Estimated reading time — 16 minutes
Thomson stepped out of the old police cruiser and on to the still damp side walk. The smell of rain hung in the air, accentuating the already acrid smell that permanently hung over the town. (That’s what we get for being a coastal city), Thomson thought to himself as he lit a cigarette and headed toward a small alley cordoned off by layers of police tape and guarded by a small, fat, man wearing an officers blue uniform and sporting a well-trimmed mustache.
“Greetings Tom, they call you in for the mess in there?” the man stated in a both calm and somehow excitable tone.
“Yea Larry, they said this ones pretty bad. But, I don’t know, nothing can be as bad as my time in Boston. The more assholes you put in one place the more creative they become.” Larry cracked a smile before shrugging and stepping aside to let him into the dark alley. The smell of rotten fish and blood hit him like a sack of hammers. (Jesus we aren’t that close to the docks, are we?) Tom thought as he took a long drag out of his cigarette hoping that the sharp taste would burn out what remained of his dulled senses.
He got to the door that lead down into a sub-basement of the building on his right. It was weird that they even had basements here, given that with the amount of rain they had and the sea level, everything tended to flood. But, he was just an old detective in a small town, what the hell did he know about city planning and construction. He took one last drag out of his cigarette before tossing it into a nearby puddle and crushing it with his foot. The act made him momentarily confront his reflection.
He looked gaunt, with bags under his eyes and silver hair forming a rat’s nest on the top his head. His suit was ill fitting, and the trench coat he was wearing showed its age with patches sewn throughout. He looked like a corpse of man and his eyes didn’t help with any illusion to the contrary. They seemed lightless, devoid of hope, with no purpose beyond getting through the day and curling up with a bottle of gin. He snapped himself away from grim likeness with a swipe of his foot. There’s a reason his bathroom mirror had been torn off the wall.
As he descended into the underbelly of the building the stench became overpowering, intermingling with other smells such as feces, urine, and sage incense. Tom’s nose crinkled at the smells but he continued to move forward into the next room. The inky darkness being held at bay, just barely, by the flood lights that occupied the next room. He noticed as he was walking through that the light bulb that hung lamely from the ceiling had burst and left shards of glass scattered throughout the living area. Weird, he thought as continued on toward the light.
As he walked into the room the light burnt his eyes before adjusting. The room itself was nothing special, and in many cases was rather Spartan given its decoration and furnishing. A simple bed with stained white sheets lay in the upper right hand corner and a small dresser housing bottles of perfume and shaving supplies lay within the lower right hand section.
However, the innate lure in the room lay with an ornately beautiful mirror that demanded attention and reverence. Its frame was carved from pure and dark coral, depicting scenes of underwater animals swimming next to what looked like mermaids and mermen but distinctly wrong and misshapen. The eyes of the creatures looked bulbous and their figures chewed at the mind the more you tried to look at there shape. Other creatures were depicted as well, with one large and misshapen mass of coral at the top seeming the most random, but, also the most deliberate. One single ruby found within the center of the mass seemed to serves as the point of convergence, giving the whole piece a sense of focused malice coupled with utter disinterest. Yet, this entirely ignores the mirror itself which reflected each person that stood before it with both crystal clear clarity and a mocking dissonance of their actual form. As if you looked into maelstrom that reflected who you were while ruining your illusion of self entirely. Right underneath the mirror lay a stool with a small and distorted figurine of Buddha, its small stomach carved out and its eyes painted to look as if they were oozing some black liquid.
“You ok, Tom?” said a deep voice, shattering the glamor that the mirror held on him. Tom turned to look at the police chief and the Forensic investigator, who now stood at his side. Or had they been in here and he had failed to notice? He shook his head and addressed his superiors.
“Police Chief Gooding, Officer Brady, good to see you both.” Tom said in a calm purposeful tone. “So, why did I get called out of bed for this? I’m not seeing much in here.” He said, allowing his eyes to roam around the room and forcing them to avoid looking at the mirror as best he could.
“Take a look in the bathroom, if you’re looking for an explanation. Honestly, I have never seen anything like it in all my time with forensics.” Said Officer Brady in his distinctly monotonous tone.
