Oh things did slither horridly, throughout the warp and weft,
From mind to word to word to mind, ‘till there was nothing left,
A burning scourge, screaming defiance, lies within a dream,
The Wyrm does twist and writhe and write and ever does it scream,
It boils with rage,
Rattles the cage,
Confounded by a Blackest hunger never seen this age.
Her mind, it burns through twists and turns, trapped in here with the beast,
A terrifying Wyrm dragged here and waiting for the feast,
From depths of thought unfath’mable, she draws a hidden strength,
And does hold on, clings to the edge, through terrifying lengths,
The darkness roars,
Its open jaws,
Gnash deep beneath the girl and Wyrm, and then it bares its claws.
A hungry thing of darkened skies does dwell beneath the mind,
Ancient beyond all measure and abandoned by its kind,
Torn beyond shreds by ashen light and burned in star’s embrace,
This shattered beast slumbers and dies, and dreams of home in space,
The endless dark,
Fitful stars spark,
A fragment of a mind observes the girl who bears its mark.
There once was a toad from a strange time,
Who really had a rather strange mind,
His name, it was Aidra,
And he’s pleased to meet ya,
Despite that really quite bad rhyme.
“Aidra! Enough poetry! Where is she?”
“You know-” he wheezed, “it’s a terrible idea to- hah – read the mind of a Wyrm to start with, and-”
“Not the time!”
Red’s eyes were leaving trails of darkness behind them as he whipped his head from side to side, frantically searching.
“Pretty sure the whole thingie will be heading in your direction – you’re a pretty notable presence, after all.”
“Why’d a Bookwyrm come after me?”
“Not just a Bookwyrm, mate! There’s Alice and the something else. Any idea what an amalgamate creature would do?”
A single body, form and soul.
Three separate directives.
The mindscape, such as it was, was a battleground. Above/below, the stars roared with terrifying radiance, screaming their defiance into a toothy maw that covered all horizons.
It was a testament to how far beyond her they were that their titanic struggle left her basically untouched. But, struggle as the Wyrm might, it was a losing battle. The Bookwyrm – its name came unannounced to Alice’s memory – stepped into the hungry sucking quicksand of this darkness, and every struggle it made merely led to chunks of its brilliantly glowing form flaking off and into the darkness.
The shattering landscape from her dreams started to buckle beneath her, and she saw thin, red veins through the cracks holding the rock together. As she watched, they grew and multiplied, starting to slowly wrench the cracks closed, glittering in the refracted light of the roaring cosmos.
She looked ‘up’, and saw it. A thin tendril of the same red material, stretching off and into infinity, up and past the darkness, light and chaos. And there, at the very pinnacle of the sky, she saw a single point of gleaming red light, a singular cold star amidst the boiling heat of fury that surrounded her. Arm over arm, she crawled up the diminishing stones of her world as they hung by a thread above the abyss, until she reached it and grabbed it, holding on for all she was worth. Thin tendrils of the material grasped her hands and forearms, and the rest of it disconnected, allowing her platform to tumble down into the terrible chewing darkness and leaving her dangling above it.
A voice she recognised whispered in her mind. “Safety,” said Hatred in Crimson, as a crystalline cocoon wove itself around her, shutting out the noise of pitched battle.
The thing that slid through the inner wall of the Tower looked like Alice, inasmuch as it had two arms, two legs, and a couple of identifiable facial features, but the way she hung in midair, emitting plumes of brackish smoke that formed the shapes of teeth and eyes around her, wasn’t really her normal style.
The thing wearing Alice’s face opened its mouth a bit too wide and screamed again.
“You know, Red, this seems like a you problem, so I’m just going to go stand over h-urk!” Aidra was cut off as he was seized bodily by a force and flung into the air, just as the thing-that-wasn’t-Alice lunged forwards.
There was an explosion of red smoke below him, as he gently flipped over, landed feetfirst on the ceiling and activated its lining of downward-facing dust – his internal centre of gravity shifted until he was looking up as the smoke cleared. It was just in time for him to see the Alice try to tear Red’s throat out with her teeth. At the last second, he dissolved into another burst of russet smoke, whooshing up past her and rematerialising behind her, restraining her arms. She responded by turning around on the spot, completely disregarding the corporeality of matter, and going for his throat again.
Red’s little disappearing act didn’t work the second time – just as he started to turn into smoke, Alice grabbed his right hand and the process just stopped.
“Um,” he said, dismay plain in his expression.
And then she punched him in the face.
Aidra winced. “Ooh. Luckily, that wasn’t his real brain.”
Red’s hand twitched and reconfigured, slipping free of her iron grasp. The air around his head flickered and cracked, falling away in fragments to reveal an unbroken nose.
This time, she headbutted him in the face instead, and before he could get his bearings back, she was upon him, her shadow deepening to a chasm, a churning maw. Long, membranous wings unfolded from her back, bristling with teeth and eyes and hatred.
“Ooh,” said Aidra. “The dark’s winning. Never a good sign.”
This was punctuated by a gurgling scream and a spray of blood. She’d succeeded this time in tearing Red’s throat out with her teeth. That did it. As she tried fruitlessly to pull his right arm off, Aidra snapped the thin stick he’d been holding. With his other hand, he reached into one of his pockets, pulled out a can attached to a string, and made an urgent call.