2 (Eastern Ward, Border District, Eventide)
Beneath a squat, stone building not far away in the heart of the doomed city, another victim of the occupation also felt death nearing. The whispers in Tala’s head were like tolling bells, and she knew the time was at hand.
She felt their spidery presence across the dome of her skull more strongly than usual, while fighting off the panic and trying to bring about calm through force of will. The act itself of trying to enforce calm made the effort futile, the whispers gaining ground inch by inch as she tried and failed to stave off growing desperation. Something was coming that would bring her world to an end, and there was no way to stop its rapid approach.
The surging fear wasn’t for herself, but for the rest of the inhabitants of Cestia. She didn’t know what would happen in that last final instant if she lost control. Every moment of her life was a struggle against a rising flood only barely contained and kept down with hard-earned focus. That battle was finally about to be lost for the first time. Shortly she would feel those things breach the gates and spill through, the long-overdue deluge about to consume everyone else along with her.
She tried to keep the shield in place while the big one held her down, fixating on anything in her surroundings that might keep the calm from shattering. His breath was unpleasant and made gorge rise in her throat, distracting from the all-important task, and his rough hands only brought on pointed, piercing hate.
It would have to be his eyes then, a detail to converge on that could be disassociated from the man himself. Unlike most of the invaders she’d seen out on patrols, his eyes were soft and multi-hued, one a dark blue and the other a light green.
For a moment Tala slipped quietly back behind the shield, ignoring what was happening to her body and maintaining the balance that kept Cestia safe from what the whispers heralded.
It was the laughter of the other two off to the side of the room, taunting that they’d be going next, that allowed the anger to slice through that carefully crafted defense. Those insistent whispers, there her whole life but never able to be heard clearly, finally found the one weak point and made just the tiniest crack.
That single minute fracture was all it took.
The sob that burst from her seemed to excite them, prompting the soldier holding her down to increase the urgency of his thrusts, which only made the anger inside grow further. The shield’s crack widened and the constant dull roar finally came up to the forefront of her mind in a clear voice. It was all over for the soldiers, and they had no idea this particular act of inhumanity, one drop in a sea of violence, would be their last.
She felt it all slow down in that moment and desperately tried to repair the breach, to return stability to her mind and force the crack closed somehow. Even while making the attempt, she knew it would be too late to stop something from reaching through. Like a waking night terror with no control, they would cavort and scream while she remained helpless. They would tell her all those secrets about reality she didn’t want to know in that one agonizing eternal second it would take to re-establish the shield.
The moment dragged on so long she didn’t even realize her tormentor was nearly finished. The knight grunted twice in rapid succession, again forcing that stench into her nostrils, and it was over. He was spent and immediately uninterested in his conquest, not knowing what was already growing there under the maligned influence of the whispering voices.
He had become a father through forces he couldn’t possibly comprehend, and he’d terribly regret it until the moment he died.
When the soldier took to his feet, not sparing even a look down at what damage he’d caused now that he was done, she softly begged them to leave while they still could. Tala pleaded for them to flee in quick, choking sobs through the tears now flowing freely. The knights ignored her appeals; having heard them delivered hundreds of ways in the preceding years of the occupation. Their ignorance was a fatal mistake, not realizing she was trying to save them from the repercussions of their actions.
The soon-to-be father laughed while buckling his breeches, calling out to the other two to take their turns before they returned to the street above and finished off their patrol of this run-down ward. They shared in his mirth, conversing like old friends engaged in a cherished pastime, oblivious to whatever pain they might be causing or what horror was stirring unnoticed nearby. This area of the city was a slum no one wanted to be assigned to, but they could still find some fun with the locals before returning to tearing apart yet another home in a search that everyone knew was futile.
Tala felt the whispers quiet down when the moment approached, all of the voices in rapt, silent attention for what was to come. The moment that would change everything was heralded by an unpleasant stirring sensation inside, dull at first and then sharp and violent as the first contraction rippled from within. Pain blossomed into full bloom while something was rapidly taking shape and gaining form, pressing against the thin breach of the wall.
She tried to push back but couldn’t stop its advance through where the crack had briefly appeared in that one moment when all her careful control had finally broken. In a last ditch effort to stave off the coming storm, Tala mercilessly berated herself, screaming every profanity and insult she could think of across the back of her skull.
With no other means available, she hoped the force of her self-loathing could hold it off. She slipped back easily to all those years of screams and beatings when the cruel men in the robes had taught her never to slip up, not even for a single moment.
She cried out in agony and clutched her stomach, rolling over and tightening into a ball as all those thoughts scattered and fled before the whispered onslaught. The second soldier struck her across the face without bothering to remove his gauntlet first, thinking she meant to deny him his prize. His desire was the last thing on her mind when she rolled back over and spread her legs apart, not even bothering to worry about the bleeding split in her lip or the bruise spreading across her cheek.
The soldier’s excitement rapidly turned to confusion and then disgust when the birthing began. From echoing silence to jubilant cries of exultation, the whispers spoke to her in their discordant miasma, feeding her the knowledge of how to bring her child from their realm to hers. Something jet black and dripping obsidian afterbirth struggled out from beneath her skirt, a single protruding limb of the thing that escaped when her lapse of control fractured the veil between here and there.
