Joyce had always dreamed. For as long as she could remember she had always dreamed. Some dreams she remembered upon awakening; others were fleeting shadows lurking on the edge of her subconscious memories. And, of course, there were those she remembered not at all. Those were of no concern. But for the past few weeks, ever since the Black Nightmare, her dreams had become more vivid, lifelike, easily recalled. They reflected the natural, and unnatural to some extent, order of the world. More and more her dreams involved disasters, pain, anguish, murder . . . all unnatural to the pleasant well being of humanity, yet, events natural in the normal order of human existence and experience.
There were earthquakes in California, Mexico, China, and Turkey. All around the Pacific Rim volcanoes became violently active, spewing molten lava everywhere, building islands, destroying resorts, burning and burying people alive. There were destructive and deadly floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh while typhoons churned across the Pacific and hurricanes battered the Caribbean.
And while nature dealt a destructive blow, so did humanity. All around the world murder on the streets increased both day and night; there were more rapes and muggings, and militias guarding against capitalism. Plotting, deceit, treachery . . . dark and deadly. All this and more were the things of Joyce's dreams -- dreams of past, present, and future all rolled into one. Jack the Ripper cut -- his victims, of course, the women of London's west end. The Cannibal Killer killed and ate; the gunman shot; the mad bomber bombed. Numerous Sons of Sam, Zodiac Killers, and Hillside Stranglers were slinking in the shadows while the buildings, trees, bridges, highways, mountains, people and more that created those shadows were twisted and contorted by the increasing violence of nature.
The escalation of violence and destruction in Joyce's dream world had begun with the Black Nightmare. The Black Nightmare. That's what she called it. That's what it was; that's all it was. No sights, no sounds, just a curious black that seethed of potent malignancy. Although she could not see them, Joyce had felt herself spiraling through a kaleidoscopic miasma of odd angles, plunging deeper and deeper toward . . . something. She felt alone, trapped, terrified. Her senses were overwhelmed by an ominous feeling of despair. Her thoughts cried out, reaching for something to grasp, to anchor her spiraling senses. She succeeded, and immediately recoiled in abject horror.
Somewhere in the black amidst the curiously odd unseen angles Joyce's thoughts had touched upon an unseen sleeping cauldron (her word) of ultimate unbridled chaotic living madness. The momentary brushing of its sleeping mind sent a torrent of heart-stopping fear wrenching through Joyce. She instantly had pulled her thoughts away, but it was too late. She had touched the mind of sleeping Chaos, and Chaos had stirred, shaking off its weariness, sending a tendril of cackling madness in Joyce's direction. The cackling madness seared through Joyce's mind and sent her scurrying desperately for the waking world. With a howling mad scream, uncertain whether the scream was her own or the manifestation of the unseen maniacal laughter in her mind, Joyce tore away from the Black Nightmare.
In doing so, she nearly threw herself out of her bed, and onto the floor. She made coffee, drank the pot, and made another pot. She drank that as well. She did everything she could think of to stay awake. The black madness lingered, chilling her. She did not want to go back to her dream world, to the black void, to the howling maniacal cackling of that thing. And what Joyce didn't know, at that time, was that she didn't have to go back to the black void, to the howling maniacal cackling. In time, in the waking world, it would come to her.
So Joyce spent endless hours and days devising ways to stay awake. In time she failed, gave in to her physical needs. She needed sleep, her body needed rest. She slept a fitful sleep -- in her bed, on the couch, in a chair, and at times, a paperback slipping from her fingers, she even fell asleep on the floor, the paperback having been a feeble failed attempt to occupy her mind and ward off sleep.
And it was during those periods of restless sleep that she began to dream her dreams of wanton death and destruction -- of increased natural disasters, murders, rapes, muggings. In her dreams the world was caught in the grip of madness. And during her waking hours, Joyce watched the Evening News, saw that her dreams were becoming realities. But she could care less. Joyce didn't dream anymore. There was now a new nightmare, a new recurring Black Nightmare, different than the first, a new nightmare which was revealing itself slowly to Joyce, methodically, a new Black Nightmare that Joyce was convinced she'd never escape.
