I think I knew about Cog 7 well before I went there. Growing up, I always had a sense of it, an intuition that there were realities beyond our own. I can’t remember exactly when I first felt the presence of the Rain Drop world…but I was young. I suffered from night terrors between the ages of six and seven and I think that’s when I began to sense something past the walls of our universe.
You see, when I had these nightmares, I could always see something…something past the dream. It was like an optical illusion hidden inside an elaborate painting. It’s hard to explain. I remember one nightmare where I was hiding in a tree, terrified, as a werewolf hunted the ground for my scent. I clutched the dark branches, tears running down my face, and looked at the full moon hovering in the empty sky.
And I could see something behind the moon…it was like this long stretch of black, like a hallway or ventilation shaft composed and crafted out of something darker than the night. It stretched away from the moon, sucked deep into the sky, like a metal vein. It reminded me of the image you get when you reflect two mirrors into one another. Now, initially, I just chalked it up as part of the nightmare. But as my night terrors persisted, I continued to see that strange tunnel of darkness. It wasn’t always in the sky. Sometimes I would see it behind a building, disappearing into the floor, or even extending out of someone’s head.
I didn’t know what to make of it. It was the only constant in my dreams. As I outgrew the nightmares, I began to see the black hallway in other places. I would see it in movies, posters, cloud formations, and even in the darkness of my home. At times it was so faint I thought I was imagining it. Other times it was so clear I felt my breath hitch in my chest, a sharp reminder of the fears I suffered as a child.
I thought about mentioning it to my doctor, convinced it was a fault in my vision, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. And yet, the strangeness of it continued to insist logical reason into my confused mind. Finally, I went and saw an eye doctor and was told what I already knew. I was fine. Nothing wrong with my eyes. Perfect vision.
And so I endured the strange blips. Sometimes the dark passages would last a couple of seconds, other times they would flash quickly into existence and then disappear, like a magician was tapping his wand against my mind.
I learned to live with it I suppose. Occasionally I’d dream about the weird hallway, that dark square that stretched on so far it disappeared into the horizon like an inky air vent. I mentioned it to my friends a time or two and they said I should get my head checked. I thanked them for their obvious input and continued to ignore the enigma as best I could.
But then it happened when I was driving.
And that’s what pushed me over the edge, right down the tar black throat of Cog 7.
I was on my way to work, just a normal Wednesday morning. I was half finished with my coffee, one hand on the wheel, the other groggily gripping my mug. The morning talk show I was listening to was discussing the benefits of AI and the potential perks it could provide if technology continued to progress.
I took a slow sip of coffee, my eyes trained over the lip of my mug on the car in front of me. That’s when it happened. The dark hallway exploded across my vision, filling the windshield, the sky, my entire world. It was like I was driving into the mouth of a dark tunnel, completely devoid of light, sound, everything.
I spun the wheel, spilling my coffee, a scream rising in my throat.
I jerked hard against my seat belt as I felt my car smash into something, but I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see anything. The black pressed in around the windows as whiplash rocked up my spine. Something slammed into the side of my car, but again I was blinded by the endless hallway that continued to grow before me, expanding and now rippling like sound waves were pulsing down the walls towards me.
Pain split my head as it connected with the steering wheel and I felt blood leak into my eyes as they sputtered shut.
And then I was fading.
Goodnight world, sorry about the mess. Something is clearly wrong with me.
I opened my eyes and crawled to my feet. Grass licked my hands and grit clung to my palms. A breeze stirred my hair across my forehead and I placed a hand to my head. No blood. No pain. I continued to inspect myself, noticing almost casually that I wasn’t in my car any longer.
After confirming that I wasn’t injured, I brushed my hands together and looked up, a single thought bubbling to the forefront of my mind.
This is the end of the hallway.
I almost fell back down as the sight before me swarmed my vision with startling absurdity.
I was standing on the edge of grassy cliff overlooking an endless field of green that stretched to the very corners of the horizon. As I squinted down at the world, I realized that the expanse of color wasn’t grass, but cornstalks. Rows and rows of it, tall and ripe and full of life, all swaying happily in the gentle wind.
But there was something…off…about them. I gazed down at fields, scrubbing my eyes, and the impossible sharpened into focus. They weren’t just cornstalks…they were people. But also…corn.
“What on earth…?” I muttered, soaking in the bizarre details of this strange phenomenon.
