Somewhere in the dank musky darkness swamp, a single snapping growl was followed up by a chorus of hungry grumbles and hollers and howls. Jagged trunks of twisted trees creaked and cracked as something massive pushed through. Huge lungs filled up and expelled, making for a thunderous breathy bass echo.
"Get back in the car," the Super Wizard From Space said calmly, "I'll handle this."
"I'm just going to wait in the hack and let you handle this," the Devil agreed. Struggling against the knee-deep mud and the oppressively heavy atmosphere, he clamoured into the back of the cab and rolled up all the windows.
The wizard curled up his hands into tight fists, the pressure forcing fusion fire to leak out in liquid sparks, and marched into the grove of trees toward the terrible sounds. He went so far in that all the Devil could make out was the dull yellow tint of that fire between the black shadow of trees, and the red angry glow of that light reflecting off some narrow, canine eyes.
The Devil was a bit concerned about the wizard. Not that he believed whatever was angrily lurking in the dark would actually pose a threat. It was the early onset of insubstansibility. He knew the wizard was a fairly shallow individual, lacking little character beyond his powerful violence and sideways sense of justice, but he believed he had enough substance that it wouldn't manifest so soon. Would the idea of the wizard be enough to follow through to Quinto-hell?
Spats of rain slapped loudly against the windows, surprising the cab's occupants. The canopy of trees above them should be incredibly thick, making it impossible to even glimpse the night sky of Triple-Hell, never mind being subjected to its weather.
Before the Devil could crane his neck to get a look up, the fat water droplets changed to pinches of tumbling dry sand. "It's found us!" he exclaimed.
The charcoal statue of Megadusa had become immense. It was over thirty feet tall, towering over the petrifying grove of the terror swamp. The trees around it stiffened in its gaze and turned a solid, empty grey. It pushed down the trunks and stomped fallen logs, snapping and shattering them into pebbles, bulldozing forward and leaving a shattered stone quarry in its wake.
"So this is the location you've ensconced yourselves!" the Secret Living Language boomed with a hungry sense of amusement.
Ron yanked the car in gear and jumped down onto the gas pedal. Half buried in swamp, the wheels only spun futilely, throwing up moss and mud.
The charcoal statute moaned pitifully. Its coal eyes burned brighter. The mud around the car instantly solidified into thick layers of shale, locking it in place.
The Devil tried the door handle. It wouldn't budge. He threw his shoulder against the door. It was wedged closed against the suddenly solid rock. "Don't look! Don't let it see you!" he yelled at Ron while trying to duck down against the floor.
Megadusa leaned down and, using both hands, picked up the vehicle, lifting it as easily as one would a pillow. And treated it just as gently. The passengers were banged around as the statue turned the car end over end.
"You're making a big fuss over nothing, Devil!" the Language echoed from above and everywhere. Its presence was like a gravity now, sickening line of thought that dragged consciousness toward it. "I won't be stoning you. Not when there's two more Hells still to visit... and maybe more beyond! Infinite levels of exponentially ideological universes, each more purely quixotic than the one antevenient to it! All waiting to metamorphosize into an apportion of the grand unifying theory that is me!"
The charcoal giant brought the car close to its face, peering in. The Devil instinctively shut his eyes and kept scrambling around the interior, both him and Ron attempting to keep hiding amongst the seats.
"What is wrong with her?" Ron spat out in frustration, kicking at the roof to flip down the sun visors.
"It. Not 'her'," the Devil corrected.
"It! Them! Her! I don't give two coppers!" Ron yelled back. "She's not right in the head! She's gone completely sideways!"
The green embers in the statue's cracked burst into a live fire. Emerald fingers of fingers of flames scratched and clawed against Megadusa's charcoal surface. The heat was unbearable, the blaze painted everything in a viridian glow that made their eyes feel loose in their sockets.
Ron was right. The Devil had expected the Language to turn on them, but not so suddenly. And not like this. This was twisted, this was perverse. Something was very very wrong!
The car's interior was starting to fill up with sooty smoke, a mix of the gorgon's sight petrifying the very atmosphere around them and the foggy solidity of the Language itself. The Devil felt a hunger within him, knowing it wasn't his own reaction. The Language was thick, pervasive. Thinking while amongst it was like trying to tread water while riding a bicycle. The Devil gripped the brim of his hat with both hands, pulled it tight against his scalp, and clung on to his own identity.
"You are a surprising difficult concept to subvert," the Language hissed, entertained. "Most material beings unravel quickly when I abrade their character. Even the fiction of these underverses succumbed to a critical vivisectomy of their definitions."
The Devil gritted his teeth. He felt his mind being peeled open like an onion.
"But you older, ubiquitous types have much more dimension to you. You do not diminish like the others. Your stories cling. Evolve and survive.
"But that's why you'll fail. That's why everything fails. You will all be rewritten, you will all be adapted to fit my encompassing paradigm. You will be torn of you troublesome individualities and incorporated into my... until you can't...
"Wait a moment..." The green fire engulfed the car, the bilious brightness blinding the occupants as Megadusa stared into the windows. The statue growled and shook the taxi violently, trying to rearrange its contents to get a better look. "Why are you exclusively binomial in there? Where is your heliacal thaumaturge?"
An atomic flash went off within the surrounding grove. A line of stone trees were uprooted by thrown fission. A howling mass was propelled, end over end, along the shale surface, until it collided against the legs of the charcoal statue.
"What fresh triple-hell is this?" the Language demanded, trying to lift its legs and step away from the still moving creature. It was as large as the car, vaguely canine in shape, with short powerful legs and a gigantic, barrel-shaped torso. Its massive broad shoulders branched out in nine individual necks, all with a vicious tooth-filled doberman head at the end. It was terribly scarred, all of its fur burned away. Its legs were bent the wrong way, broken and twisted, but it still used them painfully to try to wrap itself around the statue's legs, looking for comfort and protection. Its whines were desperate and sad.
The statue growled, the coal eyes brightened fiercely. It lifted at cab above its head menacingly and stared at the creature, intent on taking its concept and crushing the stone remains.
A crackling arc of fire curved up out of the petrified trees and arced down to the statue's feet as the Super Wizard From Space slammed down on the sad creature with both fists. The blow flattened its barrel chest instantly. The blood sparked with fire. The force cracked the shale ground beneath.
A ball of atomic fire burst. The stone swamp flattened into black glass.
The cracks in the glass spiderwebbed haphazardly. A strange, familiar gravity pulled from beneath.
The ground collapsed. A sinkhole exploded open, as wide as everything. The blasted skeletal corpse of the nine-headed dog sucked down through the bottom of reality to Tetra-Hell.
The Language roared, a overwhelming hurricane of anger crashing over the terror-swamp. Then the fearsome sensation imploded and fell down through the emptiness, with the cab and the wizard tumbling after it.