Hi! My names Phil Loyer and I wanted every to get a view into the way Wyvern Gaming designs our games. Out first game was a huge success, as I’m sure most of you know that that is Cthulhu: A Deck Building Game. While the game was great and was visually appealing due to the art, there was still room for improvement. Our card layouts successfully conveyed the game play of the game but it was really all the well-organized or visually appealing to some people. So, we have taken a shot at applying a new card layout which will give a better idea of what a card is at a glance, such as spell, equipment, actions, gear, locations, and allies. First let’s take a look at the original card design.
These cards look good and do convey the necessary information in order to play the game. We wanted a dark theme when we did this. However, based on player feedback many felt that it was a little too dark. So, we decided we would change it up a little and give each type of card a distinctive color so that players can pick out each card type quickly. Let’s take a look at the new design with the same 4 cards.
All the information is still clearly readable, but now they are easily differentiated by color so they can be picked out more easily. For example, if one were playing the magician they would most likely focus on spell cards, so they would be on the look out for purple cards in that case. The theme over all is still dark but it also makes the card art pop a little more than it did previously.
by Melissa Carmean
July 22 2045 2:54PM- Bottom of Mariana Trench-Just Landed
I have made it. The first human to ever reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It was said to be 36,070 feet deep.
Others have claimed to reach the bottom, but these claims were falsehoods.
The pressure in the cabin of my submersible is immense. My ears pop intermittently, and I’ve been resting here for hours. I am far beyond crush depth. In fact, I surpassed it hours ago. The walls moan and creak, but I refuse to leave this previously uncharted stretch of ocean.
Outside lights are on, but they don’t provide much visibility. The darkness here is thick. The ‘bubble’ of my cabin allows me to see three hundred and sixty degrees, so long as I’m willing and able to turn my head in any direction. I must admit, the pressure is getting to me.
My submersible rests at 49,012 feet.
July 22, 2045 3:30PM- Bottom of Mariana Trench- No Bloop Yet.
Lights on. So far, so good, considering I am beyond crush depth. This does not terrify me. I’ve waited my entire life for this. I became a marine biologist for this. I will die in order to find what creature makes such a sound. It is here. It was last heard 30,000 feet above the spot where I’ve rested my submersible.
The mass distortion field projected from my submersible is not enough. It lightens the mass, the weight of the water- still, crush depth has long been exceeded. The walls still creak and moan. Cameras recording. Hydrophones on.
I first heard of the Bloop twenty years ago. A lone, rumbling, unanswered cry. It was hypothesized for years that the Bloop was the result of tectonic plate shifts, or perhaps even bombs. Neither of those turned out to be the case. The Bloop was indeed animalistic in nature and tone. Its cries became consistent enough that we determined it could be a creature seeking a mate. A mating call. But this call has never been returned by a similar being.
The Bloop was first detected in 1997 by the NOAA. After that, several organizations have attempted (and failed) to identify the source of the Bloop. Most biologists theorize that the Bloop is the production of a large sea creature. I agree. Personally, I am of the belief that this is an ancient creature. The last of its line.
Two years ago, the cries became more frequent. More desperate. More lonesome. I built my own submersible. I received funding under the guise that my goal was to explore the Trench. I lied. I don’t give a damn about what’s under here, other than what is making that godawful sound.
I felt as though the creature were calling to me, personally. I’ve felt that it has been my personal mission to discover the creature. I will. Of this I am certain. I was destined to be here, at this moment in time.
I have yet to hear the Bloop.
July 22, 2045- 4:32PM- Bottom of the Mariana Trench- No Bloop Yet
Since I’m here, I may as well describe what my cameras are picking up, though I don’t care so much about the cameras as I do about the hydrophones and what they hear. So far, no sounds other than standard oceanic noises.
But the cameras…
I have a live feed streaming back to my colleagues at the lab. They are likely watching and listening to everything. The lights are weak, but they pick up many creatures. Most are eel-like, eyeless beings. Some are similar to angler fish, but much more skeletal. These fish appear to have meatless bones, and their organs are bioluminescent. Even the plant life glows here. There is enough natural light that the lights of my sub are near-worthless.
The juxtaposition of the horrifying eels and fish with the beautiful blue, orange, red, purple, and green glow of the plants- is jarring. Sometimes I jump. Several large, disgusting eels have crashed into my submersible. They don’t make much of an impact. The mass distortion field may be altering their appearances, however. In the distance, outside of the field, the creatures more resemble ocean-dwellers.
