Articles of Archaos
The introductory short story to a fiction series developed for Vicious Labs' concept brand, Bloodline Industries.
Chapter I. Section I.
Ashes fall as embers touch timber. A once wondrous and bountiful forest reduced to a charred memory of what once was. Scorned and afflicted, survivors of the neighboring settlement shuffle slowly through the bitter cold of Winter's night. Few in number and fewer in spirit, the remaining townspeople struggle to comprehend the events having took place a mere three hours prior. The only source of comfort is the warmth exuding from the burning remains of their homes. Such is inconsequential and entirely unnoticed amidst their surroundings. Hanging from the blackened frames of their former residences are the seeping limbs and truncated bodies of now unidentifiable loved ones. While the town was modest in size, it would have been far too great of a task for even the most malicious warband to raze it’s populace - accompanying militia included - of 2,560 to that of 8. How these 8 survivors escaped a gore laden fate would be attributed to good fortune by objective opinion. There is, however, nothing fortunate in this so called “escape.” No, they are in fact the most ill-fated of all as they were chosen to inherit this existence. Their morbid vessels selected to carry a soul plagued with despair into an uncertain search for sanctum. A trivial trek if there ever was.
The Town, a once heralded feat of social, religious, and technological achievement in the South-Western Province, had been morphed into a twisted realization of nightmarish horror. Formerly kept streets were overrun by rivers of blood snaking through their cobblestone pathways. The extent of which seems endless and insurmountable. Salvation of the Town was entirely moot as any viable resources were either destroyed or corrupted by unholy death. Undoubtedly, the New Founding would condemn the region until a principal task force purges the area through a series of ritualistic blessings. There will, however, be no reconstruction; instead forever remaining a forsaken scar amidst the forest landscape. Surely, the Town had become infested by perverse and rampant sin to incite such devastation. The likes of which could only be dealt by divine hands. To rebuild would be to defy Numen.
Chapter I. Section II.
Across the derelict city an eery calmness caked the air. Cold stillness was broken by the flicker of shadows cast from subsiding flames. For anyone in hiding this was just as good an opportunity as any to rise from their would-be coffin. True to this statement, a pale, ash-covered figure emerged from a hollow pile of debris. Their stride characterized by a limp stumble and inaudible wheezing. Despite any apparent disorientation, the individual nil wandered. His movement was steadfast and determined - as if compelled by an outside force. Curiously, rather than seek the Town’s outskirts, the Man moved ever deeper into the utopia’s abyss. Further and further he dragged himself until collapsing at the base of a large marble staircase. Finally, the man reached his destination; he had in instinctive desperation sought out the Town’s place of worship. Heavily scathed, but surprisingly intact, the massive construct remained as the last standing structure.
The innate and immediate reaction for anyone raised under the oppression of the regime is to seek out the sanctuary of Numen's Shadow. Grotesque in decadence and monumental in stature, Numen's Shadow was constructed at the Town’s focal point. More precisely, the Town’s entire infrastructure was erected around the immense cathedral. All roads leading into and out of the Town was connected to it by some means or another. This was far less an architectural design as it was a mandate enforceable by death. Even those loyal to New Founding viewed it as a symbol of authoritarian cruelty. Leaving Numen's Shadow in a state of solitude served as a defiant act of condescension. An overwhelming visual metaphor. The orchestrators of the atrocious act are well aware of the New Founding’s methods of purging. By showering the temple in heresy they have forced the hand of New Founding against itself. Few means could grant as great a pleasure as witnessing Numen's followers dismantle the shrine of their deity.
Chapter I. Section III.
No sooner than entering the temple was the Man alerted by peripheral to the presence of movement. Panic flooded his mind, yet his body remained frozen. With feet cemented to the floor he was approached - albeit at distance - by indistinguishably gruesome silhouettes. Their steps were eerily marked by the sounds of blood puddles echoing in acoustic mastery. Unable to coerce a retreat to the entrance he reasoned his demise and became accepting of his fate. This fate, however, is not that which he anticipated. The sudden, initial reaction of fear and subsequent apathy gave way to the realization that the hunched figures were that of unwitting victims.
Although unspoken, the Chosen realized the need to vacate the province with immediate haste - as hastily as one could given the circumstance. The New Founding would undoubtedly conclude their purging of the Town with a less-than-swift execution of the Chosen; a finalization of Numen's doing. As they collectively parted from the grounds, a sudden and paralyzing stench infiltrated their senses. Up until this moment, the Chosen had been immunized by shock to the smell of death surrounding them; the noxious odor being confirmation of their cognitive facilities having recovered to some extent. It took little time before their trail extended beyond the Town’s border. With dulled senses regaining clarity, the group drifted farther and farther into the forest all while piercing cold air set into their nerves.
