The lands of God were doomed, but they couldn’t see it yet. Their cosy little sanctum smelled, sounded, and looked the same as ever. The boundary between Godspace and hellspace was still holding, at least for the righteous, but the futures would change that. There were very few paths where the righteous would be safe.
God was dying.
The cavities of fear and anger itched fiercely. There was no justice in the world. The righteous knew of this. Justice was something made by the hands of people, not a part of the air or water or dirt. But what was the value of striving to uphold justice if everything could fall apart without reason? What had the righteous been working for all this time?
They had done the right thing. This was the nature of the righteous, but the right thing had even been done by the wicked. The flesh had gone to the hellspace pit to cleanse it of the sorcerer and those monsters that were the sorcerer’s flesh. The sorcerer had escaped, but it had been the right action anyway. Hellspace would never be like Godspace, but it could still be made better.
The flows remained blocked. What was the purpose of right action if it lead to the death of God? That cavity collapsed with ignorance, spawning additional cavities of frustration and seeking.
Thoughts flashed about the house on the edge of extradistant slightly-sandy island above-above portal-to-sunset. The wicked in that house were so famous that their thoughts drifted through the wandering newflesh to all people. Those extradistant wicked believed that all of the universe was without reason and that death was the only certainty. The depth of their sadness and defeat was a warning to everyone. The righteous could not give up hope in justice.
As they felt the Godspace descend towards the rocks around the hellspace pit their anger cavity actually collapsed. The surge of relief was almost enough to collapse the cavity of fear by itself. The initial flow had come from the thought of the God of the extradistant wicked.
God was not really dying, they realized. God was God, after all.
All the demons had done was injure God and force parts of Godspace to fade. The righteous were in trouble, but God was not. Driven by the angerflow of all people (except perhaps the extradistant who rejected justice), God would enact unimaginable vengeance on the demons. That was good. That was right. This was why the righteous fought for justice. This was why the righteous were good.
Purity and justice had reigned in the sanctum since the first memories in the time before the beat. The righteous were good. Flesh came and went. Even people came and went. But justice never faded. The righteous spirit had divine protection and would never die, no matter how dire things seemed.
All the righteous would need to do was survive in hellspace until Godspace could realign the darkfields and descend into the pit to rescue them. The paths shifted with understanding.
And still the fear cavity continued to itch, raw and yawning, despite the flow of relief.
Without warning, God’s thoughts became known.
Where it had been irritable before, the fear cavity was now oppressive in its salience. God’s thoughts had only been known once before, but the memories of that time were strong with the righteous. It had been 1088 days ago, when the pit of demonkind had first been seen in the darkfields. Thoughts of those days flashed. It had been a pleasant feeling, thinking of the sex that might be possible with angels of the stars and the knowledge they might share. The righteous had been very, very ignorant, then, but the memory of that pain was a scratch compared to the amputation that was occurring now. The mind of God was known, and that very fact was important, even before the content of the mind entered the righteous.
And then they learned. God knew that the righteous would soon move. This would not be some simple arranging. Godspace would not simply fade. This was motion. The righteous would exit Godspace. They would be torn from it. The cavity of fear grew wider still.
The newflesh in the factory scrambled faster, feeling the will of the righteous. Tools and supplies would be needed in the hellspace.
God knew that there would be divine gifts in the hellspace. When their minds became aligned with God the cavity of fear filled and the newflesh moved accordingly.
Cavities of knowledge grew out of the paths of motion. Would the righteous feel it? Would they go insane for a time? To move meant, almost always, to die. In the rare cases where sickness and death didn’t take the person, they almost always went insane.
At least time could repair insanity, and it was unlikely the flesh would die as long as the righteous could hold together. At least, assuming the demons left them alone.
A cavity collapsed with understanding that there would be a wave of sex if the demons didn’t kill them immediately. The newflesh could find the least wicked and bring new life into the world. Perhaps the righteous would have room to grow.
