Alyselden: Revisited into a short story


            The withered cerulean colored trees beyond my cell window looked as if they endured the harshest tundra, as stalactites of ice hung sideways from their branches, but even with how cold the world looked, I felt nothing against my body. This came as a surprise as I had not even a piece of fabric to cover my starved looking figure. The world outside was a frozen wasteland, covered in shades of blue and white. Everything I saw before me was foreign, and I have no idea how I ended up in this prison.
This place would have been beautiful if it didn’t appear so unforgiving. The sky was a deep indigo, showing no signs of a sun or a moon. That too, felt as it was consumed by malice. A world destroyed by the elements and blotted in shadows. Where am I? I turned my attention back to the quarters of my confinement. There was no bed, no toilet, nothing but immovable stones that matched the color of the world outside. Even the grub that crawled near my bare foot shared a similar shade. I wasn’t sure what compelled me to grab it, but I did. Nor was I sure the reason for putting it in my mouth, or crushing it with my teeth. I saw puss gush from its exo-shell and down my chin, but I felt none of it. I continued to chew until I heard the crunches turn into mush before swallowing what remained. As repulsing as it should have felt, I was more consumed with an unknown desperation.
I couldn’t smell the fire that engulfed the bodies adjacent to my chamber. My sight remained, that much was certain. I learned that my hearing worked just as well as the screams of people fill the halls with the most excruciating screams. What could bring men to scream like that? Are they being flayed? Burned? Dismembered? No. These screams weren’t normal. People would have passed out or have died by now if that was the case. These sounded like they had survived this pain for centuries with showing no signs to an end. Is this hell? My only wish was that those same screams didn’t eventually exit my own mouth.
            It had felt as if hours had passed while I watched the burning bodies flicker, all while listening to agony in this crypt. I chose to watch the bodies burn, for my only other options were to look at the frozen landscape, or the collapsed cell that was across from me. Despite lacking so many senses, there was something that I could feel: anxiety, from the screams feeling that they drew closer; hunger, as all I had to eat was that one grub I found; and the aching of my withering body. My stomach growled as if it hadn’t been fed for days, weeks. The one grub wasn’t enough. I began to look at every crevice of my cell, hoping that I could find something, anything; some left behind fruit, a carcass, even a pile of maggots. I can’t recall ever feeling this desperate before, but then again, I couldn’t recall much.
If the starvation wasn’t bad enough, my mind began to play tricks against me, like some alien voice that entered just to mock me. Are the screams real? What makes you sure you aren’t just dreaming? I wasn’t sure what I could trust, if I couldn’t even trust my own thoughts, if they were my own thoughts. The cell was breaking me, and I couldn’t tell how much time had passed since first waking here. Was it minutes? Hours? Days? No. It couldn’t have been that long, could it have? Who was I talking to? Was I even talking? I began to ponder at that final question. In my time, here, I hadn’t spoken a word, at least, I believed that I hadn’t.
I opened my mouth, but trying to sound out my thoughts was a task I couldn’t remember how to do. Was I always a mute? “Ooowwaareeeem,” was the feeble sound that escaped me. I tried again, and again. Each time I sounded like I had my tongue removed. Do I even have a tongue? My fingers fished in my mouth, but I remembered not being able to feel, which made me feel even more broken. I just wanted to cry, to die. I was trapped in a body that didn’t reflect my own mind. If this was how I was going to live, then I’d be better off dead.
“W. . .w. . .wh,” I started, “hy. . . w. . . a. . . i. Why?” I managed to finally say something that resembled a thought of mine. I never thought speaking would take more effort than walking. “Why. Why. Why. Why.” It was the only thing I could say, and it made me feel pathetic. I was being tortured by being stripped of everything but my thoughts, and even that was left to a minimum. Was this what those people were screaming from? No. Their screams sounded like they came from physical infliction. “mm. . .” I tried to speak another word. “mm. . . mmm-- em. . . am. . . am. . . Am. Am. Why am.” This went on for what felt like days as I sat in the dark cell. The screams became more grueling as time passed, and something inside of me told me that my time was soon. Maybe if I could speak, they wouldn’t torture me, whomever they were. But what if speaking brought them closer? Nothing felt safe, but not being able to speak felt like it was tearing me apart more than anything.
In that time of improving my speech, I found the occasional insect to feast on. I should have just let myself starve to death, but it felt like no matter how much I deprived myself of food, I wouldn’t die.
