Part 1: Death Bargainer
Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.
US science fiction novelist & scholar (1920 – 1992)
The All-seeing Eye fell from grace. Her once expensive white trench coat, fedora hat and usually immaculate accompanying suit was now torn and dirtied, herself bruised and bound in the cruel embrace of red chains and black rope to be dragged into the hot and abrasive gray sands with prickle riddled weeds of the rocky slopes and unwillingly taken to somewhere way beyond the safety of the twilight city to be punished or if lucky, redeemed."Unhand me, damn you!" the combination of salty tears and gritty sand stung and temporarily blinded the uncontrollably sobbing purple eyed and crimson haired girl who struggled ceaselessly as she was manhandled during the forced trudging to an unknown destination. The men who immobilized her for the duration of the merciless pilgrimage ignored her pleas and marched onward, with their former friend now praying for her impossible salvation in tow. The suddenly fast and erratic beating of her heart and gross sweating that abruptly stopped now started its disgustingly wet cycle anew as she saw something in somewhat twisted and gigantic proportions stirring itself awake, gleaming in the harsh sun despite the cloudy and gloomy skies above. The fallen savior noticed that her psychologically hardened ex-friends started to tremble visibly at the sight of the thing ahead of them all."Oh my god… what the fuck is that thing?" she recalled the tall, coffee skinned, blond haired and potty mouthed person talking out of all of them to be Brenton, being the one who reluctantly fastened ropes and chains on her while she was knocked out. Her other friends said nothing to Brenton, being too afraid to speak of the abomination beyond them. Over a million voices whispered, cried, screamed and yelled in everyone's ears as they neared the now visible violation of nature. The failed teenager's fate was inevitably sealed as Brenton and her one-time buddies left her to endure hell by dumping her on the ground and leaving her entirely alone to possibly die afterwards at their superior's explicit orders. The nightmare before her was a visage of a spiky haired, androgynous man, seemingly chained to the obsidian tree in the appearance of a horrifying torture device from Hell who was obviously not a flesh-and-blood being.
"Another innocent soul damned to appease me, are you?" despite being trapped partially in the inorganic dark tree behind him, the nameless man's blank expression changed instantly into a wicked grin, displaying his unbelievably white, razor sharp teeth. The gentle and smooth voice coming from the entire inhuman structure did nothing to stop his victim's ever growing fear of him, which was getting more obvious by the minute with the trail of glistening fluid trailing away from her eyes. She wanted to just bury her face in the dirt, where the nearest barbed tree root was, hoping the growth would scratch both of her eyes out. Mankind's engine of suffering… so this is what it is… she thought. The Tree's eye color changed constantly as it continued to observe this pathetic excuse for a once renowned hero of the people.
"Save your sorrows for me, child. I will reap all of it slowly and share in it, so you will never be alone in your suffering." with a complicated gesture of an uncomfortably confined hand, he moved the nearest thorned vine towards his quarry, which quickly licked off and absorbed the mixture of sand, clotted blood and tears on her once beautiful face, as he did so with the aid of the other half of his body, she noticed that he convulsed slightly in ecstasy as he was feeding upon the excrement through the vines and licking his dark lips languidly with his reddish tongue with unconcealed relish.
"My hunger can be finally sated at last. I have been waiting for so long for fresh meat…" the vine nearest to the girl managed to cut both the ropes and chains possibly by accident rather than luck, allowing her to stand shakily to face the monster, but her wrists were bleeding because of how spiny they were. May God have mercy on me. she thought as her weakened body fell back down to the soft and stinking soil. In reality, such a thing wouldn't happen in a million years, but it is still good to hope despite the cold and heartless fact. Numerous vines and roots lifted her frail and broken body closer to The Tree. She welcomed the cold embrace of its shackles as the many roots and vines of the bio-mechanical plant decorated her with autographs, signs and symbols that blushed of many roses. She continually screamed in pain and bled profusely from her back, causing her normally white attire to be reddened.
"Better not be too greedy while you're playing with your one and only source of food…" the red maned butterfly in The Tree's grip coughed up a lot of blood and tried not to smile too much. The Tree glared at her for such a remark.
"You will be more than enough for my fill, child. Once I am done with my many blackened tails of agony and misery." Poor thing, so weak and yet so willing. It will not be too long until I can feed on this one. The branches of the tree changed quickly into vines and proceeded to suck up the blood from the miniature forest floor and from her bleeding and bruised body as well.
"…Bullshit, that's all you're spouting right now you overgrown weed." she knew that in just a few minutes she was going to black out. Her eyes slowly closed, the sudden bursts of pain that she was feeling faded away gently. I hope the sicko burns in… even her formerly active thoughts turned themselves off. …Hell! In a violent burst of color, all the nerves in her body was brutally brought back to life with a painful sensation of having one half of her brain grated with a cheese grater and the other half filed with a giant emery board made out of razor wire. The two hue shifting eyes of The Tree was now locked in her own.
