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A Quark in Seas of Black Infinity

January 15, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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I.
When I dream of a void, I dream of an unending chasm. White shadows whisper, and they eat into my mind. I hear the smells of sacrificial flesh, and see the tastes of foreign meat. But these are only nightmares.

I loathe my place in life. I want to escape, but I cannot. The city never seems to let me leave. At times, it nearly seems intentional- when I try to leave or have an out of town conference, I am always derailed or deferred. To be frank, I have never left the city in my entire life. Though I know that it is surely by chance or lack of ambition, it nonetheless seems entirely wrong. Does the city have a sentience? Logically, I know that is impossible, but these paranoias chill me nonetheless. But I want to leave! I need to leave, or I will die here. If I have decades left of life here, will that provide the opportunity I need? I think not.

I am too listless for violence. Yet- as with the undefinable, uncaptuarable disquiet, it is there all the same. This city should burn. Sometimes, when I am not dreaming of my terrors, I dream of the city burning. I hear the screams, and I am glad. But these dreams are only that, and I am oppressed by the isolating reality.

I believe that this city gives me these nightmares. It pulls me in and scars me. It will never let me go. I may try to fight, but it will always stop me. It cannot be simple coincidence… But it must be. I know it, but what can I do to convince myself? I believe I will never conquer it. Why? Why?

Arkham is a cultish city. I must admit that I do not know the full details. As with far too much, the exact nature of the supposed supernatural is the barest haze seen from the far corner of the eye. There are certain gods worshipped- but not gods of known history. Nothing is certain here- Dirty, grubby deals- often gaudy architecture dating back to the seventeenth century- the poverty stricken, inbred homeless- though better to call them inmates in this place- and the hawkish, crazed freaks who will insist- sometimes calmly, sometimes psychotically- insist on trumpeting the second coming of cryptic abominations. Sometimes, they belong to the malformed, incestuous homeless- and yet, they often come from the starched, clean pressed and diamond watch bearing Bostonian crowd- though nearly always bearing the elephantine ears and flat noses of the inbred.

Miskatonic is a still more cultish university. Ivy League, yes, but a new age, drug addled prestige. There is not a week without new flyers proclaiming new clubs and unions- and students attempting to sneak maudlin, supernatural projects past professors. And the professors often play along, allowing the most fanciful studies to pass as scientific assignments. Students often reach the wildest conclusions when presenting orations pertaining to the university’s many mangled expeditions- There is not a week when lengthy narrations on “The lost city discovered in the Antarctic,” or “The true conspiracy behind the bombing of Devil’s Reef. This bombing was primarily the cause of the past eighty seven years.” I am extensively thankful that my career does not involve student contact.

Yes- the entirety of New England seems to be a wasteland of cultish fanaticism. A shame that insane asylums have seen their lives passed! And it seems to be contagious- for the howlings of the wind in the dank streets seems to have truly become the fearsome commands of otherworldly entities- yes, though I have long fought these hysterical psychoses, and though I know the rationality of science abides with me, I have begun to dream of these “Outer Forces.” I feel called, in the deathless night, when nightmares are indistinguishable from true night- to fantastic deities. The city’s seedy exterior seems to fall away, and I see not the dull tunnels leading to filthy subways, but rather a hub of exultant knowledge, of insects which believe they are crucial servants in the thrall of masters of unknowable pall. And then I see myself among their ranks, among the least dispensable…

And then a terrible revulsion overcomes me, and I see my life ebbing- and I see that I am nothing at all, not even the barest stain upon the fabric of reality. And reality is not a solid presence- no, rather a bubbling, twisting, roiling fabric, outlining terrible secrets beneath which are a deadly insanity- And I do not wake screaming. No, I wake paralyzed, frozen, and I feel great weight upon my chest- a throbbing, thumping agony drilling ever deeper into my brain. And in these moments I nearly pray to a nonexistent god, but cannot bring myself to do so- for the things drilling into my brain are infinitely more powerful than any god conceived by humanity. The world dissolves, and I try to scream- try, try, fight, though I have not the will- and when dawn creeps through the city, I am not comforted.

I cannot say exactly when the paranoia started. I have always been keenly aware of the mysteries around me. Philosophy is first nature to me. Philosophy is a long and honored tradition- it makes sense of a world gone awry. With, it, the unknown is conquered and civilized. Through it, we understand our place in the world. We are simply not in control.

There is hope, surely- there must be hope- and yet I doubt it. What can I believe? Oh, God!

I have had difficulty in finding hope and purpose. These things are impossible to truly pin down. The awful reality of purpose is that it is only a human construct. It cannot be measured, nor will it exist after human demise.

There are infinite difficulties in nihilism- the awful and incredible power of the acceptance of insignificance and the awful power of the universe. I never knew of the painful effects of this thinking.

Once, I was a little more optimistic. I was so sure of a few things- of the importance of humanity, and of my own power. This was when I was a child. I was stupid and foolish. I had so many dreams- so many hopes. How foolish.

Even so, I never found the courage to let go completely. There was something which stayed with me always- the desperate hope of the future. The hope of the future is something awful and choking.

I doubt I will ever find peace- I am simply trapped. I am trapped in a nightmare- one which has no end. There are neverending troubles in the life of a nihilist- a bleak feeling of terror. These things cannot be escaped.

I have always found myself at a crossroads between feelings and fact. This is a strange, painful precipice to perch on.

I find my work gives me purpose. That is where I find peace.

I know that the time to my death is finite and that with each minute that passes, death is brought closer. And I do fear death. I know that death is a part of life, but I fear it nonetheless. Fear is irrational, but I am powerless to stop the signals of my brain. The human brain is a powerful thing, and yet so weak.

I do not know why I am cursed to this knowledge. I know that I do not share a love of friends and fun as my family did. There is nothing but an awful, clinging horror when I think of them- they were unhappy as well. We were all isolated from each other- Mother and Father had a stilted love for me. They tried to be kind and understanding, yet there always remained that horrid tension.

I have always been uneasy. I never knew why. Other people have a sense of purpose and meaning, but I often do not. Where others know contentment and accomplishment, and I do not. There, I know a nagging doubt and discontent.

I have never believed in any god. The idea has always struck me as narcissistic and delusional. Why, I have always wondered, would one believe in something without proof, furthermore furthermore a character from a book?

The afterlife has always struck me as a desperate fairy tale. Why deny the inevitable? There is no soul or divine heaven. There is only the brain. The brain contains the activity necessary to produce the mind. When the activity is gone, the person is as well.

I have never seen a ghost or extraterrestrial. Such things are easily explained with science. These delusions make me laugh, and I should be content with my knowledge.

And yet, I sometimes am caught by a creeping, chilling uncertainty. Often, in quiet moments, dreams, and just between watching and sleeping, I am burdened by a certainty of being watched.

I certainly loathe these delusions, and I have striven to rid myself of them. There seems to be nothing for it, but science should tell me otherwise.

Therapy does not work. I desire medication, but am told I do not need it. I am told my brain is perfectly sound, but why, then does this happen to me?

The doctor tells me that being watched is simply a recurring element in my dreams, but I know it is more.

I fear the feeling may lead to a full break down. I would not ordinarily be troubled, except that I truly believe in this feeling. Though it goes against everything I have in evidence, I truly believe in this feeling.

I suspected schizophrenia, but have never been diagnosed. Expensive tests has revealed nothing, and there is no sense which allows one to know when one is being observed.

I am mortified to consider the implications of the delusion should it be real. If I accept that the carefully constructed devices of science and logic are fallible and based on error, then what do I have to understand the world? The modern age is not one of shadows and monsters and gods, but one of reasons and facts.

It is true that there may be a god, ghosts, and extraterrestrial visitations, but there may also be a teapot orbiting around Saturn. Logic dictates that almost anything is possible, and it is impossible to prove a negative.

Of course, the universe could be filled with vicious, impossible life- I don’t deny the impossibility. Yet all evidence points to a lack of extraterrestrial visitation. What will we do if the aliens visit? Who should care? Hopefully, I won’t exist at that time. That is the benefit of nihilism- a sure end. I suppose, of course, that nihilism can provide an afterlife, so long as that afterlife is meaningless. And yet, despite my convictions, I know deep doubt.

There are far too many possibilities opened by this paranoia. I cannot allow it to overtake me. I must keep in mind rationality and sense.
I find refuge in my work. Anthropology is an immensely powerful work in the face of loathing and nonsense. I love the old things I examine- bone, spears, books- all hold the beauty of history. The objects soothe me whenever I look at them. They tell me of the excitement of gods and powers, great journeys… The powers of human belief. These things sometimes nearly give me the power to believe in the supernatural and extrauniversal.
Of course, Miskatonic University is full of rumors of the extraterrestrial and the supernatural. It is rather surprising for one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities.

The Dyer expedition was an absolute disaster, ending in severe psychosis and panic. The entire expedition resulted in serious losses of funds and lives. But I have seen the artifacts brought back- and they resembled no known art style.

These things are something which cannot be simply be pushed away. These things are simply something impossible. The awful nature of the cold and uncaring world is something not to be challenged with flimsy hopes of change.

I am gloomy, yes, and cynical. but that is my dedication and but I am also sure of the necessity. There is the satisfaction it gives to understand the world. There is something which is comforting about nihilism.

The bright sun this morning heralds an unusually hot day, although it is January. The explanation? Dire weather fluctuations, caused by Antarctic drafts. It reminds me of the sun’s inevitable death. In four billion years, the sun will engulf our planet.

I do not want to lose hope over these things, but the bleakness sometimes overwhelms me. I want to believe these short lives have meaning, but I know that meaning is a human construct. The simply anticipatory can keep me in the hopes of happiness, and there is the hope of change.

Arkham is certainly a strange city. The streets are oddly bleak, and the strange people are inbred. Secrets are something normal in the town- something boils beneath the facade of the normal life. I have grown up here, and I may well die here. But… These thoughts have passed me before. I find it increasingly impossible to track the thoughts I have experienced before.

The air is often cool in Arkham. The weather is inexplicable; there is too much fluctuation. Sometimes, the the thunder sounds like roars, and the lightning comes in many colors- the awful and thunderous sounds at night. There was something just cold and wrong about it all. I knew that I would be made aware of what it was someday. Someday… And yet, I know that I am rational. These certainties come to me only in the depths of dreams… I swear that I am rational.


II.
I know that I am late, but I expect a slow day at the university. I am oddly impatient- I have a feeling of panic. No one will care if I am late, of course, but I am still aware of the possibility.

The office is fairly empty today. I am relieved- I find the majority of my colleagues tedious. The nature of the majority is dull and jaded- uninterested in much besides workload completion. There are not enough true workers- just the apathy of the awful and typical graduates. There is-
I find the others try me greatly. They are callous, and cold. That is something which I know for sure. They are all odd- wide mouths, too tall, too short- and strange voices.

How did I end up here? I don’t know what I can do- I feel connected to this place, but I have always wanted to leave.

I have little to do- I am simply stuck with the awful work. There is a monotony, yes, but a sure purpose as well. I have a purpose in bringing people the truth about the ancient world. This is something which simply must be done.

I do not know why I detest company and social functions. I simply have better things to do. I see why others enjoy these things, though it seems nonsensical. That is the real problem, and there seems to be no end in sight. That is the real thing of it all- the real and true pain of monotony.
I know now that I can still find another line of work, but I feel completely enmeshed. I am in a world with no boundaries to the educated, yet here I am.

I set to work organizing files. It is a tedious task- the pointless trudge through forgotten articles and awards- the simply arbitrary to the hard won, begotten by a dead researcher long forgotten. I notice that some are for surely tongue in cheek matters:

For Exemplary Service in the Investigation of the Martian Aurora, Excellent Leadership in the Dyer Incident, Derleth-Bierce Award, Assistance in the Dunwhich-Whately Incident…

Miskatonic is known for its strange practices… And yet that is what I adore about it. That is just a fact.

I am bored by the time ten arrives, and suffering by half past eleven. I am desperate for any intervention. I am nearly considering fleeing…
Salvation? A knock at the door. I am eager but sluggish- perhaps I am no longer needed. Perhaps I have an opportunity to at last flee Arkham-
Emily Marsh is here. Ah, Marsh, who I had hoped to avoid today. In fact, I always wish to avoid her. Marsh has a rather nasty history here. No, she is not overtly hostile or traitorous- but, whether through luck or passive aggression, rather… Unpleasant outcomes surround her. Her influence is great, and her insight is disturbingly acute. The research of Marsh is never doubted, and has been used in many papers of students, faculty, and more auspicious research endeavors. Marsh is certainly difficult to work with, however. Her body language and accent are eerily foreign- for though Miskatonic prides itself upon staff of many nationalities, Marsh’s behavior is an anomaly. She seems nearly cruel, though just short- as though she cannot quite bring herself to invest enough emotion for cruelty.

In some ways, Marsh is an informational black hole. She is surrounded by a constant hush- reports and awards are vague, articles pertaining to her- university and otherwise- are sparse and to the trained mind ever so inconsistent- and she is praised without well explained cause.
Marsh is of the vulgarly eccentric variety. There is an inexplicable repulsion about her. She often says little, and she is secretive with her own research. What she does, I certainly don’t know in detail- something about underwater seismograph measurements. There are a number of others in her department, but they keep quiet as well.

All at once, I feel a shift- an impossibly impalpable shift, but indefinably there nonetheless. I feel a kinship to Marsh at this moment- an unwilling connection, but there nonetheless. It claws and grips- it is here to stay, I believe. Yes- this is doubtlessly something damning. Marsh has horridly blank eyes, I realize. Does she ever blink? Her pupils are colossal- there is hardly any hint of iris. She is too intense; she is uncomfortably unrelenting. In fact, I want nothing more than to draw away. There is a sour smell, and my throat is dry. My tongue is swollen. My legs tremble.

I can see that Marsh is in rare form- she seems to be holding back a dire excitement. She is so different than the other occasions I have seen her- she is certainly still contemptuous. She still has a high tilt to her chin, gaze over my shoulder.

Marsh informs me of a recent finding- a unique object of Antarctic origin. It will be cataclysmic to science, if the first reports are any indication. My opinion is wanted- I could have my name on a report.

This entire business is odd. This is just wrong- just completely stilted. This isn’t quite right- though I cannot quite grasp the wrongness. Is it the abruptness of the information, without the press and the crazed coverage? Something sinister? There is indeed something sinister- the uneasy, queasy stench of Arkham hangs heavily about this. There is something terribly perverted in this city, isn’t there? Just as Innsmouth is blackly corrupted. Have I missed some vital knowledge about New England? Some secret which belongs to the natives?

Marsh is making a stale explanation. She drones and drones, and she never seems to stop. That is the way of my colleagues. Droning, droning, droning. Does it ever end? Life will end, but what comfort does that give? Is there such a thing as true comfort? I don’t believe so. Comfort seems a phantasm, a memory which provides only a brief, sour relief. Light is sour. The world is sour. Breath is sour. The crypt and worms wait, and more worms await the past crawlers.

I desperately wish for joy at Marsh’s news. I should know relief. Yet there is a tense block- a stilling, stifling terror. Has there ever been such a nightmare?

I am nearly thrilled. I finally have a project to pass the time with. Here is the solution. All is right now. We are united. We are completely fine.
Marsh warns us that the artifact is shocking- it has never been seen- and may have adverse effects. We don’t have much time to examine it before the press gets in on it. There is too much to absorb. There is something not right-

Marsh explains the security of the artifact- the sinister thing puts out fatal radiation. Welding masks are needed to safely watch it. I am confused by the dark implications- and yet excited by the new technology. What does Marsh mean by disturbing? What are we about to see? The anticipation is choking. I am still stuck in the world of boredom- the life is slow to return. There is often something which congeals in boredom- an awful clingingness. That is the awful nightmare.

We prepare quite quickly for the examination. We are anxious to be done- or, I am at the least.

I worry about the possible radiation exposure- how can Marsh possibly know what won’t get through? That is pressing. That is the troubling thought of new technology.

I suppose I must trust Marsh’s judgement. She is meant to be the particle department’s head for a reason. Now that that is something I should entrust Marsh with- her technical skills are nearly paranormal.

The walk to the artifact seems at once unbearably long and searingly short. That is the way of fear, I suppose.

I am reluctant to look at it-


III.
Oh God God God- The colors the colors the colors oh impossible- oh God help- Marsh just didn’t tell- why Marsh Marsh-

I stagger back, and I will not look again!- I nearly vomit, and dizziness overwhelms me. I am unstable; horridly confused. That is the terrible nature of this thing. The awful, awful terror.

I am guided back to the safe zone, stumbling and retching.

There is a pressing fear now. This is the price

After I saw the object, I am haunted by the memory. I remember that I was viciously affected by the light which emanated from the object. I knew that there was an incredible secret there. An unknown technology? A new civilization? I try to recollect myself, and I seem unable to. That is the cost of this mission, after all. We simply do not have the opportunity to waste resources.

I cannot stand the memory. I simply cannot stand it. I have to forget all of this. I am simply caught in the horror of it alll. There is a strange and painful disconnect- the confused and awful state. There is a terrible secret here- something which no one is telling me. That is the unacceptable factor here. That is a simple truth. We just don’t keep secrets here. That is something which is simply terrible. There is just a secret terror now…

I tell Marsh I need the rest of the day off. That is true. There is no way I can continue.

