A thunderstorm began to gather above my head, sobbing a chilly rain upon my body. I lifted my hands into the air, washing the blood from them and wondering if the nightmare-informed atmosphere would be indulgent enough to let me climb the darkness and enter the belly of the storm. The growling and glowing clouds leisurely swept low, pulsing around the tops of the taller buildings. It gave the appearance of a shifting grey foliage that grew from the peaks of the soaring structures, forming a storming canopy above the city. The buildings themselves now took upon the role of gigantic tree trunks, the windows and balconies substituting for knotholes and coats of irregular bark.
A twisting expanse of the thunderstorm tumbled up to the ledge I stood upon, creating an ethereal bridge between me and the many high places caught within the web of churning grey clouds. It was a glorious sight, as the roof of the storm seemed to form a roiling landscape floating between the skyscrapers, tempting one to stroll across the island of lightning, cloud and thunder. Merging from without the sounds of the storm came strange noises emanating from multiple locations across the city. New Victoria was slowly coming alive—I could hear the rustling of unearthly things congregating into unwholesome crowds. Smiling, I wondered if the warning I had constructed was a bad idea.
Deep within the distant night moving behind the grumbling clouds, I could see small shivering points of blue light. I knew well what they were—the Wakeless had taken to the stormy night skies to locate me. I looked down from the edge of the rooftop and I could see the windows of the lower floors directly beneath me turning the bright color of sleep. I watched those sleep-lights move ever upward toward me. The sounds of a second storm began howling from the streets below—inhuman gangs of nightmares born from living women trampled the earth upon countless hateful limbs, creeping, crawling, flying and leaping through the city in search of me.
I couldn’t afford the laughter that mounted as surely as the storm I contemplated walking across, so I swallowed my amusement, wrapped myself in silence and leapt one building closer to my destination. I absorbed the fifty-foot drop with ease, taking a moment to collect myself before wading into the thick cloud cover swirling in front of me. From somewhere not too far behind I heard a rooftop door explode open, releasing a cacophony of demonic sounds into the night. I bounded to the next building as the hordes of evil creatures landed around me like a downpour of Hell’s raindrops.
The storm obeyed me as well as any shadow, and I disappeared into its coiling mists. There were a great many of the caterwauling things, so both of my sisters stood eagerly at the ready. The fiends that had spilled wet and wicked from so many tortured wombs flooded into the storm, heedless of the danger within. In the span of only a few seconds, several of the things had already been effectively multiplied (or divided, depending on how you wished to perform the math) before the rest of the horde became even faintly aware of the death that now moved within their ranks.
As I killed under cover of storm cloud I could only make out the slightest details of my demonic adversaries. When the blinding lightning poured into the bloodied spaces between us, my eyes had to defer to my ears for guidance. As the crashing thunder robbed my ears of the world, I was guided exclusively by the silence that serenaded me—beneath the thunder, between the night, from without all the shadows that danced and frolicked to the music of the storm. The vast numbers the creatures moved within gave them a collective confidence, but it was a confidence that diminished by the second. The devils were certainly powerful enough, yet they were new to the world of stable things and could not fathom the strategies of a solid opponent, much less one immune to the poison of fear. They came at me with claws, fangs, tentacles and hooves, and I conducted each of them into my sisters’ red smiles. One nightmare appeared wiser than the rest, waiting for my fury to abate. When the last of the creatures had been slaughtered or driven off and I had returned my sisters to their sleep, it struck.
The creature secured itself to my back with flashing talons—organic hooks with searing chitinous barbs. The thing tried to tear apart my body with a passion rivaled only by my sisters’ bottomless depravity.
As I struggled to rid myself of the creature it hissed sulfurous words into my ear. “What wonderful teeth and claws your kind’s dreams have given me. Am I not a splendid thing as I rend the skin from your bones? I swear to cherish your screams for as long as I care to remember them.”
The creature was an undeniably exceptional member of its kind, deserving of my compliments. “You are indeed splendid, creature. But I’m afraid I have no screams for you today. Perhaps my sister’s laughter will suffice.” Already in my hand, she shined a jagged smile that plunged into the creature’s cavernous mouth. I could feel my enemy’s teeth scrape my knuckles as my sister dragged my hand behind her, down what seemed an endless convulsing hole.
I drew close to the monster’s ear and whispered, “Is she not splendid as well, creature? Tell me, will you scream for her?” The thing had apparently lost its taste for conversation, which was perfectly understandable given that its tongue had been severed from its mouth. It suddenly seized my arm with incredible strength, tearing my hand from the sucking wound that had become its face. I felt my other sister slide into my free hand. She smiled at me with such sweetness that the splattered blood in my mouth tasted like sugar. She ripped across the demonic limb that threatened to snap my arm and the creature produced a honeyed cry from its bleeding trench of a mouth.
My sisters’ searing praise boiled the blood that dripped from their grinning steel mouths. “We knew you would find your singing voice. What a true delight it is! However, we can’t say that we’ll treasure it for very long, as memory has an awful way of dimming our enjoyment of those screams yet to come. Everything before you is always fresh and beautiful when the world behind you is dead!” The thing reeled backward, wheezing and bleeding from my sisters’ joint assault. My father called out to me and I raised him up.
My great benefactor roared, “AND YOUR LAST SCREAM SHALL BELONG TO ME!” My father fell with such power that the very air around him warped and crackled. Unbelievably, the inhuman thing absorbed the blow, refusing to fall. Never had I witnessed a creature capable of weathering such direct exposure to my father’s power. Regardless, the creature had been sorely wounded by my dread progenitor, its inhuman hands busy trying to stem the flow of strange fluids that sprayed from its ruined body. The thing from nightmare backpedaled until it found a wall and turned its furnace-eyes upon me, silently promising a death beyond comprehension. Yet my father’s rage had grown beyond steel and bone, sending blast waves of purest hatred rolling through me. He surged toward the glaring monster with a fury that nearly burned through the flesh of my hands. I should have been impressed by the speed and monstrous strength demonstrated by the creature when it leapt sideways onto a distant rooftop, but my attention had been stolen away by the unearthly collision between the wall and my father. Where once there was concrete, steel and monster there was now only debris and a dreadful echo. The blow would have surely ended the creature and chased its dusky spirit into whatever spheres are reserved for dead nightmares. My raging father suddenly went quiet and fell into fitful sleep, yet my sisters’ bloody giggling remained.
With their shock troops momentarily diffused into the night, the generals of the nightmare army began to close upon me. I could sense the cold fires of their blue eyes burning brighter and colder. I wasted no time leaping across the remaining spaces between myself and the dwelling of the man I had come to consult. Strangely, the floating creatures withdrew into the farthest darkness until their blue eyes died away like stars at dawn’s approach. Perhaps the threshold I had crossed was beyond their power. Whatever the reason for their retreat, I had reached my destination. I sat down for a moment to regain my strength, drifting into gentle memories of standing in the rain with my mother.
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