Soon, I was staring eye-to-eye with the beastly metal mouth. It was glistening and shining, endlessly striking, almost even pretty. There was a tangle of metal roots that spread around the building, injecting the miscellaneous mechanical parts with a cruel form of life. I was coated in the oil being dripped onto me in its anticipation of new prey. I was close enough now that I could smell its breath, just like molten copper.
When my vision went bright white and my ears rang silent, I honestly thought I had died. My body was too numb to convince me otherwise. My brain was temporarily shut off, it was like I didn’t exist. But my loop hadn’t broken, it had just been temporarily reset. When my senses came back it was like waking up after a dream. I found myself on the dirty floor, surrounded by more writhing insects made of corrupted metal. Feeling had slowly returned to my body, enough that I could get back up and try to make a break for the exit while I still had the chance. I sprang up off the ground in what I thought was a feat of impressive agility. As soon as I did, a yell echoed across the room.
“What the fuck, dumbass? Get back down!”
Another blinding white flash and ringing pain in my ears. Rose was standing at the other end of the room, holding a pistol in her hands. She must have heard me freaking out and came to check on me. She had shot the mouth on the ceiling a few times, leaving little smoldering holes in its metal carapace. The glowing silver eye in the middle wasn’t gone, but its light had dimmed.
“Uh, thanks, Rose. I’d ask you what the fuck this thing is, but I guess I already know.”
I dusted the dirt and metal grit off my pants, feeling a little better now that I was no longer alone.
“Since when have you owned a pistol?”
I took another look at it. It wasn’t just a pistol, it was Biologist’s. The blue one that seemed like it was made of clay. The one that was, supposedly, designed to kill me. Ironic that it’s now being used to save my life—a demon caller using a weapon of God to save me. I wonder if what Rose meant by being on “the wrong side of divinity” really was true.
“Where did you get the blue gun? Wasn’t it in my house?”
“Don’t worry about that right now, we have bigger problems. I don’t think this is gonna hold it off much longer. Actually, I’m not even sure what it’s doing.”
The two bullet holes in the teeth of the mouth on the ceiling were still smoldering. On second glance it looked more like steam, the kind that bubbles out of beakers from an unstable chemical concoction. The sides of the holes began to bubble and fizz with pretty pastel blue foam. The metal roots wrapped through the sides of the room began to spark. They were like Tesla coils, or maybe they were Tesla coils. The small, unpredictable pulses of small lightning made me realize something.
Ever since Rose shot the beast, the thunderstorm outside paused. Not the rain, but the lightning. I’m sure this thing is the cause of the problem. It was good to know that, but it posed a new problem. If we didn’t handle it here and now, the storm might never stop. In fact, it’ll probably electrocute me to death. I bet that’s its “destiny”. I have to do something to alter it.
“Hey, Rose, how do you make demons do stuff? This thing is really going to kill me if we don’t do something soon. Do you have any destiny-altering spells or something?”
“Not like you’re hoping. Besides, I did everything I could already. So did Bunny. It’s up to you now.”
The lightning from the roots began to grow, singeing any metallic parts it made contact with. The shock looked like it was enough to kill the little metallic insects. The thing that was giving them life was also killing them indiscriminately.
I didn’t know what to do. I was running out of time. The chaotic arcs of electricity grew more frequent and closer together. They were slowly zeroing in on our position. I could feel the heat radiate on my skin as the crackling grew close to my ears. Rose and I backed up closer to each other. I could feel her shaking behind me.
Why would the beast kill its own creations? It seemed like the lightning was trying to electrocute the iron bugs just as much as it was trying to electrocute us. Their hard bodies curled up and withered, browning with rust as they leaked chemicals onto the floor. I watched a metal-origami moth get zapped with an ear-splitting crackle right in front of my face. It fell to the ground with a clang, right onto a puddle of another insect’s discarded acid. The moth’s corpse twitched and squirmed in the fluid, rusting until its movement was halted entirely. It began to dissolve into a silvery slush of what must be its base metals and compounds.
I had momentarily lost track of the snake-tongues, but now I see them. Their fuzzy projection-esque form slithered across the floor onto the pile of metal moth rot. It wrapped around the powders and fragments, just like it did with my arms, and began pulling it towards the mouth in the ceiling. The snakes all over the room were doing the same, bringing the decaying rot into its mouth. It was eating them.
It was hard to focus on this new revelation as the arcs of lightning began to burn. My face was intermittently struck by the tiny lightnings, like being stuck by pin pricks—pin pricks that consistently got wider and deeper. But, even then, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was beginning to figure it all out.
The Silver Beast was turning the metal parts in the warehouse alive. Those new metallic insects formed their own mini-ecosystem; interacting with one another and forming new compounds. They were then shocked by the mouth’s root-like tendrils and eaten. The base components it provided the mouth were then processed into the growing metal tendrils tangling around the building, causing all the lightning and thunder outside. This system was a system of life, there was no questioning it. And, if I’m to assume Biologist is correct, life loops endlessly. That seems to be the case here, but I’m missing a part of the loop: How is the beast turning the metal parts alive, and why is it growing out the tendrils? Well, if it forms a loop, then it should be a reasonable assumption that the tendrils are causing the life to form. That completes the cycle. Tendrils grow -> Parts turn into insects -> Insects grow and die -> Insects are processed into material -> Tendrils grow. In order to kill the beast, I have to sever the loop, somewhere. If one part of the process goes down, the rest has to go down with it.
