The street of LaVey is a dark and quiet place. The people are bland and sleep soundly without a reason to stalk and creep in the night. They draw their curtains, lamps bloom in the windows, all else is hidden from the strange and wrong world. Husher sees them, sees their shadows passing by the curtains. He sees the incantations of the suburban life; the drudgery, safety, and boredom. He envies it like a shit-feasting beetle envies the butterfly; unable to ascend to greater things.
Tonight’s been strange enough. While black coffee usually does the trick he can’t shake this sense of levitation in his eyes, as if they floated an inch from his head. The cigarette doesn’t help either and he dumps it into the cup and pitches both out of the window. The stars on the outskirts of Apollonia, the shadowy figure, what was that sound?
Did I dream it?
Husher turns down the radio. He’s a good soldier, each blessed bullet he packs into a magazine is cut with the incomprehensible words of the Chant, lethal to the Creatures. He slams it in, screwing on the homemade silencer. Flecks of rust on his fingers. Once or twice, only once or twice, he’s made a few mistakes. It’s not a perfect art, people die and the Venerated forgive him. It’s human to err, after all. They hold mercy in their withered, divine hands.
Husher studies the house on LaVey. 1289. Emblazoned on the poly constructed mailbox durable against vandals with the dull red flipper turned down. Those numbers in white. 1289. They mean nothing. He tries to find meaning. He adds them together to 20, then divides them apart. He moves decimal spaces and fractions and finds emptiness. Nothing. He checks the small bible in his glove compartment but not even in scripture is there meaning.
1289 is just a house on LaVey. It’s occupants are oblivious. The house is oblivious. The Creature waits. They seem to always know he’s coming, it never seems to matter; but some night it will.
He asked Burnham once where it all began. They sat in beaten up lawn chairs on his small balcony and drank fermented something from coffee mugs. Strike me blind, he begged. Though it never came. He watched the lights of Apollonia on a hot evening. The wind didn’t blow, the air just hung above them like a thick and suffocating cloud; it made him nervous like tonight.
It began in Carpocrates.
Far from Apollonia; a small, quiet town. It had a plantation house on a hill famed for its fig trees. The man who owned it was named Gerasene Baines and he was cruel; both to his servants and to the townsfolk that crossed him.
A real crank.
They say he indulged in the occult, in forbidden texts, made sacrifices, knew the true names of the demons in the pact of Loudun, and watched, for long hours from the window, the forest behind his home. They say he was mad and brilliant and one night he called something up, something without definition, something pure and evil; from a dark and uncharted place. The screams heard from the plantation house were heard all through the parish.
Tell me the rest.
Don’t you know, son? The Venerated came. They came to his door and brought with them the Chant. It was spoken against him. And it did not cease until dawn. They say all the fig trees of the plantation were withered when the sun touched them on the next day. They say since then the Creatures have appeared, anywhere and everywhere, using us as doors. Our flesh, our souls, we don’t know. It can’t be helped.
So we just beat them back then, back to Hell?
They don’t come from Hell, that much is known–Hell is so painfully human.
Husher steps onto the street and shuts the creaking car door. He goes across the street, between the house and its neighbor, hidden in the thick shadows. Some nights you look up at the sky and feel absolutely alone; reminded that the stars are nothing but gaseous bodies inhabiting a void. The meaning of it is written between the lines, notes in the margins, made by human hearts.
Everything in the cosmos is wild and free, like jazz. All that order comes out of chaos, not the other way around. Some nights you look up and you see that loneliness reflected back at you.
You see it later in your eyes.
And some nights, like tonight, you look up and you don’t see it, instead you see something else. You see it looking right back at you. You see it alive.
Hell is so painfully human.
He fiddles with the knob of the back door, it’s simple lock. It takes him to a laundry room, the lights off, the machines all quiet. He puts on a pair of gloves that smell like cheap leather and he takes out the taped handle of the M1911. He covers his lower face with a black handkerchief.
When he sees the woman with her back to him, fishing for something in the cabinet, he doesn’t hesitant to step forward quickly enough she hears him. Before she can turn, he strikes out, and splits the front of her head open with the butt of the pistol. She’s unconscious, bleeding from her scalp. He stops, wiping some of the blood off her with a napkin.
