Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorisms)
In the light, fleeing from the institute, away from the infrastructure of the God Machine, led out by three former angels of the machine they face, the three mortals Gwil, Ryan and Sanjiv are encompassed by the expanding light and they remember…
Over a year ago. Back in Romford. Three of them standing on a gangway over a pit, over processing lines shovelling hundreds, or possibly thousands of human lives into it. This is the warehouse, from the inside, this is where Dave disappeared.
Tubes reach out from the walls, pipes draining liquids from the weeping and screaming human figures, pumping new ones in. They are aware of every moment, these human livestock, aware of every pain and every indignation until the end. Hunched biomechanical forms of angels walk amongst the livestock, stripping away flesh to reveal the bone below – removing limbs – slicing open human skull, unfurling them like a macabre flower. Thin needles sink into exposed brain, draining out a glowing energy from within, somehow the watching three know what this is, recognise it on some subconscious level. They are draining human souls, draining human identities. The rest is just meat to be discarded. The bodies, the waste meat are piled up in skips, or deposited into the pit. Pale humanoid creatures handle the meat, creatures controlled from wires embedded into the skull, looking out through lens apertures, encased in insect like carapace and embedded jars of glass, they shamble and moan in pain and ecstasy as they drag strips from the bodies to feed. As they shove the remains into the gears of the god machine, the blood and flesh lubricating the eternally turning gears.
The three watchers cannot look away. Protective madness will not come, the warm blanket of the shut down of the mind. Sanjiv curls into a ball, whimpering, praying for release. Gwil stares at a single point, trying to make the world small enough to comprehend. Ryan grips the gantry gates, as the sheer weight of it all rolls over her. Above them, above it all, a pyramid, a mix of Aztec and machine, thirty feet across, floats in the heart of the chamber. A pyramid of gears, and tendrils made of black iron. It seems alive as it reaches down into the screaming pulp of human flesh and pulls the mass apart, separating body, limb and flesh as it almost seems to be searching for something. Where its limbs pass the other entities give way, in deference and fear of its passing. This is the overseer of this realm.
Gwil glances over from his single spot “Dave. He is already dead isn’t he?”
“We don’t know that yet” Ryan says, trying to hold onto a point of hope.
“Look at that. Look at it all. He has been here how long now? You expect…?… Listen, we need to get out of sight. It is too open here”
The conversation is cut off as static fills the air, the wall unfurling behind them. Something terrible and beautiful unfurls. something for which the term humanoid seems horrible imperfect. Nightmare fused with flesh and pistons, coated in ceramic tiles and plastic. Sexual and sterile at the same time, fingers that end in syringes and a plastic mesh that speaks as a face, it unfolds wings like razor blades and speaks with a voice like a buzz saw “Be not afraid, for I show you wonder”
Gwil stares, unable to speak for a moment, just taking and releasing breath. “Fuck. You.”
The being moves in a shower of sparks, speaking again, into their very souls
“You have come before god. Witness his immortal beauty and know trembling, but know that god is merciful. You will be the instruments of his will, you will be taken and improved. You will bear witness, you will be prophets, sent to take his message to mankind. Attend now, for god will begat his only son, and you will be the ones to attend to this miracle.
The figure extends a single finger, pointing up towards the vast pyramid above, and the three can see. A body, strapped to a gurney, rising to meet the pyramid, the overseer. The body of Nathan, still broken and crushed from the impact of the train, but now mechanisms write beneath the skin, repairing bone, restoring collapsed organs.
The three can see this as the Angel has taken control of their sight, has let them see as it does. They can feel their eyes burn, the blood run as veins rupture, charred tears of red running down their cheeks.
Nathan’s head is sutured open, cast iron wands carving through flesh, bone and spirit, empting everything until the head is hollow. The overseer angel, the pyramid above it all, folds itself down, collapses, tessellating into a single point and enters through the open skull. Electricity arcs as an impossibly vast angel of countless dimensions enters into the tiny space of a single body. It seems to take an eternity, an eternity of screams, Nathan’s jaw forced wide , his eyes burned out by the forces running through him.
“Behold god’s mercy”
At the angels words, their visions snap back to their own eyes and they see a new sight to scar them forever
They see the man they came for, Dave, vivisected, laid bare for all to see. They see copied of him, many copies, being worked on by angels – blades entering his spine, or needles sinking through his skin, implanting new identities and new missions. They see the original Dave, skinned, limbs pulled apart and organs displaced, each part integrated into the machine. He is still conscious, still aware, he screams with pain in every moment, driven utterly mad by what has befallen him.
