Them by Risto Remes

Something was coming for the old man.

He sat out in the yard, lying against the trunk of a fallen tree. In his mouth he had a straw and his eyes were closed. Flies danced their ritual foreplay around him and butterflies rested on his feet from time to time. His face looked towards the cloudless blue sky, with eyes closed tight. Wind waved what was left of his gray hair. He sat there alone.

The afternoon passed by and the sun traveled across the sky. Far in the woods a singing bird chirped. A shadow from an old oak had covered the old one. It had crept up all the way from his feet up to his neck. The flies were now gone. The man didn't move a muscle.

As the sun went down and darkness fell upon the yard, noises began to erupt from the lake that was located a few hundred feet to the northeast. They were coming through the woods.

The old man still sat against the trunk. The sky was black and the air had cooled down. Noises from the lake were more clear now, but the old man didn't seem to hear them. Or he didn't care. The woods were silent as if all the creatures in the forest had known what was about to go down. A cold wind swept across the man's face. A distant crack sounded from the woods.

We had been there since the sunrise. We had been tipped by the hired man at Angers' farm. We would definitely witness something less than ordinary, he had sworn. Only three persons knew we were there. Me, Adam and the hired man at Angers'. Our folks had no idea where we were. They thought we had gone for a walk on the hills. Fools. People think they know things, but what they see is just an illusion, an image created by themselves.

A lonely dragonfly landed on the old man's nose that was barely noticeable.

They have always been here. And They will always be. They've been here from the times when the Old Ones came to earth. They are related to the creatures seen on deserted beaches on the coast of Massachusetts, but differ slightly because of Their strong bondage to the local population. In the ancient texts that Harold Cunham, the hired man at Angers', had shown us earlier, the things were called "the deep ones" or "the fish people." In the beginning of time, They had all come to earth and then settled in the bottom of the deep bays of Massachusetts. Some thousand years ago, an earthquake had isolated Them to a lake that was formerly a bay of Annis-Quam. It was the deepest lake of the east coast, filled with sea water, and now They lived in that lake.

The old man still sat against the tree as the stars came out of the darkness to shed their weak light upon the area. It became hard to even see the old man. In the middle of the woods the whole yard looked as black as coal. The splashes from the lake had ceased and in the midst of all the silence we hoped that a single natural noise would have broken the silence. Now it all seemed unnaturally quiet, even the air stood still. We pressed against each other and waited.

Darkness had fallen a long time ago and the white shirt the old man was wearing stood out in the blackness. Silence filled our heads. The wait was terrifying. In all that silence and calmness our senses finally went numb. But something was coming our way . . . something great . . . something we felt deep inside in our minds. Me and Adam looked at each other as the clouds covered the sky and blocked out the last light from the stars.

Suddenly we jerked and sprung onto our knees. A silent question with a definite answer came upon our faces. Did you hear that? Something cracked in the woods and we pressed ourselves against the ground again. The old man was still lying in the yard as a wind came up and a repulsive and awkward stink smashed against our faces. It was something remarkably similar to rotting fish and seaweed. (The lake was filled with salt water.) At the same time we heard a dragging noise from the forest. It sounded like someone was dragging a wet blanket through the woods. It was only a matter of minutes, then they would be here for us to see.

It came into the yard without us even noticing it. Suddenly it just stood there in front of us. It was human-shaped with two legs, two hands, but its skin was scaled and its face was fish-like with no nose at all and eyes wide apart. And it wasn't alone. Oh, no. There were tens of them. The old man had been a respected member of their community. By the sounds we could figure that a great number of these things were pouring into the clearing. We secretly hoped that the moon and the stars would stay behind the merciful clouds and cover those gross and devilish creatures from our eyes. We didn't know what was so fascinating about them. I guess everything strange and inhuman has always attracted the human mind.

We observed the creatures from our hideout for a while and saw them grab the old man. They started carrying him towards the lake. It was their home and that was where they belonged. Not here. Yet more and more of those things were coming to the clearing and there were just too many of them. The sight was too much for Adam to handle and he let out a moan. I gripped him and covered his mouth with the palm of my hand, wishing that the things would continue to ignore us. But instead they started closing in on us. We tried to crawl backwards to avoid being run over by a loathsome group of dark green things, but it turned out to be hopeless as the things had already surrounded us. A brief glimpse of the sky brought up a scary thought in our minds. The clouds were clearing and it was only a matter of moments before they would see us . . . and we could see them
. . . closer than we ever had hoped for.

Now they were all over us, squirming around us. We were trapped in our hideout, a small hole under a fallen oak. All we hoped for now was that the moon would stay behind the clouds so that its light wouldn't reveal us the terrors that lurked around us. We could barely breathe in the stench and Adam passed out first, graciously closing his eyes before we met the ultimate horror that dwelled in the lake. They had definitely seen us already and were now just waiting for something. My dear god! They were everywhere.

Their splashing came obnoxiously and my brain begun to flip. I prayed for my mortal mind to throw me into unconsciousness before I saw these things up close and personal. God! Kill me, won't you? Just kill me! My prayers are useless as the things grabbed me and Adam and started dragging our numb bodies towards the lake. Everything seems so distant and numb. They are everywhere. They are here. . . .

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© 1999 Edward P. Berglund
"Them": © 1999 Risto Remes. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1999 Old Erebus Graphic Design. All rights reserved. Email to: James V. Kracht.

Created: March 12, 1999; Updated: August 9, 2004