|Nail and Crescent
Author: bluehawk2008 PM
The lone survivor of the initial Slipgate Expeditionary Team recalls the story of his first major encounter with the alien species and the beginning of his daunting task of finding a way back home.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Sci-Fi - Words: 6,729 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 1 - Published: 05-20-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4267700
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I do not own the rights to the name "Quake" or "Id Software" and these are registered trademarks being used in fair-use by the author, the following work is not to be sold or published at a profit, certainly not without the author's permission, and is not to be edited or altered in anyway without the author's permission. It is free to be quoted or duplicated in its entirety so long as due credit is given to the author and to those holders of all registered trademarks. (Do I even need to write all this stuff for FanFiction . Net?)
Preface -- This work of Quake (1) fan fiction is largely divergent from the game's general gameplay and draws more heavily on the works of horror by Howard Phillips Lovecraft that were themselves an inspiration to the staff of Id Software during the production of Quake. Proof of this can be seen in such terms as "Shub-Niggurath" and "The Vaults of Zin" to name a few. In addition to this mode of story telling, I was so taken by the game's soundtrack that I intended to incorporate a particular soundscape from the fifth track on the CD, referred to as "The Grisly Grotto" after the first level it can be heard in. If you are unfamiliar with this track, references to strange and seemingly incorporeal winds and horns playing may seem entirely out of place and foreign to the Quake universe, but they are not. It should also be mentioned that one minor character is named "Bitterman", a surname borrowed from the protagonist of Quake II, this is meant as an homage and is certainly not to be taken as canon.
NAIL AND CRESCENT
A Quake Inspired Short Story by Darrin Boland
That was the most disturbing incident. It was only my first encounter with the indigenous people there and would not be my last, but it was the most revealing of their ways and beliefs, whose procedures and incantations still leave me off-set at the thought of them. My darkest horrors lie in those walls of bizarre masonry, decorated with the strangest glyphs and images I have ever seen. Many so strange I simply can't remember them, as they bore no resemblance to anything I had seen here, at home.
Let me first say the things that attacked the Slipgate Complex were neither sophisticated nor technologically prevalent, but they are none the less intelligent. I haven't discussed anything with one but I have observed enough to know wholeheartedly that they have language, art, religion and a primitive knowledge of science. They also possess something else. Whether it was a born trait or whether they acquired it from some higher form in exchange for the unthinkable, I don't know. Magic would be too playful a term for the things they are able to project and manifest in times of need.
It had been two months and five days since our entire platoon was sent through the gate. We had managed to patrol endlessly for several weeks in all directions but kept a small base camp at our entry point, which was nothing more than a clearing among a variety of blackened and crooked trees that all bent off to one side, though each individual in a different direction. The trees did not specifically climb to any light source but all slumped in which ever direction they pleased as saplings. Plants, insects and small amphibians were all the life we had encountered for days. The air was thick and carried strong smells of decay and renewal far beyond the most cluttered forests I remember hiking through. It was breathable, but at first required tremendous effort to pull it through our lungs. An odd greenish haze shrouded distant forms, though there were no traces of any chemical or gas that should create such a visible atmosphere. We had slowly mapped out what appeared to be a canyon when comparing diagrams and at all points we had met the stretches of the eroded stone, nowhere was there a section broken enough to climb, or low enough to grapple with hooks and rope.
On the second day of our expedition, some of the men reported a large life form and shot it dead a half kilometer north of our position, their radio call an exclamation mark to the distant gunfire we all heard back at our camp. We were all rotated around our duties so that we all eventually got to examine it. When my turn came I saw it lying on the ground among the grass with its limbs spread out and its furry coat of some kind covered in a variety of decomposers and scavengers. I kept my distance as not only did the shape and form of it slightly disturb me but a thick cloud of decay hung over it, invisible but thicker to the nostrils than the greenish fog. It had two legs and arms and an obvious face that sat at the upper end of its torso. The torso was a single mass of flesh with a head that tended to simply extrude forward slightly but without any neck or defined boundary between head and body. This tapered down to a small pelvis. Its arms did not end in hands but in large growths of nail or bone that were clearly for hunting and matched a pair of short spear-like horns protruding up into the air from between its temples, both based in the forehead. It lay there in the grass, resembling something between a wild boar and a simian ape but with fierce and ruthless design. It looked like a rather efficient killer and one that would attack with humanity in terms of method and skill, but inhumanity in terms of mercy and discretion. Only a minute or two passed before we all decided to head back to the camp.
