Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beyond Death

My name is Saul. May I rest in peace.

I ran as fast as I could in the late night. I was supposed to head back home after meeting with my groupmates for our project. Instead, I found myself chased by a gang of thugs. I tried taking random turns but they were still on my trail. A cemetery gate became my only option among the dead ends I see. With no further delay, I ran inside. Multiple structures and decorated graves were everywhere. The place felt like a maze which I hope to take advantage of.

It was getting darker the deeper I go through the cemetery. I could still hear them running. “Split up!” I heard their leader. I hid behind a huge angel statue hoping for my assailants to go away. The sound of rustling grass grew in the background. I froze in silence as footsteps pass by and fade away. My eyes have adjusted to the darkness. I looked around and saw one of those thugs walk away. As quietly as possible, I tried to sneak away. As I tiptoed from my position, my foot accidentally hit a flat cemented grave tripping me with my face landing on a nearby tombstone. I reacted loudly from the pain and the bleeding. “There he is!” the thug looked at my direction. I ran off.

I found the gate and tried to make it to exit but I was blocked by some of the gang members. I tried to go back but I found myself surrounded by the rest of them. They pulled out their knives and steel bars. My sweat trickled down my face as I shiver in fear. This is it.

They started beating me up into a pulp. My cries echoed throughout the area accompanied by the sadistic glee of my attackers. Amidst the torture, I could feel them taking away my belongings then resumed striking me.

“Weakling!” I heard the leader say. “You don’t even have much!”

Suddenly, they stopped. My body was too weak to get up but I could still take a look at them. I thought they were done with me. I could see them all looking up. They were afraid.

I could hear the sound of wings fluttering. I gazed into the night sky and saw a huge creature descending upon us. I could not figure out what it was but my assailants ran off in random directions. The creature swooped down and grabbed one of them then threw him away. His body hit a structure knocking him out. I could hear the others screaming as the creature attacks them. With whatever strength I have left, I tried to crawl away.

The noise was growing more horrible. I could imagine that thing, whatever it was, dismembering them. I was trying to reach for the gate when I notice that the screams stopped. I hear something moving closer towards me. I nervously looked back. It was the creature.

I could not comprehend this abomination. It looked almost human save for what looks like a mishmash of parts of other animals. Its head looks like it had three faces fused to it. There were several bulging slits around its body which suddenly opened revealing that it had multiple eyes around itself. All of which stared at me. The being walked closer.

“Stay back!” I yelled at it.
“Fear not.” It replied with its three mouths in unison. It walked towards me stretching one of its arms above me.
“What are you?” I asked as I could see its hand directly above my head.
“A pillar of salt you are.” It said. “My identity does not matter.”

I do not understand what’s going on. “Get up.” It told me. I got up a bit. My wounds. They’re gone.

“Saul.” It said.
“Y-y-you know my name?”
It nodded. “You must leave now.”
I stood up trying not to panic. “T-thank you.”

I looked at the gate I was about to go through. It wasn’t the entrance.

“Oh, wait. This isn’t the right gate.” I turned back to find my way out. The creature, however, blocked me. “Not this way.” It said.
“But, I need to go home!” I protested.
“You cannot.” It replied.
“But, how am I supposed to leave?”
“Go through that gate.”
“But, I didn’t go through here.”
“I know.” It spoke calmly.

I looked back at the peculiar gate. Beyond it was a forest of dead trees and a dark narrow road that looked endless. “What’s in there?” I turned around and found that the creature had vanished. I didn’t want to follow what it said. So, I strolled through the cemetery looking for the entrance.

Around me, I could see the corpses of the thugs. I sorely wish I didn’t. One of them had his own knife used to rip him open with his intestines spilling. Another had his head bashed so hard his brains leaked out. I looked away. But instead saw one corpse holding a broken glass bottle. Odd, I didn’t notice that earlier. I bumped into something. I jumped back and found the leader hanged from a tree branch. The noose was tight on his neck and he looked like he was staring right back at me.

As I walk through the cemetery, I could not help but notice glowing lights all around me. They seem to be emerging from the ground. I’ve seen enough things for one night. I hurried to find my exit. My panic grew as I began to hear wailing all around me followed by moaning and later shrieking. The glowing lights seemed to be growing brighter. I didn’t know where to turn next. They were everywhere.

