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They Looked Like Nothing

by Michael Mayr 9 months ago in fiction
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Ghouls in the Shadows

I would see them. As I drifted in and out of that state between life and death, consciousness and dreams...I would see them. What did they look like? Nothing. They looked like nothing. Because I guess that is what they were...nothingness given form. How could you describe a black hole if you saw one? A black hole that walked in the shape of a man...or was it a woman? That is the best description of what they were. Nothing. Or at least the best description I could give with my limited human perceptions.

I saw them walk through my room into the hallways. Why were they there? They were there to feed...for in time I understood, they fed on pain, and suffering and grief. These nothing people were gourmands of human misery. And what better place to gorge oneself than an IC ward? People on the verge of death, people scared and in pain, the worry and grief of loved ones. This must be a banquet in a five star hotel to such ghoulish creatures! Or so I thought…

It turns out I was wrong...oh so very, very wrong. Even shock trauma in Baltimore city was but an appetizer to these things...merely a taste, no more than a free sample at Costco. For the nothing people I soon found out were voracious gluttons...pigs...junkies on the sweet treats of our woe.

As I have already told you, they looked like nothing. Bipedal black holes in reality, so dark they even absorbed the natural darkness around them. But they were sapient, and self aware, maybe not alive, as you and I understand life, but they existed. And the more I noticed them as they went from room to room and from pain to pain, the more they noticed me. Worse, they noticed me noticing them. And then it happened, one touched me. Just a light brush on my face, and it poured into me...

Images, visions, memories. Meals. Great feasts that the nothing people savored. I saw an ancient burning city, women being ravaged by barbaric, brutal invaders. Invaders that killed everyone. Then a field where over 200 holy men were burned alive at the foot of a castle by soldiers and priests. Then I was pulled to great ziggurats in the jungle where shamans adorned in feathers and gold tore the still beating hearts from screaming sacrifices while thousands of brown skinned, black eyed and black haired people reveled in a cannibalistic orgy that left me numbed to the core. The images came faster now. I picked out scenes from the Grande Armee’s retreat from Moscow and the frozen dead they left were piled high across the snow covered earth. I saw Pickett’s charge where the humid July air hung with a red mist, as men were torn to pieces by massed cannon fire. I saw soldiers in blue, open fire on defenseless Indians, mostly women and children as they fled for their lives. I saw more and more: war, murder, rape. It became all too much for me to bear and I fell upon my knees, tears freely flowing down my face.

I finally stopped in a place where the trees - blasted and limbless - poked like gravestones out of the blood-drenched mud. The ground shook from a mass artillery barrage. I was still on my knees as the barrage stopped, it was still raining and the ground was already a swamp as I saw young men - English infantry, storm German lines - and I saw the Maxim machine guns open fire. The Devil’s paintbrush, murdered in broad, bold strokes as the dead and dying piled high. Again time sped up as I watched a battle of months in mere minutes. I saw men - some no more than boys - scream as they were consumed by yellow gas. I heard the nonstop explosions of literally millions of artillery shells and the ever present song of the machine gun. This was Passchendaele - where nearly 600,000 young men had lost their lives. This was horror, this was hell…

Then I noticed them. They were there. They were always there...feeding and cavorting. Were they merely passive scavengers? Like vultures or ravens? No! They were intelligent...the nothing people did not merely feed off of human woe. They instigated it whenever they could. How? I don’t know how! But they did!

I turned on the one that ‘brought’ me here and I screamed: “God-damn you! God-damn you all to hell you fucking ghouls!” I looked around on the ground for anything to use as a weapon. I found a rifle that was in the hands of a fallen soldier. A boy really, not much older than my own son. His young, dead eyes staring at the sky in disbelief. As I grabbed the gun...my reality shifted again...I was back in my hospital room. Nurses held me down as they tightened the restraints. I heard a man ask: “Damnit, he has been under for over a week. How can he be so strong?!” I answered him: “they’re here! They’re here! I have seen them, they are here!” And then they sedated me again and I slipped back into the mercy of unconsciousness…

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

That was over two years ago. And after I left the hospital I have spent the last two years convincing myself that these things that I saw were due to the drugs or my nearness to death - or both. That is rational, that is sane. That is comfortable. That the evil in this world is the result of evil men. The mere result of the inhumanity of the human creature. Not the result of supernatural entities beyond our perception.

Yet...as I read the news, I see stories of an estranged father in Texas who cut the throats of his own children as his eight year old son sobbed “please Daddy I’m sorry.” Or the man in Colorado who murdered his beautiful pregnant wife and two lovely little girls and left their bodies in oil tanks, or the Florida mother who just killed her sweet little boy. I see war in Syria and Yemen, terrorism in Africa and Europe. I see pain and death and suffering everywhere I look...I have to wonder if I am wrong and if I could find a way to change my all too human perceptions, would I again see those that Looked like Nothing? I have a terrible suspicion that I would...but they would again notice me noticing them...and this time? This time I don’t think I could escape them or the visions they filled my mind with. And this time, I would be left mad and raving. And to me, that would be worse than death. Because when I close my eyes at night, I see the face of the fallen soldier. The boy, not much older than my own son - probably the same age now. His young, dead eyes staring at the sky in disbelief. A child nearly a century dead. I think of the mother and father who loved him. Did he even exist? Or is he just part of an elaborate nightmare vision that I constructed? I do not want to know.

I will just convince myself that there are no those that Looked like Nothing. Because that is rational. That is sane. And that is comfortable.

fiction

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Michael Mayr

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