Monthly Archives: July 2013

Octopus’s Garden, Pt. 4

Okay, so I may have lied about the “twice as long” thing. But hey, an update’s still an update!

I wake up in the afternoon to a handful of messages from August. “Dude. Call me. Dude, give me a call. Dude, we’ve got to talk about last night. Call me, man.”

Still half-asleep, I fumble for my phone and call him. “What’s going on, man?” I mumble. “What’s the word?”

“Did you have the dream?”

My eyes snap open and my mind sharpens like I just took a hit from a popper. “Yeah,” I say. “Yeah, I did.”

“I think the shit we’ve been hearing about Ceph is legit, man. I took some more when I got home last night, and I was just sitting in my room listening to the music, and man, I swear to the gods, it was like I could hear voices talking to me. Instructing me. I could feel my mind expanding, you know? I could actually feel it. Dendrites and neurons and axons reaching out to each other and fusing and just growing, man.” He pauses, inhales, exhales. His voice catches in his throat, like he’s just finished a run, and I can see him. I can actually see him as if he were sitting in front of me, eyes unfocused, pupils dilated, tongue running over his lips.

The son of a bitch. I hate him. He had more Ceph, and he kept it all for himself.

“Is that so?” I ask him.

“Yeah, man. I can feel my mind expanding. I can feel the world expanding. The gods speaks to us in our dreams because Father waits dreaming himself.”

I blink at that. It cuts through the anger I’m feeling. “Father?”

“Father. Did the Herald not tell you about Father?”

“Herald?” I mutter. I can see this being in my mind’s eye, an angel ten feet tall with silver skin and six wings and eyes as black as the void of space. Gabriel for the new gods. I shake my head, as if that will clear the image from my mind, but it doesn’t. Those cold, vacant eyes stare at me, judge me. I run my tongue over my lips and speak anyway. “There wasn’t any ‘Herald’ in my dream. No ‘Father.’ Just the woman from the rave. The one with the metal studs. The… the…” The word Sigil comes to me unbidden. I don’t know why; I only know that it is right. “The Sigil.”

It is August’s turn to be silent for a moment. “The Sigil came to you? You saw her?”

“Yeah.”

“And yet you did not hear the voice of Father’s herald. How strange.”

“And yet Father’s sign did not deign to appear to you. How portentous.” My words are not my own. They belong to the gods, and I know instinctively that they will cut August to the core of his being. Sure enough, I hear him make a choked noise on the other end of the line, a suppressed snarl, and I smile. He is weak. He is a fool. The gods would never choose him, no matter what he thinks.

I need more Ceph.

* * *

I spend the day pacing my apartment like a caged animal. When night finally falls, I stalk the city streets. It is early still, and I know that to the people who are still out, I must look like a vagrant, some transient pacing and muttering to himself. A madman, But I am not. I am not. My mind has never been clearer, the path before me never sharper. This world is a garden, as the Sigil revealed to me, and I am a gardener. It is time to pluck the vile weeds that would impede the growth of the chosen few.

Most people don’t shine at all. They are less the unworthy; they are inconsequential. They haven’t seen the world that Ceph reveals to us, and they likely never will. I see a woman walking with her children, a little boy and a little girl, and I think, “Oh, your time will come.” But that time is not this day. I am not interested in mere vermin.

I am hunting blasphemers.

I can sense one before I can see them. A sensation gnaws in my gut, a revulsion in the face of the profane, and though it pains me, I follow it down the filthy and diseased arteries of the city. After much searching, I find them. Two fools, a man and a woman, dressed like they’re going to one of the raves. The man shines ever so faintly, and to think that such an individual has taken Ceph, has been touched by the gods however faintly is detestable.

“Baby, trust me. You’re going to love this. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before, believe me. It’ll change the way you look at the world,” the man says.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”

“I’m serious, baby. It’s like… like our whole lives we’ve been seeing the world wrong. But once you take this, you start to see it right..”

“Where’s it from?”

“I’ve heard it’s from Egypt. This buddy of mine, he says that…”

Their words collapse into nothing more than the buzzing of insects. I follow a little ways behind them, and the woman is so oblivious, the man so wrapped up in himself, that they have no idea. I recognize the area we’re in, though, and I know the club they’re surely heading to. There will be others there like them. Unworthy. Blasphemers. Apostates.

There will be Ceph.

In a single location, I will be able to tend to the garden and to my own appetites.

