“Where…is this place?”
This world was dark and cold. Dampness hung in the air. There was a darkness to this place. Its aspect skewed heavily towards the abyss, the home of the Timeless, who dwelt in the sea between worlds. The ground was wet beneath their feet.
“I don’t like it here!” Little Monster declared. “My dad’s not a fish! He wouldn’t be here! Take us somewhere else!”
Black Lotus looked at Little Monster. They could faintly distinguish her outline from the darkness. Her aura blazed more brightly in this world, however, which made it easy for Black Lotus’ inner eye to see her. She glowed with a bright light. Black Lotus noticed her own aura to be stronger as well. They surely had not gone unnoticed.
There was a splash in the water around them. Something dark was moving. Black Lotus found themselves agreeing with Little Monster. The less time they spent in this dark world, the better. They started to focus themselves, using Little Monster’s attachment to her father as an anchor as they worked to bridge the sea between worlds. The possibilities unfolded before their inner eye as they saw the lights of realities form around them.
“Helmethead! Look out!” Little Monster called from far away. Once more, Black Lotus found themselves being pulled back to their physical form as Little Monster tackled them.
From the depths, a beast lunged out, the waves caused by the disturbance crashing down upon the island. Its orange eyes provided the illumination for its squid-like face, the tentacles covering over where its mouth should have been. Six black appendages rose around it as it turned its terrible gaze upon the pair.
Its very presence was a disturbance to the fluctuations of the energies of the universe that Black Lotus had been trying to harness. The stable road they had been paving grew wild and untamed. Yet it was unlikely they would survive long enough to need to worry about that…
Little Monster was shouting at it, trying to intimidate it. It was unclear if it even registered her words. This was the end. Though was that the sound of an engine revving…?
“From the depths, the prey emerges! At long last, the Devil of the Deeps shall bring you down!”
In the darkness, illuminated by the hanging angler-light atop its roof, Black Lotus saw the shape of a machine fly overhead. There was a giant harpoon attached to the front of it. The mad man inside impaled the machine into the beast, a spear in his hand.
He had bought them time. Black Lotus finished the path as another portal appeared before them. They grabbed Little Monster’s hand, dragging her after them as they stepped into the next world. Gothic spires and buttresses surrounded them as the dark world gave way to cathedrals and narrow alleys.
“Metal Gods, give me the power to crush these heretics!”
Black Lotus and Little Monster turned in unison. That had been… Little Monster’s voice. Talking about the Metal Gods?
“DESTROY THEM! WRECK THEM! LEAVE THEM A PILE OF RUBBLE!”
Two familiar machines appeared at either end of the alley, but they were not the same. Little Monster’s truck and Rampage’s bulldozer were decked with the imagery of the Metal Gods, colored in purple, silver and gold. The two pilots were dressed in priest robes, much like the Metal Herald.
“Who touched my truck?! Gross! I hate it!” Little Monster stomped her foot. The machines were coming towards them. Another portal opened as Black Lotus once more pulled Little Monster along with them as the multiverse continued to attempt to stabilize itself.
They fell out of the portal and the next opened across what looked to be a battlefield. As the sounds of explosions sounded around them, Black Lotus started to run, still holding onto the hand of Little Monster, dragging her along with them. Zoomorphs and humans filled the battlefield as tanks and artillery fired. Several times, Black Lotus had to phase to avoid being caught in the blast of nearby shells.
The breach was high up. Black Lotus pulled Little Monster up and tossed her through before floating up to it themselves. There was a loud explosion behind them. A last look over their shoulder revealed the telltale mushroom cloud.
Time to go.
Black Lotus fell through the portal, landing in the sand. The sun was shining, the weather hot. Summertime. For a moment, Black Lotus steadied themselves, just looking up at the sky.
“Welcome to Rockaway Beach, dudes!” A man who looked an awful lot like Stingray said. He was wearing a wetsuit and snorkeling gear. “Aren’t you two overdressed for the beach?”
“C’mon, Sharkray!” ‘Dirt Devil’ said, standing in the oceans. Black Lotus could not help but notice his rat was missing. In place of it, there was a pufferfish with shades and a small surfboard. “Fugu wants to go test your new Shark Chaser already!”
“This time, it’d better be waterproof. I still remember your electronic surfboard.” ‘Wildfire’ said. “Though I did like watching the Clunkers’ try to steal it and get the shock of the lifetime.”
“You guys came to Rockaway at a good time! It’s shark week!” Stingray put his snorkeling mask on. “Stick around and you might just see one! Later, dudes!” With a wave, he was running off to his machine, which had a giant fin on the top of it and shark-like jaws. It matched his purple and gold wetsuit.
Little Monster gave Black Lotus a look through the gas mask. A look that said if they stayed here too long, she’d destroy all the sandcastles along the beach. As Black Lotus brushed the sand off their jacket, the next breach appeared.
“We’re never going to find my dad…” Little Monster said, looking dejected. It was the first time Black Lotus had seen the girl’s determination waver. “He’s not anywhere. I don’t feel him here either. It’s just…nothingness…like when he disappeared…”
Black Lotus rose to their feet. What had caused the girl to give up hope? Perhaps…words would reinvigorate the spirit.
“The road between worlds continues so long as the will of the Seeker maintains it. It twists and turns, but it does not end unless one abandons it.”
Their voice sounded as though it was coming directly into Little Monster’s ears. Even through the mask, Little Monster’s surprise was observable.
“You can talk, Helmethead!?” Little Monster stood up, brushing the sand from her dress. “Does that mean that my dad’s at the end of the road?”
“You will find that which you seek at the end.”
“You talk funny, Helmethead… But alright… I’m ready.”
The two nodded at each other, before stepping through the portal to the next world that awaited them.
He had lost track of how long he had endured his exile. Metal Herald huddled in the hut he called his home, his sanctuary from the nightmares outside. The Dark Gods had a sense of humor, it seemed, for he had asked them for their aid and they had sent him to the origin of the Metallophobia. The Nightmares ruled here. Yet the road to Rockalot had closed behind him. Not even his magic would unseal the gate. He was alone…except for the Nightmares. Mockeries and shadows of other realms, twisted and horrible.
At long last, however, he had received a sign that his isolation was at an end. The Dark Gods whispered to him of others who walked between worlds. The gate that had been closed to him for so long opened yet…he could tell, it was not his home on the other side. A cold wind blew into the home of the Metallophobia. The travelers would be found there, in the frozen wastes.
Metal Herald planned to meet them there.