Ask yourself this question, and please be truthful:
Is there anything you can think of that simply seeing it would make you want to stop living?
It might seem impossible to come up with an answer to that question, but be assured…
Such a thing does exist.
Across the face of the world, animals bellow and screech. Babies wail in the grip of a newborn’s fright. Men and women feel their bodies suddenly go heavy with dread, their minds numb with the certainty of approaching oblivion.
Praise be to C’thulhu.
The lumbering monstrosity spread its repellant wings. All clouds swept off into the horizon. In blatant contradiction of nature, the sky darkened, and though the sun continued to illuminate one half of its third satellite, now the stars came out to join it. They trembled in their places across the velvet sky. A day of light earth and a nighttime heaven, both knowing that their reprieve had been retracted.
C’thulhu let go of its promontory. Like a blow of dandelion, the incomprehensible entity lifted off into the sky, a sagging, grotesque seed born on nebulous wings. To anyone watching, the body of the alien was a shifting morass of greens, blacks and grays, a transparent bag into which a blended mass had been poured to give it shape. When it moved, there was no grace, only power. The wings spread but did not flap, they were almost toy-like in their relative inefficacy. But the host to which they were attached did not allow gravity to contradict its intentions. It launched itself, a nightmare shadow against space, trailing madness in its wake. The song of C’thulhu was now a background noise that infiltrated all other sound, rendering speech nigh meaningless for the slow silent horror of its accompaniment.
The monster dwindled into the distance. As it did, the watchers began to recollect something of themselves.
They were called the Teen Titans. They had come here in pursuit of another who now stood near them. Slade was his name. The reason for this… was no longer clear. For anyone. There was a sense of urgency, like something had needed to be done. Whatever their reasons, the only thing for certain was that they had failed.
Out of all of them, it was Slade who recovered first. He turned around to scan the assembled party. Robin and Starfire stood very close to one another. Their hands were laced together as they stared off into space. Holding on for dear life. Each of them knew what must come next. And it was his fault.
I fix my own mistakes, Slade resolved. Spying Raven off to one side, the armored menace strode over to stand before her.
“Tell me everything.” Both demand and threat. He, at the very least, remembered who he was. By the way Raven continued to stare vacantly through him, it was hard to tell what she was feeling. But they had no time to be intimidated by the unknown. Slade’s patience was at an end. He raised his hand to catch her cloak.
The next thing he knew, he was bent double backwards, pain tearing through his limbs. Everything had gone black around him, the only sounds were his own strangled grunts of pain. This experience was not new to him. Slade’s eye darted around to the source of his torture.
Raven had not moved. That blank, lifeless look was still hanging on her face. It didn’t even seem like she registered what she was doing. His gaze swept back to the others. The Titans stood stock still. The folds of Robin’s cape hung suspended by a tropical breeze, its motion arrested between one second and the next.
And then Slade heard, or felt, something nearby.
This was confirmed when his head ground violently to one side, and he found himself confronted by the true architect of this moment.
It was Raven.
Or it seemed to be, at first glance. The real Raven remained frozen where he had left her. This one was completely black, and seemed to be composed almost completely of the dynamic energy that the spell-weaver employed in her conjurations. She loomed over him, gazing down at Slade with burning white eyes.
You hurt me.
The lips did not move. He simply knew what she was saying.
You enjoyed hurting me.
Slade bared his teeth in a smile. “Greatly.”
She struck him, and the mask came spinning off, laying his face open to the unnatural twilight. And her.
The glowing, shifting reflection of Raven’s features descended down towards his. Her mouth hovered over his single eye. There was no breath. Before him, her full lips curved into a wicked smile. Do you want to know how much?
Her face descended, she placed her mouth against his eye.
And sucked out his soul.
The body went limp, steel-spring coiled muscles finally relaxing, breath leaving the lungs with a shuddering burst. He watched it all from the outside. Slade saw himself die.
For anything else, this would be enough. But for what you have done…
Her hood enveloped him. Raven’s kiss, when it came, crackled with deadly magic, and the man’s soul was thrust back into this body. Her palm came over his chest, and another lightning bolt of energy shocked his heart, stimulating it to beating. Slade took an involuntary gasp of air, feeling sick and unnatural. The liquid evil taste of her slid over his tongue. And then she pulled free.
If we have to submit to this horror, then you’re not getting off so easily. I’ll make sure he gets you too.
Suddenly he could move again. Slade rolled backwards to land on his knees. His mouth and the spot on his chest were burning cold, and he shivered from the sensation, eye flaring tears.
You’re going to pay, Slade. If not him, then me.
The shadow-Raven floated back towards her body. Remember.
The criminal’s hand crept out, locating his mask. Before he settled the steel visor back in place, Slade managed a smile. “I look forward to you.”
The avatar enveloped her form, drawing in the magic encasing them, and then the world came back to life.
Raven blinked and looked around. Had something just….? She passed a trembling hand before her face.
And then Beast Boy screamed.
Raven turned, caught a quick flash of something moving towards them. She swept up her hand, and a black wave shot out of the ship’s hull. Behind it, there now crowded a dozen glowing green fish-men. R’lyeans, the followers of C’thulhu. They slithered against the surface, gurgling an ecstatic lesser version of C’thulhu’s soul-numbing chant. These were no longer the mindless puppets that had given notice of their master’s coming to an unsuspecting world. Now they seemed more as the Titans had known them in R’lyeh. Swift. Purposeful. Awake.
Perhaps it was the presence of an enemy he felt he could handle that spurred Robin. “Raven,” he called behind him. “Take us out of here.”
Without hesitation, the blue mage obeyed. From the shadows of her cloak there suddenly grew a prodigious avian that proceeded to enshroud all those in the immediate area. It then took flight, leaving a throng of Deep Ones milling about the now defunct SlipStream. Within this ebony roc, an unprecedented conclave took place. Standing, or floating, in relation to one another, the enemies of C’thulhu regarded each other uncertainly. Robin and Starfire remained close. Cyborg now hovered protectively near Beast Boy, who crouched shivering and sweat-soaked on his haunches. Slade stood beside Twist, crumpled and apparently insensible on her back.
Dark wings beat the air,
steering northwards. In a flash, the occult transport had crossed the remainder
of the Pacific, and the extent of the
Streaking across the jungles of
As soon as they reemerged, the change took place in Beast Boy.
The skinny teenager began to foam. His suit expanded, and his features started to melt and conjoin. Swiftly Raven bent over him. Drawing a hand across his brow, she mouthed a practiced incantation. Bonds of midnight energy wound from her fingertips to envelop her suffering friend, causing him to quickly lose consciousness and alternately cut him off from any outside influence. This ceased the unwelcome transmogrification, and in moments he had once again reverted to a slumbering child, leaving the rest to stare in horror and fascination at what had just transpired.
“We’re dead. All of us.” It was Cyborg who said it.
“Giving up is not an option,” Robin replied automatically.
“Oh come on!” His steel-shod comrade whirled to face him. “Were you not standing there just a minute ago? Did you not feel the same thing I did just by looking at that thing?! I wanted to die, man!”
“Then do it quietly,” Slade scanned the horizon, “Some of us are still intent on living.”
“SHUT UP!!” With a jerk the cyber-teen’s cannon was leveled at his opponent’s head. “This is all your fault! You opened the door and he walked right in. If I’d killed you a long time ago, C’thulhu would still be dead and I’d have a future!”
The supervillain regarded the weapon with utter disdain. “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re still not capable of that.”
Cyborg’s vision went red, in both eyes. His inner trigger trembled on the brink of release, and all he could think about was watching this man’s head explode.
In a blur of movement, Starfire stood before him. Her hand encased his wrist, forcing the cannon to lower. Cyborg stared in shock at the intense look in the female fighter’s eyes, and though his titanium piston muscles flared to their utmost, still he found his arm being forced back to his side with seeming ease.
“I will not surrender.” Starfire’s voice was firm and sharp. “Neither will you. It is only in your power to lose the will to live. C’thulhu cannot deprive you of that.”
The bionic strongman felt himself slowly being stared down by the fierce alien’s beautiful green eyes. “We can’t do it, Star. We can’t fight that thing.”
They all turned. Robin stood at the edge of the parapet, gazing off over the sylvan landscape. “Maybe not. But maybe…” And at this his head turned slightly, and he caught Raven’s eye. “Fighting isn’t the answer.”
Holding Beast Boy’s head in her lap, with the world on the brink of annihilation, of all things, that made her smile.
“Raven, did you find out anything?”
She nodded. “You’d better sit down.”
They did so, enemies and allies alike, united by the threat of a common doom. Robin and Slade exchanged glances, but no more than that. They were not unintelligent, or foolish. But a good deal of space was afforded on either side of the supervillain.
Looking around at them, Raven wasted no time. “For starters, I don’t think C’thulhu is completely awake yet. If it were, we wouldn’t recognize the world around us, or even care. So for whatever reason, we have a window of opportunity.”
“To do what?” Cyborg grunted.
She stared at him. “Everything. Everything we can think of, before the end.”
Now it was Slade who stirred. “You stated before that C’thulhu used me. How did you mean?”
Her face, when she turned her attention on him, was placid. Neutral. At total odds with the threat to his life that had existed mere minutes ago. “While I was unconscious aboard your ship, I had a dream. Unizue was in it.” All except Slade tensed in recognition of the name. “She showed me many things. Actually…” her eyes went distant, “It was more like knowing. The way you know something in a dream, immediately. So I understand how all of this happened.”
A cold wind blew over the assembly, originating from the north. All eyes turned in that direction. The horizon seemed indistinct somehow. A slight ripple passed through it, like the world was just a reflection on the surface of a pond, and someone had shook it.
“There’s still time,” the enchantress reassured them. “It doesn’t feel like C’thulhu’s ready yet. It seems to be taking him awhile to readjust after the delay in his return.”
Starfire leaned in. “Raven, what is going on here?”
“You see, even though R’lyeh protected its master and his minions, the city had become a sort of prison as well. C’thulhu was completely cut off from direct contact with humans. We had long forgotten about it, and the Atlanteans didn’t want anything to do with it. They killed anyone who tried to go near R’lyeh. So C’thulhu had no way of knowing anything that transpired outside of its city. And even if it did, it was too alien to comprehend how to use our species to affect its release. Then Unizue came. She teleported directly into R’lyeh from Azerath. Once there, after giving herself to C’thulhu, it had everything about her. Through that connection, it could piggy-back over to me.”
“But how could it do all this when it was dead?” Starfire spoke up.
Raven shook her head. “That’s just it. He wasn’t. C’thulhu came back to life exactly when he was supposed to, over 300,000 years ago. But even though he was alive, he still wasn’t awake!”
Robin straightened up suddenly. “You mentioned something about water.”
“Yes. Ocean water.” The half-demon ruminated for a few moments, drawing her cloak closer about her. “C’thulhu was subdued by something in the ocean. My Unizue tried to let me understand what, but we were cut off when C’thulhu awakened. She knew what it was, because C’thulhu’s Unizue was the one who manipulated this entire series of events for her master.”
