Darkened alleys, blackened doorways and the interminable dust of ages passed in review as Marius continued his tortuous route. The call was getting stronger; a pulsing beat in his febrile mind. There was an unspoken promise, also a need, yet Marius concentrated solely on the resonating ring in his head.
Time passed slowly; each drag, each fall brought him a little closer to his objective. He did not marvel at the intricate architecture, its whorls and circles, nor at the obvious craftsmanship, its taste not quite human. His route took him past a domed building, strangely carved structures peppering its walls. There was no pause to enjoy the innate beauty demonstrated there, only the desperate need to keep going.
Dust filled what was left of his mouth, his blindness had long ago turned into piercing vision, yet this heightened gaze saw only one mote of dust after another. Where he slid, no foot had passed in eons, his tormentors had obviously taken another route.
At long last he reached an open grating set low against the wall of a building. The metal tines were twisted and torn, their still sharp edges ripping at his flesh as he pulled himself through. As he fell down a steep incline, tumbling and turning, he only felt relief. He had arrived at last.
Shan ran on towards the Tower, his men following behind as best they could. He too took little notice of his surroundings, not because he was physically incapable, but rather because they were of no interest to him. The howls continued and were closing in, making him increase his speed. Those behind him were expendable and he wanted the barrier of their presence in between him and whatever was making that noise.
With a cry of triumph, he reached the central square, the Tower rising from the exact middle of the cobbled area. Alien statues sat at measured intervals around the outside of the plaza, but he only saw the immense circular shape thrusting skywards. Eight separate exits neatly split the otherwise continuous wall formed by the surrounding buildings and their shadowed openings promised dark and mysterious secrets.
His search became more and more frantic as he raced around the Tower’s base; all that faced him was a smooth and impenetrable façade. There was no door, no windows and he now howled in frustration.
From each and every one of the mouth-like exits came an echoing peal of noise and Shan span to face first one, then another of them. Vague, misshapen forms moved just at the edge of his vision and he called urgently to his men to join him.
Marius slipped and rolled, tumbled and fell for what seemed an endless time, his body finally slamming into a waist high wall and coming abruptly to rest. He scanned about, the expected absence of light surprisingly missing. A glow infused the area, highlighting the piles of skulls and other bones, haphazardly strewn before him.
Looking up, he saw a hole in what he assumed was the roof, a perfectly circular opening from which the light cascaded downwards. There was something else, hidden from his view by the wall, on a kind of raised platform, but right now he was just glad that he had stopped moving. The urge to crawl forward was still there, in a dull aching sort of way, but not as pressing. It seemed as though he would be allowed to gather his breath, to recover a little, as though whatever called him knew he would need all of his remaining strength for one more task.
Viker heard them before he saw them, a clicking and scrabbling of claws preceding their appearance. He sensed Johns’ shared anticipation for the coming fight, his growl now deep in his throat, presaging the violent explosion of movement to follow. Darkness had yet to fall fully, but it would be soon in coming. Long shadows cast by rubble and hillocks covered dips in the land with night’s blackness and it was from one of these hidden areas that Viker had heard the tell-tale noises.
His squad had fanned out around Johns’ and his position, utilising whatever cover that they could find. All of their weapons were pointed towards the area indicated by the tense and straining figure of Johns. Unannounced, Viker saw a pair of baleful green eyes which caught the dying rays of the sun. Suddenly there were more, a mass of writhing bodies becoming slowly visible. His growl too joined that of Johns. Fingers tensed on triggers, and prayers were intoned as the monstrous creatures slunk out of the shadows and into the last remaining light.
Once more the urgent impulsion came and Marius struggled on mal-formed limbs over the wall. He slid amongst one pile of bones, which crumbled into dust as he passed. Clearing the wall, he sank into them, a cloud of powder puffing up at his passing. Laboriously he approached the centre, around which appeared a more clearly defined pattern of bones, as though someone had deliberately placed them there with some actual design in mind. They flared outwards in mimicry of two giant wings, arched as though suspended in mid-beat.
The previously rapid mutation of his body had slowed almost to a standstill, his bones still retaining a vaguely humanoid shape. Using clawed and twisted hands, he dragged himself up to the central dais and flopped onto its flattened upper surface. Before him was a throne, or that was what it appeared to be and resting upon it was a pair of bloodied wings, seemingly ripped recently from some creature, a red fluid dripping slowly down their length.
Still the call was relentless, drawing Marius’ broken frame forwards, ever closer to the stone seat and that which it held. With an overpowering compulsion driving him on, Marius finally reached the chair and raised one shaking and disfigured hand towards the bloody remains resting there.
