Author: AlexiVoid

Ghostwriting; Brought to you Live from the Crazy Imagination of Yours Truly.

[A Lesson in Composition: Part I]

Hyde hadn’t taken note of the time when it had stood up and started walking. It wasn’t keeping track of how long it had been trudging along Cirxci’s scorched and barren landscape either. Lost in its thoughts, trying to rationalize why it had left the mothership, its family and its friends behind, it hadn’t even noticed the increasing wind speeds. It was only when its eyes shifted their focus to the layer of soil blowing across its boots did it lift its head to the horizon, “… Oh, for the love of…” The cyborg yelled as the human half of its face flushed red in aggravation, “EAT A FUCKING DICK CIRXCI!!”

As if they hadn’t had enough to deal with that day, now there was a 2000 foot tall wall of sand barreling down on them from the far side of the foothills. Before Hyde could think of reacting, the entire area was awash in dirt and dust, reducing the cyborg’s visibility and mobility to virtually non-existent. Doggedly, Hyde dug its heels into the ground, tightened its grip on Basha and reminded itself breathing was a weak     exercise in biology meant for actual human beings.

“Now what?” It pondered as it turned on its thermal sights, its frustrations quickly escalating. Faustus hadn’t given it any real orders. He hadn’t told it to leave, where to go or what it was supposed to do when it got there. Hyde thought it had picked up on what it had assumed were the plague doctor’s cues to hide Basha and, “… Keep going, I guess?” It couldn’t possibly head back towards the Ezramatheia, the mothership had been nothing more than a smudge in the distance when the storm had engulfed her, making her disappear altogether.

Hyde lowered its head and pushed forward, reaching the top of the steep incline it had been climbing at what felt like a snail’s pace. Once there, it was but barely able to make out the crumbling walls indicative of an abandoned settlement. Hyde’s joy was short-lived however, replaced by foreboding and dread as it soon realized it would find no shelter in the razed homes and demolished buildings that remained inside. Determined to make it out of the storm, Hyde nonetheless scaled the rock slabs and attempted to step its way through the rubble. Attempted… because no sooner was it able to stretch its hand out towards the nearest residence did a freak gust of wind knock it over sideways. With nothing to hang on to or brace itself with, Hyde tripped and fell face-first into a wide gaping hole. Tumbling down a decrepit set of wooden stairs, the cyborg was forced to send Basha rolling as it slammed into the packed earth below with enough impact to snap its already warped and weakened gas mask cleanly in two. The cyborg punched the ground in anger, pushing itself up into a sitting positing with its fists as its flailed and irritated skin flared up again, this time as red as wildfire. Blaming the sheets of coarse particles billowing over their heads for the tears welling up in its eyes, Hyde carefully climbed back up the partially broken staircase. Sticking its nose out into the raging storm, it found the dilapidated doors and quickly closed them, ingesting a mouth full of sand through its newly exposed gullet as it did so.

Hyde dusted off its arms and wiped its face, sliding down the stairwell as it unclipped its officially useless gas mask from behind its ears. “Least Basha is unconscious,” it thought as it caught a glimpse of its reflection in the scratched but polished surface. Not like its ugly fucking mug had ever been a particularly huge secret. Hyde had long been self-identifying as a tin can when an industrial accident had liquefied everything from the bridge of its nose, to its temples, all the way down its throat to its stomach. It had taken life-saving bypass surgery, countless skin grafts and state-of-the-art prosthetic implants for the “miracle” that was Hyde to keep living, so living it kept doing… Although how it was at all functional right at that moment, it wasn’t entirely sure.

With the flimsy doors rattling against their hinges and threatening to fly away at any minute, Hyde stood up and tucked its mask pieces into its pockets as its vision adjusted itself to their new surroundings. Sand continued to pour through the cracks and holes running across what could barely be called a ceiling while the few windows capable of being described as such had been covered up and buried eons earlier. Once again picking up Basha, Hyde wandered towards the back of the cellar, using the bright light of his reactor to help it reach the far wall before it walked into it. It was here, behind a broken door, where it found the ratty bed frame with the sagged and yellowed mattress, relieved it finally had somewhere to put Basha down, “For your preliminary examination, ya fucking princess.” Hyde was unable to make any kind of sound without the artificial larynx connected to the bottom of its gas mask. It didn’t stop it talking to itself or giggling like the girl it had once been as it climbed the bed and sat on him. Ripping his shirt off to get a better look, Hyde then had the fantastic idea of tying his wrists to the metal bars that made up the tiny bed’s headboard, “So you won’t throw me off if you decide you’re waking up.” Hyde said to itself.

Shuffling itself into position on Basha’s stomach, Hyde worked its fingers up his chest to the metal plates that surrounded his modulator shaft and the now dimming reactor attached to it. Using the tube that replaced its breathing pipe to blow the dirt and dust that covered his artificial heart, Hyde placed its hands on his shoulders and bent its ear towards his face to check if there was any air coming out of his lungs. There wasn’t. Nearly panicked, Hyde pried open his mouth and forced air down his throat as it applied compression underneath his plates. It then repeated this process until Basha convulsed into a coughing fit, thrashing about the bed but not yet waking up. Annoyed and frustrated at his failure to resuscitate, Hyde took the knife Mercy had given it out of its boot and slid down to Basha’s belt, using the sharp tip of the blade to unscrew the tiny bolts that kept the reactor in its place. In a matter of moments, Basha had grown an erection, his reactor light flickering ominously as, traumatized and confused, Hyde froze in wide-eyed shock at the bulge it felt underneath all their layers of clothing. It moved its waist around, overwhelmed by the deluge of forgotten female emotions it felt, yet mildly intrigued by the strange turn of events, “Everyone knows I was a girl once… But you’ve never been interested in having me as anything more than your glorified mechanic without any benefits.” It watched Basha intently as it resumed its work, not moving from its position as the Mad Maestro’s protégé began bucking his hips between its legs. Distracted as it was, Hyde had nonetheless managed to remove another bolt when Basha tensed up and groaned, “…No… Erem… ssss… back…” He mumbled as his modulator began overheating and letting out smoke. There was a resounding ‘POP’ from somewhere inside his ribcage and then Basha fell limp, the glaring white light nearly blinding the cyborg before burning out and dying off completely.

