The Singing of the Black Flowers by Alex De-Gruchy

Wayward addict Louise Randall makes her final confession in Alex De-Gruchy's Lovecraftian horror.

My name is Louise Randall, I'm twenty-six years old, for all I know I'm the last human being on Earth, and I'm looking out over a dead world from the roof of a multi-storey car park in Cardiff.

I haven't had anything to eat or drink in days but hey, I found a pencil and some paper, so why not spend what time I have left writing something that no one is ever going to read? A waster until the end. No one who knew me would be surprised by that.

When the sky changed from blue to a strange shade of purple it was oddly beautiful despite what it meant. But the churning, sickly-yellow clouds soon rolled in, the seas turned thick and grey, the land became alien and corrupt, and all living things on Earth lost their minds and died. The gods had come and were making themselves at home, and that meant the end of mankind and this reality as we knew it. Even the air has changed - it's been getting harder and harder to breathe.

About a week, that's all it took. If my sense of time is right. It's hard to tell when there are no more days and nights, just a constant, hazy, purple-tinted gloom. I don't know where the sun and moon have gone.

But it's almost over now. I haven't seen another person - not a living one, anyway - in days. And the corpses don't stick around long, the black flowers take them.

Yesterday I saw one of the gods, one of the fucking things I'd pretended to worship for months. I couldn't make out an exact shape or any details, and I know without a doubt that if I had then I wouldn't have a mind left to write this now. It appeared above the clouds, a shadow spanning the horizon and moving slowly but surely across the sky. I'd never imagined anything so vast. I tried running, more on instinct than anything else, but even as I ran I knew it was pointless. And sure enough it wasn't long before that shadow passed overhead, and when it did I suddenly burst into tears and my legs gave way and I just lay on the ground, crying and holding my head because it felt like my skull was going to explode.

It wasn't just the thing's presence but the sound it made, a constant, unnatural howl so deep and loud that it felt like it was coming from everywhere around me and inside my head all at once. It was a sound never meant for this world or human ears, I know that. It went on and on and I screamed and screamed until my throat was raw and eventually I passed out.

When I woke up the shadow was gone. I found I'd pissed and shit myself (not exactly the kind of thing you like to write but no point holding back now), there was blood running from my eyes, ears and nose, and I haven't been able to see out of my left eye or hear much of anything since. For hours all I could do was lie in a foetal position, crying and shaking, my head pounding. But eventually I stood up. Because whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Or in my case, really fucks you up and makes you wish it had killed you.

As for why I didn't go mad when everyone else did, I don't know. I'm not special, I'm a fuck-up. Here I am at the end of the world and when I look back on my life all I can think is, What a fucking waste.

I've got no excuses. I had a happy childhood, a loving family. I did well in school and my parents supported me in going to university to do an English Literature degree. (Look at me now, finally putting all that college education to use, yay me.) Everyone had high hopes for me. But things changed soon after I left home and it wasn't even for any particular reason. It just happened. No, that's not right. It was me, I just made bad decision after bad decision. After a few months I'd stopped caring about my course, I was hanging out with shitty people I didn't even like, drinking and smoking far too much, taking whatever drugs I was offered. Eventually mum and dad realised what was happening and tried their best to help me. So did my sister, Julia. But I wasn't interested. I thought I was so clever, that I had all the answers. I treated them like shit. God, I was such a bitch.

I was thrown out of university before the end of my first year, lost my shitty friends only to make even shittier new ones as I drifted around south-west England, sleeping on a lot of floors and couches, fucking and using and betraying a lot of people, drinking and smoking and swallowing and snorting all kinds of stuff.

For a while I managed to convince my parents to send me money but that stopped when they finally acknowledged the truth of what I was doing with it. So I did a lot of random cash-in-hand jobs, stole money when I thought I could get away with it - not that I always did - and pissed it all away on partying, convinced that the brief moments of joy were worth the long stretches of sad ugliness in between. Years passed in a blur. Julia got engaged and moved to Australia, I never said goodbye. I had no more contact with Mum and Dad. I was going nowhere.

But if I tried to list all of my mistakes then I'd run out of paper and time before I was done, and I don't have much of either. So, I better get to the cult.

It was about eight months ago. I was living in Gloucester with a skinny Irish drug-dealer named Pete when I first met Annabelle. She was a few years younger than me and had been visiting Pete once a month for almost a year with the same order every time, a big one: heroin, acid, cocaine, a few different types of pills.

Annabelle may have been a junkie but she was always on the ball when she visited Pete and did so like clockwork. He never asked his customers questions but I was curious about Annabelle, mostly because Pete was in trouble with some dangerous men so I was getting ready to jump ship and I wondered if Annabelle might be someone new I could latch onto.

So one day, after Annabelle collected her latest order from Pete I followed her outside and made up an excuse to talk to her. I already knew that she was a little socially awkward and strange, but if I could get something out of her then I didn't care. She was quiet and keen to be on her way but I'd learned to be good at keeping a friendly conversation going while probing for anything I might be able to take advantage of.

