By Claire Fitzpatrick
The farm grew out of the soft yellow hills as though it had always been there. The homestead was the colour of the fields, its roof the same hue as the rustic brown and grey striations on the line of rocks that surrounded the muddy little pond. A poorly constructed gate of wooden planks and chicken wire lead to the larger stables with corrugated-iron roofs. Inside were four horses braying gently, and a dozen calves bought to fatten up and sell to the butcher in town. Past the stables sat the granary and the windmill, and even further, the ground sloped westward, leading towards the rows of wheat and rice crops stretching as far as the eye could see.
Oscar had never known another life. His father had worked the farm, and his father before him, and his father before him. Family dynasties were not common anymore; his friends from university had thought it strange he would go home after earning his agricultural engineering degree. What would you do? They would ask. You are great at designing machinery. What is the point of designing an irrigation system if you’re not going to mass-produce it? Oscar wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. But a part of him thought it was nobody’s business but his own.
His mother and father now lived in a care facility in town. They weren’t old and hadn’t officially retired. Both in their early fifties, his father, a usually tall, lean, muscular man, had become a feeble, loose-lipped stranger, now relying on the assistance of his mother to complete basic tasks. It wasn’t a stroke, she’d said adamantly. One morning he went to feed the pigs, and by 9 am he’d returned to the house a smaller version of his usual lively self. My Adrian was gone. She had chosen to leave the farm to be with him in the facility, a decision not made lightly. As an epileptic, she’d always been a fiercely independent woman. It’d taken several weeks of her frantic tears for Oscar to convince her he’d be able to handle the farm on his own. He’d find a wife someday. There would be children on the haybales once again.
It hadn’t taken long for traces of his parents to disappear from the house. The kitchen, once warm and scented of roast meat and his mother’s orange-scented perfume was now stale and smelled of beer. The loungeroom, once filled with jovial laughter during a game of Monopoly or Uno, was now quiet and still, the only sounds the rustling of the newspaper as Oscar cut it to line the litter tray for the cat. The rest of the house was just as dismal, a mausoleum of memories reminding him of future joy that would never come to pass. And yet Oscar had chosen to stay, had chosen to at least try to restore life to the farm again.
The day began as usual. Oscar rose early and stumbled into the shower, running his hands through his soapy hair, and then dressed and went into the kitchen to make a coffee. With his warm mug in his hands, he went outside to the veranda. He didn’t realise the coffee had fallen from his hands until it smashed on the wood below him. Everything around him – the hills, the pond, the trees, the flora, everything organic – had blossomed in strange colours, deep reds and purples, lilacs and maroons, colours uncommon to any farm. No healthy colours had remained; the bizarre growth of colours made the land look sickly, diseased. He looked up at the sky. For the past few days, the sky had been light blue with a whimsical scatter of light pink clouds. But now, it too was mottled with colours unnatural to its form.
Oscar placed his hands on his hips and clicked his tongue, eyes glancing towards the stables. They were the same as they had always been – the russet-painted doors were open, the sun-bleached white paint clung to the outside walls as usual, and the curved corrugated iron roof was still a dark green. The gravel pathway leading to the stables was still speckled with white, grey, and black, yet the weeds that curved around it were a garish magenta. He looked down at the pots of plants scattered around the veranda. His mother had loved succulents and was passionate about growing different varieties of the plant; he had inherited her vivacious love of gardening, something he was glad of. It was a passion they shared, an intimate type of bond he had with no one else. But now, that passion was gone, for all of them were colourless, and all of them were dead.
