Storytime: Door to Door.

June 1st, 2011

My suit is itchy, scratchy, and new. It squeaks when I walk, like a rat in a trap. The bundle of crudely-printed pamphlets is a comforting weight in my left hand, slightly sticky with low-quality ink in the aimless humidity of summer.
The house is slovenly, ill-kept. Its lawn lies in ruins, of the two cars in the driveway, one is missing all its tires, half its hood, and its engine has been stripped bare three times over. The other doesn’t appear to have benefited much from its brother’s donations.
I knock on the door, and a dog barks, sound muffled by its flapping lips and drool.
A creak, a crack, and a suspicious, pudgy face with too much stubble and too little beard.
“Greetings this day, sir or potentially madam! Have you heard the –”
The door slams shut with an indecipherable curse and a lot of creaking. I bow politely to it and place a single loose-leafed pamphlet on the misspelt-by-wear “welco” mat. Perhaps it will be enough, perhaps not.
This home stands firm. It has been tended to – with care, if not obsession – and someone has even put in the effort to do some halfhearted weeding in the flowerbeds, where overstuffed bumblebees are even now ambling. The face that opens the door is puzzled, not wary, and I don’t smell the aroma of an interrupted meal. Perfect opportunity.
“Hello there,” the owner says. It’s scrawny and leathery but not particularly tough-looking, like an old shoe.
“Greetings this day, human,” I say politely, taking care not to appear over-eager. “Have you heard the soundless word?”
The expression is probably puzzled – the eyebrows are doing that thing again, where one of them twitches a lot. “I’m sorry?”
“The scream that speaks! The wailing and gnashing of teeth delivered by the prophets, who speak the word of the one-who-begins!”
The owner scratches himself in an idle, indolent sort of way. “Sorry…which prophets? I’m not sure I’ve heard of much of this before.”
“The Worm of Terror and the Unending Maw, mostly,” I say. “Mostly the Maw. It’s still proselytizing, I believe, in the temple-without-bottom-or-depth. You can travel there when it speaks on the eighth Tuesday of every month.”
“Uh-huh. Listen, sorry, I’m, uh, catholic. Good luck.” This door clicks when it closes, but is no less final than its neighbour’s thud-whack.
I fantasize about tearing it into millions of pieces smaller than a spider’s breakfast, then control myself with an effort. I represent something greater than myself here, and to look poorly is to make it appear so. I’d have to eat the whole block to cover it up, and I’m sure that Father Breath would know somehow, no matter what I did. He just does, and then he gives you that very sad, drawn, disappointed look with all five of his eyes.
Courage and persistence in the face of it all, I remind myself, and leave a pamphlet, faintly oozing blue-ringed octopus ink and venom. The last page said something about how the faithful would be rendered immune to its effects, and it would be a good idea to convert now, which was probably true or at least close enough.
“May your agony be holy,” I say politely to the closed door, and with a heavy heart I turn towards the final home of the street, the last of many. It is small and poorly-painted and there is a fat, monstrous cat on its stoop, sunning himself indolently. It hisses at me, as they tend to do.
Knock, knock, knock. A proper old-fashioned doorknocker. None of this electric buzzer claptrap, or a bare, bald-faced door. Maybe this one will be different.
The face that answers it is wrinkled and pale, with many spots. Peculiar little metal and glass things are cupping its eyes and possibly restraining them from toppling out of their sockets thanks to the permanent forty-five-degree hunch their owner possesses.
“Hello?” it asks. Its voice is thin and wavery, like an elder forced to speak above the waterline, but slightly more comprehensible without the bass hissing underlying every other syllable.
“Greetings this day, heir of decay and slave of reason,” I say. “Tell me, have you put any thought into the state of your impending demise at the hands of your flesh-shell?”
It blinks at me, so very slowly that the gesture doesn’t seem to merit its connotations of quickness. “Are you the postal man?” it asks.
I decide to employ strict truth. “I am a messenger of sorts.”
“Well that’s just peachy then. Come on in, you’ll catch your death of cold.”
I step inside the house – which is notably cooler than the outside – and am confronted with forty-five tonnes and sixty-year’s worth of bric-a-brac and trinkets. I am vividly reminded of my father-spawner’s mindhoard, if it contained less cursed idols and more chintz.
“Would you like a drink or something mister…”
To claim a name at my slender age would be most presumptuous, but I have permission granted for short-term pseudonyms, provided I express proper horror and self-disgust after the affair is through.
“Walk,” I say. “Brother Walk.” A small, tiny, miniscule title, but still outside my reach. “Water would be appreciated if gifted freely.”
“Wong? Funny, you don’t look it.” On a less shrivelled face, that look might have passed for critical, but here it looks entirely lost. “But I suppose you do look a bit foreign. You speak English so well though, mister Wang.”
I casually check my face as it busies itself at the kitchen. No wonder the last few houses had gone sour so quickly – my left cheekbone had sunk out of sight. I gingerly pop it back into place with only a slight sucking sound, easily masked by the nattering of the human.
“… lovely to get a visitor. And how’s Sherry?”
“I do not know a Sherry,” I respond, truthful.
“Well, I always knew she’d up and do that sort of thing. Dreadful tramp, if you’ll pardon my saying so, and you’re all the better for it. Plenty more fish in the pond and all that.” A half-glued mug of some manner of fruit juice is thrust onto me. “There you are, mister Walker. And the children?”
I am a child myself, and would not dream of bifurcating this century, let alone actual spawning. But my younger brothers and sisters provide an easy way out of once again speaking nothing but truth, and I can echo “they’re fine and growing,” with nothing but a light and free hearts.
