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Leanne woke in a narrow lane under a dark winter sky. Her hands were grazed, as if she had fallen, but she had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there.

She sat up and shook her head. Her sling bag and umbrella were lying on the ground nearby, which made her feel a little better – until she released the clasps on her bag and found the Oracle was gone. The nature of its other contents – a plastic spoon, a dog-eared notebook, some toothpicks and a withered apple – increased her sense of wretchedness. Cold rain beaded on her skin as if drawn to her misery, and when she opened her umbrella, a small handwritten note fell out. It read:

I have the Oracle.
 -Vigsel Scree

Leanne could make no sense of it. She had never heard of Vigsel Scree. He, she or whatever it was wasn’t being very helpful, but the mention of the Oracle filled her with a new resolve. She simply had to get it back. The lane came to a dead end behind her but ahead she saw a wider street lined with Victorian terraces. As she walked towards it she heard music, and soon enough discerned its source. On every upper balcony a large, fat boy was playing a tuba, and a much smaller, thinner girl leaned out of every attic widow holding a musical triangle. Each girl struck her triangle twice after every tuba note. Their timing was uncanny and they moved in perfect unison; no soldiers could be so well drilled.

When Leanne called out to them they ignored her and kept playing. Their music was monotonous and it never seemed to end. After yelling herself hoarse Leanne stopped to regain her breath. The noise continued unabated. BLARP ting ting BLORP ting ting BLARP ting ting BLORP… would her tormentors ever tire?

Leanne looked up and down the street. It seemed completely straight and level, and the rows of conjoined terraces formed solid walls on either side. She saw nothing beyond them except the dark, oppressive sky, but the water flowing in the gutters suggested a slight downward slope. Leanne followed it, still feeling lost, wishing her umbrella could ward off the music as well as the rain.

The street stretched on interminably; she could see no end to it. Looking back was no help; the view was the same. She walked until her legs were sore but her surroundings never changed. The unbroken barriers of sodden slate and lace iron were as constant, and in time depressing, as the neverending dirge.

At last Leanne could take no more. She stopped below the nearest terrace and begged its occupants to stop. They ignored her, as before. With a newfound desperation she looked around for something to throw but saw no loose stones or debris. That left her with her umbrella and the apple in her bag. She did not want to part with either; the rain was falling harder now and hunger roiled in her stomach. And all around, the children played, mockingly and maddeningly, as if her distress and fatigue negated any they might feel. Leanne studied them more closely. They all looked exactly the same as their neighbours. All the boys wore tight white shirts with dark grey horizontal stripes, had short, precisely parted hair and corpselike rings beneath their eyes. The girls had long blonde pigtails and their lurid rouge and lipstick made them look like moving dolls. Were they in fact mechanical – bizarrely lifelike automata, constructed and deployed en masse, just to make her miserable – or something far more sinister?

The houses also looked alike – she saw every tiny blemish, every small discolouration replicated endlessly. She wondered why she had not noticed it sooner. The Oracle had warned her of traps that broke all laws of space and time, and she gathered this was one of them. Her long walk had got her nowhere. There had to be another way.

Leanne was sure the Oracle could have helped her to escape; but without it she could only think of crossing the walls of houses somehow. The doors were an obvious place to start, but on trying a few she found they were locked. There were no windows on the ground floors, but the drainpipes that ran from the eaves offered a way to the balconies. When she touched the nearest one she found it cold and slippery. Could she bring herself to climb? She had never been very athletic or graceful and could only imagine things going wrong: she would slip and be brained on the pavement or impaled on a spiked iron fence. As much as the thought appalled her she was almost inclined to start walking again.

Leanne leaned against a wall and fought against the urge to cry. The hateful dirge assailed her, relentless and implacable – but it brought a flash of inspiration. The doors might be locked, but could she find the keys? Children who played such bad music would surely only hide them in the most idiotic place. When she raised the nearest doormat she felt a twinge of victory.

