Beyond The Nightingale Floor (§.03)

Continued from §.02


Haru and Ayumu left the unconscious Daichi to his pergola and Kumiko to the wood and made way to the south, down the lower mountain region which swiftly flattened and let out into a hilly expanse where the forest grew more thickly and mist was heavy in the air. Insects swarmed thick and loud and Haru grew increasingly vexed by their continual incursions.

“We shouldn’t have let that bastard be,” Haru snapped after some five miles in silence.

“Too much trouble. We’ve places to be.”

“Aye… but…”

Ayumu turned from his companion and examined the land before them. The southern trail widened and swerved off to the right. Ayumu swiftly stepped from the path and cut into the forest.

“Where are you going?”

“We should stay off the road. There could be other slavers.”

“You think Daichi and Kumiko have confederates?”

“Possibly. Even if they don’t, they certainly have clients.”

Ayumu furrowed his brows and folded his arms as a startling thought occurred to him. He withdrew the map he had purchased from the town on the other side of Sōzō-ryoku from his inner coat pocket and unfurled it, running his right bandaged finger across the intricately drawn mountain ridge from north to south until his digit rested upon the base of the southern-most tumulus, proximal to where they currently stood.

“The only major listed settlement hereabout is Uchū Castle and the hamlets surrounding it.”

Haru turned to his companion, his visage dark with concern.

“Fools we are—we’re headed to a slaver camp.”

Ayumu folded the map and returned it to his inner coat pocket.

“If Lord Tenchi did indeed send those two rogues to intercept travelers upon the road, then surely, proceeding to the castle is foolish. If, however, they were merely denizens of the keep, servants perhaps, seeking to transcend their status, or interlopers with no roots in the region, a reward might well await us.”

“That’s sensible. Still, I don’t like it. None of it.”

“You are too fretful, Haru.”

“Perhaps it is that you are not fretful enough.”

*

Brightburner

From the womb the creature came, naked and squealing, fording the waters of life-knowing, ill-formed and strange to himself. Blurry sights and sounds echoed all around the small and squirming being, obfuscating the world through their eminence. Words there entailed and them amenable to the creature’s unfurling sensibilities: Miras, Miras, Miras. “My name,” the creature thought, “Such is my name.” Other sensations filtered in thereafter; from the outside.

Cold.

Damp.

Distance.

Presence.

Weight of biomass.

A lingering emptiness.

Alienation subsumed him and he cried out, grasping through the foggy amniotic sludge, stretching his bony, slathered hands to that which hung above, enveloping everything; the ambit of all his world. His caterwauling availess. Great arms there embraced him and a voice, lofty and sonorous spake with tender concern. “Hush and be still, dear Miras. I am here.” Miras smiled and closed his unburnished eyes and rested his malformed and twisted bulk upon the breast of the great being and fell to a slumber that was of a thousand years. When he awoke it were as if the passage of time had skipped him over.

She was nowhere to be seen.

Miras unfurled himself from the filthy ground and stretched as light filtered in from a billion radiant spheres. Luminance blinding. Raising one of his small, fleshy protrusions, the creature slithered-flopped across the ground, moving towards the source of the radiance in the far-flung distance. He desired to know the generative nexus of the lights and the wherefore of his cradle’s vanishing. A pain gripped the beast then, shattering the splendor of his idle and rending confusion whole. A horrid pulsation in the pit of the creature’s abdomen.

Hunger.

His ill-formed fangs clattered dully with nervous agitation as he scanned the barren, rocky terrain of the cavern surrounding. No sustenance. Only stones and darkness.

I must leave this place. I must devour.

Pace quickened. Within. Without. Shortly, the sanctuary came to an end and Miras, called by his hunger, beheld a great chasm of white, as if a terrible wound in the face of the holo. Light like blood spilling through it, cascading upon and over and through his sensorium – needle piercing his marrow with understanding and filling him up with frightful wonderment.

Descending through the portal, the creature emerged entire unto the plane of light that appeared scall’d by some calamity beyond all reckoning. The air was thick with voice. A hundred thousand million screams. All at odds with the other, jockeying for position as if in the midst of some great competition. Miras dragged himself through the blackened silt of the barren waste, following the voices, and beheld a great tower in the distance and it in ruins and upon it’s 99 terraces great creatures with slithering faces and mighty wings perched silently, beholding, below them, workers who heaved stone after stone up great dusty ramps to their fellows above them on parapets and they in turn hefted them higher still to those above them. All the men at the bottom were of standing equal to those at the middle and those at the middle to those above, but all listened to the mighty beasts who sat upon the towers, silently blending into the endless red and boiling sky.

Suddenly, one of the workers – young and emaciated – collapsed from the stain of his labors, the heavy stone he’d hefted falling with a dull thud upon the ashen ground before the tower and him likewise following. A hush fell over the crowd and the people made a circle clear before him. One of the beasts descended and inspected the organism with it’s odious tendrils and then lifted him up and shook him til his body snapped and then slid the man into it’s enormous maw with a clatter of broken bones.

Miras, horrified, slithered behind the closest rock, fast as his stunted flippers would carry him, as the great beast turned to scan the place where he had been, as if it knew it were being watched by the outside. Then all the toilers threw themselves at the monster’s feet and began to chant in strange tongues as the beast stretched its wings and ascended to the skies which whorled with sanguine hues. Blood rained and the ground squirmed with small, hissing creatures without eyes, muti-colored and with jaws distended, who licked up the blood before them with long channeled tongues and feasted upon the remains.

Despite his horror, Miras swiftly seized his chance for sustenance and dove at the first of the wormy, long-tongued beings. He was surprised how easily he tore them to pieces and how sweet their sticky insides tasted upon his palate. He grew quickly in size and wobbled about the same height as the slaves; he began to eat them too and soon he was nearly big as the slither-faced and winged sovereigns who perched as yet upon their spindly thrones. Watching. Waiting. Gone were the flabby flippers, replaced now by powerful arms and legs and retractable claws; the mushy slurping maw now chiseled and extended, eyes sharpening against the harsh glare of the light which bathed the rutted plain with sterile effulgence. Being yet unbecome; his hunger lingered still, this of a different grade and it burning in his now fully formed loins. He clamber quickly, bipedal-sleek, up the first dusty ramp and there took one of the workers and pressed him down and satisfied himself to his cavities and ate him. The brightness would not abate and though less than previously, still it burned Miras’ eyes and he moved up to the next ramp and continued his work til there were no slaves remaining, and upon the third, a female laborer he took, and she pressing her fragile limbs against his mighty frame, cawing, “Consume me not! For consume I then cannot,” And he did not and instead extended his tongue across and within her and tasted her over and coiled the organism into his own and, with his pulsing hardness, met her slick holes and filled her with his seed. As they twined upon the ground in feral embrace, the beasts flew down from the tower and assailed the tresspasser, for the stones were no longer ferried and all advance had ceased. Strike as he may, Miras could harm them not and shortly, they tore him to pieces and the woman slumped upon the ground, eyes wide and stomach vast and from her womb, a river of blood and a tiny form that sucked the light down from the sky. It stood up on meshy flippers from the rent husk of its mother and gazed about with sorry eyes.

I must leave this place. I must devour.