The Children of Cthulhu TG TF

Writeguy Oct 10th, 2019 (edited) 83 Never
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  1. "Where's that music coming from?"
  3. The mist had returned to the forest of Lake Makalay, in such a force that only dull white light penetrated down from the sky.  James Atwill could feel the moisture when he wiped his hand on his Starry Night tie, and was glad that he'd worn his black jacket.  He carried the ancient black camera, so that he could finish his job for Julian: to film for Meagan for one day.  Her film: Satan Vs. Cthulhu.
  5. Meagan walked beside him through the woods, looking every bit the punk: lip ring, green hair, black vest, blue jeans.  As he walked with her more, he noticed other things about her appearance as well: silver rings on either thumb, the lack of a wedding ring, her dreamcatcher necklace.  And other things about her body: the way her vest revealed her midriff, and the milky smoothness of her skin that was both innocent and erotic.  He could tell why Julian found her intimidating.  If he hadn't been gay himself, it was a girl like Meagan that he would go for.  Part of him wished she was a man, someone who knew how to be both smart and sexy.
  7. As they walked on, the music grew louder.  When James asked the first time, Meagan hadn't responded at all, only kept trudging on through the mud of the forest floor.  He could hear it clearly now: drums, beating madly reverberating through the mist.  And with them, two flutes, playing against each other on cross-melodies, out of tune and out of synch.  Then the flutes were gone, and instead, a single violin gave a long harsh whine.
  9. "Where are the musicians?" James asked.  
  11. "Inside," Meagan said, again with the knowing smile and the low eyes.
  13. "Inside what?" James asked, but then at once the forest stopped.
  15. They hit a road; unpaved, slick, and overgrown.  They were on the edge of the mountain, and the road bled down the cliffs, vanishing down into the mist and the invisible beyond.  Over the edge of the road led immediate death.  
  17. As he turned to look up the road, he saw a towering tall black gate.  The gateway was mossy, ancient brick, partly decayed with some pieces falling down.  However, the gate itself was composed of black steel spikes.  Two lanterns hung on either side of the gateway frame, yellow lights in the murky mist.  Over the gate, on a black steel arch, was a black stone gargoyle, looking down.  
  19. Meagan spoke with gleeful mania in her voice: "Here we are at the brink of existence, staring at the decayed triumphs of humanity.  Look how it all crumbles."
  21. James didn't know what to say, walking on, closer to the gate so he could see what lay beyond.  He stayed far away from where the road met the cliff, instead staying close to the misty forest.
  23. "Don't just look at it!  Shoot it!"
  25. Of course.  James nearly forgot why he was here.  He set up the camera, and turned it on.  He pointed it first to the edge of the cliff, and then turned it slowly toward the foreboding black gate.  Lightning snapped in the sky above.
  27. He turned off the camera.  "Looks like a storm is coming.  We better get inside, wherever inside is."
  29. "Wimp," Meagan said, and walked with him onward, opening the gate.
  31. Inside, the first thing James could make out through the mist was what might have once been an angel.  In the decades, no doubt, since it had been maintained it had sustained serious damage: both wings had broken off, and beneath the eyes there were long streaks of black mold.
  33. The angel had been at the head of a long pond and garden.  Parts of the garden remained: some red and golden flowers bloomed, and a hedge remained.  However, the forest had encroached heavily on the garden, and massive, ancient trees had overgrown, their roots upending cobblestones, exposed and naked.  The water in the pond was a rusty shade of dark red.
  35. To his left, James could see a circular glass building, what had perhaps once been a greenhouse.  Some panes of glass were cracked and broken, others were covered in the same black mold.  Who could tell what was left alive inside?  Or was it now a den of death and decay?
  37. As they walked further up the path, the mansion itself—for it was a mansion in the center of this estate—slowly came into view.  In front of it, stretching from the first to the third floors, were three massive white marble pillars, smooth white columns.  There had been a fourth, but it had collapsed outward, crushing an out-of-place looking palm tree in the process.  Deep cracks ran up its marble surface.  The place was both formidable and foreboding.
