the phantom painter (surreal flash fic)

Dearest Theo,

It has been far too long! What is it, almost two months since last correspondence? Anyhow I Hope all is well with Ellen and the twins, and that business over at the publishers continues to run in all its usual proficiency. Apologies but preliminaries must be cut unusually short– i have the most astonishing story to tell you of the events of these past few days.. contain it any longer and I fear I shall be sent quite mad! So Recently I’ve been working at night rather than by day.. trying to find some spark in the dark.. spice things up a bit. Thus the studio is black, adumbral, the objects and oil coated canvases lit by only the faintest, chalky flame.. like Rembrandt, I find these objects to be so much more beautiful when draped in shadow. Consequently Ive spent many of these past days in an abyssal, positively ursine sleep.. waking only in the nocturnal hours, and feeling somewhat as if Im still teetering on the brink of a dream. Every thought seems to echo, to send ripples out into my personal cosmos, and those dim unconscious wanderings that are usually so easily silenced, are now raucous, even threatening to take sway.

Although more than a little discomfiting this delirious state has done wonders for my art, a seismic change, and no doubt i shall continue to drift in this stupor so long as my painterly endeavours continue to exude such inveterate vivacity. But there is something else more pressing — before this metamorphosis of art and mind I had been content enough with painting still life, but after turning nocturnal I quite suddenly became dead set on testing my newfound aesthetic gall on figures, and so sought out a muse. initially, I struggled beyond mannered expression to find someone willing to come down to the studio at so exclusive and unconventional an hour, and most the stragglers who found willingness demanded such extraordinary monetary recompense that I had no choice but turn them down. Fortuitously enough however, I was aided by a similarly manic-minded artist friend who pointed me towards a very singular fellow who was agreeable to lending his presence at such hours for a reasonable sum.

My friend had informed me beforehand that the man was mute, which I found rather endearing, but had revealed little else of him. Having now met the man and spent some time with him these past few nights i can tell you he is without doubt the most enigmatic of personages I have ever encountered. Not only is he mute of voice but in expression of any kind, and yet there is an invisible, silent intensity there.. like that which one feels when observing a truly great portrait of a figure who bears no expression.. but who is nevertheless radiant with some unseen aesthetic, some .. atomic energy. He is strikingly handsome, as a Michaelangelo, certainly on a par with cousin Jane –which as is well known, is no mean feat. And that stare.. by God! it is like lingering in those slowed down seconds just before the lethal pounce of a great beast..

Anyway Last night curiosity got the better of me, and after having drawn a few charcoals, like shaping smoke with the tip of a finger, I told the man that he could leave a little earlier than usual – but for the same fee of course. So he took up his coat and left, then I was struck by an irresistible urge to follow, to find out more of this enigma, and so found myself stalking the city streets in the pitch night. the streets of Amsterdam were so staggeringly beautiful I almost wept — the stars pranced and pirouetted on the canal, the cobbled streets shimmered with lunar hue, the cathedral spires pierced the sky like ethereal stalacmites.. it was divine. But i digress.. I pursued the mute some way through the silent city streets, a small few other phantasmal wanderers adrift in my periphery, and he moves towards the gates of the cemetery.. understandably hesitant, I followed into the dark, and thought Id lost him amongst the clustered silhouettes of trees and elaborate headstones.. but then caught sight of his fleeting form and resumed pursuit.

