Category Archives: 7.x (Histories)

Histories (Arc 7)

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Demons of the First Choir are the counterpoint to the forces that brought the universe into being.  There is no telling the damage they have done, but Bartholemew Peck’s Abyssian suggests a dark possibility, that the universe as we know it might be the leftovers of something far vaster.  That the materials and elements that gathered to form stars and planetoids are merely the crumbs of a feast.

If this were true, it would be the demons of the First Choir that did the feasting.

Though it’s scarcely more than speculative fiction, it illustrates the nature of the First Choir for the seventh of our nine chapters here.  They devour.  They take.  The vectors by which they act take all forms that we know to destroy things – tooth, claw, bludgeon, coil, frost, and even forces such as lightning and flame, which might well seem ironic for the Choir of Darkness.

The thing to note, however, is that these beings annihilate.  In this, they are distinct from the other choirs.  In this chapter, you will read of Caacrinolaas’ venom, which slowly but surely eradicate a man’s entire being.  You will read about Shabriri’s lantern, which scours one’s sight away, and her bell, which peals with such force that it irrevocably destroys one’s hearing.

Above all, you will read about the consequences.  The aforementioned venom forces the victim to destroy all relationships to others by unforgivable means if he does not wish them to be inflicted with the secondary effect after he is entirely removed from the world, this effect being a pining so intense that they will never move of their own volition again, only staring into the distance.  Shabriri’s blindness and deafness ultimately leaves one so unable to see or hear that they will perceive absolutely everything that doesn’t exist in that space and time, as their eyes and ears are opened ever wider to true void.

The focus of this text remains the identification of that fine line that separates demons from those Others which are foul but not true fiends.  In this, I must stress key points.

Unless otherwise noted (as in the Lonely Man’s subsection), that which is destroyed can be replaced, but it cannot be retrieved.  While the demon itself might appear to grow, spawn, create, or manifest, I would posit that this is an illusion.  The things that might appear to come to pass are a casualty of other damage, some of which might be beyond our scope of understanding.

Effects, connections, ideas, hallucinations, ideas, and whatever else might seem to be created by the demons of this choir are, I would suggest, purely the effect of reality or other forces distorting to fill the void.

A ‘statue’ left in the place of a destroyed man (See Bazuili, below) is not created by the demon, nor by transmutation, but other forces filling the resulting vacuum.  In this case, it is the nearest available force of substance -the ground- seeking to repair the damage, at reality’s behest.

The cacophonous aria that follows the victims of the mote Tobu-Bōkyaku is not the demon’s cry, nor a signature, but the only sounds that remain to the victim after the being has made its passage through the victim’s ear canals.

A chaotic and tumultuous morass of connections remain after Coronzon destroys a group of people by addressing them thrice, but again, these connections should be said to be the fallout.  Remove a stone from a wall, and the stones around it will fall to a new configuration.  Those stones may face undue stresses, and the gaps will exist between them, but the gap nonetheless exists.

We’re predisposed to finding patterns in chaos.  That is all this is.

This idea forms the basis for the rule I propose on distinguishing these demons from those which are merely destructive fiends, and on understanding and managing the aftermath.

When the First Choir takes away from existence, nothing is created to replace it.  At best, we find a pattern in the chaos that is left behind.

– Excerpt from ‘Classifying Others: Fiends and Darker Beings’, by R.D.T.

Isadora – 2:41 PM

Smoke billowed.

Even being here was hard for her.  The wrongness of the being within the factory made her very being ache.

Still, it was best if she was sure to witness this.

He was trying so hard.

She’d gutted him to buy him time.  Inversely, she’d given him karma to support him, and it had led him here.  Would it take away his remaining time?

Riddles.

She had yet to fully grasp the way the world worked.

She could only support the world, to ensure that things kept working, that the clock was wound, and efficiently deal with those forces that would stop things from operating as they ought to.  Some was natural to her, an instinctual drive to attack the ignorant.  Other parts were her personal character at work.  She wanted to learn, to understand.

As a result, she existed wholly for the riddle.  Puzzling out reality as reality was understood, framing it, supporting it.  When she asked someone a question, she challenged them to either justify their relationship to this fathomed reality, or to die.