Adrenaline coursed through his veins as swiftly as carp up a waterfall. And then, a crash of terrified neighs and erratic hooves bolted from the stables like frightened wild deer. The horses ran from the farm and towards the hills faster than Oscar had ever seen them run before. Oscar froze in fear. Their usual chestnut, appaloosa, grey, black, and bay coats were stripped, their tattered fetid flesh dripping from their bodies, revealing splintered hollow bones. He watched the run until they disappeared over the hills and vanished from sight, uncurling his fists he hadn’t realised he’d clenched. Oscar gasped and as quick as the horses had run away, he sprinted back into the house, legs moving so fast he almost tripped over his feet and ran into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. He ran his clammy hands through his hair, heart beating so wildly he thought it would burst forth from his chest. The hairs on the nape of his neck bristled as he struggled to catch his breath. He pressed his hand to his heart and inhaled through his nose, letting the air slowly escape his mouth. Stumbling over to his bed, Oscar collapsed, face buried in the pillow. And though it was only morning, he found himself drifting off, his mind caught in a carousel of thoughts. Would the horses return? What had caused them to act in such an erratic manner? And what had killed his beloved plants? Was it some kind of disease that spread overnight? He closed his eyes, thinking of his parents. Maybe this had happened before, and they hadn’t told him? He didn’t know….
The following morning, Oscar rose to find all the pigs were dead. He’d slaughtered pigs since he was a teenager, working with his father on the farm. Once he’d gotten over the gruesome horror of it, he’d killed them without a second thought, eager for the praise his father had bestowed upon him. “You’re growing into a fine young man,” he’d said. “Your mother and I are very proud of you.”
He’d become accustomed to electrocuting them, slitting, and bleeding them. While it usually took around four or five hours for them to bleed out, he’d stayed with them, read to them, and sometimes would even sing. After they were dead, he’d remove their innards and cast it aside so not to contaminate the flesh. His father was always strict about not contaminating the flesh. He was used to seeing barrels of pig guts laying around, it was just what was needed to be done. He had never been a particularly vicious person; he hadn’t become a serial killer like those who’d taken their knowledge of dismemberment too far. But he’d like the fact he knew how to provide for his family and could one day provide for a family of his own. But the smell…the smell was what haunted him, especially during the de-skinning process. His friends had watched now and then; most of them didn’t live on farms and were curious about the process. While many of them ended up vomiting, a few would stay and watch, unable to look away. However, today…today the scene before him was more horrific than anything he had ever experienced in his life.
The pigs had been ripped in half. Their bodies were grey, save for discoloured crimson patches peppering their skin in a similar pattern of a cow’s spotted coat. Their eyes were attached by only a thin membranous cord and had all but fallen from their sockets. While the head and shoulders of the pigs remained in the pen, their torsos and legs lay splattered over the roof of the shed. Maggots and cockroaches had already made their home in the flesh. Oscar couldn’t hold it in any longer. Nausea clawed at his throat so insistently and his stomach contracted so violently he sunk to his knees as what felt like his entire innards expelled themselves out of him, exiting him with such a force he felt as though his throat had been ripped out of his body along with the contents of his stomach. He heaved again, and this time foul-smelling liquid that dripped from his mouth was the same hue as the bizarre lurid colours of the land.
Oscar rolled onto his back, gasping for as he looked up at the sky. While he presumed no longer than half an hour had passed since he’d awakened and ventured over to the pigpen, the visage above him was so surreal for a moment he was unsure of how long he’d been lying there. While he knew it had only been seconds, he began to doubt himself, doubt all logic and reason, for the nightmarish scene he’d encountered was so illogical he couldn’t even begin to comprehend it.
Above him, the dazzling spectacle of colour, the brilliant blend of red, violet, and blue were so vivid he had to adjust his eyes to look at it without the need to squint. The sky seemed like it was about to burst with colour, and perhaps release a downpour of rich, vibrant rain that would pierce and burn his skin with the same ferocity as acid. Yet while he had never felt more scared in his life, he couldn’t deny the scene was overwhelmingly beautiful and more magnificent and awesome than anything his eyes had ever beheld. He’d never been one to believe in supernatural or otherworldly beings, but for a moment he was certain their existence his true. For if the sky could produce something so fantastic as the visage above, surely others experienced similar celestial spectacles.