i couldn’t help but think of the gravestones as being like withering teeth, that I was moving deeper and deeper into the gullet of some slumbering titan.. lost in such dreamy thoughts I again almost lost sight of him, when I glimpsed him clambering over the cemetery wall. he climbed over the seven foot stonewall with a grace and ease that seemingly verged on the superhuman.. I followed, with the grace of a wounded seal and fell over the other side a minute or so later. small wonder i landed in time to see him enter one of the buildings a little way up the street lit by a flickering streetlantern. Apartments. I approached the dilapidated looking place, and the main door was unlocked. I entered, and moved towards the dim light upstairs and saw he had left a door slightly ajar.. I should have turned away then, but was somehow unable to suffocate my curiosity.. I knocked lightly, like a whisper of a knock, and when there was no answer I pushed open the door and entered. Well I was astounded. His room was filled, crammed, with glorious works of art… hundreds of sketches, less but still a great many paintings.. some larger and more intricate, others more like studies of shape and form, they were all strewn about haphazardly. the paintings were mostly shadowy figures, though some were of buildings, castle ramparts, manses, and one  striking work of a ship in the midst of a great biblical storm.. then one particular work caught my eye, clearly a more recent addition, still resting on the easel.. as I gazed on it i felt a terrible upsurge of nausea take hold of me … like that moment when one realises theyre still asleep even when theyre most certain they had woken up…. 

The painting was of me. sat in this very room, face half masked in shadow… and the likeness was so exquisite, so perfectly rendered.. why such a work could only be the creation of innumerable hours, and whats more it could only be a painting by an artist looking directly upon a model.. but how?! I had never before set foot here! Had i at some point sleepwalked to this place and sat for this man to paint my like? Madness! Id have had to come down for hours, days, for such an image of greatness to emerge… what a wonder it was! what a wonder I was! I could not but think that looking upon this image brought about the very same feeling as that conjured in the breast of Narcissus at the edge of the pond.. then, Just as I was overcome with this paranoiac blitz of thoughts I heard the door close behind me and there stood the phantom himself. “Ah, my muse arrives” he says.. “please, do resume position. Ive to make some final touches” — he points to a chair in the corner of the room, lit by pale candlelight from one side.. all was configured exactly as in the painting……………. words escaped me……. I couldn’t speak…. I wouldnt. and so I wordlessly sat in the chair as he delicately dipped his brush, and began paint…

Dear Theo, it occurs to me to ask– have you ever heard your own voice whilst in the midst of a dream?? Do try to keep up writing me, i so often lose all sense of time without your words to keep me aground.

Ever your loving brother,

Anthony v B, september 5th 1633

Continue reading “the phantom painter (surreal flash fic)”

erosion (dystopia flash fic)

Bruno gazed at the giant TV screen which lit up his small apartment like a neon flare. Reams of paper coated the floor: pages of frantically scrawled notes, splayed case files, journal articles spattered with annotations, graphs, charts, mathematical diagrams and photographs. He had been glued to the screen for the past four hours, barely blinking. It was unlike Bruno, who, being a typical gym freak, was fidgety and itching to move around if he had been physically inactive for anything more than an hour. There were times when he had spent six hours straight working out on his virtual home gymnasium, fearing any even slight deviation from his racehorse-like physique. But these past few days, things had changed. Awake all hours of night, mostly reading scientific texts, newspapers, online articles, taking down ample notes. Before this, Bruno tended to read  little beyond the vacuous thoughts and ramblings of his like-minded buds on social media. now it was deep into the night, the curtains were still open wide, and the lights were all still switched off. Bruno’s apartment was on the twenty-third level, just about where the dense city fog lingered perpetually. Viewed from the dingy streets below, the flickering colours of the TV lit up the fog like sparking synapses in some elemental cerebellum. On screen were four figures intensely debating the latest victims of  experiments by Nadercorp, the company who, over thirty years ago, had first developed the technology capable of inducing mild telepathy, telethesia, and certain types of herd telekinesis in animals. The corporation had spent decades refining the technology, steadily working their way through the intelligence strata of the animal kingdom, and, in the past few years, had finally begun testing on volunteer human subjects. Millions had come forward, keen to go down in history as the very first telepaths; the first genuine superhumans. No doubt a great many of them had their own private agendas: they sought fame, money, power. Bruno himself had been one of these volunteers, hoping to dazzle the world with his sculpted abs and telepathic powers, like some ancient Greek hero reborn, a dazzling superman known and loved by all. many philosophers had predicted that the emergence of telepaths would eventually result in the creation of an exclusive ‘higher order’ of humans, and that in time, the non-telepath would become extinct. The technology had been controversial at first, but as animal success rates went up, and the scale of the surgery went down, fear and worry of the masses turned to intrigue and then to obsession. In the months following the first successful human implants the world waited in silent wonder, waiting for the first superhuman to emerge, the first god among mortals, the marker of what was to come… 

