Before the Dark: Part 1, a The Forever Night tie-in
~in which we meet Rot, and a speck, with many more names than simply ‘speck’~
Somewhere in the Seat of South…
They swirled around his head nice and slow in strips of pink spaghetti and feathers of cotton candy, in sky formations of his highest fancies and favorite delicacies. Rot reached an arm, striped with veins of crags and fissures, up to supper, his crusty and barnacled hands plucking at the rare cirrus and cumulus, cramming them into the chiseled space that made a mouth. It was the only way the giant of South enjoyed his clouds.
“Just as I last saw you. The glutton you always are.” It was a voice of ice, and it forged itself from a tongue of dripping fire. The words were followed by an over-sweet aroma that danced and somersaulted to Rot’s nose, tickling it in all the wrong ways.
The giant looked down at a tiny speck at the base of his foothill feet and hedged toes, pricked with moss and spruce. It wore what the Shepherd of South understood to be blue jeans and a black cotton t-shirt, though it would’ve been difficult for him to say he remembered seeing such attire before. Its hair was stripping away from its head in a crown of silver horns, and its skin was bubbling and peeling and sculpting itself again, not quite obtaining the form it desired–a form called ‘man.’ Rot knew him, and would always know him, and knew only one thing for certain.
“Yew,” the giant spoke in a slow and ancient drawl, and there was a certain sort of heavy finality found in his words, “shud nawt bee hurrr.”
“And yet here is precisely where I am.”
“Furrst Wawnnn.” The giant said nothing else immediately after that; it was an ending to his previous declaration, rather than the beginning of a new one.
“Oh, I do apologize. Did I interrupt you? You speak so slowly it is rather difficult to predict where one sentence ends and another begins,” the overripe speck of not-man said.
“Beeest. Fawl’n. Murn’n Stawrrr. Lewss’a’furrr. Ad—”
“Yes, yes. And Lord of Lies, Prince of Darkness, Him, It. I have many names. That has been established.”
“Yes, I have been there before as well. Good for you, Rot. You know your histories well.”
“No.” Even one syllable, for the giant Rot, was said slow and true. “Yewv binn ‘urr b’furrr.”
“Oh yes. So the many voices in here,” the many-named speck pointed to his temple, “have told me. You know, old Rot. They all have so many stories to tell it can get confusing sometimes. Why, I went through all this trouble to fall to Earth again. Started a war with Truth and everything so I could break my tether from the King-Father—I suppose ‘Truthbreaker’ should be added to my list of names as well now, shouldn’t it?
“Then, you know, I needed a means for acquiring a body—a real honest-to-goodness human one, not the dry husk of a one I had before—so I went a’knocking to the Widow and her grim husband, and then finally I’m back on Earth—well, in an airplane above Earth—and I have a body and I fooled around with this sweet little southern thing—you like the southern things, don’t you Rot—who had the misfortune to think she could trust me—don’t worry, Rot, I killed her good.
“But anyways, there I am, back on Earth, and I get so close to The Lying City, so close to reuniting with him again, only now I can’t enter. I physically couldn’t go through it! It was like there was this incredibly big invisible wall. And then it dawned on me.” The speck made a gesture of smacking his palm to his forehead. “I had forgotten the Four Seals! Of course. Silly me! That clever, clever father of ours had made it so I couldn’t get into the city, but I knew that, once, at some point in time or another. You know, so many voices and stories in here it’s hard to keep track of when I’ve done what, and when I’ll do what, and when I won’t do what. But anyways, old Rot, you know what I had to do next.”
“Of course I had to do it Rot. I had to pay your sister and brothers a visit. You understand, right? So first I went to your eldest brother Rime. He’s doing well I might add—or, I suppose, he was, rather. Anyways, I had to stomach my way through his silly songs and poems with truly terrible end rhymes, but killing him was easy enough. Who knew slaying giants could be so fun?”
“Oh, but old Rot, I am talking now. Let me finish, please. So then it was your dear sister in East—a fat little thing she is, how she runs all stone-like for miles and miles! It was a good thing I remembered her special rune-thingies because I nearly forgot that Mime doesn’t talk with words! Well, you don’t need me to tell you what happened next, do you?”
Gravel shook and shivered until it was a rock-slide. “M’may.” A massive drop of salty water found itself splashing to the rain forest floor as the mountainous shepherd said his sister’s name. The speck moved out of its way so as not to get wet. The tear drop left behind a modest lake.
“Next it was your little brother in West–don’t know why you call him little. He is so very, very large. Anyways, finding his heart was rather easy—it is the size and shape of Texas, after all. And now—well—now, here I am talking to you.”
“Nooo.” A mouth carved of splintered teeth thundered to the ground and met the not-man’s face.
“Oh why yes, Rot, very much yes.” The speck’s eyes, a dying blue, dared their own focus on the vast caverns of fireflies that were Rot’s own eyes.
“Rawt w’ll nawt dyyy. Ni’vurr ‘app’ind b’furrr.”
“Oh Rot, of course it hasn’t. Don’t you see? That’s the point of it all!”
An earthquake tremors its way through South, echoing the sound of entire mountain ranges cracking like chicken eggs.
A loose-and-dead-fleshed man tiptoes around the rubble, which now looks more like plain geography in its abstract than it did the pieces of a slain giant.
The not-man of many names–names that include the like of ‘The First One,’ and now, ‘Truthbreaker’–blinks and finds himself no longer in the Seat of South, though he is in South America, in the Andes, and it really doesn’t look all that different from the late-Rot’s home.
The Truthbreaker blinks again.
He now finds himself in front of a bar, just within the city limits of a place he calls ‘The Lying City.’ Its people have a different name for it. They call it Rail City.
The bar’s neon ‘OPEN’ sign squeezes out its last bits of power, flickering right next to a larger half-illuminated sign. Some of its letters have already lost their light. It reads ‘M_LT_N’s.”
He chuckles softly at the inside joke, and approaches the bar’s entrance. Its door hangs limply off its hinges as he steps through its threshold, now only seconds from reclaiming his final name.
To be continued, NEXT Friday…