's 2019 Horror Write-off:

The Seven Days of Uzia

Submitted by Sam P. (email)

The First arrived on a clear, sunny Monday. There were no clouds in the sky. The sun shone, and the sky was blue. As such, it should have been easy to see it coming, but no one did.

It arrived above a busy highway, backed up for miles due to an accident. A truck had crashed into a car driving the wrong way, screeching into an eruption of tinkling glass. One driver died, shredded by glass and crushed against the pavement, the other did not. Whether that was fair depended on opinion, and did not matter in the long run. It just set the stage.

And when the curtain drew back, it revealed a massive creature, floating above the packed-in cars. A low hum echoed out with its appearance, washing over every vehicle in a full mile radius around the immense beast, which looked for all the world like an enormous jellyfish.

Though, not quite a jellyfish. The superficial similarities were there, certainly. There was a cap, resembling a curved dome, and tentacles, long and drooping from just under its rim. The tentacles though were solid things, not so much like strings as thick strands, and semi-translucent, with rings of electric energy pulsing through them. Sixteen total, around that rim, and thrumming with the low sound of plucked guitar strings. There was a rhythmic tempo in the air, emanating from the First, and its ears twitched along with it.

The First had eight ears around the midsection of its dome. A ring of unquestionably human ears protruded there, large and blue. Not the bright white blue of electric energy or the soft sky above, but a deep, sapphire blue. It still crackled though. The sound of thunder boomed behind the strumming. A rhythm, a song, signaling.

People, humans, stepped out from their cars and trucks and minivans to stare up at the First. Its tentacles twitched, but didn’t move, even as the vehicles died en masse, murdered where they sat. Batteries burnt out with the spread pulse. Radios and phones snapped to silence. A man clutched his chest and gasped desperately as his pacemaker fried inside him.

The pulse spread with a voiced song. The listeners jerked as one, twitching or flinching at the pain in their ears. It was loud. It was harsh. It was melancholic. Not a funeral dirge though. It was sad, not mournful. The gasping man’s last breaths were smothered under cries of panic and calls for help, his ribs crushed under helping hands as he heard the beast’s tone.

All the lights in buildings nearby flashed once, then never again as bulbs burnt. There were no explosions, no eruptions of sound and fury. They died in silence, and without any chance of help.

The song wasn’t voiced. It hit a feeling in the chest, like the deep boom of a thunderous drumbeat, but there were no lyrics, merely an all too human noise. Heartbeat or drumbeat, the First’s underside was a storm. There was no mouth there, just a flat expanse of pure, blue skin that pulsed with lightning. The thrum spread to two miles in a crash of brass.

The former drivers were frustrated. That was understandable. More were panicked. That was also understandable. Some felt their ears start to fill with wax or outright bleed

They had to get away from the highway. The sound was spreading. The ears of the First twitched as it caught their complaints and screams and rages. The First took in all their words and gave back its song, which spread yet another mile further.

And the First began to drift.

The Second arrived on a cloudy Tuesday, when it was not yet raining. It was an early morning, the wind was blowing, the birds were singing, and the grass was blooming.

It bloomed in a family’s greenhouse. They were well off and afforded such things. In seconds, it had been ripped apart by a massive thing that very closely resembled a tree, if just for the fact that it spiraled upward on a sort of trunk and smelled of maple sap. The greenhouse was shattered and the house soon broke with it, crushed by the growing beast.

With twisting green vines and immense roots, the Second reached its pinnacle above a now forested suburb. It was green before, home to many plants and hills, but now the natural encroached on the civilized, asserting its position with a reckless abandon that saw roads cracking with blossoming flowers. Utility poles guided newborn trees into rigid shapes, their richly scented leaves blooming across power lines like the birds they swallowed up, while backyard pools became homes to deep green moss that clung tight, pulled hard, and reeked of damp.

The plants spread further, invading homes. Scented roses and lilies and lilacs burst from vases and gardens to bloom larger and brighter, uncaring of the hands that tended them as they ripped straight through meat and bone. Some were spared, some weren’t. Perhaps there was a moral judgment in place, but most likely not.

The Second didn’t care. Its cap touched the sky and it sniffed the air. Like the First, its body was a dome, though most would first assume it a mushroom instead of a jellyfish. It had a large stalk protruded from its bottom, mimicking a sort of body, so that was a fair assumption in the moment. Then the stalk tore apart, ripping into massive tendrils, thick and thorned, that curled and writhed beneath its rim, showing for certain that the massive, green beast was, indeed, related to the First.

