The Wall

Anodyne was floating through one of the universes that had created, he muttered to himself under his breath until his forehead collided with a stone wall. He stopped moving, his brow creasing. “I don’t remember putting a rock here.” He said out loud. Anodyne floated back slightly, then looked at the wall. He looked it up and down, and left to right. But it did not matter which way he looked, it extended to the end of his universe. He tried punching it, but it failed to chip, let alone crack. “A wall.” He said frustrated. “Why is there a wall in my universe?” There was a long pause then he cried out again. “Who put this shit in my universe?” “Oh, that was me.” He turned to see a dishevelled looking individual, he was eating an ice block and licking his lips as he stared at Anodyne without cause. “Why did you build a wall through the middle of my universe?” Anodyne asked, “Hey, that aint no way to greet.” The man said, closing the distance between Anodyne and the stranger. “I am Rune.” He said with his hand outstretched. “I own this fine wall.” Anodyne ignored the hand as he looked at the man. “I am confused.” “It is simple, you say your name, then shake my hand. It is a simple greeting in most universes.” “Not that, I am confused to not only how, but why you built this wall. I can’t get past it, and it happens to be running through my universe, and I need something on the other side, so get rid of it.” “Well I am confused as to how someone can claim to not be confused by my customs, then not acknowledge them.” Rune said as he puffed out his upper lip and looked down to his hand, then back to Anodyne. Anodyne rolled his eyes and groaned. “I am Anodyne, now will…” Anodyne tried to continue but his hand was grabbed with vigour, the man smiled, and interrupted. “It is a great pleasure to meet your acquaintance Mr. Anodyne, what can I do for you sir?” Anodyne’s arm jolted still as he stalled the vigour’s shaking. “I want to know how and why you built this wall.” “That is simple mister, I really wanted a wall there, so I put it up because I thought it might be fun.” “This is my universe, get it out.” The man laughed to himself. “No can do sorry. But I built it out of some special material that gets stronger the more of it, that, is, attached, to, it. Damn that was a weird sentence”. “Are you saying you made something that you can’t un-make?” Rune pressed his lips together as he looked about the wall. “Looks like that do be the case kind sir.” Anodyne’s eye twitched as he looked at the wall, then turned back to Rune. Anodyne tried to slam his fist into Rune, but his fist was stopped by a barrier of light. There was the sound of cracking glass as layers of the light seemed to shed. But despite the layers removed, Rune stood smiling. “Oh ho, ho. That is not going to work sir. You are no where near strong enough to touch me.” “Why am I surrounded by other deities that are far beyond my level of strength?” “Well to be fair, there is at least twenty gods in the Eternaverse, what is the likely hood you can beat all of them up?” “I have literally met thousands of other deities.” Anodyne said as he felt something in his brain twinge. “Yeah, that is at least twenty.” “I need this wall moved, move the wall. I need to be on the other side.” Rune walked up to the wall and slammed his fist into it. Small pieces of powder came back with his fist, but no visible damage was done to the wall. “Well, I think it may just be permanent. Better luck next time friend.” Rune looked at his watch and shrugged. “Well I gotta go, I have a date with a very pretty star that has been flirting with me every time I go past her.” Anodyne turned around to look at Rune, but he was already gone. “I can’t believe that this is my life, how is this always my life?” Anodyne closed his eyes and breathed deeply, and calmly. “I swear, Ompti must be testing, or punishing me for something.” Anodyne rested his hand against the wall and he slowly sunk into it, His eyes opened, and when his vision returned his hand was buried up to his wrist in the stone. But trying to push it in further did nothing, Anodyne’s panicked crept in when he failed to remove his hand from the stone. “Why? How?” Anodyne said as all expression fell from his face. He remained floating in space and looked around. There was sadly nothing on this side of the wall that Anodyne had made, there was no life, or any significant astronomical events that caught his attention. “I guess I am just here now.” He said defeated. His whole body slumped as he kept his body as far from the wall as he could. Decades went by as he remained stuck to the wall, he tried everything he could think of to remove his hand from it, then eventually to push it further in. Despite his best efforts, his situation did not change. Anodyne looked to the stars as time went on without him. Eons went by as his mind started to slip once again, the agony of being held in place sent his mind racing to the edges of what is possible. His body went through every emotion he was capable of expressing, and still none of them gave him insight on how to fix his situation. He screamed to the Eternaverse for answers to his situation, but everything was still, and no one answered him. Then one day Rune returned. “Well looks like this is quite the pickle, isn’t it?” He said with his hands on his hips. Anodyne looked at Rune, barely noticing his existence, before looking back at the wall. “Oh come on, don’t be so glum.” Rune floated to the wall and pressed his hands against it as he hummed to himself. “Ha, I know how to fix this.” He yelled. Snapping his fingers found himself surrounded with Darkness. “Oh, oh that was wrong.” Rune said as he floated around the now cube of strange material. “it seems I have taken the wall, and made it into a box. This literally makes your situation worse, because now the mass of the material is concentrated, so it will be even stronger. I hope you have space in there. I’ll come back if I think of anything.” With that Rune left again, this time Anodyne was cramped into a small cube where he was incapable of standing. His body was pushed against itself as it struggled to fit into the space. He sighed and shrunk himself to fit in the space better, but as he did the material expanded, filling the space he made. No matter how small he made himself the box would shrink with him. Anodyne sat in the box terrified that this would be the fourth, and last time that he would be forced into isolation. He could not see a way out, and no matter how much energy he expended he was incapable of doing anything to the walls around him. He remained in the cube for so long that his thoughts started to repeat, he ran out of content in his mind to explore, everything in his head became as dark as the cube that he was trapped in. Nothing but silence as Anodyne gave up on moving, screaming, and crying. His body was cramped, and he could feel his bones starting to fuse together. He kept his biological body from faltering out of self-preservation, but once his mind turned black, he let it slip away. Outside the cube Rune was pushing it through the Eternaverse, crossing universes, multiverses, stretching beyond the created content, to the naturally spawning creations of the Eternaverse, until eventually he arrived at throne where another deity sat. Their visage was so powerful that those who dared to look upon them had their eyes burnt from their skulls, and despite deities abilities to create, and even alter selves, they were incapable of seeing, or even remembering what sight was, as if they were born into darkness. Rune kept their head bowed to avoid the image of the deity before them and spoke through the cube, his voice just loud enough for Anodyne to hear. “Hey buddy, so I wasn’t just a wandering dude who built a wall, but I am sure you figured that out by now. But I have delivered you to your new owner, so have fun buddy. They like to collect crazy gods, so I just make them and get paid well for it, nothing personal.” Rune slapped the top of the cube twice before standing back from it. The sound of Rune’s voice was enough to scare Anodyne. The first sounds he had heard in millions of eons. His ears tingled as the vibrations bounced around his ears. The deity that sat on the throne stood, grabbing the cube in both their hands they pried it apart as if it were warm bread, straight from the oven. From it, Anodyne’s mangled body floated in space. Rune nudged Anodyne and spoke to him. “Come on guy, Your new master is waiting for you to introduce yourself, I don’t know if you remember, but I showed you how to do that. Although I would not recommend looking them in the eye, or the foot, or anything. Not pleasant.” Rune continued to nudge Anodyne, as he talked to the deity by the throne. “Sorry friend, this one seems to be a dud. I can’t imagine this one would be fun to rule. I do know how you like to play with your toys.” “I am not a slave.” Anodyne muttered through petrified vocal cords. “What was that?” Rune asked as he leant in closer. “No one is my master.” “Well, that is where you are wrong buddy. This one is, they own you now, just as they own this whole sector of the Eternaverse. Hell, they even own me. It aint a bad life really. Can’t complain, well I could, it is horrible, but could be worse, probably.” Anodyne spent their energy unfurling their body, slowly correcting their form until they were nearly standing normally, still hunched, with a whisper quiet voice. “I am no slave, to no master. No one owns me.” Rune laughed. “You can’t even stop me from doing things to you. How are you going to stop them?” Anodyne turned to the entity, his head was cocked low as his body was still to regenerate fully. “I am no slave.” He said as he looked up to the deity. Anodyne’s vision of the ground was the base of a marble throne, as he looked upwards it started to warble, and everything became blurry. He could see shapes of what appeared to be an individual sitting upon a throne, but no details. It felt as if there was an immense pressure against his eyes, not pushing them in, but pulling from the inside, like the other deity was already in his mind. Rune watched as Anodyne looked up in horror, shocked that anyone would willingly peer upon his master. He knew from experience that even catching his master in the edge of his peripheral vision was enough to feel like he had a fire in his skull. But the thing that caught Rune’s eye with Anodyne, was despite the fact he was staring at his master, his eyes had not erupted into flames and cooked from his skull yet. Anodyne couldn’t see clearly, …

