I was alone in what seemed like a rowdy spring break party organized by a race of hybrid fish-people, and that wasn’t even the strangest thing that had happened to me this week. I had never been to a beach party before, but by all appearances it was normal as far as such things went. The cheap beer flowed freely, with people smuggling in stronger stuff when they could, and I had already been asked by two teenagers if I had any pot to sell. But there were no blood sacrifices or dark rituals to alien gods, no aquatic monsters emerging from the waters to devour all party goers. Everything was normal, as far as crazy parties went.
Then a man walked to the stage as the music went silent. He had a microphone in one hand and a water hose in the other. “Hey, how are you guys enjoying the party so far?” He asked into the microphone, to a few cheers from the crowd. I noticed he was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. Normal beachwear, or to hide something more sinister?
“Well, it’s time to kick this party into gear, now!” He continued, smiling excitedly at the crowd gathering closer to the stage. “Because this is the moment of truth! This is what you’ve been waiting for. The moment where it’s all laid bare!”
The crowd looked up at him in quiet expectation, broken by a loud whistle, while I took a step back and eyed nervously the ocean behind me. There was a rising trepidation among the party-goers
“Are? You? READY?! For the Innsmouth Spring Break wet T-shirt contest?” He shouted, and the crowd cheered again, much louder than before.
I blinked, trying to process this development, before giving up and heading towards the bar. I needed a beer.
Fifteen minutes later I found myself slowly sipping beer from a plastic cup while watching from afar as a young girl walked onstage wearing a bikini bottom, a cheap, white T-shirt and a nervous smile.
“Let’s make some noise for our second contestant, everyone!” Said the announcer, and indeed many people cheered as she posed to the crowd, hands on her chest, which she pushed to emphasise her breasts.
My mind went back to Sarah and Gwen, the High Priestess and her daughter, and again felt that instinctive disgust hit me like a wave of cold water, bringing a frown to my face. The thought that those two were not fully human disturbed me in different ways, the older one in her obvious deformities which caused a visceral nausea, while the younger one was a more paranoid revulsion of what hid beneath the surface. Someone attractive as her would have no trouble finding a boyfriend, and what then? Would she hide her alien ancestry? Would the father even know that his children were hybrid abominations, destined to become monsters before growing old? If he found out, would she try to kill him?
Like my girlfriend had tried to kill me?
I shook my head and took another sip of my cup, but my paranoid thoughts would not leave me alone. The announcer was now eagerly splashing the girl with the water hose, so her shirt clung to her naked chest as she rubbed her hands against her body in what was meant to be a sexy dance. To my eyes she looked young and nervous, but the crowd still went wild. Mostly the guys, of course. But all I could think of was: is she human? Is the one of them? One of the things pretending to be like us?
How much of that sexy preening was staged, or fake? And what hid beneath it?
“Alright, this beach just got ten times hotter!” Shouted the announcer, and after a few more nervous dance moves the girl smiled and rushed to the end of the stage. The announcer did not waste time. “Let’s give it up for our next contestant!”
I blinked, as the next girl walked onstage. She was also wearing a flimsy white T-shirt, but I didn’t have to question whether she was human or not. She looked young, no older than her twenties, but already showed the mark of the Innsmouth inhabitants. Her eyes were wide, and spaced further apart than normal for a human, while her lips were non-existent and her bare legs and arms were unhealthily pale, like a drowned corpse. She strode onto the stage with much more confidence than her predecessor, and flipped her T-shirt up to show the crowd a good view of her perky breasts, not even bothering to wait for the water hose.
There were scattered cheers, although less than before, and a guy in front of me cupped his hands and shouted “Bring back the second girl!”
There was a brief, awkward silence before the commenter spoke into the mic. “Wow, that’s a great entrance girl. You done this before?” She shook her head negatively, still smiling while holding the edge of her shirt, now covering her chest again, and pulled at it to show off her figure.
“Let’s hope she never does it again!” Shouted the guy in front of me again, to a mixture of laughter and muttering from the audience. The girl responded by turning in his general direction and flipping the middle finger defiantly at him. The crowd laughed a lot louder at that, and there were even a few wolf whistles this time.
“That’s a girl with attitude, man!” Said the announcer quickly, trying to smooth things over. “Let’s get her wet and see if we can cool down this firecracker.”
“Fuckin’ ugly bitch,” muttered the guy again, this time too low for most of the audience to hear.
She was a monster, of course. He was only feeling the natural disgust from seeing a creature that should be human, yet was slowly losing that humanity. Most people saw only a weird-looking girl, not an inhuman creature, but he was in the right. Of course.
Yet I couldn’t help feeling dirty that this scumbag was technically on the same side as me.
Of course, my disgust was far more understandable. It was not just about their fish-like appearance, obviously. It was their secretiveness, how they hid from humanity. How they all seemed so eager for sex, to the point the high priestess had offered her own daughter to me, and I couldn’t help but suspect something darker behind that desire. Something as depraved and twisted as what led their ancestors to mate with an inhuman creature all those years ago, spawning creatures that were almost human, but not quite, until they reverted to their true, monstrous selves.
