Ia Ia: What A Novel Phrase

This Week’s Prompt:25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

The Prior Research:Part 1  ,Part 2

The Resulting Stories: Black Sun Part 1,Part 2,Part 3

In our final word on this prompt, brothers and sisters, I wish to discuss the grandson of Yog Sothoth’s modern incarnations. And how…eschew they sometimes are. For the lord dreaming in Ryleh tends to be combined with two other figures of mortal antagonism: The Devil and entities like Godzilla.

The first being more rampant, we’ll approach it first. There is a trend, perhaps well intended, to make Cthulhu a grand source of evil in the cosmos. Many a demon lord in gaming has his visage, and his rare forays into film bleed over into Satanism more than the strange, global, and aboriginal nature his cult has in the original work.

This is strange, given the difference between the two characters. We said our piece on the devil here. And if there is something dependable dealing with the diabolic it is a desire to destroy mankind. Either a moral corruption through temptation, or a physical filth through literal death and devastation. The lords of locusts in Revelation and the great dragons of medieval times care deeply about humanity. They want it dead and ruined, and hate it like only someone who is dear to the subject can hate.

And that level of personal sadism is uncommon if not absent from Mr. Lovecraft’s work. The great Nyrlanhotep, the Crawling Chaos and Man in the Woods, is the closest to a devil figure. He is often the patron of witches and nightmares, and in some tales it is he who brought us the atomic bomb. And when Azazoth decides it is time to undo all creation, it will be he who heralds the end of the universe.

But Cthulhu certainly is not such a subversive entity. Firstly, his direct influence on the world is rather limited (a few days span, when he rises from the deep), and secondly, he is more a destroyer by accident than intent. Cthulhu rising is a terror, but it is a terror because his mere prescence is toxic. And while his draconic features imply impish and hellish mind, he appears to lack it past the rousing of his children and perhaps his extended kin of Great Old Ones.

It would be easy to blame Derleth. Derleth attributed to Cthulhu an evil disposition, and arrayed against him gods that might be called angelic (although later writers made them just as horrible, if perhaps less abrasive). But we cannot blame him alone. There is, as they say, at least one other. Simon.

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Simon’s real name is unknown, but what is known is that he penned a work claiming to be the legendary Necronomicon. Within, he writes a mythology that attempts to weave Babylonian narratives together with ones of the mythos. As well as promote an idea of magic and occultism that will trump all other such organizations.

The book links clear Satanic imagery with Tiamat, Azazoth, and Cthulhu, placing them as the greatest of evils in the cosmos and the masters of innumerable demons. To those who know the mythos, this is head-scratching on a number of levels, with several orders of being represented as the same. Further, the presentation of the Mad Daemon Sultan as an ally or lieutenant of Tiamat seems more bizarre. Perhaps Simon was some foolish cultist who misunderstood the Mad Arab.

But the book became famous, as books of sin and darkness that assert they grant mastery of the universe are want to do. I will spare my readers the questions of its authenticity, given that Mr. Lovecraft himself never asserted the Necronomicon was real, and instead present a second notion for this conflation of the Devil and Cthulhu: Modernity.

The devil, with his horns and brass tridents has become, perhaps, to familiar. The dragon has likewise suffered, no longer an alien beast of horror and terror, but a creature that is familiar in its own faerie way. The Mythos, and the squid headed Cthulhu in particular, are similar enough to step in as devils, yet bear an air of strangeness often lacking in modern demons (granted, this is enhanced by leaving the strangeness out of devils and angels. But I digress).

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The comparisons to Godzilla and similar large monsters rest almost on the other end. Many seem to believe that what renders Cthulhu terrifying is his sheer girth. His mass and his ability perhaps to regenerate are what makes him a threat to human kind. This is likewise mistaken.

Firstly, in the Mythos, the threat of Cthulhu clearly transcends the physical. He sends forth dreams and visions across the glob, and if some sources are to be believed, he is quiet a knowledgeable beast. He has flown from distant stars after all, and command wars. We know he lays dreaming, and the Dreamlands of Lovecraft are no small matter. Lastly, some texts call him high priest of his own kin, a child of that dread creature Yog Sothoth. Such a pedigree and position implies a more calculating and expansive threat then mere mass.

Secondly, Godzilla in particular is peculiar. In most renditions of giant monsters, there is a tone of punishment. These are holy avengers let loose, either for the dead or the environment or the mistreated scientist and so on. They have come because man has grown proud, to remind us of our smallness and teach us to respect something or another.

And while Cthulhu shows our smallness in the vast cosmos…he does only that. There is no primeval wrong he is undoing, and the advent of technology has little to do with his ascent. There is no morality to the Great Old One that we know of (except, of course, the disagreement over whether he will liberate or destroy the world, but that is a matter of mortal debate). If there is some cosmic significance to his conflict, it has little to do with our fate in particular. The threat of Cthulhu is amoral – it seeks neither destruction or aid to mankind. Merely to pursue its own agenda regardless of the effects on the world.

I will here make mention of a few other modern treatments of Cthulhu that my fellow brothers might find interesting, if unusual. Mr. Neil Gaiman wrote an autobiography of Cthulhu, as well as a British mystery story. There is of course the now famous video game Cthulhu Saves the World. And lastly, the wonderful people at Extra Credits have compiled a video honestly could have replaced this.

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Black Sun, pt. 2

This week’s prompt: 25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Read The Rest Here: The Black Sun, pt. 1,Black Sun Finale: The Account

The Research: Part 1,Part 2,Part 3

The board of directors and there various associates agreed to meet on Walpurgisnacht. Mr. Derelth’s complaint (or as he preferred it, concern) was not as it turned out unique. The various associates confirmed to him the date must be Walpurgisnacht, because no other time was amicable to all the directors and yes, sadly, all of them would be necessary. The meeting would be held in Germany, per the old meetings, and because the location was of easy access to the majority of the directors.

After all, many were buried in the Teutonic forests, and dragging them any great distance would be a hassle.

Derelth thus found himself in a small carriage (the directors found the booming of a combustion engine intolerable and bothersome), dressed as best he could manage and quite terrified. He had never attended such a meeting. The board had spoken to him after the Great War, briefly, to inform him of some of the relics he had and to ensure he knew what signs to beware. And then, it had been through an agent who seemed only dimly aware of his purpose.

The meeting place was a large house atop a hill. It was built, from Derelth’s best understanding, before. Before what was a hard fact to nail down. Certainly before the Great War. Likely, by all accounts, before the unfortunate business at the Bastille. Possibly before the British lost their colonies. And after that accounts drifted farther and farther, with on deluded attendee that traveled with Derelth asserted it was nothing less than older than the forest itself.

Derelth arrived at the cyclopean stone structure. Outside was a man dressed in the old manner of a manservant. He was a tall balding man, almost pale blue around his veins. He bowed greatly as Derelth stepped out.

“Mr. Jonas Derelth? Is that you?” The man said, standing up right with a tedious clik-clik-clik noise. Jonas Derelth nodded slowly, taken aback by someone knowing his first name. It was a secret he had made some effort to keep, avoiding even public records where he could.

After all, even he knew that in the secret places of the world, names are powerful things.

He was lead into a room lined with veiled portraits. The tall footman stood beside three hundred others, each leading a new guest gripping some package or another. They were shown seats, a long a great black wooden table. On the otherside of the room, an identical desk stood. And behind it, the directors.

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A number of them were grim visages, men dressed in hides of beasts and adorned with antlers and skulls. They seemed for a moment to be mere smoke, shaped like men as they sat. Some were women wearing helms of battle, some were almost child like if only they were not so terrible to behold. And a host swirled behind these, phantoms with swords and spears and staves.

In the center of the directors, on the greatest seat, was a man eight feat tall. He had a long beard, kept in orderly curls. He’s skin was bronzed, and his suit was green with gold ornamentation. Attending him were forty nine other men, dressed in long robes and veiled. Their eyes flashed like lighting from behind the robes. When Derelth and the others got seated, he was the first to speak, with a voice that boomed and shook the seats.

