Father and Son

This Week’s Prompt:49. AZATHOTH—hideous name.

The Research:Blind Idiot Gods

The door slammed before Samson could sit down. Rubbing his temple, he looked to his wife Irene for some explanation, his face somewhere between dumbfounded and full of rage. His hands and throat were still shaking when he went into the kitchen.

We can’t keep doing this every week,” Irene said, her gaze avoiding the open kitchen door. Samson nodded, unseen, and poured a water to aid his dry throat.

No, no we can’t. But that’s–”

And it can’t be Paul’s call.” Irene cut in. Samson paused. “He’s a kid, Sam. He’s not gonna go out there, again, and have some road to Damascus moment where he comes back and it all clicks.”

Samson sighed as he stared at the water. The kitchen light flickered, the ripples bent before the hit the edge of the glass. He took a deep breath and went for his coat.

Alright, I’ll go get him. I know where’s he’s gone, probably.” Samson said, putting on the faux leather heavy jacket he wore for cold nights like this. Paul had gone to the same spot every night like this, Samson was sure.


And I’ll try to be more civil. I just understand how he thinks he can go around at night like that,” Samson said, shaking his head as he put a cap on. “Doing god knows what. It’s not safe out there these days, and I swear that those Miller boys are in some sort of gang.”

Scaring him off won’t help.” Irene said, eyes locked on her magazine now. “You know, there was a report on youth crime recently, and they said distant father’s played a big part.”

I don’t think being distant is the problem.” Samson grumbled. “But I’ll keep my cool this time.”

It’d rained during the fight. There was a wall of cold wet air like something out of a freezer right outside the door. It hadn’t occurred to Samson before he set foot outside. Well, he figured that your own flesh and blood calling you a damned fool for caring about where his life was going might be part of that. The street lights caught a few of the long, near invisible spider threads that ran from branch to fence. Some even ran along the fences, like a secondary ward against flies. Drops of rain water had made them rather appealing, even if Samson couldn’t bear the thought of a spider being anywhere near him.

It was a long walk to the train tracks. Samson was sure Paul was there. There was some intuitive reason, some chord that he and his son shared in common. When Samson needed to cool down, he’d take a deep dive into some misery. Go somewhere painful. It wasn’t healthy, not by any notion of the imagination. But it was what he did.


As he passed a strange shaped web, that had been bent just right to look like a spiral by the rain water, Samson wondered if that was the start of it all. They’d found Jordan dead on the tracks, head busted open a few months ago. He knew Paul would grieve, he’d braced himself for loud sobbing and mourning. When it didn’t happen, he’d figured Paul was going to just ride it out. Maybe it’d buried it self, waited. Maybe.

The boys Paul was with now, when Samson knew anyhting about them, were strange ones. Stupid, snarling, barely intelligent kids who gave him a dirty look whenever they saw him. Which, Samson admitted, was rare. He paused his thoughts to collect himself. He’d grown up here, he knew the streets and architecture well. He’d been headed to the last of the rails, but the red brick work told him he was on the wrong side of town already. He’d slipped across without any notice.

It was disgraceful mistake, he had to admit. How did you miss the tracks? It was like missing the river. Samson organized his mental map, and figured he’d gotten distracted and missed a turn or something. Maybe his mind was moving away from construction as he mulled over the weirdos Paul called company.

It was wrong, Samson thought, to hate your son’s friends so much. But they were bad kids. They had this look in their eyes that reminded Samson of starving strays. And while he might pity them, in some abstract way, they were too cunning and a half for their own good. The thing was, and this made Samson more uncertain, they didn’t dress like thugs. Some wore button ups, clean slacks, dyed hair parted neatly. Hell, if you’d told him this was just some intern down at the firm, Samson would have believed you. Weird as it was to see that sort of clothing on them, the clothing wasn’t the problem. It was the way they walked, it was like there was a slight invibislbe gas leaking from their mouths. Their eyes hinted at malice, and they held their hand smore like claws then proper fingers and joints.

