The floor base, stairs, pillars, and even statues all seemed to be carved and sanded down from jade, marble, ruby...strange carved figures that clung to every pillar, peered up from every floor stone. It was all worn down low now and faded, perhaps two or three millennia old. This place was made with a sinister handcrafted beauty, shapes and structures combined and interwoven with a grotesquerie and grace he had never before seen. It barely even seemed human; perhaps only in the most vague sense of the word.
There was no ceiling or apparent roof to this place, and several three-story pillar-towers that, for the most part, having been completely decimated by time and weather, rose and disappeared into the looming darkness above. Intense looking insectoid statues haunted the inner structure randomly. Smaller insect carvings (still slightly larger than human) seemed to bow down in a leering terror to something much larger and more powerful.
Strange stone insects, almost caricatures of real life insects, centipede-type things, stood timeless and quite menacingly, between their size and the expressive faces of the carvings. This place reminded him of something like an evil, far more ancient Angkor Wat.
While studying this odd temple, Victor heard another sound...a trickling. He began to follow the faint echo to its source: fresh, cool water flowing freely from the mouth of some monstrous bug-headed fountain. He lowered his face to the ornate basin, and though he wanted to blindly gulp it down, he fought the instinct and took merely a small mouthful and waited for a moment. After not passing out or getting sick, he feverishly plunged his head into the basin and began to drink, the cool water refreshing beyond belief. He stripped and splashed and bathed and drank, then continued, naked and air drying (another serious relief), to investigate the rest of this apparently sacred ancient ruin.
The odd pale flowers he had noticed outside earlier grew in here as well, sprouting all along the walls. They seemed more vibrantly colored in here, however, in blues, pinks, purples, and every shade in between. They were also different in that Victor noticed a large black and cubical pod the size of his fist sprouting from the dead center of each flower. Using his Bowie knife, he carefully slit the side of one of the pods. A thick and sticky white goo oozed out like albino molasses. With his pinkie finger he touched it, tasted it.
“I’ll be a son of a bitch!” For a moment, Victor was jubilant. Snatching several pods, he began to devour them, seeds and all. He believed he knew exactly what this was.
Briefly Victor thought he may have found Paradise, if only but for one brief, ludicrous moment.
With a slightly renewed vigor, he began to try and collect up any dry and nearby wood and vine he could find scattered about. He could also feel this undiscovered natural narcotic kicking in as his throbbing hand eased, and his tension, even outlook, shifted. This was indeed stronger than any opiate he had ever ingested, and as the dusk came down, so did Victor.
He sat and dug into his rations, nothing more than a slimily processed ham and cabbage in a little vacuum sealed bag. Victor lit a smoke afterwards and laid back on his damp clothes (he had rinsed them in the bug-headed basin fountain as well), the marble floor cool on his warm skin.
He noticed there were no mosquitoes inside the ruins, and if there was a moon out looming over the darkness he could not tell. The trees completely blotted out the night sky, and in fact created a natural ceiling to this vast cubical ruin. In his stuporous relaxed state he instead watched the immense bats begin to wake and leave the ruins for their nightly hunt, a site quite unlike anything he had ever seen before. They reminded him of the Orang-Bati legends from Indonesia. Watching the gigantic bats swoop down in their unique spiraling maneuvers of sonic predation to grab the little creatures he did not before notice had a strangely hypnotic and calming effect on his psyche.
Victor felt no pain now as the most potent and beautiful narcotized slumber overtook him, slowly but oh-so surely.
Hypnogogic dream-visions danced behind his closed eyes and flash-fluttered sexy silhouetted succubi that had materialized from the darkness. Every one of these devil dream girls possessed soft full hips gyrating slow and intensely. They were touching each other’s tongues, each contact burning like magnesium flares, sparkling out in all colors, some he’d never even seen before.
These gorgeous and ethnic devil girls looked stranger than that, however. Their limbs were spindly, yet they still possessed clockwork figures crowned by seduction-trained faces. Nothing is free fleeted through his mind as their black vortex eyes latched onto Victor’s like fishhooks through genitalia.
One in particular stood out, emerged from the color-flash chaos of seizure-strobe nightmares. Not so ethnic, this one...Charlene...her porcelain skin radiating like some kind of white-hot uranium as she drew near.
Victor wanted to hold out his hand but felt restrained. Charlene stood before him, fully exposed, her large breasts heaving with every deep dream-lust breath, her spindly arms beckoning him.
Standing now, Victor approached Charlene. She lay back on an invisible table, put her legs up, bent at the knees, exposing fully her smooth womanhood. “Victor, come to me my love. And make me cum...I know all you want is to touch me, to caress me and make love to me...oh how badly I know you have waited for this visit, my little Yekubian.” Almost touching her sacred femininity, she cooed, and quite teasingly covered herself with her hand, beckoning him once more.
