At last we reach the end of this series. I shall be posting new content every Tuesday. I hope you enjoy!
The party gathered around the cube hovering in the center of the room, glancing around at the blank white walls and the single white door through which they had just escaped.
“What is this place? What is this cube?” asked Antonio, the only one who had never been in the white room before.
“We’re not sure,” admitted Nero.
“I can see it,” said Albus.
The rest of the party stared at him, astonished.
“But you’re blind!” exclaimed Cheng.
“I know. But I can see the cube.” He pointed at it. The others frowned.
Red stroked his chin, leaning toward the cube. “I wonder….” he muttered. “Nero, you said there were keyholes on each side?”
Red took the scarlet key from his pocket, and carefully inserted it into the nearest side. The cube pulsed momentarily, and then became the same color as the key.
“Let me try that!” exclaimed Cheng, taking out her orange key.
The cube pulsed again and turned orange.
The others quickly pulled out their keys. Violet was the next to insert her purple key.
“Why won’t it go in?” she said exasperatedly.
“Maybe there’s an order?” suggested Adrina from her wheelchair. “Red, orange – maybe the color sequence? Who has the yellow key again?”
Aurus inserted his key and the cube turned yellow. Giovani’s turned it green. Adrina’s blue. Finally, Violet successfully put hers in, turning it purple. Then it pulsed again, much more strongly this time, sending out bright light. The party recoiled, save for Albus, who was watching the cube with intense fascination. They covered their eyes as a bright light covered the room, flashing with the brevity and intensity of a lightning bolt.
In an instant it was gone. They looked. There, in the center, in place of the cube, was a single white key, larger and more ornate than the other six. Albus stared at it with an odd fixation. He began to reach out for it; however, before he could make his intention clear, Nero had already snatched it up.
“Look!” exclaimed Adrina, pointing at the wall across from the entrance. There, a new door had appeared.
“Come on,” said Red. “We might as well see where it leads. As peaceful as this place is, I’d like to eat some time in the future.”
Cheng pushed open the door, and then the party stopped, mouths dropping at the sight before them.
The door opened out to a dark town, straight to a road that wound up a hill, up to the very top, where lay a great cathedral. Most of the party recognized it instantly, and the lightning that suddenly flashed through the sky only made the memories clearer. But none of the had anticipated the dark clouds covering the sky, which were black tinted with reds and violets and greens that seemed to have little correspondence with the lightning strikes. Disquietingly, the lightning did not boom, but rather crack, as though muffled. But the most eerie feature of the town was the utter absence of any person. It was empty.
Nero breathed in the must and humidity and stepped onto the street. “Right. Let’s spread out, figure out what’s going on here.”
“Not sure that’s such a good idea,” said Albus, pointing up at the cathedral. “We need to go there.”
“You can see that?” Nero replied. “Anyway, I thought we’d only send a couple people up there. The rest can see to the rest of the town.”
They split up, Nero and Albus moving up the road toward the cathedral while the others departed in groups along the side streets. None of them noticed a sound like that of a rainmaker, or the black form of Amocualli as it stepped out of the white room, the final pieces of its headdress and cloak growing out of it as it massaged its hand.
Nero and Albus walked warily up the street, eyes glancing down every side street they passed. The emptiness was almost tangible.
That was when they heard the scream. They twisted around, Nero peering off toward the noise somewhere to their right, the direction Giovani, Aurus, and Antonio had gone.
“What is it?” said Albus.
More screaming. Shouts. Violet, Red, Adrina, and Cheng appeared from the left, worried looks on their faces.
“What’s going on?” Violet asked.
They found out soon enough. They heard the pounding of feet on the road, and the remainder of the party appeared – sans Antonio – dogged by a necroid and Amocualli itself. Amocualli stared at them with its bulging, unblinking eyes as its curled-back lips revealed a malevolent grin.
“What happened?” asked Cheng, catching Giovani.
“That monster happened! It grabbed Antonio and, well….” he indicated the necroid. The others gasped.
“Let’s go!” ordered Red.
The necroid ran at them, scattering them. However, its claws managed to rake Nero’s shoulder. Nero fell to the ground and then tossed the key at Albus.
“Get to the cathedral!” he shouted.
Albus caught it and, with one last look in Nero’s direction, turned and ran. The others followed close behind.
At last they reached the cathedral; Cheng and Red pushed open the doors, revealing the narrow red carpet leading up to a dim altar that Red and Adrina recognized from just a few months ago. Albus’s eyes bulged – it almost didn’t matter that he was blind, he could see everything and more, from the details of the cathedral interior as well as what seemed to be fog-like apparitions in the pews, and the terrifying face of Amocualli, standing in the aisle waiting for them.
“At last you’ve arrived,” he said in his slow voice. “But you should turn back, I think. I was not born in the depths of Chaos, travel through a thousand ages of fire and predation, and break loose of my chains only to be stopped by mere children.”
“Who are you?” asked Red boldly.
“I am Amocualli.” It moved forward. “I was once great in these lands, until those original dwellers banded together and used that key to chain me to a temple of stone – a prison of stone. But even stone is mortal, and your people march on toward destruction only I was once capable of, and I was freed, free to usher in a new era of death and chaos.”
“You’re sick,” said Adrina. She was now at the front of the group as they backed away from the advancing Amocualli.
“No, my dear, you are. I can make it better. It will be painless, perhaps even sweet….”
Red stepped forward. “Leave her alone!”
Then he punched Amocualli in the face.
Amocualli stumbled back, just as surprised as everyone else in the room. Red quickly turned to Albus. “Quick! Get the key to the altar!”
“Right!” Albus ran forward, passing Amocualli, who swiped at him as he went by.
“No!” Amocualli cried, a distinct note of fear in its voice. “I deny this!”
It advanced upon the others, slapping down Red and reaching for Adrina. It gripped her face, pulling her out of her wheelchair and into the air. “Serve me!” it hissed.
Albus reached the altar. There, on the very top, was a keyhole. He plunged the key in.
A force blew him back as a light blasted from the altar like that which had come from the cube. Only this was accompanied by a wind, pulling everything toward the altar.
“No!” cried Amocualli desperately, still holding tight to Adrina. Red and Violet walked forward, fighting the wind, and laid blow after blow on Amocualli in an attempt to free Adrina.
From the altar, tendrils of light issued out of the bright pulsing, reaching up the aisle. They advanced until they curled around Amocualli, pulling it back toward the altar. But even that didn’t seem to stop it.
Cheng, Aurus, and Giovani raced forward and delivered their own blows to Amocualli. Suddenly, as all six landed a blow upon it, a white light shown between them and Amocualli. It dropped Adrina, quickly caught by Red, and its wide eyes bulged bigger than ever as it suddenly flew back toward the altar, until it was completely engulfed by the light.
Then the light shone only brighter, until the whiteness was all they could see.
Violet opened her eyes. The cathedral was gone, replaced by … the room at the end of the boys’ wing. She got up, and saw that everyone else was there, even Nero, though Antonio was absent. The door was closed, but there were no sounds from outside it. Slowly, the others began to awake.
“How’d we get back here?” Giovani wondered.
“How’d anything in the last couple hours work?” Red pointed out, Adrina still in his arms. “Just don’t question it.”
They wandered out of the room, into the living room which had been destroyed. The window was still broken; Violet approached it and stepped outside. The devourers were gone. And in the side of the hill, she could see new sprouts beginning to grow.