Writing Prompt #29 — Incredible Man and the Eldritch Villain

Prompt: An unstoppable hero sees something that drives them insane. Describe what ensues. 

The day was sunny, the people were happy, the world itself seemed to smile. Incredible Man zipped past the skyscrapers, waving to those who saw him on the streets. His brilliantly white teeth shined underneath the sun, his bright blue eyes gleamed, and his perfectly set black hair blew in the breeze. Beyond the city he made his rounds at the suburbs, then the lesser downtrodden areas of the city. With his sculpted, muscular arms he stopped a car-jacking, a robbery, and convinced a drug addict to find himself some help. It appeared no matter where Incredible Man went, or who he spoke to, something great happened because of it, as if his presence was enough to end the world of misery and pain.

Suddenly, he felt a disruption in the air. He had keen senses, that of a hundred men. He sniffled the air and smelt a waft of decay.

“Hm…” he said, looking towards the horizon, then smiled when he realized it didn’t matter what caused the disruption, nothing could stand against Incredible Man. He knew this, the people of the world knew this. No villain could rival him. Smiling, he kicked up off the ground, and zipped towards where the disruption was coming from.

As the long stretch of highway and desert blurred below him, the stench of decay grew stronger, the air felt thick, palpable. Incredible Man slowed his flight and realized that the tar of the highway was marked with deep, carved out symbols that not even he could understand. Which he found odd, as he was born many, many years ago, and he could read every language easily, from Latin to Old Chinese to Gaelic. And although they reminded him of Nordic runes, they didn’t read like them, no matter how much he tried. They just looked, and weirdly made him feel… off.

He faced ahead again and picked up his speed. It didn’t matter, he thought as he smiled, they were just gibberish anyway.

The blue sky ebbed into a dark fuchsia, then an even darker crimson. It was like the sun was the heart and gradually its beat slowed and slowed, the sky surrounding it dying. Before Incredible Man realized, night had fallen, but there were no stars, there was no moon, there was nothing but utter blackness that stretched on eternally. The symbols carved into the road glowed like dying embers, waves of soft, fiery light illuminating the tar and sand. Even the temperature dropped to frigid levels, despite being in the desert.

No matter, he thought, I can see in the dark perfectly, and I can hardly feel the cold.

Incredible Man increased his speed.

Immediately he felt the presence, the immense weight of something miles ahead. Even his night vision couldn’t see what it was in the distance. He slowed, then as the vibrations in the air became like flying in a thick gelatin, he stopped. The symbols below were deeper here and glowed even more hideously. They appeared to be lined with fire at the bottom, sending queer shadows onto the road and sand, and before Incredible Man looked away, he thought he saw someone move in the darkness.

“Who goes there?” Incredible Man shouted into the darkness ahead of him. “I am Incredible Man, Savor of Mankind and Protector of What is Good and Just!”

Silence followed, the stillness weighing down upon him like lead.

“I asked, ‘Who goes there?’, it is proper to announce who you are villain before I vanquish you!”

A gaunt man shuffled out of the darkness. A soft glow radiated from him, as if he was a conduit of light. He held a gnarled staff in his hand, that he leaned against. The long, silvery hair that rimmed his bald head flowed down over his shoulders. His gray, cataract eyes stared up at Incredible Man.

“You?” Incredible Man asked.

“Yes, me,” the old man said, as if he were sighing, “I have aged since our last battle, but since then I have not been idle.”

“Disastrous, Dangerous Darath!” He smiled, laughing. “You’re an old fool now! Is this what I sensed in the city? You?” He pointed, holding his stomach, doubling over. “What could you possibly do to me, the Mighty Incredible Man, in your state? Beat me in cribbage?”

“I have made a pact with a force much more powerful than I ever was, much more powerful than you ever will be. It costed me my sight, mind and youth, but it was far worth it to vanquish you.”

Incredible Man looked up. “Nothing is more powerful than me.”

The old man grinned, and tapped the road. The symbols ignited with fire and the shadows grew thicker, enveloping him.

“Darath!” He strained his eyes, searching the darkness, finding nothing. “You run away from battle! Coward! How could you call yourself my rival when—”

His words were caught in his throat when the horizon, the overcast, the world itself came alive with blaring, jarring kaleidoscopic colors that blinded Incredible Man. He winced, rubbed his eyes, and opened them again. Before— above, maybe, for its body, its form, seemed to be both above and before, and below and to both his sides— he couldn’t understand, see, it clearly. It was a maelstrom, it was an enormous swirling vat, it was a circular maw with layers upon layers upon layers upon… of fleshy, blackened gums, lined with— teeming with things, people, creatures.

Incredible Man’s body dropped to the ground like lead, collapsing onto his knees. A numbness he had never felt before clawed up his legs, settled into his chest. His muscles felt hard, lumpy, as if filled with stones, then slowly, like deflating balloons, shrunk. His hair came undone, hung near his eyes, and slowly slowly turned from black to gray.

The things inside rotated counterclockwise, their arms, their appendages, the things raised above their heads swaying like reeds underwater, reached out for help, they were pleading, Incredible Man knew, to be rescued from the hell they were a part of. There were holes, torn crevices, in their heads — or what could be considered heads — and a guttural, low, moaning echoed, droned out, washed over Incredible Man’s hypersensitive hearing.

A brilliant, blinding white light appeared in the center of the maw, shooting shadows across the road and sand of the thousands of helpless souls prisoned within its mouth. Incredible Man sat in the center, gripping his head, tears streaming down his face, blood trickling from his nose, eyes, and ears. His lungs burned and his heart pounded against his chest. A black seam appeared down the blinding white light and, as if it were an onion, two layers peeled back to reveal— to reveal… Incredible Man didn’t know, couldn’t know, couldn’t decipher the hellish, what he believed to be, eye. He started to scream nonsense, scream words that made no sense, words that weren’t real; sentences that even a baby would think was nonsense.

The eyes of Incredible Man widened, so wide they seemed to stretch to his hairline and to his jaw, and what was beyond in the holes in his skull were not his eyes any longer, they were swirling vats, maelstroms of pain, they were lined with blackened, fleshy gums that held prison thousands of things that screamed for release, screamed for the suffering to end.

Read my previous prompt, “He Has Risen, He Has Risen…

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