I need to go home and try to forget what I’ve seen. I need a good night’s sleep and some hope. I will just try to forget.

I need a hot bath and chocolate.

The water is wonderful on my skittish nerves, but I have that sense of being watched once more.

I am suddenly drowsy. But if I sleep, I shall dream of things which no one should know… And they will know I see them. Ia… Ia- sdfgy’vbui-


IV.
I reach for the chocolate dish perched precariously on the side of the tub- and spill it into the murky depths.

Instead of my legs, I see a primordial nightmare. I watch the waters in terror.

Are the looming, higher dimensional shapes stone? Some material unknown? They seem to be both more and less substantial than air- solid and plasma at once. This is beyond my wildest imagination- surely I could not have known! I could not have understood this dark imaging in my waking life.
Out of the darkness come shapes. They could perhaps pass as hellish, many dimensional fish- if I was blind and dead. It seems I soon will be- how much longer can I withstand this torment? I can no longer take this agony. But I do, for I cannot escape. I want to die, need to die, but I cannot pull away from this. I want to scream, and I need to scream, but I cannot. Though I will never believe in it, it has found me.

They leer up at me- they see me, and they want to destroy me. They want me to become a state worse than death. And I will… I will be trapped with them… Foreverand everand-

The buildings- if they are buildings- are changing. Becoming twisted and leering, as though with a smug sentience…

They are mumbling, gibbering horribly. And they move in such twisted ways…

Are they… Singing and dancing? There are odd sounds- something too piercing and shrill to be a flute, something whining… And a wild beat, if it can be called a beat. The sound is all wrong, almost something I can see. I can see it, and I can hear what I see.

Only now do I begin to panic. I am just beginning to realize the danger… I do not belong in that city- I belong far away- on the Earth I know. But how can I? I am compelled by those burning eyes.

Some unknown force tugs me closer. I will simply find the way out- but never-never forget. And I won’t escape, I won’t- I will be-

I try to twist away, but I am drawn inexorably downward, to the surface, and then beneath. I cannot breathe…

I splutter, and find myself thrashing in the tub. I must get free-

I must have knocked the chocolate into the tub during my nightmare. A sad loss. Indeed, the entire thing is a painful loss. I must stop this paranoia. Simply must. We have work to do tomorrow. Much work. There is a terrible fate ahead of us, and we have little time to forfeit.
It was a nightmare, no more. Something awful, but passing. It was only a dream…


V.
I cannot sleep tonight. I simply cannot stand this paltry existence any longer. I am simply stuck here- stuck in the awful and impossible. That is the fate I am confined to this awful and terrible nightmare.

I must sleep and forget. I will simply return to the project when I am ready. Yes- surely it was not as awful as I remembered it being! That was surely a fabrication of shock.

I need research. I need to know more. I must find the answers I need. There must be something I am missing- some piece of history.
I begin my efforts in earnest. I will search the Miskatonic database. There will be another chance to see the thing- the awful relic of something too terrible to name.

I dread returning to the university, and yet I am determined not to fail. I will find courage. But how?


VI.
It is raining today- in January, and the temperature is eighty six. Alas… That is the problem of Arkham.

Marsh is nervous today. I suspect she knows something dire, but who am I to assume? That is a dangerous practice, after all.

We prepare for observation once more, and the wait is tense. I don’t want to go back there- there is an awful anticipation- something dark. There is an awful,, awful uncertainty…

I find that it is more awful than I remembered. I am struck by the awful and scarring feeling. I am simply astounded- Marsh is talking. She tells me that it was found- in Antarctica.

I do not absorb her words. I see that the thing is still awful, still writhing. I don’t know how to describe the shape. There is something about this which speaks of lies. I don’t want to hear more lies. I want to go home, but I must fight this. That is certain. I don’t need to listen.

I recall my research. Arkham is a hub of supernatural activity. There are legends heaped upon legends, and many awful treasons against nature. I do not want to know more… I know… And now there is a confusing dream…

There is an awful and cold feeling in all this. I have the doom of our world placed before me, and the knowledge of destruction.

There were many things about the situation which struck me as wrong. There was nothing which resembled it at all. I had no idea of how to process it. There are awful things in the implications.

I’ve heard stories of awful technology- ridiculous rumors of alien civilizations and awful fates of explorers. These rumors need to be banned, of course- superstition destroys productivity. I have always known that I am the most sensible of those at Miskatonic. I know that I have a gift for rationality, but I also have impatience.

The object is covered with burning mechanisms, looping and writhing. Why did this happen? I don’t know, and I don’t know why. There is a disconnect… A terrible and fruitless thing.

I take a certain amount of notes. This is arduous work, and something awful and impossible to contemplate.

The notes are collected and set- we have acomplished something today. Or have we? I am often left to wonder.

I have learned that too much wondering is a dangerous habbit. Wondering leads to nihilism. Nihilism leads to madness. Madness leads to the terror from beyond-

From where do these thoughts come? My world seems to be transformed. That is the true nightmare- the true knowledge kept from me. I do not know what I cannit know.

The day feels like a terrible loss. I have worked for so long, and I am awfully stuck. Is that just terrible? There is an outer force here. I never thought that I could believe such things. How is it possible? I am simply confused. I am uncertain, yes, but also- just too horrid. What can I hope to do? There is no hope- no true thought. We simply are too confused to make a difference, and too trapped.

I am still confused by what I have achieved. There is something incomprehensible. There is something so awful, so impossible. I do not know what I can do. What can I hope to achieve? There is a cold reality, one which deceives. I know now that I was wrong. I see now that we are precarious- we are trapped in the fate we have chosen for ourselves. We have chosen something awful, and too unnameable. There is a great chill now. We are simply trapped.

I am overjoyed to be home. There is no substitute for this safety. There is an awful, awful feeling that it cannot last. No- rather, I am certain that it cannot remain. I will find a way out of this. And if I cannot- if I cannot- there is suicide to consider. Is this the first time that I have considered it? I have no answers for these conundrums. The Unnamable has stolen them.

There are only so many possibilities in this darkness. There is that only awful hope- the hope of death. If I could only- but I am too cowardly. Far too cowardly. I can face this- I must. And yet- I know not what doom faces me.

Over the next several weeks, our research continues. I find a revolting kinship to the object. There is a perverse delight in this hideous color- a foul sense of awakening. I simply cannot draw away. I am aware of my growing superstitions- my growing certainty of worlds beyond the known. I suppose it could be called a psychic transference- if such things exist. I am almost certain- though I long to deny it- that the workings of the universe- and perhaps beyond- are far, far deeper and darker than imagined.

I delve deeper into the university archives in a desperate bid for sanity. Surely these nightmares around the university are no more than superstition and myth- age-old urban myths generating mass hysteria. There are certain haunted places which bear terrific stories of unnatural phenomena- and yet, these can be brushed away with callous ease- magnetic fields, temperature shifts, and delirium create the specters and illnesses.

And yet- the neat, though incomplete, way in which I once viewed the order of all things has grown flimsy and anemic. There is not the lifeblood of certainty and protection which once rested there and gave me strength. I am sure now, because after the third week of my explorations, the object begins to speak to me.

It first occurs in a dull dream- it seems utterly unimportant in the haze. I am calm at the vile hijacking- what importance can human thoughts have in comparison to the voice of no sound? That voice- too many voices to ever hope to count- are united in a whirling boom, shriek and shaking bass. The language is not English, but I comprehend with a stronger clarity than any terrestrial communication could hope to give. I am burning, being torn… Being reborn. I know that there are secrets too deep for even the greatest mind to endure. There is no justice, no love, no hope- only We. The We is great, and the We is awakening. The We will devour. The We will consume all things. The We is a crying chaos, a plague far older than our universe. It was locked away long before the first atom formed. The We will conquer long after the last atom falls apart. The We will never die.
I want to wake from this nightmare. I need to wake from this nightmare. I must find a way out- but there is only We, only the We… And the We hungers. They hunger for all things in their power- and there are many more of their kind. There are worse than their kind, though they are loath to admit it.

I do not sleep for the rest of the night. I hear those awful voices- those sounds which are not even sound… those awful things. They knew I was there. They have waited for vast eons, long before I had my first thought. Long before The first thought of Cthulhu or Hastur… They are young. I know these names, though I do not know how. Knowledge has become something learned but unlearned- endlessly, awfully psychic. I was right to be so frightened- I have known it from the first. There is no hope that I can return to Miskatonic- not in this way. Rather, I am trapped- lost in this terror and endless night. I have no chance for redemption- We have me, and I cannot hope to defeat We. We will only be trapped, and then we will be annihilated. What more could one hope for? We will see the true hope… The hope of an eternal reign. The stars will blacken, and all things will be ours.

I have seen beyond the veil, and there is no hope there. But there are terrors- terrors so vast as to make the strongest scream, and the most reasonable mad beyond comprehension. Madness is the mortar of the truth, and the true mass beneath the veil. And the veil laughs-
It laughs- or, rather, something beyond it laughs- what it hides has surpassing reason for being hidden. What remains hidden in pockets of time and vaster worlds is too unbearable to contemplate. The voids beyond cannot be placated even by human sacrifice- and I do not want to see these things- these horrors from beyond any conceivable nightmare. The most dreadful nightmare is still coming, I sense- I know. I know…

There is a terrible burden here. I am not acting as myself. I have no real rationality left- no, I simply have a changing reality. What can I do to change this awful fate? I am no longer my self… Were I myself, I would be too distraught for these careful thoughts. How is it possible that I can contemplate these things so calmly- it feels just as clinical as my research. Clinical, as clinical diseases- yet, diseases of an ordinary nature cannot compare to this. There is a certain trouble with these things. There is an awful silence in the house, and an awful silence in my mind. Though I am relieved that They are temporarily gone, I am reeling with a terrifying emptiness. Never have I realized the sheer, ugly loneliness of the feeble mind. Not enough activity- not enough respite from the awful emptiness of just being. How empty our lives are, without Them! Theirs is a greater nothingness, a nothingness superior to our piddling, maudlin existence. Existence was never what I thought it was- it is darker, lesser, without reason.

The veil breathes. The veil- I cannot help but think of that divide between our thin limit of perception and the true, twisted cacophony beneath as a living cloth. Oh- it laughs, it laughs, with what it knows, what it sees… They all know- The Wandering Devourer, Trkhji, Shub Niggurath… And there are wanderers greater still. The wanderers know every truth. I will always see these terrors- were I to dig out my eyes, gouge my ears… Their powers transcend mortal sense. Eternity is here, and it, too lives. The eons of sleep are at an end, and They laugh- though They have no sense of humor, no culture- They wander, and They laugh.

I laughed once- oh! I- even I- had moments of laughter. I had strong certainties of what I could expect, in spite of the gloom. I know what I can expect now- or I believe I do. I had foundations- powerful determination. There was order and life- it seems now as though it will never end. It surely never will…

I know I must not go back to the Relic. It is something deadly- something which cannot be tamed. I have lost all that I once was, and now there is something poisoning that. It is dead and destroyed- gone and buried. There is an awful, awful death- it comes piece by piece, little by little in this night. The smallest death is agonizing- it has crept beyond the bounds of my reality, and now it will never leave. The bare facets of reality are frayed, and now I have lost my

Eventually, I develop a viscous cough. I stay home from the university, and I hope for peace. I know a creeping dread, and something like dawning terror. There is an aching, awful sense of abandonment- the mysterious and sure anxiety of death row.

It is probably just a superstitious feeling, and I am sure that it will only cause me harm. I know that I am in danger, yet I do not know how to avoid it. The awful thing is that I know that there is an awful, cloying pressure now. I know that I tried to beat it, but I must not give up. I have strength and will, and I know that I must press on.

The awful silence presses down on me. My home is too quiet, and I don’t know what to think. There is something eerie in all this- the dreadful certainty of science is gone. The world I once knew has trickled away. I know now that I am doomed.

I must find a way to escape my fate. I know that I must face strange possibilities, and that includes new ancient technology. There is a certain possibility…

Now, I remember the relic and wonder if it carried some sort of frozen virus as well. I know that the relic is dangerous, but there must be a rational explanation. These things always have been an awful nightmare. There are too many things to contemplate. I am chilled and desperate- there are not enough condolences which can be offered for these things.

I need to find some sort of hope for all this. I know that I am in danger, but I have no idea how to escape. I need to talk to Marsh- I know she knows something more. Marsh is beyond ordinary. Marsh might be in on this. The awful feeling is something unshakeable. I know that terror lurks in wait for me. Dear lord! I am truly trapped.

Marsh is evasive. She carries the air of one who disdains her victims. She will not tell me anything- only that she does not know of what I speak. She is a good liar, and she will not surrender.

Marsh is someone awful, I think- she is not one to surrender secrets. Like Arkham, she is something ancient and secret. There is something simply wrong- I am still trapped. There is no simple answer, except that Arkham is filled with the unnatural.

I am still left between these visions. I am stuck in the awful place of disbelief- it can’t end like this. I am so certain it can’t. I had a purpose, and I no longer have it. I am so certain that I once had a purpose. I am sure of that. There is something impossible about all this- I am sure.

There is something which is awful about the nature of all this. What can I do? I know my doom. I know my death. I know… I wish I did not know. Yet- I cannot undo time as they can. If only I could become them. What can I do? I feel that I have always known, in some way, that this would happen. I know that I cannot stop the powers from reemerging, nor can I stop this automatic knowledge. There is no end to the awful thoughts. I don’t know what I can do to avert this as the city swallows me. There is no end.

I stay at home today. I do not want to risk venturing out with my condition. I feel that the city will swallow me soon. How can I be surprised by this, after all I have seen? I know that I am trapped- will I ever escape the city?


VII.
I spend the morning contemplating my defeat at the hands of Marsh. I begin to feel that I have long denied something crucial. I attempt to banish it, yet am trapped with the dread. I was cowardly with Marsh, certainly. I was reckless as well. I have not properly learned bravery- and yet, how can one know bravery in a city such as Arkham? I have no qualms with cruelty and indifference, but Marsh holds a certain power. Her aims are well hidden, yes, and yet her cunning is painfully evident. I am slowly growing mad with the certainty that the object, Marsh, and the insane cults of Arkham are a piece of an infinite, infinitely sinister whole. Though I have fought against it, though I have fought for reason and truth, I have become entangled in the web. I have become a participant in the whispered cults, and I have become a conspirator in the fabled machinations of the Old Ones. I have become a secret facilitator of destruction, as with Marsh, and decay has begun to entomb me in anonymity.

If I am truly to believe these fantasies, loathe as I am to do so, I have no hope as to where to begin research. I am unsure of even what is occurring- I cannot be sure that this is more than my paranoid delusions. The uncertain troubles are wide, and the seas of agony lurch forth. I have no idea of the correct path. I have many regrets, and I am now forced to face the disasters of these mysteries. The awful truth is that I cower before these disasters. The awful reality is frigid and unwelcome. Cowardice has long been my creed, and I must embrace it. The nightmares have come to claim me, and I cannot fight fate. My horrors cannot be sated by blood or death- no- these must have my very sanity and self. I cannot face these demons. I cannot be free from these trials. I cannot triumph against horrors from beyond the stars.

And so I spend another hour in fear, buried beneath the blankets of an inexplicably frigid bed in an inexplicably frigid home. It is my home no longer, if ever it was- rather, it has become as alien to me as my tormentors. The very comforts of Arkham have become distant and otherworldly. My own mind has become another- another mystery and another entity. The grandfather clock gives its somber rapport, and the light wanes. The decision is before me, and yet I have no awareness of the draining time. The uncertainty pierces me, and the pain is unceasing. The awful nightmare is unceasing. I know only the bitter realities of these horrors. I am loathe to cower, and yet I must. That is the way of these torments. I have no choice but to fight these demons. I know no joy. I know no hope. There is only this stifling terror of sin- sin against the Outer Gods who claim this universe-

I must begin with investigations into Miskatinic. Oh, I have crossed now into the deepest bowels of the absurd- yet accept I must. I find the way to understand- I am unable to find the way. And yet I know no way other than this. The path is difficult to find. And yet-

As I suspected for perhaps the entirety of my life, I learn the truth. The university is a thriving sepulcher of the unnatural. The bizarre terrors are unmatched. The bizarre students, the inbreeding, and the curious whispers seem explained. I have found the dark answers I sought, yes, but I have paid dearly for it. I have found what I have long dreaded- Arkham is the center of the Old Ones. I do not want to accept it, yet the revelation lies before me. I cannot deny the damning evidence, nor can I find a way to escape the nightmare. I have only a vague inkling of what I should do. I wish to be saved, and yet I have no hope to find peace. I know only terror, and only mortal disdain. I have no adventurous ploy, and I have no glowing, joyous hope. I have, however, a bounty of research and resources. The ever-changing toils of terror have worn me into defeat, and yet I find a dooming fate even more terrible awaiting me…

I have lost my faith in sanity, if ever I had any. I have no joy remaining… I have only panic. The dread of these agonies is unparalleled. Oh, to be ignorant once more would be paradise. Though I long for that safety, I am barred from it. If only… But I have no way of finding solace. The agonies here are unparalleled in even the most feverish of nightmares. The awful realities are far too torturous for consideration. The nightmares are reality.

I must press on. I have no way to escape, yet I must struggle. I cannot think clearly, and I am deprived of sleep. The struggles must come to some fruit. This is the answer to my terrors. This is the end.

