A single pitiful sound echoed through the night, that of uneasy footsteps on tarmac. The sound was irregular, with periods of silence where the girl paused from exhaustion, yet in the overall lack of sound it was something to cling onto in the night, something real.
The watchers waited in a dark hollow, a cold, eerily silent wind hurtled about them in their huddled mass, cutting through their clothing and searing the flesh beneath with a chill which depressed more than the utter darkness about them. Aaron sat awake clutching his wife Helen to his chest. The woman slept fitfully at best, though she did sleep, more from exhaustion than
anything else. Sleep was something rarely granted to them in these sullen times.
Helen quivered in his arms and Aaron knew it wasn't solely from the cold, rather an outward sign of the nightmares that troubled her whenever she slept, nightmares that increasingly left her drained and unable to function. He had longed to wake her but knew what would result: souring screams that would tear through the already taut atmosphere, an expression of the teetering madness she barely kept in check. The sound of footsteps, though, brought with them an intense sense of hope, as if they were harbingers of something, if not salvation, at least it offered them a chance.
Helen's eyelids fluttered against his cheek, the eyelashes moist with unbidden tears. Whispered incoherent phrases fell from her lips and as hard as he tried he could not make them out. He gave up, instead letting his ears strain for the footsteps, until below them on the remnants of the M4 he sighted the girl. She looked no more than perhaps twelve or thirteen, yet even at this distance he could see the determination in her stature.
It was wonderful to see another person again, as their private existence had become a nightmare chipping away at their sanity, one that left them unable to distinguish the nuances that separated the real and the imagined -- nuances which had ceased to be the moment nightmare and reality were inextricably intertwined. For a while an escape had seemed possible, an island of passivity in the tumultuous sea, but the ever present waves slowly eroded the isle to expose the uselessness of their concealment. Whatever escape the past had offered was an illusion, all they had now was the future, or what was left of it. To Aaron, the girl seemed to signify some kind of future.
Aaron tried to shake Helen awake, yet for a moment she was lost to him. She floated in an endless darkness, unable to comprehend the vagaries of direction. At the edge of her vision floated a form of great writhing complexity whose shape disobeyed every geometric representation. She called out, yet in a vacuum her words held no weight but in her own mind, yet a psychic residue reached for the floating entity and she sensed its mental tendrils seething in her direction. As she felt their feathery touch another presence intervened and she found herself pulled into cold reality by Aaron's confused whisperings.
'Helen, there's someone here,' he whispered roughly, 'Helen, wake up!'
Aaron's face was the first thing she saw as she turned and surveyed her surroundings, waking once more into a nightmare far worse than any of her night terrors. The darkness coated the land like a thick treacle, cloaking it not in warmth but in a claustrophobic enclosure, as if the Earth no longer reached outward, but inwards. The dark peeled before her eyes though, as over the months her eyes had developed quite a distinct night-sight, one far superior to Aaron's. She could see the road, where he was indicating, and the lone figure moving along it. The sight of the child filled her with a sense of loss, yet Aaron's urgings were correct, they must go to her.
Glyph sighed with exhaustion, dragging her leaden legs beneath her on the seemingly neverending journey along the deserted road. At first the absence of any cars, even stationery ones, had seemed strange and unnerving, but now, despite the harsh surroundings she endured, their lack didn't seem quite so disheartening. If things were to change it would be time to start again, there would be no room for such trappings of the past. As she walked she allowed colourful fantasies to dance across her consciousness, many dazzling memories of creations of a time before all this, visions of what was to come.
Glastonbury seemed so far, yet still its call enticed her, and something gave her renewed strength; for behind her, twisted thoughts echoed through the night sky. The thoughts of the messenger, calling to his flock, those ancient dreamers whose moment had arrived. The devastation wrought by a gathering of beings such as those would far outstrip the damage already done to the fabric of reality. Glyph had dreams, premonitions that gave her glimpses of what the new order would bring. A world where nothing living was constant and where life itself was a curse that twisted its possessors into a parody of what it once represented.
Glyph attempted for a moment to judge the distance to the source of the emanations. It was closer than Bh'Yhlun certainly, though how much closer she couldn't be sure. A sound broke her concentration and immediately she was ready to flee, yet it was not the rumbling of a Shoggoth, nor the psychic shimmering that always preceded the approach of one of the Old Ones. Instead it was a very human cry, one that carried through the night like the limpid call of a wounded seagull. There was no threat in that cry, and trusting her instincts, Glyph stopped where she was and turned to the source of the cry.
