From where Howard stood he could tell that the night would be a fairly slow one as it was the middle of the week and most men had used up what money they had at the beginning of the week. He set off back up the hillside, retracing his steps along the dark path that led to the most recent vanishing.
Quietly, he stood near where Thurlby had been standing. Howard looked down the long hillside, gazing at the lights of the city, and lost in speculative thought when he heard a faint noise from be hind.
He started to turn, to look behind, when he felt himself suddenly jerked from his feet and sucked into an inky darkness. Howard tried desperately to struggle, to free himself, but whatever had him, was too much for him to escape from and he felt himself squeezed until he slipped into the other kind of blackness, that of unconsciousness.
Howard opened his fogged eyes upon an otherworldly darkness, finding himself laying face-down on a worn and glass-like polished floor of what he assumed to be a natural cave. Nearby, stood a low altar, adorned by a large red-glowing gem, whose illumination was jus’ enough to cast the cavern into vague shadows, and a close-by crystalline statue carved into a hideous and obscene snake-like, bat-winged figure, which gave off the appeared of being alive in the gems luminosity.
Slowly Howard rolled over, sat up, only to realize he was missing his pants and boots. As quickly as the thought came to his mind, it disappeared and he found himself in the throes of agony as his brain felt like it was about to explode.
Then he heard a voice cry out,“Voquulo Zaa-q’ran,” followed by many voices and each seemed to come from inside his head and therefore he could not escape the unearthly and grotesque chanting. With the chanting came visions of unwholesome thoughts and images, that lead to a piercing, guttural and reverberating scream of agony from the lone man.
Howard tried to stand, but the ceiling was far to low. Instead, he could only crawl on his hands and knees.
As he searched for a way out of this hellish nightmare, if indeed that’s all it were, he heard the scurrying of inhuman feet and the soft scraping sounds of a something weighty being dragged. Finding no way out, he turned and placed his back against the wall of the cave, prepared to fight whatever was coming towards him.
The shuffling and the dragging grew closer and closer. Howard wish that he had his Colt, but along with his pants and boots, it too was gone.