I feel I could turn off the lights and still have a clear vision of the ocean floor, which itself is not exciting. It’s grey, murky sand. I’m planted amidst tall, long and thick rocks. All dark, which dot the ocean floor like the tombstones of a graveyard. There are odd shapes, like letters, or drawings that I can hardly make out.
The markings on the rocks glow bright green or red, much like Christmas lights. It’s hard to see through the mass of stones, although fish still swim by. I’ve seen large, distorted, shark-like creatures devour the smaller eels. These sharks don’t have gills, or eyes, or snouts. Nothing. Just a smooth, featureless plane for a face. And their gaping maws that open only to engulf the smaller fish.
That’s what I see. I don’t know what I was expecting. If I was expecting anything. As mentioned, I do not care for what lives down here other than the creature who cries the Bloop. But, had I any natural expectations of the bottom of the Mariana Trench, I would be sourly disappointed, as I am certain my colleagues are at this very moment as they view my footage.
When a thing is a mystery- it can be anything. Your mind will twist it into either something beautiful and magical, or horrifying and deadly. Here, both environments exist in small doses. But mostly, there is just… nothing.
July 22, 2045 5:02PM- Bottom of the Mariana Trench- First Encounter with the Bloop
The hydrophones have picked up the sound. It is about five miles southeast of where I sit. My hands tremble as I write these words. I’m trembling not because of what I heard through the hydrophones. I’m trembling because I didn’t even need the hydrophones to hear the Bloop. Even through the mass distortion field, and the highly-pressurized cabin of my submersible, I clearly heard the low, long call of the creature.
Hearing the Bloop with the naked ear is much different. A connection exists now. Someone has actually heard the cry. Before, it was only picked up by machines.
My eardrums popped many times, but the sound was unlike anything I’ve heard in life, and I have heard and studied the calls of marine life for two decades now.
The dolphin has a high-pitched squeal. Everyone knows that sound. Even the uneducated could describe it well enough. Seals have similar noises, though they bark. Manatees chirp or grunt. The Great White Whale clicks and makes pulse calls that sound eerily similar to human screams.
The Bloop makes none of those calls. The call of the Bloop is very lonesome, indeed. It has become deeper throughout the years. It makes a call at least once per hour, but when it was first observed, for many years, it had only that lone call. The past five years it has picked up in frequency, and many have heard it through the hydrophones. Through such equipment, the sound is mutilated. It sounds nothing like it does with the naked ear.
My submersible trembled as did my hands the moment I heard the call. Or perhaps this is a feature of my imagination. Perhaps the conditions I am in are causing me to suffer. I do not know, but I believe I’ve truly heard the call of the creature, through no filters, and I did not hallucinate it.
It was a deep rumble. But hearing it wasn’t terrifying. The feeling it produced- that is what has me trembling. It was lonely, desperate, and sad.
July 22, 2045 6:03PM- Two More Bloops
Lights have gone out. The pressure, I believe, has become too much for them to remain operational. The hydrophones are on the fritz as well.
I’ve heard two more Bloops. The creature is now, perhaps, three and a half miles away. It is getting closer. The floor of the ocean shakes when the Bloop sounds. The tombstone-like rocks about me becomes jittery and rumble with more urgency, as though they, too, can hear the Bloop.
I no longer think this creature is calling for a mate.
I believe that, for centuries, the creature has known it is the last of its kind.
I believe the Bloop is a death knell.
July 22, 2045- 7:00PM- Tens of Bloops
Constant now. The Bloop. So loud I cannot think properly. My cabin will not withstand the pressure much longer. A single crack in the wall and I will die. I have a large bag next to me into which I will place this journal. Perhaps someday, someone will read it, and they will know what has happened here.
It’s less than a mile away.
July 22, 2045- ??
All of my electronics have failed me. It doesn’t stop. The sound. Excuse the blood on the pages. My ears are dripping with it.
It’s here. So large it encompasses the whole of my window. I see its body in all directions. Scales. So many scales. It has arms. Human-like appendages. Great, gaping gills, each one as large as my submersible.
Can’t think. The sound has taken over my mind. Creature is circling my submersible. Bioluminescence is the only light source, and I see the cracks in the ocean floor. They form during the calls, and continue to expand. My submersible floats as the creature yells. Lands when the call is through. The walls are curving inward. A drop of water has escaped a crack somewhere. It’s dripping onto me. I haven’t long now.
The engines have failed.
I watch it circle. My sub floats through the trench and the being follows.
It is here.
Something has pierced the top of my sub.
