Chapter 11: Natasha
You, pathetic, wailing mudcrawler. Listen to me, pay very close attention. I want you to go to Hell. I want you to burn for eternity, I want you to suffer horribly. I want every one of your nightmares to creep forth from the shade and the edges and devour you. You are the scum of the Earth, the creature that dwells in the cavernous depths of the ocean because you are so disgustingly hideous that your existence shames God. You are a human.
But these insults and threats that I sling, these ill-wills and prayers for misfortune, they reflect back to me. Because as awful as you are, I am infinitely worse. I am a murderer, I am a thief, I am Satan and I am original sin. I hate myself with passion so fierce I cannot help but to scald those who come close to me. I am the unsung final note of a nocturne of misery and despair that is called humanity.
The Wordsmith and I rampaged down the streets and alleyways of the City of Waking. Ravens constructed of steel and wrought by hate descended on the land like a terrible, cloud-like machina. Our blood was vapour, our muscles drenched in sulphurous acid. My lungs heaved as though it was a beast struggling to burst forth from my chest. Crimson and ebony feathers fell from the sky, a morbid imitation of snow. The winged beasts shrieked, their call so harsh and shrill it could cause ears to bleed. They brought down the greatest spires of the city, and tore the citizens to shreds, before devouring them. Bits of flesh and organs were strewn through the streets, intestines hanging from the windows like steamers.
"What the hell is this?" the Wordsmith screamed. I did not answer, I did not have time to, nor the will. I had only the time to run, only the will to flee. The Oktoberist sent moor demons after us, skeletal figures clad in black that shot death from their hands. Their eternally grinning skulls were hidden behind tinted, plexiglass visors. Their bodies concealed by skin-tight armour. One approached me, laughing and strolling lazily as I bolted down the road.
One moment the demon was behind me, next he was directly in front of me. He lifted his hand and cackled, assuming his own victory. I tore the bastards head from his body. Blood spilled out like water from a pressurized main. In covered me, it spattered the Wordsmith, who shrieked in horror. I grabbed him by the wrist, unwilling to deal with his uselessness. Our safe haven was mere blocks away, already in sight. But as we neared the angelic port, more of the Oktoberist's beasts descended upon us.
And suddenly, it hit me. What the hell is the point of this? What kind of God-awful sort of motive do I have fir any of this? Why do I torture myself and those around me? Why am I subjected to a new and wonderful horror everyday? The Trapper-Spider, the Wordsmith, the Mute Musician, the Oktoberist, why? Is any of this right? Is any of this worth it? Have I done the right thing, have I made the right choices? And with a stunning moment of clarity, I am brought back to reality. And I find, what I believe to be right is right simply because I believe it. Sin is not created because of some grand, universal code of ethics, sin is derived from the simply differences that men have among themselves.
So I unleash a maelstrom upon the Oktoberist's monsters. I slaughter them with nothing but my bare hands. One lunges for me, I grab his arm and snap it. Another tries to back out of the fray, I lodge my butterfly knife deep into his skull. Blood I'd everything, flowing from the corpses of the demons around me, cresting a crimson sea at my feet. And. I. Bathe. In. It.
This is my great work, this is my great war. Murder, chaos, senselessness. Animal instinct, survival, brutality. This is my gift to the world. And you cowards flee from it, to your pretty little houses and your pretty little cars. It's useless, you've seen this terror, you know it exists, and in the back of your mind, silently, gleefully, like some animal drunk with rage, a little itch of a feeling tells you that you want more. You want more. You want to take a fellow man and tear this skin off his body, strip flesh from blood. You want to disembowel him, and drink blood from his lungs, acid from his stomach.
The Trapper-Spider is horrified, the Mute Musician is sick, as is the Wordsmith. The Trickster is sickened and disgusted, and Zoë, Zoë merely sobbed. When my work was complete, I walked past them all, not uttering a word, and headed for the vessel Arcturus. The Trapper-Spider was the first to awake from the shock.
"Natasha..." he said, voice constructed from venom, "what was that?"
"Survival," I answered. There was silence, then, the smallest, faintest voice calls for me from the group. Pitiful, quivering on the border of hysteria.
"Natasha?" Katie asks, "are they... are they dead?"
"Did you kill them?"
"... Why?" the tears were streaming down her face, but her voice spoke softly and with purpose. I felt a cold sweat run down my spine, claws and talons of the monster called guilt.
"Because there is no hell, no divine retribution, because there is not a god alive that can punish the crimes these demons have just committed."
"... Did you kill all of them too?"
"I... I held her hand as I thrust my blade into her back, and as she died I whispered 'I'm so sorry' but her cold, golden eyes offered me no forgiveness. The last words she uttered as she died were faint whispers in my ear, barely audible. She told me she loved me, and those cruel, hateful, loathsome words killed me," Katie looked at me, her eyes filled with a stinging comprehension. The rest of Oktober, the Trickster, and Zoë looked upon Me with a hate and sense of ghastly shock they typically reserve for themselves. I turned and walked away, and they were able to do nothing but follow.
The Arcturus, gigantic, geometric, and fearsome spewed black smoke into the air, and ash rained from the sky. It clogged the air, filled our lungs, and burned. The Oktoberist's Stymphalian birds were circling above us, and the city was crumbling at our feet. We ran, we ran up the metal bridge that was connected to the Arcturus. Waves, at least ten feet tall slammed into the side of the vessel, rocking it violently. I boarded first, Katie after me, then the Wordsmith and the Mute Musician, Zoë after them.
The Trickster had set one foot onto the ship when the bridge snapped in two. The Trapper-Spider was one moment directly behind the Trickster, and the next his face disappeared under the side of the Arcturus. I sprung forward with speed I didn't even know I had. One second later and it would've been too late. My hand caught his wrist, and his hand wrapped around mine. The Trapper-Spider grabbed the edge of the boat, and I pulled him up. As he flopped onto the deck, he looked me dead in the eye. Terror, and shock filled his expression, but also respect. No words of thanks were said. None were needed.
"Go," the Trapper-Spider said to the Mute Musician and the Wordsmith, "you two take Katie, hide her. You three," this time addressing Zoë, the Trickster, and I, "come with me. I think we should probably introduce ourselves to the captain,"
The Arcturus was pulling out of the harbour, escaping without the attention of the Oktoberist's demons, who were scouring the city for any sign of us. As they walked away, I heard the Wordsmith say to the Mute Musician...
"We're free. We made it. We're safe now."
636. Six beats, long, three beats, short, six beats, long.