Anodyne’s mind raced with possibility. Eagerly he began to grin.
“Better hold on, Sylum; we are going back to Hollow.”
Anodyne yelled as he began to swirl his hands overhead. Sylum gripped to the chunk of land. His hands dug deep into its soil as he solidified rock around himself to hold him in. Anodyne called out as his spell came to a conclusion.
“Better watch out, Xarius, because we’re fucking coming for you.”
His hands collided, and the protective bubble enveloped them before they both disappeared. Sylum was preparing for the ride to be rough as it had been on the way in, but Anodyne appeared to be in a hurry. He forced them through the universe, hopping as fast as he could. His eyes unblinking, he watched as the chaos of their environment lashed out at the protective bubble. Vibrant colors flared as the opposing forces collided, lighting up the maddened determination that was consuming Anodyne. Sylum struggled to remain on the land. With each violent explosion that happened, he could feel the land breaking away a little more.
“Anodyne, maybe we slow down a little,” Sylum cried out over the cacophony of increasingly large explosions, his hands slipping from their embrace, struggling to stay on. He clawed his way onto the land as it fell apart. “Anodyne, I am going to fall. You need to slow down.”
Anodyne continued to stare unblinking as he leaned ever closer to the protective barrier, the heat bubbling his skin and drying his eyes. Sylum continued to fall backward despite his best efforts to remain grounded. His foot passing ever so slightly out of the barrier, he felt it being torn asunder by the forces of nature.
“Anodyne, I am going to die!” He screamed as his grip failed completely.
Tumbling backward towards the barrier, he felt as if time was slowing, the sound of the explosions seeming drawn out and low in tone. Everything moved glacially as he fell backward. He watched as Anodyne remained at the front, staring into the vibrant chaos that was happening spitting distance from his face. Feeling the heat grow against his back, Sylum began to panic, but no matter what he tried to do, nothing would come to fruition. His powers were inert while traveling within Anodyne’s sphere. A slight tingling sensation ran up Sylums spine as it made contact with the barrier, a sensation that seemed to reset time and everything began to flow. He closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable; holding them as tight as he could, he scrunched up his face with anticipation.
“We’re here.” Anodyne said, provoking Sylum to open his eyes.
Their travel had come to an end a mere moment before Sylum fell into the chaos and was consumed by the raw energy. Sylum turned Anodyne around and stared into his eyes with a fury.
“You ever do that again, and I will kill you. I told you that I would happily fight for you, but I won’t die because of you.”
Anodyne seemed to ignore Sylum. He just eagerly waited for him to finish speaking before responding.
“But Sylum, we are here. Look.” Anodyne gestured behind himself, revealing an asteroid covered in crystals. Sylum drew closer. Looking over it, he could see the still-present visage of Anodyne’s guardian angel.
“You better hope you never come out of this hysteria. Otherwise, I am going to fucking break you.” Sylum muttered under his breath, recognizing that Anodyne would be impossible to address while in his current state.
“Do you know what this is?”
Sylum ran his hand across the asteroid. “A woman in rock?” He sighed with disinterest.
“No, this is far more than a woman. This is my guardian angel, slowly going through the process of un-birth.” Anodyne laid his body across the asteroid, mirroring the position of his guardian angel. A glimmer of interest sparked in Sylum’s eyes.
“You mean to tell me something managed to defeat your guardian angel? I don’t know a single god that would even try to attack one, let alone win.”
“Oh, I have no idea what caused her to fall into this state, but she gave me some of her memories before falling into this form. So I have some understanding of what is happening.”
Sylum watched as Anodyne caressed the gemstones around her face, staring almost lovingly into her eyes.
“Is your plan to bring her back? Then use her help to defeat Xarius?” Sylum said as he examined the asteroid further. His eyes were drawn to the top as he heard a cracking sound. Anodyne had plunged his hand through the top of the stone around her, carving a way to her heart. Plunging his hand through her chest, he bit through his lip with anticipation. As soon as Anodyne grabbed her heart, he felt an overwhelming heat run through his body. His eyes turned blue as his body went into panic mode. Veins in his head started to illuminate with a vibrant purple energy. Sylum stood back from the situation, watching curiously but cautiously. Anodyne started to turn feral, and he straddled the asteroid. His feet and spare hands set wide across its surface as he centered himself above the angel’s heart.
“Come now! You were once so eager to give me your secrets! Why hold back now?!” Anodyne screamed as he felt his hand slowly melding with the heart, uncertain if he was forcing his way through or if it was consuming him. “From darkness you came, unto darkness you shall return once again. Face the inevitable. Take the stride into the dark. Leave behind the secrets of your past. Give me the knowledge needed to burn the scourge that poisons my planet.”
