Vista’s death was such a beautiful death to die.
The world was ending again today, when I got up. It’s been doing that since as long as I can remember. I have shreds of memories that seem to paint the world with more consistency. I remember sunlight, and clearly distinct seasons, for example.
That’s not life anymore. We don’t know what happened, but the world’s been ending ever since.
I woke up because of the screaming. Everyone’s screaming a lot lately. It’s the only reasonable reaction to the hellscape that’s been eating the world-that-was in recent (and distant) memory.
I heard Vista’s screams, outside my window. I’d lived in the same house since the world started ending, and I was proud of that; but every day (or every time I woke up, I guess; the sun hadn’t risen in years) could’ve been the last, so I tried to cherish the place I’d lived my whole life. I jolted up, throwing off the sheets and planting my feet in the off-white carpet, and went to the window. I peered out through the curtains, trying not to catch anything’s attention.
You gotta be careful, nowadays. There are things out there that can imitate your friends, loved ones, celebrity crushes – anything. And if they catch you, well, your death won’t seem very beautiful to you.
But still, Vista’s death was sheerly breathtaking.
See, when ‘they’ – and by they, I mean anything; the mimics, the stiff-limbed mannequin folks, the mass of shrieking faces in the green mists that spill up out of the sewers – get on you, they don’t really kill you. Who you were, your thoughts, your dreams; that all gets destroyed in the process. But somehow, to reproduce, the things-that-shouldn’t-be latch onto you, and you become like them. The words you spoke run together like melted oil paints. The thoughts you thought become wild, sickening compulsions that race through your head like rope across the wrists of a condemned witch. And when you eventually look down at your hands, you’ll find they’re not hands at all. By then, it’s too late.
Vista, who lived across the street, on the other side of the cul-de-sac since I was thirteen, was dying out on the open concrete.
Something once human had her in its coils, its arms and legs turned boneless tendrils. Its skin had become elephantine; wispy hairs clung to its scalp. Its eyes sagged in a permanent state of starving desolation, and its lipless mouth curled back over black, toothless gums.
It was halfway out of the sewer, making me think it must’ve hidden there; perhaps this thing was her father. Did she go out looking for him, and find this? These things all want you to, of course. They play on your sentiments, and that’s how they swallowed the world.
I thought, briefly, that maybe Vista was coming to see me about something; and banished it, for the poisonous thought that it was. That’s what they want. You can’t give them what they want.
Something might’ve spoken in my voice to lure her out, or maybe somebody else’s; but given Vista survived to this point, I feel like she wouldn’t fall for that.
The thing with her in its ropelike limbs was human-like, as is everything that’s been…reshaped. Was it once an old man? Whatever changed him might’ve just given him an old man’s face. His skin hung, grey and glossy, boneless limbs hanging down like a cluster of snakes off a branch. White, sharp hairs around his toothless mouth. His sagging, empty sockets held no eyes. Hornlike tufts of hair crowned his head, and flabby wrinkles of greyish flesh hung down and open; opening and closing like they were breathing.
Vista, a pale, bony girl (we’re all looking pretty pale and bony, these days) screamed a long, dry scream; one of the tenticular limbs wrapping itself around her throat. I could hear her bones break from all this way away, and the old man-thing smiled. Its mouth stretched open, all cracked lips and black, air-deprived gums as it let out an otherworldly, mournful wail. It constricted Vista; the pulping of her internal body without puncturing a single place on her smooth, white skin. That was one thing Vista always held onto – even as we all wasted away, she always had her skin.
Now her skin was littered with bruises and lesions, her whole body falling to the cracked cul-desac pavement like jelly, eyes bulging like she’d been hanged as a witch and mouth still agape like she was screaming.
I stood there, wondering if anyone else was alive. If anyone else saw it. I wondered what Vista thought, just as she left this world.
Soon, she was beginning to move again; a new consciousness seizing her now available body. That’s how you have to think of it – you get set free, and something else moves in. Otherwise, the thing I watched with numb, cold horror was still, in some ways, Vista.
The boneless Vista moved its head, slowly. I pulled back silently, careful not to move the curtains lest this thing in my friend’s skin observe me. But it didn’t, and I realized it couldn’t see – the eyes would rot, leaving her with the same moist sockets of the impromptu invertebrate.
Vista twisted her blank-eyed head all the way around, supporting herself on her extended, tenticular limbs like a deflated hominid octopus. She let out a raspy sound that didn’t break for air, and followed the one who’d converted her down into the open manhole.
That’s when I realized how she’d died – she must’ve come too close to the sewer, and this onceaman slithered up and made her…like him.
