You let go with a yelp, your pale fingers scrambling for something to clutch in the cliff face.
You find one — a half-circle handhold, carved through to darkness on the other side. You gasp for breath, your lungs on fire as you look around. You see you are surrounded by a large cavern mostly endowed in darkness, but somehow you can still see the wall on the other side. It must be dozens of metres away. You look up and see more black; you're not sure if it's even a cavern or a bottomless canyon.
You glance down, despite vertigo roiling in your guts and see many, many more half circle handholds littering the cliff face below. You can't see where they lead if they even lead anywhere at all.
You can't help wonder: who had carved these perfectly symmetrical holes, and why?
Suddenly the screaming starts a high pitched chorus of hundreds of inhuman voices. It curdles your blood and sends panic painfully pile-driving through you, making you almost let go.
The screaming won't abate it keeps growing and growing and becomes higher and higher pitched into a thunderous crescendo which makes your ears ache in agony.
Your brain seems to pulse inside your skull; you clench your teeth as fear threatens to overwhelm your every sense as it contorts your insides like cold hands roughly twisting your insides.
But even through it, you manage to realise something.
The screaming is coming from behind the cliff face.
You hunch down and look through the hollow handhold, into the pitch blackness beyond. You wait and watch. You have no idea what you expect to see and all the while the screams somehow grow louder and louder. So loud it isn't just hurt your ears any more but your entire skull, it feels like something is repeatedly stabbing nine-inch nails into your brain and the back of your eyes. In time with your heart which hammers so hard and so fast you fear it might burst from your breast.
You look and you look and when the screaming seems to reach its apex the eyes materialise. Insanely wide, bloodshot eyes. Beneath a smile spreads, an inhumanly wide, brown crescent moon with too many teeth.
It freezes you in place; it's only a few inches away. The glint of the knife flashing forwards brings you into reality, and you let go a millisecond before it plunges into your fingers. You scream as you drop and you claw at the cliff. You find one, and you gasp in pain as your fingers almost dislocate with the effort.
Instinct makes you let go, dropping just before another knife saws into view.
You drop for only a second, but it feels like a lifetime before you find a handhold. Already, you are utterly drenched in sweat. Your hammering heart sinks as your hand slips, forcing you to scramble to keep from falling freely.
Somehow you manage to regain your hold, and you catch a glimpse of another pair of eyes and another stabbing knife before you let go.
For what feels an eternity you do that, over and over — every time you avoid another knife by a hair's breadth.
How the hell they know precisely which one you'll grab, you haven't a clue.
Somehow you manage to ignore the agony in your fingers and arms.
Somehow you weather the blisters.
Somehow you don't notice the blood pouring from your ears and the screaming stopping.
You have no idea how long it takes you to realise you lie on your back. Your hazy, white vision stares into darkness.
But you remember. You remember your name is Adrian Aldritch that you're from New Zealand but the how, why or where you are forever eluding you.
It's hard to think, hard to breathe.
The pain flares to life, although you have no idea, it's gone. It makes you gasp and writhe. Like every inch of you is dunked in acid.
You don't hear the footfalls, but you feel them, and it causes you to sit upright, making the agony worse.
You look to see six people approaching you through the darkness. They are called out, their mouths slamming open and shut with desperate abandon.
But you can't hear them.
All that you can hear is a horrid high pitched ringing and a strong, sharp stinging. You clutch at your ears, and you feel wet. The tips of your fingers come into view, revealing the blood.
Panic abruptly overtakes you; it causes you to scramble away. Your back hits the wall.
Despite this, you see the six strangers keep coming toward you. Hands reach out to you.
You scream you can't trust them. How can you trust them?
You cover your face with shaking arms, and that's all you can do. Being too weak, too agonised and too exhausted to fight despite your very being seeming to scream you need to.
And the ringing! Oh, the horrid ringing, how you wish for it to stop!
"Please! Please!" you cry. "Please don't hurt me!"
Strong hands suddenly wrap around your wrists and without any violence they take your arms away.
They tower over you, and you can tell they're yelling for you to calm down, but you won't, you can't. Terrified tears well in your eyes and your weary, achy limbs won't stop shaking.
One of them, a man with dark skin, perhaps African-American seems to yell down at you.
"Can you hear me?"
You manage to shake your head.
Then you are abruptly hauled to your feet. Your arms slipped onto two pairs of broad shoulders.
They begin to move, which causes the tips of your toes to drag on the rough, rocky surface.
