Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Contract

Ha!  I rescued a couple of stories that I wrote as a high school freshman from an old floppy disk.  That's pretty fun, as I'd assumed that these were non-extant.  They were all in that weird unicode you get with old word documents, where paragraph breaks are stripped out, quotation marks and apostrophes are replaced with black diamonds with question marks in them, and the whole thing is surrounded by sundry random gibberish, but it was easy enough to reformat them.

This first one is something that I wrote for my English class.  Hard to say what the exact assignment was, but KNOW THIS: it was entered in the whatever contest for student writing, where it won the coveted SILVER KEY.  Not as coveted as the gold key, but what to the evs, man!  My mother took me to the award ceremony, where the presenter mispronounced both my first and last names.

As you'll see if you actually bother to look at it, it's not what you'd call a great story, but my teacher raved about it, based--clearly--on the fact that it's pretty stylistically sophisticated for something written by a fourteen-year-old.  Not much else to say, except that the ending strikes me as theologically untenable.  No one can MAKE you sell your soul to the Devil; it has to be of your own free will.  COME ON, teenage me!

Varic shivered. When had it gotten so infernally cold? With some difficulty, due to his uncontrollable shivering, he lit a torch and thrust it into the narrow rift between the boulders. The feeble light did little to illuminate the unnatural darkness of the cavern. He could see an uneven stone stairway spiraling down into the darkness. There were no walls on either side of it. One slip would likely be the end of him.

Given the choice, he would have turned back then and there. Battles fought against real foes in the light of day were one thing, but this--however, he hadn't been given the choice. 

"Of course, Lord Varic, you know that it is not customary for the Saranthians to take prisoners. However, in your case, we found it necessary to make an exception. You are ideal for the task I have in mind for you. You will descend into the Dark Pit of Sora-Althos. Once there, find the Lord of the Pit, and slay it." 

"Yes, I know, Lord Varic, you would rather die than help your enemy, as any good general would. It is most commendable of you. So, I give you a choice. You will either descend into the pit, or our magi will probe your mind, learn all of the Lagonite plans and strategies. Unfortunately, this process will also destroy your mind, but such are the sacrifices we must make. Your decision is made so quickly? Well, you may have faith that you made the right choice. You will enter the pit tomorrow. And who knows? If you are fortunate, perhaps we will let you go, if you survive the pit." 

Varic was no fool. He knew that he was not expected to survive this, and that even if he did, he would never be set free. Because he was commander of the entire Lagonite army, the Saranthians would be fools to release him. But he would be free again. He had sworn to himself that he would be. 

"Go on, Lagonite scum! We're tired of standing here!" The guards who had led him to the pit were standing a ways off; they had not entered the rocky area. They were clearly nervous, furtively glancing around, even though it was midday, and fully light. 

Taking a deep breath, Varic pushed through the rift and onto the stairway. He was instantly plunged into darkness. The outside light did not seem to enter this unholy cave. His torch illuminated only a few feet around him. Picking up a loose stone off the top step, he tossed it into the darkness to his left. He listened for several minutes but never heard it hit bottom. 

Shuddering at the thought of slipping and falling into that darkness, he carefully began picking his way down the stairs. They constantly made unpredictable twists and turns, and they were very uneven, some of them being wide enough to comfortably sit down on, others so narrow that he had to hold onto the steps above them and descend backwards. Every so often, he would feel a freezing breeze whip past him, or see a slight movement on the very edge of his vision, though he could never look straight at it. He walked for an indefinite amount of time. It could have been hours, or, for all he knew, it could have been days, but he finally reached the bottom and collapsed to the floor, where he lay for several moments, until he recovered from the unnerving descent. 

Why, he thought as he lay panting on the floor, would they send me in here? The only thing they can hope to achieve is my death, which they could easily have gotten without all this trouble. Certainly, learning the Lagonite strategies would be much more useful. And what is this thing I'm supposed to kill? If it's an enemy of the Saranthians, perhaps I can make a deal with it. 

After a few minutes, he rose from the floor and shone the torch around him. He had to carefully walk all around the room to ascertain its layout, but soon he had a pretty good idea of how it looked. It was a large stone room. The floor was made of rough granite, free of any debris whatsoever. In the center, another staircase in the floor led even farther down, but at least this time there were walls to it. There were also two large iron doors, one on each side of the room, but try as he would, Varic could not budge them, so his only choice seemed to be to continue downward. With a sigh, he stepped onto the stairway, and began trudging down. 

After only a few minutes, he came to what seemed to be a wall of darkness. The torch's light would not penetrate it. Surprised, and not a little frightened, he thrust it into the black wall--and was plunged into total darkness. he pulled the torch back, and discovered by feeling it, that, to his amazement, the portion that had been inside the darkness was gone. It ended only a few inches past where he was holding it, with a smooth end, as if it had been chopped in two. 

Varic, extremely shaken, considered his options. He could try to go back the way he had come, but that would be well-nigh impossible with no light, and even if he did manage to reach the top, the guards would certainly dispatch him, as he was unarmed. He did not like to think about his other option, but it seemed to be the only viable one. Without stopping to think about it, he leaped into the darkness. 

He was relieved when he came out of it in one piece, but that feeling was soon replaced by one of terror. He found that he could see without the torch, but he rather wished he couldn't. The room was illuminated in a bizarre black radiance, that, while it lit the room, seemed to devour all light, leaving only the unholy, dark glow. The walls, ceiling, and floor were made of some shiny, black stone, perhaps onyx or obsidian. He could hear a constant, eerie chant, seemingly coming from all directions, in a language that, while unknown to him, brought horrible visions of unearthly horrors found only in long-forgotten nightmares to mind. At the far end of the long room was a huge altar carved into the shape of a demon, a vaguely canine face with long fangs and empty eye sockets. Varic turned around to flee this evil place, but found that the way he had entered from had been replaced by a solid wall. As he stared around wildly, desperately seeking some escape, flames suddenly flared up in the demon's eyes, and a deep, rumbling voice spoke above the chanting. 

"Approach, human." Not of his own volition, Varic slowly stood up and walked to the altar. 


Varic knelt before it. 

"Swear your soul to Sora-Althos, The Darkness." Varic listened in horrible fascination, as he heard himself pledging his very being to darkness. 

"Now, you will make good on your oath." As Varic felt the eternal blackness closing in on him, the chanting reached a crescendo, and he dimly heard the demon speak. 

"Finally, the Saranthians have fulfilled their contract." 


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