Reports from the Dark Places, vol. 1
The Trial and an Error
There were many places where people could have hidden from insanity, but nobody knew about any of them, thus they succumbed, their minds corrupted and reason erased. Only curiosity and dissociation guided them all, ordering them to commit actions most horrid – cripple, kill, damage and destroy. There was nothing but madness, a dark one indeed, leading every single mind to an abhorrent decay, leaving every single mind to rot nightmarishly, leasing every single mind to dreadful dissolution.
Such was the reality. Such was the place I, a man without a name, a man with no significant past, was in – standing within the Temple of the Grand Jury. Why its name contained the word jury was beyond me, since no sane person could call this a place of justice. It was a place of horrors, mishaps and cruelties.
There were many people standing in a circle around a table with judges and an accused woman tied down to a large pole. The people were watching and listening. They wanted to hear the judgement. A woman had committed a crime most offensive, or so they said. She was dressed in ragged and half-torn clothes, revealing bits of her malnourished body. A desperate look could be seen in her eyes. She was scared, confused and exhausted. Her breath was inconsistent. Everyone could notice her face was pale despite being covered in a layer of dirt.
The judges, on the other hand, were three angry men dressed in clean, neatly pressed suits and ties, constantly shouting at one another as if they were dogs barking to frighten the other over a bone. I didn't have to be up in front of them to imagine what they were talking about. Should it be a twisted punishment of this or that kind?
"Silence!" exclaimed one of the judges and the chattering people stopped their talks in an instant, anxiously awaiting the verdict.
It was a horrifying silence. A dark room of little lighting, crooked faces of people gleefully watching, anticipation of terror in the air.
All the judges breathed deeply at the same time as if they were a single entity. Everyone was on the brink of getting mad out of impatience. And then the ruling was issued.
"Lady Oppressant of the Unknown places, the council has reached consensus and you are hereby instructed to listen to the verdict and comply. Do you accept the law with all its consequences?"
"I do…" the woman gargled while battling against falling unconscious.
"Then we can proceed. Lady Opressant, you have been tried and found guilty. You have been sentenced to death by vivisection on a public place. Do you accept your fate?"
Everyone held their breath, their gaze fixed on the woman as they anxiously awaited her response.
But she remained silent. Not even a sigh left her mouth.
"Lady Opressant, I hope we do not need to remind you that this is a very formal process, disobedience will only result in a harsher punishment," one of the judges said angrily.
"Yes, I know," the woman said almost breathless and then proceeded to whisper something unintelligible, but I could swear that her lips were saying: "Death and decay".
"So, do you accept your fate?"
"I do," she finally agreed.
"Fine," the judges said. "Bring in the executioner."
The crowd remained silent while a plump man with a black cape came to the woman. He was holding a scalpel in his left hand and tongs in the other. There was a tingling feeling in the air, a dark anticipation of things to come. I saw it in the eyes of people standing next to me. I saw it in their souls. They desired to see that perversion.
I wanted to leave but couldn't. I wanted to escape, but was bound to that place. I was helpless, forced to watch the cruelty. Leaving the Temple was considered a serious offence, punishable only by death of similar brutality.
The man grabbed both hands of the woman, slowly cutting one of her wrists. I wasn't that close but could see him reach very deeply, until the sharp end was sticking out through the other side of the wrist. The victim of the prelude of inhumane operations yet to come, thankfully for her, seemed to have passed out.
The end of one life, perhaps, happened, but the cruelty of a perverse man was only at its beginning. After he inflicted a deep wound to the woman, he continued further by sticking the scalpel into her chest and opening another hollow, continuing downwards with vigour until we could see her bowels. Then he threw the knife away, hitting someone in the head, causing him to bleed.
With his bare hands, the executioner grabbed her intestines and started pulling them out as if it was just a rope needing to be taken from a box. Even though he wasn't facing us, I could imagine his mad face gleaming with bliss.
It was horrid. The blood, the mucous bowels being extracted, the sleazy and disgusting thread coming out of the body as if it was an endless spinning wheel – it seemed to last forever while the executor was laughing maniacally.