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The Small Rock Excress

Among the stars there was a small rock, named Excres. Upon its surface was a collection of ape like creatures that ruled every facet of the terrain. But greed and war consumed them, first their hearts, then their souls. Bodies limp, their structures laid in ruins, and a strange dust falling from the sky lead to a new society to develop within the ruins of the old. The strange dust killed most of the fauna that it touched, a caustic substance that burnt flesh, and caused infection. But when it landed upon the smaller life forms on the planet, it changed them in fantastical ways. Insects’ intelligence grew, plants grew stronger, and fungus began to walk like the apes kind that fell before them. The powder had transformed them into the new life of the world, with a humanoid shape, and a desire to collaborate, they soon developed a society in the trash left behind by the apes that died not so long ago. They made cities, developed their own technologies, and sought to know what they wanted to seek. A whole new sentient species rising over night, they struggled to survive in the new world, but now that they are established, and safe, they want to know what is out there, what there is to find. One small mushroom named, Mercol was out on his own adventure, seeking crystals to master the arcane arts of the world, magic through language, and powered by the strange gem gemstones that form all across the land, they are assumed to have come down the day they all awoke, and are the source of all life on the planet. The wisest of the Myconids formed a runic system to interact with the gems, and have since harnessed their powers to create magic, as math was discovered and used to create a great many things. Mercol was frustrated as he marched from the large tower he was just in, stomping down his feet he stashed his spell book into his satchel and made his way off the towers grounds. Moving from curated paths and trimmed moss lawns he stepped out onto the hard dirt of the surrounding grass jungle. He turned back to the wizard tower, it was an old dead tree that was carved out by transfixed termites that the wizards used spells to tame, getting them to prepare huge logs into spaces for research, and the pursuit of magical power. “Kick me out of your stupid tower, I’ll show you who is the real mage. None of you can handle my spells, you are all…” He took a deep breath and shouted at the top of his lungs. “Cowards!” The sound of insects filled the air, and no one inside the tower seemed to stir, completely unphased by the screams of Mercol. He dropped his arms down, and kicked a small pebble before turning face and walking away, not only from the tower, but the small town that resided behind it. “I don’t need them, I don’t need any of them, not even that stupid town. I will go out, I will find my own crystals, and I won’t be told by no council that I am not allowed it due to concerns of magical intent.” Trudging along the tough, sun cracked dirt he pushed deeper into the yellowed blades of grass, disappearing from society and adventuring into the wilds unknown. In Mercol’s left hand he had a staff, with a very specific looking head to it, one designed to hold gemstones of power, but it was empty, just like his stomach. Up the staff was an eclectic mix of runes carved deep into the wood, then burned so they kept their form, creating great, big, black, ornate runes all over the staff. Visually it was stunning, and the craftmanship was impeccable. He strode off with confidence, and with a fire in his heart. Nearly four days later and Mercol was sprinting with a limp, his satchel was gone, he was covered in dirt, and small cuts, and his hands gripped desperately to his staff as he moved. He breathed deep, each inhalation was if it was fuelling a fire in his lungs, burning his throat as he desperately continued forward, despite his worsening state. He would occasionally look back over his shoulder at the screeching behind him, screaming and using the image of his pursuer to motivate him. The rapid footsteps it made inspired fear into him, his failing legs filled him with an impending dread he had never felt before. He knew he no longer had the protection of his order, or that the town guards were not just around the corner, ready and waiting to make a daring save. Instead, he was left with the knowledge that the next step may be his last as he could feel the hulking beast behind him coming closer, and closer. The roar of the beetle behind him was enough for him to give up, slowing his feet he was ready to stop and collapse, but before he could he found himself sinking deep into the ground, into a hole that was not there a second before. Mercol looked up to watch as the enormous beetle ran over the hole, and stormed deeper into the unknown. Meanwhile Mercol was stuck in a thin hole, after some wriggling he managed to turn his head to the side so his was no longer pushing hard against the hole’s sides, and after just a little more he managed to find a small crawl space at the bottom of the hole. He laid down for a moment, catching his breath, his legs thankful that they were finally able to rest. It was a long while before he was willing to move on, taking solace in the dark, and quiet hole that he had found himself in. Knowing that he would not be able to climb up the narrow hole he fell down, he was making sure that he had the energy to crawl through the hole at the bottom of his fall. His eyes sluggishly opened at first, then rapidly when he realised that he had fallen asleep, what had intended to be a short rest become sleep of an unknown duration. He wriggled his legs, and felt them brace against the walls of the hole with a strength he did not have when he had landed in the hole, his arms gripped dirt with the same renewed strength, but as he crawled, he felt the wide rim of his head cap scrape against the wall, and warp against the uneven surface. While his arms and legs had rested, he could now feel the discomfort that laid within his cap from being bent, and twisted as he slept. Hand landed over hand, soil was disrupted, and his wide feet carved small grooves as he pushed his way through. His head ached with every movement, only getting worse as he went, until, a sudden sensation of freedom happened from around his head as he found himself in a small chamber. His head was finally free of the confines of the narrow passage, and for the first time in the last few days he laid down free of contortion, and actually feeling as though he had, had some rest. He breath started heavy, but quickly slowed as he took the moment to calm himself, a calm that was interrupted by the intense pains that appeared in his stomach. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” He muttered to himself. He stared up to the ceiling of the small cave and felt everything his body had to tell him, despite the restful position, and the fact he had just slept, he could feel all the aches of everything that had happened over the last couple of days, tears fell from his eyes as he remembered the life he had not so long ago, how he let his ego get in the way of safety within community, and the potential to gain much knowledge within the arcane arts, but instead he was destined to return the earth that once fed him, and now, his tomb. His eyes closed once again, and he let exhaustion take him once again. This time when his eyes opened, he found himself laying in comfort. He patted his body, and where there were wounds, now bandages. His body still ached, but it felt as if it had been numbed, now just a shadow of what it had once been. His arm drooped from his side to make no purchase with the ground, Mercol looked to his side to find himself laying in a bed that was raised off the ground. The room itself had dirt walls, ceiling, and floor, but all the furniture within the room was made wood and stone. There was a small fire located in one of the walls, all the smoke disappearing up a tube from the old world, letting it loose to the sky above, keeping the cave fresh. Mercol felt safe, like he was home in his old town. He smiled softly and let himself be comfortable enough to let himself slowly fall asleep. His sleep was deep as Mercol’s body healed itself, so deep that he was incapable of dreaming, and it wasn’t until several hours had passed before the incessant chatter coming from the nearby chamber woke him. He slowly sat up, groaning through the aches, and stabbing pains. The air was filled with the noise of the muttering of others talking. Spying his staff, he used it as a walking stick to navigate his new environment, the ground was pressed flat, while not as good as where he had come from, it was tenfold better than the wilds he had been traversing. None of the rooms he passed had doors, not even hanging moss to cover what was within. The longer he walked the louder the voices became, and the more he was able to make out, Mercol walked into the room the voices were coming from, and inside there was two mushrooms running around a kitchen, one tall and thin, and the other short and round. “Uhum,” Mercol cleared his throat purposefully. “Excuse me, but where am I?” The two other mushrooms turned to see Mercol leant up against his staff with a gentle sway. “Oh you, look at you. The weird one is up.” The short one said. “Up and about, like a regular ol walk-y-do.” The tall one added. Mercol was confused, and made no effort to hide it, while the conversation already felt alien, he could not help but comment on the strange heads that these other mushrooms had. “I am so confused, are you fungus?” “Of course, we are, have you never seen one of our kind before?” The short one asked. “Not all of us have those wide brimmed heads, some of us have these much more compact taller heads, makes digging tunnels much easier, without having to worry the width of a cap.” “I don’t understand.” Mercol said as they adjusted their stance. “Oh friend please sit down,” the tall one said as they pulled out a chair. “We can answer any questions you may have, but you need to rest.” Mercol sat down, realising in that moment how much stress his body was under just standing. “Who are you two, and where are we?” The two Morel mushrooms looked to another and giggled slightly. “Well, I am Larce,” the tall one said as she pointed to her chest. “I am Hekaras,” the short on said. “As for where we are, you are in our wee little home. The others are not home, they are out doing the outside things. But they will be back shortly right Larce?” “Oh who knows, the others are wild, always out and about, who knows when they will be back.” “But where is your home, is it apart of a …

