The world ended. It happened on a bleak night, when the stars fell from the sky and a big ball of light blinded me. I covered my eyes but it was too late. And I heard the rumbling of decadent noises, the screams of distant voices filled with pain, and in my blindness I hid from the horror, yet my ears yearned for silence from the sound of death!

I broke into tears from the fear that gripped my heart. I shook and prayed for someone to save me, but there was no saving that day, no divine intervention of olden gods and false deities in the storybooks of the world. There was just the burning; the twisted sound of death ravaging through the reality that surrounded me.

It burned – they all burned. I was a witness to it all! I lost everything except for my soul of which I clung on as hard as I could. Everything ended and everything began just like the way it was written in the book. We all have our fears; mine was fire, and how I screamed that day when the fire ate me – when the fire cleansed me.

O how I screamed… how I screamed!

***

I saw my hands scrounge for water. It was buried beneath the earth. Slowly I dug the dry arid soil. Water, I thought, as my mind was ablaze spinning around in chaos. There was water here. I knew there was. Yesterday there was, but now, somehow, it was all dry. My mind told me that I just had to dig, that maybe the water receded. My body told me to just wait and die.

I was tired. This horrible nightmare didn’t want to go away. It had been days since I ate and my last meal was a rat I accidentally found. It was dead by the way, but I was hungry… so hungry.

The desert sighed, I heard it, as the heat bore down upon my old sweaty body, and I nearly gagged at the dryness in my throat. I ignored the pain from my now bloodied hands; the ground turned red. Yesterday i camped out here with a family. They’re gone now. They didn’t move away. They just died. For some odd reason I’m still alive. I envy them. I think they died in their sleep. The radiation got to them.

I swear, there was water here yesterday.

Fuck! Fuckety-fuck-fuck! Where’s my fucking water?

The wind paced around me and the sand swept my face. I squinted but never took my eyes out of what I was doing. I would sometimes stop to wipe the dust from my face, clear my eyes, but there was more dust and my eyes hurt all the more. It was wrong of me to go out here. I thought that the family I wandered with knew what they were doing. They said there was water here. Somehow that was true yesterday and the other day. Now there was only pain. There was nothing here.

This was a city before. Most of it is covered by sand. Now it’s crumbling into oblivion, this city that was once made of concrete and glass – abandoned and disowned except for a few stragglers who come here and there. We hid from them because they were monsters that ate their own. They were beasts. Ravagers. Nightmares. They ate anything that they saw was alive. Hell, I think they even ate themselves.

Alas I felt the coldness on my hands. They were wet, not with my blood, but with water, and it seeped out muddying the sand. I heard a snap but ignored it. My lips were about to touch the muddied ground when the most unfortunate of events happened – the hole that I dug widened into a hole. Shit! With a burst of adrenalin I scampered back into a run. Run away you dumb fuck!

Then it stopped. A gaping hole lay in front of me with a water tower that jut out. It stood atop a building. My lucky day, I thought to myself. The problem now was how to get there. Well, not really a problem. I could always climb down. It may take me a whole say, but at least I know there’s water.

Just when I was studying on how I could get myself down and across, another rumble came from beneath the hole. The building gave way. So did the water tower. So did my water. Sand started to fill the hole and it tried to drag me with it. I ran, fast as I could, cursing and spitting, crying and punching the air, until I reached stable ground.

I heard a distant laughter. It frightened me as I walked away.

I walked aimlessly soon after. I was weak. I was lost. All I thought of was the water that got away. But no matter, everything was already dead anyway, yet I kept on wondering why I was not dead yet.

I looked at the graveyard of steel and glass giants that stood from afar half-buried in the sand and laughed at the sight of it. The dry winds swept the stench of rotting things trapped within the nooks and crannies of this dead world. From afar I saw an outline of a dead god rotting beneath the sun. My lips chafed from the lack of moisture. It soon bled. Tears ran down my wrinkled face. All hope in me was lost.

I heard the sound of engines from afar. It was them, the eaters of flesh – the cannibals that the desert had made. I tried to hide but there was no cover. It was just the sun, the dead city, and I. There was nothing more. My body ached as I started to run, but my tired knees collapsed and I fell flat onto the hot desert sand.

The engines came closer. Their laughs became clearer. The beasts came and they were hungry. The roar of a collapsing building called for their attention. Their voices raised, chanting names that were familiar to me – names that were legend; names that belonged to gods. I laid there and waited for it all to happen. My doom was close, I felt it, and I started to laugh. I invited death but death never came. Those beasts never went my way. I didn’t feel their sharp teeth on my skin. Instead I heard a sharp sound that echoed at a distance, and that sound became louder and louder, stronger and stronger.

