Thursday, May 9, 2019
OBLIVION: PART THREE
By Daniel Skye
PART THREE: THE FORGOTTEN ONES/THE VOID
With Lisa Ambrose at his side, Stephen Rhodes stared intensely into the long, narrow vanity mirror mounted above the dresser in his room.
“I know you’re in there,” Stephen said, talking to his own reflection. “Open up, you son of a bitch. Let’s finally meet face to face.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Lisa asked.
“Mr. Oblivion has my sister. I have no choice but to go in and get her.”
“Well, you’re not going alone.”
“No, I’m not letting you come with me,” he said vehemently. “You stay here, for your own safety. And in case I don’t make it back. Somebody has to be here to break the news to my mom and to defend this place.”
Stephen tapped the glass, focused on the mirror, stared deep into it, looking beyond his own reflection.
Lisa gasped and recoiled. Stephen’s image became warped and distorted. Darkness crept over the room until the mirror was nothing more than a gaping black hole. Stephen stuck one hand through, then pulled it out.
“Looks like this is the way in,” Stephen said. “If I don’t make it back, it’s been real.”
“Is that all you have to say to me?”
“What else am I supposed to say in a life or death situation such as this one?”
She grabbed him and squeezed him tight. Stephen hugged her back.
“If I don’t make it back, tell my mom I love her. Tell her I tried.”
He took one step in and Lisa stood aghast, watched in awe as the mirror swallowed half of his body. He took another step forward and disappeared into the black mirror.
Time stopped for a moment. He couldn’t see, couldn’t hear. But when his vision returned, he could no longer see the mirror through which he entered. The Starlight Inn was long gone. He was in a desolate plain, a landscape devoid of life and growth. All that existed was rot and decay. The place reminded Stephen of an old video game he played as a child called Silent Hill, sans the fog.
A black, mold-like substance covered every surface. The landscape was that of a town lost in time. Old fashioned buildings with brick facades, abandoned factories and warehouses, a sundial in the center of time. Splayed across the center of the sundial was none other than Simon Spiegel, the man who had tried to chop Stephen up into coleslaw with an axe, just moments before Stephen entered The Void.
His throat was sliced wide open. The black mold had spread over his body, devouring him slowly, methodically. The mold spread perpetually, growing over everything that stood in its path. It had a life of its own. It lived, it breathed, and it fed. And it had a voracious appetite.
Simon Spiegel gurgled, trying to speak through the gaping wound in his throat. What escaped was a raspy, unintelligible moan.
“Rot in hell, you piece of shit.”
If Simon was capable of replying, he would’ve informed Stephen that they were already here. This was hell, or as close to hell as one could get.
Stephen drifted slowly, cautiously, past the sun dial. He came to the end of one “street”, where two familiar faces waited for him at the corner. Two faces that Stephen only recognized from newspaper articles and the internet. The Maniwa Brothers.
Nick Maniwa was short and stout. Toby Maniwa was tall, lanky, and already in the process of losing his hair for a man of such a young age. Stephen wondered if age applied to a place such as The Void. He wondered if any rules of his world applied to a place such as this.
Undeterred, Stephen marched towards them with purpose, without fear. They stood side-by-side, unmoving, unblinking.
“Where is he?” Stephen demanded to know. “Where is the one who calls himself Mr. Oblivion?”
Toby pointed one frail, bony finger down the decaying road. “Look and you will find.” Then he added, “Enjoy your stay. We look forward to getting more acquainted.”
“I won’t be staying,” Stephen told him.
Stephen moved forward, glancing periodically over his shoulder. But once he looked away for more than a few seconds and then turned back, the Maniwa Brothers were gone. The Maniwa’s had murdered Aviana Phillips in cold blood, before vanishing without a trance. But they never really vanished, they never disappeared from the Starlight. They were there all along, trapped inside The Void, prisoners of Mr. Oblivion.
Stephen continued his journey, traversing this hellish landscape. He felt that black substance growing and moving under his feet. He had to keep moving or it would consume him as well.
