Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
For reasons unexplained a man finds himself in the woods late at night, separated from his companions, without a light and quite alone.
The night is dark, but not pitch-black, just light enough for him to see the hint of path before him. He suddenly finds himself standing before a shapeless “Void,” much darker than the surrounding forest. Immediately, he’s aware of an unseen presence within. He knows he’s being watched.
The man is calm and deeply curious about this phenomenon. He’s no stranger to weirdness, only weird to strangers. The paranormal does not bother him. He has, you might say, become accustomed to mysterious “disturbances in the force”. Despite his lack of fear, however, something about the ebon cloud blocking his path sets his nerves on edge.
Peering into the Emptiness, he attempts to penetrate the thick shroud of un-light, hoping to detect the presence within. As he does, thought forms take shape in his mind. Thoughts that aren’t his.
So subtle is the foreign mind insinuating its alien presence, slipping and slithering between his thoughts, that initially the man believes he’s having an internal dialogue with himself. Profoundly significant ideas and understanding of inscrutable and obscure concepts manifest within his conscious mind, fully formed as if from nowhere, but he’s soon certain, by subtle nuances of speech and syntax, that there’s something else, an “Other”.
An angel perhaps? Something worse?
Discovered, the Other playfully suggests that the man leave with it, that he abandons this plane of existence by stepping into the void before him. This is no simple revelation, no ordinary epiphany, thinks the man. In a heartbeat, it becomes a temptation.
The “Other” appeals, with uncanny persuasion, to the man’s deep-seated desires for escape, to his longing to abandon the crisis of humanity and soar through the universe unfettered. The Other sings seductively of the galactic family waiting just beyond the veil of shadow.
The man has longed for such an invitation – an escape from complication, fear and a culture hell bent on self-destruction; an escape offered by other-worldly, possibly divine forces! How could he refuse?
But he must choose. Go now. Or stay, forever.
It’s simple. All he must do is willingly offer himself to this dark stranger from the stars. His willingness to cross over is a necessary condition.
The man contemplates the tantalizing enigma, feeling the lure of leaping blindly into the unknown. Then he considers his daughter, just two years old.
Like a blazing lighthouse, her image brings focus to his hypnotized mind. He knows immediately that he could not possibly be happy anywhere in the universe except by her side, here on Earth. He couldn’t simply “beam up”, or vibrate to another dimension or some awaiting mother ship.
Somewhere deep inside he knows also that he can’t trust a being that cloaks itself in shadow promising liberation and utopia. He knows that he’d simply become the pawn of a new overlord in some galactic game of chess, a pawn of a significantly higher order, but a pawn nonetheless.
His purpose is here he realizes, on Earth; to his family, to his community, to his planet. The easy way is a copout.
“We are where we are,” he says to the Other, “at this time for a season, though we may never know the reason. It may seem an utter nightmare, but it’s our nightmare – we just haven’t learned how to wake ourselves up yet.”
With that he turns his back on the shadow and chooses the swiftest road to his child and never looks back.
Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
Thick mist clings to the water when I enter Topside, my body still changing. Below, I’m Dolphin, but as I rise above the pre-dawn waves, cool sea water cascading down my shifting form, my body attempts to mimic a half-remembered land creature. A Deer – I think.
I’m certain it’s a failure, a distorted, hairless chimera. I haven’t the strength for complete metamorphosis. I’m famished. The journey from the depths of the Great Water, my sanctuary, has taken its toll.
How long has it been since I last walked on land?
Or seen another of my kind?
I inhale sweet, spring air, but spit when I whiff Their foul, bitter presence, stronger than ever. I’d hoped They were gone, swept away by the ever shifting tides of change.
I fear this place, but must feed and there is little to sustain me any longer in the Great Water. It is dying. Death pools are everywhere. The kingdom is now a graveyard. It was by Dawa’s grace that I found the Dolphin, but that was many moons ago. It’s time to leave the Great Water, to return Topside and hunt.
