Thursday, September 22, 2011

The End



     Waves lapped at the little wooden dock like hungry tongues exploring the remaining bits on a corndog stick. The old lumber was rotted and spongy, but it held through the years and the seasons on the shore of the aged fishing cabin in Connecticut. The inlet was relatively secluded and didn’t often get either the human traffic or the battering waves of the Atlantic, so the dilapidated timber that securely held the old launch a few feet above the water line never got more than just splashed repeatedly rather than drown.
     Until now.
     It was Sunday. James Wickford was eyeing his kayak as he nibbled on a bologna sandwich. He knelt and flicked at a pretty plump spider that meandered around the boat’s bench. It looked clean enough, and James was ready for his regular Sunday jaunt into the sea with his fishing gear. From the peripheral vision of his left eye he caught motion and a series of concentric circles indicative of ripples. This wasn’t anything unusual, there was always something swimming by or moving around down there… but this time, something seemed immediately different. A mound slowly rose to the surface; drab green and flecked with mud and slick with a substance that reflected streaks of sunlight. The mound rapidly grew larger as water rained down and muck slid off the oily object and hit the suddenly churning water in heavy plops. James Wickford dropped his sandwich, shivered where he stood, and began to howl with crippling fear in the back of his throat. His legs only worked a little and he physically shook as he worked them to back up. But his journey was short lived, and he tripped over an exposed stump and flopped to the damp earth.
     The mound became a massive ribbed and horned mountain. The newly exposed humps and knobs that attached themselves to the original mound surfaced just under the little dock, and proceeded to shatter it to bits of wet wood with a wet, coughing crunch. The planks that attached themselves to the shore peeled up like loosened teeth, and then they too twisted and snapped. From the hidden inlet, the otherwise calm and peaceful fishing spot became a churning, torrential maelstrom. And then, what was once but a filthy hulk, now stood forty feet tall, dripped feverishly with water and some kind of thick, oily mass, and looked around both curiously and uncaring at its surroundings. The creature’s head was free, and James could hear its raspy, soggy breathing. He’d never seen anything so big in all his life, even having once been whale-watching. He fought to stand; his brain fought to get him moving, fought to get him to run back to the house and speed away in his truck, but his legs refused to respond and so he sat, and he felt his bowels release.
     Its snout gouted putrid, green fumes and a deep, guttural thrum echoed from somewhere far within the beast. Its nothingness-black eyes surveyed the landscape and spotted just below it the quaking form of something… something showing tremendous fear. The beast slowly leaned forward, arms broke the surface of the water, but they were arms like none other ever seen. Where elbows were, attached to an upper arm –as gigantic as a tree trunk- were not one arm (radius and ulna) but two complete sets both ending in horrific talons, freely dripping with fetid slime. The immense beast pulled itself forward and bent down to come face to humongous face with the cowering thing on the ground. James began to scurry backward, catching his pants on gnarly bits of fauna, and pulling them free, smearing the ground with feces. But the beast continued forward, suddenly stretching its incredible jaws, jutted on every inch with crusty, rotting teeth. The cacophonous belching howl that spat forth from the opening mouth split the heavens with its tone, and the frightened being dropped dead to the ground.
     The rest of the creature excised itself from the little cove and stood erect, but not on legs. The beast, now nearly a hundred feet tall, spread apart several trees with its claws, and called out again with a terrible, echoing squeal. Just below its waist was the rest of its body; coiling and writhing like a massive snake. It was riddled from front to back with gleaming barnacle-like thorns, each oozing freely with reeking and viscous fluid. The beast inched forth as sticky slime coated its trail in a thick veneer, and the run-off slowly dissipated into the earth and everything around it. As it touched the dead body of James Wickford –the body that was scared and deafened to death by the incredible monster- the corpse twitched. The thick mucous spread across the body of James. He suddenly jerked and jolted… and slowly stood, gaping into the void.


       Eric Watson lowered his cupped hands and listened intently to his own echo reverberate through the Northern Michigan forest. He and his crew –Aaron Phelps, Kevin Marrick, and Danielle Furst- the NMSA (Northern Michigan Sasquatch Association) had spent the better part of the last four days hiking camping, and otherwise scouring the forests of Marquette, Munising, and Ishpeming setting laser-site traps, night-vision camera perimeters, and basically globally positioning every piece of land they could in an attempt to once and for all prove the existence of Big Foot. So far their efforts had more or less come up fruitless, often only hearing possible calls, spotting and casting slightly iffy footprints, and seeing occasional deer bones scattered about. But they were stolid in their drive, and relentless in their work, so they kept up their collective spirits by making every little find a huge deal. So far, it appeared to be working.
      “Nice call, Eric! I could hear that one clearly way over here! Over…” Aaron said into his walkie-talkie as he squatted a few hundred yards away from Eric and Kevin.
      The return report crackled through the radio, “Thanks. That one was built on pure adrenalin. I’m getting a little worn out. I mean it’s, uh… pushing four a.m. We’re gonna lose daylight here pretty soon.”
      “Word. We’ll start making our way toward you guys, maybe we— “
      The last bit of Aaron’s words caught in his throat. A few feet to his left he could make out the crystal clear sounds of something approaching very quickly. Twigs snapped under the footfalls and a deep, hollow breathing huffed with each movement.  Aaron froze where he stood. He slowly reached to his right and yanked on Danielle’s thick jacket. Aaron turned to look at her and she, too, was standing, mouth agape and wide-eyed, staring in the direction of the sounds. She nodded slowly, and swallowed heavily with an audible click that seemed to echo all too loudly. Aaron and Danielle stared into the cold, inky blackness as what they were tracking methodically stomped through the underbrush and nonchalantly pressed its way through low tree branches, sometimes snapping a few, letting them fall to the ground. The noise got ever closer; Aaron and Danielle heard nothing else but the ruckus that was occurring just to their left. The pine trees rattled, the forest floor rumbled, and the darkness line suddenly got just that much darker. The overpowering odor that wafted through the cloying, resinous pine was horrifying. Aaron and Danielle did all they could not to vomit on the spot. It smelled like putrid, rotting flesh, dead fish, and wet dog.
     The slowly rising sun lit the dead black night like luminescent, white ghost. In the extremely dim glow, Aaron and Danielle could now make out a hazy silhouette of the creature that towered before them. It was nearly ten feet tall, covered skull to ankles in thick, course fur, and had a slightly primate-like face. Its oval head was bare, but splotched with burrs and bits of twigs. Its visage hung long as its nostrils yawned with every throaty, wheezing breath. It snuffed, tested the air, and at first looked right over the heads of the two petrified shapes standing directly in front of it…
     Until one of them let forth an ear-splitting wail.
     Aaron recoiled just slightly as Danielle bellowed a scream that could only have come from the depths of her very soul. The hulking beast took a step back, snorted, and howled with a throat-wrenching call that sent birds chattering out of the trees.
     Suddenly the two-way radio clipped at Aaron’s belt barked to life, “Wow, guys! Those calls were amazing! I thought we were calling it a day? Over.”
     The hairy creature eyed the black box from which the voice came, stared directly at the two beings standing like statues, and by its own instinctive nature, shot out its sinewy, muscular arm and grasped the first thing by the throat, lifting it to its feet.
     Danielle squealed, almost inaudibly, in the back of her throat as she was instantly lifted from the ground by her neck. The sasquatch’s hand was the size of a baseball glove; roughly furred and studded with filthy, black nails. She was brought face to face with the beast as he explored her with a side-long, curious look. The monster’s mouth burst open. Flecks of warm spittle spattered Danielle’s face as she saw massive fangs like dirty steak knives. And then it came at her throat.


     Paige Wilson drank the last few gulps from her umpteenth can of pop, belched triumphantly, and chucked the empty into the collection box. The array of terminals at which she was currently staring glowed in front of her like a battalion of readied robots; each empty, unblinking eye awaiting orders from their human master. Paige worked for a small company sanctioned by a hush-hush Government subsidy that spent sleepless nights gazing into the cosmos for any and all signs of potential life. The crew- including Paige herself- were all secretly certain that there really was nothing out there, but a big fat paycheck was a big fat paycheck, regardless of the dullness and utter pointlessness of the job itself.
     The little concrete building that sat above ground, and marked the actual entrance to the company, was built in Baltimore, Maryland and was marked, rather inconspicuously, TBIRC –Authorized Personnel Only Beyond This Point. This rather lackluster acronym stood for The Baltimore Inter-Galactic Research Society. The company sat underground as to distance itself from as much of Earth’s own interference as possible and used twenty-four satellites strategically placed throughout a six block radius. It housed a group of scientists hand-picked through a government program back in 1992 to scour the skies every night for any cough emitting from any distant location in space. Besides Paige, there were sixteen others, each at their own set of screens staring intently at their own quadrants of the void. So far, there had been eight incidences of potential white noise coming from huge distances, and, sadly, each had been debunked as either outer-planetary interference or, oddly, the sounds of dying solar systems. So, basically, over the past 20 years, the persistent crew had found nothing.
     Until now.
     Paige began sipping the fresh foam from another opened can of soda, when a very unusual anomaly appeared on the top row of eight screens. She swallowed, as such surprise was known to bring on unwarranted spitting, shook her head thinking false alarm, and stared anew at the rather quickly moving hash mark. Not only was it still there and still approaching a vector very near Earth, but it was also moving at a clip she’d only seen in meteors and comets. And it didn’t look at all like a piece of space detritus or a dirty snow ball. In fact, it looked sharply angled and… metallic?
     Paige immediately angled her head-set mouth piece, pressed the call button, and hailed her superior, Dr. Runjeet Ashraff. Fifty yards down the hall, Dr. Ashraff’s remote communications display showed a blinking light, and he begrudgingly set aside the unspooled pages of read-out data and left his office.
     “Miss Wilson, I was alerted to your communication. Is something amiss?” Dr. Ashraff inquired in his still-quite-thick Indian accent.
     “Yes, sir!” Paige replied hurriedly, “Take a look at this! I’ve been tracking its trajectory for a few minutes now and it appears as though it is heading directly for Earth!”
     Runjeet bent at the waist, dropped his glasses from his head to his face, and stared intently at the top row of display screens. After only a few seconds it appeared that what Paige was referring to was exactly correct.
     “It certainly doesn’t appear to be any form of cosmic debris. We haven’t been tracking any sort of off-track meteors or comets, have we? No… no. That’s impossible…” Dr. Ashraff traced his finger along the projected path of the oncoming object.
     “As you can see, Doctor, the object appears to be sharply angled and even made of some kind of metal. It almost looks like a US Military Stealth Fighter in many ways, except it isn’t black and there might be… yes! Look! Are those lights blinking? My God!” Paige turned to look at a stunned Dr. Ashraff who had quickly begun to sweat on his balding scalp.
     “Security Code Alpha Zero-Zero Tango,” Dr. Ashraff instantly tapped one of the many communication outlets on his mobile device and was immediately put through to the supporting Government section in charge of the TBIRC, “This is Dr. Runjeet Ashraff of the TBIRC in Maryland, Colonel. Yes sir, it appears we have discovered some kind of incoming anomaly just outside the distance of the sun, sir. Yes sir, it does appear to be on a course for Earth. No, sir, we are as yet unsure of its size. Yes, sir we will keep you informed. Yes sir. Thank you.”
     Soon a crowd of scientists nearest Paige’s readout were ogling the display and offering their own insight as to what it might be. Dr. Ashraff alerted everyone to return to their stations and switch their displays to the same quadrant Paige herself was studying.
     Runjeet turned to Paige, his face ashen with fear, and continued following the path of the UFO.