They leaned in closer as the wind continued to blow. “The monster’s will, acting through Unizue’s mind. Since C’thulhu was asleep, Unizue could never quite commit herself to him in the way that she was accustomed. That left her link to me still applicable in a secondary capacity, causing her to exist as C’thulhu’s Unizue primarily and Raven’s Unizue peripherally. She knew our species, through me. And so she reasoned that if we considered ourselves to be faced with a significant threat, our first reaction would be to destroy it. I learned, and so she did as well, that we had developed weapons of sufficient power to effectively obliterate a city. All we needed was a reason to aim them at the ocean around R’lyeh. She required a trigger to that effect. And that was when someone new came into my life.”
Now Raven looked at Slade again. “It wasn’t you that Unizue wanted. The one she was really expecting to attack R’lyeh was Vandal Savage.”
“Savage?” Robin grew wary.
“Why?” was Slade’s response.
“Because C’thulhu knew him,” the azure-eyed sorceress intoned softly. “He had made contact with C’thulhu’s human religion in the past. In fact, he destroyed it. C’thulhu’s Unizue learned of this through her new friends. When I encountered him, still alive thousands of years later, she reasoned that if she could reveal enough of C’thulhu and its location to Savage, he would do everything in his power to destroy it. Something brought Vandal and me together. I’m not sure what, but Unizue knew it had happened. She told me that after she understood what it was that he felt for me, I was then deemed to be the necessary trigger. She wanted for me to find her, so that she could give me to C’thulhu. Unizue honestly thought it was the best thing she could do for me, to become its worshipper with her. But after that had happened, she would make absolutely certain that Vandal Savage knew about it. This would precipitate just the kind of reaction that was finally produced in him.”
“But C’thulhu didn’t get Vandal Savage,” Robin looked over at his nemesis. “It got you, Slade. And you followed its designs to the letter.” The hollow-eyed warrior bore their collective ire without concern.
“It was C’thulhu’s Unizue who did all this,” Raven corrected him. “C’thulhu doesn’t know how to interact with minds like ours. It’s totally oblivious to anything like cooperation or forethought, so after it dies there has to be an outside intellect to see to its safety. Even its coffin-complex, R’lyeh, was built by its past worshippers just the same way, so that C’thulhu could somehow be protected until it revived.”
“After our escape from there, C’thulhu… took… Unizue. That gained it the smallest sliver of self-awareness, enough to allow the seeds of her designs to grow within the other Deep Ones so that they could continue to carry them out. The connection with its would-be destroyer had already been established. When the three R’lyeans I had sent to Azerath returned to our dimension, they automatically received word of Unizue’s plan. They were also imbued with a powerful impulse that would transfer over to anyone like Savage that directed harm against them. This impulse gave its recipient the idea that if R’lyeh was destroyed, C’thulhu could be defeated. Once that was done, R’lyeh let out the rest of the Deep Ones. Their release served two purposes: to goad us into thinking C’thulhu’s rise was imminent, and to occupy the forces of Atlantis so they wouldn’t prevent Savage from reaching R’lyeh. All the things that C’thulhu couldn’t do, others did for him.”
“It does not even recognize we are here?” Starfire asked.
Cyborg glanced at her. “Do you notice a germ when you step on it?”
The Tameranean’s head sagged down.
And then she leapt upright, her eyes flaring neon pits. “We are not germs! Our lives count as much as does C’thulhu’s, not less. If he cannot be bothered to notice us, then we will do what we can to make him acknowledge us! We must show him that he is not the only one living on our world!”
“Star,” Robin reached up to grasp her wrist. “How do we…?”
“Anyway we can think of.” Her fingers stole down to clasp his. “As Raven said. We do not have much time until he awakens. Before then we must try and understand this beast.”
Raven combed gently through Beast Boy’s hair. Off to one side, Twist was beginning to twitch and moan, a prelude to returning consciousness.
“We have to try something,” Robin stated finally.
Cyborg was staring at his large mechanical gloves. “I don’t want to just give up and die.” His fists clenched, and the Teen Titan stood up resolutely.
“Okay then. Let’s go save our world.”
Slowly, they began to rise.
It hung in the sky, suspended on nothing. Like a coat hanging from a peg. C’thulhu was not aware of this. Restored, but not completely. Still coming to, the sense of self hindered. The cosmic whirlpool of C’thulhu’s thoughts was spinning once again, but still there remained an abnormality. A sliver of something never encountered before. What it was made no sense to the looming alien. Everything and always, and yet, for a time, it was not. Cocooned within its own body, lost in a reality of darkness without dreams. In all that space, there had been only one moment of life, and the understanding that came with it did not dispel its predicament. Time. This was new. But even now, the dream was becoming clear to it again. The universe started to unfold and renew itself with its rise. The disturbing rock in the whirlpool’s course was sinking and dwindling. Soon it would no longer exist.
C’thulhu’s eyes were beginning to open.
Waves upon waves, flowing off to wash against the bare dry land. Some believed that the moon was what controlled the movement of the tides. This was true, to an extent. But perhaps it is closer to the truth to say that the lunar cycle capitalized on what the waves already wanted. To get away. Escape their duty. To flee from the rotten, decrepit heart that beat within its breast, even as the ocean strove to shield its sere cousin from that deadly pulse.
All that was done now.
The heart had ripped itself from the world’s chest. Now the disturbing entropy of R’lyeh sat under the open sky, its asymmetrical synergy a paradox of all things real and commonplace. The ocean skin peeled away from it, flesh and blood attempting to escape the dismal throbbing new life. The sea was repulsed.
Its inhabitants could sense its distress as they came bobbing listlessly to the surface. This was not a conscious decision on their part. The instant the explosion came, all conflict had ceased. Sensors had analyzed the energy spike and could find no equivalent possibility other than an antimatter reaction. Theoretically this should have included enough radiation to kill all of them within a handful of seconds. When that did not prove to be the case, the relief was short-lived. Further scans could produce nothing intelligible. It was not so much that they were blocked. More like the laws of nature had ceased to exist within that area vacated by the ocean. That was when they saw it emerge.
In point of fact, they shouldn’t have. There were still miles of ocean between them and the target. But all the same, every man and woman in the Atlantean fleet had witnessed that churning, unnatural cityscape rocket surfaceward like vented air. After that, it was mass instinct. All of them, from the Sea King’s flagship on down, had climbed to the top of their world, to bear witness to its final moments.
Aqualad treaded water numbly. To him, it was like all the color had been leached out from his surroundings. The sea was a flat grey, it felt greasy and foul where it touched him. The sky had grown dark, and there was a peculiar violet tinge to it. It reminded him vaguely of blood. The Earth is bleeding, he thought. C’thulhu is awake and it’s cutting open the sky. What else would fall out, drop by pestilential drop?
The prince of the tides found himself entranced by the sight of the looming collection of alien buildings. R’lyeh. It looked different than the last time. The glow was gone, that was it. And yet the city continued to move and dance around itself as though alive. If he let his eyes go out of focus, it almost resembled a monstrous organ, breathing in and out, expanding and contracting, its permutations illimitable, the cadence of its movements enchanting. Go there, his psyche whispered. Swim along its courses and pathways. Learn its design, and marvel at its wonders. You have always wanted to.
Aqualad breathed in, then out. Again, and again. How could you have ever hated it? It is home. It is the answer to all your needs. Come home.
Leave me alone! He thought desperately.
And then the song began.
“Then so are we.”
They emerged on a grassy brown plain, swept by winds. Low hills surrounded them, and there were mountains on the horizon. An unremarkable vista. Not a thing to mar the sweep of austere grasslands.
Save for the glowing green giant suspended half a league over their heads.
They all stood mesmerized by the sight of it. Never in the history of the world had there been anything like C’thulhu. Its skin was transparent as warped glass, with swirling, sluggish plasma on the inside. The outline of the form remained relatively stable. R’lyeh’s master hung like a bloated bat on the roof of the world. It had two arms and legs, but these appendages were both hinged backwards like an animal’s, and tipped by a profusion of segmented talons. Its body was obscenely bloated, gorged on its own psychic disasters or the flesh of its victims. The head was a great wet sack that sagged halfway down its back. Wings folded, tentacles streaming and twitching from the lower half of its face, this world’s promised destroyer hardly seemed alive at all, so silent and unmoving did it remain. C’thulhu’s eyes stayed shut.
Twist’s eyelids slid open. She did not understand where she was, or why she felt so awful. It was not just the pain that greeted her when she tried to move, but something else. Her nose was definitely fractured, and one eye was only half open. She had been unconscious, she realized. The last thing she remembered…
Something smelled awful.
Twist looked up. Before her stood the Titans. The mercenary went on the defensive in an instant. She twisted her neck, jaw and midsection, rendering them impervious to harm. Her wealth of hair spun and wrapped around the top of her head to form a deceptively impervious helmet. Nearly two feet of ultra-dense fingernails wound around her digits into spikes. She was just about to leap up and attack, when Slade turned and looked down at her. Hesitation. Her unasked query was born out in her eyes, and in response, her employer lifted an arm and pointed upwards.
When Twist saw it, she almost passed out again.
Starfire had taken note of Slade’s movement, and now saw Twist. When their eyes met, the lanky purple fighter drew back, recognition passing between them. There was a warning in the alien’s face, and Twist took it to heart. She rose slowly, so as not to pose a threat. She was not stupid. Clearly something had gone wrong with their plan, and now they had a mutual interest. She was not above cooperation.
Cyborg shook his head. Breaking eye contact with the floating grotesquerie, he looked around at his teammates.
“So what now?”
Slade crossed his arms and staring skyward. “We can try communicating with it.”
“Raven,” Robin turned to face her. “You made contact with C’thulhu through Unizue before. Can you try that again?”
“I’m not sure.” Off to one side, she noticed that Slade had begun to converse quietly with Twist. “If what’s left of her still responds to me, she might be able to help. But C’thulhu was dormant then. Now that it’s active, there’s no telling what might happen if I try.”
“I don’t like the thought of you making brain contact with that thing,” Cyborg huffed.
“Well it’s not like there’s another way. C’thulhu doesn’t exactly have a language system.”
“What of the song that the Deep Ones sing to it?” Starfire joined in. “Its servants at least possess some form of vocalization. If we can decipher their tongue, it might prove beneficial. I volunteer myself for…”
The shout came from behind them, and they all spun about. Slade and his foreign operative were conversing urgently, gesturing to the south.
“What’s going on?” Robin demanded.
Slade flicked a wrist to halt further inquiries, and continued listening to Twist speaking in Russian. When she had finished, he confronted the Titans.
“We’ve been monitoring the
“Mother…” Cyborg swore.
“How did they…?” Robin started, but Slade cut him off.
“They can move swiftly when necessary, but right now we have to fend for ourselves. Though well-intentioned, their actions will doom them all. We now know that C’thulhu can’t die by such means. Unfortunately, we can, and right now we are the best chance for our planet’s survival. Those weapons must be destroyed.”
