The light was blinding, although he could see out from the conners of his eyes there was complete darkness surrounding him.

“This must be some kind of hell,” he told himself. As he turned his head one way to the next. No matter were he looked, the light shined into him.

Wherever and whenever he was, the here and now was like nothing he knew. Although every breath of air felt boiling hot, his skin was freezing.  He noticed that if he did not walk, he would drift. It was an uneasy feeling, like he was sailing, something he tried once and hated. He walked till his legs hurt, the pain preferred to the sick feeling that over came him when still for to long.

If there was a God he thought to himself, this nightmare of his would have ended long ago. At least, and on this he was sure, a merciful God would have lifted the burden of the light before him. Placing his hands over his eyes changed nothing. With no options left he cried out for mercy and collapsed into darkness. He laughed, sure all he had to do was wait just a little longer than he did for relief.

The darkness may have been what he wanted, but it made him nervous that it wasn’t comforting. “Who’s there?” he asked. All the things that informed his senses revealed nothing. He decided it was best not to trust them. Given what had come to pass, he simply couldn’t believe he was alone. Be on the horizon on all sides, the glow of a fire started to rise. He didn’t know what to think.

Off a ways from where he stood, an unknown silhouette appeared against the darkness, it went as quickly as it came. A second silhouette appeared and behaved in the same manner as the first, as did all the others that emerged after it. They popped in and out around him, soon they were everywhere he looked. Each new one coming closer to him, all together taking the from of a dance around him. He reached after the first one within his grasp, but it grabbed him.

There were three points on him to which it chose to take hold. A panic that eclipsed all other concerns set in when he realised it was trying to tear him apart. The pain assuring him, if something was not done soon it would succeed in destroying him.

For him the crack of his bones, the ripping of his flesh, easily drowned out the sound of his screaming. The silhouettes disappeared and he could feel the parts of his body slam against the dark surface.

“Worst – dream – ever,” he said quietly to himself. He tried to crying, hoping it might bring some comfort from the pain. There weren’t however any tears to be shed for him. He only had what he had given.

The pain remained, but in the blink of an eye he was whole again. When he tried to get up he fell and continued falling pass the level on which he had laid. He did not question the free fall, in fact he welcomed it. Sure that It could only end one of two way. Either he
would wake up or hit bottom, dying in his sleep. He ignored the fact all his hope laid with an old wives tale he wasn’t sure he believed.

Arms stretched out he tried to make the best of it. The speed at which he fell created a wind that beat against him. He considered turning over but could not summon the will.

“You’re not dreaming,” said a voice he didn’t recognise.

Distraction for a moment his landing came as a surprise for two reasons. He crashed hard face first, feeling it all along the front of his body. More importantly for him though, was that he was still alive. The disembodied voice was right. Once again he tried to cry, once again he found there were no tears to be shed for him.

He wanted to remain laying there, but the surface grew hot and he did not want to deal with that and the pain. The fact that he could stand amazed him, what he saw confused him.

A silhouette now stood before him. It had the shape of a man but it was featureless. Its hands lighting up with flames that would quickly die down again.

“Where am I?” He asked it.

“When in doubt, go with your first guess,” the silhouette responded. It appeared to have no need for a mouth, its voice resonating from it.

The broken man did not understand, but did not want to waste time on a question that would not be answered. “Can you stop this?” He asked.

The silhouette pulled in closer, it cared not about the searing heat that flowed from it. “I’m your adversary, you are a fool that called me friend.” Its presents slowly burning its victim. “The question isn’t can I stop it, the question is ‘if’ or ‘when’”.

He tried to move but could not, the smell of his skin melting made him sick. “I don’t know you,” was all the man could manage. He wanted to show some resolve so he turned his mind and his will to the task of not screaming.

“True,” It said. Then grabbed him with a flaming hand by the neck and tossed him. The trip was far, he landed hard, only to find the silhouette above, speaking down to him. “You know me now.” It said, the pleasure it was taking infused into its voice. “The point of this exercise is to make things clear. I reign and you are far worse off than any servant that ever lived.”

He couldn’t bring himself to disagree. In that moment he was only capable of things that would cause this bad day to end. “Then I hear you loud and clear,”  he said pulling himself back on to his feet. “Now please, I beg you, take me away from this. Do with me as you will.”

The silhouette dismissed his pleading, “what do you think I am doing now?” The man almost collapsed. A hand lit with flame grabbed him by the chest. “To many of you arrive here presuming you will be some kind of king. I must be sure that type of thinking ends here.”

Within its searing grasp of the silhouette his resolve broke. He screamed till it no longer brought him any relief. He was left with no choice but to suffer the pain in silence. All the while unable to take his eyes off the flaming hand holding on to him. When the silhouette let go, he fell to its feet. It then wrapped its hand around his neck pulling him up once again.

“The cards are dealt, you will not be king,” The silhouette said. Then punched through his chest and pulled out his heart, “well not of hearts, at any rate.” It let the man go and pitched his heart away.

On his back, he felt the whole in his chest, he didn’t dare imagine as to why he was still alive. This time he found the strength to turn over and bow down at the feet of the silhouette. As he had hoped his new station did bring some kind of reprieve, so he stayed there.

It took some time before he could speak. “You must know my pain,” he said, like a true beggar, willing to take any thing given. “How can you doubt? I will give anything and everything you want.”

“What I want is the truth from you. Better to reign…” it started but did not finish, all to aware that its ambitions were the reason for it standing there. “A lie is still a lie, more so I think when repeated and believed by fools.”

Still without any comfort, sure now he could search forever and never find a single tear for himself. He broke in the only way that ever matters.  “You are right, I am a fool,” he said, believing every word. “It is better to serve and now I serve you.”

The silhouette nodded its approval, “This is not a democracy. You will be lucky if between now and eternity, you find yourself a slave in my service.” Sure its point was made, it left the man in the humble position he had taken.

A measure of relief was felt when the silhouette’s feet disappeared. He didn’t dare move, not until the sound of the flame closing in got him to lift his head. He looked up to see fire rushing toward him on all sides. He did not try to run and remained still until he was over taken. It burned like the grasp of the silhouette. He prayed that the fire would devour him and all his pain would cease to be. It was only when he saw that the flames were not consuming him, did he truly accept his end.