Entry to short story contest 8, title twisters.
New stars peppered the misty skies. Even through the dense fog the Toa of Death could just make out the Ancestor's Star, a bright blue pinprick of fearsome light. It was unique; it travelled across the sky backwards. Death smiled inwardly, he’d give his life to know what that star meant. It had shown its face for the first time just over twenty years ago when Death comfortably ruled this now forgotten island. For a brief moment he stared into the bleak openness above his head. It was so achingly empty, so dormant. If only he could be there instead of here. If only he could have the rest of his life simply to gaze upon the stars.
Stumbling on a gnarled root, Death turned his attention back to the troubled path ahead of him. He winced and contorted his face with pain. The mere effort of walking on a broken leg had become too great for this once powerful Toa. Tall twisted trees protruded from the boggy ground. They reached so high that the Toa couldn't see where they ended and the sky began. Thick walls of moss and primeval plant life clung between the trees, making walking level perilously uneasy. Death was too weak to tackle the swamps this night. Kneeling to the ground, he forced his clenched fist into the loose soil. The trees and plants around him creaked and their deep green colours drained from their leaves. Death smiled as his dry eyes were reinvigorated and wrenched his fist from the ground.
"You can't kill death" he thought to himself, "Death feeds on life, and there is nowhere on this island which is void of life".
Straining his shoulders, death rolled onto his side and leant himself against a tree. Some bark flaked off and floated away on the wind - it had turned to ash. He relaxed and half closed his eyes. This dangerous swamp was now his refuge; he thought it odd how such a deadly place can offer the hope of safety. Death grasped his leg and massaged it to ease soreness; it had been shot through by an ominous metal bolt. That of course was the least of this Toa’s worries. What really worried him was the shadow. A sullen movement caught the dozing Toa’s attention. Death pushed his palms onto a passing swamp leech. It lashed back and forth violently as it turned to ash.
“This is not enough energy…” Death thought aloud.
“I need … to sleep.”
The Toa’s tired eyes drooped and his head sagged forward as he slipped into a deep slumber.
The sky darkened as it matured and the swamps became drowned in a bluish glow from the starlight. A tall shadow swept across the cold earth. Death's eyes darted open and he paddled his legs against the ground, pushing himself upright against the crumbling pillar of ash.
"Get away from me!" He yelled, waving his arms around the shadows beside him. "If you come closer I'll kill you! Don't underestimate me, fiend!"
Trees swayed side to side. The weak ground shook with a deep deafening shudder at every step as a monster reared and pushed itself through a dead tree to face the toa. The tree collapsed and disintegrated into a cloud of ash which filled the air. In a panicked and pathetic attempt to slay the beast, Death charged at the creature with outstretched fists. A broad stippled blade as tall as a Vortixx crashed through Death's shoulder and shot him back against the earth, pinning him there. As the ash cloud dispersed the monster’s body emerged.
It was tall. Very tall. The animal was four-legged and reptilian. The ground either side of its enormous toes swelled to small valleys just from the crushing weight of the animal. Its eyeless head was full of long serrated teeth and its tail was long, thick, and currently pushed halfway into Death’s body. He squinted at it once more, it was a black animal on the underside and white on the top, all away along its massive body were savage red streaks. It was a truly terrifying creature.
"It's about time I caught up with you".
Death stared at the creature blankly.
"I learnt." The beast’s voice was metallic and had a sinister twang to every other word, but apart from that it was nothing out of the ordinary. It was not deep or gruff, it was not other worldly. Death could have been speaking to an ordinary Matoran if he was none the wiser.
"How did you find me?" Death's question tapered off at the end. He clutched his destroyed shoulder and winced with pain.
"I smell, I hear."
Death furrowed his brow and replied.
"It's not just that, I'm no novice at moving silently. Before I die you must tell me."
The beast grinned and sank into a sitting position.
"You left a trail for me. A radioactive trail through the snow, the soil, the swamps."
Death glanced down at his injured leg. Small pieces of metal were embedded deep within the broken skin.
"So was it you who shot me all that time ago?"
The beast flexed its back in response and two hefty guns flipped out from its rib cage. Death groaned and writhed under the creature's tail. He planted his palms on either side of the tail's blade and his face grew tight with concentration.
