The Centre of the Iris

The sun went down to the east of Huntsville in the US north with seemingly peaceful fields and woods all around it hiding groves and glades with rivers and swarms of tiny insects in the summer breeze. Awfully bad stories were on shelves in a café, which was on the only road into and out of the town. Old men sat alone on porches sipping fine whiskey and swore they could hear terrible things at the edge of perception. The next morning a new disappearance would be reported to Bill Blood the town sheriff. He would ask the distraught relatives into his office and patiently take down details. The details were always very similar and had been for nearly two weeks now. The victim’s bedroom windows would have been scorched away in a perfect circle just big enough for a man to somehow squeeze through and around the edges of this terrible circle would be black scorch marks. Some would say, from photos in the paper, that the scorch marks pointed in twelve directions. On the missing person’s ceiling would be a crop circle like pattern of black circles in miserable designs. The paint was found to be in fact oil, the oil of prehistoric creatures long since vanished from the world.

The bodies would be found later nailed to trees just outside town, always with dead or dying and tortured animals scattered around. Another thing was that the victim’s eyes were always found to be missing the black pupil at their centre. It was as if they had focussed themselves out of existence.

*

Tony Greggs was a young reporter who lived in Capital City, fifty miles from Huntsville. He worked for the local newspaper and had a reputation for simpleton use of the English language. He had just got back from holiday on a Caribbean island where his grandad had bought a run down apartment that was part of a mostly vacant block. Never the less it overlooked a deserted, golden sanded beach with purple flowers all around and palm trees in abundance with fresh and delicious coconuts that he traded with superstitious locals. It was on this holiday that Tony had gone off exploring and an event of some strangeness had occurred. He had gone off exploring the surrounding hills that could rightfully be described as jungle. He had gone looking for tarantulas and lizards. He had crept up on a spider that was as big as a dinner plate. It had not seemed to have noticed Tony and he reached out to poke it with his finger but the creature had sprang up, the sun shining horrifically off multiple eyes that seemed for an instant to see more than any man, and Tony fled terrified and insane, laughing. Getting pleasingly lost he had come across a pool of rotting water and he had appreciated the rush of adrenaline in his blood. The pool of water probably contained leaches and disease and was like a (strangely circular) black mirror. He edged towards it and could hear monkeys and many creatures making piecing noises of utter insanity on the verge of calm yet panicking frenzy, in the still, stifling atmosphere. His smile froze on his face as a ripple of water spread out unexplained from the centre of the pool. At a certain point and only for a split second, the pool seemed to be an eye staring diabolically at him as if he himself was the pool and the eye in the pool was his own. He then watched as the ripple quickly faded and until the pool was once again motionless. He had backed slowly away in confusion where misery lurked then and tripped over a vine, falling without grace in a heap as he remembered for the first time in two decades an event from his childhood. He stayed sprawled on the ground his eyes wide as the two events linked up in his mind and seemed to spin together merging and then continue to spin, as if they had always been spinning, pointing in twelve directions all leading back on themselves towards doom.

The event in his childhood had occurred on a fishing trip with his grandad who was now probably back in his mad and lonely garden surrounded by awful sands and skies and waters. The fishing trips with grandad were always taken at the seaside, as grandad liked to catch octopus. But once they had gone to the crystal clear rivers in and around the town of Huntsville with its newly surfaced road, the only road into and out of town. While waiting for his granddad to return from the shop with coke and beef jerky he had absentmindedly stared up at the sun, which he knew you were not supposed to do. The sun had sunspots, he knew that, but he could on that day actually see one on the surface of the sun! This was impossible surely, as the sun is so bright. And it should not have moved as if a pupil in a huge, bright eye and stare at him and speak to his mind in a garble of feeling and emotion of grim places and things which at that very instant reached for the boy’s throat. He had shouted and screamed and dropped his fishing rod and ran looking for his grandad, and this journey was a crawling chaos of gibbering frenzy. He met his grandad on the path and did not know and could not explain why he was there and not sorting the maggots as instructed. But now over two decades later he could remember it, oh yes, and the report on his desk back in his office at News Capitol looked like a messenger of fear, as the words “Huntsville” and “disappearances” and “missing pupils” and “investigate at once” loomed up at him. He was now remembering that night aged ten lying in his tent seeming to sense tentacles and unstoppable claws and forces and even arms of galaxies reaching for him ready to drag him to his demise. He dropped the cup of coffee in his hand and wiped it up with a cloth cursing like a simpleton, idiotically dabbing the cloth and wiping his hands on his trousers, his office around him a jumble of confused items and pictures arranged in unnoticed patterns of dual symmetry.

*

He travelled to Huntsville that evening with a bag packed for a few days. Less if he could help it. On the journey he thought again of his theory of “robot war heaven”. This paradise is where black holes go, and is the place where men go in death and fight/have fun for eternity in the form of gigantic or microscopic robots. They fire missiles and lasers at each other and fight with swords sometimes a mile or more in length. Robots go down in droves, exploding in mega fireballs. Even when a planet is blown to smithereens, the robot inhabitants of the planet do not fear pain or death or hell but feel vast joy as they see and feel their bodies blown apart. They know insane chemical rushes and happiness. They see the planet sized robot approaching with intent and laugh uncontrollably. A bullet in their electronic gut is like a bolt of adrenaline and unknown forces of positivity. Sometimes they gibber in ecstasy as they blow away other robots, spectacular explosions are all around and violence is taken to the limits and beyond. Intergalactic battles rage for thousands of years and alliances are formed and destroyed and armies attack a billion strong. The smallest robot can turn the tide of a battle with unique abilities and he fights bare-hand on orange, spinning moons. All is enjoyment. Once destroyed other robots are built by robots and they take that form at random. They spend eternity firing laser-guided bombs and mini-guns and nuclear warheads at each other saying utterly hilarious, too hilarious sometimes even for laughter, one liners like “Sooooo, still trying to up the ante? How pathetic.”

