Mythos 003 - Botis the Serpent of Dread
by Robert Evans
DISCLAIMER: This Mythos entry is a compilation of multiple entries. The limit for each Mythos entry on Reddit is 1000 words.
Rain poured relentlessly in a torrential sheet. Four soldiers trudged through a mist filled forest as they chased the fading light of day. Eyes scanned the growing shadows for unseen threats as the night crept menacingly closer. Private Thomas Richards ignored the discomfort of wet clothes that clung to his body like dead skin, his teeth chatting together as he fought to stay warm. Numb fingers clutched his carbine tightly, as he fought to keep his focus through the ever-present fatigue from the long march.
“Keep your eyes peeled boys,” Captain William Wright ordered as a warm plumb of breath filled the cold air, “if we stay on this heading North, we will eventually find Lyon.”
“God guide us,” Corporal Sidney Jackson added softly, his southern Texas twang adding to his devotion.
Private George Ramirez snorted with contention from behind Thomas. The skepticism was understood, as the once lighthearted Californian had lost the luster of innocence and hope since their company stepped foot into the south of France. The northern push out of Africa to meet the forces landing on the beaches of Normandy. Yet war had a way of being a beast of chaos, and the Nazi’s were resilient in their defense. Skirmishes led to new assignments, and the deeper they marched into the battlefields of France, the number in their company dwindled. Soon, they were down to just the four of them, cut off from the rest of their forces, and lost.
How Thomas had made it this far was beyond him. The Corporal would tell him that it was God’s grace that protected him, but seeing the horrors of war and what men would do to one another, it was hard for Thomas to believe that God could exist, let alone allow the atrocities of war to take place. Shadows grew thick as the sun began to fade behind the distant horizon. The chilled air bit deep into Thomas as did the fading hope of finding any shelter from this misery.
Suddenly, Captain Write dropped to one knee and lifted his fist to signal for the group to stop. Thomas’s eyes darted in every direction but all that he saw were the gnarled branches of trees clawing at the darkening sky. A cold wind dissipated the veil of fog before them revealing the faint outline of an old barn. Captain Wright signaled for Private Ramirez and Thomas to move up. Without hesitation both men hurried to the edge of the treeline, guns aimed towards unseen threats.
The Captain, and Corporal moved past them and flanked the single entry side door that swayed on rusted hinges. Once in position, Thomas and George moved to join them. The soldiers breached the barn, fingers hovered nervously over their triggers. The air was muggy, the smell of stagnant decay filled their noses. Shadowed corners swallowed what little light that penetrated from outside.
“Thank fucking God,” Private Ramirez proclaimed with a sigh of relief breaking the tension.
“Watch your language Private,” Corporal Jackson warned with a glare.
“It’s a much needed break,” Captain Wright added as he slid a wooden slat in place to lock the door, “But let's not get careless.”
“I’ll head up to the loft and take first watch,” The captain added as he looked over his weary men, “We’ll head out at first light.”
Thomas found a dark corner filled with small piles of old hay. Pulling off his pack, he sat down and rested his back against a wooden support beam. The sound of the rain pelting against the roof relaxed Thomas, and he found his eyes growing heavy. Then something caught his attention, a brief yellow glint from underneath a crate against the barn wall. Standing up, Thomas walked towards the box, each step soft and precise. Every sense of his screamed at him to ignore what he saw, but something drew him in. With a trembled hand he reached down and lifted the crate.
Thomas screamed and fell backwards as a snake lashed out with an insidious hiss. The private scrambled backwards in panic as the snake slithered towards him, its fangs bared. It approached slowly, preparing to strike, until a knife punctured its skull. The snake's body writhed and coiled in its death throes before becoming still.
“It’s okay, private,” Corporal Jackson reassured.
Thomas’ chest heaved with panicked breaths.
“What’s going on?” Private Ramirez asked as he came around the corner with his gun in hand.
“The private was spooked by a snake is all,” the corporal answered calmly.
Thomas was helped up to his feet, flushed with embarrassment. Private Ramirez grumbled something in Spanish as he walked away.
“Deep breaths private, then try and get some sleep,” the corporal patted him on the arm and turned away.
