Lesedi tucked her face into the crux of her elbow, snorting away the acidic stink that poured out of the hole in space. The three eyed figure laughed; its throaty chuckle so low in tone that it vibrated her bones and crackled in her ears like a blown out speaker.
“So nice to see you again,” grumbled the creature. There was a wet slapping sound as a chunk of the flesh surrounding the opening in space detached and fell to the ground. The purple flames quickly reduced it to ash.
Lesedi coughed and resumed looking through the lens. A shiver ran up her spine, sending goosebumps all over her body. She hated seeing him and the horrors he brought with him. Each time she’d contacted him, each time he appeared was different. The first time she’d chanced summoning him he’d tricked her into thinking the entire library was flooding; walls of water quickly rose around her, while his darkness rose from the depths. She’d struggled to breathe, and even tried to swim towards the increasingly distant surface; all in futility of course.
Opening her other eye had dispelled the illusion he’d created. She saw that she was still in the library, stuck within an alley in the Urban Fiction and Dark Fantasy section; still trying to get away from the Soulless and the Foul Police. Looking back through the lens, she saw the watery world again and her ears were full of his laughter.
There were other times as well—illusions of being buried alive; of the ceiling of the library crumbling down on her; of all-too real looking beasts surrounding her and growling in hunger—and each one scared her to no end. The memories of the illusions haunted her, and warned her from contacting him again. But ultimately, there was no avoiding him: when she needed help, when she was in dire straits with no other options, he was the one she had to turn to.
Another lump of flesh fell to the ground and quivered a little, letting out a pained squeal as the living purple flames crawled over its bloody, pustule ridden form.
“It’s nice to… It’s good to see you too, Gespar.”
Another gust of foul breath rushed by her. She could almost feel her nose hairs burning in the acrid stink.
“And what, pray tell, are you in need of this time, hmm? Another plea, perhaps, for help or salvation? Another… cry for aid?” He laughed again.
“What makes you think I need help? Maybe I just missed seeing you?”
Gespar growled, and Lesedi felt the strength leave her body. She fell against the cabinets and her arms shook violently; even her teeth were chattering. She was humming—involuntary—and she could feel an almost irresistible need to scream and run and laugh and cry overtaking her mind.
Don’t be intimidated this time. Don’t play into his game. You’re the boss, remember? You. Take charge!
She coughed to clear her throat and tried to feel confident, but when she spoke, the quivering of her voice betrayed her fear. Even still, she did her best to exude authority.
“After all, what’s not to love ab-b-bout a creepy, stinky, monster who—”
“Mock me!?” Screamed the dark entity within the void. “You who cries to me, who begs me; me!—the Great Terror of the Depths, the Lord of Madness, who commands legions of tormented souls and feasts upon the very sanity of mankind! You would mock and try your hand at wit when daring to summon me into your weak, fragile realm?” He yelled something in the ancient language of insanity, and Lesedi felt her grip on reality splinter further. “Know your place, human!” The purple flames around the portal rose to terrifying heights, consuming everything around her, and his continued chanting called forth the charred wailing skeletons of countless victims, all clawing at their bare faces, and thrashing their bodies every which way. A siren blared throughout the world, and the sky—starless and wrapped in scarlet clouds—began to crack like glass; great veins erupting everywhere and shards beginning to rain down upon everything. The noise, the fire, the heat, the wailing; all of it intensified and intensified, until Lesedi was sure she was going to die.
A moment later…
The flames subsided, the skeletons were gone, and the sky returned to its indiscernible blandness. It was another few minutes before Lesedi came to and realized she’d been thrashing and screaming the whole time.
Her clothing was drenched in sweat and a newly formed crust of blood crinkled under her nose. Her cheeks were wet and sticky from the deluge of tears that she’d unknowingly cried, and the aerosol film of blood from screaming herself hoarse coated her teeth and tongue. Shivering, she pulled the lens from her face and tried to steady herself.
