LOVECRAFTIAN, DARK FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION, THRILLER

Sweet Oblivion

The old ones are always watching, we must be vigilant. But vigilance begets madness, and madness is their domain.

Meeting the elder god (wallhere.com stock picture)

Half past the hour, Victor had to hurry. Standing in the shower washing the blood off his body from this morning’s vivisection. Dressing quickly, he looked at his pocket watch. The train would arrive soon and as always, there was the sense of urgency gnawing at his spine. He hadn’t found any larva for the past three weeks, but at least these vessels would not be viable now. There was a knock on the door and Victor froze. He hadn’t had time to tidy up.

“Sir, you wanted a notice when it was eight,” said a voice through the door.

“Indeed. Thank you.” Victor relaxed.

“Shall I have the maid up with tea or coffee?”

“No.”

“Then will you be checking out? Shall I send for a valet?”

“No. Damnit, go away,” spat Victor at his unseen foe that irritated him like a fly.

Victor had no need of food now. He only traveled with a rucksack, in which he kept a few tools and books. He scooped it up, haphazardly. His clothes he bought as they were soiled and what was soiled, he burned.

Looking at the sun and again inspecting the timepiece, he put it away and grabbed the sack and headed out of the window. He did not wish to be delayed with some inane dance with the manager, nor have his works here discovered too soon. He would slip down the makeshift fire escape ladder and melt into the crowd of some street market. He needed to stop it, here, now, once and for all. Nothing else mattered.

Victor’s time in India seemed to have gone on forever, although it had only been a few short months. The squalor, heat, and crowding made him anxious. He was at once glad that it would move again, but this time with the terrible thought that it would move to a large city, harder to contain. If that was the case, he would have only one shot now to stop it before he lost control and mass sterilization became the only option.

Walking into the train station, the heat went from unbearable to just tolerable. Victor wiped the sweat off his brow and straightened himself. Were it not for the stench of urine overshadowing the spicy smell of curry and other scents from the food vendors, it might have almost been pleasant. As it was, he questioned why anyone lived like this.

In the corner, prostitutes plied their trade with one lucky patron leaning against the wall as a young woman spoke magic to his member. Victor might have paused to watch for a moment, but he didn’t want to miss the train’s arrival. He didn’t want to miss it as he had in London. It had already eaten and gone dormant so it would be hard to spot. It would be slow and patient.

Victor passed a newsstand. Mostly old magazines and secondhand books. But one paper, the local rag he guessed, stood out. Not just because of its new look, but the headline ‘Blood cult suspect captured.’ He grinned at the sight of it.

If only, he thought.

The story in the paper made it out to be a straightforward case. Seventy grizzly killings, the corpses drained of blood. The organs of some removed in a clean and organized manner and laid about the room, while others were found in dumpsters partly liquified by some unknown means.

A clean trail to the killer, a madman that freely admitted to these killings. When they found him eating the flesh off his arm, there was no doubt in the authority’s mind. This was an easy and convenient close to the case. Further inquiry would have seen through the ruse, but why would they want to?

No one would want to see the deeper truth. The mind can scarcely comprehend the madness in the universe as it was. The depths of its darkness and that it was an old one at work. The foul creature had no doubt offered the mad man redemption, perhaps even peace.

It was a piece of luck. Victor had gotten sloppy, frantic even these past weeks. But just as he thought the police would close in, the madman suddenly appeared to save him. The only question was why? His arrest would have been a good thing for the cult. He tried to comprehend, but how does one comprehend this madness even with a deeply disturbed mind?

Victor had so far been unable to track it effectively. It moved mostly at night, always one step ahead, unpredictable. Always inhabiting the bodies the police had found, even as Victor sought to destroy as many vessels as possible. It drove its victims and acquaintances to madness as it went.

But, in the past week the trail had run cold. Victor knew that meant it would move soon. Today. This time to a busier bigger city, perhaps Tokyo? There the sight of slithering tentacles and a gaping maw might simply go unnoticed as some twisted manga cosplay.

Victor couldn’t let his guard down this time. A crash of dishes distracted him from his current thoughts. Then he heard the tinny squeal of a railway car wheel as it rounded a distant bend. Victor’s gut churned in sickness and he broke into a sweat. He looked around. The denizens of this squalor still moving through their day.

This place is old, haunted, rotting inside, never letting go of its horrific past. The architecture not unlike that in England a century ago. No doubt a hold over to colonialism. You would hardly know it was 2018. His mouth dried in a wave of panic. Did it travel a different path? Perhaps even a different station? Was I late or early? Victor turned it over in his mind. But he was sure he was not wrong. Turning to walk the length of the station, Victor found a gaunt man, well dressed, with dark glasses and a bowler hat sitting at a small table at what amounted to a small coffee shop. The tattoo on his hand instantly broadcasted that he was a high inquisitor.

“Victor, come sit. We have time,” he said as though they were long-lost friends. “Come, come boy. It’s far too hot to carry on this parlay standing.”

In spite of his best judgment Victor did sit, his bag now resting next to him.

“Such a beautiful country, India. Don’t you think? Coffee? It’s quite good. Pour yourself some,” he said pointing at the small ceramic pot.

Victor played along. But he was sure a half dozen men might appear as he poured the cup.

“Generally, I prefer tea, but I enjoy the bitter taste of death and acid on a day like today,” the inquisitor said.

“This place is a shamble. Disease and suffering. Starvation and corruption,” Victor retorted as he sat back with his cup.

