Sam Gafford is a fiction writer, literary critic, and publisher. His fiction has appeared in Black Wings and other venues, and his criticism in Lovecraft Studies, Studies in Weird Fiction, Crypt of Cthulhu, TAPS Magazine, and elsewhere. With S. T. Joshi, he has compiled a bibliography of William Hope Hodgson. He is working on a supernatural novel about Jack the Ripper and a critical study of Hodgson.
I woke up alive again today.
Looking up at the bedroom ceiling, I silently cursed the fact that I hadn’t died in my sleep. I awoke to another day in the same hell as always; facing a lifetime of days to come exactly like this one. Scratching my head, I swung my feet out of bed onto that tan carpet I hated so much. I shut off my alarm, and the sound of Ann snoring filled the room. I looked over at my wife. As usual, the covers were over her head and she was just an amorphous blob.
It was the same as every morning had been for the last twenty years: I got up, shaved, took a shower (being careful not to use all the hot water). Gulped down a few bites of something; didn’t matter what it was. All done as quietly as possible. After I got dressed, I looked back at Ann. She was still asleep and snoring. Twenty years ago, I would have woken her up to kiss her goodbye. Now there didn’t seem to be much point.
It was a cold October morning and neither the car nor I liked it very much. The engine struggled to turn over, but it was an old car so that was just to be expected. We couldn’t afford to buy a new car, so I was stuck with one that was outdated ten years ago. I shifted it into gear and it started moving slowly. The cassette player had been broken for a while now, so I had to make do with the inane chatter of morning radio. From there, I parked at the usual commuter lot and took the bus into Providence.
Buses are unusual places. People thrown together for a short period of time tend to show their differences. Some, like myself, sit in stony quiet, anxious for the trip to end. Others become loud and boisterous, insistent upon being noticed and heard. On any given day, I can learn about any number of private lives through one-sided cellphone conversations. Love, sex, hate—all through a phone. And the homeless are either frighteningly silent or willing to debate politics with anyone who dares to disagree with them. I close my eyes and try to decipher where the bus is by the turns and movements. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I can pretty much tell where I am at any point on the ride from Warren to Providence. Sadly, this is often the highlight of my day.
Once the bus arrived at Kennedy Plaza, I avoided the traffic on my way to the Fleet Bank building. Once it was the Hospital Trust building. Before that, it used to be the Old Stone Bank building. I’ve come to realize that my life is marked by remembering where things used to be. Once inside, I signed in, took the elevator to the third floor, and punched my code into the keypad to open the door to the Dividends and Securities Department. I sat down at my desk, four rows down and two chairs to the left, and logged into the computer. I nodded a silent ‘good morning’ to my fellow prisoners and opened up my work for the day.
My cubicle in hell is a clean one. All the files and printouts are in order in plastic holders on my desk. The desk drawers hold only what is needed. A few historical reports in cardboard covers take up the bottom drawer. The second holds my employee handbook. Updated every year and never opened otherwise. The small top drawer holds the few stationery items I use: pens, paper clips, tape, scissors, staples, and a few candy bars for the afternoon lag. On the top of my desk is only my computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, phone, and the plastic file holder. No photos. No doodads. No mementos. There’s no rule against them. Flexman, who sits in the desk behind me, has framed pictures of his wife, his kids, a “world’s greatest dad” award, a rock that he brought back from a beach in Hawaii, and a little plastic square that says “Jesus loves you, but I’m not Jesus.” I used to have a picture of Ann on my desk, but that was a long time ago.
I suppose cubicle is the wrong way to describe our situation. A ‘cubicle’ suggests walls that separate every work station. We have no walls. There are rows of desks, set in pairs. From where I sat, I could see across the room in every direction. There were maybe twenty rows and six columns of desks. I never bothered to count them all. To the right, near the front of the room, were the two manager’s offices. They were the normal type of office one sees in a bank. Nothing particularly special, but they were made that way so that the inhabitants could be interchangeable. In the fifteen years since I’d been in that department, there had been five different people in those offices. It would take quite an effort for me to recall all their names.
