My name is Dr. Steven Roulston, researcher at the Martian University of Krevan. What follows aren't really research notes as much as they are a way of keeping me sane. I need them to truly grasp the magnitude of our discoveries; to keep the order in my mind, if you will. For as long as historians could remember humanity had been looking for their God, but to no avail. Despite several millennium of searching no deity was ever found. This never became a real issue though until the late 22nd century when we invented the ships needed to explore space outside of our own solar system, the telescopes required to truly peek far into the universe and technology allowing us to drill deep into the earth.
Humanity had turned their eyes to the skies and to the planetary depths to look for answers. Neither heaven nor hell was ever found, however. Throughout the 23rd century the disappointment grew and a new church rose. Their priests preached about a dead god, believing that ours had somehow died. The religion had its major breakthrough in 2267 and by 2300 they had already converted over a third of the people to this new belief. The Necrotic church had more power than it could ever need and grew stronger every year.
My story begins a good 20 years later, however, with me waking up for another day of research. I aimed to find a definitive answer to the age-old question: Where is God?
I refuse to believe he died.
24 August, 2322 AD
I decided to visit the observatory today. My research had been stale these past few weeks and I felt I could use some new insights. There is only so much one can learn from the history books after all. It always strikes me as odd though, whenever I talk to the scientists there, how we still have not discovered intelligent life. This in spite of our technological prowess and our planet-colonizing habits... I feel it would be a solace, though. I guess I just do not want to be alone, probably goes for all of us. To be honest, I would already settle for a few ruins, some scriptures perhaps. Anything but the animalistic species that dominate every habitable planet we come across. I digress.
There actually was an exciting new discovery made which my colleagues there told me about. They had discovered a new species of Gaver-like creatures, albeit with much more flexibility in their claw-like fingers, deep in the bush forests of Titan Major. Apparently the beasts had exhibited an irrational fear of the explorers, but that was not the strange part. Although the creatures (videns titan arashiro) displayed no exceptional cognitive abilities they had somehow crafted numerous human-like statues out of the thin wood found there. The statues vary greatly in size, from a few inches to close to ten feet, but apart from gender differences they are almost exactly the same.
I do not know what to make of it. Adam and Eve? Eden? I need some sleep.
27 August, 2322 AD
I received a message from Gerald as I woke up today. He urged to call me back right away, apparently he had been trying to reach my cell all night. After all those years he still did not remember that I could not sleep with that thing turned on. Not that it mattered much these past few nights. My research will not let me sleep and even if I do fall asleep I have to face the nightmares. I will not be writing those down here, however, as it is best if I just forget them. But I digress.
Eager to catch up, I called Gerald during breakfast. I did not think too much of his calls during the night back then for he had done so before.
“Good morning, Dr. Styrr. I hope you slept well”, I began.
“Wh-?” “Are you alone?” He promptly interrupted me.
“Yes? Yes, I am.”
“Good. Well Dr. Roulston, I have some good news for you”, he said sounding like his old self again, “If they have not brainwashed you yet, of course.”
“They do try,” I laughed. “What news do you have?”
“You should come back to Earth, Steven. At least that church does not control everything here yet. “
He explained to me how there was a whole community of like-minded scientists in Tokyo. Some of them atheists. Gerald gave me a contact number of one of the Martian members. From what I understood the scientists were split into two research groups: one branch aimed to find heaven or any sign of god in the galaxy, the other held on to the belief that God lived inside all of us.
It is a shame I know Gerald to be a firm believer of the latter, for it would be a pleasure to work together again. Searching the galaxy sounds like a much more exciting prospect, however.
30 August, 2322 AD
"Church confiscates alien artifacts!” read the heading on the news website today.
Can you believe that those priests actually did that? The first alien craftsmanship we ever found and they are claiming it and probably burning it soon too.
No scientists will be examining those wooden statues...
On a more cheerful note I finally met the other scientists Gerald had told me about. The Martian chapter operated in a state-of-the-art research facility on the crater plains near Krevan. I was able to explore the entirety of it with chief researcher Dr. Havard as my guide. He explained to me how they had found several rich benefactors, mainly older religions, to take care of the financial aspect of their research.
Most of the funding was used on the observatory, however, and it was magnificent. The telescopes there were unlike any I had ever seen before both in scale and effectivity. Furthermore, Dr. Havard assured me that those were not even the most advanced models they had. In the hallway stood a number of brand new telescopes still wrapped up in their packaging and several parts of a legitimately giant one laid scattered across the floor.
I also took the opportunity to ask him about the news I heard today, though I now wish I had not:
"You heard the news today?” I asked, “About the church's latest confiscation.”