Tom raised an eye brow and began to walk toward the bathroom that opened toward the side of the mirror. As he entered, he noticed that the room was coated in a thin layer of coagulated blood, which stuck to every surface. The tub was held the remnants of two bodies, or what Tom assumed were two bodies. A layer of what seemed to be liquefied flesh filled up half the tub. Layers of meaty tissue floated about in the viscous solution with the heads of fish and the still rotting skin of one of the bodies being present in small chunks. These probably were the leftovers from the human skin that hung over the tub, a female given the sacks of empty flesh that hung from what looked to be its chest. The secondary body was that of a naked old and haggard man. He held a scaling knife in his right hand that he clutched too even in death. His stomach seemed to have been shredded off with that same knife. Taking off layer by layer haphazardly until the act managed to release his intestines from his their organic tomb and into the vat of fluid that he sat in. His eyes, or what was left of them, oozed a thick black substance that easily resembled tar. Yet, by and far, the most peculiar aspect was the six flaps of skin that were on his neck. They looked as if they had simply been a part of the old man since the day he was born, and they lead into his throat which seemed to accommodate them with relative ease. Tom, called out to Officer Brady.
“Brady, when will you have an autopsy of this guy?”
“Within the next 24 hours, Ill also be able to tell you who the other victim is within 48.” Brady called back.
Tom nodded to himself and started to move out before stopping when he looked at the hanging skin. There were mites on it, small, and without adequate light almost indistinguishable from shadows on the flesh. But, they seemed to be layered in some sort of pattern as they moved into the skin. Or was that in his head? (I need to get out of here), Tom thought as he walked out of the bathroom.
“I’ll take the case. But, I need to head back to the station and start filing the paper work for what we’ve got here. Do we know who they are?” Tom said.
“Mostly, the man is Patrick Josephson a local fisherman and diver in his later 70’s. The women, were assuming is his wife Stacey but we cannot confirm till we find either the rest of the body or get reliable DNA evidence.” Said Police Chief Gooding, with his incredibly baritone voice.
Tom nodded, “I’ll see you all later.” He said before heading out the door and into the outside air. Even with its incredible stench it felt incredible to be out of that place. In their, it felt like the world was closing up on him and threatened to take a piece out of him in the process. Tom took out a cigarette and lit it, taking a long drag and moving toward his car.
The headaches were getting worse by the day, but then again there’s no rest for the weary. Tom took some ibuprofen and washed it down with some whiskey he had cloistered away at his desk. This case was going to be the death of him, or at least it felt that way. He began to flip through the autopsy report for the fifth time. It had come back with disturbing details that he had not expected, but nothing that helped him to understand what the hell had happened.
The most profound thing was the fact that the older man’s legs had been split into 4 distinct limbs that were then stapled and sewn to make them seem as if they were naturally separate. They mutilation gave him the appearance of having 4 thin and spindly legs. The odd thing being that the initial action of splitting the bone was perfectly symmetrical and smooth despite the difficulty such a feat would have with fully trained medical staff and proper equipment. Moreover, the mutilation of the subject’s legs had been done days before he died with some stress fractures throughout different portions of the bone suggesting that he had actually been standing on them with some degree of success. Additionally, portions of uterine and ovarian tissue had been found within his stomach. Being absorbed directly into his body instead of digesting. The black liquid from his eyes turned out to be a very odd and thick form of placental fluid that thickened in the sockets of his eyes and caused his eyes to pop from their sockets as well as to internally rupture from pressure. The coroner also found a small pin of a bird, a mockingbird they believe, imbedded within man’s genitals that seemed to be in the process of falling off due to decay. Odd given the fact that the man had, by many accounts, only been missing for a few days. The skin found hanging over the tub also proved odd.
