Dedicated to Lucas Rallyn/Tiololo, whom helped me create this series with his criticism regarding character development and plot construction. He told me to send him this story upon its completion, as he enjoyed the character of Michael Asher and wished to find out the conclusion of his story. I'm sorry it couldn't have come out whilst you were still alive- but by selflessly sacrificing yourself to save a friend, you've already found out how a real hero's story ends.
Other special dedications fall to Banningk, whose Tobit series helped me stay dedicated to my own story and acted as a major influence, MrDupin, who has always been a grand aid in helping me improve as an author and has played a pretty vital role in ensuring this series continued, The Koromo and Empy for being a great friends and letting me waste their days by speaking endlessly on how the story would develop, Carlo V for granting me his artistic hand and restoring my drive to finish this, and Michael Waight for being an overall badass and putting Noir back into the scene.
To those of you who were there at the beginning, thank you for sharing this experience with me and helping me reach the writing skill required to give you all a tour of my mind.
To those came later on, thank you for coming along with me on this journey.
November 28th, 2015
As Michael stumbled through the thick snow, the sacred light of Pecutani breaching through the forest's wall of trees, each foot felt as if it was one thousand pounds fighting against the forces of nature itself. Fifty miles in twelve hours time- as could be seen by the sun now almost completely rested and letting darkness take form, was only possible due to the pure contempt that burnt within him; one that would only be doused when Leviathan's blackened heart was pulled from his chest.
The fatigue he felt was devouring, forcing him to push himself against the trees as he carried on. His breath was heavy and his mind was clouded by the insufferable bloodlust that had dwelled within him since the day he cut his friends down on the Altenia 5913 decades past, but now this bloodlust had a goal. A set reason. A single target.
The light and sounds of Pecutani began to clear through the forest- he could hear voices, automobiles, and the distinct cries of police sirens. He could see buildings topping trees, which was something he repeatedly fantasized of seeing along this trail of vengeance. The town was just past one final layer of trees. One barrier. Then, in a milestone towards his mission, he breached through the treeline and looked forward upon Pecutani itself. To his surprise, he saw more than just the amber glow of city lights in the setting dust. Blue and red lights flashed down the street directly onward. He simply needed to cut between any two houses of his choice and he was home free.
Pecutani was just as he had imagined. A decently dense, but not large town of small two story homes and simple facilities such as shopping centers and churches. The sky piercing mountains of Alaska stood just a few miles away on the other side of the township, but Michael was already sick from the hills he had to conquer on his way. It seemed to be sitting in one of the very few truly flat areas he had seen in his travel, with roads leaving and heading into the mountains to the sides. He was perfectly on level with the town, needing to just advance into it.
He walked forward in a near trance-like state, and in just a few yards, he set foot on Pecutani soil, cutting between two houses until his feet clicked against cement. The air quality was so drastically different when compared to the deep woods. It felt clean, and free of the overpowering scent of frozen pine and sap. He saw as a police car sped from his right and turned into the street to meet with the lights of other police vehicles, which drew Michael to the sight of camera flashes from the press. Though no blood soiled his clothing, it was obvious that a man just having come from the forest with a machete on his back during a moment of crime would not sit well with law enforcement. Instead of running to see whatever was drawing their attention, his eyes raced to the streets on both sides of him for anywhere to go- or any leads on where to find the bastard of godhood.
Then, to his right, he saw him. Five doors down but on the same block was the face of Leviathan, standing outside of a seemingly abandoned two story house- the color long since faded, though a hint of light blue could be made out. His black hair was slicked backwards over two blue eyes, clothed in a gray overcoat that reached past his knees. Under that was a pair of simple blue jeans. He came to find Leviathan, but it seemed Leviathan had found him. He watched as the god raised his arm and signaled Michael to come closer before walking into the house, opening the door in front of him but leaving it open.
It took no words to start the hatred within Michael, which pulled him in a blind fury towards the house. Even with the sounds of the town around him he unsheathed his machete and made his way to the house in an aggressive march. When he turned and was able to see the wyrm within the home, he lost all control. The building was completely empty, with no decoration or furniture to speak of- just a hard wood floor. That was perfectly fine, as the only thing he wanted was currently standing within that empty space. Running into the house, he pulled his arm back and swung down unto the beast, whom simply grabbed his wrist.
The two locked eyes as his arm began to shake in the grip of Jackson's hand. In Michael's eyes, Leviathan saw the fires of hell alight for a revenge so vile that Dread would curse his name. In Leviathan's eyes, Michael saw calmness. The eyes of a man who had gotten what he wanted. The eyes of someone that had won.
He allowed the blade to fall back against his hand before catching it with his free arm and swinging at the stomach of the beast. Just as the blade was about to strike his abdomen, Jackson vanished into a cloud of charcoal-colored smoke, only to manifest in the same manner at Michael's right side. Without hesitation, he swung in the opposite direction of the previous attack, towards Jackson once more. He watched as the blade passed right through him, offering no resistance. In fact, it phased through him like a ghost through a wall.
Jackson outstretched his right hand, palm open and facing the ceiling, directing his fingertips towards Michael, whom was panting in his rage through his lack of energy. His gravely and raspy yet deep voice left his lips with a tone of someone whom was meeting an old friend once more.
"I knew you wouldn't keep me waiting, Michael. You've come a long way, pretty boy."
Michael didn't know how to react to his hospitality, so he tried his method one more time and swung down on Leviathan's head. The blow yet again passed through him as if he was simply air. Leviathan took his chance to touch Michael's shoulder, which made a physical connection. Michael could feel his heart rate accelerate for just a moment before the touch was broken. His fatigue, hunger, and thirst were gone, as if all of his biological needs had been recently met.
"Feel better?" the evil spirit asked. "You've already seen that you simply can't kill me. So, care to speak before the torment begins?"
Michael panted within his wrath and managed to calm down just enough to stop blindly attacking. He thought the situation over for just a second before speaking.
"What do you want out of all of this?" he yelled.
Leviathan seemed to almost take humor from the joke, smiling charismatically as he began pacing left and right.
"The Pantheon is over. You took the liberty of severing Mendes' head, Dread was killed by my hand- and your blade, and Enki, as you may have noticed, looses his immortality whilst I am manifested. While the Pantheon is over, their effects remain. Enki, the universe. Mendes, sentience and sapience. Dread, humanity. The universe is mine. I hold the throne. Humanity and all sentient life will be purged. All of the Pantheon's manifestations will be obliterated, and their influence alongside with it. I will recreate as I see fit."
Michael was in disbelief after hearing such a devilish plan from the lips before him.
"You'd end all of their work and creations just to sate your own power lust?"
"What exactly have they done except shape this universe to sate their own wishes? I'm doing what the Pantheon have done since the universe's birth. Do as I wish. The only difference is that I'm an honest god."
"It's all one huge power trip?! That's all any of this has ever been for you?"
Leviathan sighed and ran his fingers through his hair before allowing his hand to fall freely to his side. The blue moonlight from the window behind him glowed around him as he turned to Michael.
"I simply see what's mine and take it. I claim the crown of god, and as god, I will craft as I see fit. Besides, who are you, Michael Asher, to claim of moral superiority? Did you not serve the very gods I will replace, and work towards their goals of ending the human race all the same?"
"I changed my fate, as a dead Abaddon will show."
The two stood still for a moment of uncontested tension, Michael refusing to let his guard down. As Jackson reached behind his back, his fingers tensed around the hilt one after the other like a wave. He could hear what sounded like ice cubes shifting before Jackson spoke up.
"What?" was all he could say.
"Would you like a drink before it all begins? Malhorn's home style beer, bottled and produced exactly how it was in 1985. I know it was her favorite, and thus became yours. If I wanted you dead right now, you'd be long dead. You have to agree, if there is anything I've been this entire time, it's honest. I'm sure you'd like to enjoy the luxury of exploring the flavor and the memories you've assigned to it one last time."
Though it was unknown whether is was the complex rivalry between the two or the fact Melody had just been brought up, Michael allowed himself one moment of weakness and shook his head, confirming the offer. When Leviathan took his hand out from behind his back, there was the vintage look of the classic white label wrapped around the crystal clear glass. Leviathan popped the cap off with his thumb before extending the bottle forward. Michael reached for it cautiously with his empty hand. No tricks. He handed it right over to Michael, before reaching behind his back once more and pulling out another for himself.
Leviathan raised his bottle and popped off his own cap, Michael following in the custom and raising his own bottle. The two took a drink together. The smooth texture countered the thickness of the drink as it flowed down his throat, tasting rather herbal and with a brilliant juniper-like twist. He could feel the dense liquid sitting well within his stomach.
"Excellent tastes, she had," Leviathan said somehow caringly. "You had a fine choice in women."
Michael savored the flavor and reflected on the memories it brought back. That night at the Coral Gables in Merindino's Bar was the strongest of them all... god, how happy he was back then. Before he saw the true light of Enki's plan, and before every day was a battle between deities, all because of some higher plan or philosophy they didn't agree on. He was brought back to conscious thought from Leviathan clearing his throat to draw his attention.
"If I can't kill you, why even speak?" Michael asked. "Why didn't you wait for Enki to finish speaking to me and just kill me in the woods? Why one more confrontation?"
Leviathan smiled in the same manner someone would after their significant other told them they were leaving them. A knowing grin from someone that knew this event was coming. He released his grip on his can of beer, which dissipated back into smoke before hitting the ground.
"When I was a child being spoken too by Enki and Mendes, whom do you think I heard tales of? When I was being taught in their light, whom do you think echoed through my head as my counterpart? I was appointed the Mask of the Champion as a symbol of my position under Enki, but whom created that mask? When I spent an unimaginable amount of time in cycling time, whom had built the facility I had to endlessly revisit? When I had to summon Enki as part of his plan, whom had constructed the Icon of Enki I was made to use? When I returned to finally put an end to Natalie, my final loose end, whom was protecting her? We both went our own way from Enki's path, but I did it for my own power, whilst you did it for what you saw as redemption for your actions. Truth is, I've always seen you as a rival of sorts. Now, when I may finally spread my own light, we come face to face. The final milestone in this adventure we've both been on."
Michael took one last drink from his beer, for he knew this would be the last time having its taste on his tongue, before dropping it to the ground. Unlike Leviathan's, his crashed into the ground and sent what was left of the beer onto the floor.
"A milestone. All of this has been a building milestone?" Michael exclaimed, lifting the machete to the sky. "You want your rivalry, fucking have it!"
With that, Michael swung at Leviathan's neck, but yet again the god vanished before him, before appearing once more at his side. When Michael turned and tried to swing again, his arm was stopped by a grip around his wrist, and then countered with a headbutt to the face.
"I already know how your story ends, Michael," the deity mocked. "We need not rush to that chapter. Enki prepared your fate the moment you had cleared that boat of survivors."
He charged again, plunging the blade forward as the blaring sound of even more police sirens filled the streets of Pecutani. The machete passed through his abdomen as if it was made of gas as red and blue flashes breached the window seal from a police car advancing down the road. Leviathan simply looked at him, repaying the attack with a smile as Michael could feel the area around the blade tensing up and offering resistance. It had become as solid as a normal body in a display of power. He tore the blade from Leviathan's flesh, flinging a dark ichor that dissipated completely before touching the floor away from the god.
The god only gave a tired sigh as he transported himself in a veil of mist behind Michael and kicked him in the back, sending him a few feet away. He then snapped his fingers, creating the same sound as a powerful gunshot. The police car advancing down the street came to a sudden pause outside of the house. The sirens stopped their song, though the lights continued their dance. The next audible sound was slamming doors. Turning around, Michael could see that Leviathan had no visible wound on him. The false resistance his body temporarily offered was just that- temporary and false.
Michael's next attack was cut short before the blade was even fully lifted, when he saw a pair of glock 22s aimed at him from the door he had left open behind Leviathan. Two blue uniforms, both donning matching hats. The men measured roughly 5'7" and 5'11" from what he could estimate.
"PCPD deputy Andrew Harris, drop the weapon immediately!" the taller of the pair exclaimed. He looked to be in his late 40s, and well experienced.
Michael's eyes glanced over at Leviathan's, which were filled with success. He allowed the machete to fall from his hand onto the floor, before sliding it over to the officers with his foot, hands in the air. The other officer put his pistol away and moved behind Michael, putting handcuffs tightly around his wrists before searching his body for any weapons.
"And you would be?" Michael snarked as his privacy was violated, Leviathan hardly able to keep a laugh back.
"PCPD officer Don Tefoux, responding to an apparent gunshot and coming across armed combat was not how I expected my fucking day to go. Why don't you introduce yourself?" he said, carrying a French accent with him.
"His name's Michael Collins. Proud deep sea fisherman and religious fundamentalist. Don't worry, he only bites on dates," Leviathan cut in as he felt officer Harris putting handcuffs on him as well, though his smile only grew as he finished.
Tefoux glanced over at Leviathan and then at Harris, not knowing how to respond.
"And that would be Olen Grant. Modern philosopher who minds only his own consent. At least he knows how to use a pole," Michael added, the smile transferring to his face from Jackson's.
Holding on to the handcuffs, Harris picked up the machete for confiscation and pulled Jackson outside, Tefoux with Michael just behind them, where Harris opened the back door to the police interceptor sedan and pushed Michael in. Tefoux forced Jackson in beside him, before Harris tossed the machete in the trunk the pair took their seats in the front. Harris in the driver's seat, he grabbed the small police communicator from his dashboard.
"Officer Harris and Tefoux, two individuals in custody, apparent assault with a deadly weapon. Firearm audible but not found among the individuals. May be a false alarm on that account. Confiscation of one machete. No further news."
Just as Harris lifted his finger from the radio and was just about to press his foot down on the gas, Michael saw Jackson's mouth stretch into a wicked smile.
"If your original order was to join the search surrounding a certain murder victim up the street, her name is Arya Tremblay. The murder weapon was my hand acting as a scythe. She died from two cuts- one to the abdomen to spill her innards and the second to her throat to end her. Her parents are Trytin Tremblay and Venessa Tremblay. No siblings or kin. She specifically did not wish to be cremated."
