Disclaimer: The following account is true. The descriptions of the aged, the various horrid creatures of the night, the spilling of blood, the contemplation of bile, and the milk of magnesia contained herein may be unsettling to some readers. Skepchick, and its affiliates, assume no responsibility for any nightmares you may experience after reading this, but we will gladly take credit for them.
Tonight I discovered that I was the â€œchosen oneâ€, born to reunite a cabal of ancient souls with the flying demon spawn of the night whom they serve.
Understand this: I amÂ fresh from the fight and finding it difficult to write; amid the waves of oblivion that periodically crash over me. I am nearing unconsciousness, so I will try to steady my shaky hands and relate this story before the veil of darkness is pulled completely over my eyes.
But please bear with me if I become addled, as my brain has been beset by a fever that I can only assume is the result of my contact with the ancient ones. Either that, or the pilot light on the stove has gone out again, and Iâ€™m breathing dangerously high levels of natural gas. Whatever the case, I will try to tell my tale before I pass out, or blow up.
Itâ€™s not unusual for me to venture down to the trails that run along the banks of Buffalo Bayou on my mountain bike. The bayou, which is comparable in size to some rivers, runs through downtown Houston and out to the suburbs, and there are plenty of ups and downs and straights on the trails to challenge an elite athlete such as myself. (What? I said I have brain fever.)
Frequently, I ride in the late afternoon, and stay out to just past dark. Until today, however, my bike rides were nothing more than a chance for me to blast some tunes on my iPod while blasting my thighs with a good pedaling workout. Ohhh . . . . but damn the wages of fate. Today, my ride became a battle between the forces of good and every goblin that resides in our darkest dreams.
The sun was still fairly high in the sky when I dropped off the street and plunged down closer to the banks of the bayou. The trail is well marked, and runners and people walking dogs are everywhere, adding a warm and friendly feel to the entire endeavor. Even the bat colony that resides under one of the bridges that cross the bayou is just another attraction at the normally family-friendly park. And as I pedaled under the bridge, just below the sleeping bat colony, I had no reason to believe this day would turn sinister.
But IÂ didnâ€™t allow my brain to register the van that pulled up near the bat colony bridge as I flew by on my bike. Had I noticed the occult logo, along with the ancient words stenciled on it, I might have been able to avoid this folly. I might not be hanging by a thread of consciousness right now, wondering if taping a Vicodin to the exposed nerves in the road rash on my leg will kill the pain faster than swallowing it. I might never have had to grapple with such a hideous foe. But who knows? Perhaps I was indeed destined for this.
Whatever the case, things were getting kind ofÂ strange. By way of some rune that disguises written words, the lettering on the van read â€œGlendale Retirement Homeâ€, but through cursory research and lots and lots of imagination, Iâ€™ve learned this is how the ancient ones blend in with the world. It’s how they hide.Â You see, many people come down to the bat colony bridge all summer longÂ and into the fall to watch the bats wake up at dusk and take flight in search of food. It is estimated that over 300,000 Mexican free-tailed bats reside in the support structure under the Waugh Street Bridge. The bats eat many things from insects to fruit and nectar. Mexican free-tailed bats eat insects, especially moths. When they fly off, itâ€™s a pretty cool sight. And the ancient ones, with their tricks of light — tricks that fooled the normal eye into seeing a dozen or so retirees from Glendale Retirement Home — were well guised as just another group arriving to watch the daily routine.
I was fooled, and by Van Helsingâ€™s ghost, I regret not observing things more closely. Because I rode off, leaving the gathering masses at the bat colony bridge unaware that an unspeakable evil was amassing quietly among them. The blue hair and liver spots put in place by their magic had hidden the ancient ones’ true identity from everyone.
If I could just go back in time, to a few minutes ago, I would put a stop to it right then. Well, if I could go back in time, I would first have to revisit some especially exciting romantic encounters I had. Then Iâ€™d dress in drag, and make a cell phone call from a Charlie Chaplan premier. But eventually Iâ€™d get around to foiling the ancient ones before their plan could be put into action.
At any rate, by the time I had made the full circuit on the bike trail and was heading back toward the bridge, the sun was well below the tree line. Soon I could smell the bat guano. And as I approached the crowd of bat watchers at full speed, dusk had settled over the land.
Immediately, I was alarmed. Not because of my speed, but because the unholy transport vehicle of the ancient ones was now parked right next to the trail. I started to brake as I noticed an ancient one pulling what looked to be ordinary chairs out of the van, crossing the trail with the chairs, and setting them down on the other side. Keeping the ruse of a group of retirement home residents alive, the chairs would provide the older folks a place to sit while they watched the bats. . . .
Â . . . .Â If ordinary chairs were what they were.
