Turning around, I see a low, flat ridge in the distance that never really decides whether it wants to be mountains or something doing its best to defy description. As this is the only object visible, I start to head towards it. Again my body deceives me, for although I know I am calmly strolling towards my final destination -- I do not need to hurry, for time has fled into the distance, affecting only those who choose to accept it -- I move at unnervingly quick speeds towards the distant landscape. The ground, however, does not seem to be moving, nor do the mountains. I must trust in my senses to believe I am actually making any progress at all.
As I possibly move along, a spire rises out of the horizon, growing into a fairy tale city on a hill. As the distance between myself and the city decreases, I hear a steadily increasing din, as if everyone in the world was at a single party where everyone was perfectly miserable, but determined not to let anyone else know by acting perfectly ecstatic, but knowing deep inside the only person they were fooling was long dead. The city is surrounded by a tall wall, broken in several places by irregularly placed and shaped windows of colored glass. Peering through the glass, I see that there are hundreds of thousands of princesses milling around the streets, all trying to decide how to save the beautiful prince locked up in the tower by his evil stepfather. I decide to continue past the city, noting as I leave that inscriptions around the windows all read the same thing: "I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus, goo goo a'joob!"
Leaving the city behind, I suddenly realize that the landscape is not so empty as before. A single dalmation runs madly along, then suddenly freezes and sits in exhaustion. As he starts to lean over to lie down, a single crutch thrusts quickly up from the ground and supports the dog at the shoulder. The dog jumps up, and the crutch immediately disappears, as if pulled down by a subterranean creature. The dog sits down again, but as it leans to lie down and rest, the crutch again thrusts up to support it. After a third repetition of the sequence, the dalmation resigns itself and rests against the crutch.
As if this was a cue for Chaos to regain control over its domain, a great throbbing sound surrounds me. Crutch after crutch erupts from the ground a short distance away, each tilting at a crazy angle. Shapes emerge from the top of each crutch, as if living organs were being blown up like balloons. Each pulsating, putrescent mass gains in size until they meet, joining to form a huge face supported above the ground by the crutches. As the various features of the face droop down to the ground, more crutches erupt to support them, some from the ground, some erupting directly out of the flesh of the lips and face of the creature, sending bits of flesh flying away. Most of the pieces of the creature land on the ground, transmute into various sizes of ants and scurry away to unknown, unclean destinations. One mass, however, lands almost directly at my feet. It sits for a moment, as if thinking, then starts to pulsate and grow into a great giraffe. As soon as it has completed its transformation, however, its back starts to simmer and burn, sending the animal running into the distance in agony.
Curious, I move over to stand beneath the behemoth. It lies on the crutches, sleeping, oblivious to anything around it. Following an urge from I know not where, I step even closer, and, grasping a crutch, start to shake it back and forth vigorously. The flesh of the monster starts to shake and ripple with the movement of the support, as if there were nothing but some hideous liquid inside. Slowly, incredibly, the monster's eyelids start to open. Two great orbs with no pupil or iris appear, the color of dried spit dribbling down an old, unloved grandmother's chin. They swivel around in their sockets, suddenly stopping, and I know they are peering not just at me, but into me, reading my deepest thoughts, emotions, loves, hates, and fears.
The huge, flabby lips part and, with a slow exhalation of putrescent breath, a single word issues: "Sleep..." Whether this is a command or a wish I do not know, nor do I get the opportunity to ask, for I suddenly find myself rising. I float higher and higher, becoming more and more afraid at every infinitesimal motion, for directly above me is the bottom of the creature, lightly pulsating, as if it is waiting for me. I fight against whatever is holding me, but my limbs refuse to accept my commands. I try to scream, but no sound emerges from between my parted lips. I feel my body start to press against the flesh of the beast, then see a rent open in the skin as I start to slide into the creature. Sickening green fluids the color and consistency of split pea soup spread out to engulf me as I move, hideously slowly, deeper and deeper into its form.
As the rent in the flesh of the creature closes beneath me, and I feel the fluids enter my mouth, nose, ears, even my very pores, I suddenly hear the voice of the creature in my head. "Welcome, my son. We have been waiting for you for a long time," the voice intones. "This is merely the first level of your existence. My name, my son, is Leviathan, and Hell is your new home." Pain wracks my body as I realize that, no matter what tortures I am put through, no matter what pains I endure, there is one thing to be denied me in the eternity of punishment ahead of me...merciful, unfeeling, painless, sleep.
The woman looks up with red eyes from beneath her hair. "He was, to everyone," she says. "And somehow...don't ask me how...I know he is much happier where he is now...much happier than he could ever be here."
Story © 1991 (or possibly 1990) Woody Hanscom. Painting © Salvadore Dali, I suppose.
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