A rancid smell permeated the air. His eyes widened at the sight of Gloria Tremont–a resident of the Starlight Inn–flat on her back, being torn apart by creatures that resembled buzzards. But these buzzards were mutated and possessed three red, unblinking eyes.
Ms. Tremont was in the process of being devoured but these buzzard monsters. Her eyes had been pecked from the sockets. Her flesh was rotted and discolored. She’d be missing for a day but it looked like she’d been dead for weeks, maybe months.
Just keep moving, he thought, and crept his way past the three-eyed buzzards.
A cold hand grasped his shoulder. He twisted around and saw another familiar face. A girl with raven colored hair, a septum ring, and a pallid complexion. Aviana Phillips.
“Aviana? Is it…is it really you?”
“As real as one can be in a place like this. You never should have come here Stephen.”
“I didn’t have a choice. That bastard took my sister. I have to get her back before she ends up like Ms. Tremont or–” He stopped before he completed his thought.
“Or me?” Aviana finished it for him.
“Well, you said it, not me.”
“It’s alright. I didn’t ask for this, but for better or worse, this is my home now.”
“It doesn’t have to be. Help me find him. If I kill him, your spirit might be freed from this place.”
“What are you basing that on?”
“I don’t know…horror movies?”
She sighed. “Whatever. It’s a worth a try. You do understand how powerful he is though? You know what he’s capable of?”
“Don’t worry about it. I have a secret weapon. And if I die, at least I’ll die trying.”
There was no sunlight or moonlight to guide the way. Only rows of slanted torches, buried halfway into the ground as if the sticks had been driven directly through the concrete, or what Stephen assumed was concrete or asphalt. With that living black mass growing over everything, there was no way to tell what was truly under their feet. The flames illuminated Aviana’s gaunt, pale face. Stephen couldn’t help but feel something for her. She was a beautiful young woman who had been robbed of her youth. He owed it to her to try and free her soul.
The smell returned. That thick, putrid stench. The stench of rot and decay. It made his stomach churn. The smell was maddening.
A shadowy figure loomed in the distance. Stephen didn’t let this frighten or discourage him. He approached the figure with malicious intent. Nothing would stand in his way.
“Long time, no see, Stephen,” a voice said.
It was a pale, sickly man with gray, lifeless eyes. Reed Bennett. Bennett was a sadistic serial killer. The last life he took was his own, inside the Starlight Inn. Reed thought he knew what evil was. But he didn’t know the meaning of the word until he laid eyes on Mr. Oblivion.
“Move,” was all Stephen said, emphatically.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. He won’t let me.”
“Fight it,” Stephen said. “Don’t let him control you. Do you know what he called you? He referred to you as a loyal puppet. That’s all you are to Mr. Oblivion. A puppet. He pulls your strings and makes you dance. Let me kill him, and you will be free. You all can be free from this place. Or, you can stay trapped in this hell and let him use you up until there’s nothing left of you to use.”
Reed seemed to consider Stephen’s words for a moment, then stepped aside, clearing the path for him and Aviana.
“That was easier than I thought,” Stephen whispered.
“You think these people like being slaves to that monster?” Aviana said. “We all yearn to be free, even if that means ascending to Heaven or spending an eternity in Hell. Anything is preferable to this place.”
They followed the trail of torches straight to a cathedral with blackened spires and blood red doors. The black, sentient mold had grown all around it, crawling up and down the cathedral like diseased vines.
Above the double doors of the cathedral was a man, his stomach split open, his entrails hanging out to the ground like sausage links. His eyes snapped open, and a hideous gasp escaped his mouth.
“Eric Ainsworth,” Aviana whispered. “The original proprietor of the Starlight Inn, back when it was called the Redwood Lodge.”
“Eric Ainsworth and his family disappeared back in 1924.”
“Nobody disappears from the Starlight Inn. They all end up here.”
They looked back to the red, double doors to see Nick and Toby, the Maniwa brothers now standing in their way.
“What you seek lies beyond these doors,” Toby said. “But I’m afraid we can’t let you go any further.”
“Mr. Oblivion has been collecting and corrupting souls to escape The Void with his unholy army of evil. And when he does, we will be on the front lines, ready to serve our master.”
