Jackson knew that Sam wasn’t going to last much longer. Sam had a few days at best. He
had tasked himself to keep an eye on his old friend. The others wanted to kill Sam outright.
They were a small group scavenging in the mountains. Jackson had started off alone;
running for the hills after the ancient and horrible Elder Gods came. A larger group had
splintered into small factions after learning the hard way that populations often carried cosmic
‘kick me’ signs on their backs. One of these smaller groups wandered near and Jackson had
become the defacto leader, but only because he let them stay on the bit of land he had staked as
The sky was turning to night, but it was merely academic. It was a living entity, that sky.
It roiled and surged with black clouds and a thick mist. Long tendrils would sometimes reach
down, other times the sky itself would. There was always a glow, day or night, leaving the world
in permanent twilight. When the sky dimmed slightly, indicating the night, they all huddled
inside. Things happened at night.
Night was what happened to Sam. It was a rare occurrence that the dim light in the sky
went out and true darkness fell. The living clouds would part and snatches of sparkling sky
would appear. Sam went out to look at the starry spectacle, hoping it was a sign the terrible gods
had lost interest in them and left. Instead the opposite happened. Sam looked at that vast
emptiness of space and Their madness and evil took interest in him.
“Space made him crazy,” Julian said in a small voice during the first onset of Sam’s
insanity. Jackson had to agree with the child. Their sphere was so enveloped in manifest evil
that merely looking into it sent a person over the brink. Julian was a sad but observant boy. He
and his sister Sophia had lost their mother to sacrifice. The previous group they had been with
did as all large groups did; in a swift movement they went from running from the evil to running
towards it. They offered the pretty young mother to an Elder God as sacrifice. The children ran
away before attention could be turned their way.
Sam wouldn’t sit still inside the cramped cabin so Jackson had to take him out. In the
glow of night, Sam wandered the trail that led past their small and hidden compound. It
consisted of two well-built cabins and two shoddy huts near a stream. The trail led up to a sharp
ledge that had a view of the entire valley.
“They came.” Sam said. Jackson refused to look directly at him. An indecipherable grin
was now a permanent fixture on the man’s face. His beard grew in strange wiry patches and his
skin had taken on a sheen. It was the eyes that disturbed his the most. The pupils were distorting
while the irises grew pale. He wore a scarf around his neck; it hid the strange moving
“I know,” Jackson responded automatically. “They came and now here we are; hiding
“They came to save us from ourselves. They came so we might relish in the release as
they destroy us so slowly. We are their fodder. We are so happy to let them do their beautiful
and horrible work on us.” Sam said, his voice beginning to take on a sing-song cadence.
“Jackson, you need to take him somewhere else. The kids can hear him,” said a voice
just behind him. Matt and Tamara came up to him, their eyes dark and haggard. They had taken
in Julian and Sophia and became their guardians. They were both strong, both survivors.
Jackson respected them because they helped keep the group together and on task.
Before the others came, he had been content living on his own until he either died or the
evil finally caught up with him. With the handful of people that now huddled together with him,
they eked out the best existence they could. .
“Please,” Tamara pleaded. “I understand he’s your friend but he can’t stay here.”
“I know,” was all Jackson could reply. He rubbed the grey stubble on his chin, a habit
when he had to make difficult decisions.
“If nothing else, get him to shut up. His ramblings are unnerving everyone. Jesse is
convinced that if we listen to him much more, the same thing could happen to us.” Matt said. He
gave a quick glance to the madman and shuddered.
In the time before They came, people worried about diseases spreading only through
physical organic means. But evil is an idea and evil is now tangible, it made sense that it could
spread through more than just contact. Who is to say that it couldn’t spread through words?
Jackson finally nodded his head in agreement. The couple hurried back to camp, leaving him
with his decision.
Heavily, he said. “Sam, c’mon. Let’s go on up to the peak.” Sam stopped gibbering for
a moment and gave him a toothy grin. Jackson wanted to scream at the sight of it, instead he
sighed and started up the dusty unused road. Sam followed behind walking in his own winding
way. The peak was just a wide spot in the road as it wound around and down the other side. The
view was normally spectacular but now all it showed were sick forests and the pitted outline of a
taken city. One side of the road was a small incline; the other was a deep and sudden ledge. The
ground was far, far below.
“A god is close! See?” Sam jabbed a crooked finger out toward the cityscape. In the
nauseating glow that radiated from the town, there was a hint of movement. Jackson’s stomach
lurched. He could just see over the buildings a horrible and unfathomable creature was indeed
roaming its streets. He tried not to think of the torment the remaining citizens were enduring.