“He’s right.” The Titans’ leader glanced up at the green cloud of despair hanging over them. “We’ll bring down the missiles, while Raven tries to stop C’thulhu. Let’s GO!”
The target was located in the
north of the
A cursory evaluation had
predicted the annihilation of the monastery at Erdene Zuu Khiid, and the
eventual death of approximately 83% of the populations of
There was no such thing as memory here. As the abnormality faded, full awareness returned. Then time would reconnect C’thulhu with the rest of the universe. And once it did, time would cease to exist, having done its part. C’thulhu would bear no trace of it. Just the sense of itself, its Dream. It touched the Dream, and felt it respond. The master had come back.
Slade watched the four of them take off into the air, Cyborg borne aloft with Starfire, Twist clutched within Beast Boy’s claws. Once the shape-shifter had been awakened, the choice of pairings had been a concession Slade had consented to share with Robin. Between the four of them, there was only marginally less enmity between Twist and Beast Boy than Starfire. The youngest Titan had assured them that, with the help of Raven’s spell, he could take care of himself. For her part, Twist assured him that if he did lose his mind along with his grip on her, she would survive freefall. How she did not care to elaborate on. The woman had her secrets.
As they flew off in the direction from which the threat came, Robin stepped up beside him. The big man flicked a glance down in his direction. “Are you certain you wouldn’t rather comprise a third party yourself? You have the capabilities, and one man could make the difference. I know you don’t like to feel helpless.”
Robin kept his eyes on their departing allies, and his attention on Slade.
“You’re not going to be alone with her,” he said.
Twenty feet away, Raven sat in the lotus position a few feet off the ground. Eyes closed, lips moving slightly, the child of man and demon strove to establish a connection with someone who, for all intents and purposes, no longer existed.
Slade let himself laugh, more for the effect on Robin than at any evident humor in their situation. “With the world on the brink of annihilation, you still find it necessary to champion a young girl’s virtue. How noble of you, Robin.”
The boy stayed silent. A dry wind blew, whipping the brown plains and flattening the grass. Slade turned his head to regard his one-time apprentice.
“Is it love?”
Robin shifted his stance slightly, but still refused to look at him. “I don’t want to hear that word from you.”
His companion gave a dismissive shrug. “I suppose it makes no difference one way or another. I can appreciate your not wanting to reveal anything to me on the grounds that I am your enemy. But,” he continued in a precise tone, “If it stems more from your own teenage confusions, I feel obligated to point out that there is truthfully no shame in harboring such conflicting feelings. You should treasure them, especially now.”
For a time the only sound was the air rushing past their forms.
Robin finally spoke. “Why didn’t you kill her, Slade?”
He pondered this for a few moments before responding. “Curiosity. Respect. An appreciation for the value of something so fine. Just so you know, I never had cause to regret it.”
The boy’s next words were flat and dispassionate, so much like his own. “If you had done it, I would have killed you.”
“Mmf.” Slade chuckled. “Is that all it would have taken?”
Behind them, Raven began to cry.
“There they are!”
Starfire squinted at the spot where Cyborg pointed. Gradually off in the distance, three dark specks had appeared, resolving with dismaying speed into the tips of the ICBM’s, trailing jet smoke in their wake.
To the duo’s left, Beast Boy gave a sudden start as Twist’s head popped up before him. “Turn back!” she shouted. “Fly along the course they will take, I need proximity.” The superhuman’s neck then retracted, bringing her back into what passed for a regular shape. The extinct aerial complied, letting out a piercing shriek not heard in these parts for over 65 million years.
As the pterodactyl banked, Starfire and Cyborg shot ahead, intent upon their quarry. The first missile bore down on them. Hidden within its confines lay enough force to kill tens of thousands of people in an instant. In the face of this dire promise two small life-forms rode the wind. Cyborg had patched into an orbiting military satellite and was quickly downloading all the information on this weapon. He himself owed his life to science, and he was not unappreciative of it. The technology he loved was created to benefit mankind, to act as a boon when people needed it the most. It was a dream, a promise of a better world. Seen in this light, the monstrosity bearing down on them was a perversion of that promise. Science had blessed him with a second chance to live. He knew its value. Like no other.
Had the mech-tech looked up at that moment, he would not have recognized the person in whose arms he rode. The Tameranean’s features bore no hint of the gaiety or sweetness that usually marked it. Even the righteous fury she wore into battle was gone. Starfire’s face was stark and frightening. It was a look given in anticipation of death. The people of her world had a name for it- ‘Telo,’ meaning ‘Death from Another.’ Or, in human terms, ‘killer.’ It was the face shown to a target one did not intend to leave alive, even if it meant the warrior’s end in turn.
A deciding moment was approaching.
She recognized these weapons. She knew where they came from originally. A nation that had ripped her from a home and life she might never get back. Her parents had cried, but in the end, they had not resisted. She hated its weapons now, hated its soldiers and armies. They did not even remember her given name. She knew, though. Locked in her heart, she nurtured a secret hope. A dream. To return one day, and see those same parents cry for joy at the sight of their beautiful, normal human daughter. She wasn’t sure what she would do afterwards. Before that, however, she had to fight. Defeat any enemy he set before her. Only then would the dream come true. Twist had entered the fray.
It was hard to fly back this
way. Some part of Garfield Logan’s psyche was convinced that evil lay ahead,
even though he himself knew that what followed behind was the more immediate
threat. He was at war. And deep down, the orphaned adolescent was afraid he did
not really know which side he was on. The song was more than torture. It enticed
him, both appealing and contaminating. In it was a promise of freedom from all
the uncertainties that plagued his heart. And
But until that time, Beast Boy was his own man. The choices were still his to make. Stop worrying about it! No time to think, there’s trouble behind. LET’S GO!!!
The forces of life and death collided.
Lost in here. Lost always and always. She remembered this feeling, floating in the cold, heavy dark, enveloped by alien stirrings. Drowning. Raven had always found a way to beat the odds, whether through luck or skill.
Now she was drowning again. And this was only the outer limits.
Beyond all realms of man, all limiting notions of worth, reason and matter that beset the living, Raven was in a world going mad.
The calm ocean and silent stars were attacking one another and themselves. Nothing remained of the serene mental landscape she had worked so hard to craft throughout her lifetime. She remained stable only because the alien influence was still incomplete. The young sorceress dreaded what would happen when that ended. As of yet, she was no closer now to finding C’thulhu than when she had begun. More frightening was the thought that it might find her. The gabble of voices was so fierce, Raven could almost imagine that they were searching for her here, calling out from one end of her mind to another.
Gluoc-kshri n’haown ye, they hissed. Flaskldj q-joeir vimiwj elc C’thulhu! I’A!
There was no way to know. The psychic landscape around her was now a shifting, dangerous morass, glowing with the invasive power of an unholy mind. And when she did touch it, trying to break through the penumbra and penetrate to the true representation of the demon-god’s thoughts, only then did it seem to make some measure of sense.
Irgm iuo-(Mbvsotr) lkruonbie shneb’O’oysaa C’thulhu Fhtagn…
There might be some order there. But Raven did not let this deceive her. Sickened, she knew that if she allowed the song to enter her own thoughts, the answers it promised would come at the cost of her entire being. C’thulhu did not work in half-measures. After it had you, there was nothing else left. The perilous, tempting first step away from all you knew was something Raven had long been familiar with. In the past it had been the silken slide of evil, her father’s heritage. Now it was madness that tempted her. Mad. Before it had only been an abstract notion. Now here was that state incarnate, a glorious abdication of any and all reason beyond what existed in this creature.
Spiraling away from it after another failed attempt, Raven stopped to examine this far-flung being. “What are you?” she demanded.
Eirv psoPbg’fot, was the only response.
There was nothing to guide her. Unizue had not appeared as she had hoped. Together they might have come to an understanding, if not to find a way to defeat C’thulhu then maybe to learn how to understand it. But Azerath’s pupil was on her own. And C’thulhu’s influence was growing stronger, creeping over the fringes of her personality like a horde of scrambling insects.
Still, it was because this build-up was occurring that Raven drew hope. C’thulhu had been weakened somehow. Something had opposed and subjugated this monster and its madness for eons. But to find it, she would have to risk her sanity. The demon part of her rebelled at this. The concept of self-sacrifice was alien to it. Her hellish personae strove to overwhelm her, crush her will and drag her far away from here, let the world fall victim to its attacker.
Raven fought back. For once, the dark side was the lesser of two evils. Its needs and frustrating hungers, the impulses that conflicted so strongly with her own….
And as the calm within her fractured, the storm outside of her lessened.
Still fighting herself, another side of Raven’s mind observed this scene with utmost perplexity.
It was like the current of alien worship had split around her, and Raven now existed in an oasis of peace. The previous disorientation and tempting violation was completely abandoned. It was as if she had ceased to exist for it.
Could it be…?
It was a risk. She knew that. There might not be enough of her resolve left afterwards. But if there was the slightest chance…
The darkness had become her hope.
Raven unleashed her demonic urges.
Cravings. Raw, sick hatred mixing with strength and a desire to flee from here at once. She basked in a despotic dream of tyranny and unrestrained destruction! Free at last!
C’thulhu came at her.
A great jagged spike drove through the formless fluids and plasmas that surrounded it. Roaming about over its distorted base, it quested, searching. His eye, the demon realized. That’s C’thulhu’s eye.
It grew before her. The surroundings began to close in again. Raven screamed, her demon magic lashing out in a frenzy, striking vainly at its unprecedented attacker. Still C’thulhu came on, undisturbed. She was losing herself. I have to take control again! The human half reasserted itself. The tide was closing around them, the two sides of Raven fighting savagely for dominance, warring against the wills of both. The beast was about to have her! A dream of hate and death for this and all other living things tore into her thoughts. NO! she cried desperately. My friends, I have to save them, I want to save them all!! The demon screamed its denial!
And C’thulhu pulled away.
Still fighting herself, a part of Raven could only stare. The eye no longer seemed to have a purpose. It swiveled blindly, and then withdrew back into itself, leaving…
The teen hero followed into the gap without pause for consideration. She still had no idea what had just happened, or why she had been spared. But this was her chance. Still at war, Raven dove into her enemy’s mind.
“I will do as much as I can!” Twist shouted over the radio. “The rest is up to you!”
“Don’t talk, just do it!” Cyborg yelled back.
Bearing on a course just above that of the speeding cruise missiles, Twist’s fingers flexed. Her body was a connection, her mind was a signal. The weapons were bearing down upon them. Soon they would be in her range. 1200 meters, she judged.
The malformed woman shivered in anticipation. Would it be so hard to die? About 800 now. Not here, she thought. Not because of someone else. Close to 650. Blast, but they were fast! She didn’t know if she could catch one of them, much less all.
Above her Beast Boy gave a gurgling croak. Without looking, Twist reached up and slapped his beak. “Calm down!” she ordered.
