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Summary: Rose and Roxy have always lived in the castle.

Characters: Rose Lalonde, Roxy Lalonde, Aradia Megido, Dave Strider, John Egbert
Ships: Rose<3Roxy

Category One:
Tags Present: Incest, gore, body horror
Tags Not Used: No other Cat.1 tags apply

Category Two:
Tags Present: Trypophobia
Tags Not Used: None
No other Cat.2 tags apply.

Additional Tags (Optional): None.

Gather Up Its Harm and Gods

Build it into
Pinnacles and shrines
Of some,
Some ghastly predicament in mind
You'll find
Leaves us plastered to a bed of hairs
We'll be all coiled up near the bottom
With my chest unbared

Obedear, the sky is low
Gather up its harm and gods
with grateful arms


— Obedear, Purity Ring




Outside of your sanctuary, the world burns.

The light that slinks between blinds is sullen gold, casting washed-out tiger stripes on the dusty carpet. When you sneak your hand between the slats and press the pads of your fingers to the glass, you feel the heat radiate through it. Summer has decayed, bloated by heat; bearable days slip through in places like exposed ribs.

Venturing out into the inferno doesn't strike you as a good idea, but the fridge is empty and starving to death has never been on your agenda. Rose depends on you. Writing causes her enough stress without having to worry over how she'll survive. Survival is your job.

Most things are.

Stepping outside is like walking into a furnace; your skin prickles and contracts in the heat, and the cicadas drone in chorus as you close the door behind you. As soon as you've taken a few steps, a pervading sense of wrongness settles in between your shoulders and you slow your pace, suddenly hesitant.

This is stupid, you're being stupid, it's just another sticky summer Tuesday—

You freeze, toes half-lifted for the next step, set your foot gently down, and look up.

The sky is a greasy, mottled shade of yellow, like an old bruise.

The shadows it casts are indigo-deep. You have to dance around them because they might cut you, their edges are so fine. You stop only to play a game: in the dust you draw rings around sunbeams filtering through the canopy until you have collected and connected enough leaf-dapples. They shift around in the breeze, so it's hard. You don't know where the wind comes from— you can't feel it. Sweat pools under your breasts. You could take off your blouse, slip through the trees like a sylph, but you're coming up on the property line and you'd have to put it back on anyway. You follow the highway into town. No one is driving today. Sometimes when you are walking to town a car will whizz past you, making your skirt flutter and lap at the air, but only sometimes; really it seems to you like a causeway for ghosts, a great gray stretch of sizzling asphalt that leads nowhere you have ever seen.

Wherever you look the air is misty with interference. You come to the grocery. No one is there except for the shopkeeper behind the counter. She is standing with her back turned, looking up at a row of canisters, plastic tubs full of dusty beans.

She turns and looks at you. Her eyes gleam amber and ruby for a terrible instant. It repels you; it's like cracking open an egg and finding a chick, wrinkled and pink and curled crescent-moon in your frying pan. "What do you want?" she asks.

"A leg of lamb," you say.

"No lamb," she says.

"Nothing? Chops?"

"No lamb," she says. You turn away, embarrassed, and get the rest of your list. A young man stands by the jams and jellies. He is drawing lines on the dusty jars with his thumb, but he is squinting at you. When you catch him watching he hunches down the aisle towards the crackers. You come back to the counter; the shopkeeper is wrapping a leg of lamb.

"Thanks?" you say.

"You're our best customer, Miss Lalonde," she says.

The boy is standing behind you. He carries his jacket as a satchel, heaped with jars. "Say hi to Rose for me," he says.

You put your hands in your pocket and feel a quarter, a pebble, your old pocket watch. You think the thin gold shell on the watch is cracking so now your pocket is full of hours you can't wash out. Something else slips through your fingers. It is not one of your tokens. Ow, you think when it coils in your palm and is so cold it prickles; you pull your hand out. It looks fine. The boy looks down at you and you can see a sliver of white over the top of his glasses.

"Okay," you say.

He buys his jam and you pack your groceries. The door whines when you throw it open and you are in the street before it slams.

"Be good, Roxy," both he and the shopkeeper say.

And now— someone else, outside. Everyone is outside today, despite the heat. On your way to the town square you meet a girl on the corner near the bank, retching bitter black and bile. Her pale hair is caked with vomit, her eyes violet-violent and bloodshot.

Drunk. The back of your throat closes up at the smell of sweat and alcohol.

