The White Castle
The White Castle
Clack. Clack. Clack. The footsteps of the Dullahan could be heard reverberating through the empty hallways of the castle. Time passed slowly as the headless knight ascended the stairs. When the knight finally reached his destination; the top room of the tower, he called out towards his old friend, "The castle is intending to summon the humans yet again." The voice came not from the shadowy tendrils which rose from the empty hole in the armor where head should have been but instead from the helmet held in his right arm.
The ragged wizard hat that laid on the sole but messy desk in the room suddenly boomed into life. "HAHAHAHA!," yelled the sentient hat. "Its about time too, nearly a millenia has past since the last summonings." Folds and creases gave the image of a simple face. Eyes and a mouth were all the hat had but it was enough. It gave a lopsided smile. The previous humans had been extremely interesting. Their presence had filled the castle with life at the time. Would these new humans live up to his expectations? The hat hoped so.
"That aside, why the hell haven't you visited me recently? Its been three years since you came up!"
If the Dullahan had hair, the hat would have sworn he could see it bristled with annoyance. "I've had to keep a sharp eye on the dungeons. 'They' had been extremely restless until recently. In fact, this was all the time I could spare. I have to return now, farewell, my friend." The hat gave his farewells before returning to deep thought.
Recently? The hat furrowed his eyes resulting in a look of concern. He hoped his worries would not come true.
Present Time; Real World
Alexer stared irritably at his grandfather clock. Slightly more than a minute to midnight. He had been swamped with paperwork for the past six hours, the consequence of procrastination. Five classes worth of test papers to mark as well as setting a quiz for the next day's literature lesson. It had not been his fault, really. For the past week he had been swamped with events to attend to; a friends birthday, family reunions and even a wedding. It wouldn't have been polite to miss any of them. Well, all that fun for a couple of hours of paperwork isn't so bad... He closed his eyes for some minor rest before he would resume his work.
It was then that it happened. The moment the first dong could be heard as the clock stroked midnight, a huge gust of wind surged from beneath Alexer. He opened his eyes and was instantly baffled. His papers flying about were the least of his concerns, he stared wide-eyed as the scenery around him changed. As if it was being painted anew, the walls, the floor and pretty much everything changed. He was still seated in front of a desk but neither the chair nor the desk were his. The room reminded him of an art exhibition he had seen a few years back, it had been about medieval times. Dust coated the interior of the room and cobwebs in every corner possible. "What in the world...?"
"Aha! Is that a human I see?"Alexer turned to his right and stared dumbfounded at the source of the voice. A hat. A old raggedy wizard looking hat. "What, never saw a magical talking hat before?' joked the hat. Regaining some composure, Alexer proceeded to raise an eyebrow. "Well, of course I haven't. What are you? Actually... where am I?" As unreal as the situation was, Alexer was taking it pretty calmly.
Hmmmm? It was the hat's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Boy, you don't know where you are?" Alexer let the word 'boy' slide and simply shook his head. Did the summoning go wrong with this one? The hat broke into a laugh.
"You're in the White Castle."
"Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai."
Slumping against the wall, letting out a sigh Arnelia looked to her Telle shrugging in boredom. Such a large house, with nothing to do but explore- but it had already been mapped, defeated, everything there was nothing to do in this forsaken house. Pushing herself up and wiping her pants, her laptop, maybe there would be some entertainment on the internet.
"What should I look up Telle"
Her imaginary friend offering nothing but a shrug, existence confused him, so he wouldn't be able to offer advice on things such as boredom and entertainment. In return Arnelia began to research, she was always fascinated with fantasy settings of old medieval tales and how adventurous their lives were- just the thought of it oh~ It's twelve o'clock that wasn't good. If mother caught her she would be punished by taking away her laptop or hiding the snacks. But something strange was happened, the room began to shake violently causing her laptop to fall from her bed and slam closed, it was terrifying- an earthquake in France. Arnelia crawled under her bed, Telle along with her sheltering her under the mass of his large imaginary body.
