Jessica demanded I let her out twice this week on account of it being Hallowe’en, darlings… She didn’t want to keep her readers in too much suspense after the cliffhanger of the last chapter of this serial. If you haven’t been reading the Tales from Bayou Bonhomme, you should/can start HERE, or jump on HERE (this one has a synopsis at the beginning).
Last time, Oscar Blanchette, the Chief of police, had awakened from sleepwalking to find himself wading out into the bayou. While he was there, he saw Leroy coming back from out in the bayou, only to crash his boat into the shore. When Oscar pulled the other man out of the mud, his eyes were all bloody and his hair had turned completely white. He was crying incoherently about something he had seen, and when pressed, his only answer was that he saw everything.
Now, here’s Leroy’s tale:
Leroy held the tiller of his little outboard motor tight enough to make his knuckles go white. He had been sleeping, having a dream about the bayou, and strange voices, and humming. He thought he’d heard someone call his name, and when he turned his head to see who it was, he suddenly woke from his dream to find himself in his boat, in the middle of the bayou, staring up at the moon and whispering words in a language he couldn’t understand.
I’m still dreaming, Leroy thought. Dreaming and speaking gibberish.
But still, he gripped the tiller tighter than ever, feeling the vibration move through his fingers and up his arm. He held the other hand over his mouth, which was still involuntarily speaking words he didn’t know, and bit down hard.
“Ow!” He yelped. “Sonofabitch!”
Leroy knew he was awake, and the familiar throbbing behind his eyes and the ache in his teeth told him all he needed to know about where he was. But Chuck had never hi-jacked him like this before. Sure, he’d heard Chuck calling him every so often — through strange dreams that had an almost musical quality — but he’d always gone of his own free will before. Or, at least, he was pretty sure.
“Chuck?” Leroy called cautiously, and didn’t have to wait very long for a reply at all. The water all around him started to bubble and churn angrily, and without warning Leroy found himself face to horrible face with the thing that called itself C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh, a mass of eyes and tentacles surrounding a foul smelling pink maw that Leroy supposed was the thing’s mouth. He opened his own mouth to scream, and it was abruptly filled with something thick, wet and alive, and a single word filled his mind; his entire consciousness: EAT.
The suggestion was so powerful that Leroy felt his teeth closing around the pulsing mass of their own volition, and when he tried to spit it out, grabbing on to the tentacle with both hands and trying to tear it out, it only pushed itself further down his throat, threatening to choke him. Stubbornly, he refused to bite down, even though he couldn’t breath, and his vision was getting fuzzy from lack of oxygen.
Suddenly C’thuN’chuk released him and gurgled something like laughter.
“Do you imagine that we are friends, L’Roy?” the thing asked, as Leroy lay in his boat, panting and gasping for air.
“No,” Leroy finally said, his voice a hoarse whisper. “I don’t know what we are, Chuck, but friends? No sir.”
Chuck said something in the same strange language that Leroy himself had been speaking. It was, incidentally, the same language that old Mrs. Hereford had spoken earlier that morning. She called it the tongue of The Faithful, and thought that it dated back to the days of the first peoples who came to Bayou Bonhomme — before the first white men, that is. The legend that she knew was that it was a human language — a sacred language — created to worship the great beast C’thuN’chuk, the Good Man of the Bayou. But the truth was the language was much, much older than that. The tongue of C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh was heard in the universe long before the first fish grew lungs and legs and crawled out of the depths of the sea into the harsh, cold world of air and sunlight. Now it was only spoken and understood by C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh itself, and it was sometimes heard in the dreams of those under its influence. Some remembered a few words upon waking, like snatches of a song heard once but impossible to completely recall.
“Do you suppose you know what I am?” Chuck asked in the same watery voice.
Before Leroy could even hazard a guess, he was gripped tight by a dozen rubbery tentacles and pulled out of his boat into the embrace of the ancient horror he called Chuck. Again his mouth was filled, and this time he couldn’t stop himself. He bit down and his mouth filled with sick, treacle-like sweetness; a black ichor that was at once repulsive and delicious. Leroy clamped his mouth down tightly around Chuck’s flesh, and abruptly lost his mind.
“Come, see!” C’thuN’chuk demanded.
And Leroy saw.
Oscar sat in Leroy’s shack drinking his third cup of chicory coffee, even though he hated the stuff.
The man across from him had appeared to have aged ten years since he’d first dragged him out of the mud, writhing and incoherent, simply repeating that he’d seen everything, which was maddeningly vague and not at all helpful.
“You remember anyting else, Leroy?” The Chief asked, sitting across from the man, elbows on his knees. Hunkering down as if they were a couple of guys trading tales about the women they’d been with, rather than some horrible experience that Leroy hadn’t been able to rightly describe, nor the Chief to be able to make any sense of.