I ran around in desperation looking for my way out. But all I could see was a host of glowing figures whose forms become clearer and clearer to me. They were spirits of the dead. I walked slowly and quietly trying not to provoke any of them. One of them, an old man, walked slowly in front of me. I walked back to give distance only to bump into another ghost.

“Watch where you’re going!” the lady ghost told me.
“I’m so sorry!” I replied. She walked away passing through a couple of tombstones as if they were made of air.

I could see all sorts of people among them. One of them was juggling some lit torches. Another was playing the cello. There were even children playing around. I felt someone grab me. “What is going on!?” It was the gang leader.

“You! I thought you were-“
“Well, you thought wrong!” he replied. I could see rope markings around his neck. “What the heck is with this place?”
“I don’t know.” I replied.
“How are we supposed to get out of here!?”
“I have no clue.”
“This is all your fault!”
“My fault!? You attacked me!”
“You ran to this place, stupid!”

The ghosts around took notice of our argument. One of them wearing a formal attire approached us.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” he said.
“Yeah, get us out of here, Mister Fancy-pants.” the thug ordered.
“I’m sorry about him. We’re lost and need to go home.” I said.
“One does not leave this realm easily.” the gentleman ghost replied.

The thug however got impatient and grabbed the ghost by his collars. “Listen carefully, old man. You got 5 seconds to tell me how to get out of here, or I’ll give you a fate worse than death.”
“Dude, stop!” I said.

All the other ghosts suddenly grabbed the thug and yanked him away. The gentleman scuffed off some dust on him with his gloved hand.

“You.” He said looking at me. “You may choose to stay or leave by finding the gate.”
“We, on the other hand, must give this rude boy a fate worse than death.” He finished.
“Wait, where are you taking me!? Let me go!” the thug tried to escape. But the ghosts kept dragging him beneath the ground. His body slowly went right through the soil. “Help!”

I moved to save him, but the gentleman told me “You must not see what happens next. Go find the gate.” I looked at him blankly. “NOW!!!” he ordered. I ran off trying to ignore the gang leader’s scream for mercy.

I’ve been walking for what felt like hours. It was already morning and I could feel the sun’s heat touching me. I walk through a familiar path and noticed a hanged skeleton from the distance. Maybe the ghosts finished him off. I took a different turn this time. There were a couple of other skeletons around at this part of the cemetery. It’s like people became too lazy to bury them. There was even one on the pathway.

I found a gate but it wasn’t the entrance I got through before this ordeal. It was the same one the creature told me to go through. The dead trees didn’t look as scary as they were last night. Perhaps it was this gate the ghost was referring to. Feeling braver now, I walked through.

I’ll admit, the forest still creeped me out. I could hear crows or maybe ravens squawking as if waiting for me to expire. They were staring at me as I move on. I don’t know how long I’ve been walking or how many times I’ve stopped to rest. I began to feel weaker.

A murder of crows flew out of the forest. Something is in there. I looked back at the direction I was from and realized that turning back was pointless. I carried on.

The sun was close to setting when I found a village. How come I’ve never heard of this place? It looked like a fishing village with houses made of wood resting on cemented ground. I could see people working. I got nearer and everyone stared at me. These people looked odd. They were malnourished to the point of looking skeletal. Their hair was severely thinned and their clothes were black rags.

“H-hello.” I spoke. “I’m lost. Can anyone help me?”

One of them approached me. He looked a lot like them but wore more extra clothing that look like ceremonial or shaman garments. He must be the chief.

“Eat with us.” He said. “You must be hungry.” My stomach grumbled at his words so I agreed.

It looks like these people were having a feast. I could not help but observe this village. The water from which they fish from was murky black. Their houses were not only made of wood but also of city trash. In a way, that made me hopeful that I could find a way back. I sat near the chief near. The long table before us had leaves serving as plates. Servants arrived bringing food on the table. I happily ate whatever it was. Hunger can make any food taste good. The meat tasted like beef anyway. The veggies were clearly rotten but I did not feel very picky.

After the meal, the chief gave me a serious look.

“You must fight for village!” he told me.
“What!?” I said. “Listen, I need to go home and-“
“You ate our food!” he replied. “Village is in danger!”

