His eyes fluttered open. Vision clearing longer than he would’ve liked. A ghastly chill stole away any heat his body produced, yet his breath was not visible. He thought his eyes still needed adjusting. The darkness seemed darker than normal. Where was he? Lifting his head, he saw a faint light far above him. He reasoned he sat in a deep valley. A valley full of shadows. He covered his nose with an arm as all his senses became aware. A valley full of shadows that reeked of death. High pitched shrieks made his skin crawl. He feared evil.
Pushing himself to his feet, he reached out for something to grasp. Nothing could be seen in the darkness. He stumbled a few steps forward. Fell back to the moist ground. Moist with what? He raised an unseen hand to his nose. It smelled metallic. He rubbed his fingers together. It was sticky. Blood? It had to be blood. A chill worked its way down his spine. Where was he?
“Hello?” he called. “Can someone help me?” His voice echoed into the distance. Chittering made him whirl around. “Who’s there?” Shrill laughter consumed the damp air. He desperately searched the void. His vision refused cooperating. Or could it really be that dark? Movement brushed the back of his neck, standing his hair on end. He flung an arm. Hoping to strike something.
The chittering picked up again. This time, it seemed all around him. Was he surrounded? By what, though? The survival classes he turned down sounded fantastic right now. But he didn’t even know how he ended up here. He had no memory of previous events. Did someone knock him out and drag him here to die? But where was he?
He took a curious step forward. The ground squished beneath his feet. His stomach churned. He didn’t want to know. Though his imagination suddenly became creative. He tried blanking his mind, but every grotesque squish branded new images. The smell of this place alone made him want to vomit. What horrid thing could be rotting so badly? The foreign creatures?
A rush of air on his left froze him. Whatever loomed out there was venturing closer. Swallowing, he continued. The mushy ground becoming deep enough to swallow his feet. His skin writhed as the presumed blood soaked through his shoes and socks. Why was he here? What sin had he committed to deserve this fate? If memory served him well, he wasn’t a psychopath murderer or anything of that nature. Was this Hell?
Silence became evident. The creatures had stopped their unintelligible babble. His head became a swivel. That couldn’t be good. “Is this Hell? Are you demons?” A sharp hiss filled his ears. Grimacing, he fell to one knee as the sound continued grating his nerves. But then it stopped. As abruptly as it started, it ceased. He looked around again. The darkness had not lightened.
Maniacal laughter filled the void. Rising and lowering in non-patterned pitch. Three, four, ten breezes passed him by. If he didn’t move, death would surely be upon him. He continued his sloshing pace. The laughter followed. Glancing over his shoulder, he still saw nothing. The unnatural sound continued at an accelerated pace. He pushed on. Broke into a full sprint, which proved difficult.
He had a good pace going. Though he ran blindly in the darkness. The creature yeilding the laughter pursued closer. He heard its breathing, heard its claws scathing the ground through the muck. It should’ve overcome him, but it didn’t. It remained a few steps behind. He didn’t know why. He expected searing pain at any second. Expected jaws to crush his bones. But nothing of the sort happened. It enjoyed chasing him, enjoyed teasing his life.
His legs burned as he pushed himself harder. He didn’t think he could run faster, but he had no choice. Part of him wished the thing would get it over with. He hated this predator and prey game. His lungs felt like they would explode from the lack of clean air. The stench prickled his nose worse the further he progressed.
The hellish fiend behind him gnashed at his heels. Crying out, he stumbled forward several steps before tripping over a stiff obtrusion. The fell beast passed him over in a great rush of wind. He covered his head until he knew it passed. Remained still, listening. Waiting. Nothing made a sound. The silence terrified him.
Leaning back, he caught his breath. Allowed the coolness of the muck to soothe his limbs. Though he still assumed the substance was blood that would never dry. So he sat covered in some other thing’s blood? He pushed the nasty though away. Mud covered the ground. Sure it was mud. He could believe that. Why would blood cover a valley floor anyway? Assuming he was in a valley. Where on earth was he?
He shifted his weight, and his hand brushed up against the thing behind him. His heartrate increased from excitement. Was it something he could turn into a weapon? Something he could defend himself with? He felt along the object. Stomach bottoming when he put together it was a mangled skeleton partially sunken in the muck. He jerked his hand back, but metal brushed his fingertips.
A sword? He prayed it was a sword. Almost reluctantly, he returned his hand to the pile of bones. Felt along the metal. His heart sank when he realized it was nothing but a belt. Yet, he fumbled with it until it could be removed. Sat with it in his lap. Waiting for the creatures to devour him. Waiting for death to crawl upon him. All he received was silence.
Clearly, he had no other option but to move. Unless he wanted death by starvation and dehydration. He would rather the unknown beasts shred him. Perhaps there was light at the end of the tunnel, not just far above him. He decided on keeping the metal belt. Who knew? Maybe it would come in handy. He strapped it around his waist. Screaming, he fell back over the skeleton. The belt granted him the truth of the valley.