The Petite Fork And The Charred Figure | Teen Ink

The Petite Fork And The Charred Figure

October 22, 2020
By TheGork, Hillsboro, Ohio
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TheGork, Hillsboro, Ohio
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Author's note:

I wrote this short story for my friend's birthday. I plan on reading it to them here soon.

The author's comments:

Again, not everything will make since. Sorry. 

Unbeknownst to a good portion of the Tavern’s regulars is the obituary board. It’s tucked in a corner that could honestly use a bit more light. You can find information on the recently deceased. I try to stop by at least once a week. There’s this gloomy curiosity that can spawn from the death of someone you didn’t know. You wonder who it was, how it happened, and out of nowhere you want a whole biography about them. 

I was going about my day, minding my own business when a man walked into the Tavern and went straight to the board. He posted the paper and left without even saying a word. He at least could’ve paid for a drink. Despicable. Sarcasm aside, I went over and looked at the new name. 

As I read about the dead person, a twenty-six year old man who thought that his invisible armor would protect him from the consequences of armed robbery, something tapped my shoulder. Turning around, there was a figure holding a paper towards me. The figure was about six inches shorter than me and wore a cloak the color of the abyss. The only skin visible was a hand burnt so severely that it was hardly distinguishable from the cloak. When I took the paper, it pointed a finger at a picture of a house. It drew it's finger across and the words “outer,” “south,” and “help” appeared. I looked up from the paper and the spirit reached out and touched my temple. 

I was transported to the entrance of the Tavern through a dream-like trance. Everything was faded to black and white. With a series of wild and chaotic turns, I followed the streets that led to the house from the picture. Immediately, I was back at the Tavern. The figure was still there. It pointed once more at the paper and the word “please” appeared. When I looked back up, the figure was gone. The paper had disappeared as well. 

My evening had just suddenly gotten really complicated. A non malicious spirit just contacted me and wants me to go to a house on the edges of the city. I decided that I would go. I went upstairs to my room to grab a few essential items: a pack with a lantern, alleghos oil, matches, flashlight, watch, knife, and a canteen. With everything in order, I went back downstairs and worked my way to the main bar. My grandfather was there serving customers. When he had one singular second available, I approached.

“Hey, I’ll be out for the night. Catch you tomorrow.” I adjusted my pack.

“Alright then. Have a good night. Stay safe. I love you and will see you tomorrow,” he said.

“Love you too!”

With that brief exchange, I was off. It was later in the day than I would’ve liked, 6:49 to be exact. It would get dark around eight. I could vividly recall the route that was shown earlier. The house was in a mostly lit up section of the city, the southern suburbs, so in theory, the walk should be reasonably safe. Besides, that area hasn’t been too dangerous. A good majority of the monsters there are pushovers that run away when you match their bark with greater bite. The west and east sections are where you really have to be careful. 

The walk there was nothing to write about. People were settling down for the night: putting lanterns outside their doors and on the sidewalks, getting the last things they need from their cars, and enjoying the last fragments of sun before it leaves the world for a hellish, dark reign. 

It was 7:10 when I arrived at the street with the house that the spirit wanted me to go to for whatever reason. There were only five lit homes, including the target house. They were all alone, surrounded by numerous, dead houses. They were survivors of some untold war with only their cars still faithfully at their side. There were no lanterns on the sidewalks, only in front of four of the five houses. 

I approached the house. It had an overgrown, tendrily yard that seemed to sway in a non-existent wind. Light fluttered behind the door, revealing a small porch. There was a light visible from a window. All other features were muffled by darkness. 

I knelt down to get my own lantern out. Just as I set the lantern down, I heard the sound of something dragging and scraping against the street. It came from the opposite side of the street. Keep in mind, this street wasn’t very big. There were roughly only eight homes on each side. One of the lanterns was down at the opposite side. A hulking figure of indeterminable proportions picked up the lantern. The glass broke, leaving the flame hovering in the air. The flame was then sucked towards the being. The thing let out a low roar. All the other lanterns shattered and had their fire consumed. A line of orange flames with a red hue shot out towards me. 

