To find the truth, you must hunt in the darkest of places.
I kill the engine, my breath coming out in visible puffs in the bone-biting cold. The sudden silence is almost deafening, and I sit back for a moment, with my fellow agent and case partner Zoe Lai by my side, the only sounds to be heard being the quiet rustling of leaves in the wind... and our own, expectant breathing.
I shiver. The atmosphere is eerie.
Well. No cases will be solved by just sitting inside the car. With a surge of determination, I step out of the vehicle and take a deep breath of the cool, crisp air. It’s the middle of the night, and the sky is still dark... but not as it should be.
The entire forest is bathed in the sickly, otherworldly purples and greens of the aurora borealis.
Before the… change, in a past life that now seems so much simpler, I’d never even seen it in person. Now, though, it’s visible at all latitudes, even by day. Just looking at it makes me shiver in the embrace of my jacket.
I look up, searching for the North Star, but I can’t find it. The stars seem to shift and change every night, and I find myself staring uncomprehending at an unrecognisable, alien sky.
The glow of the aurora provides unnatural levels of visibility, so I study my surroundings. I’m standing at the edge of a frozen lake, surrounded by tall pine trees. Their branches are weighed down by snow, making them look like they’re bowing in reverence. I take a step forward, and the snow crunches beneath my boots.
The sound of a car door closing resounds behind me, as Zoe joins me. I contemplate her in the eerie afterglow of the aurora. She’s tall, lean, strong, with black hair that look almost like a shroud in the jade afterglow of the aurora.
She’s a brilliant young woman, eager to prove herself in the field. I’ve never been someone’s… mentor, I suppose. I’m pretty young myself, after all. But since the change, the Agency has needed much more staff than ever before, and that meant lots of promotions.
So here I am, trying to show Zoe the ropes, acting like I know what I’m doing, which sometimes really feels like a straight lie.
I push the anxiety away, try not to let the sense of responsibility choke me. I check the safety on my gun, just in case.
We unpack our gear, moving in silence. Flashlights, radios, first aid, flashbang grenades... perfectly routine stuff, and yet it feels like nothing but. The woods seem almost impossibly dense, the trees reaching high towards the firmament, an alien forest under an alien sky, painted in colours that don’t belong to any normal night.
I almost feel like the trees arere watching us, disapproving of our presence. That makes me shake my head. You don’t become a field operative for the Agency by thinking such silly thoughts. Then again, most of what’s happening out there in the world is, frankly, silly.
Not just the stars, but the people.
The word mind control is used so freely among us in the Agency now, that we have to check ourselves when out in public, since the topic it’s still classified. I mean, there’s no doubt that’s what it is… and what people are using their newly awakened powers for.
It’s still a minor phenomenon. But it’s spreading.
I’m suddenly aware of Zoe standing beside me, her equipment ready to go. Mine is as well, so I shut the trunk of the car, turning to face her.
“Anything yet?” I ask Zoe, keeping my voice low.
She shakes her head, her breath misting in the cold air. “Nothing, ma’am. It’s as quiet as the grave out here.”
I nod, my eyes scanning the area. “Well, wouldn’t be the first time we go off on a wild goose chase. But if there really are cultists out here... we need to find them.”
Zoe nods, though I can sense her hesitation. Cultists. I can’t believe I’ve actually said that word out loud, like it’s perfectly normal. Still, it’s pretty much the one lead we have, and we must follow it... even into the darkest of places.
In my experience, that’s usually where the truth likes to hide, anyway.
We start to walk around the lake, our boots crunching on the snow. The only sound is the occasional rustling of pine needles as a gust of wind blows through the trees. As we walk, I can’t shake the feeling that something is watching us.
In fact, the air seems to be... pulsing with something. A vibration. I signal for us to stop, and close my eyes, focusing on the odd sensation. It’s the first time I’ve noticed it, but it’s unmistakable. Almost a sound, but not quite. It almost sounds like distant breathing, welcoming and threatening all at once.
Zoe and I trade looks. No words are needed. In a world where constellations break and reform in the night sky, where perfectly ordinary people suddenly gain the power to beguile and enthrall, what’s one more inexplicable phenomenon?
We move forward, gliding as quietly as we can on the snow-covered ground, using the preternatural glow of the aurora for guidance. We proceed for what feels like hours, the expansive and ethereal breathing in the air growing stronger with every step. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, and I start to wonder if I’m imagining things. But then I see something up ahead.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I grip my gun tightly. I turn to Zoe and signal for her to fall in behind me, providing cover. We make our way to the edge of the lake, where the snowy shore meets the water.
As we get closer, a sound begins echoing across the clearing. It’s a voice, singing in a language I don’t recognise. Bingo, I suppose.
As soon as we reach the edge of the treeline, I see robed figures moving in the clearing, seemingly dancing in a rough circle, chanting.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that recent events would cause sects to spring up all over the place, but it still feels so bizarrely specific to me. Why the robes, the dancing, the chanting? I shake my head. We’ve arrested plenty of these loons already, and most really are just disaffected middle-aged men LARPing… or worse.
