ONCE UPON A SLIME

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With two flat tires on their runaway rickshaw, and building blisters becoming unbearable, the lovers stopped to rest in an untouched grove. Charles and Evie lay on a bed of moss by the river and gazed into each other’s eyes with passionate lethargy. He held her featherweight frame in his thick and weary arms as the helicopter seeds began to fall. The water was so clear that the carp could look straight up at you before fleeing in terror at a funhouse reflection. Evie had given up everything she had known for the one she knew was her soulmate. Tired of running, they let themselves feel safe in the moment and listened to the shore wash over the sound of approaching sirens.

~

Officer Hastings yanked the caution tape around the sycamore tree, as the end got snagged on a stretcher. He thought to himself, It’s just as well the locals are non-existent. “Who knows how long before the media gets wind of this” remarked Officer Starling, “We might never have uncovered this place if it wasn’t for the grizzly trail.”

“Have you heard the Serg’s bringing that detective in?”

“Grant? Oh God I can’t stand him. Gives me the creeps.”

“Well I reckon he’s well suited to this case then.”

“You can say that again. Guy gets brought in on a few cases and acts like a damn superhero.” 

Hidden within the forest of a valley, lay a self-sustaining commune, several acres of fertile land with simple mills and cottages built around ivy-covered and indistinguishable ruins. Overnight, this viridian settlement had become littered with police and military vehicles.

One more jeep rumbled onto the site, and out stepped a willowy gentleman, well-dressed but with an unkempt demeanour.  He had tousled hazel hair and a beige suit stained with flecks of emulsion and dirt.

“Ah, Officer Hastings, Officer Starling. What have we got here?”

“Mr Grant, if you’d like to follow me.”

Detective Samuel Grant pulled on some latex gloves and ducked under branches, as the policemen led him towards the village. Samuel was an agent with often little care for his wellbeing, hurling himself nose-first into cases. He was malnourished enough to ferret through crowds or monkey his way though air-conditioning systems, and there were few surprises left for him in this line of work. He was a force of obsessive logic wrapped up in pulp stereotype, piercing amber eyes through a crisp domino mask.

In every chamber, in every bunk lay motionless bodies in beds. Men. Dozens. Between the the ages of 24 and 71, each static with a neatly folded red robe placed over their faces with only bare feet uncovered. Deceased, simultaneously, three days at most. Bicycles draped in cobwebs, wild weeds winding through walls, candles fused to the floor.

Grant spent thirty-five minutes in silence pacing past the rows of burgundy ghosts before stepping outside for fresh air.

“Officer Hastings, I believe you came by this unfortunate village by discovering some sort of gruesome trail, what was it?”

“Oh yes, well sir, we’re awaiting toxicology reports on the victims, but everyone seems… physically intact… and yet we keep finding these” the policeman handed him an evidence bag. Inside was an eyeball.

“Where is the leader?”

~

Evie Europa was a nymphlike girl with natural lavender hair, adorned with pansies and she wore jewellery made from fossils and flint found around the ruins.

At 16, she had spent her whole life in the commune as the only female and felt saturated in solitude. Unbeknownst to her father, in the neglected gloam, she would occasionally venture out to edge of civilisation and collect litter from another world. She kept a secret treasure trove of lottery ticket shreds, bottle caps and other fragments of a forbidden land.

She believed in love. Or rather she believed that she believed in love, as rain-damaged romance novels were one of her few external stimuli, which she’d found propping up the various bookcases of more incomprehensible tomes. The life of a cult leader’s disillusioned daughter was convincingly far-fetched. Though respected by the resident followers, she considered none of them a true friend. Their shiny scalps and hopeless grins reminded her too much of her mother. Or what she could remember remembering. Moonbiscuit the groundskeeper had offered good company, but his advances were becoming increasingly less subtle. Tumblewolf, Rainfish, Thistlebear all seemed to have abandoned their idiosyncrasies the closer the ritual came. Besides, they had all migrated from their secret city lives in search of a higher power, whereas Evie was going through that difficult phase where all you know stops making sense.

