Requiem with Echinoderms

by A.Valliard

Aug 1

A strange rain fell today. Collected a sample and tested its toxicity on our Artemia nauplii and three separate echinoderms. If Marcel had not dropped the freeze-dried tunicate extract whilst waffling on incoherently about his mother, we might have a wider scope for our lethality assay, but I digress. 

Aug 2

No change this morning in the subjects, other than a certain vivacity. An excitation and tremor in the water. Perhaps the precipitation is benevolent?  

I will give the rain to my solitary Sprague-Dawley. I am fond of it. I have been keeping the rat aside for something special, and I suppose this is the moment. A dubious honour. Possibly the rain will improve its mood. Nervous energy has affected its coat. Patches of fur are falling out haphazardly. We have both lost our shine.

Aug 3

A terrible business for the echinoderms. They have curled up like fists. Does not bode well for my Sprague-Dawley. The rest of the lab continues as normal. Marcel is weeping again.

Aug 4

Have received word that the Change is imminent. Or have been told the Change is coming, as I have also been instructed to simplify my speech, or ‘Speak normally!’ in a high-pitched, almost hysterical tone by Marcel.

Whether this Change will smooth matters interdepartmentally has yet to be ascertained.

Since the merging of the waters, everything has become… difficult.

Aug 5

Elspeth has failed to bring my roses again. It is not much, I think, to ask that one’s roses be brought on schedule. The last time their leaves were blackened, caked in a peculiar residue. 

A rose by any other name… would still not be brought by Elspeth.

It is the time you have wasted for your rose…

Rose is a rose is a rose… ring-a ring-a rosy… something of that ilk.

Aug 6

Abraham in the apartment across the road was shouting all night. Between his noise, and Beatrice jumping to her demise, causing no end of chaos and wailing in the streets below my balcony, this end of town is becoming obstreperous.

Aug 7

A day of Aurelius, Montaigne, Seneca. 

I like to think they are my friends, but there are too many layers of yellow varnish between us. All I can do is peer at them through the wrong end of a cracked telescope.

I do not know much about friendship. Or love. 

They are poor test subjects.

Aug 8

The pleasing origami swan which is normally delivered with my newspaper and left on my tabletop has vanished. I can find no good reason for this. 

Perhaps my whimsical postman is on holiday. Although, I cannot think how he has passed the boundaries.

Another loss.

When I have time, I will look for it outside to see if it was dropped… But I shall wait for better light. The air is too dim to see, currently. As though something is blowing through it. I do not even know if this is legible.

Aug 9

There is an odd feeling in the wind, a muffled aspect. People are turning away from each other. Skirmishes are frequent. Unsettling. Increasingly, I sense my presence is better kept at home.

A tumble on the stairs, this afternoon, whilst ascending.

There are new growths in the walls. 

We were not warned about that. 

A failure of communication. Like so many other failures, recently.

Tomorrow I will see about Elspeth when I go to collect my rations. Someone at the dispensary should know where she has gone. Although, perhaps I should wait till she comes? She will arrive eventually. Of that I am fairly certain.

It does not concern me unduly. 

This evening, a sound like teeth rattling in a box. Or castanets. I went to the hall, but nothing. I confess I was rather fearful when I opened the door. My mind is derailing itself.

It is the constant botheration.

I wish I had a glass of wine. 

But there are no more grapes, of course.

Aug 10

The mortality of the brine shrimp is immense. 

Under the microscope the larvae coil pathetically. Among the adults, a fight seemingly took place in my absence. Whether their death is due to the unknown substance in the rain, or the ferocity of their battle, I am uncertain.

Regardless, only one survives, and I suspect it has been eating the other, deceased, shrimp. I have placed it under observation.

The rain was not benevolent after all. I don’t know why I thought it would be.

I’d rather not think about Elspeth. 

Aug 11

Some music on the radio for the first time in months. Don Giovanni, which seems inappropriate, but better than a requiem I suppose. I have never particularly enjoyed music, but tonight I listen—dare I say—spellbound.

The sky is a peculiar, tarnished silver. Fish belly, old dishwater, call it what you will, it is bleak. Better than the sulphurous yellow of the previous month. Bubbling burnt cheese, dripping down. Nauseating.

Aug 12

The lack of people everywhere suits me. The whole street was barren on the way to the lab. I almost danced. A funny figure I must have looked in my raincoat and improvised snow shoes. The ground has become inappropriate for such capers, unfortunately. Too spongy. Like wet peat, almost. A bog.

Aug 13

Woke this morning with a hammering heart. Dreams of darkness and cretaceous animals. Chuang Tzŭ once dreamt he was a butterfly and, upon awakening, wondered if he were a butterfly dreaming it was Chuang Tzŭ.

A whimsical notion, giving rise to a suspicion that philosophers are as prone to madness as the rest of us. Or else do not quite know what to do with their time.

Now there are no more butterflies either. Soon, no more philosophers.

Aug 14

I saw a parade of robed figures moving in a phalanx through the swamp outside. Oddly ceremonial in their plastic hoods. Which reminds me, I must seal the windows, as the mold is inside now, and the curtains have fallen to it. They hang like verdigris shrouds.

Otherwise, a quiet morning, punctuated by the occasional siren.

There is too much dust in the vestibule. Or something that resembles dust.

Aug 15

The dust-like substance has got into my mineral cabinet. 