The key opened the door, and beyond it she saw a long, straight corridor lit by jaundiced yellow globes that receded into darkness. It looked as endless as the street, but offered her respite from the rain. She closed her umbrella and warily entered, slipping the key into her pocket and leaving the front door ajar.

At first it seemed she had only exchanged one trap for another. The corridor was featureless apart from dark patches of mould on the walls that soon became all too familiar. Moths flew the same routes round each light, which occasionally flickered in unison, and the floorboards creaked in the same way beneath the damp and tattered carpet. The stale air stank of pork drippings and fouler things she could not name. Yet the music faded soon enough, which implied some kind of progress, and on reaching the three hundredth light – she had kept count this time – she saw a door at the corridor’s end.

She approached with renewed confidence, ignoring the cold draught on her ankles and the dull roar in her ears. The knob turned freely in her hand – and as the door swung inwards she reeled back from it in shock. It opened halfway up a wall – a vast expanse of weathered concrete that rose above a stormy sea. Waves crashed against dark rocks below, throwing up white plumes of spray. The only way out here was death.

Leanne could see no end to the wall – it might have gone on forever – but she saw many other doors just like her own set into it. Mercifully all were closed; seeing countless other selves sharing her bewilderment might have been too much for her. She shuddered, slammed the door, and turned. One of the boys from the balconies had silently crept up on her. He carried no tuba, but in one hand he held a large, serrated knife that glinted in the sickly light.

“What do you want?” Leanne asked.

The fat boy simply licked his lips. His dark eyes were inscrutable – black craters in a moist white moon. Trying not to startle him, Leanne released the clasps on her bag.

“Are you hungry?” she ventured. “I have an apple.” She offered him the withered fruit – it looked a few days old, at least – and the knife wavered in his grasp. Leanne said no more, but held her ground, holding the apple out like a charm. The boy sweated more profusely and his dimpled knees began to shake. Then he dropped his knife and fled. The frantic pounding of his feet echoed through the corridor long after he had disappeared.

Leanne stowed the apple in her bag and added the knife as an afterthought. The boy had been no automaton; he was mere flesh, and fallible. Had she really been that frightening? Perhaps some other entity had warned him not to talk to strangers, and in his dull, unchanging world, she was the strangest thing he had seen.

Leanne walked down the corridor – which seemed a whole lot shorter now – and on returning to the street saw no sign of the children who had tormented her before. The balconies and attics were empty and the hateful music played no more. Even more surprisingly she saw the street came to an end. A bare stone wall now stretched across it, uniting the houses on either side. In front of it she saw a stranger sitting on a broad park bench.

Leanne approached him cautiously, but the stranger did not stir. The only sound beside her footsteps was the gurgle from the gutters, which emptied into two stormwater drains. On drawing closer Leanne saw she had nothing to fear from the man on the bench, for he was just a mannequin. He wore outlandish jester’s garb – red tasselled boots, striped leotards, and a red cap hung with bells – and his face was even more bizarre. Some sculptor had given him the features of a farmyard hog – loose-eared, broad-snouted, heavy-jowled – which seemed far more hideous grafted to a human form. Leanne hardly cared, however, for this impotent monster gripped the Oracle in one dead hand.

The Oracle looked up at her. “Oh, there you are. You took your time.”

Leanne sighed. “I did my best. Now how do we get out of here?”

“It won’t be easy,” said the Oracle. “Vigsel Scree has trapped us in a Torus of Dementia. He’d hoped you would keep walking until you died from fatigue – or if you bypassed the First Phase, decided your situation was hopeless and hurled yourself into the sea.”

“What about that boy?” asked Leanne.

“He was meant to stop you from bypassing the Second Phase. You’re lucky you had that apple, and luckier still it had seen better days. Ogilvy Crumpton fears little else. You’ve reached the third and final Phase. I’m impressed you got this far alone but this part’s much more dangerous. If you’re prepared to leave without me, go to the stormwater drain on my right, raise the grate, climb down the ladder, and follow the water down the tunnel until you come to a door. It will take you back to your bedroom, where I’d strongly suggest you lie down and dismiss this as a dream.”

