Chapter 96
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Already now I sense new vibrations ringing out from far behind me, from the entrance of the dungeon floor where the hero-party has begun their daily fight to the death with the trash-mobs guarding the entrance stairs they have just descended down. They seem to be in some kind of larger fight. Is there some big group of trash-mobs near the entrance? I don’t remember, maybe there’s…

 

  I have an idea, my goo compressing together on my front end as I instinctively try to scrunch my eyebrows, which I don’t have. Picking up the pace I reach the end of the large chamber, feeling the tell-tale sign of the warm breeze of industrial heat wafting past me. Blowing out from the smaller corridors ahead, rising up higher and higher as it reaches for the ceiling far above where it vanishes into a series of vents and grates and deep slits in the stone. I slip inside the room and turn to the side, following the direction I remember, moving against the hazy heat as I press deeper into the furnace.

 

  Heavy thudding vibrations ring out from ahead of me, slow rhythmic steps of some great patrolman making his way around the next room; following a well established pattern. Doing as he has always done forever like the rest of us do.

 

  I round the bend, slopping through the archway which I know is there; my goo shakes and bubbles with every heavy step of the golem. My aching body alleviated of its hurt and pain as every pulse goes through me as if shaking me awake from a slumber I was always on the edge of waking from. The steps stop and I wonder, I wonder if it’s looking at me? Are you a trash-mob, friend, or are you a sub-boss? I actually don’t know. Oozes aren’t very educated on the outside world you see.

 

  I can’t help but wonder what’s about to happen as I feel the world shake as the massive creature draws closer. Are you going to squish me? You were nice to me as a rat, so are you nice to all trash-mobs? I have an idea, friend. But I need a favor from you. I bubble and splutter curiously. The massive creature is before me now and I feel the hiss of steam escaping its pipes, I feel the subtle rhythm of droplets of poison water escape its scored body; each tiny splatter on the ground shining out like a lighthouse beacon in a stormy night to my hypersensitive mass.

 

  My body compresses as something touches me, as something big and heavy presses against what could be called my head if you were a creative type. For a second I fear that I am about to be squished after all, but then it stops and stays there. The large metal hand just grazing the top of my head, the gigantic bronzed fingers spread wide. Squishing myself together I slip up through the cracks between his fingers and come to a rest on the massive surface of his palm. My goo spreads wide in a strange sense of comfort, as the surface of the metal hand is warm and welcoming and brings an odd feeling of relief to me. Like entering a warm house after escaping the pouring rain.

 

  A deep rumble goes through the body of the golem and my body shakes in response. Slowly I rise up again, crawling from its palm up its arm to its shoulder. I have a favor I need to ask you friend, I repeat.

 

  It doesn’t stop me as I rise up higher, heading up to a familiar perch. Reaching its shoulder I find a small gap, a small hole in the creature just as I am wondering how I am going to communicate with it. But even as I think that, I don’t stop my movement as if my body already knows what to do; following some natural instinct that I am not privy to. There is a slit on the golem’s neck where a lot of the green water dribbles out and I press myself into it. My shapeless mass sickers and slips easily into the crack as I press myself into the massive mechanical giant. I take up a space on the inside of the creature. The scrap metal that I drug with me all of this way in my goo now sits on the outside of the cut and I hold it pressed tightly shut from the inside, creating a tight seal on the golem’s leaking wound.

 

  It’s a strange feeling, it reminds me of being a rat, it reminds me of being a drake. It reminds me of a sisterly warmth, of a love and place of understanding I now inhabit even if I don’t feel like I deserve it. I feel like… I feel like I belong.

 

  Do you think we can do that? I ask the golem in my oozy fashion with a series of bubbles and slaps against the inside of its chassis, doing my best not to get caught in the many grinding and whirring mechanical components in here. It seems uncertain, it has never left its sub-boss arena before. The dungeon-master doesn’t like it when they leave their arenas. It’s not how things are supposed to work. Sub-bosses stay where they are spawned, they are not meant to leave.

 

  None of us are meant to leave, but I’m going to anyways I tell him. I ask him how that’s worked out for him so far; doing what the dungeon-master has said forever. He seems dejected in a sense and for a moment I feel bad for my insolent question, sorry dungeon-master. But I also realize at the same time that I have a point. We won’t get anywhere by doing what we’re told forever. I need your help, I tell the golem. I can’t repay you and we’ll probably both die again. But I ask if he will help me anyways. It is quiet for a moment and I listen to the heavy metal heart pulsating just inches away from me.

 

  For a moment I think I goofed, maybe this was a plan doomed to failure from the start, but then the rush of steam around me tells me the golem has made up its mind. Piping heat and bubbling liquids fill the creature alongside me, boiling green-water bubbles in a flurry as the mechanicals begin to move and grind in a thriving motion like that of a person woken from a daze at a sudden realization.

 

  We need to go that way I point out to the golem, my senses and its very much connected in an odd way. Oozes are part of the foundry and so in a sense, I am part of the golem as well. We are all one, all many parts of one giant body. Separate, but connected. Many-many.

 

  The heavy steps ring out and everything around me shakes as we begin to walk and then slowly as we begin to stride. A moment later the golem is already at full sprinting speed, hurtling across the giant stone chamber I had just come through a moment before. The vibrations of the foundry, of the rats, of the hero-party are all available to me. Everything in the heavy foundry, in this grand mechanical body of the creator is available to me. It is part of me as I am part of it. The hero-party is close now to where the other oozes are. I can feel them. The rats are in full panic mode and don’t have any idea as to what’s going on anymore, I can feel them as well.

