Home » Horror » Science Fiction » Speculative » Currently Reading:

Red Letter Day by Tim Reed

October 14, 2012 Horror, Science Fiction, Speculative 1 Comment
post thumbnail

Red Letter Day
by Tim Reed

Today will be a Red Letter day. After writing the title, John smiled grimly and added the following sentence: And that is a deliberate term—red denotes blood and we all know the power of letters, when put into words.

“And what dreadful words will bring on the apocalypse?” He chuckled—a touch madly—and looked at his surroundings, half-expecting a horror to enter at any moment. But he was alone in his shack, hiding in the darkness, back to the kitchen wall.

On his lap lay his diary. The diary—intended to document the past, present and possible future to anyone sane enough to find it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of anything positive to write—in other words, no lies—so he began with the truth, knowing time was running out on his Red Letter day. An hour or two and the tatters of the world would be fed to the wolves.

“And what awful wolves we have summoned.” John shuddered, cursing being privy to knowledge best left in the distant past. Now that the dim time was returning, coming full circle through the sludge of human achievement, part of him welcomed it—it would be a fitting end to humanity’s ignominious reign.

But first, his mind sought the past.

Throughout the twentieth century, and in the early years of the twenty-first, humans craved war…

John broke off, thinking he heard a noise from the study. Cautiously, he rose, holding his breath, but a peek through the door showed that he was alone. Or was he? Grey evening light filtered through his curtains, but he knew that it wasn’t yet midday. His clock was broken, his watch binned a year ago, but one thing that hadn’t left him was instinct. Something internal told him when to get up, wash, eat, and when to barricade the doors against approaching nuclear storms. When those howling gales roared around his house, he would cower and weep. Why? Because it reminded him of the past, and also that humans could no longer rely on Nature to protect and serve. But it also painted a vicious picture in his head—crying, inhuman voices, wailing in anticipation of a future return.

Wearily, John trudged back to the kitchen, brushing his hand over the Repeater that lay—loaded—on the table. The back door stared him in the face as he sat down, and he knew that was the weakness: It had been partially destroyed when next door had fallen into ruin over four months ago.

“Too weak…no locks.” John bit his lip, afraid of his own voice. It was the sound of a lunatic, but one with real reason to be mad. A sudden, irrational fear almost consumed him, and in a panic he took up paper and pen, determined to continue his account.

In the early twentieth century, there was a writer called H P Lovecraft. Many classic authors came before and after, many are remembered better today, or achieved greater fame, but none were “portentous seers.”

John broke off as he heard a dull thump in the living room. Silence followed, but John still grabbed his Repeater and crept into a room he feared as much as cherished: A thick layer of dust covered everything, but strange objects filled his mantel, and staring at them, he found that one had fallen to the ground.

Slowly, he picked it up, frowning as he looked at the ivory carving of a group of snowy mountains, jagged peaks, monstrously big despite their scale.

Mountains of Madness.

He was a collector of the profane and antique, his subject always Lovecraft, and many artifacts adorned his shelf: an obsidian statue of Cthulhu; a peculiar carving of a gelatinous Shoggoth with its floating eyes; a jade depiction of an Old One; a painting of cursed Innsmouth. It was a shrine to the unknown. But now, he was terrified of his own collection, as each piece seemed to mock him with horrific images, prancing around his mind like witches around a bonfire.

Shivering, John replaced the Mountains of Madness and crept back into the kitchen, laying down his gun and grabbing paper and pen.

I met someone obsessed with Lovecraft, a year or two before the nuclear war, and he showed me a text that at first baffled me, and then turned my stomach cold. This man claimed that it was an ACTUAL copy of part of the Necronomicon, written by the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, and I, of course, didn’t believe him.

But I read it, though by God I wish I hadn’t! I could be living in ignorance of the horror to come, but instead I am forced to think and wait. Why don’t I kill myself? Well, as yet I haven’t the courage, and a morbid, curious part of me wishes to witness the dreadful events to come—yes, I am under the Necronomicon’s spell! I admit it!