The thunder came and with it was a storm that drowned reality.

***

I saw them laughing, a woman and a child, as they sat by a decayed fountain with a statue of a child pouring water from a jug. The water was supposed to flow out of the jug of course, but it had been unused for quite a long time, and moss almost ate its entirety. It sat in the middle of a lush garden. But the day was grey thus the green wasn’t so green in the garden.

The child was seven or eight, her daughter I think, and the woman was somewhere around her late forties. They were happy. The little girl played with her doll while her mother watched. They were familiar; this place was familiar. There was an event that happened here though I can’t recall what it was..

I walked towards them, to talk to them, and at least ask them who they were and how everything seemed to be so familiar. But every step I took drew me farther away. I couldn’t get close. I called out, tried to reach them through my voice, but they couldn’t hear me. No one could hear me. Somehow I was the only one who could hear me.

I stopped calling. I stopped struggling. The only thing I could do was to watch the mother and her daughter play with each other while I stood invisible to them.

The sky suddenly darkened. Lightning hung in the air and thunder soon followed. The rain began to fall.

I looked up to the sky and wondered what was going on.

Why was the world ignoring me?

I asked but I got no answer.

I heard them laugh, a haunting yet joyous laugh. My head turned towards them and I gagged in horror at the sight that I saw. Like butter both of them melted. The child jumped in the rain as if nothing was happening, but slowly she melted, as legs gave way and soon her arms, then she became like the rain – she was gone.

Her mother laughed, but not a cynical one, yet she laughed like she was enjoying it. She too melted. She too became like the rain. She too was gone.

The rain poured drowning the sound of my screams in horror of what I just witnessed. But the horror wasn’t finished, for soon after the trees and the fields and the old fountain began to melt.

Help! I cried out to the heavens gasping at the terror that surrounded me. I knew I wasn’t dreaming, I was wet, yet the rain didn’t affect me. The sound of the storm grew louder and louder, but amid the loudness I heard the screams of a child. I stopped and looked towards the direction of the scream.

To my unbelieving eyes I saw the origin of the scream. It was the child atop the old fountain. His marble body melted slowly unlike the rest of the reality that surrounded us. Slowly, very slowly, it melted into nothingness, but the screaming continued, both the child’s and mine, until the entire world disappeared into nothingness.

I cowered, as there was only darkness, and I heard the voice of a child as she spoke within the emptiness that surrounded me – you should be dead.

***

I saw her sitting by the counter one morning. How she looked radiant. How she looked delightful as well in her pink-striped pajamas. She stared at the coffee that she quietly stirred; the sound of her stirring echoed within the quiet kitchen.

I slowly walked up to her; my footsteps were silent. Strange that I had felt so light, like my body had no mass and I floated in the air. But I looked to my feet, my bare feet, and they were still touching the white marble floor.

I sat in front of her; she still stirred her coffee. She smiled without looking at me. I tried to speak to her, to tell her the things that I wanted to say for a long time, but there was no voice that came out of my mouth. She lifted the cup and drank it straight. She was silent. I suddenly realized that the coffee was hot, very hot, and she drank it like that without even flinching. Her lips were quite swollen afterwards, but she put down the cup as if nothing had happened.

She smiled without looking at me.

The world was silent – very silent.

She stood and went out the kitchen. I followed her. My motions, my actions did not create a sound, not a single sound. As if the world did not exist and there was only silence and I. Through the dining room she went, pass the living room next, and up the stairs that led to the bedrooms. Strange, I feel I thought I knew these places, very recognizable yet unfamiliar.

Inside the bedroom she undressed herself. I stared at her nudity and I did not know how to react. She went into the bathroom and stepped into the showers. She bathed herself, humming to a certain tune that I recognized. It was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, spring in particular.

The water ran through her body. The water washed away the dirt. The water washed away her skin. I stared in horror at the sight of which I witnessed. Her beautiful body turned into an ugly mass of sinew that was barely recognizable. Still, she hummed that song that rang full in my head, and then there were only bones, as her skeleton, likes a scene out of an old horror movie, bathed while humming in the shower.

I couldn’t scream. I had no voice.

Its head turned to regard me; its eyeless sockets staring right at me. And she stopped bathing; and she called out my name.

I was crying. I suddenly realized that I knew her, that I had lived with her – that I loved her.

She called out my name; her sweet soothing voice echoing in my head. How did it come to be? How could I live through this horror? Something was wrong, very wrong, and I was in the middle of it. I went down on my knees and started to cry. Like a child I wept. It stepped out of the shower with its voice calling out my name – her voice – I was confused.

