There was a moment of awkward silence as we both stared at each other in her living room, two people who barely knew each other. It wasn’t helped by the fact that she was wearing only a bikini that fully revealed her unnaturally pale skin and curvaceous body. Or the fact she was slowly over the years turning into a fish creature. That was awkward too, in a different way.
“Well...” I said, after a brief pause. “How about we start with your name?”
Her face lit up as she realized neither of us had asked the question and chuckled. “Oh, wow! I forget to do that sometimes. Sorry, I’m Maria.”
“Cody,” I replied, looking around some more at the living room. “You do that often? Bring guys here without knowing their names?”
I cursed myself immediately after saying it, realizing how insensitive it sounded. She gave me a hard look and raised an eyebrow. “Sometimes,” she said. “You have a problem with that?”
“No, no,” I hurried to clarify. “It’s just, well… Before I also met another woman, the, um… I guess you call her the high priestess?” Maria nodded at that. “Well, I talked with her and her daughter and she, umm… Made a proposal... Ahem. Anyways, I’m trying to understand your religion more and why so many you seem...”
I hesitated, looking for the right word while cringing at myself for all the pauses and stuttering. Maria smiled, taking pity on me.
“Why we’re all so man-hungry?” She asked, stifling a laugh.
“I… Yeah, I guess you can put it that way,” was my red-faced reply.
“Ok, just so you know, it’s not everyone,” she clarified, without any hesitation or shame. If anything she looked amused at my discomfort with the subject. “But our religion, well, you know how most of us are descended from Dagon, right? Yeah. So part of our religion commands us to spread our bloodline as much as possible. You know, ‘go forth and multiply’ stuff, which is god-talk for ‘get busy’. Sooo… We’re basically commanded by our god to have lots of sex and have lots of babies! Pretty cool, huh? Way better than the competition’s commandments if you ask me.”
She smiled at me cheerfully, and I saw a bit of the high priestess in how proud she seemed of her joke. Such humanizing moments almost made you forget they were not fully human.
“So what other things does your religion command you to do?” I asked. “Any sacrifices or such?”
“What?” She scoffed. “No, no way! I get grossed out when someone has a nosebleed next to me.” She crossed her arms, now looking irritated. “Ok, sorry, but I have to ask, who the hell have you talked to about us? And how do you know about… About the thing that’s happening a year from now?”
My memory flashed back to the high priestess, and how angry and afraid she seemed as she spoke to us. Her words were ‘I will die before I let that abomination you worship near me or my children.’ How would she react, if she knew she had said that right in the face of the very abomination she seemed so afraid of? What would Maria think of the creature I followed, calling it ‘Suzy’ for reasons that seemed amusing at the time?
“I, uhh… I’m a follower of the yellow signal? Sign! Sorry, follower of the yellow sign,” I muttered, cursing inwardly at the only shitty lie I could think of. I didn’t even really know what followers of the yellow sign did, although Maria’s reaction told me they did not have a good reputation, at the very least.
“Huh. At least you look… Sane, I guess?” She said, looking me up and down again, more critically this time.
“I’m sorry… I’m kinda new. Did we do anything bad to you guys?” I asked. She seemed taken aback at that question, and for the first time in our conversation, a bit self-conscious.
“Shit, I give you grief for judging me, yet here I am doing it myself!” She shook her head, then flashed a sheepish grin at me. “Truth be told, I’ve only ever heard about you guys from other people, this is my first time talking right to someone who comes from there. And… Yeah, your cult has a bit of a reputation.”
I thought again of Suzy.
“I can believe that,” I said.
“”No offense…” She muttered, backing a way a little while sitting on the couch, “but I’ve heard your god is insane and he makes you all crazy too. Like… He twists you into being crazy like him before devouring you so completely nobody even remembers you anymore. Along with everyone you kill...” She said that in a low voice, tinged with fear, and her eyes were even wider than usual, still unblinking as she looked back at me.