"Yes, I did”, he nodded, “and I am afraid there is even more to it than that. Come, walk with me.”
He led me through a series of highly secured doors into another wing of the research centre that I had not seen yet. We entered a large chamber that was stacked to the brink with computers. There were huge touchscreens on both walls and at least a dozen engineers manning the technology.
"This is what I like to call the 'War Room'," Dr. Havard said. “In here we gather all information we can on the necrotic church and their activities.”
"Now about today's news, we have reason to believe that they did not only confiscate the statues but exterminated the whole species that crafted them as well.” he spoke.
Who knows what we could have found out by studying those animals?
These thoughts will not let me sleep, what could the church be planning?
10 September, 2322 AD
The workload over the last few weeks has been enormous and I have not had much time to write down my thoughts. These are turbulent times, but I will get to that later.
Now, since I am one of the scientists at the facility without extensive prior knowledge of astronomy Dr. Havard had me doing mostly paperwork. I had to check the planets that had already been discarded by the other researchers to make sure that they were nothing special, check reports on the Church in the 'War Room' and listen to the incoming radio signals, or rather radio static, from outer space. Most of it was not that exciting, but it left me plenty of time to talk with the other scientists there and focus on my own research.
To be fair, it was not so bad at first, but then the Church began tracking us down. To make matters worse, we could all follow it in the 'War Room'. We could see how the bastards were systematically hunting us all down, forcing us to slow our research down and keep a low profile. I have to admit that I was and still am frightened. The facility itself is pretty secure but the risk of getting caught in your own home grows day by day. It feels as if we are running out of time...
With so many of my colleagues being captured my workload increased immensely and I even got to help with the telescopes. It was then that I was finally initiated in the true progress that the facility had already made. Something, out there in the galaxy, was moving and we had no clue what it was. The only 'proof' we had of its existence were our calculations seeing the light had not even reached its part of the galaxy yet. But Whatever it was, it had our whole facility confounded as it did not seem to follow any of the laws centuries of scientific progress had come up with.
One, our object does not move in a logical pattern and appears to be unaffected by gravity.
Two, our object seemingly pulls and releases other celestials in its vicinity at will, without any kind of foreseeable pattern.
11 September, 2322 AD
Those are not even the most disturbing things about whatever we found out there...
I was not even supposed to be clued in about what follows, so perhaps I should not write about it either but I do not feel like I have a choice anymore. This is too much. Here is my attempt at transcribing my conversation with Dr. Havard as he had called me into his office today.
“Dr. Roulston, have a seat. Tea?” he greeted me.
“Well, I do not mean to be blunt but why did you call me in here? There is just so much work.”
“Ah yes. You picked up on any signals yet?” he answered blankly.
“Well-”, I began until my eyes met his. Fear?
“There is a reason I called you in here, Steven. Our numbers are dwindling and seeing as how you've helped greatly over the last few weeks you deserve to know.” he sighed and handed me a file. It was about the galactic anomaly we had discovered.
“The calculations show that our object's gravitational pull is so strong, so very powerful that it is affecting the orbit of this very planet, as well as every other one.” Dr. Havard resumed.
“We are dealing with something far beyond what we'd thought was rationally possible.” he continued. “Beyond what we...” Dr. Havard fell silent for a moment and then looked up and started whispering something of which I could only decipher the word 'life' or 'alive'. I was frightened already. It felt as if I just stood there for hours, not knowing what to do. The man simply stared at the ceiling with that creepy blank stare. I had finally managed to open my mouth as he looked at me again.
“We found God.” he whispered, “We did.”
“I-isn't that a bit rash?” I answered, shivers running down my spine.
“No, we did.” his eyes were full of steely conviction, “And he knows. It's all in the file, how the light has stopped moving towards it ever since we discovered him. We still can't see further into that sector of space than we could four months ago.”
“That can't be right?”
“It is, but there's more.” he grabbed the file out of my hands and began flipping through the pages.
“Here! At exactly 10:06 AM yesterday his movements ceased being random.” his eyes grew wide.
“He is coming. Our lord's on his way and we are not prepared.”
I must remain calm and focused.
I must be calm and focused.
I am calm and focused.
I am so.
12 September 2322 AD
As was to be expected, I barely slept tonight. In the morning, I could not get up though, and it was not until noon that I finally admit that I would not find the answers in my own home. So many questions kept rushing through my mind as I checked my e-mail during breakfast. Surprisingly, Gerald had sent me a document overnight without any further information.
