This Week’s Prompt:49. AZATHOTH—hideous name.
The Research:Blind Idiot Gods
The door slammed before Samson could sit down. Rubbing his temple, he looked to his wife Irene for some explanation, his face somewhere between dumbfounded and full of rage. His hands and throat were still shaking when he went into the kitchen.
“We can’t keep doing this every week,” Irene said, her gaze avoiding the open kitchen door. Samson nodded, unseen, and poured a water to aid his dry throat.
“No, no we can’t. But that’s–”
“And it can’t be Paul’s call.” Irene cut in. Samson paused. “He’s a kid, Sam. He’s not gonna go out there, again, and have some road to Damascus moment where he comes back and it all clicks.”
Samson sighed as he stared at the water. The kitchen light flickered, the ripples bent before the hit the edge of the glass. He took a deep breath and went for his coat.
“Alright, I’ll go get him. I know where’s he’s gone, probably.” Samson said, putting on the faux leather heavy jacket he wore for cold nights like this. Paul had gone to the same spot every night like this, Samson was sure.
“And I’ll try to be more civil. I just understand how he thinks he can go around at night like that,” Samson said, shaking his head as he put a cap on. “Doing god knows what. It’s not safe out there these days, and I swear that those Miller boys are in some sort of gang.”
“Scaring him off won’t help.” Irene said, eyes locked on her magazine now. “You know, there was a report on youth crime recently, and they said distant father’s played a big part.”
“I don’t think being distant is the problem.” Samson grumbled. “But I’ll keep my cool this time.”
It’d rained during the fight. There was a wall of cold wet air like something out of a freezer right outside the door. It hadn’t occurred to Samson before he set foot outside. Well, he figured that your own flesh and blood calling you a damned fool for caring about where his life was going might be part of that. The street lights caught a few of the long, near invisible spider threads that ran from branch to fence. Some even ran along the fences, like a secondary ward against flies. Drops of rain water had made them rather appealing, even if Samson couldn’t bear the thought of a spider being anywhere near him.
It was a long walk to the train tracks. Samson was sure Paul was there. There was some intuitive reason, some chord that he and his son shared in common. When Samson needed to cool down, he’d take a deep dive into some misery. Go somewhere painful. It wasn’t healthy, not by any notion of the imagination. But it was what he did.
As he passed a strange shaped web, that had been bent just right to look like a spiral by the rain water, Samson wondered if that was the start of it all. They’d found Jordan dead on the tracks, head busted open a few months ago. He knew Paul would grieve, he’d braced himself for loud sobbing and mourning. When it didn’t happen, he’d figured Paul was going to just ride it out. Maybe it’d buried it self, waited. Maybe.
The boys Paul was with now, when Samson knew anyhting about them, were strange ones. Stupid, snarling, barely intelligent kids who gave him a dirty look whenever they saw him. Which, Samson admitted, was rare. He paused his thoughts to collect himself. He’d grown up here, he knew the streets and architecture well. He’d been headed to the last of the rails, but the red brick work told him he was on the wrong side of town already. He’d slipped across without any notice.
It was disgraceful mistake, he had to admit. How did you miss the tracks? It was like missing the river. Samson organized his mental map, and figured he’d gotten distracted and missed a turn or something. Maybe his mind was moving away from construction as he mulled over the weirdos Paul called company.
It was wrong, Samson thought, to hate your son’s friends so much. But they were bad kids. They had this look in their eyes that reminded Samson of starving strays. And while he might pity them, in some abstract way, they were too cunning and a half for their own good. The thing was, and this made Samson more uncertain, they didn’t dress like thugs. Some wore button ups, clean slacks, dyed hair parted neatly. Hell, if you’d told him this was just some intern down at the firm, Samson would have believed you. Weird as it was to see that sort of clothing on them, the clothing wasn’t the problem. It was the way they walked, it was like there was a slight invibislbe gas leaking from their mouths. Their eyes hinted at malice, and they held their hand smore like claws then proper fingers and joints.
Samson got dizzy again, near an intersection. He stopped himself this time, and realized he had almost missed the train tracks again. The under pass, lined with tents, was just on the right. It seemed to swell in front of him. Most of the denziens were inside on a cold night like this. Samson frowned as he walked down the shaky concrete. Some of the asphalt must have been fresh, with the way it shown and almost flowed in the light. Like a river of gold.