A good path of logic I’d say, but it didn’t keep me from feeling bolts of painful electricity cascade through my body. The tesla-coil tendrils were becoming more and more intense as they began to recover from the blue bullets Rose fired into it. Those put a brief pause into the loop, but didn’t break it. We had to do something else, but it was hard. One wrong move and we’d be fried and eaten, just like that moth.
“What is it Rose?”
“I’m sorry, I’m really, really sorry; this is my fault. I should never have—”
She wasn’t able to finish the sentence. She was struck by a blinding flash of lightning, and unceremoniously collapsed to the ground.
I got onto the floor beside her, trying to wake her up. She was breathing, but hardly. That was the kind of shock that could fuck you up for the rest of your life. I was scared. Really, really scared. Maybe it was selfish of me, but I couldn’t keep from feeling like I was going to be next.
I huddled onto her, trying to protect her body with mine. I felt the painful circuits race up and down my spine as by back was being covered with tiny lightning strikes like droplets of rain. I saw my hands, burned and bleeding. I had to look away to not freak out anymore than I already was, but I’m glad I did.
I almost didn’t believe my eyes at first, but it was right there floating in the center of the room: my longsword. The shadowy tongues were pulling it up from the hole in the floor. They must have incorrectly identified it as food because of all the rust on it. Before I had time to react, it was already being carried into the giant, salivating mouth on the ceiling. It was inserted half-way in the mouth cavity before it seemed to have gotten stuck. The oily, acidic chemicals dripping from the mouth coated the outside, mixed with a bit of the blue foam from before. The mixture dripped and slid down the blade, corroding it with the metal-digesting fluids. Scraps of dirty brown and black flecked and peeled off the sword like the papery skin of an onion.
As the outer layer of grime was digested off the blade, I was able to see what it truly looked like for the first time. It was white and black striped, like a zebra. The black stripes blended into the dark room as perfectly as the white stripes were camouflaged by the hot-white lightning racing around me.
The mouth must have given up trying to digest the longsword and dropped it onto the ground. It began to act like a lightning rod, attracting all the arcs of lightning in the room to itself. The blade began glowing hot white, though emanating an ominous black aura. I only had one idea, and as stupid as it may have been, I didn’t have time to wait for a second one.
I sprinted over to it, ducking through the arcs swirling through the room, and grabbed onto the hilt. It felt so much lighter than before. Lifting it into the air, I moved all the lightning in the room towards it—away from Rose.
This didn’t feel like a normal sword anymore. It was physically lighter, but something about it seemed even heavier than before. The black and white stripes seemed to change every time I looked at it, and the closer I looked, the more confusing the striped pattern seemed. As I slowly moved it from side to side in the air, the lightning arcs from the tendrils followed obediently. I didn’t realize it at first, but the lightning was being sucked into the blade. I was in control now.
The beast wasn’t a perpetual electricity engine. That’s not how life works. Eventually, it had eaten all the charred metal bug scraps it could. There was nothing else feeding it power. The tesla coil roots wrapped around the room began to simmer down. Their arcs were becoming malnourished, no longer holding the energy they used to. Soon, my sword had sucked them dry of electricity.
The blade was glowing hot, radiating heat that made me sweat. I don’t wanna know what would happen if I had touched it. Even though I was starving it now, if I gave the beast enough time to recover, it probably would. I need to end this now.
I pointed the tip of the longsword up at the fading silver eye in the middle of the mouth. The eye began to flicker bright and dark, pulsing erratically. I thought it was going to pop like a broken light bulb. Instead, something weirder happened.
The sword started to cleave at the tip. A seam split all the way down the middle. The entire blade was split into two halves, like it was being unzipped. Inside the open middle was a small silver ring suspended in the air between the halves of the sword. Inscribed around the ring’s edge was the word PELE. It quickly started to grow in size. Within seconds, the ring that could have fit on my pinkie was now bigger around than my arm, floating in the middle of the room. It was a perfect ring, torus, loop.
Reflected in its metallic sheen I could see myself. I could see Rose lying in pain on the floor. I could see Bunny’s frightened face. I could see Martin’s lifeless body. As it grew, I could see more inside of it. It was full of oil and chemicals, skittering bugs and worms, a lightning storm. It contained a cityscape, built out of purified silver—ruled by angels of machinations. The acid sea glistened, mechanical alloy dolphins played in the foam under a hot silver sun. It was beautiful. If I kept staring into the ring, I felt like I would lose myself inside of it. I’d never come back. This was the loop of the Silver Chromatic Beast. It was now massive, hardly still fitting in the room. It hung in front of me, like a giant letter O.
It beckoned me to come inside. Maybe in that world, I’d have a purpose. Maybe the arduinos and electronic toys I build that are so meaningless here would become beautiful creations there. I could be an angel myself, one like Biologist. It tempted me. I wanted to go inside, but... I didn’t want to leave my friends. My blade zipped back up in the middle, forming itself into a whole again. The ring held in front of me pleaded silently for me to enter, but I didn’t listen. I knew too well what I had to do.
With the force of a lumberjack, I slammed my blade into the bottom-right corner of the ring. It sparked and sent lightning all over the room, acid dripped from the cut like tears of a world that never got to be. I didn’t falter, continuing to cut through the metal worldflesh. From one clean strike, I sliced clean through the ring. The stroke of my blade was drawn in the air, a diagonal line from its center to my lower-right side. The loop was severed.