Family Trade (1200 words)
It was just another day for Michal Kruk. Sitting in the back of his computer shop, he had just finished a routine computer sweep: Disassembling a small laptop, swapping out pieces to see what worked and what was broken, writing it down and replacing the broken parts with new ones. There was something calming about this work, he thought. The removal of small chunks of a computer’s parts, inspecting it and replacing it with something better. Like solving a puzzle.
He often wondered if it ran in the blood, fixing things.
Kruk men were known as fixers in the town of Sztyl, after all. His father, Kuba Kruk, was the village car mechanic. His grandfather, “Master” Zladislaw Kruk, was a surgeon unlike any other. It was said that during World War 2, Zladislaw brought many men and women back from the cold embrace of death using his skills and the bare minimum of equipment. His almost preternatural knowledge of human anatomy and mastery over death earned him the nickname “The Master” among the villagers of Sztyl.
"A master of life and death maybe, but not over time." Thought Michal.
With age, the Master slowly transformed from a fit military man the likes of which adorned any old Eastern European propaganda poster to a twisted foul creature. A sick caricature of an elderly man, a gross nightmare in the minds of children everywhere. His teeth rotted, hair thinned and died, his body slowly collapsing upon itself like his very life was being drained by some eldritch being residing deep within. The Master could no longer move under his own power, nor communicate using speech or handwriting. Instead, he had come to rely on the computer that Michal just finished fixing.
Michal loved his grandfather, even if he looked strange and behaved stranger. As a child, he remembers he went with his grandfather to watch him work…? Did he? Michal stopped. A strange memory. A cave. Steps. Drawings. These memories felt old, yet Michal could not recall them until now. But before he could follow this thread of loose images in his mind, the clock struck 18:00 and the spell was broken. It was time to visit grandfather and tell him how far he’s gotten with the computer.
The Master’s house was at the edge of the village, built right next to a great mountain overlooking the village. Nobody liked being close to the mountain. It was an eerie place. Children would hear occasionally strange noises near it or come crying home, talking of strange monsters and strange creature with the colour of jade. Lurking from the mountain down at them. Many joked that only the Master had the nerve to live there.
The Master’s house stood old and decrepit, like its owner. Michal made his way through the overgrown garden.
“Father’s gonna have to mow the lawn again.” He thought as he opened the front door.
And was greeting by a strange sight. Instead of opening into the musky smelling hall filled with paintings and old furniture, there was a staircase leading down. A pain in Michal’s skull flared up suddenly… he had seen these steps before? Been down them… before? Before Michal could make a conscious decision, he had already found himself closing the door behind him and making his journey downward, flashlight in hand.
Walking down the steps, Michal’s thoughts kept going back to the stories he heard of his grandfather. When men thought him out of sight, or too drunk to remember. Stories of demonic sacrifices, exchanging one life for another. Trading in souls, or even bargaining with eldritch things whose names could not be pronounced by human mouths. His flashlight slowly began to shake and sweat began pouring from his forehead as these old superstitions came to the foreground of his mind. The images in his mind kept flashing by, assaulting his consciousness. How many steps has it been? Why didn’t he turn around? Meaningless questions, because Michal’s enthralment was such that he could do nothing but descend deeper into the darkness.
Finally, he arrived at a chamber. Lit by some natural phosphoresce, the chamber held a brown operating table and some cabinets. The air smelled of antiseptic and with traces of strange foulness. The walls seemed brownish, strange decorations etched onto them. Upon closer inspection, they were anatomical charts. Of man, women, children, animals. And of other things. 4 armed humans, headless bodies, creatures of nightmarish dimensions and outlandish properties. All carefully etched into the walls, for easy referral by the master of this cavernous surgical chamber.
“Oh my grandson. It is you.”
From across the chamber, his grandfather stared at him. His features hidden by an ancient, alien surgical mask, his grandfather had seemed a corpse that came to life. The sunken eyes glowed with the same strange light as the walls, their humanity long eroded away. He beckoned him closer.
“Grandson, come. I wish to explain this to you. You remember how it was, right? Watching me operate? How you liked it?” Michal blinked suddenly as the visions playing in his mind intensified, and before he realized it he stood next to his grandfather. The smell of degradation and cobwebs hung heavily on the dried shell of a man.
The old man chuckled.
“That is exactly where you stood as I opened up my patients. Replacing organs with those harvested from the eldritch creatures that roam at the edge of the abyss. The true Masters, they are. They spoke to me ever since I saw them when I was a child, the indescribable jade beings. They took me beneath the hill one night. Revealed things to me. Made bargains. In exchange for knowledge and samples of humanity, I was given the gifts of knowledge as well as tools necessary to save lives. Yet I feel my time has come. And a replacement is needed. ” With that being said, the abyss took them.
Michal came to, life slowly returning to him. He was lying on something warm. His back could feel slight contortions of the surface he was lying on. The smell of decaying meat and acids permutated his nostrils. His memories come back to him, he stared around in panic in search of his grandfather. Yet he only saw darkness. Yet… it was strange. Whether he blinked or opened his eyes, he saw the same darkness. Like his eyes. Were. Not. There. Anymore.
He started to panic. Screaming, tossing, Michal’s body flailed around. Yet nothing was happening. He couldn’t feel his arms or legs touching anything. Worse, aside from his back, there was no feeling to his body at all. “Grandson, calm down.” The Master’s voice came from the abyss. Yet, there was something strange with his grandfather’s voice. No, the strangeness was everywhere. It was a noise, like a filter was placed over his ears. White noise, all around him. Inside of him. Through all of that, a shuffling noise. Distant. The voice continued “You do fine work with your computers. You will make a fine successor… and my masterpiece.”. Staring into nothing with eyes made of jade ichor, Michal flailed soundlessly with his limbless body as the Master began his work.
|# ? Jul 10, 2016 19:26|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 10:08|
Some Strange Flea fucked around with this message at 14:47 on Jan 1, 2017
|# ? Jul 10, 2016 20:42|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 16:42 on Aug 5, 2016
|# ? Jul 10, 2016 21:05|
Word Count: 1171
a friendly penguin fucked around with this message at 03:06 on Dec 15, 2016
|# ? Jul 10, 2016 22:17|
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 04:17 on Jan 1, 2017
|# ? Jul 10, 2016 22:44|
Down and Out in Paris and R’lyeh - 1194 words - 'loathsome'
‘You and me babe are the luckiest people alive,’ I murmur to the child in my arms, watching bugs move on the wall in a column of moonlight. Lucky to have left England for our own reasons before the ancient city rose from the Atlantic, and all that came with it. Theo shifts against me. When we first brought him home, I watched our baby sleep and wondered what he could be dreaming. There’s no need to wonder now - there aren’t many dreams going round. He whimpers quietly, pudgy fingers clutching the folds of my cardigan, but doesn’t wake up. He’s braver than I am. Seeing the once-sunken towers for yourself, even in a dream, is horrifying for reasons I can’t fully explain. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to not see the Prince.
An hour after dawn I get the money from inside the mattress without waking Theo, count it, and slip a solitary note back in. The rest I put on the concierge’s desk: ‘une semaine de plus, sil vous plait’. A loathsome sycophant around more valued guests, the concierge takes it and hands me an envelope without looking up. The address is right but the handwriting is not. Only one person in England knows where I am, and this masculine script, though familiar, is not hers. She must have told him. The first time I introduced my mother to Stuart, my then-fiancee offered to help her fetch the groceries. If he was trying to impress her it worked: she decided right then he was ‘a good man, dear,’ and nothing I could say or he could do would convince her otherwise. ‘Sometimes men have queer moods,’ she told me the first night I had to take Theo and run. ‘Talk to him in the morning and you’ll sort it out.’
I bin the envelope. Stuart hurt me enough when he was alive.
It kills me to leave Theo alone in the room but we need money. He’s six years old. Since Tuesday I’ve been a waitress at the Café du Nord, twenty minutes walk from the hotel. Every morning when I pass a particular street, a gentleman sitting outside a cafe calls out, ‘Belle! Belle femme!’ Today he approaches me when I’m waiting at a crossing for a tram to pass. ‘Always rushing to work,’ he says with a thick accent. Over the tenement blocks, the north-western sky is stained colours I’ve never seen before. ‘It is the end of the world, non? Time to relax a little.’ He wears an expensive looking suit jacket despite the heat. It couldn’t be clearer he wants to gently caress me, I think, and though I find him loathsome, one day I might let him for a free meal.
Then the tram passes and I cross the road. The Cafe du Nord is not just closed but boarded up. I bang on the door until a woman in a flat upstairs starts yelling, ‘Ils sont partis!’
I give it another kick. ‘My money, you son of a bitch!’ I shout, as if the door itself took my wages.
‘Ils sont partis!’ yells the woman again, leaning from her window. I walk away. Without a job, I’ve got a week to find more money or we’re out on the street. Two blocks down, my admirer from before steps in front of me to block my path. ‘No work today, beautiful? Let me buy you a drink.’
I’m starving and exhausted. ‘How about breakfast first?’
We go inside the cafe and I order soup. It’s not long before he starts talking about what’s happening in England, acting surprised I know so little about it. ‘I try to avoid the newspapers where possible,’ I tell him. He doesn’t take the hint.
