Newly imagined and terrifying vistas populated with horrific monstrosities. No one is safe anywhere. We can go to the Old Ones or the New Ones. Or they come to us. Invading our atmosphere, and our work space. Prehistory Old Ones whose smaller kin still flit among us. Shoggoth and Cthulhu born, and reborn… The terrifying sound of an ear-piercing chant in deepest space, destroying even the silence of the vacuum:
“Ia, Ia, Dagon…”
Issue #20: The Mythos Planet
Asterisks represent the editor’s favorite pieces.
All images are royalty free via Pixabay, unless otherwise noted.
First published in Abyss & Apex magazine, in June 2015.
After Lovecraft’s Dunwich Horror
The skin was thickly covered with coarse black fur,
and from the abdomen a score of long
greenish-grey tentacles with red
sucking mouths protruded limply
And from the abdomen a score of long
cries reverberated in the air, shivering with
sucking mouths protruding limply
kissing empty air with flinching passion
Cries reverberated in the air, shivering with
love, yearning for touch
kissing empty air with passion flinching
Reaching like me, unanswered
Love, yearning for touch
My hand lifted
Reaching, unanswered, like me
until we touched, stroking gently
My hand lifted
Tentacle coiling, uncoiling
and we answered, stroking gently
each skin thickly covered with coarse black fur
Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves as the Nonfiction Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. Her poems, short stories and novellas appear in more than 40 publications and her first novel, SWIFT FOR THE SUN, an LGBT romantic adventure in 1820s Caribbean, will be available from Dreamspinner Press on March 27, 2017. http://karenbovenmyer. com/
We fought the Xanee for more than a generation. It seems our peoples don’t mix well, though we do each die with some degree of regularity. At the boundary, where our two cultures collide, where our war rages most intensely, our conflict birthed a ripple.
Not a normal ripple, like from a rock thrown into a pool. This ripple grows from the drama of divergent culture clash. Underneath time and space, it festers, tearing holes in the fabric of our lives. Our dreams, the Xanee and ours, cross the barrier of this nether world and now we fight our wars privately in the quietness of our bedrooms and dream pods while we sleep. We fight, not with each other, but with Them.
I first came across the aching darkness and foulness of the Old Ones in this dream setting after a panic-filled first space battle. I did not know terror like that and I barely made it back from that first fight, dropping in and out of consciousness. Whispers around half-empty mugs hinted at dire things hidden in the corners and darkened places of our minds. Things long forgotten. Things long dismissed to the realm of the mad and possessed.
People said that the Old Ones had fled Earth, chased by humans and abandoned by their Elders, that we banished them from our shores in an age long past. We did not know, we could not know, that in so doing we cast them upon our future enemy, the Xanee. Our fears and our sorrows traveled with the forlorn Old Ones when we rid ourselves of their vitriol.
The Xanee subjugated the Old Ones, chaining them and making them into smallish things. Such is the nature of the Xanee. To rule. To enslave. They forced the Old Ones into servitude like the Elders before had done. The Xanee didn’t understand the power of the Old Ones. The Xanee didn’t understand the will to survive, dominate, and desecrate that drove the Old Ones.
And so, foulness curdled in the hearts of the Old Ones, souring them to their current imprisonment of body and mind. They reached into the depths of the Abyss and created something more.
Something greater and abler.
Something to collide with the Xanee.
And then the Old Ones set this Shoggoth of the New Line free along the rift.
Along our rift and loose in our dreams. It seems they found a way to strike back.
The New One grew strong in its fetid way. It conquered not peoples or lands, but planets and vast swaths of space. It stretched forth its hands, tentacles, and maws taking from its parents the means and will to subjugate other life.
I found it there, too, as my starship faltered in my next battle with the Xanee. As I fled the conflict to make repairs and so rejoin my brethren, it called to me. On the edge of a ripple of darkness and malice, of worlds clashing in ways unseen, I saw it. I must have passed out from the strain of the fight and as the loss of oxygen, perhaps, infringed upon my conscious state. My dream-self awoke in the very lair of the new Shoggoth and sought a place to land.
The world I found, the world shown to me in that nether-like dreamscape, appeared night-shrouded and cold in the deep black. It beckoned me.
I should have remembered the tale of the Shoggoths. I should have noticed that the night didn’t fold over the land in a natural way, but rather writhed in oily thick blackness, that the world had no light side, only dark.
Alas, I did not.
As I descended through that thickened ooze, my starship suffered first. The oily blackness tore at it, peeling it like a tuber for the pot. I saw lightning flashing, quick as thought, and eyes, thousands and thousands of eyes, all around my canopy as the glass and ceramics surrendered next to the malevolent love of the New One’s caress.
The whole of the planet stormed at me and my silver-like dagger. My single, far-flung dagger. Too small, I hoped, to bare awareness of me in the minds of the Old One’s spawn. Too soft to cause pain in something so vast. The New One on the surface stood larger than any mountain and greater than any villain of old.
I think I screamed when the oozing, slick mass breached the canopy and touched my skin.
Yes, yes I did scream.
And when I did, the new-birthed Shoggoth took it from me to wear as a bauble in a chain of other baubles around its many necks.
