Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Monday, May 27, 2013



      “Don’t just stand there and scream,” cried Weil, the leader of our company. He was shouting over his shoulder at me; a slightly curved sword in one hand, and a fanged mace in the other. Both seemed alive as the blood that slicked the surface of the weapons would pulse and squirm, before jumping to the ground and digging into the soil like small crabs. It is my presumption, as well as hope, that it did so to die. If these actions are indicative of its nature as a seed, we are all doomed.
     Try as I might, my feet, tongue, and mind held still, as though an insignificant puddle of water that freezes over as winter unveils its first snap. The screams of men whirled around me, biting like flies; infighting amongst themselves to see which lucky pest gets the first taste. Whereas the cries of men latched on, freezing me under its touch, the sound of our enemies gripped me with blacksmith pincers, and set fire to my bones, snapping them under the weight of its invisible hammer.
     The creatures we were fighting were almost twice as tall as a man, but with limbs that seemed no thicker than the handle of a broom; they had a strength that blew past our perceptions of their anatomy. It seemed as though all the muscle and tissue had been removed from their faces, for taut skin stretched over their cheek bones and jawlines, giving the likeness of a human skeleton covered in flesh. The skin from around their eyes and lips had been roughly removed, leaving inky black pits for the eyes, and dark teeth - that seemed to shine as though coated in oil – that were set in a permanent smile. Their skin was so white, it reflected even the faintest light of our fires, giving the iridescent properties of a pearl.
     By far though, the most terrifying aspect of theses abominations were the sounds they would emit. As they walked, they would sway – in the likeness of newborn cattle - and I can only describe their sound as a hundred children, simultaneously crying, each trying to out howl the other. However, when they ran, it turned into a maelstrom of child-like giggling, and I cannot fathom how men like Weil could still use their knees properly when the hell screeches started to flare up around the battlefield.
     Turning his head around, Weil’s eyes came down on me as though augers and he started shouting. “Pick up a sword, boy! I said don’t just stand there and scream, you daft fucking-“. His fiery speech was ended prematurely as long, spindly fingers spider-crawled down from the crown of his head, and slipped into his mouth precisely. In one fluid motion, the hand ripped up towards the dark sky - where no stars danced, as thick clouds had filled in the heavens; flickering shadows and firelight played on their surfaces. His head was missing from the jawline up, and the rhythmic fountaining of blood splashed onto the smiling face of the creature that loomed above him.
     I cannot be certain, but in the wavering light of our fires, I swear I saw the eyes of the beast sucking in the blood, as though those inky pits of his eyes were absorbing the life source of our commander. Turning its head sideways – in the likeness of an owl trying to fathom the boldness of a lone mouse in a field - its voice flared back up to a parade of giggling that hung ominously around with the large smile that clung tightly to its face. I knew in that moment what the boar must feel like when it sees the hunter before death. This was not a battle between us as we had all believed when we were marched onto this battlefield – this was sport, not war.
     Life did not flash before my eyes, as I’ve so often heard in stories. It took only a second, and I fell in on myself, and knew it was over. The only thing left to do was to prepare my body for when my soul would depart. I thanked the twenty gods for the life I had been given so far. I thanked them for all the good I’ve seen in this life, and that I would die fighting to save all those things I’ve come to love; no matter that my personally being on this battlefield was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. With trembling hands, I ran my thumbs along the fallen blade of Weil’s sword, and ran them over my closed eyes. I prepared my body for death, and mourned for the men that lay in many-limbed mountains around me.
     Hands knotted themselves into my shirt, and roughly hoisted me off the ground. I tried as hard as I could not to piss myself – for no man should meet his gods soiled in such a way, but it was of no use. As the hands let me go, I stood with my eyes closed, covered in piss, and wept openly.  Dimly, I heard a voice shouting at me, and in my daze assumed it was of some powerful deity. As I opened my eyes, I saw Tommas, another company leader, and four men that held the creature pinned into the soil with large spears, the blades of which were longer than a man’s arm.
     Wide-eyed, I turned and tried to thank Tommas, but he took my shoulders, and began to violently shake me. “What did you do to the creature!” he shouted, his wild eyes flickering in the dim firelight. I didn’t necessarily understand, and when I said as much, a gauntleted fist caught me across the right side of my jaw. “The beast!” he shouted, “It was standing over you, staring as though confused, not attacking. What exactly did you do? Why didn’t it kill you?” Staring down into my hands, I tried to process what he was talking about, and my eyes froze on my thumbs.
     “Blood,” I mumbled, speaking over his growl to talk louder. “Blood!” I shouted, “I spread blood over my eyes, and it must have confused the creature, perhaps it couldn’t tell if I were friend or foe,” I spoke hurriedly – each word nearly tripping over the last. I watched as his face flashed through the spectrum of confusion: passing through bewilderment, stepping into curiosity, flickering through anger, and finally settling on suspicion. “Why did you have blood on your eyes, boy?” Tommas asked through slanted eyes.
