The Super Wizard From Space #29

"To Hell And Hell And Hell And Hell And Hell And Back Again, Part 5" by

The ashen remains of the gorgon sunk into the circling river of molten rock and disappeared down the sinkhole in reality, pulled toward the punishments of Triple-Hell.

A bleating car horn sounded. The Devil tugged at the wizard's shoulder. "Come along, guv. Our ride awaits."

The Super Wizard From Space looked back, a futile helpless anger flickering in his eyes. The Devil understood the feeling, though he couldn't manage much sympathy. But managed to direct the wizard into the waiting cab.

A nod to Ron and the vehicle moved into the rolling lava, oblivious to the heat and pressure. The car rolled forward as if pushing through a thick snow, reached the sinkhole, and dipped into the darkness below.

The lava blended away into the tumbling sub-realities like orange embers being tossed away by a hard wind. The car picked up speed, plowing through inter-dimensional emptiness, falling through an infinity while not falling at all. A heavy black mist seemed to yank at it, dragging it down past twenty-one and twenty-four and twenty-seven glome-like dimensions at faster and faster speeds. Sound was nonexistent, light was nonexistent, but they could feel the lifeless stones of Double-Hell being whisked up and out and away from them.

The black mist didn't so much as give way this time as turn into a slicing cold rain, slashing down from an angry nighttime sky. The yellow taxi lurched into what looked like a swamp on fire, slammed violently off a petrified stump and skidded to a spinning stop in hot, sickly mud.

"Oi, you call that driving?" the Devil yelled up at cab driver, checking his scalp for wounds. "You could have split me head right open! What's wrong with you?"

Ron put the car into park and turned off the sputtering engine. He managed a number of colourful curses before yelling back, "I am not responsible for the damn ride if any of you lot are going to be jumping out of the damn car before I bring it to a damn stop."

"Don't you go turning this back on us, now," the Devil blasted back. "What, you think any of us be daft enough to open the door and step outside while we're moving?"

"Look there," the wizard said, pointing outside. There was a half-visible fog, a greenish pale colour, barely visible through the downpour unless you were looking for it. It piled up and spread out, tumbling and dragging itself along the thick mud of the black swamp. In the very middle of the unnatural cloud, a flicker of a cosmic shape, three flat triangles, folded on each other.

"The Secret Living Language," the Devil said, frowning. "Must have bailed out the moment we entered the terror swamps of Triple-Hell."

"An apology would be appreciated," Ron muttered under his breath. The Devil waved him off dismissively.

"Why can I see it?" the wizard asked. "I never could before."

The Devil looked at the green cloud, then back at the wizard. "Same reason why you're becoming a little harder to see yourself, I wager."

The Super Wizard From Space stared at the Devil quizzically, than held up his hands. There was something off about them. They didn't have the same glow they usually did. They felt lighter than they usually did? And when he looked at them long enough, he could almost believe… that he could see right through them.

"Hell and Double-Hell and all of them infernal realms below it are more of an idea of a place than any series of solid things," the Devil said. "Where you come from, it's all atoms and energies and forces and the like. Thoughts and imagination are a small part of what makes your material universe real.

"But down here, it's the other way 'round. These are places of stories and memories and faiths. These are the places where you can hold a theory in the palm of your hand. A single opinion has more actual substance to it than all the diamonds in the world. There's still matter and the like, but the deeper we go, the more abstract a thing it becomes. There's still energy, but the less a real thing it remains.

"That's what's happening to you. That's what's happening to the Language. You're becoming less real. It's becoming more."

The green cloud bunched together over a particularly foul patch of mud and sunk in. Black and grey flecks were drawn to it, either absorbing the semi-solidity of the living Idea or being absorbed by it. The flecks bunched together, making clumps of ash and brittle shapes of carbon, and those clumps were coming together into a thin, rising shape.

"You brought that creature with us?" the wizard said incredulously. "A predatory monster that eats and absorbs thoughts, and you brought it to a place entirely made of the stuff?"

"Pfft. A little faith that I know what I'm doing, please," the Devil replied offhandedly. Though at that very moment, he wasn't certain how convincing he sounded.