A fang. A large fang. It extends downward through the bottom. There is no space between the tooth and my sub. No space for water to get through. Head hurts so much.
I stopped hearing anything moments ago.
It’s opening its mouth.
I’m afraid I must put the journal in the bag now.
The Bloop comes from a timeless, ancient creature of the sea.
And it does not wish to be disturbed.
by Melissa Carmean
You have never slept for the purpose of rest and it is even less likely that you have fallen asleep to ‘dream.’
So, what is it? Did it ever have a point?
The words are persistent. They are all-encompassing and they stretch far beyond the comprehension of my waking mind. There was simple darkness before this- a blank space in my memory, which has happened before due to my ailment. I have ‘died’ twice before. My body gives all appearances of death, but I always wake. There’s often been a feeling of loss when I arise from such stupors. There persists the hint of memory, but more than that- when I awake there’s an emptiness that will disappear quickly, filled once more by my life in the world of the conscious.
Remnants followed me through my waking life. A feeling. A flash of remembrance that fled my consciousness as though it were simply déjà vu, only in layers. In cycles. That fleeting feeling goes before I can grasp it when I am alert.
But oh, what luck. My waking mind is a thing of my childhood. Of my youth. Of my ignorance, innocence. A product of blindness, a product of my world before it had been rent apart and then expanded by the dreams. The clarity the dreams possess while I’m in the midst of them has far surpassed the things I’ve been taught or tutored. I’ve travelled the lines between dimensions. I’ve experienced other worlds.
Interloper. Open your eyes.
The words are produced omnisciently, and though they are audible, they are internal as well, and they exist in every language ever spoken; all at once. I feel the ambiguity in the word ‘dream;’ I inhale its scent. I’ve long known that I have never dreamt simply when I’ve fallen under the spell of my illness.
No illness. Open your eyes.
I shake my head. I don’t wish to open them. And the feeling is not rooted in fear. It is simple reluctance because I am familiar with where I am. I have been here before, and I’ll be here again.
Very good. It is all cyclical. You shall return. I’ve seen you, dear, waltzing through other dimensions. You must have waltzed here before simply because you are here now.
You are an interloper. The only one of your kind. You fascinate me, Elaith.
Open your eyes.
The words are all that lie before me. The air is dark, but weightless, and my very being is lightened. There is a static feel about this space, and a ringing in my ears. I’m wrapped in the air of worlds unimaginable. Time on an endless loop- the birth of my universe, and it’s death as well.
I open my eyes. The words swirl, patterned in such a fashion as to call to mind the inhalation of air, and as I breathe, the words do the same.
Your husband pleads for your life, Elaith. He will not leave until we relinquish you. I’ve never before possessed an interloper. But I will let you go, if you so choose to leave.
Do you hear him, Elaith?
I shake my head. Or not my head. Where is my hand? I hold it before the place where my eyes should be, and there it is. Small, pale, five fingers and nails bitten to the quick. They’re mine, but they’re not. The words the being utters swirl about me and dissolve like a vapor.
“Elaith is not dead. Her malady is one that assumes the lying likeness of death. Twice before she has lain insensible… pallor upon her cheeks… twice she has awakened after an interim of days.”
It is my husband who speaks. His voice wanders similarly, his words, however, are not written in the air. They stir in my blood. Blood that has not followed me here. Blood that is miles away- millions of miles. But I feel the words. I’m connected still to them. To Phariom. My heart- not heart- beats faster at the sound of his voice, which prickles the veins of my far-away body. Still, I feel it. Here.
You will. You’ll feel everything. Not just now, but the past, the future, the worlds before as well as those after.
Those words swirl, again, as though they are smoke. They roll into one another, over one another and disperse throughout the lightless air- illuminated. Every color imaginable, and colors the likes of which I have never seen. So many colors exist here that even the black is not simply black; it’s other than black. More than black. The feel of the air is more than just air. It is light and free and smells both new and ancient. I both know and don’t know to whom I am speaking. I’ve met him. Though the voice itself is genderless, I know it’s him. It always has been. At least twice before. The words are timeless, timely- voiced and voiceless. There is everything here and there is nothing.
He wishes to take you back from me. But Elaith, you are home.
There’s no need to reply. He is capable of hearing and feeling me, and I am capable of the same regarding him. I do not wish to speak, anyway. I fear that if I project my voice into this space that I will rupture something. Some fragile balance that exists around me.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.
There’s a quill in my hand and a large book in my lap. Sun streams in through a nearby window. I both know and don’t know where I am or who I am, but I keep writing the words.
