Throwback Thursday | A DISTORTED Excerpt: “Maiden of the Underworld” by Alisha Costanzo

Atlantis 8021 BC

Shock fell over Phea, and her heart beat against her rib cage once more. Every grain in her body buzzed sluggishly.

Her grandmother no longer sat with her, although she couldn’t be sure when Gaia had left. She might have been on that cave floor, curled up on her self and screaming in agony, for years.

Pulling herself up to her hands and knees, her stomach heaved up into her chest. A crippling hunger ripped through her. Phea tore her lower lip open with two sharp needling scrapes. Wincing, she licked her lip, but instead of tasting metallic, it was sweet like barred cocoa, but salty like she had been out at the Harbour. She ran her tongue over her lips again, but found them healed.

Reaching to touch the points, she pricked her finger and jolted it away. Blood welled from her flesh then fell to the dusty floor before that wound, too, closed. Carefully, she pressed her fingers back to her mouth.

Her canines draped low with two delicately sharp points. They ached, making her entire body rumble.

Sweeping her gaze around the cave revealed her improved vision, although no more light existed than before. The bare cave floor swirled with dirt and dust. The barren walls held a single, long piece of red cloth hanging at the cave’s entrance.

Always modest, shy, and reserved, Phea didn’t care if someone saw her nude.

She touched the fabric. The vibrant cloth felt alive. Grandmother Gaia gave her a goddess-made gown. Phea could not shame the gift and slipped the deep red material over her skin. It hung perfectly over her body, hugging her tiny torso but leaving her limbs loose and free.

Time to find a way out of this hell.

Phea stepped out of the cave and into a torch lit hallway. She let her eyes adjust. Pressing her hand to the wall, she slid down the hall, peering into an open archway as she passed.

Phea halted from the scene before her.

A fierce frozen escape lay out for a great distance. The frost and snow began less than a step from her toes, but no cold touched her. No creatures apparent from where she stood.

Why have a frozen wonderland in the Underworld?

She stepped forward and crumpled with pain as her skin brushed the frost. Phea pulled her foot, but it stuck to the freeze, blistering.

With her hands on either side of the archway, she pushed back with no clear threat to avoid. Nothing held her down except for the frozen ground.

She pushed harder with her arms, pulling her leg to her body. The blisters tore, and she fell back against the far hallway wall. Her head thrummed with pain from smacking the hard rock. Her foot swelled, and shiny, clear puss and blood oozed from the heal of her foot to her toes. Slowly healing over, her flesh burned as if she walked over hot coals.

Peering back into the archway from a safer distance, the condemned began to filter through the frozen haze. Their silent agony hung their jaws agape, lips bleeding, faces blistered, and bodies a bloody mess.

Their blood smelled sick with death, making the grumbling in her stomach recoil.

Phea moved on. Another archway opened beside her, and she glanced inside.

A forest of gory trees littered a valley, meeting with the side of a cliff. Each tree was fraught with sharp, pointy bits of stone, crystal, and iron. Several humans climbed each tree, and dozens hung onto the side of the cliff. Their flesh and meat dangled from them in pieces and strips, but none of them seemed able to place their feet on the ground.

She dry heaved and pushed past the archway. Tales of the Underworld’s unending torture had been told to her as a child, but she had always suspected that they were just that—stories, meant to scare young ones into behaving.

How wrong she had been. And that bastard controlled this. He set the sentence for these poor people’s souls. There couldn’t be crimes in the world fit for this kind of torture.

The bastard twin gods deserved a lifetime beyond those archways, not the Atlantean people, and not her.

Boiling anger embraced her, and she easily pulled it against her. Those demon-gods would pay. She’d tear their throats from them with her new fangs as they screamed; take their blood and their power. They were not fit to have it.

Phea stormed forward, brushing past dozens of open archways. The hall twisted and turned, circling in a dizzying maze.

Finally, she found an archway free of tortured souls.

She stepped through it with brazen confidence. The new hall grew dank and dark, smelling of rotted bodies and excrement.

A dark force pushed her back, and she wanted to retreat.

Her eyes focused. Even though she wanted to believe bodies littered her path, even though she gagged on the smell of rotted flesh, the corridor was bare, black dirt. Crystals glittered in the walls, their light so delicate that normal eyes, even dead, wouldn’t have seen them.

Phea scrapped one out of the wall—iron pyrite, not a crystal, but powerful for protection, and warding off physical danger. She had to be close to the throne room for this to be in the wall.

Pulling another stone from the wall, this one jade, capable of providing barriers against attackers. The jade pulsed in her hand, sending a burn radiating up her arm, and she dropped it to the dirt.

Phea plunged through the thickening spell that swarmed the passageway. Agony raked his nails down her back. Each step took a heaving effort, but her anger gave her headway. At last, she crawled her way to the end of the hall. Bracing her hands on a dead end, porous black marble lined with white and red. The death god’s throne lay beyond this wall. His power thrummed through the marble and filled her bones.

“You are going to pay, you filthy beast god.”

