Laserwatch VI: Puzzle Box Pandemonium In The Infernal Manor

~ a written action anime series

yoorley house~ art by Ken Meyer

Exen sprinted into the dining room where the spirits were silently stirring. Pulling up his HUD, once more he went through his spook progressions. The music blared into his ears and served to further the delivery of adrenaline throughout his body.

~ “Obey — your — master
Your life burns faster” ~

Laser Technique #881: Spook Progressions, Exen whispered, compelling the subroutine into running.

Undeniably spooky data poured into Exen’s mindspace like a waterfall of Matrix letterings. He smiled as he took it in, sprinting through the darkening household. The feed included everything that could have ever been considered dark and spooky and paranormal and supernatural and maybe evil, perhaps misunderstood — throughout the universe, in fiction and out of it. Exen necessarily used it. This mass of data turning to knowledge in his hands would be pivotal in surviving this latest ordeal he’d willingly submitted himself to.

A murder of spectral crows cawed and snapped at his back. Exen sped away from them, down the steps of the grand staircase. The wood of each step verbally struggled to remain intact as his weight pressed against it. Each step was worse than the last. The murder fanned out, fluttering about the chandelier overhead, their interest in their original prey lost. Moonlight sifted through the ancient curtains overlaying the window wall, spreading its shredded luminescence over the central dais of the grand entrance of the house. Exen was back where he had started, and his head remained on swivel.

The stairwell renewed its battering rallying cry behind him, Exen ran back into the shadows of the house’s interior without looking back.

Exen knew it followed. It was Halloween after all. But he was ready-Freddy. Escapes, contingencies, spooks, counter-spooks, scare tactics, paranormal plays, and recordings of past misadventures in the Yoorley House played even now upon his digital contact lenses. With laser-like focus, he took it all in. Without proper context and depending on one’s individual proclivities, much of the images of horror now streaming past his dual screens were either mind-shattering or utter nonsense. Exen was a bit of a fanatic of all of this himself. Exen loved horror because it scared the shit out of him. Some darkened part of him got thrilled knowing that monsters existed and you could be killed by them. The implications presented within horror fiction were definitely salient to his day job and his travels. But he also appreciated the artistry of a good film.

Exen turned a corner, grasping the leg of a marble statue as he did in order to better leverage his momentum down another winding hallway. He thought he noticed the thing moving with him, mimicking him, even chuckling at him. But he didn’t linger to confirm his passing suspicion. A shrieking scream of pain and madness began to ring out from behind him, alongside footsteps, each of which closed in.

“Real horror” was less interesting to Exen, but at the same time more horrifying due to its authenticity. The real stuff, true crime, the based-on-true-events stuff was mostly just sickening. To think real people were capable of doing such monstrous things was fascinating in one sense. But to Exen, that line of thinking held a slippery slope. He didn’t deny its existence, but he did choose not to interact with it if he could help it.

Yet here he was, literally inside the legendary Yoorley House. And he couldn’t help himself, he was enjoying it. It was an honor. It was complicated. It was a philosophical complication. An anomaly. He smiled as he ran.

Exen knew that no one had ever survived this house, not even the best the field of professional paranormal investigation and hunting and exorcism had to offer. The original tenants had either been the source of the darkness within the house, or its first victims. Either way, they were part of the terror now. Every person subsequent to the OGs that had entered this place had died. And everyone that died, had died hard, gruesomely and painfully. Exen was here for work. And he did not plan to be among them. But he did plan for those he had brought with him to be… beings maybe even more monstrous than the house, complicit in horror on a significantly grander scale…

Fighting fire with fire, Exen mused.

~ “Master of Puppets, I’m pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams” ~

A sickening, baritone voice echoed around the corner, through the hall, and directly into Exen’s ear. Luckily, he was ready.

Despite the being’s consistently slow shuffling, perhaps restricted by his tight leather coat(s), the first Box’s lone inhabitant followed close behind, dangerously so. Its shrieking and its murder-calling had come to an end. Its speech was now coherent. It called out to Exen:

“Let me tell you something…” its thick and sickly voice was raspy but remained clear.

“You will have the suffering of ten thousand torturously slow deaths inflicted upon your person before this is over. Your penance for the summoning; a righteous reckoning for your resolution of the grand Puzzle’s design for such trite & trifling concerns — ”

The tall, black-caped figure strode confidently into the room trailing him. Insicktus found Exen seated at the head of the table, his feet kicked up and arms behind his head.

“Right back at ya, zipper-head,” Exen said, blowing a bubble.

Insicktus’s black pupilless eyes widened and started to bleed brand new tears.

Music continued to blast through the enhanced speakers around Exen’s wrist.

~ “Blinded by me you can’t see a thing
Just call my name ’cause I’ll hear ya scream” ~

The wind outside howled over the tunes, moonlight spread out over the full length of the table’s floating affects. It sheened off of the surface of the candlelit silverware. The plates atop the cloth coverall housed eyeballs, fingers, and teeth, all of which also suspended in air all about the table. Exen eyed a forked eyeball and grimaced.

Looked like the final meal of the Yoorley family was one including themselves. Yuck!

Insicktus raised his{?} chained arm, palm bleeding profusely. Its drip marked his sickening presence along the hallway from which he had walked. The entity put his palm against the other end of the table.

“This is the end for you!” the Xenoslight’s voice boomed with certainty.

~ “Life of death becoming clearer
Pain monopoly, ritual misery” ~

Exen smiled, and blew another bubble, his last. He glanced at his wrist. The air about him began to reverberate with unseen energy.

Right on time.

Somewhere within the house a grandfather clock began to chime. On each ring it became louder and louder. Exen closed his eyes, letting the music take its course and block out the sounds.

