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View Full Version : Only Spirals -- A Romantic Horror Story


KaniTheri
February 29th, 2008, 11:48 PM
I wrote this a few days ago and have been seeking critique. The plot is somewhat difficult to describe, but even though it gets off to a slow start it builds up to a story that I've heard is chilling and gripping. I'd love suggestions for improvement.

Story Rating: I'd call this a heavy PG-13. There are allusions to mature subjects, and while it's tastefully executed and non-explicit I'd really advise against people below the age of 15 reading it. I can't control your actions, but that's my warning :) I'm hiding this under an age limit for this reason, as well as hiding it in spoiler for length.

Edit: Age limit thing is confusing, just exercise discretion. :P

It was precisely 3:42 PM when I came across the spirals. I noticed this much later as I undressed for sleep. My watch had frozen at that exact moment, and in my recollection it dawned on me that it fit the moment I made my discovery.

Every afternoon I hiked the woods surrounding my home and had barely scratched the surface of what they contained. I shunned maps, preferring to rely on my memory and the marks I had left to guide my way home. Having noted a steep incline, I began climbing my way upwards with intent to enjoy a packed lunch overlooking the sunset over the forest.

As I remember it now my breath catches in my chest. I had never seen this valley before, I was certain, and yet how many times had I climbed this very same hill to watch the sunset over these very same woods? I must have lost my way, as unlikely as it seemed, and yet that still unsettled me. How could nobody else have mentioned it? Surely throughout human history others had discovered them, but why did no accounts exist?

The depressions seemed burned into the earth, their edges smooth and perfect. Their conical shapes reached two identical depressions deep within the earth, marked by curiously paved spiral paths that coiled around their edges to meet the base stones of two statues, staring contemptuously at one another from opposite ends of the glade.

I was so overcome with my shock that at first I didn't notice the slow, deliberate shifts in the statue's very forms. One, carved from a glistening white marble, contorted its formerly human form in ways that challenged my very perception of reality. Its arms twisted and gnarled skyward, its feet splintering and spreading into roots that seamlessly integrated with its base. The neck lengthened impossibly, head and hair exploding into foliage. Its sinuous form was quite clearly that of an aged tree but a single branch remained a human arm, pointing accusingly at the other statue.

With great effort I turned to follow its gesture and watched the other form its rebuttal. The body slumped backwards, chest opening and ribcage extending towards the sky, twisting itself into the blade and hilt of a sword. The neck slumped back, broken, its body snapped nearly in two, bent under the weight of its new limb.

Even now I can't recall why I was drawn to the path beneath the white statue. Instincts and rationality alike were overwhelmed by my passion for exploration, I suppose, but even that doesn't quite explain my willingness to ignore the terrifying nature of the sculptures and walk towards them, towards what they guarded and seemingly fought over despite being imprisoned by their very bodies.

With the first foot I set on the path my mind exploded in memory. Light, blinding light, and the sounds of an infant's cries. They echoed from within me, bounced off of the walls and made the room ring with their defiance. A sharp slap offended my dignity and I--was it I wailing?--I boxed with tiny, harmless fists at the world that so infuriated me.

Warmth drew me to its bosom and for the first time I fed. The feeling was utter, complete bliss, my hatred and terror receding into the comfort and happiness of existance. The memory ended and I found myself where I had been before, a single foot on a single block of pavement. I shook my head in confusion and took another step.

There was shouting everywhere, people blurring past me with speed I could not achieve or even fully comprehend. I sat on a blanket in the center of the room, once the center of attention and no longer important at all. This upset me deeply, and as I watched them move of their own will and power I was struck with inspiration. Slowly I wobbled to my feet and took a tentative step. I had moved! I let out a fierce, triumphant cry and the room fell silent. Before I knew what was happening the larger ones had swept me up in their arms and I was paraded as a hero before them. I had tasted true admiration, and I was happy.

Both feet on the same stone now, I began to comprehend the nature of this spiral. The wonder faded as I realized that I could not brave this alone, for who would believe me? It was at that revelation that I reluctantly took a step backwards and ran for my home, forgetting my backpack and the lunch that I had planned.

*****

Panting heavily, I lay my head on the cool stone frame of the church door. It had been years since I set foot on the chapel grounds and even then a part of me shuddered in quiet revulsion. No matter, I would find him there. As I raised my hand to rap my knuckles against the mahogany wood the door opened and I fell through the frame.

