Whoo boy, it’s a long one. Might even be the longest chapter yet in City Intersection, I dunno.
I’ve felt so fucking awful recently. Hope it stops soon. It’s getting intolerable.
Music this time is this vinyl I found and uploaded a while ago of these two amazing choral pieces by Vaughan Williams. I’ll post the first side, the second side should just be in the recommended or autoplay sidebar. They’re both on the 108.3 channel, anyway.
The engine of the Jaguar SS I slowed in its rumbling as Frederick’s driver pulled it up to a halt in front of the entrance to the City Library. Frederick left the driver, without any thanks or even recognition of his existence, behind in the car as he walked up the perfectly-cut marble steps to the library and went in.
The library was the oldest building in Desmond. It was the first thing that Frederick had designed and constructed with the original people he welcomed into the city. Well, back then, it was really more a town. Pretty rural. But the library was the anchor on which the rest of the city was built and, accordingly, it was very central to Frederick’s plans. And perhaps it wouldn’t remain a library forever. Perhaps its offical use would change in time.
Everyone knew who he was, of course, he was the mayor. And he came into the library – that is, into his private area in the basement – regularly enough that they felt comfortable enough to try being friendly to him.
“Good to see you today, mayor,” the auburn-headed receptionist, Amelia Kent, said to him as he passed by, again wordlessly. He didn’t have time to talk to people, not today, not with all this going on. It was a crucial part of his experiment, the deciding moment that would let him know if it was possible.
He had spent so many years working on the compound. But it was all guesswork, really. Attempting an experiment with it took around fifty years from start to finish, so he didn’t have much opportunity to fine-tune it. Try one compound, wait fifty years, try another compound, wait fifty years, and so on. He had only had two complete rounds with it before, with no success, and this was the third. It was the penultimate moment, if it failed to work again, he would have wasted another fifty years.
He missed those formative years where each of his goals could be completed in a couple years. Even the most complex, the Jesus killing, had only taken maybe five years. It all took so much longer, now.
But it almost didn’t seem that much longer. Perhaps sense of time was more percentage-based; five years to a ten-year-old would feel about the same as fifty years to a hundred-year-old. Or, more to the point, fifty years to a two-thousand and five-hundred-year-old.
Had it really been that long? Jesus (hah, using the “Lord’s name” was such a joke to him), that was a long time. Frederick didn’t realy remember exactly when he was born any more. Had he ever really been born? He remembered his rebirth, as one could call it, via Orobouros, which now felt far more real than a physical birth.
In the basement the the library, Frederick walked down a long hallway and through a reinforced metal door on his right. Inside, a semicircle with intricate inner details was engraved on the floor and five people stood around it, holding rough necklaces made of strips of leather with a stone affixed in the center.
Frederick undid his bowtie and the first button of his starched white shirt, then reached inside it and pulled out a necklace of his own, took it off around his head, and held it in the palm of his hand.
“It is time for the Milking of the Beast,” Frederick said, and stood in front of them on the other side of the semicircle. He tightnened his fist around the stone and the others followed suit. Then, with his other hand, he reached into his breastcoat pocket and retrieved a small vial which he uncorked with his thumb and emptied onto the center of the circle.
A dull scream without source began to fill the room. It was as though the earth itself were letting out a torturous cry. Then, above the semicircle, a shape began to flicker into existence, a writhing, twisting, jerking shape. A circle, a snake eating its own tail.
Even when it had fully come into “existence”, it still was not truly there, it was translucent and without a real physical form, yet still certainly there. It was like the myths about ghosts, a incoporeal entity that can still exhibit some physical attributes, such as creating a chill in the air around it. But for Ouroboros, it was a heat, the heat of a body trying viciously to hold onto life against everything, a body straining to its limits.
Frederick loosened his hold on the stone and her screams of pain subsided.
“‘The Milking of the Beast’,” she said directly into their minds, silently, “You imbecile. Trying again, Frederick? Or is that not the name you still go by?”
Frederick remained silent, but the other five people were staring at her formless form with a mixture of interest and horror, and visibly shaken by her telepathic communication.
