The Tragedy of Elinor Thompson

This Week’s Prompt:  2.Inhabitants of Zinge, over whom the star Canopus rises every night, are always gay and without sorrow.

The Research:Made Up Words, Stars, and Utopia’s

Elinor Thompson awoke with a hundred arms and a single eye. She found herself screaming without sound, aware now of the watery darkness around her. She stared upward in the unlit room, desperately trying to scuttle around as best she could. Her red hair was gone, her dark skin now glowing dimly. As she struggle about, her mind assuring her this was but a dream, a dim hum began within her mind.

Elinor found that, as she walked, the humming grew louder in one part of the room, a room that seemed to be a watery bubble of stone. Accepting that this was some strange dream, she tumbled around, feeling the parts of her body as best she could. A clicking beak lay beneath her head, and beside it were two long legs, ready to spring. Testing them, she found her self floating in the water. As she went hurtling across the inky black the hum grew louder, but stayed soft and relaxed. It echoed in her brain as if some part of skull was vibrating in unison. Elinor swam towards them, closer and closer.

She found a great vastness through to tunnel after tunnel, until she came to a murky chasm that ran forever. For a moment, she thought she had found the end, an endless expanse of darkness. A moment passed of pristine silence, except the deep humming in her head. And then, a glowing dot. Several. A host of creatures, like pristine glowing jellyfish floated across the darkness, like stars in the evening sky. More whirled above and below here, adding tones to the growing choir.

The song rose and rose in pitch and volume, a growing calm, an overwhelming sensation of perfection. Elinor felt it swelling, driving her thoughts into the bottom of her mind. Waves building on each other, like the Shepards Tone, reaching upward and upward for infinite. In a few minutes or hours, for time was gone completely down in these watery depths, Elinor ceased to be a meaningful distinction. In those depths her own mind began to sing, the amorphous form began to dance in a swirl. In the widening gyre, she became one of the many lights.

And so she stayed for a time, rising and following on the currents. The swarming host swelled and sank with the tides, singing gleefully as they did. The chasm stretched in all directions, with thousands of homes budding off of the main stalk. Smaller creatures swam with many eyes or scuttled blind upon the wall. Oh the feasts that the choir entertained. Oh the prey that the host snatched and devoured as they sang.

And then, by chance, the one that was Elinor reached the top o the stalk. And peering around, sining as she did, she saw a hole. A lonesome hole. Curious and innocent, she ventured in. Emptiness rolled out before her, her light alone in the endless sea. Her mind, long emptied of terrestrial memories, now wondered dimly if out there, in the black, stood other stalks and other wondering stars.

She considered venturing forth to find them, the others in the dark. Her song grew joyous rather than content, and her eye squinted to see some distant mark. There was some distant shifting, but for a time nothing. And then, a crack.

A crack spread across the heavens, a great shining crack in the sky. As it spread, arrows of searing light struck through, burning Elinor’s single eye. And her song became silent, as before her the whole alien floor appeared. Sweeping across, a great wave of blackened plants began to stir, stretching tendril like branch toward the light.

And in the distance, a great shape began to rise. A multitude of claws appeared on the edge of the light, which continued to grow. The mass of shell and bone, a shimmering ebony, at first looked like a strange growth and nothing more. Or perhaps a mass of stone, a mountain of onyx growing beneath the sea bed. But it moved and stirred and strode through the flickering light. It moved toward the stalk, a beast so vast that Elinor could not see where it ended. And the song became a scream.

And Elinor awoke in a dark room, sitting atop her bed. Her hundred limbs now a mere four or five, with small digits extending out. Her beak had swelled into lips that puckered instead of clicked. She slowly recalled, as if from some distant dream, how to move her legs and arms, struggling to stand. As she pulled herself toward her blinds, and by instinct reached for the blinds. When the light entered, however, she started and hid behind the bed. In its shadow she saw them, a great many pages of paper sprawled across the floor. Slowly, she lifted them to her eyes to read.

A friend latter explained that the symbols were ancient Greek or Phoenician. Symbols over a thousand years old, that had no business being in her home. He asked if she was okay, that she hadn’t left her room in days. She smiled, and said it was simply a bad cold.

In her mental absence, some force had ransacked her room. She found things strew across the floor, books and clothes tossed about. And more papers, with pictures at times. The symbols snaked there way on the crumpled paper, written by a sloppy hand. A hand no doubt partially numb and used to its own light by which to write.