Now I lie in the convalescent’s ward, unable to speak, unable to move, and with sightless eyes staring at a world that has moved on without me. Around me are the others, the others that have encountered the New One of the rift. Loved ones visit us, but we, the Army of the Damned, have nothing to say.
I am a 20 year veteran Algebra teacher trying to reconnect with his inner writer. I post with fair regularity in the short story and poem links over at Writers Digest under the pen name Bushkill. When I’m not penning prose of some type I try to enjoy a plethora of other interests, though a penchant for beer and food does seem to get the better of me most of the time.
<<Beginning of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>>
Seventy One Terran Standard days ago I left New St. John’s in the United Canadian Emirates aboard the Intergalactic Life and Welfare Commission ship, the Star Adventurer, to verify reports of ore harvesting in the Davros Strait and Baffin Quad as reported by a resident of Kangerlussuag. The mineral and ore rich asteroid fields of the straight are the only known home of the Khuthusian Pods; a rare species affectionately called “Star Whales” We had a good crew of people that had worked on more than a few Interstellar Geographic expeditions into the Inner and Outer regions of the known universe but this was my first assignment from the ILWC since I joined back in 2206. More than twenty years prior to my accepting the job, the ILWC had issued a moratorium on commercial mining in all of space near where the creatures lived. So far only a few stellar nations still have “whaling rights” on the books but a majority of them stay out of this area because of the heavy presence of commercial shipping lines, conservation activists, and people like me in the ILWC commission teams. I had only recently left the Blessed Caliph’s Navy before joining the ILWC, first as an observer, and now as an official investigator of crimes against the commission’s charter. 8 years of serving in the UCE’s MARLANT division as a Search and Rescue (CEFCOM) had prepared me for many things, so I expected to be terribly bored on this trip and in the end I wish I was right. I will keep this starlog to help with my reports of the mission.
<Update 1.01 of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>
Five Terran Standard days ago we came across a commercial shipping vessel: the Sperry Krypton out of Innsmouth Star Docks, coming in from the opposite direction and the first we had seen since leaving home. She is a huge frigate and makes the clipper we are traveling in look like a spec on the view screens compared to her massive girth. The Captain of the Star Adventurer: an old space dog named Jace Marsh, had sent hail and greetings to the ship on all frequencies but there was no response and she appeared to be foundering. We called in the issue through the Interstellar Distress Channel to see if there was a reported issue that we can assist with but there was nothing on file with USAC and they were going to dispatch a few rescue cutters as we have no way of taking on survivors long-term. In giving the ship a quick once over, it appears she may have hit an obstruction or even another ship as there are some deep single and double hull gashes but again there have been no reports on the United Systems Aerospace Commission side and we see no signs of life on the scanners, so we moved along leaving a marker buoy behind. We were on the verge of the Davros strait and did not wish to waste any more time chasing ghosts.
<Update 2.01 of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>
Four Terran Standard days ago we came across something we normally do not see at this end of the Davis Strait: a pod of Khuthusian’s moving through the area with great haste. Normally the great tusked creatures are further into the inner sphere and it is not totally out of their feeding lanes but it is odd to see so many of them at once. We take lots of readings, check transponder frequencies on the sub dermal implants conservationists to see if there are any issues and make logs of everything, which is the most excitement we have seen on this trip yet. I am happy to see them frolicking and interacting with the crew of the Star Adventurer as the majestic creatures are known for their aloof (for “intelligent” life) attitudes and avoidance of stellar travelers. Not saying I blame them as I would do the same if I was hunted into near extinction for reasons of greed and conquest. Even to the settlers of this region this area, who consider the horned behemoths to be a sacred part of both their mythology and cultural heritage, rarely see them, so this is indeed a treat for myself and the crew.
<Update 3.01 of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>
Three Terran Standard days ago I was awoken by what sounded like a woman crying outside of my room but I know that to be impossible as there are no women aboard the Star Adventurer and the only thing that is outside is the cold depths of deep space. I settle back into my bunk and decide that it was just my imagination or perhaps a fragment of a waking dream. I decide not to say anything of it to the crew, who already had been complaining of nightmares and hallucinations and do not wish to cause any more panic. Captain Marsh attributes this to the constant darkness of the void affecting the men’s sleep patterns but I have been stationed at the Tannhauser Gates before without issue of this kind and will keep an eye on everyone for signs of stress related psychosis.
<Update 4.01 of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>
Two Terran Standard days ago I witnessed a fight break out among 4 or 5 members of the crew over the sight we had beheld this morning. Many of the men were concerned about the large number of Khuthusian and Zadok (the “smaller” creatures that follow in their wake) carcasses we found floating in the periphery of the strait and wanted to turn back from our task. The first mate Mr. Olga did his best to break up the fight and many of the men were forced into solitary berths to keep them apart and to keep the morale from degrading further. I have taken several scans of the floating corpses, which we first thought were just the creatures logging as they like to do in this area, but the damage to their grey forms and the large chunks of floating “blubber” say otherwise. It troubled me so to see these sights which I would have attributed to rogue miners if not for the carnage, and the condition of the bodies leaves many other questions in my mind. I have seen P’their’an Stalkers take out a young Khuthusian before but this many in one area is not natural. The Captain and I discussed turning back now that we have seen proof of the killings reported but he believes that we are close to finding out what happened and the culprits could be close at hand, so we pressed on.
