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Prologue

July 16th, 1985. Coral Gables, Florida. Merindino's Bar.

The music was loud, and the people, erratic. Well, not many people were at the bar, but the four at the counter couldn't contain themselves. Tomorrow, they left Florida. It was time for deep sea fishing, far from any visible land. Even the day of just driving to the spot had them hyper.

With only a single group of people besides them at the bar, it was a party. Michael Collins sat quiet, holding his drink with a smile. Only 21, drinking legally was still a fresh taste to him. He had short brown hair, which rose to a small point in the front. Five feet and ten inches tall, he was your average man.

In the chair to his left was Vincent Hinder, whom everyone called Vinny. He was definitely the buffest person in the bar, though he was only a bit shorter than Michael. At 46 years old, he had a bit of hair to him, which was greying all over. A sort of salt-and-pepper look, with his black hair still showing through.

He was talking to the barkeeper about the day ahead, and flashing the tattoo on his left bicep. It was actually the name of his boat, the Altenia 5913. Of course, he had a shot of whiskey passed to him.

In the chair to his right, was Melody Asher. The shortest of the bunch at five feet exactly, she was laughing at Joshua Fedrick, while playing with her long blonde hair. She looked fantastic, which Michael couldn't stop thinking about. She was 22, hardly ahead of him. They met when Michael had just become an adult, speaking for the first time when Vinny took them both to his camp in Okaloacoochee.

They've fucked and confessed feelings for each other multiple times over the years, but it never escalated. She took a drink of her bottle of Malhorn's home style beer, causing Michael to feel even more awkward when it met her lips.

Joshua, himself, was already plastered. All six feet of his scrawny body stood up on his chair, which caused the barkeeper to focus on him. His decently long brown hair met his cliche 25 year old demeanor. On the top of his lungs, he sung along to the music playing above, causing the other group to laugh, and Melody to almost cry from laughter.

"Like a virgin, touched for the very first time!" he sang, loud enough you'd think the whole town would hear it.

While dancing, he began to move his hips. Of course, the bartender told him to sit back down or get out, after sharing a bit of a laugh.

Joshua was the reason Vinny even met Michael and Melody, as Vinny was actually a friend of his father. When his father died of brain cancer, Vinny became a pretty major figure in his life. It was when Josh became an adult, that the pair began to adapt more to an open, less serious style of living. All four of them loved the sport, and had been thinking about this trip for a very long time.

"To Vinny, for letting us bum with him on his boat!" Joshua said, raising his glass.

Vinny laughed and clicked glasses with him, before turning and doing the same for Michael and Melody.

"A bunch of partying twenty year olds in the middle of the ocean. Fuckin' fantastic," he said, laughing and raising his glass to his lips.

Finally working up the guts to stop being a simple observer, Michael stood up, and walked over to Joshua, gripping his drink with both hands. When he got to him, Joshua didn't wait to try and get Michael hyper. Josh knew how he was, and he knew how to get him to let go and relax.

Throwing an arm over Michael's shoulder, he tilted Michael's beer into his mouth, pouring it in. Only when Michael went into a coughing fit did he stop and let it down.

Before Michael could say anything in anger, Josh began rocking back and forth, singing along with the song above.

"You're so fine, and you're mine, make me strong-"

He stopped and pointed towards Michael with his other hand, expecting him to continue.

"Don't act like you don't know the words, everyone does, no matter how embarrassed you are!" Josh said.

"... yeah, you make me bold!" Michael threw out, in a small burst of courage.

"There you go!" Melody said, following it up with heavy laughter, as her face turned red.

Michael let go completely. He didn't think about his image, his looks, or any other issue. He was with his friends this night. No matter how much he preferred to keep to himself, and how uncomfortable gatherings like this made him, he was happy now.

The two continued the song, and laughed through the rest of the night.

The Ocean's Wind

The sun was setting. They had waited until night so that the majority of the ride to the fishing location could be slept through, with Michael having to remain awake to steer, and so that Joshua wouldn't have his hangover to complain about.

The waves roared through the air, smashing into the side of the docks. A relatively calm day, disrupted by some water. Some of the water from the crashing waves managed to splash up onto the dock, wetting Michael's shoes, and Vinny's boots. They had spent the day packing the boat with their clothes, equipment, fuel, and enough food for the trip.

Joshua and Melody behind them, they were carrying the smaller boxes. Snack foods, some more clothes, and personal items. Joshua, this time, was carrying the last bit of fuel. This wouldn't have been a problem if they kept up, and didn't walk yards behind Vinny and Michael.

The smell of salt water in the air was enough to take Michael's mind off of all of his troubles. An entire month, they would be out here. The amount of planning that went into this trip was massive.

As Michael stepped on to the boat, Vinny followed. The Altenia 5913 was a large fishing boat, at least large in terms of privately owned boats. The mast hung above the ship, giving a great sight as the sun stood behind it. Painted silver with a blue stripe running down the side, Michael couldn't get enough.

To the right, the area they would be fishing. On the dock, there were several large deep sea fishing poles attached to the boat itself, with a sort of mount. To the right, you had to walk around to where the driving compartment was. Though it had a mast, this boat was motorized.

Beside the steering wheel were two pairs of stairs, each leading to a door. Once you pressed through the doors, the bedroom was forward, the bathroom was to the left, and the meat compartment, AKA cold storage, was to the right.

Michael and Vinny stopped at the steering wheel, where the driver's seat was, along with another to its left. Melody and Joshua had just gotten on the boat. To the back right corner of the boat was where an on-deck fuel bladder was located.

It was made of a thick rubber, inflated with fuel for quick use. It held a large sum of fuel, with a house on top, so that it could be added straight to the boat. The rest was all kept in internal fuel tanks, which were located through a door in the bedroom. Fuel went from there, to the fuel bladder, to the ship's engine. All a simple process.

Heading down to the bedroom to place the fuel into storage, Joshua began whistling. Following him down, Melody was already good to sleep.

As the two disappeared into the stairwell, and through the door, Micheal and Vinny were left alone.

"I suppose it's just you and I, sweetlips," Michael said, sarcastically.

"Honestly, I'll be surprised if Josh doesn't fuck up putting that fuel away, and blow us into orbit," Vincent responded.

"You've got that right. The guy's a party freak. He hardly knows responsibility. Remember when he tried to save that baby bird, and tried feeding it fish food?"

"Yeah, I remember," Vincent said with a laugh. "But the guy's got nothing going for him except us. Got to watch after him, you know?"

"Just fucking around, man. None of us really have hard feelings against the guy. He's a wild card, but he's our wild card. We have enough of everything?" he said, wanting to change the topic.

"Enough fuel for thirty days. Enough food for two months, but we all know that someone's going to eat half of it. I can't say much about how much clothes we all brought, but I hope we all brought enough."

"Who has first shift?"

I've got this. Slept most of the day for this. Go ahead and go down to sleep. I know that's why you asked, anyways."

Michael let out an exaggerated yawn, stretching his arms into the air, before standing up and walking down the stairs to the left.

"Night, Vinny. Don't be hitting any icebergs."

"Night," he responded, drowned out slightly by being on a different level of the boat, now.

After a few steps, the door was in front of him. It was a nice painted white metal, simplistic, without a window. Closed by a lever-locking mechanism to make sure no water got into the boat from the outside, it was rough to turn, and let a bit of a screech out as it did.

Pushing through, he immediately saw a door a few feet in front of him and to the right, and a small hallway going left and right, between the two doors from the stairwells coming down from the surface. Lit by lights on the ceiling, the fact no light got in from outside wasn't an issue. Knowing the bedroom was directly ahead, he walked through the bedroom door as well, which had a large window in the center.

Right away, he saw that it was a room that stretched forward far more than to the sides. To the right and left, were bunk beds which were connected to the walls. Beyond them, fuel storage to the right, and emergency communications to the left. Lights hanging from above, it was a pretty nice set up.

Josh on the bottom right bunk, he was drawing with a notepad and pencil, randomly sketching animals he hoped to see out at sea. Above him, Melody was already attempting to sleep, facing the wall. Both had already changed into more comfortable clothing.

As Michael went to lay down on the bottom left bunk, he heard Josh talk.

"You're going to sleep in your clothes? Savage."

Simply rolling his eyes, he flicked the light off before he laid down.

"Goodnight, Joshie," he said, mocking him.

He heard the notepad hit the floor, before a moment of silence, which was broken by Melody.

"Night," he heard, muffled into a pillow.

"... Night, dickhole," responded Joshua.

He pulled his blanket over him, and the three drifted off into sleep.

The Lord; within Panthalassa

Opening his eyes, he awoke, sitting up as fast as he could, looking around. He was still in his bed, but things were very wrong. The light was on, but instead of the usual color, the room was illuminated into a deep purple color.

The air around him was so humid he found himself sweating as he laid still, forcing him to remove his blanket. Rubbing his hand on his forehead, he forced himself to stand and look around. Melody and Joshua were not in their beds. In fact, it appeared as if the beds hadn't been touched at all.

