The Tangibility of Darkness by Christine Galea
The darkness was only being held back by his magic, but Melchior couldn’t keep it up for much longer. And even if he could, why would he?
The billowing shadows, reeking of death and destruction, had taken his whole world. His lover. His friends. His older sister right after she had shoved him through a portal that led to here. His parents as they tried to protect his younger siblings. Everyone.
Everything was gone.
He was utterly alone in a world that thrived off of communities and companionship, and he didn’t have the will to fight anymore.
Melchior let his shield shimmer gently out of existence and accepted the approaching darkness with open arms.
The trees had gone first, the million-year old leaves and trunks shrivelling and dying like his great grandma on her 500th birthday – the last day of anybody’s life. It was both a blessing and a curse to know when you were going to die. On the one hand, you knew how many days you had left to cut off everything from the bucket list. On the other, the dread would increase as one neared his last year. After all, nobody is ever quite ready to die.
When the darkness first touched one of the Natowers, they discovered that their 500-year-old mark was gone. The little Natower died once all the veins in her body blackened; a grotesque outline of the inner system of 5-year-old Annabelle. It took less than half an hour.
The Natowers barely had time to grow weary. Their once safe haven lasted no more than 10 turnings, all filled with despair and desperation and terror and horror as their world was ravaged and purged of everything that brought them joy; families were torn apart, disappearing forever into the shadows of the great river of Techalis.
Techalis, a warlock that had gone rogue in the great years before, and his blood-thirsty monsters had been entrapped in the river’s depths since before Melchior’s memory, and he still didn’t know how the river had abruptly evaporated. Nobody really noticed until the creatures, thriving on their newfound freedom, eradicated the face of their world.
It was plain malice, staring them in the face. The inky fingers reached for him, twirling around his arms and legs, anchoring him in a place that had once been home.
It was the bittersweet reminder of his home that encouraged Melchior to open his eyes and see where the darkness had taken him.
Purple sunlight flooded his surroundings, cocooning him in its warmth, much like his mother used to do when he was younger and couldn’t bear his destiny. Surely he would be able to save everybody! However, he learned quickly that this simply was not possible when Esmeralda, another young Natower, died in his arms, comforted by the mistaken notion that he was her older brother.
Melchior hadn’t witnessed any sunlight since the shadows started spreading, infecting everyone and everything within their reach and wrapping the world in icy darkness.
Yet, the warmth was not imagined.
His mother’s blanket, the one she used to wrap him in when he was younger, was draped over him, but he wasn’t the only one under it. His two younger siblings were curled on either side of him, their hair tumbling behind them to camouflage itself against the grass. His older sister was behind him, idly manifesting butterflies like she used to do before the darkness came.
Before the darkness came.
Everything was as it had been before the darkness.
His mother and father greeted him with hugs and food, the glittery flowers more than enough to quench both hunger and thirst. The trees stood tall and proud again; the mighty guardians of the realm. His friends danced near the stream, their orange spots as radiant as ever, and Melchior used his magic to shove them in the water simply because he could.
Their laughter was better than anything that his magic could ever supply him with – companionship can never be simply magicked; it either existed or it didn’t. You either had it or you craved it with all your being.
And then Chaslite was there, gathering him in a suffocating hug and telling him how much he had missed him. Melchior could barely find any strength to hug him back; he never thought he’d see his boyfriend again, let alone be able to hold him so dearly and once again feel the steady beating of his heart beneath his palms.
It was all too overwhelming, like an overflowing glass still being filled; its contents spilling over the edge and splashing against the surface below, droplets scattering everywhere.
Scattered, never to be united again.
Forced to separate because of greed and an insatiable desire for more than one could ever have.
Chaslite was still entrapping him within the embrace, suffocating him in a way that made Melchior’s blood run cold. The ferocious beating of his heart was distracting, tuning out everything except for Chaslite’s breath on the side of his neck – it was nauseatingly hot.
“This is all gone, my love. All of it.”
Darkness descended over his senses again as the inky shadows erupted from the ground and dragged him down into its abyss.
The shadows were ever lasting, stretching in every direction and pressing down on him from all angles. Melchior tried to illuminate a path, but there wasn’t anything to see; any light was stifled by the oppressing darkness and there was absolutely nothing around him. Where was he?
“The river evaporated, remember? It was quite deep, as you would know.”
The soft voice, once yearned for, came from everywhere and nowhere, bouncing off the rocks and making its way back to him in distorted echoes. But the sound had to be bouncing off something else.
Some things, not some thing.
The screeching of talons dragging over the ground was accompanied by the ominous clicking of what Melchior could only assume were numerous, gigantic pincers, ready to tear him limb from limb and then piece him back together again with his own innards, uncaring of the blood that cascaded down his body.
Unless he was already dead and this was just a hellish promo of the afterlife.
“You’re not dead, I won’t be that merciful.”
Chaslite’s voice came from right behind him, but Melchior only grasped at air when he attempted to make up for his loss of vision with his touch. He only realised his mistake when shadowy tendrils wrapped around his wrist. His knees buckled, tears racing down his cheeks as his whole body shuddered and jerked as if there was fire chasing through his veins – the notion of seizing was rare, but he had heard of it happening. Was this it? The everlasting pain ripped through him, quickly becoming too much to endure as his magic was leeched by the one he used to trust the most.
He unconsciously tightened his tentative hold on the last remnants of his magic, but there was no way to dislodge the probing shadows.
The blood curdling scream that met his ears chilled him, and he only realised it was him when his voice gave out and an unfathomable coldness settled deep within his core, replacing the comforting warmth of his magic.
He had nothing left. Not that he was going to use his magic against Chaslite.
At least he would be able to fend off the creatures that were anchoring his legs and arms in place, their thorny skin making sure that he wouldn’t move unless he desired shredded limbs. Being caught kneeling to a mysterious foe was bad enough. Kneeling in front of a lover, a trusted comrade, blood-thirsty, cruel tyrant whose face he had once dreamed of was worse than Melchior could ever put into words.
“I don’t know how nobody noticed, honestly. It’s not like there’s much difference between Techalis and Chaslite. We warlocks were always too proud of ourselves. A bit too proud, if you ask me. But then again, all of you feared that which is stronger than you, so you locked me here for ‘all eternity’, unaware that eternity only lasted a year-”
The hypocritical pride was evident in his voice, but hearing the unoriginal, villain monologue was giving Melchior an indication as to where the other might be located, even if he had no knowledge of how the vast chasm was structured. Despite this, shock still dragged a harsh grunt from his lips when his hair was grabbed, jerking his head backwards in a move that left him vulnerable to any attack.
A freezing, bloody finger traced over his throat, teasing him with the warm glow of his usurped magic before plunging him in absolute darkness once again.
“Just get it over with, Chaslite.”
The hand wasn’t holding his head up anymore, but he could feel his own magic wrapping around him, immobilising him completely and highlighting the never-ending grotesque creatures around him; their numerous eyes glinted maliciously and golden blood dripped from their ugly pincers. His? He couldn’t really tell anymore; he was just doing his best to ignore the pain, putting it at the back of his mind lest he lose his sanity by dwelling too much on it.
Would that be a blessing or a curse?
It wasn’t like Chaslite was going to heal his wounds.
“Oh no, you know I always liked to be a tease Melchior, so this is going to be fun! Afterall, it’s just you and me now – nobody is going to save you. You’re mine for as long as I want you.”