She drank coffee now, to avoid deeper dreams. Sometimes, when at last fatigue won over her caffeine, she would her the tattered remains of that distant song. Now, it was discordant. Now it was missing familiar tones. Some parts would end without warning. And sometimes, a new song. A song calming and deep, a bellow, that sounded as if it came from a vast host. And then, in those dreams, she would feel a thousand limbs and claws crawling on her skin.

Elinor managed to identify one of the pictures. It was a sketch of a boat keel, labeled Carina. A star, Canopus, was circled with writing around it. The letters were scrawled around it, and seemed messier than the rest, a terrified hand no doubt responsible. She wondered if that thing, in that distant deep ocean, had been terrrifeid by the light. Or if the silence, the dryness, and sky at night had been more horrifying yet.

Down by the sea, Elinor built her home, on the West Coast. She didn’t live there,not really. She lived in the coffee shops and drugs stores, fighting forever against night and sleep. But in time, her body did what bodies always do with enough time. It adapted. And she slept.She slept for days and in dim memory moved again in that dark chasm, now a ruin.

The blinding light broke through its walls, the choir lacking harmony. Except the dull base, which pulsed like a vile heart from the center of it all. There, in the rubble, it lay curled around it self. Staring deeply into Elinor’s eye. It stared and seemed to gaze through to her real eyes, to her world of eternal sunlight. To paradise, where the things before had hoped to dwell. A place without long sleeps. A place just on the other side of a dream.

And in the worst dreams, in the dreams that drive Elinor to keep herself awake through withdrawal pains, it sleeps. And she hears its dull pulsing song as she wakes, waiting to align again. And slip free.

That’s what I managed to dig up from the crypt. How about you, my fellow members? Did you raise anything particularly…unnerving?

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Made Up Words, Stars, and Utopia’s

This weeks prompt is: 2. Inhabitants of Zinge, over whom the star Canopus rises every night, are always gay and without sorrow.

The Resulting Story:The Tragedy of Elinor Thompson

Hello everyone, welcome back to the Undead Author Society where nothing stays dead forever!

So, like last time, my research began with looking up all the proper nouns. Canopus according, to Wikipedia, has some strong associations as the second brightest star in the sky. The big mythic ones are Chinese (longevity, as the star of the old man), several associations with birds (Polynesians and Kalapalo), a regal title in Hawaiian myth, and Tswanan associations with flying ants, termites, and winds. Canopus is also interesting in its association with navigators and sea travel.

Canopus is also significantly hotter than the sun, and a distinct white color. I’ll come back to this in a bit, but sometimes turning to the actual scientific nature of an object over the symbolic is helpful. Lovecraft himself was a rather strict materialist (ignoring the Dreamlands), so the choice of Canopus might be due to its brightness.

Then there’s Zinge. Zinge appears, in the context of the sentence, to be a planet of some sort, clearly inhabited. The word is meaningless, unless its an odd version of Zingdagi, the Hindi word for life. In which case, the title fits with Canopus as the Star of the Old Man and the general utopian flare of the prompt.

And that’s the hardest part of this prompt. Utopian literature was quite popular for a time and have an illustrious history, reaching all the way back Plato’s Republic arguably, and definitely to Thomas More’s Utopia in the fourteenth century, continued in works like Letters from Nowhere. The genre is political in nature, presenting an ‘ideal’ that society should strive for. The tradition of political literature is still alive and well, in the nightmarish form of the dystopia. Dystopia outlived its happier ancestor, probably because dystopia’s have a clear plot and conflict. The world is an awful, horrifying, nightmare. Go and stop it.

Utopia’s…don’t have that clear of a plot, thought they have a clear structure. Typically, a visitor from the time of the author visits, and gets a grand tour of the world, and how much better it is then the world he comes from. Typically there’s a not-so-subtle call to action about how to make this Utopia a reality, but that’s it. This literature doesn’t immediately lead to horror or plot at all. And while thinking this over, it occurred to me that there is an alternative.

First of all, the inhabitants of Zinge are left ambiguous. Life on a distant alien world would definitely evolve differently than here, especially given a much hotter star. And if Lovecraft has taught us anything, it’s that the alien is truly alien in thought and body. How such a society achieved such joy is also open, though Canopus and the possible root of Zinge indicate longevity was involved. Clichéd answers would say some sort sacrifice or sadism would be there. Or sacrificing orphans. I wonder what visitor will come, and what news from Zinge they will bring, next week when I raise them from their grave.