After several days a handful of the men became violently ill. Despite all medical treatments known for average bacteria and viral infections there was nothing that would relieve them of their severe stomach pains, tightness in their lungs and the complete congestion of their airways, esophagus and even ear canals. When left sitting or standing they would cough, snort and cry constantly until they became dangerously flushed and dehydrated. When left hospitalized in their tents on their backs they slowly began to lose airflow until they began to suffocate. Those who managed to stay hydrated and breathing clearly, though laboriously, would last several days in incapacitation and misery until a violent vomiting session would finally overcome their resilience. After the first month all four of our medical officers became ill as well, as the rest of the enlisted men tried their best to continue the futile treatments they had started. What struck me the oddest of the whole affair was the complete lack of microscopic life when the plant and insect samples were examined. If we had arrived in NBC gear as originally planned it might not have been an issue, assuming it was an infection as theorized. If we had been able to maintain a constant stream with the Slipgate we'd be able to report our situation over the radio and perhaps request additional physicians with proper shielding, but no contact was ever made by the other side. Perhaps they couldn't if they wanted to.
The last man to die was Corporal Martin Bitterman. I sat by his bedside all day, feeding him at appropriate hours and keeping him feeling safe in that completely alien landscape with no real route or line of communication with Earth, or the alternate Earth of our dimension, which ever is closer to the scientific truth. At the beginning of the day we discussed college football and politics but as the hours rolled by we ran out of things we had in common and his spirits could no longer sustain a conversation. He stared up at the tent ceiling and the dull gray sunlight withering its way through and I sat back quietly and nearly fell asleep listening to the aberrant buzzing and chirping that was obnoxiously and dauntingly voluminous, but had now become white noise. In a random outburst of intoxicatingly contagious fear, Martin grabbed me by the hand and sat up partly but without sufficient effort and spat up onto himself. Initially I was frozen with surprise but quickly attempted to turn him over so he wouldn't choke but by the time he had emptied his stomach onto the tuffs of trampled grass by his cot, his pale face cranked up listlessly to me. Through the awful sight of his moist bone-white visage I saw into his wide and blood shot eyes a hint of desperation. It was an expression that filled me with terrible guilt for my helplessness as this man finally followed the prophecy laid down by the rest of the platoon. There was no peaceful release or last words of confidence for my now solitary and hopeless mission from this man, there was simply a slow calming in his spasms that leveled out into complete stillness. I reached down to him, rolled him over onto his back again and clawed at his tacky wet eyelids to close them and offer his soaked and odorous corpse the slightest hint of dignity.
I didn't bother to move his body to be with the others, or even cover him. I left the camp and hiked off and on aimlessly for several cycles of the sun and constellations for what I roughly guess was a month more. Somewhere off in the unfathomable stretches of barked spires I began to find revolting red berries that luckily weren't poisonous. I never fell ill to the terrible forces that squeezed hold of the others, but I made discoveries that I must write so that military forces may combat them, biologists may examine them, social anthropologists may understand them and theologians may propose method to their madness.
As I lived among the seemingly uncorrupted nature, though not particularly beautiful in my taste, my life became a slow, dull, meaningless series of routines. In the beginning of my solitude I would dwell on my mother and father, sister and girl friend, all whom I would never see again. I thought of how they would feel when they received a half-baked half-truth about how their son, brother and soul mate "heroically gave his life in the line of duty" or how they would eventually go on with their lives without me. The thought of being left behind and thought dead while still alive drove me mad, but my anger was unexpressed. I didn't tear off branches or stomp out insects, start fires or burn off ammunition at any and everything worthy of my wrath; I simply choked back those disgusting fruits and sat in the greenery until I grew tired and fell asleep. I slept frequently and periodically. In all truthfulness I only awoke to eat and relieve myself. I could not see myself in the mirror, but I knew if I could I would see a dead man, robbed of passion and purpose, living solely to appease the primal fear of death. Despite all my gloom, suicide never really took any form in my mind except as a sarcastic joke without a punch line that I'd tell myself over and over again. The afterlife didn't interest me either, or the fear of previously unfelt extremes of pain that suicide could induce. I simply continued my hollow routines because I thought somehow they would find a way to pull me back through the Slipgate, despite not having any Gate or device with me here. They would find a way, or I would be killed with murderous intent. I now know that that was a scientific impossibility. At the time however I had two choices, and neither scenario required any effort from me so I stayed in my beaten down patch of the woods and ate and slept.