But no matter the justifications, the angry man in front of me complaining about ‘ugly chicks’ left a sour taste in my mouth.
It was later in the evening, the wet T-shirt contest had come and gone, and the sun had already set. The beach was now lit by multiple lamps surrounding the fenced-off area, all connected to generators, as well as the light show coming from the stage, where a DJ blared loud techno music that made it almost impossible to hear anyone not immediately close to you.
As the untz-untz-untz rhythm of the music rumbled inside me, I considered Suzy’s last offer to me before saying goodbye.
Genocide was an ugly word, no doubt about it. Something only dictators and fanatics considered a worthwhile response to anything. The people of Innsmouth had done nothing to me, and did not deserve to be killed.
And yet… Part of me galled at how unfair it was, that they should live while all the rest of humanity should die. That these half-human creatures - with their bestial biology, base animal desires and their cult worship an alien monster - would inherit the earth after we humans were wiped out like so much garbage. I wonder if this is how the prehistoric neanderthals felt, when looking at what would one day become modern humans: a sullen anger and resentment at those who would supplant them and thrive while their own children were doomed to die, and being helpless to prevent that
“Hey, what’s with the long face?” Asked someone beside me, getting a startled jump in response. I was so deep in thought I hadn’t seen her approach me.
She was a bit older than the average age of the party-goers around here, closer to my age, and I immediately noticed with an unpleasant jolt that she was one of the hybrids, and showed it.
Her case was not as advanced as some, but her eyes were larger than normal, and almost devoid of any eyelids as they started at me, unblinking. She was smiling a little shy grin at me, but the effect was spoiled by her teeth, which I noticed were not only crooked, but pointed, like a shark’s. Her body, squeezed in a bikini and a shirt that was a size too tight, was curvy and round with generous hips and thick thighs, but her skin was pale and looked wet with sweat as it glistened slightly in the dance floor lights. Her friendly attractiveness clashed with her inhuman ancestry in a manner that disturbed me, an incongruous uncanny valley, and strangest of all was her hair. It was black, lustrous and cut into an asymmetrical bob and styled by a hairdresser. Clearly a lot of effort had been put into it, but that only made it look like it belonged to a different person. Like she had taken a normal girl’s hair and used it as a wig.
“Not enjoying the party?” She asked again, getting close enough to be heard amidst all the noise, close enough I could see the lights reflected on her huge eyes. She tilted her head inquisitively, still smiling.
“Uhh… No, no, I’m enjoying it...” I muttered in the least enthusiastic tone possible, my words slightly slurred by the four cups of beer I had already drunk before.
She scoffed at my response. “You can be honest with me, dude. I’m not the fun police.” She smiled and approached even closer, until our bodies barely touched.
But before she could say something else I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. “Run, man! I don’t know what she’s offering you, but it ain’t worth it!” said a voice next to my ear, followed by drunken laughter. I turned, startled again, to see two teenage guys with identical spiky hairs laughing at me and the Innsmouth woman.
“Yeah,” said the other one, clearly drunk from how he wavered and balanced in the same spot, two feet firmly on the ground. “Yeah, like… I know it’s hard to find good-looking chicks here, but ya gotta have SOME standards, right?”
The two dissolved into drunken laughter again, gripping each other for support, as well as my shoulder. The Innsmouth woman was now backing away with a frown on her face as her eyes darted from one of the guys to me.
“Hey, hey” asked me the second guy, coming close enough I could smell the alcohol in his breath. “Do you know why there’s so many ugly girls here? Is it a thing? Is it inbreeding?”
“I’ll be going,” muttered the woman, her frown now furrowed further into a hurt expression as she turned away.
I looked at the two drunk fratboys and in them I saw arrogance, stupidity and the casual cruelty of those who don’t have to care what other people think. But worst of all, I saw myself in them, and I hated it.
“Shut up,” I hissed under my breath. I am not sure if they had heard me or not, but something in my tone and my face must have conveyed how I felt, because they stopped laughing and looked at me, confused and angry.
“Scuse me?” Slurred drunk #1, looking suspiciously at me.
“Shut up,” I said, louder this time, looking up at them. They were taller than me, and stronger too, but at that point I didn’t care. “You two know nothing! Nothing! So why don’t you FUCK OFF?”
My last two words were loud enough even the people not immediately close to us heard it, turning to stare at what was going on. The two fratboys looked at me and their anger mixed with the drunken confusion of anyone who’s had a bottle too many to think straight.
“Ooh!” Said drunk #2 in mock admiration. “Look at Mr. Knight in Shinning Armor, here to defend his maiden’s fucking ugly pussy!”
He shoved me hard, and I lost my balance, falling with my butt on the sand and barely avoiding hitting my head on another person behind me. He took a step forward, towering over me.
