Bethany opened herself from its place, trudged over groggily, but more awake than she'd ever been, to the wall of the mobile home, and with a bloated forefinger pushed down a plastic shutter to peer outside. The small gravel driveway outside the door was empty. It was in the interim from dusk to darkness, and the barren, stunted trees looked angry, upset that she had roused them from their sleep.
She let her finger slide from the shutter, leaving an absence in the dust-covered plastic the shape of the water tower she saw silhouetted in the autumn sky. A wave of some disgust-adjacent emotion took a slow roll through her stomach, and she turned on the linoleum floor, facing the unlit beige interior of the mobile home. She closed her eyes and let the familiar smells in; the warm smell that her dildo gave off every time it was washed, the smell of the pile of filthy clothing laying damp next to the sink. And the new smells were there too; that implacably comforting smell, the smell of the blood-soaked…
They had come early, early in the afternoon - but of course they had. The early afternoon is benevolent. No one wants to hurt you at two in the afternoon. No one wants to kill you, or tear you to pieces, when the sun is high in the sky.
They came in a rusted 1989 four-door Ford Escort, how perfect. No slight anachronisms, everything in its right place, everything as it should be. But she knew them: who they were, what they were, though they did not know what she was, no, they did not know her, they did not.
A blue tag emblazoned with an emblem of a wheelchair-bound man swung leisurely from the rear-view mirror as the car pulled to a stop with a crunch, and a woman swung out, pivoted smartly on her left leg, pulled open the back door, took out a crutch, slammed the door closed with an unhealthy thud (perfect, oh so perfect), and hobbled toward Bethany's door. Bethany opened the door before the woman had a chance to begin her labored ascent of the stairs; she stopped and looked up, not the least bit startled, and making a show of it. A young woman, brown hair, brown eyes, pale. A battered blue plaid shirt, three sizes too big, and pale pale blue, tight jeans.
A guttural cough from the woman; a chain-smoker's cough. Fake, false. (They try, try, try, to keep it all, don't they? Selfish is what it is.)
"Was just wonderin' what the hell's been goin' on lately. Fuggin'…" - Another cough - "Fuggin' lights at night…you know whasbengoinon?" Another cough. Phony. The syntax, the inflection, the vocabulary, all so perfect. Bethany felt like throwing up, though she'd always had an iron stomach, and hadn't eaten anything physical in months.
"Don't know what the fuck's goin' on. Heard about it but ain't seen nothin'.” A short pause, a fleeting look of deep boredom on the young woman’s face. “You got anything else you need to wake me up to fuckin’ know?" The woman didn't seem to take notice that Bethany had opened the metal door herself. A grunt, a turn, and the woman began her slow hobble back to the four-door. Bethany slammed the door. Foundation.
* * *
Bethany hated. She hated at the roots of things, and at every single root, and the seed that sowed the root, and whoever had planted the seed. Interaction between person and world - knowing, knowing, knowing, everybody wishing to know, to be, growing themselves like a homogenous, toxic fungi over existence and perceiving greedily, raping existence. She hated people for knowing themselves, for knowing each other, and for knowing these things, for being. Existing in the conscious world - what a sinful realm.
So when it had shown itself, she accepted it like a father, she did, this thing beyond absence and beyond form, which lived within her self. In fact, until the four-door, she had thought that it may be some natural piece of herself, and perhaps of everyone. Some dormant trait that, through her 52 years of radiant and recursive hatred, had become finally focused to a burning point within her mind.
And she knew, sheknewsheknewsheknew, that that young woman with the tight jeans and fake accent was driving 70 miles per hour down Highway 57 in that rusted four-door, muttering to herself these words: “Goddamn -04 thrusting useless prototype shit-tech at me. ‘Type-B Anomalous Detection! It’ll help you in the field!’ Bullshit. Seeing lights at night in a trailer park - buncha hicks.” She threw something that looked like an early cell phone on the floor in front of the passenger's seat.
Oh, how the search for knowledge fell at the feet of vanity; if Bethany were someone else, she would have laughed.
* * *
It made her know things which would keep it. Keep it here. Hypocrisy? She didn't care. The Foundation, that macro-life-force - threat. She knew the metallic ring that would sound in each of those learners, those be-ers, heads when the time came. It told her these things in whispers that were naught: key-ter. Key Ter. How wonderful the sound, and the horror it would make, and then readily destroy.
And she knew that thing: the thing which it carried within itself like the DNA that bacteria absorb in their slow campaign against life. (Maybe that is what she could call it; where bacteria had failed, in giving only death and not a permanent solution, it gave the solution, it did. It ended truly and earnestly. The great bacteria. It. It. These things, the KNOWINGknowingknowingKNOWING of people. Done forever, forever nothing, forever ended. The beginning point of an abominable ray pointing backward in time, the ray of light, the ray of life, blood red. The Parasite of Perception.)
Absence of the night. A slow crumble, severance of the mind from the world. Closure.
The shutter closed. Again. The sound of the wind against the wall of her mobile home was not heard. The bottoms of her feet cold, freezing, on the linoleum floor, the consciousness of Bethany Karen Bowlen imploded. And as this atomic spasmodicum danced with light in the non-air of a rural Wisconsin trailer park, the November night, and all who lived within it, moved toward a greater darkness.