 

  Barreling forward like a charging minotaur we span the length of the giant hall in an instant, compared to my journey from before and slowly come to a halt as we reach the thrashing, churning pool which is disturbed and intrigued by this new development. The golem waits for me. Slowly, I peek out like a snail looking out of my shell and I feel the air around me. I feel that my kin below us feel me, they feel that I feel them.

 

  None of them thrash, none of them writhe or rage. All of them are perplexed and confused as to what’s happening. I slap out on the golem’s shoulder. I tell them we’re getting out of here, motioning to the golem. I ask him to move forward and he does, slowly stepping towards the pit and then placing a foot into the goo, sinking down slowly. Only just in time do my less aware kin manage to slip away before being squished like a rat under a boot.

 

  Another foot in and now the golem is entirely in the pool, sinking down just a little, as it is thankfully not too deep. Up to its knees at least though. One great metal hand reaches out to the other end of the broken pipe and another hand reaches down into the poison water. Into the black water. There is a hiss of steam as the internals of the golem cool down rapidly from the submersion in the murky, oily goo. I rub my body against the golem’s head and thank it. I promise I’ll make it up to him somehow.

 

  There is a groan, long and prolonged as the green-water inside of the golem begins to sink in temperature, as the mechanicals inside begin to seize and rattle from the rapid loss of heat. It’s fine, he says. He’s just doing what he would have wanted. The creator. Do I think he’s watching, he asks. He does it for him after all, he hopes he’s watching. He promised to take him out of the dungeon one day too, you know? Yeah. We all do, I tell him. We all do it for him. We all hope he’s watching. Let’s make him proud. We’re going to get out here, one way or the other. And if he’s not watching, we’re sure as hell going to make him see us.

 

  The body of the golem shudders and rumbles, slouching forward ever so slightly as the mechanicals come to a sudden halt. The life inside of it coming to a halt for this run, drifting off to a forgetful sleep that I am only a little bit envious of.

 

  My kin have begun their ascent up the golem, all of them rise up the legs of the creature, rise up the outstretched arm of the creature. All of them rise up and quietly slip past me, all of them hurry towards the pipe, towards the way out without so much as a thank you. Typical. I stand there for a moment and feel them, feel them all except for one down below, one lone ooze still outside of the pool. The other escapee. It was still outside all of this time. Still resisting all of this time.

 

  It doesn’t want to get back in the black water. I hear it thrash out alone against the stone floors on the rim of the pool. It broke free, it doesn’t want to get in again. It doesn’t want to absorb it again, drink it again. It can’t. It won’t. What was it all for? Why did it bother to suffer if it was just going to get back in again? It broke free, it broke free to show the others they could do just like I did.

 

  I reach down, crawling down the arm and spread myself across the gap from the golems outstretched hand to the rim of the stone pool. We do it for ourselves I tell it. We do it to prove that we can. So that next time the black water comes we know we don’t need it. I tell my kin to hurry. They are coming. Sensing the same vibrations as I, the tapping of many leather boots against the stones, it quickly crawls over my stretched body and slides up the arm of the golem and I hurry up after it; as we both crawl into the dry, broken end of the pipe.

 

  Already now, several forms scurry past us back in the other direction. Back the way they just escaped from. Where are you going?! I ask, there is danger. The hero-party I slap out against the pipe. All of them know, they feel them too. But then I realize. All of them hurry back, hurry back to the pit they just escaped from. Crawling back to the place they had thought they could never escape from. Crawling back to the black water. Why? I ask. Stop! Stop! But none of them listen, one by one I hear the splashes of the many oozes falling back down, falling past the inactive corpse of the golem as they splash back, submerging themselves in a familiar poison. Choosing to live and die in the murk rather than try to live without it. It’s familiar, it’s easy.

 

  Only me and one other ooze remain in the dry pipe not a minute later and I crawl forward, not looking back a second time. Not paying mind to the sensation of fire exploding just outside the pipe. Not paying mind to the sounds of swords and smashing and cutting just outside of the pipe as my kin are slaughtered one by one. I keep crawling forward, keep moving forward not stopping, not listening, not feeling. It’s okay I tell my other kin, it’s okay. They made their choice, but we get to keep living. We get to keep going. We don’t need the black water. Even if it’s just us. We can-

 

I turn to the side, feeling around the pipe for my other kin. For the resilient one. The other escapee.

 

He’s gone.

 

I’m all alone in the pipe now. Did he…?

 

  I hurry forward, there is no time to lose now as the sounds of battle from behind me are quickly becoming quieter and quieter as the last of the trash-mobs behind me die off. I feel an overwhelming feeling of loneliness all of the sudden. An overwhelming sadness. We were supposed to get out together. All of us were supposed to get out together you idiots.

 

Pressing myself through a grate just before me, I fall for a moment and then slap against a cold stone floor. Ignoring my emotions I move forward and touch the edge of the first stone step.


*~+---SPECIAL THANKS---+~*

Henry Morgan,  Shadowsmage, The Grey Mage, Spencer Seidel, Slime girl chapters 4 lyfes, chp2001

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