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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Listening For That Sweet Tune: Chapter XXX: Blood Cellar

The following is a dream sequence in Listening For That Sweet Tune towards the end of the novel. At this point our main protagonist, Ben Lamb, has figured out that when he sleeps he ends up killing someone in his dream whether it be intentional or not and it has kills someone in the real world. Ben has avoided sleep to prevent any innocent lives from dying but now he has discovered that when he dreams, it may not even be his dream. He finds out in a previous chapter that he has the capability of invading other peoples dreams and kill the dreamer as they sleep, if you are the one dreaming while Ben invades your dream then if you die in your dream you die in real life. Ben has fallen asleep and in order for the dream to stop, he must kill the dreamer, whoever it is, so he can continue his journey in the real world. To read the novel from the beginning as a rough draft click here. It ends abruptly for a reason in order to give the reader a sense of not knowing how it will end till it is published. In the current draft of the novel, there are several new chapters between events in the rough draft and it goes well past when it ends on the blog. The novel currently is almost done and has passed 150,000 words. Enjoy the following chapter and please let me know what you think. 

Waking up put me in a nightmare among the others. It was no longer something that could make be wishing for a new death but that doesn't mean I wasn't scared. Finding little room to move my arms and legs with only a few inches of clearance above me I figured I was in a coffin. Breathing fast I started to scratch at the ceiling of the coffin hoping that the boards would come loose easily but it only took seconds to figure out it was built by a trusty carpenter fearing the dead may walk again someday which, kudos for him but that only makes my situation worse. Balling my hands into fists I started banging using all the momentum I could gain as the swing came to a halt against the planks of wood. 

I couldn't find the strength to keep pounding as my breath's became shorter. I had to be in here for a while already because the oxygen entering my lungs was very scarce--I had little time to get out. I placed my arms against me then started to search my pockets for anything but there was no such luck. I then started to feel around me—not being able to see much in the darkness—and noticed something was underneath me. I arched my back up and placed my arm under me to see what it was. It immediately cut my hand and I realized that it was a knife. 

Grabbing the knife and pulling it in front of me I realized that it was a very thick blade with a fairly sturdy handle. I grasped it firmly in my right hand and swung up forcing the blade between a few boards. I then twisted it breaking the boards loose. Dirt started pouring in the coffin as it was loose—just recently buried—and the dust started to travel into my lungs.  From what space I could find I took off my tie and unbuttoned my shirt and placed it around my face so I wouldn't get any more particles of dirt inside of me. Using the knife and other hand to dig my way up, I placed the dirt to fill up all the crevices inside the coffin towards my feet and the remainder of my lower half till i could displace the dirt vertically versus horizontally till I was at a crouch. 

Pushing higher and higher, dirt continuously fell on my face and I then packed it beneath me. The air continued to grow thin and I struggled to find breath. My eyes grew heavy as my breaths continued to be shallower and I realized that I was dying. Thinking of everything I have done all just to find answers.  Who I was, where I am, who was Serenity and what purpose she served, was my fate to be a Wretched? I felt the darkness creep up on what was left of my soul and I dreaded that I was to remain a Wretched for the last of my days neither alive or dead but then I remembered the Mother Sow, she has power over all and if she willed it, it would happen.

Suddenly I gasped for air and realized that I could see the night sky as I fell over in my dark hole in the ground. I took the shirt from off my face and buttoned it back on my body now covered with dirt with the energy that I still had after I felt the full effect of atrophy on my lungs. Random lights flickered and moved as a great tidal wave of colors passed by, this was the night I knew and loved and there was no stopping me now. I crawled forward on the ground with my newfound strength and found that I was in a graveyard. The stale stench of dirt and what I assumed to be dead bodies filled the air as I tried to gasp for it. I felt sick to my stomach yet I was somewhat relieved to be able to smell something no matter how discomforting it was. Gravestones of angels and giant crosses towered over me as I began to stand above my grave. Looking back to my own stone it was small and had strange lettering that I did not understand but in bold lettering I guessed was my name. Trying to get my breath back, my heart raced glad to receive more than my last dying breaths. Listening carefully to how loud I was in the cemetery I tried to breathe quieter hoping I wouldn't awaken the dead but before I knew it I heard a rustling of dirt being moved from one location to another. 