Thomas shook his head in disbelief as he sat back down by his pack. Pulling out a blanket that was soaked through, and he closed his eyes. Nightmares found him as they always did. Faceless men that he had killed stared at him with the eyes of a serpent. Mocking hisses with serpentine tongues filled his ears. Coiling their bodies around him and squeezing the breath from his lungs. Gasping for air he awoke.
The soft light of the morning poured through the slats of wood of the barn walls. Brushing his hands against his arms, Thomas was relieved that there were no snakes coiled around them. Standing up he noticed that both the Corporal and Private Ramirez were still asleep. It was odd, there was no way the captain would not have rotated watch duties. The wooden steps groaned as Thomas climbed towards the loft where he expected to see the captain. But the loft was empty, and the captain was missing.
“It isn’t like the captain to just leave without letting us know,” Corporal Jackson muttered to himself as he stood in front of the loft window.
“The door is still locked,” Private Ramirez reported as he ascended the stairs.
The corporal walked to the edge of the window and leaned out. A crater of mud indicated where the captain had landed, footprints in the mud disappeared into the thick morning fog.
“What do we do?” Thomas asked with a quiver of uncertainty.
“First, we hold onto hope private,” the corporal said with a wink as he patted Thomas on the shoulder.
“Sir, look.” Ramirez warned as he pointed out towards the faint tree line. The fog faded briefly in soft whisps revealing the outline of a peak of a steep chapel roof towering over the trees. The choking mist swallowed it instantly, as if teasing them with its location.
“Maybe the captain saw the church and went to see if he could find us a way to Lyon,” Thomas reasoned, though the skeptical gazes of his companions said otherwise.
The trio gathered their weapons and stowed the rest of their gear in the safety of the barn. Unlocking the barn door, they entered the chilled morning mist. The sun was a dull orb devoid of heat, the cold saturated their bodies. Following the muddied path of their captain they entered the treeline in the direction of the distant church.
The trees moved by them in a blur as they hurried through the forest. Before long the scent of wood fires filled their senses, and they found themselves at the edge of a small house. Covering each other, Thomas moved up the side past a pile of chopped wood. Carbine in hand, he reached the edge of the house and peek around the corner. The town before him looked peaceful. A muddy road led to the tall stone church. Quaint homes surrounded by wooden fences lined the road, soft plums of smoke arose from stone chimneys.
“Looks like the war never touched this place,” Ramirez gasped in surprise as he leaned past Thomas.
“Maybe so,” Corporal Jackson warned, “I don’t see signs of any German soldiers, but stay sharp.”
“Should we just start knocking and asking the locals corporal?” Ramirez replied sarcastically.
Corporal Jackson was unimpressed with the sarcasm, but a soft, melodic sound drifting through the morning fog changed his disapproval to curiosity. It took the soldiers a moment to realize it was singing, and they knew that the church was their destination. With a nod, the corporal stepped out from the cover of the house towards the church.
Their steps squelched as they moved up the muddied street, eyes scanning the windows of each house they passed. The town looked empty, yet Thomas couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. Yellow serpentine eyes staring at him through dark glass.
“Keep moving,” Corporal Jackson scolded as he noticed Thomas lagging behind.
The trio found their way to the arched stone gateway that led into the churchyard. Moss clung to the old stone walls of the church. The soothing sounds of singing resonated through the stone walls, and it filled Thomas with a sense of ease. Corporal Jackson took the lead as he walked up stone steps, his gun hanging by its strap around his shoulder as he clutched a cross that hung around his neck. His knock was loud, the singing abated. Footsteps against stone arose from within. The door swung inward revealing the weathered face of an elderly man. Wrinkles lined his face like the bark of an ancient tree, the pungent smell of incense poured out from the warm interior.
“Bonjour?” the man asked with a curious look on his face, and then he saw the cross, “ah, entrez s'il-vous-plait,” the man added as he waved the soldiers inside.
“Merci,” Corporal Jackson replied with a friendly bow as he walked through the entryway.
Entering the church, the soldiers were greeted by the unblinking stares of the townsfolk who sat in rows of dark stained pews. The dull light of day filled the interior and illuminated trails of smoke and motes of dust. Closing the door with a heavy thud, the elderly man motioned for the soldiers to follow him.
