This story is different than most. It can be viewed as something more inclined to erotic mind-control horror because of some dark passages within the flow of the text but, to me, it is and always be more about love and sacrifice than anything else and I hope that, by reading it, you’ll come to understand why.

Pamela Barnes sat on an old tree stump and looked down at a small circle of stones that had been laid down there, in that part of the woods, precisely seventeen years ago. It was a sad, yet special place for her, as it marked the final resting ground of her mother, Katherine. She had been buried in that spot because, according to her father, that had always been her wish and, when it finally happened, he told her some things she remembered to the most exact detail even that day.

* * *

“We met here, you know, your mother and I…” he had said. “We were taking a stroll through this haunting place, both coming from opposite directions when we saw each other for the first time. At a first glance, it looked to me as if she had sprung out of an oak tree, looking lovely and radiant in her green clothes, just like a dryad…”

“What’s a dryad, Dad?” the younger version of Pamela had asked with her bulging eyes as curious as ever.

“Oh…” he said, caressing the child’s cheeks and then kneeling down next to her. “A tree spirit according to the beliefs of the Ancient Greeks.” explained the grieving parent as easily as he could.

“Mom was a spirit?!” Pamela inquired, making no effort to hide her surprise behind her blue eyes. “Then how come she… she…?” As hard as she tried, she couldn’t pronounce the word ‘died’. And that was something that took a few years ago to overcome.

“No, my dear.” Henry Barnes declared, suddenly averting visual contact as he felt his eyes water. “She wasn’t a spirit. I just said she looked like one. This place meant everything to her and that’s why what’s left of her now needs to be here so that she can indeed become one with all the things she loved and cherished. When you grow up, you’ll understand this better, I promise. Now, are there any last words you would like to say to your mother before it gets too dark and we need to get back home?”

“Yes,” answered Pamela, moving away from her father and stopping as close as possible to the circle of stones without actually touching it. She took a white ribbon that was holding her dark brown hair together in a ponytail and let it slowly slip away from her fingers. As it fell into the earth, she whispered: “I love you, Mommy!”

Behind her, Henry broke down in tears.

* * *

Now, so many years past, there was obviously no sign of the ribbon she had left there as a gift and the young girl had turned into a beautiful, slender woman with a promising future ahead of her but never forgetting her roots. The circle of stones remained intact and Pamela was pleased. With both hands resting on her tired legs, she sighed and spoke from the heart:

“Hi, Mom. Here I am again, as always. I know you can’t really listen to me but I like to think you do, anyway. I tried to convince Dad to come here with me this year once more but you know he’ll never do it no matter how many times I try. You’re still the love of his life, you know? And he still can’t stand the fact that you’re gone forever and left him behind! But enough of sadness for now… Life’s been really good to me this year as I finally got a job in a library like I always wanted. The work is great and very inspiring and on the very first day I started working there I discovered a whole series of books about this place with such fascinating accounts of how it came to be that I immediately thought of you! I also met someone… someone very special…

“Yes, Mom… For the first time in my life, I can actually say I have a boyfriend! His name is Bruno, Bruno Silva and he’s from Portugal in case you’re wondering why the name sounds so strange. He’s five years older and somewhat timid but I can tell he has very deep feelings for me and over the last couple of months I’ve been getting a strong impression that my heart is telling me that he’s a keeper. I think I’m in love! Oh, if you could see me now… my face is all flustered and red just by saying these things! I can’t wait to see him again when I get back to the city two days from now… I wish I could stay longer so I could spend more time with you here but unfortunately, I can’t. You understand, don’t you? Of course, you do. You always did understand my every mood even when I didn’t say a word… I’m pretty sure that hasn’t changed, wherever you are!”

Above Pamela’s head, the branches of an oak shook gently and a single leaf fell from one of them, straight into her lap. To the West, the sky was now gaining a yellow-orange hue, spreading gently like a watercolor painting. Watching the sunset from that spot was always a delightful experience but this time it was one she had to miss. The walk to her old house was still a long one and it was best to traverse it while there was still enough light than to take a chance through the darkness.

“I have to go now, Mom. But I’ll come back tomorrow as soon as I help Dad with the supplies for the store, I promise!” She got up, crouched to touch one of the rocks in the circle and said yet another goodbye: “I love you!”

Soon, she was on her way back, melancholic and joyful at the same time, a paradox hard to explain. There, surrounded by gigantic trees and other living wonders of Nature, she felt a very deep connection with the world itself. That was true Freedom to her and now that she had opened herself to the part of her mother’s spirit that was still attached to those woods, she could feel her smile coming back, reminding her that, no matter the hardships and tribulations, life was to be lived to the fullest.