A momentarily shapeless form rolled down the hill towards her, transforming as her eyes focused into two distinct shapes, a man and a woman, and though both looked middle aged, there was an aura of something much older about them, especially the woman.
'Who are you?' the man asked, gasping for breath, when the two of them reached the tarmac and halted breathlessly a dozen feet away.
Before the girl could respond the woman interrupted, 'Her name is Glyph.'
'And you're Helen,' Glyph smiled as she was struck by a flash of recognition.
'You know each other?'
Helen held out her hand. 'Glyph, it's so nice to finally meet you, this is my husband Aaron. I think we have confused him.'
When Lucy finally glimpsed Glastonbury Tor she could barely believe it. After all this time she had finally reached her destination and even against the darkness that permeated everything the ancient monument exuded an aura of brightness. A small crowd of maybe a dozen people, the biggest gathering Lucy had seen in months, stood bathed in its light. It was a light which called to Lucy's deepest instincts, a power which had its roots in her femininity. An outward sign of the maternal protection offered by the Earth Mother, whether that of Gaia herself or another more human manifestation. She actually felt safe for the first time in months, and realised why she
believed her dreams even though her instincts were telling her to curl up and die.
Now though, for the first time, she wondered if what had seemed like the end was really the end at all. Her dreams had always exposed her to the devastation, left her open to the fears that eroded her willingness to live, and the small glimpses of the light afforded her had sometimes made it worse, merely reminding her of what was lost. There was something here though, at Glastonbury, that offered the chance of a new beginning; not an illusionery utopia, merely a simplistic existence based on real need. Though in the darkness even that seemed a distant possibility, the only light she knew was the fungoid phosphorescence that had overtaken the land, and though it had made her journey easier, each moment spent walking through it was a drain on the soul.
A week before she had come close to ending it, when her drug supply had ran out. They were the only thing keeping her insane enough to be unnoticed by the Shoggoths about her. To her surprise she had found the strength to continue and had not once been bothered by the minions of the Old Ones, not even their human agents. She had not been complacent though, if anything she was more careful, for the realisation that she was not being noticed rang an uneasy note in her consciousness. If she were no longer being noticed there must be a reason and perhaps the reason was that, for the time being, humanity had ceased to have any significance at all. She feared that the attentions of the Old Ones were directed in another direction, to something that would be of detriment to everything, and her dreams seemed to validate that idea.
As she approached the group of figures she slowed, she could recognise the individuals in the group now. They spanned the age groups, a few children and adults who were possibly their parents, but more likely surrogates, and a number of old people. The sight of them made her recall her mother, whose last hours had taken place in the calm before the storm that struck everything out of kilter. None of them made any move to come closer, they just stood and watched her come nearer.
As she approached an old woman moved to the fore, as if those who surrounded her had parted as one to reveal her frail form. She watched with glittering eyes as Lucy closed the remaining distance and it was only when she was within a few minutes of the human mass that the woman spoke.
'You are of the mother?'
Lucy was momentarily confused, not sure how to reply, so she just allowed her instincts to guide her, 'Yes.'
'I knew it, there are two others that come. You must protect the young one and make sure she reaches Stonehenge, little else matters.'
Stonehenge, the very place that Lucy had found dominating her dreams, the same dreams that had led her here in the first place. She wondered how the woman knew what she did.
'Which two? How do you know this?'
The old woman gazed unflinchingly into Lucy's eyes. 'The virgin and the crone, as you are the mother, are you not?'
Lucy was staggered by that, no one could possibly know, though she feared that which was inside her above all else. She had carried it for months, it should be showing, yet somehow it weighed a mere fraction of what it should. The events of the past few months, the film and the subsequent events: the rise of Bh'Yhlun and the reign of the Old Ones, had interleaved into a book with pages of night and the words in that book had warped the tiny life inside her. She had longed to bring it into a world of light, yet all was darkness, if her own body were reacting against that which she carried.
'I am a mother, yes, or at least I will be.'
The woman made to say something, but was silenced by a firm hand on her arm. She moved back into the crowd and it was as if she had never been. A handsome man stood in her place and beheld Lucy with eyes that in the darkness, seemed black as pitch.
