What I’ve Seen

Chapter 9

I wish I could say I developed a relationship with Joy following my return. Quite the opposite. She withdrew. Once she told me about what she’d been experiencing and how the white man was influencing her life and actions, she was a ghost. Anyone who didn’t know what was happening to her would have claimed she’d retreated into a solipsistic world of hallucination. She’d wander through the house, muttering to herself. She’d talk about fulfilling her purpose and being a good mother. If I stood in front of her, she’d bump into me, wait until I moved, and then keep going. The only times I’d get a hint that Joy was still somewhat cognizant of the world outside her head was when she would put money in an envelope for the people who delivered our groceries.

When I say “our groceries,” I just mean “my groceries.” I was painfully obvious Joy was rarely, if ever, eating. The clothing that hung from her delicate bone structure when I arrived was forgotten after the first three weeks of my return. She’d walk around naked, her waxen flesh clinging like shrinkwrap to her bones and joints. A dark bruise covered her mouth and ran down her chin and throat, between her shrivelled breasts, to her emaciated belly.

Days would go by when she’d remain in her room, never leaving the bed. Images of the nightmarish body in which my beloved sister had become an organ flickered in and out of my perception. When the flickers came, I’d see the monstrous shape she’d called “the white man” hovering above her; its thick umbilicus carrying gelatinous solids down her throat. The network of translucent, biological tubes throughout the home contracted and expanded as unidentifiable substances shuttled in and out of the white man.

Weeks went by. The old house, which had been so still the whole time I’d been back, began to see activity. Real, tangible activity – not just my visions. Even though Joy never left her room anymore, she began to have visitors. Men. Men of all shapes and sizes and walks of life. They’d enter the house, climb the stairs, spend a minute or two with my sister, and leave. They paid me no attention. Even when I followed one of them in and saw what they’d been doing to Joy, they acted like I wasn’t there. Days went by. Hundreds and hundreds of men visited. After another week, they stopped. The house was silent again.

Joy, or what remained of her, wouldn’t leave her bedroom. She couldn’t if she wanted to. The damage from the weight of the hundreds of men had splintered her hips. But she was alive. She was wide-eyed and alert, breathing regularly, and being nourished by the atrocity which remained hovering above her.

I wouldn’t leave her alone for very long. I wanted to call an ambulance, but I knew I’d be taken from the home and put in state custody if anyone discovered I was unguarded. That meant I stayed on or around the property. I grew more and more compelled to visit the tree which had caused me to miss so much time. Part of me was hoping the event would happen again and I’d emerge in a future where things had somehow gotten better. I think, in the back of my mind, I needed even more. I wanted so badly to be pulled into the past and get to see my parents again. Even in Joy’s terrible physical state, she looked like the pictures I’d seen of Mom when she was young. Sometimes the connection was too much for me to handle.

Once I made up my mind to venture into the forest to visit the tree, it came to me instead. I woke up and found it growing, upside-down, out of my ceiling. Unaffected by gravity, its long, thin branches stretched out in the same positions and angles as when I’d first seen it. When I tried to touch the thing, my hand passed right through. During the phased flickers of my visions, I noticed the network of intestinal highways had detoured around the tree, giving it a wide berth. It remained there, visible yet untouchable, for a long time.

A month passed. Then two. The house was a tomb. I spent my time watching television next to my bedridden sister; her eyes wide with hope and her mouth gaping as the often-invisible tube delivered nourishment into her body. She’d taken to running her hands up and down her belly. It was another few months before I realized why. By then, the venerators had started showing up. Her venerators.

This part of the story is the hardest for me to tell. Even having to recall the deaths of my parents, which devastated me, wasn’t as existentially disturbing as what happened to Joy. Much of it is a blur of terror and confusion. It’s what I watched from the slatted door of her closet over the course of three days. I don’t want to write about it for fear I will be a worse person for having to relive the events. But I need to. It has to be known.

