Author's note: This is an aborted beginning for what I conceived as a full-length novel. I have since changed the ideas around substantially, but I figured that the story might still be enjoyable. Please, let me know what you think about this.

I awaken. My mind is cluttered and I have no idea where I am. I’m lying on the ground and I can barely see. What I can see is extremely blurred. I feel my head throbbing violently. Groaning, I test my arms and legs to see if they are broken. I wiggle my fingers and toes, and then I flail my arms and legs around. If anyone else saw, they might think I was having a seizure. My limbs at first move slowly. Frustrated, I wave them faster. I gasp, then whimper as a sharp stabbing pain in my appendages lets itself be known. I bite my lips to silence myself. Slowly, I try again.

My arms, then my legs regain their ability to move. I smirk. Maybe I am alright - If I can stand, I will know for certain. I try to rise up gradually. Each muscle screams for mercy. They burn as if they have been slugged at least a dozen times. My voice quickly rises from mere mewling to screaming. I tumble back to the unforgiving floor. I sob, turning into a blubbering mess. “Help... H-Help... Someone...” I croak. I wait for a moment. As I do so, I observe my surroundings. The first thing I notice is the blinding light above me. It appears to be a fluorescent light. It casts a circle of brightness into an otherwise dark room.

I can barely make out four walls made of weathered concrete bricks from the nebulous gloom. The floor is also concrete, but is a single slab. I look around the room. My eyes adjust to the darkness. There appears to be a steel door in front of me. I squint and peer at it harder. There appear to be scratch marks from about halfway up its flat surface going down to the floor. My eyes follow the damage down to its nadir. I gasp and feel my eyes water. I see a body crumpled at the bottom, a hand still resting where the marks end. Surrounding it is a dried puddle of blood.

My nostrils pucker. There is a definite funk of decay. My eyes nervously dart across the opaque room. In one of the corners the shadowy form of a man is slumped against the wall. A slender fragile-looking ebon rod is menacingly jutting out of his forehead. A thin trickle of his blood with small cinereous particles of his frontal lobe dribble down his face, through his ratty beard and onto his chest before percolating on the floor. His face is contorted into an expression of both horror, shock, and agony. The odor of butchery hangs in the air. I pant rapidly before emptying the contents of my stomach onto the floor beside me. I cry out again. No response.

I despondently sink into the pool of my own bile whilst sobbing. This was going to be the end. Suddenly, a loud resounding clank echoes around the room. I look up. The door opens inward into the room. The first body is pushed to the side and a slimy gooey noise of the cadaver’s fluid is seared into my ears. I don’t know whether to be happy or terrified at the opening of the door. I hold my breath. This could be my salvation. The door groans open as I see the silhouette of a tall figure approach the chamber.

“I see that you have awakened,” he says in a steely timbre. His face is obscured to my vision but I have a grim feeling that he, or it rather, is scanning my every move. It steps forward into the dim light. I choke, then lament to myself on my current scenario. I am face to face with an Infiltrator.

“W-What do you want?” I bawl. He neglects my inquiry, instead choosing to plant himself on the door’s threshold, looking fixedly on me.

“Well, What is it?!” I scream. Again no response. I whimper. The silence of the room seems almost tangible.

He was dressed in the fearsome attire that is the armor of the Infiltrators. His face was completely obscured by a dark visor, like a motorcycle helmet, with two hornlike antenna rising menacingly out of the apex of his head. The chest was ribbed and ridged, with the occasional bead of multicolored light shining from layers within. The same could be said about the arms and legs. The entire body was cloaked in a long metallic robe that seemed to turn it invisible, and he had a broad collar surrounding the back of his neck. Lines of blazing orange light streaked his entire body, seeming to give him the appearance of a furnace with glowing coals inside. He maliciously revealed his clawed gauntlet from the inside of his mantle. I could but watch as each finger began to spark and glow.

“Shall we begin?” he callously inquired. He stepped deliberately into the room, making sure to place his footfall just beyond the carcass strewn on the floor. I rolled onto my back and fruitlessly thrust my legs outwards in a feeble attempt to crawl away. But to no avail; In an instant he was on top of me.

“It’s a shame really...” he said as he forces the brunt of his weight on my wrists and thighs. I bite my own tongue. I can hear my wrist crack and splinter. Tears rush into my eyes rapidly.

