Warning: Adult content! Sex and extreme violence.


I awoke for the second time that morning at an hour to which I was more accustomed and without the demolition workers hammering so loudly on the inside of my skull. Although I cannot claim a clear head, it was good to remember certain things, like the name Bran. I sat up, realizing he was no longer beside me.

“Bran?” There was no answer. I called again, this time a little louder before coming to the conclusion he was not in the room. A pang of fear surged through my breast that I may have pushed him away too forcefully.

Standing, I saw the few items of clothing I had warn to the hotel, folded and laid on the bed. I was impressed how neatly they were laid out, considering a man had handled them. I was relieved to see some of his possessions also scattered about the room. At least he would be coming back. I took the opportunity to shower and clean up from the drunken debauchery of the night just passed.

Fully dressed, I was applying makeup when I heard the door handle rattle. It had to be him, or I am sure I would have sensed any other intruder. He entered, carrying a bag and two beakers that smelled strongly of coffee.

“Ah! You’re awake at last. It’s a little late, but I brought breakfast. Bagels, pancakes, donuts and coffee. I hope you like some of those at least. Did you sleep well? It’s raining outside, as usual.” He carried on talking, not giving me chance to answer while laying out the items from the bag on the desk. “Had to get these from the café across the street. The hotel restaurant finished serving breakfast a couple of hours ago. Help yourself, whatever you fancy. Cream and sugar for the coffee here, or perhaps black coffee might be more to your liking.”

Taking one of each item of food on a paper plate he passed close by me before sitting on the bed. “The perfume you wear smells very exotic. Did you manage okay with the shower? I guess from your damp hair you must have not long ago had one.”

We spent the next half hour eating and drinking with him adding the small-talk, while I gave little more than monosyllable answers. I still felt peeved, even embarrassed at having my attempt to seduce him thrown back in my face. Such an occurrence I had never before experienced.

I was finishing the last dregs of coffee when he said, “I phoned your boss, Cervilon, while you were asleep. You are free to spend the afternoon and evening with me, so if you are willing, I’d like you to show me where you came through the portal. Is that alright with you?”

“I guess so,” I would have preferred the warmth and comfort of the hotel, but it made a change from my usual boring routine, “though I cannot imagine you will find anything interesting there.”

“The fact that there is an open portal is interesting enough for further investigation. If you like, we can go back to your rooms first so you can change into more suitable clothing. Those shoes look mighty uncomfortable. It might be a bit cold in a dress as short as that, and I’m sure you would be upset if that fur was spoiled.”

“That will not be necessary.” I guessed the main reason for his suggestion was embarrassment at being seen in the company of such an obvious whore. My ego was still bruised from the rejection to let him talk me in to changing my attire, no matter how sensible such an act could prove to be. “We will need to take a cab to the church from here, but the floors inside were quite dry. I can take the shoes off. I often went barefoot at home.”

“Well if you are sure, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. I will phone reception for a black-n-white.”

I stared from the window across the grey city as he ordered the taxi. Maybe it was the effect of the depressingly dismal weather, but I could not help feeling apprehensive about our trip, that we were wasting our time.

“Loriel! I said, are you ready?” I realized my mind was miles away. “The cab will be here by time we get down to the lobby.”

I slipped my feet into the stiletto heeled shoes, grabbed jacket and handbag and followed him through the door.

The taxi was one of the latest, a sleek wedge shaped two-tone projectile that emitted a low hum as it floated several inches above the magnetic track embedded in the road. The lower half, made of rigid plastic, was colored like a checker-board from whence came the name black-n-white, while the top half was of tinted Perspex to allow visibility for passengers looking out, but retaining the privacy of occupants when viewed from outside. The hotel doorman held a colored umbrella with the hotel logo emblazoned in each segment, while Bran opened the door allowing me to enter first.

A force field surrounding the vehicle protected the body from most of the acidic elements. It had no driver, the machine being controlled by on-board computer. Bran spoke aloud, giving the seven digit code for our destination. I guessed payment would be made by credit after the computer confirmed his identity by voice analysis. The door closed with a sealing hiss. From now until we reached our destination, the vehicle could only be opened from inside, a necessity in these lawless times to prevent the cab and passengers from being hi-jacked in dense traffic.

