A Starcrossed Joining

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Love, a feeling usually of such wonder and beauty, comes in many more forms than we care to admit. There is a kind of love that keeps those who are confined in their confinement. It is a type of
love that is sick, and corrosive. When the correct ingredients are added, when the right time has come, love can twist those ensnared by it into hideous abominations.

Submitted: May 30, 2018

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Submitted: May 30, 2018

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A Starcrossed Joining

By Shaquille Louis Brown

 

Love comes in many different styles, forms and ways. Many of them are positive, many are neutral. This is a story of a toxic love. This is a negative love that eats away at the very core of humanity and causes the unrequited lover, the one who’s care is met with carelessness, to respond in ways that seem, at first, irrational and unconventional. But when you understand this mind, one twisted by hurt, betrayal, and a sick sense of “love”, you gain the wisdom needed to understand, that if you have this kind of love, this is your future…


 

“Yes Ji. Please read from page 53,” says the teacher, her eyes bright and full of pride at her precious scholars, eager to understand the inner workings of the world their parents have created for them.

“Yes Ms. Lee,” says the little girl as she stands. Her clean white uniform freshly pressed and shining. Her male servant, a tall, but young black teenager, bends over and places his white gloved finger on the first line of the page, and as she reads, he traces the words.

“The Liang/Xing Temporal Spatial Anomaly Matrix is the largest of the five temporal facilities in the world. Housing 456 happy workers, servants, scientists and guardsmen, the facility is the most important means for Asian Alliance people’s- people’s. . .”

“Ah- ascension,” says the servant.

“Ascension, thank you, Dummy,” she says happily. The teen nods, smiling. “The cannon is so powerful that it can open a wormhole in time and space and create an electro-mag-net-ic bridge that allows our glorious people to reach the other side of space over 100 million light years away.”

“That’s really, really far away!” exclaims the servant cheerfully, “Makes you wish you could send your homework through the cannon huh?”

All of the children suddenly burst into laughter. Ms. Lee immediately slammed a leather bar down on her desk, she was furious. Her face twists into a fiery hatred, and the young servant shrinks back.

“Get, OUT!” she suddenly screams. The servant quickly leaves, making sure not to bump into any of the children or their servants on the way. There are tears in his eyes as he passes, but none of the other servants dare to look directly at him.

One of them, an older man, stands stark straight, but his sorrowful eyes trace the boy as he leaves. He coughs several times, but makes sure to keep his mouth closed.

“You will be getting the lashes I would have given him,” says Ms. Lee to the older servant, “Next time teach your little nigga son to watch his smart mouth.”

During her smoke break, Ms. Lee stands outside. Another teacher, a man, joins her outside.

“Can I bum a smoke Yoko?”

“Get fucked Charlie,” says Lee.

“Well, how bout a quick roll behind the bleachers,” says Charlie as he grabs her butt. She jabs him quickly in the chest.

“Stop, we’re outside, later.”

She hands Charlie her cigarette and he takes some puffs. They both look up into the sky. There it is. Surrounded by shimmering blue and white light, was something that looked like a living painting. An enormous spatial anomaly, the result of years of slavish labor and countless human lives. Through the hole in the sky they could see it, the saving grace that would give their glorious people hope for a new future. There were two planets in view through the hole.

“Do you really think Verion will work out?” asks Charlie.

“I-. . .” Lee fumbles her words, looking at something on the street a few yards away from them.

“What babe?,” says Charlie, admiring the hole, “The only planet in this shit heap universe of like 2 billion, other than here. It’s like Earth on steroids. Just need to deal with the fucking energy static coming off that shitball next to it.”

In the hole, the bright white planet, the one closest to the portal, was a “miracle world” known as Verion. Behind it, was the more mysterious of the two, a bulbous, onyx colored lump that could be just barely seen hovering behind Verion. They called it Nuria and they had been trying to dismantle it’s ever increasing signal, a powerful “electromagnetic frequency” that it gave off. Attempts to land on Nuria always ended with a lost crew, and after they retrieved the audio recordings from the team who reached its surface, their screams warded off anyone who thought themselves brave enough to try again.

“Ugh,” says Lee.

“Yeah I know, that big black thing is fucking hideous. I hope they blow it up when we get all settled in,” says Charlie.

“No idiot, look,” says Lee chuckling and indicating the nearby scene. In the street, hazard suited men are walking several sick and vomiting black servants from the school. Many of them are convulsing and shaking. Black liquid is leaking from their eyes, noses and mouths.

“Why do they come to school if they’re sick?” asks Charlie, as Lee snatches back her cigarette, which Charlie mostly enjoyed by himself.

“Because they have to feed their families,” says Lee after sucking in the smoke. She blew it out slowly, “I’m more concerned with why they are the only ones getting sick. I knew those people were cursed. I’m glad we’re leaving them on this dying shit heap when we go.”

She looks up at the Liang/Xing cannon facility. It is an enormous black structure. At each of the four corners of its grounds, there are tall grey skyscrapers with no windows, just solid brick. The cannon is affixed to a giant black dome in the middle of the four skyscrapers and the cannon, an enormous rectangular barrel, is aimed at the swirling hole in the sky.

“Good riddance,” says Lee, just as something begins to happen with the men in hazard suits. One of the servants has gotten free and is attacking the men. Lee and Charlie watch on, stupefied at how none of the rest of the hazard suit wearing men could take this servant down. One of the men strikes him across the face with a stun baton. The servants neck twists back, and he is staring at them, his eyes a piercing bright orange color. So bright, so pinpoint, they could see it from several yards away. The servant’s neck twists back around, in the wrong direction, completely one hundred-eighty degrees. The man in the hazard suit climbs into the transport vehicle, screaming hysterically about the demon that looked him dead in the eyes.


 

Miles away from the school, in the office of Dr. Liang, the Liang/Xing Facility Director.


 

“What is this fascination with wanting to be so different. This need to be. . . other. . .? I do my work like everybody else. I follow all your rules. I make sure I don’t look you in the eye when you speak to me. All of us do, and still, we are abandoned and left to rot. I sit here at home with a picture of what she used to look like in my hand, and I weep. My beautiful wife. Her precious dark brown skin, her beautiful almond eyes, her full lips and her full womanly figure. I see why you were attracted to her.

I understand why you hungered for her similar to how I hunger for you now. Everyday I regretted hitting you in revenge. That wasn’t right. It’s not what Jesus would have done. I wish we could just put all these differences aside and truly understand each other.  

Hatred is a sick obsession. I never understood why people like you had such hatred for people like me. I wouldn’t hurt a fly Master Shen, so why did you hurt my Willimena? But you will have to live with what you did. I will have to let Jesus handle this. Good day, I hope we never meet again.”