War. I’m suspended above war. I’m immersed in it, in the shadow of it, crushed beneath the weight of it, but still that lightness infects my being. It does not matter. It never has. Wars from millennia ago, and millennia to come. I see such arrows as those words have spoken. Or written.
The words are written in ash in the hot, red air about me. The stench of death reaches my nostrils; tears form in my eyes as smoke invades them. Corpses sprawl across battlefields. Bombs explode; horses fall; arrows shoot into the hearts of men and women alike. Children suffer, too. We all suffer, but something about it feels like nothing at all.
To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.
In Zul-Bah-Sair my body is lifted and placed upon a transporting device. The leather digs into my flesh, but I am at rest. At peace. Watching as worlds die and are reborn. The horrors that man inflicts, that other forms of life inflict, time and time again- centuries, epochs apart- it must repeat. It’s the loop of cruelty. But there is more to it all. He shows me that, too.
Children of all species, across time and space. They are born. They grow. They love, play, work, have children of their own (some do not), they own pets and homes. They are loved, or lonesome, and then they, too, die. The loop of love and loss. It’s all interconnected. It all repeats again and again and again, and the only tie we all have to keep us together- the one thing humans have in common with extraterrestrials, with stars, planets, galaxies, and universes- we all fade away.
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
the insolence of Office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his Quietus make
with a bare Bodkin?
I write words through the hands of another. I read them through the eyes of all who have read them before. I am the reader, the author, the composer.
Confined upon the planet on which I was born, my body is taken from Phariom and my ears absorb the sound of his protest and my heart aches as his does. I see through his eyes the silver-masked, purple-robed figures as they remove me from him. In a land where the dead belong to…
It’s him. The dead belong to him. Letters float and blend with one another and form the shape of the name the mortals have given him: Mordiggian.
Phariom is flung into a corner. I feel the thud of his body and my consciousness quakes with it. The tether I have to him and that Earth is strong. I belong to Phariom.
I’m surrounded by the tulle of my wedding dress. His hand in mine, a man reads from a hefty tome and words are exchanged while onlookers smile, some with tears in their eyes or upon their cheeks. The guests sit on rusted benches and their discomfort lodges in my behind. There, that day I bound myself to him.
Phariom fights the priests of Mordiggian. They want me to stay, but my husband believes I am not truly dead. I’ve never told him that I am. That I’ve seen all of this before, and will see all of it again. In the waking world, memory fails me, aside from that layered déjà vu, and in those rare moments I’m so overcome with the feeling of everything that I cannot possibly voice to my husband just what it is I have seen. He would not believe me.
Perhaps now he would.
Those silver-masked creatures in their purple garb circle my consciousness as I am slammed back into the beyond. I watch spirits called up from all planes of the universe. They are called to Mordiggian, and Mordiggian embraces and protects them. The creatures in the mask consume the bodies of the dead, and they seek bodies to feed to Mordiggian. Humans consume the bodies of the dead, but it matters not because it is simply their forms. Their souls are with him. Bound to Mordiggian just as I am to Phariom- for eternity.
Teeth tear into corpses brought up from robbed graves, and the more they consume, the more canine-like their faces become. The silver masks disappear and I am left to stare at a circle of ghouls, who loop in upon one another.
But that the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
no traveler returns, puzzles the will,
and makes us rather bear those ills we have,
than fly to others that we know not of.
The pen has yet to leave my hand as it scrawls this endless poetry. I care not what it means, though I know. Oh, I know! I’ve been here before, and I will be again.
The plane of the dead is beautiful. And though the ghastly forms who travel with me would frighten me in the living realm- here they are gentle. Their needs, I feel them. The need to feed upon the dead to build a better beyond. These souls are eternal, just as my sleep has always been. All death thrives here forever. And Mordiggian is the God who watches over all who have died. The stars are here- dead stars, and those yet to be born. The feathered air around me splits.
What is this? Did it ever have a point?
It is Mordiggian himself who begs of me this question. This one question to which I know and do not know the answer because I have lived and died many times before. I have grown old, and labored and loved. I have seen everything there is to see. But still I cannot answer this question because there is a wall in my consciousness that keeps me from doing so. I shake my head.
You never fell asleep for dreaming. Do you feel you belong anywhere?
Everywhere. Nowhere. I belong to it all, but I belong to Phariom, and to Phariom I must return. I always wake again, and no matter how badly I wish to stay and surround myself with the beauty of eternity, I have promised myself to another for that precise amount of time.