Drooling, aroused, half-mad with lust for his love, Victor parted her legs, brought his face down into her, and as she opened her smooth pink folds to his wanting lips, dozens of cum-covered centipedes began exploding out of her mandibular cunt. Not just into Victor’s slackened mouth, but up onto her own smooth flat belly and over her voluptuous breasts...into her flaxen hair...and into her dead black vortex eyes.
In suffocating horror, Victor tried to bellow a muffled scream and watched her face as it changed—in an instant quicker than a blink—to the strange skinny opium whore from that night on leave. “Con Rit! Yekub, Juk-Shabb!” Her face recast itself again in a blink, malformed into mandibles, feelers. Victor reached up to grab her face, to make it stop, and she bit him. Pulling his hand back frantically, he looked away from his dream-form insect whore-love. The ache in his hand was like being shot all over again.
The imminent feeling of suffocation awoke Victor from this dreadful night terror.
His right hand felt wakingly restrained, and the dream agony remained. He gasped hard for a breath, his skin all crawling and tingly. Victor looked to his agonized right hand and it let go, whatever it was, scuttling off into the shadows somewhere. Still naked (and half erect) Victor jumped up, the adrenaline fueling such a pure terror never before felt coursing hard through his veins (retaining, then, his erection through sheer fault of physiology). This was a phobic, primal terror of ancient primordial instinct. This thing was amongst the mildewed marble shadows, somewhere, watching him right now; waiting. He could smell it, that same honeysuckle stench of the rotten whore/Charlene’s vaginal-vector nest from his hellish dream, like the foul mud outside. Victor knew then that this thing had been following him for quite some time. He could feel it in his mind.
He looked down to his hand, the bullet wound obviously infected, though he saw now that the same hand had been gnawed virtually to the bone. The pain faded, again, and Victor could not feel it, though he was most definitely seeing it.
His equilibrium still off balance, his mind and body in a state of total disbelief, panic and shell-shock, he grabbed his clothes up (quite vigorously shaking them out for bugs), and dressed quickly. He heard the echo of the thing in the darkness, many legs scuttling in the shadows, its clickety-clacking a horrid horde-like sound as it slinked its way around Victor, always watching from the shadows. He couldn’t see it. He thought about the tiger while surveying every dark corner and crevice, the entirety of its stomach cavity having been eaten away.
The sun was beginning to rise, and the darkest portions of the back of the temple were fading into that new dawn gray. Victor could hear clearly all those horrible legs clacking along the ancient smooth marble.
He thought, if only for a moment, that he could now make out a vague form along one of the female human-insect crossbreed statues, wrapped around the ancient carving like some vile clothing accessory. He could feel as it watched him intently, a long dark shadow making ghastly strange sounds. Awful, almost taunting chitters echoed from the corners around him, bouncing off all that ancient smooth marble and rebounding off the malformed statues that surrounded him, seeming to come from their twisted ruby and jade stone lips.
Victor slowly began to move backwards, noticing the bones and varied remains of animals and humans alike, scattered everywhere he could see. They rattled beneath his clumsy and tired feet, offering no attempt at an inconspicuous escape. As the quality of light increased, Victor also began to take notice of the immense glyphs lining the entirety of the slime-sheened walls, put there by an ancient culture that made Babylon seem like a recent nation. Strange creatures in the sea, many legs...offerings of ancient women of pleasure to truly awful things. All these statues...mere artistry replicating a sacrificial dinner to some kind of...
It slammed his skull like an anvil from the sky, that word! The whore, the opium. Black Poppy she had called it...the other powders (something foul called the “black meat”) she put in with it, and that tantric fuck-word.
“All too real, for you, soldier boy. Con-Rit...Yekub...Juk-Shabb.”
Flight response (now a perpetual habit) kicked in instantly, and Victor began to run, stuffing handfuls of the Black Poppy pods that grew in such sheer abundance into his mouth and his pockets as he bounded down the desiccated corridor of grimacing and sexually explicit female statues...sacrificial women intertwined with quite aggressive and immense crawling things, each statue a more horrific atrocity than the one before it, surrounded by those deep carved glyphs of which one could only begin to speculate upon the levels of madness to their meaning.
He could hear the beast behind him, scuttling clumsily over the piles of bones from past offerings, chitters echoing still but now actually becoming the voices of his past, the things that had haunted him every day since long before that goddamned draft letter arrived. These voices came sick and hissing from the parting lips of these monstrous carved beings, and he could see their heads in his ace peripheral vision, following him in the pinkish hue of almost full daylight.
Bones rattled and snapped with great force behind Victor, beneath what he could only imagine to be the forceful exoskeletal trampling train of a segmented boxcar beast, though he dare not look behind to find out.