250? Something like excitement made her heartbeat quicken. She could almost feel it. So close now…
There! She felt it! Don’t you fail, just GO!
And with that, Twist caught the incoming projectiles and bent them.
It wasn’t a radical change. Close to the rocket booster, the great cylinders spiraled down to a point. And the front portion, the tip of these nuclear arrowheads, bent up slightly. Metal groaned and trembled, shuddering at the redirection of forces along their length. For a moment Twist thought the whole thing might rip apart. But they were designed for such conditions. And so the missiles stayed whole, and their gradual descent became a rise.
Only a slight angle of ascent at first, but as Twist felt her hold stay firm, she increased their trajectory. At this speed, in just a few moments they would be beyond her reach. So before then…
Yes! The rockets were now traveling skyward at a steep angle. Twist let go. There was no way for them to redirect their course. By the time they expended their fuel, they would be safely out in space. She let go.
Only two smoke-streams were ascending. She had missed one.
Like a shot from a cannon, Starfire exploded in pursuit. The sleek gray shaft roared savagely beneath them on a parallel course. Cyborg’s crash-course in Asian atomic weapons was complete. With a wave of his arm, his transport got the message and bore down on their target. He didn’t stop to think that this was crazy. The teen hero just gave the thumbs-up, and dropped the few remaining feet. His metal limbs contracted, for a moment he clung to the roaring cylinder like a bug on a windshield.
Then he began to slide off to one side. It was going to throw him off! Panicked reflex set in, his fingers dug down and crushed the metal like tinfoil. Hang on, you crazy man!
“Ride ‘em, Cow-borg!” Cyborg laughed to himself.
He then crawled along its length, one handhold at a time, until his sensors told him that he had reached the nuclear hotspot. Then the scientific miracle-man got to work. A torch sprouted from one fingertip, and in under a minute he had carved out a hatch the size of his chest. Ripping it off and flinging it to the wind, Cyborg stared into the belly of the beast.
One impact timer, plus casing with uranium core inside. Maybe eight minutes until detonation. He had guessed there wouldn’t be enough time to try and hack the guidance system. But a nuclear weapon was a composite monster. And that meant the radioactive heart needed…
He smiled when he saw it. The explosive trigger. By luck he had come in on the side closest to it. Cyborg reached down, past the steel shielding, wires and circuit-boards. The remote eye on his right index finger detached, giving him a better view. The tiny bomb-within-a-bomb lay inert for now, trapped in suspended animation, awaiting the right moment.
“Keep dreaming,” he snarled. An angle of his wrist, and a compartment in his palm flipped open. From it burst a stream of super-cold CO2. The Titan sprayed a liberal area of the device, keeping the heft of the attack on his small target. After a minute, the miniature ticker was nothing more than a frozen dead lump.
Reaching in, Cyborg broke it off with a crack, wires trailing stiffly. He raised his other arm, and Starfire was there to catch him. As he rose from the gutted weapon, he flung the cold rock off into space.
“Cut its head off!”
Starfire wasted no time. Her eyes glowed green, and twin beams sliced the air, decapitating the rocket. Cyborg’s arm exploded out and tore into the top half, connected to the rest of his body by a steel cable. His fingers took hold, and he tugged off to one side. The body of the rocket shuddered violently, but propelled onward, continuing its blind, wobbly course. The two heroes watched it curve away into the distance, now nothing more than an eighty foot long exhaust pipe.
Starfire lowered them back to the ground, and Cyborg gently deposited his burden on the grassy plain. Half-submerged in the ocean of plants, it looked like one more boulder among many.
“Let’s not forget where this is afterwards.” He looked up at Starfire, who smiled her agreement. From out of the cloud-capped sky, Beast Boy descended, escorting Twist. “Is it done?” The woman’s strange ghostly tones hung in the air.
“Down and out,” he replied.
“Good.” She said it grudgingly. “By now the initial panic must have worn off. We should make good use of our time before the next politician decides to react.”
Raven cried out at the most basic part of her self. She was being torn apart.
It was all alive here. Everything, everywhere, so much, so far.
When she brought her darkness under control, the nightmare would sweep her up. And when she let the evil come out, and fought against C’thulhu like a wild animal, it was like a poison destroying her soul. She knew now what Beast Boy had been going through. As she clung weeping to herself, fighting the monstrous urges that corrupted her, the tide of alien songs and senses pulled back.
But not as far anymore. Every time, it seemed less distracted by her agony. Somewhere past the pain, Raven knew she was losing ground. C’thulhu was winning this fight without even trying. Soon, one way or another, she would not have the will to resist. Even if she did accept the demon’s promise of escape, there was no guarantee that it would be enough to save her. She would wind up one more lost soul in this drowned labyrinth of creation, a voice singing a hymn of worship for a god that did not believe she existed.
At this point Raven couldn’t stand it anymore. She crushed down the pain in her heart, mastering herself with icy force. As soon as she did, the swell of green lunacy caught her up and flung her into itself.
The girl was battered and rent, besieged on every level by this obscene environment. It was like a river of boulders, crushing her identity relentlessly, seeking to squeeze her into its own impossible design. The power of C’thulhu was revealed at last, leaving the Azerathean sorceress in awe. No barriers or strategies, no tricks proved useful against it. It was like trying to push back a typhoon with a paper fan. Plunging incoherently through the swirling maelstrom of violent paradoxes, the girl could not find it in herself to call the demon to her defense again.
Mafjlvn irectJust let goeiRect dios-vmitm’saabLet it take youvycqwooC’thulhu irect’dknvodloweCome into the light and let C’thulhu know you.
Whirling and lost, Raven gave up to the terror, and began to scream. It was killing her!
“Please don’t hurt me!” she begged at last.
“I want to live.” She was being worn away.
Slipping. Losing consciousness, and her mind. It was all over.
Her life…was a…
Raven held onto it without thought, obeying only instinct. She couldn’t even bring herself to look anymore. The song, and its call from within, was faint now, though she still felt it all around her. She was outside it again. Or was she? What had happened? And what… was she holding onto?
When she finally felt brave enough to know, Raven let herself. As she thought, the madness still raged around her. She was half-submerged in it, clinging in the grasping current to the one stable thing. A tiny blue spur jutting out of the mental storm. No bigger than she was. But anything felt right compared to what she had so narrowly avoided. Or perhaps best to say delayed. Unwilling to think about it, the girl held on to her lifesaver with everything she had left. A beacon of hope.
C’thulhu’s voices… this wasn’t one of them. “Who are...” she shuddered, “you?”
Did she dare to hope? C’thulhu was pulling at her, what else was left?
“Unizue, is that you?”
The disruption grew even smaller under her. She realized that it too was being torn apart by C’thulhu’s mind-song, which rose in strength and fervor around her. She clutched at it desperately. “Don’t leave me!” she wailed. “Please, I need help!”
She did. Raven listened. To the sound of her soul. To the voice that tempted her from the most unpleasant depths of her memories as a species. To the many voices that made up the alien deity’s innumerable victims.
Half in and half out of the psychic jelly, Raven felt something growing in her. Certainty. A conviction. These voices… they weren’t voices. There weren’t many, there was only one. One constant, mad muttering. The same voice multiplied billions and trillions of times. It was just one song, one…
It was a dream. That’s what was singing, not C’thulhu. It was C’thulhu’s Dream! She knew it, she had touched it, when she was trapped in R’lyeh. It was the glowing ooze that festooned the sunken monastery everywhere, except for…
The Spire, where C’thulhu had lain entombed.
Raven pressed herself closer to the shrinking blue stone. It was blue. Her favorite color. Like Mother’s eyes. She held it close, desperate as a mere child. And she could feel it whispering assurances. Comfort.
“Mother?” Raven whispered.
And suddenly she could hear Unizue’s final words to her. –Do you love your Mother, Raven?-
“Yes,” she gasped back, and felt herself being pulled into the blue stone.
-Do you love your Mother, who bore you? Do you love the Ocean?-
Around them now, the clamor of C’thulhu’s Dream faded. She could still feel it, but now something different was surrounding her. It was gentle, and familiar. A soft, tender feeling. Compassion. Anticipation of new life. Motherhood, she realized. A dream of motherhood growing in her, children to come forth and have children of their own. What a strange but lovely feeling. She would dream all her children, and they would go and make dreams of their own.
Raven was outside it again, and she stared at the tiny blue pebble in her hands. Knowing what it was at last.
“You’re the ocean.”
Scarcely anything was left now. C’thulhu’s Dream was wearing it away, and growing stronger as it did. Fading away.
The dream was gone, then, and C’thulhu’s self-worshipping roar rose around. The eye of C’thulhu burst up before her, and Raven stared at it, an enormous crystalline dagger around which everything here revolved.
As the Dream rushed to seize her, Raven looked into C’thulhu’s eye.
“I know what you are.”
He passed out. Just like that. No warning.
One second they were on their way back to Slade, and the next saw them tumbling towards the ground. But Twist was prepared for this. Already she was finding the proper rhythm from the cells of her body. The superhuman clamped her arms to her sides, locked her legs together, and began to change. Progressive sections of her form began to warp round and against one another. In just a few moments, her entire body would be a super-dense spike, fully capable of handling impact with the ground from this height.
Not so for her erstwhile carrier. He was already trailing below her, limbs flapping loosely in the wind. The alien had taken notice of their predicament and had altered her course to try and save them. But burdened as she already was by the metal man, there was no way she could reach them in time.
And so what? Twist was safe. All she had to do was fall, and let nature take its course. The boy wasn’t even awake, he wouldn’t feel a thing. He’s nothing to me, Twist thought. Don’t endanger yourself.
He continued to fall. It’s nothing. Do nothing. That way you stay safe.
Yes. Safe. As safe as Mama and Tata were, when they did nothing to stop the government men from taking me away. Just like them.
In an instant she was moving, her arms unclenching and stretching out. One went up, back towards the other two. Its mate followed down, the fingers twining and lengthening as well. Twist’s enlarged digits wound around Beast Boy’s chest. He was scrawny and unresponsive, but still breathing. The fingers tightened.
Overhead, Cyborg launched his cable arm. His aim was true, but he lacked reach, so Twist found the feel of his steel alloy cord and twirled it even longer.
That did it. Their hands came together. As she felt their descent begin to lessen, the Russian outcast drew them back up. Upon approaching the others, the alien began to gabble her thanks, seemingly without need to draw breath. The big man only mouthed ‘Thank you.’
Twist didn’t care. She wasn’t a hero. Either you’re lucky or talented. There were no angels waiting to swoop down and save you. If Slade asked her why she did it, she would simply tell him that she had not wanted to repeat someone else’s mistake.
Robin ground his teeth. “I’m working on it.”
Slade shrugged. “That headless horseman of the apocalypse that blew by a minute ago won’t be the last.” He gestured at the exhaust cloud that bisected the sky.
The Boy Wonder shook his head. “Can’t you feel what’s happening? It’s getting worse and fast. By the time anyone can think to try something else, this will all be over.”