“We are gathered here to see this proof, that something troubles our great woods and shakes the cedars again. Show us what has come, that we might render judgement upon you.”

The procession was quickened by fear. Derelth saw great statues of seashells brought forward, with scorpion men or many headed dragons. His own great disk stood beside numerous others, each featuring that strange black spiral sun. All looked erratic, irregular shapes, unfinished ideas that still seemed real. Like the worst of a Bosch painting, or the troublesome drawings of a half sane man.

Each told the selfsame story, of some strange and half awake artist bringing in dread drawings of cannibalistic cadavers or crawling criminal crocodiles or other worse creations. All they said from their dreams. And this troubled the directors greatly. Particularly the man in the middle who’s voice was akin to thunder and who’s glare was like lighting.

But it was another man, one of the ghastly host on the periphery, who first spoke.

Annuaki2.png

“This is…troubling. The border between dream and reality ought to be more sure than this. Why, I know this stone,” he said fluttering over to one of the dark stone sculptures, “and it is found in those deepest of dreams, that come perchance once a century. The dreams of deep things that know this sort of slippery stone. The dreams of deep and wide-eyed sharks and that kind. Dreams that no mortal man should see.”

“Something has dredged it all up, then,” another director with bark skin and branch fingers said. “Dragged up all this to the mortal mind. What of it? We saw the sun rise and set over these very woods in the minds of men. Veles comes, Veles goes. The winds rage for a time, but all is gone by the end except perhaps a new scar.”

“No, no,” the man in green said, standing again, “no, my good Leshy, these things do not rise. This sable sun, this pitch colored star is an omen of old. Before the forests where trees, back when they were the Great Mother’s hair and when the lakes still ran with her blood.”

“The earth turns all things back again,” the Leshy said, standing tall, taller even then the man in green. “What of it? Why call this conclave to speculate?”

“We are not speculating, you indignant sprite!” the man in green boomed. And the room shook. “No, no, mere speculation would be welcome. In the hazy realm of possibility and chance, things may change and perfect. But this? No, no, I know these signs of old. The Black Sun across the sea, that dread fertile mother is rising again to zenith. The father flame, from which all terrors spill, it rises once more from the embers.”

“Your talking nonsense. What is this of fathers and mothers? Dreams have been bent by other calamity.”

“Once,” the man in green said, suddenly calm, “there was a mother-father, who dearly loved her children. For he-she had a thousand fold a thousand children. Each a different face, a mind of its own, cleaving and tearing at the skies and seas. For you see, in those days, there was no earth. But in time, some of her children got the mind to slay others. There was much fighting. And the mother-father, torn at the devastation, slept, and was content to sleep until the blood stopped flowing.

“And so it was for many a millennia. Most of the children died. The others built halls out of their bones, made their skin into lands and their hair into trees. The children taught the animals, the plants, and eventually the men and women of the world their arts. How to fight as they did, how to write as they did, how to bend fire as they did. In time, the squabbling children came to accord. But there was still the matter of the mother-father. For should she stir, again she would have children in multitudes. And again they would tear at the world, until all was naught.

“So they taught the world how to lie to it’s mother-father. To make mock battle, to wage war in the ways he-she expected. And the children rested. But in time, they too died. Most anyway. Children rarely live long. Others left, to find new places and new homes. Such is life, that the men, women, plants, and animals forgot or fought those ways. The last few trickles of blood ran dry perhaps four centuries ago.

“Not that war has been forgotten, but war as the children fought it? No, it has been lost. And so he-she has begun to wake. First he-she comes in dreams, an echo of the world primeval. We must gird ourselves for battle, for soon he-she will come as the doom of thrones and crowns. And their will be new children born, and the world will break and bend if nothing is done.

“But what perplexes me,” the man in green said, as all stared stunned, “is why no more such shapes have come? What has silenced them, who perhaps lulled her back to sleep?”

For part 1.

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The Black Sun, pt. 1

This weeks prompt: 25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Related Research: Part 1,Part 2,Part 3

The Later Stories:Part 2,Part 3

Derleth had run his antique shop for longer than some of his antiques had existed. A few paintings towards the back, caked with dust, were older than the store, but they were of such poor quality and little worth that Derelth didn’t think of them. The sign outside proudly informed the public that all interred artifacts predated the century and the automobile . It was an attempt both at luring some customers and deter many others.

Such enamored customers did not typically include the likes of Robert Crane. Derelth was reading his books when Robert Crane stumbled in. Robert Crane was the sort that newspapers referred to as “ a product of the lately dismal times”, or as Derelth said “the slag of modern furnace”. His face was puffed as his shirt, his eyes red on the edges from lack of sleep. His coat was a faded blue, far too large, and with worn faux fur trim. A package wrapped in brown paper was in his pale shaking hands.

“Can I help you?” Derelth asked, peering over his glasses. His books needed balancing, due to a recent number of recent antiques flooding the market. Prices had to be managed after all.

“Yeah, you buy stuff right?” Robert said, eyes darting around. Derelth frowned. He was not a fan of informal language regarding his properties.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You buy stuff? Like, rocks and pens and scrolls and the such?” Robert asked, his dilated pupils fixing on Derelth.

“I purchase, collect, and display artifacts, yes sir.” Derelth said slowly, the sir stinging slightly on his toungue. Robert Crane was the very last person that Mr. Derelth would ever call sir. A babe had more right to the term sir.

“Great. I’ve got a new one for you.” Robert said, placing the package on the counter. “Just finished it, should be worth maybe three hundred?”

Derelth stared apoplectic. He was a tad light headed for a moment as the phrase worked it’s way through the gears and pistons of his mind. Eventually, after a good deal of soul searching and mental repair, Derelth believed he, in fact, had heard the words “a new one” refer to an artifact.

“A…A new one?”

“Yeah, like I said, just finished it.”

“Sir,” Derelth said slowly, his voice dropping to the stern tone of an English teacher, “I do not purchase ‘new’ art. There is a gallery down the road, which might entertain your piece.”

“Nah, its too old for them, they wouldn’t get it.”

“Too old? You said it was just finished!” Derelth said, standing up and glaring at Robert, “Can you not read? The sign outside clearly states, in the King’s English, that only antiques predating the century will be sold here. Return in ten decades time, and then we shall talk about buying whatever this is.”

“I made it yesterday, but not here.” Robert said, as if he were explaining the fact that sky was blue.

“Where you made it has no bearing on it’s age. Its a day old, regardless where it was made.”

“Dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia. And thats where I carved this wonder, this little nightmare, was off in the land of dreams.”

Derelth paused at that. Those words, they were not the kind to emerge from someone like Robert Crane’s mouth. They were old words, strange and alien in a faux fur coat.

“Well, I suppose I could see it then,” Derelth said, recovering a bit of his composure. “and better recommend a gallery for your artistry then.”

“I already told you its too old for all that. But you’ll get it when I show it I think.” Robert said, grinning far too wide for Derelth’s comfort. He carefully placed the package on the table. Such caution, Derelth reckoned, betrayed the shape as being of glass or other, more fragile material.

Robert’s hands worked like reverse spiders, rapidly and delectably weaving tears in the packaging. Tiny strips of brown butchers paper gave way as did the tiny bits of tape holding it all together. The fingers did an excellent job of fufilling that mystic paradox, obscuring the very thing they strained to reveal. Why, it was an effort to tell them apart, as Derelth watched them scurry back and forth along the paper, testing here and there for a possible easy tear.

But at last it was revealed. A great disk, maybe two feet in diameter, of carefully wrought stone. No, no Derelth said. It wasn’t quite stone. A bit too shiny, almost a more compromised smoke. Almost out of focus. Squinting, Derelth saw that the stone was finely carved. The flatness of the disk was do to the smallness of the detail. Retrieving a magnifying glass, he examined it. Along the edge were flood waters, a running river. Great fish and crocodiles were carved in minutia.