It was dinner time in the Yoorley House.

~

~ Earlier ~

Exen tried out his new skill: juggling. He tossed each puzzle box into the air, gaining in momentum all the time. His eyes darted rapidly between them, tongue out in concentration, breath held, torso locked into some kind of tenuous balance. Mind you, Exen was walking as well. Walking backwards, up the wayward steps of the ole Yoorley House. “The House from Hell,” the Infernal Manor of Mad Melchior Yoorley. He continued to juggle them, keeping two and almost all three in the air at any given moment. Exen grinned like a fool.

It was cold out. But Exen was warm. He dressed appropriately for this occasion, in more ways than one. He wore all black — black sweater, black jean pants, black performance basketball shoes laced tight, black beanie. This getup was a decision staked on the necessity of potential stealth.

Ghosts need to see don’t they? And so do the Godheads of Suffering. No doubt.

He even wore shades. But that was just as much for any blinding, spectral phenomena as it was for looking cool. The black gloves were off for the sake of dexterity, for the juggling.

Lightning struck suddenly above the hill on which the haunted house sat precariously. There was an immediate boom. The bolt had struck the house itself. Startled, Exen dropped the boxes onto the steps. Each of the three rolled down the cracked, root-gnarled stone steps leading back down the path. Their considerable weight clanged against the stone.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

Exen followed them back down as they turned over on the steps. While scanning the ground visually, he thought he saw pulsing roots, or even veins, in between and under the stepping stones within the grass of the front courtyard of the manor. But maybe not. It didn’t matter. At least not yet.

Exen really needed to stop the boxes from rolling and gather them up. By his design, they were each only one to maybe two maneuvers away from being fully solved. And he really did not want to deal with them out here. He needed to get inside the house. After all, that was the point of him coming here.

Exen gathered the puzzle boxes into his arms, carrying them like little babies. Turning around, he faced up to the manor’s two wide doorways once more. The cool night breeze marked the final seconds of peace that Exen would experience this night. He smirked and forged ahead, into the Manor and onto his mission.

Exen always loved scary movies. The Exorcist, Halloween, The Thing.

But somehow, being in a scary movie was a much less promising prospect for him.

Nevertheless, there was a job to be done. Namely, three of them. Exen glanced down at the puzzle boxes and then back up to the steps. He started up towards The Infernal Manor.

Well, let’s get this over with.

~

The doors were not locked or restrained in any way so Exen pushed his way in. He stepped through the threshold with unfounded confidence and immediately dropped the puzzle boxes onto the creaky wood flooring.

“Honeyyyy, I’m hooooooome!” Exen yelled with volume into the seemingly empty and darkened manor, long since abandoned by any living soul.

He stood for a few moments, waiting for anything to happen.

Dude, you know it’s all about building tension. The jump cannot be delivered unless there’s been a build up. They don’t care unless you do. It’s basic shit.

Exen shook his head and pulled the overlay of the manor on his heads up display. As soon as he stepped foot into these unfriendly confines, pre-programmed lasers began shooting through its every dusty nook and haunted cranny, mapping it out in High Definition detail.

Alright, let’s see about the spooks in store in this big ole hell house.

Much like a neural network, the lasers within and without Exen’s own organic and biomechanical systems worked in tandem to provide for him the clearest and most up-to-date real time feed of vital intel. There was some question whether this kind of tech Exen wielded was compatible with detecting paranormativity. Exen would soon have his answer to such a question. As he stood in the grand entrance to the Yoorley House, waiting in silence, the data rolled in.

These data included spacio-visual representations of the environment around him. The output were stimuli presented at the forefront of his mind; items of interest to be noted within the house. The results included items such as 1) the feral baby fiend currently sitting patiently on one wing of the living room ceiling fan swinging forevermore — about 13 meters southeast of Exen’s position; 2) a multi-armed, invisible, wall-crawling haph-daemon named Jaffa currently straddling around in the second story room of mirrors; 3) there was a woman with unquenchable fire in her eyes, staring into a slice of Voidspace in the basement, letting many-legged Lashlings roam out and about all around her; 4) a Godhead convened on the rooftop, shouting maledictions into the storm spiraling in the night sky above; and 5) there was the final screaming remnants of the Yoorley family proper, stuck in the spiral dimension but slowly, surely, passionately making their way back to the dining room table, preparing to cause undue paranormal havoc for one night and one night only.

Tonight.

Exen bent down and started to solve each of the puzzle boxes while whistling the Halloween theme song.

On command, the music started to play emanating from his wrist and from his entire person. The eerie and relentless piano set off the tenor of the manor’s interior with a kind of style it lacked before the presence of the music. Exen smiled.

Perfect.

Soon enough, the puzzle boxes were solved. Three spiraling, hellish, flesh-colored portals began to open at his back. The screams of countless damned souls spilled out into the foyer of the Yoorley House. As if in a call-and-response relationship, the walls of the Manor began to shimmer and bleed a thick crimson liquid, flooding the area all about the active puzzle boxes. The floors rippled suddenly with ferocious intent, slapping boards against the shaking foundation. The lights flickered from unnatural, spectral sources from within unknown and unseen rooms of Time outside this reality’s purview.

With a mischievous grin, Exen sprinted into the darkness of the manor beyond the foyer’s newfound activity. He cracked his knuckles, checked the time and started an internal timer.

Exen could already feel it. The house itself was in conflict with their own presence. All these beings could not co-exist in the same space. /After all, there are only so many extra dimensions to go around/. Their auras were at cross purpose somehow. They could not suffer one another. They would not suffer one another. Hence, there was a great conflict rising even now between them.