He caught me in his arms and smilingly I looked up into his eyes. I'd known him for so many years and each time I saw the sun shine through his golden hair my heart skipped a beat. No time to dawdle, no time to be lost in my thoughts. I pushed away from his chest and leaned against the wall.

"What's the matter, Carmen? You look like you did when you found that giant caterpillar in the produce aisle," he grinned.

"Oh no! This is far, far more important!" I gasped back, still not yet recovered from my dash back to town.

"More important than a caterpillar eating the good townspeople's hard-earned lettuce?" he asked with mock-seriousness, a single eyebrow leaping skyward to punctuate his words. I hated that he could do that and I couldn't.

"You laugh now, Matthew, but you'll apologize when you see what I found. Honestly, I ran all this way to share and all you do is mock me!" I pouted. He smirked, triumphant, and reached his arms out to me. Reluctantly, I accepted his embrace.

"Poor thing, running all this way from the woods just to share. It's like a small child at show-and-tell. Fine, I'll come with you. I'm really supposed to be cleaning, but I don't think you'd mind if I left the chapel filthy. Heathen."

"You're really a pain, you know that? I can't wait until you're begging my forgiveness. Trust me, you will be once you see what I found."

Matt rolled his eyes and placed both hands firmly on my back. I didn't have any time to savor the touch before he'd shoved me out of the church and into the courtyard. I sniffled in mock sadness before turning to face him. I tossed my head defiantly and began walking backwards towards the woods.

"C'mon, churchwife, let's see if you can still run!" I laughed, turning tale and racing off into the forest. It didn't matter that I was out of breath, I was confident that I could win. I heard him shouting behind me and heard no words, just the echo of his voice and the wind whipping past my ears and through my hair. This was freedom, this was bliss, and I wouldn't trade it for a single thing in the world.

He was gaining on me when I spied the hill that overlooked the statues. I shuddered with anticipation and fear, eager and afraid to confront what I had discovered. Suddenly I lost the will to run and slowed to a walk. Matthew ran up behind me, slapping my back and knocking the wind out of me before racing to the hilltop. I smiled to myself, aware that he'd regret pushing me around very quickly.

I was correct beyond a shadow of a doubt. He had frozen at the hill's zenith, his eyes locked on the valley below. I could see only his back, the sunset shining all around him, his body aflame, the light through his loose white shirt illuminating it like flames licking across a burning book.

When I reached his side I felt how stiff he was. I opened my mouth to ask what was wrong when he grabbed my arm and pointed a shaking arm to the valley.

The statues were kneeling and facing us, their arms open like a parents' waiting for their child.

***

"Carmen...what is this?" Matt whispered, his arm circling around my waist. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I gently disentangled myself from his grasp.

"I don't know. Do you see the white one?" I asked. He nodded and I continued. "Well, I don't know how, or why, but when I began walking down that path, well, I remembered." Matthew quizzically tilted his head and glanced at me through the corners of his eyes.

"So? People remember things all the time. I don't see what that has to do with those...things."

"No, you don't understand. I remembered things I never could otherwise, infancy, my first steps."

"If you couldn't remember them otherwise, how do you know they were even your memories?"

I threw my hands in the air impatiently. "Look, smartass, why don't you just go down there yourself?"

"No way! You saw those statues, they were waiting for us!" he snapped.

"Look, I was here before. They're creepy but harmless. Grow up and just walk the path already. I don't know why I put up with you, I swear."

Matthew snorted contemptuously and snatched my hand. "You're coming with me, you harpy. I feel sorry for whatever man is unlucky enough to fall in your talons."

The words stung but were soon forgotten. It was a short walk to the white path and before I could even fully register the harm they'd caused I was engulfed in memory.

There was an odd creature approaching. I had never seen anything like it before, and was both terrified and delighted. It slammed its head into the ground and rolled before me, enchanting me with its gentle rumbling noises and shining black fur. I screeched with delight and gathered it in my arms, caressing it while it bumped its forehead against mine. No matter how I pulled at its tail and ears it would only respond with gentleness, and I would have it as my companion into adulthood.

My eyes were filled with tears as the vision broke away. I turned to Matthew and triumphantly noted the wonder in his expression. Clearly I had won, and there was so much more to come.

"What did you see?" I asked softly, feeling slightly guilty for taking such fierce pleasure in my victory.

"Her," he simply replied, and I knew without asking what he meant. The knowledge chilled me deeply. His sister had been lost at birth but he had always wanted to know what she was like. I felt a pang of jealousy. My recollections began at birth, whereas he was able to see into the womb.

