This post concludes The Signs. Thank you for reading! Next week will likely be flash fiction, with the week of the fourth bringing something more familiar.
“Wake up, friend.”
There was pressure on my face. Something was lightly slapping me. I mumbled, tried to open my eyes, but my eyelids were like curtains made of lead.
“I said, ‘Wake the fuck up!’”
Pain flared across my face. I fell to the ground, collapsed in a heap. I tried to push myself to my feet and discovered that I could move freely but that my body was slow and unresponsive. I opened my eyes and was blinded. Everything was a bright, blurry mess. I felt like I’d been drugged.
Drugged, I thought. He shot me full of something and then I blacked out.
“It’s good to see you again, friend. It’s been so long since you came to visit, why, I didn’t even know if you remembered where I lived. I pushed myself over so I was facing the sky. It was bright, too bright by far. I was outside, and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see Rob standing over me, grinning.
I blinked, my mind working as slowly as my body. He looked changed. Different, somehow.
He laughed that ghoul’s laugh, like the last gasp of life trying to escape from a dying man. The skin on his face was sagging, his flesh the ashen color of a corpse or a drug addict.
Or maybe one of the grey figures.
My eyes went wide. I tried to crawl away from Rob, to back away, but I could barely move. Rob laughed again. He turned his back on me gestured with his hands at the wastes around him. We were in his backyard, and it was every bit the wreck by daylight it had seemed to be at night. “You know, I knew you would come back. They whispered it in my ear and told me to prepare, but even before then, I knew. You’re entirely too predictable, friend.”
“Who told you?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper. “Who?”
Rob turned and looked at me. He was smiling, but his eyes were hard and cold. “Why, friend, you’ve taken enough of their gifts. Your very being shines out to them like a beacon on the night. Don’t you see them?”
I stared up at Rob from the ground, his figure resolving into a skeleton draped in ill-fitting flesh and loose clothes. And then I saw them.
Two robed figures stood on either side of Rob, their black robes like a hole in the universe itself even in the light of day. They stood a head and a half taller than Rob, and as I watched, one of them extended an arm, the robe long enough to hang over its hand, and set it on Rob’s shoulder. Rob closed his eyes and shivered. A thin line of blood ran out of his nostril and down into his lips.
I pushed myself to unsteady feet, only to be immediately shoved to the ground from behind. Rob laughed once, a single sharp sound, like a gunshot or a bone snapping.
“Where are you going, friend? Surely you didn’t think that they’d come alone, did you?”
I looked over my shoulder, and there was a grey figure behind me. It stood out in sharp focus against the dirty stucco wall of Rob’s house, sharper even than the one that had chased me just the day before.. It seemed to regard me suspiciously from behind its eyeless face. It sniffed at the air. A thin line of spittle dripped from the narrow slit of its mouth.
I crawled forward, away from the creature. It didn’t give chase. “Stop this,” I croaked at Rob. “Stop.”
Rob smiled. “Stop what? The visions? Friend, I would never deprive you of seeing a strange and wonderful new world. Isn’t that what you always wanted? To be part of a new world?” He shook his head. “And besides, eyes that have been opened cannot be shut. And you have torn your own eyes wide, wide open.”
I pushed myself up again, shards of broken glass and bits of gravel digging into my palms. Rob chuckled. “So stubborn! It’s quite impressive, honestly. Given what I injected you with, you’re practically a walking, talking pharmacopoeia.”
I tottered forward, my legs barely supporting me. “Going to stop you. Googe dead. Won’t let you kill anyone else.”
Rob shook his head. “It’s done, friend. There are too many shards of their world in ours. Self-propagating slivers of another reality, and each one consumed helps close the divide between our worlds. The barriers are weakening, friend. How else could I meet with them in my house, set down the slivers, and have them appear in yours?”
Rob smiled, his grin skeletal. “They’re coming, friend. They’re going to lead us to a new and better world, and I’m their prophet. And you? You are my herald.” Rob laughed, his voice climbing higher and higher until he was shrieking, cackling maniacally. I watched as grey figures began to appear as if from nowhere, materializing at the edges of my vision and closing in on us, hissing and chittering like wild animals. “Now, bear witness to my ascension! Go forth and tell the world! Tell them all!”