     Towering, fifty-foot conifer trees toppled like stacks of lose cards. Oaks and elms were carelessly felled like models made from toothpicks, and the very ground itself sighed and retched as the ambling beast slithered across the landscape bound for nowhere. The small forest parted and revealed a freeway that led to the deeper parts of town. Trees dropped across the asphalt like slain soldiers and lay about, damming up traffic. The rapidly collapsing flora proved too much for the speeding cars; no one could brake in time and the resounding squeals and wrenching, broken metal sent arcs of flame into the early morning sky. As drivers and passengers began to slow at the realization of a massive accident, it became all too apparent that something horrible and ghastly was moving across the twisted wreckage. The onlookers, some young children and others with weak constitutions, wailed the call of the damned into the air and fainted dead away. Others scrambled free of their cars, leaving them running, and fled hollering into the woods. The monster paid no mind, and retained its path to wherever it was headed.
     As the creature slid remorselessly over the carnage it caused, its barnacles leaked ceaselessly about the gnarled metal and the hideously slaughtered bodies therein. It’s vile, tacky slime drenched the corpses, thickly coating them in a fluid veneer. The dead twitched, released themselves from their steel coffins, and joined the march behind the winding beast. One by one, each and every slain man, woman, and child dug itself free from the terrible chrome and aluminum madness, and shambled forth dropping severed limbs and broken parts on the way as they fell in line behind the others.
     Those still alive and watching in icy horror saw first-hand the reanimation of bodies they’d once witnessed die in ghastly wrecks. The living looked on as a parade of the most impossible of nightmares ambled forth.
     Lynn Harper –with her three-year old daughter, Anna, cradled in her shuddering arms- stepped from her still-intact car (having missed the last vehicle in the long line of destroyed autos by mere feet) and stared, dumbfounded as only thirty yards away, hitching, puppet-like corpses meandered out of their contorted, stannic coffins. The scene was just too overwhelming.
      Lynn exploded with a deafening scream that startled her daughter and set her, too, into fits of braying weeps. Thirty yards away, with the immediate suddenness of an instant, one of the dawdling cadavers stopped short at the sound of human noise. Lynn snapped her mouth shut and instinctively put a cupped hand over her daughter’s mouth. Others had gathered behind her and were pointing ahead at several of the moving dead now changing course at the sudden realization that there were living humans not far away. Without missing a beat, Lynn hugged her child closer, and began shoving her way out of the gathering crowd of motorists.
     Now within twenty yards, several of the dead were scrabbling their way across the wreckage.


     The obscured, opaque slits that were Danielle’s eyes struggled to focus. She could hear crunching and feel slight tickling as she wiggled her body so she knew she was lying flat on the forest floor. She slowly took in a comforting, steadying breath and blinked the blur out of her vision. It was early morning, which made sense considering the last time she could remember anything the rising sun had just begun tinting the horizon with its milky glow. Birds were twittering in low branches and Danielle felt as though she could hear something small pattering across the underbrush. Then the sun went black and Danielle caught her breath.
     Standing above her was a tall silhouette with its hand extended.
     “You alright?” It was Aaron. He knelt and offered his hand.
     “Dunno… guess so…” Danielle said as she struggled to a sitting position. “Wh… uh… what ha-happened?”
     Aaron unscrewed the top of a water bottle and handed to Danielle as she swooned a bit and bobbed her head. “I, uh… can’t seem to remember much myself. Well, everything up until the ‘squatch picked you up, I can. After that: nothing. Do you even remember that?”
     Danielle stared intently at Aaron for a very long minute and eventually shook her head in both amazement and complete puzzlement.
     “A sasquatch picked me up? You mean like…” Danielle animated being lifted as though in a cradled position.
     Aaron shook his head and sat next to Danielle. “Nope. He got you by the neck, babe. Lifted you right off your feet. With one hand…” He trailed off as he looked off into nowhere.
     “Well I guess that explains why my neck and head… shoulders too… are killing me. Did he just drop me and run off?”
     Aaron shook his head again. “I don’t know. I remember seeing you, you were screaming and… I went to punch… ya know, hit the thing… and that’s the last I remember. That’s it.”
     Danielle took another swig of the cooling water and pressed the half-full bottle to her throbbing neck. She sighed, looked around instinctively –worried something might still be out there- and leaned her head on Aaron’s shoulder. “So where’s Eric and Kevin?”
     “They caught up with us just as I was getting up, a few minutes ago. They ran back to the truck to get a few supplies and call an ambulance. They –well me too- thought you were…” Aaron touched Danielle’s leg and smiled.
     “Well that’s very chivalrous of them. Maybe you should radio and tell them I’m okay.” She returned the sentiment and put her hand on Aaron’s.
     “Can’t,” Aaron said as he fished it from his pocket. “Broke. Must have happened during the scuffle. Oh well, you should probably get looked at anyway.” He stood, returned the damaged radio to his pocket and stretched with audible pops.
     “I suppose. I feel like I got hit by a bus. And…” Danielle pulled the now sticky water bottle away from her neck, “It looks as though I’m bleeding. In two spots…”
     On the right side of Danielle’s neck - just below her jaw- were two, centimeter-diameter, punctures, both still weeping with clotting blood.


     Paige Wilson ticked a few strokes on her keyboard and watched the screen zoom in closer to the unidentified object making its way toward Earth. Her heart was beating so hard and fast that she could hear it in her ears. Her eyes were glossy and a lone tear escaped across her cheek, but she wasn’t sure if it was because she was so overwhelmingly excited at the current circumstances, or scared beyond all comprehension.  Either way, she swiped at it, took a deep breath to steady herself –this was no time to start breaking down- and checked the count-down to when the object was due to enter the atmosphere.
     1:24:37 – Less than ninety minutes.
     Dr. Runjeet Ashraff recognized the clear signs of Paige’s emotions, because he, too, shared the same feelings but was surely not going to show his cracks to his crew; they relied on him to lead, and to do so without jumping for joy or especially breaking down. So he stared with renewed interest at the screen as Paige zoomed in further showing the anomaly still on a bee-line for Earth. And he, too, saw that there were less than ninety minutes until its potential entrance into the sky. Thirty more minutes and he would have no choice but to contact the higher authorities at the White House. But for now, he had no choice but to watch… and wait.
     Up until now, the UFO was little more than a tiny, possibly metallic blip on the screen, but just then something happened; something no one could have possibly expected. The object suddenly expanded to nearly three-times its original size and appeared to sprout nodes from all of its three sides. What was once a perfect triangle was now more similar to an odd, molecular-type structure: a three-sided craft with four outcroppings on each side each ending in a smaller, round ‘polyp’. It now began to take o more of an organic shape than just a straight-sided triangle. Paige gasped and began to shiver. Dr. Ashraff could no longer hold back and he, too, let out a moan.


