A Riddle in Olcshire (Part 2)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers


Sequel to "A Riddle in Olcshire".

Submitted: June 06, 2018

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Submitted: June 06, 2018

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If the Heart was but a Chain
And Madness, Truth,
Follow, then, the silent song
‘Til Others, for Others, come.

My eyes blinked back my senses to the waking world.  A nurse pushed Old Man Aaron through the hall and past my room, heavily sedated in his wheelchair.  Thuds rang methodically from the wall behind me.  Debora must be at it again.  The colorless, bland world I had come to know resonated a likewise white and static noise.

I kept nothing of my own, not even my name.  The doctors gave me one, though.  They called me John Doe and they still do.  I remember thinking it’s a nice name.  Although I was aware it was not so by birth, I possessed nothing else of my own.  A bit repetitive, I know, but everything blends together after a time.

My stay had been a pleasant one.  I knew the asylum housed the deranged and sick.  My fellow tenants fit the description quite well, but overall I was met with little trouble.  Morning medications proved a salve to my mad delusions.  Something about an otherworldly cult and riddle-speaking monster.  Regardless, it was all utter nonsense.

Just when I thought my world would finally slip into the quiet of normalcy, a new phenomenon cast its shadow upon me.  When-so-ever my thoughts strayed to daydreams, of which I grew particularly fond of, a riddle I never heard insisted on echoing in my mind.  It spoke of a heart, chains, madness, and truth; a rhythm to follow, and mention of so-called ‘Others.’

More so than the words, the voice that spoke the riddle shrunk my heart into my stomach.  Its crisp shrill forced my hairs on end.  Memories of my delusion had grown fuzzy over many months and pills, but I at least recalled no such familiarity when compared.  The voice and its riddle quickly forged a new haunt upon my life.

I craved beyond control to speak up, but I feared the backlash more.  I was admired as the most patient, complaint, and formally sane among my peers.  I was repulsed at the idea of relapse, let alone its mention.  The loving staff would be so disappointed, after all.

My decision to withhold such verbal visitations only worsened.  The voice began as merely a murmur, but over weeks its volume elevated to a shout.  It refused to remain a casually whisper, like gossips at the lunch table.  It announced -- no, demanded -- I listen and pay heed.  I couldn’t block it out and neither could the saving grace of my merry medication.

The worst arrived on a special, bright, and celebratory morning.  I was excited to celebrate the three year anniversary of my stay.  I knew it may strike normal folk as bizarre, but anything was reason to liven the monochrome grays of my world.

First I received my medications, per usual, from the lovely and stunning Ms. Williams.  Such a wonderful woman.  Had I not been so ‘touched in the head’, I would’ve loved the opportunity to ask her out.

Next came breakfast with nothing out of the ordinary.  For us, at least.  Debora always managed to find a wall for her head.  Such a silly girl, that Debora.

I returned to my room after my fair fill of undercooked eggs and mashed potatoes.  The medication took its hold, right on time, and with its embrace I would be content until dinner.  That was when they planned to hold my anniversary party.  Truth be told, I was happy with the simplicity of it all.

My sight blurred, unknowingly to me, as wandering thoughts drifted me away.  I fancied images of balloons, cakes, and congratulatory cheers.  All was bright, colorful, and filled my heart with such belonging.  As my imaginary sensations piqued to emotional ecstasy, a deep darkness swallowed it up.

I floated in the void, cold and naked.  That voice shrieked its same riddle through my ears and rippled under my skull.  Its depth surged and tormented me like a horn pressed and blared against my face.  The noise, the shrill, the cold, the words -- I begged for it to cease with all my being!

And so it did.

My eyes blinked away the nightmare.  I found myself on the floor and leaned against the wall.  The light from my window flooded my room in the brown-crimson of dusk.  Unlike previous instances, my head ached terribly.

I rose from the floor, still groggy, and approached my bed.  I thought to exit my room, but I underestimated my weariness.  That aside, something didn’t feel right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there lingered a sense of familiar dread in my chest.  I looked out the window and lost the breath in my lungs because of it.

Whereas normally I’d observe the pristine courtyard and imposing gate, nothing existed outside.  Twilight shined through my window, yet it came from a sky with no sun and a landscape that wasn’t there.  As if by natural impulse, I twisted myself away from the sight and toward the door.  That’s when I realized another oddity.

The entrance to my room was without a door.

I cautiously rounded my bed and toward the empty frame.  I gulped hard at the ever-intensifying weight in my chest.  I distinctly remember telling myself no good could come of it.  Despite my mind’s plea to stay, my body bid me venture into the hallway.  When I succumbed to the impulse, to my dismay, a different sort of sight greeted me beyond.

