We held a Fan fiction contest back on the 2nd of May. We asked our feed subscribers to write a short story based on the photo below. We received so many excellent submissions that it was not easy choosing the winner, so I copped out and decided to pick two stories instead of just one. The following tale is the 2nd place winner!
That Strange Sparkle
by Adamo De Tremblay and Noemi Passamonti
I don’t think I have much time left. I am trying to fight shivers and a stabbing pain to conclude this –last– letter in order to all the inhabitants of C. find out about the horror which is threatening us –a horror which may be capable to have at the whole human race. Most of my body is spinning out of my will, it is only a matter of time before they end their lusty banquet among my synapses. Everything began about three months ago. The priest’s servant came and woke me up in the dead of night, because the priest had been feverish for five days. As only doctor of C., I had to forsake my straw bed where I find rest in the damp, endless lagoon nights, to go to the old priest’s house. I remember that night was oddly silent; in that period frogs usually emerged from hibernation and blustered croaking, and we clearly could hear the arias they dedicated to the moon, from our village, which is few hundreds of meters far from the swamp. That time, instead, there was a strange stillness among the reeds and the morasses, the water thundering between the underbrush and the underwater roots was barely perceived. I didn’t give importance to it, but now that I have looked into the abyss, I know that night nature foresaw the blasphemy of the events. As I arrived at Father Alfio’s house, I found my patient completely buried in quilts. His teeth were chattering, despite at least five woollen bedspreads of different colours, and he was violently shivering, as if he had been picked up and exposed naked in the polar circle cold. His blank eyes and his paleness –by far greater than the whiteness of his hair–, made me think the situation was more difficult than expected. The priest’s servant wanted to inform me that the man had reported an intense and constant headache, in conjunction to those evident symptoms. As I took a more carefully look at him, I noticed an odd swelling of the veins of his forehead and an unnatural tension of his neck. I began with the usual questions every Hippocrates’s son is duty bound to ask. The old woman answered every doubt of mine, and was interrupted only by the patient’s meaningless stammering. As it was deducible, I could not find any interesting information. After all, which occurrence –so terrible to put him in touch to an illness which has the same violence as some tropical fevers– do you expect to happen in an old country priest’s life? I sketchily saw him, because he was semi-unconscious and it was impossible to hold him back. I gave him something to reduce fever and I hoped for a miracle that didn’t arrive. I spent the following days studying the medical books. The symptoms were too generic to let me find the key to the problem; besides, all the pathologies I read about were too absurd to be attributed to an old priest, whose greatest threat to health came from the consecrated wine and the cold of the nave. I kept on visiting Father Alfio every six hours, and every time I found him worse than I had left him, under the heavy, woollen bedspreads and among his servant’s rosaries. But one evening I was late. The sun was going beyond the horizon and few candles weakly lighted up the house. A greenish sparkle –never noticed before that– above the shelves of the enormous bookcase caught my eye. I got closer and found out the luminescence came from a stone laid on a stack of books about St. Augustine’s life. Moreover, I noticed that as I got closer, it seemed to die down. It was like that luminescent halo was only visible from a certain distance, in a quite dark ambiance. It was a spherical stone, smoothed as a cobblestone, but at the same time pitted by
microscopic dips and tiny perforations. Its gloomy colour and consistency reminded me of that lava rocks you can find nearby volcanos. While I was analysing it more closely, I remembered of having read about the discovery of some substances which had the same bright properties and about some people –I think French ones– who were studying it. Completely uninformed, I asked the servant what it was. She answered me the priest had found it thanks to its sparkle, during a walk in the hills, at dusk. In the following days, Father Alfio got drastically worse. He began raving and shivering at the same time, having hallucinations, punching his own head and contorting himself with his eyes wide open. He did nothing apart from repeat disjointed phrases about star-shaped-head demons and cities submerged in the sky, while interposing this apocalyptic visions with out-and-out lines of the sacred text. Unfortunately, there had been nothing to do. He gave off one night, while repeating unknown names which seemed to belong to ancient Aztec divinities. The Curia Romana sent a priest to