"Go down to the river, where those devils be."
| A blizzard howled throughout the night, a warning to any living thing who dared pass through it. A house stood against the storm, the only light coming from a small room. Inside, a boy rested under the covers, while Dani kept her emerald green eyes on him. Her short, auburn hair burned like fire and her presence was that of a guardian angel. The boy appeared deathly pale, not a single hair on his head, but she knew he was just worn out. Her son was always like that after a nice, warm bath. Dani wanted to give her son one more thing, so she sang, her voice like a melancholic harp:
"Go down to the water,
Where you will be free.
Go down to the water,
There you will all be."
The boy's skin brightened as the song comes to an end, and she gave him a good night kiss. Before she left him, a warm smile beamed on her face. He'll get better. She knew that he would.
"Good night, my son."
A warmness radiated throughout the living room, like a nice cup of hot chocolate. A radio hummed a very familiar tune that Dani couldn’t quite pin down. Everything seemed peaceful, even with the turbulent weather outside. She looked to the frozen lake from her couch, the frosted surface as black as the night. It was the only thing that seemed to never change as far as she knew. An uneasy feeling took grip on her heart, some weight that was on her soul that she could not shake, but the lulling sounds from the radio washed away those worries, bringing her into a deep slumber.
. . .
She walks through the desolate forest, the snow coming up to her knees, her bare feet taking steps toward a destination only known to her. Minutes turn into hours, hours into days, until she comes to a halt, stopping at the edge of the same, black lake. It calls to her, beckoning her to come closer, but she resists. An unfamiliar presence emerges from behind, the steam from its breaths scalding her neck. Terror grips her, she has nowhere else to turn. So, she takes the first step.
. . .
The buzz of droning static resonated through the radio, overpowering the blowing winds and disturbing Dani's slumber. The pitch-black living room no longer felt like a home, a lingering bitterness replacing the warmth that once furnished the house.
"Momma!" Dani's jade eyes shot open, the distressed cry of her son like cold water splashed on her face.
Dani's heart began to race as she approached her son's room. The fears within her grew, constantly screaming at her that something was wrong. As much as she tried to quell them, the growing possibilities kept blasting through her mind. Then, the door opened, and her greatest fear was confirmed. There was no trace of him in the room, only a dirty, black gunk that enveloped the sheets.
A sickening sensation spread throughout her body like a snake, constricting her until she couldn’t stand it. Dani burst out of the room, and a terrifying sight chilled her bones. Out the glass, her son lied limp in the arms of a bloated figure shrouded by darkness, lumbering off into the endless white. Dani chased after it, the door her only obstacle. She tried to open it, but no matter how hard she struggled, the door wouldn’t budge. Fueled by the adrenaline pumping through her, she used all the strength she could muster and finally, it opened. Dani no longer found herself in her home, but outside an abandoned nursery, the lights blinking a constant pattern of light and dark. She ogled her surroundings, confounded at this new world before her. Through the long, foreboding silence, a familiar voice rung through:
Along the intersection of a hallway, there they were: her son, petrified with fright, and the thing in black, glaring daggers into her:
She ran after them but as the lights flicker, they vanish, leaving only a trail of black liquid behind. Dani had no choice but to follow. The path snaked from one point to the next, guiding her through an endless maze of hallways and dead ends. Hopelessness came over her, consuming her thoughts, until a baby’s cry shattered those dark thoughts. She let the distressed screams direct her, the commotion leading her to a lit room. Within it was a mother with the same auburn hair, and a small infant nestled near her bosom as she serenaded with a familiar song.
"Go down to the water,
Where you will be free,
Go down to the water,
There you will all be."
The infant's cries became soft coos, and the mother's smile grew. She remembered this. This was the happiest moment of her life. As she watched on, that pressure returned, the same heavy feeling that she felt before. She wished to stay longer, but she couldn't. Her son was waiting. Dani continued the way she came, braving the growing weight in her heart. The memory of the hospital unit faded, and Dani found herself outside of her home, watching the sun fall below the now thawed, shimmering lake. A weak tug on her pants brought her attention to her son, older, but his appearance was sickly, as if he hadn't eaten for days.
"What's wrong with me, Mommy?"
His sunken, brown eyes peered into her soul, holding a pleading sadness in them. Dani was unsure of how to react, unsure if this was a dream or reality. But right now, none of that mattered. All she knew was that her son was here, and she wasn't going to waste this moment.
"Nothing...nothing is wrong with you."
She held him tight, simply glad to be near her son. His gangly arms struggled to return the embrace. For once, she didn't feel that burden in her heart, but slowly it began to flare in her heart like a wildfire. Dani tried to release her embrace, but her son didn't want to let go. The boy's body began degrading before her, wordlessly begging her to save him as black goo oozed from every orifice. All she could do was watch as her son became nothing more than an inky mess. The substance overtook her, devouring her until all she could see was black. From the darkness rose a familiar place: her own room in disarray with the only window blocked with murkiness. There was no door in sight. There was no escape.