It nods aimlessly and produces another mug for itself.
“Miss resident of Oakview two-hundred-forty-three,” I say, deciding it is time to get down to business, “have you heard the soundless word?”
“Every night, mister Wally,” she says firmly. “Every night. They simply can’t keep it down next door. I know, I know, I was up to some pretty fishy things at that age too, but I was quiet and discreet, no matter what. Self-restraint is simply too rare in this day and age…”
I think of how many of my younger brothers and sisters I’ve had to consume after they’d eaten themselves into torpors, becoming comatose, useless lumps of nothing. “Indeed.”
“And they’re at it every night! They’ll wear all the fun out of it, they will – without novelty, nothing’s enjoyable! Why, me and Herbert only did it maybe three times a month. And we planned ahead; none of this willy-nilly stuff and nonsense.” It snorts into its mug.
“Hominid,” I say, attempting to return to the topic at hand, “when I speak of the soundless word, I refer to that which is spoken by the one-who-begins, the great consumer, who swims in the center and feasts. Do you know anything about that?”
“Can’t say I do,” it says brightly. Then it frowns. “Unless you mean your uncle Eddie. He just wouldn’t stop eating, you know. And he never did wait half an hour before swimming afterwards. Poor man. At least the shark choked on him, so they got it too.”
“It is scribed in the fortieth tablet of the ninth verses of the tales of the lost starfisher that the shark is the ruin of all hope of life,” I say helpfully, in an attempt to keep the conversation on track.
“Do tell!”
“Yes. You see, mister resident, we are all as larvae, adrift on the empty waves and battling the zooplankton of doubt, hope, and remorse. We distract ourselves in our efforts to gorge upon our younger, less-apt siblings, while ever trying to ignore the gaping maw that lurks beneath.”
“Yes?” It appears to be paying attention for the first time, and I feel my ichor begin to pump a little faster as I got into the sermon.
“And the thing about this, resident, that must be understood: that maw does not care about you. You are incidental to its purposes, and it is only going about its business – seizing a nearby fish, perhaps, which itself is an entity that is barely within your tiny perspective. The shark is the ruin of all hope of life, and this can only be a good thing, for without hope, understanding may be found, and only those who understand can begin to thrive. Though, of course, not survive.”
I watch as she thought this over, feeling rather pleased with myself. Stirring stuff, even if I had borrowed some of the broader metaphor and a few of the specific lines from Father Breath. It was only tribute to him, really.
“Tell me, mister Wilbur,” she says at last.
I wait. For quite some time.
“Yes?” I ask after about thirty cycles of my digestive tract, once it has become apparent that it is asleep.
“I’m sorry, young man?”
“You were about to tell me something,” I clarify.
“Oh yes! Tell me, mister Wallace… you see, that’s all very fascinating, but I just have one little question about your church.”
I’m willingly to ignore its inaccurate terminology for the sake of expedience. I’ve seen several human churches in the past few days, and comparing the widetombs where the low sermons are held to them is like comparing a decaying whale to a healthy human.
“Tell me… do you have Sunday school?”
“Every day is a learning experience for elder and young, resident,” I say. “From when to hide when the ur-beetles shriek and when they are merely sporting, to the correct suns to curse and pray to when the moons lie a-synch.”
“Yes, but do you have Sunday school?”
“We teach our children on every day of any week, every lesson they must learn. Except the ones they need to learn themselves on pain of purge.”
“Yes, that’s quite lovely, but do you have Sunday school?”
“Yes. We have schooling on Sundays.”
“How lovely. I know a few of my great-grandchildren would simply adore the chance. And your church, is it near?”
“Wherever futility is made idol, sapient.”
“That’s just lovely,” it says. “Do you have the address?”
I hand over a pamphlet, taking care not to touch its skin directly. I know that you can’t CATCH mortality, but superstition runs in my family. Knock on iron.
“Everything you need to know,” I say with absolute truth, “is in there. And now I am afraid that I must be off. I have spread the soundless word to this road, and my task is done.”
“Oh, aren’t you a good boy,” it says fondly. “Here, have a cookie for the road.”
I accept the small, nutritionally dead bit of charred grains and eat it through one of the orifices in my face. I’m in a hurry now, and just guess at which one is socially acceptable.
“Now, you stay safe out there,” it calls after me as I walk down the sidewalk, innards grating away the baked layers of its gift. “There’s all manner of nasty things that can happen after dark, and I’d hate to hear of a nice young man like yourself coming to harm!”
“The scream that speaks will mask me,” I reply to it, “and concern is the great lie that voids the unending pain.”
“Be sure to wear bright colours on the road at night!”
“Thank you, anthropomorph!”

I count my pamphlets as I walk off the edge of the street and into the empty that wraps around it, out of sight and mind and soul’s understanding of its residents. I started with… I struggle to remember my training in numbers… four…ty. Then I put (hmmm) thirtish on doorsteps. Then I gave one away.
Still, one convert is a gateway to dozens more. And the spawn would be intrigued to meet young of another species. Perhaps humans would be more intellectually and spiritually sensible at a younger age. What was that line of Father Breath’s? Ah, yes.
“’Give me a pupae before it reaches full bloat and bursts,’” I quote, in humanese, “’and it will belong to the broken dreams of the one-who-begins until it is drained away into the meme-pools of its far-descendants.”
Really, it lost a lot in the translation.


“Door to Door” copyright Jamie Proctor, 2011.

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