IT'S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD. AGAIN. The final chapter in the Sleep Trilogy will force the reader to dive right back into the bleak and nihilistic cosmic horror. There will be given no greater meaning, no finality, no purpose. The world will end, just like it always does. No one can stop that from happening. Except maybe... It's been a year since we last heard from them. Ash and Easley have parted ways in disagreement. The final days are fast approaching and Ash will do anything in his power to stop the approach of the ancient one's. Locking himself inside a lonely mansion, he means to conduct some unholy ritual and hopefully confront the end boss. Meanwhile Easley run into some trouble with his newly founded supernatural PI firm when his favourite rug go missing. "The best in the series, by far." "I didn't read the previous two, but I don't feel like I missed much." "Totally going to read it after I upload this video of me playing Fifa to YouTube. I swear."
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This one is for you
Thanks for reading
I want to tell you about the time I died.
You might be thinking, “whoa, shit, dude! Massive spoiler, much?” but the fact of my death is actually the least interesting part of that story.
I expect that you are at least familiar with what we do, and have probably been following us for a number of years now. Perhaps you have even contacted us at some point, or sent us some of your spooky shit. If not, well, I suggest you start by catching up before reading any further.
Speaking of spooky shit that is probably as good a place to start as any.
This was a few years ago – at least I think it was. It wasn’t night, but it was dark as a butthole covered in pants – as per decency. We were sitting in the car, smoking one last cigarette before opening the doors. Black Cauldron by Devil’s Witches was dribbling out of the speakers like honeyed hips. The music was kept low as we had been talking. But now, in the silence, I wished someone would have turned it up.
“I don’t s’pose there was no postage stamp on it?” Easley asked me.
“Nope,” I replied with a voice that revealed a three-day bender.
I was chewing a water soluble pain killer, as I desperately needed the relief but did not think about bringing water with me. Also, I thought it made me seem cool. As the foam started dribbling out of the side of my mouth, I thought otherwise.
“So, what does it do, exactly?” Easley asked.
I looked at the package. Brown paper, no postage stamp, addressed to me in my actual name, not the fake one I go by these days. Inside was a small metallic cube, cool to the touch. I picked it up out of the package.
“I’ll show you.”
Opening the cube revealed a golden circular object. If you listened closely, you could hear the screams of a thousand dying souls as they slowly burned up over aeons.
I put my coffee mug on top of it and the cold liquid starting boiling within seconds.
“Oh, that’s pretty handy,” Easley said impressed.
I showed him the note next. It was handwritten, either in a hurry or by a four-year old. Both of our names, again I mean our actual names, were written on top. Below was an address.
“Spoopy,” Easley said, not as impressed this time around.
It succeeded in getting my attention, however.
Easley looked at his watch and said; “guess we best just go up and knock on the door.” I noticed his watch was drawn on his arm with a black marker. It did not specify a time, it just had an upside-down smiley on it.
We got out and both instantly headed to the trunk. Easley popped it and got out his crossbow. I looked over at the house and had a thought.
“Maybe we shouldn’t bring weapons. It might just be some dude who wants to talk,” I said.
Easley looked up at me, then at the house in question. The light was on, shining brightly out of every window. No one was moving inside. The neighbourhood was quiet, too. We had been sitting in the car for at least twenty minutes watching the place, and not a single person had walked by.
“You explicitly said to bring weapons when you called.”
Thirty seconds later we knocked on the door. Easley had left his crossbow in the trunk, settling for a concealed solution in the form of a plastic revolver. It looked like a toy, mainly because it was. It also just happened to be fully functional, somehow. Another one of those spooky things we get sent by mail – almost weekly at that point.
There was no reply.
We waited another minute before trying again.
“This is the right place, right?” I asked. Easley just nodded and tried knocking a third time.
Again, no reply.
“Spoopy,” Easley said.
“Would you stop saying that?”
“I wasn’t sure you heard me the first time.”
I brought my hands up around my eyes, trying to shield some of the light from the surrounding streetlamps, and looked inside the nearest window. Every single lamp was lit inside the room, which seemed excessive as there was around twelve of them. But apart from that it looked pretty normal. A bit messy, perhaps, but nothing compared to certain other’s.
“Don’t see none,” I said.
“Guess this means we can go back and play Dark Souls.”
I thought about that for a second, but decided to ignore that urge and take a walk around the back of the house instead. Easley walked the opposite way, and we met up halfway, both shrugging. There had been no one in sight in any of the windows, yet every single room was completely lit up.
We looked at each other and tried the door on impulse. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that it was unlocked.
The backdoor led into the kitchen. This struck me as unconventional, as it would usually be a glass door leading directly into the living-room. This maximized the source of daylight and gave a pleasant view of the backyard. This door was a massive wooden door with no windows in it. It seemed out of place.
“Why so many fucking lamps?” Easley asked and deliberately knocked one of them on the ground, breaking it.
He would often act like a moody cat when something confused him, and just paw at random objects.
“I dunno. Seems spoopy,” I said, instantly kicking myself.