I ducked closer to the ground looking around making sure nothing saw me. The noise continued steadily with no pause—nothing heard me. Looking over a few tombstones I saw a large stone mausoleum almost the size of a church building as they should be for the amount of bodies they have in them, dead or alive. Inside, lights were flickering as I saw through the windows in which made me think this place was in an older area of wherever I was. and I noticed the torches outside of the mausoleum lit its perimeter up but this was not where the sound was coming from. From what I could tell I could see movement within the building but I dared not to approach it until I figured out what was out with me. 

Turning around and leaning near another large tombstone I saw movement near the ground about a dozen yards away from me. A gas lamp that was on the ground beside the figure revealed that it was wearing a black cloak that covered its whole body other than a face and the face was that of a plague doctor from another century and perhaps another world away. The beak towered a foot out from his face and he had thick goggles on. I stood amazed that it could breathe and see in such a contraption but they were not meant for seeing but breathing in filtered air of flowers manufactured scents and even the ocean—anything was possible. I listened again and I could hear heavy breathing along with digging and then a big thump of the shovel hitting whatever he was digging up. The cloaked figure crouched into the hole putting him no longer in my view. I could hear it talking amongst itself then several cracks of wood and he stood back up seeming to be pleased with itself. 

Using this moment to my advantage I moved a few tombstones closer noticing something glistening in the darkness a few feet away from where the figure and the hole was. It was a wheelbarrow but it wasn't used for dirt, in fact it wasn't used for anything, at least, not yet. It sat besides the grave robber’s hole glistening in the moonlight as it was made of metal and old pieces of wood. Cracks echoed through the air around me from the wooden coffin the figure was tearing apart. After another few minutes he threw a body out of the hole. The mouth was wide open as if it was screaming and its hands were petrified up as they were trying to scratch out of the coffin and I realized that this person was buried alive like myself but was unable to escape which I apparently had a knack for. The figure climbed out of the hole and picked up the body to put it in the wheelbarrow. The figure jolted and looked my direction. I ducked and lay flat on the ground hoping it didn't see me but my gut felt like it did. I could hear a squeaking from the wheelbarrows wheel coming my direction so I began to head towards the other hole taking another path so the figure wouldn't see me. 

A light passed me as I hid behind a large tombstone followed by a squeaking from the wheel and it became apparent that the figure was going to check my grave. I hurried while skulking to the other hole and looked around and down in it to see if there was anything left for me to use because all I had was a small knife, the poor person who was buried did not have any tools left within the coffin. I heard the figure yell—though it was all muffled because of the mask—which sounded he was trying to get someone's attention. I looked over towards my grave and saw another figure standing beside the one that was yelling. This one had a black cloak on as well but instead of a plague doctor mask it was that of a pelvic bone of someone or something with blackness that filled the holes in the bone. It sat cradled on his head as if it was some sort of crown but it was big enough that you could see his eyes in the holes of the bone. His eyes were anything but one solid color in fact they were many, so many that I could not discern what color they were and thought they were some color I never had seen before. I could hear it breathing heavy and what I would expect to be a screech or menacing laugh was simple English. I could not hear what the one with the crown was saying but the plague doctor responded promptly, still angry over the fact that I escaped. The plague doctor stood up from where he was and led the wheelbarrow towards me again. 

