At the foot of my bed, there is a headstone. Neither a name nor a message appears on it. Solid granite sits erect before my feet. My body recoils. As a result, the headstone tilts forward.
My ears are filled with the cries of a bushbaby. Shifting my attention to the environment around me. Rather than being in my bedroom, I am in a forest of acacia trees. As the bushbaby cries again, the trees whistle with the wind. The echoes surrounding the forest make it impossible to pinpoint the bushbaby's location.
My teeth have been chattering since I woke up. I can feel my chicken skin rub against my clothes. As my eyes frolic around, I spot a hooded figure. From where I sit, I cannot tell the gender.
They are wearing a sinful black footlong coat that gleams under the silver moonlight. Bright orange eyes peer through the hood.
The figure lifts its hand. Beckoning me with a branchy finger. I want to run away but intuition tells me that running is a bad option.
I slip out of bed. The headstone collapses behind me. Causing the bed to creek for a moment.
I haul myself towards the figure. Taking the opportunity to look at my surroundings a little more. I notice that the forest holds graveyards of various shapes and sizes.
How did I miss so many? It must be the distraction brought forth by the bushbaby who has since quieted down.
There is a particular headstone that catches my eye. The hooded figure seems interested in it as well. A shining blade, about twice the size of my shoulders, sits readily between two pillars.
The hooded figure walks through the pillars. The blade swings down. Intentionally trying to cut the figure in half. The sound of metal vibrating cuts the air as the blade comes to a sudden halt. Mere inches from the figure's back.
There seems to be a limit to how far the blade can swing. No further than the pillars that keep it in place. Unsuccessful in its duty, it reluctantly pulls back to its original position.
The figure turns to look at me. They have an air of impatience about them now. My stomach turns for what I am about to do. If I do not follow this… this... person? Who is to tell what will happen?
I pray fate is on my side and approach the headstone. Why walk through and not around it? I wish I knew. There is insignia running lengthwise on both pillars. On the left pillar reads 'I hesitate for a second before I speed up my pace.
I hear the gushing of wind and the rapidly rising sound of vibrating metal. My nerves send shock waves straight into my bones. Rendering me immobile for a split second. Within that split second, a hand grabs my trapezius and jerks me forward. The powerful grip causes me to wince in pain.
A gush of wind and a strong metallic sound strike my back. Bringing me to my knees. I pause for a moment with my mouth wide open. Looking at my body, I begin touching myself. Trying to confirm if I am still whole. My trapezoid stings but it is not that serious. I am unharmed.
As I get to my feet, I notice the environment has changed again. We are standing at the mouth of a descending passage. Vines and fungus that glow in the dark, crawl ever so slowly along the surface of the walls. The floor squelches with each step I take. It is sticky and slippery at the same time. Squelching beneath my feet. I place my steps carefully. There is not enough light to see what I am stepping on.
We reach the bottom without incidence. I take a deep breath of thanks. As I do, a cloud of smoke blows past us. It fizzles away to reveal various relatives of mine who have passed on. They seem dazed, but are cognisant enough to greet me by name. Once their greetings are over, they all point in unison to a silver door
I approach. With a strong push using both hands, I fall into a restaurant-sized kitchen. Knocking over a couple of utensils from a flimsy table in the process. A knife almost pierces the back of my neck. I duck fast enough to earn a slight graze instead.
I get to my feet before another mishap befalls me. My guide has no problem with style and grace based on their entrance. I look away to suggest how unimpressed I am.
I wish my eyes had looked elsewhere. There are people half-buried under the checkered tiles in the middle of the room. Knife racks sitting on more flimsy tables shake violently above them. Carving knives fly out of the racks haphazardly. Some miss their target. Others hit.
Two-foot men with flesh-eating leeches for hands taunt their victims. Coaxing possible stomach-churning screams as the two-foot men do more than taunt. The victims' screams burst out of their throats but never leave their mouths.
My guide has continued ahead. Not wanting to get lost, or watch any more of this hell’s kitchen, I enthusiastically catch up to them.
We reach a door decorated with various flowers. A carpet of browning leaves lines the floor. They rustle as we approach. My guide leads this time. They reach out their hand and touch the door. It opens with ease.
We enter a room of pre-blossom daisies. Their heads are open too early. Countless of them have had their petals ravaged. Violently mangled leaves and distorted storks. Pollen is everywhere. In the air. On the floor. The walls. Army ants have done this. A mass of tiny terrors. Dominating the room with their creeping, crawling, puttering, and pottering.
There is movement on the floor. It turns out these are people. Covered head to toe in the blanket formation of the army ants. A literal sea of creepy crawlies. The writhing bodies underneath them create an illusion of sea waves.
The ants not only crawl on the people's skin. But in and out of their orifices too. Every opening of the body gets swarmed with swift enthusiasm. Stifling any cries for help the victims attempt to make. They Gag and choke through every breath. Wincing and twisting without rest.
One of the victims struggles to their knees. A middle-aged male based on his body structure. He looks like a slow waving blanket. He tries to say something but gags before his mouth can stretch far enough to make a different sound.
The ants have a distinct sound that they make. The effect is displeasing to my ears and nerves. I want to block my ears but fear I will appear weak. My lips have pursed so hard that the bottom one is beginning to cramp.