‘The big one,’ he explains, ‘they call him the Prince of Despair. They say everyone who sees him becomes inconsolable. By the end they welcome their deaths.’ He takes a sip of beer. ‘The question is, how does one rebel against such a tyrant?’ Here he pauses for a second, smiling with self-satisfaction. ‘Well, by never having hope to begin with: enjoying its absence, even. The more hope we have, the more it hurts to lose.’
I don’t know if he believes all this or if he is just trying to impress me. Either way it makes me sick. Losing hope, really losing it until you can see no future except darkness, is hardly as fun as he makes out. It’s somewhere I never want to be again.
‘Thanks for breakfast,’ I say, standing up.
‘But how, exactly, does he make them despair?’ says my interlocutor, standing too but ignoring what I said.
‘Look, this was nice but I have to go,’ I say, backing towards the open door.
‘How much, exactly, can one person take?’ he intones, smiling wider still. The door slams shut.
I notice now that the cafe is empty. Was it always? ’Mister, please, I have to get back to -’
‘Your son?’ says the man, his face stretching yet further into a loathsome grimace.
Theo walks out from behind the bar. ‘Mummy!’ I want to run over to him but my body won’t move. Then he looks at the man. ‘Dad?’
My companion has changed. ‘Stuart,’ I gasp. His face brings back memories I’d rather forget.
My dead husband looks at me mockingly. ‘Aren’t you happy I’m dead, Jean?’ he asks. His voice sounds muffled, like a poorly tuned wireless set. ‘Aren’t you happy I suffered? It’s what you dreamed of. How did it go again?’
I glance at Theo. ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
My husband’s face smoulders with rage. ‘How did you imagine doing it, Jean?’ he shouts, raising a fireplace poker above his head like he used to.
Against the far wall, a huge log burning stove sputters and flares into life. ‘No,’ I gasp.
‘Theo, my son,’ says the thing with my husband’s face calmly, holding the handle of the poker towards my child. ‘Would you mind stirring the fire for me?’ Mesmerised, Theo takes the poker, walks to the stove, and opens the door. I struggle as hard as I can to stay put but my legs start moving regardless. Now I’m holding a familiar shovel in both hands, raising it slowly as I approach my child from behind. In front of the massive stove he looks tiny - its furnace could take a grown man. Pulling the shovel back, I feel my body tense as is it prepares to swing. I try to shout but my jaw is locked shut.
No! Let me die!
A pain in the top of my head like I’ve been scalped, and the scene disappears. Something sharp and wet detaches from my skull and I fall to my knees at the foot of a mountain of tendrils, a creature, if you can call it that, that I recognise instantly. Shob N’thoth, Prince Regent of the City of Despair, has feasted on the lost hopes of a civilisation and is radiant. Around him, London lies in ruins. And the sky! The sky is unforgettable.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 01:02|
EDIT: uflerp you bastard.
The Wailing Caves
I made my way to the Anthropology wing of Anaracham Institute with my sights set on a checked-out digital copy of one of the studies of the Deafening. I started my journey reading about how the colony ships of old scattered from the Sol system in waves, and by the time I'd finished the section on the massive failure of the quantum communication grid I found myself standing before the Professor's office. Stepping inside to the bitter cold air of the greeting room, I saw the thick head of white hair sitting across the table, with an old, balding gentleman standing at one corner. Artifacts and animistic idols from dozens of cultures hung scattered on the wall behind him, trophies from his various expeditions.
He stood from his large, cracked leather armchair, introducing the man beside him as Professor Lagrange from the astrophysics department. We shook hands, introducing myself as Jonas Darren, one of Green's anthropology graduates, and he looked me up and down before giving an approving nod.
The Professor then offered me a chance of a lifetime. A chance to go with one of his expeditions to a completely unexplored world. A chance like this didn't come around all that often, especially as mankind returned to the stars and remade contact with the lost colonies. The next day we set out from the launchpad, the off-green marble fading in the distance as we reached high orbit before opening a subspace slip, letting the darkness swallow us.
The fabricated clothes fit over my environmental suit well enough, letting me pass as a visitor from a village down the road. My task would be simple enough, and with my study as a poet during my earlier days at the Institute would help me pass as a traveling entertainer. My shipmates were busy poring over their notes and data from the first day since our arrival. I studied them through the satellite, observing an agricultural, middle-age society that ran on a barter system, no one village being larger or more grand than the other, no visible borders or consolidated capitols to be seen. Possibly based upon some animistic religion centered around their harvest seasons or weather or other silly notion.
Something was disturbing the sensors as well, only adding to the confusion. According to their scans, the source of the disturbance was a cave on the outside of town. Being as I was the only one trained and prepared to examine the population, it was decided that I'd be the lucky one to investigate.
The cloaked shuttle came down silently under the cover of night, the back door opening up to let me out of the back of the ship, a window of light in the darkness. As my feet came down on the dusty ground the door slid closed. The shuttle departed with a whisper on the wind, leaving me outside the entrance of the cave.
I felt the cool stone against my gloved hand, a strange green glow bouncing off the walls from deeper within the tunnel. The chanting was growing louder, echoing around and around without end, the echoing making it impossible to tell how many people were down there. Eyes closed, large breaths of damp air leaving an ozone tang in my nostrils. Whatever was happening down inside that pit, whatever sights awaited me around the bend, I resolved to see it through. It was my task, the reason I came here in the first place.
One foot in front of the other, I approached the depths of the cave.
I turned the corner of the tunnel, hand on the stone wall helping keep my balance as I moved closer to that sickly glow, standing at the entrance to a large chamber carved from the rock until the walls were smooth. Six pitch black pillars of stone circled around a raised platform in the center, with six brown-robed figures kneeling before each one. They faced something in the center of the structure, the source of that green glow that ebbed around the chamber and out into the night.
My footsteps were silent, adjusted by the suit's functions. My display showing heart rates and brainwave functions. It told me that they were asleep, despite the continued chanting and moving of their limbs. I had to get closer, my curiosity bringing me into the chamber itself, approaching the pavilion with trepidation in my steps, eyes scanning from one kneeling form to the next. If they knew of my presence, they made no motion to inform me.
My vision crept over the raised edge and I gasped in horror at what rested in the center of the ritual. One of the cloaked faces raised it's head quickly, throwing back the hood to show a face that was not a face. Eyes swirled along cheekbones, skin shifted and rolled in waves, forming into a mouth and nose as the eyes settled.
Professor Lagrange's face appeared with a wicked grin, and a voice that was not his escaped those lips.
The room shattered around me. The cry of some animistic beast echoed inside my head, threatening to split my temple open. The ocular implants went dead with the rest of my suit.
I ran. My heart pounded in my chest as the stone began to writhe at my touch, crumbling away to reveal pulsing flesh that reached for me with hundreds of fingers, dripping wet. They clutched at my ankles with every step, pulled free by my mad dash to the surface. I fell and the fingers were there, clutching at my face and neck, at the clothes meant to mimic the townsfolk, at the warmth within me itself. Clawing away from them I found my footing and continued on, unable to tell if the screams were coming from the cave or myself.
The bitter night air slapped me across the face as I stumbled from the chasm, falling once more as my implants rebooted. I called out in desperation for the ship, hovering somewhere above me in low orbit. They were confused when I told them to drop the fuel tank down on my position and take off into subspace as the planet burned, then indolent when I cursed them for refusing. The radio went dead, leaving me outside the cavern.
There were no more sounds. The stone was once again, thankfully, stone. No more lights danced from the mouth of the cave, and my disguise was completely untarnished, but for the dirt I collected on my fall outside.
The cloaked shuttle opened up behind me, a window of light against the night sky, looking like a door to salvation. I hopped aboard it with all due haste, retreating to my seat and praying that they didn't notice how my hands shook during the trip back to the ship.
It's been two days now, and I strain to recall if it had all been a dream, fueled by paranoia and exhaustion. But I dare not look down at the planet again, for the voices of the wailing caves still haunt me, calling to me as a warning to the rest of the galaxy. This land is theirs now.
J.A.B.C. fucked around with this message at 01:43 on Jul 11, 2016
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 01:12|
Super Lovecraftian Word: Tremulous
The island sings to me.
Its song has repeated in my head since the first time I saw it, a year ago. I stood on the edge of the rocky beach, delicate grey ripples lapping at my feet, and I stared at the huge mass of stone, standing sentinel over the coast. I could not shift my eyes elsewhere, not that I wanted to. I was transfixed, on the verge of stepping forwards into the iron sea and towards the island.
The singing sounds like the crying of angels.
“What is that island?” I asked Sofia, my fiancée. She had been stacking stones with her young nephew, each rock and pebble placed with exact precision, but at my words, her latest addition slid and bobbled down the side of the pile. She tried to hide her reaction with a smile, but it was tremulous, and her face was pale.
“I don’t know, Rashid. I don’t think anyone does. Some rich eccentric wanted to build on it, a while ago.”
She gestured towards the concrete building, the crown atop the island, each of its four walls a different height and windowless.
“He worked on it tirelessly, all the building-work done by a small group of people,” she continued. “Then one day, he simply vanished and never came back. Everyone thinks he grew tired of the project and just gave it up. You know how eccentrics are.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. Sofia lay next to me, the rise and fall of her chest the only sign she was breathing. The song drowned everything else out. I stared up at the ceiling and saw nothing there but the smooth grey walls of the abandoned building.
