As she crawled toward the doorway Maddy could hear a mix of voices coming from within; men, women and children. Yet as she slid closer she became aware of another sound; a voice unlike the others; different; disturbing. Madeline could hear Hannigan crawling up behind her and she turned to face him.
“Get your eye out, Hannigan.” She whispered, trying to keep her voice as low as possible over the explosions and screams, “My antennae are twitching.”
Hannigan reached in his bag, knowing better than to question Madeline’s instinct when it came to a story and pulled out his camera. His hands shook as he peeled the lens cap off and crawled up beside her. Maddy pulled herself up to the edge of the door frame and keeping her head low, slid it around to peer into the room.
Words had been her armour, her main presence in the world for as long as she had breathed, yet in that moment they failed her. What Madeline witnessed was beyond comprehension, especially there, in the midst of such terrible violence. Yet at least this violence was earthly; human.
What she witnessed within that room was… unearthly.
Streaks of barbed wire hung tight across the room, not anchored from wall to wall, but seemingly shot from one vertical foundation, directly into the flesh of one of the rooms residents; that resident now hung in dread fear or bloodied death as the wire found its way home into the concrete foundations beyond. Sheets of them hung across the room, downwards and upwards, the flesh of innocents used as their bouquets. Within the room seemingly innocent civilians of the neighbouring buildings stood, crawled or hung over, bereft of life on the torture that erupted around them. In all, there were nothing short of fifty human souls caught in this pit of hell defined by the four walls around it. Maddy watched, silent and mouth agape at the bloodied torture that was enacted within as more spears of wire shot forth from the walls within, tearing and piercing all in their way. She stuck her head back out into the hallway beyond, the one her body now lay in to see the vehicle of their delivery, but there was nothing; the walls dusted, plaster raining down from the endless explosions around them, but the walls cracked and bare with no weaponry with which to shoot such horrors.
“What?” Asked Harrigan, innocently, on his belly behind her, still trying to get his camera to work through the dust, “What am I shooting in there?”
Maddy paused a second, unable to describe adequately, before deciding to say nothing and throw her head back around the framework of the door.
It was then that the light appeared; rising like a sheath of grace from the floor within; it was as if the wall across the room before Maddy had blinds and they were being slowly lifted, allowing the terrifying blue beneath to shine through. It did not last long though, that shade, as it became engulfed by the shadows of those who walked within it. The centre of the room grew dark, blackened by their presence while their shadows grew longer, as Maddy saw that the wall itself had risen, like a drawbridge into hell. The light was from some netherplace and within stood figures, three in all, striding forward into Maddy’s sight, into the kneeling, praying arms of the people within.
It was then that Maddy noticed them; the boxes.
Held within the hands of the wailing mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters were intricate, seemingly mechanical cubes of some description. As they wailed and prayed, their fingers and thumbs moved frantically on the outer pattern work of these cubes and the cubes themselves seemed to move with lives of their own beneath their digits, reconfiguring, shifting themselves into increasingly complex geometric shapes. There were dozens of these puzzle boxes and as each one of them shifted, another section of the wall seemed to lift, revealing more figures approaching until the entire room was bathed in dread blue light and ever growing black shadow.
“Shoot.” Whispered Madeline to Harrigan under her breath, too stunned to speak clearly.
“What? What am I shooting?” Harrigan mumbled, having finally fixed his camera and now seeing the same nightmare.
“I… I don’t know. Just shoot and move.” Madeline said, numbed from the vision as a great grinding sound began to emanate from the floor within the room and the boards began to shake, not from the bombs but from something else. There was the sudden sound of wooden being split in two as great columns began to rise, breaking all above them, coming up from some unseen place, their black, shimmering surfaces covered in skin and blood; flesh and chains, an unholy scratching and screaming accompanying their arrival. They were obelisk in nature, turned by unseen forces and as they revolved, great chains, their ends capped with sharpened hooks shot forth, piercing the skins of women and children, men and the elderly and dragged them with lethal force across the room, crushing them against its surface and feeding on their writhing bodies as great spurts of blood and skin flew.
All Maddy could hear was the repetitive click of Harrigan’s camera next to her.
“Move.” Maddy said, cold as ice.
“But…” Harrigan replied, paralysed by what he was capturing.
“MOVE!” Maddy screamed, leaping to her feet and racing down the hall toward the stairs. Harrigan raced behind her, fumbling with his camera to put it back in his bag when a shell flew with abandoned accuracy and hit the front of the building.
Dust and debris flew everywhere, all thought consumed with the sickening fury of destructive noise and the overwhelming thought of death. The building seemed to fold in upon itself and within it’s creases, Madeline and Harrigan fell, helpless, as if lifted into the hands of a careless god. Harrigan felt the floors lift up around him and hitting his head upon a reckless support beam, thought of his first girlfriend and how he had never forgiven her lack of foreplay.
Madeline felt nothing but the searing burn of the missiles flames as she tumbled headlong out of the front of the building toward the ground below.
Yet all she could see, behind clenched eyes, was a death like figure, striding out of the azure shades and reaching out his hands toward her. He was carved from hell and blood danced all around him. She did not recognize him but she knew his gesture.
It was as if he were beckoning her home.