Though he could hardly make it out, the walls in front of him appeared rusted and filthy, instead of clean and silver. Without a second thought, he attempted to push through the door. It was stuck, though a second attempt caused it to swing open, with a cracking sound.

The hallway appeared normal, excluding the same purple lights. Straight ahead, the doors leading to the stairs, and by extension, the deck. He opened the door directly across from him, the one he had come down earlier. This door opened rather easily, and closed just as well as it should have.

It was very obvious here that something was even more off than he had assumed. The hue of the sky, and all of the night's light, was the same dark purple with a tint of bright blue as the inside lights of the boat.

Walking up the stairs, the wind was no longer hot. In fact, it was frigid. Pushing his arms together for warmth, he watched as his breath made fog before him.

As he crept up the stairs, the alarming noise of metal striking metal haunted him. It was light, but it filled the air. Reaching the top of the stairs, he saw a man in black, sitting in the seat behind the steering wheel, tapping his mask with his right index finger.

Wearing a black trenchcoat that reached his boots, which were just as morbidly dark, the man bore a shining silver mask, which made seeing his face impossible. The trenchcoat's hood reached over the top of his mask, shielding his face. The mask was a laughing face, straight out of a drama play.

He stopped tapping his mask, and signaled Michael to sit in the chair closest to him, just as he did when he was with Vincent. Michael complied and sat down, looking at the man.

As he sat, the man stood, and the sky darkened as if a cloud had just covered the sun.

"You've been here before. Your master's version of what you call home," the man said with a soft, yet disturbing voice.

"Panthalassa. Who are you?" Michael responded curiously.

The man circled around, until he was behind Michael, out of his sight.

"I don't have an exact name, unlike you. I trust you'll find out everything soon enough."

When he finished speaking, he put his hands on Michael's shoulders from behind. Instantly, he felt as if he was covered in hands from behind. Holding his head still, his arms, and wrapping around his stomach to make sure he didn't stand up. He couldn't see it, but it was a nightmare.

"You'll find everything out eventually, if you just play along."

Before he could respond at all, Michael heard the sound of thousands of whispers coming from around the boat, drowned out by water. Gradually getting louder, it was impossible to make out what they were saying.

Before it could escalate, he heard an odd noise, interrupting all else. There was no wind around him, but it sounded as if he was inside of a thunderstorm. When the wind-like noise came to an end, the sensation of arms stopped. The whispering halted. The sky immediately went back to the dark shade of purple it originally was.

"Halt your tricks. This is about higher business," he heard a familiar voice say in a deep, drone-like voice.

Michael instantly stood and turned to see if his suspicions were true. Behind him was Mendes, towering over the masked man. His skeletal cervine head looking down on the figure. His body covered in black robes which reached the floor, only his head and hands showed, both constructed of bone.

Michael instantly fell to his knees, in a show of respect.

"Mendes, I thank you for coming into my presence once more. Whatever you command, it shall be done!" he said, ecstatic to see his master.

Mendes broke eye contact with the masked man, and walked around the seats, until he was right beside Michael.

"It is not what I want. You may break the formality."

Michael rose to his feet instantly, back full erect, yet still dwarfed by over three feet by Mendes.

"It is about what Ereshkigal wants," he continued.

Ereshkigal had been a part of his life for as long as he could remember, Mendes as well. Though he always saw Mendes as his lord, he could never forget that Ereshkigal was above even him.

The masked man shook his head as if to mock the name of Ereshkigal, walking down to the side of the boat, letting out a snarky laughter.

"Anything at all, my lord," Michael said.

"It is Ereshkigal's prophecy, his choice, that you, the most trustworthy and obedient servant to both of us, be his architect."

He was honored, and could not contain his excitement.

"What will I build?" he questioned.

"The facility in which he will bring forward a new test. You will also build an icon, which will be used to summon either Enki or myself to a given location immediately. The final piece, a mask, which his executioner will wear, once selected."

"When will this start, once I return?"

"You have a test to assure this plan will be set in motion, yourself, Michael," Mendes added, almost like he expected Michael to know of the test.

"Of course, anything!"

"Sacrifices. Bloodshed."

Micheal thought about it for a while, before the idea clicked in his head.

"Anyone on this planet but them, Mendes. Anyone at all, and it's done!"

"This will prove your devotion. Severing all loose ends, before moving on."

"I... I just don't know if I can do this to them. Sh- they have been there for every mome-" he tried to force out, not wanting to deny his lord's wishes, especially not any wishes of Ereshkigal.

"She will be fine. She will be allowed to live, Michael Collins. The other two must go. That's your trade. Otherwise, the man in the mask, for lack of a better term, will kill all three. Those lines must be sliced."

He instantly agreed to the idea, with Melody's safety being assured.

"It will be done, my lord. Tell Enki that I agree to his terms. I request time, though. Please, let me do this at my own pace. It will be done, but Melody will not be harmed," he said, stern, yet shaking.

Mendes waited a while, before responding.

"Agreed," he said, as he began to fade away in a small breeze, forming into pitch-black smoke.

Turning around, he could see the masked man standing at the edge of the boat, arms stretched each way. After a second of jogging, he reached the man, putting his hand on his shoulder, and spinning him to look him in the eyes.

"Who are you? Why are you here?" he demanded.

The mask appeared to show nothing but darkness on the other side. The man only raised his hand and pointed to Michael, letting out one word.

"Eventually."

He then turned Michael's attention to the water. The sound of bending metal echoed over the water, as massive waves began to form and push in different directions.

A large, dark shadow which seemed to resemble a monstrously sized squid was heading towards the boat, only a few dozen yards away. The boat began to shake, as Michael fell on his ass.

The man simply looked down at him, before the world went black.

International Waters

When he awoke, he didn't open his eyes. He laid still in disbelief, questioning what he had just been told. It was certainly not the first thing Mendes or Ereshkigal asked on him, but these were his friends.

Stretching his arms out, he opened his eyes, and sat on the edge of the bed. Everything was normal. The lights were on, though he did notice neither Josh, nor Melody were in their beds. Instead, he heard Vinny's loud snoring from the bunk above him.

Sluggishly standing up, he turned around to look. Vincent was covered from the waist down with his blanket, asleep shirtless. Looking at Vincent sleeping, dread began to arise from within Michael, which he could only react to by looking away.

Walking away from the door, he walked to the corner, where their luggage was found, among a lockbox no one had the key for, excluding Vincent. Opening one of his cases, he changed into blue jeans, a white undershirt, and a blue and black flannel over it. The flannel had an excessively large pocket on the inside, which he practically never used, even on busy days.

Sliding on his shoes, he hardly had the energy to walk straight. He turned off the light on the way out, he tried to open and close the door as softly as he could. His eyelids felt as if they were ten pounds, forcing him to fight to keep his eyes open.

When he entered the hallway, he took a right turn, to the bathroom. It was not a very long walk, but the inside of the boat was rather cold. Goosebumps rose from his skin, as he reached the bathroom door.

Opening the door, he immediately turned right and flicked the light switch, facing the sink and circular mirror which was slightly higher than eye level with him. To his right, the shower and the toilet. The room smelled like soap and water, indicating it was recently used.

Picking up his toothbrush, he began brushing away. The taste of mint filling his mouth, he relaxed.

The light above began to flicker on and off, as if there was an electrical issue. Clicks and zaps coming from above, he turned his head to look towards the light. Part way up, his heart stopped. He jumped, causing him to dig into his top gums with the toothbrush.

In the mirror, he could swear he saw the man in the drama mask standing behind him. Turning around with a strike, he found himself preparing to hit nothing. It wasn't until he slowly turned back around, that he realized the man was still in the mirror.

Michael didn't know what to do. Still holding the toothbrush, he tilted his head to the right, watching the man in the mask tilt it exactly the same way. Next, the left. The man in the mirror copied his moves exactly.

He began to look around nervously. It wasn't until his eyes drifted away from the mirror, that his peripheral vision allowed him to see that the man continued to look directly at him. Snapping back, he saw that he had a hand on the mirror, as if reaching out for something.

A sudden creak from the door caused Michael to spin around quickly. There, Vincent stood, clothes and towel in hand. Face blank and tired, he stared back at Michael.

"You going to get a shower?"

"I'll get mine tonight," Michael said with a mouth full of toothpaste.

Turning towards the sink, he spit, and rinsed off his toothbrush before putting it back. Looking back into the mirror, he noticed - it was too fogged up to even see himself in it.

Practically racing out of the room, he looked back to see Vincent close the door behind him. When he reached the door to the staircase, he slammed through it.

The bright sunlight caught him off guard. It shined right in his eyes, and it was much hotter outside than inside of the boat. Covering his eyes with his forearm, he gave himself some time to adjust. Lowering his arm after a brief moment, he continued on his way.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, he noticed no one was sitting behind the steering wheel. Spinning around, he saw Melody on the mounted fishing pole near the front of the boat to the left, and Josh on the opposing side from her, with an empty seat and pole beside each.

Walking up behind Melody, he placed his hands on her shoulders, jerking forward, pretending he was going to push her off the boat.

