Sep 25, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 21

The surreality of the situation was not lost on Otrahun. Here he was, stuck in a place that had no name or meaning, carrying his own head through a dusty landscape. Hunted by demons who wanted to switch him for no other reason than that he was in this place. He wasn't even there out of his own choice.

He carried his head in the crook of his arm and walked towards the next building in the row. He had a feeling that they were all connected and if he could access the mainframe from the previous building, he might be able to patch in through any of these buildings. It was a long shot, but it was the only shot he had got.

The next building's outer wall was smooth as polished glass and there was not even a single mark or indention anywhere. He grabbed his head and touched it to the surface of the building. And nothing happened. He did not fall through, the building's doors did not open, he did not even get shocked to death.

Damnation, he whispered and punched the wall. The change was immediate. The wall suddenly became transparent. Behind the transparent pane of glass, he saw a screen just like the one he had left in the previous building. It was even on the same page of the program he was using.

Otrahun sighed. Everything was connected. He just needed some more time to make it work. So far, this building had been nothing but a big tease. His hand curled itself into a fist and punched the wall again. The glass cracked like a spiderweb. A thin trickle of blood smeared Otrahun's fingers. He sighed and punched the wall again. And again. And again.

The glass shattered under the force of his punches and he kicked away the rest to make a small opening for him to get into the building. The insides were cold like places that have been left locked up for far too long.

He walked to the computer and put his head down on the table looking at the screen. He started to type, picking up the work from where he had left.

Something shuddered in his left arm and the hand went limp. He'd been disconnected from his body for too long now. But he was close now and quitting was not an option. Not at this stage. He kept typing with just one hand, hoping against hope that the right hand would not give up on him.

A wave of nausea washed over him. Drawing the next breath became a challenge for Otrahun, while some disconnected part of his mind wondered how he was able to breathe if his head was not connected to the body. With spots swimming in his vision, he looked at the screen. Squeezed on eye and hit Enter on the keyboard.

The screen went blank and nothing else happened.

Fuck, he thought as he lost consciousness for the nth time.

It was the smell of industry standard disinfectant that woke up him. For a moment, he thought he was in a hospital. The woman's face swam into view. The smile on her face looked like as awkward as an ill-fitting wedding dress on a rotting corpse.

"My name is Lisa." she said. "We want to congratulate you on the behalf of our company for bringing to us what belonged to us."

Otrahun tried to get up. He could not. He was strapped in place with too many straps.

"Lisa, go fuck yourself with your congratulations."

Lisa smiled her corpse smile at him.

"I promise I will make it hurt as much as possible."

She took out a small scalpel from the box on the desk and put a new blade on it.

"No hard feelings, Otrahun. We can't really let you move out there with all that you know now. It just won't be right."

Otrahun said nothing.

Reaching the end, soon. 

Sep 20, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 20

The dirt felt alive under his fingers and he could feel the wetness of the mud seep in through his shirt. He was lying down on the ground and the cacophony of the world around him meant nothing to him for now.

Otrahun focused and his body on the other end of the field put a palm on the ground. Another hand in position and he forced his blood and bones to get into motion and get up. His headless body staggered like a child learning to walk for the first time. Another demon kicked his head up and he spun like a ragdoll. His focus wavered and his body stumbled a step.

This time, he closed his eyes and went deep in his own mind. There was an old memory of a rainy day somewhere in his headspace. When the rain fell like jewels on the pavement and the world was as blurred as a watercolor painting that will never go dry. Gears in his head whirred and clicked. Like a key slipping into a slot, something clicked and his body on the other end straightened up like a rod.

It took one step and then another.

It ran for him.

Toothy saw what was happening and yelled a command to his troop of demons. There was a sudden shift in the game. The addition of a new player put both teams in a new wave of motion.

They rushed him. Otrahun took a stock of the crowd of demons heading his body's way and everything slowed down in his mind. There were gaps in the mass of bodies. There were weak points in the huddle. There was a path of least resistance and he could make his body reach him if he only followed it through.

The mass of claws, teeth, and sharp appendages reached for his body. He kicked, punched, clawed, jumped, crawled, and slithered his way through the two teams. Time flexed back to its usual speed and they were all beating up one of their own.

With only a few feet between him and his body, Otrahun put a burst of speed in legs. If only he could pick up his head and get out of this place.

Then Toothy tackled him.

They rolled and tumbled in the red dirt. Toothy punched his body and he punched back with double the force. After all, he did not have to protect his head anymore. They tangled with each other like angry lovers. But there was one way Otrahun had an edge over Toothy. He was fucking angry.