Chapter II. Section I.
Left foot. Right foot. The feet of the Chosen sweep the earth as neither appendage leaves the ground nor extends beyond the other. If not for the harsh wind slashing at the Chosen's faces, their eyes, now iced over, would weep continuous streams of tears. Tears that would have carried with them the ash and blood plastered to the cheeks of each Chosen. Ears rang ever louder the sounds of slaughter amidst the silent air. Entirely devoid of thought the bodies trudge ever-forward and directionless. Their destination equally enigmatic as their movements. Without word or question the group shuffled along in a curiously hypnotic unison. Somehow in the absence of any verbal or physical communication the Chosen were equally decided in this pathless pursuit. In spite of their unique differences each of them were seemingly conjoined into a mental singularity, or, at the very least, guided by an outwardly force.
A loud, inaudible noise pulled the group out of their stoic state. Completely foreign in sound or language, it was impossible to identify the source; the narrow canyon walls surrounding them inflicted an echo that hid its origin. Darkness had begun its daily infestation by this point and refuge was in order. Without the false sense of security brought by daylight the Chosen retreated beneath a boulder overhang. Twice. Twice the Man counted the number of survivors huddled together. A quiet panic swept in when our first friend brought this realization to the groups attention. After frantic review of one another it was unmistakeable that one of their own - a widowed newlywed - was no longer in attendance. Again, a sudden noise shook the Chosen. This time it was unmistakeable. The sound was that of a distant and muffled shrieking. Stifled with fear they sat in anguish for the cessation of night.
Chapter II. Section II.
Morning begrudgingly erupted from over the horizon bringing with it the subtle relief of light’s warmth. The group, now thoroughly exhausted by deprivation and traumatic stress, cautiously kept on with their original path. To consider alternatives would be entirely moot as any deviation from the makeshift trail would result in them forever vanishing into the surrounding environment. This non-option carried some merit as within a few hours they happened upon a stream. With desperate excitement the Chosen baptized themselves in the precious resource. As per their misfortune, joy gave way to horror as the crystal water turned to ruby. Time itself seemed warped with disorientation. Quickly they rushed from the stream. Astonishment plastered their faces for no sooner than looking back had the scene returned to a tranquil state. Could this be the faux machinations of the distraught? Surely, it would be far too coincidental to undergo simultaneous hallucinations.
Having sought the shade of nearby shrubbery, the Man sat at short distance from the remainder of the group. Two of his companions caught notice of the shanty tree and took places alongside him. Night was all but too dangerous to travel while the searing heat of Day’s sunlight made every step an arduous one. Their intermittent bouts of idle chatter quickly shifted to concerned conversation. Perhaps no more than 15 minutes had lapsed when the rustling of shrubbery marked the absence of the other four Chosen. With subdued hesitation the three moved toward the presumed origin of the sound. Droplets of blood lining the ground confirmed their direction. Each step forward saw an increase in the size and frequency of the crimson liquid until they stopped upon their disturbing destination. Strewn about were the remains of two of the missing persons. Limbs and entrails painted a malefic masterpiece across the earth’s tainted canvas.
Chapter II. Section III.
The Sun’s glowing rays could do nothing to offset the cold stillness that flooded the Chosen’s veins. The corpses, entirely unrecognizable through the carnage, could only be determined by the articles of clothing that struggled to cling to their wearer. Heavily worn leather boots with mismatched lacing identified a Town laborer. A man of simple taste and traditional values, he was dedicated to his craft and his family - to which he was reunited in gruesome earnest. In contrast, the second body - adorned in fine cloth - belonged to a young politician. Devoid of ethics the woman excelled in the bureaucratic theater through her use of unscrupulous tactics; her fate was no less forgiving. Again, movement captured the pair’s attention. Some meters away there was a clawing near a fallen tree. A thief and conman by trade, the man frivolously reached with non-existent arms to grasp for any nearby object. Both eyes ruptured, he strained for air as his tongue served as companion to dismembered limbs.
