"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" The Last Leviathan "

Submitted by Irene Vallone

When the leviathan arrives, I am alone.

The sea is quiet, at first.  The oils that coat its surface are placid and still, uninterrupted but for the mounds of garbage poking up from the sea bed.  I am lucky enough to be watching them at this moment, taking a rest from my studies to gaze out from my decomposing balcony.  The sky is flushed a hazy orange, the evening sun setting behind the smog.

Then, as I watch, the surface of the oil breaks.  A mountainous shape slogs upward and forward, like a giant striding up the continental shelf.  The oil washes off its pallid-grey pockmarked surface, streaming through the holes in the flesh and the gaps between the bones, cascading down in black waterfalls as the thing rises into the air.  The noise of the oily water breaking up and rushing down is awe-inspiring.

As the great roar of the water subsides, a new noise takes its place – a great siren’s howl emanating from the thing itself.  It is the roar of a leviathan.  I have read historical accounts of this noise, in the Post-histories and the Annals of the Fall, but I have never experienced it firsthand.  I close my rotting eyes and I listen to it in rapture, overjoyed to be experiencing a piece of history.

The leviathan passes directly over my home.  The noise shakes the dilapidated siding and rattles the remains of the windows.  Pieces of the leviathan’s flesh rain down from above, pieces the size of my fist, my head, my entire body, landing on my roof and around my feet.

It passes over slowly, a massive black blob blocking out the sun.  I follow it as it drifts overhead, roaring all the way, moving through my home as quickly as I can.  My legs have begun to fail me.  I took a nasty fall several months ago.  They will not properly heal.

I emerge from the front door of my home and watch as the leviathan continues to drift, away from the beach and into the city.  As it moves into the ruins, it is set upon.  The few remaining seabirds with intact feathered wings pump through the air, landing atop the leviathan and tearing free chunks of skin and blubber, bringing scant morsels back to the broken and featherless once-birds nestled in concrete hidey-holes.  Dogs emerge from the rubble, exposed bones matted with crusted fur, and snap up the chunks of rotten flesh raining down in the leviathan’s shadow.  Bites of meat drop free from torn-open bellies.

It is not long before the human horde emerges as well.  From within their glass tombs and concrete caves, they stumble into the daylight on shattered legs, shielding their lidless eyes from the dim light with hands secured by little more than straps of flesh.  They hear the roar of the leviathan, the sound of ultimate decay, and they respond in kind, howling from open cavernous throats and jawless mouths.  They howl with terror, and wonder, and because their neighbors are howling, and with a kind of fatalistic jubilation – the joy of knowing, deep in their dusty bloodless hearts, that their far less glorious existences will one day end.  They howl because it is the end times.  It has been for a long time now.

Some of the ruin-dwellers were no doubt alive when the end times began, but they are little more than ruins themselves, piles of bone dust and mold, barely separate from their surroundings.  No one remembers the age before.  Even I, the self-appointed chronicler of this city, can understand little of what I study.  The words do not come easily anymore.  My endless life is coming to an end, and the rest of the world will soon follow.

I leave my house and hobble down the street.  I must go out.  I follow the leviathan.

The dogs do not fear me.  They slink around me as I follow the leviathan, snatching pieces of meat out from under me.  I pick up a chunk of meat and a dog tries to snatch it out of my hands.  I tear it free from the dog’s jaws and shove it into my mouth.  Fluid leaks out and trickles down my throat.  The sensation is fulfilling.

The other humans fear me.  They slink back into their caves and behind their rubble cover as I move down the street.  They moan low, failing to recognize me as one of them.

I am the strange one in this world, for clinging to the meaningless artifices and traditions of a world I never belonged to.  Humans no longer live like me.  My compatriots, who once clung with me onto this half-hearted reproduction of a forgotten former life, have disappeared, physically destroyed or subsumed into atavism.  Animals are not like my books say they were.  Even the leviathans have changed.  They were once sea-going creatures, but the end times have reached deep.  Now they ascend from the deepest places of the ruined world and grace us with their mighty presence.

The Annals of the Fall state that a leviathan has not breached in almost ten thousand days.  This one may well be the last.  They hung on tenaciously through the end times, disease-wracked and pollution-poisoned, but their time is over.  This one is following the rest of its kind into the sky, into whatever awaits them beyond… this.

I am fascinated by it, as are the other humans.  Even as they hide from me, they peek out at the leviathan, quietly moaning in autonomous response to its roar.  I know they are behind me as I shuffle down the street, following the leviathan down the road, but they are not looking at me.  All of them, even the eyeless and headless, are looking up.

I look up with them, towards the shadowy flaking bulk of the leviathan, and dimly wonder what I am doing.  The roar has flooded my ears long enough that it no longer registers; it is an unbroken constant background to my thoughts.  It is loud enough to drown them out, shoving them aside into irrelevance.  I cannot think.  I can only walk.

I do not hear the crack.

My leg collapses beneath me.  I drop onto my stomach.  My flesh scrapes against the crumbling road.  Blood and pus and liquid flesh smear across the ground and into my tattered clothes.

I attempt to struggle forward, dragging myself on my arms, but this motion only shreds me further.

I collapse face-down into the pavement.  I can no longer see the leviathan, but I continue to hear its constant roar as it ascends, heading to its better future, while I decay here on the ground.

The roar begins to grow quiet.  Behind me, the moaning horde shuffles forward, following the leviathan as it leaves.  I am no longer frightening to them, crumpled here on the ground.  

They move down the street, passing me on both sides, not casting so much as a glance in my direction.  Their eyes are locked on the leviathan—the first one their dim memories can recall, and the first sign to them of something greater, a sign of hope amidst the broken bricks and rotting vermin.  I would join them, were I able to stand.

They vanish down side streets and into broken buildings, and all noise is gone.  I am left here in the street.  Here, my endless life will continue.

I am alone again.