He threw the cluster of eyeballs out almost reflexively, and the thing rolled on the ground a few times before being swallowed by the wet and thick, dark red moss on the ground.
But from the beginning to the end, those round pupils were always gazing in Evan's direction.
This scene completely shattered Evan.
Evan hugged his head with his hands, and he knelt down slowly with his back against the wall of the corridor. The deep, indescribable despair finally engulfed him entirely.
The young and bloodlessly pale mage apprentice completely surrendered. He abandoned the idea of escape and relinquished any and all contemplation of what had brought this series of events on, and gave up on the any hope of returning to his former life.
He felt like a flame on the verge of extinguishing, with only a last bit of orange light and heat remaining.
"What the hell do you want?!!"
Evan curled up his body like a baby, and his frame shivered uncontrollably.
With his ears covered, his own whispers sounded unnaturally loud.
Oh no, they still sounded like a human language, but...
There were differences.
Evan could swear that, in reality, no one would comprehend what he uttered. When those words emerged from the mage apprentice's swollen throat, they resembled a sequence of muffled sobs.
However, someone—or something—responded to Evan's vague murmurs.
That eerie sound grew louder than ever.
This seemingly endless tunnel, resembling the insides of a living creature, started to vibrate incessantly.
Evan felt a damp and supple sensation on his back, as if someone had woven a gigantic blanket out of raw meat and attempted to wrap him up from behind.
Evan struggled faintly, akin to a hapless insect ensnared within a spider's web and injected with anesthesia.
Nonetheless, he promptly relinquished the struggle, and his head swam slightly.
A soothing itch arose from his back, and Evan turned his head somewhat dazedly. He observed his pale skin—it had fused with the dark red tunnel's surface. The numbing, itching feeling was caused by this.
"Are you going to consume me?" Evan muttered, his words infused with an almost imperceptible sense of relief.
Was he finally going to be free of this torment?
That grinding sound grew more distinct.
Soon, Evan had no choice but to relax his body: additional tentacles dangled from the dome's ceiling, coiling around Evan's limbs like famished venomous serpents.
Evan stared at them vacantly, his head lowered. He observed numbly as the diminutive tentacles akin to coral branches made contact with his flesh—then the assimilation commenced.
A familiar itch arose from the flesh in contact with the tentacles, and Evan's skin soon acquired the translucent hue of those tentacles.
"Hee hee hee…"
Evan discerned a laugh, although it took him a while to register that it was his own.
Indeed, it was he who was laughing.
"This isn’t real."
Evan heard himself murmur in that eerie tone.
Yes, this could not be real. He was just dreaming, ensnared in a nightmare.
Such a scene could only unfold in nightmares—he was becoming one with some sort of monstrosity, and their forms were gradually merging.
This was something that was impossible in reality.
All of this existed solely within his thoughts.
Yes, after all, even this so-called chamber was, in essence, a product of his "imagination."
Evan's frayed nerves slackened, and he sensed himself liquefying like soft butter placed above a fireplace. His skin became malleable, damp, and slowly tricked away, drop by drop...
Thud, thud... thud...
Within the ears of the expressionless apprentice mage, those tentacles writhed simultaneously, their mucous-laden flesh brushing against Evan's ear canal, producing a slight sound.
“Evan— Evan— You—”
It was a distinctly bizarre and awkward sound, resonating from the depths of Evan's ear canal via those minuscule tentacles.
Despite Evan's conviction that he had completely given up on any hope of survival, his frame quivered involuntarily upon hearing the voice.
It seemed vaguely familiar.
Like that of a certain sea gnome's voice.
However, Evan was sure that this voice could not have come from his hapless former roommate, for even the dimmest of individuals would be able to sense the disconcerting undertones infused in that voice...
It was unspeakably contorted...
It felt as though some entity that went against all laws, a creature that should not exist within this realm, had borrowed the sea gnome's vocal cords to convey a message to Evan.
It was using that sea gnome’s voice...
to repeatedly say Evan's name.
It took Evan a long time to realize that his question was being addressed.
“What the hell do you want?!!” — Evan had once posed this question.
And now, the response was forthcoming.
Yes, what they wanted was Evan.
They yearned for him.
In the ensuing moments, he "saw" something: not through his eyes (his eyeballs had been encased in a dense entanglement of tentacles and subsequently dissolved), nor through any of the senses he knew of, and yet, he still "saw" it.
From a pragmatic standpoint, it was basically impossible to describe its appearance using human language, but if Evan had to do so, that thing could probably be likened to a mess of... evil shadows.
Indeed, it was profoundly malevolent and extremely distorted, as if even light and time could not escape being intertwined as they flowed across the surface of this entity.
Innumerable tentacles merged with the swirling nebula, contorting, wriggling, morphing incessantly into dark shapes.
And at the very heart of this assemblage of shadows resided two nebulous lights, one crimson and the other yellow.
They were eyes.
Evan finally understood a certain truth...
He had already departed from his "chamber”, and left the tunnel reminiscent of a dark creature's innards behind. He had already distanced himself from the only place that could provide him some protection.
He floated amid the stars, exposed and vulnerable, beneath “His” scrutiny.
And even though it was only a gaze...
A mere gaze...
——Evan unleashed an unending scream that did not resemble any sound a human could make.