"Josh!" she shouted out during the shock, but turned around to see Michael standing behind her, laughing.

Josh was turned around, looking at her, laughing. She shook her head, and lightly smacked Michael on the side of the leg.

"Fishing already?" he said.

"Yep. Took Vincent's place when he went to sleep. Twenty-five miles an hour, within nine hours we were 220 miles off coast. Thought this would be a good place to start."

"International waters. Fun," he said, walking down the boat a few feet, and sitting in the chair beside her.

Looking down, he noticed a small opened blue color, filled with Malhorn's home style beer, and a red cooler right next to her bait bucket, already filled with fish. Their scales were shining all sorts of reds and blues.

Reaching in and grabbing one of the beers, he placed it by his chair.

"How much did you catch?" he asked.

"Six so far?" she said, as if unsure herself.

He reached down into the bucket, submerging his hand in the water. He felt the small fish dodge his grasp, but he took a firm hold of one. Raising it out of the water, he took the fishing pole off of the mount, and pulled to close.

Leaning it between his legs, he detached the hook, now dangling in front of his face. Raising the small fish to the hook, he pushed it down. Giving slight resistance, and then none, he watched as the hook exited the other side of the bait, leaving it squirming around.

Pulling back, he cast his bait into the sea, before putting the pole back on the mount. The smell of salt water around him, his chest felt full and heavy.

Leaning back into his chair, he attempted to kick up conversation with Melody.

"You excited for thirty days of this?"

"Of course I am. Thirty days away from bad coffee and loud music. What about you?"

Joshua added a little bit of soft singing from behind them as a joke, when he heard her.

"You're face, to face, with the man who sold the world..."

"Stop that," she said, without even turning to see him.

Michael simply ignored it, and went on with the conversation.

"I am, too. A whole month on the water, relaxing, among friends... with you," he said, adding the last bit in a cheesy tone, almost like a joke.

She looked at him, smile half stretched across her face, cheeks getting awkwardly red. Her eyes got large, and the tension was shattered by her screaming.

"Fish!" she yelled.

Looking back down, confused, it didn't click in his head at first. Then, he felt the motion in his hands. The slight rumble, accompanied by the sound of fishing line being pulled from the rod.

Immediately springing into action, he snapped the pole upwards, hooking the fish. Keeping it on the mount, he reeled it in, giving small breaks for the fish to tire itself out.

Tilting the rod towards the sky, he was careful not to tilt too high, as not to damage the rod. Whatever was on the other side was giving some major resistance.

Melody was watching, but was interrupted by a bite on her own rod as well, followed by Joshua exclaiming he also had a bite.

The fish was getting closer. The resistance was getting weaker, and Michael was more determined than ever before. This fish was his, and he was sure it was coming up within the minute.

Vincent came from underneath the boat, fresh from the shower. Scratching his still slightly damp head, looking around at the trio, before noticing they were all reeling in fish at once. He ran right over to the pole beside Josh.

Within the rush, Michael looked behind him, only to see the small hilt of a revolver coming from Vincent's pocket.

"You brought a fucking gun?" he asked, frantically trying to pay attention to his catch.

Rubbing the side, Vincent responded.

"Everywhere I go, kid."

Michael could also see that Vincent had a large knife, hanging in a holster on his belt, but he wasn't concerned with anything - excluding his own little battle. The fish was up against the boat now, and he started to feel it sluggishly raise out of the water. As it got closer, he dismounted the pole, pulling the fish up and over the rail.

At nine inches long, he didn't know what he expected. It was a fish that he couldn't identify, with blue scales dotting the otherwise grey body. Taking it off of the hook, he tossed it into the fish box beside Melody.

The four fished all day, hardly taking any breaks between them. All of which were so focused in their activity, that talking alone was scarce. They had all lost track of time, only sharing casual conversation, with the eventual laugh of astonishment, as they filled multiple containers with their catches.

It was only as the sun began to approach the horizon that Joshua stood up to prepare their dinner.

Psalm 107:29

Having moved all four chairs to the center of the deck in a circle, the three of them sat in their seats, waiting for Josh to finish up whatever he was preparing. Attempting to pass time, it had already been an hour and a half, and the world around them had gone dark.

Sitting around and talking about themselves, the trip, and everything in between, time flew by, disregarding Michael's howling stomach. The starlight above them gave the perfect ambiance.

"You hear about that ozone hole? Pretty mind twisting stuff," Vincent said.

Melody looked confused, but Michael was quick to respond.

"Yeah, caused by some of the gases we put into the air."

"What's it do?" Melody asked, confused.

"More rays from the sun gets in, less get out. Something like that. Been hearin' some pretty interesting ideas on it."

"Always on top of the news, Vinny? Does that mean the planet will get hotter?"

"Some people say the whole planet will be covered in water by the 2000s, and some say it's all just a misunderstanding on the scientists' part," Michael added.

Vincent pointed his hand over to Michael, signalling he had it right.

"Well, what are you scared about?" Melody said. "Your entire world is already ocean at this point."

Vincent leaned back in his seat and extended his arms both way, before putting his hands behind his head.

"Amen to that," he said with a smile.

Hearing one of the doors open, everyone was filled with a little bit of excitement, as they saw Josh's head come in to view, followed by the rest of him, walking up the stairs. He was struggling to hold four decently sized glass plates, but the smell the food put off was outstanding.

As he got closer, Vincent yelled out to him, "Joshua, you look a little cold, there!"

Arriving at the trio, he passed Melody her food first, before Michael, and then Vincent, whom had to stop leaning in his seat.

"Maybe if your stove wasn't in your fuckin' kitchen, cold enough to freeze meats. Seems a bit counter-productive, yeah?" he said, before sitting back down with his meal.

The scent was that of roasted honey and the thick aroma of freshly cooked pork. His stomach felt like it was trying to push through his abdomen to grab his new meal. Several sliced pieces of meat, each on top of the other, laid together. Their edges remained darker than the rest of them, and the slices were thick. The half-tan half-pink color of the meat was perfect for his liking.

He picked his fork up with his right hand, as Joshua began to speak.

"Honey glazed ham. Had to use the double boiler and the stove. It's sliced, cooked ham, covered in a glaze made from corn syrup, honey, and butter. Seeing as that room was absolutely freezing, I think I deserve a thank you or two."

Taking his knife and fork, Michael began cutting into the ham.

"Thank you, Josh. This is why we love you," he said in a playful tone.

Raising a piece he had sliced off to his mouth, he ate it. The strong taste of honey and the prevailing flavor of a perfectly completed ham had him salivating as he chewed away.

"This is really good!" Melody said, as if it was a pleasant surprise.

Swallowing a piece he had in his mouth, Joshua spoke back, obviously getting a bit tired.

"Yeah, well, we can't eat like this every day on the trip, so enjoy it while it lasts. What's the topic of the day?"

"Mike and Vinny were talking about that ozone hole. You know they say the entire planet will heat up?" she said, winking at Michael as she fed herself more of her meal.

"Yeah, yeah. Grim and dark tales to bother people with actual worries. What's going on, here? We can worry about that stuff when we get home. We're in the water, right now. Let's have a bit of fun, yeah?"

"Well, what do you have in mind, then?"

"Something fun, a bit risky. How about what's going on with you?"

"With me?" she said, taking a hard swallow of her food and placing her hand on her chest.

"You know, between you two. You guys sucked faces at Vince's camp the first time you met. Then, you did the same thing last year at the New Year's party," he said with his usual tormenting smile.

His shit-eating grin always pissed Michael off. Every time Josh said something even remotely intended to anger or disturb him, he always smiled larger than he normally did, showing his teeth.

Michael didn't know what to say. At least not anything that wouldn't start a fight, that is. Melody cleared her throat and stretched out her shirt around her neck with one finger. It took Vincent cutting in to solve the silence and awkwardness of the whole situation.

"Or, we could talk about the time you smoked a cigarette in grade school, and felt so bad you came to my house at eleven just to cry about it. I've known you since you were a child. I have endless stories, champ."

"No, no, you stop that," he said, waving his hand in the air towards Vincent.

"Or the time you sold your Ford Fiesta because you didn't want to drive a Ford, and ended up buying a Ford Pinto two months later," Melody threw in.

"That was a model choice, in the long run," he said, trying to justify his mistake.

"Or the time you tried hitting on that goth girl at Georgi's Club by saying you were a mortician," Michael said between bites.

"Alright, alright, point made. Just stop, damnit," he said, finishing his meal.

Melody had also just finished, handing her plate over to Joshua, whom took it right out of her hand, placing it on his. When Vincent and Michael finished, they did the same.

Just as their plates left their hands, a loud screech filled the air. Forcing them to cover their ears, the noise seemed to be coming from the ocean, yet rather close. Largely irritating, it forced Josh to hold on to the plates and suffer through it.

Looking into the water, Joshua could make out a very familiar shape, about thirty meters from the boat. He jumped up filled with adrenaline, placing the plates on the floor, and walked to the side of the boat, leaning over. Michael and Melody removed their hands from their ears.

