Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shade Within, and Undead Online

Well, it's been a few months. I had actually written a story a little more than a month ago with the intent of putting it on here, but it ended up being probably the most depressing story I've ever written, so I never did anything with it. Finally I got up off my lazy butt and wrote something else. This will probably be the last thing I post here until early November. I'm taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year(Again, but we'll not talk about last year, as it's forever tainted in my mind), and will be attempting an Action Semi-Sci-Fi by the name of Undead Online. I will post at least the first chapter here when I get the chance, and quite possibly up to chapter six. But, that's for a month from now, and for now, I have a short story.

Without further ado, this is:

Shade Within

The summonings had pecked into their target. Bhaskara was able to tell from the way the darkness quivered around him, the magic words echoing into them, transformed into sound in ears far, far away. It took less than a minute. His foe melted from the deepest shadow, one inky and black and somehow solid.

The city lived on around them, lights twinkling in windows visible from their rooftop like stars in a night sky, distant, but seemingly within reach. But Bhaskara knew in a few minutes they wold be out of reach forever. Itzal silenced the lighted panes with a wave of his hand, the entire city suddenly dark around them, its inhabitants immediately terrified, in fear of being infected with the darkness, the madness of the shade. But there was no need. Though Itzal could take them all in an instant, that wasn't what he was there for.

“It's a once in a century thing, a summons from a mortal.” Itzal's words slunk into Bhaskara's ears like oil into water. They slithered around his head, wrapping around his brain, worming their way in. He shook his head, eyes still closed, black on black on eternal darkness. An uncharacteristic grunt followed. “Strong boy. The average mortal has only to hear my voice and fall moon mad. You have the willpower of three, maybe four.”

“You know who I am. And you know that statement is false. As always, you speak to hear your own voice, to make others hear it as well. Everything you say is a lie.” Bhaskara said in hushed tones. Even so, his words carried far into the night, borne upon the wind of the rooftop.

“Oh, not everything. Very well, Baskie, I admit, there hasn't been a mortal like you in a thousand years. Not since Lucasta has someone been able to suck up so much darkness. Have you summoned me to take the path he took as well?”

A bead of sweat ran down Bhaskara's brow. Lucasta the Demon was the greatest hero since the darkness had begun shifting, three thousand years before, and the greatest villain as well. A thousand exorcisms had taken their toll, the combined shade he'd taken in from those he'd saved driving him mad. In the end, he turned to Itzal of his own will. Infected by shade greater than any had been able to hold before, his acts had been atrocious, the lives he'd taken in the tens of thousands. One man could save a thousand, but he cannot save himself. To fall victim to that which you hunted and exterminated for so long, so infuriating, humiliating, so inevitable. And yet, it seemed such an inviting end...

“No.” He swallowed.

“Then why summon me? Don't tell me you think you have the might to end me? Perhaps a couple hundred exorcisms ago you'd have the strength, but now? I can see the darkness nestled within you, feel it squirm as I poke at it, hear it calling back to me. Why don't you show me your eyes, Baskie?”

The words were spoken with a silver tongue, Bhaskara imagined. Slowly, his eyelids lifted. Most mortals would have been repulsed instantly. No white remained in his eyes. Darkness sloshed back and forth, his body literally filled to the brim with it. He could feel it, a poke here, a poke there, as it tested the confines, looking for a way out, as it always did. It exhausted him, how it never ceased moving, always active and always teasing away at him.

With blurry eyes, he took in the sight of his greatest foe, the reason he had devoted his life to saving, to self destruction. It was almost anticlimactic. Itzal was dark to the last. Black hair, black eyes, black clothes. Yet it was all mounted upon skin palest white, bleached from the way sunlight refused to lay upon him, from the way a bulb would fizzle and shatter while he walked under it, from eternity lived in shadow.

And he knew it was like looking in a mirror that showed both what you were and the opposite. From thirty years of cleansing people of their madness, absorbing their darkness, his own body had changed. Hair once blonde has gone black, eyes once blue turned into pools of shade. His white suit was handsomely at odds with it all, clean gloves upon nails now naturally black and white shoes over white socks.

“I feel no need to make small talk as to whether or not I have the strength to end you. I will or I won't. And there is only one way to know.” He pushed off the wall of the taller building, squaring his stance and readying himself.

“Then we will talk no more. But know this. I will enjoy taking you for myself, and I believe I will get a certain pleasure from watching you tear this city you once protected into shreds, the blood of innocents coating your hands. My first move.”