Someone else is coming, he turns and just as the husband walks in Husher shoots him in the thigh. There’s a sharp shrill sound, the man falls forward and breaks his glasses. A silver bowl of popcorn hits the linoleum and Husher kneels on his chest and menaces him with the barrel of the gun with his finger risen toward his lips. Shh.
The seer-worms populate his brain and his nose begins to bleed, they rebalance his humors. He grabs the husband by the shoulder and drags him over the floor toward the concussed wife, seating them together with their backs against the sink. He sets the oblong box with the iron cross onto the counter and keeps his pistol trained on the two.
“How many more?” He whispered.
They’re waiting for him in the darkened living room with the television on; a girl, maybe twelve, the age of Lolita, she stares at him—a passive, empty face. “Do I know you?” He said dumbly before an older boy stands and Husher has to knock him down. He put his boot on his throat, pinning him in place, watching him flinch.
In the corner of the room there’s an old woman with a tube that runs from her nose to a ventilator tank. She isn’t looking at them; her eyes are thick and grey and dead, a husk. She isn’t looking because she’s completely empty. With a kick he turns the boy over and gestures to the old woman.
“Wheel her there, by the couch, make any moves and I blow mommy and daddy to pieces. Now fuck off.” Husher gestures again, a bit more deadly with that pistol than the last time. When the boy complies, Husher moves to the threshold connecting the two rooms. He gives a nod and the husband, wife under his arm, limps in and joins the rest of the family. He can sense the Creature among them.
“Why are you doing this, asshole?” Says the boy.
“Quiet.” The husband, the boy’s father, replies sharply.
“You heard him. Shut the fuck up, kid.” Husher moves to sit on the coffee table. They sit along the couch, all in a row, with the old woman at the end. The ventilator on her face makes a sound every two to three seconds; a gasp and a click. A gasp and a click. Every two to three seconds. They stare between one another, silent as the dead, even Husher succumbs to the quiet. A gasp and a click. A gasp and…
The Creature is one of them but he doesn’t know which, not yet, and he waits. They could be here all night, but he knows the thing is going to show itself; it wants to be seen. It wants to destroy. He only wishes there was a way to know beforehand. Not of them are going to make it out of this alive. He’s stopped feeling guilty about it–it became necessary.
It can’t be helped.
“Is it money?” The husband says through his teeth. That bullet wound is getting to him. His eyes are bloodshot and its spreading to his face. “Is that what you want?”
“I’m doing you a favor.”
He has them all in a row, but he shakes his head a bit. He thinks he hears static and the worms begin to writhe in his skull. After pinching the bridge of his nose, he points the gun at the boy. “Is there anyone else here?” His eyes go to the husband, the father of the boy, who shakes his head. The wife is dazed, her head lolls a bit; at least he knows she isn’t the Creature.
An hour passes and none of them speak. The wife has completely fainted and the boy and his father sit and glare at their masked captor who paces the room. Husher scratches the back of his head with the pistol, listening to the wheezing gasp of the old woman. That little, obnoxious click that follows. Unplugging it crosses his mind. Be quiet. Just be quiet, damnit. Click. Gasp. Wheeze. Click. His eyes are shaking around in his head, his nose bleeds, it’s overwhelming.
Gasp. Click. Wheeze. The little ball in the ventilator clicks when it drops. The clock strikes the hour, there’s a chime. It hides the sounds of the old woman for a bit. But it comes back. It comes back like this interminable march, a sick accoutrement to the silence. A lurid madness that shackles his heart in two old hands and squeezes tight; wringing out all the blood and the black stuff he keeps inside.
Gasp. The gasp becomes long and drawn like a swimmer freed from the depths, then he hears a click. A different click. It sounds like something twisting until it pops, crinkling like an aluminum can being unfurled. That sound didn’t come from the ventilator’s tank. He wipes the blood from his nose and turns around slowly. The family sees it too.
The old woman in the wheelchair has stood.
Husher fired twice before she crashed into him. One of the bullets hit her, the other went wide. He put his knee up to keep her gnashing fangs from reaching him but the hot sting of her claws rip open his shoulders. He pushed up with his wiry limbs, hidden strength within them, and shoots wildly around the room. The Creature’s legs and arms twist around into knots as she flings upward and scuttles across the ceiling. He rolls away, crawling for the kitchen.
