The Ninth Chapter
As awful as this world is, it doesn't deserve a child such as you; a child who would trade every living soul for a castle in the sky. A child who possessed the strength and courage of a god, but would do nothing to protect what is good. – Aletheia the Valiant
Deicide stepped through the fold in space created by the barely functional gate, wiping the fresh blood from his lips, attempting to straighten his ragged uniform. Just as he was through the connection was cut, leaving him in a field of sweet smelling grass that came up to his knees. It was blue in color and sparkled in the artificial sunlight that beamed around him. He knelt and ran his fingers over the tops of the soft blue blades, with a gentle tug he pulled a few of them away from the soft earth and rubbed them between his fingers; enclosed them in a loose fist and sniffed at their sweetness.
Before him was a forest, branches draped in silvery moss, twinkling in the soft light that snuck amidst the canopy growth overhead. As he began making his way toward the scent of water he heard singing. The Abyss, now a few sizes larger, hopped from his shirt and spread herself thin so she could catch the sound better. As it passed through her black membrane the sound was amplified several times over in Deicide’s ears, it was a child singing and the sound of a stream.
Minutes later Deicide came upon a little girl crouched along a stream, her skin was the color of gold, eyes like twinkling diamonds. On top of her head was a mass of thick, brown locks that spilt over her shoulders, down to her waist. She was wearing a simple white dress, adorned with frilly pastel cordons almost mocking Deicide’s own war ribbons that hung at the sides of his waist; he smiled, as if there was ever a member of an eater division that attended tea parties and dances with stuffed animals. As he came closer though, he could see that she had a pair of short antenna, each tipped with a blue light and two umbilical tails like his own, though they were also shorter. On further inspection of the cordons looped at her waist, Deicide could see his family crest at the top, a throne with wolves sleeping at its foot, but on the throne there was a book and a dagger, and the entire scene was back dropped by a golden sun. There were other crests he had never seen connected to his own, pompous heraldry and contradictory animals he would have no part of had he had his way. He was also disturbed that his wife’s crest was missing; he had always known Nott to be one that was concerned about her legacy.
The girl stood as the Abyss and Deicide arrived at the other side of the stream. Deicide gave her a tight, closed smile, not wanting to scare her with his edged teeth. They stood there for a few moments inspecting each other before the girl returned to what she had been doing, collecting polished rocks from the stream. Deicide crouched slowly and began to wash his face and hands, before tossing a palm-full into his mouth, unable to remember a time when water tasted so good.
He noticed the girl was watching him again. He looked down into the stream and selected a few dull rocks, then tossed them into the Abyss. The creature began to shiver and bubble and then spit out a selection of gemstones. Deicide handed them over to the girl, who hesitated in taking them. Deicide left his hand out and open, pretending to appraise the stones. When she finally took them, the sides of her mouth pulled into a familiar tiny grin, her large diamond eyes like smiles turned upside down, perhaps Nott had found a way, he thought. She spoke to him in a strange dialect of his native language.
“Are you God?” she said.
“What?” he said.
“God would return to his children in the form of a weary soldier. His children would know him from his dark skin, eyes of diamond and his living shadow,” she said.
“Sounds like me, but I am no god. God is only a pretender,” Deicide said. “Is that from a story?” he said.
The girl nodded. “Do you eat meat? I was told that God eats the flesh of animals and people,” she said.
“Umm. Little one,” Deicide said making sure he had wiped the blood from his lips. “I’m looking for a Gate that will take me to the Bridge,” he said.
“The Machine Mother controls all gates,” she said.
“Where is this woman?” he said.
“The great tree on the hill there,” she said. “My village is on the way. There is food and refreshment.”
“Thank you little one, but I really-” he said. The look on the girl’s face changed immediately; her eyes widened and her mouth became a pink tilde. Deicide was wary of offending locals, but in his state he would be highly vulnerable to an ambush. Though he and the Abyss had just recently fed, the bodies they occupied took an enormous amount of energy to function efficiently, within a few hours she and Deicide would be gravely hungry once more.
