Long Pig

This Weeks’ Prompt: 112. Man lives near graveyard—how does he live? Eats no food. 

The Following Story: Gerald Report

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Cannibalism. The answer is cannibalism. I mean, I suppose we could look into more esoteric explanations, about smuggling food in or feeding off vapors. We might even indulge in the idea that the man who lives near the graveyard is not a man at all—he is some spectre or spirit that is never seen eating because he does not eat. He is something numinous and otherworldly and frankly the simplest answer seems most fitting her. Cannibalism.

Cannibalism has a long history in folklore—I’ve discussed some of the creatures that live near or in graveyards to feed on the bodies interred within here, and the aswang here, and the witches sabbath here, and the nightmare here. I decided to go a bit further afield this time, to see what I could find that involved cannibalism, so today will be a survey of a number of stories and characters associated with cannibalism.

 One story that stuck out was from Swedish Finland, and recounted the fate of a poor girl who was lured into a cave or grotto by a band of robbers. The exact number of robbers varies from telling to telling, but she was married to all of them and forced to cook, clean, and bed them for nine years. Each year she gave birth to a child, and each year, the bandit king cooked and ate the child’s heart. After nine years, they came to trust the girl and sent her on some errand—however, she escaped and told the towns people, who had assumed she was dead.  They went and arrested the murderous robbers, and buried them alive in a nearby wall. The spot is marked with painted hearts, one for each child eaten. Many of the stories mention that the cannibalism was preformed to gain immortality or devilish powers, such as flight.

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Among the Xam people of South Africa, we have other stories of cannibalistic monsters. One was ||khwai-hem, translated as “All Devouring”. The creature’s appetite was enormous, devouring sheep, then trees, then objects and finally people with a great firey tongue. It was so large it’s shadow resembled a cloud, and was so bloated it’s stomach reached to the ground. It was invited by one of the chief gods to take part in the bounty that resulted from the liberation of livestock. Another such creature from the Xam is the !nu!numma-!kwitƏn, a beast of prey who ate crying children.  While monstrous in appearance, these creatures were not human and thus not “cannibals” in the technical sense. However, their attributes—and the attributes of their more normal relatives, the lion and hyena—were attributed to European settlers by the Xam people during the colonization of West Africa. 

In Russia there are of course the famous cannibals, revenants and vampires. Often the result of sinful corpses buried in the earth, they are restless and may hunger for unwholesome meals. Interestingly, the dead being hungry is not limited to the monstrous—wholesome and clean dead may still be hungry and thirsty for their last forty days on earth. But the unclean dead long for terrible things—flesh, blood, clothes of children. Their monstrous forms can include long tongues that reach to the crown of the head, iron or steel teeth, and large heads. They might sharpen their teeth with a whetstone or grind them together rasping as they hunt their prey, and they caused poor weather near their remains. They in some ways resemble of course the nearby Balkan and Romanian vampires which we covered before–both in the possession of iron teeth and in the draining of vital energy and fluids from not only people but the landscape.  

Then there is of course the Arabic ghoul or ghul, a creature that may be a demon, a male genie, an enchantress,or any of the above depending on the tale. The creature lives in deserts, with cloven hoves and an ugly appereance, and seeks to lure travelers away from the road to murder and eat them. Sometimes this ghoul feared iron, and often needed to be dispatched with a sword to be done in. Many could shapeshift, and some had even more incredible powers—one common one was that a ghoul must be killed with one blow by a sword. Two and the ghoul would survive until one thousand more had been delivered. 

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A Palestinian folktale has a young farm boy guarding his father’s flock after several sheep have gone missing. When on watch, he catches a ghoul stealing the sheep, and taking them to a nearby well. When he descends the well, he finds many beautiful women and swears at once to save them—striking the ghoul dead and ignoring its please for a second strike. Here the ghoul, like the weather stealing vampire, drains vitality from a region and stores it up elsewhere (see our writings on similar creatures on our Patreon here). Another tale tells how a group of women accepted milk offered by a ghoul, against their friends wishes—alas it was poisoned, and they all perished. 