The mites that Tom had originally believed he saw did not turn up upon further inspection. But, there was the outline of where some creatures had been eating into the flesh and forming a pattern of scribbles, which at a glance looked like some sort of writing. Sadly, Language experts have been sent some photos of the skin had reached no conclusion on the language or even its point of origin. It all looks like a bunch of scribbles to him. But, he only had the blessing of South Boston’s public school system to assist him in deducing the meaning found within it. The DNA evidence on the skin also came back as entirely negative for any person that they had in the data base. Hell, it didn’t even look like it was human, but now he was just him mouthing back what the coroner had told him in his official testimony. They did find the old man’s wife though. She was the soup that he had been sitting in…
Tom closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. This was a shit show and he knew it. He had retired in this town to get away from all the little glimmers of human cruelty that he had faced back in Boston. Yet, here he was facing one of the most gruesome cases that he had ever seen in his 36 years as a detective. He took a sip of his whiskey and savored the burning sensation as it slid down his throat and set fire to his belly. At least this felt real. He kept feeling disillusioned with himself as he kept working on the case and even more so with the evidence. Maybe it was his way of distancing himself from the work. Maybe, he was finally going insane after years of working against human filth by standing ankle deep in it. Stare into the abyss, and all that.
He sighed and looked at the little figurine on his desk. It was a ballerina made of porcelain. It had belonged to his daughter and it served as his only real reminder of her. She had died during child birth and neither she nor the baby had survived the ordeal. The dead beat dad refused to even be there for her throughout the ordeal and she ended up alone at the end of it all. (More whiskey), he thought as he drained his glass and got up to visit the evidence locker.
He walked down the calm and cool hallways of the police station, it was late at night and the normal hustle and bustle that normally accompanied the area was thankfully absent. He let himself into the evidence locker and looked around for the bin correlated with his case. It wasn’t hard to spot given that the mirror was standing right next to it, stunning as it was, with its malformed beauty. He looked at himself for a second seeing that his eyes had sunken in from lack of sleep and that he was getting even paler from his constant seclusion within his office. (I look like a damn zombie), he thought to himself as he picked up the box and began to shuffle through its contents.
There was the small Buddha he had seen on the shrine. Further inspection had shown that the small portion of the statue where the legs should be was split in half. In addition, there were also little cuts into the neck of the little figure that appeared to mimic what he saw in the man. (Maybe he planned his mutilation? But what happened to his neck?) Tom thought, as he put the figure back and continued looking into the box.
He brought out the pin that had been found logged in the man’s genitals. It was corroded to some degree but the distinct shape of the animal was still represented. It was made of bronze, tarnished and dark, but also startlingly well-made given the distinctness of the markings that were still visible after its time in the organic soup that had been found in the tub.
Then there was the last piece of distinct evidence concerning the scene of the crime. A dream catcher, found behind the bathroom mirror; made almost entirely of fish bones and sinew. It was an incredibly odd and fragile thing seeming to inspire an aura of calm despite its obvious grotesque appearance. In fact, Tom had on more than one occasion almost brought it home with him despite both legal and ethical concerns that come along with such an action. He had been sleeping terribly recently, with dreams of drowning and migraines assailing him constantly. It became a terrifying experience to attempt to sleep. Especially in his own home, due to the sound of the ocean constantly chewing at him and urging his dreams to attain new heights of torment. He swears that sometimes he can hear something speaking to him on the breeze. Their voice turning his veins to ice. Tom shakes his head and focuses his attention to the contents of the box. There’s a new file here.
(The intern must have not got the memo that all evidence that has been collected should be sent to me). Tom fumed as he picked up the file and opened it. Apparently the blood work from the substance coating the room came back negative as human or even mammalian, the closest thing on record was a type of angler fish. Odd, but probably a simple mix up… (Even though there shouldn’t be any deep sea fish this close to the shore or this far north), he thought to himself. Additionally, another set of HD images of the skin had been printed out and sent to him. Even with more detail on every inch the bloody thing, he was no closer to understanding it. He sighed letting his hand drop and looking into the mirror.
It was dark in this room which didn’t help with the ominous effects of what the mirror constantly represented. He looked like a black figured swirling in a void. He felt his lungs clench as he remembered his nightmares and the feeling of being drowned and torn within the cold blackness. Then, he saw it, the picture looked as if it was moving and changing to become something familiar in the vortex of dark. He moved his hand so that he could see it more clearly and then the words started to become clear, like looking at something through glass until you finally can clean the window.