Its influence spread differently though, and its all too human noses, eight in total, sniffed the air, drawing scents into their cavernous nostrils. For the briefest second, all smells in the suburbs cut off, gone in an instant and leaving a dry absence, before the sharp tang of rot erupted from every plant, sending those people still alive collapsing with horrific bouts of nausea, choking suffocation, and bloody noses.

The outpouring of life ceased in seconds as every piece of vegetation rotted, green melting into yellow, orange, and brown before it erupted once more, this time with fungus. Mushrooms burst out of houses, only to blacken in seconds so trees could erupt from them in turn. Towers of life, growing and dying and rotting and growing taller all while reeking of sweet syrups and stinking of wet decay, ripped up from the ground and rose high.

None quite reached the Second as it began to float away, its passage kicking up winds that carried leaves and petals in its wake, but they made a good effort of it, lurching and twisting until they collapsed in broken husks, forever seeking the beast that turned up its many noses to their existence. They would never gain its notice.

The Third arrived on Wednesday evening, atop a skyscraper still alight with activity. Office workers were still busy, going about their day as it turned to night, and a massive beast abruptly formed at the building’s peak.

Unlike its predecessors, the Third had no long, noodly tentacles with which to wave over the tower’s windows; instead, it had legs. Not human legs, but large, spider-like legs, or perhaps crab-like. They were black, hairy, and segmented, rigid as their points pierced into the skyscraper’s peak, so spider-like was probably closer.

The Third waited for a moment, then spoke. Eight mouths ringed its violet surface, thin-lipped and yellow-toothed, speaking in tones and languages completely different from one another. All common languages, of course; lingua franca, so its message would be understood, all while within the skyscraper, a number of accountants suddenly tasted something bitter, and felt very, very hungry.

“Out in a forest,” the Third began, “there is a watchtower. Two men sit on its balcony, watching the woods through rifle scopes. Their names are Arthur and Carter.

“Carter is a pale-skinned man with fear in his eyes. Arthur is a tan, skinned man with nothing in his heart. They watch for the approaching dead, and shoot them as they come.”

The Third began to walk down the building, speaking as its legs speared through windows and those inside felt hungrier and hungrier. Some dropped, clutching stomachs that churned and began to eat themselves, victims to their own agitated acids, but others gave it a good effort. Anything in reach went into their mouths, but most of it wasn’t good. Paper and staples were not in the food pyramid.

“Carter envied Arthur. He wished he could be as callous. The first time he killed a man, he was sobbing and vomiting the whole time through.”

Sour vomit poured from some mouths, followed by the sweet tang of acid. One man leapt at another, and ripped his throat out with his teeth. Another tried choking down an office plant. Bloodied fingers beat on a vending machine, standing careless in the hall.

“Arthur liked Carter. He was a friend. Sometimes, he wanted to be more like him. He wanted to feel something again. Every zombie he murdered felt like nothing. He wanted to feel sad for them. He knew he should, intellectually. It just wasn’t coming.”

The screaming was getting raw. Iron taste filled desperate mouths. The vending machine had crushed a man.

“One bright midnight, Carter started to speak: ‘Last night, ah dreamt of an angel. Was a tall lady, ah think. She had long hair, and felt woman-like, y’know? Somethin’ like that. Hard t’tell though, on account’a her bein’ burned. Well, half-burned. Ah think the other half was still burned, but cold-like. Frostbitten.

“She was white, ah know that. White hair, and skin like it’d been burned white. It had cracks, like lava and icicles, but skin. She stared at me a lot, with a lotta eyes, all cross every part’a her skin. Ah never saw her back, but ah know it was scarred. She still had wings, but they were bone and meat, drippin’ with gristle. Cold on one side, hot on the other one.”

“She spoke t’me. Said: ‘Here, I have killed a thousand men, and there, I’ll kill a thousand more.’ An’ ah asked why she did that. ‘To become as god,’ she said, ‘And make the world fair once more.’ An’ ah didn’t get it. Asked her more, but she shook her head. ‘Every corpse has a purpose. You’ll know-’”

One of the Third’s mouths opened wide, even as the rest continued to talk, and a massive, purple tongue extended out and darted down to the streets below, snatching a pedestrian and snapping back in one swift motion, finished with a crunch of bone and burst of sweet blood. The screams spread. So did the hunger.

“‘-what that means when it has meaning.’ An’ she gave me a pat on the head. Dunno why. Felt like my scalp burned away, and she touched my brain. Her fingers dug in, and ah could taste light. Y’know what violet tastes like? Lot like obsession y’could mistake fer love. Real bitter. Real damn bitter.