John broke off, pressing his index fingers to his temple. The temperature had significantly dropped, but he wasn’t sure whether it had any bearing on his Red Letter day or not. He was not skilled at spotting portents, but there was something approaching. The Necronomicon didn’t lie.

Colossal minds throb for all eternity, and they are not benevolent! And they will come to pick the bones of humanity clean, damn it!

Throwing down the pencil, John leapt up, wanting to hit something. He felt helpless, his terror showing itself in his childish yearning to lash out. He punched the wall, making no more than a dull thud, but that one sound seemed amplified, and he was instantly silent. Gasping in air, he saw that his breath misted.

“So cold,” he whispered. “Is this how they come? In a torrent of ice?”

His hand rested on the Repeater, and its smooth barrel momentarily comforted him. He would see this through, regardless of the fear for his sanity. But could he? When they came, how could he prepare himself for the assault on his consciousness? He was but a worm to them—less than a worm. And like vultures, they would arrive with humanity at its weakest. He knew, instinctively, that there would be no escape, no miraculous atonement for his kind. The heinous Plateau of Leng would rise again, covering the world with its grim sparseness, and with it would come powerful beings, ready to rule.

Resigned, John slumped back down, tears in his eyes as he stared at his diary. Would anyone human ever read his words? Could he write anything that didn’t resemble terrified gibberish?

A creaking noise sounded outside his back door and John tensed. It could be the wind rummaging through next door’s wreckage…but then again, maybe not. He waited, the sound didn’t repeat, but he felt a ghostly presence outside, an invisible ear pressed to the wood. A peculiar odour permeated through the kitchen, difficult to describe—the nearest being bleach mixed with sulphur. It was evasive, swiftly wafting away, and John rubbed his nose, not knowing what to do and afraid it would return.

So he waited, and waited, eyes glued on the back door, but no-one—nothing—knocked. The looming presence faded away and as it did, John’s battered rationality returned—nerves, nothing more! It was the Red Letter day after all; his mind was bound to conjure up many phantoms before they eventually took horrifying shape.

Letting out a breath, he turned back to his paper—so fragile, so pointless, but all he had.

October 3rd 2036. That is today’s date, and the day I believe that “The Deep Ones” will return. Yes, that is the last of the prophecies recorded in the Necronomicon. The others have all come true, so I have little doubt this one will either.

John felt the presence at the back door again. He smiled sardonically.

There may be one potential saviour, if we take Lovecraft’s work as gospel. I saw no mention of them in the Necronomicon pages I was given, but several of his books give direct opposition to these “Deep Ones.” They are the “Elder Gods”…

As if he had spoken aloud, there was a furtive thump on the back door, and John gasped, knowing no-one knew—hell, no-one was left to know—that he was holed up in this dump. His mind darkened; it was difficult to explain, but a veil came down over his senses, probing him, and the spectral fingers were monstrously powerful, muted only by their sleepiness. A great mind seemed to rise up from beneath, way, way down in the bowels of the earth, but roaring upwards at hideous speed. It craved freedom, knew it would soon get it, and this accelerated its flight. It was so very eager to appear in all its glory, swamping lesser consciousnesses with its own dark persona as it expanded upwards, greedy for dominion.

John tore his thoughts from below and tried to refocus, but it was nigh-on impossible. His mind was filled with impossible prisms, tri-dimensional shapes, and the presence intensified, seeming all around him at once—and yet a million miles away. His ragged breath misted the air, he felt paralysed with fear, but still, he clutched his diary. That must be finished at least! A warning must be written! But the end was near now. Who would come—Cthulhu? Dagon?

Did it matter?