That’s when I knew it was only a matter of time. Because I didn’t mourn. I shed a few tears, but I didn’t cry. That would waste water, though I don’t know what I’m saving myself for. All I thought, as I hid in the corner of my room, was: what a beautiful death to die.
I slept then, because sleep – fitful and brief though it is, now – is the only true escape. That was true before all this; before somebody, somewhere, sang the song that called Her attention. Now, Shub-Niggurath – Mother of Abominations, the Thelemites called her – had warped all the earth’s children like fleshly caricatures, who could not reproduce of their own making. Like macroscopic viruses, they only infected. How many summer nights did I spend in this cul-de-sac, with my friends and my parents, in love with the high school girl next door with the black eyeshadow and the green hair? How many winters, building snowmonsters to terrorize my sister’s snowmen? How many years did I sit and dream, waiting for the day I finally fell in love, married and raised my own children here?
Now it’s always hot, always dark. Some of the streetlights flicker on and off, maybe by glitch or maybe by some unnatural thing’s interference. Burt Vickson’s house, the yellow two-story at the head of the ‘Sac, sits in ruins. It burned when his mother decided that Satan had invaded, and the only way to save her family was to give them to the Lord before something else trapped them here in a mutilated, but living, body. Maybe she had the right idea.
In my dreams I went to that place, the cul-de-sac before the thousands of hungry mouths devoured the world. I saw the sun for the first time in years, let its beautiful rays beat down on my child’s face. I looked better then. I wish I knew how long it had been.
I looked at the girl who would one day call herself Vista, the little blonde from one of the houses further down the lane. She spun a hockeystick in one hand and played an improvised and senseless game, striking a basketball to Burt Vickson; who had a wiffle-ball bat he was playing with. I saw myself with my grandpa’s golf club, ready to play this nonsense game with my friends. The sun was going down, the smell of freshly cut grass and charcoal grills was everywhere, and the ocean breeze rocked the trees. This was Rhode Island as she was.
And then one day, the sun went away. I remember waking up that day, thinking it was early morning. I could hear mom crying, in the living room – I went out and saw her. In front of the Television.
I could see that her hair was wild and static-riddled, a split-open wasp’s nest of tangled and greasy coils. I could hear somebody on the tv, a news anchor whose voice I could recognize.
That familiar voice now slurred as would somebody suffering a seizure, with their jaw broken at the same time. “Mom?” I said. I still regret saying it, all these years later.
I walked up behind her and looked to the screen, seeing what I at first assumed to be the residue of a dream. Yet I stayed there and watched. It was so hot, so wet – too hot or wet for Autumn.
On the screen was an anchor. Or maybe I should say anchors.
Two faces emerged from a single head, both in unimaginable agony. One face looked like somebody I had seen before, the eyes widened and glossy like fish eyes. A bloody grimace of broken teeth formed in his mouth, the bottom jaw opening and closing from where it had been split like an insect’s mandibles. His other face, now the primary one, was pale yellow and grinning. The other face, conquered in madness, slurred and screaming in agony, as the other laughed like a nightmare clown.
And then my mother turned to face me. I can never, ever forget that look.
I heard anguish in her voice, through the splitting jaw. I think I even heard it in the laughing parasite face, the one only now taking form out of the other side of her head. I ran. I don’t know if she chased me, but she wasn’t here when I got back. She never did come back – probably dead, changed yet again by one of the new, countless species that have violated and reviolated the earth over and over and over again. I would like to think there was enough of my mother in her that she knew I had escaped; but I don’t know. I don’t want to, either.
These thoughts come to me, as I lay there in the darkness. I can think, just for a minute, that I’m back home. Back when I was happy.
It fills me, takes me away for a minute or a day or a week. I wish I could stay there.
The darkness around me starts to grow deeper. I don’t know how I can tell when it’s always dark all the time, but I can. It’s like I’m submerged in an ocean of liquid night. The light, what feeble light came from the moon – gone. Now I am alone with myself, alone with my thoughts. Alone. Maybe I always was.
Above me, eyes take shape in the darkness. Beautifully green, fully human eyes, because whatever makes up this living darkness was once entirely human. Teeth, the crooked teeth of somebody I knew. Burt Vickson? No, he disappeared years ago. Tessa Geer? No, she was dissolved by a living mist.
Perhaps it’s Shub-Niggurath, a living shadow like an amoeba; taking the face and smile of somebody I knew. Though for what reason, nobody can fathom.
I feel my flesh fading into the organic night, becoming one with this great and all-consuming hunger; my thoughts and feelings reshaped forever into new instincts, new compulsions.
As the man I was, I die. Or change, rather. But what is death but change? I only wish I could see it. From outside myself, the way I see myself in dreams.
It’s such a beautiful death to die. I’m sure of it.