It was like watching a horror movie.
That was the thought that popped into my head when the police car approached the pumping station, which turned out to be two small, grey buildings with a large pipe full of valves that ran between them and into the ground. The whole area was surrounded by a chain link fence and poorly illuminated. There were no other houses or buildings nearby, we were in the middle of nowhere.
The car rolled to a stop at the entrance, and the car lights revealed that one of the doors was slightly ajar. There was no light coming from inside.
“Shit,” complained the sheriff, glancing around while gripping the steering wheel tightly. There was nobody else in sight. The other police car, driven by the nervous policeman, rolled to a halt beside us. Nobody left their car.
“Alright, you.” The sheriff pointed at the policewoman next to him on the passenger’s seat. “Take my spot and watch the suspects. First sign of trouble, you drive the hell out of here. Go back to the station and call the Lipton police for reinforcements. I know it’s not their jurisdiction, but if it’s an emergency they’ll come and help.”
Her face looked pale and scared, but she nodded silently and got out of the car. The other policeman walked towards our car and met up with the sheriff.
“Stay outside and cover me while I go inside and check on the station.” He told the other deputy while slowly getting out of the car and giving his seat to the policewoman.
“Sir, let me go with you,” whispered the other deputy. He had already taken his gun out of the holster, and the hand shook slightly with fear. His eyes were wide and expressive.
“No go. You stay behind the car for cover, gun at the ready. I’ll go and check,” said the sheriff. Finally, he spared me and Suzy a glance. We were both in the backseat of the police car, hands cuffed behind our backs, utterly helpless to do anything but watch, just like a horror movie.
“Please be careful!” My voice was a hissed whisper. “He’s armed and very dangerous. He may look weird, but if you see him, better shoot to kill!”
“Negative,” replied the sheriff, his voice soft but firm. He looked towards his two subordinates. “Ignore his suggestions and try and arrest anyone here first. Shoot if you have to, but try to get them alive for questioning. We still have no reason to believe anything these two are saying is true.”
I cursed silently as the other two nodded in agreement with the sheriff. Then, without saying another word, he took his own pistol out of its holster and, after clicking the safety off, walked carefully to the edge of the open door to the pump station, pistol held firmly in both hands and pointing down.
I could do nothing but watch.
And I watched as the Grandmaster jumped from the roof of the pump station, hanging on the air for a terrible moment before landing heavily on the front hood of the car in an explosion of glass breaking, metal crunching and screams. The impact rocked the car as shards from the broken front window rained around us. I lifted my head, stunned with shock, in time to see the Grandmaster, crouched in front of the broken front window, lift his left claw and thrust it inside the car, sinking it deep into the policewoman’s stomach with a wet thunk, as blood splattered the steering wheel. She did not scream this time, letting out only a weak gurgle. I could not see her face from my place in the backseat, but the alien claw had hit so hard it had gone through both the policewoman’s body and through the front seat. Blood dribbled down from the hole in the chair before my eyes.
The alien creature pulled out its claws with another visceral movement that splattered more blood inside the car, and turned its head towards the other two cops, who could only stare in shock. It had taken no more than three seconds for the policewoman to be slaughtered.
With another leap he charged at the deputy, knocking him down. His scream of alarm and fear was interrupted by the Grandmaster as he once again raised his claw and brought it down on the man’s head, making it erupt in a shower of blood and gore. The man’s body immediately went limp as his head was completely caved in.
When he leapt once again at the last policeman, I still could do nothing but watch as the sheriff fired wildly, finally reacting to the threat. But it was too little, too late, and could not prevent the alien from tackling him into the wall of the pump station so hard his head made a crack as it hit the concrete. Stunned, the sheriff could not even react when the monster, almost contemptuously, ripped a claw across the man’s throat so hard it destroyed part of his jaw. The man slumped helplessly against the wall as blood dribbled freely down his front, staining his shirt and pants dark red.
When the Grandmaster got up and turned to face us, that is when I screamed. I cursed at him, shaking with anger, but it was useless. I was cuffed on the backside of a locked police car. Utterly helpless.
“Well, well… I see you are still alive to vex me,” crackled the Grandmaster as he crouched and took a giant leap to the police car, where he gripped the hood for support. As he was closer, and with more time to really look at him, I noticed his right leg was a twisted mess, sticking off to the side in an odd angle, and his right arm as well was torn at the elbow. Parts of his misshapen body were curled in odd patterns, or burnt and twisted into a husk, showing that the explosion at the diner truly had hurt him.
It also dawned on me that the Grandmaster had just killed three armed policemen while missing half his limbs and wounded.
He punched through the window of the back seat with ease and grabbed me by my throat as broken glass rained around me. I let out a surprised wheeze and grabbed at his claw, but to no avail. It was like trying to bend steel. Helpless, I was lifted, bodily, out of the car by this monster as he balanced on his one leg.
