Night of the lotus eaters
Of course I had no idea what was on the piece of paper only that it seemed to spur Ericcson into a fit of furious action. He drove in almost a trance like state, gripping the wheel so hard I could hear the plastic and leather creaking. I was perturbed to try and wake him from it. I caught a glimpse of the paper and it appeared to be some kind of flyer advertising an event of some sort. I hadn’t the faintest idea what possessed him to kill those men at the gas station. And even less of an idea why a piece of paper they were carrying would cause him to act like this. It made no sense at all, well it made as much sense as it would in a dream. I didn’t want to think about that, I didn’t want to put into any conceptual process to discern whom was the dreamer and whom was the dream.
My reeling thoughts were rudely interrupted by the screeching of the well worn brakes of my mother’s long suffering Crysler. The bag I was in lurched forward and fell into the passenger side foot well.
From there I couldn’t see anything, just hear him getting out of the driver’s side and slamming the door shut behind him. Then more muffled fumblings until he opened the passenger side door and retrieved the bag I was in.
From my low angle it was too dark to make out the shape of the building he was taking me towards. There were no streetlights at all, just the sickly moon hanging half cast in the sky. There were no stars to speak of and the building seemingly had no lights or discernable activity going on outside.
But as Ericcson got closer it started to look familiar and I saw the patches of the burnt sickly pink stucco and I knew he’d taken us back. Back to the accursed place where I had died and he had fallen into this madness.
The pink bird mental institute.
Or what was left of it at least.
The building was a burnt out carcass of it’s former self, funny, I couldn’t recall a fire but it’s charred remains defied my recollection. It all happened so fast.
But why, why had he come back to this wicked place?
Then we both heard it, music, a low bass beat looped over and over.
Investigating the noise lead us around the side of the building. There was a door which seemed blackened from fire.
We approached it cautiously and as we did, the music increased in volume.
Ericcson pushed the door and it swung inward and we were assaulted by the loud bassy music blaring at us from below. Through the door was a darkened concrete stairwell leading down we assumed to the basement or some sublevel I hadn’t been privy to during the tour.
We descended the stairs following the loud ungodly music.
The basement level was fairly unremarkable service level. It housed mainly industrial size washers and driers, which seemed old and in disrepair. But they were not the source of the noise, that was deeper.
We followed a trail of shadeless hanging bulbs swaying in the complete darkness of the basement. They moved with what seemed like sentience, like the lights of an angler fish luring its prey into the crushing depths.
The darkness conjuring up such shapes in my head that would make what I had seen up to now seem like a harmless daydream. The shadows pulsed with the throbbing music, the lights swaying faster as we passed under them. At the end of this semi-dark hallway was a single green door.
There was no doubt that it was the source of the heart pounding music.
Ericcson opened the door but a crack, the music spilling out and assaulting my eardrums. With no hands to cover my ears I had no choice but to allow the din to dull and kill any sense I had until the noise became a ceaseless drone.
Although the music and the damage done to their ear drums didn’t seem to bother the shivering throngs of sallow cow eyed people dancing to it.
By my count there were at least a hundred strangely dressed people, young and old dancing in what seemed to be a large generator room. The lights strobing back and forth in time with the hypnotic drumming of the music.
Ericcson evidently saw something as he began to push his way through the crowd in the direction of the back wall. There was something, a fluttering of wings, black feathers floating to the ground. Coal black eyes looking at me from the far end of the room and then they were gone again.
I looked back at Ericcson and he was being lead through the room like a child by a woman, I could only see the back of her head. Her hair plaited down her back, she was wearing a black backless gown, her skin was pale and freckled. Looking her up and down I could see in her other hand she held a crow mask.
Ericcson was saying something to her but I couldn’t make it out over the music.
She turned and I could immediately see it was Jane, impossible, how could she have survived? But it was her, her glasses gone and her green eyes and red lips. She said something to Ericcson but I couldn’t read her lips. She smiled and turned away to lead him into the centre of the room.
