“I’m so hungry,” thinks the man as he falls down, his body starts to tumble into a spiral as he hurtles down towards the deepest recesses of the dungeon. Admittedly, it’s an odd thing to think as he’s falling to his death, but that’s just the thought that comes to him. Maybe it’s just some crossed wire, as the pain of his eviscerated stomach hasn’t quite reached him yet, despite him having seen it being ripped out of himself. Or more aptly said, despite him still seeing it happen this very second.
His hand is stretched out, reaching for the bridge in vain, the construction however quickly becomes ever more distant with every passing moment.
He had been pushed.
It was one of his party-members. He isn’t really sure why. But he was thrown right into the middle of an attack by a pair of unseen hands and the giant, swiping claw of the thing that they were fighting had cut through him like he was nothing. To it, to the monster, it was like he never existed at all.
That’s fine. They’ve always said that you’re destined to die how you lived. He supposes that he isn’t surprised, really.
His body hangs limply in the air, suspended, flying over the gap as he is about to fall down into the maw of the world. His sense of time is entirely frozen. Nothing seems to move at all, it’s like the world has just gotten stuck in place, as if the flow of the pumping blood that courses through the veins of time simply came to a sudden stop. As if the heart of god itself had stopped beating, together with his own; if only for a moment.
His vision wanders over his party one last time, so that he can see the expressions on their faces, as the stream of time slowly returns to a normal trickle, as his last cosmic mercy comes to an end, as the incredible surging pain of the fresh wound shoots through his body like a white-hot fire that burns with an incredible intensity. Nobody in their group has ever died before. He’s the first one, after all of this time.
“It figures,” thinks the man, as he scans the row of faces locked in the middle of the battle for any signs of terror, fear, regret, sadness. For any crystal tears that could fall down like fresh snow on his behalf, as pristine ornaments that could fall together with him, so that they could too crash down to the world below and to stain it with their wet.
But there’s nothing of note in their eyes really. A few unsure looks come his way as he begins to descend, as the streak of red-water starts to leave his body, creating a ruby string that connects him to the bridge for just the briefest of moments. One or two expressions of worry are here and there. But they’re not for him as a person, they’re born out of a more general worry which implies that their creators just didn’t want anybody to die at all. It’s nothing personal, in any sense of the phrase. Except for whoever pushed him, nobody wanted anyone to die. But if someone has to, then nobody really cares if it’s him.
He understands now, as the bridge leaves his sight, as time returns to a normal tempo, as he feels his body descending down into the darkness. He understands now, as he begins to plummet downward faster and faster, passing through the gullet of the dungeon, his mutilated gestalt spiraling wildly as he falls into the seemingly endless, hungry emptiness below. He understands now with a grimace, showing through a violent clenching of his teeth, as his body falls out of itself, that this final moment he was granted wasn’t a mercy or some last divine kindness at all.
It was a final spit goodbye, right into his face.
The universe didn’t want to give him a moment of peaceful departure, it wanted him to see one final time. It wanted to hold his eyes open and make him see like he has never seen before, right as he died, that nobody, not a single soul, cares in the least.
Despite that, the man only has one thought as his eyes close.
“Why am I so hungry?”
There isn’t any particular bitter sadness, or any deep sense of regret to his being. He’s just hungry and a little tired, is all.
Eventually, he crashes into the stones so far below, his body shatters and as the darkness of death swallows him in an instant, he is relieved that if nothing else, at least he isn’t hungry anymore.
There is nothing left for his senses to perceive, save for a cold, wet darkness that then also dissipates, leaving him in a total state of void.
He doesn’t open his eyes. But he hears the voice call out in the empty. Echoing as if coming from some great distance towards him.
“Is someone there?” asks the chiming voice. The sound calls out in short, sharp, almost mechanical bursts. Like a song playing from a music box, it contains a spirit inside of it, yet there is no song being sung. It is simply a construction made out of clinking metal and feelings. Like music, the product of a soul, projected out of something entirely inhuman.
The man lays there, listening to the sound, but he feels too tired to respond to it. He isn’t sure where he is, exactly. Is this death? It’s not so bad. It feels like sleeping in on a rainy morning. As he returns to his rest, he quietly hopes that the voice will just go away on its own and let him be. He isn’t sure how long he sleeps again. But he sleeps in death for a time, until something new breaks his slumber once again.
A distant clinking.
A ringing that sounds as if it were coming through a long pipe. A melody, crystal clear and sharp. He rolls around, listening to the gentle sound, to that annoying tone which is causing him to stir from his vision-less dreams.
