Drip down the arm. Down the fingertips. Dropping to the ground, the thirsty earth that had swallowed so much already. The red pool grew wider, the paths of blood from the wound all leading to it. The sawdust beneath him helped to soak up the fluids, but some still made it through to the dark earth.
The wound was deep, deep enough that he felt the exit wound through his back. What had been used was irrelevant. That it had been razor-sharp was also irrelevant; the instrument had been twisted round counter-clockwise at least half a dozen times. Maybe more, but certainly not less. He could see the raw meat that had once been his chest, shredded by whatever that creature had used. He could feel the last of his lifeblood flowing sluggishly down, pulled by gravity, to the thirsty ground.
Had he screamed with that first stab? No, before it. Screamed so hard he had felt his larynx burst. Screamed so hard he had pulled the chain that had held his right arm to the wall out by the bolt. He had screamed until blood had come from his throat, his voice no longer able to be found. The scream had been not for the instrument of torture, but for the sight of the torturer itself. The visage of the monster had burned itself onto his mind, and he would never forget it, much as he wished he could.
Why had he not yet died? He could no longer see clearly, and considered it a blessing. He was dying, and had made peace with his god. He had said his goodbyes to his family, his friends, himself. That he had made it this long after that implement had pierced the right side of his chest had amazed him. Soon, though, he would be beyond his torturer’s grasp, beyond the pain it inflicted.
Silence, and he felt himself go. The wound no longer ached, and he could no longer feel that terrible draining of his blood onto the ground. This was a sweet release, one he had known awaited him since coming to this place. Fate had dealt this hand, and he had no reason to complain. He would go to the reward a lifetime of service had earned him; such was the promise of his god.
The burning pain ripping through his stomach and gripping his spine made him cry out again silently. His body, which had been floating upward and outward, gave such a spasm that he bent nearly in half. The peace he had accepted into his soul was shattered, scattered to the six winds, and fire flowed through him.
His torturer was not through with him.
“Martin,” it hissed, pulling him closer to it. He kept his eyes closed, not wanting to see it again, not wanting to see the oozing pus, the sores, the beautiful arrangement of scars and pain across its flesh. One sight had been enough. “You cannot leave, Martin.”
My god has promised me peace! Martin screamed. You must release me! He has commanded it!
It chuffed out laughter, the sound no different than rotten meat sliding over hot metal. “Your god has no power over me, Martin. You cannot leave.” The laugh again. “Look below you, Martin.”
Unable to stop himself, Martin chanced a glance below him, where he knew his body was. The blade was still there, the darkened metal looking so cold. From the exit wound, he saw that the blade had formed barbs, locking it in. Where the blade entered him, he saw a thin silver chain coming up from the handle. He knew where it led. Gods help him, he knew.
No! Martin’s voice wailed in anger and pain. You cannot hold me thus!
“Until I get what I want, I will hold you as I wish, Martin.” It moved into his line of sight, and Martin squeezed his eyes shut, for all the good it did. “You will give me what I want, or you, like those before you, will entertain me.”
What do you want, spawn? Martin tried to pull away again, only to feel the chain tighten, the pain increase sharply.
“I want the Walker Between Worlds. Give him to me, and I will release all of you.”
Martin laughed, unable to help himself. He does not exist, spawn. He is a myth, a legend of times past.
The torturer licked all six sets of lips, loudly. “Do not lie to me. I know when you lie.”
It is no lie, spawn. You know I cannot be false in this form.
“If that is the case, Martin, make yourself at home.” It sighed contentedly. “The Walker Between Worlds will be along before you know it, and I will have him.”
You know he does not exist. Why do you seek a myth?
“He will exist, Martin. Your own god said he would, and the Light never lies, does it?” Silence answered it. “You know, then, that he will come. When he does, he will be mine.”
When the Walker Between Worlds comes, you will not survive the encounter. That has been foretold by the Light, as well.
Another cascade of licking lips. “I have spent so long searching for the Walker that I have left nothing to chance, Martin. Indeed, you and your friends will be instrumental in that.”
What do you mean, spawn? Martin hoped he was wrong by the creature’s meaning, but knew he was not.
“Look around you, Martin. Look around you and know that I speak the truth.”
Martin let himself hear, then, truly hear the sounds around him. What he had taken as the wind through the stone passages were screams, and cries, and pleas. Around him were not only some of his own people, those who served the Light, but from other Orders as well. He could see the chains from their floating forms to the rotted and sometimes skeletal remains, binding them until they were released. Those near him had tried pulling the chain away, their hands weeping soul energy like blood. Crystalline tears flowed from their empty eyes. Martin looked farther out.
As far as his Sight could see, for miles upon miles, were others trapped as he. There were hundreds like him, perhaps thousands, tools for this creature, this spawn of the Abyss. Martin’s heart sank as he finally realized who had him in his grasp, and that he was just another in a long line of fools and tools for the Abyss.
“I always get what I want, Martin,” it said. “You would do well to remember that. Odi ego sum.”
One day, one of us will get you, Beast, Martin spat, his eyes shut tight again.
“I hate, therefore I am, Martin.” The Beast snorted, some of the noxious phlegm from its innards flying onto the ground. “Only the Walker can threaten me, and until then, I am lord of all I survey. Even afterward, when the Walker is strung up much as you are, I am lord of all I survey. Once I have him?” The Beast dipped one of its digits into the pool of blood under Martin’s corpse. It flicked a scabrous tongue out, relishing the taste of fresh fluids. “I will be lord of all, just as I once was.
“And then, when that happens, only then will I release you, Martin. I will allow you to pass beyond, and give you some peace before I come to devour all.” The Beast sliced off a sliver of Martin’s flesh. The morsel sated its hunger not at all, but then, nothing ever could. “Delicious, Martin. Your faith flavors the meat so well.”
You will be destroyed, Beast, Martin snarled. The Light has decreed it so.
“Just as I told those fools who worship Science, I tell you: Nothing can destroy me, Martin. Even the Walker cannot destroy me. I have planned too long, Martin. Soon you shall see. Soon you shall know. Now, you will rest, my dear Martin, for I will have use of you.”
The Beast moved away, its corpulent form pulled forward by sightless creatures, vaguely humanoid, their minds destroyed by such close proximity. They pulled and pushed gently, their hands melting into the hide of the Beast. As more of their bodies were devoured by the Beast, other creatures came forward to take their place. It paid these poor things no mind; after all, did not everything in this world serve it at its will and pleasure? It would consume its entire realm if such an act would bring it more. It had done so many times before.
It went to the center of its home, no light anywhere. It did not need light to see, and nothing in this world needed to see, nothing living, anyway. It amused the Beast to let its playthings keep their sight, their suffering at the knowledge of their helplessness delighting it. The suffering of others was one of the few things that still gave the Beast pleasure, and it experienced it as much as it could. As it situated itself in its resting place, it let itself relax into its true form.
“Odi ego sum, Walker Between Worlds,” it rumbled as it began to slumber. “I hate, therefore I am. I look forward to devouring you.”
Martin threw prayer after prayer, plea following plea to the Light, only to have them unanswered. Always before he had felt the Light, but here, in this place, this Place, the Light did not touch him. He was truly alone in this Place of the Damned. Before his faith could leave him, he gave one last prayer.
May the Walker Between Worlds shine Your Light upon this blight, may his wisdom be many-fold, may his victory be swift. Martin closed in on himself, trying to retain some semblance of sanity. His mind tacked on one final stanza to his plea.
Let his arrival be soon.
So, you folks think I should chase this to the end? I don’t see it as more than a novella, if that. Let me know what you all think.