Imperial Office of Internal Affairs - Media Department
in the stately name of Emperor Letum
the Eighth Sovereign of the New Pacific Order proudly presents
Pacific News Network International # 21: Tales from the Pacifican Crypt
In This Edition:
• Death from Darkness
• Night of the Living Hugglers
• The Pacifican Tale of the Body Snatchers
• All Hope Was Lost: The Truth of Letum's Dungeon
“Fear is contagious. You can catch it. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say that they're scared for the fear to become real.”
From the darkest corners of our collective imaginarium, monsters of legend, horrors from forgotten times, and the long-stretching arms of the unknown reach out to freeze our hearts and our souls. A small creak in the middle of the night. The wind howling, mourning the past. Fear, and the tales of horror that accompany it, are part of our lives. And we in Pacifica are not free of them. Because the brave are not those who don't fear, but those who fear and face those fears, rising victorious and... forever scarred. The NPO Media Corps bring you on this day of terrors, the Tales from the Pacifican Crypt. By The NPO Media Team, Proudly part of the Pacific News Network
Disclaimer: Some of these texts may include gore and references not apt for the sensitive or easily impressionable. We advise caution when reading these stories if you think you may find them repulsive or uncomfortable.
The cries got louder in the air
as I went out there, as a dare,
the foggy forest was so dark,
my scuttling, it left a mark.
Closer, closer I got to the shouts,
Why did they sound like pouts?
I saw the blood up ahead
And then the man that was dead.
He wore the flag of the NPO,
His name was ‘Elegarth’ as tattooed on his throat,
The blood was spreading,
I kept on treading.
I stumbled over the man
And felt the smack of a pan
My vision blurred and I fumbled,
Dropping to the ground in a tumble.
I woke up
My body was covered in red
The same red from the dead
As I was dragged from my home
And into the unknown.
The first stab came in my gut
The next in the butt.
I screamed in pain
As I was being slain.
The man stood tall and proud,
Enough killing for a crowd,
His name was Operative,
And he was very proud.
By writinglegend48, Proudly part of the Pacific News Network
The first few reports on Radio Free Pacifica explained that a group of foreign terrorists were attacking a MilCom Security Complex in Francograd’s Koona sector. For any Pacifican with as many years here as I have, this should have been just a laughing matter: attacking the bunker where our best soldiers and military minds are was madness. I laughed, indeed. “Idiots,” I thought to myself, and then moved on to think of other, more important matters.
I drove my car towards the Financial Sector, perhaps a little amazed at the lack of jams near Franco Square, but at least I was going to be able to arrive on time to my office in the Pacific Bank Vault. I should have noticed the line of aid requesters was shorter than usual, but since Skynet had kicked in, we’ve improved our work so much, that I felt glad for it. “A milestone,” I said to myself.
My secretary brought me coffee; she realized I had woken up early. She also went ahead and canceled all my meetings for the day, which allowed me to schedule an important conference I had pending with some of the bank’s economic consultants. About an hour later, Millionario and I were in one of the secure underground rooms, watching hours of anime some important reports from the Tech teams. Little did we know, outside, chaos was the norm.
We eventually completed our business at around 2100 hours. As Milli was a retired IO, he has a room in the Retirement Wing. I still had to drive home, so we bid each other farewell, and I departed. The Bank halls were empty, the usually pleasant music stopped for some reason. Papers were all over some of the offices, but after years of Hippie work, you get used to it. Should I have noticed the breaking news flashing on the screens of the lobby? I don’t know anymore…
It was all crazy. The sirens and the screams took me by surprise as I stepped outside. “What the hell is going on?” I asked aloud. I was alone, anyway. The streets surrounding us were deserted. I walked toward the parking lot and a few yards away I noticed the smoke rising from a crashed chopper. I certainly had to have been very stoned not to notice that when I was downstairs with Milli. I ran back to the vault. Something awful was going on, and I was sobering up, completely surprised, and alone.
As I half walked / half jogged up the hill, I saw them for the first time. What seems to be former members of the Pacifican Army, slowly dragging their feet towards me, towards the Vault’s entrance… A group of about thirty to fifty, their uniforms ragged and tainted with something that looked red, like blood. For a second, I was not aware of myself, and I just stared at them, horror thumping through each nerve and blood cell.
Pink-blushed skin covered their bodies. Their serene stern faces had changed into some sort of permanently exaggerated joyous visages. An intense smell of concentrated cotton-candy filled my lungs and made my stomach churn; it was all I could do not to vomit then and there. Strips of their skins were coming off, leaving chickenpox marks on their bodies. On a closer look, they were heart shaped scars. I was petrified.
