My own story only began a short while back. But I wanted to walk through this whole mess and it began a few summers ago when I went to visit my grandparents. It wasn’t a difficult journey to make in theory but in practice? I might have miscalculated. I woke up at four in the morning and drove an open-top jeep up California’s ocean coast for almost seven hours from Los Angeles during California’s laughable version of winter. Only I wasn’t really laughing through the bundles of coats and multiple cotton gloves when my hands got minor frostbite from the journey. I hadn’t even realized until I arrived and took them off. Luckily, my grandparents were rather affluent though it wasn’t their material wealth that paid off in this particular case. It was the richness of their talents, or rather my grandmother’s talent as a former doctor that allowed me a relatively swift recovery so that I could enjoy the rest of my time with them.

I should explain their professions, of course. I’ve already mentioned that my grandmother was a Doctor though to be honest I’m not entirely sure what kind off the top of my head. I could ask but, you know, I’m already writing this. Regardless of the kind of physician she may have been during her life, Grandmother’s talent was undeniable and when I lived closer to her as a young child I was often introduced to many thankful patients from her more glorious days.

My grandfather was also a doctor, but not one of a medical field. His chosen realm was one of old civilizations and lost worlds and in his youth my grandfather traveled the world uncovering various artifacts and wonders that I would only be able to describe in dreamy and wistful ways. I was far from an adventurer, yet still, I idolized the stories my grandfather spouted as an archaeologist. He was the person who autopsied the corpses of the ancients and retrieved their most vital secrets.

About a year and some minor change later my grandmother passed away, and my grandfather became distant. He barely returned calls if he did so at all which was highly unusual for how chatty he had always been. He started to neglect his health, he stopped going to the doctor, and his last ‘in person’ exchange had been with my mother. For the first time in my Grandfather's life, he hit another person. For the first time in my Mother's life, she had been struck by her father. It was obvious his mental state was deteriorating, but still. My mother was so shocked and hurt that she cut off all ties she could.

That wasn’t the last time I heard from him, though. I was typically pretty bad at talking on the phone, so I avoided it unless somebody called me. My grandfather hated the concept of ‘text messages’ so he never sent me any unless I sent him first. “Digital post-it notes” was what he called them, disliking them for their distant informality. It was only a few months after my mother had severed contact with him that he must have remembered that he had my phone number as well.

I didn’t recognize the number he used, and I answered out of curiosity. I was off guard and didn’t immediately know it was his voice. In his mania it was a higher pitch, and though I could hear him the phone garbled whole chunks of his speech. It kept listening to this rambling man whose voice was sheathed with static until I realized exactly who it was. The moment he heard me use his given name, all at once, he stopped. The static on the other end of the line ceased, too. He then replied with the words “I touched her.” The static returned as he spoke, as though underlining it for emphasis against the previous pit of silence.

Then he hung up the phone. When I tried to call back, the line was out of service. I told my mother and her face was still and textured as baked clay. She didn’t want to hear what state he was in. She didn’t want to feel like she’d abandoned her father to some peculiar madness that swept over him. She practically refused to acknowledge anything I had said at all. It wasn’t like I could have blamed her. He must have died soon afterward but because of his seclusion, he wasn't found molded to a corner in his house for months. No signs of foul play. Just a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Any other signs of possible self-harm had already rotted away. The gun he held lay rusted from blood and organic material clenched in his right hand, no other bullets within. It might have been a murder. Probably not. Suicide, given his state last I spoke to him, was not surprising.

My mother was devastated even though she had been more or less waiting for this outcome. I think my mother sensed that something was wrong, though. She didn’t even want to go to the funeral for a reason she had an impossible time vocalizing, but I convinced her to go anyway only for there to be no funeral at all. Whatever money my grandfather had set aside for his own burial had been squandered with the rest of his fortune- on what, we will probably never know. One drive across the country and back later, and we had returned with the few valuable things he had left us- artifacts that should have been in museums. Rare clay tablets and ancient vases preserved by the air exhaled by dead kings littered the basement of the large home my grandparents once shared. The house and the relics were the only remnants of the family’s accumulated wealth, which my mother and myself were the sole inheritors of. Curiously, the house was left to my mother but my grandfather’s possessions were mine. My mother put the house on the market after the wall was fixed, and I arranged for most of the relics to wind up in collections or on display.

