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The Taking

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It is the thing which lurks in the darkness, the thing that slithers and crawls into our nightmares, the thing that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time.

It is the thing we don't know, the thing which could, and will, hurt us, corrupt us, fill us with its darkness and perversion.

Or, at least, that is its common definition.

What most people don't know is that fear can take many forms.

It can taunt us with what we know, it can haunt us with what we don't know, and can hurt us with things we thought could keep us safe.

But that is nothing.

Fear is far more, far deadlier than one could ever imagine.

It is possessive. It will not stop until you have submitted to its clutches, and when you do, it will make you pay, oh will it make you pay.

When fear first stalks you, it will take its most common form- jump scares. Maybe you will be walking down the street one night while listening to a scary story narration, and a biker will suddenly whiz past you, perhaps making you jump.

If that doesn't scare you, it will take it up a notch, perhaps as its second most common form- darkness.

You'll be walking down a dark hall, feeling an acute feeling of apprehension, and maybe you stub your toe against the wall and jump out of your shorts.

Fear will continue to up the ante; it is persistent. It will not stop until you are frightened, horrified, scarred, or disgusted.

But at some point, it will near its limit. At some point, it will run out of the conventional options.

Eventually, Fear will show its true form.

You will typically see him when you least expect it. You might be walking home from school or work one day and see his shadowed form amidst the crowd, or maybe out of the corner of your eye when working on your computer or, when driving to the convenience store, for a brief moment, you'll see him sitting in the back seat.

But it doesn't matter where you are, or how many people are around you at the time.

He will find you.

When you see him, you will find yourself physically unable to move. You will slowly be forced to fully face him. You will see him as a cloaked entity of indeterminate proportions. He will come no closer, nor will he drift no farther, but will stare at you for what seems like an eternity before he pulls his hood down and reveals his face.

He will then slowly fade away before your eyes and seem to disappear. You will blink once, twice, thrice, and all memory of what has occurred will fade from your mind. You will not remember his face, you will not remember who he is, and you will not remember ever encountering him.

You will think you are safe.

But the encounter you had is only the beginning.

You see, like I said before, Fear is possessive. It will pursue you until its goals are achieved, no matter what.

What you saw was his way of marking you, of making you his while he prepares for The Taking.

For the interim, you will have problems falling asleep. You will begin to feel less energetic throughout the day, as though something is slowly bleeding you out. This will progress into mild discomfort, as though someone is dragging tiny hooks along your flesh.

You will have painstaking urges to scratch yourself, but this will just make it worse.

You will begin to feel minor pains along your arms, pulsing with your heartbeat as though your veins were on fire. This means he is nearby. The preparations are almost ready.

The final stage is the worst. The pains and itching will cease, but you will begin to feel an inexplicable sense of danger, as if an axe is hanging over your head at all times. You will begin to feel paranoid, and you will lose any remaining hours of sleep you once had.

You will feel the urge to search for him, to find him, but you never will. You are his, and The Nameless always takes what is his.

You will know when the time has come, because you will suddenly feel the worst pain, the worst agony, known to man. It will feel as though your flesh is being slowly peeled away from your bones with a red hot knife. As he approaches, your vision will darken as your body begins to fail from the shock.

Then, as the last of your vision fails, you will see him there, his head cocked in an almost human expression of curiosity, as he watches your form go limp and become ripe for The Taking.

You will then awaken to find yourself on an abandoned hillside with the moon shining straight above you. You will quickly realize you are strapped to what appears to be a rough-cut stone altar. You will feel that itch again, but this time you cannot scratch it, you cannot make it go away.

You will then notice The Nameless standing above you. In his hand is a sickle. In your maddened urge to satisfy that itch, you will want him to drag it across your flesh.

But he is not so merciful. For what seems like an eternity, he will stand there, just staring at you with the darkness under his hood. Then his head will slowly cock to the side in that half-human expression of curiosity, and, very gently, he will begin to lower the sickle towards your skin.

Very slowly and deliberately, The Nameless will drag the blade across your skin, carefully following the rapidly pulsing zigzags of your veins and arteries. You will scream in both pain and pleasure, as the itch disappears and is replaced with the agony that only a red hot knife can induce on human flesh.

The Nameless will then cock his head and survey you, judging his handiwork. Maybe he will add a few more touches, carve a few more furrows into the ravaged landscape of your arm before finishing his task.

He will toss the sickle into the grass beside him, and he will pierce into you with those non-eyes under his hood. His hood will twitch oddly in the lower regions, as though The Nameless were smiling with satisfaction at a job well done, then cock his head to the other side as he appears to deliberate on your fate.

Regardless of what he is thinking, he always comes to the same decision. He will slowly raise his non-hands to his hood, gripping both sides tightly as an unexplainable dread cuts through your agony.

The Nameless will pause for a moment, taking in your fear before he pulls abruptly on the dark cloth and reveals his face to you one last time.

And as your arms trickle blood and your vision dims, you watch him do this and wait, expectantly, to see the face of your attacker.

The hood falls, and you see...nothing. Nothing at all. Just a space, a dark space full of nothing.

As the last dregs of life run out of you, the cloak falls lifeless to the ground, its purpose served.

Your physical body will be found days later, in the middle of a clearing in some nearby woods. Several cuts are found along your arms, the psychiatrists and doctors assuming they are self-inflicted. Your vitals are still shown to be fine, however, and you are soon taken to the insane asylum, where you will spend the rest of your non-life locked up in a padded room.

But you are not alone.

Your real body is still tied up on that stone altar, and lying next to that altar lies a certain dark cloak, whose cowl just happens to be turned crookedly towards you, staring at you with its head cocked sideways.

And sometimes, if the occasional wind ruffles it just right, it appears to be smiling.

"There is nothing to fear but fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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