 However, not every ghoul fed on human flesh. Some provide guidance for humans during their life to achieve their own ends, while others married and lived happily with mortals until they grew homesick. In this way they resemble vampire’s we have discussed earlier—and in fact, some blurring of the two is to be expected. One of the common traits associated with ghouls, that they dig up and devour corpses in graveyards (which I reported above) appears to be mostly an invention of the French translator of Arabian Nights and explains the confusion. Another paper places the confusion in Persia, where the ghoul is the shapeless monster of ruins who feeds on the dead, and is repelled with the name of the prophet–the closeness of this to the notions of the vampire makes me wonder which writer is confused.  The Persian ghoul faces and is defeated by the great heroes of the land, such as Rostam, a hero I must cover in detail some day.

By chance, this week I was reading on Tanith Lee’s Tales from a Flat Earth: Night’s Sorceries, which features  a city of such ghoulish delights. The city’s origins begin with the scheming of cruel vampire lovers in long forgotten tombs, cannibals that fed on the blood of the living and marrow of the dead. They are creatures that think themselves immortal from their cannibalism, and have gained superhuman strength and invulnerability to blades and fire from their feasting. Only their shadow remains vulnerable.  Their children possess even greater strength, and cunning power over the dead. I won’t spoil what becomes of this city of portioners, but it is a fate that is common to those who can only devour.

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Mr. Lovecraft himself presented ghouls in graveyards in a number of stories–most particularly, Pickman’s Model and Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Here we encounter ghouls as graveyard living creatures, very solid in nature, relatives of human kind. Relative enough that they are capable of changeling plots, and traveling between the Dreamlands and the waking world. They are canines as well, recalling the Bendanti who traveled to do battle with the devil as werewolves. 

That sort of grand pulp nightmare is a bit beyond the scope of this story, however. This reads more as a local oddity. In fact, such oddities do appear in British folklore and beyond murderous food stuffs. Dickens gives us reports of men being quietly murdered and baked into sausage, and another of Captain Murderer who resembles in no small part Bluebeard’s more cannibal forms, killing and devouring his wives. Cannibalism and those who feed on the dead are fine nightmarish creatures for a small story I think. We could approach this as an investigative and overly curious lead learning the truth of an otherwise normal but eccentric seeming neighbor. Or we can take the opposite approach than the sedate state suggested, and present the man in the cemetery as a proper ghoul–perhaps hunting for the last heart he needs to attain mystic powers.

Part of the nature of the ghoul, what makes the cannibalistic creature terrifying, is not just that it turns men into meat, flesh into food, but also that it is the spectre of death itself. Rare are ghouls who lurk in safe places–the haunt of caves where the underworld is close by, the graveyard full of corpses, the butcher shop where meat is ever present–all these are the calling cards of the ghoul. The man who tends to the graveyard, the undertaker, is something like this–a man who is familiar with the dead, yet is among the living. I think that familiarity breeds suspicion and distrust, something that might lead to uncomfortable questions if the man is in fact innocent for our tale.

How about you–what strange and terrible tales of cannibals have you heard?

 

Bibliography

Al-Rawi, Ahmed K. “The Arabic Ghoul and Its Western Transformation.” Folklore, vol. 120, no. 3, 2009, pp. 291–306. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40646532. Accessed 27 May 2020.

Lindow, John. “Kidnapping, Infanticide, Cannibalism: A Legend from Swedish Finland.” Western Folklore, vol. 57, no. 2/3, 1998, pp. 103–117. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1500215. Accessed 27 May 2020.

McGranaghan, Mark. “’He Who Is a Devourer of Things’: Monstrosity and the Construction of Difference in |Xam Bushman Oral Literature.” Folklore, vol. 125, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1–21. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43297730. Accessed 27 May 2020.

Simpson, Jacqueline. “Urban Legends in The Pickwick Papers.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 96, no. 382, 1983, pp. 462–470. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/540985. Accessed 27 May 2020.

