Watch your step, dear reader. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city which you are about to enter is vast and intricate, and you probably have not been here before. The air is bitterly cold, and you find yourself led along in complete darkness, stumbling; recognizing nothing.
Here, hold my hand; for you are likely to lose your way.
Its an ashen hour of night, blackish grey and you blunder forward into the haze of your own spent breath. You hear muffled, drunken voices from nearby that tingle your spine and your heart skips a beat. Now you hesitate, still holding on, but tempting to let me go; and find yourself hoping to God that the voices come no closer.
I assure you, you will enjoy your stay here; but let me add that the dwellers in this city spend the day hanging by a thread called happenstance. Oh, not 'hanged'! By God. That is terrible. You seem pale, dear reader, have you eaten yet? My colleagues tell me the food here is, well frankly speaking, to die for.
Here, we are in the clear now. This lamp post should provide you refuge till morning or you can go to this place called 'Odin's bar' at the end of the street.
Something smells funny, thought Eric. What sort of devilish city is this?
Odin's bar? Sounds like something straight out of Norse mythology.
Something was definitely eerie about this place. His mind was filled with innumerable bearings, all pointing at different directions; and a terrible headache seemed to paralyze him, as if a large, metal spider was slowly clicking away at the walls of his skull. His face distorted with pain and he dropped down on his knees, shaking his head with both hands in the hope of returning back
But it was too late to turn back now.
Finally mustering enough resolve, he stood up and trudged forward but sickness and pain caused him stagger back to the lamp post.
'Was i hurt?', Eric racked his brains for an answer but found none. Suddenly, a violent spasm in his diaphragm caused him to vomit profusely; a rising nausea that tasted like rust in the mouth. He stood up and sighing explosively, wiped his face with his shirt sleeves and almost fainted at the sight of blood among the pool of his own vomit.
All of a sudden, it all came back to him.
There was a bullet in his stomach and a bad gash in one of his legs which accounted for his limping.
Sleet stinged his cheeks, sharp little spits of it so cold they felt hot, like fiery cinders in the wind. His ears began to hurt; and then he heard amid all the confusion : the wail of sirens reaching a crescendo and echoing in the stillness of the night, the city howling after him.
'I'm a fugitive', realized Eric, and trudged forward toward the flickering, neon sign of the Odin's Bar.
The first light of dawn crept up onto the horizon and slowly streaked among the clouds like fine strokes of brush on a pallid sky that was the canvas.
The sleet was now reduced to a low moan of the wind, as if warning him not to enter. On reaching the Bar, which looked more like a hotel, Eric raised his hands to knock when the sharp rustling of the leaves made him turn round in fear, darting his eyes in either direction. A rush of adrenaline flowed through his veins and his heart beat accelerated. Slowly, painstakingly, he slid a hand into the waistcoat of his jacket and divulged a Beretta. As if mechanically, he took out the magazine, checked the bullets and rammed it home; all done while scanning his surroundings.
He'd done it a million times before.
'It is fear that gives men wings', he had heard someone say once. A gentle push opened the door and he entered, closing it softly behind him.
It was dank and cold inside, and a sickly, sweet smell of incense pervaded the atmosphere. A sad, old thing indeed. Old broken chairs and tables strewn around the room, shards of broken glass everywhere. It was a mess. A den of cheap mobster punks and tired-eyed prostitutes. Eric cocked his gun and walked straight in, playing it Bogart, like he'd done a hundred times before.
The reception area was a terrible sight; three dead bodies piled upon each other in their own pool of blood, their faces scarred with knife marks and '666' painted on the walls with their blood. Madness had begun.
There was an old telephone switchboard in the back room of the reception area. It wasn't hard to picture a fat pimp sweating with headphones on, listening to his hookers talk dirty and fake orgasms over the web of party lines; Right now, the speaker was on and there was a different kind of moans and groans going on...guttural, to be honest.
Eric strained his ears to hear a faint sound echoing in the back somewhere, gripped his Beretta tightly and moved into the corridors but stopped midway to hear another sound mingling with it. The cops had arrived a few blocks from here, Eric concluded, sirens singing in the off-key harmony of a manic-depressive choir.
Fear was rusty needles poking at his brain. Cold and scaly, it slithered down his chest. He could run, but with a bullet in his stomach, he was quickly running out of time.
A beaten up phone was ringing in the empty corridor and sounds of crying and screaming from the bathroom joined it in broken harmony. It was now perfectly clear to Eric of what waited inside; drug addicts and junkies ready to explode in random acts of senseless violence. There was a scarred faced junkie lying in front of the the ringing telephone, wringing his hands in fear and agitation as he screamed and mumbled :
"Oh no, oh no. I think I died. I Think I'm dead.
I'm gonna die. I'm gonna hurt ya. I'm gonna hurt ya!
I'm gonna die. It- It's coming... It's coming. The flesh.
The flesh is coming. It's coming. You're gonna die. Shutup! Shutup!
All messy inside. The end... The end..."
Time is of the essence, Eric reminded himself, as he avoided the corridor and searched for the door that led to the basement. The setting of the hotel was quite melancholy; sinister to the say the most. Flickering lamps, faded color paint peeling off plaster ceiling and walls filled with ominous, Gothic graffiti.