“And lo, he saw the glory of god, and the new service. I bring you the glory of revelation”
At the angel’s final words needles descend from around the three, sinking into their skulls. White lights fills the room, as does the sound of buzzing saws and their own screams. It continues for a very long time before finally they are allowed to black out.
Back in the light. back a year later. They finally remember it all, what caused their memory loss, what caused their madness. Then the light fades.
It is the London Underground. Gwil, Sanjiv and Ryan sat there, alone, the only passengers on the carriage as it rocks back and forth down the line. Gwil sits, knees up to his chest, rocking back and forth, still living the memories that have come flooding back. They have no idea how they came here, from the institute, or from the light. They are just here. Sanjiv, white as a sheet holds onto the metal bars, trying to hold back the urge to be violently sick. Only Ryan looks perversely relived. The unknown has haunted her so long, that the reality, no matter how bad, gives a reason to continue on. A reason for why it all happened. A reason for the breakdowns.
The demons, their rescuers, are gone.
It has been a year, and the world does little to welcome them back. Gwil can’t return to work, not while the police are still after him. He can’t return to the faith, not now, he can’t stand being there, eternally overlooked. He tries, picks up the phone and dials so many times, but hangs up after a few panicked words. He can’t explain. he can see the gears all the time now. he can see the machine everywhere in the world. He can’t even face the others, Milosh, Ryan. Sanjiv – they all saw him, all blame him for what happened to Nate, he can’t face their accusing eyes.
The homeless shelters become his life. Where he lays his head, where they restrain him when he tries to turn a blade to his eyes once more, to remove what the machine put in there. Some times alcohol numbs the pain, and on those days they won’t let him in the shelter and the cold streets great him.
There still is one thing keeping him. he is the only one who knows where Lisa is, where she was being kept. The faith can’t help her, and neither can he. The faith is his life and he has never gone against it, but…
One day he posts a letter to Sanjiv, a letter with the details of where Lisa can be found. The faith is his life and he just went against the faith, which means…
Romford, back where Nate died. Gwil faces the railway track, almost relieved. It will all end soon. He raises a footstep out onto open air and…
Gwil turned at the shout. A woman had called to him, a woman sat in loose commando trousers and open camouflage jacket over greying shirt. her hair shaved down, most likely at least half Indian by Gwils guess, half he couldn’t tell.
Her name was Becca Stone, or at least this bodies name is. She offered painless relief, an instant end, rather than the agony of the train.
That didn’t interest Gwil.
She offered a chance to strike back, a chance to hurt the god machine. A chance to use the faith as it had used him.
Gwil asked for one more thing. A life for a life.
Mz Stone agreed. Signed in blood a pact was made. Then it was all over. Gwil was no more. Wearing his flesh Mz Stone sat, waiting. She was a demon, a fallen angel of the god machine, and now what was Gwil’s was now hers. She could wear his skin, his life, and use it to her own ends.
The people of the cult’s faith came for her, in Gwils skin. Marched her off. They thought they had their prize. She played as Gwil, played the petulant, the angry outcast. Showed them nothing but what they expected to see. Inside she smiled. She was where she needed to be.
Sanjiv tried to return to his old life, tried to explain his absence as ill health and blackouts. Tried to step back into the old shoes he wore. He was ok now, new medication, everything would be ok. He could not convince them. the god machine had twisted his world. his tales had too many holes, made too little sense. Instead he end back on jobseekers, back on the track that Dave had been on. Soon they will come for him as well, he knows. he can see the machine everywhere. Even his dreams offer no respite, when he can sleep. He tries to use his newfound sight to lay low, to avoid the worst of the infestation.
Tired, and worn down he ends up in Hotel Belgrade bar in Romford, looking for his ex colleague Milosh. looking for drinks and camaraderie. Around him swing tired looking pole dances, ogled by men they hold in contempt and paid no where near enough for their pains. Milosh slumps against the bar, a thin shadow of his former self, pale and looking seriously ill. There are marks on his arm, half covered by chequered shirt, but not quite – needle marks. When the sleeve rides up a collapsed vein on the inside of his arm is revealed. His eyes are yellowed, signs of early onset of jaundice, and a sour smell of someone poisoning themselves hangs around him.
