I can’t believe I didn’t post this here. I’m very proud of this story and it contains much weirdness. I hope you enjoy it too! [Note, March 2023: Apparently I didn’t have this published, so, here ya go!]
CN: Biomechanical horror, death, transformation
By Anthony Jutz
It was a cold morning, mist flowing away from the base of clouds, the day the Builders came. Their human forms were sealed within living plant-steel, giant biomechanical exoskeletons comprised of living metal. Their grasping claws and tendrils dragging deep trenches in the muck. They came to reform the world into a facsimile of their god, into a glowing mechanical orb-mind of industrious waste and rebirth. Our home was the next stop along their path of destruction.
With a chorus of violence, the Builders reshaped our valley, our families, into a lake of blood. My mother, the moon, guided the few of us who made it away into the wilds on the other side of the fractal mountains. The beasts there still tasted of earth, unlike the tarnished copper-steel that would undoubtedly have washed over my home.
It wouldn’t be long until their foul alchemy would transform this planet into a metallic husk, just like the others. But until then, we would save what we could and live our best. Fate comes whether we want it to or not, but the boldest of us know to ride the waves through their crest.
Through the forest of skulls, we faced our deepest, darkest fears and desires. We could take the burden of the Builders upon our own shoulders. It would be exhilarating. Destroying and rebuilding brings with it the rush of both carnage and creation. Alas, being at the will of rampant gods never was on our table. Even so, it is titillating.
My brother, the bold one–the blue one–is the one who spotted it. Our cousins’ village at long last. We had time to live a little, love a little. The Builders work slowly and methodically, sometimes so slow they’re forgotten. Which would be a mistake. The inhuman plant-steel machinery consumes all.
Seventeen years later, everyone else had forgotten. It’s easy to not see the shadow creeping along the horizon until suddenly it’s consumed the light around you. I was prepared for that day, as much as one could be. It was not enough.
I run again and again, leaving more family and love and life behind me. To be consumed. They say a cornered beast is the most dangerous. The beast with nothing left to lose. I am not yet that beast–I have more to sacrifice before that final hurrah.
The rancid mist surrounds me, acrid and murderous. I can see my mother, the moon, gazing down upon me, before she too disappears into the shadows. This is what I’ve been preparing for. I pierce my heart with a plant-steel spike and feel the taste of copper and murder flood my mouth.
My limbs twist and break, rending my form asunder. I am becoming.
Faster and faster, earth-metal crunches and scrapes below my feet. The Builders are slow and methodical, whereas I am speed and fury. They do not see me coming. I use my pain to disassemble their cursed tools of re-creation. They don’t feel a thing.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were already dead inside. Lost to their ravenous greed, their inconsideration for life. They were but a cog in the cruel machine of rebirth.
The Builders lay in yet another glistening lake of blood as I lay both friend and foe to rest. This is but temporary, a victory of the pyrrhic sort. The gods shall send another. The cycle, never-ending. I will be ready.