Exen made his way through

Time to go to work.

~

~ Present ~

Insicktus, Grand Xenoslight from the 3rd layer of the Underrealm Abstract, opened his mouth unnaturally wide and began to emanate an ungodly sound. The space about the dining room table shimmered with darklight. A harsh and unstoppable memory of unrelenting pain began to wash over Exen. The memory felt real. It was tactile and as painful as hellfire. (That’s because it was.)

Exen wasn’t about it. Still relaxed in his seat at the table of restlessly shifting ghosties, Exen spit his used wad of gum with force towards the face of Insicktus.

Each chair at the table began to rumble in place. The gum landed within Insicktus huge mouth. If he noticed, one could not tell. He was too busy channeling. To Exen and Sicko both, otherworldly chanting could be now be heard, reverberating from a space outside. The shimmering intensified, now from multiple sources. The spirits out and about the table became visible and increasingly audible. A whole family of shifting and shrieking apparitions ducked in and around the two combatants. All together, in short order, they began to harmonize their ghastly dance and song. All in all, their sights and sounds made up a frightful and seemingly endless spectacle of agony — for experiencer and experienced alike.

Exen lunged out of his chair sidelong onto the ground, firing in some manner of desperation as he did. The sounds emanating from both dark forces came to a head.

/Gotta match ‘em!/

“Laser Tech #666: Hell-Mode!” Exen shouted.

Immediately, three starkly defined portals opened up within the confines of the dining room. The silverware erupted into an explosion of motion. Streams of darklight, strands of spectral radiance, and licks of brand new hellfire lined with lasers drank into the atmosphere of the scene. To Exen the room now appeared as the screen visualization for climactic final medley at an EDM show.

Incredible.

Away from the violent explosion of sound and motion, Exen ducked fully into his role, continuing it out of the room entirely in a retreat from the hellish environment the dining room was just then becoming. Emerging from his role in a sprint, he listened hopefully for the excruciating sound of Xenoslight on Daemon on ghostly violence.

There was a loud and long boom sourcing from behind him and then a stark stoppage unbecoming of anything else. Exen was not granted his wish. The hallway he sprinted into was quiet. Dead quiet. And dark. And very scary. Instantly, Exen felt a cold sweat break out upon his skin. He suddenly found he could not move. His position was locked; legs immovably rooted, arms frozen and tense. Even his eyes remained unblinkable. Cold and fearful tears formed within them as he frantically glanced around from his personal prison. Exen peed a little.

There’s something here. Something close and something terrible.

Never in his life had he been so afraid.

What the hell is this?

Exen began to scan the confines of the hallway. Pitch dark, and seemingly getting darker, and darker. /How tho?/ Visually, there was nothing he could see, nothing outside of the paintings. There was artwork on the walls of the hall. They depicted vivid scenes, quite visible in spite of everything else around them currently being blanketed in blinding darkness. They appeared to give off an aura of inexplicable visibility in the hall. Exen gazed into these paintings, beginning to understand and scrutinize their significance. The art was of many different styles but there remained a common theme among them. Each of them showed a house, its internal and external trappings, ablaze in a variety of different forms of light, darkness, chaos.

Different imaginings of the Yoorley House, Exen wondered.

Some of paintings showed the Yoorley House with a distinctive face and screaming; the Yoorley family out front, near the graveyard, smiling and making wacky faces. Others showed the house smoking, burning down with the family still inside; one was blood-soaked, the house with a countenance now resembling a monster; one held the perspective from inside the house, looking out at a world filled to the absolute brim with shadows of daemons and spirits and other otherworldly, unwelcome sights.

Exen grimaced as he looked at them all. The horrific paintings seemed to go on forever, longer than the hallway walls really encompassed. Every piece featured a staggering picture of the Yoorley House in varying states of decay, chaos, violence or even relative normalcy outside of singular pieces of unsettling imagery or monstrous figures.

Some of them sneak up on you… None of them are OK, Exen considered.

The paintings were all that he could see. All else from within the hallway’s space blocked itself from his view. Exen still couldn’t move. And despite being here for several moments of silence, and what might be interpreted as peace, the mood of the situation Exen found himself in had not changed. He continued to feel the dread of impending death.

something is watching me

Remaining unmoving, Exen forced himself into staring dead ahead, trying to let his peripheral vision settle in on anything else of note. He focused upon the darkened threshold at the far end of the hall. It seemed to be getting further and further away every moment, like he was dizzy or merely anxious.

The frame of the hallway began to hold the strange appearance of a vice grip, slowly closing its deadly ends onto his psyche. Exen’s eyes strained at the spiraling, widening, fast-closing ending straight ahead. All of it was happening all at once. He squinted hard, staring into this abyssal doorway. But he was moving no closer to it, even if it seemed like it. He still couldn’t move.

The sound of a voice broke the stillness. It wasn’t his.

“You will never leave this place. It will become your new home — not in life, but not quite in death either,” the halting, unfriendly bellow of someone made its way from the other end of the hall down to Exen’s consciousness.

“No, no — somewhere within that unfashionable and terrible space between life and death… Yes, yes. That is where I will keep you little one.”

Exen’s heart beat for the second time since he’d entered the hallway.

The chilling voice and its sentiment echoed. Exen couldn’t see anything yet, but he knew the sound of the voice of Gollo, Xenoslight Father of Xin, Pain Extraordinaire, The Hellmouth’s Grand Lament. Inhabitant of one of the other boxes.

This dude can fuck me up. Fuck, Exen mentally sighed.