But I did keep my grandfather’s journal, among a few trinkets and bobbles. I had wondered if this chronicle of his life had been left untainted by the insanity that seemed to take him. It wasn’t, though surprisingly as I looked at the dates, all of the entries seemed really normal and coherent. Even the ones from the days when he hit my mother and called me made no mention of those events and were totally legible. They weren’t the scrawls of a madman. They were the writings of somebody who was perfectly sound of mind.

Until the last few pages. I was not prepared for the tone shift. Whereas the prior entries had been long musings on his life, I could see that these were far shorter. They were written in large scribbles where whole sentences seemed to need an entire page to themselves. I didn’t even read the entries first in their entireties, I just saw bits of them as I tried to take a picture of the chicken scratch his writing suddenly became with my phone. So, I steadied myself and snapped another picture.

Again, the same result. The camera on my phone was clearly not seeing the same things my eyes were. This was still easy enough to dismiss. I have dropped my phone a lot and the camera was a little messed up. It wasn’t until my roommate’s new LG phone failed to take the picture properly that I started to feel as though I had something here that was different than I had originally suspected. That was when I began reading them- or trying to- in earnest. Since I can’t take pictures of them, I’m going to write them here instead.

This first entry reads as follows:

I have seen it through her voice- a predator driven by parasitic tendencies.

The second entry:

The eyes are all-seeing. I look at the stars and I can feel them burrowing in my body. I can’t dig them out no matter how much I try and my flesh wriggles no matter where I cut. The rainfall of stars may come for us too. The herald

That entry ends there. The third entry:

She spoke to me today. Her voice is made of scratches and screams

The fourth:

She is one with the god-eating shadow from my restless sleep

This was his last entry. It was easily the most in depth, the most lucid, but still. The following entry made my bones grow icy cold:

The White Herald is only a Symptom. The dissident king fidgets and stars fall. No God could ever have believed absence would imitate life in such a profound way as to blur the two to the point of indefinability. What is a human? A form of life. Life is half of existence. Fixed elements are the other half. But the opposition to existence is absence. When life leaves a person, they are dying. When it leaves a person, they are dead. Death is simply the name for the state achieved when life has left a body.

Death and Life being contrasted to giving each other meaning is such a small minded and trite piece of philosophy. Think bigger. Think of each living entity as something like a cell on a bigger entity. Visualize it with me. A planet full of things, specifically full of humans, dying off in waves as our numbers swell, killing off other organisms as we grow everywhere on the planet, similar to cancer.

Though, not exactly like cancer. Cancer isn't typically constructive at all. But Humans tend to be a complex and mixed bag. We were born to die only so that when the next population comes through things remain for them to consume, and those spent resources go back into the earth. Evolution figured it out. Biological immortality in most creatures is not a great idea. Keeping a single human alive and functioning requires a tremendous amount of energy. Keeping every human alive forever? We'd devour worlds. We'd swarm undying, our primitive ancestors and our future decedents intermingling and holding back progress. Old things have to die so new things can take their place.

But there is a very old thing that does not heed death. It sits on the periphery of existence, supported by a curtain of space and stars. But it fidgets, it writhes, it wriggles, and as it does so stars simply cease to be. It is the third darkness the universe inhabits, and I have met the black beast that culls for the very old thing. It showed me what lies beyond the sea of skies. It did so to create my suffering. It did so to show me what things that evolve beyond death are like. Thankfully, I still have a choice in the matter.

Holy. Shit. For about a week I sat on this and wondered about it and I had almost decided to shelve the journal and drop it. This was all so disconcerting. Despite being emotionally drained, the following week I had made plans I intended to keep through. I was still relatively hung up on this regardless. My grandfather seemed to be experiencing horrible hallucinations, so why didn't he tell us? Why didn't he reach out? We could have helped him! Even so, my problems didn't begin until the following week, when I visited my artist friend in a small town called Monterey.