Her mother read her stories about Markandeya, the God of the Underworld, of terror, of revenge. He possessed the power to thwart all of the other gods in the Atlantean pantheon, minus the goddess of destruction, fate, and discord, Meleia, for his desire for her impaired him.

A sick pleasure slithered over the skin of her chest. “You will never get to touch her, you monster.”

She pounded her fists against the marble with strong thumps.

Gaia’s blood bubbled inside of Phea, and she knew that primordial power would gain her entrance. She tore her nail into her palm and pressed it to the smooth stone like an offering. A strange spasm closed around her throat, and she bellowed in a powerful tenor not her own. “Let me in.”

The wall shook beneath her hand. She screamed, coursing her rage into the wall and willing it to move. Quivering, the marble slipped and titled, rippling as if alive. Phea fought to hold on. The vibrations numbed her arm up to her elbow. With a deafening creak, the marble cracked down the center, sending spindly webs larger than Phea’s body.

She stepped away, reared back, and punched her fist into the stone. She hit it again, and again, and again, until a hole large enough for her to slip through broke.

Markandeya twirled from the far end of his throne steps. His eyes shone with shock, anger, and a thin line of mercy.

Must have been quicker than she thought.

The God of the Underworld wore a long tunic the same dark red as her own, embroidered with gold magickal etchings. A golden chest plate curved over his ribs. A thick golden band synched his tunic at the waist, where two swords hung. Front calf plates and thronged sandals covered his otherwise bare legs.

Phea bent, ready to spring at him.

“You.”  His voice resonated low like his brother’s, and it had an intimate way to falling across her skin. “How did you find your way in here?”

She shook it off. He would not thwart her again. Anger coiled around her. She’d have his blood.

Leaping toward him, she swiped at his throat.

Markandeya shot his right hand out at her. God fire leapt from his fingertips.

Phea dropped to the ground, rolling back to her feet out of the line of fire, and threw her own hand out at him. Cold knitted itself over her arm, and his power fizzled out.

She smiled as a semblance of happy took hold of her.

That bastard is going to die.

He glanced at his hand before trying again.

She combated his gesture with her own, and his fire died once more.

The Death God drew his sword, twirling it in his right hand before gripping it.

Like a giant, wild animal, Phea roared at him.

His sword flew from his hand, smashing against the far wall and clattered on the floor.

“Oh, fuck.”  Markandeya flashed out of his throne room.

That coward.

Phea summoned the power from deep between her ribs to flash up to the Atlantis.

Nothing happened.

Fuck indeed.

She looked up. The ceiling hung at least twice as high as she was tall, a simple ivory colored ceiling like the one in her home. Phea jumped for it, her hand scraping against the soft material. Bits of rock crumpled over her shoulders and fell to the floor. She jumped again, her hand digging into the dirt above the ceiling. Dangling from her right arm, she scratched and dug above her head with her left.

Slow moving, she tunneled her way to the surface. As she broke through the last layer of dirt, a pounding in her ears and throbbing in her canines bombarded her. Her stomach squeezed with hunger, and her throat burned.

Phea climbed through the small opening into the middle of the marketplace with too many pulses to follow.

Her vision went red, and she wrapped her arms around the closest thudding pulse. Phea sank her canines into the warmest gush of relief and let it coat her burning throat.

The pulse slowed before sputtering to a halt.

Phea grabbed for the next pulse, pulling it against her and tearing it open to drink. Screams invaded her ears, and she resurfaced from the pulsing blood filling her mouth. The faint smell of orange blossoms swayed under her nose.

“Phea.”  Oria coughed in her arms.

Phea fell onto her knees, gripping Oria and laying her down. A soft cooling piece of flesh brushed her leg.  Her little brother lay, covered in his own sweet blood.

Another rivet shook her heart. “Eleus. No, Eleus.”  She was unable to touch him now.

“Phea.”  Oria coughed again. Her chest sputtered, and blood bloomed across her mouth. “Jydios?”

Phea nodded. “He did this to me.”

“Finish it.”  Cough. “Make the pain go away.”

Phea sobbed into Oria’s neck, her teeth aching for the blood that remained in her sister’s veins. “I am sorry, sister.” Her canines found the blood left in Oria, taking the rest into herself.

She lay Oria next to her brother.

Time to find those twin gods and bleed them dry.

 

 

Official Distorted Cover

Wife of a disabled veteran, Alisha Costanzo writes about PTSD, environmentalism, violence, and conformity. With a mutually-fueled passion to change the world one person at a time, she often writes about her husband’s rants, conspiracy theories, and trains of logic that seem absurd until the connections line up, and mixes them into her obsession with cooking, coffee, and pop-culture monsters.

Most of all, Alisha is passionate about satire and how it can be used as a tool for learning and criticism. Her stories are aware of themselves and determined not to give readers what they think they want.

A New York transplant, she lives in Oklahoma, teaches English and rhetoric at a local university, runs and edits at Transmundane Press, LLC, and navigates the crazy that comes with her husband, fourteen-year-old step son, eight cats, six lizards, six mice, three toads, two snakes, and a water turtle, in the master bath, all confined under one roof.

 

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