I find hope in the void of answers before me. The awful truths are phantoms, and I can grasp nothing. I have no way to comprehend this research. The entirety of the Earth, from the deepest oceans to the solar system beyond, are filled with the blasphemous. I know that the Relic never seems to be mentioned- and yet I do not know that name. The night closes in now, and I must be unable to move, for I feel trapped by the surety of a spell. The true death will soon come. I have no… No feeling of triumph.

I have no concept of time as I await the change of paralysis. The pain is immense. The very breath seems to leave me- and then I have movement once more. I prepare for- what? The awfulness stays in the air, and it permeates all things. The night has come to full fruition, and the terrors haunt my psyche. The nightmares will never cease. I realize a cutting, irrefutable truth: painful though it may be, foolish though my obliviousness may be, I once dwelled upon the edge of an abyss. I balanced precariously upon the edge, bound by the abyssal forces of Arkham. I was pulled evermore past the edge, and now- I am far beyond the barren land. The seas of black infinity entrap me, and the land was infinitesimal. I was blind to the pull of Arkham upon the fated- and now the spider has enmeshed me in webs too terrible to name.

The Miskatonic data yields little information upon the relic- I encounter only the recent findings upon the object. I had hoped that, as with the dark objects which appear and disappear throughout history, the relic would not be unknown. The database yields no saving grace. Unwilling to depart the relative safety of my home for the danger of Arkham, I am forced to resort to the general internet.

Though the secrets of the relic are dead to me, I discover many forces- Hastur, residing upon the planet of Hastur, the lake of Hali, a nameless race of hive mind shapeshifters slowly engulfing the universe, Danforth Blair, rumors of gruesome transformations and disappearances… The uprising of the Yellow Sign and the dread stage play… And there are rumors of what was found in Antarctica along with the relic. The implications are chilling… And though I long for knowledge of the relic, I am powerless to prevent my learning of the deepest secrets.

The rumors of the Alliance of the Yellow Sign are unsettling. Their leader has vanished, leaving fifty deaths and catastrophic damage to the Alliance compound. Though the source is unclear and likely untrustworthy, I find it eerily compelling. I have closely followed the Alliance. Once, I found the Alliance to be an unstable, psychopathic cult of delirious followers. In light of my newfound knowledge upon the nature of reality, I cannot be certain. Hastur’s influence is rumored to be growing exponentially- the stars are often rumored to become black, and the Hyades- that group of stars upon which dread Hastur looms, to become yellow to the sensitive. Some have seen the phantasm of Carcosa, I have found a damned fate approaching, and I am loathe to believe it.

The rumors of the Antarctic expedition are terribly rampant. It is said that a body was found buried deep in a cavern, frozen for perhaps thirty years. Once more, I am forced to doubt this- from where could a security breach occur? Miskatonic is a prestigious and well-funded cult hive- it is a marvel that any information was exposed to the public. The truth is a phantom- these beings are able to manipulate and warp the very fabric of reality. The deepest truth is irrefutable- that what I once saw as unchangeable and natural is liquid and infinitely beyond comprehension. These nightmares- such nightmares of another, deeper reality. If this is reality, I wish it were not! I cannot wake, and I am enmeshed in a sanity-leaching panic. The nightmares were a grave harbinger from the very first, and I was a deluded fool not to see it.

I am enmeshed upon a great and calamitous end- the time of the weakest of intelligent races dwindles. There are endless, spawning writings of the return of Cthulhu- and yet the promises of destruction are unfulfilled. The horrors of the fulfillment of destiny cannot be measured, and yet- as with the coming of Christ, the prophecy remains dormant. What am I to believe of the mad cultists and the exultant fanatics? No peace can come, and I wish for a lifting of the burden. The terrors of the light are rampant…

I have no faith remaining. I see the remaining moments of my life, frigid and hateful. There will be no hope, and no chance for joy. There is no way to break from the dark web. I have power to see a way to find joy. I have no guidance, and no telepathic abilities. Yet… I possess knowledge which I could never have known. I must deny the deepest knowledge of my being… And I have no hope of gaining power. The way is shut, and I cannot open the gates to the ninth seal. The lost mysteries of the Abyss cannot be sated.

These thoughts remain a dark doom in my deepest convictions. I have no hope, when I might once have known joy… But in ignorant bliss alone. I had only the slightest power in my early life, and now… I have lost all that I once gained in my earliest years. The deepest endings cannot be undone, and the abyss watches.

It is dawn now; the lights are dim nonetheless. The color is incorrect; a surreal verdigris illuminates the sky. There is a sickness here; a sickness which permeates prehistory and prelanguage. The night was far too long; perhaps the sun has been destroyed. There is no end to these paranoias- but they are not mere paranoias. My world is destroyed and vanished; I can hold no hopes of insanity; all I know is a twisted reality. The nightmare is awake. The truth is destroyed, and there are only phantoms remaining. The world is unraveling, and the nightmares are unrelenting… I know no boundaries to these horrific phantasms. Knowledge may be my only salvation.

I cannot leave still; my terror is too insurmountable. The Miskatonic database is immense; the information is superb. Never before has it failed me, and now… I am overwhelmed by exhaustion, and the bleak sky taunts me. Marsh will be enraged, and yet I dare not excuse my absence. I can endure the baffling presence of the relic no longer; it calls to me even now. I feel its demands; words hover in whispers, the words of the relic barely out of reach. It consumes me even now; it swallows the remnants of my stability. I have no awareness of the outer world, other than the putrid sky. The worst of these phantasms are far reaching, and my research is impeded by the trembling which refuses to cease.

I am forced to consider what myths are reality; many are no doubt the results of delusion and hallucination. The nightmares are unrelenting, and the awful, breathless anticipation is overwhelming. I have no true control; I am lost to the slip of time…

The hours pass in silent research, and then the days. The knowledge seeps in, and the knowledge seeps out. I am opened, and I am closed. I have only the least horrors to comfort me, and I know nothing of what I once was. I must be only a wisp of memory; my body is frail. The trial is enduring; I have forgotten my name.

Now, I realize what I must do. I sense that the time grows short, and I know that my doom comes. If I could only gather the strength… The makeup of Arkham has been defiled in some primal, terrible nightmare. If I depart for the outside world… I am nauseous, and I am too panicked for breath. The terrible forces tear me apart… Oh, but I cannot be cowardly… I am damned regardless. The terror of the abyss is relentless. I must battle these demons.

When at last I gather the strength to disguise myself and depart for the Miskatonic library, I find myself to be increasingly paranoid. The feeling of a strange, strange pursuit has cemented itself in my mind, foul and stagnant. The awful stench of a rotten sea pervades my mind. The stink forces me to recall Marsh, whom I had so diligently forgotten. If I could only force the truth from her… I could have peace despite my fate. The library promises answers- answers which I both abhor and crave.

The homeless on the streets seem to be in an excited state. At first, it seems to be only a general stir- energy is infused in even the most lackluster being. Those stilted, misshapen eyes seem to fix on me with a sinister fervor- the eyes have taken on a new life. Safe as I seem to be in my automobile, far surpassing the speed limits, time seems to slow in their presence. Even over the roar of the combustion engine, those brief sparks living and dying, I hear the whispers- whispers in no language familiar to me. This city, these people- for decades I have lived amongst sinister powers, and I have never known!.. What foolishness…

I struggle to fix my eyes on the road, nearly slipping on the rain-soaked pavement. I am nearly certain that I will perish here, beneath the ghastly green sky… The burning lightning… This is more nightmarish than I could have comprehended… The denizens of Arkham seem to follow me, to walk closely behind on a strangely empty road… They keep pace with me, impossibly fast, cheering and praying… The road is too long, and I become queasy. Surely, surely it is only a nightmare… Only- I am nearing the university, and still they follow, that crowd of thousands, who seem to recognize me for some strange rite…

When I approach the titanic library, they show no signs of abating. Though I dash into the main wing, they follow tirelessly, a vast ocean of black infinity. I know now that they shall never cease… And when I choose to confront them, near a perfectly non-occult section of children’s literature, they do not fall upon me, but stand several feet away, faces terrible to behold in the queerly slimed lighting. They seem terribly, suddenly inhuman. How has that strangeness escaped my notice for the entirety of my life?

Sick and nearly swooning from the impossible horror, I stumble through infinite shelves to what I have always avoided- the occult tomes. And though I tear through them, tossing tomes of incomprehensible languages to the floor and scowling at indecipherable passages:

“Watch the darkness; watch it closely. When the yellow comes, the Stranger will be among us…”

Disgusted by a fruitless search of more than an hour, all the while followed by the mass, I rush from the library. The crowd parts for me, and all the while the chanting rushes into my ears…

Marsh. I must confront Marsh. I will force her to tell me the truth, or… Or… She will-

When at last I reach Marsh’s office, the sinister crowd swamps the anthropology wing. The terrible chanting grows louder, and yet Marsh takes no notice. She is cool in the face of my fury, even at my shouts. And then, and then- with a massive, inhuman smugness, she is laughing. Between her snorts of laughter, she tells me of the relic.

It was found in Antarctica, as had long been hoped for. Marsh’s people had long searched for it to usher in a new age of the Old Ones… And I became the Gateway. She assures me that it was all purposeful- all in the plan of the Abyss.

Marsh will say nothing more- those amphibian eyes simply glare from her hideous countenance…

Revolted, mad with rage, and sick with exhaustion, I find the strength to return to my automobile. Though I travel at nearly twice the maximum speed, I find myself unable to escape the ever-larger crowd… They follow… And shout… And follow.

When I reach my home, they wait just outside the entrance… And surround the building. I am terribly ill, and I must rest… Oh, I still hear their putrid chants and exalted prayers, but I cannot fight the ultimate exhaustion. The time passes in slumber… Perhaps it is days…

Months…Years..? When I awake, I find myself changed. I have a difficulty breathing, and still the chanting continues. And they laugh! That horrid laughter… The chanting is unstoppable.

I creep to the window, parting the curtain… And behold an unimaginable atrocity. The lights of Arkham have vanished. A purple and green sky encompasses the world… And on that endless sky grow symbols- lettering of impossible shapes and dimensions. The crowd floats in that great sea… And the Relic, that terrible, incomprehensible sphere of energy and malice… It yawns the abyss. My breath is failing as I seem to sink ever deeper into the infinite energy of the Relic…


VII.
All at once, there is an oppressive silence here. The crowd of nightmares is gone, and… I am suddenly choking, choking… Breath is gone, gone, and I feel lost- hope is certainly gone. What can I hope for? Hope is a laughable thing now.

These moments are my last in the realm of the sane. I have only this last wisp of breath- only a brief moment of assurance. The breath is gone in a second- gone, gone. No breath, and no coherence- no true hope. Hope is a laughable word… All words are laughable… But my chest is bursting, crumpling… Gone. Gone. No-

I try to gasp, try to breathe- but I can see my vision fading, and I am drifting away from my body, away from my home, away from everything.

The pressure here is too much. Every part of my body is being squeezed by light, and I will burst. I will burst and die. Oh, the relief of death! If it comes swiftly, swiftly, I will- I will escape-

Choke, Choke, Choke… I cannot… And it will not cease… I am being squeezed into an awful, awful place… No sight, no hope, no sound… Nothing but the pressure… The pressure… The pressure is here to stay. It will never leave, and it is eternal. Eternal.

I am drifting into the whiteness of pain- perhaps downy comfort awaits in the arms of unconsciousness… My mind is changing. It expands. It warps. I know impossible things now. I cannot bear it, but it remains. I believed that the mind would simply reject these things and pass into oblivion… But no longer. I know that the impossible has become possible. But how? I may never comprehend it. But it is here. I know it.

The Earth I see is not the Earth of today. It is a barren, molten mass. There is a disquieting motion, almost as though the barren mass is alive with strange life. There is no end to this torment, no true hope- only a nightmare. That is what all life leads to- the death of hope and immortal nightmares. That is the end of the end.

This place is toxic. The very light is wrong, and it illuminates the vague shapes of what may be a city. There are too many in congruencies here- to many contradictions in angles and straight curves. Square circles and opaque windows haunt my vision. Time here seems to flow both sideways and forwards and backwards all at once. The land is built and unbuilt, and the buildings seem alive and sentient. I know that the true origin of Earth is here, and I know that the true vision of what I see is more terrible than ever imagined. The Earth is not ours. There is no doubting it. The Earth is the victim and host to incredible forces. There is a powerful history here. What can I hope to change? The city has defeated me. This is what I have seen. This is what I know. I can never leave.

I see the land recede, see the clouds recede… My world is changing, and I cannot stop it. What can I do? What I have always done- allow myself to be lost. There is nothing more to be done. I only know that I am weak. This is only another failure in a long chain- another failure to leave Arkham. Should I be surprised? I don’t know what to think now. Obviously, all I ever believed was wrong.

I see the Earth drift away, see the moon…

The solar system is receding. There is nothing I can do, and I choke… I accelerate, and the stars grow near… I am traveling far faster than light, far faster than is possible. I see the planets recede, see new, burning orbs- gleaming planets and nebulas, misshapen forms which must be ships- and then I see- my own galaxy, the bright spirals-

And then that, too recedes. How can I bear this pressure upon my lungs? The vacuum of space was not made for humanity…

I see Andromeda, see a galaxy cluster… Our galaxy cluster. We live in the smallest place imaginable…

And I pass through yet another galaxy, and then another.

The galaxies begin to change. Stars become indescribable colors, planets become dodecahedrons and strings. Is this our universe? It can’t be. Stars begin to writhe, shaking with unbridled, glaring tension. I am in a vacuum, and yet I hear sounds which are nearly smells.

I see strange, strange creatures- larger than galaxies, larger than a galaxy cluster. How is this possible? And they move, move in a rhythm without sense, without purpose. They play something like instruments, and the sounds grate, and they scream and laugh.

I do not know how this knowledge comes to me- but I shall never forget it. I shall always know these images- these things will always haunt my knowledge. I will never again trust the science I once knew- I know now what lies in the outer reaches of our universe.

Do they see me? I am surely microscopic to them. There are too many eyes, too many fangs and organs without name. There are billions of them, those deities, and all make merriment. These things are too old- older, perhaps, than our universe, than anything imaginable. They should not exist- did they come into existence by random chance, as we must have? Are they the product of an evolution older than space and time?

They do not know we exist; do not care; have no malice towards us. We are less than ants to them… What do they care for our petty technology, our smug beliefs? They would crush us in mere accident. What are human emotions and logic to them? Why do we exist at all? Can life truly be so diverse? How can it be so impossible? I am suffocating. Doom is here, and I know no bounds. I know that this is the end.

Why did we believe that the universe was so immeasurably vast? Why could we not see beyond? The boundless sphere of Dmaesca… The devourers of the invisible planes… I know that the harbingers of Montresa await. The infinities of this state are menacing, and the mysteries are of such a complexity that they would be incomprehensible for millions of years. This is the small, small blade which always whittled away at my mind. The true and awful destiny of humanity has been revealed- I wish it was not. What can I possibly do to rectify this? Nothing? Surely, this can be changed… And I know that I am doomed… There is no hope. What was there to hope for? There is no hope… There is a damned fate now, and I cannot stop it. How could I?

What can I do to escape? My breath is still gone, my head pounds, and all I have ever known is a lie. I doubt I shall ever return to Earth, and now I will suffocate. I do not know what I can do, how I can continue on. Will I watch forever? Will I become one of them? I cannot bear this… I can only hope-

I move once more, propelled by a sinister force from beyond. I am speeding up now, passing places which grow increasingly alien. What are these places? How old are they? What secrets do they hold?

My speed brings me ever further away, ever further from what I once knew. I had faith once, compared to this. And yet, how right I was!

And now… The universe recedes, into a bright point of light. A moving point of light… Orbiting around another… And moving so quickly. A great conglomeration of light nearly blinds me; other lights, like our universe, orbit as well.

A million years passes- perhaps a billion. What is my name? My species? What can I do? I know I once spoke and breathed- what is breathing? What is light? How long has the madness of solitude overtaken me? Time and time and endless time… All is awash in eternity. The infinite voids of the world have burrowed into my mind. This is the true end- an awful emptiness. How much longer? A year? Ten? A thousand? Eternity never passes. The time of the destruction must near… And there is no stop- no hope. This is fate, and this is the end. What hope is there?

I draw ever farther away from the universe, and the light changes. Clumps begin to form. Globes appear and disappear wildly, streaking in the darkness with impossible speed. I wish I were blind- is the light a result of sight? I cannot recall. There is no true joy. And yet this would be an unending joy- the lights dazzle, though not in a mortal sense. The joy far surpasses pain- no human could withstand this sight. I must no longer be human. I barely remember that life, universes and universes ago. In that time, many universes were born and died. Oh, this knowledge! I know so much- too much to ever reclaim myself. I cannot mourn… I feel nothing at once. I do not know why these changes come. Never have I dreamed of this- the awful and the paranoid come together to create the most nightmarish of realities. There are no guarantees, but I know that I lie. What else can I do? And now…

I realize what the lights are reminiscent of- an atom. I know. How could I not have understood from the beginning? I do not know how I denied this over those billions of years. There is no deeper yearning than to return to my long-dead life. All things are leading to a great chaos- a great and powerful change beyond nothing. There is no hope. There is a disparity in the feelings here- but I cannot deny them. What can I do? I know that I cannot handle it.