Oscar closed his eyes. He wondered if perhaps he was experiencing some kind of seizure as his mother did. He knew epilepsy could appear at any time in someone’s life. While he knew realistic hallucinations didn’t occur in the disorder, he surmised it may be possible he was experiencing some kind of dissociative state brought on by a seizure. Maybe he had imagined the strange occurrences over the past two days because of the stress of returning to his childhood home?
Oscar opened his eyes and looked up at the mid-morning sun, sitting full and orange in the green sky. He stood up, struggling to maintain his balance. He had to call someone, had to find help, but who could he drag into this mess? Who deserved to be a party to this bizarre, grotesque display? His friends from university lived too far away. He placed his hands on his hips in thought. Rebecca! Rebecca was his childhood friend who had never moved away from their small hometown. They’d grown up together; as teenagers, they had camped in the surrounding bushland with their friends, had briefly dated, and had stayed in contact over the years after Rebecca had married. He still had her phone number; it hadn’t changed since high school. But what would he say to her? How could he expose her to such horrors without guilt? And what about George? He’d been delighted Rebecca had found someone who made her happy. How could he drag George into this mess, too? Oscar ran a tired hand through his hair. He couldn’t risk exposing them to something dangerous.
He decided to go and check out the stables, to see if the horses had returned. He doubted they would have, but he didn’t know what else to do. As he reached the stables, he paused, placing his hands on his hips. He hadn’t closed the large double doors, yet there they were, shut firmly, the latch fixed in place. Oscar ran his hand through his hair, tugging at the ends. Perhaps he had shut them and had simply forgotten? In any case, he lifted the latch and opened them wide.
He’d watched horses die many times before. He’d seen them break their legs, and even their necks, through clumsy and avoidable mistakes. Many of the horses he’d raised over the years had succumbed to various problems, such as issues with their digestive tract, their teeth, internal parasites, and even chronic disease. Yet he had never seen a dead horse displayed in such a macabre state as he saw now. Oscar pressed his hand against his mouth, yet his vomit expelled itself so forcefully from his stomach his hand was useless. He spluttered and spat, tears streaming down his face as bits of vomit were caught in his nose. He blew them out on his sleeve and stared once again at the grotesque image before him.
The horse lay on its side, its flesh stripped from its body, its teeth jutting out of what remained of its ramshackle jaw. Its appearance brought to mind the image of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, riding on their skeletal, ethereal steads. It had already succumbed to various types of corpse fauna. Maggots made their houses in its mouth and scurried in and out of its eye sockets. Flies swarmed in and out of its nose. His beloved cat sat atop of the horse, gnawing at its bones. Oscar tried to shoo it away, yet it growled pulled away a part of its rib, running off with it into the shadows of the stable.
Oscar dropped to his haunches and spat upon the ground. “Holy fucking fuck.” He ran his hands through his hair, tugging on the ends. “What the actual fuck?”
His body gave way beneath him, and he fell to the ground. He looked up at the roof of the stable, his pulse racing like a freight train. His senses felt on high alert: every sound was louder, every colour brighter, every scent more pungent than before. The world seemed to be spinning around him, with all the sounds, colours, and scents blurring together. What unearthly force could do such a thing? It must be a disease, as he suspected, but what kind of disease would inflect some plants and mutilate some animals and not others? What kind of disease had an agenda?
While the scene was grotesque, the stench of death was worse. He dimly recalled finding his grandmother after she passed away when he was a child; the scent had stayed with him forever. He could not adequately describe it to anyone who had not smelt it before, for there was nothing else he could compare to it. It was a rank and pungent smell, a mixture of rotting meat and a tinge of sickening sweetness, almost like fruit. It had permeated the entire room, soaking itself within his clothes so profusely he had thrown them away. He had, of course, smelt deceased animals all his life. He instantly recognised the stench of pigs; their odour was the closest he could compare to the horror he now smelt. But still, there was no mistaking the hideous aroma of human death.
