Diablo Datur

Standing atop the mountain, she looked around, calming her breath and admiring the view. With the sunrise, the mountain peaks blazed – golden crests against the backdrop of a fading night sky. The woman climbed over the wall, ignoring the clear ‘no climbing’ signs that were secured along the edges. She couldn’t resist capturing this moment; a photograph of her, the golden statues, and the rising sun – it was too beautiful to miss this opportunity. A few shots later, she was back over the wall and attempting to lock the sight into her memory before heading back down the mountain.

As she reached the bottom of the mountain steps, she saw a glimmering out of the corner of her eye. Turning around, she saw a dragon’s face, encased with jewels, marble and jade. The mouth gaped wide, showing dazzling pearl fangs – almost too real. The woman took a step closer, reaching out to touch the jewels, before deciding against the idea and impulsively turned her back to the dragon. That’s when she first sensed it. An irresistible pull in her gut. Her body was no longer in her control. She found herself turning around, meeting the dragon’s eyes. She tried to take a step backwards, but her legs carried her to the mouth, where she stopped. The woman closed her eyes, taking deep inhales, letting the air out slowly. She found herself once more in control of her thoughts. Opening her eyes, she saw that the dragon’s mouth was, in fact, a tunnel. Looking around at the clear skies and, remembering how beautiful her escapade up the mountain had been so far, she took a tentative step over the dragon’s bottom jaw. When nothing happened, she breathed a sigh of release, letting the tension escape from her muscles. The tunnel’s path was lit by candles and the ground was uneven, but pleasantly so. The woman admired the strange paintings on the walls – people-esque figures fighting, eating and playing in tribes. Familiar, yet foreign, as if she had seen them in a dream.

Stepping out of the tunnel, the woman found herself in a clearing, surrounded by trees. Even though she was in jungle territory, there wasn’t a sound. Not a bird twittering nor leaves rustling; not even the usual chirping of cicadas could be heard. The only things around were wooden statues, similar to the figures that were painted on the tunnel wall. Except these were grotesque. She walked towards the closest one. A skeletal figure towered over her, looking down with empty eye sockets, smashed skull and jagged teeth protruding out of a mouth too small for its face. The woman looked away, eyes falling on the oversized arms, which ended in three long claws, each one with red paint on the end. She turned away, wondering who would make such a thing. She walked around the clearing, looking at the other statues there: a giant of a man, hunched over, his face a picture of agony, as he hauls a spiked cylinder over his back – some spikes long enough to pierce through his chest; a group of women, mouths sewn shut, hair delicately braided, entwined with flowers, necks glistening with gems – a beauty that contrasted with their scratched, rotten, elongated breasts which dangled down over the mouths of faceless creatures below.

Shuddering, the woman walked back towards the tunnel. As she did so, she noticed a stairway at the edge of the clearing. Morbid curiosity got the better of her and she found herself walking up the steep steps, which were lined with more statues – this time of skeletal men with animal heads crudely attached to their necks, in place of their own faces, hooves, talons and claws in place of their hands and feet.

Reaching the top of the stairs, the woman saw a monk on a stone podium. He was watching her but closed his eyes as she approached. He started to chant; a deep, rhythmic sound, which drew the woman closer. Cum tentatur, diablo datur. She felt hypnotised as the monk continued his chant and she sat down in front of him. Suddenly, the monk opened his eyes and grabbed the woman’s arms. She tried to pull them away, but his grip was strong. Enveloping both of her wrists in one hand, the monk began splashing liquid over the woman, continuing his chant. She could feel his grip getting stronger, the bones in one wrist snapping audibly. The woman cried out – the loudest sound that had occurred in the area since she arrived. The monk stopped his chanting and tightened his grip. His charcoal eyes burned into the woman’s emeralds as he poured the remaining liquid over her face. She felt it burn holes in her skin as the monk released her wrists – the broken one flapping loosely by her side. The woman fumbled and dragged herself onto her feet. She made her way to the stairs but found the way blocked. The statues were no longer wooden. She could see the blood oozing out from underneath the animal heads, the stench of decaying flesh filled her nostrils and the racket of the animals drummed into her ears. The figures lurched towards her. For a split second, she was still. Then she saw the gap under the legs of the creatures, leading down the steps. She crouched and sprinted forward, feeling talons tearing the flesh on her back, hooves smashing her shoulders and claws scratching her scalp. Halfway down the stairs she tripped and bounced down the remaining five metres, rolling into the middle of the clearing. Her entrance was like a switch. Suddenly the other statues were upon her – skeletal claws piercing her skin; rotten flesh covering her face and a spiked cylinder being lowered above her legs. She instinctively sprang into the foetal position then rolled through the creatures – buckling their skeletal legs. They fell like skittles as the woman continued to roll away. She was stopped by an excruciating pain in her calf. The cylinder – wielding giant had rammed a spike through her leg, embedding it into the ground below. The woman yanked at it, her blood making the spike impossible to grasp. She looked over at the creatures, who were disjointedly getting back up – jerking movements as they repositioned body parts and made their way towards her. The woman looked on in horror as the group of female figures ripped open their stitches, releasing oozing tongues, which fell to the floor, causing their jaws to dislocate. The females lurched towards the woman, tongues dragging along the dirt, faceless creatures attached to their breasts – trying to feed while they can. The woman yanked her leg free of the spike as the figures started to advance on her. She had no time to feel the pain or acknowledge the hole in her leg. She raced towards the tunnel, but the giant threw the spiked cylinder over the woman’s head – barricading the entrance.

She made a sharp turn and ran forward, into the trees. She ran as fast as she could, through the undergrowth, tripping and stumbling. Her skin burned and blood poured into her eyes as she ducked and dived under branches, making her way through the jungle to safety. She felt the creatures closing in on her but refused to look back. She could hear their excited moans and growls; their feet stampeding through the trees, causing her to run even faster. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears. Her muscles were on fire and the bone in her wrist was now protruding out of her skin – arm and hand completely detached, hanging on by mere tendons. Suddenly she was in the light. There were no more trees around. She could hear birds chirping and the cicadas were present again. No sound, or smell, of the creatures. She stopped to catch up her breath, blood seeping from the wounds beneath her torn clothes. When her breathing calmed, she looked up to get her bearings. Then she felt it. That same feeling she had earlier – what felt like an age ago. With dread, she turned around, knowing exactly what she would see: a jewel-encased face and pearl fangs. Again, she had no control and, now, she had no energy to stop her feet walking towards the dragon’s mouth once more. No matter how bloodcurdling her scream was, the monk’s faint chanting still came through the tunnel: cum tentatur, diablo datur. When you are tempted, you are given to the devil.

Art work by the brilliant Cat – lifelong friend and fellow horror enthusiast!

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