Dreams of the Nuclear Chaos
Suddenly a stream of violet midnight, glittering with dust of gold and noiseless infinity swirled around her and wafted her away without touching her body. The stream lifted her out the window and into the sky, the stars becoming clearer as she approached. She looked back to see her condominium shrinking while she rose, and soon it was but a mere speck compared to the rest of Tokyo. It wasn't long before even Tokyo became a small, faint light on the rest of the world.
Ami continued to rise, seeing the Earth grow smaller and smaller as she passed the moon, both becoming a small blot once the sun came into view. The stream seemed to be carrying her at an incredible pace as the sun began to dwindle, becoming an indistinct glimmer of light among the stars in no time. Ami then felt a sense of awe and wonder as all the stars, and soon the galaxy, came into view. The fact that so many stars, and possibly planets, could exist in such an infinite void filled her heart with enthrallment. And yet, she couldn't help but feel a slight pang of fear tug at the back of her mind. A fear that, in comparison to the rest of the cosmos, the Earth and its people were insignificant.
This sense of fear and a new sense of dread only grew as the galaxies came into view, but soon began to grow more and more distant while a creeping darkness overtook her vision. The darkness blocked out the galaxies and Ami was consumed with anxiety and dread as her ears were suddenly assaulted by a faint sound that only seemed to get louder as she felt a massive presence behind her. The weak noise soon gave way to the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes and the maddening beating of vile drums, which caused her body to tremble and convulse and her heart to race. As the droning piping and riling beat continued to grow in pitch, she felt the horrible presence grow closer. Ami started to turn in order to look upon the blasphemous horror, but before she could do so, the abominable music silenced and she heard one name that shook her to her core…
Ami woke up in a cold sweat and panting hard, her heart racing from the nightmare she had just had. She sat up and looked at her clock, which read 4:44 AM. She yawned and stretched before getting out of bed, still shaking a little from the experience. She managed to feel her way through the darkness and to the light switch, turning it on as she exited her room. Her home was silent, and she wasn't sure whether her mother was still asleep or if she was at work. Because of this uncertainty, she quietly tip-toed her way to the bathroom and turned on the light, briefly covering her eyes before adjusting and washing her face in the sink. After drying her face off, she looked into the mirror. "What kind of nightmare was that?" she asked herself. "And who, or what, is…Azathoth?" The name still sent a chill down her spine.
She turned off the light and headed towards her room, but jumped when she heard something hit her front door. She approached the door cautiously, peering through the peephole before unlocking and opening the door. Outside, she saw no one, but at the doorstep was a small box wrapped in brown paper with a string tied around it, the words "To Ami Mizuno" were written in big, black marker letters. In the corner were smaller words which read, "From N.K.," which were also in black marker. Ami looked around to see if anyone was around before picking up the small box and bringing it inside, locking the door behind her.
She set the package on the table and began to examine it. She looked for any kind of return address, but found none and could not recall anyone she knew with the initials "N.K.". She suspected it might be some kind of trap by the youma, but if it was, she thought she would've sensed something by now. She finally decided to open the box, carefully tearing off the brown paper and untying the string before taking off the tape and slowly opening the lid. Inside was some newspaper, which she removed to reveal a 3.5"x5.5" black bound book. She couldn't see the title, so she turned on a light and picked up the book. However, it appeared the cover had no title. She gently opened the cover and turned to the title page, which read, "Azathoth and Others by Edward Derby."
Upon seeing the title, her head began to hurt, she felt dizzy, and her heart raced. The name which had shaken her to her core was not just an invention of her imagination, but something else; something she could not quite pin. But she had a feeling that whatever it was, it was trying to tell her something. After her fear quelled once more, she immediately flipped through the book. It was in English and seemed to be a collection of poems. She opened to the first poem of the book titled, "Azathoth", which seemed to take up most of the book. Her heart began to race once more as she read the poem, which told of Derby's journey to see Azathoth using opium. She began to feel the same dread and fear that she felt in her nightmare once she came upon this section:
Great Azathoth! The Lord of Everything
Who reigns supreme among the Secret Gods,
Amorphous in his dumb omnipotence,
The universal centrifuge's core.
The billiard planets round him ricochet,
Chaotic Demiurge that boils up like
Unto a geyser foul and spewing blight.
Though o'er the cosmos blind domain he wilds
He knows it not, naught else, nor anything
And by mere frenzied thrashing doth create.