Thomas moved past the gazes of the townsfolk and noticed a hint of contempt. Passing a young man not much younger than him, he paused. Discomfort filled his being as he swore the kid had yellow eyes. Thomas quickly looked away.
“Does anyone here speak English?” Corporal Jackson asked loudly, his words were lost in translation as the elderly man gestured them with a smile towards the front of the church.
“I can,” a deep voice answered. Out of the shadows a middle-aged priest seemed to manifest, long white robes draped over thin shoulders. The townsfolk stood in unison at his appearance, then started to filter out of the church.
“Apologies for the intrusion father. We’re on our way to Lyon and found shelter in the abandoned barn at the edge of town. We woke up to find our Captain missing. We’re hoping someone here may have seen him,” the corporal explained calmly.
“Are you sure he didn’t leave without you? War weighs heavy on any man,” the priest asked with a dismissive tone.
“The captain wouldn’t leave a man behind,” Private Ramirez countered spitefully drawing a glare from both the corporal and the priest.
The priest's gaze shifted between the soldiers, his smile straining on his face seemed insincere. When the priest's gaze met with Thomas’, a coldness filled his body. Their eyes locked, and Thomas couldn’t pull away. His heart pounded in his chest, and he swore the eyes of the priest had an amber hue. Did he just blink twice?
“But of course, we will get to the bottom of this,” the priest humbly lifted his hand towards the church entrance, pulling Thomas from his hypnotic state, “please follow me.”
The priest led the soldiers back into the muddy streets of the town. The fog had lifted, but the sky was thick with stagnant gray clouds. Townsfolk were back at their homes, all turning to watch as the men walked by. Turning down a thin, trodden path they were brought to the door of a small home. The priest knocked with heavy dull thuds. A young woman greeted them, her eyes were a bright blue, her dark brunette hair dangled in a thick, single braid behind her.
Speaking in French, the priest gestured towards the soldiers, and the look of protest in the woman’s eyes showed her reluctance to let the strange men into her home, yet she bowed her head in trepidation as she stepped out of the way to let the soldiers in.
“Madeline will host you while I look for your missing friend,” the priest smiled yet his tone seemed annoyed, “corporal, would you care to join me?”
“Of course, father,” Corporal Jackson replied with a smile, “privates, this shouldn’t take long. If I can’t find the captain, we’ll have no choice but to move on. So, until then, stay out of trouble, and be respectful.”
Ramirez rolled his eyes as he noticed the corporal looked at him specifically.
Madeline closed the door behind Thomas, and he couldn’t help but turn to watch the corporal follow the priest down the path. Ramirez sighed in relief as he sat down near the fireplace. Thomas briefly met the gaze of Madeline and offered a timid smile, but she quickly turned away, muttering to herself in French.
“I guess we can enjoy this while we can,” Ramirez broke the silence as he stretched, “who knows how long it's going to take us to get back to Lyon.”
“Do you think they’ll find the captain?” Thomas asked with a pessimistic look.
“If he’s alive, of course,” Ramirez answered honestly as he looked past his fellow soldier towards Madeline who was prepping something on a nearby counter.
“How can you say that?” Thomas chided in disgust at the coldness of the reply.
The look in Ramirez’s eyes said everything, he’d given up hope. Madeline interrupted the solemn moment as she carried in a wooden cutting board filled with bread, cheese, and chopped sausage.
They ate voraciously as they sat quietly and waited for the corporal to return. It wasn’t until the light of the fire began to dominate the interior that Thomas realized the night was fast approaching.
“How long does it take?” Thomas griped nervously as he paced between the window and the door of the small home.
“Relax, man. The corporal is probably praying at the church, you don’t have to worry about everything?” Ramirez sighed as he cleaned his nails with his knife.
“Something isn’t sitting right,” Thomas responded sharply, his stomach was nauseous, his nervous eyes shifting to Madeline who sat on a stool as far from the two soldiers as she could, “Do you know anything?”
Madeline recoiled at the sudden question and looked at Thomas with a blank stare, “je ne parle pas anglais,” she responded with an innocent shrug.