The current manager was Tim Sympkof, who clearly saw the department as only a quick stop on the way to something better. He rarely bothered to talk to any of us and spent most of his days in his office, listening to one of those digital radios. The only time Sympkof came out of his office was if any of the executives came into the room, which almost never happened. Most of the time, Sympkof left the running of the department to his assistant manager, Harry Helger, who’d probably been with the bank since the first account was opened. Harry was nice but essentially useless. He’d managed to keep his job by not making anyone mad and, basically, no one wanted his job anyway.
Through the years, the number of the people in the department wavered. When I first started, nearly every desk was full. Now, with the economic ‘downturn,’ only about half the desks were being used. The work hadn’t decreased, only the number of people to do it.
My job was handling dividends. I tracked securities and verified who was holding what and how much they were due. It was tedious and laborious and mind-numbing. If anyone ever says that they love accounting, then you know you are dealing with a liar. No one loves accounting any more than anyone loves cleaning out toilets, but it’s something that needs to be done and it drives every aspect of the economy. Still, you’ll never see a television commercial bragging about how exciting it is to be an accountant. There are no television shows about accountants solving crimes. Even truck driver school commercials look more exciting.
When I started, we still did everything by hand. Slowly, everything changed over to computers with new programs and e-mail and the like. I’d always been good with such things, so I picked them up pretty easily, which is probably how I managed to hold on to my job. All our computers were connected to the mainframe and we had access to e-mail and Internet, but we were constantly monitored. I could get around the spyware the bank put in but never bothered to. There wasn’t much I wanted to spend my time looking at. Flexman was different, though, so one afternoon I set up his computer so that he could surf the Web as much as he wanted without anyone knowing. I mainly did it so he’d stop talking to me so much. But, after I did that, he came to me with any computer problems…and he always seemed to be having problems.
“Hey, Doug,” he whispered to me, “my computer’s doing it again.”
I turned and looked at him and he pointed at his monitor.
Sighing, I stood up and went and looked. The screen had several pornographic sites open. “I told you to be careful what you looked at.”
Flexman laughed. He was a big man and his smile could take up half his face. The fact that he was black never made much difference to me. Black, white, Asian, whatever. We’re all just as pointless.
The computer was locked. Somewhere there was a virus trying to get through.
“I’m going to have to shut this down. You’re going to lose any work you had.”
He moved aside and I pressed the right buttons in the right order and the screen went black. Five seconds later, the Microsoft Windows logo came up. I bypassed the log-in and opened the programs. “There,” I said, “you should be all right now.”
“You da man, Doug! You got, like, a gift with computers. Why don’t you go into programming or something?”
“Oh, yeah, right. Go into the only other field that’s as boring as accounting? No, thanks!”
As I looked up from Flexman’s monitor, I could see there was a girl pushing a cart in the middle of the room. She was one of the ‘runners’: people who ‘run’ things from department to department that can’t be sent via e-mail. There aren’t as many of them as there used to be. She was thin and young. Maybe twenty-two at the most. Her hair was straight, shoulder-length, dark with a streak of bright red dyed in the front. Her lips and breasts were full, and I could have sworn she was looking at me. She threw a package in her cart and left the room.
“Who’s that?” Flexman said.
I went back to my seat. “Just some runner,” I said. “She’ll probably quit by the end of the month like they all do.” Punching my keyboard, I got back to work looking at the endless series of numbers.
At lunchtime, I logged off my computer and headed to the cafeteria. Fleet was one of the few places I knew that still had a cafeteria for their employees, and almost everyone used it. Situated on the fourth floor, it took up a large area and was designed with large windows that looked out over Kennedy Plaza. The place was always crowded and table space was usually at a premium. I sat down in my usual place; table for two, near the back wall, in a corner away from the windows. Around me, the tables filled and people came and went. It was like high school all over again. The tellers ate with the tellers, the managers ate with the managers, departments grouped together, and there was not an executive in sight. They ate in their private dining room upstairs on the tenth floor with their own kitchen staff. I’d heard that the food there was much better than what we were given here.