“Yeah, more or less. But - but don’t worry! I’m not going to do anything bad or… Or anything.” I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling embarrassed now at my lie. Is that who I was associating with, when I traveled with Suzy? Were they all afraid of her? Or afraid of me, by association?
“In that case… Why do you still worship the King in Yellow then, even knowing that?” She asked in a small voice, looking at me with an expression that was hard to read. Worry? Concern? Fear, perhaps. My mind went back to my arguments with Suzy. while I thought of a lie.
“It’s better than being forgotten,” I muttered, feeling self-conscious at my fib. Her reaction, however, made me feel even more guilty. She looked taken aback at first, and then gave me a sympathetic smile as her enormous eyes moistened with tears. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again, at loss for words. Then, without any warning, she hugged me tightly close to her in an embrace, so my face was buried on her hair. I could feel her warmth, as well as the general sweaty clamminess of her skin, which felt slightly rough to the touch. Inhuman. Yet still soft and warm. What followed was a self-conscious moment as I realized her breasts were squished against my chest, and my body reacted to that by getting excited, regardless of how my mind squirmed in disgust.
The silence of the moment was broken by a beep coming from the kitchen. Both of us were startled by it, separating, and she looked back at me with a small smile, as if she had just gotten away with something. “Coffee’s ready! Let me get it,”
And she went, leaving me alone in the couch while I fidgeted to keep my mind away from the woman with whom I had just shared a hug. My thoughts wandered to my journey with Suzy so far. It’s strange to think I had gotten so used to her by now, that this sudden outside perspective surprised me. But it’s no wonder they were scared of the King in Yellow, I suppose, if all she seemed to them was an eldritch god that devoured its followers and enacted macabre rituals.
Rituals like the play.
She returned from the kitchen bustling with two mugs of coffee as well as a round can of butter cookies, which she left on the table in front of the couch while I made a good show of composing myself.
“So, how about we put a pin on the… Heavier subjects, at least for now?” She said, sitting back on the couch next to me and taking a sip from her own mug while looking at me. “We can talk about… Other things.”
“I - Yeah. Sure.” Clearly I wasn’t fully cool, calm and collected yet.
She smiled, scooching closer to me on the couch so her hips were almost touching mine. Close enough I felt her warmth, her skin bare except for the bikini she wore at the party.
“Are you interested in a few of the rites we have, as Children of Dagon? I can show you,” she suggested, with a sly smile that was meant to be provocative. The effect was somewhat spoiled by her wide eyes and shark teeth, but I still got the message, fumbling once more while searching for the right words.
“Ah, sorry. I don’t want you getting the wrong idea… When I said I wanted to talk, I didn’t mean...”
She looked at my hesitation and let out an amused snort. “I’m not asking you to marry me, dude. It’s NOT a commitment.” She shrugged, relaxing back on the couch. “We can talk. And we can have sex after we talk. Or not. There’s no need to rule anything out.”
She took another sip of coffee, the mug barely hiding her huge grin, which looked vaguely menacing with her teeth all being crooked and sharp.
“Yes there is,” I insisted. “We need to make this clear: I didn’t come here to… Umm.”
“To fuck me,” Maria finished, her expression crumpling into a frown. She took a deep breath, then looked me in the eye without flinching. “Is there any reason why?” She asked.
“Sorry?” I asked, looking away to avoid her state. I felt embarrassed by the situation I was in, yet I couldn’t just leave. That would have made things worse and Maria… She didn’t deserve that.
“Why is it you don’t want to have sex with me?” Asked Maria, calmly. She didn’t frame it as accusation. “Is it because of my appearance? The way I look? You can tell me, if that’s the case. I can take it. I’m a big girl, and I’ve heard it all before. Fish face. Ugly chick. Is it that?”
“No!” I hotly replied, turning to face her. Looking her up and down without flinching, taking it all. Her alien features emerging from the body of an attractive woman.The memory of the two drunk assholes at the beach stung me again, and it hurt to even consider myself being lumped with those assholes.