She played the scene over and over in her mind -- a beach of black sand, black water rolling in on the shore, the wave caps as black as the sand and water. There was a huge towering, ever-growing and approaching cloud mass highlighted by a violet glow, lightning streaking jaggedly across the darkening sky. And noises -- crackling, hissing, shifting immediately like odd abrupt angles, no soft rise and fall of pitch and tone. And finally, a mad dance of piping music howling an unearthly discordant tune. These were the images of Joyce's new nightmare.
But the images of the new nightmare did not cause Joyce's fear, did not cause her to bolt upright in her bed, her eyes wide, her pulse racing, a scream held strangled in her throat. No, it wasn't the images, but rather the feeling, the suggestion -- a sensation which crawled through her like a slowly moving dark and painful cancer. She felt a terrible loathsome darkness concealed within that rising cloud, an evil sentience that cackled in her thoughts, an absolute blackness that was not meant for human experience, not meant for experience in the natural order of things, not meant for the natural order of the Universe, something black and hideous that defied all convention.
Joyce knew that it was the source of the mad maniacal laughter, awakened, watching, and worse, worst of all, she came to the realization that the black hideous mass within the cloud knew her -- had reached out, touched her mind, once again sending her maddeningly spiraling through oblique and unknown angles of infinity. At that final moment of Joyce's failing sanity as she approached the brink of a glowing violet vortex of spin cackling maniacal laughter, Joyce broke free with a final last ditch effort in the form of a howling scream of self preservation, then found the scream choked in her throat as she sat up in bed, awake, frightened, in the darkness of her bedroom. And she realized that her self preservation was only temporary. She knew that soon there would be nothing that could save her. Or the Universe. It had awakened, and it was coming. I did this, she thought. I caused it all!
The black cloud churned, billowed, expanded as it rolled through odd angles beyond space and time. It crackled and hissed as it grew, jagged fingers of lightning clawing through the dark. It pulsed, a violet glow flashing like heat lightning, highlighting the fringes of the ever growing cloud. Before it rolled a group of smaller clouds, seeming to dance in rhythm to an unearthly horrid piping tune.
And finally it tore into the fabric of space and time where it did not belong, where it should not be. The Universe was rent with a howling mad noxious scream that no human ears could hear. And the black cloud grew at an alarming rate -- expanding, pulsing, cackling madly, destroying and devouring everything in its path, leaving nothing in its wake.
Great civilizations across the Universe fell before the onslaught of madness, reduced to a profound emptiness as though they had never existed. And onward the great black cloud came -- laughing, cackling its dementia, mad pipes calling its raucous tune of destiny across all that is, announcing to all things to prepare for the coming of Chaos, the Daemon-Sultan, Supreme Lord and Creator of All Things.
Those civilizations who knew of the Daemon-Sultan waited in despair, watching, wondering what had caused the Awakening, wondering who was to blame. Somewhere in space and time, they knew, someone had touch the mind of Chaos, had awakened Chaos. Now Chaos was coming.
And Chaos, the Daemon-Sultan, came, its roaring, howling, maniacal laughter renting atmospheres. Crackling filaments of violet lightning reached out and flicked planets, stars, and galaxies out of existence. The mad howling of the Daemon-Sultan and its piping music destroyed all things, from High Civilizations to the lowliest of life forms having yet crawled from shrouded pools of primordial ooze.
The Daemon-Sultan moved on, emptiness left in its wake. Filaments of cackling random madness reached into the dark of space, seeking, searching -- looking for the one who had been brazen enough to reach out and touch the sleeping god, awakening it from its timeless slumber. And suddenly, there it was -- that feeble light of deranged thought, a single entity, a single feeble mind deranged with a madness all its own. And the Daemon-Sultan reached out to the feeble mind, cackled deep in the dark recessed corners of her thoughts, and would not release her.
The massive black cloud, now several thousand light years across, altered its course, turning toward an obscure part of the Universe -- to an obscure insignificant galaxy of one hundred billion stars, to one of those stars and a small insignificant world that circled its small yellow dwarf parent star -- home to that insignificant deranged mind that had called the Daemon-Sultan from his slumber.
A howling mad roar of triumph tore through the depths of intergalactic space though no one or no thing heard. Deep within the huge pulsing cloud a monstrous shell slightly parted, flickering tendrils of tentacles and feelers licking at the edge of the shell, expectant, hungry. The great cloud containing the Daemon-Sultan moved on, pulsing with its violet glow, filaments of claw-like lightning several light years in length flicking planets and stars out of existence as it passed by, the howling mad laughter and cacophonous music filtering through atmospheres moments before planets died. It was only a matter of time before the Daemon-Sultan would have she who was bold enough to disturb its slumber.
Across the world astronomers gazed into space. There was a blackness there, deeper than the black of space itself, and yet highlighted with a faint violet glow. The blackness was growing, pulsing, red-shifted, heading rapidly toward Earth from the vicinity of Sagittarius.
A cloud of dust and gas? Giving birth to stars? The astronomers wondered. Perhaps. But things didn't fit. It moved, fast, like a star cloud wouldn't. This was something new, something altogether beyond their range of experience. Should we tell the people of Earth? Should we? They didn't tell the people of Earth. They were puzzled, confused. They didn't know what to do. What will happen when it gets here? If it doesn't stop before then? They didn't know that either. They were scared.
And they watched, day after day, month after month. They watched. But they didn't hear the voiced death cries of a myriad star systems in mortal agony and terror as their lives were sucked into and beyond oblivion. "Should we say something?" said one astronomer. "Would it matter?" said another.
Months went by. Joyce had let herself go, deteriorating as the world deteriorated around her. She was haggard, ragged, stringy hair, nervous, unkempt. Madness glinted in her eyes. She had had contact with the Daemon-Sultan for months now, and the Daemon-Sultan would not let her go. It had toyed with her thoughts, cackling in her mind day in and day out, tormenting her. Joyce was reduced to babbling incoherently, frothing at the mouth, her eyes wide and blank. She chewed on her fingernails, eventually chewing her fingertips to the bone. But she felt no pain, no fear. The Daemon-Sultan had taken care of that. And now she waited patiently, expectantly, for the embrace of her lord and master, the god she had awakened, the Daemon-Sultan, Azathoth.
Joyce wandered aimlessly about her darkened apartment, shadowed by the coming evening, the electricity having been cut off weeks before. She paused at the living room, glanced around at the fallen lamps, the scattered paper littering the floor, the half-eaten spoiled food scattered here and there. She cackled softly, for no apparent reason, then began to chew on her fingertips.
A sudden primal need surged through her, a single word forcing its way to the surface through her spiraling madness -- food. She paused, grinned, cackled again as she turned her eyes to the half-eaten, maggot-infested, raw steak that lay on the floor near the dead television. "Food?" she repeated the thought as a whisper, tilting her head to one side, then grinning.
She turned and stumbled into the kitchen, kicking garbage out of her path as she made her way to the refrigerator. The refrigerator door hung open, darkness and decay within. Joyce bumped the door open further as she reached for the freezer door. She opened the freezer door, the kitchen suddenly enveloped in a waft of death and decay. Joyce paused, her eyes wide, as if deciding on her meal. She cackled as she reached into the freezer and pulled out an opened package of raw hamburger meat, half-eaten, brown with decay, and crawling with maggots.
Food was food. In her frame of mind Joyce didn't know any better, any different. Leaving the freezer door hanging open, she stumbled into the living room, sat on the edge of a chair facing the dead television. She stared at the blank screen as she pulled at the raw hamburger with her fingers, stuffing the decaying maggot-infested meat into her mouth, drooling bits and pieces onto the floor between her feet. She cackled occasionally as if something on the blank television screen entertained her, or as if her blank eyes of madness saw something humorous that no one else could. And there in her apartment, the world raging around her, Joyce waited out the night.
In the pre-dawn hours Joyce left her apartment, leaving the door wide open. Like the refrigerator door; like the freezer door. It didn't matter to Joyce's addled mind. No one would enter her apartment -- not now, not ever. And more importantly, it didn't matter because Joyce knew that she herself would not be back. She cackled, grinned, knowing she was going away, going away to meet the Daemon-Sultan who was coming for her. Coming for me, her scattered thoughts reflected. "Nobody else, just me," she squeaked, her words slow, drawn out. She felt so special as she stood amidst destruction and peered up at the night sky.
The air was alive with static electricity as monstrous bolts of violet lightning erupted from the black churning cloud of the Daemon-Sultan and clawed through the sky from the blackness of space far beyond the Earth, illuminating the chaos and devastation with a soft ethereal violet glow. The cloud, the violet light flashing within like the heat lightning of a building storm, was perched on the edge of the Solar System. Nearby, the smaller black churning heralds of pipers swayed in the blackness of space, still playing their daemon tune.
Joyce cackled at the light show above, then hurried away into the dark, making her way out of town. She dodged steaming vents in yards, sidewalks, and roads. All about her the night was alive with madness -- the ground splitting, houses crumbling, steam hissing from broken underground water lines, sparks raining down from crackling broken power lines, fires erupting, and people running, killing, raping, mugging, howling their madness with a fierce insanity that had descended upon them unaware -- a soft subtle cackling that had crept into their thoughts from an unknown source. But the people gave Joyce ample leeway as if they knew another destiny . . . or fate . . . awaited her.
As the Earth crumbled around her and humanity continued its spiral into madness, Joyce left the town behind, still cackling to herself, drooling saliva dripping from her chin. She stumbled on through the shadowed woods to the southeast. By dawn she had made it to a small clearing, the clearing where she would await the Daemon-Sultan. In the center of the clearing was an oblong box that Joyce had constructed in her madness. It was made of plywood, rectangular, roughly the size of a coffin. She had painted it black, and in silver, around its sides, she had painted strange and horrific designs, pictures, and letters, things befitting her madness.
Joyce grinned as she glanced into the sky, then climbed atop the oblong box. She stood there, her arms spread, her hands raised to the sky. The wind kicked up, flicking her hair out behind her. The static electricity in the dawn air crackled and hissed as the violet lightning continued to erupt from the cloud, jagged fingers of light snaking through space and into the atmosphere. The violet glow flashed within the cloud, and the strange mad music of the pipes rode the silent aether currents through space, then given a voice of cacophony upon entering the Earth's atmosphere. And Joyce cackled, caught her breath, then cackled again, the cackle erupting into a howling maniacal laughter. Her eyes were wide, reflecting the violet glow above, reflecting her madness and longing desire.
Yes, Joyce had always dreamed, but soon she would dream no more. Joyce's moment had arrived. Her nightmare had become reality. She had reached out through time and space, then beyond, into an unknown place of odd planes and angles, to the slumbering Daemon-Sultan, Azathoth, the Creator of All Things. And now that nightmare, that churning cauldron of madness, the Daemon-Sultan, Azathoth, stood on Joyce's doorstep, hovering just beyond the Solar System.
Suddenly, like so many star systems before, huge violet tendrils of lightning flickered across the Solar System, touching moons, planets, asteroids -- Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Ceres, Triton, Nereid, Io, Deimos, Phobos, Titan, Vesta, Europa, the Moon, and more -- all gone in an instant as a whispering wind of madness rolled through space, ashes of the destroyed Solar System riding the wind like a fallen leaf from a tree. And in a matter of seconds all that remained were the Sun and the Earth.
Then, near the center of the huge churning cloud, the huge bivalvular shell reappeared, floating forward out of the black cloud. The great shell slowly opened, a long tendril-like tentacle writhing forth. The tentacle crossed what had been the Solar System, approached Earth, writhed through the atmosphere, and found Joyce standing atop her wooden box in the clearing. Gasping for breath, Joyce continued her maniacal wailing laughter, her eyes wide, as filaments extended from the tip of the great tentacle. The filaments wrapped around her, lifted her off the ground. She howled madly with delight as the filaments and tentacle retracted. With an envelope of protective air surrounding her, the tentacle took her into space, then into the shell. Then a violet bolt of lightning several thousand miles across flickered through space, seemed to hover for an instant above the Earth, then it reached down and touched. The Earth heaved, sighed, then died, the mad voices of humanity stilled in an instant.
A moment later the Sun was gone, and Azathoth moved on, fanned out across space and time, and beyond, like the aftershock of a nuclear explosion . . . everything in his path destroyed, matter dissolved into energy . . . then energy dissipated until nothing remained, until the Universe was no more. And in the end the churning cloud of Azathoth passed through a gate into another realm, a realm of odd planes and angles, returning to whence it had come. And in the great churning cloud, the violet flashes of light became less bright, less frequent, as the great bivalvular shell closed, and the Daemon-Sultan, Azathoth, drifted off to sleep once more after having feasted on his prize.
Somewhere outside space and time . . . in the dark . . . at a place of strange and unfathomable angles and planes, Azathoth, the Daemon-Sultan, once again rested on his throne, slumbering, while all about him the mad pipers played their blasphemous tune. And in his dreams a new Universe was taking shape.
Created: May 16, 2000; Current Update: August 9, 2004