In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Seventy Two
By AL BRUNO III
Saturday, December 4th 1996
Someone was shouting his name and slapping his face. The shouts sounded far away but the slaps were up close and personal. Warren awoke, uncertain for a terrifying moment of where he was, of whose eyes he was looking through. He got ahold of himself, realizing that he was somehow still alive, somehow back in Laurel House’s chilly wine cellar and in Jack’s arms.
“What the Hell were you thinking?” he asked.
Warren struggled out of the man’s beefy arms and got to his feet, “I thought you said there was no afterlife.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Those things down there...” he pointed at the floor, “they were ghosts....they were damned souls...”
“Now calm down,” Jack said, “you don’t know what you saw.”
“Contrary to popular belief,” Warren turned back around until he found a bare spot on the wall, he pressed his face to it and shivered, “I’m not an idiot. Those people, somehow this place is killing them.”
“I think Hao wanted to tell you herself,” Jack paused, “but it’s a little late for that isn’t it?”
Those faces, those stones locked in eternal screams, Warren saw them every time he closed his eyes. Each death he had experienced played over and over again in his head. His mouth tasted like bile.
Jack said, “Lets go back upstairs to the library.”
“I’m not going anywhere until I get some explanations.”
“All right, but you’re not going to-”
“Tell me!” Warren turned away from the wall, his shout surprised both of them.
Jack asked, “What do you know about the dark gods?”
“Hao showed me some books,” Warren said. He thought of Kriely Fragments;
“There are creatures that come from beyond reality. From beyond the realms of time and space. Beware them for their purposes are unfathomable.”
Warren said, “I think I remember some of their names.”
“Then you know they’re in hiding. The Monarchs crushed them, banished them to the lost places of the world.”
“And there’s one of them down there,” Warren said, “am I right?”
“Damiea,” Jack grabbed a wine bottle at random. He pulled the cork and drank, “The goddess clothed in worms.”
“Oh Jesus...” Warren took the bottle when it was offered.
“She-it’s barely alive...” Jack couldn’t look Warren in the eye, “if a thing like her can truly be considered alive. She can’t feed herself unless she has something to focus through, a living mortal-or semi-mortal mind.”
“And in return she hides this place and makes it nice and cosy with all the comforts of home,” Warren handed the bottle back, his hands were starting to shake and wine spilled everywhere, “oh my God. Each of those faces, the wind chimes... They’re like trophies.”
“No,” Jack said, “it’s not like that. It’s...it’s what’s left over.”
“Do they suffer? Those people?”
“They’re dead Warren and dead is dead.” Jack explained, “What you and other’s think of as a soul is just a kind of remnant. A spiritual corpse made of memories. There’s no mind there, no feeling. They’re not just dead, there’s no suffering.”
“That makes it worse then, they lose everything and we’re responsible. How many does it take? How often?”
“A dozen or so each day.”
“300,000 people die every day no matter what we do. Who’s to say that it wouldn’t have always been them? Maybe Damiea just takes advantage of that.”
“Is that what you tell yourself so you can sleep at night?”
Jack didn’t answer.
“I knew a monster,” Warren said, “an honest to God monster hidding in the body of my friend. I won’t be like him,” Warren slid down the wall and sat on the chilly floor, “I won’t be a monster.”