I’ve been into cosmic horror recently and decided to take a swing at a short piece (around 1ooo words). We’ve got an unnamed horror from the depths, a general air of hopelessness, and a dismal ending. Perfect for a light read 🙂 Enjoy.
It’s midnight and the neighbors’ dog is barking. He usually only barks when I’m in my backyard, a bipedal shape vaguely similar to his masters but categorized by the pup’s sense of loyalty and protectiveness as a threat. Good dog. He probably saw a deer strolling through the yards or maybe smelled one of the neighborhood foxes out hunting mice. Or maybe one of the dark figures, but I don’t know if dogs can see or smell them.
The only light comes from the TV, showing three sportscasters seated at a big chrome desk overlooking an empty football field. Empty of players, I mean. The sportscasters’ faces alternate between serious tight-eyed expressions and big warm smiles as they shift easily from discussing injuries that happened during the game to joking about each other’s career highlights as former players. That’s what I assume, anyway, since that’s what they always talk about. I put the game on mute an hour ago when I saw on my phone people tweeting about massive seismic activity detected between New Zealand and Chile. It got worse and worse, but stopped fifteen minutes ago. So did the tweets, and replies to the tweets. My interest in reading them is gone, too, like someone blew out that candle in my head. In everyone’s heads. The only sound is the dog barking.
And the voice. I mean, it’s not a voice, because a voice would be audible. I hear it, but not with my ears. More like with memory. Not a memory I have, something my mind cataloged from an experience, but a truth, nonetheless. Something else’s truth, whispering, wrapped around everything I know like a clenched fist suffocating a goldfish. Cosmic gas-lighting so precise, so perfect, it’s unquestionable.
If I could question it, I’d probably ask the hunched shape standing in the corner of the living room, shrouded in darkness. Not darkness like night, or down in a basement, or under bed covers. Darkness like when you’re in five feet of ocean and you spot a blurred shape below the surface, circling. That hazy, opaque darkness our brains assume hides rows of razor-sharp teeth and evil intent. A visceral mystery that might just be seaweed, probably is just seaweed, but oh hell no, our soft skin and easily torn flesh know better.
If the sportscasters could question, they’d do the same to the shapes around them. And on the field. And scattered through the stands.
But we can’t question a truth that’s so, well, true. The truth that what rises from the bottom of the Pacific after a billion-year hibernation, that will reach the surface and open air in minutes, that’s worshippers have been with us since our most ancient ancestors clawed themselves out of earth’s primordial soup, understands us—but does not care at all. We are nothing but materials, as evidenced by the sportscasters, still talking about touchdowns and field goals, now laying across their giant stupid desk with a dark figure over each.
A green-slimed three-clawed paw, half-lizard and half-octopus if it were comparable to anything a biologist has ever seen and remained sane enough to describe, slides through each swirling shadow into the light. Blazers and shirts tear away, revealing easily pierceable stomach meat hiding skeletons and organs, and the sportscasters keep talking because everything is fine. This duality is normal and okay, good even, for what have humans ever done that a universal intelligence would call great? We’re a failed experiment run while nobody watched, like curious children who mix and bake a cake when the grownups are out. The cake invariably turns out to be shit, but those toddlers think the world of it and themselves because they don’t know any better.
Now we know, from the voice in our memories. It’s a calm, silent madness, which, if you’d asked me sixty minutes ago, I would have told you madness should never be. But here we are, nothing we knew to be right actually right.
A claw slides in below a sternum and “Next week, they’ll take on a Chicago team that’s won four straight,” is all he says. Another claw pierces a belly button to “True, and their defense is playing lights out.” I know (and so do they) they’ll be more in a few moments. The less state of walking, breathing, screwing is over. Never really existed because it never really mattered. This would always come to be, timeless intention with no concept of someday. Maybe that’s why the voice never spoke until now in any way we could perceive. No choice but to accept and wait, no degree of agency that might change the inevitable, would have meant angry madness rather than silent madness. Then we would have been pitiful indeed.
It happens, as anything ever does, and their useless forms, atoms arranged in weakness, held together by gravity and pride, steeped in stubbornness, dissolve like ice cubes dumped into a boiling caldron. All that remains is putrid, cloudy muck for recycling.
The dark figure in the room shuffles toward me, but in the way the sportscasters kept on doing their pointless thing, I thumb the remote at the television, watch it black-out, and head out of the living room. No will to alter the order of things, my mind fast-forwards to my contribution to the reworking, the reordering of this dumb little planet. One blink and I’m upstairs, on the bedroom floor next to Maggie, three hunched figures over us. We’re smiling at each other, like we do when I come to bed late and she’s glad to have me, my warmth, my heartbeat against her back. Duality presses on, and I wonder what kinds of doughnuts they’ll have at the morning meeting, hoping they’ll get crullers, my favorite.
Chill air falls over my bare stomach, Maggie shivers. A lance of agony tears my insides from my groin to my neck, like the frozen finger of God poking a Reset button on my tiny share of reality, and if Brian doesn’t ask for a separate bag for my crullers they’re going to end up with powdered sugar or sweet chocolate drip all over them and I swear to God I’m going to be pissed.
Outside, the dog has stopped barking.