Throw Yourself In Next Time.
Up close, it was even worse. Because of the nature of the… effect, all of the parts were in the same general area, but jumbled. One eyeball hung in the middle of an angular outcropping of golden light off to the side of the ‘face’, while the other was only half submerged, lower and on the other side. A chunk of upturned skin had been speared through the middle, and if I had to guess I’d say it was a nose, but not confidently. The jagged shapes that seemed to be functioning as a mouth were filled with teeth and shattered pieces of jawbone, and they shifted up and down slightly, almost as if panting.
What was interesting, for a certain, horrifying definition of interesting, was the golden light itself. It wasn’t a homogeneous mass, as it appeared from a distance. No, the angular, almost fractal shapes that had come jutting out initially remained distinct from one another, even when they overlapped or were completely contained within a larger one. The edges had a slightly darker glow to them, and it was, I hated to admit it, kind of beautiful. If you ignored the context, that is, which was hard to do when I was standing literally two meters from its face.
The screech it made was unnerving. Not just because of the pain, but because, although it leaned into it and opened its ‘mouth’ wider, like a real animal, there was no breath, or spittle, or wind, or any physical effect. It was more like the idea of noise than actual sound, except for the way it made my ribcage feel like it was going to vibrate out of my chest.
I raised one hand. “Hey,” I said awkwardly. “Um. I’m Wisp. We, uh, never met, but I, er, I’m a fan?”
“Wisp!” yelled Comet incredulously. “What the f*** are you doing?!”
I turned my head to glance at her. “I’m trying to talk to i- her! Calm her down, ma-”
All I saw was a flicker in my peripheral vision, before my vision was filled with uneven gold light. I yelped, flinching defensively, and then I was falling.
I landed awkwardly a moment later, spots filling my vision and an unnatural sense of wrongness permeating through me. Both faded away after a few seconds, and I found myself standing in a two-foot-deep rent that had been torn into the ground, and the beast holding one ‘paw’ in the air, and looking confused. Even knowing I was intangible, that had been darn terrifying.
“Wisp!” Stump yelled, sounding terrified.
“I’m okay!” I responded. “I’m okay. I- she can’t hurt me, I don’t think. You can’t hurt me,” I repeated to it. “So can you calm down? And maybe we can-”
Another flash of gold, another short fall. “Okay,” I snapped at it as I recovered my footing, “you need to stop that.”
It looked downright baffled now, but it growled again.
“Hate to break it to you, but I don’t think treating it like a person is going to work.”
...I had to try.
“Well, you’re already here, doing this incredibly stupid thing, so try something else.”
I stepped forward, up and out of the gash in the ground, holding my hands up in front of me. “You can’t hurt me,” I repeated, “and I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m not gonna hurt you. It’s okay.” I was talking like you would to a frightened animal. “I know you’re scared, you’re hurt, but it’s gonna be okay.”
It growled, trying to back away from the raised hands, but with its rear trapped in ice and goo, it just sort of squashed up on itself. I kept approaching, slowly. “Jane, right?” I asked softly. “That’s what Awestruck said. Jane, I don’t know how much of this is you, or is still in there, but if you just calm down, we can try and fix it, okay?” The words weren’t important, I didn’t think; I was pretty sure that with animals you can just babble nonsense so long as the tone and body language were non-confrontational. “With all the crazy shit people can do, I think one of them can probably fix this, right?” I wasn’t going to risk babbling when there could still be a person in there somewhere, though.
I continued to approach slowly, still talking. It didn’t really have any choice, but it didn’t keep trying to hit me either. Slowly, I reached my outstretched hands towards it.
“Are you sure you want to touch it? What if that effect is contagious?”
The mountain man touched it, and he was fine. Galvanize got hit, too.
“It still seems like a dumb idea.”
This was all a dumb idea. Still, I aimed for a patch of intact skin, just in case. It felt warm, which freaked me out a little. What was keeping it like that? Was it just preserving heat? Was the light keeping things at body temperature? “See?” I said, trying to smile without baring my teeth. “It’s okay.” Based on an instinct I couldn’t quite specify, I began stroking it.
“I’ve got to admit,” said Stump from behind me, “this is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen.”
The beast shifted, almost tensing in a way. I managed to control my reaction and not turn around. “Look, it’s working, isn’t it?”
“It’s unnerving,” Comet replied, from further away. She seemed to have regained some of her composure. “Stump, move further away please. You’re not safe from blows like Wisp is.”
It was making an odd keening noise; I could feel it vibrating through my hand. So there was some physical mechanism for its vocalisations after all. “Guys, I think you’re agitating i- her.”
“Jane.” Comet’s voice was growing louder now. I didn’t mean move closer! “Can you hear me?”
“Uh, Comet?” It was definitely getting more agitated. “I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Jane, it’s me.” She was just straight-up ignoring me. “Say something. Please. I know you’re there, just talk to me. Say something. Say anything!”
I risked glancing over my shoulder at her. She was almost as close as me now. I take back anything I said about her being composed. She was striding forward, posture firm, arm outstretched in front of her. “Comet,” I repeated warningly, “you need to slow down.” What is with her?
She placed her hand on the golden light, right about chest level. “Jane, please.” Her voice cracked a little. “Just sa-”
Two things happened at once.
First, the beast roared again. Being this close, though, made me feel like my body was being vibrated apart. I collapsed to one knee, desperately shielding my ears as my eyeballs threatened to liquify in their sockets. Second, there was an enormous crack, as it tore its way out of the ice and goo holding it in place, bringing chunks of asphalt and concrete with it, and swung a paw at the both of us.
For the third time, golden light filled my vision, and I flinched away, closing my eyes. I would be fine, but my thoughts were filled with horrible visions of Comet’s body splattered like a tomato across the road. She didn’t have any protective powers, she couldn’t avoid it like me. Why the heck couldn’t she have just stayed away?
But, the light didn’t find. Slowly, I reopened my eyes to find the ground below me untouched, and Comet’s prone, but intact, form beside me. The paw hung in the air, about a meter from us, shaking and twitching as it tried to continue with the motion but found itself unable to.
Two arms were wrapped around it, wrapped in grey fabric that was torn at the edges. Slowly, the light grew less intense as the arms began winning out in the battle of strength. With a deep, guttural grunt, the paw was flung away, and the rest of the beast was dragged with it. In its place, hovered Awestruck. His costume was torn and ragged, and, shockingly, there was a large gash across his chest, bleeding profusely. He turned his head to one side, and spat, a thick crimson globule.
“Sir?” asked Comet, sounding lost.
“It’s not her,” he rasped. “She's gone.”
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