I never thought I’d return to this place alive. But perhaps that’s the way of all things coming full circle. As I am the last survivor, so I should come to die where I once left unscathed. I can still see the foundations of the buildings and the rusted hulks of construction equipment sticking up out of the black mud. I can still remember the screams and garbled voices from the television as the reporters kept trying to tell us that it was just an earthquake and to just duck and cower in our hallways and door frames. Of course, who could have guessed what sort of heinous creature we had awoken with our greed and desire for expansion?
The children disappeared first. At first, people thought that it was due to irresponsible parents leaving their young to run amok in the aftermath of the destruction, but soon, there wasn’t anyone under the age of 15 left in the city. Even though we hid in shelters and only came out at night, it still found us. It took our young, our old, and our guardians, and left us alone together. If that seems like a misnomer, you might begin to understand better if you only knew the darkness that so easily takes root in the heart of Man.
I grasp the sword and shield in my hands. I only wish that I had a rifle or a handgun, but even if I did, I probably couldn’t use them very well at all. My breasts are bruised and tired, especially with this hard metal armor attached to the front and back of me. I took it off the body of Mark, my childhood friend who has always had my back, as he lay bleeding out from a gash in his femoral artery. It was his last wish that I take his armor and use it up against the last opponent. As I am the last adversary, so is this one my last fight.
The so-called “Component” doesn’t seem all that magical in the light of day. In reality, it seems all too small as I start to remember what awaits me inside. An impossible being bellowing with the sound of dying stars and eternity was a faded memory in my subconscious, but I shivered with the memory of flailing alien arms and tentacles the size of houses and the unearthly noise that made the world seem to go gray with pain. In light of what I face, how can this small pebble sized item help at all? It felt far too much like Dumbo’s feather and me being the fool who believed that it would count up against the Unspeakable Thing.
I remember the cryptic words from the Sage of New Utah as he rolled his 10 sided dice and spoke of visions of the future in his glass eyes, and know that it is all too possible that I’ve been tricked or fooled by someone who has probably gone mad from the sheer destruction of all that we knew to be in our modern world. But still, I press on. All of our hard work would mean nothing if I stopped now, and bitterly in my heart of hearts, I’m ruing the fact that the others have died while I still live on. I look down at my hands and remember how they looked when I was forced to strangle Marie to death when she tried to tie me up and sell me to slavers in exchange for a jug of clean water, something that has been so rare since the Awakening.
I pushed against the debris in the area I had mapped out with instructions from the Sage on a small greasy Post-it. The rocks gave way and started rolling in, revealing a perfectly circular entrance. As I touched the inside, it felt cool and solid like marble, and as I looked closer, I realized that the entire area was made of melted bone. The top half of a skull stared at me with sightless eyes. The bones were small, and I knew what had happened to the children. Something, and I knew just what something it was, had gobbled them up like a nightmare beast from a fairytale and used their bones to redecorate.
I walked along, feeling my shoes tapping along disturbingly as I made my way deeper inside. And suddenly, a faint echo came from the yawning beyond, and I could hear the vibration drawing towards me like a giant wave of sound. Stupidly, I tripped on an outstretched skeletal hand, landing hard on my side and feeling pain shoot from my brain to my toes. My flashlight fell to the floor, the batteries spinning out of it and cloaking everything in an inky darkness that seemed beyond black. I groped along the floor trying to find it, and felt myself starting to slip, sliding in the darkness at breakneck speeds. I was thankful for the plate mail, as it worked a bit like a sled and I figured I’d be somewhat all right if I kept my head up and my feet down. Suddenly, something hit my leg, sending me spinning round, and at that point, I must have hit my head because when I came to, I was lying still in the dark with a shooting pain in the side of my head. The atmosphere had changed, though, and I felt that the walls were breathing. A musky heat that I had never smelled before filled the air and I heaved with the alien feeling, retching evilly onto the floor. As I wiped my face, I suddenly noticed a faint glow around me. I felt inside of my pocket and the glow lit up the inside of my plate mail like a Chinese Lantern. It was the Component. I held it out and it lit up the corridor, dancing off of the walls. As it glowed, I could feel it pulling against me like a living thing. I looked around me and noticed that the walls had turned to dirt, only the dirt was warm, firmly packed as though a thing of great size and temperature had bored through the Earth itself. I shuddered, drawing onward.
