I awoke in a naked, drowsy haze, trying to recollect any memories of my past. I didn't know anything about myself or about how I got to such a mysterious place. The abnormally high, golden-brown corn stalks seen before my eyes were more familiar than my own reflection in the small puddle of water I woke up in. The sun and the moon peacefully coexisted together during the peak of dusk. An otherworldly indigo hue filled the sky, emphasizing the soft, colorless clouds. I stood up, still feeling half conscious. Below my bare feet was a gravel path, extending for what seemed like miles. I proceeded on my journey to nowhere in a leap-of-faith effort to find some answers, and hopefully, a way out of here. The tiny rocks roughly dug between my toes. Cold wind stung my face as I walked down the gravel path.
Eventually, after a walk that lasted an eternity, the gravel road stopped at a dead end. In its place were more cornfields, possibly spanning out in an infinite length. However, I didn't come this far to be stopped by some vegetables. I went through the tall sticks and continued on with my journey to nowhere. Each stalk I passed obstructed my view of the next. As I headed forward, my being and my mind were becoming more lost. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe I should've planned ahead before heading into such unknown territory. Nevertheless, it was too late. I started this odyssey and I was determined to finish it, even if it killed me.
My slow-paced walking turned into a full sprint. I shoved and ran over anything that came in my way. Stalks of corn were trampled in the soil. The violently freezing wind struck my face with sheer intensity, yet I didn't take my eyes off of what was in front of me. Seconds soon became minutes, hours after. The sun slowly disappeared into the horizon and the full moon took charge of the midnight sky. The feeling of moist dirt under my feet became as familiar as my own heartbeat. When all hope was lost, a shadowy outline of a man entered my view.
"Hey, stranger," I yelled out to the figure. I ached all over due to the lengthy walk, but was relieved to know that I wasn't alone in this mystical world. "Do you know a way out of here? I'm lost and I really could use your help."
The dark figure ran off into the meadow without looking back.
"Hey," I shouted. "Where are you going?"
The mysterious stranger did not hesitate to answer my question. His body gradually drew away from my line of sight. I ran after him in an effort to get any information he had.
"Wait! Please, I…I need your…your…"
Exhaustion caught up with me. There was no way that I would be able to catch up with him. I slowed down to take a breath. My body felt like it was attempting to cough up a lung. My arms clinched around my waist when my coughing turned into vomiting. A white, thick substance relentlessly spewed out of my mouth. After throwing up for a good 30 seconds, I wearily walked forward. During my expedition, a circular dirt field gradually came into my line of sight. In all of my excitement, I clumsily tripped over a tree root. I banged my head into the ground nose-first, gathering bits and pieces of dirt in my hair in the process. Minerals and mud clogged themselves inside my nostrils and eyelids. Moaning in frustration, I blew my nose and rubbed any excess dirt off of my face. But petty dirt was the least of my worries. It was the skyscraping oak tree I was worried about.
Four corpses were sitting around the tree's thick trunk with their legs crossed. Maggots and dead flesh crawled all over their remaining body parts. The stench-oh god the stench, the aroma filled my nose with a rancid smell. I nearly puked again because of it. Even though the extreme amount of gore was something I was focused on, there was something else that made this scene feel unusual. The dead bodies appeared as if they were tampered with postmortem. The pattern of the deceased was just too neat to look natural. Obviously, I didn't want to be here to find out who caused this. Just as I made my way around the tree's wide trunk, something unexpectedly dropped from the sky two feet in front of me, almost giving me a heart attack. When it thudded on the ground, my eyes recognized another dead body in front of me.
