Abaddon

The ground opens beneath you with a roar and you tumble down into the hot depths of the earth. Hands of granite slow your fall, then open wide. You grab at them helplessly; gravity sucks you down like a banquet of oysters.

You come to an open space where your screams echo and die in vastness. You fall raggedly silent. Heat buffets you from side to side; your head rings with it. You catch fire; the light from your crisping, crackling body lights a vast and moving plain, dark shapes of beasts curling and snapping upon it. One of them, greater than the rest, raises a blurred and monstrous head and fixes you with ill-matched eyes. You are a cinder, a brief flare of nothing, and it hunches deformed shoulders together to reach for you. You scream, still burning, as that shifting, protean claw draws you in.

You are caught on a palm the size of a city block. It lifts you up, glares at you through the ragged pupils of a squid. You tremble and flake away; you have run and dripped like a candle but somehow you live on, in perfect, unendurable agony.

“My little fly,” it whispers, “my untruth. Welcome to Dark; what will you do?”

The House that Peter Built

You come to a door set in the side of a mountain. No road stretches behind you, no forest looms. You have crossed a rolling plain of waving grasses and lurking ticks to find this stony shoulder. You open the door and enter in.

You are in a great hall, full of smoke and confusion. A movie plays, showing a darkened hall, full of smoke and moonlight. You make your way between rows of snarling beasts. A lion, sumptuous in maroon velvet, its mouth smeared with blood, grabs your arms with human hands and stares into your face. Breathes heavy and sour, like new beer, weeps and gnashes its teeth.

You are hung with seaweed, festooned with barnacles. You are the risen sea, come to spread despair among the menagerie, to break open the cages. The music jerks and shudders to a stop. The band, talons, claws gouged deep into wood and brass, snap their instruments in horror. A banner unfurls above your head:

WELCOME TO DARK. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Among the Unfamiliar

A great and wild emptiness fills you like a wind. It roars forth when you open your mouth and swallows the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky. It crackles from your fingers and devours the land, the trees, the beasts of the field. It bellows in your ears, plucks at your eyes, drags at the hem of your more than majestic coat. It knows your secrets, which are three, and mighty.

You are the smell of the ocean, the humus, the quiet darkness at the back of the cave. You are inward. You are the mystery of numbers, the shape of the future. You are the racing heart of time.

You awake to find yourself balanced on the edge of a cliff.

Clouds veil the ground, but far away you can hear the slush of the sea. You are in a garden on a cliff’s edge. There is a lion.

You are flying through the air, borne on the lion’s breath, flying without wings. You have made promises: of discovery, of protection, of revenge. You are clever, you are canny. You are at home in the dark. You keep a gun close and a bottle closer. You are never deceived. You are always in balance. You sleep with everyone you want.

You touch down on a plain without landmarks. Sparrows cover the sky in great numbers. Their bodies for an instant come together in towering letters:

WELCOME TO DARK. WHAT DO YOU DO?

If you want to go out the window, read below

You cut yourself on the broken glass as you pull yourself through the window, shallowly in several places on your arms and quite deeply on your left knee. You put too much weight on it, put too much trust in the stiff denim of your jeans, and long fingers of glass peeled apart fabric and skin and found the bright ocean underneath. It’s almost painless. You make a bandage out of your handkerchief and tie it as tight as you can. You remember hearing that there’s an artery in your knee, or anyway a lot of veins.

You’re pretty sure that it’s night. The sky is empty of stars, but flickers dully red like the last embers of a fire. It’s windy out here on the street, cool and blustery and uneasy, bits of paper washing against the shuttered store fronts and plastic bags trapped in the weirs of trees. You keep catching suggestions of movement out of the corner of your eye, black shapes that dart from building to building and might be either more paper or people hurrying home ahead of the storm. You know there’s a storm coming, you can feel it in the wet weakness of your left knee.

The wind blows one of the papers into your face, and you grab it out of the air without thinking. The light welling from your hands gives you just enough light to read:

Welcome to Dark. What do you do?

It might be an advertisement for a night club. It might be many things.

Always the End

You awake on the floor of a nearly empty room, empty except for a cracked plastic box a dirty beige color, your mind fogged with the residue of last night. For an instant you stare up at the ceiling, waiting for memory to come trickling back, to tell you where you are, to make familiar the walls, the ceiling, the narrow and translucent windows. It doesn’t; you’ve never seen this room before, with its unpainted walls and flickering computer terminal.

If you want to go back to sleep, read below.

Passing out brought you here, maybe passing out will take you home again. It seems worthwhile, or at least you can’t think of anything better to do, so you roll over and plunge again into that sleep heavy and bruised with the last lingering taste of whiskey.

When you wake up again the light through the windows has changed. You aren’t certain, but you think before it was sunlight and now it’s coming from the streetlights. The room is darker, and the green light of the computer terminal plays over the gray and white of the drywall, making monsters and animals out of the seams.

Your head is clear now, but you still don’t have any idea where you are or what you’re doing.

If you want to investigate the computer terminal, read below.

The terminal is old, older than any you’ve ever seen before, the kind of terminal that you see sometimes in old movies; the kind of terminal that seizes control of the missiles and threatens world war, amber text on a black background. A single line of text flashes on the screen, with a prompt underneath it, like this:

WELCOME TO DARK. WHAT DO YOU DO?

>❚

You stare for a while at the cursor, waiting for an inspiration.