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The ground supporting them vanished, and Dee fell. But she was not falling, and it was not straight down... She was being PULLED down and away from the crumbling edge of the pit, into the center The air that rushed past her reeked of rot and sewage. Not just rotting meat, but rotting EVERYTHING, held together with a thick paste of feces and urine... which was also rotting, and had been doing so for a very long time.
Dee didn't remember what her last meal was. But her stomach did, and at it sent the remnants of that meal cascading up her esophagus before she completed her first breath. She barely managed to hold on to Treach and her backpack as her entire abdomen convulsed. Her eyes watered and begged to close, but Dee held them open.
She saw it.
The thing in the pit. The heart of the Blight. The thing that could manipulate reality and that had pulled her and her friends to her doom-
-It was looking right at her. Staring up at her with a single enormous glowing, slime-covered eye.
It was strangely human, except that the pupil alone was the size of Dee's SUV. The multicolored iris was bioluminescent, glowing bright enough to illuminate some of the bulbous shape that held the eye, even as the eye itself rolled away into the darkness.
It looked human. A human shape; An enormous man caught in a spider's web woven from his own flesh.
But then Dee realized that any resemblance to the human form was coincidental. The thing more resembled a stretched amoeba or a tumor. The things she had taken for arms were just projections from the center mass. One ended in a hand-shaped structure that grasped onto the inner wall of the pit with long, writing fingers. The other ended in a throbbing mass that looked like a brain wrapped in fishnet. The eye had been part of a blunt protrusion that lacked any other feature. The long torso trailed away into darkness, seemingly held in place by clusters of tendrils that trailed out of irregularly spaced, wound-like ruptures along the length. The tendrils slipped between the rocks of the walls. Thick, greenish-brown slime covered the thing's skin, leaving only small patches of yellow and pink flesh exposed.
Dee saw all of this as she fell into the midst of it. By the end of the second breath she wished she could scream. At the beginning of the third-
-she hit something.
It wasn't rock; it felt more like leather covered in wet sponge. There was a structure beneath it, but it gave under her weight like a spring. The stench was indescribable. She slid a short distance, and came to rest on her back. Treach immediately slid out of her grasp. She rolled to reach for him, but as she looked past the end of her own arm, she saw that she was still moving. The walls of the pit rose around her. She looked up. The pit's opening was above, and getting further away. There was enough light to see, but it was fading as the constant crunch and rumble of rocks grew louder.
"Oh God," Dee gagged. Not just from the smell, but the realization of what was happening. She hadn't fallen all the way to the bottom of the pit She'd somehow landed ON the creature she'd seen a second ago. She and Treach were clutching to its slime-coated skin like parasites, and it was carrying them down into whatever lay at the bottom of this hole. A nest? She wasn't dead yet, but it was unclear whether that was good news or not.
"LAHR!" she called. "NICHOLAS!"
There was no sign of either of her companions. She didn't bother shouting for the Scarecrow because he couldn't shout back. If he was alive and mobile he'd hear her and find his way to her.
But what were the chances of ALL of them being as lucky as she was?
They were probably all dead. Dashed to pieces on the sharp walls or whatever waited at the bottom of the pit. It was probably just her and Treach now. And the dog was cowering beside her like a puppy, overwhelmed by... well... everything.
"HELLO!?" she called.
Suddenly, the 'ground' beneath her began to sink. There were wet pops and crunches beneath the mattress of flesh.
Dee rolled to one side and grabbed Treach's collar. The pit bull came hesitantly, but under his own power. That was good, because Dee lacked the strength and leverage to move much more than herself.
The space they'd occupied sank inward, and the spongy skin began to pucker, forming a crater the size and rough shape of... her?
The crater erupted. Skin split, and a geyser of pale, acrid fluid spurted over Dee's head. The smell that accompanied it was almost clean compared to what she'd smelled before, but she was still glad that none of it had splattered her. There was now a small fresh wound on the creature's hide. Dee caught a glimpse of rough pinkish flesh, with jagged bits of translucent... ribs? teeth?... jutting out She recoiled, and finger-thin tendrils began to worm their way out of the open sore and slither across the filthy skin toward her.
Dee didn't know what this new horror was, but she wanted no part of it. She didn't want to see it, and she sure as hell didn't want to touch it.
She scurried away from the questing tendrils. Treach barked at them, but stayed with her.
"HELP!" she shouted again. "ANYBODY!"
The skin beneath her began to rumble and sink inward.
Another wound was about to open.
This time, Dee got to her feet. The illusion of being on solid ground was harder to maintain when she was standing, but she had to move.
She tried to run, but the shifting 'ground' and the fading light made that impossible. She picked a direction staggered/swayed her way toward any place that wasn't where she was standing.
With a PLOP and a HISSSsss, the creature opened another orifice. The tendrils that came out of it were larger and slower, but they were closer.
One brushed Dee's foot. She brought her heel down on it, but the 'ground' was too soft to crush it. Instead, it simply melted into the flesh below and reappeared when she removed her shoe.
Dee moved faster. She and Treach scurried across the creature's skin like insects.
Another tendril-spewing mouth erupted in front of her.
Dee spun and ran, then turned again as tendrils... these quite small and very fast... slithered toward her like a nest of snakes from her new direction.
She was running out of space.
But she'd already decided. If she had to run off the edge of this thing and die in the fall, then she'd just have to do it. Anything... ANYTHING was better than whatever this creature was trying to do.
Light glared down on her from the left. She turned to look-
The giant orb literally beamed onto her from a short, stubby stalk that had curled upward from somewhere below.
That massive pupil was like looking into infinity. And the iris.... so many colors! Colors Dee couldn't even describe, let alone name.
"I- It's..." she said. "...beautiful." Drool collected at the corners of Dee's open mouth as she stood, transfixed. Treach barked at her, but she ignored him. Just as she ignored the fresh sinking sensation from below as the skin on which she stood began to move.