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The Shape of Madness

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Whispers, murmurs, shrieks, groans - a thousand ten thousand voices in constant cacophony, each breath stretching to eternity and back in one long, endless howl looping back upon itself in an overlapping hall of broken mirrors.

 

Somewhere, a man shits; elsewhere, another swallows slime from a dumpster. Dead men gurgle on bile, mad men howl and eat their own limbs, chew on entrails. An old gray man crouches naked in a mud puddle, masturbating while a child of four skewers him from behind, tears his torso in half, licks blood off the blade. A legless man claws out an eyeball, stuffing it in his ear. All this and more, somewhere, everywhere, nowhere, and in every which way but alone.

 

In the mind of the Oroboros, in the mind of the Damned, these things happen all day, every day, from as far back as there was a past, and perhaps continuing after time itself ceases to tick. Perhaps.

 

The world is a toroid without volume, the universe a thousand million worms, ravenous, self-cannibalistic, writhing and seething in black boiling mud, gnawing at the root of a rhizomatic Ygdrassil with iron trunks and rusted branches intertwining in bloom and decay.

 

***

 

We begin in media res, staring into the maw of a two-jawed feral cat, our eyes following the long iron blade swallowed in its throat, its gurgling shrieks scraping our ears with ice-cold talons. The blade slicks back, and the severed head falls to the muck, a crimson, bubbling morass that steams throughout the low bowl of earth.

 

Boots soaked in warm crimson splash through the flood, tall and slick. The man who wears them is pale, with eyes the color of yellow ghosts set in a chiseled face. He shakes the blade and it is dry again; his clothes flicker and he is dry too, though all about is a lake of blood, the corpses of a thousand cats the size of cars littering the lip of the bowl, torrents seeping from their wounds and feeding in veins large and small to where other masses of damp fur bob in the boiling pool.

 

He sloshes up the slope: there - a claw whips out with amazing speed to a gnarled branch far from the bowl and the man flies to it in an instant, landing kneeling in a field of paper-dry grass while behind him lies a field of corpses, already beginning to stink under a blistering artificial sun blackened with insects. - But already he has disappeared in a mirage.

 

Not good enough for you.

 

A stick scratches the dirt, pounding it into the soil. Dull thuds echo through the haunted wasteland. THUNK. THUNK.

 

The earth is pounded and scraped away until a panel emerges, dull gray. Another pound and the plate opens into a mouth of cool darkness. The man drops into the pit, a glowing white torch in the abyss. His boot prints in the soil are the only physical remains of his existence.

 

Behind, the buzzing watering hole congeals until it is black as coal.

 

***

 

We begin again in media res, (there are no true beginnings here), staring down the open, jawless throat of a soulless wretch, half a scalp flapped over its left year. A black snake of steel disgorges from his chest, wrenching with it a feebly beating heart in its jaws. It slithers back; the dying eyes falling back into crimson streams, sinking away into choking darkness. The snake flashes into a gauntlet of silver, turning the dead heart in its final beats, crushing the warm damp through blackened fingers.

 

The gauntlet is attached to an arm; the arm to a face blood-soaked with two sunken orbs, feral and so pale and gold. Thin lips caress bulging cheeks slick with clumps of hair fat as slugs. Teeth, ghostly pale, flash in the black rain above a slicker black as the abyss, darkness impenetrable.

 

The tall, pale figure kicks the bloated corpse floating in the blood pool. Thousands of corpses lie about in this massive pit, each in its own state of decomposition - each nearly identical in appearance to the man in black.

 

You never were.

 

He flexes his hand and now he holds a scythe, now swirling snakes, now talons of black iron that claw the rusting metal walls, scraping around the room to the thick iron door that opens into crimson light and booms again into darkness.

 

***

 

But these things happen every day and on no day in particular; they are always happening in the mind of Mebius, and all who bear his name, though they may at times no longer know to pronounce it.

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A ghostly fog flooded the floor of the metallic hall. It was an unsettling fog, silver and stinking of rust and iron. The surface rippled from a change in the air, a dislodged vent cover clattering to the floor and being swallowed underneath the fog. A man clad in red and gray armor dropped from the now apparent hole in the ceiling, the weight of his body and equipment dispersing the fog to ends of the hall and leaving a huge dent in the floor.