'You cannot stay here, your presence places us in danger.'
'Then when can I go?' Lucy said, exasperated.
The man seemed cold and distant, his was the distrust of a gypsy for those who would destroy his ways, and she was the transgressor of ancient unwritten laws.
He pointed towards the Tor. 'You will be accepted there, until the others arrive. You must wait there and leave us.'
'What are you doing?'
'Judgment, the truth, whatever, it is of no concern of yours. You have your own path, we have ours. Fate crosses our paths now, but the routes diverge and never again intersect. Now leave.'
She was not about to argue with that tone, she understood the veiled threat and with it knew something of their position. The ancient allegiance lay with that which she communicated, whatever she felt a part of, though in their current existence that had made other allegiances. It was only the ancient pact they had with the earth that enabled them to say as much as they had, for a successful conclusion to the path Lucy was taking would result in a dramatic reversion.
Lucy parted from them without another word and continued her journey towards the Tor. Deep within her the ancient Tor resounded with a deep resonance, one which carried her forwards, and filled her again with the lightness she felt before. She felt certain that whatever the final outcome, she was doing exactly what she had to do, even if the approach of the two mysterious figures the woman spoke of filled her with something approaching fear. Hope as well though, but mostly fear, as though they brought with them more than they appeared to.
Glyph was so glad to have found some human company, it was as if she had found a glimmer of light in the frightening internal world she now inhabited. They exchanged stories as they traveled, Glyph first, and once she laid her past life in the open she found it easier to deal with the horror of her capture and incarceration in the citadel of Nyarlathotep, Bh'Yhlun, and her
resultant escape. She spoke of the souls streaming through the walls of Bh'Yhlun, as if it were carved of the stuff of Hell itself, and how their harrowing presence drove her close to the edge. She didn't speak much of Stanley Pickman, even the thought of that intense young man made her feel uncomfortable. She was well rid of him and she knew it, and though Helen and Aaron had their own dark secrets, she found their closeness comforting rather than unnerving.
She was afraid for Helen though. The woman seemed to be deteriorating as they traveled. Frequently when Glyph looked back at her she wondered whether the woman was all there at all. Her eyes often had a distant look, one tinged with anguish, as though in her mind she were looking upon scenes of great horror. Glyph knew that look, was sure that she herself had carried it, but the sight of it upon another's features was draining. She found Aaron affable enough, though somewhat overprotective of his wife, which was understandable under the circumstances. It was him who explained their predicament, the dreams that Helen had been having, of the formless being at the edge of time and space. Glyph knew something of what he spoke, and the idea that Helen was close to such powers filled her with awe. The more Aaron spoke, opening up as he did so, the more she respected this woman who had lived through horrors Glyph could barely understand.
She was concerned for Helen, especially her weakening state. Even in the short time Glyph had been with them, the woman seemed to be aging. From what Aaron said she was in her early forties, yet she looked in her late fifties and seemed to be rapidly aging as their journey progressed. And even with company the journey was as fearful and unpleasant as ever, even the road beneath them was covered in a fetid mildew that made its surface slippery. Although the alternative was walking in the spongy fungoid mass that grew off the road, they were happy to put up with it.
Glyph was surprised to learn that they, too, were heading for Glastonbury, especially when they spoke of the dreams that guided them. In a lucid moment Helen explained that her mind was like a battlefield, constantly pulled between these two conflicting dreams which vied for her attention. Sometimes the tension grew almost unbearable, and her screams left Aaron nervous and restless, both concerned for her safety and that the noise might have attracted unwanted attention.
Glyph understood something of their agonising, for she too had suffered over the dark months and felt the dark cloud of the Old Ones descending upon the lives of those around her. The tortured screams of her fellow prisoners in Bh'Yhlun still haunted her and she had not been without her own nightmares in that time, though if anything, Helen's seemed far worse.
They continued following the main artery of the M4, ignoring the occasional side road, knowing where they were heading and not wanting to risk leaving the safety, illusionary though it may be, of the main route. Something of the pervading gloom was lifted by the fresh companionship, and through the journey Glyph understood what it was to trust again. That, unlike Stanley Pickman, these would people she could have faith in.
