half_moonIs it wrong to bring the dead back to life? I still wasn’t sure. From my room’s window, I watched an evolving moon wane behind passing clouds that hid illuminating rays, reflecting.

When first starting on my expedition to restore my deceased wife, Sonia, to find the key of T’hal Kyun, the answer seemed obvious. The other men killed by that brutal jungle beast had thought the search was worth any risk, calling the key, “A supernatural marvel that bridges science to mystical forces.” Each of us had a personal demon that tormented our minds.  Randal Sudyam regretted a murder, an act of momentary rage. John Marstent, harmful neglect. My own crime was an accident that had caused a fire. But our burning curiosities were terminated in screams, blood, and gore.

And after two more days of investigations within this palace, the old man’s key didn’t open any doors or locks that revealed eldritch secrets of necromancy.

The clouds above pooled into dark masses of ink, hiding all of the moon’s light.

Before questing, I had read numerous texts about ancient gods and the Evil Ones. These writings read like a myth or a legend or the ramblings of a psychotic. T’hal Kyun, a fiery element of loss and regret, had plagued mankind by granting the reversals of misfortune: The dead returned and acted out vengeance against the living who had caused harm. The Evil One was banished into some nameless dimension. His forces of loss and regret were concentrated and captured into a key that could release the dark being from behind a door that patiently waited to be opened. All nonsense. But when more documents surfaced, demonstrating maps to an ancient jungle civilization along with photographs of dated artifacts retrieved from a hidden city, there seemed to be more to the story of the key of T’hal Kyun than just a fantasy conjured up by a madman’s imagination.

I now search to resolve a personal cause. Surely, my quest cannot be a sin against a larger humanity. I am an individual, acting out in a self-interest that only affects myself. Sonia’s face appeared in my mind. I smiled and looked up. The clouds moved aside and I basked in white light.

The tapping sound of that bizarre statuette in the hallway reached my ears. Tap-tap-tap. And a voice rose up from below my window, moaning, “My children. My beloved children.”

I looked down at an open courtyard. The moon revealed several transplanted willows, their sagging leaves seeming desperate to touch the ground.  A soft wind disturbed the sallow things. And a shadowy man moved among the dying plants, a gold crown atop a head of grey bristle. He flitted around fungus-covered trunks before vanishing through a closed iron gate.

-M. Duda