Lost Souls

Lost souls – original sketches from marty for album art describing the journey from devastation to peace

There will come to exist a forgotten future land, a time and place where technology is indistinguishable with magic and black science is pursued by those who would wish to unlock the secrets of reality. In the depths of the planet’s darkest night, whilst the village of Ethrane slept in the embrace of the mountains above – a trio of explorers of the veil between dimensions were about to break the barrier between this universe and the next…
It was the sprawling face of black eternity that greeted them, spilling through the rift and eviscerating them – flooding through the deep tunnels of their order’s bunker and up into the cold, free night. It moved swiftly, sleekly positioned between dimensions and descending upon the village below. Rapidly it fed – blinking the unaware citizens with precision across time and space with its bleak fields, displacing their purest and most prime out of existence and across the dimensional skein.
lost love
In his virtual dreamstate a horror swept over him, rising from the depths of his psyche and flooding his entire being with an overwhelming chill. Yet still it was nothing alongside the yawning silence that greeted him with the encroachment of dawn. There remained only the smell of her hair upon his pillow, a vacuous depression on the bed beside him and no signs of life in their living space. The usual activity of the village stirring in the streets outside was absent, something was deeply wrong. Velok pulled himself from the bed and cried out, but was answered only by the silence of a reality that overwhelmed him, beyond comprehension. He stepped outside and climbed the watchmen’s perch to the still burning fire, but it was also vacant… the village below deathly silent. He held the pendant she had given him, the fire echoing the chaos of his inner core…
The edge of Ethrane was where she dwelled – she who was stuck perpetually between dimensions, flickering across parallel universes on a microscale time-cycle – the oracle of the multi-fates, the bridge between worlds. Velok made his way through the bleak dawn to the shrine in the depths of the forest, careful to follow the footsteps implanted in him by his parents, and the generations before them. She was waiting for him, swathes of her energy wrapped around the trunks of nearby trees, feeding from the current of the central altar and the pathway to the other dimensional layers. Her voice entered the depths of his mind gracefully, illustrating the vast and intricate horrors of the being from the other side, the entity that had taken his people so mercilessly. They were alive but on the precipice of dark fate, ready to be fed on, to be opened up and experimented upon, to feed the infernal biomechanisms of the creature’s desire. It was not beyond hope… he could reach them… but the fates of their liberation and his life were obscured by darkness…
Velok carefully found his way back to the village, the knowledge of the dark path ahead of him embedded in the depths of his soul. The sapping tendrils of fear were interweaving with his core and he knew what he must do. Descending to the catacombs beneath the village habitats, where the bodies of past generations lay dormant in the chill obsidian hallways, wrapped in the slumber of death. He sat at the foot of his family’s crest, the chamber where the voices of his ancestors could penetrate his soul and strengthen his will. In stillness he uttered long unspoken words, summoning the tireless spirit that drives the very urge to survive, allowing the ancient nanotechnology of their people to blend with his bones.
Feeling the reassurance of his ancestor memories and technologies unfurled throughout his mind and body, his senses heightened, his movements swift and precise – he journeyed into the heart of the mountains, to the portal through which the great darkness had spilled. The bunker of those who had opened the doorway lay ahead of him, reaching out of the stone with towering menace.. powerful distortional energy still spilling up through the gaping entrance and reaching up into the bleak skies above and seeming to sap the very life from the surrounding reality. The microcomponents under the surface of his skin came to life, reacting to the immediate threat that reached through the air towards him – the field was quickly cast around him, repelling the cold and deathly dimensional tears that sought to eviscerate his body and rip him from this existence. Without delay he passed the threshold of the entrance, stepped into nothingness…
His consciousness was crushed by the pressing weight of infinity, a heavy darkness that pressed against his mind until he was nothing – immersed in the void. Thin tendrils of awareness crept back back to him, he didn’t recognise his surroundings.. a black forest loomed oppressively in his view with scattered points of light between the gnarled and twisted trunks of those bleak trees. They were moving.. more of them appearing in the dusk-like light of this obscure realm.. he could make out their bodies – almost formless, morphic entities gathering in the blackness pushing towards him. Quickly pulling himself up, he drew his blade before him, hacking at the closest horror with its gaping, ghastly appendages and slicing it apart. Sensing death the horrors moved with sudden speed, slaves to the dark eternity of this place.. seeking to mangle and deform, extricate the shivering life from warmer beings. Their touch was deathly, abrasively tearing at his skin… Velok focussed, cutting apart his new enemy tirelessly, ending them mercilessly until he remained alone.. panting under the infernal skyvoid.
