Being a man of society, I was curious and greedy, wanting to keep step with the new age, perhaps exceed it by a stride or two. My standing as a highly decorated military officer allowed me to become a Metanaut, one of the few souls brave enough—or stupid enough—to volunteer for a bio-etheric make-over. The scientists, now charmingly referred to as Nether Mechanics, had just recently discovered how to combine higher dimensional elements with the very fabric of the soul, allowing for the creation of novel and superior forms of life. At least, that’s what they believed. Apparently, only a conscious entity’s soul was capable of surviving the bonding process, and so a test subject—a Guinea pig—was required. I was selected out of thousands of applicants for the procedure. At the end of the day, even the fittest of fools is still no more than a fool.
After the proverbial switch was flipped, and my body was to become the first ever bio-etheric construct, there was an ungodly exchange of alien energies and a subsequent explosion that made the Tunguska blast look like a firecracker. Lucky for the Earth, the blast was contained to outermost space, as the experiment took place upon a distant space station, far from the most prying eyes. I remember a surging coldness, and watching strange lights fall across the face of the void, fireworks to commemorate the end of all things. At some point, I heard the distinct sound of footsteps approaching from below, climbing up a long flight of steps. Then, strangest of all, an enormous whisper, as if a being of unfathomable enormity had placed its lips to my ear. All it said was, “What a wicked song you shall make.”
I awoke in a smoking crater deep within the earth, miles wide. When I stood, my head broke through the black ceiling of roiling clouds that piled from innumerable fires, my shadow plunging the world beneath an avalanche of choking darkness. Turning into the burning light, I beheld myself. I had become a thing of breathless nightmare—all spiraling horns and dripping claws and hooked-tooth maws. I had the look of a thing caught between the absurdities of a dragon, man and devil. From every corner of my body swelled great infusions of biologic armor, cold with the lusterless tinge of grayest iron, yet creaturely in their organic contouring. Lashing, bladed, and barbed tails poured down from my sacrum spine. Parts of my skin had distended and thinned, giving me the appearance of wearing the remains of a long, black, tattered cloak that swept down from my spiked shoulders, flowing and curling regardless of the wind. Lastly, above my head—a black halo, burning quiet and sorrowful.
I tried to speak, but only a blast from Hell left my mouth, splitting the already ruined earth and whipping the billowing smoke into unwholesome shapes. All I wanted was to wake up, to be healed, taken care of. I rushed towards the first signs of civilization I came upon—a large city that emerged in the quivering, heat-distorted distance—and the earth shook and split beneath the incalculable weight of my monstrous gait.
I was received by armies. Tanks and jets drew their weapons upon me. Even orbital artillery targeted me from the heavens. Reality seemed to buckle beneath the strain of the moment—a monster from beyond the pale, an eidolon of the impossible standing beneath the revealing rays of the sun, in full view. After the strange moment had concluded, the collection of war-machines washed me in wave after wave of fire. Yet after each iteration of would-be annihilation, the smoke cleared and I loomed unscathed. At first, I fled the attacks, though they could do nothing to harm me. I wanted only to be saved, understood, but each time I begged for help, my voice only injured the world, inciting more violence. This cycle repeated interminably, and my mind began to crack beneath the impossibility of it all. At my wit’s end, if not my sanity’s, I stood my ground against the pursuing hordes of killing machines. Slowly, I began to realize a surge of energy building somewhere both beyond and within me, demanding release. I felt the coil of deathly spirits embrace me, rushing across a great gulf between worlds, a pit of unhallowed depth.
It came from my mouth, the power—an annulling requiem for the passing of the world. It blazed the ghostly pale of funeral dreams, and howled like cast out angels tumbling beyond heaven, beautiful and damned. I looked upon the world through my death song, where it fell upon the silenced earth, grey and ashen. Even the light from above turned the color of corpses. My pallid song had killed everything, and within the gathering darkness of the murdered daylight, I disappeared.
Only the greatest depths of the sea offered me the chance at anonymity, so I took to exploring its secret reaches with a desperate enthusiasm. Sunken wonders rose to me unbidden and unapologetic, and I was reminded of that first reality-bending moment, when the world first looked upon me. Here were ruined cities, titan and alien, and creatures the likes of which no human had ever witnessed. It was like stalking the surface of an alien world, deep beneath a molten sky of endless black. I was privy to the secret wonders of creation, and yet I could share my discoveries with precisely no one. Despite all the power I possessed, the strength that allowed me to overcome all obstacles, it was sheer emptiness that proved the most difficult burden to bear. Thus, it wasn’t long before my hopeless quest for salvation became a desperate bid for death.