Harris and Tefoux both looked at Leviathan in disbelieve as he turned his head to Michael and winked, a blue sparkle within his eye when it opened. All three of them heard what sounded like the sound barrier being broken, with hardly enough time for Michael to yell "Fuck!" before they all were transported away.
Within the blink of an eye Michael fell on his stomach, hitting a now wooden floor. He heard two more equally as large impacts as he noticed he was now without handcuffs. Looking up, he saw his machete laying right in front of him and both officers scampering up off of the floor. Just beyond them was Leviathan in his calamitous glory, standing eight feet tall and donning the same black and silver spiked armor he had worn when he had murdered Dread. All three noticed immediately were they had been taken, though only Michael knew how. They were all back within the building they had just left, though the moonlight that was once a faint blue shined purple through the windows.
Harrison jumped up to his feet and drew his gun at Leviathan, whom retaliated by grabbing him by his throat and lifting him off of the ground. Harris bent back with pain as Leviathan's grasp sent a burning surge through his body. Tefoux sprung up and drew his glock and opened fire, watching in fright as the bullets passed through him and struck the wall to his side. Leviathan threw Harris against the wall and turned towards Tefoux, Harris busting through the plaster and drywall, only stopped by a wooden post that was hidden behind it. Tefoux backed up and continued fire, but no bullets could stop the walking Hell before him. He saw the beast pull his right arm to his side as his gun only clicked and clicked, having finished its reserve of ammunition.
The fingers of the demon sprawled out, including the gauntlets, the forming claw piercing through the already spiked fingertips of the gauntlet as the metal misshaped around this revealed appendage. Slashing the claw towards his left, Michael watched as Tefoux's abdomen was lacerated, sending his gore free. Tefoux let out a cry of anguish that was cut short in just a second as the claw swung backwards at his face. The corpse of Tefoux was thrown to the ground by the force of the swing, landing over by Michael.
His skull had been split in three separate areas across the face, leading from the bottom right of the head to the top left. Aside from the mutilated flesh and blood streaming out from his wounds, the visible sections of bone were splintered, resembling a serrated blade. From the sections of flesh left untorn he could decrypt a face of suffering made eternal. That was, however, before the blood rushing from the wounds covered the majority of the skin.
Michael sprung up to his feet as Leviathan turned towards him and flicked his unguis back to his side at hip height, flinging a string blood over towards Harris' body.
"Once you butcher our dear friend Officer Harris in his brief slumber, you can attempt to do the predictable and find your way out of Panthalassa. Don't worry. You'll get a shot at revenge after I've cast the corpses of your kin onto the scrap of their inventions."
"And what makes you believe I'd kill him whilst he's unconscious, or that you'll actually succeed?"
"Have you not learned what happens every time you try to help someone, Collins? Besides- it's what I would do." Leviathan questioned as he stepped over the body of Tefoux as a long tentacle of black smoke ejected from his back, yet not quite connected to him, and picked up the glock he was using before fading out of existence- gun included. He stopped once he was beside Michael and in front of the door.
"One glock 22, two spare clips for a total of 45 shots including the loaded magazine, one terrified police officer left alone with the likes of you... it'll be interesting to watch this play out.
With that, Leviathan walked through the doorway into the open and spread his bat-like wings tipped and dressed in thorns, which broke through his armor with enough force to mimic the shot of a high caliber rifle. He took off into the air instantly. Michael attempted took a step outside of the house to follow him, but he had simply disappeared into the sky- or out of this realm. Both equally terrifying thoughts. He did happen to catch a glimpse at the living and breathing Hell he had been delivered too. The sky purple and the clouds black, many buildings ejecting smoke out of their windows and their walls crumbling away, and the distant cries of horrors unknown assured him that he was once more in Panthalassa for certain. He ran his free hand through his hair and sheathed his machete on his back, rushing back inside.
Walking over to Harris right away, he picked up the pistol he had dropped and took the entire belt he was wearing, two clips in their pouches and pistol holster included. 45 shots, semi-automatic. It was good to have a gun in his hands again. He looked back down at Harris, gun in hand, and thought for a quick moment. What would he do with him? Would he do as Leviathan predicted and end his life? It wouldn't necissarily be a bad thing to do, either. He'd spare him a torturous death or some sort of worse fate. Would he take him along with him and risk getting himself killed? Or, would he just leave him here, alive, to be butchered on his own?
Perhaps he'd wait a moment just to see if it was even worth a shot. If anything went wrong, he'd kill him. For what felt like hour he sat there and looked upon the unconscious police officer, debating his choice and patience. As the body on the ground began to release its stench, he debated something else as well. His taboo hunger had returned to haunt him. Once more he wanted to taste the calf-esque flavor contained within the muscle fibers. To have that rich, elegant flavor flood his mouth once more would be a dream in this world of nightmares.
The only thing restraining him was the fact that Harris would easily be able to know, thus ruining any chance of hostility being avoided. Of course, if he finished Harris with a single swing of his machete, the meat would be all his. Two full bodied, rightfully served to him. The man whom had stuck down Mendes and Abaddon, challenged Enki, and now stands against Leviathan should have his reward, should he not? He felt his hand shake and tighten around the blade. It would only take a second, and then he would have it all. His bounty would be freshly served. He'd feel the warm, thick blood and dense tissue snap apar-... Harris' arm moved ever so slightly.
Michael stepped back from Harris and pointed the glock at him. Harris' head moved as he moaned in pain, opening his eyes when it reached a forward position. He jolted against the wall he was sitting against and threw his hands into the air.
"Fuck, don't shoot!" Harris yelled with such urgency any siren would be drowned out.
"I'm not going to kill you," Michael corrected. "Quiet down before you cause both of our deaths. If I wanted you dead, I'd have cut you apart in your sleep."
"Then maybe you shouldn't point a fucking gun at me!"
Michael pushed his arm forward, as if preparing to fire.
"Yell again, and I'll be better off with a corpse than a friend. You don't know what you could attract from all sides here. People have had their insides released and devoured before they were dead- people half as loud as you. You're not home anymore. You're in a world where twisted chaos stalks you and unbending order hates you. You are in a world where flesh is a commodity and blood is a prize. Orbs of flesh and sensory organs will seek you and sentient pits in the ground will open for you. You are in the unknown Kadath. Panthalassa. Will you finally shut the fuck up, or will you test what this world has to offer?"
"... Please explain," Harris said in a far more controlled voice.
"What you just saw slaughter your friend was Leviathan. Glad we got that part out of the way, because he's the reason behind all of this. He's powerful, he's destructive, and he's a bastard. His power lust is enough to dwarf anything you've ever imagined in your simple life. He's the reason we're even standing here right now. He transported us to Panthalassa. I understand how unbelievable this all sounds, but I'm finding my way home with or without you- and I have your gun."
Harris patted where his holster and belt should have been, only to notice they were missing. He gave an extremely worried sigh and buried his face in his hands. Michael watched as he raised his face a few moments later, now bearing a mask of horror. He looked around from the ground and saw the purple sky outside of the window beside the door, coupled with the charcoal clouds.
Amidst his disbelief, he saw a shadow in the distance, flying high in the sky. Though it was impossible to work out anything but a shadow, he could clearly see four wings, trailed by a long tail twice the size of the torso. It appeared massive even in the distance, making its scale unguessable. His heart felt as if it had broken through his ribs and pumped frost through his veins, and his eyes let loose a small reminder of his mortality. A tear of horror and denial for what he was seeing. His eyes snapped back to Michael when he began to speak to him once more.
"I'm your one ticket home to see your family and friends again," Michael continued. "I'm the one thing making sure you even have a family and friends. I don't have the time to explain everything to you. You come with me, or you end up like the other hero over there on the floor."
"I can't believe this!" he said before hitting his fist against the wall behind him. "I suppose I at least know one part of that is true... you took my gun and ammo and didn't kill me whilst I couldn't defend myself. Look, I'm sure you understand how crazy this all sounds!" Harris said, looking over at the body of Tefoux. He had plunged into Hell, and his only apparent chance was at risk of walking away and leaving him to die- or doing much worse himself. "...I'll come with you. Wherever or whatever this is, I'll come with you."
Michael smiled and walked over to the window, leaning against the wall beside it.
"Good choice. Picking survival and all. Now, I'm going to explain this the best I can to you. There was once a total of seven ways to escape Panthalassa, though that doesn't mean they'll take you back to Earth. Two are now dead, one killed your friend and would love to burn us alive, one disregards our entire species, one was a vortex that no longer inhabits the sky, and another is a race of ghouls that creep into our world to feed. That leaves how many options?"
"One. One single escape. One single chance. We get one try. You won't find many hospitable creatures here, but thankfully this is one of them. It's called the Caritas. A motherly fiend that goes to Earth to take away abused, neglected, and tortured children that would otherwise die and raise them itself. Shelter, food, water, protection- it assures it all to them. When we find it, I'm going to attempt to invoke sympathy, empathy, anything at all from the Caritas that could get it to send us back. You're going to sit back and shut up whilst I do so, and hide your disgust while doing it."
"How do we get to it?"
"That's the part where you must accept our time restraint. The Caritas has the ability of teleportation and cross-dimensional travel, meaning that Leviathan might have not slaughtered it, though he's certainly aware of it. He's either keeping it alive because he wants to feel its suffering as he slaughters human children, or because he wants us to find our way back and see it for ourselves. Either way, we will not be able to save everyone in Pecutani. His slaughter will draw the Caritas to the forest, where we must be, so we are able to locate its domain. I guarantee you he has already started. We just have to find where it intends to transport any children from our world to this world- if it's foolish enough to think it can take prey from Leviathan."
"So our one, single chance... is reliant on a series of slim chances, all compiled over the time restraint of attempting to save anyone in Pecutani..."
"Exactly. Any questions?"
Harris looked out of the window beside Michael and wings of the flying terror in the far reaches of the sky clip the corner of the frame.
"Any idea what that behemoth in the sky is?" he asked cautiously and scared, a horrified chill sent down his spine starting at his neck.
Michael didn't even turn around to see what he was talking about.
"A Nithri'syuthoth. There used to be two of them permanently circling the vortex that used to permanently hang above in the sky no matter where you looked up from. Not a clue where the other went once that vortex faded away."
"Oh, great... more than one, and one's missing. How do you know so much about all of this?"
"I'll spare you a series of stories that'll take a year and a half to tell you, and just say I've been here before. I've spent a lot of time here. Years, if you put it all together. Listen to everything I tell you and do everything I tell you, and you'll have a chance at survival. Now, get up," Michael said, taking one hand off of the pistol and extending it to him.
He grabbed Michael's hand and was pulled off of his ass, almost blacking out when he stood up. Once he gained his senses, he reached for his gun, which Michael pulled away.
"And I'm keeping the gun. I'm your protection. No room for stupid choices."
Harris took a deep gulp and just nodded. He wouldn't say anything to piss off Michael. Besides being in complete shock at everything going on, he was also afraid of him, and he wasn't one to fear anyone.
Signs of Coming Hellfire
When Michael reached the doorway, he leaned out and looked around for a moment before carefully and slowly walking outside, making sure not to walk flat footed and to remain crouched. When Harris went to follow him, mimicking his walking style, he got his first real look into the realm of crawling chaos that he had been casted into. The buildings he had driven past and entered every day and the roads he had traveled laid silent, not a single light coming from a building or post. When he looked just a few feet down the road, he saw his cruiser parked against the curb, though it was completely rusted and seemed as if it had been exposed to the elements for decades. Everything was quiet, but certainly not peaceful.
Michael walked to the right of the house, daring not to drift more than a few inches away from the wall, beckoning Harris to follow him. The pair slowly made the bend around the corner of the house, into the space between this house and the one next to it. It was only four feet or so wide, but Michael could just barely see that just beyond the two houses was the forest that surrounded the entire settlement. The walkway was not paved, and gave absolutely no light. The two pressed through, where Michael paused for just a moment to look to the left and right. There was a space between the treeline and the houses of roughly thirty yards. Nothing in either direction.
He bent over even more and reached his left hand backwards. Harris reached for it, unsure if that was what he wanted. When Michael tightened his grip around his hand, it was confirmed. Then, the two began a light, low jog across the snow. They were about half way across the stretch when Michael stopped and lowered himself, bringing Harris lower with him. They paused in the snow, practically on their knees. Michael took his hand off of Harris' and pointed out why he had stopped.
About seventy feet away, out from the concealing darkness the treeline of thin, tall pines provided, a ghoul had emerged. It was hunched over, yet bipedal, but its features were not fully visible from this distance. Michael could never forget their form- a twisted combination of canine and man, complete with the jaws of a rottweiler. Nor could he forget their claws. Their rotting flesh that hung so disturbingly in strings, holding on by the thinnest of threads. The skin of the ghoul hardly carried a green hue on its pale body, meaning it was not an old ghoul, but instead within its prime.
Michael then pointed to the woods, yet he pointed to the right, implying they would make their way to the forest in an angle away from the ghoul. Harris wouldn't dare to not follow once Michael began making his way there. The snow chilled their boots as they attempted to make their way across the gap silently, but the cursed crunching under their feet made Harris worry. His worries were proven to be ill-founded once he saw the distance they had made in what felt like just a few heart beats. Michael merged into the darkness behind the treeline and leaned up against one of the first trees. He did the same to the tree next to it.
The rough bark brushed against his arms, which his uniform hardly protected. Harris looked around to see just how dense this forest really was. No two trees appeared more than six feet away from each other, creating a maze of bark with a canopy so thick that light seldom hit the ground. It was, simply put, darkness and bark. He knew for a fact that the forest was nowhere near this dense on Earth.
"What the hell was that thing?" he asked.
"A ghoul. Think of them as your distant relative that would love to take a few bites out of you. One ghoul isn't an issue, especially since they aren't always hostile, but engaging in open combat is just asking to attract bigger, worst, constantly hostile creatures."
"...At least the trees are normal, here."
Just as Michael finished talking, Harris poked around the tree and looked up at the behemoth in the sky. It appeared massive, regardless of the fact it must have been four hundred feet in the air or so.
"You have no reason to fear the Nithri'syuthoth."
"Are you kidding? It must be four hundred feet long!"