Warner, Elizabeth A. “Russian Peasant Beliefs Concerning the Unclean Dead and Drought, Within the Context of the Agricultural Year.” Folklore, vol. 122, no. 2, 2011, pp. 155–175. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41306584. Accessed 27 May 2020.

The Root of the Mountain

This Week’s Prompt: 70. Tone of extreme phantasy. Man transformed to island or mountain.

The Resulting Story: Mountain out of a Man

The creation of a mountain or island or even the world from a single person or creatures is far from new. We discussed last year the tradition of murder at the dawn of time—of great primeval crocodiles and serpents and monsters of the sea that oppose sky gods and are murdered for it. Among these many beasts, there are a handful that in turn are laid out to form the foundation of the world—a testament to their size and to their importance in the world.

Tiamat

Marduk fighting Tiamat

The first example of such a creature we will discuss is the most malicious. Tiamat is a vast mother goddess, the primordial salt water sea that rages at the death of her husband the freshwater sea. In her war with her grand children she :

Made in addition weapons invincible; she spawned monster-serpents,

Sharp of tooth, and merciless of fang;

With poison, instead of blood, she filled their bodies.

Fierce monster-vipers she clothed with terror,

With splendor she decked them, she made them of lofty stature.

Whoever beheld them, terror overcame him,

Their bodies reared up and none could withstand their attack.

She set up vipers and dragons, and the monster Lahamu,

And hurricanes, and raging hounds, and scorpion-men,

And mighty tempests, and fish-men, and rams;

They bore cruel weapons, without fear of the fight.

Her commands were mighty, none could resist them;

After this fashion, huge of stature, she made eleven [kinds of] monsters.

Her exalted commander, Kingu, bore the Tablets of Destiny and power over all the gods! Tiamat’s shape is hard to say. While moderns may think of her as a great dragon, she appears in some cases more like a cow with great udders, and certainly odder then most reptiles with her lips. Each portion of her is divided up to make the cosmos—the sky is held by her ribs, her tears are the Tigris and Euphrates, the Milky Way is her tail. The blood of Kingu was used to make mankind.

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Ymir and his cow

The other example is Ymir—First living thing of the Norse mythos, born when the lands of fire and frost met. At this point, the great first giant emerged—Ymir. And shortly after he found his great cow companion—to my knowledge, this is unrelated to Paul Bunyan. He persisted like this for a time, fathering the frost giants. Eventually, however, the sons of Bor—Odin, Ville, and Ve—slew him and arranged the cosmos from his body. From his skull, they made the heavens. From his hair, forests. His bones became the hills, the seas run with his blood. His brains were made into clouds, his eyebrows were men. And in one case, the maggots that fed on his corpse became the dwarfs.

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Less malicious is the act of Pangu. Pangu is from Chinese myth, and takes on his form not from a violent ambush or great war, but as he comes to old age. In his early years, with the aid of four beasts, Pangu separated the earths and heavens to make a habitable cosmos and cut Yin from Yang with a great ax. But as time went on, he came to grow old and die at the age of 18,000. Slowly, he takes on the form of the world as he passes on into death. Like Ymir, his body is divided up into various parts of the world. The wind is his breath, the thunder his voice, his left eye floats upwards to be the sun, his right eye is now the moon. The fleas on his body became animals, his beard became the milky way, his head mountains, his bone marrow great diamonds.

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Svyatogor coming on his steed

There are other, debatable examples. Typhon, for instance, was trapped beneath a mountain and an island in one version of his myth. But trapped is not the same as became, I don’t think. More directly linked to our tale is the Russian bogatyr, Svyatogor. Svyatogor is a mountainous man, who eventually lays down in his own stone coffin to die. He passes his strength on to Illya, the greatest of the bogatyrs, through his breath.

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Mt.Mayon–yes, the smoke formed like that naturally.