The journey was not without interruptions though and several times they had had to stagger up the steep banks to avoid a presence approaching from the distance. All three were well aware, painfully so, of the Shoggoths that dominated the countryside, though of late they became more slovenly, as if their main source of food was diminishing. Glyph knew something of them from her dreams though and knew these particular Shoggoths would not last for long. Their main purpose was to clear the way for the coming transformation, merely clearing the debris of earthly life before the planet was warped out of recognition. The foul fungus that coated the land was but a taste of what was to come. Other Shoggoths, mutated even more strongly than these away from their original forms, would begin to strip the Earth of its natural flora and transform it into a world of utter repugnance, at least to Glyph, whose dreams had given her insight into how it would be, but the transformations were to make the Earth more habitable to those who still dwelt on the threshold between existence and nonexistence.
She had no idea what guided her, but it was something she trusted almost as much as Aaron and Helen. Glyph felt as though it were readying her, filling her with the knowledge needed for some great future conflict. A conflict which was slowly working itself out, though only time would tell the conclusion of the clash.
Soon it was time to turn from the M4 onto the tributaries that led into the countryside, the once free spaces that had become a chaotic mass of unformed vegetation and alien fungal shapes. They followed roads formed by what was now barely recognisable as hedges. The road was now overgrown, the tarmac cracking where roots were breaking through the surface. So much so that the three of them were frequently tripping, for between the hedges the effects of the phosphorant fungus was reduced, leaving them stumbling along in near darkness. Though in Glyph's mind the distant lure of Glastonbury was a bright light shining through the darkness, she could sense the distance closing as they approached the great monument. From it she sensed something of the power that filled her nighttime excursions with visions of what was to come.
There was that one other thing that none of them could understand, that of Helen's aging. With each passing moment the woman seemed to be getting older. It was so gradual as to be barely perceptible, but after each period of sleep they awoke to find her with more grey hairs. Her skin, too, was beginning to tighten, her laughter lines were deepening and other lines were developing in her skin. There was no doubt that she was aging, but as to what caused it they couldn't guess. Unless it was her dreams, the sights she witnessed while she was asleep: of what she had began to call the lurker on the threshold, ever-moving and ever-changing, and always moving closer,
just waiting for the summons that was bound to arrive. It was a nightmare that spoke of reality, once which tied in with an aspect of her own dreams that Glyph had yet to understand.
Helen's aging was slowing them, too, though they still made gradual progress and Stonehenge grew nearer with each day, and eventually, like an illusion brought on by heat blindness, it appeared on the distant horizon. It glowed, actually glowed, with its own inner light which spread across the land towards them. A welcoming light which was as much in the mind as a physical reality, though a reality it was. Glyph found her leaden legs were suddenly filled with a flush of energy, and so Helen and Aaron found themselves rejuvenated, too. In Helen's case, it did nothing to lessen the effects of her aging, but still it gave her a welcome boost. The short distance to the stones was like nothing compared to that which they had already traversed, and with their renewed energy they ate up the miles with ease.
The cold was beginning to get to her, as was an intense sense of loneliness, but still Lucy waited. She had reached the Tor and after so much traveling it was bound to be something of an anticlimax. Now that she was here, she was unsure of what to do. When she had laid her hands against the stone, which surprisingly wasn't at all cold, she had waited for an answer but received merely a tingling of energy. Just an inkling of what resided in the stone, yet the great swelling mass she could sense was unavailable to her, it was as if something were missing. The one vital piece that would make sense of her journey.
So she sat, and waited, her back close to, but not touching, the great stone monolith. She desired answers so much, yet none were forthcoming. It was an expectation she had held that upon arrival in this place she would find out what it was all about. Instead there was one big cold nothing, and she was sitting, risking exposure, and waiting for that one missing piece to slot into place and create the whole.
Instinctively she knew what she was waiting for, though her conscious mind couldn't quite grasp that which was outside human comprehension. There was a power here that whispered with the coded language of ages long past, one which couldn't simply be called back to the present, one which needed to be wrenched from its place in the past and forced into the here and now. She doubted she was capable, at least alone, but then the answer came.
She sensed an excitement amongst the people gathered below, and so she raised herself to her feet and attempted to see what the fuss was about. At first it wasn't clear, they were holding what looked like the beginnings of a celebration, but then it all snapped into place. The unconscious mind that resided within her, the one that had led her here, unfolded into that of her conscious mind as she witnessed the gradual approach of three figures in the distance. Figures which rolled out of the transfigured landscape and grew in stature as they approached, those she had been waiting for. The old woman's words finally made sense and the two -- three, she reminded herself -- were coming in a staggered procession towards the Tor.
