literature

The Arms That Howl

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THE ARMS THAT HOWL
9-12-08
By Chris Williams

I sit in this tight house, all the windows choked off with tape or glue.  Outside, I don't know what's happening.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe the wind.  Half-starved, though I cannot tell whether my stomach turns from hunger or unease.

For I have seen the arms that howl.

I must write down what has come for me, before my hands can no longer hold the pen.  Before the paper flutters away.  Before any last thought escapes my head and I'm left a husk on the floor, jaw agape, waiting for the entrance of insects.

I was a scholar, until I learned.  I studied history as we know it, content with boxed explanations, smiling at discussions I could quickly label stupid or fantasy.  We rose from the primitives.  History was a rising spiral.

But one day I realized there was more history to study.  Out beyond the ridges of our book spines and slide rules.  It came from a small, crippled volume in the old library.  I don't remember why I was there, or what compelled me to take it.  But the research it held...

It told me of a way to see what was once, long ago, far away.  A place, or a sheet as one might speculate, upon which the memories of people long gone were recorded.  The very universe painted on, with man's own thoughts as dye!

What could this hold?  Anything we have seen, or done, or felt or lost.  The possibility was enormous.  I could herald an entire era of history!  I could look back into the dim past, observe those primitives, and hold them up to measure our greatness by.

After all, we had no knowledge of such infinite tapestry from the ancients.  Only generalized pictographs, or whispered rumors put to paper by explorers centuries later.  They knew this knowledge, and didn't think to tell us?  Fools!  I called them.  There is proof of your squalor!

But now it is I who lies squalid in a barricaded shack.

I studied the book.  I checked it out so many times the old librarian threw it at me the final time and told me to never return.  I spent hours, days in meditation, only a candle flame and a loaf of bread my company.  

Until finally one day I broke the barrier.  Like an iceberg only reveals itself below the waves, I plunged through the realms of spirit and wonder.  I passed sheets of color behind my eyes, shivered as the body became meaningless, and with a twisting of the mind like the most powerful drug in all of Nature...

I saw ancient history as my ancestors did.  As it happened.  Through their eyes.

And this is what I saw.

Long back, when mankind found the caves they would make their homes, when itchy skins were the height of fashion, when they huddled together amidst cold rock, they did as we do today.  They tried to understand.  What were these forces coiling 'round them?  What makes these invisible bursts animals fear, and hide from?

Is it merely a part of the land?  Perhaps the after-effect of those floating creatures, leaving a wake that knocks them over?  Or is it some armed creature flailing in the sky, a furious god who looks upon them with hate.

Yes, a god of a thousand arms.  They cannot see it, for it is beyond them.  It dwelled before and seeks dominion again.

It's not of us, they whispered.  It must be bad.  Let us fight it!  Let us drive it away, so we may not hear these terrible noises from arms that should not be.

So they went out.  They made tools, and painted themselves.  They gathered in a great line before the edges of rock, and resolved to cry back at the unseen god until it departed.

And that night when they went - I saw it as though standing on the plain beside them, shaking my spear, baying out - the god revealed itself.

It was not what they knew.  They could see it.  The arms, like blades of grass, stained and swinging and hammering.  They carried smoke, and teeth, and loathsome cries no animal ever made.  The god shattered the night, defiant, mocking.  They saw their fellows picked up, into the arms of the seen god with a thousand scaled arms.

Some were pulled apart, howling from the worst agonies the body may surrender as it tears.  Some were squeezed, turned so red they burst like thrown fruits.  The parts fell, dripping through the soil, soiling the people who had cried out.

Until all that remained in the sky with the god were their arms.  And the howls.  They were joined together, more for the god, who grew louder and fiercer.

They ran.  I ran.

I awoke here, just at the spot by the door, the candles guttered.  My clothes stuck to me, cold, no reassurance.  I had not escaped.  It waited still.  The cries, they could come again.

They are there in the memories that remain.  Waiting where bodies fell, in the tapestry of our infinite world.  In the place of seeing, where the old gods dwell.

I have seen the arms that howl.

I burned the book.  It lights my pages now, so I may give the warning our ancestors gave.  Do not look too far down the path of history.  What you will find is madness sprung from the mind of man.  There is knowledge there, waiting.

But other things wait as well.  They know what lures us.  They wait for more, in their unseen sky.  More arms.  More howls.  They wait for us to see and die.

I dare not give my name.  Remember me as The One Who Warned.

The firewood is ready.  All I must do is take the embers of the book, toss it down where I stand.  I pray fire will cleanse me.  Take me away from those horrible howls.  I pray the arms cannot reach me there.
It's been a long time since I've posted here. But today, after a bout of Lovecraftian readings, I felt driven to scrawl up a story. One in a similar flavor to the eminent author I named.

Hear the message. See what waits.
© 2008 - 2024 WeaselMaster
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ladygrail's avatar
This reminds me greatly of lovecraft and a great piece of short work. I would love to see more of a plot about the character in other stories I think. I cannot not write short pieces so this amazing to me and i love the voice you have in your writing. Great work!