The corn, or people I should say, were buried in the dirt up to their knees. Their human bodies were naked except for the sheaves and stalks of greenery that jutted from their skin like some kind of growth. Their hair was like golden silk, spilling down their tanned flesh and across the protruding sprouts that rose out of their shoulders, arms, stomach, and legs.
I stepped back from the ledge, mind spinning at the strange sight. The rows of corn people continued to sway in the wind, smiles plastered across their faces like this was all completely normal. There were just so many…
And then I looked into the sky and for a second time, I almost fell back down.
An absolutely massive yellow sun filled the heavens, its blinding rays spilling down onto the corn people like the gentle fingers of a caring mother. In the center of the sun though, was a colossal lever, an odd metal protrusion that contrasted any logical sense I had come to understand.
Gripping the lever, was a titanic creature, looming over the world. It was vaguely human in shape, but bulkier and composed of iron and steam and towering smoke stacks that extending from its shoulders like cannons.
The great, creaking creature was slowly rotating the lever in a slow circular motion, spinning a massive cog built into the center of the sun. Smoke poured from the towers on its shoulders, its skin slick with oil that streamed down its metal plated face like sweat. Its eyes were two endless wells of darkness, the only features that painted its immense, square head. I traced down its body, catching seams in its metal skin, plates of iron and enormous bolts that constructed and held together its figure.
“What is this…?” I asked breathlessly, eyes wide, heart racing. I spun around to stare at the cliff at my back and a saw that I was on an isolated rise, a steep, grassy slope that sharply dropped down into the world below. I shook my head, disbelief rattling me.
And that’s when I felt something poke my leg.
I jumped, almost tumbling off the cliff, a cry springing from my lips. I looked down and saw a child no older than four years old staring up at me. He too was clothed in stalks of corn that spun and protruded from his tiny body, a shock of short golden silk tumbling down his face over his chubby, rosy cheeks.
His massive blue eyes sparkled as they met mind, a smile turning the corners of his face to reveal tiny white teeth.
“Got ya!” He giggled, wiggling his finger at me.
I blinked and tried to find my voice, tried to understand just what the hell was going on. The kid just stared at me, his pudgy cheeks bulging beneath those big blue eyes.
He started wiggling his pointer finger at me again, “Here it comes…here it comes!”
I almost laughed at the absurdity of what was happening. The little boy took a step closer, holding his finger out like a knife.
“Don’t let it touch you!” He laughed, taking another exaggerated step towards me.
I finally discovered how to speak again and cleared my throat, “Hey, cut it out. Who are you? What…or where am I?”
The kid dropped his hand to his side, disappointed, “Aw you’re no fun. Don’t you wanna play?”
“I want to know what the hell this place is!” I sputtered, shaking my head, “What the hell are all those people? What are YOU? And what’s that…that massive metal thing over there!”
The kid rolled his eyes dramatically, voice ripe with sarcasm “What’s the matter with you mister? Never been here before or something?”
I barked a laugh, the seams of my mind beginning to fray, “Does it LOOK like I’m from around here!?”
The kid furrowed his brow at me, “Hey, don’t yell at me.” He raised his finger menacingly, “Or I’m going to have to BOOP you again!” He wiggled his tiny finger and then fell into a fit of giggles.
I got down on one knee, sizing up the strange, small boy. At this proximity, I noticed that the sheathes of green protruding from his skin looked almost like strips of cloth.
“Don’t…please don’t boop me,” I said, trying to calm myself, “I’m just confused and have no idea how I got here. Or what this place is.”
The boy’s eyes grew wide in disbelief, “Are you lost mister?”
I snapped my fingers, “Yes! Yes that’s exactly it. I’m lost and I need to figure out how to go home.”
The kid suddenly got a smug look in his eyes, “I guess you need my help, huh?”
I nodded, “Yes, please, something happened to me. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here.”
The kid snorted and crossed his little arms over his bare chest, “Ob-vi-ously.”
I suddenly felt inexplicably irritated at this weird little corn boy and so I reached out and pinched his fat cheek, “Hey don’t get smart with me you little weirdo.”
“OW!” The kid cried, jerking his head away, an exaggerated display of pain shocking his face. He rubbed his cheek with stubby fingers and glared at me, “Don’t do that!”
I started to laugh, the shock and bizarre shift in realities flooding my mind with confused and panicked madness. And so I laughed, unable to help myself.