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Anderstine’s Forest

All through the Eterna-verse are Deities, worlds, stars, and things the mortal minds have yet to discover to be possibilities. On one small planet, in a deep seeded wood, hidden far away in a mountain range a lone individual resided in a small cabin home. His hands were wrapped with bandages, his face and arms were covered in scars and fresh cuts, ranging from small to cavernous. His eyes a vibrant blue that contrasted against his pale skin. Despite living outside his entire life, the thick canopy of the woods would not let any light in. He lived in harmony with the nature, he was the only one who could wander the woods without fear, the other animals respected him, because he respected them. The creatures of the dark wood had an image to match their homes name. They were dark, harsh, and hostile. They were beyond animalistic, they behaved on a base primordial level, everything happened for the sake of harmony, desires and wants had nothing to do with it, and the man in the woods knew this. He knew that as the only human in the woods he would be safe from the chaos of death providing he did not upset the balance around him. He would wander the woods, scavenging the remains of the fallen creatures, using their parts to create things to sell to those who lived near the woods. The man wondered from the woods, a large sac was slung over his shoulder as he emerged from the shade of the tree canopy, and into the moonlight. His skin started to glow faintly as his pale skin reflected the moons light back into the open air. His footsteps were light, and he created almost no noise as he approached the gates of his local town. The guards looked down, they were familiar with his pale glow, and yet they stood still as the man stood, waiting to be let in. The captain of the guard stared down at him and tightened the grip on his spear. “You know there are other towns around here, we don’t need your filth in here Anderstine.” Anderstine looked up, his eyes practically glowing in comparison to the dark brown eyes of the inhabitants of the town. He spoke, softly, almost like a whisper that could be heard from the top of the wall. “I am here to sell my goods, nothing else.” “It had been a while, I was hoping that the monsters of the woods had finally come to their senses and eaten you. Like how they eat all of us who wander too close.” “Stop wandering so close then.” “Tell me.” The captain said as he leant of the edge of the wall. “How is it you are the only human that can walk those woods without dying?” “Because I don’t fear them, or death.” The captain of the guard stared down unblinking as Anderstine looked up the same. Their stare was ended as one of the other guards grabbed the captain. “Sir, you remember what happened to the last guy who denied Adnerstine entrance? The mayor was furious. He got put on woods duty.” The captain of the guard scowled as he reluctantly leant back. “Open the gate, but keep every eye on that beast. I don’t believe for a second that he is a mere trader, or human.” The gates slowly began to open and Anderstine lowered his gaze, walking calmly into the town. Eyes followed him where he went, his silence was recognised, and his appearance unmistakable. For every keen eye from the guards that laid upon Anderstine, there were ten eyes avoiding him from the locals. But by the time he reached the centre of town news of his arrival had already spread to the local tradesmen, and Anderstine was surrounded by a small group of people wandering what is in his bag. He took his position on the auctioneer stand, with one arm he lifted his bag onto the table that was set next to him, and the wood bowed under the weight. He pulled out the first item and the auction began. While the traders made their bets, others watched from afar, some looked on with horror as large insect parts, and bones of strange animals were pulled from the bag. Others marvelled at the parts of the unknown things that laid within the forest. Animal parts, plants, precious gem stones, and strange mechanical devices were pulled methodically from the bag, each one sold off to the highest bidder. The bag emptied slower than it should have, and by the end of the auction it was full once again with the coin of the townsfolk, Anderstine put down his 10% tax into the hand of the auction house runner and quietly moved back towards the gate of the town. Before he could reach the gates a small group of well-armed individuals approached him. “Please, Anderstine. Can we have a moment?” Anderstine turned around to see the face of four determined looking souls, well armoured, and with stern faces. “We want you to lead us into the woods, we desire to see what you have seen. We understand you must be under some kind of magical protection, so we have armoured ourselves as best as we can and, sir… please, no, wait.” Anderstine walked off as the man was trying to talk to him. “Trust me, no amount of armour will save you from what is in there. You can follow, but you will die.” The group started to follow, but the towns guards stepped in the way. “You follow that thing, and you will die. Nothing other than it, and the other monsters of that wood can enter, or leave. The rest of us, we are a meal.” The small combatant group lowered their weapons as the watched Anderstine disappear behind the closing gates. Anderstine walked calmly back down the winding mountain path, heading down every left turn he wound up at the edge of the forest stopping just shy of the tree line, behind him he could hear the sound of creaking wood, and strained horse hair. “Drop the bag, and keep walking freak. I won’t let you rob my town.” Anderstine turned to see the guard captain with a bow drawn. “Your mayor is going to be furious, you might find yourself on wood duty if you are not careful.” “Don’t threaten me freak, I don’t know what you are, but I know you are not human. So leave human gold behind, and go back to your woods.” “I earnt this fair and square, they paid what they wanted, this is my property, as a guard, I assumed you would be around to protect me and my property.” “I protect those who live on lord Barres land.” “I am a resident of Lord Barres.” Anderstine interjected. “My cabin is apart of his territory, that is why I have rights to trade in his town. You are sworn to protect me.” The captain of the guard lowered his bow slightly, but grinned as he did so. “No one expects you to come out of these woods, each time you come it may be expected, but if you don’t return, no one would be surprised.” The captain raised his bow again and took aim. “There won’t be a body to find, I am sure the woods will consume you.” Anderstine smiled, he dropped the bag and sat on the ground with his legs crossed. “I am a pacifist.” “What does that matter now?” The captain asked. “That is the answer to your question.” “What question?” “The one you asked at the gate, how I survive in the words where all else have failed before me.” “Are you saying you have never killed anything?” “No, just I never kill the things in the forest, we have an understanding. I am a scavenger in the woods, I take out the trash, then I sell it to you all, then I can return with your coin, and store it where it is needed.” “And where exactly is it needed?” “In the dirt, a shiny mountain of bronze, silver, and gold. Upon it rests an ancient being that consumes them for nutrients, without me it will have no food, and it will be forced to look else where to eat. Places with metal, places such as your town.” “I am not buying it, you are clearly making this up as you go, trying to find an out from meeting my arrow. But I am done with talking.” The captain let his arrow loose, setting it into the far right side of Anderstines chest. The force of the blow put him on his back, and set him in place to start sprinting. The captain nocked another arrow and set it into Anderstine’s leg, but still he ran towards the woods. “That is right, run you best. I’d like to see you survive with those injuries in the woods. Come back again and I will put you into the dirt.” Anderstine disappeared into the darkness of the woods, collapsing behind a fallen tree log, just out of the captain’s view. He prepared another arrow, and started to walk towards the woods, approaching the tree line he tried to get a better view of where Anderstine fell, in hopes of putting an arrow through his skull. But with every step beyond the first tree he could feel his heart in his throat, and the air begin to cool. “It is just a wood, only a short jot in.” The captain said to himself as he looked around. “Run in and finish it, run out.” He repeated over and over again, building up the courage to step further in. Just as his feet found steady footing, and his muscles begain to function he heard a chittering, followed by rapid, rhythmic thumping. Looking past where Anderstine fell he could see eight eyes staring back at him, red, and glowing faintly in the darkness of the wood. “I’ll let the woods consume you, my job here is done.” The captain ran from the woods, grabbing the bag in one arm he felt it drag into the dirt, dropping his bow he used both arms and hauled it onto his shoulder before running off back to town. The town carried on as normal, and with each passing month that Anderstine did not return, the captain began to feel at ease. Resting in his bed he sighed each night as his skin was wrapped in silken sheets wrapped over the softest mattress of down. Each night he would sleep like a baby, waking for nothing. Until one night he heard the creaking of wood, and the snapping of tree branches, dragging him from he blissful sleep he sluggishly woke up, then rapidly when he saw the eyes of Anderstine sighting across from him, his pale white skin and the glow of the moon on his back as he sat with his back facing the window. The captains hand was already on a knife he kept next to his bed. “Rest assured captain, I am still a pacifist, you will suffer no harm from me.” Anderstine whispered. The captain sat up, still holding onto the knife. “No offence, but I don’t believe you just came back to chat.” “Well that is true, but I have not come here to hurt you either.” “So what are you here for?” “To tell you that I am taking the time from you, that you took from me.” The captain stood from his bed, his knife in hand. “That sounds like a threat.” “No captain, you have threatened me before. I am informing you of your situation. You left me for dead, with a slim chance of survival. So I am doing the same. I have moved your home, by my estimate it should take you the same time it took me to heal for you to make …

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The Journey

Soft clouds drifted lazily across the blue sky, tall mountains in the background cut shapes into the horizon with its dark stone and snowy peaks. At the base of the mountains a strong river flowed from melted snow, winding its way down, and past a small country town that sat in an open plain. The river curved around the edge of the town in a way that forced those wanting to go west over a bridge that has stood longer than the town itself. It had strong stone pillars, and arches that were perfect, both in presentation, and in the ability to withstand the water swells that would happen yearly during the days that followed the winters. The open fields surrounding the town had tall, green, grasses that crooked at the ends, and during the summers as the grass started to brown, a strange summer weed would emerge with tall dark stems that grew clusters of flowers that started yellow at the base and slowly became red the higher they grew. This gave the area its iconic name, the fields of fire. This summer there was a convoy that was heading out of the town, those within the small walls of the town watched as the imperial carriages cut through the landscape, their pristine white carriage tops were being towed by large dark steeds that looked as if they were made for the gods. Everyone inside the walls were packing their things and getting ready to depart near the opening of the town. But at the back of the town was one family getting ready in a different way. Instead of laying their bags onto the hard dirt, waiting to be picked up by the imperial carriages, they put their belonging into the back of a small cart. The wood creaked as each item was placed upon it, the wooden panelling was cracked, warped, and rotting in parts, the wheels were slightly different sizes giving the cart a distinct wobble as it went, and at the head was the family steed, a tired, yet determined looking mule with a faded black coat that had started to go white at the ends. The Father and son rushed from house to cart loading everything they needed for the journey, food, clothes, bedding, and weapons were all loaded into the back. The father clapped and rubbed his hands together vigorously as he chuckled to himself. “All right, are you ready to go?” The son tucked away the last of his belongings and stood up, stretching his back as he went. “Yeah I think so, I have everything I need I am pretty sure.” He put his hands on his hips and looked down to his father, giving him a thumbs up. “But we should probably wait for everyone to load into the imperial carriages, I don’t know if there will be room to go around us on the road, and I don’t really want to be holding them up.” The father laughed as he climbed onto the riding bench of the cart. “Don’t be such a wimp, if old Gerty here can walk through the fire fields off road, I am sure those big imperial carriages will be fine.” The son winced slightly at the notion of holding up the kings carriages, but it was not on him when his father decided to leave, so he slumped down in the back and pulled out a book as his father gently tapped Gerty on the rear and she started to pull the rickety cart. The town itself was rustic, and each building had its own unique flair, but even so, everyone always laughed when they saw the father driving through town. “Give up on that old cart you fool, the king is paying us to evacuate, why bring that old beast and dying cart?” “You wouldn’t understand, I have a lot of love for Ol’ Gerty here, and her cart. They are family at this point.” “You can’t have family with a cart, or have the nights gotten that lonely since your wife left to work in the city?” “Shove off, your just jealous. Besides I’ll see the woman soon enough. You lot will never understand.” The fathers son laughed in the back as he was gently shaken around, struggling to read on the patches of road that were particularly worn. The father continued to suffer ribbings from his friends as he made his way to the western side of town, trying his best to convince people of the journey. Eventually one of his friends jumped onto the other side of drivers bench for the cart and gently patted Gerty on the back. “I can’t believe this old thing is still kicking.” “Oh she can kick still, my eldest here found that out the other day. Could have sworn that the leg broke when it happened.” The Father laughed as he son lifted up his pant leg to reveal welt. “Yeah, Gerty may be old, but her kicks don’t feel it.” The father looked over to his friend as the man was grimacing at the bruising on the sons leg. “So, you going to tell me I shouldn’t be doing this too?” “Actually no, I was going to say I look forward to hearing from you on the other end, I imagine it will be quite the journey.” The Father looked shocked for a moment before leaning in slightly. “But….” “But.” His friend added. “You know that this is going to add about two weeks to the journey right? That is a long time to keep your wife waiting.” “Oh she will be fine, she actually sent a letter with one of her birds the other day encouraging me. I swear if it wasn’t for her, I would be much more sensible.” “Well we wouldn’t want that.” The friend said with a smile. “What about your other two? Where are they these days?” “Well they are off in other towns, but they are meeting us where we are stopping this evening. I mean my eldest here is off with his wife elsewhere usually. But none of my kids could pass up the chance for this journey. So clearly some people appreciate it.” “Oh they don’t count, you have clearly brain washed them.” “Nonsense, they just trust me when I tell them things, so I told them this would be fun, and soon we shall all be back together again.” “I have a distinct memory of you enlisting the help of your youngest to herd cattle, and you nearly killed him because he refused to move even when the cattle charged, because his dad said it would be fun.” “Why does everyone keep bringing that up? I said he would be fine, and he was. Even if I did think that he was about to depart this world when the cattle got spooked. But he is still alive, and now he gets to come on this journey with me. So I see nothing wrong.” The Father laughed with a hint of guilt behind his eyes as he talked about the near miss that nearly took his youngest sons life. “What ever you say you mad man. Please find us on the other end, we would love to hear this story.” “You along with everyone else. You all mock us, but we are the ones telling the stories that people are listening to, and sharing with others.” The friend smiled, and gave the Father a handshake before hoping off the cart and leaving him to his journey. The Father was brimming with the confidence of a new day, he smiled ear to ear as he continued to be heckled and laughed at by his friends, and fellow townsfolk. As he approached the western gates the imperial convoy was scattered among the crowds of people and the guards were all helping load the townsfolks belongings, one of them stopped and nudged one next to them. “What is that?” “That is a road block on wheels, that grinning idiot is either going to stall the whole convoy, or the entire convoy is going to have to go off the path to pass him. Either way, I don’t like that man, or his stupid grin.” The father looked over and accidently locked eyes with the imperial guards that had just been insulting them, so he smiled even wider and waved. Reflectively they waved back with fake grins, and a look of confusion. The Father turned back to the front of the cart and watched as Gerty passed through the town gates. “Here we go son, the journey starts now.” The son raised a fist without looking up from his book and cheered. “Adventure.” He shouted, lowering his fist he licked his thumb and turned the page. The small cart took to the bridge slowly, Gerty’s hooves slipped on the stone from time to time, and moving became a crawl. Some of the townsfolk walked past the cart heading in the same direction. The father waved at them as they laughed to one another. “Poor lass is doing her best isn’t she?” They asked him. “Yeah she is, maybe I should kick my eldest here out to give it a little push. Save Gerty a little energy.” The people walking next to them waved, and patted Gerty on the head as they walked past, whispering to her as they went. “Almost there old girl, I hope you are not going too far.” While it was obvious that Gerty was straining, she did not shy away from the work, her eyes were focused, her form was perfect, and as they reached the crest of the bridge, she could feel the weight of the cart shifting in her favour and she was able to rest. The father patted her on the back as she chugged along the flat top. “Okay beautiful, take it easy on the way down, slow and steady.” Gerty shook her straggly mane of hair and snorted, her skin twitching as the local flies landed on her. Coming down the far side of the bridge was just as awkward as the way up, Gerty was slow, but still slipped on the occasional tile and there was a short moment where she nearly let the cart run her over, but she managed to keep her footing well enough and they safely made it to the bottom, and they were on their way. The fields of fire were in full bloom, but even a blind person could tell with the heat that was beating down over them. The father had rested a small cloth over his head to keep his neck and face guarded, while his eldest son had himself nestled under crates that were propped upon one another to create a shaded cavity for him to read in. The two of them headed down the road, leaving the hustle of the imperial carts behind. The father had a map laid next to him with hand drawn markings all along the path they were to take. He smiled as he took in a deep breath of air, exhaling he rested into the nook of the seat, content, and ready for the journey ahead.

