Rhys lofted a brow at the curious item that his youngest-now-eldest brother seemed to obsess over. It’s brass exterior was dull from the excessive man-handling as John fidgeted with it. Yet, the little crystal lenses still captured and reflected the light in a mesmerizing and brilliant manner.
“You’re gonna wear a hole into that thing, John.”
The larger man pulled his attention from whatever held his thousand-yard stare to Rhys. John was certainly looking better than when they first found him, though he still looked 20 something years older than before and miserable bags haunted his eyes. Rhys blinked again, still trying to reconcile how much John aged.
“You consider asking R and D to carbon date you,” Rhys asked half-jokingly. John didn’t seem to find it humorous. Rather, it seemed to stress him out.
“No. I’m not going to bother them anymore. I’ll figure it out myself.”
The remark was stated in a matter-of-fact tone. He rubbed a thumb along the rim of the odd little kaleidoscope, turning his gaze to a small collection of books sitting on the couch beside. John had taken up an interest in video editing recently, and Rhys noted to keep any remarks to himself about the “For Dummies” appended to the titles. John stopped pursuing academia when they were younger. Something about living in the shadow of… Someone? Rhys blinked in confusion, trying to reconcile the gap in memory before shaking it off. It didn’t matter. It was best not to bring it up.
“Yeah? How’s that coming along? Is it because of that Vicki woman? What was the deal with that?” Rhys strained his sympathy. Despite the publicity, the business revolving around the supernatural just didn’t sit well with him. The world was under a deluge of ‘fake news’ as it were, and this just took the cake. People were taking it seriously, too. Rhys wasn’t convinced. John picked up that too, apparently.
“I asked to get some recordings from this here,” he started, lifting the little brass tube to display it. “I guess I failed to mention that looking through it… hurts?” He grumbled, twisting the two tubes in opposing directions and peeked through it once more, grumbling before lowering it and staring off into the distance once again.
Rhys pursed his lips, his expressed distaste unseen by John. He eyed the brass kaleidoscope, then John, then the kaleidoscope once more. “That sounds ridiculous,” he responded as he nimbly plucked the device from John’s inattentive grasp. He stepped back from his brother as he lifted it to his right eye, only briefly catching a glimpse of the anger and panic spreading across John’s face.
The world exploded.
Raking winds ripped through his frame and through his memories. Before him stood a great mountain riddled with caves, and out from one of its many passages came forth a dark man dressed like a pharoah, and crowned in golden light. Rhys fell to his knees as the regal figure approached, but Rhys didn’t know why. Just beyond, he could see two other people chained in the darkness. One was John, the other looked familiar but he couldn’t place it.
“You have come too far, child of Earth,” the figure intoned. “This place is not for you, and that eye you carry will not save you. You seek answers, but only chaos and horror wait for you.”
Rhys heard the sound of pebbles falling and glanced about. Giant spiders could be seen for brief moments, stalking through the sharp rubble surrounding him. He stumbled back.
“You neither know the gate nor the key. You hold the map and the spyglass, but without the compass, it is nothing but torture and shadows. Run home, the way you came, lest you fall to ruin like those who came before you.”
A path! Rhys glanced about looking for a path. Some way to get home and safe and warm. The wind suddenly gusted and rattled his skull, knocking about his thoughts like they were leaves.
“Ah, you are too far gone already. Death is your only solace. Hei! Aa-shanta ’nygh!”
A spider leapt down and in one swift movement, ripped out Rhys’s shoulder muscle. It clamped down again, lunging for the heart.
On Earth, John watched Rhys scream. Then the sound drowned itself as he began swallowing his tongue. He held him and jabbed a pen in his mouth to hold back the tongue.
“It is NOT for you to fuck with! I fuckin’ told you, man! Jesus Christ!”
John was far more alert now than he was before, now leaning down and checking his brother’s eyes, snapping his fingers in front of him. A steady, silent, and repeated stream of ‘Fuck’ filtered from John’s mouth as assessed his brother’s state.
“Hey, hey, hey. Look at me. I’m gonna call Sam, okay? I’m gonna call Sam. Just stay calm, yeah?” John began lying, echoing Rhys’s usual sentiment. “It’s all just a gag, yeah? Stupid trick from one of the guys. A recording. CGI and all that crap, one of the eggheads in R and D put together to fuck with me, yeah?”
After a seeming eternity, Rhys quieted. He looked kind of like himself, but something had died.