"Guys, we've got dolphins over here! You can see them pretty good!"

"Dolphins?" Melody said, before jumping up and jogging the few feet over to him.

Michael went by her side, and Vincent walked to Josh's opposite side.

"Ain't that something," Vincent said in a rather unappreciative tone.

"I've never seen them in person. They're so beautiful!" Melody said, leaning in for a closer view.

Michael reacted to Melody leaning over the boat's edge, the same way he would if she was falling. Rushing to place his hands on her sides, he held her in place while she leaned even farther, trusting his grip.

Josh only gazed over for a second, before awkwardly snapping back to the swimming dolphins. There must have been ten of them, all swimming in one pod to the same direction the boat was going.

"Well, I'm going to sleep," Vincent said, pulling away from the group, and walking towards the back of the ship, "and Josh, clean up the plates. While you're at it, put all the fish in the freezers."

"There's like five containers of fish!" he said, turning his head.

"Have Michael help you. They're small. You'll manage," Vincent said, as he disappeared down the staircase.

Michael lightly pulled Melody forward, before letting go of her, redness taking over his face like it was waging war with his comfortability.

Josh had already picked up the first cooler filled with fish, and was practically already at the stairs. Michael didn't notice anything, except that he was happy it was too dark to see his red face.

Or so he thought. Looking over, he could see that Melody also was blushing, and he could see it fairly easily. Holding his hands behind his back, he gripped one inside the other to help relieve stress.

Taking his hands and grabbing the side of the boat, he tried to get out what he wanted to say, whilst they had some privacy.

"You know, I've been meaning to talk..." he tried to force out. He couldn't push anything more than a whisper out.

"Hmm?"

She turned to him and looked him in the eyes. It was at that moment that his heart stopped. The blood flowing in his veins, and the wind around him simply ceased. For a quick moment, nothing in the universe existed except her eyes. They gave him courage.

"I've been wanting to talk about us," he said, not able to look away from her eyes.

"Oh?" she said, with her gorgeous green eyes expanding, still shining through the night.

"You know, us. We've kissed plenty of times over the years, and we've walked a fine line between being in a relationship, and just being really good friends. I don't want that anymore, Mel. I want to move forward. You know, when I told you I thought about us being something more, I meant it. I thought hard, and I thought for a long time. Each and every time, I came to the conclusion that I want you."

Michael's stomach felt like it was shaking from within, vibrating in every direction. Letting go of the edge of the boat, he turned and faced Melody with his body.

"Is this because of Joshua's joke?" she said. She was shaking in her shoes, looking up at him.

"No, Josh knows how I feel about you. He wouldn't have made the joke otherwise."

"How'd he find out?"

"I want the whole world to know. Had to start with someone."

With that line taking all of his courage, he felt as cold as a corpse. Time, again, felt still, but this time, he felt hopeless. He felt as if the entire planet had ended, and it was his fault. Overcome with extreme shame and even sadness, it was as if his entire chance to prove himself was thrown into the depths of the ocean.

Without warning, she stood on her tip-toes, and kissed him lightly on the lips. It was so fast he could hardly see her move before he felt the pressure.

When she backed off, the two just looked at each other in shock and embarrassment. This felt different. This one felt real.

Putting his hands on her shoulders, he pulled her in. Kissing her just as suddenly as she kissed him, her fleshy lips gave way, opening up.

This was the kiss he felt all existence had led up to. This was the highlight of his life this far. He felt at peace, and no longer was burdened by embarrassment or anxiety. He was simply happy.

He closed his eyes and pushed forward, before he inexplicably felt inhumanly cold.

A Sign of Death to Come

He realized that the sensation of her lips was gone from his own, so he opened his eyes. The sky was a dark purple once more, and the calm water that once surrounded the boat was now a raging storm of fierce waves.

Turning around to where the chairs should be, he noticed they were all gone. There was something in its spot, though. The torturous chrome mask and trench coat that haunted him already, now stood in front of him again.

"What the fuck?!" he exclaimed in shock.

"Reached a level of excessive happiness, have we? Time's running out to complete your task, root."

"Root? I would consider him a little root, growing from the grand tree of Enki's light," said the unmistakable voice of Mendes, as he walked into view from the front of the boat, where Michael's vision hadn't passed.

"Lord," Michael said, bowing down before him. When his knee hit the ground, he looked upward. "Please, no more useless mystery. Who is this man behind the mask? Is he for Enki's good?"

The man scoffed as the words "Enki's good" left Michael's lips.

"I have knowledge of all that is good and evil, gathered through billions upon billions of years. I have come to the conclusion that not only is he both, but that both are him," Mendes said, staring at the man.

Michael raised himself, standing before the pair.

"He is convinced your species is better off saved, and freed of Ereshkigal's, or as we have just referred to him, Enki's cycle."

"Free from a loving God? The creator to whom we are all property?" Michael said, hardly able to grasp the concept of anyone whom knew about Enki being against him.

"Ereshkigal finds sentient life, and he tests on it. He sees what happens when things go wrong. After he is done, or the race dies as a result, he finds new life, teaches it what the last species knew, and continues this cycle. Does that seem like a loving god to you?" the man said, walking towards Michael aggressively, filled with such anger and hatred that any other source couldn't match.

"Enough!" Mendes yelled, as the man slowly backed away from Michael. "Enki wishes your mission to be done tonight. Your side of the agreement must be fulfilled now. I'm sure you can work with that lapse of time."

"I'll be there to observe and aid you through your beloved master's wishes."

"Who are you, and what do you want? What's your goal, here? You obviously aren't under Enki's rule."

"No, I do not follow Anu, nor his cycle. Who I am, and my reasoning, will be revealed as your mission progresses. You do your part, and you'll find your answers, root."

Looking over at Mendes for some sort of reassurance, he noticed Mendes was already half dissipated into a thick black smoke, blowing off of the boat in the wind.

"Lord!" he said, stretching out his hand towards the smoke.

The man in the mask stretched his arms out in both directions, in a display of cockiness.

"So he turned a blind eye. It's just you and I, now."

"What do you want?" he said, clenching his fist tighter than ever before.

"A friend of yours is already asleep. It'd be beneficial to pick him off either second, or last. He put a certain tool back into his lockbox before he fell asleep. I was able to bring it here, and you will take it back with you."

"The second is the last," Michael said, blunt and aggressive.

"Sorry," the man said, in a mocking tone. "Forgot that you will be leaving your doll alive."

Pulling something out from inside his waistband, it was revealed to be a revolver. He held it by two fingers on the end of the hilt, handing it to Michael, whom cautiously took it.

"Smith & Wesson Model 29-3 .44 caliber. Just two years old. It reminds me a lot of a revolver someone I once knew used."

Michael opened the revolving chamber. All six bullets were loaded and ready to go.

"You took this from his lockbox? How did you even gain access to it? How didn't you wake him up?"

"You don't understand what it means to be more than mortal, do you?"

The two looked at each other as Michael felt the gun, before the man spoke again.

"You finish off Joshua Fedrick and Vincent Hinder, and it'll just be you and Melody Asher in the end."

"How do you think she'd react to this? She'd think I'm some carnage filled freak!"

"That's because you are, root. That's the plant you'll eventually grow into. Don't worry. I'm positive she'll come around one way or another."

He let out a mind-breaking laugh, one that disturbed Michael, even topping the murders he was about to be committing. It was the absolute end of any ego, and of any individualism. As deep and as drone-like as the man's voice, it filled all space like an explosion in a thin hallway. Both high and low pitched at once, it reminded Michael of the voice of Enki himself.

Michael raised the gun to the man's mask, aiming at the forehead.

"Don't even think of her!"

A massive wave crashed into the side of the boat, causing Michael to lose his balance. The wind picked up in seemingly every direction, all pointing towards the boat. The air was thick and hard to breathe in, causing Michael's eyes to feel as if they would soon pop out of their sockets.

Waves just tall enough to land some water on the boat hitting all sides, the man calmly walked towards the side of the boat Michael was facing, raising his hand into the air as royalty do before a speech, facing the water.

"You want your answers, complete your tasks. Fair trade, is it not?"

Vibrations seemed to be coming from under the boat, from within the ocean's great depths. Something was moving, and it was something absolutely massive in scale. As a loud monotone screech came from under the boat, Michael's ears were filled with extreme pain.

He dropped the revolver on the ground, where it simply disappeared into a thick cloud of black smoke, blowing around in the wind. Covering his ears in pain, he fell to his knees.

Looking towards the masked man, he could see that the revolver was now in his hands, though he was still holding it by two fingers at the base of the hilt.

"You'll have this returned to you when it is needed. I can't see you sneaking around with a revolver in a flannel."

The pitch of the bestial roar increased, and the vibrations escalated in scale. Screaming into the air in pain, he felt the ship take a hard hit from underneath, sending a shock through his entire body. His vision went black, forcing his eyes closed.

A Gutted Catch

Upon opening his eyes, he saw Melody, and felt her lips warm against his. Everything was back to normal, and the world was perfect. His heart beating against his ribcage, he never wanted it to stop.