For ten minutes, she felt happy and devoid of worries. Everything changed when she heard the echo of a cry for help.

It was clearly a feminine voice, one from a woman as young as her or younger still, seeing Pamela had completed twenty-four springs the week before. From someplace unknown, it was begging and pleading, her words sometimes muffled by the rustling of leaves or a bird’s flapping wings until they were converted into fragments of utter despair.

“Please… trapped…”

“Hello?!” shouted Pamela somewhat disturbed but more than willing to help out someone in need. “Can you hear me? Where are you? Keep talking so I can find you!”

Silence filled the air for what seemed an eternity as the young brunette dressed in bright orange to easily stand out from all the green and brown that surrounded her looked in every direction, eyes moving in rapid succession as if trying to catch a glimpse of something out of the ordinary. Yet there was nothing to be seen. Everything seemed to be at peace, except her mind. She couldn’t have imagined it all, could she?

The scream returned, testifying her sanity. The wind carried the same words, the same frantic need, with only one difference. Years of long explorations had provided Pamela with a sense of direction that was more than excellent and the way the sound waves propagated immediately gave her a reference point. East: beyond the dried brook. East, where past a large cleary stood the entrance to…

“The caves!” she exclaimed. “Oh dear God! Surely that’s where she is!”

Pamela ran as fast as she could, remembering other pieces of her past along the way. The caves had no name to the locals and weren’t referenced on any maps of the region even though it was told they had been there since the dawn of civilization. The inside comprised a series of narrow, dark passageways, a labyrinth carved in stone whose true extent was unknown since no one had really bothered exploring them with all the depth needed.

Once, when she was only six, she got separated from her parents in the middle of a family picnic and entered them out of fun and a natural desire of exploration. As expected, after making a series of wrong turns along the way, she found herself unable to find her way out on her own. Only her screams had saved her as the rock tunnels were interconnected in such a bizarre way that instead of muzzling sounds within, amplified them more than thought possible, rendering them audible in a radius of two or three miles on the outside.

She wasn’t rescued by her family but rather a hunter that happened to be in the vicinities and had no trouble whatsoever in locating her the moment he heard the screams. Ironically, the hero of that day would turn out to be the villain of next year when a stray bullet ricocheted off the dry bark of a tree and hit her mother straight in the heart, leaving a seven-year-old girl in shock at the sight of all the blood tainting her white dress.

Now the time had come for her to venture into that subterranean world again. Whilst running, Pamela considered her options. She thought of calling for help but her cell couldn’t lock onto a signal in that area and her old town, the nearest settlement, was more than six miles away. In the time it would take her to cover the distance and return with a search party, the poor woman could easily die and she didn’t want that weight on her consciousness. Fiercely, she pressed on until she reached her destination.

The entrance looked very different after all those years. She had no recollection of it resembling a grotesque mouth with sharp canines screaming in terror. Of course, she could have easily missed those details the first time around because it’s customary for children to see only what they want to see. It wasn’t at all something pretty to look at but not enough to spook her out in any way.

The adult Pamela had a clear advantage over the young one that had been lost there before. Now, she had more resources and, in her walks, she never traveled unprepared as a precaution.

In a small utility belt wrapped around her waist, she always carried a small knife, a batteryless flashlight and First Aid basics alongside a little extra: her very own version of the famous Ariadne’s Thread that consisted of a small collection of white pebbles she could use to mark a trail as she moved deeper inside the intersecting pathways. She hoped that would be enough to get the job done safely.

“Hello?” she yelled again as she shook the flashlight and stepped into the darkness. Immediately, she heard her own voice replicated a thousand times, the early reverberations slowly turning into whispers: Hello?, Hello?, Hello?, Hello? “You’re in here, aren’t you? I can help you if you tell me where you are!”

Pamela walked quietly waiting for an answer. She took a right turn in the first intersection leaving a pebble on the ground as she continued her journey. A few steps ahead she came to a dead end and doubled back, picking up the small stone again.

“Okay.” She said to herself. “That’s definitely not the way. Let’s try left this time around.”

So she did, noticing the irregularities on the ground and how the path was getting narrower and steeper. The refractions emanating from the flashlight showed her another ramification and, down ahead, three new tunnels were visible. She searched the place for marks of a recent human presence there but found none. What was worse was that the air inside was getting heavy. Her eyes started to burn and she coughed.

She placed one more pebble and then another after going left again followed by a small protrusion to the right where she had to duck to get by without hitting her head.

“Where are you?” she yelled again, immediately covering her ears when the sound of her voice exploded through the stone conduits scaring a group of bats that slept nearby. As the intensity of the sound diminished, words rose from the left, out of a crevice that led into a nearby descending shaft. This time, they were more audible.

