Prologue (1)
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The Nightmare Begins


An endless plain of crimson sand spread out before him, bleeding into the dark violet sky at the horizon. Wind-whipped dust swirled violently, as if tortured by unseen currents, as giant twisters spun in the distance. The ground trembled as the lone wanderer turned his gaze to the heavens, studying the sea of roiling clouds with indifference; he looked as if he had traversed many long miles beneath their tormented throes.

Vermilion lightning flashed through the clouds, illuminating the traveler’s face and swathing him in blood-red glow; up above, the contorted faces of a thousand stolen souls writhed in the clouds as the flash faded away, leaving an imprint on his vision. Without a word, he resumed his progress—one footfall in front of the other.

His innumerable imprints disappeared behind him in the whirling desert sands, but it mattered not: he would not be following them back. As he walked, he instinctively avoided a series of fetid, bubbling pools festering in the ground; they hissed at him as a noxious odor rose from their surfaces—a stench that implied that death awaited both the careless and the curious.

A banshee wind shrieked across the blasted landscape as a bolt of lightning flashed down suddenly from the sky, striking a mountain in the distance. The thunderclap arrived a moment later and was followed by the crackling sound of the once-majestic peak crumbling to dust. The cloud seemed to hover in the air, unsure of whether it wished to return to this poisoned place or to make a break for the heavens; its indecision was telling.

To the solitary figure crossing the desert, though, there could be no uncertainty: this place was death—a dying world bereft of its beauty, its life, its very essence—the victim of some unimaginable calamity. The air was charged with the electric pulse of the planet’s death-throes as another mountain succumbed to the wrath of the heavens—vanishing not with a crash but with a whisper; soon, it seemed, all things would follow suit.

Amid all this, the steely gaze of the traveling man never wavered; his soft blue eyes were fixed on the sinister glow of the horizon before him. He could not recall how he had come to this place or where he was going—had no recollection of who he was or what his purpose here might be.

Despite this, a strange sense pervaded—a gnawing assertion that he had been here before—had even once called this place home. He closed his eyes and tried to picture his past—to envision what this place might once have looked like long ago; instead, he could see only darkness. He continued to probe his faded memory until, out of the void, something emerged—something terrible and ancient: a faceless evil whose empty eyes were portals to the abyss; to look into them would be to glimpse eternity itself and to become lost in it forever.

The traveler opened his own haunted eyes and gasped; the silhouette of a figure appeared in the distance, illuminated briefly by a flash from the restless sky above. Whether he was looking at a man or a beast, he could not be sure, but he felt drawn to it nonetheless—compelled to move forward like a star pulled inevitably towards a black hole.

The sky rumbled low and deep like a threatened animal preparing to defend itself. The figure remained cloaked in darkness as the traveler began to close the distance between them. He watched intently as the strange shadow stood still despite the maelstrom raging all around.

He could begin to see the shape of a cloak, and beneath it what appeared to be a face, but the wind rippled the fabric, blocking his view.

“Who are you?” he shouted.

The figure remained mute and motionless—the traveler’s own echoing inquiry providing the only response.

“Where am I? What is this place?”

As silence resumed, the traveler hesitated, unsure of whether or not the thing before him was even made of flesh and bone. He took a few tentative steps forward, attempting to glance beneath the cloak; in a flash, the hood was torn back, and the unblinking gaze of a wizened, ancient being stared out at him.

Startled, the traveler stumbled backwards, landing on his backside as his tailbone slammed against a jagged rock; he winced, shutting his eyes and gritting his teeth against the pain. When it subsided, he opened his eyes and saw the cloaked figure standing suddenly next to him. It held out a wrinkled hand that bore a strange marking on its back.

The fallen man looked more closely and saw that it was in fact a deep scar; after a moment, the wound began to fade until it disappeared completely. The slender, elongated fingers of the extended appendage belied an inhuman quality. The traveler had a hard time reaching out to grasp them willingly, fearing that to do so would be to take the hand of the devil…or something worse.

Again, he felt compelled to act against his better judgment, and he took the weathered, withered hand; it felt both brittle and surprisingly strong, as if some epic current of energy flowed beneath the slackened skin. The ancient figure pulled the man effortlessly to his feet.

As their hands parted, a wave of remembrance coursed through the traveler’s mind.

“I have been here before…” he thought.

Dusting himself off, he stared at the peculiar face before him. There was something unsettling about it, as if it was merely a mask of flesh hiding something horrible beneath it. The ancient figure grinned, revealing a set of decaying but terribly sharp teeth.

Finally, in a deep rasp, it spoke.

“We meet at last, Tim—Alpha to my Omega…”

The traveler winced at the sound of his name; it felt like he had taken a claw hammer to the middle of his forehead.

"Tim. I am…Tim?” he thought.


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