  39. Six marble steps led up to the main entrance to the main entrance, a large black door behind the remaining marble pillars.  On the left side of the building was a large rotunda, surrounded by six more white pillars, these smaller.  The entire first two floors did not seem to have any lights on, but on the third floor there were two windows directly above the pillars.  They had high arches, and their yellow light in the mist made them look something like eyes, with the pillars below the opening to some massive, gaping maw.  The rotunda to the left, then, would have to be some sort of freakish anomaly, a bloated tumor.
  41. Clearly, there must be some sort of activity inside the mansion, though.  There were three chimneys hovering in the background of the house, and all three were billowing black smoke into the sky.  These surrounded what seemed to be a wide rooftop patio.  In some ways, the place looked like a castle, with the right side of the building a veritable tower of gray stone.  
  43. "This is quite the find," James said.  "It's beautiful.  Were it not decayed to Hell and back, I would have wanted to live in a place like this."
  45. The violin sounded again; louder this time, a long low pitch that crescendo'd into a high, shrill shriek, like a scream.  James twitched.  He had no idea how he could hear the sound so clearly, all the way out here.  
  47. "Live here?" Meagan asked.  "Can't you feel how totally indifferent this place is to you?  Here, on the edge of the cliff, the mansion can stare head on into the heavens, and there grasp the insignificance of its own being.  The wind sweeps through the hallways and wreaks havoc on man's carpets, his painted walls, his chandeliers.  All comes toppling down, all seeps with decay from the moment it is built."
  49. "Well, that's an optimistic view," James said, nearing the collapsed marble column.
  51. Together, they began climbing the marble steps up to the entrance.  Meagan stepped forward, raising her hand to the door and said, "Behold, the tombstone of human achievement; and the first step on the path to damnation."
  53. As they neared, the blackwood doubledoors opened with a long, slow creak, and James stepped in.
  55. The interior was lit by a line of candles, but despite the gloom of the mist outside, it took his eyes a moment to adjust to the light.  As the interior slowly came into focus, he saw that the candles were held by two parallel lines of robed figures in golden masks, like somber, ancient pharaohs.
  57. "Should I be filming this?" James asked.  The music stopped.
  59. "Damn it," one of the masked figures on his left said, taking off the mask.  "This guy still doesn't even know what's going on.  Meagan, why don't you let someone else actually handle the filming, and let this guy take part in the ceremony."
  61. The man who spoke, as he removed the mask, looked Indian—as in, from India; black hair, brown skin and eyes.  He was about the same height as James, about 6'0, although he seemed to be a bit bulkier, by 20 or 30 pounds.  James always had been a bit thin for his height.  
  63. "No!" Meagan snapped.  "James is the cameraman, and that's the end of that discussion, Neil."
  65. "Fine," Neil said, and stepped forward, out of the line.  With the mystique of the parallel lines of robed figures broken, others began taking off their masks as well.  "Sorry about being rude," he said, reaching out with his free hand to greet James.  "Just want this all to go smoothly.  Since I'm guessing Meagan explained nothing to you so far, I guess I should let you know that after the first part of the ritual, you'll want to focus on me."
  67. "So there is a method to this madness," James said, shaking Neil's hand.  "You are right, she hasn't told me too much.  If you're going to be using a lot of special effects, then I want to know where to point the camera.  What's this about a ritual?"
  69. "Ritual?" Neil asked.  "She didn't tell you about the ritual?  And—well, special effects."  Neil laughed.  "Yeah, special effects.  Right."
  71. "So do I need to be walked through who to focus on for each part of the ritual?  And how am I supposed to tell them apart with the masks on?"
  73. "Well," Meagan said.  "It won't be difficult at all.  There will be a stage, and you will mostly want to focus on people on the stage.  When people take the stage, they will take off the mask to consume the sacrament."
  75. "Sacrament?" James asked.  "Whatever, I'm sure it will make sense."
  77. "Okay," Meagan said, "So can we stop wasting time and start again?  Let's just get right into it, shall we?"
  79. The drums began pounding again, and as they did, everyone put their masks back on and took their places in the two parallel lines.
  81. "Here," Meagan said, handing James a cloak.  "Try to make it so that the edges of the camera catch parts of the cloak, so that the frame suggests you're a member of the cult.  Then, enter, and take a place in that empty spot over there.  They will then bring in the first two sacrifices.  From there, just follow the crowd.  When they line up in the library, you will get a front row seat, okay?"
  83. "Gotcha," James said, donning the robes.  Man, what did I get myself into.