Smaller tombstones surrounded this hole and being crouched behind a small stone would not cut it for hiding. I looked below me and saw the chance that I could not pass and I jumped into someone else's coffin hoping I would not be sucked into death one more time. While keeping my head down low I heard the wheelbarrow squeak past. I poked my head out of the coffin when the sound dissipated to see the two figures were heading to the mausoleum so I jumped out quickly and headed forward so I could see past the doors as they swung open. Tombstones got smaller to the point of being a foot or so over the ground to plates that just sat in the soil. I got down to a crawl and tried to keep quiet till I reached a far enough point to see what I was to expect. Rolling over only a couple of times I remained quiet in front of a small tombstone where I would hide till they were no longer in view. Peeking over the side of the tombstone I could see the one with the crown take out a ring of appropriately named keys and placed one into the keyhole. He pushed the doors wide open then turned around to pick up the body within the wheelbarrow and walked inside. I looked carefully to see what could be inside.

Swift shadows ran by the door playing in the flickering lights of candles jumping up and down trying to be as tall as the main figures but they walked on fours. They could have been large dogs in fact that was the most likely case but this wasn't the world as we knew it. I was, somewhere else. The heavy doors were closed behind the two figures leaving monsters and creatures alike screaming behind a locked vault. I waited behind the tombstone feeling the grass on my chin and the cold air in my lungs. Movement continued as I looked through the stained glass windows beside the large doorway. The lights in the room dimmed and all grew quite as I waited among the worms. 

Suddenly I felt something digging a hole into the middle of my skull. A burn of white coals melting through my flesh till I started breathing smoke. I got up from where I was—now in shock—and stumbled towards the front doors of the mausoleum. Clocks started ticking in the distances and gears started to grind against another followed by screams of I couldn't only imagine to be victims of a horrific crime. Nearly blind I struggled to walk up the steps to the front doors but as I expected the doors were locked. I didn’t know what I was thinking hoping to face the creatures head on but a it was a need that only this action could suffice. I fell to my knees then fell on the concrete steps rolling down till I fell into the grass my hands were against my ears trying to snuff out the noise but it was too powerful and I laid there till all that was left of me left my body. 

Once again finding myself in a pool of my own blood I looked up to the night sky that was completely black. Sitting up I noticed that the front doors were now opened and I could go inside. Struggling to find strength to get up I also felt my head where I felt the burning just moments ago. There was no scar and there wasn't any real proof that something was even there as if something was burning inside of me. As I got up I reached for the knife that was now beside me and walked into the mausoleum. 

Everything was some form of stone or concrete or glass when I entered other than the doors which were wood. People were buried in their perspective graves and not a single sound was uttered among these men. I could hear my shoes click with every step and an echo followed from the other side of the building. Dressed in appropriate funeral fashion I realized that I was clean again. There was no remnants of dirt or any type of particles that would make it evident that I was buried alive. I loosened my tie which I felt was choking me slowly but as I loosened it I could still feel a compression on my neck that only tightened. Barely seeing in front of me I walked carefully among the graves. As I reached the end and approached another doorway I looked to where it went. I wondered if I turned around I would find myself in a different reality in which I wasn’t buried alive and I was in a entirely different world in which that I awoke to find myself in. I turned around to see if I could turn back and wait till my pain was eased but all I saw was darkness and it creeped forward and I dreaded that if I faced the darkness I would find myself in another coffin but this time I would actually be dead.

I went down further into the ground heading down the staircase that was in front of me much like everything does here. Descending the steps, I walked cautiously now that I could see a flickering light below. I could hear the mechanics of machines and sounds of animals fighting with each other up until I reached the bottom then everything went quiet as if everything knew I was there. As I looked forward when I reached the bottom of the stairs there was only a long straight hallway with doors on both sides. A dull light was above every door and a bright one at the very end of the hallway. I walked past the first doors and I noticed they were metal. There was a moving metal piece about eye height that let me see into the room so I looked into the one to my left. 