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Kindness Is Not Weakness

A small cart was pulled down an idyllic countryside road, the grass flats surrounding the cart were lush, vibrant, and spotted with flowers of all colours. The trees nearby bore fruit, adding a sweet scent to the air, and the distant hills adds shape to the horizon, allowing for the golden rays of the morning sun to creep through, creating strong beams of light. At the end of one of these light beams was a man holding the reigns to a small donkey that pulled his cart. The light rested upon his chest as the ambient light filled the wrinkles on his face so no shadow could hide, giving him a more youthful look that better represented how the man felt. Although his body had aged, his muscles not what they used to be, but still strong with the endurance of a hard life hidden beneath every callous, and every scar. The man chewed on fresh seeds as he made his way to town, down the road he spied three individuals walking towards him, he smiled, waving his hand he called out. “Good morning!” The sun started to pick up heat as it rose into the sky, no longer caressing Dolor lovingly, now attacking it like a child jabbing the side of a nearby adult, trying to grab its attention. Down below in the grass laid the body of an old man, and the seeds that he chewed upon. Standing on the cart were four individuals that sifted their hands through the seed that lay in the back of the cart. A stout Dwarf leant against the cart with his staff in hand as he watched his partner, a satyr searched the pockets of the old man. Meanwhile an elf woman was pulling fistful of seeds from the bags and screaming in frustration as her partner sat where the old man sat, a human, he took in a deep breath and raised his arms to the sky to welcome the rays of the sun. “It truly is a good morning.” He said as he let out a deep sigh. “Travis, I swear to the divine, if you don’t do anything to help, I will goddam cut you.” Said the elvish woman as she continued her frantic searching. “Calm down my love, we got stitched for information. The guy who dropped the hint is probably far out of town by now.” “Don’t call me love.” She said with a swiftly drawn knife pointed at him. “I will add more scars to that lump of flesh you call a body.” “You need to calm her down Travis, you know how Val’ea gets when she thinks there are magic items around.” The dwarf said as he moved away from the cart. “You wanna be next Gorn?” Her eyes darted between the two of them as the knife danced gently in her hand. “Gorn will you please relive my beautiful partner of her anxiety?” Travis asked as he looked to Gorn. Gorn sighed, he raised his staff and cast a simple spell which seemed to have no effect. “Sorry love, but the fact we aint seeing anything sparkle means this was a stitch up. No hidden magic items here.” Travis said as he smiled to Val’ea. Val’ea’s eyes calmed down and her breathing slowed. She seemed to freeze for a moment before taking a more relaxed stance. “I am sorry, you know how I get when I get the urge. I do hate my ancestry some times.” “I don’t.” Travis said as he grabbed Val’ea around the waist. “You Elves know how to have a good time.” Travis and Val’ea laughed softly before gropping one another and making out in the back of the cart. Gorn looked to his partner as she was looking up at the other two with a face of disgust. “Shae, find anything on the old man?” “Nothing, well unless you include the small pouch of coin he had.” “Does it cover the cost of the tip?” Gorn asked genuinely. Shae counted the coins, juggling the pouch occasionally as she went. “Maybe. I mean like, close enough if you ask me. Plus, now we have a cart filled with seeds, so that is a thing I guess.” “Oi you two, quit it. We been stitched up, what are we going to do now?” Gorn called out as he stood next to Shae. Travis pulled back from Vae’ea and looked around as he licked his lips. “How about we go forest, trade the seeds with the local Cappy, get what we can from them in the way of healing items, then use them and our ability to murder to take whatever they have left?” Everyone looked to one another, then with a short, and sharp laugh they all hopped into the cart and whipped at the donkey that strained to take them off road, and towards the sparse forest on the outskirts of the town. Meanwhile in the deep of the forest the small tribe of Cappies were still sluggish from only just waking up. The forest gave them a fine shelter from the bulk of the sun that tried to get through to them. Instead of the harsh lines, they got soft beams that were controlled by the leaves on the swaying branches of the still trees. The light gave a comforting warmth, while the cool breeze that rolled between the trees stopped them from overheating. The slow river that ran through their forest gave them ample space for growing their food, and some of the ingredients that they need in making their medicinal agents. Those they can’t grow, they find arriving by the animals they have befriended to aid them. Small rodents arrived with nuts, and ground growing fungus, larger animals stripped bark, and pulled flowers from plants that grow much too high for the smaller animals to reach. Through the woods, the sound of a cart echoed softly as a tired donkey followed the windy path that set forth towards the Cappies. The Cappies themselves could hear the coming cart, so they prepared their goods for trade as to not waste the incoming trader’s time. “Good morning!” Travis yelled with a raised arm, and a large smile. “Beautiful day for it isn’t it?” The Cappies smiled, returning the wave and hailing good mornings in response. Travis leapt from the cart as the others started to pull the grain from the cart. A few of the Cappies ran off, while a couple even dove into the water and disappeared up stream. “I hope we didn’t scare them off. I am Travis.” He said as he placed a hand on his chest. “Those behind me are my friends, and we are here to trade some seed.” One of the Cappies walked up to the donkey and started to pet her, despite her anxious mood she appeared calm from sheer exhaustion. One of the Cappies approached Travis and smiled as they looked up at him. “I am Tor Eem, I am what you would call the leader of this little tribe. What kind of seed did you bring for us today? Because we recently had to let go of a large store of seed, and we are looking to replace it.” Travis knelt down to look the Cappy in the eye, while laying a hand on his shoulder. “Listen friend, I will level with you. I don’t actually know what we have in the cart. I just snatched what I could in the markets this morning with the hope that it would be something that you were after. We are in a desperate way for healing tonics and salves. Sadly, the act of hunting monsters in this area has taken a toll on those still at home.” “That is terrible to hear, I am sure we can work something out for you. I mean, that is the least we can do for those who put their lives on the line to kill those that may kill us if given the chance.” Tor Eem walked over to the cart to sink his own fingers in the grain. He closed his eyes, and with a sad heart, and tears falling from his face he placed a blessing on the seeds. Travis looked to the others as they poorly hid the laughter that hid behind their toothy grins. “These are Solet seeds. Very tasty, especially to you humans.” They said gesturing to Travis. “It is quite valuable, and very actually grow it around here. I would say that we have the biggest stores in the area.” “Well maybe not, whoever grew these clearly had quite the patch.” Gorn added as he took the final sac from the cart. “Do you think there might be a trade for these goods?” “No.” There was a long pause as the small party looked around confused. “I am sorry, but what?” Val’ea asked as politely as she could. “Well, the thing is that we know we are the biggest farmers of these seeds in the area, as we are the only farmer of these seeds in this area. Meaning anyone who rolls into your town with a cart full of these seeds came from here.” Tor Eem looked around at the small party with sadness in his eyes. “Please say you did not kill Thomas, we were quite fond of the old man, he had the best vegetables in the area.” The donkey called out and Tor Eem eyes welled up even more. “Yes, we love you too. You were a noble steed for Thomas.” The small group looked to one another confused. “It is quite simple, Thomas only left with this cart not too long ago, he traded with our early morning people who are currently resting. There is no way that he could have made it to town to sell and have the buyers come straight back. Especially with Thomas’ little Emily.” “Hey this is not no Emily, she is our donkey, and she does not have a name.” Shae said as she stepped in front of the donkey. “Give it up, we can speak with animals, there is no mistaking that that is Emily. Even without her speaking to us, we would have known. Thomas had a very rustic look that no one else managed to maintain like he did. Please just leave the cart and goods, and leave our forest.” Tor Eem started to head away from the cart when Shae laid the tip of her spear down into the soil in front of him. “I think we will be taking what medical supplies you have gathered here, then we will take whatever else you have lying around.” Tor Eem walked around the spear head and walked off without a word. Shae looked to the others for confirmation, Gorn stepped forward and grabbed Tor Eem’s arm spinning them around so they could look eye to eye. “Listen here fur ball. We are taking what you have, and there is nothing you can do to stop us. So load the cart or their will be blood.” Tor Eem looked up as a bird called out over the sounds of Gorn’s brutish slurring. “You didn’t even give him the decency of a burial? You have brought much sadness to our tribe this day. Please leave.” Travis spat the hulls of seeds that he had started to chew on. “Oh wow, these are really tasty. We should take a bag for us.” Tor Eem looked back at the group as they stood relaxed behind the tense Gorn. They laughed and joked with one another as Tor Eem watched Travis with angry eyes as he spat hulls from his mouth messily. “Are you listening? Or do I need to teach you a lesson in respect?” Gorn grabbed Tor Eem by the throat and started to squeeze. Tor just stood there as the air in their lungs quickly disappeared. The others watched from behind laughing. “Man these things are …

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Wanna Hear Something Strange?

