“That’s what it said on the stupid tracts in the men’s room.” A wave of nausea hit. He tasted bile. The truffles from earlier were disagreeing with him. Debating. Debasing. De basement. What was that music? Something pounding. Rumbling.
“Did you eat them?”
“Did you read them?”
“Oh. Hah! Yeah but they didn’t-” He gulped. “Whew. Feel sick. Head hurts. I hear moaning. Singing? What is that?”
“You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to hide. Come to Mother.”
“Mother…Hubbard? Hah! Who’s that? Who’s crying? Who is this?
“The Mother beckons you.”
“Okay. Whew. Those ‘shrooms were good, but they upset my-” He winced. “My foot’s asleep…leg hurts…why do my legs hurt?”
“Because you are struggling with your isolation. Relax. Let us welcome you.”
“No, I stepped on something…a…devil’s snuffbox. It popped open and dust or something came out.”
His feet were astonishingly bare, covered in tannish-brown dust (or something) with tiny bumps like the sprinkles on those flat chocolates no one ever bought at the movies. The droning became pounding, moaning, wailing. The light was too sharp. The air was too bright. Who’d he do those ‘shrooms with? Why were they in the men’s room? And where?
“When you are welcomed into The Chorus there will be no isolation. Let go. Let it happen. We welcome you.”
His mouth was dry in spite of all that kombucha tea he’d drunk with… whoever. Remembering who was like trying to talk to someone in a dream. They changed into other people when you looked away. The tea was weird but it at least it was cold. Now the ground was cold, weird and rough under his hands. Rough, grey, hard, gritty. The pounding wouldn’t stop. A vast swooshing sound bore down on him like the sky was trying to iron the wrinkles out of him. So loud.
“Are you roofies? Am I drugged? Where the hell am I? Why can’t I move?”
“You are moving…to a new level of consciousness.”
“Moving on up!” He tittered. “Oh, no. I sound crazy.” He held his hands to his face as if they had answers on their palms. Instead, they had beige spots and a dusting of whitish powder.
A pall of smoke washed over him. He thought he saw dozens of hurrying legs within it. He heard a rhythmic wailing. Car alarms? Sirens. The whoosh pushed him down again, his face ground into the rough… pavement. He was in the road. He watched ants scurrying across the bumps in the asphalt. They were carrying stringy white somethings on their heads. They processed in a long spiral that wound inward until they disappeared down a crack in the sidewalk. Squinting through the haze he saw crowds of people, many running, making a horrible racket, but some walking along, seemingly unperturbed.
“Something. Not right. Can’t walk. Can’t open mouth.”
“There is no need for those things. We hear you. We know you. You are exactly where you need to be.”
He realized he’d been picking absentmindedly at something in his eye. Focusing his vision down at his own cheek, he could see a whitish filament sticking up in front of it. He gave it a tug. It didn’t take much to pull loose. It didn’t hurt like a hair or eyelash would have. He examined it between his finger and thumb. It had a tiny dark pinhead of some kind on one end. It wasn’t a hair, but something fibrous. Suddenly it curled like a fern frond. He grunted in shock, dropping it.
An acrid breeze dispersed the smoke. The feet hurried by in their shoes and boots and sandals, the legs, the pants and skirts, the arms carrying purses, canes and shopping bags. A brown dog flailed in the street nearby, covered in those fibers. It labored, thrashing like it couldn’t get to its feet, either. The droning-moaning resumed.
“Where are the phones? All these people. Walking.”
“No one needs a phone once they are welcomed. Let us welcome you.”
The ground shook – a huge rumbling blast like in the movies. A wave of hot atmosphere blew over his sprawling form. He strained to focus on the distance, saw flames, little ants crawling down the sides of the buildings. Falling, not crawling. His eyes wouldn’t stay trained on anything that distant. He looked back at the dog. The throng walking around went about their business. He realized he was naked.
“The Mother Truffle lives in the earth and the water and the air. Now she lives in the meat. The meat is welcome. The meat will never be alone. The meat will not go to waste.”