I should have felt angry, hurt. But I didn’t. It was laughable, really. The would-be savior of humankind, knocked on his ass by a couple of drunk idiots. I laughed at my private joke, which only confused the two drunks even more.
I looked up at the two, narrowing my eyes, and said, “you two don’t deserve to survive anyway.”
I wasn’t sure if they even heard me, down on the ground as I was. The one who shoved me took another step forward, hands curled into fists, but his buddy stopped him. “Come on, let’s leave this idiot,” I heard him mutter. The other douchebag shot me one last triumphant angry look before walking away, mingling back into the crowd. I watched them disappear with a dispassionate frown before gingerly getting up, nothing hurt except, maybe, my pride.
“You didn't have to do that,” said a feminine voice behind me, and I turned to realize it was the Innsmouth woman that had approached me before, and those idiots had mocked. She held her arms awkwardly behind her and smiled. “Not everyone would have defended me in that kinda situation. And I wouldn’t have blamed them either. But… You did. Ah! Not that I'm not grateful or anything, I mean.Thanks! But, umm... Why did you do that?”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, shrugging. “Those morons couldn’t hurt me if they tried.” My words weren’t empty bravado either. It was strange to think that way, but comparing to what I had faced these last few days, two guys giving me a beating barely ranked as a nuisance.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” Asked the woman, looking me up and down.
“No, don’t worry about it,” I replied. It was awkward, how she showed so much concern for me while, minutes ago, I was considering whether to destroy her entire species or not out of pure spite. I looked away, secretly ashamed of my previous thoughts.
“The reason why you’re so upset... It wouldn’t be related to something bad that’s going to happen a year from now, by any chance, would it?” She asked gently, looking at me with concern. The question caught me by surprise, and I stared back at her and considered my reply.
“Yeah. Guess you figured me out,” I said, obliquely avoiding to say out loud what was bothering me. Both of us knew.
She smiled, although there was sadness in her eyes, and then suddenly hugged me tightly. I felt her warm, soft body against mine, as she pressed her breasts against my chest, yet I also felt the slick moistness of her skin, and suppressed an involuntary shudder at the conflicting emotions running through me.
“What do you say we spend the night together and forget about the future?” She whispered in my ear. “You and me, for tonight only. We forget everything and just focus on the now. And on each other.”
I took a step back and awkwardly searched for the right words. “Ah… Sorry, but...” I stuttered, looking embarrassed.
“It’s alright. You can say no if you want,” she said, with a smile that could not quite conceal her disappointment. She braced herself for what I would say next.
“Well, I’m not really up for… You know...” I muttered, looking away as my cheeks flushed crimson. Why was I so embarrassed around the subject of sex? The world was ending, for crying out loud! I turned to face her again and said, “but I’m actually curious about you and your… People. I wouldn’t mind going to a more quiet place so we could talk. If you want...?”
I left the question hanging clumsily around us, looking uncertain. But a smile spread across her lips as she nodded, her unblinking eyes happy and wide. “Sure,” she said. “Sounds good! My house is nearby, we can go there.”
Her face lit up again, and she wasted no time in leaving the party with me, walking confidently up the street, past rows of houses and parked cars, as the noise of the party and the loud music slowly faded behind us. Her house was similar to many others, with a small fence surrounding the lawn and separating it from her neighbours. There was a small, stunted-looking tree growing on one side, and a car parked on the garage. She ushered me inside and turned on the lights. A mundane living room, with a wide, black couch in front of the TV, which sat in a cabinet along with an old DVD and a collection of little statues and mugs. Some of the decorations looked handmade, and poorly at that.
“Go ahead and sit,” she motioned at the couch. “I will get us something to drink? You want more alcohol or taking it easy?”
I shook my head, feeling the buzz affect my senses as my vision lagged slightly behind what was happening. “I think I’m done with alcohol tonight. You have juice, or maybe coffee?”
“I can do coffee,” she said from the kitchen. “I like mine strong, is that ok with you?”
“Sure,” I replied. She busied herself with opening counters, and getting the coffee and filter ready, while I sat, hearing the couch crinkle and creak while I looked around in awkward silence. The place had a few homey touches, I noticed. Some frills on the tablecloth, and a vase with flowers on the counter beside the TV. It wasn’t a large house, but everything was clean and the place looked lived-in. Among the ornaments and mugs there was a single photograph on a stand, showing a younger-looking version of the woman who invited me, still a teenager in the photo as she smiled and leaned on the porch of the house we were in now. She looked normal then, younger and prettier, with no sign of her inhuman ancestry showing.
“Alright, it’s brewing,” she said, walking back to the living room and sitting down beside me on the couch. She had taken off her shirt, and was now dressed only in the yellow bikini she had worn at the beach party. She crossed her legs and flashed me a smile.
I swallowed nervously, trying not to stare.
“So, what is it you wanted to know about the Children of Dagon?” She asked.