Thursday, October 3, 2013

Septu Cometh

       Five thwacks sounded against the thin sheet rock wall, just outside of the skeletal office where Jumble hid. Cloudy plastic sheets rasped and billowed inward as the city wind howled along the face of the building. One of them skimmed the nape of his neck, causing him to leap headlong into the stack of cardboard boxes he'd hid behind. A box at the bottom of the pile, packed solid with ceiling panels, lay waiting for his descending jaw. He came down with a meaty click, molars sinking into the side of his tongue.

       "Ah, glod-!"

       Three more thwacks beat along the wall, nearing the doorless entrance to the room less than six feet away to his right. He scrambled backwards on his ass and palms, oscillating his head side to side, looking for something useful. A weapon, if he was lucky--something top-heavy he could grip onto. Whoever had been working on the forty-second floor had been tidy, though. All that remained from their toils were boxes and two sawhorses, standing parallel by a far, open window.


       He wormed a hairy hand into the neck of his bleach-spotted green t-shirt and felt for the necklace. For a moment, there was nothing--his chest had become slick and slimy, coating the thin metal chain so that it was hard to differentiate from flesh. Scraping with his nails, he skinned a mole just below his collarbone and yelped, yanking forward. The necklace had come away with his hand, hooked in a salami finger.

       Another thwack resounded, just at the threshold.

       "Go away! Monstrosity, that's what you are! You're filth!"

       He pulled the necklace out of his shirt and lowered its orb-shaped pendant into his wrinkled palm. It was covered in a patchwork of sooty smudges. Beneath them was an opalescent film which housed a miniscule creature. It spun around in unpredictable gyroscopic circles and, through the barrier in which it hung suspended, a muted squeal murmured up at him. It sounded something like, "Screeeeeee!"

       "Crooshti! Something's coming for me, I-"

       The Follower had come through the door. Jumble refused to look up, afraid of seeing something which might forever upset his world. The sounds it made as it moved toward him caused his gorge to rise. It sounded and smelled like a mop that had been dunked in melted mayonnaise being slathered across the floor. This was punctuated by the rhythmic thwack from before. An acidic sample of vomit slithered up his esophagus.

       "Cuh-mon, cuh-MONNN, Crooshti. What do I do?"

       The creature in the orb stopped immediately. It was orb-like, itself, with feathery antennae coming out of its yellow hide, speckled with purple dots. It's face was a congregation of eyes. Each one had its own set of lids, angled at random, which never blinked. It sent its thoughts to his mind.

       "The one that comes is a gundo. You have done wrong, indeed, sweaty man. Sweaty goom-bah! I do not think help is in my power, but continue not to look. You should maybe jump out, actually."

       These thoughts were accompanied with images that flashed brutally upon his brain, leaving negative afterimages. The first was a vague suggestion of the thing that Crooshti had described as a "gundo". It looked somewhat like an octopus, but with much thinner arms--almost the width of spaghetti. The head was hollowed out like a spoon and a fluted stalk dangled over it an arc. At the end of that was a round sucker with an uncountable number of needle teeth.

      "Buh why's it comin' after me, 'uh?"

       He shut his eyes slowly and strained to lock them closed by the lashes. The olive skin around them deepened into a sickly murk as he took minor steps backwards toward a naked support beam. The plastic sheets blew inward from the south wall with a staunch gust from outside. A momentary band of noonlight streaked through the office.

       "It's of my worrrrrrld!" said Crooshti. "It is my kin--it is of meeee!"

       Steadily, the thwack-swish of the gundo grew wetter and louder as it brought itself closer. Jumble could hear the sound of miniature liquid streams splattering the ground in front of it, laying out a path. It had given him a horrendous chase earlier, up the side of the building. He had nearly suffered heart failure pulling himself onto the construction lift and riding it up at the highest speed. Sparks had flown from the cables and he just wouldn't look down. Now, the thing chose to move slowly. To stalk him almost complacently.