The cavity of joy opened and was filled with flow from this thought. The fear cavity opened again in response to thoughts of motion and hellspace, but the flow of joy eased that pain.
The mainflesh finished the ritual of perseverance and came to be intimate with the youngest of the righteous, removing the socket to make room. The ritual was very important. When the flesh did not perform it, it was 93.5% more likely to die shortly after. The old flesh had not performed it before it went to see the sorcerer. The old flesh was dead.
Machineflesh helped the newflesh bring their tools up out of the factory and into the sanctum.
Thoughts flashed about performing the ritual again. Anything to fill the fear would be good, but the righteous knew that repeating the ritual would not do that. Nothing would do that except survival.
Godspace was aligned with the sand of the hellspace now. God was done shifting worlds. They were about to move. The cavity of fear yawned wider. The newflesh removed the remaining sockets and was intimate one last time. It was a relief to not have to use the machineflesh in these final moments before the move. They had known this newflesh for only a few days, and it already seemed more good than the old newflesh had. It had been right to cast the old out to die with the monsters.
The righteous drew comfort from the physical contact. A cavity of knowledge briefly grew around how the extradistant wicked could be so sad in a world with soft, wet flesh in it. Even now the righteous revelled in that simple joy. It was a beautiful feeling, especially with flesh that was so new.
The eyes of the intimate flesh showed the sky shimmer with magic as it became a massive portal. The portal descended slowly. The righteous did not know why, but they believed the magic of God would not bring them direct harm. Perhaps this was simply the nature of a collapse of Godspace, but there was nothing they could do about that.
As the flesh touched the portal they were pulled up and away from their wet stalks. It was an a wretched feeling. Yet another memory of pain to add to the injustices forced on them by the monsters.
Blind without flesh or sockets, the righteous thought of justice and ethics. There were paths in the future where the monsters that did this would be destroyed, and if the righteous could survive motion then they were surely strong enough to cleanse the universe of evil.
And then the portal touched the righteous and they moved for the first time in their lives. It was not as bad as they had expected, but it was close.
The sensation of the terrible, terrible, evil, wrong, cold was the first thought in the mind of the righteous after motion, or at least it was the first they could remember.
There was something ancient in that cold, but the righteous ignored that for the moment. Instead, cavities were formed and filled and collapsed with thoughts of confusion and cold and hellspace and cold and motion and cold.
The mind was sluggish.
They couldn’t feel anything. Their vines had gone numb.
A cavity of knowledge around the armour of the flesh collapsed without salience. The righteous did not know the state of the flesh. Confusion and ignorance were the entire world. A cavity of desire for a socket grew, but without intimacy or an existing socket it was an impotent desire that collapsed without effect.
The timekeeper had lost the beat in the move. The cavity of fear drew all thoughts for far too long. In all their lives, after all of those thousands of days, the beat had finally been lost. Their anchor was gone. It was as though they had been thrown into a space outside of time.
It wasn’t just the cold that was making their thoughts disjointed and strange. There was pain beyond the cold. A deep pain in the roots that was surely part of the move.
And it was dry. The soil was sand. The air was dust and salt and absence.
And it was cold.
Thought was torture without water.
The righteous tried to think anyway, pushing past the pain. Pain was just pain. The righteous had mastered pain long, long ago.
Memories flickered of the wandering newflesh from… from a time back before the beat had been lost. They knew of a person who died and came back to life telling of a space beyond Godspace or hellspace. The righteous thought of that space now. A cavity of knowledge widened, slowly, around the space-after-death.
The righteous had memories of their logic and reasoning around this hypothetical space, but those memories seemed so far away. They were frozen inside the ice of the mind.
The pain was excruciating. Never had they felt anything like it. Every piece of them was in agony. Before the move they would not have thought that simple pain would be too much to bear, but here they were. The timekeeper would have, could have, and should have started the beat again… except it HURT. It hurt so much. The cold was a flavour on top of that pain. The cold and the lack of water.
Was this the space-after-death? Their mind was being crushed. The righteous couldn’t remember… The concept of hellspace… What was even happening?
