Hallows Realm
Sample Scene by Carrie Martin

For all Zorzum had heard about no-souls, nothing could have prepared him for that ghastly first encounter.

Within the endless innards of Lost Soul Prison, row upon row of severed human heads shimmered and jittered on the spot. Brains sparked and flashed yellow-orange light from within their shining see-through heads, casting a ghoulish glow across the countless dark aisles fading into the distance. An obnoxious droning-sound saturated the air, reverberating through his body. The very rock beneath his feet pulsed to a steady beat, as though the prison itself were alive.

Signs engraved with the words ORANGE ZONE dangled from the cavern's ceiling, forming a crooked line before the approaching aisles of prisoners. Zorzum opened his jaws to ask what it meant—what the Orange Zone was—but stopped short at the sight of his father, focused and unblinking. Questions could wait; mind shielding could not.

Following close on his father's heels, he entered an aisle to the far right of the cavern. A sharp metallic burnt smell caught in his throat, and he swallowed it down, not daring to cough or make a sound. All he could do was gawk, jaws open, at the glistening lines of heads looming either side of him. Their gelatinous necks were wedged upon metal prongs, all connected to a grid-like structure that tore through the prison and rose up through the ceiling. Every prisoner was labeled by an ID code, and organized in chronological order, beginning as far back as the early 1700's. Behind expressionless gazes, translucent clumps of brain fired electric currents of amber and orange, racing through a wilderness of circuits and neurons. An outline of blue light highlighted a myriad of face-shapes and sizes, all with bulges where eyes would once have been. Some prisoners were hairless, while others possessed thick masses of colourless strands that blew about their faces, defying gravity.

The further into the prison they ventured, the stronger the heads grew; shaking on the spot, jangling the grid; vibrant flashes of colour exploding in the brains. By the time they reached the 1850's, heads had begun to open their toothless mouths and release shallow moans.

Averting his eyes from the ghoulish prisoners, Zorzum found his father stood several feet ahead, tapping the talons of one clawed foot against the ground. Zorzum sped up, but before he could reach his father, a high-pitched ringing erupted.

"Aaargh!" screamed Zorzum, flinging his arms in the air.

His father snorted with laughter, shook his head, and produced the logophone from inside his jacket. "I'll have to take this," he said, reading the phone display and straightening his face. "Stand still and do not look at them. Got it?"

Zorzum gave a slight, uncertain nod. His father raised one arm above his head, held the logophone to his ear flap, and stepped further into the prison.

The no-souls encircling Zorzum froze in an unsettling manner, all turning to face him at once. They began to shake and rattle the grid even harder than before. He forced himself to concentrate on the smooth black ground, avoiding those hollow stares for all he was worth—until his eyes trailed right, past a break in the wall of prisoners where a door had been left ajar. A sign above the door read: GREY ZONE.

After several glances between his father—still turned away and muttering into the phone—and the mysterious door, Zorzum's curiosity was through the cavern roof. He told himself it wouldn't hurt just to peek inside the door. And, keeping his eyes down and his tail off the ground, he crept over to the arched door of the Grey Zone and slipped inside without a sound.

The instant he stepped into the room he sensed a different vibe: calmer, less threatening. The vast rugged cavern flickered with a soft blue-grey glow, firing from the brains of the prisoners. But the heads themselves moved very little, and didn't seem to notice him at all. Even the hair on their heads seemed tame in comparison to the Orange Zone, and merely whispered about their faces as though blown by a gentle breeze.

Chronological ordering had been abandoned, though each prisoner still exhibited their identifying codes. To his right, a dome-topped contraption constructed from sheets of metal jutted into the walkway. Various screens, buttons and wires decorated the strange metal beast. And scratched across its surface were the words: TESTING EQUIPMENT. Shelves ran either side where numerous heads had been discarded; toppled sideways and virtually lifeless, but for some subdued activity in their brains. Inside the hollowed inner of the dome, a single prisoner had been rigged up to the device.

Zorzum inched closer, stretched tall—pushing himself up by the tips of his back talons and tail—and peered inside. An oval-shaped face with a tiny nose and long hair curling under the stump of its neck stared back at him, with those same disturbing mounds for eyes. Wires and rods secured the prisoner from the neck and ears. And inside the brain, vibrant hues of purple and blue zapped in erratic bursts.

As he continued to inspect the head, the testing equipment sprang to life—buttons flashed, long strips of code zipped—and a tangible force began to pull at his mind. A pull so strong, his body seemed to evaporate and cease to exist. He stared into those vacant bulges for eyes and saw the head's blunt mouth begin to part. And though no sound came out, he heard the words of a human girl say "help me."

A feeling of intense emotion washed through him then, of fear, despair, loss, regret. But it was what he didn't sense that perhaps unnerved him the most.

"Zorzum!" roared his father from the entrance of the Grey Zone.

Zorzum leapt backwards with a yelp, then crouched forward to catch his breath. "Coming...Dad."

With a final glimpse at the human head—quivering in a trance-like state as it fired a steady stream of purple inside the brain—Zorzum scampered out of the Grey Zone.

Carrie Martin Writes ©2014-2018