Beyond Battle - 'Epic Battle' Contest Entry
Metal collided against metal and a spark flashed into existence within the dark confines of the metal lined space. It reached out to its surroundings and unleashed the burning anger of yet more fiery sparks. The cascade continued and within an instant an explosion was pressing outward on the confines of its cell.
The heavy barrier surged forward. Compelled by the fire behind it the lump of lead quickly accelerated ahead of the flame. Crushed and conformed by spiraling steel tracks it was forcefully ejected from the barrel of the gun and freed into the open expanse. The air came crashing into the chamber with a violent crack. As quickly as it came the fire faded from existence, never noticed, never remembered. Meanwhile, the bullet tore through the atmosphere like a dull blade through flesh. It beat its way through the wall of air faster than it could react, faster than sound. The bullet quickly left its origin behind and found its target.
Cotton, flesh, a glance of bone. The speeding shard tore through the progressively dense layers of his body, slowing ever so gradually as it bore its indifferent path through his flesh. Finally the projectile was forced to rest, hedged and enclosed again, but this time not by cold brass and steel, but by living flesh.
His senses were quickened beyond his belief by the impact and the trauma around him. Every sight, every sound rushed into him as he fell. The very scent of the air, full of gunpowder, sweat and blood seemed alive and pungent as his head struck the ground. His open eyes could see the boots of comrade and enemy alike rushing forward and back, like branches tossed in a turbulent wind. There was shouting and screaming everywhere, so much so that he was unaware of his own morbid cries. The battle continued on in indifference, but that mattered little... He had a struggle of his own.
The noise of gunshots and the shouts of desperate men faded into the background until they were no more than rain falling on a tin roof. His beautiful wife and baby were with him in his mind. There was so much he regretted! So much he wished he could have made right. But even those thoughts began to fade, and though he tried to cling to the memory of his loved ones, his world took on a new form.
He could still feel the pain in his flesh and hear the chaos about him but something else was pressing upon him. A tightness was surrounding his mind, crushing down on him now. The world was growing dim, losing its color as it does at dusk’s peak. The weight of his death was more than he could bear, squeezing his being into nothingness. He wished he could explode to release the terrible constriction.
A vibrant light flashed and a searing pain coursed through his body. The fallen soldier gasped. The pressure had slacked, allowing his mind to take in its surroundings.
His eyes tried to focus but could not. The air was somehow different. It felt like he was breathing again for the first time. With difficulty and pain he inhaled the strange new atmosphere around him. The death dulled crashes of war were now overshadowed by crowing roars and screeches of nightmarish terror.
Something, hunched over him.
It slashed at him and another stream of vibrant pain coursed his being, another degree of relief from the crushing pressure washed over him. The war was even further away now. Or was it? As his vision became clearer, he could see the shadowy images of men charging in battle and fallen on the field. But they all seemed so small now, like toy figures on a great dark table. About them flashes of unnatural light exploded incessantly.
A fleeting object darted across the sky close above him.
These were not birds or planes. Nor were the giant figures he could now see leaping across the miniscule battle field anything like men. He did not remember any of this during the battle. His eyes still could not see clearly, but it was apparent that great beastial entities darted about and above the battlefield on which his body lay somewhere between life and death.
The thing above him rose to strike again, but was prevented as another horrible creature rushed over them both with blinding speed. The dying soldier was knocked aside as the creatures tumbled, locked in ferocious battle. In the violence of the attack he had been freed him from the crushing confines of his fading mortal body.
There was no time to enjoy the freedom as hideous living nightmares rushed towards him from all directions. He was grabbed from quickly behind and hefted into the air. Whatever had him was still fighting off the darker more insidious beasts that his eyes could now more clearly see. Upwards the attackers leapt, trying to reach his savior’s - or captor’s - helpless cargo but the thing was too great for them. He could not make out what it was that held him, but it was certainly not human. No, the humans were far below now, mere ants among the giants set about in a greater, more violent war around him. The human struggle seemed futile in such a setting.
His escort turned quickly to reveal another monstrosity making its way towards them through the fray. This assailant was larger and darker than the rest, clearly a formidable match for that which restrained him, clearly bent on bringing trouble their way.
An excruciating light blinded the soldier once again. For a moment the man could see nothing. He felt himself lurching upward as the un-earthly creature moved under him. His eyes began to adjust; his savage courier was scaling what seemed to be a beam of brilliant light. Upward they climbed with blazing speed through the sky. He could see the flashes of the larger battle below as the creatures there continued their raging struggle. Dark beasts leapt to follow them while others hurled bursts of energy into the sky. But they were far below now, their efforts were vain, and for that the soldier was grateful. Onward the pair climbed, one a helpless passenger the other a thing of untold myth with intentions unknown. The world of giants was far below now and the monstrous cries blended with the ever present background of the mortal war.
The horizon could be seen black and dirty against brilliant white. It curved downward at the edges. Above and around him other vibrant living things could be seen moving among channels of light. Below him dark figures still surged in violent conflict. The creature was silent as they progressed; climbing, almost swimming through the beam of brilliant energy. The horizon below now arched downward like a bow bent at the ready. Was that the curvature of the earth was seeing? It couldn’t be, he could still plainly make out the moving giants below.
Presently, the curling edges of the battlefield curled under and met to form an irregular orb. Its darkness throbbed and contorted as the battle raged within and upon it. But it was diminishing now, both in size and quality. As the travelers continued their ascent the atmosphere around them increasingly teemed with likewise speeding creatures of various indescribable sorts.
So intense was the life energy he was surging into that the hideous battle below seem quiet and empty. The world of his birth seemed still less alive. Everything he had ever known on earth paled by comparison. It felt like he had walked from a barren desert into a tropical jungle and further again into an unknown intensity of life.
The light ahead was blinding, almost searing. A vast expanse of new sounds, scents and colors were flooding his senses. It was as though the very air were a living organism that filled the universe, that was the universe. It made the world he had known, even the life he had lived seem vain and grey. He wasn’t sure he could take any more of this contrast to his own small insignificance. But there wasn’t much choice; he was being brought into the very source of light and life, passing beyond unknown planes of reality.
Somewhere in the distance he heard someone calling his name. It sounded familiar. Was it from below, where his body lay lifeless in that plain empty world? Or from beyond the impenetrable glare? He understood where he was being taken. But what consumed his mind now was what would happen once he got there...
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