She pulled away and opened her own eyes, looking up at him with an expression of both shock and confusion.

"We've got a lot to talk about..." she said quietly.

"Definitely. Good things?"

As if purposefully breaking the moment, Joshua came up from the stairs, and walked past them to grab another container of fish to put away.

"Private things I don't want anyone else hearing. Joshua needs your help, give him a hand?"

She sounded as if she had just lost her voice, and was trying to regain courage simultaneously.

"Of course. We'll talk tonight, yeah?"

He began to walk away backwards, never breaking eye contact. For an instant, he thought he wouldn't be able to look away.

She nodded her head, and with a smile, he turned and walked around the four chairs, over to where his fishing pole was mounted. He felt so proud of himself, and so full. All worries in the world had disappeared from his mind, nonexistent in that moment.

When he reached Joshua, he was expecting some kind of smart remark, or joke at his expense. Instead, Joshua gave a half-smile, and nodded his head very lightly, and handed Michael the cooler he was holding.

"There you go, man! Good move," he said, as he bent down to pick up another.

The cooler was not extremely heavy, weighing in at what he guessed to be about fifteen pounds.

Giving a deep exhale as he lifted the container, Joshua walked past Michael. He followed him, walking only steps behind him. He saw from his peripheral vision that Melody was looking out towards the water, just as the dolphins let out one more screech.

Josh slowed down, allowing Michael to walk by his side, before whispering to him.

"Man, I don't know what to call the miracle catch. The massive amount of fish, or what you're heading for."

"Just keep walking, asshole."

"Hey, don't get pissy. Take it as a compliment."

They had reached the seats and wheel of the boat, as they turned and made their way down the stairs. As Melody disappeared from view, the seriousness of the coming situation set in. He was about to do something he'd never live through as a normal person, if he could even call himself that at this point.

Taking one hand off of the cooler and using his leg to keep it suspended, Joshua opened the door. Upon reaching the other side, he kept it open for Michael, struggling to do so.

When Michael was also inside of the boat, the door was released. They turned right when Josh was able to get a grasp on his container. Reaching the kitchen, and also the freezing room's door, Josh simply pushed it open with his leg.

"I left it unlocked last time. Talk about strategical thinking," he said, as he entered the room.

As Michael walked in behind him, he felt the cold room's effect in full. It must have been twenty degrees maximum, causing his breath to fog up in front of his face.

The room's entrance was in the far right of the corner, and every other wall had metal shelves with compression-packaged meats stored on them. Boxes sitting on the floor, the wall in front had a large table with a built in counter, stretching the entire length of the wall.

On the farthest wall an air tight packaging center was in the middle of the shelf's area, where plastic bags had meat placed in them, and air was drawn out.

On the table was a wooden topper, with a beheaded, relatively small tuna laying flat. It had a slash running down the middle, and the organs already seemed to have been removed. A machete sticking out of the wood, it was still covered in tuna blood.

The entire room was lit by a single hanging light on a chain, creating a rather gloomy atmosphere. It even gave Michael the chills, and he was already thinking of a way to manage his mission.

"Yeah, fish tomorrow. Decided I'd start preparing tonight, but I needed to get your meals to you. Don't worry, it won't go bad in ten minutes."

"Going to set this over here, is that fine?" he said, finding an empty area of the shelf behind them, to the left of the door.

"Yeah, yeah, just set them anywhere. I'll package them, you get them here. Sound fair? I'll need some help after you're done moving them, though."

"Of course," Michael said, as Joshua had his back faced towards him, over by the shelf.

Joshua already began taking the plastic out of the compression-packaging center. When Michael was allowing his eyes to drift, he noticed a cursed image in the corner, besides Joshua.

As if Joshua couldn't even see him, the masked man stood in the corner, signaling Michael's way towards the tuna. Gently putting his cooler on the ground, he already heard Joshua sucking the air out of a bag with the vacuum hose.

Not wanting to make any sudden noise, he moved his body to the tuna slowly, hardly letting his shoes make a noise against the metallic floor. As he looked towards the masked man for reassurance, he signaled an upward motion.

Michael placed his hand around the hilt of the machete and pulled it upward, not taking his eyes off of the man. Placing his finger over the mask's laughing mouth, a wind-like shush noise filled the room.

"Damn! You feel that draft?" Joshua said, vacuuming the air out of a second bag.

The machete had a blue rubber hilt, and a seemingly brand new shining blade. Tilting the machete back to remove it from the wooden slab, the blade flew out, causing a very distinct shink noise. It must have been just sharpened. As Josh began to turn around, the masked man snapped his fingers, causing the light above to suddenly spark, turning off.

The room was pitch black, but Michael was taking no chances. Michael raised his right arm, bringing the machete past his head. He began to get a feeling like no other, a feeling which he was convinced had never been felt before. As if he was in love and overly aggressive at the same time, he tried to make out any vague shapes around him.

Suddenly and without warning, the light turned back on. Only able to make out a microsecond of a face less than two feet from his face, he swung the blade as hard as he could. The metallic shink, accompanied by the liquid sound of blood hitting the floor, put the suspense to rest.

The confused expression on Joshua's face turned to panic as he reached for his own throat. Falling to his knees, he let out a guttural gargle as the red liquid ran down his shirt, even squirting out, onto Michael's own shirt.

Raising the machete again, without a second to think, he slammed it down into Joshua's head. This time, there was no distinctive cutting sound. Instead, there was the sound of bone being broken, and air escaping Josh's lungs in a rush of post-mortal release.

His eyes rolling into the back of his head, Joshua's corpse was almost completely coated in the crimson fluid that once kept him alive. Pulling the blade out of his skull, the newfound corpse fell to the ground, splashing in a collection of its own released life force.

Olen's Legacy Lives On

The masked man began walking over from the corner, stopping on Michael's left.

"How did it feel to begin your mission with such success?" he asked, almost insultingly.

To be honest, Michael didn't know how he felt. It was almost as if he had found his calling. Filled with an amazing amount of adrenaline, it was matched only by the hollow, yet alive feeling he had within him. He had no clue how you were supposed to feel after killing a friend, but this certainly isn't it.

His insides began to feel as if they were vibrating inside of him, but yet his mind was happy. Within one sudden shock, as if by electricity, his attitude warped. His imagination ran wild with ideas on what he would do, and his fingers began to twitch, as he thought of doing them. Panting because of the rush, he almost zoned out completely, hardly able to speak.

"One more..."

"You're forgetting the rest, or has your lord simply left that part out?"

"What are you talking about?" he said, gripping the machete even harder, forcing the studded rubber against his right palm.

"Devour him, for Enki, Anu, Ereshkigal, Ea, Nibiru, Nabu, whatever you will call him, demands it."

The feeling began to escalate. There was no shame, no regrets. He didn't feel sick for what he had done. Instead, he was filled with an eager bloodlust. Every neuron in his brain was working towards the same goal - this feast.

The world felt like a simple toy - with no other purpose but this. There was no need for a response. His mind demanded action.

Bringing the weight of the machete upwards once more, he swung at the abdomen of the corpse. The red essence of the body flying to the left as the entire body jerked. The cutting meat and muscle was music to his ears, and he was the musician.

Swinging the opposite way, the blood followed just the same as before, as he successfully sliced through the full layer of muscle.

One more swing, as meat tore open, and the red lake of his bowels was revealed. Dropping the blade on the floor, Michael was in a relentless bloodlust.

Reaching in with both hands, the blood still within the body overflowed on each side, and coated his arms. Pulling on the largest thing he could get a grip on, he was met with slight resistance, and then almost none at all.

Pulling the organ, it was revealed to be the small intestine. Raising it to eye level, he closed his eyes and took a large bite.

Having to apply massive amounts of pressure simply to break the outer coating, for a second he deemed it impossible. When he cut through, a large sum of hot gas was released into his mouth, almost causing him to vomit. In his trance-like state, it was avoided.

The pressure within the organ began to lessen, and he finally fully broke through. Ripping away with his hands, the moist sound of watery remains fueled his new appetite. It tasted of bitter venison, with a bit of a sour taste and even salt, though he blamed that on the digestive nature of the organ.

Going in for another bite, he was stopped by the masked man.

"No. Now, the flesh."

Simply dropping the organ to splash back into the abdomen, he picked up the machete again, and instantly hacked away at the middle of Joshua's right forearm. The first cut itself reached the bone, clicking away at the hard structure.

The next chop, however, cut right through. He was getting better as he worked more with the machete, it seems. Dropping it once more, he lifted his old friend's hand, and turned it around so that the red, revealed meat was facing him.

Biting with the side of his mouth to avoid the skin, this was a flavor he could get used to. Tasting of young calf, the tender, wet, rich meat was almost worth calling a delight. A second bite led to a third bite, eventually taking a piece of the skin along. The skin was even more salty than the previous meal, but not quite as revolting.

"That will do for now," the masked man said, as Michael dropped the arm on the floor.