<Update 5.01 of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>
Last evening we were all drawn to the decks by a sound of terrible chanting and screaming that seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Mr. DeCamp, the communications officer, reported that there were no transmissions incoming and no matter what type of protections we tried to apply to block the sounds, they pushed through without much pause. The Captain reported seeing that three of his crew spaced themselves, blood streaming from their eyes and ears from the maddening sounds, hoping to drown them out in the frigid vacuum of space. After many moments of sonic assault, the sounds of the chanting (it sounded something along the lines of “Ia Ia Dagon” or some nonsensical language) died off as quick as they came and we were left adrift in the middle of the Baffin Quad commonly called “The Hollow Deep”. We had reached our destination as per the reports and seeing that we had compelling evidence of whaling (but with a devious twist), we decided to hold drift here and wait for the USAC to come and give us support and rescue. I am having trouble sleeping (as is most of the crew save the Captain, who can apparently sleep through anything or so he claims) and have taken a few tabs of Rozerem and washed it down with Capt. Marsh’s gift of Scotch to try and get some rest.
<Update 5.02 of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>
Today I have seen things that I cannot even hope to neither explain nor allow people to try to comprehend. Despite my poorly thought out and ill advised decisions to self medicate and get some restful slumber, I was jarred awake, having been thrown from my bunk and onto the floor of my berth below decks. The ship appears to have hit some obstruction and was tossed about a bit before coming to a rest slightly askew to the port side of our normal rotation. I quickly came to my senses, dressed and headed carefully up to the main deck to see what was happening. When I arrived on the deck, I saw that it was awash with blood and viscera. No sign of the crew could be found, and after an extensive search I was able to locate the Captain in his room behind locked and barred door. He refused to come out of his isolation and kept shouting and raving to me through the bulkhead about fish men and dagons (I believe he meant fishermen & dragons) but again he also seems quite mad at this point and I have no way of getting into help him or find out more of what has happened. The ship itself is foundering and may go down soon due to extensive hull damage to the port fo’c’sle and I have signaled to the USAC on all known distress channels and am expecting one of the cutters to come and gather me shortly. I hope that it comes to pass soon as there is a dark shadow showing on the view screens and something is coming our way, so being away from this tomb that Captain Marsh has resigned himself to is desired. My only guess and what will be my report to the ILWC and the UCE investigators is that the captain had lost his mind and killed or incapacitated the crew in some fashion and he will have to stand trial for such crimes. I am hoping that with my testimony and the images I was able to capture, not only of the bodies of the creatures we came to observe and protect but of the scenes of massacre aboard the Star Adventurer will help for closure to be found.
<<End of starlog – James Orne, Mate Second Class, Investigator, ILWC>>
<<Begin Rescue / Salvage Report – Cmdr. Eliza Williamson, USAC Cutter “Cascade”>>
We set into the greater Baffin Range to respond to a distress call received from the ILWC Clipper Star Adventurer, but found no signs of life aboard the ship. Transmissions in and out of this area are sparse and we are picking up an odd sign on the scanners that appears to be a great mass moving from the Davros Strait on a course with our trajectory. Hopefully they can give us some information as to what happened here.
Hailing from the small college town of Newark, Delaware, Edward Taylor splits his time between writing and raising his two shoggoths with his thankfully understanding and patient wife Kelley. At times he can be seen in the back of a roller rink announcing for some of the hardest folks on the hardwood with Diamond State Roller Derby. Follow him on FB – https://www.facebook.com/EATaylorAuthor/
It was Tuesday, and Kenneth Cooke, newly promoted from training status to the actual troubleshooting floor, was looking for an empty cubicle. His shift started at 10 am, and while that was cool for many reasons. The one drawback to it was, by the time he arrived at work every day, people who had gotten there earlier took all the cubicles.
Finally he spotted an empty cubicle and headed over to it. Whoever normally sat here had heavily personalized the work space, with pictures of various family members, a couple of plants, and several cute little plaques containing humorous mottos, like “I’m a 5:01 person in a 9 to 5 world” and “Remind me again how lucky I am to work here, I keep forgetting”.
Kenneth hesitated before pulling the chair out. Technically, there were no assigned seats at the call center, but this particular person had so obviously and utterly colonized this space that it just seemed…wrong, somehow….to sit there.
Amanda Resoyce, who was a supervisor in Kenneth’s department, saw his hesitation. “Yeah, it’s fine,” she told him. “Bill, the guy who sits there, is off on Tuesdays. Go ahead and sit down and get logged in.”
“Great,” Kenneth said. He still felt a little hesitant, but, reassured by Amanda’s instruction, he grabbed the back of the chair to pull it out—
Reality fractured into thick ice-like chunks above Kenneth’s head, and fell in jagged shards like daggers all about his feet. A shrieking void filled with unimaginable colors that writhed like eight dimensional slugs through configurations no human mind could sanely comprehend gaped open before, above, behind, and around him. Amanda Resoyce frantically grabbed at a support post, as she felt what seemed like a vast wind, smelling of blood and shit and cinnamon, grab her in a thousand invisible hands and try to tug her into the indescribable rip in the quantum fabric of time and space.
