Cruel Music

Jared Rosen
Jul 23, 2017 · 6 min read

That is what I say to you: my last lie, my best lie. You will be whole again, for the hundredth time, down in the dark of the pit; tearing open plasma-speckled embryos the size of freight trains and feasting upon their ageless, fetal hearts. You will shiver among mile-tall towers of slick, black offal caking the floors and walls; sharp rocks and low pools of cave water stagnant in the gloom of the ancient world. These are the piles of you, the was-you. Shavings of muscle and bone that once carried your name and wore your face. And when you cast off that spent chrysalis and rip the fetid, monstrous yolk from your gut you will look up at me from that terrible dark, up and up and into the endless eggshell sky and you will loose that awful sound that cuts across the rocks and trees and grass; you will climb out, find our guide (for there is always a guide, though we know the way) and you will pop open his ripe head and eat his tongue and paint the earth with his brain and lungs, dance in his sinew, roll in his skin.

And then we will go back down the mountain.

Always towards home.

We move at night.

We have to move at night now, because they’ve seen your face and they’ve seen my face and now they’re printed on the walls of diner bathrooms and struggling bars. “We’re on TV,” I choke through a fistful of gas station sandwich. The television monitor, flecked with blood, buzzes with some deep black it ripping through the side of a minivan.

“Did it have to be them?” I ask.

Yes it had to be them.

“Did it have to be now?”

It was always now.

You won’t speak further, gurgling instead in low, muddy tones that twist across the air like something is peeling apart my skull. I have always kept lookout because I feel as though someone should, but you no longer need it.

You move too fast, you’re at once too large and too small, a sour and oblong shape vibrating against the midden, yanking splintered ribs from still-screaming government men with your ashen, serrated fingers.

Something is different now, something has changed, and you toss them aside to move in the singular direction of old mountains that aren’t and can’t be on maps.

I believe we are close now.

When you were young you cried in your sleep.

You had nightmares. Dead things spilling endlessly from water-rusted birdcages, faces in a vast black ocean that grinned with too-sharp teeth and too-wide eyes. Your screams were not screams. They were the deep and painful howls of an animal, your mouth broken, twisted, filled with pools of graying brine.

I remember the night when the anxious clay in your breast was seized and dug out and cut open, viciously molded, transformed into something cold and dangerous. It was the hands of our father, and our father’s father, whom we must never forgive for what they made of you that day.

I wanted to help you. I wanted to save you, and I did not.

I will now.

Sometimes you glance back at me as we walk.

Sometimes I think you know.

We are in a supermarket in a nothing town. Ten cars lie mangled on the sides of the unpaved lot; twelve tangled masses ooze from their hinges. The entrance is now a gaping wound, the walls sprayed with foul-smelling refuse. You lumber out into the street, ripping a barking dog into pieces and flinging them into a telephone pole. You’re not eating. Why aren’t you eating.

It is hard to keep track of your body. My vision is vibrating. My eyes cannot focus. The corners of creation peel and bend into you, like your form is devouring the whole world. And yet you will not eat.

A woman in the back aisle gasps up with pleading eyes, at the impossibility of what has occurred. Her leg is gone. Her arm is gone. She looks at me and mouths something.

She is pretty, and young, and came from somewhere. Her eyes are bleeding.

Without saying a word I crush her neck with my boot.

When you slept back then it was ever with one eye open, ever alive and awash in the roiling blood of the old stars. I watched your pupils divide in the soft quiet of the evening; I nurtured the deep, thundering madness that gripped your tiny frame, you who were just a boy, you who hid under his blanket from the monster stalking down the hall.

You would crack the world open and drink deep of the things it was, the things it had; you would bask in brutal joys counted in seconds turned to hours turned to days, months stretched into years, years into epochs that bent and broke upon the dusty frames of things so much older, so much worse. You, the frictionless wheel soaked in centuries of formless, shapeless gore.

You could see into the acrid belly of the universe, you used to say. The pit had shown you the way.

“This is what I wanted,” you told me once. “This is our way home.”

You lied.

We find the town at dusk.

I don’t hire a guide this time. Whatever is consuming you has driven us too quickly, too ravenously through the woodlands. Isolated cabins lie shattered apart and burning, their residents mutilated, dismembered, scattered about for miles as you run them down with the lopsided wriggling of some hellish, titanic grub. The proportions are off, your limbs are too long, your words sputter and flail through the air. I can’t keep my eyes on you anymore, and it hurts to breathe. In the distance, I see you pull the head off a deer.

My nose is bleeding.

We must hurry.

“We will build a cabin.”

That was always dad’s way, wasn’t it? Build. Work. Sweat your day into the stone, deep down into the wood, let it fester there and stink.

“We will build a cabin to wall you in. I will hurt you because I can hurt you.”

And he did hurt you. I watched him hurt you. He hurt you again and again and I saw you begin to change shape, the lumps form in your back, the pigment fall out of your skin. I saw you grow longer in the shadows. I saw your teeth turn to needles in your mouth. Oh, he worked his terror into you, knitted it into the muscle, into the skin, woven too deep and too well to pull it back out.

Every day a bullet loaded and every night a gun fired, once in the brain, once in the body, and you shivered naked in the corner of whatever room was hardest for an adult to navigate and you whimpered and pleaded and he was too strong, he was too strong, please god I’m so sorry, he was too strong.

Then you found the pit.

I can see the mouth of the cave now, something that shouldn’t quite be there. The angles don’t match up anymore. Light won’t refract right, the ground oozes and bends beneath my feet. Even the air around us seems to pull in and out, breathing against our bodies, alive, malignant. You go into the mouth, down where the old things are, where you will change again. And this time I follow you in.

Only one of us will leave here.

I pray it is not me.

I watched the first metamorphosis.

Something had slept in the pit ages before us. The limestone cavity was massive, carved out, lived in by an unearthly leviathan long since departed, save for generations of young that would grow over the lifetime of the universe. Instead you changed in its stagnant waters, devouring each of the shivering, greasy embryos as they dreamed. I watched the spirals form across your fingers. The skin peel back. Your legs merge and shudder with the sound of white thunder and screaming insects, your shadow grow, your mouth widen.

And I watched your body, twisted for the first of a hundred times, worm out into the baleful sun.

First, and always, towards home.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store