When I adjusted my eyes to our new surroundings, what I saw was yet another deceptively familiar sight. The back alley we were in was between a large, old-fashioned building, the brick and mortar walls faded with age, and a newer looking house surrounded by a chest-high wooden fence. There were the usual garbage bins and fire escapes one finds in these old alleyways, and at the end we could see a street with a car parked by the curb. The sun shone brightly on the cloudless sky and what little breeze there was did little for how hot it was outside. All signs pointed to us being in the middle of a human city.
“Looks like a normal alleyway,” I commented, looking around, “so of course I’m sure it’s something completely bizarre and off-the-wall pretending to be an alleyway. Where are we then? Venus? A different solar system?”
After a brief pause Suzy replied, “Florida.”
“Not sure if that’s better or worse,” I muttered, looking around suspiciously. She shot an amused grin at me before starting to walk towards the end of the alley.
“So why are we here?” I asked, falling behind her. “Some kind of alien species lives in this spot? That would explain a lot, actually. Or, wait! Is there a weird, eldritch artifact that can save humanity but has some horrible side effect?” I put my hands in my pockets, while my frown deepened. “Hope you didn’t drag me here for some stupid reason.”
We reached the end of the alley, which led to a sunny street of what looked like a residential neighbourhood. But unlike the alley, the street was busy with activity. Car after car was parked near the curb on either side, forming two long rows next to the sidewalks, which were just as busy. Groups of young men and women in light clothes or even swimwear, were leaving the cars, chatting with each other and walking in groups, all headed the same direction: a beach at the end of the street where a crowd was gathering. You could hear the music and hubbub coming from the beach even from where we stood, about half a mile away.
That’s when I spotted a poster on the building, a public library as it turned out, proudly advertising this year’s ‘Innsmouth Spring Break Party’ at the local beach. I looked back at Suzy with an accusing stare.
“You did drag me here for a stupid reason,” I accused her.
“Well… Yes, there is a party going on,” admitted Suzy with an eye roll. She saw me opening my mouth to protest and quickly added, “BUT, there’s a good reason I brought you here! There’s a group of people living this place that will survive the end of the world! Thought you would like to know about that.”
Her comment drew amused glances and whispering from the people passing us by, as they walked to the beach. A few weeks ago, I would have done the same. Now, I merely hesitated, narrowing my eyes.
“Here? Really?” I asked, looking around. Aside from all the people heading towards the beach, the street looked pretty average.
“Yes. You’re looking at what soon will be the only survivors after the end of the world,” said Suzy.
A group of young women in bikinis giggled as they passed us by. One of them shouted “Spring break forever!” at the street, and received hoops and cheers from the others walking by. Some already sounded drunk, despite being the middle of the day.
“Wow. Clearly the best and brightest people in the world,” I muttered, watching as a guy with a tan and shirt that read ‘party naked’ grope the ass of the girl walking beside him. She seemed to enjoy the attention, and rewarded him with a kiss that had a lot more tongue than is common in public spaces.
“You sound like an old man,” Suzy commented, following it with an amused chuckle. “Is there anything wrong with partying during Spring Break? Is it sinful, maybe?”
“No, no. Just wondering why these are the chosen ones that get to live while everyone else dies, that’s all,” I said, frowning. “That’s one really fucked up rapture. What kind of crazy god...”
Our conversation was interrupted by a woman approaching us. She was older than most of the crowd, and seemed in her mid-forties, with a headband keeping the hair from her eyes and a clipboard in her hands. Her skin was pale, despite the sun, and the heat was making her sweat to the point you could see damp marks under the armpits of her T-shirt, where the logo of the ‘Insane Innsmouth Spring Break!’ stretched over her ample chest. She did not seem to be in a partying mood.
“Excuse me,” she told us, looking from Suzy to me with wide eyes and a suspicious expression. “What brings you two to Innsmouth?”
“The sex and the booze,” replied Suzy nonchalantly, stifling a yawn.
“To prevent the end of the world,” I replied at the same time, utterly deadpan.
Neither of our answers improved her mood, and her eyes practically bulged at us in open suspicion. Her eyes were made for bulging, so big and round they were. They did not even blink.
“We welcome everyone to our Spring Break event, it’s free. But this conversation of yours really isn’t appropriate for a place like this, is it?” She told us, barely softening her demand by half-heartedly turning it into a question. For some reason, she reminded me of an angry school teacher.
“Uh, yeah, look… Sorry for bothering you guys and your... Spring break thing,” I said, trying to look apologetic while I defused the situation. “We’re just passing by and not going to cause you any trouble. Sorry about that, ma’am.”