 

The old asian man looks the letter up and down as he reads aloud. He strokes his salt and pepper colored beard and places it on the desk, sliding it across the surface, a sickened grimace on his face.

“Why can’t you keep your hands off these dark people? Now this one has disgraced me with this letter to your indiscretions.” he says.

There is an unsteady pause as the young boy across from him wipes sweat from his upper lip.

“Heh,” snickers the boy, cleaning his thin, black framed spectacles with the tail end of his bright white lab coat.

“What can I say, heh, I have a soft spot in my heart for the soft-headed people,” says the boy just before the older man slams his fist down on the desk, causing the boy to leap up in his chair and drop his spectacles.

“Dammit if they’re broken-”

“They’re not father, please calm down. Why does it matter what happens to them? We’re not taking them with us. Most of them have contracted the Darkie Sickness anyway. She was sick, I was just doing her a favor. That other stuff was, was. . .” the boy rambles and becomes silent upon seeing his father’s disapproving visage.

“They are workers to be worked and you fraternizing with them weekly is causing an inordinate amount of uproar! To have a family member of mine lower himself to roll around in the sludge with one of them, and then we find this nigga writing letters speaking of his hunger to kill you!” exclaims the old man, his pallid yellow cheeks turning red with bursting anger.  He waves over to a man at the back corner of the room who is facing the wall. The old man is coughing and wheezing, but the man in the corner is unresponsive. The man in the corner is muttering something join that they cannot hear.

The old man picks out a tank figurine from his desk, and throws it squarely into the back of the servant.

The man stirs slightly. He is ancient and decrepit, and so when he manages to start moving, his bones creak and ache with a worrying popping. He has an old musty smell to his freshly pressed and  steamed suit that has sewn up rips and tears along the seams and patches every so often strewn throughout a uniform that once fit but is now too big for a crumbling frame.

“Ooooh, hello master Shen,” says the old black man as he passes the boy.

“Hello Walt, nice to see your still kicking oldtimer,” says Shen as he pats Walt on the back. A plume of dust comes from his suit, accompanied with that musty smell. Shen covers his nose.

“How do you feel about the nigga problem Walt?” asks the old man, coughing.

“I- I believe. . .” Walt stammers. Both of them look into his eyes, they seem darker than usual. Blacker than usual. “I believe that if you are a good worker then you will have a good life. We have to good because the cannon is the key.”

“The cannon is the key? Indeed,” says the old man, patting old Walt on his arm. The old black servant smiles slightly, clearly mentally somewhere else.

“Father, I have to return to oversee the gate operations. Verion will be ready in mere months but I belive we’re moving too fast. The Nuria signal is still emitting, in fact, some of the guys are saying it’s getting closer to the hole, like the entire planet is moving closer. So I need to go confirm that.” The old man wipes his head with a silk napkin and gulps down two pills the old servant holds on a silver platter for him. He pats his fat fingers against the oversized grey pinstripe suit jacket he wears and sighs.

“There is a dark air today,” says the old man, hacking and wheezing, “Something, something is not right. Just hurry up and get us off this dying planet. Shen, you are already an embarrassment, don’t fail me on this too.”

Shen frowns and leans forward, then remembers he has to ask his father for permission. He sits back down.

“Get out!” yells his father. Shen scrambles, dropping and snatching his glasses off the ground again. He notices as he leaves, there is a fracture going down the left lens now, a star shaped crack. He grumbles with anger as tears well up in his eyes. He barrels past the two guards posted outside the door and out into a marble tiled hallway with sleek redwood walls and lined with gold trim. He suddenly slams into two black servants carrying bottles of water which scatter across the floor and under Shen’s feet. He stumbles and the younger servant grabs his arm, pulling him up. The little, wormy man finally gets his bearings and rips his arm from the servant.

“T-thank you,” he mutters as he wipes his red eyes.

“I’m sorry-” The servant suddenly sneezes at Shen. A spattering of dark colored liquid splashes across his clean white coat. Shen swipes at and hits the servant over the head several times before rushing off. He roars with anger, kicking bottles further down the hallway, tripping on them as he retreats. The guards at the door begin helping the servants pick up the bottles, then the old man appears in the doorway, the soldiers straighten up, throw down the bottles and begin demanding the servants to pick up the bottles immediately. Slinging insults and threats that if Dr. Liang trips on any of them, that both the servants and their  families would be executed.

These interactions, the vile and the harmonious ones, the brutal and debase ones, were all together a common occurrence in a world where people refused to learn the lessons of the past. They barreled toward innovation with a sordid focus on enriching the pockets of investors whose pockets, already obese with profits, would always prove to still hunger as if they’d never known sustenance. It never ends, it just mutates. As they would soon see.

But now knowing the world we find ourselves in, we go to a man imprisoned. A man who fought non-violently, but fruitlessly to defend a family that both does and does not belong to him. A man who failed to save the woman he loved most from a terrible fate. Soon, the innovation that humanity barreled toward blindly, and the pain and suffering it inflicted to achieve that innovation, will collide in a spectacular show of lovehorror. This is a show that only the stars will live to see.

So he sat, his fingers interlocked in his lap, his legs dangling through the bottom of his cage. His enormous broad shoulders slump down in defeat. His face is formed in sadness. His tears are dry, his mind is racked with thoughts of what his family is being put through. His anger has subsided, for now. His grey prison jumpsuit holds tight to his muscled back. 424 is printed in large text across his back. The hair on his head has been shaved to make way for a strange device. A metal cap that has been wired down to his skull. If he gets out of line, this device will see to it that he doesn’t last long.

The cells around him are interlocked with slightly swinging chains, and they are are locked to catwalks. Each cell has a short path leading to it from the main catwalk. There is a disorienting swaying to these cages that makes one sick if you stand too long. The bars are criss-crossed but there is a place at the bottom to slide food into, or dangle your legs out of it you see fit to sit. There are men in cages above him, below him and to the right and left of him. The cells themselves are only large enough to stand or lie down, not much else, and if you’re an inordinately tall man, you’re out of luck. Some men scream and holler, some of them weep in sorrow, some of them are like 424, stuck in the realization that this place is home now. No one ever leaves these prisons and returns home alive. It is a sobering and all together disappointing realization.

The building they are in, the halls of prisoners seem to go on forever. The inside of the building is a slick black, the white walls have long since been smeared with starsludge, an oily black, wet, sticky slime with a slight orange glow. It comes from the prisoners’ work, which is to clean this mysterious residue from the Liang/Xing cannon’s barrel and engine after it fires. It produces so much that many black men have drowned in whole rooms full of it. Old shit and piss had caked to the bars as well and it would occasionally fall from a prisoner above 424. It is near pitch black inside except for small swaying lamp lights dangling from each above catwalk. The levels go up 40 stories and down 40 stories from where 424 sits. There are guard stations situated throughout the bare installation. Stations packed with only one or two guards at most, no doubt due to the overconfidence of the cretins who made this prison. Those guards spend their time reading or playing card games instead of watching prisoners, who are usually so greatly confined mentally, they know they don’t need to watch them any closer. Or perhaps it is some form of hope, a hope that if one performs well enough, the masters of this society will deign to release him. This has actually happened rarely in the past, rarely. If only these fools knew the truth, those who “earned freedom” were allowed to reinforce the optimism of the confined, then they were disposed of in the nearby filthy water that goes through purification and is turned into coolant to help clean and cool the enormous cannon. But if the mental prison was ever breached, the device atop the heads of the prisoners would remind the prisoner to stay in line.

