Unknown Date 2479 A.R.T
This entry of my diary tells of how I became the most dangerous individual in all of creation, a power which I had thrust upon me and a burden which I will carry forever.
I have been struggling to start this entry, attempting to commence it with phrases such as ‘a little while after’ or ‘a good distance later,’ neither of which seem applicable to the time and space vacuum that is the Foundations. Therefore, I will simply begin it with the phrase ‘it occurred.’
It occurred that we found ourselves (after misplacing ourselves several times,) in a place which the Lost Vision had called Lower Back. Lower Back, as the name suggests, resembled the colossal, extended back of a humanoid which was hunched forwards to form what resembled a hillside. The vertebrae of the backbone had run up the centre of the hill, each bulging beneath the flesh to form a convenient flight of steps which the Lost Vision had informed us would lead us to Spine Hill and Demon’s lair. Unfortunately, the Lost Vision had also informed us that it was unwilling to journey onwards and it had said its goodbyes before its headache inducing form had faded into the darkness which hung above us.
After convincing Omen that, despite the lack of a balustrade, our ascent of Lower Back would be quite safe, we had begun to climb the vertebrae stairway, Butter clinging diligently to Skull’s arm. Again, I had noticed that Skull and Butter were exchanging clandestine messages on their shared slate but, not wishing to pry into their affairs, I had kept the matter to myself.
Eventually we had reached the crest of the hill and had made our way down the other side, following the curve of the backbone. I had imagined that sooner or later we would reach a set of shoulder blades and a neck but instead the backbone stairway had once again rose upwards, climbing at a much steeper angle that the previous incline. This had given me the unsettling notion that the backbone had been broken, twisted and deformed in its unnatural arching.
Look at that! Omen had written, cowering at the rear of the group. He had pointed toward the flesh of the incline, indicating what I can only describe as a brand, an enormous scar burned into the flesh which had read Welcome to Spine Hill.
We had continued with much trepidation, our supplies (especially Sawdust’s branches,) becoming quite a burden as we’d climbed the twisted backbone of Spine Hill. The masked creature had also become quite cumbersome and, sensing our struggle, it had slid to the floor and had begun to climb of its own accord, slithering up the backbone in a serpentine fashion, its wings flopping uselessly at its sides.
The higher we had climbed the older the surrounding flesh had seemingly become, wrinkles and age marks marring its surface, signs of aging which I knew had not been the gift of the Foundation’s timeless disposition. Eventually the flesh had become so frail and decrepit that I had feared it had died and, as we had reached the pinnacle of Spine Hill my fears had been realised. A plateau of rotting flesh and exposed bone had stretched out before us, a quagmire of decay and putrefaction. We had continued onwards with much trepidation, the flesh oozing and squelching beneath our feet, tearing and splitting to reveal not muscle but cartilage and bone, muscle, I’m guessing, not being a desirable attribute of stable terrain.
We had placed our feet carefully, being sure to step only on the skeletal structure and not upon the rotting skin stretched between the bones. Despite our care however, the journey had become increasingly treacherous, the decaying flesh becoming quite slippery underfoot, a hazard which had been more of a problem for some than others. Eventually Skull had seated Butter on what had appeared to be an enormous, exposed shoulder bone, straightening her beak and wiping the rotting debris from her goggles. He had expressed concerns for Butter’s safety and had quite rightly said that any wrong step (of which Butter is a master,) could send her falling into whatever horrors lay below the land’s skeletal structure. He had suggested that he waited there with her until we returned from our visit with Demon, a suggestion which had prompted Taboo to once again scrawl K-I-S-S-I-N-G across his slate. After the resulting written squabble, Skull and Butter had surprised us all by hugging us farewell, a gesture which at the time had seemed out of character and a little over the top.
Thank you for getting me this far Sunrise, Butter had written. We’ll see you as soon as we can.
Yes, thank you Sunrise, Skull had added, slapping me on the shoulder. Take care of yourselves, all of you and don’t worry about us.
We won’t be long? I had written, taken aback by their sincerity. Just sit tight and we’ll be back for you.
Waving a final farewell to Butter and Skull we had continued along the endless backbone which would, we were told, lead us to Spine Hill. If I had known then how our misadventure would play out, I would have insisted that Skull and Butter accompany us the whole way.
Was it just me or were Skull and Butter acting a little odd? Pulida had written.
They’ve been acting odd since we left, I had replied. I’ve no idea why?
It’s clearly due to their fudging hormones, Taboo had written, looking back toward the pint it seemed we had left Butter and Skull. I bet they’re at it already. At it like bunnies!
Oh, you mean like this? Cloud had written. He had held his hands over his head to simulate long, floppy ears and had hopped along at our side in what I must admit was quite a good imitation of a bunny’s movements.
No, Taboo had written. What I mean is that Skull’s probably-
I had seized Taboo’s writing stone, preventing him from explaining further.
Yes, I’d written. That’s exactly what Taboo means, Skull and Butter are both probably doing their best bunny impressions.
(Ink would just like to point out that the prior incident perfectly illustrates the kind of problems which erroneous comments like ‘at it like bunnies,’ ‘just a stone’s throw away’ and ‘more spoons than you can shake a stick at’ can cause. Clearly Butter and Skull were not at it like bunnies and Cloud’s confusion over the matter was completely understandable. He would also like to state that he does not consider himself to blame for the damage caused by Oats’ comment of ‘My greenhouse is just a stones throw from the duckpond’ and he would like me to know that I do not ‘own more spoons than you can shake a stick at.’ He shook a stick at my spoon collection for a full twelve hours, suffering a most painful sprain to his wrist in the process, an injury which he states was caused entirely by my outlandish claims.)