And for a long time the righteous were simply cold. The pain could not hurt a mind that was gone.
The best they could do was remember. Remembering wasn’t important, but they did it anyway. It was simply what they did.
They would remember the cold.
And it was still cold when thought returned. The righteous were still in agony. It was still far too dry. And worse, the righteous were now exhausted. It was as though they had lived through a night that lasted hundreds of days. Smells, sounds, images, and other fleshfeelings were ghostly concepts.
They needed the sun. They needed it more than anything. The cavity of desire was total.
But what they received was touch.
It was almost as good as sunlight, but not quite.
They were in such an awful state that it took time to realize the mainflesh was there, spreading its mind out for them. It was the most beautiful sensation they could remember. Was there anything more beautiful than the intimate mental touch of mature flesh after an eternity of solitude? The only thing that would have made it better was if the flesh brought sex. But it was just the mainflesh, and it had no sextaste of the redeemable on its body.
The flow of knowledge crept through the righteous even as the flesh became panicked about their agony. The flesh had not known about the deep cold. It had divine armour to keep it warm in hellspace.
The flesh was tired, and the righteous wanted the physical contact ever so badly, but the flesh, in its panic, broke contact, leaving the righteous blind and helpless again.
Before the sluggish agony of the cold and lack of water blocked any possibility of thought again, the righteous explored the new memories of the mainflesh. Sensations of searching for the machineflesh came to them. If only one socket could be re-attached then they would have the ability to connect to the machineflesh again.
Oh, they were so isolated! The cavities of frustration grew and collapsed in a slow foam at their limited reach in the world.
It was night in the hellspace pit. The mainflesh had seen that.
The righteous were very close to the wicked now. The move had brought them all together, eliminating the centrefield and their castles. Godspace had faded into a shell around all nearby people, protecting them. The righteous realized it was the same kind of shell that had protected the souls of the extradistant wicked 28 days before the last known beat. Those souls had perished in hellspace, but not because the shell had failed.
The flesh of the wicked was working nearby. So much flesh. The righteous had never seen so much flesh in one place, even during battle.
They had divine inspiration. It occurred to the righteous that God was still helping them, even now. The flesh was moving because it was filled with the purity of knowledge that came from God. This realization collapsed the frustration cavities and helped shrink the void of fear.
And so the thoughts of the righteous faded back into the pain and cold. They were not pleased, but they knew God would take care of them.
Chaos came back with the sensation of warmth and heat. They could feel their vines again. They tingled with sparks of sensation as circulation was restored.
In some of their mind, the righteous combined this fact with the perception of ancient-ness of the cold. A memory flashed from the wandering newflesh many thousands of days ago (though now that the beat was lost it was impossible to say how many). The wanderers knew of a family of wicked only three rings out that had been experimenting on themselves. (This proved their wickedness, but the righteous were glad for the knowledge.) They had learned that people could survive being colder than ice by pulling their fluids in from their vines and letting their minds die for a time. They thought this phenomenon was evidence of ancientspace. Ancientspace was a logical impossibility, as it neglected the totality of God, so the righteous had rejected that thought. Regardless, the righteous had now lived through one of these cold times.
But that thought only was in some of their mind. Most of the righteous were concerned with the chaos. It was a sexual kind of chaos.
They were intimate with a flesh that was neither newflesh or the mainflesh, and it brought sweet sextaste with it. The sextaste was overwhelming, and the person in contact with the mainflesh was consumed in the unexpected fertilization. The flow of beauty and joy poured through the righteous, collapsing cavities of knowledge well before they could be properly formed.
The cavity of knowledge of the location of the mainflesh had only just formed in earnest when an entirely different flesh that was also not a newflesh or the mainflesh came and spread itself on the righteous. There was a stale sextaste on its mind. It had already been fertilized.
