Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Peter ran, swatting at his clothes, his hair, high-stepping through the horde like a dancer. The squealing din of insects and the frantic tapping of his shoes covered the noise of the countless exoskeletons he was crushing beneath his feet. The racket did nothing, though, to alleviate the physical sensations of the black bodies giving in under his weight, of the pressure of hundreds of tiny pops under his shoes. Nor could it erase the pain of the bites. They were like swords, stabbing at Peter's flesh, and claws, tearing at his skin.

Arms flailing, he gained the narrow terraces. Looking up, he knew that his chances of staying ahead of the swarm as he tried to climb back into the orange canyon were slim. If only he had reacted sooner to the black folds – fled from them, not into them . . .

He ran. With a slight hop, Peter grabbed the lowermost ledge. He felt something round and sharp, but not warm, beneath his fingers. He crushed it as he pulled his frame upwards, felt it explode across his knuckles like a misplaced sneeze.

First his eyes -
the bugs were all over the ledge -
then his arms and shoulder -
he laid his forearms on the stone -
then his shoulders and his torso -
as he steadied his legs on the ledge, he noticed the flattened and torn fragments of fat segmented bodies clinging to his forearms, his knees, his chest, the sides of his hands.

He pulled himself over another ledge.

And another. As his head crested the third ledge - so near the top of the hole - he saw that the bugs were already swarming even this high up. They flooded over his face as he rose, and he could do nothing but keep pulling himself upwards until -

He screamed and clawed at his face just a moment too soon - it had bit him in the bloody eye, stabbed into the flesh of his eye orb with a tiny sucker needle that Peter had seen coming in a blur, but only too fast to react to - he slipped - slid down to the next ledge - caught himself - wrenched his face.

His arms were burning. Had he been able to see them through the tears and blood, Peter would have seen a wreck of flesh on his arms, his hands covered in bites and swelling thick around his finger nails. Things were biting him all over, inside his clothes, writhing into indecent places, cutting, swelling, bleeding.

"No!" he yelled at the bugs and pulled himself higher again, and then higher still.

“No!” his own voice called after him from somewhere down the passage.

The crushed monsters - monsters!, not bugs, not insects – and their ichor mixed with Peter’s own fluids and straying bits torn from his body. He yelled no words, only a hollow roar of fear as he grasped the lip of the hole and clung. Peter found himself stumbling to his feet in the midst of the orange radiance.

He tried to run. Peter leaned forward, his legs swung beneath him, leading him along on two, three, four, five rises and falls before his weight, clumsy under the pain and blood –
blood, he was covered in his blood, in their blood –
dying they were dying as he swatted weakly at them, he was dying as they ate him, drank of his fluids, tore pieces of flesh from his body, from his face, gnawed away at what he thought was . . .

Peter let out one last, loud sob. Terror would allow nothing more articulate to escape his lungs but the meaningless wail of an animal at the chopping block. His eyes rolled about like those of a rabbit under the claw of a wildcat.

With that last scream, his strength had left him, his eyes could not bear the curtain being pulled over them. He felt something push its plump cold body into his ear. Another pinched at his scrotum. His eyes shut. Peter felt his knees, his shoulders, his face hit the cool, moist floor of the Library. He felt the monsters die beneath him as he fell upon them, into their frantic jaws.

(Two climbs, one allowed per round, would have gotten him out of the hole. First climb roll passed, second failed, third passed. Round one damage: -1 hit point. Round two: -4 hit points. Round three: -3 hit points. After emerging from the hole, one round of flight would have out him in the clear, but round four damage was too much for him: -2 hit points. Peter fell into unconsciousness and was unable to defend himself against the black mass. Peter has died. Continuity picks up in "Guests on Frederick's Street", and action continues in ”Unheimliche”.)

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