By Xander Woolf
The unusual stillness of the night set in me an eerie calm. My bedroom was dark but for the moon beams that flowed in through the curtainless window. I could not sleep. In fact, I sat upright in a hard wooden chair next to the closed window. My vision was fixed on a single red star in the sky. I could not look away until, several hours later, my cat knocked a book off of my desk, jarring me out of my trance.
I placed the book back on the desk and gave Salem a gentle pat on the head. My room was fairly mundane but tonight it felt ethereal, almost magical. The air felt so delightful on my skin that I decided to pull off my pajamas and crawl into bed naked. I fell into a dream-filled sleep almost immediately.
The cave in which I found myself was damp and dreary. I descended into the depths without so much as a second thought. My eyes strained to see in the darkness, but my feet were sure of each step they took. I could hear waves crashing on a distant shore. The stench of saltwater was so strong, it stung my nostrils. I did not know where I was, but I did know I was meant to be here. I was destined to find whatever lay below the surface.
I walked along for what felt like minutes, but could have been hours based on the ache in my legs. The air changed from humid and warm to crisp and chilly. As I descended, the sound of waves was replaced by a low snarl that could have been breathing or snoring. I shivered with excitement.
After the last few steps, I found myself in a massive cavern, lit by torches of blue fire. I continued forward, still unsure of where the snarling came from. It echoed off the walls, filling my ears at an alarming volume, but no creature was to be seen. It was at its loudest near the middle of the cavern, where there stood a pedestal holding a single clay urn decorated with foreign symbols. The urn was smooth to the touch, but seemed to vibrate beneath my fingertips.
A warmth ran up my arm and I was overtaken by the urge to break the urn open to see what was inside. Out of nowhere, there were whispers in my ear. The language was unknown to me, but I knew the whispers coaxed me on. I felt calm as I picked it up. The cavern grew deathly silent as I lifted the urn over my head, anticipating my next move. Without a second thought, I threw the urn to the ground.
The shatter was deafening. My world began to shake. The air grew hot. A deep and menacing laugh filled the cavern as the ground began to open beneath my feet. I lost my footing and began to fall, the first inkling of terror entering my chest.
I awoke in my bed with a start. I looked down at my naked form to see that I was covered in mud. Salem began to growl and hiss. My eye was drawn to the corner of my bedroom. A dark figure loomed there, unmoving. My heart jumped into my throat as I cowered against the headboard.
“What are you?” I managed to whisper. The shadows moved with it as it glided forward.
“I am death,” it whispered back. It’s voice was not a voice so much as it was a rumble that I could feel in my bones. “I am destruction.”
It stopped at the edge of my bed.
“With your body,” it continued, “I will finally destroy this world.”
I let out a piercing scream as slime-coated black tentacles reached out and encircled my body.