The Twenty-Sixth Chapter
Lonely and unfulfilled with his life, the man decided to recreate his existence.
From her living room Fawn was rousted out of a comfortable afternoon nap. It was Lechwe yelling nonsense about a fight near the bridge; it was not until she mentioned Genocide’s name did she remove herself from her muddled haze. Quickly Fawn grabbed her Toy Box’s side arm, unable to retrieve the full unit from the armory. Her gray vestige clung to her back like withered, featherless wings as she bolted from the living complex. She jumped over the railing and as she fast approached the ground, the vestige snapped to her legs, absorbing the force from the fall. The ability to use a killbox was fleeting to her, as it wasted an enormous amount of energy, but the vestige still enabled her to battle without touching the ground if she chose. With maddening speed, Fawn soared to the Bridge, there she found Secant trying to use his silver tongue to calm the enraged Genocide.
Secant’s voice was low and even, but his attempts at being cool and rational seemed to be useless. Genocide snarled and grunted into her chest; Fawn could see the woman was long past communicating as a human, she had seen the same look on Deicide’s face, commitment to the macabre. Genocide was about to lose control; they all did eventually, eaters. Fawn thought of them as dog’s put in charge of their own leashes, eventually they would be discarded.
Flechette had little to tell her when Fawn approached her side.
“What the hell is she goin’ on about?” Fawn said, wrapping her fists.
“She wants to ram the Aeolipile,” Flechette said.
“What?” Fawn said eyes wide, mouth agape, revealing her edged teeth.
“Sec was the only thing stopping her,” Flechette said. They watched as Secant tried to grab Genocide only to have his neck slashed. Fawn immediately hopped over the railing onto the next floor. She drew her weapon and sighted on the back of Genocide’s head. Fawn’s vestige swirled about her neck and then slithered down to her forearms and turned themselves into small bladed protrusions. Her jaws were clamped together so hard she felt as if her teeth would crack. The intricate Protean handgun sat unwavering in her palms.
“Turn around Geno,” Fawn said. Immediately Genocide’s face was in her own, then her fists as she pounded Fawn’s face. Fawn swung the weapon like club, smashing it against the woman’s skull. The eater recoiled just long enough to smile and then returned to her onslaught. Fawn was wary of firing the weapon inside the skin of the ship, as it was loaded with Negation rounds. They had little vestige material to clog the reaction if a round came into contact with the ship. Genocide’s claws found their way to her throat and they both slammed into the wall surrounding the atrium. Fawn could feel the woman’s muscles straining underneath her skin, the vestige had slipped its way beneath Genocide’s grip and Fawn took a breath before she thrust Genocide away. She brought the gun up, but Genocide slashed it from Fawn’s grasp.
“You’ve let him infect you,” Genocide said. “The Abyss should have eaten you, unless you’re one of his children, which I doubt. More likely, just one of his whores.”
The fire headed woman spread her arms out, taunting Fawn to attack. Driven by the maddening pace of the battle Fawn rushed the woman. With her blood up, Fawn allowed her natural battle instincts to guide her attacks, her head slipped past blindingly fast jabs. People surrounding began to cheer, as Fawn punished Genocide’s skull. As she landed a brutal hook, Fawn’s world began to slow as she saw Genocide’s eyes were on her; even as she bashed the eater’s face with punches. The familiar claustrophobic feeling of a killbox surrounded Fawn and she could sense Genocide’s malevolence all over her. Fawn hesitated, but then pushed back, creating a dogbox. The air inside was thick from the heat radiating from their bodies, arduous to breathe under the power of their own lungs. Fawn watched blood and spittle run from Genocide’s mouth. She snapped her jaws toward Fawn repeatedly until she was caught in a headlock. Fawn released her when the woman tore into her thigh. She backpedaled and ignored the injury, her vestige would be sending her some goodies for the pain soon enough.
As her vestige began to slide back into her leftover umbilical plug Fawn could feel it rippling through her arteries and veins. Her gums ached and bled as her teeth prepared for messy, red work, her fists were clamped impossibly tight as she exhaled an icy vapor from her nostrils and mouth. The two women began to circle quickly in opposite directions, and then bolted toward each other. They locked arms; Genocide dug her sharp fingers into Fawn’s skin, just as Fawn yanked the woman toward her. Opening her jaws wide Fawn bit through Genocide’s orbital, cheekbone and part of her jaw, crushing it with the force of a hulking beast. Genocide tore herself away as Fawn spit the bone, flesh and blood to the floor. Genocide’s hands were on her face; her punctured left eye had slipped out of her ruined socket, hanging from a shredded optic nerve between her fingers. Shaking with anger, Genocide looked up to Fawn with her remaining eye to find the woman amused at her suffering.