Everything in the context of the asked and the answered.

The demon within the factory, by contrast, was unanswerable.

And the Thorburn diabolist?

He begged the question, so to speak.

The Fool in the Tarot deck frequently depicted a boy with a dog at his heels, staring at the sky while he walked blithely off a cliff, burdened only by a bundle on a stick.  The diabolist had admitted a relationship to the card.

No single detail was quite right, but much as something might appear similar if one were to unfocus their vision…

The young diabolist walked with the sparrow at his shoulder, eyes on the windows without looking through the windows, walking forward as if he were afraid to stop.  His burden here was the gas containers.

No, he was burdened not just by the gas containers, but by some notion of responsibility.

A man, when facing death, aspires to finish what he started.

What had the custodian of the Thorburn estate started?  What drove him?

She knew he sought to do good and to vanquish evil, and she could surmise that both good acts and the existence of evil had touched him deeply.

The Fool card was akin to the ace.  Depending on the game being played, it was often the lowest card or the highest.  Valueless or highly valued.  Powerless or powerful.

It all depended on context.  He sought to kill the demon, and he would either catastrophically fail or succeed.

This Fool sought to slay the metaphorical dragon.  He felt his own mortality, which was quite possibly her fault, in part, and now he rushed to finish the task he’d set for himself.  To better the world.

The Fool was wrought with air – the clouds he gazed at, the void beyond the cliff, the feather in his cap, even the dog could often be found mid-step, bounding, just above the ground.

He was a Fool wrought with a different element.  The familiar didn’t quite fit for the departure from the air, but the traditional dog didn’t conjure ideas of air right off the bat either.

What was he wrought with?  That was another question that begged an answer.

He sent his servant dolls and ghosts inside, then passed through the threshold.

Others wished people luck, she gave it to him, transferring it from reserves she’d saved for special events.

The demon roused, and she could feel it, even through the boundary.  She stood, and retreated as the demon made its true dimensions known, flexing within the factory, seeping into cracks and through rubble.

Halogen lights cast bright shafts through open windows.

People passed jugs of gasoline through open windows and the tallest of Blake’s companions emptied one jug just below the window.

Isadora was tense.  Her muscles were akin to cables, stretched tight by some immense weight, legs spread for more balance, as if she instinctively expected some great collapse.

Fire flared within, a rolling explosion followed, a jug of gasoline being caught by fire.

Too early.

The demon was growing faster than it was being destroyed.

It was as though the cables had been cut.  She dropped to the ground hard, wings still partially extended at her sides, then folded one front leg over the other, trying to find some poise.

Poise was important in moments like this.

The ones outside were scrambling, running.

Isadora could hear the mirror-bound diabolist shouting.  Ordering one of the other girls, Alexis, to the front door, to provide Blake an escape route.

Too slow, moving around the periphery of the building.

The ache she felt yawned wide.  There were no English words for the idea.  Chásma.  The closest she could manage to an explanation would be to say she felt fractures in her bones.

Except the fractures were tested, the wrongness sharper, and when the cracks opened, a hollowness was revealed.

She moved her head, stretching her neck.

Getting closer would be dangerous.  At worst, she’d disturb the binding around the exterior of the building.  She’d hurt herself much as someone like Blake might hurt himself while standing too close to open flame.

At best?  There was no best.  There wasn’t much she could accomplish here.

Ironically, given how her mother had been created to be sentry to a holy site, Isadora wasn’t inclined to prayer.

The chasm of wrongness widened, and she suppressed a shiver.  Every sense was jarred, now.

How could it be so vast, while staying within the factory’s bounds?

Rather than try to avoid the grating impressions of this misshapen thing straining against its bonds, she let herself feel them.

It was only then that she realized how apt her earlier metaphor had been.

The factory stood there, not tall, but still largely intact, part of the roof collapsed.  To use her comparison to bones, it wasn’t so different from a fractured shinbone, the only thing keeping it from crumbling to pieces was the band that encircled it.

The marrow had been devoured, and there was only infection within.

This shinbone extended deep into the earth.

Deep, deep into the earth.

A great shaft of darkness, a pit.

All the gasoline in the world might not make a fire great enough to bring light to the bottom of that pit.