“... You will have to be conscious to work with me,” he continues. He swiftly clamps onto me and holds me above his head by the wrists. My forearm feels like it is going through a nutcracker. I feel a stab on my wrists. I look and shout. My exposed bone was penetrating through my skin, with blood leaping out like a rushing river. I close my eyes, half hoping this to be but a nightmare. I know, however, that I am just wishing on a pipe dream. I open my eyes tentatively. He was still there. I look up. It was then that I can truly marvel at his enormous size.

He dumps me on the ground without any hesitation or sympathy.

“I take it that you have been properly woken up at this point?” he said. I could tell he was taking grim amusement in my suffering. Maybe even grinning beneath that mask. I close my eyes. Let him kill me. I am going to die in this room anyways. He kicks me square in the abdomen.

“Hmmm... I am displeased by your unwillingness to stay awake.” He kicks me again. Then another time. Then another time. I feel liquid rise up in my throat as I roll over into a crawling position and spit a crimson stream of blood out of my mouth. It eventually trickles down after thirty seconds. I stay in this position for thirty seconds more before dragging my frame over to the right wall of the room. I look to my left. There is the corpse of the man. I look over my busted shoulder to the right. There is the Infiltrator.

I struggle for a moment before I manage to climb up onto my feet. The Infiltrator casually strolls over, seemingly unaware of its environment.

“That is more like it,” he says with a smile in his voice. I hack up more blood and spit it onto his visor. It smears on the rigid glass before dripping off gently to the ground. He looks down at me. We spend a tense minute staring at each other. I smile with pleasure. He wipes some of it off with his hand and looks at his now scarlet palm. He then unexpectedly presses his hand to the helmet’s temple ridge. A blinding tangerine colored flash fills the room, and as swiftly as the light appears, it fades away, revealing a woman’s face where the helm had been but a minute before.

She stares at me with rage. If she wasn’t trying to kill me I would have said she was ravishing. She was pale in skin color, something contrasted by her onyx hair, which was in a short fringe. Her eyes were a dark shade of hazel, which were right above her pronounced cheekbones. Her thin lips were a soft pink. She smiles and points to two vents on her suit’s neck.

“Fear Vapor is a pernicious substance,” she says, her eyes gravitating towards the vents above her chest.

I follow her eyes downwards to right above her armor’s breastplate, where the vents lay. I let out a small yip. Obsidian smoke is cascading out of it like blood out a breached artery. I shamble backwards away from her slowly, gaining momentum with each step. She turns to face me, and I feel my foot lose traction on the ground. I look towards the ground and see that I have tripped on the corpse of the man in the corner. I scream out again and fall backwards, my skull impacting the wall. I slide down and land on the cadaver’s chest. Blood is forced in a burst out of his mouth and onto my body. I gag then look up. The room is barely visible now. It is consumed by the blackness of the toxin. I see the a slight flash of orange light in front of me, dimmed by the gas expanding in the cramped area. The Infiltrator must have re-adorned herself with her helmet. I cough and my vision blurs, then stops completely.

<> <> <>

My eyes flutter open. I am on a floating platform in a black void. Luminescent flashes and lines of light whoosh far past the edges of this area I am inhabiting. A chilled draft of wind blows in my face and a dull light shines downwards from an unseen source. I shout for a moment at the shock of the sudden change of surroundings, then I stand up with ease. I examine myself, and am surprised to see no injury whatsoever. Not even a paper cut nor a hangnail. I laugh, starting low at first but quickly rising to a maniacal crescendo.

I quickly recompose myself and observe my surroundings. The floor seems to be the same one in the brick room I was inhabiting but a moment before. I shudder when I see that the bloodstains were carried over as well. All around me blinding flashes of light in impossible colors shine radiantly across the opaque sky. I feel strange. Then two pairs of concrete hands reach out of the floor and claw at my thighs.

I holler and jump back. The hands slowly rise out of the ground and a sloshy wet oozing clamor accompanies it. I gulp and rushingly try to back up to the edge of the platform, but my feet stop moving. I look down, and suddenly I start sinking into the icy pasty liquid that is now the floor. I kick around to no avail. I feel my body sinking deeper and deeper into the frosty slag. The concrete fists rush upwards, followed by fractured arms and busted up faces. They wrap their twisted fingers to the sides of their torsos and push themselves upwards. They manage to pull their legs out of the slop, and turn around to face me. I stare at them, and begin to weep.