I saw a chair in the middle of a spotlight from above. All the corners were dark and I questioned if someone was hiding in the shadows. I looked back to the chair and I noticed it was metal as well as being bolted to the rust looking metal floor. I saw metal shackles that attached to the legs and arms of the chair as if it was to hold someone firmly in the seat while some second party would do whatever to whoever they wanted. I dreaded the implications of this place if I would find myself caught by someone or worse, something. Seeing nothing else I wondered if I could get inside to further investigate but the door was locked but I thought long and hard if I really wanted to know what was in there and the truth was, I didn't. I crossed the hallway to the one that was on my right. Moving the piece of metal that revealed a small peephole I looked through the hole and I could only see the blackness of a void of light. This door was locked as well but I feared of something looking back at me in the darkness, mouth dripping with saliva waiting for its next meal. I had no intention of entering this room but I wanted to know if whatever was in here could get out and get me and I was confident nothing could.

Checking the next set of doors I heard a scream from further down the hallway behind one of the doors. At a light jog I traveled forward to where I think I heard the scream—I was now midway to the bright light at the end of the hall. I moved the metal piece on the door to look past the door on the right side of the hall and there was nothing but darkness. Just figuring it was the wrong door I began to close the slide but I heard it again. This time it was even further down the hall but I also began to see movement behind the door I was near. I could see movement in the darkness but I couldn't figure out what it was. Another scream occurred but this time it was behind the door I was near but it wasn't an ordinary scream but of something animal. Looking harder everything stood still but I could hear the tearing of flesh and grunts of anger as it grew louder and louder I couldn’t discern the sound of the creature from my own thoughts. Unable to distinguish what was happening I closed the slide and all sound stopped as if the room was soundproof, I continued down the hall. 

I went to the door across from the one I was just at and looked in and this time I was greeted by something my mind could comprehend. I looked through the hole in the door to see dogs but they were mutated into something else entirely. Their mannerisms and sounds were that of dogs. They paced the dimly lit room rattling the chains they were attached to while they were sniffing the air waiting for their owners to come and release them. There was no fur on these creatures, in fact it was something like the opposite. They were slimy as if they were closer to a lizard or some sort of reptile but their body structure was that of a large dog. One barked and it sounded awful as if the years of longing and torment could be spoken in one simple phrase. It didn’t sound like a dog but like some low screech that you would expect from a apex predator. I made a clicking noise with my mouth to see if I could get one of their attentions and I got all of them. They all looked at me and bared their long and sharp teeth that were yellow and bloody from their past meals. These weren’t animals by nature, they were trained to be this way, no animal could be so fierce unless if it was taught that way by some other person or creature. They began to run at me but their chains yanked them backwards and they could travel more than half of the room. They were all chained in their respective corners only to endure their masters judgement. It occurred to me that the real implications of this place gave me false assumptions of what lay underneath the warm soil. It was a cold place full of torture and self loathing and there was no escaping it. As I looked back to the staircase hoping to just stay with the cadavers in their coffins I saw the black nothingness creep closer to me preventing me from leaving. It engulfed the first few doors in the hallway with all that were being tortured and the light that came with it. I made my bed, now I had to lie in it. I looked the only direction I could go and that was toward the bright light at the end of the hall—which was just a dozen or so feet away from me. I could not see what was on the other side of the light but if I was being chased by darkness, it was the obvious place to go. 

Now heading towards the bright light I could hear something behind all the doors. Some had screams others had machines--it got very loud very quick. Several doors at once i could hear pounding against the doors with screams for help but everything was off. I immediately thought that the cries of help were just siren calls fearing I would die upon stopping. Making haste with the fear of crippling sound, I reached the rays of the bright light at the end of the hall and it was like an explosion went off because everything was muddled as I heard a light high pitched tone like my ears blew out. I stumbled further into the light and some clicking of metal occurred behind me. I turned to see I was trapped in some cage but I couldn't see how big or small because of the blinding light. The sound was unbearable; I closed my eyes trying to focus on something else other than the pain in my skull but it was too much. I began to panic and before I knew it all went black and I passed out.