Nearly every year Monterey flooded, and each time the waters receded people returned to rebuild. Only, fewer people returned each time, driven away by the expenses involved with reconstruction. The town itself was incredibly poor, a sparse population that in recent decades had been taken in by cheap opiates and expensive marijuana- Monterey actually lacked a police department and jail, though it did have a firehouse up on a hill. Still, with the law more or less absent, they depended on the police of Owenton, another small but somewhat more prosperous town some ways away.

In the field below Monterey lay a field of tobacco, but once it was simply a flood plain. Beyond that lay Cedar Creek, which connected to the Kentucky River. This was the source of the town’s flooding of course, but at a particular bank of the river was a sandy little knob of land that resembled a beach. Debris carried from the river often was deposited there. Before pollution and plastic caps became normal, it was a beautiful place for an artist to grow.

My friend was a very prolific man, but not very famous. He worked another job and the property in Monterey was pretty cheap at the time, so it wasn't incredibly difficult for him to support himself. It was actually his body of work that helped support my interest in my grandfather's work in periods that we had no contact. I told him stories about grandfather's journies, and sometimes he made those escapades into paintings. When I arrived at his house that week though, his mood was decidedly different.

The works he created may have been grounded in reality, but they were always visually abstract. It was a beautiful cross between the old way things looked with an overlapping sense of the insidiousness within polluted waters even though bright and vivid colors invoked strong and strange feelings that felt decidedly alien. A whirlwind of emotions in every brushstroke- that was the kind of person my friend was to me before that day. When I saw his latest work, I was left aghast.

The subject matter was fairly simple to grasp. It was the image of a man who looked battered and grim, on his knees as he slumped towards the ground with nothing but a sideways glance cast towards the viewer. His lightning blue eyes were covered by long, thick hair that looked like strands of corroding gold. Something was wrong with the other half of its body, but the shadows in the work concealed it from view. Only hints shimmered on the surface of a deep, undiscernable wrongness.

The world depicted around the man was odd as well. It was a barren landscape. In the distance, mountains cradled the horizon, but the sky was a horrible crimson. The earth beneath him looked scorched, and the sky seemed to be ablaze. Even so, there were stars in the sky. My friend had depicted them as falling. Beautiful as his art was, my friend had always invoked feelings. But this particular painting unavoidably forced them on me. I couldn't hold it in even the periphery of my vision without a creeping sense of dread in my spine. And likely as you are now, I made a connection to my grandfather's story. However, I wasn't trying to make a lasting thesis that my grandfather's journal and this painting were linked. I did, however, find it a little novel and very uncomfortable.

Still, the didn't detract from the overwhelming issue I had with this painting. It practically leaked negative sentiments. I felt repulsed as though I was smelling something so infected it had become septic, like the work itself was simply a gaping wound in reality. I recoiled from it. I need to clarify that he didn't show it to me. I had gone over for an expressly different purpose. He was considering moving out of Monterey, and so wanted help finding some stuff that he could throw away and sell off to make the move easier. Whilst scouring his basement, I came across the wretched thing.

I approached about it and he told me point blank that it was inspired by nightmares he'd been having recently. I hadn't noticed when I came in, but he looked quite tired. It was as though something was draining his vigor. "I don't recall many of the contents within them," informed me, "but this image stuck with me. I felt an overwhelming fear of this thing in my dreams. A religious kind of fear. I suppose it would be like knowing a meteor might hit the earth any day now, but you don't know when. Nobody knows when. They simply believe it is about to happen so strongly that it changes their routine."

His routine had indeed changed subtly, too. He was a pretty religious guy truth be told, and though I myself were not you could find him in Monterey's baptist church up the hill from his house, less than a minute walk away. It may not have been the highest place in the town, but it was the most distinguishable one at a glance. I didn't think about it, but on this particular day, he had chosen not to attend church for the service. I noted this to him, and he seemed to avoid my attempt at probing into his business.

"Does it at least have a name?"

"It will," he replied. "I dreamed the thing had a name, but it was lost when I woke up. Once I remember its name, I will name the piece for it."