"Five hundred and fifty, exactly on the dot. It has the beak of a hawk filled with many more beaks within beaks for a mouth, each with their own tongue underneath the smaller beak above it. Besides the four wings keeping it suspended, its body is covered in eyes without pupils that see everything around it, and small tentacles constantly rubbing and cleaning each eye. The tail is tipped with another mouth, though this one is worm-like and filled with a complete circle of teeth."
"And I'm not meant to fear it?!"
"That's the beautiful part. The Nithri'syuthoth could so easily come down and kill us both within an instant. I wouldn't have any way to protect either of us from it. It doesn't, though. It simply flies and watches. It explores and enjoys. It doesn't kill for fun, and it doesn't kill to eat. It, simply put, doesn't kill, regardless of its ability to do so. There are a lot of things you have to fear here, but thankfully we've run into a ghoul that didn't see us, and the "behemoth", as you said, has no interest."
Michael simply couldn't resist asking about a connection he made in his head.
"Was your father an officer of any kind? 1946? Same first name?"
"How would you possibly know that?" Harris retaliated, offering a look at confusion mixed with fright.
"Let's just say that an old friend that is no longer with us repeatedly told me a story that your father was involved in, and that me being in Alaska suddenly makes a lot more sense... The name Olen Grant ring a bell? Called himself The Night Man?"
"The serial killer that ended my father's career, back in California. My father would talk about him now and then, and what he had done... you could tell that the effects of that sick fuck left a mark on his psyche."
"Would you believe me if I said that the sick fuck that sent us here is the same sick fuck was in Santa Monica all those decades past?"
Harris zoned out and seemed to stare into space in his direction. The two of them just continued to look at each other for a moment before Michael gave him a questioning look. Harris lightly nodded in agreeance with whatever his protection had planned. They disconnected their backs from the tree and crept his way into the depths of the forest, the faint wails of horrors unknown echoing beyond the dark before him.
The Forest of Odiabolesco
The two of them vanished from the outside world into the forest of Odiabolesco, a name which neither of the men knew, hardly able to see each other just feet away. The scent of toasted oak and hazelnut strangely filled the air, complimented, or rather insulted, by the pungent stench of rot. They pushed between the trees as quiet as a stalker in a dry spell, at points coming across trees so close they bonded near their stumps, and others that appeared to have fallen and somehow continued to grow disconnected from their roots. These occasional fallen trees were the largest factor in the small amount of light peaking through to them.
He followed Michael's lead through the twisted trees, crunching bark shavings and other plant life beneath their boots. Harris noticed right off the bad that they were not running in a straight line at any point, and that even though they had only walked in the forest a moment ago, the buildings no longer stood through the tree line. In fact,the tree line itself was gone. Instead, behind them was simply more woods, but elevated into a hill. He tapped Michael on the shoulder, pointing to where the exit from the forest used to be. Michael simply nodded, ensuring him, though not comforting him, that this was to be expected. There was no fear on his face, either. At least his confidence and experience provided some sort of comfort or semblance of protection.
"You seem very experienced. How often have you been here?"
"Often enough to ensure you that being in this forest, despite how paranoid you might get, and waiting for any sign of the Caritas is our best bet at survival."
"But how did you get here before? How will we know once we have found it?
It was then that what seemed like a spotlight activated closely, aimed towards their left. It started off dim, but within seconds it was almost blindingly bright. Michael pressed up against the nearest tree, which was a rather thick one, and pulled Harris with him to stand at his side in cover.
"People?" Harris asked, hardly audible at all.
The light changed its aim and shifted to the right, passing over the tree they were behind.
"Luxrivulus," Michael responded, equally as hard to hear.
Michael put the glock away very slowly and put his free hand on Harris' chest, signalling him to remain still no matter what happened. He peaked his head out around the tree, and in the dim blue light, he saw a Luxrivulus. It was clinging on to the side of a tree just two feet off the ground, and appeared as a three foot long praying mantis with the lower body of a brown recluse, legs included. For a head, there was a fly-esque head with a single eye in the center that was producing the light, with a proboscis about a foot in length underneath it. The head was bent to the right ninety full degrees, scanning for whatever had awoken it.
As Harris hid behind cover, after also having sneaked a look from his side, he was internally hazed, thinking of how they would tackle such an obstacle. Then, much to his dismay, he watched Michael walk right out into the open and towards the Luxrivulus unarmed. When the midway point between the his cover and the insectoid was reached, the light twitched within a split second to Michael and the Luxrivulus pounced towards him. Without hesitation, Michael dodged to the side and pulled the machete from his back whilst reversing his direction, swinging down on the space between its thorax and abdomen when it hit the spot he had just been standing on.
The blade cleaved through the weak, unarmored portion of flesh and flew free as the Luxrivulus let out a high-pitched shriek reminiscent of a train coming to a halt. Michael raised his foot and crushed the head beneath his heel, bringing an end to the light with a crunch and the spilling of white blood. He looked up
"Come here right now. If anything was within ear shot, it's either deaf or took the warning cry the overgrown pest let out to heart," Michael commanded.
Harris had not seen the fight, but the shock on his face was not hidden at all as he stumbled out from behind cover towards Michael.
"They look threatening, but are very fragile. A normal giant mantis would have been more dangerous, but be thankful they hate the cold," he said, flinging the residue off of his blade and sheathing it, walking away from the corpse and deeper into the woods. Harris caught up and walked beside him.
The crunching of snow beneath their feet and their scraping pants unsettled him. What else was out there? What if something was stalking them or following them? His protection was proving himself to surpass his hopes, but was that going to be enough? Even experts can fail at trivial tasks at times- especially when they're cocky. His paranoia wasn't helped at all by the fact that Michael started talking again.
"I'm not answering the first question. Maybe if we live that will be your secondary reward, beat only by your survival. As for the other, the Caritas almost makes its home underground in a small cave of sorts. A proper liar. As for finding it, we're two humans standing out in the open in a world we don't belong it, right outside the event that will attract it. I have no doubt it will come to us."
"Peacefully, if we're outsiders?"
"Peacefully in the sense we won't be attacked. Doesn't mean it will trust or like us. It will certainly know about me, which may be good or bad, depending on how much it knows. Either way, it'll sense the hopelessness in you, unless you truly trust me in full. I recommend not doing that."
"And what makes this moment okay to throw away our stealth? What if we're being stalked?"
"I have good news and bad news for you."
Michael put his left hand on his shoulder, and from how he moved it when he tried to face him, he could tell Michael was making sure he didn't look any way but where he was going.
"Bad news is that I know for a fact we're being stalked. Don't turn and look, then it may know we know. When I called you over to me I noticed it climbing its way down the tree beside you. Good news is that what's stalking us never lets its prey be taken from it without a fight, and anything sentient knows it. It doesn't understand any languages, so us speaking and walking this way just makes it look like we're unaware to its presence. So keep walking and look defenseless. I know exactly how to deal with it. It may wait a while to attack, which just allows us to make some distance whilst it unknowingly protects us. The plan, if you haven't caught on, takes advantage of the fact that this forest is seemingly endless and without true direction. Can you guess it?"
"Get lost and die in the deep woods?"
"Close, actually. Getting lost and without a sense of escape. Such a caring spirit trying to help what it can't from Leviathan will surely come and try to redeem itself by taking you back home, in its eyes."
"And what if you're wrong and it couldn't care less about two grown men trapped in the sticks?"
"Then you're lucky. I'm currently in the process of righting all of my wrongs."
That didn't do anything to comfort him in the slightest.
"May I ask what kind of creature is stalking us?"
"Their true name is something I was not able to follow when I was taught it. It was as if a sound I could not follow or ever hope to produce was involved. We'll just call them by their substitute name. Venator. Dark skinned for camouflage. Claws that could rip you in half and arms so long they touch the floor when it stands. Skinny and five and a half feet tall, usually."
"Do I at least deserve to know who told you about all of these creatures?"
"The same person that told me about your father. The same person I refuse to clarify."
"I see..." Harris responded, very audibly offput and even nervous around Michael. Or the Venator stalking him. Either or.
"If you have any questions I'll actually answer, you'll never get a better time," Michael said, putting his machete in its sheathe and grabbing his glock.
"Well... what is this place, really?"
"An alternate version of Earth in a universe titled Kalmak, in which nothing else exists. It was endless space for Enki to create his wildest dreams and prepare whatever plans he had for us. A place of monstrosities and horrors born from our own fears, along with treasures crafted in our own greed."
"Enki is a hard subject. He was once our lord, but due to recent events and a few bursts of revenge, he gave up that position. You've meet Leviathan and are fully aware of his deity status at this point. He reached said deity status by having it handed down to him by our previous god- and would you believe such an event only happened last night."
"God has truly abandoned us?!"
"He was nothing like religion would have you think. In fact, he didn't even create us. If anything he was more like an adoptive god, if you ever thought you would hear such a term."
"Why would he just leave us in the hands of that monster!"
"A deity that understood us as humans and fought for our freedom beat him into submission whilst I killed his soon-to-be-god son."
"So you caused this! But you've killed something of this caliber before- surely you can do it again! Why are we not hunting for the being that had just fought for us and won?"
"Because Leviathan killed him."
Michael looked over at Harris for to prepare for his inevitable mental meltdown and flood of questions, but immediately came to a stop. Beyond Harris' shoulders, he saw something so out of place and devastating that even he could not continue past it. A familiar corpse slouched against a tree in the distance, as if it had heard its own mention. Its head was tilted downward, still covered in a silver mask.
"It's time to end our little seal of protection," Michael said, whipping around and aiming the pistol behind them. The Venator took this as confirmation its cover was blown, as he knew such an aggressive apex predator would, and jumped down from the tree tops.
When it crashed into the snow and sent snowflakes into the air all around it, Harris was struck with sudden trepidation. It was almost six feet tall, just over Michael's description, and its body was covered in light brown hair. It had the face of a sheep on the head of a human, though the eye sockets were filled only with two chunks of rock that appeared too big and crudely jammed in. The arms did indeed reach the ground when it stood with a slightly hunched back, with its back legs were long as well but bent rather severely at a double jointed knee and tipped with deer-like hooves. The creature's torso appeared torn open, with its rib cage exposed and even coated in its blood. Its body ended with a skeletal hand of nine skinny fingers on a tail as wide as a thread.
Michael wasted no time in immediately emptying the shots into the Venator's chest. Fourteen shots fired in moment of emotionless unloading, and fourteen shots hit the stomach and chest of the Venator. After the reverberation of the gun had finished in the woods, the Venator made every effort to walk towards its assaulter, hardly balancing on its legs. The Venator lunged at him, but again, he sidestepped his assaulter, and it landed just beyond the two humans within Panthalassa. He turned and pointed the pistol at the Venator once more and shot the last bullet of the clip into its head. He dropped the clip from the gun right away and loaded the next, watching the still standing body for any sign it could still be alive. It collapsed to the ground and launched the snow into the air around it, allowing him to put away the and draw his machete.
"Could have killed us both, if I wasn't armed."
Michael walked right past Harris to his point of interest, as the officer was left aghast at the second nightmare that had been so easily snuffed out by his aid.
Michael ran over to the corpse at the tree. His breath was not able to catch up with his surprise and running- and neither was Harris, whom was just about to finally catch up with him. There Dread's corpse was- black trench coat and clothing covering every bit of him that his silver drama laughing mask was not. His head was tilted down to his torso, where the large hole created by the very machete on Michael's back still existed.
"It's a shame our time together had to come to an end, Root," the unmistakable voice of Dread said, emanating from what seemed to be around the body than from its lips. The voice sounded emotionally devastated- as if taken over by an overwhelming sense of failure.
"Dread, what are you doing here?!" Michael responded, equally traumatized from both surprise and an army of negative emotions marching against him.
He watched as the head of the corpse pushed back until it was leaning against the tree and looking up at an angle at him, though it didn't look as if it was moving on its own. Rather, it seemed as if an outside force had moved the bloody corpse's head.
"I have been given one opportunity to ensure I do not abrogate our goal after death."
"How? How is this even possible?"
"A mutual enemy, root."
Michael straightened his back and pulled back his machete. Harris took a few feet back and watch in utter confusion.
"Is that what this is? A fucking trick by Enki?"
"He has given a chance, not a deal. I would never present something to you that would undo all of our work together."
"Why can't he just allow you to fully come back and aid me!?"
"You saw the results yourself, child. Leviathan had slain me. I was unable to harm him. Though it is true I has bested Enki, it was you that slayed Abaddon- a maturing god of destruction itself, and the seed created by our previous adversary through your new one. Since that fishing trip all of those decades past, I had known that you were necessary to in this anti-crusade. It is within my last moments that I knew for certain how necessary you were. Leviathan believes himself to be taking what is his and enacting his ultimate fate- I will bestow upon you the ability to show him his ultimate fate."
"Mendes had lost his godhood, and Abaddon was a soon-to-be-god cursed child begging for his mother's love! How can I stop Leviathan? How can I stop a god?"
"That question hasn't stopped you from already trying, has it, root?... No, I will give you one final gift to aid you... one final gift."
"What would such a gift even be?"
"Accept my pact, and you shall inherit my rite of power. You shall stand how I stood, fight as I fought, and do what we set out to do. You shall gain a shard of my power, and this will grant you the ability to harm the god. I was not permitted to grant you all of my power. The Caritas is still your beacon of hope to make up for your lack of mobility between realms... this must suffice."
"But what of Olen Grant's legacy? What of freeing humanity from the rule of any and all gods?"
"My old friend... you must be aware that you will not live past this event."
"Living isn't my concern. Killing is."
"And kill you shall, and once the wretched soul of Leviathan is cast into the void, you shall lose the power I am bestowing upon you. This is a part of this pact."
"Is this the last time I'll ever speak to you?" he said, the emotions he had choked back now surfacing through his voice.
"I must return to the endless and shapeless void, root. If given full creative power, I would not be able to forge a being I would be more proud to call my friend, before the universe came to an end. Nor would I be able to imagine someone more deserving of revenge."
"So bestow upon me the ability to have my revenge. Give me the ability to harm him, and he'll feel harm in every way imaginable."
"My mask. You must take it from my body and wear it. Make haste with it, you must be aware that he surely can sense a great sum of power that does not belong here anymore, and I do not see any possible reason he will not come once this pact is completed- you must be sure you are ready to finish what we have started. Goodbye, old friend..."