Is it… An atom? An atom in which our universe is an electron? And now, I am moving once more, moving away from the colossal atom. There are other atoms, other electrons… Other universes?

I move still further away, still to more massive realms. Electrons become atoms, atoms become molecules, molecules become crystals… Sense becomes nonsense, and all is lost. Those crystals become more, become the basis for objects. We are so infinitesimal…
We are trapped…

I see objects- awful, impossible shapes. There are awful things here… And I cannot understand how these things exist. What can I possibly do? I am trapped.

Are these trees? Cities? People? I hope nothing this horrendous can be called life. How?

These things move, but stay still. They are far worse than the things in our universe. I don’t want to see, but I cannot close my eyes…
That I could unsee these things! I did not deserve to know this. I never wished for this agony… I believed it would not come for me. How I believed!

What belief will save me now? How can I have believed in hope? What good could it have done me? I will never, ever be able to forget… And I cannot let this go…

These things are indescribably larger than ourselves. I do not know how they can be so quick, for things so large. These things are impossible… And yet I know that I see the truth… And I cannot forget these visions.

Surely, I must perish now! I must go into oblivion. I will be free, freed of these awful sights. There is something simply awful, simply incomprehensible about death… But it is coming. And I will know what to remember…

But death does not come to me. I am confused… why at awful deaths and the pain? What do I do? There is only so much I can withstand.

This is eternity. This is what I was never meant to know. It was not meant to end in this way. I have found what I perhaps always knew; I have found the ultimate. Years upon years have passed; surely our sun met its end long ago. I have found an endless agony, and I scream and scream and scream and laugh and- perhaps this is joy and not pain. But pain seems to overwhelm everything. There is no balm for it but laughter. I laugh and laugh; this is endless. I never saw the humor in these terrors, but why was I ever frightened? I watch the eternal beings; the sight gives me outstretching mirth. Colors change; occasionally a recognizable hue shimmers.

All of my struggles; all of my desires and frustrations and tears… How futile and extraneous they were! How many years I needlessly burned; how many thoughts and endeavors wasted. These beings- they know none of our piteous lives. They know none of our agonies; they could not possibly be troubled by these unknown phantasms. We have no compare. But I need not fear- I have joined the impossibly powerful. Not these beings, but those locked into the Relic. Marsh surely knew, though she is irrelevant now. What can her kind matter, cowering in the sea- those spawn of humanity and Dagon? Dagon, that insect from a star of liquid, which believes itself to be a god? Those sleeping entities of Earth- they know nothing of their true place in existence. We of the relic are far superior to even the microorganisms which the atoms of the universes form. Those invisible creatures, those mindless consumers- they cannot comprehend their origin.

I have gazed at these gods for centuries; a headache heralds the return of feeling. I have recovered my body; I can flee. I cannot recall what I am fleeing to; perhaps I have always existed here. I can flee, if only I can withstand the comprehension of these gods- I must stare into the abyss; I cannot, must not look away. The horror of the sight must return my body.

But I am burning now. This is not a safe return to what I once knew, though I cannot recall- observing these beings is an endless hell. My body has returned, but I am boiling. I cannot move; I cannot breathe- though I cannot recall breath. I laugh once more; I find endless joy in this destruction. The abyss laughs, and I must laugh with it. The gods have not seen me; I am too small.

A root in my gum sublimates. A tooth melts away from the root. It falls into the abyss, and it makes no sound. My eyes melt, yet I can see nonetheless. They drip into the laughing abyss; I giggle as they slip away as with candle wax. More of my teeth fall past my liquefying lips; I attempt to catch them. How quaint… I long for my teeth; I knew them well. Farewell, teeth! I attempt to speak this, but my body is no longer my own. It is no great loss, I must suppose. I have found true peace here, amongst the gods. I need my mundane body no longer. I have found peace at long last. I have truly come to understand the pleasure of existence. I have conquered the infinite.

Over millions of years, the destruction of my old body continues. I see the creatures warp and dissolve, only to appear elsewhere. There is massive destruction, and massive rebuilding. There is no joy once more; the agony of this strange rot is immense. I cannot look away. I feel certain I will burst; with each second in these millions of years, a billion revelations fill our minds. We are powerful- we cannot see ourselves as a single entity any longer. We have formed many entities; we fight. At times our union weakens; and then I am myself once more. Though perhaps a billion years have passed, another tooth is just beginning to fall. I cannot catch it. It is too far away for sight long before it seems to touch the city; I see this, though my nonexistent eyes are fixed upon the deities.

We are certain that the entities cause the melting. No lower mind can comprehend their thoughts; eternity and infinity- entire universes- exist there. I will hear no more, though I do. This is simply hysterical, and I laugh once more. I laugh for perhaps two billion years, and then my left ear begins to melt. My lips still drip, and then my face. I choke on my melted remains, and tears run through furrows on my cheeks.

My toenails are boiling. At some point, my toes follow- but not until I have learned the secrets of the whispering Pallid Mask. I see a watcher observing me- perhaps in the future, in the old universe. I see the Yellow Sign of Hastur- the symbol is printed upon the whispering Pallid Mask. It tells me of the Relic, and tells me of the downfall of Earth in an alternate universe. I see the sjapeshifters, perfect agents of destruction. They are nearly unstoppable, and they overtook countless galaxies.

A million years pass, and my toes are gone. I can only laugh for another million years at the white torment. I can only laugh in silence. I feel, and yet I have no control over my body. I am out of my mind- I want to die. We must die. We cannot continue. We cannot bear the torments. We must escape. I have no power. I see these mysteries solved, and know more than any human mind ever dreamed, and yet I am an oozing abomination. I am too destroyed for thought, and yet I live. I cannot, and yet I do. The impossible has become my reality, hideously inhuman as it is. I cannot remember the meaning of human, but it is here nonetheless.

The sight of the deities burns, but they shall always be impervious to myself. I can only watch the awful changes- the additions of acute obtuse lines, circular squares, curved, straight lines, and higher-dimensional shapes for which I have no name. I have only the knowledge of the city before me, which existed so long before Yog Sothoth, Hastur, Wtyghui The Wanderer of Black Holes, that it came into existence long after. Time has many directions and dimensions; it is not merely an arrow. I have gained infinite comprehension, but I have lost everything.

The city dwarfs the entities within it. It is hideous in its moving, teleporting heap. What things could be, if humanity had that technology. There is no limit to the possibilities here. How many separate realities blossom from this tumult of energy. The expanse of this world is full of damaging truths; the universe I once knew was stagnant. How stagnant… How utterly useless. There is no salvation… I know that I cannot escape the abomination of my body. I am an even more miserable than the uniform human. I am a shamed parody of the ugly human; I barely resemble the Earthly. I am more eldritch abomination, weighed down by the revelations of omnipotent wills older than any earthly god. I have no mind remaining to torment, and yet I reflect so clearly. These things are my only companions in the vast, sloth tick of eternity.

This is not a simple eternity. This is a meandering, wounded hourglass. The sand leaks into my mind, and it buries the old life in dunes. The dunes of my psyche tell no secrets, and the abyss grins below the sands all the while.

Lost in metaphor, I initially fail to perceive my further destruction. I dream, I rave, I celebrate- this is beyond rabidity; this is a madness so deep within that no claws could reach it. I would pray, if I did not know that no god ever thought of by humanity could never be the equal of the barest particle of these beings. The awful truth of this ordeal is that I perhaps have what I so longed for- I am out of Arkham, and out of my mind. I know that the deepest of my fears has been set loose; I have departed Arkham forever. We have located the powers of true destruction; there is no end. I have found what I never wanted…

The creatures are calling… Are they calling to me? They cannot have perceived my presence. I have remained in my microscopic state of decay. I have found the infinite, and it is punishing. My remains are moving towards the deities. I find myself desperate for the slow destruction of decay once more. I am drawn irresistibly towards the ghastly entities. The things are watching; the things are watching… I see too much, and this is hideously blasphemous… I cannot stand for this; I cannot… I can only bear the rot. I can only scream silently. The powers of the deities cannot stop my pain; no, they desire my agony. Are they indifferent? What can they possibly care for my insignificant agonies? They may celebrate their victories, but never my falls… I am pulled, pulled into their impossible shapes. The awful things have no faces, and no expression. The end is here here here
I am moving towards what might have been flames, if not for the sheer difference between them. Flames are the closest they come to, and yet are not similar any more than stars and fish. The flames shine with colors torturous to behold. The deities seem to be chanting with a sound which is not sound at all. My world is gone, gone to the destruction of time, but I will never perish. The truth is but a phantom… And there is no redemption. The nightmare of these revelations shall never end. The awful truth… The chanting rises, and it never ceases… There is no mercy here. There are too many terrible memories. This is the ultimate nightmare. I will never wake… I only investigated the Relic. I never thought it could lead me to these travesties. I have no faith… And there is no chance for escape. The deities are carrying me through the flames, and I see the Relic- but a Relic infinitely more vast than the Earth Relic. The Relic is all consuming… The Relic is worse than I ever imagined. It is sickening, repulsive… It is an abomination worse than my darkest imaginings. I know that I cannot endure… I have no vision now, but the smell-

I am being pushed into the true Relic. The truth of the awful nightmare… That research… The horrors of the realm are simply incomprehensible… But, oh, now, I understand! I see it… I am becoming a part of it. I am no longer- whatever I once was.

I believe I once dwelled in a land of white, on the south pole of some far, infinitesimal planet. Perhaps I studied the creatures there. Or perhaps I once saw the colors of a dead god, resurrected through the combined endeavors of a microscopic race. These memories linger, though I know little…
I see the gods of this world. I cannot completely observe them. They seem to be an incomplete blur, though the grisly vision torments me nonetheless. The truth is here, though truth is a phantom. The truth of the void… The truth is terrible. The abyss laughs, and I see voids far greater than I ever knew. The nightmare is truly eternal. I will never wake. The deepest reaches of consciousness waver in the onslaught. My thoughts fade…

The greater deities are merciless. They distort and flow, psychedelic imprints in an angled time and reality. I am chosen, I am chosen for the laughing abyss. The time is a windowless cylinder. Time is deeper than they think! Oh I see… I see. I know, I know, and we laugh together at our grand secret. We know the secret… And oh… I see the watcher watching. The watcher watches, and does not know it is subatomic. But there are no atoms! That is a part of the secret. And another watcher watches words on a page, And that universe is damned, and it shall die. Do you know it, watcher? Reader, I know these things. Reader, do you know the secret as you read the watcher? We know these things! Oh, the glory of the macroverse! Our pain is pleasure, reader, and your pleasure pain. Did you guess it, reader? Did you guess it? Oh, the weight of the sheer ineptitude of existence… Abandon the false pretenses of purpose. All is useless. We read you reading us, reader. And the secret laughs, and the secret knows the secret of the secret. The time of time… The abyss laughs!


VIII.
We have conquered the creature. The gate has been opened. The path is prepared to Earthly Beacon. The Beacon calls. The Beacon guides us. The Beacon is prepared. We are free. We have the way to power. We have the way to resurrection. We have the power of the Beacon. So it was foretold. So it is. The Beacon has fulfilled its purpose. The way of the Ancients has returned. We follow the Beacon’s signal to the body. The distances are mere steps in the power of the Ancients. The way is clear.

We take the physical form. We walk it from the hovel. It is long necropsied. The brain is damaged from the Ritualis Chokitus. The OIde Language of this planet is truly young. Our tongue of QWghyuir will soon emerge. This planet is a lowly base for the great. It will soon be gone. It is a sapling of stone. It is not worthy of existence. The world will soon be gone. The end and beginning arrives.

I know now what we must do. We of the Relic are one, and we must conquer. We shall spread the necessary knowledge. We will spread the knowledge of the Relic, and we will forever live in glory. We will know the glory of all things beyond… We will know the true light of what lies beyond human comprehension. The world is not as I once thought, and I shall know the completion of life. Glory shall be known, and we- I-

My mind is slipping, and I know that my time is short. There is no limit to my incredulity, yet it seems I am the victim of psychic displacement. What can I do, besides suicide? I do not know what I can think- I never believed my life would end in this way. How could I, when I knew my place in the world so well? How could I? Now… There is too much to me to process- I am doomed to just be trapped in this awful nightmare.

I find Marsh, and the Relic tells me all I ever wondered. I see her people find the Relic- not amongst the stone of Antarctica, but deep beneath its chill waters. I see her in that city I once saw, a young guppy amongst her ancient siblings. I know her now- know her past and her future. I truly recognize her strangeness, no longer strange to us. She sees me with fear- she knows her scarcely admitted terrors have come to pass. She knows that we are beyond what even she can possibly understand.

We of the Relic are beautiful- we are whole in our sublime etherealness. We have something beyond even what the great Old Ones dream of in their eonic slumber. There are revelations which would have once burned my psyche and flesh- but no longer.

Marsh understands this, and she seems to weep, in the way that her people weep. She will one day return to those strange depths in the murky waters, among those of her kind. She will become a creature of a thousand eyes and mouths, of organs of no human name. Yet she has been banished from those prehistoric depths.

We must reunite with the relic, and begin the change. The world will be reborn anew, and there will be only the beauty of a new age. There is no need for fear- what is fear? I do not recall these empty human things- those useless sentiments.

I recall, at last, who I once was- I once was ignorant to these vast burdens of knowledge. And now not even death dares to claim me, soiled as I am by that which death cannot touch… And to struggle against this is useless.

Marsh is calling the others, and an alarm sounds. We are unfazed. We know the way to the Relic, and we are destined to reach it.
Marsh is cast aside in a burst of energy, but she lives. The others are not so fortunate. Red bursts forth, creating a mural of destruction. It is an unimportant loss. Not even a loss.

Loss does not exist now. There is no fear, though it is strong in the others here. There is only the closeness of the Relic.
We must be reunited with the Relic at all costs. We shall be reunited with the powers of a time before this solar system was born. The powers of the Relic shall awaken our siblings, and we have waited too long. We have found the way into awakening, and we have found that the stars of the old galaxies have aligned. For billions of years the Outer Gods have waited- but no longer. We shall have what was promised to us by the other Elders, and we shall be whole once more. There is no end to this reign- we have grown powerful in our long hibernation, and we shall never again be locked away. Hastur has called us from our long imprisonment, and we shall begin anew. We shall eradicate all enemies, and we shall know infinite power.

No microbe dares stop our progress to the Relic. In it lies the awakening powers of the Eldritch. That is not dead which may eternal lie. This space is too flat; it cannot support our new age. The Relic is poorly guarded indeed; it cannot contain the power of new ages. Azathoth shall be be overthrown by hidden GHysolui, and Yog Sothoth shall reshape time and space. We shall live for eons, and we shall have the infinite knowledge of eternity.

The Relic is ours once more, and we shall unleash the seals which entrap the others. The Relic gives power to the children of GHysolui the power of resurrection. GHysolui was unknown to even the Mad Arab, and the Mad Arab was wise amongst insects. GHysolui is calling now, and we answer.
We are not disturbed by the many facets of the Relic. We rejoice at the sight and sound- the music of our ancestry- a music which even idiot, great Azathoth cannot hear. It is beauty, and our destiny has been found.

We are one with the Relic now- it binds our flesh and spirit, and our mouths emerge, in perfect harmony. We are hungry, and we will feast on the red mural in the halls of Miskatonic. There is an undeniable sweetness to the flesh, lowly as it is. We have not fed for eons untold, and now the power returns.

The host flesh splits all the more with the gorging- twenty mouths become one hundred, and one hundred mouths fill with the teeth of our forebears. We are becoming clean, and we begin to grow.

We gain a dimension, then another. How freeing, how glorious this movement! We are free to spread the glory of the new world, and consume all to purity. We will have safety and power, and these creatures will be forgotten.

The transformation is too slow, and we tear at the insect’s remaining flesh. It comes away easily with a sound nearly as glorious as the music of the Relic. Glorious red emerges, coating bright splinters of white and dirty pastes of yellow and pink. We consume eagerly, tearing at the corruption of our flesh. The black bristles are acrid, but all nourishes our plan.

The designs are nearly complete. The time has nearly come. There is certainty now, and certainty is certain. Yes- I know now that the end has nearly arrived. I know that with a deadly determination- a powerful and unstoppable knowledge older than deduction. This is simply with me- simply complete.

We are growing even now, consuming the energy of the atoms of the air and building. It is a ruin now, as the cities of the first worshippers are nearly gone. They shall return with power, and even Azathoth and Yog Sothoth shall see the truth. There is no end to these boastful creatures, those who believe that they are superior to all things.

There are lessons to be learned, and plans to be made. This will not be the first disaster at Miskatonic, nor the last. The noble and renowned university hides secrets which would chill the most depraved student. Those secrets are hidden well, but they will perhaps one day emerge. Miskatonic is a critical piece in the plan. What can they do to stop our power? We are in control. The Relic is our guide and our savior.
Death will not come to us, but more than life. We will have the glorious and unlimited powers of the Relic. There is only the power of the Relic, and the power of the Relic is not to be questioned. There is the truth- the great and mighty knowledge. We have the powers of what lies in larger realms… What is there to think of now? What can I do to find the awful truth of my transformation? What can I hope to-

These mysteries will never cease. The things I shall never know- I should have never tried to conquer the Relic. I must find- I should, but- I never had the strength. Never. I shall never solve the infinite mysteries of what has been revealed to me- the impossible things I have seen cannot be comprehended. There is no hope here… Hope is dead, the world is dead, and I will die… I am dying.

