Date: Month Day, Year
"Dreams - Nausea"
Something's wrong. According to what Death had told Sousa before, he
wasn't due to die until he was 38…and even then he's supposed to have a
chance to prolong his life via a game of chess. :P Yet here Sousa was, in
that strange, empty place again, and Death is nowhere to be seen.
Instead, a strange being, mostly humanoid but with beastlike feet and a
face somewhere between an ape and a bull, materializes before him. Sousa
immediately recognizes the creature as a torturer of Diyu, the
otherworldly place believed in the Southern Lands to serve for the
purification of souls preparation for reincarnation. The creature grabs
Sousa and drags him before a court, where he is sentenced in a blur.
The next thing Sousa knows, he is being forced to face an opened
scroll…but there is nothing written on it. Then writing does appear,
teachings which Sousa studied as a boy…yet he cannot seem to remember
them now, even though they are right before his eyes. The scroll unrolls,
and the writing spreads, faster and faster. Sousa feels all of the
knowledge he has collected over his lifetime, the fruits of all his
labors, being pulled from his mind and swallowed by the scroll. Then the
scroll yo-yos back into a tightly-rolled form and suddenly bursts into
flame! While the scroll burns, an old woman approaches with a cup held in
her hand; the Drink of Forgetfulness. Sousa's head is forced back, and the
brew is poured down his throat…
Apparently it didn't work as intended, though, because Sousa still knows
who he is, and now he's someplace new. A vast pit yawns before him, going
down in gigantic steps that form inward circles toward the center. Sousa
vaguely recalls reading about something like this in a poorly-translated,
fanciful text from a land very far away. Before he can think on it
further, he feels a great yank from some invisible force and goes flying
out over the chasm. He passes swiftly over the circles, glimpsing the
condemned dead being punished with increasing inflictions as he speeds
inward. At the bottom of the pit waits a gigantic, horned monster with
wings like those of a bat, buried from the waist down in a lake of ice.
The monster turns its head and opens its mouth, and Sousa flies straight
How long Sousa remained there being ripped by the monster's sharp teeth,
he can't tell; it felt like eternity, but something must have happened
eventually, because things are different again. He still feels himself
being bitten into most excrutiatingly, but it seems to be centered on his
belly, and he's…strapped to a table? Sousa lifts his head and sees the
bloodied face of the Ghoul of the Desert, pulling Sousa's intestines out
with his teeth. "You could've stopped me, if you'd tried," the Ghoul
remarks around his meal. "You could've destroyed me, or confined me, maybe
even found a cure if you'd spent enough time at it. But you were more
interested in studying me. So now we'll be studying you."
Sousa looks around. Arranged around the table are the human guinea pigs
of Sousa's past experiments, watching impassively and marking notes onto
clipboards. One of them approaches with a syringe in hand. "Injecting
nerve stimulant now," he announces, then jabs the needle into Sousa's
Everything goes ballistic. It's not that Sousa can't sense what's going
on, but it's cranked up to 11 and has hallucinations mixed in! Every ray
of light sears, every tiny noise jangles his ears, and the continued
gnawing of the Ghoul makes every fiber of his being scream. Sousa looks
around desperately for a means of escape, but he can't discern what's real
from the centipedes on his wrists, and the bed of coals beneath him, and
the cowled skull in the crowd, and—
—Wait! It's Death! Sousa forces the apparition to remain in the focus of
his vision. "Is this what you call due process?!" Sousa gasps. "More than
a year early, without the promised challenge, and you can't even decide
WHICH torment would be the most poetic for me!?!?"
The cowled figure tilts its head. WHAT? …OH, NO, NO, YOU'RE NOT
DEAD. THIS IS ONLY A NIGHTMARE. THERE'S NOTHING INTERESTING ABOUT
THE PLACE YOU'RE HEADED. HERE, LET ME GIVE YOU A TASTE…
Sousa jerks upright in his bed and evacuates most of his dinner across
the sheets. He flings the sheets off himself and swings his legs off the
bed. The cold stone floor beneath his feet feels real. Even the stinging
bile in his throat is comfortingly vivid. But Sousa won't allow himself to
take relief in them. He can't, for his only defense against the final
agony which he glimpsed is his conviction that all things are equally
meaningless and amoral.
"Absurd," he whispers hoarsely. "It's all absurd."
Then he vomits again.