The Illusion of Control
I walked back to the cave with an extra bounce in my step. The hunt was a success and my spoils of victory were several chunks of pork. If I had tried to do this yesterday, I would have come back empty handed. Defeating demons changes you.
In front of the cave was a sheep eating the burnt grass. As I approached, it looked at me and bleated happily.
“Frank, is that you? I figured you wouldn’t come back.”
The sheep bleated again and went back to eating grass. I felt bad about scaring him off the way I did. My fear had transformed a friend in my eyes to the embodiment of what I hated. But now that there was no fear, he was a friend again. He didn’t seem to be too upset about it though.
I walked into the cave and put the hunks of pork down on the wooden bench. Now was the time to work on the problem that was bothering me the entire way back to the cave. How was I going to store this? I can’t just let raw pork sit out in the open, it’ll rot, or attract things I don’t want.
I could cook them, but that wouldn’t work for long. I didn’t have any salt, so I couldn’t pack them. I looked around the cave hoping for inspiration and my eyes came to rest on the holes still in the cave wall. The cracks kinda looked like a stove. That was it, I could smoke the meat. I could make a stove out of what was left of the wall, there were few trees, but I could get enough wood. I even have a vague idea how to do it.
I hammered out the wall and put together an improvised stove. I grabbed a bunch of wood and soaked it in the river. Before long I was watching the stove do it’s thing.
Not ten minutes latter I was outside the cave coughing my lungs out. That’s something I hadn’t noticed with the small torches, there’s no ventilation in the cave.
It took over an hour, but the smoke finally cleared out. I checked the pork, and much to my amazement, it was perfect. Dry, but not rock solid; cooked, but not overdone. Since I knew that it worked, I started hammering out ventilation.
I didn’t want to just dig a hole up to the top of the hill, that would let rain in and I didn’t want that. I decided to try another tactic. I hammered out groves into the ceiling. Shallow over the stove, but growing deeper as they traveled to the doorway. I hoped that would be enough to let the smoke rise and flow out of the cave.
The first test didn’t work, but after deepening the groves a few times, it worked well enough.
That’s how life went for what must have been weeks, maybe months. I would hunt when I needed food, or at night I would hunt for other reasons. I tried to get the farm going, but that was slow work. Mostly I just waited, hoping someone would eventually find me.
Frank was a constant companion. He would sleep inside with me during the night, and during the day he would be out front mowing the lawn. He was always bleating at me happily when I came back from hunting.
After a little while the monsters stopped coming. I guess they finally got the idea that this was my territory and I, who was never defeated, would defend it.
When I wasn’t hunting, I was making things. The success of the stove spurred me into creating many other things. I had fixed the door and made it better then ever; it now opened properly. I took some wood and clippings from Frank and made myself a bed. I even managed to create some leather to make clothing and a bag to carry things.
I still have no idea how I can do all these things, but with things like eternally burning torches and large green things that explode, I stopped asking questions. By that time I was sure I wasn’t on earth any more. That would explain all these strange things I’ve seen.
None of these strange things could stand up to what I saw that one night.
The sun was setting causing the sky to burn red. The evening wind always shifted, blowing in from the lake and bringing the smell of the water.
I was lying on the grass watching the valley to the west. The herd of sheep had returned and were grazing at the foot of the hill. Frank was lying next to me watching the herd.
I was counting the stars as the sun finished hiding behind the hills in the distance. I was just about to run out of numbers when I heard a strange noise. I had been listening to the sounds of the valley for weeks now, and I thought I knew all of the sounds. This one was different, it almost sounded mechanical.
I looked into the valley trying to see what was making the noise. I didn’t see anything at first, but looking closer I saw something. It was like a shadow moving amongst shadows. I heard the indescribable noise again and lost track of the shadow.
I hadn’t seen a monster for weeks now, a thrill shot up my spine at the thought of them returning. A part of me was glad that they were gone, but a bigger part of me wanted them to return. I never felt so alive as when I was cracking skeleton bones.
I picked up my sword, strapped it to my back, and walked into the shadows of the hills. I had learned a lot since I arrived here, how to build, how to fight, but most importantly how to not be seen..