Phariom drops coins into the palms of a man. I hear them clink against one another. I feel their metal against the sweaty hands that cradle them. I do not know why he has given this man all of our money, but I cannot be angry, or even too curious because I sit on the precipice of all that has ever been.
You have died on my land, Elaith. You’ve had the misfortune of traveling through Zul-Bha-Sair while you were so afflicted with one of your spells.
Phariom is incorrect. You are deceased. But you also awake from the dead- hence you are the interloper. You are aware of me. We have met twice before. But you never recall our meetings while you are alert. And you will not recall what we’ve shown you here, should you awake again.
I open my mouth to speak, but a soundless void is all there is to project into. That and the light, light, somewhat cold, air.
But I want to keep it. You cannot give this knowledge and then take it from me. It is mine now. You’ve given it to me before, have you not?
Indeed. You can take with you a glimpse. A phrase or two, but if you are to wake, you will forget with each step you take from Zul-Bha-Sair. If you wake, you will not have died. Your conscious mind would not comprehend the depths of what you’ve been shown here.
True. It seems I’ve never been capable of recalling my travels while awake. Mordiggian knows.
Can I see you?
You’ve seen me before, Elaith. He’s fighting so that you don’t see me again. So that you will not recall me, and all you’ve been shown. All you’ve felt.
We never meant to enter your city. We were robbed while travelling. We were going to start a new life with Phariom’s family, and we became lost. We did not intend-
You know there is no reason for you to share with me such words. I bore witness to the robbery, to your fleeing, to your fainting- just as I bear witness to all life and death.
Phariom seeks help for me. I walk the streets and bazaars of Zul-Bha-Zair in his boots. Through his eyes I seek the temple that houses the dead.
I’m shrouded in particles in the temple of Mordiggian, and Phariom cannot see or hear me. All the while I continue to scribble poetry in a tomb, I traverse centuries, and my body lies in that tomb as though it truly were amongst the deceased. Camels spit in the sand outside, waiting to take us from the city of the dead.
The significance of my travels is not lost upon me. I’m only confounded by the lightness. How malleable the atoms are; they are like water, or smoke through which I sail easily, but also through which I cannot yell to my husband. Here, I am voiceless, but also with so much voice I cannot make a sound because there are too many syllables to utter here. Too many planets to tell of- too many universes and matters that are of far more significance than a man in a city with his wife, whom everyone else assumes to be deceased. Too many words, too many languages.
The temple of Mordiggian is a many-storied structure- a beautiful mausoleum which is itself the color of bruised or decayed flesh- where I watch the dead soar from crypts and enter his world. My world. It’s starting to feel more like home as the canine-like creatures no longer need to conceal themselves in robes and I see the ghouls in their ghastly glory. They are creatures of light which has transcended darkness. The people of Zul-Bha-Sair understand this. Phariom does not.
“I am Arctela. He’s killed me. And he will bring me back.”
This voice belongs to a woman so beautiful the many worlds around me have ceased breathing into me and the only thing upon which I can focus is her curled, raven-dark hair and plump, red lips; her pale, smooth skin and red cheeks. She’s stunned me out of eons of existence and pinned me to one moment only.
“Don’t be so awestruck, darling. I have only a short time here before I’m brought back to that ghastly plane. Until the necromancer is gone from the world, I will remain by his side in servitude. But you, Elaith, you have a choice,” she says. She pulls the hem of her dress downward revealing a bounty of soft, unblemished flesh, but also- a knife. Her lovely fingers curl about the handle, and blade faced down, she passes it to me.
The hilt is carved of bone. The moment I touch it, I feel the life of the person to whom that bone belonged-their entire existence from womb to the grave travels through the tips of my fingers. It entrenches itself in my flesh.
A sheath materializes upon my hipbone and I slip the knife into it. I release the handle, the human, the beauty of Arctela who has fled my vision and returned to the temple of Mordiggian. In other rooms of the temple, I enter the bodies of Mordiggian’s servants. I eat the flesh of the dead. My teeth grow long and sharp. I stab into corpses with my knife and I drink their clotted blood.
But I’ve not left the temple. Neither physically nor mentally, though my mind is everywhere, anywhere and nowhere. But it is now dark where seconds ago- no, hours ago- the sun still shone upon Zul-Bha-Sair.
And there, in his temple, I lie. Propped upon a long, high table with many legs. Cool, black slate beneath my back, and to every side of me- corpses. Corpses to be consumed by Mordiggian. There I lie, claimed by the God of Death itself, and there strides Phariom, sorting through the mass of bodies, seeking within them my face, my likeness. Oh what must he have gone through to find me there!