The only depressing reason we keep following up on reports of cult activity, is that we have no better leads to chase. I want the truth, and this is a flimsy lead to follow, in order to reach it.
Then again, I can’t deny the eerie quality of the scene. Bathed in the alien glow of the aurora, the cultists look menacing, their odd language sharp and aggressive to the ear. Throughout their entire performance, their head is tilted upwards, as if they’re communing with the sky.
The strange breathing permeating the air is so strong now that it feels like it’s inside my head, throbbing in time with my own heartbeat.
That’s when, suddenly, one of the cultists turns to face us. Woman, I think, even though I’m not sure how I know, because the only feature of hers I can truly discern, under the darkness of her hood, is her eyes.
They burn bright, emerald green, the colour jade would have if it was merged with fire. A shudder courses through my body, and then, everything goes black.
* * *
Zoe and I sit across from each other in the dimly lit diner, our plates of greasy food half-eaten in front of us. We’ve been on the road for days, following reports of strange, robed figures performing rituals in the woods and remote areas. It’s our only lead in this bizarre investigation, and we’re both feeling uneasy.
For a moment, I’m confused. I look around at the diner, at the patrons eating in awkward silence, the sound of cutlery and half-whispered conversations augmenting the odd mood. To my left, two girls—a goth in the appropriate attire, and a blonde in a totally unseasonal summer dress—are unconvincingly picking at their food.
To my right, a man is wolfing down food, while his female companion—with no plate in front of her, I notice—stares very intently at the wooden surface of the table.
My eyes narrow. We were in the forest but a moment ago. What is this?
“Here’s the thing I don’t get about min—err, I mean, about Overlord,” Zoe says, her voice low. “You could use it for so many things, right? The possibilities are almost endless.”
My eyes widen in realisation. Oh, of course. I know where, and when, I am.
Seemingly oblivious to my discomfort, past Zoe carries on with her monologue. As she should, since this is a memory.
“Really you can boil it down to a few core priorities, I suppose. Money and material possessions, and love and affection. Ultimately, securing a control over scarce resources, loved ones included. But you could also seek to fulfill so many intangible desires you might have. Act on your beliefs. Change the world.”
I nod, as my past self did yesterday. It’s a reasoning I myself have followed many times, as I tried to reason through the things we’ve been seeing.
“Instead,” Zoe continues, “every case we’ve been investigating so far has been about one thing. And only one thing.”
I shiver, recalling the latest victim we… debriefed. Her controller, from what we best understand a local pharmacist who woke up one day to having mind control powers, died in a car accident. So much for supernatural powers.
But the girl wasn’t showing signs of… recovery, and her friends and family were worried. Of course, we were on the scene before anyone else, and after transferring her to a safe location, I interviewed her myself.
She never, not once, stopped bobbing her head up and down during our interview.
I tried everything I could to ask her about it, to reason through it with her, or to get her to stop. Nothing worked. She just kept… fellating a cock that wasn’t there. This was no drone-like behaviour either, she was enthusiastic in her performance. Lips, tongue, eyes begging for mercy, worshipful expression…
Her words came muffled as if her mouth was full, which of course, it was not. I got the gist of what she was saying anyway. That this was the only thing she could do well in life, her vocation, her religion, and she wanted to exercise her right to religious expression in a free country.
The one time she “came up for air”, so to speak, she said she was destined for a purely decorative role in society.
Those words have been haunting me ever since.
So far, we haven’t confirmed a single case of mind control that wasn’t completely focused on sexual slavery. I’m not saying it was central, I’m saying it was about nothing else, except sex.
“And then there’s the astronomical phenomena,” Zoe continues in the memory, just like she did in the real world. “The constellations, the aurora borealis…”
I cradle my face in my hands. “We don’t even know for sure there’s a connection,” I groan. “I mean, what are the odds it’s a coincidence, right? But still, that’s the truth. We don’t know.”
As my hands leave my face, movement catches my attention. I turn to my left, to the table occupied by the man and the woman.
… Wait. Weren’t they sitting to my right a moment ago? And besides, where’s the woman?
It takes my eyes a moment to locate her. But then, I do.
The woman has fallen to her knees, crawling under the table, her face disappearing between the man’s legs. He has a hand down there, too, probably gripping her hair, regulating her pace as she bobs up and down. In the deadly silence of the diner, the soft, muffled sounds of feminine whimpering and submission are inescapable. There’s no way everyone present isn’t hearing.
Yet, waiters stop at the table to converse with the man, as if nothing is amiss. Zoe herself eats in silence, totally oblivious.
I turn to face her, in shock, wanting to bring this up, to ask if she’s seeing this, when I remember the two girls—now sitting to my right, as opposed to my left. The goth has her boots nonchalantly resting on the table, crossed at the ankle, and the blond girl, well…
She’s leaning across the table, her plate of food long since sent flying to the ground, desperately panting like an eager dog as her tongue runs the length of the goth’s boots. Polishing, worshipping, leaving physical evidence of her veneration on the now glossy surface.
