Mars ain't no place...to sell your soul

Mars ain't no place...to sell your soul

A Story by Joel
"

this is part II

"


     The castle loomed in the distance, standing against the sky like a blatant and obvious lie spoken loudly in a church. So different was it from the meager building it surrounded, so bizarre was it in form that it drew the eye from the bleak and featureless landscape, demanding attention. It seemed surreal to the naked eye, its outer walls sloped inward from foundation to apex, narrowing to half its original width. This sinister architecture made the place seem foreshortened, as if extruding from another universe.

 

     If any human could resist its call, the deadly temptation of the house of black stone, it was Azrael. If it were yet morning when he came to it, he almost surely would have, but as the mewling light of the daytime waned, the practical lure of shelter enticed his mind and he went up to the house of the Demon.

 

     Az knocked thrice upon the door, standing at rest and prepared to move on if unwelcome, but knowing that the doors would be opened. The twin barriers, steel in the absence of real wood on this world, swung open on chains, grinding with light rust and heavy disuse. The shroud of evil, like the webbing of a great spider, hung thick in the air. Az passed through the veil of menace with the determination that marked his people and profession as nearly supernatural among the darker-skinned peoples of the planet of War.

 

     The house was lavish in its decadence. Old computers, dead relics of technology lost a thousand years ago when the men who came to this place left their ships to make their own primitive way in a world that cared nothing for their sciences, lay side by side with the ancient dried skeletons of travelers that had come before. Az walked the long hall, disregarding the corridors to either side which led only to other corridors perhaps forgotten even by their master.

 

     The pace of the living traveler neither quickened nor slowed, giving nothing to the place, showing neither weakness nor fear. Soon the master of the place would appear, and there would be things more worthy of fear than the lifeless bones of victims who offer as little offense in death as they had in their long lost life.

 

     At the end of the hallway, he came to a wide room, a throne room, but for the absence of a throne. In it the figure of a man hung suspended in midair, though from what he depended was unclear in the gloom. His manner of dress was not black, as Azrael had expected, but his suit was of a swirling gray which absorbed and twisted shadows and Phobos raced through the sky, altering the dim illumination from the windows.

 

     Upon the walls hung royal purple tapestries, the color of a slow healing deep bruise. No clue was apparent as to the embroidery but the faintest flicker of reflective cloth, woven into the fabric so the arcana inscribed thereon might be read only by brilliant light.

 

     Slowly the being descended, like a dying god in his ruined temple, surrounded by the long-dry bones of his priests. He was lit with the semblance of the fading embers of divinity, light in the depths of the visible spectrum, like a red dwarf sun in its final march toward extinction. Fully seven feet tall, he towered arrogantly, leering down at his visitor like the way station raven on the corpse that would feed it.

 

     "Welcome, oh traveler, bravely met by the light of a coward moon." The voice of the human shaped thing rasped, as if from longer disuse than the doors of his keep. "Phobos flees as we speak, yet you neither flee nor cower. But which of you is wiser, the moon is not brave, but it has clarity of purpose."

 

     "A man who would judge his own wisdom engages in folly, and thus has his answer. I leave my judgment to powers greater than I." Azrael answered as if reciting, without humor.

 

     "So agnostic in your statements, my walking friend? So conservative in your faith?" The demon laughed.

 

     "If you have friends in this place, Old One, they draw no breath, nor have tongues to shape speech. My people have no lack of faith, so neither have I; we lack the arrogance to name our God, as if any God worthy of faith would be bound by a bearded statue and a name given by men." Az recited again, as if in some darkling Catechism. His fingertips traced the reddish boar-ivory grips of his revolver.

 

     "How do you come armed then into the house of a stranger? Do you show no signs of peace?" The light fell on the angular features of the creature before him, betraying the subtle sneering twist to its smile. It was a human face, but gripped by the unnatural expressions of an inhuman mind.

 

     "Know you so little about my people? Are you ancient in wisdom, or forgetful in age?" It was the traveler’s turn to sneer.

 

     "Make no mistake," said the monster in icy tones, "I know your heartless people.’There is no peace but death, he who seeks peace may find it. Do the vicious whelps of Lacona never change?"

 

     "Perhaps we lack the imagination." Azrael said simply.

 

     "You lack nothing of stubbornness. You who build your black towers, who walk your black roads, you tireless machines who live for your tired code."

 

     The voice of the thing sounded bitter, but with bitterness unborn from life and emotion. It was the bitter tang of metal. It was like copper and iron, blood without life.

 

     "Bid me farewell then, I will leave you to your slumber," Azrael offered. He knew it would not be so easy.

