Chapter 7 - The Horrors of the Dark
Takua gasped as the glass cut across his mask and he fell to the ground. In a second Illum was on top of him, holding him in place.
“I didn’t want any of this, Takua,” he said, his eyes suddenly bloodshot. “I only do what I have to.”
The gas seemed to cling to Takua’s mask, and even though he tried to inhale as little as possible, he knew he’d already breathed in enough. Frantically wriggling, he managed to unhook his dagger from his belt. Seizing the opportunity, he whipped it out and struck.
Illum saw him coming, but dodged just a second too late. Takua heard a sickening crack as his dagger slammed through Illum’s mask, cutting a deep gash across his eye to his temple. The Onu-Matoran screamed as blood seeped from his eye-socket, and Takua took the opportunity to make a run for it.
He slammed his body weight against the door, practically falling out into the crowded gathering hall. He pushed his way through a group of Matoran, not paying attention to their gasps and startled noises as he coughed. He exhaled, trying to force all the poison that he could from his lungs, praying that it wasn't too late. All he could hope for was to get somewhere safe.
Seconds later Illum burst into the room, clutching his eye as he screamed for his guards. “Where is he!?” He searched the crowded room with his one good eye, before catching a glimpse of Takua heading for the exit door. “Grab him! He’s a traitor! Heretic! A servant of Makuta!”
Takua didn’t have time to defend himself from the Turaga’s lies. He pushed through more Matoran, making his way toward the exit as fast as he could. He could hear the guards chasing after him, but he didn’t dare turn around. He searched for his friends as he struggled to find his way through the crowds, but it seemed they were gone, and only one thought was left in his mind: he had to escape the palace.
Bursting his way out of the gathering hall, he found himself in a dimly lit hallway. Vaguely remembering it from when he had entered the building, he tore off as fast as he could. The lightstones here were few and far between, and the shadows dancing on the walls disoriented him. Slowing down in order to right himself, he stared at a lightstone for a moment.
It flickered, and he blinked as his vision went fuzzy. Panic flooded his body as he realized that the poison was affecting him. He had to get somewhere safe. He had to get out.
Shouting from down the hall snapped him back to reality, and he once again sprinted in the opposite direction. He passed rooms and corridors, trying to remember the path that would take him outside. But he couldn’t seem to focus. All the hallways, passages, and meeting rooms blended together. The black marble was all the same, and he couldn’t tell which way was right.
Pausing again to collect himself, he forced his head to focus. Downstairs. I have to go down.
Desperately searching for a staircase, he passed more and more rooms. Every once and a while he would pass a few Onu-Matoran workers, but he didn’t dare waste time asking for directions. Even now he could hear the feet of Illum’s guards chasing after him, always just the turn of a corner behind. And besides, who could he trust now?
He whirled around to see a black marble staircase, and promptly ran down it. Jumping three steps at a time, he looked up to see a pair guards standing at the bottom, waiting for him. Panicking, he tried to turn around, but his body was too slow. The world spun as his feet slid on the slick marble, and he careened down the last ten steps, knocking over the guards in the process.
Get up! He screamed at his body as he watched the guards struggle to right themselves. Everything was blurry now, and he could tell the infection was spreading. His senses were dulling and his body was slower, but he couldn’t let that stop him. I have to get out. He told himself as his legs finally obeyed and he stumbled down the hall, struggling to get back up to speed. I have to get out.
He passed more corridors, meeting rooms and dining halls, searching for a way farther down. The guards were behind him somewhere, but he couldn’t seem to hear them over the sound of his own heart. It beat harder and harder in his chest as he ran, and a sense of restlessness overcame him.
Just keep going. I have to get out. He told himself.
His fingers on his left hand started to twitch, and he stared at them as he barreled down another staircase. One after the other they moved, and it took him a few seconds to realize that he wasn’t controlling them. Grabbing them with his right hand he clutched them against his chest, praying for it to stop.
“No…no…” he gasped between breaths. He had to stay in control. He couldn’t become infected.