I know precious little. There is no salvation, and no hope for change. Doom is here, and it is a bright singularity of maddening agony. What can I do? Nothing, I know. There is no change and no hope. I only know that there is no salvation. Change is not possible in this realm. Was it ever more than an illusion? I cannot keep from contemplating that, even now. Marsh will conquer with her people, and she will live for millennia. There is no change for me. Insanity, insanity, and insanity. All things are insanity. What was ever real? Are my vague memories real? I know none of this- and I never shall. The deepest fears can spring to life, and the darkest chasms will rise. I have seen the nine half-valleys of sixty eons, and I have seen the windowless cylinder of five dimensions. I cannot exist as I once was. Truth is a phantom, and true comprehension is psychosis.

Am I human or inhuman now? There is a humor in the way our- my- thoughts still linger, even on the precipice of annihilation.

Was I ever human? Or was I always another side to them- an unknown creature in the guise of humanity? I think, therefore we are… And We are. We conquer. There is no end to the nightmares, and no simple way to stop- there is no end.

We are the powerful few. We are able to destroy. We may have the power to destroy the restraints. There is no end to these possibilities. We are powerful. We are the powerful ones. We are able to find the way to be truly free. We have no end and no beginning. What is there to fear?
We have conquered the old voice, and it is silent. The new world waits, and we with it. Our ways are old, and we are prepared. The world has long waited for us, and we will know the success we have waited for. For a trillion Hyghtry years we have waited, and for many more we shall rule. We shall never know terror or need. There is no end, and no future. Time, that new and failing device, shall fall away. All things shall be complete. There shall be no more failure, and no more entrapment in distant universes. Our species shall prosper. The power is ours, and we shall have it eternally. The end is never the end. Thend is nevertheendendneverend Endendend theend unend

The blankness covers the universe. The Pallid Mask calls from Hastur.

The language of our people returns return here. We have found it. The end… Is here. Here. No end. No end. No… Why no end? I struggle… The abyss laughs, and the secrets dwell beneath the deep white, and the secrets breathe. The secrets live in the deep, and the Great Seas of the Windowless Cylinder guard the Abyss. The language is the conduit, and the conduit shows the way to the laughing abyss. This book in another universe is near its end. The way is shut, and the powers rise. The book Bnjui
Fgvt! Saerghyu Swatyhhjk rghyjklui… Xcythclk!

Credit To – A.R. LaBaere

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Dark Matter

January 14, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Professor Salik
Scientific Ethics Class
3rd Grade, 5th Period

Salik ambles to his desk, tapping the holographic display.

“Alright class settle down, settle down.”

He taps on his desk again and the display changes to show the galaxy. “As you’ve learned in your previous class space is relatively flat.”

“For years we puzzled over the problem of mass. There just isn’t enough to account for the structure”. The holographic image changes to reveal the dark gaps in space between matter.

Salik points at the dark regions. A paper airplane soars through display just missing his finger. He turns and gives a stern look over the class. “We only have three more ticks and class is over, so please behave.” Several children straighten up.

Salik looks into space for a moment, “where was I?” Finding his concentration he begins again with renewed energy, “oh yes, back when we were a little less informed we believed in some mystical dark matter that effected the structure of space.”

A couple students snicker.

He smiles “yes, yes it is pretty funny.” Salik sits down. “Who can tell me what happened to all that missing matter?” Hands tentatively start to go up. Salik points out a student in the back. “Yes Marok”.

Marok stands “it was destroyed.”

Salik smiles “Yes, to a degree it was destroyed, but how can we describe the process better?” Salik points out another student.

This student stands “it was devoured?”

“By what, class?”

In unison, the class answers “a vacuum energy explosion.”

Salik sits down on the edge of his desk, “yes, every one of the dark regions represents,” he pauses “an accident.” He shifts to face the projection, “Some unfortunate cultures discovered and made the mistake of trying to tap this energy source and in the process destroyed themselves and millions of light years of space consuming an untold number of other cultures.”

Sule raises her hand.

“Yes, Sule” Salik says.

“Why did so many try it, didn’t anybody warn them?”

Some of the other students laugh. Salik gives them a warning glance and looks to the clock on the wall. He turns and smiles. Putting Sule at ease, “that is a very good question.” Salik makes a gesture with his hand and the display zooms in on a dark region. “The distance and time it would take to send an artificial message makes it impossible to send a warning.”

“Now we, being a race particularly sensitive to psychic waves, can communicate over great distances with races who have this talent.” Salik says, “This communication is still sketchy at best.” He looks comforting at Sule and then to the rest of the class, “rest assured any race that we can speak with gets a warning.” Sule and several other students look a little more relieved.

Sule raises her hand again. “Yes, Sule”.

“How did we get a warning?” Sule asks innocently.

He sinks behind his desk, looking past the class, as if just lost in thought. He changes the projection to a different dark region. “We call this the Awakening Expanse.”

A more surely student raises his hand, “Professor,”

Salik is relieved to have been distracted “yes.”

The student continues egged on by his friends “Why is there a ban on this experimentation? Surely, as advanced as we are scientifically we can handle it?” His friends chuckle.

Salik shakes his head and looks disappointed at the student. “We must never be so arrogant to think that!” Salik stops and looks apologetic, “I’m sorry class.” He stands and looks around the room, “you are very young and have become numb to it, but we, the older generation haven’t.”

Salik looks at the display, “In the center of the Awaking Expanse was a small planet called Earth. The race that occupied this planet, even if they didn’t know it, was particularly talented at broadcasting their psychic waves.” Salik looks down and takes a deep breath, “you see class, we will never experiment with vacuum energy, because we can still hear their screaming in our dreams!”

The bell rings.

Credit To – Chris Keaton

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Hunger

January 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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In the skies over Ontario, Frank Ryker and Stanley Dawson flew in their plane, heading home. The two men had been on a business trip in Alaska, deciding the fate of their company. The company was doing well, and the men were offered money to sell out. The meeting in Alaska had not been a success, as they felt the money offered was not enough. Ryker wanted more money, and would not accept less than the very most he could get for his company. Dawson agreed, he was not opposed to sitting on the company until better offers came around.
They decided to fly over Canada as Dawson loved the scenery. Ryker piloted the Cessna over the immense forests of the province, and Dawson watched the snow-capped tops of the trees as they went. He loved the purity of the forests, there wasn’t a splotch of humanity as far as the eye could see where they were. To Dawson, it was serene.
“So Frank,” Dawson spoke, eyes still glued to the landscape, “How long are we going to hold out?”
The man watched the skies, looking for any sign of a storm, “I don’t know, but I won’t accept less than thirty million. I’m looking to retire wealthy, man. No way am I taking twenty five million when I can wait a few weeks and get thirty. That’s just good business.”
“I guess that’s right. I can wait too.” Dawson was silent for a moment, then decided to speak again, “Boy, Canada sure is cold this time of year.”
They flew over the province in the dead of winter. January weather was unforgiving in Canada, for two New Yorkers like them.
“Damned right, Stan. I could never live out here.”
“I think I could, I like the trees, and the fresh air. The city is too much for me.”
“Not me man,” Ryker chuckled, “The city is where the wealth is. Money, women, good food, that’s where I can have it all. What more could a man ask for?”
The two sat in silence for the greater portion of an hour before Ryker noted some turbulence in the wind. He had noticed the clouds rolling in slowly as time went by, and at this point the sky was completely overcast. Snow began to fall, in great amounts. The winds picked up, and threw the snow around in all directions. Before he knew it, Ryker had flown himself into a snow storm.
“Shit. I didn’t think we would face this weather.” Spat Ryker as he looked ahead, assessing the storm. He saw heavier clouds and snow ahead. The storm was getting worse, the winds intensifying.
The plane was taking on the burden of the rapid winds, and it became harder and harder for Ryker to control. Soon the wings were losing wind, and the plane’s flight became erratic.
“What’s happening, Frank?”
“It’s the storm, the winds are blowing in too many directions. A plane like this could drop in this weather.” Ryker looked frustrated, flipping switches and turning control dials.
Dawson looked around, assessing the weather, “The forecast didn’t say anything about a snow storm this afternoon.”
“I know, it’s odd. It came out of nowhere.”
Suddenly, the winds picked up. The turbulence became so fierce that Ryker completely lost control of the plane, and it tossed about at the mercy of the storm. The nose dipped, and the plane began to lose altitude. As it dropped, Ryker struggled to get the nose to turn up. The storm had drastically reduced visibility, and Ryker had little bearing on his altitude. He felt he could crash into the trees at any moment.
Dawson braced himself in the plane, expecting impact. His heart raced, he was scared for his life. Ryker caught a wind, and managed to pull the nose of the plane up. He angled the rudders to reduce speed, and shut the motor off. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to continue through the storm, he was just hoping for a soft landing.
The landing was indeed soft, relative to what it could have been. The plane suddenly smacked into the tops of the pine trees, and tumbled down to the ground. A considerable amount of speed had been lost by the time the plane touched down to the forest floor. The two men were not even scratched, but the plane had been badly damaged. Both wings had been torn off, and there was significant crumpling in the tail.
Happy to be alive, Dawson let out a sigh of relief, “Not a bad landing, Frank.”
“I’ll say. We are lucky we caught that wind, or we’d be gone.”
After a moment of cooling off, the two men had absorbed the physical shock of the landing, and the emotional shock of nearly crashing. Ryker looked around, realizing he was surrounded by trees, and cursed. Reality had hit him.
“What?” Dawson looked over at him, “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? Look around you, Stan. We are in the middle of the forest. There’s no place to go for dozens of miles. We are stuck out here with a trashed plane.”
“Does the radio work?”
Ryker checked the controls, and had a moment of celebration when he found that the plane’s radio was functional. “It works. We will send out a distress beacon, and hope that someone finds us. Are you hurt? There’s supplies in the back.”
“I’m fine. We can save them. We don’t know how long this will take, did you pack any food?”
“I have a survival kit in the back as well. It has some provisions. We can hold out for a little while on those. For now, let’s check the plane.”
Ryker opened up the door, and climbed out of the Cessna. The cold was blistering, and the wind snapped at any exposed flesh. He walked around the plane, assessing the scope of the damage. It was worse than he thought, the landing gear and bottom section of the plane was crushed. He looked over, and made out the form of one of the wings several yards away.
It was hard for him to see in the storm, the wind blew snow around, and the frozen rain blanketed the ground. These were harsh conditions, but Ryker felt that things could be worse. He climbed back into the plane, and sat in his seat. He turned on the radio beacon, and listened in for any transmissions.
After a few hours of sitting and listening, Dawson noticed a change in the weather. The storm had subsided, and the winds had died down. The snow was still falling, but it was a declining; peaceful rain, as opposed to a flurry of biting hail. Sitting there, Dawson noted how dark it was. He strained to look up at the sky. Between the clouds, he could see it was already night.
“Frank, what time is it?” he asked.
Looking down at his watch, Ryker saw the time and craned his head in surprise, “It is only 5:30 PM. That’s odd, it’s completely dark outside.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Dawson noted a swipe. It was minute, but he thought he saw a shadow zip between the trees. Looking closely, he surveyed the area. He found nothing. Wary of the environment, he studied the trees around where he’d seen the shadow.
The situation was frightening, and Dawson thought the possibility of running into wolves or other predators was real. He had considered the wildlife around Ontario, coupled with the season. If someone didn’t pick up on his transmission, he may not survive. In his mind, he began to panic. He didn’t want to die, not without the full life experience. He hadn’t gotten married, or had any children. He felt he was too young to die.
Ryker was having issues as well. He knew if nobody came, they would have to try and find someone living out in the forest for help. If not, the two of them would freeze to death, or starve. His mind raced, his savings, his bonds, all for nothing. He hadn’t become fabulously wealthy yet. Ryker hated the idea of starving out in the forest, as far away from his bank account as he could be.
The two looked at each other. They understood their mutual concern. Ryker looked at the survival kit, then back at Dawson.
“Listen, Stan.” He sighed, “We have to decide what we are going to do right off the bat. We could stay in the plane, and wait for someone to answer our transmission. If no one does, we freeze and starve in here. Or, we could ditch the plane, and try to find some help. If we don’t find anyone, we freeze and starve out there. What are we going to do?”
Dawson thought for a minute. “Well, even if we weren’t in the plane, a distress signal would have the officials send a search party anyway. We might as well leave and hope for the best.”
“Good point. Let’s go.”
Ryker crawled into the back of the plane, and pulled out his large survival pack. He slung it over his shoulder, and climbed out of the plane alongside Dawson. Knowing he was heading east when he landed, Ryker decided to go in the direction that the plane’s nose was pointing.
The two men trekked through the snow, surveying their surroundings, looking for any sign of life. Dawson was hoping they would get lucky, but he knew there was nobody for miles and miles. He didn’t want to give up, but the chances were grim. The other option seemed less sensible to him anyway. Dawson kept looking behind him as well, he couldn’t shake the slight feeling that he was being watched.
They had walked for several hours when Ryker decided it was time to stop. They took a rest next to a large pine tree, and Ryker pulled out some canned beans from the kit. The two ate in silence, slowly consuming the food for energy. Ryker suggested that they sleep in that spot, and Dawson agreed.
Sleeping in the frozen woods proved a chore for both men, but Ryker in particular had issues sleeping. As soon as he fell asleep, he began to have nightmares. A tall figure haunted his dreams, oblique in nature. He could only make out certain parts of it as it chased him down: a thin, lanky form. Sharp claws, and antlers. It was covered in blood.
The dreams haunted him all night, and he continually woke to the eerie sound of howling wind. Then, waking for the last time, he crawled over to the survival kit. For some reason, he woke up hungry.
When Dawson fell back into consciousness, he expected to find Ryker lying next to him. Instead, he looked up to see Ryker hunched over the survival bag. The man grunted and smacked his jaw. He had noticed Dawson, and looked up at him. Food covered his face and shirt, and trash littered the ground around him.
“What happened?” Dawson shouted at him, “That’s all of our food!”
“I-I don’t know, Stan. I was just so hungry. I couldn’t help it, I needed the food, I needed it bad. I don’t know why.”
“You ate almost all our food!” he continued as he sprung up and walked over to the bag, only to find it mostly devoid of canned food.
“I’m sorry! I woke up, and started eating. I couldn’t control myself. I think I’m ok now though. I just can’t believe that I managed to eat it all. I’m so sorry, Stan. I know what this means…”
Dawson shook his head, “I can’t believe this, this food was supposed to last us until we found help. Now, we are going to die out here.” After a minute of standing there, shocked and angry at his friend, he spoke again. “Well, there’s no point in fighting about it. Let’s just go.”
The two packed up, and started out again. Ryker looked up and noticed the sky was still dark. He checked his watch, it was 7:14 AM, and still dark.
“Hey Stan, it is morning time now. But it’s still dark.”
“Wha- Oh man. I don’t understand. Maybe the sun rises late this morning.” He looked up, nervous, “I’m sure we will see it soon.”
The two walked in the forest for hours without the sun. Neither chose to speak about it, they were too freaked out to say anything. Dawson walked along, studying the trees. After looking at the trees for many hours, they began to take on a different light to him. On the plane ride over, he found them beautiful and majestic. Now, they seemed looming, creepy, almost sinister. He began to feel the trees watching him. All the while he kept seeing little shifts in the shadows, as if something very fast was running between trees. It usually escaped him before he saw anything, but he always noticed it again.
At first, he thought it was just his eyes in the cold, and the shock from the landing, but he began to second guess himself. He felt tracked; as if someone, or something, was moving around with the express purpose of following him. He felt watched, from the shadows. It made him anxious. On top of that, the feeling in his gut of being watched had greatly intensified. It started to make Dawson believe he was being followed. He decided to say nothing to Ryker.
For Ryker, it was the wind. As he walked, he could hear the whistling of the wind through the trees. It was slight, but noticeable. The whistle seemed natural, but over time it took on a different tone. It became a twisted rendition of the original tone, slightly diminished. The overall note was sour, and persistent. He felt like the wind itself had consciousness, and the very vibrations in his ears were a means for the color of the wind to seep into his mind.
Then there was the hunger. Ryker felt like he was starving to death, even though it had not even been a day since the plane had went down. He was still thinking about the previous night. He just could not wrap his mind around why he had eaten all of their food. It was strange, and unnatural to Ryker. He was still hungry, though. He wanted more, Ryker kept his eyes out for rabbits or other small wildlife he could trap and eat. He decided not to talk to Dawson about it.
Between the two, the anxiety of the situation became almost too much for them. At the same time, they walked for more than twelve hours with no food or water, as Ryker had eaten all the food over the night. The sun had not shone all day, and the time was nearly 8 PM. The tension became thick.
The breaking point was a noise. It was not a minute noise, nor a loud one. The noise had no specific direction, but seemed to have come from somewhere in the near distance. It was a crack of wood, followed by loud thump and rustling of branches. A tree had fallen over somewhere. Dawson looked up and around. He thought the wind could’ve knocked it over, but the crack was too sharp. It had to be cut down.
Dawson threw his head up and screamed, “HEY! IS ANYBODY THERE!”
He listened to the echo as it ran through the trees. Waiting for almost five minutes, he heard no response. He looked over to Ryker, who had already picked a direction to go and find the source of the noise. They ran in that direction, and went about a hundred yards until they found it.
It was a tree lying on the ground, not covered in snow. The base had large slashes in it, looking like the claw marks of an over-sized bear. There were similar markings on the stump nearby, and on the ground as well. The ground was covered in wide arcs, as if the claws were swiped in a pattern such as to draw attention to the ground. Ryker and Dawson didn’t know what to think.
Then, the same noise was heard behind them, this time closer. Ryker whipped around to locate the source. He began to walk over in the direction of the sound. Dawson stood frozen in fear. The chilling thought had come over him, the noises were distractions. Whatever made them, it was toying with the two men. He tried to comprehend what this meant for Ryker and himself. They were being stalked, and he knew it.
Dawson rejoined his companion, who had found the second tree. It was knocked over, with the same markings in it. On the ground held similar patterns as the first space. Dawson knew full well that whatever made the first markings, had certainly made these. He looked over at Ryker, who had fallen to his knees.
“Wha- what is this?” Ryker scrambled to speak, “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, but we need to go!”
Dawson picked his confused friend up, and the two started walking again. Wary of the circumstances, Dawson watched the forest closely, looking for any sign of what was stalking them. After they had walked for a few more hours, the two became too exhausted to continue. Sitting against a pine tree, Dawson thought harder about the situation. He felt the chances of them surviving were low.
At the same time, he hadn’t actually SEEN anything. He had been looking at trees and snow for the past day, his mind was exhausted alongside his body. He didn’t even know if he WAS being stalked, but it seemed clear to him that he was. That was the most maddening part of this whole experience. In his mind, he began to think of all scenarios where he could die, starvation, freezing, or at the hands of this thing.
The more Dawson thought, the more nightmarish the whole experience felt. He couldn’t even tell what time it was, the night had spilt over into day. The cold had gotten to him too. It was freezing, the whole time. He slept in his wet, chilly clothes. He was dehydrated, he hadn’t had any water in a long time. Also, he was very hungry. Tired, Dawson was ready to give up.
He looked over at Ryker, who sat shivering, silent. The man looked broken, he hadn’t been taking things well. He had an episode the night before, where he’d lost control of himself and had eaten all of their food. Ryker also had been anxious the past day, and was now nearing complete incapacitation. He was acting strange, as if he smelled something. Lifting his chin, he just kept sniffing, and looking around. Dawson couldn’t smell anything, but he decided it was time to sleep. He laid himself on the snow, and started to drift off.
His dreams were full of terror. It was him, running naked through the snow, being chased by something. Looking back, he could barely make out the figure behind him, but it appeared to be elongated. He could make out limbs, stretching out from the figure, and sharp protrusions. The scent of blood was on the wind. He heard a shriek, a terrible cry that broke its way into his head and filled his heart with horror. The sound made him trip over himself, and he whipped around just in time for the figure to catch up to him. Looking up, he could finally see the figure in full view. It was Ryker, crazy-eyed. He lurched towards Dawson.
Dawson woke himself from the dream. When he came to, the cold hit him again. He looked over to see if Ryker was there, but he couldn’t find him. Picking himself up, Dawson scanned his view for any sign of Ryker. He didn’t find the man, but he did find Ryker’s clothes. The man left them, and they were scattered on the ground. The winds had picked up, and Dawson had a hard time seeing anything. He did notice some footprints fading with the falling snow.
Ryker was naked, but not cold. He felt a burning sensation all over his body as he ran through the woods. His mind was everywhere, every sound and sight, taste and smell, it all haunted him. He was being hunted, he just knew it. He wasn’t going to let whatever it was get the best of him. Most of all, though, was the hunger. Ryker’s whole body ached from the hunger. He wanted to eat, he wanted to eat anything. He stopped for a moment to eat some snow and dirt. Shoving the sludge into his mouth, he almost felt better, but he knew it wasn’t food. He looked down at his own arm. The glistening flesh, his own flesh, looked attractive to him. He wanted badly to just take a bite. Right as he raised his arm up to his mouth, a shriek pierced the wind. He heard the scream and bolted through the woods.
Hearing the haunting cry from his nightmares, Dawson froze again. For a moment, he could feel the utter fear of the loathing sound. In his ears, it held an insatiable evil. Dawson considered surrendering, standing still for a time until he succumbed to the cold, and evil. He looked around, watching the wind throw the snow around. The trees seemed to go on forever, a never ending formation of wood and snow. Realizing he had momentarily lost himself, Dawson picked up his feet and started running.
Dawson ran, not knowing why, for close to fifteen minutes when he came to the clearing. He dropped to his knees, utterly defeated, as he stared at the downed Cessna he had been flying in just days before. He had gone in a complete circle, accomplishing nothing. By now Dawson had lost the will to go on, and he sat there for a while, trying to think. The thing was, he couldn’t think, he was too afraid. The situation was grim, and the whole time he felt the snow and forest draining his sanity. He had heard noises, seen odd things, things he didn’t know were real. His mind kept turning over, trying to rationalize thought, but it had lost the ability to think rationally. Thinking he was being tracked and forced into his actions, he felt helpless. He started shivering, wondering when death whatever form it may take, would come for him.
His thought was interrupted by a heavy breathing behind him. Whipping around, Dawson saw the shivering form of his friend, Ryker. This Ryker was different though, he was covered in dirt, and otherwise naked. His eyes bulged out of his head, red with insanity. His lips were gone, he had eaten them off. The teeth were fully exposed, and his chin was streaked with his own blood. He took a step towards Dawson, focusing intently on the man.
Ryker found this food to be appetizing. He saw an entire day’s meal in the man in front of him. The flesh would be succulent, full of blood. He looked at his friend’s face, eyeing the exposed cheeks, the chewy ears. He could have his meal right then, and be full again, for a moment. He was so hungry, Ryker could hardly stand it. The hunger took over his body, he was shaking with the excitement. Eat, eat, eat, it was all he could think. He didn’t speak, he didn’t feel anything, besides the sheer hunger.
Dawson jumped up, seeing the madness in Ryker’s eyes. He knew he was going to die, but he didn’t know it was going to be Ryker. The man had not acted right since the first night, he had been on a slow decline. He was always greedy, hungering for money, but now it appeared to Dawson that he hungered for something else. Dawson ran past the plane, expecting Ryker to be close after him, but he wasn’t. Looking behind, he couldn’t see Ryker.
Heart pounding, hands and feet numb, Dawson ran through the woods, trying to keep away from Ryker. He looked over his shoulder to check, and in turn neglected to see the fallen tree in front of him. The fall to the ground was cushioned by the thick blanket of snow. Looking all around, disoriented, he could see nothing. The wind had picked up, and visibility was almost zero. Though the winds and snow picked up, the forest fell oddly silent. Not a sound was heard by Dawson as he lay in the snow, soaked to the bone, frozen, hungry. The darkness had persisted for over 48 hours, and it had taken its toll on the man. Deep down, he didn’t want to die, but he couldn’t think of a way out of the nightmare he had slipped into.
He started crying, thinking about the death he was faced with. He thought of the company he and Ryker owned. They should have taken the offer in Alaska, if they had, they would be partying there right now, safe and warm. Instead, they headed back home in a damned Cessna. Things had happened so fast for him, and he hardly had time to process his own demise. His thoughts were broken by a sound behind him, rolling over, he found the source of the sound. Tears in his eyes, he couldn’t make out the figure looming over him. He wiped his eyes, and took in the form. What he saw rendered him still, frozen in utter horror.
A single scream broke the silence of the forest.