But everything changed when she met Charles.

 

Father Francis, the patriarch had been deep in study for weeks, pupils flickering over hieroglyphs with a permanent set of aviators in-between, barely communicating with his daughter. He was convinced that the time had come. The town was abuzz with cryptic excitement, but no-one would tell Evie what was happening. Through eavesdropping snippets she’d heard “the time is now”, “200 makes 1” and “they will be released”. Evie confronted her father about the whispers of a ceremony.

“Child,” he adjusted his lenses “you are my flesh and blood, but this is not your place. You are too young and fair to be concerned with such things, but when we succeed, you shall join us in the kingdom. Stay away until you are called.” 

Naturally, Evie disobeyed her father, like any rebellious teenager would. That night, sensing the wave of collective anticipation, she snuck into the grand chamber and hid behind an arras. 

One hundred and nighty nine figures in nervously ironed satin robes floated in and formed a circle. Father Francis was the last to join, reaching the centre and scattering a ring of leaves. The crowd rotated around him like a school of clockwork fish as he lit each candle they carried. The tapestry musk made Evie want to sneeze, but instead she held her breath, as did the hooded crowd.

The leader began to speak, but not in any words Evie could recognise, garbling tongues met with a union of hums. Then the crowd fell to their knees and extinguished their candles. In the sudden darkness the scent of wax shifted to sulphur and then another smell, inconceivably new. It was like burning hair that turned to sugar in the throat. Suddenly a cyan light filled the room. Evie crept closer.

Drip

Drip

Drip

A sudden micro deluge erupted from thin air and spilled onto the stone floor like the sound of a thousand peaches splattering on a windshield during a typhoon.

“No!” Father Francis cried. “NO NO NO OUT!” Quickly the monks lost their composure and scurried to the door. This wasn’t supposed to happen. In moments, the townspeople had left the chamber and Francis had bolted the great doors. Evie was locked inside, frozen in terror. But then the blue glow made her feel calm. Peering behind the arras she saw the most beautiful thing in the world. 

In this same hall, days later Detective Grant inspects the charred stone floor from whence Charles came. He turned over the leaves stained with soot and studied the dried blue ectoplasm in-between the bricks. The rest of the room was empty besides a few stray pansy petals behind a tapestry depicting the circles of hell. Samuel suddenly remembered something he’d seen in a book in the study where he’d found what remained of Father Francis. He dashed back across the courtyard, and found himself doing what he’d never done in his career as an deductive perfectionist, he wished he was wrong.

~

On their first meeting it was love at first sight. Evie was speechless and Charles incapable of speech, yet they made an instant telepathic connection. Charles was a puddle of luminous slime, that rose from the earth and moulded himself into the vague semblance of a man. He was bluer than the clearest sky and his body was pimpled with dozens of lidless eyes which twinkled with new life like the late light of distant stars. She took his amorphous attempt at a hand, he was so cool and soft to the touch, wet but without residue, firm but without form.

He spoke straight into her heart, “I am not the saviour of your Fathers. I am the mistake that trickled through.”

Evie fluttered. Fate must have sent her a guardian to escape this dry reality. She realised that he was not young. Beneath his glossy veneer beat a post-traumatic core. Like the townsfolk, she felt he had come from a place of hurt in search of purity. She could relate and found a deep kinship in this sentient goo. She had to leave before her father noticed she was missing, but promised to return each night. Charles lifted her to the window and lowered her out on a gelatinous tendril. She blew him a kiss and scampered back to the cottage. 

The monks had sealed the chamber, but each night Charles would seep through the cracks to take midnight strolls with the girl that taught him the simple pleasures of the surface world. She demonstrated her mimicry of night birds and he would never tire of the smile she gave whenever he juggled his eyeballs. 