As they fought, Otrahun's hands found Toothy's throat and in a flip second, the demon was in a headlock. Otrahun locked his arms and squeezed the air out of Toothy's lungs. Seconds passed and the demon started to thrash. His thrashings got weaker and then his body went limp in Otrahun's arms.

Otrahun's tired body then walked over and picked up his head. It was the first time he was looking at himself without the aid of a mirror or a camera. He looked worse than he thought himself to look. The signs of his age and the weariness of the struggle were all taking its toll on him. He was hungry but he was not sure if eating anything would help if his head was not connected to his body.

He grabbed the head like a trophy and walked over to one of the walls. There was only one way to find out if the wall will let him through. With his forehead against the wall, he said a little prayer for the first time in years.

The wall flickered and he fell outside.

The red dirt and forever sunset mode made him feel a deep sense of depression. He had two tasks on his mind now. Get his head back in place and find those fucking files.

He chose a building at random and headed towards it.

Two observers watched him walk.

Feisty little shit, isn't he?

He's got what it takes, I'd give him that.

Can he do it?

Only he can.

Would you bet on it?

Of course. I'm sure I'd win.

Sep 19, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 19

There is only one requirement for a successful beatdown.

Keep the subject conscious and in constant pain. As long as they are awake and alive, the beating is fun. But the moment they lose consciousness, they are gone beyond the control of the person delivering the punishment. They have won by losing. And no matter how much you beat them now, it's all the same to them.

Luckily for Otrahun, Toothy did not know shit about delivering a successful beatdown. The bone club swung once and almost took off Otrahun's head. He ducked and tried to move away from the crushing swing of the club, but it still clipped him on the shoulder. He felt his bones slip and slide in his shoulder socket. This was definitely going to hurt.

Toothy went to town beating up Otrahun till the man was lying flat on the floor looking less like something alive and more like a bag of beaten bones and blood. All this and Toothy was not even breathing hard.

"Get him up!" he roared to his minions and two burly demons broke away from the watching party and picked up Otrahun by his arms.

He placed the bone club's heavy end under Otrahun's chin and lifted up his head.

"Any last words, pretty boy?"

"Yeah," Otrahun managed to whisper through broken teeth. "Take this club and go fuck yourself."

The swing of the club, when it connected took Otrahun's head off his shoulders, sending the meatball rolling on the floor in darkness. His body sagged and the demons next to him wiped the geyser of blood that erupted from his neck.

Somewhere else, Otrahun woke up screaming. He tried to get up from the bed, but his arms and legs were tied to the bed. He tried to speak, but the words were drowned under a torrent of incoherent screams. With a crushing sense of horror, he realized that he could not breathe. He opened his mouth wide and tried to gulp in air, but he could not make his throat swallow. He was drowning without water. Black spots danced like flies in front of his eyes. To his right, someone was yelling. A peaceful darkness descended on him.

Otrahun opened his eyes and the world was tilted. The angle of things was all fucked up and he found he could not move his body. A clawed foot loomed into his vision and it kicked his face with a loud thwack. A cheer rose up nearby. His world tumbled and spun as he slammed into the ground again and again. Pain was somewhere far away, what hurt more were the feelings of embarrassment and rage that engulfed him.

They were playing football with his head. And somehow he was conscious through it all. He had thought Toothy was an amateur. Turns out he was a professional.

Another foot rushed towards him but this time he was ready. He opened his mouth and grabbed a mouthful of a stinking, filthy and sharp toe. Biting down as hard as he could, he locked his jaw so that it would take a crowbar to pry his mouth open. The demon whose foot he had locked on to panicked and fell to the ground, trying to kick off the head that had latched on to his foot. He was not successful. A pair of claws grabbed his face and tried to pry it off the foot. Chop off the foot, someone yelled. A finger reached its way into Otrahun's nose and pulled, but he did not let go.

Toothy came down to Otrahun's level and shrugged at him. "We've got a game going on, what the fuck are you doing?"

"I don't want to be a part of this game!" Otrahun managed to speak through the toe in his mouth.

"Then why didn't you say so! Let Chunchy's foot go and we'll find another head to play with!"

"Do I have your word?"

"Of course, the game is more important right now."

"I will bite down on another foot if you go back on your word."

"I will not go back on my word, I promise by all the powers in hell and beyond."

Gingerly, Otrahun leg go of the toe and Toothy picked him up.

"Now, here's a lesson in negotiations, pretty boy. Never give up leverage. And you didn't have any to begin with."