Several teeth were knocked out of her mouth from the force of the impact. I cringed in horror, shielding my eyes with my hands to blind myself from the disgusting image. However, I couldn't resist the temptation to look and took my hands away from my face, revealing the poor woman's condition. Unlike the other carcasses, this one had a rope tied in a noose around her neck. Strings of blonde hair were still attached to the back of her skull. Leaves and twigs dirtied up her outfit, a dress with a floral design pattern. My attention slowly drew away from her and to what was above me. On hundreds of leafless branches, a corpse dangled from each one of them. The emotionless, rotting faces that partially masked the white on their skulls made me feel revolted. Blood drops fell to the ground like a morning drizzle, coating the dirt with crimson. The display of numerous dead bodies struck me with fear and astonishment. It was almost like…art. Snapping me out of my dumbfounded gaze, rustling noises came from the corn stalks behind me.
Without delay, I ran off into the cornfield in the opposite direction. I kept running without looking back, not wanting to look back. Along the way, I saw more and more cadavers. As I dashed through the cornfield, individual corpses became large piles; all murdered nearly every way possible. Some were impaled on steel rods. Different bodies had their limbs torn off. A row of babies, twenty to be exact, hung upside down from a clothesline ten feet above my head. Every single infant had blood dripping from their slit throats onto their pajamas. A nude baby no older than 12 months was attached to one of the iron poles holding up the clothesline. The grotesque skin on his back wrapped itself around the rusty metal. His screams shouted for an end. An end to the torment he has experienced and witnessed. And I don't blame him; the infant deserved a wish come true. Unfortunately, I wasn't the one to give it to him. I proceeded onwards, letting the guilt of my decision get the best of me.
My journey continued at a steadier pace. What I feared was no longer seen. The cornfield grew denser during my hike. Soon, I found myself sinking in moist soil. The dark red mud swallowed my feet like quicksand. I pushed myself to get to the other side. I didn't go this far to die in some mud pit. Every step was a small success, an intense battle leading to the victory of a war. As soon as one foot submerged itself in the mud, the other struggled to come up. Little by little, the swampy mud rose above my shins, then my kneecaps. Each bit of progress was more challenging than the last. But it wasn't a time for doubts or regret. I clinched onto any corn stalks that could keep my body above the narrow marsh.
Finally, my foot hit something that felt like solid wall. With both arms, I placed my palms onto the ground and shoved my body up and forward, giving myself some time to rest. The sky was now red, showing neither the moon nor sun. I picked myself up off the land and to my amazement, I was perfectly clean. No signs of mud or foul odor were anywhere on my skin. I shrugged it off as one of the weird rules the cosmos has to offer and walked forward. My journey to nowhere was going well.
Three more miles into my adventure, my feet began to bleed. At this point it didn't really matter though. As a matter of fact, the scrapes reminded of something, that I was still alive. In a way, I'm glad that the pain I feel is no longer in my mind. This was proof that everything about this place, and everything about me, was real. I sat down and clawed at my wounds with my blackened, jagged, fingernails. The pain was an orgasmic luxury, and I wanted it. No, I needed it.
The bottoms of my feet showed nothing but crimson, with a couple of bones peeking out from the muscles. Every step, I rubbed my feet in the soil, enjoying every throbbing nerve sending distress signals to my brain. I let out a small, sadistic giggle. Why shouldn't I? For the first time since waking up in this nightmare, I'm actually happy. If anything, I've earned the right to be happy. I haven't really noticed how beautiful everything was. How the red gently took over the sky. How the carcasses of the dead were arranged in such a polite manner. The only entity I was afraid of was the Taker. The thing that chose to put me in its hunting ground. The thing that decided to play with my psychological state until it drove me mad. No matter, if it's my fate to die here, then so be it. However, I'm not going down so easily. Even now, I'm prepared to run to the other side of the world and back to get away.
"Help," a gargled voice suddenly said. It looked as though it came not too far away from where I am. "Help me," the same voice repeated. I turned to my left to see something moving, struggling it seemed. However, a thick portion of corn stalks blocked my view. En route to checking it out, something clicked. The Taker could be messing with my mind. It could be baiting me, using my will to help others against me.
"Y-you can't fool me," I yelled at the unknown being. "I won't let you."
"Please help me…," it whispered. "I'm not that…thing."