*

On arrival in Huntsville the place seemed to creak with hidden miseries and painful destinies. “It’s just a town,” he said aloud as he cut the engine of his blue car in the motel car park and “that sunspot looking at you was your imagination, and it has nothing to do with this ordinary town anyway.” But he could almost see it now looking mindlessly and miserably at him burning on his face as he paid the motel man who sat in his booth. And the words “missing pupils” tormented at intervals. “So why did you take the job? Can you answer that?” he said as he threw his case down on the dirty bed.

He went first to the shop where his grandad had bought coke and jerky years before just to see if it was still there where he vaguely remembered. It was unchanged and he remembered it. The youth who worked there chewed and said nothing, but fear was in his eyes. He did not go down the paths that lead to the river half a mile away from town where the madness had occurred. He went back to his car and drove at speed to the sheriff’s place.

“Yes, come in Mr Greggs, sit down please,” said the sheriff “coffee?”

“ Yes, thankyou, you sent for me directly and I am hear to gather a story for my paper…,” he said as coffee was offered.

“Yes. Certain events. Strange evidence. Terrible discoveries. I am at a loose end. I enjoy your articles and I want you to tell the world one thing that I have not told any one yet, something that a scientist friend told me in conversation that I am worried about. I am a superstitious man Mr Greggs, I am not ashamed to tell you. This thing is that a new sunspot has been spotted on the sun, Mr Greggs. And the latitude of this spot is identical to the latitude of this town,” the sheriff leaned back staring at his dream catcher spinning above their heads.

Tony Greggs walked past his car in the sheriff’s drive and wandered down the pavement. There were dogs running oddly around, aimlessly looking about and the air was doomladen. Eyes peered out at him and crosses were held up at him from behind garden fences. A group of boys dropped their toys and bikes and fled indoors. Theories were abound. Some said it was nothing but a deranged and baseless cult carrying out these atrocities in the wrong belief of certain things. Others said that Satan flew at night to gather souls for Inferno. Tony approached a man who was weeding the edges of his front lawn and who stopped and looked round at Tony. The old man wiped his hands and he was the only soul Tony had seen who was not holding up a cross or shambling or fleeing.

“Follow me Mr Greggs, I believe I can tell you something.”

“Certainly sir,” he said calmly, yet with darting eyes.

Inside the old man’s house the old man started talking and Tony watched listening.

“Certain men. Once they start down certain paths, they know themselves to be eternally doomed. But continue they must. Great Cthulhu dreams and the men glimpse these dreams. The men decide they must see as much as possible from all angles of space and time in an effort to hear Yibb-Tstll and Dagon and others to find a way to escape doom. That is what is happening in this town, one of these doomed souls is here and torment is with him.”

“What can I do?”

“…this man, Mr Greggs… is your half-brother.”

Tony left quickly and went back to his motel where he paced his room until dark. Then he went out again into the deserted streets to look for the brother which until the meeting with the old man a few hours ago, he did not know existed…

*

Outside of town the trees were dense, a blue moon was above him. He had wandered the towns streets in vain seeing no windows being scorched or any vampires. He then went into the dark woods because this is where his brother must be, he decided in odd certainty. He passed through bushes and clearings and walked for what seemed like all night. Then he came into a large clearing illuminated by the moon. This clearing contained the remains of a crumbling outdoor theatre, a semi-circular stand with seats was to his right and the stage in front. To his left was a small shed with a door that had been broken into and creaked and blew in the strange wind. A man opened the door from within and Tony gasped and watched. The man was of similar height and build to Tony. The man did not look at Tony and walked across towards the stand and his movement was humble and sad. Tony approached now as the man motioned, like a spectre, to him. They sat side by side and after a minute of silence the other man said in a flat voice

“I have seen, many things. In a lifetime alone… Horror Hounds, pyramids and white ships.” Tony remained shut mouthed and nodded as they looked in the general direction of each other. The other man blinked half aggressively and got up. He wandered over to the centre of the stage where a pole and something else lay on the wooden floor. The man pushed the six-foot pole into a hole that was there and then picked up the thing. He attached it somehow to the pole and Tony watched trying to make out what it was. The other man turned and came back to Tony and sat down again. He picked up a small metal box from under his seat, which had two switches on it Tony could see. The man switched one switch and Tony saw the stage illuminated in an instant by a powerful beam of light coming from above and saw to his amazement what the item on the pole was – it was four polished white human skulls fused somehow together at their teeth. Then the man flicked the other switch and the skulls began to spin like a Catherine wheel. The other man said

“Yog-Sothoth is the gate.”

“They walk serene and primal,” replied Tony
The man smiled and pointed grimly towards the shed. The sheds window shattered from within and twelve black tentacles emerged, reached outwards, writhing and searching. The tentacle’s other ends remained within the shed and the front ends approached, more and more, slightly thicker and thicker tentacle becoming visible behind as they did so. In the moonlight and floodlight Tony could see in excitement and stark horror black pupils at their tips shining and focusing in the light. They stared unblinking from pits of potential. The tentacles saw Tony across the stage and they reached faster for him, getting closer. Tony stared at them, then over at the spinning skulls, which had at their centre, as at the centre of all things, a black hole.

THE END

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