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Angelina felt Chelsea’s arms reforming around her, then Belfry’s paws reforming on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and tried to look up at Chelsea. Even though Chelsea was close enough that Angelina could feel her breathing, it was almost too dark to make out her face.

Even in the darkness, Angelina could tell something was wrong. This darkness wasn’t normal darkness–it writhed, slithering and snaking across itself as though it was alive. It unnerved her on a primal level. Soft hissing noises resonated around them, sounding almost mocking. The way the hissing reverberated reminded her of how things sounded in a church, though these noises were far from holy-sounding.

Wherever the three of them were, they definitely weren’t home.

How could she have been so stupid? At least before, she’d had some idea where they were. Now she’d gotten herself and her friend even more hopelessly lost. Her lip shook as tears burned the corners of her eyes.

She let go of Chelsea and stepped back, away from the security of her friend’s arms. She reached for the locket hanging from her neck and clutched the pendant.

“Where are we?” she said, trying to keep her voice from trembling.

Angelina immediately regretted the question. It was a question that would have angered or annoyed a lot of people, prompting a brusque ‘How am I supposed to know?’

“I don’t know, but wherever we are, we’ll figure it out.”

Chelsea’s voice was gentle. Of course it was. It was hard to imagine her being brusque.

“Are you sure? We don’t even know where we are.”

“I didn’t know where I was in the pit place. You figured it out and found me,” said Chelsea. “We can figure this out.”

“Do you know where we are, Belfry?” Angelina asked in Italian.

“No,” he said. “No, signorina, but I don’t like this darkness at all.”

“Me either.” Angelina switched to English. “He doesn’t know where we are either.”

“Asking him was a good idea, though,” said Chelsea. She looked up at something off to the side. “That’s… weird.”

Angelina looked up. A dim, gold light glowed through the unnerving darkness, growing gradually brighter. Golden light usually made her think of warmth and sunshine, but there was nothing summery or comforting about this light. It was metallically cold, empty and distant like light from a long-dead star.

The light was bright enough she could see they stood on a featureless platform about two meters across that floated in the living darkness. Somewhere in the distance, several gold spheres hanging from pivots swung back and forth, dancing and undulating in waves. The strange, alien darkness made it impossible to judge the spheres’ sizes and distance. They could have been mere meters away and beach ball-sized; they could just as easily have been a million kilometers away and planet-sized.

“That’s really weird,” agreed Angelina. “What are they?”

“That’s a good question.” Chelsea’s voice was hushed as she stared at the spheres.

“They look like… I don’t know the English word. Pendoli.”


“Pendulums. Right. That makes sense. Pendoli. Pendulums.”

Below the pendulums, the slithering darkness began to part, and something began to rise toward them. At first, Angelina thought it was another sphere. Then, as Belfry let out a small, frightened squeak, she realized it was something far stranger.

Much like the pendulums, the creature rising from the darkness was difficult to judge in size; he could have been two meters tall, two kilometers, or even larger–though Angelina really hoped he wasn’t larger. He was roughly human shaped, but definitely not mistakable for a human. Sleek, olive gold scales covered his body, and his four arms rippled with muscle as he raised a golden serpent-headed scepter.

His head was the least human thing about him; a cobra-like hood fanned out around his face, framing his gold eyes and fanged mouth. His jaws parted, revealing his black, forked tongue, and he let out a hiss.

“Um,” Angelina said. “Hi.”

The creature fixed his eyes on them.

“Chelsea Louise Brown,” the creature said, drawing out the ‘s’ sounds in Chelsea’s first and middle names in a way that seemed very cliched for a snake-person.

His voice somehow hissed and boomed at the same time, and the almost cathedralesque acoustics of their surroundings made it even more intimidating.

“Hello,” said Chelsea, her voice small.

“Experiment 5648,” said the creature.

Belfry shrank behind Angelina’s head. She could feel him trembling.

“Angela Emilia Maria Bianchi,” said the creature.

Angelina’s full name was so rarely used that hearing it spoken aloud always weirded her out a bit. Hearing this strange, imposing snake-man say it was downright creepy.

“How do you even know my full name?” said Angelina. “No one uses my full name.”

“Silence, mortal,” said the creature.

Angelina couldn’t pinpoint what language the creature was speaking. It wasn’t English, and it definitely wasn’t Italian. It didn’t sound like any of the languages she spoke, but whatever it was, she understood it perfectly.

“Who are you?” said Angelina. “What is this place?”

The echoing hisses around them intensified, as though Angelina had somehow displeased the darkness around them.

Chelsea placed a hand on Angelina’s arm that Angelina first took for reassurance, then realized was probably also intended as a gentle ‘be quiet’ gesture.

“Do you not know me, mortals?” said the snake man.

Angelina shook her head ‘no’. The hisses in the writhing dark intensified even more.

“I am the mighty Zogzhesh, serpent of judgement,” said the snake-man. “You have entered the Snake Room. The swinging of the cosmic pendulums shall decide your fates.”

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2 thoughts on “5.5

  1. So, I wrote a couple chapters after pulling an all-nighter for work and the story got… weird. When I went back to my writing after a full night’s sleep, I decided to just embrace the weirdness and go with it.
    The next few chapters are going to be strange, and I hope it’s not strange in a bad way!


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