“Oh man,” I said, wiping a tear from my eye, “I’m sorry kid…really. This is just…well…really weird for me.”
The kid was still massaging his pizza dough cheek, “You’re really weird. You don’t even have any stalks on you.”
I stared down at my bare arms, “What are they? What are the stalks? What are you people?”
The kid sniffed, and turned his almost too-big head away from me, “Hmph!”
I suddenly flapped my thumb against my pointer finger in a pinching motion, “Hey, don’t make me squeeze your fat little cheek again.”
The kid turned back to me, stomping his foot, “I’m not FAT!”
“Here it comes,” I said, floating my fingers closer.
The kid suddenly burst out laughing, giving in, “Ok. OK!”
I lowered my hand.
The kid pointed at himself, “My name’s Bip.”
I bit my lip, trying not to explode with laughter, “Bip…?”
The kid picked up on my mocking tone, “Oh yeah? What’s your dumb name?”
I fought to regain control of myself and managed to get out my name, “I’m Jack.”
The kid, Bip, sneered at me, “What a stoooooopid name.”
I felt like slapping his squished, tiny fat face, but instead jerked a thumb over my shoulder, “And what’s all this? Where am I? Who are all those corn people?”
Bip sighed, “Those are all my parents and that big one turning the sun is Molzroth. He keeps the sun alive so the world doesn’t die before Harvest.”
“Harvest?” I asked, cocking an eyebrow.
The kid nodded, taking on an authoritative tone, probably mimicking how he thought adults talked, “Yeah, when I grow big enough I’ll be planted down there with the rest of them. And then the Crow will come and feed us.”
I held up a hand, “Hold on kid, you’re losing me.”
Bip waved a little hand at me, “The Crows spray us for the Harvest. That’s how we know it’s time. After that, all those parents down there-,” he leaned in now, motioning for me to come closer, his voice dropping to a whisper, “-they all have sex.”
I blinked, “What?”
Suddenly, Bip pointed out over the cliff, “Look! There’s a Crow now! He’s going to spray all the parents down there!” He started bouncing up and down excitedly, “It’s time! It’s time! Oh boy mister Jack, you’re in for a show!”
Bewildered, I turned my back to the strange corn child and stared out across the fields below me. My eyes grew wide as something grew along the horizon, a massive shape walking on spindly legs between the rows of human stalks.
It was an enormous scarecrow. Its overstuffed head spilled hay like hair beneath a wide brimmed hat. Its clothes were rags that hung over an impossibly thin body, its arms extending to end in fingers like mangled bales of straw. Its shadow sprawled long across the rows of corn people as it made its way through them, its legs taking it through the rows in long strides.
As it walked, it suddenly pulled its baggy pants down and I felt my stomach flip as something long and brown flopped into its hay filled fingers. Without slowing, it began to stroke the odd member, shucking it vigorously into erection.
Nauseous waves churned my gut and I took a step back as the Crow began to spray gouts of yellow goo from its horrible erection over the waiting fields of people. A cry of elation rose from the waiting subjects below, hands upraised and mouths open as the subjects were splattered with the disgusting substance.
As soon as the corn people were sprayed, they began to pull themselves from the soil. I watched in horror as they found one another, wrapping their bodies together in lustful urgency.
And then they began to fuck.
Hundreds of thousands of them, all covered in the Crow’s goo, pulling their legs from the earth and desperately falling into a pile of ecstasy and desire. It didn’t seem to matter who they were fucking, each person grabbing the closest body and pulling themselves together to fulfill a sudden sexual hunger. Moans filled the sky and I placed a hand over my mouth in disgusted shock.
“Told you,” Bip suddenly said at my side. I looked down and saw him standing next to me, arms crossed, a smile on face.
I quickly covered his eyes, “Hey don’t watch this!”
He slapped my hand away, “Let me SEE! I’m not a BABY.”
I subsided, too enraptured by the mountains of corn people lost in rolling passion and sexual lust. The scarecrow continued its trek across the field, still spraying its ooze over the waiting crowds, all of this observed by the towering metal giant turning the gear in the sun.
“This is so fucked up,” I whispered.
Bip giggled, “No it’s not. This is how we live here in Cog 7.”
My eyes never left the fields of endless fucking, voice a whisper, “Cog 7?”