Other men enter the temple and the room of corpses. I scream to Phariom to run, but a barrier exists so that the sound, instead, comes out as a timeless, feral growl. That sound is an amalgamation of every language ever uttered, spoken, barked, cried, or chirped. Phariom hides beneath the table as the necromancer and his men study Arctela, whose cool flesh has brushed against mine. They are there only for her.
Until they discover me.
The necromancers kidnap me without Phariom understanding why. But I’ve heard them speak before. I’ve seen them steal me before, and I’ve watched Phariom chase them, hunt them down before. I don’t need to see it now.
I’m ripped from the temple once again. To watch myself scrawl words through worlds.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
and thus the native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
with this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action.
Elaith you must return.
My eyes cannot withstand the colors and images that race before them. It’s the progression of the universe, rewound in a second and placed on a slow-motion, and I see everything again until the temple is before me, and I’m plunged within it.
Dark room. Lit candles, acrid stench. Arctela rises in the center. Phariom’s eyes brighten when they meet mine. He rushes through the room with a dagger drawn, and I wish to meet him, but I cannot move, and I cannot see properly. I still see the worlds, the wars, the death- the bliss of death and… his world. Mordiggian’s world of… wolf creatures… languages… stars and… I feel I’ve lost so much already. I would sob if I were capable, but all that escapes my lungs is a weak and confused cry.
“She is Elaith, my wife, who was claimed unjustly by the god,” Phariom explains to the men.
My hand. It’s before me. The air grows heavier by the second. Forgetting. He told me I would forget. Phariom is pleased, but I still cannot speak or I will utter that ungodly sound that now sends shivers through me.
You can take with you a glimpse.
His name forgotten, but the words… they swirl in the smoky air of the room. I cannot speak. I cannot move, and I cannot see.
Phariom’s arms are warm as they wrap around me. His scent is life in the air here, which smells so heavily of rotted flesh. The smell doesn’t bother me, for some strange reason. My mouth waters at it.
Phariom speaks to me, but his words and my ears still feel separated by that strange dream. I hear him as though I am under water, and the air here weighs tons upon tons, so I cannot move on my own.
Phariom allows me to lean against him, and he argues with the necromancer. I detect the slight edge of fear in Phariom’s voice, the hesitation before he nods. The necromancer makes to leave the temple with a lovely but robotic woman at his side.
She looks so familiar, but I cannot place her. I certainly cannot understand her movements; how stiff and unnatural they are. What is the matter with this poor woman? Has she a similar affliction to mine?
Oh yes. I am ill. The world about me composes itself into a semblance of sense. I must have fallen ill after Phariom and I entered Zul-Bha Sair. The city… the floor upon which I stand, in this building I’ve never entered. I feel connected to the very ground. The very air.
That layered déjà vu sucks the air from my lungs, but it flees.
Someone opens the door to the temple.
But we cannot exit. Our escape is blocked by a mass of black; a smoke-filled cloud. It makes a sound that pierces the soul. All languages. Every language. It speaks every language.
No. No. That cannot be. Why would I think such a silly thing?
The man and woman in front of Phariom and me stand rigid before the being. The being itself is monumental in size. I crane my neck to peer out the door, and though I turn my eyes skyward, I cannot see the end of it. Phariom immediately draws me back into the chamber to keep me away from it, but it is too late. The darkness has spread into the chamber, the smell of death strengthens, but the air in the room is no longer so hefty. It feels weightless.
My ears pop.
What is it? Did it ever have a point?
The languages are soothing, but the appearance of such an other-worldly being terrifies me. I scream, as do the others with whom I travel. The cloud of thick, dark smoke momentarily forms into something vaguely human, though without a head, or eyes. It shape-shifts into many, unpleasant, wicked forms.
The light of the chamber in which we stand is vacuumed into the being, and I see more light within the being than exists outside of it. Stars, planets, universes. Phariom’s face is frozen, his mouth agape, and I am sure I look similar, but within my mind is a strange comfort. Phariom’s hand grips mine tightly. I’m struck by the beauty of this creature. It is a creature. It lives, it breathes.
The pretty woman is sucked into that void, and the strange cloud/demonic being recedes, disappears like… smoke or… vapor… I’m overwhelmed once more by the cyclic déjà vu and I lean against Phariom until I recover. A man in the chamber urges us to leave. He tells us that we are safe from Mordiggian. That he only concerns himself with the dead, which is why he has taken Arctela from us.
Phariom guides me outside, but I cannot move. I feel rooted to this earth. Still, I drag my feet as he runs with me at his side. He offers to carry me, but I shake my head.
