Churchland Middle School was completely empty, despite it being a weekday. Usually, there would be some teacher or janitor or school official left behind, working on something after school. Not today. Our echoes were unanswered after breaking in.
We basically knocked the front door down, into the school. We weren't holding anything back, we were heading in at full powered Degausser. Everyone was completely ready to erase Grey.
The school was dull and gray inside, even more so than how it looked outside, where it was raining. The air felt heavier, and a melancholy permeated throughout the building. It's hard to explain, but easy to understand; Churchland Middle was now Grey's territory, like most of Porstmouth would be in a few days time.
Portsmouth was already changing. There were forests where there wasn't any space for forests. The skies were always overcast. Random fog showed up out of nowhere frequently. Shadows were longer, days felt shorter and nights were almost unbearably neverending. One could say that this was just Winter weather, but we know better. We can see it, and feel it. It's almost like a smell. A rotting.
This town is done for if we don't do something.
The worst part is, though, that this "we" who can see it? It only includes The 757 and those who are aware of Grey and The Devil. Everyone else is in ignorance. It's almost as if Grey is not allowing them to see what's so obvious now. Maybe he's influencing them already to feel this way.
Some appear to -almost- deduce what Grey is doing, but they just can't seem to put it together.
We walked into the familiar main area of the school. Lockers on one side, continuous glass wall...or window thing(?) to the other side, showing the interior courtyard.
Grey was nowhere to be seen. He was everywhere, though. You could feel his presence.
Where was his main body?
"Come on out, you coward." I screamed out, with my hoarse voice. My voice is pretty much broken from the past few days of screaming. It hurts to talk.
And then Grey appeared, a few feet away from us all, in a different form than last time. It was like looking into a mirror; he took my body and mirrored it, creating his own. Around his body, he wore a ripped, torn robe. I could hear the tiny threads underneath the robe, writhing and contorting. Under their contortions, I could hear screaming.
We stared at each other. No one moved for almost thirty seconds, but we then decided to initiate the battle with the first blow. With one swift emotion, almost like a dance, we raised a giant wave of the Degaussing energy, and aimed to crush Grey with it.
At the same time we were preparing the wave....Grey smirks and raises his right hand to the side. The giant wave of energy attempts to crush Grey, but with hand, Grey summons a burst of brilliant gold energy, and it collides with the wave. The collision creates a giant blast, forcing us back a few steps.
How did he summon that golden energy? The one from my dream? He shouldn't be able to do that.
The energy from the blast dissipates, clearing out of the room. Grey has disappeared yet again. The 757 stay close together, in a circle, ready to
Grey was in the center of the circle, somehow. He was so quick. He laughs, and the strings from underneath his robe stretch out, attempting to stab us. Markus is cut on his arm, but does not cry out. Mason, amazingly adept at Degaussing individually, shoots off an rounded energy burst at Grey's face.
Grey moves to the side, kicks Mason in the gut, then sweeps his legs out from under him. Grey feints a punching motion into Mason, but turns around instead and knocks Patrick down. Grey tries jumping atop of Patrick, but Markus tackles him. Markus barely steps back before Grey's tendrils stab outward from under his cloak. Markus summons a giant square block of energy, and tries slamming it down on Grey, but Grey rolls out of the way and jumps to his feet.
We all stand there, still for a second, panting.
Grey moves again, at a speed no human could ever hope to achieve, directly at us.
We move closer together again, and summon a wave like we did in the Church parking lot. It crashes over Grey, and for a second, we think we injured him.
A moment later, and a golden light glows from underneath the residual energy from the wave. It splashes up, and becomes its own wave, heading for us.
Unlike Grey, if we're hit by Degausser, we have the potential to be severely injured. So we had to think fast to move out of the way; what could we do?
Perhaps it was a good thing Mason hitched along instead of Andrew. Mason is possibly better than Luca and I at Degaussing. See, Mason walked to the front of us, set his palms to the ground....and lifted us all up off of the ground, with a flying carpet of Degaussing energy.
Mason chuckles as we float above Grey. Grey stands below us with an open jaw, amazed.
"We're going to kick your ass, you fucking joke for a ghost," Mason says.
"And once you're down? You're staying down." Markus adds.
"It's been a long time coming, but your time is up! This is for K!" Patrick says along with them.
"Don't even think you can escape your own ultimate fate: death...." Steven says in a nervous voice.
Keil doesn't say anything but plants his right fist into his left hand, and grins.
