An elderly man in a white lab coat compared numbers from his PDA to a series of monstrous computers. Outside, Martian winds battered the private medical station.
He confirmed the readings. “Number six is the last.”
Shadows clung to several people in different states of rot. Black tongues spoke in a chorus. “Marcus. We call him Marcus.”
The man in white tapped his PDA. “The educational programming is almost done. He’ll be the last of the Aryans born on this dead world—”
“Let us begin the ritual. Our holy purpose needs to drive him,” spoke the dead.
Inaudible whispers slithered in the shadows.
The dead shambled into a semi-circle. They turned as one to hear. “The Thule call-out to us.”
Marcus opened his blue eyes. He lay in a mechanical coffin of twisted wires and tubes. Under emergency red lighting, he choked on smoke, chemical vapors and a faint smell of iron.
He struggled up right, feeling strength return to his gaunt body. He climbed out and slumped on the cold, wet floor. A great circle of runes stretched across the floor. Decayed body parts soiled the room. A lone body lay sprawled by the door. The corpse wore the tattered remains of a lab coat, its arms, legs and head blackened. Under the cloth strips, the flesh was untouched.
With a morbid sense of wonder, Marcus crawled over to the body and pushed the cloth aside. The flesh formed a leathery map, etched with runes that encircled a black sun. His gaze focused on the sun. Power emanated from the symbol.
A chorus of voices whispered in his head. “Take it.”
Without thought, he dug his fingernails into the fleshy edges and peeled the skin free.
“Now go,” commanded the chorus.
Marcus nodded and left for the hangar.
A medical hovercraft streaked across the Martian landscape.
Marcus tugged at the neck of the white medical EVA suit he stole. The suit bore a red cross over his heart and extended down his left leg.
“Our Templar,” they whispered in his mind, “on our holy quest.”
He compared the dunes and peaks with his macabre map. Crevices of the map matched the red landscape. Grinning to himself, he stroked the black sun as he listened to the hovercraft’s engines hum. His vision blurred as he remembered—
One and Two died during the awakening, frothing meaningless words like “Derleth” or “Niggurath” before becoming rigid and unmoving. Number Three only rocked on the floor, whimpering and swatting at things only he saw. Number Four and Five turned on me. They held me down, drooled on my face. They panted I was the sacred one, the desired one. I broke free only to watch them tear at their flesh, wanting nothing to hinder the Thule from tasting their inner beings—
Marcus caught his reflection in the windshield and said, “Is that you?”
Ancient mountains tipped in red ice came into view, matching landmarks on the map. Marcus flew into a narrow passageway until it opened into a small valley of blackened rock. Mammoth statues of tentacled humanoids lined steep valley walls; each brooded over a lone broken temple.
The hovercraft landed in the temple’s courtyard. In the growing twilight, the shadows crawled over the temple. Whispers from the back of his mind coaxed him to enter.
Marcus activated a hover globe at the base of the temple. White-blue light spilled over the area. The same runes from his map marred the tilted pillars. He climbed the broken steps and entered the temple’s archway.
Arched windows of glazed volcanic glass dominated the interior walls. The floor tiles created scenes of humanoids worshipping the same massive tentacled creatures from outside. Marcus felt aroused from the depictions of tentacles perversely wrapped around worshippers. Depictions in the dark corners showed more tentacled creatures aloft and uncaring.
At the end of the chamber rested an altar-sarcophagus, sides covered in more reliefs of worshippers. A relief of a humanoid swathed in tentacles and crowned with a mass of misshapen eyes and wrinkled flesh, lay in state.
Dark shapes darted in and out of his peripheral vision.
“Touch the altar, our sergeant vessel,” instructed the chorus. “Touch it.”
Marcus fell to his knees. He stroked the base of the altar and crawled up to the relief.
“You want it,” whispered the dead in his mind.
“I was created for this.”
The altar-sarcophagus cracked around the chest and head. Red slime oozed, dripped down the sides. Marcus threw his arms wide and cried “I am here!”
Chunks of rock burst from the altar-sarcophagus. Tentacles lashed out. They tore into him, defiling, tearing– remaking.
Dawn edged into the temple. Light crept over the floor edging the shadows back behind the newborn. Corpulent tentacles held aloft a mass of flesh fused to the head and torso. The Marcus-thing dripped blood and mucus. Deformed eyes focused beyond the archway. Many mouths gurgled as one, “The Planet is ours.” Defiantly, it slithered onto the Martian surface once more.
© Timothy P. Remp
Timothy P. Remp is a member of the Horror Writers’ Association (HWA) the New England Horror Writers (NEHW). He has had several flash and short stories published in anthologies, on-line and print magazines including Shroud #7, #9. He is also Shroud’s newest Review Editor. Currently, he is finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in English at the University of New Hampshire while working full-time for FairPoint Communications.
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