The White Place

Bryan Veldboom


Marcus stumbled forward, inhaling razor gusts of wind as he pushed through the raging storm. It had been one hell of a homecoming; two days of hard wet snow, followed by a sudden plunge in temperature. A bank sign several blocks away had pegged the temperature at -3, but with the wind chill, Marcus knew that it was even colder.

                The dog tags still jangled around his neck, the silver chain glinting coldly against his black skin. He pulled them out and began turning them over in his hands. The name Marcus Reynolds was stamped into the side, but it meant very little to him. Since coming home, he had no idea who he really was.

                He had abandoned his car several blocks away, heeding some strange, sudden instinct to let the wind and the snow wash over him. He had no destination; he was operating on something far more basic, the simple need to move, to put as many miles as possible between him and the source of his pain.

                He paused to steady himself against a stop sign coated in ice and her words came back to him. He hadn’t given her the chance to say much. The moment he saw them both standing there, he knew. Jay breaking off his gaze to stare at the carpet as Tanya launched into the standard line, about how much they both loved him, how they hadn’t planned it, how it had just sort of happened. Then Jay was lying sprawled out along the floor, clutching a mouthful of broken teeth while Tanya looked on in horror.

                Staring up at a streetlamp overhead, Marcus watched the patterns the snow made against the dull white light. He reached up to lower his scarf, savoring the cold, clean taste of the flakes against his tongue.

                Milwaukee in winter seemed as far away from Iraq as it got, but they really weren’t so different. Numbing cold was no worse than blinding heat.  Snow was just a cleaner version of sand.

                That appealed to him, the cleanness of it and he slowly stripped off his jacket, leaving it lying in a patch of rust-colored snow. He took a few more steps before pulling off his hat and gloves, then continued on like that, leaving a trail of discarded clothing behind him, peeling them off like layers of dead skin.

                The ice felt cold and slick beneath his feet as he stood there, letting the wind work over him, numbing him until he could no longer stand. He made it a few more feet before his knees finally buckled, plunging him forward into a thick drift of snow.

                Looking up from his small hollow, Marcus watched the wind whip snow into ornate spiral patterns, ignoring the pain as it spread through his fingers and toes. He continued staring until his vision swam and the lights around him grew suddenly brighter, engulfing everything in a field of blinding light.


                When he woke at noon wrapped up in his sheets, Marcus tried holding onto the fragments of the dream. The specifics were already fading, but he clung to a series of vague images and unusual sounds. A white, empty space lit by strange alien stars. The sound of wind and a shrill, high-pitched shrieking.

                It was all he could salvage and as the image faded, Marcus became aware of the pain. There was a deep throbbing behind his eyes and his throat was sore, his mouth thick with the taste of rusted metal.

                He looked around at the interior of his room, trying to remember how he had managed to make it home, but he couldn’t remember getting into bed, nor any of the dozens of tiny rituals that marked his usual comings and goings.

                He buried his face in his pillow until a noise from out in the hallway caught his attention.

                Tanya stepped in holding a pair of steaming coffee mugs.


                “Wow. It’s alive after all.”

                “What time is it?” It was the only thing he could think to ask.

                “Just about noon.”

                “Damn, what time did I get home? Hell, how did I even get here?”

                Tanya snorted.

                “Your buddies were good enough to drop you off.”

                “Shit, don’t remember that at all. Wait, did you say buddies?”

                “Yeah, your army friends.”

                “My what?”

                “Here,” she said, pressing a mug into his hands, “something to shake out the cobwebs.”

                The cup was warm in his hands as he took his first sip, letting it trickle down the back of his throat.

                “Come on into the kitchen. I’ve got breakfast going.”

                “In a minute. I need to clean up first.”

                The shower helped a little, fanning some small spark of vitality to life. Standing there beneath the water, his head began to clear and the events of last night came flooding back. He still retained no memory of getting home and what was that she had said about his “army friends”? He tried piecing it all together, but when he thought about it too hard all he got was a head full of static.