Did the young diabolist comprehend that the floor he stood on might as well have been paper thin, given the distance that the pit extended below?

Did it matter?

Questions.  These ones didn’t require answers.

She felt the moment he ceased to be.

The wrongness reached through each and every one of them.

It lanced through Isadora, and she did what she could to distribute it, to break it up so that it would damage every part of her a little, rather than deal a grievous wound.  It didn’t wound her awareness as it did the others.

She remembered, at least in part.  One of her duties was to remember, and here she could retain the fragments she’d held on to, the ideas she’d established.

It helped that she hadn’t maintained a close connection, that she hadn’t been on a first name basis with him, and that the impact she had made on him had already been partially erased, the scars filled, then smoothed away.  The ripples that extended outward had less foundation to travel across, and were easily shored up.  She no longer had his name, but she knew who he was, and she could identify him as Thorburn, as the diabolist, and put the rest of the pieces in place.

Isadora looked for Maggie, but Maggie was gone, and had been for some time.

Those that were running kept running, as the pieces fell into their new configuration, sitting askew.  One by one, they stopped running, no longer pulled along by the connection that was supposed to bind them to Rose’s counterpart.

Paige would need to know, which was a complicated thing.  Akin to telling an Alzheimer’s patient that they had a relative, and their relative had passed in one of the worst ways possible.

What a shame, really.

She’d tried to tell him that a clean death was the best path available to him, but it seemed he wasn’t built to go down quietly.  She’d called him the little warrior, and the idea fit.

Isadora remained where she was as the demon shifted position, searching for new prey.

More of reality resettled.  Unpleasant, grating, as if the demon was everywhere in the city, in Jacob’s Bell, in Toronto, and in places in between, for just a moment.  Exercising his power.

The binding held.  The demon remained where it was.

With the resettling of reality, Rose appeared.

A damned shame, quite literally.  This wasn’t clean at all, as exits went.

Rose, not even aware that she’d crossed over, reached out to stop Alexis, who was still running, caught up with emotion, even though that emotion no longer had a target.

The familiar was coming to pieces.  A deal forgotten, it stubbornly refused to move on.  There was no power to feed it but the spirits that had impregnated the ghost prior to the familiar deal.  Nothing powerful, only spirits of freedom, air, yearning.  These spirits would be spent in a matter of minutes, and the familiar would cease to be.

Others were dealing with a sadness they couldn’t explain.  One girl, Isadora forgot the name, was rubbing at her eye, looking at the moisture as if confused.

The young man, Ty, who’d called Isadora beautiful, was standing stock still, caught between confusion and a desire to give strength.  He was caught in a mental loop, akin to obsessive compulsive disorder, or a dream where one repeated an action over and over again, getting the same result, dozens, hundreds of times over.  She could see him reaching out for a connection, finding the wrong one.  Trying to think of a friend, thinking of someone who’d recently left the group instead.  Not that person.  Someone else.  Reaching out, trying to think of the right person… and so the repetition continued.

Humans were not machines, however.  He would find his way out, maybe a little worse for wear.  It depended on whether he was rescued by his friends, or if he was allowed to stew in this recursive loop of thoughts for a time.

Each of them would either invent memories, as some were inclined to do, to fill the void, or they would live with the void, and it would rub them raw from time to time, something unexplained.

If they needed it, Isadora would explain what she could and help them fill that void.  But if they decided to fill it themselves, she wouldn’t be able to.

For now… She stretched her wings out.  It remains to be seen what damage is done.

The Eye – 2:46 PM

The crackling of flame was a mask, just barely covering an ocean of screaming heads, arms and bodies thrashing in pain.  Raw-throat screaming, the kind of screaming that hurt, that happened because there was no other choice.

Burning to death hurt.

The Eye of the Storm remained where it was, hunched over a metal barrel, hands extended over the burning contents.

One eye stared down and saw visions.  Memories and echoes, brief stories of human struggles ending in failure.

In the brighter parts of the flame the Eye saw lightning.  In the snap and pop, the bang as the can’s contents shifted and touched the metal, the Eye heard thunder.  The Eye heard ruin, mankind’s endeavors ending in disaster.

