22 May The Day Will Come
“The Day Will Come”Written by Micah Edwards Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 9 minutes
Until recently, I was the head of the psychology department at a small, unassuming university. To protect the privacy of those still working there, I will not tell you which university it is, though I suspect you can find it in the papers. It depends on how well they covered it up. And they had reason to, oh yes. Very much so.
At this small, unassuming university, there worked a small, unassuming man. His name was Chuck Liddle, and he was a professor of ancient literature. He was bald and slightly lumpy, resembling nothing so much as a parboiled potato. He always introduced himself as Charles, but everyone called him Chuck anyway. He never particularly objected, but I don’t think he ever cared for the name, either. That was the sort of person he was. He simply took what life threw at him. He never made waves.
I was not present for all parts of this story. Indeed, I was not really involved almost until the end. But I will tell it to you as it was told to me. I have little reason left to doubt it. I doubted it too much before, and the cost I have paid has been high. You may believe it or not, as you choose. I do not presume to dictate terms to you.
Chuck was in the library conducting research one day when he came across a strange book. Or rather, the book came across him. He was browsing through the stacks when it fell upon his head from a higher shelf. Fortunately, it was a relatively slim volume, so the damage both to Chuck and to itself was minimal.
The book looked ancient. It was bound in a cracked, dark leather, and its front cover was stamped with a staring eye and glyphs in a language unknown to Chuck. Curious, he opened it and began to carefully turn its pages. Though the edges of the pages were stained with the dirt of years, the vellum itself was strong and the binding still secure. The writing inside was the same as that on the cover, strange symbols of a forgotten tongue, but the book was heavy with diagrams and pictures. Slowly, Chuck began to piece together its dark message.
The book spoke of a celestial alignment, of a dark reality parallel to our own and an event that would bring the two into conjunction. It showed the sky ripped open and darkness bleeding through, darkness with claws and teeth and intent. But it was no half-baked muttering of a sun-crazed hermit, no fantastical story dreamed up on hallucinogens and deprivation. It was detailed, meticulous. It carefully laid out the circumstances. Every piece was categorized, labeled, described and measured. The mathematics was clear, even if the language was unknown.
Chuck found the book simultaneously fascinating and repulsive. Who would have written such a thing? Did they believe their own formulas? And was this a fate they sought to avoid—or wanted to bring about? He looked over every page and then, almost against his will, turned the book back over and started to read it again.
Chuck studied the book deep into the night, his previous project forgotten. By the time the morning light glared through his windows, he had come to one conclusion: he could not decipher this alone. He needed help.
He brought the book to the mathematics department, to his friend Henry Pence. Henry was a relatively new hire, not yet tenured. He was an affable fellow, well-liked by both students and staff. And he had a penchant for puzzles, which is doubtless why Chuck thought of him first.
Henry was in a morning class when Chuck arrived, and so Chuck installed himself in Henry’s office and continued poring over the book, his notes growing ever more copious and convoluted as he went. By the time Henry arrived several hours later, Chuck’s work had spilled onto the ground and was carpeting the office like an invasive mold. Stray papers at the edges had been pushed so far that they were beginning to climb the walls. And at the center of this chaos sat Chuck, gloved hand holding the book as carefully as if it were a baby, scribbling furiously onto still more papers.
“Quite a system you’ve got here,” Henry remarked as he surveyed his office from the doorway. At the sound of his voice, Chuck looked up, and Henry was taken aback by the feverish gleam in Chuck’s eyes.
“Henry! Henry, come see this. Come see what I’ve found. I need your help.”
Picking his way carefully among the drifts of paper, Henry stepped to Chuck’s side to look over his shoulder. Chuck held the book up for Henry’s inspection, rapidly flipping to relevant pages as he spoke.
“Look, see. I found this in the library. It fell on me. But see what it says! See, here? A conjunction, a joining. It comes, Henry. Whether we will it or not, it comes. And here, see, the melding. A twisting, I think, meshing what was with what will be.”
His voice cracked as he babbled, his throat parched from nearly a day without water. Henry thought to express his concern, but the diagrams caught his eye, and he found himself leaning further forward to get a better look.