I found out that for the past year she'd been living with a group of people in a countryside cottage a few miles across the Welsh border, and that they all shared the same faith. She didn't use the word "cult", obviously - oh no, they were a "religious order". Now, I didn't believe in any god and didn't know much about religion, but if Annabelle and her friends preached heavy recreational drug use then that was the kind of faith I could get behind.

It took some work - I felt lost, I had no purpose, I wanted to be a part of something greater, blah-fucking-blah - but I convinced Annabelle to take me with her to meet her friends. I managed to avoid Pete while I threw the few things I owned in a rucksack, then off we went.

Annabelle and I took a bus, eventually getting off in the middle of nowhere. We walked along one-lane country roads for what must have been a mile or two, climbed over a padlocked metal gate with a "No Trespassing" sign attached, and followed a long dirt trail through some woodland.

We talked as we walked. The order was called "The Unveiled Eye", I thought it was a wanky name but didn't tell her that. Its leader was a man named Adrian, and whenever Annabelle spoke about him she did so in a way that told me she would've crawled over a mile of broken glass just to lick the inside of his bathtub. I guessed that was why he trusted her with the order's money and the drugs she bought with it.

Apparently the cottage and surrounding land came into Adrian's possession - Annabelle was hazy on the details as to how - a few years ago, soon after he'd formed the Unveiled Eye. He and the handful of followers he had at the time moved in and had been living and worshipping there ever since. Over the years their number had slowly grown, if I joined then I'd be number fifteen.

I asked about the drugs and had to force myself to keep a straight face as Annabelle assured me they were used for a higher purpose than what everyone else used them for: Adrian had explained to them how the drugs weakened the chains that had been placed upon their minds in the womb and could help them know the world beyond the veil and the beings that dwelled there. I also asked how they could afford it, Annabelle said Adrian had money and provided for those who followed him. I liked him already.

The cottage was a stone building tucked away in the woods, big and old and half-covered with ivy. The property also had a barn (no animals in there, just a lot of weed being grown), a shed, a well, a scum-covered pond, a greenhouse, and a large vegetable garden. The only vehicle present was a dirt-caked blue van with one wheel missing.

As Annabelle led me across the front yard I saw men and women around the place, most of them in their twenties, a couple in their late teens, all thin and wearing faded, ragged clothes. Some of them smiled at me, others looked dazed or stared blankly.

The first time I met the glorious leader of the Unveiled Eye he had his cock inside the mouth of a girl who I later learned had turned eighteen just a few weeks before. Annabelle and I walked into his room and there he was, naked, a joint in one hand and the back of this girl's head in the other. Annabelle didn't even blink as she introduced me, and Adrian looked me over with a lazy gaze. After a few seconds he grunted, pushing the girl's head down hard, then sighed and gently pushed her away. She got up from her knees, ran a hand over her mouth and didn't even look my way as she left the room. Adrian seemed satisfied. Apparently it really was good to be the boss.

Adrian was in his early thirties, slim, with a beard and wavy black hair that reached his shoulders. He had a tattoo on his chest, a strange symbol I didn't recognise at the time but which I'd see later in one of the weird, old books he used in his sermons, the ones whose pages made my eyes sting if I looked at them for too long. He told Annabelle to leave then offered me a seat and a joint. I accepted both. He made no effort to get dressed as we smoked and he asked me questions about myself. I even answered a few of them honestly.

Then he talked about himself and the Unveiled Eye, how he was born into money and status but - to my complete lack of surprise - had always known he was destined for even greater things. Then, twelve years ago, he learned of the existence of the true gods, the eternal beings which existed beyond our comprehension, and knew he'd found his calling. He travelled the world for years, learning what he could about them, a tough task given how hidden and rare this information was. But Adrian had the resources and willpower to do it, and was convinced his purpose was to worship these gods in preparation for their eventual arrival in our reality, an event which would "burn the veil between worlds" and end our world to make way for a new one in which only the gods and their worshippers would survive. And Adrian, in his infinite mercy, was willing to allow others to follow him so that, if they were worthy, they could join him in the paradise that was to come.

I let Adrian go on about gods and realities and forbidden knowledge, he was clearly someone who loved the sound of his own voice and I didn't really care about what he had to say. As for what my being a member of the Unveiled Eye would involve, he used a lot of flowery words but essentially it boiled down to following his teachings, doing my bit around the property to help keep us in food, water and acceptable living conditions, worshipping the gods, and expanding my mind through a lot of drugs and a lot of fucking. That worked for me, so I signed up.

It didn't take me long to realise that although Adrian talked a lot of shit, he genuinely believed in what he preached and so did most of the other people there. The rest were fakers like me, we recognised that in each other but were smart enough to keep that fact to ourselves while openly agreeing with Adrian and saying our prayers to Li'rg-Shul, The Womb That Writhes; Azoeh, The Pale Horror; and other things with stupid names and titles.

For a while, life was good. Then one day about a month ago, Adrian burst out of the cellar which served as our church, shouting about having had a vision while praying. When we got to him we found he'd torn out his own eyes. But he was pacing and ranting like a man possessed, if he felt any pain then it didn't show through his intensity.