Suddenly there is a beeping and a flashing red light on the device of the man to 424’s left and the prisoner begins screaming. He gets down from his bare and torn hammock, every cell gets one, and they are what pass as a bed in this hell the man grips the device on his head.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I- tttgh AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

He screams as the device activates and barrels one of eight nails deeper into his skull. It’s meant to hurt, not to kill. That is the job of the massively wide ninth nail at the top, aimed directly diagonally toward the center of the brain.The eight nails instead simply apply pressure and pierce into the skin. They are intentionally warped in a hook shape so that they curve into the skin and as the device pulls it, it curls and breaks out of the skin.

“Stupid motherfucker. You can’t get out of here. I can’t get out of here. We will work and we will die here,” says the man to 424’s right. He lays against his cell staring at 424. He’s a bright. coffee colored man with piercing dark brown eyes behind thick, blocky black glasses. His look is cold and determined, unlike 424’s look of weakness and depression. He slips a small piece of dark brown fabric through 424’s jail cell bars and places it on his lap.

“You got to believe that you will never make it out,” says the coffee colored man as he taps his head, there was no device on his head. “You got to go on pure instinct now.”

424 looks up at him. This man looks familiar. This man, his sharp stare, the rigid rectangular shaped of his face, the sturdy look of his jaw and the prominent indent at the center of his chin with his thick triangular nose. 424 knew this man but could not recall him. 424 looks down at his knee and picks up the fabric. He unfolds it.

 

“The cannon is the key!” Is carved into its red underside.

 

“This will not work,” says 424.

“That’s the spirit brotha,” says the coffee colored man, “It will never work.”

He then took out a baseball sized ball of filth. It was starsludge from the bars and feces collected together into a fetid lump. He smiled slyly at 424.

“The time to try would be when they come to get us for sludge duty, but it will never work.”

That night, 424 did not sleep. Lying in his filth covered hammock, listening to the retching and vomiting of those who had become infected from these horrid conditions, knowing he would eventually fall victim to the same curse of rot, he had no hope. But the worst part of this was this feeling. Something at the pit of his stomach. There was a nagging, tickling, probing suspicion. Something just outside this place, something was happening. Something was going wrong.

“You awake?” asks the prisoner to the right. 424 is silent. “I’m clancey,” says the man, sniffling. “What are you in here for brotha?”

“None of your damn business,” mumbles 424, annoyed.

“I just, I feel like I need to talk to somebody brotha so please, please just listen. Try to understand. I’m not a faithful man. I- I cheated on my wife more than once. I really hurt my family when I spent our savings on that alcohol but I had to work so long, and now I’ll have to work without pay,” says the prisoner as he weeps.

“Why are you telling me this?” asks 424.

“I-I- gotta. . . I feel like. . . I know you hear it brotha,” says the prisoner, waiting for 424 to answer. “You hear it speaking to you. It’s that hole, it’s that thing in the hole. They kept opening it, they kept opening a gate to Hell and they don’t even know better. And it’s speaking to us. Hell is calling our people, and I feel like it’s already too late!”

“If they opened a portal to Hell then it’s gonna get them sooner or later. It’s what they deserve. . . Why won’t they just try to understand us. . .” says 424, holding his head in his hands.

“I feel for your wife brotha,”

“What the fuck did you say?! What the fuck was that?!” exclaims 424 as he slams and kicks the bars of his cell. The movement shifts his cell and it slams into the cells next to it, knocking him over. The man sleeping in the cell to his left suddenly wakes and begins screaming at 424 to stop and go to sleep!

“I ain’t done nothing to you!” screams the man. “I ain’t said nothing to you, why are you doing this?!”

424 sits there, in his swinging cell, as it collides with those around him.

There is suddenly a second where all the screaming stops. All the vomiting, all the crying, even the smell of putrefaction, all of it ceases. And 424 hears it. . .

 

“JOIN”

“The cannon is the key!”

424 awakens. He is sweating, hyperventilating, and has urinated in his prison uniform. He grips his chest and breathes deep, collecting himself. He looks to his left and notices that the guards have begun sludge duty selection. “This is it, they will try to close the door today, but it’s too late.” says the coffee colored man to his right. This is when this crazed man would enact his plan. He had been climbing all around his cage all morning and was still at it when 424 woke up. Twisting and spinning his body and swinging his cage into 424’s.

There is an enormous procession of men behind just three guards. They lined the catwalk between the cages going for at least a mile back. The two guards at the front, dressed in black officer uniforms, were busy talking, too busy to notice the coffee colored man preparing his putrid ball to strike. As the guards turn their backs to release the man adjacent to 424’s cell, a ball of filth hits the second prisoner in the line. There was a second of horrid realization and another of sickened retching before the prisoner begins pulling, slamming and pushing at the coffee colored man’s cell.

Now, these cells are connected to the rigid and secured catwalk by a combination of linked chains. They dangle and swing slightly as long as there is not too much movement. They do have small steel struts that brace them, but they are old, rusted and rotted from the years of build up of blood, sweat, tears and an amalgamation of other fluids. They are weak.

Seeing the disruption, the second guard turns and reaches out to grab the prisoner back, but seeing as said prisoner was covered in filth, the guard hesitates.

“Hey!” he exclaims, “Stop! What the hell is your problem! What’s wrong with you!”

The prisoners behind the incident become restless. This was to be their one chance a day to get out of that filthy building. It was their one chance to see the sun, even if it was just while they crossed the bridge to the Sludge Center. These type of issues had arisen before when one prisoner assassinated another he’d had bad history with using the bars and his tank top, but it was rare that the prisoners would attempt any type of disruption. They’d generally accepted their fate.

The prisoners begin pushing and knocking into the hanging cells, which shake and trembling under the assaults. The guards’ commands cannot be heard under the roaring and screaming. The guards begin beating some of the prisoners with clubs but it is far too late. The prisons above and below begin shaking their cells in rage, making the it feel like the entire structure was being moved. This was supposed to be detterrance. They all knew that shaking this structure could have it collapse and pin them all to their cells, condemning them to a filth covered stinking grave, or so they were told. Yet, they were tired, fed up and sickened. But most of all, hurt.

