We’re in deep shit, in deep fucking shit!
First, there’s some eldritch fucking being trying to destroy our reality. Second, Omega, headquarters top guys are most likely dead. And third, they plan on performing a cleansing without knowing that it won’t do jack shit!
After Theodor had pinpointed Athena’s location, we continued on our way through the disgusting network of flesh-tunnels.
There was nothing else we could do. Even if we’d find our way outside, even if we tried to ignore the literal end of the world, we’d never outrun a cleansing should they give the order. We were fucked, majorly fucked. Our only hope was to somehow stop an eldritch being, even though it was absolutely impossible.
I would’ve laughed about all of this, if it wouldn’t mean that I was most likely a dead man. Hell, none of this even mattered if the thing actually came through.
And so I trudged after Theodor as he led me through tunnel after tunnel. We encountered more creatures, more of those strange flesh formers, but they didn’t seem to care about us at all.
I felt a shower running down my spine when I heard Theodor mumbling in a language I didn’t understand whenever we were close to them. His eyes were wide and unfocused as he did so.
“What are you-?” I whispered, but the way he glanced at me made me shut up.
Theodor looked terrible as he dragged himself forward. At one point he staggered and spat blood on the floor.
“There’s something else in my fucking mind, not just me, not just,” he continued mumbling indistinguishable, pushing himself against the wall, panting.
“Are you okay?”
He gave me a grin. But it was a pained caricature of his usual one.
On our way we came upon strange idols, twisted statues created by the creatures populating this womb in awe of their disturbing god.
With each tunnel we passed, the pressure on my mind was rising. I popped two more mind blockers, but they did little. A third one was already in my hand, but I knew what had happened to Sandra. No, I’d most likely erase my mind than to keep out the ghastly influence.
Finally, Theodor stopped and pointed ahead. I saw nothing. The tunnels were all but the same.
Only when we got closer did I notice something on the ground. It took me a while before I recognized it as Hephaestus’ energy weapon. I lifted the heavy weapon off the ground, but saw that it was busted. Cursing, I dropped it again.
“Are they nearby?” I asked, turning to Theodor.
Once more, he closed his eyes before he gave me a curt nod.
We continued on and soon entered a wider area, a congregation of tunnels.
I’d barely taken a few steps when I noticed a tethered body leaning against a wall.
I stormed over, but it still took me a few moments to recognize him. It was Hades. His body was in terrible state. Half his face was bloodied and his head was strangely concave. His lower body, though, was by far the worst and covered in deep, gorging wounds. I was sure that the man was dead, but then his eyes opened and focused on me.
“Holy shit,” I brought out.
He opened his mouth, started coughing, and brought out a surge of blood. For a moment he was shaking, then his eyes focused on me again. He lifted one of his hands and I took a hold of it. At that moment I noticed the many small robots surrounding his body, busily working and seemingly the only reason he was still alive.
“Shit, man, hold on, I’m-“ I started.
I was about to bring out a healing contraption, but when he pressed my hand with more force than I’d thought possible, I stopped.
He opened his mouth again, throwing up more blood, but then he started to talk. His voice was weak, a wet gurgling that sounded far from anything human.
“We thought we were prepared, we thought we were, but something like this… there’s been nothing like it. A-Class, forming a cluster.”
“Fused together, forming into a single body with such… such power.”
He broke up again and for a second his eyes fell shut again.
“Hades! Hey, speak to me!”
“Took Athena,” he finally brought out. “I think, they wanted her, need her for, god… killed Hephaestus, killed Ares… I barely survived, but only because of them…”
He lifted part of his armor and I could see that his body torn apart, but covered in a plethora of the small robots. I grimaced when I saw flesh moving and organs slipping around.
His breath came in hard bursts. For a moment he started convulsing before his hand slipped from mine in search of something.
“There’s no more time,” he cursed.
“Shit, then what are we supposed to do? What can we do?”
This time his eyes grew hard and a sound that might have been a laugh escaped his mouth.
“There’s nothing you can do. Not someone like,” he couldn’t continue as his body began shaking again.
Then he brought out whatever he’d been looking for.
“An energy blocker, won’t do much, but,” he broke up, strained himself, trying to hand it to me.
I took the item from his hand and gave him a nod. As I did, he stared first at me and then gave Theodor a hard stare before his eyes fell shut.
At this moment, Theodor came forward and before I could do or say anything, he closed his hand around Hades’ neck and twisted. There was a sickening crunch and his body grew still, this time forever.
“What the hell did you-?”
“His eyes, he wanted to this. He didn’t have long and he was suffering.”
“But, how could you just? Fuck!”
