Stephen struggled to free himself, but after a few seconds, he determined that it was hopeless. The tentacle which had grabbed him around his right ankle had been joined by another tentacle which wrapped around his right thigh. The superhuman strength he had displayed in scaling the mountain was nothing compared to the power of the entity which had captured him. He tried to remain calm by reminding himself that he had transcended his weak human nature, that his soul had reached a deeper connection to the forces outside the universe, but those thoughts could not extinguish the fear that the his essence could be fully annihilated at any point.
He grasped the Three-Point Shooting Amulet which was still on a chain around his neck. Gripping this physical representation of his power soothed him somewhat, and he was, for the first time, able to observe the chamber that he was being dragged through. The interior walls, like the exterior, were covered with minute symbols that evidenced great knowledge, perhaps all knowledge that had ever been known or would be known. Like the rest of this world, the place was lit, but the source of light couldn’t be seen.
Lifting his head up slightly to look towards his legs, Stephen saw additional tentacles slithering and writhing along with the two that bound him. They extended an impossibly long distance forward and then around a curve in the corridor. Whether they belonged to one creature or multiple, he couldn’t determine.
When the dragging finally stopped, Stephen was in a chamber with a ceiling so high that the walls seemed to vanish into fog. The tentacles let him go, allowing him to stand up, but they stayed within inches him, ready to grab again if he started running. It was then that he got his first look at what he knew without a doubt was one of the Other Gods.
It was comprised entirely of the dripping black tentacles that had taken him here. At the center of the writhing mass was a triangle of three eyes that blinked independently of each other. Stephen struggled to look at the abomination for more than a second at a time; its appearance was repulsively alien.
There was no visible mouth, but the God spoke to him anyway. “What is your purpose? Why have you come?”
Stephen again grasped the amulet, using its strength to look the fiend in the eyes. “To gain mastery over the art of three-point shooting with your aid.” He paused, then added, “And to bring back news of the true Gods to those who I once called my fellow man, so that they abandon their adoration of the lesser Gods.”
“We cannot help you,” the thing replied. “We do not desire worship. But you can help us. To have a human spirit, even one tainted by unwise rituals, would nourish us greatly!”
At that moment, the veil of concealment was ripped away, and the entire illusion of the mountain and the great stone city disappeared. As Stephen was thrown back into the void, both his physical and mental senses crashed into each other like the waves of a sea beset with hundreds of storms. Unlike his entry into this dimension, there was no tranquility, only chaos. Every connection to reality was sundered. His sanity was broken.
His mind, or what remained of it, could only repeat one panicked thought, over and over: “Where is the amulet?” He tried to see it, but there was nothing to see, not even blackness; it was as if the visual inputs to his brain had been replaced with random garbled signals. When he tried to move his hand to check for the amulet, he found that his physical presence had been discarded entirely, leaving only a consciousness with no form attached.
The malefic voice spoke again. “What you observe now is the true nature of this dimension. There is no respite from the chaos. We will let the fear build up on your soul like a plaque, and then it will be devoured, and you will find what lies beyond is not pleasant.”
Distantly, Stephen could hear screams echoing through the void. The screams of those life forms foolish enough to journey into this dimension and paying the price with their souls. “I refuse,” Stephen answered defiantly. “Return me at once to my home!” He couldn’t tell where his voice was coming from but suspected that no actual sound waves were being generated.
In response to this, an unbearable static noise filled his ears at a deafening volume. It moved up and down in pitch as if laughter. Stephen instinctively moved to protect his ears, but there were no ears to protect. “Such hubris,” spoke the voice. “If you wish to act this way, perhaps it would be better to remove you immediately.”
Stephen cried out as he felt the first fragment of his soul get broken off and consumed. More Gods had joined in the feast, surrounding him, prodding him, driving him to incoherence. In one final act of defiance, he channeled his remaining energy even as it was being sapped from him, and yelled out “I refuse!” as this energy burst out of him.
“Steph? Steph? Are you okay?”