I took out my lunch and started to eat. It was plain turkey on white bread. No lettuce, tomato, or mayo. A small bag of chips with a bottle of water and some baby carrots finished the meal. I never brought anything to read. I’d never be able to concentrate with all the noise around me, and I hated to start reading something knowing that I was on a time limit. Never was one for reading newspapers either.
“This seat taken?”
It took a second before I realized that someone was speaking to me. That never happened.
I looked up and it was the ‘runner’ from before. She had a tray with something that pretended to be a hamburger but was probably more akin to a circle of cardboard. It was covered in cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and some oddly colored sauce. A tray of nachos was the side order and looked to have just about everything on it possible.
She was smiling and I could see that her nose had been pierced.
“Hello? Can I sit here? There’s no other seat available.”
I could see several seats empty behind her.
“Um…sure. If you like.”
“Thanks! Been a fucking long day already.”
She sat down and immediately began to eat. There was a certain amount of animalistic joy in the way she attacked her hamburger. “I’m Maya, by the way.”
I nodded. “I’m Doug. Doug Marsden.”
She was wearing a thin shirt with mid-length sleeves. It was warm out, so they had the air conditioning on full-blast. I could tell that she wasn’t wearing a bra as two points started to rise up under her shirt. There was a hint of tattoos on her arm.
“So what do you do here, Doug?”
“Me? I…I work in Dividends and Securities.”
She smiled. Her top lip turned up slightly. “Crap, that must be boring. How do you stand it?”
I nodded. “Well, you know, it’s a job.”
She scoffed. “I think I’d put a needle through my eye if I had to do that all day long.”
As she ate, I looked at her more closely. Her hair was dyed black except for the streak of red in front. I couldn’t tell if the red was her real hair color or not. Her ears were each pierced several times, and I unexpectedly caught myself wondering what else was pierced. Her eyes were green and her skin was soft and pink. Although not unhealthy, I doubted that she spent a lot of time in the sun. I think she caught me staring but didn’t say anything.
“And what do you do, Maya?”
“I just started in the mail department. I’m a runner, you know. It keeps me busy. But I’m really a musician!”
“Oh?” I asked.
“Yeah, got a few things up on YouTube, y’know? All my own songs and everything. Look me up under ‘Mayakeyes.’ I’m looking to get something going.”
I made a mental note for later and finished eating my sandwich.
Maya polished off her burger and started on her nachos.
“You don’t talk much, do you, Doug?” she asked.
I looked up, startled at the question.
“Uh, no, not too much.”
“That’s all right. I like the strong, silent type.”
She put her hand on mine. There was still cheese sauce on her fingers and I could feel it oozing between mine.
Near the windows, I could see a bunch of people from the mail room eating their lunch. There were several empty chairs.
“Are you sure you don’t want to sit with your friends from your department?”
Maya looked over. “What? Them?” She scoffed and turned back to me. “Nah, they’re boring. Insignificant assholes, the bunch of them. They’re just too fucking stupid to realize it. But I’ve got a feeling about you, Doug, I think you get it. I can see it in your eyes.”
She lifted her hand up, tracing her finger along the edge of my hand, and stood up. Maya stuck her finger in her mouth and sucked off the cheese. “Gotta run. Same time tomorrow, Doug?”
Without waiting for an answer, she turned and walked over to the trash and emptied her tray. She looked back at me and waved as she walked out of the room.
I sat there, feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the remainder of my lunch.
For the rest of the day I struggled to concentrate on my work. I found myself looking up every time someone came into the room.
On the bus home, I miscalculated my position three times.
As I walked through the door, my phone beeped at me annoyingly. Ann had sent a text saying that she had to go to a church meeting tonight and I’d be on my own for dinner. I threw a frozen pizza in the microwave and ate it in front of a television that I wasn’t watching anyway.
