Ky’thagra’s Big Day
Ky’thagra sat in the
waiting room, hands folded primly in her lap, as the mime-dancers mounted the
stage on the little TV in the corner and BŁzrael comforted her from the
fractured sky above.
“Come on, sweetie,
you’re ready for this. You’ve been
practicing for so long, and you’ve gotten so good. Don’t be scared.” His tentacles undulated a serene, calming
heart in the chalky void of space surrounding him. Galaxies were swept aside
and annihilated in
the gesture, and Ky’thagra had to smile.
She brushed her hair
to one side and replied without voice, through the quinquagintacentillion or so
light years between them, “I know, I know.
But you only get more scared when somebody tells you not to be, you
know? The absence of pressure is in
itself a pretty stressful experience.” She
told herself that American Idol meant nothing to a being whose twitches alone
salted the soil for thousands of civilizations, that she had indeed practiced a
whole bunch. It didn’t help.
One of the producers
walked by her and gave her a reassuring smile.
“You’ll do great out there, Sarah.”
Ky’thagra stretched the physical remains of Sarah into a rictus of
pathos and replied, “Sincerely, I can’t thank you enough for giving me this
chance, Mr. Trice. I promise it’ll be a
performance to die for.” BŁzrael boomed
Mr. Trice laughed to
himself as well, casting a wistful eye up to the ordinary ventilation he still
saw affixed to the ordinary ceiling.
“Odd choice of words there, but who am I to argue with the talent. I
knew you had something special the moment I
set eyes on you. You’re ready for
this. Don’t be scared.” Having
had his say, Mr. Trice drifted off to
chat with the other contestants. One of
them, Ky’thagra was amused to note, held out a book for him to sign as he
approached. “These humans are a lot of
fun,” she giggled, and people in the
waiting room turned to look at her curiously.
BŁzrael nodded in
agreement, insomuch as his incomprehensible form could nod. His body, little
more than a series of flesh
bubbles, mouths, and dead branches, pulsed with goodwill. Pieces of the ceiling
drifted through space with
him, a little peephole into the infinity they and they alone shared. She, BŁzrael,
and the billions of others, all
children of the Goat with a Thousand Young.
But, at the end of the day, that tiny taste of home was little more than
a phone-a-friend, an emergency contact.
There was no way around it. She
Although her Sarah
form remained inert, Ky’thagra began to wring her cosmic hands, feeling them
shake as though she’d caught cold. “BŁzrael,
what if I mess up out there? What if I
go out there and just make a fool of myself in front of the entire population
of Earth? What if it’s so bad, even Mom
hears about it? What if…”
“Shhh.” A grapnel, foetid with funghial growths and
stinking of the void, detached itself from his writhing mass and stayed her
lips. “That doesn’t matter, because it
won’t happen. Mom won’t care.
You’re going to go out there, you’re going to
do great, and that’s all you need to concern yourself with. Come on, how
did you get here? Hard work and dedication.
And that’s what will show on that stage.”
back to poor little Sarah Grandman, whose ill-planned ritual had alerted her to
Earth’s existence in the first place.
Sarah and her stupid little friends now drifted more or less comfortably
through her consciousness, their bodies reduced to rags and twigs. Earth hung
low on the tree, ripe from crust
to core, and even Kqannth had been forced to admit that she had gotten there
first. Fair forfeit. It was her
plaything, and she’d decided to
try something new with it.
“Were you there to
hear my audition?” Ky’Thagra asked
BŁzrael laughed a
deep belly laugh. “Oh, I was there all
right. Gracious me, humans are so quick
to be awestricken!”
Ky’Thagra and Sarah
began to titter as well. “So you saw the
guy before me…”
“The guy dressed
like a penguin!” BŁzrael’s mirth grew as
the universe surrounding him rang with unholy music. “What did he do again?”
eyes started to water, and her cheeks began to ache from smiling. “Oh
my, he…pulled out his lasso…and…started
“…And fell flat on
uncontrollably, slapping her thighs and bowing her head. A young couple sitting
next to her clapped
their hands to their ears and came away with blood. Some twelve blocks away,
a dog keened once,
twice, then fell on his side, dead. A
bird simply melted, leaving little but a steaming black-and-purple scuzz
dripping from the telephone wire.
