“So this is the plane of the gods?”
The plague artery scoffed as he stared around an empty white plane that stretched as far as his eyes could see.
“This is the…”
“Waiting room, through that door is Ill’akese’s version of the god plane.”
The Plague artery turned to see a door towering above him. Ill’akese had already shuffled his way to it, pushing against it with all his might. The door started to peel back, spores and a vile smell started to escape through the opening in the door. The Plague artery stomped over to the door and with his un altered arm he forced the door open through the foliage that laid behind it, revealing an unending jungle infected with disease and fungal spores. Above his head he stared at the dust and spores that were illuminated by the light gleaming through the sickly canopy. The children dressed as Ill’akese climbed on the Plague Artery, each of them finding scared flesh and bone to grab onto to allow them to roost for the upcoming walk. One made its way to his shoulder so that it may talk.
“Ill’akese is gone, he moves fast on this plane. We will show you were to go.” The child pointed down a winding path to their left. “Go down there big guy, it is a long walk for us slow ones.”
The plague Artery started to walk down the path, his loud stomping feet shaking the fauna from their hiding spaces. Deathly looking birds fluttered through the air as they fled, shaking off the last of their dwindling feathers to the ground. A couple of the children leaped from their mount, they scampered around after the feathers. They did not fight over who got what, but it seemed they were drawn to the lighter colours. Rushing the desired colours but moving on if another reached the feather before them. The Artery looked around at the desperate children.
“Why the feathers?”
“Money I guess, us angels have to find a way to entertain ourselves. The rarer the items you have, the more valuable it is. Those lighter colours are worth much more.”
The artery took a moment to leap into the air, stomping onto the ground with all his weight, shaking the remaining children from him excluding the one on his shoulders. The remaining birds in the area took flight, littering the ground with variously shaded feathers. The children all went into a frenzy, filling their pockets and bags with feathers.
“You are much nicer than the others, they don’t let us ride them, let alone help us.”
“I like you kids, you interest me.”
“Not kids, well once kids. We have been imbued with the powers from Ill’akese. We are now angels.”
The Artery continued stomping on, fighting his way through the thick jungle.
“Well you are kids to me, what are we looking for, where are we going?”
“We are not looking, we know where we are going. We are going to a swamp town, where all of ill’akese’s champions and angels live. There we wait for the plan.”
“Plan hmm, well we have a long trip I assume. Feel like sharing the plan with me…uh.”
“Ahlia, Ahlia is my name. As for the plan, I don’t know it. No one can be bothered to listen to Ill’akese for long periods of time. He talks slow.”
The Artery grunted a chuckle of understanding, releasing a Hornet from his toothy maw. Ahlia pulled a small jar from his messenger bag, he hastily climbed the Plague arteries head, using the sunken in scarred skin to climb faster. Leaping Ahlia captured the hornet in his jar, falling into a large hand that placed him back to his original seating position.
“Live insects worth a bit?”
Ahlia stared into the jar, watching the hornet with great intent.
“Worth vast amounts, ever since Ill’akese married Ma. Voke.”
“Goddess of Insects, if I recall.”
“Yes, yes. Ever since they married Ill’akese started to work on a big plan.”
The other children started climbing back onto the Plague artery, all of which tried to get a good look at the jar Ahlia was holding. She quickly packed it away back into her messenger bag. The remaining children cried out a complaint before returning to their resting positions. A head the Artery could see a vibrant glow that flickered through the trees.
“We are close, that is the swamp fires.”
“No, natural swamp fire. Burning gas, lights up the swamp. Leads to the town.”
“Does the town have a name?”
The remainder of the trip was completed without talk. On occasion, the children would leap forth and gather what they could, but would quickly return to their stomping mount. After several hours of journey, they arrived at Daizosea, a town which littered the swamp with a careless sprinkle of haphazardly constructed housing.
“Not what I expected, I thought there would be more. Less shit too.”
“We are not builders, we are kids, and beasts such as yourself. We did not have the knowledge for good town.”
The Artery waded through the shallow waters, the angels climbed higher to avoid the rising waters. As he stood before the walkway the angels all jumped off and started running through the town.
“You’re not leaving?” The Plague artery said as he climbed onto the walkway.
“Comfy, like being up high. Besides, you make bugs.”
Ahlia directed the Plague artery through Daizosea until they reached the centre where a colossal statue stood of Ill’akese and Ma. Voke during their wedding ceremony.
“Ill’akese is made from infected wood and Ma. Voke is made from insect carapaces.”
“It is a statement for sure, where are we going Ahlia?”