"And you?" he inquired, snapping me out of my envy.

"Meer. It's funny, as an adult I know what a silly name for a cat that is, but remembering what it was like to first meet her it makes a lot of sense to name her after the sounds she made," I replied sheepishly. He grinned back at me and took my hand.

"There are many more steps to explore."

The clicking of heels on pavement, and I was away again. A young girl wandered towards me, banging two blocks together. Horrified, I imagined that the blocks would bang and close against my head. The thought drove me to action and I stood up, knocking her squarely in the head with a tiny fist. She wailed and I was chastised, sent off to the corner alone. I heard shuffling, unsteady footsteps behind me and two blocks fell in my lap. I looked up and met her eyes, forgiveness and friendship clearly displayed in her face. I had learned a valuable lesson and made my first friend.

The fog of vision cleared and I was back on the path. I wondered what had become of her, overcome with a desire to track her down and rekindle the old friendship. Matthew placed his hand on my arm and I turned to look at him. He was shaking his head and frowning.

"They wouldn't understand. They haven't seen the spirals."

Without asking how he knew, I accepted his answer and moved towards the next step.

***

A dancefloor, a party, a washed-up DJ with no skill at his craft and a captive audience. The people were too drunk and too elated to care, whirling across the floor to music they barely registered. A bottle of liquor spilled on the floor and I slipped in the puddle, falling firmly on my well-padded behind. I saw the skirt of my gaudy dress, rose-white silk and lace. He took my hand and pulled me to my feet, a man with dark hair and grey eyes. The man smiled and spoke to me, mouth moving with no audible words. I felt comforted and fell against his chest, secure in who he was and what he meant to me.

I shook my head in shock, glancing around me at the grass and the trees. Who was that man? I had always assumed that I would never marry, and even if I had thought it was a possibility I always assumed it'd be with Matthew. I resisted telling him, looking at the ground instead. His hand tightened around mine and not for the first time I wondered exactly how much he picked up on.

The past was the past, and even if this memory was the future it was already long gone. Did that even make sense? The spirals had been messing with my mind and I no longer knew past from present, up from down, here from there. All I could do was walk, and walk I did.

Dinner under the stars of Africa, the veld baked-hot beneath the picnic blanket. The game park was safe and secure and the turmoil of the world around us would never reach us. A herd of antelope skipped past us and my breath caught in my throat. I placed my hand on my husband's knee and squeezed, pointing at them with my other arm. He laughed at my delight, shoving me down against the blanket, the grass, the dirt and the stones. They dug into my back as his nails dug into my shoulders and neck and I was overcome with a sense of pure beauty. The wild, the animal, the man-made, the primal and the civilized crashed against each other like tempest-waves in a wild storm.

I could not wait for the rest of my life, these shallow half-memories were little more than brief, incomplete previews of my greatest joys. I knew what would happen, but not how, and I was overcome with a delectable sense of powerlessness and intrigue. I knew the look of the man but not who he was, his name, his past, or how I met him. I had to restrain myself from running to the next step.

Birth and blood, splinter of bone and wail of infant. The child rode into the world on a magma flow of pain, its fire fueling his indignation. I collapsed onto the bed and my husband grasped my hand in his. My son, our son, screamed with rage and was passed into my arms, where his harmless infant flailing collided with my nose. The room erupted in laughter, the child roaring with hurt dignity and the arrogance of youth.

The sun had all but set now and the black statue seemed to crackle and char in the evening light. I looked over the edge of the path and peered down at the small depression in the spiral's center. I was about halfway through and there was so much to see. Let alone the black spiral! Desperately I glanced around me and noted my backpack at the foot of the white statue. I nudged Michael and pointed to it.

"There's a high-powered flashlight in there. I don't want to leave. I want to see it all tonight. Will you stay?"

He nodded, his golden hair still shining in the fading light. Suddenly I wished that I would never meet the grey-eyed man.

***

Even now I can't comprehend the pure bliss of the final memory. There are no words to explain the exultation of pure release, the freedom, the white-hot searing joy that seemed to slice me apart and re-arrange me into something beyond what any living creature should be. There were no emotions beyond pain and delight, and I reveled in both equally. I was no longer myself but I was something far better.

I turned to look at Matthew and saw the feverish gleam of the devoted follower. He was as the parishioner in a snake-handling church, trusting that any venom would be guarded against by forces unknown. I wondered if the same look lay in my own eyes and a part of me was deeply revolted by what I had become.