                Toweling off before the mirror, he noticed something along the wrist of his right hand. It was a thin slash mark roughly four inches in length. He wondered where it had come from, but chalked it up as a memento of his drunken evening.

                In the kitchen, Tanya brought him a plate of eggs with bacon on the side. He downed two cups of coffee, then sat there with his eyes closed as the caffeine went to work.

                “I think I’m starting to feel human again. Thanks.”

                “Just don’t make a habit of it.”

                “I don’t think I could. I gotta say, all of this, it’s pretty generous after how we left things last night. I hope I didn’t hurt him too badly.”


                “What do you mean who? I’m talking about Jay, of course.”

                “Jay, Jay…Which one was he again?”

                “Very funny.”

                She stared back at him in confusion.

                “Are you fucking with me?” he said, “I really can’t tell.”

                “I’m sorry. You introduced me to so many people last night, but I just don’t remember anyone named Jay.”

                “This is the second time you’ve said something about other people. Just who exactly are you talking about?”

                “The guys in your unit or squad or whatever it’s called.”

                “What are you talking about? There was no one else here last night. It was just you and me and Jay.”

                “I’m pretty sure I remember know who was in my own house. Are you sure you’re not still drunk?”

                “I’m not playing around with you Tanya. If this is some kind of joke, you need to stop it right now.”

                But all she could do was stare back at him, little lines of fear beginning to creep in around her eyes.

                Marcus scooped his phone off the kitchen counter and began thumbing through his contacts, ticking the names off one by one. There, in the space where Jay’s name used to be he found the number for a Chinese takeout joint.

                That took the wind out of him completely and he sat there grappling for some sort of explanation. Then, seized by a sudden impulse, he walked into the bedroom where he began throwing on clothes.

                “What are you doing?”

                He turned to look at her for a moment, shirt arms dangling from around his neck as he moved in and grabbed her by the shoulders.

                “Tanya, I need you to tell me right now if this is a joke.”

                But the look on her face confirmed it and as he stepped outside he received another shock. Instead of last night’s winter wasteland he emerged into the sweltering strains of mid-summer.


                Jay’s apartment was a drab two-story place in the center of Riverwest. Standing there in the entrance, Marcus ran his finger down the list of occupants, stopping at apartment 203 and the strange name where his friend’s used to be. He wasn’t used to the heat and sweat was pouring off him in sheets.

                Ignoring it, he pushed the button. When no one answered, he took out his phone and dialed Jay’s old number. A woman’s voice came through on the other end. It sounded old and distinctly Chinese.

                He hung up the phone just as a female tenant left by the front door. Marcus waited for her to pass, then grabbed the door and slipped inside.

                The apartment was on the second floor at the far end of the hall. Marcus knocked once, then pressed his ear to the door. He gave a quick look over each shoulder, then pulled a bobby pin from his wallet. It didn’t take long to jimmy the door. An army buddy had showed him how to do it and he had taken to carrying them around ever since.

                The room inside had been completely transformed, the walls done up in a light shade of pastel blue, which was mirrored by the curtains, the rug, and a series of throw pillows spread out along an off-white sofa. Everything was clean and organized, marked by a brightness that was unmistakably feminine.

                Stepping inside the bedroom, he found Jay’s battered futon replaced by a queen size bed that was neatly made, featuring gray and white bedding done up in a geometric pattern.

                Posters lined a few of the walls, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, the kind of music Jay hated.

                Wandering back into the living room, Marcus went over to a low wooden coffee table and flipped through a handful of mail all bearing the name Tracy Phillips.

                As he read the name, he felt his temples seize with a sudden blinding pressure. His vision slipped out of focus and his ears filled with the sound of roaring wind.

                As panic overrode him, he stumbled back toward the door, fumbling with the knob, then stepping out into the hallway, taking deep, cleansing breaths in an attempt to clear his head.