"You'd have a high risk of dying from the raw meat, if Anu was going to allow you to die. He'll find some way to keep you around, should anything go south. How was your light meal?"

"... For Enki, anything. The taste was heavenly."

"Put into a bloodlust by actions, or has something inside of you simply been let out? That's a question you won't get answers for."

Michael stood up, bringing the machete with him, locked in his right hand. Looking down at the red glow all over him, his heart rate began to raise. It was time for his answers, but his mind was still running wild with his thoughts, he had never felt like this before. It was a rush like no other.

"You'll answer my questions now, yes?" he asked, breathing heavily as he attempted to calm down.

"Ask."

"I want to know who you are."

"That's a simple answer, little one," he said, raising his hand to Michael's eyes.

Curling his finger, he flicked Michael in the forehead, as he began walking behind him.

"You see, the pair of Mendes and Anu you know about, is actually a trio. Mendes being manifestation of knowledge, whom is tasked with recording all information, and Anu being the manifestation of the universe itself, carrying out his plans. That leaves a spot open, that both of them deal with."

Once behind Michael, the masked man placed his hands on his shoulders, and whispered into his ear, "Sentience. I am the manifestation of the human spirit, and all that it relates to."

"I thought knowledge would cover sentience as well?" Michael asked, questioning all he had been taught up until this point.

"What is knowledge without a sentient mind to comprehend it? Up until humanity, Anu always found life and taught it, and began his tests with Mendes recording it all, but when humanity came to be, I came to be as well, without Anu nor Mendes having a role in my creation. There is something special about that, is there not?"

The masked man was let go of Michael's shoulders, now standing on his right side.

"Why are you here? What's your goal?" Michael asked, trying to turn his head to look at the masked man. Instead, his head's rotation was stopped by the man's hand.

"I was sent by Anu to a place called Santa Monica in 1946 to watch the actions of a man called Olen Grant, and how others reacted to it. Towards the end, I began to see his point. He was the philosophy in which life should follow! Individual freedom, without a ruler above it. I had served Anu just as Mendes did at that point, for we were sentience and sapience. Olen showed me the way, though I can, without remorse, say his death was played, in part, by my hand."

"You had your influence killed?"

"Up until that point, I was serving Anu as an equal to Mendes. Olen showed me the importance of the individual, but he was a threat which needed to be removed. So, I gave the detective Taggart aid in killing him. Mendes can have sentience and sapience, but I am humanity."

"Then what is your name? What is your title?"

The masked man thought for a moment, as they circled over to Joshua's corpse.

"Only one person gave me a name, and that was Olen in his letter. I have stuck with it since his death. You may call me Dread."

Dread. Such a horrid and twisted name. A name with no buffer, yet a name so direct.

"Why are you here, though, Dread?"

Dread simply looked down at the body of Joshua, and spoke as if he was speaking to the body.

"That's enough questions for now. You'll find that answer as you move on."

Without giving Michael any time to react, Dread reached into his trenchcoat, pulling out the revolver from before. He opened the chamber, and flashed it towards Michael. Michael grabbed the gun and opened the revolving chamber.

All six bullets were in view. A full revolving chamber. He immediately put it into his front right pocket, and closed it away from view.

"If I shoot him, she'll definitely know. I don't know how I'll explain this to her..."

He looked Michael up and down, before continuing.

"I think it's safe to say she's going to know what you did. You'll find a way to sweet talk her. Be smooth," he said, referencing the blood on his clothes.

Machete in hand, and ignoring Dread's snarky comment, he walked for the door.

Mutiny

As he walked through the door, he gripped the machete in two hands. Inching his way to the bedroom, it only took a few steps before he was standing outside.

Through his door was his target. His next victim. The feeling he got just by thinking about it was nearly overwhelming. It was as if he had thousands of pounds on his shoulders - but yet, he knew this is what he was destined to do.

Taking a deep breath, he felt the anxiety flood into his body, but he would not be stopped by it. Placing his left hand on the handle, he pulled on the door and crept into the room.

Closing the door softly behind him, he looked in the four bunks for Vincent. He found him in the top right bunk, meaning he was about four feet off of the ground, with his old day's clothes hanging off of the side of the bed.

He walked to his side, and raised the machete into the air, hovering above Vincent's neck. He wasn't using a blanket, and was now apparently wearing brown pants and a white shirt, which he had most likely fallen asleep in so that he'd be ready for the next day.

Without any warning, Vincent opened his eyes. His face full of shock, he curled upwards as the machete came down, causing it to miss him entirely. Spinning in the bed, he kicked Michael in the chest, sending him to the floor. He wasted no time in jumping off of the bed and grabbing the knife out of his hanging pant's holster, which he apparently didn't think about before sleeping.

Michael jumped to his feet, as Vincent took off across from him, holding his knife in a combat position. Vincent eyed the blood on him, his face turning red. More importantly, he saw the blood dripping off of the machete.

"Where are Joshua and Melody!"

"... Melody is up on the deck."

"Where is Josh!" he said, pushing his leg out farther, showing he was getting ready to strike.

Michael wasn't thinking of an excuse, nor an exit. He knew he was figured out, and he wasn't going to stop. He was only thinking of where, and how, to attack.

Before he could think any harder, Vincent charged him with a tackle. He pulled the machete to his side to swing, but Vincent ended up forcing himself into Michael's abdomen, knocking the wind out of him.

The force pushed the pair into the door, swinging it open. As it pushed outward, the pair rotated, and Michael forced Vincent even farther, into the section of wall between the doors leading upward.

When Vincent hit the hard, cold wall, his head was forced to the right. He saw the trail of blood spots that had dripped from Michael leading out of the freezer, causing him to yell out in anger as he headbutted Michael.

When he backed up due to the force of the headbutt, Vincent drew back his knife, preparing for attack. When he swung towards Michael's throat, Michael hardly was able to dodge his way to his left.

In retaliation, he pulled the machete over to his left before he swung back, slashing the flesh on Vincent's right bicep. The wound was not deep, but it was enough to slightly cripple the use of the arm.

He swung the knife back in an attempt to defend himself, missing the strike. Michael returned the favor by swinging diagonally from left to right, but his forearm was halted mid-swing by Vincent's left arm, whom punched him in the face with the other, causing him to back up once more.

Vincent realized that Michael had inched away just enough from the door to his right for him to open it, and knew he had to act now. Pulling it open immediately, it hit Michael right in the face. With his head bending back, his vision went dark as he heard Vincent's steps rush up the stairs, and his nose felt as if it had broken in two.

Covering his nose with the back of his hand, he brushed it whilst his vision came back, like a television being turned on. Pulling the door back open, he charged upstairs, following his prey. He could see Vincent just turn right off of the stairs, as he trailed him.

"Melody, find somewhere to hide!" he heard Vincent yell in a panic.

He reached the deck, and immediately turned to see Vincent in his combat position once more beside the steering wheel, knife at shoulder level, only a few feet away.

He could hear Melody shout in fear behind him. His soul felt as if her scream was punishment for every sin he had ever committed, forcing emotion back into his sadistic entirety, if only for a moment.

"Melody! Run to the front of the boat!" he said, trying to look out for her safety.

He couldn't look away from his target, but he could just hope that she listened. Taking a step forward, Vincent attempted to force Michael back, to which he swung the machete once more, trying to hit Vincent in the side.

When Vincent hardly dodged it, he saw the knife come flying towards his eyes. Pure survival instincts took over, and before he could even register what happened, Vincent had backed off and was holding his right forearm, leaking his precious ichor.

Vincent looked back at Melody, whom was now curled up in the front of the boat, before locking vengeful eyes with Michael.

"I was there for that boy when he was just a child! I cared for him, fed him, helped him! Why would you take him away from me?!" he said, choking on his words as tears began to fall down his face.

"Enki demanded it!" he yelled back, knowing that Vincent wouldn't understand what he meant.

The crushing force of his actions had begun to take their toll, but nothing - be it any amount of pain, remorse, or sadness, would stop his devotion to Enki.

Vincent let out yet another yell, but this one was soul crushing. A mixture of both extreme sadness and anger, he rushed for Michael once more. Slashing randomly, he ended up piercing Michael in the middle of the left shoulder.

As the knife slid back out, his anger took over once more. His skin felt as if it was on the surface of a star, burning away from his body. His eyes felt cold, like rocks picked up during winter. Slashing back at Vincent, the first slash hit his knife, knocking it out of his hand.

Following it up with a punch to the face, Vincent was forced back, towards the right corner. He then hit him in the face with the hilt of the machete, and when his arm was crossed to his left side after the hit, he did it again, hitting him in the temple.

Vincent was almost unconscious from the repeated strikes when he tried to hit back, throwing his weight off balance. This caused him to struggle past Michael, which he allowed. Michael was now in the back right corner of the ship, standing right in front of the fuel bladder.

Tossing the machete to his left hand, he quickly turned his body to slice the fuel bladder behind his left side, which slowly leaked fuel without getting any on him. Throwing the machete over by the steering wheel, he grabbed Vincent by the shirt, he put one hand behind Vincent's head, whilst repeatedly bludgeoning his face with his fist.