The smallest of the three, a child, though carrying a presence far greater than that of a child, was the one of whom the old woman had spoken. She came ahead of the other two, a man and a woman who followed behind. Lucy realised that some part of her knew them all, as though they had always been destined to meet, Glyph, Helen and Aaron; the latter came with greater difficulty and again the old woman's words came to mind. The virgin and the crone, the other two pieces of what she was to become, the manifestation of the triple-headed goddess. The Earth mother, or perhaps something else, a darker consciousness that held the world in its hands, an evil to fight a greater evil. Human terms which were meaningless in this context, but Lucy grabbed onto them nevertheless. So there was the source of her fear, that she would lose herself in something greater, but the thought of what she had already lost allowed her to remove herself from the fear and open herself to their approach. Without them, the end was assured, and with them it was perhaps a little more bearable.
'Lucy ...,' a voice echoed across the intervening space and she realised they had made contact. The three, though separated still by a distance, now dwelt within the spaces outside those which contained their physical bodies. She felt an awakening with the closing of the distance, and as they grew closer to being one, the intensity of the power around her began to increase. The Tor
crackled with it, a living energy that needing grounding and when Glyph and Helen completed the circle it was complete.
They screamed in unison, not a scream of terror, but one of exultation, and the Tor opened up before them. It was unlike Glyph's vision, or Lucy's imaginings or even anything inside Helen's nightmares, and in that moment they all shared what the others had experienced. The rock melted as if it were gold and gradually segued into something else. At the pinnacle of this transformation, at the point of the triangle formed by these women, was Glyph, and the child soaked up the energy as one created for that sole purpose. It crackled from her and for a moment she was the Tor, the symbol of what had stood there for millennia, of something that was both the key and a prison. The keys were now theirs, but while they stood there the prison was gradually dismantling.
It was Aaron that called them back to reality, the connection between them was broken and they found themselves momentarily unable to cope with their individuality. Aaron moved while they were still in a daze, pulling them as one back from the old location of the Tor. The vanished monument had been in the location of what the Celt's had thought a Genius Loci, not just the spirit of a place, but the burial place of a God. A God not dead, but merely sleeping. The four of them fled, ran from the mound from which exuded the opposite of that which they felt before, waves of darkness flowed upwards and outwards, darkness far more intense than that which surrounded them, the darkness of the outer spheres.
They were not the only ones on the move. The people Lucy had met before were walking in a procession towards the darkness, they called out as they walked, their voices a discordant chorus, "The Fomorii, they have returned. The darkness has defeated the light of Lugh of the Long Arm and our king is returned. Ia Fomorii! Ia Fomorii! Ia Shub-Niggurath! Our king is returned!"
Behind them the darkness was spreading, yet Lucy and her companions were able to keep just ahead of its expansion, even Helen, who looked not a day under sixty, was keeping pace. A backward glance, though, enabled them to slow, for they could see the expansion was slowing and the darkness enveloped its worshippers. It was then that they wished the darkness was more complete, for something enabled them to see into its depths, to view the events as they unfolded, though they still fled with good reason.
"The Fomorii, praise the Fomorii! The thousand young have awoken!"
And so they had, for as the four watched the darkness unfolded with numerous shapes, twisted black figures that writhed with horrible life, moving on long legs with scythe-like arms to either side, throbbing with tentacles which were never still. This mass of black figures cut a swathe through the worshippers, who unwillingly offered themselves as the ultimate sacrifice. Their screams were brief but rang in the ears of the beholders for hours afterwards as bodies were rent limb from limb, and the scattered remains in turn mutilated into virtual nonexistence. Though the physical damage was nothing compared to that which the thousand young offered up to their mistress, not a king, but a ruler of unsurpassed cruelty. A great shape which rose into the darkness, answering the call of her distant brother, the physical manifestation of one of the Old Ones. One which they found themselves almost unable to look upon.
