Josh Sczykutowicz is one of our Halloween writing contest finalists for 2015. We’ll be publishing our contest finalists every day until Halloween, when we’ll announce our contest’s winner.
By Josh Sczykutowicz
The darkness spread out of me, something deeper than anything I had ever dreamt before. I had fallen into sleep’s jaws like that of some ancient predator searching through the blackest depths of the ocean before, something seeking anything that might sate its leviathan appetite once again, the sensation of fullness a dull memory that had faded, much like its eyes, as eons had stretched forward and backward, time eternal forevermore. But sleep had never been as deep as this, and I knew now that I was neither dreaming nor awake. There was a place between both realms, that of collective memory and that of accumulation, and in it I now stood.
Something had crawled out of my mouth, climbing up my throat, claws digging into soft red flesh within. The familiar taste of blood trickled into my stomach. It moved upward as I wrenched forward and crumpled like paper, clutching at the throat that bulged, skin stretching in directions it was never meant to go. Tears filled my eyes and I could not breathe, everything blocked as I choked and coughed and finally it came forth. It was something small; something bundled up, coated in saliva and bile like crude amniotic fluid. Warm rain fell onto the skin of neck and trickled down hair clumping in damp solidarity. The object moved, unfurled, rain drops on its head making black eyes rimmed in maroon red blink open, mouth stretching, teeth showing, soft pink mouth vulnerable, shaking around on the dark pavement of this road. The road seemed to stretch, not just backward and forward, but to my left and to my right eternal. I looked up at the bleeding moon and saw its reflection on the ground in a puddle beginning to form, potholes and cracks filling like bottles beneath faucets to be drunk by something greater than it would ever know.
It spread wings; it began to cry, like an infant begging for its mother to feed it. It looked up at the moon just as I had, eyes blinking, and the crying stopped for a moment. It was the color of midnight sky. As the rain began to wash the fluid away the thing spread its arms and its wings followed, small claws at the ends of flaps of leather, even smaller legs trying to stand, attempting, failing, falling, crawling again, standing again, this time for longer, propped up on its bent arms and looking upward still.
“This is why you lived,” a man beside me, who was not there before, began to say. His face looked like gathered smoke and age. “Your body has been a cocoon for this to grow within, your skin a shell to keep it safe until it was ready to free itself from you. It is as much you as you are your mother’s womb.”
My baby writhed in the rain, fell onto its back, a thin black torso stretching and twisting, a ribcage poking from beneath. It bathed in the water, longed for the moon.
“Where will it go when it grows?”
“It will leave you, leave here, and fly to places you will never see. When it is old enough it will consume you, just as you consumed your mother. It is what life is. You will be given up for something more.”
“And what will it do?”
“It will be the things you could not become. It will glide through oceans long past these roads and grab up things you will never see in its jaws and in its claws, it will bring them for the bleeding moon to consume, just as it consumed you and you your mother.”
“Why is the moon bleeding?”
“Because it knows you will wish to leave.”
I walked over to my baby, so small, so gentle, a mouth made for screaming but all it could do was cry, a small bleating sound like laughter as it rubbed its nose in the rain beneath it.
“What will happen once she has fed the moon?”
“The moon will bleed into the sun and feed upon it, too. How do you know it is a she?”
“It would have to be, to feed the moon.”
“Maybe you will not leave after all.”
My mouth had been stretched and with it my jaw.
“No, maybe I won’t.”
I picked it up then, stunned by my touch as it looked around and then into my eyes, its face smiling as only it could, and I swallowed it whole once more.
“It needs to learn more,” he said to me then.
“Yes,” I agreed, “It does. And it will. It will learn to consume me as I did my mother.”
“And what did you do to your father?”
It was clear that he lacked eyes, hollow sockets with lids that were held in place by something unseen.
I spread my jaw and held his shoulders, and when I did he leaned downward, complicit. I wrapped my mouth around his head, bald and covered in rain, and I swallowed him then, too.
The night was not going to end, could not, and when they were ready I knew that he would birth forth and after, my baby, and when they did they would know to swallow me whole just as I did to them. Education requires practice and testing and these tests were failed. Night time was all that was left to bask in, and I did, the red light of the moon above bathing my skin in pale red and washy pink. Water fell onto my skin, shimmering in the darkened skies stretching above. There were so many things we needed to understand. There were things we needed to learn. I walked down the road, though the direction mattered little, and, watching lightning pop off in the distance, watching the blood fall from the moon still, knew that soon I would find the sea, and in it I would be.
Josh Sczykutowicz is a young author from central Florida who’s probably drinking too much coffee. Most of his work can be described as dark, alternative and literary fiction. He has been published in The Fable Online, Flash Fiction Online, and East Jasmine Review, among others. You can Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @jsczykutowicz1 and on tumblr at http://joshsczykutowicz.