The device was a biotechnology: a microscopic implant which was installed into the inferior frontal cortex using a needle-sized drill. The inferior frontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for instinct. All animals have instinct to a greater or lesser degree, including humans. Back in 2020, two maverick scientists, Higson Nader and Eugene Laing, competitive and prodigious close friends and colleagues, discovered the potential to alter and reprogram instinct using a microscopic technology which manipulates electrical currents. Instinct is on a level beyond the 5 senses, and a universality among species. a vast prehistoric cache of unconscious knowledge which, if consciously tapped, can give the animal astounding capabilities. For the most part, humans have naively clung to the belief that to master instinct is to bury it. But to keep these primitive, animal urges in captivity is, as Freud proved almost two centuries ago, to suppress an intrinsic part of that which makes us human. Consider this, what if man were to gain complete control over these embedded animal instincts? To master fear, to obliterate greed, frustration, anxiety, the desire for revenge, to gain complete control over libidinal urges, to modulate adrenaline.. in short, to utterly dislocate oneself from the herd? with animals, It soon became apparent that this mastery over instinct gave rise to an obsequiousness among others of their species: implanted birds were able to control entire flocks from afar, implanted great apes were able to bend the will of the members of their troop with little more than a glance, forcing them to give up food, even perform sexual favours on a whim; one case led to thousands of inuits fleeing what had been their home for generations, after an implanted polar bear – normally solitary hunters – gathered the beasts in enormous numbers and began leading them south, to areas more fertile with prey.

Of course human beings are a great deal more complex than any other animal, and as such there was no telling how the implants might affect them. It was commonplace knowledge that one of the founders of Nadercorp, Professor Laing, had attempted to implant the technology on himself years before the trials even on the greater apes, a move which led to his breakdown and eventual institutionalisation. now, almost 2 years after the first human trials, after 2 years of waiting, of symptomless disappointment, as well as the hundreds of billions pumped into funding Nadercorp, and the countless hours dedicated by the world’s leading biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, neurosurgeons, parapsychologists, you name it, the human test subjects were slowly but surely, losing their minds.. Of the 25 ‘lottery winners’ who had been selected, 12 were showing signs of acute mental disorder: experiencing delusions, hallucinations and withdrawal. It would seem that, much like the great Professor Laing, in coming into contact with this world of pure instinct they had began to lose touch with the real world around them.

Bruno, still tranced by the screen, watched an interviewer talking to two nondescript scientists, a nervous man and a stern, sharp-featured young woman:

‘the implants were installed successfully, the operations were a roaring success on that front, and the recovery rates were even more rapid than we’d anticipated, it is only the adjustment process that seems to be causing certain unforeseen… complications in the patients’ the male scientist argued shakily,

‘complications you say?! how many more test subjects do you plan to send mad whilst working around these complications then?’ returned the interviewer

‘what my colleague is trying to say is that we’re moving into vastly new territory here. The complexity of the human mind exceeds any structure in the known universe, we know more of the events which occured billions of years ago than we know of our own inner worlds for heavens sake.. as such, there has to be a much more complex assimilation process before the biotechnology can take proper effect’ said the woman

‘Are you then saying, that it may be the case that temporary insanity is a necessary step forward??’asked the interviewer

‘maybe, we can’t know for sure just yet. For now we have to work out, based on the reactions of the test-subjects, what effects the biotech is having, and formulate logical deductions. We know that other animals are still in touch with their instincts, still heavily reliant upon them, and so it makes sense that they are more easily able to tap them. Whereas humans of the modern civilised world are so used to burying instinct, suppressing it, that they are in a sense wholly detached from it.. It is therefore reasonable to assume that a human may be required to re-access and reawaken this buried atavistic aspect in order to regain access to the potential that the technology provides.. the human mind is thoroughly fixed in its ways, cordoned by logic and rationality, this makes it a far more intricate and complicated process than first thought’ she replied

‘yes’ the man cut in, clearly feeling somewhat overshadowed, ‘what we are seeing now is the next stage in human evolution, we cant expect it to be easy. This is the ‘cognitive erosion’ stage- where the mind chips away the concrete walls of civilised society, and reverts back to an early stage of pure instinct.. then, and only then, can humanity move onto the next stage of its journey’..


