Halloween XS 2
A (short) exercise in bombastic Halloween fiction
The dead center of the story would come at the end. It was a culmination, to be coaxed back – or was it forward? To stare into dazzling unseeing – that was the thing. Animated obscurity approaching him across a darkened pumpkin field.
It had been a dream, exquisite in its horror. Upon its return, a few nights later, the edges of its moonless luminosity were still undulled. Then, only inane slumber, for over a week. He had still written nothing down. By the time of the third apparition it had decayed, shredded into black rags by delirium, wormed-through by neglect. He awoke in a sweaty chaos of tangled sheets and recalcitrant memory. In a panic, he now sought – too late – to capture it.
Detail had eroded down towards a fever-ground core of inarticulate urgency. Numbly, he understood that the sole meaning of his career – and thus his life – was buried in the ruins of an unmined nightmare, avalanched under by confusion and thickening dread. Everything he would ever want to say had been whispered to him, but he had fumbled the priceless gift into oblivion. A jagged chunk of non-being had been flung at him across the desert of limbic night. With each loop of recollection, it receded further behind a wake of undecipherable reference codes. The weird tale he had been offered was reduced to an unthreading ghost story, degenerating by the hour, into chattering nonsense picked up among rumors of forbidden secrets. The sacred touch of vacuous insanity was gone.
Nobody would ever have mistaken his life for anything other than a futile, slow-motion catastrophe. His literary career was a partial-birth abortion of singular grisliness. The pieces that emerged still twitching soon expired amid detestable groans. Now everything fell completely apart.
Seen coldly, in the morbid pre-dawn glow, it was suddenly obvious that the empty whisky bottles and overflowing ashtrays were detritus from a forgotten ritual. There had been an incompetent summoning. If repeated mechanically, it would deteriorate a little further. The alternative was to do it right. As a memento, he attached a post-it note to the computer screen, bearing the single word: Invoke. Then he stumbled groggily to bed. His dreams were discreet and interred in sleep.
Satan had nothing to offer him, except indirectly, and unconvincingly. Luciferic inspiration would not ignite. Instead, the Dark Prince, slumped in reptilian lassitude upon the throne of doom and undisguisedly bored by the conversation from its first moment, merely derided his attachment to conventional ideas. A claw-toed foot sifted vaguely through the heap of crumbling skulls. “Have you drawn your entire contact list from a Dennis Wheatley novel?” susurrated the Old Deceiver with languorous contempt. There was nothing further to be said.
It was a circuit, locking him out. To access the name he needed to know who to call. Incense-clouded blackness and strange drugs broke upon a sea-wall of silence. At the dead-end of each ruined night, the only thing that mattered was further gone, recessed more deeply into the cross-hatched palimpsest of memory. The unintercepted missile of oblivion streaked away from his life, on some unimaginable course.
“You need help,” said the young man in the street, proffering a crudely-printed pamphlet.
“Jesus Christ your Savior,” he read, enunciating slowly and carefully. “Nope.”
The street evangelist studied him for a drawn-out minute, in calm silence. “What are you searching for?” he asked eventually.
“Can’t you see?” he laughed, sleepless mental dilapidation knapping an edge of hysteria onto his tone. “I’m pursuing the dream.”
“You’d turn your back on peace?” the young man asked sadly.
“If I could still find the back I’d fall into it …”
His abandonment of all hope led him on long, looping walks through the countryside. Mindless sensation blurred the damnation of unknown names. Autumn had enveloped him in mists and mildewed fruitlessness. He shuffled without objective through rotting leaves.
Everything had been broken by the time he stumbled upon the distant perimeter. The day, the year, and his existence were simultaneously tumbling to an end. Light had thinned to a play of shadows. Glancing sideways, he was jolted from his reveries – hurled into startled recognition. This was the place.
Its familiarity captured him, guiding the direction of attention. Realization was instantaneous, and all-engulfing. As the gates opened, recollection flooded back, indistinguishable from perception. Suddenly – diagonally – it was time.
The scene returned, enthralling. Every detail was assembling itself to perfection. He stepped forward, slowly, but without hesitation, into what he had once thought – once dreamt to be – no more than a nightmare. There was a piece cut out of his mind, matching a hole in space. Like a missing tooth, it was now simply not there. He groped for it, which meant taking another step forward. Whatever it wasn’t to be would arrive soon. That was the only certainty.
With solemn inevitability, the shape – like a shard of broken fate, or a compact rift wounding the sky – drifted toward him across the pumpkin field.