For months you have been hiding like a ghost amongst the shadows. You move only in the gloom of twilight and in the hours before dawn, scavenging for a mouthful of sustenance. For days uncountable you have been feeding off the corpse of the old world. Almost everybody else now is gone. Those who are left, grim and gaunt survivors like yourself, you avoid. For every encounter means conflict and every conflict might bring death. Mankind has been brought down to that of the beasts. There are none here in this grim new order to heal the sick and infirm, none to protect and serve. You yourself have taken by force your means of survival in these last dark days, and have sealed other’s fates to survive. You have committed acts unthinkable in a past which now seems but a distant dream.
And now, without knowing why, you have come to this place, as if beckoned here by a silent whisper from the past. Standing alone amidst the blasted rubble of a dead city, is this dark ominous citadel that you now stand before. Its thick sooty walls are cracked but unbuckled. Thick iron doors have remained undisturbed through the tempest of chaos.
Putting all your strength to the handles of the iron doors, and with great effort, rusting gears break free of the corrosion in their bearings and turn squealing, grinding against each other. With an echoing clank that resounds in the musty darkness within, the locks open. With one last effort you push the doors open. Stepping within, you shut the doors against the night. Blackness envelops you. You retrieve the small homemade oil lamp from within your pack and light the wick with one of your precious remaining Bic lighters.
To your relief, the anterior is unoccupied by both the living and the dead. The large room is nearly bare, but you feel with unease that in place of furnishings the room is filled with the ghosts of unspeakable dread. A large stone table is in the center and on the opposite wall is an inscription. Upon closer inspection you make out the words,
With mounting dread your attention is drawn to an open doorway to one side. Above the doorway a plaque reads, “Bibliotheque.” As your heart pounds in your chest, you pass under the doorway and enter a library full of books covered with dust. With climaxing alarm you realize that the shelves that house the books are made from human bones! Skulls, pelvises, scapula, and long arm and leg bones as well.
Then you hear it: a wheezing, rattling breath. Your mind fills with terror as your eyes find the breath’s owner! A living corpse of a man: grey skin stretched taut against his skull and dead grey eyes staring from beneath a tattered grey shawl. The wheezing, rising and falling from within its ribcage, the rib bones visible in relief from its starved chest. The skull grins and opens its black toothless maw. It speaks,
"Welcome…my friend. You need not fear,no harm shall befall those who seek within these walls. And, yes, We know that of which you seek! Some seek for visions of apocalyptic prophets, whose dystopian futures have come to pass. Some seek the warnings from men of science, whose words went unheeded. And some come here, as you come here now, to pay Us the very fear that haunts your soul! Yes! We know, my friend, the terror which even now you fight to suppress! We were here in the old world as a beacon of caution. We shall remain as a testament to the folly of that misguided age. And we know, as do you, that you have come home to stay...."