Looking like that of a typical hotel. However, as I continued forward, that gradually began to change. There started to be spots where it looked like the carpet had been torn off. The doors were cracking in places, and ever increasingly worn down. Parts of the walls became more and more peeled off as I walked.

And underneath the paint, what should have been a normal wall was instead a red substance. Something that reminded me a little too much like flesh. The flesh looked slimy, glistening in the light that reflected off its surface. Although morbid curiosity tempted me to touch it, the wiser part of me knew better and bid me to ignore it.

It was like the appearance of a hotel was no more than an illusion, a cover-up. One that was being stripped off as I moved ever further ahead. Hesitantly, I looked back. But no more than five feet (1.5 meters) behind me was a wall of pure, solid darkness. There was no going back the way I came. The only option left before me was to keep moving forward. And so I did.


Eventually, everything became torn off. Surrounding me was nothing but walls of flesh. That flesh was now more detailed than before. Instead of being just a singular, almost smooth mass, it was now filled with visible lines of veins and arteries. In some places, I was even able to see a dark fluid passing through them clearly.

The air was hot and heavy with humidity. Steam obscured the path ahead of me, leaving me practically blind to whatever was ahead. Sweat drenched my body and suit, becoming so unbearable that I had taken off parts of it and started carrying them with me instead. But, from all around me, I could hear it.

Ba bump bump

Ba bump bump bump

Ba bump

Bump

The sound of a heartbeat. But its beats were irregular and infrequent. Instead of coming two at a time like a human heart, they were always changing. From just one, to four, even ten, and everything in between and beyond. There were even periods of just… nothing. Only silence. Quit enough that I was able to hear the sound of my own pulse inside my body.

By that time I had grown so accustomed to hearing them that, their disappearance was what truly unnerved me. In all honesty, under normal circumstances, one might have started feeling their grip over their own sanity start to loosen. However, it was having the opposite effect on me. The reason I was unnerved by the silence, was not because I found it disturbing. But instead, like a fetus inside its mother’s womb, I had begun to find that heartbeat… comforting.

But finally, I came to the end of the hall. In front of me was a pair of large, bronze doors. There were no visible handles or knobs, but on each door was a knocker. I grabbed one, and used it to knock three times. As I stepped back, the doors slowly swung inward. The inside was only darkness. And hesitantly, I slowly stepped through into it. The moment I was on the other side, the doors slammed themselves shut behind me, and the lights were turned on.

In the room, now in front of me, was a round table surrounded by seats. There seemed to have been hundreds in total. I would have guessed around maybe 500 or 600. Each one, except for coincidently the seat closest to me, was occupied by men and women of various types.

Some wore dark robes that obscured their faces with shadows. Others wore armor ranging from medieval plate and chainmail, to modern bulletproof vests. A few were in either suits or trench coats, like myself and my grandfather. Who I noticed was sitting on one of these seats. A couple were even just wearing pajamas and had messy hair with dark rings under their eyes. As if they had just rolled out of bed.

In front of each of them was some sort of drink. Although those were just as diverse as their clothes. From fancy goblets, to wine glasses, to just water bottles or just soda cans. Truly, it seemed like that in terms of uniform or pattern, there was none.

“Please, Edward. Have a seat. We’ve been expecting you after all,” someone said. However, it sounded neither male nor female. And strangely, although I was standing in front of them and able to see them all, I was unable to discern where exactly the voice had come from. In equal parts, it had seemed to have emanated from behind me just as much as in front of me. From far away, or right next to me. This also held true for every other direction as well, even for below.

With a slight gulp, I did as the voice instructed and took the only empty seat. After I did so, I glanced around at them all. Their faces, the ones I could see anyone, were for the most part either kind looking, or just curious.

I guess that makes sense… since I don’t think it’s every day that someone new comes in. Must be a bit of a bigger deal than I was expecting,’ I thought to myself as I straightened my back a little, and placed the clothes I had been carrying onto my lap. ‘Hmm, 500 or 600 people… 616 floors… I wonder if that might not just be a coincidence…

“Edward Brown, son of two family lines. The 317th generation of the original tree, and the 82nd generation of the second tree. Your blood contains reflects that of both a mother and father whose roots trace back to the one we serve under. I believe your grandfather has already informed you of why you are here today?” the mysterious voice asked.

“Y-yes,” I cleared my throat. “I mean, yes. To become a member of the Dream and to be assigned a job in the service of…” I tried to remember how to pronounce the god’s name. Since I didn’t want to offend anyone here.

“Muo’pikaq” the person next to me whispered under their breath.

“In the service of Muo’pikaq, right?” I finished, giving a glance of thanks to the one who helped me. It was a woman, and she was rather pretty. Or, at least that’s what I was thinking until I remembered that I was related to everyone in this room. After which I quickly dashed away those kinds of thoughts.

“Indeed. It has already been decided eons ago what your place here will be. We do not have the luxury to waste any more time. As such, it is now time for it to be announced. Brother Henry, if you would.”

“As you command,” responded the man at the head of the table. From his robe he produced a leather bound scroll. He slowly began to unfurl it, and glanced around before reading from its contents.

“As it has been written before any of us were born, the assigned duty of brother Edward will now be revealed. By the will Muo’pikaq, his to be… an Expander!”

Looks were exchanged between the men and women gathered. But before any murmurings or whispers could take place, the man named brother Henry continued.

“To be an Expander is as honorable a position as it is difficult. As such, in accordance with ancient law, a secondary position will be granted to brother Edward as well. One that brings all the benefits of such a position
, but without demanding any of the usually required tasks. That sub position is… a!”

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About the author

Dawodd

  • The Bird

Bio: Bird brain.

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