“I won’t leave without you,” said Leanne. She tried to free the Oracle but could not break its captor’s grasp.

“Stop that,” urged the Oracle. “You’re going to have to let me go.”

“I don’t have to, and I won’t!” The thought of life in any world without the Oracle’s guidance was too horrible to bear. “There has to be another way!”

“There is,” replied the Oracle, “but you’ll have to listen carefully and do exactly as I say. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“In that case, hurry,” said Leanne.

“You must get to the other end of this street,” the Oracle said ruefully. “It’s long. You’ll have to move, and fast. If you reach it you’ll see Wendy waiting at her coffee stand. Regardless of the form she takes try not to be afraid of her. She will stare into your eyes and say, ‘Name your favourite dinosaur.’ You must answer ‘Struthiomimus’ without any hesitation. This will earn you a free mug of cocoa and a chocolate marshmallow fish. Dip the fish in the cocoa and use it to trace a triangle on your forehead. The middle point must be uppermost, so it looks like a pyramid. Say ‘Vigsel Scree, release your prey in the name of Demihelmanthes.’ Do not, under any circumstances, drink the cocoa or eat the fish. Just come back here as fast as you can. If you make it before sundown, you should be able to leave with me – but there’ll be trouble if you don’t. You don’t want to be around when Vigsel Scree reclaims his form.”

“Vigsel Scree, release your prey in the name of Demihelmanthes.” Leanne prided herself on getting it right. “A triangle, point uppermost. Struthi – what was that dinosaur’s name again?”

“Struthiomimus,” said the Oracle. “Do you really want to go through with this?”

“I do,” said Leanne. “Struthiomimus!” But her heart was filled with doubt. Her earlier sense of foreboding returned; she imagined herself arriving too late, forgetting some word or getting it wrong, or even drinking the damnable cocoa while Wendy watched and sharpened her claws. Her fear became despair, then the rage of a trapped animal. “You know what?” she spat. “Screw these rules!” She whipped the knife out of her bag and sawed at the mannequin’s wrist. The Oracle blinked but did not try to stop her.

To Leanne’s relief, the arm was hollow, but it was also filled with spiders. They swarmed from the gash she made and crawled over her hands and feet. Some people would have screamed and fled, but Leanne was made of stronger stuff. She knew many spiders could inflict a painful bite but few were truly dangerous. Furthermore her grandmother had said some spiders bring good luck, and most of the ones she saw looked just like the lucky kind. She sawed through the last of the monster’s wrist and shook spiders from its severed hand. The Oracle was not quite free but there were ways to deal with that.

As the last of the spiders scuttled away she heard a faint roar far behind her. She saw a dark amorphous cloud had formed at the other end of the street, and it was approaching fast. It expanded, and the roar increased; the Oracle cried out to her but its words were swept away. The vortex swallowed everything: the houses, the pavement, the street and the sky. Pale sparks flickered in its depths revealing ghastly silhouettes of things she could not comprehend. She knew she should run but stood fixed to the spot.

“Move!” cried the Oracle; she heard it this time. She stuffed it – severed hand and all – into her bag, ran to the drain, raised the grate and started downwards. The ladder rungs were slippery and the whole world – if world it was – had started trembling violently. As she dragged the grate back into place she caught one last horrific glimpse of the devouring maelstrom. It might have been a vast maw of black fire and violet lightning. She saw slate tiles, wrought iron, plaster, bricks and paving stones snatched up and ground to nothingness, and creatures like lobsters and mummified dogs wheeled and spun in its depths like dry leaves in a hurricane. Then she had the grate closed and all was calm besides the splash of falling water and her gasping exhalations.