I stared at him, at his cold hard eyes, his tired face and his sweaty, shaky body. Suddenly, another thought came to my mind. Those mumblings, the way all those creatures ignored him, the way he’d killed Hades without a second thought. Could I even… trust him anymore?
I was torn from my thoughts when Theodor spoke up again.
“Where the hell do you want to go?”
“To where they took Athena.”
“And then what? What do you think we can do?”
He stayed quiet and shrugged before he moved on.
Right at this moment I felt some sort of pressure probing me and I saw how some sort of small creature pushed itself from the wall and focused on me. I was about to pull out my gun, but before I could, Theodor sent it back to where it had come from with nothing more than a wave of his hand.
More of them were around. They were small things, no bigger than my head, but I felt a terrible power from them. I was almost clutching onto Theodor, almost pushing myself against him as he walked on, unfazed. The creatures, in turn, ignored us entirely.
At one point, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In a different tunnel, branching off to our right, another person staggered
At one point, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In a different tunnel, branching off to our right, I saw another person. My first idea was that it was Athena, that she’d somehow escaped, or hell, that she’d stopped whatever was going on. I was about to rush in her direction, but then I saw it was a man. He wasn’t a member of Omega, wasn’t someone from one of the support squads. No, he looked like a normal guy, wearing cargo pants and a slightly stained shirt.
But what was a normal person doing here? I told myself he had to be a survivor, that he’d somehow escaped from the fleshy walls, but how’d he made it so far? How was he just walking through the tunnels like that with all those creatures around? Something didn’t make sense, none at all.
I was about to approach the mysterious person when Theodor’s arm shot forward.
“Theodor, what are you-?” but he shot me another angry glare, one that told me to keep quiet.
From afar, the two of us watched as the man shuffled on. Suddenly the fleshy wall next to him burst open and one of the small creatures pushed itself out from it. I instantly pulled out my gun, but to my surprise, the creature ignored him. In stunned silence, both Theodor and I watched as the man vanished down the tunnel.
“What the hell’s going on?” I brought out in a whisper.
Theodor was still staring after the man, but I saw something on his face, something akin to… recognition.
“What is it?”
For a moment, he didn’t react before he shook his head.
As we continued on, I heard him mumble to himself, thinking aloud.
“Another one, another one like me,” I heard him.
“What do you mean?” I asked him, but when he turned to me, his face was empty, puzzled even. Then he shook his head again and moved on.
Eventually, the tunnel spread out, growing bigger, and from afar I could see it lead into a gigantic flesh chamber. The moment I stared ahead, my body tensed up, all the hairs on my body stood up and my instincts told me to get out of here, to run.
At first I didn’t understand why, but then, I knew.
In the center of the camber, I could see a ghastly amalgamation of flesh. It was a thing with too many arms, too many hands and far too much power, feverishly working on something.
Theodor moved on, undeterred by what the cluster of A-Class organisms, but for me, each step was a fight. I had to scream at myself, to command my legs to keep going, to follow him.
Then, I saw what they were working on. It was another strange twisted idol, an elongated piece of twisting, moving flesh.
And then, in utter horror, I noticed a face. I saw wide eyes, a mouth opened in perpetual scream. Even in this twisted form, I recognized those eyes, eyes that had been cold and hard before, but were now full of terror.
It was Athena.
They’d transformed her into, into this thing while she was still alive.
Oh dear god.
For a moment, I started shaking. I retched and almost vomited before I could get a grip.
I forced myself to look away from her and what those things were doing to her. As I scanned the room, I saw a shimmering, twirling opening of pure energy. A portal. With each twist, with each change to Athena’s body, it was bulging, then flattening again.
And yet, there were more faces, more wide eyes and open mouths. This portal, this entire portal, it was made of people. And like Athena, they all seemed to be alive, seemed to have been twisted and pushed together to create it.
As I stared at the unfathomable horror in front of me, I saw movement from a different part of the chamber. My eyes wandered to the spot, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A person. Not the man we’d seen before, but an older woman.
The surreal sight of an older woman in a fucking dress in this place made me almost laugh. After a while, though, I saw another person, and then another, all congregating around the portal.
I didn’t understand a thing. Why were they here? Why weren’t they being attacked?
As I watched them, I noticed how Theodor began moving towards the portal as well.
“Theodor, what the hell are you doing? We can’t just-“
I broke up. When he turned back to me, his gaze, his eyes, it was all different. He felt different. He didn’t feel like Theodor anymore, he felt alien. And then, for a moment, his eyes flared up, were glowing like those of the A-Class organism we’d been fighting.
Those mumblings, the way the creatures had ignored him, the powers he’d shown. Something had happened to him, something had changed and now, now he was…
“Oh god, no,” was all I brought out.
With a wave of his hand, he set me flying, and I crashed against the wall next to us.