Her greatness was undenied, the figure dwarfed all around it and grew as the tattered souls of its worshippers were drawn towards it. No God in truth, but a being of such alien coldness and hunger as to be close to a God. The torment of the worshippers would never end, as they would ever be part of the tortured presence of Shub-Niggurath. Her body was that of her worshippers, but greater, with foul black teats on which they supped, and great tentacles which writhed in a perversion of maternal protectiveness. She was a travesty, yet she existed, and her form was that of the Old Ones, not solely in this world though neither solely in any other. As she moved the dimensions strained, and a body that transcended the laws of normal space and time did not walk, but rather shimmered on a wave of blackness created from the interwoven fabric of a score of dimensions. A fabric which resounded with that which the Earth shall become.
They could look no more; they turned as one and put all their energy in flight. Shub-Niggurath would not concern herself with them, they were insignificant in the scheme of things, though her young might not be so disinterested. If she had known of what they carried, that which had held part of her beneath the ground for all that time -- though little time in her reckoning -- they would suffer the wrath of the Old Ones.
Lucy felt her grip on reality straining, and it was something felt not just by her, but the others as well. The presence of such a force, in a world warped as theirs had been, was devastating. Their flight was a journey on the edge of barely suppressed insanity, though they managed their escape with ease. The power contained within Glyph had no desire for them to be discovered, not currently at least, though Helen screamed as she ran, with a voice teetering closer to madness than any of the others would care to be, that the darkness would swallow her and no one could stop it. There was a kick inside her body at that, her unborn child making itself known, picking
a moment that chilled her to her core that it should choose to make its first communication at such a moment. She longed, more than anything, for it to be gone. To be freed from the grip in which it held her life, but she had no more chance of freedom than the Earth on which she dwelt. That it was the end was obvious, the only question being whether it was really the end or just another beginning. The beginning to what?
They rested, yet the thought of further journeying merely filled them with exhaustion. The elation they had all felt upon reaching Glastonbury was gone. It had diminished with the sight of the presence of Shub-Niggurath, its sanity-shaking presence bringing home what was going to happen to their world. Glyph, though, was filled with energy, just like the child she should have been, straining at the leash, wanting the journey to end and rushing towards her goal: Stonehenge. The others were no longer so sure, but Glyph never more so, her insistence was what dragged them on.
Helen was on her last legs. Whatever was aging her was running its course, it wouldn't end with a cure, but with her death. They could all see it, and Aaron most of all, his body trembled with the sobs that he tried to conceal. They were, more than ever, aware of what they were up against. Before then it was as though they were living a horrific dream, but the sight of that awe-inspiring being had left them with no doubts.
It was Helen's collapse that brought them to a standstill and sundered their party once and for all. She slipped to her knees and couldn't rise, refused to move any further, and Lucy mouthed what they all felt, 'This is it. This is really it, isn't it? The end. The end of everything.'
They all looked down solemnly and then Glyph spoke, her voice echoing with years far beyond her own, 'Yes, but only of the cycle. Things must begin again.'
She glanced in the direction of Stonehenge and they followed her gaze, enraptured for a moment in the darkness, straining for a glimpse of that which was too distant to see.
'Lucy, we have to go on, Helen has to stay. Aaron too.'
Despite herself Lucy grabbed Glyph by the arms and shook the twelve-year-old roughly, then looking into her eyes which remained cool as ice, she asked, 'What are you? Where is Glyph? What have you done to her?'
'Nothing. I am still Glyph. I just ... know things. We have to move.'
Lucy paused in thought, parted her lips as if to answer, but remained silent. She glanced at the faces of her companions, looking from one to the other as if looking for a truth which eluded her. Then back at Glyph, a child she barely knew yet one she felt she knew better than almost anyone, and the Glyph she thought she knew had gone.
'Why must they stay?'
Glyph looked Lucy straight in the eyes. 'Because there is something they have to face together. Something they should have faced together long ago. We have to let them.'
Lucy wanted to break through the look in the girl's eyes, to find what drove her underneath it all. She had an inkling, from the momentary contact they had all shared, but Glyph held something within her that was beyond her understanding. Glyph's eyes held firm, though, and in the end Lucy bowed to her judgment, for Glyph was part of what had led her here in the first place and the girl, changed though she was, was far closer to the truth than Lucy had ever been.
Their parting was brief and painful. Lucy felt as though she were leaving a part of her behind that could never be regained. She and Glyph walked on towards Stonehenge, knowing, without ever sharing the fact, that this was the last they would ever see of Helen or Aaron.
