His lungs and throat burned with a contemptuous fire as air suddenly forced itself into his body. Graham coughed and spluttered back to life as oxygen filled him with painful speed. He could still feel the hands at his throat, the fingers of The Visitor holding him at the creature’s twisted mercy, but they had eased enough to allow him to breathe.
His vision came back reasonably quickly, although the colour was hesitant at first, but his legs remained as cold as lifeless as when he had fallen. Worse in fact, as now they were numb and alien to him, bolted onto his body but no longer part of him. Graham considered the possibility that this was something to do with whatever The Visitor had extracted from him and came to the conclusion that he did not want to know. The quicker he retrieved the eyes the sooner he would be released from this terrifying sensation, at least that was what he hoped.
He rolled over slowly, his innards cursing him violently, and began the long crawl to the safe. Graham had placed the safe in one of the many empty bedrooms in his house, the only one on the top floor, and had done so primarily because he was doubtful of any burglar’s intention to climb that many stairs. The room itself contained only the safe, an empty bookcase and a decade’s worth of dust, minus a few footprints from Graham’s recent journey to the safe. He had never liked the room from the moment the house was bequeathed to him. It felt occupied at all times, as though invisible eyes were watching him with unnerving interest.
Graham felt the invisible sentinels gazing upon him as he dragged himself across the floor, the small wound on his head leaving a subtle trail of blood behind him and his useless legs aiding in displacing a nebulous cloud of dust. By the time Graham reached the safe he had sneezed half a dozen times.
The safe itself was the oldest thing in the house by a clear margin. The dial was reddened by a thick layer of rust but the remainder of the safe was in pristine condition. Ordinarily Graham had no need of a safe and, in fact, his need to store the eyes had necessitated his first use of the device. As such it took Graham far too long to open the door, despite having memorised the combination. His hands, shaking as they were, made it difficult for him to rotate the dial sufficiently accurately, clicking over combination after combination until he finally managed to steady himself.
A light rumbling sound signalled to Graham that he had entered the correct combination. This had taken him by surprise the first time, expecting a click rather than a rumble. He pulled on the door with what little strength he had left and it creaked open ever so gently, flakes of rust revealing themselves on the rear of the hinges. Graham reached up into the safe, pawing the interior shelves for the eyes. He swore.
One of the eyes had, for want of a better word, melted. In its place lay a fine puddle of white goo. Graham believed, quite wrongly, that it was paint of some description and absently dipped a finger into it. It was cold, unnaturally cold. There was no aura of cold, no projection like most things with a definite temperature, only in the touch did it give any indication of how icy it was. The sensation caused Graham to retract with enough speed for him to catch his hand on the safe’s casing. He swore again and vowed to leave the gelatinous substance alone for now.
The remaining eye was still slowly rotating on its axis as it had been when Graham had locked it away. He grasped it with weary fingers and felt it straining to continue its little dance. Graham locked his fingers tightly around the sphere as best he could, locked the safe, and began his trek back to the staircase.
The return trip felt like crossing the Alps. Each skewed floorboard (of which there were many) seemed to have doubled in size in the time it had taken for Graham to conclude his business with the safe. His hands scraped timidly on the wooden floor and Graham made very slow progress, the speed of which would only decrease.
The deadening numbness of his legs was spreading fast. In the time it had taken Graham to cross the room it had already reached past his navel, and as he returned to the room’s entrance its icy fingers seized his left shoulder. His arm immediately went dead and began to flop limply on the floor. Graham’s last source of movement was doing double duty in both moving him and carrying the orb, the nature of multi-tasking meaning that it was doing neither job to any real satisfaction.
Despite this, Graham managed to drag himself to the top of the staircase. As uninviting as it had looked from below it now looked ten times worse. On the way up the loose nails and whatnot had acted as anchor points and, should he slip, the potential source of largely superficial scrapes and grazes. From above this notion seemed laughable. The helpful handholds were now nothing more than jagged death traps designed to skewer Graham during his descent. There was no upside to them any more, they were hideous instruments of torture put in place by some gnarled hell-god with an axe to grind, a malformed bastard from the dawn of time with more hatred than sense. Graham damned the younger version of himself, the one that had neglected the staircase for so long, and slowly tried to lower himself down.
It was difficult to move downwards with only one hand to provide motion, and Graham failed spectacularly. After progressing 3 steps he lost his grip and began to roll clumsily down the staircase. He struck nail after nail on the way down, large chunks of flesh being torn loose on the fall.
After what seemed like an eternity Graham finally hit the ground. He rolled, battered and bloody, in the direction of The Visitor. There was a languid, cancerous form stood in the doorway nearby, its overly dark voids studying him while a putrid hand kept its grip on some invisible object. The Visitor took two long strides towards Graham before stooping down over him. He gave the impression that he was frowning, although what skin there was on his face seemed incapable of such an expression. His lipless mouth began to move.
“I believe… you have some… of my property?” He said and held out his free hand.