Friday, February 15, 2019

THE EDGE OF THINGS

I was walking when I saw him.

A lone figure on the opposite field.

I stopped because it was unusual for me to see anyone on my walks in the fields outside the village. The figure appeared to stop as well.


It was going dark and a misty evening veil made it hard for me to make out the stranger. He was, I approximated, a quarter of a mile away. The undulating nature of the land meant that both he and myself were stood on the crests of gentle slopes. It was thus that I could see his silhouette vividly but none of his features in the mist.

I began walking again and to my astonishment my dark companion did so too. We both strolled along our tops and over the salients, making it likely that at some point we might meet.

For some reason a growing sense of unease took hold. I did not like the look of this fellow.

But something compelled me to go on. Something muscular, as if a force was emanating from the rising fog. An insatiable desire to carry on down the slope toward the stranger took hold and despite my apprehension I reluctantly placed one foot in front of the other.

My unwelcome traveller did the same and we began an arc of steps across the now dark fields which would inevitably mean we crossed paths.


Toward the foot of the slope I stopped and raising my hand shouted 'Hello!'

It was when the other did the same with an almost inhuman gargle, that I knew we were somehow both actors in some fell and certain chapter for which there was an eerie and inescapable conclusion forming in that mist.

Standing there I felt the first true whisper of discomfort, for when I also raised my arm the distant walker raised his, albeit awkwardly as if stiffly prosthetic from some recent and horrific war. 

Suddenly and without warning, in my mind's eye a blurred vision began to take shape, a mirage of a spiked twitching thing made of thorns, fur and shell emerging from the abyssal sea. 

I was stunned. The hairs on my nape began to rise and I considered turning round that instant and walking back to the safety of my home where my loved ones were waiting for me down the lane at the edge of the fields.

Despite my mounting terror and desperately wishing to turn and flee, the grim composition of this night would not allow it. Whatever the cost, whatever the price, my companion and I would face one another and complete this ghastly tryst.

And so we walked, moving inexorably closer to one another, down the sides of the dell by the wood as the light faded entirely to be replaced by a sickly creeping murk.

We met where the slopes emptied into a shallow vale.

At first the haze prevented me from seeing him at all but I knew that the being stood in front of me. I breathed heavily as did the other, both transfixed at this the meeting point. Slowly my eyes started to adjust to the dark envelope and I began to see his face.

What I saw in that black moment terrified me to the core of my soul. I heard a dreadful scream of fearful anguish fill the fields and realised with abject horror that it was my own.

Before me stood myself. But not myself as I am known to this world but some hideous distortion, a spined deformity of my being belched from the dank pit, reflected in the fog as if a monstrous pane had surfaced between us. 

I was staring through the windows of hell.


My monstrous twin glowered at me with hateful eyes, eyes which fixed me with unearthly envy, gouging my beliefs with spiteful unending malice. 



I was rendered helpless by this devil and as my scream loudened I blinked the tears that had begun to well.

It was then we switched sides. 

To my utter terror I was staring from where the thing had been. With its colossal mouth it was smiling back at me through the mirrored mist, a grin of such defiled morality that it chilled me to the bone and sparked my path toward assured insanity. My mind reeled as my legs started to take me backwards along the phantom's trail as if imps and kobolds clasped my feet.

'Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!'

My endless shriek was to no avail as I watched my usurper walk back along my earlier steps and enter my world, the world of warm souls living under God-lit skies. His fixed, desolate smile plagued my reasoning and I sensed that the demon would go on to corrupt everyone and everything I held dear.

I tried to return to the vale but I was pulled along the gradient toward the lightless crest by abominations unseen.

And as I fell over the edge of reality my mind conjured a tortured hideous truth, the stark revelation that such demons of the pit are forever peering at us though every mirror, mist, raindrop, pool and window. It has been so since the dawn of time, these appalling shadows wishing us harm, forever waiting, staring and stealing our lives. They gawp at our faces through earthly filaments, mimic our movements and invert our destinies into writhing orgies of foul decay, paving the way for our unholy annihilation.


Glimpsing this terrible fate I fell into the pogrom laughing, a mad man, where the hadal fires burst my bulging eyes as the demon shambled and shuffled toward the warm gas-lit glow of my distant home at the edge of the fields.