As I moved along, the light began to flicker a little, and I noticed that the evil stench was growing more repugnant at every turn. I wrapped my long hair around my mouth and nose, holding back the gag that was starting in my throat. I could see something ahead, a coil of dark tree roots…no…. they were legs. Legs and…impossibly, more legs stretching and curling with a slow torpor of a well-fed abomination.
I crept forward, holding the Component tightly between my fingers, dampening the light.
But the light would not be stilled. It started to sing. And the unearthly roar that followed couldn’t keep it from shining out above it all, in a brilliant crystal voice. The tentacled arms started to move ferociously, wildly swinging in anger…or was it…pain?
One of the smaller tentacles touched the light, and as I saw them clearer, I realized that there were thousands of eyes, horrible eyes filled with intelligence, baleful hate, and an infinity that stretched across universes. I could feel it inside my mind and I realized that my ears had started to bleed, the drops of blood hitting the ground in staccato. It bellowed again, reaching slowly towards me, and I realized that it had taken on a strange color. Where it had been dark and vile brown before, its body was slowly turning pale, washed out and freezing in solid winter white as the Component showered it with brilliant light and sound.
It pulled back as it felt itself being changed from horrible skin and meat and bone into pure white stone. The ripping of flesh and sinew and bone was so loud as it tried to pull away from the light and flee. But it had already been infected and the song grew louder as the Component moved out of my hands and floated after the fleeing creature. I stepped around frozen tentacles in menacing half-flail, and continued on, sword raised.
I passed larger and larger stone tentacles, with blood and flesh steaming with heat, ripped off at the ends. The creature was losing limbs and fast, but still the Component traveled onward. Within a few minutes, the winding tunnels opened up to a giant cavernous pit, the likes of which could only be imagined within the nightmares of the damned. The body of the monstrosity filled the cavern to the point where it almost could be considered cramped, and as the Component flew upwards to illuminate the walls, I could see thousands of tunneled holes leading in, mine being one near the floor of the expanse. The tentacles pulled in and moved together like one limb, attempting to crush or cover the Component’s glow, but still it glowed brighter, the light creating a winged flare emanating from four points out of the center. The wings became larger and cast long shadows over the hideous expanse of the beast, the likes of which could only be described in the most unspeakable language from the pits of Hell itself. The tentacles moved aside to reveal a giant spined expanse shaped like a battering ram that opened impossibly long into a gaping mouth with at least five rows of razor sharp twisted fangs. A huge and unblinking eye sat in the middle of the mouth, buffered on all sides with teeth that glinted evilly in the light, and I could finally understand the screams that had only echoed before:
“Gan-‘nash-vlad, gafu-ndis garaksao S’knar’d!” The creature tried in vain to speak out against the light.
The singing in my head felt like words, softly caressing me with a question…
Who speaks against the unspeakable? Who will drive in the light to the darkest evil’s night?
And at that moment, I knew what had to be done.
I raised my sword, calling to the Component,
“It is I, who speaks to conquer the unconquerable, and I do it now!”
The light answered my challenge and bathed my sword with incandescent white-hot fire. Markings of some sort wrote themselves up the tip of the blade through the hilt in hot magical scrawl. Many-segmented feathered wings of light grew out of the sides of the sword, covered in inscriptions as ancient as the creature I faced.
Screaming with all of my strength, I dove into the creature’s mouth, knowing that it would only take seconds for the teeth to close on my body, and I didn’t care. I only existed to shove the blinding heat of my sword into the creature’s eye and through its brain. I could feel my death coming, smelled my body ready for the pain it would bring me, and I pressed onward, pushing my body until I could feel the blood flowing freely from my eyes, ears, and nose. I could feel the creature screaming as I burrowed the sword into its eye and through its skull and knew that I had finally sealed its fate for good.
As I felt the teeth digging into my flesh, I could only smile and know it would all soon be over.
“Hey, wake up!”
The first thing I noticed was the absence of pain. And the second thing I noticed was the light. I was floating high above the world and I could see the stars twinkling with a brightness that I had never seen before. I blinked, shielding my eyes and saw the hands of my companions beckoning me to join them.
“Don’t worry about it. You did it and you did it right,” Mark ruffled my hair the way he always did, and kissed my cheek softly to let me know it’d be all ok.
“I’ve got a few people I’d like to introduce you to,” he said.
“But what…what about the creature?” I asked.
“You were able to seal Yoghshogl away, and that’s what matters. The world will now be safe for this eternity.”
I smiled, “I knew you wouldn’t leave me behind.”
He grinned in return, “After all, what are friends for?”