The little girl extended her hand, but Deicide did not extend his. Instead he listened to the whispers from the Abyss, all of her black mass gathered on his left shoulder, telling him he should devour this girl even if she was a distant relative. Deep within Deicide’s mind a subtle signal was about to pass from his brain to a large gland, allowing the Abyss to attack. The Abyss opened her lightless maw and screeched down at the girl. Deicide mentally pushed against the creature, knowing it was not her fault; though they had both fed a short time ago, they were still in a survival state. Gibberish about greater goods and morality would find no audience with her, even as Deicide held her back.
“Quiet shadow,” the girl said. Deicide cocked his head, sensing the Abyss had recoiled against her will. The girl must be one of his near infinitely great grandchildren; even his own natural birth children had been unable to control the Abyss. Yet this girl had his antennas and the ability to control sovereignty. Deicide wrapped his scarred hand around hers, and allowed himself to be led.
The girl nodded. “Good,” she said.
As the girl led Deicide through the forest; she told him bits and pieces of their oral history which were of a drastically different perspective of the ruined world he had just left. Her people considered themselves the true heirs to Deicide, being the only ones capable of accessing the archives, but Deicide considered it having more to do with luck than purity. These peaceful people were saved from the savages outside because they bared a closer resemblance to Deicide’s DNA. It enabled them to lock out undesirables and route all of the ship’s resources to their village. He was unsure of how he should feel, he would like to believe those that descended from his bloodline earned their place through merit and struggle, but Deicide saw no evidence of war here, not a single shell casing.
They arrived at a charming rustic village, the little girl ran ahead of Deicide as he remained at the village’s edge. He was unsure whether charging in would be the right action, if what the girl said was true then a mobbing was to be expected. He watched as people began to pour into the little square, their faces slack with astonishment, they beckoned him closer with their golden limbs. The population was very small; all residents had the same pleasant, slightly familiar face as the girl’s. They were tall people, though much shorter than the giant he had just left behind. They took turns hugging him and grasping his hands, rubbing their cheeks against them, marveling at how dark his skin was and how long his antennas were. None of them offered their names, and Deicide dared not ask; he had come across hive minded beings in his travels that had been insulted by singling any of them out. He was ushered to a long table filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables and seated at the head of the table. All their eyes were on him, even as he began to eat. He paused when he realized that he and the Abyss were the only ones eating.
“All for you,” a woman to his left said. The Abyss looked to Deicide then immediately began inhaling the vegan entrees, whipping her oily tendrils onto her next inanimate victims. As Captain of the Aeolipile, Deicide was used to the adorning gaze and scornful glare of the public, but no one had taken their eyes away from him since he stepped into the village. Their shining eyes were child-like; catching his every movement and gesture, before he could reach for a tray someone immediately scooped it up and offered him some of its contents. He wondered exactly what these people expected of him, he was no God, and in his present state, possessed only an inkling of his power. He hoped they would not expect some elaborate display later on.
He continued to enjoy what was offered to him, but lamented the fact that there was no meat available. He would do fine for a while if he gorged himself on these starches and fruits, but the Abyss may as well been eating trays of banana seeds and cups of air. He watched her throw fruits back into her black gaping maw and listened as they dissolved on contact when they touched her murky innards. As if reading his mind two men brought out a long tray of sliced meats and placed it before him. Before he could get excited he recognized the smell, it was the flesh of a sentient being, and though it had been cooked and sliced finely, Deicide hesitated. He remembered devouring the heart of that swine that had attacked him sometime before, even alone he had felt shame, he did not want to subject this guileless flock to his murderous aura while he fed on mortal flesh. Suddenly a thought struck him. Where had they gotten this person? He only felt worse when they told him it was a sacrifice. He snatched the Abyss and sat her in his lap, her large yellow eyes peered over the table and she began to make noises only Deicide could understand.
“Is there something wrong, Great Father?” a man to his right said.