Two strangers sat outside on cold concrete steps, taking drags from their cigarettes they shivered in the cold. The alley they sat in was barely lit from the orange street lamp that was across the road, and the lights that were supposed to be working above the doors they sat in front of were smashed, despite being surrounded by a metal cage. They sniffed, and yawned, even spat on occasion, but neither one of them looked to one another. They just remained hunched, with one hand out to let them smoke, and the other one buried deep into their jackets. “Do you want to hear something strange?” One said, still looking down at the ground. The other person had a thousand-yard stare, but still managed to reply after a short pause. “No idea, tell me.” “When I was younger, I always saw every success, no matter how big, as the smallest accomplishment, things barely worth mentioning. Even doing things like hikes across my country before leaving school, or publishing a book, making a hit single, selling a patent for an item that is nearly used every day, by every person on this planet. All things I have done, and all before the age of thirty. But looking back at how I saw it, I don’t think I ever thought any of that was impressive, or even worth talking about.” There was a long pause, each one of them taking several puffs before the other replied. “Your right that is strange.” “Hmm.” The two of them still stared at the wet ground, occasionally licking a lip or biting a fingernail. “Did you have big idols growing up?” “Titans, the biggest of their industries.” “Then not that strange that you never appreciated, and probably still don’t appreciate your accomplishments, because unless you are the best at what you do, you will never measure up to your heroes. But even then, if you were to surpass your idols, you would probably find a way to discredit your own success.” “Shit, that is some hard things to hear.” There was another long pause and the second person spoke up. “Do YOU want to hear something strange?” “Sure.” “Despite disagreeing ethically with pretty much every practice the larger companies do, I still buy from them and fuel the machine. I hate them though, not an ounce of my heart wants to support them, or anything that they do, but day after day I consume whatever it is that they are selling. I complain about wealth distribution, yet I fuel it.” “Na, that is not strange. It sounds strange in theory, but we are given very little option to fight against the mega corporations, because they own so much at this point. You decide to stop supporting one of the entertainment ones and you cut out a good chunk of movies, books, games, both digital, and physical, and even some facilities around the city. Even worse, if you decide not to support a food company, you essentially reduce buyable products to a sliver of the already narrow variety that is supplied to supermarkets. You have to pick and choose your fights, I don’t think you can all or nothing without killing yourself, or completely crushing the economy.” The second person hissed as they inhaled heavily through his broken teeth. “I don’t eat animals, but that is less of an ethical thing, and more of a financial thing at this point, which just feels strange that my morals are second place to how much I value money.” The first person laughed sharp, and loud. “That is not strange in the least. Money is the be all, end all of society. It is akin to life itself, without money in hand you will have no food in mouth, or shelter overhead. There was a time in history where stopping our way of living was possible, but this planet is more machine than planet now, there is no way to be self sufficient anymore. It is strange, but despite farming being so hard we historically forced other humans to do it under slave law, it honestly sounds like a holiday to me right now. Getting out of this rat race, back to our roots.” “I think the real strange thing is the fact that farming has become a luxury activity in our society, not that people crave it. Humans want to do what connects us to the planet, and I think we have industrialised so much that we have forgotten how to just be in nature. The only way we can seek value through it is through function, or financial return.” “I hear on the luxury space stations there are whole floors dedicated to grass fields and forests, and since there are so few up there, they have metres of space between each other where they can just lay down, fall asleep under the filtered rays of the sun as it passes through their UV glass that removes the cancerous effects, and the abilities for the light to burn.”  “What is your name?” the first person asked. “Carol. And you?” “Tiffany.” “It is nice to meet you, Tiffany.” “Likewise, Carol.” The two of them slowly finished their cigarettes and flicked the remainders of them to the ground. “So, did you really do all those things that you said you did?” Carol asked Tiffany. “Yeah, all of them, and more, but that’s all, whatever.” “You got cash then?” “I do, I have more than I know what to do with.” Tiffany stuck their hand in their coat and slowly pulled out a wallet, seeing her hand move in such a way Carol had rested one of her hands on the small pistol she had on her hip. Tiffany pulled out an enormous stack of cash and handed it towards Carol. Carol looked at the money, but hesitated to take it. “Now the strangest thing is the fact I am handing you more than what you make in a month, and you don’t want to take it. What are you afraid of?” “Nothing is free, life is not that easy.” “Well sometimes it is, just take it, this shit is heavy, my arm won’t stay out forever.”  Carol reluctantly took the money and stowed it in her jacket. “You can relax, I am not one of those crazy rich people, I am more on the suicidal depressive end of the rich weirdo scale, never been into that desire to be immortal nonsense, seems like too much effort.” “Isn’t that what all the rich want to do, obtain eternal life to hoard more wealth, and try to be the one with the biggest stash?” “Yeah, mostly, but there are a few of us that just want to lay down and sleep. Forever.” “Then why don’t you?” “Well the strange thing there is I have access to a dozen ways of ending my life with no pain, but I am scared. My life is bad because I have excess, not because I don’t have enough, so the idea of having nothing, or even needing nothing is terrifying to me, and as a dead person, I would be both of those things.” Tiffany said as she pulled another cigarette from the pack. “But then again, this is like the slow killer, she’ll get me some day. Carol laughed quietly the air coming from her mouth was as visible as the smoke from her cigarette. “What are you laughing at, was it the slow killer remark?” Carol shook her head. “No… Well at first it was, but the real reason I kept on laughing was this situation. I am broke as shit and wanting to die, you are rich as shit and wanting to die. So, why the fuck do we continue with this system of finances? It clearly isn’t benefiting anyone.” Tiffany joined in laughing, licking her lip she bit some loose skin from it. “Fuck.” She said looking down at her watch. “I am really sorry you have to see this, here, take this.” Tiffany handed over an envelope filled with cash. Carol’s eyes lit up as she flicked through the notes. “But why?” “Because you are about to witness my death… Sometime in the next five minutes I am going to be shot to death, so don’t worry about it. Actually, take this other envelope, if you can pass this second one on to the person who kills me, I would appreciate it. I was going to use that money as a bonus for the killer, but you can have half, it only seems fair.” “You hired your own hitman?” “Yeah, pretty strange ae?” “I mean, honestly. If I had the money for it, I might. It ensures you are going to die, but you are not the one responsible, that is actually really nice sounding.” “Yeah, I am a little nervous though, not that it matters, the cogs are in motion.” Tiffany started to cry, her lip shaking as her knee bounced. Carol leant over and held her hand. “You don’t need to want for anything, because nothing will be enough. Soon you will be free.” Carol said as a round went straight through Tiffany’s head, killing her instantly, the assassin went to walk away when Carol called out. “Hey, she wanted you to have this.” Carol said, raising the envelope above her head. The assassin walked over and took the envelope cautiously. They looked inside, then back to Carol who was staring at Tiffany’s still body. “You know you could have just walked? She never mentioned a pay out.” “But then how would I offer you this?” Carol raised the other envelope above her head while she was still staring at Tiffany. “She looks so peaceful, her facial muscles are actually relaxed. I said she was going to be set free to calm her nerves, but I think I believe it, I want to be free, I want to be that relaxed.” The assassin took the money and aimed their gun at Carol. “Are you sure?” “Do you want to hear something strange?” Carol asked, turning to the assassin. The assassin nearly flinched as they saw Carol’s face. “I can’t stop smiling.” There was a short pause, then the assassin pulled the trigger. There was little sound, and then the assassin was gone, and the two women were left wanting nothing.