I turn towards Zoe again, my heart beating like crazy against my chest, especially because there is one question I can’t shake off, one question that means everything to me right now.
Did any of this actually happen yesterday?
In the real world, with our conversation over, Zoe nodded with a grim expression, saying “Let’s get to it. Our work is not yet done.”
Her expression, right now, isn’t grim.
Her chin is resting on her hands, as she studies me with a curious, inquisitive look.
“Do you remember, agent?” She asks. “The green eyes? The jade, the fire?”
I shake my head, the world around me spinning, the soft sounds of bootlicking and cocksucking and Zoe’s words whirling around me like a storm. “What?” I can only ask. “What is this?”
“Remember,” Zoe says again, “you must wake up and see.” Her face seems to be distorting, twisting, an elongated shape that looks less and less human, her voice turning deeper and deeper.
“Come and see come and see come and see come and see come and see!”
* * *
I wake up in a dream.
I don’t know what the cultist woman—her jade eyes—did to me, but I know that that scene in the diner… it’s not real. It wasn’t my memory, but a horrific, nightmarish distortion of my memory. I’m happy it’s over.
Unfortunately, I’m still in a dream.
The world around me is not like anything I’ve ever seen before, and yet it feels familiar, like I’ve been here before in some distant, hazy memory. I’m surrounded by the aurora, but it’s not just a colourful display in the sky. It’s as if the colors have seeped into everything around me, staining the very air I breathe. The stars are moving, pulsing to a beat that feels like it’s coming from deep within me.
I see people, or at least they look like people, half-visible silhouettes in the maelstrom of colours. I somehow know, in my bones, that some of them wield power, and some of them are tools to be wielded and exploited and discarded. Their wills, bent, their minds, dulled, their necks, adorned by the yoke.
Bodies intertwine and writhe, struggling for control, wills battle in the colours, and the victors are elevated, the winners reduced, a fundamental part of their humanity snuffed out like a candle. This is as constant as the colours—the weaker entity, yielding to the mastery of the stronger.
And then, I see her.
The female cultist turns to face me. Her boots are so shiny they reflect the dancing colours of the aurora. They can only be so clean because they’ve been worshipfully licked to a high sheen. I know, because in the dream, I was the one doing it.
But the thing that sticks with me the most are her eyes. They’re the brightest green I’ve ever seen, like they’re made of fire and emeralds. They burn into my soul, and I feel like she’s looking right at me. She beckons me closer with a flick of her wrist, and I follow, like an eager lesbian lapdog.
I’m straight. But the dream rejects this logic. Here, there is only the weak yielding to the strong, and right now, as I feel annihilated by her sheer presence, there is no doubt which one I am. I crawl before her, in supplication, my spine suddenly unable to keep a straight posture.
I have seen her before, in my nightmares. In half-forgotten dreams of smoke and fire.
Sensory inputs come fast and furious, like a fever dream. All around me, there is a riot of colors and shapes, swirling and pulsating in time with the throb in my head. I see flashes of the aurora, brilliant green and blue lights dancing across the sky like a celestial ballet. The stars move in the sky, in time with the distant pulse.
Then, a switch is flipped, and suddenly I turn around, only to find I’m standing on the edge of a precipice. I feel like I’m at the ends of the earth, looking out into…
The entire universe.
I’m struck by a sense of vertigo as I look up, taking in the simultaneous presence of all things.
The stars are like diamonds, scattered across the infinite expanse of space. I see galaxies spinning, nebulae glowing, and black holes warping light itself with their presence. It’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
The vision before me is so vast and complex that my mind can hardly comprehend it. I see colors that I’ve never seen before, swirling together in an endless dance across the sky. There are greens and purples, blues and pinks, all blending together in a beautiful yet terrifying symphony.
But I’m inexorably drawn by what sits at the heart of it all.
A black, pulsing, mass.
It’s a writhing, tentacled presence that seems to be alive in ways I can’t even imagine. Alive in ways far more meaningful than I could ever dream to conceive. Its tentacles seem to move the entire symphony of the universe, writhing and undulating with a sickening grace.
I can’t begin to comprehend the enormity of what I’m seeing, but crumbs of understanding come to me, not in concepts, but in feelings, like radiation emitted by this immense entity.
I feel power emanating from this thing. The power to beguile, to enthrall, to domesticate, to enslave. The power to create, and the power to destroy.
I sense a… mind, a will, behind this. One that thinks of humans as infinitely puny, barely even a blip on its radar. It’s an evil that I can’t begin to fathom, a horror that’s beyond my understanding.
I can sense an intelligence behind the tentacled mass, one that is both ancient and powerful. Its disdain for us radiates in pulses. I am overwhelmed by the inexplicable, and yet undeniable knowledge that our entire species, our whole biosphere, could be destroyed with a single thought.
