Der Gott Zunge: ein Märchen
by Daniel XIII
Born without a tongue to grant him the power of speech, Ezra had long been the target of derision by his peers, so much so that when his beloved mother had breathed her last he abandoned the home in which he was raised and took to the hills and forests that bordered the microcosm of the World’s backwards notions that was the town of Jayden’s Cross. Once there, Ezra built himself a modest cabin, financed with his meager inheritance, where he could find solace away from the chorus of mocking voices.
Living off the land, Ezra killed only that which he could consume, and his growling stomach, coupled with his barren icebox, had told him it was high time to venture out into the crisp Autumnal evening. After long, fruitless hours Ezra had seen nary a hint of prey, and though the moon hung swollen in the sky, a mist had begun to encroach upon the landscape of stoic pines that pointed like accusing fingers at the heavens. Ezra exhaled wearily and sat down at the base of the nearest pine. The miasma played seductively at his neck and chin, causing his skin to turn to gooseflesh as the fog was a great deal cooler than the air that surrounded it.
Ezra closed his eyes for a moment and let the symphony of the forest fill his ears, and for minutes it did just that until his placid repose was shattered by the sound of a twig breaking that echoed through the cool air like the report of a shotgun being discharged. Ezra’s eyes snapped open and, as his gaze furtively darted to and fro, he spied majestic antlers rising from the fog. In a fluid motion, he rose to his feet and brought the sight of his Remington rifle to bear on the dark shape that stood just below the mist. Ezra squeezed the trigger sending fire and thunder forth into the night, and as soon as they appeared the antlers fell.
He bolted forward through the swirling grey, which seemed to recoil from his advancing form as if it fearful of his presence, to his quarry. As he approached, the fog had now parted and refused to trespass where the beast lay. And while Ezra was unable to give voice to his shock, his slack jaw and bulging eyes more than conveyed his emotions, for while he expected to find a stag he instead found a caricature of a man, albeit a man with antlers.
Ezra kneeled and rolled the creature on its back; its lifeless eyes were large, dark and set wide upon a face covered in course black fur. It wore little in the way of clothing, just a simple robe from which extended limbs that resembled a dog’s leg that ended in long tapered fingers tipped in crimson nails. It was in one such appendage that the creature clutched what at first appeared to Ezra to be a smooth ebony stone. He reached for the object and found it malleable and warm; more flesh than mineral. As he turned the artifact over and over in his palm the mist began to slowly creep back…and with it came the inhuman wailing.
Ezra panicked as the mist around him produced it’s litany of grief, which resulted in a mad flight through the dense pines. As he ran, Ezra could feel the miasma strike his legs as it began to solidify into long, lashing tendrils. As if that wasn’t disconcerting enough, the wailing had now transformed into protracted screams of pure rage.
Onward he flew, tripping and struggling as the fog continued its battery. Finally he saw the familiar outline of his cabin in the clearing just beyond the forest. He threw his weight against the unlocked front door and exploded into his domain. In an instant he slammed shut the door, threw the bolt into place, and collapsed to the floor in a crumpled mass of pure exhaustion.
He sat for long minutes as hot tears ran down his cheeks and his heart beat so fast and hard that at any other time he would have been sure he was having a heart attack. Indeed, his hammering pulse was all he could hear, and it was that fact that made him realize that whatever outré abominations he had left behind in the woods, they had decided not to stray from that realm.
Finally he gained control of his faculties. Moving his hands to his face to rub the last vestiges of tears from his eyes, Ezra realized he still clutched that preternatural stone, and where once it was merely matte black, now it glowed a brilliant gold from a thousand hairline cracks that crossed it’s surface like arteries no wider than a human hair.
Ezra was entranced by the artifact, so entranced he failed to notice the mist that crept ever closer along the floorboards as it issued forth from the small wood burning stove behind him. Ever onward it came, crawling up his back until finally it plunged deep into his brain via his left ear canal. Ezra’s brain exploded with a thousand images of a history not his own.
He saw an endless array of beings; more beast than man; hideous and beautiful in equal measure. He floated onward, through a great city beneath the forest floor. Finally he saw a diaphanous stag; over twenty feet high, its head adorned with seven sets of antlers. The image swirled and rippled as the sight of that ebony edifice he held filled his field of vision.
Ezra felt his arm move of its own accord, and while he struggled to make it remain at rest, he was powerless to stop its ascent or the action which followed; his hand simply placed the glowing midnight hued object into his mouth which had mechanically opened to accept it. For the briefest of seconds he could taste infinity, and with that he could feel a new organ grow inside him; a tongue which pulsed and throbbed within his mouth. His first words were a scream, then came blackness.
“You murdered the historian…you must take his place!” The voice echoed so loud in his mind that it snapped him awake. Ezra found himself lying on the cold floor of his cabin. “Historian?” He said involuntarily. His eyes grew wide as the memory of that dark tongue which had replaced his own missing organ.
With a start he lifted himself from the floor, and sped to the bathroom. Examining himself in the mirror he opened his mouth to view that demon tissue, which he seemed to know by some arcane intuition was connected to that ancient stag.
There sat the obsidian stone-like mass of the previous night, but now it pulsed and throbbed with an unearthly power which flowed through those golden veins which now had spread throughout the interior of his mouth. Ezra began clawing at the offending member, but to no avail…the flesh though supple was completely unyielding. His thoughts locked upon its removal, Ezra ran to the kitchen to procure a large steak knife. As he steeled his nerves Ezra stuck out his tongue and brought the blade into place for the amputation. The air split with static before he could begin that dreaded surgery.