Annabelle bandaged his empty eye sockets but he refused any more help than that. He wouldn't go into detail about his vision (or lack of it now, ha ha, fuck you, Adrian), instead he ordered our one vehicle - the van which had done nothing but collect rust since I'd arrived - to be fixed up. Four days later it was ready and Adrian gave orders to two of his most trusted men and sent them out in it. That night they came back with a new arrival, the first one since I'd joined the order. Except this one had his wrists tied behind his back and a gag in his mouth.

Adrian gathered everyone in the front yard, the bound man on his knees next to him. I say "man" but really he was a boy, maybe seventeen or eighteen. He was terrified, tears rolling down his cheeks as he looked at us all with wide, desperate eyes. Judging by the faces of the people around me, I wasn't the only one who had a horrible feeling about this. But the true believers like Annabelle, they just hung on Adrian's every word like they always did.

Adrian told us what his vision had shown him: a sacrifice needed to be made. A human life, taken at the right time, in the right way. This offering would be a necessary step in connecting our world to the one beyond.

I'm no saint but I sure as fuck didn't want to kill anyone. I couldn't just stand by and let this innocent boy be murdered by a mad, spoiled prick with delusions of grandeur.

Except I did. We all did. None of us said or did a thing to stop it. Two nights later we all stood in the cellar and watched as Adrian chanted in the weird language he sometimes used in his sermons and, with movements that were scarily precise for a man who couldn't see, slowly cut open that boy and put his hands inside him and I haven't been able to get the screaming out of my head since.

I was gone before the sun came up the next morning. I hadn't even planned it, I just walked out of the cottage and into the woods and kept going. I walked through woodland and fields, scratched my arms climbing over hedges, soaked my feet crossing streams, but none of it really registered, I just kept hearing the boy's screaming and seeing the agony and fear in his eyes. Eventually I made it to a road. It was only when I stopped and stuck out my thumb at the passing cars that I realised I'd been crying.

I hitched a lift into Cardiff, it was as good a place as any, and spent the next week sleeping rough and begging for change, all while horribly, agonisingly sober. I'd never felt more lost or miserable in my life. I kept telling myself I couldn't have done anything to save that boy, but then a little voice would always reply, "Well, you could've fucking tried."

Then the world started ending and chaos and death and horror came with it. I'd never believed for one second all the shit that Adrian used to spout about the gods and their eventual arrival, but here they were. Not in the flesh - not fully, not yet, if they even were flesh as we knew it - but it was them and they'd started making their way through to our reality, deep down I knew it. In fact, we all did: every single human being on Earth felt the same thing, as if since the dawn of mankind we'd all had the same door in the backs of our minds, one we'd never been aware of until now. A door which had just been opened. Or a veil which had just started to burn.

People lost their minds and killed themselves, a lot taking others with them. Society collapsed. Within days the streets were filled with the dead. I wonder how it ended for mum and dad and Julia.

As for me, I've been running and hiding and surviving. Earlier I said I had no idea why I kept my sanity when everyone else lost theirs. But if I'm honest with myself, that's not true. Like I said, I'm not special, but even though I hate the idea, what if Adrian was? The fact that these gods, these beings which have existed since before our universe was even formed, came so soon after he murdered that boy - that can't be a coincidence, can it? What if the bastard was right all along and he'd been chosen? And what if just by being exposed to him and his beliefs and by praying to the gods, even if those prayers were insincere, I'd been unconsciously prepared to a degree for what was to come? If so then maybe I'm not the only one left, maybe Adrian and Annabelle and the others are still out there. It doesn't matter either way. If they want what this world is becoming then they're welcome to it.

There's another question, the worst of all: if I'd stopped that sacrifice, would I have stopped all this from happening?

I don't have the answers. But I do know I don't want to stay here, because while I may be sane now, I know as soon as I get my first real glimpse of one of the gods my mind will crack like an egg and in that instant everything I am and ever was will be gone. And while I may be just a pathetic loser who did nothing with her life, I'd rather die as that than a gibbering husk.

I'm tired. I can't remember the last time I slept, and writing all this has exhausted me. I don't even feel any better for doing it.

The view from here must have been nice before the end. Now I look around and in every direction all I see is the familiar twisting into the alien and the shapes and colours and angles are all wrong and I feel sick and dizzy and I can hear the black flowers singing.

This car park is seven storeys. That's enough. I know I won't have any second thoughts on the way down.

Mum, dad, Julia, I'm so sorry for everything. I love you.


  1. Definitely Lovecraft-like. The MC not only has to watch the world end but know that he may have been able to prevent it. Put in the mood to play a game of Arkham Horror. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  2. Lovecraft-like with Charles Manson thrown in. It was a twisted, dark tale, but with a conscience, which I liked. Thanks.

  3. Great dark/terrifying imagery in this tale. Powerfully desolate...the MC's hopelessness permeates the tale. Not sure how sincere her guilt is though, given she cared very little for the world as it existed before the end.