He tried raising his wrist, to bear down the business end at Gollo’s thin, white, grinning face. It was to no avail; Gollo approached. Or more accurately, Gollo sashayed across the dark expanse of the hall, whistling as he did so.

This dude is wearing shades? Unbelievable.

Exen realized he was still wearing his too.

Am I projecting?

No. It’s the Xenoslight who is out of touch.

“You know, we absolutely hate it when we are summoned,” Gollo cooed.

Exen gritted his teeth, mind racing. He thought he could feel his jaw loosening. He desperately wanted to scream his way out of this. But even that was denied from him here.

Gollo rambled some more, his voice becoming louder and more like a screech. To Exen, to hear Gollo was to listen to a false, emotionless, obnoxious laborious blast of hot air. It was unceasing and unforgiving. Exen did his best to ignore it, instead thinking of how his favorite horror heroines had escaped their own particularly terrifying sitches…

“… you dumb bitch, you ordered your own ending, hand delivered your very own doom, beckoned your burning damnation, summoned your…”

During this, Exen even had the thought flash that maybe he was maybe already dead and this was the beginning of his eternal torment. That is, until he realized he could move his mouth. He could speak. So he did.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Exen screamed.

“There he is! Yeah! Let’s see that fire. I would hope — “ Gollo began.

“No, that’s enough from you. I’ve had enough,” Exen said, starting to turn his neck about to and fro. His eyes blazed wide in the effort.

Need to figure out how to fully break this. Dammit… he’s powerful.

Gollo spread his legs out to the length of the hall and moved his body from side to side, like a dog ready to play. He grinned like a goddamn fool.

“So how are we going to do this huh? We gonna duke it out via fisticuffs? Maybe you’ll try to cut me up with that — “

“Stop grinning like goddamn fool —

“ … wait how do you know who I am?” Exen asked, surprised.

“I may live in the Underworld, bearing witness to limitless suffering, but I still have cable,” Gollo said matter of factly. He straightened himself and his leather coat, and his response certainly appeared honest.

Exen wriggled his toes free. He exercised his fingers. He took a deep breath.

“I’m not on TV,” Exen breathed, frantically looking about the hall for any advantage. The widening and closing nature of the hallway seemed to disappear at this point. His stress levels were waning, coinciding with the return of his faculties.

Gollo continued his march, hands placed firmly behind goofy black leather trails on the end of his jacket. He stopped for a moment, closing his eyes and reaching his hands out for some kind of balance. His high pitched voice spoke hesitantly. Exen could see Gollo blinking with effort and confusion.

“Yes… but there is a dramatized show loosely based on your exploits… it comes on every Saturday morning… highly entertaining… it’s actually so good… I tried to get the others into — “

Exen interjected. “Ha! But who is writing that stuff? No one that I know. I bet it’s not even getting half the story. I need to get in touch with the creator… I mean I don’t even care that they didn’t ask my permission to make it. I’m more so concerned with its historical accuracy. What channel does it come on?” Exen finished, sincerely asking and moving while he did. He could move his left arm now, and his right leg. The effects immobilizing him were definitely now releasing for some reason. He began to move towards Gollo across the hall. His sneakers squeaked against the hardwood.

Undoubtedly now, Gollo seemed to be having some kind of trouble. He had fallen to his knees, his breathing was haggard, his eyes suddenly bled blue blood onto the floor of the hallway, his big dumb grin was quite absent at this point. He spoke through it anyway, actually answering Exen’s inquiry.

“Channel 4… but wait that’s in the Underrealm. It’s one of those local… it depends what region you are in…” he breathed and more blood sputtered from his mouth. It wasn’t clear to Exen what was happening, but he almost had full operational control of his body once more. He felt good. And he aimed to take full advantage of whatever sudden affliction was befalling this big ole nasty Puzzle Box Bitch.

Exen stepped forward confidently, stretching the fingers of his returned right arm. Gollo started violently convulsing and coughing. More blood poured out from him.

Can Xenoslights contract the flu? Try Ebola

“C’mon man. I expected more from you. You are of the Godhead right? I didn’t steal the wrong puzzle box and bring it all the way here just to get one of you lesser goons,” Exen spoke.

He aimed his wrist down at the back of Gollo’s downtrodden head.

“This is a very poor showing. Oh well.”

Exen could feel the air shimmer once more. He hoped he could be done with this quickly and be gone from this hallway.

The sooner the better. Only one left after this was over.

“One question: what did you do to me? Why couldn’t I — “

“I didn’t… do anything to you yet… I hadn’t… even begun…” Gollo seemed very disappointed. “My poooowwweeer…” Gollo quietly shrieked. His head craned up from his newly fetal position.

“… it’s goooone… I didn’t… finish… the latest season… season seven starts… on Monday… ”

Exen got a good look at his pitiful countenance here. His eyes widened at the sight. Gollo’s eyes and nose and mouth bled profusely and looked like they had been shredded, slowly and painfully. Steady streams of gore poured out from the Pain God’s awful face and onto the floor at Exen’s feet. He jumped back instinctually, hoping to avoid having his expensive shoes ruined by the spreading pool of Pain God gore.

In the very next moment, Exen realized the room was infinitely darker than before. It was as if what little lights there were had gone out from an already darkened room. Exen couldn’t see his hand before his face, or the time, or any laserlight… There was a shuffling sound. It sourced from directly above him. Before his gaze could make it to the ceiling, there appeared a curious sight to behold. The only thing visible: Droplets of Gollo’s blood began to rise up from the pooling on the floor. At this juncture, Gollo’s leather bound body was deathly quiet and unmoving. He no longer groaned or cooed or hacked or moaned about the show. From his dead heap, the blood droplets rose slowly up into the air continuously. The blood, and it’s rise, was the only thing making up stimuli in Exen’s consciousness for the moment.