Bip nodded matter-of-factly, “Yeah, that’s where this is dummy. It’s a Rain Drop world.”
Still watching the Crow, I asked in awe, “What does that mean?”
Bip, still grinning at the scene below us, answered firmly, “When creation was formed, there were splashes of life that splattered into the far corners of existence. Think of existence as a big ocean. When God formed the Universe,” he looked at me sideways, “Probably your Universe – but anyway, when he created the Universe, it was like dropping a massive boulder into an ocean of possibilities. The ocean formed itself around that boulder, around the four realities that compose your Universe.”
“And those are?” I asked, captivated.
Bip counted them off on his stubby fingers, “Heaven, Hell, Earth, and The Farm.”
“Again, you’re losing me kid,” I said, mind reeling.
Bip let out an exasperated sigh, “Basically, when God created the Universe and the Big Bang happened, some of that power splashed into the far corners of reality and existence. Little, mini worlds that dot the vast ocean of creation like stars in the sky. Cog 7 is one of those. We call them Rain Drop worlds. Tiny little ecosystems that are self-sustaining and abide by their own set of rules. God doesn’t care about us though cause we’re so small and unimportant. We’re also super far away from the major four realities he initially made so…we’re not really worth His time.”
I was staring down at him, mouth open, “Holy shit, for such a chubby little minion, you sure do know a lot about all this.”
Bip shrugged like it was no big deal, “Guess I have a beautiful mind or something, huh?”
I barked a short laugh and shook my head, trying desperately to make sense of what he was saying, “So hold on. There’s MORE of these places? Little micro realities that were created as an after effect, a result of God’s power SPLASHING across existence during the creation of Earth?”
Bip stuck his lip out like he was a big shot, “Yep, that’s right. Rain Drop worlds. There’s Cog 7, The Red West, Shimmer Vale, a weird beach one I don’t know the name of, The Chrome Sky…it just goes on and on. We’re all part of the Rain Drop system that formed after the God’s Big Bang, a splash of life and creation that was sucked into the furthest corners of existence.”
I shook my head, grasping for sanity, “But…but how the hell…”
Bip looked up at me, his rosy cheeks glowing, “Sometimes, people from your world catch glimpses of the Rain Drop worlds. Usually you see them first in dreams, or nightmares. Tiny, unsuspecting veins of reality that snake through existence. You see, even though we’re all so distance and removed from one another, we’re still connected because we were all born from the same source. Sometimes these worlds collide and even encroach one another. That’s probably why you’re here. Did you dream about this place?”
I nodded dumbly, completely blown away, “Yeah…when I was kid I started seeing glimpses of this…this hallway or passage. It was everywhere. And then it wasn’t just in my dreams, it was in my waking world as well.”
Bip raised a finger triumphantly, “Yep! Once you see the seams, you can never un-see them. They become more and more insistent, and begin to pull at your mind. I don’t really know why, but that’s just how it is. In your case, you saw the seams as a-” he looked up at me, “you said a hallway? Weird…never heard of that before.”
“So it just…pulled me here, into Cog 7, because…because I KNEW about it?” I cried.
“Something like that,” Bip said, turning back to watch the continuous orgy below us. “But that wouldn’t be enough. Did something happen to you?”
I raked a hand through my hair, “I don’t know…I think I was in a car accident right before I woke up here.”
Bip snapped his little fingers, “That explains it!”
“What do you mean?”
Bip chuckled, “I think you’re almost dead.”
Bip groaned, “Stop yelling. You’re not dead or you would have gone to your assigned afterlife since you’re from one of the big four.”
“But you said-”
Bip held up a finger, “I said you’re almost dead. Your soul was pulled here because it doesn’t know where to go right now. You’re in-between. And since you’ve had Cog 7 pulling at your mind your whole life, you woke up here. For now.”
“How do you KNOW where I’m from?” I practically screamed.
Bip signed patiently, “Because we’ve had another from your world end up here, a long time ago. He looked like you. Except he didn’t have a dumb name like Jack.”
“And you remember that?! Just how old are you?”
Bip sniffed, “Old? You mean how many Harvests am I? Seventy-six.”
My jaw dropped.
“Look,” Bip continued, “This is all very unimportant right now. Just sit back and watch the show. You’ll either wake up in your world soon or your soul will be sent along to where it’s supposed to go, ok?”