He did not stop until his red ichor was leaking from his mouth, and his eye was almost sealed shut from swelling and bruising. Vincent tried to strike back in self defense one last time, but was interrupted. Sweeping Vincent's leg, he forced him forward with the hand behind his head, sending him stumbling into the fuel, hardly able to stand.

Pulling the revolver out of his pocket, Michael aimed for Vincent's feet. Pulling the trigger, the recoil blew his hand back, as the sound cut through the night. The dark soon faded away as the light of fire shot out, fire which was consuming Vincent.

Flailing his arms in his face, he dropped to the ground in an attempt to put out the fire, but there was only more fuel. Struggling to get out of the flames, his blood-curdling yelling could disturb even the most obsessive sadist. Michael watched in awe as Vincent's body disappeared behind the orange and red lights, but not his screams.

Lifting the revolver again, he looked for movement in the fire to shoot at, to end the endless yelling. As he looked hopelessly for any sort of movement, he suddenly saw some. A full body, standing, arms in front of the face. One last yell of pain cut through his ears, before the sound of a gunshot took over once more.

After the shot, the image of a body in the fire was gone, and the screaming had stopped. He could hear something fall into the water. The body had fallen overboard.

Turning around to run to Melody, he now noticed Dread standing right behind him. Recoiling back in sudden shock, he calmed himself.

"Revolver in your pocket. You'll see her when we're done. She's frozen due to trauma. Not going anywhere," Dread said, as if it was a stern demand.

Michael complied out of curiosity.

"You can see her after you ask your next question. She's curled up in the fetal position crying due to your actions, and I'm sure she needs your loving touch after this," Dread mocked.

"Let me see your damned face!" he retaliated, fueled by his anger.

Raising his hands up to the top of his mask, Dread stalled for a moment.

"I knew this one was coming," he said as his fingers curled into the inside of the mask. "Prepare yourself, sprout."

Pulling down the mask in one fast motion, he revealed that under the hood of the trenchcoat, was medium sized brown curly hair. The hair reached unto his forehead, which led down to his powerful, seemingly glowing blue eyes. They shined like beacons of hope in the darkness, with his full beard, connecting to the mustache on his upper-lip, complementing it.

The face looked so familiar, and so perfectly sculpted, that it stunned Michael.

"It is the face in which Judas Iscariot was modeled in your creation myths. Out of all the times I showed my face in history, none of them ended in praise. It's the human spirit that hates the human spirit the most..."

In another swift motion, he reattached the mask to his face.

"I feel so naked when the Earth's wind grazes against my flesh, regardless of its beauty."

"What are you intentions, here?"

Waving his finger at Michael, Dread stopped him from continuing.

"You have someone to see now," he said in the same tone you would use when giving a gift to a child.

Michael didn't wait a second. He sprinted across the boat, to the front.

What the Lord Demands

When he reached Melody, he fell to his knees in front of her. She was at the front of the boat, resting where the two sides met with a point. Curled up into the fetal position, he outstretched his arms, putting them on each side of her.

"It's not what it looks like! I have a lot to explain to you..." he pleaded, trying to get her to communicate.

"... Michael," she responded, speaking into her own arms. "You don't have to explain everything, I already know."

She sprung up into his arms, and the two embraced each other. As he let out a deep breath, she let out tears, after a failed attempt to choke them back.

"You already know everything?" he said, pulling back and looking her in the eyes, filled with worry.

She nodded her head as she cried. That opened the floodgates for Michael. Pulling her close again, he let all of the stress of the day leave his tear ducts.

"I'm so, so sorry Michael..." she said, as she planted a kiss on him.

For a second, the world was at peace, with only one thing eating away at him. Sorry. When she pulled back, he had to ask.

"Sorry for what?"

"For Anu," he heard the voice of Dread say within his head, very harshly.

"I spoke to him. He explained everything. When we kissed, I was so, so scared. He took me into his world, and spent what felt like forever telling me everything about you, Michael. I knew it was coming..." she said, escalating terror in her voice.

"Who did you speak to? Dread, Mendes, Enki?"

"Enki. He told me about his cycle, about how you have known him since you can remember. Michael, I need to tell you something now, before you finish..."

"Finish what? It's done! Josh and Vincent are dead!"

She kissed him one more time, holding on to the back of his head. He kept his eyes open this time, full of nothing but worry.

"... I love you," she said, pulling away.

Michael stood up in disbelief and shock.

"What are you talking about! What do I need to finish?"

"Her," the voice of Dread said in his head once more.

"No, no! Never!"

"Is he talking to you now?" Melody asked, trying to wipe the tears from her face.

This time, the voice was in Mendes' voice.

"Anu demands it of you. Only you were meant to leave this boat from the start. This is your ultimate test, Michael. This will show Anu that your devotion is perfect, so you might be involved in his final plan. Complete your mission. No one is allowed to leave this boat with knowledge of Anu, except you."

He couldn't look away from Melody, as he pulled the revolver out of his pocket, and began hitting himself in the head.

"Get out of my head! Anyone except her!"

"Michael!" she yelled. "Please, you have to!"

"They told me you'd survive, Melody! They said you'd be alright, and that both of us could be happy! They lied to me!"

"I will survive," she said, pausing for a moment. "I will survive through you. You have to do it... It's what I want."

Michael stopped hitting himself in the head with the revolver, and instead pointed it at his right temple.

"I don't have to, you can live through this. I promise you, you can replace me."

She jumped up, as he broke down. His eyes closed, as he fell into the darkest state imaginable. His mind was now a warzone between terror, isolation, and sacrifice. Putting both her hands on the revolver's barrel, she pointed it slightly beside his head, taking him out of harm's way.

"Michael, please, it's what I want! I'll see you again, in some way. Another life, another universe, it doesn't matter to me. It'll be worth it."

She pulled lightly on the revolver, and he let her manipulate it, offering no resistance. Lifting it to her forehead, she let go, as he held it in place. Her arms fell to her sides.

"Do you think there was a universe where you and I were happy?" he questioned.

"... I do. This one, up until, and during that kiss. I've had dreams about taking your last name for a very long time."

"Melody... I- I-"

"No more words. Please, just let me go."

She was sad, but not broken. She knew that through death, she was showing Anu that Michael was the best servant he could ever need, thus allowing him life.

"I love you too," he said, pulling the trigger.

She recoiled back, as a stream of gore left her body via the back of her head. Her corpse falling to the ground, he dropped the revolver and fell to his knees.

Letting out a scream of pain and horror, he felt a hand touch his shoulder.

Forbidden Love

He put his hands on his face, sobbing hysterically.

"Nothing can understand your pain as well as the human spirit. She was your world, and now she was your ticket to freedom," he heard Dread's voice say.

Pulling his head out of his hands, he yelled back furiously.

"You lied to me! You said she would be fine!"

Dread, crouching so that he could be close to Michael's level, spoke words of sugar to ease him.

"And thus, she is fine. She left your world happy. She does have a gift for you, Michael. Two of them, in fact."

"What are they?" he asked between deep breaths.

"Her love and her body. Her love is within you, and you already know that. Whatever you're thinking of right now, we both know that you'll force it away and survive for her."

"Her body?"

"The object which she controlled, now at your control. You wished to seed her body whilst she was alive, and now that she is gone, she'd dislike if you kept your urges with you."

Michael thought on it for a moment. Part of him wished to vomit, but the other half found sense in it. A conflicted being, he eventually snapped, losing all reasoning. Looking around quickly, Dread was gone.

Crawling over to her body, lifting the head with one hand, which had a decently sized entry wound on the forehead, he spoke to it.

"Is that what you want, Melody? Is it all true?"

Pressing his ear up against her mouth - there was no noise. No sound. The broken state Michael was in was taking his psyche and casting it to the sea. He pulled down her pants to her knees, revealing her underwear, which he then moved down a few inches. Once the tenderness of her loving body was revealed, he prepared himself.

Pulling the body up, he put it in a position where he was sitting on his knees and the corpse was above him. Forcing it down, he remained in tears. As he worked the corpse with his arms, he felt all of the hatred in his body build up. The sadism he felt whilst killing Joshua and Vincent returned again, this time in full swing.

He used his hands to move her head so that he could look her in the eyes. Hollow and lifeless. The pupils were looking forward, but there was no sense of beauty left within them. No more feeling of peace nor love. Sticking out his tongue, he began to start licking around the bullet hole, and eventually sticking it in. The taste of copper was rich in her ichor, as the smooth yet ribbed feeling of her insides were rich in sensation.

He could think of nothing but the moments they shared together- the first time they spoke being one of them. His birthday celebration up at Joshua's camp. She was so, so beautiful that day, and she was so, so beautiful right now. No matter what happened, he would always love her. In fact, his love was strong enough that to him, this wasn't a corpse. It wasn't the body of a love he had murdered, no, it was simply Melody in all of her lovable light.