Kenneth screamed once and was sucked in to the howling void.
Sprawled on a pulsating field of somehow living (and hungry) grit, Kenneth looked up into the ululating awfulness of non-sky above him and, feeling his eyeballs starting to slide like melted wax out of their sockets, screamed his mind away in endless horror, even as the Undulaters began tendril-skating towards him, maws askew in interested hunger.
Back in the call center, Amanda combed her fingers through her hair. Another supervisor, Jameela Price, said, “Oh, you didn’t see the email? We’re not letting anyone sit at Bill’s workstation today. Some kind of thing… I’m not sure what.”
Amanda stared. “Well,” she said, “I know Bill doesn’t like it when other people sit at his station, but…um…say, was that symbol always drawn in the carpeting under his chair?”
“No,” Jameela said, “he put that there yesterday towards the end of his shift. He was chanting, too. I don’t know… I guess I should have said something. I didn’t notice the symbol until after he’d gone home, though. I guess we can talk to him tomorrow about it.”
Amanda remembered the large black books Bill habitually carried around with him and read from between calls. She also remembered the bizarre sight of Kenneth, tumbling into a hole in the air that had done its best to suck her in, as well. She remembered Kenneth’s silhouette, tumbling over and over, growing smaller and smaller, as if falling into a deep, chaotically hued shaft leading eternally downward into nothingness.
“Uh,” Amanda said. “Well…maybe we just shouldn’t mention it to him. And, you know, make sure nobody else tries to sit there.”
Jameela shrugged. “Yeah, maybe,” she agreed.
My name is D.A. Madigan. I’ve had stories bought by various professional markets, including April Moon’s FLESH LIKE SMOKE and the upcoming THE STARS AT MY DOOR, PS Publication’s THROUGH A MYTHOS DARKLY, the upcoming TRANSMISSIONS FROM PUNKTOWN, and several others I can’t talk about yet because the final TOCs haven’t been announced as yet, but I’ll be on them when they are.
Jeffrey Thomas called my story for TRANSMISSIONS FROM PUNKTOWN ‘bizarre and brilliant’, so I take that as high praise, given that Jeffrey Thomas is pretty much the ruling god-emperor of ‘bizarre and brilliant’.
In 2011 the Louisville Eccentric Observer voted me Louisville’s Best Local Author and just last summer I won an Imadjinn Award for my novella RED LETTER DAY.
By this point the sails are so much confetti trailing micro-fiber lines. We look like a poorly tricked-out Bakian punk’s jumper. We figured that we might as well call this deploy “solar sails” since they managed to slow us down enough to find out that Sol is what the local call this little star before it turned us into a Rut Festival float. As always, my favorite ear jockey has maneuvered us perfectly. We are going to slip between Sol 2 and 3 to drop us into a nice, clean S-curve around Sol, then a single jerk of negative acceleration to the starboard engine and slingshot around this orifice evacuatied excuse for a system, saving fuel at 20% over optimum projections. I am going to have to fuck all three of his holes to say “Ghneezax” for this one. That means ten extra flips at full acceleration, and into the port 4.734 turns ahead of scheduled delivery. Narcotics are profitable and that means upgrades for my sweet baby…and some for the ship to.
“Tank, baby, grab your chin and cuddle them balls. You’re going to need them. We are now at Sol 3 planar orbit and nearing 180 degrees. 5 ren burn that’ll make your brain take a week sliding back down to your asses, and we are looping out of this…”
The whole ship jerked alright, but not because of the engine. We hit something…big. You absolutely, never hear dings against the hull, but I sure as fuck heard something.
I yelled, “Sweet Baby Roofus! What the fuck did you just do to my ship?”
“I didn’t see it. Honeybuns never detected it. Who could have expected it? It ain’t my fault!”
“What ain’t your fault, super pilot who ain’t getting laid tonight, after all?”
Fre giggled back, “Tank, I don’t know how to say this…but, at 180 degrees we…I had to have Baby rip data from Sol 3 to identify it…we hit a toaster. A big, fucking toaster. Tactile is on your pad now, if you wanna take a feel.”
Shit. Roofus was pretty stressed if Fre was venting NO2. Sometimes I hate Thrillians. “What kind of damage are we talking about, Slick-tail?”
Fre managed to sound ashamed while continuing to giggle, “Boss, we’re limping home. Thirty-seven turns late on delivery at best. Repairs are going to cost twice what we will get paid on delivery. I’m going to sling us back between Sol 4 and 5 then shoot it again at twelve degrees vertical of any planetary orbit.”
“Can you get decently close to Sol 3 on the way?”
“I can. It’ll cost a bit of fuel, but why?”
“We gonna drop some dead weight on the way home and make ourselves feel real good doing it. When you are close enough to the primitives who don’t understand “Don’t make us shoot. Don’t pollute.” drop three of Baby Bird’s eggs and glass that fucker.”
“I like the way you think. Looks like you’re the one getting lubed tonight…all eight of them.”
“Boss…got a weak transmission coming in. Their philosophers or priests or scientists or whatever are claiming that we just pulled a “hit and run” on God.”