He followed dutifully and I couldn’t fathom why until the crowd parted and I saw a little boy in his pyjamas standing alone in the crowd. He wasn’t crying, his face was placid and expressionless like he was sleep walking. He looked exactly like he did in my hallucination, like he’d been plucked right from it.
Ericcson dropped the duffel bag I was in and picked up his child, that’s when I noticed the strange symbol on the floor. It looked almost like a malformed five pointed star in a circle. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before except maybe through the gaps in my fingers. Or in feverish nightmares at the time I spent at that auspicious university in arkham.
I looked back at Jane, she was smiling and she held up her hand and showed him the ring. For a moment it was a parody postcard of a perfect family. She held his hand and then walked out of the circle leaving his hand to fall by his side. I watched her go, her smile turning it into a grotesque mask, a grin that seemed waxen, then she slipped the crow mask on.
I could feel Ericcson fear in an instant, I turned to look back and the boy was gone as if Ericcson had swallowed him whole. But Ericcson was just as shocked, his face ridden with the terror and sadness of someone waking from a beautiful dream only to be alone once again.
He started to cough uncontrollably, doubled over in agony spewing black bile from his mouth and black viscous tears pouring from his face.
The viscous masses he was extricating writhed and became solid on the ground. They began to spread out into the crowd with a viscious animal intelligence but no one could hear them over the music. And no one could see them in the dim darkness of the generator room.
They didn’t stand a chance.
Within horrifying moments the vile amorphous creatures slaughtered mercilessly. Each guest was eviscerated and consumed in a terrifying flurry of primordial carnage. The music only just drowning out their animal shrieks and cries. Their bones crunching and their flesh tearing, their faces twisted in muted inhuman terror.
When it was done I could barely stomach to watch as the black mass crawled back inside Ericcson. The music stopped and the room fell into a gory silence.
Then the sound of loud clapping.
Jane stood alone now in front of us.
She took her mask off.
“Of course, you knew it was me.” She then lifted a broken Owl mask and smiled “It’s a bit of an anti-climax but you already killed the Owl and you didn’t even know, it was Jorge the orderly. He died with the doctor and that poor intern.” She sighed. “What a mess.”
“You surprised us, you weren’t the first one we tried so we didn’t expect it to work and so fast and so – violently.”
“It’s –“ She swallowed “Beautiful”.
Ericcson heaved breathe in and out seething like a caged bull, all human intellegience seemingly tortured out of him. He said nothing.
"I think the difference was love, truly, I do. You loved her but knew you couldn’t keep her. Killing her was the only way. For a moment, I think you loved me.”
“Will you kill me?” She asked softly.
“Yes” He said.
“Tell me-“ He said.
“Why?” She said pausing study his face. “What you are?”
“You are a vessel for the power of the great old ones, through you they see this world and can touch it with a fraction of their madness.”
“We sought to be closer to them, to be more than human in their world. You are a collector for them, a living doorway. Everyone you kill; feeds them and when they consume enough human life they will tear their terrible way out of your soul and make this world theirs.”
“What happens now?” He asked calmly.
She dropped her dress to the ground, naked as the day she was born.
“You will take me to their world and if you come with me you might find your son and even your wife. For that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
She drew closer and stretched a lithe pale arm towards him, the gold wedding band glinting in the darkness. She offered her hand to him and for some reason it felt like she was sticking it in a lions cage.
He reached out to her and took her hand, she came closer.
She began to cry out in pain and ecstasy as the tendrils came out of his sleeve and hooked into her arm. The flesh of her arm shredded to the bones and then more small tendrils with hooked barbed bones latched onto her face. They stretched it like a grotesque mask ripping chunks off and there was more, more horrid barbed tendrils than I’d ever seen before.
Her body was torn asunder, all the tiny pieces carried and devoured by the hungry tendril and pulled into Ericcson who didn’t say a word.
The wedding band dropped to the floor and he bent to pick it up.
And when he stood again we weren’t in the basement anymore.
He stood on a low flat plain with huge mountains looming over and the skies thick with grey clouds. As the lightning struck the outline of a giant bat winged behemoth was outlined and I knew we were no longer on this earth.
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