“THAT’S what that was then? You’re hallucinating Eremis?” Hyde dug its nails into his abdomen and raked itself forward, “After I picked you up and dragged you out here to help you? Are you fucking kidding me?” Without another thought it had flipped Mercy’s knife on its head and bashed it into his reactor, which conveniently lay situated at the center of his chest plates. This resulted in more smoke and some coughing but no real sign of life, “I ditched the mothership, I might’ve lost my family, I didn’t see any of my friends. I haven’t fucking stopped…” Hyde’s frustrations were growing into full-blown rage as it slammed the handle into Basha’s chest over, and over and over again, “I left everything and everyone behind to take care of you and this is how you thank me? By losing what’s left of your stupid fucking shit over some brainless, suicidal fucking robot you’ll probably never see again? Are you being serious? You COLOSSAL… PIECE OF… FUCKING SHIT!!!” Unable to blame the sandstorm for the fresh flow of tears streaming down its face, Hyde was screaming when the knife handlr broke through the thin sheet that covered the reactor’s core. Smoke and steam gushed out of the fresh cracks spreading across his chest plates, sending shards of splintered metal and charred insect parts flying everywhere. Forced to cover its gullet and move its head back out of the way, Hyde’s sensors then picked up on the growing heat of an approaching lamp through the haze rapidly filling the room. Its eyes narrowing to slits at the potential threat, Hyde waited until the stranger had stepped through the threshold then whipped its knife at its head. The blade missed its mark by a mere half an inch, finding itself a new home wedged into the wooden doorway instead.

“I could hear you from outside.” Except Faustus wasn’t speaking out loud either. Barely audible over the incessant white noise in the background, he was   talking to Hyde through their fractured, hardly functional hive mind. His robotic voice echoed around the inside of its head, “Turn it down before you broadcast our location.” He placed his lamp on the floor and took off his satchel, pulling out two boxes and handing one to Hyde. The cyborg gave the plague doctor the side eye as it opened its gift, very nearly bursting into tears again when it saw what it had received as a present.

“How did you know?” Hyde asked as it held its new, lacquered black gas mask with gold trimmings in its hands before attaching it to its otherwise melted face. It fit Hyde like a glove, with the soft felt lining almost making it feel akin to one too. The cyborg reconnected its new larynx to its old breathing tube and let out a sigh, “Faustus, how did you know?” It asked again when the plague doctor didn’t reply, busy as he was making the final adjustments to Basha’s equally new, black lacquered reactor. Hyde and Faustus hadn’t been acquainted for long but the plague doctor had made it painfully clear he wasn’t much one for conversation. It didn’t matter how he knew things. He simply always knew.

“He’s breathing fine but his core’s as fried as his brain cells.” Hyde attempted to explain itself and what it had been doing but Faustus was polishing off Basha’s replacement heart and gesturing for it to move off the bed. Hyde complied, watching in silence as Faustus filled a syringe with what must’ve been proper anesthetics and injected its content directly into Basha’s neck. Then, faster than he’d gotten Eremis together, he removed the remaining bolts, pulled out the broken reactor, unfastened the collection of multi-colored wires that connected it to its shaft and plugged in the new one. Unlike the harsh white light his previous reactor had emitted, his new heart pulsed with a gentle blue glow that nearly matched his icy blue eyes. So much so that even the overburdened and increasingly exhausted Hyde found it oddly beautiful and thoroughly mesmerizing… Until it spun itself on its heels and pried its knife free from the door frame.

“Seriously, Faustus? You only got here and you’re already leaving again? Where’s the care and hospitality?” Hyde couldn’t quite believe it as the plague doctor filled the cracks in Basha’s chest plates, sanitized the sensitive skin that surrounded them, wiped off his needle and put his equipment away.

“… believe I’d stay?” The painful sting that followed his biting question,    amplified by what had transpired directly before his arrival, made Hyde snort. The sound of it came out like static through its unused larynx.

“Can you blame me for hoping you would? You know how much I absolutely fucking love baby-sitting. Especially when the kids are awake.” Hyde rolled its eyes as it used its knife to help remove the metal and plastic shards it found had embedded themselves in its skin. Blood trickled out of its wounds but without its nerve endings attached to its central nervous system, Hyde registered pain as well as it registered everything else.

“You’re self-mutilating.” Faustus’ voice kept ringing out from the back of it’s skull. The unexpected statement rattled it hard enough to make it flinch and it took it a few minutes before it found its words, “I am not. I’m a curious intellectual with the certified skills to install my own implants. It’s absolutely NOT because I have an actual fucking problem.” It stopped picking at its arms and looked up at Faustus, unable to read the expression on the perpetually apathetic doctor’s face. No one had ever seen him without his copper-beaked mask or his green-tinted copper goggles. If they had, no one had ever spoken of it, not even in hushed whispers. This rendered the genius that was Faustus mysterious, highly sought after and utterly unassailable, “Alright fineSometimes I do it on purpose but that doesn’t make me suicidal. If I was going to kill myself, I would’ve done it by now.” Hyde dug its broken mask pieces out of its pockets and waved them at him as proof it wasn’t lying.

“Who said suicide?” Faustus picked up his satchel and looped it closed,   leaving his lamp behind on the floor for Hyde and Basha to use. The cyborg almost fired back in self-defense, remembered Faustus had heard it yelling and quickly revised itself, “What am I supposed to do then? Sit and wait until princess wakes up?”

“Bring him to the mothership.” Faustus acknowledged, successfully passing on the orders he’d been given.

“Of course. Bring Basha back to the Ezram before Big Brother does it for us or else we’ll be in for a whole other layer of fucking hell.” Hyde yawning was all that stopped it from rolling its eyes again, picking up the lamp as it moved towards the bed and resting them both against it, “Have a safe trip back then, I guess. I’m taking a nap. I earned one.” With auxiliary sensors that never turned off, Hyde wasn’t truly able to sleep either. At best all it could do was put its operational systems on idle and shut its brain off for a while, something that didn’t exactly compare itself to rolling up in a king-sized bed with a dozen pillows and hibernating for a few days. It was one of the few human luxuries Hyde could honestly admit it missed. It closed its eyes, anticipating Faustus’ imminent departure but was surprised to find him still standing at its feet when it opened them again a short second later. He reached out his closed fist to Hyde’s cupped palms and dropped half a dozen, small clear pills in its hands. The cyborg examined the minuscule flashing nanobots inside before raising its head to thank Faustus for the favor, but the plague doctor had already run off and vanished.

“Looks like I get to join you after all, princess.” Hyde nearly smiled. Instead, it tried to send Faustus a massive grin through their short-ranged hive mind, unsure of whether it had worked or not. It then turned the lamp off, gently opened its gas mask and dropped two of the nanobots down its gullet; the android equivalent of sleeping pills.

Welcome to Wonderland.”

[Destruction in D Major: Part II]

Hyde had lied to Mercy of course. In reality, it had no idea where Faustus had gone. The carmine-colored, humanoid plague doctor had appeared out of virtually nowhere, showing no sign of trauma or injury as he had dragged Basha and Hyde out of the dirt and clear out of harm’s way. While a ragged but conscious Hyde had sat up and dusted itself off, Faustus had handed the cyborg its gas mask, saving it the embarrassment of discovering it had snapped off. He had then adjusted his green-tinted, copper goggles, gestured towards the nearby hills and, without a single word spoken from any of them, had spun on his heels and left. Severely disoriented and distracted, Hyde had barely kept an eye on him as he’d side-stepped the steaming, still rotating propeller blades and disappeared inside the ship faster than he’d reappeared.

