“He’s not a villain, Summer, but he shouldn’t be your hero. He’s more like a demon. Or a super fucked-up God.” — Morty, on Rick

The man tripped over a branch, cursing as he fell to his knees.

He had been walking for as long as he could remember, although he couldn’t remember all that much.

He was on his way to the small township of Innsmouth, just past the barony of Bayshill.

He picked up a large tree branch and began to whittle away a walking stick for himself. As he did so, he noticed a gap in the undergrowth. He’d found the main road.

A horse-drawn carriage juddered up the main road, kicking up sand and scree as the man with the walking stick stepped out of the bush, moving towards a wooden signpost that swayed and creaked in the morning breeze.

The man scanned down the signpost until he found Innsmouth.

“Watch out!” yelled the carriage driver as the man with the stick was knocked back into a puddle of mud by the side of the wooden cart. The driver leant over the side of the vehicle as the horses continued to trot. “Look where you’re going!”

“Can you give me a lift to Innsmouth?” he called after the driver.

The driver had already passed the end of the road and turned off through a large cluster of coppices, but turned back all the same.

“Get out of Innsmouth! The Dark Lord’s back!”

The man with the walking stick shook his head unbelievingly. Perhaps the carriage driver had had a bit too much to drink.

He kept walking down the main road, occasionally shielding his eyes from the morning brightness.

After some time walking, he could hear the crack of an axe.

A bearded woodcut lay straight ahead of him, next to a pile of lumber.

“Ho there, my good fellow!” said the man with the walking stick.

The lumberjack kept chopping, occasionally letting out the odd grunt as he heaved through a particularly thick section of wood.

“I said, ‘Ho there, my good fellow!’” said the man with the walking stick.

“Whaddaya want?” asked the lumberjack.

“Is this the good way to Innsmouth, my good fellow?”

“It’s the way, but there ain’t nothin’ good about it.”

“But I heard it was a town revered for its charity and kindness?” said the man with the walking stick, crestfallen. “That is why I’m travelling there.”

The lumberjack straightened up and took a hard look at the traveller with the walking stick. He was pasty white and nervous-looking, as if a strong enough wind would knock him over. He looked as if he hadn’t eaten a solid meal for all the days of his life.

“You ain’t from ’round these parts, are you?”

The man with the walking stick shook his head sadly.

“Town’s been overrun by bandits. And, uh, he’s back.”

“He’s back? Who?”

The lumberjack looked down the dirt road.

The lumberjack looked up the dirt road.

“The Dark Lord.” he whispered.

“The Who?” said the man with the walking stick.

“Stalked the plains when time was new? Invented the snake, the cockroach and the spider?”

“Can’t say I’ve seen him.” replied the man, mildly.

The lumberjack looked aghast. “Are you soft in the head?”

The man with the stick ignored the question. “So he’s back then, this Dark Lord?”

“Aye, so he is. One thousand years of slumber, and he’s back at Castle Highrock. If I were you, I’d stay away from Innsmouth.”

The man shrugged. “I think I’ll go and see how much goodwill the people still have. Maybe this Dark Lord character might see reason and leave.”

The lumberjack turned back to his woodpile.

“Your funeral,” he muttered.

The man with the stick turned back to the morning horizon as the sun dipped through a lazy cloud.

He kept walking towards Innsmouth, his walking stick bouncing jocularly with every step.

He could see, on the horizon, the slitted chimney stack near a cluster of hills that made Castle Highrock and the banners that demarcated the town square, multicoloured dots waving at him from afar.

He arrived at Innsmouth that afternoon.

The town was humming with quiet life, as traders and citizens chatted amiably and washerwomen put out their delicates upon fine-spun clotheslines. A moustachioed blacksmith hammered out dagger after dagger, his hammer hitting the anvil with such precision that the man was reminded of a metronome.

“How do you do, good sir?”

“Lookin’ to buy?” asked the blacksmith, gruffly.