Rose? you want to say, but— you don't know her.



"Roxy," the figure croons. "You're not g'otfhth rath'ly-wa … afz'htr uo?"

The syllables roll off her tongue like tiny pearls. There's whiskey on her breath, rancid and laced with sea-salt tang. When she laughs her skin splits along fissures and faultlines, like the peel of an overripe fruit. Dark ichor sloughs from a cold, clammy hand you don't remember grasping your leg.

She sits back, and coughs some more.

"You have any change?"

You give her your quarter and head to the town square, where there is a tepid fountain and a tree that casts a shadow big enough to keep you cool. There are sandwiches in your bag. Rose has scored neat creases in the wax paper with the edge of her nail, and she marked the contents with her red editorial pen: HAM. NOT HAM. You choose not ham and it is cheese and ketchup, which you love but share with the pigeons anyway.

"Hello, Roxy," says someone across the square. A couple shelters under the florist's canopy. Through the shimmering heat you make out the woman's red-quartz eyes, curling horns cast in arcs of steel; a mouth with too-sharp teeth.

You ask, "Do I know you?"

"We love you," she says.

"Come on," the young man next to her murmurs. He folds his fingers around her wrist; the bones jut at odd and ugly angles, like a badly-reassembled wreckage. "You aren't getting through to her. You're wasting your time."

"What is that supposed to mean?" you say, only it comes out slurred. You don't like talking to other people.

"I don't think I'm supposed to talk about it," says the boy.

"Why the fuck is everyone weird today? Did I fucking— did I miss something?"

"Yeah, it's a holiday!" he says. His front teeth are abominably large and you want to punch them in. "Ha ha."

"Founder's Day," says the girl.

You don't care if Zazzerpan himself shit out the town. You squint at the girl, at the dark snarls of her hair and the flaking blue caked under her fingernails. "Just leave me alone," you say.

"She's right, though," says the boy, just as you're turning to leave. You drop your bag and the lamb tumbles out. "She's right," he says again and bends down, gathers your groceries.

He cradles the lamb like a baby. "Roxy," he says. "I love you so much."

"Stop," you say, and you snatch the lamb and run.

The sky is still yellow as a grasshopper's belly, save for a come-early sunset streak on the horizon. Some clouds hang over you, stationary as matte paintings. You jump from cobblestone to cobblestone pretending to be a storm. Ka-krak, ka-krak! Your soles slap the street. Hurricane Roxy will destroy it all. No more horn-haloed girls. No more men. No grim colonial gray, no more checkerboard modernity: you'll have to rebuild. Your house will disintegrate, and when you emerge from the basement you'll find muddy plaster and old siding. You and Rose can live in a sugar shack in the woods and share a narrow mattress.

On your way out of town you peer into a cafe window, looking at the empty tables and funereal black coffee urns. Maybe Rose would be happy here. You imagine her papers spread over the counter, speckled with butter-crumbs and latte-drop constellations. Yet you are the only one that will sit at the counter and drink an espresso and water, sip by sip, in silence, even in the heat-- which you've begun to doubt.

Rose never leaves home.

When you get back she's sitting on the porch, wearing her sunhat with the frayed brim. Rose waves at you. Then she holds a sheaf of paper aloft, like Rafiki.

"Twenty pages," she says. She shuffles her work into a black binder and follows you inside. "Your esteemed breadwinner wonders. How much gluten has she gleaned?"

"Jesus, Rose," you say, "I don't know the exchange rate. One Wonder-loaf per page?"

"I was hoping for multigrain." She goes in the other room, her study. You look over your shoulder but she's already shut the door; she's always treated you like one of Bluebeard's wives and barred you entry on the pretense of artistic discipline. When you were younger she used to lock it. Now, like a dog that knows to keep off the couch, you just don't enter. You've seen glimpses, and once you stood in the middle of the carpet for a full minute before you felt guilty. It's just a room, anyway. The same arched windows, the same mahogany furniture, the same silk carpets decorate the rest of the house.

You're rubbing spice into lamb when she slips her arms around you, from behind. Your hands are greasy but you put them over hers.

"I could have written more," she says. "I could."

"Twenty pages is a fuckton. I can't manage twenty words."

"You used to tell stories to me," she says.

"Those were different. Writing is your job."

"Cats in hats," she says. "Cats and hats— and lonely girls in big houses." She breathes down the nape of your neck, then kisses your ear. "Maybe it's for the best. You take care of me."