But the next line in showed more startling things. There were things that Derelth was familiar with, men with fish tails or the like. But the scene itself was not of frolicking mermen or the like, but rather villages and obelsisks being over run by alligators. Or rather, tree like things with alligator heads and arms in place of roots. Many heads decorated the strange creatures necks.

Derelth paused his examination there, slowly looking at the next layer, mountains that had mighty dragons and lions roaming in them. They are full teeth, and a number have skin carved to resemble great boulders. Some had no face or the face of insects, dripping mandibles. Some of the lion-dragons or their kin hearded lines of wild men, naked and miserable toward a mighty pile. Derelth’s eyes widened as he saw a great solar disk atop the temple and shrines.

“This does appear to be an old script. What did you say your name was?” Derelth said slowly, not taking his eyes off the disk.

“Robert Crane sir.”

“No, the other one.” Derelth said, glancing up. “The older one.”

“I don’t get your meaning. I went by RC once, few years back, but I don’t know any older name except when my mum called me Bobby.”

“Let me be clearer.” Derelth said, putting down his glass. “What did they call you when you made this?”

“Ah, I don’t know. I only remember when I’m, you know, there.”

Derelth paused, lost in thought. This was unexpected. The images were startling, but that was more due to their familarity than their shocking depictions. No, Derelth knew those images well. He had a book of them, in a vault in the back.

“Mr. Crane, I know a number of men who would be willing to purchase this, at a nearby museum.I’m willing to offer you a thousand for it.”

“A thousand? Mister, that’d be great, but you seemed a bit spooked by it.” Robert Crane said, slowly putting his hand over the sculpture.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I can’t have someone buy it who’s going to break it.”

“I assure you, I will do no such thing.”

“Still. Hows about something else, just in case? Have you got any of the waters, from the old rivers?” Robert asked, looking around expectantly, “I hear they can take you places.”

Derelth paused, thinking a moment before replying. The answer was a bit complicated.

“I will talk with some of my associates on acquiring some waters from the Gange or somesuch, if that is your price.”

That seemed to satisfy Mr. Crane, who smiled and left. Derelth stood alone with the piece, tempted greatly to smash it. But no, the board would need to see this. This was not something that came out of the times. The times were meant to put a stop to this nonsense.


As I said last time, this story will be presented in three parts. As this was the first and introductory part I find it…acceptable? My time working on it was not the best, and while it seems a decent start at times, it also doesn’t quite click on it’s own. What corpse did you uncover, dear brothers and sisters? Did it’s bas relief provide any terrors?

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Ia Ia, Cthulhu F’taghn. What A Wonderful Phrase.

This weeks prompt: 25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Later Research:Part 2,Part 3

The Resulting Stories: Black Sun Part 1,Part 2,Part 3

This prompt gifts us with a rather clear cut outline. I will dwell very rarely on the specific here, however, and entire into something a bit more deep of a dive. For the stars have aligned, my good brothers and sisters. Firstly, we approach the fiftieth post (our twenty fifth story). Secondly, fortuitously, this stands as perhaps the prompt for the most famous story of Mr. Lovecraft. The Call of Cthulhu.

For such an occasion, we cannot simply go without celebration. So, we will be extending both the story and the research into three parts. Here, we shall discuss the great priest of the Old Ones himself, his mythic ties, his modern depictions, and ia ia. Our story will like wise be in three parts, such that in six weeks time our revelry will be done. And then our normalcy will return.

If by some luck you are unfamiliar with the story of the arch-squamous one, I recommend reading it now. It is a delight and a classic of horror, if a bit weighty as most of Lovecraft is. The nature of the tale is (like ours) split into three sections, and runs about a novella long.

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Cthulhu stands as an interesting character in horror. He is an odd personality, a monster that stands as an icon now…but is rarely present in his own tale. So vast and huge is the difference between himself and his appearance in the popular mind that establishing where his stands from a myth or arch typical perspective is necessary.

While there are hold outs that attest to his nature as an alien power (The Mountains of Madness confirm this), and originally seems to lack any mystical proprieties, he none the less taps into a mythic mold. Namely, a force of Khaos, defeated and sealed ages back.

By this I mean, Cthulhu is (by all accounts) a thinking entity. He is not human, and thinks in a way alien to us, but he is not himself a gibbering god like Azazoth or a massive and mighty Shoggoth. He is alien and disturbing, but he is not insane. And in myth we have plenty of similar creatures.

We have of course mighty Tiamat, mother of monsters, and her lawgiver Kingu. Both, like Cthulhu, bear a resemblance to aquatic lifeforms, and both bear an association with dragons. And both further are defeated by a younger age of similar entities (the Elder Things and the likes of Marduk). Kingu as a subordinate servant with still great power resembles Cthulhu in particular, with Cthulhu being pontiff and grandson of Yog-Sothoth.

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Such creatures also bear Lovecraftian description (many heads) things with all description (containing mineral, animal, and vegetable qualities) or even as Hundun, a Chinese entity who walks like a man with no nose, mouth, or eyes. The primeval entity Leviathan in some midrashic lore likewise predates the current creation, and capable of waging war on the almighty YHWH alone.

In the lore of the Aztecs a great crocodile prevented the current creation, with a mouth on every joint, named Cipactli who devoured the foot of one of the great gods. In Greek myth, the Titans lack a clear oceanic link, but Typhon (a mighty dragon like creature that stands like a man) rose from the deep to make war on Olympus. So tall that the stars were knocked aside by his head, the great last son of earth made war on Zeus, driving all other Olympians to flee before him. If it weren’t for a nearby shepherd saving Zeus’s sinews, he would be driven out. Again like Cthulhu he is a descendant of a mightier set parents (Gaia and Erebus for the record).

UndeadAuthorSocietyCipactli

All this is to say, fear of the sea and great creatures in it extends past song. The sea is often acknowledge as a primeval lord. Poseidon, the great Greek God of the Sea, unleashes storms and rages against the authority of Zeus in the Illiad. In the Oddessey he fathers monstrous races like the Cyclops and worse. The sea goddess of the Netsilik like wise sends terrors and misery when left unappeased, and is mother of all creatures from the sea as well.

The dragon kings of the sea are mighty enough to earn respect from the Jade Emperor in the Journey to the West. Uncheliga emerges from Lakota myth likewise, She was described at first as having no real shape or form; she had eyes of fire, and a fanged mouth that was shrouded in a smoky or cloudy mass. As time went on further, her form was exposed as being massive, with a long scaly body whose natural armor was almost impenetrable. Her eyes burned with wrathful hunger, her claws were like iron, and her voice raged like thunder rolling in the clouds.

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Typhon

From the sea comes the enemies of the gods, then. And Cthulhu fits this initially in a symbolic sense, at first anyway. He towers as a draconic-squid-man from the sea, who’s rising would end the age of human dominance (which is also the age of the gods). This notion is reinforced with later inventions by August Derleth, who sets the forces led by Cthulhu against as the Elder Gods (yes, yes the naming is a tad confusing). While Derleth’s connections remove some of the horror and utter alien-ness of Cthulhu and sometimes impose a morality, there is an underlining reason.

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Cthulhu’s nature, and what sets him apart from all others (and what ties him to this prompt), is his more than active mind. Cthulhu, when he begins to rise, effects and infects other minds with messages. As we’ve said countless times, visions and inspiration from dreams has divine connotations. This makes Cthulhu’s rise more like a volcanic erruption (which is often called the breath of Typhon) than anything else. It should be said that this is an unusual incident. Only at the right time is something so terrible glimpsed.