Anodyne felt pulses of energy attacking his body, growing more violent the stronger his grip became. As his mind turned soft, Anodyne was filled with memories from the angel, her experiences as she developed into the being that she was before her un-birth began.
“Let your life carry on through me. Let me be a vessel for your life to continue. Leave this old one behind. Become one with me.”
As Anodyne finished yelling, the violence of the situation ended. The light emanating from the heart faded, and the heart itself collapsed beneath Anodyne’s grip.
Sylum cautiously approached as he watched vapor rise off of Anodyne’s body.
“Anodyne, you still there.”
Sylum asked as he tried to gain a view of Anodyne’s face.
“Yes.” Anodyne answered, but as he did, a female’s voice answered at the same time, un-nerving Sylum and causing him to stop in his tracks.
Again, speaking with two voices, Anodyne raised his head to reveal black eyes with a Stirling cross stretching the length and breadth of his eyes as pupils.
“We have some business to take care of back on Hollow.”
Before Sylum had a chance to ask questions, he was grabbed by Anodyne, and they both disappeared. As they reappeared above Hollow, Sylum felt a strange energy rippling from Anodyne’s body. The ripples encompassed the planet below. As it did, a series of girl voices screamed out Anodyne’s name.
“The hell was that?” Sylum said reactively.
“Those were my daughters, all seven, screaming for their father to return. For the ruler of their once beautiful planet to come home and cast out the usurper that holds his throne.”
Sylum turned his gaze downwards as the shaking of Anodyne’s hand caught his eye. As it moved and writhed, it appeared as if two hands were occupying the same space. Looking upwards, he noticed Anodyne’s whole body appeared as if there were a second being occupying the same space. As he watched, he could see Anodyne, then the figure of the angel, before changing back again.
Anodyne floated, staring at his planet.
“What has he done to you? You were once so beautiful, now a disgusting mess covered with weak people.” Anodyne searched for Xarius. He could feel his presence but failed to see him.
“Come out, Xarius. You have something that belongs to me.”
Anodyne waited for a response. A whole hour passed with no response.
“Fine, we do this the loud way.”
Anodyne pressed his hand against the barrier that had been keeping him separate from his world. With little effort, it shattered under his hand. The once invisible energy turned into shards of glass that started to float towards the planet.
Down on the planet, Xarius sat with a group of devoted followers, basking in their worship. A small speck landed on his nose, watched by those awestruck on the ground. Opening his eyes, he saw the sky was lit up like an aurora that encompassed the whole planet.
“It is truly beautiful, Risen God. You do us a great honor,” a worshiper said as he gazed upwards to the sky.
“I’ll ask once more. Come out, Xarius. You have something that I want back.”
Anodyne waited again.
Xarius looked to his followers. “Remain here; I shall return shortly.”
He flew out and met Anodyne and Sylum.
“You look like shit Anodyne, did breaking my little barrier take its toll on you?” Xarius chuckled as he watched Anodyne twitch and spasm.
Turning his head back to the planet, Xarius snapped his fingers, and another shimmer surrounded Hollow. “That is a shame because they are so easy to make.”
Anodyne tried his best to grin but found the uncontrollable twitches forced his face to a stern stare.
“Your pathetic barrier did not do this to me; I did.”
“Strange. Never took you for one to self-harm. Looks like being separate from your planet has driven you insane.” Xarius leaned back against his barrier, watching with joy as Anodyne appeared to be in pain.
“Oh, but you couldn’t be more wrong.” Anodyne started to walk slowly towards Xarius. “Being separated from my planet cured me of my insanity; it gave me a clear mind with which I was able to see a solution to my problem.”
Anodyne leaned his hand on the barrier next to Xarius, once again shattering it. A spark of fear gleamed in Xarius’s eyes.
“But once I merged with my angel, I regained all those years of pain and suffering, bringing back the madness. A madness that fuels my powers. Now I remember what I needed to regain my strength; I have no reason to let you live. This is my planet, my home, and my playthings that reside upon it. And I do not share with those weaker than me.”
Xarius pushed against Anodyne, placing him at the extent of his arm’s reach.
“You may gain power from being insane, but you took it too far, Anodyne. Do you really think you have gotten stronger than me in such a short period of time? I think it is time I put you down, you mad dog!” and he swung with all his might.
His fist collided to no effect. Anodyne remained, twitching and fidgeting before Xarius.
“I am not some wayward deity with no direction. You can’t put me down.”
Anodyne grabbed Xarius, pulling him in close. His duel voice ringing in Xarius’ ear.