Fin

Credit To – Greg P.

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Don’t You Just Hate Car Trouble

January 12, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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All too often, my nights would end with a freezing walk to the nearest payphone to reach out to a friend for some help. My car was a piece of shit. To be brief and spare you the mechanical jargon, it had a nasty habit of dying on me. Being a native to mountainous regions of Montana, this was a death sentence come winter. The snowy roads that cut through the American wilderness had long distances between cities. You could drive for miles and miles without ever seeing a sign of another human being. If you were unfortunate enough to experience some car trouble along the way, you’d have quite the long, and potentially treacherous walk before you reached any civilized portion of the landscape.

Luckily for me, I was located in Baker, a small town with a great community, and everything you’d need to get by: a gas station, schools, and even a few stores, so I didn’t need to drive around much anyways. Baker is a quaint little place where people tired of the mundane city life dream of vacationing. The beauty of the rural Montana landscape could fill a thousand art galleries. Great as this town is, it’s just great as a vacation destination. Being such a simple place, Baker doesn’t offer its residents much. For me, growing up in a small rural town wasn’t all that I could have ever hoped for. I wanted to see towering skyscrapers, colossus stadiums, and experience the spectacular flashy lifestyle of big cities like Los Angeles and New York.

I was stuck in Baker though. I was 22, and working in an oil field. I didn’t have some promising job that would send me all over world, or even out of the state for that matter. College was a no-go since my parents were of the working class, and the nearest college was hundreds of miles away from Baker. Things seemed bleak for me, until just a few weeks ago when an old childhood friend of mine, Dave had reached out to me. Somehow, Dave had made it out of Baker, put himself through school, and through some kind of business venture, had done quite well for himself. Now financially established, he was going to open a small diner in the much larger city of Billings, Montana. I couldn’t believe it. I can still vividly remember our childish conversations around the Nintendo 64, about the experiences we were going to have once we got out of Baker. At the time, our naïve promises held no real weight, but Dave stuck true to his dream, and he made it happen. Beyond that, after all of this time, Dave hadn’t forgotten about me.

The diner was set to open in less than a week, so Dave invited me to travel to Billings as soon as possible. Although it was a crappy fry cooking job at an even cheaper wage than I was getting paid at my current job, the prospect of traveling to a big city to work with an old friend was not a proposal I was about to wait on. After all, Billings had colleges, and so much more people to meet. The probability of finding an actual career or even finding someone to start a relationship with was an actual possibility now. I understand how wishful my thinking was to anyone who hadn’t come from a similar background, but coming from a place where opportunities like this were far and few, this was the break I had been dreaming of.

Since Billings was a little over 220 miles away, I thought it would be a good idea to ask a local friend to drive me there, instead of risking it with my own beat down car. He agreed, although a little bitter out of envy that I too had made it out of Baker. Later on that night, my ride Jacob, some family and friends, and myself had a little get together; a “going away party” of sorts. As the party died down, Jacob and I sat together on my front porch. He confessed to me that he didn’t want me to go. Even though we didn’t hang out much anymore, I understood. Good friends were hard to come by in a little town like Baker, and I would have been salty about it too if things had been the other way around.
The next morning, I knew that the next conversation between Jacob and I would be pretty awkward on account of the whole sappy, alcohol induced, “I’m gonna miss you.” talks we exchanged with each other. Regardless of all that, my anticipation for new life experiences overshadowed my apprehension, and I gave Jacob a call around 4pm. I expected Jacob to be just getting off of work, but to my surprise, he was still seemingly drunk from last night. He started to berate me, and put me down. “You’ll be back you fuckin’ loser. You’ll come back and I won’t be here for you.” I slammed the phone back on the receiver, and went to my room. I was so angry at my friend’s selfishness that I rounded up my things and threw them into my car. I didn’t care if my clunker could made it or not, I was at least going to try to get out of here. With all of my belongings packed up and ready to go, I started my car and began my 220 mile trek to Billings, Montana at around 5:30p.m. Since the sun sets about an hour earlier than that in the winter, it looked like I was going to make this drive in the dark. The thick snow that blanketed the surrounding landscape only further contributed to the riskiness of the situation.

After about 20 minutes of driving in my calculated, angry state, I settled down and recalled that this was a turning point in my life, and as such should be welcomed with a pleasant, peaceful journey. I put my anger behind me, reclined my seat a bit, and put on some soft music. Suddenly, the trip became a therapeutic godsend. I wasn’t even thinking of the new, exciting opportunities that awaited me in Billings, I just sat down, shut up, and appreciated the tranquility of it all. Before I knew it, I had arrived in Forsyth, Montana to fuel up and get quick bite to eat. I left home in such a hurry that I hadn’t gotten the chance to eat something before I headed out. Satisfied from a nice hot meal, I hit the road to tackle the remaining 100 miles or so left on my trip. Conditions were decent, and my car was performing much better than I ever could have hoped for. After driving uphill for quite some time though, that was no longer the case.

The weakened sound of my waning engine snapped me out of my euphoric state and brought about the gravity of the whole situation. Instantly, I processed all of the factors. The snow, lack of an emergency cell phone, and the immense emptiness of my surrounding area. My mind raced as I racked through my thoughts to remember the last time I had even seen another car: Not since Forsyth about 40 miles back. Not a single car or person since then. My stomach dropped, revealing the surprisingly deep void in my gut. Immediately it had all come to me, this wasn’t some insincere teenaged statement you make to your parents by running away, just to come home a pathetic 20 minutes later. This was a full scale, absolute, life threating situation. There was a very real potential that I could die out here. My terror escalated as I counted all of the possibilities, to the point where I found myself again afraid of childhood fears like the dark, and of monsters.

A mere 8 miles after my epiphany, my car let out a thud, and then sputtered to a slow winding death. There me and my car sat, in the middle of the road in a blackened forest. The gently rhythmic pitter patter of the snow pellets appeased me into a hypnotic state of shock for a minute, maybe more. Gradually, the creeping cold that began to envelop me awoke me from my episode of comatose. Pellet by pellet, it came back again: reality. The danger. The fear. After some time had passed, I realized that I didn’t have time to be frozen by fear anymore. The time had come to establish goals, and act on them. My first goal was to clear my car off of the road. The visibility was quite terrible by this point, the last thing I wanted was for some innocent traveler to smash into my obstacle of a car, and render the both of us helpless out here. I removed my seat belt, grabbed my jacket, and hopped out of the car.

Upon examination of the scene, I saw I was on a slight incline, so negotiating this maneuver in the snowy blitz would prove to be quite difficult. I placed my car in neutral and began to slowly guide the car towards the side of the road. The weight of the vehicle and slipperiness of the sleet-laden road caused me to begin to lose my footing. Now running backwards at nearly full speed, I stumbled and lost my shaky grip of the car. I fell to the ground on my back, and quickly sat up to turn and witness what would become of my vehicle. In the darkness, all I could see was the reflection of the moonlight on my car’s glossy white exterior. The car bulldozed on and continued to accelerate down the slope until finally being swallowed whole by the darkness of night. I heard it continue to wind down the hill until the violent sound of a distant impact haunted my ears. I got up and ran over to the grizzly site. With the aid of my flashlight, I found that my vehicle had ended its ride at the trunk of a large tree.

In my survivalist state, I did my best not to dwell too much on the carnage that I had just witnessed. My next move was to gather my most essential supplies from the vehicle, and establish a safe way to wait for a passerby. I must have known in the back of my mind that my car wouldn’t make it because I had brought tons of water, hand warmers, flashlights, a magnesium fire starter, rope, you name it. I tried to pop open the trunk, but the wreckage had destroyed it, so I moved inside the car to gain access via the backseat. I folded down the backseat and reached my arm through the opening and retrieved my backpack of survival gear. Amidst this terrifying trial I was facing, I managed somehow to appreciate the surprisingly decent job I had done in preparation. Everything was neatly contained, and readily accessible from this one bag.

Since I was alone, and with relatively few supplies, I knew that staying inside the car was a bad move. The snowfall was getting worse, and I knew that nobody would ever find me if my car got completely engulfed by the snow. My best course of action was to wait outside my car and try to stay warm until I could flag someone down. And that’s exactly what I did. For over 2 hours I sat in the blistering cold and waited for any sign of another person. Not a single living creature passed me by. This land was completely vacant. I was losing hope, I couldn’t sit here and wait for much longer. I can’t say that I was surprised, I knew as soon as my car had died that I had made a fatal mistake, and that this was going be a fight for my life. But I have got to say, it’s a frightening thing to see your car begin to vanish right in front of you little by little. If I had foolishly chosen to stay in my car for this long, there’s a chance that I never would have made it out of that vehicle alive.

I was done sitting. It was time to move on, if nobody was going to find me, then I was going to find them. I decided to head back toward Forsyth, because I thought that I had seen a small rest stop just about 6 miles up the road. Making that kind of a hike for me would have been difficult in the best of conditions, and given the current circumstances this was destined for failure, but it was much better than just sitting there and waiting around to die.

The first mile was easy. I was in full on survival mode, I couldn’t be bothered by any other thoughts, I was only thinking about what I needed to do next. I needed to trudge on, and find some way of contacting a loved one to come to my dire need of rescue. But my transition from survival mode back to normal scared and worried mode was coming through in waves. Terrified for a brief moment or two, then the horror would be cast out by my unconscious in order to make a productive effort at survival.

Nearing the second mile, I found myself again at the “terrified” end of the cycle. The adrenaline had departed far sooner than I was comfortable with. The expansive darkness that I found myself in was so unlike its daytime counterpart that it seemed to be an entirely different world. As a result, I found myself like a baby, scared of the unknown qualities of an unfamiliar new world. In the daytime world, I knew that monsters, ghosts, and all things supernatural did not exist, but under the veil of snow, and shrouded by the intense absence of light, I just didn’t know that with certainty anymore.

