I found myself in a sort of courtyard, high slate walls towering up around me. The dying, yellowish grass that covered the expanse of the floor was matted down and many boulders and rocks sprouted from its sickly surface. It was like being in an oversized animal pen. I felt trapped. And as the midday sun beat down upon my sweaty brow, I noticed a wolf. A hungry dire wolf, jaws salivating and eyes as red as blood. I froze, hoping it would pass me by and not consume the flesh off my bones in a messy display of carnage. To my fortune, it did. It stalked right on by me and ran towards the southern wall. There I beheld four more wolves, larger with brown, shaggy fur, pawing the ground of the grassy heath. I do not know what dark force compelled me forward, but I soon found myself at the threshold of the southern wall.
To my right where the wolves would have been I saw nothing but decaying yellow grass, not a trace of the beasts left behind. In front of me, carved into the southern wall was a door as cold and uninviting as an old gravestone. Through some manner of profound sorcery, I managed to force open the slate-colored portal revealing a sight no person ever wants to behold when seeking a way out.
Pure darkness emanated from the ghastly archway, and a stench escaped that was so foul I had to cover my nose with my sleeve. I had stumbled upon what appeared to be a crypt. Terror grasped at my throat as I peered into the cold, shadowy expanse and caught a glimpse of a shambling corpse in the gloom. I cannot truthfully say why, but I was driven to explore the crypt despite the undead abomination rustling unnervingly in the pitch blackness. However, for whatever reason, I turned around and sealed the tomb again with a lone diamond and a sterling chain from my pocket, never to honestly return. But that was not what was going through my head. What goal presented itself to my conscious mind was to retrieve my handgun so that I might traverse the dark tomb in relative comfort, despite my bodily action of sealing the crypt for good.
When I turned around to make my way back to my apartment, the ground upon which I walked was now a transparent, futuristic glass-like walkway suspended above the decaying yellow heath. Numerous people walked on these chrome-railed walkways and it was as if an architect unbound by time itself had constructed them while I was examining the interior of the crypt. Apparently, these walkways connected all of the buildings of the university—the slate-walled courtyard just another part of campus, technically. Without the slightest doubt or hesitation I walked onward, up the transparent incline and back to my apartment. Along the way I saw a girl, Lilith, who until that moment was completely unknown to me and yet the freshest face in my memory. She winked at me as she passed and I winked back. As I strode along the suspended walkways ignorant of the weirdness of the situation I was in, reality shifted.
I found myself in a frantic state of mind on the ground floor of a large, slate parking garage. The urgency of my need to get in contact with my friend Sadie was oddly of paramount import and I exasperatedly started making my way to a long cement staircase that wound its way up the urban hill to the main road. From there I might try to reach her via cell phone as the service on the ground floor was non-existent. I launched myself up the stairs two steps at a time, quickly losing my breath as I noticed I had only made it a quarter of the way up in a considerable amount of time. Who the hell designed these stairs? I thought as I breathed heavily. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, I reached the pinnacle of the steps, turning around to see the outrageous distance I had just covered. The parking garage was the size of a small dollhouse. As I painfully celebrated my victory over the stairs, I whipped out my cell phone and called Sadie, telling her I needed to be picked up and driven to Lindrel Hall to retrieve an important package—a package whose specific contents eluded me.
As I waited for her to arrive, my spirit was testy and impatient and there occurred, quite suddenly, a split. My body remained at the top of the stairs, recovering from the long haul to their summit. My restless spirit, however, flew to another parking garage a ways down the dark, cobalt street where it beheld a fast-paced car chase and an abrupt murder.
