There is only darkness. Beneath my feet and around me. There is nothing but a cold black space that I cannot seem to escape. Light has been nothing but a distant memory to me. The way it feels on my skin to the way it illuminates to world I used to know. I cannot even begin to count to days I spent rotting away in a terrible dark place. A place with no name to fit its torture. A place with no feeling beside agony. A place that was only meant to bring fear.
I run as fast as I can, the weakness I have felt for far too long has begun to slow me down. I only have enough energy and strength to move from one side of a room to another, but I muster all I have left. I will be free of this place, or feel the pain of a thousand deaths if I fail. I cannot afford to look over my shoulder, if I fall there will be no getting back up. I am surrounded by dead grey trees and the most ominous fog. This terrible place has a terrible face and yet it does not have a face at all. There is no color to its scene. No life to its surroundings. Everything here is dead or soon to be.
I smell something foul and I the smallest bit of hope fills me. The sea of death is near. An awful place in the terrible land that holds the souls of everyone who has suffered and died here. Everyone who has been forgotten in the land where the sun shines. The land where the light touches…
I feel a cold, bony hand brush against my feathers. I will not go back, not again. Never again.
My chest is burning, the air is too thin and too foul to breath. It feels as if all I have left is this poisonous air racing through my veins. The burn is too much, in my chest and in my bones. But I cannot stop now, not when I am so close. Not when I have come too far to go back.
Sweat runs down my cheeks and burns my eyes, I feel cold and damp as I run. I know I am slowing down but it is not much further. I can make it, I have to believe that I can.
There is a tug at my back and I am sent back ward, falling on my precious wings. I cry out as I hit the cold dirt. It feels as if my bones were broken. I struggle for air and open my eyes to see my assailant. He is the worst of them all here. The one that tortures. The only one that can feel joy in this place. The one who traded his soul long ago, too long ago to remember that he was ever a human in some distant time. He has no name, not in this place. Having a name would make him the littlest bit human. He would never allow for such a thing.
He is paler than snow, and sickly looking, like all things in this place. The sickness I speak of is not one that shows weakness but rather a sicken glow of the skin. The leathery casing to his evil vessel. He does not smile, for he does not know such a thing, but in his eyes, those piercing eyes, one can always see his joy to cause pain. The vessel of pain. That is what we call him here. The one who knows every form of torture and all means of pain. His silhouette emerging for shadows when you least expect, harboring all the fear and anguish that will soon cling to you like vultures to a rotting corpus, eating away until there is nothing left. Only to start over the next day.
He slowly walks toward me, knowing all too well that I am too weak to offer any substantial opposition. He draws a jagged blade from his back and kneels next to me. He does not harm me right me, he takes too much pride in his craft for that. He lets the suspense of what I know will come to build. He lets of the teeth of his pet taunt my skin. My arms. My cheek. My neck. No matter what he does, I will never die, not until he rips away my soul.
I have only seen it done once, but I know it has happened many times here. It is an unbearable pain, but also a release. It is the last pain that you will ever feel. But after you are left to wonder unknowing and mindless to anything that happened. You are left in this terrible place day after day with nothing but a weightless fog to call your host.
"There is never anywhere to go. Why do you always try to run?" he whispers in my ear. His tone is cold and emotionless. There is nothing to this man. This vessel.
"I will always try to get out of this place. Away from you." I spit in his face. His expression is blank, joy begins to grow in his eyes. He is not angry for my spite but glad he can now begin what he loves so deeply. What I have endured endlessly for years.
Vessel lets out a firm breath of cold, dead air, "Now. Shall we begin?" His joy is all too palpable.
I grab a handful of the cold and dead ground, worms and all, and throw it into his eyes. He falls back and I seize my opportunity. It is the only one I will ever have. I push myself up with all the strength I have left and run toward the edge. It is only mere yards away. I hear him behind me but I cannot stop. Not when I have come so far.
I spread the weight that rest against my shoulders and soar over the edge. I do not have the strength to fly, but I only need enough to carry myself down to water. Before I can process anything that is happening I feel it. A searing pain.
Vessel has thrown his pet and sliced through my side. I cry out. It is an unspeakable burning sensation. Poison not doubt, he would never fail to add any measure to inflict more pain. But then I feel it, the nothingness. My body is numbing. I falter and crash into the sea of souls. My lungs burn as they begin to fail. It is like a kite that can never catch the wind. I am stranded in this sea. Cold and unfeeling. I can do nothing but watch myself die. Until tomorrow.