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No Update – 7/29

Hey guys. There will be no update for 7/29. I’ve been distracted by other projects. Wednesday’s post will be twice as long to make up for it!


Octopus’s Garden, Pt. 3

August and I leave the party I don’t know how much later. It’s dark still, and the warehouse is still full of humans dancing, but time seems like an outdated motion. In the embrace of Ceph, it’s all still the same moment. Time isn’t a straight line, an arrow traveling in a single direction. Time is an open field, and we may travel anywhere within that field we wish, so long as we have wit to do so.

It’s a shame so many people are witless.

It’s a blessing so many people are witless.

It is both and neither. Beside me, August says, “Christ, man. I’m high as fuck,” and this is at once profound and banal, inspired and insipid.

I shake my head, wince, count backwards from ten and get stuck at six. “Yeah. Me too.”

“What now?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”

August scratches at his chin.

“Let’s get some pizza.”

“Oh, man! Good thinking. Some pizza would kill right now.”

We walk to Vespucci’s, and I think I can feel the Ceph starting to wear off. I feel slower, both physically and mentally. Less in tune with my own body. Like a clockwork machine winding down. But it’s not like I’m sinking to some new low. Rather, this is where I’ve always been. This is what my life was always like before Ceph elevated me.

It’s a depressing thought.

I turn to look at August, and the soulfire that shined in him before is dimming. Whether this is because his Ceph or mine is wearing off or for some other reason, I can’t say. This makes me sad, too, though.

We order a slice each and sit in a corner by the door like guardians of some unutterable secret. No one may enter or leave without or knowledge. Even those who pass by without coming inside are visible to us, and they do not escape our judgment. August rubs at his temples. “I feel weird,” he says, and I do too. The food is flavorless in my mouth. I watch people pass by the window of Vespucci’s. Some of them must have come from the rave, because I can see the dim glow of Ceph at the center of their beings. But the light is so dim as to be barely noticeable. Even the waning glow of soulfire in August and me is shining brighter than these cattle.

Cattle. They are cattle, with glassy eyes and vacant expressions. The gods don’t speak to them. They are unworthy.

I stop mid-bite and stare off into nothingness. Where did that come from? One trip and I’m already thinking like the woman with the piercings, thinking about the chosen and the unworthy. I shake my head and set down the slice of pizza. There is nothing to say and nothing to do. August watches as people stumble by the window. He chews his food mechanically, his eyes following their paths like a camera.

* * *

The week drags on. I sleepwalk through my job, through my interactions with others. From time to time, I pass by someone in the streets who glows. Most of them shine faintly, and the passers by are happy and oblivious. But sometimes I see someone whose face bears the mark of ennui that marks my own. They glow brighter, as I do, and I know that we are different.

The weekend comes again. August and I go out again. He scored some Ceph, and for the first time all week, I feel as if my eyes have been open. The rhythm and the gods speak to me and the Ceph is good and I’m still feeling it when the sun rises and I go home to my apartment and I fall asleep. On my bed in my clothes.

The woman with the piercings is in my dreams, naked and beautiful and terrible. We float above the burning ruins of a city, and the smoke rises and encircles her like a halo.

“This world is a garden,” she says. “This world is their garden.” Her eyes shining like an animal’s in the night. She smiles, and her tongue slithers from her mouth and brushes against the pins that jut from her face like bone. “This world is their garden, and we are their gardeners.

“And they are the weeds.”


Octopus’s Garden, Pt. 2

August and I are silent for a moment as we let the weight of the words sink into us. I look over my friend’s shoulder to see who is talking to us, expecting to find some waifish, ambiguously gendered stranger with dilated pupils and kandi and glow sticks. Instead, I find myself staring into the eyes of an archetypal punk. She has tan skin, a shaved head with tattoos on her scalp, and metal piercings distributed so randomly on her face that they must have been arranged in some kind of pattern I couldn’t even begin to guess at. I try to guess at her ethnicity and can’t. My eyes run over her outfit and there were no identifying marks of any kind, not even the logo of a favorite band. There is something timeless and placeless about her. Something unsettling. I frown and shake my head, as if the music and the liquor are things I could simply shake off.

August turns to her and doesn’t even seem to notice her odd appearance. “How much?”

Her eyes dart between the two of us. “You guys ever try it before?”

August shakes his head no. The woman smiles. Her teeth have been filed into points and the tip of her tongue appears from between them for just a moment. I can’t tell, but in the dim lighting, it looks like her tongue has been split up the middle, like a snake’s.

