by M.D Schultz
When the first Prism Gate opened there came those who walked rifts and changed the world.
|“The mist was thick and the air stifling but I could see a city. A massive city that stretched for miles beyond counting. It was quiet and I never saw a soul but there was something even more unsettling. A feeling of being watched. A monster I couldn’t see dwelled within the mists. Please don’t make me go back there. I don’t need to see the devil to know that he exists.” -The First Rift Walker.
Although nobody knows who first postulated it, many began to hypothesize that the only way to stop the rift activity was from the other side. Of course, there was no evidence to substantiate this but in hours of desperation people often grasp at the most unlikely explanations. Needless to say something had to be done and it had to be done soon.
Eventually, the unstable energy that rippled across the globe led to the opening of a rift unlike any we had seen before. One of the largest Prism Gates ever recorded opened in the heart of London. Over a mile wide, the Prism Gate consumed the city and left it in chaos. This was easily one of the greatest disasters since the foundation of the Fifth Chapter due to the number of people exposed to the rippling energies of the gate. Mop up operations estimated over a million and a half people involved in the incident. Maintaining confidentiality after the London crisis took a great deal of time, money, and effort. However, there was a silver lining amidst this mess. A few civilians had crossed through the gate and back unharmed.
These individuals were the first rift walkers, my predecessors. At the time, they had no understanding of the feat they had performed. Instead they were confused and described a bizarre city coated in mist with a faint blue light. These reports were fascinating and prompted immediate investigation as to the stability of the rift. To our surprise, unlike so many others, the London gate produced a stable signature like the bunker gate. This one was likely not going anywhere anytime soon, or so we thought.
The first expedition to the parallel realm led to the foundation of the order of which I am now the sole member, the rift walkers. This order was tasked with exploring the other realms in hopes of finding a way to end the rift crisis. This was the most dangerous position any member of the Chapter could hold. Despite this, finding volunteers was simple. Members who believed that there was much to learn from the other realms eagerly signed on. How different life would have been had we simply turned away.
Including myself, our team consisted of only four members. The first was Dr. Phillipa Osmond who was the youngest among us but her age was a poor indication of capability. She was handpicked by the order due to her uncanny grasp of physics and, soon after, interdimensional study. Her work, though finished by the Cathedral, ultimately led to the development of the Orsinium rods. A tool that would later become instrumental in stabilizing rogue gates and without which my job would’ve been impossible. Needless to say, she was a genius in her respective field but that doesn’t mean she lived without flaws. Dr. Osmond was a hothead who handled criticism about as well as a five-year-old and had issues with authority figures. I had worked with her in the past and could attest to the extent of her arrogance. However, unlike many people, she could back up that arrogance with capability. Regardless, her expertise on rift stability made her a shoe-in for the first ever exploration of the parallel realms.
The second member was Dr. Isaac Stevens who was a well renowned engineer. He was one of the many scientists who was known for developing immortality tech and he specialized in instruments that could replicate human thought and brainwave patterns. Ironically, agreeing to join the Niflheim expedition spared him the fate of his fellow scientists whose lives were lost at the completion of their ambition, the Cathedral. Dr. Stevens was our tech expert and he, along with Dr. Osmond, was tasked with gathering data from the parallel realm. It was thought that this data may be used to end the rift crisis or, in the very least, give us a better way of predicting the appearance of Prism Gates. Of all the rift walkers, I liked him the most. He was an older man and a bit odd but he had a way of speaking that made even the most difficult topic seem simple and he never looked down on anyone. Perhaps this was the reason he and Dr. Osmund got along so well. He had a nose for talent and, while many in the order criticized the 28 year old physicist, Dr. Stevens recognized and respected Phillipa.
The third member was Dr. Bradley Fillmore who, of all of us, had the most martial experience. He was part of the military faction within the Fifth Chapter and was trained with dispatching all manner of horrors. His experiences in that respect were more in line with my own. Where I was tasked with study, Dr. Fillmore specialized in execution and his tools were far different from mine. We had crossed paths several times as part of my work and it’s safe to say that I owe my life to him on more than one occasion. Trained as a specialist, he was cold and uncompromising in his duty which was often interpreted as uncaring and, as such, he was not a very popular man. However, having few friends in his line of work was necessary as the life expectancy for many of them was low.