I don't say anything either. I didn't have to. They said it all for me.
We jump down from the floating carpet and, all at once, barrage Grey with Degaussing energy shots. He shouts out in pain; that bastard was in delicious, vengeful pain. Blood...some type of substance anyways...spills all over the school floor.
We are all surprised we landed those hits. We stand their, bewildered.
Grey is looking down at the floor, breathing heavily. Blood pours out from his chest as he holds to it with his arms, almost looking as if he's trying to hold his chest together.
But then little puffs of smoke leaked from under his hands. The blood stopped spurting out as fast as it was; it eventually stopped altogether.
Grey was healing himself.
We weren't going to just let him sit there and heal himself. We ran at him, ready to finish it all.
Grey stands there, and looks up. He's grinning. His face is in pain, but he's still smiling.
He mouths the words "Got you....", and then runs to meet us directly.
One second, we were in Churchland Middle School.
The next, we were sent flying over the ballroom of the universe. As in, we weren't in Portsmouth anymore, nor on Earth. We were outside the edge of everything.
Everything to nothing.
Degausser still linked us together, somehow. I tried using Sowing Season to dull everyone's fear, but it was no use; they were terrified. I think that if I hadn't of tried shielding them at all, they would have died with the fright...or perhaps their mind would have shattered.
And then, we were back in the Middle School. Degausser broke, because we weren't in one place, together; Grey had split us up.
I heard Grey chuckle.
"Now that you're all alone...will all of you be able to deal with the promise of Death?"
Grey's physical body wasn't anywhere near me. He was speaking over the school's PA system. He was dividing and conquering yet again.
I panicked. Alone, I knew that I could at least hold off Grey for a while, but my friends....
I was on the third floor; the floor with 2 long hallways with actual windows(unlike the second floor; the school was created originally to function as a bomb shelter as well, so there aren't many windows. Almost like a jail). I ran down the hallway to the nearest set of stairs and descended it.
I decided to go through the second floor first to look for them. When I entered the main hallway of the second floor, at first, I saw no one. A second later though, Patrick ran out from one of the bathrooms. Behind him was Grey....except not.
Grey was in a different form than his human form. He was in the shape that resembled the character No-Face from the movie Spirited Away. The long robe, which did not have arms, that led led to a white Noh mask.
No laughter. This form of Grey was completely silent.
It almost seemed like he was emotionless as well. And without feeling.
But, inside of myself...I could feel some sort of wild hunger inside of him.
He wanted to devour all.
This form of Grey moved almost like a snake. As if the mask was floating by itself. The robe trailed along behind the mask as it pursued Patrick.
"Patrick! Over here!!" I shouted at him. He saw me, and he followed me into the staircase.
The staircase was situated in its own ascending room, closed off with a door. Above us from the third floor, we heard Markus and Keil running down the stairs.
"Guys, come with us!!"
"Wait, Owen, where's Mason?!"
"We'll find him, just come on-"
Grey burst in right behind me at that moment. He slid up my back, and coiled around my waist....the robe had something solid inside of it. Yet, what I saw in Grey's mask: nothing.
The stench of death drifted off around me. Grey spoke, in a voice without emotion.
"Children...stop running. Don't you see this is all meaningless? You are all going to die...why not now? I can tell you your futures: disappointment, heartbreak, destruction. Your days are all numbered. I am performing a great service by taking you out of the Game now. Don't you see that if you don't follow the Shepard when he commands it, you'll get lost, stranded from his herd? Please, stop while you are ahead...."
None of us even considered giving up. Maybe if he hadn't of taken Katelyn away from us. She deserved nothing like this. She was a shoe-in to Heaven. But now...she's destined to live inside of Death for all time.
No. Fuck Grey. This wasn't happening.
And yet, we were powerless.
Grey says nothing for a few minutes. We stand there, unsure of what was to happen next.
It almost seemed like Grey was waiting.
Finally, Grey says, "Well, it seems to be that he's not coming. A shame." His voice was transforming back into the old tone.
A hand, extending from under the robe, twists around my throat.
"You all make shitty bait, you know that? This means that you are all meaningless, and I have no extended need for you all."
"I guess, Owen, that I'm going to have to take you this time. It's a shame....I changed my mind about you...despite you being my ideal body, he would have been easier to use...his hatred.....mmmm...it's alright though. You and I are in love, after all...admit it, Owen. You love the pain I put you through...to be my babe is a delightful experience, is it not? My bitch."
