Roadside Attraction: Part 5
There was darkness and heat.
Scott was lying on a stone floor. A thin layer of gravel and dirt scraped against his face. He made a clumsy attempt to stand, but found his hands bound behind his back and resigned to rolling onto his side. There was the faint scent of something sickly sweet in the air. He rolled over onto his stomach and brought his knees up under him. His head was heavy, and a mind-numbing pain ran back and forth across his skull. He groaned as he attempted to lift his body. There was no strength in his back or legs and could do little more than roll back over onto his side. He let out a sharp hiss of pain as he landed on his shoulder.
“Scott? Scott, is that you?” a voice echoed from somewhere else in the room. “Scott, that better be you.”
His head cleared enough to let him realize it was Tony. He groaned again as he turned his head to try and find anything in the void surrounding him. “Yeah, yeah it’s me.”
“Oh thank fuck! What happened to you?”
“That’s an awesome question. Last thing I remember we were running from…” He trailed off as he pieced together in his mind what had happened. “What the hell is happening?” he finally said.
“I have no fucking clue. We ran outside, but instead of just going to the car you stopped and your eyes had rolled back and were muttering some word over and over. I tried getting you to snap out of it, but you just stood there, man. I couldn’t leave you…” Scott could hear the tears in his voice. “I’m sorry, man. You said it was wrong here and you were right.”
“So what happened? They tied us up?”
“Yeah. They pushed us into a car and took us into this town. Some of the things out there…none of it makes sense. Like the way buildings are shaped and there’s this weird symbol everywhere and…” Tony’s voice was breaking down, “And the kids were…hung up…on the lights…”
“Ok, ok man,” Scott shushed him and worked his way up into a sitting position. “Where are we right now?” Have to find a way out.
[The Spire sees all and is the end of all things…]
Tony took a breath and composed himself. “I think it’s a kind of city hall or something. They put us down here a while ago, though.” He heard Tony sniffle. “And it smells awful. It’s like rot down here.”
The image of a hundred dead bodies surrounding them filled Scott’s head, their hands reaching silently towards them just out of reach in the inky darkness. “Can you stand up?”
Tony grunted. “Yeah…just…gimme a sec…” Rustling. Then the sound of something falling on the floor. “Holy shit! I got the rope off my hands!”
“Yes!” Scott finally found the strength to get to his feet. “Come help me with mine!”
Above them came the sound of metal scraping against metal. Like a lock being undone. “Oh shit,” Scott quickly got back on the ground, hitting his shoulder once again. “Quick! Lay back down and act like you’re tied up,” he whispered sharply. He could hear Tony doing exactly that. “If you find an opening don’t wait for me.”
Another latch turned.
“What? I’m not leaving you here!”
“Stop, Tony, it’ll be ok.” He knew that it wouldn’t be. Even if he made it back home Scott could feel something close to a corruption seeping into him. There was no coming back from this for him.
Tony began to protest when a door behind Scott opened and an orange light danced into the room. Their holding cell was a plain cube hewn into the clay and rock of the ground. In front of him sat several rows of small chairs that looked to be taken from a nursery. Their back and legs were adorned with detailed and ornate carvings. They were neatly and purposefully placed in rough semi-circles facing him. Scott rolled over to see a group of figures at the top of a narrow staircase, all clad in the odd and disturbing cloaks of those that had surrounded them in the spire. Two of them began to make their way down the steps.
He looked back at Tony. “Hey…” he said, sure to make his voice even and calm. Tony’s eyes met his and he could see the frustration and anger along with a hint of guilt. Scott nodded his head. You’re going to be ok. He prayed his last words to his friend would be far less haunting than Reggie’s had been for him. “I love you.”
The robed figures picked them up. Long and skeletal fingers wrapped around Scott’s forearms as they pushed him towards the opening. His guard went first, pushing him at a pace so rushed he tripped up the steps. As he emerged from the basement the rotting smell became more pervasive. The heat also felt stronger on the ground floor, and he hoped he wouldn’t have to see the source of either.
The room they came up to was a large meeting hall. On the far wall behind a podium hung a large red banner with a crudely drawn symbol. Its lines were shaky and the edges frayed out chaotically, implying a mad frenzy in its painter. The inconsistent lighting of the torches caused the symbol to quiver on its crimson background.
They pushed Scott towards a door next to the banner and he stumbled towards it. The closer he got to the door, the warmer and more putrid the air became.
