Chapter 1: The Scar in the Sky
The effects of the long weekend were making my eyelids several times heavier than they normally were. I cracked my knuckles against the side of my head and forced my eyes to refocus on the long stretch of highway in front of me. I drummed on the top of the steering wheel and rung my hands back and forth on the leather. The wheel squeaked as I did and yet again I felt my eyelids begin to droop. I slapped my cheek and immediately wished I had used some restraint as my ear started ringing. I rubbed my jaw and squinted into the blinding sunlight that awaited me. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was a glowing orb of red, hovering just above the horizon. I had meant to get on the road earlier so I wasn’t driving into the blinding inferno but a heavy anchor named hangover had kept me securely tethered to my old college house until late afternoon. The weekends where all five of my college roommates were able to gather in the same place were always the most fun but they were also the most destructive to my body. The though of the amount of alcohol I had drank sent a fresh bolt of pain through my head and wave of nausea across my gut. I scanned the road in front of and behind me and, finding them both empty, reached down to pull a small baggie and pipe out from under the passenger seat. It only took me a few moments to fill the pipe with the sticky green from the bag and a dug a lighter out of my pocket. I was raising the bowl to my lips for the first toke when the scar caught my eye.
I had overlooked it so many times because the scar was sliced across the rich blue sky just above the blazing sun. As my eyes finally settled on the line across the sky, I tried to convince myself that it was just an odd line of clouds. From where I sat, the scar looked like it was twenty feet tall and only about two feet wide but, whatever it was, was obviously huge. After a few minutes of trying to peel back the sunlight to get a better look at the line, I realized that it wasn’t clouds. The scar was black, black from the very top to the very bottom. If it had really been a line of clouds it would have been white or bright orange and pink from the setting sun. Checking once again to make sure that the road was clear, I shifted my gaze to the line and realized that what I was looking at was a scar in the sky. I glanced down at the pipe in my hand to make certain I hadn’t smoked any and looked at the scar again. It was a large cut, splitting the sky as cleanly as a razor blade could flay flesh. The deep darkness that pooled inside the wound seemed to shiver and wave in the air, threatening to overflow into the crystal blue that surrounded it. The longer I stared at the scar, the more it mesmerized me. Flecks of flickering white swirled through the black shadows, threatening to pull me and my car into the void. I realized I needed to check the road the moment the giant fingers pushed their way from the void beyond the scar and into our world.
I felt my jaw drop and I tightened my grip on the wheel as my car threatened to swerve off the road. Yellowed, aged finger nails caked in black dirt pushed their way out of the realm behind the scar and into the real world. Fear and confusion paralyzed me and the only way I managed to stay on the road was the fact that it felt like my hands were welded to the steering wheel. I almost managed to tear my eyes away from the scar but a terrible screeching sound held my attention. The ear splitting shriek, like metal raking across metal, split the sky. I searched the horizon for the source of the sound. It wasn’t until I looked back at the scar that I realized what was happening. In the few moments I had looked away, whatever was one the other side of the hole had ripped the scar open wider. The black wound had grown in both height and width and a giant, bloodshot eye peered between the fingers. The large black pupil bounced around the eye, taking in as much of my world as it possibly could. Fear compelled me to look away from the creature which meant fear also saved three lives because if I had looked down just a second later, I would have never been able to swerve around the two people standing in the middle of the road.
I only got a glimpse of them before I wretched the wheel to the right. Both stood with their backs to my car, looking at the same unnatural phenomenon that had mesmerized me. The man on the left was a large, broad shouldered man clad in some form of armor. A large sword hung loosely from the man’s left hand as he studied the creature pulling itself out of the sky. The other figure was half the size of the first man. The figure’s head reached the other man’s hip but a bushy, red afro rose from his head to the other figure’s shoulder. The second figure’s feet were tired to two sawed off logs so he was even shorter than he looked. That was all my eyes could focus on before I swerved around the men. My head smacked into the window as my car tore through the guardrail and down the ditch next to the road. I reached for the brake but, dazed from the blow to the head, missed and my Chevy Cobalt shot up the other side of the ditch. The car left the ground, using the ditch as a ramp, and spun sideways. Mercifully, the car landed passenger side down and metal shrieked as the entire left side of the car rose to meet me. Air bags exploded in my face and I saw stars. The stench and pain that accompanied airbag deployment were the last things I remembered before blacking out.
