Let’s Start Again
Anodyne floated alone in the vast expanse of space. He drifted in an ice tomb that he allowed to consume him. It started off small, a mere frosted flaking on his skin. Those flakes grew and met, holding hands; they created strong bonds, consuming one another whole until they were one upon him. Emboldened by their success, they grew; a thickness was soon around Anodyne until his shape was lost to the refractions of the ice. A sphere of blue held Anodyne; cracks and malformed structures fractured the image of him. Distorting and breaking him apart. He did not breathe, nor did he think; he merely listened. At first, the void of space offered him nothing, but once the layers of ice took hold, he began to hear. Eardrums pressed heavily against their cold captor. Anodyne listened through the vibrations that resonated within the ice. He did not listen for sound; he listened to force. He determined distance, size, and cause with every echo that pressed into his ears. But his endeavor to find what he was looking for seemed to be in vain. Pulse after pulse, he listened, ears sharp he pinpointed everyone, even those that arrived together. But the vibrations he was looking for were nowhere to be found.
Echoes of cracks vibrated through his ears as he shed his frozen casing, freeing himself. Cracking his neck, he looked around.
“Still nothing; I thought that I would have heard something.” Anodyne looked around. “Unless it hasn’t happened yet?” He asked rhetorically.
There was a momentary pause as Anodyne watched the hairs on his arms stand on end.
“Strange, that shouldn’t happen unless the void somehow became…” Before Anodyne could finish, he was blown down to a nearby planet by an unknown force. He sailed through the atmosphere, entering the green planet as a burning projectile. He tried to stop his descent, but his momentum was greater than his ability to slow down. No matter how much he tried, all he could manage was a feeling of exhaustion as he continued to approach the surface of the planet. He couldn’t help but watch as a large stone became larger before him. Until finally, his vision was consumed by it, his head sailing into it at full force. He felt his body compact against the stone as his head started to ring with pain. Then only darkness as he fell from consciousness.
Eyes open once again, he stared up at the night sky; strange stars filled the black of space. Two moons rose and bathed him in a pale red light while he noticed others bowed before him, chanting in worship.
“From the sky, now on soil. He touched the stone and didn’t spoil.”
Sitting up, he rubbed his temples. His head feels twice its actual size. Staggering to a stand, the worshippers raised their heads, then their arms. The chant stopped, and they were overcome with wails. A man at the front of the crowd hushed those behind him and turned toward Anodyne.
“What is your name, skywalker?”
Anodyne looked around and all the tribal people that bowed before him. Their pale skin contrasted against the dark, marshy soil of the planet. He looked carefully at their body paint and the way they prosecuted themselves before him.
“Anodyne. A name that you shall never forget.”
The crowd started to cheer his name. Anodyne turned to see the large oval stone he collided with. Where once perfect, a large crack ran from bottom to top, stopping at the curve.
The leader of the people before him stepped forward, wielding a staff.
“We have used all our magics on the stone, but the demon that is inside still lives. Have the stars sent you to save us from it?”
Anodyne turned with a malicious grin.
“There are no stars that sent me, just me. I am telling you right now, all your gods are false.”
The crowd let out a gasp, followed by fast whispers. Anodyne’s head turned side to side as his eyes darted around the crowd in a hysteria. Their leader stepped back, holding his staff before him. Aiming the large ornate rock on it at Anodyne, he chanted and shook it, shaking the small carved runes that hung from it.
Anodyne let out a laugh, making it sound like multiple people were laughing. He was filled with joy as he could feel the unease of those in front of him.
“You think your gods are real? If they were, they would be here to dispose of this.” Anodyne gestured to the rock behind him. “Instead, nothing, so they either don’t exist, or they hate you. Either way, why follow them when you could follow me?”
“We don’t follow demons. We worship the lords above, beaming light down on us so we may stay safe in the night. Their leader and the one that looks after us the most rises each night. Gifting us light as if it were day.”
Anodyne looked up to the large moon that rose, its soft light bathing the whole marsh they stood in with enough light to see the smallest of details on a distant tree. Raising one hand to the sky, he turned the moon red, watching as the tribal people before him started to weep.
“I have killed your god, his blood now bathing your planet. Saturating it with his pain. Feel his despair and let it flow out of you.” Anodyne screamed as he twisted his fist; clenching it as hard as he could, he screamed into the sky. Blood poured from his closed fist, the stars slowly faded, and the black of Anodyne’s eyes turned red.
“They are all dead; there is no one to worship but me. So get on your knees and start praying.”
The tribal people all lowered, weeping as they felt the soil press into their knees. Anodyne rolled his eyes as he turned back to the stone. Slipping the tip of his fingers into the crack, he felt his body vibrate with pain.
