's 2019 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Claude Turner (email)

I will refuse to comment on how it began; I just barely remember when the first changes began, except that the first snow of the season had just settled in and the weather was getting appropriately miserable enough to make ventures outside unpleasant. I did not live in a city with a name worth mentioning, as it’s similar to any other across the country and what happened there, as far as I can tell, was what happened everywhere. 

Where I lived, that meant the landscape was a muddy mess and the neighborhood appeared hard enough on the eyes when it wasn’t muddy. Even if the crime rate wasn’t as high as it was, I didn’t like extended trips out of my apartment simply because I worked from there and there wasn’t much better WiFi available within driving distance even if I bothered to try and find some cafe or something similarly out of the norm. Instead, during that period of my life, my most frequent trips involved getting bags of Chinese takeout, the leftovers lasting me for days on end, or infrequent trips to a local international market where I got raman from slightly more exotic flavors and the occasional fish filet or pork cutlet. I wasn’t one to obsess over the news, and to be honest my personal beliefs regarding anything outside coding and rent increases were vague enough back then that; it could’ve been an asteroid for all I knew. 

Anyway, everything went to hell when that Frisch's Big Boy made flesh appeared on Fox and Friends, looming over the morons in the background with it’s ivory smile and it’s face moist with perspiration in the lighting. Before the thirty minute mark, it took a wobbly toddler step forward, and that’s when the whole internet went down and cable went caput.

I woke up in my bed and it was sticky, sticky. I I did not wear my helmet and my rubber suit I would likely have been just another thing to have sunken into the morass and never rise up again, a thing to be discovered by the next appointed penitent of the work-factory. I had long adjusted to live my life as I saw fit in the place, and I was not yet ready to simply become another casualty of the place.

I could not tell you about the color of the room I stayed in; the soft light available provided a kaleidoscope of dark browns and soft greens, and the walls were universally a moist yellow-color, with the floor and the carpet to the ceiling all coated with the yellowed carpet, which was as thick as it needed to be, with few I imagine ever wishing to determine it’s true density or depth in fear of what it connected to. I dared not to look at my appointed bedding; truly it was more of a nest than a bed, a testament to a dozen illnesses and bodily failures, heaped with stained rags more suited for the fire then to warm oneself at night, but if I was to ever be caught dozing off in some other corner of the facility, I would be considered as good as dead. My work was not hard, that was the domain of others who have much more to give than myself, and when I awoke I quickly righted myself up and entered the main hall, out of the crevice that served as my unfortunate dwelling.

The central chamber; did it used to cover the expanse of a lake? A forest? A city? All those things were long gone in this day and age, having been replaced by places like this, but I couldn’t keep my mind off it. The ceiling rose so high that the yellow mist and brown smoke that rose to the top obscured my sight, hindered by the film that formed on the small glass orbs that served as my goggles. Red lights rose and fell in the distance, coming from factories and arose from the rotting moats of detritus that formed in the spots between the outposts of work and labor inside the chamber. If I chose to look down, I would see little but piles of bones, old forgotten scraps of untanned hide, and even the occasional piece of rotten flesh. Instead I looked forward and place a gloved hand on the steel railing that served as the only barrier between myself and the slime below; my dwelling, while small, was special and valued simply because it was so isolated from others and it’s kind, and the long, slick stairwell, as narrow as a thin child curled into a ball and as high as perhaps halfway up into the great chamber’s side, was precarious, but the isolation was worth the trouble. 

Before I descended, I noticed a particularly unpleasant soft lump that had presumably fallen from the greater unknowable height above, and with a snort and a nudge I sent it falling into the abyss below.

It took some time to descend properly towards the main platform which I would make my way towards my station; I was hardly the only being who had to work today, although I was perhaps the only one who was dressed so heavily. The others who were making their way towards other factories and pylons and monoliths of the grim industry had similar casts to the features; grey skin that hung in grotesque folds, softball-sized red eyes too large for their strained sockets, and little clothing to go around, although what was visible revealed nothing of former identities and lives. The yellow and crimson mists that rose high from the steaming messes below and fell from distant stacks above respectively hid their features well enough that I could choose to ignore that they had such individual features to mark them as former distant kin to me, as a human being. Some had scars and some had open wounds, and all were thin, so thin that ribs were visible on all no matter their size; any that was too damaged would be found and rounded up and properly used, of course, but the matter was disquieting. I did not question where new ones came from, it wasn’t my place. Most of them had no dwelling except for any of the many coffin-like structures that ringed any of the thousands of platforms just like the one I regularly traveled, each suitable for a standing rest in a leather-lined steel box that could weather the occasional mistreatment or spurt of noxious solids from a careless vent or shute. They were the simple New Men, suitable for this work only because the lack of thoughts and their lack of self. 

