Cleaning up the 5,000+ photos on my phone and… have a random assortment of old-ass art. Featuring lots of tabletop RPG characters, terrible photography, inconsistent character designs, my old Gaia Online avatar from circa 2009… and a picture of Lain in the Dashcon ball pit.
(“vituð ér enn, eða hvat?”)
People aren’t the only things that die. Sometimes stories do as well, when there’s no one left to tell them. Here, now, in the space between the turning of the page, everything comes unraveled. And, for one bright moment, I see.
They broke through the fog on the outskirts of the LB campus. Looking up at the huge, gleaming glass-and-steel monstrosity, Sigmund felt nearly light-headed from relief. They’d made it. Whatever stuff came next, at least they were out of the fucking fog.
He could see stars, in the sky above the tower. Too many for a city, maybe, but at least it was a sky. Not the horrible gray-white nothingness.
The car took them around to a side entrance, a ramp down into the private parking garage. The one Sigmund had been in that time with Lain. A huge set of roller doors greeted their arrival. Sigmund had just enough time to wonder how they were going to get in without a pass card, when the doors began sliding upward all on their own.
He decided not to go staring at horse teeth, and all that.
It’s the sound that wakes me. Something like an angle grinder crossed with a dying pig. A hideous cacophony, intruding on the warm and silent darkness in my head.
I want it gone. Now. I’m going to open my eyes, and get out of bed, and I’m going to hunt down whoever approved roadworks outside my fucking bedroom window and I am going to sue them down to the bone and salt the ground with their children’s bankrupt tears.
Opening my eyes isn’t as easy as it should be. The noise is roaring and my eyelids stick, and when I manage to prize them apart—
Opening his eyes was a bad idea. So was breathing; greasy ash filling his mouth and nose instead of air.
Sigmund lurched upright, onto his hands and knees, coughing and retching and rubbing his ash-filled eyes. The stuff was everywhere—he was buried in it—clinging to his clothes and skin and hair, covering him with its gray and oily film.
Wayne tried not to stare. She really, really did. Not in the rearview mirror and not directly, either. And it totally wasn’t her fault if she had to take a lot of left turns, and that meant a head check via the passenger side. Just because they were stuck in some grotesque, depopulated hellscape didn’t mean she was free to forego all the rules of the road. And if, during said head checks, she just happened to linger over the . . . being in the passenger seat, just a little. Well. Who could blame her?
Holy crap, she was driving in a car with a god.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
One drop, one second. Almost like clockwork.
Sixty seconds in a minute, three thousand six hundred in an hour. Eighty-six thousand four hundred in a day.
Impossible to be sure without measuring, but assuming one drop equaled a minim, that meant five milliliters a minute or three hundred in an hour. A thousand in a liter: three and a half hours, give or take.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Six hours: one point eight liters. Twelve hours: three point six.
Seven point two liters per day.
About two thousand six hundred and twenty eight liters per year. For one thousand years. So two point six megaliters, give or take.
Or, to put it another way, about one Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Even knowing they were going to hit, the impact was still shocking.
“Hold on!” Wayne yelled. She floored the accelerator, pointing the Beetle straight at the thing standing outside Sigmund’s house. She didn’t know what it was, but it hadn’t noticed them and she wasn’t about to take the risk that it might.
“Wayne what are—?” was all Em managed before they hit the monster. Wayne got a flash of milky green eyes, wide in shock, set in a face that almost looked familiar. Then, in the next instant, the car shuddered and the windshield shattered as the thing’s huge, charcoal dark body rolled up the hood.
Wayne lost control of the car for one heart-stopping moment after that. Careening across the street in a squeal of tires, before managing to pull to a halt about three houses down. They’d spun completely around in the chaos, and in the fluttering glow from the headlights, Wayne could just make out the shape of the thing they’d hit. It was lying on the ground, unmoving.
“What the fucking fuck was that!”
Sigmund gave up trying to drive the car by the time they got to Von Neumann Avenue.
“Sigmund!” his dad said when Sigmund took his hands off the wheel. “What are you doing?”
“It doesn’t need me, I guess.” Sigmund gestured as the wheel turned itself to round them onto Briers Way.
David watched in existential horror for a moment, before swallowing and closing his eyes. Sigmund didn’t blame him. They could barely see through the ash and smoke, and the air was heavy and scratchy and smelled like sulphur and rendered fat. The car wasn’t driving fast and, as they crawled through the streets, he could see vague, malformed shadows writhing along sidewalks and in abandoned front yards. There were a lot of them. Lain claimed they weren’t aggressive, but Sigmund was thankful he was in the car. He felt even better when he found the button on the dash that put the convertible’s top up.
… oops been a few weeks but we got there!
It’s a different hallway.
He’s not here. Even with blurred Wyrdsight I can tell that much, the door to the study having opened back out into a much deeper part of the Bleed than it opened in from. Very deep, in fact, down past the mist and isolation, into the blood and bile.
“David?” I try, just on the off chance. He’s not here either, but that doesn’t mean I’m alone. The hallway carpet squelches under my feet, and my outstretched claws leave wet, glistening grooves in the walls as I walk toward the staircase. The house doesn’t like that much; I can hear the wheeze in its breath at the wounds but fuck it. I’m well past the mood of being nice.
There’s light coming from the staircase, red and flickering, accompanied by the greasy smell of rancid flesh, slowly roasting. Peering over the landing, I can see huge swathes of downstairs are on fire, and they don’t look like they plan on being in any other state any time soon. I try to calm it, but it doesn’t listen. Fire at all in Niflhel is unusual, but when it does take root it’s Múspell all the way down. And the fires of Múspell burn eternal.
They’re also hot, one of the few fires that can burn me, and the memory of the one other—of Baldr’s hands searing on my skin—sends me back a step.