“Then it’s my pleasure to give you guys your first taste. Come with me.”

She hops out of her seat and waves for us, then begins making her way to the other side of the warehouse, weaving effortlessly through the crowd. August is right on her heels, and after a moment’s hesitation, I follow them. We wind up in the most isolated corner we can find. The woman reaches into a jacket pocket and pulls out a bindle for each of us. “Here you go guys. On the house.”

We take them. I turn it over in my hands, slip it into my pocket. “Hey, thanks.”

August just stares at his for a moment then looks at her. “You a dealer?”

She just smiles. “I’m a prophet. The gods speak to us through the Ceph. Well, some of us. There are those who are chosen and those who are unworthy. The chosen are invited to be more like the gods; the unworthy are forgotten. Maybe you’ll be lucky, maybe you won’t. But there’s only one way to find out.” She reaches out and puts her hand on my shoulder, still smiling that serpent’s smile. The tips of her fingers dig into me like knives, but there is no malice in her expression, no sign that she’s actually trying to hurt me. “Open it up, put it on your tongue, and embrace the deep.”

She walks away from us with no further explanation. As she leaves, some random kid comes up to her. There’s breathless excitement in his voice. “Hey, sorry to bug you, but I heard you tell those guys you have Ceph. Do you—”

Without stopping for even a moment, she turns to the boy and hissed at him, her tongue flicking out from between her lips, and then she moves on. The kid just stands there paralyzed for a moment before looking around like he’s embarrassed and disappearing back into the crowd.

“Well, this is what we came for, right?” August says out loud. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

I’m silent for a moment, but only for a moment. Give everything a fair shake, after all. “See you on the other side, man.”

We unwrap the bindles and dump the powder inside onto our tongues. We stand there, silent, waiting. “Shit,” August says. “Is this going to take half an hour to kick in? I didn’t even think about that. How will we–”

He stops mid-sentence, and I’m guessing it’s because I’ve turned into a ball of light the same way he has. There’s a glowing outline in Robert’s shape standing where he used to be, but the world around him is completely unchanged. It’s like I can see the essence of his being. Like facade of the world as we know it has been peeled back and the energy underneath everything, the truth of it, is visible for the first time. I look down at my hands, and the flesh is gone, the bones, the veins, arteries glowing with crystal light effervescence incandescence and I want to cheer iya iya!

“Dude,” August says. “I can see your soul.”

I snap my head up, his voice reaching even to the heights of my elevated consciousness. “Yeah. I can see yours, too.”

“Fuck.”

I look out over the crowd. About half of the people have been replaced by beings of light, and maybe half of those are glowing as brightly as August seems to be. Are those the chosen? Is there such a thing as “chosen” or is this just a drug and they’ve gotten good shit strong shit?

Or is this just a drug and I’m hallucinating and only barely aware of it? Am I on a journey with no paths, a road that leads to the highest heights to the lowest depths to someplace beyond the stars beyond dreams beyond and beyond and through the gates of the silver

“Dude. Dude. The music.”

But it’s not music. Not anymore. What I’d thought was nothing but headache and nausea inducing dissonance is actually a new language a new math a new vision. It’s a sound you can see. A rhythm you can taste. I feel it in my bones, but not just the bass. I feel it like a certainty, like the affirmation of a glorious truth I’d always been dimly aware of but had never been able to give voice to.

“Join us. Dance with us. Be like us,” it says.

So I do.


Octopus’s Garden, Pt. 1

The music is loud, so loud that it’s almost like you can’t hear it. It’s not even noise, just sensation. A beat that you can feel in your teeth and your bones, that rattles your head. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before, and there’s something kind of exciting and different about it, but goddamn if it isn’t giving me one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had in my life. It makes me think of every story about music and sound I’ve ever heard. Infrasound making you sick and resonating with your eyeballs so you see ghosts. Gloomy Sunday driving people to suicide. Pieces of weird distortion and strings composed to stimulate your brain to release endorphins, dopamine, serotonin.

I look over at August, and he’s got this kind of pained look on his face that I imagine must be on mine as well, but he’s putting more effort into trying to dance and look like he’s having a good time than I am. I don’t know why. This place isn’t like any rave we’ve ever been to before. But that’s the point, of course.

We’re here for the Ceph.