Beyond the horrors of the forest, a scarred landscape greeted his eye, aching and tired from the perpetual gloom in vile harmony with the lingering pain in his skull from the dimensional transition. But there upon the horizon, a pale cyan glow was present – unmissable against the dull backdrop of the forsaken light of this place. A memory of this light, implanted by the oracle surfaced urgently in his mind… His advancement across the wasteland toward the source was arduous, his limbs felt as though the very landscape was draining his energy by contact. Thoughts of his lost love pulled deep to his core, compelling him toward his fate – the shadow of a vast structure cast by that discomforting blue light. As he drew close, its magnitude impressed itself upon him fully, towering into the void above, surrounded by menacing obelisks scrawled with inhuman glyphs… a vacuum formed inside his gut, the overpowering terror of reaching his destination.. the fear of what he would find of his people. There was no time to hesitate, the entrance beckoned his perception, the sharp hooks of destiny pulled him within.
The interior of the keep was blacker still, sub-frequencies permeating the structure and making the stillness feel yet alive with morbid energy. Interference was running through his implants, he sensed their inactivity and felt alone, unprotected. Picking his way through the labyrinthine stark corridors to the nexus. The low hum intensified in the passage, the air became much colder – difficult to breathe.. Pulling his cloak tight around him he ducked through a nearby opening to search for brief respite. A brief thought activated his gland through instinct, coursing agents to heighten his senses in the gloom around his system. He was not ready for the ghastly sight that creeped through the darkness into his awareness… the distorted bodies of his people, victims of horrific experimentation – their forms cut, mangled and respliced – leering out of the gloom with undead eyes, implanted with vile mechanisms, animating their twisted forms to obscure disturbing purposes in the darkness. Reeling with horror, his eyes moving swiftly across the deformed mass of his kinsmen, hoping, praying not to see her in this morbid tangle, he staggered back out of the desecrated space of life beyond death, pushing onward to the core.. conserving his breath within his chest, heavy with sorrow… determined to save her from this fate.
His descent into the deep cold of the keep’s core was arduous, his limbs starting to fail as ice tendrils began to spider against his very skin. He emerged into an unfathomably vast chamber, lit by subtle undulating lights of intricate, ancient technologies – beguiling to the eye, without betraying the truth of their vile purpose. Life was imprisoned here, digital souls extracted in a slow process of exquisite torment from gradually dying bodies before their flesh was experimented on – then uploaded to the vast server mechanism to stretch out their suffering and feed on their infinite pain… the oracle had allowed him to glimpse it, even in nanotime it threatened to overload him. In the center of the space, the towering guardian of these servers stood silent.. the archdemon that worked tirelessly in its torment of the souls stored within. Velok knew what he must do – approaching the imposing mechanical creature cautiously but quickly, getting within range of his implants. Activating the subcutaneous transmitters, he established a bridge between them… the efficient subroutines of his ancestors burrowed rapidly through the beast’s firewalls, before plunging into and carving through its digital consciousness.. severing its connections to the horrific servers and leaving its mind reeling, dying, consuming itself in the virtual domain. Defensive codes fired too late to save it, but not too late to cross the retracting neural pathway plunged in return into Velok’s mind.. he staggered, mind flipping to blackness with the impact on his system.. fell into nothing once again.