     As you enter the town of Candlebrook, Connecticut, the first thing you notice is the quaint little shop owned by Marg Fields called ‘Olden Times’. She and her husband, Carl, bought the run-down building back in 1964 and immediately began stocking it with bits and pieces of their own personal collection of gathered things from years past: rocking chairs, cabinets, China sets, baby clothes, old pictures, and any number of other forms of bric-a-brac. Since then, it has become the most well known and deeply cherished stores in the burg. It was the first to be reduced to crumpled timber and felled bricks. In the creature’s wake the building looked like a smashed model. And the bodies of Marg and Carl shuffled behind it smeared with a slick sheen.
     Danielle looked, stunned, at her palm. It was tacky and bright red. Aaron raised an eyebrow and stared, concerned at Danielle’s face. She sighed forth a gruff laugh and wiped her hand on her pants. Aaron shook his head with a wry little smile, and kneeled, anew, at Danielle’s side. She coyly grinned, stared at the ground, and lifted her hand once again to her neck. Her middle finger lightly prodded the puncture wounds, feeling them run slightly with thin rivulets of blood, slowly clotting. Aaron tore off a piece of his under shirt and began to fold it into a bandage. Danielle raised her gaze, peered longingly at Aaron as he gingerly leaned forward ready to wrap the make-shift dressing around her neck, and their eyes met.
     Aaron and Danielle had never been anything more than just great friends. Sure, there were moments between them that were often misconstrued as flirty situations, but nothing ever went further than fawning and almost brotherly-sisterly fooling around. Last summer, they almost decided to date; they each discussed the possibility with their cadre of friends, everyone already assuming that something was, in fact, going on. Their friends were thrilled and wondered how it hadn’t happened long ago; citing their years-long friendships and secret love for one another. But nothing ever materialized and they just went on being friends… good friends.
     As Aaron put his arms around Danielle’s neck –gently avoiding bumping the wounds- she tilted her head to the side and gasped, with a moan, letting him take her in his embrace.
     Aaron got as far as placing his hands on Danielle’s shoulders, working the compress around her neck, when he felt her warm breath just below his throat. Her soft lips grazed his flesh and he immediately exploded in goose bumps. He inhaled sharply, pretending to ignore the feeling he had lancing through his body: ecstasy, joy, desire… the feelings he’d always secretly hidden from Danielle; hidden behind walls of play and childish goofing. The warmth of her mouth pressed into Aaron’s neck and worked its way down nearly to his shoulder, and then back up. Aaron did all he could to concentrate on sealing Danielle’s wounds under the cloth, while at the same time only thinking of the torrent of fluttering feelings arcing through his suddenly too hot body. He groaned, deep and fulfilling in his throat. It was a groan that had been pent up for years, longing to be released in Danielle’s passionate embrace. He shuddered, dropped the torn bit of T-shirt around Danielle’s shoulders, and let himself fall into the feelings he’d never known…
     Danielle’s fangs pierced deeply into Aaron’s jugular, and his elation blocked out all the pain.


     Eric Watson and Kevin Marrick stepped out of the woods and off the two-foot drop onto the shoulder of the road. Their SUV sat parked, secluded by a few trees and blanketed by a Navy-surplus camouflage net that looked remarkably like loose leaves and low-hanging branches. Eric snatched the leading edge of the false-flora tarp and yanked it free from the hood and the windshield.
     “So, do you think Danni and Aaron saw something back there?” Kevin asked as he began loading his gear into the back seat, “She sure looked pretty banged up.”
     “Yeah, she did. I dunno… I guess.” Eric laid the net on the ground and began haphazardly folding it up, “I mean I want to believe… I want to… well I guess it doesn’t matter, the point is she is banged up. We should probably get to the nearest…
     The trees just past their vehicle began to shudder and sharp snaps emitted from the footfalls of some approaching thing. The saplings along the woods edge spread mere feet from where Eric and Kevin left them moments earlier, and a sudden, penetrating wall of odor hit the two men waiting fearfully by the SUV.
     “Son of b…” Eric began as he continued stuffing the tarp into the back seat. “Oh… oh man…”
     Kevin stared at the approaching thing, still buried in shadow. He slowly began to slide into the driver’s seat and watched, completely dumbfounded as a towering sasquatch strode into view. In ear-splitting screams, the man-beast let forth a cry that startled the men so completely that they shook and covered their ears and squinted their eyes. Suddenly, the front of the SUV dipped down sharply as the bigfoot, now close enough to touch, pressed on the hood and shoved it to the ground. The metal crumpled, the window split and spider-webbed, and the bumper exploded from the frame and clunked to the road.
     Kevin fumbled the key into the ignition, turned it to fire the engine, and immediately slipped off the fob as the front end was once again pressed rapidly toward the ground. Once again the world was broken by the deafening scream of another call as the beast climbed the vehicle and stood, howling into the sky. Kevin froze as a filthy, fur-coated fisted hand burst through the windshield and snagged him by the jacket. Eric reached across his lap, turned the key completely, and the engine roared to life. In the dirty grip of the monster, Kevin managed to focus just for a minute and slammed on the gas.
     The SUV remained in Park and the engine revved as the wild sasquatch tore free the ruined window, climbed into the front, and fed.


     Paige Wilson drummed her pen against her chin nervously. The UFO, that had previously been making a direct course for Earth, had completely stopped moving. The side of Paige’s screen ran with numbers that gave approximate distances and even an area of the craft within inches of its actual size. From where it was currently stalled, it measured a radius nearly the size of a standard city. It was far bigger than anyone had anticipated from its earlier location: yes, it grew some as it change shape, but no one could have guessed that it had gotten big enough to dwarf a small town. And Paige could do nothing more than stare at the hovering, slowly rotating object.
     Dr. Runjeet Ashraff was in the middle of his fifth phone call to the White House. He had yet to be directly connected to the President, but he knew that it was imperative that it happen very, very quickly. Finally, he heard a click on the other end and a voice break the silence.
     “This is Secretary of State Parker. I will be speaking to you, Dr. Ashraff, along with President Haynes on a three-party line. Please, doctor, tell us exactly what you’ve discovered,” The Secretary’s voice was indifferent and surprisingly calm.
     “Yes sirs. At about 18-hundred hours, the TBIRC –that is to say Paige Wilson of the TBIRC- discovered an anomaly on a direct course for Earth coming from deep space. We immediately determined that it wasn’t categorized as any form of space debris or commonly known cosmic occurrence,” Dr. Ashraff continued to the highest officials in the free world.
     “Was the object exhibiting any kind of offensive maneuvers?” This was the President’s voice, and Dr. Ashraff suppressed an urge to blurt out a child-like ‘hello’.
     “No, sir. It was merely –as far as we could ascertain at the moment- just heading toward Earth. However-“
     “However?” The Secretary interrupted.
     “Uh… y-yes sir. However, the craft did… change. In mid flight. Sir.” Dr. Ashraff wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and snuck a sip of water to quench his suddenly killing thirst.
     “Did you say it ‘changed’? How did it change, doctor?” The President once again inquired.
     “Well, sir… it appeared to… grow.” Runjeet sat back in his chair and looked side-long at Paige.
She turned to Dr. Ashraff with a look of shocked horror plastered across her face. “And, uh, doctor… still growing.”


     Beth Tennant sat bolt-upright in bed and tried desperately to focus on the bed-side clock. She was coated in sweat and shuddering, even as she sat absolutely freezing. The nightmare she’d been jostled from was ferocious, but it was the sound like an ear-shattering—
     There it was again: the sound of a distant explosion. Oh no! Was it happening again? She’d been far too close to the September 11th attacks that the slightest noise of something blowing up –that wasn’t happening on July 4th- jarred her terribly. She leaned over the side of her bed and stared out her bedroom window. Her single-bedroom, sixteenth-floor apartment had a pretty awesome view of the city and she was able to get a good look at much of the horizon. It was three fifteen a.m. and the inky black night coated the entire city only broken by slight halos of street lamps and 24-Hour store fronts.
     In the distance, perhaps a few miles south, came another muffled whump followed by a shower of sparks. The object immediately silhouetted against the plume of sparkling flame was unimaginably enormous. For the split second Beth saw it, the hideous form of the thing was etched in her retinas forever. And then she heard it, too.
     Over the deep, echoing boom of the next fountain of firey bursts, Beth distinctly heard a throaty wail that vibrated through to her very core. Beth’s eyes took in the horror once again and could plainly make out a body, and large, scrabbling arms attached to… a writhing snake body? Beth was now sure she must still be asleep. There was no way what she was seeing could possibly be real. Another blinding flash flowered even closer to Beth’s apartment, maybe only a mile away this time, and it shook the ground so violently that she was knocked precariously from her bed and fell, painfully, to her knees on the floor. Suddenly her clock winked out and the bathroom light she always left on went pitch dark. This was definitely not a dream.
     As scared as she was, Beth couldn’t tear her view away from the catastrophe happening to her city. Noises she’d apparently blocked out as she was waking up to the awful sights began to flood her ears: cars were blasting their horns, sirens were crying out from any number of emergency vehicles, and the sounds of panicked screams carried throughout the night. Peril was setting in and she once again watched helplessly as madness gripped the town.
     So close it rattled the teeth in her skull, the thing that was laying waste to everything Beth loved barked a shrill, guttural call into the sky. She instinctively slapped her hands over her ears and scooted back against her wall, no longer interested in seeing the hellish reality playing out before her like an all-too authentic horror movie. Her mind had taken in all it could handle, and all Beth could do was sit back and add her fearful screams into the cacophony of the dying city.


     As the deep ochre sun gave up its last gasp beyond the edge of the earth, the waxing moments of early dark spread their cloaking deep blues across the forest.
     Aaron and Danielle held each other, suppressing the onset of shivers that come with the approaching night. But this time, the chill of the air meant nothing to them as their embrace was of passion and desire, and not that of warmth. Aaron looked to the sky and grinned; it was a grin of enameled daggers and of opalescent, feral needles. He parted his fangs to take in the scents and breathe deep the clean night air, but for the first time since the very moment he cried as a birthed infant, he felt no need to inhale. In fact, his body showed no signs of even having the suffocating want to perform such natural habits. It was a curious feeling, but not all together unpleasant; though there was a tinge of fear somewhere deep in his psyche, it soon faded.
     He looked down at Danielle and she, too, smirked up at him and he noticed that her chest as well did not have that familiar rise and fall of a human’s respiration.  And the answer to his unasked question suddenly became all too obvious: Danielle and Aaron were no longer the standard definition of human.
     “Wow. Is this… is this magic?” Aaron asked as he gently released Danielle and moved to stand.
     Danielle giggled a little and shrugged her shoulders, obviously just as shocked as Aaron, “I don’t know. Maybe? But what I do know is that is feels… free!”
     “Yeah… that’s the word I was trying to find, ‘free’. Boy, for a day spent searching for creatures of myth and legend, who would have guessed that we’d end up as entirely different creatures of myth and legend!”
     Danielle laughed harder this time and stood as well, “I can feel my teeth. They’re so sharp! Oh, and I’m really sorry I bit you… I mean, I guess I could have warned you first.”
     “Oh, no… don’t apologize… don’t apologize at all! This is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. And I’m glad it happened with you, Danni.”
     “Me too. I think I might… love you, actually.” Danielle leaned her head onto Aaron’s shoulder and kissed him gently on the cheek.
     “Well,” Aaron asked as he returned his affection to Danielle, “Now what do we do? Should we try to find Kevin and Eric. I bet they’d just love this! Oh, and I’ve always loved you… but now, somehow even more.”
     Danielle’s eyes suddenly got brighter, more erratic. She furrowed her brow and leered at Aaron, “Now that is a good idea… besides, I’m suddenly really hungry… but it’s not a stomach growling kind of hunger…”
     “Now that you mention it… it’s almost like a, I don’t know, a longing for something…” Aaron confirmed as he absently wiped and the slowly congealing blood that clung to his neck.
     In a blink, Danielle’s mouth was enclosing Aaron’s blood-dampened fingers and a low, animalistic slurping escaped her lips.
     Aaron sighed, licked his incisors, and nodded, “It’s blood. That’s what I want… blood!”
     Danielle continued to lap up the last stains of red from Aaron’s fingers, “Let’s go get it!”