She straightened up,
wiping her eyes as the young man beside her rushed to the bathroom. “Oh,
I needed that. Oh, I definitely needed that.”
over yet, hotcakes.” BŁzrael’s tone grew
serious. “I saw your audition too, you
know. What was it you sang? Something
by Puccini, I think?”
clouded as memory prevailed. “Ancora
un passo, from Madame Butterfly.”
Sarah hadn’t been a pretty girl; rather
doughy, in fact, like a failed batch of bread destined never to rise. She barely
even fit into the floral dress
Ky’Thagra had chosen. The producers and
judges mustn’t have thought much of her when she’d entered the room. But
then she’d started singing, and, oh! Every heart in the room quivered
broke. Her voice was delicate,
suggestive, rich, reminding the bubble-brained female judge of her first kiss,
the cameraman of the first time he drove his father’s car, and Mr. Trice of that
hand job from his secret gay lover
while his wife visited family in Idaho.
The video had garnered millions of views; she’d checked. “Sarah
Grandman” even made the national news
circuit, anchors laughing dull laughs and speaking vague, sunny predictions of
her future as an artist, even before the show officially aired. Ky’Thagra
had, in fact, summoned the voice of
none other than Rosina Storchio, the original actress in the 1904 play, from
the junkyard of time. Mr. Cowell had
remarked on how different she sounded when she sang versus when she spoke, and
Sarah hadn’t responded beyond a polite curtsy and a calculated, awkward smile.
up. “It was beautiful. A
stroke of genius. I’m being honest here, I teared up a little
too, and you know I pride myself on being stoic. Today’s the easy part. Just get up there, and do what you’ve been
waiting to do all day. Knock ‘em dead,
“Sarah!” called a
stagehand. “Sarah Grandman, you’re on in
Ky’Thagra took a
deep breath. “Well, I guess that’s
me. Thank you, BŁzrael. I’m
glad we were able to talk.”
A mouth, distended
and colorless, stretched through the vastness of space to plant a kiss on her
cheek. “You’ll do great out there.” Retracting, it took the void with it until
all that remained above her head was once again the dull plaster and ceiling
fan of the backstage waiting room.
clenched her hands in determination, and stood from her chair, leaving the
dozens of hopeful superstars behind in their crowded little room. A man with
a makeup kit jabbed randomly at
her face as she strode forward, then frowned to himself and shrugged
noncommittally, drifting off to fulfill some other menial task. Sarah almost
tripped on a massive cord on the
floor, and a tech guy called over, “Sorry!”
She waved a hand in forgiveness as she cut forward.
Eventually she found
herself at the wings of the theater, looking out at the mime-dancers finishing
their act, to uproarious applause. They
were sweaty through their white face paint but beaming. One of them flashed
a look at her as if to
say, “I can’t believe we really did it!”
She mimicked silent applause back to him.
“Sarah Grandman, is
it?” came a voice from behind her. She
turned to see a pair of young, handsome men in glittering tuxedos and
incandescent smiles behind her. The one
on the right, whose smile stood out all the more against his beautiful ebony
skin, extended his hand. “Pete
Graham. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Bemused, Ky’Thagra met his hand and pumped it.
The gentleman on the
left, sun-bleached hair coiffed into a massive pompadour, followed suit. “And
I’m Ian Yeshem-Wells.” Ky’Thagra shook.
“This your first
time in front of a live audience?” asked Pete.
Sympathy rested gently in his chestnut eyes, and Ky’Thagra thought it
such a pity that the same eyes would be swimming with blood in a few short
minutes. “Don’t worry, they’re primed
for you. We put the mimes out before you
as a sacrificial lamb. After three
minutes of silence, they’ll be so thrilled to hear somebody sing.”
Ian nodded. “In my experience, the folks out there came
to be impressed and inspired. All they
need is a decent performer to feel justified in doing so, and from what we’ve
heard, you’re a little more than a ‘decent
Sarah’s cheeks turning rosy, and she quickly turned her gaze downwards. “Oh,
you’re just saying that,” she sputtered
in her most demure voice.
Pete grabbed her
shoulders and straightened her up. “No,
we’re not. We’re here to find amazing
artists; we don’t bother with anything but.
Word of God says you’re tapped to go at least until episode 12, so as
long as you stand out there and give the producers something to work with,
you’re good to go.”
“Don’t be too
nervous, either. There’s a lot we can
fix in post.” Ian winked, a golden
leprechaun with a private joke that you were lucky to be a part of.