Growling in frustration, Thomas grabbed his carbine and made his way to the door.
“Non monsieur,” Madeline yelled suddenly as she rushed forward and grabbed Thomas by the shoulder.
“What?” Thomas asked sharply as he pulled away from her grip.
Ramirez sighed as he stood up and sheathed his knife.
Madeline stammered as she helplessly watched the soldier pick up his gun. Frantically speaking in French, she pushed past Thomas and put her back against the door. Unable to understand the words she spoke, the soldiers recognized the fear.
“Look lady, you got to move,” Ramirez threatened with an unimpressed look, but Madeline refused. Ramirez snickered in disbelief, then tired of the antics he grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her into the table.
Madeline screamed in defiance as tears streamed down her pale cheeks as she picked herself up off the floor. Before either soldier could leave the house the woman bolted up to her feet, knife in hand.
“Lady, put the knife down,” Ramirez warned as he aimed his pistol towards her.
“Ramirez what are you doing?” Thomas gasped in disbelief, his heart raced as he watched the woman ramble incoherently as she waved the knife wildly before her.
“You are the one that wanted to leave man, so don’t get angry with me if this bitch doesn’t understand English,” Ramirez replied coldly, his gaze fixed on Madeline.
“Move,” Ramirez warned as he pulled the hammer of the gun back with a threatening click.
Madeline’s eyes widened in shock, muttering in French as she shook her head. Repeating the word “no” over again. Knowing she wasn’t able to stop the men from leaving she suddenly stopped talking and a wicked smile spread across her face.
“Botis,” Madeline said before jabbing the blade deep into her own neck.
“What the fuck,” Ramirez gasped in shock as dark crimson blood poured out of the wound and spewed from her mouth.
Madeline choked as she fell to the floor, her body shaking as her eyes widened in shock.
Thomas knelt down over her, desperately pressing his hand on the wound after pulling the knife free. It was too late. Madeline’s lifeless eyes stared back at Thomas, pupils dilating in death as she exhaled her last breath.
Thomas’s hands trembled as Ramirez pulled him up by the shoulder, confusion gripped his mind.
“Okay, your instincts were right. Something is not fucking right,” Ramirez gasped as he stood on the pathway leading to the main street.
Thomas was speechless as he stared at his bloodied hands. Fear and uncertainty screamed at him to find a dark shadow to hide in.
“Let’s find the corporal, and get the hell out of here,” Ramirez said with determination as he forced Thomas to look at him.
All Thomas could do was nod, and follow.
Thomas followed close behind Ramirez as they hurried through the town. Eyes scanning the dark shadows of the town, which seemed eerily empty. Thunder rumbled above, drawing Thomas’s attention skyward just as the first heavy drops of rain spattered against his face. What was more eerie was the clouds slowly swirling like a vortex above them.
Ramirez cursed when he found the door of the church locked. Hoping to find another way in, they passed through the iron gate of the graveyard. Rain pelted old stone gravestones, as they moved around the side of the old building. Dark windows stared lifelessly out into the growing storm, and Thomas stopped as the faint scent of incense filled his nose.
“What’s that?” Thomas asked suddenly as pointed his gun toward a faint, flickering orange glow.
Approaching with guns drawn, the two soldiers found an old mausoleum. An iron gate was slightly ajar. Decorated with iron snakes coiled around an upside down cross. A candle nested in a small alcove flickering in protest within the shadow depths. With a reassuring nod from Ramirez, Thomas stepped inside.
Stairs coiled downward into the depths of the earth. The air was stale and heavy, but intermingled with the familiar scent of incense the deeper they descended. Narrow halls of stone opened into a large natural cavern. Candles anchored by thick globs of wax illuminated the cave in an ominous glow. Shadows danced menacingly along the walls. Showing two tunnels that branched off into two opposite directions.
“Okay Thomas, we can’t be fucking around,” Ramirez whispered with intensity, “I’ll take this tunnel, you go down the other.”
“Should we separate?” Thomas replied with a quiver of fear in his voice.
“The more ground we cover, the faster we can get out of this place. You have a gun, and you know how to use it,” Ramirez reassured Thomas with a pat on the shoulder.
