The following is from a collection of my experimental horror and thriller stories that I have dubbed: The Nine Hundred Ninety One Volumes. Note that there are not 991 available entries; many of them have been redacted, as people are afraid of true stories. This one has been selected as a preview of said collection for your enjoyment.
Aaron Matthew Little
20th October, 2021
The sky was filled with innumerable stars, peering through a glassy sheet of translucent grey clouds like the hundred eyes of Argus. Each one caught my eyes and shone back into the dark, so that if someone could see, they’d look into my eyes and see the stars inside; all of them. The world gets darker every day. Every day. The sun’s glow gets softer and weaker. The moon seems to flicker in substitute of its former lustrous glow. This is why I love the stars.
The clouds’ tears froze into tiny fragile parachutes, soon to layer the ground in a blanket of white. They drifted with the winds, reluctant to finally touch the ground. I playfully stuck out my tongue, trying and failing to catch the little parachutes for what felt like hours. I didn’t care much, for my focus remained beyond the atmosphere. Staring at the little glistening dots like how a young boy would eye up a box of lemon drops. I wondered if I could, if I would eat a star, what would it taste like? I imagined a strange amalgam of sweet and sour, like citrus.
But that was just childish.
The clouds got thicker, but to my surprise and delight, the stars were no harder to see. I would sit and stare and let my mind wander for a long time then, letting my mind wander. It would fill with the most silly thoughts, and I would laugh to myself and entertain those outlandish ideas. The clouds got thicker and thicker until what was once a inky Stygian sea was now a mass of ashen nimbus. The stars were no more difficult to see.
I yawned, and my thoughts drifted to dreams. My thoughts were so nonsensical at the time it got harder to tell if I was already asleep. My eyes began to droop, but just before they closed, I saw the sky above begin to shift.
Like fresh ashes sitting at the base of a chimney, the stars changed from a dazzling silver to the ugly shade of a matchstick’s head. White, to yellow, to orange, to colors I could not name. I watched until the stars changed from sparkling silver raindrops to dull splotches of blood. They sizzled like oil lamps with too much fuel. Like gasoline set ablaze. They got brighter and brighter until oh, how blinding the glare! The eyes of Argus were suddenly filled with unbridled rage as a single star began to mold itself. To make a form for itself. As I ran to my house I saw him stepping down from a glass staircase. His footprints made themselves evident for those watching beneath. Where he stepped, the snowflakes turned to steam. Where he exhaled, they hardened into hailstones the size of the eye of a needle, storming to the earth like bullets. Where they struck the ground, a perfect sphere was quietly carved into the crust. Yet throughout all of the chaos, I can vividly remember there was not a single sound, there was only complete and utter silence.
I rushed to my home, a humble standing, one floor of 144 square feet. A bed in one corner, a stove and sink in another. A desk nestled against the far window overlooking an outside I didn’t want to witness. I bolted the front door shut behind me, sealing myself away from what I had seen. I peered through the curtains to see that now there was not a cloud in the sky, nor a single star to be seen. It was as if nothing had happened, or as if everything had already transpired. Like the worst was yet to come, or perhaps it had already come and gone.
I waited for many days in that little old house, waiting for disaster, just in case, until I heard the clack of a pair of steel-toed boots. I knew that sound; my father wore those boots to work every day. They protected his feet from the steel-mill floors. The clack continued, a slow thrumming like the beat of a snare drum, muted by the cushion of grass. The sound magnified, not in volume, but in resonance. With every step, the echo would shake the earth and shake dust from the rafters until it stopped in front of the door. I covered my mouth and squeezed my eyes shut. The clack turned to a crunch as he knocked on the door.
“I am,” he murmured, a gravelly whisper that shook my spine, “here.” He coughed. “I am,” he repeated, “still here.”
I shouted for him to go away. I told him that he frightened me. I looked out a window that shared a wall with the door, and I saw him. He was a tall, dark man, whose skin was dotted with bright red spots. His face was shielded by a pearl-colored mask, and the rest I could not see.
“I will,” he rasped, “not leave.” He turned his head slowly to meet my eyes at the window. “You are,” he raised his hand as if he could reach through the window, “here…”
I yanked the blinds shut across the glass and retreated to my bed. I told him to go away again. I told him to leave me alone. “I turned my back on you!” I shrieked.
I heard him try the doorknob in vain, and hid beneath my duvet. The stove began to click furiously as he began to shake the door. The tap began to drip, and my lamps began to flicker. The latch clattered as the man continued to try at the door. I didn’t hear the door open, but once the shaking stopped, and all began to calm, I looked up out from beneath my sheets and saw him standing over me. In his hands he held two knives, which he held out to me.
“You,” he wheezed, “you take.” His voice rattled against his mask, shaking the room around me. On each of the knives was written a word. Silence and Sculptor. “One to cut out the clouds,” he choked, “and one to cut out the stars.”
I took them, and felt the weight of cold steel in my palms. My hands wrapped around coarse leather, clutching them tight so tight my knuckles turned pale. I held them as if they were sand that would slip through my fingers.
I don’t know when I struck, I don’t know what went through my mind, but I saw the man lying dead on the floor beside my bed. From the wounds, there was no blood. His mask had fallen from his head, and without it he had no face. The spots had disappeared from his body, and without them he had no skin. I looked down in horror at what I had done, but I felt no regret. I took the body and hauled it to the door, tossing it out for the wolves.
“I turned my back on you,” I sighed, and shut what was left of him outside.
From then on, I would join my friends to get drunk as I would before. I would laugh and smile and win and lose. However, when they looked up, they saw something beautiful. I looked up and saw no clouds. I looked up and saw no stars. No sun, no moon, no color. When I looked up I saw no sky at all, but I didn’t mind much.
I turned my back on the sky.
This story was based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Astrophobos.