“My sister is in there. And nothing is going to stand in my way.”
Stephen reached into his jacket and removed an ancient looking cloth. He unfolded it, revealing a crescent shaped blade with a blunt wooden handle. The boline that had been passed down by Lisa Ambrose’s grandmother. The boline that allegedly contained the spirit of a powerful warlock, one whose power rivaled that of Mr. Oblivion. He passed the blade to Aviana.
“I believe you deserve the honor. They killed you, now it’s time to return the favor.”
“My pleasure,” Aviana said and it was the first time Stephen saw her smile. She plunged the blade deep into Nick’s stomach and pulled up, splitting him from his groin to his abdomen. Then she repeated the process with Toby. They collapsed, smoke and steam rising from their gaping wounds. The black, sentient mold crawled over their bodies, licking up the blood, eating away at their flesh.
They stepped over their bodies and pushed the red doors open. Mr. Oblivion stood at the pulpit of the cathedral, his fiery eyes glowing inside his otherwise hollow, empty sockets. His symmetrical fingers rested at his sides. His long angular longs were bent at the knees and twisted to the sides, like a spiders appendages.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” it said and smiled hideously. It was a toothless abomination with black, diseased-looking gums. Frayed flesh dangling from its long, irregularly shaped limbs. It wore a dark blue robe that opened up to reveal its rotting, maggot infested corpse. It opened its mouth again a parade of maggots came cascading out, dripping down its face.
Under any other circumstances, Stephen would’ve been wetting his pants. But these were not normal circumstances. The adrenaline coursing through his veins was controlling him, and his love for his family and his sister trumped any nightmarish fear his brain could conjure.
He came charging up the aisles towards the pulpit, but an invisible force stopped him in his tracks. He felt something tighten around his throat, squeezing the air from his body. He felt himself ascending and glanced down to see his feet were no longer touching the ground. Suspended in the air, he choked and gasped for breath. The boline dropped from his hand and fell to the blackened floor beneath him.
Mr. Oblivion was holding him in the air and choking the very life out of him without even lifting a finger. “Foolish mortals. You think when you die you just go to Heaven. But you don’t. You come to me. I told you I have grown tired of this realm. And now, my unholy army is ready to break free from The Void. Your sister was the last piece of the puzzle. Now I–”
Mr. Oblivion gasped as the boline plunged deep into his rotting exterior. Aviana twisted the crescent shaped blade and pushed it in deeper. The flames in his eyes extinguished. Smoke and steam rose from his body. His angular legs snapped at the knees, causing his body to droop down to the floor. He tried to claw his way up, but his symmetrical fingers snapped off one by one. He was literally falling apart, his body breaking up piece by piece and disintegrating.
Stephen was finally able to breathe. He gasped as he fell from the air and as soon as he hit the ground, everything went black.
“Stephen! Stephen! Wake up! Can you hear me? Can you hear me!?”
It was the voice of his mother that beckoned him. He snapped awake and his eyes darted around the room. He was in his own bed, his mother and Lisa standing over him.
“Sara,” he cried. “Is she–”
“She’s alright,” Lisa assured him.
“You did it, Stephen,” his mother said proudly. “Now rest. You’ve earned the break.”
And that’s exactly what Stephen did. He rested, sleeping through the day and into the night. He slept for fourteen hours straight and woke up the next morning.
There was a message waiting for him when he woke. A message written on his vanity mirror from Aviana. It was only two words: I’M FREE.
Stephen smiled at the message and wiped it away with his sleeve before he mother saw it and he had to explain further. He already had more than enough to explain to her.
He joined his mother and Sara for breakfast in the private kitchen of the Starlight. “How are you doing, kiddo?” Stephen asked as he sat at the table.
“I don’t know…” Sara said and trailed off. “I can’t remember anything. And I feel all funny inside. I can’t explain it. But I know one thing…”
“Oh, yeah? What’s that? Stephen asked.
“I’m free,” she whispered in a voice that was not her own. Her eyes lit up and turned to flames that danced and swayed inside her now hollow, empty sockets. The room went dark and that black, sentient mold spread over every surface, every inch of the Starlight.
“Free,” it repeated.