It was a flapping thing.
Under the bright, full moon, he’d not switched on the outdoor light nor had he lit lamp or candle and somehow from the shadows, the thing flapped across the wooden, upper-story deck.
It was a black thing. It was a black, round thing shot through with glittering flashes of metallic yellow. It was a round thing, no more than three inches thick in its middle and thinned considerably out to the edges of its round body, a foot wide, two feet wide. Maybe less. Its rectangular body. Its ovoid body. It seemed to be changing as it flapped itself across the boards.
‘What is that?’ David thought, and he rose from his deck chair to get closer though he didn't light a lamp or use the flashlight.
“What is that?” David asked aloud though no one inside, not Janet in the kitchen finishing the dishes, not Andy in his room “on his computer,” not Sarah gone so far, it seemed, she had become past tense even when present.
“What is that?” he again asked again knowing no one would hear him.
David reached down and with his right forefinger, touched its glittering blackness, its sandpapery, shark-skinned, slimy, slick, dry, and scaly wing and the pain was instantaneous and of a kind he could only describe as “exquisite,” a precise and high-pitched pain that pierced him completely from that small contact with his fingertip to the farthest limits of his being, each nerve in his body whining the same razor needled song, each synapse in his brain snapping down with a clearly audible and synchronized click. As he snatched his fingertip away from the flapping black thing’s horrible skin, David knew he’d been poisoned, that the rot and suppuration of first his finger, then his hand, then his arm, then his heart and his head would not kill him, but it would, instead, change him and he sat back in his deck chair.
He reached for his glass with his left hand and took a small swallow of bourbon and melted ice water. He felt the infection, the invasion, the transformation of his physical self moving methodically through the flesh of his right arm. He felt the poisonous thoughts begin to well up inside his envenomed brain.
David leaned his head back and looked at the sky, at the night sky, at the few stars that penetrated the thick layer of suburban light pollution, and he wondered at the sudden clarity with which he could perceive the anti-constellations formed not from the stars or planets themselves, the few that he could see, but from the emptiness between them.
The black flapping thing paused and became just a black thing. If it had eyes, it, too, may have been looking at the sky.
‘Maybe,” David thought, ‘it sees with something different than eyes.’
He could clearly see the shapes in the sky, wondered how he’d never seen them before, the negative space between the heavenly bodies patterned and embodied. The Leech, The Nailed Pig, The Hungry Man, The Flayed Swan, The Wound—all new constellations seemed to step forward from the background of the sky, from behind the stars and planets scattered there, to become a new kind of zodiac, one that David could clearly understand and read.
It didn’t look good.
The black thing became like a starfish or an anemone or a chrysanthemum and it stood itself up on the points of pseudopodia, but the exact number of legs is extended was unclear. It was better not to look at it directly, David decided, but instead to watch it through his peripheral vision where it seemed to gel something with into a more understandable image. It legs, its pseudopodia, its fingers, whatever they were, pushed the black thing’s thicker middle up and up until it stood as high as David sitting down.
“What is that thing?” he asked again just as the first wave of corruption hit his chest, strangled his heart, pushed the air from his lungs, and possessed him. David’s mind folded into itself many times as his body ratcheted into a new form until what was left was not really David at all anymore in any conventional sense. Whatever it was whatever David had become and extended and at least one and probably no more that six glittering black phalanges to first envelope and then bring to David’s glittering black pseudo-mouth the last swallow of bourbon and water.
The other black flapping stretching thing began to sing and David instantly understood the meaning of that song, could feel the click as its meaning fell into new shape of his new brain and he wondered what and for how long Janet and Andy and Sarah would think as events unfolded, as his pseudo-voice began to harmonize with the other black thing, with the new formations in the sky, with his black glittering future.