Previously on Hack Writer TV: Conflict
They were standing in the gray nothingness, the four of them, holding hands.
Zeke realized this was an errant thought. They were not really standing, nor were they floating. They simply were.
“This is the Void,” said Father, still sounding ghostly. “It is merely a perception of a reality we can only see. There is nothing ‘here’ but us. It is the literal Void. We could, if we so desire, stay here for all eternity. Time marches on based on our understanding of the passage of moments, but the longer we stay here the slower it gets, and after a while, it will merely stop, and that is a dangerous state of being. Your body you see before you is just a reflection of how you used to see it—for you are the Void, not just in it.”
His father took a deep breath, uncharacteristically steeling himself.
“Never tarry longer than necessary.” He looked at Zeke. “Sometimes the sheer nothingness will call to you. Beckon you to stay, because ‘stay’ is a very accurate for what you feel. At this moment, you are everywhere and nowhere. Come here without a destination and after awhile, everyone you know, everything you have seen, is gone, lost to you in the relentless march of time.”
“Where can we go?” asked Josh.
“Good question,” said his mother. “You can go to places that you have been and can recall merely by wishing it so, once you are in the Void. And one other place.” To Zeke, her eyes were sad.
“Where,” asked Zeke, “is this other place?”
“Here,” said his father.
Suddenly their feet were on solid ground, and the transition was sudden, jarring, and Zeke almost fell to the ground even though he transitioned standing up.
He looked around him. No sun was visible, but the incredibly bright stars overhead lit the landscape, as if the atmosphere served as some magnifier. And the night sky here was filled by a gigantic moon—no, that is a planet, thought Zeke, staring at the extraordinary sight of the blue and green cloud filled planet with a ring.
And the smell—there was a slight breeze, and it carried with a dusty, metallic smell of summer, of earth baking in the sun only to cool off at night. It was an overpowering scent, and he suddenly realized, wrong.
Through sheer willpower he forced himself to look at the nearby, not the dream of the beautiful night sky. This is when the horror of the place washed over him. They were standing in the middle of a gigantic battlefield, with bones, armor and broken weapons stretching as far as he could see—and somehow in the place he knew he could see for miles. On all sides of him, off in the great distance, were hills and mountains, as if designed to collect the battlefield and steer the combatants to a titanic struggle for—Zeke looked around again.
For nothing. There were no buildings. No fortifications. It was as if armies clashed here for the sole purpose of killing each other.
For the first, time Zeke felt raw fear. This place was wrong. It was wrong. It was—
“W-w-what is this place?” whispered Josh. To Zeke he looked pale, probably how he himself looked.
“We’re not sure,” said his mother, “but we are fairly certain this is where Great-grandpa and his friends came from. Escaped from. Fled.”
“When?” asked Zeke.
“We don’t know that either,” said his father, “we do know they spent time in the Void, longer than they should have. What your mother and I do know, this place came unbidden to us in our memory. Like a racial memory. No one showed us the way.”
His mother nodded. “We are sorry to show you boys this, but Great-grandfather was, well to put it simply, insane. When your father and I got here it was not hard to figure out why. If he fought in this battle, he saw things, did things, that must have been unspeakable. He and his friends never showed their children anything of the Void.”
“But we figured it out,” said his father, “and here we are. Our parents didn’t show us the Void, but they taught us all of the necessary things about how to access it ourselves. Your mother and I have theories that it takes several generations to remove-whatever the taint was that prevented them from traveling back to their home.” He looked around. “That is, if they had a home to go back to, it could be…”
Suddenly a gigantic sound filled Zeke’s ears—a massive trumpeting, low and malevolent, coming from the mountains on his left. It went on and on and on and ended in a low wail that made his teeth ache.
He did not even know his sword out, but it was in front of him in the low-ready position while Josh, who stood facing the other direction, had his in the high ready. Slowly they circled, looking for the threat. His parents did the same.
“What was that?” asked Zeke.
“We’ve never heard of anything like that here,” his father said simply.
The ground shook with a low boom. Zeke peered to his left but could not see anything at all other than the stars and battlefield, so he started slowly looking around hoping to—
The ground shook again.
“Are those earthquakes or something?” asked Zeke.
