The House Of Starless Sky: Chapter 1


THE LAST SECOND AND TIME’S ANNIHILATION

Under callous moon, Blaes sank beneath the lake. A small hole through his chest, spilling red unto frigid liquid that spurred failing limbs to violence and mind to thought. He had heard drowning was the worst way to die, but waxed sceptical of the claim. “What do most people know of death? The closest they come to it is a missive from a relative they scarcely contemplate. How many have stood the precipice and felt the warm wind of the abyss rake their souls? As I do now. I shall have intimate details as to the nature of the phenomenon. Then, if there is a then, I may speak of death with supreme authority.” Were he able to breathe, he would have laughed. Were he unsubmerged, he would have cried. As thoughts continued to roil from the depths of the man’s consciousness, the irons his would-be murderers had afixed to his legs dragged him to the black. Blood afire, he struggled against the supremacy of the void. All contestation rendered vain by the weights on his lower limbs, lesser than the weight of the water, which intensified by impossible degrees, as if in the course of the descent, he were closing upon, not an aquatic chasm, but another planet, much larger than his own. Then, light, pure white and jarring enveloped all. Blaes opened his eyes and found himself falling, slowly, through air of gelatin constancy. Behind him where sky should have been hung a vast curtain of water, the very lake into which he had been thrown. The surface of the water-ceiling-of-the-world rippled, remanants of his passing. His shock subsided to fear as he beheld a great onyx tower that lanced the barren, scarp-strewn land below. Like a gale-borne leaf before an ancient oak, he drifted to an alien desert and slipped his bonds by cracking the lock which affixed the bulky chains with a sharp striated stone plucked from surrounding detritus. Kneeling, he laid hand to chest where the bullet had passed and felt only smooth skin through unruptured cloth. Pulling down his shirt at the collar he found no wound. He flexed his left hand, which had been previously paralyzed by what he assumed was nerve damage, yet now he could move the limb with nimble precision. His brows furrowed as he rose and his face assumed the purportions of bafflement before a thin smile twisted his visage. “I must be hallucinating. I’m really just laying on that lake bed. Somewhere between consciousness and hypoxia. Between the last second and time’s annihilation.” He grimaced amidst a flood of recollection as to the events which lead to his current state, which ferried the searing venom of betrayal. From the left pocket of his black pants he removed a crumpled photo of a woman and his grimace assumed a ghastly dimension before he crushed the momento in his fist and let it fall to the ground.

The surrounding plain was composed of ashen sediment that lay flat before the distant tower and more uneven toward the horizon. Around the man, jagged mineral formations loomed and waved impossibly in capricious winds, simultaneously hot and cold. Behind him, in the direction opposite the tower, a wall of impenetrable mist extended and did not shift with the wind, but coiled, rose and slunk as if of its own accord. Blaes turned and advanced toward the colossal construct, curious as to its inhabitants. For hours he trudged the wastes, yet he drew no nearer to the grand edifice that crowned the horizon. When he stopped, the mist was close behind him and strange forms skittered within. Blaes spun and hurried forward, stopping with a gasp as he found the base of the tower only paces distant when it had been miles away mere seconds past. He spared no thought to the impossibility of the monolith’s appearance and ran to the high, double-doored gate and pushed with all his might as the swirling shroud continued to gather behind him, monstrous shapes following, as if desirious of his consumption. Terrible snapping sounds issued from the pall and the man’s heart leapt in his chest. “Open, damn you.” Moments before the fog settled upon him chains snaked toward the door, burrowing into the obsidian facade and pulled them wide with such violence the mist was blown away. Once Blaes recovered from shock, he dashed through the portal and found himself in a wide white room furnished with large armatures that reached toward a ceiling he could not discern and all about the constructs, indistinct figures, like smoke in water, stood and turned what appeared as heads toward him and the intruder felt as if they spoke, though no sound issued within the chamber. An apprehension greater than that borne of the malevolent mist writhed in Blaes’ chest and his casual gait morphed to a harried jog. But the faster he moved, the more animated the watchers grew. Gradually, the apparitions drew toward him, gliding effortlessly over the immaculate floor and opened what seemed to be mouths and from within black and twisted appendages emerged. Blaes cursed and broke into a panic. It was only then he noticed what he had thought were soaring stacks of metal fiber was bone. Beyond osseous pillars, an elevator jutted from the wall, dark and adamantine as the chain-pierced door. Into the lift the man dashed and struck the lever. Rattle of machinery preceeded the device’s ascent. A hideous chill filled the air. Blaes whirled and beheld one of the shades from the lower floor starring at him and it opened its mouth and from it, a large segmented form slithered, clicking dozens of legs. Blaes pressed himself flat against the door and as the insectal monstrosity came within inches of his face felt the mechanized grating give way and tumbled free of the lift and fell some interminable distance before landing heavily on his side in a vast atramental cavity, bisected by a walkway of black stone that wound at the center to a spiral stair of comperable material. Across the flinty bridge he crept and scaled the voluted spire. As he neared the peak he realized the air was rhythmically perturbed, as if the whole recess were breathing. Athwart the top of the stairway he froze, discerning the cavernous walls to be the chitinous carapace of an enormous coiling entity that resembled a centipede, the head of which emerged from the darkness and loomed over the man. The gargantuan horror clicked its great mandibles and whipped the cloying air with its feelers and spoke and its voice were as a choir of millions.

Flotsam beached by dagger’s twist.

N’ venom leeched by dainty wrist.

Cowers, mewling, in the dark.

Cursing, vain, the naive arc.

Wreatchedness, now, to consume,

as closing hour of thy doom.”

Blaes fell to his knees before the entity, quaking with terror.

“W-what are you?”

I am the wind beneath the lake.

I am the storm that endless breaks.

I am the iron, in the ore.

I am the key, and you, the door.”

Blaes grunted as a marrow-deep pain seized his body, emenating from his chest. He clawed at his shirt and shuddered, for where his wound had been, a black substance, like the carapace of the horror, had spread. He opened his mouth to scream but a flurry of insectal legs erupted from his throat and all was darkness and silence.

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