  85. He returned to the entrance of the hallway, waited for Meagan to get completely out of view, then hit the On button.
  87. A hallway full of robed figures in golden masks.  James steps forward, and swings slowly to the left, zooming in to give a full view of Neil's mask.  Then, he turns back, walking forward, stepping into place.  The candles of all of them burn, casting dancing shadows on their faces.  The drums beat on, and it feels as though an erratic flute plays directly behind him, but he dare not turn around.
  89. Looking at these figures, as dangerous as they are, he feels as though if they knew who he really was—if they saw him as an outsider, that he would be killed.
  91. Someone was yelling from outside.  "I don't belong here!"  
  93. James tilted to his left to get a better view.  There were three of the robed figures with the golden masks, together pushing in two men.  One was quiet, for now, and tired-looking, a pale man with golden blonde hair, what remained of a gray trenchcoat hanging from his body as they pulled him in.
  95. The other was an enraged man with long black hair, sharp features, and a black jacket with golden trim.  He snapped at the golden-faced men.
  97. Both were shackled to a steel pipe that the three robed figures carried between them.
  99. "Yes, try complaining to them, Seth," the quiet, pale man said.  "After all, it's not like that's what got you here in the first place."
  101. "Shut up, Tom," the enraged man, Seth, said.  "You're such a whiny little... Bitch."
  103. "You don't even know what you are," Tom snapped back.  "No one knows what you are, that's why they just keep beating you around, treating you more like a patient in an asylum than anything else."
  105. Two more robed figures walked up from behind them and brought out lengths of rope, which they then wrapped around Tom and Seth's mouths, silencing them.  With that, the army of robed figures turned as one to the right, and began marking toward a large pair of oak doors.
  107. The two cultists—that's what the robed figures were, after all—at the front of the group opened the large wooden doors, and the troop as a whole marched in.
  109. This was the library.  Windowless, smelling like a coffin, the room as a whole was lit only by the candles of the cultists.  As they entered, slowly treading inside, James noticed that something had been done to the floor.  It looked as though long red swirls had been coated throughout it in an intricate pattern.  The texture of the paint could have been blood—certainly this was the effect that Melanie wanted.  He looked down, letting the camera linger on each camera as he slowly, trepidatiously crept past.  There was a star of david—there, another, four of them, all with foreign words written between them, on each point around a square.  The texture of the red paint was convincing enough, but somehow Meagan had even captured the stench of blood, as though some poor calf had been slaughtered for this mess of insignias.  
  111. Instead of windows, the room was surrounded by massive stacks of towering bookshelves, all full of ancient, rotting tomes.  They were covered in the same black mold that covered much of the rest of the house, and James wondered whether it might be hazardous to his health to stay in here.
  113. In the center of the four stars of David, surrounded by the bookshelves, was a large wooden platform, on which there was a pedestal which held a large, intricately covered grimoire.  The cover had red traces that suggested blood, on top of the jacket which could easily have been human flesh.  Still the monotony of the flutes continued, the maddening drums, the eerie violin.  Now they spoke in unison, a call to worship.
  115. The cult seemed to move in an awkward, absurd dance; they had become voiceless, mindless creatures of their own, going to their allotted space.  And James moved with them, camera poised as always.
  117. They chanted:
  120. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
  122. The words sounded familiar, somehow, as though he had once heard them in a dream.  
  124. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
  126. In fact, as they came round to it a third time, James wondered if perhaps he could not say it with them.
  128. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
  130. ...lui... tulu... rileh...  No, it was no use; it was like they spoke with the tongue of snakes, his was just no good.  He could not even think the words, comprehend them—let alone speak them.  His mouth would not open.  He was silent.
  132. The sacrifices were brought to the stage: Seth and Tom.  
  134. In front of the grimoire, there was a golden chalice, something straight out of Raiders of the Lost Arc.  The three cultist guards made Seth and Tom kneel in front of the chalice, as someone emerged from the back of the library:
  136. This cultist had a red robe on, with a silver mask.  Clearly, he was the leader, and it was he that approached the grimoire and began reading out a long chant of incomprehensible phrases.  His voice seemed to slowly reach a feverish pitch.  The doors to the library slammed shut, and it seemed like some shadow was moving up and around the bookshelves.  Several of the candles blew out, and James tried to follow it, the shape of the shadows moving through the room.  
