Oct. 14th, 2005

coronaviridae: (Default)
I don't know how spooky this story is, but here you guys go. I'll probably end up fleshing the narrator out and doing some art of it.

---

Unstitched


They said that God created the heavens and the earth, in a space and time that took less than a man might to blink an eye or scratch an itch. The stories make it out to be just as easy, like all it took was a "fiat lux" and the earth and heavens appeared out of nothing. I was there at the beginning--I can tell you it wasn't.

Most people who repeat those old stories don't know much about physics. Nature abhors a vacuum, right--but a vacuum abhors nature. Ever thought about the fact that all that space between the atoms that make you up would rather you weren't there in the way? Sounds silly, doesn't it. They always laugh at me when I tell them about the Void. About how much it hates all of us. About how it's always waiting to make life miserable. About how it would rather we just didn't exist.

They always laugh. Then I tell them this story.

October 31 is Halloween. All Hallows Eve, if you want to be Catholic about it. The fact you get thirteen from thirty-one is something most people think is pretty trivial. Numbers do have significance, though--sigils, if you will. Same with hollowing out pumpkins, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Halloween, that's all about celebrating the Void. It spits out monsters, devils. It's the reality behind every myth humanity makes. It gets its strongest here in America when you've got kids out trick-or-treating, dressed up like ghosts...cutting the hearts out of pumpkins, just like it wants to cut into everything else. Some places draw it more than others, even on Halloween...big, empty places. Mass graves. The place where the Twin Towers fell. Auschwitz.

Not all of them are that obvious. Consider something I saw last Halloween. It still scares the piss out of me whenever I think about it. Yeah, even me--I know the Void better than anything, but whenever I see it open its yawning mouth to eat us all alive, I can't help it but my bones go to jelly.

It's like the fabric of the world is coming unstitched. God's own seam-ripper comes down out of heaven and things start to peel away. Like the old house on Second and Market. You've seen it before, the haunted place. Kids run up to touch the doorbell on Halloween. No one lives there. It seems almost like no one ever had, like that great big house with its flying buttresses and windows like broken eyes settled itself down in smug contentment right on that very spot.

Bunch of people killed there, by the by. Maintenance men, just trying to make a buck down in the sewers. Gas main gave way, someone lit up a cigarette. They were crispy-fried from the inside out before any of them even had time to scream. The rescue team pulled out people-shaped cinders that fell apart when you touched them. I know. I was there.

Picture three days before Halloween. Single mother, group of kids who followed her like little blond chicks after a hen. They're looking for a place to stay, so they buy up the Old House like it was about to go out of style. If I'd been in my right mind I would have told her not to go there, to live off the kindness of strangers for a little while, wait for something else to open up. I was drunk off my ass the night she blew in, and by the time I checked in on the Old House, she'd settled in, kids and all.

Not much to be done about that except hope she went out with the kids on Halloween, I told myself. That was the last dangerous time with the equinox gone past. Still, I stuck around. Watching.

Turned out she was some kind of religious nutcase on top of being single. Didn't believe in Halloween or much of anything. Had no truck with pagan holidays, so her kids were going to sit inside with her and sing hymns until bedtime at eight o'clock sharp. She didn't believe in sugar, either, did that woman--didn't believe in much of anything except God's goodness and the cleansing properties of cod liver oil. That's no way to raise kids in my opinion, but then I've never had kids myself.

Halloween rolled around. I think the woman up in Old House had gotten sick of kids ding-dong-ditching, thinking there still wasn't anyone at home and it was fair game to scare the ghosts. Think she was also getting sick of her kids waking up every time someone did and whining to go out and have candy. She moved her car in front of the door, turned off all the lights, shuttered all the windows.

Didn't stop me, though. I admit to still having a soft heart despite all I've seen humans go through and do to each other. Religious nutcase or not, that woman and her kids didn't deserve the evil I could smell in the Old House. I went up to the door, knocked, waited for an answer. She came down frazzled.

"No solicitors, can't you read?" she says to me.

"Fact of the matter, ma'am, I can't," I say, holding my hat in front of me.

Her nose scrunches up. "We don't give out handouts, either. There's a soup kitchen three streets over you can go to, if you need a meal."

"Actually, I'd like to share God's good word with you," I say, figuring it can't hurt.

It does hurt when she slams the door closed on my foot. "We're good Christians, and we don't need any more nonsense from proselyters!"

Good Christians. I'm sure the Man Jesus would have put his foot in the door too instead of letting this "good Christian" go about her own damnation. He was a good person. Pity no one listened to him, either. (I was there when they nailed him up on the cross.)

"Ma'am, I've brought with me the words of salvation," I say, just like dear old Billy Graham waving his arms around on public TV. "If you'd bring your children down, I'm sure they could use this, too. God's word isn't just for the old, but the young--why, the Man Jesus himself--"

"I said go away, or I'm calling the police!" she shrieks right in my face.

"Well, all right, ma'am, if you insist," I say. So much for being a good Samaritan. At that point I'm afraid I sort of wished for the Old House to up and eat her, Good Christian and all. "I do think you should let your children out--"

That's when I first heard it: that high thin screech you get when you pinch a balloon's neck closed and let the air out. A breeze tickled the hairs on the back of my neck as it slipped around us into the door. Funny thing was at the time I didn't think it was coming from the outside and going in, but that the Old House was taking a big deep breath. Smelling us.

I didn't have too much time to think about this. All of a sudden upstairs one of the kids started screaming bloody murder, the way only little kids can. She jerked like a puppet on a string, went all pale, and ran away from the door.

"Mommy, Mommy!" I don't sleep, but I'm sure if I did I'd still hear that shrieking in my dreams. This wasn't play. This was the way rabbits scream when a hawk's on them, knowing screaming won't do any good but hoping for something, anything to come deliver them from evil.

"I'm coming, baby, I'm coming!" She started around the corner. I stepped inside, reaching to haul her back, but she got around my hand. "I'm coming!"

"Mommmmyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..." The screaming stretched out real long, dying away into another of those balloon-neck shrieks. I remember how time seemed to fold into itself as she ran. I could see the tears standing on her face before the breeze--wind--pulled them off. Her hands were the first to start going, pulled out like taffy before starting to peel away in long thin ropes of skin and muscle and bone.

Watching the priests skin a sinner alive didn't compare. All the while she was shrieking, "I'm coming, baby, I'm coming!" The whole time. The whole damn time as she started coming unstitched in the arms, the shoulders, then her neck started to peel off like dead tree bark. The words got all wet as her face went, and then it started to eat her chest. It ripped her clothes off too, like some kind of sick strip tease.

When it grabbed the corner of my coat and started pulling threads out, I slammed the door on the train wreck and ran for it. I didn't stop until I was nearly six blocks away. Then I fell down on my knees and retched until I couldn't retch anymore. I have never felt so scared in my life as I did then, watching the edge of my coat unravel itself as the Void reached out to take me back.

Now, you better hope and pray you never see something like that. That Old House is still there, with her rusty old car parked out front. If you really want you can open the door and watch the Void still peeling strips out of her legs and feet, but don't get too close and if it starts unravelling you, you run out of there like your ass was on fire.

And get drunk first. Only way a little fragile thing like you would make through seeing that kind of thing is if you were bloody smashed first. The Void made me, after all.

And it still scares the piss out of me.

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