Arctela. Yes. I remember. Beautiful.
That name… Mordiggian. I had been there before, in that dream. He said I could keep some of it. I remember. But I feel the dream slip away with each step we take in the sands of Zul-Bha Sair. Seeing that great, dazzling being has brought some of it back to me, but it recedes quickly.
Phariom’s hand about mine doesn’t feel as it used to. I do not feel so connected to his flesh. I have belonged to Phariom for only a brief time.
What is this? Did it ever have a point?
The words are in my mind now, and they are in the language that I speak. The only language I understand. A point.
Point. At my side I feel the dried flesh of the leather sheath. I reach down and it is empty. But I repeat the word, the single word ‘point’ until I feel the handle against the bone of my hip, and I grasp the hilt.
I have never belonged to Phariom. Never. In all of eternity, those words we spoke to one another on that sunny day- they occupy nothing of the lives I’ve lived before, the deaths I’ve endured, and the death that calls me back.
I release Phariom’s hand, and sink to the ground. I tell him that I’m merely tired. I tell him to look ahead, just in case anyone comes for us. He surveys me, and I see that he does not wish to look away from me. He’s only just gotten me back. But I smile and nod my encouragement. He returns my smile and turns his head.
I tilt the blade toward me. It is sharp. So sharp. Indeed, it does have quite the point.
In one quick motion, I place the blade against my throat.
Poor Phariom. He turns. He sees, and he lunges to stop me.
But I am too quick. I have applied too much pressure and the blade sliced instantly through the skin of my neck. I feel veins rip, and warm blood as it soaks my dress.
Phariom screams and screams and screams. And I wish to apologize to him, but when I try to speak that apology, only more blood erupts from my lips. Splatters the skin of his face. Reddens his colorless tears.
I have belonged to Mordiggian in so many worlds and centuries before this one.
And now I shall belong to him forever.
by Melissa Carmean
The woods were still, silent, serene, and sensitive to my existence. As I slithered through the tracks of the young man, dry dead leaves tickled the sensitive scales of my stomach. I propelled myself with my arms and rested upon a large stone that provided a perfect one-way vantage point. That young man would never spot me there, even if it took him hours even if he scoured every inch of the woods, even if he was aware of my sun-dried scales, even if it were just he and I alone.
I blended with the nature around me. Willed myself to merge with it, to feel the molten core of the earth as I wound through fallen branches and rotted leaves, and slipped through rocks with no concern for my girth. And the heat from that core awakened the rage in my own belly. A patient rage it was, but a rage nonetheless, and no mortal soul had yet managed to eschew their fates which I’d devised. The tally marks were kept, marked upon a stone in my lair.
My children would reach with claws while they wept, and scratch into the walls how many mortals deserved not to be spared. It had become an even tally (an uneven, unfair tally to the human, of course, but I was not about to afford him any advantages, nor lend him my remorse. Not when the survival of my species was no longer encased in a dream) until a mere two days before I arrived for the young man. We would square that tally today, it would seem.
The water of the bubbling brook tripped and traversed rock over stone, the beams of sunlight shone through the green leaves of the trees which rustled as the wind shuffled them from their biological place upon the bark.
I had journeyed long and far to find the young man. As I ground my belly against the bright red sand, I saw peripherally the mastery and evil of his hand. There he sat before me, his sinister actions on full display. His smooth brow indented in stern concentration, the very brow that would fold in its youth, given in to consternation, from which I would derive the most pleasant sensation.
Stillwater, Oklahoma. Water snakes were prevalent there. Oh, but they did no harm, and meant no ills to those worthless aberrational apes! But the apes cared not for such universal truths, for they only inflicted pain, fed upon the aroma of murder. The sun shone upon that boy, with chest bare beneath his overalls, which he had rolled up far above his primitive knees. The cloth legs dampened still, because the town name was a misnomer and the snakes swam beneath its surface. The splish-splash of their waves caused the water to rise and fall as though it were the breath of earth.
I sat and I spied as the young man sliced and sliced at my child with a dulled and rusted knife. The primate’s feet planted in the orange-brown mud with my child’s pieces on the green-green moss that my blackened, pained and angered eyes had given an existential rise. I softened the deathbed as the boy gripped the hilt and spilled more red-red blood from the belly of my beastly offspring, and I rose the soft-soft moss to cradle his lifeless, severed head and the white of his spine drenched in death, wiggled still, gripped in the knuckles of the young man.