“You fuck!” Genocide said; blood spilling down her neck, the bone of the upper half of her jaw was exposed. Fawn lurched forward as if in a trance, the vestige emerging partially from the remnants of her umbilical plug. She could hear ancient voices whispering to her from beyond a great divide, she nodded as she comprehended their message. With a thought Fawn sent the vestige soaring toward Genocide. The flat, gray ribbons multiplied hundreds of times all over her body, as she resisted, they stabbed unmercifully into her wounds, breaking down Genocide’s physical structure. The vestige began to grow, and before Genocide could be fully liquefied she was taken into its gaping spiny throat. Then, with a voice like the chanting of Gregorian monks it began to sing praises of Fawn’s triumph. As her sovereignty slipped back to her person, Fawn stood in front of the puddle of blood where Genocide had just been. Then with a look of horror, Fawn looked up to the faces looking down at her from the level above. She saw Secant being cared for by medics in front of the main entrance to the bridge.
Suddenly Fawn was overcome with disgust, her stomach bubbled, and she placed her hand to her mouth. She broke from the scene and ran back to her stateroom as fast as possible. Quickly entering she stumbled to the bathroom, but wretched up the contents of her stomach as soon as her feet touched the tile. A thick gray soup splashed onto the floor, spattering the mirrors and the walls. The room was filled with the scent of syrupy kerosene. She crouched down to examine the metal bits that sprinkled the floor. Suddenly the gray material pulled itself together and smiled at Fawn just as it had when she had battled with Deicide. The white eyes were sinister and somehow amiable, like a gentleman thief, duplicitous in a scheme unknown to Fawn. The bits of metal converged themselves and she saw that they connected into simple machines. She then realized it was the pieces of the gun she had dropped. The thought seemed to affect their assembly and the sidearm became whole once more. As she reached for the weapon the creature snatched it away and tore it down again, letting the pieces disappear into its silky gray folds. When the pieces emerged again they had been assembled into a gun she was not sure she had seen before. Suddenly, a nostalgic feeling came over her as she recognized the subtle trademarks in the weapon. She was sure she had seen the same weapon on the cloaked figure that had visited her just days before her capture. The eyes met her gaze and nodded as she reached to take hold of it.
“Fawn. Baby you there?” Secant said.
“Don’t come in here,” Fawn said, as she slapped her hand across a holographic button panel, locking the door. She was panicked, wondering if this thing might try to hurt Secant or others. She was sure the trust she had from these people had already been dashed away. The monster before her continued to smile, ever smug, it began to fill her mind with a perfect account of what had happened. There seemed to be an array of personalities inside this creature, many she had an extreme distaste for.
“Stop!” Fawn said.
“What? Hey, open up,” Secant said, pounding on the door.
“I can’t. We’ll talk later,” Fawn said.
“C’mon. I just want to help,” Secant said.
“I know. I know; I just need some time,” Fawn said.
“You think I’ve never seen this before?” Secant said. “Is that how it’s going to be Fawna?”
“Yeah,” Fawn said, softly.
The usual daily ship announcements were muted as the collision alarm began to sound, a constant high pitched beep. The Nazareth was about to make contact with the boundaries of this existence, the hull of the Antikythera. Fawn could feel the activity moving throughout the ship. The crew had prepared with numerous drills and pre-planned responses, but no one knew exactly what would happen if the actual event took place. Many researchers had calculated they would be stretched to infinity or smash into a two dimensional point. The Officer-of-the-Deck cut through the alarm as he came over the 1MC.
“This is not a drill; I repeat this is not a drill. All personnel report to their General Quarters stations,” he said.
“Fawn, open the fucking door,” Secant said.
It was then that Fawn heard the ship collapsing; massive open compartments were being squeezed so tight that a single cell could not slither through them. They had nothing to counteract the forces which had them. They were completely at the mercy of chance. Fawn glared back into the face of the vestige. It had already spoken and was awaiting a reply. Fawn listened as Secant pounded against the door. Her eyes flickered from the vestige pouring into her tear ducts, leaving dingy water on her cheeks.
The vestige offered life only to her, with no mention of how. Fawn felt helpless, how was anyone to choose between a gamble at survival or dying in the arms of the one they loved. She could hear Secant on the other side pleading to see her before it was all over. Fawn looked over her shoulder as if she could see through the metal door, then she glared back to the vestige. Its face no longer smiling, the ragged white mouth was flat with disgust.
“I need to see him,” Fawn said. The vestige lashed out a gray tentacle at the door release, causing it slide open.
Secant was on the other side, his nails were shattered and bloody from clawing at the door. His eyes were red and his clothes were ragged, from people trying to tear him away from the area. His bandage from his injury from Genocide was saturated with blood. The two embraced, squeezing each other enough to do harm. Finally, Secant looked up over Fawn’s shoulder and saw the vestige had stretched itself wide; in its center there was a blurry image of another world, like a faded photograph in an oval frame. Immediately, Secant pushed Fawn away from him.
“It’s alright,” he said.