            “Why am I here?” I was finally able to say at a level barely above a whisper. I continued to repeat the only sentence I knew, gradually getting louder with each time until I screamed, “Why am I here?” in the most broken English possible.
            I waited for an answer, but all I heard were the screams of the tortured.
I crawled my withering body towards the beryl tinted bars of my cell. While resting my face against the rods, I shouted once more, “Why am I here?”
The screaming stopped. I didn’t think that I could feel more afraid than when I first arrived, but to hear silence answer from what felt like hell meant that all attention was drawn toward me. I would have to be a fool not to be afraid.  
            “Why?” the sound of an ancient voice said, from behind me, inside my cell.
            I weakly turned around to see an old man covered in tattered rags, sitting in the opposite corner from me. How did he get in? Was he here all along? Impossible. His face was barely visible, but what I could see from the flickering flame was that the left side of his face was scared and blistered. As he limped on his cane, closer, I noticed that where his left eye should have been was nothing more than scar tissue filling the empty socket. The skin that should have covered his upper lip was missing, exposing a few rotting teeth in his decayed gums. From how he looked, his time here must have been a cruel one.
            “Why are you here, you ask?” the old man said in a raspy dying voice. “Why is anyone here? What I can tell you is that life does not end when death comes for you. No, far different. I’m sure at one point of your Earthly life you were taught about an afterlife, most religions teach of this, but none truly knew what existed beyond the unknown.”
I felt sick, watching the old man speak. The sight of him not only disgusted me, but his presence made me feel uneasy. I wanted to speak, I wanted to say something, anything, but all I could do was cower as he drew closer.
“There is no paradise,” he said. “There is no joy for those that lived a fruitful and gracious life. Unity, bliss, pain, and comfort, are all just cycled emotions that are cast upon from the Wardens that control the afterdeath.”
I didn’t quite understand what he meant by ‘afterdeath.’ I thought the idea of existing beyond an Earthly life was considered an afterlife. Am I dead?
He must have noticed my confusion, since he added. “I would not quite consider this living, no one would. All that wander here, much like you, are broken spirits, only to be fodder to the Wardens of the world: The Warden of Justice, Warden of Wickedness, Warden of Solitude, and Warden of Harmony.”
He let out a dry cackle as he saw me flinch in terror. I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me, or why he was telling me this, but he found joy in my misery. If I’m dead, who was I before? How did I die?
“Perhaps, since you’ll be staying here, it’s best if you learn about the Wardens,” he said, turning away from me and towards the window.
What I wanted was an answer of who I was, but he did not look like someone that was willing to give me such information. There was something rather sinister about the old man, and that wasn’t just the impression I got from his disfigured face. It felt like he wanted me to be afraid.
“Wardens gain control of this world by their influence that they bestow upon its inhabitants. Two of the four Wardens gain control through murder, another uses murder to separate itself from the rest, while the last tries bringing peace to this forsaken world. There are two ways that a Warden can come into power, if a different Warden were to kill the Warden in power, then that Warden gains control. The other, is if a Warden’s influence is strong enough to persuade the spirits that it alters the course of power. For this, the Warden of Harmony is almost laughable, as his goal is to harmonize all spirits that walk this realm without using violence. The other three Wardens, have no fear of killing to get what they want. There was a collective of spirits that came from Earth that have always wanted to harmonize the species, but humanity is not known for its unification. The few that lived on Earth and cared to live peacefully were always decimated at the hands of the human spirits of Wickedness or, or by the desolate souls of Solitude. Pacifism never found itself in the hearts of people on Earth, which is why, when people roamed it, were in a constant state of war. And much like Earth,” he said, before letting out another dry laugh. “it has no real power here, in Alyselden.”
Alyselden? The name of it felt like a name worse than hell. It felt like it was named for the souls of the damned. Just thinking that name brought me great pain.
            He began to walk closer to me again, resting much of his weight on his cane, making me shake in fear once more. Why couldn’t he leave me alone? I’d rather be eaten away by mental madness, than have him here, with me. He pulled his bony hand from under his rags and grazed his fingers along the side of my face. I felt his cold touch against my skin. How? The coldness felt of death, as I could have sworn that part of my face decayed upon his touch.