“Fuck ’em. Count to three and say “Goorshik VorrroaW!”
I could hear Roofus’ smiles, “I never get over how much prettier those glassed planets look after we’re done with them.”
My ear began to erect and get cold, “You’re just a hopeless romantic. That’s number four of the three reasons I love you, so peel them open. Put the big girl on auto and let’s fuck.”
“Whatever you say, you’re the boss. You want me to bring some Tribbles?”
BanWynn Oakshadow has been a poet, writer, artist and photographer since 1978 He grew up in rural Ohio, lived much of his adult life in the desserts of Colorado and Arizona and lives on a 400 yo farm in Sweden.. He writes about Native American & Viking history, lots of speculative fiction, Child Abuse, Mental Illness and Spirituality. He loves donating works to animal charity anthologies and publications that don’t pay, but give people who live to write and write to live a place to share it. You can find him at uncleoakie.wordpress.com
“Hail, Old Ones! Hail, Great Ones!” He called. Only the echo of His roar answered Him.
He narrowed His eyes to better view His surroundings. Jutting up from the ground were mounds of rocks, their peaks pushing past the ocean waves and reaching for the graying sky beyond. It was quiet and still around Him. The schools of fish had long scattered at His approach. Even the lowly corals had receded deep into their shells, cowering. For a moment He spied a few intrepid sharp toothed sharks hovering at the edge of His vision. Sensing His gaze they, too, disappeared into the depths.
His eyes scanned the mounds before Him. He could feel them. Why didn’t they answer?
He tried again: “Hail, Old Ones! Hail, Great Ones!”
For a moment more He stood in quiet nothingness. Then, there was a subtle shifting. The sense of movement came from inside one of the stony pillars. An energy, an outreach, a probing, then a connection.
The earth before Him strained as if willing itself to remain sealed. It screamed in protest and shuddered as it was wrenched open. For a moment, He saw the tips of curled appendages probe the maw of the fissure. Wilting, their work done, they receded from view and were replaced by an enormous eye. It lolled about, tugging at colorless flesh as it viewed its surroundings. Seeing him, the eye paused and the heavy weight of its scrutiny fell upon Him. He saw his own reflection peering back from the surface of the orb. He was enshrouded by the dying rays of the sunset that cast an eerie red-orange light onto the world around him. It was bright enough that he saw the iris as it expanded and contracted around the pupil. The colors within it were last seen at the birth of the universe. The dark center of the eye, however, contained a myriad of blacknesses, a series of darks carried forth from the death throes of the universe that existed before this one.
He waited, motionless, as the gaze moved across His body.
A rumble spread across the ocean floor before Him. The sound reached up and wrapped around him. “Cthulhu.”
He bowed in ascent.
“Seed of my seed, we bid you welcome.”
“We are the beings of the Old Universe, the universe that was. We are the only ones left of that place and of that time. As you are now, we once were.”
The eye grew wide for a moment and its hold on Him lessoned. It grew unfocused, as if it could once again see the place of its birth. It looked to the Heavens and rolled back. A white membrane of flesh enveloped it. All grew quiet as it dwelled in memories.
The lids parted, unveiling the orb beneath. Again, the gaze focused on Him with new interest. Its intensity burned Him, reaching through his flesh, then blood, and touching his soul.
“We made our homes here and drew the earth about us. We watched and waited as life arose from the slime and mire. After a thousand generations had come and gone we grew comfortable. We slept. We waited. After a million generations, your father awakened us. We destroyed Him for His impetuousness. He fed us his scrambled brains and beating heart. The stench of his corpse destroyed most of the creatures above, but it was not yet time for an end to all. A million million generations have passed since then and you, son of my son, awaken us.”
Cthulhu raised His head.
“The noise from above reaches us. Anarchy calls. Anger. Distrust. Disillusionment.”
He waited. The eye rolled again, but this time it didn’t fully close. Within its depths was a new emotion: ecstasy. This resounded in the Old One’s voice as well. The next works were tinged with a tone of excitement.
“The time has come,” it said.
Though Cthulhu could not see his face, He knew that the Old One was smiling. Then Grandfather added, “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”
Cthulhu closed his eyes.
Grandfather called again: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!”
The third time Grandfather said these words there were new voices saying them, too. The voices rose from the landmasses beyond the one holding Grandfather. Each island had its own Old One and each Old One joined in the call.
“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!”
The water writhed around Him, trying to escape the reach of the chant. Fissures exploded from the protesting ground. Soft tendrils emerged from them, reaching for Him, caressing his skin. They gripped him, probed him, pulled him down.
Lighting rocked in the distant sky, indiscriminately striking the water and the land. He heard the screams from above. He felt the fear. He felt the panic.
“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!”
This universe must come to an end. The Old Ones’ call filled his ears and spilled into his being; he felt the darknesses of a thousand universal death knells well within.
Slowly the tendrils dropped from his body, releasing him. He opened his eyes. It was time.
