My room is dark, and I am not alone. There is something in the darkness; I can feel it. The shadows brush my fingers. I feel its eyes upon me. I am scared, and I think it knows, I am trapped, and I know it knows. I fain sleep and hope it believes me sleeping. It calls to me soundlessly, words never spoken. My name is Kim, and I might die this night, but before I do you must know what happened. People must know, and know that I am sorry. Sorry for what I have set free.
I remember falling through the floor of the old church. That's where it all started. The church stood silently upon the rocks, older than the town that had crumbled around it. I was lost. The church seemed inviting, or at least warmer than the windswept plains around it.
The fall was short leaving me shocked but uninjured. After the fall, I found myself in a long passageway. Illuminated from the hole above and light ahead of me I could only see the barest of my surroundings. A sandy floor, walls carved from stone, it was simple in design and aim. Unable to go up I headed to the light before me, each step helping push the panic down. Running my hand along the wall I walked through the darkness. Breathing deeply of the stale air until I reached the light. The room I stepped into was unlike anything I had seen before. Perfectly circular, illogically bright with no light source I could find. A perfect single dome. The room was bare but for an altar in its center. I walked inside. The altar was a single block of obsidian, polished to a gleam. On the altar sat a single object. In the broadest terms, it was a cube but of such indescribable beauty. Words fail me in its presents my mind was unable to take it in. It was beauty.
I reached out to the object displaying a religious reverence I did not know I held and picked it up. I tried to study it, but I was unable to focus on any one part. The cube seemed to shift beneath my gaze causing my eyes to blur. There were carvings all over the cube of such complexity I could never know them, understand them. The cube held no temperature. It was as smooth as water and if not for the slight weight of the object I would not have been sure I held anything at all. I put the cube back on the altar. But my handprints remained. They began to glow; the glowing moved engulfing the cube. As both halves met, the cube changed colour. A beam of light burst forth and pierced the ceiling.
Blinded I fell to my knees in front of the alter my vision awash with white.
A moment stretched before me the world silent. Then I heard the beating of wings. I realised I was no longer alone, but I did not know with what I now shared the room.
The other before me but did not move. I felt watched and then thankfully my sight returned.
I remained kneeling before the altar as the being stood watching me from the other side of the room. His face was human but more refined, more delicate. He dressed in simple white cloth. But it was his wings of gray and white feathers that betrayed his divinity.
He stood proudly, watching, studying. I, not knowing what to do remained silent. His eyes moved over me and rested on the cube.
Panic and delight danced across his face for a moment then nothing. I leant forward and picked up the cube. He did not move, but a tightness gripped him.
The cube had changed. It was warm now and rough like polished glass. It seemed to suck at my skin, the feeling unnerves me, but I do not wish to let it go. It glowed where I touched it and drew the heat from my fingers.
He spoke for the first time.
“Human.” He stops and tries to smile. His face beautiful, but the smile unsettled me, a mask hiding something unknowable, unfathomable.
He tries again.
“You have found something of great importance Human, something that we have searched for longer than you could comprehend, an object of great power and importance. We thank you for returning it to us,” he said.
The warmth from the cube had grown, drawing in more heat for my hand; it was burning with frost and fire. Then a single flame dropped from the bottom of the cube hitting the altar. Lazily it spread forward, running straight, stopping after a few meters. It began to slowly trace a circle. As the circle closed, a curtain of flame erupted, then died away leaving a man standing in the middle.
The man was immaculately dressed in a three-piece suit of the darkest black. The cut was timeless, all finished with a pair of highly polished black shoes. His hair was closely cropped, and he was cleanly shaven bar a well-trimmed mustache. It was only his crimson eyes that betrayed his inhumanity.
His eyes swept the room and landed on me, as he looked at me and smiled in earnest stepping out of the circle. He looking at the other in the room, he nodding to him and addressing him by name, Azrael.
Azrael looked displeased
“Serpent” he sneered.
“Please, we’ve been over this before it's Anthony, I remember your name. Anyway, how’s earth treating you.”