One morning as I awoke twisted and nearly paralyzed in the upper limbs of one of those decrepit formations of wood and parasitical insects within, I heard or rather felt an wholly unfamiliar pulse in a distinct direction. It was a low and slow moan that was neither mechanical nor musical but was by far not an animal call. It started slow and gained force before dying out and restarting again. It took me some time, scavenging for food and keeping my no doubt useless rifle clean, before realizing it wasn't some strange headache pounding in my brain by was from some where. As I turned around and walked off in a number of places it moved in my head and it was clear that I was only feeling it in my head, but its origin was out in the wilderness. I, with nothing else to do and being so far from the Entry Point that seeing human beings again was beyond any rational hope, began to trudge through the freshly rain-soaked earth towards the call.
The dark bark of the oddly hanging and slumping trunks was painted pitch black by the soaked-in waters. The oddly swirled clouds above were illustrated flawlessly in the still puddles and flooded grooves between upshot roots. My uniform was now a tattered mess that clung to me by the shoulders and girth by a few strung-out stitches and assorted frayed fibers that held the larger patches together across cuts, tears and lacerations. My skin underneath was in a likewise tattered fashion and as I bent in peculiar poses under and around the larger branches in my path, the caked blood fell off with ticklish stimulation across my nearly numb limbs. As I panted like an out-of-shape child in Physical Education class or as a younger me in Basic Training, I could feel my full beard with each roll of the jaw. I hadn't spoken in a long time yet my mind still examined and contemplated in English, though often in broken sentences beyond the most urban of bastardizations.
As I came closer the pounding rhythm became audible as I realised I was in fact hearing it with my ears if only faintly before. It was not offensively loud but it carried a gravity that held fascinations beyond curiosity. I followed this intoxicating pulse until the trees began to thin and memories of my purpose here began to rise up in my mind. My mission of reconnaissance and exploration of our enemy became relevant again. However with this newfound sense of purpose came the realization that I would face new and unknown hostilities the likes of which I couldn't begin to hypothesize at the time. Now, between pulses, there came a sour squeal of a bizarre horn that only rang a single note at a time, at a pitch that seemed to carry that musical message of macabre and depression. It was definitely from an instrument, though the much louder and lengthier pound was still completely alien to my auditory palette. Beyond the most solitary trees and tuffs of grass stood the tall frontage of a colossal work of blue and black masonry, carved with silent and solemn hands. Each brick glistened and flaunted its imperfections with the greasy rain clung to its sides, catching the uneven light from between the clouds. From the high turrets and battlements fell long banners bearing colours not particularly pleasing to me, but perhaps were quite majestic to the inhabitants. Their scriptures and slogans were a bizarre arrangement of geometric essentials without any uniform alphabet as with Latin or Greek, any artistic form or hidden expression as with the calligraphies of Asia or the Middle East and merely resembled written word due to its spacing, even height and the contexts it was printed in. Similar markings decorated the frame of a large vacant doorway that led to a poorly lit stone staircase and a crossing hallway beyond. I stared up at the single torch flickering weakly dead-center in the wall across from the staircase's own interior doorway and stopped to consider turning back. My better judgement was slowly etched away like the valley I stood in by that low groaning pulse and dreary horn. Another blat sounded out, this time of several horns at once that together formed a revolting malformed melody that required a roll of my shoulders to settle my spine.
