“So why aren’t you trying to kill me now?” Brian asked. “You can’t, can you?”
“Your flesh lies beyond My reach for the moment,” the Darkness said. “But make no mistake, little thing. It will not always be so.”
“You don’t scare me,” Brian said.
“Save your lies, little thing. I can taste your fear. It is strong and sweet.”
“Why don’t you let me see what you really look like?” Brian said. “Stop impersonating Manny.”
“I have no form that you are capable of perceiving, little thing. And even the closest approximation for your sake would drive you to madness. Your race is too weak to look upon Me in any but the most diluted of forms.”
Rain began to fall from the sooty sky, bitter cold drops that stank of ammonia. A fetid paste of ice and mud formed underfoot, crunching beneath Brian’s steps. The Darkness left no such tracks. A chilling wind rose over the wastes, pricking goosebumps from Brian’s flesh, carrying with it the sound of distant voices, voices that moaned and wept.
“Look ahead, little thing,” the Darkness instructed.
“I don’t see anything.” But then he did see. Countless shapes, hundreds, thousands of bodies protruded from the ice, frozen in captivity, with their lower halves below the ground. A lesser number, still vast, ran free, and these, Brian realized to his horror, were feeding off those trapped. They paused to stare at him with ragged pieces of flesh dangling from their teeth. The victims struggled and writhed in agony even as they were eaten alive. Some were little more than skeletons, yet they still lived. They cried out in inarticulate agony.
“They have no tongues,” the Darkness said. “No voices.”
Brian gagged. One man gnawed another’s arm, tearing the last shreds of meat from the bone. Another had cracked open a woman’s skull and, burying his face as though in a trough, began to devour her brains. An obese woman squatted some distance away, chewing on a dead infant.
Brian turned away. “No more!” he choked.
“Oh, yes, little thing,” the Darkness said. “There will be no end to this feast.”
Brian wiped the stinging rain from his face, his eyes burning. “Stop it!”
“You see the realities of your own world, pantomimed on the astral planes,” the Darkness said. “Why do you shrink away?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Have you not seen with your own eyes, little thing? In your world, do the strong not feed on the weak, the wealthy feast on the poor? How many starve, daily, while the gluttonous wallow in pampered excess? You cannot deny this.”
Brian didn’t answer.
“I feast as they feast, little thing. Would you desire such a world to continue?”
“You’re trying to trick me.”
“I need not,” the Darkness answered. “What I show you is fact. Now come, there is much more to see.”
Brian followed, not looking at the spectacle surrounding him. He wished that he could shut his ears to the grisly sounds. More, he wished that he could somehow convince himself that the Darkness had shown him a lie. This time, though, Brian knew the Great Lie did in fact speak the truth.