A slow, thick consciousness leaked in as the Super Wizard From Space opened his eyes. His thoughts were dulled, like he'd slept for far too long. The ground he was lying on was rough and cold. The air was full of gritty soot, making for hard, scratching breaths. There was a hanging darkness that he could only dispel by allowing some of his captured starlight to leak from his skin.
He was at the base of a massive stone wall, one that stretched higher than his light reached. It was made of a dull grey granite, the same sort he was lying on. He leaned on it for support as he stood, his legs having almost forgotten how to support his weight. At the edge of his vision he saw a bumpy change in the ground, the smoothness becoming a lane of cobblestones. And where the cobblestones met the wall, a massive gate of petrified wood.
There was something familiar about this place. That road. That gate. Looking up, he saw the wall fade into dark shadows, some of which jutted out chaotically, forming ancient towers or clumsy ramparts. But there wasn't a sound. Just an everlasting quiet.
There must be someone. A fortress like this doesn't just appear, a road doesn't lay itself. Hand sliding against the wall, he moved toward the gate, intent on finding an entrance. Anything. His bubble of light eked along with him, showing only more and more stone.
As he reached the gate, he saw an oddly shaped outcropping of rock in the middle of the cobblestone road. It looked worn, eroded by wind and time, but had a black charred patch at the top of it, like someone had once built a campfire. And just beyond it, further down the road, a large boulder with a fat hump on the top.
A flash of remembrance came to him. Then a sense of dread. A deep breathe, then he released out a short wash of starlight, a wave of brightness that swept over his surroundings.
He was in Double-Hell. The fortress wall and the massive gates and the cobblestone road, this was the entrance to Double-Dis. The charred rock was the Devil. The boulder was the car that had brought them here.
It had all become stone. And by their grounded, worn shapes, it has been that way for a very long time.
The splash of light faded into the distance and the darkness swallowed up the granite landscape, a thought struck him. Sharply. A sudden, dirty, outside thought.
"Latterly, you vivify."
The Secret Living Language, nowhere and everywhere,
"I doubt that," the wizard muttered. He had only his small bubble of light again, and the blackness beyond seemed almost liquid now, an oily slippery notion hiding in the dark. Everything else, everyone else, now stone. As far as he could go, anything he could find, would be lifeless motionless stone. All of Double-Hell and its twice damned citizens, victims of
The wizard ground his teeth and waved a hand futilely at the darkness. "Stay out of my head." He spat out. An entire universe transformed to rock, and the only survivor was
"An idea. A concept. Bio-philosophy."
with had no form, no substance. Nothing material that could be transformed. Not like the cab driver, Ron, who was
and the howling screeching creatures on the wall
"But not me," the wizard mumbled, trying to control his stream of thought. "She left me be because"
"The significance apparently eluded her... or was *extruded* from her, " was the answer, dosed heavily in satisfaction. "These exponentially infernal universes are not fabricated of matter and energy, incongruous to our own. The deeper our peregrination, the more transcendental they become. The less material their existences are composed of. Abstruse realities fashioned of philosophies and the hypothetical, where objective things like you became recondite and undefinable. And where ontology like myself are concrete, abundant, and plentiful."
"You did this," the wizard said, already knowing the answer.
"I could not countervail... an entire conceptual universe and I was so famished," it replied unapologetically. It swelled with pride, so much so that the wizard felt bombarded by the sensation. It was such a larger idea now. It was so much stronger. "I *feasted*! I *gorged*! On the unsubstance of this macrocosm, and let Megadusa petrify the corpus delicti.
"But now we are obligated to perdure. Our companions and our conveyance were mineralized before I commoved Megadusa's ratiocinations. Her eradication will liberate them from their fictile restraints and evince the consuetude into Triple-Hell."
It was right. Of course it was. Naturally, it made sense. Without the others, they could not move on.
The wizard turned to face the massive gate. He placed both hands on the petrified wood. It felt cold to his palms. Cold and empty. The hellish gorgon within only needed a glance to do the same to him.