“Indeed. I feel that this place might never even notice when my master arrived. They might even find it to their liking,” the man said and chuckled a little.

“What do you want?” Victor asked.

“I do admire you, Victor. Envy you, even. How it does not bother you to stand alone against certain oblivion. Yet here you are, again.”

Victor did not understand what the inquisitor was getting at.

“What else would I do until I die?”

“That is the question. It takes quite a different meaning for you, does it not?” he asked. “Most fail once and fall into a peaceful slumber of darkness. But that makes you so extraordinary, to fail so many times, seemingly without end.”

“I do what I can to stop you. The fact that we are sitting here tells me you have grown worried. I think, and correct me if I am wrong, I may have eliminated all but the last Larva,” Victor said.

The man smiled. “Arrogance must be the trait that has led you through so many lives. You have lost touch with reality if you think you are winning. Tell me, when you waded in the guts of those poor prostitutes this morning, did you tell yourself it was noble, Jack?”

“As I said, I do what I can to stop the spread of the spores in the wombs of the forsaken. Jack is a name the papers gave me in London. I prefer you not use it.”

“Wombs of the forsaken? That does sound like the title of a delicious movie. Why don’t you like the name? I find it profoundly flattering, ‘Jack, the ripper.’” He took a sip of the acrid swill he mistook for coffee. “What do you think it is, Jack? Genetic memory? Perhaps some metaphysical entanglement that affords you your immortality? How do you transfer from avatar to avatar? You have no idea, do you? Nor why?”

“What does it matter? The universe has seen fit to give me this tool to defeat you and the old masters you serve.”

“Really? Did you think our master was so limited? Oh, this place you mistake for a universe will fall. It’s just a cyst in space time waiting to be lanced. Look at this place, in entropy, a cancer, why fight it?”

The two men sat silently for a few moments. Each contemplating his own thoughts. “I suppose I should thank you for the appearance of the madman,” Victor said as he sipped the coffee. He was fishing to see what the inquisitor’s reaction would be.

“Please. They were on you dead to rights. The madman was a fortuitous happenstance. You have, if nothing, a profound affinity for luck. I had nothing to do with it. But, it did make it clear that something would have to be done about you. Pity really, I would admire you were it not for the trouble you cause me,” the inquisitor said. “But then this is not your first dance, or even your third. Tell me how far back do you go? Not London. By then you had been a thorn in our side for some time.”

“Salem. In America,” Victor said. “Well England, just before.”

“Ah yes, the witch trials. How did that work out for you?”

Victor’s mind snapped to the time like it was yesterday. The puritans, as they were called, were the first cultists. They had escaped with many spores to the new world. Victor had easily convinced the faithful that a devil was upon them. But for the most part it had only caused panic and paranoia. Still it served the purpose until the blood cult had reformed into the guise of authority. By then, the faithful had become the enemy and were stopped. The Indians had believed him, skin walkers they called them, but served only to start a century of bloody war, such are the twisted ways of the old gods.

“The past is of no consequence now. Here we sit and I am still wondering why?” Victor asked.

“It occurs to me, Victor, that we have been looking at you incorrectly. You are not a thorn, but an opportunity,” he said.

“Bribery. Do you hope to turn me? Really?” Victor asked and almost laughed.

“Not quite.” The man removed his hat and glasses. The top of his head was simply exposed bone, where no bone existed was a pulsing red-green mass and his eyes slits like a cat, golden black. “But what a lovely vessel you will make for my master.”

Victor had no time to react. The thought to move had just crystalized in Victor’s mind when the top of the inquisitors head exploded, sending shards of bone and ribbons of tissue across the table. Within the chaos, Victor spotted for the briefest of moments the mass of writhing tentacles as it landed with a sickening thump on the table. The inquisitors form now crumpling into lifelessness. Victor reached for his bag and cursed himself for not having taken out at least the scalpel. Not a second more and the creature was upon him, its grip was strong around his head that Victor had no chance to fight it back as it forced his mouth open and pushed inside. The slimy acid of its skin searing the inside of his mouth and throat.

Victor could draw no breath and he gagged on the long proboscis now projecting down his throat. He would have vomited if he could. he could feel the beak of the creature biting into his flesh deep within him. Second sensation of ripping came from the back of his throat, as it was clawing into the bone of his skull. The sound of the bone breaking was a crunching sound that echoed inside his mind. His eyesight blurred and his resolve weakened as Victor lost consciousness.

It was a moment of darkness. It must have been only a few minutes. Victor woke to a crowd that had formed around him. He tried to get up and a few people tried to help. He drew a breath and knew that he had only a few moments until the larva would commandeer his body for its own purposes. Even now he saw flashes of memory pass in his mind. Was it reading his thoughts? It must be or it would have clawed through his brain already.

Victor stood up and straightened his jacket. He heard the train approaching now. He had precious seconds to decide. They sought to make him a vessel for the old god. There was a limit to his mind, but not his life. Genetic memory or whatever it was, he had prepared for the next generation. Pushing the crowd aside he walked to the platform. The train entered the station.

The creature’s instinct was to try to make him stop, but it underestimated the power of his insanity born of millennia of fighting the old gods. As he fell to the track, he made sure at least his head would find the wheel of the train, the creature knew it too as he fell into the sweet oblivion of death to the sounds of its screams.

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Olivia Mann

Writer, Programmer, Loud mouthed and opinionated. I am all over the place. Watch out.