The Devil’s in There


Some say the chasm has always been there.

Some say it appeared after the city did; that God, angry with the sinners, broke apart the Earth in his wrath. Some say that the first King purposefully built his kingdom there, around that gaping hole in the ground; that he’d thought to use it as a punishment for criminals. Question the King’s rule? Into the pit of hell with you.

The kingdom did, subsequently, have an exceptionally low crime rate. Hellhole aside, it was probably one of the safest places on Earth.

For everyone but the Sacrifices. And there were human Sacrifices. One every year.

There are many versions of the story of how it all began, dozens of theories, but the people of the cursed island all firmly believed in one thing—the Devil is in there.

The Devil is in there, and every year a human sacrifice must be made to appease it.

Or the Devil would get out.

Each autumn, a Sacrifice is chosen. Random. Every single name of every single person in the city is in that lottery. Adults, old people, children.

The Devil doesn’t have a preference.

Once chosen, that’s it. There is no escaping the beckoning. Some Sacrifices have tried, but none of them made it very far before some tragedy befell them. They would get in their boats and try to cross the sea, only to be crushed by sudden, unnaturally tumultuous waves. They would hide in their homes behind locked doors, only to suffer from mysterious and fatal heart attacks.

No. Once chosen, the Sacrifice’s fate was sealed. And so they went—better to face a death with honor where, supposedly, there is at least a fraction of a chance that they could survive. That they could be the one to beat the monster at its own game.

Naturally, that was just some false hope to give the Sacrifices the strength to remain upright as they were accompanied to the Devil’s playground. No one ever lived. No one ever won. The bodies of those poor, doomed souls always reappeared in the City Square.

Sometimes days later, sometimes weeks.

Sometimes, they would return with no hands. Sometimes, they would return with no eyes.

Always, without a heart.

No one knows when exactly the Labyrinth began to be built around the chasm. To those living in the city, it has always been. Hundreds of years ago? Thousands? It hardly mattered.

What did matter was that the mass of winding walls kept the monster—and the hellhole—trapped inside, safely away from the citizens of the Kingdom.

The legend goes that one year, a young priest came to the island. He arrived in a modest fishing boat with only a small crew of followers, devout supporters who had come to witness the death of the Devil. They had heard of the Labyrinth and the Devil within, and the priest declared that he was chosen by God to vanquish the monster himself.

He brought with him a gleaming sword, claiming it to be blessed by the Lord. It was, he said, to be the only hope for vanquishing the Devil and banishing it back into the hellhole from whence it came. Supposedly, he even looked the part of hero. A blonde youth of the priesthood with a tall stature and broad shoulders. He entered into the maze to raucous cheers and cries of good fortune.

His body appeared just days later.

No hands, no eyes…no heart.

And no sword.

They say that the sword must still be in the Labyrinth. Each year, the Sacrifice was reminded of this scrap of information as though it could be their saving grace, like they were not being sent to certain death, to horrific mutilation by a monster in a maze.

Find the sword. Kill the Devil. Break the curse and make your way back out of the Labyrinth.

Easy.

Or die, like every Sacrifice. Know that you’re ensuring the safety of the kingdom for another year. That your death was noble.

But Michael, just like everyone else in the cursed kingdom, knew there was nothing noble in being sacrificed.

This year, the name called was that of his twin brother.

“Gabriel?”

“Gabriel Damon.”

He swallowed back the bile threatening to claw its way up his throat as he relived that moment. The world coming to an abrupt halt as his brother’s name rung hollow in his ears, as though someone had scooped out all of his insides and replaced them with empty air.

He took a deep breath as he faced the entrance of the Labyrinth.

The islanders referred to the entryway as ‘the Weeping Rock’. It was called this because the only way to gain access to the maze was to make an offering of blood on the stone. To ensure that only the Sacrifices could enter, and, of course, that the Devil could never get out. Years and years of offerings being forced to do so had left a permanent, rust colored stain on the rock’s surface. It looked as though it was weeping a dull scarlet.

Otherwise, the outside of the maze was just gray, colorless stone. A deceivingly nondescript wall that that seemed to stretch on forever. The fortress was so tall that it blocked out the feeble rays of sunlight which attempted to shine through the ubiquitous clouds, though the sun was still low in the sky, hardly past daybreak. He’d snuck away from his home in the middle of the night, knowing full well that someone would try and stop him if they were aware of what he was doing. Because everyone knew it was suicide to enter the Labyrinth.

But how could anyone expect him to not go after his brother?

“Maybe he’ll be the one.”

“He could do it, Gabriel is so strong, so clever…”

Words that were said ever year. Empty, meaningless. Spoken in voices that were already void of any hope, falling flat from the lips of those who bothered to say anything at all, when really what they were thinking was, ‘I’m glad it wasn’t me.’

He shifted the bag on his shoulder nervously. Gabriel had been in there an entire day now. But he wasn’t about to wait around on edge with the rest of the islanders until his brother’s bloody corpse inevitably appeared in the city square, heartless or worse. He was going in. He was going to find Gabriel, and they would survive together.

Find the sword. Kill the Devil. Break the curse and make your way back out of the Labyrinth.

Easy.

He pulled a small blade from his bag. Nothing special, just a knife he used to gut the fish he’d catch. But it was sharp, and that was all he needed. He steeled himself as he sliced open his palm. The blood blossomed from the cut at once, a vivid scarlet, so violently red against his pale skin. He placed his hand on the Weeping Rock and watched as the blood oozed down the surface, adding his own crimson tears to those of years past. To his brother’s.

For a moment, nothing happened.

Then, just as he removed his hand from the stone, the rocks began to shift. They moved on their own accord, sliding eerily backwards and to one side, allowing him just enough space to pass through. Then they were still. Beyond the entrance, he could make out only another wall which looked exactly the same as the one he now stood beside.

He turned and gave the Kingdom one last look. From this far away, it seemed less like a city and more like a maquette. Tiny pinpricks of black dots of dark forms that were the outlines of homes, churches, schools. The castle where the King lived, which he knew was much larger than any other construction, hardly looked impressive from here.

One last sweeping glance, and he turned to face the still open entryway of the maze, waiting for him. It felt like the air was crackling around him in anticipation. He could hear the thundering of his heart in his chest, a violent thrumming that reverberated throughout his entire body.

He nervously flexed his bleeding hand. Ruby droplets fell steadily to the ground below, leaving a teardrop trail behind him as he stepped forward.

Michael entered the Labyrinth.

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4 thoughts on “The Devil’s in There

      1. Awesome! Well, if you do go through with it, I look forward to seeing what happens next. If not, it was still a fun read.

        Liked by 1 person

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