 

Infiltration successful, Kane thought to himself, exercising a cool tone in his head as he would out loud. "Heh, that's what she said..."

 

He cleared his throat. It helped to get those sorts of things out of his system when he could afford to. Turning around, he approached a door at the end of the hall as the fog settled back to its initial covering. His hand reached for the knob when...

 

"HYHA!!!1 T3H SUPAR SHCTIKM4N BRAV0 IZ HER33Z!!!!11!!2@" a strange, stick-like figure screamed from the other side of the door as it was thrown open. Before Kane could even manage a response, three glowing, golden prongs were thrust through the stick-mans face, squiggling his mouth and X-ing his eyes. "D00D WTF"

 

Thrown to the ground by the same instrument that skewered his head, the stick-man could only manage a few weak flails before the weapon unleashed a flash of light that consumed his entire, twig-like body. A human-shaped scorch mark was all that remained when the brilliance faded.

 

"I can say with confidence that out of the many situations I envisioned, that was not one of them," Kane said, his eyes lifting from the scorch mark to the one wielding the beam-trident. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't organic, but was too thin and pock-marked to be a machine. Its scrawny limbs and body were draped in dark, oddly patterned pelts and five circular, irregularly sized yellow eyes were glowing from underneath a poorly wrapped turban, undoubtedly made of the same pelts, that it had around its head and obscuring the rest of its face, if it even had one. Hm, hm, hm. What would Kane do?

 

This strange, skinny, dark thing, whatever it was, apparently just stole a kill, as that stickman was clearly looking for a fight and would have just as clearly succumbed to Kane's cold and calculating ways. Kane wasn't about to put up with kill stealing.

 

"You took my target, so now I'm going to take your life," Kane said as cold and threateningly as he could. The dark thing didn't say anything. In fact, it didn't even acknowledge Kane. It just stamped out the scorch mark until it was gone, then proceeded to walk right by Kane, ignoring him. Okay, wasn't expecting that too much, either. NOW what would Kane do?

 

Instead of deciding on what to say, 'Kane' concentrated more on what he would do, and what he would do is take out his Plasma Gun and blast off one of the dark thing's arms as a sign of 'You're in Deep Shit and not About to Crawl Out Now or Ever'. This action went off mostly without a hitch, except the thing apparently couldn't read signs, proverbial or otherwise, and simply picked up its arm and continued on its way, never even glancing back at Kane.

 

Okay, I know what to do now, Kane thought, and promptly fired another round, this one blasting the thing's head clean off. It took a few unimpeded steps before the decapitation set in, its body falling to the ground and clattering like stone. "Your last mistake: disrespecting the superior predator."

 

Kane blew away the smoke from the gun barrel and holstered in, turning around just in time to nearly collide with something coming out of cloak mid-way through.

 

"Whew, you saved me some trouble, there!" the pale man said, wiping sweat from his brow. "Dealing with all this insanity, then getting chased around by that thing. This place is nuts!"

 

"And just who are you?" Kane said, his hand still on his Plasma Gun from when he holstered it.

 

"Ah, me," the man said, pausing. "Moebious? Maybius? It's something like that. Maybe you know?"

 

"Why would I?" Kane said.

 

"Ah, it doesn't matter," the man said, a sudden apathy washing over him. "Looks like my end is here, anyway."

 

"What are you-" Kane started, but was never able to finish. In almost the same scene from before, the prongs of a beam trident went through the man's face, killing him. The being responsible, an almost exact copy of the thing Kane just killed, wasn't satisfied with this alone, throwing the body to the ground and crushing the man's skull under his right foot before unleashing the same light that reduced the stickman to ashes. Kane remained silent, watching as the thing stamped out this second scorch mark, too, then walked right by Kane without recognizing him or his fallen look-alike.

 

---

 

All Mebius shared the same sights, the same experiences. If one did something, the others would know, or at least could choose to know if the constant intake of countless perceptions did not drive them beyond insanity. This one particular Mebius, the one standing in the room opposite of the one Kane approached, the same room that the second dark thing entered, looked up, confronting the killer of one of his instantiations.

 

"You have a problem with me?" he asked. The dark thing did not respond. The dark thing did not even look at Mebius, it simply walked past him and off into the darkness. Mebius chuckled to himself. "You don't have a problem with me, but you do have a problem with me... just not 'this' me..."

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