I was glad that I had stopped using as much wood. There were still enough trees around to hide behind. I had managed to find the thing and was hidden just a few feet away. I poked my head out from my cover and took my first look at it.
Odd doesn’t do this thing justice. Standing in the moonlight, I could see it wasn’t black as I thought, but a vary dark blue. It was about seven feet tall with long thin legs and arms. It’s head was huge compared to the rest of it’s body.
I only had a moment to take this all in. Just as I looked directly at it, the thing turned and faced me. It looked at me with large, white eyes. It’s mouth was open in a silent hiss, showing it’s sharp teeth.
I ducked back behind the tree trying to decide how I wanted to proceed. I didn’t have any time to think as I heard that noise again and suddenly the thing was standing just in front of me. I tried to dive out of the way, but I was too late. It struck me in the side with a large rock it was holding.
I was thrown to the ground. Taking advantage of the situation, I rolled away and managed to stand up. I pulled my sword from the sheath and faced the thing, or at least where the thing was. By the time I got up, it was gone.
I was looking around the tree trying to figure out where it went when I felt something heavy hit my back. I was thrown, face first, into the ground. My vision went white and I smelled copper as my nose flattened on the hard ground. I sat up trying to clear my vision. As it cleared I looked around trying to find the thing. It was standing at the bottom of my hill. How did it get there already?
I heard that noise again. At the same time the thing vanished from the foot of the hill and suddenly I was looking up into it’s face as it stood over me.
My hand slid around the grass looking for my sword, but I couldn’t find it. I looked around and saw it under the tree. It must have been thrown there when I was hit in the back.
I dove towards the sword and brandished it as I stood, facing the thing. This time it didn’t just teleport to me, it walked. Somehow seeing it walk was worse then watching it teleport.
I started to feel something that I hadn’t felt since that one night with the rain storm; fear. This place wasn’t satisfied throwing the walking dead at me, it wanted to send a true horror at me.
I swung my sword at the demon thing, hitting it in the torso. It just got mad. It swung it’s rock again with enough force to throw me into the tree, hard. I managed to stay on my feet, but I could instantly tell something was wrong. I tried to grab the sword with both hands, but my left arm wouldn’t move.
The demon swung it’s rock again, but this time I was able to avoid it. I hit it as hard as I could with just one arm. This time it staggered. Taking that as a sign, I swung one last time. This time, just as the sword hit, it disappeared in a puff of white smoke.
I spun around looking for where it teleported to this time. I saw nothing. I I started backing up towards my hill. Taking a step back, I felt something under my foot. Looking down, I found a dark round thing.
I tried to pick it up, but my hand still wouldn’t move. Putting my sword away, I grabbed it with my other and jammed it into my bag. Taking one last quick look around, I turned and ran back to my cave.
I slammed the door as I ran inside. leaning up against the wall, I watched the door to see if anything was behind me. Nothing came.
A low throbbing in my shoulder grew into white hot pain. Feeling my shoulder, I found it was out of it’s socket. I tried to push it back into place, but all I managed to do was push it around. The bones grinding together was the worst pain I had ever felt. I decided to try something I saw in a movie. Lining up my arm with a corner of the cave, I slammed my shoulder into the wall. The last thing I felt was the joint popping back into place just before my vision went black.
I opened my eye to the sun shining threw the window in my door. My entire body was screaming in pain. It took a few moments for my head to clear enough for me to realize I couldn’t open my right eye. It had swollen shut over night.
I sat up and almost passed out again. My head was swimming in pain. I touched a large bump on the back of my head where it hit after I passed out. With that memory flooding back, I raised my left in front of my face. Thankfully it responded this time.
I managed to stumble outside to the river. I looked into the water and for a moment wondered who was looking back at me. This guy was in bad shape. His one eye was swollen and red, his nose was obviously broken with dried blood everywhere.
I raised my hand to my face, and the guy in the river did the same. This guy was me, I was the one in bad shape.
I dipped my head into the river, the cool water felt great on my swollen skin. I took several minutes to clean the dried blood off of my face and forced my nose back into shape. I didn’t know if that was the right thing to do, but it made sense.
Under my shirt, on my right side was a large and nasty looking bruise. Tenderly feeling around, I didn’t find any broken bones. In the state i was in, that was a small miracle.