Samson got dizzy again, near an intersection. He stopped himself this time, and realized he had almost missed the train tracks again. The under pass, lined with tents, was just on the right. It seemed to swell in front of him. Most of the denziens were inside on a cold night like this. Samson frowned as he walked down the shaky concrete. Some of the asphalt must have been fresh, with the way it shown and almost flowed in the light. Like a river of gold.

It wasn’t fair, to call them strays. Strays just wanted some food. Or a home. Samson had taken in a few when he was a boy. No, they were more like…like the spiders. Or like a wasp Samson read about, that played with cockroaches before killing them. Malicous, maybe even sadistic, but naturals at it. They’d probably given not a second thought to what they did. Samson wasn’t sure if they’d done anything. He had theoires. He was pretty sure they’d killed a cat. There were less cats and squirrels about. He knew they were bullies and probably a few made a career being vicious. He’d seen one burn a bunch of dolls in an alley once.

Samson didn’t know which was worse. That the strange idiots stole a girls dolls and burned them, or they bought a bunch of dolls to burn for the hell of it.

Maybe they’d killed Jordan. The thought had crossed his mind. It seemed so fortunate for the freaks that Paul needed an outlet, and they were right there.

But Samson put that all aside as he walked down the tracks. Now was the time for peacemaking. Now was the time to talk with Paul, to make sure he got home, to make sure he was okay. The tracks were where Jordan and Paul once walked.


Samson blinked a few times as he made his way down. He didn’t bother calling out, it was bright enough to see Paul when he needed to. Hell, it was getting brighter and brighter as he walked down the tracks. There wasn’t any particular light, just everything seemed to be in sharper contrast and glow as he went. The tracks had clearly worn down since he got here, Samson thought. Some were broken or sprawling off. Maybe repairs or replacements required those bends and buckling. Some of the pieces of wood seemed to be replaced by bits of metal. A lot of them had been vandilized, little holes stabbed in them or gibberish carved in them.

Along the way, Samson swore the shadows blinked at him, or that in the holes of tracks there are flickers of motion like scurrying ants or beetles. It’s not too bad. Vermin always forms when places are left alone and forgotten. Samson’s known that for a while.

At last he comes to something that might be a destination. A pair of cargo containers, red and blue. On top are a bunch of tents, mini-roofs. Lights are shining out, brightest just above the two roofs, making a dome of bright light that slowly dissipated upwards into the sky. Samson walked to the rusted steel doors, breathed deeply and knocked.

There wasn’t any sound before the knock. Then a slight whistling and piping, as if Samson had disturbed some strange sleeping creature. Samson blinked and turned to make sure nothing was following behind him. When he looked back, the metal was gone, bent up into a surprisingly spacious ceiling. The piping continued, shaking the shimmering interior. As he stepped in, Samson heard the crunching of sand or salt beneath his shoes.

Samson heard voices from the deeper interior, halls of shining metal containers and ladders to the top tents. The light was bright,and Samson had to cover his eyes to come inside. Slowly he worked towards the voices. Paul was probably among the voices, deeper into whatever strange fort this was.

There was scribbling on the wall, symbols that Samson recognized from an old code book he had as hobo warning marks. About wild dogs and guns. Some of the scribbles were decayed, some were definitely alphabets he’d not seen in his life. Or gibberish in English, overlapped from overwork.

The halls smoothed as he got close to the voices. Despite being maybe twenty feet across, it seemed to stretch in front of Samson towards the horizon. He was surprised how quickly he crossed. He was surprised how long it took. The piping was melodious, almost calming now. With each step that crunched, crackled, and echoes through the metal walls it grew louder, more persistent. Like a lullaby being sung over a screaming child.

At last, Samson found the source of the lights and sounds. A door off the side of the hallway opened like a flower, peeling away but with a smoothness that washed over Samson’s alarm. They were gathered their, the strange boys playing piping instruments. They sat around a green fire that seemed to be a reflection, more flat then fire should be.