“Yes,” hummed Gespar—now invisible to her, but very present, “seek refuge in your paltry reality. Enjoy it while you can.” Another rumble of laughter vibrated her bones.
“It’s alright,” she muttered, over and over to herself. She hugged her knees into her chest and rocked back and forth. “It’s alright. Everything is fine. Everything is good. We can do this. We can do this, because everything is fine. We’ve got this. We’re safe. We’re safe. Everything… Everything is alright.”
Several minutes of humming the words to herself, along with innumerable deep breaths finally found Lesedi calmer; clearer in her mind and reminded of her intention. Grabbing the lens, she noticed that blood had pooled under her fingernails and spilled over her cuticles from where she’d raked them against the floor in her fit of insanity. Several of her nails were torn down the middle, and threads from the carpet were securely lodged within them.
Hesitantly, she brought the lens back to her eye.
Gespar was still waiting, was still looking out from the tear in space.
“Feeling strong again, little one?”
“No,” she admitted. “I’d honestly rather bury this lens forever and never speak to you again.”
“But…” offered Gespar.
“But… I can’t. At least, n-not yet.” She took a breath. “You’re right, Lord of Madness. I do need your help.”
“And there it is: the simple admission. But there seems to be a lack of incentive, on your part—to convince me, that is. What is it that you have to offer me, in return for my help?” She could feel the eyes scanning her body. “Another poor soul fallen prey to your deception perhaps? I do so love a human sacrifice…”
The guilt of the memory made her nauseous, but she worked past it.
“I have s-something,” she said and licked her lips, “something you won’t be able to resist.”
Gespar chuckled. “Is that so? And what might that be, little mortal?”
“First, please let me tell you w-what I am… begging you for,” countered Lesedi, bowing her head slightly. She didn’t want to risk provoking another round of chastising from this multidimensional terror; the chances of her escaping with what little sanity she had left were moot. Gespar’s eyes flashed, and the flames danced a little higher, but the dark entity did not move nor speak. Lesedi continued.
“Just past this desk is the exit from the library,” she explained. “It’s been so long since I’ve been home, since I’ve seen my family and friends; since I’ve been in the real world, and I’m desperate to get back. But between here and the exit—even though it seems a short distance—we both know it’s likely to be a million miles and a thousand challenges away. And so, what I am humbly requesting of you is…” She took a breath and, with her free hand, wiped a fresh bead of blood from her nostrils. “Will you move me to the exit?”
A gurgling sound rose from the tear in space. The three eyes blinked in unison.
“You ask much,” the dark entity said. “To move you—so delicate a thing—through that amount of space and time…” He chuckled. “You may not survive.”
Lesedi felt her stomach drop. “So… You won’t do it?”
“It depends,” he hissed, “on what it is you are offering in exchange. What is this… thing you believe I want more than anything, hmm? What is this irresistible item?”
Lesedi’s mind raced. Should she offer it? What good was the exchange if what she was asking for would kill her anyways? Was it guaranteed that she would die? Would his wanting it a guarantee her survival? Was it worth it—was escaping really worth her life?
The faces of her parents, of her grandparents, of cousins and friends and teachers and pastors—the faces of her community—though dulled in her memory from her time in the library, welled up to stare her in the eye. Her heart lifted and ached, seeing their faces. And she knew the answer to that question: was it worth her life to see them again?
“Well?” pressed Gespar. “What are you offering me?”
Lesedi looked straight at him, straight into the pit of impenetrable darkness. “I’ll give you the world.” Gespar laughed, but Lesedi interjected. “You don’t understand. You’re here in the library; you exist on this plane, in the library and in the library only. But I can change that.”
“What riddle are you trying to entangle me in?”
“Not a riddle: a promise.” Lesedi took a breath, and pressed away the terrified voice of doubt that wanted to silence her, that wanted to keep her from making such a foolish promise. “I promise to summon you into the world outside the library. I’ll bring you into the real world.”