I ignored them and they ignored me; did they see me as an overseer? Some mechanical being? I couldn’t care less, but they made no noises except in pain or in exhaustion. Their wheezing annoyed me, and it was constant. 

I took my time to count my steps when I was on solid ground; twenty-two minutes on foot on a lane-sized platform suspended high above the refuse below was what it took to lead me to my place of work, but that was not what it always took; occasionally the path was longer or shorter by as much as an hour, for reasons I could not explain. Could steel stretch and contort enough to explain such an anomaly, even in this day and age? Few of the wobbly grey remnants of my fellow men followed me up the steel stairs; a sign, perhaps, of my special work. The factory itself was a vast monolith that rose above many others, hundreds of meters high and bearing no windows or lights, merely vents to allow the escape of gasses and organic detritus. While most similar structures resembled multi-leveled slabs of metal and plastic, this resembled nothing more than a singular block of grey concrete with wire meshing emerging out from it at odd angles, occasionally blocking a errant pipe or two. These places were where the red mist congealed and ran red rivulets down it’s mass, making the thing resemble a bleeding stone. 

Nevertheless, the interior was the same as always; a precipice that looked over a vast sea of boiling oil, an ocean of thick bubbling grease coated with layers of thick bubbly scum that was nothing more than rendered fat. A series of conveyor belts as complex as the heavens themselves, a spiderweb of machinery that occasionally assured in the sound of rumbling thunder and metal against metal, of nearly imperceptible vast metal limbs rocketing through the sky above.  I wished to see my lord, but to do that I had to wait for the shift to end. 

At the moment, a great vast grey thing, coated in a layer of yellow liquid and bits of yellow dust, was slowly being lowered into the repulsive stew below. I prayed a quick prayer that the creature died before it opened it’s mouth, so it would not be fried from the inside as well. It took perhaps a few minutes, but it was eventually raised up from the sea of oil; a perfectly crispy fried whale, resembling a oversized prop popcorn shrimp as it was raised by a hook rammed straight through it’s tail. I watched the crew that tested the density of it’s breaded shell with long needles, winged things that were some of the few that could stand the environment that was this place that snickered as they went about their work. Above, other, smaller items were being fried and wrapped in paper; buckets of chum, fish guts, dead hens and rodents, and intestines were commonplace; bovine heads and pig parts and discarded long limbs from unknown things were also common among those things that I could recognize, but I did my best to look away. I loathed the production of food, although that was the main purpose of this place, like many others, as it did nothing but sicken me.

I approached one that stood away from the rest and wore the badges that indicated superiority over most in the realm; it was a tall thing, resembling a human with pale white skin and a bulbous head with wide pink eyes and a small mouth, lacking hair on it’s head or nails on it’s small delicate fingers.  Upon it’s back were lumpy things that unfolded wetly, like clumps of wet cooked fat that stretched out from behind it like wings formed from gristle. 

The creature stared at me for a moment, it’s face a mix of whites and pinks and reds, before nodding at me and leading me away from the docks, towards where the lord was currently holding court. Today, it was in an alcove high above the rest of the factory, in a room made nearly wholly of glass and plastic, slick with the grease and fat of a hundred thousand dead things. 

 The lord demanded little except for the fragile, calcium-rich bones that would be dredged up from the day’s work, what tended to either fall to the bottom of the vats or float to the top along with other unmentionables, scooped up with the gelatin that congealed on the surface and served before it on large thin plates. A great wide toothy mouth with little eyes and a torso covered in an outfit of leather scraps and paper attached to it’s body with iron pins, with veiny limbs a burnt dark brown color with strong leathery hands and little legs that could hardly be assumed to lift it’s vast bulk; like a hippo’s head set squarely into the center of a large humanoid form. Behind it were an array of large blind wormy things that emerged from it’s raw back, vast and white with V-shaped mouths, that sipped at the liquids that were left after the lord had it’s fill of the bones and gristle chunks set before it. I could never figure out if they were merely parasites or perhaps part of the lord. 

As I stood before it, I was offered a cup of tea served from a porcelain pot with little flowers on it by a limping angel servitor, it’s fingers resembling more like the white worms that emerged from the lord than human digits. I declined the tepid fluid, having no desire for the filth to enter my body.

