DP Gregoire Fiction - Scabbath the Invalid
Saturday November 28th 2020
In an antediluvian world, long before the great pyramid of Giza, and the permafrost which blankets Antarctica, there was magic that was true and wonders beyond imagination. It was a time before the ancient ones came, it was a time during the infancy of man, it was a time of great achievement.
As they walked through the valley, their find barely clung to life. The giants of the plains could not follow into the valley, for it was too narrow.
They walked upright, covered by a thin layer of fur, they were the pre-evolution of man. Their foreheads sloped causing their eyebrows to protrude, their jaws jutted out slightly causing an under-bite. However, their faces had less hair than the remainder of their body, and upon their cone shaped heads were hairstyles unique to each member, some even with facial hair. They had a very crude language, one that is very mistakable for being nothing more than grunts and gestures. In fact, some may mistaken them as another form of primate, but they were more than that, they were a link in the chain of evolution that was human. They were the troglodytes.
For the troglodytes, there were legends of man, but none ever knew them. Crude paintings on the walls of their caves, spectacles they have seen from a distance, but never actually encountered. Scabbath was the first of his kind they had come in contact with, but, unfortunately for them, this one was barely clinging to life.
Over the next several weeks they nursed the man back to health. Their tribe could barely afford to do such a thing, but, in the advent of mass curiosity, the troglodytes decided to aid the man in his effort to recover. And so it was on the 4th day of the 4th week Scabbath came to rise.
Of course there was shock at first, it was only natural. However, he was reassured of their intentions as they came to shower him with gifts of food and flowers for awakening. As it was their first time to see man up close, it was his first time ever to even see such peoples. Just as he had heard of giants, Scabbath too had heard of troglodytes the lesser evolution of man. However, for their extreme hospitality and warmth he didn't see them as lesser, no. Scabbath saw them as a warm, welcoming folk, very much unlike the horrors which he knew waged wars all over the world where he came from. A world that if they found such creatures would put them to sword, or even make slaves of them.
And so, months had passed while Scabbath recuperated. The troglodytes showed him hospitality and the simple life they lived. They were hunter gatherers, but the giants of the plains made their lifestyle harder. Their rudimentary tools were of no use to combat such monstrosities, and they couldn't risk losing members to combat as their numbers were already low.
Scabbath appreciated the simplistic nature of the troglodyte. It was a welcoming change of pace compared to what life was before this. They took good care of Scabbath, almost as if they worshiped him like a god. They showed him warmth & love, and he showed them how to make better tools & basic writing. Though, despite his efforts, they still didn't grasp the concept of writing, cave paintings were what they preferred. But that was okay, because very few of the troglodytes took up writing, and those that did just used it as another way to display what would have been cave paintings.
It wasn't long after Scabbath had recovered when the troglodytes made him follow. They navigated through a complex system of tunnels and passageways until it opened right up. A large expanse of foggy plains lay right before them, and in its distance they point toward the shiny ebony tip of a structure that breaks through the fog.
Scabbath seemed unsure of what they wanted. He indeed saw what they were pointing at, but he wasn't sure as to why. After several moments of charades it had become clear, they wished Scabbath to head toward the structure. The troglodytes themselves were too scared of such a thing, they thought it best their “champion” go and seek it out.
Not totally convinced, Scabbath declines. Ever persistent the troglodytes urge him on, even gracing him with gifts – nothing more than some crude tools, weapons, and food. He was not sure of their intentions, especially if he didn't leave like they asked. Would they combat him if he refused, or would they simply let him return to live with them for the time being? He had already made up his mind, Scabbath would venture off just to find out what it was they saw in the distance.
He waded through the thick fog, spear in hand, caution in every step. Not sure what he would encounter, Scabbath's guard was up, for the plains of Ulstoria had taught him. However ready he was, the fog was ever more ready.
Scabbath walked miles and the whole way he felt as if eyes were upon him. Truth be told, there were eyes upon him, the eyes of the fog itself. The fog wasn't a sentient creature, more-so than it was a supernatural force. A force that can will & shape itself into horrors of the mind, horrors that can terrorize one to death.
It wasn't even mid-day so Scabbath found it odd when the sun blackened right out of the sky. There was no light, it was complete darkness. There was no sound, it was complete silence. Then, suddenly the fog surrounding him shone with a dim tint of red, accompanied by a low repeating thud that could only be described as a heartbeat.
Scabbath didn't let this phenomena slow him down one bit. But, as he moved forward the earth grasped at his legs, sucking him down into it. Like walking through black tar he could barely move, the substance was just under waist high. However, Scabbath believes he has faced worse, quicksand; swamps; tar pits, all from lands far away from here. He would not let the black, sticky mud of Ulstoria keep him down. Unfortunately his taut physique would soon give in to exhaustion, he was not fully recovered.
The more he struggled the more it seemed to pull him in, it now above his waist. His feet felt no firm ground beneath it all, How deep was it? Scabbath even employed techniques used in escaping quicksand, yet, they would not work here. It was now up to his chest...
Strange sucking sounds could be heard off in the distance. They were the kind of sucking sounds that would be made from someone or something entering & exiting this unusual terrain. Whatever it was it didn't seem impeded by the tar-like substance. This had Scabbath worried, he could not move freely, yet there was something out there moving as it pleased, or, that is how he perceived it.
Panic had gripped the usually stoic Scabbath, and with panic he writhed like a helpless creature wanting to get free of its captor's clutches. But that did him no good, he had sunk to his neck and still his toes didn't touch the bottom.
Scabbath was trapped in what could only be described as being sticky like tar, grainy like sand, and wet & pungent like a swamp. Moving about never helped, it only aided in pulling one in deeper, kneading the tar making it harder to move through. The grains of sand grinding away little-by-little at your flesh, causing pain & irritation. And then the foul smelling liquid burned at your cuts, making it all the more uncomfortable.