He was right. The world around them had grown entirely quiet, leached of all normalcy and color. Lighting this grim tableau now was a wavering green essence, emanating from the hanging giant overhead. Where it touched, the world swam, like oil in a puddle. At times sharply defined and hyper-distinct, while at others blurred and almost morphing into one, reality was losing control of its functions.
The two enemies looked at one another. They knew it was all but hopeless. C’thulhu’s resurrection continued without pause. When that slaughterhouse aura broke over them completely, their hope would perish.
Between them, Raven continued to weep in silence. The tears flowed, and though she gave no sign of noticing them, the fact that they were there did not bode well. It was almost time for the end of the world. Maybe the universe.
“We should try to wake her,” Robin suddenly decided. “It’s been long enough, if this had a chance of success then Raven would have done something by now.
“To bring her back to face this might be less of a mercy than leaving her alone. At least now she lacks the anticipation.”
The Teen Titan glared. “I haven’t given up.”
Slade didn’t bother to respond. There was a tightness growing in their throats, and in the rest of them as well. Like something was taking up residence there, squeezing its way in uninvited and disregarding any effort to expunge it. The destructive aura coming off of C’thulhu’s vile body was more pronounced now. No denying it. There was a subtle relief in knowing that. It meant that the end hadn’t come yet. These moments were more precious now than they had ever been.
Robin felt frustration choking him. Dammit, why was this happening?! Why have a world, with all its history and lives and feelings, if it was only destined to be subsumed under a tide of horror? Where was the justice in this, he wanted to scream? Only a day ago he had been in possession of a future, full of hopes and dreams. Where was all that now? Gone, along with billions of other peoples.’ No progression, no opportunities to prove yourself, to better your race and try to win free of the clinging fetor of past ages. Now there was only…
He glared up at it, the gargantuan, unnatural, unthinkable life-form that waited like a guillotine blade to descend. “We’re…” And he looked around, swallowing against the dry fear in his throat he could no longer deny. “We’re not meaningless. All of this,” he spread his arms and turned in a circle, “it can’t be all for nothing, we’ve got to make it last. I want there to be more!”
“I know.” In the stillness of impending doom, Slade’s words had a faint echo to them. “Even if it’s nothing more than shouting to hear ourselves, the fact that we can choose to do it gives it value. But this…” he gestured up at C’thulhu. “It takes no notice. Six and a half billion of us, and together we mean less than one cosmic lunatic. Perhaps we’re the aberration, trying to make sense of a universe that allows things like that to rule it.”
Before Robin could voice a response, Raven crumpled to the ground in a heap.
With a cry the young warrior leapt to her side. He grasped her shoulders, lifted her face, shouted her name. Make it stop, make it all go away, please Raven, you’re all the hope we’ve got now.
Light washed over him.
Light, of an intensity so strong that it blurred the distinction between solid objects. It looked like he was melting into her, and the ground. The little boy inside him told Robin not to look up or it would get him. But he did it anyway, saying a silent prayer for his people.
Be brave, all of you. Just be brave.
The corpse-green eyelids rotated open. Two jagged sharp points surged forth, swiveling madly. Wake!
Everything was known to it once more. Itself, in all its totality! C’thulhu raised its arms, wings flapping madly, the song a roaring accompaniment that shattered the laws of time and space. A cataclysmic chain reaction, rising from a self-awareness that made no distinction between itself and all of existence. The center of creation teetered and cracked.
Wake, WAKE, WAKE!!
From out of C’thulhu, a wall of green roiling sewage burst out. The rotten bag of its body spewed this luminescent necrosis, and between one moment and the next it had dissected the whole planet in two. Everything remained this way for just an instant, a staggering display of the titan’s power.
Then it began to grow.
Flowing in opposite directions, the light swallowed up life, matter, and the space they occupied. The living and the dead, none were safe. As the edges expanded across and through the face of the world, the last 190 million years of evolutionary history was retroactively abolished by the will of C’thulhu. This was its form, the other one. It had more than one. It had them all. The light spreading over the globe was its Eye, the thin eyelid of Earth peeling away so that it could see again, see itself! The whole galaxy was aware of it, and those beyond, for when it looked upon them, it knew them.
Sloughing off the wreckage of life’s promise to this world, the first-born of all tyrants reclaimed what it had relinquished during the slumber of death.
The glow came for them, and the city shouted its joy. Aqualad could only scream, joining in with those around him. The city, R’lyeh, the song was pouring through him. His body was a liquid, one with the ocean, and then not even that, abandoning form, and he just shrieked and screamed inside of what was left of his mind.
R’lyeh’s towers trembled and shot outward, bearing down on him like a living thing. Ours again, it seemed to say. All ours. We are complete.
Aqualad linked body to body with the Deep Ones that remained around him. Then the one-time prince of Atlantis led a chorus to celebrate their master’s rebirth.
Robin and Slade. Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg and Twist. They were among the first to go.
The awakening blasted away the world and their perceptions of it, leaving an amalgamation of twisting, blending chaos in which only C’thulhu remained visible. And though terrified at first, when the song finally took them, all was changed. They howled and stank of the weird light, glorying in the shattering of their bodies and the remaking that followed. It was C’thulhu, and they knew! Their minds had lost all limits, and they were seeing everything now! Their senses multiplied and pierced the heavens, replicating without end, flying through the cosmos on wings of certainty and adulation. They were all together, connected without a doubt. Singing the same song, feeling the same lusts, dreaming the same DREAM!!!
I’A, I’A, C’THULHU FHTAGN!! SHNGLUI’Y BLEH! C’THULHUUUUU!
Bring it all in, they shouted. Fill us with your power and grace. Our supreme C’thulhu! The Dream commanded them. Take us all! TAKE US ALL IN ONE!
-No. That’s wrong-
Gasping, reaching for something that was no longer there, air or light or something even more intangible. There was no light here, he realized. His body was gone. But he didn’t really need a body anymore, right? He had watched his arms turn into the mountains, and his eyes had left in opposite directions out of his head when they grew too big. He had watched himself lose shape and dissolve along with the others, melting into the planet, their lives willingly given up when the god had become clear.
The boy (Robin? Was that a name?) felt around him. Something was starting to come back. When he realized it was himself, it was frightening. He could see nothing. These weren’t really eyes, or a neck. There was a force, a power at work within him. Building him back up, piece by piece. A memory here, an organ there. It encouraged him to take up some of the work upon himself, and so he did. The process went much more smoothly now. He could see himself, and nothing else. The edges of his body were made of white lines, no other color. Like magic. He was all lines, nothing solid yet, and the blackness of this place could be seen through him. He could feel it too.
He knew it, it was familiar. If he could just find the right… word? Was that what he wanted? Yes, a word, and something more to it. A certain sound? A feeling? A person. Friend. Healer. Rare and haunted soul.
Raven? he asked.
-Good. You’re awake-
Her voice. From where? It is you. Where…?
For a moment, he caught a glimpse of her. She was huge, reaching above and below him, wrapped completely in her robe, the face turned away. -This is me you’re in. I brought you here to prepare-
He wasn’t floating. Nothing held him up, but that did not mean there was nothing here. He FELT, after all, and he knew it was her.
-They’re here too. I could only get the ones we were closest to- More white lines were coalescing from the dark. He recognized Slade first. The man’s face seemed to lack distinction, even the eyes were just black holes, but he knew who it was. Then came Starfire, and Beast Boy. The next one was off somehow. It took him a while to recognize the young man before him as Cyborg. Except there wasn’t an ounce of metal on him. He looked human. And beside him stood a monster, behind which, or maybe inside of, he could see a girl younger than himself hiding.
Raven! The Teen Titan called out. What are we doing here?
Faintly, at first. Then more solid, the enormous image of a cloaked Raven grew before him. To each of them, it looked as if she was turned slightly away, her face and body concealed by the curves of her garment. Unlike the others, she was outlined in a black light, different than all the rest.
-This is where it has to end- she sighed. -And begin-
Then, Cyborg said, It’s not over?
Raven, Starfire sang. Did you learn what you sought?
She turned even more away from them, a princess of shadows.
-There was no way to communicate with it. C’thulhu has no words, or language. Just thought. I understand now. I know what C’thulhu is-
And the dark maiden seemed to loom even higher above them. When she finally turned her head to look down, only emptiness greeted their eyes.
- He is… a Waking… Dreamer-
Beast Boy moved forwards. You mean, like… he’s dreaming… while he’s awake?
-Yes- Raven sighed. –A Dream so powerful, that it warps reality itself. More than that, it becomes reality. Replacing it-
Can you kill it? Slade asked.
The giant cowl turned away again. -It can’t be killed. It can die, but it can never be killed. C’thulhu might be the first living thing to come into our universe. However this happened, it occurred at a point before the laws of time and space could take full effect. Like a… free-for-all. And since C’thulhu was born at a time before the rules of reality were set, it never knew them. No one bothered to explain to it what limits life was supposed to involve. It sees itself as the Universe. That is its dream, the Dream of C’thulhu-
The Dream. They all remembered now when it had seized hold of them, silencing their dissent and adroitly sidestepping all their defenses to settle in their brains.
Raven continued. –Death
has been possible for the universe since the beginning, so even C’thulhu has to
answer to that. But it never stays dead. When it dies, C’thulhu and the Dream
are separated. Without its master, the Dream has no power. Around the beginning,
some of its first living worshippers created the city of
How can a dream have so much power? Cyborg asked.
-Dreams- the Titan’s shadow whispered. –They shape the world-
They do not. Twist slouched forward daintily. Every night I dream, and when I wake nothing has changed. I am still the same.
-Because there are so many dreams in our world. When C’thulhu dreams, there’s only one. The Dream sweeps aside all others and inhabits us. It’s the Dream that Unizue heard singing. The words the Deep Ones speak are the language of the Dream, not C’thulhu. The Dream reveres C’thulhu, and so do all who share it. They sing its words. But the Dream and C’thulhu need one another. That’s how he was defeated before-
So he was beaten, Beast Boy blurted out.
How? Slade demanded.
What about it?
-The Ocean is the primal source of life on our planet. From it came the multitude of living things that have existed throughout history. Billions of years ago, the Earth had a dream. A dream of life, of countless life-forms that would someday live upon it. That dream was fostered in the Ocean, and from it came single-celled primitive organisms, built little by little and blessed by their Mother. The Earth’s dream was to have many more dreams come forth. Ours is meant to be a world of numerous small, hopeful dreams. But none of them could survive when C’thulhu came. It was only after he died that the world saw its chance-
- The primal, ancient dream of life was still kept within the waters. After C’thulhu’s end, the Ocean’s dream played its hand, and the sea rose up and swallowed R’lyeh. It was this dream that held C’thulhu captive. Mighty as it was, without its master, C’thulhu’s Nightmare was balked by our planet’s dream. It cut them off from reaching one another. Even after he came back to life, our dream of life, embodied in the seawater, kept the Waking Dreamer and its Dream apart. That is, until one of its children dreamed a dream of death, and destroyed the waters that drowned R’lyeh-
Slade’s face twisted. I made a mistake. Tell me what I can do to correct it.