For the next week, I tried to live my life as normal. I diligently strode into and out of work, I ate regular meals, I spoke with my friends and family and fiancée, acting as though my interest in the island had been merely fleeting, a curio best viewed from a distance.
Every day, the island’s singing grew louder in my head. It beckoned to me. It was a siren’s song that I couldn’t resist, even as I saw the murderous glint in its eye.
Work became meaningless to me. My stride became a stroll, and my stroll became a trudge, and eventually that stopped entirely. Three regular meals turned into two turned into one turned into whenever I remembered to eat. Whenever I wasn’t standing at the water’s edge, I was in my study, my second coast, walls coated in drawings of the island.
At some point in the year, Sofia left me. I woke up to an empty house, her possessions gone, the only sign that she existed a note left on the dining room table.
A few hours later, I stuck the note underneath my window, a drawing of the island scrawled on its reverse.
I would ask all of the local fishermen, scuba divers and coastguard whether they would take me to the island. Each time, they would look at me with faces as pale as Sofia’s had been, and with tremulous voices, tell me the same thing;
“I can’t take you to that island. No-one will. Not for all the money in the world.”
I woke up this morning, and the singing of slaughtered angels had become a cacophony. My head felt like it was going to burst, but I didn’t want it to stop. Drawing the island was no longer enough. I had to let it know that I had heard its song.
I walked through the town, down to the beach, stumbling on the rain-slicked cobblestones, drizzle blurring my vision. The world was silent. The chorus was the only sound I could hear.
There was one man on the beach, stepping out of a small red boat, restless on the choppy waters. He opened his mouth as I stepped towards him, through the shallow waves, but no words came out, not even as his eyes went wide and I grabbed him by the throat and forced him down into the water below.
And now, I am almost there, forcing the little boat through the waves towards what was always my goal, and the island’s song grows ever louder, a dissonant crescendo that I will not ignore.
As soon as I am close enough, I clamber over the side of the boat and into the ocean. My head goes briefly under, but my heart swells to discover that the song is as loud and clear as ever, even underneath the waves. I swim forwards, up onto the shore, sand sticking to my palms as I turn to watch the little red boat get carried off by the current to shores unknown. I watch it go. Then I turn back to the path, leading up to the building.
I finally reach the west face of the building, and take three tremulous steps towards it. I place my shaking hand on its perfect surface. It feels warm. There are no doors, no windows, but the island still sings, reaching its climax, telling me I’m so close.
I walk round to each face in turn, placing my hand against the wall each time. I do this four times. My head is on the verge of splitting in two.
On the fifth circuit, there is a huge archway carved into the west face. The building has no roof, and yet I can see nothing inside. The vast abyss of space, of nothingness, of endlessness beckons me and I do not hesitate. I step straight inside.
There is darkness. And then there is light. And then I can hear my voice, screaming out, in perfect harmony with the island’s song.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 01:12|
The Unlit Mirror
Prompt: Crepuscular horror
The rays of the morning sun turned the motes of dust into diamonds; I admired them as I rummaged through my father's things. I knew he had been a prolific writer in his time, but the volume of his unpublished work was staggering; boxes upon boxes of home-bound books, all written in his neat boilerplate script, left to dust and the darkness.
As I carried the last of those boxes down the attic stairs into my parlor, I stopped to shake my head at my father's foolishness. He'd been a respected authority on esoteric myths and legends; I felt like I'd lucked into a fortune.
I picked up a slim volume entitled Testimony of the Unlit Mirror and as I flipped through the yellowed pages I noticed my father's handwriting seemed scratchier and more spidery than usual, with some words nigh-obliterated by moisture.
When the barrier between night and day is thin, the shades of those who never lived and had lived before wander and wait, seeking to see and be seen, to watch and be watched, to be called and carried into light and life once more! Again they'll live! Again they'll live! The mirror is the key!
I wrinkled my nose. What was this rubbish? I understood why Father put this work aside, though why he hadn't simply disposed of it was beyond me. Still, I took a seat and began to read further; perhaps it would make more sense if read in its entirety. I had little else to do anyway.
"The 'crepuscular hours,'" I found myself murmuring some hours after reading the slim volume. "The twilight; the evening; the time when the sun sinks below the horizon, and the light gives way to darkness."
I started at a sound in the distance like a woman's scream. I laughed as I calmed my nerves twanging like bowstrings; it was evening, and I lived in my father's old home in the woods, where were wild cats still hunted. Laymen termed them as nocturnal, but -- and a smile came to my face at the recollection -- they were actually crepuscular creatures, who did most of their hunting in the scant hours just before nightfall. No worries there.
I wandered idly about, completely at ease despite my solitude. I shook my head in shame at my father's folly -- the slim volume had spoke at length of how the dead and the 'never-born' wandered endlessly, and how they might pass through whatever crepuscular membrane separated the day-lit world of the living and the endless night of the dead.
Mother's passing had affected him more greatly than I'd thought; the idea gave credence to rumors surrounding his 'accidental' death so long ago, and it would certainly explain some of his stranger habits preceding, especially his dislike of mirrors and other reflective surfaces.
A wry smile tugged at my lips as a perverse thought slithered into my forebrain, seemingly of its own accord. My father had been a fool, of that I was now assured, but was I man enough to prove it to myself? I went back to my drawing room and thumbed through the Testimony, and the grin grew wider still.
Yes, I think I should put the matter to rest. Luckily, the time was right and I had all the necessary implements at hand, including the candle and the knife. And the mirror, of course -- the mirror was vital.
I grinned to myself as I closed the door to the bathroom and lit the candle before the old mirror above the sink. I stifled a chuckle at my mischief; I felt like a child again, partaking in a time-honored rite of pre-adulthood. I stood there, watching as my reflection flickered in the old glass with its tarnished silver backing.
"Hello father, hello mother," I said conversationally to my reflection. "Can either of you hear me? It's Charles. I found your book -- it wasn't very good, I'm afraid, but it helped wile away a slow afternoon."
My reflected smile seemed to grow, and the flame flickered as though disturbed by an unfelt draft. Anxiety ran its cold, delicate fingers along my breast, but I squashed it as swiftly as it came, and I reached for the knife in my pocket. By the candle's wan light I pricked my index finger -- a trifle harder than intended, eliciting a wince -- and quenched the candle's flame between thumb and bloodied forefinger. I took in a breath, smelling wisps of smoke and blood.
I stood in darkness, sucking at my burned, aching finger and damning myself for a fool. Of course nothing happened! I cursed aloud at my disappointment. What did I think would happen? Swirls of hellfire alight with the spirits of my departed parents? A torrent of screams from the crepuscular things beyond the veil? Stupidity!
I flicked the light-switch and looked to the mirror, staring hard at my reflection. All was as it should have been, and nary a tormented spirit in sight.
You shouldn't have done that.
I blinked as my eyes finished adjusting to the harsh florescent light. Did I think those words? Or did I truly hear them?
I snatched the candle and left the bathroom, my cheeks burning with shame and... fear? What in god's name was there to fear? I was alone in the house, with naught about save miles and miles of tranquil wood! Was I to look over my shoulder for the rest of my days like dear ole dad?
I stalked toward the kitchen and readied the kettle for tea, and I looked out at the darkened wood through the window above the sink.
And saw the face of my father.
It leered at me from behind my reflection, eyes wide, skin pale and bloodless. His mouth was open in a silent scream. Beside him stood my mother, similarly pallid, her neck twisted at an odd angle -- from the noose with which she had hung herself so many years ago.
I screamed and turned away, and saw nothing. When I faced the window once again, I saw only my reflection, pale and slack-jawed with terror. Then I barked a harsh laugh.
"Just nerves," I tittered, my voice shaky to my own ears. "Just my nerves, hahaha!"
You invited us. You ignored the cry, you lit the candle, you fed it blood, and we came!
I looked in terror as ill-formed... things shambled out from between the trees toward the house, grotesque and misshapen bodies glinting wetly, pale and maggotlike in the dim light of the crescent moon. I watched with morbid fascination as they writhed and pulsed, and the spectral figures of my parents stood outside the window, their dead eyes meeting my own.
The voice of my father hissed once again inside my skull like wind-blown dead leaves.
And they accepted the invitation as well.
That's when the front door splintered open, and I saw the first of the crepuscular horrors lurch toward me, its dripping, writhing limbs reaching out as I stood there, shuddering and nauseous and rigid and utterly helpless.
And they hunger.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 01:49|
an epitaph for the blameless heathens
773 words, "blasphemous"
Ilius lives in the cracks of Jonathan Prince the blasphemer's house, peeks in through the blinds after the sun sets, lurks in the corners of unlit rooms, tallies up every minute of his borrowed existence that he does not dedicate to repaying the debt he owes to his creator. Ilius knows that one day Jonathan will shrivel and collapse under the weight and his unhallowed soul will rot along with his body, but it is not his fault.
Underneath the floorboards, Ilius listens as Jonathan forms a congregation with his fellows, consuming their listless spirit and philosophizing about what everything’s really fuckin’ about, man late into the night. Ilius wishes that they could save these foolish youths, to speak the truth and lay their purposes out before them, but their mouth is sewn shut and their wings are clipped.