Brandy Stark is a Tampa Bay, Florida artist, educator and writer. Before becoming full time faculty in the Humanities, she served as an arts correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times from 1998 to 2002. She also wrote for other local publications, including Bayside News, Sterling Powell’s City Life, and several art based websites. Her award-winning creative writing has been published local. Recently, she self – published two booklets on the history and haunts of the Suntan Art Center (Spectral Musings) and Patty and Friends Antique Village (Ghostly Encounters: Patty and Friends Antique Village). Both may be purchased at Amazon.com in print or for Kindle.
Well, I ain’t no chopper, baby.
Didn’t come to mist your crops.
I just got the drop on this lamb.
Gonna drop ‘im on those rocks.
Yeah, I’m gonna drop in for dinner,
get right at his innards. Gonna daub
my masticating mouth bits with his
Soft little fleece suit. Little fleece suit.
Got here through a wormhole, babe.
Ain’t May 2004 where I’m from, hon!
Sorry to cause so much trouble.
Sorry to bust your time/space bubble.
I’m just an eight-foot dragonfly.
Relax. Yer too skinny to scarf.
Don’t do cotton burritos in bikinis,
even itsy bitsy teeny weeny polka-dotted ones.
Fifties caught up with you, babe.
Cold war fantasies of giant radioactive
ants had you freaked. I just decided
to visit, spin a few platters from the past..
Cop some fast food, cruise the valley
with my top down, so to speak.
Grab a sheep. Go on the lam
before heading back to my Cretaceous crib.
G-g-g giant d-d-dragonfly!
Don’t go flub flub flub
When I’m in flyin’mode. Just hover, hon.
Suck back a few sanguine shakes.
Meganuera monyi, Cretacious cutie.
Gonna sock it to you, babe,
in psychedelic moire colours,
all four wings ablaze!
Leda only had a Don Juan
gone-by-dawn swan, sweetheart –
a smooth talker, great lover maybe –
but he knocked you up, didn’t he?
I may be more mechanical,
But I can dance on a dime,
hover, feint left or right
better than your best boxer.
Hey! I’ve got compound eyes.
I see you comin’ and goin’.
Know all three of my right feet
from my left. Am totally tubular!
Fast shuffle, fox tot, waltz –
I got ‘em covered. Flap flap.
Don’t need a gat, pork pie,
Zoot suit, or any flim flam scam.
Zzz Zzzz Zzz. C’mon, honey,
Shake your money maker!
I’m the dude who can take you
to another era. Fly with me!
Richard Stevenson recently retired from a thirty-year teaching gig at Lethbridge College . His most recent books are Rock, Scissors, Paper: The Clifford Olson Murders, a long poem sequence (Dreaming Big Publications, USA, 2017), and A Gaggle of Geese, haikai poems and sequences, ( Alba Publications, UK,2017 )
“Welcome to the United Worlds Judicature. Kuiper Courts of Health are administered and regulated by the Solarian laws of the Ministry of Health and Longevity. Please note that all our sessions are recorded and may be accessed by the allocated attorneys in your trial.”
I stared quietly at the holograph of the young woman standing in front of me. She didn’t look old enough to be conducting a hearing. She was dressed more like a call centre agent than an adjudicator: a sharply ironed white shirt, and a tight grey skirt skimming her knees. Even the golden stripes on her collar failed to convey authority; they were more like stylish accessories on her.
I felt irritated by the Ministry adopting a youthful image in every possible department. A ministry wasn’t supposed to act like an advertising agency; it was an administrative body.
As the holographic lady glowed, the room revealed itself. Its decor was certainly not suited to legal affairs. The only pieces of furniture I could see were a long metal desk like an operating table, and an uncomfortable-looking chair.
The hologram-lady spoke again, with excellent human intonation. “Please state your full name along with your title.”
“Doctor,” I said, and stopped. I cleared my throat and started again, trying to sound as authoritative as I could, “Doctor Torren Ronin.”
The hologram-lady’s expression remained flat. I doubted if she realised who I was. Perhaps she hadn’t yet been updated with the latest news. I was quite sure that she was capable of expressing emotions – even half-a-century-old holograms were.
She looked like a recent upgrade – I knew the rule of thumb was the newer the model, the more details. I could see a small scar on her left eyebrow – as if she could ever cut herself – and I could even hear this particular upgrade taking a short breath before she spoke. It was worrying how holograms were becoming more and more human.
Apart from the glow, there weren’t any other obvious giveaways that she wasn’t actually a real human. Maybe her skin and hair . . . she was a bit too pallid, and even though she had dark brown hair, it was rather lustreless. Perhaps that’s why all the holograms dressed in shades of grey: if they were to wear vivid colours, their pale features would stand out even more.
“Please state how you would prefer to be addressed,” she said.
“Doctor Ronin,” I replied.
“Doctor Ronin, my name is Sheeran Hund. I’m a Category-M Class-B judiciary conductor. I specialise in handling cases in conjunction with the Human Lifespan Law.”
I recognised the hint of warning in her voice. She was reminding me that she was highly trained in medicine as well as law, so I wouldn’t be able to get away with any medical subterfuge.
“Please look at the white dot on your left for an iris scan, Doctor Ronin.”
I waited for the holographic dot to appear on my left, reminding myself that the Ministry of Health was more concerned about the safety of their systems than speed. When it did finally pop out, I stared at it, as still as the hologram lady herself.
