The subterranean world is undeniably home to the oldest and most beautiful specimens of darkness, as the sun has no place or power within its secreted depths, and so it was with a heavy heart that I did what I did. The explosives were only waiting to detonate, having been strategically dispersed across the cavern system, directly beneath the cannibal city. I departed the underground via the parched throat of an old well and stood at a safe distance from the city about to tumble beyond the brink of living memory.
I watched from the edge of the field where they had first attacked me. I smiled beneath the glow of reddest twilight, waiting. The city seemed to shrink down, as if coiling hidden muscles, preparing to leap into the air. And then came thunder. The city was lifted upon shoulders of flame that touched the sky. The ground shook wildly as fire chased the darkness from every secreted cave entrance, sending geysers of flame high above the buildings. The earth rolled like an angry sea as the sunset winked out, the air thick with towering black smoke and giant clouds of choking dust. The explosives certainly made for a fine cake, but the ruptured gas lines of the town provided for a satisfyingly decadent icing.
I quickly made my way back into the city, as the second series of explosives was timed to detonate shortly after the first—I needed time to reveal myself to the creatures, so they would know who it was that destroyed them. I walked in plain view as I proceeded forward. I felt the heat of raging fires and breathed the clouds of thick smoke. But a dream was upon me, and I knew I would endure. I could see the wretches trying to flee into the underground, only to find their fiery deaths. Screams—louder by far than any shrieks that had escaped their underground slaughterhouses—battled the smoke for dominance of the air, and the burning debris of flesh-eaters lay everywhere, crackling. My laughter rose above the sounds of fire and dying as I waded into thick crowds of fleeing creatures, wielding my father to extinguish the light of fools. Houses tumbled to the earth beneath the heat of shooting flames, cannibals became tinder, and the shapes of forgotten gods moved within the smoke—my art had engulfed the town.
I stood amid the fires and bodies and shrieks, and I called out to the Mother of Cannibals. My voice rose with the smoke and fire, and crashed down upon the burning city, cracking aged timbers and worrying the red-hot flames. It was from the entrance of a large barn they came—baying and hungry, blind and monstrous. This was the great and dire company of Black Molly Patience—atrocious creatures from the underground, all of them sculpted by the dusky hands of a blind god under the earth. There was a white bear, without hair or eyes, equipped with claws so overgrown as to seem almost comical. Alien wolves with their frosted eyes of lightest blue. And a lean hungry cougar with a mouth that occupied nearly every inch of its head, evicting even its ears and nose in favor of jaws that could open wide enough to admit a dog. My sisters moved to my sides, our laughter growing with the fire.
The wolves were the first to fall to us. They attacked as a single force, hoping to drown me in their numbers. My sisters were like whirlwinds, twisting and turning with maniacal precision, entering and exiting the beasts like wind blowing through tall grass. When the wolves fell to the earth, they did so in pieces that quivered and whined.
The gigantic bear-thing came next. My roaring father struck the fool creature’s head with such force it exploded into a starburst of blood and brains, the finale of a fireworks display made of gore rather than gunpowder.
It was the great cat that managed to momentarily slow my progress toward my desired opponent. It attacked me from behind, seizing my neck in its enormous mouth. I reached behind my head and spread apart its jaws until I heard the wet cracking of bones deep beneath flesh. The creature reared backward to escape my grip. My sister glided across the big cat’s exposed belly, releasing a crimson tangle of gleaming entrails. The beast collapsed upon the street and was quickly set upon by ravenous flames. The fire seemed to join my side, surging and roaring across the streets, engulfing or routing the crowds of creatures and half-men attempting to slow my pace. Then she appeared from the darkness and smoke.
I had no idea the Deadworld could encompass such a dream. She was a wicked song of teeth and claws, set to the awful melody of burning, sightless eyes. Though she was a living horror, an echo of dethroned beauty reverberated throughout her features, suggesting the distance she had fallen from grace and dream. Blind though she may have been, some invisible emanation from her whited eyes plunged beneath my flesh, searching and summing. I could feel her conjuring alien hungers from the emptiness of my stomach, trying to fill me with forbidden appetites. Something about her eyes held an actual power, not some abstract force, but a tangible violation of nature, and it was trying to change me. She took a step from the smoking ruin of a tunnel entrance, as if looking more fully upon me would better allow her to focus her efforts. But my body kept its own secrets, and they would admit no mysteries besides their own. I could feel the searing gaze of my family as it met the sightless eyes of Black Molly Patience, and I could smell her fear.
I was airborne, my sisters laughing out in front of me, their metal teeth glittering with the lights of a thousand fires. Molly clutched my torso in a cage of claws, hoping to tear me from the smoky air. Though my body ceased its advance, my sisters’ journey was far from over. Their laughter dimmed as they sank into filthy layers of cannibal flesh, severing the vital tubers in Molly’s neck. The queen monster threw me with surprising might through the wall of a nearby barn slathered with hungry flame.
I crashed to a floor of burning hay and corpses, leaping to my feet to receive the she-demon as she came charging after me. She lowered her spined head and rammed herself into my chest, lifting me from the floor and pinning me upon her lethal barbs. She surged mindlessly forward, smashing me through more walls, trampling fiery bodies, finally crushing me against the undercarriage of an overturned truck.
Somehow, I still lived. I think a dream had been born between us, and within its extents she and I were true monsters, beyond the call of conventional pain and fragility. I tore myself free of her evil headdress, snapping off spines like branches from a tree, calling up screams from her hellish, gaping mouth. I seized hold of her remaining horns and began to twist Miss Patience’s head from her body. Shortly after her vertebrae began to crackle, she stood to her full height, some nine feet tall, denying me the leverage of the burning earth, dangling me before her forest of teeth.
I reached to my back, raising my father into the air. Miss Patience lunged forward with her terrible mouth yawning impossibly wide, revealing the path so many had traveled. Suddenly, the world became so much thunder and fire, and the ground opened beneath us. The second batch of explosives had detonated, and Miss Patience and I tumbled into the stygian darkness.
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