“Arthur shrugged for a moment, scratching at the muscles in his neck. ‘Ah could tell she loved me though. That was the weird part. She loved me, and she dug my brain out through my scalp an’ ate in right in front’a me.’ He nodded to himself, satisfied with his recollection, as Carter was seized by a sudden, indefensible terror that his companion knew exactly what really happened to his sister, Madison, at that ski lodge last winter.”

The Third waited for a moment, amid a street filled with crashed cars, screaming, and teeth tearing at meat. They were not dead though. This was no army of endless consumers, rotting alive where they walked. These were hungry people, and they had taste.

When no applause came, its own mouths frowned in unison. One grumbled over tough crowds in Mandarin, while another pouted in Swahili.

It was no matter though. One leg speared a car, and lifted it to eager teeth.

The Third munched on steel as its audience tasted iron. It had places to be. No need to be dull though. It started up another story as it walked and ate, deciding on something a stronger flavor this time. Bitter hadn’t quite worked, so perhaps a more sour tale? Or a salty venture? Too much sweet would rot its teeth, but no one thought about umami so…

Why not something spicy?

The Fourth arrived with a heavy overcast, burying a Thursday morning. Thick, dark clouds covered the sky above a city’s streets. Rain was coming, and everyone knew it.

There were talks of the beasts, because of course there were. Disasters were talked of. Plans were made. Decisions had to be carried out, though decision-making was more difficult than it looked. People were not unaffected, but the daily life continued, and most thought more about the rain coming soon.

A single droplet heralded the arrival; a single, orange droplet, which fell fast and splashed against the sidewalk in a burst of flame. It lit up, a flash heralding the storm, and with a boom of thunder, more rain fell. No water though. Every drop was that same, bright orange, looking almost like amber tears, and where they fell, they burst with fire.

Hot fire, burning fire, fire that found purchase on things it naturally could not. Pavement burst with flames as the green weeds in it caught alight. Trees along the sidewalk went up in seconds. People, going about their days, living their lives, were caught in a heavy deluge, and burned fast.

Blue umbrellas and yellow raincoats lit up, incapable of protecting from a rain of fire. Cars began to melt as tires popped and glass burst. Screams were drowned out under the rain, and doors slammed shut in an attempt to protect those inside, sometimes blocking out those desperate to escape. 

That cruelty, motivated by a drive to survive, was rewarded with more fire, sweeping down from roofs and into buildings. More windows burst, and the flames rushed inside. Steel supports buckled in the heat, and towers began to fall. 

Infernos swept across melting streets and into sewers, pouring inside like the water it mimicked and scorching even the lowest parts of the city it smothered. Tar ran in the streets until it evaporated into thick, black smoke, and there and then, the Fourth made itself known.

None survived to see it though, the great crimson beast drifting down from the storm clouds.

The Fourth looked like its fellows in many ways, but differed noticeably. While it still retained that same dome-ish body, a solid half-circle that floated down from the sky, it lacked tendrils entirely. Instead, it had wings.

Massive, alabaster wings spread out from its scarlet body, fluttering in the air in a shower of ivory feathers. No one saw the sight, but much later, some would get a glimpse of the Fourth. Some through vision enhancing scopes, others through recorded images. Every last person who beheld its resplendence bled from their eyes. One woman even tore her eyes from their sockets, screaming that its eyes were growing in her head. But that came later.

In the moment, the arrival, no living being saw the Fourth. The city was crumbling, melting into a river of molten slag that bubbled as though it were alive. As though every unfortunate soul in its bubble of influence lived on, and were desperate to tear themselves from the slurry they’d been reduced to. It leaked, draining into the nearby shore, and spread far, a great, choking black mass that filled the sky and sea with smog and tar.

And the Fourth watched all this. It had eight eyes, ringed around its midsection, and they stared, wide-eyed. Its eyes twitched, the pupils constricted, tiny points of black in a sea of red and white.

There was an intensity in those eyes, though even those who looked into them couldn’t tell what they expressed. Rage? Fear? Pain? One woman had a guess, but she was busy clutching at her ruined sockets, screaming that it did have tentacles, and claiming they were digging into her brain, so she had to rip them out, which was why she was up to her wrists but still couldn’t reach.

The rain stopped, eventually. The Fourth stayed though. It had places to be. And it began to drift towards that promised place as the sun pierced the clouds. An intense heat swept along with it, baking the ashen landscape.

Though the rain had ceased and the flames died down, the results remained. And the world grew warmer.

The military was ready for the Fifth.

Everyone knew about the beasts by now. In just four days, cities had died; it was hard to ignore such direct devastation, but a sort of hopefulness had spread with their travels. These weren’t immense, intangible problems caused by human pollution or deep-rooted corruption; they were outright monsters. And monsters could be killed. Everyone knew that.

