The Hidden

Ronovi

06-11-2010 17:43:10

This is the fictional piece that won me a Gold Nova during the second and third weeks of the Order-based vendetta "Disorder."

WARNING: This piece contains graphic imagery and violence.

The Hidden

Sometimes, you often wonder how your heart continues to beat.

Stone walls feel enclosing to you. Cold, harsh fissures lining your vision, threatening to work their way into your own flesh and crack the bone beneath. Clammy hands grip a frosty hilt. Mist works its way from between your numb blue lips. How can it be so cold?

Yet in your mind, everything is white-hot. Heat pulsates around you, triggering hazy shades in the corners of your watering eyes. Unnatural shapes appear, taunting you. You wonder why youíre still here.

You wonder why your heart hasnít stopped yet.

The war rages on above your head. Footsteps nearly pound against your skull. Corridors lead to gray rooms. Gray rooms lead to secrets. Holocrons. Thatís your mission, isnít it? Small artifacts that can fit in the palm of your hand but contain a treasure trove of hideous knowledge.

You snake your way through narrow passages, conceal yourself in the stony silhouettes of forgotten walls and cobwebs clinging to your robes. Every step feels heavier as you go further into the earth, your lungs pinching tight and constricting air until it moves like a strained funnel into your bloodstream. When you turn a corner, you expect someone to be already there, waiting for you. You expect at least one ally to turn up, nodding and beckoning you further with a gloved hand. But there is no one there. No one at all. And you continue to wander alone.

One room practically calls to you. It is brighter than the others, standing out amongst the dullness of the granite. Your knees shake beneath you as the weight of the world above presses down upon your brow. You yearn for sanctuary. You grope for the door. It opens smoothly. You step inside.

Right into a puddle of blood.

You canít see it at first, but you smell it Ė rust and salt and iron, all mixed into a horrifying potpourri. Your boots grow sticky with it, nearly fusing with the floor beneath you. You back away, leaving red footprints. The plasma blade activates. The light guides you to the source of the crimson, like seeking the source of a red river. In the corner lies a crumpled mass, head split open like a nut, nothing within it. It is rendered a hollow shell, with strands of broken nerves and gray matter scraped against the ruins of a face.

Your stomach cannot handle the sight. You throw up noisily onto the floor. It splatters, cast in bronze from your saber. You raise your head with the saliva still dripping from your open mouth.

There arenít any holocrons here, are there?

The body belongs to a fellow Obelisk. The armor has been shattered, harsh shards pressed up against the chest, burrowing into the graying skin. The fingers are stripped to bare ivory, glistening in the warmth of the blade you hold in front of you. You shuffle further toward the corpse, careful not to let your stomach take over your instincts again. You notice the split hilt, both ends burnt, scattered opposite each other on the floor.

And then you hear the footsteps.

They seem to come from above, but you know better. You scramble from the room, stumbling as the blood grips your boots and makes you slip and skid. You leave a stained trail behind. Perfect. Just what you need, the coward who did this being able to follow tracks. This is not good.

How did it come to this? You could be back in your home system, in your quarters, swinging a sword at a mannequin for practice. You could be back in the Antei air, the chill, clashing with skeletons of your former strained alliances. Now the temple threatens to become your hollow sarcophagus, and all you can do is run. Run like the coward you never wished to be.

As you speed down the corridor, grandiose stairs rise to meet you like a forgotten breath. The footsteps behind you grow louder Ė all you can do is descend. Down you go, leaping, scuttling, like a frightened insect as its antennae waves in fear. You sense nothing, as if the Force has abandoned you. As if itís said, screw this, Iím out of here, leaving you completely and utterly alone.

How strange it feels, to be alone, with no company but the footfalls of a potential murderer approaching you. Turn the corner. Speed up. Ignore the fire in your muscles, burning the tendons, cooking the sinew. Just keep going.

Another door. You shove it open, stumbling into another gray room. Itís not dark. Itís not bright. Itís simply there. Dusty, stonyÖnothing in it. Of course. Because there arenít any holocrons, are there?

You understand now as you close the door behind you, fumbling with a latch that perhaps has not been used in years. Itís not that the holocrons were never there. Itís that someone got to them first.

The wall embraces you as you drop to your knees, nestle yourself into the chasms of a stony corner. Your breath comes back to you. Your heart keeps beating. And of course, you still wonder how. How is it that when your heart should stop it keeps wearying its maker, pumping blood until the veins tighten and the well runs dry? There is only so much more power you can circulate through you, only so much your muscles can take before they convulse and slump into a strange, catatonic sleep.

The footsteps grow louder. Louder. Your saber is still ignited. Your clenched teeth crack under the weight of unfiltered fear. And then the sounds seem to fade.

They seem to.

You rise slowly, silently. The room grows quiet. Not even your own breath rattles in your throat. Not even the fabric of your robe seems to rustle. You do not unlock the door. You do not approach the wall. You simply wait. Wait for the one to arrive.

He doesnít.

Hands grope for a splintered door. The blade cuts the latch. The door swings open with a rusty scream.

Sith. Of course.

Sith.

Just around the corner.

Heightened senses and bloodshot eyes.

Ready to spill a river of red.

Split skull and open-face carnage.

And somehow, your heart continues to beat.

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