“I don’t know if I’m still hungry,” Deicide said. With some relief they finally turned to each other, though their mouths never moved Deicide knew they were talking to each other, the lights at the tips of their antennas blinked rapidly.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of Great Father. This child will be reborn soon,” a woman said, motioning to a chamber with a familiar engraving. Deicide was unaware that the Carnica were still in use. The bee-like women acted as surrogates for the soulless husks that he used to supplement his Deathless Array, loaded with fragments of his own fight memory they were the equivalent of Grade 6 Eaters. Wiggling from his grasp the Abyss waddled onto the table and began tearing into the flesh, increasing her size with each bite. Deicide sat his chin on his knuckles as those gathered stared back at him, ever smiling, though he was unable to force one himself. After the Abyss had consumed most of it, she brought back a sizeable portion for Deicide. She was still curled into her diminutive form, spherical body, round stubby limbs and large eyes to appear cute to manipulate Deicide into doing something he did not wish to do, which was to consume the steak she held. As Deicide scowled back at her, he thought of how her eyes were merely for communication between them, only for his benefit, in his reality the Abyss was a black sundry of sensory organs; her entire body was an eye, an ear, a mouth. However, in her world, she was a hulking giant woman that was the scourge of enemy armies, and even her people. Once he had witnessed her dealing with some tribal matters and was disturbed by how much she reminded him of Gilgamesh, her rank and power enabled her to treat anyone as she wished. It was only with Deicide did she ever wear kid gloves, knowing that he was her Enkidu.
The Abyss swallowed the steak she had saved for Deicide and sat at the corner of the table, black quills covered her entire body as she narrowed her eyes at him. Deicide heaved a sigh and then raised his eyebrows to everyone else, then rapped his sharp fingers on the table.
“Ah yes. Come Great Father,” a man said. The table was cleared and Deicide followed the group to a shaded area behind the village. Here was the blue grass again and the silvery moss, but further on he could see a great tree on the crest of a hill, shooting up into the overhead as high as any sky would be on a large planet. Everyone sat in one of two circles, the children in a smaller circle in front of their parents, once again their eyes turned to Deicide. He noticed how all of the children seemed about the same age, as well as the adults, there were no elderly; none of the adults looked any older than Deicide did, permanently frozen in their physical primes. Unlike Deicide’s scarred physique, their skin was flawless; they looked like wingless golden angels. Deicide wondered if these people had ever felt pain or misery. How could they? Even their children were birthed by surrogates, he thought.
“Well, thank you for the meal,” Deicide said.
“It was our pleasure Great Father,” a man said. Living his whole life in a militarized society Deicide was accustomed to people who could not keep up with the beat of conversation or remember the points they were going to make. He sat calmly, unmoved by the weight of the silence between them.
“Tell us a story Great Father,” a child said.
“Sush, Zophiel,” a woman said.
The man to his right chuckled. “Every time you return, you tell us of your travels, and how you conquered the lessers,” a man said. Deicide wanted to ask about the Machine Mother and another possible Gate that was functional, but these people had treated him so well, even though he felt they were the ones who should be explaining things to him. He sighed and began think of a story that was suitable for children and would not bore the adults.
Deicide looked up into the twinkling canopy. “When I was still a child, I met a man called the Great White,” Deicide said. A child tugged at one of the purple cordons looped around his belt.
“You told us of the Great White last time,” a child said. Everyone nodded. Deicide shifted and folded his legs.
“Then what is it you all want to know about me, other than what you already know?” Deicide said.
“Very little about your childhood is written in the archives,” a man said.
“And all you’ve told us in the past was about other people,” a woman said.
“How did you get the name Deicide?” someone said. Deicide looked around at all of the faces, then to the Abyss.
“Do you all know of the alternate worlds?” Deicide said.
“Yes, I believe so. The half worlds?” someone said.
“There is nothing half about these worlds,” Deicide said. “For if those worlds are halved, then also, our worlds are halved.”
It took Deicide a moment to think back when he first felt the tugging, as if something were trying to pull him in another direction. In the beginning he had only known his mission, to kill the pretender god. His surrogate mothers and fathers explained to him that it was Nott’s duty to restart the race with her science, but he, Lord Antino Elias Myann II was to slay the god that had betrayed their people. To become this god slayer would require enormous strength that he could not achieve on his own. It was in the old texts passed down from scholars and thinkers that not only lived aboard the Demiurge’s ship, but also conversed with him, that a clue to his power was discovered.
The Demiurge claimed that he was from the single true world, and he was believed to be the one true god, that had created Abstrusians from some divine plan, but Demiurge had walked as man before he could fly, had struggled with stones before he moved mountains. Though it was not these faults which the Abstrusians claimed him a pretender god, it was because the Demiurge had no answers concerning the real world, and it was later discovered that he had created a partition separating them from the actual world.