“Down here… please…”

Pamela was overjoyed as she negotiated the pathway. The voice was so very close, now. The shaft had some natural protuberances to the sides that served as a natural staircase and in less than a couple of minutes she reached the bottom, where there was only one possible trail. As she suspected, the refraction of light fell down upon a young explorer: blonde, blue-eyed and very pretty, lying on the cold floor, her right leg trodden under a grey rock. Nothing but anguish could be seen on her face, despite rescue being at hand. The pain she was in was definitely unbearable to incite such a reaction.

“I finally found you!” said Pamela, relieved. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner but I’m getting you out of here as soon as possible!” and as she finished these words, she took her first resolute steps in the direction of the distressed teenager.

That’s when it happened. As she approached the victim, Pamela’s entire body felt heavy, almost as if she was pushing through a massive web of invisible strings. It caused her great discomfort and even pain, making it hard to breathe. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, trying to understand what was happening but still moving on, one foot after the other, vanquishing the strange sensations with the power of her will alone.

When her eyelids fluttered open again, the ache was no more than a fading itch but she was in a different place altogether: a wide chamber that was bright enough to reduce her flashlight to the utmost redundancy. The light emanated from the ground, spreading through the walls like a living entity. There was no sign of the girl she had come to rescue but she sure wasn’t alone.

A pale woman over six feet five stood in the dead center of the hall, wearing a gold and silver armor, her hands and ankles adorned with glimmering ruby bracelets. Her eyes had the same color as the gems and her hair was black. Despite her unnatural skin tone, she was strikingly alluring with a perfect, symmetrical face, one beyond the mortal realm. For no mortal could have wide, leathery wings growing from its back and razor-sharp dragon claws replacing nails, either… The first thing Pamela felt was that she was being probed somehow, linguistic skills analyzed and properly assimilated in just a few seconds to render communication possible.

“Thank you so much for coming all the way down here…” sibilated the demonic-like beauty.

Pamela’s mind was riddled with doubts, her eyes refusing to believe she wasn’t in the presence of an elaborate illusion.

“W-what are you? Where am I? And what happened to the girl that was trapped down here?” the human asked anxiously, taking one step back.

“So many questions and understandable ones… I don’t mind answering them but I’ll do so in my own terms! I’ll start with the last one: is this the girl you were talking about?”

She moved one of her hands creating some sort of pattern in the air and then a three-dimensional image of the one Pamela had come to rescue appeared next to her, except she wasn’t in torment anymore, but smiling wickedly…

“As you can see, she doesn’t exist. It’s just a mental projection, nothing more…” and with the same motion, the image vanished. “I was the one calling out to you the whole time. It was my voice that echoed in the woods!”

“But… why?”

“Another question already without giving me the time to answer the other ones?!” mocked the supernatural creature. “Don’t be in such a rush, young one! Let me explain everything… Better yet, let me show you…”

“Okay. P-please do so,” answered Pamela taking yet another step back. There was something very wrong about it all and she knew it but she was also curious to know why she had been called down there.

The walls of the gallery darkened as sequences of memories were channeled across them, like a movie being played out in a theatre. One of the first things Pamela saw was a myriad of stars and floating debris in the vastness of the Universe, as the creature in front of her began to tell her story:

“My name is Vayla and I’m one of the surviving few of a powerful race of beings that used to rule your world when it was just a whirling piece of molten lava floating in space. We were here long before the likes of you came to be and we thought this place would always be ours but we were wrong…”

The image changed to the one of a field with a large group of primitive men and women holding blazing sticks and pointy stones marching towards a group of creatures very similar to her, some with a darker shade of skin or smaller wings but all bearing the same ornaments and possessing equally blood-thirsty eyes.

“The moment you humans…” and she spat the word whilst saying it “… became such a dominant species in the evolutionary chain, our troubles began. ‘Demons’ they called us in their ignorance. Wars were fought for control of the territory and, even though we were more powerful, we were also outnumbered. Many of us perished but there were those of you throughout the regions that knew not how to kill us properly and could only resort to a form of magical imprisonment meant to last eons.”

The image changed again, this time to a strange mosaic meant to symbolize some sort of ritual but it was very dark and fuzzy to properly understand what was going on. Vayla immediately waved her hand again making everything dissolve in a series of black particles until the natural lighting of the gallery was restored.

“This is where you are now…” she continued. “… in my jail cell! You crossed a barrier on your way here, one that only works one way when it comes to living beings and that for a very, very long time, didn’t even allow for my powers to slip through… Luckily, the barrier seems to be slowly fading and I believe it will eventually disappear for good but, until then, I have to settle with luring some of you inferior creatures to play with me down here like I did with you…” A smirk crossed her lips.