In I stepped and crept up the chalky and dirt-coated steps into that foreign house. Nearing the hallway, I threw myself noiselessly against the left-hand wall and slowly slid myself towards the doorway and looked out down the right stretch of the hall only to see it bend back to the left, or rather further back into the building if faced from the front entrance, and another torch painting its own convulsing shadow on the floor. Among the pounding and whimpering music came a strong inward gust of wind that picked up the loose dirt on the steps behind me and from outside and pulled in to the main chamber of the structure. The gust caught me off guard and I slipped out into the hallway onto my side and shoulder with my feet awkwardly sitting on the top step. I rubbed my eyes furiously at the tiniest of grains that felt like boulders and stood back up. The echoed crash of my form aroused no attention at all. I could not imagine my fate had my rifle misfired. I began to head down the right path towards the second torch, paying close attention to how I carried my weight as my boots produced a fearfully loud step despite the noises within. More low and grainy groaning that swelled my head and mournful half-pitches and quasi-notes that fell perfectly between anything heard in a well composed or well performed piece, though I truly believe it was intended of them to play the way they did, flowed down the halls towards me. There came also another powerful inhalation that deafened me for a whole second and made me reach out for the wall. However now as I came into the full glow of that second torch I heard the low and thick snapping of whispers. It was the sort of tail-end syllable that was stressed too hard and flew out across the land to be heard by anyone listening. They also carried that easily identifiable wetness of saliva on the tongue that became very audible when the voice barely exhaled. There were dozens of them, each its own and separate voice but all talking among each other and cluttered as they came bounding down the cold chalky walls. Regardless, I wouldn't be able to understand their dark relays if they were to shout in my face.
I now pressed myself against the right-hand wall to slowly peek out around the corner opposite me. Looking deeper into the building I slowly came aligned with the corner and stepped past it to see the hall lead now in two directions. One was a small spiraling staircase drenched in absolute darkness, the next was a doorway to the left, leading into the center of the building and to a main chamber hall of some twisted purpose. From both doorways, as a jumbled and untraceable cacophony of repetitious echo and distorted acoustics, came very strong and loud the constant and slow hum that could almost be used to tell time, still more whispers, now more excited, and that irritatingly depressing wail of the horns. One thing I noticed was the clearness of the air. It was as soft and soothing on the lungs as any on Earth, excluding pollution, and the green haze was also absent.
Slowly I continued closer to the hall, whispers now dangerously close and each sharp spike in conversation grabbed a hold of my already adrenaline fueled heart for fear of being discovered. Their voices had all the tone and rhythm of fully sentient human beings, yet the unique characteristics of their voices were strikingly abnormal. The simply manner in which the sound reverberated off their skulls and out of their mouths gave their speech something far more alien than the most obscure dialects Earth will ever have to offer.
I carefully peered into the large hall for only a second, as there were a variety of small crowds and cliques milling around and a wandering pair of eyes could easily spot me. The floor was a variety of purple and brown blocks forming a grand mosaic that I only caught a fragment of and from a poor angle. The things standing around in conversation looked much closer to the security camera footage from the Slipgate Complex. Their silhouette was unmistakable from their very broad shoulders and low heads without any real sign of a neck. The shoulders simply melded up into a pair of cheeks and ears, all the way up to a cranium that sprouted only a few thin gray hairs that were barely noticeable in the light of the torches. Their arms hung low and were quite muscular. Their legs were short and squat and were just meaty enough to hold up their weight, most of the load compensated by a wide stance. They all wore a strange kind of dull blue tunic that only bore a single marking below the collar. It was a sort of crescent moon, with its lit rim facing down and the moon's "shadow" up towards the wearer's face, forming a half-circle. Straight through the middle was a vertical stroke that bore a sharp point and flat head, resembling quite deliberately a nail. Their faces, whose visibility from my position made it clear to dodge back behind the hall's wall, were deeply folded and creased. Their eyes sank back into the skull and in the low light appeared as black marble, catching the faintest picks of the torches and reflecting them back. These glowing embers caught between distinguished brow and forward cheekbones gave them a frightful look of intelligence, but not civility. I am not sure if it was simply a personal trait of the particular one I stared at, but they also had thin lips that did not close, showing a row of poorly maintained teeth that had been weathered without retardation for perhaps several decades.