424 stands to the back of his cell as prisoners above vomit and retch. Starsludge falls from their mouths and cakes itself to the bars, sizzling with heat and giving off steam in a building already unbearably hot. He looks up, pairs of orange dots peer down at him, the prisoners in adjacent cages are screaming in terror.  

424 stands up and begins swinging his cage, screaming at the guards. “You did this! You bastards did this to us!” exclaims 424, pointing at the fearful men. It was mere seconds before one of the guards was struck over the head with a man’s fist and his body was sent cascading over the small railing along the catwalk, down, bouncing off the cages and catwalks until his skull smashes on the lowest level below where other guards looked up in shock and horror.

The guards inside try to slide the doors shut and lock them, many of them make it, some of them are interrupted by a foot, an arm, a hand, it only takes one body part slid into a doorway before the prisoners force their way inside and the horror on the faces of the guards shows them drained of life and options.

The prisoners begin quickly tearing anything apart that will come apart. Papers, phones, tables, pipes, clothing, drawers with files and the guards are being beaten with the loose objects, swarmed by human beings tired of captivity. Many of them, their eyes burning with orange light.

“The keys! Get those fucking keys, man!” exclaims the coffee colored man. 424 is reaching for them just as something whips them off the catwalk and into the hell below. His eyes. . . 424 can’t look away. This man’s eyes were dark black voids. He stares at 424 blankly. Orange light collects, builds into two small dots in the black pools of his eyes and he holds up his elongated hand as prisoners rush by him, knocking into him periodically. His fingers, they’ve twisted into tall knuckled tentacles. The man to the left of 424 begins screaming in terror. 424’s mouth drops open and he falls back across his hammock.

Down at the entrance to this hell pit, the remaining guards are racing to the exits just as an enormous garbage truck speeds straight into the side of the building. It tunnels through the left wall of the ground floor, with a spider-like creature clinging to it, reaching in and grabbing the driver through the driver seat window. The truck veers from the left wall and slams into the back right corner of the building and the structure begins to crumble.

424’s cage swings toward the catwalk, hitting it just at the right angle. The chains holding his cage break at the bottom. At the same time many other cages snap under the twisting pressure of the structure and they slam into the starsludge covered walls, cracking them and showering the inside of the structure with bright orange sunlight. The creature is thrown from the catwalk in front of 424 and slams into the encroaching falling cages.

The twilight of the sun pours in across the prison as the structure tears apart. The starsludge along the cages, chains and walls heats up further, becoming searing hot to flesh. 424 leaps into his swinging hammock. The cages are released and the structure splits in two. The cages at the top are slung far away into the air as the walls of the old building crumble, the cages at the bottom simply crumble under the moving pressure, crushing those inside. Those in the middle fall into the nearby lake and quickly sink to the bottom. But 424’s cell slams into a wall, tossing him backward, then it shifts and throws him forward. He grips the cell bars as he swings.

As his cage falls through the air, he sees other cells landing in the water below, crashing around the bridge to the nearby city and smashing cars underneath them, and the tear in the sky. The spatial anomaly that the cannon opened. Hanging in the air, like a bright torchlight against the encroaching darkness, the giant ship that had traveled through the wormhole created by the Liang/Xing cannon was on fire in several places and going down. He only saw for a second, but had he more time, he would have sworn he saw what looks like people falling from the destroyed ship But they were all wrong. Their proportions, some limbs too long, some bodies to wide for how far away they were.

Just then, as the ship explodes and it darkens the sky red with fire, 424’s cage slams the ground and crushes his fingers.



 

“JOIN”

The darkness of night has arrived and 424 awakens. His fingers smashed and now bleeding, his head leaking from some of the nails being incorrectly jammed in from the fall. He is dazed and confused. He leans up, but his fingers are pinned under the fallen cage and as he pulls, pain tears through his hands and arms. He wails with anguish but his ears are ringing and so badly damaged that he doesn’t even hear the volume of his cries.

Suddenly, something stirs ahead of him. He stops dead, and stares at the figure in front. There is a blazing fire before him that is coming from a burned out and broken car. He can see that the occupants never made it out before being consumed by the blaze, their jaws hang open and teeth exposed as if they died screaming in terror.

But closer than the car, the sight that fills 424 with utter dread and fear. The sight that had him frozen in horror. It wasn’t the now blazing dark red sky where the tear has grown to twice its size. Where the planet Nuria was featured solely, Verion was nowhere to be found, except perhaps that there was a large white chunk of fractured rock sticking out of one part of Nuria. It wasn’t the numerous blazes that littered the streets and the abandoned cars that foretold an all too horrifying story about what had happened while he was out. It was a prisoner. Simply a prisoner, staring straight at him. The man was cloaked in darkness from the light cast upon his back, or what should have been his back. His head was craned backward, his body was aimed away from 424, toward the burned out car.

The man was mumbling join something, although 424 JOIN could not hear him, he could see his lips, he could see that it was one word being repeated time and time again. The man’s head begins twitching to the right, twisting further with every twitch. 424 does not even know it, but his impaired hearing saves him from bearing witness to the crunching and popping of the bones in the man’s neck, every time his neck twitches. But he can see it, the twisting of the bones and the skin and muscles.

And those black pools in his eyes. There is a burst of shimmering light that comes from the inner parts of his eyes. It comes as if from behind black spider webs, the opaque black veneer is where the eerie light pokes through and inevitably, the light coalesces together into two small, bullet-like bright orange pupils aimed right at 424.

424 could not look away. The look on this man’s face, it was clear he is in inordinate amounts of pain, yet his neck keeps twisting. Around and around, 180 degrees, then a sudden pause, 360 degrees, then a sudden pause, 720 degrees and beyond, his head keeps twisting until it became snakelike and stretched beyond any recognition with a human being.

Even as he twists, everytime he turns to face 424, those shimmering starstruck eyes deadlock on 424. Even his facial expression changes. When he can no longer see 424, his face twists into a pained grimace, but when he whirls around and can finally see 424, his face becomes a dead focused stern look. He keeps JOIN muttering that one word,  he keeps saying that word. That one word that 424 can’t hear. Suddenly, the prisoner’s body, which was facing the complete opposite direction to where 424 was, lifts itself high into the air. On twisted, stilt-like legs this creature dashes toward 424, the old starsludge covered prisoner’s jumpsuit it wears, which now only barely covers it’s twisted dark brown limbs, dangling in the open air!

“Jesus fucking Christ!” exclaims 424 as he leans and slams his body against the left wall of the cage. There is a watery embankment to the left that leads to the waste pools where starsludge is cleaned for the Liang/Xing cannon. It is no place for a human being to be due to uncharted amounts of radiation, but 424 cannot stay out here with this thing. He noticed his cage was right near the edge and he would be able to sling himself into the rushing water and perhaps escape this monstrosity. But every single time he moves to push his cage, the pain shoots up his arms. His fingers are crushed and now burning and itching from the glowing starsludge, there are scant traces of shimmering orange light within it and it glows brighter as the monster approaches.