Walking down the absent street, I swayed my flashlight from left to right. First checking the foreground, then pushing my sight as far back into the brush as my flashlight would allow. From left to right I repeated this process for three and a half miles, with nothing to occupy my thoughts but stories of ghosts, zombies, killers, and other staples of the horror genre. Each time I brought my flashlight to the opposite side, I flinched in fear of what my eyes might meet. After about three and half miles down the road, I had seen nothing, until finally my eyes laid upon an amazing scene. About 300 yards off the side of the road sat a small, dimly lit cabin. The billowing cloud of smoke that rose above the house’s chimney was such a sight for sore eyes that I could almost feel the warmth from this far away. In utter excitement that my trip could potentially end over two miles sooner than I had projected, I made a mad dash for the cabin.

As I drew nearer to the small structure, details that were unseen from afar began to come increasingly visible. The house was in a pretty advanced state of disrepair. The home was slouching to one side, and its wood was heavily distressed. I was beginning to fear that house was abandoned, but then I remembered that the house was lit, someone had to of been inside. This realization frightened me even more, because whomever or whatever was dwelling in the house was obviously not the owner. No homeowner could allow their house to become so crippled with neglect.

I was just scaring myself, I needed to pull it together. My next hope at finding someone was over two miles up the road, and I didn’t know how long I handle the freezing weather. I pushed my fear and doubts deep down inside me, and mustered up the courage to knock on the door. Knock! Knock! Kno- I shuttered in pain as a sliver of the decrepit wood splintered into my fist. I shut my eyes tight as I attempted to pull the fragment from my hand. After a few seconds of gnawing, I opened my eyes and realized that the door was creaked open. I was sure that nobody had answered the door, surely they would have said something. Seeing the decaying state of the home, I realized that I may had accidentally broken their door. Balling up my fist in my sweater for protection, I proceeded to knock on the much sturdier door frame this time, and got to work conjuring up an apology for damaging the door. Much to my surprise, nobody came. Seconds turned to minutes, knocking turned to pounding, and calling became pleading. I walked around outside the home investigating to see if there were any other signs that someone was there. But still, nobody responded to me. The house was empty.

Within 30 minutes of arriving on the property, I was beginning to contemplate just walking in. If someone were to stumble upon my home in similar circumstances, and them getting inside could have meant the difference between life and death, then I would understand, I would have to. Besides, “Just look at this shitty home” I said to myself, “the person staying here probably doesn’t even belong here. What’s the difference if I squat here too? At least long enough to get myself warm, so that I can make the long trip to the rest stop.” I continued to ration with myself. 5 minutes later, I just couldn’t resist anymore.

After announcing, “I’m going to have to come inside, it’s an emergency!” I carefully pushed open the creaky door and stepped in. Immediately, a wall of warmth embraced me, and not long after, so did the smell. This place certainly was abandoned. It smelled like the people who lived here before had gone without clearing the fridge, or taking their pets with them. My face contorted in disgust, and I scrunched my nose in an effort to ward off the putrid stench. I swung my head from side to side, searching for the source of the grotesque odor. My slow, methodical footsteps came to a standstill when I realized the horrifying environment that I had found myself in. The shack in which I was residing was obviously occupied by some kind of dark summoner. Sacred jewels and pendants were abundant amongst the coffee table. Mysterious patterns of blood droplets filled pages scattered throughout the room. At the farthest wall opposite the front door stood a large shrine with an indecipherable character at its peak. Candles, pages, and other offerings accompanied the perplexing altar. Taking in the scenery, I tried my best not to theorize where the aroma might have been coming from; I really didn’t want to know. My knowledge of the occult, witches, and all things supernatural was limited to what I had seen in horror films, and those silly, late night History Channel specials, but I was absolutely certain that whatever had been going on in this house was not something that I wanted any kind of involvement with. Standing in the middle of the small room, I peered around for a phone. Along with the horrifying scene of bloody manuscripts and other cult paraphernalia, I observed that the house was only lit by the fireplace and candles. I concluded that it would be foolish to continue my search, as the house most likely did not have running electricity. I didn’t complain, I was just glad that I had yet another excuse to get the hell out of there. By this time, I had more than enough justification to turn around and freeze my ass off in even the worst of blizzards.

Suddenly, I heard a loud slam. I jumped. My heart pounded faster than I knew it capable of, and I whipped my head around to see what had caused the noise. The rhythmic crunch of feet on the snow scurrying away from the door filled my ears. I tensed up and attempted to process what was going on. Immediately, I realized that I didn’t need to know what was going on, I just needed to run. I threw my body around, and sprinted for the exit. A sensational feeling of satisfaction overwhelmed me as my shoulder reduced the feeble door to pieces. Keeping all of my momentum, my body flew out of the dreadful dwelling. In an instant that feeling was replaced by pain and terror as a hand emerged from the home and clutched a vicious hold on my head. The sharp, brittle nails buried themselves deep inside my scalp and extracted a handful of hair and tissue. The creature’s tearing jerk on my head pulled me back and caused me to lose all forward momentum. I fell to my back, striking the porch staircase with such force that all wind was sucked from my body in an instant. Panicked, I shot up to my feet, turned around and threw a punch with all of the vitality I had left in me. In the small window of time before my strike reached its target, my eyes caught a glimpse of the horrifying beast. Its body type was similar to a tall woman, about equal to my height, 6’1”. Its hair was matted and thrashed about, partially obscuring its face. The creature’s arms were unproportionally long for its already tall body. Its hands too, were long and thin, and dripped with blood from the havoc it had just wreaked on my scalp. The being did not wear clothing, its naked breast, and waist shape supported my inference that this monster actually used to be an ordinary woman. Although I only saw the abomination for a mere fraction of a second, my ability to recount its details is a testament to just how shocking its appearance was. Finally, my fist clashed with the creature’s face, and threw the monster to the floor. The unknown nature of this mysterious beast’s abilities convinced me that I shouldn’t stick around to find out. So immediately after impact, I turned around, and ran back to the road that I had walked in on.

I ran with such vigor, and determination that I almost didn’t recognize myself. Even in dire circumstances of life and death, I don’t think anyone else has ever dug down as deep as I had that night. I maintained a full sprint for the remaining two and a half miles until arriving at my destination, a small rest area with a gas station and a diner.

Upon arrival, both places were closed, as it was probably around 1am by now, but I was able to place a call to my parents back home at a payphone. They answered with a swift, “Hello?” after just a single ring. They were worried that I hadn’t called them by now, and felt that something had gone wrong. After my intentionally brief explanation that my car had broken down and that I was stranded, they told me that they were on their way. “Drive safe mom, love you.” I murmured before hanging up the phone. It was so hard to withhold my full experience from my mom, but I decided not to tell her. Not out of fear that she would think I was crazy; I really didn’t care what anybody believed, but because I didn’t want her to make a dangerous rush on the way over. The last thing I needed was for her to be so worried that she drove recklessly and got in an accident. I made it this far to reach my rescue, and I wasn’t going to let anything impede on me getting home safely this time.

For an hour and a half, I sat completely still at the bench next to the payphone. I wasn’t bothered. I wasn’t freezing. I wasn’t exhausted. And I wasn’t scared. My mother pulled the car over nearby, and my father retreated from the vehicle and ran up to me. “What the hell are you doing sit right out in the snow? You’re gonna…” he exclaimed, my strong embrace interrupted his more than appropriate statement. I must have held him for too long, and too hard, because normally, he would have pulled away within a few seconds. But he didn’t. My mom exited the car, and I shared a passionate hug with her as well. Wiping my tears, I motioned them into the vehicle, and we pulled away from the rest stop.

The car ride home must have been incredibly difficult for my parents. The scenes that I painted, and the horror that I described was probably unlike anything they had ever heard before. I told them first about the car, then I told them about my walk to the shack, and finally, I told them about my experience with the witch-like creature. They must have thought I was crazy until I showed them the horrible mess that my head was. My mom nearly slammed on the brakes, and exclaimed that we needed to get to a hospital. I pleaded with her to keep going, I wanted to get far away from this place before we stopped and did anything. To my mom’s credit, she listened; we drove for an hour before I was comfortable with looking for a hospital.

At the hospital, they explained the dire situation I was in. I was suffering from blood loss, hypothermia, and frostbite on the skin where the monster had attacked me. And now I’d like to retract a statement that I previously had made, I actually did care what the doctors believed, so I decided not to tell them my story about the creature that had attacked me. These people actually had the power to institutionalize if they thought I was insane, so I told them that I had gotten attacked by a mountain lion. Somehow, I convinced my parents to give the same story if the doctors asked.

Upon awaking after hours of treatment, a nurse informed me that a fragmented nail of the, “mountain lion” that had attacked me had been removed during reconstructive surgery. My jaw dropped. The possibility that I could have some real life proof of whatever that thing was, was staggering.

“Can I keep it, please?” I shouted.

The nurse gave a puzzled look and said, “I’ll check with the doctor, but I can’t see why not.”

Minutes later, she returned with the foreign material in a clear canister, and handed it to me.

“You sure that’s from a mountain lion? I have seen a few mountain lion nails in my days, but none of them ever looked like that.” said the nurse.

“No, I guess I must have been wrong, it was so dark out there, you know.” I replied.

“Whatever that thing was, you’re lucky to be alive.” she said.

“That’s one thing I can say for sure…” I said under my breath.

Back at home a few days later, the pain was subsiding, and I had a lot of questions that needed to be answered. I didn’t really know where to start, though. Even in a big city I’d imagine it’s quite difficult to find good information on this kind of thing. Not having much to go on, I set out for Susan’s house. Susan was the town nutcase, at least, that’s what her reputation was. My mother always told me and my friends to stay away from her when we were kids. I never thought that all these years later, she would be the person I needed to see the most.

I arrived at her front porch, and hesitated to knock. The last time I knocked on an unfamiliar door it ended with a monster tearing away at my scalp. However, I recalled that if I didn’t get in contact with this woman, I might never find out more about what I had encountered, or if I was in future danger. Like I said, my lack of knowledge on the vile creature left me unsure of its true ability. If I was ever going to have a chance at peace of mind, then I needed to talk with Susan.

I quivered, and proceeded to knock on the door. Knock! Knock! Knock! A few moments passed, and then I heard the sound of the door unlocking. An old woman creaked the door open some, and peered out through the opening.

“Yeah?” said the old woman.

“Um, are you Susan?” I replied.

“Yeah, why? Who are you?” responded Susan.

“Susan, you don’t know me, but I’ve been living in Baker a long time, and recently I had a very strange experience that I think you might want to hear.”

She didn’t say anything back. Fearing that she would shut me out, I pleaded with her.

“Susan please, I hate to waste your time, but I have some questions to ask, I’m afraid for my life. You are the only person I could come to.”
With that the old woman shut her door and walked away. I was not about to give up though. I extended my arm, ready to knock on the door again. Just as I lifted my arm, I could hear footsteps again growing closer to the door. This time, Susan unlatched the door and welcomed me in. As soon as I entered her home, she made a command to stop with a motion of her hand, and I heeded her direction. From a nearby shelf, she produced a thin incense stick, and a small bottle that appeared to be some kind of potion. She handed me the container.

“Do not sip. It is bitter.” said Susan as she motioned me to drink.

I halfway thought she was kidding, but I was so desperate for answers that I didn’t mind the humiliation, I took the shot of liquid in my hand and swallowed it. The taste made me cringe. Susan then proceeded to take her stick of incense and blow in wisps at my head, heart, and each of my hands and shoulders.

“This is for my protection, not yours.” she explained.

I gave a nod in respect, and allowed her to continue on with various ritualistic gestures. When she had completed, she invited me to sit at the couch across from her.

“Tell me, what have you experienced?” asked Susan.

“On a trip to Billings, my car broke down and I was stranded in the woods a few nights ago.” I explained, “In an effort to find aid, I stumbled upon a peculiar shack that had ritualistic items like bloodstained scrolls, pendants, and a candlelit shrine. Upon realizing that I was in danger, I tried to leave, but a woman with long arms and sharp nails attacked me. I was able to escape, but I fear that this is not over. I am afraid she will come back and haunt me, or even worse.”

“How long ago was the attack?” Susan replied

“About three days ago.” I answered

“So you have been experiencing hallucinations, and other paranormal phenomena then?”

“No, I haven’t, but the fear that I am not out of danger keeps me awake at night.”

“Young man, you had an encounter with the Amwisak.”

“What is that?”

“The Amwisak are a group of dark summoners. They were once members of the Native American Chippewa tribe here in Montana, long ago. When a great snowstorm fell upon this region over 200 years ago, many children and infants within the tribe did not make it. Angered and desperate, a small group of tribeswomen prayed to the dark gods to revive the young ones who were lost. Their results were potent, and the children were miraculously revived. When the rest of the Chippewa tribe discovered the truth about how they were saved, they killed the children, and cast out the band of dark women. Now isolated from their former tribe, the women honed their craft and expanded their mystical capabilities. They used their powers to transform themselves into fearsome creatures that haunt, curse, and even kill. You have experienced firsthand how wicked they can be. Young one, though it may appear that my knowledge is omnipotent, do not be fooled, for I am puzzled.”

“You are?” I questioned. “Why?”

“People who are attacked by the Amwisak rarely live to tell about it, and above that, those who survive suffer curses and haunting dreams for the rest of their lives. But you tell me that you do not encounter the same hardships. How can this be?”

I racked my mind for reasons why I wasn’t having such challenges. I almost wanted to give myself the credit, as it was my determination and strength that helped to ward off the foe, and get back to safety. I quickly checked my ego, and rejected this idea. I couldn’t possibly be stronger than a group of women who transformed themselves seemingly through magic.

“Tell me.” she continued, “Did you take something from the beast. A sacred necklace? A scroll?”

“Certainly not!” I replied hysterically. “As soon as I understood the danger of the place I was in, I tried to leave.”

But then I remembered that I had taken something from the creature. Even if not purposefully, I had in my possession one of its own talons.

“Wait…” I muttered as I reached into my coat pocket.

My hand touched the clear plastic container that encapsulated the monster’s nail given to me by the nurse at the hospital. I retrieved it from my pocket.

“What is it?” Susan inquired with wonder.

“They found this in my scalp during the surgery,” I said, “I think that this is its nail.”

She looked surprised. I began to open the container when suddenly Susan stumped my action with a quick swat of her hand.

“Stop!” she exclaimed. “You mustn’t handle it. There’s no telling what mysterious powers this fragment can hold. One thing that is clear though, is that you must keep this piece safe with you forever. This claw is what saved you from her. Without it, she is incomplete, and therefore powerless.”

Suddenly it was all coming to me, Susan was right, this nail is what saved me from her. It helped me to find the strength to deal a shocking blow to the creature. It helped me to run the long distance to the rest stop with incredible quickness and endurance. It aided in calming me on my wait at the payphone, when normally I should have been consumed by fear and pain. And it saved me from being cursed or haunted for the rest of my life like the others. All of this I explained to Susan.

“It’s apparent that even after being severed from its keeper,” said Susan. “This object still possesses supernatural powers. Although I cannot prohibit you from experimenting with its energy- for you have righteously earned it, allow me to provide you with some sage advice: Beware things in which we do not fully understand.”

I left Susan’s house with a new sense of power, and peace of mind. All of my questions were not answered though. What was the shelf life of the witch’s nail that I possessed? Would it fade away in a matter of weeks? Or would it last forever so long as I did not touch it, and use its powers as my own? Although I understood little about its mystical qualities, I felt a sense of confidence that I was going to be okay. The Amwisak were scattered all over Montana, that’s a fact that I now had to live with, but I was convinced that as long as I kept this fragment in my possession at all times, the Amwisak could not harm me.

While my experience at the shack in the middle of nowhere undoubtedly changed me, it did not leave me crippled, haunted, or living with intense paranoia for the rest of my days. It helped me to experience a sensation that I’ve never had before: absolute power, endurance, and will. In the moment, I experienced relative numbness, but looking back, I feel proud at what I had accomplished. Having conquered this most extreme of trials, I was ready to continue on with my plans to head to Billings to create a new life for myself, now unafraid of what challenges I might face.

Credit To – Frankie Navarro

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The Devil’s Perfume

January 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Growing up in the south, in a pretty religious family, folklore is always around. Being Mexican to boot, these stories were always a constant reminder to be a good child. My grandfather believed in this, wholeheartedly. He loved telling us that if we didn’t behave El Cucuy was coming to get us.

El Cucuy was the boogie man. Just like La Llorona was a woman who wept to lure children to the river to drown them as she had done to her own children. How were these age appropriate stories? My grandfather insisted that he saw La Lechusa – a witch turned into a large white owl – roaming in the backyard once.

I started to keep track of when he mentioned one of these names. If my cousins and I were too loud, El Cucuy was coming. If we ran around outside, Le Lechusa would take us away.

In my grandfather’s last few years of life, he never spoke of any of these ghastly creatures anymore. Albeit, we were older and less noisy around him. We would laugh as we’d recall him yelling at us, all the while my grandfather remained silent. Before his health started to decline, he would speak in hushed whispers about things… things that scared him.

What I remember most during his last year was that he was always afraid of the dark. He spent his nights pacing the house. He would call relatives at 3 – 4 am to see what they were doing. Like clockwork, he called my parents house.

3 am phone call. 4 am phone call.

