Last month, it was announced on Clive Barker’s official page that the publishers for the forthcoming anthology “Midian Unmade” were looking for submissions.
As a lifelong fan of Mr. Barker and his creations, I decided to write my own story for inclusion in this project.
Sadly, it was rejected.
Here it is.
I hope you enjoy it more than the editors did!
Nightbreed story September 2013
“No Place Like Home”
By Larry Darling Jr.
God is a myth.
Oz was a hoax.
And Midian is burning…
In Midian, my name was Ogleon.
Before that, in the natural world, I had a different name but I don’t even remember it now.
Many of my friends didn’t get away when our home was destroyed, but I did.
I ran, instintctively and quickly, my gifts gave me the chance to escape the slaughter and I took it. I dispersed myself into smoke on the few occassions I was spotted by the invaders, then reformed into my sleek, scaly form and sped away to safety on four legs.
Running into the hills at night, the screams and crackling fire at my back, I felt more free than I had in all the years at Midian. I even took one of the straggling humans as my dinner, and it felt great, invigorating me with a feeling of life I had nearly forgotten in all these hidden years. I broke the law, sure, but the laws (and the law-makers) of the Nightbreed were all gone now anyway.
After my warm meal, I scurried up a tree and watched from far safety as the fires of Midian sputtered out and the screams of my people trailed off.
My eyesight is a gift, a clarity of sight not many others know.
Even from three hundred feet away, in the relative safety of my tree, I could see the scene of Midian’s demise as clear as if I were still there in harm’s way. I watched as Lylesburg and the others dispersed carrying hidden pieces of the baptizer under their wings and claws. I watched the Natural, the priest, as he burned with delight ; the police and townsfolk as they gutted the city and killed any survivors.
I even watched the touching scene between Boone, the one who unmade our sanctuary, and his woman as she pleaded and died and was reborn. My ears could even hear the sound of her breathless promise “I’ll never leave you.”
I wanted to return and kill him myself for what he had done to us with his selfishness.
He had barged into our lives and brought our home down on our heads, all in a matter of days. A secret that had been kept for decades had come undone for the forbidden love between these two. It would have given me great satisfaction to end it for them, yank it away from them as they had done to us, but the risk was too great.
To return now, just to kill the one who had killed us all, would be noble, for sure. But I would surely die in the process.
And the sun was going to be coming up soon ; I could feel it.
I needed to find a new hiding place, until the sun disappeared again.
I watched the embers of Midian burn out until the heat of the rising sun on my back was nearly unbearable, then scrambled out of my tree and barrelled deep into further hills and forest, until I found a large rock outcropping to curl up under and out-wait the day.
Sleep would have been nice, but though my body was weary, my mind could not stop racing. Over and over the events of the evening replayed in my mind. The crumbling walls, the dying children , the screams of my terrified and helpless friends as they tried and failed their own escapes. I had seen too much to process already, it seemed, but as if that weren’t enough, my dreams and thoughts swirled with new and old ghosts.
As I tried to force my body and mind to rest, I kept seeing the visions of Boone (or Cabal, or whatever he called himself ) and his woman, the unconditional love and forgiveness in her eyes, the obvious connection between him growing stronger as he bit a chunk from her neck and made her like us, one of the Breed. As the sun made it’s journey overhead, I squirmed with these visions, which were joined with other sights. Faces I hadn’t seen or considered in years, names I had long forgotten…
A woman who had once looked at me the same way as Lori looked at Boone, said the same words to me.
“I’ll never leave you…”
A smile, a knife, a child.
My sleep was restless and haunted, and I woke with the forgotten woman’s name on my lips.
As soon as the name was on my lips, it all came flooding back to me, and I snapped my eyes open, wide awake. Before I had come here to Midian, unknown years in the past, I’d had a woman who professed such love to me as well. We’d had a life, a normal life once. A family. A child.
Of course! I hadn’t always been Ogleon the lizard man, one of the NIghtbreed.
I had once had a real human life, and a woman who had loved me.
And, of course, she had killed me.
When the night finally fell at last, the sun fully gone, I burst from my hiding spot in a full sprint, hoping to clear my mind, shake it free from the ghosts that had taken over through the day.
I ran at top speed, and only then was my mind fully clear, finally free of the cluttered thoughts of love lost and deep regret that had tortured me all through my restless sleep.
It was only on the occasions when I stopped running, for drink or to catch my breath, that all of those thoughts could catch up.
But there the were, every time I rested, clouding my head.
My child, he had only been a baby when I had left them all alone…
My whole previous life haunted me, called me back to it.