Rather than the hallway where Old Man Aaron frequented in his wheelchair, I found myself facing an unknown street upon a likewise unknowable sidewalk.  I turned to my left and saw homes of residents unseen.  I turned to my right and saw unmanned stores.  There was no space between the structures and how the street curved up as they passed my point of view.  Then I looked up.

A street and its buildings hung hundreds of feet above my head.  All of it was upside-down.  I glanced to either side and realized the upward curves of the street where I stood led up to it.  It was a single, circular, gravity-defying street.  The shock didn’t set in at all -- that is, until I noticed the inn and police station on the street above me.

A sharp chill shot from the soles of my feet to the top hairs of my head.  I didn’t notice until then, but the red sky cursed everything to the terrible, ugly color of ancient rust.  Panic set in.  I couldn’t move at first.  My mind forbid it, having froze me in place.  My body, however, kept true to its instincts.  I pivoted on my heel, practically airborne, in haste to run back.  Rather than the comfort of my room, I was met with the flat, unforgiving surface of a brick wall.

The impact didn’t knock me unconscious, but damn I wished it had!  I clawed at the featureless surface as I shrieked and begged through tears, sobs, and snot.

“No!  Please!  Oh God… I need out!  Please, I need out!  It loops and loops and doesn’t stop!  It’s insane!  God damn it, please!  Let me out…”

My demands went unanswered, faded into the windless silence.  My frantic disposition eventually crumbled away with my sanity.  I bundled into a ball then and there, mumbling to myself like a soldier returned to war.

“Help me.  Help me.  Help me.  I don’t wanna go back.  I don’t wanna go back.  Don’t wanna… Don’t wanna…”

My words became utterly unintelligible, lost to the flooded memories of a nightmare I thought long forgot.  They broke to pieces the dam of my psyche and drowned away everything I thought to be true.  The medicine, nurses, and doctors did all they could to protect me from the cruel, mad truth.  After three peaceful, blissful years I had been forcefully spirited back to the hell that was Olcshire.

The riddle echoed back.  Its words were returned to a whisper, but I heard it as clear as when it was screamed.  As if by impulse, I murmured its lines below my breath.

“If the Heart was but a Chain…”

A reference to the Heart that Must Be Slain, for sure.  I shot the Heart, but it proved only a ploy of my monster grandfather.  That hideous, disgusting, ghastly, ungodly abomination!  Not a heart to slay, oh no.  It was a chain to break.  A fucking chain!

“And Madness, Truth…”

The madness was true, alright.  After all, my delusions were real in the end.The riddle made sense -- as sensible as mad riddles go.

“Follow, then, the silent song…”

The second half, without reference, proved tricky.  Follow a silent song?  Alright.  Music without noise, or maybe without a voice?  There was nothing to go on as of yet.

“‘Til Others, for Others, come.”

Nonsense.  I knew nothing of what Others could be, for one.  Others could be anything, and anything was possible in Othershire.

As if to reply to my pondering, a low, guttural hum rose to my ears.  It came for a moment, three seconds at least, but then stopped.  Five seconds passed before it bellowed again.  Three seconds more it stayed, and gone again.  The pattern continued like a song of skipped pieces.  The song!  Yes!

I scrambled to my feet, almost getting myself tangled in my hospital gown.  I thought which direction to sprint toward.  I took a left, but it didn’t matter.  It all looped back in the end.  It always looped back.  Forever, in fact -- madness permitted.

The hum was loudest when I stood on the street between the inn and police station.  Either made sense, but the inn housed my grandfather once before.  I took to the door and, like my previous visit, slammed my shoulder through it.  I sprinted to the office behind the innkeeper’s desk.  I searched frantically for the secret passage, yet found no evidence of such.

The hum was quieter than when I was outside.  I caught my breath, walked out of the office in a leisurely pace, and slowly closed the door behind me.  When I reached the desk, the radio caught my attention.  I was in such a hurry, I barely noticed passing it by.  Static whistled from speakers as I questioned how long and lonely its sat at its post.

“...Other…”

My heart skipped and startled me enough to leap backward.  Had I not closed the door, I would have surely landed in the middle of the office floor.  I clung to the door’s frame and waited with bulged eyes for another word from the crackling noise.

“Other… Othershire ...in…”

I clenched my chest in vain effort to still my crazed heart.  If I listened closely enough, there could be sense heard from the spewed gibberish.  Static gave through to blurred words in every  second word and sometimes every third.  It was all a matter of learning the sentence length, recognizing the space between static and words, and piecing the words together to form it.  I solved puzzles more complicated than that in my youth.  Mad or otherwise, this would be no more difficult.