Occasionally, I would emerge from the ocean depths, if only to look upon the sun and a clean blue sky that didn’t ripple or shimmer. Mostly, I came ashore to allow men the opportunity to kill me. Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say, and I’d hoped my constant harrowing of their cities might spur the creation of a weapon that would see it done. Despite the many cities I left dying in my wake, despite the thousands of lives I took to fuel man’s industry—they failed each and every time to eliminate me. I’d return to the sea, devastated yet unscratched.
It was during one of these meandering attempts at suicide that I caught the strangest sight—the city I’d come to harass was already aflame, its many skyscraping structures smashed, curling tongues of black smoke bleeding into the sky, a broken army of men and machines mangled and scattered.
I wandered the burning lanes of the city, pondering the cause of its devastation. Even I’d not destroyed anything so completely. As I carefully eyed the ruins, there appeared a terrible attention and precision worked into the slaughter, a wanton cruelty that went far beyond my casual killing. The destruction itself was wrought by no power I could retrace from the brutal chaos of twisted, fused remains of man and metal and concrete and glass. It was as if some sort of cosmic confusion had overtaken the city, allowing one thing intrusion into another, observing neither material or philosophical boundaries. Yet the placement of the effect suggested a hateful guidance, which implied some level of active intelligence. Despite my finely tuned senses, I could find nothing that continued to draw breath, save for the fires themselves, crawling through the streets and buildings, gnawing at the small bits of combustible gristle that still clung to the city’s charred bones.
After a few moments of fruitless searching, I heard a great commotion from the sky. A massive detachment of heavily armed zeppelins broke through the thick curtains of smoke, their bloated metal bellies reflecting the fires burning below, the wail of gigantic engines propelling them forward. I’d seen their kind before, naturally. Their massive, oversized rail cannons were hard to forget, firing nearly continuously, chewing everything in their path to smoking mulch.
Only a few of the floating metal beasts turned their spotlights upon me, exposing me within a bright pyramid of bluish light, their electromagnetic weaponry whining as they powered up. The remaining gunships pressed their lights to the ground, apparently searching for something else. My curiosity at the vehicles’ strange behavior stilled me, as I didn’t want to draw their fire until I understood what was happening. It took only a few moments for the cause to reveal itself.
An invisible force overtook the zeppelins, all at once and in spectacular fashion. The craft were drawn together by means of a superior gravity field, crushing them all into the same space, their constricting metal guts hemorrhaging fire and smoke as they compressed further into a single sphere of concentrated death. The screams of metal and men merged similarly—sound melting into light combining with matter, becoming a singularity of soul and steel and fire. The radiant energy of the resulting fusion shone like a star standing upon the earth, its searing light sweeping across the smoldering body of the city, evaporating skin and stone alike. Suddenly the star became a comet, howling down from the heavens straight at me. I didn’t even bother to move.
My world became the brightest light I’d ever known, and a single deafening note of purest calamity. Unbelievably, I was taken from my feet. Through tenement building after skyscraper I sailed, towers crashing down in my wake, thunder chasing me across the sky. I came to rest against the cracked stone of a blasted cathedral, the earth still trembling from the impact, fire and smoke outlining the trajectory of my passage. But most importantly—I felt the blow. For the first time since my transformation, I felt pain.
Suddenly, I was mortal again, capable of physical suffering—capable of dying. A simple truth dawned upon me—wanting for death is easy when the price is painless. Anger replaced fear, as the sting of the attack still surged the span of my body. My mounting rage empowered me beyond previous heights, as if my petty self-loathing had retarded my truest calling—to become a fully realized monster. The transformation of my mind was swift and complete, finally reaching equilibrium with the transmutation of my body. Within moments, I was nearly a whole devil.
I rose from the glowing ashes as a new being, my death-lit eyes burning beyond the surrounding conflagration, seeking out my attacker. My sight slithered through the debris, finally alighting upon what seemed the shadow of a mountain peak, frolicking the thickets of splintered skyscrapers and their smoking foliage. Once the thing realized it’d been discovered, it stood stone still, its shape melting out of the deepening night, pouring into a mold of cooling nightmare. Its skull of semi-denuded flesh surmounted a body of weeping, babbling sores. A webbing of sabulous skin stretched taught across its exposed and glistening muscle tissues. A multitude of corroded spikes secured much of the thing’s ruined flesh to its demonic scaffolding of twisted, smoking bones. Tangles of eel-like shapes swung down from the back of the monster’s head, a topknot of clutching tubers, each one terminating in a ravenous mouth, overfilled with gnashing and bleeding teeth. Most horridly, a collection of steel pikes played across its shoulders and down the curve of its back, like a forest of metal trees, hundreds of hapless men and women impaled, moaning and screaming, upon them.
