'The Illusion' - Alexander Quinn (Year 10)
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” - H.P. Lovecraft
Miserable day. Mist ran rampant through the quiet courtyard, seeping in through the bordering iron fences, pouring over the chipped cobblestone and dry earth. Sounds of false grief and the quiet patter of morning rain were all but drowned out by the uneven note of the first shovelful of earth falling onto the prepared tarpaulin. The service was nearly over.
No one had much liked the corpse, the business exec who’d had barely enough time to notice his family, let alone his own disease, creeping through his system like a vine, planting itself in every cell in his body, corrupting him slowly.
Henry Pearce hadn’t been a good man. Anyone who had ever met him knew that to be true. He hadn’t paid attention in his day-to-day life, instead focusing on hours spent at the office, losing himself in a sea of menial labour and pine-scented air conditioning. Even in death he was still busy; journalists and photographers, paper-pushers, surrounded the open casket, each one eager to be the first to report on this momentous occasion, an act that would surely earn them a place in their respective paper, not to mention the envious glances and surreptitious office-wide insults that came with this particular brand of fame.
The world above busied itself with affairs of trivial importance, inheritances and distribution, things that the living thought were important but were, in fact, not. The world below lay dormant. The hustle and bustle that had so occupied the time of that vastly insignificant plane of existence vanished as all thoughts of funerals were wiped from memory, erased through exposure to this domain of shadows. The Dead Man’s brain, sluggish as it was, was still able to partially comprehend this sight, the majesty of a kingdom far beyond what he had thought was the world. And as he stood upon the foul earth a thought formed. The thought that every mortal had experienced on first contact with this realm.
I am dead.
The words baffled him, reverberated around inside his mind until he said them out loud.
“I am dead.”
Only then, when thought became word, and echoed through the halls of this palace of the underdark, did a voice respond.
The chilling syllable disturbed him, and would have set his teeth on edge, had he been more than just a corporeal idea, a remnant of the man that lay in his grave in the world he’d left behind.
Without thought, without feeling, Henry Pearce’s consciousness drifted slowly towards the voice. Meandering gradually to the place he knew was waiting for him. Over red marble and bone, through empty corridors and stone archways, an insect caught in a web, unable to move, struggling against the inevitable. And when he reached his destination, a bottomless pit where the entity that knew him so well stood witness, he felt fear. Not the insignificant fear of death, for that had long since faded. Instead the fear that every human being has felt since the day that the first of them walked upon the surface of the world above, the fear that has persisted throughout every generation, nagging and pulling at the back of their minds every moment of every day. The fear of what comes after.
“Is this hell?” he asked aloud. “Is this where I am to spend the rest of my days, an eternity in this pit?”
There was no response from the voice, and he began to descend slowly into darkness.
“Who are you?”
You know who I am.
The sudden response startled him, and the voice, the voice that crawled with hatred and evil absorbed him, the words wrapping around him, suffocating him in their depth. When he spoke, he trembled with terror.
“You’re the Devil.”
He had expected an answer to be terrifying, but the silence that followed was worse.
“You’re- you’re not real.”
Do you believe that?
“I don’t believe in any of this, is that why I’m here?”
There were whispers coming from the pit. They jabbed at him out of the darkness, raking across him like claws. He tried to cry out but instead he spoke.
“They say the greatest illusion you ever performed was convincing the world you didn’t exist.”
The whispers were growing louder.
The greatest illusion I ever performed was convincing them that there was an alternative
He felt dread take its hold of him, sinking into his mind and infecting him.
“God doesn’t exist?” When the voice spoke for the last time the whispers grew deafening, and the Abyss itself seemed to tremble with the words.
I am God.