The creature is almost upon him!

He slams the cage again, crying aloud at the horror ahead! He can hear it now, the beast is upon him!

 

“JOOOOIIINN!”

Just as the tentacled fingers of the monster reach the bars of his cage, the coffee colored man slams the cage as 424 slams the left side and the cage twists and flips over the edge, falling and splashing into the fetid water below. 424 is immediately assaulted by water shooting up into his nostrils and covering his head. The cage bobs up and he takes just one breath before it twists again and dunks his head back down. He shakes and spins in the water, the air in his lungs quickly draining out. He bobs up again and tries to take a breath, only to have water fill his mouth. He immediately spits all of it out and the cage dunks him under once again. 424 is choking and unable to find the water’s surface. And just as he was losing hope again, the filthy waterfall spits his cage out into the open air, and for three precious seconds 424 can breathe. He can see the water approaching, he shuts his eyes tight and curls into a ball as the stinging, stinking liquid splashes against his body. The cage torpedos downward and scraps the putrid bottom of the lake, scraping some of the corpses that were packed into the dirt from their watery grave. The cage erupts from the bottom and lodges itself into a dock of sorts.

This was one of the docks of the STARWASTE REFINERY CENTER DOCK-A as the large white words spelled out on the right wall of the dock. A place 424 was very familiar with as this was where his former job was, before a certain action would land him in the cage he currently occupied. 424 uses his thumbs, the only digits he had on his hands that weren’t completely ruined, to pull himself from the fetid waters and he notices his cage door has been sufficiently smashed enough to open.

An immediate rush of confident elation screams through his mind and 424 feels it for once in years. That one feeling that he thought he’d forgotten. He thought he would never feel it ever again, but he did. It was hope. It made him feel confident, it made him feel good. He grips the bar to pull himself forward and suddenly the device atop his head begins blinking and beeping quickly. Though broken, it sensed the rush of opiates in his brain and activated. It attempted to push down the first nail but the first four of them had been improperly smashed into 424’s head during the falling.  424 halted with fear, expecting it to pierce further into him, but it did not.

He breathes a sigh of relief, but it came too soon. The device begins beeping again and  it tries each nail in sequence until it reaches the fifth one, which pushed down into 424’s head and scrapes his skull. The pain is unbearable and uncompromising and 424’s eyes twist up with fright. He screams in anguish and his body locks up until the nail is fully depressed.

Only four more remained and on the activation of that final fourth nail, his skull would be crushed. He leans his head against the bars of his watery cell and weeps. He remembers the words of the coffee colored man, “Stupid motherfucker, you got to believe that you will never make it, you got to go on pure instinct now.”

424 suddenly realizes how this device works now, and the danger of becoming too confident. He notices the small piece of fabric floating in front of him.

“The cannon is the key,” had been carved into dark brown human skin.

He pulls himself forward in a panicked fright. He uses his thumbs and arms to get himself up and out of the cage, collapsing on the concrete dock, breathing and sputtering with pain. But at least he is safer.

There is suddenly an enormous splash in the water behind him and 424 cranes his neck up to see the head of that beast poking out of the water, staring directly at him.

“Nooo,” 424 moans weakly, as he turns onto his knees, stands, and weakly and shakily jogs to the entrance of the starsludge facility. He inputs his passcode. It is rejected. His eyes shoot open with terror! They must have taken him out of the system when he was arrested. He turns back, the creature has reached the dock and is climbing out of the water. 424 panics and begins banging on the door, screaming for help!

“Hey, hey you!” comes the voice of the coffee colored man.

424 looks right, then left, the coffee colored man is up in a window. The coffee colored man and 424 both look back and the creature is dashing down the concrete walkway! 424 clambers up the wall and into the window. There is unused, old and dusty cobwebbed equipment in here. The room hasn’t been used so long, the old musty stank of rust and mold has set in. 424 hears the monster outside, he runs and hides behind a small rack with old abandoned junk on it. The creature’s eyes poke through the window first, like the tentacles of a snail, those glowing orange dots sense the area. They squirm and slide along the concrete, leaving shimmering ebony and orange liquid in their wake. The creature forces itself inside the small window, knocking around and bumping things off shelves as it goes, and leaving a great amount of rotten water as it goes.

In the darkness it searches, making chirping, croaking sounds like an old, busted door opening. The beast’s mouth has mutated further and it’s jaw has split open. A tumorous, bulbous tongue hangs out, and from it, starsludge leaks along the ground leaving a trail of shimmering orange light.

“Join. . . Join. . .” It mutters as it passes the cowering 424, his broken hands clasped firmly to his mouth and nose. It bumps the shelf he is behind and knocks several glasses onto the ground. They shatter and give off an explosively loud sound. Luckily, the creature only glances with one eye the curls around it’s gangly body, but then continues on its way. Each step it takes is silent and light. If 424 was not looking directly at this monstrosity, he might lose track of it, for it made almost no sound while it walked. For a creature so horrifying, the added natural stealth makes 424 shudder to think of what could happen at any moment. At any moment, another one could be right behind him, breathing on his neck. Those slimy orange eyes locked on him, and that rotten, tumorous tongue about to pull him up into that gaping maw with all it’s broken and rearranged teeth.

424 looks across from him and notices a man dressed in white. It’s one of the scientists! Their eyes meet and the scientist quietly motions to shush 424. 424 trusts him and looks away toward where the creature went. He can’t see it anymore. He lost track of it.

The scientist pulls a pistol and aims it directly at 424. He shoots 424 in the right arm and 424 yells in pain, quickly clasping his mouth shut again. The creature turns and rushes toward the sound but the scientist miscalculates where the monstrosity was going and as he runs from his hiding place, he stops short as his eyes come face to face with a bent, twisted face and it’s glowing orange eyes.

“JOOOIINN!” screams the beast as the scientist aims and fires the gun. He expends the entire clip before the creature slams him with a tentacle. He flattens against a mold covered wall and before he can even finish screaming, the creature is upon him. It thrusts it’s bulbous tongue into his mouth and vomits starsludge over his body and cakes him to the wall. The sludge enters his mouth and fills his throat. It erupts from his nose, eyes and ears and tightly hardens against the wall. The glowing orange slime heats up and as the muffled screams of the scientist ring out in that dark place, the creature holds his head in place, wrapping its tentacles around his neck and head, and with one disgusting tentacled finger and forces the beleaguered man to stare into its eyes. Upon seeing its starlight, the glowing orange, the shimmering sorrow within, the man screams louder than he’d ever screamed.