“They’ll come for me,” she said. “My elders.”
Frederick was going to remain silent, but he was curious. “You have mentioned your ‘elders’ before, what do you mean by that?”
“My elders are my elders, there is no other way to say it. Just because you do not comprehend does not mean I’m stating it poorly. Mark you, they will come, and make you repent.”
“They haven’t come in a hundred or so years already,” Frederick said, his curiousity fading and malignance taking its place. “So I don’t think I have much to worry about.”
Without another look at her, Frederick turned back to the other people and nodded. “Let us begin.”
Each of them crushed the stones in their hand. The stones didn’t break, but intense pressure was exerted on all of them and, in response, the form of Ouroboros began twisting and screaming again. Her circle untwined, she was no longer a snake eating her own tail, infinity, but just a snake in pain, burning from the inside. A snake doused in kerosene and lit by a cruel child. Muscles spasming randomly and mutating her shape.
Frederick watched on emotionlessly. It was always the same. He had seen it all before.
Streams of a phosphorent white substance seeped out of her and tracked its way through the air. Like her, the streams didn’t quite exist in the physical world, they were held somewhere between. Thousands of the streams crept out of her, staying still despite her writhing. Frederick and the others kept their tight grasp of the stones for several minutes, ignoring her screams, then Frederick sensed that the streams had met their marks and he signaled for the others to stop.
Instantly Ouroboros recovered herself and resumed her circular shape and motion, chasing her tail like a puppy. “They will come,” she said, as she began fading away from sight again. “They will come.”
When she was gone, everyone returned the stones around their necks and slipped beneath their shirts. Frederick re-buttoned his shirt and re-tied his bowtie.
“Stay here,” he said. “I’ll see if it was successful.”
He made his way out of the basement of the library. The main, upper section of the library was deserted. Even the receptionist, Amelia Kent, was gone. Completely vanished. He made a quick sweep of the rest of the library but didn’t find anyone.
As he approached the front door, an dulled unearthly screaming reached his ears. Before he opened it, he looked at the floor below and found a thick trail of coagulated blood, with little chunks of something else tossed around randomly.
He steeled himself. Perhaps the experiment had failed. It certainly seemed like it. He opened the door.
In the street outside was a massive congregation, a large portion of the population of the town. At least, what had once been the population of the town.
Blood covered the cobblestones in a thick layer. There were far too many arms for the number of people there. Legs too, in fact, and the air was thick with screams of pain and rage.
Every person was completely mutated, beyond all reconciliation. There was no way he would ever be able to return them to their original forms. There was no way he could even recognize who was who.
Everyone had been brought down to their animal instincts. There was no comprehending what had happened to them, their humanity had been taken away in a flash and now they were simply something between animals and humans, but only in form. Even animals had more sentience than what these things were. Pain was the only thing they could feel, that and a dull anger connected to the pain; without target, but the kind of anger you get when you stub your toe. An instinctual hatred of the pain.
Someone who still had their eyes saw him and began approaching him. They, whoever they were, had small patches of hair still attached to what Frederick assumed was their head, but that was nearly the only recognizable feature. Their “face” looked like it had been cut in half and reconnected after being inverted, one eye was located where their mouth should have been and there were far too many orifices in their face. Like their skull was Swiss cheese.
It reached out for Frederick with what used to be an arm. It had been split in two, the two bones of the forearm separating and forming their own hands and flesh, albeit incompletely. Eyes dotted the arm randomly, and the hands had teeth instead of fingernails.
Its pants were still on, at least bits of them, but its shirt had been torn of, exposing a baby’s head connected to its chest. Oddly enough, the baby’s head looked fairly normal, aside from its neck which was yanking the head around viciously, trying to see Frederick. When it found him, it locked eyes with him and let out a scream from its smouth already filled with sharp teeth.
“Mayor, help,” the baby’s head said.
The body continued coming toward him, but Frederick backed up to avoid its touch. And this one was, at a glance, one of the least mutated of the group. So the experiment had failed. Great, time to start over again.
It was good he always kept a control group.