Toothy took a rag from somewhere on his person and rolled it up into a small ball and shoved it in Otrahun's mouth as far as it would go. The smelly cloth went down his mouth, his throat and it made him want to die. A length of tape was wrapped around his mouth for good measure.

Toothy threw his head up and kicked it towards an imaginary goal. The world spun once again and the road of demons drowned out the bellows of rage that were burning in Otrahun's head. He clenched his fist in frustration and slammed it in the ground.


Sep 11, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 18

Before there was the world, before the first Big Bang, before the creation of the universe was a dream in the creator's mind, there was the command line. A blinking cursor in the darkness of space, hanging there like the beginning or the end of everything that was and everything that will be.

And then someone pressed a key and started this endless parade of bullshit.

"Fuck me," Otrahun whispered in the darkness of the room as he typed, digging deeper into a system that he had no right to be. This type of security on a system was only talked about in the deepest reaches of the world net and even there, it was as credible as sightings of The Lochness Monster or Bigfoot. But here it was. And he was digging in with all his knowledge and all his speed at his disposal.

The system had locks on it that were designed to be complicated. It was like playing a game where the rules changed with every move that caused the game itself to change. To Otrahun, it felt the same way an addict would feel on finding a neverending stash of his favorite drug. Was that why the woman had picked him up? Because she knew he was could crack this thing and find the needle in this haystack? Engrossed deep in the mental arithmetic with the machine, he did not notice the room around him get brighter. A white light leaked out from the ceiling and it was so gradual that Otrahun did not even take his fingers away from the keyboard when the room brightened up completely.

He was close. So close. Just a few seconds more and he would have the thread in his hand with which he would unravel this system and then on the other end of the revelation, the files that the old man wanted. He could be out of there in just a few keystrokes.

And then the screen went blank. The sound of clapping hands started behind him. It rose like a wave and so did the anger in Otrahun's mind. It felt like the steam of rage that was building up in him was going to blow his skull off like a bullet from a gun. He touched his head with his fist and turned around, ready to fuck up whoever was standing behind him.

It was the gang from McDonald's and they were all clapping.

Rage wooshed out of Otrahun like air from a balloon and he felt himself deflate physically as well. His legs could not hold his weight anymore. He was weak, tired and starving. For one moment, he thought he might be able to ride out the wave of nausea but then he collapsed where he stood. A deep sleep took him under and with closing eyelids, he saw the toothy demon walk towards him. He was holding a club made of bone and it dragged behind him as he walked towards Otrahun.

"Fuck me," he thought and promptly lost his hold on consciousness.

He opened his eyes in the white room to look at the pissed off face of the woman.

She held her thumb and index finger a hair's breadth apart and pushed her hand in Otrahun's face.

"This close," she said. "You were this close, you dumb fuck. I'll send you back one more time and if you fail, forget about getting out of there. I will leave you there to rot and dice up your body piece by piece here."

She pressed a button on the datapad tied to her wrist and Otrahun felt himself going under once again. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but she was gone.

Toothy demon's face appeared in his line of sight. The demon smiled and it sent a barb of fear spiking down his spine.

Toothy slapped the heavy club with his palm.

"I am going to take my time with you, outsider. And only one of us is going to enjoy it."

Sep 5, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 17

The burger tasted like dirt in his mouth. The meat was hard, chewy and had an aftertaste of copper in it.

But Otrahun was so hungry that he wolfed it down like it was ambrosia drenched in ichor. He crunched up the wrapper in his fist and put it in his pocket. Best not to leave anything that the McDonalds demon party could track him by. They were all here somewhere and the sooner he found some way to get inside these buildings, the safer he would be. Or so he hoped.

The buildings were placed randomly with no sense of design or cohesion. The surface of each structure was scrawled with moving glyphs that changed as soon as you looked at them. He touched the wall of the building he was hiding against, and the surface moved under his fingers, the black lines of the glyphs scattering away like scared fish and the glyphs rearranged themselves in a new form as soon as he took away his hand.

There was no way of knowing if there would be an entrance into the building because it merely looked like a square with strange markings left in a field of similar squares.

"I am so fucked." He put his head against the wall and kept it there, pressed against the cold surface. A sudden realization made him open his eyes. The glyphs had not scattered away when he touched them with his head. They were still there, slowly undulating in their spots. With a finger raised, he tried to touch one of the glyphs and the ink washed onto his hand like a fearless bird looking for a breadcrumb. The glyph moved onto his hand and disappeared inside the cuff of his shirt.