Gravity reversing? Exen considered his knowledge of paranormal phenomena. Such a thing wasn’t unprecedented.

Gollo’s blue blood glowed, as if animated by something from inside of its composition. The droplets continued to gather up into the air before Exen. They formed a small collective, blobbing into a substantial stream of blue heading up and up towards the ceiling. Exen notes the ultimate effect was not unlike a lava lamp.

Exen heard the shuffling sound again. He began to finally, slowly raise his head and his eyes up towards the sound. It was on the ceiling. Whatever it was. It was the cause of this… Exen dared himself to look quickly, to get it over with.

It’s gonna be a fucked up thing. It’s gonna be a fucked up thing. And it’s gonna be looking at me! 

Exen’s eyes followed the blood all the way up and he saw /*it*/. Exen saw the hell out of it. It was… a thing… with seven gangly legs, three mouths, and either zero eyes or a ton of eyes; it had both hair all over its body and scales, they fluttered with changing composition and color and texture, in no steady or predictable cadence. This mass of appendages and unsightly sights glowed a dull, fluorescent, greenish hue. Its body heaved as it drank, breathed, consumed{?} the floating blood from the expired Gollo on the floor beneath it. All of the fluid appeared to be drawn together to a head towards the center of its form, where it then disappeared into it. Otherwise it remained completely motionless.

Exen held his jaw aloft, not daring to breathe or make any move just yet.

How did I not see this thing before?

He could remember hearing and noting the shuffling. That was the only previous sign of its presence.

Exen blinked several times while staring, and after each one the creature’s appearance shifted dramatically; all different sorts of stuff just out of place one moment and then back in place the next.

Thinking through the history of the house, and some of the aspects of what made it so hellish — both in life and in death — Exen considered what this thing might be.

Looking at its latest, terrible form again, Exen’s memory was jogged from the ongoing Spook Progression still running in the background. Of course — it was the Yoorley family pet — Buddy.

Suddenly, inexplicably, while Exen smiled at that realization — six of the creature’s seven appendages shot down directly below its position with insane speed and strength. The legs extended the ten or so feet from the ceiling to the floor and smashed into the prostrate body of one Gollo, instantly exploding his form into bloody bits. Blue viscera spattered onto Exen, the walls, the floor, the ceiling. The creature retracted its abnormally long and excessively bloody arms back into itself right after. Then it disappeared.

To Exen’s sharp, digitized and special eyes —It went *out* as though it could no longer be seen, and not as if it had transported itself. This was a significant distinction.

Oh. It was camouflage. Oh god, Exen mentally exasperated. He readied himself for fast action.

The shuffling immediately commenced as the creature presumably moved about on the ceiling. Although Exen honestly couldn’t tell which way it was moving, whether it was still on the ceiling or on the wall or on the floor, or how close or far it had moved from where he had last seen it. The shuffling had become ever-present as it boomed all around him, consuming all of his senses, especially his hearing. It terrified the living hell out of him.

Hell NO! Exen mentally screamed. He couldn’t hope to fight what he couldn’t see.

Needing an out and out of real options against this thing, Exen reacted by immediately lasering an Exen-sized circle into the wood at his feet. The heat from the blast let out of small whip of smoke, and then a short crack, before the circular panel which had been cut out of the floor released into the air below, into the basement

The shuffling faded away as Exen fell… and fell. It was much further than he would’ve expected. He continued to fall into an abyss much longer than the distance of what a normal basement space should be.

What the hell did I just do?

/Well, for one, I escaped certain death/.

Eh, not so fast on that one.

/You just bought yourself a one way ticket straight into the Hellmouth./

A Hellmouth? Here? Directly under the Yoorley House? On this planet? I mean I know this place is spooky… but no way… the luck… 

/What else would you expect from this place Exen? Of course the basement is going to be an infinite abyssal chasm, likely housing the worst spooks of all. Why not a big ole Hellmouth? You might die an even worse death than the crawling chaos pup from the above hallway. fool/.

Hey man, what choice did I have? I wasn’t going to get pummeled into a blood splatter like my guy Gollo… That thing only needed a split second to cut me in half… I had to act fast…

Exen closed his eyes, stopping and returned to himself.

Admittedly, Exen assumed there would be a basement. What haunted house doesn’t have a basement, c’mon?

He didn’t know for sure of its existence because it hadn’t show up in the Spook Progression. A blind spot. Which means it will be real bad

Exen shot his grapple out into the void. As expected, it captured nothing. He continued to fall. All around him in the air there was a dense smoke. Its opaque mass provided no clear sight to his surroundings. To Exen, much like when looking out of the window of a plane passing through a storm formation, it appeared as though he was passing through a grey, rain-drenched cloud in an overcast.

His beanie and shades flew off from his head, exposing his shaved head to the cool and putrid air fast passing his body by. A distinct smell enveloped Exen, getting stronger the further he fell.

Is that death I smell? Exen mused. He tried to get readings, digitally, on the surrounding smoky area but there were no pings.

Instead, some of the haze cleared out and Exen could see another curious phenomenon from his fall. All around him, in the distance near and far, seemingly from within similar, grayish clouds from which he had fallen through from the Yoorley house down and into this — he could see similar streams of … matter coming down. Like rain, he made out light falling in, forms looking like people or perhaps just bodies, a waterfall of water… or perhaps blood. And most distinctly, coming out of more than a few of these streams from the dark clouds overhead — seemingly from where the Yoorley House was but a much larger expanse than the house could possibly encompass — were the steady, voluminous crash of bone matter. All of it hurtled into the haze below that Exen continued to find himself staring down at, ready to react to.