I was the fourth and final member of our investigation team. Before my ascension as the rift walker and first member of the triumvirate, I was most infamous for the role I played in the creation of the very first Prism Gate. At the time, I was the leading expert on creatures from the parallel realms having a hand in the many investigations that had occurred following the bunker incident. I had an uncanny knack for survival and was lucky in more ways than I care to admit. Now that I look back on it, I almost feel as though an invisible hand was guiding me to Niflheim. I was picked because of my knowledge surrounding the beast codex of the Fifth Chapter. If we ran into any creature I was the one most likely to know what it was and, more importantly, how to kill it. To this end, I was partnered with Dr. Fillmore.
Altogether, we were each proven members of the Fifth Chapter like the many who applied. However, I had suspected that we were chosen because we were the most expendable of the lot. Though I couldn’t speak for the other rift walkers personally, there had been many occasions where I was sent into danger with minimal odds of survival. It was as if those in charge had a vested interest in my death. I was the source of the original stain and many wished for my execution especially after the “timely” leak of my involvement with the bunker. Perhaps that was one of the reasons for the Niflheim investigation. The thought never bothered me as I sought to atone for my sins in my own way and so I proceeded with the operation.
When we finally arrived in London, it appeared as if the city were under siege. Buildings had been toppled over and chunks of rubble and metal bar littered the streets. Cars were piled on top of each other and entire highways had been uprooted and split down the middle by crumbling earth. You could still feel the shockwaves rippling through the city as the rift pulsed with uncertain energy. Yes, a rift unlike anything I had ever seen in my life. A mile-wide glassy surface that bisected London in two. Even at night, with half the city blanketed in darkness, you would have to be blind to miss it. That’s what made the evacuation so necessary but the movement of 8.2 million people didn’t go unnoticed. Overnight, the entire world was plunged into chaos. Was England under attack? Was this to be another world war? Indeed, to stand so close to the rift you would swear they were being bombed. Even when we arrived, the ground still shook as if the Earth itself trembled in fear.
It was the night of a full moon when we stepped before the Niflheim gate. To stand so close to a rift is a surreal experience. It’s like looking at the surface of a great body of water. If you look hard enough, you can see just past your reflection to a murky depth that tells of another world. A world that we had only just scratched the surface of. A world that would change all of our lives and the very face of our own.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Dr. Osmund questioned no one in particular. She took off the mask which muffled the sound of her voice and let the breeze take the length of her long brown hair. Thereupon her face was the source of her criticism. She appeared a child with her rounded cheeks splashed with freckles and skin as pale as baked sand. Even her brown eyes reflected a degree of naivete and youthful rebellion but, be careful, within that gaze was a challenge. A challenge that dared you to question her, to call her a child, to tell her to listen to her elders.
“You shouldn’t remove your mask until we know the air is clean Phillipa.” Dr. Fillmore however wasn’t afraid of that challenge. He scolded her like an eight year old for such an obvious breach in safety. She sniffed the air in defiance before putting the yellow mask back on. She may have been stubborn but was quick to correct her own errors although would never appreciate them being pointed out. Phillipa knew Bradley was right and it was her own inexperience that betrayed her. Don’t get me wrong, both she and Dr. Stevens were accomplished scientists but their work was restricted to controlled lab space. Both Bradley and I knew what field work was like. The hazmat suits we wore served a function for the things that came from the rifts couldn’t always be seen with the naked eye.
“It’s just as we thought, look at the patterns here! They are almost identical to the bunker rift!” Dr. Stevens shouted out looking over his laptop computer. Isaac was the exact opposite of Phillipa with greying hair and spectacles twice as thick as the glass used for deep sea diving. He was an older man but not so that he couldn’t move quickly if the situation called for it. An optimist by nature, Isaac saw wonder and mystery in almost every stone and his curiosity only grew as he learned more. If demeanor were the only judge, I would say he would have been the most child-like of us all. However, his excitement wasn’t misplaced. This was after all the first man made exploration of the parallel realms.