But that wouldn't be the end of it. Since the day he had painted it, strange occurrences began in the town of Monterey. It started simply enough; various people in the town misplaced objects concurrently. They probably didn't even realize what was happening while it was occurring. The first time the apparition manifested was to his little girl. Then, it manifested to everybody she told about it mere weeks later. His daughter had met a pale girl, she said, with dark hair and green eyes. Her friend, she said, did not like being touched though. At that time, my friend began to notice swings in the yard moving by themselves when his daughter was outside. Wind- easy enough.

Then suddenly it wasn't just wind. He could see the same girl his daughter spoke of so fondly. The first day he caught sight of her on the swing, he marched out to the young woman and thought to tell her what for. His daughter couldn't have been making her up if she were right there. He was gripped with an adult fear of what this strange woman might possibly be planning for his daughter. She responded with an ear-gouging scream, garbled by static. Then, she was gone.

That was the day the others that his daughter had spoken to about her friend saw this pale girl too. Very quickly did things start to spiral from there. My last particular visit to Monterey was rushed and jarring. I only had time to take my wallet out and set it by the door before my friend in a frenzy ushered me out of the house. He was manic, practically in tears but the wrath of a stranger had taken him. "Stay out of Monterey," he yelled after me, throwing objects at me as I fled. "We have to contain the sickness!"

I drove away from Monterey that day with his words rebounding about my skull. Contain the sickness? I wasn't privy then to the depths of the madness that had begun afflicting the town, but with my own bevy of problems, I abandoned my friend to his fate. I didn't mean to leave him be forever. I had figured, in my head, I would be contacting him some time later that week to get some answers. As it had turned quite suddenly into a stressful day, I head to my favorite bar in my town.

I already had problems sleeping, and stress didn't help much. I didn't think that distracting myself would prove very effective based on past experience, so I walked to downtown to do the night right and get my mind off of things. A little pub situated on an alley made of bricks- the Brick Alley- that stays open late was my ideal location. I didn't exactly frequent here, I just I took a seat at the bar and began to order my drinks. The bartender didn’t mind me much, nor I her, so I simply continued to put back jager bombs as the whim took me.

It must have been a slow Sunday. The bartender and I were the only two there. According to her, they had been closed most of the night and I was the first person in. The other patrons had probably found other places to drink for the time being. I shrugged, my curiosity sated. It didn't seem that either of us noticed the young looking girl at the table behind us until I was several shots deep and needed to pee. I caught sight of her as I rushed to the restroom, though I personally didn’t really care at the moment. Deciding that I had enough I made a move to leave on my return. But looking at her again, she seemed way too young. I was way too drunk to not say something.

I called out to her while a perplexed and cautious bartender watched, but the girl didn’t even look up at me. Something close to ‘adult instinct’ took me over for a moment and I tapped the table. She looked up at me and I could clearly see she was very young- she couldn’t be twenty-one for sure. There was no way! As an inebriated twenty-three-year-old, I was in the perfect position to make that call I guess. Her hair was as black as crow feather, her eyes as green as any forest. She was so thin and sickly in appearance, her skin an obvious shade darker than most whites I’d met. She didn’t respond to me, and meeting her eyes I realized that she was looking past me. I turned my head to see if there was anybody behind me but sure enough, no one she’d be looking at. The bartender, however, was staring directly at me. I wasn't really sure why, nor was I thinking that hard about it.

I decided to approach this unknown situation in a different manner as her eyes fell back to her cup. I extended a hand, deciding maybe I could rouse her at a touch of the shoulder. She was looking at me as my hand approached, utterly unmoving. She didn't flinch or recoil, so I took that as a sign that she didn't interpret this as threatening. Yet no sooner did my fingers reach her shoulder did I feel an intense coldness overwhelm me. My hand passed through her body deeper before I recoiled in shock, and she set her big, dim orbs upon me with a look that I read as mourning.

Then she showed me things. It had to be her. I didn’t know who else could have poured such incomprehensible terror in my mind. I watched galaxies swirl together and vanish. I heard innumerable cries and screams ring out before being silenced. An indescribably twisted mockery of the human condition loomed in the darkness just at the edge of my vision. I tried to move but I couldn’t. My body was stiff and floating, suspending in some vast unyielding cold that was more frigid than any ocean-side trip I’d taken.

