Please be advised, the following contains strong language. Anyone easily offended may want to reconsider skipping this chapter. Doing so will not effect the plot of the story.
Okay, deep breath. It's just a nightmare. Just another nightmare.
You are going to make it.
Let's just break it down…
From the top, now.
Ignore the screams.
Ignore the cold.
Just look over your shoulder.
One more time.
My body quivered from the bitter cold. I wrapped my arms around my knees, gripping them tighter to my chest, and ever so slowly craned my neck as far to the right over my shoulder as I could possibly manage in my fear-induced state.
Oh. My. God.
No, no, no, no, no, no!
Upon seeing the absolute horror of it all, I turned away, nearly snapping my neck in the process. Uncontrollable hot tears sprung from my eyes. It was so dark. So incredibly dark. I was enveloped in it; drowning in it; chocking on it. So dark. So, so dark. Yellow eyes. Except… for those hideously satanic, yellow eyes.
I begged and begged and begged, but I could feel it. I could feel its eyes on me, burning into my skin.
Think of something else!
I was trapped! And so were others as far as I could assume. All I could hear were their screams. Oh god make it stop! With sudden strength and curiosity, my arm jolted forward to grab at something I had hoped wouldn't be there. A bar. A metal bar. I was in a cage. Like some animal being hauled off to a butcher. To be Killed. Skinned. Mauled. Cooked. Eaten.
I can hear it approaching. I can hear its heavy, cankerous footsteps. They were fast. They had a purpose. And they were getting louder. I whimpered helplessly as I hid my face behind my hands and sobbed pathetically and slovenly. I was a mess. Any ugly wreck.
It stopped then grunted then huffed.
Suddenly, a symphony of disoriented screeches erupted from within the cage. I jerked from left to right, bobbing my head up and down, confused, horrified, searching; searching for the source of so much distress. What was it? What did they see that I could not? What could be more terrifying than the impregnable darkness?
Their screams, their cries, their blood-curdling shouts rang in my ears. My head was pounding. I clamped my hands around my ears to muffle the sound of it, but it didn't work! I plunged my fingers inside this time, and was begrudgingly pleased that at least for now the present hell would not drive me insane. Yet.
I rocked back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. My limbs pressed together like a pretzel in the fetal position. Whatever kind of transport they used to herd us came to an abrupt stop, sending my cage and what I can only presume to be other cages hurdling backwards, tumbling over in a disheveled pile of bulky metal.
A light flickered above us. It flickered again, hissing at us until it omitted a constant tinder. Then another one flickered and hissed. And another.
I flinched, when I saw it. Those yellow eyes. Never mind the other women stuffed in cages. Those hideous eyes stared blankly at us with a look of pure delight. I shuddered. The creature flicked his tusks in our direction, then flared them at us revealing the taught pink flesh beneath. Its obsidian tresses draped around its face like a veil. The beast sneered. I quivered when its tongue licked its piercing, jagged teeth.
I nearly chocked, when I glanced behind it. There were more. There were more of them. There were dozens of these things.
Keep it together.
You're going to wake up.
You're going to wake up at any moment now.
A deep, menacing growl demanded my attention as another creature appeared above my cage. Its mandibles twitched, clearly displeased. I was too horrified to move. All I could do was tremble beneath its paralyzing glare. He twitched like he was about to move forward, but that was enough to send me sprawling as far back against my cage as I could go.
Its talons clawed at my cage, ripping the door free from its hinge. I let out the most agonizing, throat-tearing scream I could muster up as it grabbed a fist-full of my hair and yanked me out, scraping my knees against the metal platform. I flailed my arms and legs as if it would do me any good. It didn't.
Deafened by my own voice, I wasn't even aware that the other women were soon yanked from their safe little havens too. We were dragged to the back wall and discarded into a corner like corpses, naked and trembling; our clothes were all but shredded, strewn about and forgotten in another corner.
It was crowded now. The heat that clung to our bodies made the air damp. I felt like we were slowly being suffocated. We were nothing but vermin to these creatures, and they treated us as much. One after another, we were thrown against the wall in huddled groups. It was then that I noticed that there were children among us; as well as the elderly.
I hugged my elbows when the last woman fell into place. Our eyes were simultaneously drawn to the creatures as they stopped their movements to glare at us, almost as if they were sizing us up. Our cries had faded, and everyone just waited with baited breath. The silence made it feel like an eternity, but then the wall that we had at our backs began to shift. Frantically, I fumbled with my hands to grab hold of something. Anything. But I fell backwards and helplessly watched as the darkness was swallowed up by a blinding white light.
When my eyes finally adjusted to the sudden change, I saw an arena.
The colossal dome buzzed and echoed with more of these howling creatures; and to my utter shock and horror, there were thousands of them. The chamber shuddered with different octaves of thunderous roaring. Before we could comprehend our fate, we were all shoved down a ramp to the middle of this foreboding arena. As I stumbled against the others, courtesy and decency forgotten, I noticed that the floor was honeycombed with elaborate symbols; none of which I could identify. We shuffled onto the platform, surrounded by a pit of barbed quills. The crowd, these creatures, they howled with excitement and thrill. Whatever was about to happen made them extremely happy.
Then, a voice began to speak. I could only assume that it was a voice, though all I could make out was a string of clicks and growls, and any attempt at deciphering its language was lost to me. As soon as it began, it ended. As if on cue, the roaring rose an octave higher in delight. The ground moaned and creaked beneath us like an earthquake. I lost my footing and tumbled on top of another woman. Stifling a scream, I attempted to role off of her, but she dug her nails into my forearm, screaming as the platform continued to shift and shake.
This can't be real!
Just when I thought my confusion and shock couldn't be out-done, another part of the floor, though much smaller, began to emerge. I lunged forward, wrenching my arm from the woman's grasp. I caught the side of the platform and braced against it. When it stopped, so did the tremors. It looked like a podium?
Panting, I clawed at my chest to catch my breath. I hadn't even noticed that I had been holding it. With a flick of my wrist, I wiped the sweat from my forehead and gazed at the top of the stand. A rippling light flashed across the top. So it was a screen then? The other women, to my surprise, slowly approached to see what the spectacle was.
I stared at the screen until the ripples of red light morphed into symbols. They panned across the length of the stand. I bent my knees, squinting to get a better look. Maybe I could make sense of it? I didn't understand, but obviously we were meant to.
What in the hell...?
With a glint, the symbols flickered into those I could recognize. It was English... Feeling a sudden surge of obligation, I read what it said:
"Fight..." I whispered, "to survive."
My blood ran cold, and my heart raced. As if my words held power, all hell was set loose. Sputtering black, oily creatures flew around us; summoned from the pit that surrounded us. They swarmed the air like a whirlwind, and began to dive at us with their fangs exposed. The screams returned, though these were etched with pain and agony as the women around me were plucked from the ground and propelled into the pit; their bodies lay limp on the spikes, mangled and skewered.
My body wouldn't move.
I willed it to, but nothing was happening.
It was all a blur.
The death. The violence. The blood.
The blood. So much blood. So much red. All I could see was red.
One by one, amidst so much chaos, women were harvested from the ground, and then dropped to their death.
Move, you idiot!
I couldn't do it. I couldn't think straight. This wasn't real. It couldn't be!
How was I still alive?
There were only a few of us left. I was cold. I was scared. I didn't want to die.
OH, GOD, PLEASE!
PLEASE, GOD, NO!
I was going to die.
I DON'T WANT TO—!