Instinctively, Pamela turned away to run from the beast, straight into the only visible exit of the chamber that was no exit at all. The filaments of unseen magic traveled through her whole body and then threw her with great violence into the ground.

“Didn’t I just tell you there’s no way out? Now you’re trapped in here as much as I am and we’re going to have so much fun together…” said the fiendish female as she marched towards her prey and lifted her by the hair. Pamela felt the enormous pressure being applied to her skull and bit her lower lip as Vayla continued to taunt her.

“There’s one more thing you need to know about me… I feed on thoughts and strong emotions such as fear and hate. As I feed, my victims first lose their strength to resist, and then their identity is wiped clean. When I’m done, they become nothing but thralls, empty vessels I can fill with commands until Time runs its course and death takes them away. That’s what I’ll do to you and then you’ll be allowed to satisfy certain… needs I possess as well…” one of her claws brushed against her thighs as Pamela gasped in horror.

“Let me go, filthy creature!” she shouted, flailing both her hands and feet in a frenzied state, trying to hit her adversary with her fists or her hiking boots. In response, a sharp claw tore a piece of her shirt and drew a little blood.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that!” responded Vayla, raising Pamela far above the ground and forcing her to look her in the eyes. “You have something I need and I starved for far too long in this forsaken place already! For millennia, I had nothing to eat whatsoever and was forced to resort to my every reserve of strength to enter long periods of stasis to keep my bodily functions and needs to a minimum. It was only ten years ago or so that I started noticing the fluctuations in the barrier that allowed for my telepathic abilities to seep through… I had to content myself with some rats and bats for a while and in case you’re wondering, yes they do have thought patterns… they’re not as sophisticated as yours of course because you’re in a higher degree of evolution but the basic, raw emotions are there, as well as the intelligent articulation of them in the face of danger, though you’re simply too blind to notice that… You wouldn’t believe what goes on inside their little brains when they realize I’m about to obliterate their very essence! The feeling is positively overwhelming! The truth is everything on this planet is interconnected, there’s a universal conscience permeating every living creature ever since the beginning of Time and that’s why we came here in the first place, to have an endless source of nourishment but even that you’re destroying little by little, aren’t you? The little I can feel from the outside world isn’t as strong as it used to be… Like a plague, you’re consuming everything, taking by force what was never rightfully yours!” she roared, showing a string of white, sharp teeth inside her dark lips.

“What are you talking about? Gaia, the spirit of the Earth?”

“I know not that designation of yours but I know something great exists here and that we were the first to tap into its power when this galaxy was still in expansion… And I want it back! I’ll be sure to do just that the moment I’m finally released from this wretched prison!”

Even knowing the great danger she was in at that moment, Pamela couldn’t help but chuckle:

“So that’s what you really want? To conquer the world?! You and what army?!”

Vayla’s beautiful expression mutated into a fearsome and predatory one and the jewels in her arms and ankles gave off a soft glow, enveloping the two of them in a red aura.

“There are still five more of my kind trapped somewhere on this planet. I can sense their energy signatures because we too are connected on a very basic, genetic level. I was the first of us to be incarcerated and I’ll be the first to be released. When that happens, I’ll search for my sisters, find a way to break them free and together we’ll be an unstoppable force!”

Pamela’s chuckle intensified, now a genuine laughter as a reply to the absurdities she was hearing:

“Unstoppable? Really?! Six of you?! We’re now way over six billion, you know? And besides, if you lost a war against primitive men and women who at the time were nothing but children when it came to progress and civilization, what makes you think you’ll stand a chance against the mass of technological advancements we now possess? If you really feed on thoughts, then have a taste at these!” defied Pamela.

In her mind, she conjured images of intercontinental missiles being fired, tanks charging through ruined streets and leveling everything in their passage, stealth fighters breaking the sound barrier in no more than a couple of seconds and atomic mushrooms of intense yet deadly beauty turning the sky black as their radioactive clouds spread over entire cities, not to mention the new breed of biological weapons capable of making a person bleed to death in minutes. She fired all those images at her believing they would scare her off and realize far too late that her revelations had been a huge mistake.

“Hmmm, interesting…” concluded Vayla. “Your species was always a very belligerent one – one of the few things we have in common – and it’s impressive how far you’ve come in terms of power. It will be fascinating to use those weapons against you when the time’s right but first, we’re going to take a subtle approach, the one we should have used in the early battles but didn’t due to the incompetence of our leader. Early on, we’ll be very patient, hiding in the shadows of your cities, kidnapping some of you little by little and turning them into mindless, obedient slaves to our will. These servants will, in turn, bring us others to be converted and it shouldn’t take long to build a true army of devotees, willing to do anything for us even if it means betraying the ones they used to love. I always believed that the best way to break your resilience was through the mind but the one who ruled our faction hundreds of centuries ago thought that our mighty bodies would suffice and guess what happened… As second in command, I made sure she got what she deserved when I realized that we couldn’t possibly win through brute force alone!”

