Richard was drifting, as though a spirit, over a vast forest. The sky was clear and open above him. Below him, a sea of green. The forest continued as far as the eye could see to the west. In the east, at the edge of visibility, a mighty mountain range stretched across the horizon. Beneath him, Rich could see a river cutting across the forest. It flowed from the foot of a lone mountain rising from the sea of green straight ahead, in the north. This was where Rich was headed, in spite of his will.
The mountain wasn’t as tall as others, but it dominated the scene. Perhaps because of how relatively flat the rest of the landscape was. Unlike most mountains, this one had no trees growing on its’ surface. The stone-like greyness of the base gave way to a dark blue hue. The peak was covered in snow, giving the mountain a glowing white crown.
A warm breeze came from the south, riffling through Rich’s hair and brushing against the back of his neck. He heard the singing of birds and the rushing of water from below the trees. The sun shined brightly overhead, warm and soothing. As the breeze began to pick up, it made the trees sing a song of their own. Their leaves rustled in the wind, as though the entire forest was letting out a big sigh. Rich closed his eyes and let out a sigh himself.
The breeze grew stronger. It blew away the sun’s warmth, and silenced the birds. Soon, it made the trees begin to groan and creak. It continued to increase, until it was a wild and untameable wind. Up ahead, the crown of the mountain erupted, giving way to a giant plume of ash and smoke. As it soared across the sky, the pillar began to grow outward. Dark fingers stretching out in all directions, even against the wind, covering the earth until no sign of the sun or the sky was left. Yet, a light remained. Not the warm and pleasant light of the sun, but a bleak and dead light that seemed to come from nowhere.
By this point, Rich had reached the mountain. He saw that it was entirely covered in ash, which was now falling from the sky like snow. Bolts of lightning began to shoot down from the sky, cracking like whips. The thunder resounded in Rich’s ears, until all he heard was a high pitched ringing. Wherever the lightning struck, it started a fire. Soon, the entire forest was in flames.
Rich was carried up and settled down on the top of the mountain. The snow-capped peak was completely gone. In its’ place was a large crater, filled with blood. Its’ stench filled Rich’s nose. Along with the smell of smoke and brimstone. He turned away from it, and looked to the north.
On the north side of the mountain, the river (which looped around it on both sides) was split in two. The two rivers encircled a large open plain, which was lifeless and baren. Far in the north-east, the mountain range looped around and cut across the entire horizon on the north end. From those mountains, in the far north, a sea began to flow. It came, as though from within the mountains, and rushed across the plain. It crashed through the forest and uprooted trees. It roared and splashed in powerful waves, hundreds of feet high. As it came near, Rich came to realize that it was not made of water. It was a sea of blood.
The waves crashed into the base of the mountain, and flowed all around it. The blood continued to flow, never slowing down or running out, until it filled the earth from north to south and from east to west. Nothing remained but the lone mountain, and the mountains on the horizon. Then, slowly, the blood began to rise higher and higher.
As the blood came closer, Rich almost stumbled and fell. He was at the edge of the crater, with only a foot or so of ground to stand on. The blood rushed up and flowed over his feet. It quickly filled up the crater, and continued rising rapidly. Rich had to start swimming. It was hard to keep his head above the blood. It was rising as fast as boiling water in a kettle. Soon, Rich found himself submerged completely in blood.
He felt something large and hard smash against him on its’ way up, and he grabbed hold of it. It was a log. It carried him to the top, and he could finally breathe in a large gulp of air. But as he was catching his breath, he slipped and fell back into the blood. It rushed into his mouth and into his eyes, stinging them with a fierce heat. His mouth was full of blood. But it did not taste like blood. In fact, it tasted like nothing. As though he had just taken in a large gulp of water. When Rich came back out, he couldn’t withstand his curiosity. He carefully took a sip of the blood, to try it again. This time, it tasted like warm milk mixed with honey.
Unbidden, Rich’s mouth opened wide and the stuff, whatever it was, rushed in. Then, when he was submerged and was drinking the substance, it turned to blood again in his mouth. He tried desparately to close his mouth and swim back to the surface, but his arms and legs turned numb, his jaw would not shut, and his eyes were opened. Blood was all he saw and felt. It was in his eyes, in his ears, in his nose, and in his mouth. He choked on it and gagged, but could do nothing. Then, suddenly, as though he had consumed all of the blood, he found himself on the edge of the crater once more. There was no more blood around, only in the crater, filling it to the brim. The forest was gone, and the river too. All that remained was dirt. The world had turned into an empty, lifeless void.
The smoke was gone, and the sky was clear again. The sun shined in Rich’s eyes, blinding him. It burned with a fierce summer heat. Rich looked into the crater and realized that it was no longer filled with blood, but with a rich red wine.
Rich could see right through the wine. He examined the floor of the crater. For a moment he could not believe what he saw. Then he remembered everything he had seen before, and this sight seemed almost natural in comparison. Nothing out of the ordinary for this strange world.
What Rich saw was gold. Not a small cache somewhere in the corner of the crater, or a few slabs laying about. The entire floor of the crater was covered in gold. It shined through the wine, as though a second sun. And it called to Rich.
He never had a distinct love for money or wine, though, of course, he enjoyed them both as all are prone to do. But this time was different. This time, it was as though all Rich had ever wanted in the world was in that crater; and, he needed only to reach out and claim it. His mind was clouded, as though he was already drunk on the wine, and his body felt numb. Powerless to do anything other than what he felt compelled to do. Filled with an unrelenting desire.
Rich jumped, entering the wine with a splash. He opened his mouth wide, and drank. It was rich and sweet. Though he was not breathing, he did not feel as though he was losing breath or drowning. He let his entire body go limp, sinking towards the bottom, and basked in the wine.
It was odd how fast he was sinking, rather than floating at the top as one usually would. He tried to float up, but his legs wouldn’t move. He looked down to see a pair of golden legs. His legs. The gold spread quickly up his torso, like a cold shiver. Terror filled his mind. He tried to scream, but could not. He tried to swim up, but half his body was already solid gold. He saw his arms turn to gold before him. Then it finally spread to his head, and he was covered in gold. A solid statue.
Suddenly, the wine disappeared and Rich was falling towards the ground. He smashed into the rock, splinters of gold flying in every direction. Then he awoke. He felt a dull pain in his temple, where he hit the floorboards. His blanket was wrapped around one of his legs, the rest of it hanging off the edge of the bed. A jar of wine rolled across the floor. Thunder, waves, and the shouting of pannicked men could be heard outside. The cabin moved, heaving to and fro. Rich struggled to rise, and stumbled towards the chest at the foot of his bed. He quickly put on a pair of pants, and ran out the door.
What he saw on deck was a scene of pure chaos. Sailors scurried back and forth like busied ants. The captain and the first mate were both barking orders. Rain came down as though someone had upended a bucket over the ship.
A crewmate bumped into him and grabbed hold of his shoulders. He was a young deckhand. Blonde with blue eyes, yet unwithered by the life of a sailor. His clothes were completely soaked, and his hair came down to his eyes, like a mop over his head.
“You’d best get inside, Lord Devoue!” He yelled over the hubbub. “We’re caught in a storm.”
Richard broke free of the young sailor’s grasp and stumbled back inside the captain’s cabin. He picked up the jar of wine and sat down on the bed, popping out the corck with his mouth. A shiver ran up his chest and over his arms. He wasn’t sure whether he was trembling from the dream or from the fear of what he saw on deck; or, from the fact that he was half soaked in water. He took a swig of wine, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, closed the jar, steadied himself against the headboard with one foot on the bed and another on the floor, and closed his eyes.