The small shortwave radio, his one mechanical distraction which provided for him a chance to voyeuristically listen to the voices of others without being pressed to respond in kind, had come to life from its home atop his roughhewn dining room table.
As he dashed into the room, his eyes beheld yet another incomprehensible sight; the mist now solidified into the contours of a vaguely humanoid shape, save for the long horns protruding from its incorporeal forehead, hunched over the device and exhaled streams of vapor directly into the microphone. From somewhere that sounded both close and at the opposite end of the galaxy came a sound that at first was not unlike the purring of a large cat, but quickly turned into a low, guttural growl before finally becoming words that simply could not have been formed by human lips. “Pass on old friend. We are coming.”
Ezra reached for the figure which dissipated into the ether at his touch accompanied by a chorus of melodic laughter. He grabbed the microphone in one hand, and with the other tried furiously to find the proper channel to connect him with the one agency he felt would be able to help him fend off whatever malevolence was creeping his way, the town militia of Jayden’s Cross. Finally he arrived at the proper frequency, and parted his dry lips to do that which had eluded him lo these many years.
Pressing the button which would allow his voice to travel the waves, Ezra began to speak. What followed was not one voice, but legion…some were mere growls, others came like gently chirping birds, and a few were close to human yet still possessing a preternatural timber, but above all rang the impossibly deep tones of their God, for the stag did speak; the great animal whose voice was known when the universe was a mere speck of dust hanging like a mote in the eye of infinity. With that the radio exploded in a shower of acrid smoke and sparks that knocked Ezra to the floor.
Ezra began to weep, yet the sound of crying that issued from his mouth was again the product of that unholy throng. Unable to retain his tenuous grasp on sanity, he was determined to rip the organ from his mouth with his bare hands; hands that he noticed were covered in runes and glyphs carved deep upon the surface of his skin. Furiously he flew again to the bathroom where he exhaled in shock at the face that met his gaze within the mirror.
Like his hands, and every other scrap of visible flesh, he was covered in those strange markings. Ezra clawed at the skin which gave way in thin sheets to reveal layers of fresh dermis below marked the same as the skin above. He attempted to scream, but what came instead was the shouting of every supernatural being that had ever or will ever walk the earth all proclaiming their name to the midnight that lie just beyond the cabin’s roof.
Ezra ran towards the door of the cabin, the ancient instinct to flee that which we do not; or simply cannot understand overtaking him. But suddenly he could move forward no more as that demon mist once more held him firm where it issued from between the floor boards of the cabin to solidify into its humanoid form, the shifting arms of which wrapped tightly around its panic stricken prey. “You murdered me!” it whispered seductively “Now you shall walk eternally into that resplendent ebony with your brethren!”
Ezra struggled for a moment until a sound, distant at first, yet growing ever nearer began to fill the room…the pounding of hooves upon cold ground. The front door exploded into a maelstrom of splinters as a menagerie appeared that was equal parts animal and man; and the worst of both. Ezra once again succumbed to the ebon darkness.
Over the next hours Ezra would occasionally regain consciousness, and while the moonlight illuminated only endless miles of forest, it also revealed the talon tipped hands that held him aloft…as well as the nightmares they belonged to.
Finally he came to. The group had stopped before a long forgotten farmhouse. Even in the waning moonlight the house looked impossibly ancient and beyond any hope of repair.
One of the creatures to his left loped forward and threw open the large storm doors whose hinges creaked and protested and led Ezra down into the darkness. They walked for what seemed several minutes through the inky blackness. Occasionally Ezra could swear that he felt hot breath on the back of his neck, or a gentle touch of something inhuman reaching towards him from the darkness.
Soon in the distance a faint light could be seen, which grew brighter and brighter until Ezra could make out the lithe silhouette of his guide.
They arrived in a large circular room which was carved from the earth itself. A multitude of doorways dotted the walls, and in the darkness of each Ezra could see indescribable shapes moving ever closer into the light. Finally all were revealed as creatures which may have been constructed of wild daydreams, absinthe visions, and children’s chalk drawings gathered in the chamber. Ezra shrunk under their gaze, for here as in the world above he felt the outsider.
“Say hello to your new family” something croaked from the assemblage.
A being, more owl than man, stepped from the crowd and starred at Ezra for what seemed like days. As it looked it would crane its head from side to side and snap its great beak open and shut.
Ezra stood stock still, suddenly it dawned on him that the beast wasn’t figuring out the best way to pluck out his eyes; rather it was reading the glyphs that adorned his face. He gasped as the owl spoke. “You…you tell the story of my family?”
Ezra could only stare at the being, dumbfounded.
“No!” came a voice from the throng, “He tells the tale of the Fleetclaws, I can read it even from here!”
“And the Moon Wraiths!” came a response from the crowd.
“No, he tells the story of us all…look!”
Ezra looked down at his hands which had started to unravel into long flesh scrolls which were soon picked up by discolored fingers, talons and tentacles, the owners of which read aloud and babbled excitedly of the stories contained therein of their sacred lineage as well as their futures.
Soon Ezra was unraveling from every piece of exposed skin, some of which drifted to the ground as torn pages from an ancient tome. More creatures arrived and picked up the pages, laughing as they celebrated all that made them. Onward and onward the pages and scrolls fell, until finally all that was left of Ezra were the pages themselves. Each tribesman held a page or scroll of their own, and each cherished the sacred words they contained.
“The stranger came to speak to us all…and what words he has brought us!”
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