Prepared 20-Vignette

Content Warning: Graphic descriptions of gore.

A Marvelous Surprise.


So much violence. He could see it in his head, all the possibilities of carnage spread out before him. Here, a disemboweled corpse; there, a decapitation. Sprays of blood, arcing in the air, glistening in the light. The crunch of bone snapping, echoing off the buildings, the violent threshing of consumption as he tore down flesh into viscera and absorbed it into himself.

Ah, but now was not the time to be losing himself in his fantasies. Not when they would so soon become realized.

The angel was speaking to him. It had been for quite some time now, since he’d arrived.

It’s right there, it was saying. Take it. Take it and go, and watch them destroy themselves. The golden figure hovered to his side, wreathing the area around them in light.

“But if I do,” he rumbled, “then I won’t get to witness what happens if she does open it. Didn’t you want me to “spread the light?””

Not like this. Not here, not now. Retrieve it and we can allow it to spread, controlled and measured, and far farther than we could here.

“Well, I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake there,” he chuckled. “You’ve offered carnage later instead of carnage now, but I’m a man of simple pleasures, and a bird in the hand and whatnot.”

“What the fuck are you talking about!” Miranda Callas screamed at him, her head whipping back and forth between him and the man with the white tie. “Who the fuck are you talking to?”

We’ve come so far, the angel said. Don’t throw this away now.

“Hm,” said the man in the white tie. “Interesting. So you’ve resorted to insane people now.” He didn’t address the man, though. He talked to the angel.

It spun around to look at him, and froze there for a solid second. Then, it faded away into nothing. “Interesting,” he echoed the other man. “I’d assumed it was a figment of my imagination.”

“You have no idea, do you.” The smaller man reached up and adjusted his glasses, dispassionate.

“Oh, I know enough.” He bared his teeth in something passably resembling a grin. “Enough to be excited for the possibilities.”

“Both of you,” boomed the voice of one of the heroes. Man, tall, grey suit, “step away from her right now.”

“You,” the white tie said flatly, “are nearly as bad as him. If you had even the slightest inkling of what could happen here, you would hand the datapad over to me with a smile and a pat on the back.”

“Then why don’t you tell us and save us the hassle?”

“I can do better,” the man interrupted. “Let’s all find out together.”

Shockwaves tore through the space where he’d been standing a moment ago, but he was already gone, disintegrating into his other form. In an instant, he was on top of Callas, but shadows melted up from the ground and surrounded her, whisking her a few feet away. They swallowed him too, and he could feel their power pressing down against his, attempting to smother him. Then they withdrew, taking a few chunks of him with them. The white tie was standing exactly where he had been, now only inches away, looking unruffled. He flicked a hand, and shadow rose to protect him, a half shell that deflected the oncoming rush. The onslaught continued for a moment, before more shockwaves forced them to separate. He shifted back just before landing, to give another almost-grin.

“Enough.” The voice was robotic, and he glanced to the side to see the large robot glowing green.

Weight slammed into him from above, crushing him to the ground, unlike anything he’d ever felt. And then it increased even further, driving him into the concrete hard enough to begin making a crater. Next to him, he could see the white tie, wreathed in darkness and apparently not under anywhere near the same amount of pressure as him, but still unable to move.

“You both obviously have a high opinion of yourself,” the robotic voice said, “but you’re outnumbered and overpowered, and no amount of pretentious bluster and trying to sound like a robot can change that.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he managed to grind out, his bones creaking against the pressure. “I’ve always considered myself rather humble.”

In a blink, he was standing next to Callas, a few meters away. She screamed and tried to teleport, but he followed her and encircled her handless arm in a meaty fist. A squeeze, and it shattered and pulped, causing her scream to leap upwards in pitch and intensity. With his other hand, he plucked the datapad out of her now-loose grasp. Turning on the screen greeted him with a wall of scrolling text, but the angel had been overzealous, and shown him the key. “Now,” he said, facing the screen away from himself, “shall we have a demonstration?”

And before she could avert her gaze, he shoved the open datapad right in front of her eyes.

She froze, locked in place, and let her arm go, watching with baited breath. Her eyes shook in their sockets, as if they were desperately trying to look away, but physically couldn’t. Slowly, painfully, her mouth forced itself open, and another scream wrenched its way out. This one, though, wasn’t like the previous ones. It was glorious: an inhumane cacophony of pain that simply could not be produced by the human body alone. He basked in the sound, letting it wash over him as everyone else recoiled and covered their ears.

Like her strings had been cut, she suddenly staggered backwards, still screaming. Blood began to stream from her eyes, running down her face and dripping onto the ground. With a horrific, wrenching crunch, something inside her snapped, a splurt of crimson shooting out as parts of her assumed new angles that said parts should never be at. The snapping continued, choking the scream and growing faster and more violent as her form grew increasingly contorted. And then, as quickly as it had begun, she collapsed to the ground, absolutely still as blood began to pool around her.

It had taken maybe five seconds.

“Well,” he said, as everyone around him stared in horror, “that was disappointing.” He glanced around, and found that the nearest hero to him was a woman in golden armor. “Let’s try that-” and he was beside her now “-again.”

His free hand dissolved into a whirling storm and chewed through the armor around her throat and face, before reforming and grasping her by the neck and lifting her into the air. Her wings came around and speared through him, but, undeterred, he lifted the datapad into her face.

“-what?” she whispered, sounding confused. “I don’t-”

Her entire form rippled once, smoothly. Her armor flickered and disappeared, then her wings a moment later. He dropped her and stepped back.

“Paladin?!” the grey hero cried.

“I’m-” she managed to choke out. “I think I’m-”

A shard of golden light, identical to her armor, speared out of her face, bisecting it in uneven halves. More shards began emerging, bursting or slicing out of her, some appearing like warped and distorted pieces of her armor or her wings. She jerked and convulsed, but no blood came out this time. Her flesh didn’t fall away, either, but it did start to seem more… spread-out. The golden light was holding it together, creating bridges and pathways between chunks of muscles and bone, and within moments, her form had doubled or tripled in size, now more parts light than flesh.

It didn’t look like a human anymore. It was misshapen, limbs all different sizes and proportions, torso twisted and mangled, hunched over on all fours. The part that contained chunks of skull and brain matter barely even resembled a head, the only indicator being the two eyeballs suspending in light at uneven heights.

The monster, because there was no better word for it, staggered to its feet and let out its own unnatural scream, far, far louder than the last one, enough to make the buildings around them rattle and shake.

“Beautiful,” he whispered.

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