A monstrous huggler
What happened next marked itself forever on my mind. Perhaps for having tuned in to the news, or the radio, or just because he saw what was happening outside, Millionario was running out of the Vault as the monsters converged on him. “Run, Elegarth! Save yourself!” His desperate yell brought me back to my senses, and my body found itself. My first reaction was to lurch forward, towards my friend and mentor. But it was too late…
As I stood there deciding what to do, two of these… creatures got to him, the first one embracing him from his back, the second one toppling them both over. A swarm of them was soon all around where Milli had been. I started to back out, slowly. Their guttural voices made noises I couldn’t recognize at first. Then they started to step back and I saw Milli. My Milli. Or well, what he was before. His face had started to redden. His clothes were partially torn apart.
I froze again, as he threw his arms towards me. For a second, I focused on him, his mouth grunting a word. One I have had so much fun with before, one that entertained me and many others in several meetings. One that MilCom so often reminded us to stop using. “Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggleee”. Red candy-chew fell from his mouth, staining his clothes. “Huuuuggleeee” he said again. He was gone. These monsters, these… hugglers… had got him. He had turned into one of them.
A swarm of hugglers
That was all I needed to see. I ran and ran, trying to search for empty streets. From the body of a former PG I was able to pick up some weapons and a Kevlar vest. I moved on and found some other stranded survivors. I’ve been hiding in this facility for the last 30 minutes, while some Alpha Recruits scout the building. The radio stopped transmitting around midnight. We can still hear the screams blocks away.
As I write this, I just can hope someone out there is holding on. I don’t have faith that MilCom made it, it seems it all started there. Perhaps Jgolla had finally succumbed to the huggling madness? Could it have been a new weapon to be used against our enemies? I have no clue. Dawn should be here soon. This night of madness and hugglers will soon be over. I just hope we can live through to see a new dawn tomorrow... By Media Corps, Proudly part of the Pacific News Network
Frank Heller was his name. When he woke up, earlier than normal, he felt a cold sensation spreading from his toes into the rest of his body. Autumn had just started to dig deeper into Francograd’s weather, temperatures were lowering rapidly and afternoons were cloudy and moody. He just assumed he might be catching a cold and made sure to take an extra Vitamin C pill during his breakfast.
Since it was early, anyway, he decided to walk along Cortath Avenue, down to his office in the Administrative Building of the Internal Affairs District. The morning was brisk, as he expected, and hence he was not concerned about the cold sensation moving up his shins. He thought he was going to need to hit the Hospital later that evening if things continued like that, but for now it could be ignored.
His morning was a little agitated, and hence he ignored the advancing coldness until noon, when he went down to grab lunch. He had agreed to meet with the media guys in the Cafeteria, but as soon as he stood up, he realized something was awfully wrong. His left leg was covered in cold sweat, and a numbing sensation ran all the way from the tip of his toe to his right hip.
He sat down again quickly, as he was starting to feel dizzy. His left leg was feeling similar to the right up to the knee, and neither of them was totally obeying his commands. He tried to wiggle his toes, to no avail, and each movement he attempted took him a moment and focus. He urgently needed help, quickly dialed for a cab and made the tortuous and hard walk to the lobby.
As he arrived in the Urgency Wing, he noticed a group of Praetorians standing guard near the gates. While it was not unusual to see Praetorians all around Pacifica’s Capital City, it was strange to see them specifically there. He asked himself if perhaps a high ranking officer was having a procedure, and if that would impact his needs. His knee was already aching badly and the cold sensation was spreading further.
From there, it all went nuts. More Praetorians were inside, standing guard here and there or running alongside medics and nurses all over the place. He approached one of the triage windows, and as soon as he explained what was happening to him, he felt there was much more to it all. He barely noticed the horror-stricken face of the triage doctor, focusing on the Praetorian next to him, who was, surprisingly, grabbing him by the arm and politely asking to be followed.
He was quickly placed in a wheel chair, and he felt quite grateful for it, since his right leg was already uncontrollable – he was not able to induce a single movement from it – and his left was almost gone too. Curiously, anyway, he started to worry about a strange secondary feeling that its leg was getting a mind of his own, a will separated from his.
Praetorians quickly ushered him into a closed dark observation unit. Doctors and officers wearing bio-protective suits were coming in from the other end, but he had little time to worry as he was gently injected with something that made him go quickly numb and drowsy. “It will all be okay, Comrade” said a man in a brilliant red suit. He could not answer: his muscles were too numb to obey him.