Monday, January 21, 2019

FIRSTBORN

In an endless desert a vast creature lies exhausted.

Like the cracked effigy of a man it watches the day desiccate.


Its chin raised, the creature suns in Ra’s red epitaph, light like holy gore spraying the pulseless cities around it pinned like Coleoptera.

Distant pyramids stand assaulted in the gorging wastes like sandcastles flattened by colossi. 

It has destroyed the whole of mankind for a God it could not remember nor a curse it could not mouth.

Only countless herds of skeletal children massing in the deepening shade are evidence of once teeming human life. 

Their mothers and fathers are all dead, consumed by this terrible being. The bones of the cannibalized litter the shadows. His empire of orphans is all that remains.

The ageless titan yawns and stretches on the shattered stones. A single ancient dressing loosens from his arm, releasing wide flakes of skin, tissues and tendons; the gobbets catching the strengthening desert wind.


The millions of starving children twitch and crane and reach in the hope of snatching a piece of him. They know they will not see tomorrow without feeding again. Like the loathing in their hearts, their hollow bellies begin to bloat with rot. They begin to crawl toward their captor like a pilgrimage of scorpions.

More tattered strips dislodge from the creature and scurry off like elvers tipped helplessly across a distant childhood floor. 

It sucks its finger and, holding it to the breeze, looks past the ageless fading millennia and, sighing dead air, considers how it had all begun as an ascending tide of tiny mouths start to slowly devour him. He lies still, decreasing. From a lipless hole he whispers a single word and remembers.

“Mother”

It was on the feast of the great deity Osiris one thousand years ago. Scorched siroccos gasped across the sands where he and the other children were playing near the temple.

They were burying wooden djeds in the sugary grains, digging them up again and staring at the vast stone figure of the God of the Dead. It was nearly evening and they were all laughing as the green reeds fluttered near them and sacred ibis walked by.


Their mothers, disciples of the Temple, were singing and washing figs and dates in the Tigris as the consoling sun began to set. It reminded them of their husbands who would be sitting down to eat roasted shellfish poked from the fire, five hundred leagues away, fishing in the Nile delta for eels, crabs and tilapia to salt and jar.

The childrens' wide tent sheets gently wavered in the warm winds as they began to enter them to wait for their mothers with the evening's supper of figs and honey.


It was then that the infants heard the thunder.

It reminded them of unending palm trees being split and they could see the dust rising beyond the wadi.

As the cacophony got louder and closer the hundred children shouted in alarm for their Mothers on the riverbank.


Suddenly a cloud of fennec riders was upon them, the frenzied cavalry of Set.

A driven rut of hoof and spear bent on routing the Temple’s sons; chaotic and remorseless, they trampled the children in their tents like a herd of devils and the screams of divided infants pierced the evening haze like heaven itself being riven apart by gutted angels.

The frenzied followers of Set galloped on unhindered into the mirage with blood-slopped hooves.

A claret of innocence flowed through trampled cottons and offended sands, on into the waters of the Tigris, veining like crushed beetles in a vase of milk.

Only the agonised wails of the running mothers could be heard above the receding army of murderers. They fell to their knees among the dreadful pulp and tore out their hair, shrieking in the hadal darkness of unbearable loss.

Grief-stricken they held their broken sons and daughters in their arms cursing the hateful God to which the enemy were bound and the loams in which they cast his necrosis.

"Osiris" they sighed, " Great King of the Dead and Rebirth, help us your living servants on this your divine feast. Help us avenge this brazen insult made against us by your dark Brother, help us make good the sins of Set’s puppets and dress the crimson tragedy of our now dead born. Help us. Help us Osiris"


Almost immediately a tender rustle began to stir in the river's reeds.

Invisible fingers of desert wind began to swaddle the broken children in gently folding tenting and calicoes. Over and over the rent sheets wrapped their bodies until no more was seen except their saddened eyes fixed on a distant wish that would go unfulfilled like empty dhows listing on the red sea.

The swaddled corpses were taken into their weeping Mothers' arms and caressed one final unbearably precious time. Each young eye was warmly kissed and all made a solemn curse as they buried their children in the Temple’s sand:

"Osiris, Oh Ancient Ruler of Demise and Resurrection, make good your promise and instill our babes with the strong current of the Tigris, the swift rising of the dunes and the towering strength of your edifice, so that they may smite your enemy and defile the agents of Set!”