“Hmm, I guess this is too close to touching for this to work.” Anodyne pondered on a thought before pointing back to one of his new worshippers. “You, get up here.”
The worshipper rushed to Anodyne’s side and looked up at him expectantly. Anodyne looked down at him with one eye.
“You lot are quite short, that is fine. I can still work with you.” Looking at the stone, he spoke plainly. “Touch it.”
The worshipper didn’t move, so Anodyne lowered himself, leaning on his knees.
“Either you touch it, or I flay the skin from your flesh.”
The worshipper shook with fear, praying under his breath before reaching out and placing a singular hand on the stone. His body shook violently for a moment, then Anodyne watched as his skin was removed from his bones by a violent force. Then the organs fell, and finally, the bones turned to powder.
“Now, that is something you don’t see every day.” Anodyne chuckled to himself as he thought more about the problem. “You come up here.”
Another follower rose to Anodyne’s side.
“Please don’t make me touch it, lord. I do not want to die this way.”
“Oh, you won’t be dying; I will be improving you.”
Anodyne’s eyes turned blue, and he rose slightly off the ground. He laid his hand on his worshipper and watched as two new arms grew from his body, just beneath his original arms. His fingertips blackened, and his hands were stained red, which faded up his arms. His face was covered in a red eye banner, and words inscribed across his chest.
The other worshippers watched on in awe and ran to him, begging to be next. Anodyne blessed each one in turn and turned to the stone.
“Now, with your new strength. Reach into the crack on the stone and pry it apart!”
Anodyne watched as his now devout worshippers leaped onto the stone, prying with all four arms on each side of the crack they tried to pull apart.
Anodyne looked down on the leader of the people. His arms were still raised in anticipation of being transformed. Anodyne smiled down upon him and laid his hand on his staff.
“You are destined for greater things.”
The man felt an energy surge inside him, his body warped and he too grew arms like the others, but he grew, staring Anodyne in the eye. His plain staff became carved and ornate with a large multicolored gem on the top.
“You all worshipped false gods, feel the real power of a deity. Aim your staff and cast the magic from within at the stone. Split it in half, make gravel of it.”
The lead worshipper’s voice was deeper; as he sighed, it sounded like a roar. Causing a grin to stretch across his face. Shouting a phrase, a beam of energy emitted from the end of the staff. Crashing violently with the crack in the stone, the other worshippers had to close their eyes. Arms straining against the stone, they felt blood trickle off their fingers. Their muscles grew tired from the constant vibrations coming from the stone they were about to give up. Then suddenly, it cracked, and then again. Anodyne’s eyes lit up.
“Yes, my followers, use your new powers. Feel the power course through your veins. Push yourself, pry the rock open, split it in two, release me!”
As Anodyne finished speaking, there was one final crack, and the rock split in two. The worshippers fell to the side, and the beam from the leader stopped. Fine dust filled the air where the stone stood. The worshippers looked on in anticipation as Anodyne walked to the edge of the dust cloud.
“You were always one for dramatics. Come out already.”
The dust cloud dispersed, and standing before everyone was another Anodyne. Same clothes, same stance, exact same black eyes with a silver cross for pupils. They both smiled at one another as the worshippers looked around at one another in confusion.
“Before anyone asks, yes, that one is also me. How about we call you stone to avoid confusion.”
“I think I can handle being called stone. How many of the others do we have?” Stone asked.
“Unfortunately, you are the first I have found. To make things worse, I didn’t even find you. There was an anomaly, and I was blown to this planet.”
Stone looked suspicious.
“There is no way that happened by chance. There is something else going on here.”
Stone and Anodyne exchanged glances, and both started to fly away from the planet when they heard a voice.
“Our lords. What do we do?”
Stone and Anodyne looked to one another, then back to the leader.
“Are there others that live on this planet?” Anodyne asked.
The leader nodded.
“Then conquer them.” Stone added before the two of them flew off.
The Worshippers looked excited by their new charge. Flexing their extra set of arms, they let out a war cry and ran off. Anodyne looked to stone as they arrived back to where he started.
“I was here, then my hair started to stand on end. Before I knew it, there was an explosion that launched me directly towards your stone.”
“Whatever it is, maybe it wants to help us?”
Anodyne watched as the hairs on Stone started to stand on end.
“Well, I guess we can find out now.”
Stone looked down at his arms.
“Would you look at that?” Stone said a moment before he was blasted off through space. Anodyne remained untouched. He started to follow Stone but was blown in another direction. When he came to, he was lying in front of another stone, perfectly oval, with a large crack. Before him, the local life bowed to his presence. Cracking his neck, he began to alter those who bowed.
“Let’s start again.”