She climbed down the ladder, as she had been told, and followed the grey stormwater through a cold dank passageway. She scanned the walls for signs of a door, but even as she did they faded. The stone beneath her feet became sand, the stormwater a sparkling stream, and the subterranean tunnel became a lush and fragrant garden she might have found attractive in any other situation. Instead it challenged all her senses. The colours and shapes of the plants were wrong, the scent of the flowers stranger still. She saw no familiar stars in the sky, and when she pulled out the Oracle its eyes caught the light of an alien moon.

“Where are we?” she asked.

The Oracle surveyed its surroundings. “This certainly isn’t your bedroom,” it said. “You must have taken the wrong drain.”

“I took the drain on the right,” said Leanne, “exactly as you told me to.”

“I told you to take the drain on my right,” the Oracle corrected her, “which would have been the one on your left. But that hardly matters now. To answer your earlier question, I honestly don’t know where we are, or how we’re going to get home. Now how about getting this hand off my head? I’m going to need some time to think…”

To be continued...?
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chris-the-sword Featured By Owner May 15, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
woah, that was an amazing story, man!

i've read it all, so nice and scary, with highly detailed parts and excellent moments that raised the horror level little-by-little until it became almost too creepy to procceed further without opening the lights.
(i mean this in a good way, it was awesomely creepy...)

leanne seems like an adorable character, i like her alot!
it seems she might be dependant on the oracle's help/powers, yet she still managed to survive the (almost) impossible challenges that waited for her in the realm of the torus of dementia.

also: i really liked the ''final challenges'', such as the ''struthiomimus'', the cocoa and the chocolate fish, the triangle and the ''vigsel scree, release your prey in the name of demihelmanthes'' chant...

in my case, i would easily remember the ''struthiomimus'' creature name, and i would do the triangle-tip, but i would never remember a thing such as 
''vigsel scree, release your prey in the name of demihelmanthes!'' it seems really hard to memorise.
actually, leanne remembered the hard chant of ''release'', and yet she forgot the (relatively) easy name of struthiomimus.
i guess memorisation can be different for everyone.

questions: WHO is ''vigsel scree''? and why does he wants the oracle for himself...?
who is the ''fat boy'', and how come he is afraid of (old) apples?

also WHO is ''demihelmanthes'' ?? it seems like his name alone can grant both leanne+the oracle their freedom, so he/it must be the GOOD overlord of the realm, right?!
or am i horribly wrong?

i liked this story alot, you should definitely expand this into a book, maybe even name it ''the adventures of leanne in mohr bahru'', or even ''leanne and the oracle in vaguelands: the horrors of the eternal wastelands''

im telling you, many people will read your stuff, and if not, they should! its quality horror!

seeing as this was written in 2014, would you consider writing a few more chapters like this, in this subject? (leanne, oracle, mysterious horrible lands)

i liked how leanne used her mind in this one and overcame all the challenges the evil monster put ahead of her.
this was a good story, and an enjoyable read.

keep it up, mate!
jflaxman Featured By Owner Edited May 28, 2015
Thanks! I've already said a bit about this story in another comment under "Consulting the Oracle." I was going for a slow transition from bizarre to terrifying and it's nice to hear I pulled it off!

Vigsel Scree is one of many dangerous entities in the Moht Bahru universe and the Oracle would have increased his powers. These are not unlimited and in the contest for the Oracle Leanne was given a limited time (until dark) to escape his trap (the Torus of Dementia). The boy with tuba/girl with triangle are Ogilvy and Tiffany Crumpton, two children of our world who failed a similar test and are bound forever in his service. They lived in an industrial slum where they developed an irrational fear of fresh air and organic foods.

Demihelmanthes has already appeared in "The Gods of Kerembesi Dir." He's the one who looks like a clown. None are really good or bad so much as beyond comprehension but they can help humans like Leanne so long as certain conditions are met.