Upon Dr. Steven’s computer screen was what appeared to be a seismograph with lines shifting up and down in a scribbling motion. The lines came at the exact height and width of the next suggesting a very stable signal. We had never seen a more anchored Prism Gate since the foundation of the first. “I cannot believe it? Do you think this one will be eternal?”
“God, I hope not.” I responded. This Prism Gate was more than a mile wide and if it remained open we would have to seal half the city and think of a viable excuse to tell the public. Furthermore, if that were true, what on earth were we going to use to close the rift off? The orsinium block was used to temporarily shut the bunker gate and that worked only because of how much smaller that rift was.
“Whether it is or isn’t is not our problem right now. If you say the gate is stable than we have all the information we need.” Dr. Fillmore was the lead weight in our investigation team. A military officer first and scientist last, he held himself well in the face of danger and emotions never crept upon his face. A face that was as hard as granite with features unevenly dug out like trenches upon a battlefield . The man had arms as big as my legs and enough scars to make even the most hardened veterans jealous. As a field researcher myself, I had a few ideas as to what he had faced.
“He’s right, I checked the figures myself and the gates signature mirrors the bunkers. If I had to guess, I would say this rift is going to last a long time.” Phillipa said checking the supplies in her bag. We each carried enough provisions, if rationed, to keep us going for a week. Furthermore, we had enough portable equipment to record data from the other world. It was our hope that that data would be the key we needed to shut rifts permanently. Little did we know that it would be a journey unlike anything we had expected.
How do you prepare for such an expedition? It’s a valid question and one that we had no exact way of answering. I often wondered how Lewis and Clark felt before setting out to map the Louisiana Purchase. How did they steel themselves before exploring the unknown? At that time, nobody knew what to expect. Many felt prehistoric monsters dwelled within the forests and the rivers. Some even believed that the lands were God’s holy ground and that trending upon them would invite his wrath. To be sure they were brave and perhaps even a little foolish. However, nothing was ever achieved without risk and, more often than not, the larger the risk the greater the reward. In the case of Lewis and Clark, this was certainly the case. And so it was that we set out brave and foolish.
Passing through the rift was, at first, like stepping into an ice-cold shower. Even fully dressed the effect was jolting and could be felt right to the tip of your spine. In an instant, I was swept off my feet from an invisible current and the swirling energy blurred my vision with the sounds of static noise becoming deafening. That’s when the torture began.
The best I can describe it is as if you were riding a rollercoaster for the first time. Imagine the tense feelings you experience as the coaster slowly climbs to the top of that tall tower. For many a sense of anxiety takes over as you slowly begin to realize that you have been swept into a current through which there is no escape and the only choice you have left is to ride it out to the very end. However, that anxiety is but a prelude to the horror that follows for you have chosen to sit in the front. There is a moment when the train reaches the very top that the first two cars dangle over the edge building momentum for the coming plunge. In those few seconds, you see the gravity of the fall before you and realize you have made a mistake that is too late to correct. Nobody else hears the screams that follow for the rush of wind is so intense coupled to the sounds of screeching metal. The butterflies in your stomach threaten to escape from your throat and your heart all but leaps from your chest. Up, down, left, and right the train reaches speeds that you can only now begin to appreciate. Yet, praying won’t stop it and those few seconds of travel can feel an eternity. There is simply no better analogy for rift travel.
Our time between worlds was frightening and not one soon forgotten but we eventually emerged on the other side. I, along with everyone else, was violently tossed from the gate crashing into the new world with all the grace of a drunkard. I heard the others retching in the distance and it wasn’t long before I joined them. It was hard to tell exactly where we were as there was little light in Niflheim and it took a long time for my eyes to adjust. Amazingly, the lights of earth never made it through the rift.
The realm of Niflheim earned its name as a land of mist and mystery as the air was thick with an unnerving fog and a strange heat radiated from beneath us. The ground was made of a smooth stone with no divots or imperfections of any kind and an unnatural dim blue light hung just above the horizon. As our eyes adjusted to the unusual light you could make out the silhouettes of buildings in the distance. These pillar like structures were everywhere and we were standing in the middle of a great city.