I ran towards the house, leaving my lantern behind. After seeing what it did to the others, it probably wouldn’t help me. So much for this area having a bunch of pushovers. The line of fire exploded in an infernal shower where I was not but a few seconds ago. While on the poarch, I made the mistake of looking back. The monstrosity was the embodiment of a volcano: impossibly huge and fiery. The thing’s skin was burned and oozing drops of fire. Its chest was split open, revealing an igneous heart, pulsating with pure heat incarnate. Its eyes were red hot coals that spewed embers. On its shoulders rested a large, obsidian-like sword that carried a molten liquid within it. The thing pointed the sword at me and took long but slow steps towards me. Me being a smart person and totally not being a little bitch, retreated within the house which was thankfully unlocked. 

The only problem was the thing didn’t stop. Within three seconds of shutting the door and backing away, the thing burst through. Chunks of wall and door went flying. It took a few steps inside, stopped, and stared at me as if it were sizing me up. It was at least nine feet tall. I pulled out my knife. The thing took one look at it and erupted in laughter. Deep, booming bellows that mocked the size of my knife. Whatever, not everyone needs to compensate. When it was done causing miniature earthquakes, it walked back into the street. It just stood there, looking at me, waiting rather patiently for me to come out. 

I still had to investigate the house. Surprisingly, the whole thing didn’t catch on fire. Hopefully the scorched walls and the lack of door wouldn’t interfere. I was in a living room. On the wall to the right of where a front door would be was a wooden door inlaid with frosted glass and brass. To the left was a light grey sofa facing an older television. A lamp on an end table filled the room with a soft, comforting, orange glow. There was a staircase that led to the next floor.

I went over and opened the door to the right, knife still in hand. I was face to face with the spectre from earlier. I thrust the knife forwards only for it to go straight through. The spirit looked at me for a good five seconds, cocked its shrouded head at me, and sank through the floor. Never before had I felt so judged by something dead. 

The door led down to a brightly lit room that I assumed was the basement. The spirit obviously wanted me to go down there so I did. The first thing I noticed was the smell of burnt flesh and wood smoke. Then I noticed the walls were blackened with soot. In the back, there was a pile of wood that still smoldered. At that moment, I knew I had to look through that pile. I pushed away each piece of still burning wood, scouring that pile for something. Anything.

At the very bottom, I found a fork and a wooden figurine. I had never seen such a curious fork. It was quite smaller than your average fork, like it was made for someone with small hands. The handle was made from a dark, polished wood complete with brass fasteners. The metal part of the fork was rather sharp and unnaturally cold, like a refined tip of an iceberg. Perhaps it was made in a colder, northern place. Despite all its exquisiteness, the fork was far heavier than it should’ve been.

The wooden figurine was charred beyond recognition. All I could tell was that it resembled a person. It was about five inches in length. There was something special about these objects. I just knew that I needed to keep them. They were important in some way that was beyond me. I put both items in my pack.

There was nothing else of interest in the room. When I went back upstairs, the spirit was there waiting for me at the top and almost scared the sh*t out of me. The spirit gestured for me to follow and went through the door. Back in the living room, the spirit was looking out at the fire being from earlier which was still patiently waiting for me. The spirit turned and faced me. It pointed at the creature. It looked back at me. The damn spirit wanted me to kill the literal embodiment of a volcano. I took out my knife and the spirit shook its head at me. It reached through my pack and grabbed the fork. It also wanted me to kill it with a fork. 

I had already come this far and to not kill what was waiting in the street seemed foolish. I couldn’t stay in the house forever. The thing could realize what I’m doing and come in and kill me. I couldn’t run away because it would probably follow me and destroy more lanterns and catch buildings on fire and all other sorts of nasty things. I’m pretty sure sources of fire only make it stronger. I could try to sneak out but I’m not a little b*tch who runs away from monsters and lets down mysterious spirits that specifically reach out to me. I set my pack down in the previous doorway, walked off the porch, knife in hand and fork in pocket, to my possible demise.

It saw me and stood up. It lifted its sword and ignited. The heat that radiated off the body of the being was almost unbearable. It took several steps back to put distance between us because you know, even monsters have gentlemanly standards during fights to the death. It waited a few moments and then stomped the ground. With that, it charged forward. I’m not sure why but I also ran towards it. When it was close enough, the thing swung the sword at me. I dodged and it missed. The sword was stuck in the cobblestone of the road. The being sent out a gout of fire through the sword, sending a spray of molten liquid around it. It withdrew the sword and then swung it in a wide slash. I rolled out of the way, cautious of the hazards it was leaving in the road. 