In my ethereal form I saw it all happen so fast that the memory itself is fragmented. What I recall was a vision of two speeding cars, one white and one navy blue, speeding down the interior of the second parking garage. How they managed to go so fast, I do not know. All I can say is that the white car did not make it out intact and in fact disappeared without a trace from the scene. The navy blue vehicle—a Jeep—slowed to a halt at an intersection outside the stone parking garage. That is where the murder happened. I saw it all unfold. The man in the passenger seat of the Jeep taunted through the window a scruffy-looking but well-built man on the sidewalk. The man, unamused by such unprovoked hostility, (ironically) stormed up to the man and broke his neck with one swift motion. The inciter somehow fell out of the Jeep, his body miraculously becoming intangible as his distorted figure fell downwards. A female scream was heard from the back seat of the car as the man regained his tangibility and smacked against the ground with a sickly thud. The shaggy murderer looked through my ghostly body down the street, to where my friend Tara was running up to see what had happened.
“You fucking murderer!” she yelled. I stopped her in her tracks and she looked at me questioningly, a fury in her eyes. With an inexplicably renewed and highly informed memory of the event and its participants, I explained to her calmly and confidently that the man who had just had his neck broken was a rapist. He and his driver friend were transporting the girl in the back seat to their home so that they could carry on with their foul deeds. Tara’s face paled and she apologized to the scruffy-looking murderer saying she was glad he had done what he had. He nodded sheepishly and lit a butt, inhaling the smoke with a half-content smirk. Tara then looked at the broken neck of the murdered rapist and said, “Jeez…that looks like it hurt a lot.” My dreams will forever be haunted with what followed, as the dead man twisted his broken body grotesquely and suddenly spoke. “YOU HAVE NO IDEA!” A terrifying cacophony of laughter erupted from all the members involved in the event as my spirit swiftly made its way back to my body, frightened from the abnormal nature of the scene. Instead of returning directly to where my body was left, though, my spirit returned to my body which was now inside of a building, approaching a half-lit staircase from a shadowed hallway.
There I saw one Nick Munoni, a dim-witted oaf of a person, charging up the stairs with a disgusting grin on his face. I wondered what could possibly be making him grin with such maliciousness as I let him pass me by without so much as a “hello.” I had no true reason to dislike Nick Munoni—he left me alone and I left him alone, and aside from his obnoxious volume and idiotic laugh that sometimes disturbed my restful hours at night, he was harmless. I had no reason to dislike Nick Munoni at all. That is until this specific night. After this night, my goal was to deal swift and merciless retribution to Nick Munoni for hurting and even daring to hurt my dearest Kona.
After the grotesque oaf passed by and stampeded down the darkened orange hall behind me, I looked down the spiraling center of the staircase and saw Kona at the bottom in a crumpled heap. My heart now racing, I rushed down the stairwell to her relatively motionless body. I yelled her name past the lump in my throat, dreading but trying to deny that the worst had happened. When I reached her she moaned a gentle, quiet moan, “Neil?” A wave of relief washed over me as she spoke. She was alive, but she looked very ill. Her face was covered in sweat; dark circles lay under her eyes, and she felt cold to the touch. She was shaking now. “What happened?” I asked her sternly, knowing well enough that Nick Munoni had something to do with it. The bastard couldn’t have passed her by, crumpled on the stairs here without doing something about it, which led me to believe he was the perpetrator of whatever had happened to her. “Nick…” she began. “Nick Munoni…he tried to sedate me…used…a needle filled with…a strange liquid.” Anger and hate began to course through my quickening veins. “He didn’t get to…use…the whole syringe…I pushed him away before he…before he could use it all.” I quieted her soft-spoken voice as I assured her everything was going to be alright. I lifted her into my arms and brought her back to the safety of her room.
This was the night I vowed to ruin Nick Munoni. I would bring my terrible vengeance to bear within hours of his disgusting attempt to harm one of the people closest to me. His obnoxious behavior would end; his idiotic laughter would be silenced. The dark, orange-tinted halls reflected my brooding anger and I let the vengeful energy wash over me, renewing my hate. With Kona tucked in bed, recovering from the attempted sedation, I made my way to the science lab. The time for vengeance was soon arriving.
Nick Munoni, laughing foolishly with complete disregard for his neighbors, left his room around midnight. As he locked the door, I am sure his feeble mind could not sense my presence. He lumbered down the hallway, chuckling stupidly to himself and muttering incoherent babble. As he plodded, I am certain he could not hear my silent approach. He arrived in the stairwell, failing to silence a bout of irrevocably loud and malicious laughter brought on by what one could only conjecture to be his triumph over a passing innocent girl only hours before. As he cackled, I am convinced he never would have guessed that his punishment would be so quick, so brutal, and so sudden.