And then I was back in the bar, drenched in sweat and panting as if I’d been running. The bartender was still looking at me as I came back to my senses. I surmised immediately that the girl was gone. When I asked the bartender if she had seen her leave, I was alarmed to discover that there was never a girl at all. That couldn't be true. My brain lurched and my stomach churned, leading me back to the bathroom as I spit my confusion into the commode. As I tried to pay, I realized something: I had left my wallet in Monterey. I knew my card number thankfully, but I tucked the fact that I would need to go back sooner than I had wanted away in my mind. I left the bar, still struggling with my drunken stupor.

I trudged back to the home we rented in a poorer part of town, and there was a distinct lack of subtlety in what ensued. The brick alley itself was pretty dark, the light from the pub being the primary illumination. As soon as I turned onto the main street, I had to stop. I saw her. I saw so many of her. Every single street light carried her image underneath of it and they were all facing me. I was dumbstruck, still as stone as I looked down the road and saw dozens. I dared not go forward. I turned back towards the pub, before electing to not try going back inside. I didn't want to acknowledge that I might be going crazy, let alone let a stranger do that for me with a story I already knew was not believable.

I walked back past the bar, heading to the other side of the alley. Sure enough that street too had a slew of them poised under the lights like an army of mannequins. They all stared at me through their black hair, but I noticed something peculiar too as I retreated this time rather than simply being stunned by the scene. I could feel their alien congruity in the air. Every time I opened my mouth, it tasted stale. I felt a familiar despair well up inside of me. The best alternative I had was to go back to the other side of the alley, stay off the sidewalks, and run up the street as fast as I could. I could have tried waiting until daylight, in retrospect, but obstinance and adrenaline held my hands through the dread that crept into my bones.

Before I even tried that, another thought crept into my head. I whipped out my phone and immediately began to pound at the screen, unlocking the thing as I whipped the camera up. I could go to the pub, I could convince her! We could call the cops. She didn't see the girl in the bar but she'll have to see her now! I thought all of this as I peered around the corner I had withdrawn behind and snapped a picture. When I drew my phone back I was confounded when all that I saw was an empty street. There was no way, no way at all! I threw my head back around and sure enough they were still there.

They were all staring at me, mouths uncomfortably wide now. Their arms were still at their sides, but on each of them their left hands were bent up, index finger pointed accusingly in my direction. What had I seen? What had I done? I tried to call my roommates but my phone refused to dial out. I didn't want to call the police. I would up spending the night in a drunk tank minimum, but I also was afraid that maybe I get drug tested. For what could have sounded like an implied condemnation of weed when I spoke of Monterey, I smoke a lot of weed. I went back to my planned alternative. I ran.

As I booked it down the street, feet slapping against the brick pavement I knew the few passerby couldn't see this girl and that I was a different kind of alone here. Her heads followed me and I could hear a low static emanating from her mouths. They were all screaming at me. I let the fear take me and before I knew it, I was home. Inside, with the door locked, I was safe.

But that wasn't true. She was there, standing in the light of the hall as soon as I opened my eyes. Her arm was fully outstretched while she slid motionlessly towards me across the wood floor, the sound of static intensifying while her screaming intensified. I threw my door open and found myself outside once again, all of her visage staring at me even as their bodies faced unnaturally in the opposite direction. They looked like they had broken their necks just to stare at me. In my porch light, I hit the ground and wept openly. The things weren't able to leave the range of the light the streetlamps gave them. I felt a momentary pang of relief.

Then something cold grabbed me. I tried to surge forwards but another hand splayed wide and grasped at my face, pulling me against the door as I shrieked uncontrollably, but my struggles were in vain. I was yanked back into that unfathomable coldness, the yawning darkness swallowing me into an endless sea of distant stars. I felt myself floating, and then I felt myself fading when my form tore apart at the seams. In the anguish, I saw a barren planet that stars seemed to chase. It was clear they were converging there, drawn to a comparatively tiny ball of pulsing blood with a burning sky. I felt something there that seemed to blow my soul into tatters from only its presence. It was something irregular and abominable, magnitudes beyond what I could understand or comprehend.