Ceph has only been on the scene for a few months now, and it’s impossible to get any solid information on it. Depending on who you ask, it’s made in Russia or China or by the cartels, but no one seems to know for sure. It’s so new that word of it hasn’t even really made the rounds beyond a few message boards. Posts and pictures and words sent out into the void like subtle tendrils and feelers exploring for open minds and wandering hearts. “Have you heard about Ceph? Have you tried it? It’s like nothing else, man. Like nothing else. Ceph party this Friday. Ceph 11th and Harris.”

I make it a point to try new things and to try and give them a fair shake, but this scene is pretty damn unpleasant, all things considered. I push August on the arm to get his attention and mouth at him, “What the fuck are we doing here?”

“Relax,” he mouths back. “Enjoy it.”

“I can’t. This is fucking weird.”

He shrugs. I frown. I push him again and motion for us to move over towards the bar. The music is oppressively loud everywhere in the warehouse, but at least over by the bar we can carry on a semblance of a normal conversation without speakers aimed directly at us.

We sit on the stools and gesture for the bartender to bring us two shots. I don’t think she understood what I wanted her to bring us shots of, but then it doesn’t really matter. August turns to me and glares. “What is it, man? I was dancing with that chick that was rolling!”

I blink in confusion at that. The floor was so crowded you couldn’t help but dance pressed up against somebody else. But no one around August had been paying him the slightest mind. They didn’t even seem like they were losing themselves in the music and the moment. They seemed like they were somewhere else entirely, seeing and hearing things that didn’t exist.

Or at least that I couldn’t perceive.

I shake my head. “Whatever. Whatever that chick was on, it wasn’t molly.” August crosses his arms and pouts. We must look completely ridiculous, I think. Too old for this scene, or obviously cops, or in the middle of a lover’s quarrel. Something. The bartender comes back our drinks. I swipe my card and she leaves. We pound them. “This place blows,” I say once the burn is gone. “Let’s get out of here.”

“I’m having a good time,” August says.

“Are you really? Because I’ve got a massive goddamn headache from this music, and you kind of look like you do, too.”

August just sort of grumbles and looks away, a sure sign that I’m right and he doesn’t want to admit it.

“Look,” I say. “We came here to score some Ceph, and we couldn’t get any. That’s fine. Whatever. There will be other nights. I say we cut our losses and hit up Skye or Flow or something.”

“Come on, man. We’re already here.”

“Danube said she’d be at Skye, and she’s holding.”

August is silent. After a moment of contemplation, he puts his hands down on the bar, and I know he’s just about to push himself up when the person sitting on the other side of him speaks, their voice loud and androgynous and clear, almost like it’s echoing in our heads like the music is.

“I can get you guys some Ceph.”


Monologue

This piece was originally written for submission to a writing contest Horror Novel Reviews (http://horrornovelreviews.com/) was having. It wasn’t selected (a travesty, I know,) so I thought I’d share it here. It’s actually not terribly dissimilar from a piece I wrote as part of my master’s thesis, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, it’s fairly dark and aggressive compared to my usual fair, so enjoy at your own risk if you have a strong imagination/sense of empathy!

The world’s not fair, you know. You wake up every morning and you fight traffic so you can drag yourself to work. You muddle through a day doing things you don’t care about so you can make just enough money to support yourself. You get home and you’re too tired to do anything but wait to do it again tomorrow. And all the while, there are people who don’t have to deal with any of that. They get to float through life never working, caring about only the most superficial and banal stuff. Completely out of touch with reality. They sip champagne, and as people starve and die in the streets, they complain that they have it oh so hard because they had to vacation in Spain instead of France that summer. Life’s not fair, I tell you.

Or maybe you’re one of those people, those champagne sippers. Are you out of touch with reality? Yeah, you must be. You must be.

Anyway. Here you are. Here we are.

I wish I could say that I was a better person, you know? I really do. I wish I didn’t get angry so easily. I wish I could just let things go. But I can’t. That’s just not the way I am. The truth is, I am angry. The truth is, I can’t let things go.

And the truth is, you’re going to suffer because of it.

Close your eyes. I want to try something. This is going to hurt.

Christ, look at that blood! That’s way more than I was expecting. I guess I used too much pressure.

Actually, here. Let’s try this.

Oh. Oh, yes. Look at that. Look at how deep that cut is. Do you see that? The way it’s gushing? We got an artery there. It’s pulsing to your heartbeat.

Let’s get some pressure on that. We don’t want you bleeding out, do we? There’s so much more left to try.