The commune had taken a collective vow of silence. No matter how hard she tried to get their attention, they all maintained a lugubrious disposition. Interaction was as futile as trying to execute a tortoise with a guillotine. Even Moonbuscuit’s inappropriate flirting had been curtailed by these hushed-up events. She didn’t need them anyway. Her father was too busy to see her, presumably trying to find out why the ritual had gone awry, and how to deal with its unexpected results.

~

Grant manoeuvred around broken glass and empty kegs in the study, piecing together the events whilst searching through Father Francis’s unreadable notes and trying not to disturb an already baffling crime scene.

~

On the evening of that incident, the lovers quickly decided to leave and start a new life together. Evie grabbed her trove, hoping its contents could be used as tokens in the real world. Charles reconstituted himself into a trench-coat and hid in the compartment of Evie’s rickshaw as they rode towards civilisation. To hell with the Watchers, she thought, there’s a whole world out there. One night they eventually came across a dank motel along the highway. Charles oozed into an empty room and unlocked the door, and the couple spent the night there. That was the first time they made love. Virginal flesh met iridescent mucus in a graceful mess of passion.

Charles was the embodiment of body, shifting and responding to every measure and desire, building elaborate gelatinous pleasure constructs while Evie delicately kissed every contour of his quivering mass. 

 

Charles lay silently across the mattress. He slept with his lidless eyes open, but they had all congregated peacefully at the centre of his body on a respiratory current, glistening under the flickers of the neon sign. Evie watched her lover and wondered what dreams an inter-dimensional slime beast might have, hoping that they were of her. A chorus of crickets and plumbing kept her from joining him there. The sudden stillness cornered her swirling thoughts. She put on her robe and stepped onto the balcony, watching the moon rising over the mire. It had all happened so fast. 

~

36 hours ago Father Francis had summoned her to his study. In her heart, she knew that he knew, but not of what this had done to him. When she opened the door, Francis was frantically decanting vials of fluid into a collection of cauldrons.

“EVIE!” He slammed his hands on the desk.

“Father.”

“Child, I know what you have been doing with that monster, I know that it has tainted your soul. I WARNED you. I locked it up. I told you to stay away.”

“Father, just tell me what..”

“We were trying to reach our saviours, our lords, but instead, we received this THING. We took a risk, we thought this dangerous substance came from the wrong channel to compromise everything we believe in. Everything I raised you to believe in. But creature was no accident, it is the catalyst, it is the trial and we must act quickly and exterminate it or the Grigori will never return to us! But you… I thought you would trust me, but I knew.. after everything I’ve done… I knew you are a non-believer.”

“STOP!” Evie cried “This has gone too far!”

“Child! I will exorcize you, but first we must dissolve that putrid glob of-“

“STOP IT! His name is Charles and he loves me!”

“No. NO NO NO. No child of mine, perverted heretic!”

“What’s happened to you Dad? All these people call you Father but I’m your only child and you never loved me!”

Francis was trembling with rage. “Get out of my sight, heathen.” he bellowed and shoved her to the floor.

An eyeball on a slimy stalk had been watching from the doorway, and the moment Francis raised his hand, Charles quickly sloshed himself from the hallway and formed a barrier between the girl and the man possessed.

“No no NO! Get back!”

Francis jumped behind the desk and started to splash the potion at the globster, each droplet scolding his epidermis. Charles let out a psychic shriek.

Evie screamed, and smashed an Erlenmeyer flask over her father’s head. 

Francis swayed. His glasses slipped from his face and, for the first time in years, Evie saw her father’s ochre irises, before he collapsed face-first into the cauldron.

The sanctified water slowly turned a clouded crimson as the preacher’s brains osmosed inside. 

Charles took Evie’s hand. They stood motionless for one long minute. Then she said: “Let’s go”.

Detective Grant was sitting in a white lawn chair, flicking through a warped paperback as the army air-lifted away two hundred bodies. The cover of the book featured what might have been two embracing lovers, but a fluorescent slick had blurred away the image.

Officer Hastings came and sat beside him. 