The being held out its left hand, ignited it, and slammed the ground. The road began to shake, forming glowing cracks that spider webbed towards me. I ran away as the cracks widened. The cobblestones shattered as conflagrant geysers reveled in their cataclysmic cascade. Within seconds, the being was back to chasing me with the sword, this time feeling confident. Every charge brought a deafening roar. With every missed swing, the being repeatedly smashed the road, bellowing in defiance. It left no opening for me to attack, so I tried like hell to be difficult to hit. It was a constant struggle that was fruitless on both sides.

Eventually, I pissed it off enough that it narrowed its eyes and thrust the sword into the ground. A meteor shower of fire flew towards the sword from all around, most likely from every lit lantern in a certain radius. The flames collected, forming a massive, swirling orb. It was one the brightest fires I had ever seen. It was almost as if a miniature sun just popped into existence. I vigilantly retreated past a corner, watchful for any quick movements while I was unguarded. I was a good distance away when there was a tremendous, fiery explosion. Once it calmed down, I went back down the street.

 If the stubborn souls that still lived on this street weren’t already woken, they were now. It was like the church burning all over again but possibly worse. Parts of the cars were actually melted into the road. Splotches on the stone houses glowed red. Glass from the windows trickled out of their sills. The insides of the homes were ravaged by fire. The yards were little more than piles of charcoal. Even the sidewalks sprouted little buds of flame. Remarkably, the spirit’s house was completely untouched by the disaster. 

The culprit behind all of this was still in the middle of the street. It raised the sword out of the ground. Behind it, the end of the street was blocked with a tall wall of fire. The end behind me was blocked as well. The being threw the sword aside and began pushing the cars off the road. It went back to its end of the street. We were facing each other just like before. I guess it wanted a fairer fight.

The thing charged at me. I stood there and moved at the last minute. Risky, but while it turned around, I slashed at its leg. Molten blood flowed out only for the cut to close. This wasn’t going to work. The being laughed at me again. I stabbed it and some of its blood burnt my hand. The wound closed within seconds. I backed away, the thing slowly following. It was at this moment I knew I was screwed. All of the back and forth just reveal that I can’t actually hurt it.

I remembered that the spirit had taken the fork out for a reason. I sheathed my knife and grabbed the fork out of my pocket. The thing stopped and glared when it saw the fork. It picked up its pace. It tried to grab me but missed. I stabbed the petite battle fork into its leg. The wound began to freeze. The frost spread to a decent portion of the leg. The being tried to melt the ice but couldn’t. It was royally pissed now. 

It tried to run but the icy patch locked the leg. The symptoms of terror were displayed in its eyes. It couldn’t move. The being swung at me, desperately trying to kill me before I could incapacitate it even more. I stabbed the other leg just as it managed to grab me. It lifted me up by my shoulders. We were eye level. It held me there for several moments, engaging in a staring contest. It slowly nodded its head and let me go. 

It admitted defeat. There was nothing it could do. The fork was just too strong. The ice now covered the entire first leg and was working its way up on the other.. It pointed at the sword. The sword was compressed into a large chunk of the obsidian like material with the liquid still inside. The thing nodded at me. I went over and picked it up. The being gestured for me to bring the chunk to it. Once in its hands, the being shaped the stone, gradually forming a blade. It then reached to its chest and broke off a decently sized piece of its heart and a large strip of its own flesh. It fiddled around with the materials and slowly but surely, made a nigh exact replica of my own knife. Once done, the being handed it to me.

 The knife was the same shape and size as my own. All the dimensions seemed to be in order. Unlike the crystalline blade of the sword, this knife had a blade of some sort of blackened metal. The blade was etched, fissures running down the sides. The knuckles and handle were composed of the heart, a deep abyssal granite that radiated earthen might. The torn flesh served as the grip. The little triangular spike at the base of the handle was the same metal as the blade. There was no sheath, but since the knives were virtually the same, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Upon taking the knife, I could sense some of the being’s thoughts. I had earned the being’s respect. The knife was a gift for being brave enough, or dumb enough, to fight back. I didn’t even do anything too impressive. It was the spirit’s fork that did all the work. I just ran around and did nothing. All it wanted in return was a name. A name that would inspire fear while being memorable.

I looked at it in the eyes. “The Infernal Champion. How does that sound?”