“Uh, no. Not for me, actually. I can’t stand those things. Makes me squeamish.”

The blacksmith wasn’t listening, and had gone back to hammering daggers. He dropped a fresh one into a barrel of water, causing the entire barrel to fizz and steam as the molten metal cooled.

“Care for a daisy?” asked a young woman holding a wicker basket. “I picked them only an hour ago!”

The man smelled the daisies. They smelled of daisies.

“How many coins?” asked the man, reaching for his coin pouch.

“One per daisy, mister!” she replied.

The man fumbled with his purse, drawing out four coins of the realm.

“And I don’t mind if they’re a little scuffed,” she added, coquettishly.

As the man was drawing out coins, he was shoved aside by the captain of the guard, closely flanked by two guardsmen and a ranger.

His money clattered the ground and he dropped his stick, scrambling to pick up the fallen coins.

“Young madam, the Dark Lord has asked for your attention. He has been watching you from the castle and ascertained that you are young and you are also beautiful. You will come with me now.”

The young girl looked up from her basket of flowers, up past the blue and white canopies of market trader and up the creeping ivy of the castle walls.

There was a figure waiting at the window. Waiting. Watching.

The captain felt the tug of a woman next to the young girl.

“Please, Sophie is nary a day over 17. She is not ready for such a brutish man. Take me, take me instead.”

“The Dark Lord has asked for your daughter,” replied the captain of the guard in clipped tones.

“And be thankful and grateful if she returns to you in one piece,” said his flanked guard, coldly.

The older woman wept as her daughter was frogmarched away.

As they crossed the town square, moving towards the royal courtyard and up the stone steps to the castle, the captain of the guard felt a clink against his helmet.

He turned to see the scraggly peasant from the square throwing rocks at him.

“Hey! You! I was buying flowers from her!”

The captain of the guard was gobsmacked and was only brought out of his stupor by the sniggering of his colleague.

He marched down the stone steps.

“Citizen, you have made a grave misstep.”

“Well, I should daresay you’ve made one, my good man!” the man huffed.

He looked up at the man in plated armour, easily a foot taller than him, and tapped his finger on his chest.

Clunk. Clunk.

The captain of the guard backhanded the man across the village square, where he crashed into a handcart filled with barrels.

Sticky mead leaked out onto the man as he spluttered and splashed.

“Wait!” he yelled out as the captain of the guard advanced on him with his sword drawn.

The captain got no further, as his left foot tripped over the man’s walking stick. He screamed out as he slipped and went headfirst into a spiked railing.

Blood poured from his head as he groaned. His arms twitched several times as his brain sent the last few signals to the rest of his body.

The two guardsmen charged him, enraged by the loss of their commanding officer.

Their hands slipped on his ragged clothes as they tried to pull him up. They both slipped into the slowly growing pool of mead as the man found his feet and ran.

As he did so, a stray fleck of ash from a dying brazier that had been lit the night before blew across the town square and alighted upon the cart.

Both men went up in flames, screaming.

The man watched the guards as he stepped back, very aware that his clothes were still dripping. “Oh my!” he said.

The old man turned back to the girl to be confronted with the ranger, pointing his crossbow at him.

He fired the bolt.

The gun misfired, blowing a hole through the ranger.

He let out a gasp, tried to pull breath into his blown-out lungs, and then fell to the cobbles, stone dead. A sliver of blood trickled from his mouth.

The hooded figure in the window had disappeared as the girl sobbed into her mother’s chest.

The man tapped her shoulder and held out two coins. He helped himself to two daisies and turned to go.

“Excuse me, sir?”

The man turned, halfway across the square.


“Thank you for standing up for my daughter.”

“It’s fine.”

“My name’s Jacqueline. Will you join us for supper?”

The man looked at Jacqueline for a while, noticing the whispering and murmurs from the nearby villagers.

“I don’t want to impose.”

“Not at all.” she replied, smiling.


