An Ancient Terror To Tea
The first time I heard the scraping in the walls, my heart shook, my bladder all but totally loosened, and a kind of mortal terror gripped my person. I could not move, hoping that the utterly alien sound that had inexplicably and instantly unmanned me was just a figment of my imagination.
Silence followed for several seconds, allowing relief to crumple my body and mind back into the zones of a more relaxed individual, my sanity more clearly assured for the future.
And then the sound of … whatever it was … shifted suddenly again, seeming to slump hard against the other side of the external wall; a thin shower of plaster dust sifted down across my vision, and I confess, with little shame, that I gave forth a scream, albeit a short and particularly manly one.
I assure you, the simple wrongness of what was occuring in my small but beloved third floor flat that night would have elicited a squeal from even the hardiest of men… Somehow, from the instant of the first disturbance, I knew that some cruel intelligence fuelled it. This huge, impossible tremor was somehow alive. It moved within the brick and mortar of my home, and seemed to be going from room to room, belying the simple physicality of the place in a manner that thwarted even the audacious twisting of reality applied to it by the letting agent that first showed me around the two bedroom/kitchen-diner/newly-fitted bathroom apartment (to suit professional tenants – regret no pets allowed).
Again, though, the torment lay dormant. A single minute stretched into ten, with me standing tensed and terrified in my underwear and a teeshirt… and also in the middle of the kitchen, where I had been heading to make myself a drink when this horrid scenario had begun. I had to compose myself, to reassure myself of what was, against the obvious fantasy of what seemed to be. I moved tentatively across the room, loose socks shuffling hesitantly on the linoleum, to the point in the wall at which the movements had ceased.
A tiny grille was set into the wall about a foot from the skirting board there, which I knew allowed stale air (and the lusty laments of my neighbours) to distribute lazily around the building. I had first noticed the grille less than a month earlier, after my first week in the apartment had ended disastrously with a mouse infestation; rather, I found evidence of a single mouse, but from the trail of destruction he left he had shown himself to be a brave and busy little bugger. His presence had sent a chord of revulsion through me, jolting from balls to brainstem.
The grille had seemed a likely rodent entry point, and I had curled myself down on all fours to look through it… On that occassion I had seen the silhouette of a slowly turning fan that I had later discovered was situated high on the outside wall, below the window that shone morning sunlight onto my breakfast bar. The crawlspace between internal and external walls couldn’t have been more then a few inches, which made the apparent scale of the beast that was tormenting me from in there even more unsettling.
I never found the mouse, by the way.
This time, I had no idea what to expect behind the grille. At first, all I could see through there anyway was absolute darkness. But as my vision adapted, the midtones started to consolidate, and I realised that something blocked the way from grille to fan. Further staring revealed that whatever was in there, it completely filled this part of the wall… and even in that dark place, ridges and creases in its surface caught what meager light there was. It looked for all the world like ancient skin, down there in the dark.
The blockage seemed to be close enough that I could even slip my fingers through the grille and touch it, and this I started to do. However, the second that my fingertips brushed the cold metal, the weight in the wall shifted again, this time so close to my face that I flinched… and when I opened my eyes again, I could see the thick, rippling darkness in the grille shift and rend, muscles moving beneath it to open a fissure centimetres from where my fingers had been. As the skin cracked apart, I realised that a deeper well of darkness was opening there before me. And then, with a horrible swaying succumbing in my gut to gravity, I became aware of a deep, black, shining eye, staring wetly back at me!
I quickly folded back over my bent knees, and felt my back and the back of my head crack hard against the breakfast bar, and for a second the pain brought me peace and comfort.
And then the watcher in the wall spoke, in a voice so ancient that you could feel yourself drowning in the years and so inhuman that I instantly feared that my own humanity might be washed away by the waves of it. I was overcome once again by horror.
But it’s amazing what you can get used to.
It’s 7.30 am, and I’m just starting to come around to the day, making ready for another working week, because Monday is to the working man what death and taxes were to Benjamin Franklin; an absolute inevitability. I appraise the slowly fading scars of my dementia driven self-abuse in a mirror before buttoning my shirt across them. Before long they will be gone, but I still shudder to remember the inflicting of them… the long, hard weekend of roaring and pounding my fists against my temples, blood pouring into my eyes; of raking fingernails bitten all the way down across my chest, forcefully enough to still tear flesh. It is very difficult to completely forgive those hours of insanity as the voice was modulated down to a frequency bearable to the human psyche… especially when the apologies offered seem so forced and noncommital.