A crunch, as something burned enough that it broke.  A car crash, bones breaking.

Symphony.

In time, humanity as a whole would succumb to this kind of fate.  It was inevitable.  With every creation came a destruction.  A new scientific achievement, a new weapon.

War would erupt, and war would see man destroy himself.  Bombs would fall.

These were the thoughts that ran through the Eye’s head as it held hands over the flames.  The elemental remembered the thousands who he had burned, thousands who had burned of their own accord.  Those who had been electrocuted, who had been ground to pulp by metal of their own making.

Right now, right here, he would wait as he’d been instructed.

Conquest would deal with Blake Thorburn.  When that was done, he would signal the Eye, and the Eye would attack once more, and people would burn.

A chill wind passed, something unnatural.

Conquest would deal with…

With what?

Conquest would… …Done, he would signal the Eye, and the Eye would attack, and people would burn.

The Eye shifted position, uncomfortable.  The thoughts didn’t connect.

Simplify.

Reduce.

Remove the damaged bits.

The words resonated with some century-old part of him, and he shifted from discomfort to ire.

Simplifying…

The Eye would attack once more, and people would burn.

He touched the edge of the barrel.  The contents shifted position and the fire erupted forth, touching the trash that a small grocery had left beside the building.  Cardboard boxes and vegetables.

The fire found its way to the necessary places in that pile of material.

The wire attaching the battery to the smoke detector inside shorted.

The Eye was already leaving the alleyway when the fire started to reach toward the dumpster.

Emanating heat enough to touch nearby patches of ice.  They would melt and re-harden in the course of a minute.

The next car to find the ice would find zero traction available.

It didn’t matter whether that car was a fire truck or a chance accident blocking access to the blaze.  The Eye knew it would serve.

People avoided him, avoiding eye contact, but he didn’t truly care if he was seen.  The orders were to attack.  The timing and consequences of this were for his master to worry about.

He’d given up worrying a hundred years ago.

The screams of the burning were the only thing familiar and natural to him, now.  The electrocuted, the crushed.

A gauge in the nearby traffic light shorted out.  People would later blame it on the blackouts that had afflicted the city earlier.

That’s how they operate.  Blame.

The Eye felt uncomfortable.  Old memories were stirring, and it didn’t know why.

All the same.

The traffic light fed information back to a main computer.

The main computer would give the wrong instructions to the system.

A subtle change.

Change enough that the Eye would hear the sounds it needed to hear.

The Astrologer – 2:47 PM

Diana shifted position, head smooshed against the pillow.

Why was it so hard to sleep now that she finally had an opportunity?  There was a limited truce in effect, she was safe…

Safe…

Her eyes began to drift shut.

It hit her like a niggling worry, but swiftly spread.

Sleep became uneasy sleep.

Uneasiness woke her up.

When her eyes opened, she felt a kind of horror over the fact that she’d almost let herself drift off.

Her labs were in danger.

His labs were in danger.

Doug’s.

She bit her lip hard enough that it hurt, in efforts to keep herself awake.

Her hand shook as she turned the kettle around to check how much water was inside, then flicked the switch to turn it on.

She was running on caffeine and willpower right now.

Monitors were off, which bothered her.  She’d gone through all of her pre-nap motions.

Napping was impossible.

Fuck, this sucked.

What happened next?

Either she finally did drift off, and she lost something precious to her, or she took action.

She checked the cupboard for a mug and found it empty.  Another little heart stopping moment.  There should be one mug in there.

She didn’t keep many.  If she did, she was liable to let it slide and let dishes pile up.

With less, she was forced to wash them regularly.

She checked the sink.

She’d had guests, right.  She was getting forgetful, she was so tired.

The bags and types of tea helped her piece it together.

Except there was one mug too many.

Right.  They’d been going to the factory.

Oh.

She filled the sink without looking, and pulled each mug out in turn, washing with exaggerated care.

A few grew in her heart.

One last mug.

Doug’s mug.

She didn’t know who it had belonged to.

She wouldn’t have given up the mug if she hadn’t liked the person.  It was how she operated.  She was sentimental like that, she knew.

