The Prophesy Tower. Chapter 57. Write a Novel Challenge.
Looming confusion and something that felt like jet lag left Archie no time or energy to question what now faced him. Faced them all. His head felt like cotton had been stuffed deep into his skull and his chest seemed to fold in on itself as he gasped desperately for air. The two figures in front of him seemed unphased by the growing blackness of their surroundings and their presence, alone, turned the air heavy. It was, specifically, the presence of the icy haired creature, who continued to tower over him and whose aggressive features cast him into their shadows, that worried Archie most.
Still in a state of confusion, Archie failed to comprehend what that burlap’d man said. His dry lips continued however, and he was able to make out some of his words,
“We know who you are Archie …” the ‘man’ began. As he spoke he stooped down to Archie and the slight comforting smile smeared over his face didn’t make Archie any less uneasy.
“We understand it might be a bit hard for you to speak, hell, to do anything. Take your time – it can be a bit disorientating dropping out of the world. In the meantime just listen to this proposal…” he continued.
Words still failed Archie. In Archie’s mind he was at the epic climax of his defiant speech when, in reality, although his thoughts did travel as far as his mouth, once there, they were shredded into gasps, whimpers and wails. It had only been two minutes since he manifested into this ‘reality’ but clearly that was already too long.
Archie watched helplessly as the purple and gold robes sliced through the air with the same grace and precision of a barbaric warrior. The beholder of them turned around to face him. Unlike the burlap’d man hunched beside them, the god-like entity remained towering above him, the shadow it cast growing larger and engulfing Archie as it moved closer.
“You are so irritating, spit it out!”
Those words pierced through Archie as the visible rage on its furrowed face translated into into its menacing commands. Archie was almost inclined not to respond out of spite, but the sharp features of its face warned him of the terror that would result if he let his instincts govern his responses. He could not afford a mistake. Finally Archie found himself able to catch his breath and gulp down some air.
“Explain…please …” Archie projected, knowing he needed both time and information.
“Janus, I can’t put up with this bumbling fool, his weakness bores me. If it weren’t for his usefulness I’d be crushing him under the spokes of my boot.”
It seemed all the mustered effort Archie put in to securing answers to his question and buy time failed in an instant as the burlap’d man continued with the “proposal”.
“We really do apologise but, you see, you’ve been graciously blessed with the ability to leave the real world. Just think of this place as a utopia where you no longer have to worry about the minor inconveniences of everyday life, the monotonous routine of work, the hassle of relationships. Obviously, Archie, you must understand that … you’ll have to contribute in return.”
“Am I dead, have you drugged me?” Archie inquired.
“No…” it said with that same gentle smile, as if trying to reassure him,”… we’ve come to save you.”
If it wasn’t already obvious that this ‘man’ wasn’t human, his outlook on life and his claiming that he was his saviour, alarmed Archie.
“We understand it must be difficult, leaving everything behind, suddenly appearing here and being interrogated by two mysterious figures that seem to have materialised out of thin air. So all we ask, Archie, is that you tell us exactly what we need to know. Answer our questions. We will know when you are lying. So, tell us everything – about your parents, your school life … your girlfriend.” As the thing seemed to spit out the word girlfriend, its dry lips fell back into a smile and stretched out an arm, beckoning Archie. Archie grabbed hold of it, cautiously.
On the face of it, bizarrely, Archie was being offered some kind of free therapy. It didn’t stack up – and Archie knew it. Given the choice of reciting his life story as if he was on some therapist’s couch, or start running aimlessly into the unknown void hoping to find a way out back to Neina, he knew now which he must choose. Afraid of what his response might trigger, Archie stood in silence for a while longer, waiting for an opportunity to flee or the, now unlikely, chance that they would give him some logical explanation of what he was doing here – and why.
As he waited, he heard a bellowing ding which he prayed was an alarm clock that would somehow wake him from this hell.
But it did nothing.
He was still here.
There was no waking up in his studio apartment as if nothing had happened.
Archie knew now there was only the choice between running, or submitting.
“We’re here …” alerted Janus.
Archie pulled himself back from the precipice of decision and the existential pit he had just dug himself into, as he latched onto the cheery voice of that talking potato sack. As he did so, it seemed, in fact, that they had never left the elevator. The surrounding blackness disintegrated and an overwhelming light flooded Archie’s vision until, eventually, he could make out that they were standing in a vast, empty field of rubble.
Then, unexpectedly, that icy haired being spoke again.
“Hopefully,” the robed creature began, “that time you wasted in there was worth it.”
They faced Archie and started moving slowly towards him.
He could clearly see that every step had intent. But was it intent to harm or comfort?
“Have you made your decision?” A smirk crawled across their pale faces, bringing out their sharp cheekbones and deep set eyes.
Finally they were both only inches away, staring coldly into Archie’s eyes. Their eyes bored into his. He felt violated.
“I can feel you trembling so I guess now would be the best time to tell you that I would love to plant my dagger deep into your stomach and carve out a hole where your heart would be. Unfortunately, it would be quite senseless with all the effort we have invested in bringing you here. As much as I would enjoy sinking my knife into you, you can be of help to us.”
Archie froze in shock – and felt ashamed of his own weakness and indecision. He was scared. But what exactly could he do?
Timidly Archie looked down. As he did so, he saw the creature’s pale hand, veiled in its purple sleeve, clasping an ornate gold and emerald encrusted dagger.
The creature brought the tip of its blade inches from Archie’s stomach, before he felt it slice through his clothes and prick his skin. He felt the gradual seeping of blood beginning to soak into the poplin cotton of his shirt.
Archie steered his gaze back up to the now maniacal face, its pupils the size of pool balls and a smile that touched the tips of its eyebrows. Archie dared not move as the blade held against his midriff. Unable to spit out a response, Archie simply nodded.
Mad laughter erupted around him and a gust of wind carved out the air around which the robed being stood. He felt the knife being pulled back from him as it stretched out its arms towards the sky as if itself in a state of worship. The dagger’s handle reflected light around all of them.
Archie felt he was in the presence of gods.
As he felt his breathing constrict, they looked into Archie’s eyes once again.
In that moment he knew that he was merely a subject and that they, together, were the Queen.
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The Prophesy Tower – A Novel.
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