But in the nitrous chasms of my dream
He stood revealed, concealed in human shape
Though only vague resemble could he ape
She shut the book and put it down, her mind racing with ideas and images of what was described. Her body was filled with a sense of fear, of revulsion, and she wanted to burn the book, or at least throw it away forever. But, at the same time, she felt a sense of curiosity. She wanted to finish the book and learn more of the cosmic being and of the significance of her dream. She looked at the clock and saw that it was 5:15 AM. She picked up the book, turned off the light and went back to bed. An hour later she woke up from a dreamless sleep and got ready for school, slipping the book into her bag before leaving. She locked the front door behind her and walked out of her condominium and down the street. She paused for a moment to look at a poster for a missing cat, feeling pity for it before continuing on her way to school.
Ami arrived at her school a minute before the passing bell. She had a little trouble concentrating due to her lack of sleep, but managed to get through her classes while reading through the book in-between her work. At lunch, she found her friends gathered around Usagi who seemed as if she was on the edge of bursting into tears. "What's wrong?" Ami asked, curious about her friend's sadness and lamenting the fact that Mamoru had left town due to a family emergency, thus unable to console her.
Minako turned to her and replied, "Chibiusa disappeared last night and we have no idea where she is. Did you see her at all?" Ami shook her head as she tried to comfort Usagi.
Ami patted her on the back and said, "There there, I'm sure she'll turn up soon," as Usagi started to tear up and cry, putting her head on the table with her arms folded. Ami sat down and joined everyone as they tried to reassure her they'd find Chibiusa. Rei was trying to convince Usagi that they would, indeed, find Chibiusa and that she would be ok. Minako, meanwhile was throwing out ideas on how and where to find her, while Makoto confidently supported and seemed oddly enthusiastic about finding her, almost as if she were expecting to find out that she had been abducted by some group of bad guys so she could beat them up. Ami mostly tried to help Rei in encouraging Usagi, and though she did eventually stop crying, she was still deeply worried.
Once lunch was over and the school day ended, Minako got everyone together and told them to look all over town for Chibiusa while Usagi called the police. Everyone agreed to meet at Usagi's house if they found her or by dusk if they didn't. Ami set out and decided to check the park, while Rei checked the shops and Makoto asked around. At the park, Ami came across a man dressed in a dark robe handing out pamphlets, but what was weird was that people seemed to be actually taking them and reading rather than laughing in his face or throwing them away. She walked up to him with a confused look on her face, the man handing her a pamphlet and saying, "Join the brotherhood," before returning his attention to people passing by. His face was hidden by the hood and his hands hidden by black gloves.
She looked at the pamphlet which read, "Join the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh," with a picture of a silhouetted pharaoh below it. She thought about just tossing it away, but for some reason something in the man's voice made her not want to do so. Instead, she walked away and read it. The pamphlet told how the Black Pharaoh was a messenger of the Gods and would usher in a Golden Age. It sounded like the usual cult dreck, but she couldn't bring herself to throw it away.
She made her way to Usagi's house where she met up with Rei and Makoto, who said they turned up nothing and went inside to tell Usagi. When they found her sitting on her bed, she looked up at them with a sad look and cried again once they told her that they found nothing. They spent the most of the evening trying to figure out where Chibiusa could've possibly gone and whether or not she had gone there willingly. Minako continued suggesting various places they could look and possibly look outside of the city while Makoto continued to put forth possible suspects, though Rei stopped her once she started getting increasingly outlandish.
Ami was, for the most part, attempting to contribute ideas when she suddenly said, "Have any of you heard of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh?" Everyone turned to each other and shook their heads as Ami took out the pamphlet. "They seem to be a new cult in town, do you think they might've taken Chibiusa in as a disciple or something?" she asked as she passed the pamphlet around so they could examine it.
"Where did you get this?" Rei asked with slight concern in her voice.
"From the park. A man in a black robe was passing them out and a lot of people seemed interested," Ami said, causing Rei to frown. Being a miko, she was probably a little concerned that this cult might take followers and donations away from the shrine.
Minako was examining the pamphlet when she spoke up. "I guess we can check it out," she said, and Makoto jumped up.
"Alright! We'll bust in and beat up every single one of them!" she shouted ecstatically, causing everyone to giggle a little before Rei put her hand on Makoto's shoulder.
