Hallucigenia Sparsa

Pt. 2

"THEREISAHOLENOMANCANFILLTHEREISAHOLENOMANCANFILLTHEREISAHOLENOMA"

It had been an eventful night - that could not be denied. Edmund and Dante lay parallel to each other in a field of knee-high grass where there were no chirping bugs to fill the silence that was occasionally broken by a sigh or a belated pant from one of the men. Dante turned to Edmund and placed a callused hand on his bare shoulder before rising unsteadily onto his knees. "Eddy," he said softly, "I'm cold. . .Look, there's a barn right over there. Why don't we just spend the night? Laurie and Jim are gonna be cooped up in the van all night and, frankly, I don't think there's enough room for all four of us!" He let out one of his famous, musical laughs as he said this. "As long as there aren't any bugs," Edmund said amiably and propped himself up on his elbows.

"Just look around here!" Dante said, gesturing broadly at his surroundings. "Do you see any bugs? Or anything, for that matter?" Edmund agreed, no, that he had not seen any wildlife since they reached this field, and began to rise as well, loosely grasping Dante's hand.

As they stomped through the thick grass, hand-in-hand, something white and glistening caught Edmund's eye. He stopped in his tracks. "Do you see that?" he turned toward Dante. The darker man looked past Edmund at the small pile of bones and let go of his hand, drifting towards them. "Is that. . .?" He reached down to touch it. "Dante!" Edmund warned, and ran up to grab Dante's hand, which now held a miniature humerus, white as milk and as light as a bird's feather. Until Dante had removed the bone, the squirrel skeleton had remained completely intact, and if Edmund knew anything about dead animals, it was that their bones were scattered almost immediately upon decomposition.

"Come on, 'Te, I'm cold," he said and tugged Dante's arm feebly. Dante stumbled backwards a little before finding his balance and following Edmund absentmindedly to the barn.

The barn was beyond dilapidated. There were gaping scars in the ceiling where the night sky was visible, and blood and shit defiled the floor. On one side of the building, rude phallus-shaped pylons surrounded empty space. It stank of rot and manure, and graffiti etched in spiky, black letters decorated the walls. Some was illegible, but some vile, disturbing phrases were horribly visible such as: "HE WHO DWELLS IN THE CRACKS WILL CHOKE ALL INFIDELS WITH THE ENTRAILS OF THE DEAD" and "ANTIDISESTABLISHENTARIANISM."

Edmund shivered. Was it colder in here? The sweat on his back and on his chest seemed to evaporate, and there were goosebumps on his arms. "'Te. . .we shouldn't be here," he said, and reached for his partner's arm. "Let's just go back to the van and go home." Dante swatted Edmund's hand away, eyes fixed on something glinting just beyond the pylons. "Dante. . .?" Edmund said weakly. Dante showed no sign that he had heard, but kneeled down to inspect what he had seen.

In a shallow pit in the center of the pylons, the black head of a sledgehammer glistened sharply. Dante leaned forward. Time stopped. The only sound was that of Dante humming some Elton John song; Edmund wouldn't know which. Dante slipped forward on the slick, black blood underfoot. Edmund groaned and his hands flew to his face at once. There was a sickening sound akin to a melon being smashed. At length Edmund heard the sound of gunfire, and cried out, tearing his hands away from his face. An abnormally large man stood in the entrance to the barn, silhouetted by the faint moonlight. He dropped back as soon as Edmund saw him, and fled from the barn. Edmund mustered up all the strength that remained in his gelatin legs and ran after the man, screaming something unintelligible.

By the time Edmund had dragged himself back to the barn the night was waning, strips of light cascading down from the sucker holes in the ceiling, painting Dante in stripes of black and white. There were three elliptical entry wounds at the base of his spine, and a black puddle had composed itself beneath his head. Edmund tore his eyes away and snatched a cell phone from his pocket, punching the numbers "9-1-1" with a steady calmness that one would not expect from someone in his position. After two rings the operator picked up. He drew in a quivering breath.

"Hello? Send paramedics down here. As fast as you can. Just off I-10, in the middle of a field there's this old barn. . .yes. . .barbed wire. . .I don't know who it belongs to; just -" and here he had to gasp for breath and recollect himself "- send someone down – please!" The last word emerged as a sob.

Edmund sat bolt upright while his bedroom spun around him. The same dream as last night. And the night before that, and the night before that. The L.E.D. clock read 2:14. He forced his eyelids to close as tightly as they could and tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. Images flashed before his eyes of bizarre beings, impossible figures, stooped and snarling, in a getup similar to that of a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon, but infinitely more horrifying.

It was with a shaking body that he disencumbered himself from the tangled sheets and nudged his feet into a pair of suede slippers. He had to get these hallucinations out of his head. Flicking on the light in his bedroom, he opened the door slowly, cautiously, and started at a twirling meow from his cat, Mister. Kicking Mister aside halfheartedly, he tiptoed down the abrupt corridor to the living space of his apartment.

A mediocre living room directly leading into a kitchen with faux-marble tile, after which a short hallway led to an equally unremarkable, cramped bedroom comprised the apartment he had been forced to downsize to shortly after the incident at the Choates' barn. It wasn't so much that he was at a lack of money; while this was true, it was clear that Edmund could have kept his previous apartment if so inclined. He remembered how Dante's essence still lingered around every corner, evaded him when he searched so desperately for any trace of human life other than his own. How he had begun to wake up every night in a cold sweat, Dante's sensual voice whispering closely to his ear, "There is a hole no man can fill. . ."

The sound of his own feet slapping on uncharacteristically cool, hard tile shook Edmund from his reminiscent stupor. He stretched his body to its fullest extent to grab a mug from one of the top cabinets. With a violent jerk on Edmund's part the tap splashed on, filling the mug nearly to its brim when something wavered on the edge of his peripheral vision. The ceramic mug crashed to the tile floor. The sound was muted. A grey haze seemed to encompass his vision. On the oven clock L.E.D. letters paraded. In somber apathy they marched, spelling:

"THEREISAHOLENOMANCANFILLTHEREISAHOLENOMANCA"

And abruptly stopped.