The Horizon’s ShadowAt the edge of twilight lay a dark aura, encompassing the distance and the future of the small township. The residents of Needle Wise slept and in their sleeping complacency never saw the approach of the Crystalline Caste. The heards of cattle at the south end of Wise raised their heads and grunted, moaned at the approaching darkness and in the early hours of morning all but three of the cows were dead, slaughtered in the most profound and violent fashion.
Reverend Hollow said a prayer for the cattle farmers, “…let this terrible incident be the end of it, all in all lord give us peace in this a dark hour!” he spoke in a commanding voice near the corpses of several of the cattle. By the condition of the cows he knew it was just beginning. The cattle were being attended to with heavy equipment and the local veterinarian Locus Flame was examining one of the animals.
“Looks crystalline…..” he said noting the clear mottling on the cows flank.
“What coulda done that doc?” said Ben Listed the unfortunate owner of the cattle.
“I dunno, maybe some kind of chemical, I’m not sure.” he said as he moved one of the torn folds of flesh.
“Did you notice their eyes Doc, all missing. Do you think it was kids or some kind of aliens or something Doc?” Ben asked.
“I don’t think it was aliens Ben, but maybe a cult or something. I’m not sure if any animal or sane human would’ve done this.” Locus explained.
The reverend looked at Locus and said, “God help us, god help us if this thing gets to our loved ones. It’s something dark, unbidden, from the edge of twilight Locus. In all of my years as a reverend I’ve never seen anything like it.” he whispered more to himself then Locus.
Later that evening near midnight tide a dark cloud formed over the Wise. The air became chill and damp as if expecting something cold and ancient, dark and forbidding. Most of the township were sleeping by then with the exception of Locus who was analyzing some of the crystallized blood from one of the cattle.
Locus scratched his head and rubbed his eyes, he must be imagining it. He had placed a sample of the blood under the microscope and adjusted the focus. He was seeing it but it didn’t make sense. The blood cells were dark and clotted near the center, they formed a design almost a star in shape. Locus rubbed his eyes again and yawned. What could have done this, he knew it wasn’t any compound he’d ever seen. Just as he was about to give in for the night the Wise’s tornado sirens began blaring and somewhere near the south end of town there was a giant rush of wind, not exactly a tornado but fast and inky in substance.
Locus watched as the lights blinked on and off for a moment, then went dark. There was a low hum coming from outside and it seemed to be building to a crescendo. Locus locked the lab door and went to the window. A cool dank air was rushing in under the door frame and the smell of moss filled the air. Something ancient had come to Needle Wise, something from the darkest realms of the abyss. Locus pushed a chair in front of the door and waited.
On the North end of town Reverend Hollow was praying, he knew it was the end, he knew something had finally come for mankind, something that they would have little hope against. Crosses across the copse, spittle and holy smoke across the dust laden path didn’t dissuade the wrath of distant elders, distant vistas in crimson and scarlet woe. He had naively believed he could stop it on his own. The book, he had only read two words aloud from that damn book “CRYSTALINE CASTE!” and he had known the mistake when his nose had begun bleeding uncontrollably onto the incantation. He was a man of god and it was his job to secure such things, and he hadn’t known it’s power, it’s wont and passion for the soul of man. He had prayed and searched the heaven’s for an answer and when none had come he cried knowing an ancient evil would steal the Wise.
The Caste came in rushes of wild wind and dark smoke filling the landscape and denizens of Needle Wise with an inescapable fear. The sirens blared their warning to no avail as the town was absorbed by the great Crystalline Caste.
Ben stared at the bottle of whiskey in his hand and unscrewed the lid. Taking a swallow he grunted as the warm Scotch rolled down his throat. Tilting the bottle back again he gulped the liquid with a relish abandon. If he were drunk it’d be better he thought. “To tha land of nod my friends, to the land of nod!” he yelled at the noise as it approached the farmhouse.
The house shook as something huge slammed up against it and Ben screamed as a grayish fog rolled under the door. He gulped the whiskey down and stood bracing himself as the thick viscous smoke roiled around his ankles. The pain was immediate and his flesh became solid crystalline from his ankles spreading upward toward his face. “ARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAA, HEEEELLLLLLLLPPPPPPPPP MMMMMMMEEEEEEEEEE!” he yelled as the smoke overwhelmed him. In the end the smoke, the terror didn’t spare him his eyes only leaving two empty staring sockets where they had been.
In waves the creeping anomaly moved across the Wise stealing what it needed to gain control, to break the barrier between here and there, feeding on the living and taking the eyes of everything it touched.
Reverend Hollow looked at the book, he knew the Caste was coming, the Crystalline Caste, a great beast and it’s torrent of death. He knew he would have to close the gate, the gate to what he thought? To hell, was it the gate to hell and damnation? He read from the book. It said the eyes of the chosen one will repeal the beast and it’s warrant otherwise all will be lost if the Crystalline Caste is loosed. The eyes of the chosen one, who was the chosen one? He prayed and waited, if he were the chosen one he’d have to stop the terrible conclusion, the end of time and the world…he had to stop the Crystalline Caste, it had been his blood on the book and he had brought it forth, it was up to him to stop it.
Reverend Hollow waited and in the end the great beast accepted his vision, the vision of a holy man caste by god seeing the light, what it needed, what it desired in great passionate waves of wont. In the end the reverend was blinded, his life spared and the remainder of the wise left to wonder at the carnage that had come to their little town.
Years later the reverend would think back to that moment in awe and shock, what had he seen when the Caste had touched him, a vision of hell, utter darkness and the shade of blackness that waits just beyond the horizon. He knew the Caste would return someday, but for now he kept the book hidden and safe from those who would have them return to conquer the world.