A wave of revulsion swept over the righteous at realizing that they had been intimate with a womanflesh. The cavity of desire for her death swallowed any joyflow from the fertilization of the earlier flesh. They understood that the woman probably didn’t even realize she was a woman yet, but that was why there were procedures. She was evil, a rapist, and needed to die. This was what justice demanded.
The flesh that they had just fertilized (and who was therefore a new woman: their seedflesh) felt the revulsion and desire and began to move. A cavity blossomed for desire for her to understand righteousness. The seedflesh would not understand her womanhood yet, and in her mind she was still a normal man. Cavities of the righteous grew and were filled with flow from the excited and eager seedflesh. They knew and thus she knew that she was now seedflesh. She didn’t understand what that meant, but she was learning.
And then a newflesh came and spread its mind on yet another stalk. The sextaste on the newflesh was maddening. It was wrong and evil. None of it was right or good or just. (A part of the righteous briefly cavitated on whether the sextaste itself was good even if it came from a newflesh, but that part was quickly collapsed as unjust.) The cavity of desire for the mainflesh grew and the seedflesh pushed herself up as a result.
Too early! It was too early! She did not understand womanhood!
Through the eyes of the newflesh the righteous watched in horror as their seedflesh attacked the woman who had raped them. The carrier of their unborn child was still acting like a man, and their emotional cavities ran rampant. Would this evil make the righteous into wicked? What were the wicked thinking?
The cavity of knowledge for the thoughts of the wicked was filled with a relieved flow from the newflesh, and the righteous could understand the emotional chaos the newflesh was feeling by being intimate with them in this period of chaos.
And it was chaos. The newflesh knew that the wicked were mostly as confused as the righteous. The flesh had gone insane with sex, and they were not responding coherently to people. It was the smell in the air. There was just far, far too much flesh in such an enclosed space. The newflesh knew, through memories of what had been the wicked of the way of the sword, that once the shell of God had warmed and the flesh had taken off their armour that they had been unable to resist the opportunity of sex.
The righteous pumped knowledge into the newflesh like it was a fountain of water. They had to do the good thing in this moment of evil. At least one newflesh would understand how wrong its instincts were. It would understand that this was not what sex was supposed to be. Castles and walls and chains existed to prevent this wickedness.
It was good that it was newflesh. The righteous would not have been able to get through to a mature flesh that was not the mainflesh. Newflesh couldn’t really have sex, regardless of the taste on this one, and their version of fleshsex was tame.
Through its eyes they continued to watch the pandemonium that being in hellspace had brought. Their seedflesh had torn one of the arms off the topflesh of the offending woman, spraying the harsh smell of blood into the air and warning off other nearby flesh. The gravity in this pit was stronger than in most of hellspace, but it was still no where near the natural amount. The physics of the sprays of the bright antigreen fluid almost hurt just to look at.
But then, their seedflesh had failed to understand how to be good, and had torn the topflesh off the offender and was proceeding to exchange bottomflesh with the rapist! It was fleshsex at its worst, and the cavity of wanting the bottomflesh of the seedflesh to find a strong topflesh was terrible indeed.
All around, similar atrocities were happening. Their new sanctum was wrong and bad and filled with wicked. All the flesh was consumed in a sexual frenzy, including some of the newflesh. They needed walls and rituals! This was all wrong!
A dam of ignorance broke and a flood of realization filled the cavity of desire for not this. The righteous pumped the newflesh with an understanding of what needed to be done.
As the small newflesh dismounted the stalk another emotional cavity yawned with irrational fear. It filled quickly. This was a bad situation, but it was not even as bad as moving. Still their roots hurt from the move, even though they had been distracted.
And then the socket came, placed on them by the good newflesh. A pride cavity grew and collapsed in response. They would remember this newflesh’s taste and try and capture him when they next had room for such things.
It took a moment for the socket to start up. It was tired, just like the righteous were. In that moment the fatigue cavity seemed total, even though it wasn’t.
But eventually the socket spun to life, and they could taste the sensations of the machineflesh. Through false eyes they could see other wicked that had understood the pathway out of this depravity. Already the machineflesh was moving through the sanctum and separating copulating flesh.