He was totally submerged now, the sky above cut off by this semi-solid bit of earth that buried him like a tomb. None of the five senses operated properly while submerged, except for touch. It was the only sense he had to go on, it was all he could do at that moment, to feel and be trapped in his own thoughts.
Breath could not be drawn to lung, for there was no air. Scream could no escape lip, for there was no breath. Muscle could not move, for there was no room. The panic had turned to a tightness of the chest, a fire in the lungs. Minutes had passed, there was still no hope. Any chance of escape was a fledgling thought, fleeting quick, overcome by the realization that he would soon die. He would not know if he had passed out or not, there was nothing to go off of. Was this a dream, or perhaps the afterlife? An eternal punishment?
The sweet melodic tune of a sonata carried itself across the plains. Eerie & haunting at first, but pleasant & alluring the more you listened to it.
Sitting from within her chambers the long, slender fingers of the pianist glided into action, striking the keys at the correct moment. Her tune carried with it tension & strife, but quickly evolving into harmony & accord. It was her masterpiece! She had carefully crafted such musical genius during the previous decade of her life. It was to be her magnum opus!
She was a tall, slender lady, her skin as white as milk. Her eyes a clear crystal blue with much life blazing in them. Her head bald, she could not grow hair. Her lips a light purple, she wore no makeup. Her clothes fancy, a golden crown with several jewels in it upon her head, she must be someone important.
Indeed she was someone important, she was the king of Ulstoria. In those days the king was one whom ruled over countries or kingdoms, and a queen was their secondary. A queen could become a king if the king were to die or had to give up the throne for other purposes rending them unable to rule. A king could be either man or woman, just as a queen could be either a woman or man. This king however, she had no queen.
Ulstoria was one giant kingdom. It was not splintered into many countries like other continents. This made it both easy yet hard to govern. Easy in the fact that it was uniform law throughout all of the land, hard in the fact that it is so vast there is much to rule. Plus, the kingdom of Ulstoria was a harsh place indeed. Giants the size of mountains roamed the outer plains, tar-like swamps ruled the terrain further inland, and thousands of various clans of troglodytes dwelt from within the surrounding mountains & valleys just beyond the plains. Not all of the troglodyte tribes were peaceful, in fact, many were warlike, some even cannibalistic. Ulstoria was quite the hostile territory, but, it also had its beauty.
Deep from within what he had deemed the soil of death, Scabbath lay barren to his own thoughts. Consumed by past transgressions he was withdrawn into himself, battling his own ego. He saw no light, for there was only darkness, he was a pile of shit. Scabbath wondered why the world needed him, perhaps exile was right. A fitting end for a fitting punishment, not to be eaten by giants, no, but to be sucked into the sticky sinews of the earth, buried away and forgotten.
Every mortal sin in which he had committed crossed his mind, hitting seven fold as he relived them. He was warped back to a time & place where these events occurred, placed right into his body, but unable to control his actions.
The scenes played over-and-over dozens of times until he reverted back into a weak child. This weak child was rounded up by monstrous beings which shackle and led the boy away. He is taken to a place where he must do forced labor while suffering the lash of a whip, his life is no longer his own, he is no longer free. The child's spirit is broken.
As all hope seemed lost, in the darkest recesses of his mind, Scabbath generated an idea. Against all better judgment he proceeded to eat the black tar like “death soil” as he called it. He was barely able to move his head around, but he ate, and ate, and ate until he cleared enough room to breathe. Each bite was filled with a gruesome sticky, bitter, sulfur, grainy taste. It was very unpleasant, but, it was what he was going to do to try and survive.
He had cleared a hole around his head large enough to have room to breathe. The semi-solid was so thick it didn't fill the empty space back in, which is good, because Scabbath felt sick in his stomach. But, he continued to eat just enough to free his arms.
He rested, catching his breath and digesting for a couple of hours. He didn't want to, but he reluctantly started pulling at the stuff above him, eating it until there was a hole big enough above him, then it was more-or-less rip off pieces, throw them in the distance, and hope he makes an escape hole big enough.
Lightning must of struck a stray bush while he was engulfed in the crap, because not too far from Scabbath was a flaming bush. To his amazement he realized the terrain around the flames had receded, much like a cotton sugar candy would when it gets wet. He reached for his spear which lay atop the nasty substance, it did not sink when he did. He will use this spear to reach the fire, which after a slight struggle he was able to grab the spear and light it in the bush's flame. Desperate he brought the burning spear closer, the consequence didn't strike him at this moment. The substance receded, but he also suffered slight burns upon his escape.
His goal was to keep the flame alive, wield it like a torch keeping the “death soil” at bay. He walked forward, clearing a path as he went. He found it eerie when he stumbled across animal, or worse yet, other people's mummified corpses buried deep within this terrestrial anomaly. One thing he noted was their clothes and gear were very much intact. It was a morbid thought, but he didn't mind grave robbing a few unfortunate souls for survival if he had to.
Eerie sounds from beyond the grave carried their way to his ears. In the distance, like an army of ants marching, an untold number of skeletons have risen out from the fog, pulling their way through the tar-like earth. Scabbath wasn't sure if it were the bones of the dead or if it were created from the soil itself.
The weapons he had could be used, but they would not last long, for they were not the fine crafts of man. But, he did not hope to fight, a man against legions, the odds are not well in his favor.
The skeletons sensed life the way a spider senses small tugs on the strands of its web when prey is entangled by it. And these skeletons could feed from the tiniest essence of life force floating its way through the air. Any living creature caught within the fog long enough draws the attention of the undead, and they know of its exact location.