     The trail of death left in the wake of the towering, rampaging creature grew in vast numbers as every minute passed. The monster slithered like an enormous eel over the bricks and mortar, the flattened metal and glass, and the demolished homes, schools, businesses, and churches as it continued its unabated trek through city after city. But the dead didn’t stay dead, for as the nightmarish beast trampled humanity with every twist and turn of its incredible bulk, it also oozed its unnatural slime like some kind of hell-spawn slug.
    The gloppy, dripping opaque paste fell upon everything, including the bodies that lay crushed and mutilated by the unearthly thing. And as each became covered in the wretched cocoon, they began to violently shudder, scream out with the continued death-knells they fell proclaiming, and begin to walk anew. And now the marching masses of the once dead numbered in the thousands. Their chittering, gibbering mouths yawned and flexed with gore… and hunger. The dead that followed the monster without thought or hesitation began to search, on their own, for prey; their insatiable feasting spread further from the lumbering parade that once stuck close to the massive hulk, and now moved out to attack those left alive after the initial devastation fell upon the cities and towns.  The starving, gaping maws of the somehow living corpses fell upon those that stopped even for a second to see the unimaginable horror unfold before them. Children were wrenched from weeping parent’s arms; the pleading parents were then, too, engulfed by the encroaching hordes of the unnaturally fixated cadavers that ran freely through the war-torn streets.
     And the unstoppable terror that tore the undefended land asunder continued without a thought. Perhaps it was possible that the hideous giant had no thought; perhaps it was possible that it had no clear course, but just to move on as it always had on the lands and places from whence it came. But in its aftermath it left smoldering ruins, unfathomable destruction, and army after army of the traveling undead.


     Dr. Ashraff stared at the monitor. It was the same monitor he’d been examining for the past several hours, and up until now nothing had really changed much. But as he watched with a new chilling fascination, the metallic craft that had hovered just outside of the earthen atmosphere began to literally unfold into something entirely different; something that –even as it shifted and eerily morphed- fluidly became an entirely new shape. What was more or less a triangle with individual nodes sprouting from its three sides suddenly and without warning became a much more of an octagon with an attached circular ring outlining the perimeter.
     “Dr. Ashraff! What is going on!” It was the Secretary of State’s voice echoing tinnily from the speaker of the phone that hung limply in the doctor’s hand, “Doctor! Answer me, dammit!”
     “S-s-sir… y-y-yes sir, I’m sorry… I, uh, would suggest that you show Mr. President the, um, special monitor we ha-“ Dr. Ashraff was suddenly cut off.
     “No! Doctor you know damn well that that knowledge is completely privileged! What gives you the right to-“ The Secretary, too, was broken up in mid speech.
     “I’m sorry, Mr. Secretary,” The President began, “Am I missing something here?”
     “Sir, not a thing, sir. Dr. Ashraff was mis-speaking. He has no idea-“
     “Mr. Secretary, you will keep your mouth shut until I am through speaking to Dr. Ashraff. Doctor, please continue… you were saying something about a ‘special monitor’?
     “Sir, yes sir,” Runjeet began as he swallowed hard and continued focusing more of his attention on the UFO reforming in front of his face, “The special monitor was installed by our corporation previous to your administration. It is specifically used –and most strictly- for occasions such as this… uh, sir.”
     “You mean to tell me, Mr. Secretary, that I have had a monitor the entire three years I have sat as President and I am now –during a potentially incredibly dangerous situation- just finding out about this? Please tell me this is not what I am –failing- to understand.”
     Secretary of State Parker breathed heavily into the line. He was audibly upset at both Dr. Ashraff’s outburst, and at President Haynes’ irritation. He had been sworn not to announce the presence of the monitor that would keep the President –he of strict honesty and over-zealous information giving- completely in the clouds. That is, he angrily had to admit, unless something just like this were to happen. He had no other choice.
     “Yes, Mr. President. That is the truth.” Secretary Parker begrudgingly admitted with a deep sigh.
     “I see. Well then, what I want –what I want right now- is for you to make this monitor available to me. Please hang up your end and go do as I ask. Now. And as for you, Dr. Ashraff, I’d like you to hold the line while I transfer phones so you and I can finally look at this thing together. Is that okay?”
     “Absolutely, sir. It is my pleasure to share with you any and all information I have found.” Dr. Ashraff admitted as a little smile danced across his face.
     Paige noted his rapid change in facial features and turned quickly back to the screen  that she, too, had been staring at for what seemed like forever. And as she did, the newly shaped craft began to once again move toward Earth.


     Cradled in the mottled hairy arms of the lumbering sasquatch dangled the limp bodies of two human men. The nearly human big foot walked on to its forest nest as confused as a little child, and not really understanding why it had the bloodied and battered corpses of two male people draped over its furry shoulders. It had encountered people before, but always from a distance and it had never, under any circumstances, come into close contact with them. But lately, for some reason, all the gentle giant wanted to do was to find them, touch them, and destroy them. But why didn’t the other two stay dead? It could not comprehend why, though it had bitten the woman severely and strangled her, she continued to live? It had no real reason to hurt people, it had no carnal want to harm humans… but here it was just the same: people were bad; people were the enemy and it had to kill.
    Movement against the beast’s chest startled it and it stopped in its tracks. It snuffed in surprise and dropped the bodies just as one began to twist his head and open his eyes. The sasquatch stepped back and grunted a confused bark. From the damp forest floor, the humans stirred and moaned, shifted and stretched.
     “Uh… what… what’s happening?” Eric pleaded as he slowly groped at the darkened wet leaves.
     The towering ape-like creature ducked into the deep black shadow of a tree and, as were its natural instincts, remained absolutely still and deafeningly quiet. He watched in what to it was similar to a human being flabbergasted as the people writhed and spoke on the ground in front of him. He was, for the first time that his unknowing mind could fathom, absolutely frightened.
     “Wow… I, uh… I dunno. I don’t even know where we are? Last thing I can remember… weren’t we in the car?” Kevin replied as he, too, fought to regain his consciousness.
     Eric rubbed his quavering hands over his face and neck, and they came away tacky with what could only have been drying blood. He opened his palms and even in the deeply darkened night, it was still obvious they were coated with sticky blood.
     “Why… why am I all bloody?”
     “Yeah, and look at me!” Kevin cried as he held up his own open, splayed fingers.
     As Eric leaned in to examine Kevin in the shrouded early night, his tongue just naturally snuck out as it would anyone in any kind of concentration… and that’s when he felt them: his teeth were finely-pointed daggers. He immediately flung open his mouth and began to explore his new found fangs with both his tongue and his fingers, at the same time momentarily intrigued by the residual clotting blood still coating them. “Thweet Jeethuth, Kev… are…are your theeth tharp, too?”
     “Are my wha—“ Kevin began as it quickly dawned on him what his friend was trying to say, “What the…”
     Though the sasquatch only understood a few small English words -much like a dog or a primate would comprehend a few-  it could tell just by how they were probing each other’s mouths in utter fascination that something highly unusual was playing out before it. It was now so scared it began to cry and softly wail to itself.
     In unison, the boys looked rapidly in the precise direction of the big foot, and in the shadowy eve, they both grinned the grin of the hungry.


     The terrorized people of the city of New York fled in panic as the mammoth, hideous creature laid waste to everything in its path. Though the monster had no clear direction and was seemingly only wreaking havoc at random, the barrage of walking dead –corpses shimmering in the early morning light with a patina of viscous slime oozed upon them from the beast itself- were suddenly realizing that they needed, perhaps wanted to feed. And feed they did: as the large city’s inhabitants scurried, awash with horror and blinding fear, the shambling carcasses that were once human citizens snagged them in their tracks and bore down upon them with ravenous and insatiable appetites. 
     “Channel 9, Action News, this is Frank O’Brien with a special report.” The interrupting signal of a bulletin broke into every station, both local and those like CNN and CNBC, “The city of New York is once again under attack, however in a completely different, seemingly more horrifying –and certainly less understood way, today. For on the horizon behind me you can plainly see some kind of towering creature demolishing everything it its path. Authorities have just been made aware that this –thing- for lack of a better term made its way inland from a small cove in Connecticut. What it is, where it came from, and why it’s here are all, as yet, unanswered questions.
     As you can also see, circling above it are numerous military helicopters and we have just been informed that more vehicles are en route including tanks and armored Hummers with members of the Armed Forces ready to, hopefully, stop this creature before it continues further inland destroying anymore cities in its path. We will be staying with this story as it develops. For now, let’s send it to Les Warren—“
     Choppers buzzed the creature’s head and heedless attempts to communicate with it fell on deaf ears. Though it moved with a sickening, writhing grace through the city, continuously toppling buildings and crushing anything that stood in its way, an attack by the military had yet to commence. Perimeters were created from cul-de-sacs of concrete pylons, but the monsters tremendous bulk and perseverance just shoved them aside like a child’s building blocks. And always, following in its rear, were battalions of zombies trudging through the aftermath, scouring the wasted grounds for victims on which to feed.
     It had become horrifically obvious that these rampaging cadavers could not be killed as many of the armed citizens and military personnel understood from watching many movies. Head-shots were useless, knocking them down and chopping off their heads was a fruitless venture. However hard you fought to bring the reanimated dead to a stop, no matter how powerful the weapon, nothing seemed to break the grip of the sludge that clung to them like webbing. It incased them and held them together as they pressed on consuming the living, leaving nothing but gore in their wake.
     New York had once again fallen to terrorists, only this time the nightmare was incomprehensibly unreal.


