A man sat forwards clutching his chest. His lungs heaved as though they had not known air in ages. The world spun in a blurry mess of stars, greens, browns, and grays. The pounding headache did nothing to help the confusion either.
Name…what was the name…
The man rubbed at his temples as he felt his heart beat in his skull repeatedly. As he did he found that movement was…painful. His body ached. Every bone, every bit of skin, every organ inside his body felt a slow and agonizing burn that left him groaning.
Where was he…?
He’d have to give up on the name for now. Shakily he got to his feet, his brown leather shoes scraped noisily against frozen dirt. He stumbled as his knees nearly buckled beneath him. It felt as though he hadn’t had anything to eat in days.
Lightheadedness had overtaken him almost immediately.
With bleary eyes he stared at the nearest blurry landmark until his vision came into focus. Something different than the myriad of colors from trees and bushes. A shape of…black, black with smatterings of gold. After a few blinks the figure became more apparent.
A man…a man? The figure was humanoid in shape but…off. Flawless skin, sculpted form, draped in the finest of black silks revealing all too much of a pale body and long hair of bright gold that seemed to flow despite the lack of a breeze. Hell, if it weren’t for the black strip of cloth across the man’s eyes he’d assume the newcomer were staring at him.
It didn’t stop the feeling of a piercing gaze shooting straight through his body.
The longer he stared at this…person... however the more things changed. A shifting of forms, a twitch of a smirk, just a twitch in general. It seemed as though his body shifted and changed irregularly yet stayed the same.
“Well now, isn’t this impressive.” The figure stated.
…That voice…THAT voice.
In an instant flashes of memory split into his skull like a pick. Red…everything was red. Something stank like rot and a low whining ring began to pierce his ears. None of the sensations, however, matched the now racing heart as that voice crept into his ears.
“Belial…” He uttered up to the ephemeral being before him.
A name? It wasn’t his name. He…knew that much. How did he know? Before he understood any of it he realized that he was on his knees clutching his chest as his heart pounded.
“Really impressive…” The figure continued. “You even remember my name.”
He felt a finger press against his forehead and his head tilted back, not of his own accord. The face that his eyes drifted up to was…telling. The black cloth had slipped down around the mysterious being’s face. As he locked eyes with this ‘Belial’ he noted how strange those eyes were. Black, black enough where light could not escape. Much like the garb he was wearing. Strange shaped irises and white pupils.
Those eyes…he hated those eyes. Without realizing it he had been gritting his teeth to the point where his neck was straining. His brow had been furrowed into a deep scowl. Every instinct he had was telling him to either kill this…thing. Kill it or run away as fast as he could. Yet he was frozen, unable to move. Locked in place with the gaze of this writhing abomination.
“Hm… seems that’s all you have at the moment, I see. Well that and your usual ‘cheery demeanor’.” That voice rang out again.
Belial wasn’t in front of him anymore… it was standing behind him. He turned to face the creature.
His memory said that Belial had always been there, standing before the rising sun. That even though he had just been staring into this thing’s eyes it had never happened…
“Don’t think about it too hard, John.” Belial said through a wicked grin.
“You’ll just hurt yourself trying.”
John…that’s what it called him. His name? It was…familiar. Like a drop of water before a flood it brought him back to the moment.
“Me?” He got to his feet, more steadily now. “Is that who I am?”
“That's yer name, Kiddo.” Belial replied. They were now standing just before him, yet they never moved to be there.
“But that’s not who you are… To know that, you’ll have to go digging.”
There was a grin directed at him. A knowing grin, a sadistic grin, a grin that caused John’s heart to sink in his chest. A pit formed and he leaned forwards to shout.
“You don’t know me!” He cried out.
But no one was there.
No one had ever been there. He was alone in a forest clearing. A space that he had forgotten he was in whilst in the presence of Belial. His eyes no longer set on the creature, but on a forest path.
Answers, he needed answers. All he had were a pair of names. He needed more.
Did he want more, though?
Regardless, when Belial had shown himself he clearly was guiding John in a direction. There wasn’t much else to do but step forwards.
The journey through the wilderness was quiet. Disturbingly so. There was nary a sound aside from John’s feet crunching into frosted leaves on the ground. Nothing stirred but his cold breath in the early morning sun. From birds to bugs all seemed quiet and still.