“Almost all healed.” I mutter, just loud enough to be heard. I wait a few seconds. The only sound is the cheap plastic kettle juddering in its cradle as it approaches the boil. Then, finally, a low grumble of grudging acknowledgment, coming from a billion miles away in the impossible space between the kitchen and the hallway. The walls shake in time with the kettle as the old god in my walls moves through them. When the noise settles I can hear the television in the second bedroom that I use as a living room, and realise that Kalack Klat Krckchack has been in there watching the shopping channels all night again. Irritated, I challenge his surliness.
“Kalack Klat Krckchack said that Kalack Klat Krckchack has already said sorry many times for driving Sam Taylor insane when first conceived into this epoch.”
“Well, Sam Taylor isn’t convinced that you really mean it. And it isn’t an epoch, it’s an apartment.”
A sigh fluttered through the walls, and then:
“Kalack Klat Krckchack can not do anything about that. Sam Taylor may believe what Sam Taylor likes.”
The thing about some arguments is that it’s sometimes difficult to know which combatant the passive aggressive behaviour started at, even if you’re one of them, so I decide to cut Kalack some slack.
“Ah, that’s okay. Don’t sulk. You know it brings purple augurs into the seventh aspect of human colour perception in the whole place, and I end up being ill on the bus all the way into the office.”
“Kalack Klat Krckchack has experienced fifty-seven consecutive hours of car polish infomercials. Kalack Klat Krckchack apologises for any sudden moodshifts.”
“You really need to be careful of that. It will melt your solar-system sized brain down to mush, and god knows how that’ll manifest through my walls.”
It’s been six months now, and Kalack Klat Krckchack and I have become pretty good housemates. It claims to be some kind of extra-dimensional omnipotent sentience that first encountered we humans at the dawn of our species, and has claimed “god” status ever since. Which is, you have to admit, pretty fucking wild. Kalack also swears blind that it spent a few thousand years (“less than a blink of Kalack Klat Krckchack’s consciousness”) operating as a djinn out in the middle east.
I keep asking Kalack to grant me three wishes, but it says that it is unable to do that while in a gestation period, which is what it claims it’s doing in my walls. I try to push on how it got in there in the first place, but I’ve got to tell you… billion year old gods have had a lot of practice at coming up with fairly distressing sounding threats.
“Remember that I’ll be back late tonight… it’s movie night.”
“Is that so, Sam Taylor? Is that with Julia Masterson of ‘restaurant night’ and ‘art gallery night’? Kalack Klat Krckchack wishes to meet this Julia Masterson.”
“Well, Kalack can just fuck right off. I’m not falling for that again.”
“What is the ‘that’ of which Sam Taylor speaks?”
“You know what the that of which… You know what I’m talking about. If I invite her over, you will just keep pulling weird ‘Old God’ hoodoo that’ll have me running around doing damage control, and when she asks me what the hell I’m doing, and I’m forced to tell her about you, you’ll go into silent running mode, and I’ll be left with another girl that thinks I’m clinically nuts.”
“Kalack Klat Krckchack is consul to the court of Idiot Gods… Kalack Klat Krckchack is a constellation of bright red stars that shine across the blooded skies… Kalack Klat Krckchack has guided intergalactic civilisations to fruition, and seen them destroyed on a whim… What makes Sam Taylor think that Kalack Klat Krckchack would engage in such petty endeavours?”
“Kalack Klat Arsecrack has already done it to me three times in the last few months!”
“Oh,” said the old god, it’s exclamation singing baritone through the back of my brain, where all of it’s communication is experienced, each word strobing colours that shimmer and slough away from it like fireworks. “Sorry.”
“Never mind,” I say, as the kettle finally boils to a click, “do you fancy a cup of tea?”
I hear Kalack shift through the walls excitedly, and as always when I hear the rasping of it’s hard skin against the other side of my reality, a flutter of concern for the brickwork of my home goes through my tummy. It soon passes, though.
“The gestation is almost complete. Soon, Kalack Klat Krckchack will be reborn into new form, and forever more will drink by the ocean the blood of virgins, and paint the skies of seven systems with the tears of the innocent… But for now, tea will be most adequate, Sam Taylor. And some biscuits, please.”
One of the problems with Kalack Klat Krckchack is that it experiences time in a non-linear fashion… which means that one day I might be destroyed by a vengeful Kalack who hasn’t even met me yet. And also that we constantly run out of tea-bags without it even realising. But today, there is enough for both of us.
When I leave for work, Kalack Klat Krckchack is back inhabiting my living room, a mug of hot, sweet tea sitting in the middle of the floor, somehow being absorbed through the air, through the solid fact of the walls and into some other place beyond. I think of that black, wet eye, darting about back there in the dark, and of a memory of a vast body of dry, cracked skin, far too massive to really fit into it’s surroundings, shifting constantly around the flat.
A sanity shifting, gargantuan mass of impossible old god is sharing my home with me, and I have to tell you, this is not the way I saw this year playing out for me at all.
But like I said, it’s amazing what you can get used to.
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