The stench of death grows stronger.
"Time for me to finish th-"
Grey stops talking as some sort of liquid drips down from his mask to my shoulder.
"Ughh....what..he DID come? Why didn't I sense him...?"
Behind us, stood our old friend Luca. Streams of Degausser energy leaked from his fingers.
Luca could Degausser alone now...but how?
He fires another shot, and bits of Grey's mask are blown up into the air. Grey is knocked off of my body by the impact, and lands to the ground; he writhes around in pain.
"Take that...you bastard..."
Luca moans. Tears drip down from his eyes.
"Do you feel that? That's pain. Katelyn, fortunately, felt little of it. But, by God as my witness, I am going to make sure you feel Hell."
Grey stops moving around. He looks up, and deep within his mask, a light shines.
His robe tears, and another mask pops up from inside of it. Two heads now, instead of one.
It was The Devil. No wonder we had not seen that guy. I was worried about him. The two had merged together...but not completely. Something didn't feel right, what with them being held together like that.
I don't recall why, but I remember imagining a bridge when looking at them. As if that's what they needed.
They were just two islands...they needed a bridge.
Perhaps that's why they needed a human, huh?
While the rest of us gasped when The Devil appeared randomly like that, Luca just shook his head in annoyance. He raised his hand, and a sharp ray of Degausser fired off and stabbed directly in between Grey and The Devil; it ripped The Devil's neck almost in half.
The two heads moaned in pain, and were crawling away from Luca.
"Please don't...please don't...." Grey begged.
"Yeah. Because begging is going to work..."
Grey begins crying.
"Don't you see...this isn't my fault!? I'm just doing what I'm designed to do....Owen's the one at blame. This bastard caused everything! If he had left that pocketwatch alone, then little Kay would be alive, now wouldn't she...?"
Luca's face looks concerned with something as Grey says that, but he does not reply.
Instead, he raises his hand to finish the job.
I hear a faint chuckle from Grey....alarm bells went off in my head, and I tried warning Luca.
"Luca, be careful, I think he's up to-"
Grey jumps up from the ground and tries to bite Luca's head off. Luca shouts in surprise, shooting off the Degausser prematurely.
Instead of being a focused beam, the Degausser exploded outwards in a large blast, ripping upwards against the stairwell, sending Grey and The Devil into the air; they landed at the top of the stairwell. The blast pushed me down the stairs, sending me face first into a couple of steps. I wasn't too hurt afterwards, but it did cause a fair amount of pain.
Luca dusted himself and his hoodie off, and began ascending the steps. I decided to make sure The 757 weren't hurt before heading off after him. After we were sure no one had broken any bones or anything, and after activating Degausser, we ran up after Grey and Luca.
Luca was on the ground, on his knees. Crying. Before him, Grey had changed.
The cloak had opened up, and inside, there was Katy's dead body. The tendrils inside of the cloak wrapped around her neck and head, keeping them together. Bits of an apple were crushed inside of her mouth.
Luca was completely useless now. He could never attack what with her sister's dead body being a few feet away from him and his mental state at the time.
It was up to us now, again.
Grey noticed us, and giggles. He focuses on me....and then starts to separate from the main body. It's hard to describe...it's like he just cut completely away from The Devil. Somehow, the robe did not tear or anything. It's almost indescribable.
I was ready to roll with the punches and fight with Grey, but he...
Grey changed into Anna.
Basically, the robe split down the middle, fell off along with the mask, and there was Anna.
Just standing there.
I...I don't want to keep going with this story. I want to stop typing. It hurts to think about her.
But like back then, Steven is yelling at me now to finish this story.
Steven yelled out, and told me to snap out of my daze. That he understood my pain, but I had to work through it. That I couldn't let Grey beat me a cliche trick.
He was right. I couldn't keep going like that. This had to end here.
So I closed my eyes, and along with the others, summoned a Degausser blast; it sent my lover's body into the stairwell door, blasting through it, and pushed it onto the hallway floor. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stumbled past the remains of the door. Finish it.
"I'll take care of Grey. You all focus on The Devil."
Mason laughs out loud, and says;
"No, that's a shitty idea, Owen. We're fighting it together."
Patrick adds onto that, and says;
"Definitely. You're not in this alone, son."
"Keep your mouth shut and let us help, dude."
"You're not alone, man. We want revenge too..."
"We're staying in formation, asshole. Got it?"
"....Very well then." I couldn't think of anything else to say.
