Local Brew: Part 5
From outside, the Hellig Sted had stood tall enough that Trevor should have seen it from the road. Now, as he stood dwarfed within its grandiose halls, he was sure it could be seen from the state line. He stepped into a main hall that expanded out above him in ways that the exterior had kept hidden. A balcony ran the circumference of the room, with passageways letting off in regular intervals. He turned around and looked above the doors he had entered through and saw one such passage lead into more hallways, hidden by the ornate, stone-carved balustrade. Where would that even go? There was nothing there… Everything was hewn from stone. As he struggled to find seams within the walls and flooring, he wondered if the entire structure had been carved from a single, cosmic rock. A faint odor lingered in the air, one that was as familiar as it was alien and vacillated between warm notes and a rotted sourness.
“Come,” Agnetta commanded. Her footsteps echoed around them a thousand times over with sharp clarity. The stone walls grabbed each footfall and wrung it out until it left a residual hum.
He followed her, unsure of where she was leading him. His desire to flee leaked out of the back of his mind with every step. There was a sureness within this place.
The foyer led into a hall lined with sconces. The torches burned a brilliant orange that cast the hall into an illusion of recursive contractions. The flames crackled and billowed as they whispered to one another in their dance. He could almost hear voices flow from them.
On either side of the hall, between the sconces, was a tapestry. Each was a unique abstraction of sojourners. One showed them gathered around a large circular object, streaked red and grey. Another pictured the same group, in poses that suggested dancing, around the same wheel that was now lined with sharp looking teeth. The group was covered in similar streaks of red and held their hands out to the circle. In the next they were aboard a ship in a stormy sea. Beneath the ship, in the water, were a series of white ovals, like eyes, within a shadow that reached out with tendrils. Near the end of the hall was the final tapestry, which again showed the group dancing around the toothed circle, but were now surrounded by a sea of gold.
Above the doorway leading out hung another plaque. It read, “IN THE LAND OF PLENTY, SPARE NOT THE CHILD”. Trevor let out a slow breath; he was beginning to understand what was happening, as nonsensical as it all seemed.
You were late…yet you return.
“Through here.” Agnetta’s voice startled Trevor, and she made a right out of the hall.
He followed her down a circular stairway. The sconces grew farther apart and imparted less light as they descended.
Trevor dared a question. “Where are we going?”
“To the meeting place of the Black Earth.” Her voice was smooth, almost motherly.
In the waning light, Trevor could make out carvings along the stone wall. They were devoid of any familiarity to him, whether it be Nordic, Egyptian, or Native American. There was an inhuman look to their design, as though appendages devoid of human touch or logic had drawn them. The dips and straight angles of their outlines felt ancient beyond recorded history, if something so basic could be called that.
The Zaahat Kall…
Trevor felt the word pull from his lips independent of his mind and body. “Zaahat.”
Agnetta chuckled ahead of him as they finally came to the bottom of the stairway. “It’s communicating with you.” They were now standing in a tight hall lined with candles. Long red strands of wax spread across the floor like arteries toward a black, wooden door ahead of them. She turned to him, her skirt whispering across the stone floor. “That’s what happens when a chosen one draws near.”
“I…I don’t know what’s happening.”
She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, and he could smell a sweet perfume emanating from her sleeve. “It’s difficult to understand, I know.” A soft smile crossed her lips, absent any malice. Her hand found his, and she brought him along behind her as a mother escorts a child. “Through here now.”
She pushed open the door and the rotting, sourness grew immensely. He turned his head and squinted his eyes as the aroma caused them to water, but still followed her as she pulled him along.
The door slammed shut behind them, and there were suddenly more hands grabbing hold of him. Tears stood out in his eyes and blurred his vision; he could only make out lanky, tall figures around him. Their arms were too long for their bodies, and they wore what looked to be burlap over their faces that revealed only their eyes, red and piercing.
Trevor wanted to scream, attempted to, but his body was frozen, whether from fear or from whatever was communing with him. The figures dragged him to a massive, metallic inverted triangle at the center of the room. His wrists, legs, and neck were fastened to it by leather straps that were pulled too tight. He could feel light-headedness threaten unconsciousness. Perhaps that would be a mercy, he thought.
Spare not the child.
He stared up and saw that in some sort of a large, stone silo that reached beyond sight above him. The figures went about operating the various pieces of ancient equipment scattered about the room, their too long legs reaching ahead of them like spiders. Levers and gigantic cogs and wheels groaned to life around him as chains rattled and turned, leading to unseen mechanisms above. The platform he was tied to leaned back with a loud ca-CHUNK until he sat at an angle that allowed him to see up into the yawn of nothing. Then, a million miles above them, a pinprick of red, as angry and fearsome as the eyes he had seen in his dream lit up.
Agnetta began to speak from somewhere behind him. “They are all unique in their desires. Our brothers and sisters have the spire out east. It holds maternal fluids for subjects to be bathed in.”
The red speck began to grow, and a terrible metallic rending echoed from the walls above him.
“We were scattered across this land like seeds in a field. But we have all found our roots here.”
There was another deep groan of metal against metal as the red drew closer. He realized he was traveling up. The platform he was on raised him steadily towards the void star. He could feel it; a deep cold or heat that touched his bones.
“We’ve barely been able to keep in contact with it, after all of these years. You were late and so the feeding for plenty couldn’t commence. But, here you are now and Ingel has awoken. Its machines have awoken. Paradise will awaken.”
The red churned; spots of yellow, then black rotated in and out. The mass roared once more, and the stench overwhelmed Trevor; his gorge rose. What little he had eaten and drank sloughed from his mouth and flowed down his torso, a putrid river of filth.
Filth you have always been, filth you will end as.
Consciousness faded into surreality. Agnetta’s voice was all around him now. “The Zaahat will rise again and only their servants will remain. You are for the land of plenty.”
Trevor found he could scream, and he did. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “Rita, I’m sorry. You were right. I shouldn’t have been late.”
In his final moments of delirium, Trevor saw Rita’s face, stained with tear streaked mascara as she accused him of the thing he denied, but knew was true. They both knew it was true. He ran from the truth, though, too weak, too much of a coward to face it. And it brought him here. In the face of a thing out of time and sanity.
The red overtook him and he could feel his bones wrench from his flesh. Agony was no longer a word he understood, only a concept he lived. In the corn death may have been eternal, but here, in the sun of oblivion over the Black Earth, it was guilt that was everlasting.
The camera focused on the sign as more cars struggled to find parking in the gravel lot. Casey had set up her tripod across the street in front of the weird-looking hotel. There were, in fact, many things here that she found weird, but the requests had been made on her Patreon, so off to some new popular brewery in Indiana she went.
She checked her hair on her phone’s screen. The wind wasn’t cooperating, but she could make it work. Then she hit the red record button and stepped back. “Hey, guys! I finally made it out here to the newest place to be for small-batch brewing. Rickledge isn’t new to the game, but they recently switched up their secret ingredients and you can see,” she motioned to cars straining for space behind her, “whatever they did, it worked.”