“You belligerent, immortal MENACE!” Hissed the Grandmaster. His voice was also affected by his wounds, reduced to a rasping noise much less pleasant than before. But the anger in his voice was clear. “How DARE you antagonize me so persistently, with the help of your demented goddess!”
I looked frantically at inside the car, where Suzy still sat with a peaceful smile. She just winked at me, and ignored the insult as if it meant nothing to her. Perhaps it did.
The Grandmaster squeezed my throat harder, cutting blood circulation as well as air, and I felt my skin grind against my throat so hard I would have screamed in pain, if only I could draw breath.
The Grandmaster spoke again. “I may not be able to kill you… You MONSTER!” Croaked the creature, staring me down with its eyeless face. “But I can hurt you. I can hurt you a LOT!”
My head hurt, pounding as I felt my heartbeat in my neck, where the Grandmaster was squeezing and my veins throbbed, trying to get blood to my head. My tongue felt dry and swollen as I struggled to breathe. I stared at Suzy, pleadingly. She smiled back at me.
The gunshots rang and echoed in the silence, as they hit the Grandmaster in the head and body, the impact strong enough to push him. He hissed and collapsed on the floor, releasing me in the process. Gasping for air and clutching at my throat, I leaned against the car for support and saw the source of the gunfire.
The sheriff was a bloody mess, his lower jaw torn into an open, gory wound where broken teeth glinted, obscenely, here and there amidst the blood. His face was pale as a sheet and he heaved and gurgled, but still, even slumped against the wall, he found the strength to grip his pistol and stare at the Grandmaster with his one good eye. He lined up and fired another shot, eliciting another hiss from the fallen Grandmaster.
But even shot, the creature was still alive. With a snarl, he rolled to the side, and took a leap near the sheriff. Not quite as coordinated as his previous attack had been, the Grandmaster could still close the distance in the blink of an eye. There, he pounced on the sheriff and started mauling him, hitting and swiping with his claw and drawing blood and wet noises from the sheriff’s body as the gun dropped from the poor man’s hand, clattering uselessly on the cement floor.
He was intent on not only killing the sheriff, but reducing him to a pulp. Hitting again and again with his remaining claw. He was so concentrated in venting his anger that he did not notice the car behind him rumble to life.
The policewoman had been pierced completely through the torso. Although I still could not see the state of her wounds, they must have been massive from the amount of blood on the front of the car. I could only imagine the strength it must have taken her to stay conscious and to step on the accelerator, despite her wounds. All that to steer the car and ram it into the monster, in a last-ditch attempt to kill the thing that was mauling her boss. He turned and tried to leap away, but was caught by the car as it smashed against the wall and pinned him against the building,
I stared, still with my hands cuffed behind my back, as the fledgeling god struggled to free himself, but failed. Defeated at last by three lowly humans he had so disdained and underestimated.
“You failed...” I croaked, my throat still burning in pain. But I ignored it, my mind heady with adrenaline and vicious victory. “You bastard, you LOST! This is the end of the road for you!”
The Grandmaster struggled again to unpin himself, but failed. But then it turned its face toward me, slowly, and released a series of rhythmic hisses, as its shoulders rose and fell and its body shook. It took me a moment to realise what this noise was supposed to be.
It was laughter.
“Me? Defeated?” The Grandmaster once again shook with its eerie laughter. “You still don’t understand.”
“I understand that soon I’ll take off these handcuffs and finish you off while you’re trapped like a bug,” I spat out the words, looking around for a gun I could use.
“No,” hissed the Grandmaster. “I have already won.”
His certainty, his lack of fear, even when wounded and pinned helpless against the wall. It made me pause and glare at him.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
The creature gestured at the building behind him. “This place provides water for the whole town. Which is why I attacked it, and mixed my infectious essence into the water. I was finished by the time you arrived.” The Grandmaster laughed again, even harder, his body spasming against the car. “Ahh… Soon the people there will drink me. They will bathe in me and cook their food with me. I will enter their bodies and conquer them from the inside. They will all be my loyal servants soon.”
I looked in horror at the building, then back at the creature. The monstrous, alien creature that was so desperate to be a god and who would not die… And he was laughing.
“There is nothing you can do. You cannot stop it,” croaked the Grandmaster. “I won.”
I clenched my fists so hard they shook, staring at the Grandmaster as my throat choked on a howl, or perhaps a sob. Helpless. Just like I had been for this final fight. Utterly helpless to stop him or his plans. So many people in the town. My hands still cuffed behind my back. Useless. All those women, old people. Children. They all depended on me. I had to help them.
I couldn’t help them.
In horror, I looked at Suzy. She was still in the backseat of the crashed car, sitting calmly. She turned back toward me and smiled her usual grin.