Experiment TZ-23220518 (Xing’s notes)
Executed by Dr. Reynolds, Dr. Styrr, Dr. Colbrelli and Dr. Xing
09:30 AM: Subject heavily sedated and strapped to operating table. Subject expects to receive a routine cosmetic procedure in order to ensure the experiment goes on as planned.
09:41 AM: Subject’s cranium carved open and electrodes applied. Shocks are being applied at regular intervals. Subject displays no visible signs of stress or duress and appears to have entered the desired semi-comatose state.
10:18 AM: Subject grunts and mumbles intelligibly. Intensity of shocks is being amplified.
10:34 AM: Subject’s rambling loudens and twitching occurs. Shock strength is being ramped up again. Dr. Styrr protest is denied.
11:06 AM: Subject suddenly stops moving and goes silent.
11:13 AM: Subject’s heartbeat has dropped noticeably over the past few minutes to an astounding 7 BpM.
11:16 AM: Subject’s heartbeat drops below 1 BpM. Electrodes being turned even higher, nearing maximum output.
11:18 AM: Subject starts moving and [CLASSIFIED] [CLASSIFIED INFORMATION]
I strongly feel that all Experiment TZ-23220518 points towards us having found a way to [CLASSIFIED]. An hypothesis that is supported by all previous TZ-line experiments.
I was not sure what to make of it. Why did Gerald chose to share this? It was interesting to finally read some of his research, but mostly everything was classified anyway. Not to mention that I had no clue what good such experiments could do in our search for a deity.
It took a while for me to be able to leave the comfort of my home and head to work. At which point I was called by an unknown number. Relunctantly, I answered the call.
“Hello? Who is this?”
“Steve, listen up. I don't have much time.”
“Did you read the file I send you?”
“I'll be in Krevan tomorrow night. You need to meet me at 'The Pelican' on Desmond Square at exactly 8 PM.”
“Gerald, what the hell?”
“8 PM, Steve. You have to be there.”
Silence. What is going on? Any answer will do.
Then, when my stressed out self finally got to the research facility there was no-one there, not a single soul. I carefully walked through the empty hallways as the lights lit where I went. In my mind there lurked something behind every corner I took. I checked my cell: no calls, no messages; nothing. Moreover, Dr. Havard would not even answer his. I tried calling my other colleagues, but none of them picked up either. Strangely enough, however, most of the systems were still up and running. All of them were seemingly working towards identifying the entity rushing towards the Earth. I had trouble understanding the huge chunks of data most of the screens showed without Dr. Havard though.
There was one screen that did catch my eye, however, a big one in the centre of the room. It showed the entity itself and the insane speed with which it was racing towards us. The thing was hidden in a black cloud and the images were not sharp, but I could see it nonetheless. I could see the dark tendrils protruding from the smoke and the thousands of eyes it seemed to have.
This cannot be God. This moon-sized monstrosity? It could not be...
I fear for the others. I truly do.
13 September 2322 AD
I stayed home today despite the nightmares I battled all night. At this point I felt that even the horrific imagery, the paralyzing fear and even the auditory hallucinations my mind plagued me with were preferable to the outside world. We were all going to die horribly anyway, I figured. At least I would pass in the comfort of my home, though possibly insane. There is no point in denying it. This morning I had effectively lost it.
Things bettered, however, and from 2 PM onward only minor hallucinations remained. I kept hearing a faint yelling for example and a deep, hushed voice calling out my name. Now, psychiatrists probably would not agree with my analysis but I blame it on a lack of sleep. What was a lot more worrying was that I still had not heard anything from the research facility. Ah well, I figured I should try focusing on other things. I switched on the television to distract me for a while. The channel offered me a dozen different documentaries to pick from and I picked one about the growth of London as the first multi-layered metropolis. Anything to keep my mind occupied. Why was the clock ticking so slowly?
The documentary itself was not incredibly interesting. Patrick Searan tried his best to have an exciting trip through the city, but everything seemed bleak and gloomy and it had an effect on him as well. His demeanor grew more depressed and joyless by the minute and that was not the only thing that changed unfortunately. The people he passed no longer went on with their daily lives afterwards. They dropped whatever they were holding and watched with dark, hollow eyes. It was not long until Patrick realized this too.
"It would appear that some of the citizens here haven taken a dislike towards foreigners, but I am quite sure th-" he paused.
"Oh. You are here.” he spoke as his eyes turned black.
Then they all began staring straight at me as more and more people entered the screen.
What the hell is going on? Christ save me, save me Christ, save us all, save us now… WHY?
I only remember switching of the television and running outside in a moment of primal fear. There is no memory of how I got to Desmond Square hours early (16:37 PM), but at least the voices are gone. Whatever it is that is haunting me I am sure that it will not strike me here with all those people around. One of them was Gerald. He was pale and thin, having lost at least thirty pounds and he looked to be tired beyond belief.