Itzal flicked a hand toward Bhaskara, reaching out his tendrils, reaching to take back what was his. The shade in Bhaskara reacted instantly, pulsing outward and slamming against the walls of his mortal being. He rocked forward, falling onto his knees as pain exploded, streaming across his body like water upon a pan. His body shook with it, his skin rippling as the force of a thousand nights tugged at his seams. His agonized scream echoed into the night as the moment seemed to stretch into eternity. But finally Itzal sneered and his hand fell back to his side. “Detestable humans. Always eager to go past their own limits.”

“Talk no more, you said. I told you, you just want to hear your own voice.” Bhaskara said, pushing himself up. His body was still aflame, a dozen cuts bleeding dark fluid where the shade had actually managed to leak free, seeping into his suit. But he forced himself forward, into a deadman's run at his foe.

For a second, they spun with each other, frenzied action erupting upon the deserted rooftop as they punched and kicked, blows coming close to landing, but never quite connecting. It ended abruptly as Itzal called a wave of darkness crashing upon the roof. It pooled on Bhaskara's back, forcing him down. The darkness kneeled beside its attacker.

“A mortal has no power, no strength to stop me. It is foolish to come to blows with someone like me. But I've yet to meet a human that I wouldn't call foolish.” Itzal sneered, dark intent and desire for suffering marring his pretty features.

Bhaskara spoke through the pain, panting as what felt like the weight of the entire world pressed down on his back. “Nine hundred and ninety-nine people I've saved from you.”

“Don't you wish you'd managed to pull through and save just one more? It would have been such a nice number.”

The last of Bhaskara's strength drained from him. He collapsed from his hands and knees, letting the weight of the shadow force him against the rough brick of the building. It pressed into his face, rough but somehow comforting.

Itzal cradled his cheek, running a thumb over it before viciously digging into his flesh with a talon-sharp thumbnail, sending blood spilling onto the rooftop. He chuckled. “Heh. Even the strongest fall in the end. But I'll be gentle. I'll leave some spark of you alive, so that you can watch every man, woman, and child you come across be torn limb from limb.”

The transition was smooth. Beginning at his thumb, Itzal turned to pure shade and slipped into the gash in Bhaskara's cheek. In short order, he was gone, having absorbed fully into the exorcist. The shade upon Bhaskara's body followed, leaving him laying there.

The dark ran through him, corrupting him, twisting and tainting and turning him inside out until his mind was like shards of glass tread through by a crowd, fragmented and scattered. And in each tiny bit of him, the darkness took root, spreading through his body, mind and soul. Images of bloodshed poured into him, turning into much more than mere pictures. Impulses, urges, wants and needs and desires for murder and suffering beyond even his already darkened ability to comprehend. The fight was short.

You are mine. The voice echoed through him. But his own voice answered.

No.” Like a vice suddenly swung to close, he tensed, shuttering down his body just as the darkness erupted in an attempt to escape. He pushed himself onto his elbows, a shivering, manic laugh falling from his mouth.

What have you done, Bhaskara?! What foolhardiness is this?! He could feel Itzal's panic, his frenzied attempts to escape.

Do you know the reason I only performed nine hundred and ninety-nine exorcisms? It's not because I lacked the strength for the thousandth. I just wanted it to be the pinnacle, the greatest feat of my life. I am the thousandth, and you are my prey this time!”

He opened a chink, a tiny opening. Itzal sprang at it, pouring out of him, darkness dripping from his blackened skin. He tried to crawl away, but Bhaskara grabbed at him, slipping his hands around the slippery throat. “Oh, no you don't!”

Bhaskara opened himself, pulling his foe into him, the same strength that lent him the ability to save nearly a thousand people now giving him to power to absorb, to consume Itzal. With a strangled cry, the demon was sucked back in, trapped.

Foolish Baskie! All you've done is delay the inevitable! I will dominate you and consume your mind regardless. Trapping me inside yourself is only giving me what I want!

No.” Muscles stiff, Bhaskara turned toward the edge of the roof. He tottered, unsteady and stumbling, toward open air. “This is the end, Itzal. For both of us.”

Stop! Let's talk!

No!” Bhaskara broke into a sprint, running toward the edge, toward death and victory. “Like you said! No more talk!”

He flung himself off the building, spinning and twirling in ecstasy, his victory filling him. The world blurred as he fell, lights reappearing as he passed, twinkling and turning the city into a mad whirlwind of light and dark, light and dark. Faces at windows flashed by, brick turned to stone to concrete and finally, the concrete he smashed into.

Pain was instantaneous, but swiftly ended. He sucked in one last blood-laden breath, then, the world bright and beautiful around him, he died, the shade within dying alongside him.

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