“I have direction, purpose, and willpower that will use your soul as a stepping stone to the stars.”
With no effort, Anodyne sent Xarius sailing towards the ground. Tearing through the atmosphere, he lit up the sky, the final flourish on the already colorful sky. Curving back down, he crashed through the top of his own church.
“Do you hear their screams, Xarius? Those are the screams of those who follow a weak deity. Let those screams fill you as I slaughter your people.”
Anodyne followed with Sylum in tow, smashing another hole through the church as he stomped Xarius down into the marble flooring.
“You will get a front-row seat; I wouldn’t want you to miss the hope boil away in their tears as they realize that your time has come.”
Dust filled the church, shrouding the location of those who groaned in agony. Xarius’ name was called out by those fallen in a desperate attempt to hold onto their lives. Anodyne grabbed the struggling Xarius and laid him before a wheezing person. Pressed down and forced to look into the mortal’s eyes. As the dust cleared, the mortal could see his deity, hard pressed against the floor with Anodyne’s shifting form above him. Tears rolled down his cheeks as his stare returned to Xarius. Xarius closed his eyes, but Sylum reached down and pulled them open. He stared unwillingly into the eyes of the mortal, watching as the hope faded, then his life. Xarius lashed out, striking Sylum out of the way, directing his rage towards Anodyne.
“This is all you do. Maim and punish people for nothing. This is why I returned; this is why I claimed this world from you. I was going to make you suffer for all the years you made them suffer. I was…” Xarius’ speech was cut short as Anodyne crushed his vocal cords with one swift motion. His voice crumpled to wheezes and whines.
“You should have just killed me because now…”
Anodyne outstretched his arms and clenched his fists. The shaking stopped, and he returned to his normal self, except his eyes remained black with Stirling crosses.
“Now, I am far beyond you.”
Anodnye leaned forward with both hands, gripping at the clothes around Xarius’ neck. He shredded them from his body. Anodyne forced him, naked and crying, out of the church where many had gathered to watch from a distance. They gasped as they watched their deity fall to the ground helpless and as the ever-imposing figure of Anodyne marched forward with Sylum by his side. The calm summer sky was shrouded by dark clouds. The gentle breeze now had an arctic gale that disrupted everyone caught within it.
“I have reclaimed my world, and bit by bit, I shall return it to its former glory.” Anodyne spoke softly towards Xarius. His voice was now mostly his own, with only a small whisper of the angel’s voice hiding behind it. Anodyne’s attention was drawn from Xarius as those around him screamed and ran away. He basked in their fear, allowing it to give his body even more might.
Xarius tried desperately to crawl away while Anodyne and Sylum were distracted. He tried his best to mend his throat, regaining the ability to speak, but only a croak. He turned to talk to Anodyne but did not risk making a final remark as he felt the overwhelming power resonating from Anodyne. Instead, he took one last look around before disappearing from Hollow. He crashed onto a hard, unforgettable surface. His eyes opened in a panic as he pushed himself back onto his feet.
“How?” Xarius strained through still partially crushed vocal cords.
Below his feet was the all too familiar red stone of the Hell of Hollow. Stretching on forever, the jagged, hard, hot landscape brought a myriad of nightmares back to Xarius. The only obstruction of his view was Anodyne standing before him. Hard black and Stirling’s eyes are even more formidable than before as they now glared with hatred as intense as the two violet suns above.
“I may not have been looking at you, but you were the center of my attention.”
Anodyne locked eyes on Xarius, refusing to break contact.
Xarius groaned before getting but a few words out.
“Where is your buddy?”
“I told him to stay above; you could still kill him far too easily.”
“Look at that. You can like things.”
“Oh, oh, please do not mistake this for a caring endearment towards Sylum. I see everything as they truly are, objects. Some are useful to me, while others do not deserve my time. I am not yet willing to lose Sylum because he is still very useful to me.”
“Of course.” Xarius sat down. “Now what?” He asked hesitantly.
“Now, now we take a tour of your home.” Anodyne said as he located the growing tribes.
Grabbing Xarius by the hair on the back of his head, he lifted him from the ground. Ascending to the skies, he flew erratically across the heated stone. Its unruly red landscape contrasted with the violet sky that merged at the horizon. The red stone started to be broken up as Anodyne flew over the small tribes of people below. Their constructions of housing through the flesh and bone of those who were weak now gave them strong relief from the unrelenting suns.
“From memory, you escaped by gathering pools of blood that sprouted life in the form of psychic-capable plants. Merging them with bones, you made that atrocity.”
