Aug 31, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 15

It did not take much to get Otrahun running from the venue of the demonic concert. The horde of revelers was not wearing masks but brandishing their own fucked up faces that were without any skin or flesh. A jawbone went flying by his head, thrown by an overenthusiastic ghoul. He knew if they managed to hit him, they'd take him back and skin him alive for Oak's drums.

And what the fuck was that about? Oak seemed like a top dude back in the McDonalds, which seemed like an eternity ago. He stumbled on something that was protruding from the ground and for a second he thought he was going to fall and get trampled by the small army of demons that were chasing him. But then the woman grabbed his arm and hauled him up.

"Second time!" she raised two fingers in his face, "second time that I am saving your sorry ass."

If he had breath and a quick retort, he'd have answered her, but he had neither so he tried to keep up with her. The landscape in front of them was dotted with crests and troughs of hills and small valleys, there were incomprehensible geometric structures in the distance and the sky was the color of frozen blood.

"Is this really hell?" he managed to mumble as they ran, "this looks so different from all the versions of hell I have read about."

"Hell is only a state of mind," she replied, "focus on the problem at hand."

"What happens if they catch us?"

"Exactly what you have imagined."

"Shit," he said as she pointed towards a building and he ran after her.

He did not have much time to examine the building, but it shifted in shape and size as soon as he fixed his eyes on it. There were edges to the building that seemed to melt into each other as they vibrated right in front of his eyes. He thought he was losing his mind, but then again, anything was possible in this place. And what the hell was this place, surely not hell.

They both set their backs against the cool wall of the building to catch their breath.

"Look, you have to tell me something about whatever is going on here. I saw you back in the white room when you injected me with something. What was that about? Whatever it is, I want out of it. I want to go back to my boring life."

The woman grinned at him. "Really? Aren't you curious about this place or about what happens next?"

"Fuck curiosity if it gets me killed. How do I get out?"

"You don't till you find us what we are looking for in here."

"I just got chased by skull faced demons who were going to skin me alive, do I look like I give a fuck about whatever it is that you are looking for?"

"There is no one else who will get you out of this place. You are stuck, for better or worse. We need those files and they are here somewhere. Find them and I will come and find you."

"The sin records that your old coot of a boss talked about? Shit, this is a wasteland, lady. There are no files here. Files are supposed to be in computers, do you see any computers here?!"

She moved closer to Otrahun and took his face in her hands. "They are here. I know it, and you know it too. Find them and we are square. You will save the world from the coming apocalypse and we'll load you with so much cash that you will never need to work another day in your life."

He looked at her. It was the first time he noticed that her eyes were a deep aquamarine color that seemed to shift and change the more he looked at her.

"I will do it on one condition," he said, "I need to know your name."

"I'll do you one better. Call me whatever you like, once you have the files."

Otrahun looked around him. The geometrically shifting buildings were still there. Their colors leeching out into the sky and each of the buildings seemed to vibrate with an alien energy.

"I guess I can start looking in one of those buildings."

He turned around and the woman was gone.

And in her place stook Oak with a pair of drumsticks in his hands.

"Why did you run, Mr. Yaway?"

Aug 26, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 14

There are so many things that one can say about darkness, but to say that it was comforting after a  series of uncomfortable events, would be just about right. Otrahun felt at ease as the lights slowly went down. The darkness slithered over like a prehistoric creature that has finally found its resting place.

The voice on the microphone continued in an almost whispering and conspirational tone.

"Tonight, we have with us, the prince of percussion, the Badshah of beat, the sultan of skins and he is here to perform just for all you lovely dead tonight."

The crowd hissed back in response. "So, without further ado, let me present to you, our drum striker of tonight, the gentle-demon Ooooooooooak."

Huh, Otrahun thought. I know someone in here finally and so what if he is on the stage.

The crowd's voice rose like a wave of jubilation and even Otrahun threw up his arms and yelled along in his incomprehensible imitation of the words that the revelers were yelling.

A single spotlight lit up the drums and like a magic trick, Oak was sitting there. His headgear had changed to display massive horns that made him look even larger than he was. The sticks looked like toothpicks in his massive hands and Otrahun realized that the drum-kit was scaled up in size, but it was still not enough to meet the massive size that Oak presented.