THUD. Zeke noticed the bones and battle remnants rattled with each thud.
“Impact tremors,” said Josh, matter-of-factly.
Zeke caught his breath involuntarily. He really did not want to know that. He felt the grip of icy fear anew.
The bones—THUD—moved again.
The low, load moan of the trumpet call went out again, this time slightly louder.
Zeke stared at the bones while slowly circling with Josh at his back. That wasn’t—
Suddenly they moved again.
“Combat is imminent!” Zeke yelled.
“Where?” asked his father, “I don’t see anything!”
“The bones! They are moving by themselves, not just with the impact! With the next call I believe…”
“BARRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” goes the call again, this time sounding otherworldly, alien and very very evil.
Zeke did not hesitate. As the bones around him stood up, he was striking, his sword already moving in a fast arch, obliterating the thing that was forming right before him. Off to his right, another thing has formed—a skeleton of bones, dust and insubstantial, boiling black and purple mist, with eyes of burning red. It grabbed a broken spear stuck in the ground and looked directly at Zeke, a warbling hiss escaping from its bony jaw.
Zeke reversed his grip and continued his swing, this time arching up with the sword tip as he stretches forward and—
“Annette! Get us out of here!”
While it was still hissing obvious hatred, Zeke’s sword impacted the thing’s head in his upward swing. Behind him, he sensed Josh taking down something that rushed him while—
—the things are all around him now, dozens and then a wall of bone and mist and red eyes, Zeke grabbed his brother’s arm, locked his own with it and they whirled against each other, lashing out in a huge, sword filled double-arc. Bones flew everywhere, wherever his sword swung; he connected with a bony, red-eyed monster. They fall from the sheer force of their blades and they do not get up, but there are so many. So many!
“Boys, protect your mother! Form a triangle!”
Instantly they shifted positions and in an eye blink, they surrounded their mother, but in doing so, the things press in at the opportunity their movement created. One bashed at Zeke with a battered shield, and Zeke parried with his sword. The shield and sword impact and make a mighty crash, stinging his hands. Zeke lashed out with his foot, kicking the shield with a mighty blow. It sent the creature flying backwards just in time for Zeke to parry a particularly large thing with an intact sword.
Zeke realized they were now on the defensive. Concentrating, he evened out his movements. Shifting into a rhythm let him press the attack.
Behind him, he heard his mother strike her sword with a tuning fork. It sounds different from his father’s, a rich tone that sets her sword singing in reply—
The chord off the sword and fork stopped, as if never struck.
A part of Zeke’s mind wanted to be more frightened, but he dropped into a rhythm, a deadly cadence that flowed with his father and his brother. The three parried and thrust, go on the offense and just as suddenly, dropped back to protect Mother. Zeke realized they can only keep this up for so long. To tire means death.
“I see it! I see it! Off of my two-o-clock!” screams Josh. “It’s invisible, but the stars shimmer differently behind it! It’s huge!”
Josh is not panicked, but Zeke noted that clearly whatever he saw had shaken him. Zeke picked up his pace by decapitating a rushing skeleton, realizing now he can expend as much energy as he wants. This battle will not be long.
Suddenly his mother sang a clear bright note, her soprano voice loud and unwavering. His father instantly answers, a third below his mother’s note. Zeke sings out with his mother, an octave lower, and Josh answers on the same note as his father.
This time the trumpeting is loud, so very loud, and it rattles Zeke’s head. But he does not stop singing, and neither does anyone else. He delivered a vicious chop to a rushing skeleton, his sword impacting the top of its head. As Zeke continued with his stroke, his sword traveled down its bony, misty body, and it literally exploded outwards in all directions.
Zeke heard a new note, this one from his mother’s sword. It was sweet and metallic, and it blended into their singing, creating a wondrous harmony.
This time the impact almost caused him to lose his footing. It certainly did with the skeleton things around him—most of them fall and he heard crunching sounds off Josh’s two.
Suddenly Zeke felt a pull, a primal tug coming from behind him. There is wind at his face. He did not see it but he knew it is there; surely as if he had eyes behind his head. Slowly he backed towards it in step with his brother and father, as if he had rehearsed the maneuver. As one, the three of them entered the rent that his mother opened right at her feet.
In a blink, they were gone.