At the time we were travelling, late morning, there were few vehicles on the roads. With the vast number of brothels, sex shows and illicit gambling halls in the Pth’ak Mar, the traffic would be far heavier through late evening and night. We would not pass the Kitty Kavern. The club was situated on one of the side roads that branched off the main thoroughfare on which the clubs showed an air of mock respectability. The reputation of the Kitty Kavern, with its name displayed in a neon glow of flickering lurid pink and blue, made no such charade.

We travelled in relative silence. Too many tales of the cabs being bugged for supposed security purposes circled the underworld to allow free conversation. Inside fifteen minutes we pulled up at the wide flight of steps leading to the front entrance of the cathedral. All public transport carried a supply of throwaway hooded plastic rain coats and shoe covers which we donned to protect us from the inclement weather before exiting the vehicle.

Several centuries ago, the cathedral might have looked quite impressive. I believe the style of architecture was known as Baroque. Now it was little more than a heap of crumbling, dark grey stone that may once have been white. Wooden boards covered the windows and heavy planks of wood had been nailed across the double doors at the entrance to keep intruders away.

The doors showed no sign of having been used for many years. Bran pushed against them but his efforts were futile. “This is obviously not the way you came out.” He swung a foot in frustration which struck the door with a solid thud.

“No,” I replied as demurely as I could manage without smirking. “We used a small doorway in an adjoining building around the back.” I had to smile at his exasperated sigh. “You had better lead the way then.”

It took a while to locate the entrance, I had seen it only the once, and being newly arrived, had not paid that much attention. There was no indication that it had been permanently nailed shut like the front, but we could not open it.

I tried to recall further details of that afternoon with Cervilon. “I think he might have had a key. I remember he reached up to leave something in the porch above the door.”

Bran reached up, feeling along the inside of a ledge. I knew he had found something by his abrupt exclamation. He opened the door and led the way inside. Even with daylight battling for domination over the gloom, we could see little of the interior. Bran produced a flash-light from the pocket of his coat. With the aid of the light, we could see the room was empty apart from a broken trestle table leaning at a drunken angle against the wall.

“There should be a flight of stairs leading down.” I pointed to the back of the room.

“They must lead down into the crypt. Looks like someone has been here recently,” Bran pointed the beam at the many footprints between the door and the steps, “either a good few people or one person quite regularly.”

I followed him down to the level below ground after removing my shoes. Fear of the high heels causing me to fall persuaded me to leave them with the plastic raincoat at the top. The stone floor of the crypt was much larger than I remembered. There were many stone sarcophagi resting on plinths in alcoves along the walls, all with the lids broken or removed. Bran shone the light into several where the bones lay scattered in disarray.

“Looks like grave robbers have taken everything of value. Were they in this state when you were here before?”

“That I cannot remember. The light was not good, Cervilon was talking and we seemed to be walking too quickly for me to notice.”

“Do you remember where down here you stepped out of the portal?”

“I think it was near the far end of the crypt. One of these bays, but I am not sure which.” I had to think for a moment, “I’m almost certain it was on the left, and I know it had no tomb in it.”

We walked the length of the room checking each niche. There were three that contained no resting place for the dead. “I would expect to see some evidence of a portal if it was here. They usually show as an opaque circle in which everything seems out of focus, but there is nothing.” Bran looked thoughtful. “Unless of course it is only a one way portal activated from the point of origin with this being the destination. Anything that came through would be unable to return. That would mean you are unable to get back to your own world from here.”

“I am sure that is the intention. This reality is my prison. The only way I can be released is by completing my mission of finding the reincarnated spirit of the man I lost.”

We were at the third vacant bay. Bran pointed the beam of light at disturbances in the dust on the floor. “This looks like the one. Someone materialized in this bay and walked out. Can you see? Several sets of footprints leading out, but none going in.”

He entered the alcove flashing the light on the walls ceiling and floor. I felt a hint of terror in case there was a portal through which he might disappear leaving me alone here in the dark. Relieved when he stepped back out I said, “Is that it? Are you satisfied and we can go now?”

“Just a minute.” He was pointing the light in the direction we had been heading. “There are more steps going down here. I want to see where they lead.” In response to my sigh, he continued, “If you want, you can stay here. I won’t be long.”

“I’d rather not. Not alone in the dark.” A thought struck me. “I remember there being some light when I arrived. I could see enough to find my way out.”

“I guess there is concealed lighting, probably controlled by a switch near where we came in. When the crypt was in use, they would need some light to lay out the deceased on their plinth.”

