I remember quite fondly the days following the conclusion of the Great Darkness. The entire world was balanced on the very lip of complete madness, as if secured only by a single strand of spittle from the gibbering lips of a madman. However, it should be mentioned that the madness was not of the purest variety, only the reactionary insanity ignited by commonplace minds crushed into the spaces of ceaseless wonder, without the slightest application of imagination for proper lubrication.
One of my favorite memories from that time concerned the March of the Scaremen. I remember precisely where I was when I heard the story come over the radio. The rain had been lightly falling on the rooftop of a house I had entered, and I was enjoying the fresh food I’d discovered stuffed inside a refrigerator in the basement.
The voice on the radio called them “Unholy deformations of the human condition, congeries of twisted anatomies assuming the most horrific shapes and positions one most likely couldn’t imagine, all of them posed via the assistance of sharp implements and other stabilizing materials, like wooden stakes and barbed wire.” The voice went on to report that the sculpted bodies had been created “. . . for reasons that seem to relate to the scaring-off of people, like some variety of macabre scarecrow.” I sat in the shadows, wrapped in awe, when the static parted again, delivering me into the arms of an earthborn dream:
“Reports are still coming in, but preliminary investigation puts the numbers in the thousands. From everything we’re hearing, it sounds as though a nightmare has taken up residence in the hills surrounding all of Paleton.”
That very evening, after the occupants of the house had returned, I created an homage to the Scaremen of Paleton, who had marched wicked and silent from nightmare into waking.
I only mention this to express the pleasure I felt as I came upon a large cornfield filled with scarecrows. I could imagine their artificial bodies overfilled with ripening human meats, surmounted by heads that partook from a multitude of unrelated species. As I came upon them, the fog retreated from me, giving the illusion that the fabricated monsters were on the march, shambling toward me through the cornstalks.
I was somewhere in the middle of the massive crop field when I heard a well-aimed whisper from the fog-drenched spaces ahead of me.
“Hi,” said a sad little whisper.
“Hi,” I responded.
“Come here,” the whisper said.
“Certainly,” I assured it, moving further into the mist and corn.
“Hurry,” the voice continued. “Closer, you’re almost there. We’re waiting for you.”
Gradually, the fog mixed with blood and the corn turned crimson. Hordes of dead cattle, their insides scattered everywhere, lay all around me. The whisper said, “Don’t pay them any mind. He did all that, but he doesn’t want you yet. So don’t worry, okay?” The whisper inflected genuine concern.
“I rarely worry, little whisper,” I responded, matching the whisper’s concern with genuine honesty. Eventually the corn hallways fell away and revealed an unobstructed view of a stable. The doors to the structure had been ripped from their metal hinges and repainted in blood.
“He did that, too,” the whisper indicated.
“I assumed as much. I will also assume that all the animals in the stable are dead, along with whoever owns this farm.”
“Oh, yes. They’re all quite dead. That’s what he’s like. Not much I can do about it anymore. He’s already killed me,” the little whisper said with no small amount of unhappiness.
“That’s too bad,” I offered.
The whisper led me into the farmhouse. The bodies inside were almost unrecognizable as human—they had been mindlessly disorganized. As I continued to follow the whisper through the house, I noticed that all the intervening doors had been blasted open, as if some gigantic creature had rampaged through the structure. There were signs that the corpses and damaged objects had been gnawed upon.
“Just a little further, now. We’re almost there,” said the sad, dead whisper.
“Very well,” I said.
As I ascended the stairs to the upper levels of the farmhouse, I was passed by a small pack of red-mouthed coy dogs, apparently tempted into the house by a free meal. I followed the whisper to the third story, my journey occasionally punctuated with more ruined bodies and wild hungry dogs.
The darkness clung to the hallway of the third floor as if it had dried upon its walls. I could barely see the ladder that led up into the attic. Whispers drifted down from above. “Here we are. Come on up. Its ok, you’re safe. We promise.”
As I climbed the ladder, I was certain that the smile stretched across my face was glowing. I emerged into the attic and the darkness transformed into crows. They took wing into the sky through a large hole in the ceiling. Scattered all around me were the pecked remains of more corpses.
“Up here,” said the whisper from somewhere beyond the hole in the ceiling
“As you wish, little whisper.” I climbed through the hole in the ceiling, making my way to the rooftop. The sky was a vault of deepest gray, falling away into darkness where the night began to seep into the storm-greyed twilight.
“Now, look,” the whisper instructed, hissing out from somewhere deep within the chimney to my left. I gazed out over the countryside, my vision pushing the shadows from its path, and I spied all the glorious death. Spread all around the distant fields, glens, and meadows were the corpses of untold numbers of persons and animals. Fires burned in the distance, lines of distant houses bleeding smoke into the blackening sky. Cars and trucks stood motionless in the middle of the one road that cut across the countryside, their operators crumpled beside them, red and ruined.
“He wanted you to see, and to appreciate what was coming for you. He said that he’ll be coming for you soon, but not quite yet. He wants you to have time to run. He really likes a good chase. I’m very sorry about all this, but we drew your name.”
“No apologies necessary, little whisper. I completely understand. But may I trouble you to send a message to the creature that killed you?”
“Yes, of course. What would you like him to know?”
“He drew the wrong name.”
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