Shan felt the moment Marius reached the throne and despair swamped him, as he realised he had failed. His link with the now half-mutated individual was still strong and when Marius’ crumpled fingers made contact with the eternally bloody flesh, he knew, deep down inside himself a long wailing cry sounded.
It was as if some playful god had stopped time, or at least let it play forward, but only frame by frame. A beam of light seemed to peek out of the Tower’s tip and almost shyly rise skywards. Little by little night became day, as the brilliant energy bathed the whole area. The Tauran Adept saw his men’s mutilated and rotting faces turn in slow motion, their howls of anguish coming forth only as deep bass moan. Spittle which flecked their decaying lips, fell, but only drop by drop, as though reluctant to touch the floor and break the spell.
The creatures which flowed out from the darkness, did so step by step, their wings tucked against their backs. They were all that was left of the great creature’s offspring and their hunger glinted manically in their eyes. Mouths slowly opened, betraying razor sharp teeth and their ululating tone seemed to go on forever.
All at once, real time returned and the noise of battle crashed in upon Shan. His people’s moans were neither pleas nor battle cries, yet they gave up their half-lives almost loyally in his defence. Short foreclaws tore at them, as teeth snapped closed on the undeads’ limbs and Shan smiled, his evil and lascivious version of a smile that is.
That which made up the disease which held the zombies to their pitiful version of life replicated, its new spawning ripping energy from its now dying parent. Almost gleefully, this spores burrowed their way into the creatures throats, and gums, wriggling into their bloodstreams and changing their allegiance in a less than complicated, but extremely effective attack.
Then Shan felt better, he saw his new minions turning to snap at their brothers and sisters, no longer interested in his death, but rather the prevention of it. He glanced once at the Tower and grinned, it was not yet over.
The instant his fingers brushed against the extremities of one bloody wing, Marius was lost. An electric charge shot down his arm and his body jerked rigid, and began to smoke with the transfer of what was an inconceivable level of energy. His already pliable skin began to melt once more and his mouth opened in a silent scream. In his head, he thought he heard a dry chuckle, but was unsure.
That which Shan had given him was burnt away, literally, flesh flashing into vapour, with the accompanying smell of charred meat. He could only hold onto the core that was Marius, that and the gift he had been given by Walters. It did not seem as though it could be enough, as bones began to be visible, beneath the remains of muscles and tendons. A cracking and shattering sound echoed round the chamber and he bent double as his spine split in two. Still his finger melded to the winged remains and yet more energy was discharged into his body.
His collapsing frame fell forward onto the chair, his chest now impacting onto its seat and the rest of the remains held there. Marius could not think, could not see and did not care, as the pain became his whole world. Like limpets, tendrils slashed outwards and stuck to him, sucking yet more of his essence and deflating what had become little more than a bag of flesh further.
At last, it was all one, a pulsing sack of bones, flesh and liquid, from within which Marius clung onto the most tenuous of holds on life. It began to solidify, lengthening and thinning out, bones re-meshing and limbs reforming. A translucent skin covered it all, and beneath could be seen a constantly moving liquid. The skin hardened, the form becoming rigid on the throne and the lights flashed and played against the pupae that now waited for rebirth.
Viker watched surprised as the emerging creatures stopped and melted back into the shadows. He sensed rather than saw them turn and race towards the distant Tower and whatever called them. He and Johns, along with the rest of their squad, saw the gigantic beam burst skywards, and with no single word of agreement exchanged, they started forwards. The Tower seemed to be calling them too, and they still had a long way to go.
Looking fondly at his new creatures, Shan smiled, this was now going to be much easier. He could send these things to do his bidding, perhaps even one of them would be big enough to carry him? That though was a risk he would rather avoid.
Strangely enough, he began to hear more of the hooting and howling calls and wondered whether his luck could get any better. That was until the first of them swooped out of the sky and slammed into his recently won followers. He saw others take flight and launch themselves towards the heights of the Tower, their looping and circling motion almost a display of joy and love.
What was happening? Everything had been going so well and now? It was then he heard the unmistakable snarl of the accursed Walters’ men and turned to flee. There would be another day.
Inside the Tower, the pupae moved once more. Strange protrusions pushed and strained against the once more malleable skin, desperately looking for a way out. A small tear was formed, which widened and lengthened, fluid weeping out and dripping down the throne’s side.
One by one, the surviving offspring winged their way downwards, until they sat, hunched and expectantly waiting, like loving parents awaiting their first born.
Then with a tearing sound, the pupae split in half, spilling its contents onto the dais. The strange howling, hooting noise began again, this time quiet and restrained, as Marius rose from amongst the sticky remains.
Guest post with D.P. Prior
Hace 2 años