Suddenly, the darkness of under the bed began to brighten, the soft carpet becoming rough and hard, she was not in her room anymore. Lying on the floor with her hands over her head, she stood there and then suddenly a large realization of where she was- everything made sense- but why her, and why here. She would not complain though, for as she looked to see her once invisible friend taking from the elements of the walls and ceiling.
"Telle! Look at you! So big and strong!"
Mariella was working late within the library in town. It was one of those days all people decided to return the books they had lend, leaving the woman with a couple hundred books to move across the bookshelves. It was not a large library, but it was still a lot of effort for a young woman to be placing all those books in the right spot, alone. Sighing, Mariella just put down a novel that she had read a long time ago, remembering all the important moments of the story. She grabbed the next book and accidentally dropped her grimoire from her belt. It was attached to it inside a small leather pouch, which had the tendency of opening whenever Mariella did not wish so. Putting the book she wanted to grab back into the small cart, she kneeled down and grabbed her book. She used it as a journal.
Then, something different happened. The ground shook a little, while the shelves stretched and bent, the walls around her shivered and reformed. "What is going on?", the girl muttered, watching the library grow in size and letting more light shine inside of it. The air grew heavier with dust, the scent of old parchment paper lingering alongside of it. This was a completely different library. It was much older, larger, and more fascinating. With wide eyes, Mariella walked along the shelves and read the most mysterious book titles she had ever seen.
"What is this place?", she thought out loud, grabbing a book about werewolves from the shelf and opening it. The thick layer of dust rose to her nose, tingling her. She bumped against the bookshelf behind her, sneezing with a quiet 'tch' noise. Sniffing for a moment, she began to read the book.
Chaz landed hard on the marble floor, and lay there for a minute, catching his breath. He sat up slowly, his head swimming, and looked around. He was in a small room, possibly a study, with large windows on one wall. A large oak desk stood in front of them, and dust clouded its well-polished surface. An ancient bookcase stood against a side wall, with dusty tomes seemingly undisturbed for years. Other than these, and a faded chair, the room was empty.
Chaz got off the floor and slowly walked to the window, holding his aching head. The window showed only a shining ocean and a few wheeling gulls. He carefully opened the window and stuck his head out. It appeared he was in a castle, standing alone in the middle of the sea. He was high above the water, but the towers still, well, towered, above him. The walls were a shining white, and the waves sparked in the bright sunlight. He pulled away from the stunning view and turned to the door.
Naomi counted her breaths as she jogged.
She didn't normally jog later in the evening - she preferred the mornings, when the sun was just peeking over the horizon and the sky was streaked with brilliant orange - but her shift at work had been cancelled due to the restaurant's owner having to temporarily close it, as he was having personal problems. Personal, in that his wife of ten years had left him and the chef was on holiday. The air had a slight chill to it and she was thankful every time she passed under a streetlight, able to see clearly for a few seconds before plunging back into gloom. Jogging always made her calm. The steady rhythm it gave her could soothe her nerves like nothing else.
She hugged her sweater closer to her body as shivers snaked through her. Was it her, or had the temperature dropped? Her hair rose as the wind picked up. Alarmingly so. But the weather forecast hadn't mentioned a tornado, she thought puzzled.
Her hair began to whip her cheeks violently and she could no longer see the sidewalk beneath her feet as the world seemed to fall away from her. A thick black surrounded her, smothering her lungs and rendering her senses useless. She tried to cry out but her voice was lost, snatched from her mouth as the furious winds writhed around her.
She ran straight into a stone wall, smacking her body to an abrupt halt. She tumbled back, landing on...a carpet? A thick, plush carpet greeted her hands and she blinked. She was now sprawled in a large room with ornate carpets and stone walls. A small window was set into the adjacent wall, reminding her of those in them medieval, old-style castles. A warm glow illuminated the room. She gaped at her surroundings with both abject awe and confusion.
Finally common sense kicked in.
