“Is that a church?” I ask aloud.
A cathedral of a time lost, perhaps. A sanctuary of old, where hope and despair often danced hand in hand. The way out is through.
Cerby trots along. I wonder whether he can hear this voice, or if it’s only in my head.
The sun lingers low, yet not as low as it should be considering the time we’ve spent trudging along Industrial Way.
We draw closer to the looming structure. It’s a cathedral, a stone edifice reminiscent of grand religious monuments scattered across Western Europe. As we near it, I observe its true form, reflecting the reality of this world—fractured, desolate, forsaken.
Deeper the scars, grander the tales. Silent stones whisper of past prayers and hopes, fervent pleas echoed in the hollow air. Yet, remember, even the forgotten harbors secrets. Approach with caution.
I now understand that this voice, whether it’s mine or some “higher power,” seems to be looking out for me. It’s guiding me, but it won’t disclose specifics. My memory loss leaves me dependent on its cryptic guidance.
Together, Cerby and I tread the overgrown path leading to the wooden doors, slightly ajar. We’re invited into the encompassing darkness, the space redolent of dry-rotted wood, melted wax, incense, and the dusty musk of old books.
Stepping inside, I survey the interior. The dimming sunlight filters through, illuminating a western wall adorned with stained glass. In the windowpanes, I notice depictions of a woman and child, their appearances uncannily similar to the photograph within the locket.
Cerby emits a growl, a low rumble that begins in his throat.
Shadows shift, yet voices of the past remain. Do not let your guard down. The sanctity of this place has been desecrated. Protect the pup and yourself. Look, listen, and learn, but be prepared to move swiftly.
This is the most specific—and urgent—the voice has been.
My hair on the back of my neck prickles as Cerby’s ears perk up. He spins around, now facing the open doors.
“Something’s coming,” I say, voicing more of a fact than a question.
Indeed, predators are coming. They bear a resemblance to your companion but lack his tempered spirit. Be ready. Conflict stirs within these hallowed walls.
That’s when I glimpse the pack, trailed by a billowing dust cloud. A dozen creatures approach. They’re like Cerby, yet of a distinctly different breed.
Time seems to accelerate. They are close, but I still have time to make a decision. The primordial choice: Fight or flight? I am uncertain about our destination, and I doubt my ability to outrace them.
Cerby holds his ground—back straight, head high, teeth bared.
And then the beasts come through the doors.
The fight begins before I can find a weapon. The pack lunges at Cerby. Despite being stronger, faster, he is outnumbered. We are both on the brink of doom if I don’t intervene. Yet I find no obvious weapons in this forsaken place.
My gaze falls upon the stained glass, spotting a brass votive standing to one side. Almost supernaturally, it skids across the floor, stopping at my feet.
“What just happened?”
What you just experienced is an extension of your will, shaped by need and survival. This world responds to you. You need a weapon, and so it is. But remember, it is not just the tool but the hand that wields it, which determines the outcome. Stand your ground.
My gaze shifts upward to the enormous beams buttressing the cathedral. As I fixate on them, dust sprinkles down. Cerby battles the pack, employing his fangs and claws, but he’s soon encircled by at least half of them.
Something within my mind shifts, and a beam from the eastern wall dislodges, plummeting toward the floor. It crashes into the pews, smashing them into pieces, causing the floor to shake. The beam squashes one of our attackers.
I shift my gaze once more, a sudden twinge pulsating behind my left eye. Stones break free from the western wall of the church, ripped from their ancient mortar, descending upon several more of the pack. The fight begins to tilt in our favor.
The remaining beasts seem to sense this. As Cerby rips out the throat of one, the survivors recoil, their tails between their legs, and flee. But the cathedral hasn’t stopped trembling. It feels as if my head might implode.
Focus your energy on controlling the chaos around you. Take a deep breath. Visualize the cathedral standing firm and your mind calm. You’ve defended yourself and Cerby; now, prevent more damage. Your survival extends to this structure, too.
I shut out the voice. It’s too overwhelming to comprehend while my thoughts are seemingly tearing down the cathedral. The cascading stone is like an unchecked flood—unstoppable.
Cerby and I dash for the door, swerving to avoid sharp rock and splintered wood. I sprint down the steps, with Cerby vaulting off the top step to land beside me on the path.
I whirl around just in time to see the ancient cathedral implode upon itself, reduced to nothing more than a silent mound of rubble.