So of course Hyde had lied to Mercy. Not only was it better than admitting it truly didn’t know anything, it had made it much easier to bear witness when Mercy had followed suit and vanished through her hull as well. But where the veteran hunter struggled to find his lost footing, Faustus was assuredly navigating his way towards what, until moments earlier, had been the Ezramatheia’s core. Masterfully tuning out the dying while simultaneously ignoring both the living and the dead, he ducked under dangling light fixtures, dodged flying debris and avoided electrical explosions along with the blazes they sparked. Keeping his already bottled up emotions in constant check, Faustus still thanked all the nameless celestial bodies in the sky when he finally relocated the sliding, reinforced steel doors that lead to His private quarters. It was here, he knew, where he would find his missing muse.

Faustus hadn’t quite understood the questionable chain of events that had resulted in Eremis’ arrival within the Maestro’s chambers, nor did he think he much cared to know the exact reasons why he’d chosen to keep her there. Faustus had simply lost the sound of her pulse amid the series of blasts and had immediately set out to discover what had happened, only finding the two of them together in time for the Maestro to lock him out of his rooms. Barely catching but a glimpse of Eremis’ tiny figure slumped into a chair with a blank, factory-set expression on her face, the plague doctor had been unable to determine if she’d been dormant or already dead. Then, their overburdened mothership had split apart, further separating him from his beloved mechanical doll.

Now, without another soul in sight and with the dim red lights already flickering from the mothership’s failing auxiliary power supplies, Faustus made a beeline for the keypad. Mindful of its broken screen, he reached in and jerry-rigged its wires, hacking the defective doors open but only wide enough for him to squeeze through.

“One hell of a fucking trip this turned into, didn’t it doc?” With more smouldering debris filling up the vestibule, it took Faustus well over a minute to realize the unfamiliar voice he heard belonged to the Maestro’s shell. Its human owner had evidently regained some measure of control over itself; with a half smoked cigarette hanging between its lips, it also had a nearly empty box of ammunition laying scattered between its splayed legs. Bruised and battered, the shell snorted smoke out of its nose in derision as Faustus wormed his way through the short and narrow passage, “I do have to say though, on behalf of everyone here, this is some thoroughly shitty timing on your part.”

Somewhat stunned by the sight that welcomed him on the far side of the entrance, Faustus chose to ignore the Maestro’s human host. While their mothership had all but imploded and rested herself in pieces among Cirxci’s mountains, the Maestro’s rooms were frozen in the exact same, pristine conditions they’d been in since the day he’d claimed them as his own. His pictures hung straight from uncracked walls while his furniture remained unmoved from their position on his undamaged floors. His vast book collection stood at proper attention on their respective shelves and his grand piano was propped open and ready to play. Even his fireplace was filled with logs, patiently waiting for its next fire to be lit… The only thing… The only problem

“I’ll save you the trouble doc,” The Maestro’s shell kept chuckling to itself as it struggled to load the semi-automatic handgun it had picked up, “dear dolly’s head went rolling under the bed before the explosion killed our dearly beloved alien overlord.” The human’s blatant sarcasm was completely lost on the emotionless plague doctor as he slowly turned around on himself, scanning the room until he finally spotted…

Pieces of his Eremis.

Her torso was the sole part of her still in the chair she’d been sitting in. Her feet had been thrown to the opposite corners of the living room, her legs buried in a heap with shoes in the back closet. Faustus picked up one arm from the trash bin near the bug-eyed shell while the other had been carelessly tossed in the fireplace… Yet another accident waiting to happen.

“I don’t know why you’re wasting your time trying to do that doc, this damned spaceship is dead and fucking done.” The Maestro’s human host seemed to love listening to itself talk as Faustus got to work reattaching Eremis’ severed limbs; her arms went seamlessly into their respective shoulders, her thighs to her lower torso, her calves to her knees. Unbeknownst to the general population, Faustus had taken Eremis from her original owner. More monster than man, the crazed, inexcusable mistake of a scientist had thrown the disillusioned girl’s humanity out the window for the sake of his sick experiments. Faustus had eventually found him as well, banished him to a lost corner of Cirxci and restored her to as close to normal as she’d ever become, crossing her heart and promising her she would never suffer again, “We can’t go back to Earth, our ship is over flying, we completely scorched the shit out of Cirxci… We have no fucking place left to call home on this piece of shit planet… And I fucking told you our equally shitty Maestro is dead… So I truly, have no idea what you think you’re doing.. But I guarantee you’re not about to pull some miracle out of your ass fixing your trashed robot.”

Faustus stood up from where he’d been kneeling in front of Eremis, his assignment nearing completion. The Maestro’s host, while still dropping more bullets on the floor than he was putting into its magazine, was almost finished as well, “I sacrificed everything I had… Everything… My sanity, my body, my whole life… I gave it all to him, to our supposed future and for fucking what? Look at me! I have absolutely nothing to show for what that lying piece of shit did to me. No crown, no glory, no immortality. Nothing. I’m nothing. Nothing but a stupid mindless waste of human flesh.”

It kept muttering to itself. Over in the Maestro’s bedroom, Faustus was able to pull her arm free from behind a heavy dresser as the shell’s voice picked up, “Did you find your precious beauty’s brains yet? This headless fucking freak out here isn’t doing anything for me.” It attempted to laugh, inhaled too much smoke, choked, coughed, sniffled, took another drag, “… Swear to Christ…”

Refusing to acknowledge either the deteriorated shell’s existence or the unsolicited string of sounds it had uttered out loud, Faustus nonetheless bent down to have a look at the underside of the thick bed frame. His relief quickly drowned out his surprise when, wrapped up in her waist-long, dark chestnut hair, he found Eremis’ unblemished face, graciously looking far more asleep than dead with her eyes firmly closed.

“What? Not even a “Thank You” for the tip? What a bunch of fucking bullshit… But I suppose you’re going to tell me this is all my fucking fault for doing this to myself in the first place.” Returning to the living room with his treasure, Faustus barely paid attention as the hapless human slammed its full magazine back into its gun with enough force to break the ash off the tip of its cigarette, “You’re a fucking genius, aren’t you doc? Tell me, what exactly did our wonderful Maestro hope to accomplish by turning us into his fucking meat puppets?”

Faustus had not the words to give him as he connected Eremis’ left hand to her left wrist, placing it on the chair’s armrest with her palm facing downwards. Reaching into her neck, he pulled up her folded spine and tightened the magnetized series of bolts that would hold her upright. He then turned her head upside down, double-checking to make sure none of her cerebral wire-endings were fried or altogether missing from the visible section of her cerebellum and straightening her slightly bent spinal cord. Carefully aligning her neck to her shoulders, he allowed it to slide through his expert hands and click into place with a subtle hiss. Her entire body shuddered as her brain connected to her spine, a sure sign she had received no major internal damage… But Eremis did not wake up. Not yet.