She still stared at us suspiciously, clearly not satisfied with my sheepish apologizing. “Do you two mind coming inside the library for a chat? There’s nobody there, so we can have a private conversation,” she said. And without waiting for our reply she took a bunch of keys out of her pocket and fished for the one she wanted while walking to the nearby building, which had a sign indicating it was closed for the day. She unlocked the door and ushered us inside, ignoring the curious stare of other onlookers. Inside it was dark, cool and completely empty.
“I’m sorry, but are you two part of a cult?” she demanded, as soon as the library door was closed. We all stared at each other in silence as I blinked, trying to get my bearings.
“No?” I suggested.
“Are any of you two warlocks then?” She asked, looking at the two of us curiously. “Clearly you two know about the approaching end of humanity, but you’re not one of our people, so why are you here then?”
My poor brain, already confused by wondering why we would be confused for warlocks, was further thrown out of a loop by what she said after that. “You know about the end of the world…?” I asked weakly, almost afraid to say it out loud.
She gave me another bulging eye stare, then looked back at Suzy. “Wow. Ok. How much do you guys even know?”
Suzy grinned and ruffled my hair with her hand. “Sorry,” she said. “He’s new to this. He’s always getting into trouble, but he’s so cute when he does it I can’t help keeping him in the dark as long as I can.”
I shot Suzy an annoyed glance, but her words seemed to soften the woman interrogating us. She sighed and put her hands on her hips. “Listen, young man. It’s alright to join our party, any cult member and warlock is free to join us so long as they don’t cause trouble. And that means no running your mouth about the end of humanity out loud, you hear?”
She peered at me, her expression still strict, but tinged with sympathy. “I’m sorry?” I said again, this time more out of confusion than anything else.
“Yes, I know it is hard. But remember! Half the people in the party are normies who don’t know anything about that stuff, and the other half all want to forget about it for a little and relax. So don’t spoil the fun for either of them, please?”
“Oh...” Was all I could say. My well of words, never quite plentiful to begin with, had run completely dry at this wide-eyed schoolmarm patiently explaining to us that reminding other people the world was going to end was kind of a bummer.
“That includes you two,” she added, now fully sympathetic to us. She fished in her pockets for two tickets, which she handed to us. “Here, you can exchange these for a beer each at the Spring Break Party. Try to relax and have fun today and tomorrow. Just forget about the future for this one party, alright? I find alcohol helps a lot with that,” she added with a sly wink.
And with that we were gently ushered out of the library, and with a last warning to ‘’go wild, so long as you’re not spoiling someone else’s fun’ she departed, leaving an amused Suzy and a confused me alone in front of the library.
“It was pretty nice of her to give us free beer,” Suzy commented, smiling cheerfully while showing her ticket.
“The people here know about the end of the world?” I asked her, quietly this time. We were both quiet for a moment while she eyed me up and down, as if considering something.
“Ok,” she said. “Time for a history lesson.” She looked around and beckoned me to follow her as she walked to a nearby home. I had never seen the place before, but it seemed normal enough. A well-kept lawn, a vase behind the window seen through half-closed curtains and a pink welcome mat in front of the door. It even had an American flag on a pole attached to the house entrance, which hung limply in the absence of any wind.
Suzy touched the door and it opened. “There’s no one inside, so don’t worry,” she said before walking inside the house. I peered guiltily around me before realizing that only made me look more suspicious, which made me follow her quickly inside.
The house seemed equally unremarkable from the inside, but Suzy crossed the living room without hesitation, stepping over a Lego castle and stopping in front of a door next to the kitchen, which also opened at her touch. The door, it turned out, led to the basement stairs, which she descended in silence after turning on the single lightbulb illuminating the place.
Steeling my gut for some sort of horrific revelation, it was with disappointment that I saw the basement contained nothing but a washing machine and dryer, a lot of old, rusty-looking junk, an old chair and a pile of what looked like vinyl records in the corner. Sure, there was also a shrine next to one of the walls, decorated with what looked like bones and pearls, all centered around a small statue of a creature that was a mix of human, shark and eel, without any eyes as it bared its many-toothed maw and coiled its body and clung its claws to a rock. But compared to what I had seen so far with Suzy, this barely rated a ‘creepy’ on the scare-o-meter. I mean, there wasn’t even any blood on it.
“That’s Dagon,” said Suzy, pointing at the statue in the shrine. “He’s the head honcho the people around here worship. They’re keeping the worship a secret from the general population ever since they ran into some trouble in the thirties. Religious tolerance only goes so far. But the worship, however hidden, is still alive and well in Innsmouth.”
“Personally, I think Jesus looks more photogenic,” I quipped, pointing at the fish-creature statue. Although raised catholic, my faith was actually a shaky, nebulous affair. I still believed in a higher power, it was even a part of my twelve step program, but was dubious of any people claiming to know what that higher power wanted. Also, recent events obviously hadn’t help cement my faith in any way.