A baleful cult was growing in this hotel, and someone had to stop them before they got out of hand. Staying away from this doomed place would have been the smart thing to do.
'I guess i wasn't that smart', thought Eric.
Suddenly, a tremor shook the building; followed by an ominous sound reverberating across the hotel.
'Madness was afoot', thought Eric and cursed under his breath as the gash in his stomach worsened. Finding a door at the end of a dimly lit corridor, he opened it and descended the stairs to the basement below.
His Beretta stirred nervously in his hands as the looming darkness enveloped him in it's gloominess. As his eyes grew accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he could faintly see candles and glowing embers from the burning twigs lying around. The smell of scorched wood now intermingled into the heavy odor laden air.
Eric inched his way to the walls, and looked around, in bewilderment, accessing his situation.
The hot air inside was like an invisible wall, thick with incense and something else, a sickly sweet something that made him gag. The murderous, twisted mobsters with shark smiles lurked somewhere ahead, like a spider at the center of it's web waiting.
Startlingly, Eric discerned in the dimly lit basement : a table, scattered with notes of demented arcane nonsense written in rusty blood, a mishmash list of demons, devils and dark gods evoked.
He might have laughed, if he had remembered how.
He turned round and found, to his amazement, that the room was stacked with light reading such as "Necronomicon", "Witchcraft", and "Paradise Lost". Old
exotic titles like "Malleus Maleficarum" and "Deumbrarum Regninoyem Portis"... Books with pentagrams on thier covers. All dealing with the Occult and the infernal lying between stacks of horror videos and a couple of Ouija boards.
The vapors in the air started to make his head swim, and he crouched in front of the table, gun in hand; waiting to shoot whoever came through the door.
It seemed like a cold day in hell. Searing pain shot through his temples, and he flinched in pain, dropping the gun in the process.
Suddenly, an ominous, head-splitting sound reverberated across the whole basement, piercing the silence. The sound was followed by a loud, eerie chant which was joined by the clickity clack of boots as if marching in unison. The clickity clack seemed to come closer to where he was, so he frantically groped for the gun in the darkness and having found it, stood up and tip toed to the door, listening intently.
Slowly and stealthily, he opened the door and slid out. The basement seemed to be a set, built into an old theater. Wooden stairs led to the backstage of the theater, lit by a sinister red and black light. Eric gulped down hard and ascended the stairs. He was stopped short midway by a menacing, thundering voice that chanted thus :
"The Blood of Fallen Immortals! Come to me all! Asteroth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Bapholada, Lucifer, Loki, Satan, Cthulhu, Lilith, Della! Blood, to you all! Shh..Secrets... living under the skin of reality. I've seen it, the corruption of flesh. I'm the wolf, yeah! I am the wolf! It's close, it's coming. You have come. The witness to the end, of time. It's now!"
The words played with his head; pulling at it's roots, touching the chords, and before he could comprehend the situation, a cold, blunt instrument hit his head and he fell down the stairs, lying unconscious.
The Litany of Fear
When Eric opened his eyes, he could faintly discern two or three people surrounding him; their faces scarred, eyes bloodshot, and wearing a black hood similar to those worn by the Ku Klux Klan . They were chanting something under their breath and revolving around him, like moths attracted to light. Except this time, he was the prey and they were the spider.
This was indeed some sort of an occult congregation. A most sinister one, at that.
A giant fire burning in the center of the stage added a paranormal aura to the red and white surrounding.
Eric tried to move but his hands and feet were tied to a giant red cross. He was naked. His skin and flesh exposed to the scalding fire.
From out out of the frying pan and into the fire. Beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead and rolled down his cheeks. Tears glistened in his eyes, blurring his vision. He thought he was going blind.
The black hooded people now sat in a circle, in the center of which was standing a tall, emaciated man clad in a dark red robe; his hood pulled down to reveal a terribly scarred face and eyes sunk deep into the sockets. The glare from the fire illuminated his face to show that he was rapidly mumbling something, a prayer of some sort.
Black magic, maybe?
In his extended right hand was a glowing orange orb, which he slowly raised to his head; his blood shot eyes riveted on Eric, a menacing smirk dangling from his lips.
The chanting resumed and gradually grew from whispers to a tumultuous roar and then suddenly fell silent. The mysterious tall man lowered the orb and closed his eyes, a smirk still dangling from his lips.
What happened next was all a blur.
A staccato of gunfire ensued, followed by a rapid shuffling of feet and cries of pain as the bodies fell. Ear-splitting screams, maniacal laughter, and curses by the dying men completed the picture of a blood bath.
The gun had done the talking this time, not the cops.
Had this been the Colosseum, people would have cheered or booed for a lack of spectacle.
It was sort of ironical in a way.
It is fitting to have been killed on the theater stage, they say. All the world's a stage, after all.
Outside, the wind groaned with cold. It was nearing daylight and had resumed snowing. The snow fell like ash from post-apocalyptic skies.
All was silent.
The last thing Eric remembered before he was dragged into the crushing abyss of darkness was the face of the tall, emaciated man clad in a red robe, jelled into an expression of horror and ambiguity as a bullet sliced through his brain.