Half of the intestines were lying on the floor already, creating a small labyrinth of brown-greyish innards covered in thick mucus. Still, it was far from over. When there was nothing more to pull, he started extracting bones and ribs, weak muscles and dying organs. Liver, kidneys, lungs. Twisted collection of weirdly shaped creations of nature, exposed for all to see but horrifying only me alone.
The heart. I had seen it beating until it was pulled out of the broken ribcage. Yet the woman made no move. No hint of dying – she had already deceased, fortunately for her. The madman then proceeded to untie her and took her motionless body with him as he headed through the crowd to the exit.
Such a terrifying experience was not to be forgotten easily. It was not meant to demonstrate the power of the jury nor any other power. It was merely an example of what madness was capable of.
The strength of it was undeniable.
I was shocked, but who could have expected any other emotion from a judiciable human? Others were not sane, thus they didn't even flinch. They simply started talking again, babbling and chattering while sheepishly leaving the Temple. For them, it was neither disgusting nor horrifying. It was an ordinary satiation of their twisted inquisitiveness.
I didn't want to raise any unnecessary attention, therefore I followed. When I reached the exit, somebody put a hand on my shoulder. For a moment I stopped and looked behind to see an elderly man with an evil look on his face.
"Be warned," he said while holding my shoulder firmly. "No one is safe from the hatred of the Eternal Lord."
"Is this some sort of a new religion?" I asked while noticing all the people leaving. That elderly man and I were the only ones not moving.
"This is no religion!" he said feeling offended. "This is the truth, the reality!"
"I do not understand."
"You will," he said and leaned to me so as to start whispering a secret: "In time, you will understand everything. The dark spirits will gather. The evil thoughts will escalate. There will be a bloodbath and only few will see the day after. You will realize my true words when you notice the holy sign of the Eternal Lord. The time of judgement is nigh. Numbers will guide you."
"What is it you are talking about?" I didn't understand a single word the man was saying.
"You will soon see with your very eyes," he continued to talk in riddles and released his grip from my shoulder, joining the flowing crowd.
I had no other option but to follow and when I left the Temple, I found myself completely alone. There wasn't even a single person despite that I had been walking in a crowd not a moment ago. It was strange. In a single blink of an eye, the reality had changed.
Empty streets, litter being carried away in a ghastly wind and no trace of any life. A different contrast to the dark happening that had taken place not long ago. However, the void I found myself in was scaring me more than the morbid trial. But why, I asked myself, when there was nothing to be afraid of? I realized it was due to the silence – an exact vision of how the madness that had stricken humanity would end.
I recalled the elderly man's words: "only few will see the day after". The disturbing quiet haunted me as I walked down the crooked stairway leading down to a street full of shabby houses, defunct cars, empty shops and sky wrapped in a black haze.
I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply to refresh, but I only felt corrupting poison enter my lungs. The entire planet's atmosphere was damaged beyond repair and it made me wonder. Was it some sort of a chemical agent that had managed to twist our minds? Or was it our perception that had made us see the world as a bitter place?
My eyes opened and embraced the reality again. This time, there were no cars, no houses. The streets were full of people once again. Sheep pacing into the unknown with no intentions, they were heading for a large gathering not far away. I was wondering what was happening there until I got very close.
It was a murder scene. A vivid, living murder scene. Each person hit, stabbed, hacked and torn the other, creating a rising pile of dead bodies. What struck me immediately was the bottom of this body-made hill, which consisted of corpses already subject to serious decay. It was a hint that this act of mass murder had started at least a few days ago.
I tried to turn away and leave, to change direction, but something was pushing me towards it. The crowd that was surrounding me gravitated into the death pit as if it was a moth and the pit a fire.
I didn't crave leaving the world of the living. No matter how cursed it was I wanted to live. I ordered my body to turn away, but the people were pushing me closer to my death. I tried to struggle against them, but they were unstoppable. One against everybody else. One against united exhilaration of absolute perversion.
It was drawing near. Is there really no escape, I asked myself.
In desperation, I tried to hold my ground, to squeeze through people, to crawl under them, but with no success.
I fought, punched them in their faces, fell to the ground, tried to get up again, crawled, leaped, dodged, jumped and persisted until I finally broke free.
