Author: Muggins PM
A man is cursed by a sinister sub-culture that lurks on the edges of his home town. He travels, looking for someone that can help cure him, plagued by nightmares of that dark day and the ominous portent they promise...Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Supernatural - Words: 1,893 - Published: 05-25-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3025850
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A place far away, yet right by your side; far beyond the keenest eye yet pressed to your breast where it feels your heart beat, and you feel its. Dreams and their native land, a churning mass of contrary sensation and experience capable of rendering their subject full of delight and warmth, or chilling them right through to a part of their body that they never knew existed prior to the touch of nightmares. And in to the domain of nightmares he had been thrust, knowing each little detail more intimately than the closest lover imaginable. It was always dark, for that was how the event that inspired the nightmare had been – late night, the kind of late that the worst elements of life come out to play. The smell of bodies, it was almost omnipresent to his recollection; the overpowering scent of people – sweat, and then blood, thick enough on the air to lap up as a physical mass. He could hear so much; the noise, god the noise, it made his ears ache and his chest vibrate with its intensity. The emotional cross section of the place was deadening and pulverising with its overwhelming variation; he could sense lunatic joy, the screams of the lamenting, the high, keening calls of the ecstatic, and below that a bass, growling and bestial snarling that permeated the area with such bass as to make his feet pick up the malevolent vibration.
Hurried glancing revealed that he was in some sort of primitive grotto fashioned of thick trunks, flexible branches and mammoth leaves as a canopy, that occasionally came in to huge relief as several fires flickered and danced exuberantly, flashing images to him in unsettling sequence.
He had no recollection of how he had arrived, only that he seemed to be propped up as if mocking a state of wakefulness when the sudden shock of stimuli roused him – he found out later how, but the dream dealt with the experience without retrospection – and he fought to keep his mind within the manic gathering all around him, the sense of dislodging decency, of withering humanity was pawing his skin like clammy infants' hands, and he found he could not move to shake off the sense, his pulse spiking painfully as his eyes rolled in his head frantically, alive with panic. Seeming to sense the state of fear, people near him started to notice, blurred faces in the swaying firelight refusing to be identified in any meaningful manner, which became redundant as the tension and excitement in the room magnified a hundredfold, maybe more as something happened off to his left, his eyes rolling with the stubborn reluctance of a boulder stuck in a hole towards something he didn't think he wanted to see. It was a sort of procession bearing aloft one person, the sense of recollection stealing the breath from his body as he recognised her, born high enough for the light to be constant and slough away the mask of shadowy anonymity.
Yes, he recognised her straight away; a girl from the town, one he had been pretty fond of, idling away some of his less busy moments picturing her pretty face, and corn coloured hair – he was quite taken with her, but felt it was beyond him to ever act on it. He felt now, a strange sense of apprehension as he watched her, listless like he was, apart from her eyes, and being carried toward some sort of palanquin or stand, a handful of people bustling back and forth with burning censers that churned out a voluminous smoke that seemed as it barely tinted red at its core, flickering a vibrant orange in time with the contributions of light from the fires. He strained to no avail to see the fate of the girl, still unable to move, and managed to croak out a feeble cry as someone moved towards him and lifted his head, covering his face with a mask of some sort, the pressure against his face uncomfortable and hot, and still all he could do was lie there, and now just listen.
Everything around him went quieter, and the air changed noticeably, even without his ability to process anything but sound he could tell something important was happening, the crackle of fires now clearly audible to him, and the mumbled, sedated groaning – she must be set down on the palanquin now? He itched all over at the ominous sensation washing over him, washing over the room and could taste and smell the smoke and blood with punishing clarity, his chest tightening at the increased albeit subdued sounds of fear from the girl, sweat exploding out of his pores all over his body as the noises became frenzied and fierce for one so drugged; a final, piercing scream and a wet, slicing sound, and nothing more. His heart thudded all the way up from his chest to the core of his mind, unable to process, or think, only to panic and scream the same questions in his head; why him? What was going on? The same two things bouncing endlessly around the answerless cavern of his skull.