Easley snorted a stupid laugh, pleased the word had caught on.
The kitchen seemed pretty stripped down at closer inspection. In fact, apart from the oven and fridge, it did not contain a single appliance. Not even a decorative bowl of apples. Only lamps. At least twenty of them, and every single one turned on.
The next room was more of the same. It looked like a dining-room, only there were no chairs around the big table.
Every inch of said table was used to store more lamps. At least, every part that wasn’t covered with wiring and connectors.
The walls were bare and I noticed in the strong light that the wooden floors had recently been sanded down.
“This dude is seriously afraid of the dark,” Easley said, pointing at a can of paint in the corner. It was some kind of translucent paint that apparently would glow in the dark, and the entire room seemed to have been recently repainted with it.
“Fuck,” I mumbled, getting a bad feeling about this place.
I was starting to get a flashback to another house we had been in at one point, which had also been nearly empty and unused until something came up to say boo, when we finally entered a room that seemed to be in use still.
It was the living-room I had looked inside from the window facing the street. The floors were almost completely covered in papers, books, magazines, and what seemed like random photographs. In the middle of the room someone had thought it useful to place a big desk with a computer on it. The only page open on the screen was some sort of TV-guide, but none of the programs seemed familiar. In fact, they seemed somewhat strange.
“Uh, ever heard of a show called ‘Dining On Celebrities’?” I asked Easley. He started to nod, but then heard how I phrased it.
“Uh, did you say on?”
“This week they’ll be having Chelsea Perretti in vinaigrette,” I said, unable to fully disguise the slight growl from my stomach as I read it out loud.
“This says Donald Trump is president. Clearly it’s a joke, right?” Easley said, reading over my shoulder.
“I think that was on like The Simpsons at some point.”
“This is on a talk show hosted by a jar of pickles, apparently.”
I picked up a nearby magazine, starting to get suspicious, and finding my hunch correct.
The front cover depicted Kurt Cobain in his 40’s with a caption that promised the details of how he kicked his drug addiction and founded a new religion. I showed it to Easley, who only glanced at it and nodded.
We often got stuff like that in the mail. Magazines, newspapers, and even books detailing some alternative part of recent history. My personal favourite was an autobiography by Stephen King in which he details a series of murders he committed from the early 1970’s onwards, each inspiring him to a new book. Not only was it insanely scary, but the chapter about him dressing up as a clown was just downright hilarious.
“Okay, so clearly this guy is a collector,” I said.
“Yeah. But where the fuck is he?”
Someone knocked on the door.
We gave one another a look, each asking the other if we should open the door or not by sight alone.
“I hope it’s pizza,” Easley finally said, moving towards the front door as whoever was on the other side started knocking again, this time a little impatient.
It was not pizza.
“Oh, hey dude. Finally,” I heard Easley say and quickly put my gun away. It felt awkward under my jacket, and each time I grabbed it, I remembered how we had happened upon it and shuddered.
A scrawny looking sack of emptiness and long greasy hair came through the door, giving me a slight nod, as if he wasn’t quite awake yet.
“Jesus, Syd. We waited half an hour for you,” I said, adding “you look like shit.”
“Where’s the guy?” Syd mumbled almost inaudibly.
“First of all: we don’t know if it’s a guy or not,” I said, Syd quickly pointing towards a rubber ass resting on top of a dozen empty pizza boxes. “And secondly: we have no idea.
No one seems to be home.”
“He doesn’t seem like the type to go out much, though,”
“Probably find him naked and choked to death on his own tie upstairs,” Syd said.
“There’s an upstairs?” I asked and immediately started looking for the staircase.
I found it right in front of me.
“Was this here before?” Easley pondered.
No one bothered to answer. It was obvious that it had not.
Upstairs consisted of three rooms. Two more or less identical, empty rooms full of lamps, and a bathroom. There was no sign of any auto-erotic accidents in any of them.
“There’s no bed in this house,” Easley said bewildered.
“So, he doesn’t actually live here?” I asked.
Syd was looking around searching for something, patting the walls at random.
“What you looking for?”
“Seemed bigger from outside,” he said.
“Awesome.” Easley was already excited. He loved a good secret room hunt.
We did not find any, though.
Having spent longer than I would like to admit on tapping the walls and trying to rip up the carpet, we finally concluded there was in fact no hidden rooms, and went back downstairs to the only room to contain anything apart from lamps.
“Gotta be something here,” I said, sounding somewhat frustrated at this point.
“What’s all this mess?” Syd asked us. We did not have to answer as he quickly sighed looking over a few of the photos of dead people that we remembered still living.
We all started sifting through all of it, trying to find anything of actual meaning, anything that might explain why this person wanted to contact us (apart from the obvious, of course), and why he would send us a part of a hell dimension – or whatever it was.
We never actually found out who he was or what that thing was for. I still just use it to heat up leftover coffee and pizza rolls. It does a pretty good job, and it’s easier than turning on the oven. You just have to live with the screams every time you use it.
“Uh, was this always here?” Syd asked suddenly as I was slowly losing confidence of solving this one.