Pamela wasn’t laughing anymore as she imagined a group of human drones marching through the streets of the world’s greatest capitals with the sole mission of creating panic and unleashing chaos like never seen before… It was a terrifying vision of a possible future and that dread slipped through the cracks of her mind as Vayla smiled viciously.

“What’s the matter, little one? Don’t feel like scorning me anymore? You won’t stand a chance when my plan is put into practice! Of course, we won’t kill you all seeing you’re such wonderful providers of sustenance. We’ll keep a handful of pets to satisfy us when needed and a herd or two to which we will give reproduction privileges so that we can have some young meals as well from time to time. Children’s thoughts of terror are so delicious with that vibrant imagination supporting them…”

Pamela looked at her, enraged and doubled her efforts in trying to hit her. Finally, one of her feet kicked the right leg of her opponent who used another one of her claws to open a fresh wound in her neck, very close to the jugular but not deep enough to sever it and bring about her instant demise. Vayla’s eyes were now glowing like the jewels, becoming like piercing arrows. Two beams of light were shot from the alien pupils and converged into a single one as they touched the young woman’s forehead, actively initiating the true feeding system.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I was hoping for…” Vayla hissed. “Feed me with your anger and let me know all there is to know about you! After all, I just told you practically my entire existence and my plans for the future and you weren’t even kind enough to present yourself properly… Hmmm… Pamela, is it? It’s actually a pretty name for an earthling! It’s a shame I’m going to have to erase it from your mind along with everything else…”

The beam became stronger, penetrating her innermost memories and ransacking them without mercy. Pamela felt the unnatural, extraterrestrial mind trying to find a way in, to replace the spaces left vacant with their own agenda of eternal servitude. Fury burned inside her like an active volcano ready to erupt but she was painfully aware that succumbing to it would be to admit defeat right on the spot and her freedom of thought was holy. It was obvious she was no match against her foe when it came to physical strength but there had to be a way to outsmart her… how could she be more cunning? How?

Strong positive emotions were the key. Vayla fed on thoughts but the ones that actually sustained her organism were of the negative type. She was a warrior and what best for one than to have her enemy’s consciousness clouded by ill-advised judgments, to be nervous and frightened and thus more susceptible to error than completely calm, in a centered state of mind that would allow for the anticipation of the creature’s moves? As hard as it sounded, that’s what she needed to do: to clear her head from all the pessimism and wrath to disrupt the process taking place before it was too late.

Closing her eyes, Pamela took a deep breath and tried to meditate. For a moment, she erased the image of that strange life form from her conscious and unconscious alike and focused only on blissful ideas: the long walks through the woods with her mother and father; her graduation ceremony and everyone smiling for the group photo in the most authentic way possible; seeing Bruno’s eyes light up when he came to her walking shyly asking for the reference to a book on Phenomenology he was dying to read… Good times, moments of affection, signs of love, all the things monsters despise more than anything.

The beam was abruptly cut off as Vayla shuddered, her clawed hand opening against her will and dropping her human prisoner to the ground. What she had just consumed didn’t taste right and was clearly a poison. The brightness of the jewels disappeared before Pamela’s eyes as she tried to get up.

Despite being somewhat weakened, Vayla wasted no time in launching a ferocious attack on the young human. Pamela only saw a fleeting glimpse of something moving faster than the human eye could form a complete image before being hurled against the most distant wall, with four new gashes in her body, one in each arm and leg, and the orange shirt tattered, revealing the laced white bra underneath.

“Aren’t you a clever thing?” bellowed Vayla, towering over her. “Unfortunately, those happy thoughts of yours won’t save you at all because I doubt you’ll be getting any more after this!”

Once more, she waved her hand to summon an image within the chamber. This time, it was a man, not very tall, approximately five feet seven and with a rather plain face that would never stand out in a crowd. He had brown eyes partly hidden behind dark-rimmed glasses, an aquiline nose, small ears and pink lips trying to form a smile but was visibly agitated and shaking.

“You recognize him, don’t you? Bruno, your boyfriend… It was one of the first images I removed from your head…” revealed Vayla as she circled around the illusion and its eyes followed her motion as if it was indeed another human being and not a mind trick. “I’m surprised you couldn’t find anything better… I mean, he’s nothing special, is he?”