It took me to its arms and held me, like a mother to a child, and it caressed me. I shook in fear. It told me not to cry. It told me not to fear – there would be more soon.

***

Their screams woke me up. They were all around, hundreds of them, crawling through the black cavernous rocks with masks that covered their faces. There were all sorts of masks, from different regions of the world, from different occasions and festivities. The death of the world has made beasts of men. The mask hid the beasts beneath. They came closer. They were covered in blood; some had dried up already.

Some were eating things that lay on the ground. They lifted their masks to take a bite. Their mouths hideous. Serrated teeth, decayed and all, bit and chewed and grinded what seemed to be parts of a human being. I heard them grunt, breath hard, sounding like apes amid a feast of gore. Something in my belly burst and went out my mouth.

They ate and stared at me.

What kind of nightmare was I involved in? What kind of sick and putrid hellhole have I been thrown into? Yesterday the world ended. I’m quite sure. I remember it. Yesterday I lost everything. Today must be a different dream, no, a nightmare, and one that I think will not go away that easily.

It was only when my sickness had passed that I began to realize where I was. I was in a dome of some sort, a cavern of shiny black rock that showed stars that faintly glowed. It all seemed too unnatural, like outer space was carved and chipped to accommodate the leftovers of mankind. Funny thing was that there were no blood stains on the ground. I looked closer and saw that every drop drifted into the void passing through the floor. It was very surreal, very alien and a the voice inside of me screamed for help!

They enjoyed their meal and then they suddenly stopped.

From behind me emerged a figure unlike the rest of these cannibals. This creature stood somewhere around ten feet to my estimation and he wore the most horrid of masks that I have ever seen. Strewn together were faces – actual faces – of men and women that extended down to its torso. Its flesh beneath had been stripped revealing muscles and veins. The stuff of nightmares indeed and here I thought seeing the world burn was the worst of it! The creature stood in front of me. It took deep breaths, like it had a hard time breathing, with its shoulders moving slowly in a vertical motion, and its lanky body looked like it would fall apart sometime soon. But much to my surprise, the creature, though frail in appearance, moved with grace as it pointed a finger at me with all the eyes of the faces of its mask look towards me and spoke with many voices.

“Dreamer,” it said with a hiss. “Dreamer, do not stop dreaming! The king must feed!”

Its words were cryptic. I shivered as it spoke feeling its malign influence choking my very existence. I froze. The power of its will overwhelmed me, pushed me, confused me as it slowly tried to break me. Yet I fought, tried not to be afraid, but I trembled at the horror that stood before me, until such that I couldn’t take the horror anymore, and my eyes curled into whiteness as I saw black.

***

The war came in 2019. We were listening on the radio when the missiles were launched. The radio, yes, a battery operated radio brought us the news, listening to the only station that was left broadcasting telling us what the hell was going on. Hell was indeed the proper term for it. I clutched my daughter fearing for her life. My wife paced around, biting her nails and frantically eyed the radio.

The power had gone out the day before the missiles were launched. Internet, telephone and all the other forms of communication that needed an ample supply of electricity had gone out a week before. This was it, the last great effort of mankind against the gods, and it was an impossible one!

As far back as the story goes, it all started when people were lured to the insignificant town of Innsmouth and they all disappeared. Since then the government had been secretly infiltrating that unassuming place of hidden horrors and had been fighting these things ever since. These things… fish-men, they called it – things that crept from the sea, from the stars and from the nightmares of men. Soon after, the monsters emerged from the seas, came down from the stars, and everything fell into chaos. I have seen them. Many have seen them. Creatures so horrid, so impossibly wretched, it was hard to describe them in words. Then there were their minions, spawned of almost the same image as they were; formerly human beings that were twisted into some diabolic thing that became an army for the wretched.

I remembered such things described before, by an old professor I once knew, who was odd by normal standards, and who kept to himself most of the time. He told me that there were these Great Old Ones that slept in the darkness of the seas and the skies. They were gods, malign and unforgiving, and that they would someday awaken from their slumber to do what they were supposed to do eons ago – to destroy the world of men. Of course I thought back then that the old man had lured me into some form of trick and that I would eventually end up mocking my own intelligence. But he was dead serious and I saw in his a madness that could only be seen on a person in a mental institution. I couldn’t believe – I refused to believe him. How I ate my words when the monsters came.

They were larger than the tallest buildings of Europe and Asia. They were hideous monstrosities that spoke through thoughts, which brought forth madness whenever they uttered words in a language that sounded ancient and undecipherable. It was like a page out of some occult novel wherein the word hope had been omitted many times.

