Running Sequence 8 Dash 1
“Whenever you find yourself in a cemetery, never step on a person’s grave – its powerful bad luck,” according to Gilbert’s grandma admonition. “Worse than breaking a mirror, causing misery longer than seven years.”
Gilbert’s mom had never believed in such “nonsense”, waving off Grandma and her crazy superstitions. Even his dad told him to ignore Grandma’s “babbling”. Now, considering what had happened to his parents and surrounded by this forbidding landscape, he lent a bit more weight to Grandma’s words. Treading cautiously above and between the presumed dead husks of creatures (no telling if natural or artificial), superstition gripped his spine.
After all, this is one of the Baron’s Sectors, he thought. Anything is possible, especially here. Everything is on the table, no matter how improbable or bizarre.
Gilbert climbed a hill, swerving around and between headstones, careful to not traipse over a plot. A stone archway ended his descent, though a swath of a hundred feet or more shoved in every direction multiplied headstones.
Gilbert noted how the stone construction of the archway seemed ancient and modern at the same time. Rubbing his hand over the serrated, not sharp, deterioration seemed worn from centuries of weather, though fit together seamlessly.
The opening of the arch peaked about six feet above his head.
Through the archway his eyes drew to glyphs etched into the interior faces of the stones. Moving steadily, distracted by mysterious writing, he failed to notice a shimmer in the air as he passed the midway point. Nor did he notice the quality of light deteriorating as he progressed.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
His flesh prickled.
A swath of ominously roiling dark clouds hovered above.
“Uh-oh.” Another Sector!
Gloom replaced sunlight. The atmosphere energized, different than any other Sector.
Fifty feet away, two ghosts appeared. Two dismantled robots sprawled to the side.
Sensing Gilbert’s presence, the ghosts fluidly turned to face him.
Much too far away to make out the details of their facial features, Gilbert strained to do so, returning to an all too familiar sense of being in the wrong place, wrong time, wrong plane of existence.
A glance over his shoulder.
The archway had been replaced by an immense rock cliff face.
Gilbert’s adrenaline recharged, ready to flee.
Back facing the apparitions a chilled breeze struck him in the face, delivering a wavelength of:
“Who is that? Why is a mortal roaming about the graveyard, Eero?”
“No telling… Say, let’s steal this child’s body and keep it for our very own, Polkins.”
“Can you smell that? His blood is fresh and pure! His stamina is strong! A vessel of life we shall both possess!”
“Brilliant idea, Eero! Two possessions are always better than one. Our masters, four demons inside their transparent spheres, the Metempsychosis Quartet, a.k.a. the Reckoning will be pleased with us! Let’s steal his husk of flesh!”
Grabbing each other’s hands they became a nebulous blur, darkening, morphing into a vortex, swelling hundreds of feet in height. Then the shapeless dark winds shaped into hundreds of blood-leaking, severed heads of children donning dead masks of flesh, split lips pulled back into grins. One head leading, turned its collective attention to Gilbert as its brethren followed.
Gilbert rocketed off.
Screeching plagued the air in his wake.
He needed to find some kind of refuge – anywhere – to elude these monsters.
The huge flock of severed heads crested the hill, some bouncing off the ground, speeding momentum of their pursuit. Giggles and guffaws invaded Gilbert’s ears as he shot a glance over his shoulder. Malevolently glowing red eyes and eerie voices ululating up and down etched into his memory.
Gilbert disregarded his late Grandma’s warning and leaped over headstones, leaving shoeprints on grave after grave. He had joined the ranks of those who find it better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
The heads merged into one improbably huge head, stretched out a snake-slithering forked tongue, flicked the tip at Gilbert’s head, knocking him headfirst into a headstone boring the number 13.
Sinister guffaws cut through the air, dropping like acid rain on Gilbert’s ears.
Pain wrapped a clamp around his head from the crash into the stone and as he looked up, witnessed the huge head explode into its previous state of smaller heads, connecting into thin membrane-fleshed strands, all stemming from a larger head’s empty eye sockets.
Gilbert saw tiny faces, all screaming inside the transparent strands, some imploding, some turning themselves inside out, splattering gore within the interior of the membrane.
Scrambling to his feet he ventured downhill again, lost his balance, tumbled, skidding to a halt in front of a large tomb.
A gargoyle stared down at him. Wings of an angel, clawed feet gripped a stone pedestal mounted above a doorway. Eyes blazed a bright red.
Gilbert grabbed the handle of the wooden door and pulled frantically.
It moved an inch.
The heads shrieked, closed in.
Gilbert gripped the handle with both hands and pulled again.
Screeching ripped an echoed across the land.
Gilbert wrenched the opening wider.
Small mouths chewed into the soil, using their jaws to balance the huge head which imploded, reformed, long white worms shaping a child. The child’s arms and legs became membrane-fleshed strands, a mass of heads at the tips.
The door opened wide enough for Gilbert to squeeze inside. He barely registered the tingle on his skin and the hairs on the back of his neck rise as he pushed the door closed, excluding the creature outside, sealing himself in the perfectly silent darkness.
He anticipated a thump or pounding from the excluded pursuers.
But the sounds never came.
Silence shrouded the interior of the tomb and a chill touched his skin.
Gilbert concluded he had entered another Sector. He had felt a tingle. He had felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
Sticking his hands in the darkness he felt a cold stone wall, used it as a talisman to move away from the door, pressing his back against it. Yet again Gilbert had no idea which way to traipse. Standing still was not a viable option.
Scrape of stone far away…
What was that?
Gilbert tried to swallow, his throat parched. Gooseflesh scrambled across his body.
Keeping close to the wall he moved, his fingers touching grooves and indentations. Stick figures, animals and indeterminate geometric shapes in the etchings.
The path took an abrupt ninety degree turn.
The wall vanished.
And the floor.