No, it didn’t. He would be picking between opposing terrors, each as powerful as the last. And he began to realise, as the shadows lengthened, that there would be no redemption, only obliteration. Even if the Elder Gods came, it would be to battle for supremacy, leaving people to scuttle under stones like ants—like a Japanese family watching Godzilla and Kong fight above the rooftops, knowing their house would be destroyed, regardless of who won. No, John was too ‘learned’ in Lovecraft to believe in futile fairytales. This was a grim, inexplicable end, made all the more bitter by the teasing hints ignored in the past. Man had glimpsed the outer darkness and decided to ignore, thinking such abominable Gods couldn’t possibly exist.

Oh, but they do!

‘Thump’ went the door, breaking John’s reverie, and he fiddled with his pencil, willing his shaking hands to settle.

If the world ever settles, if God ever appears and miraculously sends these demons back into space and the oceans, and if any humans survive the tumult, well, then I guess someone might read this. Then you will have names to put to the horror.

Again there was that ‘thump’ and John dropped his pencil. It rolled underneath the table, directly below the Repeater, and the two linked together in his mind with dreadful irony—what to pick up, the pen or the sword?

The back door shook in its frame, and the two-by-four propped against the handle was cast aside, as if by magic. John felt a tremendous pressure bending the wood inwards, groaning as if in pain. He imagined an invisible demon beyond, pushing with its mind, hungry to enter, and he awaited his fate with little courage.

The handle turned.

With the desperation of a cornered animal, John scrambled forward, grabbing the Repeater and his pencil in one foul swoop. He stared at both, tears streaming down his face, and then looked back over at the door.

His garden was suddenly there, dark and blasted, and the back door completely gone. For a moment, John frowned in confusion, but then a black shape flopped into his house…and he screamed.

Consciousness was ripped from body, violently dismissive of all he used to be, and he floated upwards, away from the dense Earth to a lighter realm. Through a veil he went, and the planet became tiny, a blur in time and space. Euphoric, he flew, terribly free to go where he pleased—only it was a mirage. Something was herding him, a presence behind, always gaining, never faltering, and determined to chase him through the reaches of the universe. Did he want the chase? Did it matter? A memory pricked at him, but memories were like grains of sand: so many around that they were unimportant specks in the grand scheme.

Onwards he rushed, musing over ‘the grand scheme.’ What was it? Was this predator behind him integral to it? And if so, did that make it a malevolent scheme? Because he smelt blood following him, and watery depths, cast clean by the infinity of space into a grand, diabolic godhood.

A greenish light approached, piercing unending wastelands of gas and void. It sparkled, throbbed, but it wasn’t a beacon. No, no, it was a praying mantis drawing its prey forward, pulsing with sickly, ‘immortal’ light.

He was now a prisoner, unable to fly where he wished, and the looming presence behind was leaning over his shoulder, faceless, black, and awfully quiet.

“Culluat…Chtaa…Untaal.”

The words were hissed, gibberish, yet he knew they were from an ancient language, long forgotten. He waited for more, but none came. Instead, the green star grew massive, spreading into an infinitesimal horizon that swiftly changed into a great plain. And he flew along it, approaching monstrous mountains that rose like teeth from that desolate, alien landscape. Time passed, slowed, disappeared in the blink of an eye, and he sped onward towards those threatening mounts.

Presently, he came upon them—no more than a consciousness overseeing a spectacle—and saw that there was a vast hole before him, shorn out of the plain. He felt a terrible fear looking into it, so he cast his mind upwards into the mountains, where a huge throne was carved into its hollows. It spanned the full height, and on it sat a ghastly figure, leaning forward with a silent air of expectancy.

There was an eternal watchfulness of the immortal about it.

Its features were shrouded, its silhouette unimaginable suggestive, but a name formed in his mind.

“Dagon…”

#

They came down five centuries later, a curious, benevolent race that had stumbled upon Earth in their space travels. To their surprise, the place was deserted, flattened by some unknown phenomenon, but giant rents hinted at colossal—planet-destroying—events. Ruins were everywhere, and strange tombs that rose hundreds of feet into the sky, but no sign of life.

