“Watch the threads, buddy!”
Bryce could feel a claw into each of his shoulders, dragging him into Loch’s ship. Soon he was a in a room where he could see more creatures holding people. Bryce couldn’t get a good view of the creatures — they seemed like shadows with teeth and either arms or tentacles holding everyone still — but he could see a number of unfamiliar faces of the prisoners they had freed from the research building. “Lulu! Doug! Charlene!” he called out as loudly as he could, but then the creature that had him gripped him about his body even tighter.
“I’m starting to think that Doug is more trouble than he’s worth.” Bryce looked to his right and saw Lulu held fast by one of the creatures. She did her best to look unconcerned as she blew bubbles with her gum. The others were not doing so well, and Bryce heard sobbing and cries of panic.
“Let’s hold it together!” Bryce heard Charlene call out. She was somewhere to his left. “The Transcendents aren’t mindless beasts; we can find out what they want.”
“Perhaps the others are panicking because they’re more familiar with what the Trans want,” Bryce said.
“This is true.” Ronove was now standing before them. “You do have hope, though, because I will use all my abilities to see that there is an end to this.”
“You will pay many times for this!” someone called out who Bryce recognized as Doug’s new African friend. “You think you are powerful, but you are nothing, demon, and I do not fear you!”
“But then you forget the words of Jesus.” Ronove approached Chimezie. “For he warned you to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul.” Ronove walked among the group. “This was not my first choice of where to conduct the experiment, but at least on this craft within the midst of the physics anomaly we can be assured of no interruptions.”
“Where’s Doug?” Charlene demanded.
“He is fighting his way here. It will be a great effort for him and take great courage, and all it will achieve is a chance to watch you all suffer.”
“What the hell is it with Doug?” Bryce yelled in frustration. “Why do you even care about him? We’re his friends, and we hardly care about him.”
“I assure you, you humans are all worth the same to me; I can hardly tell the difference between you.” Ronove continued to hobble among the captive people, staring at each one. “This Doug simply is an opportunity. He cares deeply for a few of you, and I think that may be the key to destroying him. That he risked himself to help these others is merely a bonus when he will see that all he liberated them to was greater suffering.”
“Wait a second, Stinky,” Lulu said, “You’re going to torture us all to destroy Doug?”
“It’s more complicated than that, but yes.”
“I know what would really torture him,” Bryce suggested. “If as soon as he got here, you made him watch you let us go.”
“Let us go with a big barrel of money we’d get to spend without him,” Lulu added.
“Interesting idea, but I will stick with my current strategy,” Ronove said. “As I said, have hope for there will be an end to this. When I have successfully destroyed this Doug, then I shall work on bringing an end to the rest of you and humanity shall have its closure.”
“So you’re going to have a big production like this to destroy each person,” Bryce asked. “Seems like a lot of work.”
“I do not worry about how much time is involved,” Ronove said. “The fact is, no more souls are entering this universe, so if each soul can be destroyed — regardless of how much time it will take — that means there will be a finite end to humanity. That is what is important.”
“Well, thanks for coming down an explaining all of this to us,” Lulu stated. “That was really nice of you. If we have a comment card to fill out at the end of this, I’ll be sure to mention it.”
“Explaining things — even in your primitive methods of communication — helps one think.” Ronove took long looks at more of the captives. “That was not my purpose in coming here, though. Loch waits for you with great anticipation. Perhaps you can feel it even with your limited senses. For a being not bound by the constraints of the temporal dimension, he can be quite impatient. Only through great convincing was I able to keep him from tearing into all of you immediately. I hope to go through this in a more measured fashion.” Ronove approached Charlene. “You do not fear me as much as the others. What do you think you know?” He stared at her a moment. “Often, your brains are almost too primitive for me to understand, but one thing I do fathom: Your suffering will hurt Doug the most.”
“You really think this will accomplish anything?” Charlene asked defiantly.
“One thing is for certain.” Through seemingly great effort, Ronove curled the edges of his mouth into a smile. “There is no harm in me trying.” He looked to the others. “I shall take this one, and the rest of you shall wait here. Do not try and commit suicide; it will be of no use.”
“Don’t commit suicide — check,” Lulu said.
Bryce was dropped to the ground and saw a flurry of movement of the dark creatures scampered past him. When he lifted himself up, he saw the group of them — sans Charlene — were alone in a room with no doors, just solid walls of black rock. “What an asshole.”
“I’m sure Charlene will torture him right back.” Lulu stood up to address the group. Many were stunned silent while others were crying. “There’s no reason to be down, people; let’s keep a positive attitude. Now why don’t we put our heads together and brainstorm some ways to commit suicide. Who’s got shoelaces?”