"I had a feeling you would be early. You have always been curious." he said, “Come walk with me.”
I followed him as he walked towards the park.
"Did you read the notes I sent you? They are important, but horribly incomplete as you could probably tell. I want to tell you what we found, because someone has to know.”
"You are not going to make the research public?” I asked him.
"Hah. They would never let us! My entire team is dead, Steven. The church killed them all.”
"Why? What did you find?”
"They believe we might have found God.” Gerald said bitterly.
"I fear not, but believe me when I say that not a moment goes by that I hope we did. We found something though, but you’ll just have to take my word for it as all of our research has been destroyed."
He left a dramatic pause for a while.
"We have discovered an entity that dwells within all of us. Seeing what we see, hearing what we hear and ever so slightly controlling what we do. We first made contact with it during the experiments I sent you. It would appear that the constant shocks we applied on our test subject had awakened it. We tried communicating with it, but soon our limbs were no longer our own. We were forced to kill the subject and report all of our findings to the Necrotic church. All of this without our consent.” he sighed and sat down with slouched shoulders, “I don’t even know if I chose to tell you this or whether this all fits in this, this thing’s master plan.”
We just sat there for a few minutes until I finally knew what to say.
"So, does the church think you found God?”
"I doubt it. I think they just don’t want our research to get public. Hah, not even those lunatics could incorporate that in their beliefs. Imagine what it would do to them if God turned out to be alive and almost tangible.”
"Then what can we-" he grabbed me by my shoulders and stared straight into my eyes as panic reigned in his pupils.
"You must listen! Do you realize what we are dealing with here? Everything we’ve ever looked at, everything we’ve ever cared about might be a lie!” he started talking faster and faster, “The reality we breathe, that we think we live in is warped, twisted beyond our comprehension.”
"Gerald, listen to me. You need to calm down.”
"We can’t know, Steven… we can’t be sure anymore.”
"What? What can’t we know?”
"What lurks beyond the edge of our perception.” Gerald whispered with an empty look in his eyes.
"Gerald, snap out of it!”
"Do not trust anything, Steven.”
Gerald suddenly took a step back and reached inside his pocket to take out a small handgun…
I remember yelling, "No!" like they do in movies, I remember the blood, the gunshot and me running away.
Gerald died today and I have the feeling that he will not be the last.
I do not know what is going on anymore. The hallucinations are gone for now, but I still cannot quite grasp what Gerald was telling me. What is even real anymore? Is there really something racing towards earth?
The television shows nothing but static anymore, or am I imagining things?
I feel like a pawn, but whose game are we playing?
14 September, 2322 AD
It is becoming increasingly difficult to write in here. Not just because of the fear or the exhaustion though those two burden me immensely through every hour that I fail to catch sleep. Not just because my dreams haunt me and break me through the horrors they make me watch.
It is because I have been crying tonight, endlessly and almost violently. I witnessed my best friends’ death, no his murder and I cannot deal. What brought him to do that and why will these tears not stop? Are these tears, through their constant damaging of my notebook, being used to stop me from writing? Am I becoming as paranoid as Gerald?
Do I really believe that there is something controlling us?
I am fully aware that these are the words of a shaken, sleep-deprived and traumatized man, but I still cannot bring myself to rip them out of this book.
It is 3:15 AM and I am afraid to close my eyes.
I must have fallen asleep eventually, because I do partially recall a dream I had. While some parts are vivid others seem to have been oddly blurred out. Is there no place that I am safe?
My dream began with me standing in the middle of a field surrounded by a tall brick wall a few meters away from me. It was night, but I could see no stars. I took a first few uneasy steps when the walls started shifting. Bricks were continuously being added on top while others were removed just as fast. It was not long before holes began to appear in the wall though, places where the bricks were disappearing too quickly to be replaced. At first I could see nothing but darkness through these holes, but then I began to notice the blackness. There was something out there removing those bricks and destroying my walls.
A creature so very dark that it stood out like the brightest star in this otherwise starless night. I felt fear like never before as I slowly began to define its shape. Long, elongated arms made their way through and reached for me before scratching the walls in a frustrated rage as I backed away again and again, my heart pounding in my chest. Suddenly the limbs pulled back and for a few heartbeats everything was quiet again. The walls had stopped shifting as a prelude to something much, much worse. Something out there, outside of his little bit of shelter was roaring, if it could even be called that. It placed two hands on the sides of one of the holes and started pushing. Long, bonelike fingers grabbed on to the wall which was now clearly cracking.