But then another wave hit me. They were angry, enraged and I felt as if they were out only to get nobody else but me. They had sensed my blasphemy. They had been sent out to hunt me and bring me to death. Was it destiny? Was it to be my end?
I stood firm, I denied their wishes to plunge us all into darkness. I pushed back, but they were relentless. They carried on. They marched towards the horde of dying.
I could hear screams behind me as I was getting near. I didn't want to give up, yet I was so exhausted and feeling like it. I almost closed my eyes and gave myself over to it. I was not far from passing away forever.
No, I just couldn't die. This only was to have been my end.
I felt a sudden influx of energy. A will to resist. The angry faces were determined to take me down with them, but I fought back. I didn't stop. They pressed on, but so did I. At that moment, I felt as strong as an ox. Despite their pushing, they didn't manage to move me even an inch.
And finally, they let go. They continued without me. I rushed to get out of the crowd. To set myself free.
Immediately as I did so, I turned around to watch the mass suicide ritual. People were crawling to the top of the pile, slaughtering others in a brutal fashion with whatever they had. One stabbed another with a knife and carved some symbol into his body. Right after he ended, he was hit in the head by a large stone. A maniac was bent on cracking his skull open and making a mush out of his brain until somebody shot him in the back. Then another chopped the sharpshooter in half with a large butchering knife.
It was a never-ending cycle.
In spite of all the killing, I could see a tall figure standing atop the hill, untouched by the murdering notions. It was the same old man who had stopped me in the Temple. His hands were reaching out to the sky as if he was trying to touch the Sun. Was he a god? The sign of morbid curiosity? The prophet of doom? Or the Eternal Lord? And who was this Eternal Lord? Was he behind the sorry state civilization found itself in? A helpless and hopeless world?
Some would object that it was within my powers to try to stop them. Prevent this from happening. But those would be blind, for I was fighting for survival. They heeded no sane word, no negotiation. They couldn't see reason. They were mad and fuelled only by their interest in seeing others dying.
All of a sudden, a flash of light surrounded the old man and disappeared immediately afterwards, leaving no trace of the man but letting the butchering continue.
There was no need to stay in place. On the contrary, I felt a strong urge to escape as fast and far away as possible.
Following in Justice's Footsteps
Even though I was so far away from that cursed place, from the Temple of the Grand Jury, I felt its strong presence. My mind was trying to convince itself that it was just a block away. What a false though it was.
It seemed that I had been damned or had breathed in a deadly gas that had damaged my nerves. Or both.
Either way, I had to move. I had to be on my way to somewhere just not to remain in one place. My subconsciousness was telling me I was being followed even though I knew there was no reason why would anyone want to chase after me. I was just one of many, seemingly ordinary person on the run from suicidal tendencies of a modern society.
I was running in the wilderness. A forest could be seen on the horizon, mountains were covering me from both sides and a valley filled with ruins of ancient cities was behind my back. Yet it wasn't serenity. The skies were dim, the dark haze was still plaguing the atmosphere and I could feel the poisonous gas in the air. Even if I was away from the civilization, I felt its presence near.
Walking along a passage of natural origin, I once again got a chilly feeling that somebody was following me.
It's not real, I tried to convince my thoughts, leaving myself at the mercy of my own ignorance. I didn't realize that could have been my undoing, but luckily my senses were on full alert most of the time. I heard a mild rustling sound originating from nearby bushes. I fixed my gaze at them. They were moving despite the wind was so weak it was barely noticeable. Who was behind them?
I made a few steps backwards while checking if it wasn't a diversion, but at the same time, a drivelling man leaped from the bushes as if he was an animal. He knocked me to the ground and while spitting saliva all over me, strangely twisting his head in various directions yet his gaze fixed on me, he was holding a fork above my head and his other hand kept me pinned to the ground.
"Who are you?!" I shouted angrily while trying to get him off me.
But he was persistent. "Uaaghr… hhh!" he babbled like mad while trying to stab me in the face. I hit him in the head, kicked him in the stomach and tried to set free. He didn't let go.
"Leave me be!" I yelled even though I knew he wouldn't ever consider it.
"Graah!" he roared.
The fork was awfully close. Why he hadn't hit me in the first place was beyond me, but I was so glad that he hadn't. I grabbed his wrist and tried to turn it away while kicking him in the stomach again and again. He was determined, but he had to ease off sooner or later, which eventually happened. I gained the momentum and rolled over him, hitting him in the head continuously.
