The White Ring
My body stiffened with a jolt as my eyes slowly opened and I tried desperately to recall what exactly happened to me. Sitting upright in a dusty armchair in the old family home, the last thing I remembered was curiously eyeing the white stoned ring that I came across in the drawer of an antique dressing table. No larger than an innocent garden pea, the cloudy opal sat majestically in its center setting. Judging by its oddly set prongs and knowing a bit about my family’s history, I dare say that it was crafted around the end of the 19th century.
The ring was one of several vintage curios that I had uncovered in my old family home. It has been a week since I returned home from my studies in London. The last two days were spent packing the now unoccupied bungalow after my dear uncle’s passing in the summer. His fascination with the occult and local folklore has led to him to amass a small but intriguing collection of peculiar artifacts from various cultures. Although it was a most tedious undertaking, the occasional discovery of such an archaic trinket did help enliven an otherwise dreary experience.
It was perhaps in an earlier moment of folly that I dared grasp the ring and stared into its white murky center stone. Caressing it between my fingers, the ring grew ominously colder with each passing moment. As I looked closer into the centerpiece, the stone appeared to shift and stir as if alive. A grey whirling cloud then materialized to descend in front of me and that was all I could remember.
I then glanced at my watch and noticed that almost an hour had unaccountably vanished from my memory, for I had absolutely no recollection of what transpired during that period of time. The ring was on the old dining table when I regained control of my senses. I resisted the urge to touch it again but I knew the only way to remember the events of that missing hour was to enter whatever accursed realms the ring had led me to. I carefully picked it up once more. Part of me inexplicably knew that it would be sheer madness to actually attempt to wear it.
But this time, I was prepared. I set the alarm in my watch to ring five minutes later, hoping that it would shock me back from where or what awaited me. Delicately holding the band between my fingers, I drew my breath in sharply before peering into the pale abyss that rested in the center of the ring. The room began to sway slowly from side to side, followed by the appearance of the familiar grey cloud hovering towards me like a shroud.
I immediately fortified my thoughts as a cascade of bizarre images flooded my mind. These were memories but they belonged to a life that I did not lived.
As I stood transfixed in the cloud, a pantheon of brazen sounds and colors soon took over and I remember screaming as loud as I humanly could. But the sound I made was nothing less than an inhuman howl, an unholy shriek that I never imagined possible. I shut my eyes again and when I opened them, I found myself in an ivory chamber kneeling before a trio of towering dark figures. Numerous tiny orbs floated across the hall, lighting it up in a kaleidoscope of unearthly hues.
The air around me was cold, ancient yet strangely familiar. I instinctively looked up at my three ominous hosts. Their tall and shapeless wavering forms made it almost impossible to distinguish them apart; one loomed closer to me while extending an appendage. As it whirled into view, I could tell that it was no human arm advancing towards me. It was a long brown creeping tentacle seeking its prey. My natural instinct was to recoil instantly but I could not move my legs nor feel them at all! Once again, I wanted to utter a cry of disgust but this time no sound, human or otherwise escaped me.
I turned away as fast as I could. My gaze lowered towards the polished white flooring and that was when my last remaining sliver of sanity abandoned me. The reflection I saw was not of any creature that has walked this Earth for over a hundred millenniums since the coming of Man. In place of any visage resembling a human face was a disturbing cyclopean mass of gelatinous green and yellow flesh. A single large white eyestalk blinked silently back at me.
Through whatever remaining senses I possess, the approaching tentacle behind me marked me with an evil sense of fear and loathing. In what may have been a final act of bravado, I decided to face my otherworldly challenger. I spun around, in time to face the impending appendage. It slithered towards me at an inhuman speed, its icy tip instantly attaching itself to my lone pale eye. A massive bolt of pain pierced through my alien body as the tentacle ripped my eye from me. And in that agonizing instance, I knew what it was; I finally understood what the outlandish images or memories are all about.
“The eye! My eye! The stone in the ring! They are one and the same!” I desperately wanted to exclaim that revelation but it was naturally impossible. Instead of being blinded by its actions, I could still bear witness to the ungodly events that continued to unfold before me.
It was not unlike an eerie out-of-body experience as I could now view my former shapeless form lying motionless and the three nefarious figures clustering together. Loud sounds and noises began to erupt from all three, a sinister chorus of bestial growls, hisses and wailing. Their strange shadowy bodies commenced to shift and bend in a series of bizarre contortions in rhythm with their macabre chants. The unnerving ritual was truly such a vile sight that no sane person should ever be made to watch. Still in the firm lethal grip of the murderous tentacle, the white stone began to burn with a hellish glow.
From the middle of the domed ceiling emerged a massive hideous black vortex. The devilish chanting continued to echo throughout the chamber as the spinning horror expanded to blanket the entire ceiling. I directed my attention towards the growing vortex and out of that sinister void extended a gigantic monstrous clawed hand. Four black gleaming sharp claws reaching deliberately down at the upstretched tentacle with the now blazing white stone. It was pure agony to maintain any semblance of sanity at this point. I could not possibly fathom what this all meant except for the overwhelming stench of primal malevolence and a foreboding of even fouler deeds.
Stretching out of the vortex, the pointed claws were now within reach of its sacred prize when it inexplicably froze in midair. Then came the most hellish moment of all when it slowly turned to my direction. Even in my incorporeal form, I knew that it could somehow sense my disembodied presence, an outsider from a different time and dimension who reeked of fear and dread. In that single terrifying instance, I saw in the black palm of that colossal clawed hand, a single blood red eye glaring at me.
When just as all hope seemed to have forsaken me, there came a shrill buzzing sound from nowhere. The piercing noise began to crescendo and almost immediately, the nightmarish scene in front of me started to dissipate into a fiery ball of blinding light. My last vivid vision was the giant crimson eye almost engulfing me before everything became a maddening fusion of red and white inferno. Then came the silence.
It felt like an eternity before I woke up to the sound of my alarm watch buzzing mere inches from my face, as I lay slumped on the dining table. That recognizable tune was what shocked me from an otherwise heinous fate. An anchor to my own time and world, its audible intrusion must have set off an unnatural chain reaction of sorts. How do I know this, I could not speculate nor do I wish to comprehend the metaphysics behind my escape for my senses were still reeling from it all.
Just as I was about to climb out of my chair, I spied the white opal ring resting under the table. It must have slipped out of my hand when I lost consciousness. Nervously, I bent down to retrieve it. It now felt warm to the touch and as hard I tried, I knew I couldn’t resist glimpsing at the accursed stone one final time. And that was when I saw the harrowing truth.
For instead of a pure white centerpiece there now appeared a speck of malignant red in the stone. The same evil hue as the scarlet eye that stalked me across time and space!