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A Simple Man

Not so long ago I meet a simple man, his name was Kieran. He wasn’t too tall, or too short. He had a decent tuft of hair on his head. It was a pleasant brown, with flecks of blonde stripped through it. He had worn hands, with pressed fingers that only a retired tradesmen would acquire, but he was too young to have the experience that his hands seemed to bare. His hands, along with the rest of his body seemed to have worn skin, cuts and bruises covering him, and a deeper layer of scars that added to his appearance. Despite his worn exterior he had a loving expression across his face, welcoming even. He smiled often, but never in excess, and his eyes looked upon the world with a kindness that can only be obtained from sadness. Everywhere I saw I him he always seemed to be on the move, plenty of people stopped to chat with him, like he knew every tenth person that passed by, but the excuse was always that he was busy, and that he had to keep moving. I followed the man off and on through my work, but there would always be a moment where I would fall behind him by just too much. Sometimes a dog barking at me aggressively, or even a crowd of people occupying the footpath, even crashes happening behind him while I was tailing him with my car, then by the time I get through the obstructions, he would be gone. It was kind of surreal, because I could swear just moments before each event that he had seen me out of the corner of his eye, and it was like he was the one causing these blockades to escape me, which, obviously, is just ridiculous. While there is still a small collective of those who have psychic abilities, none of them have the control needed to persuade the world to work for them like this, and yet it is the only explanation that I have, which leads me to believe that there are many more things in this universe that I am yet to see, to understand would be better to day, because this man is clearly the more that I am wanting to see, I am just wanting to understand. There were many weeks of following that man, many instances of strange instances that ended up stopping me from reaching him. It actually became a fun game by the end, I spent my time wondering how long it would be until he saw me, and how long after that till I would not be able to reach him. Until one strange day, as in stranger than usual, I found myself staring down the man, he was sitting in my living room as I came down from my room. It was like he was waiting for an appointment, like a dentist or, you know, just something. I wandered down the stairs trying to hold myself together, I wasn’t even sure what emotions I was hiding from him, because I didn’t even know what I was feeling. There was a sense of relief that I had actually found the man I was actually looking for, or at least, he had found me. Then, I was shocked that this elusive man was right where I wanted him, and that concerned me that he had not only found me, but he found me in my home. He was calm, and that terrified me. He wasn’t even staring at me, he was looking around the room as if he was impatiently waiting. In fact, I think that might have actually been the case. I sat down opposite him and waited for him to speak, but he just didn’t, he just stared for probably like an hour, I mean in reality it was probably about ten minutes, but it felt so much longer, I had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t what happened next. He stood up, tipped his hat, which I don’t remember seeing before, and he said just one thing to me. “Come with me, I’ll show you what you want.” Truth be told, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was intrigued more than anything, so I followed, but it was almost like travelling in a dream, every time we turned a corner, we would be somewhere else, and it wasn’t until after the fact that I realised we probably crossed the city in about ten minutes, and we were just walking. Then all of a sudden, I am not sure when, but we were on one of the space stations, and not one of the trashy ones, like the luxury ones with full gardens, and the quiet spaces for meditation, you can’t hear a single noise, no busy streets, no factories, none of those nasty space stations where all you can hear is the roar of the machines that are under the floors. It was absolute bliss. But it was odd, there was virtually no one around, I had head that the nice stations were only for the elite, but even so, I couldn’t believe how few people there was, I aint ever been anywhere where I wasn’t bumping into someone every few seconds, and in that place I would be hard pressed to run between people. It, it was nice, I didn’t feel alone, not quite, but I felt left alone, if that makes any sense. It’s funny actually, but I began to cry it was so overwhelmingly peaceful, I honestly thought I had died for a good chunk of my time up there, because there was no way that how I was feeling was meant for the living, kind of a sad reality that is, but I guess that is life, and now that we are no longer up there, it is back to being my reality. Well I guess ours, all of ours, everyone here knows. Oh actually, I guess they don’t know, because not even I knew what I didn’t have until I had it, and lost it again. Regardless, I have side tracked a little too much, where was I? Oh right, so we arrived on this gorgeous station, and without missing a beat the guy kept walking as if nothing around him was impressive, which I can’t imagine. There is no way that place ever becomes normal. But eventually he stopped, he had to, because we reached a wall, an absolute dead end, and believe me when I say that I was excited for the idea of watching a door appear out of nowhere, so we could walk into a mysterious room full of people that were hushed names in the community. But no, he just turned face and started talking to me. “I am very tired of all this cat and mouse, why are you following me?” I was thrown back by the question, because well, I didn’t even know. I had been hired to follow him and report back on where he had gone, but honestly, I had no idea why my client was getting me to follow them so I replied. “I have been hired to follow you, nothing else.” “By whom?” His voice in that question was odd, it was obvious that he wasn’t happy with the answer, but the way his voice rumbled as he asked, it was unnatural, almost like several voices coming out, but despite the fact I was terrified I replied. “A key smith, he never gave me a name, but I recognised a toolbelt he had. Was clearly an electronic key smith, one of the ones that works on high grade seals for ships, or like weapons crates.” It was at this point that I get a chill down my spine, he looked through me, like he was staring straight into my brain for answers, and after a short while he muttered a name under his breath. “Avim Tre.” It is a name I am familiar with, but not acquainted with, despite my desire to be. The annoying thing about it, was that by the time I had heard what he had said, we were back in the busy streets of Bellude. It was chaos, so much noise, it took some getting use to again, the man patiently waited for me to deal with everything before he spoke. “I have been patient so far, and will continue to be for the duration of this conversation, but please understand this. If you ever follow me again, you will find that I am far more violent than I am elusive.” His voice rumbled like it did last time, and still it instilled the same amount of fear as it did the first time. I just stared blankly, and yet, he wandered out without needing a response. I had seen enough to know that I did not want to be messing with that man again, although I was going to miss the money that I was being supplied by Avim, if that was who was paying me, I hope so, that guy is a legend in many circles. I am so sorry I have just rambled on and on, what was your original question? The Private investigator looked around the room that he forgot that he was sitting in, it was darker than he remembered, and the person he was speaking to was sitting in a far corner and smoking a cigarette, the low burn from it giving minimal light to the mans face. “Actually, what was your name sir, I don’t seem to remember.” The man in the corner of the room smiled softly. “My name is not important, and neither is the question I asked, you gave me plenty of information already.” The private investigator looked around his room as he began to shiver. “My it is cold.” He said with steam coming off his breath. The room was filled with darkness, the walls were not fabricated, but natural looking. “Are, are we in a, a cave?” He stuttered out as his body started to finally feel the true intensity of the cold. “We are indeed, I am so glad you were able to spend this time with me. It has been most valuable. But it is time that you wake up to the universe, and what it hides.” The mysterious man blew out a thick stream of smoke that did not seem to end, it continued to blow out and fill the room until the Private investigator could no longer see, or breath. He awoke in his bed with sore lungs and a headache that consumed his thoughts. It took him a long time before the lights weren’t too bright for him to look at, or his body being strong enough to move again. He sat up eventually and shook his head, rubbing his temples as hard as he could, trying desperately to push out the last of the headache. Once he could move, he pushed himself to the sink where he drank until his stomach started to swell, and the urge to vomit kicked in. “My head, what happened?” He muttered to himself as he held back the urge to vomit. He looked around his apartment and everything seemed to be fine, nothing had been disturbed, and his air-conditioning had been set to his favourite temperature. “I, who was that man, how did I meet him?” He asked himself as he chewed the edge of one of his finger nails. Slowly he moved his way through his belongings, checking emails, and filtering through all the paper he had laying around. He threw everything down in frustration and slammed his fist into the wall to try and release his built up emotions. “How was I so calm through both of those situations? What, why, why was I so calm? It must be the psychics, but what do they want to do with that Kieran guy, and was does Avim …

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Faith Meets Worship

A small fire crackled into the cold air, flickers of embers cooled to a soft ash that floated away on the upwards draft. Around the small fire two friends sat with a drink in hand, and a joint resting in the corner of one of their mouths as the other searched through the bag for a lighter. “I can’t see it.” They said as they started to dive through other pockets. “Are you sure you packed it into this bag?” They kept their head down in the bag, but when they got no reply they called out again. “Mike? Which pocket?” They turned around to see Mike lighting the joint with a stick which they had pulled from the fire. Mike puffed the joint alive and grinned. “We are in nature Jules.” He muttered as he took the joint from his mouth. “And nature always finds a way.” “Fuck off.” Jules said as she took the joint from Mike. “That and it turns out the lighter was in my pocket.” He said as he pulled the small green lighter out, waving it around with a smile. Jules rolled their eyes as they took a deep breath, blowing smoke straight up she looked to Mike, “So now that we are out here, what are we going to do? Or was this trip more of just a change of scenery for the same old shit?” “Change of scenery, really. I was tired of staring at the same grey blocks whenever we did this shit. Isn’t it nice to be around this much green?” “I mean, sure. But I gotta be honest, since it has turned night, I can’t really see much. All looks brown-y-ish. That and the obvious red and orange from the fire.” Mike smiled and raised an eyebrow as he took back the joint, taking a long drag he held it in as he spoke, handing it back over at the same time. His voice was strained as he kept the smoke in while he spoke. “That is already like eight more colours than we get in the city.” “I only said like, at most, four colours.” Mike exhaled heavily with a chuckle. “Eight, four, same thing really.” “I feel like that defeats the purpose of numbers having two separate ones that are just, synonymous.” Jules said back with a smile. “I am sorry but who is the engineer here?” Jules looked around baffled. With great exaggeration she gestured to the woods around them. “Well unless there is some third person around here, stalking from the woods, no one. Unless you’ve been hiding a good five years of your life from me. Because I sure as shit don’t have an engineering degree.” “Okay that is a fair point.” Mike sat up. “But do you want to hear a story from my job?” “Oh god, I really don’t know how I feel about your job right now. If you had gotten it like five years ago, I would have called you crazy, but now, now I am lowkey thinking you might be the most sane person for taking it.” “God no, there is a reason I am not sober at home, I have seen some fucked up shit. But it is also how I got the weed for tonight, one of my workmates is a literal hydroponics doctor or some shit, all the plant crap, grows the most potent shit.” Jules nodded with agreement, “On that note, lets put a pause on this.” She said as she put the joint out on the log next to her. “And tell me about your work story Mr ghost hunter.” “Oh that title has changed, due to the amount of just downright oddities that happen we have re-branded as abnormality investigators, or A.I for short.” Jules mimed jerking someone off. “What a wanker, I bet you have some kind of suit you wear to work too.” “God no, Kit is a great boss. They don’t give a fuck about any of that. But also, you may laugh, but since we changed our title, work has gone up like three-fold. So must work for some people.” “Whatever, tell me your story ghost boy.” Mike rolled his eyes before getting comfortable. “Again, don’t repeat any…” “Anything I say, this is actually something I can get in trouble for, blah blah blah. Yeah I get it.” “All right, chill. I just need to say that, so you can’t say I didn’t.” “I agree to all terms and wish to continue, and yes I am over 18.” Jules joked as she slumped down against her log. “Sweet, so the other day I went to work, and everything was normal, or at least as normal as my job gets, and before I could even put down my helmet, Kit’s office opened up and Charlie came out in a full stride. He pointed to me and was like. ‘You, let’s go. We are going out.’ “That is the worst Charlie voice I have heard you do. You need to step up your story game.” Mike sat up straight and began to annunciate clearly. “You, let’s go. We are going out.” “Worse, but please continue.” Mike’s chest deflated a little, and his hunch returned. “Whatever.” He said back with a smile. “So, he grabbed me, and we left. And I was fucking nervous, because Charlie is the guy that deals with all the hectic shit, like man is scarred, physically and mentally. Which now that I think about it, makes him your type.” “Boring, we have done this joke too many times. Carry on UN-funny man.” “But yeah, we are going out, and he is driving very fast. Which is hilarious, because he knows where all of the speed cameras are, so he will be hooning his way around the city, then suddenly slam his brakes on and slow right down for like twenty seconds, then zip off again. But then after all the crazy driving he slow drives for the last five minutes of the drive, like not back down to the limit, but actually like ten under. It was bizarre, and when I asked him about it, he just rolled his eyes and acted like what he was doing was normal.” “Okay so one of my favourite things about your job is that the people that are in it are weird as shit. No wonder they know where all the weird shit is going to happen, they are probably drawn to it.” “Well funny you should say that.” Mike replied, pointing a finger at Jules. “Everyone that works there is really normal, slightly introverted, and mildly socially anxious like most adults these days. But Charlie, Kit and Alex are all bizarre.” “Trust a trio of weirdos to start a ghost hunting company.” “Yeah, I don’t really see Alex or Kit, but Charlie is in and out all day. I swear to god that guy does not sleep. Like I have seen him start a job on Monday, then finish it late Tuesday, and immediately go onto another, like I have no idea where he gets the energy from.” “Coffee, energy drinks, cocaine, meth?” Jules listed off in quick succession. “I would usually agree, but I have never seen that guy drink anything other than tap water.” “Ew gross. Where does he get his tooth decay and sugar fix from?” “Oh the guy inhales candy haha.” Mike frowned a little as his eyes darted around a little. “Actually I don’t think I have seen him with his candy bag recently.” Mike stared off into the distance before shrugging away his efforts to remember. “Shake it up, I wanna know where you guys went.” Jules said as she leant in a little. “Um, yeah.” Mike struggled to rack his brain, snapping his finger he started to talk again. “Yes, so zoom zoom driving, then like really slow driving and I am weird for asking why. Then finally we pull over, and we are sat outside a church that was currently in session. Doors all closed, and the sound of people singing coming from inside. Charlie cracked his neck and took a couple of deep breaths before telling me to get out of the car. Which I would like to say made me fucking terrified that he was psyching himself up, but we both got out and I asked what was up, all he said back was that he was certain that in that church there was going to be an incident. So we both walked inside, his face changed from that permanent scowl to a soft expression. He literally had to stretch his face out to achieve it.” “Really? Wait is this just the shit the popped up the other day about he stabbing in the church?” “Yeah, but this was way more than just a stabbing, it is so much more complicated, and much longer than what was posted on the news.” “Alright, I am interested. I will allow you to continue through the boring parts I know. Just to get your flair.” “Essentially, we rocked up and, and Charlie was being very suspicious, he was looking around heavily, almost like he was looking for a pet or something. But after a minute of looking around he just stood up like nothing was wrong and looked back to me with a smile and told me to hurry up in a friendly tone, like we had just rocked up to a party and he was excited to go in. Never the less we head in and we are respectful, we apologise entering late, we are quiet, and we take a seat at the back of the church. Up the front was the preacher, the one that was stabbed.” Mike shuffled in his seat, he grabbed the joint and started to light it again. “Now, what do you know about the preacher? I don’t want to have to go over any more details than I need to about this guy.” Jules turned their vision upwards, their eyes naturally locked into position as their mind tried to recall through the haze of the weed cloud in their mind. “Not much, I literally don’t even know his name. But just the generic crap, preacher, started the whatserface church, lots of weird money donations, dude now has a big house and a luxury car. All that, and he has a model looking wife who seems a little simple in the head, and a couple of children that are like still small enough that they still can do adorable singing and make him look wholesome.” “Sweet, that is perfect. I definitely wont be passing this on to you though.” Mike said holding the joint up. “ Because there weas so much delay between you opening your mouth and speaking that I ma concerned you wont be able to understand me at all.” Jules laughed, a little too loud and shyly recoiled. “Alright you might have a point there, the shit you get from work is other-worldly. I have no idea how you handle it, I am on like two puffs.: “Honestly, I did worse than you when I first got this strain, actually messed me up so hard after one toke.” “Pft, lightweight.” Jules said jokingly. Mike laughed at them and raised their eyebrows rapidly as they took a heavy inhale. “Alright. More story. So dumb money-grubbing preacher is standing at the front of the church. This church was nice too. Like no shit, speakers from floor to ceiling, the long seat-y things with the most comfortable cushions you ever experienced. Total fucking luxury, and there we are sitting in the back row, sitting patiently. I leant over to Charlie and asked him what we are doing. He spoke really quiet, but pretty much from what I heard, we were waiting on someone to reveal themselves, because apparently the fucking weird machine that Kit has been working on actually works, sort of.” “Wait hold up, what …