Sam broke into a shuffling kind of dance. The scarf around his neck billowed and
Jackson caught a glimpse of the protrusions that moved underneath. As Sam danced up and
down, Jackson plopped down on a boulder. He knew what he had to do. At his hip was a large
Bowie knife but there was no way he could watch his friend die like that. He wasn’t even sure if
that would kill him at this point. Instead, he would push him over the ledge. If the height didn’t
kill him, surely one of the splintery pines below would.
Closing his eyes a flood of memories came to him. He and Sam working their first jobs
as young men. Drinking and carousing and fighting and living. As they grew old and married
they grew apart. They didn’t see each other for many years, not until after the end of the world.
Not until Jackson had settled into his mountain retreat after running from his young son. The son
he found feasting on his own mother, using stubby tentacles coming from his mouth. A tear
escaped the corner of his eye as he shook the memory away.
Sam was hale and hearty when he arrived with the group in tow. They had just buried
Sam’s sister who had gone a murderous spree and indiscriminately killed everyone she could
reach. His own wife was one of her victims.
When Sam appeared with the group, Jackson had been seriously considering suicide.
The only thing stopping him was the fact that those who committed suicide came back. Their
semi-tangible spirits returned, vicious and blood-thirsty.
Jackson rubbed his stubble again and opened his eyes. He blinked, momentarily
confused. The world was darker than before. To his horror, he realized that the dim nightlight in
the sky had gone out. It was true night again and patches of clouds were opening up. Through
force of will, he kept himself from looking at those dazzling stars. Off in the dark distance he
heard a wet ripping sound. It was soon replaced with a mad scrambling.
Taking knife in hand he called out, “Sam? You there?”
“Yes Jackson. I am. I feel so much better now.” Sam said from the dark, but his voice
was different, as if he was talking through a tin horn. He heard the same scrambling sound
coming towards him and readied himself. What sanity Jackson had been holding onto nearly
broke when Sam’s head came into view. Walking on a multitude of short pointed legs, the head
scuttled towards him. They eyes had a greenish glow as they fell upon Jackson. “I must go to
Just behind the head, the rest of Sam’s body lumbered up. It stumbled stupidly, the gory
stump of a neck oozing something brackish. Jackson stood up and sheathed his knife. “You
want to go to your God?” he asked the thing.
“Oh yes, more than anything.” There was such pleasure in its voice. Jackson might as
well be offering it a decadent meal.
“Go meet it then.” In one swift motion he raised his leg and kicked the head as hard as he
could over the cliff. It disappeared noiselessly into the dark. The headless body still shambled
around, directionless. He gripped it by the shoulder and led it to the cliff. It grabbed him and he
readied for a fight. Instead it just held him for support. He detached the hand and pushed.
Keeping his head down, Jackson walked back to camp. He could only hope that if (or
when) the evil infected him, someone would be kinder than he. The others were right; Sam
should have died at the first signs of his madness.
Up ahead he heard a sound and stopped. A deer was crossing the trail. It looked up, six
red eyes blinked at him. Its expression showed disinterest instead of fear. After a beat, it
continued on its way. Cautiously he continued on. When he returned to camp, Matt was there to
“We are leaving in the morning. A giant horror stalks the city and it’s already affecting
the area. We’ll follow the river west deeper into the mountains.” Jackson told him.
“And Sam?” Matt asked.
“Taken care of.” Jackson disappeared into his cabin.
The next morning he was woken by a scream. Jumping from his bed he wrenched the
door open. The camp stood together some yards off, pointing at his feet. He looked down. Sam’s
head looked up at him.
“I must go to my God,” the head said. Jackson heard the hammer of a gun cock.
“Everybody, get back inside,” he commanded. Quickly they rushed back, except for
Matt who had a rifle aimed at the creature. “I’ll take care of this. Get inside.” After a moment
Matt obeyed. Jackson shut the door on the head. The head patiently stood there and waited.
When the door opened again a burlap sack suddenly enveloped it. It only struggled a little before
“I’ll take you to your goddamn maker.” Jackson growled. He tied the bag shut and went
back into his cabin and packed a few supplies. When he returned Matt and the children were
“You can’t be serious,” Sophia said. “Please say you aren’t serious.”
“Get them all out of here. Remember, follow the river.” Jackson told them, picked up the
sack, and started down the trail.
The others were getting settled in camp while Julian finished gathering firewood. He
froze as something moved in the trees. At first he thought it might be a deer or rabbit. No one
hunted alone, in case the animals had…changed. Picking up his sticks he hurried back to their
camp. He chanced a look over his shoulder. Immediately the youth dropped his load and broke
into a dead run.