Of course, whenever someone asked that question, the answer would always be both yes and no.
The item in question was a framed picture of a guy in his thirties, hanging on the wall. I remembered clearly that the picture had not been there a minute ago, as I had just established there had been absolutely nothing on any of the walls, and, in fact, there had been an abysmally ugly lamp hanging there before. It was one of those old-timey ones with balls on it, for whatever reason. Not sure if they have a name for that where you’re from, but around these parts that particular point in time is actually named after the trend of putting testicles on random objects.
“Nope,” I answered.
All three of us moved in on the picture.
The guy pictured was most likely the dude who lived there, but as I said, we never figured that part out, exactly.
Although, I do have this theory. Maybe I’ll let you know later.
None of us touched it, but we examined it as closely as we could without.
“Just seems like a picture,” Easley said and turned away.
“His lips are moving,” Syd said.
He was right.
You had to stare at them for a long time to notice it, but they were definitively moving. Most likely trying to communicate, but unable to say anything in this state of super slow-motion. And also due to being just a picture, obviously.
“I’m not waiting around to figure out what he’s saying.”
I took the photo down from the wall and pocketed it.
“We’ll put it with the rest and figure it out later,” I said.
We did put it with the rest, but I don’t think we ever actually looked at it again.
Turning around I noticed part of the room had gone dark.
It was just a small space in the one corner, but with all the light sources, it was glaringly obvious.
There was a lamp right next to the corner in question, in fact there was five, yet the light seemed to be soaked up at this one point in space, like a black hole had appeared out of nothing.
“Fucking smelly dick,” Easley yelled in anger, throwing his hands up in a defeated motion.
“Walked right in to that one,” I sighed.
Syd said nothing.
The shadow moved out of the corner, letting go of the floor and hovered for a moment, slowly taking on the rough outline of a person. Then, it opened its eyes, revealing two small embers that seemed to glow out of nothing at all.
It did not speak – or, if it did, we were unable to hear it.
For a minute or two none of us moved or spoke. We just watched it, and it stared right back at us.
There was menace in those burning eyes, if that was even what they were. I don’t actually think they need eyes to see.
It wasn’t evil, not in the traditional sense, anyway. Staring at it, I got the sense of looking at a child ripping the wings of insects, stealing the last cookie in the jar, or keeping something from a sibling, even though it was supposed to share.
It just wanted to see what would happen if it ripped out our intestines by the mouth. Or, more likely, change the course of this world and turn us in to child-eating paedophiles. And I don’t mean to make people believe we were – I mean actually change the way our fucking brain operates and make us completely turned on by eating and raping fucking children. That is way within their powers, and they would not even have to break a sweat to do so.
The lights all went out.
There was a loud pop of a gun opening up, the flame lighting up the living-room for a fraction of a second.
Easley’s toy gun delivered the punch of a much larger weapon, but it was Syd’s dual-six-shooter that almost blew the inner wall completely apart.
The gun was insanely obscene and nothing you would ever find in any store. It was a large double-barrelled revolver that housed 12 bullets at once, blowing two bullets with each trigger. He never said where he got it from, but I would have to guess that someone sent it to him. I really wish they wouldn’t send us stuff like that. We are in no way capable of handling that shit.
There was a light breeze through the room, then the light came back on.
Unsurprisingly, the shadow man was gone, once again permitting the many lamps to light up the now bullet soaked corner.
“Fuck, I can’t hear shit,” Easley said, rubbing his ears hard. My own ears were ringing loudly, but they always did that.
“What?” I said.
“Where’d it go?” Easley asked running towards the corner of the room.
“Did you see where it went?” I asked, not hearing Easley’s previous question.
There was nothing there, except for two giant holes in the wall, and three shattered lamps.
Of course, shooting at the shadow beings were absolutely useless. We had already established that long ago. It was a mere reflex pulling the trigger. A measly attempt at protection. Don’t get me wrong, it feels so damn good shooting at stuff, which I suppose is a defence mechanism in its own right; not admitting defeat – at least, not out loud.
The light from the lamps started pulsating, first slightly but quickly more violently, until they started blinking on and off in rhythm.
“We should probably get the hell out of here,” Easley said.
“Yeah, let’s bail,” I replied.
We left all the news articles and pictures on the floor, except for that one photo I had pocketed and would leave in a room in the flat reserved for our own “collection”. In fact, we left everything pretty much like we had found it – I mean, apart from the obvious.
None of us mentioned it, but we all knew what had happened in that house.
I would say we had been too late, but the timing was not really a factor when you’re dealing with beings that can change the outcome of the world like blinking an eye.
His mistake had probably been to contact us in the first place. While powerful, they are not omnipotent. You can easily hide, if they don’t already know about you. At least, I think so.
We drove off together, only stopping on our way home to buy gross shit to stuff in our face as we went back to playing video games for the remainder of the night.
That was not the spooky part. The game in question scared us more than what had just happened.
The spooky thing is: as I tell this story, I can’t seem to remember who this Syd was.
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