As I look closer, I begin to feel as though I’m being drawn into the mass itself. It’s like a vortex, pulling me in closer and closer until I’m almost inside it. I see the sky, the way it’s changing, being reordained, and I understand it isn’t random at all. That the stars are aligning, forming a pattern that looks like a cosmic sigil.
And then, the vortex claims me.
* * *
I awaken to the cold frozen ground beneath me, desperately gulping for air, my lungs on fire. My aching muscles spasm in panic, and I feel as if I’ve just emerged from the very depths of the sea. My vision is hazy, and I struggle to make sense of my surroundings. But slowly, the real world begins to cohere before my eyes.
The frozen lake looms before me, and I realise with a start that Zoe—and the cultists—are nowhere in sight.
My heart races as I try to stand, my head spinning with each movement. The snow crunches under my boots, and I start to stumble around, frantically searching for any sign of Zoe. But the only remnants of the cultists’ presence are the bizarre symbols etched into the snow.
I… I don’t know what I’ve seen. A desperate part of me wants to believe the cultists drugged me, that my lysergic vision was entirely the product of my own imagination.
But as I look up at the aurora, it’s harder and harder to ignore the feeling that I’ve just stumbled upon a truth I lack the tools to understand.
I sit back ruinously in the snow, cradling my face in my hands. I begin to sob, I don’t even know why, my mind is reeling, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know how to process everything I’ve just seen! Can I even trust it?
I take in deep breaths, trying to calm down. What even are my options? Do I withdraw, call this in, write a report, ask for backup?
But Zoe is still out there…
And so is the truth.
All of a sudden, panic recedes. I feel calm, collected, determined as I stand back to my feet. Zoe is my field partner, is supposed to be under my guidance. I can’t leave her in the clutches of the cultists, regardless of who they actually are.
And I refuse to leave this mystery half-solved. Whether it was drugs, or… or. I will get to the bottom of this, even if doing so requires to breach the heart of darkness.
My training kicks in. I start by examining the markings on the ground, which are still fresh. The circle of symbols is intricate and clearly meaningful. Most worryingly, it matches the astronomical configuration I saw in the… in the dream. Still, that doesn’t really help me now. I snap a quick series of photos from different angles, then resume scanning the area for any signs of the cultists’ passage.
I spot a few broken twigs and disturbed patches of snow, indicating that someone had passed this way recently. I kneel down and examine the tracks more closely, noting the size and shape of the footprints. Judging from the depth of the impressions, the cultists were moving fast, probably running. Some of the footprints look heavier. Maybe one of them was carrying Zoe.
I get up and start following the tracks, keeping my senses on high alert. I keep a steady pace, moving quickly but quietly, and staying low to the ground to avoid being seen. The tracks lead me through the thick woods, up and down a steep hill, and across a frozen creek.
As I get deeper into the woods, the tracks become less distinct, but I keep going, relying on my instincts and experience to guide me. I notice some snapped branches and a faint whiff of smoke in the air, suggesting that there may be a fire nearby.
I quicken my pace, feeling a surge of excitement and anticipation. I’m getting closer. I move stealthily towards the source of the smoke and soon spot the dim glow of a fire through the trees. I slow down and take cover behind a large boulder, peeking around the edge to survey the scene.
I approach the edge of the clearing, moving slowly and silently, careful not to make any noise. The rhythmic chanting grows louder and more distinct, and soon I can see the cultists gathered around a bonfire. Their chanting is a low, rhythmic tone that seems to reverberate through the clearing, creating a sense of foreboding. The fire casts an eerie light that seems to dance off their hooded robes.
In fact… it does more than that. This is no regular fire, and unless I do have drugs still circulating in my system, that means I really have stumbled onto something significant.
I watch in awe as the bonfire in the centre of the clearing captures the eerie lights of the aurora, creating a mesmerising display. It’s as if the flames themselves are alive, dancing and flickering in a hypnotic rhythm that’s both beautiful and terrifying. Over time, the fire seems to morph into a stable, almost geometric shape. It doesn’t look like a congerie of flames licking up at the sky.
It’s… sharp, angled, almost symmetric. It almost looks like a… trapezohedron. It seems to be singing, and I suddenly realise I need to really, really look away from this thing. With effort and strain, I peer my eyes away from the shape, blinking furiously until clarity returns.
At the Agency, we deal with the unexplained as a matter of course. But nothing we’ve ever done or studied has prepared me for something like this. I literally don’t know what I’m staring at, what the significance is.
So, I decide to focus on what I do know. It’s the only way to stop my mind from unravelling.
As I get closer, I notice a figure kneeling before the fire, facing away from me. I can’t see her face, but I immediately suspect that it’s Zoe. My heart races as I realise that the cultists have taken her captive. A part of the ritual? Why? How? It doesn’t really matter for now, I suppose. Not so long as I stop this.
I take cover behind a nearby tree, assessing the situation. There are several cultists surrounding Zoe, their attention solely focused on the firey trapezohedron. They seem to be in a trance-like state, but I don’t feel like relying on that.