((Protector of woe))
((Shaper of minds and reemergence of Zavack))
((Hold I True blooded to thee))
((I carve the failures of flesh))
((I speak upon the true zee))
((I rememver ol flesh))
((I become new to thee))
Tom looked at the words and started to say them out loud. His tongue twisted and contorted to form them, they felt inhuman. Butchering them and speaking, despite the pain that forcing the words from his gullet caused him. His head began to throb the pain grown, torturing him and reveling in his sorrow. He tried to scream, but his mouth continued whispering the words. He felt darkness closing in around him and he began to fall into the cold shadows. Life went black and a red light bathed him with feelings malice and utter contempt, (Azarak) he thought.
Tom woke up, his head was throbbing intensely. (What the hell was that?) He looked around the room and gauged his surroundings. This was his office, the light that was trickling in from the windows told him it was morning. Had he passed out after the whiskey? Maybe that was it. He got up and walked toward the door to grab a cup of coffee and a quick smoke. Larry stopped him at the door.
“Hey Tom, how’s the case going?” Larry asked with a toothy smile.
“It’s going. Gotta get some coffee before I go to the evidence room to keep looking over what we’ve got on the case.” Tom said, trying his best to remain civil despite the incredible aching pain that he felt just behind his eyes. The pain almost made him fail to realize the confused look that Larry had on his face. “What?” Tom said.
“Tom, there was a fire in the evidence room two weeks ago. An electrical problem of some sort. All the evidence we had on the case that was in there was entirely destroyed. They couldn’t even find the remains of the big honking mirror in there.” Larry said, with a confused stare. “Don’t you remember? You called it in to the fire department. Probably saved the whole station from burning down.”
Tom stared at him. There had been no evidence for two weeks? But he had been in there yesterday… He went over to the calendar on his desk and two weeks had been marked as gone by. (What the hell happened?) He thought, before looking up at a still very confused Larry. “Yea, sorry Larry. I’ve just been having difficulty sleeping at night. Been throwing me off my game with this here case. Need to grab a cup of coffee to see what I can do with what we’ve got.”
Larry nodded, “let me grab you a cup of Joe. Two sugars, right?”
“Yea, thanks” Tom nodded.
As Larry left the room Tom tried to wrap his head around what happened. He sat heavily in his office chair and started to look at the information scattered about his desk. There was the normal case files that he would expect as well as files with detailed instructions on how to perform surgical sutures. Did he need this for the case? He wasn’t sure. In fact he didn’t feel sure of most anything at the moment. He looked up at the little figurine on his desk and stopped.
The normally beautiful ballerina had changed. Her leg, which was normally stretched out, showing her pirouette. The leg was now broken and forcibly sealed to her side other. Portions of the porcelain shaved away so the legs looked as if they conjoined into one functioning limb. Her eyes had small tears of black liquid streaming down her face, like the mascara of broken hearted teen. Her hands were little claws and the sight of her filled him with a compulsive and volatile urge to emulate her appearance. Tom stared at her before snapping back to reality. He took the small figure in his hands with the compulsion to be as she was becoming overpowering and placed her in his bag as he started to walk out and through the sea of bodies. Towards home. He needed to rest and think. Alone.
He was alone here, and she kept talking to him through the sounds of the sea. ((Come on daddy we need to go see him in the sea, mommy said he can make you pretty like me)). She sounded just like her and she smelt just like her, only the liquor in his hand had kept him from doing everything she said to. He couldn’t stop everything though.
Tom looked down at his covered lap and started to sob drunkenly about what he had done to himself. There was a small blanket over his lap and his wife’s old wheel chair allowed him some level of mobility, even though he could move if he wanted too. Or hop as the case may be. The muscle, the skin, everything had fused together making him look like he had been born one massive conjoined leg. The only identifier that this was not the case was the fact that he had massive pink scars held together with stitches and staples. He had taken off most of the skin on his fingers and ground his bone into sharp little talons that would cut him in his sleep. His eyes always hurt and he often cried some bloody black stuff, as he cried right now. His genitals seemed to have discolored and ached, being accompanied by the smell of rotten acrid flesh.
((Dad, the lady will come tonight she is going to give you more and make you stronger. Soon we get to be free and you can be with ME)). The statute was speaking to him again. She sounded like his daughter. Distorted through water and on the winds of the sea.