I couldn’t help those people. Not by myself.
Bowing my head, fingers still pressing tightly against their palms, I spoke, my voice almost a whisper. “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
“Sorry, what was that?” Asked Suzy, smiling innocently. “Are you talking to me?”
“I was wrong about power,” I whispered, feeling every inch as weak as I sounded. “I was wrong to dismiss it and think I could win without it. I was wrong to dismiss ascending. I was wrong. I admit it. You won the bet. You were right. So, please... Please!” My voice faltered, and I took a deep breath, before begging her. “Please save the people in the town.”
She reacted by calmly opening the door of the car and getting out. The fact she was handcuffed and the car door was locked didn’t stop her, they opened way politely and without trouble. Such petty concerns as locks were beneath her.
“The truth is… I had won from the start.” She grinned wider, like a wolf before its prey.
“You...” The Grandmaster hissed, fear in his ragged voice. “No! You stay out of this! You cannot hurt me! My goddess, Shub-Niggurath, forbids it!”
Suzy smiled sweetly at him. “Kill you? Who said anything about killing you?” She advanced on him, her smile never wavering. “Why would I kill something as weak and pathetic as yourself?”
“You cannot hurt me! No, that is not permitted! My goddess will know!” The Grandmaster scrabbled against the wrecked car in a desperate attempt to escape.
“Nevermind him,” I said, pleading at Suzy. “You have to save the townspeople! You - you have to...”
“The townspeople are mine!” Fought back the wounded Grandmaster. “They have started their conversion! You can’t hurt them either! They’re a part of me!” He struggled and screamed, yet was utterly helpless. The analogy that came to my mind, grotesque as it was, is of a monstrous toddler, stuck in its chair and throwing a tantrum. It would have almost been laughable, if it wasn’t for the blood and corpses surrounding us, and the lives at stake. “They’re a part of me now! They are my followers! My worshippers!” He screamed.
“Correction. They are a part of ME,” said Suzy.
When she spoke those words, all the three corpses surrounding us raised and got up on their feet, turning toward us. The deputy with his head caved, stared at us with his eyeless, bloody face. The policewoman got out of the car and got up, despite her chest having a gaping hole. Her face was ashen pale, but she had a mocking grin on her face, one I was familiar with. The Sheriff was such a torn mess that, when he stood on his legs, it was the only part of him that was intact. The remains of his torso dangled to the side like torn ribbons from a gift. There wasn’t even a head there to be seen.
“All part of a whole...” Spoke the policewoman, whose name I did not remember.
“All puppets in a play...” Said the deputy, spitting blood from his mouth with every word.
“Grll, hck, grlllgrllgrhgrl...” Said the sheriff.
“Oops, sorry about that!” Suzy flashed an embarrassed expression. She waved at the sheriff and his body parts reassembled back into what he used to look like. He was still pale and covered in blood, but no longer a mutilated mess.
“All servants for the King...” said the Sheriff, now he had an actual mouth to speak.
The stunned silence that followed was one of mute horror, punctuated by Suzy’s smile as she beamed proudly at her audience. Me and the Grandmaster, in agreement for the first time as we reacted to this madness.
“What… What do you mean, about them being a part of you. Do you mean…?” I asked, hesitant. No, that was not hesitation. Denial.
“While you were out after being blown to bits in the diner, I subsumed every single inhabitant in the town and its surroundings. All their memories, their existence. They are now a part of me, within me. Forever.” She smiled sweetly at the end of the explanation. “Get it now?”
“No! You lie!” The Grandmaster scrabbled even more frantically to escape. He was now genuinely terrified. “You couldn’t have! Not all those people, without me even noticing… No...”
Suzy did not reply, but from the distance we saw something that horrified me. It was the lights of the city winking out, one by one. It was one thing to hear her say it, another to see the proof in person. The complete power she had over her dominion. The city was already dead. No one could be saved. It was too late, far too late.
“The stage was mine from the moment I made the bet.” She said to me. “You see, Cody? You never had a chance. Even if you’re inventive and smart and crazy brave, with your current power you can only ever be a bit player. And I hold the board.”
I stared at her, unable to say anything. My anger from before had evaporated, left me empty and numb. It was no use. I could not save anyone.
“And you,” continued Suzy, turning towards the pinned Grandmaster. “Trying to use your family connections as a shield? ARGUING with me? Adorable! But...” She paused, grinning and enjoying the moment. “You underestimate me far too much. But that’s part of the fun too! Put on a mask, act like a funny little loon, and it’s amazing how people can be convinced you’re harmless!” She giggled at that, looking at the Grandmaster with a mischievous grin.
But as she did so, I heard the sound of steps marching closer, softly, but in great numbers - a crowd.From the darkness surrounding us, people approached. All of them walked purposefully towards the Grandmaster, not saying a word. All of them sported the same expression, the same mischievous grin.