The first thing Nick Munoni felt was a large needle slide viciously into his fleshy rear, the cold, vile serum shooting through the innumerable veins. His cackle turned quickly to a shriek and I silenced him with a deft chop to his throat. Grasping at the air with frightened futility, he turned to face his assailant. Before he could see who it was though, he felt a sharp, bone-shattering pain in his jaw, as his head flew back from the impact of my steel-toed boot. Unable to scream or cry out in pain, his writhing on the icy, orange-colored floor was the only indication of his agony. Tears streamed from his eyes down his distorted face as blood dripped and bubbled in his broken mouth. His punishment was almost complete. But what happened next, I can only describe as utterly incomprehensible and to this day I only wonder with shuddering apprehension at how such an event even happened.
From the very core of my being, from my warm mortal center I felt a strange, viscous presence, as if a glob of jelly had materialized in my stomach. Before I knew it, the mysterious gelatinous substance was making its way up my esophagus, seeking to escape from my mouth. Why now?! I thought frantically, as my swift vengeance was quelled by this unknown, alien intrusion. I could not stop it though. With disappointed admission, I submitted to the whims of my body, allowing the jelly-like material to hurl from my mouth. Never before have I experienced retching like this. It was hardly retching at all. The gelatin snaked its way out of my mouth, slowly and serpent-like and floated in front of me in the air. It appeared sentient, and as the last of its amber coils slinked from my mouth, I noticed that time around us had slowed to a near halt. I glanced from the liquid amber serpent to the bloody and gurgling heap of flesh I had left writhing on the ground. His movements were languid and slackened, whereas mine were normalized. I was stuck in a time warp. Of all the things that could have occurred…
But just as suddenly as lifelike jelly appeared in my gut and slithered from my mouth, it became apparent to me what was supposed to happen. This…amber gelatinous serpent materialized to assist me in my final stages of vengeance. I knew what had to be done. With a foreign mind—one light-years beyond the mortal comprehension of mysticism and the dark arts—I willed the amber serpent to blind and cover my time-halted nemesis in its viscous coils. The serpent obeyed without question and assaulted the eyes and body of Nick Munoni, incapacitating him slowly and quickly at the same time. I had never felt true power until then, my own eyes blazing with righteous fury as justice was dealt to the brutish oaf. When the amber serpent was no more and was instead covering the squirming body of my ruined adversary, time resumed its natural speed.
Near silence permeated the stairwell as Nick Munoni attempted to squirm woefully on the tiled ground. After all had been done—after my supernatural attempt at revenge had succeeded—I felt compelled to do one last thing; a final act of dominion over the boorish fool that used to be Nick Munoni to secure his everlasting place as a lesser being in my eyes and in Kona’s as well. With a strange, magical strength, I heaved his amber-slathered body over my head and dropped him down the spiraling center of the orange-tinted stairwell. A combination of a splatter and a thud was heard as his jelly-covered body hit the hard ground below. That was all I needed to hear to know that justice had been dealt.
Nick Munoni would not trifle with me or my loved ones ever again. He would know merely from experiencing his own sedative that his grotesque and swift punishment was brought about by his imprudent and barbaric actions against Kona. But he would never know who exactly brought the hand of justice to bear against him. That mere fact alone would cause more trauma and distress to him than ever could the darkest, most ancient magics of the world. And with much elation I returned to Kona’s room, noting that the hallway had gotten a little bit brighter.
A few days later, news of what had happened in the stairwell that night had fully circulated throughout the university until everyone and their grandparents knew what had happened…to a degree. No one but me would ever truly know what occurred—only that an assault had taken place and a horrific scene was left for all to behold. I will never be able to understand then why I thought that the school media would report on the wrong-doings of this Nick Munoni, knowing well that Kona and I were the only two who knew about his actions.
