“Now, is that any way to treat your sibling?” The man in a suit walked nonchalantly towards us, despite how aggressive and scared Suzy was acting. “Hastur, I swear your seem closer to your food than to your own family!” He looked at me when he said it.
“Hey, Nyarly. How ya doing?” Suzy growled at the man. “Still showing up to satanist gatherings and pretending to be the devil?”
The man chuckled in response to that, but ignored her and looked at me for the second time, flashing a smile reminiscent of a magazine model or perhaps a hungry wolf. “She treating you right, kid? Five star treatment? Would you give it a good review?”
Suzy turned to me immediately. “Whatever happens don’t talk to him!”
And those were the last words she spoke before freezing in place. Not only that, but suddenly all noise and motion around me stopped. The rustling of leaves on the wind, all the tiny ambient noises from insects and distant cars; you never noticed their presence until they were gone. The silence was so thick it almost had its own presence, threatening to suffocate me. I drew a deep breath, spooked, and noticed the only other thing that was still moving.
“That’s much better, isn’t it?” Said the man, Nyara-something, still holding the same smile. “Now we can talk without her getting in the way.”
I looked again at Suzy, disbelief and terror mounting as I realized she was the same as all the others, frozen in place and utterly still.
“Suzy?” I whispered at her. “Umm, King in Yellow? Hello?”
The man in a suit stopped approaching and made a face. “Suzy? That’s a dumb name.”
My eyes darted at the man, and then back at Suzy. She had told me not to talk to him… The King in Yellow, an eldritch abomination that had devoured an entire city and walked the stars, never shedding that mocking smile, was scared shitless of that man. She specifically said to not talk with him. But she wasn’t coming to my rescue now, and the man smiled at me, his eyes bright and friendly, yet unblinking. He was staring at me. I hesitated…
“Go fuck yourself,” I said to him.
“That’s not very nice,” he said softly, in the same tone someone would use when complaining that their dog had peed on the floor. Annoyance but no true anger in his voice. It was worse than anger, with its patronizing tone.
“What did you do to her?” I asked, taking a step back and narrowing my eyes.
“Do to her?” He chuckled again at my comment. “I did it to us, rather. We are stopped in time, hidden in the cracks between moments, safe for now. Hastur’s powers don’t reach time manipulation so we can finally have some privacy.” He smiled at the end of that sentence, as if proud of his accomplishment.
“And you can do that?” I asked.
He chuckled again. “Me? Nah, that’s Yog-Sothoth! He is the master of time and space. I only asked him for a favor as a simple intermediary.” He smiled and raised his hands, palms outward in a show of his innocence. “This is my specialty! I connect certain elder beings from beyond the stars and the lower life forms that need their services. Honestly? I’m only a service provider, nothing more!”
“Right...” I spoke, sarcasm dripping from my voice. I had spent enough time with Suzy to know better than to fall for the ‘I’m so harmless’ act.
He lowered his hands and took another step towards me. “Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot. I know it might be hard to believe, after what you’ve been through, but I’m actually here to help you.”
“You’re right. That is hard to believe,” I replied, deadpan, while taking a step back. Useless. I couldn’t outrun or overpower him. Suzy could not help me here.
The man sighed, not dropping his charming smile or twinkling eyes. He then turned his back to me and put his hands together in the middle of the air. He pulled his hands apart, as if pulling away two curtains, and reality tore at his hands, creating a vertical slit where the air shimmered and twisted in ways that made my eyes water. It resembled a portal of some kind, a bit taller than a person. He turned back towards me and smiled.
“How about you follow me to another place and we can have a nice, long conversation?” He gestured towards the portal. “I promise not to hurt you, all I want to do is talk. And I have things to show you.”
“Fuck you,” I repeated. “Suzy’s one bit of advice was not to talk to you. Now you invite me to your place for drinks? Yeah, no thanks. If you’re gonna do something to me, then do it! Otherwise, fuck off!”
He tilted his head, looking puzzled. “That’s an awful lot of loyalty you’re showing to… Suzy.” He made another face when speaking the name. “So, what has the old girl done to earn your respect? Has she always been honest and clear with you? Has she treated you kindly and fairly? Has she made you happy?”
I narrowed my eyes at the man. “And what? You’ll make me happy? No strings attached?”
He chuckled at that. “Well, I do plan on getting one, very important thing at the end of this deal… An incredibly precious, and priceless, boon!” He paused, for dramatic effect, then laughed out loud. “I get to tease my sibling!”
He smiled even more at that, as if only thinking about it cheered him up. He was practically beaming now.
“What?” I asked, confused.
He shrugged. “What can I say? I’m kind of a petty asshole. The thought of messing with my sister’s playthings amuses me. Which is where you come in!” He jumped at that and advanced at me while talking excitedly. “You hate being in Hastur’s power, so you want to stop being her plaything. And I want to prank my little sibling. So if I help you it’s a win-win for both of us!”
Surprised, I blinked as my mind processed what he said, and its implications. If there was a way I could be freed, any way at all, could I afford not to take that chance?
But Suzy’s words stayed with me. Her desperate tone. ‘Whatever happens, don’t talk to him!’ Why? Was it because she was afraid I would be tricked? Or afraid that I would break free from her chains?
“How do I know I can trust you?” I asked.
He seemed amused rather than offended by my question.
“You can’t, friend. A silly thing to ask in the first place. The imbalance of power between us is too large, even for a minor entity like myself.” He sighed. “But, if I wanted to hurt you I could have already done it. So tell me why am I still asking you nicely?”