"Could you read to me tonight?"

"We'll see."

You finish making dinner by the hour's end and Rose joins you in the parlor. Jaspers and Mutie slink out from under the sofa and curl at your feet. You massage their sides, a foot on each cat. "What if," you say, "I wore cats instead of shoes?"

"Silly," Rose says.

"Then I could run everywhere on eight legs."

"There's a reason I'm the writer."

"Yeah," you say. "Yeah."

You set your plate on the floor. The cats pounce on it immediately.

Something draws Rose's eyes away from you, from the tines of her fork, so a piece of meat falls in her lap. She is looking the portrait of your mother that hangs above your mantelpiece. The woman in the picture has white hair tied back with a ribbon like Rose, and curls, like you; the woman in the picture has a flat blank face and regards you with eyes like open windows. You and Rose spent time in unremarkable foster homes after she passed, until you both attained a fairytale-miraculous inheritance. Your home waited for you to crack it open like an antique dollhouse clothed in a shroud of dust.

"I'm going outside," you say. Mutie tags behind you. You stand on the porch, on the top step, and it creaks under your feet. A crack runs perpendicular to your toes and you line them up. You're a runner waiting for the starting signal— you want to vault down the track, away from all this. Rose's advance will cover repairs but you're ashamed you hadn't noticed the rot until now. Mutie coils his tail around your ankle like a length of black silk, and he bumps affectionately against your shins.

"Today is shit," you say. Mutie meows.

The door sighs open behind you, and then Rose puts her hand in the center of your back. You lean into her. "Roxy," she says, "Roxy—"

You bolt. The dim, crowding embrace of branch and thicket welcome you; the tannin-rich, leathersmell undergrowth folds around your fingers and you burrow in the brush. Mutie finds you after a while, and you lie curled around each other. You cry, gasp against Mutie's side, so your mouth is full of fur and snot; eventually you quiet and roll over. You lay there watching trees make waving signals to each other. You wish you could understand them.

You unfocus your eyes. Twigs portion your field of vision in jagged triangles, leaves obscure it like enormous green clouds.

Above, the sky is the color of piss.



You dream: you are walking through town. Earlier you went round with boards and nails and hammered all the storefronts shut, barred who you could inside, because a storm is coming. You chase girls and boys through the street; you grab one by the horn and though she tries to dig the hooked end in your arm, you drag her to her door and throw her inside. One woman eludes you. You see her at the end of a block, you chase her around the corner, and then she is behind you instead.

You corral the last few villagers in a dead end and they mill about uselessly, like computer-generated queues in the game with the roller coasters. You could smack one and they'd all tumble down like dominos. Then you see the woman: she bobs through the crowd, looking for the way out.

"Rose!" you howl. "Rose, please! You have to go inside." Because of course it's Rose, it's always Rose. She flutters away from you every time. Your pursuit is fruitless. It's like trying to snatch dandelion clocks out of the breeze. But you finally corner her.

When she turns, her eyes are like gaping mouths.



You return home in the early morning. Rose has the light on in her study. You stand in front of the door and listen for the steady scratch of pen on paper. You put your palm on the door and it feels like the room is breathing; the door wobbles with your pulse. It whispers against the carpet when you push it open.

Rose slumps over her desk. Her hand coils around her pen, white-knuckled. A mug sits on one corner of the desk; on the opposite, an empty bottle of wine. You lean over her. On her exhale you can smell something like spoiled jam. She might never admit it, but she snores when she drinks too much. It's cute in an annoying way, or annoying in a cute way. All you have of her is this, now, standing and watching her. Except for dinner and the occasional bedtime story, Rose is always writing. She takes breaks for tea and to bandage the blisters that form when she grips her pen too tightly for hour after hour, but she's not with you.

She cares more about Complacency than she cares about you.

No.

You don't think that. You don't think that at all. Jealousy didn't bring you here. You get the heavy quilt from your room. It's patched and faded, and stuffing leaks out of a few burst seams. You can't fix it-- not even Nurse Rolal and an entire afternoon of playing Blanket Doctor with one of Rose's old sewing needles from when she had hobbies can help. Careful not to disturb her, you wrap the quilt around Rose, and you tuck in the edges so she's cocooned against all manner of boogeymen and head colds. She looks so small, swamped in her oversized chair and drowning in fabric. Moreover, she looks tired, which is odd: every book you've read says that people are supposed to look peaceful when they're sleeping, not like they've been up for three days straight. Her fingers twitch under the covers as if she's trying to write in her sleep.