Bruno awoke early the next day. he showered and dressed unconsciously, then made his way down to the tired streets below. The air was rank, the pavement and edges of the road packed with litter like the silt deposits at the side of a fast-flowing river. He headed round the corner to the alley where he parked his old rust-crusted mustang. it woke  unwillingly and the engine coughed like a hundred year old smoker. He drove out towards the edge of the city until the entire world seemed made up of gigantic warehouses and abandoned factory buildings. One of the buildings, behind a thick metallic weave of barbed wire, had a graffitied sign that could be seen just beyond the  fence. COOMBESMEAD PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. Bruno noticed a little way up there was a truck-sized hole in the barbed fence – it seemed that there were already others here. Bruno drove through the hole and approached the large arched entryway to the hospital. In front of the building there was a few dozen other vehicles, haphazardly abandoned with doors open wide. a few cabs aldo, their drivers stood confusedly by their cars, looking towards the entrance but not quite working the courage to go any closer. Bruno left his car and walked to the hospital entrance. he went in, and as he got deeper inside, he saw patients wandering dazedly in their white-walled purgatory, hovering between worlds, unphased and uninterested by the new stream of people walking their bleached halls. .. no sign of doctors or hospital staff. Bruno came to a room at the rear of the building, in which there was a crowd of people huddled together. One man was sat on a doctor’s swivel chair at the very center of them. He wore a lab jacket, and had written in red ink – Professor Eugene Laing. Laing was expressionless, totally at ease. he radiated authority. deep in the echochamber of all their minds, all those who stood about him, including Bruno, Laing’s voice spoke to them with godly authority: the next stage in human evolution is here


NB: cover image is ‘Streets’ by Sanchiko on deviantart

Salvador Dali’s night before Christmas (xmas flash fiction)

Twas the night before Christmas and 7-year-old little Salvador Dali was in his favourite place: deep in the psychic vastness of his unconscious mind. He swam through dreams with prodigious ease, and his dreams were nothing like that of his friends, whose tended to revolve around petty matters like toys and sibling squabbles and candy canes. Oh no – to compare little Salvador’s dreams with those of others his age was like comparing the collision of two ancient neutron stars with that of two glass marbles. His dreams were fuelled by such a combustion of imagination that he frequently woke up to find himself in a monochromatic, ashen world, a world through which he would stumble dazedly, searching for some portal which would take him back to the cornucopia of his dreams, in which he could again soar..

In the dead of this night, little Salvador woke suddenly upon hearing a loud noise. he sat upright, eyes taking a moment to adjust to the pitch dark. There seemed nothing out of place, everything was as expected. His school uniform still hung on the cupboard door, his father’s silver pocketwatch still lay on his bedside cabinet, his books on the artwork of DaVinci still splayed haphazardly across his desk. Dangling above his desk was a cardboard solar system which spun gently, the lunar rays cast planetary shadows onto the wall, they thrummed with a silent, cosmic intensity. He put his head back on his pillow and willed himself hungrily back to his other world, his surreality, and consciousness again dissolved like melting butter. then, mere milliseconds before he tipped back into the land of Freud, there came a clear but gentle tap… tap… tap… at the window.