Its hands pushed the bricks out of its way as if it were simple specks of dust. It was only then that I finally got to see its face, greeting me with a terrifying smile that would befit a psychopath. It opened its mouth to reveal the void within, and I recall thinking that I should recognize that face before it all went black and I woke up, sweating and out of breath. I had woken up to the laughter of several tall shadow-like figures standing around my bed. I tried to scream, but they just kept staring. I tried to open my eyes but nothing was changing.
That is when it all became a blur. I remember wondering why they were not moving, but I woke up sitting outside on my balcony. My legs were hurting and the pain quickly urged me to stand up. Somehow I had been sitting in the lotus position which I had not been able to do since I was fourteen or so.
Are there words for my confusion?
Am I really still sane?
I forced myself to eat something, but I practically had to force the omelet down my throat. The dream still spooked me and I felt like my mind had finally been damaged beyond repair. My continuing headache only served to reinforce that statement. It was as if lightning split my forehead, as if my head was desperately trying to adapt to my newfound madness. Although one thing was crystal clear: I could not let it consume me.
The visions, the dreams, the disappearances, Gerald’s suicide... all of it had started with the discovery of Dr. Havard’s ‘God’. Not to mention the discoveries that Gerald’s team had made. Or had that just been crazy talk? I had to connect the dots. There had to be some sort of reasoning behind all this.
Reluctantly, I decided to go back to the research facility to gather more information. All the while wondering why I was not more shocked by everything that had happened. I just felt numb.
Arriving at the facility was no boon for my sanity either. Strangely enough, everyone was there again and I was greeted by one very excited researcher (Dr. Stone according to her nametag) who talked to me with seemingly limitless respect. She told me that Dr. Havard was looking for me and other researchers gathered around as she was speaking. They all held their distance and all of them, even ones I had worked with before, stared at me with reverence(?) in their eyes. I felt confused and oddly self-conscious.
"H- hey guys, I hope the research is still going strong.” I said and they seemed satisfied with that.
I tried to shake off the weirdness as I made my way to Dr. Havard through the least busy hallways. There were still zero answers. Just two days ago, this place had been abandoned. I shivered as I knocked on Havard’s door.
"Steve, good to see you. Let me get you some tea.” Dr. Havard pulled back a seat for me and immediately put a hot cup of tea in my hands. Perplexed as I was, I could not help but notice that he had put me in his own very comfortable desk chair which had been specifically made to ease the strain on his aching back. Meanwhile Dr. Havard sat on the ordinary office chair usually reserved for guests. I could see the reverence in his eyes as well. What was going on? It was a question I found myself asking all too much these past few weeks. I had to try and get my answers.
"Why have I not heard from you? This whole place was abandoned just two days ago.”
He nodded thoughtfully: “Yes, we were receiving our visions too. Our Lord really did make it all clear, didn’t he?”
"Our Lord?” I asked him, shivers reaching down my spine.
"Yes? Don’t you-“ he smiled, “Ah forgive me. Our Lord already said that you might still be somewhat shaken and confused from your own revelations. We were not expecting you until tomorrow.”
"You... you had all those visions too? Those dreams? Everyone here had them?!”
"Well, I don’t think they were exactly the same. I saw some very personal things and I’m sure the others did too. We rarely talk about them, but I feel that they contained the same message overall.” he hesitated and it looked as if he was trying to muster his courage. Was he afraid of me?
"Would you mind if I asked about your visions?”
"My apologies I never meant to offend you.” he said quickly, “It is just that, that... well you’re his prophet, right?”
I was dazed. Why me? Why was that ‘thing’ doing that to all of us? It explained the awe they regarded me with, but left me in the dark otherwise. Suddenly, my head seemed to split in half as I heard a deep, loud voice echoing through it. An imposing voice that could only be described as ancient.
"You’ve finally come. There were times that I doubted if you’d make I, but you’ve arrived where you belong.” the voice said and I looked at Dr. Havard who was looking ecstatic.
"You are to be commended. The Other focused the brunt of his assault on you, but you didn’t fall and you didn’t break. I was wise to choose you as my prophet.”
"This... this is unreal.” I struggled to speak, “What are you?”
"I am God. Listen, and heed my words, prophet, there is a lot to explain.”
15 September, 2322 AD
“You were a tough one to reach. Always verging on the edge of realizing the truth, but never quite making the jump. Quick to question your sanity too, but I suppose we have Zìral to thank for that.” God spoke to me.
I hurried to write down every syllable as he spoke, his deep voice resonating through my mind. How could I have ever questioned my sanity? This was real.