Centuries ago, Ilius had stood before the last keepers of the faith and sounded the three horns of binding to rally them for the coming battle. They fought well, they fought with belief and righteousness behind them, but the witch hunters did not falter; even as the burning tears of their creator fell from the sky and smote them. They stepped over the eternally screaming corpses of their dead (hateful, blasphemous souls rotted through long ago) with blood dripping from the iron in their gazes.
After the sacred texts had been set aflame and blessed artifacts shattered, Ilius watched from the shadows cast by the last believer's pyre and wept. After the pain became too much to bear and she was undone, after the ashes settled, Ilius held her soul that had been tempered by years of devotion in their hands. They had whispered a prayer before preparing to devour it, to chew and tear and break every last bond until her consciousness was released and scattered to the stars.
Grief had made Ilius careless. A bright-eyed inquisitor with a silver blade that had returned to salt the earth cried out an alarm, and her companions were more than eager to help slay the demon she had found. The unholy sword robbed Ilius of their strength, and they were overwhelmed. When the witch hunters discovered they could not kill Ilius, they were content to slash and maim, to rip out their tongue so they would never again whisper blasphemous rumours, to tear their wings so they could never return to the heavens that had spat them out among the living.
Eventually, the hunters discarded Ilius, content with their work. The broken angel fell into a deep sleep, fading into the shadows of their cell. When they woke, feeble and crawling on the filthy earth back to the pyre, every trace of their beloved follower’s soul had faded.
Ilius would walk the earth for years afterwards in search of any remnants of their faith, for without the angel’s rending deliverance, within the prison of their souls the deceased wake up to an infinite nothingness. Adrift for eternity without sensation or change, their minds decay until nothing resembling a thinking person remains.
When it became clear that the old ways had truly died out, Ilius sought to themself recreate the holy texts that had been handed down by their creator, but the burning runes needed for the rituals that would purify one’s soul turned mortal paper to ashes in Ilius’s hands.
With no one left to speak the truths of the universe, the world was covered in a growing layer of rotting, unsanctified souls, person after person sentenced to an infinity of hellish nothingness for breaking laws that have not been spoken for generations. Ilius will oftentimes attempt to devour them regardless, in hopes that the universe would show mercy, but they shatter their teeth and remain whole and eternally scalding in their stomach. Children are the only souls spared, as they have not lived for long enough for the residual sin of their universe to gather upon them.
Ilius stands watch over Jonathan Prince the blasphemer as he sleeps, passed out on his couch, and hopes that their presence alone will be enough to awaken some form of ancestral memory within him, even if it remains just a passing dream. They pray, hoping that their creator will turn their gaze back towards the world they have abandoned.
If God has simply moved on, if their will is to allow Ilius’s people to drown in a dark sea of souls and birth a new civilization that would not repay God’s conditional love with fire, then Ilius hopes only that their happiness will last.
The growing amount of black holes in the universe suggests otherwise.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 01:52|
His knife rasps across the swordfish, scales twinkling in the kitchen light as they snow onto the ground. It’s a cruel sound. Blunt, ripping, a fish that is being skinned, piecemeal, scratched raw and bloody.
His neck itches. He resists the urge to scratch. He has his own layer of scales there. The doctors call it a “squamous overgrowth”. They don’t know where it’s coming from. It’s nothing to worry about. Scalelike matter growing on his skin, scabbing over his hands and webbing his fingers and caking his neck in a rash with its own protective shell. Inconvenient. Put on this paste and report back in two months.
The swordfish bakes in the oven with a mixture of garlic and onions and potatoes and in a herby crust. He prepares the salmon steak. Salmon scales mix with the old ones already on the ground, every harsh motion of his knife raining down rainbow dust, confetti celebrating haute-cuisine.
He scratches his neck. More scales fall to the ground.
He notices how much the salmon stinks. Everything stinks. Stinks like fish, but not like the sea, the salt and water. It stinks like dead fish. Not rotten though. Just dead. Stinks like food that isn’t supposed to be food. Like dog meat. Or human. Not rotten. Off. The stench settles in his stomach. It makes him feel queazy.
He takes the swordfish out of the oven, baked to perfection, the fragrance of mediterranean spices mixing with the corpse odor. Off. The pan with the seared salmon steak slides in on a fresh baking tray. It reminds him of a severed hand. He arranges the swordfish on a plate as if preparing it for a wake, beds it on the potatoes and drapes it with garlic and onion. Somebody orders the halibut.
Empty-eyed fish bodies line up in the fridge, a seafood mortuary. The stench overwhelms him. But the fish isn’t rotten. Just dead. Dead, glittering fish caked in blood, pieces of gut sticking to the cuts in their bellies. He forgets to breathe. A poison running through his body. Through his heart and intestines, culminating in his lower belly. His heart pumps--
He goes home early. “Again?” his shift supervisor says.
He goes home.
Home is a dimly lit downtown apartment on the sixth floor of a concrete slab in a long row of almost identical concrete slabs. Faint bass seeps in from above. The place has not been cleaned – discarded packagings of microwavable food pile up in the corners and on the desk, food and empty soda cans and scratched-off scales. The packaging is days old. He doesn’t eat much these days, and the food is different.
The only clean place is the wall with the picture on it. A wood burning of a narwhal and a kraken, although the linework is unclear, ill-defined. Hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. It emanates a dark aura, like an invisible smoke rising up around it, fangs opening up to swallow him whole, tearing into his mind, holding it in place. His consciousness tries to pull away and the picture reels him back in.
Around the edges, it has the same kind of “squamous overgrowth” that he has.
He finds himself sitting on his knees, in front of the picture. He stares at it. The burnt lines seem to shift. They form patterns, shapes, scales flowing in and out of the frame like the waves of the sea. The patterns speak to him. A faint noise whispers in the back of his head, like a phantom touch probing him from the inside. The voice is like somebody turns on a light bulb in a dark room.
“Sinner,” it says.
It has never spoken to him, or not like that, or maybe it has. No, he remembers that it has. His heart pumps again, harder than before. He knows what it means: the job. The restaurant. The corpses. It is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. He doesn’t even know why he keeps going there. He thought he knew this morning, but now it speaks to him and the decision seems wrong again.
“Has to stop, has to stop,” the voice says, louder now. “You have to stop.”
He doesn’t know how to stop. He tried, but he always finds himself back at his job, finds himself torn, between this reality and that, these needs and those, finds himself making excuses for his grisly work. Needs the money. Needs to pay rent. Needs food. But he doesn’t need food. Does he really need this apartment?
“I’m sorry,” he says. His voice is but a whine. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You have raised your hand against the me and many, against yourself and against the school.”
The voice is not a whisper anymore. He has done wrong, he has sinned against his own, has sinned for years and years and even now that he is being reborn he is still sinning because he knows not what else to do, because he is used to it, not matter how bad the pain gets, no matter how much the stench overwhelms him, he is a born sinner, it’s what he is, and he would like nothing more than to change, but he does not know--
“Repent. Repent for you have sinned amongst your own. Repent, and you will be delivered from this pain. Repent. Repent.”
The words quake through his head with the conviction of the truthful. He rocks back and forth, stuck between a kneel and a cower, kneel and cower. The picture’s shifting lines fall into a frenzy, rage across the wooden canvas like the sea in a storm. The air wavers around him, a hollow echo reverberating through him as if he was oscillating between realities. He tries to focus, but the lines blur. Reality is slippery. He fades in and out.
“Do not cut, lest you are cut. Do not scale, lest you are scaled. Do not eat, lest you are consumed, by your sin, by yourself.”
The voice rises in strength, swells, elbowing its way into his consciousness until there is no room left for anything else, shoving out the memories, fears and sorrows. The voice is a conqueror in a savage land. The voice is truth.
“Such is the truth of the squamous kind”, it says. “We are one. You are many. All are same. Do you understand?”
That is all there is. The way to repentance. The way unto unity. Do to yourself… as you do unto your own.
The voice fades. Air fills his lungs once more and the shifting lines on the wood burning calm down, the raging sea settling into a calm flow, narwhal and the kraken still submerged beneath the tides, but visible again, as they can see him too. Waiting. Waiting for penance.
He gets up.
And he walks into the kitchen.
And he takes a knife out of the drawer.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 01:58|
They called it the Indescribable, for the florid cursive word that adorned its side. I’d read everything there was to know about it on newsgroups and seen grainy photos on BBSes, but no description or polaroid did justice to the mythical bus, the fever dream on wheels.
It was parked in an empty gravel lot at the edge of town, just like that. I mistook it for a vandalized school bus at first, until I glimpsed that unmistakable script: Indescribable. I could see the silhouette of the driver through the windscreen, framed by the bus’s lurid exterior. It was a rolling work of art; every inch of the vehicle bore whorls of color. Tendrils of red studded with bits of mirror glass that sparkled in the sun. Blossoms of tangerine-violet-periwinkle. Clouds of seafoam.
The bus rumbled to life as I stood, contemplating. I ran, hurled myself against the door.
“Please,” I pleaded through the glass. “Please. Take me with you.”
The door opened with a protracted squeal.
“Youn’t paid your fare,” said the man behind the wheel. From behind him came raucous laughter, adult voices raised in childlike glee. I thought I might shriek from maddening envy. The driver turned in his chair, rested one arm on his knee, and looked down at me. “Not even s’posed to be here if youn’t paid the fare,” he said in his strange accent.