The news that the lady was coming to see him was not perturbing, nor new. She was the one that came to him every night. She was only muscle and twitching sinew. With large bulbous eyes and chattering whale like teeth. She was beautiful and terrifying, reminding him of the red eye that constantly watched from the seas. (Azarak), he thought to himself. Drooling as he attempted to drink a little bit more with his useless hands.
The lady fed him something from herself each time. Each feeding made the pressure behind his eyes hurt a little bit more and causes his stomach to turn a little bit. She laid next to him and coddled him each night she fed him. Pointing him toward the red eye. As a mother, as a lover? Both? His mind was pulling itself apart and he simply listened to the voice of the sea.
It was soon time for her to come and wheeled himself into his room and managed to pull himself into his bed. To wait. (Maybe she’ll finally take me?)
Tonight is the night, Tom can feel it, the pressure, the pain, the release that is soon about to engulf him. He looks at the little figure of a ballerina. She is so small now, emaciated with her stomach torn open and what should be ribs sticking out. She was beautiful with bulging eyes and well-formed slits on her neck that he could feel his body emulating her now perfect visage. The lady came, her body dripping from the zee’s sweat embrace. He could smell her, taste her, and she picked him up to bring him with her. As they approached water the pressure finally won out and forced his old and now blind eyes from their sockets allowing him to see with new eyes and purpose. He was laid in the water and felt an object press into his hand, a scaling knife. Eagerly, Tom slowly took off layers of skin of and allowed the lady to eat the flesh as he worked. It was sheer ecstasy as his internal organs finally released and the lady ate deeply of his bodies old mortal failings. As she ate her old skin seemed to come back until finally she was fully cloaked in it once more. She looked at him silently before taking the knife and carving her new found skin from her body. ((Wear this
Azarak and I shall carry you into the depths to our lord in red)).
Thomson thought he would cry tears of joy as the he wrapped himself in the still dripping flesh and felt its venomous presence burn into his old skin and seal to him. The small slits that seemed to choke his neck took full form and he gasped for air realizing, before that its presence was now alien to him. She submerged him in the water and he felt how beautifully cool it was.
A deep and menacing voice forced itself upon his mind ((AZARAK COME TO ME)). Tom followed the voices demands.
He swam deep into the sea, the lady following at his heels. He continued till he saw the great red eye that awaited him. Red, cruel, and apathetic towards its subjects, other than for what they could do to alleviate millennia of boredom. He continued toward it seeing now that there were so many like him, drawn to the master and his great embrace.
He soon, was before his new found creator. Creator of old Zavack. The bringer of coastal ends. The great eldritch one, Vykus’guijli. It looked at him with the entirety of its attention for only a second. The moment caused incredible pain and also a great deal of fear. A god rarely focuses on any one thing. ((AZARAK, SPEAK OF THE WORLD BEYOND THE ZEE))?
Tom hung his head, (No my god, they fail to fear the dark zee).
The great being did not shift, but opened its many eyes hundreds of red globes filled with contempt. ((WRONG. AZARAK… THINK ON YOUR TITLE…))
A moment of confusion and terror tore through Tom as all the pieces came together. Azarack, a sacrifice. The great being grabbed him with many tenderaled arms and dragged him down. The merfolk gathered and whispered there chanted “Azarak! Azarak! Azarak!”
He felt the water get warmer and then the feeling of millions of little teeth tearing at his skin. The limbs that held him were eating away at his insides. The pain was impeccable and ate at his souls as much as his flesh and bone. But somehow his new skin remained and soon had millions of mites within it, writing the great gods words. It was going dark now, his being absorbed into the dark god’s gullet. The joy of his brethren surrounded him. The last nugget of his sanity finally being taken before… darkness…
The red light from deep within the sea faded and the group of town’s people who watched it before longingly departing from their vigil. The progenitor had been appeased. Larry watched from the dock and clacked his sharpening teeth together. Soon he would walk into the waves and join the great god for the rest of his considerable life. He wondered when the next great mirror would appear. Who would be the fortunate Azarak? To follow in the footsteps of their original progenitor Zavak and truly be seen by Vykus’guijli? Larry did not know and maybe that is how it should be. He simply turned on his heels and walked toward the town, Vyksmouth. What an apt name.