Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Thing in the Mirror

Still not sure where I am.

Occasionally, I'll see an eye where there really shouldn't be one. It watches silently. It knows what I've done.

Sometimes I'll wake up with holes in my memory. Usually things will have been rearranged. Sometimes there'll be scratches on the walls and door. The window is barred, so Judas hasn't yet bothered trying to get out through there. Once I woke up with a tingling sensation in my finger tips, and a dull ache in my arm, like I'd been shocked. I still don't know what that was about.

There's a dumbwaiter in the room that delivers food. Too small to crawl through.

Waiting. Waiting for judgment.

There's a big mirror on the wall. Sometimes when I look at it, I see a corpse staring back at me, a corpse with my eyes, and rotting flesh hanging from its bones. The first time I saw it, I nearly screamed.

"Like what you see?" the reflection asked. It spoke with a woman's voice.

I stared numbly. Part of me felt like I was in a dream. Part of me wondered if I'd gone mad.

"Possessed by the Dying Man," the reflection went on. "Is it not your fate to become like this? Is this not your future?" A woman stepped out from behind the reflection. Startled, I swung my head around. No one there.

Her laugh drew my attention back to the mirror. Pale, naked, and hairless, she regarded me with an amused smile. I slowly found my gaze drawn to her eyes. Golden, with pitch-black slits for the pupils.

"Or perhaps," she said, "your future holds something different."

The corpse-me shimmered like a reflection on the water and it became something else. I looked at... me. But a better me. A smiling, confident me who radiated splendor and power. Clean-shaven, no wounds or scars, muscles so perfectly, flawlessly defined. I moved my hand, and that immaculate version of me did as well.

"Do you think, perhaps, one of us can give you this form?" the woman asked.

My gaze snapped back to her. Her skin was so pale... like looking at printer paper. But there was a change. Her stance had become looser, her legs spread slightly apart. Pink nipples stood rigid, and she smiled at me invitingly. Her facial structure had changed as well. Changed to...

"Who are you?" I demanded, panic nearly rising in my voice.

In an instant, she was back to how she had originally appeared, and the corpse-reflection had returned to the mirror. The woman laughed. "Who indeed?" She asked. "I'm a reflection. Nothing more and nothing less. Mirrors reflect the truth of the world, do they not? But tilt the mirror slightly, position it just so, and it can create an illusion. So what is real and what is fake? Perhaps I am merely a product of your feeble mind? Or maybe I'm something greater. Something far greater than you could ever understand."

My mouth moved. "The Mother of Snakes." It was not me who spoke.

The reflection shimmered again, and the corpse was replaced by... by a shadow. An image of darkness in the shape of a man, and I could just make out a skeleton deep within it, shrouded in that gloom.

"Aw," the woman-- the Mother of Snakes-- said. "Good job... Judas is what you call yourself, correct? What a very... human sense of humor."

"What do you want?" I asked. I could Judas bubbling under the surface. He wasn't happy.

"Me?" the Mother asked. "I merely wish to guide you. Why, Matthias, I can save you."

Now that was a load of bullshit if I ever heard one. "Why?"

She laughed. "The game has been set, the pieces are in place, and you have proven that you will be a valuable piece indeed." Her lips peeled back as she smiled, revealing a fanged mouth. "Keeping you alive is within my best interests. You are far more useful than you know. Matthias Stanford... do you have any idea the paths your lives may take?"

My reflection once again changed, and I saw myself as I am now, but covered in blood, and grinning from ear to ear, eyes wild and mad and rejoicing.

"Everyone has it in them to become a monster, my friend," the Mother of Snakes went on. "Reflections do not lie. Oh, they may bend and stretch and distort the truth, but they do not lie. So which will you be? The victim,"--the reflection became the corpse again--"the hero,"--the reflection became that perfect me--"or the villain?" Once again my blood-splattered self stood in the mirror. His hand moved, independent of my own, and seemed to rest against the glass, like I was looking through a window. He faded away, and my reflection went back to normal, but a bloody handprint remained.

"The game is afoot," the Mother of Snakes said. "The players have assembled."

"But why help me?" I asked. "I don't understand how my well-being is so important to you."

She shrugged. "I cannot lie," she said, "but I can withhold the truth. Suffice to say that the Grand Game is not analogous to chess or checkers or any such human game. It is more akin to politics. And what do you mortals say? Politics makes strange bedfellows."

"I'm flattered," I said flatly.