The washed fruit and honey were also placed with their kin before the desert’s dust was lovingly scattered over them as if it were flour. The shrouded corpses lay still in the sand as the searing tears of their mothers seeped through the grains and irrigated their dreamless eyes.

“We will remember you, our beautiful children. We will remember and meet you again. The day will come when the Tigris floods and you shall rise refreshed for one more year to face your loathsome foes. Oh Great Osiris, make it so, we beseech you. Accept our sacrifice.” 

The grieving women stood and turned away from the hallowed dune walking head down in procession across the flat banks to the faint horizon. Sobbing, one by one they entered the deep waters of the Tigris and were gone, leaving but a stricken plea sealed by their martyred ending.

The child-dead slept like sacred loaves in their Fathers’ embers. Mummified, their canvassed minds remained in that final memory of life playing together by the cooling river as their Mothers sang.

And so, many months passed in the desert. 

Arid zephyrs strafed the cemetery by the reeds and cured the bandaged nursery like hams in sarcophogi. Only their closed eyes stayed bright staring through rent lashes at an unending lid of frosted glass. 


In time a tall figure materialized. 

Green and crowned, he blinked mascaraed eyes. Long verdant arms crossed, he chanted slowly and gently. 

The surface of the Tigris began to ripple, as if its legion smolt coalesced in a single eddy and the river began to swell. It grew and boiled like a cauldron of lost voices while the figure kept the chant. The waters burst, slipped and slid over the drylands and widened quickly across the vast baked plane.

The sleeping dead received their Mothers’ promised tide like dreams deprived of life. 

As their parched ribbons flooded, their husked bodies filled, inflating the white shrouds, bulging the alluvium above. The children writhed, ballooned and suddenly floated upwards. Shocked into animation, they bobbed to the surface like sewn bladders and blinked disbelievingly at the mislaid Ra.

They gazed at each other smiling lipless smiles behind their shrouds.

The Bringer of Floods, Osiris knelt and ladled the Tigris with his painted hand. He poured the water slowly over the veiled head of one of the children, the eldest, the first, who stared up at his green face as divine rain washed the grit from his eyes.

“Firstborn!” 

“Be not afraid, for you are the chosen guardian of my infant throng, the marshal of your Mothers’ fresh spawn” 

Osiris then stood and beckoned to them all.


The small things swam to form a phalanx round the deity’s calves. Osiris held a jeweled needle and pricked his thumb. A bubble of blood welled up, into which he spat and sprinkled a pinch of sand. He stooped. Each child craned to suckle the it’s ichor and receive a healing kiss of breath.

“Sweet Wepwawet, my bandaged wolves. With my gifts to you, for one year hence, avenge your Mothers’ ceaseless grief and ragged end. From caustic barchans, smite my foes with graveled airs and say your names as blood slows in their murderous veins and becomes at once your own”

“Go now First one. Take your pack and execute my brother’s vain acolytes wherever you find them. This is my command”.

At this the children turned and dog-swam like wounded jackals along the mighty rivers of Egypt. 

After eleven long months, Firstborn stopped, stood and they walked inland. 


Shortly they came to a loud camp, where warriors laughed and drank beneath a ring of palms. The enemy. The murderers. The dreadful troop of Set.

The children circled the ring and waited for the sign. They shivered with vengeance as Firstborn mouthed his silent name and all leapt.

The dead things smothered the warriors entirely. They grinned from slits as human skin flayed off in scarlet rags beneath polished armour now crusting on their flaccid limbs. 

Overcome by mummiformed rage, the men’s shocked lungs sagged with desert sands, which spilled from their mouths like bile as they wretched out one final word.

“Set!”

Falling to their knees in rising cones of their own flesh, the warriors gaped disbelievingly as their arteries peeled from their torsos like roots and webbed round the infants sluicing hot blood through their smiling mouths.

The unborn doused gleefully in their foes’ welter.

As Set’s hold drained away the warriors shrank and shriveled, while the filling children grew like tics gorging on oxen in the Palace fields.

Taller, they picked up the cores of their enemies and bit into them like fruit, eating everything.

Firstborn felt his animus swelling.

Flasked with fresh gore he raised his arms into the aerosol. The company responded and each child clearly howled their names to the heavens once more like temple dogs.