“Of course he’s special. I love him and he loves me too and that’s all that matters!” answered Pamela as she saw how much of her body was now covered in blood. “But since you don’t know what that is, I don’t expect you to understand!”

“Oh, but believe me that I do! I understand what a complete silliness that thing you call love is… nothing but a series of chemical reactions strung together you decided to idolize as if it were something extraordinary!”

“It must be extraordinary indeed if it managed to hurt you!” exclaimed Pamela as she tore a sleeve of her shirt to clean up some of the wounds inflicted upon her.

“This will hurt you much more than what you did to me!” shouted Vayla as she thrust both of her clawed hands into the replica of her lover, practically severing it in halves. The realistic projection fell helplessly onto a pool of blood and guts as its eyes turned to face the woman that was the only thing that meant something to its limited sense of reality. In excruciating agony, it questioned:

“Pamela… Why?”

“Because your girlfriend is stubborn and thought she could challenge me, that’s why!” responded Vayla in the peak of insanity as she continued to rip the virtual body apart with such intensity that in a matter of seconds there was nothing left but small chunks of flesh and a gooey mass of internal organs tainting the floor.

Pamela knew that what she had witnessed wasn’t real, that she was trying to infuriate her again and did everything in its power to remain tranquil. Vayla played with her bloody claws and simply offered a twisted smile before reassembling the image again, adding another element this time around. Next to Bruno, wearing the same clothes she had on the day she had been killed was her mother.

“Who shall I dispose of first this time around?” asked the evil being. “Hmmm… I can’t make up my mind so I think I’ll take care of both…” and plunged her hands into the two similes ripping their hearts out in a single blow before resuming the savage onslaught that culminated in another gore fest. “Tell me when you’ve had enough, Pamela! I can go on like this forever, you know? This is actually fun!”

The images formed once more, and her father now stood in the middle. Vayla made a signal she would cut their heads first that time for the sake of the variety and Pamela, unable to continue watching, jumped at her shouting irately:

“Stop! Stop, you disgusting animal! You know why they called your kind ‘demons’?! Because that’s what you are, indeed; murderous and cruel demons who should have never been allowed to exist…”

Vayla rose in triumph, eyes glowing stronger, focusing her mental powers on the hatred that was now running free inside Pamela.

“And when you’re like that, you and I are not that different… and that’s why I win and you lose!”

The ruby beam grew in size and power, consuming cell after cell, turning all that was good into shards of malevolence after finally finding a breach which could be explored to its maximum destructive potential. A part of Vayla’s essence traveled inside it entering Pamela’s psyche where it would grow. As soon as that happened, the alien broke the contact between the two of them licking her lips as the remains of her illusions returned to the nothingness from which they had sprung.

“It’s done, Pamela.” she cooed. “I’m already there. I’m inside you and soon I’ll be all that you recognize and adore. I commend you for trying to fight me, I really do, but we both knew that it was just a matter of time. I’ve had my share of humans in the past but you were the one that lasted longest when faced with my real power. This is why when we’re all reunited once again my plan will most surely be a success. You may have evolved a lot from a technical point of view but when it comes to harnessing the forces of the mind you’re not even children yet but rather newborns… How could you possibly believe that you’d come out victorious in a battle against someone as old as I am? Silly Pamela, soon to be my loyal slave girl!”

Vayla began undressing her armor as she saw the human’s struggle with the wickedness inside her… Pamela was shaking, hands on her head as she dragged herself across the gallery, hearing the iniquitous choir that sang a requiem for her individuality. She was being torn apart piece by piece like those figments of her captor’s dark imagination, unable to stop the change from happening but still trying to delay it as much as possible. The desire of obedience was now liquefying her brain, sending electric signals to her legs that stated that the best way to surrender was to kneel… it would feel so good to finally be completely enslaved…

“This will help you accept your fate…” said Vayla whilst grabbing Pamela like a dead weight and leading her to her exposed breasts. They looked like regular human breasts except they were bigger and harder and the pointy nipples resembled blades of small knives. An oozy, black liquid poured from them. “This yet another part of me… Drink it and become completely mine!”

Burying her face into her left breast, Vayla watched her still trying to resist by keeping her mouth shut and now using her hands to hit her consecutively. A blow to the head made her dizzy and slightly disoriented. It was enough for the dominant creature to force Pamela’s lips open and have her drink the bizarre nectar as if it were fresh water. The first taste was enough to get her addicted and in no time Pamela was sucking it in avidly, the tip of her pink tongue searching every drop and savoring the exotic flavor feeling nothing but pleasure. At the same time, a claw was ripping her shorts and sliding inside her panties, searching for her genital region and when that was found, she experienced double satisfaction and rapture as she moved on to the other breast, wanting more and more, needing more and more…

Eventually, the dark fluid stopped running and Vayla’s hand came out of her, as the one formerly known as Pamela Barnes gasped and moaned, wishing nothing more than to serve. A finger told her to kneel and she did so as was expected from a humble servant.