With an affirmative beep, my iris scan was confirmed.
“Now please direct your wrist towards the same dot for your i-code scan.”
I reached down to my lab coat to unbutton it. My generation didn’t have their i-codes lasered onto their wrists but onto their neck; mine was closer to my collar bone. I was proud of having my i-code where it was – it meant that I was one of the last to be ‘born’ into this world. I wasn’t conceived in a lab with a permission slip issued in my parents’ names. I hadn’t spent the first nine months of my life in a minute incubator. I was born — just like our ancestors had been for all those millennia.
But I was surprised to see that I wasn’t wearing my lab coat as usual. Instead I had apparently put on a white shirt and some grey trousers – which I couldn’t even remember owning. There was no point wasting time pondering any longer. I opened my shirt collar and turned to the holographic dot on my left. A green laser sliced the darkness in two and scanned my i-code.
I knew that my identification had been confirmed after another affirmative beep. The holographic dot vanished into thin air, quicker than it had appeared.
“Thank you, Doctor Ronin,” said Ms Hologram. She walked around the metal table and pulled out the only chair. She sat down. I couldn’t help but wince slightly: seeing holograms moving real objects always disturbed me.
“In accordance with the conditions provided by the Kuiper Courts of Health, you have the right to terminate this session any time you wish. You may do so by pressing the red button on your right armrest. Are you ready to proceed now?”
“Doctor Ronin: today we are here to clarify a fact brought to our attention by HRDS. The Healthcare Reporting and Delivery System has recorded 5.4 per cent of patients requiring emergency-level intervention within 14 days of using your services: that is 17 patients out of the 312 you have seen in the last month. Could you explain this figure, please.”
I was watching Ms Hologram’s left eyebrow. If that cut hadn’t been there, she would have looked flawless. I wondered if this was another strategy developed by the Ministry to make holograms even more human. If they were now including flaws in their design, were we to have uglier, older or crippled holograms soon?
Ms Hund was probably older than me anyway. She undoubtedly had a longer lifespan than me. I questioned how fair it was on us humans to be questioned, taxed, fined and even arrested by computer software which we’d developed and which lived longer than us.
“Doctor Ronin? Do you have any comments?”
“Ms Hund.” I raised my voice. I was getting annoyed with her impatience. “I completed my medical training at the age of 20. For the last 17 years, I’ve been an active healthcare practitioner, a scientist and a lecturer. I’ve served on four different continents on this planet, always with an A-level achievement score. If you were to download the latest news, you would see my name as one of the winners of the prestigious Cornels Science Prize for Academic Excellence. I have dedicated my life to this cause, and I am planning to pursue the same route for the three remaining years of my life. Now, are you really accusing me of not caring enough for my patients?”
“I apologise, Doctor Ronin. Our concern is not of not caring enough – indeed, it is quite the opposite: we are worried about you caring too much.”
I was puzzled by her words. “What exactly are you trying to say, Ms Hund?”
She placed her fingers on the metal table carefully and looked at them one by one, as if she were counting facts in her head. “Doctor Ronin . . .’ She paused. ‘A doctor of experience would unquestionably know that some of these patients were to be admitted to the Quarantine Wards. Allow me to show you what I mean.”
A holographic screen appeared on my left, showing the data of one of my patients. Ms Hologram read out loud, “R. Conas. Male. Age: 26. Medium level of inherited inclination for substance addiction and a high level of potential mood disorder. Medical history includes: inconsistent cardiovascular activity and a limited lung capacity because of a birth defect. Medical offences: smoking and livestock consumption. Past treatments have involved intense rehabilitation and Type-2 supplementation on a daily basis. Admitted to the Quarantine Wards four times. Taken into custody twice. Jailed once, because of tobacco possession. He was released on probation and scheduled to see you on a weekly basis. However, you, Doctor . . . issued this patient a Green Medical Pass after his first visit.”
“I had to,” I said. “Mr Conas’s older sister was due her Last Sleep. She was his only living relative. I issued Mr Conas with a temporary Green Pass for him to visit his sister. Without the pass, he wouldn’t have been able to travel to another Solarian province.”
“Doctor Ronin, I can empathise with your concern for Mr Conas’s circumstances – however, you must be aware of the regulations against such procedures. Solarian Law article 1747 section 1-b: no Green Medical Cards are to be issued to any patient unless that patient has had a clean track record for three months.”
“I’m certainly aware of the Healthcare Law, Ms Hund. In this particular case, there was an exemption clause that covered Mr Conas’ circumstances.”
“May I ask which clause that was?”
“Legislation 79118/5: Mr Conas has less than three months to live.”
Ms Hund rapidly scanned the data which began to flow across the holographic screen on my left. “Our records state that Mr Conas has three years, eleven days and five hours before his Last Sleep.”
“Then you must update your records more often. Mr Conas has a lung defect which will cause his demise earlier.”
“Doctor Ronin, can you please confirm that you have submitted this information to HRDS?”
“I should have done, Ms Hund, but as you know, we practitioners have the flexibility to report within 7 days if we’re working away from the office – and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last week.”
I took pleasure in watching Ms Hologram express a human emotion for the first time: frustration.