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This Week’s Prompt is: 1.Demophon shivered when the sun shone upon him. (Lover of darkness = ignorance.).

The Research:Beginnings and Demophon

Demophon walked across the port to the rotting planks of his long abandoned vessel. From Thrace to Troy to Athens to Cyprus it had traveled, battered by wind and sea. Its sails were now in tatters, the captive gusts howling free. The smell of mold burbled up from below, where the lively sea had brought sea urchins and kelp nested.

Such decay he had not seen in many years, not since the day after Troy burned. Visions of bygone Illium appeared before his eyes, its cities a blaze and its women weeping. From inside Odysseus’ scheming horse. The people cheering their last. Helen coming in each wives voice, silencing every man who made to leave. The terror of the Trojans caught sleeping, the shining of his bronze. Like Ares he came down on them, the sureness of his sword.

His grandmothers gasp as he freed her from the fire that consumed Paris’s palace. His brother Acamas struck down by men of Priam’s blood. It ran down his hands from his spear, it stained and stuck to his limbs. The sweat had blurred his eyes. Demophon had struck out at faceless men, and seen their homes set a blaze. And this ship had taken him out to sea, when all was said and done. It was then and there, with Troy won, that he recalled growing fond of wine.

A torch, a torch would be of use in the night. But he feared the rotting wood would break and burn, and then a doom would come onto him. As he strode across the ship that could have been some strange hairy beast, it groaned and creaked beneath his feet. Its wood had turned pale green with mold that felt soft to the touch. He recoiled and recalled her form, his lover Phyllis.

Phyllis was a wilder beauty than Greeks would boast of. Odysseus’s circumspect Penelope may rival wise Athene, and if Menelaus’ blasphemies were believed the Helen of Sparta would stand above the rest. But for Demophon, it was Phyllis who stirred his chest. Her hands were tanned, her eyes matched the birds, and her hair so pale as to nearly resemble the green of the trees. Yet the greatest was was her voice, which bore a song worthy of a self-made muse. Demophon smiled at the thought of bygone Phyllis. He now thought fondly of their wedding night and their wedding day, and of how on the next morning he stood atop this ship, to sail away to Athens again. His father now doubt wished to hear news of his bride and of Troy.

“Do not fret, do not cry, I shall be gone but a while. In a three years time, from Athens I will set sail, to your arms again,” he had said, smiling his veins red with wine.

“You promise too much, you are drunk with joy. Yet, if your hand is mine, let me send you with a gift,” she said, laughing in her flowing gown.

“A gift? Oh, you have already –-”

“Save your flattery, husband, and let me fetch my offering,” she said, touching my for head to silence him. Before he could speak she left. He and his crew stood waiting, gathered to see what the Princess of Sithion would send to him. Gold, perhaps, or well made furs, or perhaps some great bow or sword of her father.

When she returned, it was with a pair of short men in heavy barbarian cloaks and faces hidden behind masks. They carried over their head a casket, with a pair of golden lions engraved. The men of Cyprus, wise Egpytians, had told Demophon later that it was Rhea’s sign. Rhea, mountain mother, who bore all the gods. A good omen, they had said.

“If fate scorns you, and forbids you to return, then open this casket. But only when all hope is lost, and all things are sure. If you return as you say, then I shall bury it that very day,” she said, her face now grim and wild. Her eyes seemed swollen and her mouth crooked for just a moment. But Demophon swore, never to once glance in until all was set in the stars. And his men swore likewise.

Down amongst the broken oars, a single rusting blade caught the son of Theseus’s eye. Demophon bent down and among the decaying timbers did examine for a time the blade of his navigator, lost at sea. Fallen over board in the storm that drove his ship from its Thrace bound course. Here it had landed, on the Cyprian shore, far from Hellenic lands. And it was a pleasing place for a time, as Dionysus himself seemed to walk these shores and water the city with wine. And with his navigator gone, he had resolved to stay for the time.

“We must wait a while,” he said to his gathered crew, “until another man can be found. Let us enjoy respite and rest for a time and then, in a month, be Thrace bound.”

A month became a year, a year a decade. Brick by brick his men raised houses of stone along the shores, to see the luxurious sea. For a time all was bliss, for a time all was grand. They forgot the fall of Illium, they forgot their native land. And in time, even Phyllis and her casket Demophon’s mind abandoned. Until a swift Thracian ship was seen on the shore.