I felt madness crash into my skull like falling trees, each one more thunderous than the last, bringing with them cracks in my psyche. How could any of this be possible? How could reality ripple so broadly beyond the one I knew? And yet here I was, watching thousands of corn people fornicate beneath a machine sun.
I collected myself as best I could, shuffling reason and order back into their respective slots, and turning my eyes back to the Crow. It was disappearing into the horizon, leaving in its wake a trail of squirming, squirting, seizing sex slaves.
As the procession continued, I watched with upsetting fascination as the corn people began to jerk and shudder, their bodies suddenly bloating. They pulled themselves off one another and lay down side by side in the dirt, clasping hands.
“Baby time,” Bip giggled, rubbing his chunky hands together.
The corn people continued to bloat, like balloons filling with air, and then from between their legs, something began to emerge. Against my better judgment, I shaded my eyes and looked closer at one of the couples, and what they were birthing.
It was a piece of corn, protruding from a swollen orifice just below their genitalia. The bloating traveled through the canal and I saw a head of corn attached to a motionless child, just a little smaller than Bip. I couldn’t believe they could pass through without ripping something, but none the less, shoulders slipped through, then arms, then legs, finally to flop out of their parents to lay unmoving on the ground.
The parents sighed with relief and sat up, turning over their new child, eyes alight. They gripped the piece of corn jutting from its head and violently snapped it off, tossing the growth aside like it was garbage. Immediately, the newborn opened its eyes and smiled, climbing to its feet and hugging its parents.
My eyes traveled across the fields and I saw thousands of similar scenes, each one bringing another tree crashing into my skull. What…the…fuck. As the newborns awoke, they began to line up and march out of the fields, heading for the base of the cliff I was on. The parents groggily got to their feet, waving goodbye, exhausted satisfaction glowing around each one of them.
“Where are they going?” I whispered, eyes wide.
Bip pointed at his feet, “We live below the hill until its our time to take our parents place. Look, here comes the replacements now.”
And sure enough, the new children passed through a mass of slightly older corn people, the two crowds mingling and then passing by one another. The parents who had just birthed were now turning away from us, and slowly walking towards the horizon.
Towards the colossal metal giant, Molzroth.
“What are they doing?” I asked, breathless.
Bip sighed, “They’ve done their part. Now that they have been Uprooted, they walk the last part of their journey. Molzroth will consume them and use their bodies as fuel to continue turning the great sun, keeping the cycle of life in motion.”
I suddenly gripped my chest as I felt something like lightning shoot through it. I gasped and went down on one knee, groaning. Bip just looked at me like he knew what was happening.
Gritting my teeth, still clutching my chest, I looked up at the new flock who had passed the recently birthed. They were burrowing themselves into the fields, replacing their elders, and burying their bodies up to their knees.
“And now they will grow strong,” Bip said, almost in awe, “To await their own Harvest. It’s pretty neat, huh?”
Something rocked through my chest again and I squeezed my eyes shut, gripping my heart as pain flared through it. Through tear filled eyes, I saw the old husks form a long formation and march heavily towards Molzroth, their final resting place.
A third jolt ripped through me and I fell onto my back, wheezing. What the hell was going on?!
“I think your world is trying to call you back,” Bip said sadly, “I’m going to miss you Jack. You’re kind of dumb, but I like you.”
I lay panting, waiting for the agony in my chest to subside. Bip shuffled over and knelt down next to me. He gently stroked my shoulder, almost affectionately.
“Bye Jack,” he said softly, and then extended his finger one last time, a big goofy grin on his chubby face, “Boop!”
As his pudgy finger pressed into my cheek, I spasmed, hard, and screamed, my body arching in agony as the world spun and realigned, color and sound and smell swirling together only to be lost in groaning, empty darkness.
I awoke in ambulance, screaming, and batted away hands that hung over me. I was covered in sweat, pain spiking through every fiber of my body. I gasped and cried, spinning in the stretcher, the wail of a siren blaring over me.
An EMT hovered over me, eyes wide. In his hands he held the paddles of a defibrillator.
“Hey he’s back with us!” He cried to the driver, “Step on it! He’s still bleeding internally and we don’t know what else was broken in the crash! GO!”
Panting, shock rattling me, I realized I was back in my world.
And then I started to laugh, big painful heaves of braying madness. Tears rolled down my face and my body screamed in protest, but I couldn’t stop myself.
What in the hell had I just witnessed?