Michael bent his knee, now eye level with the corpse as he reached forward with both hands. When his fingers slipped behind the mask, he was filled with dread at the idea of what he would see when he removed it. He could not hesitate, though, and pulled it off of the cadaver. Behind it was the face of a long time friend leaning back against the tree in death, blood leaking from his mouth and behind his clothing. The eyes that once held hope and determination for humanity now held a dark and grim reminder of what he was up against. He looks anything but at peace, locked forever in a twisted expression of failure.
Turning it around, he pressed it against his face as the emotions he had tried to fight had breached into the world and spilt onto his cheeks. Once the mask was on his face he let go of it, and it simply stayed without need of a holding device or any support. Then, as if it was spectral, the mask moved even farther back into his face and faded away as it did so. Every muscle in his body tightened, sending him backwards into the snow and unable to move. His skin felt hot enough to melt diamond as his vision was temporarily elsewhere. His mind could only produce the image of the first time he met Dread. He had fallen asleep the first night of the fishing trip that forever changed him back in 1985. When they first met he had thought of Dread as an enemy, but times have certainly changed. Dread had shown him the true nature of Enki. If he had listened to Dread's original offer, perhaps all of this would have played out differently.
His muscles gave up and relaxed. His skin cooled. His eyes opened and saw Harris couched and looking down at him. When he saw Michael awake he backed up and handed him his machete that he had dropped. Snatching it from his hand, Michael turned to look at the corpse of Dread, but noticed the forest itself looked entirely different. Their surroundings had changed once more.
"...Goodbye, old friend," he said, his eyes looking up at the vortex above.
It's the closest thing he could look at to stars.
The woods around them were just as dense as before, but there was a clearing without any foliage but grass about thirty feet in every direction. They were no longer on any incline- in fact, there seemed to be no higher or lower patches of dirt. The ground seemed completely flat beneath their feet. If the trees weren't so cumbersome, perhaps he would have been able to see as far as human eyes could manage.
From above, the sound of scrapping metal and failing mechanics roared from the swirling abyss, as a dark shadow, in the vague shape of incomprehensibly large tentacles, projected from the ever-dark and motionless center, wrapping around the Nithri'syuthoth. The bawl the Nithri'syuthoth let out was akin to a blue whale being skinned alive, as it was pulled into the portal. The great sum of resistance it offered did not affect the tentacles whatsoever before it dissipated from this reality, only to be replaced with absolute silence.
"The gun!" Harris shouted, extending his hand to Michael.
"You know what's coming out of that maelstrom, and you know you won't be able to harm it in any way!", Michael shouted, swatting his hand away.
Out from the endless center the tentacles returned, spreading outwards into the spinning vortex around them, emanating a noise that could only be described as a world of metal being bent and twisted. The cyclone became black, starting at the center and quickly spreading outwards, both mimicking the exact color of the shadows that had touched them, and darkening the world below even more. Underneath the nightmarish sky, the world was all shrouded in the umbra. Michael could not even see his own hands before him. Everything was simply black.
Within the darkness, he could feel a cold, metal covered hand lay itself on his shoulder. He spun and swung his machete blindly, but it made no contact. It was then that he heard the taunting voice of Leviathan all around him.
"It's so wonderful to see you both alive. I just don't know what I would have done with myself if you would have let anything else cut you down. That would have been a grave insult. Will you not run to the trees and find which fate awaits you?"
"Show yourself and we'll have a lesson in fate!" Michael retaliated, holding his blade at face level.
Just when he was finished speaking, a tree adjacent to where Michael and Harris were standing caught flame about half way up the trunk, and was consumed entirely by this flame in seconds. The world was given light once me, albeit a red hue. The fire spread to around the clearing to all trees that were surrounding them in mere seconds, the smell and crackling of burning pine filling the air. The darkness of the blocked sky was overcome by the hellfire, offering a full view of the arena-esque clearing. Harris pulled his uniform over his face to mask himself from the smoke, and Michael stood ready for combat.
The smoke moved as if it was sentient to the spot right before the tree that had first caught aflame, creating a dense area not visible to any eyes. This collection of smoke immediately blew away in the wind, which was westward, revealing Leviathan to now be standing there.
"Fate. I'll kill you both before smoke inhalation kills you. Five minutes before oxygen deprivation begins to cause you to pass out. Ten minutes until permanent damage. Fifteen maximum until death. That, my friend, is fate. I will spare you from fate."
Leviathan shifted his shoulders as if to crack them before two webbed wings punctured through his armor with an echo of punctured metal. With a wingspan of eleven feet, the wings had three fingers towards the end that the webbing spun between, each tipped with a curled spike reminiscent of a scorpion's tail or a hook.
His heavy boots struck the ground like thunder as he calmly walked towards the pair, slowly and intimidatingly. Harris didn't know what to do. He was truly frozen in fear. Michael pushed him to the left when Leviathan got within fifteen feet, hoping to give him a chance whilst he fought the towering god.
"I'm sure you're aware I felt an anomaly of sorts before I came to Panthalassa. Whatever you had done, was it worth dying for?"
"No," Michael said. "Was being a god for a day worth dying for?"
"I've died endless times in infinite time during that paradox to reach godhood, and I'd die endless times yet again just to be feel the hatred you felt when you saw what I did to Natalie and Dread one more time. An eternity was worth the anger and hatred you felt in just one moment," Leviathan mocked, leaning two feet down to put himself just inches in Michael's face.
When Michael then tried to take a step forward and plunge his blade into Jackson's heart, Jackson simply dissipated from in front of him and reappeared in the small space between Michael and the fire-marked boundary of this conflict. This prompted him to turn around and slash at him in retaliation. When Michael attempted this, however, he was struck in the face by Leviathan.
"I'm sure you're perfectly aware that I chose not to kill you there," Leviathan stated. "No, I'm going to make sure you know you lost, make you know what you caused, and make sure you remember this defeat even in the void," he said, uppercutting Michael once he finished and causing him to stagger back two paces. "Gorge on your hatred, embrace your wrath!"
Michael swung down once more, but he simply tilted himself to allow it to pass beside him. Another slash was attempted at his stomach, but Leviathan caught the blade in his hand and held it, restraining movement of it. When Michael moved his other hand to the hilt, Leviathan planted his free hand on his throat and raised him two feet into the air, making the pair eye level. He ripped the blade from Michael's grip and tossed it over by Harris' feet, as if to mock his defenselessness. Harris could not do anything but stand and watch the battle, paralyzed by inquisitiveness and consternation.
He grasped at Leviathan's hand as the air was pressed from his body and begin to swing his feet chaotically by instinct, but the grip did not waver. Leviathan immediately began pummeling Michael as he held him in the air. Each punch forced air out of him, and between each punch smoke was drawn into his lungs, turning his chest into what felt like a raging furnace. Within his consternation he was able to at least come up with one defense, which was to reach down to his glock with his right hand and attempt to empty the entire magazine into Leviathan.
When he tried to grab for his gun, two of the tentacles of black smoke formed in suspension behind Leviathan and grabbed at him within the second, one restraining his right arm and the other ripping the gun from his belt and tossing it away, where it hit the ground just feet from Harris, whom lunged for the weapon to return it to Michael. On the next punch, a spray of blood shot into the air as a mist. This was met a crooked smile, followed with a headbutt and two punched to the upper abdomen before he threw Michael onto the ground in the center.
Michael hit the ground motionless, his head tilted to the right towards Harris. His vision was fading with his consciousness, but he watched as Leviathan transmogrified as a whole into the black smoke yet again, only to re-manifest in front of Harris with his hand wrapped around his face. Harris grabbed at his assaulter's hand and flail himself about, his attempted screams or speech muffled almost to the point of being inaudible. Michael could even see blood coming from between Leviathan's fingers as he held on to Harris' face.
Leviathan pulled his arm between himself and his prey, where Michael watched the armor and flesh peel back halfway to the elbow like a molting shell as a two feet long blade sprawled out. The blade was made of the same black and silver metal and style as his armor, but the blade itself was backed by bone extending from his forearm, and made from a matte red gemstone, the likes of which Michael had never seen before. Michael turned to get up and help Harris in some way, but he could not move his pained body fast enough.
Cutting through the air with a brief whistle before the sound of hacked meat and blood hitting the floor took over, Leviathan severed Harris in half, cutting across the abdomen just above the hips. The muffled attempts at communication came to a stop as his legs fell to the ground, followed by the loosened and sliced entrails that hung below the still suspended upper body, filling the air with a stench of gore that was only made worse by the ragging fire just a few feet away. Harris' arms let go of Leviathan's hand and fell limp to his sides, before Leviathan simply dropped him to the floor. When the body hit the floor, Michael could see that it looked as if Harris' face had been assaulted with razor blades whilst within Leviathan's grasp- shredded and cut flesh hanging loosely.
"Have you not learned what happens every time you try to help someone, Collins?" Leviathan repeated, turning towards Michael as his arm's flesh and metal reformed, rebuilding his normal arm and armor in place of the blade. "Besides, I warned you earlier that killing him is what I would do."
Michael pushed himself off of the ground and stood up, hardly able to keep any balance at all, shaking as his body struggled to find a way to support itself. His innards felt like a void ready to be filled; a black hole ready to consume. His hands felt like tools of destruction, built to dismantle and destroy. His mouth felt hot and dry from the smoke, but it was his heart that felt as if it would burn the world away.
"Your friend is now outside of existence- just like his family," Leviathan continued, obviously trying to feed his sadism on Michael's failure to protect Harris. "Oh, did he not tell you about his family? A wife by the name of Vanessa Harris and a child born to a previous girlfriend by the name of Leah Harris? I suppose he assumed that if he avoided mentioning them, they would be less likely to be targeted... a fatal mistake on his part."
Leviathan walked over to Michael's machete and tossed it to him. He caught it by the hilt without allowing himself to lose any speed. Just ten feet from each other, Leviathan began walking towards him as well. Michael drew his machete back and swung down with a scream of brutality. He swung down, but Leviathan easily stepped away from. The relentless screams of rage continued with his second swing, but this one instead passed through Leviathan as he became smoke and manifested behind Michael, swinging his left claw at him.
Michael ducked under the attack as he spun around and tried to cut at Leviathan once more diagonally, but the moment he knew the attack had missed he let go of the blade, allowing it to fly down and stick into the ground. He tried to throw a punch at Leviathan, but his fist was caught mid-swing in the hand of the mad god. They locked spite-filled eyes before Jackson's grin turned to a blissful smile and he struck Michael across the face with the back of his other fist.
Michael was exhausted, weakened, and unstable- all of which were known and abused by Leviathan. He struck him once more on the other side of the face before waiting for him to regain his balance. It was right when he returned to a combat pose that he was hit once more in the stomach, forcing him to curl over Jackson's fist and let loose a mist of blood upon his forearm.
Instead of retracting his fist from Michael's abdomen, Leviathan opened his hand and slowly worked his way up to Michael's chin. With a curled finger under his jaw, Jackson slowly tilted his gaze upwards as he crouched down. His sadistic grin bore his teeth as he got closer to his victim's face, admiring the final look of failure and the blood that filled his mouth and dyed his teeth red.
"This is your final failure, Asher. How does the pain rest within you? Does it get easier knowing how soon it will be gone, or does it grow stronger knowing the pain you've caused in so many others?"
Michael swung his fist forward, hitting Leviathan on the mouth and nose.
The flames around them were gone, along with the smoke that had come with the fire. The darkness that had consumed the vortex in the sky had disappeared, letting the purple and blue night sky give natural light to Panthalassa once more.
Leviathan backed away from Michael, consumed by his shock. He had been struck by a mortal! This was not fair, this was not possible in any sense! He pressed two shaking fingers under his nostrils and his face was overcome by incomprehensible horror when he moved them away from his face to see red blood on them.
Then, it hit him. With stretched eyes and a mouth agape, he came to his conclusion. Dread was dead. Mendes was dead. Abaddon was dead. That left one and one only.
Leviathan's eyes transformed from trauma to a pure psychotic stare, and his look of horror turned into the piercing gaze of insanity incarnated. He began panting with uncontrolled anger, brimming with wrath as he faded away into the sable vapor he had came in, evanescing out of this reality.
Sitting within the empyrean, Enki floated patiently for a coming fate to become a reality with any passing minute. In the region between separate existences he floated, not quite within Panthalassa or the cosmos. In this ethereal region there were no walls, floor, or ceilings. There was simply an oblivion where every direction was an endless golden glow without source.
The forsaken god was levitating masslessly and without any form of contact in the glow and euphoria, at peace more than he had been since he first felt the existence of Olen's twisted soul. He was still without the glow he had previously emitted, which made his gray hair that flowed behind his shoulder blades visible, along with his serpentine eyes and mustache-and-beard combination that hung down a few inches below his chin.
Enki had had cleansed himself of the filth and injuries that had previously befallen him, but not of his loss, or what he had done in creating Leviathan. If we would have not restarted and reincarnated the soul of Olen into Jackson, he would still hold the mantle of humanity, and Abaddon would have not been murdered. If he would not have sent Dread to observe and record Olen, there would be no betrayals to speak of, and humanity would still be his.
He could feel a presence which was not there at any prior moment of time- one which he was certain would be his supposed champion. He could feel the burning sensation and shortness of breath associated with breathing in smoke, though none was visible. There were so many regrets forged by the experiences throughout this torment, but one in particular couldn't leave his mind. Time.
Enki had existed for nearly fourteen billion years, born with the universe as its sentient shard. It wasn't until almost nine billion years later that any form of sentient life had formed. It was here, nine billion years into a lonely but adventurous existence, he met Mendes and began his cycle. This was the first Pantheon, equally loving and tending to every glimmer of sentience in the cosmos. This pairing lasted for two billion years before Dread had manifested. Enki was, and still is, confused as to why a deity manifested for humanity but not other species, but Mendes and Enki accepted him as part of the Pantheon, forming the trinity of deities.
Two and a half billion years after that, Mendes was decapitated, Dread was impaled to death, and he was soon to end as well- there was no denying it.