More grey figures appeared. There must have been a dozen, circling us like wild dogs, perching atop the fence and the roof of the house like carrion birds. They regarded us hungrily, salivating like wild animals. “Rob,” I muttered. The world of the grey figures swirled around me, blinking in and out of existence. One moment I could see them, the next I couldn’t, and every time they appeared, they were drawing closer and closer to us. We were in Rob’s backyard, and then a flat, featureless plain underneath a bruised sky. The robed figures stood motionless, watching us. My head pounded. “Rob!” I cried out. “Rob!”
He ignored me. I closed my eyes, silently willing my body and mind to cooperate. I opened them again, and we were in Rob’s backyard. The grey figures and the robed figures were gone, but Rob didn’t seem to notice or care. He turned and dropped to his knees in supplication to gods only he could see. “Take me! Take me! I’m ready!” Rob looked up to the sky, his arms spread in triumph.
And then he ascended.
Slowly he rose off the ground, his clothes hanging loose on his emaciated frame, his dirty and uncovered feet dangling beneath him, Christ on the cross, Odin on the World Tree, prophet of a strange new world. He spun in the air, laughing and laughing. I watched in disbelief, shaking my head at the impossible transfiguration unfolding before my eyes. “Do you see?” Rob shouted at me, sneering, triumphant. “Signs and wonders, friend! Signs and wonders! Signs and–”
His body lurched in the air. He cried out in surprise, and then again in pain. His head was jerked roughly to one side. I heard his neck give. But he was still alive, screaming. Something was tugging at his arms and his legs, slowly at first, then violently. His clothes were being torn to shreds. Gashes appeared on his body. And then a great ragged chunk of his leg disappeared. He screamed. His hand shattered under some unseen crushing force, and then it too disappeared, blood flowing like water from the wound.
More chunks of his arm disappeared. His left leg was torn free of his body. It floated in the air, tugged back and forth like a toy between two fighting dogs, and then it vanished in a spray of gore. Bit by bit he was torn to pieces, screaming, screaming, tears running down his face like rivers through the landscape of his broken jaw, his nose bent at a right angle to his face, his eye dangling from its socket by the optic nerve, his skull caved in, and somehow through it all, the horror, the betrayal, was plain to see on his face.
In less than a single minute, Rob had ascended to some other plane of existence, borne to the gates of some horrible and alien Heaven in the bellies of unfathomable worms.
* * *
I passed out again and came to hours later. There was nothing I could do at that point but leave.
I know the police will come for me. Even if no one saw what happened in Rob’s backyard, eventually someone will come looking for him. They’ll find the gore, the spots of blood, the pieces of flesh. They’ll investigate, and maybe they’ll find out that I was the last person seen with him before his disappearance. They’ll want to ask me questions about Rob. They’ll even ask me about the Yellows. That’s what Rob planned all along, I think. He knew that I’d be suspicious of him, that I wouldn’t be able to help but involve myself. I made myself into the perfect patsy.
I know that there will be no escape. There is already no escape.
In the days that have passed since Rob’s death, I’ve been obsessively following the local news. There was a story the other night about a teen found dead from overdosing on a dangerous new drug. They found him with his mouth frozen in a rictus of terror, the skin on his face shredded from his own frantic clawing, his eyes nothing but pulp and jelly. They said that this drug is appearing everywhere. High schoolers have it. The poor are using it. The club scene. Everywhere, and it’s spreading. Authorities don’t know where it came from or who’s manufacturing it, but I do.
Self-propagating, Rob said.
I see them all the time now out of the corner of my eyes. Figures skulking in the shadows, faceless visages in windows and doorways, whispers in an inhuman language coming to me on every cold breeze. I was at a bar the other night trying to drinking so I would be able to sleep when I got home, and I looked up from my glass and saw one of those flabby grey things standing behind the bartender. It followed her, aping her every step, teetering on thin legs, reaching for the bottles she reached for, carefully considering the customers she served with its blank, pitiless face. And when she stopped I front of me and poured me another whiskey, it stared at me. She walked away, and it stayed there staring at me, its thin lips pulled back in snarl. From behind the empty, alien void of its mind, it saw me staring at it, and it stared back.
I tell you, they’re everywhere! Their leaders reached out to our Rob somehow, and the damn fool reached back! He didn’t understand. He thought he was making contact with a peaceful, benevolent race, but he didn’t understand! They are vile, loathsome things and they want our world for our own!
Don’t you understand? Don’t you get it? They’re coming for us, and they are getting closer with every passing day! It’s already begun!
Haven’t you seen the signs?