Machina – 3.11

The visitor’s entrance was around the curve of the building. Ash and I took the steps two by two. Dozens of grey flights to the glass-front of the building. So much of that glass was tinted dark. As we ascended, I passed in front. I stopped with my hand on the door.

“I sense something,” I said.

“No heartbeats in there,” Ash told me.

“That’s not a good sign.”

I didn’t bother trying the doors, instead slashing through the glass and letting it dash against my rain-soaked skin. Stepping onto the expansive tiled floor the sound of the storm grew quiet behind us. I wiped at my face and eyes to dry them with my free hand. Dusted glass away.

Further, into the back of the long room, it grew darker. At the very end, there was a single skylight around the elevator’s wide doors. Soft light fell on our goal.

“There’s nobody. We made it.” Ash grinned.

There was a disturbance. Kendall stepped into that light. He stepped up in front of the elevator so we could see him, across the distance. In his dark green suit, long hair undone. He put himself in our path and looked smug about it.

It was a long walk, but we were going to get there. We wouldn’t stop.

This is his last chance. He wants to do it himself, I thought.

I was his mistake. Kendall was all about control and this was him standing immovable, taking it back. He’d made the decision. In his eyes, I could see he knew. He’d decided he would do it himself. Alone and holding nothing back. This was Kendall… from the start.

The doors were far behind us and so too the light. Kendall steeled himself and stepped down and into the dark with us. Three pairs of footsteps echoed. Silhouettes grew.

Ash raised his gun. “You’ve got us all to yourself, faggot!” He fired. Muzzle flashes lit up the horrible sight of Kendall coming for us. He loped forward as a vision of teeth and limbs and wings, shrugging off hits.

I held my breath as the last few yards were covered. I closed my eyes.

A memory flashed into my mind. Kendall pulls a pistol from his drawer. I’m in the circle. He could have killed me then. Look what’s happened to both of us, now.

Ash ducked to the side and so did I. My sword raked over Kendall’s belly as I went.

Ash was quickly up, having reloaded on his fall to fire again on the ground. The flashes showed Kendall sloughing skin off where I had cut him. The mark moved from his chest to the chest of a newly birthed demon, sliding off onto the floor. It shrieked and died of its wound.

Ash’s gun ran dry and the darkness persisted again. I held my breath and listened.

The sound of a rifle reloading. The drops of ichor falling from Kendall’s bullet wounds. The gurgling of the dying demon. New, wet footsteps hitting the ground as another broke away from Kendall. Crunching, contorting, they formed. They were silhouetted by the building’s glass front behind them. When free, they ran to the side to hide. Fuck.

Can’t hurt him. The blade cuts the soul, but his soul is too far recessed. Under an ocean of demonic flesh. Hiding at the bottom of his well. He’s shedding hits.

Kendall charged forward. He wouldn’t let me dodge this time. I put my sword forward and dug it into him. My feet lost traction as he hit me, his claws trying to dig into my back. I was driven back.

He roared, feral. I returned the sound as I put all my strength out. Braced against the long handle of my cleaver, meant specifically for this person. With leverage enough, I threw Kendall over my shoulder, off my blade. He hit and rolled.

Ash fired again and I turned around. The flashes showed a new demon, pale white, right in front of my face. It bashed me with its head, sent me to my back. The bone spikes on its forehead cracked against my skull, sent a stream of blood down my face. “Fuck!”

It pounced and I pulled up my sword to impale it. Kendall was back on me. The only thing between us was the dead demon’s body. I held it over me, protecting my face as so much blood poured up my nose.

“Oi, bitch.” Ash lit into him on top of me. Kendall reacted, I could feel him shift his weight.

My blade twisted in the corpse and I pulled, slicing to the side and freeing it. I escaped while Kendall was distracted. On my feet, for only a moment before he struck me.

I slid until I hit a pillar at the room’s edge. Before I could recover, he was already charging at me. I got up, sliced a gash across the floor as I went. I ordered, “Halt!

The silhouette dove easily to the side, around my command and bouncing off a pillar. Kendall’s claws scraped, trying for purchase on the tile and failing. He slid behind the row as I ran for the room’s periphery.