'What the hell is this?' She thought.
On an abandoned shelf, a small television buzzed to life, the light illuminating the only audience member in this prison. Static permeated on the screen, until a familiar voice crackled from the white noise.
"Mommy? Where are you? It hurts..."
She comes closer to the screen, trying to comfort the boy from within, "It's okay baby. You'll be just fine, I promise."
"...You're lying, Mommy."
All the color drained from her body. How could he say that? She loved him, right? The droning warbled and buffered, her son's voice shifting into a doctor's sullen tone:
"Miss, I'm sorry to tell you but there's nothing I can do..."
"What your son has, it can't be cured..."
"All you can do now is-"
She ripped the television off the stand and slammed it to the ground, silencing the doctor's voice. Her green eyes stared at the broken remnants of the screen, breathing heavily like a wild animal. The mass in her heart returned, but this time, it didn't bother her. She grew cold to it. A steady rhythm of flowing water reverberated throughout the room, the sound becoming so overwhelming that she had to confront it. There stood a door, a thin steam emitting from it. She didn't know why, but going through that door felt right, and so she did.
The confines of her room morphed into a bathroom, where she saw her son staring into the water. His feeble appearance looked more like a skeleton wearing human skin. Despite his pathetic state, he was so determined, so innocent. There was no doubt in her mind, this was her son, in all his beauty. Her body slogged on toward her son, the weight from her heart becoming overwhelming, but she didn’t care. She only wanted to be near her son, her darling boy. The child faced his mother with sad hazel eyes, a sponge tightly clenched in his hand.
Dani placed her hands on his, caressing the bony digits, giving a gentle, maternal touch that only a mother could give. She took the sponge from his grip and washed him, feeling every shallow breath her son would take. Before she knew it, her hands were wrapped around his throat, forcing the child under the water. He was no match for his mother's strength. The boy flailed around without abandon, hoping to be free...to live. Slowly but surely though, he gave up. Dani pried her hands from his neck, gazing at them with a frozen glare. She wanted to cry, she wanted to scream, but her reaction was non-existent.
"It's time for bed, sweetheart."
Dani carried her son in her arms, cradling the frail boy, his brown eyes blank like a dead fish. The tub filled with the same black liquid, consuming the small room with its inkiness. The dirty liquid came up to her knees, but she didn't budge, letting the growing black ocean swallow her whole. She wanted to drown. It's what she deserved.
. . .
The snowstorm bellowed once more, returning the land to an all-consuming white. Dani came to on the icy lake, the snowfall stinging her skin and her clothes stained in black. Her home was gone, there was only the lake, stretching out for what seemed like miles. But her emerald eyes were drawn to something else, a curious sight obscured by the thick ice. Her curiosity would become horror, as Dani discovered another human, imprisoned under the ice, the agony on his face on full display. All around her she saw a graveyard of twisted bodies in various states of suffering and torment under the lake, reaching out in vain for salvation. Her shrieks challenged the pounding winds, until she stood on her knees, silent, disturbed, and alone. The thing in all black's shadow loomed over her, eclipsing her from the oncoming snow. Dani raised her head and faced the sinister figure's judgement.
"Who are you?"
The thing takes off its covering, and terror smeared across her face as its formless visage morphed into her own. It was monstrous, three mouths protruding where its stomach and chest should be, pathetic, torn demonic wings spread along its distorted frame. There it stood, a reflection fitting for only the most disgusting and despicable monsters. Its misshapen hand pointed behind her and as mysteriously as it appeared, it dissolved into the snow. She turned her head, and there he was, her son, waiting. She crawled towards him, and they embraced, the tears coming down like waterfalls.
"Vergil, forgive me."
Vergil doesn't budge an inch, unfazed through his mother's sobs.
"I did what I did because I loved you. I loved you too much to suffer. You understand?"
He remained like a statue, until he gazed at her with those same brown eyes, "Yeah, I understand..."
Hope begun to rise in her, until a sharp pain shot up her leg. She looked down as she saw her whole leg consumed in the frozen lake. Like a flytrap, it held her in place, giving her no place to go.
"...I understand completely."
Vergil disappeared into the ice storm, resigning his “mother” to her fate, whistling the lullaby that she would always sing to him. The lake drug her even deeper down, the pain from the frostbite burning worse than the hottest flames. She wailed, wishing that someone would put her out of her misery, but there was no one left to grant that wish. This was her hell, and she had no one to blame but herself. There she would remain, trapped, begging just like the others before her and those that will come after, her last moments forever etched into her eternal, anguished expression.