The small wooden hut could barely contain the three of them.

The man had lost his stick and was still trying to wring the mead from his travelling cloak.

He watched as Jacqueline and her daughter ate their small portions of crusty bread and heaped scoops of plain mashed potatoes seasoned lightly with salt.

The man lowered his fork below the table, where the small pooch was napping.

He raised one bleary eye, shuffled towards the fork, and began to lick at the salted mash.

The man smiled.

“We’re sorry you lost your walking stick,” said Jacqueline.

“It’s no concern.” said the man. “I just found it on the ground.”

“We’d buy you another one, but we’re a little poor,” said the flower girl. “The taxes have skyrocketed since the—

The flower girl flinched. It was clear that her mother had gently kicked her knee under the table.

“—since he took over.”

The dog finished licking the fork and gently butted against his knee. The man pulled out his chair and the dog leapt onto his lap.

“So how long has this Dark Lord been in charge for around here?” said the man, petting the dog.

“Last two years,” said the flower girl, pushing a large lump of potato around her bowl. “We don’t really understand why.”

“Who exactly is this Dark Lord?” said the man. “I keep hearing a lot about him, but I’m not from around here.”

Jacqueline laughed. “That’s a good joke, but it’s apt to get you in trouble around these parts.”

The face of the man was impassive, and Jacqueline stared at the wide-eyed and befuddled face.

“You genuinely don’t know? You, a boy of about 20? You don’t remember your parents or grandparents ever telling you about the age of darkness?”

“I don’t have any parents.”

“So, you’re an orphan?”

The man shrugged. “I suppose, if that’s what you want to call it. So who is he?”

Jacqueline gestured at a battered tapestry that took up the side of an entire wall.

A red-shaded section showed a hooded figure with a scythe.

A blue-shaded section portrayed a gigantic polypous being dragging itself out of the sea.

A green section showed people choking, clawing at the air, and throwing up.

“I just thought it was something one of your friends had made,” said the man. “I know how it can be when one of your friends makes you something and you feel obligated to put it up just to make them happy.”

The flower girl tittered.

Jacqueline gave her a scathing look.

“Each time the Dark Lord has come, he has demanded sacrifices. The first people lived for a millennia, and now we know we live shorter lives because of his actions during his third coming.”

Jacqueline pointed at each section in turn.

“In the beginning, he came to the Earth from out of the black abyss above. He killed until few were left, and those few did not live long. When humanity regrew again, he came from the blue abyssbelow and demanded fealty. Many died and some fought back. He disappeared after the War of the Deep. Many drowned.”

“And that one?”

“That’s the third section. The virulent plague that killed and never stopped killing. It affects every human and always will. Sometimes, pockets of the pestilence will appear in the bodies of people and they die painful deaths. There is no known cure in all the realm.”

The dog leapt from his lap, hearing a noise at the door. He growled.

“So, what’s your name?” asked Jacqueline, as the dog barked louder and louder.

The door was battered of its hinges as guards flooded through the door and grabbed the man. Jacqueline and the flower girl did nothing but scream as their table was overturned and the guards began to beat their guest.

After a while, they pulled him to his feet. His nose was broken and three of his teeth were missing as they dragged him out of the hut.

A man in a long black cloak with the slitted red eyes of an animal was waiting for him in the town square as the guards threw him at his knees.

“You fool,” began the man. “I have existed for over 60 millennia. You cannot comprehend me, let alone beat me!”

“You must be the the Dark Lord,” said the man. “Hello, sir.”

The eyes of The Dark Lord dilated.

“You dare say my name?” he replied. “You dare speak of the being that has ended billions of your miserable lives?”

“Well, I don’t actually know your name,” said the man. “The Dark Lord is a title.”

“GUARDS!” cried the Dark Lord. “GET THIS MAN TO HIS FEET!”

The guards lifted the man to his feet. His emaciated form hung, suspended by the burly guards. He looked on the verge of death.