Thomas nodded as he watched Ramirez disappear down the dark tunnel. It took all of Thomas’s willpower to move forward. The tunnel stretched on forever, and it felt suffocating. His panicked breathing broke the uncomfortable silence. Then Thomas heard the chanting. It seemed to wrap around him, twisted by the earth and shadows. It filled him with a sense of foreboding, yet it was alluring as well.
“Thomasssss,” a voice echoed in his mind, or was it his boot scuffing the stone at his feet?
Lost in thought, Thomas didn’t realize he approached an intersection. Candles dotted the tunnel to his left and ended at a wooden door. To his right was a small, dark cave filled with piles of discarded clothes, and a stomach-churning smell. Using the faint light of the candles, Thomas stepped into the cave. Floral patterned dresses, overalls, and small children’s toys littered the ground. More shocking was the piles of Nazi uniforms, SS pins and swastikas, was this how the townsfolk stayed out of the war?
Kicking a pile at his feet revealed a decaying skull with patches of wispy gray hair. It stared at him with a toothy grin as a snake slithered out of one of its eye sockets. Thomas retreated in fear, hands trembling as he realized that something sinister was afront in this town. Turning around, Thomas faced the distant door, and with a reassuring grip of his carbine, he walked towards it.
Chanting became more prevalent as he approached the door. The same symbol of two snakes entwined around an upside down cross carved into the wooden surface. Every facet of his mind told him to run, but the reverberation of the chanting pulled him towards the door, he had to know. Gripping the cold metal door handle, Thomas quietly opened the door.
Stepping down a couple steps, Thomas found himself on a stone landing overlooking a circular cavern. Torches encircled thirteen figures donned in dark crimson robes. All faced the center where a large stone table sat empty. A lone figure stood with outstretched arms on the far side, a curved dagger in one hand, a goblet in the other. The figure faced a man tied to a hanging X shaped cross that dangled from thick chains. The man’s chest was peeled open like a book, his entrails piled on a bloody stone altar below him still attached to his body. Ribs were splayed open exposing his lungs and heart which to Thomas’s horror still pulsed weakly, the heart beating faintly.
“Oh great Botis, father of serpents we call to you,” the lead cultist exclaimed as he filled the goblet with the blood that drizzled out of the victim, “we offer you this bounty of flesh and blood in this time of reckoning to guide us.”
The cultist turned around to face the others, all repeating their chants with reverence. Thomas noticed that the cultist was the priest. Another cultist stepped forward, pulling back his robes as he approached the leader.
“You have protected us, and with this willing sacrifice, we call you into this realm,” the priest gave the unknown man the goblet of blood, which they guzzled hungrily. As the man drank the blood, the priest reached down and pulled an asp out of a burlap sack. The disrobed man turned to sit onto the stone table, and Thomas balked in shock when he saw that it was the captain. His gaze was empty, blood dripped down his chin as he lay down on the table.
Frozen in fear, Thomas could do nothing but watch as the priest raised the dagger over his head as the chanting increased in intensity. The blade plunged deep into the captain’s abdomen, and he just smiled.
“Captain,” a weak voice gasped as the hanging man struggled to look up, it was the corporal.
Thomas watched in horror as the priest shoved the head of the asp into the open wound of the captain, and it eagerly slithered within.
The door behind Thomas suddenly slammed open, breaking the unnerving silence.
Ramirez’s eyes widened at the horror before him. Without hesitation he aimed his gun and opened fire, the cultists fell in heaps as they were mowed down.
“Get up you idiot,” Ramirez chided as he ran past Thomas and down to the carnage below.
Thomas felt weak in the legs, but with the chanting gone it felt as if the fear had evaporated away. When Thomas reached the cavern floor, he noticed a few cultists wheezing as they bled out from their wounds.
“Grab something to stop the bleeding,” Ramirez ordered as he checked on the corporal, who had finally passed from his traumatic wound.
Thomas pulled out his knife and carved a large square out of one of the cultists robes, as he pulled away the cloth, he saw a book clutched in the cultists hand.
Ramirez grabbed the cloth from his hand and pushed the bundle onto the stomach wound.