"Your abilities won't work on me, Toa." The beast casually twisted its tail side to side, forcing Death to cry out.
"Why are my skills so diminished? Has your radiation poisoned me?"
The beast itched its pistons. "Possibly - but that's unrelated. You have many questions in you Toa, I'm certain of that, but I’m only here for one of them."
Death grimaced and shook his head from side to side. "What are you talking about? I am the Toa of Death… the most powerful being on this island! How do my powers not harm you?"
The beast heaved its head up to the Toa.
"This island which you inhabit is part of a series of islands, all of them the internal workings of a huge galactic vehicle created by ancient beings with unmatched power. You however have no real power at all. Everything you drain of life is made to do so by this vehicle. Your power... it's like a key. Anything that is part of the vehicle can be accessed via your key and their life force transferred to you. I am immune because I am not ...naturally... part of this vehicle."
Death laughed out loud, delirious from trauma. "You speak very well for a Rahi, but what you speak is madness. My power is absolute; you're just trying to scare me."
The beast snarled and leaned closer to Death, pushing the tail blade further through his shoulder as it did so.
"I am no Rahi. I don't even come from your diseased dilapidated island. My home world is green and lush-
Death interrupted, enraged at the description of his island. "If it's so much better then why bother coming here just to kill me?"
The creature sighed and reclined back onto its hind legs. "Just to kill you? ... Don't flatter yourself so."
"Hang on" Death shifted his weight under the blade nailing him to the ground. "You have no eyes, how can you know what 'green' is?"
The beast chuckled faintly under its breath. "Eyes are such a futile organ. They interpret, that's what they do. They take in light and they interpret it. What they tell us is a completely different story to what is out there in front of us. The universe doesn't function in a language that our eyes can read. I had eyes, once. What I seek now is pure knowledge. My eyes could never give me that."
Death unconsciously scratched the wound on his leg as he thought to himself.
"You're a strange creature, aren't you? Your logic is so foreign."
"You know…" Said the creature. "I’ve been tracking you long enough to learn quite a few things about you.”
“I’m sure.” Death strained his head to face the beast.
“You know why I’m here right now?” The beast grinned; it waved the arch of its tail around playfully in the air. “I’ve lived for thousands of years; I thought I knew everything there was to know. There’s something new now – something I can’t quite fathom.”
“You want me to help you? What makes you think I can? What makes you think I will?” Death scowled at the beast and kicked out at the ground in an attempt to shake himself loose.
“It’s your determination.” Said the beast. “For weeks I’ve hunted you endlessly and this is the first time you’ve stopped to rest… It’s also because I believe you wish to know the same thing as I do.”
Death looked up into the sky and stared wistfully at the Ancestor's Star. This creature might be mad, but at least he was knowledgeable. Death might as well satisfy his curiosity before this insane animal grew tired of chatting.
“If you’re so wise, answer me this. What is the meaning of the Ancestor’s Star?”
The beast smiled deeply, craning its massive head up to the stars and sniffed. Plumes of steamy vapour shot out from the great creature’s nostrils and into the cold night air.
"I don't know" It said confidently. "-but if you ever figure it out, call for me."
With a defined jêrk the creature whipped its tail blade through Death's shoulder, cutting through his spine. Death screamed through his gritted teeth as he flopped back onto the ground, his body no longer under the control of his mind. His head rolled back to face upwards into the night, the Ancestor's Star in the pinnacle of his vision.
"WHY?" Called death. "Why hunt me, why track me for so long just for this?!"
"That's another question." The beast replied cunningly. "You’re going to have a lot of time to think about it though.”
The beast's ebbing footsteps echoed inside Death's mind as it strode into the distance. Death lay crumpled on the freezing soil.
“I can heal this! I just need to…”
He clamped his eyes shut and feverishly willed to plant his fist onto the ground but no matter how hard he focussed his hand remained completely flaccid. Young green shoots waved back and forth teasingly in the gentle night breeze, just out of reach. His mind rocked with fearful panic, an eternity alone with nothing to do other than to think, he’d go completely insane without something to occupy his mind!
Death opened his eyes, the Ancestor’s Star danced in the centre of his vision.
“I have a lot of time to think” Death whispered aloud.
“A lot of time to think.”
Secrets And Shadows
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