It’s been a long time, a year and a half since my last attempt at writing and to be quite honest it was harder than I remembered, but I managed to finish and what came from it is something I’m quite happy with. This is one I started in 2006 and abandoned several times through the years. I hope you enjoy this little slice of Lovecraftian fiction.
By Jason Warden
Paul lay awake again. Legs twitching, he finally gave in and stood to stretch. The moon’s pale light shone through the only window in his bedroom casting his shadow onto the wall behind him. His scattered tufts of hair looked fuller there, as did his increasingly thin frame. As he stretched, his mind returned to his mother’s old mantra. He wondered if the meek would ever truly inherit the earth. He prayed they would, he prayed nonstop. She had taught him how, but when she left, the hope departed. Doubt had crept in, a demon, Mother would have called it, cracking the solid foundation she’d laid for him. The guilt of this faithlessness ate at him like a malignant growth, uncontrolled, irrational and deceiving. Paul spent his night fighting it and his days dreading the battle.
Like every night he could remember, when Paul finally broke through his insomnia, he entered the familiar dream. No time existed in between. One moment awake, only oblivion the next. He waited for the crash in the upstairs bedroom. It came, and like always, it startled him. His heart immediately began to race. He jumped from bed and bound up the stairs into mother’s sewing room. Even before the door was clear of his vision his mind showed him what his eyes would see. Her nightdress would be pulled eschew, parts of her he shouldn’t see, that no man should see, would be exposed, and the blood, so much blood. The night table overturned, the window broken. The muggy Louisiana air, already permeating the room and glowing a sickly yellow-green in the hall light, would invite him in, and once he entered, it would begin again to cleanse him of what innocence remained. All these things he would see upon reflection, but always, her eyes were what he felt the morning after. They were accusing, disappointed, and filled with despair. Each day he came back to himself with more confusion and less hope.
The digital alarm sat bedside, its display showing 5:58. Paul opened his eyes to see it turn, just as he every morning since Mother’s disappearance. He shrugged away the damp sheets and swung off his legs allowing himself to enjoy for a moment the coolness of the floor on his feet. With monumental effort he stood, every joint cracking under his weight, his muscled protested the abuse. Paul managed a half dozen steps toward the shower before he stopped, alarmed. The oak flooring, the very same his own Grandfather had laid so many years ago was holding fast to his bare feet. It looked normal, showing no signs of wetness or rot. He took another step knowing that what he saw and what he felt could not be the same. He could feel his feet sinking into the floor. Panic replaced the confusion, he stepped back, but his foot didn’t immediately release and he nearly fell before it pulled away making a popping sound and filling the room a putrescent odor. He didn’t wait to see if it would happen a second time, he ran across the oak floor to the narrow staircase his feet squelching with each step, and was relieved when the familiar shag carpet felt firm under his feet.
Paul waited for the panic to pass, for his mind to take control and reason out what had happened. He did not doubt what he’d seen or felt, but he also knew it wasn’t possible. His mind was broken, whether due to stress or exhaustion, the reason didn’t matter, he knew and accepted it. His body, however, knew only survival and would not step back to the floor that had earlier tried to swallow him regardless of his arguments of reality. Weary and hopeless, Paul sat on the steps and waited for sanity to win out, before long his taxed mind began to stumble and his body to nod, then both fell in unison into the familiar blackness.
Paul was in the before. The room was different, brighter, less threatening. Immediately his thoughts went to what would happen; only this time he thought maybe he could stop it. He could bring her back. A plan had only just begun when a voice whispered in his mind, “In daylight, even the dark ones are brighter.” The familiar phrase was antagonistic coming from the strange tongue. It gurgled and garbled the words, bringing them forth from some dark beyond like an alien abortion. He felt its triumph, joy and patient willingness to allow hope even where there was none. The words had meant so much in his mother’s voice. Afraid to move, he waited for it to come again, it didn’t.
Time passed, the room grew darker and Paul began to regret the time spent waiting. He was aware, as always in the dream, that the crash would come, eventually, unless he could stop it. It was this thought, which got him moving again. On shaky legs he stood and surveyed the gradually darkening room. It was all there, the pictures, the paintings, and the handmade antique grandfather clock. He’d irrationally disliked the clock ever since Mother received it from the family estate. The knots and patterns in the wood always looked like faces in the dim light of evening. He looked away, and gripped the banister to climb the stairs.
The first step was softer, less there. Unlike the floor below that seemed to pull on him, this one seemed to give way. When he reached the top, the stairs were nearly gone, as was the house itself. Only a thin transparency remained. Beyond it a single star burned through eternity separating the growing black that covered all else. He hurried to the door as the world around him grew thinner. Each step seemed to hasten the encroachment, until he was standing with his back to the door of the sewing room. Scratching, slithery sounds and a familiar moaning came from behind the door. “Wake up Damnit,” he screamed, closing his eyes against the invading black.
The sounds stopped, eyes still closed, Paul gripped the door knob, at the same time a sense of lightness washed over him. He opened his eyes to find himself spinning in dead black space, the door and the star his only companions. He turned the knob and swam in.
Mother was there, seated in her chair by the window. She turned to greet Paul, her smile was bright, but her eyes were fixed elsewhere.
“I knew you’d come,”
As she spoke the walls faded.
The crash came, the window exploded, and shards of glass ripped through her spraying blood out into the black.
From the darkness, the other voice came.
“Come, have your inheritance.”
Paul woke, but his momentary relief was replaced by confusion. A steady turn of gears seemed to rumble through his body, but his paralysis was complete, even his eyes were frozen to a spot just above the banister. He tried and failed to cry out in terror when the clock began to chime the hour of twelve.