The Very Worm That Gnaws

A solitary man finds what he believes to be shelter and respite during the end of the world.

From across the black seas of infinity…all that devours…I shall tell the audient void…It was late in summer. I cannot remember the year, but I remember well the stifling heat and the horror that abounded from the mania. We all tried to escape the heat, but it was unstoppable. It rode the night-winds to our world from a dead star beyond our sun, whose light was once cold, but is no more. Emptiness had claimed most of the world. Farmers had abandoned their fields, the city dwellers had all but given up on civility and the homeless roamed in droves across hills and along lonely roads in search of something. And darkness clung to all surfaces with a palpability that seemed more material than the glass and stone around it. The grey haze that was once the sky was slowly being punctuated with a million gazing eyes that shined from the infinity above the world. The universe around us seemed to have been breached by something unnatural. Plants died all around making the forests and plains reeking wastelands of dried putrescence. Oceans boiled and all the old things from the deepest trenches were vomited up as the crust started to melt away, so new lands were formed of age old slime and the bodies of dead creatures we had never once seen.

I remember when I finally found the isolation I so heartily craved. In a place once thriving with people, something had made the world swallow up the barbarity, and what was left within the vast dead pit of epochs was very deep, like an eye socket staring eyeless into the void. The dead grass around it and the makeshift graves leaned towards the opening and I knew I would be comfortable there, away from the noise and the wanderers eternal. I looked over the edge and I saw nothing. It was cold there and so I went in, over the edge, crawling at first, but then sliding and finally falling forever, clinging to the sides for stability as I went down, into the coolness and darkness.

When, eventually, I came to the bottom, I stood up and looked around the pitch blackness. I could not see my surroundings, but I looked up and saw a tiny pinprick of filthy yellow light far above, glimmering. I noticed the ground sloped downward even more, but more gently, so I decided to investigate and explore my new home. I dreamt of a huge black ocean whose cool water would allow me to float on it forever and provide me with sustenance, I imagined an eon old city which I could claim for my own. I imagined no other people, save for those I would allow admittance into my city or onto my ocean. I went downwards again forever, and my eyes did adjust slowly to the new environment and I began to notice, vaguely at first, an odour which I dared not call familiar, but felt I knew somehow.

Eventually, after what I can only guess as days of descending, I came to the lip of another pit, and I wondered at how odd it was I hadn’t somehow reached the centre of the world yet. I stood silently at the maw, determined to leap, be it to death or infinity. I put one foot forward and prepared myself for the eventual landing, but as I left the safety of the solid ground, a new stench, greater than that of the vague odour before, hit me at once like a charnel wall and the drop went ever downwards, and at the base of the world I found soil that had never felt the warm touch of the sun and was cold with the death of the millions of tons of ancient alien vegetation which made it.

There was light, but from where, I do not know. I was in the vastest open space I could ever have imagined, greater than all the cities of man, greater than the all the plains that stretched across continents in their antediluvian youth, which was so great that I couldn’t see any other end to it than the one I had my back against. I looked up again, but couldn’t see anything this time. I felt a terrible coldness about me, every so often diluted by the weird heat carried by the strangely drifting charnel wind whose source I couldn’t and didn’t want to determine. I stared in bewildered horror at the sheer unnatural vastness of the leviathan pit or trench, and I began to wander forwards, staggeringly and fearfully, and it was then I saw in the distance, jutting upwards unevenly like an altar the likes of which not even Polyphemus could have reared; there was a huge circular dais on which millions of millions of nameless things dwelt. There were crawling things, scuttling things, slithering ones and things that undulated with no limbs and things that had learnt to walk, that ought to crawl. And I saw things that moved like men but shouldn’t. The sounds that issued forth were all at once as terrifying as they were simple. They made no particular sound themselves, for I doubt things like them made sounds. All it was the noise upon which their millions upon millions of bodies made upon the rough hewn stone as they each tucked into their meals. I closed in on them slowly and trance-like, hypnotised by the bacchanalian feast of horrors and saw that all of them had claimed several human bodies for there own, each corpse in a different state of putrefaction, devouring it, and reshaping their own bodies as they did so, as if with every mouthful, the human bodies became part of the monsters. And I saw them all grow.

And I knew, then, why I came there. Although I said they made no sound, I suppose I wasn’t entirely true in saying that. For although they made no physical or articulate sound themselves, a solemn and powerful voice, deep like a grave and made from the voices of untold numbers of beings who had once populated creation, resonated eerily in my head, from the lowest part of my subconscious to the highest and inaccessible reaches of my waking mind. I always heard it, we had all heard it - every single man woman and child from eons past to present day. The grave mind, the eternal calling, but I myself really only noticed when I heard people say to me and each other a long time ago, before the heat and the darkness that the sky was falling.

The whispers of the nothing…nameless…shapeless…forever changing, the monumental task is set by an intelligence we cannot know, and that task is that of an infinite voyage which shall not soon end, and it will do so to all of us until the world stops turning. Man can be no more, for it is nothing, and nothing cannot exist. All will be drawn by the voice that was with them—forsaking the heat and cities for the coolness of the desolate pit to become one with the new flesh, to become newer and better than before. The reclamation is in progress. The task is long and arduous, but deemed necessary by they, or it, who said we have no word in it. Some saw it coming and welcomed it, for they were the first into the cataract and first to embrace the new flesh and the voice. I knew them in life, or the life I once lived, for now I do not live. Not as we once thought, but in a different way now, for I am many instead of one and I know deep within myselves who set that task and I know the ultimate goal, and it is quite humorous, I suppose, seeing as they all once made such a fuss about the subject, and now they belong to the grand process, to the great goal: to recycle mankind.

The End

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