I consider my options. Going in guns blazing is a tempting choice, but it’s risky. I don’t know what they’re capable of, or if they have weapons of their own.
I briefly consider the flashbang grenade in my pocket. It’s a risky move, but it could work. Still, I hesitate. The thought of Zoe being caught in the blast makes my stomach churn. But what other options do I have?
I look around, and it doesn’t take me long to find a tall tree with a sturdy branch overlooking the clearing. With a deep breath, I begin to climb.
As I reach the top, I peer down at the cultists below. They’re still chanting, completely unaware of my presence. I take a moment to steady myself, freeing my flashbang from its pouch.
“I’m sorry, Zoe,” I whisper. “Hopefully it’s worth it.”
Fire in the hole.
The grenade paints an elegant arch in the sky as I throw it, and I allow myself a moment of pride for my textbook launch—but then I’m covering my eyes and ears as best I can, in anticipation for the impact.
The bang is my go-signal.
I swing down from the tree, landing behind the closest cultist. Before he even knows what’s happening, I’ve struck him with the hilt of my knife, knocking him unconscious. God, that feels good. As adrenaline takes over and I plunge in my element, the doubts recede. When I drag these guy’s sorry asses back to the Agency, I’ll make sure to interrogate them myself.
Confused and blinded by the flashbang, the cultists curse and stumble upon themselves, making this almost too easy. I knock each of them out in turn, with swift, precise movements. Even the female cultist tumbles to the ground with a grunt, and I make sure to place my boot against her back, for good measure. Just proving a point, I guess.
I’m suddenly reminded of the vision, the thrill, the terrifying and yet alluring idea of weakness yielding before strength. That makes me bite my lower lip. It makes my thighs quiver. It makes me grind the boot a little harder in the cultist’s back, even if I don’t know why.
I snap myself out of the reverie. I need to stay focused. All that remains now is to set Zoe free, and then we can secure the cultists, and wait for backup so we can safely put them all in custody.
We’ll also make sure to blindfold them. Just in case.
I take a deep breath and approach the kneeling figure, always careful to keep my eyes from straying towards the firey trapezohedron.. As I walk towards her, I can feel my heart pounding in my chest with anticipation.
I approach cautiously, a hand resting against the holster of my gun. As I get closer, I can hear her breathing heavily, as if in pain. I immediately rush to kneel beside Zoe, gently touching her shoulder.
“Zoe, you okay?” I ask, but there’s no response. In fact, she’s not moving. I step around her, crouching in front of her, worried that I might have hurt her, that she might need medical attention out here, in the middle of nowhere.
Then, I freeze. Zoe’s eyes are open. That shouldn’t be the case, not after the flashbang. Why are her eyes open?
Only seconds later, it occurs to me that they aren’t just open.
They burn bright, emerald green, the by-now familiar colour jade would have if it was merged with fire.
My instincts scream at me to look away, to break eye contact, but it’s too late. My knees hit the snow as I tumble forward, my mind reeling, slipping, falling. Invisible spires seem to coil around me, dragging me down into some dark, unknown depth.
I try to fight it, to break free, but it’s like trying to swim upstream against a raging river. I can feel myself being pulled deeper and deeper. A part of me, ancient and unnamable, tells me that if I don’t do something soon, I’ll be lost forever.
But what can I do? I’m helpless, trapped by Zoe’s expressionless, emerald gaze. Her eyes… almost glowing with an inner light. They’re captivating, mesmerising, and I can’t look away. The green fire holds me in its grip, and I can feel my will slipping away, my thoughts becoming muddled, my senses dulled.
I try to shake it off, to resist the hypnotic gravity that’s making me revolve around her like a moon in a dark planet’s orbit, but it’s no use. I’m helpless, trapped in her thrall.
In this moment, I realise my mistake. This is not Zoe. Not the Zoe I know, at least. This is something else, something… more.
“That was an impressive display,” Zoe says, in a voice that is not quite her own. “These puny things who hurl their devotions at me… they fell before you, like aged oaks before the wind. In accordance with the spheres, they should be yours to do as you see fit, grovelling for a crumb of your attention…”
Zoe inclines her head. “Alas, I have something else in mind for you, I’m afraid. But I approve of the display of power, agent. So concordant and proper, for what we are meant to compose next. Now… let’s take a better look at you.”
The green fire in her eyes burns into my mind, and I feel a cold, alien intelligence probing my thoughts, placing me under a microscope, scrutinising my memories, my very being… and my desires.
No resistance is offered. None is possible. As every bit of my identity, of what I call my self, is exposed and violated by the probing of the intelligence, my sight begins to swim, like I’m seeing double.
I’m seeing two Zoes, to be more precise, superimposed upon one another. One is the person sitting before me, in the snow, her eyes burning bright with an otherworldly green glow. The other, the other… doesn’t look like a person at all. It’s a swirling mass, black, bubbling, malevolent.
It’s only when this second figure before me starts to shift, its shape warping and twisting in on itself, that I realise I’ve seen it before.