The magic started when he began playing the drums. The beat rose up like a trampling horde crushing civilizations under clawed feet. It was angry and gentle at the same time. It crested and flowed through the crowd and they all moved with the drums, swaying like marionettes strung by crazy strings. As the tempo of the beat increased, Otrahun found that he was swaying with the crowd too. The beat of the drums got crazier and complex. He could feel his blood throbbing with every hit of the stick on the drums and his heart felt like it was going to explode through his chest.

He opened his mouth but no words came out. He tried to suck in a breath, but all he did was gape wordlessly at the stage. He could not breathe, but there was no panic in his head. Death was only another possibility that he would have to handle to listen to the sweet music again and again. He'd stand here with his dead brethren and listen to Oak play night after night till the world ended.

A hand landed on his collar and he was violently jerked out of his reverie. Someone grabbed him as he fell on the ground and put a pair of headphones on his head. Silence flooded into his ears and he had to shake his head to clear the cobwebs of the tune that were lingering there like uninvited guests.

What the fuck, he thought. All he knew that he was extremely thirsty and he wanted, no, he needed to listen to that music again. The lady's face swam into view and she slapped him hard on the face.

"I didn't want to do this, but you left me no choice." She was also wearing a pair of headphones and her voice was clear in his ears. "We need to get out of here. Can you walk?"

Otrahun just nodded. He could no longer hear the beat of the drums, but he could still feel it reverberate through his ribcage. The sudden stop of that vibration made him look behind him.

It was not the first mistake he made, it'd not be the last.

Oak was standing on his chair and his hand with a stick in it was pointed right at Otrahun. As one, the eyes of the crowd found him, too. The empty sockets and the leering, broken grins turned to face Otrahun.

Otrahun saw Oak's lips move and he said four words that froze his blood.

"I need new skins."

The crowd surged towards Otrahun and the lady as a single creature devoid of any thought but the one demand by its master.

"I hope you are as good a runner as you say, Mr. Yaway."

Aug 23, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 13

The sensation of falling returned and for a moment, Otrahun thought he had fallen from the platform in his sleep. He was back in hell, or wherever the fuck it was.

There was nowhere to go from here. The platform made him feel like a man stuck in the vast emptiness of space. The lights from the platform didn't breach the darkness for too far. If he closed his eyes, he could still hear the crackle of electricity somewhere in the distance.

Then he heard a shrill whine that kept getting clearer and clearer with every passing second.

Something was coming his way. Something big. And fast.

He stepped to the edge of the platform and looked at its sides. A mistake as the oncoming train nearly took off his head. At the last moment, he flinched back and the wooshing of the train made him stagger back a step or three.

The train slowed down and it seemed to simply float in the air in the absence of any tracks. He could see inside the compartments, lit by an orange light, the train carried with it a smell of burning hair and rotten eggs. The doors of the train opened like the maw of a filthy animal and the smell was even stronger now.

"No way back, no way to get off this platform, except this train. Oh, what the hell, what's the worst that could happen?"

Otrahun took a deep breath and stepped onto the train. The door closed at once and the train started to move. He held his breath for as long as he could, but then spots started to appear in front of his eyes and he had to take a breath of the fetid air. Surprisingly, the air did not smell too bad now that he was inside the train.

There were no seats or handholds inside the train. Only small protrusions from the walls that were a sort of handhold, if one stretched his imagination. Outside the glass windows, it was all darkness. Once or twice, lights flashed outside and Otrahun fancied he could see a sort of landscape. But it was gone in a flash.

With no idea where the train was going, he sat down and put his back against the wall of the compartment. In his mind, he ran through all that had happened so far.

Strange girl. Stranger offer. Threatening. Something about saving the world. The talk of dying and then this. He tried to connect the dots, but it did not make too much sense. As if the writer of the story his life had no idea what to do with him. He needed to take control of the situation or he'd be stumbling around in this hellscape for god knew however long.

The train was finally slowing down. He stood up and went near the door to see whatever was visible outside. The lights were different here. Strobing and pulsing lasers dotted the landscape, faint hard techno bass thrummed through the compartment and the glass shook from the sound. The doors opened and the noise was like a punch in the gut. He could see a stage in the distance but there was no band on the stage, only a drum-set.

"This looks like fun," he murmured and stepped out of the train's compartment.

He walked towards the crowd that had gathered in the ground near the stage. Everyone in the crowd was wearing masks. Most of them were some variation of a skull with bits and pieces missing. He was surprised at how real the masks looked. They were all wearing tattered clothes that looked more like rags and less like clothes. He chose a comfortable space and tapped his foot to the beat of the rhythm that was playing from the speakers placed all around the ground.