“To Ma. Voke, she will tell you plan.”
The duo walked to the exterior of a gigantic willow tree being illuminated by a swarm of fire bugs.
The Plague Artery gave an unimpressed look to Ahlia, he then marched forward under the dense drooping branches. Inside was a woman’s form, with wings of an Atlas Moth. Behind her Ill’akese was stirring a large cauldron, filling it with fistfuls of dried grasses.
“Hey Ma.” Ahlia chirped at first chance.
Ma. Voke turned slowly and focused on Ahlia, she smiled and spoke softly.
“I see you have found a friend Ahlia, he is beautiful too.”
“He makes bugs, plagued ones.”
Ma. Voke smiled and turned to Ill’akese.
“How delightful. How can we help your friend?”
“He wants the plan.”
“Of course he does, but we don’t tell our secrets to all who ask. Come and empty you blood vial here Ahlia, Ill’akese needs it for his next infection.”
Ahlia leaped from Plague Artery and ran over to Ill’akese, emptying her vial into his cauldron while Ma. Voke wandered over to Plague artery.
“To know our secrets, you must prove your worth. Let your insects drink from the cauldron, go forth and spread our disease to the first group you see.”
The Plague artery pumped the brood sacs on his arm and let loose a swarm of scorpion flies which sat on the edge of the cauldron drinking in the vile blue liquid which coloured their abdomens. After Ahlia emptied her blood vile she returned to Plague arteries shoulder, back to her original spot.
“Your friend is returning to Hollow. Shall you follow?”
Ahlia sat staring through her mask, un answering she stared at Ma. Voke.
“I do not mind, I can protect her.”
A deep sickly cackle came from Ill’akese, Ma. Voke gave a slight giggle before speaking.
“You are a champion of a god, but she is an angel. I asked because a more likely scenario would her be saving you. A task that can become tiresome.”
The scorpion flies flew back and climbed back inside the various holes of Plague artery as his right arms brood pouches started to wriggle with new life.
“Don’t get used to that. Your arm will not replenish this fast on Hollow. It will take the correct time, if the insect takes twelve weeks to develop, so it shall.”
“I will remember that. With Ahlia’s permission we will leave now.”
Ahlia shifted as new bones spurted from her seat, creating a barrier to stop her from falling from Plague’s shoulder.
“She is stubborn, enjoy your trip. She knows how to return.”
Both Ahlia and the Plague artery were surround with a blinding light, as their eyes adjusted they found themselves back on Hollow.
“Let’s go Plague, need to find some new friends.”
The Plague artery turned on the spot. “I know where we are.”
He spun and locked his gaze on a path the winded through the hilly plains he stood in.
“I know where we fucking are.” He started marching. “I got some friends to visit.”
“Woah, you never move this fast. Must be a good friend.”
“The greatest of friends.” Plague continued to stomp down the path, his eyes a blaze from determination.
Meanwhile down the path laid an orchard, its vines being tendered to by a plethora of poorly dressed individuals. Their beleaguered form hastily touched, trimmed, and directed vines through their canopies, allowing the anti-gravity fruit to dangle upwards towards the sky. A sound blared from sirens atop posts, scattered through the orchard. The workers lowered their shaking hands and gathered their tools, they rushed from the vines, keeping their heads down to avoid the low canopy. They moved with purpose to small shacks that were laid around the Orchard, the doors all closing before a second alarm sounded. A single individual was still trying to gather tools they had left spread around. As they clawed for their last tool a foot fell heavy onto her hand, crushing it to the tool. She screamed out in fear ignoring the pain.
“Please, he is not here. No one needs to know just let me get back to my shack.”
She furiously tugged at her hand, peeling skin from bone as she manically screamed at the armed guard standing on her until she felt the crawling speech of her master.
“You missed out my dare.” He gingerly touched her head, petting her.
“Clearly you are tired, come take a rest in my home my sweet.”
A second guard arrived to help carry the frantic girl away. She screamed and kicked as the two guards wrestled her to the nearby manor. Licking his lips, the lord stroked his weedy moustache, leering at the other houses he turned to follow the still struggling woman.
“He the one, he the friend?”
“He is, and I am going to ruin him. I used to work here, just days ago. He must of used some enhancers because the fruit have advanced about three months.”
“I am sorry, what?”
“You were gone four months from Hollow.”
The duo shared a moment of silence from their vantage point.
“We were gone a matter of hours. That god realm have a different rate of time?”
A little chuckle came from behind Ahlia’s plague mask.
“No, time passes the same. That teleport however took a while. It is not Ma. Voke’s specialty.”
“So, when are we going to kill this lord?”