You lay a hand over hers and it stills. Her hair is almost the same shade of shut-in pale as her skin, but you press a kiss to her forehead and it's soft under your lips. You'll take her with you the next time you go shopping— if you can ever convince her to pass the threshold. A change of scenery might do her some good. Staring at the inside of a huge, crumbling mansion for days on end can't be good for anyone.

She has fanned her papers out, and you run your finger over the pages. The corners make snip-snip-snipping sounds like a deck of cards. You tease a page from under her elbow and start to read.

out.
out.
out.
out.
out.
out.
out.
out.
out.


Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road, you think. Rose likes to pretend you don't understand literature, even though you were the one that wanted to major in English eventually. She thinks you think everything with Calmasis is just a story, that one thing happens after the other and that's what you call a plot, that nothing is at work beyond what's on the page. When you read her books, though, you can see the secret web of thread that holds them together and hooks serifs and segues and syllables. You know how writing works. Rose smeared the ink everywhere, and she spilled her wine. You gather the pages together, go to slip them in her binder, but then you notice the drawings: circles overlapping, circles twining, circles making circles and other shapes you can't put a name to. Same thing on each page. Spirographs, you think they're called.



The shapes seem to writhe even as you look at them, and your eyes ache if you try to stare at them for too long. The lines bend and curve with an alien geometry that makes you nauseous if you try to follow any line. You grit your teeth until your jaw aches and flip through every page of the binder. The writing you can't make out: it's hieroglyphs that look like Rose carved them out of the paper. The characters resonate in your bones, and to read them you'd have to turn your skin over inch by inch and dig understanding out of your marrow, and even in the flesh-and-fat suit of what was once your body, what the understanding would entail terrifies you. This is a language of inhuman poets and fading stars. And then you find the pictures.

You can't call Rose a great artist. You can't even call her a mediocre artist. But these pictures are a masterpiece. Rose has rendered each enormous tooth-filled maw, each cluster of eyes and knot of tentacles in her signature lavender ink. You know they're vast as planets, as tremendous as a whale must be to a minnow. They must be gods. Nothing else could ever be so perfect and so terrible. The monsters echo the movement of the spirographs; their eyes glisten, their tendrils coil in spiralling, peristaltic motion.

The binder slips through your fingers. Its pages flutter like broken wings and it hits the ground with a dull thud. Rose has been writing for as long as you can remember, and this encyclopedia of depravity is the result. You sneak a glance at her sickly complexion, the bruise-dark circles around her eyes, and this is what's been making her, and you, so— sick.

You're going to save her. She'll thank you for it, you're sure of that.

You find oil in the kitchen and matches by the stove. Shadow pools in corners and seeps under doors like a sticky black film. You stop for a mouthful of whatever bottle you can fumble out of the liquor cabinet in the gloom. It's harsh. Probably one of your cheaper whiskeys. Your eyes water and the liquor prickles in your throat. Rose doesn't belong to any space demon or dead god. You dash back to the study, and you nearly trip over a loose floorboard. The whole damn house is falling apart. Maybe when Rose is better, you can fix it up together. And have picnics. And go into town to see the fairs.

You douse the binder in oil and it's for the image of Rose laughing as she wades in the town square's fountain, joyous and radiant, that you light the match. No more blistered, bleeding fingers; no more sniping, snapping at each other; no more nights in the woods, with only a cat to care for you. For the first time in what feels like far too long, you smile.

You take a book from the shelf and hold it open, out, like you're reading to a child. The fire licks the pages and moves upwards, and you drop it. Rose stirs and murmurs. "Hey," you say. The fire is licking the corner of her quilt. "Hey!"

You shuck the blanket from her, shake her shoulders. Fire licks your heels. It climbs the walls and curtains and you're surprised because it billows; it stills, and breathes in, and on its breath out it expands and swallows even more of the room.

"Oh my God," says Rose, "oh my God--"

She grabs what she can from her desk. You yank her away, but she shoves you back and lunges for the binder— which is now puddled plastic, warped metal, ashen pages. You fall back onto the quilt and scream. Flame curls around you like loving fingers, stroking your throat and thighs. It tugs at your clothing; fine, you decide, I'll burn. It doesn't matter. But then Rose grabs the front of your shirt and drags you into the hallway. The yellow light that pours in through the windows diffuses in the smoke, and all you see is billowing clouds the color of tobacco stains. Cool air smacks your skin. Rose clings to you. Unthinkably, she begins to shiver.