Deicide told them of how the son of the Demiurge, Antino I, had sided with the Abstrusians instead of his father. The original Antino led an army against the Demiurge, but neither Antino, nor the Abstrusians were warriors, and they were slain by the Demiurge’s assemblage. And when nearly all of the men had been eradicated, the Demiurge crippled the rest with infertility, and left the race to dwindle away. The women and the few men tried to cure themselves of the fate which would annihilate them, but the Demiurge was the one that had created them, only he could undo the curse he had placed upon them.
So a team of women had the idea to clone the only man that was not susceptible to the twisted science that had brought about this plague. From the genetic material of Antino I, a special set of children were born, all of them were engineered to be strong and swift, most of the Abstrusian weaknesses had been bred out of them, and those that retained the impurities quickly died during the intense regiment they were put through. Deicide had been among those that lived through the first rounds. All of the children, male and female were about equal in terms of strength and intelligence, but Deicide was the child that most closely resembled the son of the Demiurge, though they had all been raised in a similar fashion and environment as the original, Deicide was the only one that was sensitive to the different sovereignties around him, even able to manipulate them at a very young age.
It was then one day that Deicide sensed one of these sovereignties that was as strong as his own. He was busy moving blocks around on a table without touching them with his hands, an act which made the other children jealous, so he was forced to practice in private. Just at the corner of his right eye he saw reality warp and darken, and then a girl was there. The lights of this room dimmed and Deicide knew he was not entirely in his own world anymore, but somewhere in between hers and his. She was dressed in the furs of some great beast, and when she pulled off her hood her face was as pale as the snow that was melting on her shoulders. Deicide had never seen anyone with this white skin before, the lightest color that he had seen Abstrusians in was a moderate gray, but this girl was no resident of Abstruse.
He stood and faced the girl, she was a few years older than him and looked like a warrior, but he had beaten Ecocide and the rest of the Lionesses and they were the strongest girls he knew. She stepped forward and he could feel that she possessed a great deal of sovereignty; every object that was not connected to the floor was now raised into the air. She smiled at Deicide, knowing that she had impressed him.
“That’s amazing,” Antino said, still physically able to speak in Abstrusian, though poorly, he was about to say more but was unsure if she could understand what he was saying. She came closer and beckoned for Antino to meet her half way. When they had reached the center Antino realized that he was not in his world at all, but hers. He watched, as giant fish-like creatures swam in the dark sky. Lightning was constantly striking off in the distance and he could not tell if it was thunder or the steady beat of a drum somewhere, the drum of war.
Her lips began to move, but not as an Abstrusian’s would, whose language was more sung than spoken, no, her speech was choppy. Later, he would compare it closer to how humans spoke. When she placed her arms around him, the words were still unfamiliar, but he could somehow ‘feel’ her meaning. Deicide looked up into her yellow eyes, there was curiosity in them, and she played with one of his antennas, not knowing how much it hurt or annoyed him. Then she placed his head on her chest, which had not begun to grow breasts. He could feel a powerful heart beat underneath.
“I. Come for trade,” she said, rocking the boy now in her tight grip.
“What is it that you want?” Antino said, of course it mattered not what she wanted, only that he accepted her offer. They would be unable to articulate their goals to one another even if they spoke fluently in each other’s languages. However, their wishes were aligned, but continuing on this path somehow they would help each other attain them, at least that was what the ancient texts had said.
She pulled Antino back so she could stroke his face. “Trade,” she said. It was almost as if she thought he were some pet, a puppy she had found somewhere and was fascinated by.
He had been told by his surrogate mothers to accept if a visitor should offer. “Yes, I will honor the fair trade,” Antino said.
She stared into at Antino’s face; now that the bond was partially made she had access to all he knew, including his language. She searched his mind for a suitable name. “You will be a man bested by no other, gods will fear you, and the unspoken laws of the universe will have no hold upon you, for you have my strength and are protected by my love” she said. “I name you Deicide.”
Deicide looked up at the girl knowing that her words felt genuine, for she had always watched him as he slept, he could feel her sitting in the darkness of the night. It was she that had whispered for him to rise after beaten down by his strict mentors; her mouth was like the entrance to some drowned out cave into oblivion, her black teeth the stalactites and the stalagmites. “I will provide for you the concoctions that you require to make you strong, your size will be unending, and no matter the number of lovers I take, you shall command the most love and respect in my heart,” Deicide said. “You are the Abyss.”