The lights were dimmed just then and the harsh techno music slowly petered away.

The lady's voice in his ear sounded like she was standing just next to him. It was so sudden that he almost spun around. But there was no one there.

"Get the fuck out of there. Get out before the music starts again."

"Yeah? Fuck you," he said. "When I asked for help you were silent and now that I want to watch this, you want me to move? Fuck that. I'll listen to the music for as long as I want."

"Move from there or you will not be able to."

"Like I give a fuck. I am staying put."

The voice on the other end went silent.

A slow roar rose in the throats of the gathered masses as a spotlight lit up the drum-set. The feedback whine of the microphone made him wince.

A voice heavy as Sisyphus' boulder rumbled, "Ladies and gentleghouls!"

Aug 22, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 12

Oak looked down at Otrahun who had a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.

"Well," Oak said, a bit surprised, "I don't remember that being there."

"But it is, and I am going to use it." Otrahun bent down to fiddle with the handle, he turned and looked at Oak. "Do me a favor and tell that googly-eyed freak to get fucked with a baseball bat."

Oak shrugged.

Otrahun pulled at the handle of the door that had appeared under the counter and stepped onto the staircase that was visible there. He stepped deeper as lights hidden in the walls lit up automatically. He shut the door behind him as something heavy thumped into it. There was a lock and as he tried to close the lock, the door vanished right in front of his eyes.

"Great. Nowhere else to go but down."

Somewhere behind him, he could hear the frustrated screams of what he guessed was the demon with protruding eyes and a face that even a mother would not love.

"Hey, lady. Any clues where to go from here?" He was hoping for a response, but all he heard was the silence of a large empty place and a crackling sound of electricity somewhere far away. He kept going down the stairs and got a rough idea about the place that he was in. The stairs were right next to a wall that was curved. He guessed he was in some kind of cylindrical building, maybe a tower of some kind and now as he went down, he knew it had to end somewhere. He did not know what he was going to find, but he knew it could not be worse than the gang of demons he had left behind him.

The stairs finally ended at a small platform and as he walked onto it, the soft blue-white lights lit up the periphery of the platform. He dared to look over the edge and realized that the place was bigger still. There was a lot of darkness below him and simply looking there gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach that made him want to jump from there. He stepped back and took a stock of his surroundings.

"Hello? Anyone?" he yelled into the void and the only answer he got was the echo of his own voice. He was tired of all the climbing down and his legs were burning up with fatigue. He sat down and put his back against the last step that he had climbed down from. He had not realized how tired he was. All the aches and pains in his muscles started to make themselves known. The lack of food made his stomach grumble and he was thirsty again. No chance of finding a McDonalds in this dump so far below.

"Should have picked a burger when I had the chance."

His eyes closed and sleep slowly took over him. He dreamed he was flying again, but this time, his feet were tied with a thread that burned with a golden-green light. He tried to fly up but he was stuck. Reaching out to his feet, he tried to untangle the rope, but it started to tie itself around his hands, too. He gave up untying the rope and stopped trying to fly.

Otrahun fell again and his leg jerked in his sleep.

The shock made him open his eyes and he was in the white room again with the woman looking at him with a bewildered expression on her face.

"How the fuck did you get back?"

And she jabbed a needle right in his neck.

"Go back to sleep, silly man."

Aug 20, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 11

If there is one thing you can rely on in life, it's the taste of a McDonald's burger. The same, everywhere. Across time and space.

The building in front of Otrahun stood out in the hellish landscape like a corpse at a wedding. The cheery facade of the building, colored red and yellow called out to the junk food addict in Otrahun. Right now, he'd give his left arm to eat and drink something that would sate his thirst and hunger. He was beyond questioning the impossibility of the things that he was seeing as he pushed the glass door opened and suddenly the whole atmosphere around him changed.

Cold air-conditioning pleasantly assaulted his person and for one moment, he believed in whatever gods existed. The tables were sparsely populated by humanoid shapes, but his attention was only towards the counter behind which a soda machine was drenched in condensation from the ice in the bowels of that machine.