“Never, I want to ruin him. Death is too easy. Do you know the most used currency of Hollow?”
“Gold, silver, copper?”
Plague looks deeply at the small homes that were in small clusters around the orchard.
“Slaves. Which are only as good as their health.”
Plague moved around the boarder of the orchard, treading as quietly as he could till he reached the back of the manor.
“That centre room, that is his.”
Plague thought deeply and his scorpion flies started to fly off around the manor, returning to the orchard to start infecting the vines and slaves with the illness Ill’akese crafted. A lone fly flew up to the window of the Lords room, sneaking under the window frame to walk around his room.
The lords attention was on the slave girl now bound and beaten to his bed.
“Mmm, you are a tease. Flaunting your stuff in my orchard, if you play your cards right you might earn the right to be my personal staff.”
The young woman shook from the bones, she stared down to her own body averting the lords gaze. The insect made its way to the bed, staying from sight.
“It is a shame that my guards beat you so bad.” He brushed the young woman’s face. “I would have liked to do it myself, I prefer my own work.”
As he brushed her face she recoiled, sending him into a frenzy he leaped onto her body and started shredding her clothes and thrusting himself upon her.The scorpion fly took this moment to bite into the slave girl, she watched as the fly pierced her skin, transferring Ill’akese’s new disease into her before flying away to the rest of the swarm. The young woman knew exactly what was to happen.
Mid thrust the lord stopped as he noticed the eyes from the young girl start to darken and her ears started to bleed. Her vision completely gone and her hearing failing she started laughing.
“What’s wrong? Not enjoying yourself?” She spat into the lords gapping mouth, filling it with a viscous green phlegm filled spit. He immediately turned and vomited off the side of the bed, again and again as the fluid transfer started to take effect. His body purging the virus before it could take hold, stepping off the bed he cleaned his mouth and backed away.
The young girls body now convulsing she started to spit black and shout praise.
“Ill’akese I am your vessel, make me to what you need. I bow beneath you.”
Her voice drowned out but the vile fluids filling her mouth until she finally drowned. The lord ran as fast as he could to his front deck, a deck that he uses to observe over his slaves. Looking down he could see the swarm of scorpion flies infecting everything in their path.
“My plants, slaves, my, my guards.”
He slumped down to the ground as the chaos and panic started to see his wealth turn to vile greens and projectile blacks from the mouths of his slaves and guards. His plants bubbling with infection, the fruits dethatching and drifting into the air before the rot took hold and brought them back to the ground. He turned to flee but found himself facing down Plague and Ahlia. The plague artery growling at the lord.
“Going somewhere? I don’t move that silently, you must have been distracted to miss me.”
“Please, no. I have money I have assets.” The lord fell to his knees. “Take what you want, please don’t hurt me.”
Ahlia looked around. “It does not seem like you have many assets left, it is kind of funny how you would build an orchard in a swamp.”
Confused the lord turned, seeing that the infection had started to turn the land. What was once fertile mounds of rich dirt that had been turned over generations, now a mushy silt with weeds growing rapidly.
“My families land, we spent generations perfecting this soil. All gone.”
Plague started to stomp off, leaving the lord to look over his ruined fortune.
“Wait, you can’t leave me. You have to fix this.”
Ahlia laughed for Plague did not hear over his own stomping. She turned on his shoulder to face the lord.
“We did, what we do.”
The lord opened his mouth and shook his head in confusion.
“What does that mean?”
“Means we go. You can stay.”
The lord stopped pursuing and stood in disbelief as the gargantuan beast of what was once a man stomped through his home. The duo reached the front door and stared out as the orchard was sinking deeper into the now marshy soil, with a swarm of scorpion flies attacking everything in sight.
“How do we get back to Ill’akese?”
“Why do you want to go back? Nothing there, here seems nice.”
The plague artery stared at the marshland before him. A grin stretched across his face as he stepped out into the soft soil.
“You could be lord.”
“Not could, shall.”
The plague artery roared into the air, pumping his brood sacs he let loose another swarm of scorpion flies into the air.
Meanwhile on sun heated rock the young girl awoke to her skin burning on the stones. Her form being lifted by Bea’tality.
“You renounce me as soon as you see a way out, punishment is an infinite years in hell. Once served you may be reincarnated to continue your journey to become a deity. Fear not, even though you will feel every year down here, it will be a fraction of the time on Hollow.”
Bea’tality disappeared into the sky leaving behind the reality of the young lady. She looked out to the lands before her and wept, screaming into the air she alerted those around her. Closing her eyes she waited for what was to happen next.