“All right, we’ve
got to get out there and introduce you.
Remember, just relax and enjoy yourself.” With a final twinned
grin, Pete and Ian
stepped onstage after the retreating mimes.
Ian spoke up first. “Well!
I’m pretty sure they silenced any nonbelievers out there! Weren’t they great!” Thunderous clapping and
“woo-hoo!” Pete pointed at the
judges. “What did you think, Simon?
Stunned into silence?”
As the judges gave
their verdicts, Ky’Thagra posed on the fringe, that awkward line between the
quiet sanctuary of backstage and the exposed vivisection of the stage. Nothing,
she’d experienced could have prepared her for this. BŁzrael had helped,
but that knot was still
there. What if Mom did find out, and
what if she didn’t approve? She’d never
been one for frivolity or artistry, preferring the direct, arterial approach
for herself. And the incomprehensible
retribution she imagined paled in comparison to the simple sound of human
laughter, keen and mocking. Sharpened to
a razor’s sheen on embarrassing home videos and humiliating photographs. Ready
to cut and slice. The vast silence of space had never felt so
“…And now, for your
listening pleasure, a lovely young lady from Arkham, Massachusetts. Give it
up for Sarah Grandman!”
Her legs dragging
like concrete shoes, Ky’Thagra waded out onto the glossy wood floor to
thunderous applause. The lights above
were so bright, they blinded her simple human eyes, and she found herself
squinting out through the glare. Next to
her, Pete clapped a hand over her shoulder and shook her. Ripples echoed down
through her knees. “Hey, how you doing there, Sarah?”
Her tongue clicked
in the back of her throat, and she found herself unable to speak. She coughed,
wiped her mouth, and simply gave
a shy simper in response.
“Come on, now, the
mimes were our last act!” belted Ian. The
audience responded with good-natured laughter.
Beneath the merriment, Ky’Thagra thought she heard something dark and
empty, like wind blowing through a corpse’s eye sockets.
out a response. “I’m…doing well. I suppose.
A bit nervous.” At that, she gave
a short cackle. “A lot nervous, if I’m
telling the truth. You see, I’m not used
to being in front of a crowd like this at all.
Back home, the biggest audience I had was my brother, BŁ…Buddy.”
Simon showed his
pearly whites from the judges’ table.
“Sweetheart, there’s no need to be nervous.”
“I know, but…” Her
eyes had finally adjusted. Looking up,
back, beyond the huddled dark mass of people, was an empty chasm of nothing. And
floating there, her fur speckled with the
light of a million dying stars captured within, was Shub-Niggurath. The Goat
With A Thousand Young.
And not just
her. BŁzrael floated by her, barely a speck
to her majesty but still big enough to burlesque a “surprise!” at Ky’Thagra.
And surrounding him, the horde sat
restless. Ish’kar was there, his
millennia fingers holding up a homemade “Go, Sis!” sign. Yann was
there, yellowed papyrus skin
flapping gently as he waved his abyssal legs in uncontrollable excitement. Even
Kqannth sat by. His elbows dripped with rotted mother’s milk
as he reclined, extending a grudging thumbs up.
whispered. Loudly enough to pick up on
the mic, apparently, as Ian asked pointedly, “Your family out there
watching?” Pete gave a nearly
imperceptible twitch to the cameraman as he frantically scouted out the
audience for any sign of family. She
wondered whether they would have to intersperse footage of a random audience
member at this point for dramatic effect, then realized that it wouldn’t matter
in the slightest.
Ky’Thagra nodded to
him, then turned her eyes back to the stars.
“Yes, my family is out there right now, watching. I didn’t
think they would come. But they all did.
They’re here to support me.” She dabbed a tear from her eye;
Shub-Niggurath did the same. “This one
is for you.”
judge spoke up as Ian and Pete slunk unobtrusively offstage. “So what
is it you’re going to be performing
for us tonight?”
deep. BŁzrael and Pete had been right;
all she had left to do was relax and enjoy herself. “Tonight, I will be
performing for you, for
the world, Brown Note from The King in
Yellow. Please, enjoy.”
applause died away, and Ky’Thagra closed Sarah’s eyes. She stood
for a moment. Somewhere, deep within Sarah’s feeble
esophagus, a hum began to rise like bile.