Lightstones on the wall flew past him, and he made his way further and further down. Nothing was familiar anymore, but still he continued. He couldn’t let Illum catch him. He had to run because…because it was the only thing he knew how to do.
He gave himself a mental smack. Stay in control. He ran because he had to get somewhere safe. He ran because he had to get out. He had to get out. I have to get out…
His heart pounded harder and harder the deeper he went, until he could practically feel the blood pumping through his veins. The corridors weren’t corridors anymore, he realized. They were tunnels. The black marble had been replaced with granite, rough and unevenly hewn. The lighstones were even farther apart here, and the shadows leapt on the wall like monsters, reaching for him as he ran past.
“No, please…” he asked them. “Please, I have to get out…”
Fear filled him as he realized the Madness was taking over his mind. He told himself the shadows weren’t real. He knew they weren’t real, but they terrified him still. On and on he ran, his legs moving on their own as he struggled with his own thoughts.
I can’t be infected…
“Mata Nui…” he slowed his run and looked behind him. There were no guards chasing him. He was alone in these tunnels. But at the same time, he wasn’t.
There were things here, horrible things. Invisible creatures, monsters, deities, and demons. He whirled around as the single lightstone above him flickered. It was the only source of light. Shadow dominated the tunnel in front and behind him, and his fear welled up, coursing through his veins. It twisted and churned inside him, morphing into terror.
I have to get out!
“No, please!” he pleaded with the dark. He clutched himself, pacing under the light and watching the flickering shadows. “Please!” The Atouri thumped against his chest and he heard the shadows speak. His own heart beat loud in his ears, but the Heart of the Darkness overwhelmed him.
“Oh, Mata Nui!” he sank to his knees as he heard the voice in his head. “Oh Mata Nui, please!” he howled as tears fell on his cheeks.
Grabbing his arms, he pushed with his legs, desperately trying to distance himself from the shadow. The rock cut into his back as he pushed up against it, and there was nowhere that he could go. But he didn’t stop. He couldn’t control himself. There was too much fear, too much terror, too much horror for any Matoran to handle. He felt his mind unhinge.
Welcome to the dark, Takua.
Takua fell over, sobbing as he clawed at ground. There was no way out. He couldn’t escape. With his last breath of sanity he repented for all his sins, and he could feel his mind open to the dark. Death was upon him. His eyes wide, he gazed up at the shadow as he would the face of an almighty god, and patterns flashed before his eyes. He recognized them, as if he had known them as a child, and the familiar darkness surrounded him, embraced him, and entombed him.
He writhed in the dusty tunnel, paralyzed and controlled by fear. He couldn’t fight it. He couldn’t run from it. All he could do was accept it.
And the darkness won. It clouded his mind as he felt the rust accumulating on his mask. He huddled on the ground, shaking as his unseeing eyes stared at the rock, unable to fight anymore. The darkness crushed him, and his mind broke. He was alone in the void, and nothing reached him. Nothing at all.
Nothing…except a whisper.
“Come back, Takua. Come back to the light.”
Takua didn’t answer as he stared at the rough floor. He rocked back and forth, humming to himself as he started to chuckle. Then, smiling, he spoke in a voice not his own. “The closer you are to the light, the greater your shadow becomes.”
“Your shadow walks in your footsteps. Not the other way around. You can do this, Takua.”
“What do you know!?” Takua spat as he twitched. “You know nothing! Nothing!”
“I know you.”
Takua felt a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t look up to see who’s hand it was. “You know nothing,” he repeated. “You know nothing...”
“Open your eyes, Takua. Look at me.”
“No,” he said between gasps of breath. “No.”
“You can. You’re stronger than you know. You can fight it.”
And somehow, deep down, Takua was able to fight. Twitching, he slowly turned his head to look at the voice. His eyes widened as he stared, and he tried to comprehend the being that knelt before him. Slowly, his vision came into focus, and he recognized her. A tinge of his sanity returned, and he stared for an instant before he spoke her name.