Flash Fiction Friday: When the Thing Did
by Goathead Buckley
His ratman-hair overcoat let him live on the cold streets beneath the levitating, blue pyramid. The monstrosity had appeared one quiet afternoon to the north and steadily hovered closer until, by dinnertime, the entire city lay in its shadow. Humans threw themselves out of windows and into the sewers to breed with rats and get torn apart by lizards, cowering before the mutated scum-born that had been moaning low in the black earth before the city had even been laid out. He wasn’t the last man alive in town, he knew that much. He’d heard screams an octave lower than any that the rat-men could produce and laughter more sincere than the mocking lizards could imitate despite their incessant practice. The laughter, that’s what made him stay in the city. Someone, somewhere, despite the great weirding that went on beneath the static pyramid, had a fit of the giggles. And he wanted to know what was so damn funny.
By day he would wander through trash and corpses, listening to the wind blow lonely down alleyways. He always kept one eye on the blue expanse of the pyramid above. At times, he would forget just what he was looking at and, for a eye blink, he might even think he was looking at the sky. But the sky never blacked out the sun, never sat poised with destructive intent above the once civilized world waiting for fuck knew what. At least, it never seemed that way. His patience was long in those days and he’d walk for hours, waiting to either be finally and restfully destroyed or to hear once again the laughter and to follow it down the detritus choked avenue into one of the abandoned buildings. Perhaps he would come upon a face with a crooked smile, and be able to punch it directly in the mouth and tell it to wipe that goddamn smirk off of its turd-soft mug.
This was some serious shit, he’d say, this pyramid business. What the fuck are you laughing at? At the bodies of your family strewn about like forgotten lawn ornaments? At the rats with human brains the size of dogs that whispered diseased conspiracies against all other life in the light of a fire stoked with discarded femurs? Or were the lizards something to chuckle at as they ate and shat and fucked and grew huge and never once formed a thought in their minds other than “strip the flesh and swallow?” Were the scum-born mere motley clowns to scoff at, mutants that grew moldy filth for hair and clothed themselves in sheets of fungus that fell away and started families of their own? What was so funny that would make someone laugh when so alone and abandoned by all reasonable society?
He’d walk and walk and ask these questions to no one, never expecting an answer. One dim morning, however, the hum of the pyramid, a noise he had not truly registered so constant had it been up to this point, stopped. And echoing down the concrete canyon of Main Street, laughter, explosive and maniacal and so full of unwashed joy that he paused in his tracks and sat upon the blood encrusted curb, heart hurting, breath coming in like rocks. The laughter seemed to come from everywhere now, much like the incessant drone that it had replaced. He looked to the sky, expecting it to fall, but saw that nothing had moved. The wind had died, but the laughter, the hee-heeing and haw-hawing, the chuckling and chortling, continued. His brain felt like the inside of a clown car, stuffed to absurdity with painted limbs and heavy breathing.
On his knees, the edges of his grisly coat soaking the ichor still congealing in the gutter, he prayed to nothing in particular for the pyramid to fall, to fall and pop him like a boil and to end it, if only to stop the goddamned laughter. Prayed and beat his head against the cracking blacktop and thought he had knocked himself unconscious when all went quiet. After a moment, he raised his blood-stung eyes to the pyramid and saw that a crack had appeared in the base from which a tiny white something fell. It floated lazily to the ground a foot from him.
It was a note, written on college-ruled notebook paper that simply said, “I guess it wasn’t all that funny anyway.”
The pyramid rippled as if consumed by a great, invisible heat, and disappeared from the sky in an instant. The intensity of the prodigal sun burnt his eyes to blindness, but he could not stop laughing as his world grew dark once again.
Goathead Buckley has returned from the mountains and would like you to eat his brain and gain his knowledge so that he can get back to grooving and having a good time. He lives in Cincinnati and runs www.apokraliptihkal.com when he’s not trying to sell his organs for an organ-grinding monkey.
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