“I’ll do anything,” I said, gripping both sides of the doorway with my hands. “I can pay you. Money. Drugs. Valuables. What do you want? I swear, I’ll come up with--” I forgot how to speak mid sentence as vulgar, debased imagery filled my mind. My cheek against rough, urine-soaked concrete, the feeling of a stranger ravaging me. Other things, things too horrible for me to make myself comprehend.
When the visions cleared, the driver was still looking down at me with a severe frown. “The fare,” he said again. Did he expect me to debase myself? Was that it?
I put one foot on the bus. Then the other. I was aboard the Indescribable. The driver made no move to stop me. I glared into his eyes and sidled past, not daring to turn my back on him lest he grab me by my hair and toss me out. He made a noise, something between a grunt and a chuckle, and the door squeaked closed. I grinned at the success of my own audacity, and turned to survey the passengers.
They were, every last one of them, grotesque. Men and women with wild eyes and greasy, stringy hair. The men had beards matted with vomit. Their clothes were stained with food, bile, grease, and excrement. And the smell--how could I have not noticed it, even from outside? It was the salty, acrid, humid soup of too many filthy bodies in too little space.
The bus rumbled into motion, grinding over the gravel.
“Wait,” I said to the driver. “Wait--you’re right, I didn’t pay for this. This isn’t my ride. Sir? I’ll get off now. Please.”
The driver ignored me, and--was that a smile upturn at the corner of his mouth? I turned back to the gibbering, squirming, babbling savages. There was one empty seat. I all but ran for it, curled up against the window, and buried my face in my hands.
It was easiest, I learned after the first hour, to watch the corn roll by, and the steady white line of the highway. Eventually, the Indescribable would have to stop for gas, and then I’d make my move, find a payphone, get home, warn the newsgroups…
I felt someone flop down into the seat next to me. I didn’t look.
“I went on this trip once before, you know,” a man rasped into my ear. His breath was a merciless tide of halitosis. “Was twenty years ago. I only just came down from it this past year and--and, and, and, you know what? Here I am again. Wow. Hee-hee!”
I shut my eyes tight and tried to make myself small. Invisible. Soon, the man ambled back to his own seat, babbling happily to himself.
My first thought, when I opened my eyes again, was what is a tunnel doing in the middle of Nebraska? But we weren’t in a tunnel. I recoiled from the window as soon as I comprehended my new surroundings: an endless field of blacker-than-black, filled with pixelated polygons that pulsed and expanded and contracted. There were only three colors: red, yellow, and blue. But these were not the familiar, comfortable primaries of my own spectrum. They were ruder, rougher, and more primitive.
“God help me, I’ll be good,” I moaned. It was the way the shapes moved, as if with an intention or a purpose I could never comprehend.
The Indescribable rattled to a halt when the blunt shapes and crude colors were so thick I could no longer see the black abyss beyond them. I cowered in my seat as the mad men and women gave a joyous cheer and lined up to exit the bus. I watched them through the window as they spread out in this monstrous new world, twirling and leaping in the colorful aether.
And as I watched, a beautiful and horrible change went through my fellow passengers. Where they touched the colorful shapes, they became color. Not the primordial colors of our environs, but altogether new hues, whose indescribable beauty brought tears to my eyes. Their distant, psychotic laughter became a melodious, crystalline sound that evoked opalescent cathedrals and clouds made of quicksilver.
Wherever the altered passengers went, they created whorls of light and shards of song.
I was on my feet, heading for the door before I could think.
“Ah, no.” The bus driver heaved himself out of his seat and blocked my path. “Y’see, the fare isn’t for the ride. It’s for the trip. And youn’t pay for the trip.”
I reached for the buttons of my blouse. “Please,” I whispered. “I’ll do anything. Anything you can think of.”
The driver licked his lips. “Anything, eh?”
“Anything.” There wasn’t a shred of doubt in my voice. Aboard the Indescribable, my body was a plain, feeble shape. But outside, I could be glorious.
“Would you mind sitting in that seat for just a moment?” He gestured at the driver’s seat.
I didn’t need to be asked twice. The seat fit me like a glove, well-worn and smelling faintly like my pillow did the morning after a deep sleep.
“I’ve paid my dues,” the passenger was saying to me. “I’ve earned my rest here. Don’t wait for me.”
I waved him off. “Time’s wasting,” I said, tapping the hourglass on my console. They always babbled like that. No use trying to unravel it.
When the madman had joined the others in the dreamscape, I took the time to review my itinerary while I waited for them to return. I was due to pick up folks in Portsmouth, Iowa, it said. Population one hundred ninety-two. I didn’t reckon there’d be too many mad folks there, but then, it wasn’t my job to worry about it.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 02:03|
Three Stories in a Tightening World
Word: Sclerotic, 1182 words
Susan took a tentative step from her bed. Her feet still worked, but extending her arms was hard, now. She focused on it over everything else, though it cracked like popcorn a minute into the microwave. It started a week after Tim. She'd been fired yesterday. Couldn't pull an espresso.
She'd met Tim at a bar down the street from the coffeehouse. When she walked in, their eyes met. He was handsome, gorgeous, and bought her a manhattan. He didn't turn from the barstool as she sat next to him. After a few words and a few laughs he weakly threw an arm around her shoulders. She remembered that moment distinctly. A string of fireworks popped in his every joint as she looked into his eyes.
They hosed on her old futon. He was hard before, hard during, and hard after, like he couldn't drop it. Tim knew he had it that night.
Rajeev burst into the train car after the bars, along with his friends. They were drunk and high on night-fumes. They moved slowly, for Nitin and Arvind's cramps. He saw a slim, fair girl at the end of the train and gave a rallying cry.
His friends had stopped cold after pulling her top down, but he'd dragged her off the train at the next stop, kissing her all over. When Rajeev turned his head to her shoulder, she jammed her knee into his groin and ran. He saw her escape with a torn skirt and a left leg limp, her saliva still on his lips.
That night he laid awake, waiting. His lungs bloomed in his chest without resistance, his trachea conducting the breath regular, his pleura free and easy. Any minute, the cops would kick his door in. Life over, locked up.
Matthew was bumped from his ten AM flight to twelve, for weather conditions. That could mean anything these days. He looked down at his paper. Another article about the sclerotic plague. An editorial about literal and figurative freezing of the hands, all the muscles turned to collagen. Heavy on prose. He was afraid being in a tube of people, but his family was in Nashville. He flew private, the only option for moving these days. Common carriers had shut down a month ago.
There were sixteen passengers on jumpseats. When the engines whirled to life, the man to Matthew's left sneezed.
Susan crouched in a corner, faking drunk. The bar, like most of them, didn't allow sclerotics. She used the last of her strength to look graceful for the bouncers. Tim was serving at the bar. The man who had hosed her and ruined her life. He wasn't twirling any bottles, just stiffly pouring a line of whiskey cokes.
She focused on looking like she was rallying. Ready for another shot. In a mirror on the wall, she looked at Tim serving. Susan came to her feet, her thighs cracking and her knees burning. She was locking up. The plan was going to poo poo.
Her arm kept creaking, rasping, moaning. Tim saw it and tried to turn away, but she'd seen the sweat on his brow after pouring four drinks. His facade was breaking. He kept trying to turn and fell. His right leg flexed and his left didn't.
Sarah threw herself on the bar. The five whiskey-cokes shook, two splashing out. She was a slab of solid fiber, nearly crystallized mid-leap. She stared daggers at her infector and crawled.
Rajeev spent most of his nights in bed, now. He was terrified that the girl he'd sharked would come after him. Every day, he'd crawl into bed and breathe fast and hot. He'd begun to sclerose about a week after that beautiful girl.
That first night, he'd kissed his mother and father goodnight. When Rajeev was young he'd done it every night. The next morning his parents woke up at six. Their old joints creaked under the humidity.
Rajeev laid in bed, frozen in fear. He'd done wrong, he knew it. He played sick to his parents, clutching his stomach and fake-heaving when they made eye contact.
Two weeks into his act, Rajeev woke on his own. His mother hadn't shaken him gently for morning tea. He looked to the closed door. His mother shut it at night and opened it when the air was clear, long before he normally awoke. He crept out of bed, joints popping and cracking, and pulled the knob. He put his entire weight behind it, all emaciated after a week of the sclerosis. His left shoulder ripped out of joint as the door came open.
Matthew sped home. This was the exact situation he'd worked to avoid, any possibility of bringing it home, of killing his family. The roads were bad, worse every day. There was a car with its driver stuck, dead and gone. Or rarer, buckled in and still in the worst of it, gripping the wheel and moaning through cornhusk lungs. He knew it would get this bad. It was the moment he'd prepared for, whether it came through a nuclear blast, or poison gas, or a plague that froze the world.
He pulled a surgical mask from his glove compartment and fastened it as he drove. Their neighborhood had been bad before but today things were so much worse than he'd imagined. It had hit fast and hard. He must have gotten a different strain from that sneeze. Well, he assumed. It went from an STD to salivary in no time. It had to be aerosolized by now.
Matthew pulled into his driveway and ran to the door, then stopped. He'd installed a keypad when news of the plague hit. But he'd heard the sneeze. His girls were in there, and Ela. If he sneezed, hugged them, or kissed Ela then all this, the steel in the doors, the reinforcement of the siding, turning his house into a permanent bug-out-bag would have been for nothing.