So when the earthquakes started at 5AM on a Friday, four days after the First’s arrival, there was a sense of knowledge. An idea that they could beat this problem before it started. 

So soldiers and tanks and artillery and planes all readied themselves at a faultline, out in the wilderness. The ground was shaking, but they were ready. They needed to strike first and strike true, to kill the beast before it unleashed whatever horrors it brought with it.

Then two large hands pulled their way out of the tear in the earth, and gripped at the soil as the Fifth pulled itself up. It was immediately met with a massive hail of gunfire and explosives, so much of its appearance was obscured. If the soldiers had seen it, they might’ve paused, because the Fifth was an odd beast.

It was yellow, a color of cowardice or courage depending on who one asked, and looked similar to its fellows in that same half-dome shape, as should be obvious by now. Rather than something sensible like ears, noses, mouths or eyes, the daffodil-colored beast had hands. Eight hands, ringing its body with their palms out and their fingers pressed together, almost mimicking a “stop” symbol. Aside from two of them, which had extended into arms initially, but now shrunk back into place under the gunfire. 

Blood began to leak from the Fifth as it began to move towards the troops. Dark blood, thick and brown, almost like mud, poured from the holes in its yellow flesh. It shuddered, and soldiers jerked. Pain begat pain, and people began to collapse.

White hot agony hit every shooter and screams tore their way from raw throats as the Fifth began to move. Unlike its fellows, it did not drift or float. Instead, it crawled, akin to a slug, while leaving a trail of liquefied soil in its wake. Each inch it tread sent tremors through the earth, shaking the foundations as soldiers collapsed. Even those far away, in tanks, in planes, find themselves wracked with not just pain.

Some felt an overwhelming agony, a sharp stinging that erupted through every nerve in their bodies and sent them into screaming madness. Others felt an intense ecstasy, a euphoria that robbed their self-control and sent them crashing to the ground with glazed eyes and giddy smiles, even when they were quite literally crashing. And as twisted wreckages that were once planes exploded around the meandering Fifth, more sensations spread, such as an intense, irritating itchiness that burrowed under the skin. No amount of scratching satisfied it, and while it didn’t sound quite as fearsome as overwhelming pain or pleasure, those afflicted were quite adamant about how annoying it was. Some didn’t believe them, skeptical of what they could not feel themselves, but they admitted it when the man who gave the order to fire tore the rashy skin from his back.

Still, those skeptics felt a strange sensation too. A lack of feeling. They stood in command rooms, in offices, in a white house given importance, and they felt nothing. The prickly, tingling sensation of numbness spread across them as those who gave orders or fired weapons screamed, seized, and clawed, desperate to remove what they felt or merely losing themselves in it. And with numbness came incapability as sleeping legs fell from underneath standing bodies and tingling arms shuddered, desperate to regain their feeling.

All the while, the Fifth made its way past the cordons, the empty vehicles, and the seizing troops drowning under a spreading mud; cold, slimy, and clinging as it pulled them down. It had somewhere to get to, and it would get there. Eventually. At a very slow and steady pace.

Such was the Fifth.

The Sixth arrived at the center. It was a plain, with some scattered trees and patches of paved road amid the green grass, which yellowed rapidly with its arrival.

The wind howled around the Sixth, picking up while it drifted down, right as the sun rose. Like the First, the Second, the Third, the Fourth, and the Fifth, it was a dome. It was orange, though parts of it was tinged with black. The black spread upwards into leathery wings, a sharp contrast to the Fourth’s feathery wings. They spread out, less like limbs and more akin to decorations as it floated above the right point. It had eyes too, though the “whites” were black, and the irises were a vivid orange. It looked bored.

Its eyes were half-lidded, staring with a dull sort of disinterest. The wind continued to swirl, cold and heavy. It drifted low, and began to carve furrows into the ground, growing heavier and heavier until a octagram formed, though that wasn’t quite the shape. It wasn’t a star; it was eight lines, shooting off into the distance from a central point. Cold rivers, cutting through the continent and whatever lay in their way with the same carelessness the beast did display.

The Sixth wore a crown. Six spikes of black bone jutted from the top of its dome, curled around its center. It was the peak, and with its waters came a cold death. Those who drank gave back tenfold, and the rivers guided them in the right direction.

The Fourth arrived first, drifting close in the late morning. Neither beast spoke, merely floating close to one another. They had time to enjoy the warmth. Half the rivers turned red with heat.