I was furious. It didn't occur to me that the man I was bashing with rage had already died until I realized I was banging my hand against the ground. I hadn't noticed blood pouring out his face, cracking skull, crushing eyes and the brain, beating it again and again, making a reddish mush out of it, until finally reaching the other end of the cranium.
I stopped and looked at my bloodstained hands with terror and fright. What had I done? Had I become a monster? One of them? Would it be better if I headed back to the place of mass suicide and gleefully killed a man? Kill and be killed?
Was it a disease? Had I been infected? Or was it a dormant genetic structure that had been activated?
I sat on the ground, pausing for an hour, but soon thereafter I lost track of time, contemplating on what had just happened. Death and decay, a woman in the Temple had whispered shortly before being mercilessly slaughtered.
When I came to my senses again, I realized something I had been missing out. The man was wearing a suit and a tie. I couldn't help myself but to ponder whether it could have been one of the judges.
Why had he been after me? What was happening?
I knew there was no place to hide from the insanity during that time and there was no denying that it was driving me mad.
What to do, where to go? I didn't want to go crazy, but I didn't want to die either. Or were they right? Was suicide a suitable option? How to end the worldwide madness? How to end something with no apparent source or centre?
It must have been the judge. Why had he followed me there? And, more importantly, why had he tried to kill me?
I felt in danger, a sudden death was threatening me. But a solution was within reach – to kill the judges. In doing so, I had to return. I had to stop the madness no matter the cost.
For a moment, I looked at the corpse of the judge, the instigator of great many deaths brutally murdered by my own hands.
Strangely enough, I felt a little happier. I thought of myself as a man of justice. I believed that I hadn't done anything wrong. I wasn't thinking of survival anymore, only casting down false people. False – that was the right word. They were all over the planet. Earth needed to be purified.
Food was scarce those days. Normally, I would have shunned cannibalism, but there was no go and I didn't want to starve to death. It was going to be a bitter dinner, for both the soil and plants were poisonous. The entire Earth was.
I went to a nearby forest, gathered some wood and returned to the corpse. I set the wood on fire and as it grew stronger, I grabbed one spare tree branch, torn a piece of meat out of the dead body, pinned in onto the branch and started cooking. Fire was such a cleansing force.
The Trial and an Error Revisited
The journey was hard as a harsh wind accompanied me on my way back to the Corrupted City. For a moment I thought the poisoned forces of nature were trying to tell me that only death had been waiting for me at that place.
Yet there was no other choice and I knew it. I had been surviving like this for far too long. It was time to change the world. Purge it. Start anew.
As I drew near the city's gates, I noticed they were burning. Somebody had been besieging the city. Echoes of bombardment could be heard, yet the piercing screams of pain were much stronger. Combined forces of batteries of high-tech rocket artillery and ancient trebuchets were levelling the city.
I imagined the men behind such a vile act – angry people interested in seeing destruction.
Time was running short and I had to speed up or else the judges would perish in the siege or escape. I wanted neither to happen. The only acceptable outcome was me alone killing them with my own hands.
It was easy to get into the city thanks to the torn-down walls. Immediately after, I became engulfed by the madness that was ruling over the town. It was a massive slaughter that I had never seen before. Suddenly, I realized everything. It wasn't an invasion force that was destroying the city but the people of it itself!
Among the razed houses and the ones yet to have been put down, among the gunfire and fights, among the dying and the dead, I saw one of the judges standing atop a large tower which was a part of the Temple, spreading nonsense via a megaphone that he held near his mouth.
"It is time to repent! We must cleanse the city and get rid of unnecessary elements of blasphemy! We must eradicate them all! We must kill one another! No one must remain. Heed my words as you do my bidding! Your sins will be forgiven as you kill your neighbour in cold blood! Your mistakes will not be looked down on as if they were a burden of being wrong, but looked up to as if they were the sign of apotheosis. Carry on, spread the death…"
During his speech, I noticed something strange. I could see sunlight just right behind the spire. What an unusual happening it was? Completely inexplicable to me. For many years, there had been no sunlight. Only a dark haze surrounding the entire planet.
