Before, A Tale of The Figure.
The clouds had returned. The Figure looked up, still no rain. He continued to drift aimlessly though the desert. As far as the infinite horizon there was sand. Nothing else, and as The Figure often liked to think, no-one else. He could feel the sand give a satisfying crunch under his feet again and again as he walked. The Figure didn't think about others being alive, he just thought of the walk, the crunch of the sand, the smell of abandonment, the freedom to go where he pleased, it calmed him somewhat, even though the darkest days.
He felt the people behind him, but he didn't act. He had a tattered map that had been drawn for him in the last settlement, a favour in exchange for his services. The world so far, it had said. He knew he was close to another settlement, but had hoped it was abandoned. Obviously it was not. He felt a hand on his shoulder, instinctively, he swung his fist, he felt the crush of the bone beneath it. He turned around to see two women; one was clutching her jaw while the other looked at him like he was something interesting. "Name?" she asked. Seeming completely indifferent to the fact he had just broken her friend's jaw. The Figure shook his head. "No name?" she replied. The Figure did not see the point of a name, any identification seemed pointless to him, unnecessary in the world he lived in. "Interesting." She stoically stated. The Figure looked, her face was burnt, dirty and just a little misshapen. Her body was hidden under her desert clothes, but she carried herself high in posture suggesting a powerful build.
He nodded. She asked him his occupation, The Figure made the sign for mercenary. She understood. The Woman put her arm out at him and said "Come with me if you want to live!" She chuckled at her joke. The reference was lost on The Figure, who continued to be nearly completely emotionless as he dully followed her as her friend tried to keep up, clutching at her damaged jaw as they continued on.
The Figure was annoyed. The settlement was certainly not abandoned, it hustled and bustled, ramshackle stalls and tents set up everywhere, they seemed to have what looked like a swimming pool full of water. The Figure counted the amount of people he saw, over fifty, he figured they would last about two months. Whether they were wiped out or not didn't really affect The Figure. He was a traveller and such things like settlements seemed needless to him.
The women gave him a piece of paper. It had mercenary written carefully on it in basic handwriting. She told him that "We reject people a lot, you need a skill or a job to be allowed in and out." The Figure looked over to the heap of dead bodies outside the main entrance guarded by people with badly whittled spears. The Figure pondered for a second why they would waste decent meat. The woman started to ramble on and on about how they were beginning the pointless task of rebuilding society. The Figure found himself getting a headache for the first time in years, so he walked off, looking below people's lips so he didn't have to read them.
A man ran up to The Figure, looking straight at him. The Figure inspected the man, his face was squashed and ugly, bald to show a lumpy head. He wore a black cloak, covering his entire body, he was short, though his precise measurement was lost on The Figure, who looked at him and walked off, indifferent. The short man grabbed The Figure's billowing longcoat. The Figure turned to him and signed for him to talk.
"You're a merc." The Figure nodded again, annoyed by having to repeat that action again and again. "I have a job for you." The short, grotesque man pointed outside of the gates of the settlement. "I know people, they say the rain is coming, they say the world's gonna flood, say they are making an arc." He smiled with what seemed like pride, "And I'm gonna be on it." The Figure had no time for delusions of grandeur. Yet, part of him, the part of The Figure hidden by years of survival and self-imposed isolation, a part of his soul, perhaps, so far away that he didn't know if it was truly himself at all. He felt hope.
He still put his hand out, signalling for payment, the short man pulled out two full canteens of water and some cooked beef from his cloak. The Figure was astonished by the idea of cooked meat that wasn't burned to the point of burning his inner organs. Or jerky. He knew that in order for the beef to last it would need to be the stringy, long-lasting monstrosity though, so he pulled out a piece of jerky from his overcoat, the short man seemed confused for a few brief seconds before saying he didn't have jerky. The Figure shrugged. The short man gave him a map, The Figure looked at it and compared it to his other map, the x marking the spot of the arc was near the settlement, around a day's walk, The Figure guessed. He took the water and the beef and shook the short man's crusty, oddly shaped hand. "Noah." The short man told him. The Figure shook his head to show he didn't have a name, not anymore.
The Figure took off, his torn, sand-dyed longcoat billowing behind him, meat in his pocket and two canteens of water to add to his own, followed by Noah he filled his personal canteen, battered and peeling, took a swig of it. And stepped out of the doomed shelter. Freedom again.
The Figure's headache had disappeared, as he walked the sand crushed under his feet in a calming pattern. His accomplice ran up to him. (Noah was, much to The Figure's annoyance, a very small man and by extension, quite a slow walker.) He asked why he wasn't armed, The Figure shrugged. He thought Noah had spent too long in a settlement, he didn't know that drifters like The Figure were uncommon and usually not hostile, and when they were, The Figure could deal with it using just his fists.
Calm enveloped The Figure, his client was extensively babbling about something he probably did not care about in the slightest, The Figure watched the strange little man discuss his delusions to himself. The Figure had seen enough people go insane in the desert to stop seeing it as a depressing and dangerous act and more as entertainment, even smiling at Noah, who replied by giving him a strange look, as if The Figure was not a faceless, silent, enigma but, in fact, a person. The Figure nearly laughed as he realized that Noah didn't know what he was finding so humorous. Noah mentioned the "Rumours of those dangerous cults, my friends said they would have to go through their settlement to get to the arc." The Figure knew of those rumours, in fact his accomplice that drew him the map had warned him about their main settlement. That was why they would be going around it. Noah's friends were certainly dead if they had entered the settlement. He smiled, knowing he would be walking Noah to an abandoned strip of former sea with no arc, no friends and probably no flood. It was hilarious.