"I think we should try being nice before we go for the brute force route," she said while everyone nodded in agreement. Usagi had a look of relief as everyone left to go home for the night, saying good-bye to them at the door as they headed home. Once they were gone, she turned to a small table with pictures on it. There were various pictures of her and her parents, along with Chibiusa. However, Chibiusa, strangely, seemed faded in every picture.
Ami walked through the dark and dimly lit streets. The night was clear, but slightly cold. She looked up at the faint stars and moon, feeling a touch of fear as it reminded her of the horrid dream. While she approached her home, she couldn't help but feel as if she were being watched. She stopped and looked at the nearby alleyways and at the surrounding buildings, but saw nothing. She continued along, but stopped again when she heard a weak sound as if something had landed on the building above her. She looked up again and saw nothing, but heard a soft buzzing noise. She walked a bit faster, and then started running as she heard the buzzing getting closer and the sounds of something leaping across the buildings above following her. Ami was far too scared to look up as she got to her condominium and shut the front door behind, panting and sliding down against the door, her heart racing. She was unsure of what was following her and prayed that she had lost it.
After taking a few minutes to regain her composure, she headed up to her apartment and went inside, locking the door behind her. Ami looked around and found a note from her mother saying that she had prepared some tonkotsu ramen noodles and two onigiri which she left in the fridge. The note continued on, saying that she would be home late and couldn't join Ami due to urgent business. Ami sighed a little as she headed to the fridge and rewarmed the ramen noodles. She ate them along with the rice balls before heading to her room and doing her homework. Once finished, she took the black book out of her bag and began to read it.
The poems after "Azathoth" seemed to vary wildly, some seemingly innocuous poems about the New England countryside and others telling of terrifying vistas and horrible creatures. The more chilling poems caused her head to hurt excruciatingly, but she managed to become so engrossed in the reading that by the time she finished the very depressing "Out of the Old Land", the last poem of the book, she looked to see that it was late and that she had to get to bed. She put the book in her desk drawer before putting on her pajamas and going to bed.
That night, she had the same dream where the violet stream brought her to the dark place. She could not resist it, despite her mental pleas, and soon found herself feeling the same fear and dread while listening to the monotonous piping and maddening beat once more. When she turned to face the terrifying presence and the music stopped, she heard more this time then the last. This time, she heard such foul syllables and horrible words that were unpronounceable to the human tongue in conjunction with the hideous name of Azathoth, causing her to scream. She felt her ears bleed from the insidious syllables, the pain of the noise along with the oppressive fear and dread made her feel as if she were about to die. Ami finally woke up screaming, sitting straight up in the bed and trembling as she cried. She checked her ears and found that they were not bleeding. Her clock again read 4:44 AM.
Her mother burst into the room. "Ami! Are you ok?" she asked as she found her daughter still crying in her bed. Ami's mother then sat next to her and hugged her. "What's wrong honey?" she asked.
Ami managed to answer, "I had a…horrible dream." She then continued crying into her mother.
"Shhh, it's ok, Ami. It was just a dream," she said as she caressed her daughter. Eventually Ami stopped crying and her mother got her some water before kissing her good night and returning to bed. Ami was about to do the same, but was disturbed by the sound of something hitting the front door several moments later. Ami was still trembling a little as she went to the front door. She carefully opened the door and found another package similar to the one she had gotten previously. At first she thought about just leaving it because of the images the previous book had implanted, and yet she still wanted to know more and this mysterious "N.K." seemed to be encouraging her. Ami's curiosity overrode her fear and she took the package to her room, closing the front door before placing it on the desk and turning on the light. She opened the box and removed the newspaper, finding a 4"x6.75" book bound in dark red buckram with the words "People of the Monolith by Justin Geoffrey" written on the cover. Upon a quick skim she found it was yet another poetry collection, these ones seemingly more bizarre. She decided to read the first stanza before going back to bed which said:
They say foul things of Old Times still lurk
In dark forgotten corners of the world.
And Gates still gape to loose, on certain nights.
Shapes pent in Hell.
The opening stanza sent a chill down Ami's spine, but it still intrigued her and made her want to keep reading. And she would have, if it weren't for the fact she needed to sleep. She closed the book and turned off the light before retiring to bed and falling into another dreamless sleep.