     Paige felt a tap on her shoulder. Her attention was, as it had been for the better part of a day, firmly held by the images that played out before her on the monitors: a UFO was only moments away from entering Earth’s atmosphere. They had less than a half hour. “What is it? Oh, oh sorry… yes, Tom… what have you got?”
     Tom Andrews was one of Paige’s assistants who often picked up a few extra hours on various shifts so she could knock off early and get some sleep. If anyone in the TBIRC was monogamously attacked to his job with loving fervor, it was Tom. He loved Sci-Fi, all things horror, and was a huge fan of the creepy, crawly bug-type movies that featured monster-sized insects rampaging through cities. And it was these thoughts that immediately coalesced in Paige’s mind as she saw Tom’s ashen face and saucer-sized eyes. “I-I-I think you might want to call Dr. Ashraff over here and see this…”
     Tom looked exactly how you’d describe someone who has just seen a ghost: pale features, lidless, gaping eyes, and an air of sickening pallor all over his face, “O--K… what’s going on?”
     Tom grabbed Paige’s sleeve and led her to another set of monitors on the opposite wall. And there, right in front of her playing out exactly like any given monster movie, were live feeds from several news channels reporting an attack on New York in the grotesque form of a gigantic creature. Paige’s brain wouldn’t allow her to register what she was seeing. How could it even be remotely possible that at one end of the building they were watching the potential first invasion of an alien space craft in modern records, and on the other they were witnessing New York being reduced to smoldering rubble by an impossible terror… and now a new reporter inside a separate box next to the first was going on about… the walking dead? This was too much for Paige, and she slumped down in Tom’s chair and gasped for breath.
     Dr. Ashraff saw that Paige was no longer behind him as he waited for the President to get to his monitor at the White House, and began searching frantically for her. He found her at Thom’s desk, slouched in his chair as Tom pressed a cool washcloth over her head. He ran over to her and before he even had time to ash how she was, he saw on the screens before him the chaos that had befallen New York. He was frozen and had to physically force himself to turn away. “Mr. President… glad you are back! Ha-ha-have you seen… have you seen what’s happening in—“
     “In New York. I have just been made aware. In fact I was talking to my head officials while you were on hold. In my wildest nightmares I have never, ever, imagined something like this happening. Never. Tell me you have some kind of good news on this Unidentified Flying Object of yours.”
     Dr. Ashraff, in a mild panic (momentarily having forgotten what was happening above the Earth rather than on it) ran back to the monitors showing the movements of the UFO. He drooped with a heavy sigh. The moment he’d been waiting for was finally happening, “Sir… the craft has just penetrated our atmosphere. Sir… it’s directly above the United States… and still approaching.”


     The sky unfolded like a clouded blanket. Roiling cumulous swirls cascaded and burst into hanging gray blobs. For a moment, the sun was utterly in the blocking spherical shape of the metallic object that appeared directly overhead. People on the go halted suddenly in their tracks and peered skyward: day instantly became night, and then just as quickly the warmth of the mid morning returned as the shadowed craft approached closer to Earth. But no one moved. The vision of a hovering octagon encircled by an outer ring hovered in the heavens. It was eerily silent as the collected populous of the US stared up at the now motionless object, each lost in his or her own moment of frozen fear. The craft hung in the sky like the attached toys on a baby’s mobile, and in that instant a pulsating ring of lights ignited and began to chase around the outer ring. What followed was an audible hum that broke the deafening quiet, sounding not unlike a turbine whirring as it performed some unseen function. Still the unidentified object remained completely motionless, except for the glowing circle of lights that continued to increase in velocity.
     Abruptly, darkening storm clouds began to build all around the object. Crashing thunder echoed across the land and forks of blue lightning split the sky.


     The only sound was the slight wind gusts whistling through the pine boughs. Eric and Kevin sniffed the air like animals searching out prey, which was -in effect- precisely what they were doing. Newly discovered wild instincts seethed through their bodies; coursing from vein to artery to every fiber of their being. The men slowly stalked the grounds taking in deep breaths of the surrounding air sneakily ferreting out their prey: the very beast from which they’d gained their brand new hunting, vampiric, monstrous personas. The men were thirsty and they hungered for a meal that no human food could quell. Deep within them burned a desire so wanton, so heated that nothing stood in their way as during their search they tossed aside huge, dead logs, wrenched massive boulders from the earth, and leapt from one branch to another.
     The sasquatch remained dead silent as he watched the feral humans hunt it. He had never known fear like this.
     But it had to move. It knew it wasn’t safe where it sat; crouched behind the stump jutting from a rising mound. Eventually the men –now more beastly than ever, apparently made so by its own horrific mauling just hours before- would smell his presence and attack it. And this idea made it more afraid for its own safety than anything ever had in its life. Even as a hunter by its own livelihood –daily making necessary kills for its own existence- the sasquatch was unaccustomed to fearing for its very life from its own prey. And yet, this new prey that it had –albeit inadvertently- somehow changed into creatures it had never known, created a shuddering panic that triggered in it a need to run and hide so powerful that at the moment, it could do no more than sit, frozen; watching.
     It forgot itself for just that moment, and the humans were on it like ravenous wolves. It howled as pain like it had never known ripped through its core; teeth piercing its tough hide as though they were razor-sharp daggers. The darkness began to swirl as flashes of light burst before its fading vision. And then there was nothing.


     Danielle and Aaron crept lightly through the underbrush and hanging fir boughs, stepping, feline-like, without making a single sound. Their senses were aflame with scents and odors wafting all around them; animals settling in to rest, flora alive with soft, lilting richness, and, of course, the cloying tinge of a fresh kill. They knew they were close.
     Open ground spread before them, and Danielle and Aaron saw in their crisp night vision Eric and Kevin at feast. Flowing around the prey like a giant darkening stain was the last vestige of its life; the sour, coppery nose of newly spilt blood filled the chilled air. It was immediate: Danielle and Aaron lost all control and trampled the last few feet to the dying creature, thinking only of satiating their gnawing desire to feed. They both grunted and lowered their heads, as though their animalistic behavior had completely taken over. Eric and Kevin looked up with sinister grins played across their faces, and returned the guttural snorts allowing their friends to join them in the fantastic feast.
     Soon, the four friends who had once been nothing more than human, nothing more unusual than regular people going about their day trying to debunk myths and prove theories, were gathered around a creature no other human could really ever explain or really ever solidly identify, feeding on its flowing life blood like piglets at suckle.
     They drank until they were full. But their metamorphosis continued unabated.  


     High above the eastern seaboard of the United States, deepening gray storm clouds were gathering like a swirling hurricane. The darkening sky, that minutes before showed the rising sun and the wakening of a new day, now looked ominous and foreboding as the building, towering thunderheads piled upon one another like angry dams of dirty snow. In the eye of the storm hovered the impossible craft; spinning repetitiously, pulsating with illumination, somehow –beyond all human understanding- creating the massive front that collected just outside of its metallic perimeter. Tremendous booms of thunder echoed through the atmosphere followed almost immediately by sinister forks of steel-blue lightning. Then the rain began to fall in vicious maelstroms.
     For a moment, the enormous beast stuttered in its step, and turned its curious gaze skyward. It knew, and it understood, what was happening hundreds of feet above its head. It was the first to feel the rain drops as they cascaded from the immense thunderheads in drenching sheets. It could remember and realize that far too many times in its eons-long existence the very same thing occurring: its pursuers were, once again, attempting to cleanse the planet on which it trod of its destruction. It had millions of memories from countless other times on innumerable other worlds of the very same moment and the very same result. It was never afraid, it had never set out to wreak the havoc it undoubtedly had, and it had no intention of ever becoming the fugitive it had so long ago become.
     Deep within its cranial recesses, like the still waters of long ago forgotten well, the creature’s most ancient knowledge bubbled ever so lightly to the surface. It somehow understood that the very ground over which it traversed even now, the age-old Terra Firma on which it currently stood, was oddly familiar to it. From within itself came a feeling; a shivering recognition that it had, a millennia ago, walked these very same grounds.
      It also knew that it had never been captured, or destroyed completely by the beings who always sought to punish it for taking actions it scarcely understood. Yet here it was again, just as it had been over time immeasurable, locked in a moment with those who spent eternities hunting it down like some kind of frightened prey. And it knew that it somehow had to make this time’s end result… different. It was done running.
     The Heavens were torn asunder and the black-clouded sky let forth a torrent like humanity had not seen in hundreds of years. Rain fell so hard and fast that there weren’t individual drops anymore, just gushing floods like soaking waterfalls. Thunder deafened, lightening blinded, and the storm surge raged.