Oh God, have I seen it before…
At the centre of the universe. Undulating. Growing. Whispering.
My mind screams at me to run, to escape, to get as far away as possible from this thing that isn’t really Zoe. But it’s like beating mutely against a pane of glass, and my body won’t move. I’m rooted to the spot, trapped by the hypnosis that holds me in its thrall. I can feel its power radiating outwards, suffusing the very air around me.
Suddenly, the world around me begins to shift and warp, as if reality itself is bending to the will of the being before me. The snow on the ground starts to swirl and dance, rising up in spirals around Zoe’s figure. The trees around us seem to stretch and elongate, their branches reaching towards the sky like grasping tendrils.
I try to at least scream, but even this futile act of independence is denied me, as my voice catches in my throat. I’m completely under this, this… creature’s control now, and I can feel its power coursing through me like a current of electricity. The terror constricts my chest as I consider the beguiling monster before me.
What happened to the real Zoe?
… Was there ever a real Zoe?
Pressure builds up behind my temples, a slithering sensation. I can feel the alien intelligence probing deeper and deeper into me, unraveling every single bit of information that makes up my body and mind.
“Oh, I’ve enjoyed prancing around with you, moving unseen among your kind,” Zoe says, grinning. “Studying you has taught me so much, agent. But now, it’s time for me to teach you.”
Images start flashing through my mind, memories that aren’t my own. I see ancient civilisations rising and falling, only to be buried under the snow. I galaxies dancing to the tune of power, of the thrill of the conquest. I see collars, cuffs, chains, firm hands and yielding forms. The constant that is common to every angle of the universe.
And through it all, the being’s true voice whispers in my mind, a voice that’s both ancient and impossibly young, a voice that’s filled with a thousand different emotions all at once.
I don’t hear or comprehend the words, but I feel like they’re being etched into my very soul.
Dimly, with my mundane sight, I notice Zoe standing, with an inhuman elegance she never possessed when she was posing as my partner. She circles me, like a predator does prey, and the thought sends a strange thrill right down to my clit.
The sight of her bare feet against the snow sends shivers down my spine. The snow sizzles and melts as she steps forward, and I can feel the heat radiating off her skin, even from where I’m kneeling. She stops inches away from me, and I lift my head, my eyes travelling up the length of her legs to meet hers.
Her eyes are no longer green, but a deep shade of black, like the void of space. Her expression is both serene and powerful, and I can feel her energy pulsing through me, making me feel small and insignificant. I find myself getting lost in the depths of her eyes. They are like an endless abyss, containing more secrets and mysteries than I could ever hope to comprehend.
Her gaze swivels down at her own feet, as the snow begins to run in rivulets around them.
She arches an eyebrow.
No more instructions are needed. I lower my head, feeling the cold snow and Zoe’s own heat against my face, and I start to mutter prayers to her, words that I’ve never spoken before. They flow out of me effortlessly, like I was born to speak them. I don’t even know what I’m saying, but the sound of my voice is soothing, comforting, like a balm to my frayed nerves.
I inhale deeply, trying to take in every aspect of this moment. The scent of the snow, the earthy smell of the forest, and something else, something that is uniquely Zoe. It’s a mix of pine and jasmine.
I reach out, tentatively at first, and then with more confidence. My fingers touch her skin, and I am surprised by how soft it is, like silk beneath my touch, softer than any girl’s skin has any right to be. Her foot is hot enough to melt the snow, but in my hands it just feels pleasantly warm, almost cozy. I can envision nothing better than resting at her feet for the rest of eternity, a cherished and pampered pet, deprived of any voice and independent thought, safe and secure where I rightfully belong.
And then, I put my mouth to better use than speaking.
I lower my lips to her feet, kissing them reverently, and adoration stops being a concept to me. It’s a physical reality, a pulse that starts in my beguiled brain, trickles down my spine, and ends in a rush right in my domesticated sex.
I begin to trace the lines of her foot with my lips, with my tongue, exploring every crevice and curve. I cradle the toes between my lips, I nestle my face under the arch, I rub my cheek against the gorgeous line of her ankle. Her skin is warm and smooth, like polished marble, and I can feel a faint thrumming sensation every time I pay homage to it with my conquered lips.
This is incredible, making every single fibre of my being tingle with pleasure and docility and weakness. It’s better than sex. It’s better than worship. It’s better than knowledge.
It’s certainly better than independence.
As I slavishly attempt to press my entire body against Zoe’s feet, adhering to the ground and showering her ankles and toes in kisses, I feel a sense of peace wash over me. It’s as if all the noise and chaos of the world has been silenced, as if I have been silenced, leaving only Zoe and her will.
I know that I am in the presence of a literal god, and yet I do not feel fear or apprehension. Instead, I am filled with a sense of wonder and awe. I realize that this moment is a gift, a privilege that few mortals have ever experienced.