                That’s when he noticed the mark on his wrist again and leaned in to examine it, wondering if it had gotten larger somehow.

                At his touch, the mark ignited with the sting of a thousand needles. The pain shot up his arm, then down his back, buckling him at the knees.

                As the floor swung up to meet him, he found himself suspended in a field of white light. His arms were stretched out to either side of him, held there immobile by some unseen force.

                All around him, distant stars blazed like ice crystals, throwing off beams of bright, waxy light that reduced his surroundings to a colorless smear, while something like wind howled all around him, despite the absence of any breeze against his skin. 

                The scope of the place felt enormous and he cried out suddenly, grateful for the sound his voice made as it echoed through the void around him. The echo repeated a few times before it was answered by another sound, a kind of rhythmic tapping that seemed to be coming closer. Marcus strained to pinpoint its location, but in the absence of landmarks, it was impossible to tell where it was coming from.

                The sounds were almost on top of him before he realized what they were; the sound of footsteps accompanied by the hiss of ragged breathing.

                Suddenly, a figure began to materialize, taking on dimension and shape as it came into clearer focus. The man that appeared was completely naked, coated from head to toe by a thick sheen of sweat that glistened in the silver light. He was running, sending occasional glances over his shoulder at something that remained just out of sight.

                Marcus peered down as the runner stopped to look up at him, the white light splashing across the features of his friend Jay. Seeing him, Jay began pleading, asking Marcus to save him, to forgive him what he’d done.

                “What can I do?” Marcus said, “I can’t move.”

                But his voice was drowned out by a deafening scream, a primordial shrieking like the cry of some wounded whale.

                Jay broke into a run again as the space around him echoed with that appalling howl. It wasn’t clear what stalked him. At any moment it seemed on the verge of revealing itself, but it remained hidden by the ghostly lighting, heard, but never seen.

                Marcus strained to tear himself from his perch, but he remained bound to his invisible moorings, little more than a helpless ghost.

                There was a brief moment before Jay fell where everything slowed down. His eyes rolled back as exhaustion overtook him. He stumbled once, hit the ground, then he was gone.

                From beyond the lights came a short, strangled cry, followed by a series of gurgling sounds.


                “Sir! I need you to calm down! Please sir, just relax!”

                He found himself in a large white room. A man in a set of powder blue scrubs had an arm thrown across his shoulder, trying to push him back down into bed. 

                 The man pulled out a flashlight and shined it into Marcus’ right eye.

                “Hey Jerry!” he called, “you want to give me a hand with this?”

                Another much shorter man appeared and began asking him questions.

                “Sir, can you please tell me your name?”

                “Jay?” he mumbled, “Oh Jesus, Jay.”

                “Who is this Jay he keeps talking about?” Jerry asked.

                Marcus looked over to see Tanya seated in a chair beyond them.

                 “I don’t know,” she said in a quiet voice, “He first mentioned him this morning. Might be another soldier or something.”

                “You say he was acting strangely earlier?”

                “Yes. He was having trouble remembering what happened last night.”

                The tall nurse nodded, while the second one continued asking him questions.

                “Sir, can you please tell me your name?”

                Marcus took a deep breath as he tried tamping down the memory of what he’d just seen.

                “Marcus…Marcus Reynolds. Where am I?”

                The two men looked at one another, then the taller one who had been talking to Tanya turned to face him.

                “You’re at Froedtert hospital.”

                “What happened?”

                “You were found passed out a few miles from here. How are you feeling now Mr. Reynolds?”

                “Still a little bit foggy.”

                “Can you tell me what the last thing is that you remember?”

                “I was at Jay’s place when I started to get kind of dizzy.”

                The tall nurse turned back to Tanya.

                “You’re sure you don’t know who he’s talking about?”

                “I’ve never even heard him mention the name Jay before today. Can I have a minute with him?” 