As cruel and sadistic as the scene portrayed, it paled in comparison to the impossible nature of the fourth. Their rapid departure navigated them to the entrance of a cave-like structure. Hanging from either side of the doorway was precisely one-half of a long retired soldier. Years of war prepared him not for such an adversary, but it readied his mind. Each half of his body dangled by its corresponding arm and leg while maggot covered organs carpeted the walkway. Before any of the remaining Chosen could force a sentence a deep silhouette formed in the midst of the cavern’s darkness. The air around it was in a blurred haze from the immense heat generated by the fiend. Slowly the image dispersed into the background and merged with the shadows. Possessed by an otherworldly compulsion the three pressed forward until the cave’s opening no longer permitted light.
Chapter III. Section I.
Deafening stillness broke into a symphony of brilliant illumination. In sequence, torches lining the jagged rock erupted with burning desire - the hateful red glow oozed with wrongful indignation. Beneath the air’s black curtain was revealed a stone chamber. Presumed to have been a geological anomaly, the cave proved itself to have been the finely crafted product of master artisans. Although a temple of great significance, the runes and ominous symbology abundantly displayed amongst the sanctum's many surfaces had become dulled by centuries of weathering. At its focal point rested a shallow concave of sand that had turned blush from the many sacrificial intimacies it shared with death. Any sense of fear the Chosen may have held was immediately released into the hands of awe. Quickly, their eyes began to study the ornate carvings with intense fervor. Mesmerized by its hypnotic intricacy, the Man failed to notice streams of blood radiating upward through the ancient artwork. The viscous fluid sharpened the worn details as it flowed through their crevices. Within moments the chamber was birthed anew.
Uncoupling the trance was an immense, sharp pain that seized the Man’s body and forced him into fetal submission. Almost immediately he felt himself dragged towards the coagulated confines of the chamber’s centermost point. Unable to move or comprehend his predicament the Man stared with frozen lungs into the face of his culinary-inclined companion, who’s body rested several meters away. The warm sensation of blood puddling behind the Man alerted him to the presence of the other Chosen just outside of his peripheral - a proud, if not arrogant, physician reduced to a study of internal anatomy. Heavy vibrations accompanied the steps of imminence. Stones cracked beneath its feet as it approached with a delayed eagerness. Several long moments passed before their manipulator stood just outside of arms length. From his downed position the Man’s eyes struggled to gain focus until, finally, the creature’s shape took form.
Chapter III. Section II.
With arms trembling, the Man attempted to pull himself from his shallow grave. Realizing the futility of his efforts he instead corrected himself into an upright position so he could view his captor in its entirety. Dripping of anguish and impossibly massive to be mortal, the being possessed an image as heinous as its intent. The searing heat emitted from the creature was so immense that it continued to whip and scald the Man’s skin despite the several feet of distance between them. For a brief lapse in time, paused silence seized the catacomb. Although its face was concealed from view, the Man could sense its haunting gaze pierce his eyes. At this juncture the two shared an unexplainable bond - an odd sense of familiarity tarnished by contempt. The fiendish manifestation removed itself from sight, breaking the moment. Vibrant sensations of warmth jolted through the Man’s veins. No agony in his life could compare to the excruciating pain being inflicted upon him.
A wretched wound placed upon his back pulsated blood in ever rapid fashion coinciding with the Man’s heartbeat. At the rate of loss it would not take more than a matter of minutes before his consciousness was forced into retreat. Strangely, the red that rivered from his flesh began to dwindle before halting entirely. Had it not been out of his vision the Man would have seen that the enormous gash had scarred over. How could such trauma to the body resolve itself so quickly? Little time was granted to ponder this curious occurrence for his foe had taken movement once more. The creature brandished a most menacing mincer - a corrupted cleaver fabricated by darkness and embellished with chaotic energies. Rather than strike the Man down, it circled a wide path so that it may better see the mark on his back. Apparently satisfied, if not impressed, by the finding, the brute casually crouched adjacent to the Man.
Chapter III. Section III.
In a voice echoing that of a thousand tormented souls the hulking figure demanded a name. The Man stared intensely through his blood stained vision with unrivaled clarity. Despite the insurmountable situation presented to him, the Man was filled with a sense of overt confidence. Over the course of a weeks time the Man endured untold physical and mental anguish. He took leisure with death. He embraced chaos into his heart. “ZOO,” the Man disdainfully replied. Beneath its hooded veil the creature grinned with eery delight...
Unbeknownst to the Chosen, their brief journey was orchestrated by an ancient manifestation of fear, torment, and death. As sadistic as it is brutal, the entity gains nourishment by exacting these very ideals upon the unwitting. For a select few, The Butcher artfully constructs a nightmarish labyrinth from which to employ its sadism - patiently allowing the misery to fester and grow akin to an aged-wine. Death feeds its hunger. Despair quenches its thirst.