“Matt! Come quick!” he yelled breathlessly as he skidded to a stop. Matt and two of the
other men stepped out, guns at their side. “He’s back. He came back and found us.”
“Slow down. Who did?” Matt put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“Jackson. I just saw him.”
“Okay, we’ll deal with it.” Matt exchanged a look with the other men. If Jackson did
give that thing back to its maker, then Jackson wasn’t whole anymore. “Tamara,” he called out,
“break down camp. Get everyone ready to move.”
“There is no need for that,” Jackson said. He was standing just inside the clearing the
circle of battered tents and lean-to’s sat. “We mean you no harm.” There was an echo in his
voice that sent shivers down everyone’s spine. From behind, Sam’s head skittered. The head
had shrunk to half its normal size. It climbed up Jackson and perched on a broad shoulder.
“We mean you no harm,” it repeated like an infernal parrot from Hell.
“Why did you do it?” Matt asked as a sudden flurry of work happened behind him. “You
had to know this was going to happen.”
“They aren’t so bad, not really. I was shown the Abyss. I stared right into it and I finally
understood everything. I understood the hunger of the universe.” Jackson told him.
“You know you aren’t leaving this spot, right?” Matt asked.
“You know you aren’t leaving this life, right?” Sam sneered from his perch. His voice
was a mix vehemence and loathing. “Don’t expect death to be a release either. Even your souls
can’t escape our beautiful torture.”
“Shut up,” Sophia cried. Tamara quickly grabbed her and set her back to tearing down
the camp. Matt and the two others stood there facing off with the damned duo, giving the others
time. Jackson said nothing more, he just smiled.
“To hell with this,” Matt said in a sudden fit of anger. He raised his rifle and blew a hole
in the middle of Jackson’s head. Sam immediately sprung off and sailed towards them, an angry
grimace on its face. One of the others caught it in mid-air with a well aimed bullet. Both dead
creatures billowed a noxious steam as they oozed on the ground
The group had broken camp in record time. They had barely made it fifty yards before
the ground shook and everything took on a green hue. Tamara screamed first. Above them,
massive tentacles reached down from the low clouds. Julian looked up at them, morbidly trying
to catch a glance of what they were connected to. Sophia broke the spell by forcibly shoving
him. The monstrosities reached for the humans, tearing swathes of trees and brush away in their
wake. Everywhere they touched the ground blackened.
The children shivered in the deep shade. Sophia lay with her head on her brother’s leg.
All the adults were gone. They didn’t survive the horror from the sky. Julian couldn’t make
their screams silence in his head. He didn’t want to know why they sounded so distorted before
they abruptly stopped. All he knew was that they were alone. There was no one to trust and
fewer places to hide. He didn’t want to believe that it was only a matter of time before the
madness caught them or they fell into the arms of something evil.
He tried to remember life before these ancient corrupted ones had wrecked havoc on the
Earth. The memories were fleeting though, quick images of cartoons and playing with friends.
Of school and lessons. All he could clearly remember now was a gray afternoon thier aunt had
been babysitting them. She came into the room with a strange expression and asked them if they
were ready to prostrate themselves to the Great Ones. What happened after that, he chose not to
Sophia stirred. “Hey, we should keep going,” he told her. She agreed and then stretched.
“What’s that whistling sound?” she asked. He listened and heard it too, realizing that it
had been going on for some time. It started so subtly he didn’t pay it any attention.
“It can’t be anything good,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Around them the trees open up. The bark parted in autopsy-like splits, showing bloody
and pulpy messes underneath. They pulsed with life. Fibrous strands shot from the masses and
connected the trees with each other. A dripping red web quickly surrounded the two of them.
Their new cage slowly contracted around them. In a desperate panic, Julian and Sophia
scrambled around to find a way out. The whistling grew louder. Whimpering, they clung to
each other and prayed that their end would be quick.
By Michael R Collins
Michael R. Collins was born at a very young age in the wilds of southern Idaho. After a few decades he finally got his fill of all the sagebrush and rattlesnakes he could eat and journeyed forth to the creative bosom of Austin, Texas. Writing has always been tantamount to breathing, and he’s done a lot of both. Harboring massive commitment issues, he tends to write across all genres. Sticking mainly with dark fiction (to placate the evil monkeys in his head) his first novel, Night Shall Overtake has been published by Black Bed Sheet Books.
When not writing he’s daydreaming about writing at work. Or playing bass. Or daydreaming about playing bass while writing. Or broadcasting his live radio show online at www.live365.com/stations/saintzero.