Salva slowly turned over to face the window, eyes still feigned shut. he could see the faint swaying outlines of the vines which clambered over the house… perhaps one of the tendrils was tapping the window as it wafted in the wind. He frowned, closed his eyes, and once again began to drift away. seconds later… tap… tap… tap… only this time it was different. quicker, more urgent, and somehow, less natural. His heart fluttered now, but little Salva was not easily spooked, for the vibrant ferocity of his dreams was matched  by the horror of his nightmares. He untucked himself and crawled over to the window on all fours. The tapping had stopped, but he could still see the blurred shape of a thick vine, which moved with oddly jerky movements. He got hold of the corner of the curtain and pulled it open just a sliver…

“OH DIOS MIO!!!” he cried,

stumbling backwards and pulling the curtains off the rail. There, almost filling the entire frame of his window, was the face of a gigantic swan. Salva crawled backwards over his bed frantically, falling forcefully onto the floor on the other side, the moon’s dazzling light tracking him like a prison spotlight. The great swan peered down at him curiously, as though observing a misshapen cygnet in a fit of frenzy.

After a long minute, still rasping, he peeked over his bed. The swan was no longer there. He stared at the window wide-eyed. and long moments passed. soon, when he had convinced himself the swan must have been but the shadow of a dream seeping into reality, a slender hand appeared, reaching slowly from beneath the window ledge. It was normal-sized – which brought some strange relief – and it was clearly a woman’s hand, but it seemed somwhat ghostly, unearthly. it radiated a faint glow, seemed almost translucent.  Then, with no effort at all, the hand pushed on little Salvador’s locked window, and it swung open wide. He started, and before he even had a chance to react a flurry of snow swept into his room, coating his bed and his face. Squinting into the blizzard, little Salvador saw the woman was beckoning him, then she vanished from view into the white night.

Out of sheer wonder, or perhaps sheer madness, he instinctively ran towards the open window to follow the woman. He looked out the window frantically, searching the shadows of his snow-covered garden below. but no-one was there. He leaned out  further, trying to look beneath the jutting roof edge. then suddenly he felt something grip the back of his pajamas and in one quick motion he was hauled up and out of his window like a lost pup and dropped onto the back of the great swan who perched on his roof. Before he could utter a yelp, the swan began hopping across the rooftops with its giant webbed feet, before spreading its wings like the almighty sails of the Argo and soaring off into the night sky. Soon the snow-caked rooftops of the sleeping city of Figueres were barely visible, so small they seemed almost Lilliputian, the street lamps nothing more than a swarm of distant fireflies.

As they flew higher and further away from all traces of humanity, the world he had known just moments before seemed a distant memory, and little Salvador realised that his initial state of panic had now completely subsided, lost in a crashing tide of wonder and awe. The real world with all its logical and coherent decrees, its linearities and geometries slowly began to melt away…

High above them, where the moon once lay, there was now a perfectly formed egg which floated horizontally. It had a slender crack running through its centre, from which there dribbled a thick molten yolk. Far below there was a great checkerboard lake, the surface covered in thick ice checkered black and white. Here and there he saw soldiers scampering across the ice, slipping and sliding, as well as armoured knights, and horses which galloped with a speed and grace that eclipsed all the others he had ever seen. A few miles on they came upon a vast plain littered with windmills, only in place of their rotor blades were gigantic spinning butterflies; the dust from their luminescent wings billowed as they spun wildly, sending a shimmering mist into the sky. There were groves of snow-capped trees shaped like craniums, and great crystallised monoliths alongside building-sized baguettes which were buried deep into the earth. There were mechanical statues with clockwork hearts; and strange giant rubber faces which hobbled around on wooden crutches; and ghostly nomads who were somehow only perceivable in his peripheral vision. Everywhere he looked there were new wonders to behold, but the swan flew on.