After struggling to hold myself out of view of the doorway after another gust, I quickly rushed towards the staircase and began to carefully walk up the thin claustrophobic cylinder of brick and mortar that had no sources of light save for that which cascaded in from both upper and lower archways. The top step bore, engraved into it, the same crescent and nail symbol as on the tunics. At the top of the flight was an odd and apparently purposeless balcony with a thin wooden banister that I closely crawled up to on my stomach and peered through to observe the whole chamber from the shadows. My image was enlarged greatly against the back wall even with the low light sources of four lonely torches along the sides, but it was not noticed by those on the ground, peering close only into each other in their small bands and bunches. The image on the floor was still blocked in parts by the people standing in the chamber, but it no longer made any difference. The large mosaic depicted a strange tree shape, one that didn't slump to any one side but stood straight up to the sky, and seemed to bear a number of strange holes and cavities along its trunk, and its branches all sprung out of the very top of the trunk and angled up to the sky with very few bends and elbows. In the background seemed to be a strange texture of folds and ripples and it was unclear if it were the clouds of the sky or some kind of rock formation. The more I looked over every angle and cut, the more the tree began to take on more animal properties than plant. The nooks and crannies began to resemble toothless mouths or bizarre gills, yet the image definitely did not take place underwater. Despite all its inanimate properties it carried a very powerful air to it that almost entranced me. I couldn't stop examining it, as if it were going to do something I couldn't miss.
From my position, the next strong and still origin-lacking intake of air barely rustled my uniform as it flowed in through the arches below me, but I noticed the whispering monstrosities on the floor were not only unmoved at all, but didn't even observe the event and their speeches were uninterrupted. The low horns also seemed to be close but no one was playing any instrument. The only musical device in the room was a large bell hanging from the ceiling among a number of small shafts carved through the roof to allow light and air, I would assume, to enter. There were no windows or glass present and most of the light still came from torches. At the very far end, near the wall opposite me and absolutely deserted by the loiterers was a large, two-foot tall stone block. It was a single cut, perfectly ground and buffed without a single chip or scratch, even on the corners, creating a perfect rectangular prism. There was also nothing painted or printed overtop of the uniform stone and its light gray colour looked out of place among the blues, purples and blacks of the structure housing it.
At once a number of horns all barked in unison, though not all playing the same note, creating an irritating cacophony that held for a full second and fell silent. With it, disappeared the loud pounding bass that seemed to come from within my own brain. The indecipherable bits and pieces of arcane ramblings all halted, and the lumbering creatures below fell into rows and columns facing the strange block. As I watched them I noticed a figure standing behind the block out of the corner of my eye. There were no entrances at that end and its dress made him painstakingly distinct from the other figures, yet I hadn't seen him before that very second. His teal and green coat of sorts draped down from both arms and created wings whenever we raised them. He also wore under it a simple blue tunic like the rest. He kept the odd coat open to bear the crescent and nail underneath. He was a thin figure whose head was much more independent from his shoulders and appeared more human, though his skin was thick and dark and showed a colour I could never quite place in the faint light.
He began to shout furiously at the crowd in a poetic verse with that odd distorted voice and continued for several minutes, raising his arms after each stanza and simply shouting, and I could tell it wasn't a word at all but a simple outcry, and the crowd joined in. Apart from this the chamber was silent, even the whistling breeze from the ceiling shafts stopped suddenly when he began his sermon, as I suppose it should be labeled.
At the climax of his incantations he shouted until his voice cracked rather peculiarly and the crowd quickly drowned out his theatrical but isolated screams with their own. The acoustics of the chamber made their bellowing rather painful on me. He through his arms up and back, quickly slipping the teal robe off and revealing a short sword of sorts on his belt that he quickly drew and thrust into the air, still screaming passionately. The blade looked badly rusted and chipped and was no doubt dull and inefficient. As his eyes began to water with the strain of his performance and perhaps the hidden reluctance for his next actions, he swiftly whipped the blade down into his own chest and stood there trembling for a second before popping his chest out and maintaining his proud posture. He stepped closer towards the block and slowly dragged the dark crimson blade up towards the symbol on his tunic and finally drew it out. He held the blade up again to the ceiling, but his mouth simply hung open leaving the others to scream in his stead. I myself watched with perverted fascination as he stood toes to the stone and threw himself down over it, arms clawing at the side facing us. The crowd ceased their bansheeing and the bell overhead was suddenly struck and echoed a deep piercing toll that could almost be heard resonating in my jaw.