Cthulhu bears one more trait akin to those older beings: His kin are terrors. Cthulhu bears four known children by his own kind: Cthylla, Ghatanothoa, Ythogtha, and Zoth-Ommog. Each is worshiped in its own right. And then there are his subjects, the alien star spawn who shift shape and size at will like demons or djinn.

Cthulhu’s presence as a divine terror glimpsed in a moment of inspiration ties him to those dread Muses we once discussed, as well as some diabolical tales of musicians making deals with for inspiration. But all that is for another time. For now we will leave the great god below. For now.

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The Fall of Ziegera, pt 1

This Week’s Prompt:24. Dunsany—Go-By Street. Man stumbles on dream world—returns to earth—seeks to go back—succeeds, but finds dream world ancient and decayed as though by thousands of years.

This Week’s Research:The Fantastic Fae From Faraway!

I was but a boy when I first ventured past the fields we know. It is domain of children and innocents, that land of imagination that every youth and maiden is familiar with. Ask any of them of the wonders they saw, the adventures they were on, their great companions in that last gasp of freedom. It is an old, ever shifting land. Chaotic and full of ogres.

Adulthood lies to us, and insists that this world, this waking world of skyscrapers and certainty, is the real world. That distant Allnar is no such thing, that the castles beneath the sea cannot possibly be real. And some change comes over us in time. Some shift in the chemistry of the mind, some dilation of the eyes. And we can no longer see that beauty that bewitched us. The world robs us of naïve light.

But some of us, some us will not go quietly. There was a man in the former colonies who shrugged off the chains of this earth long ago. In Ireland, tales persist of those who are ‘whisked’ away. And I, for a time I was such a man. The doors into that great place lay open to me.

Even into the end of college days, I would lie in bed content. I sailed on the great river, which casts it shadow on the world as the shrunken and feeble Nile. With a large red sailed boat I sailed on to Allnar, that city by the sea. Its shining spires and great clock towers. I remember I would dance for days within the courts carved in crystal, with the ladies all dressed in lace.

I rode on the back of black horse to the west, to Ziegera, where the fields were gold with wheat and metal. Where the mighty mountains of iron feed furnaces of the people, to raise glorious ziggurats and temples of steel to idols of bronze. I bowed to priests as I passed, who knew the hidden words of the world.

The north of Ziegera was a wild place, a wood ruled by the King of Bears, a comrade in arms since I was a boy. He was as old as a mighty oak, and as fierce as a thundering storm. There the bears make war against the forces of the north, the whirling wind spirits that would blow the world away. And with them I made jolly pacts and feasted to their victory.

Returning to the world that we know was painful though. The priests at Ziegera told me it must be so. For centuries might pass between our meeting, but to speak with shadows was how it must be. Down into the cave, to be held with iron chains I was sent.

The world we know was always so drab. What man can make his fortune in London these days? Yonder Windgift boasts often that it has jobs to spare, a hungry Moloch looking to consume a helpless flock. The sea sings another song still, that young men might lose life and limb to the treacherous monsters that call it home.

And I believed this even in when the world was calm. When the great guns of war were unknown, when the battery of mighty canon did not echo off the shore of Britannia. When we feared ghosts conjured by suspect spiritualists, shadows of shadows, are delusions of meaning in a monstrous world. I bore the reality of existence as a yoke bears its masters load. Not happily, but not moaning under it either. After all, Allnar awaited in yawning dreams.

I was thirty when I found a route easier than mere sleep. For sleep bought me a few days, perhaps, on the coasts and in the woods of glory. But when I was in that twilight of life, I found something most amazing.

I was walking  down an old path through my families woods, when such things were still respectable. The moon hung full and a light in the sky, shining it’s pale glory down as I walked. There was, to my knowledge, nothing peculiar about my behavior that night. No solemn prayer to pagan gods, no deep mediation. I was walking, can in hand, down the forest street when I came to the river.

There was always a creek in my woods. Since boyhood, there had been but a simple bridge across, and I had paid it no mind in decades. It was maybe two hands wide, barely capable of slowing down even a small child wading through.

But some strange fae light had fallen upon my boyhood creek, and now it looked all the grander. It was a river, mighty and sure, so wide that I could not see the other side. The bridge was still there, stretching out to eternity. But while before it was naught but wood, it now was of brilliant diamond and emerald.  Green and glittering beneath the light of Diana, it waited for me to cross.

The Woods

Perhaps a wiser man would question it. Perhaps a smarter man would have stared more deeply, inspected it’s construction. Perhaps. But I am more a man of foolishness and bravery than any such man. Despair is Wisdom’s handmaiden, and it is misery’s sweet kiss that shows one the secrets of the world. I walked across trembling at first, then with greater haste, until at last I was sprinting and full of wind.

And then I was in that land again, that wonderful city of stars, that crystalline castle. And there I remained for months, laughing again. My limbs were young, my spirit alive. It was as if I went out into a garden after being sick for ages, as if I was blind and now I saw the wonder of the Sophia. I saw the seasons come and go, the kings of winter riding on horses of clouds. I traveled to new lands yet unseen, distant Cathay and the realm of the evergreens.

For a time, I settled, though were is lost to me. It was stolen, long ago, from my mind. But I recall the joy of life in that cabin or house, entertaining friends and farming soil. But it could not last. One night, they came dressed in iron robes and with eyes of fire.

The priests of Ziegera, with great golden staves and silver knives gathered around my house one night, years since I had come. I was out hunting when they arrived, and when I returned nothing of my hall remained but ash. Flame bleched from the priests mouths upon my fields, and there silver knives were stained red.

I drew my steel, my mind remembering a hundred wars in this world of Allnar, a thousand victories over demons and spirits of the sky. I was, since boyhood, the triumphant hero of creation. Some shambling priests could not stand before me.

“It is not the place for shadows and fancies to linger this long. We warned you often, Jahpeth, we warned you well. Bodies as frail and mortal as yours are not meant for this place.” The high priest said from his throne of sure silver. His mouth and eyes flicker as he continued, his fellows glaring down upon me. “Had you any piety for this place, any obedience to it’s laws, long ago you would have cross that emerald. But you stay, and that we cannot allow any longer. Your presence, you old decayed man, invites your attendants. Look! Do you not see them, swirling about your footsteps, etching themselves into the songs of the world?”

I paid them no heed, a brave fool still. But I forgot that one great word of the Greeks: Not even Hercules may best two. So homeward I was sent tossed into the river against my will. The priests began their solemn chants as I floated along still.

Find part 2 here.

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The Fall of Ziegera, pt 2

This Week’s Prompt:24. Dunsany—Go-By Street. Man stumbles on dream world—returns to earth—seeks to go back—succeeds, but finds dream world ancient and decayed as though by thousands of years.

This Week’s Research:The Fantastic Fae From Faraway!

A flood, my savior told me, had nearly washed me under and away. I thanked him bitterly, he knew not what he had done. The next night, for naught but a few hours had passed, I went in search of that emerald bridge. But it was gone. The planks of the old bridge were ripped asunder. There was nothing. I took some solace, reckoning that in my dreams I would witness great rivers and iron mountains.

I was wrong.

I did not dream. I slept and my body seemed to fade into nothing. My mind followed shortly, subdued by slumber. And then I simply was again. If this was always the case, perhaps you cannot grasp the little death that accompanied me.

At first panic seized me. Those priests, who my friends told me where but figments of some over active mind, had banished me back. Cast me down to world that more and more seemed to be the slag and ash of a great wonder. I raced wild for some time, I will not lie. I sought dens of those trying to escape. I went to places that dealt often in dreams.

Panic gave way, however, to his older brother Terror. Day by day the sky turned stained. Hour by hour I saw color slipping through my skin. The woods faded, the roads grew. The great factories continued to rise, and then became ruins in time. The castles and manors were lost, first to monks as stern as stones, then to nothing in particular. Perhaps just to rot.

