Creatures From Across the Black Sea

                Susie never expected them to appear one day, the fantastic creatures of her dreams. Sheer phantoms. Translucent in daylight, they touched men not in sleep but in wakefulness. Spores vast enough to grapple with the horizon, strange beasts unlike any she knew in the world. They were hazy; they were ghosts, and yet, on the occasion she was bold enough to reach out and touch one, their skin felt wet and clammy against her own.

The creatures she touched passed through her, sloshing about her insides like she was hollow. They disappeared within her, and did not emerge again. Nothing changed but her nights, where in the fullness of fantasy she bled lime green putrescence, and spoke in a tongue not her own. Wherein she thought alien thoughts. Flying fast and angry through her, the parasite's bitterness at being so caught by its maker infected her, the host, as well.

On nights where these dreams were strongest, she fled to the hem of her Mother, or her Father's gentle hands, and therein she sought solace. None forthcame, for she could not be understood. Such happenings existed so far beyond the ken of understanding of mere humankind.

"Honey, what's wrong?" Her father would ask.

"There, there, it was just a dream," Her mother hushed, and hummed a wordless tune from her own youth, the standard remedy of childhood nightmares. But these sufficed no longer. What she felt was not fear engendered by nightmares, and it did not fade in the light. She heard her parasite whisper even then, and they found, slowly, a way to communicate. It learned her name, and she its history.

Susie. She thought, for they shared space in the same head. Susie.

Susie. Its thoughts a dark reflection of her refrain. Susie.

We have come far. And we crave much. The black sea swallowed us almost a hundred times. But here is a world, and we will make it our own.

Day by day, she saw others infected, those who did not accommodate their parasites like she did, and were therefore consumed. Day by day, humanity was coopted by spirits who reached from across the black and claimed our souls for their own.

                Day by day, she found out further who she might become.

The Quiet King of the Universe

At night the man dreams of the stars. Not in the sky above, but beneath his feet. Glittering granules of sand caught in still cooling obsidian. He dreams of magnificent, impossible beings, bathing him in silent adulation.

He never speaks, this homeless man. Fellow travelers, fellow men who are lost and forgotten, in lieu of a name, call him Stargazer or The Quiet King of the Universe.

How he spends his days: wandering the Earth his eyes constantly skyward. He wonders about dreams where he drifts in the heavens. Are they of a life to come, or one that was? He waits in a liminal state, listless and just on the edge of becoming. He waits, stuck in-between. He waits for the calling, waits for them to pull him out of his life and up into the night.

Even in the day, and in the sun, the blue skies, the clouds, do not fool him. Beyond he can see it is always black. An igneous matte that calms him, calls to him. Even when he sleeps in the rain, drops pattering on the hull of his aluminum lean-to. He can see through the metal and through the darkness, through to the stars that call him home.

And still he waits.

One evening the wait ends. Bright lights shake him from reverie, dreams of standing above the stars. Lights pull him from his hovel. Up, up... Opening his eyes, he is hemmed in by impossible creatures who exist only on the edge of imagining. In a translucent craft in the midst of the stars. He is one with the night sky, one he has watched each day since he was a young man.

He is home once more.

They do not speak, neither does he. After a fashion they bow, one by one, inclining heads or probosces, bending knee or tentacle, even the living shadows sink towards the starry floor in supplication. Quietly, they rejoice. For he has returned; their lord has ascended: the Quiet King of the Universe.

Adrift in the dark, the Quiet King dreams of stars. Not on the floor beneath, but above his head. A night sky. A ceiling coated in pitch and diamond. He dreams of a life that was-

-or is yet to be.