Even though his body felt incredibly fatigued, Oscar managed to sit up and push himself to his feet. He needed to call the animal carcass disposal so they could remove all of the cadavers. When he was a child a friend of his fathers who owned property around twenty minutes away had woken to find several of his calves were born weak and had died from white muscle disease. He waited a few days before having all of the deceased animals disposed of. He couldn’t bring himself to bury them. He and his wife had never had children, and after she had succumbed to cancer the month before, he clung to those animals as though they were his children, finally calling after he accepted she wasn’t coming back. It had been horrible to see him in such a desperate and lonely state, and the memory of it had always stayed with him.
After returning to the house and spending almost an hour in the shower, it was around seven-thirty before he called to have the animal disposed of. Two men with sympathetic words arrived at a quarter to eleven with an excavator, dressed head to toe in gloves, rubber boots, eye protection, a face mask, and coveralls. They didn’t speak much but told him about where the licensed landfill was and how to pay the fee. Oscar preferred it that way. He didn’t feel like talking to them anyway.
After they left, he grabbed a beer and returned to the stables, sitting cross-legged against one of the stalls. He thought about calling his mother, but what would she say? She’d probably leave the care facility and rush back home, and he didn’t want to distress her. He wondered what his father would do if he wasn’t so incapacitated. He probably wouldn’t be sitting in the stable feeling sorry for himself. But Oscar had no idea what he was supposed to do. He hardly knew what was happening. Everything felt like a strange nightmare he couldn’t wake himself from.
Following another three beers, he went inside and collapsed on his bed, pulling the covers up over his head and drawing his knees up to his chest. The images of the butchered animals pounded against his head like a migraine. And then he felt it. The movement beneath his skin, the scratching against his bones. He sat up and pulled the blanket off, staring at his arms. His skin was a mottled red and purple, the same colours as the land and plants had turned. It looked like horrible bruising, but nothing like he had ever had before, not even when he had fallen from a tree and broken his arm. Nothing like the injuries his mother sustained if she fell over during a seizure. He pressed both hands to the opposite arm and gasped. His skin was soft and spongy, and he could feel an abundance of fluid built up underneath. He could feel it moving under his hands as he squeezed them over his arms. He screamed and fell off the bed, and as his body hit the ground, his skin opened up like fresh wounds, spilling a thick lilac liquid that erupted so vibrantly from his body its spray splattered against two walls and several items within the room. It was sticky and smelled like rotten meat, and so putrid Oscar projectile vomited across the room. Hot tears spilt down his cheeks as the vomit continued to erupt from his stomach. Gasping and spluttering, he tried to sit up, but his arms were no use, and he fell face-forward into the vomit.
“Help!” He spluttered and cried as he struggled to drag himself out of the room to retrieve his phone. He’d left it in the barn; the battery was likely dead by now. But he had to try. He could call the ambulance, but the thought made him hesitate. Would they take him to the hospital and quarantine him? What if they performed a variety of tests? He was terrified of needles and knew he’d try to fight them off. That’d likely lead to a sedative, something more terrifying than a simple blood test. And maybe even an arrest.
Determined to call Rebecca, and only Rebecca, Oscar dragged his exhausted body down the hall, screaming as the skin around his weeping wounds peeled back and his flesh ripped from his body in thick, slab-like chunks, leaving a trail of splattered and flesh in his wake. His body became overwhelmingly heavy, and it took all his strength to keep going, to reach his phone. His pores began to bleed, but no matter how many times he wiped his face, the blood would not abate, and it ran down his face and into his mouth, coating his tongue so thickly he feared he would choke. The lesions spread over his body, yet he had no energy to scream.
Despite his exhaustion, Oscar managed to drag himself out of the house, across the veranda, and down towards the stables where he had left his phone. The terrifying vista of the corrupted landscape was so awesome he wondered if perhaps it, too, was dying a painful and terrible death. He wondered if the landscape had been poisoned by some form of mutating virus, something that spread from animals to plants, and now, human cells.