The next few hours were more of a nightmare than anything else. He could hear pieces of conversation going here and there, and he could feel that things were not improving. The numbing sensation quickly reached his chest, and he knew – even through the drug he had been given – that he was no longer in control of his lower body. Someone else was. His blood-shoot eyes were the only proof of the horrors going in inside his mind. A nurse, noticing them, injected something else into the serum. “It will be alright” she told him, and walked away.
A few hours later, he was moved to a different unit. Several other people, all seeming to be immobilized as he was, were all around him. “This is an attack, Emperor Letum” said one of the highest ranked officers, sitting in a nearby desk. “Not a virus, not bacterial, not prionic either. We have no clue what is going on… We are under siege”. He could hardly believe it, but the second will inside of him, now grabbing his mind from the inside of his own skull, grinned.
The Pacific News Network reported the Imperial Crisis Research Team had concluded it had all been a result of nerve gas released in Francograd by unknown terrorist forces. They could also confirm that out of the 113 affected Pacificans, 6 had succumbed to the attack, while all 107 others had survived and were already discharged in healthy physical and emotional condition. “We will find these terrorists and destroy them. May Admin have mercy of their souls, because we shall have none,” said the Emperor in his Crisis Speech to the Body Republic.
He was wearing a wise smile and a ready attitude when he signed the discharge papers. Warm feelings crossed his body as he walked out, wearing a new elegant suit someone gave him earlier. When? It didn't matter. He took the first bus he saw and got off a few stops later, still smiling. He bought a cup of coffee at a stall and walked a few more blocks, toward a black door leading to the large, well-lit cellar previously agreed on. There were about seventy others already here. More would come later.
“Phase one is done,” said a tall man standing in front of the others. He recognized Imperial Officer Brennan. Surprising; they never expected to be able to get hold of an Imperial Officer. “Pacificans do not suspect a thing… and now Phase Two of Project DARPHA shall start”. Everyone applauded. It was a joyous day for the forces of the Body Snatching Coalition. If anyone had looked more closely at Frank Heller’s eyes, they would have seen the last shining spot of his soul dying out in a scream of ultimate utter horror, his body finally stolen forever.
By Media Corps, Proudly part of the Pacific News Network
I knew, since I made that speech in Franco Square, that I was putting myself in danger. Speaking ill of the Emperor of the New Pacific Order is not often something done by the coward or the weak of will, hence I had no real fears. What could he do? Arrest me? My evidence was strong, and it was clear to me that Pacifica required to know the truth. I went home late, using the metro. Walking in public is the safest thing a man in danger can do: it is hard to disappear when everyone can see you – and recognize you.
Something kept nagging at the edge of my conscious thoughts. Had I forgotten something? Had my article, “The secret behind Pacifica’s Dungeon Master,” skipped something obvious and transparent? My research had been thorough. Perhaps it was just myself being overcritical of my own work and discoveries. Or perhaps I was allowing my paranoia to ride my emotions without any control. Clearly, it was time to go to bed. I turned on my alarm system, and the red word “ARMED” showing in the display gave me the peace I needed to fall fast asleep.
When I heard the first noise, a muted, deep “boom” on the door, I wondered if he had sent in the Praetorian Guard or the Pacifican Army. He was surely going to parade me on the PNN with a made-up charge. When they were inside, I started to realize that my alarm should have gone off way before they were so close, their heat signature picked up by the thermal sensors. When they finally broke into my room – about 10 seconds later – I started to realize something may be going wrong.
I couldn't recognize their uniforms. In the few seconds before they covered my head with a black fabric bag, I just was able to see their black cargo pants and dark blue jackets. Their faces were all covered in dark blue masks, without many features. There were no insignias of any sort, or any kind of external identification. But the stench emanating from them quickly made me gag. It was like smelling a butcher after a day’s worth of work. Their cold hands quickly dragged me out.
I was unceremoniously thrown into the back of a van. I was surprised at how much they were able to communicate among themselves, as they made no sound. I supposed they were using some form of sign language or highly advanced intercom devices. Some gossips around the Tech District had mentioned a project to develop mind-to-mind intercoms. Perhaps that was far more advanced than “a project”. We drove for about 30 minutes before I was pulled out. Driving time and the late hour of the night made me calculate we were either in the outskirts of the city or just in the middle, in the Imperial Sector.
