's 2018 Horror Write-off:

The Participant

Submitted by Shieldman (email)

"UH-OH! LOOKS LIKE KI'AH IS ALMOST THREE QUARTERS OF THE WAY THERE!" A voice boomed across the sky, hitting Barry's ears in ways that didn't quite match what he heard. As he came to, Barry went to rub his eyes and get his bearings, but his arms refused to cooperate. Barry blinked the sleep from his eyes and squinted against the blazing sun. It was morning, and he had fallen asleep on his horse.



He didn't have a horse.

Barry's mind lit up with alarm. He opened his eyes wide and looked around in sheer panic. Through his bleary eyes, he could make out the vague shape of a horse's head in front of him. Judging by the rhythmic bobbing, they were moving. His arms were asleep, so he-

They weren't asleep. They were gone.

His scream carried for miles across the flat, cold earth. A desert mouse, perturbed from its sleep, scuttled into its burrow. The screaming aside, nothing else happened for several minutes. Barry's voice eventually cracked, and his screams subsided into terrified, shuddering whimpers. The echoes died out over another few minutes.

"Are you done?" A voice came from behind Barry's eyes.

"H-Hello? Who's there?" he muttered through shaky breaths.

"Let me make this easy for you. My name is Lamu Karthrii Eruwa Ill-Omen, I am an aru-mesa C-class, you're in the desert, we've been here for about four days now, and yes, I took your arms. They get in the way. Does that about cover it?"

"W... what?"

"I swear, you get dumber every time you wake up."

"What do you mean, every ti-" Before Barry could finish his sentence, pain shot through his shoulders and into his chest. Panic gave way to lightheadedness. Then all was dark.

"BY THE VEINS OF NGAULE, IT LOOKS LIKE AGONY PRIME IS STILL IN IT!" A voice boomed across the sky. Barry stirred from a dreamless slumber. Something about the voice hit his ears such that it felt like what was being said was very different from what he heard. In front of him, the head of a horse bobbed in a slow canter.

"Where... am I?" Barry asked, looking around as he tried to wipe the drool from his mouth. His arms didn't cooperate. He looked to see what was wrong with them-

"No, no, please don't scream. I have a headache from the last four times. Just sit there and shut up. We're too far from civilization for me to get a new one of you." The voice came from within Barry's mind. Bewildered, he sat still on the horse's back.

"You seemed to like me being a demon the best out of all the answers, so we'll go with that. If you just sit there and look pretty, we can make better time and you might live, understood?"

"Might... might live?! What do you mean?" Barry squirmed with agitation, doing everything he could to throw himself from the horse's saddle. Fear coursed through his veins like sharp ice. He had to escape.

"Looks like we can cross that off of the list of ways to calm you down." Pain shot through Barry's body. Familiar pain. It moved through his shoulders to his chest. Black tendrils squirmed in the periphery of his vision. They were thick, writhing cables of ink, like leeches affixed where his arms should have been. Barry felt the color drain from the world, and he followed shortly after.

"PALATH OF NINE AMETHYSTS PULLS AHEAD! WHAT A STUNNING TURNAROUND!" A voice boomed across the sky, jolting Barry awake. It hit his ears in a way... wait. Was he on a horse? When did he get a horse?

"You keep waking up before I'm hungry again. Stop that."


Barry's awakening was a soft one. The warmth of the sun was pleasant on his face. Shafts of light drifted down through the leaves above him, casting orange and yellow shadows across the undergrowth below. He sat up and rubbed his eyes before crying out in shock. His hands were slight and dark-skinned, in stark contrast to the rest of his stocky, light-skinned body. A set of pale blue nails stared back at him. In the distance, the sound of honking car horns caught his attention. Walking across an unfamiliar road, a strange horse carried an armless, dark-skinned rider out of sight.