The being nodded. A faint trace of a smile could just barely be seen on its rather uncharming face. The Infernal Champion pointed at the knife it made for me. I could understand more of its thoughts. It told, and showed me that I was now immune to the dangers of extreme temperatures. It demonstrated this by setting me on fire and then pouring molten liquid on me. Yeah, it could’ve done it a better way but hey, I wasn’t burned alive. Not even my clothes were singed. It felt like I was right next to a campfire. Not too bad, actually. Kinda nice. Toasty.

The Infernal Champion explained that such intangible boons are permanent until favor of another being of similar power has been gained. They may offer their own gifts should you defeat them. That’s just what it told me. I don’t exactly plan on encountering anything as tough as the Champion. I won’t always have a kick *ss magic fork that does all the work for me. But there still was something invigorating about the idea of  tracking down the more imposing monstrosities that reign over select areas of the city.  Perhaps that’ll be an experience for a different time.

The Infernal Champion went from being the embodiment of a volcano to the epitome of an iceberg. Its frigid form was frozen from its feet to just below the chest. The Infernal Champion raised a hand to the spirit, which was in the shattered doorway, and burst into flames. A lone, spectral ember drifted upwards, no doubt the soul of the Champion returning to where monsters dwell. I’ll admit, it was rather gloomy watching my once adversary and now partial ally disappear off into the sky. The Champion took all of its flames with it, leaving me in the dark. 

The spirit hovered out onto the porch and gestured towards the wrecked entry. I went back in, picking my pack out of the middle of said entry. I was beat. I wasn’t too prepared to fight a big fire dude. I was hungry and tired and wanted to call it a night. I looked over at the spirit who for some odd reason, hovered away from me. I still had the knife in my hands. 

“Do you have anything to eat?” I put the knife away in my pack. The spirit shook its head no. “I’m not sure why I even asked. I’m done for the night. If you need me, I’ll be on the couch.”

The spirit didn’t object. It showed no response to me lighting my lantern and stretching out. I turned the lamp off. Not a single movement or emotion came. It just stood there, an ominous guardian that I could’ve been fine without.

“Are you going to stand there all night?” Once again, there was no reply. I gave up. I’m not going to lose sleep over staying the night in a strange place with a hole where a door should be and a ghost watching me from a corner. It’s the least I could do for myself. 

The next thing I know, I was in a vast parking lot with a considerable amount of cars. I was in front of an immense superstore, the kind found exclusively in the New City. The sky was this cloudy grey marble color that ran swiftly in the wind. I looked behind me and saw your average streets complete with more cars. There wasn’t any general city ambience. I could only hear the wind and my own footsteps. Nothing else. My new knife was at my side despite having left it in the pack. The figurine from earlier was in my right hand. The figure was more recognizable than before, like the store was reversing the burns. At the same time, the store radiated a sense of unease. A form of anxiety the likes of which I’ve never experienced until then. There was nowhere to go but inside. I was here for a reason.

I went towards the front of the store. No one paid me any attention. People were going about their day like nothing was wrong or even slightly off. I could hear them go on about their plans and how their night was going to turn out and all other sorts of unhelpful information. There was a woman by the entrance who wore a bright yellow vest, signifying that she worked at the store. She looked oddly familiar. I should’ve known her from somewhere but I just couldn’t place it. We made direct eye contact. She stood very tense, a few inches shorter than me . There was a slight tremble in her lip. She turned away from me and went inside. 

I went in after her but she had vanished. I figured she wanted me to find her in the store because you know, why make things easy? I went aisle by aisle, but couldn’t find her. I looked in the electronics section. She wasn’t there. I went through the clothing areas. She wasn’t there either. There wasn’t anybody. All the people disappeared the further I went in. The anxiety kicked even harder. Turning around, there was the one place I hadn’t looked for her. 

It was a deli. Unlike usual delis that sell sliced meats and cheeses, all this one had to offer was large quantities of dread. The floor was this rather plain oak paneling that on its own would be innocent. But instead, it was paired with the lack of overhead lights and the sinisterly lit room behind the counter and to the right. I can not describe the horror and fear I felt when my gaze fell on the deli.

