A Winter Cynic original, written for the Autumn Poet, featuring their characters from the original continuum Schweigen.
They say that in the most dire of moments, the body resorts to animal instincts. One such animal instinct, most prominent in life and death situations would be panic. In that event, all one can do is run.
You really can’t see them but with you heart beating fast enough to be audible and for your ribcage to ache, you can hardly see anything except a blur of visuals and sounds. The sound you know the best would be laughter. Hysterical, sadistic and crazed laughter. Underneath the current of it, would be your breathing, ragged and desperate, singing out to the drumming of your heart.
You nearly fall over as you round a corner, awkward for a few seconds before you return to your full blown run, two and three steps at a time down the steps. Half way you feel that tension breathing ice cold down your neck and the whole world rolls over.
Your skull and shoulder make a cracking thud against the cold marble, teeth sinking into your tongue in reflex. Blood gushes to taint the insides of your mouth, bitter as you choke in your attempt to catch enough breath to go on. Your vision swims as you stand, your arm painfully numb and hanging at your side as your other hand grips your head to steady it.
They’re laughing at you, shadows sweeping down the steps leisurely to give time for a chase. The very sight of them is a snap back to reality and you only realize that you’re running again when they fade into nothing but a distant blur in the very corner of your eye.
Judging by a glance at the rooms numbers—248, 249, 250—you’re on the third floor and still an eternity away from escape. The moonlight streaming through the windows on your left is painted a sick crimson, burning grotesque faces into the floor. The aching in your head from the fall is ebbing somewhat, although the pain has moved behind your eyes forcing you to squint to see well enough.
A flash of black, laughter pitching high as if they’re right by your ear and everything explodes. Your arms shoot up to cover your face even as you still run, feeling shards shooting past you, tearing at cloth, skin and muscle to let blood run free. The more movement you’re capable of, the more the shards come, sinking in deeper and deeper until they’ve embedded themselves into your flesh.
Red splattering on the floor, you nearly slip on it as you try to judge whether or not you should put down your shields, feeling too many of those pieces coming still. The sharp angle of the corner—yes! steps to the next floor, so close now—is softened into another infernal blur when you feel cold lacing your hair and grasping your scalp, jerking your head back with the sudden interruption of movement.
Your eyes dart about, trying to focus and you swear you can see the flash of white teeth, a sinister curving smile before the world decides to whir itself into another dance and you roll down the stairs, edges banging against muscle and bone to coax more blood free from your open wounds.
The steps never seem to end, a mess of pain and confusion until that crack again—duller now, maybe this time your skull’s broken—signifies the end of it. They’re laughing again! Laughing!
You stand, breath coming in gasps now and too shallow to give you strength, limping to start your run. This time there will be no escape.
You didn’t even need to be half way through the corridor when cold knocks you to the side to the balcony, your natural instinct to seek the source turning your body so that when you hit the edge, it’s the base of your spine that cracks and you see a towering mass of black, eyes and mouths hollow to their agony before the world finishes her dance, sending you over the balcony and down.
The moon is so perfect, an orb painted over with blood. The clouds are afraid to graze even near it, fearing to mar her beauty.
The stabbing pain that rips through you comes too suddenly for you to react and the scream hits the back of your teeth in a hiss. A small trickle escapes your mouth to paint down your chin and jaw. Your eyes dance down to your chest, bloodied and ripped, to search for the exit wounds of thorns but you see only the shallow heaving of labored breathing.
“Poor child…” a man’s voice, something real and far more frightening than those ghouls. The leaves and flowers rustle as he steps over them, decked in a long cloak of black that dully reflects the moonlight, giving an outline to his broad shoulders and to his hair. His eyes seem hollow for they are the very same color as the moon. Red as the blood is red.
You try to say something but all you can do is blink back the tears that have started to form. The whimper escapes you and before you know it you’re crying to him, trying to move one of your arms but it feels as if the thorns have cut in too deep to allow it to function. You don’t need to bid him near; he kneels over you.
“You must be in a great deal of pain.” Those words have the potential to be kind but altogether sadistic. Reveling in your suffering. “Dearest, let me”—he brings his hand up, drawing it back above his shoulder—“alleviate it!” The flash of black pierces your ribcage so easily, grasping something within but it’s not your heart. You can feel your heart fluttering helplessly beside his hand while all other sensations die out.
His hand withdraws slowly and as it leaves you, you see something silvery slipping out from between his fingertips. The world fades off into a blur of colors as your eyes try desperately to keep on his face but all you can see perfectly are his eyes.
He moves and those eyes come closer to you, narrowed in some unspoken pleasure. “You are so very beautiful, dying like that.” The graze of his lips against yours is the same warmth of the living.
You wake up, your heart pounding and the sweat simply dripping off you in great streaks. A dream. You reach over to your bedside, flicking the lamp on to search for any traces of injury. None. Perfectly fine. Perfectly awake. Perfectly thirsty as well.
You haul yourself out of bed, slipping on your slippers before daring to step out the door and down those steps. Your hand searches out for the railing and doesn’t let go, fixated as you are still on that quickly fading dream.
The light from upstairs is bright enough to show you your way to the refrigerator where you take out a water bottle and drink straight out of the mouth. The rush of cold down your throat eases your anxiety and you trudge back up. On the way to the stairs is a large window; the water bottle falls onto the floor, spilling out its contents as you fight to calm your heart.
The moon is the color of red and below it is the steeple of the church nearby where a black shadow looms, his cloak blowing in the wind. His head moves and those demon eyes meet your own.