“Dust To Dust”(A POC Reimagining of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space) by Tain Leonard-Peck
A chill wind blew through the night. Tusculana shivered, despite herself– her entire life had been spent in the Siberian cold, but for some inscrutable reason, this night amongst all others tore into her bones, the cold soaking into her as water into flour. It was rare to walk at night, but the circumstances of the day made it necessary: the Red Army hunted in the forests, searching for ‘anti-revolutionaries’– code for anyone who opposed their tyranny. The anarchists and the White Russians did what they could to protect the people from them, but the Leninists were legion.
It was pleasant enough, at least, the unnatural cold aside. Wandering the taiga like this felt pure, right. As it should. The Yakut had called Siberia home long before the Rus had even crossed the Urals, and they would call it home long after other nations had crumbled. She squinted in the darkness, trying to drink in every bit of ambient light. A shape resolved itself in the distance– a log cabin, small, high windows reflecting a hint of starlight. No fire within, no smoke from the chimney…it would be a safe enough refuge for the night. Any luck, and no snow would blow in Tusculana’s sleep.
The sun rose. The harsh light tore at Tusculana’s eyes– and then, a skull-crushing boom rattled her ears. She bolted away, staring out the window as the false sunlight waned to a mere pale glow. Her ears rang. This needed investigation; it could be an artillery attack, and a wildfire could be ripping its way towards her right now…
Despite the urgency of her situation, Tusculana could not help a certain sluggishness as she rose to her feet. Wiping sleep from her eyes, she took a knee, slowly untying and retying her bootlaces, ensuring they’d be good and tight for her expedition.
She pushed through the door. An unforgettable scene greeted her. A sea of trees, knocked over like children’s toys, smoking and smoldering in the now ruined earth. Ash and dust and fog blanketed the landscape, not fully obscuring sight, but veiling just enough to leave a constant sense of unease curling up the spine. And in the distance, far off, was the glow. Pale, grey, cold, like the light of dawn…yet, the moon still shone high in the sky, no where near close to setting– hours before it even reached its zenith and began its cool descent. Tusculana felt that same shiver come over her, a primordial response to something that was out of place. Something that should not be there.
Onward. The chill grew, accompanied by an unpleasantly sweet, cloying scent– another bit of evidence that something was amiss. The fog, though, began to clear, like a shroud was being lifted off the world, or a bandage off a wound, revealing the carnage beneath. The pale glow grew in strength, and the entire ruined forest was cast in its baleful light– the usual blacks and whites of night-vision replaced with shades of luminescent grey. Tusculana rubbed at her eyes. It felt like something was crawling on them– but, such an odd sensation was more likely than not just an overreaction, or maybe a response to the dust kicked up by whatever had caused all this destruction. Tusculana tried to quiet her imagination and focus on what was in front of her.
An edge came into view. Not the horizon. A crater, torn into the earth. The grey glow grew stronger, inexorably, as she approached the crater rim– curiosity dragging her on. A cacophony of questions swirled through her head, even as her eyes started to ache. Closer to the point of impact, the trees had begun to crumble– not just knocked down, but disintegrating, breaking down into fine dust. Everything was seeming to dissolve, the trees, the rocks , the snow even the air itself. Beneath her feet, all was fading into grey. Every footfall was muffled as Tusculana’s boots sank into the dust– grey, like everything else there. It glowed. It all glowed. Tusculana had been thinking of the eerie shade as grey, but that wasn’t the right word. Pale fit better, but that alone could not properly describe the colour invading her eyes, the colour sinking its tendrils into the forest. The crater’s edge was right there. Tusculana cast a glance down, to the dust. She couldn’t tell where the mass ended and her legs began. The pale light shone through her retinas like spears, a throbbing pain, echoing through her skull. Her legs were gone, now. She stumbled, falling into the dust face first– bitter and sour and hot on her tongue. The edge was there. She reached out a hand to grasp it. Her flesh was grey, now. Crumbling. With one great pull, she dragged herself over the edge.
Tusculana was gone. All that remained was oddly coloured dust.
Tain Leonard-Peck writes plays, poetry, and fiction, paints and composes music. He’s a competitive sailor, skier, and fencer. He currently lives on a family farm on Martha’s Vineyard, but he’s lived all over the world as well. He knows how to construct his own laminar flow hood, knit his own blankets, and haggle for flowers on five continents. He thinks the world is a place of wonders, and he loves traveling to see more of it. He has lived in caves, dived with sharks, and not been defenestrated by a temperamental donkey named William Shakespeare. He is frequently bitten by geese.