A quick footed messenger came up from the sea, speaking to no one as he went. He was thin and frail, a man only by perhaps a year or so. His eyes were faded green, like the moss of the ship. But his voice recalled to Demophon’s mind a woman he had once worshiped.

“My lady Phyllis lies dead beside the waves. She grew wise to your intentions and could not bear the pain. Know this, you are not welcome in Thrace. Return again, and you find armed against your grace. Know the Furies will come upon you, having seen your oath betrayed,” the messenger said to Demophon in his many pillared hall. And Demophon stared back, confused at his words for a time, until a searing pain began in his mind. His hand were not his own, he said, his sight gone and confused. A spear had flown from his throne, and struck the lad through.

And now he beheld it, a black casket with moonlight gold, in a jungle of decay and life. It almost seemed to float atop the sea itself, so weighed down was the ship. As he pulled, he felt the touch of a thousand small fingers, coiling and squirming within. Crawling across the body, the coffin was filled to the brim with maggots and fungi, excepting the face. It stood firm against the tide of chaos and decay, almost admirable in a way. Demophon smiled from a distance.

And then rosy fingered Dawn came from the east, down into the ship. The lights fell upon the squirming mass of limb and bone, revealing all to Demophon. And with a shout, he fled the ship. Up to Cyprus, shouting like a wounded bird ran Demophon. When he reached his marble hall, he grabbed his shepherd by the shoulders.

“Fetch me marble, velvet and fur! Quick, quick, the sun must not shine. Banish the musiscians, castrate any who say Apollo’s name! Make my hall a tomb, let the neither torch or star shine! Burn every book, destroy every map, cast out anyone who would claim to know anything,” he shouted, trembling and wet.

A monument now stands in Cyprus in defiance of the sun. Demophon has not left in all the years that have come to past. Yet those who ventured to his hall, to see his regal grace, found a creature pale and eyes plucked out and tears red still running down its face. The ship was burnt and sent below, its cargo never seen. Yet Demophon could not rest, nor sleep, nor dream. For even in dream, the gods gave him no peace. That wild Thracian maiden called to him, and the thing within the coffin wrapped around his mortal form. Shouts would echo down from his place into the Cyprian streets. But three years past when the deed was done, the noise ceased at last. Pale and blind, died Demophon of Athens mewling.

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Beginnings and Demophon

Hello all!

Welcome to the Undead Author Society, where we exhume by dead authors and bring some life to them. The first set to come up is H.P. Lovecraft’s, who has left over 200 unused ideas. Every week I’ll either post research on the story prompt, or the story itself at about fifteen hundred words.

The prompt for the upcoming story is:

Demophon shivered when the sun shone upon him. (Lover of darkness = ignorance.).

Now, with Mr. Lovecraft it is important to remember that proper nouns aren’t usually made up (unprouncable names of horror are usually marked off as ‘horrific names’). Thus, to begin the prompt, we probably want to know who Demophon is. And a quick search on Wikipedia reveals Demophon’s story, a haunting tale of horror from antiquity.

Demophon is the son of Theseus and sometimes the king of Athens. As any proper hero of his generation, Demophon served in the Trojan War for sometime, before returning home. On his way home he stopped by a city in Thrace and enamored the local princess, Phyllis. The two were married, and Demophon then left, promising as all Greek sailors and gods do that he would return as soon as possible. Before he left, Phyllis gave him a casket with the symbols of Rhea on it, telling him to open it when all hope of returning to Thrace was lost. He proceeded to stay in Cyprus, forgetting entirely about his wife.

And his wife waited, as only a tragic wife can, weeping by the shore every day until the appointed day past. She then committed suicide, becoming a tree in the more child friendly versions of the tale. Demophon, after an unspecificed amount of time dawdling, remembered he had the casket and opened it. Whatever he saw drove him mad, resulting with him riding around on his horse until he fell off and was impaled on his own blade.

Now, Mr. Lovecraft’s inspiration is pretty easy to glean. Demophon’s madness due to revelation is a common Lovecraftian trope, but there are other stranger pieces of the story. Why does the casket have Rhea’s symbol on it? Digging only a little reveal Rhea as the mother of the gods and a mountain goddess. A strange symbol for a casket. But there ends my research for the time. Come back next week to see what story I managed to raise from the crypt!

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