Author : Desmond White
It was maybe the smell – the stench of it – which wafted from its corridor invisibly, or on a bad morning very visible, a blushing mist. The cloying reek, like a bouquet of rich, rotting flowers, congealed on windshields and the grease on fingertips and even between teeth. (Because of this, most citizens of Ohm wore facemasks which supposedly screened 99.98% of fume exposure.) It definitely had every opportunity to enter the nostril, so maybe it was small particles in the air – some combination of pheromones, the vine-fragrance of Nepenthes rafflesiana, ectoplasma, and sin.
It might have been the temptation itself – some intangible thing started by the early string of suicides and fetishized by the 24/hour news cycle. Maybe it was something psychic and spiritual – the citizens of Ohm unknowingly bombarded with madness and Biblical lusts. Maybe it was all ‘in the mind,’ a psychological conjuring trick, as disorienting and spellbinding as an optical illusion.
The fact was – metaphysical or not – the people of the city of Ohm lived on the edge of a great circling canyon of flesh which dipped down nearly cylindrical, like an organic ribbed condom, or the meaty circles of Dante’s Inferno, or an inverted and elongated areola.
They were a people who had to think carefully, quickly, and quietly. The days, each waking moment really (and some of the sleeping ones), were spent focusing away from, or in distraction of, that temptation they all felt to surrender the Self, trudge to the city’s throat (that great muscled garbage disposal) and onward, to disappear forever – never to be unearthed. The Pink preyed on the weak, the meek, the persuadable, the biodegradable, and what was left of the sociopaths, psychopaths, all the paths, leading to its mouth.
The Pink had appeared mysteriously but there were three leading theories on its origins. Theory One was that a mosquito had bled some cosmic horror and, now carrying some unimaginable eldritch virus, had bit a math theater at Saint Ohmias High – the Pink growing from a scar on her thigh. Theory Two was that some furtive project to drill into the Underworld had succeeded. From the fissure had sprouted this – a pathogen on the devil’s cuticle, or maybe the eternal digestive tract of a diabolic wurm, or a thousand theologians’ had been proven right – Satan’s bellybutton is an innie. Tax dollars at work.
There was certainly a taint of religion in those two theories. Theory Three was a Secular Reason, and so was constantly mocked by other theorists (although mocked only in writing, as laughter was a symptom of a future spelunker). In this Theory, the city of Ohm had been subject to a biological attack from a neighboring nation-state. These theorists refused to “let the terrorists win” and went about their errands with heads down as if facing a strong gust. They had sayings like: “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you as you climb into its gullet.” Another: “Keep your head down. But don’t keep heading down.” This entrenched Will, so confident in practicality, kept them alive the longest.
All theorists agreed there were some positive effects from the intrusion. The homeless problem was eradicated. Employment rose – there was also a shortage of employees. Real estate was abundant, and cheaper. Hand-washing was strictly enforced any time a citizen ventured the streets, preventing the spread of influenza. And there was no denying that the affected who walked the pink mile had the most euphoric expressions on their faces, one last bliss before the fall.
The Government had once waged a war against it; once fought for its constituents. The Big G had tried poison, only to discover the creature’s response to be intolerable. Tremors. Crushed buildings. 392 dead. Government officials then commissioned a hundred helicopters to pull the slug out from its hole, only to find the Pink well-rooted by underground crevices. Teams had been sent through the sewers to cut its tenders and roots, only for them to discover it’d entered the Public Water Supply as well. The Thing had been touching their minds more deeply than they’d anticipated. A succession of chemical tests meant to exterminate, if only contract, the beast did little to nullify its effects, and only made its breath more toxic. The project ended when one day, the laborers, contractors, and all the officials, lawyers, and scientists, plus the mayor, met together at the edge and walked down into the slime. The tractors and crates remain as monuments, as cautionary tales.
He maketh me to lie down in pink pastures.
The Thing remains. The Thing remains.