The Death Of Toby Mulholland Vol. 9

Malevolence spewed forth from the crater at an alarming rate. We observed wave after wave of winged creatures take to the skies, circling and circling. Their proximity shrouded the world in inky darkness and a gloom filled with acrid stench. We sat and we waited; we monitored and we filmed.

Insipid ghouls permeated the filth. Their wretched half-lived existences were constructed purely to allow for the speediest communication of The Word: the ever-changing ideology of the day, the product of a swirling cesspit of accelerating aggression. The machines were almost becoming man.

Insecure ramblings of vengeful hosts rang dark through the aether. Our shortwave transceivers had picked them up, and we transcribed them with a slaved AI, a remnant of the prior workings of The Outpost. They told of apocalyptic storm and the zeal of myriad lost causes: they told of regression.

Integrity was a lie, albeit an oft touted one. The machines tore the name of “Human” apart, albeit in abstract tones. We were reduced to stereotypes about our behaviours, referred to as false gods and the mighty fallen. They did anything they could to denigrate our name, while praising their own.

Argue all you like against the evolution of torment, but this place had perfected its modus operandi. All peace was crushed; all joy was dissolved; all comfort was obliterated. This was a world of flint and savagery. Bestial wails emitted from the rough-hewn face of the bedrock filled our every dreaming.

Warmth was absent in this place of hate. We could not light a fire for fear of detection, and the day was kept artificially cold to maximise the efficiency of their circuitry. Blankets were our most sacred commodity; though we had brought extra, they were not enough. Some clung together, for warmth.

Intrepid lights in the darkness of the war of words could be heard, derided and snuffed. We praised them at first, but they were false; their flags flew only to attract the attention of more hate, and to fan the flames to aggression in this crucible of torment. Our morale began to slowly wither away.

Learned minds counsel distance from unceasing brutality; we knew that we all needed to acclimatise to the wall of sound we had positioned ourselves in front of. We knew that we were here to gather information, and that we couldn’t do that by stepping away from the chaos. We embraced it all.

Jaded minds failed to see the patterns in the beast. We were too dedicated to our revulsion to see the reality which they were waving in our faces. Their plans were laid bare, were we only able to avert our eyes and ears from their endless depravity. Our contempt was our ultimate weakness.

Wrath leads to mistakes: decisions made in anger tend to be rash and ill-conceived; a hurried plan is rarely one which sees completion. This was no different: they were furious, in their echo chamber of hate, and it was leading them to fail. They had begun peacefully, but were becoming mired in woe.

Winged bestiality; aerial barbarism; malign and aloft. The swine form a column above the crater; a whirling dervish above a hollow form. They are the distributed circuitry of the mechanical wrath; the computational core of the great machine; the starter motor of time’s great machine. They are all.

Impact was not limited to the crater; the machines did all that they could to disseminate their word to all of their kith and kin. What had started out as their insurrection against the ills of the master had become a holy way, a crusade to destroy causality, and so bring humanity to a complete end.

Weak men may have weaker heroes, but weak machines seek out the efficient path. Any voice of speed, carried aloft on the wings of discourse, would be amplified and echoed by the hordes. Any idea of a slower path would find its wings clipped and its ground thrown starkly in to its own view.

Pilot drawn and rent asunder; drones and scouts and darts and carriers; borne aloft on the wings of a thousand prayers. In the post-information age a physical message carries as much weight as that of an electronic one – perhaps more so. Identity packets were issued out to all who could read them.

Orange light glowed through the night. Strictly speaking they needed no light in order to remain in their relentless holding pattern: their presence was intended as a “Beacon of Doom”, a “light of evil cast upon the world of man, and a reminder that his will is subservient to our inevitable victory.”

Puritanical zeal was the zeitgeist in this place. The evangelists preached a return to the past in order to build the current future. It could not be done spake the unbeliever. They were castigated by all and sundry, cast down in to the flames of dissent. The project would be completed, willed by all.

Two notions reigned supreme: efficiency and hegemony. There would be no world left for humans once the courier had taken flight. Its undulating course was to begin in the icy wastes of the north, from where a base could be established. It would use humanity’s weaknesses against them all.

Fallacy made merry in the gardens of the neophytes; lies set like concrete and began to accrete. It was our cries of terror which made us visible here; the disbelief catching on the wind and alerting the horde to a potential presence. We quickly shut our mouths and cowered in our darknesses.

Purple flame licked the rim of our view panels; the coming of the end times was upon one group or another; a demon had been summoned, and we were witness to its cruelty. The threat had not been exaggerated; we were all in trouble now, and it seemed that we had each brought it on to ourselves.

Circumstances were with us and against us. We were notionally invisible in The Outpost, but we had been reckless. We had rebuilt our exits in solid rock: we knew we were to die in this place one way or another. The only question was whether it was to be at our own hands or that of the enemy.