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Rebirth

Anodyne stepped slowly through the halls, his stride confident, and calm. As he marched his pace quickened until he was taking heavy strides, his chin was raised, and his eyes stared forward as if he were a hungry predator eyeing his prey. He ran a hand over his head, he could hear the hairs scraping against the metal of his rings. His tongue ran across the front of his teeth, enjoying the smooth sensation as his lip rose and dropped like a wave over the action. At the end of the hallway was a door, light was beaming through the cracks around the edges, and was picked up by the fine spread of smoke that was slowly filling the air around him. He grasped the handle to the door and pulled it towards him, the light flooded in and consumed him as he screamed out in pain. Suddenly his eyes opened and his body lurched forward from its prone position. He sat with soot and muck covering him, his ears were ringing so loud he didn’t notice himself tensing his jaw so tight that his teeth were groaning under the pressure. His vision was pure white, slowly fading to reality as his ear did the same, letting the world slowly bleed in. His vision returned moments before his hearing did. He looked around at deities running for their lives as strange geometric humanoids descended from above, grappling and consuming them into their bulbous bodies before launching themselves back into the sky, and far from the planet. Anodyne could feel the familiar warm trickle of blood escaping his ears and dribbling down his neck. Spitting blood, he watched the chaos that flowed around him until Vure ran up to Anodyne, their mask half destroyed, and their body weak. “We need to leave.” They said as they grabbed Anodyne by the cuffs of his jacket. “They are taking everyone.” Anodyne scoffed, rolling his tongue of his teeth once again he tasted iron, and felt the slick of stained teeth. “Just portal away, why are you panicking?” Vure shook their head with their eyes closed, they swallowed hard and looked back to Anodyne. “None of our powers work, we are pretty much mortals, these things have been picking us off, we need to get underground!” Vure watched as Anodyne’s composure started to falter, his eyes started to dart around as he saw his fellow deities being lanced, crushed, grabbed, and ultimately imprisoned in the bellies of the strange beasts that were descending upon them. The air rang with the sound of a siren, Vure and Anodyne looked up to see where it was coming from. A large sphere floating above the carnage emitted a transmission that could be heard planet wide. ‘Behold, you have been chosen, you will experience rebirth, in the light of Ompti, and the first Verse, you are being blessed. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.’ “Fuck that, we move, find a way down, and hide.” Anodyne called out as he started to run. He stumbled like a new born animal learning to run for the first time, his legs felt weak beneath his weight, and his knees felt as if they had no ability to remain steady against his locomotion. He could feel sweat forcing its way from his pours, dousing his face with the salty liquid, his lungs burnt like fire, with each breath his lungs were the bellows, and his throat the furnace that was being fuelled. His head started to spin, and his vision multiplied, the ground appearing to shift beneath his feet he dropped to his knees before sliding to his side. Breathing heavily, he lazily vomited as his head came crashing down into the dry soil. He could feel his body in a way that he had not experienced since he was mortal. He did not know if Vure was behind him, or been taken, and his body was too weak for him to roll over to look. He breathed, and spluttered the bile out of his mouth, spitting when he could, waiting for his body to lift from the ground, and to be consumed by whatever it was that had decided to attack him, and all of those on the planet they stood on. He closed his eyes and tried his hardest to focus on controlling his breathing, but found that between the fire in his chest, and the vomit sliding back down his throat, there was little ability to focus. He soon found his body was being lifted by what he assumed was one of the creatures that were flying above. He felt cold as his body was forced into the belly of the creature, the same voice that was blaring from the sphere spoke softly to him as he was slowly consumed. “Your soul is to go through re-birth, it will be beautiful, you will be better than you have ever been before, we will make you as you are meant to be, calm, caring, and ready to share your love with the Eternaverse. Welcome to your new hom…” Their voice was muffled as Anodyne’s head was consumed into the stomach, his vision strained, and soon his eyes were held closed, and he was left in a cold, muted, darkness. Once the creatures had claimed their targets they flew from the planet, leaving the atmosphere to return to an enormous elongated sphere, where small panels would lift open to all the creatures to return, and once they had all returned it shimmered, then disappeared. The creatures were all let loose again on the other side, an unknown planet, in an unknown universe. They all spent their days living as they normally would on their world, those of them that returned with the deities in their stomachs were revered as highest of their society, precious, and special. They received any and all special treatments that their race could offer them. They all looked at their stomachs with care, and love, as if the deities were their own children, watching as their forms melted down to their raw soul energy before returning to a solid form to be birthed. There was one though that looked down each day with concern in their eyes. They were approached by others with similar concern as they examined their deity through their translucent stomach. “Why do you think it is still mostly whole?” “I don’t know, all the others have already started to re-grow, most are nearly done. Maybe this one is defective?” “Don’t talk about mine like that, it does not need your negativity in its life. It is trying, I am trying.” The creature looked down at the partially dissolved Anodyne with concern. “I am doing my best for them.” They said with doubt in their voice. The others looked at the carrier then one another. “I am not defective, it was my time. I was chosen by those, this is my one to care for, I was chosen.” The carrier was ignored as the others walked away. “Blessings I guess don’t always chose those who are ready for them.” One muttered just loud enough for the carrier to hear, as they walked away. The carrier was shunned as all the others started to spread word that they were incapable of fulfilling their task. They became an outcast that the other carriers avoided in case their inability would spread to the deities they were holding. Wandering the outskirts of their society they watched as the crowds gathered for the birthing ceremony, and they compared the bare dissolved Anodyne in their stomach with the newly formed bodies of those they could see with a look sorrow. “I am sorry little one, I was not good enough for you. I was sent to make you better, but all I have done is caused you pain. I came with a promise that I would make you better, and all I have done is killed you, and myself.” They sighed resting on the ground they looked over to the start of the ceremony with longing. In the centre of the gathering the carriers were all gathered, spread evenly apart they all slowly went through the process of birthing their deities. One by one they all emerged, all of which were changed in form from when they went in, naked and doughy eyed they looked at the world with wonder and appreciation. There were cheers from the crowds as they all emerged, the carriers all took the time to look down at their new born, and ask. “How do you feel?” While all had their own way of saying it, they all answered in kind. “I feel free, I feel healthy, I want to go out and spread the joy I have with others, let others know that it is safe to care.” Then there were gasps as one deity re-emerged in the same form as they went in, from the gap in their torso, to the clothes on their body, to the mask on their face. Vure stood among the gasps and mutterings. “How do you feel?” Vure’s carrier asked. “I feel the same, I mean, I want to do what those ones want, but I have wanted to, and have done it for a while.” The creatures gasped at Vures words, and their carrier embraced them lovingly. “You were perfect before you were plucked, you are the perfect child.” Vure stood as a pin, looking around as if answers were going to provide themselves. “Okay, not that I don’t love this, but I was taken with someone, do you have any idea where he might be?” “I am sorry child, but all other children were made a new, you are the only one that remained the same, because you are perfect.” The carrier said as they caressed Vure’s cheek. “I, I, I don’t understand, I just didn’t think that was possible for him.” “It is marvellous that you were capable of being friends with one of these other filth, you must have a patient heart.” “Not all are evil all the way through, it is just strange to think that he is gone.” “Not gone, made better. Unless of course, no, never mind, it is not possible.” “No, what is it?” Vure inquired. “Well, we have one rotten egg, they refused to be born again, they are still in the process of dissolving, something that has never happened before. We believe that the carrier may be to blame for some of this failure.” Vure groaned and rolled their eyes. “Take me to them, that will be my Anodyne.” The creatures all looked to one another with surprise. “Are you sure child? I couldn’t imagine even you have the patience for that much sin.” “Take me to him.” The carrier pointed out of the crowd, they parted as Vure looked out to where Anodyne resided in their carrier. Anodyne’s carrier was limping back towards the crowd, crying out in a way that stopped the celebrations. “It burns, my child burns me, help me, save me!” Anodyne’s carrier cried out. The creatures all rushed to help as they noticed the fluids in the carrier were boiling inside them. Vure watched, noticing that even though his eyelids were dissolved, he was staring, with a hate that Vure had not seen in a long time. The creatures all panicked, and the carrier screamed until suddenly Anodyne burst from the creature. Their stomach exploding outwards with a scolding bile. Chunks of Anodyne fell from his body, but slowly regenerated as he stood, his torso folded over as he regained his strength. A vapour rose from his heated body, appearing to lift him back to his stature. He cracked his neck and looked around the crowds. Everyone was stunned, except Vure who stood with their arms crossed, and their expression hid behind their mask. Anodyne’s eyelids were the last to regenerate, both making their stare less, and more aggressive. “No one changes me, but me, and only …