I sat down at the computer and tried to remember what Maya had said. I went to YouTube and typed in “Mayakeys,” but nothing came up. I was sure that I’d remembered it correctly, but maybe my spelling was off. Tentatively, I typed in “Mayakeyes” and waited.
Four videos came up. Two just had the words “Maya Keyes,” which told me virtually nothing. The other two looked to be homemade videos. One, I think, was in someone’s basement somewhere, while the other one looked to be filmed outside.
I clicked on the basement one and sound exploded out of the computer speakers. Loud, screeching sounds that could only be described as music by someone who had never heard any music before. I remembered punk music from when I was a kid, but this was beyond even that. Maya—I think it was Maya—was screaming and yelling and chanting and I couldn’t make out any words she said. It didn’t even sound like English. I heard words like “Ktooloo” and “Daygon,” but I couldn’t say that they were even words. Maya, for her part, just jumped around the basement, screeching and gyrating as if she was having a seizure. I wondered if Fleet Human Resources knew about this. Maya was the only one in the video, and I couldn’t tell if she was the one who filmed it as well.
The outside video looked as though it had been shot in a forest somewhere. There was a fire that Maya was dancing around, and it seemed as if it was shot through one of those night goggles, because everything was in green like on those fake ‘ghost-hunting’ shows. The song started a little slower. I could hear an electric guitar, and then some synthesized drums came in. It was a strong, driving beat that gained in intensity as the song went on. I still couldn’t tell a lot of what she was singing, but at least she wasn’t screaming. I thought it was a love song, but then the beat got harder and more insistent and her voice got harsher and raspier. When she got to the chorus, she began singing about having sex with something called “my Deep One,” which I couldn’t figure out. Then she started thrashing back and forth, growling and howling and even, I thought, foaming at the mouth. I shut the computer off.
When Ann got home, I sat and listened to her tell me all about her day at the middle school where she taught and the church meeting. I had learned long ago how to listen to just enough to get by in case she quizzed me later. It was an endless litany of people I’d never meet and would never care about. When she asked how my day was, I just said it was a usual day. She looked at me, shrugged, and went back to her book.
That night, I had unusual dreams. I don’t tend to dream too much and, when I do, they’re not very remarkable. In this dream, I was wandering through a forest and it was dark. Somewhere there was something waiting for me and I was afraid that I was going to be late. Rushing forward, I came to a clearing where Maya stood, naked. I came to her and held her, but there was something off. She was not the one who was waiting. There was something else…something beyond the trees that was waiting for me. I felt, rather than heard, it coming closer, closer and then, suddenly, it was gone. I couldn’t catch it, whatever it was, and it had gotten away from me. I felt a sense of loss and failure such as I had never felt before. In the dream, I sat down in the clearing and cried, alone.
For the first time in years, I did not greet the morning with anger.
My regular routine was no different. I rode the same bus into work and tried to concentrate on my mental game with myself, but some idiot two seats back wouldn’t stop talking. Apparently someone had gone crazy in Newport last night and wiped out his family with a knife. Others joined in talking about how there’d been a lot of sirens in the East Bay last night, and one woman whose brother worked at the emergency room at Rhode Island Hospital said that they’d had a rash of crazy, violent patients last night. I sat and tried to follow the progress of the bus in my mind. None of that had anything to do with me.
The morning passed quietly. Flexman spent most of his time on the local news websites and kept trying to get me interested in what he was reading. I just let him talk and, eventually, he quieted down. I kept my eyes open, but Maya never entered the room.
At lunchtime, I took my lunch and, not knowing why I did it, sat in a new seat, near the windows. It felt uncomfortable, being in the light and in the center of people. I could sense that they felt it too, as if I had intruded on their territory. Lunch today was a ham sandwich on rye, dry. I was just about to bite into it when Maya plopped down next to me, chicken parm sitting on her plate.
“Whew!” she said. “Didn’t think I’d find you, Doug. What are you doing sitting over here?”
“Just thought it’d be a change.”
She playfully frowned on me. “Change? You? Please! I bet you haven’t even bought new clothes in years.”
