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Arcanum_V

A Story about Footprints

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One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the slime-strewn terrace of a monolithic edifice of unimaginable proportions and unthinkable geometry. A shadow loomed overhead, quivering in the sickly-pale moonlight and flickering in the periphery of his vision.

Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. Or perhaps not his life. It was hard to tell what was real and what was not, what were his memories and what were someone else's. Clarity of any sort was elusive. In many of the scenes he saw two sets of footprints: one belonging to him, and the other oddly irregular, suggesting a stagger or limp and hinting at feet of inhuman shape and number.

When the last scene of his life (or someone else's) flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the slime. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. The slow, steady, eternal lapping of the black water across the slimy balcony had smeared them beyond recognition, so he was uncertain whether they were his or not.

He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he turned to the shadowy presence looming over him, crawling around him, and occasionally caressing him with its chilling tendrils his spine.

"The fell tome through which I learned to beckon you into my presence promised that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The shadow replied in a guttural, throbbing, and oddly shrill cadence that only peripherally aped human speech. The crushing bass in the voice, if it could be called a voice, turned his stomach. The incessant piping stabbed at that part of the brain just behind his eyes, as if he had just compounded a migraine with a stroke, while being struck from behind with broken two-by-four. He fell to his knees, scrabbling in the sand and mud and slime. He understood rather than heard the answer, as the shadow communicated at some blasphemous, eldritch level far below the conscious mind:

"Human, mortal, insect. . . . I did not even notice your presence until just now. I move through your world at my leisure, bound by neither time nor space nor physical law. If you were more significant in the cosmos, you would be merely insignificant. That you moved in my shadow during your life, indeed that you served me slavishly through hideous rituals of unspeakable horror, does not stir my interest. Where you see two sets of footprints, those are the times in your life when you trailed me at a distance, begging my attention. Where you see but one, those are the times I walked alone, for you had been spirited off to the stars to sate the never-ending hunger of my interstellar progeny with your psychic energies and your blood."

The man twitched and gibbered, pissed himself, and stared longingly into the darkness.

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One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the slime-strewn terrace of a monolithic edifice of unimaginable proportions and unthinkable geometry. A shadow loomed overhead, quivering in the sickly-pale moonlight and flickering in the periphery of his vision.

Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. Or perhaps not his life. It was hard to tell what was real and what was not, what were his memories and what were someone else's. Clarity of any sort was elusive. In many of the scenes he saw two sets of footprints: one belonging to him, and the other oddly irregular, suggesting a stagger or limp and hinting at feet of inhuman shape and number.

When the last scene of his life (or someone else's) flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the slime. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. The slow, steady, eternal lapping of the black water across the slimy balcony had smeared them beyond recognition, so he was uncertain whether they were his or not.

He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he turned to the shadowy presence looming over him, crawling around him, and occasionally caressing him with its chilling tendrils his spine.

"The fell tome through which I learned to beckon you into my presence promised that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The shadow replied in a guttural, throbbing, and oddly shrill cadence that only peripherally aped human speech. The crushing bass in the voice, if it could be called a voice, turned his stomach. The incessant piping stabbed at that part of the brain just behind his eyes, as if he had just compounded a migraine with a stroke, while being struck from behind with broken two-by-four. He fell to his knees, scrabbling in the sand and mud and slime. He understood rather than heard the answer, as the shadow communicated at some blasphemous, eldritch level far below the conscious mind:

"Human, mortal, insect. . . . I did not even notice your presence until just now. I move through your world at my leisure, bound by neither time nor space nor physical law. If you were more significant in the cosmos, you would be merely insignificant. That you moved in my shadow during your life, indeed that you served me slavishly through hideous rituals of unspeakable horror, does not stir my interest. Where you see two sets of footprints, those are the times in your life when you trailed me at a distance, begging my attention. Where you see but one, those are the times I walked alone, for you had been spirited off to the stars to sate the never-ending hunger of my interstellar progeny with your psychic energies and your blood."

The man twitched and gibbered, pissed himself, and stared longingly into the darkness.

A beautifully dreadful tale.

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