It wasn’t fair, to call them strays. Strays just wanted some food. Or a home. Samson had taken in a few when he was a boy. No, they were more like…like the spiders. Or like a wasp Samson read about, that played with cockroaches before killing them. Malicous, maybe even sadistic, but naturals at it. They’d probably given not a second thought to what they did. Samson wasn’t sure if they’d done anything. He had theoires. He was pretty sure they’d killed a cat. There were less cats and squirrels about. He knew they were bullies and probably a few made a career being vicious. He’d seen one burn a bunch of dolls in an alley once.
Samson didn’t know which was worse. That the strange idiots stole a girls dolls and burned them, or they bought a bunch of dolls to burn for the hell of it.
Maybe they’d killed Jordan. The thought had crossed his mind. It seemed so fortunate for the freaks that Paul needed an outlet, and they were right there.
But Samson put that all aside as he walked down the tracks. Now was the time for peacemaking. Now was the time to talk with Paul, to make sure he got home, to make sure he was okay. The tracks were where Jordan and Paul once walked.
Samson blinked a few times as he made his way down. He didn’t bother calling out, it was bright enough to see Paul when he needed to. Hell, it was getting brighter and brighter as he walked down the tracks. There wasn’t any particular light, just everything seemed to be in sharper contrast and glow as he went. The tracks had clearly worn down since he got here, Samson thought. Some were broken or sprawling off. Maybe repairs or replacements required those bends and buckling. Some of the pieces of wood seemed to be replaced by bits of metal. A lot of them had been vandilized, little holes stabbed in them or gibberish carved in them.
Along the way, Samson swore the shadows blinked at him, or that in the holes of tracks there are flickers of motion like scurrying ants or beetles. It’s not too bad. Vermin always forms when places are left alone and forgotten. Samson’s known that for a while.
At last he comes to something that might be a destination. A pair of cargo containers, red and blue. On top are a bunch of tents, mini-roofs. Lights are shining out, brightest just above the two roofs, making a dome of bright light that slowly dissipated upwards into the sky. Samson walked to the rusted steel doors, breathed deeply and knocked.
There wasn’t any sound before the knock. Then a slight whistling and piping, as if Samson had disturbed some strange sleeping creature. Samson blinked and turned to make sure nothing was following behind him. When he looked back, the metal was gone, bent up into a surprisingly spacious ceiling. The piping continued, shaking the shimmering interior. As he stepped in, Samson heard the crunching of sand or salt beneath his shoes.
Samson heard voices from the deeper interior, halls of shining metal containers and ladders to the top tents. The light was bright,and Samson had to cover his eyes to come inside. Slowly he worked towards the voices. Paul was probably among the voices, deeper into whatever strange fort this was.
There was scribbling on the wall, symbols that Samson recognized from an old code book he had as hobo warning marks. About wild dogs and guns. Some of the scribbles were decayed, some were definitely alphabets he’d not seen in his life. Or gibberish in English, overlapped from overwork.
The halls smoothed as he got close to the voices. Despite being maybe twenty feet across, it seemed to stretch in front of Samson towards the horizon. He was surprised how quickly he crossed. He was surprised how long it took. The piping was melodious, almost calming now. With each step that crunched, crackled, and echoes through the metal walls it grew louder, more persistent. Like a lullaby being sung over a screaming child.
At last, Samson found the source of the lights and sounds. A door off the side of the hallway opened like a flower, peeling away but with a smoothness that washed over Samson’s alarm. They were gathered their, the strange boys playing piping instruments. They sat around a green fire that seemed to be a reflection, more flat then fire should be.
Paul was there, as Samson thought. Paul sat in the fire unsinged, eyes closed. Samson walked forward into the hall. A single word was written round the walls now, without beginning or end.
Paul murmured it in endless chant as Samson walked towards the fire, his son still unburned. In an instant Paul’s eyes opened. They stared ahead like wax orbs, no light shining from them. He stood, the flaming plat form putting him at eye level with his father.
“Paul…” Samson said, arms outstretched. “What is this Paul?”
Paul looked back as if he did not understand, like Samson was speaking a language he never understood. Samson took another step forward.
“Let’s go home, Paul. We’ll talk about this.”
Paul didn’t move from the fire, his clothes unburned. Samson took another step forward.
“Son, come on. We can–”
Paul let out a howl and Samson started back. He saw a flash of a knife in his son’s hand, a flicker of silver that rushed at him. With strength not his own, Paul toppled his father and slashed into him over and over again, before slicing his throat.
As the men and women at the center of the city had said, a sacrifice would be provided. Paul had expected his mother, however.
This story gave some trouble. I didn’t know the ending until I got there, and it is a bit sudden isn’t it? But I think some of the central conflict and fears could be expanded on later.
Next week! Our fiftieth research! Our fiftieth story! A story of fire and sin!