"It has no right," she says. "It has no fucking right."

"Yeah?" you croak. "Well, it's your fault."

She digs her nails into your shoulder. "Did you do this?"

"Rosie," you say, "not now—"

You hear the patter of feet on deadfall and someone emerges from the woods. It's the boy from the grocery. His glasses reflect the flame so it looks like he is an animal caught in someone's headlights, eyes flashing red and yellow. "Hey, Rose," he says.

The shopkeeper stands on your porch. She runs her hands over the windowsill.

"Oh, my God," you say. "The fuck did you come from! Get down from there!"

"I heard there was a fire," says someone, and you're not sure who it is because suddenly there are hundreds of them: metal girls, suit-clad boys, horned and pale and dark and dead alike. They surround you. "Fire. Fire. Fire." The word sweeps around the clearing. The wall of sound rises and grows, first like a gentle wave and then like a tremendous echo; as far as you can see there are people, and you have never imagined the town held so many. You cling to Rose. Rose clings to you.

"Seer," the crowd says. The sound tears out of their throats but their mouths don't move. "Your duties."

Rose tightens her grip around the burnt binder in her hand. You feel her knuckles tense. Together you look up and see the crack splitting the sky. It ripples crookedly through cloud and stratosphere, from horizon to horizon. Black, hairy tendrils force their way through. Little cilia lick their skyplatter, tonguing their way into your world.

"What were you even writing?" You cough once and spit a gobbet of blackened phlegm into the grass.

Rose runs her tongue over her lips, seemingly apprehensive. "A grimoire. One intended for the summoning of the Noble Circle to an untouched plane."

"What does that mean?" you say.

"Something new. Something is hurting them. They wanted out."

Out. Out. Out. Now the crowd is chanting it.

She hesitates a moment before continuing. "A new universe, not just a scratch, something unthought of— I would be their god. I told them an idyllic setting would let me write faster than if I were to do it under duress." As you gape at her, mouth hanging open in sheer fucking incredulity, how does she speak the way she speaks, do the things she does?-- she adds, "I made a bargain for all of this. I needed to write it. In their customary inscrutable fashion, they didn't inform me as to why."

"So you pulled a Faust for-- for a Shirley Jackson wet dream?"

"Dreambubble, Roxy. You don't understand," Rose says at last. You hate the way she talks to you sometimes, her words so plain and complicated— naked, almost. Like you're a child, and you really don't understand— but you do. "I did it so that I wouldn't be scribbling away in the Furthest Ring while they dangled you before me like bait on a hook."

She slumps a little, shoulders sagging under the weight of fatigue and reluctant revelation.

"I did it for us," she croaks, smoke-hoarse and defeated, "I did it for you."



"No," you snap. Your voice sounds high and tight in your own ears, like violin strings wound far too taut. "You don't get what a fucking mess this whole place is!"

The whole world makes you nauseous; the sky is yellow and purple and black and the air is still and cloying. "This isn't any way to live," you say, softer now. "This isn't a way for us to live."

You're prepared for resistance when you bolt in, low and grasping, to wrench the manuscript from her sooty fingers. You're prepared for the hiss, the hand which closes around your wrist, feather-light and imploring. What you aren't ready for is Rose digging her nails into your skin, pressing crescent-moon weals into your palm as she squeezes. You can almost feel the bones grinding together, a visceral, screaming protest in your arm. It's almost enough to make you want to drop it, to just let her take the damn thing and continue doing whatever the fuck she thinks she's doing— but that is not an option now, not with the crack in the sky, not with your Rosie screaming as she claws at you, cursing your name.

"No more lies," you tell her. "No more."

"I did it for you, I did it for you, don't you understand?" Rose is saying, over and over, turning the words around in her mouth. "Why won't you understand? Wouldn't you rather live a— a fallacy, a lie, a life in peace—"

She's testing you, and you know it. You know her mind games because you've grown accustomed to facing them, to testing your mettle against her. Only the game was never this serious before— everything seems petty in hindsight— your attempts to coax her out of the house, to get her to tell you stories again, to wheedling her into revealing top-secret spoiler details on the next installment of Complacency.