“They put a snake inside him,” Thomas’ voice quaked with disbelief, his eyes locked onto the book which he pried out of the dead cultists hand.
Before Ramirez could respond, Captain Wright sat up suddenly. Thomas backed away from the table as the captain turned and caught his gaze. The man’s eyes were no longer brown, but a serpentine yellow. Ramirez backed away as the captain's body started to convulse violently, his mouth open in a silent scream. His skin bulged as if something moved beneath. The captain's body arced backwards with an unnatural bend of his spine, his face contorting in a mixture of agonizing pain, and sensual ecstasy. Skin split and tore revealing black serpent scales. The captain's head snapped backwards with a loud crack, his body exploded as blood poured over the table, along with chunks of flesh and gore, as a coiled serpent grew unnaturally larger.
The snake's tail hung over the altar with pieces of flesh and hair stuck to it. The head of the snake arose as it scanned the room with its yellow eyes.
“What the fuck,” Ramirez exclaimed in disgust as he pulled out his pistol and fired.
The snake didn’t flinch, and it faced Ramirez who started to tremble in fear, dropping the gun onto the stone floor. Slithering off the table with majesty, the snake reared up before the soldier, and struck. Unhinging its jaw it snapped over the top half of Ramirez, lifting the man off the ground, feet kicked wildly as the snake started to swallow him whole.
Thomas turned and ran. Running through the shadowed tunnels with the sounds of squelching and crushing bone behind him. The beast roared and it was unlike anything Thomas had heard before. His legs gave out and he collapsed to the ground. Desperately he crawled on all fours into the cave of discarded clothes and bones. Burying himself, he lay still in the darkness as the sounds of scales scraping against stone passed by him.
Cowering in the darkness for as long as he could, Thomas prayed. The hissing of snakes hiding in the darkness was enough to drive him mad, and as he felt something brush against his leg, he soon found himself running down the stone corridor desperate for the light of day. When he reached the stairs that led outside, Thomas took cautious steps. Greeted by the pale light of day, Thomas saw that the storm had stopped, but the sky was still choked with thick gray clouds. A low fog weaved itself through the gnarled trees. It wasn’t until then that Thomas realized he was still clutching the book that he picked up off the cultist. Reason told him to drop it, but desire placed it in his pocket. Carbine in hand, Thomas moved on.
The town was empty as he walked away from the church. The wind wailed through the smashed windows of nearby houses. Thomas could only imagine that it was the demonic snake claiming its next meal. There was no way he was going to investigate, Thomas just wanted to get as far from his hellish place as possible.
It didn’t take long for him to find the abandoned barn, and he picked up his pack and what supplies he needed to get to Lyon. Thomas dared to look back towards the town before disappearing like a phantom into the thick fog covered forest. Fueled by fear and horrific images that stained his mind, Thomas ran until his legs collapsed with exhaustion. Sitting up against the trunk of a tree, Thomas stared at the roiling mists of the forest.
“Botis?” Thomas mouthed the name with confused naivety.
Something shifted within the fog, just out of his vision. A familiar sense of dread filled his being as his limbs began to tremble with paralytic futility. Slithering out of the fog was the demonic snake. Thomas attempted to stand, hoping to run away, but he froze. Botis reared up before him, yellow eyes held Thomas’s gaze as he stared upward.
“Don’t be sssscared child,” the snake spoke in a wheeze, uncomfortable tone, “You are needed for a greater purpose.” It hissed in delight as Thomas screams dissipated in the fog.
“Make sure you have your papers ready,” a man yelled loudly, as he walked through the cramped deck of the passenger ship.
Refugees and travelers shoved and jostled to try and be the first ones to disembark. The Statue of Liberty stood in its majesty welcoming those with the promise of a new life and opportunity. Relief filled their minds as they now felt safe to be away from the horrors of war. Thomas Richards walked unimpeded through the throng of bodies. Carrying only a book that he proudly displayed for those with curious eyes, Ars Goetia. Anyone who tried to stop him were turned away with just a glance, people whispered that they saw yellowed serpentine eyes. Those who heard him whisper heard only one word, “Farmouth”.