The Figure and Noah wandered to a dune, higher than the sky, it's sheer scope gave even The Figure a sense of smallness, as if he was an ant, to be squashed by the sheer power of the world around him. He didn't fear death, he just liked to avoid it. He pointed at it and put his finger upwards. Noah looked at him like he was insane, that The Figure decided not to decline, though he thought of himself as saner than most. The Figure took one step, then another as he scaled the sliding mountain. Like a flash of light, The Figure leaped across the dune as it all slid down with no hesitation, dragging the weak body of Noah behind him, forcing the little man to keep up, screaming profanities all the way. Reaching the top, the two men looked down at their handiwork, Noah seemed shocked by how the dune had all but collapsed, with most of the sand falling to the bottom, creating a new, smaller dune, The Figure added it to his map. Pleased with his victory over the giant, The Figure nodded to what remained of the dune. They trekked down the giant in respectful silence.
A man was at the bottom of the dune, at least, that's what The Figure thought he was, covered in a black, sprawling coat, with a jagged iron crucifix tied around his neck, his face was hidden, all except for a smile, that sprawled across his entire face. The Figure put his hand out, telling Noah to stay still as he approached the mysterious man. The Figure came up to him, making the sign for armed. He was lying through his teeth, but he was willing to take the risk. "Hello." Said the mysterious man, the sadistic smile still across his face, as if it was cut into it. "I come from a safe place, a church, where you and your accomplice will be safe. So, please drop your weapons and come with me. We have food and..." The Figure punched him in the stomach. The man recoiled, spitting blood, it went all over The Figure's face. He wiped it off on his sleeve. The mysterious man stood up, still smiling he charged at The Figure on all fours like a wild animal he tackled him to the ground, The Figure wrestled with all his strength as he felt the crucifix edge itself into him, almost crying out in pain as the blood spread across his chest, cold and unwelcoming. He retaliated by pulling his crucifix out, trying to hit the obviously mad man, it scarred him across his face, he screamed in pain. The Figure raised his fist, hitting the man in the testicles, only for no reaction whatsoever. The mad man didn't have testicles. That was his last thought before falling to the floor.
The Figure awoke. The mad man's face stared back at him, still smiling as he pointed to his scar, "Thank you, for this miracle." He said. The Figure spat in his face. The mad man bowed to him. Behind was a fire, with more people with smiles carved into his face staring at him, they put their hoods down, showing Our saviour edged into their foreheads and bowed, The Figure looked across to see Noah, His hands and legs tied to an uneven, badly made crucifix, nails in his feet and hands, eyes the size of plates, his cloak removed to show an entire body covered in ginormous lumps. Cancer. He screamed with pain, tears falling down his face like rain as his blood dripped onto the dirt underneath. The Figure only saw his hands and feet tied to a piece of wood in a considerably less death-inducing way. He analysed his surroundings to see more crucifixes, some burned with the skeletons of people still on them. Charred to ash, yet still alive, somehow. "False prophets." The madmen said unanimously and emotionlessly. "They ran. You will not." They all bowed "Messiah! Messiah! Messiah!" The Figure looked at one of them, he was uncomfortable, obviously unfamiliar with the cult, The Figure guessed he was just there for survival, he had met a lot of people who had done things like that. It almost saddened him. However, he was a perfect tool. They all went up to him in single file, giving The Figure charred parts of what he guessed was human flesh as gifts. They removed his hat, torn and full of holes and fatigue, to put lubricant, acid spewing intestines on his head, this disgusted The Figure as they put their hands into his balding hair, tying it around the intestines, braiding his hair.
The member he had seen earlier walked up to The Figure, shaking, probably of the thought of the disturbing acts he would have to do. The Figure looked at his bag, that lay on the floor, he then looked at the member, then at the bag. The member went up to the bag, to open it to see the meat. He looked at The Figure in a way that showed he was ready to bargain. He nodded to seal the deal, the figure looked behind him, to symbolise his restraints. The member removed his crucifix, and started to tear at the rope with it, each string of the rope cut, made The Figure feel more free. When the deed was done, The Figure tore the crucifix out of the member's hand and right into his throat in approximately two seconds. It was merciful. The blood splattered all over The Figure when he pulled his weapon out, he did not care. With the crucifix still in his hand, The Figure ran, swiftly and as quiet as a snake stalking his prey. He looked upwards at Noah, crying as brown, liquid vomit fell pitifully out of his mouth as pus and blood came out of his hands and feet, yellow and brown. He screamed in pain, The Figure was glad not to hear it. The Figure turned around, he saw the mad men of the cult laughing sadistically as they put flint to steel, it sparks fell gracefully onto the crucifix, setting it alight. He had an idea. The Figure quickly ran to the crucifixes with the false prophet on them, with no time to lose he hacked at the one closest to the cult members they looked at him and ran, screaming as they brandished their crucifixes. Alas, they were too late as the crucifix fell, squashing most of them, their sinned blood splattering all over the others and The Figure. who smiled as he threw his crucifix at one of them, hitting them between the eyes, another approached him, he pulled out his canteen, beating him while idly strangling another. When they had both died he took their crucifixes, giddily stabbing the other members, vaulting other their corpses as he commended a bloodbath, smiling the whole time. He piled the bodies to the crucifix, dampening the fire as he used them as stair to get to Noah, he removed the nails, used some discarded cloaks as bandages, he put a crucifix around Noah's neck. He ended his suffering, then, bittersweetly triumphant, The Figure walked into the sunrise as the rain started to fall at last.