“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.
On the screen he saw the black hole
Like a forbidden gate to an ancient cave
Rotating, pulsating and glowing
Breaking every known law of nature
After tracking and analyzing the divergent
He had come to a horrifying conclusion
The battleships stood ready and armed
They could arrive at any time
A distortion in the field
As a silent before the storm
Was the only warning they got
Before hell broke loose
Swarm after swarm attacked them
Black dragons of anti-matter
Crawled up from the bottom of underverse
Our missiles created strange phenomena
Bending time and breaking space on impact
Creating rare and unknown particles and elements
Spreading high radiating waves all over the place
We named them hellitrons
These new strange particles that will kill us all
And turning Universe into a dead space
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 50 different horror anthologies from publishers as Horrified Press, James Ward Kirk Fiction, Source Point Press, Thirteen Press etc. Homepage: http://mathiasjansson72.blogspot.se/ Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mathias-Jansson/e/B00BTDBYBQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4?qid=1366806658&sr=8-4
Gilbert spat out words like he had a mouthful of marbles. “Shay, you better not freakin’ screw this up.”
Shay looked back to the coffin-like stasis pods, which glowed green and hummed just as they had the entire trip—the first manned expedition to Mars. He knew his three crewmates were asleep, but that didn’t stop the voices.
Something had gone wrong. He was awoken three months out—way too early—a long time to be conscious and alone. Earth comm was iffy at best and mostly fouled up with solar static for the moment. If it wasn’t for the voices, he might have gone insane.
Dayson whimpered. “I don’t trust him, man. He’ll crash for sure.”
Shay shrugged. “Shut the hell up. I need to concentrate.” The crew never answered him, but it made him feel better to vent.
Fran said, “Give the guy a break. He’ll be fine.”
Shay liked Fran. He thought he might be falling in love with her. Every once in a while he sat astride her pod, gazing at her long, wavy blonde hair and those pouty lips. The clear gel made everything look fresh.
The console beeped a warning. Shay scanned the readouts. A graphic displayed his trajectory—the final approach. He sank into his seat, rubbing his palms against his legs. All he had to do was to watch.
A curved blue line grew closer to an orange one. Orbit entry was seconds away. He bit into a breakfast munchy, and reached up to brighten the display. Of a sudden, he heard a ping followed by a deafening claxon. The screen went blank.
“What was that?” said Gilbert.
Dayson screamed, “We’re doomed!”
Shay felt the blood drain from his face. The crumbly remains of the munchy floated out over the console. It was a breach. Air was escaping. He reached for his helmet, but the clamp held nothing.
“Goddamn. Damn it. Damn it.”
He unbuckled and floated out over the pods, glancing down at each as he bumped his way to the rear.
“You’ll get us all killed.”
Gilbert was so damn negative.
Hissing erupted from a far corner of the pod bay, where his helmet twittered in place. It was trying to plug the escaping air. A closer look revealed a shattered face shield. Whatever skewered the ship left him without a working helmet.
He pushed off and headed back. Each pod had a suit perched over it, complete with a custom made helmet. Breathing became a shore, and Shay thought he might be turning purple. His suit had a two-hour air supply, but it was useless without a helmet.
“Not mine, you don’t,” said Gilbert.
Dayson was next.
“Son-of-a-bitch. Are you trying to kill me?”
A perfect fit.
“Put it back, you self-centered ass!”
Shay felt a bit heady as he filled his lungs. Those two always had something to jaw about. When he drifted over Fran’s pod, her face stared up at him, placid and unperturbed. Her eyes were open. He grabbed hold of a crossbeam and looked again. Her eyes were closed. Lack of oxygen could play tricks.
The ship had turned off the air supply the moment the breach occurred—a great example of engineering by committee. Obviously someone forgot to bring up a damaged helmet in the discussion.
Shay turned off the muted alarm and the monitor flickered back on. He focused on the blue line now intersecting the orange. The impact had delayed the automated entry and the window for orbit insertion had passed. Shay fiddled with the controls. That’s when he remembered the other hole—a hole about the size of a dime gaped down at him. It went through the heart of the computer system. The blue line rotated to an alarming angle. They were headed to the surface.
“Freakin’ dumbass at the controls. We’re screwed,” said Gilbert.
Shay fired off a series of small attitude rockets, and turned the ship’s stern toward the descent. The screen went dark red. The Sun’s penumbra covered half the display. Beyond the shadow lay a curved horizon, brick red and streaked with blue meteoritic ejecta. His fingers hovered over the retro control. Deciding when and how long to fire that rocket was like being in a falling elevator and trying to jump up just before crashing
“You fool! Look what you’ve done. We’re all going to die.”
Gilbert and his frantic squeals only added fuel to the mounting chaos inside Shay’s head.
“You’ll be fine, Shay. I trust you,” said Fran.
“Thanks, Fran. Whatever happens, know that I love you.”
He surprised himself with that.
With eyes glued to the altimeter, he punched the retro controls. His body whipped back into his seat. The Martian horizon spun. The ship spiraled and at once his stomach rose up against his throat. His outstretched hand wavered over the console. A fingertip caught the chute deployment toggle just before he retched.
He felt the lurch. Wet munchy chunks stuck to his visor, obscuring his view of the console. He closed his eyes trying to ignore the stench, and held his breath.
“Now you’ve done it. Puked all over yourself. You’re a disgrace.”
He could always count on Gilbert.
The landing came too soon. Shay flew out of his seat and smashed into a wall. His last waking thought centered on the screams of tearing metal and popping rivets.
* * *
When Shay awoke, he lay on the floor. His arms and legs were still attached. A pink glow suffused the cockpit. He turned to find its source—the rocky terrain of Mars greeted him through jagged edges of torn metal. The ship was a wreck, cracked in half, but he had landed and he was alive.
“Hey. Everybody okay?”
“Gilbert, you cranky asshole. How do you like that landing, heh? What about you, Dayson? Still worried?”
He walked back into the shadows. The pods were split open. Gel had turned into bubbling foam. Gilbert and Dayson, what was left of them, were splayed across the pod bay. His eyes darted to Fran’s pod.
“I knew you could do it.”
Fran sat atop a fallen crossbeam. She wore only a tee and shorts, the same as she wore the whole trip.
She raised a finger to her lips. “I guess I’m just lucky. We’re both lucky.”
Shay felt the weight of cold air against his back. “But, but you don’t have a suit on. You’ll freeze. And how can you breathe?”
“As you can see, the air here is fine.” Fran turned to look out onto the shimmering landscape. “Isn’t it beautiful? Shay, won’t you take that awful helmet off and join me for a stroll?”
The half-light illumined her rosy cheeks which dimpled as she threw him another smile. First man and first woman on Mars, that’s what they were. Thank God she survived.
Fran paused at the opening. “Shall we?”
He thought about what he could say—something the folks back on Earth would repeat forever afterwards—but then, who would hear his words?
“I would, honey.”
What seemed like an impossible decision evaporated with those words. Shay beamed at her and unscrewed his helmet.
As a scientist, I have written and published over 100 scientific articles and several book chapters. My novel, Algorithm, won a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award and will be published in 2014. I’ve also published a number of short stories, many of which have been named Finalists in the Royal Palm Literary Competitions. Several recently garnered Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. Harry and Harry and P’sall Senji placed first in the 2012 and 2013 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll of best science fiction and fantasy short stories.