     My heart was crawling up my throat as I realized what I had just admitted. “The Wild Faiths were outlawed many years ago, heathen,” he spoke with a cold, and calculating voice. Within seconds, his men plucked their spears out from the beast - as it had finally stopped thrashing its gangly appendages on the ground - and held them towards me, as though I were in the shape to try running. “The law says that heathens must be killed on sight,” Tommas muttered dispassionately. “Kill him.” His soldiers set their shoulders back, in preparation to lunge their oversized spears at me, and something foreign ran through my body. I had assumed I would feel fear in this instance, but I did not. I only felt pity towards these men; men who were on a battlefield, surrounded by monsters that could kill them at any moment, and they still could not allow a man to pray to gods other than their own.
     Something inside me snapped, or perhaps that’s too violent of a comparison. Perhaps it is best to say that a deep-rooted memory woke up inside of me, and I felt more alive – covered in blood on a battlefield facing a collar of spears – than I had in my entire life. My eyes flickered down, and sought the area that the beast had been laying, and wasn’t the least bit surprised when I saw the corpse to be missing. I looked Tommas directly in the eyes, and raised my chin to him, showcasing the neck of which his soldiers would certainly strike with proficiency in a matter of seconds. Tommas wore an emotionless face, and stared down at me as though I had gone crazy. “Be done with it,” he said. The first spear gave a loud clanking noise as it struck the ground, and only seconds flashed by before the other three followed. I must admit, it was pleasurable for me to finally see emotion run through that face of Tommas. Even better yet, it was one of terror, and I drank in the experience gladly.
    Tommas stared at me guiltily, before coughing up enough blood to coat his chin and neck, and finally passing. The abomination stood over him, sword through its stomach and spear wounds lacing its body; the noise of the creature finally dying down. They were both dead, and I walked over to prod at the bodies to make sure. Looking around, I finally realized the battle was still raging, but the waves of men were being effortlessly butchered. A few of the creatures turned towards me, expecting easy game, and stopped to look at my eyes for a while. The heat of the battle, and the nerves of being near death had caused perspiration to run down my face, washing away the bulk of my Do’saat blood. Try as I might, I was slicked with sweat, and the blood would only run down my face when I tried to reapply it. Turning away, I heard the crying turn into laughter as the beasts started to charge, and knowing that death would finally find me this time, I knelt down near the corpses of Tommas and the abomination, and spoke to them in turn.
     To Tommas, I thanked him for putting my faith to the test. I could have taken any number of routes to beg forgiveness, or lie about my beliefs, but I did not. I thanked him that I may leave this world, finally sure of myself. For so long, I sat in deference to The Sons of Sol, and kept my prayers tucked inside of shadows, watchful of their prying eyes. Thanks to the foul nature of Tommas, I would pass knowing I would hide no longer. I held anger in my breast towards the man, and wasn’t remotely ashamed that I was happy he came to know such terror as he did.
     To the slender creature near him, I crouched to my knees, and looked over into those writhing black maws that stood where his eye sockets would be. I tried to pear into their depths, and from the bottom of my heart, cursed them. “You truly are abominations, and I regret ever having felt pity towards you. I’m ashamed that I once felt sadness for you, thinking you were mindless creatures, and how I wished you could live human lives.” I spoke these words, until a particularly nasty thought fluttered into my head. Looking over at the corpse of Tommas, I realized that being a human wasn’t the penultimate experience in this life; that some humans where just as much beasts as these strange creatures were, and I fell to my knees laughing, knowing that even though I hated both of them, I would leave this soon leave this life, having the both of them by my side.
     I set my head down on the earth next to them, and started to hum an old song my mother once taught me. It was a prayer, carried on through our people since our beginnings.
     Of what challenges,
     may wicked men ever know?
     How difficult must it be,
     to have no self control?
     Walk until you drop.
     Walk until you drop.
     Sow your bodies field,
     enjoy the harvest’s crop.
Humming along, I pressed my face into the earth, and felt the powdered dirt underneath absorb the sweat of my face and cling to my skin. My people weren’t supposed to leave this world covered in dirt, but my face was so filthy at this point, I didn’t think it could hurt anything. The laughter was getting close, so I gently shut my eyes, and gave thanks all over again. “It never hurts to repeat gratitude, doing so makes up for all the times we forget,” my father once told me. It would be a lie if I told you I wasn’t terrified, but somewhere deep inside me, something small was dancing with glee at the prospect of seeing my parents again. Would they still recognize me? Would I recognize them? My father was killed during The Uprising, the only time we tried to stand up to the Sons of Sol. My mother died a few years after, as a result of a common disease. Stomach Rot was particularly bad that year, and Wild Faiths where withheld the cure, so that the Sols could make sure their own people were taken care of. My fingernails unconsciously dug into my palms, as I went further and further into the recesses of my mind, anger made sport of my body, as though wildfire during a drought.