I ran for days, maybe weeks, deeper and deeper into the wilderness. I had the same struggles with sleep as I attempted to rest during the days, then when night fell I would just run and run, letting the wind against my face wipe away all of the guilt and shame, at least for the moment.
The nightmares evolved, and the faces of my lost tribe-mates faded over the passing of time. They were slowly replaced, usurped by the visages of the family I had lost before that one.
Soon, I no longer could see or even remember the faces of Lylseburg, or Peloquin, or the sweet Shuna Sassi anymore, only the face of my lost love, Jenna, and the wide eyes of the newborn son I had been forced to abandon a lifetime ago.
Somehow the memories were reshaping themselves, as they do.
The guilt and shame I felt seemed to be remembering things differently, forcing my thoughts of them to change. Deep down, I knew that there had been a reason I had been forced to leave my wife and child, but my selective memory never brought that up. My own brain gave me only smiles and loving looks to remember, not the screaming and stabbing that had forced me into the arms of Midian.
I ran and ran, through forest and hill, just trying to make it all go away.
I grew to enjoy the comfort of the deep forest, except when it came time to feed.
I resisted eating for as long as I could, some kind of forced memory of the old “Laws” I had lived under, forbidding the consumption of human meat. But, of course, the hunger always took over and won. And when I did finally feed it was always glorious and refreshing, the taste of human flesh in my teeth and warm blood on my chin was an invigorating experience every time.
It occurred to me to ask in those moments of feeding frenzy, why exactly we had always been forbidden this meat?
A nourishing meal that made us feel alive and powerful, that helped us to grow and develop our given powers, yet the laws of the Baptizer had forbidden this. Maybe all this time underground we had been simply under the control of a different kind of sadist. Perhaps Baphomet himself was not much different than the controlling humans who had destroyed our home?
After a while, I stopped resisting the urges to feed. The Laws were forgotten, in fact my whole life in the moon tribes faded.
My new existence became one of pure survival and instinct.
Each morning I would find a new temporary home to rest in, and when the moon rose each night I would run, kill, and feed. All of my time and thoughts were focused on two things : staying alive and trying to outrun the demons of my past.
As the days passed and the nights flew by, I found myself feeling more free than I had in years. My home was deeper into the forest each day, and the sense of freedom I began to recognize grew with each feeding.
Maybe Midian had just been another type of prison, another arbitrary set of rules to keep the monsters in check and hidden from the rest of the world, after all. I wondered if the rest of the Nightbreed I had lived with underground felt this way, now that they had finally been set free to fly and hunt and live again.
As I learned to embrace my inner beast again, I found that my fond memories of the time I had spent under the earth with the other monsters was, after all, not that great. Before long, my thoughts never turned to them at all.
But an odd feeling surfaced, as I lived night after night as my true self, my monster finally unbound, unhidden. Although I feasted nightly on the flesh of unlucky human beings, and rarely changed from my beast form, I began to feel my humanity returning. My future required structure, I knew deep inside. I couldn’t very well run around the forest howling at the moon forever, without getting spotted or attacked. I had this deep instinctual craving for some kind of stable life, but it wasn’t the controlled rules of Midian I was yearning for.
It was something else entirely.
Over time, I found I could survive on the animals of the forest, but the overwhelming surge of beastly life never came from feeding on them. Only the fresh blood and flesh of humans gave that surge of power, of supreme being, that kept me going.
Unfortunately, as I migrated further into the safety of the forest, human flesh obviously became much more scarce.
One night, as I ran beneath the moon, trees and green bush flying past me as I hopped over logs and branches, I hit a small jackpot. A strange strong herbal smell wafted itself through the woods, and I picked up the scent immediately.
I followed it to a small encampment where two large men sat, coughing and laughing, and that sweet pungent scent permeated all the air around them, actually noticeably dulling my own sharp senses the longer I stalked them.
They were tending some kind of hidden garden here, the source of the sickly sweet intoxicating aroma, lovingly watered and relocated. They were tall leafy green plants, and as I watched the men harvested, dried, and smoked the plant, often times dozing off after eating large cooked meals.
I watched them for a few days, and they became my focus. The sweetness of the herb seemed to help block out my other painful memories, and these two future victims became my main concern.
On the third night, I took them easily, devouring one completely and viciously after a few days of patient starving. The second one watched the whole scene in stark disbelief until I made my move toward him. I ripped his throat out before he could speak, but left him alive to feed on in a leisurely fashion for the next few days.
For those days, I stayed predominately in my human form, trying to remember how to function as a Natural ; up on two feet, cooking my food with fire and speaking the language of the humans.