"You shouldn't speculate so inapplicably," was the hissing thought as the Language seeped inside through the pores and cracks. "Once you are intramural, you'll descry that her peculiarity have become self deleterious. You'll encounter no adversity."
The wizard gritted his teeth, the skittering escaping thought fanning a hot anger in him. He let the anger well up, a bright burning that he pushed out through his palms. His hands lit, a crackling solar electricity jumping from his atoms to the petrified wood. The angry glow spread along the entire massive gate, spitting sparks and yellow blots from the pores and gaps as it expanded. He waited for the critical point, then bent his elbows and shoved.
A crash of fusion jumped from him into the burning atoms of the gate and detonated. Slabs of old stone the size of hills burst away in violent shattering collisions. He marched inside the fortress city while it fell apart around him. Deafening booms of boulders crashing against boulders, of mountains slamming against mountains, towers toppling against towers.
"Gorgon! Where are you?" he yelled into the darkness, overtop the rumbling remains of Double-Dis collapsing apart around him.
He marched through the dark city following a random inclination that he suspected wasn't very random at all. Any form the hellish city used to have had been reduced to jagged piles of rocks, all sharp corners and crumbling pieces and lifeless inanimate greys. Even the water in the rivers had been turned to a fine powder, now scattered by shards of broken towers or fallen bridges. But he unerringly found a direction that felt right.
Down one twisted alley he saw a lone figure, facing a wall. The wizard immediately recognized the tall thin form, the dirty toga-like dress hanging off slumped shoulders, the writhing, lazy mass where flowing locks of hair should be.
She was beating her head against the wall rhythmically. A shiny stickiness was almost visible where her forehead and the granite met, making a wet *thud* when she connected.
He approached slowly, trying not to make a sound. Ready to look away should she turn to face him. But every time she seemed to consider it, a glazed, depressed expression seemed to crossed her face as a glazed, depressed thought crossed her mind, and she beat her head against the wall again.
"I know what's happened. I know this..." the fury in the wizard's voice wavered a bit, "...this all wasn't your doing. Not entirely. But you *did* do it."
"Tell me, if you can, where your freedom lies?" she said in an frustrated hiss. She caressed the stone wall, a gentle loving motion a mother would use upon the cheek of her child. "These streets are now fields that will never die."
"You were part of this. You are complicit. There must be justice. Especially here." Orange fire sparked from his knuckles as he curled his hand. The flickers curved around and back on themselves, a loop of atomic flame that he rolled in his loosening grasp.
She gave a slow nod that rested her head against the wall. "Deliver me from the reasons why," she said with a desperate whisper. "I'll never cry. I'd rather fly."
The Super Wizard From Space snapped out his arm at her and the sparks exploded into a solar flare, whipping out in a curving fusion burst that vaporized everything in its path. The walls of the building burned like paper, the cobblestones melted into red liquid rock, the atmosphere caught fire. A thunderous noise blasted throughout the remains of the city a second later as the air collapsed in the vacuum, the noise alone cracking granite for miles.
Megadusa's shape turned to ash instantly. Where she stood, the fiery magma of the road fell upon itself, burning through the bedrock of reality itself. A hole opened, a falling stream of red hot remains, pouring down into a lower universe. The ashes fell under their own weight and floated down the lava stream into the pit.
He almost choked against an overwhelming urge to laugh, a sick amusement that washed over him but wasn't his own. "Ha ha! Excessive and unembellished! We could be exceedingly efficacious collaborators, you and I!" exclaimed the Language as it abandoned the last flecks of carbon.
He wasn't certain how long he watched the scene. He just tried to focus on the hole and his own thoughts, tried to push out everything else. He only came out of it when he felt a hand on his shoulder. A red hand.
"It shouldn't been this way," the Devil said. "It was scripted a different way, but when the time came, we didn't act." The wizard turned his head to look at the Devil and saw an expression of angry understanding on the thin face. Behind him the cab was waiting, the engine rumbling deeply.
"We can make this right. We have to keep moving forward. We have to see this through."