With their death’s avenged the children now looked to their leader. 

He sat upon a carcass and slowly began removing his bloodied dressings, the clotting canvas strips falling to the desert floor like torn wings.

The hundred-fold followed.

The pack stood naked, skinless and twisted, new muscle tissues and tendons glistening in the sun.

Yet despite their glorious victory, their magnificent feast, most were incomplete and already rotting as the last month of Osiris’s gift faded quickly away.

There was but one hour left.


Firstborn, however, was near perfect.

Much taller than the rest. He was like a youth; fuller, muscled, even large areas of skin. They looked at him with envy at first and then walked towards him in a line, some dragging ripped tent cloth still clinging to their ankles.

Peering up at him, each child blinked before clambering up their leader’s chest. His red mouth cracked and widened like an opened sack and each of his friends climbed in one by one saying their names before falling inside him completely.

When they had all gone and been digested, Firstborn was as tall as a man. He had skin, sinews, bone and teeth.

He had a heart of sand.

His name was now a hundred-fold and he felt proud, the courage and sorrow of his brethren coursing through him like the mighty river they had played by under the eye of God. 


But his thirst for vengeance remained unsated and an eternal chorus of drowning mothers welled up in his injured mind flooding his dead soul with fresh loathing for mankind.

Dead-alive, he knew he had the strength and span of countless men but an overwhelming storm of loss and grief tortured him. 

He writhed in the sand like a maggot and beneath the great monument of the Sphinx, pounded the foundations with raw fists. He craned his neck and stared at Osiris sat prone like a lion.

“Go on my wounded son. Fetch me everyone!”

Gripped by this cursed command he stood and walked, his soul a jackal-wolf wrapped in cloth.

Bound together by death and tears and a faint dream of childhood friends playing by the reeds, the mummy began its timeless journey to consume the world forever.

He walked across the desert towards the pulsing city on the horizon. The sun bronzed new muscle and skin. More would come.

Each step left a hundred small footprints. A vast shoal of bloodied dressings trailed behind him like chaos.

And thus, he re-entered the world of men, cursed, merciless and unforgiving.

Desolation.

With outstretched arms he whispered his toxic name for all of them to fear:

"Firstborn!"

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

THE DAMNEDEST THING

The full moon was up the sky. 

Like a tag, hole-punched, it said fill your belly boy.

I loped along the edge of the field to a steaming manure pile. 
I sniffed in admiration.


On all fours I made for the point where the tracks formed a crossroads. 
A sign stood there, its pointing fingers seem panicked.

I reached the sign and I stared at the words through wild eyes: 
'Have your fill', 'Stay Here', 'Don't Change'.


A dog approached and whimpered. Its master called him from a distant wood. "Bluuuuue!".

Fortunately I wasn't hungry.

I made my way to the local Space Base and hid in the waiting shuttle. 
It was stuffed with young souls embarking on a new life.

At six am it launched - with me - inside the deep hold.

The millionth Christmas ship since 2030. 

Its destination: 

Mars.


I peered through the port and let the dead dark shrink my body back.
I was tired of changing.
I was hungry again.


Phobos and Deimos came into view as the shuttle screamed towards Mars and its bloated cities.


I changed for the very last time and gently growled.
My full howl could wait.


'Two moons', I gloated, 
'Two full moons!'

*



This short tale was inspired by Creepy and dedicated to my two Creepy-loving brothers.

FACIAL

Tapping into unaccustomed vanity I visited the beauty parlour on the high street.

I sat and dreamt of the town's New Year Ball as the beautician came closer.

It was during a vampire facial when the first atomic bomb struck.

The world held its breath and ...

ignited.


The welding blast stampeded the crowded streets. 

I writhed in my chair like a worm dipped in boiling blood.


I was gorgonised. petrified. vulcanised. vampirised.

My tongue and teeth fell out.


I rose on trunks, lumbered through the bubbling wasteland and  ....  changed.

Cauterised, a screaming larvae, I stooped crusting like cursed slag.


I fell among the singed stumps and slept a lifetime. I hardened and .... 

felt new canines sharpening.



An age passed. The world had turned.

I awoke like a tree-root straining. I stretched my fossils. 

I was unnaturally thirsty. I wormed my way out.