                “Sure, he seems stable enough now, but make it quick. The doctor will be by shortly with the results of his tests.” 

                Marcus watched the two men leave, then turned his gaze toward Tanya.

                “What tests is he talking about? How’d I get here?”

                “They found you passed out outside some woman’s apartment. Just what the hell were you doing Marcus? What’s going on with you?”

                “It was Jay’s place, except it wasn’t his anymore. I don’t know how to explain it. It just…doesn’t make any sense.”

                Tanya placed a hand on his shoulder, her eyes were big and wet and she was chewing the inside of her cheek the way she did when she got upset.

                The Doctor entered a moment later, his hands tucked into the pockets of his dark gray suit.

                “The CT Scan came through alright and his vitals are steady. Far as we can tell, it’s nothing physical.”

                Hearing that, Tanya brightened.

                “That’s good news, right?”

                “Definitely. Unfortunately, x-rays don’t show everything. I’d like to have you speak with a colleague of mine in psychiatrics. His name is Dr. Benson.”

                “A crazy doctor,” Marcus said.

                “Far from it. We just want to ensure that you’re in adequate health.”

                Marcus lapsed into a sullen silence.

                “Please,” Tanya said, “Just go with them Marcus.”

                He let out a long sigh as the tall nurse returned with a wheelchair and led the two of them to an examination room in another wing of the hospital.

An hour later, they were greeted by a tall, square-jawed man with salt and pepper hair. After introducing himself, he asked Tanya to leave, then took a seat facing Marcus.

                “Sounds like you’ve had quite a day. Took quite a spill from what I hear. How are you feeling now? Any light-headedness? Shortness of breath?”

                “Please doc, I just want to go home.”

                “Believe me I understand. This shouldn’t take long. I just have a few short questions.”

                As he spoke, the doctor began typing on a dull gray laptop.

                “Now, before you blacked out, were there any sensations, strong emotions, anything in particular you were thinking about?”

                “I don’t know. I felt kind of weak, light-headed, next thing I knew I was waking up here.”

                The computer keys made rapid tapping sounds that reminded him of the desperate sound of Jay’s footsteps.

                “According to your wife you were rather upset about someone named…” he looked down at his notes, “…Jay? Can you tell me about him?”

                Hearing the name, all the blood rushed from his face. He struggled to speak, but his mouth was so dry and the words just wouldn’t seem to come.

                The Doctor held up his hands.

                “That’s okay. We don’t have to talk about it now, but I’m afraid there is another matter that concerns me. What can you tell me about this?”

                The doctor pointed to the cut on Marcus’ wrist. The line seemed darker now, red and swollen like a recent wound.

                “That’s quite a cut you have there? Any idea how it happened?”


                “Do you ever feel like hurting yourself?”

                “No…look, I just—it’s been a rough day okay? Please, I really just want to go home.”

                “I’m sorry Mr. Reynolds, but I’m afraid I can’t allow that.”

                “Meaning what?”

                “I’m recommending a three-day evaluation. Just a few days, to make sure you’re really all right. Someone will be by shortly to show you to a bed. In the meantime, I’ll let your wife know.”

                The doctor stepped out into the hallway. A moment later Tanya came in and laid an arm across his shoulder.

                “You believe this?” he said.

                “I think it’s a good idea.”

                “I’m not crazy Tanya. I don’t know how to explain it, but…”

                “No one thinks you’re crazy. I just want to make sure that you’re really okay.”

                He looked at the room around him, frowning at the cold, antiseptic color of the walls. A moment later, there was a knock on the door and an orderly stepped in.

                “We’ve got a bed ready for you.”

                “Can I come with?” Tanya said.

                “’Fraid not. But you can stop by tomorrow to visit.”

                She looked back down at Marcus.

                “I’ll swing by tomorrow to see how you’re doing.”

                She leaned in for a long kiss then stood there, chewing the inside of her cheek as the orderly led him away.