A dispatch team investigated, and a couple stumbled into an innocuous ruin well preserved over the ages. The roof was gone, the walls crumbling, but tucked in one corner they found a small skeleton, clutching something tightly. Again, curiosity poked them forward, and after several minutes prying open the digits, they found a faded piece of writing.

Astonished, they read it aloud, wondering who this figure was. Undoubtedly it was a hasty diary, but it made little sense, until…

They dropped the note, turned tail, and ran for the safety of their ships. But they couldn’t forget the three familiar names they had seen scrawled by that unfortunate person.

“Cthulhu…Dagon…Yog Sothoth…”

* * *

Tim Reed hails from England, where he has been writing consistently since university. His interest in fantasy, weird, and dark fiction is insatiable, and he regularly gobbles up classics like Blackwood and Lovecraft, as well as modern authors like George Martin and Christopher Golden. He has had short fiction published with Wyvern Publications and Mytinyglobule.net, has self-published his fantasy novel Everlace, and is scribbling hard at approaching mainstream with his latest work. You can read more of Tim’s material and contact him at his website, www.timreedauthor.com.

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. I’m not much of a Lovecraft fan—I prefer Poe—but the desolate, well-rendered atmosphere of this story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. I saw the “grey evening light;” I heard the “crying, inhuman voices, wailing in anticipation of a future return;” I sensed the “invisible ear pressed to the wood;” I smelled the “bleach mixed with sulfur;” I even felt the temperature drop. I was in those ruins, standing next to John, waiting for the Red Letter Day. Well done.

    Do you like this comment? (click hand to vote): Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

Comment on this Article:







Welcome to Read Short Fiction

WELCOME, READER

Read Short Fiction is a journal dedicated to the short story. There's no better medium for fiction in these time-compressed days than a short story that pulls you in and delivers. We hope you find many of them here on these pages.

Yours truly,

Rob Mayette and Kristi Petersen-Schoonover

Read Short Fiction

Recent Comments on Stories

  • Winsala oluwagbotemi: I have an offer for you, please can we contact each other v...
  • milano: wow what a great post is this... thanks for sharing boss, ke...
  • P lulu: Pretty good n have a mysterious last end...
  • P lulu: Pretty good n have a mystrious last end...
  • peter: too apocalyptic for a short story. - here's one of my...
  • Hey: I don't Google Google seat shop Broly...
  • Hey: I don't...
  • S.Lanay Milliner: A charming and naughty tale. The ending was a rare surprise ...

RSS Short Story News Center

  • Scuffles as Pro-Trump Rallies Held; 6 Arrested in California Clash - NBCNews.com 2017/03/26
    NBCNews.comScuffles as Pro-Trump Rallies Held; 6 Arrested in California ClashNBCNews.comA fistfight erupted between pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters on the sands of a Southern California beach on Saturday, while Philadelphia police were looking into an officer's use of force in that city as "Make America Great Again" rallies ...P […]
  • Sources: Trump learned a lesson on dealmaking - CNN 2017/03/26
    CNNSources: Trump learned a lesson on dealmakingCNNWashington (CNN) Republican sources close to the White House, aides inside the Trump administration, and GOP congressional staff involved in the health care process appear to agree on one thing: President Donald Trump has received a stinging lesson ...Trump's path forward only gets tougher after health- […]
  • Gunman in shooting on Las Vegas Strip surrenders, police say - Los Angeles Times 2017/03/25
    Los Angeles TimesGunman in shooting on Las Vegas Strip surrenders, police sayLos Angeles TimesA man on a bus headed down the Las Vegas Strip pulled out a handgun and began firing Saturday morning, killing one person and wounding another before he surrendered hours later to police, officials said. The unidentified suspect was described by Las ...Gunman surren […]

Recent Visitors to RSF