He smiles thinly as he sees Sanjiv, rising the can he has been nursing in salute “Sanjiv Mangat. Well fuck me. I didn’t think you were still alive”
Sanjiv smiles weakly, brushing his hair down, trying to hide the circuit board like tattoo that faintly marks his skull since his days at the mercy of the god machine “I’m not entirely sure I still am. How are you?”
“Like a prince” Milosh says “I lost my flat. Lost my job. My girlfriend. But look on the bright side – I still have my friends” He waves his arm at someone behind the bar, who just glares at Milosh with ill hidden anger.
“I couldn’t go back “Milosh says” Being on the underground. I couldn’t, won’t go back now I know what is underneath. I can’t sleep. Sometimes I just want it to stop. How do you go …what happened to you?”
“We found where Dave ended up” Sanjiv says, then pauses, watching as Milosh starts shivering, then shaking and then almost weeping, but he bites down instead, so heard he nearly draws blood, holding the tears back.
“He is dead isn’t he? Tell me he is fucking dead at least. That would be something, better than this”
“I think so” Sanjiv says
“YOU THINK SO? What do you mean, “You think so” What the fuck did you find?”
“We found … something. We, I lost a lot of time. Before that we saw something, like the manifestation that made the tube station disappear, but much worse. It was why we were missing so long”
Milosh stares, then breaks open the first of six cans of Polish super strength lager, swigging it down quickly. By the time he has finished the sixth he speaks again “I’m afraid to die now. I know what that was. When I was little I believed in god, I just didn’t believe it would be like this. I can’t take it any more. I can’t live like this, and I can’t die. I need something, I need a fix”
Milosh stands, about to storm out when Sanjiv grabs his arm “The situation isn’t entirely hopeless. Whatever this is, it isn’t absolutely everywhere. I can see it, I can see ways to avoid it. You talk of god, and this thing claims to be god, but some of its fallen angels seem to be helping us. If there is a god and a devil, then maybe we got their roles the wrong way round”
“Yeah, or maybe it just let you go as fucking bait. Maybe it still has its hooks in you. I’ve got to go, you are going to get yourself killed.”
As Milosh pushes his way out, to hunt for a fix to make his life go away for a while, Sanjiv can hear the gears again, turning in the background of his world.
The police looked for Ryan, in the year she was gone. It did not find her of course, they were not up to the intrigues of the god machine. Things have changed. Mark, Ryan’s friend who works as a lawyer, whom Ryan had entrusted to leak details of the corruption to journalists, well he did his job well enough. he had minor acclaim, several websites published it all, revealed the excesses of state power.
Then he lost everything. His name smeared, his job lost, house lost. His fiancée Lucy tried to stab him, then vanished. Men he had never met before turned up days later and broke him down, beat him within an inch of his life and left him in the gutter. Only pure chance meant someone found him and took him to the hospital in time. Now he lives back with his family, penniless and with nothing.
Ryan couldn’t rejoin the police force, but tried to make her way as a Private Detective, taking advantage of the legal grey area of their existence to continue to reveal corruption. She known CID Grey is watching her, he contacts her, tries to get her to shut down the agency, to stop taking risks. The demon, it seems, is watching out for her, in its own way. A controlling way, far too controlling.
Ryan won’t stop and the warnings become veiled threats. Mentions of locking her down, locking her away for her own good. Ryan tries to break away, tries to escape his attention with learned tradecraft, but he is always there, watching from a distance.
Weeks pass and Ryan gets a lead, something big, something that could crack open everything. Signs of a human trafficking ring being only the lowest rung. She has to break tradecraft a bit, but it is worth the risk. Corrupt officers are involved, corruption in the police force she could expose. Michael Wolfson, a thorn in her side since the start, and as crooked as they come, is implicated.
Ryan has been watching him for a while, she can see the gears now, can see that Sergeant Wolfson is deep in the grasp of the god machine. Trading his favours for money, for power, for whatever it offers. He will be alone tonight, waiting to meet with a human trafficking ring. or that was how it was supposed to go.
It was raining that night, as Ryan Winter stepped out to confront Sergeant Wolfson, it was raining and the Sergeant was not alone. Detective Grey stood by his side, backed by several heavy set colleagues from CID. They stood, backed by the dock lands, opening up onto the river Thames. For a moment the scene seems clear, serene and frozen – the O2 arena lit up in the distance, Greenwich airport, aircraft taking off and landing. London stretches out before them, in all its beauty and complexity.