But what had I become? All I had done was walk, and the pavement had carried me through all the bliss of my life. There were no sacrifices, nothing lost, and everything gained. Suddenly I gasped aloud and grabbed Matthew's shoulders, shaking him violently.

"What's your problem?" he asked, not unkindly, and I pointed to the black statue. It took the form of a man on his knees, bent over with the weight of many arrows. One hand supported his weight and the other plaintively reached out to us. I turned to the white statue and noted its defiant posture, an emaciated angel bowed under the weight of its wings, arms crossed with mute displeasure.

"We haven't walked the black spiral yet," I whispered. The glazed reverence in his eyes was back again, but he shook his head to clear his mind.

"It's getting late."

"I have the flashlight!"

"No, it's too late. We'll come back tomorrow," he reasoned. My jaw dropped and I was overcome with disdain. Where was his spirit of adventure? The black statue creaked in agreement, its jaw lengthening impossibly to cruelly mimic my expression. Teeth lengthened like arrow-tipped vines, its gaping maw taunting and threatening him. He rolled his eyes at the statue and turned his back to it. "Come on," he said, "Let's go."

I groaned in a way I hoped was suitably maudlin and followed. At least he'd followed me there in the first place. Tomorrow we'd be back and we'd experience the black spiral. Patience is a virtue, after all,

By the time I arrived home I was exhausted. I stumbled up the apartment steps, utterly forgetting that there was an elevator. It was only when I was at my doorstep that I remembered. I was too tired to be angry, too tired to even register the oversight and be suitably angered by it.

Key in the lock, turn to the right, click, remove, turn the doorknob, open the door, walk inside. The actions came automatically to me, my mind incapable of paying any attention to detail. I stumbled across the floor, exaggeratedly dragging my feet as though someone were there to watch.

Open the bedroom door, walk in, shed clothes, collapse into bed. Easy enough, but I forgot one step. My watch was still on. I hit the light to check the time before removing it. 3:42 PM.

***

"Come on, come on! Let's go, let's go! It's nine AM you lazy jerk, get up, get up!" I yelled, smacking my palms against his window. Matthew stumbled towards me and closed the curtains emphatically. I ran around to the door and smacked harder, yelling louder. Within five minutes he had angrily wrenched open the door and was staring me down. I couldn't resist laughing, his serious expression contrasted fiercely with his rabbit-patterned pajamas.

"What's your problem, Carmen? It's nine-****ing-AM! On a Saturday!"

"The black spiral," I simply replied, and his expression changed.

"Wait here. I'll get dressed and pack some trail mix."

I grinned to myself, always happy with a victory. It was twenty past nine when he had finished, my watch cheerfully flashing the time at me. I was easily able to reset it and was eager to see if it froze again when I found the spirals.

Finding them proved more difficult than I had thought. When I came to the top of the hill they were gone. I fell to my knees in horror, refusing to believe that I had come so far just to be rebuffed. Matthew placed his hand on my shoulder and I rose to my feet, pouting at him.

"I swear, sometimes you're just like an impatient child. You do realize that if they drift it would partially explain nobody ever finding them before, right?"

I hadn't thought of that. My excitement was back full-force and I tore off into the woods, following the sound of a stream. Matt chased after me, catching up admirably. I often underestimated him. His company was wonderful to have and I felt a pang of regret for never telling him how much it meant to me. I shook my head to clear my thoughts. Not now, there are more important things at hand.

I pushed between two trees, placing my hands on their trunks and lifting my body up to aid my leap between them. There were the spirals, the statues, staring one another down from across the stream. At my entrance both of them turned to look at me. The white one sneered and shrugged, the black one's mouth widening in a cruel grin. Its lips moved, forming words I couldn't place.

"Hi, you stupid, ugly thing! We're back, and we're going to walk down your path!" I shouted, hoping to wipe the smug grin off of its face. To my dismay it only smiled wider, stone flesh seeming to melt off of its face to accommodate the skull-grin. I shuddered and turned to whisper to Matt, "These things give me the creeps."

"Me too, but you dragged my ass here and we're going to walk down the path."

I grabbed his hand and skipped towards the path. One foot on the stone and I was gone.

Children all learn in different ways, but the universal teacher is always pain. The ceramic cookie jar may have been enticing, but prodding it down from the counter with the broom was hardly a brilliant idea. It shattered on the floor, sharp pieces of pottery lodging in my flesh like the quills of an offended porcupine. I placed my hands on the floor to help myself stand and run for help, but shards embedded themselves in the sensitive flesh of my palms. I had seen blood before, but not like this, never like this. I wailed with pain and terror, and it seemed like nobody heard me.

