Badlands IV: The Beginning
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
This contribution is part of a series:-
1. Badlands (5-Jun-2014)
2. Badlands II: God of Wrath (16-Jul-2014)
| ||A knight and a demon, on a mission to save a town from an unknown danger.|
3. Badlands III: Boat on the River (3-Dec-2014)
| ||Revisiting an old love, the knight finds her missing. Only the demon can help find her - and, if possible, to rescue her from where she is.|
4. Badlands IV: The Beginning (3-Jan-2015)
| ||Something strange is happening to the world and the knight and the demon must solve the problem if they are to survive.|
5. Badlands V: The Hatching (8-Feb-2015)
| ||Where it all began - The demon, the knight and the beast meet each other for the first time.|
6. Badlands VI, VII & VIII (7-Sep-2015)
| ||About a mountain slope on a winter night, a lost girl, a meeting with an entity, and how something was created, immortal and dangerous.|
7. Badlands IX: The Mountain God (31-Jul-2016)
| ||Three new parts to the series.|
| ||An erupting volcano, a cult which lives on its slopes, and the knight, the beast and the demon must attempt a rescue mission.|
He felt the pain before anything else.
It began somewhere in his midsection, and from there radiated in waves across his body, reaching below his knees and up to his mouth and nose. It was almost tolerable at first, but grew with shocking rapidity, until it was like a fire burning within him.
He tried to call out for help, but his torn throat could only let out a gasp. He tried to move his limbs, to get up, but all he managed was to roll himself over partly to one side - a move which would have made him scream with agony if he had been capable of it. Wearily, he let himself flop over on his back again.
For a long time, he lay unmoving, waiting for the pain to recede. Eventually it ebbed a little, enough so that he could draw shallow breaths without flinching, and could start to think again. And when he did, he faced a new terror.
He could remember nothing. He couldn't remember who he was, his name, or anything else. He could not even remember how he came to be lying here on his back, his body a mass of suffering. There must have been a time before this - he could imagine that much - but of it he could recall nothing at all.
He moaned with the hopeless fear that washed over him. He felt the moan as much as heard it, beginning inside him and oozing over the back of his tongue. The terror washed over him, greater now than the pain or the helplessness, so extreme that it made him raise his head and cry out with the intensity of it. And this brought on the pain again, so severely that he blacked out.
"Man," a voice was saying, very close by his ear. He couldn't tell if it were a man or a woman, young or old. He felt someone shake his shoulder, first gently, and then harder. "Man. I heard you crying out. Are you alive?"
He must have made some noise, because the voice came closer. He could hear the words from very close to his ear now. "Yes, you're alive. You're very badly hurt though. Can you talk?"
He felt his battered lips open a little of their own accord. "Yes," he whispered. "I think I can."
"Good." The voice receded slightly, as though the speaker was sitting back on his or her heels. "Now, before we go any further, I'll ask you a question. Think about it very carefully before you answer."
"What?" What was left of his strength was ebbing. He found it hard even to articulate the single word.
"You're very badly hurt. In fact, you're dying." The voice paused. "But you have a choice."
Despite the pain, he felt an urge to laugh. "A...choice?"
"Yes. You're dying, but you're not so far gone that you can't be saved." The voice paused. "Think about it very carefully, and tell me; do you want to live?"
His lips moved, but no sound emerged. He couldn't be sure, even to himself, that he'd said anything at all.
"Here's the choice I'm offering you," the voice said. "I know you're suffering terribly. If you'd rather not go on, I'll understand fully. I'll put an end to your pain quickly and mercifully. If you want to live, though..." The voice paused for a long moment. "If you want to live, I can only promise this: you will never see the end of suffering again.
"Blood, sweat, and tears, that is all I can offer you," the voice continued after another pause. "Your life will no longer be yours - it will belong to a wider goal, an endless quest which can never be fulfilled. You will endure torments which will make you wish over and over you'd chosen to have me extinguish you in this moment. But this, too, I can promise." The voice came close again, as though the unseen speaker was bending over his face. "Your life will never be empty again." He felt a light touch on his cheek, like a cool finger. "Well, Man - what is it to be?"
His lips had opened to speak before his mind knew what to say. "Live," he whispered, fiercely. "I want to live." And then he stopped, appalled at what he'd just said.
"I knew it," the voice said with a deep satisfaction. "You're a survivor, Man. That's why you're still alive...here."
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