“No…you. You are not. You’re not a church. Those tracts in the – NO! I won’t…we won’t let you…”
“The Chorus welcomes all meat. The meat will sing as one. Never alone. The Mother Truffle permeates.”
“Screw your ‘Mother’! No! I won’t! I’ll. I will get up…I’m going to open my mouth. Right now. And yell. Right now. Show you. Going to yell.”
He shook with terrible effort as he raised his head, pushing his body up to rest on one hip. His trailing legs were numb, useless. He took in the deepest breath he could manage but it didn’t feel that deep. He forced his jaw to move, splitting his fused lips open with a moist squelch like stepping on a rotten peach. With all the breath he could muster he squawked drily, “Stop…You.” He fell back, exhausted.
If the dirt of the field, the fallen leaves of the trees, the moss-covered stones, the fairy circles in the woods, the worms in ground and grave, and every creeping, crawling thing possessed one united voice — that voice was in his head, and it laughed now.
“Look at yourself. Look at where you are. Do you see something you can stop?
He looked down at his trembling arms, covered in little round fruiting bodies of white, beige, and brown.
“We are part of the soil, the water and air. We have always been part of you. You have eaten us and made us part of your Corpus. We now make you part of our Chorus.”
“N-I will fight you…We- people, will fight you.” He strained to use words. “You can’t. Have us.”
The rush of walking, running legs suddenly ceased as every living being that he could see stopped as if on cue. Deliberately, all heads turned toward him, gazing with impassive, implacable eyes. The sudden hush made distant sounds emerge. Screams. Gunshots. Cars accelerating, crashing. Alarms. The elevated train screeched to a halt where no station stood.
A guttering, baritone vocalization from behind him set his hair on end. He turned to see it was coming from the stricken dog. The howl crescendoed, leaping an octave as it mutated into a gargling caterwaul like a sad, strangled goose.
The dog, now covered in a forest of wispy dew-covered tendrils, began to thrash, its eyes askew, shocking white as foam slopped from its mouth. The caterwaul turned into a ragged, resonating shriek. A bulge the size of a medicine ball swelled up from its abdomen – livid, moist, and taut. The dog’s thrashing slowed to an enfeebled pantomime. From the unmoving throng, a woman in grey slacks stepped off the curb, directly onto the dog’s ballooning belly. Her strap-sandaled foot plunged straight through. The pressure rushed out with a sharp, powdery pop! A billow of white bloomed out like someone sneezing into the flour. The dog’s body shriveled with a dry crackle, then lay silent and still. The ivory dust gathered into a swirl on the breeze, wafting down the street, a ghost late for an appointment.
The swoosh returned. He craned his neck to follow as it roared overhead. A slim, dark triangle spun like a cast-off leaf before clipping the corner of a skyscraper, bursting apart into a blossom of flame. The conflagration ejected smoking metal chunks onto the pavement below.
“Can’t have you? How is it that you think we’ve been talking this whole time?”
Another careening sliver soon followed– this one trailing a white line of smoke as it arced past the buildings toward the river in a way that he could tell it shouldn’t. It came down with a tremendous WHUMP! and a plume of spray. Both were quickly swallowed by the cold, dirty water.
He turned his head back, his eyes imploring the tableau on the sidewalk. Every being spoke simultaneously, including himself, his bloody jaw working robotically, a strangled voice croaking helplessly along with them.
“We’ve already eaten each other.”
The Meat’s field of vision filled with the curling fibers from under its eyelids. It took in a sharp, ragged breath. Its shoulders shrugged then fell, wracked with useless sobs. A mournful gargling filled its ears but its head was filled with the harmony of The Chorus. All chanted together in fellowship.
Mikey Hope lived in and around Atlanta, Georgia for many a moon, providing art and massages to all the people of the land until one day, he got a wild hair somewhere a wild hair ought not to be and he moved to New York City. This came as a great surprise to everyone, but especially New York City.
Now he awaits the activation of his clone army so that each may fully pursue one of his interests including: writing genre fiction, exploring his new stomping grounds, tabletop role-playing, creating digital art, teaching and performing massage, and making music.