 I knew that I was supposed to go to the room just behind the counter. I didn’t. I instead went back through all the specialized sections and aisles. The rest of the overhead lights slowly dimmed and went away. The aisles were just bright enough to see if something was at the end. I was at the frozen food section, glass doors with LED lights displaying various non-existent products, when I looked down an aisle and saw a figure. I’m not sure what it was, but it turned and started shambling over towards me. It was not the woman. Each aisle I searched brought more horrors that are better left undescribed. They gathered behind me, a mob of the damned that seemed to grow in number with each step I took. Each new member only reinforced the idea that I needed to find the woman.

I found myself at the deli. I looked back at the crowd. There was a stupid amount of the creatures. I looked back at the deli and caught a minute glimpse of yellow going into the lit room. That was enough for me. I ran towards the counter and vaulted it. On the other side of the counter, there were pools of what I assumed was blood all over the floor. The trail led inside the room. I went in and shut the door.

What I thought to be a room actually turned out to be a long dead end with bright apricot walls and fluorescent lights. The woman stood at the other end. I took a step towards her. Immediately, the wall behind the woman collapsed, revealing a shadowy cavern. Two black veiled figures emerged, towering above the woman. The woman didn’t resist as they dragged her away. I sprinted towards them but I was too late. I had to follow them into the lair. 

There was a winding passage leading further down that was just bright enough to follow. The air was laced with scents that spoke of torment and blood. After some time, the passage opened up to a colossal clearing that would’ve been a magnificent discovery if a crimson haze didn’t linger in the vicinity. An otherworldly chant echoed all around. There was a herd of acolytes kneeling before an altar. Unsurprisingly, the woman from before was on the altar, resting atop a pyre. A head acolyte stood next to a brazier. Behind all of this, the cavern floors abruptly stopped. 

What all was hidden within the void is still unknown to me and that’s exactly how I plan to keep it. I couldn’t move. It was as if I was merely watching a movie, unable to put an end to any of the horrors I was witnessing. The head acolyte pulled a torch out of the brazier and let the woman on fire. The woman’s body burned unnaturally fast. As the acolyte set the torch back into the coals, there was only a pile of smoking wood left on the altar. All the smoke drifted over to the pit.

A thunderous roar sounded that practically shook the cave to its core. Such a roar becomes recognizable when you spend a good half hour subjected to it. With an awesome leap, the Infernal Champion arose from the void. The head acolyte spoke to it but I couldn’t understand what was said. The conversation consisted of the acolyte frantically gesturing to the altar and the Infernal Champion eventually shoving the acolyte into the void. Another reason for me to leave the pit alone. The Infernal Champion looked at the altar, a singular molten tear falling, and then at the remaining acolytes. Its sword sprang out of existence. It took a few steps towards the acolytes and cleaved one in half. Some acolytes ran, some continued to kneel, and some even joined their fallen leader. When all had been dispatched, the Infernal Champion went back to the altar. The spirit of the woman appeared next to it.

I had the feeling that they were waiting for me. I was no longer watching the past. All the disemboweled corpses were now rotted to the bone. However, the altar still smoked. I avoided the bodies and made my way to the altar. The spirit pointed at my pocket. I pulled the figure out. This time, it was restored to its final form. From the short dark hair to the black glasses, I practically had a scaled down version of the woman in the seat of my hand. The spirit pointed at the Infernal Champion, who held out its own hand. I handed the figure over. Just like the spirit’s body, the figure was reduced to ashes in a matter of a few seconds. The spirit dissipated in front of us, leaving behind the fabled fork from before. 

I picked up the fork. This time, the fork shone brightly with pale light. It was no longer cold to the touch. I looked at the Infernal Champion. It turned towards the pit. The fork spoke of another being whose boon I could potentially win. Of all places, it had to be in the pit that I said I wouldn’t go into. 

“How do I get back here?” I asked. The Infernal Champion pointed at the passage that brought me here. It then spoke through the knife, telling me that the basement of the spirit’s house would bring me here again. That would definitely be something for another day. There was nothing else to do at the moment. Me and the Infernal Champion spoke of seeing each other in the future and then parted ways, it going back into the pit and me going back through the passage. Just like it said, I was in the basement of the house. 

I packed everything up and left. There was nothing for me here at the moment. The mayhem in the street was further illuminated in broad daylight. Let’s just say it's a good thing we pay taxes. I set out back to the tavern and would hopefully spend the rest of my day unbothered by just about every other living thing.

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