It was true. I hadn’t.
“I…I, uh, watched your YouTube videos.”
Her eyes widened and she smiled. At that instant, knowing that I had caused that smile was the greatest feeling in the world to me.
“You did? No fucking way! What did you think?”
“They’re…they’re different. You have a very distinctive style.”
“You really think so? I can’t tell you what that means to hear you say that!”
And she leaned forward and hugged me. Her breasts pushed into my arm and I felt a pleasant warmth growing within me.
Some of the people around us took notice.
“I didn’t really understand some of the words, though.”
“Really? That’s OK. The more you listen to them, the clearer they get.”
My mind raced for something to say to keep the conversation going. “Where do you get your inspiration from?”
“Lovecraft, of course.”
I looked at her. I had no idea what she was talking about.
My confusion must have been written on my face because she answered before I even had to ask the obvious question.
“You know! Dude who lived in Providence in the 1930s? Wrote all those horror stories?”
“I…I don’t know who you mean. I don’t read much fiction.”
“Are you fucking serious? How long you live in Rhode Island?”
I broke eye contact and looked back at my sandwich. “All my life, pretty much.”
“And you don’t fucking know Lovecraft? Maybe I was wrong about you, Doug.”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought you understood. I thought you knew how the world was. I thought you and me connected.”
I was stunned and my mouth hung open.
“Maya, I just met you yesterday! How could you know me?”
She looked at me, hard. Then she laughed. “I was only fucking with you, Doug! I know you, all right. Here.”
She reached into her bag and pulled out a paperback. It was tattered and showed signs of having been read many times. The title read The Best of H. P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre, and the cover was a colorless gray thing of what looked like different scenes in a kind of montage.
“Read this. You’ll be amazed, trust me.”
I had a flashback to movies about hippies trying to get the straight kids to try drugs, telling them that “it’ll blow your mind, man!”
Maya took out a pen. “I’ll underline some of the stories you should read first. These are the best ones.” She spent a few seconds writing in the book and then handed it to me.
I muttered a “thanks” and went back to my lunch.
“Don’t disappoint me, Doug! I know that you’ll love this stuff.”
“I won’t! I promise!” And suddenly it occurred to me that it had become very important to me that I not disappoint Maya.
She went back to her lunch, which had an extraordinary amount of cheese on it.
“There’s a lotta stuff out there, Doug. You shouldn’t close yourself off to it.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, different experiences, different feelings. You need to open yourself up to them. Allow yourself to let them come through you. What are your plans for this weekend?”
“Um, no real plans. I have some yard work to do. There’s always something to fix around the house.”
Maya shook her head.
“Come over to my place. You’ll have more fun than mowing the fucking lawn.”
I held up my left hand.
“Maya, I’m married. See?” I wiggled the ring on my finger.
She gave me a ‘yeah, right’ look.
“No, you’re not, Doug. You know you’re not.”
She stood up and grabbed the book back. She quickly wrote something else in it. “Here’s my number. I’ll be waiting for your call.”
Maya leaned close and whispered in my ear. “I can show you things you always wanted to see, Doug, what the world really means and how it tastes.” She licked my ear, and I could feel that her tongue was pierced too.
As Maya walked out of the cafeteria, I could feel many pairs of eyes watching me, but I didn’t care. I was watching her ass and wanted desperately to touch it.
Back at my desk, I did something I never thought I would do: I refitted my computer so that I could surf the Internet without the tracking programs seeing. I set off to learn as much about H. P. Lovecraft as I could and, by the end of the day, I had learned quite a bit.
To my surprise, there were actually quite a few websites devoted to Lovecraft. From them, I got an education on the man who was born in Providence in 1890 and would die there in 1937. I read about his unusual childhood, his relationship with his mother, and his writing career. His work was revolutionary, transforming not only horror but science fiction. Some critics considered him the twentieth-century version of Poe, and he had lived most of his life in my home state and I never knew.
I felt a poke from behind.
“Yo, Doug, what you doing?” Flexman asked.