Ami woke up once more at her usual time, though she felt very tired due to last night's incident. She then got out of bed and got ready for school, putting the dark red book into her bag before leaving. Once she reached the entrance of her condominium, she carefully opened the door and peeked outside to make sure whatever followed her last night was not still present. After a minute of hearing nothing but cars and people walking by, she left and headed for school. On her way she found the same poster for the missing cat only this time there were a few more for other missing cats and dogs. Ami mourned them too, but also became slightly suspicious as to the nature of these disappearances. The thought nagged her the entire way to school and throughout her classes. Despite her insomnia, she was able get through her classes with little difficulty and met up with her friends at lunch, where her friends were talking with Usagi. Ami sat down with them as they discussed how to get into the cult's hideout.
"I say we kick the door down and beat the answers out of them!" Makoto shouted with enthusiasm as Rei and Minako giggled.
"I don't think that would help. I think we should sneak in and search around," Ami suggested as the others nodded in agreement.
"But how are we going to sneak in?" Minako asked.
"Simple, we just attend one of their orientations or whatever and we'll be in," Ami said as Rei frowned a little, which did not go unnoticed by Minako.
"What's wrong Rei?" Minako asked, and Rei quickly smiled and stood up straight.
"Heheheh, nothing's wrong" she said, though there was still a hint that something was amiss with her. The others looked to Rei who continued smile, but they quickly returned to their planning and finalizing it.
"What do you think Usagi?" Makoto asked and Usagi smiled.
"I think we should do everything we can to bring Chibiusa home, even if it means we have to kick all their butts!" she shouted triumphantly, causing everyone to giggle. However, once Usagi sat down, she seemed to have a pondering expression.
After lunch, Ami went through her classes until the end of school, after which her friends met up and headed off to the cult's hideout . A small crowd had formed, apparently waiting for the doors to open. The hideout itself seemed to resemble a large gothic chapel, its walls painted black and various odd symbols painted in white across them along with strange horrifying statues dotting the roof. Ami trembled a little at the hideous statues, as some looked almost unearthly. It wasn't long before the doors opened and the people filed in. Inside the chapel were the usual pews and stage with a podium, though it seemed slightly dank and decrepit with a slight air of age. Once everyone was seated, a man in a dark hood with black gloves stepped onto the stage and attended the podium.
"Brothers and sisters," he said in a suave, captivating voice. "We are here today to introduce you to the truth of your existence, the truth of your being, and the truth of the Universe. We are here to enlighten you, to educate you on the ways in which the world truly works. We have many volumes from which you may extract this knowledge and share it with the world. We have no secrets to hide, and you may share as much knowledge from these tomes as you'd like, or you can simply study them and gain a better understanding of everything. You shall learn everything from the creation of Earth to the true Gods of the Universe…" Ami turned to see Rei's face contorted in anger, she looked like she was ready to run up to the man and punch him across the face. "…All you have to do is pay a membership fee of ¥ 3,973.42 and all our knowledge shall be open to you," he concluded as people clapped and cheered.
Rei seemingly exploded when she stood up and yelled, "Hold it!" The hooded man stopped as she ran before any of her friends could stop her. "What kind of crap is this?" she demanded, infuriated, but the hooded man didn't seem the least bit annoyed by her.
"What do you mean?" he asked calmly.
"This whole cult! I'm the miko of this town's shrine and I will not have you preaching lies to these people!" Rei shouted while the hooded figure lightly chuckled.
"But I am not lying," he said. But before Rei could rebut, she was dragged off by her friends, struggling and shouting the whole way out.
Rei was dragged all the way to Usagi's home where they set her down on Usagi's bed. "What the heck, Rei?! What were you thinking?! You ruined everything!" Makoto scolded Rei as everyone sat around and looked at her with disappointment.
"Hey, I was only trying to help!" Rei defended.
"Help? How?! You made a scene and now I'm not even sure they will let us back in!" Makoto shouted. Usagi teared up a little, and Minako went to comforting her. "Thanks to you, we will never find Chibiusa!" she continued.
Rei looked up at Makoto and angrily yelled, "I was trying to help those people! That man was feeding them nothing but lies and I will not have him brainwashing them and leaving my shrine to decay into dust!"
Usagi suddenly cried, "Stop it!" causing everyone to look at her. "Arguing isn't going to bring us any closer to finding Chibiusa!" she said with tears streaming from her eyes. Everyone looked down silently. The silence went on for what felt like an eternity before being interrupted by Rei.
"I'm sorry," she said, tearing up along with Makoto as she too said she was sorry. Afterward they began discussing new ways to get in.
"Maybe we could disguise ourselves and sneak in?" Minako suggested.