                Alone at his table, Marcus washed down a dose of Klonopin with a cup of lukewarm water, then went to work on his Salisbury steak, shoveling pieces of the rubbery meat into his mouth as he looked back over the interview.

                His first therapy session had gone well enough. He’d been assigned to Dr. Walsh, a short, middle-aged woman with a sharp Roman nose, short, dirty blond hair and a habit of rolling her pen across her knuckles.

                He’d told her Jay was a contractor he had met overseas, a fellow Midwesterner he’d known for around three months before an IED claimed his life.

                He gave them the full treatment, hauling out over every weepy veteran cliché he could think of as he related to them how much he missed his friend, how confused it had left him.

                They had him for another 48 hours. So long as he kept his head down, the time should pass pretty quickly. Then he could get out of there, find out what was really going on.

                Marcus looked up at the clock on the wall, wondering when Tanya would arrive. For all he knew she was out there right now, filling out paperwork in an office somewhere. Still, her absence did little to quell the vague sense of unease he had felt since waking.

                Twenty minutes later an orderly named A.J. came by and led him to a small rectangular room where a dozen or so chairs had been arranged in a circle.

                Doctor Walsh joined them a few moments later.

                “I’d like to welcome you all to group therapy. For those of you who are new today, I’d like to lay down a few ground rules. You should think of this as a safe space. You’re free to say anything here, with one exception. No abuse of any kind will be tolerated. Participation is not mandatory, however, it is strongly encouraged. Would anyone like to start us off?”

                As Dr. Walsh looked out across the circle of faces, Marcus saw an opportunity to score some brownie points and raised his hand.

                “Mr. Reynolds. Wonderful.”

                Marcus cleared his throat, then stood up.

                “I’m kind of new at this,” he said, “My name’s Marcus Reynolds. Until a few weeks ago, I was a soldier stationed in Fallujah.”

                He looked down at the ground as he thought about how to continue.

                “Being over there, it’s not at all like what you think. Sometimes it’s quiet, boring even, but other times…well, you see things and it’s hard, you know, bringing that home. My wife for instance, well she…”

                Marcus’ head dipped down as he took a breath. When he looked up, the room was gone and he hung there weightless, squinting up at the familiar white light. The wind sounded different this time and as he listened closely, he swore that it wasn’t wind at all, but the sound of hundreds of voices, all crying out at once.

                Then, the voices quieted, parting like a veil to reveal the familiar drumming of footsteps.

                 Once more, a body slipped into focus and Marcus screamed out when he realized who it was.

                “Tanya! Oh God, no!”

                She was naked just as Jay had been, sucking breath in ragged gasps as she struggled to keep moving.

                She looked up at him and began calling out, using up what little breath she had left in pleading, begging him not to let her die.

                Once more Marcus struggled to do something, but there was nothing he could do but listen as the Thing at her heels started howling and watch as Tanya fought to outrace it.

                For a few moments she managed a pace that kept her just out of reach. Then a sudden misstep pitched her forward and she stumbled forward, arms pinioning as she struggled for balance. When she managed to right herself, Marcus willed himself to breathe again, stopping short when he noticed her left foot, which had dipped into the field of light.

                Tanya turned and began pulling at it, throwing her entire weight against the captive limb, but the Thing had taken hold of her and would not let her go.

                Marcus fought to free himself, wrenching his body left, then right in a violent attempt at escape, but the forces that held him wouldn’t budge.

                “Take me!” he yelled, “Take me instead!”

                But the Thing in the lights merely howled as it yanked Tanya off her feet, pulling her into the lights where the gurgling sounds begin.

                Marcus awoke in the middle of the room, cursing and shouting and clutching at the air. His cries reduced the room to bedlam, as frightened patients began bolting from their chairs, overturning furniture as they fled out into the hallway.

                A pair of orderlies rushed forward and seized Marcus by the arms, holding him down as Dr. Walsh tried to regain order.