     It was a time when evolution had yet to make its first great strides into becoming creatures that would, eventually, over countless generations, become even the most basic recognizable forms of intelligent life. The planet -much later to become known as Earth- was a roiling, steaming, constantly shifting desolate wasteland. Craggy outcroppings of unworn rocky plates jutted forth like the scales of a forgotten dragon. Pools of sulfurous, fetid water constantly gurgled and spat forth toxic fumes that spewed out in acrid bubbles from the open fissures of the planet’s core. A low-hanging cloud of deadly gas and particulate debris slowly meandered across the world, blocking out the life-giving sun and holding the frozen planet in a death grip that would still be years away from exposing its treasures. And one solitary creature emerged from a great lake of putrid stench and stepped, for the first time, onto the arid crust.
     It opened its eyes and surveyed the strangled grounds; completely void of life as far as it could see. Yet it knew, a distance from where it stood, things stirred and lived. It began its journey in search of three creatures that it was born to assist; a trio of things that would remain on the planet over millions of years, eventually giving in to the power of legend and myth. This creature was already ancient; having been born before even galaxies… and even then it had been given a task. It’s entire existence hinged on locating and teaching a small collection of living beings their ultimate destinies. Each was as different from the other as any three things can be and still tread similar paths.
     The first was a gentle giant. It would soon call primeval forests its home. It would have a modicum of intelligence and hold guardianship over nature. But it also held a deadly secret. It was to be called Sasquatch.
     The second was to be two things, but never at the same time. Its life was in constant turmoil revolving solely around the waxing and waning moon cycles. It was a balance of both friend and foe, and often the scales were to tip in opposite directions. It was to be called Lycanthrope.
     The third, and perhaps the most frightening of the three, was a creature of such incomprehensible terror that its very name would one day strike cold, wicked fear in the hearts of all who heard its utterance. There would be only one, for that was all that was needed. It would command the impenetrable shore on which it survived, and it would be a worthy audience for even the eldest Gods of the universe. But, it would one day be summoned to punish the very creature that gave it life. It was an unbreakable circle that would take eons to be finally be made whole. This monster would be called C’thulu.
     Thus the creature continued on its path. It had time, but not much. The internal struggle within its brain had already begun to fight free. There was work to be done.


     Paige Wilson and Dr. Ashraff sat in the highly illuminated basement of the The Baltimore Inter-Galactic Research Society; their collective attentions adhered to the digital readouts portrayed on the monitors around them. A new day had dawned since their first discovery of the alien space craft. Originally it appeared as a tiny blip moving through space, but the several hours since had shown vast changes and the pictures they now witnessed were of a cyclonic object aggressively creating an incredible storm. Though they were at least forty feet below the substrate, they could plainly hear the torrential rains buffeting the concrete building above their heads. The winds moaned and threatened to sheer their earth-bound antennae from their moorings, and each scientist secretly prayed against such possibilities lest they lose their feed… and as it was, their screens had begun to flicker ever so slightly in the raging maelstrom.
     Adding insult to injury was the more recent discovery of a titanic creature trampling through New York City like some kind of long-extinct, prehistoric dinosaur. And, oddly, it was this –not so much the bizarre UFO- that sparked to most panic in the research facility’s inhabitants. When balancing between two completely unbelievable occurrences, the mind seems to latch on the least credible and it begins to weigh the heaviest, tipping the scales and igniting a new kind of fear: the possible impossible.
     “Mr. President, I am at a loss as to what to either recommend or what to do at this point,” Dr. Ashraff coldly admitted. “This is something neither of us has ever seen, let alone ever imagined.”
     “I understand, doctor, and thank you for your candor. I must prepare for a public address right now, but I do want you to continue communications with my staff, so I will leave you with David Barnes, my Secretary of the Interior. He is also my chief ‘science officer’, if you will, and likely… well, ‘understands’ more about things like this than anyone. Thank you, doctor.” There were audible clicks and movement as President Haynes switched his headset to his replacement, Dr. Barnes.
     “Good morning, Dr. Ashraff. It is my pleasure to speak with you. I have been updated on all the current goings-on and will be with you as things continue.”
     “Welcome, Dr. Barnes. I have read your theses on the possibility of Ancient Aliens on Earth and I found them very informative and well written,” Runjeet said as he rolled his eyes in a gesture of his true feelings. “So… with what you seem to understand, does any of this make any sense to you?”
     Dr. Barnes reclined in his chair and moved his gaze between two 55-inch, flat screen, High-Definition monitors, each scrolling with figures and numbers as well as the dual images of the circulating storm and the craft, and the rampaging beast that now seemed to be staring skyward. He snuck a glance around the small office and found he was alone, aside from a set of security guards posted at the door. He reset himself in front of the action, nodded in readiness, and spoke into the head set.
     “Well, Dr. Ashraff… yes, yes it does. Let me tell you about a find we unearthed just five years ago in the Outback of Australia. A find that literally shows the very indescribable acts we’re all witnessing. And the key to its undoing.”


     The acrid, vile stench of decay and sour meat hung in the humid air like an unclean butcher shop. Wafting through the trampled ruins of what was New York City was the sickening odor of death and those who reeked of it: the living dead. Hunger begat slaughter; slaughter begat death; death begat horrific rebirth; and the beast that ran with a never ending flow of the toxic sludge that re-animated deceased tissue marched the march of destruction. Corpses shambled through the ravaged streets stopping only to tear living flesh from the citizens as they attempted to flee. Blood, viscous and rank with its coppery scent, sluiced like red syrup throughout the city, trailing the rampant and unholy murders brought on by the cadaverous demons. Citizens lay screaming along the roads, grasping at the fountains of gore that erupted from their killing wounds. People trampled madly past flattened cars, crumbled buildings, and the multiple bodies that, for one moment, lined the curbs, and another bounded forth searching for another human victim. The devastation was incalculable; no one could even imagine the cost of livelihoods, let alone the towering cost of human lives. Multitudinous numbers of the dead rapidly became a scourge of zombies causing the vicious circle to repeat itself infinitely. New York City was a terrifying wasteland.
     Peace began to fall in the quenching form of precipitation. Drop by drop; soon sheet by sheet, the cleansing rain began to pour. The swirling, charcoal-gray cloud formation that hung far above let loose its collected payload, and the impending storm broke. The deluge soon built to a crescendo and started to rapidly flood the city. And the marauding dead suddenly ceased their mindless shuffling, falling to the ground, unmoving.


     The ones who lived sought shelter in what was left of the buildings still standing in the whole of New York City. Most were either demolished to flattened husks of their former glorious forms, or else looted to the point of looking like picked over skeletal remains. But it was those that the remaining populous flocked to. Hundreds packed into the lower floors of gutted office buildings, even more scrambled to emptied shops and stores, and still others found evacuated homes on the outskirts of town and temporarily inhabited them. Anywhere, it seemed, was deemed safe just as long as it was as far off the open streets as possible. The people were being forced from their own city as inhumanity ravaged the streets, devouring any stragglers left alive. That was, until the storms came.
     Those closest to windows peered out in a mixture of confusion and amazement. Though they felt overwhelming sensations of loss and crippling fear, there was something soothing and comforting about the sky opening and enveloping the horizon in a Biblical downpour. They watched as the streets ran like rivers tainted with the blood of the innocent. Bodies of the victims bobbed along the raging torrent like damming logs and were followed by even more of the city’s detritus and debris. The cleansing weather front felt like a saving grace, but no more so than when the survivors finally began to see the buoyed cadavers that were once the scavenging dead. They flowed down the flooded roads like ghastly flotsam, some clogging against parked cars and fire hydrants like engorged blood platelets in a gigantic artery. The stink was overwhelming; the sour tinge of old meat and wasted flesh hung in the air like a muggy blanket. And the rain continued, pouring down without pause, as it slowly rid the city of its befouled predators.


     Before them lay the desiccated, exsanguinated husk; its matted, fluid-soaked fur becoming clotted in the warm evening breeze. The gentle giant’s life now extinguished by the very monsters it unknowingly created. Leaves rustled ever so lightly; the night’s noises were surprisingly mute, save for the rhythmic, sonorous rasps rising from the four once-humans. With their feeding complete, the friends all fell into a satisfying coma and literally dropped where they fed. Their faces and hands, the fronts of their shirts and jackets, and even smeared in red wisps through their hair, was an impressive abundance of coagulating blood. Were it not for the very clothes on their backs, they’d go completely unrecognized as the former people they once were not twenty-four hours prior; mud and bits of flora clung to their rapidly growing hair, their crimson snouts protruded from misshapen faces like a nightmarish amalgam of beast and man, their triangular ears jutted from the sides of their slightly more compressed canine heads, and terrible claws pierced through their gnarled fingers like corroded nails in twisted wood. But they remained bipedal, for this was not a transformation that made them fully animals. No, this was a transformation that made them something that no human from the ancients till now had ever laid eyes on. The beasts that now slept, satiated and bloated, were of imaginations so vast and incredible that to call them lycanthropes was to only scratch the surface of an ever spreading horror. What they had become was something new, something outside comprehension… something that should never be.