"But how will we get deeper into the chapel? I'm pretty sure someone would notice a group of people who aren't members," Ami replied as she read People of the Monolith while everyone thought to themselves. The book contained various bizarre and eldritch poems describing the rituals and gods worshiped by a strange village. The descriptions and rhymes caused Ami's head to hurt.
Rei looked to her and asked, "Are you alright Ami? You look pale," snapping Ami to attention.
"Oh I'm…fine," she said, although in reality the horrible poems were bringing her to the brink of collapse.
"What's that book you have there?" Rei asked. Ami closed it and put it away.
"It's just a bunch of poems," she said with an awkward giggle. Rei raised an eyebrow before Makoto spoke up.
"I've got it! We'll stake out their chapel and see who frequently goes in, then we'll jump him and interrogate him!" she said proudly. Everyone looked to her, thought for a moment and then agreed.
"That sounds reasonable," Ami said. Rei was still looking at her from the corner of her eye, but was, for the most part, involved with the plan.
"Alright, so who's going to stake them out?" Usagi asked.
"We can switch out each day so that way we don't inconvenience our schedules and worry our parents," Minako suggested and Makoto nodded in agreement. "I'll take the first watch tomorrow. For now let's get some rest," she said as everyone got up and headed home.
Ami cautiously walked the darkening streets, the streetlights coming to life as the sun dipped below the horizon, carefully listening for anything suspicious and praying that whatever chased her the night before didn't return. The night was cool and clear, though it was a little cloudy so it would occasionally get dimmer when the moon was blocked. Her journey seemed to go unimpeded until she heard the horrible faint buzzing once more, only this time it sounded even closer. This caused her to quickly turn around to see an alleyway she had ignored, and from that alleyway she heard the sound of something scuttling away and knocking over a trash can in the process.
Fearful and alone, Ami quickly ran back to her condominium and the faint buzzing sound soon becoming audible from above. She panted and ran faster as the buzzing seemed to be getting closer and closer. The sound of inhuman, scuttling legs became soon reached her ears, which only made her panic further. She continued to run with an ever quickening pace until finally she reached the front door, ran in and shut the door behind her, pressing her back against it for fear that whatever was out there might attempt to break in. After a few minutes of leaning against the door, she looked out and saw nothing, then headed up to her apartment. Once she arrived, she found it empty once more, save for another note left by her mother saying she had left her some pre-cooked dinner she had to reheat and that, again, she would not be home until much later due to work.
Ami went about the house, locking any windows and the front door before reheating her dinner and eating it. She trembled a little as she ate, still thinking about what could possibly be following her at night. At first she thought it might be a youma, but lately there hadn't been any youma attacks at all. In fact, lately it seemed as if the youma had up and vanished entirely. Ami shuddered upon the realization that if the youma had disappeared then whatever has been following her must be something else entirely or even responsible for their disappearance.
Ami looked around to make sure nothing was looking in on her as she finished her dinner and started doing her homework. She became so involved in her study that the sudden ringing of her phone caused her to jump. She carefully walked up to the phone and picked it up before answering it. "H-Hello?" she answered meekly and Usagi's voice came over the line.
"Ami come over quick!" she bawled, causing Ami to jump again.
"Why? What's wrong?" she asked.
"No time to explain, just get here now!" Usagi replied before hanging up.
Ami hung up the phone and paused for a minute, knowing she would have to go back outside where whatever had followed her was more than likely waiting for her. On the other hand, she had to go see if her friend was in trouble. She eventually made up her mind and walked out the front door, carefully heading down the stairs before arriving at the entrance. She then slowly opened the door and tip-toed out, listening for the buzzing or scuttling. When she heard nothing, she quickly ran down a different path than she usually took to Usagi's house, hoping that the buzzing thing would not find or follow her.
It took her a bit longer than usual, but eventually she arrived at her friend's house. Minako, Makoto and Rei all there to greet her, and they went inside. Inside her house, they found Usagi kneeling on the ground and crying, surrounded by photo albums and framed photographs. Usagi's friends approached her cautiously.
"Usagi? What's wrong?" Minako asked as she knelt down and put her hand on Usagi's shoulder.
"Gone… She's…gone…" she said as everyone looked confused.
"We know Usagi, but we'll find her soon enough," Rei said in an attempt to reassure her.
"No…look…" Usagi wailed, pointing to the albums and pictures. Her friends looked to each other before nodding and sorting through the pictures. At first they didn't understand, but then, as they looked through every picture, they realized something horrible. Chibiusa wasn't in a single one of them.