His stomach growls and he hates the sudden feeling of it. It feels so empty. He presses his eyes tighter shut, determined to sleep off the hunger.
“Hello?” asks the voice again as he stirs. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
The man sighs, giving in to the disturbance, so that it will leave him alone. “Are you god? Can I just die, please?”
It’s quiet for a time.
“I’m not god,” chimes the ethereal voice, its words slowly growing quieter and quieter as the sentence goes on. Something whirs, like a small crank being turned. A tiny chain can be heard, as if a grandfather clock were being wound up again. “Where are you?” asks the voice.
“Huh?” The man floats, listening to the distant echo reaching him. “I’m dead.”
The mechanism keeps turning, as something spins like the ratcheting of a music-box. “You can’t be dead, I can hear you,” says the voice, resounding around him.
“Uh… are you sure you aren’t dead? Because I’m sure I am,” says the man, trying to turn over to go back to sleep. The hunger gnawing at his core is starting to hurt and he doesn’t want to feel it anymore. “Let me sleep.”
“What’s your name?” asks the voice, ignoring his deepest wish. The man turns his head over, to look back behind himself towards the source of the voice. The darkness appears the same however, no matter which direction his gaze floats towards.
“My name? I’m uh…” He floats in whatever plane it is that he finds himself in. His name? He just knew his name a moment ago, didn’t he? Back when he was still alive. It’s uh…
“I don’t remember,” he says and closes his eyes again. The pain in his gut is crawling up his bones now. His fingers twitch. But he ignores it, he ignores the feeling of a body. He keeps his eyes closed. He’s dead now. He’s sleeping now. Just a while longer, okay? He doesn’t want to get up just yet. He’s too hungry. He wants to rest a little longer.
“That’s sad,” says the voice rather plainly. The music-box chirps on in the distance and then stops. The sound of a chain winding itself up again fills the void, as some crank somewhere is turned. “Do you want a new one?”
“Huh?” asks the man. “That's a weird thing to say, you know?”
“I can give you a new one,” suggests the voice, ignoring his comment. “But I need your help first. I’m stuck.”
The man floats, thinking about it for a while. But now he’s starting to get annoyed. “I just want to sleep, okay? I don’t want a name. I’m too hungry to get up. I’m sorry that you’re stuck, but find someone else, alright?”
“Please?” asks the voice softly, ignoring his agitation. The winding of the mechanisms continues to play out, as the only thing that breaks the quiet between them. “You’re the first person who’s been here.”
He groans, annoyed. “Just go to sleep like me until someone else shows up then. It’s easy.”
“I can’t sleep.” The chain winds itself up again. The grinding sound reminds him of the rumbling of his own gut. Why is he so hungry? “Was that your stomach? I heard that all the way over here,” laughs the voice. “Why don’t you eat something if you’re hungry?”
He thinks about that question for a while before he finally realizes that the stranger has a point. He’s been tossing and turning for the entire night, trying to ignore the hunger in his body. Why doesn’t he just get up and eat something first? Then he can go back to sleep and maybe even sleep peacefully if his stomach is full. He sighs.
Maybe it is time to get up.
Something strange lurches in his breast and it takes a moment for him to understand what the odd sensation is that now moves this body for the first time.
There. There it is again.
A pulse, a wave that courses through him. It’s moving him, it’s filling him with the energy of life. The pulse comes again, his fingers stretch and tingle with a sharp, nibbling pain as blood courses through them. His heart beats again and his legs flinch, his toes scraping across the rock.
Fire. Fire burns through his body and the man wrenches his mouth open, he wrenches his eyes open, as his fingers claw into the muck and the dirt. Fire burns his skin as he flails and tosses and turns, his body cracking and his joints snapping as he rolls over. Frigid, damp air strokes his skin, strokes his hair. The strange, distant current of soft wind whispering into his ears, as he pulls himself upright, as he tears off the strands of muck and mold that leash him to the dirt like a tethered animal.
It hurts. He’s hungry. He’s empty.
The wind whispers to him softly as he rises for the first time.
The man claws against his stomach that is flatter than he recalls, tearing and ripping off the film of mold that has grown around this body. Tearing and ripping off the worms that are crawling in his flesh. The holes they leave behind, slowly regrowing right before his eyes as he rips them out of their fleshy burrows.
There’s a distant voice that he can hear, but its tone is overpowered by his own feral screams as he tears himself free from the grave, as the wind continues to laughingly whisper into his ears, saying only one, single thing.