Summer Showcase: The Promise of The Grave

Thomas Dissa submitted a flash fiction piece exploring the power of fear and how it can harnessed by those willing to use it.

Summer Showcase: The Promise of The Grave

Fear. It has a distinct smell, a sweet, sickly stench that seeps and oozes from every pore of a human's body as he confronts his mortality. My talons twitch in anticipation as I hear them enter the Tomb of the Ancients, the heavy thud of boots upon stone like a distant thud of a dying heart. 

“It seems your dogs have come for their master.” My head swivels to look down at my fresh kill, my latest victim, a man who believed himself to be above the most primal powers known to the universe. The power of fear and of death itself. 

“You thought you were beyond my reach,” I say, amused. 

The problem with the truth is that it shatters illusions, and that was a cold, harsh truth that the poor Baron learned too late. None were above my killing stroke. I raise the skull in front of my eyes, noting how the flesh sags off the Baron’s gleaming white skull, his eyes soulless and empty.

There are voices now, harsh and authoritative.

 I clamber behind one of the many gargoyles that leer over the wide, open chamber below. A cruel smile graces my black lips as I see the Baron’s men stumble into the master’s final resting place. Three foolhardy guards, armed in silver plate armour from groin to clavicle, in their squeezed palms, swords and torches that banished the surrounding shadows. Their faces were grim, set in the dour expressions that staved off the fear lurking beneath their ice-thin facade.

There are far graver things to be afraid of than the dark.

I throw the Baron’s head to the marble floor below me, hearing the hard crunch of bone upon the rock and the wet splatter of blood. The smell of fear is almost suffocating now, filling my nostrils with its seductive allure. The guards close in, perturbed by the sounds from deep within the tomb.

One of them, the leader, steps forward. I can see it in his body language, the way the other men shirk under his piercing gaze. “Keep your eyes peeled and your swords ready, lads. This ain’t no common bandit. Gustav, stay by my side. Don’t be getting lost in the dark.”

My heart pounds in my chest as blood rushes through my veins. I watch from one of the support beams in the rafters like a hawk that prowls the hillside, looking for a tasty mouse. 

“We have to turn back,” mutters Gustav. “There’s no shame in it. I don’t want to die here.”

 I watch from above as the talons on my right hand flex instinctively. Gustav is right. No use dying in another man’s grave.

Clambering on all fours, I dart across the support beam, hiding behind one of the leering gargoyles that sit upon the perimeter of the ceiling. As I press my body against the cold stone, my prey begins to move. They wave their torches against the darkness as though the shadows might conceal imaginary demons. No monsters here. Just me. 

I follow them deeper into the tomb, and the sense of feverish anticipation rises as they near my magnum opus. My heart races, my blood pulses and my adrenalin surges. One. By one. They stare up at the body wrapped in chains suspended from the roof.

A bloated corpse, stripped of skin, carefully carved away by my own delicate hand, exposed bare to the world. Crimson sinew, blood and meat glisten in the torchlight. The screams that follow are like a symphony of delicious suffering that rings in my ears. 

“By all that is holy,” says the third man. He will be the first to die. I descend like a blur wrapped in darkness, my cape flowing behind me as I hit the ground. The three men turn. They share one moment of pure, unfiltered horror before I'm among them.

A litany of hate spills from my lips as I close the distance between me and my prey. “ I am death. Durak Anar, the Devourer of Souls, and I have come for you.”

My talons plunge into the closest man’s chest, punching through steel, bone and soft fleshy organs that burst like balloons. Using the momentum, I ram the knife in my left hand through his eye socket. 

Before the corpse even hits the ground, I’m killing again. 

A sword’s keen edge bites into my shoulder from the left, and a roar of pain booms through the chamber. Pain burrows through my nervous system as I feel that same primal fear known to all men. Except I am not like other men; I have learned to control it. To harness it.

“It’s Dur—” My talons rip through the man’s jugular, arterial spray coating my face and stinging my eyes. With a vicious kick, I boot the dying man to the ground and turn to face the last combatant. 

Fear has stripped this man of his strength. Of his will. Of his dignity. The bloodied sword in his hands trembles. It’s Gustav.

“Please don’t hurt me,” he whimpers. He staggers backwards, his eyes darting to his fallen comrades to my right,  their blood still rich in the air like a fine wine. 

My mouth spreads into a feral grin. Gustav’s heart is beating so hard I can almost hear it crash against his ribs. 

“Please. Please don’t hurt me. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

I shake my head ruefully. If there is one thing more powerful than fear itself, it's the mystique of fear. A reputation can defeat armies, shatter kingdoms and slay Kings. 

But those tales are reserved for the living.

I smile at Gustav. There is no warmth in my face as the last of the torchlight flickers across my pale white skin. 

“Run, little man. Run as fast as you can.” 

Judge's comment

"A bold and darkly indulgent vignette, with a firm grasp of the fantasy genre at its most gruesome. Thomas writes vividly with a turn for the macabre that would make George R R Martin proud. I'd be interested to read more about our assassin anti-hero Durak Anar, the Devourer of Souls. Who is he? Why does he devour souls? And indeed does the quality of them affect his appetite? Likewise, the Tomb of the Ancients, which hits at a lost power or civilisation buried to time. Tantalising details. There's much to develop here, plenty of lore to hint at, and build on. Thomas clearly has a knack for filmic action and dialogue. I look forward to reading the full story one day. "
a8eba36c28fab38dfb97ec18aa10404d1eda5754.pngJack Solloway

About the author

How long have you been practising this artform, and what first attracted you to it?

I've been writing for most of my life but it's only within the last four years that I've truly committed myself to writing as an artform. I've always been enamoured by the power of the written word and the inherent power within stories and the way they can move both myself and others. It's the purest form of magic that I know.

How did you get started? Was there anything that you found particularly helpful?

I started writing seriously by scheduling a set time I would write every morning during the pandemic. I did this repeatedly for two years until the habit of writing every day was ingrained into me so I had the inbuilt discipline to write consistently. I found it useful to learn from other writers and utilise as many resources as I could, but more importantly ask better questions about my work and myself as a writer. For example, if I was struggling with a particular narrative problem, I would seek out specific information relating to that problem in order to resolve and learn from the experience. Keeping my learning fixated around specific problems or learning objectives that I was trying to overcome allowed me to keep a narrow focus on what I needed to improve upon without me being overwhelmed by the vast scope of information that there is on writing as a whole.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pick up the same artform?

Write every day or as much as you can. You only improve by putting in the hours, and most importantly just have fun.

Is there an achievement that you're particularly proud of?

I had my first short story, "Only in Death" be published as part of a short story anthology called Spun Stories which was an amazing feeling and experience.

Thomas M. Dissa is from the UK, he is a full time Marketing and Communications Coordinator who spends his free time writing fiction, doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and playing League of Legends.



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