  138. Then it stopped, and the man with the silver mask removed his mask.  He stood before them, tall, well over six feet with brown-red hair in a long ponytail.  He was not a skinny man, his face was full.
  140. "Cthulhu fhtagn!" he cried.
  142. The cultists cried: "Cthulhu fhtagn!"
  144. With that, the leader raised the chalice.  Muffled cries came from the bound prisoners as it rose above their heads.  The cultists guards began to do something to their faces—James tried to zoom in as best as he could, but his best guess was that they were holding their eyes open.  No doubt Meagan wanted the audience to guess what was really going on, whether their eyes were really open or closed, or what.
  146. Seth was the first to receive the sacrament—as he recalled someone calling it earlier.  Black fluid poured down over his face, despite his muffled screams.  As it struck his face, he reeled back, nearly falling off the stage.  He strained against the shackles, but spun around, toward the camera.
  148. The liquid drained off his face, but now his eyes had no black in them at all—they were pure white.  Then, white pus began to pour out, sliding down his face.  From beneath the pus, a layer of white flesh emerged, wrapping up over his nose, and then back over the back of his scalp.  He no longer had visible eyes; a membrane, like a shell, covered everything from his nose to the back of his head.
  150. His ears sank into his head, and his jaw expanded in size, as his lips receded, revealing his gleaming white teeth.  The teeth themselves seemed to be sharpening, growing stronger.  
  152. James kept filming.  Seth's tranformation at first had seemed all normal, all staged—the white eyes, the scalp, that had all seemed doable, although the execution here had been quite impressive.  However, the change in the jaw, the expansion of the teeth—these seemed like things that would require CGI, or even an entire animatronic construct.  There was no way to understand how Meagan had achieved this effect.
  154. But James also felt like the cultists were more acutely aware of him, of his presence, more than ever.  They did not question these transformations, did not seem shocked by these effects.  If he moved, if he showed hesitation, it was possible that they would shackle him like they had shackled Seth and Tom.  James was no longer certain that Seth and Tom were actors, that they had not indeed been held captive.
  156. And what then—would they force James himself to receive the sacrament?  Would they pour that goop on his face, and watch as he transformed into some nightmare?
  158. James could film; he could do no more, not move, not speak.  Hardly breathe.
  160. Seth's head snapped forward, a monstrously large red tongue lashing out, more like some hideous tail than a tongue; it lashed through the air like a whip.  Then, the tongue split down the center, becoming two tongues—then again, into four.  Soon it looked more like a cat of nine tails than a singular tongue.  These tentacles dropped down at last, hanging from the front of his face.  
  162. On the top of his skull, where the white membrane now covered his head, a cavity began to form, opening up.  Two red, full lips formed, and beneath these another row of teeth; his head was now composed of two mouths; as this happened, his head itself seemed to elongate, expanding to make room for this new mouth.
  164. The cult leader raised up both hands, cheering.  "The first of his children has awakened!"
  166. The cult cried: "The dead dreamer shall awaken, and we will be his children!"
  168. The monster that had been Seth reeled against the shackles.  The rest of his body was now changing—the muscles on his arms expanding.  
  170. "Release him into the forest!" the cult leader cried, and two of the cult guards took his steel bar and began to drag him out through the library doors.  Even as they did so, Seth reeled once, sending one flying into a wave of books.  Five more cultists converged at once, grabbing the steel pipe, and the group of them pushing him outside.  The doors slammed shut behind him.
  172. All eyes at once turned to Tom, the second prisoner.  His eyes frantically scanned the room, hoping to find salvation among the faceless army of masked cultists.  His grunts and squeals quickly increased as tears freely rolled down his face.  
  174. Two more cultists from the front row approached him, and as they had with Seth, they went to his face, holding his eyes open.  Again, the cult leader raised the chalice above his face, and despite Tom's struggles, began to pour down.
  176. The changes on the pale, long-haired blond man were radically different than those on Seth.  First of all, he did not recoil in the same way.  Instead, he cowered after the concoction fell on his face, his entire body seeming to shrivel up.  His coat fell away, as though it had been set on fire and all at once burned off.  James could see the bare back of the man, but even as he did so, he could see his hair growing in thickness, forming a thick layer of hair all up his back.  His arms shrank by the minute, especially his hands.  First his pinky and thumb seemed to shrivel up, and in another moment he simply shrank out of the shackles, his body no longer large enough to be constrained by it.  
