Corruption: Eureka’s Nightmare

It all began with the stillness. It was unnerving, unnatural.  No wind moved through the palms and the ocean lay stagnant. The bloated orange sun hung low in the sky, admiring its reflection in the water’s glassy surface. With no breeze to stir it, the day’s heat was heavy an oppressive. It made everything feel uncomfortably damp and sticky. The only sound to be heard was the lazy sawing of the cicadas in the distance.
At the water’s edge a girl squatted, toes just dipping into the cool water. In her hand she held a long and slender twig, which created serene ripples as she dunked it into the sea.
“What’s wrong, little fishy?” Eureka cooed, using the rod to gently nudge a portly silver fish hovering just beneath the brine. It looked sickly to her: there were white blotches beginning to form on its sleek scales, and its eyes were rheumy and unfocused. There was something wrong with the island; she could feel it. Fish this large had never ventured into such shallow waters before. The dorsal fin of her specimen was almost protruding from the water. To her it seemed as if the fish had come to shore to die, to make its final journey to the surface less tiresome. It was not alone in its plight. Recently an unusually high number of fish carcasses had been appearing. The entire ecosystem was feeling under the weather. Suspicious gray fungus was creeping up the roots of the trees and just yesterday she had seen a flock of birds drop out the sky for no apparent reason.
Eureka had always been uniquely attuned to the moods of her island. She had been born from the sea and tossed ashore by its loving waves. She was the isle’s sole human inhabitant. If, in fact, she was human. Eureka had never seen another being quite like herself. She had seen others who walked on two legs as she did, drifting by on their lofty boats, but they were not like her. They did not have two long, cephalopodan tentacles sprouting from the back of their necks. There were no dotted lines of bioluminescent color running over their skin like veins. She had only encountered one that shared her snowy white hair, but he had looked shriveled, like a dad fern. Her pale, reflective eyes were hers alone.
Eureka had watched these people from afar, but hid whenever their boats coasted too close. She would submerge herself in water, breathing through the gills under her arms, or crouch behind rocks or foliage. She was not really frightened of them – she was more curious than anything – but her bashfulness constantly won out.
Even a castaway from one of these crafts could have seen that something was amiss. If one had eyes and cared to look they could see the signs. From this troubling observation stemmed a concerning question with a much more elusive answer: Why? Eureka had scoured the island, searched and hunted and dove, but all in vain. There was no tainted spring or beetle infestation, to foreign plant or overbearing volcanic ash. If there was a centralized cause to this blight, she could not find it. All was as it should be.
And yet, it was not.
Eureka was left consumed by a poignant feeling of helplessness. Whatever was happening was beyond her control. She was small, oh-so-small, and insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe. If it wanted to kill her island, it would. Little people like her could not fix big problems. How could she fix what didn’t appear to be broken? By the time the gradual changes compiled into a sudden cataclysm it would be too late. All she could do was try to treat the symptoms; patch holes in the dam while the tidal wave loomed overhead.
“Go on, fishy. There’s nothing for you here. Go home to your friends.” She coaxed.
The fish refused to budge. It stared p at her through its deadened eyes with something between indifference and contempt. She met its gaze stubbornly, pursing her lips.
When even a stern tap with her stick would not persuade the finned martyr she eased back on her heels and allowed herself to fall back into a sitting position in the sand. She watched her fish grudgingly, silently feuding with it. It remained unaffected. It occurred to her that the only way to deliver this obstinate beast its rightful abode was through force. Given the creature’s willingness to do more than blink placidly, she discerned that that would not be difficult.
“This is for your own good, fish.” She warned, jabbing an accusing finger in its direction. She had tried to talk reason it. Eyebrows furrowed in concentration, she bade the fish stay still while she rocked onto her knees and reached forward for it.
The fish hissed at her. It hissed at her. It pulled back what constituted its lips, pried its jaw open and let out an unearthly, ungodly shriek that could be heard even above the surface. And its mouth… its mouth was filled of twisted, needle like teeth. Eureka stumbled backwards in shock and horror, unable to do anything but watch as the fish began convulsing, flailing and splashing in place. All the while its tortured, now-reddened eyes remained affixed on her.
She was so transfixed by the fish’s epileptic dance that she almost failed to notice the rusty brown goo that was leaking out of it. It was only when the creature finally laid still, body bobbing upwards, that she was finally able to rip her eyes away. All only to be transported to a fresh hell.
Oily brown fingers were spreading out across the ocean, gripping it tightly and choking the life out of it. Whole schools of limp fish were being dragged to the surface and entrenched in the ooze. Floating gulls squawked and struggled as the muddy water snatched them and yanked them under. A gasp left Eureka’s lungs as she saw a tendril of horridly polluted water snatched a low flying bird right out of the sky.