She laughed. "I'm sure you are. When was the last time you tasted woman?" Her form flickered to someone else, someone long dead, before vanishing.

I stood for a moment. Judas had gone quiet, and I could actually sense a feeling of uneasiness from him. I walked over to the mirror, and reached out against the handprint, and wiped the blood away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Last night, I went to sleep.

When I awoke, I was standing in Sal's office. I was holding him. Restraining him. There was a gun on the ground, and Sal's arm hung at an angle that it really shouldn't have been.

I held him tight so that he couldn't move. Couldn't break away. I had a hand over his mouth so he couldn't cry out. "The way I see it, you have two choices," a voice that wasn't mine told him. "Let me into that safe, or Let. Me. In." From behind my hand, Sal grunted and his head moved. A nod.

Judas let one of his arms go, and Sal reached out, and opened the safe. Then Judas threw him against the wall. Sal banged his head, then went silent. It was at this point that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I realized that my arm was no longer in a cast.

Judas reached into the safe with my arms, and with my hands he pulled the box out. The box containing the Dying Man fragment. The box that kept this hostel safe.

I screamed against him. I tried to pry my hands away from it. I tried to escape. And for one brief, glorious instant, Judas wavered.

And then I felt as if I had been pinned to the ground, and I could only watch as my hands placed the box on Sal's desk. Judas examined it carefully.

"Matthias?" a voice asked.

My head turned, and my eyes beheld Maggie. One of the few guests left. One of the only ones willing to put her faith in Sal. She stared at me with a look of terror on her face, and I felt my lips curl into a smile.

"No!" I screamed. But my cry never left my throat. It went unheeded, and unheard.

Judas bounded at her, grabbed her, pulled her to the desk. She screamed, she struggled, and I heard the sound of my own laughter. I shouted and I tried to break free. Tried to stop my own hands from pushing her against the desk, from slamming the box into her. Again and again and again. Until her screams died, and both she and the lock lay broken and bloodied on the wooden surface. Two beauties dead

I dimly heard another voice behind me. It sounded like James, that other tenant. Judas ignored them. He reached into the now open box and pulled out a second, smaller box.

"Thin enough."

And then the deluge started.

I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. All I could feel was the drowning as that other shard filled my body. I felt the thrashing torrent of stormwater as Judas and the shard struggled for supremacy, and when it finally subsided, I felt... numb. I still feel numb. Like I'm distant. Away from my body somehow.

Judas turned and left. James tried to stop him. I saw my fist lash out, right against his face, heard a cracking, saw him slump against the wall.

Someone else was there too. I think he was one of the hostel's employees. He didn't try to stop me, he just stared, in terrified, wide-eyed silence.

I barely felt the cold sting of the night air as I stepped outside. It wasn't even morning yet. I don't how long we walked down the road, I suddenly felt something against my back. Something small. Sharp.

Dizziness filled us, and I saw shapes moving around us, heard voices shouting. Lights. A whirring thunder.

I awoke in what appears to be an elegantly furbished hotel room.

I'm sorry, Sal, Ivory... everyone else. I couldn't stop him. Now Maggie is dead, your protection is gone... and... it's all my fault.

Blood on my hands.

It never washes off.

I await my judgment. I await my punishment. Retribution for all those I have harmed. Bless me Father for I have sinned.

I accept my sentence. Whether it comes from God, or the eyes in my walls, or the people who now hold me.

Any punishment given, I deserve.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Can't get out. Can't even warn anyone. Judas clamps my my mouth shut whenever I try.

Ran into Maggie while I was getting dinner. I tried to warn her. To tell her to get out of the hostel. The stay away from me. She didn't understand. She thought I was being cruel.

Let her think that. As long as she stays away, let her think that.

That strategy doesn't work with Ivory, unfortunately. She keeps checking up on me. Checking my wounds. Won't stop no matter what I do.

I think Sal knows. I've seen him looking at me, and more than once he's tried to gently get me out the door. Judas never lets me leave, though.

I'm trapped.

And so is everyone else.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pandora's Box

I was talking with some of the other guests in the hostel. None of us shared our stories. I guess they didn't want to open up, and me... well, how would they have reacted if they knew about Judas?

James and Maggie. Those were their names. They told me that most of the guests left a while ago. They never bother the hostel, which made it popular for a while, but then everyone learned why.

It would appear that there's a Dying Man fragment here.

Apparently it's powerful. So powerful, it projects an aura that keeps Them away. When that blog post went up, and people found out, most of them left. Sal, the guy who runs the place, has practically become a pariah.