That same uneasiness that had woken her up settled into a feeling of loss, and the only face that fit the feeling was Doug’s.  Her mentor’s.

She sat down on a box, the dirty mug in hand, and she thought of Doug.

With an edge of desperation to the thoughts, she started thinking about how she would protect Doug’s legacy.

Behaims – 2:45 PM

“Are we fighting?” Owen asked.

“Maybe,” Duncan said.  “It depends on who needs help and why, and if we can do what we need to do to deal with Blake.”

“Whatever you need,” Owen said.

“Call Moira, get her to email the scanned books.  I don’t want you kids in the thick of it,” Duncan said.  “We approach this indirectly, unless a reading says we need another direct confrontation.  A spell to help things along, at most.  You, Gav, and the girls.”

“Okay.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  Speaking of… how are your hands?”

Duncan’s arms rested on his knees, hands limp and relaxed.  He didn’t try to move them.  Every time he tried, it hurt.  “The painkillers help.”

“That isn’t answering the question.”

“An incomplete answer is still an answer.  Be careful.”

“Yes, sir.”

He shut his eyes briefly.  There was a dreamlike edge to his thoughts, with the codeine, and, in an amusing way, his perception of time was distorted.

The clocks around him ticked, many salvaged from his fiancee’s house.

It was soothing, the sound of his childhood home.  It had driven her crazy.

Now things were on hold.  They couldn’t stay at the house, and she didn’t want to stay with him.

He suspected he knew where things were going.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

He smiled.

Tick.  Tick.        .   Tick.

His eyes opened.

Owen was walking down the hallway.

“Owen,” he said.

“Yes, uncle?”

“Get everyone packed up.  We’re going back.”

“Back?”

“To Jacob’s Bell.  It’s done, I’m fairly certain.”

Not without casualties.

“I, uh, okay,” Owen said.

“I’ll need help packing,” Duncan said, working his way to a standing position.  “You and your twin can get some driving practice in, I suppose.”

“You’re coming?”

“I’m coming.”

The Sisters – 2:40 PM

“Yes,” the Elder Sister said.  “I’ll do you one better.  If you can give me the bill for a retrofit, new paint and logos on your trucks, I’ll pass it on to the city, and I will sell you to them.”

Her office overlooked the hallway, just above the altar where she could address the lesser Sisters.  Candles burned around the window, making the aperture look like a gate lined by flame.

The other Sisters were making their way here and there downstairs.  Guiding the initiates.  Not a large number, but enough.  Girls with good grades, good positions, who either weren’t going home for Christmas, or who were willing to stay if it meant getting an edge elsewhere.

They would be eased into this.  The blindfolds would come off.  Later they would see a practitioner at work.  Later still, they would be awoken, then the rings would be granted.

Hopefully they would have the torch spirit back before then.  It would be embarrassing if they didn’t.

The guy on the other end of the phone was talking.  She listened to the tail end only, then cut in.  “I can make this really simple.  Cut twenty percent of your active staff.  Pay particular attention to the guys who make mistakes.  Who hit mailboxes, or consistently miss days.  Set money aside.  Call friends with garages, and be prepared to tell them you’ll pay extra for a fast job.”

Protests.

“Don’t commit wholesale or rush ahead, but do trust me.  You can start looking at files and talking to a trusted employee about who you can cut.  You should hear from me before you need to start with the actual layoffs.”

More protests.  He was on the fence, but this was the biggest protest yet.

Why should I trust you?

Success or failure hinged on her reply.

“I’m on your side, Mac,” she said.  “If I disappoint you, I hurt myself, and I hurt my own employees.  I’m speaking to you from the heart, and I’m going to help you, if you give me the chance.  T.O. Plow will become part of the city services, and they really need better plow services after this last storm.  Nobody else in Toronto is positioned to deploy in numbers like you can.  You stand to make a small fortune.”

The arguments were more feeble this time.  Less a resistance and more the unease of anyone facing a major change in their life.

“Mac,” she said.  “What’s my reputation?  I don’t lie.  You’ve doubled in size in the time I’ve been lobbying for you.  Subtract what you’re paying me from what I’ve saved you, and you’ve earned tens of thousands.  If you want to more than double in earnings now, you need to do two things for me.  Say yes, and then follow through.”