She continued, irritated, “Doctor Ronin, I hope you understand that you cannot use the same excuse for 17 cases.”
“Yes, I do understand that.”
“Well, Doctor, you don’t leave us with any other option. I will have to refer your case to the FYS Judgement Team.”
“Ms Hund,” I snapped, “this case – or any other such case you might bring up – has no link to FYS in any way.”
“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I believe there is enough evidence here to start an FYS investigation. It is a common problem, especially in the medical profession. Dealing with your own kind’s weaknesses and short lifespan from one day to another will almost inevitably affect your own mental state.”
“Then can you explain why you rejected your own Retirement Plan, Doctor Ronin?”
“That has nothing to do with this case, or FYS.”
“It has a lot to do with FYS, Doctor. It is a fact that 87 per cent of doctors who have been diagnosed with FYS reject their Retirement Plans.”
“I was born on this planet, Ms Hund! Do you know what that means? I was born – conceived – here, and I have spent all my life working on this planet, serving my own race. I would rather lose five years of my life and die here, at home, than meet my end rotting on another planet full of ghostly holograms or mucus-leaking humanoids. You cannot use my personal choice of where I’d like to die as evidence for the existence of a made-up illness. Final Years Syndrome is a disorder invented solely to retire humans who are fed up with handing over their own race over to non-existent creatures like you! I refuse to be a part of this screwed-up system – that is why I rejected my so-called Retirement Plan. It’s we who created you, Ms Hund – and yes, we are the same race who ruined this planet in the process! We don’t have the resources to support ourselves anymore, so what do we do? We put our own race to sleep at the age of 40 so that our children can also enjoy life for 40 years – and, yes, God damn it, we don’t or can’t touch you, because you don’t consume any of our precious resources, because you cost less and serve well! But may I remind you, Ms Hund, you owe your nonexistent existence to humans like me!”
“And I would like to remind you, Doctor Ronin, that my ‘nonexistent existence’ will survive beyond your grandchildren’s existence,” she said, and turned towards the holographic screen floating on my left. “Decision made: In accordance with Human Lifespan Act article 213449 section 8-f, I refer case number 847983 to the FYS Judgement Team—”
The screen was automatically typing everything she said. I heard alarms coming from every corner of the room. A male voice began to bark out a sentence again and again: Soundproofing has been cancelled. Soundproofing has been cancelled. Soundproofing has been cancelled.
I couldn’t bear it any longer. I pressed the red button on my chair.
“Congratulations, Ms Hund,” a male voice called.
I couldn’t see who was talking; my vision was blocked by a bulky headset. When I lifted the headset, I found myself in a completely different room. I looked around to remind myself of where I was; I was at the Simulation Lab.
“Ms Hund?” called my senior, Mr Rame.
“Yes, Mr Rame. I’m with you,” I said, pulling the electrodes off my chest. I fastened the top two buttons of my shirt and placed the headset back onto its unit.
Mr Rame examined me with his coppery eyes. “You have some remarkable scores here, Ms Hund. You seem not only to experience anger in its human purity, but you are also to control it rather successfully. Your empathy levels are also worth a mention. However, there is one area that I think needs attention.”
“What is that, Mr Rame?”
He looked down for a moment, and then said, “I assume you know why you were asked to retake this test?”
“Yes, sir. I do.”
“You understand why you were given one of our most celebrated scientists’ templates as a skin? Doctor Ronin had a huge positive impact on humankind – indeed, some of his methods are still taught in medical institutions today.”
“Yes, sir, I know. I am honoured to have seen the world from such an influential human’s point of view.”
“You have also heard of Doctor Ronin’s notorious pride, then.”
He paused for a short while, as if contemplating how he should continue. “Your scores are almost impeccable, Ms Hund, but you must be careful when dealing with feelings of pride. It is not one of those positive human emotions that the Ministry accommodates. Your tendency towards pride was also highlighted in your previous result; that’s why you were asked to retake the test with Doctor Ronin’s template. We wanted to see how you handled this challenge.”
“I understand, sir,” I said. I fixed my eyes on a random spot on the floor. I waited quietly for his verdict.
“It’s important to relate to human emotions, Ms Hund, but it’s more important to remember that we’re civil servants with a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. Adopting the dark side of human nature can be highly destructive. Even though you’ve successfully handled a challenging skin in Doctor Ronin’s, I would advise you to be wary of your pride under all circumstances. I assume we both understand each other, don’t we?”
I nodded eagerly. I had detected the friendly tone of his voice.
“I guess I should offer you the first human handshake and welcome you as an official adjudicator for Kuiper Courts of United Worlds Judicature,” he said. “Welcome aboard!”
I come from a family of musicians. Creativity and communicating with fingers were hereditary defaults for me. Yet I had no intention of joining the shemozzle caused by my cousins, practising different instruments day and night. I was told I didn’t have the voice to sing, which I had no intention to anyway. I had a different passion, the same as Leonardo da Vinci: I wanted to know everything. I was cursed with an overwhelming curiosity. But unlike Leonardo, I couldn’t even draw a straight line. My thoughts and feelings accumulated inside me until I found another way of expressing them through my fingers; that was when I began to draw with letters. For more information about my work, please visit: http://sesever.com/