Ornament

The light flickered…

…and his eyes opened…

…to the green-yellowish glow of the lantern burning from above.

The small flame held nothing of the comforting warmth of the soft suffused light one would expect. Instead, its sickly hue only made the dark room more unsettling. With only the single lantern to cast shadows upon the walls, its felt unnerving to stare at a single spot for too long. Too much of that space was left consumed by the gloom; and too little of it was left illuminated. It was as though something sinister was about to creep out from those patches of shadow. And so, draped against the wall like some gruesome decorative rug, with his splayed limbs held fast in the air as if by invisible string, the thief was left to his own imaginations as to what goes bump in the dark.

The silence stretched on for minutes, perhaps hours. He felt disoriented in that eerie room, knowing not the extent of the menace he was facing or how long it intended to keep him. Unwilling to find out, he willed his body to move.

Not a single muscle twitched…

He tried once again, mentally straining as he attempted to retake ownership of his own vessel. To no avail… It was as if the connection between his mind and body were severed; as if he was trapped in this unresponsive sack of flesh. Yet, he could move his eyes, which wildly darted round the room. A mere taunting relief.

He knew his heart was beating at a rapid pace, but to all outward appearances he displayed none of the panic that gripped him from within. Though, a fine sheen of sweat did cover his skin as he sought to wrestle control back from whatever kept him in this state of catatonia.

He sensed it then, before he felt it. A presence, to his side. Hot, putrid breath crawled over his skin, making the hairs of his neck stand on end and flooding his mind with terror. A cracked and throaty chuckle wheezed in his ear, and as far as he could see within his periphery, a mouth bared in a wide and inhumane grin became visible in the gloom. For a moment he could feel that face moving closer, its rank breath more potent, its mouth opened wider… licking its chops–

And then a rush of air as it dashed away into another dark corner, draped once again by the darkness. Only this time, the man heard the strange sounds emanating from the shadows… raspy breath, paired with a wild scraping and banging… as if it was looking for something. It stepped into the light then. A tall, spindly figure. Large hands with spidery fingers reached up to touch the lantern, and the poisonous light burned brighter – illuminating the macabre little playroom of the wicked fiend that now stood in his direct line of sight.

He was not sure if the creature was the shade of night, or simply blotted out by the light that shone from the front. But around them, the room revealed its grisly contents. Other figures hanged suspended as if chained to sconces in the wall, yet no such tethers were visible to reveal what kept their arms in the air. Discarded in strewn and misshapen heaps, their possessions piled as if to display the diverse collection of bodies. Without turning his head, he was unable to witness the extent of the twisted scene; however, his eyes were squarely focused on the hunched figure, that seemed to busy himself on the surface of a large obsidian slab.

As if sensing it was being watched, the creature straightened its back with sharp creaks and the snap of tight, rigid muscle. It cocked its head only slightly, and turned it only barely to the side, enough to reveal the glint of tainted yellow eyes.

The thief wish he could run. Intead he was frozen. Numbed and bound in place to play mere audience to this game of torment. And as he watched, the dark fiend raised what appeared to be a looking glass. It held the object over his shoulder, with the reflective side turned to capture the image of the prisoner. The thief did not know how, but his frame had grown gaunt and withered during his short captivity. And as he saw his tiny hanging figure reflected in the glass, the image surged in closer… closer… closer still–

–until his sight was met with his own stare, horrifically morphing into a skeletal face with dephless eyes that tore at his mind. It swallowed his conscious until the yellow-green world momentarily subsided and blackened into nothingness… only to have him look once more at his own suspended figure on the wall as the fog in his mind dissipated.

But this time, the scene had changed. It was subtle differences at first: his matted hair that now suddenly sloped to a a different side of his face; the strange shift in the way that light fell from before; and then, the odd sensation of feeling as though he could move again. And then… there was the faint glassy chime that echoed around him, as if someone’s touch was grazing the edge of a glass to create a lingering echo.

Something broke into his field of vision then. So swept up was he by the his own body hanging limp from the wall, that he had not noticed that right in front of him, was a small clay figure, carved in his exact likeless. He knew not how it could be possible. It was standing on the gleaming black surface of the obsidian table, the table that but a moment ago had been across the room from him. How was he here? And why did his essence feel bound and beckoned to the clay particles of that figurine?

His hand met a cold glass surface as it stretched to reach outward… And with a sickening pain, he realised, that he was inside the looking glass – the reflection, staring back at the shell of a man being reflected… along with the clay conduit to which he was bound.

The thought had not run cold, before he saw yet another thing out of place. Peering from the outside corner of the mirror, was the grotesque glinting eye and face of the puppeteer, who had trapped the thief’s spirit to the looking glass to join its ghastly array of lost souls and disembodied ornaments.

Inktober #17

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