You know her game because somewhere at the back of your mind, you remember you've played it before— sometimes you're so smart and so successful living in your sleek, elegant house, filling the halls with wizard statues and gold-plated vacuum cleaners. Other times Rose is the one purchasing bottle after bottle of liquor and stocking the house with them, tempting you with acrid-sweet ambrosia, leaving a glittering shotglass trail through the corridors.

"Fallacy. Not real. A fake," you say. "That's the word, isn't it."

You want to laugh. You want to cry. You want to scream until there's nothing left in you, until you're picked apart seam by seam and all your stuffing falls out.

"I didn't want to lose you again," Rose says. Her eyes flick guiltily to the skies, the smoke, the ruin of your life together. "I'm so sorry," she says. You wish you could accuse her of insincerity. You wish you could say you're sorry, too.

"I'm not."

She gazes at you so shocked and so hurt and it pierces you. You could relent— maybe it's not so bad to live in a sugarbowl world, where the barrier that separates you and the monsters is a thin film of glass and dreams.

"Don't be selfish," she says. "It was all for you. Only for you. I just wanted you to be happy."

"A mother will do whatever is best for her children," you both say, and she smiles thinly. She rubs circles on your wrist with her thumb. She rests her fingers over your pulse and presses gently and kisses the skin. Her lips are cold as death.

"That's right," Rose says, and laces your fingers together. "It shouldn't be hard to rebuild. We saved everything important, and what isn't we can salvage."

"Everything important?" you echo. Warped plastic and charred parchment flakes under your fingertips.

You wonder where you place on her list of Important Things To Save In A Fire.

She screams when you tear the sheaf from her hands and run, run like hellhounds are on your trail. The crowd of townspeople surges forward and they crash against the side of the house in an uncoordinated wave. and Rose keens and your world falls apart.

The crowd lapping at your house cracks open and the drunk woman staggers toward you— the woman from your dream, Rose with dark and fang-lined pools for eyes. She opens her jaw, actually hooks her fingers over the mandible and pulls herself open. She speaks. It's low and discordant, squirming through your temples.

LEAVE HER LE A VE H ERLE A VE HE R

The ground splits in fissures underfoot. Dark, undulating limbs peel themselves from the strata and grab at you. You imagine their clammy coldness against your skin, winding around your ankles. You imagine your bones snapping like brittle twigs, crushed like china. Somebody shrieks, "No!" and you wonder whether it was you or Rose.

Brine and ozone tang the air. The townspeople flicker uneasily and the flames around your house shudder, outlines appearing and vanishing. You close your eyes but it's no good— all you can see are afterimages of leaping fire. When you open them again, the gash in the sky has widened; it grows and warps, like an open wound. Something stirs beyond, black even against the sliver of distant galaxies visible through the cracks.

"I'm sorry," you say, and hurl the binder into the bowels of your burning home.

At first, there's nothing— no proof that you accomplished anything, no sign that you have succeeded in destroying the darkest and most dire of black majjyks.

Then, the wailing begins.

Their voices are distorted, as though they're coming from a great distance— or you're listening to a dirge from the deepest trenches of the ocean, as deep-sea scavengers lathe your bones clean.

The smoke creeps towards the sky, squirming and coiling like sucker-lined tentacles. The flames crawl upwards, desperate and grasping; they move viscously through the air. Something massive and indistinct hovers over the smoke, many-eyed and jag-jawed.

"What have you done?" Rose says. You see Rose borne aloft, Rose apotheosized on a throne of cephalopod-limbs and too-many claws. Her head lolls and you see her eyes go flat and blank, washed-out violet. A horrorterror caresses her cheek, splays loving tendrils over her breasts and thighs.

"What have you done?"

The horrorterror faces you. With it, Rose sways and raises an accusatory finger. Milky-seawater and bruised-orchid, myriad eyes pierce you like Saint Sebastian's arrows.

"YAB'SHAH GVRA FRQAH-NTHVRN?"

"I did it for us," you say, as though they are the magic words which will set everything right again, as though she can hear you. "I did it for you."

You stare into the sky and think the end of the world ought to sound louder. Silence shrouds the cicadas, the terrors, the townsfolk. The quiet is more terrifying than any shriek; your throat is too tight for the tiniest whimper, anyway. The gash in the sky widens, the edges crumbling like a diseased scab. Cracks web across the heavens. Through the holes you can make out some gargantuan form slithering through the darkness.