The air was pushed from my lungs. I felt ribs break and slumped to the floor.
I felt blood in my throat and when I tried to get up, I noticed the odd angle of my lower leg. In a mixture of surprise and indifference, I stared at the broken leg, unable to even feel the pain.
I wondered why he hadn’t killed me, but I remembered what Hades had handed me. An energy blocker. I’d wondered what he’d meant, but now I understood. It was a device that blocked attacks, attacks from mental powers.
The only reason I was still alive was because of this damned device. And now, they wouldn’t even bother with me. I didn’t matter. I was nothing but a fly, an ant, a discarded, broken thing, not even worth the effort.
For a moment I just lay there, grinning, before I turned my battered body and stared ahead to where Theodor had joined the congregation.
There he stood, completely still, right next to the portal and in front of the cluster of A-Class organisms.
His eyes were glowing again, filled with the ghastly, alien light. No, I realized, not just his, all of their eyes were glowing and I could almost feel the power, the energy within them. I cringed as I felt it wash over me.
Theodor’s words came back to me.
‘Another one, another one like me.’
What if these people were like him, what if they’d all been turned, were all being controlled. But why, why’d they do this to normal people?
I finally understood. They were like him. Not because they were controlled, but because they were like Theodor. They all were infested by parasites.
The A-Class cluster stopped its feverish work, and only moments later the portal burst open.
I watched as a multitude of tentacles slithered from it, small, delicate tentacles. There were hundreds of them, thousands, and I watched as they slithered outward and towards the people who’d gathered around it. For a moment they were caressing them, probing them.
Then I watched in horror as they plunged into the first person. Skin was torn, flesh was shredded as the person was dismantled until nothing but a core remained. No, not a core, a parasite.
Then they moved on to the next person.
At that moment the A-Class cluster began moving again, forming something above the portal. It started twisting and rending flesh, tearing it from the walls and forming it into… something. Then the hands picked up the parasite delicately and plunged it into the mess of flesh.
‘It’s creating a new body for itself, an avatar, a proxy.’
That’s what Theodor had said, and that’s what was happening right in front of me. But why did it need those people, those parasites? None of it made any goddamn sense!
By now, another person had been shredded. Skin, flesh, and organs now covered the floor where the man had stood moments before.
And then, for a moment, Athena’s eyes found mine. I felt her mind, felt a surge of pure and utter despair, felt her pain, her terror, felt her pleading for me to release her, to end her. I cringed back and tried to push her presence away.
“No, I can’t, I can’t even fucking move anymore.” I broke up, tears streaming from my eyes.
Right at this moment, the tentacles approached Theodor. As they slithered over his body, my eyes grew wide.
“No, Theodor,” I brought out.
Mere moments before they plunged into him, I saw him strain, saw his body grow tense. The glow in his eyes abated, and the otherworldly energy left him.
And then, in the blink of an eye, he charged forward, right at Athena, and tore her to pieces.
A cacophony of screams echoed through the chamber, screams of anger. I saw the portal shimmering, saw it wavering before it turned into a vortex. Part of the tentacles retreated, but the wild fluctuations tore many of them apart.
A fresh assault of mental energy erupted, one of raw, burning anger, one so powerful the fleshy walls around me twitched and juddered.
As I lay there, I couldn’t believe what had happened. Theodor, he’d done it, he’d… stopped.
But, of course, it wasn’t so simple. And a moment later, I felt something new. I felt the will of the eldritch being, a will as strong as a universe, a command.
In the center of the chamber, I saw Theodor on the ground, but behind him, the cluster of A-Class creatures was cowering, twisting and changing. I could feel their terror, their pain as they were pushed together and formed into something new.
One after another their presences fizzled out as they were forced to sacrifice themselves, their power, adding it to the wavering portal to restore it.
And as I stared, I understood what had happened. Somehow, either by himself or in a last-ditch effort by Athena, he’d freed himself from their control and had tried to destroy the portal. But it had done nothing, it was only temporary. A minute set-back.
And right at this moment, the portal burst open again, this time bigger, more powerful than before, tearing apart the entire floor of the chamber.
And in this moment, I could feel the creature’s power, could feel the cosmic threat it presented. Tentacles pushed from the portal again. But these were more massive, borrowing deep into the walls of the womb, fusing with them.
For a moment, something terrible erupted from the portal to glance into our reality. It was nothing but an eye, an eye so big, so alien. It pushed me to the edge of sanity. A laugh escaped my mouth, a laugh of insanity before I gnashed my teeth, screaming at myself to not give into it.
Then it was gone again, and a moment later, the small, delicate tentacles were back to continue their work.
And there I was, all by myself, battered and broken, half insane, lying there on the floor and could do nothing but watch.
Fuck monsters and fuck the end of the world.