Surely, even Letum was not ruthless enough to try to execute me in the dark. The PR issue after that would be almost unmanageable. Not even LoD’s ACE (Awesome Counterterrorism Experts), nor Frawley’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs would be able to handle such a scandal easily, or without consequence. I was able to notice a splashing sound ahead of me, and soon after I was being driven through an area of flooded floors. Someone near a lake? Were they going to drown me? A smell of rotting garbage and swamped plants made me quickly think of sewers.
The trip wasn’t long. About 10 minutes later, I was ushered into some sort of waiting place and made to sit, and I was able to hear the loud noise of a metal-rigged door closing behind me. What was it that my mind kept nagging me about? I had no time for going through the hoops and loops of my paranoid, worried, and currently quite busy mind. What was it that couldn't let me focus on more important matters? I tried to push that away from my head, as I also tried to move myself into an upright position and realized, suddenly and surprisingly, that I was no longer handcuffed.
My wrists were still throbbing, but I had not noticed when the restraints were taken off me. I stood up and quickly removed the bag limiting my sight. The blinding white light in the room hit me like staring at the sun in the middle of summer at noon. I rubbed my eyes carefully while I let my body lean slightly against the near wall. When I was finally able to open my eyes, I was first surprised at not being in a cell, and then at the room itself: completely white, lights pouring from every corner, with a built in bench. Behind me, the metal door. In front of me, a white, simple, elegant one, with a sign that said “Please come in.”
I hadn't come this far being a coward, or fearing what could be awaiting me. I rubbed my wrists; the pain from the cuffs was slowly fading away, and I felt a little dizzy. I grabbed the knob of the white door and easily turned it. It wasn't locked. There wasn't any impediment for me to move on. I stepped in, and my mind was trying to catch up quickly. The next room was… bizarre. The concrete, unpainted walls were decorated with several gruesome pictures of tortured people. Any kind of pain machines ever invented were pictured there. And a jolly loud voice I couldn't recognize resounded all around me.
“Welcome,” it said. “Please step through this room, and move on. You can't go back, and you should not try it. You know well why you are here, and you may guess at what expects you. But you were able to discover a dark hidden truth. And here is your reward.” There were no speakers anywhere, and the sound seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. “You are, however, not the first… And probably won't be the last… Our Master awaits you”.
A black door I hadn't noticed before opened up silently and by its own, a few steps away from me, leading into a dark room. A strong and somewhat familiar smell was coming through the door, but I didn't recognize it at first. The next room was dark and silent. I stepped in carefully, and the door closed behind me, by its own will again. “Stop,” said a gentle voice coming from the corner of the new room. In the darkness, someone came to me and whispered in my ear. “I can see everything in this darkness, please don't try anything”.
I asked the voice where I was, but I received no reply. “Please allow me” said the voice again, as hands I could not see started to unbutton my shirt. I asked her – did it sound female? – to stop. “Do not worry yet,” said the voice, again, “I'll be gentle, and you're safe here.” I allowed her (him?) to continue. (S)he removed my shirt and t-shirt, and after leading me to sit, removed my trousers. Quickly, he, or she, brought me another set of clothes, soft smooth clothes, and simple by the feel of it. The place where I was sitting was also soft and comfortable. But the smell that was coming from everywhere was starting to annoy me.
“I’ll turn on the lights now” he said… she said… I realized I had not yet been able to make up the gender of whoever was tending to me. It was almost an androgynous voice. Sometimes softer, sometime lighter. “Drink up,” he – or she – said. I was given a cup and I drank whatever it was. I assumed this was it, poison. Perhaps slow poison, allowing Him to come and gloat at my last few moments. My head started to feel both dizzy but clearer at the same time. And the smell…
The lights flashed on suddenly. By one of the two doors on the room, I saw my interlocutor: the most alien, beautifully alien, creature I've seen, not totally male, not totally female, impossible creature of paper white skin, with no hair, totally naked. Her feet were covered in a red liquid. I finally recognized the stench drowning my senses: it was blood. And there it was, in the center of the room, a pool made of it, the surface slowly waving. Realization fell on me, and I was able to distinguish the red stain in the glass cup I held in my hands. It was blood. I had been given blood to drink.
Disgusted, I stood up. But I hesitated for a second, as I realized something was stirring inside me. My horror was being drowned by a feeling of comfortable numbness. The blood I drank, now in my system, must have carried a drug. I was being… anesthetized against what was about to come. A hand took the cup from my own, and only then I noticed the chair I was sitting on, filling the wall. It was made out of bodies. Living bodies flesh-crafted into sitting positions, their legs and arms bent in impossible ways, their heads nowhere to be seen.