The thin creature laid there motionless over the stone for several minutes, his blood now running down the front side to the dark masonry below, and the others simply stood and observed in silence. I started to notice by now a presence had entered the chamber. It wrapped around me and took my attention away from anything I heard or saw, my senses still functioning but ignored. The longer I became intimate with it, the more revolting it became but merely thinking wouldn't remove it and my consciousness anxiously debated if I should move or not. I laid on my stomach on the balcony behind the railing staring off into space, frozen with fear and entranced by an unseen entity. However, much to the relief of every tensed up muscle in my body, I rolled back out of sight of the chamber floor and lifted myself onto my feet. It remained in me however and pained me. There was no specific physical pain but I couldn't stand the thought of it. It seemed to make it clear to my subconscious that it was powerful, as at one random instant I feared its wrath and felt penitent in that awful house of unknown rites. Somehow it became clear that it was the strange fleshy tree in the mosaic, and my disgust for it heightened.
The back wall behind the block and body slowly opened inwards to reveal a large eight-meter tall entrance that led down steeply into a basement. A number of confusing figures emerged out of the entrance. They were incredibly frail and seemed to lack organs, creating a less than skeletal frame. Where they were covered in skin and where their flesh seemed open to the air was hard to discern in the low light and through the thick coat of dirt, grime and blood that seemed to have drenched them constantly and was now caking. What was more unsettling than their image was the fashion in which they walked on their frail and misshapen legs. They slowly shambled around the dead clergyman and dragged his torn body off of the apparent altar, carefully avoiding touching the altar itself and carried him above their heads as if he were in a coffin. They proceeded slowly down the staircase and the wall closed behind them. How the door functioned was a complete mystery to me, as was the health of those denizens or the purpose of this whole ritual. I was on the verge of shrieking in overwhelming anxiety when I decided to personally overpower my fear by combating these things. I thought of the most hateful thing I could possibly do with my element of surprise, and the worst act that came to mind was the defilement of their altar.
I stepped up to the balcony and shouldered my rifle, aiming for the center of the light gray block that in some bizarre but not surprising feat of paranormality, was now clean of the dead man's blood. Fighting the constricting specter of that haunting mass of ropy tentacles and snapping mouths, that amoral Tree God, I fired a lengthy but well controlled burst of fire at the demonic offering plate. Thin chunks and pebbles sprayed out in a powder and fine dust and revealed the thing to be hollow. Perhaps it wasn't truly hollow, but regardless each impact was slowly followed by a thick oozing fluid that flickered scarlet in the fiery light of ignited torch and cordite.
The creatures all swung around to look at me, twisting their heads awkwardly on joints unseen below their shoulder blades, folding and creasing the skin on the backs of their heads, and cried out at first in outrage and then in sorrow. Their almost perfect ceremony had been undone. The presence around me did not lift however, and grew more irritating, resembling a migraine. I turned my weapon down onto the crowds and they seemed to recognize its significance before I could open fire on them. As the chamber quickly overflowed with the sounds of the snapping and crackling ammunition cooking off and the horrified cries of fear and agony, the strangling air whispered to me. It now manifested stronger inside me and filled my head with words I couldn't begin to write or speak aloud.