Not having an ice pack, I did the next best thing. I rolled into the river and let the cool water flow around me. I let my top half float while my feet were still on the rocks holding me in place.
Many questions flew threw my head. What happened last night? What was that thing? Are there any more of them? Will I ever be able to breath out of my nose again?
I don’t know how long I laid there before I jerked myself from sleep. Falling asleep while floating in a river was probably a bad idea.
I pulled myself out of the river and staggered back to the cave. I never felt so glad that I had made a nice soft bed. I was only able to sleep on my back with the left side of my face on the pillow. The last thought that went threw my head questioned the wisdom of falling asleep with what must have been a concussion. That thought didn’t last long.
I was walking threw the prairie, the shadows playing around me. The wind was blowing hard causing the trees and grass to sway. The sky was full of dark black clouds, the rain was coming.
I trudged along to the hill, not afraid of the shadows this time. I would not be stopped, I would make it to my destination.
I climbed the hill, grabbing the grass for leverage. The hill seemed larger this time, but I would not be stopped. At the top, I looked over. The same house stood on the other side.
I raced down, not paying attention to anything else. Reaching the front door, I reached for the knob. I expected to see my mother open the door, but it didn't happen. I burst inside only to find myself in a long stone hallway.
Ignoring the scenery I walked directly to the wooden door. I was about to open it when I felt something pulling at me from further down. Following the feeling I started walking.
I walked forever, passing one metal door after another. Soon I was running as fast as I could. I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The light grew brighter and brighter. Soon the light was all around, blinding me.
When my vision cleared I found myself in a large room. The entryway was lined in iron bars, just like the iron bars that were in the windows, but the sun didn’t shine threw the bars, only stone. The windows weren’t needed; there was plenty of light coming from the stone fountains to the left and right of the door. Fountains full of glowing lava.
The walls were made of the same stone brick as the hallway, but they looked older. Some were broken and others were covered in moss. In the center of the room was a stone stairway leading up to a round alter. The alter had twelve recesses around the edge and the center was hollow showing another lava fountain underneath.
My eye was drawn to one of the recesses. Inside the recess was what looked like a flaming eye set inside a black pearl. I reached down to pull it out, but it wouldn't budge. I grabbed it with both hands, braced my feed, and pulled. My fingers slipped on it's smooth surface and I lost my balance. Arms flailing, I fell into the center of the alter, into the pool of lava.
I stood in the center of a vary large cave. Hundreds of feet above me was the cave ceiling. The cave walls were close to my left and right, but continued in front and behind further then I could see. I was standing inside a huge crevasse. I could only imagine the earthquake that must have caused this.
Ahead of me I saw a speck of light. Getting close, I saw it was a giant pool of lava extending back into the crevasse. I heard an explosion from above me. Looking up I saw a torrent of water flowing out of the wall crashing into the lava pool. Where it touched, the water evaporated blocking my vision for a moment. When it cleared I found that the lava that was touched by the water had cooled into a deep purple rock. I reached down and dipped my hand into the water touching the rock. I could feel how strong it was. I knew this was a special kind of rock, stronger then anything I had seen before.
The sun blinded me. I stood in the prairie on the other side of my river. In front of me stood a doorway made out of that same purple stone. A spark shot from the corner causing a fire. The fire spread across the bottom of the doorway and flowed around until it covered the entire inside.
Another flash and the fire turned into water, floating inside the doorway. I put my hand threw the doorway, I felt nothing. Stepping up into the doorway, I walked into the water. The world blurred, all I saw was swirling purple.
I opened my eyes to gray stone above my head. Slowly I realized it was all a dream. I was getting sick of those dreams. Why couldn’t I dream of normal things like getting lost in school or going to work naked?
After a few minutes, I pushed myself up off the bed. My left arm gave out and I fell back onto the bed. Remembering what had happened, I started noticing the stiffness in my muscles and pain in my bones. I could see again out of my right eye, but it was still painfully swollen. It wasn’t much, but it was progress.
My stomach growled painfully, like I hadn't eaten for an entire day. I looked outside and saw the sun rising. That would explain it, I hadn’t eaten for an entire day. I had been asleep for almost twenty four hours.