     The night was crisp. Fall had certainly taken hold, and after the scortcher of a summer they’d had this year, it was none too soon, either. Hunting season hadn’t strictly begun in Michigan just yet. Sure, bow was just around the corner, but Terry Ferguson was always a rifle man. And no, Terry Ferguson didn’t always follow the letter of the law, and so this brought him out on this cool, slightly bitey morning in search of maybe some wild turkey or, if he was really lucky, a nice buck. Terry was lovingly familiar with these woods; he was reared just ten miles south, having grown up in an old logging house raised by his daddy. It was always just the two of them; daddy would head off to the mill and Terry would fend for himself for hours a day, exploring the woods, setting small game traps, teaching himself to hunt like a man, and always bringing something interesting home for supper: coons, pheasant, woodchuck, and even the occasional deer. Daddy died in ’68, and Terry was sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Marquette, not too far for his home grounds, and now that he was pushing thirty, he wanted nothing more than to be back home, scouring the forests and stalking the wilderness.
     Another reason for his decision to skirt work today and take to nature was the news coming out of New York City. Terry had heard some unbelievable garbage in his life, but word that there were attacks by a gigantic monster, an alien space craft, the living dead, and a wicked storm was just too much to handle for one morning. He stared at his television for about twenty minutes trying to absorb all of what he was hearing and seeing; chaos, fear, demolition, visuals straight from horror comics… it was enough. Terry had to get out and get away from reality… or, unreality, for a while so he called into the plastics plant, feigned sickness, packed a few odds and ends –including his trusty hunting rifle- and headed out into the early dew.
     The light tendrils of fog curled across the damp foliage like phantom fingers. The air was heavy with moist earth and the approaching sunrise, bringing with it the promise of a wonderfully sunny day, all the more perfect to hang out among the firs and maples and take in the bounty. But another scent caught Terry’s attention, too. It was sour, foul, and ripe with decay. He couldn’t be sure where it was coming from, but it did get stronger the further north he pushed into the trees.
     Cresting a small hill, Terry’s stomach lurched and his eyes spread open in stunned terror. In a clearing about fifty yards ahead lay the body of what might be a bear surrounded by four smaller bodies each clothed but –even at this distance- not at once resembling anything human. Terry was frozen somewhere between gripping fear and a tugging curiosity. It was when one of the forms surrounding the bear stirred that Terry’s legs finally decided they’d move under their own accord, and he slowly, silently, crept forward.
     Within twenty yards, another of the bizarre beings that lay around the –sleeping?- beast began to make groaning noises that were far to feral and guttural to be anything human, and Terry once again found himself unable to walk any further. A call echoed from the mouth of the creature, a call that fired itself into Terry’s mind and carved a path of abject fear straight down his spine; it was a disgusting mix of wild pig and a rabid dog. Terry felt a gorge rise in his throat but swallowed it away without a sound. He knew he was breathing rapidly and was surely going to reveal his position unless he got himself under control.
     The second of the four creatures sat up and began to sniff the air like a dog being led outside for the first time. He quickly shook his head in an attempt to locate whatever it was that caught its olfactory senses. Terry had a sneaking suspicion that it was him they were smelling, but he wasn’t about to wait around to find out.
     Shaking off his strangling fear, Terry slowly raised his rifle to his sight line, eyed in the target with the scope, and popped a shot directly through the back of the creature’s head. As he quickly lowered the gun, the other wakened creature sprang to his feet and leapt to his friend’s side. He emitted a mournful low and raised his glance to look around him. His eyes locked on Terry and the red-stained forms of his fangs were bared in anger. But it was too late.
     Terry had his rifle poised for another shot the second the beast was on his feet examining his friend, and as soon as those beady, sinister eyes were on him and those ghastly teeth were flared, another shot rang out in the misty morning hitting the second creature right between the eyes. The beast stiffened, yawed a little to the right, and pitched to the side landing directly atop his friend. The ring of the gunshot stirred birds and some little mammals from their resting places, yet it did not even budge the two remaining creatures that lay, just breathing beside the –it wasn’t a bear after all- furry mound. At this realization, Terry ventured forth even closer with his gun at the ready.
     Upon closer inspection, it became very clear that the large creature was decidedly not a bear after all, but something far more simian-like. Terry could do little more than stare at it rolling over in his head the simple fact that it might just be a sasquatch. He’d heard of such giants patrolling acres and acres of Michigan forest, making themselves seen to a select few who, in turn, regaled tales of the massive monsters and their storied myths. But Terry had never –nor thought he’d ever- see one, alive or dead. But here it was; its fur was tacky with congealed blood, bite marks dried with deep red stains all over its body, and the look on its face was of utter panic and frozen fear. Terry felt a small sense of sorrow for this beast. He knew it was the creatures –two of which still breathed- that did this to it, and it just somehow felt very unnatural. In fact, his entire day had felt completely unnatural.
     Terry turned to the two creatures that lay on the matted earth, resting, as it now seemed, enveloped in each other’s arms. The picture was grotesquely unimaginable; snouts pressed together both caked with gore, clothing shredded in places that allowed for more intimate closeness, thick mounds of fur protruding from their faces, arms, feet… backs, stomachs… It was hideous. Terry could only bare to look the length of time it took to aim, and to fire.
     Two more shots radiated through the waking forest. Terry looked around and said a silent prayer to a God he –up to this point- never really bothered to speak to, and removed a collapsible shovel from his pack. He dug into the early afternoon, neatly burying the four creatures in one single hole, covering it with wet leaves and fallen needles to hide the carnage as best he could. As for the sasquatch… he left it be. Somehow it felt more natural that way; nature had birthed it and it would be nature that would waste it away. Feeling satisfied, Terry looked one more time at his work, packed up his things, and began the long walk back to his home.
     When night fell, and Terry was sound asleep in his bed with all six of his doors locked, some of the dirt shifted just a bit… the dirt that topped the unmarked grave that held the bodies of four once-humans.


     The President’s Chief Science Officer (also his Secretary of the Interior, which meant even less than normal at this particular moment) climbed into the armored limo carrying with him the only conceivable means by which to destroy the rampaging monster that even at this very moment was moving –albeit slowly- south from New York City. Rain pelted the car’s windshield and the buffeting winds threatened to tear it from the road, but Dr. Barnes sat staring into space, undeterred by the weather’s vicious attack, yet silently concerned at the unmoving UFO that seemed to be the cause of it all.
     A large Halliburton briefcase sat next to the Secretary, and rattled slightly as the stretch slipped and jagged at the wicked bursts of wind. Dr. Barnes was intimately familiar with its contents. It was 2006 and a small, ragged group of Paleontology students were busy carving out and mapping a new dig in the Australian Outback. A new species of dinosaur had been discovered, one that was slightly smaller than a T. Rex but every bit as terrifying a predator, and with the exception that this one –according to the fossil imprints- was covered with fine feathers. This discovery alone was enough to shake up the scientific community; the prospect that many of the already discovered dinosaurs may have had feathers and eventually evolved into modern birds was still a hotly debated notion, but here it was in all its glory. Sadly, this discovery had to be kept tightly under wraps –literally as well, since it was to be transported to the Smithsonian in D.C.- until the collected heads of certain specific scientific groups could make closer examinations. Dr. Barnes was asked by the President to make the trip to Australia high priority to oversee the final unearthing and transporting. His arrival was met with high approval -and even a bit of fawning considering actions like this were hardly routine at dig sites, But Dr. Barnes took it all in stride and even began to feel a little out of place still dressed in his suit and tie. Luckily, he brought with him two of his closest colleagues, both vastly more prepared than Dr. Barnes himself, and it was them he’d sent to assist with the remainder of the dig. And it was later that same afternoon that the hollers of delight and discovery echoed from the chasm as something else was unearthed.
     It turned out to be more like ‘somethings’, since what appeared to be, at first, just a rune-etched slab crusted with eons of rock and dirt turned out to hold with it the most important piece of the mythical puzzle: The Amulet. No one was really sure if that was actually what it was, considering most amulets are worn much like brooches or necklaces and this disk was roughly the size of a tea saucer. But, according to what could be deciphered from the glyphs, the ancient sigil-engraved artifact was indeed used as an adornment. Be that is it was, the round, metallic item was as horrifically grotesque as it was strikingly beautiful. Though it had sat encased in its earthly tomb for untold centuries, it came free nearly unworn and untouched. The surface held an almost crystalline sheen; a polish as though it had taken on a veneer deep under the ground rather than lost a luster like most other objects. The center resembled an unblinking eye in both a metaphorical sense and in the fact that it was an almond shape with a deeper center like a pupil, all of which was of the angriest hue of blood red anyone had ever seen. Emitting from the epicenter and scrolling outward toward the edges were unreadable writings carved and inked in the same damnable shade. Surrounding the crimson, bisected in four parts by the writing, were symbols and hieroglyphics in a tongue completely baffling to all of those who looked upon it; all of those present with enough combined linguistic knowledge to span the entire modern globe, as well as those languages considered dead. It was terrible to look at; a wretched piece of the ancient occult. Yet, it was impossible not to gaze upon; an object of untold power and opportunity. And thus it had to be locked away until a time when others could decipher its hidden passages.
     A year passed until enough information was gathered to make a more educated pass at the stone slab and its accompanying Amulet. After a few months of painstaking research and breaking down of a language so ancient and unused that it hadn’t been even heard of since the Macedonian era, a reasonable recovery of the lost text was made. It told the tale of a great being who traveled to Earth far pre-dating almost any life, and how the being gave its vast knowledge to three creatures that would carry with them the secret to a time in the future when they would be called upon for very different reasons. The time was to occur in 2011, a mere three-and-a-half years away, when the being would once again return to Earth and rend it asunder. There was but one of the three creatures that could be called upon to stop it, though it was not as an assist to the race that inhabited the Earth, it was just because that was its destiny. The writings made no indication of humans –apparently having no idea of what race would be the wisest- nor did it actually spell out the year as 2011. In the latter case it was more of an obscure mathematical method that worked out to be that precise year. And in the former case, it literally didn’t mention any race at all.
     The information struck those involved as almost too ridiculous to be true. However, there were those –the Secretary being one of them- who knew better than to discount something so random and so believable –at least in his own eyes- and so he kept the objects locked away in the sub-basement of the Smithsonian under the guard of a revolving set of armed men until the time was right to do what was necessary.
     As the limo pulled into the TBIRC parking facility after its remarkably short journey, Dr. Barnes sighed, relieved to finally release the secret he’d kept hidden for far too long. He popped the latches on the case and peered inside at the metallic disc that sat before him. The center eye pulsated in time with his heart beat.