The odour emanating from the barn was worse than the stench of his polluted room. Despite his repulsion, he dragged himself inside and frantically looked around for his phone. Spotting it beside a bale of hay, he moved to retrieve it, then paused. Hushed whispers emanated from the hayloft, whispers so low he almost didn’t hear them. As he listened, he realised the whispers were not words, but unintelligible sounds, syllables, and noises Oscar had never heard before. He stood and looked up at the hayloft. A giant misshapen shrine sat in the middle of the loft. Various crystals were precisely fused, with a dip jutting out from the centre, causing the mass to resemble a bizarrely constructed throne.
Oscar rushed to the ladder and climbed up to the hayloft as fast as he could, stumbling as he reached the top and fell to his feet in front of the hideous shrine. He gazed at the statuesque offering before him. His father’s body had been stripped of his skin, nails, hair, eyes, and teeth. His penis had been similarly mutilated and lay upon the floor beside them. His milky eyes stared up at him an incredulous expression on his face, as though he couldn’t believe he was dead.
The man was not his father at all. At least, he didn’t look like the strong man who raised him. His skin clung to his bones like an old coat, his face sagging so heavily his eye sockets drooped like string cheese. His teeth had fallen from his mouth and lay scattered on the ground beneath him. The scent emanating from them was fetid and malodourous, so nauseatingly ripe it burned the inside of Oscar’s nostrils.
He dropped to his knees and simply stared at his father’s body, thoughts so disjointed for a moment he thought and felt nothing but a deep emptiness more consuming than anything he had ever felt before. He wanted to run, to scream, to call Rebecca, yet he could do nothing but sit and stare at the man. This was his father; he’d loved him, raised him, nurtured him as he grew older. He’d taught him to ride a bike, to swim. And now he was nothing more than a disfigured husk of who he’d once been.
A strange humming sound resonated around the hayloft. Stumbling to his feet, he looked around but saw no animal that could make such a sound, nor any other mechanical source that could imitate it. He pressed his hands to his ears and doubled over, trying to make sense of his father’s macabre demise. And then he thought of the shrine, that hideous, gaudy, cacodaemoniacal shrine. He had to inspect it closer, had to try and make sense of it. He had never known his parents to be religious in any way; he hadn’t even been baptised. Had his mother known about this? Had she constructed such an edifice? Where was she? As far as he knew, his father never left the care facility without her.
Slowly, painfully, Oscar bent over his father’s mangled body and looked at the cryptical crystal throne more carefully. Arcane, esoteric runes had been crudely carved into the surface, some small, some large; others had been carved so deeply it must have taken weeks to perfect. He pressed his ear to the throne. The humming sound appeared to come from within, but he could not see anything inside that could make such a sound and could not think of something to look for which he might compare it with.
He hadn’t seen his mother’s naked body since he was a child. They’d taken showers together until he was seven, and he’d clung to her in desperation when she’d told him it was time to shower on his own. In life, she’d been curvy and a little plump around the middle, having never fully lost her postpartum pouch. She’d worn a little make-up here and there, had put effort into her appearance. Yet now, as he looked down at her from the hayloft, saw her standing below with her arms outstretched, he vomited at the sight of her. No perversion of anatomy could be more incongruously malformed or more utterly grotesque than the hideous creature that stood before him. Her flesh had opened like a flower, her body turned inside out, parading her parasitic womb. All of her organs oozed a lilac secretion in thick globules that omitted a stench so nauseating Oscar’s skin began to itch; it scorched the floor beneath her like acid as it dripped from her nipples. He knew, instinctively, it was this stench that had killed the animals, had killed the flora, had decimated all life on the farm.
Oscar watched in abject horror as the monstrous form of his mother stepped over his father’s body and sat upon the throne.
“I am thankful for this glorious vessel,” she said.