At his words, more and more crows emerged from the forest. The villagers started to panic. The chief gave me an axe. “Defend us!” His orders were not only for me but for all the warriors who are already in position. I heard a loud growl from the forest. The warriors raised their weapons.

A gigantic lion-like creature emerged from the forest. Its fur was colored red and it had bat-like wings. It caught one of the warriors and impaled him with its claws. The other warriors fled as it rampaged still having the victim stuck on its nail. It threw the poor man skyward and caught it with his teeth. I could see that he was still breathing. I threw a rock at the monster trying to distract him. He dropped the man and chased after me. I did not think this through.

I ran deeper into the village as the monster destroyed several homes. There was a huge structure in sight which I ran inside to. Naturally, the beast was able to smash its walls and corner me inside. I looked around the building. There were several coffins inside. The beast took one good whiff of its surroundings and knocked some of the coffins open exposing rotten dead bodies. It began to consume the rotten meat. I stood still for a while in horror but slowly tiptoed away and got out.

The chief grabbed me by the throat.

“You lost all of our food!”  he scolded me.
“Wait, what!?”
“Food taken from far away place. Now it is gone!”

It then dawned on me. They’ve gathered food from the graveyard where I was. And the food they served me was…

I puked at the realization and dropped my axe. “Wasteful!” the chief yelled at me. The beast was still busy eating. I walked away but not before I notice that some villagers scooped my vomit…

The beast eventually left seemingly full from the macabre food supply. The chief instructed all of us to follow him towards what appears to be a ruined structure. It was way different from what the village houses looked like. It was a temple, a very old, but now in ruins. We were told to go inside. The building was big enough to fit almost all of us. The chief approached a makeshift altar. Behind the altar was a damaged wall with a huge break. I could see something move in the darkness behind that wall.

“Master, what do we do?” the chief asked out loud facing the altar. The villagers started chanting what I presumed to be a prayer. From the crack, I see something emerge out of the darkness. It looked like a mass of interlocking people shaped into a creature. Their bodies look like they melded and were twisted and tied to one another. Their eyes were just blank white but all of them stared at us.

Everyone stopped chanting. I was shivering in my place. It was as if the jumbled people gave the impression of asking “What happened?”

The chief replied “There is no more food.” The entity spoke in unison. “Each… other…” At those words, the mass grabbed the chief and began to devour him. The rest of the villagers followed by killing each other. This can’t be happening. One of the villagers tried to strike me with an axe but another impaled him with a spear. I grabbed the axe and desperately chopped my way out. As I near the exit, I was ambushed by more of them. And then, something smashed through the door. It was the beast from earlier only this time it was accompanied by two smaller ones. The bigger one sniffed me and signalled the other two to attack. At first it was a murderous riot, now it was a massacre. The two smaller beasts started killing off the villagers. The big one walked past by me and approached the monstrous mass. It easily subdued the abomination and tore it to pieces. They screamed in unison.

The temple stank of death. While the beasts were distracted, I took it as my opportunity to flee, but the smaller beasts caught on to me and blocked my way. The bigger one then emerged from the temple. It looked at me carefully then started to clean me with its tongue. The smaller ones went closer and the larger beast started cleaning them too. It was a family.

The mother walked back towards the forest with its children following. I was about to walk away but the mother gave a soft growl signalling me to follow her. I guess I have no choice. The two younglings started rubbing themselves on me. Their thick fur almost suffocated me. I guess they’re my siblings now.

Hours later, I rode atop one of the younglings. For beasts with wings, they sure don’t fly. The mother seems to be leading us towards the top of a mountain. I now wonder if I’ll get killed and eaten up there. They could be just saving me for dessert. As we climbed higher, I couldn’t help but notice rocks falling towards us. Some struck my head and even vexed the younglings. The mother, however, growled at us to keep going. I took time to enjoy the scenery. From up here, I could see forests almost patterned like a garden. Even the lake from a distance looked like… a swimming pool? I’m seeing things. Suddenly, the ground trembled and a huge boulder was falling towards me and the younglings. The mother reacted quickly and pushed us out of harm’s way but got herself injured instead.

The dying beast was right before me. I was not strong enough to move the boulder away. The younglings tried to comfort their mother. I actually cried. The beast growled a bit and pointed with its claw. I looked up.

“You want me to go to the very top?” I asked as if it could understand me.

It gave me a soft growl and passed away. The younglings mourned. And so did I.

