Week 24 - Where We Keep It

This story is a return to, in a way, more conventional territory for this project. I just felt like I needed to flex my brain a bit to get back into the swing of things. This borrows from a couple of disparate sources – a scene (try to guess which one) from the Netflix series ‘House Of Cards’ – which I can highly recommend – and Alan Moore’s comic ‘Neonomicon’ – which I can’t in good conscience recommend because it’s one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read and it’ll fuck you up. This story isn’t as tough, I promise.

Where We Keep It

Frederick knocked on the door, the sound full and warm in the bright summer air. He enjoyed this: the smell of grass, the prickle of his skin in the heat. The promise of a day spent fully and fervently in service of something bold and willing. Days like today, Frederick felt at peace.

The door creaked open.

“Mrs Lilac?” Frederick smiled; beamed across the landing.

Mrs Lilac returned the open gaze. “Frederick! You’re early!”

“My apologies. I woke up full of vigour.”

“Don’t apologise! It’s a wonderful day for it.”

Mrs Lilac smiled broadly. Pulled at her sleeve, absent-minded. She was in her late 60s, but hardly showed it. Her skin was glowing, her mind sharp and her voice bright and dulcet.

Frederick waited back on his heels for her to open the door and allow him inside her home. The weight held the ticking time to him. Onwards.

Mrs Lilac handed Frederick a cup of tea. He sat on a wide sofa, thick with intricate stitching, bolstered by ornate fittings. Opposite him, Mrs Lilac sat next to her husband, Mr Lilac, a man who watched the world with quiet consideration over thin frames of glass.

“Thankyou, Mrs Lilac.” Frederick blew calmly on the warm liquid, felt fragrant steam float into his nostrils.

“It’s from India,” Mr Lilac croaked – the first words he’d said in Frederick’s presence. “Our last trip.” His voice was old velvet, slightly worn but still rich and luscious.

Frederick sipped gently. Delicious. He leaned forward.

“Wonderful. Just wonderful. You’re both widely travelled?”

“Charity work, mostly,” Mr Lilac smiled. “We do what we can.”

“It’s important, I think,” Mrs Lilac began over a biscuit. “To find purpose in one’s actions. A sense of duty gives one a sense of self.”

“Of course.”

“Moreover, without that direction, without that guiding light,” Mr Lilac continued, “our energies become misplaced. Ill-directed, you understand?”

“It’s a careful balance,” Frederick conceded. “But one the both of you seem to have navigated admirably.”

Mrs Lilac smiled, once again. She was easily pleased, it seemed. Frederick lost some of his emboldening vigour, at this. Too simply this winding wheel wound.

“When I was a boy, I wondered what life would hold for me.” Mr Lilac was at least fifteen years older than his wife, and his skin had just perceptibly began to crack under the passage of time. Still, an almost unnatural youthfulness for one in his 80s. Frederick took careful note.

“I used to ride my bike to school, and I would weave up the road, avoiding every crack in the dirt, every stray rock,” Mr Lilac continued. “This militant attention to detail kept me safe, of course – I never fell – but it also kept me sharp. I felt that I was in control of both my destination and my journey. This gave the ride purpose. A purpose I have sought in every facet of my life, every corner of the world that I have explored.”

“A purpose you have shared, too.” Mrs Lilac gripped Mr Lilac’s hand. Frederick watched her sleeve start to slip.

“Because, in the end none of us are in control. Life is strange and wonderful. But we must own what pieces of it that we can. Forge ourselves in fate. Boldly hold our own purpose. And when opportunity strikes, we must be brazen and guilt-free.”

Frederick nodded at the old man’s words, but turned his attention upward, to a mantle behind the Lilacs’  heads. Full of photographs and trinkets and motes of dust. Cracks to avoid; moments to remain sharp.

“May I see it?”

Mr and Mrs Lilac looked at each other.

They lead Frederick down a hall to the back of the house. A stark, green door made of old wood; a pristine feature of this old, pristine house.

Across the door, chains. Locks. Bars and steel and careful purpose.