Anodyne looked upwards to a large flying serpent crafted from blood-soaked bones that were held together by vibrantly colored plant life. The head is a large bushel of weeds with eyes at the end of each stalk. A set of translucent wings kept it aloft above the worshippers below.
“Once inhabitant of Hollow, then king of its hell. You create a demi-god and escape Hell. But in escaping Hell, you make yourself into a deity.”
Anodyne tossed Xarius to the ground against a large rock.
“You have lived an extraordinary life,” Anodyne said with a hint of jealousy.
“You forgot the part where I bitch slapped you from your own planet and ruled it.” Xarius gurgled out through blood pooling in his throat.
Anodyne stood tall with hatred in his eyes.
“I was going to kill you, torture you, but you would die in the end.” Anodyne plunged his hand into Xarius’s stomach. Resting his thumb on his sternum and gripping the underside with his other fingers, he lifted him like a bag of luggage and flew further across the landscape.
“You had to push it. If you thought Hell was bad the first time, you were mistaken. You have had it easy, worm; now the real pain begins.”
The tribal societies watched as Anodyne flew over with Xarius. Curious, the leaders sent out scouts to investigate what was happening. They watched as Anodyne bulleted towards the ground, slamming Xarius into the ground. Lifting him up with the arm in his chest, he slammed him down again and again until he made a small crater.
“You are going to burn on this plane of existence till my eyes fall from my skull by the effects of time. This is your new home, and these shall be your friends.”
Anodyne held one hand high into the air, and a deafening shrill cut through the arid air. Down from the skies came down the winged bone serpent. It slithered across the ground and rested its empty ribcage above Xarius. Tendrils extended downwards towards Xarius, slowly forcing their way into his body. Blood poured from the wounds. Anodyne sighed.
“This creature you gave birth to is truly a marvel. These plants are so intricate that I can’t replicate them. If this is what comes from mortal blood, I would be curious to see what your blood creates.”
The blood began to pool inside the crater Anodyne created. Flowing unnaturally fast from the wounds, the crater was quickly filled. The blood spilled over, slowly making its way towards the tribes. Cracking his knuckles, Anodyne knelt next to the broken Xarius.
“Your blood shall flow for eternity, carving a path through this rocky landscape. You are going to remain here forever….”
Lashing out in an unfamiliar void, he panicked
“Where the fuck am I?”
The darkness around him ended as a light blinded him as a woman’s voice cried out.
“I have summoned you here this day, O Anodyne. I have broken your seal. I desire to claim my wish from you. Slay the god that stands before me.” Sharell bowed her head as everyone looked on with amazement. Vure stood with a quiver in their stance, watching as Anodyne stood. His eyes are different from the last time they saw them. His face seemed frozen between confusion and hate. Turning, he looked down at Sharell.
“You ruined my final words. Those were the last words that I had intended to part with an old foe. This moment cannot be reclaimed; it has been ruined forever. Do you want the god of chaos? I hope this is chaotic enough for you.”
Anodyne enlarged until Sharell fit into his palm. Reaching down, he lifted her from the ground and disappeared. Neither Vure nor Sharell’s companions knew what to do. They stood staring at each other in confusion. Anodyne reappeared in Hollow’s Hell.
“Xarius, you wait there. I will be back for you.”
Sharell screamed as she fought against Anodyne’s increasingly tightening grip.
“Come one, come all. Come look at this marvel of a woman,” Anodyne shouted to the tribes. Not wanting to incur his wrath, all within earshot came running to Anodyne’s feet. He threw Sharell to the ground. The sound of cracking bones muffled the sounds of her cries.
“This woman is unique. Not only is she immortal like you, her body also replenishes.” Anodyne reached down and ripped her arms from her sides. Blood poured out as she screamed. But unlike her voice, the blood stopped as two new arms slowly emerged. Returning her body whole again. After demonstrating her abilities, Anodyne pulled a large stone pillar from the ground, raising it higher than any other stone pillar on the landscape. Reaching over, he placed Sharell on top.
“Up there is an unlimited supply of skin, meat, bones, and pleasure. Who will get it first?”
The tribes all rushed for their weapons and supplies, each one intent on retrieving Sharell for themselves. Anodyne left them to their squabbling and returned to Xarius, once again kneeling.
“Your blood shall flow for eternity, carving a path through this rocky landscape. You are going to remain here forever.” Standing, Anodyne’s grin faded.
“Fucking bitch, she ruined everything!” Anodyne ripped at the hair on his head in frustration.
“I am going to come back for you. After I deal with the surface, I am going to have a vast amount of pent-up rage to release at someone. I figured you should be honored with it,” Anodyne snarled towards Xarius before leaving him to his jail beneath the winged Hell Serpent.