“Samuel… the Sergeant wants to hear your thoughts. There’s more personal effects to look over, but it seems they lived quite modestly. Coroners say cyanide poisoning. Seemingly ingested by choice. They put them selves to bed, for the love of…” He took off his hat and rubbed his brow. “And any one of them could be responsible for the leader. It looks like they wanted to join him.”

“Are you a religious man, officer?” asked Grant.

“After seeing this? Can’t say I am. What did this cult believe in, anyway? Maybe I’d kill myself too If there were no women around. I mean I’ve seen some pretty odd horrors in my time on the force. Clowns with assault rifles… Kindergarten meth labs… these men lived away from our urban hell. What was all this for?”

Grant rose and started to pace. “Well there’s no use sugarcoating a missile. The First Book of Enoch tells the story of two hundred angels called the Grigori or “Watchers” sent by God to watch over humanity. They defied God by intermarrying with mortal women and teaching them secret angelic arts – metalwork, astrology, the use of cosmetics… The children of these unions were known as the Nephilim, a race of giant demons who wrought havoc over the Earth, which prompted God to send the Great Flood to wipe them out. God punished the Watchers by imprisoning them in the bowels of the earth until Judgement Day. 

This community called themselves the “New Nephilim” and from what I gather, believed themselves to be demons incarnate, dedicated to releasing their angelic ancestors. They wanted forgiveness. Their leader, this Father Francis seems to have built this commune in preparation for the coming of a new age.”

Hasting’s face was drained of colour. 

“My job here,” Grant lifted his eyemask to itch his nose “…is to determine whether this is mass suicide or mass murder.

“Who…?

“Well from the looks of this trail we have at least two defectors, who might hold some answers. 

“You don’t believe any of this bullshit do you? Did these poor bastards really think they were summoning angels?”

Grant handed over the sticky book to the policeman who put back on his evidence handling gloves. On the inside cover was scrawled “CHARLES ❤ EVIE.”

He pointed to rickshaw tracks which forked away from the main desire path and into the forest.

“It appears they already have.”

The next morning Evie woke to find the gaunt masked man perched on a nearby boulder, fixated on Charles.

“Miss Europa…”

Evie gasped and tried to shake Charles awake. “Please, I’m not hear to hurt you. My name is Samuel. I need to talk with you about..”

Evie wasn’t listening. Charles wasn’t moving. “Charles? Charles!?” his bloodshot eyes were drifting to the edges of his hardening body. The warm synapses in her mind that she felt when they were together had run cold.

“Please!” she sobbed, help him!”

“I’m sorry” the man’s voice cracked “I’m not a wizard. I’m a detective. Your father summoned Charles…  I think he is an extension of him… Evie I…”

“I killed my Father” she said without hesitation.

“I know.” Said Grant. “Do you know about the others?”

Her lilac tears did nothing to soften the body of her lover. He started to crumble. Grant put his jacket around her as Charles started to flake into the river.

“Just… please”

Grant nodded and retreated into the woods. She let out a piercing cry that cast a confetti configuration of birds into the sunlight. She kissed his membraned brow, and pushed him into the river, where he shattered and sailed toward ocean in shards of pewter dust.

Grant was sitting on the bonnet of of the Jeep reading the non-blurred pages of the untitled murky paperback. “That’s mine” Said Evie as she left the forest and approached the car.

“is it good?” asked Grant.

“Not really.” Said Evie, plucking the pansies out of her hair. “Let’s go.”

~

The unknown truth would haunt Samuel and Evie more than the 199 monks who took this knowledge to this knowledge to their graves. They knew what a broken-hearted Francis couldn’t piece together. What an skeptical Samuel couldn’t quite bring himself to believe. What a traumatised girl could never be expected to understand. Charles was indeed the herald of the angels, but Evie’s touch had tainted him. She was the last daughter of the Nephilim, and by laying with The One Who Sees she became a technical succubus, forever barring the return of the divine children.

 But had Evie known this, that she had traded a better world for true love, she would have said it was worth it.

 

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