I wished he had told me that before we got down here. “In that case, I will come with you.”

Bran led the way down the flight of steps. The cavern appeared very similar to the one we had just left. Before we reached the floor, he stopped so quickly I jolted into him. I must have knocked him off balance. He fell down the last two steps, dropping the flash-light on the stone floor in the process. The light went out, leaving the crypt in darkness.

“Sorry, but why did you stop like that? Are you alright?” As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I became aware of a pulsating blue glow from the far end. “What is that light?”

“I’m not sure. That was why I stopped.” He was on hands and knees; I could see his silhouette groping around on the floor. “Dam it! I think you broke the torch.”

“I didn’t break it! You dropped the damn thing.” Just like a man to blame someone else. I heard the sound of a dull thud as, I guessed, he hit the flash-light with the heel of his hand. The beam flickered into life. “There! It’s not even broke.” I could not help feeling relief that we would be able to see our way out. The only response from Bran was a low grunt.

I watched him begin to edge toward the flickering glow. “You aren’t going to look are you?” My only thought was that we should get out while we could. “I need to check it out. You can stay here if you like.”

I did not ‘like’. I followed as he crept from alcove to alcove. I began to feel an overwhelming dread that seemed to grow the nearer we approached the source.

“Bran! Don’t go! There is something not right.” My psychic senses were on red-alert. Something was emitting sensations far more powerful than any I had ever experienced. It felt like a fusion of every negative emotion. I could detect terror, anguish and intense anger, a hatred for someone or something undefined.

Bran stopped and turned, shining the torch into my face. “What is it? You look scared stiff.”

“There is something ahead that should not be here. I don’t know what it is…”

“How do you know? Oh, your telepathic abilities. Okay, I will go very cautiously.”

The entity, whatever it was, had sensed our presence. I felt the feelings changing. Perhaps it sensed my fear. There was hope, anticipation… and revenge. Following Bran, every step had me believing it would be the last I ever took.

The shimmering light was leaking from one of the alcoves. As we neared, the bay seemed far larger than the others. I watched Bran peer around the corner of the adjoining wall, and then to my horror, he stepped into full view of whatever was within.

His head turned toward me. “There’s nothing here, just the blue light.”

As he moved to the farther side of the bay, I heard voices. They were speaking in my mind without words. “Let us out… release me…” They were showing me a picture of a control panel on the wall that would deactivate the energy of their prison. I recognized the psychic energy that they were using to seduce my will, to obey their commands. Anyone who was not aware would be cajoled into carrying out their request without being aware they were being used.


He appeared to be studying something on the wall. His hand reached and pulled downward.


There was a discernable click. At first nothing changed. For a moment, I almost thought I was mistaken, that he had not obeyed. Then the pulsing of the blue glow began to slow. The light began to fade. Somewhere in the distance a siren began to wail.

Without thinking, I dashed across the entrance to the bay with the belief I could reverse his action. I could see shapes moving inside the alcove as I ran. Grey, insubstantial shapes that shifted in and out of focus. Sometimes transparent, other times they appeared opaque, like moving shadows, or rolling balls of smoke.

Ghosts! Specters of the dead. Ethereal entities tied to this plain of existence, damned to walk this earth in search of their mortal bodies for eternity, there were six of them.

Their psychic power screamed inside my head, pounding me into submission as I fell to my knees. I tried to cover my head as if I was fending off the blows. It was useless. The blows were being struck from inside my mind. I felt someone grabbing my arm in attempt to drag me to my feet. Bran was yelling at me, but the words were not registering in my awareness. I felt him shaking me, or was the whole crypt shaking as if in the throes of an earthquake. I had no way of telling.

“Loriel! We have to get out. Can you run?” The words were almost indiscernible above the howling, klaxon wail of the alarm. The crypt was filled with a dim red light, and I could see heavy black figures, moving at the edge of my vision.

“Come on Loriel. RUN!” He was trying to drag me.

Narrow streaks of violet light momentarily lit the cavern. Several of the black figures were falling. The psychic energy still pounded through me, but also directed at those beings. I tried to follow the orders of Bran, but my legs would not respond. It was as if they were shackled together. I felt myself falling, the shock of the hard stone jolting through my hip and shoulder.

“Don’t leave me Bran!” I could not tell if my words had been heard above the chaotic melee. I could no longer see him; neither could I tell if the pounding on my head came from inside, or due to an external blow.

“Bran! Where are you?”