But the ancient ones have powerful magic. Nothing is as it seems.
At this point, there were 37 things for me to consider at once. Did the chair guy see me? Could I stop in time to avoid a collision?Â . . . Okay, so there were only two things for me to consider. But it didnâ€™t matter, because as those thoughts were going through my head, the spell the ancient ones had used to mask their vehicle slipped. And suddenly I could not only see the demonic writing on the side, but I could hear it talking to me.
A voice as old as time, borne of blood and terror and vibrating air molecules said, â€œWE HAVE YOU NOW SON OF OGDENâ€.
My mind reeled at the sound of that horrid disembodied voice, and I let go of the brakes. And as I did, the ancients lowered their magic further to reveal that the chairs the old guy was offloading werenâ€™t chairs at all, but some ancient version of a lance; a weapon powerful enough to throw even the most stalwart rider from his mount. And the old guy wasnâ€™t just an old guy, but the champion jouster amongst the ancients. Because when he turned from the van to cross the trail, he swung the weapon into my path with blinding accuracy.
As I tumbled weightlessly through the air, I heard the chair warrior screech a hideous triumph that made my blood curdle, though with the ancient, crustyÂ magic in place, to the rest of the crowd it sounded merely like, â€œOh dear lord!â€.
The trick of sound angered me, as no one else witnessing the event would know my real fate, but I had no time to contemplate it further. My back slammed into the ground at a badÂ angle (as though there is a good angle for oneâ€™s back to slam into the ground), and the dirt, and even my bike, decided to take bites out of my exposed flesh.
From there, gravity took its turn, forcing me to tumble down the bank, completely out of control. My own curses were disjointed and somewhat pathetic in the â€œOh dear jesus. Help me lawdâ€ vein. (You must forgive me. I didnâ€™t have time to rehearse.)
Looking up, I saw the moving river of hairy blackness that was hundreds of thousands of bats waking to feed for the night. And as my mind swam at the sight of the bats, suddenly the faces of the entire cabal of ancients peered down at me.
With their floppy skin draped loosely over their bones, like clothes onÂ a Soloflex, and their wide, toothless, gaping maws working like some bizarre attraction at Putt Putt Golf of the Macabre, they spoke horrible things to me in their ancient language.
To everyone else it sounded like, â€œAre you all right young man?â€. But I heard. I knew what they said. I couldnâ€™t block them from my head. They were telling me that I was now at one with the creatures of the night. I had been sacrificed to wake up their masters; the bats.
And wake them I did.
Three hundred thousand bats took flight above me, seemingly in unison. The cacophony pulled the attention of the ancients away from their sacrifice to their masters. And they raised their heads and sat down on their chair-weapons, and sang exalted hymns to the bats now on the hunt. To everyone else, it sounded like, â€œOhhâ€ and â€œAhhâ€ and â€œWow, look at thatâ€, but I could see through their thin illusions. And what they sang was:
The rider with music in his ears is for you / Take him masters, and do what you will do
Still disoriented, I knew I had but a small window to escape. While the ancients kept their attention on the bats, imploring them to have at me, I squirmed up the hill, blood trickling down my leg, fading in an out of clarity. I found my bike, and climbed back aboard.
Slowly, very very slowly, I pedaled away, and toward my home. Iâ€™m not sure, because night had taken full effect and I was not in my right mind from the attack and the â€œawakeningâ€, but I had the distinct impression there was something in the shadows following me.
Around every corner, I swore I heard a rustling in the nearby trees, as the unseen follower kept pace. I just knew at any minute, a giant bat, or a particularly hungry ancient would emerge from hiding and devour me. Witnesses will no doubt tell you that I was weeping like a child the entire ride home, but what I was doing was warding off the beasts of the night with a special incantation. I wasnâ€™t crying.
And it was quite possibly the Incantation of the Big Pussy that aided my escape, because as I turned onto my street, the demons of the night I had been sacrificed to, swooped down around my head. And my shrill cries . . . err . . . incantations miraculously sent them away. Either that or the moths fluttering around the street light caught their attention.
But I was able to inch my way home.
Unfortunately, itâ€™s not over.
I sit here now barely able to speak, and the feeling of dread surrounds me. I fear that some unspeakable horror has become attached to me as a result of this incident. I feel myself losing consciousness, but somehow I know death is not waiting for me. The feeling that a transition is about to take place has invaded my every aching cell. I can try to remain awake, but it is a foolâ€™s game. Darkness will take me soon, and I will enter a realm of unknowable change.
I feel it closing in around me now. My vision is but shadows. The transition is coming. My thoughts; so erratic. Darkness is upon me. Here I go.
I wonder . . .
. . . Will I sparkle?