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deathless

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She woke up on a floor, choking on blood. 

Anna lurched to one side and vomited a lot of blood and bile. It was pretty gross.

There was a loud conversation happening nearby. She couldn’t understand it. Anna ignored it in favor of vomiting some more. How she had this much gross in her was a mystery. Better out than in, though.

She paused after one particularly drawn-out spasm. The conversation had turned into a fight. There wasn’t much she could do about it though. Moving out of the recovery position seemed fairly impossible and her limbs felt rubbery and too weak. The two guys arguing were going to have to wait until she felt less like a mostly-dead mouse rescued from a murderous cat. 

Anna finished vomiting. She wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her white dress. There was a remarkable pile of sick next to her and all she could do was roll to the other side to turn away.

She regretted that almost immediately. For one thing, her body ached ferociously. For another, she rolled directly into the body of a dead child, throat cut gaping wide. Anna could see the esophagus poking out.

She had already thrown up everything in her stomach but that didn’t stop Anna from dry heaving when she saw the glistening pink insides and the red red red front of the child’s white outfit.

Fear and horror were enough to kick start an adrenaline rush. Anna dragged herself into a seated position, away from the body. This did not help, because now she saw more tiny bodies laid out neatly in a row, all wearing white and all with their throat slit.

“Oh fuck,” she wheezed out, voice hoarse and scratchy. “Oh god in heaven.”

Her throat felt awful. She looked down at her chest. The white dress was more like a rough-spun cotton shift. It was also drenched in blood (and now vomit). She did not like where this was going, not one bit.

Anna touched her throat. There was a thick, ropy scar running under one ear to the other, tender and warm to the touch.

“Oh fuck,” she said, once more with feeling.

This had the dubious result of attracting the attention of the two men arguing. They were dressed weird and one of them had a goatee and the other had a knife. It was covered in blood.

The one with the goatee said something. It definitely wasn’t in English. It didn’t sound friendly, either.

The guy with the knife said something else. He waved the bloody knife around for emphasis.

“Fuck you too, asshole.” Anna said. She didn’t know what the nine hells was going on here, but she was getting a pretty good idea and she wanted absolutely zero part in it.

Goatee Guy said something and then stared past Anna, a look of smug satisfaction on his face.   

Knife Guy looked reluctantly pleased as well, crossing his arms as he noticed whatever Goatee Guy had seen.

Anna straight up did not want to see what they were so pleased about. She really didn’t. But things were moving behind her.

She turned slightly. It was pretty fucking bad.

The bodies of all the children were... changing. Elongating jerkily, wisps of poisonous green clouds forming from the ground. Skin went from waxy to chitinous. Spines cracked. Hair and teeth fell out. One by one, every child that had laid dead on the ground slowly lurched upwards mutating in a freak show of gore and horror.

The earlier spike of adrenaline was nothing compared to the panicked reaction of her nervous system now. Anna leapt upwards to her feet and the world rolled uncomfortably like the worst alcohol poisoning ever. She staggered forward, away from the eldritch monstrosities developing around her. This had the unfortunate result of bringing her closer to Knife Guy and Goatee Guy, but they were human enough. 

The things that had been children were not. There were too many legs, too many limbs.

There was something wrong with her legs, something wrong with her hands and her balance and her eyesight. Anna didn’t care. She stumbled onwards in spite of the wrongness. She could freak out later.

She had only managed to get a few feet when she pancaked across a barrier of some kind. The air in front of her was clear and free, but for whatever reason, Anna couldn’t move forward. She threw herself against it. Physics had clearly lost all meaning here. Maybe more force would help.

Goatee Guy looked even smugger, pointing at her and smirking at Knife Guy. Even with the language barrier, Anna could tell an “I told you so” when she saw it.

“Let me out,” Anna wheezed. She banged on the impossible wall with both fists. “Fucking fuck, don’t leave me in here with those things!”

Goatee Guy and Knife Guy looked super ready to leave her in there with those things.

Her hands were small and her arms were noodle-y. Anna sank to her knees, adrenaline failing. She clawed at the barrier, bruising knuckles and breaking nails on nothing at all.

The noises behind her were ominous. A susurration of clicking and tapping, bones and joints cracking and squelching into a new shape, a new form. 

Was it better to face death head-on? She really wasn’t sure. Anna looked down. 

There was something on the floor. A line, painted on the stone in black. She looked at the monsters beyond the barrier. They were watching with great interest.

She spat at them. Her spittle hit the barrier and gravity did the rest. And then, the black line... lessened. The line was not solid, but some kind of ink. Her spit had diluted it somehow, contaminating the line. Anna prodded the barrier again; it was weaker now. This was insane fairytale logic but she was trapped in some kind of barrier circle with mutating monstrosities after having been ritually sacrificed. Fuck it. Either this was some kind of horrific coma nightmare or some real weird shit was going down. In any case, it was time to think out of the box. Barrier. Whatever.

Goatee Guy narrowed his eyes, suspicious. He shouted something at her. It was angry.

Anna gave him an ugly smile and spat again, directly on to the line. The ink thinned more. She reached down and rubbed at it with the bottom of her shift frantically, wiping away as much of the ink as possible. 

And then, with an audible crack, the circle broke and she fell forward onto her hands and knees. Anna could see the tiniest, thinnest break in the ink. It was enough.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Goatee Guy moving forward. He was in front of Knife Guy. This turned out to be a very bad decision, as Knife Guy sighed and oh so delicately reached forward and slit the other man’s throat in one smooth motion. Judging by the spray and immediate deluge of blood, he’d hit at least one artery.

Goatee Guy choked, staggered forward, and collapsed to the floor dead.

Her day had been really bad thus far, which was one hell of an understatement. Anna couldn’t muster up an emotional reaction to watching a man get murdered in front of her beyond a general, exhausted, “fuck”.

Knife Guy then stabbed Goatee Guy in the back. Literally. Unmindful of the blood spatter, he carved through the rib cage to literally dig out his companion’s heart. And then he literally crushed it under a boot heel.

Anna was never going to be able to use those metaphors ever again.

The noises behind her had stopped. She did not want to look around. She did anyways. She had to know. 

Anna regretted it immediately. 

The transformation had more or less finished. It was like someone had mashed together a crab, a spider, and a praying mantis and then decided to add slime for extra yucks. The smallest one was probably nine feet tall and many feet wide, razor sharp looking edges on its chitinous appendages. There were way too many eyes glittering in the firelight.

Her head was woozy and she was pretty sure standing was going to be an issue, god forbid walking, but she did not want to be here anymore. If she had to crawl out of hell, she did not fucking care. Anna forced her limbs to move, away from the evil before her and behind her and also in the direction of a door, hopefully.

She didn’t get far before Knife Guy caught up with her. He easily hauled her upright and said something chiding. Anna was Not Thinking about how easy it was for him to do so.

He prodded her chin up with the knife, gently slicing the skin as he took a closer look at what was normally a mortal wound. Knife Guy said something consideringly. She’d heard enough of his language now to guess vaguely Eastern European, maybe Slavic. There were a lot of consonants involved and none of them sounded familiar.

Thanks to decades of American pop cultural dominance, most people could recognize English though. Could probably recognize English curse words.

“Fuck you, you goat-fucking son of a bitch,” she cursed.

Knife Guy tsked at her, then looked over her shoulder.

She heard the tapping of many, long-legged abominations and started laughing. The hysteria had kicked in. “I hope they fucking eat your face slowly. Get fucked by a rusty chainsaw, you fucking shitbag.” 

Anna was not surprised in the least when the fucker slit her throat. Again. She did her best to spit blood on his face but the world was graying out and she