The next thing I knew, voices pushed their way through a cloud of blackness and a pained groan escaped my lips. Somebody unbuckled my seatbelt and a strong hand on my chest kept me from falling to the bottom of the car. A set of strong hands grabbed me under the armpits and second set of smaller hands found a way to help drag me out of the shattered car window. I felt grass under my palms as the two men laid me next to my ruined car. I opened my eyes but the blinding sunlight and throbbing headache turned every solid into a shadowy blob. I tried to look back at my ruined car but a hand pushed my upper body back to the ground.
“He’s waking up,” a deep gravelly voice said.
“Already?” asked a second, high pitched voice. “He’s a tough one, that was a pretty bad crash.” Thunder exploded above me which struck me as odd and the owner of the high pitched voice let out a squeal. “Avalar, we can’t worry about him right now, the Chaos Giant is almost all the way through.”
“How do you know that already?” the first man, Avalar, asked as a second round of thunder exploded.
“Look around,” the second voice squeaked. “Did you not hear that last explosion? Did you not notice that was thunder?”
“So?” Avalar asked. I squinted my eyes which managed to turn the shadowy, colored blobs surrounding me into slightly more defined shadowy, colored blobs. As my senses started to fall back into synch, I could smell the oily black smoke rolling off of my wrecked car. The two men talking, who I assumed to be the men from the road, stood above me. The larger, armored man had short, cropped hair and was clearly wearing an ornate suit of armor. The other man, the short one, was not peering down at me like Avalar was. The other man was pacing back and forth, looking from the sky back to me and then back to the sky. A pair sunglasses sat perched on the man’s nose and I thought he was wearing headphones.
“Well, I’m not sure if you noticed but it’s a beautiful, cloudless day,” the second man said. “There is not supposed to be thunder right now nor are there supposed to be strikes of lightning which seem to be happening all over the sky. Nature is falling apart Avalar which means it’s a god damn Chaos Giant.” The man’s voice cracked as he spoke and he put his hands on Avalar’s shoulders, trying to shake the larger man. Avalar planted a hand on the man’s chest and shoved him backwards, out of my view.
“I told you not to touch me Crenshaw, ever,” Avalar snarled. He turned towards me and as his shoulders caught the sunlight, I saw the shadows of small flowers and trees burrowing themselves out of the armor on Avalar’s shoulders. “Everything I own is going to be covered in fucking flowers.”
“I’m sorry, I lose control when I come in contact with Objects of Order,” Crenshaw squeaked. “But look around, nature is unraveling here which can only mean one thing, that the creature that is slowly crawling through the sky is a Chaos Giant.” The afro once again appeared in my line of vision but disappeared quickly as Crenshaw turned to check on the scar again. Avalar leaned down to check my pulse. “And it’s almost all the way through.”
“There has been not enough time for it to cross over, we don’t have to worry,” Avalar said. His breath was hot on my face and smelt strongly of tobacco. He pulled my eyelids all the way open with his fingers, peering at my pupils. “Are you alright? Are you awake?”
“Awake,” I stammered. It was the only thing my lips coud form and my voice would say.
“Avalar, you need to look at this,” Crenshaw said. Another thunder explosion shook the air and electricity crackled as a bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree. Avalar pushed himself to his feet and spun around.
“Son of a bitch it’s almost through,” Avalar said, his voice dropping an octave. His right hand reached down to clutch the hilt of his sword and metal rang out as he pulled it from its sheath.
“I know, we need to stop it now,” Crenshaw said. He back into view and I saw a twisting wooden staff in his right hand. A small, green gem shown in the sunlight at the top of the staff, caught between three spiraled branches of wood. “If it breaks through I don’t know if we can stop it alone.”
“What are we going to do with him?” Avalar asked. The pain in my head forced my eyes closed leaving me with only voices.
“The human?” Crenshaw asked. “Who cares what we do with him, he’s human. As long as we don’t let the giant through he won’t be the wiser about anything that happened.”
“I think he’s different Shaw,” Avalar said through more thunder.
“Why, because it looked like he crashed to avoid hitting us?” Crenshaw asked with a scoff. “He could have crashed for any number of reasons. It just happened to look like he avoided us because he can’t see us.”
“Then why could we move him Crenshaw? Why could we touch him and save his life? There is something different about this one and you know it, you’re just too scared to admit it. We need to ask him some questions which means while we are fighting, he can’t run away,” Avalar said.
“Well we don’t have time to bind him, we have to move now,” Crenshaw said.
“Fine,” Avalar said. My foggy brain managed to piece together what was about to happen four seconds too late. As Avalar turned towards me and I opened my mouth to start searching for words. Avalar’s arm flashed through the air.
“No don’t,” I managed to say before his fist connected with my forehead. For the second time in twenty minutes, the only thing I saw was stars until I slipped down into inky, black unconsciousness.