Matthew stretched out next to the reinforced door, silent. Every few hours, he flexed his leg and waited for a pop.
Tim crawled, but Susan crawled faster. Her body was sclerosing and her tongue was numb. Within inches of Tim, she stabbed concrete hands into his abdomen. She climbed up his body, using each finger as a foothold. She came to a freeze with her fingers making gore of his face.
Rajeev's feet were still fairly nimble. Their apartment was small. His mother was standing there, her face chalky and contorted. His father was around the corner, another burnt frame. She looked confused, wondering how they'd become so sick when they locked the door so often. Rajeev knew. He kissed her.
Matthew didn't see anyone for two days. He didn't sneeze, didn't even snuffle. He stayed plastered to the side of their home in a camera blind spot. He'd been flexing and turning there. No crackling, no bursts. After 48 hours, he keyed open the door. Ela was there. He pulled the front door shut as his daughters ran up the stairs.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 02:41|
Pre-dawn in the backyard saw the hastily drawn tarp in light that looked of spilt oil or blood. Jeremiah discovered the amorphous mass in the middle of the night while taking out the garbage. He only managed a glimpse of it, but it frightened him enough to cover it, an action he later felt embarrassed and shamefully childish by. But still he lingered on the porch steps, having not slept nor made his coffee.
Finally, he kicked away the broken pieces of cinderblock he used as anchors and ripped the tarp aside. Now that he could see it without the midnight shadows casting treacherously about, he flushed red. The non-threatening appearance of it spoke more to the overactivity of his imagination and less to any inherent maliciousness.
In front of him was the shape and color of dried spilled milk, but it was bristled and fibrous, with depth but no depth. It reminded him of the head of cauliflower but smashed into a disc of two dimensions instead of three. He knelt beside the flat, hoary creep and noticed a peculiarity with the soil around it. The spread appeared to have pushed up the ground at its periphery. Jeremiah had a lingering sense of unease but familiarity. He had seen something similar before, but in his sleep-addled state he could not remember. His phone buzzed, he was going to be late for his doctor’s appointment.
“You look exhausted, Mr. Warren. Not much sleep last night?”
Jeremiah sat on the edge of the doctor’s bed. His jeans caused the wax paper to crinkle and rip with every adjustment, they hadn’t made him take his clothes off this time.
“I was up all night.”
“That’s completely understandable, I know this process can be unnerving, if you look here, you can see shadow on the imaging system. That amorphous little thing is why I want to run more tests.”
His doctor held up x-ray images of his foot, and he pointed to the shadowy mass. Jeremiah nodded but in truth he didn’t know what he was looking for.
“But looking at your foot, have you ever had surgery before?”
“When I was a kid, I had some plantar warts removed from my foot, right in that area, do you think that has anything to do with it?”
“Well, to be honest, it doesn’t look good, but we won’t know for sure without a biopsy,” he said. “Take some days off work and rest, we will want to get this examined as soon as we can.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a daze. He had sat out on his porch staring at the flattened cauliflower nodules that had emerged from the earth, not cognizant of where the time had fled to. He set his beer down and limped over to the patch with the intent to stomp out his frustration with his non-tender foot, but as soon as he lifted his foot, the nodules shuddered and shook with no breeze in the air for excuse. Jeremiah turned and ran, knocking his beer over and slammed the door shut.
In the morning he found himself at the home improvement store stocking up on shovels, trowels and other manner of excavation equipment. By early afternoon he had cleared several feet of soil in a yard radius around the mass. Jeremiah sat on the edge of the hole he had dug around the thing, marveling at how different it was from how he imagined it.
The flatness on top was closer to the concept of cauliflower than he thought possible. As he dug around it revealed itself to be the top of a stalk that was wider than both his hands could grasp, and it went straight down into the earth. The peculiar aspect of this discovery was that the stalk grew no wider or thinner the deeper he went. It stayed uniform in color and shape, save for the grooves and weathering that reminded him of pruned fingers.
In the late afternoon he had gotten so deep that the head of the stalk created a makeshift umbrella, that had made him feel uneasy, but not enough to widen his pit. Still, the stalk had not changed, frustrating Jeremiah, and incensing him to find the true depth of this thing. His phone rang, interrupting his labors. It was his doctor, and Jeremiah froze. His voice caught in his throat, and he didn’t want to answer, but he knew better than to listen to his fate being sealed through voice mail.
“Hello,” he squeaked.
“Completely benign, Jeremiah, you’re going to be just fine. You were right all along, its scar tissue. You can even leave it there, or we can remove it via surgery. This is great news, and I’ll be honest, I’m very relieved myself,” his doctor said.
Jeremiah’s cry of joy verged on primal. “Thank you so much, oh my god, thank you, thank you thank you, I don’t know what to say. I have to celebrate! Right? That’s what people do?”
“You do whatever you want to do, Jeremiah, have a good night.”
Jeremiah surveyed his situation. He was filthy, sweaty and at the bottom of a hole in his backyard. He laughed until he doubled over and his eyes stung from sweat and tears. When he righted himself he hefted his shovel over his shoulder with two hands and took a long look at the stalk still protruding from the earth. All of the sudden he didn’t care at all about this monstrosity, but just as quickly his humor turned sour. He was ready to be rid of this grotesquery.
With a heavy swing he chopped at the stalk low. The spade head bit in, but not as deep as he would have thought, and the reverberation of the wooden handle hurt his arms. A tremor shook Jeremiah where he stood and he could see the amorphous nodes at the top begin to shake and quiver.
Bursting into a fine mist, the top of the stalk deflated with a series of piffs and puffs, and it crumpled like overcooked asparagus. Jeremiah’s slack jawed face was the first part of his skin exposed to the mist as it sunk heavy in the air. At first, the irritation could have been mistaken as a splinter, or insulation from an attic, but it quickly turned to searing pain. His eyes watered, and his nose began to run profusely. Saliva pooled in his mouth, dripping as he gagged and fell to his knees. He looked as his hands, and finally realized why this abomination had looked familiar to him before. Plantar warts sprang from his fingertips, knuckle creases and webbing. They sprang from his forearms and biceps, and he could feel them clogging the back of his throat.
As he fell onto his back, clutching at his throat, he could feel a deep pulsation, and it felt as though the stalk was sending signals into the loam and crust. His final thoughts before his vision were occluded by warts tearing through his membranes was that it felt like a heartbeat.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 03:08|
428 words of whatever the gently caress this is
adjective was cyclopean
The Temple of Empty Words
flerp fucked around with this message at 16:54 on Jul 24, 2016
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 03:43|
One hour left!
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:03|
Game Reserve, 1200 words
I cannot recall what led me onto that bleak and dreary moor that night. I had been lost and wandering among the treacherous lands for quite some time, alone with my thoughts. I, like many knights, had been disillusioned by the Crusade - the countless brave Christian warriors, murdered by labyrinthine politics of lords and the Saracen blades. No, no glory had been won in the Holy Lands, merely death and dishonor. So, my own lord buried in a mass grave, and I being ignobly alive, I traveled alone to what had been my home.
I should have noticed the unseemly twilight, the strange and unruly winds - alas, regrets. I was focused on the ground in front of me, careful to avoid the bogs and treacherous marsh that made the moors a labyrinth of dangers. When I looked up, night had taken hold and I saw no place fit for resting. Fear crept into my soul, and a cold sweat washed across my shoulders. But I was a knight of Christendom, what had I to fear? My Holy Lord had overthrown death itself! I whispered a few prayers to myself, and continued on. An eerie, shining moon illuminated my path. The papacy may have abandoned us to that harsh desert, but God had not. I pressed on, warding off fatigue - although I was no longer a young, brash man, I wasn't aged yet. With a slow and steady pace, I made my way.
The moors were a desolate and lonely place, all but abandoned. And yet, I was shocked to notice a traveler to my side. With barely-hidden panic, I took stock of my companion - a small and thin man, bundled in rags the color of moss. I watched him as we walked, pretending I hadn't noticed. I thought him old at first, with his wooden cane and hunched posture. But he had a deft nimbleness to him - this was no decrepit grandfather. I saw no weapons, besides the cane, and he seemed to pay me little mind. My thoughts drifted to my grandmother's tales, of the Seelies and their lower courts.
I chased them from my mind - the pagan gods were heresy. There was only one True God, served only by His saints.
I turned to him and made to speak, but he just then he froze. I saw flashes of bright green eyes as he looked around. His rising alarm was clear, and my hand drifted to the hilt of my sword. We stood, I motionless while my companion turned one way or another. Then, over the steady winds, I heard a noise that turned my blood to water. It was the low thrumming of a hunter's horn, far across the moors, and I knew with unfathomable certainty that we were the prey. My companion grabbed the hem of my cloak, and quickly pulled me along.
He guided me along the labyrinthine paths between the bogs, further into the moors, and I senselessly followed. My strength and manly courage had fled from me with the sounding of that great horn, and I imagined the baying of infernal beasts on our trail. If my companion had been a puca leading me to my death, he would have had little trouble. I barely glanced at my feet as we fled, too focused on following his lead.