Her voice was low and guttural, almost a growl. Her face, although it remained physiologically the same, seemed slightly askew, as though she had suffered some sort of stroke. He usual alertness was gone; her bright, eager eyes had been replaced by a dull, lifeless expression. She seemed unable to properly move her limbs, though not from a lack of strength or dexterity. As she moved to sit more comfortably on the throne, it looked as though her body simply didn’t know what to do, and she had to hold onto the armrests to steady herself lest she fall.
“Mum?’ Oscar’s voice was barely above a whisper. Something innate had changed inside her, something more horrifying than her physical aberration. He could feel it. Whatever was once his mother had been replaced; something had taken hold of her mind, had taken hold of her body.
“Where is my Mother?! What did you do to her?!” His scream was so shrill he thought he’d lose his voice. “What did you do to her?!”
The thing that was not his mother stared at him with cool indifference, then twisted its features into an abysmally sardonic smile. It stretched out its arms like threatening pincers and wiggled its fingers enticingly, beckoning Oscar towards it.
“Come give Mother a hug.”
“You’re not my Mother!”
Oscar turned and leapt from the hayloft, his ankles almost twisting as his feet slammed upon the ground below. Though the pain of the land was intense, he ran out of the barn across the yard as fast as he could. As he ran he realised he’d bent to retrieve his phone but hadn’t picked it up. He’d disposed of his father’s phone after he’d left, and there wasn’t time to turn on his laptop and call someone from there. Racing up the veranda stairs, he burst into the house and ran into the kitchen. Hands slicked with blood, sweat, and painful pustules, he struggled to pull a steak knife from the wooden block and fumbled with it in his hands as he tightened his grip on the handle. Though the hideous creature was nowhere to be seen, he brandished the knife in front of him, frantically waving it in front of him, ready to strike.
Oscar had never been so terrified by something in the way he was now. As a teenager, had thrived on the pulp horror books he’d borrowed from the library. But never in his wildest dreams could he have expected such a horrendous and gruesome beast to terrorise him outside his imagination. For the first time in his life, he wished he’d lived in town with the rest of his friends, and not on his beloved farm, rooted in isolation.
Oscar walked around the house in circles, listening for any sound that might signal the arrival of the creature. Though he could hear nothing but the pounding of his heart within his ears, he concentrated as best as he could, listening for anything and everything that might suggest he was not alone. But while he concentrated, he couldn’t detach himself from the horror of his torn and tattered flesh, purple ooze, and vomit that lay scattered around him. He had become just as grotesque as his mother. He scratched at the soggy flesh of his arms, crying as out it tore under his nails. Had his mother become the host for a parasitical entity which, though some kind of noxious odour, so drastically affected organic matter? And could she escape its clutches?
His hands shook as he clenched the handle of the knife, panic sending surges of adrenaline through his body so intense he thought he might vomit once again. And yet still the creature had not appeared. It was this that worried him the most. Where was it? Why had it not chased after him?
“I’m not scared of you,” he whispered to himself. “I’m not scared. This is all a dream. Just a bad dream. You can wake up now, Oscar. Wake the fuck up!”
“Oscar! Come give Mother a kiss!”
“It’s a seizure, it’s just a seizure!” He insisted. “It’s a fugue state. You’re unconscious. You’ve hit your head and you’re asleep. Well, you can wake up now! You can wake the fuck up now, Oscar!”
“Oscar, my darling! Come to Mother!”
Heart pounding, he looked around the kitchen for a place to hide. He could run away, run down the road, and hope to flag someone down. But he knew she’d come after him, and that meant putting someone else’s life in danger. He slid down the side of the cupboard. He held the knife across his chest, ready to swing. His eyes darted around the room. Oven. Stovetop. Kettle. Utensil jar. Microwave. Fridge. Knife block. Fuck! He should have grabbed all four knives. The bread knife was sharper than the chef’s knife he held in his trembling hands. But it was too late now. He had to be silent. He had to be still.
“Come on, love. Come to Mother!”