At first glance, the towering spires appeared to be skyscrapers and office buildings but, as we approached, this clearly wasn’t the case. These “buildings” had no windows and, like the ground, were made of a smooth stone slick with water. A single wide opening was cut neatly into the base of each structure with no signs of a closable door. In addition, there wasn’t any clear pattern to the height or width of each stone pillar. Some were tall and some were short with the width of the base depending on the height. A stunning sight to be sure but, in the chaos, we couldn’t fully appreciate our surroundings.
It took time for us to gather the remains of our equipment. We had lost a few of the instruments traversing the rift but still had enough provisions to continue the investigation. However, I would be lying to say that we weren’t shaken. Dr. Stevens was the most noticeably affected with a cold sweat across his brow and his hands which never stopped shaking. He assured us that he could continue and so we all decided that finding a place for shelter was in our best interest. We chose the largest building we could find to camp in. Our team swept the structure and discovered a mysterious and confusing layout. There was no furniture, no flooring save stone, and no signs of life. In all twelve stories, we found dead-end hallways and rooms with doorways cut into the floors and ceilings. There was no rhyme or reason to the placement of the rooms and stairwells making this structure a labyrinth that one could easily get lost in.
We set up our lab as best we could on the first floor and closed off the entrance with tent material and plastic lining. This building was to be our base of operations and was approximately 25 meters from the rift opening. Using what technology we had left, Dr. Osmond discovered, to no surprise of any of us, a high amount of water vapor in the air which would attest to the intense humidity we were experiencing. At the time, we felt that we were in the path of a coming storm. In a sense, we weren’t far from the truth.
We spent hours that day collecting data and finding our bearings in the realm of mist. During that time, there was no sign of a rising sun and nor had the fog decreased in intensity. The faint blue light that hung above never seemed to waver in intensity and, on closer inspection, it appeared more like a horizontal slit that radiated an otherworldly glow. At first I felt that this was the light of a very dim star. However, if that was the case then this planet didn’t rotate for the light never changed position in the sky. What was also strange was that much of this worlds heat came from below and not above. Was there geothermal activity ongoing just under the surface of the land? That might of explained the water vapor but we hadn’t found any vents or geysers. We also hadn’t discovered any lifeforms within Niflheim. Despite the humidity, there wasn’t even bacteria present and the realm appeared to be completely sterile. This was certainly unusual considering much of the atmosphere could support life. Not to mention the stone structures were too clean cut and the insides, while confusing, were unquestionably designed by an intelligence. Even then, I didn’t believe that natural phenomena were capable of building staircases right side up let alone upside down. However, we were in a parallel realm and no one truly knew what these worlds were capable of.
It was around this time that Dr. Osmund took it upon herself to investigate several of the nearby structures alone. In doing so, she found the same confusing layout present within each and reported no signs of life. She did this despite the ire of myself and Dr. Filmore. I had suspected that her arrogance and refusal to listen to orders would become a problem. Before setting out on this expedition Dr. Filmore had made it clear that we would remain a team for our investigations and any lone wolf behavior was strictly prohibited. This, however, was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Dr. Osmund was going to do whatever she damn well pleased to advance the Fifth Chapters interests. This had served the organization well for many years but such attitude was not acceptable for field research. Perhaps I should have done more to dissuade such reckless behavior but my concern was only interpreted as jealousy. We gave up when we realized pressing harder would only encourage more of the same behavior. Besides, we had greater concerns than any individuals well being. Unfortunately, even after spending a day within Niflheim, we were still no closer to understanding anything about the rifts let alone how to close them.
We spent the night back at our encampment within one of the winding spires of Niflheim. Dr. Fillmore kept watch for none of us could shake the feeling of uneasiness. The eerie silence of Niflheim haunts me even to this day and sleep was very hard to come by. There was something about that world that didn’t sit right with me. Was it the absence of life, the mist, or the faint blue light? The truth was that it was the structures that bothered me the most. The baffling interior was designed almost like a maze. As if someone had built this world in order to hide from something or, more disturbingly, to keep something in. My thoughts were troubling and Dr. Filmore shared in my unease. If he was upset, all of us had cause to be alarmed.
Have you ever heard of sleep paralysis? It’s a sleeping disorder in which you wake unable to move, unable to see, and unable to breathe quickly. Fortunately, this condition isn’t fatal but can cause enormous distress for the individual. For those who have experienced it, it’s like someone smothering you and you cannot fight back nor even scream. That’s what it was like for the first night in Niflheim.
