A vortex opened in the sky and deposited me on a hill. After I managed to untangle myself and climb to my feet, I noticed that the hill was overlooking a town. In the distance was a castle. A billow of black smoke rose from the castle, spreading across the sky and blotting out the sun. And within the smoke were hundreds of tortured faces contorted in pain. Screams erupted from those faces, screams that smote my ears with such torment that it drove me to my knees.
Movement caught my eye near the town, and I shifted my gaze, glad to be distracted from the castle and its horrific smoke. The town was on fire. Here and there flames rose above the timber used to construct the houses, licking at the air, their dark smoke adding to the pall that hung like a dark oppression over the countryside. From the castle side of the town, a road stretched forward toward the castle. And on this road materialized a long progression of people. The people were shackled and stumbled under the weight of their chains as they were propelled forward by the whips and hateful cries of mounted figures clad in black. As with the castle and the town and the whole of the world as near as I could tell from my vantage point overlooking that town, a dark pall hung over these people, or at least for the most part a pall hung over them. There was one strange exception. Near the middle of the line, one of the prisoners shown with a golden glow. I couldn’t quite make out his features. The glow for the most part obscured the details of his countenance from me. But I could see enough of his features to make out his expression. He turned and appeared to notice me. At first, he was surprised; then he gestured forward towards the front of the line. I followed his gesture to where a standard bearer rode quietly at the front of the procession. For a moment, I was at a loss to see what the man wanted me to see. But then a gust of wind took the flag and unfurled it. Had I not been on my knees already, I most certainly would have fallen. The flag was none other than our own Stars and Stripes, the standard of the United States of America, or at least a parody of it. The blue field had been replaced with a black one and held a symbol other than stars, but it was not a symbol I was unfamiliar with. It was a crescent moon encased within a pentagram. It was the symbol of the Brotherhood.
I gaped for several long seconds. I could do nothing more. I could not find the strength to do anything more. But then a commotion caught my eye. The golden man was shouting at me. I shifted my gaze and was alarmed to find that he was not the only person to notice me. One of the guards raised his rifle and leveled it at me. The report of the rifle shattered the silence, and I saw the bullet, as if it traveled with the speed of a butterfly, coming straight at my chest. I tried to move, but found I couldn’t. The same force that seized me in the library seized me now, and I was helpless as the bullet hurled along its trajectory straight for my heart.
I screamed, and the world collapsed around me.
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