Tala screamed again, more forcefully this time, when the first joint of the spidery leg worked its way out of her, followed by the sopping ovoid bulk of her bastard child. The whispers went from insane cavorting to soothing croons, warping the fabric of her form and allowing something that should not be. What should have torn her body in two instead contorted in lunatic ways that no physical thing should have been capable of achieving. A terrible kind of sense was found in those whispered ministrations, and she allowed herself to wrap around and through those secret truths denied to others, briefly accepting them for the first time.
The final limb tore through, slipping in the pool of blood gathered around the exhausted new mother as it sought to acclimate itself to this alien reality. Four multi-jointed and barbed legs sprouted out from the thing, glistening with the dampness of its birth. Its center was a sagging mass of flesh barely formed; bearing a dissolved face that ran like wax, crying out hideously to its mother.
Looking closer, she saw it clearly cried out to its horrified father as well, seeing now that beneath all the moist viscera he too bore one eye shining a dark emerald and the other a dull, dark sapphire. From leg to leg her offspring was nearly as long across as a man was tall. She let her thoughts float above the recognition of the insanity of that realization, pushing down that part of her that screamed no such thing could have come from her.
Tala should have been sickened, but couldn’t bring herself to be, finding the whispers offered entirely new ways of viewing the world around her if she followed their calls. Looking at what she had brought out of nonexistence and into the meat of solid space, she recognized something of herself inside it, and knew then that she truly loved this thing, no matter how vile it appeared or how bizarre its inception.
Those spindly legs protruding from its massive center bulk seemed unsteady and fragile, as if wouldn’t be capable of even remaining upright, let along moving at all. In a burst of surprising speed it skittered at its father, breaking the stunned motionlessness of the room and forcing the knights into action.
Unable to see the beauty in his own child, the unintentional father brought his mace crushing down, the curved points on its bottom edge slicing through the creature’s middle segment. It’s already ruined features smashed down against the dirt, crushed between the floor and the force of the blow. With no pity to spare for the wretched thing, the soldier pressed his boot against its back legs and viciously pulled upward, ripping the spiked mace out and rearing back for another blow.
He never got the chance to land it, as some twisted parody of a maternal instinct kicked in. Seeing the bloody remnants of her first child being smashed to death, Tala was on the knight in an instant. Not expecting any sort of assault from a woman who appeared to be half dead, the couple crashed to the ground. Keenly aware that his armor was strewn across the floor, removed to facilitate his desires against the mad woman whose name he’d never even heard, the knight struggled to reclaim his weapon and defend himself.
His hands immediately ceased their searching and shot up towards his assailant when Tala’s fingers sunk into the soft vulnerable eyes that had nearly prevented all this madness. She didn’t relent when the first shockingly painful blow to her temple came, or when the next desperate punch struck her side. The whispers told her where to apply the pressure and how hard to push down, and she didn’t intend to disappoint them. She kept shoving relentlessly inward, even when she felt something sharp jab the side of her thumb, followed by the sudden giving way of a sticky surface.
Something content sighed across the back of her skull when his screams reached their crescendo, echoing her own not long ago when she birthed their unexpected child, followed by a bright burst of light behind her own eyes.
Forgetting the spasming form of her unwanted lover beneath and shaking the bright stars from her vision, Tala rushed up to fend off the other two soldiers. Not trusting what her sight told her, she found one already lying unmoving just where she herself had been on her back moments before when reality still made sense. While no blood pooled around the body, he had clearly been pierced through to the bone a dozen or more times. Short, jagged wounds gaped open across his body, all filled with a viscous black fluid.
In the corner of the room she spied her next quarry, on his knees and looking down in mute shock at the razor sharp end of a segmented leg piercing his sternum. When it retracted back the third soldier collapsed, trying but failing to bring out some words of denial that would return the world to the way it had been earlier, back when he thought that easy prey would provide a momentary diversion.
With the knights down, Tala could finally reach her child, which was now pulled up tightly against the basement’s corner, feebly jabbing its one remaining solid leg out against any other assailants. When its mother approached, that segmented appendage folded up tightly against the newborn’s body. It seemed to lose the strength born of self-preservation then, sagging down and succumbing to the devastating nature of its crushing wounds.
She gathered it up in her arms, heedless of the slashing spines and razor sharp bottoms of its limbs, and whispered soft words to her dying infant. This time the whispers were her own.
From: Light Dawning by Ty Arthur
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Light-Dawning-Ty-Arthur-ebook/dp/B0722FJ3ZB
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38356416-light-dawning
Official website: https://tyarthur.wordpress.com/
About the author:
The author of sci-fi / horror novella Empty and full-length grimdark novel Light Dawning, Ty Arthur gets to meld his passions with his work while freelancing for the likes of Metalunderground and GameSkinny. He writes to exorcise his demons and lives in the cold, dark north with his amazing wife Megan and infant son Gannicus Picard. Many more dark tales are still to come soon, exploring every facet of the bleaker aspects of human existence.