I approached Grey. Anna's body was torn and bleeding everywhere, but I did not look away. Not this time. I had to face her. Had to keep my eyes on her.
Without knowing what I was doing, I raised my hand; Degausser energy started to circulate around my hand and focus on the center of my palm. It did this unconsciously, I was not commanding it this time.
The circle was closing.
The Devil made some strange noise. It moved past Luca, and started to scream unintelligibly at us. Mason, with a grin on his face, shot into the Devil's jaw, effectively shutting him up.
"Do we seal Grey, then seal The Devil? Or..." Markus asks.
"We are going to seal them at the same time."
"How is that possible?"
"Are you seriously asking that? Now? After everything we've been through? I don't know how it is, I just know it is. Just like you know that we're not destroying Grey...we're sealing him away, for good. Something's guiding us...our bodies are no longer ours."
A shiver ran down my spine as I said that. The thought was scary, but it was for the best. It comforted me a little as I thought about it more. We weren't alone.
"Patrick, Markus, and Keil; you three stay with The Devil. Mason and Steven, stay behind me, at that spot."
With everyone in an ideal formation, I walked a bit closer to Grey, who sat on the porcelain floor....bleeding out everywhere. Anna's body was slowly decaying away rapidly, and under the skin, was the familiar black robe Grey always wore. Her face was ripping down the middle, revealing Grey's mask.
The energy around my hand started to intensify. So much power...it scared me. If I made a wrong move, I could have accidentally blown my hand off.
I wanted a clear shot at that damn mask. That mask was the hub of most of Grey's energy at the moment. I needed to completely disintegrate it. I stood over my lover's body, aiming carefully at her face.
It was all so sudden. I fired off the shot, probably the strongest concentrated one I've ever created, but Grey quickly deflected it. Anna's body had ripped open down the middle and front part of the neck, and Grey, like a bullet, shot out of the body and grabbed onto me.
His mask fell off, and under it was the form he had been using. He grinned...it was spooky to be so close to a mirror image of my face.
"Be my serene...."
My energy felt as if it was being subdued. He was trying to break back into my body.
The world around me started to melt away. Everything slid outside of my vision.
I was floating away with Grey.
But before I was completely gone....a blast seemingly out of nowhere, a degausser blast, hit Grey and I. We spun around in the air, and hit the ground together. I was in pain, but that was mostly from the impact of the floor. Grey had absorbed the most of the impact.
The blast had been tiny, and had little power. I did not need to look to know that Andrew had come to help. I looked at him...and if I could have smiled, I would have.
Using the window of time that Andrew had bought me, I decided that, instead of floating with Grey...I wanted to sink with Grey. I wanted to turn the tables on him. I wanted the advantage.
So, using all the energy I had, I powered my body up with Degausser, coating myself with it like a skin, and rushed at Grey, screaming at the top of my lungs. Grey looked so surprised. I tackled him, pressing my right arm into his neck. I pushed into him with all my might, and transported us both away.
I found myself on a grassy hill, with an oak tree at the top of it. The hill did not have any surroundings. Where the hill ended...there was nothing. Just blank space. It was almost as if I was in a Winnie the Pooh storybook, only without another page on an adjacent page.
Grey was at the top of the hill. He did not say a word.
Neither did I.
We both ran at each other, me up the hill and him down the hill. We met each other, and began to fist fight.
No Degausser this time. I was fighting on my own terms.
He was quick. My fists barely made contact. That was okay though. I was pretty quick too.
Finally, when we were close enough to the tree, I saw an opening, blocked one of his fists, and pushed him into the tree.
While I was fighting Grey, it seems that The Devil ran off.
The 757 wanted to chase after him, but they could not. While I was -away-, strange markings appeared on the hallway floor.
It was "Aristotles Cosmos." The stone tablet markings we had seen in the forest.
The thing that had assigned us numbers.
The 757 were forced, by that unnatural force that has been working through us this entire time, to stand on the markings. They then somehow knew that they had to focus on using their Degausser to "defeat the low."
That's the phrase that had appeared in their head when they described it to me later.
Luca did not participate. He sat there on the floor, and did not speak a word. He didn't even pay attention to the 757. The poor kid was broken.
Grey was finally in place. The circle began to close. The Ritual began.
I felt foreign energy circulate inside of my body. The 757 were lending me their power.
Little stars of white energy appeared above me.
They sparked and popped, like fireworks.
Despite the lightshow, the sky darkened, as if a storm was coming.