Can’t wait… A big grey unknown housing apparently all kinds of terrible things

About to include +1 Exen’s.

A few minutes passed, continuing to fall with velocity. Exen continued to take in the Spook Progression data. The smoke, the distance, the Nyarla-pup, the paintings, the Yoorley family history… these bodies, bones and blood… with all of it taken into account, and now including the scene of the basement, a clearer picture was forming.

I think I might know where I am

Another few minutes passed before the features of the place Exen was headed became visible.

Exen’s smallish form headed towards…

Yep.

Bones. An ocean of bones.

Of course. What else.

7_mages___city_of_bones_by_hunterkiller-d9wjlq4~ art by hunterkiller

Exen reaches the end of his fall and blasted the space just below him before hitting the ground, displacing the air and slowing his movement to a feather’s fall speed. Exen rose up from his Superman stance, lifting his knee and right knuckle from the ground. He took a moment to dust himself off.

Well, what now? I still have to seek and destroy the third Xenoslight… already forgot his name. If the Yoorley’s hadn’t already done it… but perhaps more importantly, I need to not get killed by whatever the hell this place is down here

Exen stared at towering columns of bone heaps, broken, misshapen, and colored with stains of dried blood. The bones were both human and inhuman, small and large, fanged, unfanged, two, three, five sockets for eyes. Some of the skulls had horns and others were elongated. There were more skulls than any other type of bone. Some of the areas were stacked in an orderly, almost systematic way. The piles appeared as well governed structures in of themselves. Others were scattered chaotically and strewn about. Some areas had large holes of space where there lay a trail of bones behind some kind of singular lane, the ground embedded with a depression from significant weight. Such an effect amounted not to foot prints but a single slithering, wayward line of movement. To Exen, it appeared as though some massive snake caused such an impression.

Giant-sized snake slithering around in here, using the bone piles like long grass to strike at an unexpected passerby just trying to enjoy the views of this hellscape? At this point, nothing can surprise me. just gotta be ready

Exen continued to walk, senses at the ready for any threatening stimuli, as he made his way through the wretched “basement” of the Yoorley house.

Taking in the sights, it was mind boggling how big the heaps were, and how far this space stretched. Standing in their midst now, the expanse of the place appeared larger than his initial comprehension in the fall. The landscape stretched further than he could see or reliably measure within his HUD. Quite clearly obvious now, it appeared as though the basement of the Yoorley House was some kind of hellscape dimension or something. A space of terror outside of normal time and space. That was the only explanation he could consider for this massive sprawl of ivory terror.

The Spook Progression played itself out. His HUD silenced itself and moved into minimalistic mode, allowing Exen to view his surroundings with the necessary alertness. Exen sighed and began to stroll around aimlessly.

~

The innumerable legends of Yoorley House and the Yoorley family spoke in mythic terms. No one knew exactly how long ago the events inspiring the legend occurred. In the years hence, its renown and infamy had only grown. The place held more than the trappings of a haunted house. The sheer number of sightings, killings, maddenings and all encompassing /spooks/ emanating from this sector of the galaxy, from this planet and from this small plot of land atop a hill which housed the great manor formerly making up the livelihood of one Yoorley clan was just too much to bear, it was too much to chronicle. No known person had yet faced up to the supreme truth of this place; as Exen understood it, no one had ever completely correlated all of the facts of the occurrences taking place in Yoorley House.

This certainly wasn’t part of the details of Exen’s job here today, but he was admittedly fascinated about the place, and naturally curious. And just now, in his traveling here and via the Spook Progression, entering the house, exploring it, doing serious battle within it, and now falling into its great secret chasm, Exen had done it. As predicted, the house was special for more reasons than anyone had yet contemplated throughout its long and dark history.

Prominently infamous, the individual members of the Yoorley family all left the house, wading into the world outside the confines of their wayward upbringing. Each member of the wide family of freaks, misfits, and aberrantly behaving mad-persons had made something of themselves. Serial killers, politicians, cannibals, lawyers, mutant warlords, bankers, etc. — their vile professions were far and wide. The Yoorley name and strange way of life made its way into some of the more significant conflicts and resolutions of the last century, in and around the sectors that they had entered and spawned their own brand of terror within. Despite some pretty hard deaths and imprisonments and tragedies and executions over the years, the family had continued to multiply in the years hence. In the years since the manor had released its grip from them, on the outside — the Yoorley’s managed to thrive. Exen now knew these things and more.

With respect to the house’s current haunting inhabitants and their spooky activity, Exen learned something else. No member of the Yoorley family had died within the manor. Everything that had suffered and died and had risen within its confines consisted strictly of those they had killed, their victims, or rather, those that had died under mysterious circumstances within. All of the inspirited evil and shadows of demons past, present and future were from outside; they were simply trapped inside. To Exen, this was all rather tragically poetic.

But there was one exception. The final tick of the Progression revealed there was one Yoorley who never left, one who had been there since the beginning. Melchior, the Mad Patriarch of the Yoorley clan had stuck around in order to protect “The Basement” — a galactic repository for the dead, a locus point for the long suffering victims all houses of death, not just the Yoorley House. Exen now understood this unlimited landscape of bones and death and undeath to be an Underworld itself.

If the boot fits…

Exen suddenly recognized his danger in being in this place. He would’ve avoid it entirely if he could. But now he had to deal with it.

~

While continuing his trek through the columns of bone, something gave him pause. A sound. Exen could hear it before he could see anything. A great shriek pierced the eerie silence of the landscape, followed up by the churning and shattering of material and a guttural voice speaking of damnation and suffering and pain. The struggle sounded from nearby.