Like this.

Oh, God. That noise. Like a twig snapping. Fuck. And just think, we can do that nine more times!

I’m not going to lie, I’m having a lot of fun with this. There’s something about it that’s just so… just so real. It’s like this is real and everything else is in the world is just so much bullshit. “Oh, my car got a scratch. Oh, my boss didn’t approve my vacation. Oh, my kid got a B-plus instead of an A-minus.” Wah, wah, wah. None of that matters. What really matters are our scars. What really matters are our broken bones. What really matters is the pain.

Here, have some more.

Yes, scream! Scream louder! Scream all you want! Somebody will hear you! Someone has to hear you, right? They’ll come and stop this and save you!

Ehnnnt. Wrong. No one’s hearing shit, sorry. That’s just another cruel fact. We live in a world of noise and static. Insects trapped in a cage, grinding up against each other, buzzing incessantly, chewing on each other. This is just the terrible, crapsack world we live in. Is it any wonder that things like this happen? Is it any wonder that things like this happen to you?

Oh, come on. Don’t look at me like that.

I’m serious. Don’t look at me like that. All you’re doing is making me think, “Wow, look at those beautiful eyes. I haven’t even touched those beautiful eyes yet.”

Hm. Well, what the hell. Why not?

Oh. That didn’t work. That didn’t work at all. Ugh. Disgusting. You know, I had a speech in mind. I was going to talk about the beauty of the flesh and suffering, some real Cenobite stuff, but I’ve got to be honest. After seeing your… what do you call it, vitreous humor? After seeing your vitreous humor running down your cheek, it’s just gross. Like Un Chien Andalou but with more screaming and crying. I almost feel bad.

Almost.

It’s too soon for me to start feeling bad. You’ve got nine more fingers. One more eye. About ten pints of blood. 206 bones, give or take. I’ve even heard that there are about forty-five miles worth of nerves in the human body. Forty-five miles! Can you believe that? No?

Well.

You will.


What Waits in the Void, Pt. 3

So, Monday was my birthday and I forgot to mention that I was taking the day off… Whoopsie doodle.

It started small at first. Insects. Mice. Fish. Things I could purchase from pet stores, from animal supply stores. Frozen meat from the grocer. Anything I could think of to fill the void, I tried. Greedily it accepted my offerings, wet sucking and snapping sounds drifting up from the depths, and for a while it seemed that the situation was improving. I marked the edges of the void with chalk once more, and when I checked them in the morning, they were untouched. On some days, the void actually seemed to retreat. The parts of my foundation that had vanished into the depths returned, and they were barren of things that they had supported before the void claimed them, but they were. I started dreaming again, silly and senseless and innocent things. I even found myself smiling from time to time.

It didn’t last. The void grew quicker and larger than ever before. I stood there staring into it, feeling helpless. For a while, things seemed to have been going better and now they were the worst they’d ever been. All I could do was think, “I have to try harder.”

It helped some. For a while, at least. The void shrank, but it never retreated completely, and my dreams became nightmares where crying children from the neighborhood came up to me and asked me if I’d seen their pets. I watched the void now more than I ever had before, noting every minute change in obsessive, terrified detail. I thought I could save myself through vigilance. I thought I could react to everything, anticipate, overcome it, maintain some kind of stasis.

In my nightmares, the police knocked on my door and demanded to speak to me about the disappearances in the neighborhood, and in twisted dream logic I imagined myself saying to them, “Come inside. Come inside and you’ll see. Stand right here on the edge and peer as deep as you dare. Stand where I have. See the darkness that dogs howl at in the night, that children awake from with tears staining their cheeks. You’ll see.” But no one ever came. I bore my guilt and my despair alone, without even the reprieve of finally being caught and taken away.

Meanwhile the void grew, and the old ways of filling it stopped working. I had taken to talking to it, as if there were anything that waited down there that would speak to me. Not even an echo. “What more do you want from me?” I asked. “I have given you everything.”

But that wasn’t true. Not everything. After all, I was still there to watch and to bear witness to the dissolution of everything I’d ever known. That is all I do now. I just stand and watch, watch the edges of everything so closely I could swear I can see them crumbling away before me. All I can do is stand and think about the little truths I have always known.

Some things just grow bigger the more you feed them. Some holes can never be filled.

So ends “What Waits in the Void!” Be here on Friday for more short fiction and fewer unannounced vacations!


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