The man begins digging into his stomach with his fingernails. Struggling through pain and frustration, until his stomach rips open. An ocean of ants bursts out as he collapses back to the floor.
Feeling sick, I lower my head. Then my eyelids. I wish I were blind. Then I never would have seen that. Ever.
My guide has almost reached the next door. I am not sure I want to continue anymore. But there is nowhere else to go. Unless I want to backtrack and find myself facing off with the blade again. I catch up to them once again. The coming door might be the route out of this madness. This door has a mat before it which reads 'Rest in Peace'. Cobwebs sprout along the lining of the door.
We enter a spider’s lair. It is eerily silent and musty. I wipe silky grey cobwebs off my face and neck. My eyes dart around as I dust off my hands. Web cocoons are hanging all over the lair. I can only guess the packages that sit inside.
The sudden flutter of wings echoes throughout the lair. My guide ducks behind one of the cocoons. The sound continues for a little time. Intermittent in consistency. Then the silence returns. My guide re-appears with a drinking vessel. Holding it with intense care. I am courted to drink with surprise courteousness. There is even a bow to seal the deal. Convincing leads me to reach for the vessel with appreciative enthusiasm.
Upon closer inspection of the drink, I understand why my treatment has changed. The contents of the vessel are blood.
I drop my eyelids and sigh at my guide. They are close enough for me to make out their distinguishing features a little more.
They are shorter than me in height. Skinnier than they appear from a distance. There is a slit in the robe between the left shoulder and the neck. Revealing a scar that disappears into the dark of the garment's shadow. They motion at me to drink. Still polite and humble. I heave my chest and hold the breath. Bringing the vessel to my mouth. My arms pause before the contents reach my lips. I close my eyes. Tasting the iron texture as the vessel tips into my mouth.
Blood is tolerable in small quantities. The larger the amount, the less tolerable it becomes. Like your teeth cutting your gums after a straight punch to the mouth. Or drinking the blood you sustained from a deep cut to avoid over-bleeding. Not sure that is a real remedy but hey, better safe than sorry.
I am on my third swallow, and I have reached my point of too much. My gag reflex is ready to kick in, but I have a whole lot of swallowing to do. I force down another beverage My face scrounges to my stomach's reaction. Something is beginning to happen down there. And it does not feel good.
'You're a crazy psycho. You are insane. This is nothing. This is everyday grape juice for you. It tastes like natures best. Delicious and nutritious. Only a true psycho can enjoy this. And I am a true psycho.'
I want to slap myself to drive the point home, but my hands are pre-occupied. I slap myself mentally. Jerking my head side to side as I do. Enveloping myself with enthusiasm.
I take another deep breath. Stretching my mouth wider. Coercing my throat to do the same. I pour with unhinged fervour. Swaying my hips to distract my stomach.
I pour quicker than my throat can accommodate. Causing an overflow down the sides of my cheeks. I do not care. I am almost enjoying it. I am an animal. I growl to prove it. Dropping my hands to my sides. My fingers curl into the vessel's mouth. Prompting it to swing and spread blood drops around my feet.
I have become inebriated. Swaying from side to side. My sight blurs out as my stomach nears its bursting point. My guide has moved themself to an altar of some kind. It is difficult to confirm this with my blurred vision. But its black, flat, and raised from the ground.
My guide motions for me to come over. My feet wobble as I approach. Without reason or instruction, I strip naked and lay on top of the chilly stone. I am so tired. Like I have been walking all day. I need the rest. Perhaps when I wake up, my eyes will be better.
My guide begins to flail their arms all over my body. Chanting something in a language I do not understand. Snow begins to fall from the jagged white roof. Real snow that melts on contact with my skin.
As the snow builds momentum, a silky substance sprouts out of the pores of my skin. My guide continues to flail their arms. The passion in their chanting grows by the flail.
The longer the snow falls, the thicker the silky substance gets. The chanting fades into the background as the silk covers my head and ears. Before long I am in complete silence.
It is warm inside. Warm and surreal. And unnerving. I cannot hear myself breath. My entire body is saran wrapped. I am losing consciousness. My chest cannot heave enough for me to take a breath. I cannot even struggle or wiggle my toes.
This is my coffin. A sad, lonely feeling overwhelms me. Tears are unable to leave my eyes. Causing my pupils to burn under the pressure.
The rest of my body is not doing so well either. My skin is reacting to the constricted conditions too. Burning differently to my eyes, but with the same pain. I am bloated from the inside. Cold with pain on the outside. A fiery, claustrophobic, torturous discomfort unexplainable through words.
Moments after, a shooting pain attacks various parts of my body. The parts that felt the most restricted. My eyes, chest and stomach area, bladder. All burst with the worst pain that I have truthfully never felt in all my life. And I have been a victim of sexual assault when I was a young boy. Right now, this is worse.
I feel myself leaving my body. The same way I did all those years ago with those boys on the soccer grounds. But rather than blackout, I push into a thick darkness. Blacker than sin. Still aware of myself. But with no grasp of my environment. I flail my hands and feet. Without awareness of an existing environment, it feels like I have no limbs.
I open my mouth and immediately swallow the blackness. Prompting me to shut it quicker than I opened it. Something inside me, or rather... within me, tells me to let go. Stop trying to be in control. I surrender. Submitting myself to the nothing I float in. It is so peaceful here. I hated it a moment ago. Now I cannot get enough. I never want to leave.