Then Detective Grey steps forward, wrapped in a beige trench coat that goes down to his knees, flicking at a lighter that keeps extinguishing in the wind. Grey looks older now, grey in his hair as well as his name, new lines on his face, stubble grown on his chin.
“I warned you Ryan” Grey says, shaking his head “I warned you not to dig too deeply. I also warned you to stay home where I could keep an eye on you. I’m sorry Ryan, but you will have to learn the lessons the hard way. I’m sorry but you are too precious to be left out here. I need your skills, your expertise”
As he speaks Grey’s face changes not a bit, still, impassive as he speaks. “I can’t lobotomise you, but I can cripple you, make sure you are reliant on me. It is ok, I will make sure you are treated well. We are opening a facility, it will take care of you, but you can’t leave”
Two CID thugs step up behind him, backed by the Sergeant, spreading out, surrounding Ryan as she backs away.
“I haven’t seen your friends recently ” Grey says “But they are equally important to me, of course”
Ryan grabs inside her jacket, trying to pull free a weapon as the crowd close in, Wolfson coming in on her blind side, asp baton drawn. In the dark Ryan lashes out, controlled strokes, aiming at keeping her assailants back, beating at limbs and whatever is offered as an a easy target. An overextended limb lets her push one assailant into the way of the other, but a blow comes from seeming nowhere, grazing the side of her skull. Staggering back she finally pulls free the asp baton, standing in a cautious guard, blood dripping from her skull.
“Don’t kill her” Grey says “But hurt her”
They close in again, organised now, the first takes a baton to the jaw, then the second is on her, dragging her down, locking her arm now. A baton comes down on her unprotected head and the world fills with lights and pain. Blood pours from her skull freely now, flitting in and out of consciousness she is aware of pain from her extremities. Blows raining down on her hands and feet, mutilating them, on her arms, on her knees, breaking them, twisting them. Shock comes in, and Ryan dimly realises she is close to death. Nothing seems real anymore, in the haze of pain.
The men step back, the beating stilled, leaving just Inspector Grey, kneeling, whispering to her, gently stroking her hair “I can make this all better again Ryan. I can make this all go away. However… you would have to do what I say. Or, I could leave you here, there are still two more options, Gwil and Sanjiv. I’m sure they would listen to reason. I fell because of you, and now you make me do this. You have to make a choice, what will it be?”
Ryan stares up, her face softening for a moment “I…”, then her eyes narrow, and spit flies out bloody and thick striking Grey in the face.
Grey looks and smiles, a genuine warm smile, filled with compassion and hope. Like everything about Grey it is a lie, and he wants Ryan to know it is a lie, a taunt. He stands, pushing his foot down on her hand, grinding it down, pushing the bone against the concrete.
“That wasn’t very becoming Ryan. You could have ruined my suit. I think I will leave you here. Maybe I’ll come back in an hour. Or maybe I will leave you to die. I haven’t decided yet”
Reaching into his pocket he pulls out a two pence coin, flipping it into the air and catching it against his hand. “Hmm” he says looking at the coin “Make that two hours” He whistles at the surrounding officers “You, with me. You and Wolfson, keep an eye on her. Don’t hurt her until I give the order. I take it you have tarpaulin to cover her?”
“Good, you’ve gone up in my estimation” and with that Grey leave’s to leave Ryan lying in a world of agony
Time passes, Wolfson pacing back and forth, as the other CID officer moves closer and closer to Ryan in the dark, something else watching out from underneath its skin. They are curious, an entity known as Mx Blue.
“Why did you do that?” They ask “Why did you choose defiance?”
“I couldn’t live with myself if I chose another way” Ryan answer, coughing. “Better to die free that live in a prison”
“I can help. I can make sure when it ends, it doesn’t die. Your vengeance doesn’t die, it will carry on”
A contract is offered, signed in blood. A chance for vengeance. Then Ryan is gone, and Mx Blue pulls the identity over themselves, clothing them in the world as a disguise. Now Ryan, or Mx Blue looking out through Ryan’s eyes kneels, document in hand, looking down at the absence on the floor where Ryan once was. In the background Sergeant Wolfson still paces, talking on a mobile phone.
Wings expand from Ryan’s back, wings formed of tiny hexagons of aluminium, material like space blankets spread out across the wing framework, pocked with digital colour camouflage patterns. Somewhere, in the great machine, alarms sound, an anomaly is marked for further attention. Then Ryan’s arms grab Wolfson and the two soar into the sky.