I had no doubt about the origin of the creature, a thing called up from beyond the known universe by those witches of science, their unending quest to own the power of nature having invited another abomination. This thing, however, clearly partook from no share of human stock.
We paused for some time, contemplating the mystery of the other. Unexpectedly, its mouth opened with the crackle of snapping cartilage and the tearing of tender flesh. Its voice was the sum of countless painful screams, and I could feel the invisible touch of innumerable blades and hooks trying to work the flesh from my bones. The time had come for me to fight for my life, rather than my death.
I decided to match fire with fire, and so I set free my own voice. For the first time since my transformation, my intentions were fully conveyed through the means of my lethal speech. The death-song poured from my hellish mouth, lashing the creature and the surrounding world with its annihilating light. The terrible starkness of it glowed paler and bleaker by the moment, further submerging the monster into my frothing aria, its collective scream becoming exclusively its own. Had my mouth been made for smiling rather than devouring and death-singing, I might have grinned when my enemy clutched its head and collapsed into the pile of blowing debris I’d made of its surroundings. Yet, I did not relent. I filled my bloodless fist with death-light, and using it as a tuning fork, I channeled the burning light of my refrain into an arching note of purest death. It seared into the soul of the monster, setting its spirt ablaze with obliterating song. The creature writhed in the ashes, the weeping sores covering its body now screeching and howling. Slowly, the demon outstretched a boney limb and gestured to me.
It felt as if a great hand had taken all of me into its grip and proceeded to squeeze. The mounting force was incredible, causing nearby structures to tumble towards me as if I’d become the center of all gravity. Before long, the entire world was falling on me. Huge swaths of the earth broke free from the ground and smashed into me, along with nearby buildings and vehicles, trees and bridges. A crushing tomb of fused wreckage locked me away from the outside world, and I could feel my very soul coming under the pull of invisible forces.
I detected a hidden rhythm within the crushing energy, a whispered secret built into the bones of its being—and I sang to that rhythm. I seized its essence in an awful grip of my own—a soul-destroying serenade, scored from the bane of its mystery. The death-light began evaporating my prison, and soon my blinding song became the world. I exited the great tomb as if hatching from a blazing egg. The monster retreated from the swelling corona of my song, fleeing the light of death, offering yet another opportunity for me to strike. Despite the primitivism of my impulse, I desired a more direct approach to the destruction of my foe. I launched across the broken battleground and laid my fist into the monster’s exposed skull, creating thunder and sending the beast on his own journey through the devastated city.
My billowing cloak of flowing flesh caught the soaring thermals from a million fires, and I began to rise up from the ground, my killing sounds rending a path through gravity and space. From the blackened sky, I could see the settling chaos of the monster’s travels, where it finally reposed in pain and fire and smoke. It began to beckon the shadows, wrapping them around itself, hoping to vanish from sight.
Crooning in a voice I’d never known, I was absorbed into my own song, becoming an immaterial composition of palest death and destruction. I filled the sky like a storm, raining cold notes from the grave upon my prone opponent, replacing thunder with rattling chords, exchanging lightning for death-light. At last, I crashed down upon the outsider, a spiraling crescendo of light and sound. The monster’s body exploded into curving streams of boiling black blood and flecks of cartilage and flaking bone. Before the creature’s soul could depart the earth, I enveloped it within a gentle requiem, recreating its unclean spirit as a single note within my poisonous chorus.
But I did not stop at the creature—I wanted to test my strength. I continued into the earth, beneath the remains of the monster, singing the apocalypse. I could taste the end of all things filling the mouth of my widening dirge. I’d only to swallow and it would all be over.
At some point, I calmed my voice and drew myself whole again from the wheeling song I had become. I was astonished by what I’d done. The city was gone, completely. Just the grey echoes of ash and smoke recalled the solidity of the vanished city. And yet, beyond the smoke, falling back in near infinite lines of tank and soldier and zeppelin, from the banks of my destruction, stood a sprawling army of man. They had come for the final battle. They seemed perched upon the very brink of attack, but held their fire until they knew I’d fully committed to the war to end all wars. Fear became the air they breathed, and I could hear countless hearts beating out a dissonance of darkest expectation. Yet I knew this wasn’t the end—the universe concealed more monsters and catastrophes to come. My place in all of this was up to me, and I’d grown tired of chasing death.
I walked to the edge of the gathered legions and waited. Creating a massive path leading out to the sea, the armies parted. I walked among the warriors and their weapons of destruction, my great tread, the crackling fires, and the billow of my cloak the only sounds. When I reached the edge of the sea, I did not glance back, but only took my place within its depths. Whether I returned as destroyer or savior was a choice I’d leave to man.