  178. His jaw shot out in front of his face, but also shrank.  His upper lip crawled out to meet it, dragging his nose with it, so that it formed a muzzle.  His ears grew, thinning.  The joints in his arms and legs seemed to rearrange themselves.
  180. In a brief moment, the rest of his clothes fell off, and it seemed that he was no longer a man, either.  Instead, he appeared to be a large, beautiful golden collie.
  182. "A reject!" the cult leader cried, and brought up a large axe.  
  184. Tom, now a dog, yipped as a dog would, and darted out of the way as the axe crashed down on the stage.  Quickly, he jumped off the stage, darting between the cultists.  As he—or she, rather—ran past James, James could not bring himself to even try reaching down to catch the dog.  
  186. The door, still open from when they dragged out Seth, proved wide enough for the collie to dart out of, two cultists still chasing it.
  188. The cultist leader took the escape of the dog in stride; perhaps it didn't even matter.  Instead, he stood up, ignoring the axe now stuck in the ground as well, and asked in his deep baritone: "Who else volunteers to receive the blessing of the elders?  Who else shall embrace the father?  Who will become a child in our sight?"
  190. Slowly, one cultist from the front row rose and approached the stage.  This cultist, compared to the massive cult leader, looked almost small—even though he was easily as tall, or taller than James himself.  As he removed his mask, there stood a young man.
  192. "Who volunteers?" the cult leader asked.
  194. The young man said, "Wyatt."
  196. Somehow, James felt like he should know these characters, that he should know what was going on—surely they had been developed throughout the entire preceding movie.  Yet, here and now, he could only see them as they came before them, and had to try to comprehend their role as they appeared.
  198. "You shall receive the blessing, Wyatt," the leader said, and raised the chalice above Wyatt's head.
  200. Wyatt leaned back, his eyes wide open, as the chalice poured.
  202. As James watched, Wyatt seemed to shrink; his body suddenly seeming too large for the robes, which actually fell off him, revealing his naked body beneath.  No longer just a bit shorter than the cult leader, Wyatt was now at least half a foot shorter, and probably more.  His hair also changed; at first James wondered if this would be another reject, but instead of a coat of fur appearing, the hair on most of his body sank into his body.  The hair on top of his head remained, and this receded down past his shoulders, long and brown.
  204. Wyatt's muscles also seemed to be firming.  The fat vanished from his arms, and his biceps hardened, although they did not dramatically grow in size.  However, the next change surprised James far more: the penis of the man shrank, shriveled, and then at once fluttered up inside the man's body.  Small, pert round breasts pushed out of his chest, and his nipples expanded.  He looked like a gymnast, in some ways, or certainly an athlete—but a woman.  
  206. On his left breast, an upside down pentacle flashed golden light, and then formed a black tattoo.  Wyatt screamed as this happened, and then crumpled to her knees.
  208. "A marked!" the cult leader cried.  "The gods have chosen a marked!"
  210. "Cthulhu fhtagn!" the cult cried.
  212. Wyatt herself did not seem too thrilled with this turn events.  Cringing, her hands slowly slid down to the robes, trying to pull them up now onto her smaller frame.  "Marked," she gasped, her voice sharp and frightened, but definitely feminine.  "I'm... I didn't..."  She seemed to be crying, gasping for breath.
  214. Two cultists stood and helped her, delicately, off the stage.  However, once she was off the stage, one of them pulled at her robes, while two more held her down, pressing her down to her knees in front of the entire mess of cultists, forcing her to remain kneeling naked in front of them all.
  216. James wondered briefly what actress they got to play this role; her acting was superb, she really did look absolutely terrified, but also very pretty.  He wondered how much longer they would force her to be naked.
  218. As though she was no longer important, the cult leader stood up once again, and cried, "Who else shall volunteer?"
  220. One more cultist stood, the one who had until a second ago been sitting right next to James.  This cultist walked forward, slowly creeping up the stage.  Once there, he removed his mask.  There stood Neil, the Indian he'd met at the entrance.  James had lost track of him in the procession.  