Perhaps the least malicious, even less than Pangu, is Mt. Mayon. Mt. Mayon is the result of a tale of love between Magayon and the prince Panganoron. The two’s relationship enrages the failed suitor Pagtuga, who gathers his warrior s and steals Magayon’s father. The ensuing war sees the lovers victorious, but Patgua’s warriors shoot one of the two—versions differ—on the way home. The other commits suicide, and are both are buried. After their burial, a mountain arises from their graves—Mt. Mayon, a still active volcano.

Fictionally, I’m again reminded of the story of YISUN from Kill Siz Billion Demons, who destroys themselves to create a pair of gods, who in turn make all gods. This generation of gods in turn gives themselves over entirely to death in order to create a world each—with life and creatures spreading forth from their holy city of Throne.

The stories so far touch mostly on great cosmic creations. I think ours will be more like Mt. Mayon—a place of legend, yes, but not as grand as the entire world. Our story, as one of ‘phantasy’ instead of horror, I feel a cataclysmic battle less of interest then the slow, gradual expansion of a mind. We start with a body, a man or woman, and slowly they become something more—something vaster, and often covered in life. We can consider, perhaps, that both mountains and islands are found in groups—ranges and chains. At the same time, they can be quite lonely places. A deserted island or a lonely mountain is not an uncommon description.

The nature of this story will be, I think, entirely atmosphere—it could be horror, but it feels more calm and meditative and thus perhaps a bit strange for this blog. Still, it will be an engaging story to write and place to explore. Spacing and pacing the progress from mortal to monument might be difficult. It requires attention to sentence length, to description, to punctuation, and to variation. Atmosphere and mood are, in my opinion, far harder to grasp and far more essential then action or characterization. To make a house feel alive is no easy feat.

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The Tears Begin To Show

This Weeks Prompt: 35. Special beings with special senses from remote universes. Advent of an external universe to view.

This Week’s Research: Djinn and Beyond The Grave

Kavets village had had a terrible winter. It was colder, Alyona muttered, then ever before. The snow was thicker, the trees seemed more dead. The world seemed to be caked in a thick malaise of some sort, giving everything a feeling of rigor mortis. Fire wood resisted the ax, water took longer to boil, the air was more a persistent and dreadful fog that you could almost swim through.

And then there were the men, if you could call them men.

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They were mostly old men, Dmitri and Kuzmas being the notable exception as young boys. They’d gotten together their hunting rifles, their old war rifles, their stolen rifles and said no more when the draftsmen came. They wouldn’t send more young men off to fight, more wheat to feed the pigs in Moscow, no more obedience to strict laws about where trains would be placed. Alyona had been with them for a time, but Kuzmas said a woman’s place was back on the farm, while the men went out to fight.

As Alyona walked the latest bread to the main of the village, hoping to find some more wood for the fire, she saw them coming back in their mock uniforms, cheering. A bunch of old men and boys with guns, convinced they’d stop all this feudal nonsense. Alyona noted they were back from the wood, coming east. They always marched around the village to the woods on the hill first, filling it with the latest catch before coming to the village.

To protect the sensibilities of the children. That didn’t stop the occasional gruesome souvenir or spectator from the village women. One, Nasha, had a necklace with a bloody hand sewn on, to keep the wicked hands of revolutionaries away from her at night. She hung it over her door.

“You see how he shook?” Dmitri said with his loud, drunken voice.

“Wind, good brother, wind.” One of the older men said. “Dead men don’t move that much.”

“Shame we couldn’t get more.” Kuzmas said, shaking his head. “They go fast don’t they.”

Alyona wondered how fast Kuzmas would go, should the fights draw closer. Every day, they came back sooner. And Alyona had noticed, as she had worked on sewing, that there seemed to be one or two less, never mentioned, when they came back from the woods.

“Oh, well, you can’t expect it to be perfect.” Kuzmas had said with a shrug. “People get lost or scared and run off. And once or twice, they get shot. But only once or twice. Don’t worry about it. Those damned fools are getting scared by the woods more and more, they’ll leave us well enough alone by winters end.”