The family screams, even the wife who awakens briefly from her concussion sees the terrifying shape above them and screams. When the Creature swipes madly, it hits the ceiling light, and the room starts to flicker in and out of darkness.
Husher scrambles to his feet and slams into the kitchen counter, hastily unlatching the oblong box. Even during all this, he feels a chill run down his spine. He takes hold of the rusted parazonium, a weapon as ancient as the Elder Gods, and hastens back into the living room. His shoulders dripping with blood, his knuckles burning white hot.
She is perched on the arm of the couch taking a hunk of the wife’s face off with a single swipe and feasting on the viscera and the blood. The Creature whirls her head around with a crack and screams. Husher fires a few shots. One passes through the back and he sees the husband slump forward with a smoking hole in his head. The Creature then lifts into the air and comes at him with claws and talons and fangs. The flesh of the old woman completely morphed and perverted into a dervish of evil.
He takes a heavy swing with the parazonium and cleaves several fingers from her hand. She screeches in horror and snatches out with her teeth toward his throat. Swiftly, Husher moves to the side and fires off another shot, blowing the Creature’s jaw apart.
She collapses onto the floor and writhes kicking both arms and feet like an insect with clipped wings. He moves around her, trying to stab at the Creature, but the nightmarish limbs stave him off before she can roll onto all fours. Those rending claws spread out when she leaps toward him like a mauling panther–but the Man of the Field is prepared.
Husher takes a step back and as the Creature’s arms open to embrace him, he stabs the parazonium forward and strikes her square in the chest. He lets out a vicious snarl and slams the body down back to the floor with a twist of the blade. Those deadly limbs last only a few seconds before, at last, she is dead.
The jawless face, those claws, and its indescribable eyes all return back to the original state, to the old woman with the deathly grey stare. He stands over top her, his putrid breath washed back over him from the mask. They only look human. They only look human.
They only look human.
When the parazonium is returned to the oblong box and latched shut, he removes his bloody gloves and pockets them. In the living room the husband is face down, dead, and the wife slumped to the side of the couch; also dead. All that remains is the boy, who sits shaking; unable to close his eyes. Husher steps over the body of the old woman.
Husher pauses as he approached the boy and looked toward the staircase. He could have sworn the lights were off when he came in, he could have sworn. He wrinkles his heavy brow and moves in that direction; compelled by his uncertainty, he turns to look at the boy who stares at him with cold dead eyes; the tears no longer produced from them, they were all gone. Husher couldn’t bring himself to ask if there was anyone else in the house. He didn’t think it mattered now.
It has to be dealt with.
Halfway up the steps he paused, his hand on the rail. That’s when it flashed before him; the passive face of the girl. She sits beside the boy on the couch. The light of the television dreamlike against her sickly green eyes. Husher scowls and hurries to the top of the stairs, his pistol loosened and swung down both ends of the hall. Nothing.
He moves to a door and tries the handle but it’s locked from the inside. The barrel of the gun is placed against the knob, ready to fire, when suddenly he’s plunged into darkness when all the light-bulbs shatter over his head. He shields his neck and he can only think in that moment is; Burnham was right. I shouldn’t have come here tonight.
Husher. Producer of silence.
The seer-worms sleep. They offer him no aid. He hears their remorseless song slip away, like the fragments of a dream lost over the course of a day–he feels empty; surrounded by suffocating voids which interfere with the Chant.
Husher. Husher. Husher. Husher.
Burnham was right. The screaming stars hang over Apollonia. They call to him from the distance. Husher watches, his eyes grow wide with fear, as right beside him the door to the room creaks open.
A laugh. A scream. The whole house on LaVey quakes.
The pictures on the walls begin to fall. He claps his hands over his ears. The pistol clatters to the floor. A great vaporous darkness creeps out from the threshold, thicker than any darkness known to man. Thicker than space, thicker than nightmares. Husher. A darkness older than fear. Older than anything. Husher. Everything is shaking, everything is trembling. Husher screams. Husher. He screams and falls to his knees, he can’t take it anymore. Husher. Husher. Husher. Husher. He can’t stop it. His hand paws for the pistol, he tries to find it, he tries to shoot himself in the fucking head to make it stop. Husher. The darkness…oh god, the screaming in the night. Husher. He feels the taped grip.
He pulls the trigger.
And, after all, there is silence.