“Just a little extra reading. You know how it is.”
Flexman laughed. “All right, my man! Didn’t know you had it in ya!”
I gave him a thumbs-up and went back to reading.
The more I read, the more I felt closer to Lovecraft. He didn’t have a lot of happiness or success in his life and felt that he was separated from humanity. It came across in his philosophy. He felt that mankind and all its worries and concerns were meaningless.
Once in college, when I’d studied philosophy and literature before I met Ann and it was decided I’d become an accountant, I was in an ethics class and the professor asked everyone to think about what their personal philosophy was and how it impacted your life. After much thought, I decided that I had no personal philosophy. I’d never been religious, never been in the military. If anything, I was an existentialist. I didn’t care about anything. Nothing was important, least of all, me.
That night, I read several of the shorter stories. Ann was surprised to see me reading but didn’t say anything about it. While imaginative, I couldn’t really understand the point of some of the stories and they didn’t seem to line up with what I had read online about Lovecraft’s philosophy. I’d never really been one for fiction. No imagination, I suppose.
I put the book down and went to sleep.
That night, I had the dream again but it felt different. I was back in the clearing and naked Maya was holding my hand, pointing toward something further away in the trees. Whatever it was, it was waiting for me and it was important that I find it.
I tried to move, but my legs were heavy and weak. I was tied to the earth, which clutched at me and tried to pull me down. I screamed to Maya to help, but she turned and walked away. On her naked back, I could see a large tattoo. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it was greenish and was a humanoid figure with tentacles on its face and wings on its back. As she walked, I could swear that the wings moved.
The ground swallowed me whole and I screamed.
The next morning, Ann ‘reminded’ me that she was going to the yearly meeting of her church group. I’d forgotten. If, that is, she had even told me to begin with. Every year, her church group got together with the other church groups in the state and had meetings and elections and such. I remember taking Ann to one a long time ago and being bored while I waited for her to get out. Since then, she’d arrange her own transportation and would usually stay over at whatever hotel was hosting the thing. If the timing of the meeting was strangely coincidental, I didn’t notice it.
Less than an hour after she left, I was holding Maya’s paperback in my hand, staring at the page with her phone number on it. Many years had passed since a girl had given me her phone number. I just had to find the courage to call. In the end, I compromised. Instead of calling, I sent her a text. Not even a minute later, I got her response: “Come over. I’m waiting.” The second text was her address on Barnes Street on the East Side of Providence.
The place was easy to find. It was an older building, probably built around the turn of the century or so. I had no idea what architectural style it was, but it looked primarily Victorian. I only knew that it was old. It was a three-story tenement and had been split into two sides. The first-floor apartments had three panel windows—the kind that bulged out and you could make a nice window seat there. Maya’s apartment was on the left side, third floor. I pressed the button and she came running down.
“Doug!” she squealed. “You came! Wasn’t sure you would.”
I looked at her. Maya’s body was tight and young. She was wearing a kind of tank top that pressed her breasts up and together. She had tattoos on her arms. She had on a pair of the shortest shorts I think I’ve ever seen, and her legs were long and toned. She hugged me and, before I knew what was happening, kissed me on the lips, hard. Her tongue darted into my mouth and I could feel it seeking me. I moved my tongue and touched hers and felt myself getting hard.
“C’mon inside!” she said and took my hand.
We climbed the stairs and she led me into her apartment. It was a small place. One bedroom with a living room that connected to an open kitchen with a small table. A bathroom was between the bedroom and living room. The entire place was filled with stuff. There were books everywhere. A huge bookshelf was packed with DVDs and CDs. There were some movie posters on the wall, but I didn’t recognize any of the movies. They had titles like Re-Animator and The Dunwich Horror and weren’t in English. There was a small synthesizer keyboard in the corner, and various other musical equipment was scattered about. A sofa was against one wall and it looked as if it had seen better days. A large TV was facing the sofa and it was playing something I’d never seen before.
“So whattaya think?”
“It’s very nice. Cozy.” I replied.