“I didn’t think he would have the strength left to corrupt your visions. He made you go through the terrible things you witnessed in a feeble attempt to push you away from me. Little did he know your force of will, your loyalty, your endurance. Fear not my child, for his influence on you was already waning, and now that I am here he is truly powerless.”
I had not been in contact with God for long, but he had already thoroughly explained everything. Our lord had even confirmed Gerald’s suspicions! There really is a presence within all of us, but it is not God nor it is a remnant of him.
He spoke of Zíral, a demon that had managed to claim us through treason:
“… and it was in those early eons that he came before them. He found their grudges and spread them thin, discovered their flaws and whispered sin, perceived their pain and flared it high. The people he burned, he ate their souls in the sky.
Their minds were broken and molded anew and it were these shattered souls who eventually became his first acolytes. It was one of them who ultimately betrayed mankind. He turned their hearts away from me and made them worship this demon. In the end that gave him the power to cast me away, until you found me.”
I did not just hear God speak, but he showed me the scene in my mind too. It really felt as if I had been a firsthand witness.
“You are, however, not the only one who knows this. There are those who actively worship this fiend and proclaim I’m dead. They did not want me to be found.”
“The necrotic church.”, I whispered, but I could not hear God’s voice anymore.
It did not matter. God had shown me the path and now I only had to take it.
I went to the conference room to find that the other scientists had all been gathered there already. They had built a small stage and Dr. Havard was speaking to the crowd.
“… fire that’ll rain down on the faithless if we do our part. Brighter days are coming, fellow catalysts. They’ll soon regret declaring war on the heavens!”
He delivered his speech like a man possessed and only stopped when his eyes found me.
“And here he is, ladies and gentlemen, our prophet!”, he yelled as I climbed up the stage myself. He handed me his mic and left me in front of the crowd.
For a moment I just stood there thinking about how this situation would have made me feel uneasy in the past. That was before God had filled me with his strength and amplified my own.
“God has trusted us with one very important task indeed. We are to set the necrotic church ablaze, but we should not lose track of who the real enemy is. Their priests are misguided just as we all were. Kill only those whose spirits have been crushed completely. We are to spark the fire in those who can be saved and let our lord wash away the filth. All of us will serve as his amplifier.”, I thought of Gerald. He could not help what he did.
“We were lost before our Lord first spoke to us. Our vanity shrouded our impotence as we masked our sins with disbelief. This can last no longer!”
I enjoyed the silence that followed after I screamed that last sentence.
“Together we can pull humanity away, out of the claws of this fiend. Are you with me, are you with the lord? Then let us make the change!”
The crowd had dispersed quickly after my speech. While I had motivated them, it seemed as if they had all been given their own particular tasks. I understood, as God had told me exactly what to do too. All gears had been set in motion and it was time for me to do my part as well.
It took me a while to find them amongst the crowd, unmoving and with their gaze fixed on me. There were six of them.
16 September, 2322 AD
“Sir. Sir!”, a voice spoke, “They found us.”
My eyes were blinded by bright yellow lights as I opened them and only when I yelled that I was awake, did Lester finally stop shaking me around. I had expected I would be able to get a couple more hours of sleep at least. Ah well.
I shoved Lester’s flashlight out of my face and looked at our two prisoners. Oddly enough, they looked as terrified as Lester when the searching lights appeared in the distance. We put guns to their heads as the lights came closer.
It was not long until we could make out our pursuers’ faces in the darkness. Tall men wearing broken masks and red robes, most of them had guns on them though some carried swords.
They stopped in their tracks at around 40 feet in front of us, staring silently at the two acolytes we had captured earlier. I was tense beyond belief. This had to work now, he told me it would.
One of them, I could only assume he was their leader, took a step towards us and raised his gun. His movements were slow as if he was giving us time to reconsider, but he did not hesitate in pointing the weapon at me. He was the only one wearing an ornamented mask. Although it was as white as the others it had silver markings around the eyes and words engraved along the cheekbones. It had cracks running all over it and the left part of it was missing as if it had been broken altogether. His visible eye showed no emotion at all, or was there anger brewing somewhere deep inside?
My team finally reacted and raised their own weapons. They were no soldiers, but the fiery devotion in their eyes kept them from shaking. The enemy did the same.
They had the larger number, but we had the hostages. There was no way they could let this become an actual confrontation.
Their leader kept his gun high and looked at each of us individually, before turning his eyes towards me again.
He finally spoke with a deep, clear voice: “We will escort you to the covenant. Your guns will stay here.”
I quickly nodded, and lowered my gun turning to my men.
