The Cave of Red Flies
In a valley amongst the cliffs and hills to the southwest shores of the Mazandaran Sea, there is a small village, as peaceful and prosperous as it is gripped by holy dread. Burried against the cliff sides in the lush jungle that surrounds this village lies The Cave of Red Flies. The locals here do not go near The Cave, they do not like to speak of it. Asking about it was a mistake; they do not trust me now. I am being followed. They do not want me going near the cave.
With the aid of some wine and much coin, from one individual I was able to hear at least part of the tale. He first recounted to me what his parents once told in hushed and fearful voices; do not go near where the red eagle flies at night they said, do not look at it if you see it, do not listen to it if it speaks to you, run away, go inside. And never, ever go into the place where you hear the sound of the flies.
I asked him if he had ever seen it. They all saw it with their heart, he said. They could feel the dread building up in their throat, and they knew it was near. People awoke breathless, in a cold sweat, as they felt its hate and heard footsteps on their roof. But they saw it with their eyes, too. Pregnant women and their families too saw him, standing outside their homes during the night, lewdly taunting them. Old, sick, or injured men would sometimes see him as they came back through the jungle, or as they looked out into the night. The shepherd boys in the far fields saw him the most; they would see their flocks become gripped with noise and dread, and then they knew that it was sitting on some far rock or tree limb, watching. But it was the few unlucky fishermen that saw him the closest; he would sweep over them while they were at sea, and stand on the water in front of them. They would close their eyes for hours and pray, until their heart grew warm once more and they knew it had gone. And it only rarely happened, but when a shepherd, or a boy who had been playing in the jungle, or a fisherman who had been out too late failed to show up, the villagers knew what had happened.
I left town the following day, heading towards southward along the road. I heard them following me still through the brush, for almost an hour. When I was sure I was alone, I turned back. As I rode north, the warm forests grew thicker and thicker, until eventually I had to tie my camel, and make my own way towards the northern hills. It took me the better part of the day to make my way around to the hills north of town, where I knew the cave would lie. I began to search in earnest, searching every crag amongst the underbrush for signs of the cavern.
As the sun was near setting, I grew weary of the hike, the insects, and of the pervasive and humid heat. I sat down upon a fallen log, and stared distantly into the forest. If I did not find the cave soon, I would have to abandon the search for tomorrow. That's when I felt my heart grow tight and cold with dread, and I looked up to see the great beast fifty paces from me, standing upon a tree-limb as if he weighed nothing, and staring into my soul. It had smooth red skin like that of a frog, had the body of a bare man, legs like those of an eagle, and four crimson-feathered wings. I could not see his head or face, or more likely my sanity forbids me from remembering. But I remember those two great eyes, impossibly large, shining with an intelligence like laughing fire. Suddenly I could hear a great buzzing of flies, and I knew the cavern entrance was somewhere beneath where he stood, and I felt him promise me the visions that then danced before my eyes, visions of everything I had ever and would ever lust for.
I have no shame in recounting how I ran, scraping and cutting myself against the forest's thorns, battering my bones against the ground as I fell again and again in my desperate fleeing terror. Surely the great beast let me escape, but I knew he knew as well as I that it was not from him I ran, but the promise of my own dark fulfillment.
- Excerpt from the Diary of Ilyās Cyrus Ya'fir, Alchemist.
Book of Eleven Hours, Volume IV