The lord looked upon me with it’s piggish eyes, taking hold of a whole pile of stacked little chicken bones and tossing them into it’s huge mouth like they were nothing but candy. If it heaved itself up, it would’ve been twice my height, but it looked like it rarely moved at all, nearly sessile as a little god cared for by angels that catered to it’s whims. Eventually, it spoke, it’s voice gurgling and unpleasant. It sneered at me like it was struggling to keep it’s lunch in, it’s nostrils flared, and motioned towards me with a huge burned paw-like hand. A angel brought before it a jug full of hot oil, and it began to pour it into the lords mouth, causing its huge tongue to erupt in blisters and it’s gums to erupt in pustules, even as the oil began to spill out of it’s open mouth and pool around it. For all the time I have been here, I have never seen it harmed by this; occasionally it even seemed to find it pleasurable. Was it once a man or just another of the things that ruled this place? 

“You live still?” it grunted, giving a lazy gesture towards me, it’s voice unmistakably human, “Hmmp. A good worker is one that works even when they can’t and doesn’t think even when they’re asked to. You worked two full days, right? You finished your quota, I give you twelve hours leave for the next shift.” 

“I request to work that shift.” I asked carefully, gauging the lords reaction. I quickly lowered my head to glance down at the grease and blood-covered floor, realizing that I was, perhaps, beginning to stare. 

I heard the lord snort in mild annoyance, sounding like being forced to breath and shoo away a nearby attendant angel was enough of a issue in itself. 

“Hmm, audacious!” the lord said, chuckling to itself after a moment of thought, “And given. It’s a comfort to me that there’s one good employee here. Go on, now!”

I left and turned around that moment, leaving the creature and it’s retinue behind me. As I left, I tried to ignore the sound of the worms slithering about and licking up the spilled grease and blood that had furthered marred the floor, and went off to do my work.

The interior of the ‘factory’ resembled a mix between a rotting tenement home and a old mansion. Exposed drywall and cracked wooden floors were common and they all collected filth and debris. Others certainly made their lives here, although I tried to avoid making too much of a headway towards interacting with others, especially when I had to spend so much effort to make gentile interaction with those that I could depend on being even somewhat reliable. I made my way past the roosts the angels made and the pits where they deposited the remains of their meals, pellets of bone and fur, and avoided the places where leaky pipes dripped liquids of such foulness I could barely describe. What could be considered to be ‘refuse’ in such a place was moved about here and where they spilled bloomed new life, from fungal gardens to weird bloody jellies to blobby amoeba things with irregular eyes and little legs that were abhorrent to even the ‘intelligent’ creatures here. 

There was the cathedral of meat and bone and cardboard, where the angels roosted. There were places where the smallest of the new men huddled for warmth even as their heads bulged and eyeballs began to slide from their sockets. Skeletons of lost dead things covered in thick slime and impaled with iron rods, which only seemed to prevent them moving only when I did not look at them directly. Some places smelled floral, others rotten, but not enough that it was something to take precautions about.

Soon, however, I found my way to my place of work. Did McDonalds have a vault where they kept signs and napkins forgotten competitors in pristine condition? I doubt it, but that’s the thought that came to me when I was given my choice of work. It was a archive; even the creatures here, for all the changes they made, seemed to collect objects even if they didn’t have a real interest in them. It was my job to see the difference between a corporate sign and a flag of a great nation or a religious symbol and put them into chunky plastic bins in a room about the size of my old apartment complex. It was vast and cold and sterilized; for me to enter I was to take off my suit, which I did gladly, leaving me in plain cloths, that while conventionally filthy, passed as being clean to the inhuman clerks. 

My job was amazing easy, for it wasn’t much of a job; perhaps the only inkling of my real intentions that had trickled down to the creatures expressed itself in the lack of any guns in the place, or even anything suitable for the use of a weapon. Sometimes I thought that they might keep this stuff around to take notes about; certainly the invasion came slow and the props they used were clumsy, but they worked and weren’t any dumber than half the stuff we made.

Anyway, I immediately went  for the single most important bin in the place, the one that held the food and drink that had never been contaminated or changed by the invaders. 

I picked up a remaining can of Spam from a bin that had enough to feed an army for a year and plucked out one of the three remaining cans of Dole manderine oranges and had myself my lunch. 

Once I found a man or woman who was once like me, early on, but was covered in pustules that ended in little shrimp tails. When they pulled one out from what used to be their left breast, a whole curled shrimp emerged from the wound and cocktail sauce dripped around the hole. I beat that thing to death with the handle of my can opener and it’s head collapsed under the force of my blow and revealed a soft yellow interior, like a fresh hushpuppy. 

The worst part was that it knew my name and said he had the keys for some escape pod or something. Fuck that shit, I’ll wear my Chucky Cheese costume and do this forever, no government means no student loans means that a giant toad monster thing is the best boss I’v ever had.