“...in…  Other… ...station… ”

Twice through and the puzzle solved itself.  ‘Other in Olcshire’, followed by ‘Other in station’.  Too easy!  The Other it mentioned was at the police station, as I thought.  Just as I sought to make my way out, more words buzzed out for me to solve.

“Don’t…  doors…  ...key… ...floor…”

Very peculiar.  Doors, key, and floor are too vague without context.

“...open… Use… on…”

From the spacing, I heard a word missing from both messages.

“Don’t… doors… Use… on… floor…”

‘Don’t open doors’ was clear enough.  There was a word before ‘floor’ that could give me a necessary hint.  I needed to hear that absent word.

“...open… Use… on… floor…”

“What floor?  Which floor?  Tell me, damn it!”

“...doors… key… fre-”

A piercing cry screamed from the radio’s frame before erupting into dozens of metal shards.  The antenna shot straight into the wood of the door by my head, but my eyes laid fixed on its smoldered remains.  My teeth tensed hard enough to bleed my gums.  I lashed out at the useless hung of scrap.

After I was able to stop myself from mindlessly beating at an inanimate piece of garbage, I noticed something cut my knuckle.  I winced and grabbed my hand as I hissed at the pain.  My faculties returned to me.  No sense in losing myself to rage, let alone the madness of this place.

Olcshire’s layout was utterly changed.  The inn sat at the end of a cul de sac and the street stretched on before looping back overheard and beyond.  I walked to the cul de sac center to look back and see how far the street above me went.  It ended in similarly to how it began, but with the police station at its end.

“Don’t use doors… Right.”

An easy mistake, one which I blamed on my frustration.  Othershire was a devilish place, so I resolved to not take its fickleness lightly.  I proceeded to sprint up the street, but stopped just as quickly.

They danced from every house, store, and establishment.  They shrieked, laughed, wailed, and sang from grotesque, inhumanly long smiles lined with longer teeth.  I remembered their grisly visage and, worse still, their hollow, empty eyes.  The residents of Othershire sprang toward me, merry and terrifying.

I tilted my head up to the street overheard.  The damned things were up there too!  I had to run, but there was nowhere to run to.  They came from the inn, too.  They would swarm me in moments.  Ten seconds, if I was lucky.  Othershire doesn’t know luck.  It knows only what it wants, and it’s clearly wanted me for a long while.

“You can’t have me!”

I took the only option available to me.

I clamped my eyes shut and dashed directly toward the crowded mass.  My feet carried me aloft like a madman in frenzied flight.  Their discordant noises were heard all around me.  I didn’t care.  I was making it to my destination.  I would find this Other-whatever.  It was my only chance of escape from that hell.

Sweaty, bloated hands clawed and grabbed at me.  They tore away my gown.  They bit at my arms and legs.  I couldn’t stop.  I wouldn’t stop.  I needed to get passed them.  I needed to reach the station.  I needed to be free.  The nightmare needed to end.

Their bodies were piling on me.  They lunged at me, grasping at my limbs.  I couldn’t open my eyes as they would only serve to succumb me to the horror beyond their lids.  I felt a visceral rip from the entirety of my right ankle.  Did they just tear off my foot?

Teeth and nails bit into my flesh.  My momentum is slowed down.  Bones crunched in my elbows and knees, followed by heat and lightness in them.  I couldn’t open my eyes yet.  I was too terrified.

A sickening cold coursed through my veins as my thoughts faded to oblivion.

I woke from the darkness that took my senses.  I laid on the street, sprawled in an awkward position.  I could move my arms and legs, but I swore insensibly at the fact they were torn off me.  I lifted myself from the concrete and faced the congregation of inhuman men, women, and children.

They stood there, gawked with unhinged jaws.  They stared deep into me and nothing else.  Their formations allowed a path directly down the middle of the street.  I was permitted to pass?  There was no sense making sense of any of it.  I had my chance.

Where I walked, their ghoulish expressions followed.  They moved to fill the path as I passed them.  Their noiseless maws were akin to when they looked upon me in grandfather’s prison.  Perhaps theirs was the silent song of the riddle.  Either way, I followed the way they left for me.

Their gaze had a weight unlike before.  They beckoned me to proceed.  The police station was just ahead of me, and with it their voicelessness sank into my bones.  They didn’t desire for me to finish what I started -- they craved it.