The hill shook, as if an earthquake was occurring.
Words tumbled around in my throat, and I was forced to say them. As I said them, the rate of the exploding of the lights above increased.
I don't know why I said these words. Really, I don't know what they meant either. I wasn't the person talking. It was the force that had been manipulating us this entire time that had been talking.
"Tell me you know what I mean...."
I let go of Grey's arm, and in a fit of passionate rage, I grabbed onto his robe.
"You've set on me, but you are not the Sun!! And you will not listen!!"
Grey grabs onto my shirt at the same time, and pushed me off, and then forces me into the tree.
"How do you know what I am?"
I push him off of me, and kick him directly in the chest. I grab his robe again, and throw him into the tree.
"Burn it down," a voice in my head says. The lights above throw themselves down into the hill, and everything begins to burn into nothing.
The degaussed fire started to consume us in its explosive rage. I felt it burn at my soul, and for a moment, I faced Death along with Grey.I bit down on my lip and tongue to prevent myself from screaming, like Grey was. The tiny universe we were in started to burn away, just like a page in a book as a fire leaks licks at it.
And then we were pushed out of it. A hole appeared, and we fell through it. I was tackling Grey down to the ground... it was almost as if we had never left Churchland. My soul had not been destroyed...and neither had Grey's. What the fuck? I felt tricked! I was ready to die and everything!
Nevertheless, I picked myself up. My insides burned... I guess the soul is located within the body somewhere? I don't know.
Grey was on the floor, motionless. I grabbed onto his robe and tried picking him up. I couldn't salvage the strength to do that. The 757 ran over and helped me pick him up. No one talked. The only audible sound other than our shuffling shoes was Luca's sobbing.
I asked them what had happened to The Devil. He had appeared again in the hallway to attack the rest of the 757 while they were sealing Grey, hadn't he? They told me that he had just... popped out of existence. That worried me a bit, until I realized that I had probably dragged him along with Grey into the other world. If that was the case, then he was probably sealed away as well. If not, well, we'll deal with him later.
Andrew stayed with Luca. We didn't want to make Luca go anywhere.
We headed down the stairs.
I don't know why we were bringing him down stairs. I just know that we brought him to the main hall, and then exited to the courtyard. Once there, we laid him down at the center of it.
We surrounded him in a circle. Aristotle's Cosmos appeared again, under Grey. It was glowing.
We all, for a moment, just stared at Grey's corpse. It was a tranquil moment, hidden inside all of the chaos that had surrounded this final kill. He was finally dead. After all-
Grey suddenly bursts back to life and launches himself at me. There wasn't any time to waste on thought. We had to act fast and seal him away forever. He tries to tackle me out of formation, but I punch him in the gut.
"Stay down." I grunt. He falls back into the circle and we begin the ritual.
Light pushed up from the ground inside the circle. Grey was screaming and crying. The light hurt him. The light began to consume him. It was as if the light was alive.
His body... the mirror image of my body, was breaking down in contact with the light. Cracks appeared across the skin, and the skin was blackening. It started falling apart. Disintegrating.
Grey looked at Luca, and then at me. His eyes stared straight into mine. They... they seemed pleased. He even grinned as his teeth were disintegrating and his neck slowly rotted out. His head plopped to the ground, and he died with a smile on his face.
The circle closed.
In the ashes, was the porcelain mask. That damn mask. As the light vanished and the circle faded away, I walked over and picked up the mask. As soon as I touched it, I knew what I had to do: I had to bury it. Far, far away. There was no current safe way to destroy it.
And that was that. We were done.
We made our way out towards the exit of the school after retrieving Luca and Andrew. Luca was composed enough to walk on his own by then. Before we could depart, we ran into Luca's grandfather and a few of his henchmen. They seemed ready for battle and everything.
Our group and their group just stared at each other, wordlessly, for a few moments.
I break the silence. "He's gone, Norman."
He rubs his forehead and pulls out a cigarette.
He's silent for half a minute. He crushes out his cigarette, and speaks.
"Luca, over here. Now."
Luca doesn't respond. He keeps staring at the floor.
"...What did I just tell you? Get over here. Now."
Luca begins to approach his grandfather... and then walks past him. He walks out of the building.
We follow Luca out. Norman doesn't stop us.
Steven and I are at my house. I'm typing this.
I'm going to sleep early tonight. I don't know what's next. Don't ask.
I hope Luca can pick himself back together.