Terror and fascination were fighting in my head, while my memories of something forgotten kept pushing their way in. “Dungeon Master of the Order” was his title. This was surely it. How stupid of me: dungeon masters need, obviously, secret dungeons. And I was starting to realize how far down the rabbit hole had I gone by then. “My name is Zanthosa,” said the creature – boy or girl – and pointed up to the ceiling. The drug on the blood kept my horror at bay, my humanity slowly dripping away.
“We shall sing of your bravery,” said several dislodged heads, strangely calm, their eyes closed, their skins pale, their necks melting into the wall, veins flowing through the wall from the flesh-benches. “We shall sing of your delusions too.” I started to back away. Zanthosa grabbed me and ushered me through a hallway. “He is waiting for you behind the chorus hall. Just go through, and don't allow the walls to bite you. Take the cup, and if you feel your sanity slip away, drink from the fountains”.
My swiftly numbing mind tried to convince me to defend myself or run away, but common sense told me it was already too late, and I might as well continue on, facing my fate with some sort of dignity. My bare feet felt the warm throbbing floor of the hall as I walked through it, and slowly took notice of the walls and ceilings, all crafted of the most horrendous mix of muscle tendrils, skin like parchment, and veins, thick like fingers, pulsing, moving. The chorus began to sing. Several thousand voices perfectly synchronized coming from the walls.
The veins unraveled themselves and I could see the flesh walls covered in mouths and eyes. The eyes, blinking, alert and alive. The mouths wailing their chants hypnotically, voices of men and women, children and elders mixed up perfectly. Some of them stopped singing and slightly extended from the walls, trying to kiss, to bite, to lick me. I told myself I should just keep walking, when I also noticed full faces were part of the walls, some of them horror-stricken, some of them calm, some even grinning malevolently at me. The sound started to die out, as I moved up the hall into a gallery.
The walls, ceiling, floor, and even the columns were all made of flesh, and in the gallery, whole bodies had been sculpted into pillars, stretched from floor to ceiling, bent around cores made of bones, their feet and hands melting away into the mass that formed the rest. “This is the Gallery of Screams” said Zanthosa, who had caught up with me suddenly. She casually walked between two of the pillars and let her hands slightly brush them. The agonizing screech coming from each of them was enough to make me long for some of the numbing drug in the blood fountains running at the edge of the walls.
I fell to the ground, disgusted by it all. Another pair of hands helped me up. “Allow us to guide you” said a voice. Zanthosa was behind me. She, or he, was also in front of me. “We are Zanthosa”, one of them said. The one that had stepped through the pillars melted away into the flesh, a pool of blood slowly absorbed by the visceral construct I was standing in. “We are part of the Master”. I was up again. A Dungeon full of horrors surrounding me. A living dungeon. A nightmare.
“Clear a path” ordered Zanthosa. The pillars twitched and moved, their cries and laments echoing all around me, revealing a road made of white lustrous bone. She pointed forward, and I started walking again, finally defeated. A few yards into the gallery, and pillars were no longer the main population. Veins and tendons heaved themselves from the unbroken carpet of raw meat, sprouting leaves and petals. Stubs of muscle opened into blood-red caps. The flesh was changing, becoming something else.
At the end of the garden there was an altar, the only part of the whole feverish place not made out of flesh. In it, lying unconscious, his arms extending and dissolving into a mass of veins connected to the Flesh Cathedral, was Emperor Letum. And beside him was a lump of flesh forming into the shape of Emperor Letum. Blood transforming into skin, hundreds of mouths covering his arms and torso. “You are finally here,” said a hundred voices at the same time.
I fall to my knees and hands, my senses feeling the twitching floor's excitement and anticipation. “Poor Letum” he said. “So long ago, I took over him and his position. The always willing Letum, heart of this Flesh Dungeon. You were all such fools. The secret of the dungeon master is that he was subject to my will long ago, little journalist.” The demon that took over Letum laughed as he dissolved himself into a pond of blood, re-absorbed into the monstrous building. All the walls and blood-plants, the screaming faces and the singing mouths, the pillars and the dislodged-heads screamed with his voice. “I'll absorb Pacifica, and then, I'll absorb the world”.
I tried running, and then I laughed. I felt his mind overcome mine, and his veins connecting to mine. The blood I had consumed made its way out of my body, crawling through my flesh, like little worms making their way out, while tendrils made their way in. I just wanted the truth… And now here I was, slowly absorbed into the Flesh Cathedral, Letum's Dungeon, himself the first victim of forces darker and older than humanity itself. All hope was lost. By Media Corps, Proudly part of the Pacific News Network
The Pacific Press, Halloween 2014 Edition Ends Here
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