The ash and carbon compressed together, solidifying into an increasingly familiar figure. It was piling taller, forming a humanoid statue made of crushed charcoal. The green cloud became a green burning, visible between shifting cracks. The lines became distinctly feminine, the folded triangles settled in a blasted empty space where the jaw should have been. A pair of fiery green coals sat in craters, hateful eyes. The remainder of the green fog that couldn't collect itself within the carbon statue danced above the expressionless head, coiling and stretching and writhing in long tendrils. Like snakes.

"Not again..." mumbled Ron, shoulders slumping.

"That's... that's not possible," said the wizard to himself.

"Go! Go!" shouted the Devil in a panic, kicking against the back of the driver's seat. "Drive! Drive! Drive!"

"Where?" asked Ron, shifting into gear.

"Away! Anywhere! Just go!"

The carbon form started to shift, raising its hands to look at itself. The charcoal cracked and shattered as the statue moved, ash compressing into the spaces to fill the gaps as quickly as they appeared. It didn't have a mouth, the coals of fire didn't have an expression, but the cab's passengers still heard a mournful, echoing sob.

Ron stomped on the gas pedal and flung the car in reverse. Mud spat out from underneath as the tires fought for grip.

"That's Megadusa!" the wizard said deliberately, as if speaking aloud would cause the horror to dispel itself.

"That's the Language!" the Devil corrected. "We were following her down... it must've been the tosser what jumped out early. It's taken her. It's stolen her and taken her and is going to do the same to here as it did above!"

The charcoal thing looked past its hands, at the ground. The swamp around its feet suddenly dried up, the color draining from it, the liquid sucked out. The thrashing rain shrivelled into falling dust. Only dull wither greyness remained, the swamp turning into lifeless caked mud.

The shape of Megadusa clutched its head in pain. As the ground solidified under its gaze, the green burning within intensified. A bursting sound, the carbon and ash cracked. The statue expanded out, then grey dust filled in the spaces between.

It was getting bigger. The more concepts it absorbed, the more powerful the Secret Living Language got. And as they watched, the broken form of Megadusa increased to contain it. It stole the idea of Triple-Hell to increase its power, and then it stole the petrified remains to increase its shape.

"Faster, Ron! Get us heck out of here! Triple quick!"

"It's a swamp," growled Ron, fighting with the wheel, trying to keep the car moving in a single direction. "You're lucky we're moving at all."

With dirt and water and chunks of clay spray from the wheels, the cab plowed backwards through the swamp, finally dodging into a larger thicket of sickly bent trees. The branches scratched at the glass like fingernails clawing at the vehicle as Ron wove between the jagged trunks. Only when they were far enough in, when the canopy was dense enough to block the hard rain did they finally come to a stop.

The Super Wizard From Space stepped out of the car. The mud came up to his knees and felt cold, clingy, thick, and heavy. Greedy. Gluttonous. He let some of his the starlight collected within leak out to brighten the area and to loosen the pervasive ooze. He worryingly noted the starlight was cast out easier than before.

As the Devil climbed out of the car, swearing and cursing, the wizard asked, "What is she doing?"

The Devil paused, looking at the wizard incredulously, then waved in the general direction they came from. "Isn't it bleeding obvious? She is not doing anything. It is doing it. The same thing it did up in Double-Hell.

"It doesn't have any originality. It just takes. That's what it's doing. Taking. Taking every idea. Every meaning and every notion and every tiny hint of every possible thing. Barmy, and almost snookering us in the process.

"Before that psycho-philosophy out there gets so bladdered that it forgets that it needs us to keep moving on, we need to find someone and shuffle them off right quick. Someone or something. Anything. From here."

"I don't think that'll be an issue," the wizard said.

Somewhere behind the cab, past the red glow of the taillights and the pale white of the wizard's illumination, back behind and between and amongst the darkness of the twisted trees, there was a throaty animal growl. Followed by another growl. And then a series of grunting, snarling noise.

"Get back in the car," the Super Wizard From Space said calmly. "I'll handle this."

Author's Notes

Months ago, when I started writing this hell-trip, I estimated that it would only be four or five issues long. So much for that idea... I knew how I wanted to start this arc and how I wanted to end it, but I was a little vague about the middle.

The break I took from writing actually helped me out with that problem. By rewriting the last issue from scratch and making the Secret Living Language more of an up-front threat, the "missing middle part" suddenly became obvious.