When my eyes closed shut, I couldn’t open them again. I was completely paralyzed and it was then that something came. Something that traveled through the mists and brought the distorted sounds of human laughter. I cannot express the fear that I felt in words. How do you run when you cannot move and how do you fight when you cannot see? We were trapped forced to listen to a nameless fear. I could hear it creeping through the halls and whispering in our ears. We were tormented for hours before it finally left us. When the laughter was all but a distant whimper we were freed from its grasp but awoke to a nightmare. Dr. Fillmore had vanished.
There was absolutely no trace of his existence save for the equipment and clothing left behind. To make matters worse, the London rift’s position had moved 48000 meters, roughly 30 miles, to the south of our resting camp. We were in deep trouble. Having lost the most experienced combatant and trapped in a world with a roaming monster, the situation was disastrous. However, we faced even more problems outside of Bradley's disappearance.
Dr. Stevens had all but mentally broken down and we found him babbling about moving shadows and how he was unclean. Dr. Osmund and I did our best to calm him but, regardless, It became clear that our investigation was over and that we needed to get the hell out of Niflheim. With this thought in mind, we tore our camp apart taking with us only what was necessary. Much of the instruments and data was left behind as we were forced to shoulder Dr. Stevens and couldn’t bear the extra burden.
I was impressed with Dr. Osmund. Despite her dedication to the Fifth Chapter, she was willing to drop everything for the sake of human life. I’m ashamed to say that this was not a quality I had expected from the hot headed physicist. She was undeniable brave but not indestructible as the events had taken a heavy toll. Fear had all but clouded her eyes and yet she would not leave a man she called a friend behind no matter how broken he was. Phillipa may have been the most honorable of us all and her fate would affect me the most.
We left the Niflheim spire with little but ourselves and a handheld device that tracked the location of the rift. With 30 miles between us and the Prism Gate, it was hard to tell how stable it was. There was a strong possibility that the gate would shut forever. Such a frightening thought forced us to move quickly in the mist that now seemed like a prison. I swear even now that when we left that cursed building I could hear the laughter of Dr. Filmore in the distance.
We had run for nearly ten miles before we witnessed one of the most astounding and truly dangerous phenomenon of Niflheim. The pale sickly light that haunted the sky above us became a brilliant flare without equal. It was as if someone had opened a floodgate. The sun of Niflheim didn’t rise or fall but opened and closed. The incandescent blue light didn’t produce heat but had an immediate effect on the environment. The water vapor in the air became ice and snow in a matter of seconds. We were witnessing deposition before our eyes.
Phase transitions are natural events that occur in nature and refer to when molecules shift from a solid, liquid, or gaseous state. As a liquid, water molecules are close together and, unlike solids, have more fluidity and movement. If energy is applied, spinning water molecules become faster and move out of an orderly position becoming a vapor or gas. This is called evaporation. Deposition is when these chaotic molecules are forced back into a rigid and orderly state moving from a gas into a solid.
The light we witnessed could influence the structure of molecules forcing them into a solid state. As such, the water vapor in the air froze and trapped oxygen molecules becoming snow. Niflheim became an eerie white landscape. Without the mist, we were free to observe the entirety of the realm which was flat and covered in stone spires as far as the eye could see. Though the humidity had plummeted, heat radiated from beneath our feet and yet the warm ice didn’t melt. Within minutes, the land was covered in snow. It wasn’t long before the danger became apparent. The light of Niflheim worked on more than just water molecules. Along with the ice and snow, we noticed crystalline structures of solid oxygen. At normal atmospheric pressure, it takes temperatures as low as -219°C for oxygen to solidify and yet it was happening in the presence of that strange light. Before long, there was barely any breathable oxygen left and the liquid in our eyes began to freeze. We were becoming as lifeless as our surroundings.