“Citizens!” announced the Dark Lord, as a small crowd began to develop around the spectacle. “This is the hero who deigns to save you from yourself! If you want him to, that is fine; you will be executed. But if you denounce him, you will be richly rewarded by not being executed!”

The crowd murmured.

“Begin to stone him!” ordered the Dark Lord.

The crowd was tense and stood stock still. And then, from somewhere within the crowd, a rock was thrown.

It hit the man square in the centre of the head.

After that, the square rang out with shrieks, jeers, and anguished cries as people began hurling any rock they could get their hands on to prove their allegiance to the Dark Lord.

Jacqueline started throwing rocks gently, aiming away from the man, but a glare from the Dark Lord made her correct her aim.

Her rocks hit. The rocks from the rest of the town hit.

Tears ran down her dirt-streaked face.

After some time, the Dark Lord raised a hand.

The bloodied and crippled man fell to the ground as the guards let go of his arms.

The stones stopped.

The Dark Lord stood over the man.

“The Hero of Innsmouth!” announced the Dark Lord to the bloodied pile on the ground. “Now, get back to work, everybody!”

The crowd dissipated as the guards picked up the man and the Dark Lord turned and headed back to Castle Highrock.

A guard gave him a tentative tap on the shoulder.



“The man is breathing.”

The Dark Lord turned a slitted eye towards the budge being quietly taken away by the guards. He moved slowly, not wanting to alert any townspeople.


“Yes, master?”

“Do not bring him to the funerary incinerator. Take him to the dungeon.”

“Yes, master.”


When the man awoke, he found himself shackled to the wall of a dark prison. A shaft of light shone through a trailing vine as he coughed up blood and phlegm.

His eyes adjusted to the gloom as he saw a smiling hooded figure holding a long leash attached to a snarling dog covered in gnarled scars and open sores.

“I’m sorry to have to kill you, stranger,” said the Dark Lord. “You are indeed a unique fellow. I didn’t think you’d survive being stoned by hundreds of people.”

The bunched figure on the ground looked up at the Dark Lord.

“It’s strange,” said the man. “There are more of them than there are guards. So why do they bend to you?”

The Dark Lord laughed.

“Goodbye, stranger. It’s odd for you to have such a strong death wish, but who am I to deny it?”

He let go of the leash.

The beast ran headlong at the man, barking madly and foaming from the mouth.

Three inches away from the bleeding and bruised prisoner, the dog lost interest.

He pottered around the cell, his rage completely gone.

He lay down on the floor and went to sleep.

“Animal whisperer?” asked the Dark Lord, his deep and ominous voice sounding a little off-kilter.

The wreck from the floor stared up, one perfectly white orb and a gleaming smile.

“Firing squad it is,” said the Dark Lord, regaining his composure.

He left the jail cell and nodded to the five men outside, all holding bayonets.

They all entered the jail cell, the fifth guard closing the heavy wooden door behind him.

The Dark Lord stood outside. He fiddled with the skull jewellery on his hands and paced.

What was taking so long?

Four shots rang out in the cell.

The Dark Lord unlocked the door and entered.

Blood soaked the prison floor.

The handcuffs lay discarded on the floor next to one of four dead guards. Remnants of each head splattered the walls, like so many gore-filled balloons had popped.

The man was sitting in the centre of the massacre, resting his legs on a dead body.

He drew a figure of eight with the blood and whistled to himself.

The remaining guard was sucking the end of his bayonet like a lost child as tears flowed noiselessly down his face.

“What happened?”

The man indicated the last guard, still transfixed on drawing his little figure of eight.

The Dark Lord removed the bayonet from the mouth of the remaining guard.

“He the sickness. He no good. He sickness man from out of space. No space void world.”

The guard gripped the bayonet tighter and the Dark Lord could not overpower him.

“No void world here, too. All nothing. It all gone. Sick man knows. Sick man tells.”

His fist shook.