He climbed up the counter and attached his mouth under the soda machine's nozzle like a hungry baby on a teat and pressed the lever that would release sweet, carbonated fizz in his mouth. For the next few seconds, he forgot that he was in hell. The cool carbonated liquid felt like gold in his mouth and he gulped it down till he choked and had to pull himself away from the machine to take a breath. One breath later, he was back to chugging it all in. He coughed and choked as his body took in the sudden onslaught of cold after trekking in the heat for so long.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder and handed him some paper napkins. Otrahun wiped his face as best as he could and turned around to thank the guy. The "guy" who had handed him the paper napkins was eight feet tall and built like a small house. Muscles bulged over his muscles and there were parts of his body that branched out as if to escape from the gravitational pull of the thing's core.

"Are you alright, Mr. Yaway?" he asked in a voice that was too gentle for someone so big.

Otrahun could only nod his assent. He had to crane his neck up to look at the guy's face and he had a sinking feeling that the guy hunching down to try and be at Otrahun's level.

"Very well," he said. "My name is Oak and I run this establishment. I believe the drink that you just partook was satisfying."

Otrahun nodded again. "How do you know my name?" he managed to blurt out.

Oak simply smiled displaying serrated rows of teeth that were too sharp for Oak to be a vegetarian.

"Everyone knows your name here, Mr. Yaway. You are the first one to be here without going through the usual paths of reaching here. I believe you are somewhat of a celebrity here."

"That's good, then. I guess."

"Ah," Oak sighed. He looked at Otrahun and smiled the smile that parents give to children who have not seen the brutal realities of life yet.

"Actually, not a good thing. There is already a line of people ready to kill you here. Just to take the honor."

"But I was sent here against my will!" he protested.

"Do you think the denizens of this place give a fuck how you reached here? You are a prize right now and those who want to kill something that should not exist, those people listen to no reasons."

"Send me back, then!"

"No can do, Mr. Yaway. But I can give you a tip."

"I am all ears."

"Don't eat the fries here. They're always too salty."

The door to the restaurant shattered just then. A wave of heat rushed in and with that, a group of demonic creatures walked in.

A stick thin demon with bulging eyes and arms that reached to the ground walked in front of the group.

"We heard there is new meat on the menu. Undead meat. We are here for a taste. Where is it?"

Otrahun tried hiding behind Oak but all eyes were on the big demon who simply moved to the side exposing Otrahun to the angry group of demons.

"H-hello," Otrahun said to no one in general.

"Are you ready to die, meat?"

"Not at all, sir. Is there any way we can avoid that?"

The demon grinned and two of its teeth spiked through its upper lip. It moved its hand and two of the smaller demons moved in Otrahun's direction.

"I am so fucked," he said to himself.

"Not if you listen and do exactly as I say," the woman's voice was clear as day in his ear and he almost jumped back in surprise.

"Shit, you were listening in all this time?"

"I can get you out of this jam."

"I am still not over you shooting at me."

"Focus, Mr. Yaway. There is something under the counter, it might help."

Otrahun bent down and looked under the counter. His eyes widened in surprise and a grin slowly materialized on his face.

Aug 17, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 10

Otrahun fell.

The wind beneath his wings was gone and he could see a sullen and desolate landscape come up to meet him through the smoke and the fires that burned below. He kept thinking maybe a parachute will open up and arrest his fall but nothing did. He slammed into the ground like a bag of blood and bones. The shock drove him to stillness and then the pain rushed into the vacuum of his missing soul.

He tried to scream but no sound came out of his mouth. He tried to claw at his throat with broken fingers but there was no power in his feeble attempts to get his voice back. As soon as the pain had started, it vanished too. The pain was soon replaced by a feeling of itching inside his body.

His broken fingers set themselves like the hands of some invisible doctor were pulling them in the right position. His lungs inflated, sucking in the fetid air of the hellscape and his teeth mended themselves as he coughed and retched, trying to make sense of where he was and what he was doing there.

It was his luck that he had landed on an outcrop of a mountain instead of the boiling pool of lava that burned below him. He had to shade his eyes because of the heat and the rising flames from the pool.

The vista around him bubbled and throbbed with some ancient pain and the sky above was the color of an infected wound. He tried to place the stench in the air that was somewhere between days old rotten sewage, eggs, and meat has gone bad. A spell of retching came over him once more and he sat there on the rough ground trying to gather his wits about him as his body's internals slowly knit together to make him whole again.

How long he sat there, he did not know but after a considerable time had passed, he got up and decided to explore the region. Thirst was clawing up his throat like a dead body trying to climb out of an open grave. His stomach felt acidic and made sounds that were vaguely threatening. He needed to eat and drink something.