Wet sand oozes through my malformed hoof reminding me of the heaviness of the world above. The constant drag on my body feels oppressive, like a tether, compared to the sea’s boundless freedom. Ancient memories of bounding, sure-footed through untamed forests taunt me as I stumble awkwardly onto the sand and pull my weary form from the lapping shore to finish my shifting.
Death. I’m ready to let it take me, to have my memories swallowed whole, to let feral teeth consume my essence as I’ve consumed so many others. I’ve lived long enough.
But instinct drives me.
Summoning my remaining strength I stagger to my feet and, like a new-born fawn, walk with trembling legs up the beach. Beyond the shifting sand at the edge of the forest I finally find my balance.
Guided by instinct I prowl the woods with wary vigilance, my senses rapidly adjusting to the new environment’s stimuli. I sense life all around, but either its too small to sustain me or I am too weak to catch it, so I take refuge beneath the bows of a large coniferous tree and wait, silent, patient, hopeful and so very hungry.
My body reverts to a dormant state, too exhausted to maintain my simulacrum any longer.
Many moons pass.
Perhaps it was a mistake to return.
I smell It before I see It; the oppressive stench of a wretched Man-thing, whose violence and hatred drove me into the sea. If the oceans weren’t dying I wouldn’t be forced to return to land to face those wicked usurpers who drove me to the ocean’s depths. I thirst for revenge, but will myself to watch and wait.
Dawa is with me. The man-thing passes so near my hiding place that I feel the warmth of its life energy. My pulse quickens. My blood is hot in my veins as I rise on formless, elastic appendages. Sensing the moment, I strike.
The instant we touch paralysis overcomes us both as our bodies and minds merge. Soon we are one.
When the assimilation is complete I separate myself, budding off a perfect physical copy, leaving my slack-jawed, insensate victim a withered husk in the bushes.
I review a flood of alien thoughts and feelings, making them my own.
Ah, yes… Now I remember life Topside.
Refreshed, I stride purposefully through the dense forest. My new body is strong, vigorous, virile.
Time to find a mate.
Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
I hear the electronic lock on my door buzz open, waking me from my brief nap. I crack one weary eye and spot a nervous, but pleasant looking woman, 30ish, standing timidly by the entrance to my sanctum sanctorum.
“Come in,” I say. “Welcome to my châteaux.” This wins me a shy smile, but she remains at the threshold.
I get groggily to my feet and, scratching my bare belly and rubbing sleep from my eyes, I saunter over to the small buffet table perennially arranged with a cornucopia of food and drink.
“Hungry?” I offer, attempting a modicum of old school decorum.
“Mind if I – ?”
I check her out over mouthfuls of grapes. She’s not bad looking, especially when she smiles; long legs, strong hips, bright, kind eyes, curves in all the right places.
She’ll make a good mother one day.
I watch her trying to take it all in while attempting to appear brave, stalwart. This is her first time and it shows. For me this routine is old hat.
I pop the last grape into my mouth as I cross to her and for a moment I’m certain she’s going to change her mind, scream and bolt. It happens.
But she stays and even lets me put my hands on her shoulders. She shivers beneath her loose shift.
“Don’t you wish we could get outta here,” I whisper seductively into her ear. “Just the two of us. We can run off into the mountains somewhere. Make babies. Repopulate the world.”
“You say that to all the girls.”
I do, but I don’t say so. Instead, I grin and tilt her head up to look at me. “No, just you.”
We pretend to believe my lie as I draw her to my bed, both painfully aware that her husband, or boyfriend or lover waits for her outside, livid with guilt-fueled jealousy.
But I can’t help what I am – a stud. One of only twelve in the world, or so I’m told. I’ll never know for certain since we’re kept apart from each other – for safety’s sake.
