Chapter 7: Natasha

Heights

Falling is the sensation of weightlessness followed immediately by the sensation of extreme weight as soon as you hit the ground. Or so I assume, having never reached the latter half of that description. These thoughts briefly flitted through my mind as I found myself plummeting down the side of the beast that rends the earth towards my inevitable sandy grave.

The air was thick with particles and grains of dust, making it nearly impossible to see. I could only open my eyes for a split second for fear of having them filled with debris. The Trapper-Spider was hurdling towards earth with massive velocity a few yards away from me, and I could not see either the Wordsmith or the Mute Musician. My Doppelganger was nowhere to be seen, though I heard the sizzle and pop of her flying through the air somewhere in the distance. I heard screaming nearby as well, which I immediately recognized as the terrified voice of the Mute Musician. However, soon afterward, all other sound was muted as the world eater let out a horrible, rending call. It shattered my eardrums, leaving nothing but an awful ring behind for several minutes. I could not see, and I could not hear, the only sensation I could feel was the buffeting of the wind and the stinging of the dirt in my eyes.

It was a sound of pain. A shriek of confusion and rage. Like... well like a large beast that was injured immediately after awakening from a deep slumber. The World-Ox's body shuddered. The sand was beginning to clear, so I was starting to get a clear view of the true scale of the beast. It stretched from horizon to horizon, and towered unfathomably high above the ground.

My mind was unable to comprehend the beast. Its scale was ineffable. The nature of the being was nearly impossible. Truly, it was so large that it must have generated its own gravitational field, and if that were true we surely should be drawn to it rather than plummet ting to the Earth. And yet, we were not. It was an ancient being, it existed before and above that laws that reality must obey.

She came for me. Shooting through the blue sky as an even richer azure bolt. She shrieked, rioted and cackled, the beast that she is. I searched for a weapon, and found a small, snub-nose revolver I had stuffed in my boot earlier. Six shots fired, six shots wasted on intangible air. I called to the Trapper-Spider, though I have no memory of what it was that I said. Something inane, and impossible for him to accomplish, without a doubt. Perhaps a call for protection, or a demand for a weapon. Neither of these things he could feasible achieve, yet my mind had shut off. Adrenaline pumped through my viens, it took control of my body. The heart raced and my muscles tensed at the hormone's whim. My mind merely wallowed, drowned in fear of the ever-rapidly approaching sandy tomb below.

A shadow spread across the land. Darkness fell. As I looked up, I saw the beast of the aether, Ziz, the great bird, soar. Realization struck, and with it terror. The three beasts were awake. Behemoth, Leviathan, and Ziz. And now they would fight each other, they would murder their kin, and after they had fallen, humanity would feast on their bodies as the world ended. The Oktoberist had taken action to ensure the end of the world. It could no longer be prevented, he had ushered forth the end times. The death of the great beast is the beginning of the end. But how had Ziz awoken, we had only encountered two Lures?

I suppose it was foolish of me to believe that the Oktoberist would only pursue one beast at a time. It made much more sense to awaken them all at once. Perhaps my sister had been busy, perhaps it was she who traveled to whatever God-forsaken realm was the roosting place of the great beast of the air and awoke it from its slumber that had lasted since the dawn of time.

Light again, it swept over the landscape. Ziz retreated as Leviathan, the last of the three brothers, arrived. He leapt through the air, arcing his serpentine body from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Rain crossed the desert in his shadow as the ocean water fell from his body. The earth below us quaked, dunes falling into dust as the ground itself sifted the grains. Watching the quaking led to yet another awful revelation; the ground was very, very close now.

I pulled my chute's deployment handle. Nothing happened. I pulled the reserve chute's handle. Nothing. Briefly, I debate whether or not suicide was more honorable than death by technical malfunction. I decide neither was particularly desirable, and I needed another solution. However, I could hear her sneaking up on me. The air crackled. Something hit my shoulder hard and fast, and my muscles spasmed. My arm fell lump, with no sensation aside from a slight tingling. It occurred to me that I had just been hit directly by one of the bolts of lightning that my sister constantly hurls every direction, and I had survived. She could've electrocuted me, roasted my body inside out. She was toying with us. We were a game to her, more accurately, we were game to her, and she was a sick hunter. Playing with her food.

Katie was below me, tumbling rapidly towards the ground. She looked at me with a terrified face, deadly afraid of the end she saw approaching us. She told me she saw the end, and I wouldn't like it. Perhaps this truly was my finale? She was so afraid, and she knew how I would die. She knew how everyone would die. After all, she knew everything. She had seen everything, when I met her in that park, on that twilit swing.

I straightened my body and surged towards her. She reached towards me, and I grabbed her and wrapped her sobbing, shaking form in my embrace. Below me, three circular shadows appeared on the desert sand, and above me the chutes of the Trapper-Spider, the Wordsmith, and the Mute Musician opened. They were safe, for now, they would make the landing, at least. That was all I could hope for at that moment. So, as Katie's tears soaked into my shirt and her body shuddered against my bosom, I asked her if she could show me her talent one more time.

And then we were gone.




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