“They were everywhere, Oscar,” Leroy said, “and they were horrible…”
At first everything was black, and Leroy thought he was being smothered, but then small pinpricks of light started to shine through, and before long, Leroy realized that he was staring at stars — but not the stars as seen from his momma’s backyard — no, he was in the stars; out among the stars. Then suddenly he was falling, falling, so fast and hard that he thought for sure his neck was just going to snap right off and go trailing behind him as he waved goodbye to it and kept on falling, but it didn’t happen, and when he crashed, he didn’t die; didn’t even feel any pain, though he heard a terrible sound as if something was crying in pain. All around him misshapen masses were falling from the sky to the earth, pummeling the ground and filling the sky with dust. Each impact was like a little earthquake, and when the last shape fell to earth, Leroy looked around and saw grotesque shapes rising in the darkness, raising misshapen, tentacle-like appendages to the sky and howling in unearthly voices at a bright red fissure in the dark sky above them, pulsing and throbbing like a wound; as if the sky itself had been torn open. The sound was at once angry and desperate, and Leroy found himself both afraid and a little sad.
“We were cast out,” a voice said, and Leroy could not determine if it was his own voice, or that of the thing that lived in the bayou.
Leroy’s vision went black again, and when it cleared, it was suddenly several thousand years later, though how he knew that he couldn’t say. Everything was covered in that same black ichor that had filled his mouth, and the scene of carnage was like nothing ever conceived of, even in the darkest nightmares of the most twisted men to ever walk the planet. The psychic residue left behind by the destruction and deaths that Leroy was witnessing has occasionally made its way into the imaginations of artists or writers, who wrote down what they dreamed believing that they were creating something horrible in order to stave off the madness, but were, in fact, sharing in the memories of the extinction of a race of creatures that were so invasive, so horribly insatiable in their hunger that they could not coexist peacefully with any other beings. Some dreamers who caught glimpses of the rampant cannibalism that Leroy was being shown woke up gibbering and crying in the dark, unable to escape the nightmare vision of a thousand rotting, severed limbs strewn across a field, a mad portrait of desperate gluttony run amok. Leroy saw this through the thousand eyes of C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh, and somehow knew that he was the last — that he had outlasted all his brothers/sisters and was now a predator with no prey. And C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh raised its head once more to the sky and screamed.
For ten thousand years, C’thuN’chuk screamed and grew hungrier. Finally, weak and fearing death, C’thuN’chuk crawled deep into the mud and slept.
When C’thuN’chuk awoke, there were stirrings in the water — other creatures that were strange to the ancient thing — and C’thuN’chuk tried to reach out to the scaled beasts with its mind, but got nothing in return. Their minds were simple and dead, and talking to them was like screaming into an abyss but hearing no echo.
They were stupid, but they were tasty, and they kept C’thuN’chuk alive for the next few thousand years, until, almost by accident, C’thuN’chukyygl’eh-R’yleh became a god.
Oscar shivered, despite the fact that his hands were wrapped around a hot mug of chicory coffee. As Leroy spoke, Oscar remembered dreams he’d long forgotten. Fields of writhing, blackened flesh; oceans of black blood.
How could I have forgotten those things, he thought to himself, and then amended, Why would I want to?
“What then?” Oscar prodded greedily, not wanting to hear more, but somehow needing to.
Leroy shook his head. “No more,” he begged. “Not tonight. Let me rest. It’s getting all jumbled up in my ‘ead, Chief. I’ll tell it all again tomorrow, and maybe you ought to better have a notebook or sometin’ to write it all down wit'”
Oscar remembered the box sitting under his bed, and suddenly wondered how safe it was; how safe he was for having it.
“Sure,” Oscar agreed, but his mind was, well, not quite miles away, but rather, across town where his wife lay sleeping, with what might very well be a landmine sitting right under her.
“Leroy?” Oscar said, turning back to the frightened man, who had fallen asleep sitting up in his chair. The Chief took a blanket from off of the man’s ratty couch and draped it over him. The sun would be coming up soon, but Oscar imagined that Leroy would be out for a few hours anyway.
He wouldn’t be going back to bed, though. Part of him was scared to go sleep; of what dreams might come, and where they might take him. But he wouldn’t be going back to bed, anyway. He had to go home and get out of his soaked boxers and t-shirt and into some warm, dry, clean clothes. Something presentable; something that would get him taken seriously. He had a box to retrieve and a social call to make on a certain writer. Mel had told him that Amie LeBeau was in trouble, and he’d promised to make sure nothing happened to her.
If Oscar had only known that she was already dead; that she was, in fact, being killed right around the time that he was fishing Leroy out of the mud, he might have indulged in a couple more hours of sleep. Amie LeBeau, being dead already, wouldn’t have begrudged the man a couple of hours of much needed and well deserved rest.