As the party passed the street, talking still about the warning woods and boasting of how many conscripts they’d sent running, Alyona heard a whisper on the wind. It sound high pitched, almost like a cats. The sound rose briefly, pushing her along, before fading.

Alyona decided it was a headache, and went back to finding firewood in the village square.

***********************************************************************

Days past between that and the next fire fight. Kuzmas had trouble telling the difference in movements. Kuzmas kept to himself about what happened on the train tracks. There was no need to bother the women about the explosion. They’d tied a few grenades together and made something like a pipe bomb. Kuzmas didn’t tell the women that they had missed. That maybe they aimed to high, and hit someone or something in front of the tracks, and that while the other men appeared ignorant, he had seen blue blood flying with Dmitri’s.

“Where’s Dmitri?” Alyona asked as he walked back, rifle over his shoulder. Kuzmas smiled and lied that he had gone off alone to drink in the woods.

The woods was were they had their pacts and sermons. When they got their hands on officials from Moscow, they brought them to that old woods where fairy tale giants and ogres built castles to the sky. Naum, who had fought briefly in the wars of the Tsarists, and who had come back from the city with something witch-like in his eyes, often told them it was a good place for a burial.

“There are old spirits here, that tell me if we bury them here, offer their bodies here, they will be made pure and the spirits will fight with us.” Naum said, typically when explaining why the bodies of so many officials hung from the tries. Kuzmas didn’t care much for talk of spirits. He cared for cutting the men who stole his father and brother, no matter how much they screamed.

Kuzmas was fairly certain if their were spirits in the wood, however, they weren’t kindly ones.

“Where’s Ivan?” Alyona would ask. Kuzmas would lie. Say he got scared and ran off. There was no need to worry her about the occasionally skirmish that drew nearer and nearer. Something calmed his blood whenever he thought to bring it up.

Kuzmas didn’t care much for talk of spirits. But he knew they were there. One, a tall one with great owl eyes and long blue fingers and arms, followed him wherever he went. Kuzmas only saw it once or twice, and it left no tracks. It just stared with it’s great eyes, and opened it’s mouth to speak. But nothing ever came out.

A living man came into the village one day, dressed in a conscripts uniform. He’d come home, this old hand, this man of war who’d seen the front and the trenches. He’d come home, back to Alyona, who had smiled on him before he left and wept for him after. He’d come home, this Makariy, sober and with his rifle.

He smiled at Alyona, but the smile of a distant person. He didn’t say a word.

“He was looking for the village in the old woods.” Kazmus told her, himself smiling the first sincere grin he’d had in weeks. “He has news, back from the fronts out east.”

********************************************************************

Alyona again heard that tone, that ever rising whistling tone. That sharp, steady, slowly pericng tone. Had Kazmus the presence of mind to look, he would have seen his blue imp squatting on her shoulder, mouth agape to speak.

The villagers gathered around Makariy without much prompting. There were gifts offers, praises to God and saints, and other rejoices at the return of a prodigal son. Makariy, with shaking hands, refused all things. He only asked for a chair to stand and speak on.

“I…” he said, the next world strangled by invisible hands for a moment before beginning anew, “I have not come how merely for celebration.”

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The villagers murmured a bit.

“I’ve come with a warning. When I fled my regiment, to come home and protect the land of my father, and my fathers father, and so on, I learned something terrible. The Red Army is closing in.”

Alyona frowned as the whistling began to drown out Makariy’s words. Now, though, it had slowly morphed into a song. A song who’s lyrics, in the wind, were muddled and unclear. But there was something earnest in them, like a long forgotten lullaby from child hood.

“-at least a thousand men, to root us out.” Makariy finished when Alyona could focus again. The crowd was aghast. The three score fighting men could hardly hope to hold out against so many. Even with the entire village, how could they hope to hold out and be victorious.

“Can one not stand against many?” Naum said, standing up, his long beard making him look like the icons of wild prophets. “Can we not, as the Maccabees of old, fight off these invading foes?”

“The Maccabees still had God.” Makariy said slowly. “Do we? I smelled sulfur all the way here, sometimes worse.”

