Submitted by DrunkenSwordsman t3_z56xts in nosleep

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

We were silent for a while, unsure what to say, how to react.

It’s beautiful.

Finally, Rodriguez sighed in acceptance, his head slumping.

"Nothing more we can do for them. Come on. Don't want to keep them waiting down there."

Shouldering our rifles, we headed further downward. The corridors grew larger, as wide as the main street of some ancient metropolis. The floor became a paved road, hexagonal bricks inlaid into the stone itself, forming baffling geometrical patterns. Many side tunnels led away into the dark, but we kept to the main road, heading downwards, always downwards.

Rodriguez' spectrometer began beeping incessantly, and we caught glimpses of the things from below. Every side chamber and tunnel held one, brief glimpses of smiles like murderers' knives and shapes like shattered glass. We didn’t flee this time, though.

They weren't hunting us anymore.

They were welcoming us in.

And finally, we reached it.

The bottom.

The Pit.

The temple.

I look up as I write these words, locking eyes with Rodriguez. He doesn't say a word, but smiles reassuringly once more. Though the reason for his mirth eludes me, it gives me the will to continue.

We entered a massive cavern, its walls soaring up around us, its roof so high it was hidden in blackness. No more side tunnels, no more of the endless descent. This was it: the bottom of the pit, the heart of whatever was happening within the earth. It all came from here.

Rodriguez cursed softly under his breath as he saw what waited for us. I gasped, unable to stop myself.

The cavern was dominated by a gigantic temple, carved from the cold rock itself. Soaring minarets, half-seen in the dim torchlight, towered above us. Shadowed windows loomed, hungry and ominous. Archways and vaulted roofs spanned the blackness.

It wasn't the scale of the temple that gave us pause, though, nor the half-seen multitudes of things from below, pale shadows promising murder, held back by some unknowable command.

It was how unmistakably inhuman the temple was.

Every stone was without blemish, every archway and vaulted ceiling flawless, and yet, it was hideous.

It was too perfect. It was built in no style that a human mind could've ever envisioned, and that terrified us. Every piece of stone within its ancient bulk was cut with geometric precision that should've been unachievable, as if the very stones were laughing at the laws of nature. It had beauty, but only so that it could torture it and bend it into shapes it should've never taken.

"This place is old," whispered Rodriguez. "Way too old."

"Older than light," I answered, unsure where the words came from.

My friend gave me a sidelong glance and swallowed loudly, then continued, his words coming out in a breathless whisper.

"Let's... Let's keep moving. They're watching us."

Looking down, I saw that the front of the temple was taken up by a massive gateway, the arch covered in symbols and reliefs I shudder to remember.

The gate. It was wide open.

I couldn't see what waited within. The darkness was too deep, too absolute, but there was something just behind it. A suggestion of movement, a hint of some great, shadowed form. That was all we saw.

Something was waiting for us, had been waiting since the beginning of mankind, or the Earth, or maybe the beginning of time itself.

Older than light.

All around us, the things from below bowed. Murder made subservient. Darkness kneeling before an older darkness. Violence and shadow and fear, bowing to something even more ancient, more profound, than those very concepts.

The first truth.

We stopped. Our journey to this depth had been to see precisely this, but at the very brink of the door, we stopped.

A sound from behind made us turn. There was movement in the main tunnel we'd come from, the sound of padding footsteps. Rodriguez raised his rifle.

The darkness shifted, and a lone figure emerged. It was dressed in the tattered remains of a uniform, a pistol strapped to its waist. Even bloodied and injured, it looked almost familiar, almost like...

"Anderson?" Rodriguez breathed.

Our former comrade smiled in the half light, the rictus grin sending a chill crawling down my spine. It was not a pleasant smile - the same kind Crowley had given us as he ran through the tunnels, dragging his helpless prey behind him.

"Hello, Rodriguez," Anderson said.

Rodriguez took a step closer. He didn't lower his rifle.

"Are you alright?"

Anderson laughed, a high, manic sound.

"Better than alright. I've seen it, Rodriguez. I've seen it."

"Seen what?"

"The truth. The old truth. The first truth. Crowley was right, damnit. It's beautiful. It's beautiful.

He took a step towards us, then another. My own gun came up, though I barely knew how to use it.

"Stay where you are, Anderson," Rodriguez warned. "They're in your head. I'm your friend. I've known you for years. You have to fight them."