evered from reality, detached from his corporeal body… his consciousness formed an echo of his image… drifting through the expanse of the virtual realm that now imprisoned him. The bridge back to reality, to that other dimension, was gone, part of him had been pulled across into the digital void… what remained of the archdemon’s code dissolved around him. His own code was broken, incomplete.. fragments of distorted, unrecognisable memories.. deep discomfort, purpose and direction lost with his fractured self. He was dying.. his incomplete state, unsustainable.. his integrity dissolving, he had to return to himself, to re-complete his mind before being lost completely in the digital ether. Other trapped souls drifted toward him from the abstract, beckoning his broken form toward them.. moving as he could, he followed – his decomposing cortex failing.. they reached out to him. A structure loomed out of the ether, flickering into life as fluid energy strobed across its translucent surface.. a portal.. the veil… he reached towards it with the last of his will, disappearing into its tender, powerful embrace
Drawn into a sea of stars, born into a world of shimmering beauty, the fragments that were Velok orbited his central core. Concentric circles radiated around his broken form, strands of life interweaving his components – rebinding them… reforming him, completing him with universal grace. Codes splicing together in beautiful harmony, igniting memories and neuro-virtual pathways – his consciousness flooded through them, ravenously poring over them feeling everything again as for the first time. His lover’s face upon waking, her neck covered by the fine threads of her golden hair, hands touching, palms spread, fingers dancing eternally intricately, her delicate smell weaving itself into the very fibres of his being.. twisting away into that gaping void, the absence of his completion… taken, stripped away from their dimension by that sprawling darkness… powerful energies coursed through him, drawing everything from his surroundings, his mind birthed – roots penetrated the virtual skein, drawing great power from the grid, his components twisted into a trunk that reached up into the heights of the mainframe – sinuous branches reaching out from his core into the digital ether, wrapped in renewed virtual mist-like fields of his ancestors algorithms. They found their mark connecting to the substructures of the system, over-riding the protocols that trapped him, transferred momentary energy burst to the archdemon’s corpse and the bridge re-activated – mind spilling over into his body – he snapped awake with a sharp intake of breath, eyes wide in horror and determination
Still on his feet, back in the real.. mere nanoseconds had passed – his body just starting to fall to the ground. Muscles tensed, he snapped himself back, renewing the grasp on his blade, feet firm with absolute resolution – there was no time to waste, hope remained – his love might yet be alive. Striding past the now silent mechanism of the archdemon he crossed the chamber to the only other doorportal, moving with all of the speed his will could push his body to. The corridor was heavy with dark energy, a morbid passage filled with dread and interference – but he was indifferent, focussed, driven by ultimate universal forces. He slowed as he approached the far opening cautiously.. bewildered by what he saw there… as though the laws of physics ceased.. a broken landscape, parts suspended in the air, overlooking an endless dark crevice… there were people.. his people.. he’d found them.. he fought the urge to rush forward and cry to them – something was wrong – they stood, hunched without motion.. alive, but lifeless.. a great deformity stood menacingly above them, gargantuan tools of death in its limbs, bristling with technology… one of his tribe was kneeling sullen before the monstrosity as if uttering a quiet plea… then several things happened in the same moment – as it raised its obscene tools, twin cable like appendages leapt forth from it ghastly head unit, plunging through the very eyes of his kinsmen and burrowing into his skull. The victim’s scream pierced Velok’s heart, their body quivered within the onset of death’s rigid grasp.. through his implants Velok witnessed the energy transfer, the digitised soul passing with agonising slowness out of the soon to be corpse… Those vile weapons swung down as the process completed, severing the body brutally into 4 pieces – extracting any remaining bio-energy left within what had once been a person, before coldly sweeping the remains into the bleak depths of the crevice. Velok stood aghast in the face of the overwhelmingly quiet blanket of death, looking over the forms of his people waiting for that terrible fate, and then he saw her.. that golden hair spilling over her cast down face.. incapacitated, unmoving.. silent.