“Hey! Excuse me! I can see this little… Whatever reunion… I mean this is awful fucking sweet and all but aren’t you ignoring someone?” Behind him, Faustus heard the human host remove the safety from its gun and cock it. The plague doctor spun around, finding Eremis’ right hand on the mantel next to her antiquated, unopened, wooden music box… And the Maestro’s shell aiming its gun directly at his forehead, “I was planning on making this quick… But you just had to walk in here…So sorry, can’t say I’m sorry… Least it’s nicer than dying a slow miserable death from whatever the fuck nothing is left on Cirxci, don’t you agree doc?”

Unimpressed, faster-than-light Faustus took a step forward and, before it could react, pulled up his sleeve and hit the shell square in the face with a different kind of smoke cloud. Its effects were instant, with the already weakened human falling limp against the wall as its speech slurred, forcing it to drop its gun and… Very nearly… Stop talking.

“What the… Fuck did you… Fucking do?” It managed to spit out as it reached down for its weapon, astonishing them both when it heaved it up with both hands and stuck the barrel under its chin, “… Was… Off, anyway… I’ll jus-… jusss… sh-…it.” It groaned, its breathing becoming labored as it broke into a sweat from the sudden, inexplicable strain on its deplorable excuse for a frame. It wasn’t long before the shell’s sporadic ticks had grown into involuntary muscle spasms, its skin bulging out and crawling with life as something in its gut woke up and made itself felt, “… No… No, no, no… Stop… Stop it… That buzzing…” The shell gasped as it writhed in pain on the floor, wrapping its arms around itself in a pathetic and failed attempt at squelching whatever something was, “… Buzzing… Louder… Please… No-no-no-n-…” It let out an ear-piercing shriek of sheer agony as a mutated parasite the size of Faustus’ thumb came burrowing its way out the shell’s tear duct. Desperately trying to swat it away only incurred more of the giant insect’s wrath however; it moved to the top of the shell’s dilated pupil and sprayed acid into its eye, liquefying its cornea, iris and sclera. Fascinated by the unexpected turn of events, Faustus kept tuning out the dying human as the overgrown parasite flew up in lazy circles towards the ceiling. Beneath it, the shell’s stomach distended beyond imagination, its steady screeches soon replaced by choked, muffled gargles as its stomach’s still living contents ran up its throat and spilled out of its mouth, then its nose, and finally its eyes and ears.

Struck by a sudden epiphany, Faustus tore his gaze from the feast taking place mere feet away from him to glance over towards Eremis and the empty cavity she had in her chest. He dug through his pockets, wrapping his fingers around the fist-sized cylinder he carried and pulling out the brightly lit modular reactor he’d been scheduled to give to Basha that day. Attracted to the sudden flash of light, the parasitic alien insect landed on its mostly metallic surface, seemingly inspecting it before turning its large, bulbous eyes towards Eremis. It fluttered to the open hole next to her ribs, scuttling its way into her systems and marking the way for its brood to follow as they made short dinner of the shell’s now utterly useless corpse. Once finished, they trailed after their leader, marching up Eremis’ legs, thighs and lower abdomen, swarming her torso as they jostled each other for entry… But in they all somehow went. Piling into all her empty spaces, they launched Eremis’ operating systems, stretching out her limbs one by one as her exposed cavity was covered up and repaired. Her head fell back before, seconds later, her eyes fluttered open.

“…Faustus…” Her first word in what felt like ages, whispered so hoarsely he barely recognized it either. She didn’t attempt to explain herself or what had just transpired, she was grabbing at his sleeve for her other hand; the hand a thoroughly distracted Faustus had forgotten he’d been in the process of reattaching. He let it go, watching her in silence as in silence she methodically inserted it into her wrist. She then spotted the glowing reactor he held, twisting his open his fingers until he had no choice but to drop it back into his pocket, “… For Basha… Go… Bring him back… Don’t tell them what you saw here…”

Ushered towards the door for the second time, Faustus paused, positive he’d witnessed Eremis’ fuschia eyes flash biohazardous green… But with new orders he was forever sworn to obey, the plague doctor didn’t have the time to dwell on maybes and might-haves. He touched the top of her head, ran a finger down the side of her face and headed back for his next assignment.

[Destruction in D Major: Part I]

Basha could only vaguely remember the explosion. He didn’t know he’d been thrown out and knocked unconscious when the ship had fallen out of the sky, nor was he aware Faustus and Hyde had found him before Hyde had dragged him down an abandoned basement, thrown him on to a ratty bed, strapped him down to the dilapidated frame and was now attempting to force its way into his chest cavity.

No. As far as he was concerned, it was the tinkling of music, playing backwards from a nearly forgotten Eremis’ broken box, that lured him back from the edge of oblivion. This was almost immediately overpowered by the increasing sounds of sarcastic snickering as they slithered inside his ears and coiled themselves around his backbone, forcing his bruised and battered body to jerk and convulse in response. He could smell acrid smoke, wafting up from somewhere below as it too, forced its way into his mouth and nose, down his windpipe and settled at the bottom of his lungs like scorching hot lead. When, thoroughly unaware of what was happening to him, Basha finally doubled over in a coughing fit that left him gasping for air as tears streamed down his face, the subtle burning itch that had been growing in his lower extremities erupted. It raced up his limbs and across his chest, the pain nearly forcing him down in the fetal position as he thought for certain he’d burst into a ball of literal hell fire.

“And wouldn’t you imagine; you haven’t opened your eyes yet.”

That sudden sound of that… HIS godforsaken voice… The voice Basha had believed for sure he had already buried long ago, along with the whole-hearted Monster it belonged to. Yet here it was, haunting him even on the edge of death as the force of gravity threatened to make a teetering Basha collapse under his own weight as he attempted to cover ears with his hands to no avail.

“Do you remember when we watched those ridiculous humans dance in their throes of death?” His voice kept talking to him. No, Basha couldn’t recollect the memory. He couldn’t even understand what the voice was trying to tell him. “Such misery we’ve wrought together.”

Basha shook his head. He had only barely gotten a hold of his thoughts and already they were spinning completely out of control again. Similarly, his attempts at placing himself in his surroundings were failing harder than his ongoing efforts at tuning out the cacophony raging both inside his head and all around him.

He wasn’t aware he’d either been knocked unconscious or fallen asleep… So where the actual Hell was he waking back up?

“Who ever said you were awake, Basha?

His deep and deadly ominous voice was racing through the growing whispers, coming closer and becoming much clearer. Basha slowly slid his fingers down his face to his mouth, partially opening one eye to take a peek around…. But it was all he could do to stop himself from screaming as he watched his own shadow grow three times in length. Wings appeared on his back while horns sprouted out of his head. His mouth, despite being shadow and covered by the palms of his hands, split into a shit devouring rictus before Basha shuddered and shut his eyes again, wishing it would all go away and leave him the Hell alone.