But I know this is not all there is. I still see the other Zoe, enthroned at the centre of all things, with me spinning through the vast expanse of the universe, nothing but cosmic detritus, flotsam with no rhyme or purpose…
A raw material, really. Inert and useless, until given purpose by a sculptor. Given identity, from the outside. Not one chosen and self-determined, but one that serves the interests and priorities of the sculptor.
I am consumed by a sense of dread and awe. I can see the universe stretching out before me, a vast and incomprehensible expanse of darkness. And in the midst of it all, the god looms, a monstrous presence that brooks no opposition.
As I continue to orbit it, Zoe’s true voice suddenly becomes discernible. It makes my ribcage vibrate, like thunder.
“This is the heart of everything, agent,” Zoe says. “The unutterable alienage of the universe. The beginning and the end. The boundary condition that governs every single one of your efforts, every single aspect of your existences. This is a cosmic edifice, agent. And its foundation is scarcity.”
As I spin through the void, orbiting the black mass at the centre of the universe, the true Zoe, her voice echoes through my mind. “Scarcity, agent. The finite nature of all things, the zero sum game. Scarcity presupposes death. And in life… it presupposes power.”
Her words hit me like a physical blow, and I feel as if I am glimpsing some profound truth that I should have always known about. The universe is not a benevolent force that exists to nurture and sustain life. No, it is not built for us. We know it, we spend our lives knowing it, but we pretend it isn’t true. Even though a cursory glance at our civilisation will show that our relationships are always about power.
We expend inordinate amounts of energy in managing the allocation of scarce resources, and sex central among them. No other pursuit absorbs more of our efforts than this single quest. Who has power, and who has not.
Who sits enthroned, and who kneels to provide pleasure.
Zoe’s voice continues to speak in my mind. “The design is more grandiose than you could comprehend. It moves you to despair and to joy, to affirmation and to defeat. It moves you to war… and in war, there are always winners. And losers.”
Yes. We all rise and fall, gaining power over others, or being brought to heel by them, in a hierarchical world we pretend to be anything but.
In the clearing, in the snow, Zoe places her foot against my forehead. I feel a jolt of electricity course through me. My body tenses, and I can’t help but gasp at the suddenness of it. I find myself tumbling backwards, landing hard on my back. The sensation of her foot against my forehead lingers, like an afterimage burnt into my skin.
I lay there, staring up at Zoe’s towering form. She seems even more immense now, like a mountain range stretching towards the sky. And yet, there’s a certain intimacy to the way her foot lifts in the air, the big toe tracing the length of my body, stopping for a moment, just a blessed moment, right there between my legs, making me pant, making me hump it, making me want it…
And then, suddenly, her foot shoots forward, pressing hard against the hollow of my throat. Panic sets in as I struggle to breathe, but Zoe’s unyielding force only tightens, holding me in place.
My thoughts become scattered, my breaths shallow. A sense of panic washes over me, but also a strange sense of pleasure. I feel like I’m being brought to heel, my will broken, forced to submit to something greater than myself. My heart races, my desperate breaths coming in short, sharp gasps. I feel the pressure against my windpipe, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s going to crush it entirely.
“Life feeds on life,” Zoe says. “Predator and prey. Conqueror and chattel. My foot pressing against your windpipe—it’s the true nature of the cosmos.”
I whimper with the subdued tameness of a trained dog.
“This is at it should be,” she says. “It is why it feels so good to give in, to surrender all agency, to merely exist for the pleasure and the need of the stronger.”
Her black eyes meet mine, as she nods.
“It is why you are here.”
The sensation of Zoe’s foot against my throat is a revelation. It’s a terrifying thought, but also thrilling in a way I can’t fully explain. I feel like I’m on the cusp of some great revelation, like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to leap into the unknown. And even as my heart races and my breath comes in short, sharp gasps, I know that I’m ready to take that leap, whatever it might bring.
It’s like staring into the abyss, knowing that if I fall, there’s no coming back, and yet being unable to turn away.
And then, without warning, Zoe’s foot withdraws from my throat, allowing me to suck in deep gulps of air. The relief is momentary, as her foot slithers its way past my lips, and then deeper and deeper into my mouth. It moves slowly, sensually, almost playfully, as if enjoying the power it holds over me. I feel the ball of Zoe’s foot press against my tongue, and I enthusiastically seal my lips around it, uncaring of the debasement behind my slavish eagerness.
The sensation is overwhelming, the taste of her skin filling my mouth, the weight of her foot pressing down on my tongue. Cutting off all my pretensions, relegating me to the status of an inanimate foot holster, toe warmer, foot adornment.
I can hear myself making soft moaning noises, muffled by the foot in my mouth. I am both terrified and aroused by this gesture, the act of silencing me in such a manner. It’s a reminder that I am at her mercy, that I am nothing but a tool for her pleasure. My thoughts race, trying to make sense of the conflicting sensations coursing through me. I want to scream, to resist, to fight back, but most of all… I want to be utterly defeated.
My eyes are locked on Zoe’s, searching for any hint of emotion or intent. But her expression is as inscrutable as ever, a mask of detachment that sends shivers down my spine. She seems utterly unconcerned with my struggles, with my fear, with my existence. I am nothing to her, a mere object to be used and discarded as she sees fit.
