It's All The Rage

by Peter J Stevens

"You don't believe me. Come closer, closer ... real close. Look into my eyes."

I shifted in my seat. I wasn't sure, but I was compelled. As if in a trance, I leaned forward.

"Come! Closer! Look deep into my eyes." He commanded.

As if hypnotized, I found myself leaving my chair and getting as close to my patient as I dared. I looked from one eye to the other. The hazel iris slowly darkened to black. The dead black of midnight. The black of a stormy night with no stars, no moon. Only the empty void of time and space. I could almost hear the distant thunder...

I focused on the right eye. It was all I could see. It seemed to draw me closer, engulfing me, compelling me closer, as a moth to a candle. The black of the pupil ... the black of the ...

I could smell the swamp. The pungent stench of decaying vegetation, decades old, filled every breath. The ground was a sponge I sank into with each and every step.

"Caution," I told myself. "Take care, stay alert," I reminded myself. But I was not listening. If I were, I would not be here.

I could feel the gas bubbling around my shoes as it oozed from the debris littered ground. Looking behind me I could make out the depressions from each step I had taken.

I could hear the thunder in the distance and a sudden spike of lightning would silhouette the trees, bushes and miscellaneous undergrowth. But the sound that was drawing me forward was the steady gurgle, the soft popping of swamp gas escaping from a distinct location.

The moon was overhead but it was almost totally eclipsed by the overhang and density of the trees. But enough light filtered through to give me illumination of this hellhole.

I could be on some alien planet for all this resembled Earth. Or it could be the birth of our planet. At any moment I expected a pterosaur to fly over head. But the black forms that moved swiftly through the air were bats. And there was plenty for them to feast on.

Far in the distance, fires would flare where the lightning struck the ground, igniting the escaping fumes. They would burn for a time, fed by the decade-old refuse, then go out.

The ground was becoming saturated. With each step, I sank deeper. I moved forward but more slowly and with more caution. I was aware that the goal I searched for was before me, somewhere. A steady, almost rhythmic discharge seeped from the water, which the ground had become. I could go no farther unless I was to swim.

I stood there, motionless, looking at the ever-increasing volume and size of the froth. The smell had changed. These bubbles were no longer the final trace to a life that had long ago ceased. And I could feel the water around my feet begin to stir.

Just as whales and turtles and dolphins live their lives underwater but must surface for air, so it was with this creature I searched for.

I stood at the edge of the lake, the edge of the trees and brush, holding on to a tree branch for safety. The moon emerged from behind the clouds and illuminated the area with a glow of tarnished silver. The water seemed to almost boil. Ripples of small waves radiated from ... somewhere.

As if an island was being born, a form slowly lifted out of the water. It took on a human form, a form easily recognized, universal to all. But it was not human. It was larger than human, and it would feed on anything and everything that was living and breathing.

What set it apart from all other creatures was its eyes. Its eyes were black. Blacker than night. Blacker than coal. Void of life and caring. Void of all emotion except pain and anguish. These eyes seemed to absorb all, with a machinelike lack of feeling.

He stood upright and slowly scanned the horizon. Thunderclaps seemed to announce his arrival and several small fires burst to life, danced and then, just as quickly, burned out.

He stood but did not move. He seemed to be searching for threats, or food. A snarl formed on his lips but no sound was emitted. His teeth were jagged and sun-bleached bone white. Years of eating whole animals had picked his teeth clean while filing them down.

He stood quietly and motionless, studying the swamp in which he lived.

Now I know! Now I know too much!

I slowly began to retrace my steps. The whole world became illuminated by the sudden explosion of lightning, and the percussion of the thunder knocked me over on my back. I stretched out my arms to cushion my fall and they sank into the lake bed. For a moment, I was trapped on all fours but in an inverted position. I was able to free my hands without difficulty and continued to retrace my steps.

The creature had seen me from the start, long before I was aware of him. But he made no movement towards me. But he kept his eyes, those coal-black, lifeless eyes, fixed on me. Studying me! Taking it all in. Learning all it could, storing it away for future reference.

A snarl again formed, the only evidence that this thing was a living, breathing being. More lightning, more thunder, but no rain. The storm passed overhead in a furnace of heat, humidity and bugs.

I fell back into my chair. I almost missed my seat but it took several moments to even realize this. My forehead was covered with beads of sweat. My heart was racing and I looked at my feet expecting them to be wet. They weren't but with my weight off them, they began to tremble.

"You're white," he laughed, or was it a snarl?

I looked up at my patient. "What were we talking about?"

"Anger," he replied in what I perceived as a throaty whisper.

"Ah ... yes," I responded getting back into character. "Anger."

"So ... you saw him."

"Yes," I answer slowly, surprised at my response.

He began to laugh. A laugh as if he had just succeeded with a practical joke. A laugh from the gut filled his whole being. A laugh emanated from the pits of Hades.

"Well?", he said.

I stared at him, mesmerized. "WELL?"

"He ... looked ... just ... like ... YOU!"

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