“I dooo love yooouuu. Want yooouu tooo seeeeee,” says the hideous monster. The muffled screams quickly die down as his eyes glaze over with dark blackness. A shimmering orange glow dances behind the dark. The creature releases him and slips back out of the window.

424 sits crammed into his little corner, crying with fear. The bullet wound shoots pain through his arm and he moans in anguish. There is a small infirmary in this building, but he must find the 5th floor. Before that, he has to get around this thing. . .

Before this hell turned into a nightmare, there was not a single day that passed where some unlucky prisoner or worker was not injured, grievous or otherwise from some machinery or from some master. So 424 knew he could heal some of this damage. He collects his courage and leans up against the wall.

424 unzips his jumpsuit and takes off his tanktop. To the best of his ability, with several smashed fingers and barely functioning thumbs, he ties it around his bleeding arm. The shot was luckily fairly shallow. He looks over toward the wall where the scientist is plastered. The man is not moving. There is a rack of old trinkets and equipment between them, but 424 can clearly see the orange light rolling around behind the man’s black eyes. He knows what this mean. He needs to leave quickly but quietly before that man. . . turns. . .

424 can see that diagonally, there is a slit and a rectangle of light, a door! He can leave. He slowly moves along the rack, his eyes watching the scientist, who hasn’t stirred one bit since that monster stuck him to the wall. 424 peaks around the rack and stops. He looks toward the door, then back at the man. 424 takes a small metal piece from the shelf and tosses it to the other side of the room.

A tentacle erupts from the crust on the man’s body and begins slashing and smacking around racks near where the object hit another surface. 424 knew it, this man was infected, he was one of them now. He grips his bleeding arm and realizes he doesn’t have any more time. 424 throws a medium sized metal object, stumbles forward and trips over some objects on the ground. But he pushes off the ground and races for the door, sure the monster’s grip is right behind him!

He reaches the door and swings it open, passes through and slams it shut. He looks back through the window. The creature is peeling itself from the wall, it’s eyes have become piercing orange dots, and once again, those dots aim directly at 424. He turns, gripping his bleeding arm and goes through the tight basement tunnel. The tunnels are lit dimly by bare lights lined throughout in the upper left corner of the tight, claustrophobia inducing halls.  These tunnels. They are so tight, so small that to turn around, 424 would have to stop and spin around in place. There’s not even enough room for two average sized adults to walk shoulder to shoulder and the ceiling is so low that his death cap device nearly scrapes along the top. There is a musty stench of putrid meat and old wet rags. The smell is familiar,

“Starsludge,” says 424, as he notices the substance caked to the walls, “Nobody usually comes down here. . . That must mean, oh god. . .”

424 came to the stark realization as he stops and looks back toward where he came from. He can hear it, the door he came from creaks open slowly and the whine of the old door hinges reverberate down the tunnel to his fearful ears. “There are more of those things down here. . .”

424 turns forward and weakly limps on, coming to a fork in the tunnels. He can go left or right. There is a map on the wall ahead of him that is pinned to the dirty concrete bricks. 424 rips it off and looks at it. The closet elevator is about 5 turns away to the right. 424 begins to the right, limping as fast as his tired legs will allow. His movements echo the sounds of his old work boots throughout the tunnels but he isn’t focusing on moving quietly anymore, those things were down here with him, and they were searching for him, coming to get him! He travels passed many other tunnels, not even stopping to check them. Occasionally he looks behind, he can swear he can hear them, “Join. . . Join. . .”  

He can hear their twisted voices, as if they have rocks and water lodged in their throats. It is a dark, gravely, pained sound. They are definitely down here with him! He takes another right and quickly throws himself backward, breathing deeply in shock and fear. Two of them, gorging themselves on the starsludge. These ones are more humanoid, but their mouths have split open and their tumorous, pimple filled tongues dangle out, licking the air for fresh victims. Their tentacled eyes whip around quickly. They are holding pipes and wrenches, these things have retained some semblance of humanity.

424 grips the map to his chest. He isn’t sure if he was fast enough to avoid the gaze of one of the creatures. He looks back at the map. There is no other route around to the wall of elevators he sought. He breathes a sigh of defeat and slides down, sitting in the grime of the the starsludge. He looks back toward where he came from. The one in the old abandoned room, it was surely following him, but he saw nothing just yet.

“You still going off instinct?” asks the coffee colored man. He is partially poking around the corner ahead of 424.

“Those- those things will-”

“You need to rely on what you can see, rely on the light of your path!” says the coffee colored man, interrupting 424, and with that said, he turns and runs off in the other direction. 424 reaches out, but it is too late, he is gone. 424 stirs with anger and shudders at the pain aching in his arm and fingers. He looks down at the map, studying it intensely for any possible solution. The light above flickers as he looks at the map, and suddenly, his eyes shoot open. He looks up at it, the flickering bulb. That’s it! He looks down and finds it on the map. The control room is just two turns back the way he came!

He pushes himself up and heads back, determined and confid-

Suddenly the helmet begins beeping.

“Noo! Nooo!” screams 424 as he grips the metal nail with his thumb. It scrapes his thumb, cutting it open and slides unimpeded deep into his skin and pokes through on the lower side of his head. 424 grips the wall and leans against it as the pain travels through him. He grits his teeth and bares them down his wrist. The stinging, burning sensation is unbearable. Once the needle is depressed, he stops and breathes, panting with fatigue. He reminds himself of what stressors he’s under.

“This, won’t work. I, will die. I, can’t do this. I’m not confident, I’m not confident,” he reminds himself. He takes the two turns, one left and one right, and there it is, the control room. The door is slightly ajar. He looks in tentatively, softly pressing open the door, his neck in his shoulders. The sterile hum of consoles and bright lamplights greet him and makes him feel no better. He slides in and shuts the door. He takes a quick look out the large window in the door, making sure he’s not being followed, then he heads for a large switchboard along the right side of the room. There are four large boxes, each a different color. He looks to a piece of paper next to the door. It appears to indicate that the grey switchboard controls the lights. He tries to open the switchboard, but the door to it is jammed and so he pulls it, but all he gets are a few clicks and cracking sounds when a large deposit of starsludge suddenly falls behind him. He cranes his neck back and up, and notices that the ceiling in this room is higher than in the tunnels. He follows the continuously falling sludge up to. . . them. Just above the hanging rectangular lamplights, the entire ceiling is covered in starsludge and what looks like glowing worms. Making matters worse, four bodies are stuck to the ceiling, all of them with that eerie orange glow in their eyes.

424’s eyes widen with terror as the creatures stir from slumber! They begin shaking and trembling, breaking away the crusted starsludge that has them stuck them to the ceiling. He rips the switchboard door off it’s rusted hinges and slams down all four switches, instantly bathing the basement in darkness.