Once they reached the door one of the figures stepped in front of him. Then there was a flurry of shouting and shoving from behind him and Scott was thrown into the key bearer. He turned just in time to see Tony kick the knee out from under the guard escorting him and break for the door. Scott gave a small nod as he disappeared out of the front door and into the abyss of the night. Run you bastard, run until you see home.
Two of the figures bolted for the door after him when the one who had the key shouted for them to stop. It was a man’s voice. “Don’t! We need you here. The Watcher is still at her post and she has her own help.” The two gave a second look through the door and nodded in agreement. The Leader slid the key home again and turned the lock. It gave a thick metal ca-chunk that held the weight of eons-old craftsmanship.
The heavy door swung open and an immense heat washed over him. He gagged against the sourness of the air. Candles littered the floor and the same symbol on the banner was scrawled in unknowable forms of writing that glistened in the dancing light.
[There should’ve been a point, by now…]
This time the voice was audible outside of his own head.
[You didn’t have anything going for you anyway, so really, you might as well serve some purpose before you eat those pills.]
“What?” He stammered back. They shoved him into the room and he fell to his knees.
[I’m so glad you’re here, now.]
Scott lifted his head and saw that the rest of the small room was also covered in candles. The smell and heat were beyond bearable at this point and he began to wretch as sweat dripped off of his brow and nose.
Standing in an opulent rendition of the black cloaks the rest of the group wore was a woman with red hair. Next to her was a large vat. It boiled and spat bits of red and purple. Below it was the source of the heat; bright coals with flames licking off of them.
The woman smiled down at him and spoke with the voice that had entered his mind the night Reggie Bit the Bullet. [We’ve been waiting for someone such as yourself…] Her voice intertwined with another, darker one as vines wrapped around themselves. One became more prominent for a moment before it dipped below while the other rose to the surface. [Don’t worry, my love. The Formless One will take you into his glorious rebirth and the void you have longed for will consume you]
Scott was hoisted onto a thick metal chair covered in depictions of multi-headed beasts performing horrendous acts. The chair was impeccably clean and shone as if very recently polished. He struggled as they swung heavy iron clamps over his wrists and ankles. The two figures that had begun to chase Tony twisted gears on either side of the arms of the chair and the clamps tightened until he could feel the circulation in his hands begin to be cut off. “Please! Stop! It’s too tight!” His words ran into incoherent screams as he heard bones pop and pain shot through his arms and legs.
The two then took their places on either side of the woman. The Leader began to rotate a crank on the wall next to where he stood and a series of gears and chains creaked and moaned into motion. The chair rose into the air and swung like the slow pendulum of a clock as he yanked and pulled on his shattered ankles and wrists. Finally, the pain was too much and he simply leaned back in agony and began to cry. The chains continued to rattle as the chair moved over the boiling vat of dark putrescence.
Below him, the woman continued. [You will be reborn into the arms of the Formless One, Oljos. Father of our offspring and the Bringer of Perverted Life]
The Leader stopped rotating the crank and pulled down a chain linked to some contraption on the ceiling. The chair and Scott began to lower into the liquid.
“No! God no!”
[We reject your God as do you by being purged in the blood and water of our fertility]
His feet dipped into the bubbling rot and his flesh hissed. His screams were unearthly even to his own ears. Soon his waist was below the surface and fire seemed to spill into his stomach. He wretched back and forth against the chair. It was up to his chest now. Surely his heart would give out, somehow. He had to die.
The only thing Scott could think to do was swallow his own tongue. He curled it back and touched his uvula with it. I’m coming, Reggie. He pushed his tongue as far back as it could go and suddenly there was no air. He could feel his lungs seizing as they gasped for oxygen while the rest of his body was boiled.
[You were too much of a coward, Scottie. You don’t get to take the easy way out now]
Scott’s eyes plunged beneath the blood that now was everything he saw, tasted and knew. He desperately threw his head back and forth in an attempt to perhaps break his own neck to no avail.
Madness finally took him as he rose back out of the vat and looked down to see bubbling and blistering muscle and organs where his body once was. In his final, salient moment he saw him; Reggie hunched over in the corner of the room holding the same gun with the same hole in his head as Scott had last seen him. His eyes were dull and dead, but they stared at him. And he was smiling.
Scott fell into oblivion screaming and was no more.