  222. Neil now knelt before the cult leader, and looked up, his eyes wide open.  Once again, the chalice was brought up.  And once more, it hovered over the face of the victim—or volunteer—now, Neil.
  224. James thought of trying to escape now.  There were fewer cultists in the room now, the guards gone, and those chasing the dog.  Perhaps they had chased the dog as a way to escape themselves?  Perhaps the others had wrestled with the monster that Seth had become BECAUSE they feared what else might come?  They were afraid that if they were forced to volunteer, they would be the 'marked'?
  226. Still, there were more than enough cultists left, and all of them were behind him, watching him, waiting for him to break character, to jeopardize their production.
  228. Yet there was something else.  James was not all in all afraid of these monsters themselves.  Something about Neil, about the way Neil had spoken to him, calmed James.  Already, he wanted to see Neil, to see what he became.  There was more than enough film left on this reel.
  230. Just as the chalice began to pour, a burst of wind shot through the library.  Every candle flickered out at once, and in a fraction of a second of the light dying, James thought he saw a shape: it was like four masks, once for a face, and two more for shoulder pads, and a last as a chest-plate, like armor; but connecting them all was nothing more than a mass of pure darkness.  But then it was gone.  It almost looked like it had fluttered into Neil.
  232. In another moment, though, there was something like light in the room.  First, from the chalice itself, something like dark light poured out, lighting up only the shadowed face of the cultist leader, and then on Neil.  Yet Neil himself also seemed to be glowing a light shade of red.  Where the black liquid poured down, white steam shot up, and in another second, Neil stepped back away from the chalice.
  234. He laughed maniacally.  Like Wyatt, Neil seemed to be shrinking.  Unlike Wyatt, he freely tossed his robes aside, and stood naked and proud.  His body changed quicker than the others:
  236. Red hair shot down to his shoulders, curled and with full volume.  From out of the top of his head, two horns began to slide out, curving up, like those of a ram.  He arched his head back as the horns appeared, and pushed his chest forward.  Breasts began to push out,  smooth curves emerging.  Meanwhile, the shape of his neck twisted, softening, as a black leather choker appeared, wrapping around his neck.  
  238. His lips filled with purple, becoming covered with a purple gloss, and his eyes in particular changed: red eyeshadow covered the lids, and his lashes thickened and darkened; the eyebrows became sharp streaks of black, while the complexion of his face as a whole softened, becoming clearly feminine, seductive.
  240. A corset wrapped around his waist, but only his waist, continuing to leave his new pert breasts exposed.  He turned, showing his back off to James—and here the camera could record the most impressive transformation: two buds pushing out from his (not yet a her) back; two black spikes pushing out, slowly at first, then faster.  Black leather slowly emerged from the back, her whole body still radiating with the red energy.  
  242. "Corruption!" the cultist leader yelled, the transformation still taking place in Neil.  "A spawn of satan!  Kill her!  Kill her!"
  244. Neil began to laugh maniacally, already his voice becoming the high shrillish squeal of a woman.  Cultists lunged toward her, the wings still emerging from her back, and other changes happening as well.  As one cultist charged toward her, she jumped up.  In mid-air, a massive black heel shot out of the base of her foot, snapping into the mask of the man.  
  246. All at once, her wings shot out, orange scales glowing like fire in the darkness on the underside of the wings, and she flew up into the air, soaring up around them.
  248. She spoke again, but this time the voice that came out of her mouth did not sound at all feminine.  It was dark, heavy, a gutteral grunt.  It was the voice of satan.
  250. "So this is your marked one?" Neil asked, landing high on one of the ancient bookshelves.  "This, your vessel for your farcical, fictional 'god'?!  Your master cares nothing for your pitiful, pointless lives!  And your servant--" the demoness pointed at Wyatt, still kneeling, naked on the floor.  "You shall not be a vessel for your master!  You shall become a daughter of Satan!"
  252. Wyatt screamed, and began running from the room, breaking free of the cultists holding her down.  She charged for the open door.
  254. "Kill the demoness!" the leader screamed, and from seeming nowhere, wicked-looking bows and arrows appeared in the hands of the cultists.  They fired up at Neil, but she jumped away, letting the arrows sink into the moldy books.  Then, twisting in midair, moving and acting now completely as a demoness, she began screeching down toward the open door.