“You don’t truly believe that now, do you?”

The booming laughter that followed his rhetorical question bounced off the floors, walls and ceilings of the cavernous space they were very obviously still sharing.

But there was no fucking way.

This couldn’t be happening.

“Of course it is, Basha.”

But of fucking course it was. Fucked up as he was, Basha didn’t need to lift his head to know what was now very painfully looming directly over him; the tense chill of impending dread was dripping down his neck and back, making his skin crawl and his hair stand on end.

The deadly silence that followed was both abrupt and brutal.

“So tell me, how are you feeling, Little Brother?” A soft, barely audible whisper. Lips behind his ear. The light brush of razor sharp canines over the skin barely covering the veins and arteries in his neck…

But the hopelessness that had been slowly growing in the pit of his stomach… The desperate scream that threatened to escape his vocal cords… Was suddenly muffled and entirely cut off as the Mad Maestro fell upon him like a blanket of ashen snow. Using one hand to grip both of Basha’s wrists and pin them behind his back, he made a show of licking the blood, dripping down the serrated claws of his other hand as he dug them into Basha’s narrow cheekbones.

Basha, stubbornly refusing to fully open his eyes, struggled and tried to break free, but standing a full head above him, the Mad Maestro wasn’t having a single problem keeping him wrapped up in his inhumanly strong grasp.

“You are dearly missed, Basha.” The Maestro smirked into his ear before moving his blackened mouth down his jawline. He then forced Basha’s entire head to turn in his direction, drawing more blood between his fingers as he took a closer look at his pale features, “Being away is making you frail, I see.”

The Maestro kissed Basha’s forehead, running his forked tongue down the bridge of his nose before biting into his upper lip hard enough to make him wince, “I have a present for you,” His voice sounded as jagged as his teeth as he let go of Basha’s face and spun him around, “Something for all the pain you’re causing us.”

Basha finally managed to open his mouth to protest but was far too slow with his words as the Maestro put a finger over his lips to quiet him. Never letting go of Basha’s wrists, he turned him away and placed his newly freed claws between the boy’s shoulder blades. Basha felt his heart slamming inside his chest once, twice. It skipped a beat and then stopped completely as the bones in his back and chest splintered and snapped like dried twigs. His knees gave out, his spine buckled and warm blood gushed down his upper body, drenching the clothes he wore in dark red. Nearly blacking out, the sole reason Basha found himself still standing was the Maestro himself, unmercifully holding Basha upright as the boy kept failing to register what the Hell was happening to him.

“He ripped your heart out again, Basha. Can’t you see how beautiful it is?” Said another, yet distinctly female voice. In the state he was in, Basha only recognized Eremis because her tone nearly matched the timber of her music box, still playing out of tune somewhere in the background.

Using the Maestro’s forearm to keep himself propped up in a standing position, half-dead Basha had all but stopped breathing. Paralyzed as he was from his chest all the way down to his feet, he had to force himself to close and open his eyes a number of times before his blurred vision began to return… And there it was, jutting out of the front of his chest, resting precariously between the Maestro’s fingertips as it kept pumping blood out with a steady rhythm.

“Impressive how it keeps beating.” Eremis giggled from somewhere close, but crippled and still almost completely blind, Basha was unable to see her.

“… No, not you too…” He muttered, muffling a scream as the Maestro pulled his arm out back and out of his chest cavity, letting him go and evaporating into the inky black backdrop of their shared delusion, bringing Basha’s heart along with him.

“Is this making you upset?” It was a stupid question with a loaded, dishonest answer and Basha, unsure of who had asked, chose not to dignify it with a response.

“Don’t be rude, little brother. Open your eyes and look.” With his heart a toy nestled into the Maestro’s hands, Basha could merely, mindlessly do as he was ordered. He spun around on his heels, opening his eyes wide, and found himself facing Eremis’ entirely naked figure. Her matted, waist-long, chestnut hair did nothing to conceal what little curves she had, all while her glowing, fuchsia eyes seared another hole straight through his skull.

“Come closer…” Eremis beckoned him with a finger as the relentless snickering, giggles and whispers returned with a fucking vengeance. Basha struggled not to slip over his own feet as he stumbled forward, taking a step, then another, and a third. That was when he saw the full extent of the horror that had been standing bare alongside him. Speechless, Basha still wondered if she’d fallen off the deep end and inflicted her wounds upon herself as she’d done so many countless times before… Or if someone else had used her for practice.

Eremis’ neck had been slashed… No… That wasn’t right. It had been completely ripped to shreds, exposing the muscles, tendons and ligaments still pulsing with blood underneath. Her torso and stomach were covered in deep bites, long scratches and multiple stab wounds, while her arms and legs had been slashed down to her plainly visible bones that remained under her flailed and battered flesh.

Much fucking worse was the way she’d been sown back together… Or rather, someone had tried. Thick strands of coarse, black threads crisscrossed in and out of her mangled and mutilated flesh. Of course, Basha knew Eremis had lost much of her humanity a long time ago; the wires still sticking through the holes in her flailed and battered flesh more than proved it, but this…

“Promise it looks worse than it feels.” She kept giggling as she came closer, burying her nose in his blood-soaked shirt as she dug her broken nails into his forearms with a strength she shouldn’t have had in the state she was in, “You have no right to be standing either, Basha.” She added before the thought had barely finished crossing his mind. She moved her arms up and around his neck, the loose stitchings getting tangled into his shaggy, white hair along with her tiny fingers. Basha smelled nothing but vanilla as he pulled her in close and held her there.

“Big brother’s watching.” Eremis whispered as, unbeknownst to him, the Mad Maestro had materialized behind him, his pounding heart nestled between his claws as he flicked his forked tongue out from between his venomous fangs, “How are you feeling, Basha?” She asked him in turn.

“Big brother can go fuck himself.” Basha found words to spew out and promptly forgot them all as Eremis gleefully freed her hands from his hair and ran her fingers over the fresh cuts on his face. She pulled his lips towards hers, their mouths melting into each other as she traced a path down his chest, avoiding the gaping, bleeding hole there to reach for his leather belt instead.

“… Always happy to oblige, Little Brother…” The Maestro replied, too quietly for Basha to pretend to hear. Eremis had stolen his attention, undoing his studded belt buckle and pulling down his zipper. The boy held on to her small, battered frame as she wrapped her frozen fingertips around his rapidly growing inches, making him gasp from both the cold and the delightfully delectable friction.

(… He could feel it… That slow warmth… That ever rising pressure… Basha would have never admitted it… But dear GOD could he absolutely still fucking feel it…)

“Tell me you miss me.” The Maestro hissed in Basha’s ear as they both watched Eremis’ fingers play his swollen member like a true organ, sucking on his neck for their Maestro’s pleasure before biting her way down his abdomen. She kneeled in front of him, pulling down on his pants until they’d fallen on his knees.