It felt good, and comfortable after a while, and the sweet herb my victims had cultivated helped to clear my mind of all memories and just focus on the current situation, how to be human again. And if it was even possible…
After a few days and nights had passed, I had eaten the last of my meat, cooked like a civilized human being, and I had the guttural instinct telling me I should leave this place.
But now where would I go?
I had no idea or plan, I just ran through the night, out of the forest sanctuary instead of deeper into it. I didn’t realize my destination until I found myself peering in the windows of my former home, whispering out for my long lost wife and child, strange wetness at my eyes and a bizarre swelling of emotion inside me that could only be my own humanity.
I was home, at last.
I had no concept of how much time had actually passed since I had last been here, this place I had once called home. I knew it must have been several years, but the house still looked the same. The same yellow and blue paint job ; the same gravel driveway and mailbox shaped like a birdhouse.
It was dark, of course, and the night and neighborhood was still and very quiet.
The moon was half-full, bright and high in the sky.
I circled the house nervously a few times, peering through the windows like a criminal.
I saw my son’s room, still painted with a child’s mural on the wall, a trunk stacked with thin golden-spined books and plush toys. I smiled to myself. Maybe my time with the monsters hadn’t been as long as it seemed…
I extended my claws and scaled the outside wall of the house, and peeked into the master bedroom, where I had lain with my wife once upon a time.
I could see her in there, lying in bed, wrapped in blankets.
I watched her breathing for a few moments, suddenly nervous about our reunion.
The slow up and down movement of her breathing beneath the blankets calmed me as I watched, and I quietly descended the wall to gather my thoughts for a few seconds.
What exactly was I going to do?
Burst through the front door with a smile and wide arms, saying “Honey, I’m home!”
No, no that didn’t seem like the best plan, but I really didn’t have anything else. I crouched outside the house in the bushes, second-guessing and rethinking my impulsive plan.
Suddenly a light came on downstairs, and I could hear some shuffling around in the kitchen, a sickly phlegmy cough, and a huge sigh.
I watched as she switched the kitchen light off, and shuffled into the living room carrying a carton of ice cream, still wrapped in a blanket.
She plopped herself on the couch and flipped on the television, staring at it with droopy eyes as she shoveled ice cream into her mouth.
I tapped lightly on the window with one of my still-extended claws, and whispered her name to the wind.
Tap tap tap.
“Jenna, it’s me. I’ve come home.”
Tap. Tap tap.
“I have missed you so…”
Finally, she turned her head toward the window and saw me standing there, waving and trying to smile.
The look of absolute terror that arose on her face actually startled me, and I ducked back down into the bushes, and looked behind me for some monster lurking there.
But it was only me, alone in the shrubbery, hiding from myself.
I saw her creep slowly toward the window where I had been a moment ago and peering out into the darkness. She had shed her blanket as she hopped up from the couch to investigate, and although it was certainly the same woman I had loved long ago, she did not look the same.
Her hips were wider, breasts lower, and her face tragically wrinkled and worn ; she seemed a shadow of the woman I remembered. Time and the tragedy of life had certainly taken their toll on her.
It was okay, though. I knew that I could still love her.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes and sat back down in front of the flickering box with her bucket and spoon, and soon was snoring as I watched.
With a sudden surge of bravery, I decided to make my move.
I hadn’t been drawn all this way to cower in the bushes from my one true love. It was well past time for us to be reunited.
After all, what was I afraid of?
In my time I had seen all manner of horror and monsters, there was certainly nothing of that to fear here.
Lacking any further cohesive plan, I took a deep breath, smoothed my shirt, remembering to retract my claws, and strode up onto the front porch and knocked on the front door like a civilized human being.
I heard the rustle from inside, and some heavy steps toward the door, followed by the rough gravelly voice of my love, asking “Who is it?”
“Eric,” I answered, my former name finally remembered in a sudden flash. I was Eric again, not Ogleon, creature of the night.
“Open up, Jenna. I’m home.”
Silence from the other side, a muffled whimper.
Then the door slipped open a crack and the eyeball behind the door saw me, widened, and my lover’s scream pierced the night.
“No no no, it can’t be…” she was saying, backing away from the door, openly weeping and covering her own mouth.
So much for the enthusiastic homecoming I had expected.
“Hello, Jenna,” I said. “I have missed you so…”
“Stay the fuck away from me,” she croaked through tears, backing away.
This was not what I had expected, but maybe I should have.
“I’m not here to hurt you, Jenna,” I said, as she steadily inched away, bumping an end table.
She squeezed her wet eyes shut tight. “What the hell do you want from me?”
“I just want us to be together, to be a family again.”
She had backed herself into a corner, and just stood there whimpering with her eyes closed. I moved toward her, my hands raised in supplication.
She was shaking her head no.