“What is it then? You’re not in the mood? I’m not your type?” She asked again. After a second of hesitation, her eyes flickered and softened a bit. She spoke again, her voice quieter. “I’m not going to force you… But I would like to know. What is that’s wrong with me, in your eyes?”
“You’re not human,” I blurted out, out of impulse more than anything. The silence that followed was more tense than any other, both of us looking at each other with suspicion and worry. I bit my lip to stop myself from speaking more.
“In a way, yeah. I guess I’m not,” she said, rubbing her arm with her other hand absentmindedly. “Is that the deal-breaker then? I mean… Does it even make that big of a difference who my parents were? Does that change who I am?”
“You’re different from me,” I retorted, and the words that were building up inside me broke, like a dam, pouring my thoughts out like a flood. “You see things differently, live differently and believe in different gods, different things. And that’s not bad… You’re not even one of the worst or strangest things I’ve seen this week. Not even close. But you will change into a sea creature and live under the sea like some kind of reverse mermaid… Worshipping your alien god frm beneath the sea. And I will never understand what that is like. And everyone I know will die within a year, and YOU have no way of understanding that. That everyone you know is doomed? To know that the end is coming but being unable to help without making it worse? I don’t even know why I am still trying anymore. It’s pointless, I know it, and yet… I have to try. I could not bear dying without trying as hard as I could, even if it’s clear it won’t end well. She even told me from the start... 'This will end only in tears.' Just like any relationship between me and you would. Because we will never understand each other. No matter how hard we try there will always be a gulf between us and nothing can fill that. Nothing!”
At the end of my rant I was out of breath, panting and looking away from her. I looked at the coffee table, or at the old photograph, and I avoided all eye contact with her. In the end I wasn’t even sure who I was trying to convince with my rambling speech. It was less a coherent statement and more a mixture of my thoughts and feelings for the last few days, all bottled up with no one to spill it to, no one who would even remotely understand how I felt. What did it say that the only one who could hear me out was a woman not even fully human, an ancestor of an alien god from a distant world, who wanted to jump my bones as part of her religion.
When I dared look back at her, she was holding back a sob and her enormous, round eyes were wet with tears that ran down her cheeks. She did not bother to wipe them, sniffling instead while also avoiding my eyes.
“I’m losing people too,” she whispered, so softly I almost did not catch it.
“Well, your family and friends...” I started saying.
“My husband left me,” she interrupted me, looking squarely in the eyes now, even as another tear made its way down her face. “When I started changing, he… He couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I tried to explain it to him, come clean on everything and... And he thought I was going crazy as well as ugly.” She let out a dark chuckle, devoid of any real happiness. “So I had to watch the man I loved walk away from me, knowing he was going to die soon. Too soon. And I won’t...” She choked on her words, struggling to speak as she hid her face behind her hands, openly breaking into sobbing now. “I can’t be there for him when his end comes. I can’t even comfort him. And I can’t tell him to live his life to the fullest, because he won’t listen to me. He may be a dumb and shallow hunk in a gorgeous body and no brains… But he doesn’t deserve to die! And.. My human co-workers don’t deserve to die either. Or my friends I made at university. Fuck! So many people will die and I can’t even tell them. I can’t… I can’t do ANYTHING.”
She tried to continue to speak in between sobs, but couldn’t, at complete loss for words. Her coffee mug was cooling on the table, ignored by us both.
“Shit...” She muttered, wiping her face and fumbling to compose herself after her outburst, much like I had done after mine. “This was supposed to be a day of celebration. To enjoy our last chance to have a big spring break party and fun and… And I’m SO FUCKING HORNY! And now… And now I’m a mess.”
Someone saying such things out loud was supposed to be funny, or maybe sexy, but in the end it was neither of those things. She looked lost and achingly sad, with no one to comfort her.