“… No…” Every other word he’d managed to conjure up in his head completely evaporated as Eremis ignored his feeble plea and placed her full and tender lips on the tip of his throbbing erection.

“Say it, Little Brother,” The Maestro kept taunting him as Basha half-heartedly kept attempting, and failing, to move his hips away from Eremis’ mouth. He could merely grip her shoulders and choke on his non-existent breath as she drowned him in sensations he’d forgotten he could feel, making him rock to the rolls of her tongue, “Tell us how much you miss us.”

“… I said no…” But Basha was far too gone and distracted to care if he’d even spoken the words out loud or not.

“Such a pathetic answer. You must be on the verge of losing it.” The Maestro’s voice was dripping with ill-intent as Eremis reached the bottom of Basha’s shaft. He couldn’t remember how long it had been since he’d been this aroused, much less able to recall the last time he’d so desperately wished he wasn’t. This wasn’t the place for games… But the Maestro and Eremis clearly had other ideas.

“You’re so fucking close…” The Mad Master moved away from Basha’s ear as the boy knotted his fingers in Eremis’ hair and thrust his engorged cock down her throat. He unwittingly let out a grunt, his eyes rolling back in time to catch the Maestro’s face, mere millimeters away from his own as it spread into another wide, fanatically sadistic grin. He pushed Basha’s heart under his nose, the tender organ beating in time to his throbbing member, very much on the verge of exploding where it rested at the bottom of Eremis’ mouth.

“So come now, little brother. Let it out.” The Mad Maestro ordered obscenely when all Basha had left to do but obey. The Maestro’s booming laughter reverberated across the room once again, all while Eremis swallowed all of Basha’s frustrations in one, big, satisfying drink. Then, to add more insult to the already brutal injuries, the Maestro crushed his poor, bleeding heart between his claws, ripping the defective muscle into barely recognizable pieces before letting them fall through the cracks below, never to be seen again.

Eremis stood up, wiping her mouth while the Maestro wiped his hands clean of the bloody mess he’d made, sneering at Basha’s limp and lifeless corpse as it crumpled in on itself and fell to floor in a heap. Both the Maestro and Eremis vanished in a puff of smoke, disappearing nearly as quickly as they had appeared, taking their music, their sarcasm and their laughter along with them when they went.

It was all over. They were gone.

And Basha was left alone.

“All. Over. Again.”

[Whiplash]

In human calendar time, what Ameidjin would eventually come to believe was the end of Cirxci had happened just a few short months earlier and, as she had correctly posited, it had, as with many other such tales, all begun with a catastrophic, “Big Bang.”

“You do realize how absolutely fucking disgusting that is, don’t you?” Rieze, perched on a boulder a dozen feet over Mercy’s head, stared down her nose at him as she picked at her teeth with her bloodied claws.

Mercy, ignoring the bloody gashes around her freshest victim’s neck and abdomen, had turned the hapless human over and taken off its shirt. He’d then pulled his skinning knife from his boot and cut a clear line from its head, straight down to below its tailbone.

“Don’t watch then.” He was growing excited at all of the uncoagulated blood pouring out of its wound, licking his jagged canines at the sight of its spine jutting outwards. Rieze’s eyes narrowed to slits when, in one swift and brutal movement, Mercy reached in, snapped the corpse’s spinal cord from the base of its skull and ripped out its entire vertebrae. The sickening sucking sound it made was enough to make her shudder.

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you not to play with your food?” Mercy didn’t bother with muscles, tendons or ligaments, he simply plucked out the bones he wanted and dropped what remained by his feet. One at a time, he put the pieces in his mouth, using his teeth to crush them up further and suck at the soft marrow tissue inside. Once he’d licked them clean, he spat the whole thing back out, “Why do you even do that?” She asked him pointedly.

“Why not?” Happily oblivious, Mercy wasn’t about to explain his old habits to his not-so-old hunting partner when they both knew better, “I told you not to watch.”

Rieze sneered in revolt but Mercy was facing the other way. She turned her head, her contempt replaced by pure, unadulterated glee as something else entirely caught her attention,  “Well if it isn’t lady karma being a fucking cunt.” She announced with a mad grin on her face.

Mercy spat out another mouthful of broken bones before he shot her and her twisted smile a glance, “What is it?”

“You are never going to fucking believe this.” Rieze had the back of her hand covering her mouth in a half-ass attempt at not stifling her laughter, “You better come take a look.”

His curiosity effectively piqued, Mercy stuffed the corpse’s innards back in backwards, wrapped its shirt around its neck and kicked it off the edge of the cliff they’d found it on. It bounced off some stones below, disappearing into a large crevice too far down for daylight to reach or Mercy’s night vision to see. Satisfied with his work, he turned and climbed up the boulder to stand next to Rieze.

“In what universe is that fucking funny?” Mercy couldn’t have missed it if he’d tried.

“What do you fucking care?” It was her turn to shrug him off, her assessment of him too accurate for his liking; he was having a damn well near impossible time believing what was happening. ‘CARING’ was an altogether different matter, “Unless deep down you think your precious pet is still on board?”

The former human colony ship they had collectively overrun and assimilated to their cause not long ago. The nigh impenetrable floating fortress they had used as a weapon of mass destruction against its entire fleet and would use again on Cirxci when the ‘intelligent’ life refused to bow down to the Maestro. Their mothership, lovingly re-christened “The Ezramatheia” by said Maestro…

… Had inexplicably appeared and was now hovering a dangerously short distance away, belching out thick plumes of smoke through the cracks spreading across her otherwise solid shell as she leaned precariously over to one side. The surreal spectacle took Mercy aback, drowning him in nearly forgotten memories stemming from the time he’d decided to come live on the surface, much to the Maestro’s protests. Rieze, on the other hand, didn’t care to admit or explain why she’d come and found him. She had turned up on his doorstep one day and now stubbornly refused to return to her consort.

“Can’t say he didn’t have it coming, the narcissistic bastard.” Mercy, not entirely processing her spite, kept his expression blank as she talked, “Hey, do you think it’s going to…”

Mercy never got the chance to dignify her comments with answers. As though they had been waiting for her cue, colossal chunks of hull broke away from the mothership. Riding the shockwave of an ear-shattering blast, they came hurtling towards Rieze and Mercy’s heads at breakneck speeds. Diving out of the fiery projectiles way, neither of them had much time to notice her exposed engines were engulfed in flames. One after the other they exploded, punching more holes along the side of the ship. Unidentifiable pieces of stone, metal and machinery were sent flying, setting most of the forest that surrounded them ablaze as they landed.

“Hey, do you think she’s going to make it?” Mercy shot Rieze another glance. The murderous look on her face made it abundantly clear that was not what she’d been about to ask. Quite the opposite, in fact… But while the explosions subsided, the Ezramatheia herself was completely overcome by smoke. Mercy sucked in some fresh air, convinced he could hear those on board screaming in panic and in death. He found himself praying that it wasn’t nearly as fucked up as it had sounded and, for the extended moment she stayed afloat, it did look as though she had pulled through… Except any and all hope evaporated faster than the staling air in his lungs as the smoke began to clear, revealing the full, horrifying extent of the damage she had taken.