"You know what? I've about had about enough of-,"
A low growl echoed in my ear drum. The growl sounded like it came directly behind me. Goosebumps shot from the top of my tailbone to the nape of my neck. My heart bolted through my chest a million times per second. I took a couple steps forward towards the stranger, trying my best to ignore the presence behind me. Warm, sour wind lightly brushed the hairs on my head. I clinched my eyes shut, waiting for the worst to come. I let out a small whimper as a slimy, solid substance caressed my left ear. From the feel of it, I could only assume it was…a tongue. Anxiety and fear streamed down my cheeks in the form of tears. At this moment, all I wanted was to wake up from this dream. Only, it wasn't a dream. The things I've experienced (and in this case felt) were one hundred percent real. I maintained my straight posture even though my emotions were out of control. I held in my breath and continued little by little. Then temptation struck me. The desire to turn around, meeting face to face with the predator, entered my mind. I moved my sore feet a few more times, and then slowly started to turn my head around. I could feel its anticipation, waiting for me to identify the face that was going to deliver my doom.
"Oh thank god," someone said in a raspy tone. I quickly spun my head around and saw a man, tied upside down to a clothesline in a style much like the dead newborns. His face was unscarred, but his torso was another story. The front of his ribcage was broken, revealing his heart and lungs in open daylight. Both were pulsating in rapid, abrupt motions. His intestines covered the right side of his face. The rest of his organs were still in place, looking as if nothing happened. Bloody stumps took the place of where his arms used to be. "I'm so glad you're not one of those…things."
I was shocked by his response. Sure, I wasn't a monster but didn't he see the one behind me? I rotated my body and saw only the cornfield. How was that possible? I literally felt the creature. My face was fixated into a puzzled gaze, not sure if I should be relieved for the moment, or worried for later. My attention drew back to the man in distress.
"Did you see who did this to you?" I asked.
The victim coughed up some blood on my chest. "No," he responded.
"What did he look like?" I asked, secretly begging to myself that he had an answer.
"I-I…," he began to drift off.
"No no no no no! Don't fucking die on me."
He started coming back to reality. "I don't know. Pleeaaase…end this. Make it..all better."
"I..I..I don't know if I can."
The gentleman sighed. "Please. I'm begging you, kill-,"
"I can untie you," I interrupted. "We can get out of here alive."
"What's the point? If by some miracle..we were to get out of this, where would we go? Heh, I bet you don't even know your own name."
"How did you-,"
"Trust me, I don't either. And just like you, I don't even remember how I got here. Plenty of other people had the same problems also. Take it from me friend; find a way to end this misery. A quick one. Because I can promise you, that thing will take its time. Believe me; I've seen people survive for days when they were captured."
I dropped my head, staring blankly at the ground.
"Do you know how long I've been here?" The man asked. I shook my head. "Neither do I. It could've been five, ten, twenty years. I lost count after the first couple months. I've met a lot of people; all of them were smart enough to know that there is no way out. But you, you still blindly hold on to the idea that we will be saved. Come back to reality stranger. If you know what's best for you, you'll find a fast way to die."
"I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right. Now please, make the pain go away."
I reached up and slid my hand inside his chest cavity. The substances inside his torso felt viscid, giving me a nauseating sensation through my body. I grabbed what felt like his heart and tore it swiftly from his person.
"Thank you," he softly said before his eyes rolled in the back of his head. His heartbeat was pulsing in my hand for approximately three seconds before it stopped. I dropped the heart onto the ground, wiping off the blood on my exposed thighs. At the same time, the crops around me were lit ablaze. The flames smoldering from the cornfield burned my flesh with intense heat. I turned the opposite direction and saw a straight path of trampled crops. The burning crops acted like a barrier, forcing me to walk down that trail. At the other end was something of human form. Actually, he looked a lot like the person I tried to call over in the beginning of all this. More cautious than last time, I approached him very unhurriedly. Blood from my feet engraved dark red footprints into the scolding earth. His body soon began to come into focus. He stood approximately 6'1", wore a black, hooded monk robe. His back faced me, and his head was tilted up at the sky. It was as if he was fascinated by the universe's atmosphere. Both arms were down at his sides, stiff and motionless. Hands, curled up in tight fists. I slowly reached out for his shoulder, touching the soft cotton of his attire.