I woke up in darkness. I was laying soundly on the floor but something woke me up suddenly but I could not make out what took me out of my slumber. I was unsure where I was but it looked at if the darkness that was pursuing me had engulfed everything around me and left nothing as if I was sucked into a black hole. The floor that I was laying felt like it was dirt and I began to stand up while looking around me I looked around my shoulders and turned around to see that I was in some black pit. Before I knew it a light shone on my position in the room and I could see it was some spotlight far in the distance. I looked at myself and the ground beneath me and I was in similar attire but everything had been torn and well used as if I was marooned on a island for months. I could see old and new blood on my clothes and I realized that I had been here for a while but for how long? At this point I wondered of all the implications of when I slept. How long do I sleep and does it correlate appropriately on a natural timeline or would months seem like minutes in the real world? In the middle of thought I heard a crackle in the distance and then a overbearing voice.

“Welcome Ben Lamb! We have been eagerly waiting for you!” A voice said in the distance but was amplified by a microphone or some otherworldly booming tone. I could not tell if the voice was that of a woman or that of a man because I heard many voices as if they were speaking in unison Several other lights went on around me to reveal I was in some sort of gladiatorial stadium made of stone and other natural building materials and I was in the middle of the pit. I looked up above me to see the sky but it was clear I was underground as it appeared we sat in some large cave under the planets crust. Thousands of people sat in the crowd but they had no faces but I could feel their gazes pierce my very soul. They clapped and cheered and chanted in their respective voices and there were many. Some lights focused on a stadium box that was up front and center with a few recognizable faces and a few unknown ones. The man who had the pelvic bone as a crown stood to the left, the plague doctor who I met in the cemetery stood to the right and in the center was a man in a suit and a large mask of a male lion with a full mane. Behind him I could see several other people hidden in the darkness but they dared not to show their faces though I was sure that they would be as weird and intricate as the ones in front of them.

“Who are you?” I asked at a near yell. Everyone grew quiet as the one with the lion mask raised his hands to quell their voices.

“Who we are does not matter to you in this point in time. Why we are here is a more appropriate question.”

“Okay.” I said somewhat confusingly. “Why are you here?” 

“We are here to watch you fight Ben, to fight for your life.” I dreaded the implications of me fighting for my life for I had no idea whose dream this was. If it was my own, I would die if I died in my dream like I decided in dreams that had passed but if it was someone else’s then if they died the nightmare would end and I would awaken but I would have killed another person. I wondered if I could do anything to wake the dreamer whether it be me or someone else but I was unsure of the implications or even how I would accomplish such a feat. I prepared myself to fight for my life and began to search for a weapon and found that the knife I had previously was in my pocket. I took it out and unfolded it and got in a defensive position as many sounds around me began to echo through the stadium and the cave that surrounded us. I noticed there was a gate on one end of the stadium that was beginning to open and I saw a lot of movement through the cracks of the gate as it opened. Soon before I knew it the mutated dogs that I saw just moments earlier raced out from behind the gate as it opened and ran at me furiously eager to eat their first meal from what I would guess in weeks. 

There were four dogs in total and they screeched and yelped as they got closer to me. One reached me in jumping distance and leaped towards me while chomping down in anticipation of eating. I thought quickly and got down into a lower position and as the dog jumped over me I pushed my body up to knock the dog out of its intended path and against the wall that I backed myself into. He thumped against the wall and before it could shake off the sudden impact of hitting the wall I got closer to it and stabbed it between its ribs. I did not feel good about killing this creature but I felt if I put these creatures out of their misery, it would put my mind at ease, dream or not. The crowd booed as I took the knife out of the dogs ribs and it sat motionless but began to cheer as they saw the other dogs acted like wolves and surrounded me backing me against the wall. They snarled and snapped their jaws at me in attempt to feed off my fear in anticipation. The one to my left jumped at me first and hoping they did not learn from their past mistakes I prepared to perform the same move I did on the first dog but as I reacted to the dog jumping at me the dog directly in front of me reacted to my sudden movement and began to run right at me. I threw the dog from my left onto the dog to my right and before I could put my attention to the dog that was running right at me I was knocked onto my back my the same dog and it attempted to take a big bite out of my throat. I dropped my knife in the struggled and placed both of my hands on the dogs face and with one quick movement I snapped its neck. 