As one, the townspeople fix their gaze on the void. Some twist their heads too far, the vertebrae in their necks bulging obscenely as they stare impassively up. They're a mob of identical, glassy-eyed dolls. Even the ones closest to the fire don't twitch when their clothes smolder and catch alight. In the air there's that moment of weightlessness at the start of a fall, just before gravity yanks you down to break and bleed against the ground. Just as you start to wonder what they're waiting on, it becomes horribly apparent.

A dozen massive tentacles reach through the hole in the sky, curling around its edges with a nauseating grace. Their size is unbelievable. You wouldn't be an ant to this monster; you'd be a germ. You'd be nothing at all. The tentacles pause. Then, with a shriek like shearing steel, they rip the sky apart. Beyond the sickly blue there's nothing but a star-spotted void, painful in its enormity. Your hands clench your skirt. The fear you'll fall up into the unending blackness and drift consumes you. You can discern vague shapes swimming in the darkness between stars. The sight fills you with dread, dredges up an ancestral memory from beneath the prefrontal cortex, nestles right against your lizard brain.

You rub your eyes with the back of one hand. You didn't blink the entire time you stared at the sky. For a moment, you don't open your eyes. Maybe if you concentrate hard enough, Rose and you can laugh about this as soon as you wake up. Actually, Rose'll be the only one laughing-- you're going to do your best impression of a hysterical Victorian lady. That's okay. None of this will have been real. Rose can run her fingers through your hair and hold you.

The noises increase in volume: cracking, groaning, and dull squelching like they're trying to debone a chicken. Finally, fear loses to morbid curiosity: you open your eyes. Rose huddles on the ground, clutching the charred remains of her manuscript to her chest. Like warpaint, ash streaks her face. You reach out and grab her shoulder, fingers digging in. You hook your thumb under her collarbone.

Gibbering, tentacled shapes tear out of the townspeople, crawl from the mouths of your old friends. The second the monsters are free of flesh, their hosts collapse like hamstrung marionettes.

"We still love you. We'll always love you," whisper the dead and the horrors alike. They sink in the ground like water through dusty soil.

You pull Rose close and hold her there.

A flashing star, an epileptic's nightmare, streaks across the sky. The cracks of the universe shiver.

You fall to your knees and bury your face in Rose's hair. Your spine twists, you're being torn, wrenched and ripped and shredded a thousandfold.



Outside of your sanctuary, the world burns.

The light that slinks between blinds is sullen gold, casting washed-out tiger stripes on the dusty carpet. When you sneak your hand between the slats and press the pads of your fingers to the glass, you feel the heat radiate through it. Summer has decayed, bloated by heat; bearable days slip through in places like exposed ribs.

But that doesn't bother you too much. It certainly doesn't bother Rose, holed up in her study and scribbling away like usual. Sometimes you wish you knew what she was working on, but that's not important.

You have her, and she has you.

You're happy this way.

That's all that matters.

Date: 2012-08-21 10:55 am (UTC)
watchfob: this is dave he is in the snow and also wearing a scarf (Default)
From: [personal profile] watchfob
oh my god. oh my god.

oh my god.

I have coherent thoughts. I do. Let me just... let me just get them. Okay.

I have been consistently awed by the stuff this team has produced throughout this competition. I've never actually read a Rose<3Roxy fic before being exposed to your works; you've spoiled me. Absolutely amazing. This piece is no different. The imagery is beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous. And creepy in just the perfect way, but creepy isn't the best word to describe it. Just. Wonderfully horrific.

And that ending. That ending.

10/10, amazing, amazing, amazing. Standing ovation.

Date: 2012-08-22 02:23 pm (UTC)
rev_marsh: a view of a sunset in a sort of dytopian city, high up in the skyscrapers, sort of isometric view (dave's house)
From: [personal profile] rev_marsh
And *that* is the direction of 'aberrancy' I adore. So atmospheric and psychological and wrong in the most lovely ways.

Date: 2012-08-23 01:16 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ferrrox
really really really really really really good!

Date: 2012-08-23 04:05 am (UTC)
lionpyh: A glass liquor bottle with a panther shape molded into the glass. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lionpyh
I have had this tab open for about a week, and every time I start typing into the comment box I am just like WHERE TO BEGIN and minimize it again. But, uh, wow. The art, which is unfairly beautiful. The different kinds of uneasy heat playing through this. The terrible uncertainties. This is so good.

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HSO 2012 Collab Round Sector 3

August 2012

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