“Of course we have God!” Naum said, his face frowning deeply at the notion otherwise. “Would he side with the Reds, priest murdering, orphan making, monk slaying, academics? No, the Lord has always been with us, men of farms and women of cloth!”

Kazmus stared as the imp gestured at Naum, frantic hands flailing like a terrified child. Kazmus followed the finger towards the old man’s sermon. He stretched, it seemed to Kazmus, large above the crowd, a singular tendril raising him into the air, twisting down into the earth as it went. There were gasps from the crowd.

“A saint, a miracle…” Alyona whispered.

“Who can doubt we have God on our side now?” one of the older men muttered.

Kazmus kept quiet, watching Makariy’s face contort. But he seemed to relent. They would fight, Makariy said, they would fight in the way that few beat many, quick and strong like lighting. There was no joy when Makariy spoke.

***********************************************************************

The next few days, Kazmus saw his little imp more and more.

“What is it, friend?” Kazmus said, leaning down as it gasped, trying to speak. It walked along the newly made barricade that was to be Kazmus’s standing spot, lined with a good view into the woods and hidden by branches. The imp pointed west, plaintively, time and again.

“Ah, don’t go on like that. West ain’t much better, little one. The Whites will get you out there. Or worse.”

The imp grew irritable and leapt toward Kuzmas, grabbing him with both hands, and turning him East. There, Kuzmas saw a terrible mass, a mountainous shape in the form of a human head rising out of the ground. A dark helm was on it’s head, and from its neck and hair spread a number of tendrils like trees. It’s mouth was open wide, in a perpetual roar. The landscape bent around it, black and bleak hills and stars shining a pale red. Hosts of insects flew out.

But this was not, to Kuzmas confusion, merely a change. Rather it was like the world as he saw it was superimposed onto this new one, as a thin photograph was held over one’s eyes. As he heard the distant gunfire, he saw the great insects with long legs and deadly stingers shaped like grotesque fish bones. And Kuzmas felt light headed, as he saw more of the great blue imps coming around him.

“Gunfire! They’ve come!” Naum shouted from the lines. Alyona stood in her house, armed with a knife. As she sat, so armed behind an overturned table, Alyona muttered prayers unto God for deliverance, uttered pleas for a place in heaven, and that her sins be forgiven.

“Grant us victory this day, All Mighty Lord, grant us-” she said over and over, until a growing tone rose in her ear.

“Oh, not now, not now. Not when they are just over the hill.”

The music played, rising and falling, played alluring and calming. The tone played sounds like angelic singing and bestial growling. The lyrics made no sense, formed by a choir invisible. But their meaning was clear. Run. Run West. Run to woods west.

“No, no, no. We stand and fight.”

A second choir joined the first now, urging more and more to run. But the tone was now the deep rumble of stones, the cracking of wood, the roar of river. A sweeping, a smashing, a consuming sound. A warning, a warning that a great predator, a great host was coming to carry her off parcel by parcel and wash out any trace of her.

Even if they didn’t kill her, even if her pulsing blood filled body was untouched, she would die.

Alyona refused still to move. She would stay and fight, and if that meant die, she would die. This was where she was meant to be.

The song changed again, a third sound. This one made no effort at message, only feeling. A rhythm of explosive blasts, the sounds of dead men crying out in misery, the weeping of children, the symphony of the dead. As it played, the house seemed to shake under the weight of the sounds. As it moved, for a moment, Alyona was able to see a spiraling staircase of stars rising out onto the sky, the movements of brilliant faces and shifting forms.

“Fine! Fine.” Alyona said, peaking over the table. Naum was staring walking about with his hunting rifle, looking about every which way. But if the music would not cease it’s torment until she left, then she’d leave. The back. The back door would be unguarded.

***********************************************************************Makariy stood calmly along the edge of the barracks. The air buzzed about him, vibrations tingling through his body. He had felt them on the Eastern Front. They had led him home, although he still waited for why.