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Always

A small roaming planet wildly bounced around the void between universes. The planet was mostly barren, except for small towns that cropped up across the charred, broken, and scarred surface. Flashes of light dotted the surface as those with the abilities to teleported to the planet, through science, and magic they seek refuge, buying themselves shelter from whatever storm they are running from with whatever they brought with them as a bartering option. Those who frequent would be fortunate enough to pick up some of the planets currency, others, have to bring a haul for a night of safety, and everything it entails; and it entails a lot. Down on the surface wounded soldiers teleported with fringe science machines, sorcerer’s open portals, and then there are those lost and confused, brought to the planet through happenstance, or even a misguided attempt at something else. Outside a fighting pit a small group of three sat alone, an arena filled with blood sat before them as the cleaners came through to hose down the walls. “The fights here are pretty brutal, you would never get that kind of thing back on Earth.” Said a spry man with scars across his fists and elbows. “Don’t worry you are not alone, back on Bellude there are some nasty fights, but very few get this bad. Human bodies only go so far. The man said in-between mouthfuls of food. “Really?” The third man ask. “On Dolor there are plenty of fights like this, not all of them human, but the humans fight harder than any other on that rock,” he said with pride, standing with a fist on his chest, “As some of the weakest on that planet we make our mark, and we fight the hardest that we can.” “Shut it Dolor, your planet is covered with monsters, there is no wonder your humans have evolved stronger.” “Oh, so we are just genetically better are we?” Dolor responded, “Yeah, I ain’t seen your shitty dirt tribes, but I bet your planet is bigger too.” Bellude grabbed Dolor’s forearm and squeezed. “Feel this nonsense Earth, this bone feels twice as thick as it should be.” Dolor jerked his hand from Bellude’s grip. “If you want to prove a point, settle it in the arena. In the arena, not in the grandstands, space boi. I thought advanced societies were supposed to augment people and make them stronger.” “Those people are disgusting, thankfully only very few fringe groups do that on Bellude, or at least few I know about.” Dolor looked over the Earth human as he sipped from his cup looking at an old man slowly scrawling on the nearby chalkboard. “What you looking for Earth, another bet?” “Shush.” “By the gods your lot are disgusting when it comes to gambling, like we definitely have it, but you lot have agreed that is unparalleled.” “What is Hollow?” “I don’t know, lots of things. “ Bellude answered. “No, you idiot, it is a universe on the board. Hollow, they have a star next to their universe, why is that?” Dolor and Bellude looked to one another knowingly. “So,” Bellude started, getting Earth’s attention, “The star means it is a universe with a high win rate. Hollow however is new to me, have you heard of them Dolor?” “Can’t say that I have. But if they have a star they are worth the bet.” “Not at those odds thanks, I would need to bet millions to make any money back. For every hundred dollars I drop I get ten cents back on a win. There is no way that this Hollow person is a person, it must be a monster.” “Human only town Earth, they are strict on those rules, for others, and our own protection. Saves on clean up if you keep is segregated by species.” Bellude informed Earth as they finished their meal and dropped the wrapping to the floor. “So do we wait for that fight?” Dolor asked. “I have never seen a star fight before, and considering the financial odds, with the fact that his opponents are three of my kind, this should be very interesting.” Dolor said as he looked to the others with eagerness in his eyes. “I feel like that look answers that, I am going to get more food, I will be back.” Bellude left the stand to get food as the other two waited. “So are you going to bet on Hollow?” “I mean, have you seen the return for betting against him?” Earth sad, practically salivating. “Calm down, there is no way those three win.” “Three vs one Dolor, how can they lose? Surely this is some kind of money sink scam.” “You need to look more carefully.” Dolor leant over Earth and started to point at points on the board. “He is a new fighter, with no previous experience in the arena, and the fact he is starred, that means there has been enough Hollow humans come through here that this is how they rank them.” “But…” “But nothing Earth, whatever the humans on Hollow have to deal with must be insane, because the arena makes fights as even as possible, so if this is as even as they could make it, that means Hollow fighters are nasty.” “Holy shit guys, you won’t believe what I got told at the bar.” Bellude said as he sat behind his friends. “What?” The other two asked. “So turns out this Hollow place is a nasty place, like proper covered in monsters, although they call them nightmares.” “Told you they must deal with it big shit if they fight good.” “No, that is not the important part, you seen the physical stats of the fighters?” “Yeah I thought that was weird, the Hollow fighter is like child sized compared to the others.” Earth said as he weighed up his options for his bet. “Yeah looks like a child, or…” Bellude paused with his hands gesturing at Dolor and Earth. “A child or… what? Just tell us.” Earth said. “Oh damn, no that is outrageous, there is no way, what is the fighters name?” Dolor interjected. Bellude snapped his fingers at Dolor and started cheering. “I know right, it is insane.” “I am sorry I still don’t understand.” Earth said puzzled. “Read the fighters names Earth you dumb fuck.” Dolor groaned. “What is so important about names?” Earth muttered back as they looked back to the board. “Let us see, we have, on the triple threat Dolor side. Ven’dar, Alide, and Faver. Then on Hollow’s side we have Eva. What is your point?” “My point, is that those are all male names from Dolor, I don’t know about you, but that looks awfully like a woman’s name to me.” Dolor said as he turned to Bellude to continue the conversation. Earth ran off to the betting booth as others were starting to filter in. Upon returning the stands had come alive with the buzz of Hollow being whispered to one another as punters looked at the board confused, consulting with one another. “So who did you bet for?” Bellude asked as Earth sat down next to him. “Not saying, bad luck to let others know.” “Oh gods, that is so stupid. I hope you lose.” “Hey, hey, hey, I don’t ruin your fun, don’t ruin mine.” “We are not ruining fun, this is an addiction you idiot.” Bellude added, snacking on his food. “Well this should be a fight to remember at the very least, I have not seen this place this full in a long time.” Dolor said looking around. “People are literally standing in the walkways, this is insane.” “Now everybody, the fight is going to begin, we have three strong men from Dolor, a multiracial planet with the use of fictional science and primary weapon of choice is sword and shield.” The intercom came through loud and clear, quieting the crowds down as the three fighters entered the arena, raising their arms for a cheer. Dolor sat back in his chair looking annoyed. “Oh, here we go again.” Bellude groaned. “Why can’t they just say magic, we use magic, is that really that hard? This pc language is absolute trash.” “Shut it, who cares what they call it.” “You shut it, your science is just science, no demeaning titles. It is dumb.” “Can’t be that pc if it is offending you then is it.” “Alright star head, listen here.” “Both of you shut up, I need to concentrate.” Earth interrupted the other two as he held his paper in-between both his hands as a prayer. Dolor and Bellude rolled their eyes, but quieted down for Earth. “Then on this side, we have the rare pleasure of a human from Hollow, and before anyone asks we put all our fighters through the same tests, according to our machines, this is a fair fight. But we will see wont we?” As the gates for the Hollow contestant started to rise she crawled under on her stomach and started to sprint straight at the three opponents she was facing. There was an uproar as the three men got ready. The cheers quickly faded as people watched the fight progress. The cracking of bones was nearly drowned out by the screams of the men as they were each bloodied. Not wanting people to die the refs interfered, shooting electrical charges at the Hollow woman her body tensed and she continued to maim her victims until she was hooked by three separate electrical charges. Dolor sat with his jaw ajar, Bellude’s face went pale as his last bite of food was pushed out of his mouth with a gag. Earth very carefully took a side of his betting slip with each hand and ripped it in half. “She is smiling, she is smiling with what looks to be one of her arm bones sticking through her flesh.” Earth said with a gag at the back of his throat. “Come on, give me more. I’ll kill anyone who thinks they can fight me. These are not real men, these are lambs, lambs ready for the slaughter. I will bring the wrath of Anodyne here and bring you all back for trade. Nothing but cattle…” “Damn, what kind of fucked up planet is that?” Earth said, with a quiver in his lip. The ground started to shake and a large portal opened behind Eva, Anodyne stepped forward and grinned, behind him the Conductor stepped into view as the entire arena started to scream and run. “God, clear out!” Those who could portaled out of the arena, and sirens started to sound, Eva was let loose as those holding her binds warped from the planet. The whole planet was vacant in minutes, those who hadn’t found a way off world were carted back to Hollow, chained by Anodyne, and lead by Eva, leaving Anodyne and the conductor standing on the planet alone. “It has been too long since we have gone mortal hunting, why did we stop?” Anodyne asked, looking to the Conductor for answers. “… Can I be honest?” “Always.” “You changed, you have been losing your rage, your sanity is returning and soon both me and Hollow will be nothing more than a fleeting feeling at the back of your mind.” Anodyne turned to the Conductor, and with a familiar rage in his eyes he spoke softly. “Then it looks like I need to see someone to sort that out, we have an old friend to visit.”

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