In time, I grew to look at my sickness as a science. I had heard, from a friend in the Indes, that certain holy waters were said to grant visitations. That if one wanted to cross a fabled river, a glass of its water would do the trick, whisking one’s soul away to that forgotten place. Of course, few had heard of the great river the emerald bridge. A nameless river is, after all, hard to find.

It was a rainy day when at last I found a small store that prided itself in such things. Its own defense against the world I suppose. There were jars of preserved bones, each with the saints’ name slapped on with tape. True crosses lined its walls. Such places are dime a dozen, and grew like weeds in desperate times. But what this place had, it’s perhaps one claim to true fame, was the bottles along the wall. Each had a paper tag, this one from the Egyptian Nile, that one from Roman Tiber, here the great Jordan, there the eternal Ganges.

One of these, I reckoned, was that fateful river of the emerald bridge.

I waited until a night when all was quiet and I was alone. I wanted my passing to be swift and sweet, to avoid interference by misguided relatives. I mixed the ashes of a dove’s feather in the cask and drank a single cup. I heard the steel mug clatter on the floor as my hands began to numb. The numb spread over me in a matter of seconds.

When I opened my eyes, I saw that verdant bridge stretching before me. The ground clinked as I ran and danced down the way to that old familiar shore. My laughter rang unopposed through the sky, the stars shining with all the lights of heaven. I nearly collapsed and kissed the ground when at last I set foot on the firm familiar shore.

But not all was right. The woods I knew was no more, nothing but rent stones and thorny groves grew there.  I thought perhaps this was some new season I had missed. Some strange tide that brought oddities. I resolved to head northward, to follow the river to Allnar. After all, perhaps the cunning priests had moved the bridge.

Northward was not as I remembered. When I reached that place that I supposed the great city of shining crystal stood, I found instead a grim sludge. It was as if the earth was bleeding into the river and ocean, a bloody blaze bubbling out. Great shining pillars still stood, but bit by bit they were dragged down. One day I suppose they will sink.

Something had gone horribly amiss. Perhaps, I thought, perhaps I had the wrong cask. Perhaps some curse of the priests had sent me elsewhere. But even I knew this wasn’t right. The pillars bore the old sigils of the Allnar, and some I recalled from my escapades on the ballroom of crystal. I decided to head west, to see the mountains of iron and the priests therein.

There was a distant clicking behind me of hooves as I walked onto those plains, covered in white grass. You would think snow had fallen if it weren’t for the cracking and crinkling sound they made as you stepped. I turned behind myself to see if anyone was following, to confront whatever grim specter waited. But there was nothing to the horizon, except a storm cloud swirling out by the sea where the river came to an end.

Carrying on west, I found the lands of Ziegera no less terrible. The mountains still loomed tall and might, but there were no temples. Instead, great craters and caverns of fire lined there sides, hungry maws of Moloch roaring with smoke. But unlike Allnar, I did here see some living souls. From a ridge I watched them, broken and bent shapes that resembled men. They pushed mighty carts of gleaming gold and burnished bronze, up paths and dumped them into the maws.

As I watched, strange creatures came and went. They looked the part of mortal men, but stood twice as tall and with the heads of lions and tigers. Their mouths spewed fire, and in their hands were great serpentine whips. In iron chariots they rode, taking glee in assailing the poor workers.

I would have turned tail then and there. I heard the distant hoof beats growing quieter now, and if I was to slip by, now would be the time. But one of the older works spotted me. As I made to leave, I heard an aged voice call out.

“Jared?” he said. I stood stark still, a child caught by his parents. The voice, I recalled it dimly. But I could not, even in the land of dreams, place it. I turned as the old man limped away from his cart. Some of the other workers stared on in hushed silence.

“Jared!” he shouted, rushing towards me. His fingers were so thin, they were like claws on my back. I could feel each rib as he embraced me. “I had thought you only a dream from boyhood, a fiction I’d long forgotten! But at last, at last you’ve returned.”

I stared ahead blankly as he turned to the crowd and told of all the things I’d done when I was a younger man. How I had fought against the winds of the North. How I had quested to see that glimmering lion Sharur. How I had only left when the priests drove me out.

And the hoof beats faded at last. I let out a sigh for a moment, glad that at least I had not been caught unawares by whatever foe pursued me. The workers began to stumble back however. And a voice, a voice of pealing thunder, came from behind me.

“Go on, good sir, and finish your story. I have just arrived, but make no pleasantries for me and mine.”

I turned to face the voice, the elder hanging from me like a sash of flesh. And there he stood, atop a great steed. He was tall, taller than I could quite work my head around. I could feel his shadow, stretching from his feet and out over the land until it dimmed even the distant fires. His skin was dark like soot and slag, his breath a venomous green gas full of flies. And his steed, his steed was a wicked thing. Its head was a rabid dog, its tail a serpent, its feet like a lions.

Jared And The Hunt

And behind him were gathered a vast host, each a towering figure atop a monstrous steed, with many heads and mouths. Each bore sword or spear or hammer or whip, cages on their sides and backs. Many roared and bayed as the leader spoke.

The old man stayed silent, his eyes wide.

“No? Then let me intrude. For once I heard of your return, whispered on the winds of the desert, I had to come and pay respect Jared Jahpeth. For without your sturdy bridge of emerald, how could I cross the great river of all torments? Without your cardinal march, I would be bound between the shores. Yet you in your kindness let me in. And now the bridge, broken by the iron of Ziegera a thousand years past opens again! Come, ride with me to glorious conquest and ruination! A thousand year reign, a ten thousand year reign!”

And he reached down a palm the size of nations towards me, aiming to pick me up like a small insect lost in a house. As he lifted me up, I saw that he had a hundred heads stretched above the clouds. Each a new beast, a menagerie of horrors. Each grinned with a thousand teeth and mandibles and in the multitude of eyes I saw cruel delight. And terror held me in place for a time.

I saw stretching before, in those eyes, a mind capable of thousand cruelties upon the soul, a mouth that in ancient times bore plague and war with its breath and words. And when the iron chains of terror loosened on my legs and arms, I turned and leapt off the arm. Limbs outstretched, I flew as only a dreamer can. I dove and swerved over the mountain tall host. A hundred hissing beasts burst from their skin and soared after me, but the mind is faster than the host.

When the familiar green stripe of the bridge appeared, I descended down.  For a moment I let myself breathe, but recalling the hosts earlier trick, the silence was no comfort. I sprinted in a panic towards the bridge. My footsteps in panic trampled their former steps of joy.

At last I found myself in my study. At once I began to pen this note. Trust me well dear reader, for this is locked in my bottom cabinet. Forsake boyhood swiftly, or the realms of dream become a nightmare. Never seek the paths to Allnar, lest they follow you in your steps. The bandits lie in wait on the other side of the emerald bridge, and the once good paths are filled with vipers.

There is no refuge in dreams any longer.

I hope you enjoyed this tale of horror! The body was so big, I couldn’t cut it down to the normal size. Next time, we will have a lengthier research section, as we approach our fiftieth corpse un-interred. Oh, and if you missed part 1, it’s here.

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Mr. Jared Jahpeth

This Week’s Prompt: 23. The man who would not sleep—dares not sleep—takes drugs to keep himself awake. Finally falls asleep—and something happens. Motto from Baudelaire p. 214.

This Week’s Research: Insomnia and the Infernal

Windgift is not a place for lost souls. If you ended up lost in my fair city, it wasn’t by accident. The gird would guard against it, and the constabulary was always on the alert for misplaced workers. And when someone wanted to find you in the fog and cloud, beneath the factories churning light, they came to me. Typically, it was over money or marriage. But rarely, ever so rarely, it was to find out why you ran in the first place.

You in this case was Jared Jahpeth.

“He’d been erratic. Kept getting up in the middle of night, staying out late, and then just vanished. Muttering to himself a lot too. I caught him mixing something into his coffee, some pills. He even admitted to taking them at night, to keep himself working through the night. We were going to see a therapist that day, but he never made it to work.” Mrs. Jahpeth said, staring into my eyes. It was a tad unnerving, her eyes staring straight ahead as she talked. I don’t think she blinked.