Agreement.

“Thank you, Mac.  Do me a favor and don’t fret.  Focus on taking advantage of the snowstorm and the heavy demand, take the employee files with you tonight and read them in bed.  No rush, no pressure.  I suspect a little voice in the back of your head has been telling you you really should be more ruthless with the employees.  It’s natural for a company that’s grown as fast as you have.”

A one-syllable response.

She reached out to the blazing urn on her desk and extended a finger for the fire sprite that lurked within.

A small woman emerged, keeping just far enough away from the Elder Sister’s hand to avoid burning her.

“It’s very simple,” she said.  “All those thoughts you’ve had but haven’t followed through on?  That you’ve grown too fast, and it’s crazy to lay people off when you’re growing as fast as you are?  The employees are thinking it too.  The worst employees are thinking it and taking advantage of it.  You’re going to look at the books and see the problems pop up almost straight away, I think.  It’ll be a relief.”

Another one-syllable response.

“I’ll reach out to you in a few days, Mac, if I can make the call, way things have been going.”

He would be thinking of dropped phone and power lines.

She was wondering about mortality.

All the same…

She hung up.

Mortality.  Success and failure.  It reminded her… it was about time.

Her phone had a text on it from one of her subordinates.

The dolls had been delivered.

Thorburn was dealing with the demon.

It was win-win, wasn’t it?

Either they didn’t have the diabolist to worry about, or the demon was dealt with.

It wasn’t that she disliked him.  But he was more trouble than he was worth.  The fact that he was going to try to mediate the issue with the Torch the Astrologer had stolen went a long way.  It meant things were quiet for now, and the Sisters could focus on other things.

Problem was, the concerns about taint and the general fact that she couldn’t predict him went further the other way.  Unpredictability was scary when someone could tap the kind of power he could.

It was easier when things were predictable.

So long as things stayed predictable, she saw a fairly clear, straight road to the Lordship of the city, temporarily or long term.

Build up ties with local business, expand her powerbase here, deal with Conquest’s remaining subordinates – which amounted to the Shepherd and the Eye right now – and ally with others.  Isadora should back her if she made enough headway to sell the idea, and as for Emily, Fell’s successor… well, Fell’s family would accept an option that kept Conquest from regaining power, and the Sisters could arrange a scholarship for Emily, resources…

This would work.

The candles across the entire great hall flickered, as if a draft with no substance had passed through.  The shockwave from a distant event.

She shook her head.

A disconnect, a momentary lapse.

It unsettled, left her nerves on edge.

It reminded her of the nightmares she’d had for years after leaving University, the idea of something critical that had been forgotten.  A major exam or assignment that her entire degree hinged on, except it was a little more profound.

In her work with the Sisters to date, she’d avoided putting them in life or death situations.  It wasn’t something she’d been prepared to do.  Their focus lay elsewhere.  They only went to war when they had to.

Right now, there was only one war that demanded her attention.

She stepped out of her room, turning to the first Sister she saw.  “Sharon.”

“Yes, Elder Sister?”

“How many dolls do we have?”

“I have no earthly idea.”

“Find out and get back to me.  We need to handle this business with the astrologer before we do anything else.”

“Yes, Elder Sister.”

The Shepherd – 2:47 PM

The Shepherd felt the recoil, reality reacting.

He was sensitive to such things.  A silenced scream.  If the universe worked as it was supposed to, such a scream would be heard across the city.

He felt it every now and again.  Sometimes in clusters, a few at a time.

This time it was just the one.  He had a vague sense of who.  Two of his ghosts were nearby, even.

It always made him think of Bennie, and Laurel, and Andrew.

If the feeling behind a scream was what determined how loud that scream could be, his scream would be heard across the world.

He called for his steed, footsteps shuffling as he made his way down the dilapidated stairwell.

It was good that he didn’t speak.  He told himself he’d look for the children until it was dark.  If he’d said it aloud, it would have been a lie.  Every time, he lied to himself.

Rose – 2:47 PM

Rose’s heart was pounding.  She felt like she was on the verge of a panic attack, and she couldn’t make sense of why.