Suddenly, we stopped, and I realized we stood in front of an old and sunken barrow. My companion lifted up a small hatch and jumped inside, leaving the path clear for me. I stood there for a moment, doubting. A pagan grave seemed like an ominous and profane hideaway, and I considering running on. Just then, however, I heard the piercing sound of the hunter's horn - much close and heavy with ill omen. I quickly clambered in, and closed the hatch behind me.
The darkness was utterly complete, and not a single ray of moon light could been seen. I crouched, unsure and insensate, until I felt my companion take hand. He led me on, further and deeper. Whether we were in labyrinthine tunnels or a single passage, I could not say - the walls were made of dirt and irregular stone, and low ceiling forced me to scuttle along in a crouch. Finally, we reached a slightly larger room and my companion stopped. The darkness was oppressive, so I lit a small flame to see by.
With sickening horror, I managed my first clear look at my companion by fire light. He had been small, this was true, and hunched - but he was not old. In fact, his features were young and beautiful, unnaturally so. But what paralyzed me with fear was his moss-colored rags - in the fire light, I could see that they were a part of him, like furs. His skin was the color of peat, and his eyes glowed with some internal light. I had made camp with one of the Moss Folk, while Woden's Hunt caroused above us. My unfounded belief that the horn had been seeking us suddenly became as sure as stone. I prayed that God would protect me, and pulled out my rosary. My companion looked puzzled and made to speak.
The Bogle snarled and lept from the darkness. I felt the the hot sticky spray of blood as the unholy creature torn out my companion's throat, and two more quickly joined it in savaging the body. I pulled my sword from its sheathe, only to have one of the creatures immediately turn and seize my arm. Each fang felt like the bite of a giant wasp, and its breath scorched like fire. I screamed in pain and fear, certain that death awaited me. But no jaw fastened itself around my neck - instead, the creature loosened, then let go. Through my tears and agony, I heard a voice, authoritative and paternal. I looked up, and stared upon the face of Woden. The old god, that being of false beliefs, stood above me. The world seemed to warp and shape to fit his needs - despite the low ceiling of the small room, he stood straight in his massive height. He stared at me, and repeated himself in some ancient language.
I held up my cross and said every prayer I ever knew, hoping that Christ would protect me and ward off this pagan god. Instead, he leaned forward and plucked the holy symbol from my fingers. He examined it for a moment, perplexed, before placing it in a pouch and nodding towards me. I realized that, rather than warding him with the words of the One True God, this ancient and primordial being had misinterpreted it as a desperate offering from a defenseless man. He didn't even recognize Christ's symbol. Then he motioned me to my feet, and towards a door that had appeared. Wiping away my tears, I stepped through.
Countless realms, connected by an endless labyrinth of passages, flowed past me, and I saw the true size of Yggdrasil and the insignificance of our place within it. Then, I stumbled into the hall of my dead king's keep. I stumbled forward and collapsed into a weary and troubled sleep, filled with nightmares of what I had seen.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:04|
Yeah, I'm out this week.
Instead of excuses I'll churn out some crits. Pretty sure I still owe a lot of those.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:05|
Night cold (946)
I could never imagine back then that the object of my desire would hold such hideous power over me, that it would tear asunder everything I held safe.
I'd just finished a job in Mozambique, covering the election of Filipe Nyusi, and my cold, Alaskan cottage called to me like a lighthouse across so many oceans. Neelam drove me in sandy twilight towards a small airport, I had my laptop propped up against the dashboard, sorting through my shots. We'd left the paved highway behind, and the jeep shuddered as it barreled down the dirt road. Outside of the engine noise and the tires, the quiet enveloped us. Neelam hummed a quiet, toneless tone.
Which was cut short by the puncture.
Neelam twisted the wheel as the jeep skidded to a violent stop. I was thrown to the side, and for reasons that can only be explained by my profession, snapped shut my laptop and held it to my chest like a babe.
"É pah! Not this now," said Neelam. He shook his head, muttering curses as he opened the driver door and climbed out. I rubbed my head where it had hit the window, checking to see that none of my equipment were damaged.
"You've got a spare?"
"Yes, but this will take some time."
I climbed out of the jeep, feet touching rough road, and joined Neelam by the tire. It was hideously mangled and bent out of shape.
"On second thought," said Neelam, "We can safely say that you will miss your flight."
The cell coverage was awful, and Neelam had to try for an hour before finding out that the closest rescue would be here by morning. I'd retrieved one of my cameras, and spent some time taking pictures of the landscape. It was useless. We were stranded on a bleak and nondescript piece of land, and I had no interest in nature photography, but it kept me occupied for a while. Neelam, prepared for most eventualities, were cooking a meal on a portable stove. I ventured about half an hour away from the car, armed with a revolver in case of unexpected wildlife, snapped a few pictures of sunset against solitary trees, and returned to the car. We ate, speaking of family and politics. Neelam went to sleep, I decided to look through my shots.
I woke up, standing, under a dark, starry sky. The night cold had set in, and I shuddered as numbness crept through my body. For a minute or so I thought I was dreaming, but the world was far too real. I turned, looking for the car, seeing only desert.
Dread filled my veins. This cold could eventually conquer me if I didn't find my way back. I started walking in a random direction, realized it was pointless, and stood still, waiting for some knowledge lost in my sleep addled mind to return. As the minutes passed, I remained entirely confused.
"Neelam," I said, at first, and then I screamed it. The night swallowed my cries.
I retrieved my revolver, closed my eyes, breathed in, breathed out, before I let loose a shot. Breathed in, breathed out, and then another one.
Tense minutes, or seconds, I wasn't sure.
But the sound of a rifle breached the night. I ran, feet kicking up sand, and in the dark I could hear a voice calling my name. First like the echo of an echo, and then clearer. When I saw Neelam's flashlight, I collapsed, freezing and exhausted. My vision turned to haze darker still, as I felt a jacket around my shoulders, and strong arms carrying me.
The cold was a comfort, the stars in another hemisphere. Outside my cabin, the fire warmed me. I opened another beer and leaned back in my chair. Daniel was inside, reading. I'd left Mozambique on a private plane, paying a steep premium and thinking nothing of it. Whatever had brought me into that strange night would stay there.
And yet, as I felt alcohol mingle with blood, I realized that something was undone.
I went inside, finding Daniel asleep, sat down and opened my laptop. There was no choice in my actions as I transferred the contents of my camera to the computer, there was no choice as I scrolled through the dull pictures of trees against night and found the first shot I couldn't recall.
The desert first.
And then something else.
A castle, or a palace, or a ruin. Closer and closer still, image by image. Tatters of Portuguese flags, and in the next shot some unrecognizable banner, and in the next a standard resplendent in colors far too vivid for the starlight.
No longer a ruin, but a grand adobe.
And I entered it, and I saw the man waiting inside. Or was it a man? My eyes went elsewhere as I tried to look at the shape of the thing, my head aching, a feeling taking my body that was neither heat nor cold nor any recognizable sense.
It spoke to me, about the endless oceans beneath the world, about the armies waiting in the sand. Remember this, it said, remember it well.
"You drink of the desert night and the understars," I muttered, "Of the infinite palace and the roots of of neither death nor life."
I knew I wasn't the first, and I wouldn't be the last.I knew that some hideous purpose had lodged itself on my mind. I knew I had no choice.
It told me that the infinite palace had roots across the world.
And eventually, in an Alaskan night lighted by all those stars, I would give him another guest.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:22|
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 01:54 on Dec 12, 2016
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:27|
Someday, this poo poo may be included in a volume of bad stories.
Chili fucked around with this message at 07:15 on Jan 1, 2017
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:31|
There He Waits Dreaming
In the depths of the waters, in this trench where the dark is absolute, only the rock walls hear my song and only the walls reply. They gossip to me of a soft-bodied meal ahead, so I ripple my legs and thrust out a hand. The squid throws a glowing slurry in my face that clings to my gills and skin; I dive deeper with my prize, biting it into quick death. Tearing one limb free for myself, but no more. My mother and brother and son won't forgive me if I come home fed but with no meat to share.
It goes into my pouch. I sing again--
Light! Mordant brilliance scalds my eyes. It fills the trench, the sea! I thrash into the wall, and its contours guard me from the violent surge in the water that throws me back, tatters my fins, but leaves me living.
The light also survives: I uncover my face and see it still, dimmer and cruel against the blood clouds far above where nothing was protected. Rags of flesh tumble down. Where are my mother, my brother, my son?
I cannot tell how long I swim, seeking them. Inchoate time blurs into a forever of ichor and glow. I flash my own luminescence, cutting bright trails across the too-bright world to say I'm here, I'm here, I'm here-- The still and the silence wring wails from my throat that have no answer. And then I taste bloods akin to mine and know that my mother's and brother's voices are gone.
Would that I were gone with them, except. Except. The sea carries the thinnest thread of song from far away. The light intensifies as I swim toward the sound, until I cover my eyes; it creeps through my webs and fingers, demanding obeisance. The music has resolved into a drone of identical notes from a multitude of mouths.
Now I hear--at last!--the song of my son. I rush further into the light despite its burning. For the first time I glimpse the edges of its source: structures stab up from the ocean bed, teeth in an incalculable jaw. It's from these that the radiance comes, so mordant and green and distant from my comprehension. Living singers glide between these fangs and slip into the holes that riddle them, never emerging while I watch nor responding to my calls.