As I snapped out of the vision I felt queasy. I now understood the nature of the black spiral and I saw in Matthew's eyes that he did too. An unspoken agreement passed between us and we turned to leave but our legs disagreed. Against our will, we took another step.

Cars are dangerous. We all learn this at different times, but some of us learn in ways more horrifying than others. I learned when Jessica was crushed. It seemed so simple--the Frisbee fell in the middle of the street, she ran to get it and I toddled after her. The truck was high above the ground and she was so small, he couldn't have seen her. I was little more than three feet away when the first tire hit. Another, then another, how many more until there was nothing left of her? And I remained frozen, the blood as glue to bind us all to one another's suffering. She was gone.

I came to, tears streaking down my face. I had forgotten, why did I have to remember? Why couldn't I leave? My hand groped for Matt's as we took another step together.

***

My ears rang with the crack of gunfire, my eyes blinded by mortar fire. I knew that the savanna I loved was torn by warfare but I convinced him to go back with me, to enjoy it one last time. Foolish, selfish, absorbed in my own desires. He always told me that I was too daring, too impulsive, but he loved me in part because I cheerfully ignored danger and simply lived to love.

He was gone now, I had to leave him behind. We had gotten too involved, I loved Africa far too much to leave it in such a terrible state. I don't know what I was thinking, getting involved in guerrilla warfare. I don't know why he followed me. I was in so far over my head, and I had lost him. Tears and gunpowder stung my eyes as I fled into the underbrush, crouching only ten feet away from where he and I had once lay under the stars. I choked and vomited, remembering the fragments of his skull lodged in the grass, the shiny, sticky flesh barely clinging to his face. And his brain--

Mercifully I was once again torn back to reality. On trembling knees I took another step, sobbing and begging for release. I should have known better than to think there could be any respite, and yet I begged until I was silenced by the next vision.

Funerals are never pleasant, but I found myself wishing that instead of the heat and the dirt I could be in a cool, somber parlor. The cold, seeping contents of his skull no longer bothered me. I sobbed alone in the night, wailing like an injured child. I cared not for who could hear me or find me. I should have. They sneaked up behind me, in their element when I was not.

They were not locals, they were only the invading force, my countrymen, and yet they knew more than I did about the surroundings. I was loathed by them, loathed by those I could have gone to school with. Their jackal smiles could have been the joyous grins of my playmates, but as they restrained my wrists and took me again and again I was filled with the realization that what had once passed would never be the same again. Not even myself.

"Stop! Please! I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't! Please, please end this, please tell me this isn't real, this won't happen!" I cried, reaching my hand out to the statue. Matthew choked back a sob behind me, his body shaking with suffering. I had been so lost in my own horror that I didn't even recall that he, too, was suffering.

"This isn't fair," I screeched, "We didn't do anything to you! Let us go!"

The statue's mouth moved in reply and the leaves whispered together, forming phrases I could never hope to comprehend. It leaned its head back and shook with silent laughter, the wind picking up to a roar. Twigs and pebbles were borne through the air to pelt our bodies and bruise them to match our internal suffering. It was clear that the statue would be no help. Once more, I stepped forward and was carried away.

I couldn't even count my injuries anymore. I used to pass the time by shifting into as many positions as I could within my restraints to see which new places ached. Counting them was a grim but welcome distraction, but after so many beatings and so much abuse my whole body was little more than a canvas for the agony, brushstrokes of angry gashes and deep welts covering the blank slate and changing it into something new.

Waxing poetic was tiresome and I used to hate it, but I passed the time by composing poetry in my head. The spirit could never be broken, I was certain, and the woman in the other cell was pleasant conversation. There was always a silver lining, I told myself, and I opened my mouth to discuss my latest idea. At that very moment I heard the door to her cell being kicked in, and a muffled squeal of indignation before I heard the unmistakable sound of a rifle butt connecting with a skull. She was gone, and I was alone.

Reality dawned once more and there he was. At least I wasn't alone here, I told myself, and I reached to wrap my arm around his waist. He flinched, hurt by his last vision, but gratefully leaned against my arm. I would not be alone. Matthew was there for me, and I would always at least have someone else I could talk to about this.

I took a step towards the next stone.