I hesitated, still suspicious of him. He was too good with words, too convincing. He seemed honest, friendly and concerned about me. I hated him.
The man looked at me, studying my expression, and something in what he saw made him frown. “Look, I don’t want to force the issue,” he said at last. “If you’re not game, I’ll just pack up and leave. You can come with me, if you want to take that leap of faith. But if not, then you will never hear from me again, I promise.”
He turned his back to me and walked toward the portal with measured steps. Soon he was in front of it, ready to leave.
He stopped, a step away from the portal, and turned back to look at me.
I took a deep breath, steeling myself and hoping I would not regret my decision. “I want to hear what you have to say. No promises! But… I will hear you out, at least.”
He smiled back at me. “That’s all I wanted,” he said, stepping aside and inviting me with a gesture. Beside him, the portal shimmered in eerie distortion.
At that moment an odd sound cut through the silent landscape, a high-pitched whine that I had never heard from any creature or machine. It set my teeth on edge, yet there was something familiar with that noise, despite how strange it was. Suddenly afraid again, I took a few steps back and looked around frantically.
Another portal was forming close to where we both stood, beside the frozen figure of Suzy. It writhed in space, slowly stretching into its torn shape as wide as the other portal. And from the new gate, came a creature of nightmares.
It was a human, or had been once, but its clothes were torn to grimy rags covering its starved chest and bony arms and legs. But instead of a head, the creature had a mass of wriggling tentacles at least twice as long as the rest of its human body. They twisted and stretched impossibly far, glowing with a soft, blue light that was sickening to watch, like the roots of some demented, alien tree, stretching skyward. It should have been impossible for such a weak body to support the weight of all those terrifying tentacles sprouting from its neck, yet the creature had no trouble moving as it marched towards us. The high-pitched keening it produced got even worse.
Unbidden, memories and thoughts invaded my mind, something else was in my thoughts, aside from me. I felt a sense of kinship, and fear. Something dreadful was about to happen. I felt the beckoning of the creature, calling from beyond the stars. I was in danger, I had to run, I had to…
“Well, that’s rude,” mouthed the man in the suit, making a disgusted expression. He leapt close to the tentacled creature in a single bound and wrapped one hand around its neck. It struggled to break free, but the monster was too weak before the man in the suit.
With a sickening lurch the keening increased in intensity and I grit my teeth as my ears hurt from the maddening whine made by the monster. Worse my thoughts were again invaded by one thing only: pain. Horrible agony that had me clutching my head and sinking to the floor, unable to do anything except cry and beg for it to stop. Beg for anything to release me, anything to stop the pain, in my agony, I would even have accepted death to make that unimaginable pain go -
There was a wet sound, and the pain stopped. First I whimpered on the ground, with my eyes closed, not daring to hope it was finally gone. Then slowly I opened my eyes. My eyes were still dizzy and my head hurt from the aftermath of the attack, but I managed to gingerly sit up and open my eyes.
In front of the man in a suit was the remains of the monster. It had been squeezed and crushed at its neck, where all the tentacles sprung from, and it now lay on the ground, limp and bleeding a mixture of dull red and a sickly blue fluid that glowed. Both liquids bled from the corpse and they did not mix, like water and oil, creating strange patterns around the corpse.
I dry heaved, but nothing came out. “What - What the fuck was that?” I gasped at last.
“Eh, it was you,” answered the man. “Or rather, another version of you, I guess.” He peered at the portal from which the other creature came from and the portal vanished, winking out into thin air like a television screen that had been switched off.
I glared at the man, ready for him to make a joke or laugh but he looked back at me dead serious. My heart hammering in my chest, I approached the corpse of the creature.
From the neck below it was the body of a human, although an extremely skinny and dirty one. The skin hung loosely over the skeleton with barely any flesh between the two and the skin was covered in dirt, sores and worse.
But that was not the worst. Once I knew what to look for, it was obvious. Plain as day. The clothes, I recognized as mine. A comfortable coat I bought at a thrift store, a few years ago. The kind of shoes I favored. There was also the birthmark I had on my leg. The creature’s trousers were torn, and the birthmark was there. Fucking hell, he was saying the truth. That body belonged to me.
“What the hell did you do?” I asked him, crawling away from the body. It was even more sickening now, in its familiarity.
“Woah, woah!” He raised his hands in alarm. “Me? Sorry man, but that was the handiwork of your friend there, not me!” He pointed at Suzy, still frozen in the same pose.
“What?” I looked at Suzy, then back at the strange corpse. “No… Why would she…?”
Nyarlathotep sighed. “Look, kid. I don’t have the time for you to go ‘what? What’s this? What’s that?’ at everything I say. As you can see, we still aren’t completely safe here, and I will give explanations only at my place. You can come with me and get all your answers or you can stay. I leave it up to you. But the time for chitchat's over.”
And with that he walked back to his portal, which still shimmered in place, and stood beside it. He gave me another glance, tilting his head to the side. Waiting for my answer.
I looked at the creature again. It was me. It was a monster with a tree of tentacles for a head, and somehow it was me. I felt wronged, violated, like there was something wrong deep inside me somehow, despite the face the corpse in front of me was not my own.
This was wrong. Something was terribly wrong.
Suzy had warned me to not talk to the man. Clearly I had already violated that rule.
Well, now there was no going back. I might as well face whatever came next with some dignity. Steeling my guts, I walked past the sickening corpse and approached the man and the portal. He smiled.
“After you.” He bowed, gesturing at the portal. I hesitated once more, feeling uncertain, unsure of everything. I was more confused than ever before.
Well, what did I have to lose?
Those were my last thoughts as I stepped into the portal.