It must have been the sign of the Eternal Lord as the old man I had met in the Temple had said. But who was the Eternal Lord? If he wasn't a religious figure, was he a man? If so, how could he manipulate the weather?
Nevertheless, the false judge needed to be cast down. I knew it. He had to die. I started marching towards the tower with haste.
I was going along a street where people were slaughtering themselves, throwing sharp knives and shooting at one another, but somehow they were leaving me alone.
I grabbed a gun that had been lying on the floor, thinking it might have been useful, and continued my journey to the tower.
There was no force to stop me as everyone was out there fighting and thus there were no defenders left.
It didn't take me long to reach the inner parts of the city where the Temple was located. Soon I found myself standing in front of its large gates. Its grandiose proportions were giving me the creeps and even made me ask myself whether my smallness had any chance to stand against this large body of evil.
I had no other choice. I opened the gates and once again stood within the depths of twisted justice. I recalled the horrid moments of Lady Opressant's execution.
I imagined where everyone had been standing – the crowd, the executioner, the Lady and even the judges.
At that moment, I noticed I wasn't alone. The same old man I had met there was sitting in front of a table where the judges had been back then.
"You are a clever observant," the old man said happily.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I am the Eternal Lord," he answered with a calm voice.
"That doesn't suffice. Who are you exactly?"
"I am nothing less and nothing more that I said I am," he replied.
"Who knows?" he sighed.
"Are you the instigator of all this madness? Are you the reason why this is happening?" I was partly furious and partly confused. I didn't know what was true. But if he indeed was the one behind the crippled Earth, he would have to be executed. So was he or not? He must have been, otherwise why he wasn't as mad as the others out there? He certainly was no man – was he a god?
"The man has brought doom upon himself by his own hand. Even though I am the ultimate source of all, the reason of the beginning, I would never have intended to bring about the sheep's downfall."
"But why is this happening?"
"As I said, it was man, but do not worry."
"For this is the great purge," he said in an enlightened voice, "the day of judgement."
"But why, if it is within your powers, don't you stop this nonsense? This madness? Not all people were corrupted before. Not everyone committed a sin."
"You don't understand, do you?" he laughed mildly. "This never was about sin, let alone faith."
"So tell me what it is about."
"You are demanding answers beyond your comprehension," he warned. "Answers that can not be explained in any known language."
"Stop talking such nonsense! I want to hear the truth! Now!"
"Oh my…" he started talking, "do you really think you understand what is going on? You call all the recent events madness, but what if they aren't? You blame it on some virus, you blame it on supernatural forces, but what if the source is nothing so flamboyant? Nothing extravagant in its nature? What if it is a simple thing, even less complicated than man?"
"I never said I thought this was the doing of a man-made virus. I never said that there was a god that would have wrought this upon us with his almighty hands."
"Then why do you ask me such questions? Why are you here to kill the judge?"
"To stop the madness."
"Madness, that is not the correct word. You understand nothing yet want to tamper with forces beyond your understanding. Is it really that what you wish to do?"
"You claim to be the God, but you talk in riddles and hide away the true meaning of this. You have let innocent to become corrupted. You, the one with power! What kind of God are you?"
"I am the Eternal Lord," he answered very calmly as if expecting it would erase all my doubts.
But apparently, it didn't. "And I am just a man. I remember you saying that this was no religion. Yet you make people worship you as if you were a king and all you do is let them kill one another!"
"You are mistaken!" he exclaimed. "They decided to worship me. I didn't tell them to do so. I didn't force them. It was their decision."
"Yet you affect them in every turn," I said horrified.
"Reality is not always a pleasant one."
"Then, if nothing, help me to reverse it."
"I can not. And even if I could, I wouldn't want to."
"I am the Eternal Lord. I oversee everything. But would it be right of me to guide people? To strip them of their freedom? You want me to show them light, but do they deserve it? And more importantly, you want me to show them the way, but when I do, you cry that I affect them and leave them no room to be free. What should I do, then, so as to be righteous in your eyes?"
I had never thought about it this way. However, it didn't shock me as much as the fact that I had been talking to God himself. Only at that time I realized my ignorance and rudeness, but it was too late to say something.