Exen sighed.

Looks like this is my stop. 

Turning a corner around the latest spiraling tower of ivory, Exen saw a final battle taking place.

The third, and luckily final, Xenoslight screamed in defiance against a much larger foe. The many long, knife-like blades protruding from his head dripped with blood, and it didn’t appear to be the blood of his opponent. The figure breathed heavily and he clutched his side in obvious pain.

The black clad robed figure known as Nem screeched like a scared animal, waving his arms in a strange dance of manic motion. Even from distance Exen recognizes those motions as complex occult symbology capable of drawing forth materials and monsters from his abyssal home dimension. The Xenoslight Summon-Signs.

Sure enough, shortly after finishing these motions, dark and shadowy portals wisped open above Nem’s head and out of them flew the silhouettes of his minions. They appeared as a somewhat more menacing and terrifying version of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Exen grimaced as he watched them from behind the cover of some bones.

Meddlesome, and extremely dangerous creatures. Demons associated to the sights and sounds of violent death… perfect for Nem’s work… Exen thought.

After this second of seeing Nem’s battling figure, Exen took a deep breath and looked over to the Xeno’s opposition.

Goddamn.

Exen saw the serpentine form of a monster. Its bone-like form stretched well over 50 feet long. The creature’s spined back flared as it wriggled around with greater speed than Exen expected from a creature its size. His skin crawled at the sight of its massive maw opening to consume the flying demons Nem sent hurtling at it with reckless abandon.

The creature’s face was not that of a snake, but that of a man. It held the features of a sickly, gaunt humanoid, a countenance elongated into an unnatural and striking feature. It was apparently male, with black eyes and razor teeth. Long, dark and apparently wet hair grew out of the top of its spiky scalp. Its bony skeletal figure held some remaining musculature to it, and it wasn’t clear how it was animated or even alive. As a result, Exen could not see the final destination of the soon-to-be consumed creatures entering its gullet.

The monstrous bone snake didn’t let out so much of a sound as is swallowed dozens of Nem’s abyssal soldiers with one bite. Exen ducked down on instinct in the moments following as the creature bit down with a mighty *CRUNCH* upon those new entrants into its form. The sounds of screaming demons could be heard even from Exen’s distant position. After a pause, things returned to stark silence. Exen glanced back out to the battlefield.

Exen noticed that Nem continued to scream, motioning about with ferocity. Even the mighty entity known as The Harbinger of The Sixth Extinction seemed to be at a loss here. Exen glanced over to the snake boss once more, with a discerning eye.

So this is Melchior? In his final form, one would assume. And he’s powerful enough to handily best Nem, Grand Xenoslight? At least, it appears that way. This looks like it’s in the later rounds, and unless Nem comes up with some trick he’s been holding out for

“Wait, mighty Melchior! WAIT!” Nem screamed. The massive form of Melchior slithered its way to confront him. Melchior stopped. The creature bore down on him, ready to strike and end the battle, ending Nem and completing Exen’s task here. Exen smiled. Nem’s voice reeked with desperation and righteous intention. He was coaxing, convincing, persuading.

“There is another! There is another living being among your great death-lands… and he is here.. nearby even… I sense that he will be immensely difficult to find, even for such a being as yourself… however, finding those that have done wrong is my specialty, so I can help you. And I will! Let me bring him to you, so that you may judge our encroachment together! Yes?” Nem pleaded to the bone snake lord with the requisite gusto and reverence afforded 1) one who had just been put firmly in his place within the food chain and 2) one who had never, ever taken such a tone before with anyone.

Goddamnit.

Exen frowned.

Then, in what amounted to a scene vivid with both comedy and terror, Exen witnessed Melchior’s response.

“I KNOW HE IS HERE AND I KNOW HOW TO FIND HIM AND HE’S NEXT!” Mechior bellowed with both power and indifference. The massive bone serpent then proceeded to lunge its head down with immense speed, closing its barbed jaws around Nem in a flash. The Xenoslight didn’t even have the time to scream.

Nem was just gone. And Melchior raised its head high into the air, presumably working to swallow its latest prey.

What a bum, Exen considered. Man, these Xenoslights really blow… well at least that is taken care of… now just to escape with my life… easy enough… Exen moved positions, quickly and with intention. He sighed again. Things were about to hairy.

~

Exen sprinted away from the scene of the devouring, through the bone piles, zig zagging in random directions. He really let his legs pump and get him into a rhythm. He reinitialized his laser HUD, scanning digitally and visually for any way out of the bonescape. Right now, Exen decided he just needed to maintain speed and distance from the creature while working through this. An escape route wasn’t yet visible and Exen needed to keep away from it, especially if it did know he was here, and how to find him.

Exen spotted the tallest tower he had yet seen up ahead. He considered his next move.

Remember that film Reign of Fire?

/Yeah. … What the fuck? Why would you ask that…/.

He began to run with intention in that direction. Just then the massive form of Mechior burst through the din of ivory to his right, its serpentine form craning around for a strike. Shards of hide and bits of bone scattered around their dual forms like hailing rain. Its yellow eyes were wide and wailing with an unseen force. Exen stared into its countenance mesmerized for a spell. Just before its jaws reached him, Exen shook his head, alarm bells ringing up with his impending death. Exen crossed his arm in a defensive stance.

Squaring up, Exen drew his laser blade and hacked it across the cheeks of the bone snake at the last possible moment, dodging out of the way at the same time. The multiple attacks blasted into the ivory girth of its teeth and outer hide. It appeared uninjured. But it managed to repel the bite. Exen rolled back out of the way. He looked for a different way around, running to his left before the thing had time to recover for another attack.