There are times when you make horrible mistakes that you cannot undo and, in some situations, those mistakes lead to someone's death. We had been running to the best of our abilities while shouldering a broken man and, in a moment of panic, we dropped him. The snow that blanketed the ground wasn’t soft and Dr. Stevens head split open as if it hit asphalt. When the light touched his blood he cried out before stiffening into a solid statue. The blood in his body had hardened into red stone killing him near instantly. Out of fear for our lives, we left him to be covered in snow that started to fall like hail. I could hear it break like glass upon the ground and we ducked inside one of the many spires to escape the light of Niflheim.
We had to retreat to several floors above to avoid the light that spilled through the entryway. I nearly got lost in the maze that was the building we took shelter in. Fortunately, we had escaped the frying pan but we were trapped within that hellish world. One of the few comforts that remained to me was hearing the soft blip from our instrument that signified the presence of the gate some fifteen miles from our location. However, that was our only comfort.
We had no way of knowing how long the light would last nor when the gate would shut. We were now prisoners and, as far as we knew, the only other inmate wanted to eat us. How Dr. Osmund and I sat there for three hours without panicking I truly do not know. For a time, we talked about research to keep up our morale. It was best not to think about the others. Instead, we discussed what we had learned.
I began to wonder if the star of Niflheim was, in fact, some kind of machine that flickered between an active and inactive state. Simply put, I didn’t know of any stars that possessed such strange properties and began to question its origin. Furthermore, that unique light could change the very laws of our world. Never had we witness such a rapid alteration in the state of molecules without extreme temperature and pressure. If we could find a way to bring the light to earth in a controlled fashion, it could be used to revolutionize industry. Although, even as we spoke our thoughts, it was unlikely that we would ever be able to achieve this. Without knowing how to open gates let alone predict a rifts occurrence, we would never be able to harness the power of Niflheim. We had failed our primary objective and this realm was as good a punishment as any. However, the dangers of Niflheim had far from passed.
After staying put for three hours, it became clear that the light of this world had gone dark once again. Without windows, we couldn’t actually see the light but the snow and ice had begun to melt. Do you know how rapidly warm ice melts? Even on the second floor, we were up to our knees in water and it was rising fast. Within minutes, the first, second, third, and fourth floors were completely flooded. We barely had enough time to gather our things and escape to higher ground. Unfortunately, in my cowardice and blinding frenzy of self preservation, I became separated from Dr. Osmund and the spires layout proved to be as deadly as it was confusing. I nearly lost my life when I ran into a dead-end room. The rising water was coming so fast I couldn’t get out and would’ve drowned if not for the unusual doorway above my head.
I made my way up eight floors before the water finally stopped rising. I couldn’t find Dr. Osmund and could only assume the worst. The gallons of water required to cover an entire realm with a depth of near eight stories must have been staggering. I had saved my skin and managed to hold onto the gate tracker which still produced a soft blip indicating the rifts presence. However, the sight and sound of that instrument was no longer one of comfort. For the first time in my life, I had resigned myself to death. I felt that it was highly unlikely that the water would recede before the gate shut. To make matters worse, all of my provisions were gone and, even though the light was out, I hadn’t the breath to escape that building. There was too much water but a part of me felt that drowning was a better fate than what was in store. I had nothing left and was completely alone in the realm of mists. Honestly, I was afraid to die but, as I would learn, there are things far worse than death and it would come with the sounds of laughter. I could hear all three of my colleagues whispering in the distance. The sound rippled through water and slithered across the walls. It was coming to claim a fourth and final victim. I closed my eyes and prayed for there were no options left to me.
That’s where I awoke. I had no way of knowing how long I slept but there was nothing but silence that surrounded me. The type of silence that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Something was watching me. The light I had carried had long since faltered and gone out and so I used the soft glow of the rift tracking monitor to illuminate the room in front of me. When I switched on the instrument I came face to face with the horror of Niflheim.
A creature that I now call the Basilisk stood a mere two feet from where I lay. It was, for lack of a better description, a large eyeless white cat. Its most striking features were the two bloodied sockets bordering an abyss so deep that, even now, it sends chills to my core. I sat stunned and unable to move. That’s when it began to whisper to me. The Basilisk’s mouth shot open in a jerking motion as if to hiss revealing sharp white teeth boarded by the same red stain that lined its lips and eye sockets. A language I couldn’t understand poured from its mouth even though its lips never moved. The sight was so unnerving that I ran from the room heart pounding in my chest. I had no idea where I was going to go but, in such a state, it didn’t matter. The only thought left in my mind was that I was going to swim for it. I didn’t care even if I drowned. However, I then came across a miracle.