We went through the more standard line of questioning after that. What did he look like, any enemies, any hangouts, friends, and so on. All out of town. Jared must have deep debts if he had to jump ship. She left a little more than an hour later, and I packed my things to make my way out onto the sky lit by the crimsons sun and steely clouds.

There was a chance that Luke, down at the pharmacy, had heard of him. There were only three pharmacies in town, and if you’re aiming to stay awake for more than a few days, you’ll need some memorable stuff. Coffee can only carry you so far.

Luke was a portly old man with only a few grey hairs left. He felt out of place in the slick and clean pharmacy, full of plastic cases and pills.  He always reminded me of a candy store salesmen from another world, more than happy to sell things that help people go on living.

“Martin! What are you in for? Anti-depressants? Tums?” he asked with a smile. Luke liked to pretend I was a regular for legitimate reasons. Poor guy.

“Nothing of the sort. Listen, anyone strange come in lately?” I asked, leaning on the white counter.

“Strange?”

“Yeah. Unusual new customers or the like.”

“Not that I can think of. Few kids trying to scam fake doctor’s notes by me, but that’s hardly new. Who’s the suspect this time?” He asked with a sigh.

“Guy named Jared. He’s getting something to keep him up. Anyone like that come by? Might have a doctored note. Kinda lanky, bags under the eyes, skittish.”

“Muttering to himself?” Luke asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah. Probably carrying some coffee.”

“Guy came in a few hours ago. Can’t say much past that, patient confidentiality and all.”

“ Did you get word where he was staying? Just in passing?” I asked, leaning over the counter.

Luke shook his head. A dead end. Well, there were other sources. Outside of Luke’s and across the street there’s a timid old lady. Mrs. Wilcox, poor thing thinks the world is out to get her. Her paranoia makes her sharp, however, and a few years back I convinced her I was a double agent for the nefarious powers that be.

“He went east, looked awful. They’ve gotten to him, clearly, they have. Poor man,” she said through her peephole.

“Gotten to him how?” I asked, scribbling on a note pad.

“His limbs, they’ve injected them with some of the chemicals from their homeworld. They want to see if people can survive. You can tell, his limbs were twitching all the time.” She continue, her eye darting about.

“Thank you, Mrs. Wilcox.” I said, noting to confirm it when I found Jahpeth. Waking drugs will do that.

“And your end? What’s the latest you and your partner have found?” she whispered.

I got halfway through rattling off a list of local politicians that ‘were actually lizardmen’ before stopping.

“Partner?” I asked, turning around. The street was empty.

“Yeah, your partner. He’s in the alley, isn’t he? He’s been walking with you since you left the pharmacy.”

I nodded a bit, finished the tin foil hat wearing nonsense, and walked down the street for a bit. I waited a few blocks before turning around. Sure enough, I saw a shadow dart behind a building. It was a glimpse, but it was there. Sprinting down toward it, I began reviewing a list of possible enemies.

The alley was empty when rounded the corner. The alley only had one exit, and was completely bare. Past that, however, was Main Street. I continued the chase and looked about. I hadn’t caught a good enough glimpse to spot him by appearance. But behavior? No one was running, or looking over their shoulder. Just, vanished.

I retraced my steps with Jared. Wilcox said east. East was easy. There was a common hidey hole out east. See, the coal plant wasn’t in use any more, but it was still burning. There was a gas leak that caught, and well, the fire kept going.

It was evacuated not long after. Eternal fire isn’t exactly a habitable place. Past the warning fence was a preserved town, untouched and uninhabited for twenty years according to official records. Most of the time they were right. The odd squatter got the idea to hide out here for a month or two before leaving. Place almost radiated a sense of unease.

The dust brushed against my feet as I walked through ashen streets, listening. There was a breeze billowing broken doors and a growling flame still deep in the ground. I walked carefully down the streets, scanning for the remains of tracks before the winds washed them away. There wouldn’t be many, but if you looked closely, you could see shifts in the bigger piles of debris.

Eventually, the little impressions and shifts lead me to an small store front. The door was open, either because of the wind or negligence. I closed it slowly. I could hear someone breathing the stairs, hasty gasps, like he was had just run a mile.

Running up the stairs, I stop to see a single room with a bed. There’s a man, Jared, lying there. There are some packages on the desk next to him. A couple books were scattered on the floor. I stepped over them to get a closer look.

“Mr. Jahpeth?” I asked as I approached. His head bent back a bit, and his mouth fell open. And there was a loud, heave, followed by a rustling sound. And then, out it poured. His lung’s, his entire chest collapsed and ash spewed out of his eyes and mouth. His skin greyed and cracked, broken clay revealing an on rush of darkened blood. His bones were charcoal, an unseen fire burning him up.

I gripped the door frame as, after only a few moments, Mr. Jahpeth was naught but dust and bone. That insatiable curiosity of my profession, however, that demon of dark ambition bit my brain. I hunched over to look at the books scattered on the floor.  The ink was splotched, hard to read, but there were diagrams. A drawing of a horned figure, a thing rising out of a skull. I picked through a few more.

The writing was more legible, at first.

“There is a thing ticking in the back of the mind. There is a thing that I see in window panes in the alleys of my dreams. In eyes of distant mountains, in dark places growling things lie. Something is wrong in the skies.”

But the vague poetics began to decay. No doubt his ability to write decayed with Jared’s health. Sleep deprivation does not refine the motor skills.  Gradually, the ink bled into drawings again. Eyes in the ‘o’s, little trees out of ‘t’s.

But then, as I sat scanning book after book, great diagrams of trees full of fire and great birds with many eyes, I noticed something strange. The process seemed to be reversing. Letters were returning, although not English characters. Nor Greek or even vaguely Eastern letters. No, it was strange blockish script, dotted and swirled within it’s confines.

I collected all of it, all the books I could carry and began to leave the ashen place, the fiery pit beside the city roads. But at the door, I noticed some small impression in the ash. A set of tracks entering the house beside my own, visible only a moment before the wind swept them away.

I followed there general direction as the moon rose, yellow and worn. Starlight showed shining hoof tracks, a goat.  But I never found anything. What took Jared I can’t say. His wife didn’t show up at the deadline to hear what happened. When I got to the station, they denied ever hearing of him. Mrs. Wilcox didn’t open her eyehole after that, and a few weeks later her house went up in smoke.

I’m still trying to make sense of it all. I’m grasping at straws and chasing shadows. I’m lost, and the red high noon sun seems to be mocking me for it.

I am not proud of this story, to be honest. I feel it is truncated, missing an underlying horror, and doesn’t properly exploit the fear in dreams and devils. But perhaps it provided some fright or inspiration for your own work? What did you dredge up from the graveyard of dreams?

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Insomnia and the Infernal

This Weeks Prompt: 23. The man who would not sleep—dares not sleep—takes drugs to keep himself awake. Finally falls asleep—and something happens. Motto from Baudelaire p. 214.

This Week’s Story:Mr. Jared Jahpeth

This prompt is a strange one. Like last time, it refers to a text I do not have (that is the poetry of Baudelaire), and while certainly the poems are preserved (we will get to them shortly), there is the problem of determining a motto from the manifest works.  Before that, we have insomnia for some dread reason.

Insomnia, especially self imposed insomnia, has echoes in other existing stories. In fact, I do believe this prompt to have been fulfilled in the story Hypnos written some five years after this prompt. That in mind, I will endeavor any way to see where this seed goes. My own mind is not, after all, that of Mr. Lovecraft.

Devil1

The best beginnings of the plot are with Baudelaire. Baudelaire was a translator of Poe and a poet of no little skill in his own write. My research to narrow his wide catalog relied on letters between Mr. Lovecraft and a friend, bringing me to three of said friends translations: L’Ennemi,Au Lecteur,Remords posthume. Now, the prevailing theme of this poetry is a familiar Lovecraftian one. Decay, time, and the eventual destruction and ruin of things.