The surrounding flesh had continued to deteriorate and we had encountered a swarm of what I can only describe as winged maggots. The maggots had been roughly the size of a faeces left behind by a previously constipated holk whom had just managed a bowel movement (I must apologise for the vulgarity of my comparison but I find it hard to concoct any pleasant imagery when recalling this particular portion of the Foundations.) The maggot creatures had glided over our heads and had plopped themselves down onto an exposed organ of unknown design and purpose which had been nestled within a cage of rib bones, forming a small hillock amongst the vile tapestry of gore and fetid flesh.
Despite the obvious demise of the surrounding land the organ had shown signs of life as the maggots had begun to feast upon it, pulsating and twitching with what I can only imagine to be agony as it was eaten alive.
I don’t like this place Sunrise, Cloud had written, witnessing the vile spectacle. I want to go home. I want our mountain.
Don’t look at it, I had suggested, suddenly wishing I’d left Cloud with Skull and Butter. We’ll be home soon I promise.
The masked creature, which up until now had been slithering along behind us under the watchful eye of Bubbles had suddenly taken an interest in the plight of the organ and it had slid toward it, crossing a treacherous section of threadbare flesh which had threatened to collapse beneath it, the putrid skin splitting to release an eruption of intestines.
The maggots had taken flight at the approach of the masked creature, each of them squirting a cloud of noxious vapor as they went, unleashing a stench which had somehow rivalled the stink of the surrounding decay.
The masked creature had arched its back and had hoisted its heavy steel mask into the air, positioning it over the ribcage hillock. Its continual tears had flowed down onto the poor, dying organ within it and, knowing of no other way to describe it, a miracle had occurred.
The flesh of the organ had instantly begun to heal over, the gaping wounds caused by the maggots feasting shrinking and closing. What was more, scribbles of cartilage and sinew had appeared all around the organ, radiating out from it with all the intricacies of a spider web, fresh, healthy flesh weaving itself amongst it to fill the voids between bone and innards. Eventually the organ had become completely swaddled in flesh and safely hidden beneath a carapace of healthy, chestnut skin. The creature’s tears, which had flowed to the surface during the miraculous regeneration, had lay in a puddle within a bellybutton-like hollow upon the ground. The creature had lowered its heavy mask to the puddle and to our surprise, a long blue tongue had snaked from within it, escaping through a small slit in its seam created when Skull had sheared through the bolt. The tongue had lapped at the puddle of tears, deftly drawing it within the creature’s mask until the bellybutton hollow was completely dry and spasming with what I can only imagine to have been laughter, the land tickled by the creature’s tongue.
Upon withdrawing its tongue, the creature had straightened its body and had flexed its chain-swathed wings with such force that the remaining restraints had broken and fallen away. Within its mask the creature had begun to sing its strange, warbling melody, a song which had seemed to cause the bones and decaying flesh of the Foundations to resonate and quake in quite an alarming manner.
Fearing that the exposed skeleton of the land would collapse under the strange effect of the creature’s song, myself and my fellow Orderlies had stooped and covered our heads, though I am not sure what good protecting our heads would have done had the ground fallen out from under us.
The creature had suddenly seemed strong and full of life and splendour, a transformation which had brought to mind that undertaken by the Doll-Faced Rider after it had taken a draught from its flask.
Suddenly a lot of things had made sense to me and as the creature had launched itself into the void that served as the Foundation’s sky, I had found it hard to believe that the pile of blooded feathers and fur we’d found on the frozen shores of Gonnastrey and the magnificent creature soring above us were one and the same.
Its tears, I’d written, turning to Horizon and Pulida. That’s why the rider is hunting it. It needs the creature’s tears.
They appear to have unparalleled regenerative properties, Pulida had written, nodding. So much so that they appear to even be able to restore life. I’ll bet the Rider held it captive to harvest its tears, using them to keep itself youthful.
But it escaped? Cloud had written as he’d watched the creature fly overhead.
Yes, I’d written, and I’ll bet the rider will stop at nothing to recapture it. I’d wager it needs regular doses of tears to maintain its vigour. After I had explained the meaning of vigour to Cloud, Pulida had nodded his agreement.
If the rider does not have the creature’s tears, I imagine it will rapidly age and perish, Pulida had written. If we keep the creature from its clutches then I feel sure the rider will die.
But if we give it back, the rider will hurt the creature again, Cloud had written, tugging alarmedly on my arm. We can’t do it Sunrise! We can’t let the creature be hurt. It isn’t right!
But is it right to sentence the Rider to death by denying it the creature’s tears? Pulida had written. What we have here is a moral dilemma.
Well at the moment it is a moot point, I had written. Whilst the creature is here the rider has no way of recapturing it and it is quite safe from any harm the rider may pose it. For now, the morality of the situation has been taken from our hands.
Again, Pulida had nodded his agreement and at the time, I had pushed our ‘moral dilemma’ to the rear of my mind, needing the mental space to entertain more pressing matters such as our immanent meeting with Demon and our escape from the Foundations. Unbeknownst to us, fate would soon present us with a suitable, if not slightly cruel solution to the issue of the creature and the Doll-Faced Rider.