Blacken your mind
Till you’re breathing in reverse”
The world around Raven and Ann cascaded into an ebony nightscape. Shapes of the tangible world shifted in and out of extra dimensions to reveal a landscape with everything in the same place as before, but looked completely different, and was out of phase with reality.
Everything here was made of shadows.
The ground below their feet was seen as the floor of an endless empty chasm. The houses and buildings were delicately angular mountains of twisted darkness. Trees had been replaced by black dendritic skeletons, with skinny tendrils hanging from their brittle branches. Their heartwoods glowed with a cold red life force. This colour was mirrored by the cold red sun hanging low above their heads. The rest of the sky was a bone-white void, which was slowly crumbling apart. And there was a thin layer of grey ash covering everything around them.
It was neither a fiery Hell, nor a cold world lost to sunlight. Raven and Ann did not feel hot and more than they could feel cold or room temperature, because temperature as a concept did not exist here. It was hard to even remember what heat felt like.
“Welcome to the Nether World.” said Raven. “Try not to get too comfortable here.”
“Wow, this place is...” said Ann, failing to to think of an adjective because the word ‘amazing’ did not exist here. “How did you find out about this?”
“Intense introspection.” said Raven.
“So how do we rescue the others?”
“We climb up to where they’re standing, and pull them into this world.”
“That sounds... whoa, what is that thing?!” Ann pointed at a shadowy black figure walking towards Them. Beneath its hood was a pulsating mass of twisted flesh, tubes, fluids and tendrils. Its life force glowed with the coldest of reds.
“It’s a human.” said Raven.
“What’s that Smoke around it?” asked Ann.
“He’s having a bad day.”
“But why don’t we look like that?”
And then Ann looked at himself. When he saw the raw hideousness of his body, he let out a high-pitched Scream:
It echoed around the nether world for several days, becoming progressively amplified on the fifth day, before fading into shadow like everything else there, but not before several emo kids could jerk off to it.
When they saw the similarly disgusting forms of Rob and Kitten, Raven explained that she could bring them into the Nether World by touching them with the note. But the non-geometric nature of the stairs blocked their way. She would have to fly to reach them.
“I hardly ever use this power.” she explained. “Because every time I fly, a random person around the world gets cancer.”
She hovered behind each of their shoulders, and lightly touched Kitten with the little yellow square, then Rob. Rob lost his footing and Kitten, caught within Rob’s gravity, fell to the ground beside him.
“Aww, am I dead already?” said Kitten.
“Don’t worry, falling here won’t kill you.” said Raven. “You’re in the Nether World. We had to pull you out of existence to rescue you. That doesn’t mean you’re dead though. Now try not to get too comfortable here.”
“OK” said Rob, who had been here before.
“I didn’t need rescuing. I was three steps ahead of that bitch.”
“She had a gun.” said Rob.
“You forget though, I can dodge bullets faster than lightning with my cat-like reflexes.” boasted Kitten, punching the air for each of those last five syllables.
“OK” said Rob dismissively.
“Wait, this doesn’t look like Neverland.” said Kitten. “Where’s Peter Pan?”
“Dead.” said Ann. “They’re all dead.”
“Aaargh, my childhood!” Kitten cried overdramatically.
“Oh by the way.” said Raven. “Don’t eat any of the food here.”
“Too late!” said Ann, pointing at Rob
Rob had already walked over to the apartment block, and started eating it. It was slightly tougher than his usual meal. His jaw opened into extra dimensions, but got stuck on the edge of the bony sky. Eventually, his teeth crunched down on the shapeless black mass, and he began to digest it, before he had even swallowed it. The shadowy forms seemed to be screaming as they disappeared into the unthinkably dark void of Rob’s throat.
Neither Ann, Kitten nor Raven had seen Rob eating before, and none of them could bear to watch, but since they were two Brits and a Canadian, they were too polite to criticise someone else’s table manners. So they waited until he had finished, and then Raven said:
“So, in order for us to leave the Nether World, I need to tear up the note. Be careful of where you’re standing. You don’t want to end up inside a wall. We need to position ourselves so we reappear inside Randall’s apartment.”
“There’s no need.” said Rob. “I tasted the whole thing. Randall doesn’t live here at all.”
“Are you sure?” said Raven.
Rob nodded solemnly, but they didn’t need to know if Rob was sure. The walls and floors and the apartment block were gone, and they could see now into they could see into the empty space where 101 Rogers Street would exist in the real world. And they knew instinctively with the dull despairing clarity of the Nether World that this was not where Randall lived, because they could see there was actually an old lady called Pat living there, who hadn’t answered the door because she was taking a shit.