Fawn tried to speak, but no sound would come out. “I…I’m sorry,” she said, finally.
Secant shook his head, smiling. “If you could save me, you would,” he said. “I love you.”
Fawn could hear compartments further down were being smashed together, each one sounded like a giant had lost his footing. Secant looked over his shoulder as another one crushed close by. He looked back to Fawn and tried to free himself from her grip. Then he shoved Fawn as hard as he could back into the vestige. Fawn was nearly horizontal as she flew backwards. She watched as her apartment was crumpled before her. The vestige took hold of her limbs and stuffed her into its gray folds, fortunate that she saw that Secant was still whole before she was tossed through.
After a long fall Fawn was wretched from the other side and as she looked around she could tell it was from here where all dimensions were spun, this dreary chaotic world would define Hell for anyone who saw it; the sky was torn open, bleeding ash and acidic rain on broken monuments and relics of a societies that ended billions of years ago. This wet gray land, was an endless valley, shielded by mountains which no bird or machine could ever hope to fly over. It was the half world, one of many, dark and alien; its existence seemed to defy the laws of reason.
At the corners of her mouth were freshly healed gashes from where her cheeks had split to attack Genocide. Her hot pink hair had faded to a dull tea rose and her violet eyes had turned to a deep gray. Her skin had darkened considerably, as if she had suffered through a few applications of varnish. Her mind felt crowded by some other, unlike before the vestige had flooded her with a rambling audience of know-it-alls and deviants, but now they spoke in uniform. Her vestige peeked over her shoulder and peered at the side of her face, it blew an icy mist against her cheek. Fawn’s eyes crept to the corners and watched as its jagged mouth worked, silent, but speaking loudly in her mind.
Though she could understand its alien-speak, Fawn was unsure of the creature’s intentions; she had nothing left to give. Just then familiar thoughts surged into her mind; from somewhere far away she felt she could hear Secant speaking. She could barely understand his words, but knew the message. If you could save me, you would. Was what she remembered him saying before he shoved her away? It was in this moment that Fawn wished she had died in his arms, she had betrayed her ideals, to her, human existence was not about cowardly clutching to the ankles of life, but being remembered with a regretful sigh by those that did. She hated the slacked-skinned decrepit who were too afraid to die, miserly bribing death to sit in their stuffy mold-choked houses for another day.
From the incessant chattering of her vestige another set of voices peeled off, it was Lechwe with her usual nagging and Alpha talking about some stupid contraption he had bought. Fawn shook her head and lay down in the grass. Some moments later Flechette pushed her way through the noise, but Fawn was not in the mood for the woman’s cold and practical advice, she wanted to take it all back, everything that came with it; the misery of another tour into war, her shaky leadership position on the Nazareth, even the alienation she had experienced inside the Aeolipile. As the vestige loomed over her she noticed several objects fall out of its gray ooze, one of them was a firing pin from an E.P. Rifle. Fawn picked it up and turned it over in her hand and as she read the serial numbers she realized that it could have only come from Flechette’s Penny Red, the first two numbers were code for the Dearborne’s development team.
More and more pieces soon dropped out of the vestige and then it took hold of them with its gray ribbons, assembling them with humanely impossible precision. When it was complete it hefted all of the weapons into itself and poured onto Fawn. She struggled to free herself from the pool of ooze she was being smothered with. When her face emerged she was dressed in a gray coat with numerous layers. She stood up and opened the coat to reveal an organic lining which held an assortment of weapons, handguns, submachine guns, grenades, even a Gatling gun. She took hold of one the handguns, noticing that even holding all this bulk she felt remarkably light and streamlined, as none of the weapons showed themselves through the coat.
The gun in Fawn’s hand seemed ordinary, a standard sidearm that had been issued to their soldiers for decades. She checked the magazine, the color of the bullets looked off, but she shrugged and replaced it back into the magazine chamber. She narrowed her eyes at a tree down range; she fired at it, noticing that the trigger pull was absurdly light. The gun bucked and exploded, tearing away a circular chunk of the tree. She approached and saw that the section of the tree she had knocked off was absent, not even a splinter showed itself. She had fired countless negation rounds and knew these could not be them, if they were, the reaction would continue far after.
Fawn glanced around herself, taking in the dark sights before her. She could hear the sounds of war pouring over every mountain, screams of demons and warrior princesses. She could sense that there were other vestiges connected to this world, from the one she had just left, and through them all she could sense the Abyss, and she knew that the Abyss could sense her. It was then that her vestige, Long Arms, twisted around to her front, his large topaz eyes smiled back with warmth that was reflected in her chest. Long Arms growled in his alien tongue that only Fawn could understand, as he had on that strange night when they had finally been introduced. He spoke to her about a circuit that needed completing and Fawn nodded, knowing that if she did so she could bring back Secant and her friends, for they were not dead, Long Arms told her, just lost, for it was difficult to consider anyone truly dead in the half worlds.