In retrospect I can greatly sympathize with the remote viewer who was first utilized for reconnaissance from the safety of a military installation in the southern United States. Surrounded by nothing but cold concrete and clicking old fluorescent fixtures, he sat down at a small green folding table in a cheap plastic and aluminum chair and reached out into the cosmos, holding in his hand a scrap of tunic from one of the few creatures killed in the Slipgate Complex Attack. With this small piece of cloth alone he managed to pull to him the faintest shapes, sounds and emotions from the plane I was now stranded in. What little he felt he flat out refused to discuss, but the one thing he made clear in his report, which I as a member of the expeditionary force have read, mentioned a single mind that found him too and offered him the most horrible knowledge and revelation in exchange for demands he also didn't disclose. He did mention that he wasn't even capable of fulfilling some of the requests while others he wouldn't under any circumstances even consider. Not only were his reports doubted and ignored, but he became ill to far more than simple "delusions" as he was diagnosed. The event scarred him and soon became all he ever thought about. He quickly divorced his wife and quit his day job. He wouldn't write or talk, nor would he entertain himself. He would simply sit around or lie in bed and think about the things he saw and heard as if they were the new meaning of his life and he had to unlock their intricacies. Without that piece of cloth however, which was locked away deep within an unknown installation guarded by men who had no idea of its significance, he couldn't find that mind again. Apparently he had tried many times at home but failed. This fascination was how he described it to the base psychologists, whose treatments were not confidential given the nature of the alien threat. We all got to know the man very well despite never meeting him in person and his case created a sizable dissent in us, but we embarked on the mission regardless. He was probably still institutionalized and on a number of medications designed to treat a number of disorders that were only approximate in definition to his problem. He could never come to a conclusion, weather to denounce the offer as truly wicked and demonic, or to open his mind fully to the dark secrets it had to offer, no matter the physical cost he would pay or the damage he would receive. It consumed him and drove him mad and if he were to ever miss a dosage he would surely try to kill himself or perform a ritual of some kind, neither of which could be legally condoned. However, when the voice spoke to me in that anti-church, I lacked the necessary clairvoyance or perhaps some higher brain function, and its threats or bribes fell on an ignorant mind. I now consider that to be a blessing.
My weapon stopped sharply as my magazine ran empty and the survivors below began to run out the main halls and some began to pound on the back wall behind the altar, hoping the previously summoned would open the barrier. Fearing retribution, I made for the staircase, fumbling with a fresh magazine on the way down. I busily bobbed down the narrow shaft, banging my reddened elbows with each step on the hard shadowed masonry. As I passed by the doorway into the main chamber I took a brief gaze across the small fragment of the room that was visible to me. At least a dozen of the squat muscular deformities were sprawled out across the grand mosaic, some dead, others dying. Some cradled their friends and family and caught sight of my escape, screaming both at me and up into the heavens. The constricting poltergeist whose leafless branches were wrapping around every organ in my body sensed their agony and intensified its attack on me. Between its haunting influence and the sheer scope of my actions, I decided best not to advance farther into the structure but to turn and run out through where I came in. Sprinting as fast as I could with such little nourishment, I slammed my shoulder into every corner while trying to cut them and leapt the front steps in a single jump, landing in the soft soil below.
It was just beginning to rain again and the ground was softening, thought not enough to impede me. I ran in a nearly straight line from the doors out into the forest of the bare, blackened and double-bent foliage. Soon the thick green fog that burned the hairs in my nose shrouded the tall temple and I began to slow my pace. In the distance I heard the short and dull bong of that large bell, but there were no horns or percussive pounding. I also noticed that the dark spirit had finally left my mind, no doubt satisfied that I had left its house of worship. I paused and turned nervously, losing all points of orienteering reference in the process, and found myself alone. Looking up at the thin drizzling rain drops I began to laugh myself into a stupor over how I essentially infiltrated an alien sacrament, killed a number of unarmed and probably civilian creatures, angered a being or beings of unknown power and yet escaped unharmed and without pursuit. It was an oddly innocent laugh, as if I had pulled off some humourous prank, but it soon decayed into a pleasurable laugh of victory, then a guilty and nervous stilted giggle that stopped flat.
I would've remained in that forest, preying on the bitter and lifeless berries for years to come had I not been given the inspiration to find a portal of the likes used to attack the Slipgate Complex and return to our dimension. There was a faint underlying music about me, a strange unsettling piping that prompted me to halt all thought in my mind and stand statuesque, listening to the popping of water hitting the branches above me, the soft cooing of the wind and a voice. A deep arcane whisper in the air maniacally suggested incomprehensible things to me in a tone that deeply uprooted my barely blossomed sense of safety. It could find me and it could set forces in motion to crush me. It made it clear through impression alone in a single powerful quake that it could do many things at once and even with all its grandeur, there was no enemy too small or insignificant for it to conquer even amongst its infinite and immeasurable tasks I assumed it performed indefinitely. Then, in what would be a long and arduous odyssey, I bolted off in a random direction and did not stop until I found the structure housing the portal I sought, mournful horns now seeping their sour tones behind me.