Here is a monster for you: the length of a couple of cars, let’s say, tubular, covered over in spikey tines, long and tapering to needle-sharp points. The form is slightly curved, curled this way and that, but still, dead still.
Then the tines quiver from one end to the other of the thing, as if riffled by a sudden breeze. But the day is perfectly still and sunny. There is no movement in the hot air and yet you are chilled by an icy finger on your spine at the sight of those giant needles shivering without wind on that curled tubular form before you. You had seen the thing a block away when you rounded the corner on this strangely quiet street and you had noted its stillness, its complete immobility as you approached. And now a ripple has gone through it, softly and unnervingly shaking its sharp spikes from one end to the other, a movement that makes the gooseflesh stand out on your tingling skin, even on this hot day.
It’s only now that you can begin to make out its colour. The pointy tines that cover it had been glinting steadily in the sun all along and now they sparkle and flash with the sudden motion. But the thick rounded form from which the spikes protrude is some kind of darkly purplish red, so dark you’d taken it to be black. But now you see the deep blood redness in it, as if it were a translucent skin bloated with blood – tons of blood.
The thing moves again, but this time vertically. Its entire length, still prone, appears to levitate a foot or two off the ground. But you see in another moment this is because a chorus-line row of cold white legs have emerged from under it all along both sides of its length. The many legs are thin but clearly strong as they kick out rapidly from one end to the other and move the form forward, its whole tubular bulk winding and seeking first this way and then that and then, unmistakably, toward you.
You’ve long since frozen to the spot and only become more rooted there in shock when you see how fast the thing closes the remaining distance between you and itself. Your muscles and brain finally connect in the urge to flee when the thing, mere metres from you, rears up half of its double-car length, legs scrabbling at the empty sunny air of this strangely quiet and unpeopled street.
Before you can spin away and bolt, however, you’ve glimpsed its underside. And that sight extracts your volition from you with a force that is instantaneous and absolute. Your instinct knows it cannot flee a nightmare in daylight.
Underneath the thing you see – calling to your own, which tremble in reply underneath your living meat – the bones of your long-dead ancestors fused into horrible new shapes dense with ribs and knotted spinal columns and the conglomerated holes of empty eye-sockets and open mouths. A concatenation of limbs-on-limbs spiders outward in every direction from that horrible centrepiece. The whole gruesome bonework display is a formation that the last shred of your disintegrating reason tells you is too large and deep to be contained by even the huge underbelly of the many-legged thing rising up and overshadowing you.
Your own trembling bones heed the call of the ancestral bones before them and, answering back, strain underneath your skin toward the underside of the rearing thing. You can feel your own skeleton betraying you as it makes to step rippingly right out of its ever faithful suit of flesh and leap into the ancient bone-fusion now coming down on you from the descending form above you.
And you think a final thought: how in the world did I end up on this road, so strangely quiet and unpeopled?
(photo by Flannery O’Kafka)