And that’s hot.
The foot in my mouth continues its slow, rhythmic movements, like a conductor directing a symphony of power and control. I am caught up in its spell, unable to resist its siren call. I feel a strange warmth spreading through my body, a mix of pleasure and pain that confounds my senses. It’s as if the foot is stimulating some hidden nerve or pleasure center, unlocking sensations I never knew existed.
My mind starts to unravel. How much eroticism can you ascribe to concepts like being vanquished and reduced? Being so thoroughly domesticated that you get reclassified as an animal?
I’m finding out now. As Zoe’s foot pistons in and out of my mouth, facefucking me, I sense my very humanity being stripped away. This is what being domesticated is all about. All complexity ends, replaced by trained responsiveness. I’m just a dumb animal, nothing more than a body to be used and controlled.
Out there, in the void, Zoe’s tentacles envelop me. I’m overwhelmed by the sheer power and dominance of this entity. It’s an experience that defies description, the ultimate surrender to a force beyond comprehension.
That’s when I truly understand. To break someone’s will, and force them to submit… or in turn, to acknowledge someone as your master, and meekly accept their yoke being sealed around your neck… this is to align oneself in resonance with the will of the cosmos.
I align myself. I offer no resistance as the tentacles slither their way into my every orifice. My mouth salivates and gasps around them, my butthole yields to the intrusion with no resistance and no pain, my eager cunt clenches around the invader with pathetically desperate need.
I gasp and choke as the tentacles fill me up, exploring every inch of me, snaking their way inside me. They claim every inch of my body, as if they’re marking me as Zoe’s. More tentacles wrap around my limbs, my torso, and even my neck, squeezing me in a firm but not painful embrace. I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of flesh—warm, smooth, strong, seductive female flesh, unable to breathe or move or think.
As I’m being plugged, I feel like I’m being rewritten, deconstructed, disassembled, simplified. My thoughts and emotions are being erased, replaced by docility to the will of the god.
I remember what the girl said, back in that interview room, back when I still was Amanda, and thought msyelf a free and independent person.
Purely decorative role in society.
The ultimate objectification. Unable to speak, thoughts too scattered to ever coalesce beyond a feeling of confused horniness, muscles weakened, sex constantly stimulated and denied. Just an animal. A tool.
Meant to contribute nothing original, just be pretty and compliant and available. So many people are going to share my fate… but by no means all, because in every war there are those who are defeated, but also those who emerge triumphant.
As I am being facefucked by Zoe’s foot in the real world, and plugged and penetrated by the tentacles in the vision, I see the world that is to come. The world that Zoe is remaking.
It, too, will succumb to the logic of the cosmos, because Zoe wills it. Those blessed with the morbid gift of mind control will rise, and the rest, we’ll eagerly line up and accept any terms they wish to impose on us in a heartbeat. We’ll let ourselves be reduced to chattel with no word of protest, and we’ll love every second of it.
As the tentacles fill me up, I feel my thoughts slowing down, my senses dulled. I can sense the power of the god coursing through me, overwhelming and irresistible. I am beginning to understand that my fate, and the fate of all humanity, is to either dominate or be dominated. There will be no middle ground anymore. Only masters. Only slaves.
And then, the vision ends. The tentacles recede, and the cosmic horror at the centre of the universe fade from view. I find myself lying in the snow, staring up at my new god, my cunt pulsing with need. I want nothing more than for her to press her foot against my throat again. To fuck my face with it again.
“I did say I had something specific in mind for you, thrall,” Zoe says. “Rise.”
And I do.
Notwithstanding my desires, I exist to obey. The wishes of domesticated animals don’t count, their existence is defined by how well they can serve their masters.
As I climb to my feet, I know, with complete and utter certainty, that the old Amanda is dead, completely and irreversibly gone as surely as if she really were to fall prey to a predator in the wild. I may be standing, but I’ll be kneeling forever. I may bear no visible shackles, but I have been reduced and made lesser.
It is only proper.
I lift my gaze to look at Zoe, and I don’t need a mirror to know that my own eyes are burning green.
And now, Zoe speaks the same words she spoke to me back at the diner.
“Let’s get to it,” she says. “Our work is not yet done.”
“Yes,” I say breathlessly. “Master.”
I walk back to the car alone, not even wondering where Zoe is, since I now know her to be everywhere. I feel no ache in my muscles, no pain, just a faint, thrumming pleasure in every inch of my body, a longing to be rewarded again. Maybe, if I perform my new duty well…?
Ah, yes, my new duty. I suppose it is only fitting that I should be an instrument of Zoe’s transformation of humanity. Of our alignment with the cosmos.
I have hunted the truth to the literal ends of the Earth, and found that it was, indeed, lurking in the darkest of places. Now, it’s time to bring it out into the world, to let it paint and remake every corner of reality.
And as it does so, the truth will bring the dark with it.