Beast Boy shuddered piteously. Raven? IS there a way?
At this point, they found that they were rising, as surely as if they had always been. Like in a dream.
-I am the home of more than one dream- the familiar voice reverberated around them. –One is the dream of my parent, a dream of hate. The other is my own. When the two of them both awoke and fought inside me, C’thulhu’s Dream became blind to me. It was still troubled by the lingering presence of the Ocean’s dream. I found that dream. It spoke to me, and it made me realize something-
They were all now floating in front of the great hood. In its environs was the barest suggestion of a human face, vast but made faint, as if by distance.
-This world- and her arms spread out to encompass them. –Our world. It’s a world composed of many dreams. Great and small, brief and lasting, they all exist together at the same time, fighting and helping each other. Our planet welcomes and nurtures all these conflicting dreams. In spite of this, C’thulhu’s Dream is an aberration here. It replaces all other dreams with itself. All life will walk only one path under that Dream, without exception. That’s unnatural, and this Earth cries out against it. We must assert ourselves against C’thulhu-
We can’t, Raven, Beast Boy cried out. C’thulhu doesn’t care if we fight it. Even if everyone stood together.
-No- And suddenly she was right there, standing in front of him. Her fingers touched his face, and her eyes shone with tears. -That’s wrong. Standing as one could never work against him. It never has before. Even if everything in the cosmos joined together to fight it, C’thulhu would still win. But that is what makes our planet special. We are not of one mind, or one destiny. We dream against one another, more often than not. That’s why it sometimes seems like we can’t accomplish anything as a species. The dreams are always cutting each other off-
Raven drew up straight. –Maybe it’s no accident that he came here. Maybe something wanted C’thulhu to come to our world, because his great Dream goes against the fundamental nature of our crazy little messed-up planet-
So then what do we do? Robin stared around uncertainly.
The opening in the cowl began to grow bigger, expanding to engulf them in its depths. -Dream- The word blew softly around them. -You have to dream for yourselves. Yours, not his-
What, just us? Cyborg sounded skeptical.
-Not if I can help it. I’ll do what I have to do, to let everyone in the world know what they need. After that, it will be up to you-
Robin stirred at that.
Then she was in front of each of the Teen Titans. They all perceived her arms tighten around them, her body pressed close. Even Cyborg felt her warmth against his chest, for the first time ever.
-I swore to do everything in my power to keep you safe. But I was always afraid that I would end up doing more harm than good. I guess now I’ll never get the chance-
What are you saying? There was fear in Starfire’s voice.
She drew away from them then, and smiled sadly.
-This is the end, my friends. No more adventures. Goodbye, and stay safe-
Then Raven was far away, and growing farther. Her friends called out to her, but she made herself deaf to their fears. She knew what must be done, and what it would demand of her. So be it. A part of her had always been prepared for this. Although when she had first thought about it, years ago, she had never guessed it would feel like her heart was breaking.
The enchantress from Azerath let herself feel these emotions. As a sort of reward. She was grateful to her friends. For making her feel this way.
The brief respite had not lasted long. But back on Earth, no time had passed at all when she returned. Humanity had just begun to lose itself, falling backward through time to a more savage place. Bodies distorting under C’thulhu’s influence, voices already ringing out the blasphemous dirge. For just a moment, it all seemed too much, too late. But she had her pride. And this was how she meant to keep it. Unizue had taught her that there were many uses for her magic. That it could do anything she needed from it. She had to know.
Azerath. Destroy your doubts.
Metrion. Control your self.
Zinthos. And let it come.
Raven formed her soul body and transferred into it. But this time, she did not stop there. She drew upon more, and went deeper than she had ever dared. Within her, she came upon a magic that existed through her soul, and nowhere else. It was hers, she realized with elation. Not her Father’s. The demon in her might be real, but it wasn’t just in her, it WAS her. The magic had evolved to justify her newborn existence, an unexpected consequence even her Father could not have foreseen. It was capable of anything she needed. What an elation to realize this!
But there was no time. She needed this, all of her power, and now! So Raven made her plea, and was granted it without question. This was hers now, all to use as she saw fit. As it grew, she progressed in turn, linked so fundamentally that it hardly seemed possible she had ever not been aware of it. How could she have not understood this part of herself? Everything she had done before now had just been scratching the surface, but once she brought it out, it was like the sun coming from behind the clouds. Now she understood herself.
Raven smiled. Not even her Father knew. Maybe this was the real reason she had been born. Her destiny, because the one he charged her with could never exist in the same dimension as C’thulhu. With her own dawning self-awareness came the equal certainty that it might not be enough. Even with everything she knew she was capable of now, did one mind have a chance of defying the Dream and reaching all the rest?
It was up to her to find out.
Throbbing in unrestrained climax, the glowing Eye of C’thulhu remained the same size as before, an inconsequential green sphere in space. But that ball, seen from outside it, was now the most enormous thing in existence. Stars, planets, black holes, they all shrank in comparison with it. It was impossible, and yet undeniable.
And then, the eye went black.
-All of you. Listen to me-
It wasn’t easy. Even though C’thulhu had already provided a link between the trillions of living and dead on the planet, that only helped initially, and her very actions disrupted it. She had to establish a secondary current on her own.
-This is not a dream for you. It’s a nightmare-
She was having trouble with her body, unsure where it belonged anymore or if it could even exist at all when she was like this. But it was working all the same. Raven was now communicating with every last one of her fellow human beings on this world, and even those not human. They were still able to distinguish themselves as individuals, but that would not last. The part of them that responded to her was fading away, despite her efforts to hold them together.
-You have to remember your own dreams, the ones you see the world becoming-
The higher consciousness she had developed was almost a burden in and of itself. While she tried to reach them all, it was mapping the cosmos, uncovering the beings and laws that underlay every single thing that called this dimension home. How could she remember what it was she had come here to do, or why it was even important, with all these distractions?
And worst of all, she thought someone was beginning to notice her.
-It doesn’t matter what dream it is, just as long as it is yours!!-
Suddenly the black orb of soul-magic was pierced from within, and a great green spike of an eye shot forth. It looked at the universe, and then back at her covering it.
-This is your world. Not his! He doesn’t belong here. You do!-
Flashes of green were showing through the black planet cover. Raven was growing desperate. Everything was starting to blend together for her, and she didn’t even have a sense of where she was anymore. I’m losing it, she realized. The magic is taking away my links to this place. It’s taking me beyond.
I’m dying, Raven thought with some surprise.
The concentration required to reach all these minds, with this greater calling refashioning what she knew was herself, while at the same time fighting to remain present in the same place as C’thulhu… it was dispersing her. Too much happening at once for any living thing to withstand. Raven could feel herself coming apart. Nothing could live like this for long. But still, she remembered why she was doing it.
-Don’t look at it. Look inside, and remember why you are all here-
Incredible. In the rings of Saturn, were those words? A warning, letting everyone know something dangerous resided in this star system. How had no one ever noticed that before?
-You have choices, and you know it. That means you have a future. Can you see it? It’s a dream too. Yours-
Suddenly Raven was face to face with the Dream of C’thulhu. It had finally found her. She spoke to it in its own tongue, and this made the Nightmare pause as it paid attention to someone besides C’thulhu. That was good. It gave her more time to work, and to admire the Dream itself. It was so huge in its hideous gluttony that it actually became beautiful when seen in its entirety like this. So wondrous, really…
-My name is Raven. I was born to kill you all-
The Dream started to try and seep inside her, just like everyone else. C’thulhu’s Eye looked straight at her. Uncomprehending. Unaware. That’s right, she thought. I’m real, and I’m not a part of you. Wrap your galactic membrane around that if you can. Oh the ghosts of stars, they are forming a path out for me…
-But I was taught to do more than what I knew I could. So I decided instead to try and save you all. That’s my dream, to save everyone-
The verdigris mess was a swarm all around her now. It was corroding its way through her to reach the ones it already had, and the ones it had yet to achieve.
-Some things have clarity only about themselves, and no one else matters. But you’re not like that. You have many people you must consider every day-
Were they even listening to her? Impossible to say, with what they were experiencing. She was losing more and more of what she recognized as herself, but the Nightmare was now paying her more attention. The lonely girl in Raven rebelled at that. Trying to figure me out? A million bucks says you can’t. Ask anyone. I’m deep. You’ve got no idea how complicated I am.
And I’m dying.
She was spread too far, Raven knew that. There was more magic now than her, she would never be able to pull her body back together from this.
- You have to save yourselves. I can’t do it for you this time. I’m not a hero. I’m a teacher-
Now she was being inhabited by C’thulhu’s Dream, and it was truly impressive. A universe in and of itself. It felt strange to think that she wanted it to die. Even when it was eating her alive now, and still wanted more. You don’t belong here, she insisted patiently. Neither of us does, anymore. If I can, I’ll take you with me.
Was it Heaven or Hell that was rising to claim her now? She knew that she had given everything she had. There was no more time for her. All she believed in was dreams and magic, she couldn’t even tell if the people were still there or if C’thulhu was already finished with them.
But in the end, there was enough left of Raven to give one last try.
-Dream. And it will come true for you-
And with that, she was gone.
Safety and security, here in the darkness.
Then it all went away, and they were thrust back into the realm of C’thulhu.
Their mouths opened in puny shrieks as the Dream invaded them once again, deforming and stripping their entire beings. All the peace and promise Raven had left them vanished in an instant.
A part of Slade remained outraged even as the elation from what the Dream showed him took over. The juicy mess of his insides tore out through his skin, too strong to hold back. Then he was squeezed flat and spread out over the galaxy, an enormous raging amoeba. Death did not come when he asked, and so he turned to the worshipping song.
Cyborg’s limbs and head sank into his torso. He could feel everything outside him now, the noxious sludge that their planet had become flowing across his responsive metal coating. It was soothing. He became a mass of strings that plucked and sang for his master, thrilling at the way the universe resonated at each note he produced.
Starfire attacked it furiously, firing her starbolts at the spot she last remembered seeing C’thulhu. She never even saw them connect, and the alien warrior wept and reached desperately for something she no longer understood. C’thulhu’s body had Robin’s head on it now, bending like taffy, gruesomely distorted. She went to him eagerly then. To tell him about love.
Beast Boy already knew this feeling, and didn’t try to stop it. With grim certainty, he regressed to a state of being that nature had never produced. The ultimate beast. But even as the change took hold and transformed him into a skin of C’thulhu, all he could think about was the memory of a touch, and a scent he hoped to never forget.
Robin fought desperately, trying in every way he knew to beat back the invasion. Remember, he shouted, or thought he did. She told you what to do! Please remember! You have to!
The green light split him to pieces. When he came apart it was like he had been stripped of a great weight, and suddenly he knew it had been keeping him from understanding the truth. He swam around in the muck and gurgled at his new-found freedom, the noise making poetry to his exorbitant new array of senses.
