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/
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 )
Down the stairs, I went in a spiral.
Down to the dark cave furnished only with a mirror and a lectern.
In the ancient open book I could read words in a language not spoken since the beginning of time. The mirror’s surface trembled, and in the distance I could see a shadow approaching fast. The perspectives were perverted and the sight filled my mind with madness.
Before the abnormal creature stretched its tentacles outside the frame, I managed with my last sanity to throw the book in the mirror and shatter the glass.
Since that day, I fear mirrors.
Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and horror poet. He has been published in magazines as The Horror Zine, Dark Eclipse, Schlock and The Sirens Call. He has also contributed to over 100 different horror anthologies from publishers as Horrified Press, James Ward Kirk Fiction, Source Point Press, Thirteen Press etc. Homepage: http://mathiasj ansson72.blogspot.se/ Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/ Mathias-Jansson/e/B00BTDBYBQ/r ef=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4?qid=13668 06658&sr=8-4
“Ha! Ha! Ha! — ha! Ha! Ha! — Ho! Ho! Ho!” — roared our visitor, profoundly amused, “oh, Dupin, you will be the death of me yet! –-Monsieur G.~ (The Purloined Letter, Edgar Allan Poe)
C. Auguste Dupin, suddenly, at his home in the Faubourg St. Germain.
I was in Dijon when I read this, and my soul sickened at the words. The year was 186–, and I had not seen my old friend for- 15 years? 20? Had it been as long as that? And he’d been there, at the house in which we had once dwelt together (for surely he would not have bestirred himself sufficiently to move to another dwelling in the same district). The obituary blurred before me as I reflected that, but for my absorption in my own affairs, I could have gone there and seen him, and talked with him, in that old place which I had once loved so well.
I returned to Paris with all speed, determined not, at any rate, to fail to meet my old friend at our last possible appointment.
I arrived at the crumbling mansion the next morning. The door was unlocked, and the house was full of funerary flowers. They were wilting already, possibly due to Dupin’s abhorrence of daylight. As I wandered in sad reverie from room to room, seeking the mourners who must have brought the flowers, I saw that this hatred of sunlight had grown into an obsession. The fine windows had shutters without, and within they were boarded up, and a sticky tar introduced into the cracks.
I had almost believed I was alone when I heard the weeping of a woman coming from the library. I had, I now realized, been avoiding that room, for it had been Dupin’s favorite place, and grief had rendered me a coward. I cursed myself and entered.
There was the coffin, shining and polished, in the center of the room, and more lilies heaped about it. I stared at this memento mori, stunned anew by Death’s permanency.
“He was a great friend of monsieur’s?” A voice spoke from a dark corner. A woman, bent nearly double with age and frailty, approached me out of the shadows.
“He was indeed, madame,” I said. “And – you?”
“I was his grand—“ said the woman — and hesitated. “His grandmother,” she said, looking at her withered hands.
We exchanged commonplaces. Soon, however, she left me, saying that she must lie down, for a time, to recoup her strength for the funeral.
I was alone with the coffin of my dearest friend.
Suddenly, I greatly desired to look upon him once more. And the lid, I saw, had not yet been screwed down.
The word “suddenly” in an obituary is generally a cloak for ghastliness. It may mean accident, or murder, or suicide. As I heaved the coffin lid out of its niche and moved it aside, I was prepared for anything.
Or so I thought.
Monsieur G.–, Prefect of the Parisian Police, gazed up at me from the silk-lined interior of the coffin, his dead face wearing an expression of betrayed surprise.
I do not know how I got the lid back into position; I remember that my hands shook and that I scrabbled uselessly at the polished lid for a time, finding no purchase. When the lid slammed back into place, I thought the noise of it loud enough to wake the dead, and I feared that Dupin’s nameless relative would come to see what had happened. She did not do so; I met no one as I left the house.
I did not attend the funeral. I wandered the, as always, near-deserted streets of the Faubourg St. Germain, thinking furiously. I must have wandered for many hours. Eventually, I found a shabby tavern, and I stumbled in, more to be around other human creatures than for the sake of a drink, though I sorely need that as well, for I was shaking still, and not from the seeping vaporous cold that rose up from the ground as afternoon shaded into evening.
The landlord was a surly fellow, and I was in no mood for idle talk, so for a time I drank and he served in silence. He was roused to speech, however, by the sight of a hearse- the hearse- as it passed the grimy window.