celebrate the man’s funeral. The same day he was buried in the city cemetery, in the place assigned to pick up the churchmen’s remains. The servant left the house and C.. The village –shocked by such an unexpected death– returned to normalcy. Some days followed quiet one another, until the farmer Elia’s four rifle shots burst into the night. His son woke me up. He informed me his father had just shot a man in their property. I quickly got dressed and got out, headed for the farm, with the boy. As I arrived, I found the old Elia with his wild look, who was barking at his relatives and ordering them to stay locked in the house. After I had tranquillised the farmer, he told me he had heard some noise coming from the metal leaf which covers the well in the farmyard. After getting the rifle, he had gone out and been attacked by a bright-headed man, so he had shot to defend himself. I was worried and on the point of verifying the man’s conditions, when Elia caught my arm and confessed he had done everything possible to kill him and it had been better in that way. I was confused by his words, so I got closer to the body and I noticed a luminescence around the corpse’s head: it was similar to Father Alfio’s one. I was getting more and more gobsmacked, so I got much closer and the luminescence wasn’t the only familiar thing any longer: because that corpse was nothing more than the priest’s body –dead a second time. I fell on my knees and plunging my hands in the ground. I –a doctor– barely held a retching. Because among that obscenity, that absurd lack of logic and that absence of natural laws, the living image of Father Alfio –now dead again– left space for unfathomable abysses. The body didn’t present clear signs of rot, after all it was normal if considering it had been buried few days before it. The head was back-to-front, rotten and torn in more than one point. From the brain, which was swollen and unnaturally pulsating, a multitude of yellow filaments which were similar to maggots or tentacles poured out and contorted themselves sparkling of a greenish light. It was as if a horrible mould had taken possession of the old priest’s soul through his body. Those similar-to-mushroom things seemed to be alive and reacted when in contact with everything surrounding them. Father Alfio’s face was blank, every part of his body lied rigid and his chest was perforated by the rifle shots. I had read in some botanical volumes about a particular race of tropical mushrooms called Cordyceps unilateralis, which are capable to take control of ants, by grafting themselves into the cerebral cortex of ants in order to use them as a mean of transport and, in the end, to kill them by
scaling their bodies. I thought it was a brutality of nature that was destined to be confined in a microscopic world. Instead, in front of me, I had a human flower that had opened itself at the top in pulpy petals and had shown an androecium made of hundreds of receptive fungous excrescences. Elia got closer, whispered mumbling something I didn’t understand and set the lifeless body alight, after catching it and throwing it on a sheaf. After gathering courage, I made for the priest’s house –I did want to solve the mystery. I picked the lock and entered the darkness. A weak sparkle led me to the bedroom: it was that miserable rejected-by-Hell stone. My attention was caught by a sparkle with the same intensity as the other one, which came from behind the bookcase. I grabbed the dusty side of the ancient piece of furniture and I moved it with violence –I disclosed the obscure treasure which was hidden like a trunk. I was invaded by the same stink of arcane death you can perceive by taking off the lid of a sarcophagus and it penetrated my cortex. It is impossible to describe what I saw with human words. A whole pulpy and primordial forest brightly extended on the wall behind that bookcase. A thick stratum of mould and tentacular mushrooms was corroding the wood of that house, in the same way it had already corroded the body and soul of its lodger. Among the pinnacles and plumes of that living colony, light shining greenish spores were moving, as if they were ships full of conquerors who are ready for enslaving new surfaces and living beings. I was stunned and weak at the knees, I fought my way out of that hell and passed out on the pavement. That night terrible headaches and shivers began. I dreamt of worlds made of peaks eaten up by something thirstier than time. I feel those maggot-shaped mushrooms fighting their way among my brain cells, by ripping up my cerebral matters and nourishing themselves with my rationale. The great cancer has released from the prison beyond the stars, it has come to us on that stone –felt from the sky in the Walpurgis Night; it will blindly satisfy its thirst, as long as it will be forced to absorb itself –the last thing left. Set fire to that house! Let me burn in the flames! Look for the servant! Because she breathed that nightmare, too and the germ of evil could be alive in her.
Copyright 2014 Adamo De Tremblay and Noemi Passamonti