And then, he was picked up bodily. He expelled strangled, gargling cries of protest and panic, but it seemed to matter not at all, the hands bearing him up throbbing with their own palpable sense of excitement as he was carried along like a corpse and powerless to stop it, his own body a coffin to him now. He was laid down with surprising care and softness, expecting to be flung down like a rag doll and to be clawed at, and only finding a soft release and the slithering away of many fingers, as if from one large, multi-limbed creature that commanded all limbs at once. The mask was pulled off and he was glared by the fire light, such as it was, his eyes widening impossibly large as he saw the hulking, hunched figure looming over him, heavy, rasping breathing filling his ears no matter how he tried to pretend it wasn't there, the hood and shredded robes that reeked of age and dirt, only served to magnify the terror at what might lie beneath, his heart ready to burst out of his chest as he looked around, finding no one and nothing that might help him now, the smoke from the censers stinging his eyes and filling his head with cotton wool, making things seem distant and hard to grasp, his mind filling with the sound of shredding meat, the scent and taste of blood and fear, brought out of his reverie only by the soft harmonic of drawn steel, his pupils widening like saucers as he watched the hunched figure with its curved knife more akin to a sword were he to wield it, and a sense of the horrible, horrible wrongness he had felt before, as it spoke in a chattered, garbled language that throbbed with its bass filled intonation, defying understanding, a long, aching pause as the knife was lifted, and then plunged downwards…
Dominik woke up with a gasp, a strangled cry as his whole body tensed up like a bow drawn to loose an arrow, sweat drenching him as he looked around and saw his settings – safe from the dream again for now at least, gently falling on to his side and curling up like a wounded insect, trembling with the power of recollection and adrenaline, unable to move for a time while he recovered from the assault of his own mind. When he felt able to move, he got on to all fours and crawled achingly to the back pack he had flailed away in his sleep, and dug through it feverishly, casting aside various odds and ends until he came upon a small figurine wrapped in some sort of garments made of leaves and flowers which he took easily in both hands and clasped them together, lacing fingers so it was trapped between his palms. He sat on his knees and spoke in a strange, foreign tongue and rocked back and forth as he beseeched the doll, and what it represented for peace and stability, his voice cracked and stuttering with tension as he put his clasped hands against his head and spoke several verses of some speech of supplication, feeling the inky blackness in his heart lift a little a hand reaching down to a prominent scar that ran the length of his sternum, as if checking that nothing had burst from his body to subsume him in his sleep…
He walked with the leaden step of a man long since tired of walking, but afforded little option in the matter, a few beads of sweat streaking down his brow, wiped away with the sleeve of his coat, eyes blinking a little lethargically as he stopped to huff out a breath, deciding that now was as good a time to stop as any. He stood still for a time, weight mostly against the arm that supported him via the tree, and looked at the life around him, staring with a contrary mixture of familiarity and detachment at the aging boles of trees around him, peppered with the occasional monstrously stubborn hedge or thorn laden, angry looking bush; he stared at the occasional bird that flitted past his vision, or small mammals that skittered away at the corner of his eyes. He breathed in the air deeply and smelled… Blood. His brow knitted up tightly as he looked around, wondering if he had the misfortune to stumble upon some dead creature that a nearby predator was about to take issue with his being near it, finding nothing and chewing his lip idly, fingers scraping along the bark of the tree with a subconscious agitation, a sensation swinging from hot to cold prickling over his skin in lunatic dance.
The sound of a chattering laughter came, an animal noise not uttered by any human throat, and he shook his head firmly, starting to walk again. The noise seemed to follow, albeit slowly, as if hobbled and failing to equal his speed, but never falling more than a step behind, the chattering offering the occasional snapping of teeth that made him flinch with every iteration. He reached down in to his coat, fumbling with a belt that hung at an angle off his waist, fumbling through the pouches for a small clay jar that didn't exceed the size of his hand by much. He pulled off the stopper and placed his thumb over the mouth, upending the jar and then righting it again, leaving a small trace of the contents on his thumb, that he daubed to his temples, the scent of lavender subtly drifting to his nose; lavender water was no magical tonic or profound medicine, but he was no mage, and one had to do with what they could get hold of. The lavender helped take the edge off his agitation, and diminished the ominous, black pall over his heart equally fractionally, which was something to be plenty grateful for in his book, the clay jar going back in to a belt pouch as he walked with a renewed determination inspired by fear – it would be worse if he were out deep in the woods when night came….