Deep rage birthed within Velok’s core, overwhelming him… enveloping him completely, the scent of his kin’s blood in the air… his love before him – alive, but resigned to that horrendous fate ahead. Everything that mattered lay before him on the precipice of death. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, flooding his system – pouring through him with its dark and potent energy, overlaid with the clarity of his sensory enhancements. Pulling his energy shield from his back and tightening the grip on his blade, he charged forward from the obscurity of the portal doorway and into the broken landscape. He crossed the divide quickly, weaving through his people’s inert forms and making straight for the accursed shaman. The monstrous entity perceived him quickly, twisting to face him with that deathly mask – his sensors picking up the impending particle displacement, Velok pulled his shield up just in time to absorb the pure energy beam that issued from its frontal tusk. Without pause, he pushed forward – shield ahead of him, deploying a dense wave of cyberattack clusters to run interference on his foe. The energy beam stopped, Velok dropped the shield, watching the hulking cybernetic organism reel from the invisible attack on its system infrastructure..
He closed the remaining distance in a moment, the entity towering above him – the great weapons it held in its deformed appendages swung down with deadly intent. But something was happening within Velok, time slowed as the broken world around him came into sharp clarity. Layers of reality peeled away, revealing dimensional architecture of pure, breath-taking complexity and depth. Components and code inside him merged, his ancestors technologies transforming within him, combining with hidden artifacts left within him by the oracle – aligning and perfecting his system, unlocked by the terminality of this moment. He had stopped in time and space, those great scythes fixed in place above him, unthreatening, still… he witnessed his orbfield flicker into life powerfully, particles of energy flowing from him up into it, slowly intensifying in the stillness of the moment.. time resumed with a strobing flicker of existence. The orb around him grew stunningly bright, releasing a wave of pure energy, expanding relentlessly throughout the cavern and leaving only silence in its path. The dread shaman’s arms fell limp, implements of death falling loudly to the ground beside Velok as it’s corpse tumbled back into the depths of the crevice. Velok stood firm and still, anchored in the present.. washed in the glowing power of his form. Then he remembered… looking back toward his people, he saw them stirring… moving.. as if waking up from a horrific dream and testing their newfound freedom. His love was standing, staring in his direction with tear-filled eyes, then he was falling… his vision slipped away into glitch.. his mind left him.
She watched, eyes wide, body frozen in place, looking across the fractured terrain at her orb-encased lover, as the creature who would have been her death fell away behind him into the great nothingness below. His eyes locked with hers for a brief moment, even from that distance she felt the recognition and it cut through her, melting her fear and the fresh memory of entrapment on the path to her own end. She felt the gaze break, as his head twitched upward and he started to drop fluidly sideways to the ground below, taking with him a part of her… a piece of her soul cracking and falling away like a glacial iceberg into the pit of her core. She was running, hair flowing behind her, tears streaming across her face as she crossed the distance, breaking apart in time as her heart bled into the fibres of her being. Down on her knees, straddling him.. holding his face as she watched life depart him. A single word… ‘live..’ spilled from his dying mouth and with that, he was gone. She cried out, holding her dead lover in her arms, soaking his body with the wet salt of her tears, holding her saviour… her people’s saviour. The others, coming to terms with their changed fate, gathered around her, placing their hands upon her back, holding her world together. Picking her up, and gathering up Velok’s lifeless body, they took in their surroundings.. holding him aloft with her in their midst, giving what comfort they could… they started their journey home, back to that dark gateway at the breach of their own reality.

Elsewhere in the keep, the infernal servers that incarcerated so many souls were still active, now free of the malignant tormentors that had kept them in their own virtual hells for what seemed like eternity. Something was happening within the system, Velok’s journey to that digital realm had left a part of him on the other side – a fragment of ancient code that was now doing its work, reconfiguring infrastructures and passing control to those locked up inside, their corporeal bodies now long dead. The morbid digital void was breaking apart, cracks of golden light fracturing the dank artificial world. Lost souls looked up toward the breaking dawn as the vile stagnant atmosphere of their oppression was stripped away. As the landscape changed around them, they were lifted skyward, their broken, fragmented selves returning to complete states, memories returning.. the horrors washed away. Tranquility ascended the serverspace as the souls within were born into a new world of their own making.

And Velok himself… let’s say he had started a new journey beyond this time and space, beyond the possibilities of storytelling.