Interrupting his thoughts was the voice of Leviathan, omnipresent and breeming with vexation- raspy, filled with breaks, and with a panting energy behind it. He was audibly possessed with a rage so potent he could hardly bring himself to speak. The black smoke which trailed him faded into existence and color, revealing its building and swirling pattern around Enki.
"May I ask you a rather personal question, Anu?"
"Why was it that you decided to give Olen's soul a second chance? You've previously said it was because it would result a perfect champion, but if there is any time to be honest with me, it's certainly now."
Enki felt the smoke apply more pressure against him as if it was a solid- especially when the smoke made its way to his throat and began to tense up around it. Enki did not move his arms to attempt to stop this. His facial expression did not change. He did not react in the slightest.
"I could feel the potential of his spirit the second he had entered this world, and as a result of my curiosity, Dread watched over him. The more Dread knew about Olen's development, the more attached he grew. I theorized and theorized as to why such immense power would come from the spirit of a mortal man, and eventually, when Olen had begun his slaughter, it was apparent that Olen would never become an ally or leave behind his ideology. Regardless of his contesting, I ordered Dread to kill him. Dread couldn't bring himself to do it, and thus he instead granted William Taggart his chance at revenge."
"And after his death?"
"I must admit the curiosity I felt was overwhelming. I wanted to know what he was capable of at his core. I wanted to know the origin and what he was a manifestation of. I wanted to reach its true potential and create the ultimate being. The cycle of time in which you lived an eternity was this very training process. Developing you for an eternity to have you unlock, yourself, all of the power that was within you..."
The smoke which gripped him erupted outwards into the shapeless void around him. For a brief moment he could see nothing, and in that brief moment he felt himself fall against a cold stone floor and his sense of smell being assaulted by the stench of purulence. His vision came back the very instant he made contact. Around him were four walls and above was a ceiling, all from the same chilled concrete as the floor. There was no exit, but there was a single source of light. An oil lamp burning as it dangled from a chain.
The ceiling was fifteen feet high, and the room was twenty feet in all directions from the center. Just before him was Leviathan himself in all of his glory, both gods matching each other in height. Enki knew what he was doing. He knew this was meant to mock and mimic the Hellmouth Leviathan had lived an eternity within.
"And now that I'm here, do I not excel your expectations?" Leviathan scorned. "Am I the ultimate creation? Do I somehow disappoint?"
"I do not feel disappointment in you. Simply regret."
"Is that your fucking reason for giving Michael the reason to inflict damage upon me?"
"You wish to destroy everything the pantheon manifested from, and everything the Pantheon had birthed in the universe... I birthed you."
Leviathan struck Enki on the right side of his face, forcing his head to tilt left by its force. The assault was immediately followed by another strike, this time hitting his right eye. Enki recoiled back at the second strike, forced to stagger back from the force as he gripped his face. His eye had two puncture wounds above it from Leviathan's spiked gauntlets, leaking his golden blood in two streaks onto his face.
"Within one day you change from indifference to standing against me! Has the almighty Anu lost his mind to schizophrenia, or has he succumb to the insanity that has always plagued him?"
"I saw what you have done to Pecutani, and indifference can never truly exist after appointing a destroyer in a moment of devastation. It takes a clean slate!"
"Then we agree! The slate must be cleaned."
Leviathan spread his fingers and clawed towards Enki's face. Enki blocked this strike with his forearm, which resulted in Leviathan's fingers being embedded within his ulna. Jackson tilted his face in sadistic pleasure as Enki squinted and bore his teeth in pain. The moment Enki opened his eyes, his grin faded away back into eternal rage. He tore his hand back out from Enki's forearm, which forced Enki to loose his balance. Jackson abruptly charged forward and planted his shoulder into Enki's stomach, running forward until they both struck the wall beyond.
The spike that decorated Jackson's pauldron impaled itself into his stomach when they impacted the stone. The resulting vibrations throughout the structure threw a cloud of dust downwards from the ceiling, and cracks to form behind Enki. He must have been skewered half way through his torso- certainly enough to kill him if he was anyone other than Enki himself. Jackson placed his hand on his chest and pushed himself away from him, which ripped the spike from his abdomen and let the ichor spill onto the floor. Jackson then wrapped his other hand around his face and threw him across the room and into the opposite wall.
Enki crashed into the wall with a satisfying echo and crunch, and fell onto the ground. Every muscle hurt at even the slightest twitch. Enki, the sentient shard of the universe, being bested in combat by his own creation. Even in this moment he could see the poetry to be found in that. He painstakingly labored his way onto one knee and tilted his gaze upward. Jackson was now standing his feet away from him, motionless in his chaotic and crazed gaze. He struggled and let out a groan, but he brought himself to his feet and stared Leviathan in the eyes defiantly.
"I've always wondered, lord," Leviathan mocked. "What is your original form? Obviously you had not looked so human for billions of years before they evolved. What did you look like even in the eons before there was any life but yourself?"
"I had no shape... no being. I was a mind without anything to contain it; a sentience spread across and monitoring all of the universe at once... the igniculus, the black smoke Mendes, Dread, and now you use is a remnant of this period... a byproduct of when I took shape. A shell of my previous omnipresence... those that can control it and use it are truly gods. I have always stayed in the form of the being I was aiding at the time... Abaddon was not a god yet for this reason, but rather a demi-god..."
"You used your own son to end the human race, but once that plan failed, you grant them amnesty and make them an exception to a cycle that long since outdates them."
"Abaddon was to destroy, but he was destroyed instead... Dread had fought for this right. Can't you see there is something special about them? Dread existing in and of itself was grand evidence for this!"
"I'm grand evidence to the contrary. I'm sure you've felt it- seen it, even, what my mere presence does to you. A mortal physically contacted you, Enki."
"I will not deny the fact that I've created a vehemently evil beast whom weakens me greatly with his presence, but I certainly regret every circumstance in the history of time that has lead to the moment of your creation."
Jackson smirked and shook his head before thrusting his hand forward into Enki's shoulder, stabbing his fingers into the god's arm and forcing him against the wall. Enki grabbed his forearm and tried to pull the hand out of him, but Jackson began striking Enki's face once more with his free hand. When Jackson struck him, his head recoiled back against the wall, creating an audible crack which filled Jackson with the highest grade of joy.
Jackson struck him again, once more forcing his head to bounce against the wall behind it. And once more, and then again with a return swing. The more his hands were painted with golden ichor, the more his smile grew, and the more powerful he grew in his assault. Enki took his right hand off of his forearm to attempt to block the next incoming punch, but Jackson turned this attack to a slash and clawed at him, opening his arm to the hand from the midsection of his forearm. Jackson withdrew his hand from Enki's shoulder and began using it as well to assault the forsaken god after this, whom was hardly able to stand in his place during his bludgeoning.
It was then that Enki's arms both fell to his sides limp. His head struggled to keep itself straight, dripping blood onto the ground between them and all over his robes from the many splits and rips in his face. Jackson paused his assault with his fist already cocked at his side and looked onward. The great Enki. The gate and the key. The tormentor. The cosmos' soul and God. All of these titles had been beaten from this object before him. He leaned forward until he was just inches from his face and looked into the blue reptilian eyes before him.
Jackson could stare into the grim eyes of Anu forever and never grow tired of the admittance of failure he saw within them. This was his moment of victory, above all else. This was pure ecstasy. The eyes which once contained power, authority, ownership and knowledge now held failure, disgust, and regret. Regret in existing, at that. Enki spontaneously swung his left hand at him, changing his hand into the claw he bore in the Hellmouth when he was titled The Tormentor.
Jackson threw his hand into the air and grabbed Enki's wrist, before snapping his forearm back, forcing both the ulna and the radius to stab through his flesh. In a moment of brutality, during Enki's pained wails, Jackson let go of is arm and forced his fingers into Enki's mouth, grasping his mandible and tearing downwards. The jaw stayed in Leviathan's locked grasp, but the rest of the forsaken god did not follow it. Enki fell to his hands and knees as his blood poured from mutilated face. Any attempt to scream resulted in a guttural exhale akin to a mix of a ghoul's shriek and boiling water.
"I promised you that one day our titles would be reversed," Jackson said, casting Enki's jaw to the ground. His tone was cold, reserved, and even seemed traumatized by the way he composed himself. "Every death within the time cycle you had casted me in, when I had reached the time in which Joseph and Natalie had escaped and you had slit my throat, I promised you one thing. Each and every fucking time, when I was looking death in the eyes, I promised that I would be the god and that you would be the victim. So, allow me to look death in the eyes one more time, lord..."
Jackson walked over to Enki and bent down, placing his hands on both sides of his head. He gently tilted Enki's head up at him as he was leaking profusely all over himself and wheezing in pain. Jackson stared down at his wild eyes which shaked in their sockets, before lifting his thumbs and hovering over Enki's face. Then, his thumbs pressed their spiked fingertips into his eyes. Enki's felt his eyes recede back into their sockets and pressure build up against the bones of the orbit. The pain was excruciating as he felt his eyes shred from Jackson's fingers and the burning death of every nerve they held.
Enki tried to scream, but all that escaped was a gurgled shriek as his ichor pooled beneath him from his mouth, and now flooded around Jackkson's fingers from his eyes. Jackson saw as Enki's mutilated arms raised in the air as if begging him to stop, which only fueled his bloodlust further. He let out a paralyzing scream as he began to lift Enki into the air by his eye sockets. Enki's arms shook vapidly as his screams became a series of guttural clicks as he choked on his own blood.
When he was fully lifted off of the ground, Leviathan looked up at his suffering prey. This was the vengeance he had waited an eternity for. The very blood that flowed in his body felt blessed by this action, and his heart felt as warm as embers. Fantasies long since created have considered and reconsidered this very moment- a moment in which was truly deserving of eternity. His creator, his old lord, his torturer and his betrayer all suffered in his hands as he gouged their eyes into the back of their skull.
Through Enki's flailing and screaming, he thought of Enki slicing his throat and the endless times he had to relive in. He thought of the eternity that had made him an ageless being. He thought of the rotten skin he was forced to walk in for a purpose that failed. He pressed harder into Enki's skull and broke through his orbital bones. His thumbs slide back into this new breach, and Enki fell limp. His gurgling and flailing had both stopped. The only noise that came from the divine corpse was the sound of his ichor leaking.
Jackson threw the mangled corpse into the left corner of the room, out of his sight before he vanished back into the igniculus, panting from both anger and fulfillment.
Rejoice in Vengeance
Michael was powerless to move as his wrath faded away from him. The air carried the scent of roasted walnuts and burnt sap, conflicting violently with the nauseating scent of bloodshed and spilt gore. All of the bark on the trees was grey and black from the fire, still smoking and crackling away. His blood burnt away at his flesh from within him from uncontrolled despisal, but he walked over to the machete and pulled it from the ground before sheathing it on his back. He breathed deeply and closed his eyes when he knew he had to turn around and face what was behind him. Once he exhaled, his eyes opened back up and he turned around.
He walked over to the glock 22 and picked it up, making sure his gaze didn't travel to his side. He ignored the blood that had pooled beside it or even the drops that had splattered on to its frame, holstering it and staring forward into the charcoaled and smoldering forest surrounding him. He tried to fight looking down beside him, but matter how bad he fought the urge to look at the corpse of Harris, he found his head turning regretfully over to it. He knew there was no chance Harris was alive, but something in him needed further conformation and forced him to comply.
Harris' body laid in two separate pieces on the ground, the upper half of the body laying inches from the legs. Harris was cut in half just above the waist, leaving the gaping wound on the torso facing Michael and the severing point above the waist facing forward into the trees. The gratuitous amount of gore that had been freed by his laceration hung out from the torso and spilled onto the ground, the red blood mixing with the yellow of the fat-coated organs. The entrails were cut apart by the slash, as seen by a small portion of the intestines laying on the ground separate from the majority that were still connected to his bottom half.
The hot and rancid smell of gore danced under Michael's nose, taunting him with a scent he could only compare to decomposing fruit or a cooking rotten steak. Harris' face was perhaps the worst part of all. He was no novice when it came to death, and as a result of all of the deaths he had both seen and caused, he had always paired specific faces with it. Sorrow, horror, anger, shock, and in the rarest of cases, there was acceptance. Harris displayed none of these. His face was emotionless and cold, as if all sense of ever being alive was sapped from the body.
Leviathan was right. No matter who or why Michael tried to help anyone, they always died. Melody's love for him was blown out of the back of her skull. Jonah's betrayed eyes said it all as he gripped his opened throat. When Natalie needed help the most, her skull was crushed and he wasn't present to stop it. Now, Harris, whom he tried to save from the place he knew best, laid on the floor with his entrails reaching away from his body like a tangled mass of worms. Harris must have anticipated his death and accepted it to bare such a hollow face after such a demise. Even Harris knew he would fail.
All that played through Michael's head were some of Melody's last words to him. That they'd meet again. In another life. Another universe. That regardless of circumstance, it'd be worth it. But what of this life? Of this universe? It was by the actions of him and those he once followed that this life and existence were ruined. What of the next? Would he even experience a "next" life or universe?
He constructed the Hellmouth which Abaddon was confined too and raised in, and that Leviathan had been trapped in time in until he had reached godhood. He was the one that delivered Abaddon to Natalie and damned the both of them as a result. What had Abaddon done except love his mother that would never love him back? Did he deserve to be split in half for a chance of redemption that resulted in the deaths of both Natalie and Dread regardless? He was the one that had stripped Mendes of his godhood and later executed him. Worst of all, he proudly and blindly served Enki's will until he had realized he should have listened to Dread all of those years ago.
If he had sided with Dread on that fishing boat, Enki could have been stopped decades before any of this. Jackson would never have been born. Humanity would be free. It took far too long to realize that his entire life was crooked and evil, and only then did he meet Dread in Panthalassa, whom must have somehow been aware of his realizations.
Wrath was all he could think of. Wrath is all he felt. Wrath is all he was. He could only stare at the mutilated body while his legs shook and his fingers twitched. His stomach felt as if the acid within it had begun to boil, and an all too familiar burning sensation rose from his gut and into his chest. This sensation had always accompanied him before moment of mania and murder. His mandible forced itself tightly against the top jaw, and the rage that occupied his heart burrowed into the back of his eyes.