Tears ran down his cheeks, searing his serrated flesh. When he was a kid, he’d gone camping with his dad and three of his friends. He’d been showing off, wanting to impress them by leaping over the fire. Despite his father’s warnings, he’d continued, and on the fourth jump, he’d tripped and fallen into the fire. He hadn’t burned himself enough to need a hospital; his father had simply rubbed some aloe vera on his leg and wrapped it with a damp bandage. After they’d returned home, his leg had blistered, and his father had sternly told him not to show off again. But that burnt feeling, that sudden searing pain, had always remained with him. And with it a sense of shame. Now, he felt another type of shame. Shame he hadn’t tried more to help his mother care for his father. Shame he hadn’t done more with his degree, hadn’t sold his irrigation system, hadn’t made enough money to pay off his parent’s debts. They owed thirteen thousand just for livestock, and thirty thousand for grains and vegetables. And he hadn’t helped them at all. They probably resented him. Maybe that was why they’d tried to reach out to some supernatural deity? If the bank wouldn’t help, and their son wouldn’t help, there wasn’t any harm in trying.
“I called Carol after you didn’t answer, and she said to come round. She sounded a little sick. I’ve come to pick up some eggs. Are you here?”
Oscar’s stomach dropped. Leave, leave, leave. Get out, get out, get out.
“I brought my own cartons, and also some fresh milk for you.”
“Rebecca, my darling!”
Her scream tore through him like a serrated blade of glass. Oscar leapt up from his hiding position, pushed her aside, and brandished the knife towards the monstrous creature. Rebecca fell to the ground beside him in a mess of egg cartons and milk bottles, chalky face gaunt and immobile, her mouth wide and rigid in horror. Before Oscar could use the knife, the creature lent over and placed its hand on Rebecca’s shoulder. Rebecca screamed; the top of her shirt dissipated, as though dipped in acid, and her skin became the mottled red and purple Oscar’s had become before it separated from his body altogether. Rebecca shuffled backwards, rubbing her shoulders as hard as she could, yet the longer she rubbed them, the more intensely vibrant her purplish skin blossomed.
Oscar watched in desperate defeat as globules of fetid flesh and blood fell from her body. Her hair, unlike his, fell out in chunks, exposing patches of mottled red skin slowly melting inwards. Her eyes, once a gorgeous cornflower blue, filled with blood, and they fell from their sockets and onto the floor. Her skin slid downwards, pulling her nose and her mouth from their place; her desperate screams stopped only after her whole face and fallen, and her flesh hung around her neck like a noose, leaving a hideous blank mass, a faceless face, devoid of every defining feature she once had. Her body gave a small shudder and she fell to her side, still staring at him through eyes that rolled towards the beastly creature. Wrenched from his terrified trance-like state, Oscar reached out to grab them, but the monstrous deviation scooped them up and put them in its mouth, swallowing them whole.
With a sudden rush of adrenaline, Oscar pushed himself to his feet and savagely stabbed the creature’s exposed womb with reckless abandon. Thick rivulets of blood and pus and the lurid lilac secretion burst from the cavity with the intensity of an erupting volcano, covering Oscar, Rebecca, and everything around them. The creature let forth a hideous screech and spread its legs, forcibly prolapsing her maggot-infested uterus.
“Mother wants heirs to her throne.”
Screaming, Oscar stabbed her once more, leaving the knife within her stomach, and ran towards the front door as fast as his aching body allowed. He stumbled down the front steps and cantered towards the car, wrenching the door open and throwing himself inside. He locked the door and reached into the glovebox.
He’d always left his keys in the car. Always. It was a stupid habit, yet one he couldn’t break. But the keys weren’t there. He hadn’t gone anywhere for the past three days. He hadn’t left the farm. There’d be no reason for him to use the car, so there was no reason they should be gone. He looked around for them, frantically tossing around the paper towels, hand sanitiser, first-aid kit, map of the farm, matches, and even his emergency flares, but the keys were nowhere to be found.