My first victim was drinking vodka one night by the trees.

I drank him whole.


I creaked among the hedges and remembered a vampire facial long ago. 

I had wanted to improve my looks. I was bitten but didn't know it. 

The A-bomb did something else.


Now I wait in the soil by day, the rank earth soothing my smelted eyes. 

My thirst is growing again. I know what I must do. My new resolution.

Mushrooming dreams crackle and ossify like midnight fireworks.

When the last December night descends I shall listen for a stranger smooth of skin, rise swiftly and as my mouth widens whisper ...

Happy New Year.


The End

*



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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

THE REAPER'S JEST

My Father was the court's embalmer and my Mother, the Nobles' mistreated fool.

Born in the year of our Lord 1740, my Mother gave me the name of Narr.

I knew of morbid flesh and dancing jests and naught else.


I also entered the court of the King a fool.

A jesting childe, the age of 9.

I was destined only ever for pickling the dead or tickling the living the Lords 

would guffaw as they patted my red bell'd cap,


My world was the open floor encircling the feast from whence succulent meats

and dainties were flung at my hot curled feet.

It was a golden orb of excess and fattening into which I was the piebald pup, 

tolerated, and yes, sometimes cheered but thank the Lord, not yet drooled upon

 like my Mother, who, dragged to chambers by every Earl, fooled gradually no

more.

But I, Narr the cherub, for now, lived solely for the loud applause of the gorging

 King as I frolicked like a Harlequin round sweating brutes.



But the darkest Lord himself was roused; his pets, disease and pestilence, our

 stark remuneration.

The Black Death bowed.

My Mother, already agonised from the cruelest of servitudes, died syphilitic yet

 the best of fools; my Father torn before his tortured end half-embalmed me in

 hope of defusing Doom's practised advances.

Contorting in formalin I fooled before my court one final time, vowing

 vengeance on my Mother's wigged tormentors, lamenting my Father's fractured

 heart.


I half-died as the Pest invaded, my salted brain aware of every ruin enacted on

 my tender veins and vessels, an impasto of oozing as I slipped into a jester's

 death.


I was hastily buried the third September 1752 on Thor's Day in an unmarked

 grave outside the City in unclean earth. A boulder holds me down as a lid on a

 cold meat stew.

Alas, my day of dying did not exist. The King decreed this the fourteenth day

 instead, in accordance with Pope Gregory, who's new calendar had come in

 England.


And so I lived another eleven days.

I shrank and leathered like a dried frog.

My grave became a cooking cell from where whispered Death to me of raw

 parole and succulence.  Always the fool, I humoured him with jokes and

 doggeral.

On the twelfth night my demise was stayed.

With a mortgage of decay my soul astray,

I was freed for eternity .... 

but only to feed it would seem on the recent dead.

The Reaper's little jest for me, his infant worm.

A ghoul.


I left my hole seized with wrath


and found the sewer to the court.


I first came across the regal hound.

Not recognising its old friend, he snarled as I padded by.


I chanced upon the cherub now humouring the King afresh with odes and

 juggling. 

I had no quarrel with him and spidered the shadows.


I sought high revel and debauchery and found it.


From the Gods I spied the swilling Earls and Barons, the very same who broke my Mother.

I could not wait for wise old age to claim them nor the sable death on their lips.

Fresh slaughter is what I craved
Blood-stopped tissues and shocked muscle.

I sought carnage.

I knew of naught else and chose my quarry, the loudest of them all.

I need not eat. That can wait.

I hid in his red boudoir.


I emerged slowly.


My maw widened


The fat Duke screamed as I reduced him.

My leeched mouth squelched into living flesh over and over ..... but I could not eat it.

His Excellence though will not disgrace the court again.

I choked and prayed for my Parents.

I removed his ring and put it on my own long wet finger.


Avenged for today I became furiously ravenous.

I must have corpses.

I skulked beyond the citadel, a shrivelled troll, snouting loudly in the new graves piled soft like pudding.

Slurping, I smile at my Duke's ring and savour the thought of his own arrival.


Tomorrow I rise from the shadows and revisit the Court once more.

I wish to reacquaint myself with the taste of excellence as soon as possible.


I enjoy my new audience.

I am Narr, corruption's secret clown.

I know of morbid flesh and dancing jests and naught else.