The crowd booed again as the crack of cartilage echoed through the stadium and they realized that the life of the second dog had departed. I was not proud of it, in fact this very moment was beneath me and I knew that if there was a way to solve this problem without violence I would but something deep down within my soul loved taking the life of the dog and it made me sick. The dog grew limp on top of me and was overbearing with its significant weight, malnourished or not, these dogs were still heavy. I pushed the dog off of me to see the remaining two dogs staring at me knowing that they might not make the cut. Between me and the dogs sat the knife buried in the dirt and I knew that if I was to make it out of this alive I had to get that knife. I jumped towards the knife as the dogs ran towards me at the same time in unison and before I could think I reacted with instinct and all I saw was the color red. I heard a yelp and the crowd booed again so I knew I had the upper hand and when my vision came back to me the third dog had fallen and the fourth ran towards the open gate in fear. 

I was covered in blood, sweat, saliva, and dirt and I knew that I had successfully fought off the dogs. I walked to the middle of pit of the stadium as the people were quiet. They didn’t intend on my survival and neither did I but I prevailed over all the obstacles and I basked in the glory regardless of how degrading it was. I looked back towards the man with the lion mask and it stood up from its chair and walked to the balcony that separated me from it. It thought long and hard about its next words as the crowd began to murmur with each other and he raised his hands and everyone stopped talking immediately.

“Ben! I am glad to see you survived but that was not your only test.” He was smug and I was disappointed to know I still had to fight but I now realized that the only way out of this place was to kill the one who was dreaming. I looked around the crowd to see if anyone stood out from each other, some familiar face that would give away the one that was dreaming but everyone looked the same. I looked back to the one with the lion mask and wondered if this masked figure was the one who had all the cards, the one who thought of this whole scenario or even the plague doctor or the man with the bone crown but it appeared the creature with the lion mask could read my thoughts. “You want out? I am confident you don’t want to kill the one who dreams, the owner of this realm.”

“I do!” I yelled back.

“So be it.” The creature with the lion mask walked away from the balcony and sat back down and clapped his hands when I herd a screech from the other side of the gate that was now opening again. I used my wrist to wipe the sweat of my brow and exhaled in anticipation; this was it. I did not know what to expect but the screeches sounded oddly familiar and moments before the creature crashed through the gate and forcing it to open faster, it clicked. The creature who forced the gate open was a familiar one, I had faced this creature before and when it showed its face from the darkness and screeched through the air. This creature had chased me in previous dreams and attempted to kill me more than once but it was the creature I released from the locked institution room just days ago in a few dreams previous. It was locked in a padded room for what I guessed to be its own protection and the safety of others and I released it and it was time to finally face the thing that I dreaded. 

Like times in the past the creature had no face, just a black void similar to the Wretched but unlike the Wretched, the nothingness that was the skin of the creature did not consume and warp the light around it. It remained in its white blood stained straight jacket and its fingers that now were ripped out of the jacket were that of daggers and other sharp objets. The spotlight that was once on me now was on the creature and its black flesh somewhat reflected the light as if it was slimy and wet. It creeped closer to me and spoke to me but just like in times in the past I could not understand its speech, in fact the very speaking of the creature made me uneasy and clench my head in agony. It stopped speaking knowing that it was causing me discomfort and I realized that the creature was more than some animalistic mindless creature, the creature in fact had complex thoughts and could critically problem solve. The creature creeped closer to me showing no sign of aggression but spoke again. Similar to before, I could not understand it but it was the tone of its voice was what caught me off guard. The very voice of the creature hurt my mind but it sounded accepting, like it understood what was going to happen. It greeted me with arms wide open and I approached it with my knife in hand and before it could utter a single other word I stabbed it in the chest. The crowd cheered as it fell to the ground but I did not feel accomplished, nor did I feel good with my actions; I just felt awful. Who did I just kill? 

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