Part One

It's very dark. Heavy earth shifts beneath his claws. It's darker than night. The pale, sickly face of the sun is several thousand miles above, unable to penetrate the many layers to reach this subworld. There are things down here, terrifying, with claws, pincers…and the eyes.

Some scuttle along, spinning undetectable, impenetrable, inescapable webs of ephemeral silk. Others slowly scrape their way through the hardened layers. Creating new passageways and pitfalls with which to trap their unlucky prey.

A wayward spirit goes tumbling through the layers of substance. Spinning and screaming in confusion till at last it points itself back toward the surface.

Wormlings greet him with glee as he slithers adroitly through the twisting narrow caverns.

Their shrilling voices ring out in his ears like thousands of rusty nails dragged haphazardly across ancient chalkboards. His viciously pointed ears catch the sound. He enjoys it, as if it were beautiful demented music. He grins ear-to-ear with a smile full of knife-sharp teeth, so white they are nearly iridescent in the shadows. He pauses in his trek, body laid flat in the thin tube of earth, slim, sleek and serpentine. Delicate bone-thin fingers, with long nails, reach out, tickling his warped little leech-cousins from the holes in the walls, like pox. The larval worms come willingly, climbing along his chilled skin. The spikes protruding from their sandpaper skin prick his long-dead flesh. One of them bites playfully at the pad of a fingertip with rings of tiny anterior teeth.

They all quiver with dreadful delight as a heart exploding thump rattles the burrow, shaking loose clouds of dirt and bits of bones, long forgotten gobbets in the dark.

The wormlings' hermaphroditic mother sends her greeting in a series of thrashes of her deadly spiked tail. She's somewhere in another secret cavern miles away. Her monstrous size, which could bring down a continent, makes the eardrum-shattering message simple to deliver. The mere sight of her could destroy the human mind…

The wormlings echo the sentiment with their strident calls, full of childish enthusiasm and fiendish love. They roam the frigid mountains of his hands and knuckles. Pretending they are on a deadly adventure. Searching for the Lich King's frozen throne.

His smile widens. His exquisitely chiseled jaws crunch as they dislocate to accommodate the berth of his grin. His eyes give a slight shimmer of acid green, as all the demonic pleasure comes purring up from the depths of his being. Like a dark deva summoned straight from the fiery depths of Hell. The dusky rawboned scratches along his gaunt cheekbones appear like freshly inflicted lesions on his cadaverous features. The scar-strings, which extend up to his tear ducts, are proof of his abominable birth. He strokes a wormling along its many slimy segments with one filth-encrusted talon. It gives a shivering shriek as he skewers its small blood sucking body and then pops it, wriggling, into his mouth.

As it is impaled upon his many rows of gnashing teeth, he tastes a pleasant coppery burst of its gorged center. The myriad of snakes, coral, rattle, viper, and asp, in his hair burst to life with a violent flame, the taste of blood always exciting them. Their glee a series of sibilant hisses, an ominous rattle, akin to a frail old human's crepitation rales.

The underground channel shakes again. The strobing of light from his ignited hair and the tremble of the distended cavern make for a surreal atmosphere, positively suffocating. He shoos the children back to their grimy beds and shifts in the tunnel. Propping up an elbow to support his chin on his hand. While he toys a writhing tendril of flame around his nail, one hand drums on the soil carpet, a frenzied tattoo all his own. He listens with ears mauled and ragged. This injury has never stopped him from mutilating the flesh further with a series of hand done piercings, which jingle like some cruel mockery of Christmas bells.

His hearing so acute and tuned to the final dreadful resonations of the worm's dicacious inquiries, that he feels a trickle of liquid come oozing from within his ears. The flow turns into a rivulet of black, tracing a graceful line from earlobe to pallid cheek, then down the jagged point of his recherché chin. Plummeting to the grungy floor with a muted scream as the organisms inside that solitary drop are jolted and destroyed. The subterranean parasites hurriedly begin consuming.