Paul was there, as Samson thought. Paul sat in the fire unsinged, eyes closed. Samson walked forward into the hall. A single word was written round the walls now, without beginning or end.



Paul murmured it in endless chant as Samson walked towards the fire, his son still unburned. In an instant Paul’s eyes opened. They stared ahead like wax orbs, no light shining from them. He stood, the flaming plat form putting him at eye level with his father.

Paul…” Samson said, arms outstretched. “What is this Paul?”

Paul looked back as if he did not understand, like Samson was speaking a language he never understood. Samson took another step forward.

Let’s go home, Paul. We’ll talk about this.”

Paul didn’t move from the fire, his clothes unburned. Samson took another step forward.

Son, come on. We can–”

Paul let out a howl and Samson started back. He saw a flash of a knife in his son’s hand, a flicker of silver that rushed at him. With strength not his own, Paul toppled his father and slashed into him over and over again, before slicing his throat.

As the men and women at the center of the city had said, a sacrifice would be provided. Paul had expected his mother, however.



This story gave some trouble. I didn’t know the ending until I got there, and it is a bit sudden isn’t it? But I think some of the central conflict and fears could be expanded on later.

Next week! Our fiftieth research! Our fiftieth story! A story of fire and sin!

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A Blind Idiot of A God

This Week’s Prompt:49. AZATHOTH—hideous name.

The Story: Father And Son

Azathoth is a creature of some surprising clear description in the works of the Lovecraftian Mythos. Azathoth, epithets ranging from the Demon Sultan to the Nuclear Chaos to the Blind Idiot God, is the close thing the mythos has to a creator deity. From Azathoth spews forth all things madly and randomly, creation occurring out of his court on a whim. Azathoth is credited as having long gone mad, being now only entertained by his court of outer gods and their music and piping. Azathoth’s origins are perhaps as manifold.

The name holds many hints. One theory is that Azathoth derives his name from Azazel. Azazel is a desert demon or fallen angel who accepts the scapegoat for the sins of Israel, an angel thus involved to a degree in the purging of sin. Azazel is also credited, however, in Enochian texts as the creator of the weapons of humanity (in traditional mythic fashion, he gives men weapons and women make up). He was also there the father of some of the Nephilim, man-eating gigantic heroes that were destroyed in the flood.

Another theory suggests, particularly from the name Demon Sultan, that Azathoth derives from the story of Vathek. Vathek is an old Gothic story, that is distinguished in the setting and cosmology from other horror tales of the genre. Vathek is set in the court of a Caliph, and the predominant religion in imagery is Islam instead of Christianity. We named ‘Valley of Vathek” after the main character, and a full version of it can be found here. The connection between Vathek and Azathoth the Demon Sultan seems based primarily on it’s ending of profound suffering in the courts of hell rather than the expected elation. The punishment of the damned is a sort of blinding truth and madness.

Azazthoth, broadly speaking in the Mythos itself, is to a degree the supreme creator deity, credited with giving rise distantly through more famous children such as Yog Sothoth and Nyrlanhotep. More pressingly, his authority is somewhat supreme. His name alone cows multitudes of monstrous creatures



Azathoth bears a resemblance to the characterizations of a few more creators worth mentioning. Chaos/Kaos as creator of course resembles Azathoth, as an apparently unintelligent creator force. Hudun resembles him as well, with no perceivable senses. Instead Hudun simply exists, and is in fact slain by receiving senses in certain Taoist texts. The Gnostic Demiurge, a creator of reality who is blind to it’s true nature and has woven a nightmare realm from his own selfishness, has a passing resemblance as well, if only as a hostile creative power that seeks to trap mankind.

Azazthoth has one significantly literary reference that must be recalled however.

Azathoth’s name and title however, belie more horrifying insinuation. His name recalls an alchemcial term: Azoth, the primary substance of Creation in many branches of Western Occultism and alchemy. Described sometimes as the source of Solar fire and Lunar water. Azoth then is similar to primary material or chaos. But unlike those, Azoth persists at the core of everything. The thing that gives things their existence.


