The banshee shrieks of the beast above tore Rick from his feverish nightmares, reality snapping into focus as a finger of dread touched his heart; what new phantasms erupted into this wretched hell?

The leathery flapping wings pushed down the stagnant, fetid breath of the creature. Instinctively, he rolled back from under its shadow as the beast’s clawed arms struck, tearing his pants but missing flesh by centimetres. The sudden movement tore open the wound in his side painfully, spraying gouts of rotten smelling pus and black blood across the cliff face. The wing-ed thing flapping once more, landing gracelessly in a bony heap over the nauseating bodily expulsion. A beaked mouth reaching down to the mess and consuming it. Retching from both his fever and disgust at the slurping noises, Rick spewed half-digested rotten fruit down onto the cliff below; but vomiting seemed to clear his head. Weakly, he pushed himself to his knees, drawing a knife from his right boot, struggling to hold it with his shaking hand. The blade, a pitiful needle beside the raking claws of the monster, but it would have to do. Rising into a knife fighter’s crouch and steeling himself for the fight. His left side wet with blood and fluids, legs trembling, but the demon-thing had no interest in him. Its long tongue flickering out, lapping up the last of the vile mess. Finished and uttering a last terrible screech, it beat its wings and leapt into the air; twisting sideways-up. Rick was certain things were supposed to go up, and not sideways-up; nothing was normal since he'd stepped through.

Looking around as he struggled to stay upright, no other creatures were in sight. Rick risked a look at the wetness he felt trickling down his side. A black protuberance hung from the wound, a slimy leech of the horrific local variety, its spotted skin glowing a tritium green. The spots pulsing with each slurp it stole from him; it would drain him entirely, if he let it. Grabbing the driest moss he could find, he packed the edges of the wound, close around the mouth of the leech. Reaching into his pocket, Rick grabbed his salvaged lighter, hoping the fuel had not evaporated yet. Gritting his teeth against what he was about to do, but it was better than a slow, draining death. Clicking the lighter open, he struck the flint wheel, nothing, again, a flash, there, flame. Touching fire to the edge of the moss, an orange glow as the edges caught, a toxic stench wafting up Rick’s nose as the moss glowed with embers, the acrid scent making him cough. The smouldering burn quickly spread, accelerated by the slimy fluid that covered this place in constant dampness. The flaming moss increasing in heat, until it began to burn the leech. Touched by the flames started it hissing and screaming, eerily like a human voice. That voice, echoes, the voice of someone he knew; a shudder ran through Rick and the leech. His sister's voice, him watching from the curb. She runs out in the street to catch an errant ball, a squeal of brakes, the sound of impact, her scream, red car, the voice, echoes, he shook his head. Burnt, the leech fell to dusty surface of the ledge, sliding and oozing into a crack, vanishing in the rock. The moss still smouldering, Rick grunted in pain, letting fire cauterize the wound, finishing what the leech had started. With the wound roughly cleaned and mostly sealed; the green pus gone, replaced with welling, clean, red blood, blackness no longer spread up his rib cage.

Feeling better but still weak and dazed, Rick looked up, lost. Where was he? The last thing he remembered before the beast, was reaching for the rocky ledge, but it had only been above his head, a metre, or two at most. Moving towards the sound of the wind, he peered down over the edge of a cliff, the ground falling away before him for several hundred meters. Nudging a loose stone over, it whistled and sang as it sank, to the melody of a tune he’d heard on Broadway once; he really was losing it. Watching as it fell, his eyes playing tricks, the rock began moving up towards the black orb in the sky. Shading his eyes, blocking the orb from his vision; trying to track the rock, not letting the black sun swallow his focus. There, there was the rock, sailing sideways-up through the air, increasing in speed as if racing towards the arc and the shadow. Stiffly limping around the cliff, Rick tried to ground himself in reality, he needed a task, something concrete. Looking for escape routes or paths downward, any way off the cliff. Slippery reality, he kept losing it. He felt a presence, up here, with him, hungry, but it seemed dormant, sleeping maybe? Where was it? Closing his eyes, he began questing with his mind, reaching and probing, trying to feel where it felt strongest; there, in the rock? Yes, the hunger was in the stone. He had to get off this plinth before the presence awoke, but at least he was safe from the hunters, for now, before they found him again. Dizzy, he sat down, no longer able to hold himself upright, landing heavily against the cliff face. He had nothing to eat, nothing to do, no way off the rock. Unless he jumped off, or one of those giant bat-things gave him a lift, and that wasn’t likely without being lunch. Shit. Slumping against the wall, weighing his limited options, eyelids drooping lower and lower, until at last, he slid into a dreamless sleep at the edge of the void. Just before he gave himself to the silence of sleep, he could have sworn the edges of the rock moved closer.

The rock began shifting at a glacial pace, subsuming the sleeping figure lying above in the outside. Dragging it down, down, down, deep into the shadowy darkness, closer to the hunger lurking within the rock, away from the baleful un-shine of the orb. Slowly, it worked to envelop him, moving at so stately a pace a walking man could escape, but Rick was not walking. The stone wrapped him in its embrace and drew him inward, soaking up what little blood remained on the narrow ledge.

In hours there was no trace of Rick at all.