"For someone who will die in a matter of minutes, you have such pretty eyes…" his changing orbs disoriented her greatly. "Do you really want your life to end so quickly now?" tears began to stream from her once more as she nodded gravely. Please end this… I've had enough already… Reading her thoughts was too easy for someone with a diminished sense of hope and a weakened mind. She was brought even closer to the humanoid's face. For a slow second, a flicker of sadness hovered over his features.
"There is an end, there must be a beginning in turn…" she knew what the sadist meant by that and understood. A vine hanging from the tree branch nearest to the both of them elongated and touched her face. She attempted to back away from it in revulsion, only to have The Tree's human attachment order the vines to bring her even nearer to him. The bonds that kept his hands tied to parts of the living obsidian landmark behind him literally melted away from his slender appendages of which he studied for a while before turning his attention back to his intended meal.
"Once I have feasted upon everything, you will surely die." small stabs of pain coupled with a bluish liquid seeping from the spines of the bramble entered into her arms and spread to the rest of her body, paralyzing her instantly. She couldn't speak for a couple of hours thanks to the lethal toxin.
"Usually by now a young person such as you should have died from all this, this is strange; you wish for me to finish my business with you and yet you as an individual and a mere vessel clings on for dear life!" the rest of their conversation was continuing in the minds of one another for the sake of his living meal's convenience. She could hear his laughter ringing in her head, giving her a headache. The hand's width gap between their faces and themselves was chewed up very quickly due to the released monster's advance. Oh no… the arms of the manlike extension of the tree enveloped the former All-seeing Eye into his welcoming arms of pain, suffering and death and held tightly onto the limp form of his victim turned food. He brought his free hand to her still trembling, tanned forehead and stroked it gently. Her body began to painfully move again after a while as he brushed his wintry raven lips against her own and kissed deeply, drinking in the blood from the internal wounds of the endured punishment, savoring every trickle and gulp that comes his way. The once fortunate girl struggled to tear herself away from The Tree and stop herself from dying of blood loss. The Tree's face settled his penetrating gaze on her deep violet eyes."The blood of the dying commonly tastes like the ashes they will become, but you are an exception; yours grows ever the sweeter as you get pathetically weaker." he was careful not to let a drop go to waste. The perspiration on her face froze, but the variously sized streams of blood continued to flow to the edges of her soiled face. Why the hell is he taking his sweet time with me?she racked her lungs out for a while racking up disgusting gluggy red stuff from her lungs and gasping for air at the same wasn't much fun, add to that the pain of being crushed agonizingly slowly by a bunch of semi-biological extensions of a gargantuan Tree extracting what was left of her, she wasn't going to last any longer than this. The canopy of The Tree obscured the dark skies above, tinted with cloudy streaks of vermilion.
"You are about to walk into the shadow of the valley of death, child. Are you sure that you desire death rather than life?" Now that she had really thought about it, maybe she wanted to live after all just to see a few people and keep being useful despite her rejection from the technologically advanced and modern society she once called home. The gaze of the constant pigment changing eyes of The Tree was putting her under intense scrutiny, initiating a cold numbness sweeping through the inside of her head. Interesting… Maybe she can be of some use to me after all. The Tree smiled at the possibility of bargaining with this one. Her body was badly broken and bloody, the labored breathing was getting harder by the second.
"Do you want to live, even if there will be a shortcoming involved?" his voice sounded very distant because of the sleepiness invading her frail form. In the dimness of the canopy above and the mutated overgrowth, his momentarily blue eyes gleamed as he searched for answers. Images of a thousand stuffed but torn toy bears and assorted mutilated dolls in a towering mixed pile in a small dimly lit room with the door and tattered gray curtains closed entered her subconscious. Those gruesome pictures of deformation she realized, was a combination of the dormant memories buried inside her head long forgotten and what The Tree was seeing in the real and frightening world around him.
"Yes… I want to live, no matter what the price tag is." a gust of wind swept the scratchy sand up from the ground below and touched her damp skin. Fresh tears flushed with scarlet from the many bleeding scars on her face dripped onto the pale skin of The Tree as she decided to change her fate.
"The bargain struck between us will be this: in order for you to live once again, you must fulfill my end of the bargain by executing the be-all and end-all; surrendering your flesh, to me." those words to her sounded rather disturbing, but she had no choice in going back now. Surrendering my flesh… what does he mean by that? It was obvious that she had no idea of what the other bargainer meant. Before she could say anything else, she was enclosed into the actual arms and the many creepers of the half-tree, half-man creature and felt a passive ambience with a slight dormancy encompassing over herself that made her rubicund hair stand on end. The need to let her eyes freely flutter and close slowly before entering the inviting arms of sleep was overpowering.
"Sleep now." after waiting for her to fall asleep at last, he closed in and lifted her head up a little to drain the rest of the vital fluid in her body before slicing her lengthwise unhurriedly with an edged bramble, watching the organs fall out one by one as she was soundlessly pulled apart by his own bare hands and devoured, piece by piece hungrily, leaving many a dark pool of blood behind.