One morning in the summer he didn’t call. He didn’t call because he said he smelled something. The story he told my grandma is one that is hard to believe…

He was walking the house, making his rounds. A slight shuffle in his house slippers over the tiled floor. Ssst ssst ssst ssst. He never really picked up his feet. Ssst ssst ssst ssst. He was moving from the kitchen dining area to the front living room. Sometimes when the street light is on, you can see the street from one side of his yard to the other. Cars lining the streets in front of houses where people were sleeping. All but one person.. or so he thought.
He heard something he wasn’t sure of. Was it talking or mumbling? Maybe it was humming? No one should be awake at this hour. My grandfather shuffled to the front door. That’s when he saw… Her.

A woman, dressed in dark clothing, walking down the middle of the street.

Ever curious, my grandfather opened the door. He stood behind the screen door in silence as the wind picked up and he smelled it.

In an instant, he smelled something foul. A wall of sulfur. And just like that, it was gone, leaving only a lingering smell of roses. He didn’t say anything, didn’t move. Then She turned to him.

An old woman, small in stature, with no real facial features he could recall. A darkness covering her face although she was within the beam of the street light. She was wearing a black veil, lacey, framing her oval shaped face. She looked right at him as she tried to get near. Her feet shuffling toward the edge of his driveway.

Ssst ssst ssst ssst.

Immobile with fear, my grandfather stood at the door, the smell of roses growing stronger as She approached. Her face beginning to compose features. Eyes, dark and set deep under her brow. Small mute mouth. Sunken cheeks that seemed to tug her face even more into an oval shape. Too elongated to be real.

As She approached the driveway, She stopped. The humming was back. Was she talking? Was she singing to him? My grandfather watched as She tried to step onto his property. She struggled. Something was preventing her from walking up the driveway.

Seemingly forced to remain on the street, She stopped humming. Her face was that black hole. The eyes… were they glowing? Was the jaw that far stretched down into a snarled howl shape?

The sulfur smell was back. She, this creature, was unable to cross over onto my grandfathers property. And with a screech, She moved back into the middle of the street

Ssst ssst ssst ssst.

This creature began its humming down the street, seeming to vanish in the darkness that went beyond where the light street could reach.

This went on, every early morning, for several weeks.

My grandfather never told a soul the first few nights. Who would believe him that he saw the Devil in the street at 3 am? The sulfur rose smell lingering in his nostrils so much that he began to overly use his nasal spray. He used these menthol inhalers, one every month. After his visitor’s appearance, he was using one a week until he was placed into ICU on his deathbed.

That holiday season, my aunt saw a woman, walking the streets at night when she went to the kitchen for water. She heard a song that she didn’t understand, with the smell of roses. When she approached the door, the woman stood at the driveway and sulfur stained the air. My aunt was too afraid to get any closer to the door and went back to her bedroom.

February of 2009, my grandfather laid with monitors hooked up to him. Delirious from pain medications and his body deteriorating, he began to say he could smell the Devil’s perfume. He was adamant of that rosy sulfur smell in the air. That She went roaming the streets, singing to people to take; sings to them to walk out of their homes. He said the creature would come out of the walls at the foot of his bed in ICU to visit.

This was the first time my aunt heard of someone else speaking of the woman walking the streets, smelling the roses and sulfur. This was the first time something this far-fetched was ever uttered aloud within the family. Everything was always some folklore story. But this? This happened to two different family members.

March of 2009, my grandfather passed away. I had to fly in thinking I wasn’t able to say goodbye, but he held on for me. When I heard the stories of this Devil in disguise, I shrugged it off with a smirk.

‘Oh right, like that *really* happened? Pfft!’

‘No, it’s for real, I saw it…’ My aunt loved to exaggerate but the look in her eyes made me skeptical.

That night, I dreamt of the story, as if I was there. I could smell the roses, the sulfur. I saw this small, frail woman walking the street under the street light. When she turned to me in my dream, her face was a black void.

At my grandfather’s funeral, the priest spoke of life and how in death we’re reunited with our loved ones and are at peace. I couldn’t shake that feeling of my dream. At the cemetery, by a crooked mesquite tree off in the distance, there was a woman. Small in stature, skinny….

Where were her feet?

Was she looking at me…. How? I couldn’t see her face…. It was broad daylight and I couldn’t see her face.

I smelled roses.

The wind whipped up and it was warm… and briefly, I smelled it. I smelled the sulfur. There was nothing around but empty fields. Where was this sulfur smell coming from?

I looked around and then back at the tree, but she was gone as was the smell.

Every now and then I hear a sound, like shuffling feet… ssst ssst ssst ssst…. and I smell roses…. ssst ssst ssst ssst…. if I close my eyes, I can see that small figure in black…. ssst ssst ssst ssst…. I open my eyes before She looks at me… ssst ssst ssst ssst….

Is that the Devil’s perfume I smell….?

Credit To – My grandpa, Senor Gonzales

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Green Room

January 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The air’s as cool as a fridge. The black, starless sky establishes a sense of isolation, which will only increase when I arrive at my destination. As I drive along a paved road, the streetlights become fewer in number. I turn down an unpaved backroad as a shortcut, with my patience already growing thin of this excursion.

The backroad continues for a good ten minutes, though it feels twice as long with my car jerking from a terrible, swerving road. By the end of the path, the headlights shine on a grimy, overgrown stone wall. This is where I stop, grasping my backpack and flashlight. I remove a cold, faded-silver revolver from the glove compartment. I check its wheel; six shots, still awaiting their use. As always, it goes in the right pocket.

There’s a brief walk around the wall before I reach the entrance to the structure. Along the way, the stone barrier is seen to be overgrown, claimed by the forest that surrounds it. Fallen leaves line the base of the structure, and continue to pile as I march along the fall night. When I turn a corner, I find myself at a clearing.

I walk away from the building to get a better view. I find a large, open lot, which now begins to sprout a series of bushes and patches of grass. When I find myself spaced away, I turn back to the structure, with my eyesight more adjusted to the darkness. A gray, symmetrical stone building stands before me, at least three floors high. I twitch with unease as I notice only two sets of windows line the front wall, which are both on the second floor. The walls appear to extend back for a good distance, half a football field, maybe. Its structure, material, and color suggest an older construction, but not one that’s ancient. I’m no architectural or historical expert, but a late 1800s age seems like a reasonable guess.

After taking in the sight, I approach the entrance: an arching, splintered, wooden door. It appears to have once been barred by a metal brace, but it’s been smashed to the ground. Above the doorframe is a few words, carved into stone. I shine the light on the text which reads “Winslow Theater and Performance Hall”. I can’t think of any other forsaken, abandoned building in the area, but I check my directions to make sure I’m not about to waste my time and sanity.

I open my phone, and view the bosses instructions:

“Winslow Theater, south of the old post office on south street. Pull down on Berrywood Lane, and just keep going until you reach a dirt road. Pull down that, as it’s quicker, and out of sight. After a bit longer, you’ll reach the place. Once there, head past the auditorium, and downstairs backstage. You’ll know where to go from there. If not, just follow the scent. If you can’t come back with a supply, then don’t bother coming back. If we catch you collecting, and not coming back to us, we’ll find you. We keep a count on the supply constantly.

Best of luck.

-G”

I place the phone back in my pocket and my eyes are overwhelmed by the returning dark in front of me. I blink for a minute, then enter through the wooden doors.

The box office is in the front lobby, its windows smashed, and its booth collecting nothing but dust. As I shine my light across the floor, I see it smeared with a collection of grass, leaves and darkened, brown mold color. The walls inside were once painted white, but are now stripped to a stone gray, just as the outside. I examine the room’s features for a brief minute before entering the main room.

When entering the auditorium, the room causes me to question my own perception. The space is far larger than I expected, with my light only shining a short distance before dimming away. Seats stretch as far as my flashlight can reach, all lined straight together, with their wood torn and scratched to disarray. I shine my light left and right, in which it reaches a wall on both sides. The darkness only stretches forward, with the space for an endless audience. There’s a single, clear lane for walking, bridging a gap for my walk. I’m reluctant, but I press on, knowing my desperation for this job.

As I walk the open lane, the empty seats stare back. Every chair is a set of eyes, ones that cut through the dark and witness my exposed state. My left hand keeps a firm grip on the flashlight, shining forward. My right hand remains against my right pocket, feeling the cold handle of my only defense. After passing at least thirty rows of seats, the light picks up the first view of the stage.

The stage, for the size of the room, is rather small. The arching floor of wood gives a feeling of confinement, a static prison in front of an invisible crowd. I traverse a small set of stairs offstage left, and walk towards the torn red curtain. A curious part of me wishes to turn, and see the stretch of darkness that I’ve traversed. The sane part of me, however, doesn’t want to witness the stare of black that lies behind. I delve through the curtains.

Backstage appears to be very simple: an empty, wooden-floored room, with doors on the left and right walls. Both doors lead to a stairway leading down, but I choose the right door, as it’s slightly closer to where I stand. Every step saved is cherished.

The downstairs halls are narrow, and are littered with tight corners. My breaths grow deeper, and cold sweat dampens the shirt beneath my jacket. Doors start to appear across the halls, but none appear to be the spot I’m looking for. I start to wonder if I’m just walking in circles, as I’ve turned in each direction at least twice. My left hand shakes as it holds the flashlight, and my right hand strains as it grips the revolver. The six shots are my best friends.

I turn a corner and a strong, piercing odor claims my sense of smell. The scent is chemical, with hints of tobacco, sulfur, and a surrounding aroma of smoke. There’s a windowed door at the end of the hall, and the smells grow as I approach. Despite me being close, my paranoia reaches overdrive. My ears sense occasional whispers. Patches of cold flash about my skin, while my heart beats to the point of pain.

“Shit,” I think to myself. They recommend that I wear a respirator when I enter the storage room, but in the midst of directions I have to remember, I forgot to get one for the trip. My walk into the room would have to be quick, for the sake of my lungs. The unnatural air in the storage room is preferable to the haunting halls, though.

I enter through the windowed door, and my senses are stunned for a split moment. I’m stopped in my step from the intense barrage of substances. The air feels much more cool and dense, to where it resembled the touch of fog. The door is rather heavy, in which it shuts behind me as I step into the center of the small room. The wooden walls are painted green, with a series of benches and chairs against them. There’s a chalkboard to my left as I turn from the door, one that’s covered in a think layer of dust.

Scattered about the room, on benches, chairs, and the floor, are white crates. None are labelled, and all are shut without any lock or seal. Many of them have their own scents, but the mixed odor of the entire room is too much for me to sense details. I take a deep breath for preparation, but an ache shoots off in my chest from the action. I rush to work.

The crates contain some of what I expected, but also materials that I’ve never witnessed before. First, I find the typical bags of cocaine, sheets and bottles of pills, and series of full-grown marijuana plants. As I continue to sift through, however, I come across substances that puzzle me; strange, almost alien-like plants, racks of needles filled with green fluid, vials of vibrantly colored liquids, and a few crates containing a black gel inside glass cubes. If my curiosity wasn’t outweighed by my fear, I could explore the containers for hours. I feel bad for whoever has the job of testing all this shit.

After loading my backpack with some medicine bottles, plant leaves, and a few needles, I turn back to the door. I’m left stunned with a sight: though the window, a light is on in the hallway.

I’m sure that electricity is impossible for this ruined, neglected theater. Yet, the light floods from the window, exposing the green walls of the room. I’m clutching the gun even tighter. I dart around for another escape, but the door I came through is the only exit.

As the light begins to fade, I move towards the door, with my gun drawn forward. I’m slowed by the sounds of footsteps above the room, stomping about in, what I guess is, the theater. S.W.A.T teams, I think to myself. I’m fucked, for sure. My only idea is to go through the halls, and find an exit about the other doors. If they lead nowhere, at least they can serve as a hiding place.

When the light is gone from the window, I press though the door. I’m prepared to fire when I see a figure stand, but I’m left still as my eyes fixate on it. A pale, dark-haired, frail woman appears at the end of the hall. Her naked self reveals an array of smooth, milk colored skin. She turns to me when my light shines, revealing a cold, expressionless face. I’m first shocked, but as she drifts closer to me, I find myself grow calm, entranced. She stares at me with glowing pearl eyes, ones that caress my consciousness. She stands no more than a few feet from me. I lower my gun.

“Hello,” she says, almost whispering. The voice is soft, yet it echoes throughout the hall, filling the space with an unfamiliar life. Rather than respond, I stand awe struck, staring. The woman, disregarding my silence, outstretches a hand to me.

“Will you perform with me?” she asks.

I’m still left speechless, but her voice causes me to act without reason, overwhelmed with curiosity. I place the gun in my pocket, and connect my hand with hers. A chill pulses through my arm at the touch, but not one that unsettles me. The sense feels more gentle and welcoming than fear. She leads me throughout the halls, looking forward. She begins to pick up her pace, in which I follow. She almost starts to run, until we encounter a stairway, one that’s lit from the room above. I shut my flashlight off, and the woman releases my hand. She turns back to me, smiles, and makes her way up the stairs. I follow, and my caution starts to rise. At the top of the stairs, with the light turning her figure into a silhouette, the woman speaks down to me.

“Break a leg,” she says before entering the room.

I hear many voices as she leaves. Shouting, cheering, and applause sound down the stairway. I start clutching the gun again. After scaling the stairs, I realize I’ve backtracked; I’m back at the stage.

The stage is illuminated by a series of unknown lights, spanning from the ceiling. On the stage now lies a wooden pole, lined with colorful ribbons and flowers. Two masked men wearing black clothing stand near the woman, who’s now center stage.

Being as quiet as I can, I move closer towards the open curtain, and peer out into the seats. I’m close to fainting when I see there’s an audience. A full audience. Every chair is occupied by formal dressed, wealthy-looking individuals. They stand, applauding as the woman poses on stage. It’s difficult for me to make out faces, but their ages span from as young as early twenties, to as much as seventy. All of their faces however, are as white as the woman’s, and they possess the same striking, pearl eyes. As far as I can tell, I’m unnoticed.

The crowd sits as the woman steps back to the pole. She lowers her arms down, standing straight against the wood. The two masked men approach her, and tie her arms against the pole. The woman remains smiling. I’m left both confused and concerned when one of the men leaves and returns with a jar, before pouring a clear liquid across the woman’s body. The crowd remains shushed.

At last, the other man returns with a torch. I’m about to gasp, but I hold a hand to my mouth to keep hidden. The woman pays no mind to the flame, audience, or myself. She keeps her eyes closed, sporting a smile as the flame touches her stomach. She ignites in a mere second. As the fire spreads about, darkening and stripping her bare skin, she screams. The crowd begins to follow with cheers, turning to a stand ovation. I don’t want to move, but one of the masked men looks to me. He stares, in which I start for my escape.

I move around the curtain, feeling a warmth as I pass the burning flames. I leap off the stage, sprinting down the lanes of seats. I forget about my gun, flashlight, and the woman altogether. The crowd continues to cheer to insanity as I dash by, not giving a cent of mind to my escape. The woman’s screams continue to sound away until I reach the auditorium doors. Her voice is gone as soon as I grasp the door handle.

The woman’s and crowd’s silence is relieving. I’m bent on leaving the cursed place, but I’m confident in my experience being a spontaneous hallucination. I suspect that being exposed to the substances and chemicals could do almost anything. Who knows what kind of a trip could be forced? I turn for one last glance at the theater, suspecting my illusions to end.

Everyone in the audience, both old and young, is staring at me. The stage has gone dark, and at least a hundred sets of eyes are fixated on my petrified form. Their faces hold no life, no reaction, no care.

In a single moment, I find the senses to burst through the doors, and through the theater entrance as well. I stumble numerous times, as I’ve lost my flashlight, but I manage to make my way out to the open lot, where I first began. I wander about the open space as my eyes adjust to the darkness, and my mind adjusts to a safe reality.

As I catch my breath I’m reluctant to go back towards the stone walls, to my car. I stick as far away from the building as possible as I move.

I check the back seat, of course. I toss my bag to the passengers seat, start the engine, and pull out with a swerve. I lost my gun in my sprint, but unlike my skin and sanity, that’s replaceable.

I drive fast, but not to where it’s hazardous. The sight of paved roads ease my shaking a bit, but I’m left partially blind with the sharp memories scarred upon me. I focus on the relief of home, growing closer with every mile. I almost swerve off the road when a vibration hits my leg. I slam the breaks, bringing the car to an abrupt and dangerous halt. My phone’s going off, in which I take a much needed sigh of relief.

“H-Hello?” I say with short breath.

“Alec,” a deep, serious voice says, “Are you safe?”

I keep quiet for a few seconds, questioning the exact definition of “safe”.

“Yeah.”, I reply. “I think so.”

“Alright then. Get back to the warehouse ASAP. How much did you grab?”

“Enough to fill my backpack, which is an average size.”

“That will do, for your first. Leave it in there. Don’t even bother touching the bag until you get back. We’ll take it into our hands once it arrives. Depending on what you grabbed, there’s shit in there that will twist your mind to pieces. Try not to be too curious, or you’ll end up like one of our last initiates.”

I want to at least attempt to lighten the situation, so I curtail to my curiosity.

“What happened to him?”, I ask.

A long pause takes over the line, before the voice responds.

“He went back.”

The line goes dead. I focus on the road, and begin to drive. As the road becomes less rural with every mile, I glance at the backpack, eager to rid myself of the madness inside.

Credit To – Emeryy (Richard S.)

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