“Monsieur knows perhaps who it is being buried today?” He asked. I said no. It seemed the wisest course.
“Ah,” said the landlord, shaking his head, “It is a bad story, I think. There were rumors about that one. The girls – you know –“ here he gave me a truly terrible leer – “they say that sometimes one goes off in his company – and they never return. Poof! They are gone. Feeling has been getting very bad here, monsieur, and there was even talk of a police investigation, though that seems to be done with. What do the police care about the likes of them?” His solemn complaisance irked me.
I was fairly sure that I could name one policeman, at any rate, who had cared. And he was shortly to be buried in Dupin’s grave.
Should I have made a fuss? Should I have stopped the burial somehow? All I can say is that I did not do so. I stayed on and drank deep. Night had fallen in earnest when I left the establishment.
I walked directly (I will not say straight) back to Dupin’s house.
The door was now locked. I found that my hand, when it felt resistance, had automatically tried a trick I had used when I had lived here — the lock was old and badly in need of repair, and if you lifted the door slightly, the lock would sometimes disengage. To my surprise, and with a stirring of sentiment, I found that this same trick had worked now.
I went inside, and straight to the library, for that was where Dupin would be. I flung the door open, fearing neither Devil nor Man.
At first, I thought the room was deserted. But then I saw eyes shining in the darkness from the depths of an armchair.
“My old friend, I welcome you to my home on this sad occasion!” He said. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that his fingers were stroking a petal of one of the lilies that were still filling the chamber. The lily was dead and withered; the petal he touched seemed to wither more with his every caress.
“Dupin –“ I said, and stopped. There was a word for it, a word that eluded me.
“Vampire,” Dupin suggested, mildly. “You have come here to tell me – what I am.”
“How?” I asked this automatically. Dupin had always had this trick of following one’s train of thought as if it were a thing one could board at a station.
Dupin shrugged; for a moment, his face displayed a boredom verging on despair. “A slightly more interesting question is, perhaps, why you have brought this word to me. Was it merely to lay it at my feet, like a good dog?”
“I—“ again, I stopped, for I did not know.
Dupin looked at me sadly. “You have brought this word to me so that you may die,” he said- and then he was upon me, so fast that I had no time for comprehension.
As to what happened in that dark room, my memories are vague and dream-like. There was movement in the dark, a great rushing all around, and a pounding—whether that of my heart or of some ill-fated visitor at the door, I do not know — we were not alone in the darkness, though of who or what joined us there I remain, perhaps blessedly, ignorant.
I must have lost consciousness. I woke up alone, lying on my back in the house’s tiny and neglected garden, the next morning.
I thought that Dupin had spared me, that our friendship had caused him to stay his hand.
God help me, I thought that the sunlight was painful to my head because of the drinking I had done the night before.
But Dupin hadn’t spared me.
I know that now.
I have lived a very long time. I have been many places, though as my condition worsens (and it is slow, agonizing slow, but it comes, it comes) I keep more and more to shade and darkness.
At first, I sought Dupin, though whether to beg him to cure me or to use my unnatural vigor to attempt to slay him, I never knew.
But Dupin had seemingly vanished from all the haunts of men.
I gave up. When I had run out of interesting things to do, I came to England. I became an Englishman.
And one day, there he was. He had worked a change upon his appearance, through what wicked sorcery I know not. He was now a little man, with huge mustaches, a head like an egg, and eyes that were as green as a cat’s. How I knew him I do not know; could it be that the intelligence that radiates from a man’s eyes is as individual and unique as that of his face, or of his fingerprints (this discovery, of the uniqueness of fingerprints, was one that I had long wished to talk over with Dupin)? But I knew him.
“Mon ami!” He said, spreading his arms to embrace me, “I am so happy that we meet again!” His eyes twinkled as he looked me over, out of the heavy scarves he wore on the excuse of being sensitive to drafts and to cold. “I have a new name, and a new nationality; I have for many years been a good Belgian. But if you call me a Frenchman, this will not cause comment. We are in England, after all, and the English do not attend the distinction. We must find a name for you as well, no?”
“I’ve been living under the name of Hastings. After the battle,” I said.
“That will do excellently,” said he.
Melanie Atherton Allen lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania with her cat (Anubis), her boyfriend (Alec), and about thirty goldfish (none of which have names). She has won multiple prizes at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference for her fiction. She is currently working on a mystery novel.