After a moment, my question was answered when he opened the door.
“Come on, let's go,” he yelled above the roar.
Pieces of the ceiling fell around us. He opened another door, this one perpendicular to the basement, and led us outside down a crumbling concrete path between tall weeds.
“Do you know what you just did?” he said as we ran.
“Don't tell me I caused this.”
He glanced back at me. “You did, you idiot!”
He stopped at the edge of a clearing. Before us were large round stones laid out in rows as makeshift tombstones. Clouds swirled around the black sky and the wind did the same around us like a weak tornado. Leaves, trash and weeds moved in an epileptic dance in the cemetery. Large oak trees on the other side of the clearing thrashed back and forth. The ground grumbled below my feet.
“What's going on?” I asked.
“I can't help you anymore, Ian. All I can say is that I wish you well. Lucky for me, this won't affect me. Goodbye.” He walked away.
“Corey, wait.” I ran after him. “Corey, you have to help me!” Though he was only walking, I couldn't seem to catch up.
After a few minutes, I stopped and looked around, out of breath. According to how much I had run, I should have been outside of the property and near my SUV, but the scenery never changed. I was stuck in another illusion that Corey had masterminded.
Thunder roared stronger than ever even though the sky was devoid of lightning. The book laid on the ground next to me, opened to a page depicting an ink drawing of a man being followed by wicked looking creatures displaying sharp teeth and raised swords, as if in preparation for battle. More unrecognizable text was printed below it, maybe Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic?
My heartbeat quickened, my breathing quick and shallow and my eyes widened, searching the cemetery for a clue, a sign, someone to help get me out of this nightmare.
The ground shook me to my knees and it split open. A hole appeared in the middle of the cemetery, then grew larger, swallowing the Earth, the makeshift tombstones, and the bones of the deceased. I watched, gripped by fear, unable to move, hands clenching a batch of weeds like it would keep me from being swallowed alive.
This was it. I was going to die.
I closed my eyes and braced myself for the free fall into hell.
The rumbling stopped. Silence pushed out the thunder. The swirling of air vanished, and I could still feel the solid ground beneath my knees. Solid ground. I never fell. My eyes opened and saw my hands still gripping the same tuft of weeds.
I lifted my head to see that the hole had stopped growing less than a foot away from me. I emitted a shaky breath and stared into another darkness, this one a well of nothingness. I threw the handful of grass into the hole, and after a few seconds, it disappeared. How deep was this hole?
I stood up and backed away from the chasm. “Corey,” I called out, but got no response. “I know you're doing this. Make it stop.”
The sky was still dark with circling steel gray clouds, but the wind remained calm. What the hell was going on? What caused this sinkhole and why did it stop just before swallowing me up? The book, also a survivor, never moved and was open to the same page of the drawing. A new fear gripped me. Evil. It existed.
A cloud of smoke rose from the pit.
A hand reached over the edge of the hole and grabbed onto the ground. Then another one joined it. The hands pulled up a man with short black hair and cocoa skin. He wore a yellow fitted t-shirt and black pants. I couldn't move and shook my head in disbelief. My eyes never wavered.
He smiled and said, “Don't be afraid. I am a friend.” He extended his hand. I shook it. That was uncharacteristic of me to do, but I felt like I was under a spell where he controlled my actions.
“Wh-what?” I said, still gripping his hand and staring into his eyes.
“I want to thank you. Thank you for releasing me from eternal damnation.” In his eyes, gold specks in its iris flashed. He went down on one knee, lowered his head in submission, and held my hand inside both of his. “Today you are a hero, my savior. You have released me from the depths of hell where Satan held me captive.”
I did not deserve this admiration. To tell the truth, I was more frightened than happy, as one would feel elated from such praise. It was strange how clean-cut he looked for someone who emerged from the fiery depths of hell, where we had been told as children that bodies burned in an eternal fire and tormented by gnawing insects. He didn't smell of smoke, nor did his clothes molder. As far as I could tell, his skin wasn't missing any patches or appear to be chewed on by anything. “Please, don't thank me. It was an accident.”
“Nonsense,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. And today my reason for celebration is you.” He stood up and let go of my hand.
“Who are you?”
“I am Abaddon, angel of the Abyss.” He bowed again, this time at the hips. “And this is my army.” He gestured towards the pit.
Large beasts that resembled grasshoppers crawled out on six legs and stood around him, which put their height about a foot taller than me. Their wings were laid flat along the top of their thoraxes, but not long enough to cover the stingers protruding from their tails. There were too many to count, their number had to be in the hundreds.
“I, Abaddon, thank you again for releasing me and my army into the Earth. What you have done was a bold and selfless act. However, there will be consequences.”
“Yes, you see, nothing good comes out of the Abyss. What you have done was unleash havoc on your neighbors, the habitants of Earth.”