From the Journal of the Grey Scribe:
I really like that name—the Grey Scribe. I feel it somewhat dignifies an otherwise undignified station, as well as an otherwise undignified person.
Today I’m writing to you from the top of a ruined church, balanced quite precariously between two jutting turrets. Mr. Grey has insisted that I accompany him on his newest dalliance with death. I’m none too thrilled to be here, but I must confess, the view is quite amazing. The wind up here feels like God’s breath whispering across my body, the Lord’s face just barely discernable within the gathering darkness, slowly disappearing behind the herd of clouds presently lumbering overhead. I forget too often—especially of late—that I’m a writer, if not a particularly good one. Yet even I prove capable of a few decent sentences, now and then.
My owner explained to me—earlier this morning, while I made him eggs and toast—that there’s been much ado about this new player in the Game, having killed quite a number of its participants. “The contest itself has become a hunted thing, and each Wolf that falls to the interloper will bring the dream closer to waking. This cannot be allowed. But while the beast has all our names, we know nothing of it. Some of us, those who are disposed to speak, have suggested hunting it together. You must bear witness to this, for the Wolves shall become a great ravening pack, and we shall taste the blood of this trespasser.”
The upshot of such terrible news is that I’m secreted away on this roof while Mr. Grey meets with some of his would-be victims—and quite possibly, the killer that will finally clip him. Provided the monster doesn’t rip him to pieces first, of course.
I’m not sure how I’d feel about that, Mr. grey getting himself murdered. He’s a decent enough guy. He lets me stay up late, eat all the junk food I want, he even buys me gifts. Why, just last week he bought me an antique writing set—it even came with a fancy-ass quill pen. But, like most things my captor does, there was purpose behind his actions.
“Your penmanship often appears like squirming insects curling and sprawling about the fine pages I’ve provided you to write upon. This just won’t do, I’m afraid. You see, writing is the art of trapping thoughts on paper—laying them to rest, if you will. The shape of a letter can reveal much about the writer, even beyond the content of his words. You have the fine job of preserving my thoughts, and I should not want to give the impression that I would take on the services of an indelicate penman. So, I’ve gifted you with this calligraphy set in the hopes of improving your ability to properly lay my thoughts within their delicate white graves.”
I was never one for cursive writing, let alone calligraphy, but what the hell, right? I gave it a shot, and it turns out I’m not too bad at it. I like it, in fact. Mr. Grey was right, the shape and style of the handwritten word lends a distinct sophistication to the content being written, even transposing that elegance to the writer’s thoughts themselves. Cool.
I can see Mr. Grey down there in the courtyard, his cane-sword gripped casually in his left hand. He lit a small fire just outside the broken entrance to the church, to signal his location. Not a great move if you ask me, but he seems to know what he’s doing. This gathering was arranged entirely within the collective dream the killers all share, so I’m curious if anyone shows. If someone does pop up, it’ll be just one more crack in the foundation of my sanity, such as it is.
Yup, here comes someone. They’re wrapped in a weird-looking cloak, almost looks like a single ragged batwing. The guy’s tall, but thin as a needle. His movements are sharp—controlled and quick. He and Mr. Grey are talking, now. Whoops! It’s not a guy at all. She just took down her hood, and I can see black hair flowing ephemeral, almost weightlessly, like gobs of spider webs. I can smell her perfume (from way the fuck up here?). Wow, that perfume. I bet she’s a knock-out for sure.
Here comes someone else. Wait just a minute, their shadow’s all wrong. It’s moving against the firelight! It’s coming up the Goddamn wall—
Ok, I’m back. Almost dropped my damn journal. Mr. Grey appears to have asked the thing to knock its shit off. I don’t know what the hell it is, but I’d wager it isn’t human. It keeps fading in and out, and . . . yeah, it keeps changing in height as well. About the only constant is its mask—a golden goblin’s face, caught somewhere between a leer and a smirk.
A big guy just showed up. He seems to have just one arm, the left one, and it’s huge. From what I can see, it’s wrapped in all kinds of weird tattoos. He’s pointing at me. How do they all know I’m up here? Am I glowing, or something? These Neopsychotics and their weird-ass senses, I’m telling you.
They’ve been talking for a while, now. The fire’s all but smoking ash and my back is killing me. Mr. Grey told me to stay up here just in case, but they all seem to know I’m here, and it doesn’t look like anything’s going to happen tonight. I think I’ll head down.
My hands were shaking too much to capture anything in real-time, so I’ll have to give you the recap. Something came howling through the church, casting aside stone and concrete like they were nothing. I’d just cleared the staircase when the monster exploded through the wall. The sound it made was like all the shrieks in the world had been bundled together into one horrible deafening sound.
When it burst outside, it stepped on what was left of the fire, shooting flames into the air. The strangely rejuvenated fire tossed an orange glow upon the trees outlining the boundaries of the courtyard. All the Wolves save one were blown backwards by the explosive debris. The big guy with the huge left arm stood his ground, batting aside a huge chunk of stone as easily as the monster had knocked it free. The two collided with each other, and I swear I felt a shockwave rattle my bones. The monster crashed a wicked fist down upon lefty, who to his credit, didn’t break into fucking pieces. Lefty just cranked back that gigantic arm of his and threw a terrific haymaker into the creature’s jaw. He practically spun the thing in a complete circle. Despite the ungodly wallop it took, the creature was undeterred, hammer-fisting Lefty to his knees.
As the two grappled, the monster was suddenly dragged backwards by its shadow. It was the golden goblin, reaching out from the darkness. The masked shadow flung the creature through a huge stone column of the church, but no sooner had the creature been buried in stone than it exploded free.
If I understood the game plan, beyond simply joining forces, the Wolves were combining their Red Dreams—a suspension of the laws of nature which granted them exceptional abilities when they were near one another (or so Mr. Grey had explained it to me). With four of them joined together, surely they outmatched the monster.
Next came my captor, slicing through the darkness, blade outstretched. He caught the monster in the chest, plunging the blade of his cane-sword deep into the beast’s heart. Yet the creature seemed unfazed, and with a fierce backhand it nearly took off Mr. Grey’s head.
Before the creature had fully recovered from my master’s attack, the woman with spider webs for hair appeared behind the beast, burying her overlong fingers into the meat of the thing’s back, tugging at its spine. The creature howled in pain, thrashing wildly at its tormentor. The strange woman did not relent, only reaching deeper into the demon’s back as if trying to climb inside its body.
Lefty was back up. He cranked the monster across the face, blasting its teeth all over the courtyard, several embedding themselves like bullets into a nearby stone wall. I have no shame in saying I had to check my shorts.
Mr. Grey also returned, busying himself at the task of slicing through the tendons of the monster’s legs, causing it to slowly collapse to its knees. I could see the golden goblin’s shadow holding tightly the beast’s flailing arms, allowing the other killers to pile onto their adversary without significant resistance.
All was going well and the beast seemed near defeat when I noticed the trees around the courtyard turning white and dead. For a fleeting moment, I thought I caught sight of a giant shadow, bloated and female, stooping behind the tree line.
Then the lightning fell like rain, and four screams chased the thunder.
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