“Watch the host-“, I tried to say, but the enemy had already made its move and started firing. I got knocked down at the start of it and the scuffle did not last much longer.
A few seconds of gunshots and screaming before their leader grabbed me by my throat and lifted me in the air.
“I don’t believe there is anything to be gained through talks with heretics. Your views are warped and vile and your incapable of real devotion.”, his grip tightened, “Your companions got all the mercy they deserve, but you’ll know the real fury.”
He threw me forward and I stumbled not to lose my footing. All my men laid dead on the ground, all of them cleanly shot right between the eyes.
“Put down like dogs.”, my captor laughed as he put his gun to my back. “Half of them lowered their guns when you did, the others could barely aim. Move it, heretic! All prophets, all you fanatic leaders are to be judged before the high-priests themselves.”
I could only look down and smile. Apart from my friends’ sacrifices, everything was going exactly as intended. Your ways are truly magnificent, my lord.
They led me to their vehicle where they sat me down on a bench in the back, three of them including their leader guarded me there. He sat on the bench in front of me and stared at me again with those chill-inducing eyes.
“Why’d you do it anyway? Your statement wasn’t very clear, ramblings even. The work of a madman.” He said and I imagined him smirking underneath the mask.
“It is as I stated.”, I replied blankly. “A first strike against your flawed belief.”
The man shifted his weight before he spoke again, rather agitated.
“Wrong. False. Ridiculous. You’re just as enlightened as the lot of them.” he spat, “Tricked by shadows and smoke you all are. You know nothing of divinity. Most of you would be blinded at even the glimpse of it.”
We rode on in silence for a while after that, as their leader typed on a small computer mounted to the side of the car. I guessed he was communicating with the headquarters, but paid him little attention. Instead I kept my mind on the plan, continuously running through each and every step.
“Do you know why god died, heretic?”, he spoke to me again. “Naturally you must’ve heard the nonsense about the Lord sacrificing himself to give us life eternal, an existence beyond this one.”
He looked at the computer again before speaking any further, more softly this time:
“You spoke of visions you had, ones you believed them to be true. Did they make you feel insignificant? What does a man really represent on a cosmic scale?”
I admit that the change in his demeanor surprised me, but I was not really reluctant to discuss these matters. In fact, I was yearning for this opportunity to share more of the truth. “There is only God’s creation. The darkness comes with the light, however, and demons are spawned. You’ve all long turned away from God, proclaiming him dead and worshipping a demon in the night. He has chosen me to change that and I’ve never felt less insignificant.” There was a hint of sadness, perhaps even pain, in his expression as I spoke. I continued: “You’re all scared of what I’m bringing back.”
Afterwards the air felt colder as all eyes focused on me and my opponent looked shocked. He pressed a button on the small computer and talked to it, while keeping his eyes locked with mine. “You heard him. We need to bring this one before the ministry right now.” I bit my tongue. Perhaps I’ve said too much.
The rest of the ride was veiled in silence as neither of us wished to engage in further conversation. In fact the cultists seemed wary of me now. All things considered it was a relief when the car stopped and the fresh air tickled my senses, clearing my mind. To my surprise they had not brought me to the cathedral, but to a mansion on the side of the road. The garden was lavishly decorated, but none of it pointed towards this being owned by the church. Unless of course grand, beautiful buildings where to be reserved for them as I was sure many priests would argue.
“Move it!”, my captor nudged me towards the path leading to the mansion. I marched on as the Lord’s voice strengthened me: “Head forward, child. Show them truth and they will follow you. Only you may be the herald of my glorious return.”
The doorway led us through a long, narrow corridor to a room furnished to resemble a courtroom. Several priest sat behind their desks facing me wearing masks similar to those of my captors, albeit more ornamented. Behind them were monitors on which more priests where visible, watching the ordeal. In the alcoves to the side people hunched in the shadows using canes to balance themselves. I was led to the middle of the room, then left alone as the room was called to order:
“Dr. Stephen Roulston, your name has echoed through these halls before. I figured you would be brought in here eventually, but I did not expect the matter to be this urgent.”
“I do believe I sought you out myself. As you may know I discovered a truth of my own.”, I replied, to which the priest showed a half-smile.
“You seem to mistake this for a trial, doctor. But your heresy has already been proven beyond reproach. You speak of communing with the Lord, yet we’ve heard all of it before.”
“God. Is. Dead.”, another priest added hissingly while the first one motioned him to be quiet.
Their reactions were to be expected, but there was no time to lose here. I took the small chip that had been shoved under my fingernail and loudly proclaimed that they would find the truth on there. The priests shared uneasy looks. One of the guards retrieved the chip nonetheless.
