Oblation     

Her inelastic skin was slowly depriving her of air, of life. She could not breath, talk, yet– helplessly– she clawed at the door in the floor. Her bloodied fingers pierced with splinters of wood. Her vacant howl went unheard. Pounding fiercely at the floor, her phalanx cracked. The fragments of bones floating effervescently through her bloodstream, like food in a fishbowl.

            Rolling over, her ear to the floor, she could hear the faint whispers of the cloaked figures– those who had imprisoned her here. The spoke of otherworldly things, the likes of which she did not know: celestial beings in the sky, wretched creatures domiciled in dimensions beyond our comprehension. She was frightened, but even that she was weary of. She’d been here for so long, and she was so enervated, that feeling afraid was nugatory.

            There would be no hope of escape, this she knew unshakably. But death, in death, she could render their ceremony impossible. She did not know what it was they hoped to summon, or to please, but its reach would be universal. Be it slimy, ghastly creatures from the sea, as tall as mountains, or the spindly phantoms that so desperately wished to enter our plane, she needed to stop it. Death was the answer– it was her answer.

            Her eyelids heavy, she crawled to a corner in the room. The floor, rough as sandpaper, abraded at the skin on her torso. This is it, she thought, this is her exit. Although not a religious woman, she pulled her hands together, and muttered what little prayer she could.
            “Please, God, if you’re there. Let me die. Should your kingdom be real, let me enter it, as a servant to your will. These dark forces, do not let them confine me for eternity. For in life, I am frightened, but in death, I wish to be free and unafraid.”

            Her head thumped against the floor, around which a small puddle of blood formed.

            Yet, despite her tenacity, her will to die, her prayers had gone unanswered. She awoke, chained to a cross. The links impressed in her skin, with streams of blood cascading down her side. “Please,” she thought once more, “kill me, God, before this ghastly service is complete.” She could hear the grinding of a gear, not far off, beyond the walls of her room. She let her eyes shut, clinging desperately to the doctrine of death.


            The door in the floor swung open, and the crucifix fell at a blistering speed. It must’ve fallen a hundred feet before it stopped suddenly, the impetus ripping the skin from her frame. And there, dangling like a grim chandelier, the essence of their ceremony– their oblation– complete.



The Specter In the Woods
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            The woods were still. The leaves, they did not rustle. The trees, they did not sway. An insidiously grey sky hung above, the clouds permanently secured to the firmament. Her father’s favorite chair, worn and gaudy, was positioned dead ahead. Overlaying it were his favorite bed sheets, the ones he had died in.         
             From her rucksack, she removed a prodigious textbook of sorts, the likes of which she was unfamiliar. Her trembling fingers glided down the spine, withering the eldritch artifact. As intrepid as she had been before in life, she was wary to open it. Using just the tip of her index finger, she flipped open the cover.
          The hairs on her arm were linear­– stiff– as the bed sheet flitted. The woods themselves were unmoving, as if its vitality had fled, fearing whatever despairing ritual was to occur. “I’ve come this far.” She thought. Again, using just the tip of her finger, she flipped to another page, this one illustrated with the ghastly illustrations of the dead dancing around.
             She flipped to another page, and then another, each one disturbing the inanimate nature of her environment. When she reached the symbol, she knew she wasn’t alone. There was another presence there with her, and she could feel its touch cascading down her neck, beckoning her to press onwards. And she obliged, removing her father’s skull from the rucksack. She placed it on the archaic symbol, and shed her clothes. She lied down on her back, as the clouds began to drift, ever so slowly, towards dusk. Her heavy eyes closed, and she was dead to the world.
             When she awoke, it was brighter than it had been during the day, with slivers of moonlight giving prominence to her nude figure. She knew she hadn’t slept solitarily, the outline of another body impressed in the leaves next to her. Raising only her neck, she saw that his spirit had manifested itself, his head, suspended in the air, above the chair.
             The bed sheet was draped over it, obfuscating his appearance, but she could tell that he had no upper body to speak of.  It was complete, but the spirit of inquiry took hold of her. From what she could understand, it was imperative that she not look at him any more than necessary. In the dark of the night, she was to return home. But she couldn’t. Hanging there, that frightful being, she wanted to see him. Cautiously, she crawled over towards him, erecting herself once she’d reached the base of the chair. She grabbed the sheet, and with a swift yank, removed it.
             She screamed, yet within the vacuum of the woods, no earthly being had heard it. The sheet fell over her body, affixing itself to her skin. She wrestled with it for a while, but she was pinned. A phantom breeze swept through the copse, and as the sheet fluttered away, she had evaporated.
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