A/N: 100 Themes Challenge - Theme 4: Dark

Practice, practice, practice...

For some reason it was really hard for me to get an idea for this theme? And it ended up being a bit similar with Sleeping Beast (check my story collection 30 Times I Went Mad). Also, I'm not happy with the result, but eh... Whatever. It is what it is.

Darkness Has Conquered My Soul

It was a dream. But a very vivid one. He was still self-aware. Maybe that was the reason why his heart was filled with dread. It really felt like that something bad was about to happen. He had just come to existence into this strange world he didn't recognize but in his heart hid a sensation that he wanted to get out already. It didn't help, either, that his surroundings felt rather oppressive. He was in a very dark forest. It seemed like that all the plants didn't want him there, he was an intruder, and they wanted to tear him apart and smother him, working together with shadows. His only aid that he had against the forest itself was an old lantern that really seemed like a friend in this situation. At least he didn't have to worry about the shadows leaping at him.

However, there appeared to be something far more concerning than ill-filled shades and plants. From the distance, a howling of a pack of wolves could be heard, bringing forth fear from within his feeble heart. They were on a hunt – and he felt like he was the prey.

So he ran.

For some unknown reason, his feet felt heavy and it was tiresome to take steps. But the sounds of wolves seemed to get closer and closer – he had to keep running. He dashed through the forest in a rather clumsy manner, trying to get away from the approaching danger. The wolves weren't the only threat to him, and for a second he wondered: was he going to be eaten by the pack or the forest itself?

The answer came almost immediately.

Coming out of nowhere, a strange and faint mist surrounded him. And soon after that he heard the hungry growling of the predators right behind his back. Fearing for his life, he tried to hasten his pace, but learned soon that it was futile. Now the three wolves were right beside him, their ghostly bodies floating in the air. They were nothing but an embodiment of hunger and cruelty, their thin figures yearning for meat, and their eyeless, blind heads were driven by bloodlust. Baring their fangs, stinky drool dripping from their mouth, these ruthless beasts were about to devour him. Then they attacked in unison, coming from all directions, and he, being the helpless man with no chance of escape, he closed his eyes and raised his hands and crossed them to hide his face as if they would protect him from the fangs of those predators. For a moment as long as a heartbeat he just waited for the teeth to sink on his flesh – but nothing happened.

Seconds passed by.

The growling of the wolves was gone.

He dared to open his eyes and lowered his hands. He got hit with a sudden wave of confusion, for he was not in the forest anymore with the hungry beasts. Somehow he had ended up into a medieval village now. But still, the darkness prevailed. Especially because he had lost his lantern. The rotten moon in the sky couldn't provide much light, but at least the village didn't seem to be that hostile like the forest. At least that was his first impression of that place. So, he decided to take a stroll around the village because, well, what else would he do?

Soon he learned, however, that the village wasn't that nice place, either.

The streets were dirty and almost empty. Some of the darkest alleys were occupied by poor, sick people who whimpered in pain and even though it was dark, he could distinguish that those individuals had abscessed blisters on their skin. They were left there to writhe in agony and nobody seemed to care about them. It appeared that most of the people had locked themselves inside their homes, maybe to escape that ill fate of those unfortunate bastards. The village was dead silent. It was just a filthy and sick hellhole that was slowly dying. It was such a miserable place.

After a few moments of wandering in the village, he actually stumbled upon some people who didn't seem to be ill. They came around the corner, there was five of them, and as soon he saw them, they also spotted him, causing everyone to stop their going. Judging by their appearance – having cloaks and bird-like masks – these folks were plague doctors. For a little while, no one moved. Were these people inimical? He almost felt their stare on his body as the doctors apparently examined him with their gaze. He didn't dare to move a muscle, for he didn't want to appear as a hostile person.

The doctors glanced at each other and nodded heads before turning back to face him. One of them stepped forward, got closer to him, and handed over something. It was a scroll of some sort. He accepted this weird gift and picked it up. The group of doctors bowed, as if saluting him. Then they got up again and began to walk away to the opposite direction, leaving him alone. For a little while he looked after them, but decided then to investigate what kind of item they had left on his hands.

A little eagerly, he opened the scroll. It was filled with strange characters he didn't recognize. As he was examining the scroll, he suddenly started to feel dizzy. His head felt heavy and the world started to spin around him. It caused him to fall on his knees. What was happening to him? It was like he was getting shredded to every direction.

And as suddenly it had started, it also stopped.

He focused on breathing before doing anything else. When he thought that the world was stable now, he started to look around. His environment had changed once again. This time he appeared to be inside a castle, or so he thought. He was on a black corridor, which was being watched by portraits of noble people. Cobwebs and dust decorated all the corners and judging by the filth on the floor, no one had trod these passages for a long time. He dared to stand up and looked around in awe – this place was desolate now, but it had been grand at some point in time. He started to wander in this forgotten house of kings, wondering where the hall would lead him to.

So far he had been strolling with only darkness as his companion, but as he was done with ascending a staircase that came on his way, he found himself from a corridor that had windows in it. It was still dim, since the sky was still dominated by the same rotten moon he had seen above the village. Driven by curiosity, he walked to the large square windows and looked through one of them. He saw the village where he had just been, but other than that, there was nothing but woods. Woods everywhere, surrounding the village and the castle. Somewhere in the distance stood a lone giant, a mountain, but except for that, there was only woods. Probably it was the same place where he had started this dream journey.

Abruptly, a sudden sensation struck him. He felt some sort of calling in his soul. Something wanted him to travel to the heart of the castle. He didn't fully understand this urge, but decided to follow it anyway. So he did.

Dark halls, paintings of forgotten people, statues with empty eyes, rooms that nobody had visited for ages… All of them witnessed silently his travel through the castle. It was almost like a maze, but the calling he felt guided him flawlessly. It didn't take long for him to arrive at his destination: the throne room. At least that's where he felt he had to be. Two grand doors creaked open, allowing him to enter the room. It was rather bare place, having only a bland throne and a blue thin carpet leading to it. On the left and right walls windows were letting in pallid light.

He walked across the room, right to the throne. He noticed that a silvery crown was sitting on the seat – it was strangely well decorated with jewels, compared to the dullness of the room. His heart was racing as he raised the crown and he wondered, had this item called for him? Without hesitation, he placed the crown on his head and sat on the throne.

And in that instant, faint shadows began to swirl around him. He got frightened, ready to run away, but for some reason, he couldn't move. Somehow the dance of these shades had paralyzed him. He could only sit and let them do whatever they wanted to do to him. Then, the shadows dashed right at his chest – and disappeared. But that wasn't the end of it. He felt something clawing at his heart, and it was painful. He juddered, clenching hard the armrests of the throne, weakly fighting against the invaders in his body. It didn't take long for the battle to be over. The shadows had won. Now they had the control of his body, heart, soul and mind.

He raised his head, grinning widely.

He was the king of this dark and wretched land now.

And he never woke up.