I froze before the entrance door.  ‘Don’t use doors’ echoed in my ears, or possibly my mind.  I didn’t know anymore.  There was an open window just to its left.  If my memory was accurate, it would place me directly beside the twin cells.  I never thought I would need to break into where once I broke out, but everything is a loop here.

I climbed through the unlocked window.  Fortuitous, but I kept my guard.  Everything was as it was before.  The desk, the office door, the cells -- all the same, with the exception of one.  A skeleton sat within my old cell.

It wore my old clothes, sat in the same posture from when I was cuffed.  I didn’t question the implications of the scene.  My cell mate’s prison was vacant, yet possessed its own melancholy.  He was so tired, too weak to live on.  What they did to him was unforgivable.  That’s when the remainder of the message flashed into my thoughts.

“Use key.”

I opened my rusted cell and knelt beside the skeleton.  I lifted its foot and found my cell mate’s skeleton key beneath it.  It was only a hunch, but a profitable one.  As I took the key in hand, the skeleton crumbled into a pile of fine dust.

Even after death, my cell mate still aided me in the quest to combat the evils of that place.  I forgot his name, if he even offered it to me.  I promised his sacrifice would not end in vain.  Although he was a stranger, he proved to be a true friend.

“Friend…”

The last piece locked into place.  The radio, the word it failed to mention before breaking -- it was ‘friend’.  ‘Use key on friend’s floor’.  That's what I missed.  I scrambled to the other cell.  I frantically brushed away as much dust from the floor as I could.  Sure enough, a key hole was built into its cold surface.

I thrusted the key in and twisted it with unnecessary force.  It sank in as if the floor were made of some gelatinous substance.  The building quaked alive, accompanied by a ghastly wail from above.  The truth was finally at its end.  The nightmare would finally be over.  I could finally go home.

The shaking settled down, and with it the monstrous noise.  All was quiet.  All was still.  Any second from then, something was going to happen.  I was either to escape or face the next obstacle required to do so.  The end of it all was near -- I could feel it.

But nothing happened.

I glanced around, determined to investigate a change.  Nothing.

I called out to anyone who could hear me.  Nothing.

I padded myself down to see if there was anything changed.  Still nothing.

Panicked, I rushed to the door.  I caught myself just before opening it.  Fortunately, I had enough composure to not fall for such a trap again.  I carefully removed me hand from the doorknob and approached the window from where I entered.  I looked outside, and all the air in my lungs rasped out of me.

The road and its structures disassembled and floated up.  The residents were likewise torn apart by forces unseen.  Right before my eyes, Othershire unraveled into a vortex of bricks, wood, flesh, and blood.  The police station then joined in the parade of chaos, which left me to face that which loomed over it all.

Its size was incomparable to any organism I’d ever seen.  It hissed and roared from maws that held no depths beyond their dry lips and dagger fangs.  Spindly limbs of variable length and girth branched out like the roots of a gnarled oak.  Some of it extended so far that I couldn’t see where they ended midst the crimson rusted void.  Everyone and everything gravitated toward them, devoured without prejudice.

It gnawed on something within the largest of its mouths.  I couldn’t see the bulk of the meal it chewed, but what jutted from its sloppy bites was clear.  The morsel’s numerous, arachnid-like legs were unquestionably recognizable, having scarred my memory for so long.  It was grandfather.

A shattering static erupted from the entity and into my thoughts.  I clawed at my ears and eyes relentlessly.  The truth -- Its truth -- bored into the wrinkles of my brain.  It was finally clear. Everything made sense!  At last, I was free of doubt.

All was as it should be.  Slygsh was fool to hide from Great Ph’thakk!  He was but a dregh, after all.  Blood and bile to all dregh that fall from the Faceless Flesh!  Him and his sulgvir could never remain forever.

It needed only the stench of a vogh to guide it here.  I unknowingly completed the unknowable task, the one Almighty and Terrible Ph’thakk so willed.  Dhgth and Mygth would be pleased as well, had they not deservedly served Its appetite aeons prior.

“What next to feed Great Ph’thakk?  What Others to visit Its hunger upon?  Will my former world suffice?  Surely more dregh lurk within its deeper reaches and more vogh to appease the Endless Stomach.  You will?  Splendid!  Wondrous!  Blsh’thuun aggannash!”

My body ascended along with the rest so my flesh may be as Ph’thakk.  As my paltry morsel reached his lips, the euphoric caress of Its fangs welcomed me with gratitude.  It sank and gnawed so carefully, so tenderly, so viciously.

“Praise to Ph’thakk, Great Lord of Dead Morr’arx!  Hallowed be its hunger!  Blsh’thuun agga-”


© Copyright 2018 M. A. Yacone. All rights reserved.

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