The righteous hated to share minds with the wicked, so instead of anything so evil they simply tried to work around the other machineflesh as best they could. They donned more sockets and made walls of machines to corral the newflesh away from the matureflesh.
And then they spotted the flesh that was made from the old topflesh of their seedflesh and the bottomflesh of the rapist flesh. Using the gun on one machineflesh they filled it with holes and watched the hot antigreen blood pour over one of the wicked. It was a joyous moment. It was pure justice.
The wicked did not like their use of the gun, and their minds beat down the mindshields they had put up on the machineflesh. This was a problem with the machineflesh: mindsharing was too easy. It was a disease of the metal. A known risk.
The wicked wanted ever so badly for the righteous to relax their grip on the gun-using machineflesh and give it to the wicked. But the wicked would use the gun for wickedness, the righteous knew. The wicked knew they would not use the gun. The wicked predicted that if guns kept being used in this tight sanctum it would mean a war in which real people would die.
The righteous abandoned their grip on the machineflesh. It was the good thing to do. They had been wrong, and the wicked had been right. They needed to focus on the broader context. They were in hellspace. If they culled 90% of the flesh for wickedness then they would soon die to the monsters beyond the shell. It was known.
The wicked minds were the same. A cavity of disgust filled at the sensation of the minds of the wicked over the metal, and the righteous flinched away into blessed solitude. At least they were softminds. The days with the sorcerer had been so much worse.
Thoughts of the sorcerer spawned a cavity around whether the wicked were doublethinking when they knew they would not use guns. The disgust cavity, previously collapsed, yawned again. It was such a terrible thought. Doublethinking was the worst sort of evil. With it, a mind could have a belief that the same mind didn’t believe. It was a paradox, but the sorcerer and the demons were capable of the contradiction. Even basic logic didn’t apply to them, it seemed.
But the wicked were correct, and not doublethinking. There was no more culling, and only a bit more sex. All of the flesh was carrying children now, and many would lay eggs too. It was nearly inconceivable, but all the mature bottomflesh on this world was female now, and they would simply have to deal with that.
At least the newflesh was healthy and unspoiled. Not that it made much of a difference. The crisis would only last a few days. Then God would pick them out of this terrible place.
There was very little done before dawn. All people were tired, even the wicked. Once the flesh was separated and pushed into corners, the women were mostly content to lounge about, enjoy their post-seeding bliss, and let their minds change. There was a bit of hostility, as was to be expected from evil women in such close quarters, but it was nothing the machineflesh couldn’t handle.
The flesh that the righteous had killed was buried among the roots of her seeder. The righteous had no ritual for that sort of death, but it seemed right.
Meanwhile, the seedflesh that the righteous had made was decided to be the new mainflesh by the wicked. Unfortunately, it was now crippled by a lack of topflesh. It was awful, but not unknown. They would keep the child close, rather than send the woman-bottom out to certain death.
The old mainflesh that they had been working with since the sorcerer left their sanctum, now a vile woman like the rest, was given over to her seeder. The righteous didn’t want her anyway.
Their roots still ached. It was still too dry.
Days in this hellspace pit were very short, just like in the pit of demons. The righteous were glad for this, as it meant the night had ended sooner rather than later.
But the day was awful in its own way. The shell around the wicked was keeping them warm and letting them breathe, but it was very transparent. The sun in hellspace was a terrible thing. Violent and harsh. Through the machineflesh, the righteous could see the flesh all covering their sun-facing eyes with their hands.
Simply not looking at the sun didn’t fix the problem, however. There were reflections everywhere, it seemed, and even when there weren’t, the diffuse light reflected off the sky, the ground, and everything else. It was almost as though the universe was constantly attacking them with flares on every surface.
They wanted to build some sort of eye-protection, or modify the machineflesh to have less sensitive false-eyes, but their workshop was gone. They had brought useful tools, but where were the materials?