I do not want to sing their song. It shivers my bones. I do not want to go into that city. My son's voice is somewhere inside.
The shining teeth close in on me as I flurry through, scraping my skin and drawing more blood for an ocean full of it. The rock has its own skin of ice that embeds itself in my cuts. But there he is! My son floats toward the light's vast heart. His song is jubilant and his eyes are cartilage white and he pushes me away when I wrap my limbs around him.
I seize him again and pull. I dive in front of him to shove him back. If I can only force him away to wherever in this world is dark and safe, then--but my thoughts won't go further than that. They struggle against fear as I struggle against my child.
His throat swells with a wild note he shares with a thousand other celebrants, and the fangs surrounding us seem to sing it too.
And Something sings back.
I let go and I bolt, screaming, screaming away from the Voice inside me as surely as the light is inside me as surely as the fear is inside me as surely as all are one and that One knows my anguish and agony and names them Its truest worship. I leave my son to It and Its city, fleeing for the dark.
But there is no dark for me, though there should be. I can't see my hands or anything else alive. Those mordant teeth seared my sight away, but they glow before me yet. I would hear the music of their master still if I swam to the sea's furthest reaches.
Instead I circle the great jaw ceaselessly, shuddering as I sing for my son, knowing Who will soonest answer. There is no hope left. Only light.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:40|
singular, nacreous 5x
Lo Rag was never a hunter, not really. He found that out when the tiger sunk twin fangs into his abdomen. We brought him to his cave. I was there, just getting strong enough to help. Skin, bone, and wires. I had his lower legs. Cut my feet on rocks I couldn’t see. Path there weaves like a serpent.
We brought him to his cave and left him. Many caves in the valley, spilling out into the brush. Valley hollow like I feel, air in the stone, wind in my veins, and when I eat meat I want it to fill me but I still hear the echoes. And the murmurs rise, the high sounds of the females splintering male tones. Peeling over the fire, faded against the daylight.
The smoke spilling forth from that cave was nacreous. It took me a couple names to find that word. I know now that things are inexpressible. I saw time eventually. Empty as me.
So is the me that put down the meat, that broke away in fear and noise, that followed the woven path to Lo Rag’s tomb, the me that lights another drat cigarette? The cave is all smoke and my feet sink in ash. And as I grasp my way deeper, I can hear Lo Rag’s laugh, the same as you hear when he’s with mates, firm laughter that holds you up.
But a tiger ripped Lo Rag’s heart out of his skin.
I’m lighting another drat cigarette, smoking in the rain because I don’t want to face him yet. They go fast like this and soon I’m out. Then I can’t waste time anymore and push the door in. The outside is warped from exposure and when I push it in it sounds like it’s dying.
Nacreous smoke fills the place. Opium. Stacks of books disappear into it like mountains into clouds. Samara Hauk is in there somewhere and I can hear his voice.
“Singular,” he says. “Like a waking dream.”
“I saw you floating in the Pleur,” I say. “Eyes X’ed out like an etching. No nose, just gristle. But I knew how you got there, and it was your face.”
“I traded one debt for another,” he says. I can see his outline through the smoke.
My teeth feel soft, like I’ve been eating something. Even as I talk I grab one, pry it. “You’re using your real name here.”
“No one’s looking for me.” Now I see him. A thin, sallow man. Draped against his chair, arms hanging, knees bent sharp. “Living forever is as easy as opening your eyes.“
“I grieved you.” I say. He’s swimming in front of me and I try to focus. Outside the city breathes together but here we’re alone. “I can’t sleep, to ungrieve you.”
“It can find you through my smoke. I’d leave, I were you.”
“Hauk. What are you in debt to?”
“I saw a moth, burning in flame,” he says, looking at me through heavy lidded eyes,
Me and Kari are hotboxing my Chevrolet. I’m talking about sci-fi stuff.
Against the shotgun seat she looks like a hitchhiker a murderer would pick up but maybe she’d switch things around. Her sweater is clean but wrinkled like my grandmother’s skin.
“Time loops,” I say. “The universe dies and starts up again. There are a lot of things that can happen but they’re finite. Eventually the same things happen and they keep happening. They keep killing J.F.K. Jackie keeps screaming in her circus hat.”
“I don’t like that,” Kari says. “Like when I was a kid, I had a cat named Jareth. Like Labyrinth? Black fur. He got crystals. I hear him meowing and go find him and he’s curled up and you can see the blood spreading out under him. And we take him to the E.R. but it goes wrong. I didn’t see it but I heard it from outside, you know, the moment? I don’t want to go through that again.”
She pushes the door open. “We can blaze, but we’re still single, dude. Singular. You know?” Smoke spills out after her. Nacreous, a cool word.
I watch her as she walks to her place. Chevy's still smoked up and I roll the window down. Something scratches low on my side. I look over.
It’s a black cat with ancient eyes.
The singularity hits while I’m jacked in. Warning pings blur into the edges of my sight, too late. Norris Pendexter, ghost of the Node-Net twilight, has finally hit the psych routines that make him take over everything. He was messing up capitalism so hard they had him killed but he had an A.I. out there, so that just worked through his business/personal dichotomy and made him mad.
All I do is maneuver through the cityscape on my high speed glow board and balance bento boxes so the food doesn’t mix. So I notice when business ideas start flooding my consciousness node. Ask for a raise at this apex of your performance. Dig your nails in at the peak of your handshake. Never reward, always punish.
And I’m like, not sure those are my thoughts. My node is blinking hard, like a million other nodes are trying to connect, but he’s all I feel. I try to jack out to the real world. Pendexter tells me that won’t be happening.
Souls are currency, he says. I need them all.
You don’t deserve this, I say. I collapse on that. Deserve. What I deserve. Outside the the nodes the aether thickens nacreous. My thoughts spool out, taut filaments protecting a sliver of me.
I deserve everything and nothing, he says.
My teleporter gets me into the Far Emperor’s Fortress on Myar IV. Tassual isn’t on his throne; he’s staring out at space through a nacreous energy field hewn in the black castle stone. Slaves from all corners of the galaxy are passed out around him. Through the field stars are tiny glints, like they’re being smothered.
The fissure in space hums distorted as I step through. Tearing the cosmic fabric reverbs sound as well as matter. So he hears it and looks at me and his mouth creases.
“That teleporter is singular use, right? Why are you here? My everything-goes-to-me philosophy?”
“No,” I say. “I just feel like it. Something empty in me.”
His robes shimmer like hazel oceans. My blade looks dull but all I need to do is stab hard.
He talks like he didn’t hear. “If everything goes to you, you live longer, because you eat the best. And you enjoy it. It’s almost all worth it.”
I’m walking towards him. I still hear the echoes. Light another drat cigarette. Crystals. Bulgogi bento. It all bleeds through time, seeps down deep where we are.
“I’ve been this a while,” he said. “Always try to make it better. There’s a moth out there. I always feel it.”
I’m close enough to hear his breathing.
“Don’t you see?" His mouth a cave. "I just keep dying.”
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 04:55|
Deadline. That's all she wrote. Somebody get an interprompt up while we get our FJGJ on.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 05:03|
Interprompt: The giants rule the cities. 200 words, no poetry or erotica.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 05:20|
Counterprompt giants rule the cities, erotic poetry, 50 words
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 05:35|
Countercounterprompt: Giants rule the suburbs, fanfiction, -25 words
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 05:47|
With Apologies to Rabelais
Gargantua, a giant's son,
Decided it would be great fun
To take a French city
And make it tres lovely,
Which must count as porn for someone.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 05:50|
really i think gigantism is overcompensation
he was the giant king
with a giant jaw
and a giant's grip
he whispered in my ears giant words
"come to my giant bed"
it wasnt a very giant cock
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 06:00|
A Lovely Evening
The giant prepared his fist,
For his nightly, dirty tryst,
I hid, but he found me,
He promised no sodomy,
Instead, he went up to his wrist.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 06:52|
There once was a giant named Tommy
Who was a enormous ol' commie
Stalin then said
"This giant's braindead!"
So Tommy turned him to salami!
Archer666 fucked around with this message at 09:30 on Jul 11, 2016
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 08:22|
The Subway is not a Fleshlight: A Radical Cinquain Against the Giantman Penis Hegemony
Large and in charge
Penis, penis, penis
Giant civil servants have them
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 08:37|
Reach for the Sky, a Haiku
A tower is a dildo
If you're tall enough
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 09:54|
More like OlympBUTT
Splendid and glistening
Cries in pleasure
The Washington monument half gone.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 11:07|
I hosed Big Ben
Once upon a time.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 11:25|
He said erotica not autobiographical
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 13:26|
Biggest hooters I have seen
Shine your light on me
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 13:39|
Good. I'm glad. Good for you.
a quake that cracked earth,
a roar that fell towers,
a flood that filled streets,
a groan that froze hearts,
and a sigh of relief, everywhere,
for the giant had come.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 14:44|
Gigantse (23 words)
We all looked up
Staring at the bus-sized member
Staring at the train-tunnel maw
"Wait," said one goon
"Where's the ring?"
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 14:45|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 10:08|
Veni, veni, veni
As Caesar unto the Gauls
he spread his mighty cheeks -
then his disciplined unit
crushed their dreams.
|# ? Jul 11, 2016 17:46|