“The Warden of Solitude,” he continued, “should be considered a relative to Wickedness, much as Harmony could be considered a cousin to Justice; at least. . . a distant cousin.” He stared at me with his single eye, as he sat beside me. “Solitude will work by any means to gain enough power to break apart any form of unity, making it the antithesis of Harmony. But, unlike Harmony, Solitude will decimate anything in its wake so that all spirits will be separated far enough from the reach of other Wardens, thus preventing other Wardens from gaining enough strength to ever reclaim the throne. Sadly, the times I’ve seen the Warden of Solitude hold the throne, Wickedness was there to claim Alyselden for itself. The spirits of Solitude are not to be crossed, as their wrath could make Wickedness look like Harmony. But, I’ve never met a spirit of Solitude as conniving as a spirit of Wickedness.” He slowly moved his way back into the dark corner. “In all fairness,” he continued, “rule under Solitude is probably the most favorable, since they basically become nonexistent from the world.
            “Wickedness” he said, with a demonic glee, “would be the closest to human nature’s true existence, as their sole purpose is to inflict harm to all other spirits that wander Alyselden. They capitalize on the idea of gaining power through killing others, so much, that they’ll kill other wicked spirits just to increase their own strength,” he said, smiling that decayed smile. “Lucky for Wickedness, spirits never die from the world, but are reborn, weaker than before, so they can continue ravaging and decimating those poor souls. This makes the Warden of Wickedness one of the stronger Wardens, usually only to be combated by Justice.
            “What’s the matter,” he paused from his fearful tale to address me, “have something to say?”
            I stammered nonsense, practically slobbering on the floor I was lying on. The skin that he touched on my face burned an unbearable pain. It felt as if a knife was carving away the thinnest of layers, while pouring salt on each fresh cut. I went to hold the spot that pained me, but that spread to my hand with the same excruciating burn. Was this what those others felt?
            He grinned a crooked smile as he watched me quiver. “The Warden of Justice,” he said, pleased by my agony, “lives from the spirits that thrived from executing the spirits of Wickedness and Solitude. Justice’s sole purpose is to create an Alyselden where all evil is punished, thus created a world near to Harmony’s views, only in a more policed state. All sinful actions are deemed punishable, and under Justice’s law, just about everything is a sin. That, even makes some actions of Harmony victim to Justice’s wrath. It’s quite amusing that the world is safest under the law of evil, at least, that’s how it appears for me.” The old man looked out the window once more, and said, mockingly, “I shouldn’t have said that. Spirits of Justice will be looking for me now.” Another cackle laugh escaped his broken lips.
This must have been the pain that those poor souls were screaming about. I just wanted to rip off the part of my face, the part of my hand. I was weeping in pain, and all the old man could do was laugh at my pathetic attempt to cry for help.
His malicious gaze came back to me. I could tell he was enjoying watching me struggle in pain, since he ignored me, and continued to speak. “What’s most interesting of all, is how a Warden comes to power. Wardens are not some appointed god, but just another soul that fought through the ranks of their course. Alyselden is a home of billions of spirits, and every one of them is fighting in their own way to becoming a Warden.
            “The Wardens have a strong influence on every soul here. Chances are, if you see the world encased under the law of one Warden long enough, you may choose to align yourself to that faction, but, those are the actions of cowards. Cowards that never become a Warden themselves. Alyselden is a melee for any spirit to pull their ranks and gain power, it has no place for cowards. Still, caution to the fool, the damned will always be there to oppose their rule.”
The old man slowly walked to the bars that kept me in the cell, and rested his hand on them. Like acid to a metal, they began to melt until no bars remained. Was this what he did to my skin? I also thought that I could possibly escape, if I wasn’t in so much pain.
“No matter the power,” he said, “the world is one of beauty. Let it be Justice that rules the land, the world becomes engulfed in blackness and purples, quite a terrifying color for order. Wickedness encases the world in whiteness and blues, giving a false, surface layer beauty. Under Harmony’s law, Alyselden looks peaceful in its greens and yellows. Solitude is possibly the most hurtful to one of the few senses that remain, as the world is split between variants of orange and blues. No matter who rules, the worlds feel so different, yet all are extensions of Alyselden,”
He faced me again, and began to press his hand against my neck. The burning was far more intense than what I felt in my face. I screamed as I felt my flesh engulf by his touch. This time it wasn’t just a touch either. I could feel his cold, dead hands grip tightly, as if he was trying to suffocate me.

“I’ll be killing you for centuries to come,” were the last words I heard him say before all went black. When I came to, I found myself in an aqua colored forest, covered in an icy white frost that hung from each branch. I was alive, but weaker than before, with at least a hundred eyes lurking beyond the trees at me.  

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