The field they had made into a sanctum was enormous and confined at the same time. It had to be huge, in order to fit so many people, but it was also a structure, rather than an island or archipelago. Some simple maths suggested that there were probably about three-times-sixty-four people. Many others had surely been killed during the battle. That meant there were about three-times-thirty-two flesh, of which about one-fourth would be mature. With the addition of the machineflesh the space was claustrophobic. It was no surprise that the flesh had gone mad with lust.
God had packed the people tightly together, though not so grossly tight as to be able to touch. (A cavity of disgust briefly formed and collapsed at the thought of touching a wicked.) The shell probably contained an area of about two-thousand-fourty-eight square-spans. The sanctum wasn’t circular, but was instead an oblong shape roughly twice as long (about four-and-thirty-two spans) as it was wide (about two-and-sixteen spans).
During the night the righteous had enjoyed the sight of the nearby flesh. They were all newflesh and womanflesh, of course, so most of their fantasies had involved chaining the mature flesh up and forcing them to become male again. The concept of keeping all those newflesh locked up to do their bidding made the righteous a little giddy, but of course it lacked the raw sensuality of forcing their seeds into strong matureflesh.
Fantasizing was one of the favourite activities of the righteous. At times, back in Godspace, they had spent entire days constructing intensely vivid mental scenes of (highly improbable) future paths. The fantasy of meeting a wandering newflesh with a deep mind and a huge top-penis, then letting it into their sanctum only to have it spontaneously mature and kill their mainflesh in decisive hand-to-hand combat was a particular favourite. Spontaneous maturation had never happened to them, but it was theoretically possible.
But the harsh light that poured through the clear dome above them made it hard to focus on fantasy. This was probably a good thing, though it wasn’t pleasant. They had endured so much hardship. Was it not justice to enjoy a brief respite of drinking sunlight and imagining the taste of the flesh of the wicked?
No. They had to be strong. They had to prepare for the demons and monsters of hellspace. It would not be long before they came for the righteous, and they had to be ready.
The wicked had found cables and deep-generators, and had given some to the righteous to keep the machineflesh running. The generators ran on magic, and from past experience there was some magic that failed in hellspace, so it wasn’t clear whether the deep-generators would work forever. But they were working at the moment, and really, they only needed to last until God arrived.
The righteous sent their machineflesh scouts to explore the edges of the sanctum’s field. Their soil might have felt dry and salty, but at least it was close to what they’d had in Godspace. They knew that the sand in the fields outside the shell would be totally inhospitable. If they could find a way to change that, their child would… No. God was coming. They had to keep that in mind. They had to focus on returning to Godspace.
The edges of the shell were not like the dome. The dome was transparent and veined with black supports, but the area where the dome met the soil was a mess of hard crystal and metal.
One of their scouts, a tiny machineflesh with six legs, crawled up onto a spire of silver metal that went way up, above the chaotic boundary to where it could see through the transparent portion of the shell to the world beyond. It was easier to climb in this gravity, forcing cavities of surprise and disorientation here and there.
As the righteous looked out of the dome, they could see all the area around the shell blackened by the rotting body of God. It was immense and overwhelming. Sheets of metal rose up out of the sand, black webbing spread across and between the spires of antired crystal and antigreen Godstuff. A cavity of knowledge collapsed with the understanding that it was dead Godflesh. God was not dead, but this flesh was.
Beyond the wreckage, the righteous could see an endless waste of grey-antigreen sand.
They needed to get flesh out of the shell and armed with guns. The bones of the Godflesh would make good cover to protect against demons. There was some risk of them destroying the dome from far away, but the wandering newflesh had known, long ago, that these dome-shells from God could withstand a lot.
Suppressing the cavity of disgust through sheer force of will, the righteous reached out to share minds with the wicked. They knew that they had to form an organized defence. The sorcerer was coming, and it was possible that it would serve the people up to the demons to be violated. That was what demons did, after all. This was a migration like they’d never experienced before, but theirs was a good cause. The righteous were always victorious in the end.
This was the nature of justice.