Amidst the cavernous structures an ominous light poured into Alena’s view, blinding her. She stood as far from the light as she could, fearing she might be burned by the overwhelming brightness. This wasn’t supposed to happen, they weren’t supposed to go so far. She had begged them to turn back.

You can’t, a voice echoed in Alena’s mind.

“Shut up!” she screamed, dropping her torch as she gripped her head between her hands. The pressure of her grip relaxed the ache pounding in her mind, but did nothing to quell the voice.

Go. Farther.

That voice. The incessant nagging, calling, and whispering scratched at her thoughts. Ever since the first step into the forest it spoke to her. It beckoned to her.

Him.

The voice had commanded. Atheos was her friend. They grew up together in their quaint village off the coast of the Jordauthian Sea. No one had traveled this far North before or at least anyone who had, had never returned. She, Atheos, Appollan, and Hesphi had been traveling for months searching for the remnants of a lost culture. It was her village’s belief that they descended from a grand civilization centuries before. One that sprawled across the valley of three great hills and adjacent to a mighty forest. Alena found the forest, though the valley had been consumed by it. They entered the forest, heeding none of the warnings that bombarded them; the fog billowing from between the trees, the eerie darkness that enveloped everything within the forest’s reach, and the animals, the few that there were, screeched and cried, begging them to turn back. She pleaded with Atheos most of all, but he refused. She had no choice but to carry on. What else could she do? Being alone in that godforsaken land frightened her more than the thought of carrying forward.

After an agonizing hike through the forest they found an opening at the center of a wooded valley between the three hills. It was there that the voice grew most ravenous. Atheos urged Alena into the opening. She was hesitant at first, but she went in. Atheos jumped in after her. At the bottom, the entrance to a large black cavern loomed over them. The fear of being alone overwhelmed her, but the voice pulled harder.

Him. Before she could resist the command, she had smashed Atheos’s head against the opening of the cavern. Him.The voice commanded over and over again. And over and over again Alena bashed Atheos’s head into the cavern’s walls until blood stained her body.

It is good. The voice praised Alena. She had never felt more satisfied. The primal urge to follow the voice’s commands over came her. The hunger for more blood devoured her mind.

“You can come down! It’s safe!” Alena called to the dim opening above her. Shortly after Appollan and Hesphi dropped into the cavern. Alena attacked them in a gluttonous haze, hoping to hear the voice call to her as she devoured them. Then she was alone and the voice had abandoned her. She could here a faint whisper come from far away. Frantically, Alena dashed about the cavern searching for the voice. Her heart raced and sweat beaded from her palms.

“Where is it?” she yelled through the cavern, though nothing answered. “Where did you go? Don’t leave me like this! Please! Don’t leave me alone!”

Then she saw the light. It had been hours since she came to the cavern or at least she felt like it had been. The light comforted her, at first, but soon a malicious mist poured from within the light’s source. Alena couldn’t see the source of the light, but she could feel its malcontent. She could feel its hunger. It hadn’t fed in thousands of years. Alena felt the weight of that insatiable need to feed upon living souls. The voice returned.

Come. Come now. It said to her as she stood just out of view from the source.

“You won’t leave me again, will you?” Alena said.

Come. The voice commanded.

“Not unless you promise to stay.”

“Alena, you have to come,” the soft words of a friend gently whispered into Alena’s ear. She felt the cool touch of a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to see Atheos standing before her. “Alena, you need to come.”

“No, no, no, you’re dead. I killed you. I can’t go.”

“It’s okay Alena. You did what was needed. You can still be with us. You can still be with all of us. You just have to come to the source. Witness it, Alena. Witness the source as we have.”

“You promise to stay with me? You promise to never leave me alone again?”

“Yes, Alena, we promise,” Atheos’s apparition dissipated into the mist that emanated from the light. Alena’s fears subsided and peace took its place. She smiled as she stepped into the light and witnessed the source.