Blood and chunks of viscera rained down on the Dark Lord as the last guard fired the bayonet into his own mouth.

The Dark Lord stepped back, his mouth gaping in horror.

“What? What did you do?”

“Well, the good fellows acted like such big men. All I did was show them how big they were.”

“You’re him, aren’t you?”


The man chuckled.

“Oh, him. Human male. Not strictly a him. Not strictly a her. Look like a human male, yes, yes. A good glamour. When did you do that to your eyes?”

“It was a birth defect,” said the Dark Lord, sheepishly.

“How funny. Who are you?”

“Dave,” said Dave. “You’re real, aren’t you? You’re really, uh. You’re really here.”

“Yes, David. I am really here.” said the man. “Tell me, why did you do this?”

“When everyone in my hometown said you were evil, I thought that was pretty cool and wanted a go at that myself.”

“Naturally, David.”

“I thought maybe you were good or something or just meant to put stuff back to the normal place if there were too many people or something.”

“I suppose there is wisdom in believing this. I don’t believe I am indeed evil or good. There’s no meaning behind those two words. Just ascribed patterns to animated dust.”

“Yeah.” said Dave.

“But I’m not neutral, David,” said the man. He stood, taking out the knife from a bayonet. “That would imply that I’m not going to kill you for your trespass.”

Dave’s bladder let go, his pants soaked through with his own warm urine.

“But know this, David: you have indeed duped a village into believing they are powerless. You abused women and violated people through taxation and theft and property damage.”

The man smiled.

“You have amused me and proved a fun little distraction, an intriguing memory to play for the rest of my infinite days. And for that, you have done me a favour.

The man began stabbing the man who had been pretending to be the Dark Lord through the
throat 25 times.

After the twelfth stab, the man formerly known as Dave burbled something through his twisted neck, bloody mouth, and trashed oesophagus.

It sounded like “Thank you.”


The man left the Highrock Castle whistling and began to leave the small town of Innsmouth. There was nothing more to do in that particular town, and there were always more towns to go to.

More rulers. More despots. More…pretenders.

His mouth curled at the word.

As he left the town proper, passing the coloured bunting that would one day fade to nothing but pale colours, scratched-up string as the town fell to become nothing more than scratches in a charter or history book, he heard someone behind him.

He turned, looking at the flower girl. She stopped just short of him, taken aback at how quickly his bloodied injuries had faded, leaving only pink-stained clothes.

“You should go back to your mother, child.”

“I want to come with you!” she said. “You’ve saved the town!”

“The town should not be saved. The town, my good friend, cannot be saved,” said the man. “You should go back to Jacqueline. When you spend time away from her, she drinks many bottles of grain alcohol she has made from the fields and has done since your father left. Twelve harvests from now, her organs will fail because of this drinking.”

The girl looked hurt, before her face turned to one of steely resolution.

“You’re lying to me,” she said, smirking. “You just don’t want me to come with you because you’ve always been alone.”

“This is true.”

“Then why won’t you let me come!”

The man pointed at the flower basket.

“You are like the flowers. You are very pretty. But you cannot walk my path or know my life.”

The girl blushed. “You think me a flower? Then I should come with you! Now that I know you care for me and will look after me!”

“I care about nothing, for nothing can be saved,” said the man, simply.

He continued to walk before the girl stopped him again, stepping in front of his path.

The man sighed.

He walked up to the flower girl.

He placed his hand upon her head.

Eternity in the width of a hair.

Quadrillions of-fully formed lives writhing in the hopeless mud beneath unthinking stars, dumb planets, and blind gods.

The girl continued screaming as she looked over at the flowers in her basket and saw them wither and die along with the rest of the forest, the town, the planet.

The man continued on his way, whistling cheerily to the evening birdsong as the girl screamed and clawed at her face until she pulled it cleanly away and died a merciful death, no longer having to hear the sound of everything screaming.

The sound of the universe in agony.

The sound of the Dark Lord’s song.