She laughed. “No, it’s not. It’s a fucking closet, but that’s not why I took the place.”
When I didn’t respond, she replied, “The address? Hello? Lovecraft lived here!”
I looked around again. “He did?”
Maya scoffed. “Not in this apartment! He had the big one downstairs with his aunt. This was where he lived when he left his wife in New York and came back to Providence. Some of his best work was written here…can’t you feel it?”
All I felt was uncomfortable. Maybe I had made a mistake. I wasn’t really sure why I had come here anyway and it seemed more uncertain with each minute.
“You, uh, you really seem to be into Lovecraft.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? I live for it! Look at this!” She pointed to a tattoo on her right arm. I bent closer to get a better look. It was a black-and-white portrait of Lovecraft tattooed on her arm with various Gothic beasts around him. It was impressive.
She sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to her. I sat down next to her and could smell her body. It wasn’t sweet and full of perfume. It was earthy and strong. “What are you watching?” I asked.
“It’s Dagon,” she replied. “One of Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft films. This one’s pretty good even if it has more to do with ‘Shadow over Innsmouth’ than fucking ‘Dagon.’”
I looked at the screen. A woman was being suspended in chains over some sort of pit. She was naked and covered in what looked like oil. Someone, the ‘hero,’ I guess, was trying to save her. He didn’t do a very good job.
“This is what Lovecraft is all about,” Maya said. “There’s all these gods that live outside our world that used to rule here and want to do so again. They’re fighting to break through and come back. It’s a constant fight to keep them out.”
“Really?” That wasn’t what I had gotten out of my reading. “You’re sure that’s what Lovecraft meant?”
“Lovecraft’s about the outside trying to get in.”
Maya moved next to me, and I felt her weight pressing on my arm. She began to rub my chest and open the buttons on my shirt. Her hand moved inside and moved in circles as her fingers lightly touched my nipple. I looked at her and saw the most intense look on her face. The kind of look, I imagine, that a wild animal has as it starts to devour its prey. She started to lick my neck.
“I…I don’t think this is a good idea. Maybe I should go.”
I made to get up and she pushed me back down.
“You don’t want to go, Doug,” she said into my ear. “You want to stay right here. You need to stay right here.”
She unbuckled my belt and zipped the fly down. Maya reached inside and grabbed me and rubbed her hand up and down. I couldn’t resist any longer and grabbed her face and kissed her. This time, my tongue was the one searching for hers. I reached down and grabbed her breast and squeezed. Her nipple grew hard and I could tell that it was also pierced. Maya broke away and quickly took her shirt off and threw it away. She was beautiful. Her breasts were large and firm. The nipples were hard and erect and her areolae were large and swollen. With a quick motion, she ripped my pants off and moved between my legs.
My eyes were closed as she took me in her mouth and sucked. I ran my fingers through her hair, bringing her head up and down. The piercing in her tongue flicked over the tip of my penis. Before I finished, I looked down at her. On her back there was the same tattoo from my dream; the green monster with an octopus face and wings. As she moved back and forth, I could swear that the wings were flying.
Later, lying on the couch (we had not even made it to the bed), I felt her ass and traced little circles on it. We’d been talking about Lovecraft, of course, and I’d been saying how I understood his philosophy. Maya, for the most part, wasn’t getting what I was trying to say.
“You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“Yes,” I said, “I do. Nothing really matters. We’re all insignificant.”
“No, you don’t believe that.”
“Why do you say that?”
She leaned up on one arm and looked at me. Her face was beautifully intense.
“Because if you did, then nothing would matter to you. No rules, no laws, no morality. You’d do whatever you fucking wanted because none of it makes a difference. Good, bad, indifferent. They’d all be the same.”
“I do what I want.”
Maya laughed. “Bull-fucking-shit! You don’t do anything you want! You work a job you hate. You’re stuck with a woman you don’t love. You follow every fucking rule and regulation you have thrown at you.”
I was getting mad. “I came here, didn’t I?”
She smiled. “Yeah, you did. But who fucked who, Doug?” Her lips curled into a smirk.