  256. Quickly the cultists slammed the wooden doors shut, trying to trap her within.  She spun her body in mid-air, slamming her heels against the doors—they were shockingly solid—and then twisted in mid-air again, sailing once more through the darkness.  
  258. James, on instinct, looked back down to the platform.  There, in the darklight emanating from the chalice, he could see the cult leader bringing it up, before pouring it down on his own face.
  260. The entire building was now reverberating; wind snapped through the library, despite there being no windows or doors, and books flew through the air.  One slammed down on the ground beside James, and he stepped back, losing track entirely of where Neil was, and what was happening on stage.
  262. Unable to see the red glow of Neil anymore, James looked to the stage, trying to regain focus on what was happening to the cult leader.  Around him, arrows fired wildly into the tomes around them, and yet still, from somewhere that he could not decipher, the drums continued to play wildly.  
  264. On stage, James managed to focus again on the cult leader.  Already, the changes had been significant.  Like many of the others, the hair on top of his head had expanded—his even moreso than the others, blonde hair shooting down his back past his knees.  However, although his skin was growing, and like the others, his features were growing more feminine, he nevertheless was growing larger.  
  266. Something in particular was happening with his legs.  The leader stumbled forward, yet despite this step forward, it looked as though a second set of legs were pushing out from behind his robe.  It was difficult to tell exactly what was happening or the shade of every detail, yet the legs that emerged from out of the bottom of his robe looked to be pure black.  
  268. There was definitely more than two legs under that robe, though, and none of them looked human.  They were pushing him up, he was outgrowing the robe, the legs spreading out making it look more like a skirt than a full body robe.  Massive black legs shot out, two in the front, two in the back, and then more.  Four more legs emerged from the sides, spindly things.  From behind him—or, like the others, perhaps a her, soon—a large black abdomen emerged out.  It was glossy black, with red shapes, too dark to decipher.  On the very end, it looked like there might be spinnerets.  
  270. The eyes of the cult leader glowed deep red; and four smaller ones appeared on her forehead.  The top half of her body remained human, the skin becoming a bright ebony white, with no hint of tan or color.    This, half-woman, half-spider, looked up with the pure, unblinking eyes.  Then, with a tremendous surge of strength, the eight legs of the leader clenched down, and then she leaped up into the stacks of books.
  272. To James' surprise, there actually was one window—a skylight, in the very top of the library.  He hadn't noticed it before because it was too dark, and because the window was coated with a black slimy mold that made it seem as though it were just part of the ceiling.  However, as his eyes once again adjusted to the light, now seeing both the darklight of the cult leader, and the red light of Neil, the two figures grappled in the air, slamming first from one side of the library and then to another.  An entire bookshelf came crashing down, ancient tomes flying out and slamming down onto the stage.  Some cultists ran, others tried to take cover beneath their arms; some of each group was crushed by the falling tomes.
  274. James watched.  James recorded; he did not move, did not run from the falling books.  And it was as though the tomes themselves were carefully aimed, never directly hitting him, few even breaking the continuity of his shots.  He was the cameraman; safe and impervious, a beacon of stability in the heart of chaos.
  276. Neil, the demoness, rocketed toward the skylight, a trail of red light trailing behind her.  Behind her shot the cult leader, her golden hair flailing in the air.  Together, grappling once more, they slammed through the skylight and flew outside, out of sight, out of camera range.
  278. In a split second, James realized that this was where the film would cut.  It would go now to either the girl, Wyatt, the marked, as she ran from the library.  Or it would continue with the combat between Neil and the cult leader, outside.  Either way, his shot here and now was done.
  280. It was in this moment of realization that James realized he was no longer impervious, no longer the cameraman.  Now he was just an innocent bystander.  And in this same moment, again, he saw the massive shards of glass from the moldy skylight breaking up, crumbling, and daggers of glass falling down directly toward him.  
  282. Gripping the camera, and the reel of film, like an infant child, James dove out of the way, letting his body absorb the shock of the fall as he rolled on to some of the toppled bookshelves.  Behind him, where he had been moments before, glass shards impaled the ground.  They cut into the remains of the cultists who had been toppled over by the books.  With sickening crunches and schlicks, the blades of glass fell on the fallen cultists, cutting deep, and for some severing or near-severing limbs.