"I thought as much," he said, "the judge is waiting." Right afterwards, he disappeared, leaving me with a bitter feeling of having sinned. Strangely though, I had never had any faith.
The clock is ticking, I reminded myself, and headed for the stairs, eventually reaching the top. I heard the mad judge preaching his false ideals. I was very close.
I finally reached him. I stood just a metre away. I was tempted to push him off the ledge he was standing on, but I realized I couldn't. I had to stop this madness, not to deepen it further. He had to be cast down, not murdered in cold blood.
"But the heavens, the heavens! They will be ours! We will be made anew! We will meet again and rejoice!"
"Stop that babble!" I commanded him.
"Who the hell are you?" he asked as he was turning to face me while I readied my gun.
"You don't need to know that," I said. "Why have you sent your colleague to kill me?"
"Sent? I don't know what you are talking about!"
"You don't?" I asked furiously. "So why did he jump at me out of a sudden with an intent to rip me apart?"
"How the heck am I supposed to know?" he said angrily, but suddenly his voice shifted to a whisper: "I'd die to kill you, too. Stab you with a knife, tear apart your bowels, make you bathe in your own blood, chop you into pieces, force you to hang yourself on your own intestines. Countless of possibilities..."
"Spare me this nonsense," I shouted. "Where is the last judge?"
"Downstairs," he said in a normal tone. "You have already met him, haven't you?"
"What?!" I exclaimed. The God? That must have been a mistake. But no… how could it… I hadn't noticed the similarity. Dressed as a judge during the trial, I hadn't recognized him back then.
"The elderly man, yes. He is one of the judges."
"How come when he is a… a…" I fell short on words.
"A God?" he asked. "He is the one who we heed. He is the one in whose name we slaughter. Incant a prayer to lull the sheep. Call the spirits to cleanse us all. Let others observe our experimentation.
"Can't you see reason? Have your eyes been blinded?"
"There is no blindness in what we do," he said zealously. "There is only purity."
"How can you believe in what you say? It is morbid!"
"That is your take on the matter. A view of a barbarian. You apparently don't understand a project of grandiosity is taking place as we speak."
"Project? What project are you talking about?"
"The Great Change. Earth will change. Sins will be forgotten."
"Where do I find the last judge now?" I asked.
"You can't find him. Only he can seek others. He will find you when he deems it necessary."
"So this is enough for now? The end of the road? A cul-de-sac?"
"You might think of it as such," he said and leaped at me, trying to take away my gun. I held it tightly, so he couldn't wring it from me. We were struggling atop the spire, beating each other, balancing on the short ledge with the knowledge one false step meant death.
Finally, I managed to turn the gun on him and pulled the trigger. Hate left his eyes and was replaced by a dull and empty look as he tripped over and fell to his doom.
I looked down and noticed that the killing had just stopped. All the people in the streets, all the murderers ceased their craze. They were watching me in awe. It was the same look people in the Temple had expressed during the execution of Lady Opressant. The same twisted yearning for death.
I looked behind to see the sunlight still shining through the haze and I realized it was the sign of the Eternal Lord. Was it the dawning of a new day? A better or a worse one?
And the people down there? Did they see the light? No, certainly not. It was naïve of me to think so. They were still the same, thirsting for the kill. I must have been a god for them. Their new leader. However, it wasn't my intent to lead a blood-crazed horde to their deaths.
"Raze this cursed temple. Raze it to the ground. After you finish, leave this place. Run as far away as you can. Run and hope this madness will end one day." I knew they didn't understand, but I said it anyway. I knew they would tear down the Temple in their thirst for destruction, but would continue slaughtering one another afterwards. I knew they would never stop and because of that, I had to leave.
What should I do, I was asking myself as I was leaving. How to put an end to the madness? How to stop the state of death and decay?
The end was drawing near, but I knew it was only the beginning. A long and bloody struggle with uncertain outcomes. Honestly, I didn't want to be there and see it, but I knew I had to persist. And so I walked along the cursed wilderness. Without knowing what to do, without a light to guide me, I was forced to wander for the following days, impatiently seeking answers, getting closer to the final days, enduring… but was it purposeful? Did my journey have a sensible end? I didn't know… but I had to find out.