The day was warm, with a light breeze blowing from the ocean and bringing with it the smell of salt and the scent of sweaty bodies. The beach was closed off with barrier railings and tape, letting in only people who would pay and were over eighteen. Inside, people were clustered around different points of the beach, some already dipping their bodies into the water and enjoying the spray of the waves. But clearly the biggest attractions were either the stage in the center, where they enjoyed the music blaring at deafening levels, or the makeshift bar and grill where people clustered and waited for their alcohol. And by the look of things, some had already started early.
“Enjoy the party!” Shouted one of the people at the gate charging for admission, after we paid for our tickets. I noticed with disgust how the sweat in his skin glistened like mucus and collected on the folds of his large neck, unnaturally pale even in the sun. The signs of his alien parentage were unmistakable, now I knew where to look. The man gave us a crooked smile and cheerfully waved us in, while I suppressed a disgusted shudder, and we joined the increasing throng of party goers spreading across the beach.
Most people at the spring break party were only wearing swimwear, with a few wearing a shirt or shorts for modesty, so we stood out from the crowd right away, me with my t-shirt, pants and shoes, Suzy with her yellow hoodie. That disconnect only increased as I stared at the party goers dancing and drinking and rubbing their alcohol and hormone-addled bodies together. I felt. So. Utterly. Alone.
There is nothing quite like feeling alone in the middle of a crowd that is having fun without you to make one experience true loneliness. It was as if an invisible barrier existed between me and other people, as they laughed and danced and drank and ate, while I watched from the other side, unable to talk or interact with them. A ghost haunting the grounds of the living.
“I still don’t get it. Why are we here?” I asked under my breath. Suzy could always hear me no matter how loud I spoke.
She leaning into my ear and whispered, “we’re getting to know your successors once humanity goes extinct.”
“But what does it matter?” I whispered back. “You said they can’t save anyone else, and if they’re not even fully human themselves...”
“Is there nothing you wish to be remembered and enjoyed when humanity is gone? Don’t you care how you will be remembered once your kind is gone? Well,, we’re going to meet the high priestess of Dagon, so if you have any requests, you can do so in person!”
And saying that she dragged me, ignoring the weak protests muttered under my breath, up to a corner of the beach that was extra separated and marked as the VIP section.
“Sorry, unless you’re on the list, you can’t go in,” alerted a young man with ‘security’ on a t-shirt that barely contained his muscles and wearing sunglasses. In response, Suzy produced a pendant from hoodie and showed it to the man. It was yellow as well, and depicted what looked like three crooked question marks surrounding a single dot in the center.
“We are followers of the Yellow Sign, and have urgent business to discuss with Sarah,” she said in a low tone, keeping her voice pleasant and even. The security guard’s face crumpled into a worried frown.
“Just a sec,” he grunted before walking into the centre of the sectioned-off area, where people sat on chairs and sipped their drinks while talking or danced and enjoyed themselves without having to worry about the crowd. Most of them looked older, and their features betrayed their parentage, much to my disgust.
“Followers of the Yellow Sign?” I asked Suzy under my breath.
“People on earth who worship me as a god,” she replied. As I stared at her in disbelief, she grinned mischievously back at me.
The security guard chose that moment to return. “Come on in, it’s the lady with brown hair and green coat sitting near the table. So long as you two behave, you’re welcome to stay afterwards.”
Despite his words he did not seemed eager to welcome us, and I felt his stare behind those sunglasses as we walked past him and towards the woman he indicated. She was in her fifties and, in all honesty, looked horrendous. She had a straw hat and sunglasses, yet one could still see her eyes through the tinted screen, so large and luminous they were. Her skin was pale to the point of showing the veins underneath and already slick with seat, or god know what else. Her large mouth, with lips tinged slightly purple, and squat, flat nose only helped complete the picture of someone who even a normal person would notice as definitively strange.
“Hello dears! Now this is quite the unexpected visit!” Croaked the woman, getting up from the chair as she greeted us with a big grin that, while genuine enough, also seemed to have too many teeth. She unexpectedly hugged Suzy tightly before giving her a peck on the cheek. “And so young too! My, my!” she added, giving me the same warm welcome. It tested the limits of my self-control to stop myself from shuddering as her lips touched my cheeks. Her skin didn’t just feel damp with sweat, it was slimy.
“Hey,” said a girl behind her, looking at us with disdain while standing respectfully behind the woman. She had the same brown hair, but the two could not look more different. The girl had a face pretty enough to be a fashion model and vivid green eyes, while her tank top and yoga pants revealed her body to be attractive enough to be distracting. The older woman, on the other hand, would only show up as a model if it was in a medical textbook, or possibly the ‘before’ picture of miracle beauty treatments, with the ‘after’ picture revealing a completely different person.