  284. No longer could James process such thoughts as "realistic blood effects" or "I wonder where the pulley system is for the aerial combat?"  Instead, shaken and stunned, he arose from the bookshelves and slowly walked out through the open doors of the library, not sure what exactly he had just seen and been a part of.
  286. "Excellent work, James," Meagan said, standing there, herself seemingly ghastly, pale white.  "I'm very proud of you, my cameraman."
  288. He looked at her, still too stunned to speak.  
  290. "It's been a very busy day for you, James," she said, smiling at him.  She walked forward, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  Her lips were warm and soft, but the sensation came like a shock of electricity.
  292. "How did you do all that?" he finally asked.  "How did you..."
  294. "Shhh, shhh."  She put her hand on his forehead.  "Soon, you will get back in your car, and drive back to Julian's camp, and you will not be able to explain anything that happened here today.  But that's okay!  That's the magic of film."  She took his hand, and led him slowly out into the mist.
  296. As he walked, he could hear a squishing sound.  When he looked down, he noticed he left bloody footprints behind.
  298. "You're almost done," she said.  "With today, that is.  I just want you to do one more shot, this one just for fun.  Let's do it right beneath the armless statue."
  300. James felt like he was in a daze, still unable to really comprehend what he had seen in the library.  He moved without word, finding it difficult to even think.  The mist of the outside world no longer seemed like mist, but rather like the inability of his eyes to perceive color, to experience the nature around him directly.  The grass and plants and trees were distant, alien, scenes from someone else's memories.
  302. He did not really watch her dress, but somewhere in his mind he was aware she was getting into her own sort of costume.  She dawned a black robe that covered her body and her colorful clothes, and then stood by the wingless angel.  She pulled her arms inside her robes, and said, "Come on, Jimmy.  Let's finish the reel.  When you're done, leave it in the blue cooler in camp.  I'll find it there, okay?"
  304. "Sure," he said, still not really able to process anything.  He raised the camera, again, hoping that this would be the last time.  Then, taking a deep, slow sigh, he asked, "Ya ready?"
  306. She gave a wicked smile, and nodded.
  308. ______
  310. When Julian asked him how the filming went, James would simply say, "I should have been paid more," and leave it at that.  Somehow Julian would understand, or at least would think he understood, and no more would be said of it.
  312. James was at an impasse.  He didn't want anyone to see the camera any more, but he also didn't want to let it out of his sight.  So, leaving it free of any reels of film, he put it in a briefcase and took to carrying it with him during the remaining shoots.
  314. Of course, when he'd reached Meagan's camp, it was easy to spot the cooler, a simple thing to take this one reel of film and place it, carefully, within.  And then, he had no problem whatsoever getting in his car and getting back on the road, to head to his own camp.
  316. He still had no idea what really happened that summer afternoon in the mist.  
  318. ______
  320. James turned the camera on, the reel nearly complete from shooting all day.  He aimed it at Meagan, in her cloak beneath the wingless statue.  Still she smiled, as something emerged up from the neck of the cloak.
  322. It was a mirror, or so James thought at the time; it seemed to reflect only the white mist around them.  As she pushed it up, so that it slowly blocked her face from the mirror, James felt certain that he should be seeing himself.  The mirror faced him directly, reflected where he should be.
  324. Yet he was not there, it reflected still only the silent mist, the swirling, contorted shapes of an empty reality.  
  326. She walked forward, slowly, and as James looked closer, he could see something in the reflection—for just a moment, he thought he caught a glimpse of the camera, standing alone by the dark, black steel gate, aimed at nothing.
  328. But then it was gone, and when the shape in the mirror vanished, Meagan's cloak fell away.
  330. When the cloak fell, he still for a moment could see the contorted, mirror-like face, floating disembodied in the mist.  But her body, Meagan herself, was entirely gone.  Before him, there was only the mist.  He was alone, except for this shimmering reflection before his eyes.
  332. And in another moment, it too began to float away.
  334. James struggled, trying to break away from his role as the cameraman.  "Meagan!" he finally called.  "Meagan, where are you?  How did you do that?" he asked.
  336. But there was only silence.  Unable to understand, unable to comprehend, he was left speechless.
  338. Still leaving the bloody footprints behind him—signs, at least, that he himself existed, that he was real—he slowly trudged through the black metal gate, once more clutching the camera to his chest, feeling empty, cold, and ultimately dazzled.
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