I came so close. I am at the doorway to my haven. He will never let me escape. I am his play thing for all eternity. That was my sentence. That is my purpose here.
My heart begins work harder than it was ever meant it. My chest is aching in agony. I watch as blood surrounds me, I can only assume it is my own. I cannot move. Inside or out. I am letting myself die, watching the world go on, uncaring around me. But it is not over. No, tomorrow when I wake up, it will be to nothing but pain.
As I think of what will come, the darkness around my turns into an abyss. An abyss of everything cold and unfeeling. Everything dead and lost…
"There is a way to leave this place."
I turn my head as quickly as I am able to see where the strange voice came from. There are no kind voices here. There are no voices here that could bare such kind words of hope beyond this place. "Who is there?" I whisper, fearful that Vessel will reemerge if he hears anything but my suffering.
A small glow emerges from the corner, and slowly I can begin to see a face. The man's face is old and unsuspecting. He must have been here for centuries to know of such a place. I did not even know there was a way to leave, without permission that is, but I suppose every realm has a loop hole. Just in case.
"My name is Matthan, I do not have the strength to escape this place anymore…but you could." He ponders as is he has tried for a thousand years, and failed just as many attempts.
"Why would you tell me the way beyond this place?" I inquire, truly puzzled.
"Things were not always as they are here. This was once a place of rehabilitation. A place to free the damaged souls of their sin. Now it is a place of pain and fear. Full of people who never really belonged here. This place was meant for evil to reform, not for good people who dealt in deals that were always stacked against them." I pause at his every word. How can he know all of these things? What did this man do to deserve to be in such a place? It was before my time that this place was meant for other things.
"How long have you been here?" I ask weary.
Before he can answer I hear footsteps coming from the shadows. The day is still young, and I am too far from death for Vessel's liking.
"There is a sea beyond the forest and fog that carries all the souls that have suffered in this place. These souls are soundless and nameless, yet know everything without knowing. They are meant to cover the way out, but they are the way out. Go beyond the fog and into the water, then you will be free."
"What does that mean? How are they the way out?" Before he can answer I am being dragged away. I crawl at the ground. Just as I do every day, and every day it is just as useless.
And when I look into Vessel's eyes that is when my anguish begins.
I breathe deep, and choke as my lungs fill with clear air. My eyes flash open and I am surrounded by a green and vibrant browns. I look around, holding the fire in my chest. All I need is air. It consumes my every thought. I strive to bring my air above my head and emerge into a blinding light. Air happily fills my lungs. It is so fresh, so clean. I try once more to open my eyes, but it is far too bright. The sun.
The sun…I never thought I would see it again. I never thought I would feel it again. The way it warms my body and touches my skin. A welcome burn. A peaceful burn.
I stay on the soft, warm ground. I had almost forgotten what it was like to feel no pain to a touch. To feel safe. Being left in the dark had weakened me, but as the light seeps through my skin I being to feel whole again.
When I am ready I begin to sit up, wincing as I remember the gash in my side. It appears to be healing, but it will not completely heal until I get my strength back. I stagger my way up, leaning against a tree. Its bark is rough, but yet so soft. It carries morning dew in its stalk. It is alive, and strong and healthy. I rest my head against the grooves that make it so unique, and yet keep it so protected.
This world is foreign to me now, but it is a welcome change. I look around and take it all in. The leaves of the trees, so green and bright. The soil, so soft and fresh. The path in front of me, so hopeful and clear. I stagger my way forward to the clearing. I begin to feel weak again. I look down toward my wound and notice that the small gash has turned into a deadly wound that was seeping through my clothes. The poison had begun to travel through my veins leaving a trail of black in its wake. I never considered the effects this realm would have on me. I lived through torment day after day in that purgatory but, that was only because I was meant to. The magic in that terrible place was meant to cause endless suffering. The change I welcomed so freely was actually the cause of my new found torment. I have no power here. My immortality is nothing but a title in this land. I cannot begin to determine if I will welcome this death, because it is final, or fear it for the same reasons.
I fall to my hands and knees and accept that the world is closing in around me. I escaped only to find myself trapped in another chamber where my release is found through pain.
As I lay helpless and motionless on the soft ground, I ponder in thought.
How far have I fallen, how many miraculous acts have I accomplished, only to die, alone and shamed in world that tears itself apart.
The pain began to spread, following the poison. I feel my blood stopping and veins rubbing together, as if it was full of nothing but sand. The world continues to close in, I cry out in agony, even though no one is there to hear. No one is there to console me in my time of need. But, then again, that was just as it always was…
And with that I feel my eyes open, but there is nothing to see.