Night followed as I lead the younglings. From exhaustion, we hid in a cave and called it a night. I wanted to reflect on what’s been happening to me lately. Questions have been popping in my head. What is going on? Where am I? How did I get here? Why did that beast adopt me? Will I ever go home? The younglings purred in their sleep. I know they’ll grow up into murderous creatures one day, but I can’t help but find them adorable somehow. Their fur makes a good pillow apparently.

Morning followed. It was time to move on. I lead the younglings further in our journey. We stumbled upon what looks like a very old building. Exploring the area, I found that it was rectangular in shape. I found at least two skeletons, I presume it to be those of those creepy villagers. The two younglings started to play-fight. This place seemed familiar to them. Could this be their home? I suddenly knelt down. I feel… tired… Before I fainted, I felt an earthquake shaking the structure. The last thing I heard was the younglings’ panicking.

I woke up in shock. The area surrounding me looked different. I’m not sure what exactly, but I find being surrounded by grass tall enough to cover me odd enough. I looked around. It was hard to see the distance. I found a huge monolith among the plants which I climbed. From afar, it seems like my destination was almost over. The top of the mountain was nearer. I jumped off the rock and was surprised to find that I leaped too high. The wind was blowing and I felt that it was strong enough to push me. I landed on my feet gently. Huh?  I should’ve injured myself at that landing. Then again, it was not humanly possible to jump that high. I jumped again just for the heck of it. I found that jumping in this area gave me an additional boost. Perhaps gravity works differently here. I don’t know.

I hopped around hoping to find the younglings. I found them scurrying around the tall grass. They seem a little bigger now. I tried to call them. Both of them stood still and took notice of me. They crouched as if hiding in the grass. Wait, are they gonna… ? They pounced at me all of a sudden. I jumped away as the two bumped into each other. “It’s me!” I tried to tell them. All I got was another attack and a frustrated growl. I fled the scene wondering what has become of my siblings.

I’m on my journey alone now away from everything else. I might as well continue travelling to the top of the mountain. Is it still relevant to me now that younglings have forsaken me? I don’t know. But, I continued anyway.

Hunger caught on to me. I could smell food all around me. My nose caught scent, but I could not pinpoint the source. I touched the gigantic grass around me. I ripped a piece and found it rather meaty. Instinctively, I took a bite and then another. Before I knew it, I was full. There really was something off about this place but I decided to move on rather than investigate.

After a few leaps, I’ve finally reached the top. I see a gate. This is the one that can get me out of here. But, before I could reach it I heard someone.  “You made it” a familiar unified voice. It was the winged humanoid. Its many eyes blinked.

“You! What is going on here!? I’ve seen so many weird things in my way to here. I almost died several times over! All of this, I could’ve avoided if you had just let me out!”
“I could not.” the being calmly replied. “One journey ended and you must do so many before reaching here.”
“I do not understand.”
“There is no point for me to explain. Look around you.”

I did as he said. From the top view, everything was already engulfed in clouds. I could not see anything.

“What am I supposed to look at?” I asked.
“Your previous paths are now gone. You can only look forward. You have gone through the greatest journey. Over and over again. And now, you are here.”
“I want to go home” I replied.
“You may return to that  world” he said. “But, you must leave something behind.”
“And what would that be?” I asked. “Doesn’t matter. You’ve already left it behind.”

He walked me to the entrance. I stared at it for a while. I went through the gate without any further thought. Outside, I see a woman running towards me with children.

"Daddy!" the children greeted me.
"Paul, what took you so long?" the woman asked as the children embraced me.
“Sorry, dear” I replied. “Took me longer than I thought.”
“Did you find the grave you were looking for?”
“I think I did.”

I looked back at the entrance to the cemetery. I could see a dilapidated grave dating decades ago. ”May ___rest _n Peace”

 “Who were you visiting anyway?” my wife asked.
“A close friend” I lied.

To be honest, I didn’t really know. I was supposed to take my family to the mall, but in the middle of zigzagging in the road, I felt like visiting the cemetery. I promptly asked my wife to let me stop by.

The kids already urged me to go. But, before leaving, I glanced at an angel statue back at the cemetery. An urge of familiarity came to mind. But all I could tell myself is this: My name is Paul. And I have gone beyond death.

Beyond Death has a prequel. Read here.

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