“So, what brings you to our little beach bash?” Asked the senior of the two, placing her hands on her hips. While she was beaming at the two of us, she could not quite conceal the hint of worry when she asked her question.
“Thank you for granting us an audience, High priestess,” said Suzy, respectfully bowing her head. The woman chuckled in response to that.
“Oh, you! Please, call me Sarah. Or priestess, if you insist, although I’m not high right now. Give it a couple of hours,” she said, wagging her eyebrows at me and looking very proud of her joke.
“So, what do you two yellow nutcases want?” Asked the younger woman, showing none of the other’s cheer and good humor.
“Gwen!” Scolded Sarah, turning back towards the other with an angry expression, before smiling apologetically back at us. “Sorry, my daughter is a bit on edge.She hasn’t met too many of those following your… Interesting path.‘ She nodded at us and smiled, adding, “no offense meant, of course, darlings!”
“None taken,” said Suzy, looking at the pair with a cheerful grin. “You two make a great pair, theatrically speaking. The comedian and the straight man, the cheerful and the grim, young and brash against old and wise, good cop and bad cop, mother and daughter. I appreciate the contrast.”
I looked at the two again, taking a moment to confirm what my ears had heard. These two were mother and daughter? They certainly did not look like they belonged to the same end of the gene pool, and even remembering what Suzy explained to me about the descendants of Dagon changing as they grow old, it was still hard to believe. The high priestess seemed to take Suzy’s comment in stride.
“Hah! Hear that, Gwen? The two of us make a good pair in the eyes of the yellow ones! I always knew it, but it’s official now!”
Gwen, the pretty one, frowned and ignored her mother, instead directly asking us. “You haven’t replied to our question yet, why have you two come here?”
Suzy bowed her head again. “My apologies. You see, the one next to me is unsure of his role in our cult, and questions his path. So he comes to know more about the Children of Dagon, so he might decide the worthiness of you and your people.”
“Having second thoughts?” Asked Gwen, the daughter, tilting her head and inspecting me up and down. “Well, I guess you’re not as crazy as you look then.”
“Gwen, please!” Snapped Sarah, turning back once again to scold her daughter. “Show a little respect, even if they follow a different god.” She then turned towards us and smiled at me. “You’re free to join us if you want, young man. We’re an easy-going bunch. Worship on Sundays with a potluck afterwards and I can give you a copy of the Invocations to Dagon later. That’s our special book. And don’t worry, our book - unlike some others I won’t mention - won’t make you grow crazy if you read it. 100% crazy-free.”
“Oh. Uhh, thanks. Maybe later,” I mumbled, not quite sure how to respond. Despite her eerie appearance, she sounded like an elderly grandmother.
“Also, if you want, we can set you up with lots of pretty girls,” she wagged her eyebrows again at me while grinning cheerfully. “Don’t be shy! If that’s what you’re after, you’ll get plenty of sex with us.”
Maybe not quite like an elderly grandmother then. My eyes widened as I looked back at the high priestess with the same expression a deer would give at oncoming headlights. After a brief pause I managed to eloquently say, “Hngrh!”
“Coming on a little strong there, mother,” quipped Gwen, deadpan as always.
“Alright, alright! Doesn’t hurt to ask,” said Sarah while handwaving her daughter’s sarcasm, her tone still as pleasant as before. She did not seem like the kind of person that would get embarrassed easily. Most likely others got embarrassed on her behalf. “But I’m serious, it’s an important part of our cult! We don’t force it on anyone, but if you’d like to sleep with a beautiful girl, like say, my daughter there...” she gave Gwen a meaningful look and smiled.
Gwen looked me up and down with a blank expression. “Not my type,” she said, disdain dripping from her voice.
Hearing the refusal, her mother frowned and sighed theatrically, giving Suzy a meaningful look of sufferance. “The young generation these days! Sometime I don’t know what to make of them! I mean, I admire their spirit but I don’t get them at all, you know?”
“Back in my day things were different,” recited Suzy, grinning.
“They sure were! We followed tradition then,” agreed Sarah, mirroring the other’s grin with a cheeky smile of her own.
“Yes. And we respected our elders back then!” Continued Suzy.
“True! And we had a lot of sex too. Even though it was harder back in the day, because people weren’t as open minded as today” said Sarah, clearly having too much fun with this.
“Young people don’t know how good they have it,” said Suzy, shaking her head in dismay.
“Yeah! We used to sneak out and do it by the beach. At night. In the rain. And we had to sneak back home afterwards. And we liked it!” Said the high priestess, her eyes twinkling in amusement.
“Those were the good old days,” said Suzy, following it with a sigh.
“Those were the days,” agreed the high priestess.