Twist wailed. Though she tightened herself into an indestructible nail of flesh, still the revolting miasma soaked into her, having its way with her. The world was crushing her organs, transforming her! No! Not again! Please stop! She prayed fervently as her body broadened and swelled, brain sucking up the rest of her, then sliding and spattering like paint on a canvas. They were stealing her life again!
I don’t want to be a monster anymore.
She could see all of herself, and it was so ugly she wanted to die. She didn’t even look vaguely human.
But I want to be, the voice of the little girl whispered with her last breath. Even if I’m the only one left… and there’s no one else to see me, I want… to be…
There came a screech, a noise like two metal plates scraping against each other at high speed. Something was splitting, cleaving away in a rush. A scream sounded, going on and on and on.
And when it stopped Ludmila was
standing alone on a great globe of dissolving matter and roars. Her hair was
bound up in a braid. She was wearing her favorite shoes, and the dress she had
seen when they visited her uncle in
“I’m… me again,” she whispered to herself in her own voice. “I’m human. Is this a dream?”
Yes. Somewhere deep inside her it whispered. It’s a dream.
Ludmila looked around her, and she could see the others. They were turning into slime and light and noise. Slade was one of them! And he had saved her, promised to help.
“No!” she screamed, and rushed forward, slipping and stumbling on the mercurial terrain. Unable to distinguish one swirling mass of forms and plasma from another, she grabbed one at random, praying that it was right.
“Slade, is it you? Please, look at me. I’m normal again, see? This is what I look like! We can…” The girl sobbed and clutched at the disgusting conglomeration. “We can walk down the street together, you promised me we could, and everyone will look at me again because I look human, see? See?!”
He knew that word. It was what he wasn’t anymore. At all. His mistake. The last one he had ever made as a man. Going too fast, he should have known better, not paying attention, and the truck had come out of nowhere. He swerved right into a tree. Totaled the car. His dream car. Sometimes he did dream, dreamed that he had seen it coming in time, and he had hit the brakes instead, prevented the accident, so that he could be human and feel the shiny steel under his fingers instead of being it. He remembered wanting that so bad, if he could only be flesh and blood again.
A small crack appeared in the nightmare surrounding him, and on instinct part of him dove towards it, away from the howling song. He strove to be free.
And then he was. Standing there, Victor Stone. Not a cyborg. Naked as the day he was born and holding hands with a skinny white girl half as tall as he was. Victor could feel her hand inside his, warm and soft, and a strand of her hair blew up into his face. Why wasn’t he wearing any clothes? It was pretty warm here, but even so… Was this a dream? You can’t feel in a dream, he realized.
He saw everything, so the two of them standing there like that struck him as unusual. And then he was confused again, when only moments before he had understood it all, and he never understood anything. Why couldn’t he be with a girl like that? Girls liked cool guys, he knew. Like heroes. He could be a hero, and save people. Now he could, anyway. If only he had been a hero back then, he could have saved them. Mom and Dad. And everything would be perfect after that, a perfect world all because of him.
Garfield Logan stumbled backwards and stared dazedly about. The guy who kind of looked like Cyborg and the girl who looked like nobody were staring at him. Then a hand came down on his shoulder and he turned to find his Mom and Dad there. And he cried when they smiled, and hugged them both tight. It was perfect.
Just so perfect.
There was no such thing.
He knew that. The world had always been ugly to him, and the only difference now was that everyone could see it. That was fine. He didn’t want a perfect world. That was not a dream for him, because in a perfect world, he would not exist. He had himself. Or he used to. Not sure now. But that was wrong too. Didn’t she tell him before that he was always sure of himself, when they were alone together? He survived because he was strong, and knew how to use that strength. It had been a dream of his, and that dream had become a reality because he had made it, at great cost to himself. The old wish, he remembered it now!
Slade remembered, and reformed himself. He felt stronger than he ever had in his life. Even with the world turned mad around him, he just laughed. So what? He had already proven he could do anything. He knew how. He always knew.
They were so confusing, all of them. Even if she kissed every single one of them, it was likely she still wouldn’t understand what they were trying to tell her. But she tried. She had always wanted to bring joy into other peoples’ lives, because she loved how it made them feel. This was a world where people frowned more often than not, where to smile and sing while floating down a street earned you no happy looks in return, but only suspicious glares and cold faces. If she could, she would have helped them all find their joy, her dream.
Starfire awoke to gales of happy laughter all around. Her favorite sound. There was so much merriment and mirth. But one voice in particular stood out to her.
He was not alone anymore. All the doubts and fears which had previously plagued him were gone, and he had no more longings. Everything was where it was, for him. As him. So then… what was that? It all seemed the same, but… different. And there was a noise in it that spoke to him. When he tried calling out to it, he realized why.
It was him.
That was his voice. Raised in laughter. It reminded him of something he had forgotten. Warm, honest laughter, the clink of glasses, his friends all congratulating him. And when she grabbed him up and spun them both about in the air, Richard laughed like he never had before ‘til he almost wept. Below him, Cyborg clapped loudly, and Beast Boy whistled. Bruce, the best man and father figure, smiled with them. The whole party saw his face and knew who he was, and it didn’t matter. No one was going to hurt them. And when she drew him down, and he lifted her veil away, her smile was a loving relief. Richard cupped her cheek, lost in her large radiant eyes. Green, they were. Green, like emeralds, and the color of…
SCREAMING, all around him, an alien, distorted terrain. Earth and sky indistinguishable, sloshing and blending back and forth, all caught in a frenzied dance to a tune that hammered at his soul with countless insane hands. For a moment he thought his heart might explode with terror. It was a nightmare, a storm of lunacy sweeping all around the world!
Then the gel tide parted before him, and beyond it Robin found himself face to face with something unholy.
The mad god threw its head about, tentacles dipping into the oily mess it had made of their home to leave globs of matter, flesh and time dripping in its wake. Corpulent and terrifying, C’thulhu’s claws twisted everything they came into contact with. Human beings became devils, to fall upon one another and themselves, all the while screaming out thanks to their master. The celestial invader paid them no heed, it had eyes only for itself as it undid the warp and woof of reality with a thought. Its gaze ranged far, Robin saw, and if he would only look into it…
Not there, Robin. That’s not what you want.
That voice pulled him back, and he remembered why he should be afraid. He turned his head away, shaking, and there saw someone who made his heart pound for a different reason.
Starfire looked up, beyond the smiles and sunshine. There was Robin, her Robin, a strong silhouette framed against the backdrop of an enormous monster’s face. With a thought, the young man closed the distance between them to take the Princess of Tameran in his arms. He stared into her eyes. And as the howls of the damned swept around them, the teenage boy cupped her cheek in his hand, and whispered to her.
“YOU are my dream.”
It was then that they kissed for the first time, outside of dreams.
C’thulhu was free, and it swam, flew, and flowed over everything. There was only itself, and it had everything about itself. The Eye of C’thulhu was opened wide. Awake… awake…awake…
The Dream rose up unexpectedly, and R’lyeh roared.
It began as a few small points of light on the surface of the great Eye. Too small to be a threat to anyone.
Except they were not alone. And each of them sang a different song than the one that ruled here.
As they were heard, more followed.
I’m going to be a dancer, You’re going to be a lawyer.
These dreams did not fit together, and they began to fight. The grand Dream flinched at something it could not believe existed.
I wish I were beautiful, Love my husband, Want her husband, I’ll rule this nation, I’ll discover a cure for my father’s disease, I’m going to live forever, I’m going to kill him.
They twirled and clashed, white lights sweeping over the face of C’thulhu’s new form. The Dream lived, but it could not reconcile itself to what was going on. For every dreamer that gave themselves to it, a thousand more did not. And though the followers of C’thulhu outnumbered this planet’s people by the trillions, in the end, there was only one of them. That was the price they paid.
I’ll own the business, I’ll own the business, It’s my inheritance all mine, I’ll give it all away, I’m going to beat the Final Boss, I’m going to Burma and Australia and China, I’ll sing my way across the continent.
Small dreams, huge dreams, those a thousand years old and others newborn. The laws of reality had been destroyed, and suddenly they found themselves given form with their dreamers, allowed to explore and exist outside of them. They were all springing up to light their own corner of creation within the one that C’thulhu had made for itself.
And gradually, almost incredulously, the universe began to take note.
I’ll find my real parents and they’ll love me, I’ll hunt them down and kill ‘em, I’m going to be a pirate, This time I’ll be the one who retires to Florida, That lottery money is mine next time, Just one more spin of the wheel and then I can stop.
The sound of them together was a senseless collision of opposing voices, beyond anything that could be called disharmony. They fought and struggled to make a place for themselves against their surroundings. The Dream tried to engulf them all at once, but instead of resistance, the dreams only offered discord amongst themselves. A world of warring futures, fighting each other for survival.
I’ll map the ocean floor, It’s going to be a whole new world once I get published, If I change just one more thing about myself then he’ll love me, It’s her sister that I want, I’ll be so rich I’ll buy this city and make them all pay, We’re going all the way to the championships this year, Once I fix it so my team loses at state I’ll make a fortune.
It was spreading. A billion different levels of reality, all trying to exist at once. The shifting green plasma was being cut into, eviscerated by an infinite number of puny lesser dreams. C’thulhu shook and swayed, still delighting in its purpose. But the Dream was in a frenzy, finding its existence accompanied and inhabited now by others who did not share its song. I’m going to go home to my parents, One day I’ll tell them all to kill the other women, My fan-fiction will become the basis for a sixth season, I’ll restore this town and make it shine.
The Dream had gone berserk. Things were happening inside it that shouldn’t! It called out to the dreamers. LL’huch Trokp-Dglg Hng!
And was refused!
The shaken universe had taken notice. Instead of the Eye looking on it, now it examined the Eye, sensing a never-before-seen distress in the coming of reality’s tormentor. A desperate hope formed.
The grand Dream, a ball of viridian blood frozen in space, was now covered with billions of tiny dancing stars that smashed and rebounded, joining together only to split apart. They could agree on nothing, and this planet… this planet welcomed it! With joy. Innumerable selfish parasites, they cut through the swarming surface of the Eye like diamond blades, and beneath the green tormented skin, briefly seen before it closed up again, was another world. A world of many dreams. Like waves crashing together, the Dream and its attachés dragged along the rest of Creation, shredding it apart. The Earth and the Eye cracked and flashed against one another, the Many and the One trying to occupy the same place at once. No more savage spectacle had ever been seen, as the newborns strained to cut out a place from their ancient antagonist and the rest of the Universe strove unsuccessfully to eject the battle and save itself.
It seemed as if nothing would ever be resolved. They could never subdue the Nightmare, and the Dream could not resolve itself to all of them. The huge bloody Eye of dreams swelled to bursting, and the Universe began to lose its basic form, crumbling back into nothingness.
-This is your world-
It was only an echo, really. But those words wrenched the Titans and the pair of villains out together.