Then the world suddenly went dark around me.
After regaining consciousness, a brutally painful migraine entered my cranium. The hooded man disappeared from where he once was, leaving no traces to where he might have gone. I picked myself up off the ground, palming my forehead. The same scenery still existed as before, except for one thing. The corpses levitated. They didn't move. They just…stood still. All of them. Ones closer to me had very noticeable scars. Some bodily injuries included decapitation and large, unstitched cuts covering their bodies. Compared to the others, they appeared like the individuals who suffered the least. The people who weren't so lucky had wounds that were too graphic for words. The mere sight of the current situation made me puke whatever else was hiding in my body. I wiped any excess vomit off of my mouth, taking several inhales and exhales.
I carried on. Ignoring the bodies in front of me was a challenge. The injuries inflicted upon them were unnatural to say the least. Nevertheless, I marched forward, determined to find something I was looking for. I wasn't sure what though. I vaguely remember what the man had said a couple of hours ago. He kept insisting that suicide was the easiest way out through this unforgiving place. Perhaps it's for the best. I didn't see any other choice. But how was I ever going to complete such an objective? The tree! It was all coming back to me. Everything might be against my side, from tiredness to the Taker's presence, but I was willing to persevere.
I went the opposite way, walking down the flame-enclosed pathway. It had to be down there. It had to be. For the duration of the hike, the redness in the atmosphere didn't change. Hours were days, yet the sky made the world stand still. My body had to take breaks in between, but the determination didn't deteriorate. I pressed on for the miles that came. Then, at long last, the large oak tree came into the scene.
I rejoiced with a small chuckle. I stood up and walked over to the death camp. To my surprise, the bodies were no longer there. The ropes, my ticket to freedom was gone. I loudly growled in anger, beating my forehead with the top of my fists. Although their now useless carcasses were gone, their spirits were still there, taunting me and my hopes. I didn't hear it, but I could sense it. I dropped to both of my knees, sobbing in a fit of rage.
"Kill me!" I shouted in fury. "Kill me you son of a bitch!" A quick rustle of crops startled me, but it was nothing more. "Where are you? What are you?"
Its presence was unknown to my eyes, but it was near. I could hear slow, heavy breaths being produced from the burning cornfield. Instinctively, I ran. It was definitely a horrible idea to challenge the creature. I sped past the tree, going the same route as before. From there, the crop field became a maze. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. My spine felt like ice. I looked back and saw that the Taker wasn't far behind. In the end however, I ultimately outran the beast.
Looking ahead, I saw the monster on all fours. It dug its hands and feet in the dirt and pounced on my chest, eating anything it could tear away. Blood shot up into my esophagus, disabling any way to breathe. As I choked, I spotted what the thing's face looked like. Or…faces. The abomination was two-headed, conjoined at the neck, and one had the exact appearance of the other. Their only facial features were mouths. Not just normal mouths, but mouths that opened so tall and wide, they could fit whole heads in there. Razor-sharp rows of teeth pierced through its gums. The smell of its charred flesh filled my bleeding nostrils. Once my stomach entered the beast's jaws, I was picked up, resting on the creature's shoulder. Its legs and free arm scaled up to the top of a spike similar to the ones I've been seeing throughout my trek. The monster drove the bottom of my backbone through the point of the rod. I didn't bother to react to the pain because by now, I knew it all too well. Instead, my focus was to the horizon, admiring whatever beauty I could discover in the red sky. The cornfield was a sea of endless crops. As lifeless and insipid the scene may have been, I at least found the peace I so longed for. Thus, ending my journey to nowhere.