Hanging onto her top section by the metaphorical skin of their literal, metal-plated teeth, her engine blocks were already dragging her downwards as her thrusters sputtered out and died. Her lines and pipes sparked and gushed as they ripped apart while the few bolts holding her together twisted out of their sockets, bisecting their beloved mothership in one final, languishing shriek of despair. Unceremoniously, her broken, smouldering husks crashed into the mountains, burying themselves under the rocky avalanches they caused upon impact.

It was Rieze, muttering profanities under her breath, that snapped Mercy out of his daze. Neither of them had any more use for words as they scrambled to their feet and jumped over the edge of the cliff, flying down its steep face in a bid to see who would hit the ground first. Once they’d reached the forest however, Mercy stopped dead in his tracks, watching an unwitting Rieze as she kept racing towards the ship. Maybe deep down she hoped her consort had survived, but Mercy had other, more pressing urges to attend to first.

“… Please … Help me…” It always made it so much easier when they found him. Without looking at who was calling out, Mercy stepped on its neck with his heavy boot, snapping it like a twig and putting the dying human out of its misery. He then dragged the body behind some nearby rocks, returning to scout the area more thoroughly. Already he counted; five, six, seven… Humans dead from falling, from being impaled, from being burned alive. Much to his dismay, a number of them had been crushed under fallen trees, catapulted boulders and flying debris, making their retrieval all but impossible. Fortunately, where most were ripe for his taking, it wasn’t long before he’d amassed a veritable smorgasbord of corpses, neatly piled up and awaiting consumption. So caught up was he in his grisly scavenger hunt, what sounded like his newest capture suddenly talking to him nearly gave the veteran hunter a heart attack.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing with Basha, dummkopf?” The static-charged, inhuman voice had barely registered when Rieze’s screams of anger filled the air, “Nice to hear that fucking banshee still can’t find her way back home.” Mercy’s head swiveled towards the source of all the words being spoken. He wasn’t disappointed.

“Long time no see, little sister.”

“For fuck’s sake Mercy, spare the formalities.” Hyde, in all its bionic glory, wore unlaced combat boots and a dusty, sleeveless white shirt under ripped green overalls that did a phenomenal job camouflaging it in the tall grass it sat in. With its slightly misshapen gas mask perched on its knee, it glared at Mercy as though daring him to say something about the sad state its face was in… But the tense anticipation was ruined when Rieze let out another series of frustrated screams.

“… So I would strongly suggest you drop Basha before I pop your eyeballs with my tweezers, steal your knife and go hack out her vocal cords.”

“… MURDER YOU!!… HEAR ME?!!… WHERE YOU SLEEP… FUCKING KILL YOU!!”

It was enough to make Mercy drop Basha’s leg although he waited until Rieze’s voice had trailed off before he spoke, “Be my guest. You know exactly what will happen to you if you do.”

“In this fucking mess? I’ll take my chances. I doubt anyone’ll care.” Hyde shrugged, banging out the dents in its gas mask with a fist-sized stone.

“Care to explain what happened?” Mercy was keeping an ear out, expecting either another outburst, the sound of people dying or, in Rieze’s case, more than likely both.

“With what? Rieze or the ship?” Mercy couldn’t help but stare as Hyde locked its gas mask into its gullet, pulled it up to what should have been the bridge of its nose and firmly reattached it to the back of its head. It had the effect of clearing up its voice but dropping it lower in pitch, “Jesus, haven’t you been paying attention? Piece of fucking shit blew up, killed a bunch of people and left the rest of us stranded down here.”

Mercy blinked a few times and tried again, “So what actually happened?”

Hyde let out a long sigh, “Damn princess here was complaining about his life sucking and saying he wanted to leave. Big brother obviously couldn’t have that so he got Faustus to build Basha a new reactor. Figures the day it’s supposed to happen and ‘KABOOM!!’ there goes the motherfu-…”

“Mothership.” Mercy finished in its stead.

“Shut up. It’s not a cult, I don’t care what the stupid troglodytes on board used to say.” Mercy didn’t bother arguing. He’d left the ship some time ago, for reasons, and everyone knew it, “I was running out to meet Faustus, all of a sudden there’s smoke everywhere. Next thing I know, Faustus is dragging me out of the dirt saying Basha’s unconscious but alive and I’ve been sitting here watching our fucking princess ever since.” Hyde’s face was flushing red from its own, barely suppressed rage.

“You haven’t seen anyone else?” Mercy risked asking regardless.

“No. I haven’t seen anyone else. I don’t even know if any of my family members are alive, never mind where any of them might’ve ended up. I fucking told you. I’m stuck here babysitting HIM until Faustus comes back.” Hyde jabbed a finger at Basha, “How the hell he can even fucking breathe with a busted reactor is beyond me.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about any of that.” Mercy bent down and pulled his skinning knife from his boot again. Hyde’s eyes lit up like the sun when he handed it to them, “But I’ll let you keep this if you tell me which way he went.”

Hyde took the knife from him, carefully examining the razor-sharp blade before using the tip to tighten the loose screws around its neck. “Faustus said he had to go dig up his tools or some shit. I’m supposed to drag Basha to some hopefully abandoned settlement somewhere back there.” It gestured behind its left shoulder. Mercy could see plenty of hills but nothing that looked like a city or a camp, “Always best to keep princess hidden until big brother is found.”

“Nice to hear that new mask of yours hasn’t dampened your sarcasm any.” Hyde rolled its eyes at his comment, “Try not to kill anyone and I’ll try to send some extra hands your way if I find any.”

“I promise nothing.” Was the best Hyde had to offer, “Wait, you mean real people and not just… hands… Right?”

“I promise nothing.” He parroted back as he began making his own way towards the Ezramatheia.

“Did you hear that, ya fucking princess? You and I are going to have some fun…” He overheard Hyde say but didn’t stop or turn to see. Nor did he remember to look for Rieze’s footprints in the singed, cracked earth they’d both threaded until he’d almost reached the ship’s mangled thrusters. As such, he didn’t think it strange she had never made it closer than ten feet away from the Ezramatheia’s melting outer shell. All he bothered to notice was the path she had taken towards the ship’s top half, where most of the survivors were more than likely rallying together while trying to salvage what remained of their already meager existences.

Mercy got closer and put a hand on her scorching hot surface, burning his fingers and his palm and relishing the sensation. After all this time in self-imposed exile, he had forgotten how absolutely overblown their mothership had become. Not only had she crashed into a mountain, she’d utterly obliterated it and taken its place. It was truly a fantastic ending for such an impressive piece of machinery.