But where Baudelaire stands a part is in two precise areas. Unlike Mr. Lovecraft, Baudelaire presents the most important aspect of decay as it’s slowness. Gradual, barely noticeable changes culminate in the dead and desecrated world we now have. This is not unheard of in Lovecraft, but the subtle movements are hard to do in horror literature so focused on the current activities of the character.

The other area is more rich with lore and story. That is, there is in Baudelaire, an active agent of decay. An Enemy, a Devil. Mr. Lovecraft’s personal beliefs on such matters are complex, as while an avowed atheist, the role of devil is occasionally played by the ever valuable Nyrlanhotep. Yet, I think this raised corpse of Howard does it well.

I am intrigued then, in the notion of making a religious horror story from this seed. The motto in this case would be the simple one “The Devil’s in heaven, all is wrong with the world.” But what is the nature of the Enemy?

Devil2

If there is any character who looms as large as God and Christ do over Western literature, it is the Devil. Even the irreligious can recognize his features at times. But the features are vary…variable. That is a topic of such vast consultation that I will only do in broad strokes, and only in western lore, what the nature of Evil may be. Needless to say, from a popular culture perspective, there are two major works that provide the template of the modern devil. Folkloric works vary greatly, however, and from region to region.

DevilCover

Look At the ANGST! Look At It!

Modern conception, however, draws from elsewhere. Namely, from the works of Milton and Goethe. Here the Devil or at the least, his representative, are portrayed as wily rebels, tempters supreme, and as possessing good, or at least artistic, taste. Here we have the origin of the soul bargain and contract in blood from Faust, and the notion of a sympathetic devil from readings of Milton that were common in the Romantic period (Though, not universally agreed on). These traits, rebellion and temptation, were always to a degree present but both Faust and Paradise lost thrust them to the fore and burned them forever into certain forms.

Neither of which are conducive to a horror story. The deal with the devil perhaps is, especially unwittingly, but that hits many beats of earlier tales on this site, including the Damned Spot. But the devil plays into our themes of Baudelaire especially well. Yes, even better as a simple devil.

Devil3

Tales of tricking the devil abound in Ireland and Irish influenced lands (such as the south), but the tale of Ysyr also invokes the devil as a trickster who leads to the destruction of a golden land. There in, he deceives a wicked noblewoman and her ogre helpers and leads to their sinking. Some say the key to the kingdom still sits in Ireland, under an unmarked grave.

Stories from Cambridgeshire tell of a man who met the devil on the road, and found his body turned into a burnt skeleton the next day. His hounds, large black canines the size of horses, occasionally hunt across the sky. In other regions, he arises as the source of local ills and dark powers. Salem I will leave untouched, until again witchcraft crosses our table. Needless to say, the great malicious spirit than maintains in folklore only that.

Folklore provides that ghost story aspect, a simpler character. And while in a longer tale, the monster may have many facets, many meanings, works as short as ours need something simpler. Something a bit baser. So folklore, in structure, might serve us better than lengthy novels and epic poems.

Devil4

I’m not saying basically this. But basically this.

As I said, neither popular culture icon works well at the start. The tempter is a tad horrifying, but overdone. The rebel is an excellent hero for a war story, a fantasy epic even, but would be difficult in a horror tale (unless as in Hypnos, the rebel attempts to recruit the hero). But! The Rebel victorious? That has potential. Particularly if he is as petty as the devil of some folktales, an impure creature that delights in small suffering as well as lofty goals.

Keep in mind the nature of dreams. They are often where divine visions or ghostly apparitions emerge. The devil, as arch-divine rebel and bringer of discord to the realm cosmic, then works well in the disruption of dreams and the cause of nightmares. The devil is in Heaven after all, and thus all is wrong in the world.

I will not dwell long on the horrors a successful revolutionary can inflict on the world. History provides enough of that, and I wish to avoid politics. Oh, the fates of the Muses who once inspired. Oh the Graces who brought virtue. The heavens under hellish reign are never better off. The rebellious prince of sin, if victorious, would be a terror indeed. If such visions pursue a man, no wonder he doesn’t want to sleep.

But! But our story ends when our troubled sleeper rests. This is difficult, since a terrible fate that sudden is hard to betray from the first person. Perhaps, we might structure it to resemble an investigation. After all, the rapid and large number of drugs needed to stay awake for a long period of time might attract attention. This would push much of the above research into subtext, as our investigator (true to form) is unlikely to know the cause of the erratic behavior until the end.

Still, it keeps suspense longer. Odd nightly behaviors can be ascribed to numerous things, a number of strange phenomena. And investigation is one of those knowledge seeking professions that, most often, lends itself to horror.

We likely then will have a number of characters as the investigation proceeds, though perhaps backwards from what the prompt has proposed. We perhaps start from when he wakes and piece together what went wrong.

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The Lands I Know

Face

Kris Kuksi

This Week’s Prompt:10. Dream of flying over city.

The Research: Flights of Fancy

I dreamed of rolling hills, the kind you see in pictures of summer and family cartoons. I soared over miles and miles of hills and pasture, dotted with wonderful little houses and villas. A number of small fences with yards of beautiful white fences and boys and girls singing and dancing. Oh, to tarry in those happy lands a bit longer. For those were the lands I knew, and I soaring over did dare to go farther, as the ground fled from me. And I entered the lands I only remembered.

There, there the fields were golden still, with wheat and cattle. And some places were shaded, so I could not see them. Youths worked the fields, maidens frolicked eternally happy. Farms were raised in the morning I came over those lands of memory, and torn down that night. Not a sign of age, nor birth or death. No, growth came so slow as to be nonexistent here, changing only in space not in time. It was a strange place, with dogs roaming free to hunt, and cats meowing at forlorn trees. But the winds blew, and I on Morpheus’s wings flew on.

Farm gave way to city, and gaity to gravitas. Down I fell as I flew yonder, the ground fleeing me like a great crevice. Towers rose, of brick and concrete. Oh, I did not know these buildings, nor had I set foot in such things. Dimly, I had seen them in films and pictures. I could only imagine such structures. Oh, they were real and certain, but hazy in the way Troy must have been to a Greek. Grand, but hollow. Teeming with an overflow of gray shapes, with millions of heads and arms flowing between them. Crowds of bodies, one mass surging into and out of the various buildings, a cacophony of noise and gestures. Chaos never had a truer bed.

Here I perched for a while, wings tired and wind dying. As I stood atop the roofs, I saw many strange sights in this half conceived city. Great skinless apes loomed large over the mass, seizing sections and pulling them into its maw. How dreadful! I shuddered to think if such creatures were let loose into the fields I knew. Great iron beasts rolled, and I knew not which was worse. For they did not eat them, but made such dreadful noise as to cause a panic. I wondered from whence this macabre city feel, for it could not have been made so. But the winds of dream blew on.

And onward I went, through the mess of stone. Towers grew together, like a web of stone, where enormous spiders, crawling and weaving a number of stony passages to the ceiling beyond the sun.In their hollow masses I saw reptilian shapes and heard the lamentation of women. Great shapes loomed on the ceiling, now low enough for me to see. I saw ships of steel carrying children, the first I had seen, to great factories, that they might be cast into mortar and paste. I heard their cries, as by lash and ruler they were broken, by those children who were treacherous and old in souls. Might obelisks were raised on their backs, with writing I could not read but who’s portents I understood. Here, they said, we praise Moloch and Philemon, kings of dreams and glory forever be. These names meant nothing to me.