Once upon a time, she’d gone on a camping trip with the school, her parents had hoped it would help her make friends.  They’d hoped, too, that making friends would help her build up her social skills.  Rhetoric and understanding people would only help with the inheritance.

She’d gotten dirty, her hair greasy.  Everyone had.  They’d been proud of how dirty they’d gotten.  Sharing in that was the closest she got to making friends there.

When she’d returned home, she’d hopped in the shower.

The hot water had felt alien, painful.

Everything felt that way now.

The fresh air was so rich she felt like she was getting high off it.  She was cold, and it almost hurt to breathe. The sun on her skin helped with the cold, and she felt like she’d just woken up on a Saturday morning with the sun shining on her.

It was too much.  Too intense.

It jarred with… with this.  The smoke, the fire, the fact that someone had just died and she had no idea who, why, or how.

The others were similarly lost, similarly distraught.

Reeling.

She felt no particular connection to them.  They were, what, one step removed from her?

Feeling a chill, Rose put her hands in her pockets for warmth, and found a note there.

She read it over five times before it sank in.

“Throw the rest of the jugs in,” she said.  “Hurry.  It was part of the plan, and we should follow through.”

“You want us to get close to that?” Ty asked.

“Not too close,” she said.  She looked at the note again, as if it might have changed in the meantime.

I wrote this to myself, and I was supposed to explain things, so I wouldn’t be too lost if it goes wrong.

Except it’s better if we don’t know.

Burn what you can.  We promised we would.

We have a connection to those people.  I’m not positive about what’s going to happen if it goes bad.  Either way, they should be yours.  You can manipulate them using that, using the chaos that’s going to unfold now.  That doesn’t mean you should.

If nothing happens, well, there’s no need for this note, and I’ll look stupid.  Ha ha.

There’s nothing here for us.  You know what the next step is.

I’m such a bitch.

“I’m going back to Jacob’s Bell,” she said.

The others turned.  Ty was hurling the jugs of gas at windows with a two-handed grip, a barely-repressed anger he didn’t understand.

“What?” Alexis asked.

“I’m going back to Jacob’s Bell.  You can come, that’s fine, or you can stay.”

She saw the expressions on their faces.

Feathers were falling.

The feathers almost reminded her of something.

Was that a clue?  A cue?

“Hey!” she screamed.  “Bird!”

The bird descended.

She held out both hands, cupped.

The landing was clumsy, her catching of the bird doubly so.

“Hey,” she said.

Just like the others, it felt like it was hers, but not hers.  One step removed.

“Hey,” the bird said.  “I’m not sure what’s going on.”

“None of us are,” she said.  “Why don’t you stick with me?”

“I think I’m dying,” the bird said.

“We can fix that,” she said.

Ur – 3:17 PM

The humans were leaving now.

As if they were some magnetic force that had hauled him up from darkness, now absent, Ur settled back into the shadows, contracting himself.  Here and there, pieces of rubble were dragged into place.  Things were propped up.

One section of wall was cracked, and in time, the wall would break free.

With more time, the binding that encircled the building would be broken.

With care, Ur moved a metal beam, winding around it, manifesting limbs to grasp at it, tongues to encircle it, until it had the leverage needed to lift it clear off the ground.

It placed the beam so it sat diagonally against the wall, reducing the stress that would be placed on it.

A few more years would pass before the section of wall broke free.

A decade more would pass before the binding broke.

Everything in place.

Everything, in time.

As if provoked by the idle thought of consuming, a mouth on the side of one wormlike section of body reached out and snatched at a largely dismembered hand.  The hand crunched.

Ur retreated into the shadows of the rubble, and into the chasm that dwelt beneath the factory.

A piece of rebar dragged against the ground, held by a tiny hand, retreating with the rest of Ur as he disappeared into the shadows.

A tiny hand attached to a tiny form, three-quarters of the way complete, eyes shut.  Two more were pressed against it, part of the same growth, the three compacted so tightly together that the shape of them distorted.  All in the form of human babes, with jet black skin.  One with horns, one with tufts of spiky fur, the other smooth and bald.

The binding would break in time.

Ur would bear its motes first.

The hand dropped the rebar, and the metal sang as it clattered.

Ur was already gone.  The factory still.

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