Daniel can't remember who he was, who this man named "Alexander" is, and why he's woken up in the crumbling Brennenburg Castle. All he knows is that there are monsters here--both outside and within--that feast on flesh, and that in order to defend himself, his only hope is to hide and pray they don't find him. Too bad they smell fear. Short story based off of the horror/suspense game "Amnesia: The Dark Descent."
He crept forward silently, stepping as a ghost through the dark stone hallway. There shone a soft ray of light in front of him, shifting in the dark and originating from a hole in the ceiling of the entryway beyond, and without realizing it, he exhaled in relief at the sight, drawn forward to stand under its allure. Light. It had been a while since he’d last seen it, since he’d last felt it. Basking his face as best he could under the pale glow, he could feel his sanity slowly return to him. He had spent so long down here in this hellish nightmare of a castle. Too long. Perhaps if he tried, he could build a makeshift staircase out of the boxes and chests littering these dungeons and finally climb out through that gap up there to escape it. He’d thought about it before; maybe now it could finally—
—No. What a foolish idea, Daniel. That wouldn’t do anything; you forget too easily what it is you’re running from.
Reason took on his old mentor’s voice—or at least, who he knew the man was supposed to be, although he himself couldn’t remember him—resounding in his skull and stirring painful emotions belonging to the memories he no longer had. Wincing, fear once again gripping his chest—all too easily did he forget the details of that letter his former self had penned—Daniel stepped forward, realizing, as soon as his eyes readjusted themselves to the dark, that there was a shallow pool of water in front of him, built into the floor with a foot-thick edge around it.
Huh. That’s odd.
Had he been this way before? It was hard to remember. All the hallways and rooms looked identical with their cold, black-stone interiors and rotting, broken wooden beams. Alexander, his old mentor, had been right about one thing—this castle was falling apart.
Just as we both are.
But how sure, exactly, was he of that statement—on Alexander’s behalf, specifically?
Daniel hadn’t realized he was staring at his reflection in the water until he suddenly noticed a tremor in the stillness. Freezing instinctively, holding his breath, the man strained his eyes in the darkness to watch the water again. Now it sat completely motionless; eerie and moonlike, reflecting shards of the sunrays that were still lingering behind him. As he waited, and still nothing moved, he finally released his baited breath.
I need to keep moving.
Dodging around the pool that radiated such an unnamable, uncomfortable feeling, Daniel grabbed the handle of the wooden door on the other side and gave it a tug. He winced at the sound of whining hinges, echoing off the walls and quickening his heartbeat. He didn’t want to chance a glance behind him in case one of them were suddenly there, having heard the unearthly sound—but he did anyway, and released a sigh of relief when he saw that he was alone.
I should not be so scared. Silence is not their way of hunting me. I should know this by now.
He went on, carefully shutting the door behind him. One by one he took the stairs that led him deeper and deeper into the wretched castle. The only source of light now was the thin candles dotting the walls, but they yielded such a small comfort—and perhaps that was purposeful. Another one of Alexander’s great psychological mind games, fooling him into thinking that the darkness was suffocating him, harboring the monsters that were too eager to eat him alive.
If only “monsters” was used metaphorically.
There was an iron-wrought door at the bottom of the stairs. Somehow, it reminded Daniel of a gate. He reached for a bar and opened the door, forcing his feet on into the next hallway.
There was only one illuminated torch, blazing like a final prayer in reverence to him and his sacred mission. Normally, a source of light would relieve him; he could see—his grip on reality was slowly returning! But there was hollowness where there should have been joy. Dread weighted down his courage. That one light acted as a warning that Alexander had been here. And then beyond reach of that fire’s illumination…
Before he could second-guess himself, Daniel descended into the darkness, and lost the ability to see.
He crept as far as he could, every nerve trembling, every ounce of his sanity slowly slipping away with every silent second that slid by. He dared not reach out for the walls to know where he was going; what if he should reach out and, without knowing, touch one of them? One of those mutilated, horrible monsters that had once been human—like him? It was a silly thought; he knew it—yet he didn’t. But he didn’t want to test it.
He was shaking, the tremors coursing throughout his body by the time he finally convinced himself to use the lantern. It was a dangerous move; if he illuminated himself and they were nearby, then well…he would be dead meat. Literally. But if he should be so fortunate as to be alone…was it worth the risk? Those few seconds of assurance that he was alive?
Daniel forced his eyes to stay wide open, even though he so desperately wanted to close them out of instinctive fear of what he should see. With a wavering hand, he unclipped the lamp from his sack and found a match, raising it to the wick…
With one swift move, he lit the lantern, and then froze.