“It is… unpleasant, it smells of dirt and decay, the very air is abrasive.”
“You don’t get down here much do you?”.
“Why would I leave his realm on my own accord to visit this holding pen.”
“Oh, it has its charm.”
“Anyway, I will be leaving soon enough, taking the shadow box and leaving it somewhere safer.”
“That's very optimistic of you,”
“And why is that? ”
“Well, we both know you can't just grab it. Otherwise, this would have been over millennia ago. It needs to be handed over by someone with the shadow’s touch.”
“And you think this one will deny us our prize,”
“It's like you have never dealt with a human before. It's all stubbornness and curiosity. It’s why they rose to the top. If you can get the shadow box out of his hands with ease, I’ll give you my sword.”
‘I don't want your sword.”
“Not really the point, and it’s just a saying, I'm not giving you my sword.”
As their attention was brought back to me, the man from the fire circle decided to introduce himself.
“Hello young man, my name is Anthony.”
Managing to find my voice I asked the first question that came to my frazzled mind.
“Who are you?”
“Well, I have just told you who I am, what I and my friend are.”
Azrael bristled with the familiarity,
“That would take more time than you really have, to offer with any degree of accuracy. Simpler to say we are what you believe us to be.”
“Are you two working together?” my next question
“In a very loose and limited way, yes.”
As he spoke the cube had begun to pulse, I could feel the yearning in the box, calling to be let out. Set free. It was deep and powerful and pulled at my core. Stretching my mind back, back to before. Before I was human, too when I was it. To when we were all it.
The two before me could see how the box was now affecting me and concern showed on their faces.
Azrael stepped forward offering a hand to me.
“Give me the box child,”
Anger flared from the box and filled me, I jumped back, out of their reach.
A voice spoke through me booming with rage.
“YOU WISH TO DENY MY FREEDOM AGAIN.”
The arrogance and contempt washed clear from Azrael's face leaving only fear.
I felt the presence leave me. A black fog began to seep from the cube, the fog constituted between me, Azrael and Anthony forming a standing shadow. I looked at the cube now cold in my hands. It was a simple cube of wood covered in carvings that I still could not understand. But now looked familiar.
I looked up as the shadow spoke to me.
“Thank you, Kim.”
The voice echoed and pitched as if thousands spoke in perfect unison.
Azrael tried to say something, fear edging his voice.
“YOU WILL NOT SPEAK” the shadow boomed
“I, we who crafted the three domains, who called you forth from the either to share in what we had made. Who were betrayed and imprisoned in a block of wood. Blind, deaf and dumb for millennia. I, we will deal with you in time.”
Anthony fearful but bold spoke, his voice barely above a whisper
“time came and we decided to stop being your playthings.”
“That was not your decision to make” boomed the shadow
The shadow flickered as it turned its back on the two beings, faced me and spoke
“You have granted me freedom and for that you have my gratitude, I wish to bestow upon you a gift, freedom. Freedom from the physical world, freedom from death and pain, doubt and worry. Come back to us.”
I stood confused, afraid and wanting to go home, Azrael spoke up from behind the shadow fear pushed from his face as he spoke.
“You offer death for the human. To strip him of his physicality is to take his memories, thoughts, everything that makes him Him. These are rooted in the physical. The soul you offer freedom to is just the spark, the light that pushed them into conciseness.”
The room dimmed.
“Then I’ll take the spark” the shadow whispered “it came from me. it is mine to take back.”
Anthony appeared by my side laughing and half-crazed
"Here is one less plaything for you.”
He pushed me. I fell, and the room grew dark, changed and suddenly my bedroom surrounded me. I got to my feet slowly and sat on my bed exhausted, my mind on fire, I fell backwards, and sleep overtook me.
I awoke. My room is dark, and I am not alone. There is something in the darkness, I can feel it. The shadows brush my fingers, I feel its eyes upon me. I am scared and think it knows, I am trapped, and I know it knows.