Sex. Coition. Coupling. Pairing. Fornication. Consummation. Intercourse. Nooky. Relations. Mating. Sexual congress. Copulation. Carnal knowledge. There aren’t enough words to describe what I do. All day. Everyday.
I wish I could say it was the life, but it ain’t true. You’d think being one of the only fertile men on the planet would earn you a little respect and dignity, but I’m treated like an animal – a very precious and well tended animal, but at the end of the day I’m just meat.
No one really knows how it happened, but by the end of the 21st Century the male sperm count had dropped by 99%. They say it was a conspiracy, an attempt at population control that went horribly wrong, possibly GMO foods, but whatever it was, in the end only a few men remained fertile.
Some say I’m one of the lucky ones – treated like a king; desired by all women and envied by all men – but one person’s Heaven can be another’s Hell.
Procreation. That’s what I’m really here for. They come to me – old, young, thin, fat, beautiful, ugly, any woman strong enough for childbirth. They come to me filled with longing and faith. In their eyes I’m a savior, but I know that I’m simply a grunting, sweaty idol bringing dim hope to desperate women and a dying race.
I am simply a function. And I have a busy schedule to keep.
Now, where were we?
Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
“… Mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of Hell.” – St. Augustine
Numerals flow in random digital pulses around a wide black band high in the perilous chapel’s white marble walls. Each numeric chain makes a full rotation before disappearing into its own beginning point, like a snake devouring its own tail.
A cabal of twelve ebon-clad Mystics, their robes finely detailed with glimmering stars and moons, are aligned like sentinels around the circular perimeter of an intricate tile mosaic occupying the center of the main gallery. The mosaic’s design is a mesmerizing mathematical fusion, depicting colored rays, radii, circumference ratios, triangles within squares within circles. Imaginary numbers. A thin line of red tile carves an elegant spiral path through the entire motif.
A thirteenth figure, a woman, naked and bound, every inch of her pale skin tattooed with alien cartography, hangs suspended inches above the locus of the circle by a rope which vanishes into the overhead shadows. Her blue eyes glisten with terror.
Silently, each Mystic produces a heavy, linen sack from within their robes and proceeds to dust the mosaic in a thin, chaotic layer of salt.
Then they begin their chant.
Quietly at first, nearly inaudibly, the heinous invocation multiplies and rolls over itself like an approaching thunder clap until the vast chamber is filled with a reverberating chorus of harmonized frequencies. Subliminal numeric equations weave themselves together within the esoteric warp and weft of dark tonalities, evoking foul attention from the Realms-Between-The-Spaces.
Awakened by the hypnotic din, the salt begins to dance, moved by invisible forces until it has gathered into a vibrating pattern of circular and curvilinear lines on the floor, and when the chanting shifts octaves suddenly, the pattern of salt changes. Circles bud like dividing cells into smaller, twin circles forming a more complex pattern.
Darkness gathers like a noisome cloud above as, once more, the surreal chant shifts octaves. Again the trembling salt sketches out a more compound geometry, levitating from the ground and twisting into a three dimensional spiral which rotates around it’s anchor point, the woman. Her long, auburn hair floats freely from her body now as if underwater, stirred by eldritch currents. She struggles weakly against her restraints.
In a bone-shuddering climax, a sudden bass tone resonates throughout the chamber scattering the salt into a loose dome above the mosaic and silencing all other sound. The darkness beyond the dome is complete, shrouding the miscreant wizards behind a protective saline field.
All that remains visible is the woman hanging within a malevolent emptiness by a spidery thread. She has ceased moving. Her eyes, only a moments ago staring in wide-eyed horror, are now drained of color, becoming slick, shifting voids, like twin pits filled with oily, black serpents.
With the deliberate, agonizing pace of an emerging butterfly, the skin around her eyes, mouth, nose, navel, vagina and anus begins to fold over itself, her body inverting and contorting into a shapeless mass of pulsing muscle and viscera. One by one, each bone is excreted and drops to a gruesome pile on floor.