I was so close to her now, looking her up and down. I could still see the woman I had loved all that time ago in her face, despite the aging.
“Eric, you are a monster. You don’t belong in this world. I killed you.”
She fell to her knees, sobbing, wrapping her trembling arms around her head.
“Oh god,” she said, “I killed you…”
I reached out and stroked her hair lightly, lovingly.
“That’s all in the past, Jenna. I forgive you. I can be human again. Look at me.”
She opened her eyes weakly, and looked up at me slowly, then let loose a horrified scream.
She pushed me away and ran clumsily into the open door of the bathroom, grabbing a razor blade and holding it out with both hands. I followed her, trying to remain calm. I knew she would take some convincing.
Then I saw myself reflected in the bathroom mirror.
The “human form” I had been practicing so proudly before my return was anything but appealing. My face was raged and patchy with rust-colored scales and odd hairs. My own eyes were yellow slits with a red pinpoint of pupil, and I could see my teeth were sharp and I was drooling on myself.
I had never been more wrong in my thought I could pass as human again. She was right ; I am a monster.
A raspy voice from behind me said, “Get the hell away from my wife,” and I felt cold metal pressing into my back. I could see Jenna’s eyes widen with relief in front of me.
“Roy!” she was saying to the man behind me. “Shoot him!”
I spun around and grabbed the gun from the man’s hand before he could obey her order, and sized him up. He was pudgy and middle-aged, trembling underneath a thick blanket. This man must have been the body I had observed snoring in the bed upstairs. Things were starting to make a different kind of sense, reality deviating far from the fantasy I had envisioned.
“What are you doing in my home?” I hissed at the man.
“Y-your home…? I have been paying the mortgage on this shithole for years now. Jenna, what is going on?” He was trembling, but stood his ground.
She addressed me instead, speaking evenly and softly. “Eric. Roy is my husband now. He has been for years. Twenty years, in fact. You are dead, I had to move on. You can’t just come back here like this. You have to go away. I spent years trying to forget you and what you became, and you can’t just barge in here like this. Please…just…leave me alone…”
It broke my heart, but she was right. This had been a very foolish venture.
“Twenty years…” I said under my breath, and felt my own tongue slip out and wet my lips.
I shook my head. I had to go back into the forest, this was no place for me.
I caught a glimpse of my own terrible countenance in the mirror again, and looked away quickly in disgust.
“I see,” I croaked at last, breaking the odd tense silence in the air at last. “I will leave.”
Roy breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and lowered his weapon and stepped aside. I brushed past him as he rushed to comfort my wife, his wife. They held each other and cried together.
I turned back to them.
“I just want to see my son one more time, before I go,” I said. “See what he looks like as a young man. Say goodbye to him. Please.”
These words made Jenna burst into a loud sob.
“Where is he?”
Roy stood up from Jenna and moved toward the bathroom door, blocking me from her.
“I heard all about you years ago, but I have to admit I didn’t really believe all of it,” Roy was saying to me. “Eric, right?”
“Ogleon.” I hissed at him.
“Okay, Ogleon, then.” The man was amazingly calm given the circumstances he found himself in. “I am going to have to ask you politely to leave now, and don’t ever come back.” He raised the shotgun slightly, but not in an threatening way. Just a reminder.
I smacked the gun from his hand, and it skitted across the tile floor.
“Where is my son?” I asked firmly, anger boiling up.
Roy’s composure had disappeared when I’d disarmed him, and they both stared back at me in silence.
FInally, from her crumpled position in the corner, Jenna said, “He’s gone, Eric.”
Any humanity I still retained vanished with those words.
“Gone?” I repeated.
“He was too much like you. He was a monster. We had to destroy him.”
She hung her head.
“You killed our son?”
“He was not well. He was dangerous. He did not belong on this earth. I am not sorry.”
Before I could stop myself, I had torn her throat out, and the last of her life gurgled out of her neck in a red waterfall. Roy hesitated a moment in shock, but moved for his weapon after a beat. He was fast for an old guy, I will give him that, but not fast enough.
My claws ripped through his flesh before he even reached the gun, and I was kneeling over him slurping his blood before he even stopped breathing.
In that quick moment, every thing finally made sense.
The humanity that I had struggled and yearned for was gone, with the life of my son. I could finally accept it.
I was a monster, they were right.
But so were they, just a different kind.
I knew finally that I didn’t belong anywhere ; not in Midian, not in the natural world, not even in the fires of hell.
I belonged only to the Night, and I ran out into it then, the warm nourishment of human blood strengthening me and the cold air rushing against me the only thing making me feel alive, despite the knowledge that I was actually long-dead.
Yes, I am a monster, but there are worse things to be.