                “Calm down!” one of them yelled at him.

                “Come on, man, keep cool.”

                Marcus fought them off, flailing an arm free, then kicking the larger man in the nose, squashing it sideways with an audible crunch.

                “Tanya!” he screamed, “Oh Jesus not her!”

                Dr. Walsh ran to a wall-mounted intercom and jammed a thumb against a dark black button.

                “I need immediate assistance to room 306.”

                Marcus was on his feet now, fighting his way toward the door with one of the orderlies clinging to his ankles. The other one sat hunched on the floor, trying to staunch the flow of blood from his broken nose.

                Three more men raced in. One of them filled a syringe while the other two pinned Marcus’ arms behind him, forcing him to the ground as the man with the syringe kneeled down beside Marcus, plunging the needle into his left arm.

                A warm feeling crept through him as he looked up into Dr. Walsh’s face, reaching out as her features melted in a smear of florescent light.


                “Marcus! I realize this is tough for you, but please try to pay attention.”

                He felt groggy, like his head was stuffed with cotton. His mouth was too dry and the doctor’s voice seemed to come to him from someplace far away.

                “I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this, but in lieu of my findings and after what’s happened today, I’m recommending a transfer to a facility upstate. It’s a nice place, one more suited to long-term care.”

                “What about my wife? Can I see her before I leave?”

                The Doctor let out a long, weary sigh before speaking.

                “We’ve been over this again and again Marcus, you know that you’ve never been married.”

                After that, Marcus said nothing. He just sat there, staring forward until someone finally came by to take him away.

                Back in his room, he packed his few belongings, then sat down on the bed to examine his latest scar. It was another four-inch mark, carved into a space just below the first one. 

                All at once, memories began pouring out of him as he sat there reliving their courtship in thirty-second snapshots.

                He lingered when he hit their first date. He could recall almost everything about it, the way he’d spent the day before gathering the perfect menu: Rudy’s ribs nestled in a Styrofoam container beside a generous helping of his mother’s potato salad, and a collection of greens he’d mixed himself. Inside the basket there were cloth napkins, a checkered blanket, the whole deal.

                They drove to Bradford Beach and had just finished setting out the food when the sky suddenly opened up, dowsing everything in a blast of summer rain. They fled to the backseat of his old Chevy, passing a bottle of red wine between them as they waited for the storm to pass.

                It was all there, real as the day it had happened, but when the people involved no longer existed, had never existed to begin with, would did you even call that? A hallucination, he supposed, or maybe just a dream.

                The next day he was led out to a dirty white van that hadn’t been washed in some time. The driver was a heavy, taciturn man in his early forties that spent the majority of the three-hour drive fiddling with the radio.

                When he reached his destination, Marcus was given a short tour of the facility, then brought to the cafeteria for a late lunch.

                He stumbled through the line in a gray haze, watching as an old woman in a plastic smock shoveled food onto his plate. He took a seat near the back of the room and sat there picking at his meatloaf before finally losing himself in the fluorescent glare of the overhead lights.

                Later, he transferred that same benign interest to the lights in the rec room, until the dull fluorescent hum lulled him into shallow sleep. He woke several minutes later to find a pencil in his right hand and a series of words scrawled across a piece of paper set out on the table before him.

                As he read the words, written his own handwriting, he began shaking so hard that he couldn’t keep hold of the pencil. Panic choked off the breath from his lungs, eliciting the attention of his fellow patients, and, eventually, the orderlies, who brought him back to his room to rest.

                As he lay there in silence, he recalled what he had written.  

                “My body’s almost completed. I’ll be coming for you soon.”


                It was three nights later, thinking back on those cryptic words that he found himself pulled back into that cold white place, hovering over an enormous assembly of people. It was the same ritual he had undertaken before, except this time there were hundreds of figures stretched out below him.

                They were running as fast their numbers would allow, shoving and tripping over one another as the space around them echoed with the sound of the creature’s cries. A few at the back were wrenched suddenly from sight as the people began dying by the dozens.