While his writing has largely been confined to tabletop and play-by-email RPG settings thus far, he hopes to inflict it upon an unsuspecting public soon. Very soon. Perhaps even now, his nefarious plan springs into action upon an unsuspecting internet!
On a related note, his artwork may be viewed at his DeviantART page: http://preternatch.deviantart.com/
Man! I’m itchin’ like crazy and this rat-hole is runnin’ out of toilet paper. I musta bout used it all up makin’ these little squares. Dang, my arms look like hell, with all these red spots holdin’ the paper on ‘em. Makes ‘em look like Daddy’s face when he shaves, or like my legs when I started learnin’ how. This ugly vanity light ain’t helpin’ any either. Looks like I got some places on my legs too, dang. What the hell is wrong with me? I can’t even remember when these spots started poppin’ up, but they’re all over me now — arms, legs, boobs…everywhere. What if I’m sick? Like, really sick with somethin’ bad? I’ll have to go to the doctor after I find Momma. Momma would want me to anyway.
Ain’t there no ashtray in this place? Guess I’ll just use the sink. There, had it ’bout down to the filter anyway. At least the boy at the desk let me bum one off him, whatever his name was. Whew…let me just lay down for a minute and think. Guess I can lay over the bedspread on the end of the bed here and keep the blood off the sheets. Like that piece-a-shit bedspread has even been washed. God knows what’s on it. Oh…feels good to lay down in just my undies, I’m sure the maid won’t mind I wadded my clothes up in the floor. Where did I put that business card? Oh right, on the nightstand. That lamp is god-awful, just like everything else in here. Where’d they get all this stuff, Goodwill? I wonder if Daddy knows his gun is gone yet? He prob’ly thinks Momma took it when she run off with that new man of hers. He wouldn’t ever think I’d take it. Prob’ly never. Well, anyway when Momma and that man get here, that ain’t all that’s gonna be gone. She shoulda known better than to leave that card in her purse for me to find. She knows I swipe her smokes. They even wrote the room number on it. Piece of luck this room butts right up to it. They’ll be here soon, they gotta be. Hope I loaded this thing right.
God, I’m so beat. That window unit is purrin’ me to sleep. Don’t wanna sleep through Momma gettin’ here. Don’t want any more of those dreams. Can’t believe how crazy, those messed up…dreams. Crazy…Momma…
Momma. Momma! Where are you?!
Girl, I told you not to follow after me. You don’t listen. You never did listen.
Momma, where are you?! I can hear you but I can’t find you! It’s so dark here!
I didn’t want you to find me. Tried to tell you not to follow after me. You think I wanted you here?
Momma why’d you leave Daddy?! He needs you! We – I need you!
A dog needs his bone too, till he gets tired of it. Buries it in the backyard. Forgets about it. I told you not to follow me. I wanted better for you. You get some rest now, rest while you can, baby. Go on now, just like when you was a little girl.
Good night…sleep tight…
Oh…fell asleep. It’s so cold in here…freezin’. Where’s my shirt? Oh, yeah, the floor. Shit! Look at my arms. My chest! Oh no, oh no, where are these comin’ from? Oh Jesus, what is wrong with me?! Maybe I got the hives or somethin’? Maybe I’m allergic to that nasty bedspread. I don’t care if I do bleed on them sheets, I can’t sleep on top of the covers, I’ll be froze to death. I’ll just…put my shirt and britches on. Let them soak up the blood spots, at least I’ll be warm. Momma will be here soon. Just tired. So tired, gotta lay down. Momma’ll be here soon…
Ha, ha! That tickles! Stop ticklin’ me! Ow! What the? Quit bitin’ me! I’ll tell Momma on you! OW! Son-of-a-bitch! Get off of me! What are you…what…are you?
I told you not to follow after me.
Momma! Somethin’s bitin’ me! What are these things? Look at ‘em! Look at ‘em up close…See! Look there! Just like a little bitty…man! A little man with a bloody mouth! He looks just like your boyfriend! Ow! He bit me! He did it again! Ow! OW! Momma, it hurts make him stop! Make them stop! There’s…more of them…men, women…that one looks like you! There’s lots more! Oh my god, there’s little people crawlin’ all over me! They’re bitin’! It hurts! Momma!! Momma where are you?! What’s that moanin’, Momma? I hear you moanin’! Gotta wake up! Please wake UP! WAKE UP!!