Anderson paused, then laughed again, but this time, I heard something else behind the sound. Anguish? Regret?

"I can't. Can't fight it. Rodriguez. Can't fight the truth. Can't fight the truth."

Without warning, he leapt forward, fast as a snake, screaming in bloodlust and suffering.

Rodriguez hesitated. Just for a split second, he froze. It was too much for him - the horror we'd been through, the sight of the ungodly temple, and now one of his old comrades, back from the dead and ravening for our blood.

For a split second, Rodriguez held fire, and then Anderson was on us.

There was none of the shadowy subterfuge Crowley had used. Anderson was a whirlwind of nails and teeth, too fast to be human. My rifle was torn out of my hands. A sledgehammer blow crashed into my teeth. I tasted blood.

Rodriguez grabbed Anderson from behind, threw him onto the ground. The mad soldier writhed like some sort of grotesque insect, coming up in an instant, sinking his teeth into his opponent's' shoulder. Rodriguez screamed.

Around us, figures like broken glass on skin crowded closer, smiling with teeth of black ice.

I staggered to my feet, swinging a wild blow that caught Anderson on the side of the head. He rounded on me with a snarl, slipping under my second punch and grabbing my throat from behind.

I choked. The world went grey.

"Stop, Anderson!" I heard Rodriguez shout somewhere in the distance. His voice was dim, removed.

An urge to sleep was overcoming me. The shadows crowded closer.

"Your father - and his father - gave their lives to fight these things!" Rodriguez was yelling. "Fight them! You're still in there!"

The hold on my neck relaxed a fraction. I dragged a great breath into burning lungs.

"Can't fight the truth," Anderson whispered somewhere behind me. "Can't fight the truth. The first truth. The older truth. Older than man. Older than time. Older than light."

"You know that's bullshit," Rodriguez said, looking at the madman over my shoulder. "You can fight it, you can. Please."

The vice holding my neck weakened a little more.

"Can't... Can't fight... The..." came a pained whisper from behind me. A drop of something fell onto my shoulder. Tears.

"I can't fight the truth."

A deafening gunshot rang out behind me. I felt the heat of the bullet. Something red and hot sprayed across me.

I wheeled around.

Anderson had pulled out his pistol and shot himself in the head.

Rodriguez stumbled over, helping me up. He looked down at his dead friend, then made the sign of the cross.

The shadows watched, silent, mocking.

Finally, Rodriguez turned away.

"Let's finish this. I'm tired."

We turned, weapons held to our chests, ignoring the shadows crowding closer, and strode into the dark gate of the temple.

At first, we saw nothing, the blackness enveloping us completely. I could only hear Rodriguez next to me, breathing heavily as we pushed onward.

At first, we saw nothing.

And then the blackness peeled back, and we saw everything.

"My God," Rodriguez whispered next to me. "It's hideous."

"It's beautiful," I answered, smiling to myself.

I don't know how long the ascent up from The Pit took. Time had, after all, lost all meaning. A day, a year, a century - it was all the same, in the end.

I live in the tunnels beneath the city now. Sometimes I go almost up to the surface, mere inches away from people who have no idea I'm there. I hear them. Conversations thought private. The crying of children. The deep, calm breathing of those asleep. I hear it all, and no one ever hears me.

I return to my abode after every journey, a small hole under a railway system. Rodriguez waits for me there. He's still smiling. He's been smiling ever since I returned from The Pit.

Ever since I killed him.

I carved his eyes out. He couldn't see the truth when it was right in front of him.

I cut his mouth into a rictus grin. With the truth in his grasp, he screamed and cursed and blasphemed.

So I killed him. He's not much of a talker since then, but he's a much better listener.

I will need a companion down here in the dark, after all. I intend to stay here all my life, to grow old in the dark beneath the false world.

Older than man.

Older than time.

Older than light.




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ThugNuggington t1_ixugq03 wrote

Damn, I was really hoping you wouldn't cave.


KeeperofAmmut7 t1_ixurhwr wrote

I have goosebumps...How could you do that to Rodriguez?


LegoEngineer003 t1_ixvobfc wrote

I just reread part 1, it makes sense now why Rodriguez was described as a mute observer and confidante


S4njay t1_ixv1mr4 wrote

Can't fight the truth