A depiction of Azoth

This presence is echoed by the title Nuclear Chaos. Now, in the post Hiroshima world, Nuclear has a very clear meaning as associated with radiation. And certainly, as horror iconography goes, radiation and nuclear weapons might be reflective of the destruction and perverting influence of the gods of Lovecraftian lore. But the Nucleus here meant something entirely different. It meant the core of something, it’s center and by extension it’s very being. The nuclear chaos alludes to Azathoth’s all pervasive nature that makes him more than a distant disorder. The madness that is Azathoth, the thing that is at the bottom and center of everything, giving existence to all things, is insane. Utterly idiotic and insane.


This is almost a horrible punchline to a nihilist joke, isn’t? It reads almost like something from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or Goats. It’s a silly supposition, comically from the right angle. But we must labor to make this farce something almost horrifying. Restore some majesty it has lost.

So how to make this horrifying? Well, we might first abandon the primacy of the creature. Being trapped or happened upon by an absolutely mad and all powerful entity is itself rather terrifying, if full of humorous potential. The strange and disturbing effects that something omnipotent and foolish could do are rife with potential.

Or we could focus on the change wrought on such a being. How did Azathoth come to be in this state? What was it like, when the essence of the cosmos changed from what it was before? That has potential, but might be too abstract, and frankly too small in effect.

We could return to the notion of Azathoth as an inspiring source. Something that hasn’t been touched on that Lovecraft was fond of was the creation of arts in the wake of terrible beings. We discussed this somewhat, back in our discussion of wicked muses. The Demon Sultan has played that role in the past, particularly regarding The Music of Erich Zann. This might put further emphasis on the name’s hideous in someway, regarding perhaps its latent power inscribed into a poem or even a play (something like the King in Yellow perhaps?).

Yellow Sign.png

Azathoth as an infectious thing in reality, spreading and warping like a maddening rot, might be an approach to consider somewhat seriously. The story would need to begin with establishing the nature of reality as it is, and then gradually introduce the corrupting changes. Ideally, only our character notices these changes. Perhaps they are only changes in his perception, perhaps they are real. The changes will be such that whatever goals the lead was pursuing become increasingly impossible. Slowly, the world seems to drift away from his understandings and notions. Until, at last, he is isolated to a degree in an alien landscape.


Hegel. Looks Kinda Like A Deep One

In this manner we might examine Azathoth as an anti-Hegelian conception of the universe. Hegel’s theory of history purports that the world spirit, the embodiment of …well, existence grows closer and closer to self knowledge through the synthesis of thesis and anti-thesis. Azathoth, who sits not only at the core of real space but at the center of the Dreamlands, and thus of both the waking and sleeping world, is the opposite. If anything, Azathoth is losing awareness, deluded by music and his own madness.

Of course, incorporating these ideas into a single story is hard. I suggest then a short vignette. A brief story of a decay to madness that has, at least on paper, another plot entirely. A story of a date, or of a confrontation with a father, or a bad day at work. A generally normal outline, that slowly decays both in the mind of the main character and in the outline overall. A place of insecurity can be magnified by the inclusion of a literally changing world. Albeit, at least physically, probably for the worst.

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The Earth Shakes

This Week’s Prompt:39. Sounds—possibly musical—heard in the night from other worlds or realms of being.

The Research: Sing Me A Song


It started with a funeral. Jack was taken up into Abraham’s bosom, perhaps too soon. He was young, by the standards of the dead, having just crossed his third decade when he was taken from us. I didn’t know it, as I sat beside Ms. Yuri then and there, watching the pallbearers lower him down into the earth as the wind whistled and the clouds formed overhead, that this was the start. But really, it should have been apparent.

Ms. Yuri got up to make a speech for the man who’s name she would now never take. I don’t remember it’s words as much as it’s emotions and themes. It’s the curse of emotion, to obliterate the finer details. Passion cares little for the proper use of a comma, as long as the sounds stir the soul.

