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The Black

By Ben MacGougan All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Fantasy

Chapter 1

A furtive black substance flowed through the underbrush. The wind howled, the rain poured and the clouds hid the light of the moon and the stars, but the weather was not unusual. This crawling, serpentine substance was very unusual. It flowed and it crept over leaves and dirt with only the slightest bit of noise, masked entirely by the storm.

The substance came across something else that didn't belong here, something metal and mechanical. The substance halted its approach, recoiled, then pushed on with new, curious purpose. It met with iron and wove its way up interlocking beams and supports.

Used to haul the valuable contents of the mine that lay below, the headframe that the black substance was climbing was 30 feet of purely fuctional steel. If it had been a living creature it would have disagreed with the substance crawling ever higher. It would have shaken the substance away or tossed it aside with one its pulleys but all it did was tremble in the strong wind as the substance defiled its supports and moved upwards.

The substance's caustic residue ate away at the ropes of the headframe and marred the iron with dark stains. Higher it climbed until it reached the summit. Forcefully it clung to the supports while the storm summoned all of its might to throw it off. The substance formed its own supports. It shot out adhesive tendrils from its body that hardened and took on the colour of the iron on which it sat. At the centre of the tendrils the substance waited for a suitable prey to approach.

Atop the now maculated structure stood a bespectacled, pale man in a long brown coat. He inspected the substance. This man had a number of names but in this area he was called Arkin Sload, though, despite his numerous appearances in the area he was not talked about often.

"Why are you here?" asked Arkin with a little bit of frustration, but in such a way that denoted subservience. He was not an impressive specimen of a man-the most remarkable thing about him was that he stood atop a thirty-foot structure and seemed to pay no attention to the howling wind and rain- but he was well dressed and spoke with the grace of an educated man. Yet Arkin gave this substance a great amount of respect. Hand extended as if beseeching an audience, voice lowered as to be just audible over the storm, head almost bowing; he belonged to this creature.

There was a response from the creature that only Arkin could read.

"Of course I am," he implored.

Silence.

"My loyalty-"

Silence.

"I'm only try-"

Silence.

This disjointed conversation continued until Arkin seemed to give up, lowering his head. With a quiet moroseness he deftly stepped off of the headframe and in the time between lightning and thunder he had gone, leaving the substance to wait alone, whispering to thousands of other spawn, hundreds of miles away in every direction.

In his horse-drawn carriage on the ground Arkin lit his pipe and emerged to pick up the reigns, concealing himself from the rain with his coat and hat, while nestling back behind his large, canvas hood. A low groan made the ground tremble and Arkin's two brown mares whinnied in distress. The groan grew into a cacophonous, bellowing noise. Lightning struck and caused a gigantic, humanoid shadow to form over the land for a brief moment.

"These are strange times," said Arkin to his horses and giving them each a reassuring pat. He shook the reigns and the horses took their leave of the area dragging the large carriage behind them. "Strange times indeed."

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