He could smell, even from a distance, that moldy sulfur that seemed to settle around the Red Army. The Black Army had a corpse like touch to it as well, lacking the strange liveliness of the Reds. There was desperation to Black Army troops, a madness of some half-born half-dead creature. And when he squinted he thought he saw something behind them, a shadow larger then them cast behind them. But only occasionally.

Makariy watched dimly as he saw the troops moving like flood waters among the trees. A thousand was a vast number, one that without prior knowledge, could not be explained or expected. Naum might get the people to stand. To hold their ground. To die and be martyred. But Makariy was rooted by that smell and that vibration in the air, that feeling that suddenly something was going to rip and tear the very world around him apart. The fields of battle rooted him, the conviction of doomed men rooted him. He knew that without a miracle he was here to die with his fellows.

And for a moment, there was.

There was a great light, shining light striking out, slicing itself open like the world was a deck of playing cards and the wind was scattering them apart to show something else unraveling about him. The trees peeled back to show a brilliant dance of lights and a strange wind worked it’s way through from the other side, smelling of lilacs and the taste honey. The tear rotated about, drawing Makariy’s eyes with it as the first gunshot rang through the air, answered by a hundred of it’s compatriots and enraged shouting.

It lead back to the gruesome woods of hanging bodies and burial mounds, the place where the world seemed to have left the tangible and slipped into a dream like state. Where the swaying mutilated form of Red men seemed just ready to prophesy in this new world.

None noticed Makariy leave as the second stanza of shots started. One rifle was the same as every other, and Naum had whirled them into a frenzied swarm around him. No ant ever notices if one of it’s own slips away, even if they were merely washed away by the rolling rain.

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Kazmus followed the imp to hill. Alyona was pulled along by ancient song. And Makariy drawn by the shimmering promise of escape. Each found their way into the hanging woods, surrounded above by dead foes and below by buried beloved. At the meeting of the red and the green, where the corpses and worms crawled, they all saw it as they heard it as they smelled it as they tasted it as they felt it. It was a sensation of the entire body lifted upward and outward, like the loosening of a too tight belt allowing a belly to roll out.

And the world seemed to bend round them, and the sky bowed for them, and behind it they saw worlds undreamed of. Great hands pulled them forward, up and past what lay below, out of their bodies and into a heaven of planet sized palaces. When they looked down, the small Russian village was as small as a needle, the universe fading backwards and away. And they felt chains holding them down, chains of bone and flesh.

So they cut themselves free.

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So a mild confession: I ended up not using as much of the djinn research as I planned. Rather, for most of the ‘mysticism’ on display here, I made use of a 1960s Russian text called “Rose of the World”. This story is one I’m fairly certain I could expand on (it’s rushed near the midsection, Makariy doesn’t get much development, etc) but the amount of space and time worked against that. However, the base idea is one that if I get the chance I’d like to return too. If I had the foresight, this might have been as good as the AntiMuse story (my personal favorite from the Society).

Next week, we go to SPAAACE.

And therefore everything must die.

Come back next week to learn more!

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Djinn and Beyond The Grave

This Week’s Prompt: 35. Special beings with special senses from remote universes. Advent of an external universe to view.

This Week’s Story: The Tears Begin To Show

When dealing with prompts so simple as this, I find it best to turn to potential sources within the human mind as we have it recorded. Folklore records such thoughts well, and in this case, extra sensory perception is a common concept to mine and discuss. The supernatural, particular in folklore, is the unseen and unperceptible. This is the nature of spirits, and those who see them. The more urban legend sorts of creatures, such as alien sightings or the like, follow similar veins. Perhaps we’ll take them on last.

The first sort of spirit, past the faries we’ve discussed extensively, that occurs to me are the djinn. Part of this is because the djinn are from that heartland of Lovecraft’s horror, the Middle East where ancient ruins and large urban centers have sat side by side for thousands of years. But part is also because of the nature of the djinn, as creatures more different to us in substance than necessarily in psychology.

