I was scrolling Mister Wendig's Terrible Minds blog again, having neglected it for months, and saw his latest flash fiction prompt: There is no exit. On an impulse, for no good reason whatsoever, I cranked out about 900 words of nonsense to that tune with less than a day before deadline and a long list of chores still waiting to be tackled. So, merely 2 hours and 28 minutes and a brief edit later, plus the time it took to create this abysmal excuse for a blog, I present to you the final product, the Land of Block. Try not to hold it against me.
The world around me melted, fading and smoldering, ash blowing away on the wind as I fell into the one last recess that still screamed primordial madness, untamed and unfettered by the confines of society and expectation. Suddenly I was in the shadow, a dark and bleak place where infernal wind swept dust against the vestiges of a landscape I could only vaguely imagine and never glimpse, but there were promises of grandeur and wisps of the epic all around. Great masonry towered above, reaching heavens whose light yet failed to pierce the overcast, though no sooner than I could spy the ruin was it again whisked away in the eternal sandstorm. Beasts bellowed distantly only to be drowned out by the gale. Arrows of unseen armies flew only to be steered off course by the same abrasive force.
Its blistering assault continued relentlessly, tearing at my clothes, forcing my eyes shut, and peeling at my ears with a raging whisper, too busy and violent to discern, hinting at an answer to a question I didn’t know to ask.
What is this nightmare? I bellowed.
Hellish whispers persisted.
Why am I here? I blared.
Demented murmurs persevered.
I shivered in realization these were not the right questions.
Like spilled drink across a table, the wind flowed over the terrain, shifting dunes and tossing me into the enveloping sands. The blistering desert threatened to swallow me as sooty earth flowing thick and slow like syrup, but carrying the crash and turmoil of raging water. It thrashed over the surface and swirled maliciously, dragging me through the chaos. With effort, I remained above, then dared to explore the hellscape, all while the cyclone prevailed, roaring against my ears with indistinguishable voices. Desperately, I listened, hoping beyond hope for something intelligible, but they only gnawed at my senses, threatening without words to tear me apart and assimilate my protestations into their horde.
So I steeled myself against them and forged on, pulling my shirt over my nose and pressing my hand against the airborne grit that continued to tear at my face, trying in vain to break its path into my eyes. Eventually I rediscovered the derelict temple, and wondering upon what inclination it had been raised, made for the doors. Though the lock attempted to bar my entrance, the ancient hinges were more accommodating, clattering off with little conflict and dropping the thick, bone-dry planks with a resounding pulse that echoed through the chamber beyond.
Even within, the dust hung too heavily to see easily through, but I took solace that at least the wind was unable to weaponize the particles in these confines. However, even with the torrent obstructed, the voices wailed dully through the walls as their carrier blasted the structure. Still, this choking room was preferable to the scorching fury outside, so I sat and waited for the storm to abate, leafing through abandoned manuscripts that all turned out to be either blank or totally faded. Eventually, I conceded the squall would not yield, and struck out once more. The wind lobbed me sideways immediately and the voices returned to claw at my character with volume.
What are you trying to tell me? I shrieked.
Sanguine ravings resumed.
I pressed ever forward, determined to rob the wind of whatever prize it sought from me - my sanity, most likely - until a new challenger attempted to claim me, though not a lurking beast or army, mind you. Those roars and shouts were still far off, muffled in the hurricane. If I was to perish, at least they offered more thrilling outs, but these were cruelly withheld from me. It was a canyon that nearly had me now. Its yawning maw gaped almost unseen through the streaking cinders and powder, inviting me violently into its depths. The far side, like my hand when outstretched. remained invisible behind the blowing shroud, yet it called out with an audible plangency that suggested unspeakable vastness.
Desperate, tired, defeated, I stood there, staring into nothing. I remained fixed for some time with my arms limp beside me as my skin leathered and lips cracked. My throat baked and my eyes grew heavy from an aeon of squinting as the wind tormented me further. Though its words remained gibberish, I knew it was laughing at me, goading me to jump.
How do I get out? I pleaded chokingly, unable to scream.
Then one clear remark broke forth from the maelstrom, splitting the dyke that separated me from coherence.
There is no exit, it reverberated through my skull. There is no escape.
Finally, my legs gave way and the wind took me by my flapping, tattered jacket, casting me forward to where the ground could not save me.
Suddenly I was back in my chair, ejected from that world - the last recess of my mind still screaming primordial madness; madness which rapidly abdicated to my more civilized thoughts. I jerked wildly as my fist fell from my temple and my chin hit my chest. A paper lied before me and a pen in my hand, and as I fiddled with the instrument I felt the ghost of the dust storm chafe against my arm, bringing memories of the masonry, beasts, and armies. So I wrote, translating the voices as they freed themselves from the incomprehensible, weakening tempest. No escape, indeed, I realized as the silt slowly settled and a story shone through the darkness.