My skin prickled at the sight of the lump shimmering, its surface rippling in the candlelight. It appeared more docile than last time, sluggish, as if it had already feasted on more servants’ fear than the single maid that was gasping from the floor. It wheezed like it had consumed enough human darkness to fuel the shadows of this place. I rattled the doorknobs. They were ice cold to the touch. My skin froze to the metal and ripped when I pulled away.
I conceded to the trap and fell back to my training. I eased my breathing, slowing it until I felt my muscles relax. Let it take some fear if needed, we had all been instructed upon arrival, but never reveal yourself too much or it will want it all. I exhaled calmly and glanced back down at the maid’s twitching legs, her skin blistered and oozed green, just like all the others who had opened their mind in a panic.
The black lump convulsed and grew. I clawed onto the wooden chair back, my nails digging into the varnish. It was ready for me and I needed to focus to let it become bored and leave me to head back to the abandoned cellar where it belonged. Shadows flickered across the walls, its eyes surveying the room. An invisible tentacle slithered behind my eyes, teasing about my sights. It slipped effortlessly between my current vision and my dreams. Its unworldly intrigue sniffed and prodded as if my mental rejections were merely a vague disapproval.
I swallowed hard and pushed my mind to think of my family. The thought of my parents cooking a festival stew seeped its way into the front of my mind. My dad’s tears over the onion sparked laughter around the room. His usual stern face lost to the power of a vegetable. The stream of tears teased at my mother’s soft face as she struggled to hold down the deep chuckles rising in her chest. The frothing brew in pot pumped the room full of meaty steam. Our mouths watered at the scent knowing the delicious meal will fill us until we are knocked out in a comfortable slumber.
A dark tentacle eased its way into my dreaming. Its curiosity poked at my family memories. I sensed its hunger, it grumbled deep and unquenchable compared to my festive desires. It licked around my mother’s face, smacking a tooth clear from her mouth and into the stew. She laughed, oblivious to the danger and continued with her preparations. My body shivered as my father’s merry tears turned thick and red. The boiling liquid sizzling deep in his cheeks. His facial skin loosened and slid free off the bones, leaving only puss to drip from his head.
My stomach lurched. Panic flushed thought me. I slammed my eyes shut to release the image from my head. The dark soul wasn’t done. Its hunger was unfulfilled. It refused my request to hold onto my crumbling dream. Its tentacles pulsated throughout the dream, devouring, consuming each hint of fear it could squeeze from me.
My body failed to hold me. My legs trembled beneath me as my training was futile in protecting me like last time. Previous experience meant nothing to the creature’s current greed. My festive dream filled with screams, chilling deep inside my being. My heart skipped and thudded. Acid flooded the home in my dream. My parents cooked on, chatting heartily with exposed jaws. Their organs pulsated out of their skin, bursting over the food. The warm smell of meat soured into the stench of rotting flesh. My parents cooked on, filling bowls with the putrid mess.
They turned to me, reading to serve. The colour of their eyes dripped from their skulls. Their last recognisable piece spluttered off them. I failed to the dear. My chest filled with ice and released a piercing scream. The dark soul slurped merrily from me. It had won. I screamed through the dreamscape as it shattered away in my vision until only a bright white filled my world.
The dark soul, done with me, discarded my twitching body next to the maid’s. It softened back into the middle of the room, returning to its unassuming black lump, ready to trick the next person who fails to leave the room before the door shut behind them.