Sitting in the worn chair before the desk as I have done on so many nights before, a rush of ivory light rippled across the ebony sky. White veins across the heart of Nyx’s breast expanded and pulsed a second time before an explosion of thunder heralded a cavalry of a million raindrops. While some may take pleasure of these sensations, my memory flew back to a time most treacherous. Through days, months, years, back to a moment when my escapades intertwined with those other long dead minds lured by ambitious gain and foolhardy bravery.
I recall a night unlike any experienced before. Years prior I was summoned by the pleas of some colleagues to assist in the acquisition and study of certain…texts from the derelict ruins far across the never ending sea. It was in those crumbled walls did my hands fall on one of those leathery scrolls of dried, virgin’s skin. Curiosity, a deadly affliction to most, had taken its hold of me as I stood alone while my comrades crept along other long neglected halls for other forbidden troves that once belonged to a society wiped out eons ago by unknown circumstances. My hand trembled as I unrolled the scroll and exposed the faded red lines of nefarious script.
Shrouded by the faint glow of my lantern, five decades of research and study cataloged itself within my mind. Finally able to remember the language that belonged to such scribbles, I whispered aloud each line. In a blink of an eye, the orange burning comfort lounging idly atop a fallen pillar was gone. Instead there was nothing save for an abrupt pitch. The dark, a Stygian black cast out of Milton’s own Perdition enveloped my existence in one monstrous swallow. The blackness seemed like nothing itself, and yet all-encompassing and tangible. I was then plunged into a world that clashed with our own like Night and Day.
I stood a mere incorporeal thing. Despite having been robbed of my body a shivering cold laced itself around my soul. Was this truly a sensation of biting frost or merely the memory of such? I could not fathom as panic began to set in. Fears over the disappearance of my flesh and blood rattled me but only until my facilities reclaimed their hold of my ghostly brain. It was when I looked about did I see that I had been transported and left inside a large circular room with a far reaching ceiling and surrounded by dozens of windows that gaped open before a sickly green sky. Moving my phantom legs, I inched closer towards one of the windows and took a glance at where I truly stood. By some foul twist of fortune a crackle of violet lightening whipped across the befouled heavens. In that half-second I stared deep down into the clouded skies and realized I stood within some gargantuan spire that stabbed upwards from the unseen earth likes an assassin’s blade. It was in that explosion of purple conflagration did I feel a second presence skulking about. Though I was left a mere astral projection of myself, primal fears for my own safety amplified as I looked about the chamber to find who stood with me. Emerging from some edgeless shadow a figure stalked forward.
The figure was a shroud of twinging black that rivaled the very abyss that took me. A juggernaut with tree trunk limbs and a body of layered and lean muscle piled onto a form that stood nearly twice my height. It moved, each step taken a movement of grace obfuscated by prodigious size. In the green aura of the toxic sky its make became clear to me. This thing was not enshrouded by some obsidian armor, no, its body was in and of itself that pitch blackness. In its taut shape the being’s gender remained unknown, if such trivialities could be applied. The figure’s eyes beamed with the glow as the heavens that surrounded us. Stepping closer towards the edge of the nearest window, the being stood just beyond the precipice of descent.
In a flurry of motion that blinded my ghostly eyes, the phantom of amassed shadow shot both arms out into the open sky. A dozen digits and clawed hands worked under the whims of a mad composer. The skies reacted, twisting and swirling into violent mixes of color while thunder and lightning shattered whatever semblance of peace might have lingered in this misbegotten scape. The stranger’s arms worked into more swings and arcs, moving with effortless fluidity as it created the invisible shapes. With a long hiss, it raised both claws in a grand crescendo that preluded the finale.
There came a roar, a bestial sound that could mute even the shouts of the Almighty. Even in my bodiless state I rattled with terror at the noise that would forever be etched on my psyche. The deep bass of monstrous roaring seemed to come from all directions, and it was not until I stared directly ahead of my oblivious conductor I saw the source. However tall the tower had been, the thing that rose from the clouds dwarfed even that. The behemoth surged upward, its form an amalgamation of a thousand nightmares stitched together by an infinity of screams. Could this have been the legendary Leviathan or colossal Behemoth warned about by priests and theologians? Or was this something worse altogether like some intermingling of both titans? I would never know. I stared at the conductor of mayhem and saw at least one emotion I could decipher. As the beast roared and ripped into the cosmos, the black stranger writhed in apparent bliss, in almost a sexual ecstasy edging closer to climax as the monster in the heavens ascended higher.
The madness became too much. I knew I had to leave, needed to return to my body and retain whatever semblance of myself that could be saved. It was in that moment of panic, the conductor paused, the throes of passion ended. It twisted its nightmarish visage towards me. Though I was sure I was invisible the eldritch giant loomed over me, staring at me with its fiery emeralds. I froze unsure of how to proceed, helpless against the unknown. At that moment the choice, if any, was ripped from me. The stranger lunged forward, sending a six-talon grasp shooting towards my face. I shut my eyes fearful that my soul, ripped and torn from my body would haunt this foul and bizarre world.
I gasped, feeling my lungs burn for oxygen as if I had been holding my breath for hours. Blinking I came to realize I had returned to the dingy ruins of a forgotten people. Sweat poured down my body as I spun about, making sure this was not some trick of the eye. I turned to see my lantern still abundant with oil and continuing to burn its tender, reassuring light. Scrambling for my watch I came to realize only a scant fifteen minutes of my life had been stolen. As a sense of calm began to return my ears picked up the sound of raindrops chiming along with the padded drumbeats of thunder….followed by a scream.
With my astral body and flesh entwined together once more, I ensured to keep both intact. Lantern in hand, and my pistol formally resting in its holster now drawn, I readied myself for any altercation. At the entrance of the room, I saw one of our guides, a timid and frightened lad. He called out to me, to warn me that an incoming storm threatened to flood all roadsides and that a nearby cadre of bandits were camped too close for the comfort for my comrades. A hasty escape was needed before we were all trapped in this second hand sarcophagus and left at the mercy of bloodthirsty cutthroats. I nodded to the boy, holstered my weapon, and with my free hand snatched up the parchment that linked me with the mad conductor and to a world that thankfully, remained so far away.
As now I reclined against the welcoming embrace of my chair I stared outwards, no more grateful for any more misery brought on by the rain.