“You mean...” said Ann. “We came here for nothing?”
A moment of Silence washed over the group as realised that was indeed the case.
“Fuck you Ann.” said Rob, as if the map directions he had given earlier made him somehow responsible for this whole misadventure.
Raven sighed. As she looked longingly at Ann’s fleshy tubes, she decided that this trip hadn’t been a complete waste of time.
“Dammit, this is going all wrong!” said Kitten. If we don’t stop Randall then Capn would have died for nothing!”
“Not this again.” said Rob.
But Kitten had seen something. For the last few minutes, Ann had been absentmindedly brushing away the top layer of ash from the ground, revealing a dark black pit, where another human form lay hidden.
“Is that... Randall?”
“It’s just a dead person buried in the foundations.” said Raven.
“That must be Randall’s underground base!” said Kitten. “Let’s get him!”
The others could see what Kitten was about to do. Ann tried to hold him back, but Kitten was too strong for him. Rob grabbed him as well, but he was too strong for both of them. They were powerless to stop him if he dived into the ground and never came up again.
Raven, seeing what might happen, made a quick decision and hastily ripped up the post-it note.
All four of them felt an uncomfortable sensation, as everything around them faded to white, then beige, then a dull piss-colored ochre, then back to the real world. Their ears were ringing.
Apart from Raven, none of them had taken the time to position themselves, but luckily they were standing in the alleyway next to the apartment block, which still looked very solid. Raven was standing in a trash can. Rob and Ann stood either side of Kitten, who had come very close to running into the wall of the building.
“Did I... Did I really think Randall was down there?” said Kitten, looking at the concrete ground.
“The Nether World can make you act irrationally.” said Raven. “I told you not to get too comfortable there. I once spent too much time in that world, and briefly thought that Penny Arcade is well written.”
“Well it’s better than Real Life Comics.” said Ann.
“Praise God I haven’t been introduced to that one.” said Rob.
“Imagine CAD, but worse.”
“Nothing could be worse than-” Raven started. “Kitten, your hand!”
“Wha- Oh fuck.” said Kitten, realising that it was embedded in the brick wall of the building.
“Do we cut it off or what?” said Ann.
“I think that might be the only way.” said Raven despairingly.
“No, not Righty!” said Kitten. “We’ve had so many fun times together.”
“Well it’s either cut off your hand or remain stuck there.” said Rob.
“No, isn’t there any other way?” he moaned. “I don’t want to lose my hand.”
“I’m sorry Kitten,” said Rob. “But you kind of did this to yourself.”
“It wouldn’t feel the same wanking off with my left hand.” said Kitten. There were tears in his eyes. “Can’t we just go back into the Nether World and get me out?”
“I’m out of post-its.” Raven sighed.
“Buy some more.”
“And leave you here? Need I remind you that the police are on their way, and you would not last long in an American prison.”
“I can try and eat around your hand.” said Rob.
“Okay.” said Kitten. “Just be careful.”
Rob extended his gaping maw beyond the third dimension, and munched vigorously on the bricks and concrete. The others were somewhat shocked that he could use this power outside of the Nether World, but they still didn’t say anything, because they were British and Canadian. Before long, Rob had taken a large chunk out of the wall.
“Best I could do.” said Rob. Then he opened his mouth again, and spat out Kitten’s blood-stained arm.
“My arm!” shouted Kitten.
“We’ll get you a new one.” said Ann. “First let’s get away from these police cars.”
Then they heard it, faint sirens in the distance, growing steadily louder.
The beady eyed man was been hiding in the basement, waiting for them to leave. When he heard their footsteps, he got in position so he could casually tell the police that the unhinged woman in the attic had raised a false alarm. As he walked round the side of the building, he realised he would also have to distract them from the gaping hole in the wall and the trail of blood leading from it. What he never did realise was how close his family resemblance had come to giving him away to Kitten.
He checked his pocket watch again. Not long now, not long at all. But before that, he would cross paths with the four hate-bloggers. He’d just now wasted a perfectly good opportunity to introduce himself, but the blood and the wound had created an additional complication. He began to wonder if his influences would alter the time stream and create an entirely different future from the one he remembered. He doubted it though. Randall wouldn’t give up that easily.
He would reveal himself some time soon, but now he wasn’t sure how to do it. It could be so awkward. He was worried they wouldn’t like him.
DISCLAIMER: this story and its characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons or cuddlefish living or dead is purely coincidental.
Author's note: I have nothing to say.
Author's note: I have nothing to say.