by Keir Baden
I awoke, as I do every night, to the deep howling thunder, as if a colossal beast was experiencing its final death throws beneath the foundations of my home, a terrible lament cutting through the humid night air. Its harsh baritone rumbled my bones until they ached and I could scarcely move for fear of crying out in pain and catching the attention of whatever malevolent entity was filling my nights with such crushing ululations. After that came the familiar feeling of a longing, a need to convene with the beast. I felt my body begin to rise. Each night I climb out of my bed, drawn not by any rational thought, but rather in a state of mental paralysis. My destination unknown, I shuffle through cold night streets, my body no longer my own, but a host to some unseen quantity. My nocturnal excursions were only halted by the slow rising of the early morning sun, its slow ascent into the sky mirroring perfectly the slow reclamation of my motor functions. I know not where the sound is taking me, nor its purpose. What I do know is that, as autumn closes in on summer, the nights grow longer. There may come a time when the comforting first light of dawn arrives too late to save me from whatever grizzly outcome awaits me at my strange destination. In my desperation, I began to lock myself in at night, fearful of what might await me should I ever complete my forsaken perambulation through the city streets. Such efforts were in vain, I soon discovered, since whatever it was that had seized control of my body also gained access to my thoughts, my memories. I’d taken the key used to lock my bedroom door and hidden it in an old jewellery box beneath my bed, o. Only to have the entity, immediately after taking control of my body, reach down and retrieve it. I’d bound my feet in the hope that would slow my progress, but once my limbs were relinquished over to the beast, I simply leant down and untied them. For a time, I considered taking drastic action, breaking the bones in my legs, mutilating them beyond use. I quickly dismissed the idea, the image of me crawling through the streets, dragging my broken limbs behind me all too real in my mind, the malevolent creature not caring for the unspeakable pain such a scenario would impart upon my already fractured psyche. It was on one of my slow early morning walks home from the quiet street in which I regained use of my limbs that I felt a soft crunch beneath my foot. By this time I’d begun wearing shoes and clothes to bed in order to protect myself from the various elements competing to make my lethargic trek through the dark streets even more unbearable. I glanced down; beneath my shoe, the brown desiccated remains of a fallen leaf. Autumn had arrived.
With each passing day the distance I travelled increased. The warming embrace of dawn, which was my only salvation, slips further from my reach. It is now that I come to my final night, the hard concrete of the city behind me, my feet on the spongy fibre of uncut grass, before me a derelict building. It had been so demolished by nature and time, that it could have once been anything―a home, a business, a church. It was into this ruin that the entity took me. From inside the building an orange glow spilled out that danced along the crumbling walls. I crossed the threshold through an archway that perhaps once housed ornate double doors, used by parishioners of some long lost supernatural doctrine. Now they housed nothing, just me and the cold night air passing through them. From behind the remains of a ruined pillar I saw a fire reaching up, licking at the night sky. In its silhouette, I could make out the shapes of others like me, drawn here for some mysterious purpose. Towering above the fire stood a huge black monolith, its form faded and flickered in moonlight, transparent one second, then solid the next, as if it was only half there. On its facade was carved the most hideous mural, depicting the burning and beheading of men, women and children by huge humanoid creatures. Their features could only be described as demonic; their mouths filled with too many teeth and stretched unnaturally wide across their smooth skull like heads, their eyes small ingots of obsidian that gleamed in the firelight, their bodies like that of an upright dog, their arms long and thin. Their bulbous stomachs hung heavy over their truncated lower halves. Their hands spread out from their meagre wrists and had the appearance of some giant spider, having not five fingers, but eight.
It was there that I stood for some time, taking in the unbelievable sight, my mind reeling from such horror as was before me, when to my left a shadow began to move across the grass. It was a woman, one of my counterparts, drawn here by this mysterious obelisk. I watched in horror as she marched along with the same unthinking determination that I had come to know so well. As she came near the fire, her pace was unabated, and I watched as she descended into the flames. She made no movements, but on her face was an expression of pure anguish. As the fire enveloped her, I was overcome with a profound sense of dread at what might happen next. One by one they began their sluggish mechanical journeys into the open fire, until it was my turn. I felt my legs begin to move beneath me, an unspeakable panic exploding in my head. Struggle as I might, I could do nothing. I felt the suffocating heat of the fire pit on my face, the violent agony charging through my nerves as my body began to enter the blazing inferno. I looked up and saw before me the grinning faces of the demons that had called me to this forgotten place, watched their glee at the suffering they imparted on others and, in that moment, I was grateful that the raging fire would take me away from such horrors.