The Goat (Part 93)

I did have something vaguely amusing to post this week, but it’s taken me all day to get my bit of story done and I have no time left for fripperies. So I’ll just get on with the main event…

(By the way – it’s almost finished! All I have left to do is the epilogue. Hooray!)

“You’re scared,” I said.

FEAR IS MINE TO COMMAND

“You want me to stop you.”

I WANT YOU TO SUFFER—

And with harrowing strength it ripped me from its mind. The visions of its memory shattered into blackness, then spinning confusion—the thunder and tempest flaying my body, my brain whirling into squelching sickness—as it cast me down into the vortex of oblivion—

Yet I felt my hands resting on the floor; the prickly carpet tiles stinging my knuckles…

I clutched at the ground and felt its solidarity, clenching my face, my eyes tight shut as I tried to hold myself fast in the storm—fighting the nausea churning in my head as my mind told me I was falling, falling—

I CURSE YOU WITH SUFFERING ETERNAL

But the voice was changed: still dreadful and immense, merged of the screaming horde outside and the glottal eruptions of behemothic beasts drowning in phlegm, but the sound was cold now—flat, almost synthetic; a furnace roar grown anaemic of substance, loud to my ear but neutered of meaning…

I opened my eyes. The world reeled and I strained against it, squinting at the brightness, trying to grasp what was happening to me. Images ran like cascading vomit; I blinked hard but the smearing was inside me: my vision clotting as illusions fragmented, the layers melting and sloughing from my mind.

With head hung low I focussed on breathing, the pain in my lungs, grinding my fingertips into the carpet and gripping for balance as my senses disgorged. Through fading corruption I saw the feelers embedded in my chest: not spurs of bone, but glowing extrusions of gel-like matter; clear tendrils of blurred definition studded with pinpricks of scintillating light. In strange recognition I tried to touch them, pull them from my body—yet groping like a blind man, my fingers closed on nothing… but no, I could see it: the lucent tissue passing through my hands; my flesh warping, parting then reforming as I crossed its path…

“My God,” I said, almost in wonder… then panting, breathless, still dizzy and in agony yet knowing, remembering all that I had seen: “You bastard thing. You brought me here—”

And lifting my gaze I stared into its face—but it had no face, and my vision was clouding, fluttering with darkness, the shadows peeling like detached retinas… but I knew what it was now. Its delusions had no hold on me. I pushed them aside, and looked at this creature whose birth I had witnessed…

No tentacles. No spider legs. No head of glistening bone. Its translucent fabric spread as lace upon the air, dividing and shifting in living fractal patterns, raised in fluted structures like the wings of angels.

I saw the unearthly light of its body: the surface skin neither solid nor matter but distorted space—a membrane, a transition to another kind of place. It was too far beyond me: my eyes filming over at the sight of other planes, seeing only the sparkle—the boundless crystal of diamond constellations—as unfathomable energies caressed our dimension.

With effort I resisted the draw of its beauty, fixating instead upon the nucleus within: the core of its power; the axis of its mind; a globe of dark mass suspended like a yolk in the jelly of its albumen—black as the sucking void of singularity yet rimmed by a dazzling prismatic corona: lensed visions of worlds unseen…

Though it near overwhelmed me I stared in defiance, clinging to my sanity, wrestling with the knowledge so unbalanced in my head. I knew what this poison creature had done, and wanted to fight, to shout my accusation… but so too could I feel its alien indifference, my own insignificance—my rage, my will existing only at its sufferance…

I wanted to despise this thing that had hurt me, but it made no target: my anger spent in vain, as though pounding sand or the waters of the ocean. The placid darkness of its heart sapped my emotion, even soothed my mind… and though I tried to hate it, I knew what it had done…

“You saved me. Of all the people… it was me…

My eyes blurred with tears at the realisation, the ghastly implication…

I remembered the fire at home in my flat: the ball of flame, the scorched flesh… my hands, the blindness, the wetness coming out of me… the emptiness that came as I forgot how to breathe…

And again in the van: my blood draining to pool in the footwell as I fell into something deeper than sleep…

And with sudden coherence I thought of all the damage done to my body: the savage beatings and the fractured bones, the crushed organs, the blood in my lungs… the times I had lain so broken on the ground, losing myself as I wished for it to end…

“I died,” I said, the sound of it strange and heavy in my mouth. “I was dead. You brought me back, so I could…”

I choked as the pieces assembled in my mind.

“That mad geezer with the beard, and the policeman—it was you, you sent them… No, it was everything… Everything that happened… Christ, it was a test—

SILENCE MORTAL

I SHALL MAKE YOU BLEED

YOU WILL BOW TO ME IN UNYIELDING TORMENT—

“No,” I said. “No… Oh my God! You don’t even know what you’re saying!”

I could see it now. There was nothing in its words: no malice, no emotion. The creature spoke as a man to an insect, spraying it with samples of collected pheromone: testing blindly, until it found how to elicit the response it desired.

The words were my own. It drew them from my mind: my preconception of some vicious god…

But it was more than that: the violence, the hatred, the visions of monstrosity—all were reflections of my own fear. And the horrors it had wrought upon the world outside… it had only raised the darkness already in our souls, with no understanding of the evil it inflicted…

“You don’t have to do this.”

My voice felt distant as, almost in shock, I gazed at the creature: a thing so foreign I could hardly now connect it with the pain I had suffered.

“Please. Stop hurting us.”