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Conquest of the Djinn

The djinn are arranged as we are, with kings and princes. The live as we do, with animals and shepherds. And in someways they operate like we do, albeit in reverse. We feed on the living, they find flesh on the bones, for example. And the djinn, like us, have trouble perceiving our world. Unlike the fae, who find us with ease and then retreat or run away, the average djinn is as aware of mortal existence as he is of the bottom of the sea.

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A Ghul, Sometimes A Djinn

Djinn do have some distinction from our perceptions, however. They are often conflated with demons, and by such an association gain a number of miraculous strengths or powers. The dread lord of Darkness is, in Islam, among their ranks rather than an exile of the Angelic Host. Ghuls are sometimes brought in as djinn as well. Their extreme supernatural might is credited in popular stories of granting wishes (although whether such wishes are real or simply through vast connections depends on the telling), and certainly a certain blue figures ability to reference things beyond his era implies some knowledge we are unaware of.

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Then There’s This Guy

The djinn also have two animal associations that they often take, two that are wary to any folklorist. The serpent and the dog. Creatures of perception and wildness, seekers and keepers of secrets. The djinn can be seen as a sort of intermediary sort of being. Not knowing everything, not entirely knowable, but not entirely alien either.

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Such strange middle grounds are the dwelling place of the parapyschological. Second sight and mediumship, perceiving past the normal are all in this haze. Djinn and others are often accused of being behind these events by critics in the Middle Ages. It’s not, therefore, to unusual to suppose that if there are contacts from some other realm, they are related to these folkloric figures.

And contact with such things is often…dangerous.

The Exorcist, classic of horror writing and cinema that it is, provides the often cited story for why one should avoid piercing holes in the veil. Often it is credited with the literal demonization of the Ouija board, previously more a children’s toy or a serious divination tool in China. The spiritualist moment and connections with death are thus fairly self evidently. The Lovecraft mythos are built on this sort of Icarus like straining.

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Ancient Chinese Ouija

But this prompt goes a step forward. Rather than mere contact with these alien entities, our own perception broadens to an extra universal view. An out-of-universe experience, if you will. This may be a new sort of horror. This is the horror or perhaps fantasy of ascension. It is similar, perhaps, to the notions we discussed when examining the creation of the universe, albeit almost in reverse.

What such a perception is, is again mostly irrelevant. What matters is how we get to this point view. It seems that the story relies on two elements of horror. One is the introduction of extra-universal entities viewing the world. These entities, to keep our story short, will likely contact an individual. There horror/distress of hearing or being contacted by entities alien to you is a good enough start. Being gradually drawn into the entities own sense of perception allows for more sorts of horror.

The horror of going insane blends well with that horror of loss of self. Of being absorbed into a larger, more dreadful mass. This horror is the sort that has been explored in science fiction before. It is full of possible additions, the metaphor of dying, of growing up, of political or religious movements or revelations. But given the limit our writings have, I will restrict it to only the concrete fears of paranoia and loss of self. The others might emerge as I write, but there is no guarantee.

When this strange perception happens seems key. I’ve grown a bit tired of the modern age. Perhaps now we can examine a tale akin to that of Abdul Alhazred, and return to the Ottoman empire, its connections between Greece and India. A Golden Age of exchange and trade. Alternatively, another empire that perhaps has reached that similar level of spiritualism that afflicts all empires.

It is, after all, an inversion of the hope spiritualism promises. The wonder of pyschics is that there is something unseens, something that enhances the world. That the afterlife or something like it exists and will bring a sense of certainty to the world. If we make it horrific, it is that this hopefully place is a lie. That this dream is, secretly, a nightmare.

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Mother Russia might, political problems of recent days aside, be a great fit then. Spiritualism took hold at the turn of the last century, and the strangest of occultists have developed from this period. A Russian man or woman, as political revolutions move in the air, being lifted into yet another terrible horror. Perhaps during the brutal civil wars, whisked away after a fashion? We’ll have to see what such a place was like.

I might do some more exploration on this. If I have time, I will look into works on that period, a strange place and time not touched by American Horror writers often. But that’s me. What did you find?

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