 

     "You ask my leave so easily? You beg no pardon for my trouble?" Az could feel the banter ending, the game for his life beginning.

 

     "You will waste no more of my time with foolishness!" The visitor's voice boomed in a tone of command, for the first time unveiling his ire.

 

     "Your way, then, boot grinder!" the host-thing hissed. "You have lived this long in my house for a purpose, my purpose!"

 

     "Whatever I may serve, I do not serve your purpose." Az slid his left foot forward, his right slightly back, taking his stance of readiness.

 

     "My race has died, one by one, since we gained our immortality a thousand years ago. For a while we fought, killing each other, then we retreated to our castles. First we were feared, and then forgotten as each of us slipped into slumber or death. Now that I am among the last, I seek a companion. Join me, serve me, and you too shall live without end, without feeling the touch of time!" The eyes of the old creature glowed violet, as shocking in its way as the red of his aura.

 

     "I'll serve no one and nothing but my honor, your leave or suffer the consequences, demon." Doubt and fear swirled within Azrael as they would have in any mortal who knew himself to be but flesh and blood.

 

     A tone of desperation entered the voice of the demon, this vampire who fed on the travelers of the south road.

 

     "If you won't serve me, replace me! Take my place as lord of this castle! I am one of the last of my kind, I am the last who believes in our destiny to rule, but even I tire of decay, even my faith and spirit fail as my brothers fall like the mortals we were born to dominate! I was an artist when our power was broken, I have not the strength to lead. A god like me, with the strength of one of your people could awaken us, restore us! Take what I offer and you will be the almighty God of War."

 

     "Speak to me no more! Offer me no more of the damnation you have in ample supply, you are more parasite than god, you are an abomination. When your kind is gone this world will be rid of a stain that has been long in the washing."

 

     With no further words, without the flair for the dramatic that one would expect from a self styled god, the vampire screamed with uncontrolled fury and leapt. The ancient thing had speed and power, such that no human would have made it as far as the door to his great chamber in an attempt to escape, nor could he have grappled with him and lived.

 

     Azrael's life hung on one miscalculation, the vampire expected him to turn and run or stand and fight. Az did neither. Springing forward, he grasped the monster by its clothes and ducked under the outstretched arm, pulling the thing past him as it leapt to intercept his expected flight. Off balance and springing in the wrong direction, it went sprawling across the chamber, ending against the doorframe of the hall and springing to its feet in rage. Spinning around, it spied its quarry sprinting nimbly up a stairway on the other side of the room.

 

     Az took three steps at a time, his well conditioned legs pumping with all their might as his senses told him that each passing second cut deeply into his head start. Higher and tighter the staircase spiraled, as the inward lean of the castle squeezed, as if by the gravity of an immense well of power. At one landing he spied the demon over his shoulder and fired his revolver, it was hit but only slowed by shock and outrage, though even that was something. His suspicions confirmed he climbed with his last shred of urgency, pushing his body to its limits. At the end of this he could sleep, or die.

    

 He heard the thing's movements, dogging his steps as he reached the final landing, the chamber at the top of the sinister house. No breath reached his ears, for the undying have no more need to draw breath than the dead which litter their chambers. A hand clutched his shirt, nails scraping through the skin of his shoulders like razor blades as he burst through the doorway, but he saw his goal and felt no pain. An orb of the finest crystal (or so it seemed to be) glowing a deep, painful red, set on a pedestal in the center of the room. Ignoring the wounds, and the thing that would drag him out to his death, Azrael raised his revolver and fired.

 

     A thousand years of blasphemous life ended, not with a bang (though there was a bang before), not with a whimper (there was a whimper after), but with the tinkling of glass, and the shards of the talisman that sustained that un-life falling gently to earth.  The bang had come from the gun when the orb yet lived, and the whimper from the hero, when it was already dead.

 

     Azrael never questioned whether the lost technology of the ancient space farers had sustained these creatures for so long, or whether they made their pacts with the native Satans of this world, or even if both had twisted to form a new thing, neither of Magic, nor of Man. For who knew where science ended and sorcery began...on Mars?
 


© 2008 Joel



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This piece has had 281 views in the last 10 years, but no reviews. Wow, something is sooo wrong about that whole deal. Anyway thanks for your endurance and I sincerely hope the WC moves this story out of un- reviewed status in this decade.

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Added on February 6, 2008
Last Updated on April 9, 2008

Author

Joel
Joel

Pleasanton, TX



About
I'm a High School English teacher in Pleasanton, TX. As I feel that I am presiding over the death of the written word (judging from my students), I should either try to help or dig a deeper grave. Con.. more..

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