As they break through the cloud, Wolfson screaming the entire time, Ryan speaks “You didn’t do a very good job of killing me, well, you weren’t told to were you? You are going to wish you did though”
Through Wolfson’s screams Ryan continues “Calm down. It doesn’t become you to be so loud. Take a moment to take in that lovely view below”
Clinging to Ryan for dear life, bowels failing Wolfson screams on.
“Oh” Ryan says “Did you want me to bring you back to the ground”
“Please, please” Wolfson begs
“Are you sorry for what you did?”
“Yes. Please. Oh please let me go”
“Hmm, where do you normally meet Mr Grey?”
“I..I don’t know, I’m sorry I don’t know. He find me. He arranges it. I leave a USB stick, at the drop off point. A bin, outside Bethnal Green”
“Thank you. So, one final thing. What was the last thing you did before beating up Ryan Winters?”
“He told me to delay the meeting, until tomorrow”
“Thank you” Ryan says, and pushes Wolfson away into the air. The screams continue, diminishing away into the distance, until the thud as his body crumples head first into the ground, his body fragmenting over exactly where Ryan once lay.
Mx Blue smiles through Ryan’s face and gently glides away.
Elsewhere, Mz Stone looks out through Gwil’s eyes. Bundled in the back of one of the faith’s cars, he is silent for the whole of the journey, all the way back to Brixton, to the home of the faith. Back to where the sacred relic of the root is held. Muscular men drag Gwil through the corridors, down into the basement, chaining him against the wall in the dark.
“Gwil, Gwil, Gwil” Lucy’s voice echoes from the dark, as she steps forwards before him “Where have you been for so long? We have had to go without your guidance?”
“My guidance?” Gwil says, laughing bitterly” My guidance, what would you do if I said my guidance was to unshackle me?”
“Gwil. You know that is never going to happen. You know, you talk to the child.”
Inside Gwil, Mz Stone notes the mention of this “Child” for future investigation “If you are not going to let me go, then why should I tell you anything?”
“Because that is your purpose Gwil. We rose you up, you were nothing, and nothing is what you would have stayed if the spirit of the child had not shown its favour to you. Made you powerful”
“If I give you advice, will you listen?”
“Not you. The child. We need to know the will of the child”
Mz Stone lolls Gwil’s head to the side, sinking the body down as dead weight. Then slams his eyes open wide, voice octaves lower, and body thrashing against the chain.
“Why are you treating me like this?” An inhuman voice comes out, as if possessed. Mz Stone operating the body effortlessly as if a puppet, faking possession by the Child.
Lucy’s eyes go wide and she drops to the floor, prostrating herself before this seeming spirit of their faith, moaning in religious ecstasy. “Oh child, we are your servants we live to serve…
“What have you done to please me, what have you done in the name of the child?” Gwil says, voice rolling like gravel
Eyes rolling back, gasping Lucy says “We have made offerings, we have made pacts. We have made sacrifices in your name and..”
“They are nothing.” Mz Stone smiles inside as she speaks through Gwil “What have you done against what my prophet warns you of. What have you done against the intrusion of the demiurge.”
Lucy stutters to a standstill, confusion, then panic in her eyes. “The demiurge. I thought, I thought that was just Gwil’s mad ramblings”
“You ignored my prophet” Gwil booms, voice reverberating.
“Forgive me child” Lucy says, quailing back “We did not know. He has been.. unreliable. We thought..”
“If he seems unreliable, it is only because you do not understand my wishes”
“What do you want” Lucy says, weeping in terror and awe.
Mz Stone keeps Gwil’s face from smiling, and looks to his chained arm. Men run up, quickly unshackling him. “I shall prepare a new message for you, it must come at the most perfect moment. You must cleanse yourself first, you must fast. When the time is right I shall speak. I shall bring you tidings of a new order.”
Telling all the muscles in Gwil’s body go slack, Mz Stone slumps to the ground, seemingly unconscious.
“You heard.” Lucy says, breathlessly “The child has spoken. A new order is coming”
(Player’s Note: As you may have guessed from the write up, things are shaking up a bit. The game will be continuing, but as a Demon: The Descent Game, with Gwil and Ryan’s identities taken over by their host demons. Sanjiv, for now, shall stay human. All new posts will be under the Demon: The Descent heading, but continue right on from where this session ends. Hope you enjoy where this is heading, we sure are.)