When he stepped through a line of trees his eyes met with the sight of a village. A quiet, unassuming looking place made of timber, a sturdy looking place. Though there seemed to be no one to tend the fields, set up the stalls, or even so much as start the day.
Just silence. Maybe the occasional creak of wood from the wind.
Tentatively, John stepped into the village. The buildings spoke volumes to him that he only barely understood. Whispers of memories that clawed at the door to his mind.
His eyes stopped on a well set in the middle of the village. Upon spying it, John realized that his throat felt as though sawdust had been poured down it. He stalked cautiously towards the well and peered into its center.
A reflection upon the surface of the water met him in kind. The reflection of a man in desperate need of a cleaning. Brown matted hair stood upon his head in clumps, his eyes looked as if he hadn’t known sleep in days, deep lines had been worn into his face and the first signs of poorly trimmed facial hair began to emerge. He was pale, sweaty, and would’ve been kicked out of most polite company.
He had been kicked out of most polite company.
As John stared at his reflection a wave of memories struck him. The boat that brought him here, the struggle to survive the journey, meeting friends and losing them. The elements of years living here wore upon his mind, as did his treatment when he finally found a home. The beatings, insults, the exile, the… the rage.
A particularly strong flash of memory came to mind in the form of blood running down his face.
John shook his head and stared back down at his reflection. He was surprised to find a twisted look of hatred plastered upon it. With a gasp he pushed himself away from the reflection and stumbled backwards. Uncertain memories pushed at the back of his mind again.
Another flash of red overcame him, the stink of rot, the same low whine.
“Didn’t like what you saw, huh?” Belial’s voice rang over John’s head in a sing-song fashion.
John’s vision danced about to try and find the source, only to find that the culprit was laying atop the well.
“Oh what it is, to be a poor lonely man shunned by his home.” Belial thrust his arm into the air and John felt his cheek twitch in response.
“But that was just the tip of suffering as they tormented you and cast you aside, no idea of the suffering you had been through…”
The cloth that was draped over his eyes slipped again to reveal those same inhuman irises. Belial sat up and let his feet dangle over the ground.
“A man could be driven to any extremes in isolation, don’t you know?”
“Belial!” John howled at the top of his lungs. He stormed forwards and snatched at this monster’s fine silken drapery.
“What did you do!”
“Only what I was told to.” Belial replied. A devilish smirk was smeared on his face. Somehow he had slipped from John’s white-knuckled grip and fell backwards into the well.
A splash was expected, yet none came. John stared down into the well once more to find that the surface of the water had been replaced with one of Belial’s black eyes.
“You’ll want to look around for more answers, pumpkin. More fun if you find out that way.”
John blinked and the eye was gone, replaced by the water once more.
He tore himself away from the stonework in revulsion. He hadn’t been aware of it at first, but he had started sprinting to the nearest house. Pain shot through his body as he slammed his shoulder into the wooden door. It gave way with a loud bang and a squeak as it swung freely open.
The house was dark, empty save for the dust that floated into the light. No food on the table, uncleaned kitchen, the barest hints that someone had been living here not too long ago. He took a deal of time to dig through the place only to find that it was empty.
He sprinted out and ran to the next nearest dwelling and searched it as well, but to no avail. Then the next house he did the same.
Again and again John repeated this. Only to find nothing but the last lingering clues of life in this place. By the time he had dug through the last residence the sun had been slowly sinking into the horizon. Not a pleasant light, but one that grew slowly more hostile as the sky began to turn a shade of orange across the gathering clouds.
John emerged from the last home panting, sweat had beaded up on his forehead and began to drip off his face in little rivers. Desperately, like a horse rolling its eyes in fear, he tried to find some place that still had some semblance of life in it.
His eyes found themselves upon the church. A small structure barely large enough to hold the people of the town. The sun had set almost directly upon it as if it were guiding him to it.
The pit in John’s stomach had become an all consuming maw as his feet slowly took him to the front door. There was another pause as John stood there, staring quietly at the oak surface. With quiet determination he pushed his feelings of fear down to the deepest pit inside of him and he reached for the handle.