There was only one direction to go, away from the pool of lava. He walked as thirst and hunger continued to fight inside him. He climbed on a hill and saw movement in the corner of his eye.

It was a crude signpost moving on its own even when there was no wind blowing. On the board, a familiar logo of twin golden arches and an arrow sign were painted.

"Well, I'll be damned," he said and started to walk in the direction of the arrow.

Aug 2, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 9

Otrahun turned to his left and pressed his forehead into the barrel of the gun.

"Look, lady. Just shoot me. I played along with your bullshit till now because I was drunk and you looked hot. But, now. This old dude is just hopped up on his medication and the shit he's talking doesn't make sense."

He spread his arms wide at his side and leaned into the gun.

"Be a babe and pull the trigger."

"Sir?" The woman looked at the old man and he nodded at her.

From the corner of his eye, Otrahun saw the old man nod. He felt the gun's barrel push into his forehead as the woman brought her other hand up to stabilize the gun. He saw her finger slowly squeeze the trigger. Felt the hammer striker the primer of the bullet, the vibrations reaching till the back of his teeth. Some ancient survival instinct made him pull his head away at the last moment. The bullet exiting the barrel of the gun was the loudest sound he had ever heard. And then he could hear no more because a toneless sound replaced everything he could hear. He touched his left ear and felt only blood and a mess of flesh and cartilage.

"Bitch! You actually shot me!" The disbelief poured out of him in an outraged aggression. "Fuck, you shot me!"

She reholstered the gun and bent down to pick him up by his collar. He was still too shocked to resist her effort to pull him up. She half carried half dragged him to the wall on the right side of the room and pressed a panel in the wall. Sections of the wall slid out and started to rearrange on their own in shapes and figures that looked eerily familiar to Otrahun.

The woman strapped Otrahun in the chair and put a white helmet on his head. He saw her flicking and swiping on her handheld module again. There was a satisfied look on her face as she tapped the screen with her index finger. The tap felt to Otrahun like the falling of the executioner's blade.

A feeling of multiple needles pricking the base of his neck and then he was drifting. Time passed and he dreamed of mountains, trees, and flowing water. There were sounds of birds and slow chants somewhere in the hills. A feeling of wellness flooded his senses and he felt more alive than he had in years. His constant headache and the building hangover was gone. He could see more clearly and feel the cold mountain air in his lungs. He was flying. Somewhere above the trees and rivers and mountains.

He felt a presence glide close to him and the woman's voice in his fucked up ear was as comfortable as getting your fingernails ripped.

"Get ready, loverboy," she said and before he could ask what the fuck she meant, he was falling.

The heat and chaos rose up to meet him like an angry ex's embrace. 

Aug 1, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 8

"With all due respect, sir. What the fuck?"

"I told you what the fuck is, Mr. Yaway. You will need to die if you want to save the world."

"And why precisely would I want to do that since I won't be able to make use of the money that you people will supposedly pay me if I manage to 'save the world' as you say."

The old man on the screen smiled and Otrahun felt a twisted bard of worry in the pit of his stomach.

"I speak casually of death because it's not the kind of death that you know or understand. You will die, of course, but it is in our power to bring you back or even rebuild you from the basic building blocks of your DNA."

"Are you talking about cloning me? Don't you know that cloning is illegal and the technology has not been perfected by anyone for that sole reason?"

"Mr. Yaway, we are beyond the realms of legal and illegal here. The companies that I head work in various fields of bio-technology, human genome mapping, and cloning. There are various other branches of this business that I can no longer supervise, but I know that we are far ahead of anything that the government can think or imagine for the technologies that we have developed."

"I can still say no and walk out of here. I really would like the money in any other way that doesn't involve my death."

"Hmm, for a smart man, you are quite stupid. You were chosen and brought here for a reason and if you think that you can just leave without any repercussions, then you are more delusional than we have projected you to be."

There was a slide and a click somewhere to Otrahun's left and then the cold metal of a gun touched his temple.

"My colleague here would not hesitate in blowing away your face, but maybe she will just shoot you in leg or start cutting your fingers till you decide to co-operate. We have other ways of making you help us, but we'd prefer if you worked with us voluntarily. The process goes easier that way."

"Do you really expect me to stay calm and work with you when you are asking me to die?"

"We will bring you back. It's not the first time we have done this."

"Bring me back from where?"

"From Hell. That's where we want you to go."