He couldn’t see it, but he knew it was there before it started talking. Then the voice seemed to rip through him, the sensation of what flesh he had left being shredded by its timbre, the resonance felt within every cell. This was a cold which had never known heat. This was the passing of time which had no comprehension of rest because it never considered such things necessary. Nathan wanted to cry but he couldn’t remember how to start.

The sounds became words as it discovered him there, and registered what frequency was required.

“So, you like stories. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Drawn by tales of darkness incomprehensible? You thought you would be able to understand the why, the how if only you could connect with the what. It’s not a new idea. Not by any measure of distance or time.
One the thing about stories. If they’re told enough times they tend to take on a life of their own. All the energy put into the telling has to go somewhere. Most of the time it’s dispersed, dormant with relatively little impact on the world around it. But sometimes, there is such fierce rage that accompanies it, or sadness. Or it drips with fear and wears terror like a warm coat, well ensconced and flourishing in the imaginations of those who encounter it.
But some aren’t content with the stories. They want to be part of them, to live and embody the legends, perhaps from a fear that stems from their own mortality, but perhaps it’s merely to relieve themselves of the knowledge that they are wholly unimpressive. They want to tie themselves to something great.

And that’s where I come in. I am the result of stories having been given sense and purpose. I am the beast in the dark, the monster under the bed, that which lurks just out of the campfire light, waiting. I am in the earth, creeping underground where vast communities exist, blind in the dark. I am in the air, in the whispers on the wind which raise the hair on the back of your neck as warning, though you rarely listen. I drip from the eaves and seep into the spaces you left unguarded. I am in the sparks of insight your mind tries to grasp and hold onto. You cannot escape from me, so what would ever compel you to come looking? I will find you in my own way, in my own time. I have an awareness of everything that happens here. I can hear the tears of the girl who has just found the body of the one who shares her blood. I can hear the weakening heartbeat of the coward who delivered his death. I can feel the sorrow in the one who lies dying near us, though his end hasn’t come yet. I know every animal within my vicinity by the scent of its fear or its arousal or its laughter. I even know what haunts you.

So now that you’re here, will you take the opportunity to learn what you think you want to know? Knowing that the answer is something you can never take from this place? Or will you choose to walk away in ignorance, like the coward who killed my gatekeeper, and understand that ignorance has consequence, just as knowledge does?”

It waited. Nathan felt the weight of the question and tried to remember what Tommy had said about salvation, but he was so tired and everything hurt and if he had known this was what it would be like he would have never…

“There is no going back, as much as you would like to. But I see from the remnants of your mind what is to be done. Very well. The choice is made.”

There was a feeling of hands on his head, and then they were inside him.

Nathan used what was left of his breath to scream.

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