And then I was back in front of my door, scared out of my wits but the girls had gone. I did not feel relief as I rolled around on my deck, unbalanced by horror and liquor. I was trying to make myself small, and press myself deeper into the wood below my back. Inadvertently, I revealed the new horror to myself. Horrible, blue eyes had replaced the stars in my sky. The same eyes I had seen in the painting. I was drunk. I was scared. I was stupid. I threw myself into my car and bolted to Monterey that night.

I arrived in the early morning as the sun cracked over the hills. There didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary for this little town until I strolled up to his door and knocked. I waited for a bit, knocked again, and was greeted by a stern nothingness. At first I was flustered. He wasn’t answering because he wasn’t home, and must have left his phone. This was the best line of thinking I had available. Only, it was demolished by the rather obvious fact that his car was still here.

And I know now that there were other possibilities for him not being home, other ways it could have been possible, but I’m writing you now to tell you that none of them matter. Monterey was completely silent. Because little, lonely Monterey had become empty. I can’t even say how long it took to notice. I had spent a while trying to get him to answer before I tried his neighbor's. But they too weren't answering. My attempts were becoming more frantic as I tried to find anybody around, and failed.

I finally headed to his church only to find its tall, wooden doors were simply left wide When I entered I could see evidence of people in bibles that all lay open on the floor and in the pews. Still, I saw no people. This was the moment that I felt some unknown thing in the air that I could not place. I felt an unprecedented dread in this place as a familiar stale taste intruded upon my mouth. I backed out of the door and stood afraid while I tried to gather myself. My spine felt like my veins were trying to crawl into it. I retreated from the church and headed back to my friend's house.

I started to pay attention to windows on the way back. Many were left uncovered by blinds or curtains. I could see TVs on. I could see in some of them food uneaten. For as much knocking as I did, one thing that I had only just noticed were dogs. They were inside the housings, sometimes one and often times more, all staring at me expectantly. Some gathered in the distance behind me, some ahead, but they were all watching. They weren’t barking, or howling, or even begging. They were unnaturally silent.

When I reached my friend's house, I had become desperate. I beat and banged on his door until I found myself sobbing. With a great burst of strength I kicked the damn thing in and charged inside, yelling out his name, his daughter's name, and I stopped dead once I reached the living room. The painting that my friend had left in the basement was now out in the open, hung above the mantle. The room was in tatters, and beneath the painting lay the corpse of yet another dog that seemed to have been mangled. Blood trailed down the wall, and I followed the origin with my eyes. It came from behind the painting.

There was more blood still. Above the painting, words desperately scrawled. "I spoke a devil's name." I don't know what happened next. Something threw me from the house, something strong. It was an invisible force that assaulted me and I fled back into my car without even grabbing my wallet. I peeled out from the driveway, but in my eagerness, I ended up only throwing my car into the field below the town. Stuck and dazed, I could see the dogs looking over the side at me. They had human eyes. I knew it in that moment, a truly terrible fate had befallen Monterey.

I ran. I threw open my door and clawed up the steep hill, scrapped past the silent dogs and I ran towards the highway. It was twenty minutes of me stopping, and starting, and wheezing but I refused to stay there and wait for something to happen to me. Realizing I had forgotten my wallet was such a small issue, but it was the one that reduced me to tears on the side of the road. I tried to get help. I tried to tell somebody. But they gave me the queerest response. "Where's Monterey?" We were next to it. I tried to explain that it was just a few minutes drive away. Everyone... forgot. They just forgot about Monterey. Even as they could see part of the town from where I was, they weren't capable of admitting it was there.

And that's why I'm telling you all this. I don't think I did anything. I don't think I can stop anything. I think we're just in the wake of something very bad. I think it got close enough to our world that it became sick. My awareness has been hieghtened to see this truth of reality: it touched what should never be, and even if it has only done so momentarily, our universe is dying. I know for a fact now, there is nothing we can do about it. I don't know when we will end. But I've started seeing a new creature now.

A black thing that stands in the corner of rooms. No matter if they have light, or if they're pitch dark. It doesn't regard how many people are there because only I can see it right now. It watches me. I heard it speak this morning. It called itself a beast. 

Written by Kyle Meadows
Content is available under CC BY-SA