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XII. The Down Under

He imagined hell a lot as a kid, growing up in a time when an established global community was brought to its knees by problems thought to have been delegated to generations past.

But in all the hells he had lived, never had he seen one like this.

They traveled down for what seemed like a day, getting to rest for a few hours in a carved out niche that couldn't even be considered a cubbyhole for the monstrous yawing cavern that lay out before them.

Just a dark stair leading to any demon from any time, he wondered if it would ever end.

As he walked Mary came and spoke to him from time to time, she seemed to enjoy the suspicious looks he got from the guinea pogs when she did. He even caught Butterscotch staring at him with hate in his old golden eyes. Soon it was decided that a line of dead pogs including Cheeks stayed between him and the other prisoners.

“For your own safety of course” Mary assured him, and with each step he found he wanted to know more and he also loathed himself for appearing to side with these… monsters.

Just bide your time, he told himself. He was not a monster.

He didn’t know how long had passed before a light glow could be seen from the lip of the stair. Feeling a little brave, he stuck his head out and looked down to see some sort of blue bioluminescence beginning to break up the perfect black of the hole.

“You're not in Kansas anymore” he muttered to himself and kept his trudging march down the ever winding stair.

As the party lowered, what he had earlier assumed to be small glowing plants turned into gigantic ones; he found the colossal blue mushrooms to be strangely phallic shaped and as large as any tree he had ever seen. Smaller mushrooms of differing colors seemed to cluster at the bases of the blue giants and every so often he saw small creatures scurrying in the dark.

“It's called the Down Under.” Mary said, coming up from behind him.

“It is my home.” she added, and waved her hand out expansively.

“It's… beautiful.” he said without thinking and immediately regretted it.

Mary grabbed his hand at this. “You feel a kinship here, do not be ashamed.” She dropped his hand and headed back to the head of the column.

For another day they continued their march through the forest of blue mushrooms, until they came upon a giant hollowed tunnel in the side of the great underground world.

The cave was perfectly circular and looked like one of those crazy boring machines had cut it, except it was nearly 100 feet in every direction, he marveled at the size. What could have made this?

One of the pogs saw his gawk and answered with a bit of venom in her tone.

“Surprised a traitor like you doesn't know about the great worms.” she spat.

“I'm not -” he started and stopped as a whip reached out from the dark and struck the pog on her face tearing her cheek from the bone and leaving the pog prostrate and bleeding on the cold stone. Some of the other pogs started to help her up when a hiss in the dark answered.

“Leave her.” It said and two zombie pogs appeared and stood over the withering female.

“Let the first creature that wants her take her, but do not let her leave on her own power.”

The undead did not respond, but they will obey.

What a cruel race of beings he thought to himself as he jogged to catch up with his line of guards. Wait, did he say ‘his?

When they slept, his only dreams were of the strange stepford existence, and the fake perfect life that seemed to grow and grow in more complexity each day.

In his most recent vision, he imagined his team where he worked were all dedicated to flushing out a fake and storied social media presence for this fun and exciting life he had never led. He found himself posing with beautiful women and going to eat at only the finest dining restaurants, making sure to take a picture before every meal.

Documentation is the most important part after all, right?

He awoke exhausted and followed the strange carnival of death for another morning when at last in a great cavern so large it seemed to have its own weather, he and the other captives stood on a hill and looked down to see a great city of death.

Aztec-like pyramids filled the black stone streets, and in the strange glow, of which he could not place its source, he could see the stone all had a sick sheen of crimson.

This was the city of the dead.


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