I experienced much aggravation in the days following the supernatural fight. Frustration, irritability…and anger still. Why? I thought. I had enacted swift, merciless retribution. The perpetrator was severely injured, both physically and mentally. He would never again have a restful night’s sleep without waking up to nightmares of amber serpents and gelatinous forms assaulting his senses. Never again would he stalk the corridors with malicious intent to harm innocents. Why then was I so angry still? It was not until I was placed in a very far-fetched and precarious situation in the school auditorium a few days later that everything unraveled before my eyes.
Kona and I, along with some other people who remain obscured to my memory, entered the auditorium one afternoon. There was an assembly of sorts within, or rather there was a performance on stage and people were watching. At the back of the auditorium however there was a small contingent of cameras and lighting equipment, sort of like a studio. They were interviewing people. Why? I cannot say. Something inside me hoped it was to report on the evil acts wrought by Nick Munoni, but logic told me that was impossible. “Next!” the interviewers cried, despite the performance going on. The next thing I knew I was in the interviewer chair, under spotlights and with cameras on me.
Confusion gripped me and I struggled to make sense of it all. The interviewers were mostly students, upper-classmen, and next to them stood Bill Trapulyo, dean of students. Even more confusion assaulted me. “Alright,” they said, placing a laptop on the desk in front of me. On its screen I saw the familiar graphics of one of my favorite videogames, my account already logged into and my character standing ready to play. In front of my game avatar stood three Slate Colossi and the Amber Drake of Narthul, all of which I knew I could easily dispatch. They told me to play as they began asking me questions. I cannot truthfully recall what these questions were, but something in the depths of my mind tells me they were trivial and unimportant. Absolutely meaningless questions fueled to feed the wandering, short-attentions of the masses. It upset me. It fanned the fires of my latent anger until they burst forth in a fiery, vicious verbal sputtering of irritation. “Hey, I got an idea,” I said with increasing volume. “How about next time you actually fucking tell me you’re going to be wasting my time with these meaningless questions, alright?” They were speechless. Even the performers on stage faltered at my growing anger. Bill and one of the male student interviewers tried to calm me down. “No!” I spat. “Don’t try to fucking calm me down! You know this is bullshit. Who the fuck cares about—” At this point I listed all of the questions they were asking me, all of which unfortunately seem to be eluding me at present. The interviewers were quelled into silence. I added one last thing before getting up from my chair: “And uhh, how about you actually get me some challenging enemies to fight next time, too?” I indicated the triumphant avatar on screen with the dead corpses of the virtual enemies strewn around it. “Cool.” With a shove, I got up from my chair and started to make my way out of the relatively silent auditorium, before being stopped by Bill Trapulyo.
“Neil, what the hell—”
“Don’t even start with me, Bill. You know why I’m pissed.” My mind was slipping.
“No, I actually don’t,” he said with a seemingly forced look of confusion.
“You know what you should be reporting on, Bill. Don’t fuck with me!” It was as if a foreign being was controlling every word that left my mouth. I didn’t want to let on that I was the one who ruined Nick Munoni but my anger was getting the better of me.
“Hmm…what ever could you possibly be referring to?” A twisted smile formed on his face. My anger, suddenly extinguished, gave way to crippling fear. I looked around and in the dark gloom of the auditorium I could see dim faces glaring at me. Bill knew. And so did everyone else. But I wouldn’t know for certain unless I confirmed it. Possessed by what I can only perceive as the submissive spirit of defeat, I spoke. “Say his name.”
What happened after that point is almost entirely lost to my memory and thus lost to the written passages of time. I can only say with slight certainty that my life was thenceforth ruined, just as the life of that lumbering oaf was ruined by my vengeful hand. I recall only two horrific fragments of that awful afternoon in the auditorium following my bout of anger: the slimy name of my amber-covered nemesis leaving the lips of Bill Trapulyo, and the defeated oaf’s very face—bruised, broken, and horribly disfigured—turning to face me from the audience to bore holes in my soul as incongruous reality finally shattered, like shards of slate and amber, around me.