The River of Luminous Cephalopods

His heart begins to hammer the edges of his vision with boiling black spots as ideograms flash by  in the guttering light, lending their cold stone flesh the illusion of malevolent life. His feet stutter and for one unbearable moment he is dancing to keep his balance, but he's got it back, paying for it with a slam against the wall, gouging his arms on fanged apparitions.

He is racing on the very apex of an inexorable tide of snarls and bellows and scrabbling claws, the boom after boom of displaced air. They are leaping through the air on surges of powerful wing strokes, clawing at their fellow pursuers to increase their momentum. It is not a pack hunt; it is a mob mentality of the worst kind, in which all thought is obliterated in their insane desire to reach Kansas.

"Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ." Kansas Rhodes has not prayed since he was a little boy when his beautiful, sweetsmelling mother would press her forehead against his and they would together beseech the Lord His blessings.

He slides on something wet and rights his course on a thrill of adrenaline which give him a fresh burst of speed. After his mother died, he stopped praying, for the obvious reasons that beset the grieving: he refused to believe a merciful Lord would take away the one person which meant the world to him. But now, on the precipice of death, if a God was really out there listening, Kansas hoped the words coming out of his mouth would not be misconstrued as taking His name in vain.

He runs on, the archaeology of his psychology distilled into this  single moment of mechanical action. Eternities pass through his failing eyesight. There are many ways to arrive at a state of transcendental bliss. Kansas migrated thus, and from the flame of his flesh rose his wisping self. The agony of his laboring lungs and overtaxed muscles becomes automatic, natural processes in a clockwork universe. He is peacefully hurtling through a dim cavern passage on a wake of slavering beasts. 

Despite this, Kansas knew it had to end some time. A roaring has filled his ears, a vast basso that also pummels his other senses. A luminescence bleeds into his vision, abrading any distinction of the external into a muted, mucousy green.

Then he was letting go, falling, falling into the noise and light, a smile curling on his clammy face. It was over, it was finally over, he didn't care how it happened now, only that it was over. 

Kansas impacts the flesh hot water on his side, twisting like a leaf into its churning depths. He surfaces with a gasp, sending wormlets of light whipping from the strands of his hair. His exhausted limbs beating the impossibly luminescent water, he sees his pursuers pour from the opening on the wall of rock. Its sheer height and length receding to a smoky white horizon was unbelievable. 

Large objects the size of a house, no, my God, Kansas mouths, the size of several houses bob in this vast river, anchored in the strong current. They are the sources of light and resemble the stranger varieties of sea life Kansas has encountered in his long and interesting life.

As Kansas is carried away he sees tentacles curling from the foam heaved wall, to coil around the little winged beasts. A forest of these tendrils sway in the weird light, and snap into the water to emerge, sluicing, for another morsel. He can just hear their cries of pain and terror above the pounding waters; he almost feels sorry for them. Almost.

Kansas is spun around and around, and shoved onto a sandbar where he lays gasping with relief, the glowing current rolling over his buttock and legs. The strange water creatures are faint motions in the misty distances. His hands knead the coarse sand.

He plunges into a dream where he is receding from hands whose fingers sprout hands whose fingers sprout hands, propagating into an eternity of iterations. As he goes away from the fractal grasp, the distance in between inert, he is unsure if he is trying to escape or be rescued.

The End

7 comments about this story Feed