As they passed over the next alpine peak Salva was met with a sight which filled him with such wonder that tears streamed from his eyes. A formation of reindeer towered high above the snowy fields, lolloping on spindly, elongated legs. Their enormous antlers groped for the stars like fuzzy cacti, and seemed to converge above their collective heads into some chestnut-coloured coral reef. Occasionally elfin sprites danced in and out of the ossiferous weave of antlers like baby-faced soldiers of a celestial anthill. then At the rear of the reindeer squadron there came a gigantic moose of the purest white with great crimson antlers. and cradled above its enormous head, resting in the antlers which were like godly open hands, there rested a golden throne of such splendour and opulence that the night faltered in its aura… there, seated in his bejeweled throne, was Papa Noel. His colossal white beard swirled like a nimbus, his red cheeks bloomed like rose apples, his cloak seemed made of purest gold. but what stood out most of all was his incredible mustache – at odds with his white beard it was jet black, and it swept out and upwards like two royal scimitars, swishing loudly as he turned his great head. As Salva gazed on him time seemed to melt, and then he saw Papa Noel glance down at his watch.. as he did it started to drool from his arm like fresh oven-baked brie.. it seemed that time was running out… then, As little Salva still gazed upon this resplendent figure, he suddenly felt the world shift on its axis. and the great troupe of reindeer began to stumble on their frail legs, dragging the arctic moose and the great throne with them. As they plummeted towards the ground, so too did the great swan upon which Salvador sat. he fell through the sky faster and faster, the ground coming closer and close, and he raised his arms, bracing himself for the cold white impact of the snow below…

Then he was back in his bed.

holding his bedcovers out like great wings.

It was a dream. Nothing more.

with this realisation he put his face in his covers and began to sob. He felt the covers dampening as he clutched them to his face.

then after a few moments he heard it.

Tap… tap… tap…

He lifted up his head and through the glaze of his tear-filled eyes he saw a woman standing at the end of his bed. She was smiling gently, glowing softly, her aura serene.

The woman reached into her pocket, though the motion was unusual, more like opening a chest of drawers. And she took out what looked like a simple thin piece of wood, the end of which was covered in the finest hair. It was a paintbrush. She placed it into his hands and he looked down at it. When he looked back up she was gone. He walked to the window and looked down on his garden, the he looked up in the hope he might see the great swan. But there was nothing.

He looked around at his dreary room, and his grey walls, and then again out of the window over the bleached landscape, and then he did something quite unexpected; something completely unconscious. He lifted the paintbrush, and he began to paint over all that he saw. He used no oils, no watercolours, he used only his imagination…

‘Thank you, my muse’ murmured little Salva, and he painted and painted and painted until eventually he fell into a deep, dreamless and harmonious sleep.



NB: The final image is Dali’s ‘Leda Atomica’ (1949). Also… MERRY XMAS!!! xxx

THE ACCUSED (sci-fi flash fiction)

The Decider’s ship descended through the snowstorm, coughing up a wave of ice. The haggard ship was built to withstand such conditions, its birdlike feet adjusting to the shifting shape of the ground. Seconds after landing a pole emerged slowly from the top of the ship, and reached higher and higher into the blizzard. Once fully extended it was around twice the height of the ship. Then the pole began to open out in an action much like that of an umbrella. Once opened it formed a perfect half-sphere dome which slowly lowered until it covered the ship so it looked like some colossal snow globe. Next gill-like vents on the side of the ship opened, and began pumping seething hot air into the inner globe, and soon enough, the ice started to melt, and the globe began to slowly sink deep into the ice. 
The ship continued its descent through the icy mantle, whilst the evaporating ice caused the globe to fill with steam. After a few minutes the ship’s feet touched upon a flat surface, and the steam was quickly sucked into a vacuum tube.

Total darkness. The only sound was the gentle baritone of the ship’s resting engine.

After a few moments a faint blue pulsating light began to emit from the ship, it rippled down the ship’s flanks like the neon lights of deep-sea plankton.

Then the cockpit hissed open and a walkway glided towards the ground.

The Decider disembarked.

The body of his suit was jet black, and made up of hundreds of tiny jagged intersecting plates which looked distinctly reptilian. His enormous helmet was made up of thousands of coloured gems which were patterned to look like some smirking shamanic mask. Immense tusks of some ancient beast spiralled into the air from the cranium, and a mass of leathery cords formed a mottley mane.