     I was forcefully ripped from my dream-like state as something skittered across my eyelids. Even through the panic, I could still hear that the abominations weren’t upon me yet, so I assumed I had lain upon a shield bug. I regained my composure, and shifted my head slightly so as to give it room. “You won’t want to be here in a few moments, little guy,” I whispered. I wondered if those strange bloodling creatures were able to hurt insects, and with that thought, the fear I assumed I had beaten found its way back into my bones.
    I tried to lift my hands to my face to tear away the creatures, but my fingers tore through them as though water. It felt as though hundreds of small hands filled in the cracks of my eyelids, and forcibly pried them open, biting my eyelids in the process. The bloodlings were like small pools of dark water that could grow arms and legs and scramble along the surface. They were as though unimaginably horrific spiders that could flow like mercury. I howled in pain, but no amount of thrashing did any good whatsoever. The pain of having ones eyeballs forcibly plucked from their body is so unbearable; I cannot even bring myself to find the words for it. I howled, and I cried, and I sat as a thousand small hands tore into my face, eating away at the skin of my eye sockets, finally finding home in the newly formed caverns of my face.
     Although my world was black, I tried futilely to blink my eyes, but the muscles I used without thought were no longer there. It was such a helpless feeling, that I didn’t even notice the red ink that shot into the darkness of my vision. In seconds, I looked at the world through rose eyes, and saw three abominations nearly upon me. I had been defeated too many times on this day, and could no longer deal with such fear. I know how ridiculous it must be to hear someone say such a thing, especially as I look upon my words set to paper, but that was earnestly how I felt. I just could no longer find peace, or anger, or pity. I felt fear, and in such a moment of weakness, I raised my hands towards the abominations, and screamed as loud as I could: “Leave me alone!”
     It was of no sense I can explain to you now, but I could feel the blood that surged through my body, and I could feel it in others too. It was as though I could sense life itself, and could sense it as though sight, or smell. In my mind, I could feel the blood in their bodies, and saw it somehow as through a thread. Snatching them in my fist, I ripped them out of existence, and saw the creatures collapse as though puppets when the handles are dropped. I sat in awe as my mind tried to process the feeling of joy that was trying to seep into my mind. Before I knew what was happening, I was walking through the battlefield, shredding abominations left and right; each fallen body making me more familiar with this strange power. The cries of men turned into cheers as I tore through the abominations, until I turned on them too, and found myself howling in laughter. Behind my shrieks, I could hear the voices of a hundred children laughing like the abominations had; however, my own voice came through the loudest. I was a marriage of the humans and the abominations, and I had an ever-increasing well of destruction at my fingertips. Minutes tiptoed by, until silence fell on the field, and I stopped laughing. Tilting my head north, I saw the gleaming tower of Solius, the capital city of the Holy Order of Sol, and knew in that even the small amount of control I had over my body was quickly fleeting. It was wrecking my body as though a plague, and I knew that I would soon no longer exist as the human I once had. I would simply cease to be Seni the slave, and I would soon be a monster, and within the day, I’ll have some terrible name associated me, forever.
     Somewhere deep inside of me, the feelings of my youth - the feelings of anger that the Sons of Sol butchered my people for practicing peaceful faiths was burning inside of me, and I knew I would soon kill them all. The terror I feel for that is the only thing keeping me in control long enough to write this to you now. I have tried to cry, but I am no longer capable of forming the necessary tears. Thoughts whirled around me, such as “would I be able to die,” or “will he heavens still accept my soul when I do?” I feel myself turning, and am losing the memory of my parent’s faces. I am losing everything.
     Although I can feel myself slipping away, please remember that I was once a man of truth - a gentle soul - and I was forced to become a monster. But no, that’s not quite right, is it? How was I a monster? I will be killing lesser creatures, the humans and the abominations of which are both deserving of such judgment. I’m no monster, am I? If the gods are just for their judgments – if they divine for their power, am I not also a god? No, I cannot say such things, I am surely a monster, and these words are all just madness. Please, remember that I never wanted to do this. Goodbye, whoever finds this book. I’m not a monster. I’m not a monster. I’m a monster and I’ve a debt that needs to be collected. I’m not a monster. I’m a human. I was a human. I ws nt amonst... Imn ahumn...

-          Taken from a journal found on the Kreshan Battlefield , shortly before the fall of Solius in the year 172 S.C. The remaining pages were scribbled in an unknown language, and the back half of the journal was ripped off completely. The monster was pincushioned with arows, and set aflame after four bloodied years. It's body was chopped into seven equal pieces, and attached to weights. They were thrown into the six oceans, its head burned to a cinder and buried under a mountain.

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