“You wanna show me you really don’t give a fuck about anyone or anything, Doug?” She reached over to a table next to the couch and felt around for something. “Take one of these.”
Maya held out her hand and, lying on her palm, were two black pills. I’d never seen anything so black. Each one had a large “N” on it in white.
“What are they?”
She waved her finger at me. “Uh-uh. No questions. Just take it.”
“I’m on medications. I can’t just take anything…”
Maya jumped off the couch. “Fuck it. I knew you weren’t the right one.”
I grabbed her arm and pulled her towards me.
“Give it to me.” I said. She put the pill between her teeth and leaned toward me. Our lips met and she pushed the pill into my mouth. I cold-swallowed it. She popped the other pill into her mouth and swallowed. I grabbed her ass and pushed her down on me. “Now we’ll see,” I whispered in her ear, “who’s doing the fucking.”
Time ceased to have any meaning. It was just a concept. A concept that I, in my ultimate power, was rejecting. I’d never taken drugs before in my life. I remembered all the things I’d read and heard about acid trips and highs, but this didn’t feel anything like that. It was like being in a dream but being fully awake.
I felt rather than saw Maya beside me. We were in the clearing but we were also in her apartment, limbs intertwined and thrusting. I was here but I was also there. My mind was split and I could move and function in both places at the same time. Off in the distance, something was coming for me.
In the here, I was looking in Maya’s face as her eyes rolled up inside her head.
In the there, she took my hand and beckoned me further to the other side of the clearing.
In the here, my hands were roughly rubbing her breasts as her veins became brighter and shone through her skin.
In the there, I stepped outside the opposite edge of the clearing and heard something coming closer.
In the here, Maya’s breath became short and ragged.
In the there, something moved toward me without moving.
In the here, she sang and chanted with the voice of something inhuman and outside.
In the there, something moved through the wood of the trees and shifted and ululated as it came forward like a mist.
In the here, I licked the sweat from between her breasts and tasted blood.
In the there, something crawled toward me and in its center was chaos.
In the here, Maya wept and laughed.
In the there, something opened my mind and stepped inside and I allowed it to.
In the here, my hands went to Maya’s back and I felt leathery wings.
In the there, the voice spoke to me and I finally understood what it meant.
In the here, I felt myself ripping Maya apart.
In the there, I knew my insignificance and saw its truth.
When I awoke, Maya was in pieces on the floor. A blood-stained butcher knife was in my hand. I looked at her and felt only envy. I took a shower, got dressed, and left. If anyone had heard anything, I didn’t notice it. In my pocket were about two dozen of the black pills.
Maya was right. I hadn’t really understood. I had been foolish and innocent in my blindness. What I had thought was insignificance hadn’t even begun to touch the truth. The chaos had shown me when it came into my mind. Nothing of man mattered. None of the history, none of the accomplishments, the wars, the heartbreak, none of it made any difference. The cosmos was awash with creatures whose footsteps eclipsed our civilizations in length and indifference. Laws, rules, and morality were mere trappings man clothed himself in while he desperately tried to convince himself that he mattered at all. Now I understood it all and what it truly meant to be insignificant. Nothing was important, which was liberating and damning all at the same time.
That’s what Lovecraft had meant. The ‘gods’ and ‘monsters’ were just window dressing, something for the ‘earth-centric’-minded ones to latch on to. When you finally understood it all, you knew that there was no reason for anything. There were no ‘gods’ waiting to reclaim the earth. There was only the universe, spiraling onward, unknowing, uncaring, indifferent to man who puffed up his chest like a little puppy barking at garbage truck.
When I got home, I moved a chair to face the front door. I got a large knife from the kitchen and sat down to wait for Ann. Time no longer had any hold on me. I sat in the chair, swallowed black pills, and waited. When I was finished with Ann, I’d get on the bus and go to work and show them how insignificant they were. I’d show everyone how insignificant they all were and make them look into my face and see and know that they had never been important, they had never mattered. None of it ever had.