The Wendy of this story has also been referenced before - she's the "one who lives alone in darkness" mentioned in "The Wormbursters." As an enemy of Vigsel Scree she is the one responsible for giving Leanne a chance of escape though she is not wholly benevolent and has set Leanne a test of her own. She can assume many forms but often appears as a tall attractive cybergoth with prehensile braids and razor-sharp claws.

This story's a bit of a turning point as it shows Leanne how much she can achieve without the Oracle's guidance, though they're stronger when they work together!
chris-the-sword Featured By Owner May 31, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
i know, i have seen ''consulting the oracle'', and the story helped me to understand the main setting/storyline of the main characters, namely of leanne and the oracle.
yes, indeed, you have the rare writing gift to RAISE the creepiness little-by-little, starting from a normal level of fear, and ending up to a quite horrifying & accurate description of the horrors that lie in mohr bahru.

in short, you are an excellent horror-story writer, trust me, i would totally enjoy reading a book by you.
it would be a good read.

aha, i see!
so the fat-boy/slim-girl, were no other but victims of vigsel scree, trapped in the torus of dementia.
(whats a ''torus''? it reminds me of something, but i cant tell right now...)

OHH, i see!
demihelmanthes was in the ''gods of kerembessi land'', darn, i forgot about that. he surely is a scary clown.
i know many people and friends of mine who are deeply afraid of clowns, yet i am the only one who is not afraid of them.
i start to feel like IM the strange one....

as for wendy, to tell you the truth, i was kinda expecting a ''wicked'', ''evil'' version of the girl in the fast-food chains of ''wendy's'' (you know, the little red-head girl with
the pigtails and the smile...), so i would expect that the ''wendy'' in your story would be an insane, adult and very evil version of the lovable fast-food logo girl.
it seems that i was wrong.

ok, so she's the one who took the lithopedion from the wizard. its good to see how all these little stories from the mohr bahru universe get connected and united into one huge, vast, scary enviroment, with its own people, demi-gods, monsters and rules...
it certainly adds a feeling of awe and fear, as well as a feeling of balance, seeing how (for example) demihelmanthes can defeat vigzel scree, or how wendy can strike an enemy down if you answer her riddles correctly.

hmmm, also i will ask: so wendy's ''usual'' form is the sexy goth girl that kicked tom preston in the oven, right?
she looks nice, attractive and quite fearsome.

 yep, i can definitely see that! leanne starts to use her own mind and powers, and she is thinking ''outside the box'' as the story progresses!
thats good to see, since she will grow less dependent of the oracle, and she will start to become her own ''master'', if i can say that.
i mean, eventually the oracle herself(?) will leave leanne, because at one point, she will be ready to ''walk on her own''.

thats good. tho, in this story of yours, i believe that leanne saved the oracle not just because she ''needed'' the oracle, but because she saw the oracle as a friend, and we never leave our friends behind.
leanne sounds like a good person, so i like her! :D

she is perhaps one of your least threatening women in your stories/drawings/universe, and thats quite a cool sight to witness. (i say that in a good way, usually your girls are either sexy demons, or powerfull witches, lol)

anyways, i loved this story alot, you should definitely write more chapters! its good!

PS: sorry for the wall of text. again.
Marsuwai Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2014
This is Awesome! I wonder where she will end up next.
TheInventor200 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This is amazing. Please do more. xD
FollowinTheBlackBird Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I can't wait to read more. This is such a strange an captivating adventure I find myself visualizing your artwork illustrating the key places in the work, the alley, the street with the odd repetitive children playing such obviously non-complimenting instruments. The hallway and it's one hundred lights and the doorway at it's end. I could go on but you get the point. I'll be anxiously awaiting the next installment of this tale.
hunterN05 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Blegh, ting ting Blorp... LOL nope.

Good work man ^^

That alley would drive anyone mad, legit O_o
laopokia Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014
I'm damn sure a loud endless alley with people playing awful music that feels like eternity would surely drive one mad...
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Submitted on
July 15, 2014


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