YOUR DEATH IS MINE

“No. It’s not right. It can’t be right. We’re people, we have minds… Oh my God! You can’t just kill us—”

But I gasped at the crawling sensation in my brain as half-formed images crowded my head: patchwork fields of golden wheat; vines laden with rich dark fruit; penned herds of piebald cattle; a silver fish struggling on the line… the scenes dissolving in drool and blood as hundreds of mouths snapped in my face: the slavering maws of every kind of beast—their lips smacking, running with juices, their teeth mashing wads of pulp and meat—

“No,” I said. “It’s not like that! We’re not food, we’re not… Christ! We’re not animals…

But I trailed off as the truth of it struck me…

I MADE YOUR KIND

That’s all we were.

Just food for the creature…

“No! We’re more than that,” I shouted, warming now with the righteous anger of the fool who is wrong but needs to be right. “We’re human beings. You have no right… Oh my God! How many have you killed? How many millions…?”

War, murder, natural disaster… All kinds of disease…

Just food for the creature…

“You utter bastard. How can you do this? You don’t even care—”

I was shaking with rage—yet sick with it too: knowing the emotion was not my own, but what the creature wanted…

“Go on then! Take us! It’s what you want, right? You’re starving, innit. You want to kill the lot of us—so do it, mate! Put a bloody end to it!”

Silence from the creature.

“Yeah. That’s what I thought.”

And I shook my head, leaking tears of frustration, of horror and dismay as I felt the weight of the burden it had put on me…

“So what am I? Your conscience? Is that it?” I gave a bitter laugh. “No… It’s the thorn in yer side, innit. The pebble in yer shoe…”

Silence from the creature.

“You slack bloody coward! You want to kill us all, but you’re scared it’s not enough. I dare you, mate! I dare you to try it. And then you can squat in the dark on your own, trapped here forever—starving to death cos you couldn’t bloody wait—”

ETERNITY IS MINE

“Yeah? Just as well, innit—cos it ain’t your time, mate. You can drool on us all you want, but you ain’t having none. You know it, mate. You can’t do nothing.

And I felt the creature absorbing what I said—not the words, but the strength of emotion. I felt the implacable force of its mind crushing against me, so easily to kill me—but I resisted it with all I had, crippling myself as it let me fight back…

Think yer so big,” I screamed. “All this power… You ain’t nothing without us! You need us, mate, and we don’t need you, so go piss off down that hole in the ground, and—

SOON MORTAL

YOUR NUMBERS GROW

“Yeah, and I’ll be here, mate. I’ll be waiting. You want a fight? You got it. I won’t let you touch no one—”

AS YOU HAVE COME

SO SHALL COME ANOTHER

AND THEN YOU SHALL DIE

I barely broke stride, knowing it was true but not caring in that moment—knowing there was nothing else that I could do…

“Yeah? We’ll see. Maybe it’ll go that way—but not today. Not here. Not now. So get you gone, you piece of filth, or I’ll—”

My voice cracked as the pain erupted—the tendrils contracting inside my chest, piercing my organs, blazing with a heat that blinded my senses. In wrought agony I writhed on the ground: for an instant stunned, thinking I was wrong—that it would kill me after all—then feeling new life as the creature healed me…

No,” I screamed. “No,” in resentment as I felt the seal closing on my fate. “I defy you! You hear me? I defy you.” And with trembling hand, I stabbed a finger at its black heart—summoning every last ounce of my strength as I roared into the darkness:

“Get… the hell… out of my shop—

I pointed at nothing.

In sudden gloom, blinking as eddies of dust curled around me, I stared at the void where the creature had been. I sat, still pointing, breathing hard. A great and numbing silence hung upon the air.

For a time I couldn’t move. Then I saw the light and remembered the torch folded in my bathrobe. Nervelessly I dragged it out then played the beam across the walls and floor. A mess of splintered furniture. Strewn bits of hardware. No trace of the creature.

I coughed a mouthful of black blood, and spat it on the carpet. I coughed again, and the spit ran clear.

Outside, a soft cry sent ripples through the stillness. A gasp. A moan. A grief-stricken murmur…

Slowly I kicked away the rubbish at my feet, got my hands beneath me and made effort to rise. Everything ached as though worn to exhaustion, but my joints were supple, my limbs strong. I stood easy in the wreckage, looking down at my elbow, the wounds upon my chest. No scars. Nothing.

Pacing to the windows I pried apart the blinds, peering through glass at the alley beyond. Bodies filled the road: most slumped in death; some shifting weakly; a few survivors wandering aimless, sobbing in pain and distressed confusion as they tried to understand where they were, what had happened.

I knew what had happened. Oh God, the things I knew…

I had no idea how far the devastation spread, but the madness had ended. There would be no more killing. I envied these people; for them, it was over…

Turning away I shone my light into the workshop. I saw it in the corner, untouched, undamaged, where the creature had left it. The old man’s laptop, waiting to enslave me.

Perhaps someone else could have let it be. I wasn’t even sure that I cared about the world; it didn’t care about me. But I had no choice.

No matter what became of it, I loved my life…

So I took the laptop.

I brought it to the rear door and shoved aside the server rack, shouldering through to the stairwell and exit. I glanced at old matey slouched dead upon the stairs. My poor old mate…

“You was all right,” I said. “Maybe… Maybe I’ll see you again, yeah? On the other side. You take care, my friend.”

And I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t any more. All the tears had been burned out of me.

I stepped across his legs, and tried the back door. Of course it was locked. With a bare foot I kicked it open, pieces of door frame bursting out into the road.

One final time I gazed behind me, at this place I knew: this last fragment of the only life I had ever known. Oh how I wished that I could take it back… but everything was different now. Every thing depended on me…

So I stood in the doorway and looked outside, seeing the ruins, the mangled bodies, the fires in the distance. A sight to quell the stoutest heart… but there was no danger for me here. Nothing could harm me. Ahead lay hardship I could scarce imagine, but today… today I was immortal.

And holding the laptop tight in hand, for better or worse, I strode out into my strange new world…

#
© 2015 - J. D. G. Leaver

To be continued…