“I own you now!” stated the ancient one.

“You own me… I obey…” the converted human droned.

“Clean my feet with that tongue, slave girl!”

“I obey…”

Vayla’s feet had claws instead of nails as well, only shorter and not so deadly. The space between the toes was minimal but the servant’s tongue found a way to lick everything flawlessly, a fact that left her even more compliant and submissive to her owner’s supreme will. She wasn’t worthy of being in the presence of such excellence let alone be her loyal thrall but since the honor had been bestowed, her service had to be nothing more than perfect.

“Excellent! I’m proud of your devotion…” announced Vayla. “So proud that I’ll now let you feast upon something no one of your species has ever seen before. You may raise your head and torso but remain on your knees!”

The slave girl acted in accordance with her wishes, ready to observe the unveiling of a treasure like no other. In between the alien life form’s thighs, two layers of pale skin unfolded as if a flower was blossoming. They opened a circular orifice covered with small, wriggling appendages that also required maintenance by an eager serf’s saliva.

“You know what you have to do… get to it!” Vayla ordered.

“Yes, I obey…”

The impatient tongue slid feverishly into the slick canal that anyone in their right frame of mind would find repulsive and was surprised when the tiny tentacular fibers elongated and wrapped around her, trying to pull her deeper and deeper. The thrall was ticklish but so very satisfied that allowed it to happen, never questioning, not even thinking about the possibility of trying to resist anymore…

But was it really the end? As she closed her eyes in exquisite orgasmic delight she had no doubt that it was so.

She was wrong.

* * *

What was left of the young woman’s mind was locked away in a very dark place. She wasn’t in a nightmare but at the very core of what creates them in the first place, a poisonous and filthy maze of psychosis, oppressed by the tremendous force of Vayla’s commands that demanded nothing more than absolute subservience. How could anything survive in there? All the sinister voices she heard kept on saying that it couldn’t and even hope, usually so tough and combative in the face of extreme odds, had already withered away and was now being dissolved in a pool of acidic monstrosities.

As strange as it may seem though, there was still something left to believe in… Amidst all the tyranny, tucked away in a recess of a loving heart, one image remained, the most vivid reminiscence she possessed and had relived thousands upon thousands of times: that moment when a young girl holding a white ribbon in her hand, had said goodbye to the one that had given her the precious gift of life with four simple words:

I love you, Mommy!”

However, this time, instead of the deafening silence of death that forever would keep them apart, something different took place and that episode turned the remembrance into an ideal far stronger than anything the Creator himself could ever conceive. From within the circle of stones, crossing the bridge between Heaven and Hell, cracking the earth with its unlimited power and shattering all metaphors, a sweet and melodic voice was heard in reply:

I love you too, Pamela!”

And suddenly, there was light…

* * *

When Vayla was already stuffed and engorged by all the thought energy she had absorbed as well as more than overjoyed with her new drudge’s keen service, the unthinkable occurred. The slave’s tongue stopped licking between her thighs, an iridescent wave of energy awakening inside her once vacant eyes. Her hands violently pushed the alien creature away and then she rose to her feet, disregarding the wounds across her body and all the torture that had led to them.

Impossible!” snarled the evil being, unable to hide its bewilderment. “I took it all away from you! This… This shouldn’t be happening!”

“Oh, but it is…” responded Pamela for that was her real name, the one her mother had given her the moment she was born and the only one that truly defined her as a person. Everything else that had been forced upon her spirit was nothing but a series of lies with no meaning whatsoever. Her voice was calm, yet strong. Her posture was a proud one and even with the shredded clothes and the now dried blood on her neck, arms and legs, there was something royal about her, undefined by the foe’s standards, incomprehensible to her apparently so vast intellect.

A strange thought whirled around the threads of Pamela’s consciousness as she stood there, facing her enemy without fear. Maybe her mother had indeed been a dryad, after all, a spirit of the trees whose strength was now being fully realized inside her frail body. She could feel a soft breeze enveloping her to soothe her injuries and hear the murmurs of everything that lived in the woods, even the ones of things that didn’t murmur at all. Vayla was right about that: true sentience wasn’t something only humans possessed and she wouldn’t have ever experienced it if she hadn’t been pushed to the limit, forced to transcend her Self in order to retain the memories of everything that was dear to her. The fall into the abyss had also been the ascension into truth.

