House Party – Part Two
Under Cheri’s hand bas relief sculptures were carved into the wall. The shapes frightened her, conjuring thoughts that disturbed her and images that terrified. She paused, trying to see what was carved there by touch alone. Weird creatures from the before time, animals lost in the labyrinth of a sickening imagination. Her heart beat harder and everything in her body said “Run”. But the chanting hypnotized. Spell bound, her mind said “Forward”.
Ty waved his hands in front of him in the black. The void was empty. No landmarks, no doors or lamps or corners, to help him orient himself in space. If it wasn’t for the stairs beneath his feet, he felt he may as well have been floating in space. Suddenly his fingers brushed the peeling wood of a black door. “Cheri. There’s a door.” No response. Cheri was no longer behind him.
The sculptures beneath Cheri’s hand disappeared and her arm fell through an emptiness. As her eyes adjusted she could see a dull glow in the air, like moonlight filtered through storm clouds. She saw that she was in a massive domed room with a huge well in the center. The carvings continued all along the edge of the room and up the curving walls. It was as though a secret history was hidden here, a history much more mad than our own. She lifted her eyes to the ceiling, following the disturbed motifs, and saw stone pews carved into the ceiling upside down surrounding an altar made of quartz that seemed to grow from the center. The glow that barely lit the room emanated from the altar. Something dripped from it and fell hundreds of feet through the air into the center of the well. She went to the edge and looked down. Cold wind swept out of the hole ceaselessly, making her hair dance about her face. The drop never hit the bottom.
Behind the door a long spear head hewn from dark blue stone was planted in the center of a round, smooth room. At the very tip a tiny, wavering flame that burned white hot and lit the room with painful light danced. The floor dipped slightly when he entered. His eyes drifted down.
Carved into the floor was a mandala of horrific origins. Hacked into a huge slab of bone, bursting with pictures of sacrifice, images of surreal beasts whose jaws dripped with scum and blood, macabre lines that tangled themselves into geometric patterns that made his retinas hurt, all spiraling and weaving their way inward to the center where the dread spear head stood, casting its flickering, nightmarish, white light that only made the horrors of the mandala seem alive. With another step he was within the circle, his hand reaching out to touch the spear, seemingly without thought to guide it. His fingers edged closer to the stone blade and he stepped deeper into the lurid mandala.
Cheri spun around, only just now realizing that Ty was gone. She left the edge of the bottomless well, calling out his name, her voice echoing horribly through the domed room. “Ty?” But there was no answer, save for that hypnotic, horrific chanting. The wind seemed to whisper in a forgotten tongue as it swept out of the well’s mouth, egging her on, deeper into the strange and endless basement. “Ty, where are you?” But he was gone. At the opposite side of the room, a hundred or more feet away, was a door. The chanting flowed out of it, whispering and winding through the room to her. She walked around the low wall that ringed the well, her fingers brushing the surface, felt the labyrinthine pattern that was carved there. When she reached the doorway she slipped through, back into darkness.
His fingers lightly grazed the edge of the spear and he drew his hand back with a scream. Blood dripped onto the mandala below his feet and the light snuffed out. The flame crawled across his hand, leeching into the cut on his finger, causing his hand to atrophy in pain. He crouched on the ground, clutching his hand to his chest, whimpering in the agony of a bolt of lightning that fired along his arm, praying for the pain to leave. Slowly, so slowly, it did. It spread through his body in a wave of dizzying heat that softened to a fever. All that remained of the fire was a white mark on his hand, a strange, angular sign of the devil. He stood and staggered out of the room, hazy and lost in the dark, through a door that hadn’t been there before.
Another stairway. This time spiraling up to an attic door carved from bone. Beyond was a round ossuary, filled with dust and mutilated bones. The floor was painted with a spiral of arcane letters and forbidden alchemy. Standing around the edge of the macabre tomb were people in formless, hooded robes of strange, impossibly dark cloth. Simply looking at them made Cheri’s eyes burn. And yet, there was something almost comforting about being here. She gently closed the bone door. It seemed to vanish into the floor. The figure standing directly opposite had an elaborate embroidery on his robe that was same impossible color as the robe itself. She felt drawn to them, although she could not see their face beyond the edge of the hood. She stepped toward the occult figure before her.
Ty was in a hallway lined with stone spears, all with tiny burning flames at their tips. Still feeling the tickle of the fire in his palm, he kept one hand on the wall to steady himself as he shuffled down the hall, his fingers brushing hieroglyphics of a strange and terrifying nature. He passed massive murals carved into the wall, filled with fanged gods and winged demons and faceless strangers who wore grim robes. The air became thicker the deeper he went, the lights cloying at his head, trying to force their way into his skull. Or perhaps it was the white fire that guided his steps, made his vision cloud, caused his thoughts to burn. No matter, he continued his staggering journey down the hall, past the wall of horrors.
He came to an obsidian door banded in steel. It opened into the ossuary filled with bones and dust . He looked around the room, examining the arcane letters as though he almost knew what they said, trying to see past the black pits to the faces concealed by the hooded robes of the people surrounding him. Cheri was there, standing in front of one of them, her back turned to him. “Cheri. Where have you been?” She would not stop staring into blank face of the hellish monk. “Why wont you turn around?”
She stood before the figure wearing the embroidered robes, gazing into their hood, waiting for something to happen, hoping for some kind of answer to an unknown question. Ty’s voice was wind, a breeze only barely heard. The robed figure before her pulled a long knife out of their sleeve, a blade that was edged with gold and etched with abstract mathematical shapes, a handle that was long and crusted with flat gems that breathed with a dark light. The figure held the knife out to Cheri in silence.
“Cheri, let’s get out of here.” Ty entered the ossuary, letting the door crash shut behind him. The room smelled of rot and dust and blood. He called out to Cheri again, but the ossuary absorbed the sound and returned only silence. The skulls and the bones staring out at him from behind the robed and hooded figures made his skin crawl. Flashes of apocalyptic images swam through his head and the fire burned its way through his veins. The arcane script that spiraled across the floor pulled at him, compelling him to go to the center of the room. When he reached the center his vision darkened. The fire reached his legs and turned them into cloth, buckling them, forcing him to fall to his knees and the fever sharpened to a knife that slashed through his mind. He opened his mouth to call out, but silence was all there was.
Cheri said nothing. She turned and stepped toward Ty. Gazing down at him, she stepped closer and began to lift the knife clutched in her fingers.
previous chapter: HOUSE PARTY – PART ONE
all chapters: House Party
more by LIAM DELANEY
photograph by Dom Crossley