Chapter 16

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Voices were shouting all around him, angry cries overlapping each other, mixing together into a chaotic thunder. He tried to look around but saw only watery shapes and movements, figures closest to him seemed the clearest, yet they remained nothing but dark shapes against a blood red backdrop. One voice shouted out above the rest, a deep and ominous shout that sent shivers up his spine, immediately all other cries were silenced. He listened closely, trying to make out what was being said, but although the powerful voice shook the very ground he stood on, the words seemed like nothing more than broken whispers in his mind, completely unintelligible.

 He knew he should speak, knew he should cry out against the thunderous speaker, but the words wouldn’t come. He didn’t know where he was or what was happening, the memories refusing to connect in his mind, yet he knew that he was somehow a major part of it, a key figure in this gathering. Why couldn’t he remember? Why did everything around seem so strange, and yet so completely familiar at the same time?

He tried again to make out the figures surrounding him, but it was like trying to look through a thick, opaque liquid. Their movements seemed too fast, too distorted to focus on. Their features were nothing more than a dark haze against the red sky behind them, a red sky that looked so much like an image from a water painting, like a storm so calm and violent at the same time that it could only have come from an artist’s mind. Were there mountains around him? Were there…

The powerful voice and surreal landscape faded away, replaced by an intense pain and bright light. There was a sensation of falling through time itself, of crossing vast distances in the blink of an eye. As the intense pain enveloped him, finally fading away as the red landscape melted away. The red sky gave way to a cloudy white and grey, the powerful voice that shook him like thunder was replaced by the distinct sound of a real thunderstorm in the distance.

 Different voices began to multiply around him, many more than before and further away. Instead of angry they were excited, almost bloodthirsty. As the confusion of pain and change faded a new sense of belonging and purpose filled him. He felt like he should be doing something urgent, that he should stand before something terrible happened.

Looking around in the dreamlike fog of his surroundings he could see a huge building surrounding him, and could almost make out the shapes of tan four legged creatures, angry, hungry, and close. Though he couldn’t see them clearly he knew they were trying to get to him, barely held back by thick chains. The sounds of the chains and roars of the beasts all seemed to be coming from the end of a long tunnel. He tried to stand but a sudden and sickening feeling of vertigo forced him back down.

 The shouting grew louder, more ferocious. Amidst his confusion he somehow knew all the voices wanted something terrible from him, or to happen to him. There was sand under him, he could feel it now, real and imaginary at the same time, it felt wet, sticky. A dark figure emerged in front of him, filling the white and grey sky. Standing over him, too blurry to see clearly, it stood dark and menacing.  The shouting became louder as the dark figure started to move…

The dark figure and shouting voices melted away as another painful flash of light and sensation of falling enveloped him. Suddenly everything around him became a sticky black. The white pain disappeared, replaced by a powerful sense of terror, a deeper fear than he even knew existed. Nothing could be seen around him but darkness, and fire. He could feel its heat burning his flesh, smell its rank smoke as it filled his lungs, choking him with the putrid smells of rotting eggs and charred, decaying flesh.  

It wasn’t moving right though, this nightmarish hellfire. Through the black and poisonous smoke he could see the flames flickering not up, but down, cascading to the ground like a fiery waterfall. The fire was moving towards him, like it had shape and purpose. The voices that had surrounded and shook him were gone. In their place hellish growls and angry snarls of hunger filled the air with rage, and hatred.

He tried to push himself up from the ground when something blazing hot and extremely heavy landed on his back and forced him down. He screamed out in pain as molten claws dug deep into his back, slicing through clothing and flesh like razor sharp blades. He could both feel and hear the fiery claws scrape against his bones, the taste of acid filling his mouth as a sudden urge to vomit erupted through him. The air filled with even more growling and snarls, coming closer, surrounding him. The vile smells were so intense they threatened to suffocate him.

This can’t be real, this can’t be… all thoughts were cut off when a pair of reddish yellow eyes lowered in front of his face and stared into his own, growling, snarling. He could feel its hatred, its rage. The creature was shaped like a massive and emaciated wolf, made of smoke and fire, its body covered in cascading flames and foul smoke instead of fur and flesh. Its eyes swirled like pools of molten stone; its teeth glowed like white hot metal in a mouth of fire and ash. The flames and smoke fell from its body, surrounding him in a thick and poisonous cloud the same way dry ice creates a falling fog when it hits water. Molten drops of saliva fell from its snout, sizzling and lighting tiny fires at the hellhound’s feet.

He felt his terror rise as it faced him, barring its teeth and snapping inches from his face. He could feel its pure hatred for him, its desire for blood. The hellhound stood over him, relishing the moment before it made its kill. It let out a vicious growl, the hot and vile fumes of its breath burning his face as the jaws opened wide and lunged at his face. The world became a bright red, white hot blanket of pure pain…

Alex woke up on the floor of his room covered in a cold sweat. He opened his eyes slowly, trying to shake off the disorientation that filled him. Where was he? The last thing Alex remembered was driving home and walking into his room. Everything was still dreamlike; terror still ran through him like acid. His head was throbbing, and for a moment Alex was afraid the headache would come back with another bright flash of pain, but it mercifully faded quickly. His heart raced and his arms threatened to give out as he slowly pushed himself off the floor. Alex tried to hold onto the dreams that were quickly fading from memory. He wanted to make sense of them, needed to sort them out, somehow. But the images that had filled his head faded away as quickly as the pain, and he found it impossible to hold onto them.

Shaking, Alex pulled himself to his feet, quickly falling back to his knees as a wave of nausea threatened to empty his insides. Finally, after a few unsteady minutes, he was able to stand and stumble to the light switch. The room was silent except for the sound of crickets outside and the loon’s eerie calls on the lake. A light breeze came in through the open window and helped to wake him.

What happened? Alex wondered in a daze as he stumbled to the bathroom and flipped on the light. Alex leaned against the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. His face was pale; his hair was plastered to his forehead. He stood while the shaking in his arms slowly subsided and his racing heart finally started to calm. He splashed cold water onto his face; grateful to see color returning as his heart slowed to normal.

What was happening? Did he have a tumor? Brain damage undetected till now, or was he going crazy? Alex turned the bathroom light off and walked back into his room, instantly feeling the cold sweat return and his heart start to race again.

“What the hell…”

His bedroom looked completely destroyed, like some huge animal had gone crazy and torn it apart. His bed was on its side against the wall, as if something had grabbed hold and flipped it over. His dresser was pushed over and flung against the far wall; a couple of drawers pulled out and cracked. His nightstand had been thrown and laid in pieces under his window. Standing back he looked at his entire room and changed his mind; it didn’t look like an animal had torn it apart.

It looked more like a bomb had gone off in the middle of his room, centered on the very spot he had been laying.

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