“Then it looks like I’m going to have to continue breaking you…” Vayla howled, opening her wings menacingly. “The idea actually pleases me… There are so many things I haven’t tried yet!”

“You won’t try them on me, that’s for sure!” retorted the newborn human, her eyes glancing at the place where she knew the invisible magical barrier stood. Then, swiftly, she ran towards it again, the mighty force repelling her with the same intensity as before, making her gasp for breath as she fell to her hands and knees.

“My, my… you sure don’t know when to give up, do you?” laughed Vayla, her dragon claws tracing the outline of her slender body and then pointing at her sex. “You still have some work to do here…”

“Do it yourself!” retorted Pamela as she got up and mustered all of her strength to give it another go. That supernatural wall had been built to keep living creatures inside that hollow but even with her newly acquired confidence she was, in many aspects, more dead than alive, her resilience ignited by the desire to prevent others from falling into the same trap. Once more, she struggled against the interwoven strings of binding influence, throwing punch after punch at them until her knuckles started bleeding.

Behind her, only a few feet away, Vayla kept on laughing, visibly amused by the stupidity and stubbornness of the human female. What exactly was she hoping to get? A fast and merciful death?! That wouldn’t happen as she knew her vigor couldn’t last long at that rate… It was a logical impossibility! It would take more than a miracle to save her! It…

Her big eyes watched incredulously the moment when one of Pamela’s hands became somewhat translucent, the blood coming out of it seeping into the filaments that kept the spell web intact. The corners of her mouth writhed as the girl’s other hand experienced the same phenomenon and her whole body was pulled into the epicenter of power, hovering in the limbo between her dimensional prison and the world of earthly forms. Taken over by an uncontrollable rage, Vayla dashed through the gallery, extending her big arms to get her prey back and suffering in the flesh the excruciating pain of the magic of old, charring her nails and covering the back of her hands with pustulous blisters.

Pamela turned her back to look at her, squirming in pain. Her expression showed no emotion other than a sense of pity despite everything that creature had made her gone through. Now, she was out of reach but also trapped for when the first drop of her innocent blood came in contact with the primeval hex, the greatest of epiphanies was revealed.

In a flash, she saw how that holding cell had been built in the first place, the dozens of people that died willingly to ensure that their greatest fear would forever be sealed away, unable to terrorize the future generations that were to inherit the planet. She saw their happy faces as their wrists and throats were slashed and the crimson fluid of life was splattered on the ground and walls of that cave section. And then, she glimpsed the runic-like symbols painted upon such a dreary vision, the same ones that were now glowing abrasively all around and understood that there’s no greater source of power than the one that’s born out of unselfish sacrifice.

Beauty was all she could see at that moment. Her blood, now flowing freely from her pores and merging with the barrier defied the laws of gravity as it unveiled the complex pattern that was to keep evil at bay. It was like a massive, cherry-colored snowflake whose core moved in a spiraling vortex despite the fact that its terminations were firmly fixed to the subterranean mass of rock. It was the most breathtaking thing she had ever laid her eyes on but it would also be one of the last.

The truth was a human body didn’t have what it took to survive the effects of the strengthening of the net, especially in the heart of it. Soon, the same beautiful filaments she was feeding would turn against her, compress her flesh and crush the remaining traces of her persona.

On that moment, she thought of her father and how he would feel upon losing her. She thought also of her young lover and all the things they would never be able to learn about one another. Most importantly, she recalled her mother, her beauty and strength and, as tears rolled down her eyes, she whispered:

“I’ll be joining you shortly…”

She was still crying when she looked down upon Vayla once more, noticing how her face was unnaturally contorted and how that expression reminded her of the grotesque shape of the cave entrance. Was it a coincidence or did it mean something more? That her sinful energy had altered the geological structures all around the moment it began to find a way of release? Whatever the right answer was it didn’t matter anymore and there was only one thing left to say. With her piteous nature now receding, Pamela proclaimed, loud and clear:

“It looks like you’re not getting out of here so soon, bitch!”

The red whirlpool spun faster and the web began to close down on her, the pressure building in a steady rhythm. Fully aware that her actions would make sure that Vayla’s diabolical plans would be delayed for an indefinite period of time, Pamela smiled and then she screamed.

* * *

Outside, in the real world, if someone happened to be passing through the woods at that moment, that person would have surely heard the appalling echoes of a woman’s voice who, in a last moment of defiance and self-abnegation, had allowed her body and spirit to be completely ripped apart in ways no words can do true justice.

Fortunately, no one had to endure that except the aging trees, the birds and squirrels. An hour elapsed before the shrieks started fading, fading, fading, fading……

… Until they were gone, never to be heard again.

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