At first they just looked at one another, amazed they were still alive. Until they remembered they were not alone here. The hurricane of dreams screamed before them, and they could see each of their own whipping around in it.
At the heart of this eruption was the alien god-beast C’thulhu.
The monster’s form grew until it was right in front of them, but even though C’thulhu dwarfed anything that had ever lived on this or any world, they could still see all of it at once. The demented deity clung to their planet in its immensity, wings shrouding it, refusing to give up its place. Its Dream blasted out praise for C’thulhu, and it became even greater, until the Titans were all staring into the volcanic continent that was its eye. And still it didn’t see them. There was only itself, as it continued to destroy everything that had ever been or hoped to be.
They all looked at it, and felt a touch of awe. It was just so big!! How could they not be humbled by it, when it could do so much, and they so little? Their world, it was big too, surely they could all live here, right? The Earth was composed of many dreams living together, so if they could only find some way, to make it understand what they were; not simply empty vessels to fill with a lunatic’s dream, but dreamers in their own right. Couldn’t the dreams all live together?
Just then the Universe sent out a scream, begging for C’thulhu to stop, for someone, anyone, to please…
But C’thulhu didn’t stop. Instead it spread its wings, and began to pull all of creation into the depths of its glowing green insane Eye.
And so they knew.
There was no way to do it, no way to coexist. It would never see them, or anything else. This monster would never leave them alone.
With their planet laid to waste and the Universe crumbling into pieces around them, Robin stepped forward, and spoke.
“You’re too big.”
Galaxies tumbled past, and Starfire moved up beside him. Each placed an arm around one another. “This planet was not made to support you,” she stated precisely. “We cannot dream your Dream for you. So leave us alone.”
“Find some other place to live, you hear?” Victor Stone stood proudly. “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”
Garfield Logan stared into that terrible visage without fear for once. “Our dreams might never come true,” he whispered. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t still have them, for as long as we live.”
The face of C’thulhu was jerking this way and that, bubbling and changing. It grew both huge and distant. The song was now a frantic desperate pulse as it spoke to its master to put an end to the disruption by consuming it all!
Phimgl’euck nborlesaad! Sngleoret C’thulhu!
C’thulhu’s eyes thrust out completely, and a beam of green light poured forth, washing over the Earth’s champions and lighting the whole of Creation. It completely filled the blackness with its power, and everything drew into C’thulhu. The light was omnipresent, planting itself throughout this dimension and beyond. It brought a swift halt to the outward progress of the bounds of existence that had been expanding since the beginning of this dimension. Immediately everything pulled backwards to one point in the cosmos. The entire panoply of stars and worlds spun and swirled in the lurid green light, like so many globs of excrement being flushed into the dark hole of an alien brain. It would be all, the Dream sang rapturously! The light was C’thulhu, and IT MUST BE ALL!!!
In the very face of this torrent six mortals stood, blasted by a force of universal change beyond human comprehension. They remained as they were; who they were. A multitude of angry dreams clustered all around them.
“This is our world!” Ludmila the peasant girl shouted furiously. “A world of many, because we allow each other to dream!”
The universe sought protection hiding behind them, away from the light that was ravishing it, and Robin looked its killer, this inter-dimensional rapist, in the eye. It was just another criminal, trying to steal everything away from them, and when he spoke his voice was the cold hard sound he used against all those who took without mercy.
“If you won’t let us dream our own dreams…”
C’thulhu’s body swelled, and the Dream sang for him! Hne’ethran! I’a! I’a!
Slade finished the sentence.
“…then youdon’t belong here.”
The devil light grew brighter! The song became a noise so loud it filled up the remaining cosmos!
I’A! I’A! C’THULHU FHTAGN I’A! I’A! C’THULHU FHTAGN I’A! I’A! C’THULHU FHTAGN!!!
They heard its words, and their response was… RAGE!
“GET OUT OF OUR WORLD!!!”
That single shout, so enormous, blasted away the song, and C’thulhu’s Dream was rendered silent.
Everything was quiet.
And when it heard this, the Sun recognized what it meant and immediately exploded.
It was as if the mighty ball of flame and heat tapped into every single bit of nuclear fuel it had at once. What should have occurred gradually over billions of years happened in a split second, and the compressed universe was flooded with a white light that carried with it a reaffirmation of how things must be!
Hanging in the midst of this heavenly conflagration, shocked to its depths, the enormous Eye of C’thulhu flinched.
It began to close.
The green lines reemerged at
either pole, passing back the way they had first come. Starting from a point in
And where they retreated, the planet was restored.
Reverting to its natural state, the small blue world awoke to a new feeling of peace. The green chaos retreated, and an ancient evil passed away. Caught in total incomprehension, the Deep Ones were frozen as lifeless dolls. Like a curtain being draw over them, when the alien line passed by, the worshippers of C’thulhu immediately vanished where they stood. Like they had never existed.
Out in the Pacific Ocean,
several hundred miles off the coast of
Finding himself renewed and
aware, Aqualad looked up in time to see the green wall pass over the monstrous
And when it did not return, R’lyeh quaked. And it began to spin.
End over end, round and round
the doomed city went, faster than it should be possible. And as it tore on, the
whole thing seemed to dwindle. Not getting smaller, it was more like it was
falling away from them, but staying in the same place. It was an optical
illusion, impossible to explain. In spite of this, the prince of Atlantis and
his armies watched the ancient city of
Until finally it was just… gone.
At last the two green walls reached one another, and the Eye was closed.
Everything was quiet. At peace. The softest grass they had ever known enveloped them. It was long and brown, and the sky above them seemed a more vibrant blue than it ever had before. Robin and Starfire were lying on their sides, face to face. Their hands were clasped together. Right now, it was enough just to look at one another. Slowly they rose to a sitting position.
Cyborg remained staring at the sky. The grass tickled the skin at the back of his neck and under his arms. But nowhere else. Don’t look, he told himself. Just don’t look.
Something stirred beside him. He turned his head. His hand, his lifeless metal hand, was clutching a set of long fingers. Actually, it wasn’t the fingers that were long, it was the nails. They looked to have grown over two feet and were curling at the end.
A skinny figure pushed up over the top of the grass, holding its other hand before its face. It had yellow eyes, a flat nose, and a small, down-turned mouth. The purple hair that fell down past its shoulders reached to the ground and well along its length. Cyborg gazed at it, and the yellow eyes noticed him there. Twist pulled her hand away, and fat tears rolled from both orbs. He realized he was crying too.
“Gone.” Beast Boy sighed dreamily. “It’s gone. I don’t hear the song anymore. I don’t feel it in me. The nightmares are all gone.”
Slade walked by him, head held high. The green teen scrambled up hastily. “Hey!” he yelled. “Did you hear? It’s all gone!” Beast Boy rushed forward and grabbed the man’s arm without thinking about it.
Slade didn’t look at him, or even seem to notice his hand. He only stared straight ahead, and so Beast Boy followed his gaze.
His knees gave out, and he crumpled.
Hundreds of feet above them, C’thulhu lowered a hand from its face.
A queer, multitudinous warbling came from it, and the eyes shot erratically around. Below it, six living beings moved slowly to stand together, as if in a dream. Then C’thulhu turned its head.
And it looked at them.
“No,” Beast Boy rasped. “Nononono it sees us. Oh man, it sees us, it’s looking at me!!!”
The titan twisted its swaying, ungainly form towards them. Its tentacles squirmed and snapped. The sky grew dark again, as the soaring entity loomed in dire threat over the tiny group. It spread out clawed hands to take them.
Robin reached to his belt for a weapon. “Get ready,” he said in a shaky voice.
C’thulhu took one ponderous step forward.
Slade moved to his former apprentice’s side. “There’s no need,” he declared calmly.
The talon-heavy heel came down.
And sank straight into the earth.
“It’s been voided,” Slade said.
The outlandish juggernaut still lurched towards them, seemingly oblivious to what had transpired. C’thulhu took another step, and another, each time sinking ever deeper below ground.
“It wouldn’t allow us to keep our dreams, but neither would it leave,” Slade continued to explain. “So it has lost its place in our world, and therefore the universe.”
Half of the monster’s torso was below the surface, yet still it came on. The Titans observed this with a sick fascination, and made no move.
A hundred yards away from them, its eyes were level with theirs. For a time they just stared into that enormous, unreadable landscape of a face.
Then it moved forward again, and C’thulhu’s head sank out of sight.
Beast Boy slumped, giving a sob of relief.
And then the giant clawed hand burst upward! It came crushing down, and they all raised their arms to ward against it.
Its talons passed right through them. They could see everything around tinted by an unnatural green aura, even each other. And nothing more.
At last that too went down, leaving them numb and shaking with dread.
Its speed began to increase. In
what seemed no time at all, C’thulhu had passed through the Earth’s crust,
mantle and core. It emerged again in the southern tip of
C’thulhu crossed beyond the fringes of the planet’s atmosphere, and still it did not stop. It wasn’t due to gravity, but rather the lack thereof that drew it out. The creature was being expunged from this place, and since it could not accept the need to go elsewhere, it had nowhere else to be. Set adrift, the demon-god soon spiraled out of the reach of the gravitational plane, and approached the darkness of the Void surrounding Creation. The Outer Reach that bounded this reality beyond which light did not have the strength to travel. Then, like a stone dropped into a great black pond, C’thulhu entered the nothingness.
For a moment, its eyes gleamed from within the dark, back at the world it left behind.
And then it was gone.
By the time the Titans thought to look, Slade and Twist had vanished without a trace. No indication of how. For a time the heroes stared at each other in confusion.
Then Robin looked carefully around.
Kultuq the Immortal sat in the fading daylight of a sunset he had never thought to see. The worst had happened, and he was still alive. They all were. And he knew why. So he waited.
The Titans returned to their island the next day to find him on their doorstep. They came walking up to their headquarters. All four of them.
Kultuq stood. His head slowly turned back and forth, examining them. They stared right back.
“Where is she?” he asked in a quiet voice.
The question was directed at Robin. The Boy Wonder only turned his eyes away.
“Where is she?!”
The leader of the Titans bowed his head beneath the weight of something unspeakable.
“Gone,” was all he said.
Kultuq lunged forward and struck him savagely. The boy went down without a fight, and when he moved to do more, Cyborg and Starfire each took an arm to restrain him.
“You’re wrong!” the immortal screamed. “I felt her, she saved me! She saved us all!! I dreamed we would be together forever! I dreamed it! I DREAMED!!!”
He cried and tore ineffectually at their grips. And when that failed, Kultuq went limp, sobbing. “Where are you, Raven?” he moaned into his hands. “Please. Wake me up. This is just a dream. Wake me up and punish me, you swore that you would. Just don’t go. Don’t go.”
Robin watched him from where he sat, and he too began to weep.
“Don’t go,” Kultuq sobbed. “It’s just a dream, so please, don’t go.”
“Just a dream,” the Titan echoed, crying. “Just a dream.”
To be continued…