“See, the math, Henry. I think it proves this, proves it isn’t mad meanderings. I need you to check it. I’ve tried, I’ve tried, but it goes in circles, and I get lost in the proofs.” He gestured here at the litter of paper surrounding him. “Fruitless, but I know it’s there. You can do it. Will you help?”
Wordlessly, Henry pulled up another chair, sweeping papers out of the way. He knew somehow that despite Chuck’s best efforts, the notes would be only a pale echo of the book’s message. The book, the source, called to him, and he hungered for the secrets it could share.
Henry skipped his afternoon classes that day. His students milled about, muttered amongst themselves, and eventually wandered away to enjoy the afternoon. A few of the more dedicated came by his office, but Henry never even heard them knocking. He was fully consumed by the book, his mind wrapped within its formulas. They were brilliant, innovative. They unlocked truths about the universe that Henry had never even dreamt of and made them appear simple and commonplace. But when he looked up from the book, the numbers slipped from his mind like water through his fingers. Soon, his pile of papers was even greater than Chuck’s.
The two worked through the night, communicating only in exclamations and half-sentences: Look! Oh, this—! But that would—! The sun rose, and set, and rose again, and still they worked, eschewing their bodies’ basic needs in order to continue their study.
Finally, Henry raised his head. His haggard face was shadowed with stubble and thick black bags hung under his eyes. His lips were cracked and slightly oozing blood, and he licked them carefully before he spoke.
“We need more,” he said. “We’re close.”
Chuck, his equal in ragged appearance, nodded his agreement. He looked around Henry’s office, the walls papered with notes and diagrams, the pages bleeding together.
“History,” Chuck said. “To place it, to explain it. And science, someone from the natural sciences to bolster our cause. We must show this to the dean, but not without evidence, not without proof.”
“Tor,” said Henry. “Tor Larksson, for history. And Dirk Lackey for science. Both well-respected, but neither hidebound. They will look. And they will see.”
“And Gus Lacey,” Chuck replied. “Gus is a favorite of the dean.” He snorted, a sound of derision. “Even with something as important as this, we must play politics.”
“No matter,” said Henry. “They’ll see. The day will come. We must be ready. Whatever it takes.”
They stood, stretching the stiffness from their joints, and shambled forth from the office to find the named professors. No great task this, not on a small campus, and soon the coalition was gathered back in Henry’s office, and it was here that I found them.
I was passing by, and their discussion caught my ear. I can’t say exactly what it was that piqued my interest, but there was something about the tone that seemed wrong. It was too guttural, perhaps, or maybe too high-pitched. I should have been able to tell which of these at least, but I could not. All I knew was that it didn’t have the pitch and cadence of a normal conversation, and so I knocked and opened the door.
Five faces turned toward me. Three were normal, while two were sallow and drawn, the faces of vagrants after a hard winter, not those of well-kept college professors. But in the eyes of all five faces, the light of madness burned, strongly enough that I took a step back under their concerted attention.
“Look, look,” said Chuck, offering the book to me. “See what I have found. It is the end of the world.”
I looked from face to face, seeking to understand the joke, but each man nodded earnestly. Behind them, the papers tacked to the walls told the story of insanity that had gripped this room. I did not understand what had happened, but it was all too clear that these men had all taken leave of their senses. The walls practically dripped with it.
“We must tell the dean,” said Chuck. “Here, look. You will see why.”
“The dean, yes,” I said, taking another step back. “He will be very interested in this.”
An idea dawned on me. “Come with me,” I said, forcing a smile. “I know where he is. I will lead you to him.”
They came with me willingly, chattering about the warp and weft of reality. Henry rattled off strings of nonsense numbers, and the others all nodded along, eagerly chiming in as if there was an order to his chaos. I grew more concerned as we walked. These men were my colleagues. I had known many of them for years. What had afflicted them all at once? Was I at risk?
I texted as we walked: Five patients. Immediate admission. Involuntary. Be prepared for resistance.
I kept my phone screen tilted away from them, but I need not have bothered. They were entirely caught up in their own world.
I led them to our clinic, and at the door, Gus balked.
“Why is the dean here?” he asked.
“A fundraiser,” I told him. “Don’t worry about disturbing him. He will be excited to see your book.”
