Necromantia - Beyond…
Ester Grey lay suspended face down on invisible wires pulling across her shoulders and waist. Her arms draped down, dangling into the endless swirling black smoke that dominated her vision. The boiling underworld glowed a faint red, backlit by unseen fires and fueled by the souls of sinners. She could feel waves of warm and cold air as it boiled and rolled over her naked body. Ester's dry folded skin and sagging breasts hung through the mesh as if her body were slowly melting through the supports. Beyond her vision the world spanned endlessly in a smoky expanse that disappeared into a featureless horizon.
She had screamed her voice hoarse. Slowly breathing in the black smoke. It had no smell or flavor. Her lungs tightened as if chemicals were softly burning her insides. The smoke was never ending. It boiled, rising and falling before her as if she dangled precariously above a lake of fire. The swirling was all she saw. The initial terror of her predicament gave way to an inescapable monotony, a boredom that slowly consumed her every waking moment.
Time was lost to her. For all she knew, she had been marooned on this floating island for hours or months or years. This world never shifted between day and night. It was an endless wakeful state. She was tired and her eyes were crusted over. She felt as if she was ready to drift off to sleep at any moment, but relief never came. She needed a drink. She needed one bad. In her previous life, she always ended the evening with a little sip. She thought, Maybe just a drink would help ease my mind.
She scanned the horizon and shifted her weight, bouncing lightly on the guide wires. It was smoke as far as she could see, just smoke. Above, the burning plane was a black sky with no stars or features. The dull black dome curved overhead and blended with the distant horizon.
Ester was lost in a trance when she felt the first tug against her back as if someone had dug hooks into her loose flesh. The piercing pain pulled and tugged at her back. She desperately coiled her body expecting to see hooks dug into her flesh. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her old and sagging skin lifting like tents up towards the dome. Something pulled against her, removing decades of slack that had accumulated. Her skin reached the limit and her body jerked as she lifted off the mesh floor. Permanent lines were etched in her chest and legs revealing the damage done by the mesh support. She shifted and turned her head to the sky behind her. The black dome showed a small slit as if someone had drawn a scalpel over it. This world had been pierced and for the first time, she saw a visible imperfection. Around the opening and she could see flames burning and licking the edge. Her body slowly lifted towards the imperfection. She could feel the rising heat as the flames popped and crackled above her.
She cried out in vain, “Help! Please help me!” Her voice echoed over the smoking expanse disappearing over the edge into nothingness.
As if on cue, the smoke directly beneath her began to swirl and quickly parted revealing the horrors beneath. She could see an open lake of fire surrounding a small island. From the center, a featureless black mountain pushed up to the edge of the smoke. The curtain had been pulled back and the inferno below sent a wave of heat that struck her in the face. Her mouth hung open as she fought for air.
Ester saw a figure staring at her from the mountain side. Its face was like a lion covered by long brown hair which flowed in the hot breeze. Behind a long neck were six legs with cloven hooves. As Ester closed in on the opening in the dome, the creature broke towards the mountain peak. The six legs worked in a circular fashion pounding the ground at fantastic speed. Rocks tumbled down the side as a plume of dust lifted in the creature's wake.
The creature reached the mountaintop. Two lanky arms unfurled from beneath the creature's mane. The three-fingered hands reached for a long spear dug into the rock side. As it pulled on the shaft, a chain of fire fell from the end. The fire ran along the ground and wrapped around the creature's hoof. The creature set the spear in his hand and reared back, throwing the black shaft towards Ester. She could see the sharp tip as it flexed and bobbed in the air. The long chain of fire chased behind, still tethered to the creature's leg.
Ester shifted her head quickly and her body rolled. The spear grazed her leg leaving behind a bloodless open cut. The spear fell harmlessly back towards the mountaintop. She could hear the anger in the distant howls that came from the creature as her body reached the fiery opening. The heat danced on her back and she could feel her skin boiling as she was pulled through.