     Dr. Ashraff responded to the request from security that the Secretary of the Interior, Dr. Barnes be allowed to enter immediately. He expected the Chief Science Officer’s visit and nearly met him at the door directly. The two exchanged pleasantries, passed greetings to one another and the Secretary’s escorts, and made for the information bunker stationed below the Earth’s surface. Business was of utmost concern, and the matter at hand was taking a decidedly terrible turn for the worse. They sat, and stared at each other in momentary silence not quite sure where to take the next step.
     “Dr. Barnes,” Dr. Ashraff began by shattering the stagnant silence, “You spoke of something you had discovered that could potentially end this madness.”
     Dr. Barnes shifted in his chair, still a little uneasy about sharing knowledge he had kept so close to himself for over four years. But, in the end, the survival of a nation depended on his decision to relinquish something held so closely by only a scant handful of people. “Yes, Dr. Ashraff, it is true. However, what I’m about to tell you will more than likely force you to see me in an all together different light. Can you accept that?”    
     “Well, Dr. Barnes, since I have no Earthly idea what it is you are about to tell me, then yes, I suppose whatever reaction you assume I will display might just fall under the category of a ‘different light’.”
     “Fair enough, Dr. Ashraff. Fair enough. Well, since our precious little amount of time seems to be dwindling faster every second, I suppose I ought to regale you with the tale.”
     Over the course of the next twenty minutes, Dr. Barnes told the story of The Amulet. Dr. Ashraff sat in stunned and utterly confused and disbelieving silence. And in the war room, Paige Wilson stared at the display as the alien craft turned the storm it had created into a Category 2 hurricane. The monster, in all its seemingly lost persistence, pushed to the south terrorizing town after town.


          “But it says that this… uh, R’yleh is somewhere… hm… I guess that’d be in the South Pacific, right?” Dr. Ashraff inquired skeptically as he gave a sidelong glance to Paige who had since been called into the private meeting; more to do with her initial discovery than her actual knowledge of the situation.
     “Well, that is indeed where the archaic directions point, for sure,” Dr. Barnes continued, “But it also states at the time of its purpose it will have repositioned itself somewhere near… oh…”
     “Oh what, doctor?” Paige interjected, just a curious as her colleague.
     “Um… oddly it states that it would be somewhere between a reigning Old Kingdom and a Newly Formed Kingdom. I’m guessing that it means… off the coast of America in the Atlantic.”
     Dr. Ashraff had to chuckle a little at the even odder notion that an entire location, however difficult to believe on its own, had the ability to relocate just because that was its destiny. “Look, I’m going at this whole thing with a few grains of salt here, Dr. Barnes; the simple notion that this amulet has the power to raise an abomination to thwart an already rampaging abomination is blatantly absurd. But now you’re asking me to take this already baseless piece of artifact and - just on assumption mind you- believe that the locale spelled out in the glyphs can move just because it’s supposed to? I’m sorry, doctor… I really am, but…”
     “I understand doctor, I really do. But just imagine for one second that this ancient text is completely true. Are you willing to drop it like fiction just because it doesn’t sit well with your notion of what can and can’t be believed? Do you think anyone thought Dinosaurs could have existed in their presently known forms over fifty years ago? Of course not, they would have been called crazy to do so. Do you think that the Christian Faith would be as solid as it is, were it not for the written teachings of The Bible? Absolutely not, Dr. Ashraff, and this circumstance is no different,” Dr. Barnes explained with a palpable feeling of passion everyone in the room felt.
     “Okay. Let’s just assume that this writing is, well, a kind of eminent instruction manual from thousands of years ago. It doesn’t make any difference what any of us believes, what matters is are we going to put all of our eggs in this one basket and just hope beyond hope that it works? I mean we’re talking about raising a potentially nightmarish beast to destroy one we already have… what if it doesn’t work? Being no worse off than we already are, in this instance, is to concede to our own deaths!” Paige proclaimed as her rising guile filled the room.
     The two sides stood in gnawing silence. They were all right, of course: there wasn’t any proof this would, or could work, the ramifications of its insanity were not lost on any of them, and any amount of bickering wasn’t going to change it. Dr. Barnes looked around and accepted the fact that he might have to go at this alone. He alone; the guardian of The Amulet.
     Dr. Ashraff broke the hastening silence, “I’m as skeptical as you can possibly imagine, but I’m taking all of this on your word.”
     Paige nodded in agreement, staring blankly at her hands. The necessary agreements were made, and now it was only a matter of finding the correct location. Dr. Barnes gestured to his limo, and told the driver to head toward the coast.


     The bathing downpour drenched New York City, flooding streets, drowning those caught out in it, and washing away any signs of the evil scourge of the zombie invasion. The marauding monster knew it would happen; he’d seen it time and again and the result was always the same. Something about his physiology seemed to reanimate dead tissue regardless of its make-up, provided it was carbon-based and reasonably intelligent. It turned its gaze once again to the craft that remained aloft just at the cloud line, generating the wicked winds and sopping rain, and scowled; nothing new to it at all, though it still had trouble understanding how it fit into all of this. Still the beings powered up the hurricane and spilled its cleansing contents across the already devastated city.
     And there, deep within the ancient recesses of its mind, it understood where its path lay: it was going to finally be vanquished. After countless eons of empty travels to innumerable worlds doing its one, soul predestined duty, it’s time had finally come. And though it felt a small tinge of remorse and disdain that what it had been created to do was once and for all concluded; it was mostly at peace. It was time to go home.


     The limo sped to the Maryland coast following a path that no one could understand, yet Dr. Barnes somehow felt was right. He held the steel briefcase, peered longingly and terrifyingly inside, and watched… and listened… and felt. The reddened center of The Amulet pulsated more quickly the closer they got to the shore, and that pulsing, in turn, followed the metronomic pace of his heart.
     Dr. Ashraff and Paige Wilson sat on the adjacent bench in the rear of the limousine, both staring out their respective windows. Neither was completely sure what was happening, and both were still riveted and equally stunned at the occurrences that had gone on over the past day and a half. It had been a day that no other human had even dared dream was possible. Even curious and overly-imaginative children and Sci-Fi authors could not have even come close to describing the brutal horror that they’d watched unfold. And now –and this was perhaps the most insane part of all- they were headed to an unknown cove to summon a creature that would, somehow, put an end to the madness. No; it was all madness begetting more madness. Neither had any inclinations that this was going to end well for anyone, yet neither could even devise a conceivable outcome. It was, after all, madness.
     Suddenly, Dr. Barnes barked into the intercom for the driver to stop. The limo had arrived at an old fishing dock. Wooden piers sat crumbling into the unforgiving sea, overgrown weeds and saplings choked the boat entrance, and what appeared to be years of neglect and avoidance turned the once pristine boating slip into a slowly dying tenement. The doors were opened by Dr. Barnes’ armed escorts, and the group of scientists stepped out onto the soggy ground.
     No words were exchanged as Dr. Barnes immediately set to work, almost as though he’d done this on a regular basis. The case was unlatched and The Amulet was gingerly removed and set on the hood of the limousine. Next to it was placed the ancient rune stone with its nearly unreadable glyphs and carvings. Dr. Barnes looked out to the calm sea, and breathed deep the salty air, steadying himself for the performance he’d waited four years to act out. He was as ready as he was ever going to be.
     Dr. Ashraff and Paige took a side-step to give the doctor his needed room, neither understanding why it was even necessary, but letting the compulsion move them regardless. They watched in abject curiosity as Dr. Barnes began reading the incantation in a dialect neither had even dreamed existed. It seemed there were many steps to the proper ceremony, and the doctor seemed to know every step flawlessly. They could have sworn that just then the wind picked up just a touch; a chill that bit to the marrow was in that wind and it conjured fear throughout the spectators. Out at sea, a slow roiling erupted from the surface, churning into a frothy boil. Paige and Dr. Ashraff found themselves in one another’s arms, holding themselves against the coalescing terror that was rapidly whipping about them. Gusts buffeted the trees, curling them side-long against the attack, and even shook the stolid limo on its wheels. The icy nip built to an almost frigid crescendo and stung them to the core. When it at once seemed like they could no longer stand the maelstrom, Dr. Barnes bellowed what was to be the final words written on the ancient stone out at the tempestuous ocean:
      “Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!”


     A city rose from the churning waters; a city carved entirely –innumerable eons hence- from solid stone. It was towering in it enormity; blocking out the sun and scraping the very bottom of the Heaven’s themselves. With it came a cacophonous roar that seemed to emanate from within the stone fortress itself; it echoed across land, sea, and sky, dropping all who heard it to the ground, writhing in agony and fighting to stave of what was thrumming right through their skulls. Adorning the massive throne that sat at the helm of the gigantic, floating island were rows of circular disks that looked remarkably like The Amulet used to raise it; each pulsating in rhythm like a hundred heart beats. And yet it was what sat upon the throne that created nightmares and turned away even the demons.
     The horrific leviathan that perched upon its earthen chair was of such indescribable loathing that even the mere sight of it scarred visions and burned its visage forever into memories. Hued a shade of sickly, unnatural gray-green, and splotched throughout its ghastly form with writing and gibbering sores like wretched barnacles, the lamentable abomination surveyed the surroundings like an angered God.
     And so it was.
     Grotesque, abhorrent, nauseous… the brutish thing sat wheezing in ire at its tower door. Tendrils of ocean steam spat forth from its maw over which hung a bulbous mass of threshing tentacles, each layered with knobby protrusions and angry spikes. Its serpentine fingers viciously contorted as its wicked talons dug feverishly at the craggy arms of the throne. Pustules gouted ichor, and open fistulas ran freely with rivulets of phlegmy sputum. Sprouting like giant, water-logged umbrellas from its back was a set of leathery and severely chapped wings; both hung limply down across its shoulders, neither looking that they had any strength to create lift. Its entire skull throbbed with the choking breath of oxygenated air; individual sacks like bellowing bladders struggled to maintain breathing. The immoral redolence that hung in the air like a wet sack was gagging and palpable.
     It slowly leaned forward, bringing to bear its entire face. An ancient, putrid cough burst forth with a sound like misfired torpedo, and then it spoke.
     Gargling bass erupted from its mouth; the sound split the eardrums of the onlookers. Only a single phrase was uttered as the six assembled, cowering humans screamed into the sky:
     The end.”  



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