Hellhound (11 - That Which is Unseen)
Alright, now we’re into the battle with the Gatekeepers finally:D These chapters should be a lot shorter than usual, just because of the way I’ve got ‘em figured out. Enjoy
<- Chapter 10
That Which Is Unseen
From the outside, the Smoke Cloud appeared to be little more than just that, an enormous wall of red fumes surrounding Hell’s central realm. …On the inside, …it seems that was all there was to it, after all. While not as hot as the dungeons, the heat inside the cloud was still intense and it caused our eyes to burn. Fortunately for myself, though, I was wearing the hooded sweatshirt I had worn at the time of my death, giving me small relief from this. As the smoke flew into my mouth, so did the distinct taste of metal…and as it flew into my nostrils, so did the stench of a corpse. …Just one cause for this strange phenomena entered my mind.
“…Well, that would explain the color of the smoke.”
“What’s the boiling point of blood?”
“Huh? Uhh, about the same as that of water, I think! Why do you ask?”
I suppose it made sense. …If water couldn’t survive in Hell, then surely its…gruesome counterpart would have the same luck…or lack thereof. It seemed everywhere one looked in this land of the damned, there was yet another reminder that the only certainty we had here…was in our own inevitable slaughter at the hands of Shaitan’s demons. …But, that was where I would prove them wrong, …because my eventual escape was a certainty, as well. We must have been walking for another fifteen minutes before I called out to Louis.
“Hey, Louis! How long did it take you to get through here?”
“…Ummm, about four hours! It’s only the first realm past the Core, though, so I’d wager it’s much smaller than those that follow!”
“…I see. Did you ever lose track of where you were?”
“Huh? Well, yes, of course! It’s not as if we have some way of keeping track of our whereabouts!”
“…Yeah, I guess not. I’m keeping straightforward as best I can, though! Hopefully, that’ll give us a record time!”
“…That’ll be less time spent in this putrid cloud with the Gatekeeper, …wherever the hell it is.”
Having been marching through this cloud for over an hour by this time, I did find it somewhat odd that we had yet to run into trouble. Turning my head to look back at my anxious team, …I couldn’t help but feel as if it had already found us. …Looking around in every direction, I eventually made up my mind on this.
“It’s nearby. …It has to be.”
“Alright, everyone! I need you all to quickly form a line!”
Slightly confused, they hesitated a moment before following my request.
“Good. Now, I’d like you to take a second to memorize where you are right now!”
I paused a moment to allow them to do as I had asked.
“Now, no matter what happens…no matter what happens, do NOT look back, …alright!?”
I honestly couldn’t have stressed that point any further. …I had to be completely certain that each of them complied for this…experiment to work properly.
“…Okay. Let’s keep moving, then!”
I hoped that this would take little more than five to ten minutes to determine whether my suspicions were correct. While smoke was ubiquitous in this realm, wind was completely absent here, …as was any sound that didn’t originate from either our footsteps or our mouths, which I was rather grateful for. …It would make this matter all the more easier to settle. Keeping my ears perked and my eyes peeled, I waited patiently for another five minutes, hoping I would get the shred of proof I was looking for. …I gave up before long, though. Holding my hand up to get them to stop moving, I turned around to face my companions.
“Here’s the moment of truth.”
“Alright! Now, without looking behind you, I want whoever is in the back of this line to call out to me and let me know they can hear me!”
I waited ten seconds, …receiving no answer. …Another ten seconds passed, …no answer still.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, …a silent killer.”
“EVERYBODY, HUDDLE UP!!! NOW!!!”
Startled by my sudden change of mood, they quickly did as I had told them, while Ivan called out to me in search of answers.
“Justin, what’s going on!?”
“It’s been picking us off one at a time while nobody’s looking out for it!!”
“And Lord knows for how long.”
“What!? How the hell has it been doing that!?”
“…I don’t know. We’re probably gonna find out soon, though.”
Eyes now watching every angle of our surroundings, it was only a matter of time before our first enemy made itself visible, …seconds, to be precise.
Turning around, I stood by in horror as one of my colleagues was dragged into the bloody mist by what could only possibly be described as…a tentacle, …long, …smooth, …hideous. As those on either side of him moved to pull him back, two more emerged from the cloud and entangled them, as well, pulling all three of them out of our sight, much to our collective dismay.
“Holy ****!! What the hell is that!?”
“Let’s get the hell outta here!!”
Without warning, the remaining members of my team began sprinting past me, …hopefully with a general idea of which direction they were heading in. Left with no other option, I followed close behind them, …checking all sides for the demon now pursuing us.
“Where the hell is it!?”
…I received my answer just seconds later…when two more tentacles reached into the group and grabbed Sean and Violet around the waist.
Without hesitation, Ivan and Carmine reached out to grab their hands and pull them back. But, to their misfortune, yet another pair of terrifying feelers reached out to take ahold of them…and would’ve done so, had I not jumped in the way.
“DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME!! JUST GET EVERYONE OUT OF HERE NOW!!”
Stunned by my resolve, they temporarily lost track of their actions, …causing Sean and Violet to slip through their fingers.
“NO!! DAMN IT!!”
“HELP US, MAN!!”
Looking to me for encouragement, I simply shook my head and looked off in the direction of our escaping comrades, silently requesting that he tend to them instead, …while doing my absolute best to hide my own fear. …After a moment’s hesitation, Ivan nodded reluctantly and took off after them, followed shortly by Carmine.
“ALRIGHT, SEAN!! VIOLET!! DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO HOLD ON!! …I’ll see what I can do from there!”
While still screaming their heads off, both of them immediately began fiddling with the tentacles now hoisting them high into the air, hinting that they had heard me and understood. Being held firmly by two of these monstrous appendages myself, one wrapping around my ankles and the other around my upper chest, I began to do the same. Slippery, just as I had originally perceived them to be, I was unable to wrap my arms around one and began trying to sink my fingers into its flesh, which proved to be even more difficult.
“Damn it! …Come on. I’ve gotta find some way to-”
My own thoughts were interrupted when I suddenly found myself moving through the smoke. Looking over at my fellow captives, I noticed that they had begun to do the same.
“…This is it, …now or never.”
“WHATEVER YOU DO, GUYS, …DON’T LET-!!”
…Without warning, Violet’s screams began filling every inch of the massive cloud…and I soon found out what had provoked them.
…Words failed me initially, but…even after time had been allowed to pass, I could only ever conjure up one word that could even remotely describe what was in front of me in that moment: …a mouth, …because that’s all it really was. Lined with row upon row of exceedingly serrated teeth, twenty-odd tentacles encircled its edges. …There were no other features of which to speak of and, at the time, …I couldn’t entirely be certain whether or not this gaping hole was even attached to a larger entity. …This was the first of the thirteen Gatekeepers, …a horribly disfigured product of Shaitan’s demented mind, …one that I’ve taken to calling…the Grappler.
- The End -