Zem digs his way up to the surface to find a pale, flat desert bathed in red moonlight.
He searches for signs of life and spots a large rock formation not too far away. He grunts, tightens his belt, adjusts his backpack and begins towards the rock mound.
A cool wind brushes past his fur and as Zem shivers he notices a shadowy figure on the rock mound ahead. It’s a messenger from Hell.
The DEMON is using a bucket with his tail to scoop blood up from a rock pool atop the mound, which he’s then dumping on to the soil below.
Hey, buddy! You can’t do that!
This ground’s sacred!
The Demon’s surprised by the sight of Zem – a tall, lean devil with a tail as long as his body, horns as short as thumbs and a voice like gravel – he thought this desert was deserted.
The Demon howls at the moon. Zem balks, then marches forward.
Listen, mac! I ain’t got time for this shit.
You wanna clean up your mess, dump it somewhere else. This soil is under my protection.
Delighted by Zem’s gusto, the Demon gestures to slit Zem’s throat, curling its bicep at the same time.
Zem’s eyes widen.
The Demon pauses, then it picks up the bucket.
Zem’s tail rises. Zem runs at it!
The demon quickly picks up the bucket and dumps the rest of the blood.
Zem leaps high into the air and dive kicks directly into the demon’s skull with his heel, obliterating its brain.
Soil pours from Zem’s ears and mouth.
The blood on the ground trickles into place, connecting a circle around the rock formation.
Zem senses trouble, leaps back to safety beyond the circle.
A vulture circling high above witnesses as the blood circle ignites into flame. The ground tears apart and a portal opens as a horrific HOWL bellows from the pit below.
Zem’s eyes twitch — he knows what’s coming.
A large tentacle bursts forth with human hands and feet in place of its suction disks.
Zem does not falter.
Lo, Satan’s Stalk!
Now you face oblivion at the gaze of Zemjata the Soil Devil of Macedonia!
The tentacle pinches Zem, spins him around and smashes him into the ground and, as dirt flies into the air, Zem’s eyes glow yellow.
The ground shakes. The rumble’s thunderous.
Zem stands, raises both fists in the air and smashes them together.
The Earth HOWLS and then follows his gesture, closing the split ground where the portal is, closing Hell’s gateway and cutting the tentacle in half.
The stalk keels over beside Zem. He brushes the dirt off his hands and legs.
Another one bites the dust.