He held his prize high, and it was then that I discovered the other boys who clapped and laughed, their incisors gleaming in the sunlit patch of land before the brook. My child’s teeth had never reached their flesh, had never tasted what lay beneath their veins, but they looked on as my baby was flayed and displayed as sick-sad trophy. A trophy given without fight, without a drip of humanity. I knew then that they should all suffer the horror of entropy.
His body would writhe with the very death he bestowed upon the water snake. I’d make sure his Neanderthal form would survive just above the threshold of death until he, too felt the pain of dismemberment. And those friends would remember the red-red of his blood, the white-white of his spine, and the empty glare of his vegetated eyes.
I slipped away to gather my children, who waited for me beyond the brook, looking on from the other side, their thirst for revenge aching to be sated, and the ache of their brother’s loss temporarily alleviated. As I summoned them, hundreds of hissing, sneaky, slinky, children, bellies slimed by the algae of the river- swam with purpose through the water, the family whole but for the brother sundered.
As my children swam to the waters’ edge and surfaced to slink-slink upon the land, the boy, horrified eyes wide, dropped the knife. And his startled fans scattered, their feet trampling the blood-mud which spattered the hand of the boy, as that mean-mean glint faded from the whites of his eyes. When those eyes scanned the orange-red sand, my children came, their bellies damp, their minds stronger than that of man. The body of the boy was frozen as the wind wound through the woods- a breeze that tickled the leaves which now trickled droplets of rain upon his head. I split the brown-brown bark of the trees, and encouraged the sound of my children who in unison hissed as I summoned blood to seep in place of sap; as I summoned the very nature there to weep.
The boy gasped as my offspring began by winding up his rolled-up pants, and that gasp transformed into screams while the lean-lean bodies burrowed beneath his flesh. Risen skin bubbled with the cylindrical shapes of hundreds of snake-snakes that slithered and sank into his very veins and crawled through his mutilated form. Boy’s mind remained alive, but body could not withstand to survive. The dead-dead open flesh spewed blood and pus from incisor bites, blood and pus upon which my children gleefully fed.
Then came the process of stripping the skin. In the distance a few of the boys who viewed the original sin made it mere feet after their legs sprang up and as they ran, my children wrapped themselves about ankles and wrists and bound them, also, upon that red-red sand. Jaws approached from the sides, clenched and then opened the lids of their eyes, forcing the boys to cease retreat and watch what befalls those who kill but rarely die.
The boy’s own eyes exploded and gushed, his sockets awash in yellow pus mixed with bone, while one of my children, alone, squirmed in and out of those meatless holes. The shape of his mouth opened in a silent horror as the green-green scales slithered through and muted his cries. The scream-scream from his red-red lips was that of one who’d lost his soul. But not yet were we ready to finish the lesson he’d begun- what occurs to those who care not for the life they stole. Once the body fell, my babies crept and crawled, swarmed the mossy spot of the young man’s hell, providing for him a snake-snake shroud. And once they fled, my heart was warmed, my soul was proud.
Children wriggled in and out of his veins, and tore the skin from his spine, which now lay next to the severed head of the brother flayed. The smallest babies squirmed and twisted until from his flesh his fingernails lifted, and blood spurted forth from where they played.
The other boys screamed and squirmed and begged to be freed, but we were not fools enough to let that be. My children wrapped themselves around the sun-reddened necks of the youths, and hiss-hissed that if they stayed, they would be awarded their lives, though not the sort of lives lived by the sane.
The bite-bite of my children’s teeth is strong in poison and rich in deed. They clenched, sunk, bit, tore, slit, and the sting-sting of the poison worked its way throughout the onlookers, whose bodies folded until they sat, their brains intact, but forms frozen. Preservatives were then drained from the poison glands of my children’s fangs, injected into those who stayed to enjoy the site of the slayed. The murderer forever displayed- the plain-plain spine, the eviscerated frame. The vertebrae had so been arranged that the curvature was reptilian, much like ours, much the same, and the head of the young man was forever battered- no more eyes to shine in the light, so mean. Though what remained were the red-red lips, rounded forever in a soundless scream.
We fled across the clear-clear water, and we implored the snakes who lived there before to return with us to our ancient cave. Where the tally would be altered, evened, revealed, and for no human would they ever feel as though they were subservient.
The other side of the water. The moist-moist grass upon the ground tickled our bellies, and from the city, the church bells sounded. It’s noon in town, and the mean-mean apes were stuck in hell.
I looked back upon the water where no ripples rang, where no waves lapped at the shore. The snakes were gone from its depths, and the water there was still once more.