This thing has laser-proof bones? That’s a first… all the more reason to McConaughey it…gonna have to really get in there…

Some distant part of himself screamed at defiance with his current course of action, the same little person that had scolded him earlier for cutting his way into the basement, and even earlier before that for coming to the wretched Yoorley House. But Exen wasn’t listening to his conscience. Not right now, he had too much work to do.

~

The chase continued. Through the boney landscape of the basement of the Yoorley House, where Exen ran, Mechior followed.

Exen’s energized body remained at full speed for much longer than a normal person’s. Thus, he managed to outrun the snake’s slithering but only just so. When it inevitably found him, Exen blind-fired backwards, shooting into its face, trying to hit its eyes. The shots did not seem to slow the beast.

It spoke no more as it chased him, seemingly dead set on eating him without a serious conversation. Exen couldn’t really blame him.

In the meantime, Exen had reached within striking distance of the high tower of bones and prepared for his final maneuver. The tower was packed sky high, almost reaching the grey clouds up above that Exen had fallen through.

Exen glared up towards the peak while running, and smiling and aiming.

Fixated and believing it to be the key to defeating this beast, Exen whipped out his laser grapple. Casting it out and attaching it to the base of the bone tower, Exen activated its return and launched himself toward it. Once he reached it, Exen dislodged himself and began to run along the outer edge of the tower, enhancing himself as he did, up and up towards its peak. Melchior spiraled his own form around the base, its long red and forked tongue reaching towards Exen’s heels. The chase continued all the way up to the peak of the tower; Exen running for his life, Melchior hastily slithering for it as well. Exen did not anticipate its relentless chase to here. Continuing to improvise, Exen tried to use the thing’s apparently thoughtless pursuit to his advantage. Right as he reached the peak, Exen leapt into the air and turned his body back towards the snake, letting out of concussive blast of laser-like force on the structure of the bone tower just before the peak and just after Melchior’s passage along it. Bone shards and other material exploded and the end of the tower began to collapse right as Exen himself began to fall. Melchior began to fall with it. Each combatant then suspended in air looked to one another as they fell. Exen using a few more light concussive blasts to move himself through the air, kicked off of a few large pieces of rib cage and got into melee range of Melchior. Melchior followed his movement the whole way, with dismay turning to anticipation, hoping to catch him in his jaws as he carelessly drifted into range. Exen drove one more concussion at his back and launched himself like an arrow down and towards Melchior’s widening maw. Its prey was coming to it, making things much easier. Melchior seemed to smile.

“Yes child, face your DOOM!” Melchior boomed without moving its open mouth. Exen’s suddenly had a headache.

But then Exen smiled too. Melchior’s eyes revealed concern.

“Laser Technique #23: Laser Avatar.”

Exen formed his body into a Superman pose, red, momentous light leading the way, and fell directly into Melchior’s open mouth. Once inside, the red light turned to heat, as multiple strands of crimson energy lashed out in all directions around Exen’s body — both attacking and defending himself against possible threats. Exen tore through the inside of Mechior’s throat and down along its esophagus and on through the rest of its serpentine body. It’s massive body erupted into shreds where Exen had passed with velocity, these materials then separated and fell through the air. The aftermath of Melchior’s shredded form plummeted back down to the bone piles far, far below their position. Soon Exen reached the creature’s stomach where he could see the liquefied forms of the flying monkeys, their black skin and fur forming a soupy spiral of matter. With which, it appeared as though Nem — still alive — was using to imbue himself with life-giving or life-taking power, Exen could not tell which. Exen eyes went wide when he saw Nem. The Xenoslight looked ten times worse than before, which was difficult to accomplish given his already horrid appearance. Nem’s body was flayed of its little remaining flesh; his thinned look and missing flesh and skull-like countenance gave off the appearance like that of a lich… Exen then realized that’s what he was now was.

An undead Xenoslight? What could be worse?

Exen continued his Superman run against his better judgment and eventually came face to face with Nem. Nem turned spookily, giving Exen no recognition for a moment. Then his features struck into terrifying animation, screeching once more like he did in life and reaching for Exen’s throat. Nem’s hand burned away instantly in the motion, coming up against the lasers. He continued to curse and howl.

“God damn you! GOD DAMN YOU FOR BRINGING ME TO THIS HELLSCAPE!”

The little remaining components of Nem’s face melted away as Exen passed. He looked back as Nem’s body vanquished in the open air as more of Mechior’s body expanded and expelled itself in the continuation of the fall from the bone tower now far above. Exen realized the distance to the ground was fast closing. He finally reached the end and let himself turn off the Tech. He looked down, seeing the ground fast approaching. The air passed through his bloody hair and all along his tired, aching body. He felt a measure of peace.

“All tasks at hand have been cleared,” Exen sighed, opening his eyes again.

/Not all, my guy. You still have to find a way out of here…/

Exen blasted himself to a feather fall once more before splattering upon the ground, and landed.

Exen immediately lay down exhausted.

He just relaxed for a moment, watching the remaining bits of Melchior’s wasted form fall to the ground, hailing far and wide around him in the bonescape. The vision was a peaceful one, and he felt himself becoming sleepy.

Exen realized that he didn’t have enough energy left to try to escape this place tonight. He needed to get his beauty rest and then have at it in the morning. So, Exen grabbed himself a rib cage and fluffed it like a pillow, laying his head down to rest, thinking of the Sandman.

Exen considered as he drifted away: One little night in the Yoorley basement hell-realm, what’s the worst that could happen?

Exen’s conscience once again let out an animalistic cry of defiance. But Exen was already asleep.

~ to be continued.