“Here!” Ash yelled.

I found him behind another pillar on the parallel row.

“Strategy?” I blurted out, catching my breath, sliding to cover.

“Run ‘em dry.”

I couldn’t see Ash, but I knew he could see the doubt on my face.

Kendall’s too powerful. He’s an army.

He came flying into the pillar we were hiding behind. It crashed down, sending Ash and I running in opposite directions.

A demon lit itself on fire as it came running towards me out of the dark. Its black gnarled hide was swathed in flames, ready to embrace me. I cut it down easily enough, but something else wrapped around my neck. A long tendril encircled and tried to crush. I whipped around and severed it from the source. It loosened. Something skittered away squealing like a child. Gunfire echoed everywhere around me. I couldn’t find the source, I was distracted by the sheer number of figures the flashes revealed.

An imp jumped to latched onto my knee, holding tight. Suddenly dozens more did the same, clambering over each other to grab me. I hacked at the pile of bodies, trying not to hit myself. “Ash!”

Bullets rang past me. I covered my head as he shot off the remaining imps. Perfect aim. Chittering alerted me a moment before the next strike came.

A massive pincher clamped down on my midsection. It hoisted me up as I hacked down. I defended against a stinger on its tail, bashing it away. I threw my sword, lodging it into the scorpion’s head and quickly recalling.

Sword back in my hand, I lashed around to cut another demon down.

The darkness was too great an advantage. Had to get light.

I slammed my sword into the ground. “Let there-

A quadrupedal beast dove into me. My sword was left behind. It snapped rabidly at my face, driving me back along the floor. I pushed into its neck, holding it back. My hands reached up, grabbing it by the jaw. I rent its mouth open and tossed it aside.

Demons piled on. Teeth raked across my skull. Limbs clambered over my body in the dark. I was throwing them off as I went for my sword.

The weight was driving me to my knees as my hand found the hilt.

Light!

The building’s lights came on in an instant. I drew my sword and threw off the demons. Stood up tall to see the dozens that lurked behind the pillars. That encircled me.

Kendall’s face protruded from the mass of demons which formed a larger creature. Bodies entangled to work and bend as limbs. They broke away and more welled up from the soft flesh. His face focused on me. His expression darkened with determination. He didn’t care that we could see him.

The demons let out a chorus of screaming when I saw them.

I hacked at the horde as it closed in around me. They tried to overpower me. The sheer number was overwhelming. There was one on my back, gnawing at my bleeding neck. With my free hand, I grabbed it by the arm and threw it over my shoulder into the crowd.

“Ash!” I was frantic. They were like a flood. Kendall continued to spawn them.

Bullets tore through the crowd, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have room anymore to swing my sword. Kendall was going for Ash, keeping him from helping me.

I lashed out with my arm, trying to beat them back. The skeletal horde could be pushed away, but some were strong, grotesquely fat. For those I needed the room to cut. I was drowning in my own blood and theirs. It was a thick, cold sludge, filling my throat and nose.

Raising my arm above the crowd, I hacked down blindly. I punched out and my fist connected with soft flesh and hard bone. The fluorescent lights were blinding as I turned my head up for air. I couldn’t get air. Their arms pushed me down, they teeth gnashed.

I braced my legs, so many grabbing me that my weight was supported. I kicked off, breaking myself and demons behind me away from the crowd and towards the door. I fought free to stand and killed those demons on the ground with me.

Finally, they were coming at me from one direction. I spit out the rot and gripped my sword white-knuckled.

Must make progress.

I tore through the crowd, sending limbs flying.

A hellhound burst forth and knocked me down. Its mouth clamped around my sword arm, bit down hard. I brought my fist into the site of its head, imploding its skull, but it didn’t flinch. The demons closed in. The hound’s head shattered apart with another hit. I scrambled back and to my feet again, pried the still clenching jaws off my arm.

A flaming snake shot out and I cut it down in the air.

“Ash!?” I cried out. I couldn’t see him over the crowd.

The door was to my back. The Sentinel somewhere in the storm.

Can’t go back. I had to keep momentum. Can’t stop.

The terrors approached. Countless in number.

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