I opened the chest where I stored my preserved food. I had thought I was storing food for winter, not for the inability to hunt.
With a full belly, I sat back down on the bed. I looked out the door. The last thing I wanted to do today is go outside. I debated on going back to sleep. I was still groggy somehow, but I didn’t want to sleep all day and then be up all night.
I sat back down on the bed to think of something to do. Remembering something I reached down and grabbed my bag. I fished out the thing I had found after fighting the demon. It looked exactly like a pearl, but it was dark blue. I’ve never seen a pearl this size ether, it was the size of a grapefruit.
Something acquired to me. This looked exactly like that eye thing I saw in my dream, except there was no eye in the center. I’ve dreamt about strange things before, but adding a flaming eye to an object that I didn’t even see vary well? I must have hit my head harder then I thought.
I threw the pearl back in my bag and promptly forgot about it.
It took several weeks, but I did heal. The swelling on my face was gone, I was able to breath threw my nose again. The cartilage in my nose had knitted and I was able to touch it without pain, though I swore it’s still larger then before. The bruise on my right side had mostly disappeared, a slight discoloration was all that was left. I regained almost all the movement in my left arm, I feared I would never get it all back.
I didn’t go out much during the day, and never at night. I wasn’t willing to face anything until I was fully healed. When I did go out, it was for quick trips for water and to use the bathroom. I had enough meat stored that I didn’t even have to hunt.
Frank kept up his daily routine; in at night, out during the day. I started noticing a pattern to his routine after the third week. He never went outside until after the sun was fully up, and insisted on coming in well before the sun went down. I realized that he would only be outside when it was safe, when no monsters were around. I learned to trust him and not go out unless he was willing.
The dreams came every night. The same as before; sometimes I went to the library, sometimes I went to the alter. It was the same thing over and over again. I grew to loath going to sleep.
I woke from a particularly bad night. It was the same dream, but it repeated again and again. I probably walked threw the prairie six times. I felt as if these dreams were more insistent then before.
“Fine” I said to no one. “I’ll go to the hill. Once the sun comes up, I’ll go there.”
I looked out the window, the sky was still dark. I had no idea how long until sun up, but I decided not to go back to sleep. Though I was tired, I knew I wouldn’t get any rest. I hadn’t had a good night sleep since I started the nightly reruns.
I decided to prepare for the trip. I grabbed my bag and walked over to my chests. The first thing I did was empty my bag, I didn’t want to carry any more then I had to. I grabbed food, torches, and my pickax. Asides from my sword, I didn’t know what else to grab.
I grabbed the gear and walked to the door. The sun was just peaking over the horizon. That was good, I didn’t want to sit for hours.
I sat down on the bed and waited for Frank to wake up. It felt like an eternity latter when he woke and bleated to be let out. At least now I knew it was safe.
I swung my sword over one shoulder and the bag over the other. Opening the door, I let Frank out and followed behind.
“You want to come along?” I asked Frank.
He responded by wandering away in the opposite direction.
Shrugging, I turned and headed towards the hills. The trek was much like my dreams. With the sun low, the shadows were stretched across the land. With every gust of wind, the shadows would jump and dance.
It took longer then I thought it would to reach the hills. I turned around and looked back at my hill. I was still able to see it, but since the sun was already half way threw it’s trip, I was glad I planted torches along the way.
The hill was just as steep as my dreams, but it was much higher. I was already here, I wasn’t going to give up now. I started trudging up the hill.
It was easy going at first, the hill didn’t get steep until about twenty feet up. At thirty feet, I was on all fours. By fifty, I was grabbing anything I could to pull myself up.
When I finally reached the top, I collapsed on the grass. For a moment I enjoyed staring at the clouds. When I was little, I spent many hours just watching the clouds. Eventually they would start making shapes. It was endless fun seeing what my mind could come up with.
I sat up and looked over the path I had traveled to get here. It amazed me that I had traveled that far and climbed this hill. I never would have been able to do it before I came here. I guess all the hard work and exercise was paying off. It’s one thing to weight lift and jog, it’s another thing when your life depends on it.
Remembering what I was here for, I turned around to look at the reason I came all this way. While it wasn’t entirely unexpected, what I saw still surprised me.