Through his veins ire so potent it was unmatched by the hottest flames Leviathan could ever conjure. His heart pumped nothing but an elevating sense of superiority and the desire for carnage. Though his eyes saw Panthalassa's woodlands around him, all his mind could focus on was revenge. Since the moment he abandoned Enki's lordship, the only thoughts that had ever graced his mind were redemption and revenge. There was no redemption for men like him, unless preceded by revenge. The line between revenge and redemption fades in even the most altruistic of people when they must fight against the result of their own actions.
All of his built up anger, which had grown stronger with every action and thought to ever grace his life, exploded through his body in a burst of antipathy. It was as if the very being of his soul, tortured and held captive in the shell of a servant, took possession of every cell in his body and claimed its rightful throne. Redemption is nothing more but revenge accompanied by closure. He didn't want redemption, he wanted to string Jackson up by his innards and devour his flesh. He wanted to end this life long torment with an extraordinary display of the most enthralling fury ever manifested.
Beneath his feet, the ground vibrated and roared redolent of a sinkhole collapsing into itself. He turned around just in time to see the ground three feet behind him begin to lift, ejecting a thick barrier of dirt into the air that forced him to shield his face with his arm. Though Panthalassa is constantly shifting in one way or another, this was clearly not random or uncontrolled. The scrapping of rock and shifting of soil came to a finish, prompting him to lower his arm.
Just before him was now an eight foot tall cave entrance that had lifted from the ground. He could see that it led into the ground in a rather shallow slant for about thirty feet before it flattened and continued straight, though other than the dancing light of fire, what laid beyond remained a mystery. From within the catacomb of stone he could hear grating wails echo, clearly fueled by great despair. Whatever was producing the doleful weeping seemed to be just beyond where he could see. The cry was high pitched and harsh, sounding like a mix of a mourning mother and an impaled child.
He knew what this must be. The lair, the raw emotion- it must be the Caritas. Michael walked into the cavern without a moment of hesitation, the scent of loam and shale overtaking him through the frigid underground wind as he walked below the surface. Water dripping accompanied the howls from beyond his view in the distance, and the musky air was thick in his lungs. The weeping grew louder as he approached, but did not seem to react at all to his footsteps reverberating off of the crypt walls.
As he closed in on the overhanging rock that blocked his view, he was able to see more and more of the cavern beyond. It was clearly a chamber of some sorts, widening off to both sides. Despite never dealing with such a creature and not knowing what it would think of him, but being sure it knew of him due to his ties to Enki and Panthalassa itself, he felt not fear or even discomfort. He felt void of any emotion but a raring lust for revenge. By the time his next pulse came to form, he had reached the bottom of the decline. The rock beneath him flattened off, and he gained a full view of the lair before him.
The chamber was circular and roughly forty feet in diameter, with the ceiling ten feet high. A pair of torches gave light to the cave, one hanging on each side. In the center of the chamber was the source of the despaired crying, bent over towards him. The Caritas.
The Caritas appeared to be a frail and malnourished woman curled over whatever she was holding in her hands. The length of her arms was enough to touch the ground when she was completely erect, at around five ten in height. She was completely naked, bearing six emaciated breasts on her abdomen and with shoulder blades that appeared to be just moments from ripping through her bleached flesh and embracing the gelid air. Her facial structure was a hybrid of that of a canine and a human, projecting forward into a full muzzle from an otherwise seemingly normal humanoid skull. She had a few thin, long strains of dark hair that hung down from the top of her head and hung over her face.
The Caritas twitched upwards and immediately locked eyes with Michael. Her beautiful pure green eyes let loose a river of sorrows that flowed onto the uncaring ground beneath her, as Michael looked at what she was so broken over. A charred human skull; clearly that of a child.
"He hurts it, he kills it..." the Caritas said with an unearthly, sharp voice, akin to iron nails dragged over rock between gasping sobs.
Michael simply stared forward at the Caritas. She was clearly too damaged. Too unpredictable. Her body was frail, but her mind had been taken from her. The insanity that crawled within her had subdued and executed her sane mind in full.
"Nyarlathotep ask if I love this human childrens, he ask if I make safe and warm... too warm, too warm!" She continued, tossing the skull onto the ground before pommeling her own face in distress and anger. "We trieds! We trieds to save the childs!"
The Caritas opened her eyes and scurried over to the skull, picking it up and holding it to her chest as if she had been reunited with a lost child. She closed her eyes as she embraced the skull, repeating "we protect..." to herself in a shivering murmur over and over again.
"Nyarlathotep?" Michael asked in confusion as he cautiously and slowly walked forward, keeping his hand near his pistol just in case. "Leviathan did this. Leviathan did all of this, and he's not going to stop at his own accord."
The Caritas stopped its murmuring and let out a pained wail into the air, before snapping her attention back to the skull. When she looked it into its empty, lifeless eye sockets, Michael could see true horror in her shaking eyes. She began to whimper and quiver as if the skull was looking back at her with contempt and pain.
"Nyrarlethotep, Leviathan, he kill all Pecutani... I try to help, but he killed the childrens all... he burn last childs in front of me, and I... I felt child's father give hopelessness feeling and wanted to save one piece of child, but hopelessness follow quick by nothing; and then by want of dead Nyrarlethotep by this man... Caritas feel Dread's mantle within Asher..."
And with those words, Michael mentally pieced together the tragedy. The Caritas was speaking about Harris. Harris' child had been burnt alive in front of the Caritas when she attempted to save the children of Pecutani from their fate. Michael had told Harris to hold on. That the Caritas would come when it sensed their hopelessness in the forest. It was never meant for this to be the result. Harris was meant to go home. He deserved to go home.
"Yes, the mantle within me is our sovereignty over Leviathan. I know of you just as much as you know of me. I know you have the ability to transport yourself, your lair, and others between Panthalassa and Earth. You simply must send me directly to Leviathan, wherever it is he may be, Caritas."
"Send lord-betrayer to Earth? You find protection, you make plan, you prepare!"
"Lord-betrayer may be a fitting name, but I have many titles, cur," Michael repudiated, beginning to walk towards her. The Caritas pulled the skull over her right shoulder as if to protect it, quaking as he approached.
"He killed Dread, he kill you too!"
"I am the slayer of the white faun, the beheader of Mendes. I am the crafter of the icon of Enki, the forger of the Champoion's mask, and the architect of the Hellmouth. I am the slayer of Abaddon, the butcherer of the assimilator. I am the dethrowner of Enki. I am the godslayer, the death of destiny, the only one capable of performing such a feat. I hold Dread's mantle, but he did not hold my hatred. All you must do is to open a temperary passage to Leviathan. I will stop at nothing to ensure that this all comes to an end before the next sunrise."
"You can not die, or all childs dies. Everything..."
Michael was a mere ten paces from the Caritas when he stopped, breaking into an undeviating and harsh tone.
"I have struck Leviathan and his blood has been drawn as a result. Without me, Leviathan would kill every child on Earth before destroying all of creation to birth existence as he sees fit. I am his only hurdle, his last test. If you send me to him, I will cut him down. I will split open his body and free his wretched innards, and never again will a being of such evil ever have the opportunity to harm a human child again. I can save each and every one of them for you, Caritas, but you must send me to him. If we give him one second more to think, let alone act, imagine what he could accomplish. I blame myself for not leaving Enki's servitude before Jackson could have been born and for listening to every order, all the way up until the enactment of his grand plan. You don't want to blame yourself for what you're allowing, Caritas."
She centered the skull in front of her chest and looked down at its uncaring eyes. She knew it was now or never, and that Leviathan could not be afforded another moment to grow in strength, leaving her no option but to face the fact that there was no other hope. That was the last chance for any of the children of humanity to live; it was the last chance for humanity to live. A tear of hers raced from her face and fell into the skull's right eye socket as if to embrace the children of humanity one last time before leaving their fate in Michael's hands. It was as if she was passing over all of her love and promises with this deal.
A color Michael had never seen before emitted from the flesh of the Caritas, one almost fully indescribable; it appeared as a redish-green, but certainly not a shade of yellow or any sort of brown. This peculiar hue gyrated arrestingly, seeming to dance in the air in a funnel. The impossible color flooded out of the catacomb, around Michael as if he was untouchable by holy doctrine, through the walkway and into the cruelty of Panthalassa.
"When leave, exit take you to the anti-lord... no Panthalassa. It close when through..."
Michael nodded, thankful that she had listened to reason, unlike any other creature of this realm. He turned around to begin his final act of revenge, but he found himself unable to walk away from the Caritas. He knew what he had to do.
In one abrupt motion he drew his machete and spun around, beheading the Caritas above her mandible. She had no time for any reaction but to widen her eyes in utter betrayal. Her hands let go of the skull, leaving it to fall to the floor, along with her now removed head. Her corpse chased after it, collapsing to the floor as a twitching cadaver.
He couldn't have let her live. He had to make sure that no matter what, after Leviathan was dead, that no creature within Panthalassa would be able to open a rift between Earth and this debauched realm. After all of the deaths and destruction this realm had caused not just now but throughout all of history, how could he leave the possibility of a rift ever being opened when the only creature possible of doing such a thing, short of Leviathan himself, was standing right beside him? His mind raced, attempting to justify the beheading of a spirit that had never once harmed a human that wasn't killing their own child, and even then, it was only to save the innocent youth.
He found himself unable to stare at the convulsing, draining corpse any longer. He turned back around, still brandishing his blade, and walked back up the entrance. Instead of seeing the charred forest of Odiabolesco above, he say a wall of what seemed to be a suspended, syrup-like, dark purple liquid. It put off the scent of musk and lilac. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and thought of his final goal. Kill Jackson.
He charged into the portal, breaking through to a space between realms, mind disconnected from his body. As he transferred to Earth, floating in existence outside of existence, his mind was filled with countless visions of Panthalassa. He saw entire mountain ranges migrating forward on legs of ore, crushing forests beneath their feet. He saw fungi in semi-human figure pressing small beasts to their flesh, decomposing their bodies as the made contact. He saw great unawoken technological horrors from eons long since forgotten resting deep within the ocean; and even saw what appeared to be a heavily population human city, well protected and ripe with technological advancement.
These visions passed by without a moment to process them, before he had entered our realm in full. His body manifested mere inches from the floor of a very familiar house, falling onto his feet once he had fully formed just a second later. He had manifested back into the same empty house Leviathan had originally lured him into, and that they had all transported to Panthalassa in. Five yards in front of him was Leviathan, side turned towards him, looking out of the window with a smile. The powerful glow of fire shined through from the outside and reflected off of the golden blood of Enki splattered across his armor.
The radiance of the flames gamboled anarchically across Leviathan's face and reflected off of the golden blood splattered across his armor. He currently stood at a mere six feet and five inches tall, a much more human measure.
"I've killed him, Michael," Leviathan said in an emotionless tone and with an inexpressive face as he watched the flames celebrate and dance between buildings. "I've looked God in the eyes and I pushed them back into his skull. I have killed that which has birthed us both as prophets of chaos. In just one moment I will either have my uncontested ascendancy, or you will have your revenge in full. I'm quite certain both of us can wait a moment longer to speak, given how long we've both waited for this hour to dawn."
The revelation that Enki was truly dead was a shock, one which he would surely doubt if not for the still-wet ichor of God drenching his hands. Of all of the souls to have participated in this godly revolt and divine mantle, he and Leviathan were truly the last two left alive. The death of Enki would not repair the damages or resurrect the dead, but it would ensure that, should he strike Leviathan down, humanity would truly be free of all higher leadership. Leviathan was both absorbed in vanity and in disbelief at his own actions, lost in his moment of triumph.
Michael did not respond, giving Leviathan his full attention as he gripped his weapon's hilt so hard in rage that it felt as if the muscles in his arm had been set aflame.
"From my first breaths of life, I heard of you. Every night, when I was spoken to by none other than God himself, I was repeatedly played back over your life story... day after day, week after week, year after year. The champion that had enabled my grand destiny to take place. When I was offered the place as his champion, with the agreement being nothing more than killing Joseph and injecting his seed into Natalie, I accepted immediately. In my head, not only was I gaining what I thought of as a step towards the power I was born fully knowledgeable about and already grasping towards, but I saw the resemblance in us. Just like yourself, it was Enki that sealed my fate into power and ultraviolence. Both of us are twisted beings, prechosen to be this way by a god that saw love as a reason to destroy.
"It was his original intention that I would be his ultimate servant and set his path, but he would use his "divine" abilities to see just what I was; to tap into the power festering within this prison of the flesh. I was to become that being I had been raised to envy- to mimic, all the while being used as a test subject to find out just what was within me. I made a promise to that nugatory beast just before he slashed my throat. That I would one day be the god, and he would be the victim. Still, he chose to resurrect me and force me to relive an eternity in both flesh and rot; it was within this cycle that I had felt a wrath towards him unlike any other. This was the wrath which unchained the essence of power and domination, the strength to truly take the godhood I deserved eons ago.
"Not even I predicted having the Mantle of Humanity simply given to me in his moment of weakness. This was a great enterprise by the hands of Dread and yourself, but it was his own curiosity that had sealed his fate. His undying lust to solve the only true mystery in this plane of existence drove his practically insane and incapable of thinking for too long on any other topic. To find out just what I had manifested from was a mystery he saw worth all of the risk. This is a victory for the both of us, Asher. The being which had taken your life and made it into a butcherment of its former self had met a gruesome and equally terrible end. There is no torment or paradise for the pantheon in my domain, Michael. Enki has ceased to exist, no trace of him in this universe or any other, excluding the gore spread across my armor."
"I know what you are," Michael divulge coldly, as if having not even heard his speech.
"Oh? What a shocking revelation that must be! Go on, Asher. Yell to the world on its death bed what I am," Leviathan responded mockingly, with a glim light of sick glee expressed due to the thought of someone finally figuring out what his soul originally was a manifestation of; only he knew the origin of his horrid soul.