He heard… Thought he heard… What did he think he’d heard? Mercy involuntarily moved up a step. Was someone whispering to him through the cracks? The holes that perforated the ship were more than big enough to hide a person. His fingers traced the smaller lines while smoke kept billowing out, forcing its way down his ears and mouth and filling his drying eyes with tears as he tried not to choke on the noxious fumes. He kneeled down, leaned back for some fresh air…

(Who Said it’s “The End”?)

… And promptly disappeared. Bound, captured, forcefully pulled through the mothership’s gaping fissures and swallowed by the inky darkness that lurked underneath.

(Welcome Back)

[Catharsis; A Prologue]

Still alive and thinking, Ameidjin was hopelessly wishing for a reset function she knew didn’t exist.

She, at first, had believed she was losing her sight. She thought her surroundings were beginning to fade to white. She had closed her eyes, her head had beginning to spin as her memories flashed behind her eyelids at an increasingly alarming rate. There had been a burst of color… But that had been followed by nothing but static… Black… White… Grey… Continuously rolling, never ending… Static.

Ameidjin shook her head… Tried opening her eyes again but nothing was helping her at all. Her surroundings hadn’t changed.

It couldn’t possibly be over already.

This wasn’t meant to be the end.  

Except standing in what had become a mass grave, she had a round view of the Mad Maestro’s extermination in all of its twisted, rotting beauty. An ironic display of morbid grotesqueries rendered live and in high definition under the cruel glare of their planets’ sun. All of which laid within what had once been a Sanctuary… What little of it now remained.

“It was a massacre,” didn’t begin to describe the true horror that had happened here. It was utter annihilation, “Complete and total domination.”

Ameidjin truly thought she was losing her sight. Yet clearly she could see how much death there had been in such a short time frame; blood still pooled from the piles and piles of putrefied, mummifying carcasses littering the ground. All of her brothers and sisters. All of them butchered, mangled, mutilated. They had been shot, skewered, crucified to the stone beneath them, stuffed into every crack, crag and crevice. They had all manner of weapon jutting out of ripped skin and broken bones… All of them… The warmth of their collective bodies still slowly rising into the atmosphere, dissipating into nothingness.

And the smell… The fetid scent of death and decay was threatening to engulf her whole. It had begun its assault on her senses long before she had made landfall. As she had moved up the shore, her bare feet had landing ankle deep in puddles of guts and gore, it had become all the more intolerable.

Now, it was nothing short of overwhelming. It made her failing eyes well up with tears, her nose and throat burn and her skin itch until her entire body felt wrapped up in dull, tingling sensations. It went along well with the growing fire searing a hole in her chest.

And she’d barely only arrived.

Unmoving, she could barely put her thoughts in order and yet, she was able to take it all in. She gave herself permission to feel what her brothers and sisters must have felt; the fear, the pain, the sadness. She allowed all of it in, let it crawl under her skin, let it climb its way through her nervous system until all she could feel anymore was her unbearable, insurmountable anger. At “THEM”.

It was all their fault she knew. Those life sucking leeches… insufferable, unkillable insects. Rumors had foretold of their arrival but there had been no warning. No indication of what was to come.

“Here”… On Cirxci… The small blue and yellow marble planet with one sun and two moons Ameidjin and her people called home. Left to its own devices, alone in a distant corner of the universe, it had developed, matured and flourished. Cirxci was separated into three major continents surrounded by countless islands and cradled by clear, emerald green waters. It had been primordial, exotic and teeming with life; a gentle nature befitting an equally gentle balance.

But that ‘THING’ had made their beautiful sky fall.

Even on her distant island they had all heard the whispers floating back from the mainland. ‘ITS’ arrival had coincided with one of their festivals and these sudden guests had been received as Greater Gods, finally returned from pilgrimage. A passive people, unaccustomed to confrontation and war, they had let their guard down. They had let their friendly curiosity get the best of them and welcomed ‘THEM’ with open arms.

Ameidjin sneered at herself in disgust as she remembered.

They had too easily accepted this newly arrived ‘Deity’ floating around by some kind of unexplainable, supernatural force. It was only when their Honored Ancestors had suddenly disappeared from their hallowed stone hallways had they understood not all was as it seemed.

And then it had gotten much worse.

No one knew exactly what had happened that day. They had woken up to their sky covered in thick black smoke; their ‘God’ had been badly damaged. Its systems had overloaded and a chunk of it’s hull had been blown clear off. ‘It’ hadn’t survived… Jolted, tilted precariously to its side and with dying engines, ‘It’ had ripped apart and crashed to the ground, forcing everyone to flee.

They hadn’t known how angry their ‘God’ was. Not until it was far too late.

Ameidjin balled her hands into tight fists, her claws drawing blood from her palms. The stories they had told… The rumors that had spread… The tales of how the floating mountain-sized craft had all but suddenly opened ‘ITS’ hatches and unleashed holy hell on doomed Cirxci and her defenseless people. How all those insects had suddenly appeared, swarming out by the millions. They had spread out like a plague, destroying everything in their path. With the help of their ‘God’ and their Maestro still aboard, the mindless ‘humans’ had run over villages and cities. They had killed who they could, and captured who they couldn’t. They had taken everything they were able to get their hands on until there was nothing left for them to take and had kept going, nearly razing Cirxci straight down to the ground.

It had been carnage. Everything and everyone had either been decimated or had simply vanished into thin air. Their waters had been contaminated; their ports reduced to ashes and their once great cities left smoldering shells of their former selves, spewing out smoke so thick, it had blotted out the lights in the sky. Not even their islands had been spared. Of course, there had been some survivors, but where some had died traversing the rough seas, most had extinguished from heat and starvation. The older generations, those who hadn’t fallen to diseases, had suffered shock and trauma at the overbearing sight of the newly warped landscape; their lush forests had been reduced to dry, barren deserts while their teeming wildlife had been nearly eradicated. There hadn’t bee a single bird in the sky, not a single movement on the ground or even a quiet breeze to keep them company for what had seemed like an eternity. Nothing at all but deafening silence on their increasingly desperate and lonely journey here.

Ameidjin sucked in a breath, her time growing short. Every moment gone was a moment closer to their inevitable demise. They were done. Her species had been rendered all but extinct and she knew the insects would come back to finish what they had started. The mothership wasn’t far from here. It kept looming in the background behind their sacred mountains waiting for their arrival. She could practically hear ‘ITS’ engines starting back up; the menacing, mechanical sounds of technological torture. The,“Black Machine of Death.”

And God could she ever feel it… All the pain… The suffering… All that misery and anguish. It was positively excruciating. It felt like hell. Or as close to hell as they could get, all the way out on their distant planet.

The insects were coming ever closer. She could hear them chittering nearby. It wouldn’t be much longer now.

With nothing left to look at but the same, morbidly red white and black, never ending static and the dry, death-filled landscape frozen in space and time, Ameidjin closed her eyes once more. It couldn’t be over… This couldn’t be the…

She closed her eyes tighter.

Flash. White. Blank.

“The End?”