The darkness pressed in around Brien like a blanket wrapped tightly around a sleeping toddler; it was complete, it was absolute. He didn’t know where he was, he just knew that he wanted to be out of this place as soon as humanly possible. He couldn’t see anything at all, and the silence in the room─ if it was, indeed, a room that he was in─ was deafening. Even though there was no light and no sound, there were definitely smells. The fragrance of burning wood hung thick in the air, but there was another scent mixed in with it. Brien couldn’t quite put his finger on what the smell was, but he didn’t like it; he thought it smelled like roasting flesh.
Brien held out his hands and felt through the emptiness around him as he started to walk, trying to figure out where, exactly, he was.
“Hello?” he called, and the darkness absorbed the sound. There was no echo. Brien stopped walking, suddenly terrified of going one step too far and tumbling off the edge of wherever he was and falling through the darkness for eternity. “Hell─” he started to call, but as soon as he opened his mouth, the darkness that was surrounding him seemed to come alive. He could feel it moving and pulsating around him. The darkness crept along his skin like beads of perspiration and made his flesh break out in goose bumps. He tried to speak again and then some of the darkness forced its way down his throat.
Coughing and gagging, Brien started to move again, now desperate to find his way to any form of light. He could feel the darkness spreading within him, painting itself across and claiming every part of his insides it could reach. He fell to his knees, the darkness that was now spreading across his lungs suffocating him.
And then there was light and the darkness retreated. Brien audibly sucked back oxygen and looked around for the source of the light. A pyre towered in front of him, already ablaze; the light that had so suddenly filled the room was the golden glow from the fire. At first, he couldn’t tell whether or not there was a person strapped to that heap of wood, but then he smelled roasting flesh again, and the scream that pierced the air like a sharpened dagger cutting through skin froze his blood.
Suddenly he could make out the outline of a person engulfed in flames and screaming for life. Brien got to his feet and walked closer to the burning man. The closer he got, the more it felt like it was his own skin that the flames were licking. He opened his mouth to speak and coughed out smoke. He could feel himself being burned from the inside out; his lungs blistered from the heat of the fire. The room was suddenly too hot for him to handle. He fell to his knees once again and cried out as he felt his skin begin to melt away; one look at his hand showed him his skin dripping away in grotesque globs. The sight of the exposed muscles and bones that were now outrageously visible made his stomach twist and turn and lurch in ways that he had never thought possible. He forced himself to look up at the burning man once more as he felt the flames tickling the back of his eyeballs and tried to fight the terror that he was suddenly submerged in. He struggled to see past the fire that had sprung to life within him and could finally make out the figure. He was the one that was strapped to the pyre, being burned alive for something that he hadn’t done.