It started in America. The bombs dropped decimating most of the East Coast. That giant squid creature could not be stopped. Its children, horrid sea things that looked like shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, rose from the burning waters and marched inland towards populated areas. My mind could not comprehend the images that I saw on the television. Those who watched the feed slowly got mad. My wife drowned herself. She lost herself when lightning struck our daughter dead. It happened in the park while. She survived. My daughter didn’t. I don’t remember much of that day, or the days thereafter, but what stuck to my mind were the last days of Armageddon that happened when it was my turn to go. Everyone in our city who saw that monstrous creature on the television started doing irrational and murderous things, to themselves, to each other, until such that the streets were covered with bodies and painted with blood. We were far away, in Manila, when everything in America went crazy, and all the while I thought the high-tech planes and weapons of war could take down the creature. I thought humanity could stand a chance, to survive… I was wrong.

After the first monster came and the first fire struck, a second once descended from the sky, and then a third, a fourth and soon a fifth. Cities burned, crumbled, and humanity lost a great percentage of its sanity. More and more weapons came from the many nations that once warred with each other. The monsters did fall, one by one, for such creatures, even mighty and colossal, could not withstand the power of fire that burned like the sun.

Bright flashes came. Madness enveloped the earth. All things loud… unbearable, as many voices cried in constant fear, and I heard them all, not with my ears but with my mind.

I heard oblivion. It consumed me.

***

I had awoken to madness. The many-faced creature stared at me with its many stares that glowered and its many grins that salivated. It paced back and forth lingering in anticipation. And then I noticed the enormous circular door behind the creature covered in dimness against the red glow that emanated from nowhere. But what caught my attention was the sign that was etched on the stone door. A sign, ambiguous and unnerving in its visage, and it greeted me with malice!

It sees the sign.

The creatures spoke. I heard them clearly in my head.

Does it understand it?

“Shut up!” commanded the many faced horror swatting away one of the masked creatures beside it. “They are interested in you dreamer. They salivate upon your flesh. Should I give you to them?”

I was too weak to reply, but somewhere inside of me was a man who wanted to fight back, and maybe, in an afterthought, I could eventually fight these creatures believing that I am immune to their horror. Yes, for I saw the terrors and survived their mind-bending words of woes. Their dark mind-speech did not drive me insane. Maybe there was a chance for me, to escape this wretched place, and maybe, just maybe, find salvation someplace else.

A low moan came from the door behind the multi-faced creature. I heard stone grind against stone. The door with the sign started to open.

“The king has wakened…” said the many-faced creature as it turned to face the circular door. “Lo and behold the fear that lurks in the darkness! Bow before your king, flesh one!”

And there I saw for the very first time, my captor – my tormentor. A king indeed! With a crown on its head and a mask that hid it’s probably putrid face. Around it swam a vast ocean of yellow.

The King in Yellow.

They whispered with fear.

Awake. No. Sleep, lord, sleep. Must not wake.

A sudden and violent wave of yellow swept forth from beyond the circular door. A madness that erupted, incomprehensible at most, yet with feeble mind I could somewhat comprehend what I saw. This King in Yellow reached out from its cosmic abode crushing its minions with a vengeful wrath kept for thousands of years. The king had awakened, so it seems, and it was angry because it was disturbed.

The many-faced beast turned to me with all its faces painted with fear. It pleaded, shook me violently, asking for my slumber to surface once more. I get it now.

The king feeds on my dreams. He is the last of the colossi. He whispers, silent yet powerful words, of what has become of everything. Dead, or dying, whichever word properly fits the mired predicament of the world. There was nothing left, except for us, the King in Yeloow and I and its minions that devour what is left of everything. Soon they will devour even themselves. There was no more of human fear left within them, that innocent and mortal fear that was the king’s sustenance. I was all there was.

But I refused to dream. No more madness!

The King in Yellow felt my defiance and in rage sought to devour everything.

Hail Hastur! Hail Hastur!

His minions tried to appease him, but the madness of a millions years was too much to bear, and even sleeping gods could not fight the hand of inevitability. He drowned in his madness and a wave of yellow washed the black-covered cavern until there was only the void.

I was flung, far and away, as I slowly watched the chaos of yellow decimated all that it could, and as I drifted the stars covered the sight of a mad god destined for doom. This is all that I am now. Hollow – an empty shell inside an empty shell. I stare through the small cylindrical glass of which is my prison. I tried to dream but there are no more dreams, no more gods to corrupt such things and transform them into sustenance. I am awake. I am the last. My mind is all that there is, trapped in this small space, and I stare at the empty void as I drift silently to forever.