Nothing. He was alone in the underground hallway, save for some weakening wooden beams holding up the ceiling and a rope dangling from the farthest one.
But the rope was swinging.
Daniel shut off the lantern.
He stood as stiffly as he could, holding his breath. He didn’t move for five torturously long minutes, straining his ears for any indication of where the monsters were. Still, nothing. Slowly, he backed up one step, then two—and nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt something brush against his back. But oh, it was just another door.
Wait. A door—a door!
A door was good; doors often meant rooms, and rooms often meant hiding places. Quickly, and yet as silently as he could, Daniel fumbled behind him for the doorknob, found it, turned it, and then stumbled back into a dimly-illuminated room that oddly enough, looked like a study. Honestly, Alexander, you chose the most random places to make into a furnished room… But this was no time to chide that ex-mentor-who-he-knew-yet-couldn’t-remember.
And as soon as he began closing the door, he both heard it and felt it.
That roar. That inhuman, unearthly screech that sounded heaved out of charred lungs. It shook the entire room, the door he clung to, and Daniel’s strength itself.
His legs nearly gave way from under him. But he pushed—more like threw—what he could of his weight on the door, shutting it closed. But that was not going to be enough. He knew these monsters—knew what they were capable of—had the scars to prove it—and backpedaled away, eyes roaming the study for something to bar the door with—anything that he could use to stall them—
—that desk! Rushing over, Daniel shoved it away from the wall it was in front of, pushing it, turning it, heaving it over to the door as fast as he could. But in the rushed process, he jerked the candle off of the desk’s edge; it tumbled past the edge, and blew out the instant it hit the dusty ground.
It was the only light that Daniel had had, and now he was cast in darkness once more.
His pulse rose instinctively, and as soon as he felt the desk collide with the door, he backed away, pulling out his lantern and lighting it. Every inch of him was shaking, he could hardly concentrate, he could hardly breathe—if he thought about it, he was surprised he was even able to light the lantern at all—but he needed to hide! He needed to hide!—they were at the door now; he could hear their scratchy growls and their sniffs as they examined the wooden barrier between them and Daniel.
Oh gosh—there! A wardrobe! Off to the side of the room by the bookcase—he could see it with his lantern, and oh, oh how he desperately hoped this worked—he dashed to it just as he could hear them thrashing at the door, the wood splintering underneath their gigantic strength. Flinging the doors open, he stumbled inside, shutting his lantern off and fumbling with a grip on the doors until he could get them shut on himself—nearly jamming his fingers, he had to close them so hurriedly. Just at that instant, he could hear a final crash—and knew they had gotten past the door.
All breath ceased from his lungs. He had forgotten how to breathe. He listened, trembling, shaking, trying to hold onto himself as if trying to hold onto sanity as he heard them shove aside the table with such a force—that he knew, as soon as it broke upon contact with a nearby wall, could have been his body, flung just as lifelessly and just as carelessly, but with much more damage.
Then they were there. At the front of the wardrobe suddenly, as if they could smell his fear and hear his frantic heartbeat. There was a deep-throated rumble of displeasure—they scratched at one of the doors once, then twice, and then Daniel couldn’t bear watching or trying to listen anymore. His last thread of sanity was snapping, having been fraying at the edges since the beginning of everything. He clenched his eyes shut, pressed a fist to his teeth, and prayed so hard he might have been sweating blood; his other hand clenched his lantern to his chest tightly, begging beyond hope of a Higher Being that they would just move on…that they wouldn’t find him…Oh please, God, if You exist…
The monsters fell silent.
Daniel’s eyes snapped open.
The doors to the wardrobe were still closed. That much, he could see. But that didn’t explain what had happened. What were the monsters doing? Did…did they know he was there, now? He tried to hold his breath for as long as he could, but as the moments ticked by, and nothing happened, he could slowly feel his breathing regulate again.
Wait. Were they…unbelievably enough as it was, gone? Just like that?
Daniel leaned against the side wall of the wardrobe and slowly slid down to a sitting position, lamp still tightly clamped to his chest. He exhaled once, twice, and refused to move, perhaps for a century.
But he…he was alive. Still.
It felt like hours before Daniel finally worked up the courage to reach for the door and slowly, slowly ease it open, peering out into the darkened study (although he would have been happy to sit there for much, much longer, he knew he couldn’t). The room was musty, now. Smelled of rotting flesh—a definite indicator that the monsters had been there—and a heaviness was felt in the air.
But the monsters were gone.
And all that was left was the wardrobe, the broken table, a shattered door, and what remained of a man named Daniel.
If only his amnesia could have made him forget the times like this.