His eyes were half open from exhaustion. Yet his fingers kept typing away slowly with his finger clicking the mouse over and over. Each time he did so, some random person's head blew off in the game he was playing. More then likely someone, somewhere right now in the world was doing this for real. As far as he saw it, he was currently more moral then every single soldier in active duty right then and there. Doesn't matter though really, they'll all die horribly by some bullet in the gut or their face blown off in an explosion. In fact he just blew one off right then as soon as he finished that thought.
It was really late at night and he had college tomorrow. But he didn't care as he gave a long and loud yawn. He felt like he needed more time to get over the crap that was the day. Though like always, he'd eventually fall asleep at the computer. The last thing he saw before falling asleep in his chair was his character being killed by some random mook. He wondered if he'd die just as fast and painless?
The next thing he knew, he found himself in complete darkness, save for a beam of light on the floor nearby that he was lying on. Instantly, he sat up and started moving his hands around to feel his surroundings. He could tell instantly he was in a small space, like a closet or a stairwell. "Dammit.. those bastards thought to pull another prank on me." His dorm-mates homed in on him fast not long after he started college, so he's often the butt of pranks like this to try to make him "loosen up." Although even he admitted this one was pathetic by their standards, just tossing him in his closet. It didn't take much for him to reach up to the door and slowly push it open.
Of course, where he was on the other side was nowhere near his own college, let alone his own room! Looking around in a panic, he found he just came from a small storage space under a tall set of stairs. He was in the middle of a long, white hallway made of stone and right across from him was a window, outside all he could see was water as far as he could.
"What. The. FUCK?!"
Enter: Professor Ziggs Kort
"Thirteen... Fourteen... Fifteen..."
Ziggs huddled in the corner of his cell, slowly counting all of the victims he had killed over the past twelve years aloud to himself.
Recently, he'd done nothing but wait for his oncoming death. Just the delectable thought of release put a grin on his face.
"Sixteen... Seventeen... Eighteen..."
His eyes began to close. His grin faded. His head slouched and he fell asleep, preparing himself mentally for a flashback. In the past, Ziggs had a recurring dream for each victim he had slain; every night a new victim's screams woke him.
Oh, he thought casually, how can I not wait for our death...
Blackness took him, and he rose to his feet. As usual, his pale skin complimented the white suit he wore. He turned, as he did every night, to see a large marble 'gate' covered in its entirety with intricate calligraphy and carvings. He touched the smooth surface, and watched as it opened inwards to a bright light. His grin reappeared, his eyes widened, and he stepped into the light.
"Well Ziggs, it's good to see you. I have a very special surprise for you tonight!"
The voice from the light spoke in a harsh, high-pitched growl. Ziggs looked around; nothing to see but the severe white surrounded him.
"Sadly there will be no murder, though you'll have plenty of time for that later. All I want you to do is wake up and enjoy the experience!"
A shrill cackle resounded from all directions, and Ziggs shot up from his odd dream.
Around him he could see the dim light of a torch beside him. His hands felt the solid, chiseled stone instead of the cement flooring in his cell. He rose to his feet quickly, and examined his surroundings closer; it seemed he had awoken in some sort of corridor, lit by torches for a way up to a set of pearly stairs. The walls and floor around him were a dim white.
I'm dead- no, wait. This is real.
Ziggs' head was spinning, aching, and yet the dream was all he could remember. With those last words in his head, he shambled towards the stairs, not knowing what would meet him at the top.
"...and that is why you're here."
Alexer furrowed his eyebrows as he walked down the stairs aimlessly. The hat, whose name turned out to be Mortimer, had been answering the questions that Alexer had threw at it, or well, him. The White Castle, a place where the impossible becomes reality. According to Mortimer, nobody knew who built the castle nor when nor where. The origins of it was shrouded in mystery. Alexer was among nine humans who the castle had summoned. When Mortimer had mentioned this, Alexer noticed that Mortimer referred to the castle as it was living.
"So how exactly do we get back? Also... how does time flow compared to earth?", asked Alexer, tilting his eyes upwards at Mortimer.