Reassured, Gus and the others went inside. I led them down a hallway and ushered them into a small room.
“Wait here,” I said. “I’ll get the dean.”
I left and locked the door behind me, then hurried to the front. I gathered up the waiting orderlies and, armed with straitjackets and needles filled with soporific drugs we returned to the room.
“Where is the dean?” demanded Chuck.
“No dean,” I said soothingly. “Professor Liddle, you need help. We’re here to help you.”
“No, no!” he cried. “Look, you must understand! The day comes!”
He thrust the book at my face, and I fell back as one of the orderlies stepped in to grapple with him. The room filled with shouts and screams for a short time, but five middle-aged men are no match for professionals trained in restraint techniques, and shortly all five professors had been subdued.
“Just look at the book,” Chuck mumbled to me as he was escorted away. “Look, read it. You will see.”
I did nothing of the sort, of course. I wrapped the book in plastic and placed it safely in my desk. The men were led to five different rooms, given sedatives to calm them, and locked in.
That night, I received a call from the clinic. “Dr. Locksworth? You need to come in. You need to see this.”
The doctor would give no details over the phone. Even after I arrived, she merely pointed mutely down the hall where our patients were being kept. Confused and alarmed, I peered into the first room, where Gus had been placed.
Gus stood in the center of the room, straightjacket on, his eyes blazing. Every surface in the room had been covered in symbols I had never seen before, an alphabet from a language so alien it made my stomach roil to look upon it. They had been drawn in a thick black ink, drooling over ceiling, walls and floor alike. Even the bed was covered, its angles no impediment to the artist.
On the back wall was a single staring eye, scrawled across the entire surface in one smooth brush stroke. The words and diagrams bent around it, as if its mere presence warped them. The pupil of the eye framed Gus’s head where he stood, stock-still in the center of the room, staring at me.
“How did he do this?” I asked the doctor. “Where did he get the paint?”
The doctor shook her head. “I have no idea. It’s worse than this. Look into the other rooms.”
I did so, traveling down the hall to look into each one in turn. Dirk, Tor, Henry and Chuck—each of them stood still as a statue in the center of their respective rooms, staring forward without blinking. And in every room, on every surface, that alien writing crawled. Each room was identical, down to the last stroke. Each man stood in the same position. And each only stared, backed by that baleful eye.
“What is this?” I asked, more a rhetorical expression of confusion than a real desire for information. To my shock, Chuck answered me.
“The day will come,” he intoned. “The sky will tear, and the melding will begin. It is not the hour that matters, but the reckoning. This is the great truth: the Conjunction consumes us all.”
He spoke in strange syllables, yet somehow I heard the meaning behind the foreign words. As I looked upon him, to my horror I realized that the eye, that terrible painted glyph, was speaking the words as well. Chuck could no longer communicate with me, but the eye formed the words in a way that I could understand.
“This is not the beginning,” Chuck continued. Beneath the straightjacket, his form began to slowly undulate, ripples spreading outward as if his flesh was a pond disturbed by a pebble.
“Nor is it the end. You will come to understand this in the light of the Truth.
“For now: observe.”
I could not have looked away if my life had depended on it. Beneath my horrified gaze, Chuck’s form continued to writhe. It stretched in hideous ways, growing farther away even as it reached toward me. And suddenly, I was looking into all five rooms at once, each man overlapping, yet still somehow completely separate. The cursed symbols cavorted around them, breaking reality like an egg, and behind each man, the eye slowly blinked.
I cannot describe what I saw next. There was a tearing, a rending in ways that broke my mind. They found me there on the floor, the other doctors summoned by my screams. It was days before I stopped screaming, though my throat was raw and my voice a hoarse whisper long before that.
I stayed under observation for over a month while I rebuilt my shattered mind. I should be there still, but I know the words to say, the signals to give. I convinced them that I was, if not whole, at least mended. That I was well enough to be released under cautious supervision.
I had to know. I had to see what Professor Liddle and his friends had seen. I went to my desk, and I drew forth that accursed book. I took it from its plastic wrapping and gazed upon the eye on its cracked leather cover. And with a shudder, I opened it.
The Conjunction is coming. It is not the hour, but the reckoning. All will be consumed.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available