Log File for: Wifelier Docht
Date: 2797 DSP (Dark Star Paradoxum)

Skin-deep

Will I ever escape? Do I dare think this? How many times over the 300 years have my thoughts drifted to fleeing this hell…

I fear I will forever be tethered to this ageless thing. I am doomed to scribe history until the machine has sucked me dry and disposes of me.

No…not disposes of. Recycle. I chronicle history with a bio-quill on parchment. Parchment made of skin taken from dead scribes.

The God-Machine recycles everything. I’ve seen what happens to the bodies when they die, when even the Embrosis can’t force the heart muscle to move and the brain at last withers and die.

Metallic tentacles snake from within the living walls and encircle the lifeless scribe, unplugging him, lifting him gently from his workstation. The walls open up and the tentacles disappear through the dark crevice, carrying the dead scribe with them, and melt together again as if it never opened.

At the beginning, so many years ago, shortly after I had been absorbed into the machine but before I became tethered, I found myself in a chamber not unlike a slaughter pit. Dead bodies of men and women were stacked on top of one another in piles. More hung from chains in dozens of rows. The foul stench of decay overpowered my senses and I fell to my knees and became sick on the metal floor. No doubt adding more fetor to the many other smells competing for dominance in that hellish place.

At the centre of the chamber, two creatures I did not recognise, not even from lore or fables or fantasy tales I grew up with, were butchering the body of a man, flaying skin from flesh like you would a deer or a rabbit. As they tugged on the skin flap of his right arm, I saw a tattoo on the shoulder–a shield showing a rising gryphon in black ink–the image distorting as skin was pulled from muscle. I recognised the tattoo. The man had been a soldier from the war planet Delmoria. That seemed odd to me, given that Delmoria had been destroyed seventy years earlier. But then, I was new and naïve and blind to what awaited me.

The dead soldier’s purple-stained and shapeless epidermis was stretched over a flat metal surface that jutted from the floor and vigorously scrubbed with some kind of dark liquid to remove the Embrosis stains. Next, the creatures took the entrails from the body and tossed it through a large metal hatch in the wall, followed by lumps of carved flesh. A great roar erupted from within the hatch, followed by a loud crunch of metal on metal as if some giant beast macerated the intestines with grinding teeth of steel. The skeletal remains of what once was an off-world soldier were taken from the chained hook and dropped into a narrow gully next to the creatures. I later learned the bones would be crushed to a fine powder and used as a calcium supplement in our daily nutrition, fed to us through pipes stabbed into our torsos.

One of those vile creatures noticed me, then. I tried to run, but slipped on my own puke and fell hard, smacking the back of my head against the floor. It sounded like a wet towel slap.

A sudden sense of vertigo overcame me and I struggled to focus my eyes. Not that it mattered, for when I looked up that creature stood over me. It must have moved at blinding speed or I had been sprawled on the floor longer than I thought.

Although humanoid in appearance, its legs were powerfully built and short while the arms stretched to almost double the length of its legs, ending in bony, long-fingered hands. The creature’s face reminded me of a frog’s. It had no discernible nose, just an incredibly broad mouth and double-pupilled eyes as big as my fist.

It bend down and took my face in its long taloned fingers and lifted me. I scrambled to get my legs under me or risk the creature snapping my neck. “You no belong here, human. Not yet. You a baby still. Skin not ready yet.”

The creature’s breath reeked of rot and death and my stomach revolted against the miasma.

“W-w-where am I? I stammered, my virgin mind battling to grasp my new reality.

“Ooooh, is naughty asking Flep this. No nice. Lord is testing Flep, he thinks.”

I wanted to respond, but the tentacles found me then and whisked me away. The last thing I saw was Flep waving at me as he smiled, showing rows upon rows of needle-like teeth.

I discovered the nefarious purpose for the soldier’s skin when I saw the faded lines of a rising gryphon on the rejected sheet of parchment I’m now using for my secret journal. The faint tattoo serves as a grisly watermark to remind me of my fate.

 

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Woelf Dietrich

Author/Writer
Woelf Dietrich mostly writes tales of dark fantasy and the supernatural, which is maybe not such a far cry from his lawyering days. Sometimes he writes other things. He resides in New Zealand with his wife and kids and a dog.

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