They spoke little during the remainder of their journey, for Lucy felt somewhat afraid of the girl, and Glyph was in little mood for speech. Their thoughts were on what lay ahead, with the events they had already faced continually lapping at their consciousness.
'How do you feel?' Aaron whispered as he knelt by Helen's side, his arm wrapped around her shivering form.
'Okay,' Helen replied, 'just tired and confused. I want all this to end and quickly.'
Aaron had no answer for that, he merely pulled her closer. 'What do you think she meant?'
When Helen gazed full into his eyes, Aaron's heart tightened. The woman who sat before him was only just recognisable as the woman he had known for all of his adult life. 'Just wait and listen, then you'll know.'
He had to trust her, as he had failed to trust her before, and in the darkness that swam around them, as if embued with its own consciousness, he felt an echo of that which Helen contained. At first it was a mere shimmering at the edge of his consciousness, but with time it grew into a cacophonic crescendo of noise that filled him with unease. The source of the emanations approached with each passing second and with its nearness Helen began to change.
Before his eyes she strengthened, her physical presence, so long ghostly and ephemeral, began to exude a dominating air. The withered downturned look of her eyes became at once bright and cold, with a sharpness that cut through the darkness with unrivaled intensity.
Helen rose to her feet and smiled. 'I think we're going to make it.'
Then everything turned black.
It was the engulfing blackness of the cyclopean depths, stygian night stealing the light from their eyes and leaving them trapped deep within themselves. Nothing stirred but their displaced awareness, floating in the ultimate void. Aaron was lost, but Helen exuded a fear born of familiarity, for she had grown to know this place. They flowed together and with this joined awareness knew everything that the other knew. Aaron could see through Helen's eyes and together they turned to look upon the source of Helen's madness, and for the first time Aaron really knew what her insanity was: a seething mass of light and dark, not of sight but of pure consciousness, thought transformed into a mental image.
Yog-Sothoth. The lurker on the threshold. A conglomeration of all the fragmentary nightmares that have ever sought to collapse the human soul, an ever warping mass that could not settle on a single form for its shape was that of primal terror, the personification of fear itself, that effervescent shadow that undermined every living consciousness. Their combined thoughts were pulled towards it, and both struggled in their own way to escape the pull, that of a vacuum which drew them every bit as effectively as a black hole.
Their escape was by pure chance, a realisation that dragged them back into reality. The utter darkness was the key, that which they had witnessed in the awakening of Shub-Niggurath. They both latched onto the connection and the combined thought threw them awake. They were in a circle of blackness, but were able to see. Aaron and Helen gazed upon each other for what would be the last time. The residue of their connection still resided in their minds as they turned to look upon the presence that approached them.
Helen screamed her recognition though she had never met the man before, her knowledge coming from her connection with those who had known him, a figure from Glyph and Lucy's recent past: Stanley Pickman. He had changed, though, a change which made his previous transformation, that of an aged professor to a youthful man, seem insignificant. For though his outer shape was that of a man, his eyes shone with an energy which spoke of something much older. He was the messenger, come to awaken Yog-Sothoth into its final incarnation, and human form was no longer sufficient for the energy it held.
Pickman's body split asunder, spraying the stuff of life as a much greater form erupted from his shell. A being of pure night, skin as black as the coals that stoke the fire of Armageddon, not the glowing brown of the child of Africa, but an ebony that robbed the light of all its power. Eyes shone in an outsized head, the body a travesty still of human form, reaching out with one malformed hand.
Helen and Aaron screamed in unison, as Nyarlathotep rent the stuff of their being, tearing a physical hole in the stuff of reality, into the outer darkness where Yog-Sothoth dwelt. Awareness vanished as their physical forms, now eternally joined, swam through the gateway into eternal nothingness, becoming part of a tear which stretched and admitted the guardian itself. Reality strained as Yog-Sothoth parted the veils further still and the gateway passed the point where it could be reclosed. Those who still dream rend the portal to awakening, and with it the Earth falls firmly back into the grasp of the Old Ones.
Lucy and Glyph both felt it and there was no questioning what it meant. They glanced back at the source of what they felt, and saw the great black rending tear reaching up into the night sky. The physical actuality of it was an extreme shock, and Lucy felt herself drawing closer than ever to the breaking point. There really was going to be no escape.