***
Everything dies, everyone finds this out at one point or another. After a while the apathy sets in. We mourn when it's someone close to us, but a stranger dying doesn't matter at all to us. I realized with a sharp pang of grief that our child was still out there in our home country, still being watched by my husband's mother. Neither of them knew he was dead, neither of them could know. I had been imprisoned for so long that I was forgotten. It came as a shock to me when I was released.

The world had changed without me. It was arrogant to assume that over decades in prison nothing would have, but it still shocked me to my core. Technology had moved forward in its inexorable way and I had been left in the dust. The new regime had brought with it new innovations and I couldn't even comprehend how I could contact my son. I asked and was ignored, a disheveled old woman who meant nothing to no one. I was free and yet I was alone, and there was nothing I could do.

I thought I had gotten used to the visions. Their bleakness and horror were real to me and yet fleeting, but that last one filled me with despair. The element of hope to it made it all the more crushing, and realizing that someday it would truly happen to me was too much to bear. I could no longer hold back the sobs, but I still had Matthew.

His arm squeezed my waist until I felt my bones would shatter but it was a welcome constriction. He was real, this was real, and how was I to know that the visions would even happen? It could be a cruel trick, playing on my memories and my fears to construct a future that I felt was inevitable.

"There's no power here! You're a liar, you're making things up just to **** with us and I hate you!" I screamed at the statue. It cocked its head in response, hunching over and morphing into a mocking caricature of me. The eyes were wide and tear-streaked, the face contorted and hideous. I shuddered and turned to the white statue.

"And you! You set us up for this!" I whispered, pointing with a shaking hand. It shrugged, a gesture that eloquently seemed to say that we didn't need to come back, and it was absolved of all consequence. I shook with rage, and the black statue dismissively waved its right hand. Against my will, I took another step.

Lost in familiar streets, torn and ravaged by time and bombs. How far had the war extended? I knew only of my imprisonment in Africa and little to nothing of the surrounding world. And yet there was the church, burned to nothing but charred stone facing. The roof had caved in when the support beams were burned away but I could still explore.

I had hated that church when I was growing up, and I still hated what it represented, but I sank to my knees in gratitude. This was familiarity, this was my childhood, and ravaged as it was I couldn't help but be relieved that it still stood. There were more important things to do, however, and I reluctantly dragged myself to my feet.

I asked everyone if they had seen my son, but nobody responded. Their heads shook with contempt and pity, their eyes saying everything they refused to use their words to express. He was gone. Dead, I did not know, or why he was no longer there. I had come so far just to lose him again, and there was nothing left I could do.

My legs refused to support me any longer and I fell, Matthew catching me and pulling me to my feet. There were only five steps left.

***

I laughed triumphantly as my head cleared from the last vision. It was terrible, yes, but I had succeeded. I had persevered, I had survived, and it was almost over and I would be free. I would have the power to change my destiny, I told myself, I would be able to make sure that these things would never come to pass.

"You almost had me!" I cackled to the statues, the woods, and the stars. "You almost took me, you almost broke me, but look! There's only one step left, and there's nothing left you can do! Do you understand that, you filthy, horrible things? You're bound to this ground forever, you pathetic abominations, you move around the forest but you're stuck here! I can move, I can be free after this, and you alone will have to suffer eternity here!"

Matthew raised his head and blankly stared as I ranted. He used to be so energetic, so chipper, he would have crowed victoriously with me even a few hours ago. Not anymore, he was broken. I held him close and told myself that with time he'd be back to normal--we both would be. I would be able to save myself and everyone else whose deaths I saw. It would all be fine.

The black statue stared contemptuously at me. It had clearly taken offense to my words, and as I watched it moved its hands in gestures I had not ever seen before. It seemed boneless, jointless, human arms moving as if they were tentacles to shape the air. The world seemed to warp around it, and I was again afraid. There was nothing I could do. It was distracted, so I dragged Michael with me towards the final step.

I fell. I fell through the ground, the stone opening beneath me like a trap door. I saw him reach for me and I raised my hand towards his. He was older now, lined and grey and bent. I held on desperately and succeeded only in dragging him with me. He fell, I fell, we were swallowed by the earth and the...the what?

The spirals.

I knew then why they were there. I knew as I came to on the ground at their edges, as Matthew lay beside me. I sat up just in time to watch them fade away. But we would never fade.

We were bound to them. I will never know if I'm to blame, if my insult was the final step. They can move, but they can never leave. We can live, but we will have to come back here to die. And then what?

Well...I think you know.