Friga’s Day Flash Fiction: Arbelus Thrice-Cursed

Arbelus the Gifted, and Thrice-Cursed, had the triple misfortune to be born a mutant, to be born on All-Hallow’s Eve, and to be born in this, the Last Age of Life, in waiting for the end of the world. It was the year One Billion and then some, and the time for life on Eruutt was soon.

Humans were long gone tens of millions of years ago, when the sun began to redden and loom larger in the sky. They were dead long before the cursed planet became tide locked to the sun, one side eternally dark, the other charred desert presiding over the scorched forests, parched seabeds, and the dead cities of what was once humanity. There, the sun hung forever in the noontide sky, leering in mockery at the feeble attempts of what life that remained to survive.

Arbelus, of course, travelled mostly on the dark side, living in the twilight hive cities between sides, and scavenging in the fungous forests of the planet’s endless night. Arbelus was a filcher and tomb robber, he was a trickster, a rogue, and a dreamer, but lately his dreams had been nightmares. He had woken only a few hours ago, screaming and raving, about a temple lying in what was once a deep ocean trench, when there were oceans, of a light shining from it and something within calling to him each sleep cycle since he had found the figurine.

The figurine.

It was a small thing, really, carved of a rare and traditionally magical substance called ivory. No one knew from whence ivory came…perhaps from another world. Surely there were no animals left on Eruutt to produce it, not for millions of years since that last Perfect Day. Arbelus had taken it from the neck of a hive monk he robbed at knifepoint. Surely it must have been an item of great power, he had thought, for he let the mutant live rather than simply slit his throat and dispose of the body. Mutant, not man, for there were no longer any men, nor any women, only the Eldritch of the Scorched Eruutt, the children of the Obscenity that waits dreaded beyond the effable.

Welcome to the Apocalypse, Arbelus thought. He wished he could get rid of the tiny trinket, but it wound up reappearing in the oddest places when he tried to ditch it, and he felt something driving him on, leading him, to his current path. He had just rappelled down a steep cliff face in a deep valley. The air seemed thicker here, denser, and nearly pitch dark save for the light of the stars. Forget the moon. It survived only as a red-lit ring overhead after wandering too close to Eruutt in a great war long ago, when there were enough people left to fight wars.

Arbelus lit his night staff and peered about the valley floor. The remains of long extinct animals dotted the landscape, fossilized and then exposed through wind and dust erosion. There was a light in the distance. Perhaps another traveller like he. Perhaps another filch. He dimmed his light to avoid giving himself away, and pressed on.

Then after hours on foot, he saw it. The temple. Just as it was in his feverish nightmares. Oddly, he was suddenly frightened, terrified, but approached anyway. He could see a light coming from it. Surely, a voice within counselled, there were great riches here. There would be tombs to plunder, gems beyond count to sell when he returned to the hive cities of the twilight regions. He stepped closer. He thought of turning back, of running from this place, to save his skin. Then he noticed something in his hand. It was the figurine. It had somehow gotten out of his pack, and into the palm of his hand. In the flickering dim radiance of his night staff it looked more menacing, its tiny eyes glaring at him, its tiny mouth smiling. It called to him in his mind, tiny lips silently whispering threats and promises of wealth and power beyond imagining.

His mind rebelled, but only for a moment. He gripped the tiny ivory icon tighter, now holding it close to his breast, as he had visions of death and glory beyond. He felt the call stronger this time, dimly realizing that it was the Obscenity Herself, the mother of his Race calling him to Her. He would obey, he thought, and stand at Her right tentacle forever.

Then he laughed, and it was not happy laughter, but of something beyond. He lost all sense of fear, all care, and all sanity, and went to answer Her call, on this, his birthday. Lucky him.

Happy Halloween.

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