“You… You can’t kill me,” said the Grandmaster, openly cowering now.
“Silly creature. Don’t worry, I won’t kill you.” Her smile grew more menacing as she continued. “I’m just going to capture and keep you alive, somewhere out of sight. Your little tricks won’t affect my puppets. I’m sure I can keep you alive for, say… A few million years? Enough that even dearest mommy will have forgotten about you. She does have SO many children… And you’re not memorable enough to get any special treatment. So when she has forgotten you, and I’m absolutely sure of that, I can devour you, and all of your existence, absolutely. I can hold every part of you within me, even after the world has forgotten about you. But don’t worry, I will remember you. Forever.”
The Grandmaster (I couldn’t remember his name) froze, and then his body went limp in apparent surrender. All life vanishing from his limbs as he hung there, still pinned by the car and slowly surrounded by the Queen in Yellow’s puppets. She was smiling.
“You’re a monster...” I muttered at last, still in shock. She turned and smiled at me.
“Yet I defeated the Grandmaster, and stopped his plans.” She winked playfully, while her puppets still swarmed and grappled the Grandmaster, like a swarm of hungry ants. “Not with heroics, or even smarts. Just raw power and ruthlessness.”
“Sometimes,” she said. “What you need to defeat a monster is not a hero, but a bigger monster.”
Her smile widened into an insane grin, and all her puppets turned toward me and smiled too. All with the same insane grin, replicated a hundred times. Perfect and horrific as they copied each other endlessly.
We were now alone. The others had left, carrying the Grandmaster’s body with them. Here, surrounded by the remains of the fight, the blood stains and the broken car, we stood. Silent.
“You killed this whole town,” I muttered, despondent. “Over a stupid bet.”
“I SAVED this town,” she corrected, firm but without anger. “If I had done nothing they would have been infected by the Grandmaster as we speak.”
“Instead they’re yours now,” I said back. Couldn’t even muster any anger. Just the resigned bitterness of the utterly defeated.
“And their memories will be preserved, past the end and forever after.” She sounded proud as she said it. “I did what you asked. I saved this town, more than you ever could, with the power you have.”
I looked at the town. Even from a distance we should have been able to see it. The lights in the distance, the noise, the cars. Instead there was only darkness and silence.
“You took over this place before we even made the bet,” I said. No reproach in my voice. That would be pointless, considering who I was talking to.
“I knew how this story would end.” She shrugged. “While I can’t understand humans that well, they are still quite predictable. Or almost humans in the Grandmaster’s case.”
“So… Am I going to forget about him, once you devour his existence?” I asked.
She smiled. “You already did, Cody. The only reason you even remember all this took place is because I glued together some memories and put them here.” She tapped my forehead playfully. “You wouldn’t learn anything otherwise.”
“Learn?” I asked, almost in disbelief, clenching my hands into fists again.
She leaned in, her face inches away from mine. “So, Cody. What’s the moral of the story? What did we learn today?”
I glared back at her, and for a moment I almost spat back something defiant. Some sarcastic remark, like usual. But this time I couldn’t do it. I thought of the cult, walking to their deaths. I thought of the diner, covered in blood, and then burned to the ground. I thought of the city, growing dark.
“I am completely under your control, aren’t I?” I admitted, quietly. “I am powerless to fight that. Or to fight the end of the world.”
“Hmm. Yes,” she agreed. “For now. But… That could change.”
She offered me my hand and grinned. It was not her usual smile though, no mockery or sarcasm, instead it was soft and accepting.
“I can show you how to change that,” she said, offering me her hand, as she always did.
To accept her offer, to accept her hand, would be the same as admitting defeat. Giving up on my humanity and accepting the need to change. I still struggled, trying desperately to find another way. But what else could I do?
I raised my hand to grab hers, but a voice interrupted and startled us.
“Oh hey! So you were the one causing all this mess! I was wondering why a whole town had suddenly vanished. But ain’t this a surprise!”
The one who had spoke walked towards us nonchalantly. It was a man in his forties with an expensive suit and gelled hair that spoke serious money. He had a winning smile and eyes that betrayed no fear or insecurity. Charming, unnaturally so.
But if his appearance was alarming, it was nothing compared to Suzy’s reaction. When she saw him, her expression immediately turned into one I had never seen in her face before - one of pure fear and anger - as she shoved me behind her in a single motion, not daring to turn away from the newcomer as she bared her teeth at him.
“Greetings, sibling from the house of Aldebaran! Herald of the Yellow Sign and living requiem of Carcossa! ” said the man, unbothered by her reaction. He looked at me, then smiled at her again. “Congratulations on your new toy as well.”
“Nyarlathotep,” she growled. “You little shit.”