But the web broke and bent, and at last I beheld the deepest and highest depth, soaring and sinking at once. And I saw a woman’s face, as vast as a mountain, with a mouth yawning in pain toward the sky. The teeth bore more mouths, calling out to be fed, and down infinitely so. Gremlins and witches labored on the faces surface, to settle its out cry and hunger. Its eyes, oh such terrible eyes, burned bright red and its hair was that of a gorgon. I have seen this face sense, on dark nights in distant thunder. But at that moment, it saw me and with one great breathe, one that drew first the goblins and witches, then the serpents and factory workers, then the cities, then the fields, then the plains I know, it drew me into to its gullet. And I awoke, in the darkness, not knowing whether I had evaded that terrible face, or now dwelt in the ruins of the world it swallowed, dark and miserable.
***
The bodies of dreamers are always foggy to me, good fellows. Tell me, what did you unearth?
I would also recommend, for those interested in some weird and industrial sculpture, Kris Kuksi’s work. It provided some inspiration for the descriptions I cobbled together above.

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Mr. Keen’s Road

Mr. Keen's road

This Week’s Prompt:5. Narrator walks along unfamiliar country road,—comes to strange region of the unreal.

The Research:The Wild Wood
I know that the road goes from Matthew’s farm to Martin’s store. I know this like I know the shape of a house, or that the ring on my hand has a matching one on my wife’s hand. I know this, and this I know. But last Thursday, it wasn’t. It was the same road, the same mile of stone and dirt through woodlands, at first.

In fact, it seemed rather dull and familiar. Not a noise along the entire way as I stumbled along. It wasn’t well lit, but I knew the path well. A river runs beside it, so its hard to get lost. In time, I saw another ligh in the distance. A flickering signal of another traveller coming the other way. I grew tense, and should have trusted my heavy heart beat then and there. But I was cordial as the man drew near.

“Howdy, fine night isn’t it?” I said as he drew near. His face was long and his eyes seemed pushed back into his head. He smiled, a mouth full of yellow stone teeth. He had on a small hat, an old cap like you see Civil War men wear. A coat of dulled red slumped over his body, with faded gold touches.

“An excellent nocturne indeed. Do you mind if I share it with you?”

“Share it?”

“I believe I have been misled. Is this the way to Matthew’s barn?”

“Your going the wrong way, friend. I can show you there,” I said, gesturing with my head behind him.

“Misled indeed. Yes, that would gracious of you,” he said,turning the other way.

We walked a good way in silence, his boots dropping beside mine to keep pace. I tried, as best I could, to discern his age. His hair, if he had any was tucked underneath his cap. His face looked worn by the sun, but there were lines that could be wrinkles, but could be from lack of sleep. Nothing that betrayed his age, his steps an even disciplined pace.

“What brings you out this late?” I said, smiling as best I could.

“I have a private time to keep this hollowed night,” he said, smiling back.

“Down with the Matthews?”

“No, no, beyond the fields of the Matthews family,” he said, smiling still, “Your own person?”

“I have poker with Jim Matthew and some of the farmhands every Thursday,” I said with a shrug.
“Ah, something similair with myself. I always get lost on the roadways, though,” he said turning his head about.

“Really? How do you manage that if its every Thursday?”

“Roads, the world over, are all the same in form as they are in substance. Even Plato could reason that. I mistake roads for their erstwhile kindred, typically in different places,” he said, in the sort of matter of fact tone that you use when explaining things to a kid at a college.

“Poor sense of direction, I gotcha. Never noticed much passed Matthew’s barn except the field,”

I said, shrugging off the response.

“Its off past the horizon, my good man. Far past the agricultural institute that Mr. Matthew runs.”

We came to a big tree, hobbled over in the road. It was an old Southern oak, branches gripping the ground like an octopus trying to stay at the bottom of the ocean floor. A second road struck out to the side, one I did not recall being there.

“I’m afraid I did not receive your nominative, good anthropos,” the man said turning to me.

“Anna what?”

“Never wonder, apologies. Your name?”

“Jacob, yours?”

“They call me Mr. Keen, Jacob,” he said, now turning to the tree.

“Did someone make you aware yet, good Jacob, that this tree is an unfortunate plant. Ten score ago, maybe fewer, men in carnal and wanton malignancy hung grown children from its arms like puppets. It was so robed in tenebrous corpses that from afar a cemetery it seemed to be,” he said, tracing the thin lines and creases on the tree.

“No, I didn’t know any of that. You said you were going past the Matthew’s farm?”

“Affirmative, Mr. Jacob. Would you care to attend?” he said, gesturing at the second road.

“I don’t know, crossroads are bad places to make decisions.”

“I have always found crossroads the most serendipitous and serene of places. Come, you will enjoy our company,” he said, taking me by the arm. And I ought to have known better, but my mind was addled and I felt dizzy, my ankles bending in on themselves. I struggled to walk with my new friend down the road.

The trees, the trees became first columns. Tall, perfect columns of bone white stone, a great rib cage jutting out of the now dark black grass. The road ran along hills and vales I had never seen, and in the distance I saw it, the Matthew’s house. Far far away. Briefly, I thought Mr. Keen’s legs grew rather than walked. Grew and shrank to simulate stepping feet as we seemed to fly. Eventually, though, he began slow.

“Where are we?” I asked, as I survyed the surroundings. The bushes were great polyps and mass of meat, bleeding from the sides.

“We are past the fields you know, to the fields of mine. I, after all,have an appointment to keep,” he said. And he walked again, as if nothing had changed.

But the grass was black and sharp, and things loped from tree to tree. Smoke seemed to rise form the earth, despite there not being a pothole insight. I turned my eyes to the heavens, and only the moon looked down. A dark blue moon shined down, its lights dancing among stars of yellow and green. None were arranged in constellations I had seen, not a dipper nor a bear nor a dragon to be found.

“Mr. Keen, what buisness do you have out here? This is far from the Matthew’s farm,” I asked, not taking another step. My traveling companion halted but yard past.

“I have compacts with a man of fraternal relation. And as I disclosed, I am easily confused by roads. Do not worry, the lands known to men are not far yet. We are simply at the woods that Sothan keeps. They are habitable to men such as you, I swear by long dead Jove,” he said, twirling about to face me. His head was tilted down, his hat hiding his eyes.

“Pardon me, Mr. Keen, but this place seems far from hostpitable,” I said, backing down the road again slowly.

“Dear Jacob, sweet Jacob, amorous, gracious, kind, humble, and luminous Jacob. You are free to find the road again,” he said, gesturing out a hand, now with a thin white glove.

I looked behind, and in the distant hills I saw something like a house, perhaps it was Matthew’s farm. But from here, it could be nothing more than a pile of stones.

“If I follow, will you return me home?”

“I will lead you to your place, I swear by the deepest of places,” Mr. Keen said, rotating to point down the road. Slowly, I followed. The road seemed to seep beneath my plodding feet. Like mud, but with stiffer.

As we went, the ground began to bleed and seep black tar. In time, I saw a great pale tree, branchless, rising from the surface. A huge spire that we approached, growing larger and larger as we drew near. It seemed to pierce the sun.

And it moved. The great needle like tooth moved, roots ripping themselves free of the ground, cracking and splinter stone. A hundred small grasping hands wrenched free now clambered out toward Mr. Keen and me.

“Ah, so the appointing rendevous makes himself known. Mr. Jacob, stay but a while, and you may learn a bit,” he said, turning toward the structure.

I ran. I ran and ran and ran and ran. I ran until my legs were a blurr beneath me. I ran until the trees melted into a long corridor of pale wax walls around me, until the ground felt solid and the sky was blue. I ran back to the fields I knew.

I stopped when I was home again, in bed praying to a God who was too far away to care. I stayed up all night, looking for his face in the window. Mr. Keen, I thought, surely would find the path to my home. After a week, I left my refuge. After a month, I took the road again.

But now, along the second path is still clear, waiting like an extended tounge. And sometimes, in the distance I see Mr. Keen’s shape walking along. And a taller shape, a great bent beast shuffling behind him.

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