I don't care what Ivory says about my condition (she's the one who patched me up, by the way. Read about it on that other blog). I have to get out of here.

Tried to leave after I found out. I couldn't. I just... I couldn't. I opened the door to go, and my legs just stopped. He didn't say anything, but I could feel Judas in my mind. Now matter how hard I tried, I couldn't step out of that door.

So I locked myself in my room.

I can't leave. There's a box with a Dying Man fragment here and Judas won't let me leave.

God forgive me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I've spent most of the last few days in bed.

My memory after writing the last post is hazy, at best. I vaguely recall walking around, feeling like something far off was calling to me and... next thing I know, I'm waking up in a bed. Someone did their best to patch me up.

Apparently, this place is a hostel. The guy who runs it calls himself Sal and says that it's a safe place, where Runners don't have to worry about Them. He never asked me what my story was, though I could see the faint curiosity in his eyes, and for that I'm grateful.

Runner, though... Not sure if I'd use that term to describe myself. A Fighter? No, too militaristic.

Well, whatever I am, I'm at least glad for the temporary reprieve. Even Judas isn't bothering me. He's been quiet ever since we got here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Cauldron II

Getting into the concert hall proved difficult.

Aside from the security guards, Timberwolves were also all over the place, keeping a close eye. And considering Who else was involved with this business, I had pretty good reason to be suspicious of any bugs I happened across.

And lastly, my arm was still in a cast. Climbing was right out.

But luck was on my side. I managed to sneak in one night, dodging guards and moving through a window that had been accidentally broken by one of the technicians. This happened maybe 6 days after my meeting with Reed. Four days after Lebowski offered me a job.

I got into the building, and I found a fire alarm. It was around midnight, so everyone getting ready for the opening had long since left the building and I wasn't worried about being seen. Security cameras might've been a problem, but...

Well, anyway, I pulled the fire alarm right after I planted my home-made bomb.

Let me tell you, it was hard building a time bomb with only one hand, having to rely on instructions on the internet. I don't even know if it worked yet. I hope it worked. If it didn't, then thousands of people are dead now. Anyway, the bomb was set for five minutes-- long enough for the guards to evacuate the building, but not long enough for the firemen to get there.

With the alarms blaring through the building, I ran. I needed to get out before the explosion.

And beneath the shrill cries of the alarms, I heard something else. A strange chittering sound.

Bugs were following me. Lots of bugs. I saw them behind me, forming a huge mass that covered the floor and walls. Roaches and spiders and centipedes and crickets... flies and wasps and bees and mosquitoes moved through the air. I picked up the pace, and felt a sharp stinging in the back of my neck. With my free hand, I slapped whatever had got me away.

I ran and ran and ran... I was so intent on escaping the Intrusion that it took me a while to realize that the hallway was longer than it had any right to be, that the alarms had faded into the distance, and this was not the same building I had started out in.

The tiles that lined the floor had vanished, and in their place was a layer of wooden planks and metal sheets. The plaster walls had given way to barriers seemingly made from a mish-mash of random objects and parts. The mass of bugs following me had vanished, but I could still see the occasional roach or spider scurrying around, weaving its way through the nooks and crannies of this bizzare building.

I remembered reading about things called Domains and Realms or... well, a whole bunch of other things. Like miniature worlds that They dwell in. The Path of Black Leaves, the Bleak Shore, the Screaming Tower... Could this, I wondered, be the Intrusion's Domain?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, Judas scoffed. Parasites, he said. Like they would have a domain of their own. No, they live in all the other domains, just out of sight. Pests.

I noticed an opening in the strange wall, like a window, and looked outside. Dark, bleak infinity. Nothing as far as the eye could see. I leaned my head out a bit. I was in a tower, one so tall that I couldn't even see the bottom. A tower assembled from random parts and materials. Stone and metal. Rope and wood. Plastic and flesh.

When I pulled my head back in, I saw that a plastic face was watching me. It was the head of a baby doll, hanging from the ceiling on what appeared to be a bit of rebar, extending out from the back of the dead like a long, thin neck. The doll's eyes had been removed, and replaced with golden, organic eyes. Like wolves' eyes.

It regarded me silently, and a tarantula made its way down the rebar and perched itself on the doll's head. I got the distinct sense that the tarantula, too, was watching me.

The Towering Realm, Judas said. It looks like we've been transported to inside the Manufactured Newborn.