"Time flows the same, ma boy," answered Mortimer. Suddenly his expression suddenly changed. "The castle will only allow three of you to return. Three people who have to be voted amongst the living nine." Alexer instantly understood the gravity of the hats last statement.
Amongst the living nine... Alexer had no intention of taking lives but he knew he couldn't be sure that the others would sympathize with him. He did not like his situation at all. The castle was sounding to be an amazing place but the idea of bloodshed did not captivate him. "Oh yeah, you didn't answer my first question. Who or what are you?" asked the Spanish man. "A magic hat!" Mortimer roared above Alexer's head. The latter rolled his eyes, that wasn't answering his question at all. As if reading his mind, Mortimer continued, "I was left here over a millenia by my master, Merlini. He was among the humans summoned before the previous group."
"I see... wait, Merlini?!" Images of one of the fairytales from his childhood filled his head. The time period the hat mentioned matched too. No way, the hat was created by Merlini? The man who guided King Arthur who led Great Britain! Alexer's expression turned to that of awe. "That means you're an amazing hat!"
"Well uhh.... hehehehe. I mean, of course I am!" yelled an embarrassed Mortimer.
"Look at you, Morty's being shy," teased Alexer. The hat then responded with a colorful and length diatribe about Alexer's ancestry. It was sort of weird talking to a hat like that but Alexer shrugged the notion off. Suddenly, Alexer's ears pricked. His expression sharpened and he stopped in place. Through his mindless wandering, he had ended up in the right wing of the spiral castle. His ears had caught a sound off into a distance that sounded very much like a sneeze. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" asked Mortimer after having his speech cut by Alexer's abrupt halt. "I heard someone sneezing from over there." From the hat's reaction, he guessed he was the only one who heard it. Strange, the door was quite a distance away and he heard a sneeze through it? He approached the door slowly when the hat decided to speak. "This is the main library," mused the hat. Upon hearing that, Alexer cautiously opened the door to see a brown haired girl leaning against the first column of books, reading.
Mariella was shocked, dropping the book and looking at the man with wide eyes. "I'm sorry", she babbled into a countless repeat, until her feet began to carry her away. She ran down the row of shelves and she hid behind them, looking at the man. Shy as she was, the woman was hardly able to talk to anyone. She would always sneak through the library, taking care of the arrangement of books. If people talked to her, she would rarely say a word.
"I was just reading the books. I was not stealing or anything." She spoke in haste, not leaving herself too long in vision of the man. For all she knows, the girl was in someone's fancy mansion, looking like an intruder. She just hoped that the man would not be mad at her.
“Hah…” It was a tired sigh that Matteu made atop the orphanage’s roof. It was quite dangerous for him to be a few stories off the ground when the building was in rather poor maintenance, but no one ever felt like telling him off and falling or slipping to his death was a small concern for the young man. Others would have been more concerned about how someone nearly 16, was still an orphan without even a single prospective adopter. Matteu, on the other hand, cared little for those things and was content to watch the clouds drift by above him. The warm afternoon sun, not particularly piercing, was relaxing and more than enough to coax his eyes closed.
A chilly nip of a wind jolted the sleeping boy awake and the first thing he noticed was that he most certainly wasn’t on his orphanage. The old building didn’t have a roof made of white, polished stone after all. The next thing he noticed after his view widened from looking down was that the fall was no longer just a few stories, but rather more like a few hundred meters. He wasn’t particularly afraid of heights, but considering he’d just woken up and found himself staring at the rather small details on the far, far ground; with a nervous gulp he decided finding a way down would be rather… smart.
Thankfully, ledges underneath him seemed aplenty, and with little hesitation he slid off the smooth stone and landed with a small grunt. The fall, a bit higher than he’d expected, jolted his bones and a dull throb filled his knees as he stood straight up. Now in a position where the immediate focus wasn’t how high he was, he took a quick moment to look around and was a bit amazed. The amazement quickly faded away to a skepticism tinged with panic. “Where the hell am I?” He murmured softly to himself as his voice trailed off, leaving him feeling alone as ever. More so now that his surroundings seemed so… grand and massive in scale.