I slid down the wall, hit the ground with a thump that made me cry out in agony. The figure walked over to me, its movements inhuman. Unlike an animal, even. It reminded me of a video I had once seen in a documentary of an octopus walking on land. There was a jerkiness to its steps, a floppiness, as if it were trapped in an environment that it could navigate and yet had never been intended for. It was like a marionette being crudely marched across stage by the pulling of strings I couldn’t see.
It moved surprisingly quickly for how unsteady its movements seemed, and within a moment it was standing over me. By the dim light of the setting sun, I could see the details of its outfit, its features, and truly appreciate them for the first time: the slacks it wore that alternately bulged and were hollow all along their length, shifting, as if something was moving within them. The dark gloves that covered its hands. The high-collared shirt beneath the ridiculous trench coat. And the twisted face, the skin so obviously rubbery and fake up close. “I deserve this,” I thought. “What an obvious mistake. I deserve this.”
“We chose you for this assignment because we thought you had potential,” the figure hissed. “We thought you would become an agent of ours on this world. Instead, you disappointed us. Instead, you resisted.”
For a moment I thought that I had a chance. I thought that the figure would keep nattering on, that some brilliant plan would occur to me and that I’d be able to slip away. Instead, the figure stomped on my chest. I screamed. I wrapped my hands around the figure’s leg, tried to push it off of me, but it was useless. The figure was implacable. I watched with horror as the dress shoe I thought they were wearing seemed to melt before my very eyes, spreading across my chest, pinning me in place.
“You are a broken tool, like the professor was,” the figure said. I looked up and saw it reach for its face with a gloved hand. It pulled the mask away completely, thin tendrils clinging to the underside as it did so, some snapping back instantly, some writhing in the air for a moment before retreating back into the shapeless void of the whole. “We have no use for such a thing. Our grand designs have no use for such a thing. But if it is any solace, we will make good use of the book you retrieved for us.”
The figure looked down at me, in as much as something with no eyes can look. Its face disappeared into the night, the dark colors lost against the darkness of the sky, save for an errant twitch or a strangely reflected glint of light. The figure’s face seemed to bulge out, stretching and twisting and opening, unfolding like a flower, and a thousand new points of light like tiny little stars appeared.
Teeth. Teeth shining in the light of the moon, in the starlight, in the dim light of the streetlamps around the observatory.
“And if that offers no succor,” the figure said, “then at least know you have a pleasing taste.”
The sky crashed down on me. The world went black.