Frederick went back inside the library and bolted the door. He scoured the library, searching for anyone – or anything, now – that might be in there, but found no one. He returned to the basement, this time shutting and locking the thick metal trapdoor that separated it from the rest of the building.
It was good he kept everything important below ground, too.
He went to the area he had set aside for the control group to stay during this final stage of the experimetn and made sure they all remained. Once he had made note of all of them and locked them in the room, he went to a small room otherwise used as a sort of rarely used storage closet and cleared out some boxes of things, exposing a large metal switch. The handle was flipped to face down, keeping the circuit broken.
Frederick sighed, thinking of the wasted years, then took hold of the handle and flipped it up. A spark was released as the metal contacts touched, then there was a moment of silence.
Then dozens upon dozens of explosions came from above, muffled by the solid ground and metal between. Frederick heard the crumbling of buildings, the screams of those who hadn’t died in the initial blasts, and then a whoosh of flame overtaking everything.
Destroying everything by explosion wasn’t enough, he needed to make sure everything was fully dead. He had mixed a flammable powder in the explosives – only flammable under certain conditions, so it wouldn’t burn up with the rest of the explosive right away – that would cover everything else and burn any remaining organic substance.
He waited in the room next to the switch for a half of an hour. Occasional stray explosions went off, explosions the fuses to which had been damaged and comprimised in some way. They would have to stay underground for a while, the flames would still be going strong the following day and possibly the day after that.
There were no screams, any more. Just occasional exhausted moans of pain from those still unlucky enough to be alive.
Frederick and the control group stayed the rest of the day and that night locked away in the basement, and in the morning Frederick went to the metal trapdoor and opened it a fraction, looking out. Most of the fire had gone, but there were still small smoldering patches. He’d check again that evening.
By the evening, the scorched ground held no fire but was still warm to the touch. Frederick went back down, told the control group to stay where they were, and grabbed a revolver before heading back up.
The ground was still warm, very warm. Warm enough that Frederick was glad he was wearing shoes, it would’ve otherwise been like walking barefoot on hot pavement. The entire area was quiet, desolate. Buildings were now rubble, trees had had their leaves burnt off and much of their bark scorched, and the ground was littered with bodies.
Not that they could’ve even really been called “bodies”, per se, as they were so horribly mutated and now half-burnt that they were completely unrecognizable. They may have well been the charred corpses of dogs.
Frederick kicked one of the corpses over to look at its face. At least, he assumed the side that had been facing up was the back of its head, it very well could have been the front.
The other side was puffy, pressurized, looking almost to burst. The skin was stretched tight and in one area had bulged out in a mottled, thin mass. At the very front of the bulge, an eyeball was connected, rolled up into the back of its head. The mass quivered as Frederick tapped the body with his foot.
Frederick walked through the town, revolver loaded, cocked, and in his hand. He was looking for anything, anyone, who had somehow managed to survive the explosions and fire. He walked over the scattered piles of brick and mortar that had once been the town hall, the small market, the drugstore, searching for anything.
On his way back from his search, returning to the hatch to the basement, he found one. Legs mangled – more mangled then they had been by mutation alone, Frederick thought – it was pulling itself along by its arms. Frederick neared it to get a better look, gun pointed at it the entire time.
A thick slime covered its head, small clumps of long hair still clinging onto the skull in a few places. Its fingers were nearly nonexistent, just little wriggling stumps coming out of its grossly enlarged hands, and a number of thin, tentacle-like protusions, whipping around wildly, had grown out of its face.
As he approached, it stopped in its crawling and turned to him, tentacles still spasming. One eye was nowhere to be found, possibly absorbed by its own head, but one eye stared at him.
That strangely light-blue eye color, the reddish-brown hair, and the fact that it – she – appeared to recognize me… It must have been Amelia Kent.
Frederick pulled the trigger, its head smashed to the ground with a spray of blood, bone, and brain, and the tentacles stopped their writhing, aside from some minor postmortem twitches.
Well, the area was clear as far as Frederick could see. It was time to let out the control group, clean up, rebuild, and begin on the next round of experimentation.