The First arrived second, and the Second arrived third, both in the afternoon. The low thrum picked up in intensity, becoming a melody as thunder boomed in the sky once more. The split field twisted with green, but it died rapidly, only to return and die in a constant flux as the Second sniffed the air. The Sixth turned its gaze towards the Second, and the plants ceased. The mushrooms remained though. They would be fine, so long as they did not grow arrogant.

The Third arrive fourth, and complained at that fact, noting that it had hurried as quick as it could, and really, wasn’t this sort of thing unfair to the landbound? The planning was all wrong, all distorted, incorrect, inconsequential, inherent. Its mouths could not agree because it didn’t have anything to really say. It evening arrival was not unexpected, but it didn’t have anything to do, yet. 

So it made sure to berate the Fifth when it arrived fifth for making them wait. Midnight was fast approaching, the evening growing to pure night, and Venus hung in retrograde overhead. Everything was almost ready, and the fields were split. Half to mud, half to sand, in between rivers of heat and cold. The mushrooms grew, forming not in arrogance, but supplication, as the lightning crackled overhead.

The stage was set as Saturday died, and the Sun began to rise.

The Seventh grew at the center, the intersection of land and liquid. It did not look like a jellyfish.

It grew from the formed sea like a flower from the earth, sprouting up and spreading its “petals”. Its dome was reversed; unlike all the others, the Seventh’s top was flat, while it bottom was curved. Fins jutted from its body as it pulsed and shifted, thousands of tendrils wriggling in the air as it grew. 

It did not leave the ground, though any around to look could see the deep magenta spirals that decorated its vibrant pink body, before a horrible dizziness would inevitably overcome them and their body, bleeding from every orifice, twisted without care for skeletal limitations in an attempt to make sense of where they thought they were.

The Fifth climbed up first. Its hands extended, grotesque arms rippling with muscle as it pushed out of the slurry and set on its rightful place. The tendrils of the Seventh shoved into the underside of the Fifth, and the mushrooms shivered in a sympathetic delight. Together, the two formed an orb, half yellow and half pink, but they were not yet complete.

The Third cackled as it climbed on second, its laughter reaching a fever pitch as it set upon the Fifth. Its legs cracked, echoing into the stormy morning, then stabbed deep into the Fifth’s flesh. More pleasure echoed out, a rush of sweet bitterness that rippled from the Fifth to the Seventh to all their audience, who wriggled and squealed and cooed with growing joy, their caps raised to watch as the Second drifted down.

The Second’s tendrils curled around the Third, clinging tight to its violet flesh, careful not to cover or choke the mouths, though the temptation came quick as the Third complained of its thorns. So it curled tighter, and a heavy musk assaulted newfound nostrils. Eight mouths yelped, and more complaints were uttered, though they trailed into resigned muttering as the scent of salt filled the air. The sea had arrived amidst the land, and the scents of grass warred with the aroma of seawater.

The First naturally arrived fourth then, its own tentacles curling over its similar fellow. Blue and green thrummed with a new tone, then pulsed with new melodies. Beneath the serenade came a minuet, followed by a sung dirge, a shivered aria, and a cascading ballad echoed by strikes of lightning. Newborn ears heard a wondrous symphony, welcoming them with shocking warmth.

The Fourth settled fifth as its wings drooped down. Despite the intensity of its widened eyes, its wings curled almost affectionately over the First, sending a warmth that cascaded into vibrant lights, each beast illuminating as their audience saw the truth for the very first time. They were radiant and beautiful under the thick, stormy clouds, lit by their colors and casting a warm glow over the fungal fields and corpse-ridden rivers. 

The audience noticed them for the first time, now seeing the expressions twisted in agony across millions of bodies. Many were charred, floating in pools of grease, while others were soaked and bloated with mud, expressing agony or ecstasy in their final moments. Still others had chunks torn from their bodies or played host to the mushrooms already, the living decay sprouting from their natural source. A low rumble of thunder was echoed by a growing hunger.

The Sixth landed at last. Its half-lidded eyes opened wide and burst in showers of pitch-black blood, like oil bursting from the earth. Orange spikes pushed out of its leaking sockets, stabbing out into the air as the deluge slowed to a trickle. Thunder boomed as lightning struck its points and the audience finally felt clarity. An awareness of what they were, where they were, and when they were. Not why, how, or who though. Those questions were harder.

Too difficult for the newborns, who did what came natural, and began to feast. Flesh tore, ripped open by tombstone teeth, bones cracking and crunching before greedy lips suckled at their marrow. The corpses were there for them. For their birthday. 

And the Tower settled. It had worked, and now it would sleep. Eyes closed, mouths closed, ears closed, and snoring filled the air, drowning out the squelching and chewing. It needed rest.

The new year would be ever more eventful.