Genesis

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My body rips apart.

My chest shatters and sprays shards of ribs through my torso. My legs fold over themselves under me, and my throat is sliced open, letting cold air rush through my insides. A white-hot ring impales my ears and forces itself through my head.

I look down at myself. My body is all okay. White agony drills through me like a fire, but my limbs are all in the right place and my chest hasn't exploded into my sides, no matter how much it feels like it has.

My head pulsates. Then, the pain melts away and my mind clears from its hold.

I crane my head up and look at the picture before me. The two guards that had carried me are still holding me, but they aren't... moving. At all. They're not standing still either. They look stuck, half-bent down to lift me up, eyes wide open, pupils dilated. Behind them spreads a black legion of other guards, all still.

Time seems to have stopped.

What is happening?

I look around. Lilitu is caught in mid-air, her hair and horns obscuring her face.

It's all so still. And painless. A silky calm enters my body and unravels itself. Time really has stopped.

Lilitu rotates in the air so slowly it's almost unnoticeable, but she is moving. She wasn't before. Her horns grow, too, slowly extending from her head like pale branches. The top of her head flushes white. She's moving faster now, faster than before. Pain hits the side of my head and I wince. The guards rake through the air as if it's pushing them back. The two guards closest to me tighten their grasp on my ankles. The pain in my head radiates across my forehead and down my neck. With every second, everyone's movements drag themselves back to a faster and faster speed, and I can't do anything but stare.

The bone-shattering agony slithers back into my chest.

Dark shadows appear near the ceiling. There's a good dozen of them, materialising out of nowhere, like blurry, hovering puddles. They slowly take on a vague shape, but I don't know what they are-

My body catches on fire. I shriek.

Time whips back into normal speed. The guards snap back into their rush. I'm hauled up into their arms as they bolt onwards, their boots booming against the floor.

Blackness streams out from the shadows under the ceiling. Inhuman cries fill the hallway. I flinch to cover my ears but my hand is immobilised. My flesh pulls itself apart, and I scream so much my throat bleeds.

Black and white horns, dark wings, and lanky, monochrome, stretched-out bodies flash amongst the guards. They yell and run each other over. The winged, horned figures hurl themselves at the guards, but the men's screams are drowned out by the creatures' own shrills.

Demons. Demons. Dozens of them, twisted, mangled bodies, sharp teeth, and eyes like starving wells. They drop down from the shadows, screeching in hunger and ecstasy, taking the guards down to the ground with their black claws.

The demons tear at the guards, ripping out their weapons, snapping their jaws, furiously yanking and twisting their arms like they are nothing more than ragdolls. The creatures are beyond vicious. Tearing out the guards' limbs, throwing their bodies against the walls and ploughing through them on all-fours, they are unstoppable. Blood spatters everywhere. The smell of iron fills my nose. I gag. I'm so overwhelmed the agony piercing through my cells barely registers.

They are massacring them.

The guards carrying me glance over their shoulders desperately, and the sight makes them trip over and let go off me. I hit the ground and so do they. I brace my blackened hand against the floor and attempt to crawl away, although there isn't much space anywhere else, because the guards are trying to run for their lives, turning the whole hall into a stampede. They're going to crush my skull if I stay on the floor for any longer.

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