Lesser beings believe in fate. The gods had defeated nature. Fate doesn’t bind them. They have become fate, or to the lesser beings, doom.
– From The Skulkers in the Void, by Amoxtli.
Martin woke up with a splitting headache, with no idea where he was or how he had found himself in his present situation.
“…He is coming too. He asked one of our mali about subject 207, the author who recently died. What was I to do? Right. I shall find out who he is. His purpose shall be laid bare…” Martin heard, and while a part of his brain understood the meaning a detail didn’t make its way to his conscious mind, which only discerned modulated hissing like that of a leaking valve. He was still too disoriented to realize he had heard and understood something in a language not meant for human ears.
Without that knowledge, and without any of the patterns his brain used to process as language conveying information, his subconsciousness dismissed the report. After all, all Martin had heard was a quick modulation of hissing noises.
First, a survey of his surroundings. He lay in a pleasantly dark and damp place. There was heat, the smell of ozone and a deep hum of nearby machinery. The floor was dirty bare concrete, and he could tell every detail in its texture – he was laying on it, face first. Moving his head, he felt weak and nauseated and saw stars dancing in front of his eyes. He was able to see some kind of old turbine and a heap of coal and some outdated computers from whose screens the only light in the room emanated. He smelled some manner of feces and stale air. He perceived a peculiar scent that reminded him of the reptile-house in the zoo he had visited as a child.
When he tried to move, he found that he could not. For a brief moment, fears of being crippled or debilitated flashed through his mind. Then he realized he was wearing an old fashioned straight jacket, and that he wasn’t alone. Someone sat in the shadows and observed him. A man wearing a suit and tie, with a classically beautiful Caucasian face, shoulder length brown hair, and a short beard. It was the man that he had met on the outskirts of Mexico City. Something about him was not right. Martin couldn’t quite tell what.
Right…he had traveled to Mexico City. The last thing he remembered…His memory was broken, addled, incoherent. The gash in his scalp and the pool of his blood might account for that. But what had happened?
“What have you done to me? Where are we?”
The man scoffed.
“Who are you? What is your interest in Sophia Amoxtli?”
The counterquestion took Martin by surprise. His captor had an interest in his mother? Looking at him a little closer and trying to realign the fragments of his memory into a coherent whole, Martin realized what was wrong. The man’s eyes. They were slanted. Like a cat’s. Or a reptile’s. The man approached. His gait was all wrong, and Martin had no problems despite the headwound discerning why that was: the man’s knees stopped bending the right way after the first steps. He opened up his suit and shirt and threw them carelessly aside. Underneath he wore a bodysuit with green scales and a collar of orange feathers. No, Martin realized. No bodysuit.
The man came even closer while Martin turned and tried to crawl away.
“I asked …“ The man picked Martin up effortlessly with a single hand. “…who are you?”
The man’s face began melting, flowing, revealing the horror beneath. Martin bit his own tongue not to cry out in shock. The grotesque abomination in front of him had properties of both man and beast, orange feathers where hair and beard used to be, several distinct shades of green scales and fangs. The man opened his mouth and licked Martin’s face with a forked tongue, filling his nostrils with the scent of stale blood and spoiled meat.
“I am not going to ask you again,” the man that was no man hissed, drawing a knife.
“Let me go!” shouted Martin.
Follow along from the beginning
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