"You killed Joseph Kaufman, Andrew Harris, Dread, and now Enki; the grandson of William Taggart, the son of his associate officer Harris, the god that betrayed Olen, and the god he sought to remove from power. Not only did you kill the closest possible people to the survivors of Olen's killing spree, but through the actions of you, Dread, and by extension myself, his philosophy will soon be a reality. Once I carve your desolate soul out of your husk there will be no gods above humanity. You may not be Olen Grant anymore, but on some level, be it subconsciously or in some method of grand manipulation, he's pulling the strings."
Leviathan looked out unto the hellfire he wrought with ever-seeking eyes, gritting his teeth and curling his fists as he spoke.
"It's not just myself that was caught in the aftermath of his cruel game, Asher. From the very instant he was killed and Enki took property over his soul, Dread grew to despise Enki. It was the planned reincarnation of that soul that finally pushed Dread to revolt, and it was that separation which led to you being caught between the two of them, and eventually betraying Enki. You're correct. Absolutely all of this is just as he would have wanted. Because of us Enki is dead. Mendes is dead. Dread is dead. Everyone that knew their names is dead, excluding us. I do not plan to be his legacy a moment further. When you are cut down and I reign, his idea of a godless and limitless humanity will come to an end. I will make a butcherment of your species. Besides, I was created purely to see what the unleashed potential of Olen's soul was, was I not?"
"You will never have the chance," Michael opined. "I may be your final hurdle, but even if you were to kill me, I will fight my way through your most sadistic tophet only to drag you down with me!"
The abhorrence he had held was unchained as he began marching towards Leviathan, blade hoisted. Leviathan simply twisted his head slightly in Michael's direction as he approached.
"Tophet? Hell shall be for no one. Non-existence shall grasp towards sentience and pull it into a final embrace. You, though... Enki had created a very special afterlife for the moment you betrayed him. One that is very much deserved. I will reveal my benevolent side to you and allow you to fall into this personal eternity as the single remaining mortal in any form within all of creation."
"An eternity to crawl from the pits of Panthalassa!" he shouted, bursting with antipathy and sending his blade flying towards the back of Leviathan's neck.
Leviathan dispersed into nothingness just before the weapon made contact, sending it to crash through the window and to chop into the wood framing.
"It's our time to die, Jackson! Fight and fall so that we may rot!" he said, before he tore it from the window frame and turned around, pointing his weapon around and scanning the wall to his left, the staircase across from him, and then the empty rest of the main floor to his right.
The faint mocking whispers that followed his search, hardly audible past the occasional mention of his name, was infuriating to his very core. Surrounded by omnipotent hissing and malignant murmurs, they drew him to step forward and scan once more around him. There was no sign of his prey, excluding a building pressure inside of him. Spinning around and searching desperately for what he had came for- what he had earned; it took just this thought for him to indulge once more with ire, forcing him to submit his body to the carnal anger that possessed him.
Giving in to the control of his inner self, he swung his weapon to his right, driven purely by instinct. To his surprise, the sight of gore took flight, but it was a dense, brown fur that had materialized around it; not the blackened armor of Nyarlathotep. The decapitated corpse of a ghoul, which had its arms sprawled out seemingly readying an attack, fell to the floor. From his left came the distinct sound of metal against metal, drawing him to see Leviathan, back against the wall as if he was an admiring spectator, clapping exorbitantly.
"Ah-ha! Seconds from your throat being torn out, and you decapitate the hidden assassin! Now you're playing the role!"
Michael reached across himself and pulled his Glock from its holster, firing a shot at him. Yet again he vanished, sending the bullet into the wall where he was, but this time, Michael knew what he was likely to do. Turning back to his right side, he threw his machete into the air, immediately feeling a massive amount of weight press down on it. He pointed the gun up in the same direction and emptied his clip. With the first shot Leviathan appeared, his right arm once more a blade of bone and alien metal alloys, pushing down on his own blade, fourteen bullet holes leaking a satisfyingly bright red ichor from his stomach.
Leviathan's face was that of astonishment when Michael pushed against his weaponized arm and staggered him back, before charging into his abdomen with a spear that took him to the ground. When they crashed against the floor, the light provided from the outside world, and the color in Leviathan's eyes, changed to a deep purple. The sounds of wailing sirens and distant vociferations of visiting Mi-Go-Hytecpt made it evident that, yet again, he had entered Panthalassa.
Once more the beast vanished from underneath him, but Michael, knowing of his repeated techniques, propelled himself leftwards, dodging the unless but predicted downward strike from behind and resulting in Leviathan's weaponized arm clashing with the floor. When his feet laid flat against the ground he stood and turned to face the beast, opting for a downward strike as he holstered his pistol with his free hand. With his face full of presumption, Leviathan cast his harm to the arm into the air to catch the strike- a feint attack that was then rerouted into an angled slash across his torso.
The blade created a divide through the armor reaching from the right shoulder to the base of the left side of the rib cage, slicing through the alien metal as if it were nonexistent, setting free a blood that switched from liquid to mist before it struck the ground. Jackson's hand sprung forward and took a hold of Michael's throat, lifting him off of the floor as his armor resealed itself in a method akin to fingers interlocking. Michael grasped at his wrist with his free hand and slashed at it with the other, but all damage done seemed to heal as the blade was retracted from the wound.
"Any advantage you thought you had, consider them void. The ability to kill is not assurance of lethality, nor is resilience to damage an assurance of perseverance. Just this once, for one moment in the eternity I've led, I'd like to be the one to find out what possibilities lurk within a soul." Leviathan said, turning around and throwing Michael to the floor. "You've given quite the show with your previous conquests, but I know, just as Enki knew when it came to me, that there is much more within your tortured soul!"
As his back hit the ground and his vision blurred from the trauma, Jackson jumped upwards, drawing back his brand for impalement. He rolled to his left just as Leviathan met the ground, raising to his feet immediately and readying himself for combat again. When Jackson's saber came towards him in a backwards slash, Michael simply ducked below its swing and ran forward to slash at the skull of the dark divinity before him- but mid swing, his arm stopped its vengeful crusade. No matter how much he attempted to force himself into motion, not a muscle in his body short of his eyelids would move.
He was forced to remain frozen in time, incapable of doing anything but observing and thinking the most execrable of curses to himself as Jackson spun his shoulder blades and stretched his back.
"I'm rather shocked you still have any passion to kill left in you! Most people would have had enough after the innocent people, maybe after their friends if they're strong hearted, but Mendes? Abaddon? It's as if Enki built two killing machines... and they both happened to rise against him," he said almost nostalgically and with pride as an aura of darkness emitted from him, devouring the everything around them until they were surrounded in a jet black oblivion. "The day the universe came crashing down upon itself. Look at this poem we've carved into the fabric of time, Ahser- this song we've played upon the strings of reality! Between worlds and fates, we've constructed quite the story together... now, it is time for you to finally learn how this story comes to a perfect end!"
With that, Leviathan blended into the nullity around him before it all exploded outwards. Michael continued his swing as if his momentum had never been interrupted, only able to catch a blurred mass of purple and black on the floor and from above as his hand crossed his vision. He spun around again in anticipation of yet another attack from behind, but instead, he was greated with nothing short of the past coming to haunt him. He stood in the center of a clearing he had been to once before, within the acursed Panthalassian version of Cook Forest, filled with flowers as purple as the sky above and as black as the ocean's depths, all appearing as the most beautiful shapes of flowers, reaching hip-height on him.
He recognized this damned field as the location in which he cast down Mendes when delivering Abaddon to Natalie. It hadn't changed in the slightest. For one hundred and fifty yards in all direction this clearing continued before being stopped by the surrounding wall of trees. The sky was coated in clouds bearing streaks of red lightning which seemed to war each other before retreating back into their cover. The wind was completely still, and through the trees he could make out small, quick movements made from cautious yet curious observers. Thirty yards to his left, the sound of flowers rustling broke out, drawing his gaze.
Out from the blockade of flowers came a horrid thing; an amalgamate of the most grotesque and detestable features conceivable. The sound of slithering, slimy appendages rubbing against each other was immediately perceptible as a creature, fourteen feet in height and completely of a dark green hue, elevated itself, somehow concealed- or appearing- from the flowers. The creature was unlike any being found within Panthalassa or Earth, with four arms, two projecting forward from their proper placement and two below them that were facing away from him, holding it off of the ground.
No segment of flesh itself was visible on the torso or shoulders, for all of that flesh was hidden beneath an endless swarm of tentacles that ripped and tore at each other and then stuffed themselves back into a new placement. The mass of tentacles stretched downwards and around halfway from the ground merged into two equally large tail-esque appendages that could easily reach the floor and still place another fourteen feet on the length of the creature if not being posed upwards, both tipped with a claw for each, which both bore a maw akin to a lamprey's within the palm.
Then, the face looking back at him assaulted his eyes. There were no ears, nor was there a nose, present. The eyes, too, would have been assumed absent, if not for reflecting light very slightly off of their charcoal surface. The bottom jaw snapped open with an audible crack, revealing itself to be decorated with teeth that could puncture any surface and tear it away from itself, all completed by a glossy red tongue four feet in length hanging freely and loosely from its maw. There was no uncertainty within his soul- what lied before was Jackson Wilkerson. It was the Boundless Shadow. It was Nyarlethotep. It was Leviathan.
Michael reached down to his holster, keeping his blade between his arm and torso, and took out his glock. It was clear that he was being afforded a moment as the fiend simply stared onwards. Pressing the release, he dropped the empty clip and inserted his last. Fifteen shots- that number had to be burnt into his mind here and now. Fifteen. Shots. Placing the pistol in his left hand and reclaiming his machete in his right, he elevated the gun to eye height, aiming at Leviathan's upper chest.
When his pistol laid even, Leviathan lowered his tails to the ground and became to prop himself up on them, coiled at the ends, taking himself ten feet higher. Once elevated, he rotated his lower pair of arms within their sockets, and through a series of snapping muscles, stretched all four outward in a display of vainglory. From his maw came a bellow comparable only to the sounds of white noise merged with that of a furious stream; a battle cry that shook the ground beneath the both of them. Michael did not move a muscle, not even as Leviathan fell forwards and onto his four main hands, shaking the ground in his now quadrupedal state, flailing his tails upwards from the ground and cocking his head upwards.
Just then, Leviathan tilted himself to the side and sent forward his right tail, claw opened, towards Michael. With an almost uncanny reaction speed, Michael switched his aim to the incoming claw and fired, penetrating through its open mouth and blowing out of the back of the hand. Though a serpentine growl escaped from it, its threat was only truly pacified when it was just feet from Michael, severed between the thumb and index finger by his machete. Leviathan drew it back to him as it flailed wildly through the air in pain, regardless of the fact the demon still wore a crooked smile on his face.
The slight bend in all of Leviathan's limbs was immediately noted by the ruthless killer that he had helped craft, giving him a second's worth of a warning before Leviathan lunged towards him. As Leviathan threw himself forward with all of its hands extended for him, Michael threw himself to the ground towards the devil's original location in a combat roll. Above him, when his gaze was permitted, he saw both his unharmed and bleeding tails crest over him, seemingly missing an oppurtinity to assaut him before it left his vision. In fact, short of the flowers shifting, he didn't hear, nor feel by vibrations, Leviathan make contact with the floor.
He brought himself to his feet immediately, turning to face his previous location with his glock ready. As predicted, the secret by many names had disappeared beneath the flowers once more, making no sign of where he was or where he would attack from. Michael's knowledge of the ambush tactics of Panthalassian creatures tried to form itself in his memory, but even his lifetime's worth of accumulated knowledge was overwhelmed by his unremitting bloodlust for the sadist that took everything from him.
There was nothing but a blur of both thought and vision when one of Leviathan's hands sprung from his right, grasping for him, but just as it breached the cover of the flowers he slashed downward between the middle finger and ring finger down to the center of the palm once it reached chest-height, fueled by pure hatred-driven instinct. The fingers convulsed for a second before the arm began to pull itself back down, freeing Michael to tear his blade out of the hand and slash across the wrist just before it vanished once more.
Within a second after it vanished from his view, he saw the same, split hand reach upwards about fifty yards in front of him, followed by the other primary hand. He watched as Leviathan pulled himself from below, opting only to aim forward.
"Finally decided against ambush tactics? Lo and behold, the god of cowardice!"
"Lo and behold death!" Jackson responded in a voice akin to reversed vocals in varying pitches, pulling himself towards him. "Lo and behold the devouring void ready to consume the cosmos! I am the Acheron to which all life expires, the perdition to which all things belong!"
His adversary began a charge, but no thought crossed Michael's mind except firing as many shots into him as he could before he reached him. He let loose a grand total of twelve bullets that tore through Leviathan before he arrived- two through the chest, eight through the stomach, and two just at the base of the ribs. Once the echo of the final gunshot was finished resonated through the air, Leviathan lunged the remaining thirty feet at Michael with his uninjured right claw extended for a slash.
Michael, lunged to his left in return, managing to pass a mere inch before the tip of Leviathan's claw. When he turned to face the beast and the beast turned to face him, both were with eyes of chaos. Letting out another war cry, Leviathan slashed at him with the same claw as before. Michael avoided the assault by falling to the ground and rolling, causing it to pass over him. He raised himself to one knee and took aim at the claw as it came back in a return swing, sending another bullet flying. It perforated and removed the top portion of Leviathan's ring finger, though staying still to take this shot resulted in him being struck by this swing.
The back of the hand bashed into him, sending him to the ground on his stomach, and the glock flying from his grasp to disappear within the veil of flowers. The next thing he felt was a wet, bleeding hand grasp around him and pull him from the ground and preparing to throw him to the left. He tried to swing his still-free machete at Jackson's face as he passed it, but he was simply out of range. He could only make out Jackson's cruel stare through a blur as he was then released and propelled westwards to vanish completely within the flowers, landing on his back after a roll brought upon him by the force of the impact.
Though his hearing had become little more than a ring, and though his vision had become nothing more than hues within fog, he could make out the sound of something cracking through the air akin to a bullwhip- a crack he instantly associated with the other, uninjured tail-mounted claw. He threw his free hand over his face as a reflex, feeling the agony of three of the claws perforated through his hand. The force pushing against him was immense albeit hardly lasting a moment, as his machete severed the hand by the wrist before he even let out his pained groans.