Suzy ignored me and walked to the shrine, grabbing a small, black book next to the statue, which she opened and, after paging through it, found what she wanted. “Aha! Here it is,” and she recited the passage:
“Dagon, our lord and savior, came unto us in our hour of need, so many years ago, and so the faithful of Innsmouth must remember it to this day, how He saved us all. He came unto our mongrel village of castoffs and fugitives, isolated, starved and persecuted by our fellow men. Any other would see us as nothing but the offal of civilization, the bastard children of humanity clinging to life in those broken shores, forgotten and hated by all. Yet still, Dagon took pity on us and elevated our people to a higher understanding, in His infinite kindness and wisdom. And to Him, we owe all of us and all of ours.
We owe Him our fish, ever bountiful in feeding us though we are not worthy. We owe Him the riches dredged from the sea. Pearls and emeralds and diamonds that built and paved our holiest of cities, Innsmouth, and providing us to this day. But above all, we must not forget our greatest debt, our very blood. For we are the children of Dagon, and His blood flows through our veins, giving us understanding and elevating us from simple warm-blooded beasts to something greater.”
“Hold on a second,” I interrupted her, as realization dawned on me like a horrifying sun. “When they’re saying Dagon’s blood flows in their veins, are they being metaphorical or...”
“Oh no, it’s quite literal,” said Suzy, with an amused grin. “Dagon totally fucked his followers and had a bunch of children. And most of his worshippers are either descendents or eager to be part of the family line.”
After a moment of stunned silence, I looked again at the statue, where the fish creature-roared silently as it clung to the rock - it didn’t even have eyes - and summed up my thoughts in two words.
“Well, that’s Dagon for ya,” Suzy said with a shrug. “The dude can’t keep it in his pants for two seconds, but he’s not a bad guy. Loves to visit primitive places and sow his wild oats while helping them in return. And so to this day they still worship him like a god, even though in the cosmic scale of things he’s nothing but an average-sized fish in a tiny pond.” She chuckled at her own lame pun, while I still stared at the statue in grossed-out silence.
“So, do all of his children inherit his… Good looks?” I asked, in a weak attempt at sarcasm.
“Sort of? They are born looking like perfectly normal humans, but as they get older, they start changing into a hybrid that looks more like their papa,” she nodded at the statue. “When that starts happening they go to the ocean to live the rest of their long and happy fish-lives, still worshipping Dagon from under the sea. The woman who gave us the free beers at the library was one of his bloodline.”
My memory flashed back to the woman, with her large, bulging eyes and pale, clammy skin, and a wave of nausea swept through my stomach. “My imagination is giving me some mental images I’d rather never see again for the rest of my life,” I muttered, glancing at the statue again before looking away with a shudder. “Why did you bring me to this place anyway?”
“Because those of Dagon’s bloodline will be spared from the madness that ends humanity,” replied Suzy, calmly, laying her back against the wall and crossing her arms in front of her. “Isn’t that the kind of thing you wanted to know?”
Another thoughtful pause followed her words, although at least this time the thoughts went in a less unpleasant direction. “So they will survive the end of the world?” I asked.
“The end of humanity, at least,” Suzy corrected me, smiling.
“But can they help humans survive as well?” I asked.
“Not exactly, the only reason they will survive is that they are part alien, it is something they were born with. Humanity in its pure form will disappear, but half of their blood is still human. So, in a way, humanity will live on through them.”
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the Dagon statue on the shrine. “And Dagon will be the main religion of that new world… Christ.”
“Most likely,” agreed Suzy. “With humanity gone, Dagon’s offspring will become the dominant sapient species of earth.”
“And this religion, er.. Dagonism? Dagon… Worship? Would it happen to be some kind of dark, evil, murder cult?”
“More like a sex and fertility cult, if anything,” answered Suzy without a shade of embarrassment. “You know… ‘Go forth and multiply’ and so on.”
“Not sure if that’s better or worse...” I muttered under my breath, my eyes once again finding the statue of the monstrous fish god.
“Things will certainly be very different from the world you see right now,” Suzy remarked, eyeing the rest of the basement dispassionately. “But I did warn you, Cody. Change is inevitable.”
My eyes fell on the pile of old vinyl records in the corner. The top one was a record of The Who, with the four band members drawn in an artsy style on the cover. In a year, the only people who would even recognize who The Who were would be the eldritch creature I called Suzy, or the group of descendents of a horny alien god breeding with a bunch of humans. My heart sank at the thought that these would be the ones to inherit our world.
“The spring break party will be a good chance to meet them and get to know the Children of Dagon,” added Suzy. “I thought you would be happy to know that a tiny bit of humanity would live onwards in their hybrid offspring.”
“Yeah, super-happy,” I said in a depressed tone, shuffling my way up the basement steps as if climbing to my own execution. “Let’s go and meet our new, fish-people overlords.”
We left the basement without saying another word, Suzy carefully shutting off the light before closing the door behind her.