XV: The Ninth Circle

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Chapter XV



‘Frank… Open your eyes.

‘Open your eyes.’

Eyes… How do I…
Gold glowed just beyond the darkness; light seeping through a thin membrane of sorts.

My face… his muscles were tight. He relaxed and the light grew brighter. The world drifted slowly into view. I remember… Shapes played in front of him. I thought I—

“Died?”

“Oh!” he cried out, jolted by motion. The fall seized his skin and his eyes shot fully open.

But it was only a memory. A cool hand fell upon his face, and a soothing, androgynous voice spoke to him. He tried to see the being clearly, but it was so… bright.

“Who are you?” he asked, his eyes negotiating with its appearance for understanding.

“An old friend,” the voice replied; familiar, but he found everything so overwhelming…

He leaned forward and reached out, grasping at a slender arm. The oddest sensation gripped him; it was as if he was neither sitting nor standing, a disorienting, almost gyroscopic feeling at his midsection holding him aloft. He tried not to move, a miasma of imbalance overwhelming his motions.

“Please, help me… What’s going on?” He closed his eyes and tried to turn his head away from the bright white, but it was too strong.

The body moved, its warmth and light retreating. He motioned his head forward and tried to walk, but something was holding him; wrapped around his chest. I need to move… He struggled against the leathery bonds. Stuck.

“Hey,” he said, “How do I get out of this? Can you let me out?”

The light didn’t seem so potent now, and he opened his eyes again. As he did, the sinking feeling that something had gone so terribly awry took form in the world around him.

My God… he thought, failing to make any sense of things. His last memory was hazy—of seeing the stars, and falling; and eyes in the black—but somehow he was in some sort of chamber, formed of large stone blocks and stone pillars, sand colored and marked in strange diagrams; a language that he didn’t recognize, seeming to combine simplistic images and words. He looked down—the floor was some distance below. Which meant he was strapped to one of the pillars. His eyes scrambled about the room, trying to discern any useful information, but the bright, white figure washed out his vision.

“Where am I?” he asked weakly.

At first, he didn’t get a reply. Then, from the silence, a familiar cawing noise emerged and the whip like crack of a long, dangerous tail flaying at the ground with steady rhythm froze his beating heart in place. He knew what was coming before he saw it: the large, beaked head and thick blackly feathered wings, beating over the tick-tacking of claws; its razor teeth and powerful body; and, most recognizably, its wide, round eyes, glistening orb like with the with the reflection of a terrified man bound to a stone column, held completely at the mercy of the beast.

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