Her daughter and I glanced at each other, me with a mortified expression while she maintained her usual deadpan stare, but at that moment the two of us bonded slightly as, in our mutual embarrassment, we agreed on the same thing: neither of us wanted to be here.
“Alright, alright!” Said Sarah at long last, after chuckling along with Suzy at their tongue-in-cheek reminiscing of the good old days. “You two are welcome at our party, and you can visit us later if you want anything else. We can book you a hotel too, if you don’t already have a room. But before you go and enjoy yourselves, there’s one little rule I want you to follow.”
And with those words the good cheer and smile suddenly vanished from her face. She fixed each of us a cold, hard stare, her eyes bulging even behind the sunglasses, as she spoke in a low, menacing tone. “No summonings or any dealings with your god while within Innsmouth. Not even so much as mentioning his name. Do not even THINK about it. And if we notice you setting up a play or even showing a hint that you might even consider summoning The Unspeakable One, we won’t hesitate to kill you. Was I clear? I would rather die than let that abomination you worship near me or any of my children!”
My blood ran cold as she said that, and I looked at the one beside me. The exact abomination that they would rather die than come close to their children. Suzy just smiled. And her smile widened. And she smiled more until her grin stretched from ear to ear, showing the white of her teeth as well as the white of her eyes.
“We will be on our very best behavior,” said Suzy, her voice incredibly calm and polite, in contrast with her maniacal grin.
Both mother and daughter looked wary at that response, but after a pause Sarah sighed and looked down. “Well. I guess that will have to do.” She looked at me and her expression softened. “You’re welcome to enjoy yourselves. Especially you, alright sweetie? And if you wish to join us we’d welcome you with open arms. We welcome all, so long as they don’t cause trouble, and we don’t ask for much. Give it some thought while you’re enjoying our party, yes?”
“Well,” said Suzy. “Since we’re talking about enjoying ourselves, you wouldn’t have a bottle of Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar I could help you finish, would you?”
And with those words any of Sarah’s sudden strictness vanished as she smiled at Suzy. “We sure have! You won’t find that stuff in the party’s regular menu, you know, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. But I wouldn’t mind cracking open a bottle while we share stories! You don’t mind spending some time with us old ones, do you darling?”
“I would be honored. Beats the old ones I usually hang out with” replied Suzy, bowing her head while smiling. “Although I believe my fellow would prefer to spend his time at the party instead. It is, as you said, an acquired taste.” She glanced up at me and smiled meaningfully.
“Sure, let the young ones enjoy themselves on their own,” she said, giving me one last toothy smile before bustling to a table in the VIP area full of alcohol bottles and glasses of various sizes. Gwen took this as her cue, and also walked away without even saying a word, sparing me only another disdainful glance. Now Suzy and I were left relatively alone as some of the VIP guests stared at us curiously from their chairs, at least those not too busy chatting with each other or dancing and drinking and enjoying themselves.
I noticed with a shudder that most of them were sporting various degrees of the Innsmouth Look.
“Anything you want me to discuss with the high priestess, while you’re at the party?” Whispered Suzy. “Now’s the best time to ask.”
“Nothing to talk,” I muttered back, my voice so low as to be almost silent. “They will live. We will die. You said so yourself, there’s nothing they can do to help us.”
“They can carry your legacy once humanity is gone,” said Suzy, her voice still low so no one else would hear us. “What would you like to leave behind?”
I looked at the party going on, both in the VIP area and outside. I looked at the warm bodies dancing in various states of drunkenness, waving bottles and cups of beer. I stared at the couples here and there, kissing and rubbing against each other, and wondered idly how many of them were fully human. Then I looked at the ones with bulging eyes, thick, flabby necks that folded on themselves, crooked teeth and pale, glistening skin with shades of green or gray, all sporting the marks of their disgusting ancestry. Yet they hid in our society, infiltrating it like a cancer, going unnoticed until too late...
“Yay,” I whispered sarcastically. “Humanity’s legacy is safe in the hands of a bunch of horny fish-people.”
Suzy smiled and drew closer, whispering in my ear, “if they displease you so much, I can wipe them out before the end of the world arrives. All you need to do is ask me.”
I stared back at her, eyes widening in horror.
“If you’re not happy with your legacy then change it,” she whispered, a faint smile never leaving her lips. “The power is in your hands. I give it to you.”
The stunned silence that followed was louder even than the noise of the music and people that surrounded us on the beach. Sarah chose that moment to return, holding a bottle of brown liquid with a homemade label that looked familiar.
“Look at that!” She said. “The last full bottle around here! I guess This old thing is more popular today than I gave it credit for.”
“A sign of the times,” quipped Suzy, smiling to me one last time before accepting a glass from Sarah and joining her on the chairs set up at the VIP area. Left alone, I walked back into to the general party, amidst the increasing crowd, and considered the ethics of genocide.