One was the dead man in the cell. He heaves a cold, dead stare at me, unconcerned about the dripping fountain of glittering silver blood pouring out of the hole in his head. The silver blood drips down the front of his rigid, concrete shirt and down his firm pants. Upon hitting the floor, it sizzles like eggs on a frying pan.

The other was the woman who lay dead scratching at the door. Her face is swollen, with a puffy cheek and a smaller trickle of sliver ichor dripping out of her left temple. She opens her mouth, as to speak, but releases an inhuman roar. She and the man step towards me. Her fingers are each a quarter meter long, as if to accentuate the terror she incited. I almost forget that I am sinking.

In that moment, I feel a presence outside of me take hold of my body, as if a sick puppeteer was using my limbs as a marionette. I feel my arms reach upwards, as if they want me to be pulled. The rest of my body, save for my head of which I had control, was thrashing spasmodically. I could hear bones groan and muscles snap as they moved in manners that no body has ever moved before. I gave all my strength to try and stand up, but I seemed to just sink deeper. I decided to close my eyes and accept the fact that I was probably going to die.

As I close my eyes, bizarre and terrifying things occurred. Monsters of unimaginable size and proportion and impossible colors swirled around my head like water swirling in a whirlpool. I felt wickedness surrounding me with all parts of my body. I could see evil, taste evil, smell, feel, and hear evil. Never before have I felt so repulsed in my life. I try to open my eyes. That is when I realize that my eyes are open; I have sunk beneath the concrete.

I feel a clammy sensation in my hands. They too have almost sunk down into the chilling abyss of which I am descending into. I feel something yank on my wrist. It hurts to the point of tears, but I keep as still as I possibly can. That being said, my legs were still furiously kicking in the fluidic void I was descending, and my body was still shaking from side to side. I feel it yank again. My hand turns towards the puller, half-hoping that a human being is there with help. My spirit plummets when I feel that it is not human. It violently drags me upwards, through the liquid concrete, and up towards the surface.

My entire body cries out in agony, as the abrasive concrete tears through my skin. My legs throw themselves around even more unpredictably, as if it senses the rapid ascent and does not want to rise. I feel my head break surface and I feel a warm, dry air seep in. The two concrete people stand about five meters away. They are still dripping substance out of their bodies. Beneath their faces of rage, one can observe an almost tangible underlying sorrow. I lie there in the paste, only my head above the surface, panting vigorously. My head throbs and my lungs are burning. My entire body is wounded and bloodied. But I am alive.

I remain in this state in the ground for what seems to be hours, but could have very well been minutes. Eventually I feel my nervous system regain control again. First, I feel my ring finger twitching in my right hand. I feel a needle-like pain in my toes as blood flow resumes. I wriggle them around in my shoes as much as I can in this restrained state. I show no emotion toward this repossession, however. I feel that all the fear I could possibly feel has been torn out of me. At the same time, however, I feel that any joy I may be able to feel in the future has been stolen from my grasp. I moan. Not a moan of sadness nor one of relief. Just a moan of pain.

Just then, I hear a low, rumbling, reverberation. I raise my head and focus my eyes. The two concrete corpses have taken the positions of the original corpses in the room. The woman is lying with one hand raised upwards in a desperate grabbing motion. The man is leaning in the corner of the platform against a nonexistent corner. The Infiltrator steps out of the darkness to a position in front of me. One orange flash of light later her beautiful face is revealed. Her defined features are clearer than crystals even in the dim lighting.

“Congratulations,” she says. I examine her face from my low vantage point. A genuine smile is on her face.

“For what?!” I inquire.

“You passed the Trial of Fear. Welcome to the Infiltrators.”

<> <> <>

My eyelids flutter and I have once more awoken inside the room. The blood has started to turn from a bright crimson into a dark brown. Above me the woman is standing, her face looking down at me. How long she was staring was a mystery. I look at my arms and gasp - all my injuries have been healed.

"Did you-" I begin before my voice wavers.

"Get up," she growls. I slowly get to my feet, and look around.

"Who were those people?" I ask, gesturing to the corpses.

"The people who failed the test."

"What am I supposed to do now that I have passed this?"

She grins.

"Fear shapes our world, which shapes us to fear it. We control the fear, and as a result, we control the planet. Welcome to the Infiltrators."

She turns and begins to walk away. Two glowing dots beneath her ears flicker, and burst with unparalleled light. When I see her again, she is encased with smoky black armor. The door opens, and she steps out. I turn to look at the corpses of the rejects, and follow.

Written by The Minister of Fear
Content is available under CC BY-SA