Numerous mismatched eyes and prehensile, snake-like appendages emerge at random points from the hideous, crimson flesh-beast. Still suspended from the rope, the mass splits across its middle, forming two massive, bloody lips which begin a gross mockery of speech.
“A go-go lap dancer, a pip, was able to peel in a zip, but she read science-fiction and died of constriction, attempting a Mobius strip.”
The confused Mystics stand in muted bewilderment.
“Sheesh, Tough crowd.”
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Author : Desmond Hussey
The Climber clings to the base escarpment of Olympus Mons’. Freezing zephyrs tug at his dusty, ocher robes as he scales, hand over fist, the sheer face of ruddy basalt.
“What is the nameless name?” Master Su-gee asked him once, long ago. His voice soft as a Martian spring breeze.
“Everything has a name, Master.”
“We call the sea, Sea, the air, Air. Mars – Mars! Everything has a name. You’re Master Su-gee. I am –
The Master brought his hands together in a violent clap, stirring thick incence smoke into esoteric coils, which languished in the thin air.
“But Master, a name is power!“
The Master closed his eyes and whispered, “A name is weakness.”
The Watcher gazes from the mountain’s bass over Lycus Sulci, a rough, corrugated terrain where the massive volcano has buckled the Martian surface. Far-seeing eyes penetrate the tawny atmosphere glimpsing the distant aqua-blue shimmer of the Amazonis Ocean. Moist ocean winds carry precious water to the variegated lichen forests of Lycus Sulci. Promises of life.
Above, coriolis winds spin white cirrus into hypnotic, Fibinocci spirals, whispering secrets most do not hear.
“Names can be named, but named name is not the Eternal Name.”
The Traveler follows the gentle slope leading inexorably upward, the Mons’ zenith ever beyond the horizon. The destination ever beyond sight.
He moves through an endless forest of Serendipity Cactus rising from sandy hillocks. Their single, enormous leaf is held aloft by plump hydrogen nodules anchored to the lava field, resembling a vast, organic net cast high into to the sky; ever reaching to the heavens, yet bound to the material.
The plant’s wispy, pink cilia suck moisture from air-born dust, depositing grains of sand at the stem’s bass in gentle red mounds, like carefully harvested thoughts.
“Master, without names, without words, how can anything be known?”
“Words are dangerous, slippery, magnetic, filled with prejudices. Do not get caught studying the finger.”
The cinder of Earth glows dim on the horizon. Twin moons rule the star-studded firmament above the colossal Buddha carved into the Caldera’s wall. One hand reaches heaven-ward, the other lightly touches the ground. Behind a massive finger a narrow tunnel descends into the heart of the sleeping volcano. The Dreamer enters.
“Go deeper, young Dreamer. Whether you go, stay, sit, lay down, the whole world is your own self. You must discover whether the mountains, rivers, grass and forest exist in your own mind or exist outside it. Observe the ten-thousand things. Dissect them minutely. When you have reached the limitless, you come to the end of your search, where thinking goes no further and distinctions vanish. Go. Find the nameless name. Smash the citadel of doubt.”
The young monk bowed once, then left the mountain monastery.
The Seeker returns, walking an endless, oppressive night through the volcano’s twisting catacombs, deep into the bowels of the planet. The labyrinthine tunnels are dizzying, misleading, filled with false hopes, eager to devour lost seekers in a maze of dead ends.
The Seeker is patient. He listens.
The path knows the way.
A shaft of pale light falls on Master Su-gee who sits atop a broad cone of tan basalt, a microcosm of Olympus Mons.
“You have returned. Tell me: What is the nameless name?”
The Monk looks deep into the infinite cosmos of Su-gee’s ancient eyes, then he slaps his Master’s sand-carved face.
Su-gee smiles, nods. “How reluctantly the bee emerges from deep within the peony.”
The Monk bows low. “When the clouds have cleared the moons appear.”