There is still light. The glowing orange light of the long, tiny worms. The shining orange light of the bulbous and piercing eyes of those creatures. The scant traces of light, lines of orange and blue shimmering from the surface of the oily starsludge. One of the monsters falls and slams its face into the ground in front of him. Shimmering orange fluid splatters across the floor and 424 uses the switchboard door to block the spray. He slides along the wall and leaves the room just as he hears the rest of the creatures falling to the ground. They spray the window with wet starsludge as 424 retraces his steps back to where he was, first a right turn, then a left. The starsludge is dimmer now, making it nigh on impossible to see, but as he comes closer to those things, the oliy substance becomes brighter, it’s shimmering actively near them.

He finds himself at the fork from before. He peers around the corner, the creatures are gorging themselves on the starsludge. He taps on the wall with the back of his hand, then tosses the switchboard door down the left path. The creatures’ tentacled eyes snake toward the sound and their sluggish bodies head toward it. As they pass, 424 presses himself into the wall and holds his breath, hoping neither will suddenly decide to stop. They pass and he holds his nose as the putrid smell of starsludge on them is almost unbearable even to his well trained nose.

Under the added cover of darkness, he feels his way through when the light becomes dim again. But the starsludge becomes brighter when he gets closer to it. He checks the map and continues on, staying along the walls, he uses the bit of light to find his saving grace, the elevators. There is a row of six of them. He presses the button for the elevator and nothing happened.

He freezes. Did he accidentally turn off the elevators? 424 tries to remember but the encroaching fear of the possible realization clouds his mind. He holds his head, he’s hyperventilating. He tries another elevator and the light clicks on.

“Fucking broken lights,” says 424 angrily He can hear the first one coming down so he steps aside and waits. He can hear the second one coming down. The first elevator door opens and its pitch black inside. He goes in and using the little bit of light from the starsludge, he pushes the “5” for the fifth floor and the button glows with tan light. The second elevator opens and the elongated creature from the basement walks out! It’s snake like eyes bending back and peering into the first elevator. 424 falls into the corner and slouches down, his breath caught in his throat.

The doors slide shut just as the creature realizes and turns to the elevator. There is a short pause in the elevator and the creature’s tentacles can be heard bumping against the doors. The elevator begins ascending, and 424 begins gasping for air.

As the elevator ascends, the metal and wires at the back of the elevator get replaced with the dark red sky. The back of the elevator is pure glass, and the view is horrific. 424 stands and stares out at it, a world ablaze. The streets, the buildings, cars, the water, everything is covered in sporadic blotches of starsludge. Cars and buildings have been lit ablaze, and the ship from before crashed in a residential area. He could see those things, they were still attacking people in the streets, plastering them to walls and the ground.“The cannon is the key.”

The elevator slows and stops at the fifth floor, and the doors open. The lights on the fifth floor are occasionally flickering, but they work. He steps into the teal colored halls and the sterile hospital smell. There’s no one here either, but at least there is no starsludge, those monsters haven’t reached this floor yet. 424 walks into one of the patient rooms behind and around to the left of the check in desk and opens the drawers and cabinets. Just outside, as he fixes and cleans his wounds, the elongated beast climbs the outside of the building, leaving a line of starsludge across the glass.

He finds some medical gauze, some pain medicine, and some bandages. He uses the sink to clean off his wounds, careful not to get the cap wet. He wraps his head, his arm and his fingers on both hands with medical gauze. He tries to take a scalpel with him, but being unable to hold it and unable to safely place the sharp blade on his person, he must abandon it. He leaves the room and is heading back to the elevator when he notices to guardsmen are inspecting it with flashlights. They have their guns out. 424 remembers the scientist and dips back around into the room, merely peeking around the corner.

“This couldn’t have been one of those things, they don’t know how to use elevators,” says the one on the left.

“How do you know,” asks the other.

“Because if they could they would have found us already retard. Whoever this is, kill them when you see them, we can’t risk them being infected with whatever this shit is.”

They both break off, the one on the left goes further up the hall to the right of the check in desk and the other is heading in 424’s direction. He walks by, poking his head into the patient rooms. He walks into 424’s room. He looks all around the little square shaped room, checks under the patient table and turns to leave. He gets all the way outside the room before he stops and steps back. He pulls the large wooden door back and 424 slams his left shoulder into the man!

The guard falls back across the room and his head collides with the corner of the cabinet in the room. His gun goes off and 424 ducks form the frightful sound.

“What the fuck! Satoshi!” exclaims the other guard, “I’m coming! Hold on!”

Satoshi weakly aims his gun at 424 as 424 turns to face him. 424 kicks the gun out of his hand and the guard goes for his club, swatting 424 in the knee. 424 goes to one knee and the guard kicks him in the mouth. He falls backward into the door and it slams shut. The guard turns on his stomach and reaches for his gun, but 424 throws his left arm around the guard’s neck and begins choking him, trying to pull him away from the weapon. The guard reaches and grips 424’s forearm, choking and sputtering, his face turning a beet red, his eyes watering, his lips caked with spit.

The other guard kicks the door open and stumbles at the sight.

“Get the fuck off of him, nigga!” he exclaims as he readies his pistol. 424 turns, pulling the guard up just as he grabs the gun. The guard ahead of him is screaming orders, the guard he has is aiming the gun at his head. 424 smacks the gun down away from his head and the guard in his arms pulls the trigger, shooting the other in the foot. The guard in the doorway screams and stumbles back, firing a round that goes straight into the other guards head. He falls outside the room and drops his gun, which slides down the hall. 424 pushes the dead guard over on top of the other and rushes out of the patient room. Another guard further down one of the halls opens fire twice but misses both shots. 424 runs, toward the elevators, then toward the left, passing them and heading to the right of the check in desk. Another guard runs and takes position to fire in front of the elevators but the elongated beast smashes through the glass and tackles him!

All the gunfire had drawn the beast.  424 is ducking in and out of hallways, looking behind him in fear of being shot. He bursts through double doors and into a cafeteria where he pushes past two asian women. They fall over and the several guards throughout the room aim at him. 424 grabs one of the women and forces her in front of him

“Please don’t hurt me,” begs 424, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Put her down, nigga!”

“Let her go!”

“Please stop,” pleads 424, “I don’t know what those things are!”

“Please, I’m letting her go, please don’t shoot!”

“Stop! Stop!” demands a man as he comes to the front of the room. 424 remembers this cretin.

“You. . .” says 424, as he stares down at the man.

“424 right?” asks Shen,

“My name is Travis you fuck! I have a fucking name!” The metal device on 424’s head activates and drives another needle into his head. He grips the woman tighter and she flies into a sudden panic for the duration of the sequence. 424 loosens his grip and tears fall down his face.

“Now, you’re a good boy 424-uh-Travis. You wouldn’t hurt her would you?”

“No, I’m trying to tell you that,” says 424 tearfully.

