“I don’t want to go down there, Barney.” Maria grabs my hand, ready to run back to the entrance, but the screams from the cells filled with murderers and rapists stop her. The rattle of her bracelets give away her fear induced convulsions. I feel the way she looks, ready to faint.
Cupping my hands on her cheeks I smile brightly at her, “it’s just a spook house, sis. You’ve written scarier things than this.” And to hide the bull further, I walk down the stairs leaving her. “See nothing to… it.”
She isn’t where I left her. My foot slips trying to run up the stairs. I can feel the blood dripping from my knee, the hand rail is the only thing keeping me from falling and making it worse. I can’t find her anywhere on the landing, I even look in the closest cell.
“She’s gone!” the creatures at the far end yell back at me.
“I ripped her apart.” One says
“I stuck her like a whore!” Another yells
“I’m… still… not… done.” A third grunts.
“Fuck you!” my scream echoes throughout the corridor. The ring is sustained by the stone walls, and after a minute interrupted buy a horse laugh and the whine of gates opening.
The cells doors at the entrance of the corridor, the ones holding the murderers and rapists, open. They swing quietly open, the air is still, the silence is oppressive. The creatures covered in blood and screaming for my entrails stampedes towards me. I have no choice but to run for the stairs, the stairs that are no longer there.
I turn back to face the oncoming hoard, they are less than ten feet from me. Through the mass, standing with his arms crossed, I can see Michael holding a key. Before I can process this, a wall of bodies slams into mine. I get pushed back into the stone wall where the stairs used to be. The wall rips open like damp paper and I plunge into a chasm. A rift in the earth lit by green torches held in the hands of giants, who with their empty hand hold up what appears to be the crust of the earth. I fall for an eternity and they watch me sink into the blackness where their light cannot reach.
It feels like closing my eyes slowly, the light fades away and it doesn’t even feel like I’m falling anymore. With that thought I can feel all of my weight returning to my legs, which is too much for my injured knee and a fall. The dirt floor is cold enough to sting my palms the moment I touch it. All around me blue lanterns incased in ice come to life. A clear path is laid out for me to follow. I don’t want to.
“Of course you don’t want to, it is frightening.” Michael’s voice calls out to me from up ahead.
“Where is she?”
“In there.” He points into the distance. “We must hurry, he has her.”
“Who has her, what is this place?”
“I think you know. Stand, we should have been further by now.”
I wrench myself off the ground and limp towards him. His angelic face bathed in blue stares down at me before he moves forward. The temperature plummets the further we walk. The ground has steepened by the time we come across any discernable feature. A tower of ice blocks looms over us, encased in one is a dismantled body. There is a sign next to it; Brother.
The further we walk the more body filled blocks we fine, mother, daughter, grandfather. “Once trophies, now they serve as a reminder to him.” Michael points to a man sitting on a chair up ahead.
The closer I get the more familiar he seems, until “That’s Marcus Switch Blade. The kid who went nuts at a family reunion in Dover Lake and hacked everyone to bits.” I say quietly. He is strapped to the chair with fishing line so tightly the binding has cut though a few layers of skin. Hooks keep his mouth shut and his eyes wide open.
“That he did.”
We continue to walk, the whole time the ground gets steeper and the air gets colder. We pass a large flat bolder, it looks like a fallen pillar. On closer inspection is turns out to be a steel medical exam table. Medical paraphernalia litter the ground. Minutes later a man stumbles into our path covered in needles and scalpels. He opens his mouth to speak but throws up bile instead.
“I never meant any of it.” He points to a pile of rotting baby caucuses. “They just wouldn’t stay alive.”
I recognize his face too. He is Dr. Omar Ohera, the man responsible for hundreds of infant deaths around the world. He was paid a fortune by drug companies to go to the poorest of cities pushing drugs that weren’t approved. Eventually he was caught and sentenced to death, but the companies he worked for never came forward.
After another mile of walking Michael stops at the edge of a frozen lake. He smashes the ice around a lantern, pulls it out and hands it to me. “You must go the rest of the way alone. If he and I meet, there will only be another war.”
“Wait, don’t leave me.”
“Follow the lights reflection and you will be fine. Do not allow him to take this lantern from you, or things will go far worse than they already have been.”
I take it from him and look towards the lake. When I turn back I expect him to be gone, but he is still there. “Don’t worry child, I will wait for here.”
I nod and walk tentatively onto the ice, it is stable and makes no sound. Shining the light ahead of me I can see its reflection on the surface of the ice. Keeping an eye on it as I walk, I can hear the lake grown deep under me. Suddenly the reflection disappears, I panic and whirl around. I find it again on the path I came from. Slowly I turn to the right, the light goes out the moment I go past my initial path but returns somewhere between back the way I came and straight ahead of that. I guess I have to go this way now.
The light disappears another four times before I look up to see how far from the shore I am. I hope the pinprick of light in the distance is Michael holding up a light for me to see. I continue to follow the light until I hear a man and a woman speaking. His voice sounds like the grunts of many animals at once. She sounds scared out of her wits. The closer I get, the clearer they sound, eventually I am close enough to hear what he is saying.
“You are much too beautiful to return, and even if you did who would there be to greet you. Your parents hate you and your brother abandoned you. I am your final hope for happiness sweet Maria.”
“No please, just let me go. I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
“Sweet child, even if you did who would believe you.”
I find Maria, in the clutches of a man dressed exactly like Michael, standing next to a small pillar of ice. Buried in the pillar is the entrance to a cave, but with no sign of mountain behind it. The man has hair down to his shoulders, there are trinkets of gold braided into it, and his short beard has similar adornments. I think I’ve walked a little to close because he snaps his attention towards me and the light.
He opens his mouth and the sound of hornet’s escapes, “Give that to me!”
“No, let her go or I’ll smash it,” I have no clue where I’m going with this.
He lowers his head menacingly, the light plays off his black eyes. A horrible hiss emanates from him, sustained even when he speaks again. “I will murder your sister, rape her dead body and eat her flesh if you do not hand me that lantern.”
“Fine, I’ll give it to you just let her go.” I place the light on the ice and walk a bit away from it. The man lunges at it before it melts completely through the ice.
I make a run for Maria, we fall over as I get to her. That light must have been keeping me warm because my legs stop working and my face aches with cold. The man screams with pain as he holds the light over his head. He launches it at the pillar and cries out in victory.
Halfway through the impossible cave entrance he stops, looks over at us and smiles. “I think I’ll take her anyway.”
Reaching down he grabs her by the hand and yanks her away from my frostbitten hands. He shoots me another magnificent smile before disappearing into the cave. I’m left there on the lake freezing and for all I know dying.
“No!” I can hear a faraway yell from somewhere behind me. I manage to turn my body in that direction and in the sky high above something or someone is flying at incredible speed, leaving white glowing plasma in their wake.
I feel too tired to even wonder if that’s Michael. I just want to close my eyes and let the cold take me away. Slowly I let it happen, slowly my eyes shut and I almost don’t even feel the cold anymore. I can hear yelling in the distance again. But I don’t want to bother with that anymore, I just want to sleep.
“Barney!’” someone yells again and again. It almost sounds like Maria, but she’s gone. The voice gets closer, and it changes into Steve. Steve?
“Barney, wholly shit man, I’ve for you everywhere. I even called your folks.”
I open my eyes, I’m lying in the abandoned lot where the Rezfine building used to be. Where Mad Mikes Fair used to be.
“Barnyard, I haven’t seen you in a week man, what gives?”
By Cas & Edgar.