We hear whispers in the dark. They are cold, seemingly filled with a warning but we cannot turn back, we can’t not stop moving...
I try in vain to understand this place, to make sense of the why and what. Reminding myself all the while that I have this stranger at my side, I am not alone anymore.
The black jungle through which we are slowly making our way is very silent, eerie and haunted by the something that lurks here in the darkness of everything that is in this thick coat of black shade around us.
This that was is now burnt and bares the smell of acid and rotting meat. It’s as though everything in this jungle was burnt to a crisp instantly and stands now looming in blackness whole and intact. Even the ground and the branches.
Cook remarked earlier that this place is like the aftermath of Hiroshima and since then both he and I have gone in circles within our minds to answer now a new question, Was this done by mankind?
We hear whispers in the dark.
They are cold, seemingly filled with a warning but we cannot turn back, we can’t not stop moving until we are out of this jungle and near to the city again in the hopes of finding this supposed group of people that my stranger friend Cook keeps mentioning. He says he was split from them by mistake during a black sand storm, but the look on his face tells me that there is far more to this place, these supposed people and my existence here.
But I choose to trust him. I have no choice. He knows this place, he knows more than I do and more than I can think to question anymore.
None of this madness is making any sense, not one second of this chaos I found myself in is making any sense since the moment I found myself wallowing through the dark passage into this ‘world’.
As we walk, we often exchange a few words. This person, this stranger who calls himself Cook has moments where he seems human, then moments where is seems completely isolated. I don’t trust him, not fully. I doubt he trusts me and whether he does or not is irrelevant to me. There is a bottom line here and that is that I do not care, I just want answers and I want out of here.
As we head along this darkened remains of a once flourishing jungle, we hear every so often the faint screams that remind us that we were not the first here and that we could too fall like those before us did at the hands of the darkness that chases us, hunts us and waits for us. Shadow warriors are here in the jungle to, stalking us and we know not how far behind us they are. But we know they are coming, circling and soon we will meet them again somewhere within this haze of redness that is this black jungle. A new part of my journey here in this ravaged and decaying place that borders on reality.
Perhaps this world is the answer to the nightmares, perhaps this is what I was meant to see, perhaps, this is what I was meant to be: a part of this decaying darkness.
I made the choice, can it by why I am here?
I must have been such a fool in the other world thinking everything was all a bad dream. How wrong I was. This is real.
The rotting corpses burning with fear are real, the shadow warriors waiting and trawling through this place are real. It’s all congealed with the screams of an emotion I know and am so familiar with, some feeling deep inside my existence that I have seemingly forgotten. It's just pure chaos which makes me think of the true identity of the darkness that is here. And these shadow things of this place, they’re getting closer — I can feel them closing in, watching us all the time. I hear them in the dense silence.
They are hungry, we are their prey. This black jungle feels like yet another waiting room to me – just like the passage and the mist and every other part of this world. A trap.
It's only a matter of time before we are confronted by the real face behind this dark and deadly blackness that has its armies of shadows that chase after us.
Cook and I stopped and waited for a while, and in that time I realized that I had not had any urge to eat or drink, not really. I am engulfed in surviving.
Handing me some strange dough substance, he managed a weary smile behind his broken eyes.
“Who are you Cook?”
He pauses again, I see in Cook’s face that he is uncertain of me and that I remain a mystery to him, that I am not the only confused one.
“Who I am now is not who I was before I came here, before I opened the door.”
“The dark passage?”
He frowns, remains silent and bites into this salty dough ball. A moment later he looks to me and shrugs, “The door, it’s a choice.”
He nods chewing, “The choice to open the door was your own right?”
My mouth is full so I simply nod, amazed at how this doughy ball can taste so great and feel so filling in my mouth despite how small my bites are.
“You didn’t have to follow me, I didn’t have to help you.” He says again, “Yet here we are, at the whim of our own choices.”
“No! None of this is because of my choices!”
“Yes it is Rek. Everything we do is a choice. That is life.”
“That is not life.”
“Then you are blind.” He shrugged, his face solemn now as he begins to head onwards again. For a moment I stood staring at the sky, wondering if I would ever see the beautiful blue sky or even the star filled heavens.
The raging darkness in this sky never stops. It is eternally raging in storms.