Ky’Thagra opened her mouth ever so slightly, saliva still spanning her
lips in a glistening spider web. The
audience coughed politely, patiently waiting for the song to start. Little did
they know, the end had already
The first was a stage
light, flickering slightly in the top right of the theater. It shimmered for
a moment, flame on a dying
candle, before its feeble glass casing could save it no longer and it imploded,
showering glass down onto the unfortunate sound guy underneath. Immediately
following, Simon brought a finger
to the corner of his eye inquisitively and saw a smattering of blood on the
Next was the
audience member, some unlucky fool in G32.
The hearing aid he wore in his left ear melted into sizzling plastic and
copper wiring, dripping its way down his ear canal like a lover. His screams
were silenced; in the presence of
the Brown Note, all other sounds were nothingness. The cameraman felt something
clatter on his
shoes. He looked down to see his teeth
smiling back at him.
In his falling away
from the camera, home audiences would be able to see a fixed image of Sarah
Grandman on stage, unmoving and merciless.
Which pleased Ky’Thagra, for the next was Sarah herself. As her
mouth opened wider and wider, her
fingers began to curl into the backs of her hands. The snap of bones couldn’t
be heard as
Sarah’s spine began to follow suit.
Next was the
stage. The curtain behind Ky’Thagra
caught flame, gentle at first, then quickly growing into a rage, burning so hot
they bypassed red and white and blue and settled instead on stygian. If one’s
eyes weren’t immediately stricken
blind, one would have been able to see the swirling arms of nebulae in the
licks of fire. Pete’s eyes began
dribbling down his face as the backstage crew behind him scattered like
The note was
reaching its full potency now. Simon’s
face was a crimson Pollock painting.
Bubble-brain watched in shock as her humerus and scapula simply crumbled
to dust, her sockpuppet arm now sat uselessly near the buzzer. Deeper in the
audience, panic was
ensuing. A woman and her child clawed
their way out into the foyer before both turning back (to search for the
husband, perhaps) and instantly calcifying into a biblical pillar of salt. The
gentleman behind them clutched at his
throat as his tongue wormed its way down into his stomach. Grown impossibly
long, it reached its
destination and began the laborious job of proceeding back out through his
Those beyond the
immediate confines of the old theater were not spared either. Miles away, the
Earth split open and
swallowed a long swath of suburban Chicago.
Bangladesh, long tempting fate in its delta, was finally, irretrievably
reclaimed by the water. The mountains
rose from their eternal seats and laid waste to China. Birds sprouted extra
eyes and beaks until,
crippled by the weight, they plummeted to the ground below. The sky turned a
murky brown and the clouds
chewed up the airplanes. In a general
and literal sense, the world was ending.
Back at the theater,
Sarah’s performance was nearly finished.
Her head was now touching the small of her back. The audience before
her was packed to the
brim with the dead. Above it all,
BŁzrael let out a loud cheer.
Shub-Niggurath beside him crowed her pride.
Sarah’s body began
to shake. It jittered left and right,
the vibrations of the Brown Note too eternal for such a flawed vessel. After
a few seconds, it simply exploded like
a piŮata, spattering the sizzling curtain behind her. The performance was over.
from the desiccated leavings of Sarah Grandman to the clapping and shouting of
her family. She freed the last of her
five hundred thousand needle-thin legs from the meat sack and left the mortal
plane behind, running straight past the remains of the theater’s crumbled
ceiling until she landed straight in the Goat’s waiting arms.
“We’re so proud of
you,” whispered Shub-Niggurath. Her fur
felt like home against Ky’Thagra’s rusted iron face.
deeper as her innumerable siblings followed in for hugs and kisses. Her eyelids
began to droop, and she stifled a
yawn. BŁzrael beside her gave a loving
kiss. “You’ve had a big day, little
sis. Sleep now. We can all talk
about this when you’re awoken
Ky’Thagra nodded her
agreement as her eyelids slunk down her face.
When she entered the realm of the dreaming, her mind and heart were
abuzz with the thrill of the stage and the love of her family.
Marcus is an editor by day living in Portland, Oregon with his
lovely cat, Titan. He works as the Short Story
Editor for Aphelion Magazine and the proofreader for Nightmare, Lightspeed, and
Fantasy Magazines, and if you have any cool things to tell him or share with
him, you can find him @DubbleOhDevin.