“We keep it in here,” Mrs Lilac said slowly, still picking at her sleeve. “Away from the world. You understand.”

“Of course.”

Mr Lilac drew out a large set of keys, and moved toward the complex series of locks. “We don’t see this as a selfish measure. Our safety is not the issue, here. Humanity builds locks only to keep things out. This is the way of the world, and it is the way here. We do whatever we can to keep it safe. Of this, you can be assured.”

“I certainly am, Mr Lilac. I certainly am.”

And with that, Mr Lilac set about opening thirteen separate locks.

Each one, tinny and thunderous.

Eventually, Frederick found himself inside an unassuming room, simply furnished. A desk, a chair. Knick-knacks and more photographs and a frayed Persian rug. Light spilling in from a barred window, a reminder of the summer that Frederick earlier used to throw himself happily into the day.

“It moves less during the day. But keep your movements slow. Your thoughts pure,” Mrs Lilac smiled, nervous, gripping her sleeve now, her skin suddenly showing its age.

Frederick’s eyes shifted to the right wavelength, his brain began to cobble together a coherent image, and suddenly he saw it, beautiful and uncanny.

In the corner of the room, at the ceiling, pressed into the seams of the walls, a heaving, fleshy mass, slick with liquid. Almost black; not quite – purple, maybe, or blue. Pulling in light and not letting it go. It slid minutely at Frederick’s look, eased up further into the corner, retreating like a spider. Bubbles festered in slow motion on its featureless surface, gazing everywhere with a hollow knowingness.

“It is beautiful, isn’t it?” Mr Lilac’s voice quivered with new emotion. “A piece of purpose, solidified and made real by ancient, coiled hands.”

Emanating from the thick body of the thing, countless tendrils, legion and curving away impossibly. Flat lines of sticky tar, bleeding over the walls, stretching out to the furniture; a web of suction and seeking, searching want.

“Sometimes, we stay in here. Become… one, with it,” Mrs Lilac spoke flatly, her eyes glazed over. She lifted her sleeve, rolled it back, and showed Frederick strange markings: burns, or scratches. Points of contact.

 “When we found it, we knew we’d be with it forever,” Mr Lilac held Frederick’s shoulder. “It knows things, things nobody has ever known. And it will share them with you. A taste on your tongue.”

Frederick nodded. “I can see that.”

The thing slid imperceptibly in the corner of the room, waiting, watching, feeling.

Frederick reached into his jacket, and pulled out a small canister. A metal nozzle. Screwed the two together.

“What… what is that?” Mr Lilac stepped back.

“When you came to us, Mrs Lilac…” Frederick eased out from under the aging man’s grip, and stood closer to the throbbing purple flesh. “My organisation was concerned. You and your husband have spent time in the… company… of things that should be unknowable. But I allayed those fears. Because I, too, am a man of purpose.”

He flicked a switch on the canister, and the nozzle caught alight with sharp, blue flame.

“No, please – wait, there must be some other –”

Frederick stepped over to the nearest tendril, which curled out to meet him, seeking his flesh. He spoke with purpose.

“It is a beautiful day outside.”

He set the tendril aflame.

Shrieks filled the room as the fire span effortlessly throughout the mess of purple-black. Spread through the tendrils like a virus. Found the throbbing heart, and made its home.

Fredrick wondered what part of the encompassing sound was the creature. It was there, somewhere under his hearing. But part of the cacophony, too, was the old couple, sobbing and wailing inhumanly, gripping each other in the corner, collapsing to the floorboards, letting the poisoned smoke fill their lungs as their purpose caught alight and melted in front of their furious eyes.

They, too, curled up hopelessly at the heat.

The old couple had uncovered something all together alien, and had opened up every piece of themselves to it. Frederick and the people he worked for had seen this before, and it always ended the same way. With blackened tar gripping mind and spirit, bursting outwards through the walls of a house.

And it could not be abided. Pain was a consequence of war.

Frederick sat on the floor, leant against the door frame, as around him things died. He closed his eyes, and felt his heart swell.

Fully and fervently.

Bold and willing.