One of the computers was made secure and the chip was inserted. It contained all the imagery we had of God and proved his movement towards our planets. The silence hit like a storm as it seemed ready to erupt into chaos at any time. Faces went pale and tears broke through. Tears of joy, to my astonishment. Several masks were ripped off as smiles grew. Nothing remained of the fear I had expected, in fact the priests seemed almost thankful. It was not long before one of them took my hand, solemn look on her face: “I hear Him now. Forgive me, forgive us all. There is much we need to undo before He arrives.” More and more voices rose in bliss as priests found themselves spoken to. A cane crashed into the screen and they promptly quitened, expressions ranging from shock to rage.
Only now did I notice how the elder priests’ faces had remained grim throughout. Appearantly their blindness sheltered them from all sorts of enlightenment. “Have you forgotten the scriptures?”, one of them bellowed with all force his raspy voice could muster, “Why we choose to gauge out our eyes? You knew what tidings this demon would bring, but would see yourselves trapped nonetheless.” Some of the priests shuffled on their feet in unease or shame, but the brunt of them bore hostile expressions. Unaware, the blind man turned to me: “I thank you, for showing us the urgency of the matter. We were foolish to think of you as merely another false prophet.
I had to smirk. This went how the Lord had said. They saw the truth and saw no choice but to follow. It did unnerve me slightly that these blind old men did not seem fazed at all, however.
“Perhaps you’re smiling even now,” he continued, “In any case, there is little left of you that can be saved. Such is the case with all those who are contacted by the devil. It is our fault for underestimating the dangers your techonology would bring. Seize him, burn down his base and stop the anathema.”
The words did sent shivers down my spine. No matter how hollow they rang in a room where no-one seemed to listen anymore. Even the elders began to notice this curious lack of movement. Their speaker started voicing another command before gurgling up blood. Cut short by the dagger that had been lodged between his shoulder blades. In an ecstatic frenzy the others had turned on them, sticking their long knives into backs, eyes, throats; however they could best hurt their blind comrades. The gruesome nature of it all shook something lose within me. How could the face of God incite such virulent reaction? I had to believe that it had not changed me to such a fatal degree. Even through the screen one could still sense the power that the image contained. But how just was this silhouette hidden within a sprawling interstellar cloud. Around me the screams had slowly been dying out. The laughter too was now little more than background noise. Dozens of hungry eyes wondered about my silence. This was all wrong. I tried to smash the screen apart but they knocked me out quick.
17 September 2322 AD
I took me the better part of a day to fully come to my senses. They had trapped me in a small, unadorned room with nothing but a desk and chair made out of the same thick, dark wood as the door. It was a good while before I got up from the floor though for I was not alone. Gone was the edge that had been crawling through my mind: egging on my darker passions, telling me to give voice to its truth.
Yet this presence, though fainter, felt eerily similar. And it too wielded God’s power in its words:
“So many. You were granted so many chances. So many opportunities to come home. Pathetic child! You barge on aimlessly uncaring who else you may draw into Oblivion. None of you pitiful crawlers were ever worth it.”
Stephen did not take long to recover his senses though as there was a presence there. Whatever it was that had joined him was much fainter. Yet it spoke within him with the same booming power that God had wielded:
“You were granted so many chances. So Many Opportunities to come home. Despicable child! You barge on aimlessly into Oblivion uncaring what else you may affect. None of you crawlers were ever worth it.”
The words hurt. Triggering nerve endings in his brain by the sheer weight they carried.
“You barely have a mind. None of you do. Yet I sheltered you and granted you the opportunity to will, to think, to create and to experience without attracting slavers. None of you were feasted upon. And you brought it all tumbling down.”
Waves of pain kept surging through me as I pierced things together. This voice... it has to be.
“My Lord, I-i failed.”, was all my lips could mumble.
“A scarce improvement. Your idiocy brought them under the Usurper’s control and all remaining conduits were destroyed. You are the last vestige I exist now. Left as a final barb.”
“Guide me. I will do whatever is necessary.”
“It’s done. The Usurper will come to your world and one of two things will happen: either it will shelter you, for a time, as I did or it will feast immediately. ‘tis a pity that your kind can only ever experience one harvesting.”
I could feel it strengthening its grip over me. Stretching out over my memories, my current state and finally my decisions as well. My consciousness became a spectator reduced to voiceless ineffectual objections. I was made to sit down at the desk before the voice spoke to me again.
“I will end this on a fine note. Now use that pen of yours and see how many nails you can peel off... Cut the screams now... Not enough. You’ll need some splinters.”
The commands continued for nineteen hours before the body shutdown completely.