Men and women came to see Joy as her body swelled with the new life inside her. They, too, paid me no attention. I was just part of the scenery. Still, as their numbers grew, I felt the need to hide. So I did. I watched from Joy’s closet as the room packed with people who spoke about her in hushed tones. Spoke about her baby with crazy, hyperbolic grandeur. When the room was at capacity and I could barely see between the venerators huddled against the closed door where I hid, it happened.

I want to say Joy gave birth, but that would be a lie. The child literally exploded out of her and showered the venerators nearest her pelvis with gore. Joy never made a sound. The venerators, though, began to weep. I couldn’t see her baby. Somehow, though, I heard it. It was talking. And the nightmare began.

The venerators bit the skin from their bodies. One by one, they chewed it into a pulp and spit it into the mouth of the baby. The child started to steam. I could feel its heat and humidity from my hiding place. Once the baby was strong enough, it started to bite and chew the crowd on its own. The steam was blinding and I had to curl in a ball on the floor of the closet for fear of being burned. I cried as the sounds of chewing filled the room. Bodies fell to the floor, leaking their fluids into the closet and soaking my clothes. I sobbed and prayed it would end.

After a while, it did. The heat died down. The steam dissipated. I peeked out between the slats in the door again, and for the first time, I saw the child. But it wasn’t an infant. She looked at least 12 or 13. She stood, naked and soaked with blood, over her mother. With a vile, wet sound, she regurgitated some of what she’d consumed and drooled it into Joy’s mouth. My sister, who’d been unconscious the whole time, awoke with a start. She looked around with bewilderment. When her eyes met those of the creature she’d brought into the world, she began to scream.

The child walked toward the window and tore the panes away with an effortless motion. Then she dropped out of the house onto the ground below. I burst out of the closet and slipped and slid my way across the gore of the countless venerators’ bodies and went to my sister. She was still screaming. This time, I could tell it was from pain. The lower half of her body was gone. All that remained was a crater cauterized by the heat of whatever had happened. The rest of her skin, too, was burned.

“Where are you?,” she screamed toward the ceiling. It took me a moment to realize the white man was gone. The images of the intestines spanning the house flickered back into my vision. Nothing was above my sister. She’d been abandoned. At that point, I knew Joy would die if she didn’t receive medical attention. She’d probably die anyway. I ran from the room to make a phone call. There was no dial tone. The phones were disconnected.

Frantically, I ran back to her, not knowing what to do. As I climbed the stairs, I stopped in my tracks. Long, black branches were travelling from the tree on my ceiling to the room of my sister. They touched the hideous wounds on her skin and pushed through, entering her ruined body. Her screaming stopped. I thought she had to be dead. But her eyes opened and she smiled at me. She reached toward her bedside table and opened the drawer. Inside was a note. I asked her if it was something I should read. Joy studied me for a moment, then nodded. She whispered something and I moved closer so I could hear. “Extinguish the stars,” Joy muttered.

As dread filled me, I unfolded the letter and read aloud what she’d left for me. Once I finished, the long limbs of the black tree began to shudder.

To freeze is to extinguish
the constellations; the stars.
Decadent warmth turned cold
in black and pristine space.
To end.
To erase.

She can erase.
She can extinguish
each glowing obscenity in space
which mocks the cold:
the stars!
She is their end.

now! Erase
and then extinguish
the pox upon space –
the blight against the cold
purity of void – the hated stars.

And Her reign without stars –
the celestial end;
with no more to erase
or extinguish,
begins Her Kingdom of Space:
the glory of Her cold.

Her cold will
antithesize stars.
Fires to extinguish;
light to erase;
warmth to end.
Our Future Queen of Space.

Weep at the deathbed of warm space
as matter succumbs to cold
and the depraved era of stars
reaches its end.
Soon, nothing more to erase.
Soon, no more light to extinguish.

And She will extinguish light from space.
And She will turn the stars cold.
The end is the rape of constellations. To reign is to erase.

(Will be continued.)