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And then there was the smell: the horrible odors of death and rot wafted towards her. She gagged on the putrid scent. She was suffocating. Had it always been this hot? The air was smoldering all around her. It was so hot it was boiling the sea. Bubbles were forming out in the deep: huge, deformed swells of brown and black. As they swept outwards a cacophonous bellow erupted, so loud that Eureka could feel the vibrations in her bones. She screamed at the pain in her ears, but it could not be heard over the howls of the ocean. The leviathans of the deep were dying.
Oh gods, she thought, Oh gods. But her gods were dead now. And in their place, from the foaming sea, rose a new deity. It had a human shape but it was not human. It appeared to be made of the same black smog and muck that it heralded its arrival. It was slender, fluid, and constantly changing, twisting, dripping. It turned at her and smiled a ravenous, empty smile.
The way it moved made it seem to melt towards her, and at a surprising speed. It had a sickening grace to it. It made landfall before Eureka had even forced herself upright. In its wake it left a trail of death. The sand coiled and charred beneath its feet and from its footprints sprang networks of life-sucking capillaries. The plants they touched withered and died, any crustaceans unlucky enough to be caught in their path were reduced to nothing but flaking exoskeletons. Screams went up from the jungle. When Eureka looked into the hollow eyes of this monstrosity she knew that she would not live to see the stars that night.

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Still, some natural instinct in her body compelled her to run. It wanted her to fight for her life tooth and claw. Even as her feet carried her forward, she knew the effort would be fruitless. But her mind tantalized her with the image of safety. She could see, just behind the curtain of reality, the tranquil spring that bubbled quietly in the center of the forest. Its cool, inviting waters beckoned her, offered her refuge. If she could just make it there she would be alright. And so she darted madly through the foliage, ignoring the shooting pain of sticks that puncturing her bare feet, the sting of branches whipping in her face. She moved nimbly, but had no time to consider her route. She could feel the corruption nipping at her heels. She didn’t need to turn to know that the New God was giving a sporting chase. She could hear the moaning and crying, smell the putrefaction. She didn’t want to look, but she did, and saw nothing less than she had expected. The forest behind her was desiccated and the New God was strolling behind her at a leisurely pace.
Run faster! Her primal self urged her. Already Eureka’s muscles were beginning to tire. Her throat burned and her diaphragm ached.
Just a little further.
The bottom of her feet were raw and bleeding, her body was bruised and scratched from the groping branches of the now claw-like trees.
Almost there.
She didn’t know how much longer she could run. She wanted to stop but her body wouldn’t let her. She wanted to die. She wanted to live.
And finally, just when she thought that her body would give out under her, a speck of glistening blue water appeared through the trees. It gave her the energy to push just a little bit further, just a little bit harder. The tiny waterfall over the pond gurgled invitingly. The grass fed by it was still green and flowers blossomed along the ridge. So close. With a burst of will she thought she had exhausted, she leapt.
And was grabbed by the ankle. “NO!!!” She cried, tears prickling around her eyes. She had been so close. So close! It wasn’t fair! She thrashed and kicked and dug into the ground with her hands, trying to drag herself those last few inches. The rot was climbing up her leg, draining all of the color from her radiant streaks. She kept writhing as if it would make a difference, but already the oily sludge had wrapped around her waist. It climbed and climbed, stripping away flesh as it went. It was crawling up her back, caressing her shoulder, tugging at her hair. The New God was standing over her now, watching with his cavernous smile. It looked like he was laughing at her. She opened her mouth to scream but was stifled by the mire as it rushed down her throat.

.
.
.
Eureka’s eyes flew open as she awoke with a start. She jolted into a sitting position, drawing the modest white sheets up to her chest. Her whole body was damp with sweat and her legs were tight and sore. She gazed around her spartan room, blinking the last of the dream from her eyes. She sat in bed staring vacantly outwards until her heartbeat slowed and her chest stopped heaving.
That dream again. Always that dream. It lurked behind her eyes and came to life whenever she closed them. It always left her feeling so dirty, so violated. As she had many times before, Eureka slid out of bed, feet falling silently to the cold white tile. In the dark, in nothing but her white patient gown, she made her way to the bathroom. The yellow, florescent lights in the lavatory had become comforting to her, and she basked in their glow as she started the sink. She laved her hands with soap as the water warmed and then began scrubbing. Her hands were already red and cracked from the many times she had performed this nightly ritual. Still the suds and hot water brought her a comfort that she could never find on her own.
One of the night nurses heard the running water from down the hall and heaved a heavy sigh. Another midnight cleansing. She meandered quietly towards the bathroom and hovered in the doorway. She watched the young woman mutely as she rubbed her hands raw at the sink, humming to herself and shaking ever so slightly. This was not a new occurrence, and these days the aging nurse barely had the heart to scold her and send her back to bed. This was the only time that the sad girl with the lank brown hair and strange red lines on her skin seemed at peace.

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~ by komicks on August 17, 2013.

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