“I know, I know. You’re a good boy. You have to let her go now,” says Shen.

“They’ll hurt me! You- you put me in there! You did this!” exclaims 424. The guards raise their guns and Shen raises his arm.

“Now, now that was a misunderstanding 424. That that happened between me and. . . that was a misunderstanding.”

“No. . .” says 424 weakly, tired and sorrowful.

“She’s here 424. Your wife’s here. Just let the woman go and we can talk this out, but you’ve got to trust me. Trust me, please.”

424 looks all around the room. They are staring at him, their eyes full of either fear or contempt.

“O-okay, please don’t shoot me,” says 424 fearfully. He lets the woman go and Shen opens his arms to help her, but she avoids him and runs to the other woman who was with her.

Shen closes his eyes, he is perturbed but he shakes it off. “Shoot the nigga.”

The bullets riddle 424’s body, hitting his knees, his chest, his stomach, his groin and his neck. He collapses in a bloody heap into a corner where the cafeteria line begins. He is breathing heavy and hard when they approach, guns raised.

“Jesus, he’s still alive.”

“Yeah, these people are built like trucks sometimes. Freaks.”

424’s breathing stutters, and he holds his hand out at Shen. One of the guards aims his gun at 424’s head when the doors to the cafeteria open again. The guards that saw it come in immediately cower in fear, and the one aiming at 424 doesn’t see until it’s too late. The elongated beast wraps his head with a tentacle as the guards reload. It snaps his neck and slams him into the ground, vomiting starsludge over his body. The bright orange worms drive their way into his nose and ears. The doors open again as infected men rush in and attack the people in the cafeteria. The guards give what resistance they can, but the creatures feel no pain, and are not deterred by the small arms fire.

The elongated beast turns to 424, it’s snail-like appendages study him.

“Now you’ll see,” says the coffee colored man, his orange snail-like eyes protruding in opposite directions, an enormous smile on his face as he leans on the wall, peeking around the corner at 424.

“You got to go on instinct brothah. You got to make them see too. The cannon is the key.”  It comes in close. All him can see is the sorrow in it’s orange glow. He feels utterly hopeless as he stares into those two pools of sadness. He can see it, the sorrow of ages, the laments of hundreds of thousands of races, creatures and things. He can feel it, and so he screams, he screams so loud and so hard that his vocal cords tear, his jaw shifts and his eyes sink into their sockets. They go black, and that familiar bright orange glow fills them. His jaw hangs down and snaps in half, splitting to make way for a tumorous tongue that hangs lose. His limbs convulse and stretch, protruding and twisting into long tentacle structures. Each finger turns into a bony, knuckled whip, each toe into fins.  424’s prisoner jumpsuit slumps down on his elongated torso and he pulls himself from the corner, the bullets falling from his body, the blood on his bodybeing replaced by leaking starsludge. The device atop his head crunches and breaks off, the pieces clatter to the ground. Now, he can see it, and he must make them see it, he must make them ALL understand. 424 travels back toward the elevators, to the cannon he must go. He passes through a special ward called the “Stargazer Syndrome Ward” where those who do not understand are strapped down to beds. 424 goes to one of them, ah, he can see them now. They do understand. Their eyes are swirling with the pale orange light. They looked into the event horizon when the cannon created the tear. They saw a glimpse of the sorrow in that millisecond, 424 deigns not to bless them. They have come to the highest amount of understanding that they ever will.

424 goes to the window on the right side of the elevators, he shatters the window and slips up onto the side of the building. The coffee colored man stands on the side of the circular building as 424 climbs. With every floor he passes, the coffee colored man is there.

“The cannon is the key.”

424 breaks into the 25th floor. The marble tiled floors and gold trim of this room he has never seen before. There are men here who shoot at him. They must be made to understand. He vomits the blessing on them and the are caught in its embrace.

He takes his time in this hall, making sure that all four are blessed with the understanding. Their screams are his music, it means that they understand. He moves with purpose to the cannon’s control room, but stops short when he sees the open door leading to the office of an illustrious man. One who does not understand the pain, and who sits in a special chair facing a large glass window. 424 is quickly upon him and is about to give him the blessing, but the light has already left his eyes. There is a bloody hole in his forehead.

He will never know of the truth. He will never know of the pain.424 vomits the blessing onto him, the worms will devour the body to make more blessing that the 4 newborns outside will imbibe. He continues with purpose, the heart of sorrow calls to him from behind the veil. It understands all suffering. It knows that 424 has suffered, that his people have suffered. It gives 424 and his people the blessing to make others understand. 424 will make them all understand. It has finally come, the cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key.

The cannon is the key. 424 has found it. He moves to the levers. He cannot use it. He does not know how. But something in this room does. The coffee colored man whistles to 424 and points at a shivering, cowering man, hiding behind the consoles.

424 croaks and roars, scaring the coward from his hiding place. The coward crawls on his hands and knees, but 424 is upon him quickly.

“You. . . cannon is the key. . . you. . . liiiiiiiiivvve.”

“Y-you want me to use it again? Oh god- oh my god you want me to open it again?!. . . No, no!”

424 howls and slams his tentacles on the floor.

“Okay! Okay, please!” pleads the coward, sniffling with fear.

The coward slides from under 424 and crawls to the console. He inputs the coordinates. If he cooperates, he can live. He starts the sequence, and within a short period, the cannon fires a burst of energy that tears another door into the sky. These coordinates, this position, it is the same as the tear they managed to close. The tear that caused all this. The door that was unlocked, that unleashed a cosmic regulation, an equilibrium amalgamation, that has come to spread the sorrow of ages. The suffering of all those who wanted love. Now we can all love, now we can, Join. . .

“There, now can I go? You promised that I could go!” the coward’s face is red, his eyes and nose are running with fluid.

“Do you see it yet?” asks 424, “Can you feel it yet?”

“What the fuck does that-”

The coward is startled as he sees it. The door is enormous. Through the wall-sized pane of glass at the front of the room. Almost the entire sky is covered in the flowing, and spiraling glow, and inside it, is part of an enormous black, bulbous, planet-sized body. It could be called a face, if The Heart of Sorrow has a face. Hundreds of thousands of snail-like tentacle eye capped antennas spill forth from the door. Just to the right of the giant face, a hand made of hundreds of thousands of black limbs, hands, arms, legs and feet stretch and tear open the door, ripping it across space and time. The Heart comes through, it’s enormous hand covering half this feeble rock.

The coward drops to his knees as 424 turns and smashes the cannon console. The Heart will not be leaving. 424 turns to the coward, whose pants are soaked with urine. The coward looks up into the sorrow filled eyes of 424.

“Y-you said I could live. . .”

“You. . . will live. . . in the embrace of The Heart. . . you will




 

JOOIINN!

 

. . .

 

 

 

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