Now you see you're on a large ledge. Which juts from the cliff face and slowly, slightly ascends but to where it is hidden in darkness.
The light tap on your shoulder almost causes you to jump out of your skin, and you look sharply to see a beautiful blonde girl warmly smiling at you. Her hands then change and flick into complex, strange shapes. It takes your weary, pain-wracked mind half a minute to realise she's using sign language.
"I don't understand!" you say.
She frowns and looks at you with blue, piteous eyes.
For what are surely hours your new companions drag you. It is a constant battle for you to cling to consciousness. You watch them as they talk amongst themselves. You try to read their lips, but it's harder than you imagined.
You do notice that all of them are exceedingly young and pretty. One is a tanned brunette who you regularly catch looking at you and each time it causes her to turn away.
One of the men carrying you is white, the other Asian and the last was another white guy.
All of them look like they spend countless hours at the gym and are beaten and bloody, but that doesn't seem to detract their beauty.
The black guy seems the funniest. He says things while smiling with perfect white teeth that makes the others laugh heartily with equally brilliant teeth.
The blonde girl laughs the least; mostly she watches with a vacant gaze.
You begin to warm to them, despite everything.
It's the black guy who noticed it first. He calls out and points, and you turn to see a slight light in the wall of darkness.
Expressions of joy cross their faces, but your instincts seem to scream that something isn't right. But can barely think let alone talk.
They pick up their pace, and their speed causes even worse pain to bloom through your already agonised toes and your head to bounce about.
Your vision, your mind soon regress into that white haze again.
So when you emerge into the light, it almost gives you whiplash.
Your vision clears, and your jaw drops at what you see.
You are upon a plateau which towers over a beautiful horizon of lush green.
A forest engulfs the plateau, and it's a shining, sparkling paradise made of greens of all the most lively shades. Flowers of all colours, shapes and sizes coat all in symmetrical perfection. A river of the brightest, lightest blue weaves and flows serenely from a small waterfall a rainbow seems to grow.
The smell of pollen assaults your nose and clogs your throat, but it doesn't begin to abate your wonder.
Gaping like you imagine you are, your companions begin to move. Further into the forest, spreading out.
A voice suddenly bursts from the depths of the forest. A voice of such inhuman depth and magnitude it shakes you to your very core, and everything else shudders as if in the clutch of the most powerful of earthquakes. Everyone staggers and one the white guys and the blonde fall off their feet.
At the same time, the smell of pollen is blown away, replaced by a wind which carries a stench that hits you like a punch in the face. It's the stench of aeons worth of putrid rot a stench as ancient as death itself. It makes you gag and wretch and writhe then spew violently all yourself.
You can't understand what the voice says, but you hear it.
You hear it.
Utter fear suddenly clutches your heart in its cold, clammy vice-like grip.
Then things begin to emerge from the forest. Mindless, jabbering things that slabber and shuffle as though in stop motion.
Things made from human parts, roughly stitched together by some insane, indelible mind.
One thing has six male torsos stacked upon each other and moves on legs lacking thighs. One has its head removed and stuffed into a hole in its chest. One has three heads.
You can see much to your horror: they are crying. All of them have tears pouring down their torn, brutalised faces.
But following them are more things and as you see them an even stronger terror grips you — a terror of such strength. You fear you'll drop dead there and then.
They are small and made up from bits of babies.
With a gasp, you force yourself awake even though you don't know you're dreaming. A second after, your alarm begins it's wailing beside your bed.
It's a dream, thank goodness! Only a dream!
No, a nightmare. A horrific, horrific nightmare. You aren't deaf; your ears aren't bleeding. You are safe and sound your bed. Away from those things.
But soon a new fear hits you as you think: what the hell is wrong with you? What the fuck part of your psyche would conjure up such horrific shit?
Still struggling for breath and drenched in sweat, with strangely achy limbs you force yourself out of bed- desperately trying to forget the nightmare.
But you can't, you hope beyond hope that work will take your mind off it. Despite knowing you'll work in the same armoured van, driving the same damn route.
You have breakfast, you shower, shave and catch the bus to work. All the while you are struggling to contain the cold, feverish fear.
You are determined not to share the dream with anyone, not even your friend and co-worker a good African-American man named George Gray. But he senses something is wrong and bombards you constantly with "are you okay?" over and over.
To make him shut up, halfway through the day you turn on the radio, and you get the NEWS. The woman announces that there was a 6.5 earthquake fifty kilometres off the east coast of New Zealand. An earthquake which occurred just after 5:54 am.
Less than a minute before you woke up.