                Those that survived the first assault quickly turned on each another, knocking their neighbors to the ground in an attempt to placate the Thing at their heels, but nothing stopped it and as their numbers thinned, Marcus began picking out faces. There were patients mixed in with a few orderlies and jumbled in near the back, the horror-stricken faces of his own parents. 

                As the screams gradually quieted, they were replaced by a measured pounding, like that of a bull ramming its head against a gate. It grew increasingly louder, filling the entire space as the last of the people was pulled struggling from his sight.


                He awoke in darkness, covered in scars. The surface of his skin was marked by thick dark cuts like someone marking time on a prison wall.

                Rising from his bed, Marcus found the door to his room unlocked. The hallways were silent as he drifted through the building, searching for signs of others, but there was no one there. The doctors, the patients, they had all vanished, leaving the hospital looking as though it had been abandoned for years.

                It was still night outside when Marcus stumbled through the front door. The air felt cold and sharp in his lungs as the wind whipped through the thin material of his T-shirt.

                He searched the grounds for some sign of life, but saw no evidence of anyone outside. No cars or motorcycles, not a single honking horn. His surroundings seemed completely, almost cosmically silent.

                Gradually he began to feel a kind of pull, a sensation halfway between sound and thought, yanking him forward. He returned to the hospital, finding a purse in one of the empty offices that contained a set of keys that he matched to a matte black Cherokee.


                The streets were choked with the machinery of life. Cars and buses stood there empty, mashed together in a labyrinth of twisted metal. The only motion was the blinking of the traffic lights as they cycled endlessly from green to red.

                Marcus drove along in silence, favoring side streets in avoidance of the freeway, which was a ghostly convoy of abandoned traffic.

                It was an hour later that he stopped the car at the foot of the hill, watching the group of people as they filed along in silent procession.

                Marcus got out and joined the group, following the crowd as it snaked up a long, steep hill. At the top, he found a large group already gathered there, men and women of various ages staring at their surroundings with wide, vacant eyes. Each of them was scarred like he was, their wounds standing out like tiger stripes as each one reacted to what was happening in their own unique way.

                Some wandered in a state of near catatonia, while others gave themselves over to violent displays of grief, moaning and sobbing and shrieking at the sky. 

                He wondered then if they were all like him, suicides forced into some grotesque nightmare rapture. It was the worst thing he could imagine.

                A few feet off, Marcus spotted a tree and approached it, hoping that if he climbed it he could address the group as a whole. But as he laid a hand upon the bark, the trunk split down the center, showering him in broken branches as the entire ground began to quake.

                Then came a sound like a cannon shot that knocked the whole procession flat. Looking up, Marcus found himself struck dumb by what was happening all around him. Tiny fractures were forming along the horizon, branching out gradually to engulf the whole sky.

                There was a sound like eggshells cracking as the fissures widened, revealing wave after wave of dazzling white light that burned the night away completely, dissolving the darkness in a wave of inky smears. With it came the familiar shrieking, climbing in pitch as something forced its way through.

                It arrived in a torrent of wind and light, its cries accompanied by the endless beat of human footsteps. As it slowly staggered its way into sight, Marcus drank in every horrible detail, the thousands of human legs pulling it forward, the wriggling worm-like body, and the hundreds of human faces stretched across the surface of its glistening flesh. Jay’s was there and so was Tanya’s, crying out with others in a mixture of confusion and pain as the patchwork God pulled itself from the sky to greet its chosen people.



Bryan Veldboom is a full-time writer from the Milwaukee area. By all appearances a thoroughly average individual, he makes a living writing about women’s apparel, kitchen appliances, and other decidedly normal things. Yet despite this mundane veneer, he finds himself the subject of frequent rumors tying him in to certain blasphemous rites, which he is said to perform with the aid of his lovely wife and a particularly surly cat.