As we walk, I bubble and I sense that he is too. I realize he must struggle to connect with me, we are strangers. I also realize he was trying to tell me something about this place, at last! And I ruined it. But I do not care. I didn't choose to come here. Not here…. I made a choice to open the door yes, and step through without knowing what was waiting on the other side. But here is not where I chose to come.
Then again, I feel almost like I was meant to be here in this place, the barren land, the mist, the black jungle, I've been drawn into a trap and now there's no easy way out. This is my punishment perhaps for the sins of my former life back on the other side of the passage… Perhaps this is a test — a challenge if you like, to see if we are strong enough to face the reality, but what is the reality? What must we face? Why!
Cooks gasp has me spun to face him. He stands pale and with eyes wide open, his mouth slightly open and his body frozen stiff, staring at me with a horror in his eyes that chills my flesh through to the bone beneath.
“What is it?” I asked, slowly moving towards him, scanning him as best I could in the dark light this black jungle provides. I am looking for a snake, a spider or some kind of menacing entity – even shadows but I see nothing.
His stare is dead ahead and I turn back to the front, confused.
“Up there.” He said in a voice muttered from fear.
There in the dark shadows of the ashen trees I see. Like a hairless troll like blackness, sitting watching us with pale oval eyes and grinning with blackened yellow teeth that drool down the slimy grey body of this, thing.
“What the hell is that?” I say in a whisper of breath that escapes only by the force of my terror.
Cook is still frozen, in awe of this beastly monster that should theoretically only appear in nightmares or scary movies. “…look at its feet….”
I focus through this light and see in the clutches of its talons a human arm, ripped at the elbow.
In a swift movement it leaps down from its perch in the dark tree landing on all fours like a hairless kitten from hell, snarling in a giggle as more black drool oozes from its mouth.
Stunned, Cook remains still as I dart away without realizing and as I turn for him this gargoyle pounces up into him and sends him down into the ashen grass and soil with a thud, the hairless beast propped on top of his chest snarling with a grin that boasts ‘fresh new meat’.
In that moment I remember a dream, I feel the heaviness of déjà vu settling in, but I cannot remember why.
As its oozing teeth lowers to Cook’s face, sniffing at his mouth and skin, all the while grinning with white flaring eyes – the arm still clutched in its claw like foot.
“Hey!” I shout, swinging the crisp burnt branch into this things chest, sending it squealing down to the ground as though it bore no weight. I feel adrenaline taking control and before it is able to move again, I ram the branch down over its back and splintering my only means of defence into shards of bark and ash.
As I spun around Cook shouts and in the chaos of it all I just drop down as he, now with a branch of his own, swings at the dark troll like beast. He winds past me with the branch in the air over his head, screaming as the branch slams it in the teeth, the arm now dropping beside me as I scamper to my feet yelling.
The troll beast scampers like a frightened hound along the burnt ground and dashes away, through the trees and remains of ashen bushes. For only a moment, both Cook and I stare into the darkness of the forest in silence. Both breathing as though we had stopped days ago. The area around us is silent again.
“I don’t know.” He said before dropping his branch to the ground beside his feet and turning to face me, “I’m sorry I…..I don’t know if we’ll make it.”
“Make it?” I manage a weary grin, “We’ve come this far.”
My attempted vanity is not working and he snarls out at me; “I have not seen that before!”
His voice breaks the silence of the dark forest.
“Since you came through, this place it’s…it’s changing….”
“You mentioned that before…” he sigh, “Tell me what the hell you are keeping from me.”
“Everything!” he sighs, his head hanging in his hands as he tries to conceal the frustration in his eyes and a silence hangs in the forest now.
“You have to tell me…” I urge, “What are you not telling me Cook.”
He looks up heaving a deep breath, “They want you and I don’t know if we are going to make it.”
“Why do they want me?”
“Because you are the only one who...”
A twig snaps ever so faintly somewhere behind him and we turn to face our dark and grinning troll.
Bashful and ballsy, it sits again in the trees ahead of us with a grin and wide eyes.
“Back off fat Gollum!” Cook swoops down to grabs his branch again, but I see it and I grab his arm as my body fills with fear. More white eyes appear behind it, more double oval’s in the darkness.
Cook carefully steps backwards, almost into me as a swarm of them begin to emerge in the trees, each one’s teeth and eyes more alarming than the other. I knew then, standing there with forty plus beasts oozing for my flesh that this would be the end of it, that we had come as far as fate would allow and that soon I would know only the darkness of my choices.
...........................To be continued in Part Thirteen.
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