I shivered. That was one of Them that I had hoped to never meet. A creature that builds itself out of whatever is nearby, searching for new materials to build itself bigger and bigger, eventually becoming huge and leaving to the Towering Realm, where it joins with its true form.

A true form that I now stood inside. A true form that the Intrusion was hiding in. A true form that probably didn't approve of me wandering through its halls.

I walked-- quickly-- away from the doll head. It turned to watch me go, the ceiling reforming itself to allow the rebar to maneuver.

As I walked, I tried to ignore the bugs following me, moving about in the walls of the Newborn. I tried, but I was not successful. My heart hammered in my chest, and I felt beads of sweat rolling down my skin. A buzzing noise suddenly spread through the tower, and I spun around to see a circular saw spinning toward me.

I threw myself aside to avoid its path, and was surprised when the wall opened up to let me through. I landed in a circular room, floors and walls made of countless layers of glass. Light flowed through the glass, and the ceiling was so high that when I looked up, I saw only darkness.

Darkness, and a skeleton rapidly descending toward me.

It was a large skeleton, and headless. Definitely not human-- maybe a cow or a horse. Bits of meat still hung off the bones, green and rotting. Long, sharp blades had replaced hooves, tied to the bones by wires. Speaking of wires, a whole bunch of them were wrapped around the spine, and they all extended up and above, ascending into the blackness, wrapped around each other in a thick cord.

The skeleton thing moved as if it lived, swinging the four blades at me. I moved and dodged, and the blades scratched against the glass. I was too slow. I felt a sharp pain slashing across my back, and warm blood flowing out. I gasped, and stumbled, and the glass below me began to crack.

I saw Mad Ricky, climbing down the skeleton's wire-cord. His cast was off, and his arm was covered in hard chitin. His limbs moved in a way that no human's limbs should be able to. His skin had been charred black, and his clothes hung off him as ashened rags.

"You will pay!" he called. "You will pay!"

And Mad Ricky leaped off the cord at me, hatred burning in his eyes, and the skeleton moved at him, his blades cutting into his sides, and the glass shattered, and I fell.

I awoke face-down in a field somewhere. The cut on my back wasn't deep, and had already begun to heal. I found a nearby library, and I used the computers there to update this blog.

I don't know where I am, but I need to get to New Rossfield. I need to find out if I destroyed the concert hall.

I need to find out if I saved the town.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Cauldron I

It's done.

Weeks ago, around the time of my last post... in fact, just a few days before I made that post, I paid a visit to a very rich man.

Alexander Reed founded RossCorp. He made massive profits, crushing his competition and expanding his company to practically all walks of life, thanks to a deal he made with Jack of All. RossCorp owns this town, and the only reason it does is because whenever of Them comes calling, Reed has no choice but to obey.

We knew that the Ophilim and Mad Ricky were involved with Reed somehow. Likely, it was the influence of their respective masters; the Archangel and the Intrusion.

And with all these facts laid before me, I saw the obvious opening. The obvious solution. Exactly how I could learn what they planned.

I went to RossCorp tower, and I headed up to Reed's office, and he let me in.

After, it wasn't like he had a choice. There's a Dying Man piece inside me, isn't there?

It was... a surreal experience. Reed, the most powerful man in New Rossfield, cowering before me. He tried to hide it, but his hands never stopped shaking. His face was pale and sweaty. His eyes never met mine. The man was terrified. Terrified of what I might ask of him. Or rather, what Judas would ask.

I like this guy. Of course Judas would.

"Don't worry," I told him. "I just want to know what the Timberwolves want."

He shook his head. His eyes remained glued to his desk. "I don't know," he mumbled.

"Did they make you do anything?"

He nodded. "A concert hall," he said. "They wanted me to build a concert hall."

There was a concert hall, in fact. It was nearing completion. In fact, the grand opening was scheduled in just two weeks. Promotion had been all over the place for it. Free tickets were even being given away like candy. Hell, I had a ticket for the grand opening.

Now that I thought about it, everyone in town probably had a free ticket.

Everyone in one place, Judas noted. In an entire town, cramped into one building, commissioned by a death cult and their carnivorous insect friends. Sounds like fun.

As I stepped out the door, I heard Reed breathe a sigh of relief. Glad I was gone, and that I had taken Judas with me. I wished I could do the same. But far from relief, I felt only fear, trepidation, and sickness.

If they were planning what Judas suggested... well, suffice to say it would not be good.