The water that had flooded seven floors of that building had long since receded to the bottom. I didn’t know what process occurred to cause such rapid evaporation but I didn’t care. I flung myself down the stairs floor by floor running from a hidden pursuer. Was that thing chasing me? I hadn’t the guts remaining to look behind. I didn’t stop even when I came across Dr. Osmunds body on the fifth floor. She must’ve struggled to find a way out underwater and got trapped in the maze. I can only imagine the feeling of horror of struggling to find a way out only to drown.
The water was only knee high when I made it to the bottom and I dashed from the spire in the direction of the London rift. Just as before, there was a faint blue light that hung in the sky. It was barely enough to illuminate my way. However, the darkness was almost a blessing. I had no wish to stare upon the face of that creature again and so I ran and I ran hard. There was nothing nor anyone left to hinder me and I was going to see the light of our sun before that day was done.
I was the only survivor of the Niflheim investigation team. When I left that spire, I ran for fifteen miles in the darkness. The humidity was once again staggering and there was no knowing when the light would return. Was there a cycle that could be measured? I was only witnessed to a single rotation and learned enough to know that I wouldn’t survive another. I had left everything behind on my way back to the rift. After a time, I finally made it. There wasn’t a second of hesitation when I tossed myself through the Prism Gate. The horror I had experienced traveling through the rift was nothing compared to the fear I felt of the thing that spoke to me that day.
I came back to Earth mere moments before the London rift snapped shut. The force of the event caused a 5.2 magnitude earthquake to shake the city. Though I had lived two days in the heart of Niflheim, only several hours had passed on Earth. A clear indication that the timelines between our world and the parallel realms weren’t synced.
I didn’t return home a conquering hero with parades and loved ones waiting for me. No, I was an unknown threat and treated like a sick patient who could be contagious. Of course, I didn’t blame them. I had seen viruses melt flesh from bone and even that was mild compared to the dangers of some. Nobody knew what I had been exposed to and so I was quarantined for what felt like months. Test after test was conducted and yet none would find what truly ailed me.
You see, I came home with a piece of that world. I had mistakenly believed that I could run from the Basilisk but it was already too late. I don’t know at what point I became the host but the creature I had found in Niflheim now made a home in my head. I felt it upon each hair along my neck and saw it in my reflection. The eyeless cat whispered to me with words that crawled under my skin. Nobody else was privy to the bond we shared and so it went unnoticed by all but me.
Back then, I believed the Basilisk was a parasite of the mind whose form was only tangible in the conscience of those it possesses. What it gained from such a relationship I couldn’t yet say and nor had I come to understand the language it spoke. Ever since my escape, I’ve been plagued with nightmares infused with the maddening laughter of my missing colleagues. The eyeless gaze of the Basilisk is never far and I can’t help but cry out at the abyss held within its skull. They called it post traumatic stress but they were very wrong.
It’s been many years since the closure of the first exploration into the parallel realms. At the time, I could control my nightmares with medication but the Basilisk has never left me. There was enough evidence to suggest that this creature was far more than just a figment of my imagination. Since my affliction, I couldn’t get sick, I couldn’t die, and age alluded me. Over time, these traits came to define my position in the Triumvirate. The gifts of the Basilisk made me one of three most elite members of the Fifth Chapter and lead investigator in all parallel realm explorations. To this day, that eyeless creature still whispers to me and I believe that the realm of mists was a prison designed to keep the Basilisk in. It may be that our investigation unknowingly freed this creature and set earth upon a course for destruction.
I had been possessed by a creature I couldn’t understand and my conscience had become a conflicted duality. There were many days that I found myself simply an observer dancing to the strings of an eyeless puppet master. However, I cannot deny that the Basilisk may be the sole reason that we came to understand and learned to control and detect rifts. My investigations into the parallel realms would prove to save humanity just as our organization was founded to do. But at what cost? I would eventually learn that the consequences of the Niflheim investigation would cost the lives of billions. Lives that I took with my own hands.