At the peaks of illegible lights, above the crater of Crater Park and floating with its floating isle, Marthreek squatted atop a two or three story house that was crafted like dome amongst the calculated ruins of the black cloud. Wingless red birds dived in and out of the darkness, their bodies thinner than before, with a pallor. At this height of Above, the dragon-worms were scattered, barely showing, and all the caravans were nowhere to be found. Glowing materials on the sides of the dome kept back the gloomy cloud that crept everywhere else, save a nearby tower of foreign machinery going up five stories with closed entry.
The towering mechanism, chiseled with the pieces of its function, put out smog in all directions from the border of each cube-layer. Masses of thick, black cables connected to the tall mechanical building and traveled out of visibility. Underneath the cables, cloaked figures with long, white and violet claws stirred around the tower like working zombies, as if they were stuck halfway in some dream-state.
Marthreek's voice came from the three twitching question marks which served as his head, "Wrongly.. and longly."
One of the cloaked workers poured some green liquid out of a bucket into a nearby valve; steam immediately followed with creaks and what sounded like oven timers with low batteries, the machine emitting some fragile admission of its age. Colored sand poured out from the bottom edges of the machine; falling in reds, golds, and greens like Christmas for the abyss. One of the violet-clawed workers knelt down, grasping at the falling sand in futility-- while another worker had caught a wingless red bird in its claw and inspected it.
Abbadon's voice bellowed through the machine, "I don't trust Malluso anymore."
"Do you think I care?" Marthreek said cheekily with a chuckle. "You can do nothing to me right now."
"Your existence hinges on him, so he must've done as he was supposed to." The h'ragon's voice shook the tower.
"It doesn't matter much to me either way." Marthreek stared at his pointy leather shoes, with three points on each of them now, instead of one. The strange man had formed a compass with his feet.
"When I get out of here.. I'm going to eat you!" Abbadon howled.
"We'll see if it leaves you with a mouth." Marthreek stood up and laughed, and then backflipped into the surrounding black fog.
* * *
Lacie looked outside at the mall's aged parking-lot underneath a black and starry sky. The fading makeup of the wrinkled gravel gave view to a distant bent-up shopping cart, further from that, the mysterious ruins of some building's foundation. The outside was more ordinary though, and she hoped it might be an exit or lead to one. So the girl decided to leave the weird and wild mall behind, saying no goodbye to the two punk rockers, and heading through the nearest doorway.
None of the buildings in the landscape had animation like before, nor were they mixed with Japanese buildings like before. Nor did the breeze move in different directions, rather just bursts of one direction in the silence. And rather than the sounds of so many things, the silence of the night covered all visible terrain. The darkness was simply lit by plain streetlights, and a crescent moon, without smoke, that felt cold and out of reach.
Lacie wondered if this empty stretch of gravel could take her home, if she walked far enough. But then the girl recalled something said to her earlier. Water started to form in her eyes, distorting her vision, and then dripping out of some hole at the bottom of the lenses.
Lacie wiped the tears away with her shirt, and looked back at the mall, through the foyer windows, the punk hacked at the rock stuck around his acquaintance. Strangely, there was a dock built less than a foot above the cement. Lacie spoke softly to herself, “..curiosity and guilt.”
The former student made her way out of the cool Summer night, back into the foyer; and she heard the doors click behind her as they closed.
The guy with the pickaxe stopped picking, "Can I ask you something?"
"Yes?" Lacie asked in reply.
The blonde punk let the umbrella-pickaxe slide down to rest on his hand like a cane, "Why the change of heart?"
"I could ask you the same." Lacie said.
Lacie thought that instead of trying to call home, she could try to call an operator, and get Mr. Bagel's Donut Shop. But instead she found herself disappointed. The phone buttons weren't there anymore.
Jagged pebbles flew up, some hitting Lacie's lenses as a slightly cracked monitor above the back of the foyer caught her mechanical eye. She backed away from the debris, the punk almost out of his rock. The imagery had a bird's eye view of a Null-Mart manager; she was standing behind one of the registers talking to a man in paint and plaid who was twitching around a dirty floor. From the manager, "Uhh, um, so.."
Lacie turned to see the hallways at the end of the food-court, and the last few flyers forming back piece of Mona's white-haired head.
Mona smiled a wicked smile that lasted only as long as the zoom of her lens-eyes. A man crawled behind her coughing up grey blood, long ponytails coming off his head; he was wearing some coat with misplaced coat-tails, with two extra-sleeves like a modified, off-white straight-jacket. A woman with shoulder-length blonde and white hair also came stumbling into view with similar garments, but her face was more beaten and grimaced; she fell to the ground and began acting like a bird with clipped wings. The man looked at her, "Oh no! Yes.. No.."
The phone in front of Lacie fell off the hook and then started ringing; with her sight fixed on Mona, Lacie put the glossy speaker up to her ear.
The blotchy, human-shaped part of the foyer wall crumbled into pieces, like much of the rock in the center of the room had.
A well-dressed man with white gloves, a black vest, and a red tie emerged, however, his head was a big rabbit head with an unlit cigarette and a familiar face.
"I assume you needed more advice." Herbert puffed.
The black-haired punk was now free from the rock that bound him, "Holy shit, a rabbit man!"
"What the..? Why do you look like that?" Lacie asked.
"This is how I've always looked." Herbert replied, pulling one of his gloves down over his wrist.
The younger Mona picked up one of the food-court tables with one arm and threw it across the room towards the green and black pile, "I'm not walking away this time little girl!"
The pixelated manager in the foyer flatscreen continued with hair in her face, "Alright. Uhh.."
"I'm.. sorry." Lacie found herself growing tense as Mona approached. "What should I do?"
"I would recommend.. that you run in the direction that she came." Herbert said in high regard of his logical faculties.
"But--" Lacie was interrupted as a chair shattered a pane of glass next to her, and she instinctively ducked down. The chair had flew over the middle-aged man in the center of the food-court who was minding his own business drinking coffee. Now he was ducking underneath the table.
"Holy shit!" The black-haired punk said.
"Damn" The blonde punk thought quick and used the pickaxe to break the window to the outside. Clutching the umbrella with a face-full of metal, "Lets get out of here."
"Okay, so.." The manager in the Null-Mart feed leaned over the twitching man as he began grasping at candies.
Given the opportunity to leave in two directions, Lacie looked outside.. but the punks were gone, and in place of any parking-lot there was a blackness, like an enormous pit. She thought she didn't really want to go back that way, nor anger Herbert, and decided to go forward into the mall. Before she stepped out of the foyer she noticed something new, scratched into the paint near the phones, "Recycled from Code."
“Curiosity and guilt.” Herbert said.