There hope had only ever been an illusion. Stonehenge was so near, yet whatever secrets it held could not hope to stop the Old Ones now. The current cycle of Earth was drawing to a close, perhaps with the coming of the Old Ones it would be the final cycle. Despite humanity's frequent attempts, it would be the Old Ones that would drag the world down the final spiral to nonexistence, not humanity itself, for humanity was an endangered species about to find itself threatened with total extinction.
Glyph looked up and Lucy and grasped the girls's hand.
'It isn't over yet, we have to keep moving.'
'Yes it is,' Lucy responded. 'Look!'
She pointed to the distance, where the change was already taking place. A wave of blackness spread like the shock waves to a nuclear explosion, moving in a circular wave slowly encompassing everything. The wave brought desolation and left a melting mass of congealed matter in its wake; not a living thing survived, even the twisted vegetation melted away to nothing before its influence.
'Come,' Glyph said loudly and pulled insistently. Lucy allowed herself to be pulled, turning her back on the rapidly approaching wave, following the girl to the rise of the hill and seeing for the first time the seemingly tiny stone circle of Stonehenge in the distance. Its presence insignificant compared with that which rapidly approached from behind. They walked and Lucy waited for dissolution.
Glyph was confused, trapped between two diametrically opposed states, her consciousness the battleground between a thirteen-year-old's mind and that of a woman far older, a woman who had been as long as the earth had been. Her child's mind couldn't cope with the struggle and had retreated to the recesses of her consciousness, curled up and waited to die. She trusted the presence inside her, it was utterly maternal and stripped her of all sense of fear, yet the idea of having someone else inside her mind was almost too much to bear.
The Tor had bathed her in light, and part of her had been sacrificed at that sacred spot in order to make room for the mother. She felt more alive than she had ever felt. The whole planet was alive inside her, but its pain had become her pain and she was virtually overwhelmed by its suffering.
A lesser pain cut her more, though, that of her desertion of Helen and Aaron, for she knew they had died when she left them, knew they had to die, but had been unable to do anything but allow them to be sacrificed. It was as if they were all merely pawns in some higher game, to be exploited and then cast aside when no longer needed.
Glyph's mind was awash with contradictions; she was a passenger in her own body, being led rather than leading. She found Lucy's presence most comforting, wished that she could reach outside her prison and touch her, but in the presence of the mother she was nothing. She could no more make herself heard than she could swim against a tidal wave. All she could do was allow herself to be swept along and hope to be left somewhere high and dry and in one piece.
She felt the wave of change as it moved behind her, and the presence of Lucy's hand in her own as she pulled her towards Stonehenge. She did not fear the change, for it was somehow necessary, and the presence of the mother gave her confidence. She could sense the Old Ones' thoughts, alien and cold as they swam in the spaces around her, but they never touched upon them. Glyph and Lucy were merely part of the debris to be washed away.
The transition occurred while they walked, for one moment they walked upon a tarmac road and the next they were strolling through a mass of fetid flowing mush. Unformed reality which threatened to drag them into its primal mass, although a spheroid mass of energy formed around Glyph, surrounding both of them in a protective field and allowing them to continue walking as if the desolation around them were merely in their minds. A sole pocket of reality in the mass of melting chaos.
Although they were soon to see, it was not the sole pocket of reality, for when the surge overwhelmed Stonehenge the great monument remained unsullied, standing as it had for thousands of years unbowed by the elements. As Glastonbury Tor had before it, the stone began to glow, and hummed with a lilting song which welcomed them in their approach. Glyph carried within her the key, and Stonehenge recognised its presence, waiting as it had for millennia to be opened by the key that was Glastonbury.
They were drawn towards it and couldn't avoid it even if they wanted to, its approach came faster than it should, as if already the unformed reality was breaking the laws of time and space. As Glyph and Lucy stepped into the circle the humming song became a brilliant symphony of light and sound, the stones that made up the circle rose into the air, freed from their earthly constraints and began a dance about them. Glyph felt the presence of the mother lift from her, as though her work were done and, together, Glyph and Lucy were drawn into the light. It absorbed them and drew them into nothing, seconds passed and neither they nor the stones existed. The world was as it was millennia before, unreality spreading until nothing but Bh'Yhlun remained, returning the Earth, at last, to the dominion of the Old Ones.
Created: January 31, 1998; Updated: August 9, 2004