In Nihilum

Preface: This is based on a collection of dream-like memories I experienced more than 20 years ago. It does not reflect a current state of mind. The fact that I’m releasing it into the wild means I am completely comfortable with the past experience, and willing to write about it.

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash
Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

Droplets of dew fill the leaves in the forest. Light is hardly coming through. The tall trees with thick foliage do their best to prevent the sun from touching the ground. No wind is blowing, yet the air feels fresh.

An eerie silence brings about discomfort. No birdsong. No rustling noise on the ground.

The walk path is barely perceptible due to all the roots and vegetation that long ago took over. Nailed to some trees arrows in signs point a way to go. Other trees have ⇠ THIS WAY painted in red ink, pointing in an opposite direction.

How did we lose ourselves in the forest? Where is our way back home?

The signs look aged, corrupted by years of exposure, whereas the paint signs look new. After deliberating which would be the best choice, we decide to follow the inked instructions. And so we walk under the arched trees, from which their branches lay a lightning shaped deep shadow to whatever is under it.

There is something lovely with the feeling you have while walking over wet soil, full of brown leaves and greenery and roots we try to avoid. It is soft, it moves with our weight. It’s almost as if we’re walking on top of a sleeping giant.

After trudging for what it seemed too many hours of following arrows, we knew we were going in the right direction. The paint started getting more indulgent, fresh to the touch. We start feeling a different kind of soil under our feet. Steadier. Sandy.

Photo by Gabriele Motter on Unsplash
Photo by Gabriele Motter on Unsplash

And the trees let us be as we leave the forest and walk towards a plain. And the sun is magically gone.

All we can see is a blanket of darkness covering all the eye can see, and bright starts in the sky.

A faint line of lights can be seen far away in the distance. As we move closer, the line shapes itself into a group of people, each holding their candle with care.

Closer and closer we get. We begin to understand what they are doing. It is a mournful procession; some sort of night pilgrimage, walking away from a dark structure that was definitely not there before.

“Hello? Can you help us?”, we ask one after the other. “Can you tell us where we are?”

The few that raise their head to look at us do not understand what we mean. Their stare is incredulous, confused and fearful. And as fast as they raise their head to acknowledge us, they lower them. And they continue their walk.

Each and every try to communicate with them is fruitless, leading to frustration.

“PLEASE! Can you help us?”, we finally get sick of being ignored and grab one of the last pilgrims. The woman stares at us with a wistful breathing, incapable of answering. Her eyes grow with fear and anxiety while staring at us, and a tear travels down her cheek. She lets herself go abruptly from our grip and keeps going on her way.

At this point we are close to the structure. It is hard to notice any detail regarding it, except that it is devoid of light and a long thick tower blocks the stars. Moving towards it, two men wearing a suit of armor can be seen guarding a large two-door wooden portal.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

“Excuse me, sir”, we addressed the one on the left. “Can you please tell us where we are?”

The man, steadfast and stoic moves only his eyes towards us. He is tall and twice our size.

“Do not attempt to enter.” He replied in an especially deep voice. “These doors were not made for you. This place was not meant for you. Leave. And don’t come back.” he says, pointing towards the path where we came from.

Feeling threatened, we accepted their order and began our walk back into the forest. But something strange made us stop. A whistled song was carried by the wind and embraced us with great strength.

Then it stopped. I was alone. And the song traveled back into the fortress.

I could notice that the song was traveling round and round the large structure. Going through the door would be an act of sheer folly, so I tried to find another way. By going around the fortress the men guarding the entrance would not notice, and could be avoided.

By the side wall there was a service door, very old and unmaintained. It had no handles or locks. I decide to open the door.

Photo by Oumaima Ben Chebtit on Unsplash
Photo by Oumaima Ben Chebtit on Unsplash

The inside revealed itself. It was cold and dark. Sprinkles of dust falling from the ceiling. The only light apparent was coming from torches placed along the empty corridor.

It was silent and eerie.I grabbed the first torch hanging on the wall and start walking through the long corridor.

Pacing myself in silent steps, I move towards the end, where a spiral stone staircase leads me to the top of the tower.

Halfway through the staircase there was a dark door. It had my first name written in red ink. The writing appeared to be painted with a hand, and not a brush.

This door had no handles or locks either. It would not budge. Why is my name on it?

I attempt to open it by force, without considering this would probably alert whomever was close by. The door finally creaks itself open after my third charge. A strong gust of wind with the whistling song comes from the inside and blows the fire out of my torch. Then it dissipates, and the music fades away.

Through the door we can see a long and wide church-like hall. It is barely perceptible what is in this hall. It has tall pillars that hold the arched ceiling. The only light available is coming through the stained glass windows, up top.

As I carefully step into the hall I feel I stepped in a puddle. Torches light up in the first pillars, to my left, and to my right.

It’s blood. It looks like something or someone was dragged from this position. The trail leads to a faint shadow not too far from me. The second torches light up.

It’s a huge set of wings. No bird can be this big. Upon inspection I notice the wings must have been ripped apart violently. And I feel an uneasy pain in my back, as if it happened to me. What happened here?

The trail of blood does not end here. It seems the creature must have dragged itself from this spot. And there it is, lying next to the altar. As I get closer I realize it is not an animal.

The third torches light up. It is a man, naked and on his back. His body is full of scars, scratches and cuts. Ugly open wounds in the end of his wing bones

He is lifeless and drained of blood. I turn him around to try and get a pulse and see if he is still breathing.

“N-no…”, I muttered under my breath.

He is me. I am him. We are one.

I am alone.

And from the moment I realize it, I start hearing unnatural screams and growls coming from the door.

And I run away to the end of the hall. And I’m not fast enough. I feel a thud in my head.

It becomes dark, and I fall into the void.

Nothingness. Nothingness….

Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash
Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash