I sat there, alone, with a severed head in my hands, staring, just staring into the glassy eyed visage, wondering what to do next. I mean, I’ve gone this far. Where should I go from here?
Is this right, I wondered? Not what I’d done, no definitely not, I was more than pleased with my progress. It was the head. I turned it this way and that, feeling the contours of the bones under my fingertips, pushing and pulling at the greying skin, peering into the mouth with its lolling tongue and broken teeth, pinching up the nose to allow for easier inspection and examining the neck inside and out. It looked normal enough, just like any other head. And yet still something wasn’t right.
Silently I went back over everything I’d done up to that point, counting off all the points on my check-list. All of that meticulous planning and flawless – truly flawless – execution was being undone and I didn’t know why. How maddening!
I found no fault in my actions. I did nothing wrong. So why did I feel this way? Was there something I missed that I was completely oblivious to? Angered by this unknown problem ruining what should have been a time of celebration I stood up, gripping the head in both hands, pushing its features into a mocking sneer. I began screaming at the face in my hands, demanding an answer, ordering it to make things right.
I received no answer.
I threw the bringer of false promises at the far wall. I heard the wet double thud as it struck its target and fell to the floor. I turned my back, couldn’t bear to look at it all filled with lies, with hateful deception.
But after a few moments I pulled myself together, straightened up and turned to confront my adversary. There it was propped up against the wall, mouth agape. Somehow it had changed.
I wasn’t sure how at first but it was…not right. Its eyes seemed to smoulder in their sockets but it was more of a feeling than anything I saw. I didn’t like it, this head was not acting properly at all.
I continued to sit and stare. The light around me seemed to dim the longer I watched. My vision filled with the face of the recently deceased and it looked at me with utter indifference, daring me to say or do anything in its presence. What the hell was going on I wondered, this was mine, all mine. I owned it and I ruled over it. Yet I couldn’t move, I felt like I was being judged.
The light around me had almost vanished but the head stayed the same as if lit by some celestial spotlight until all of a sudden it burst into flames. I started out of my daydream and the light rushed back into the room. I looked over at the wall again and there it was. Still. No flames, no evidence of fire. It just sat there against the wall as before with a ray of sunlight beaming upon it casting contorted shadows across the room. Shadows that looked like…well, a dragon for want of a better word.
I could no longer look at it, after all I had done I couldn’t even gaze upon the trophy I had so coveted before. So I rose from my seat and walked to the window to try and straighten my confused mind. Outside the sun shone bright as ever and the city was as it should be with the intriguing exception that there was no one to be seen. I opened the window, leaning out to look up the street and that’s when the silence struck me. The city was dead, not a person to be seen and not a birdsong to be heard. I stood up straight again and pondered on what was happening. I couldn’t make sense of it. I was outside not twenty minutes ago weaving amongst the crowds as they rushed to wherever they were going. Always in such a hurry.
Suddenly the silence was torn apart by a sound of such primal ferocity I jumped momentarily and felt a rush of childish fear that almost sent me running for a place to hide. I held my ground against such stupid thoughts and stared out the window again. Nothing there. The roar sounded again and – loathe as I am to admit – sent me scuttling towards the shadows, pressing myself against the wall. Curiosity getting the better of me I kept one eye on the window when a colossal shadow enveloped everything I could see. It was as if night had swooped across the globe at breakneck speed. The roar came once more and I hid behind my hands, falling to the floor and curling into a ball. I heard explosions and screams. I felt intense heat flow across and through me in waves. I smelt burning asphalt and melted glass.
Then there was nothing.
I didn’t move, couldn’t. I lay there for an eternity – maybe two. Eventually I pried my hands apart and summoned the willpower to open my eyes. The room was the same as before in all its bland beige glory, the sunlight coming through the open window illuminating the dancing dust motes. I moved towards it, each step forcefully taken so that my knees would not betray me. Leaning out of the window again I saw a barren landscape. No buildings stood tall, instead they decorated the ground with their innards splayed across what used to be a park and pool for the local children. Everything was covered in ash but I couldn’t smell anything but my own fear. I leaned further out the window, craning my neck to see what I could see but the story remained the same.
Something moved behind.
In a swift motion I spun on my heel, unsheathing the hunting knife at my hip and stabbed forward at my would-be attacker. As I saw what was before me I fell to my knees, barely hearing the clang of my knife hitting the floor. I looked at my trophy against the wall and it had grown. Was still growing in fact. It appeared to be inflating at first then parts began growing out of shape giving the face a snout, breaking the remaining teeth inside the mouth until they were sharp and curved. I heard bones creak and crack as the top of the skull elongated, the eyes – still smouldering – widened and moved. Every time I heard a snap blood would begin to trickle from the face until I was staring at a savage devil with a permanent, bloody lattice covered sneer. I desperately wished to leave but was fascinated that my trophy had decided to become more, to make something of itself.
The head grew until it filled the room almost touching the ceiling, the flesh was taut and breaking against the new bone structure until it could take no more. All at once a thousand seams split, the skin tore away and fell to the ground with a sound that I can’t accurately describe but wish I could. Before me now, bereft of the imprisoning tissue was the newly formed head. It was covered in scales of pure darkness, something I once thought to be familiar with but at that moment realised I was nothing before this entity of eternal hatred.
The head straightened itself to bring its eyes forward. Still smouldering they gazed upon me for a moment or an aeon until they burst into pools of blazing orange and yellow. I could see the engines of creation in the eyes of this thing and wanted nothing more than to know. Just know what it was.
The blazing eyes grew brighter, blocking out the details of its face until all I could see were the eyes and the scaled outline of its face. Nothing else existed, the two of us in an eternal room staring into each other.
The silence broke. The creature spoke.
“You. Are not. Welcome.”