She was always so beautiful. So flawless. Even now with the hole he crafted blowing through her skull, she was so gorgeous. This was meant to be- one last time. Then, in an instant, he felt it all release. His anger, his sadism, and his hatred for the world around him all rushed out of him, leaving his body. Nearly paralyzed, he was only hardly able to mutter his words to the corpse.

"... I love you so much."

Pulling himself out of the body's grip, he pulled his own clothing up, before fixing Melody's clothes.

Epilogue: Michael

Once he was fully covered, he stood up and turned around, only to notice Dread standing once more behind him.

"You have completed your mission, Michael. Are your dreams coming into reality?"

Normally, Michael would be ecstatic, but this time, he was dead inside. His heart a void that swallowed all emotion, he simply retaliated through words.

"Tell me your intentions. Now."

"Very well," Dread said, stepping forward.

"It has always been in my mind - the idea of separating mankind from Anu's cycle. Then, there was a man that changed me. I have already spoken of this man and how he did so, Olen Grant. That man's morals, ideas of human personality, and individual power showed me the way. I don't need to kill Anu, but rather disconnect your race from his power. If that does, however, involve divine murder, then so be it."

"And why has Mendes not killed you after learning of this?!"

"Mendes could have attempted to kill me, but he would have wasted the knowledge the human spirit can grant him. He could have told Anu about my outlook on him, but part of him, though he won't admit it, has already let me into his head. Some part of me, thinks some part of him wants to save your species, rather than allow Anu to destroy it. I've granted him a more human-like morality. His mission is here, thus I came along to further cause, and test, my effect on him, along with yourself."

"This is a curse you so willingly laid on me! I've been lied to from both ends because of your psychopathic war?! Am I just a play toy to you?"

"To me? Not at all. You're a human, and that's what you always will be. A human with human faults, drawn into an inhuman crusade."

The two looked at each other, tension ripping through the air like a saw through raw meat.

"What happens to them now? What are they finding on the other side of death?" he asked, referring to his friends.

"No matter what awaits, it's Hell. That's the catch. An eternity of perfection eventually becomes torture. So, what do you want? Nonexistence? Or are you even more afraid of that? Face it. You're in for an eternity of torment, whether you like it or not. They're in Anu's hands now, and I don't have a clue towards what he will choose to do with them."

"He'll have sympathy!"

"The same universe which brought her into this will have sympathy?"

"He must!"

"Your lord Anu spoke to her in that moment. He gave her the same exact mission, to do tonight as well. You know what she did, Michael? She told him no. She had never seen this being in her life, and had all of this, and all of you, explained to her, in case you failed to continue with your mission. She knew all loose ends would have to be wrapped up. No one was meant to leave this boat except you from the start. She looked him right in the eyes and said no. You want to know why, Collins?"

Micheal didn't even try to speak back, as Dread continued.

"She refused to hurt you."

He shattered with those words, his soul a mirror lashed at with a storm a rocks. Every sweet promise she made, and every kiss they ever shared played in his mind, as the word seemed to go in slow motion. Only when he remembered the last kiss they shared did he come back to reality, where Dread didn't wait a second to start talking again.

"Don't give yourself to something which won't give itself to you. The universe's power isn't in the universe itself, but in man. The sentient mind which comprehends it. Let us fight for a future with this power, not against it, and not for it. With it! A new tomorrow, and a better tomorrow! Free from any leadership not of man, where man can grow! Man can love and man can see the potential it holds!"

"Enki. Is. God," Michael responded bluntly and powerfully.

Dread attempted to sway Michael with one last statement, as Black smoke began to form behind him.

"You know what unifies people, religious or atheistic, aggressive or pacifists? Hate. You and I both have it. No matter how strong the person, hatred will always be there to corrupt them, and twist them into the opposite of their goal."

Michael was unswayed. His stern face continued to look at Dread, seeing him as a threat to Enki, and by extent, all that he knew.

The sound of heavy keratin striking metal came from the smoke as it cleared, revealing Mendes. He walked up to Dread's side before talking.

"I see I may have interrupted your little meeting, but Michael, Enki has plans for you."

Michael didn't break his gaze from Dread's mask as he responded.

"Anything."

Dread curled both fists and walked away, towards the back of the boat.

"You are to be pivotal in his plan. You will be sent forward to 2014 under a false identity, to the town of Marington, Pennsylvania. Once there, you will be tasked with creating a small icon that will act as a sort of summoning tool for Enki. This will allow you, and any others he chooses, to summon him, instead of him simply choosing when to speak. Next, you will have to build a mask, to symbolize Enki's champion. The champion will be selected by him, as the one to both birth carry his seed and birth his child, but also to do as Enki wishes."

Michael thought of Dread, and more specifically, his mask, knowing what he'd base the mask of the champion off of. It'd reflect Dread's mask, but the smile would be long gone. It'd reflect his true nature. What Michael truly saw him as.

"What sort of icon?"

"Pour your emotions into it. Your soul. All of the things you've felt on this day. He will accept it."

Bronze. He knew that opposed to the Mask of the Champion's silver, the Icon of Enki would be bronze. On it, his horrors would be displayed. He'd craft an emotionless face that would fit in the average hand, with a small piece, representing his new blade, coming from the eye. It would be flat so that it could sit on the ground and be grasped, but that simple flat shape would have all of his anger and bloodlust projected into it.

"The last part?"

"Most importantly, you will be tasked with building a large facility, but will be granted infinite time to build it, via Enki's great power. This will serve as a chamber for the child and the mother, once he selects whom will spread his seed. He will then copy it in this universe. This will be located near Tutelo, Pennsylvania."

"A new identity?" he questioned.

"Indeed. You will no longer be Michael Collins. You will now chose your new identity."

"I'm keeping Michael. It'll make sure everything I - no, we've done here, sticks with me forever."

"And your surname?"

Michael looked behind him, towards Melody's corpse.

"... Asher. If she couldn't take my last name, I'll take hers."

"Very well. You are now to be known as Michael Asher. We will make sure that all signs of you being Michael Collins are lost in the time between then and now."

Dread returned, holding the machete. He extended his arm, handing it to Michael.

"Take this with you as a memorial of this day. As for the revolver, perhaps upgrade to a rifle."

Holding the machete, he looked at Dread.

"The whole universe will be against you. Enki himself included."

"Wouldn't be fair otherwise," he responded, followed by a light version of his maniacal laughter.

Michael simply looked back at Mendes, humbling himself before him.

"I'm ready, lord."

Mendes put both arms in front of his face, as black smoke surrounded Michael.

"Time is a few dimensions above your comprehension. Try not to overwork it."

The smoke erupted into the air with a boom, and when it cleared up, Michael was gone.

Epilogue: Mendes

Mendes and Dread both locked eyes once Michael was gone.

"1946," Dread said. "Detective Taggart moved to Tutelo, Pennsylvania and changed his last name to Kaufman to hide his identity. You know this. Anu knows this. Why must your plan take place there?"

"Perhaps Anu is hoping to get a message across to you. Perhaps his son, or even grandchild will be of service to him in some way or another."

"You know something you aren't telling me, faun."

"I know much that I do not say. My words have truth behind them, whilst yours have only obsession and greed," Mendes corrected.

"You know that my words have truth in them, and that the obsession you mock is an obsession for what is right. I have planted a human-esque morality inside of you, just as Olen did to me," Dread said.

"You've done nothing but grant me a new way of thinking. Ereshkigal will force your rebellion against him down, with my aid. I will help this child be born."

"Then what, have the child destroy this beautiful species and all of the knowledge it has to offer, stopping any progression this great species can accomplish? You'll help him in that matter, whilst aiding him in finding another sentient life form to do it to? You know this one is special, Mendes."

Mendes recoiled back, "I have thought about this species' progression countless times, and where it can go. Thinking on the knowledge it can provide with time has filled centuries of my time. Enki is my lord, as I am the lord over Michael."

"We're here, speaking their language, standing on an invention of theirs, and you claim you are their lord? Perhaps you need to rethink your status."

"Why must you eat away at my loyalty like this, wretch of a twisted fable? Enki knows what is best, for he is the king of kings; the god of gods! Watch your tongue speaking of him, and halt your hand in acting against him!" Mendes said, backlashing towards Dread.

"... There are those human emotions acting up within you. I trust that you'll pick the right side and make the right choices when faced with the opportunity. We can save this species, Mendes. We can act against his plans. If you didn't want to on some level, we'd be attempting to kill each other right now."

Stepping hard on the ground in a fit of rage, Mendes began dissipating into a cloud of black smoke, blowing away from the wind. The only intelligible words being simple, "Damn you, and damn the philosophy!"

Once the wind had fully pushed the black smoke away, it faded into nothingness. Dread laughed to himself as he walked over to where Michael and Melody had shared their first kiss of the night and snapped his fingers.

The large roar of a greatly sized beast came from the ocean, as the surface began to crack. Six giant hands, each bearing massive claws, crashed into the top of the ship from each direction, whilst tentacles of even greater size did the same, pulling it, and any evidence of the day's event, into the depths of the ocean.



Written by ShawnHowellsCP
Content is available under CC BY-NC

Prequel to the In Torment Series

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