He leapt out of the car and ran over to hers, yet the doors were locked. Her keys were probably still inside, in her handbag, with her phone. Oscar hesitated. To go back inside was to face certain death. Yet to stay outside would mean running, and he wouldn’t be able to get far without a car. Rebecca was his closest neighbour; her house was a twenty-minute drive away, and she was still another fifteen minutes out of town. He pinched his nose. She didn’t even have a landline. It’d be dark by the time he reached someone for help. Yet what other choice did he have?
He turned and faced the house. The creature hadn’t followed him. So where was it? What was it doing? Formulating a plan? Calculating its next moves? Clearly, it was intelligent, but to what degree? He had to get away, but he couldn’t just leave Rebecca. Who knew what horrendous defilements her body would be subjected to? Ambivalent panic seized him so suddenly he felt rooted to the spot, his brain unable to tell his body what to do. He closed his eyes, shaking as urine trickled down his leg, the heat searing his disfigured flesh.
He ran as fast as he could, his shoes slapping the road so erratically it seemed as though his ankles were made of tightly wound coils instead of sinew and bone. His throat wheezed as his burning lungs gasped for air, his brain shouting at him to slow down and rest. But he couldn’t stop. Not when that thing was still alive.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Oscar spun around gasped. The creature stood in the distance, staring at him with his Mother’s eyes. Its body was so utterly revolting he gagged, dripping blood and saliva from his mouth. It seemed to have dragged its body alongside it as it loped after him; half of its organs lay in patches in its wake, leading a bloodied path back towards the barn, akin to a trail of secreted snail slime.
It stared at him with furious intent. “You will worship me just as your Mother did,” it announced, its acerbic voice so loud and booming it shook the land around them. “I shall be obeyed!”
“Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me obey you? You and what army?”
Oscar collapsed on the road, exhaustion finally crippling him. He sat on his knees and looked up at the sky. He could compare its cryptic tints and shades to nothing, not even the extraspectral sky magenta that blanketed the world during twilight.
A sudden burst of energy shook the sky. A giant ball of light blasted through the clouds and slammed into the creature’s stomach. As its stomach exploded, the colour lifted from his surroundings, as if pulled by some invisible force and rose into the sky, leaving the landscape grey, reminiscent of the aftermath of a fire. A hideous cry came from the creature’s womb. Oscar stared in horror as the monster gave one last loud, heaving, orgasmic groan, and a horde of fetid offspring slid out of its mutated cunt, their cries so loud blood ran from his ears. He screamed one final time as his mother’s dissected body fell to the ground, dead.
Time seemed to slow as he lay upon the road, wondering what would have happened had he not returned from university. What kind of life could he have lived? He might have taken a high-paying job with an engineering firm. He might have had the means to ask Rebecca out before George did. They might have had a couple of kids and lived happily in a house he’d designed himself. He didn’t move a muscle as the monstrous progeny devoured what little flesh remained of his body. He simply lay there, lost in his thoughts, as his spleen was ripped from his abdomen, his appendix was pulverised, his gallbladder was snatched from under his ribs, and his colon was chewed up and spat out, imagining a past that had not existed, and an idealised future that would never come to be.
The offspring tunnelled their way inside his ears, their insidious voices echoing their mother’s demands.
“Worship us or perish!”
Oscar grinned and let out a final, exhausted breath.
“Go fuck yourselves.”
About the Author: Claire Fitzpatrick is a horticulturist and award-winning author of speculative fiction and non-fiction. Called ‘Australia’s Queen Of Body Horror’, she enjoys writing about anatomy and the darker side of humanity. Her collection ‘Metamorphosis’ was hailed as ‘simply heroic,’ ‘graphic, disturbing, honest,’ and ‘nothing short of a masterpiece.’ She lives with her husband, the artist Misery Ink Design, and their weird goblin kids somewhere in Queensland. Find her at www.clairefitzpatrick.net
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