There was no resistance as he pushed forwards. It swung open gladly, almost invitingly. The church was fairly dark save for the shafts of evening light pushing through the windows to catch the free falling motes of dust. There was no sign of tampering or struggling.
Then why did this place hate?
As John stepped into the church he could feel the suffocating air of judgment circling around him. Eyes were on him, but not angels nor gods. As John stepped up to the wooden altar the feeling got stronger, more intense, the room had gone from a discomforting orange to a hostile red. The low whine was back and it was ringing in his ears in a deafening chorus.
At the center of the altar, lined to be impossible to see from the door, there was a mark. It was a strange, shifting mark. It seemed like a scorch but it rolled like water and morphed and moved strangely.
“This…” John started to whisper under his breath as the hairs at the back of his head rose.
The memories that clawed at the door to his mind scraped loudly now. Whispers burst through into thoughts. Dark whispers of pain and dismemberment. A want of blood and hatred.
He knew who he was.
“I name you him. He who will inherit the earth.” Belial’s voice echoed across the halls of the once holy site.
From the mark a pitch black form emerged coated in Belial’s many black and red eyes.
John felt as though he would scream. It built up in his throat. Though as he felt the feeling of absolute horror grip at his heart another feeling overtook it. He clenched his fists as rage overpowered what fear had begun to muster and he stormed up to the figure.
“What happened?” He spat. “What did I do, Belial?”
“Careful.” The figure placed a finger where the tip of its lips would be. “Even I don’t know what will happen if I answer that question.”
John thrust both of his hands towards Belial as though he were to strangle him. Though as he did he found that Belial was no longer present. Instead, in his hands sat a small skinning knife coated blood.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you, kid.”
The moment John’s eyes caught the dagger and the scarlet marked upon the blade the world seemed to shatter. The last memories poured in as a flood.
The world had been turned red. Screams rang through the night as shapeless tendrils burst forth from the earth and the sky to peel the skin away from howling faces. Eyes ripped themselves from sockets to eat at the throats of those that screamed. People, regular people being eaten alive by a writhing thing. The corpses were piled onto spikes that floated into the air while he knelt upon the altar. Pain seared into his mind as he howled along with his fellow villagers.
He had called Belial unto this place, and the beast consumed all it had been promised.
John threw his head up and howled his anguish up into the rafters of this truly godforsaken place. He slammed his head to the ground and continued to cry. Tears wouldn’t come, though. Droplets of sweat floated from the floor back to his face. A twisted amalgamation of guilt, anger, and fear spun around in his head.
The world had stopped existing and only madness remained.
For what felt an eternity John clung to the ground. It was truly the last real thing in John’s world. The sound of Belial’s cackling rang into his ears as churchbells. The stench of rot now all that he could smell. The taste of bile in his mouth sent him to coughing and spluttering.
Then, in his world of ever expanding torment, it ceased. Light burst from the sky. It wasn’t the same hostile red, but a blinding white. Peace didn’t overcome the anguish that John felt, but lucidity returned. He felt eyes upon him now.
Eyes that did not belong to Belial.
It was an old voice. A voice that seemed almost bored. A voice that had gone eons upon eons seeing the same thing over and over.
A knowing voice.
“Do you know what you have done?”
John rose to his feet the moment he felt his mind cleared. Then when he heard the voice he spun around. The figure before him was definitely not Belial. It was completely coated in a black cloak, a pair of white wings with black tips emerged from its back. The only bits John could see of its body were two skeletal hands and a pair of piercing white eyes that shone brightly through the darkness of the hood.
“How do I fix this?”
The being seemed almost taken aback by this. A moment of uncertainty that John would never have expected from an entity such as this. An entity with such a daunting presence that even Belial was silenced.
“...Is that what you have to say?”
“How do I fix this?!” John shouted in return.
The entity raised a hand out towards John.
“If that is what you have to say, then take my hand.”
Without question John’s fingers wrapped around the harsh, bony, and rough surface. He clasped the hand as though it were the only thing keeping him afloat. As he did he felt the years fleeing his body freely. Ages passed and turned to dust as John kept his vision locked upon the figure’s eyes and never let go.
“We shall see your resolve to fix this blunder of yours.”
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