       Another image from Crooshti came cork-screwing through his head, this one more vague than the first, but certainly worse. Vague outlines of skyscrapers at a high elevation so that cars, streets, blocks with pathetic curb-trees were out of the frame. Something organic growing upon itself exponentially. Glistening orange flesh, reddish brown cross-hatching like capillaries. Crawling, with cousins climbing like rampant ivy on the buildings, themselves.

       "Is it after you, Crooshti?"

       The gundo was within a foot of Jumble's black sneakers. It stopped, began to soak them with its discharge.

       "Oh! It's pissin' on me!"

       "The gundo," said Crooshti, "has only come to a party. He is a, how you say, guest, hee hee. Screeeee!"

       Then a bulky shadow swept over the face of the building, momentarily blacking out the sunlight. Something gargantuan lurched outside. An impossible conglomeration of meat, muscle, and cartilage had shifted somewhere in the gusty metropolitan sky.

       "Hey! What'sa matter? I thought you were helpin' me out, here. I helped you, di'n' I? Got you outta that safe? Back at the pawn shop?"

       He chanced peeling his eyes open again, aiming them straight into his palm. There, Crooshti stared up at him with all of its thirteen eyes. One of its antennae was whirling and spasming; sometimes it would crumple in on itself and disappear into a dense ball. A smudgy shadow sat quivering on the floor beyond the tips of his fingers. The stalk coming out of its head calmly glided in circles like a charmed cobra.

       His foot began to feel warm, then to itch, then to sting.

       "You did this. You did," said Crooshti. "You knew of my value, however. Your personal interests were involved. Screh-screee! I have not been helping you, only I have been guiding you. I steer you here. You are above the mouth now."

       A hissing rose from below him and he smelled something that made his stomach rumble. Something sweet: Mmm! A hamb'ger on a sourdough bun with mozzarella! A sudden searing pain dove deep through his flesh into his toe bones. As he shrieked and backed into the iron beam, columns of thick grey smoke streamed up from his foot and eddied in little clouds around his hand.

      "Mmph! The mouth?! What mouth?!"

      "The Septu family mouth. It feeds us all. You ought to jump out now."

      The sheet to his left burst inward again, the wind howling through the spartan guts of the high-rise. His eyes involuntarily flickered outward and he saw mountains. Mountains in the far distance, blue and washed out and lurching. Something yawned below him. He drew himself back and gasped, shuddering.

       "Jum?" said Crooshti.

       "Oh my frick-kin' GOD! Mother Maria! I'm gonna die!"


       "All for a score! A lousy, two-bit score! I left the game, got up outta my easy chair... my son was playing wid 'is blocks..."

       "Hey, Jum?"

       "Whad, you fuck?!" he said, strands of spittle dangling like fishing line from his glistening, purple lips and dropping into his palm. Whaddaya want? Whaddaya want from me? Got you outta there! All for nothin'!"

       "You should maybe jump out."

       Jumble's eyes widened for a second and started to bulge. Then something shuttered down over them as if the air had whisked all of their moisture away. His shadowed eyelids drooped. The stubbly creases on either side of his mouth softened. He gently plucked the chain out of his palm with his large fingers and placed it around his neck, taking care to tuck Crooshti back into his shirt.

       Turning dreamily, he drew back the plastic sheet and gazed straight ahead, not seeming to see anything. There were no honking horns below anymore, only a deep rumbling. His knee buckled slightly as the gundo sunk its teeth into his calf and began to pull itself up onto him. Jumble simply stood, each plunge of its sucker causing him to jerk forward. A wan, sublime smile spread over his limp face.

       "Okay," he said.

       His toes shuffled over the edge of the window and began to point downward. The gundo's wiry tentacles whipped around his stomach and chest, cutting deep into his skin until it burst open in sections. He began to plummet, arms stretched out before him. Blood and yellow bits of fat fell along with him, encircling him like a planetary ring.

       His eyes began to widen again, but only a little, as the humid cloud of breath he rushed into created globules of moisture on his contorting face.




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