This flash fiction challenge, posted over at Chuck Wendig's terribleminds.com, had one stipulation: incorporate "there is no exit" in some way. Thematically, as literal dialogue, or whatever.
And so I whipped up The Ritual of Souls (in 1.5 days, so go easy on me). It ended up like a Saturday morning cartoon, but slathered in blood (which is pretty cool).
Blood rushed to Kelly’s head as she hung upside-down, hands tied behind her back. She stared into the emerald eyes of Nagazhul.
“You can’t stop it now,” Nagazhul said, his voice echoing deep in his throat.
The swirling violet crystal behind him hummed, emanating light to the chanting acolytes encircling it. Beyond, Kelly could see the cityscape, each window like the light of a firefly. Those people had no idea how close they were to death.
“Ritual’s not done yet,” Kelly said, writhing against her bonds. She shimmied her hands to the knife hidden in her belt.
Nagazhul reached out with a clawed hand and ran blackened nails along her cheek, he inhaled, as though smelling her scent. But Kelly knew he was tasting her soul, just the edge of it. Being an agent of the occult, Kelly had an iron will that meant shitheads like Nagazhul couldn’t work their magic on her.
“Eight million souls, agent Kelly, all in a matter of seconds.” Nagazhul turned his back to her, staring out of the skyscraper's windows. “It will be death on a scale so sweat, so unimagined. I will ascend. Can you comprehend this? Godhood awaits me, in a matter of moments I will be a breaker of worlds, eater of eras. And you will be my mortal witness. You’re terror will ripple throughout purgatorium. It will taste so sweat,” Nagazhul inhaled. “There will be no exit, no escape from my will.”
He turned to Kelly, his emerald eyes glimmering with delight.
Kelly stabbed him in the eye.
He reeled, clutching his bloody socket.
Kelly, arms free, cut the ropes around her feet, hit the floor with a roll, and charged at the ritual crystal. It hovered in the air, spinning faster and faster, radiating blinding light.
Nagazhul roared, his voice echoing with the power of a thunderstorm. “Kill her.”
The chanting acolytes turned as one, staring at her from shadowed hoods, jagged serpentine blades held high, screeching.
Kelly drew her boot knife, twelve inches of carbon steel, and slammed it to the hilt in an acolytes gut.
They swarmed her, kicking and biting and stabbing. Kelly’s blade flashed, arcs of red splattered on the floor, on the ceiling, on herself. She reached into a shadowed hood, and felt the chill void on her flesh, and then she clutched his windpipe and squeezed. A soft, wet gurgle escaped the acolyte.
Kelly broke bones with kicks from her steel toed boots, her knife dug through robe and flesh. And Kelly shoved the bleeding acolytes aside, charging for the now spinning crystal.
She reached up, an unspeakable force pushing against her, trying to drive her back. Her fingers inches from the crystal. Just. A. Little. More.
Kelly tore the crystal from the ritual circle with a crack of thunder. Nagazhul bellowed, but she was already running for the window, crystal under her arm.
The acolytes leaped for her, trying to grab her arms and legs, and each time she barreled past them, kicking and punching them aside.
And then she hurled the crystal into the window. The window shattered, and the crystal pin wheeled to the street below, exploding into a thousand pieces.
“Rituals done,” Kelly said.
Nagazhul stared out the window, hand outstretched, mouth agape. Then, his brow furrowed, his features contorted into a bestial countenance. He inhaled, and as one the acolytes bowed to him, their souls draining away like blown mist, spiralling up into Nagazhul’s mouth and nostrils. The acolytes slumped, their bodies drained, dead. Nagazhul glowed with their power, glowed from the surge of strength it gave him.
He set his emerald eyes on Kelly and breathed deep.
Pain lanced through Kelly’s body, piercing from the inside out. Her hands melted away, dissolving into mist, pulled into the wide maw of Nagazhul. Then her legs dissolved, her torso, and it crept up her neck until her sinuses burned and her eyes watered, and then blackness.
Solid blackness beneath her, miles upon miles of blackness surrounded her. Kelly breathed, and no air entered her lungs, but somehow she lived.
Nagazhul tilted his head, a beacon in the darkness. “Curious,” he said. “How do you persist?”
Kelly was an agent of the occult, her spirit iron willed. And unlike the others Nagazhul had eaten, Kelly’s spirit was weighted with the will of her determination.
Nagazhul hadn’t expected Kelly to lunge, but he especially hadn’t expected her grasping hand to have weight, to clutch his robe, and to throw him to the ground. Nagazhul shrieked, confused. Kelly drove her knife into his heart, and his face contorted into a visage of primal pain.
The blackness below him opened. Tentacles thick with bloodshot eyes writhed and wrapped around Nagazhul. He pleaded, begged for mercy. “Don’t send me back there. Please. I can’t take it anymore.”
“You don’t have a choice. Enjoy a century of nightmare, fucker.”
Kelly twisted the blade, and Nagazhul was pulled through the rend, consumed by the writhing, bulbous mass of the eldritch domain.
And then she was alone. The blackness crowded around her, pressing against her like water filled sacks, suffocating her. She dug her fingers into the darkness, pinpricks of light emerging from her finger holes, and she tore it in twain.
Nagazhul’s flesh fell to the floor, shed like a false skin. Kelly stood in the skyscraper, bathed in blood, surrounded by bodies, hair whipped by the broken window.
Just another job done.