His senses returned to him just in time to see the claw puncturing his gored palm fade out of existence and to hear Leviathan's dissonant shrieks as his tail whipped around in anarchy, spraying his blood into the air as a mist. Michael slowly raised to his feet, fighting the intense pain that cursed his body, to see Leviathan standing just a few yards away struggling to keep his balance as he walked forward upon his two injured front legs, walking with his body hardly seven feet off of the ground. He dangled his machete to his side and pressed his bleeding fist to his heart as his eyes crossed the beast's, and for the first time since his conception, Leviathan's eyes met a pair as plotting as his own.
The passion that burnt within their eyes and the obstinacy their blackened hearts pumped through their bodies were equal. This moment was yet another moment of the universe holding great chaos within silence, broken only by the bone-popping sound of Leviathan snapping his jaw open twenty degrees beyond what would be allowed by human anatomy. The passion in their eyes, along with the wrath that their hearts pumped throughout their bodies, was equal between them. This wrath is what forced the wounded behemoth to drag his limping body towards Michael, and is what pulled Michael along this path of failed redemption and bloodlust. Uncompromising and unrelenting, it was this passion, along with the enmity that tied the two together, that forced the God and the catalyst alike to charge at each other simultaneously, filling the air with their war cries they've both only dreampt of releasing until this point.
Leviathan reached out for Michael with his right hand in an attempt to grapple him when he came within range, but this grasp was denied by Michael riding his blade across the already-present wound on the projecting palm, which forced Leviathan to draw his hand back and continue forward due to his momentum. Immediately switching his swing to the left arm when it touched the ground beside him- the wrist and hand he had previously butchered- Michael's machete flew across the already weakened forearm a quarter up its length, forcing the wrist to buckle as the muscles split apart by the will of the unforgiving blade.
With one hand in the lead off of the ground and the other lead buckled and incapable of movement, Leviathan let out an abhorrent screech as he began his decent to the ground, falling forwards with great force. Michael turned towards his right and redirected his blade above him, slicing through the mass of tentacles that covered where a chest would have been located, between the shoulders of the two pairs of arms. The blade tore through the resistance whatever was in place of this thing's rib cage with ease, the feeling of which was comparable to wood that had been left to soak until it had begun to lose its constitution.
The tentacles around the wound struggled to reach those on opposing sides as if hoping to pull the wound closed as it was shaped, though nothing short of an endless display of darkness was revealed within the beast.From within Nyarlethotep he heard the wails of ghouls, the screams of kvayri, the patient clicks of yip-yaks and the ever-growing laughing of fralmeyi'uoud, each only audible for the split moment Leviathan remained above him. With his one spare second of opportunity, Michael plunged his machete upwards and into Leviathan's gut, releasing his grip on the hilt and allowing the fiend's body to take it forwards as it crashed into the ground a few yards behind him.
Michael turned around to witness Leviathan impact the ground and enter a limp roll for twenty meters before the behemoth, in all of its entirety, fell beneath the comparatively minuscule height of the floral coverage. The wind was as still as a corpse, highlighting the shuffling of the flowers in the area the beast had vanished. The shoulder spikes of Jackson's armor transcended from their mediocre coverage, followed by his slicked back hair, as he staggered to his feet, hardly able to maintain his balance. His face was that of unparalleled trauma as blood dripped from his mount in a perfect streak. His wounds had all healed, leaving no visible injuries on his body except one; the machete impaling his stomach, the hilt of which he was grasping with both hands.
Still driven by his contempt, Leviathan took a weak step towards Michael, whom had simultaneously began his own cruel march towards him, riveting his body in a pain he thought he could only deliver. Each movement burnt his muscles and felt as if it pierced through his stomach anew. Each time his feet met the ground, a wave of sheer torture sprawled through his body, revealing to him that even though his acquired injuries had healed between forms, he still suffered the pain they bestowed upon him. Regardless of the fact he was struggling with every slight movement he made, his determination to kill that which had been placed in his way pushed his shivering corpse forward. He would not bear defeat. He could not accept defeat.
"You can't leave the mantle vacant, Asher!... Who will replace me, yourself? None that cross paths with you survive! You're nothing short of the first horseman of the apocalypse you wish to avoid!" he managed to cough up, though it went completely without response. "Wherever you walk, may a shadow consume! Whomever you meet, may your innermost carnage decimate! Should you hope to return to Earth, may Panthalassa in its entirety follow you!"
As the two came close to each other, Leviathan removed his right hand from the hilt of the weapon within him and swung his piercing gauntlets towards Michael's face, but his swing was halted in full by Michael's forearm against his wrist. Michael struck the deity in the face with his free hand, an assault which sent Jackson to the ground. He caught himself with his palms before he fully fell over and sent himself back up to his feet, using all of his momentum for another swing. Michael dodged backwards, forcing the swing to miss and the momentum to force Jackson to almost fall to the ground once more. Michael sent his boot into Jackson's face, which sent the god to the ground on his back, and the machete sticking through him into the ground.
"This is the culmination of the suffering both of us have caused, Wilkerson!" Michael erupted, bending down and grabbing Jackson by the collar of his armor and lifting him off of the ground. "This is the Sheol we both deserve, and I exist to ensure neither of us ever escape it!"
Michael began striking Jackson repeatedly, completely absent-minded to the fact both of Jackson's clawed gauntlets were digging through his coat and into his left forearm. Each strike sent his head recoiling back and into a new position. As he continuously pommeled the deriding, awfully smirking lord, his assault forced blood to spirt from his mouth and spread into the air, later paired with an inky purple liquid from his nose and mouth not native to the human form. Leviathan's legs attempted to find ground, but his weak body was unable to keep its footing as he was repeatedly dazed from the barrage of impacts against him. He must has attempted this three times, only to find the next droning punch to ring throughout his body and feed the fatigue which blighted him.
His smile faded away from his face. Each time he was striked his gaze centered and he looked up at Michael's eyes; eyes filled with an antipathy that not even he had been able to imagine. Michael could feel that Leviathan was attempting to halt his motion by use of the igniculus, but there was no force within this or any other universe that could force this bludgeoning to come to a premature end. His body kept moving even when the aura of the igniculus was visible around him, still unable to even slow his rightful victory.
Each hit was another crack in the great consumer's skull. Each impact was another spray of blood that leapt from his maw to fade into the still air. Each hammering punch was a rebuttal against his claims of godhood. Leviathan's eyes began to lose their color, instead defaulting to an off-white. The smile had gone from his face, now replaced with an expression best described as a lack of expression. Each time his eyes locked back with these hollowing windows their texture was progressively removed until, after a blink on Michael's part, he was not looking back at Jackson's eyes any longer. Instead, he looked back into a familiar gaze which he had craved to see again for so, so long. His fist stopped and released into a numb quiver, unable to strike the paralyzing, yet comforting eyes of his love.
He saw a comforting blue which swirled inside of the surrounding white like waves, the center dotted with a trembling pupil. In place of Jackson was a soft figure, an icon of beauty that had never left his mind since he first saw her. Her blond hair swayed down behind her head and over her right shoulder. His hand now grasped the fine red silk of a dress in place of an unknown metal, coiled firmly within it. Below him was Melody Asher, the love which had never left his mind. The motivational force that put him on this path of deicide. The only thing that ever kept him human.
"Please, Michael... don't hurt me again, please!..." she said, her voice filled with fear. Her soft, yet horrified voice rang through him like an echo, sewing frailty to his spirit.
He released her dress and allowed her to fall back, seeing a tear break away from her eye. His crouched over her on one knee as she laid on her back on the ground, placing his hands on her cheeks and bringing her face close to his. God, how he dreamed of being able to touch her flesh again. It was soft against his fingers, forcing his heart to pump blood as hot as fire throughout his body. He could not dare resits the emotion that possessed him, letting tears of his own break into the Panthalassian world.
He could not avert his gaze from the beautiful depth of her eyes. He had dreamed almost nightly of this moment alone, a moment in which these eyes were his to lose himself in once more. Oh, how he could remain in this moment for eternity, and how he was tempted to do so. The love that blinded forced him to pull her head closer for a kiss, but something jabbed into his gut when he did so.
Looking down, he saw that his machete was sticking from her stomach, cutting right through her exquisite dress. At first confusion rushed his mind, followed by a reality that devoured his being. Cook forest was where he had been sent after the murder of Melody. No scar decorated her forehead where he had shot her, which, had resurrection occurred, by all methods known to him, a scar of the lethal strike always remained. All of this information amalgamated into one realization in his mind- Jackson had taken her form.
A hatred festered in him, the likes of which no being in the universe had ever considered a posibility. The fires of his soul burned hot enough to overcome that of Tobit's dreaded Red Star and consume Hell itself, sending an abhorrence throughout him that did not belong within this, or any other universe. How dare Leviathan commit a malfeasance of this caliber, an act so contemptible as to directly insult his love? No god was so divine as to deserve that form! No benevolent deity could be as pure, no malignant creation could have chaos exist in such unity!
Michael let out a war cry so furious the sky quaked in fear as he pulled her face to his, bearing his teeth and biting into her lips and left cheek. His teeth pierced the firm flesh, releasing the luxurious taste of blood rushed into his mouth and sending him into a deep, sensational pleasure. The flavor was exactly that which he had become accustom too- human. Melody's muffle screams progressively got deeper as she pushed at his shoulder and chest to separate them, only resulting in Michael's teeth further tightening their latch. With one more blink, it was once again Jackson which kneeled before him in pain.
Michael took a moment to look into Jackson's eyes, his ecstasy further fed by the shaking of his pupils from his torturous jaws. Then, he tore back, ripping the lips and a good sum of his left cheek from him, snapping as the muscles detached and split from themselves. Jackson grasped his face with both hands and his screams bursted into the night, echoing through the entirety of these acursed woods. His blood dripped from Michael's mouth onto the floor in one line as he chewed and swallowed what he had taken, reveling in the pleasures of the meat he so craved.
Michael stood still, panting in place as he say Leviathan struggle through the pain to stand up. He could not suffer through enough in one instance to bring himself to a completely erect stance, leaving his back bent and covering his shredded face with his hands.
"To be a god for a day... it was everything I've ever aspired for," Jackson said, trying to smile through the pain and ruined flesh, "to feel the power I've felt... to live the life I've lived..."
Jackson painfully straightened his posture and continued.
"You know, it was I that killed Enki and Dread. Wasn't that your goal, remove all gods from ruling over humanity? Once you kill me, we'll both have two gods to our name. I guess that makes us partners in this- messiahs by Olen's ideology," he said, making light even of his failure, tilting his head backwards to look at the sky and dropping his hands to his sides. "You know, I could alter the sky to give us whatever sort of view we wanted, but the merging of clouds, the lighting running from each mass to another... there's no view I'd prefer in my final moment as Jackson Wilkerson. Maybe I'll reincarnate as a third person by some unknown means, and maybe he'll hate me as I hated Olen!" he finished, letting out a small burst of laughter that forced him into a cough.
Michael took a step forward and began to wrap his hand around the hilt that stuck from his gut.
"If you take another form, be it in this universe, in this realm, or even in this stretch of existence, let you be cursed so that I may return to cut you down once more. Let you be cursed so that you may never know existence without me, that you may never again be at peace. Let you forever remain in torment."
Jackson outstretched his arms to his sides in such a way it mocked the crucifixion of Christ, smiling on the only side of his mouth capable of forming readable expressions.
"Whatever the fuck you have to do, Collins", he said before bursting into a laughter. the sort of which seemed to imply he had achieved victory in some way or another- or, at least, that something within him had.
Michael tore the blade from Leviathan's stomach and raised it to his shoulder, releasing his final cry of war as he slashed at his throat, cutting through the trachea and unleashing a spray of godly ichor onto his face. In some sort of sick defiance Jackson did not show any change in expression from his twisted grin, nor did he reach for his split throat, nor did he choke on the liquid. He stood still and silent, just as Michael did, as his life force rushed out from his neck and coated his armor.
Michael stared at Leviathan's eyes as they slowly gave way to the all-conquering will of death, closing slowly, before his body fell limp to the ground. The flowers around him began to close around him as if they were masking the sight of him, though Michael could see that his expression of his accomplishment did not leave his face in death.
He dropped his machete to the ground and walked away, leaving it to be consumed by the foliage as well.
The End of Torment
Michael pulled his pistol from the ground, closing his eyes and recounting his thoughts before they all went away.
It was all over. He could never forget, even in death, his life in servitude to Enki or eventual partnership with Dread. He count never forget his friends Joshua, Vincent, Jonah and Abaddon, or how he tried his hardest to protect both Natalie and Harris. Not even non-existence could strip him of the memories he held with his lover and namesake Melody Asher. Leviathan was right by calling him a catalyst and by saying that everyone he ever wanted to protect died by his hand or because of it, but now, also his hand, it was over.
Because of him, humanity was free of all gods. Enki, Mendes, Dread, Abaddon, Leviathan- all of them were reduced to nothing but butchered corpses. He could have a moment of peace, free from gods forever. He did not wish to remain much longer. He served his purpose and now, whatever hellfire or eternal torture that Enki chose for him before his death, he was ready to face. He did not deserve this peace he had created. He deserved to suffer forever for his actions- this, he was a true believer of. In fact, the idea of his death being just a moment away didn't bother him. He felt calm about this fact, finally free from the trials of his existence on the mortal plane.
He didn't open his eyes again. He didn't want to see Panthalassa in his last moment. He pushed the glock to his right temple and took one last breath of Panthalassian air, pretending it was Earth's. After one last exhale, he pulled the trigger.
He never even heard the gun fire. When he next opened his eyes, he was surrounded only by a white radiance in all directions, situated on his knees on a floor he could not see. He felt no fear, nor did he feel anger- whatever eternity stood before him, he deserved and welcomed. He thought back to the same question that had plagued his mind since he separated himself from Enki's leadership. What would he have done differently? Suddenly, that question had new meaning to him.
"Michael!" the voice of Melody called out from the abyss, joyous and overwhelmed, followed by the sound of sprinting in his direction.
Michael found himself almost paralyzed with emotion as her saw her vague shape enter from the distance. He threw himself to his feet and sprinted in her direction, tears floating in suspension behind him as he vanished into the light.
Written by ShawnHowellsCP
Finale of the In Torment Series
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