The petrified scarlet forest of crocoite, the mint-green gypsum, the octahedral purple fluorite… all covered in a fine, slippery ash, the colour of gunpowder. The specimens are disintegrating. Piles of lustrous particles, turning to sludge. 

They are the last in a long, unhappy line of things which have fallen apart. 


But I shouldn’t be thinking about the Change.

Aug 16

An unpleasant discovery in the lab. The Sprague-Dawley has succumbed to whatever ails my minerals. It was reduced to a viscous paste across the bottom of its cage.

The last cannibalistic brine shrimp also.

I am unreasonably troubled.

Took the last transport home. Everything moved slowly. The only other passenger, a woman wrapped in cling film, flinched when she saw me.

Aug 17

A maudlin day. I did not go to the lab. I spent my hours cleaning a Knightia fossil fish. I never especially wanted to go to Wyoming, but now that it is gone, I feel a brief pang of… something. We have fossils in our remaining country, but I prefer the vastness of the Green River Formation. 


The pick is hard to hold, as I appear to have a tremor of late. Earlier I snapped a spine off a rare Dicranurus monstrosus trilobite and I’m still cursing my haste and inattentiveness.

Humanity will not leave a fossil record. We are too brief. Our civilization dwells in the neck of an hourglass. As thin and delicate as a wasp wing. We will not leave even a poorly lit bone on a forgotten museum shelf. Will not be damaged by any careless hand but our own.

A comforting notion?

Aug 18

Something is the matter with my tongue. If I were less sane, I might say it was forking when I spoke. I tried speaking in front of the mirror, but Marcel caught me when he visited. I was too embarrassed to continue. I certainly shan’t ask Marcel to look at it.

The substance is drifting from the sky like… no, not like ash. The corners of things are curling. When I tried to sing at dusk, my tongue wouldn’t move. Forked or not.

Fortunately, my mind is as yet unafflicted by this encroaching weakness.

Aug 19

This morning my thoughts are laced in a glistening spider web. A greasy gauze.

A miasma of rot has blanketed the world. A shifting pool of putridity.

Perhaps there is something worse underneath.

Yet… I remember footage of a Roman floor emerging as the silt was swept away. 

Sunk beneath the sea, the blue tiles glowed like jewels in the depths, and the knowing eyes in gentle faces, blind in the saltwater, turned up towards the sun, were beautiful.

Who will wipe the silt from our faces? 

Where has the sun gone?

Aug 20

Woke after hideous dreams to find my skin has developed a waxy texture. It ripples when I touch it. I am trying not to touch it.

Clamour outside. I thought I heard the sound of something being swallowed.

Something vast.

Perhaps I am imagining things… It is so hard to tell of late.

My tongue is certainly forked.

Aug 21

Marcel was here again. Babbling. He always speaks too quickly to fully comprehend. Although today it was not speed which made him incomprehensible. I am as fond of him as my Sprague-Dawley. Fonder. He lay upon the floor like a fingerprint. I hope he does not sink within.

Aug 22

We possibly should not have disturbed the permafrost.

I can barely talk now.

Aug 23

All day, a high, wavering cry from the streets. Reminiscent of a bird, although I suspect human in origin. It sounds as though it is underwater, but I know it isn’t. 

In the evening the noise turned into a honking, rasping gurgle, like that of a Great Potoo, then silence.

Aug 24

More odd ululations without and within. Lapping at the window.

My eyebrows are falling out. My face in the mirror seems a little smudged, somehow, as though a fingertip has smeared the wet lines of an oil portrait. It is not a bad look. I have been told I am too stern, so perhaps this softens me? I will ask Elspeth. Or Marcel, if he will stop crying.

I think it is Marcel.

Aug 25

It is difficult to distinguish the waking from the sleeping. Am I either?

I am lengthening and shortening with each breath. Carapace sliding inside carapace. Armour dropping away. Nails shedding. I lost three today.

My clothing seems leached of colour. My eyes… I don’t want to talk about my eyes.

We have lifted the veil of liminality, and slip like sylphs beneath.

The atoms are separating. We are reverting.

Aug 26

When I was young, my mother would bite pieces of apple first from the solid whole, and pass them to me, from her mouth to her hand to my hand to my mouth. The world is not portioned thusly anymore. Nothing is so kindly fit to me alone.

Aug 27

The power is off. I managed to crawl to the stairwell, feeling unusually ill this afternoon. I left a trail of… something… behind me. As I couldn’t call down, I let a piece of paper flutter in my stead. It floated on the ooze of the antechamber like an abandoned raft. 

Fortunately, I have my candles. They are melting less quickly than myself!

I have five teeth left. Not enough to bite anything or anyone.

Aug 28

Abraham across the street is silent now. And Marcel. I must confess, I am concerned. Also Beatrice… Elspeth… I might have… possibly should…

I cannot think today.

The substance is piling up in the hall. I would ask Marcel to clear it away, but he has disappeared into the carpet. 

A new world, without us. An empty carriage hurtling through the night. 

Aug 29

Marcel, O Marcel! Why hast thou forsaken me! My skin is gone. 

I wish… I wish.

Aug 30

The music returned at noon. A final fandango. 

I am glad to hear this beating of the human heart. Baroque and defiant. 

Aug 31

My flesh has acquired the consistency of cake. A primordial clay.

I think I shall lie down. 

It is a pity this Change came on so swiftly. I might have made plans. With Elspeth. With my mother. With Marcel. To lie down in the bog together.