one of ten winning stories in the 4th Lovecraftian Micro Fiction Contest at the 2017 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon in Portland, Oregon
“Looking into the Can”
The Voice before the Void
Carter had the Ford in fourth gear, and after sliding through another curve, we powered up a rise; as we crested it, the wheels left the ground.
We landed hard; Carter did not let up on the gas.
“Are you sure they’re after us?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” Carter replied.
I looked through the rear window into the bed of the pick-up, studying again the large gray metal cylinder, horizontal in its sturdy cradle.
“What is in the can?” I asked once again.
“Don’t look in the can,” Carter exhorted once again.
There was a flash of all-encompassing darkness. I don’t really know what happened: for an instant, it felt like the pick-up truck shifted up onto its side, and I tasted metal in my mouth.
The light returned. We were still plunging forward over the barely visible track, the Ford revving to its top possible speed.
I looked to Carter; she was staring at the dashboard in front of her.
Keeping one hand on the wheel, Carter reached forward with her other hand and picked a bloody piece of meat off the dashboard.
Staring at it in her hand, she said dully, “That’s my liver,” then dropped it to the floor of the Ford.
“What? What?” I stammered.
Carter said, “It means they’re catching up with us.” Her face had become grim.
Another flash of darkness: the pick-up felt inverted, then as though it was again on its side.
The light returned in an instant, but when it did, we were off the track and in the short brown grass. The engine was roaring, but we were not moving.
Through the windshield, we watched the wheels of the pick-up bounce and roll away.
“What is in that can, Carter!”
“Don’t look in the can! I had to, but it’s how they’re able to touch me now. Just don’t you look in the can! Don’t look in the can.”
She started a fit of coughing. When it eased, she put her bloody hand on my cheek and looked into my eyes.
“There is no pain, Fran,” she said, smiling weakly. “There is no pain.”
Her face twisted suddenly, and she screamed. She groaned, then screamed again in what surely seemed like awful pain. She then fell silent.
I reached for her head; she was limp. “Don’t you understand, Carter?” I cried. “Don’t you understand? I already looked in the can. What is it? What is in the can, Carter?”
Yet another flash of darkness: again the taste of metal in my mouth, this time much stronger.
In the returned light, I see a bloody piece of meat on the hood of the pick-up.