I was the one to embrace her in a tight hug this time. Before even thinking if this was the right thing, or what were the consequences, I hugged her tightly and held her in my arms, feeling her wet cheeks press against my neck. She gripped my back so tightly it hurt, but neither of us pulled away or broke that embrace for some time. There was no self-conscious worrying this time, nothing but raw emotions, brought to the surface like wounds so tender even the lightest breeze would hurt them. Things you were supposed to keep hidden, and yet… Here we were.
When we broke off the hug, she still held me at the hip while looking at me, her eyes so huge I could see myself reflected in them.
And then she kissed me.
The kiss was a surprise, quick and sweet as our lips met briefly and my stomach fluttered with this contact. This was a threshold, and we had just crossed it. The next kiss was longer, and more passionate, as our lips parted and our tongues explored each other. She tasted odd, different from anyone I had kissed before, but not unpleasant. He held each other tightly once more as we continued kissing, licking and nibbling each other’s lips until we were both gasping for breath.
It was like the speeches we had made, a dam bursting and letting all that pressure out in a flood of emotion. Without a word we started taking off our clothes, taking each others clothes, fumbling and getting caught in each other’s clothes. I don’t know how the bottom of her bikini managed to get tangled around one of her feet, but it took some pulling to get it off. I had a lot more clothes on than her, so she was fully naked as I struggled to get my socks off. She barely waited before pulling my briefs down and climbing on top of me as I lay back on the couch. Our lips met again, pressing hard against each other, and so did our bodies.
In polite stories this is where things would fade to black. Skip to the next scene. No need to pollute the story with descriptions of smut. But this is not a polite story, and it's already poluted with things far worse. To hide what that happened that night, on the couch, while still telling stories of brutal violence and horrific madness? It would feel ridiculous and prudish, Maria herself would laugh her ass off at me for doing so. No, I will say what happened that night, which was hardly anything remarkable or novel. We just had sex.
We did not fuck like pornstars, going at it for hours in athletic positions while showing off our bodies. Neither was our sex passionate and gentle. It was a furious and desperate affair, borne of a hunger for closeness, for warmth and touch and pleasure. Both of us thrusted as fast and hard as we could until we got tired, so we switched positions. Her on top, me on top, spooning on the bed, doggystyle, we kept switching positions and fumbling while trying to settle into something we were both comfortable with. Sometimes it was awkward, like when I missed her vagina and accidentally pressed against her puckered ass, to which she grunted in complaint and had to guide my penis with her hand. But we ignored these missteps, and were soon humping away again while holding each other tightly. Both eager and hungry for each other, our hands never leaving the other’s body as we caressed, squeezed and held each other so tightly it hurt.
We clung to each other as a drowning person would cling to driftwood, afraid of letting go. We moaned and gasped, but there was no real talking, no dialogue. We communicated with our bodies, with our mouths and hands, and by thrusting our hips so hard it hurt.
I am not sure if she orgasmed when we had sex, it was all a confused mess of grunts, moans and pleasure, but all I know is that I did. With a grunt I came inside her, and she drew me close and squeezed me as tightly as she could, as I almost passed out from the sheer ecstasy washing through my body in waves. She refused to let me go, holding tightly as I took long, deep breaths, looking into her enormous eyes as they glazed in the throes of pleasure. At that moment I did not see a monster, or a half-human hybrid, slowly losing her humanity. She was a woman, hungry for love and affection. Like me.
She accepted me, and I accepted her. Every part of her, without distinction or concern. We looked at each other, panting, naked and vulnerable, so cold where our bodies were bare, but so warm where our bodies met.
At that moment there was no end of the world to avert, no guilt or loneliness or fear. No otherworldly abomination looming over my head grinning as she watched me suffer. No worries about Maria or where she came from, or how different she was from me.
For a moment, she was the only thing that mattered in the world. There was nothing else. And together we shared that moment of simple, pure pleasure. Revelling in the joy of feeling alive, and sharing that feeling with another person as deeply and as strongly as anyone ever could.
For a brief moment, that was all we needed.