The Decider’s body was almost invisible in the darkened space of the dome, but the great helmet sparkled radiantly in the shimmering blue light. The head floated in the void like some tribal specter.

The Decider’s movements were quick, insectile. He seemed keen to finish his task. He knelt on the flat ground a little way from the ship, and from the thigh of his scaly armour he pulled a dagger, which started to glow with scolding heat. He delicately pressed the tip of the dagger into the ground, and after a few seconds the tip melted through the surface.

He carefully cut out a circle with the blade, and once finished he placed the dagger back in its unseen holster.

With no hesitation he jumped into the centre of the circle with all his weight, and fell through into blackness.

The Decider calmly plummeted through the dark, the scales of his suit opening like miniature ailerons to slow his descent, and within seconds he dropped lightly onto the waiting ground. The  glaring yellow eyes of his helmet lit up like spotlights so that he could see his nearby surroundings. The ground was covered in what looked like black vines, thousands upon thousands of them. He picked one up and cut through it with his heated dagger, and it let out a loud spark which momentarily lit up the pitch dark like a flare. Not vines, electrical wires.

The flash revealed a tall structure nearby which the wires seemed to move toward like the central nervous system of some sleeping god. The Decider made his way towards it nimbly across the sinewy floor.

Suddenly he heard a scuttling sound from the darkness. He glanced towards it, but the sound stopped. Whatever it was, it was beyond his range of sight. He pulled out the dagger and kept moving. His glowing eyes continued to scan the darkness like prison lights.

Then the scuttling came again, this time much closer. He snagged a wire and cut through it, again lighting up the dark like a flashbang. This time The Decider caught a glimpse of the thing in the dark. It was around a hundred feet away – a cluster of mechanical legs huddled beneath a great armoured shell, like some gargantuan robotic trilobite patrolling the ocean depths.

The Decider ran, and the trilobite instinctively gave chase.

For its size it moved with breathtaking speed, closing the gap within moments. The Decider could hear just a few feet behind, the mechanical legs clicking like a frantic typewriters as it clambered hungrily over the mesh.

The Decider sensed it was readying to strike. But before it could, he reached down and ran his dagger through the topmost wires, sending a trail of sparks like firecrackers in his wake. The trilobate gave an agonised shriek, a sound not unlike the dial-up crescendo, before receding into the pitch darkness once more.

The Decider had reached the structure at the wiry core. Here the wires raised and twisted to form a gigantic wiry stalagmite. There was no door, only a thin opening through which The Decider struggled to fit his broad horned helmet.

Once inside the floor illuminated a deep green under his footsteps. He made his way confidently through the labyrinthine passages, and soon came upon the central atrium.

In the centre of the large room was a towering statue of a figure similarly adorned to The Decider, only much more regal. This figure was cloaked, and held a hammer as long as the tallest man. His gigantic mask was encrusted with fist-sized diamonds of all different colours, and the curved ebony horns made The Decider’s look paltry by comparison. Whilst the ghostly visage depicted on The Decider’s mask was sneering, the visage on the statue was neutral, observant even.

The dim green light revealed some intricate designs on the cave walls. The wires had been warped and contorted into images depicting some seemingly ancient civilisation: thousands of figures praying to these great sacred towers, great ships and technologies which somehow seem at once natural and mechanical.

Barely perceivable at the foot of the statue, immersed in the tangle of wires like the fettered prey of a spider, were two unmoving figures. These figures were unmasked. They were hairless, their faces leached of any colour, their open eyes veiled by a thick silvery cataract. They looked like what a human might look like after adapting to living deep underground in darkness for thousands of years.

These were The Accused.

The Decider approached, and they slowly turned to face him with their empty, film-covered eyes.

Then the Decider spoke, his sonorous voice echoing through the halls.

“Awaken Accused. A decision has been made”…



NB: featured image is by Luke Fielding of deviantart, and the image comes from a series inspired by Peter V Brett’s incredible Demonwar saga – highly recommended!