"The family business is doing well," he rasps in reply to the great worm Mother, the lacerations of his lean neck tegument flaring. These wide rips expose spoiling meat beneath. In one deep area of the mangled wound even his cervical vertebrae glisten. He bears many such gruesome exposures of the rotted under-layer of muscle and sinew, littering his body like garbage, usually hidden behind a coating of watery cutis. For he is something sewn together with stark, piceous, fat threads.

"I will be certain to tell my most heinous mother that you send your ill-wishes," he offers by way of dismissal.

One final cacophonous death toll rings and the worm moves on. So does he, slithering through the winding tunnel ways.

The crisp scent of nothingness as a wraith passes by, the putrid stench of a decaying body somewhere in the labyrinthine caverns, the warm earthy smell of the burrow. All work him into a blind passion of zeal and he hurries, clawing brutally at the soil.

As he approaches his destination, the three-eyed mole-men greet him with their arachnid chittering, a click-clack of teeth. As they hurry out of his way, a new door is mentioned. The fire in his blood flares. The snakes in his hair twist in anticipation, snapping their poisonous jaws at the moles as they pass, in a flurry of talons and fangs and fire.

The door is made of old wood, filled now with life, trapped and dying within the moldered planks, a cage of stone and mortar. The brass handle and hinges have long since rusted to a rancid malachite. It screams outrageously as he rips it open. He slips through the swirling portal of oily black into the world beyond. The dust on the floorboards part for him like an old friend. The shadows of the room simper and lick at his heels, faithful till the end.

The serpents in his locks have coiled down into a smoldering fire, ready to strike. His reptilian eyes flicker briefly with Unholy light, then douse suddenly, brutally, as if they were nothing more than oil lamps of pure absinthian colored bile.

He slinks bonelessly on his belly toward the pathetic beams of phantasmal moonlight that have managed to paw their way through ancient Venetian blinds. Long fingernails brush something, an obstacle. Smoothly he slides around it like fluid darkness itself.

Somewhere, far away, there is the bark of some canine creature.

One of the serpents wreathing his head lets out an agitated sigh of breath. The others lunge at it in silent fury, the air shifting imperceptibly around them.

He slips under a soft curtain, like a death shroud, and finds his way into a patch of light, wincing away as if burned. With eyes aglow and halo of vipers aquiver, he peeks over the edge of the bed, for the first of many such nocturnal sojourns.

A little boy lies there. On the pillow, feathery soft baby hair of silver gold sticks up around his head at all angles. Messy from the tossing and turning of an uneasy sleep.

He slithers closer. Holding fetid breath lest he wake the child. Once close enough, his long forked tongue darts out, dragging its coarse surface along the victim's cheek.

The boy stirs. Tiny pink lips let out a tired, groggy murmur. Sleepy, bright eyes open slowly, catching what little moonlight filters in. Within moments of seeing him, the little one's pupils blow to nothing more than tiny dots of dark fear within a sea of uncompromising ultramarine.

He holds his breath a moment more before letting it out in a sharp snarling scream of delight. A sudden warmth encircles them both, and the snakes begin to quaver violently, their insistent buzzing filling the entire room to bursting. He leans in, tongue still hanging unfurled, each fork twitching of its own accord. He writhes closer, desperate to taste sweet flesh again. Without warning, one fang sinks smoothly into the boy's neck, below the collarbone. A shudder runs through the boy's body.

Delightful, he purrs to himself, as a delicious whimper pushes up from the child's stricken throat. The puncture wells with fantastic, living, human blood and it takes a tremendous act of will to pull himself away from the juicy morsel. He laughs, dark and gravely in the back of his destroyed throat. Then he lets out another bloodcurdling scream.

The child grabs his star dotted blanket and tugs it up fearfully over his head, sobbing pathetically.

For a long time after, the kid hears the hissing and rattling of the snakes. He still feels the sting and warm dribble of blood from his slender neck.

After a while it seems his own sobbing finally drowns out the horrible sounds and he peeks from beneath his covers, still frightened. He sees nothing, only the darkened room he knows so well. Gathering his courage he leaps from the safety of the bed, running on tiny legs to his parents' bedroom, where, exhausted, he cries until falling back asleep.

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