Uh! Oh my god! Oh! Look at all the blood! Soaked right through my shirt, soaked the sheets! Oh the sheets are rurnt…Ow! Sore…somethin’…bit me. Oh shit. Somethin’ bit me all over! I ain’t allergic to nothin,’ somethin’s been bitin’ me this whole time while I been sleepin’! Oh my god this place has bugs. I knew it! I bet there’s some in the bed right now, some up under this mattress…lemme…just…pull it back…Yeah, prob’ly some right up in the corner here…need more light, c’mere ugly-ass lamp…yeah…there’s dried up blood all along the seams on the matt– wait. Oh, ew! No, no, no! It just crawled right out of there! Shit, pulled the plug out of the wall! Where’d it go? Gotta get my shoes, where my shoes at? Ugh! Shower. Get me to the shower! Get these bloody clothes off – gotta get the bugs off…C’mon, c’mon, heat up! There we go…Oh, damn that’s gonna make ‘em bleed worse. Holy shit, look at the size of these sores! Those things musta bit a plug outta me. Oh, they itch! Dammit!
Wait a minute. That didn’t look like no bug on the mattress. That looked like… No, that’s crazy. You’re goin’ crazy, girl. Two or three nights of bad sleep and you done lost your mind. But it wasn’t….a bug. You know what you seen…You know what you seen. Oh God, what if there are more of them? How many more of them are they?!
What was…sound like someone moanin’? Where is that comin’ from? The room next door? Sounded like Momma! I bet she’s in there with that man-whore of hers!
Oh wait, I can’t run outside, someone will see me like this…Wait, I think -yeah! This door here without a knob goes to their room… Dammit locked! Let me in! You hear me?! Momma, I know you’re in there! Open the door! I’ve got a gun! Open this door or I’m shootin’ the lock off! Momma?! Alright, I warned you…Shit! Left the safety on. Okay, now – Ah! Loud! Gotta keep at it! Momma?! I’m comin’ in there, Momma! Ah! Ah! One! More! Shot! There we go, now… gotta shove it hard – HUNH!
Oh, shit, my shoulder…worked though. Told you I’d…shoot the lock…turn on the lights you floozy! I know what you’re doin’ in here, I can smell – uh, smell…oh God, what is that? Smells like iron in here. Sounds like moanin’ again. Momma stop that moanin’! Stop it you two! Can’t you stop it for one second, I’m right here, don’t you smell that? Don’t you hear that? That scratchin’ and scribblin’ like little buh-bugs…Ah! Momma is that your hand! It’s bloody! Oh god, I stepped on– Momma! Momma is that you?! They’re everywhere. Momma, we have to get out of here! Momma please stop that moanin’, where is he? Where’s your man? Is that him?! I’ll stop that moanin’… Ah! There! I saw in the flash –they were all over him! Uh! Uh! N-no! Outta bullets! He was still twitchin’! Momma we have to g-UH! Tripped! Oh! My leg! Sorry, Momma, I didn’t mean to step on your – ow! Ow! Oh no, they’re crawlin’ on me, they’re on me! Get them off! Let’s see how you like my nails you little shits! Got you! Where’s the light? Uh! There! Oh…God…
There’s blood everywhere…Oh no…I can see your…insides…the little people…Little men on you. Little men…in you. Oh! The floor is crawlin’ with them! So many…they’re all over me…they’re gettin’ inside me!
Momma, they’re eatin’ into me! Can’t get ‘em off. Help me, Momma!
Told you not to follow after me, girl. Never. Listen…Sleep tight…
Mikey Hope has lived in and around Atlanta, Georgia for many years, whilst waiting for the rest of his clones to be activated so that each can fully pursue one of his interests, which include writing genre fiction, tabletop RPG gaming, creating digital art, teaching and performing massage, and making music.