Other glyphs jumped from the wall on to his hands and squirreled onto his skin like a suit made of mad spiders. The sensation, though strange was not entirely uncomfortable. He still had his head touching the wall, afraid to take it away in case the glyphs ran back to the wall. They were all over him now, his hand a black glove as the markings slithered up his neck and on his face.

"I am so fucked," he muttered as the wall in front of him fell away and he stumbled head-first into absolute darkness. And with the darkness came the pin drop silence. Even the sound of his own heartbeat felt muted and distant to him. No sound came to him when he stomped his foot down on the ground and neither did the sound reach his ears when he opened his mouth and screamed.

Then, a sliver of light lit up the darkness. It was just a pinpoint, but it was right in front of him.

The light blinked once. Twice. And kept on blinking.

Otrahun moved towards the light.

The edge of something bumped into his waist and the light was just a few feet away from his face. He placed his hand on the edge and felt the edge transform into a surface.

He squinted his eyes and looked closer at the blinking light.

It was a cursor.

"Hello?" he said and the screen came alive with a blinding glare.

The screen was placed on a table in front of him and the edge of the table was what had hit his waist. The darkness around him rushed in to eat the light from the screen, but the brightness kept the dark at bay. He looked around and he could see almost nothing. There were shapes and figures in the darkness, but that was probably his eyes playing tricks on him.

He moved his hand under the monitor and felt the familiar shape of a keyboard.

Now this, this he could handle. All the weirdness aside, this was still something he knew and was good at.

Otrahun put his fingers on the home row and started to type into the command line.

Sep 2, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 16

Oak had taken off his large horns, but even without them he easily stood at seven feet tall and his wide stature didn't make him look any less intimidating.

"Why did you run, Mr. Yaway?" Oak asked, "why did you?"

"Look, look, Oak," he said, stepping back to put some distance between him and the big monster, "I can explain."

"The concert was important for me and for all those who were attending. They all had given something to make the night a success and all because you were not willing, we had to break it all up. We were all together in that moment," he raised one accusing drumstick at Otrahun, "and you fucked it all up."

"You were going to skin me alive! What the fuck was I supposed to do?"

"Aaaaargh," Oak looked up at the burning orange sky and rolled his head in frustration, "it was a symbolic gesture. A dead flake of your dandruff would have done, too! No one would have skinned you! What do you think we lot are?"

Otrahun shrugged, "there was no way for me to know. All I felt was that your audience was going to skin me alive and use my skin as cover for your next drum solo."

"Well, now you know. And you are coming to the next performance. I will hear no arguments."

"Man, Oak, I don't know." He sat down cross-legged on the uneven ground. "I got stuck in with some bad people and now they want me to get something from this place. I can't leave till I get them what they need."

"You realize this place is not what you thought it to be,"

"I did, just some time back. I thought I was in hell, dead and paying for my sins. This place doesn't look like any hell that I know about."

"You will figure it out, sooner or later. We all did, too. I'd tell you, but I'd rather you found it on your own." Oak stared into the distance as a flare rose up from the dusty hills up ahead and exploded high in the sky. He turned to Otrahun. "I have to go from here. But I wish you luck, Mr. Yaway."

"Wait, I just need to know one thing. Is it safe to check those buildings out?"

Oak smiled and incisors the size of chopsticks erupted from his lips. "I am sure you will find out in a bit. Goodbye."

He raised his hand in a gesture of salutation and vanished with a gust of wind.

Otrahun looked at the shifting buildings. His stomach grumbled and he realized he was still hungry. The hunger was replaced by a fear of something unknown as if something was watching him. He closed his eyes and thought for a moment.

It was not mere chance that he had ended up where he had. Something or someone had been guiding him towards these buildings. The files that could be the key to his freedom were somewhere in there. He knew it as well as he knew the fear of something unknown swirling in his stomach.

He made his mind up. He was going to at least investigate these buildings.

Another flare rose up in the sky like a small rocket and exploded at the zenith of its trajectory. It spread plumes of blue and pink in the sky and the smoke stood out against the hellish orange sky.

He got up and started to walk towards the buildings. Something small and wrapped in paper caught his attention. As he bent down to pick it up, something swooshed past his head. He picked up the wrapped McDonald burger and another arrow struck the ground just where his hand was a moment ago.

Otrahun did not look back. He zigged and zagged as he ran towards the buildings and arrows peppered the ground around him.

Finally, in the protective shade of one of the buildings, he dared to look at who was shooting at him. The small group of demons from his first encounter in the McDonalds was here. He unwrapped the burger and chomped down on it.

If he was going to die here, he was not going to die on an empty stomach.