Ms. Yuri gave the same speech as I think every funeral speech gives. Nothing exceptional. He was a lover, a friend, he knew how to make you laugh. He loved children and music for their subtle complexities beneath a veneer of simple understanding. And how tragic, how tragic it was that he died.

The priest gave last rites, mumbled and muffled. He clearly had forgotten most of the words, teetering over as he was. He tried his best to seem somber and sober, but failed to convince me that he was either. And with that, Jack was sent below. Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust.

As he was lowered, I saw Ms. Yuri sit suddenly upright, as if struck with inspiration. She settled after a second, staring ahead with steely determination. I didn’t ask about it. I assumed it was a deep resolve that people get when they see death.

I wasn’t entirely wrong.

The first time I was sent in uniform back home. It was a black, with silver buttons. It had the Pinkerton badge at the side of the coat, and silver trim to the pants. The call had taken me out to an old hill on the edge of town, where a farmer insisted that something was stealing his cattle. I sat watching the area with my headlights on, waiting for someone to lead them astray. What I saw was…not exactly that.


The wind carried the sounds of a pipe organ through the air. I watched as the grounds began to slip and shake almost soundlessly, bending the gates aside. And almost aimlessly, the cattle wandered out.

I pulled forward slowly, honking my horn at them. The ground, despite the apparent changes, was still there and still steady. My car bent with it, making a grinding noise as it entered the sinking section. The cattle backed away from the loud metal monster with me inside. One or two seemed unconvinced, so I honked louder. The second noise seemed to shake off the pipe organ. The warping the music made came to a sudden and somewhat violent halt, the ground snapping back with sharp spikes.

The bottom of my car looked awful, beyond even the best mechanic. When I explained to the home office what had happened, I got a simple business as usual response. The cattle hadn’t gotten away, and I suggested the farmer use some ear plugs to keep them inside. Whatever cattle thief was trying to pull them back seemed to be doing so by accident.

“It was the weirdest thing. Have there been sink holes like that?” I asked Lea Yuri over the phone.

“A few, yeah. They think there’s some limestone caves breaking down around the edge of town. Excess sewer water or something.” She replied over the static connection. “But you heard piping?”

“You can’t tell me that’s caused by the sink hole?” I said irritably as I got my shoe off, muddy from the walk back into town.

“In it of itself? No, but it might have pulled down some pipes or something, you know. Like a bunch of bottles.” She replied. “ But yeah, its a bit freaky. Cows aren’t worth that much either. Must have been an opportunist. Did you ever find them?”

“The stolen ones? No, not a bit of them.” I said, placing the phone on the counter as I went to make coffee.

“Huh. Well, I’m sure they’ll turn up.”

“Who cares, job’s done. I’m going to read a bit and try and forget all this.”

“All what? You sound fine. After all, you didn’t fall into the sink hole.”

“Wasn’t a sinkhole, and my car took a hammering. Hoping company is fine with replacing it.” I said, adding my Irish to the coffee with a shaking hand.

“Well, good luck with that, and good night.” Ms. Yuri said, before the click hit.

There were, in the newspaper, other sinkholes that night. A few had suddenly filled, damaging cars and livestock and people at times. Most were around the outskirts of town, and had made a piping sound as the wind went over them. In the face of overwhelming evidence that I couldn’t be to blame this time, the company repaired the car. It made a creaking noise every time I used it.

A creaking clacking noise that was great for making me unsubtle as I drove along the coastline. It had been a while on the Pinkerton team, and I’d been bumped to some of the less savory work. I had my badge read, and a gun at hand. There was a strike by the shore that we had decided was going to grow violent. I had my black and silver on, as I pulled up to the docks. The same company car as the other thirty or so. The cars made a barricade from the strikers, a wall of steel we could stand behind.

“Ronald, looking sharp as ever.” One of my fellows said as I got out of my car. “Still wearing the ribbon I see.”

The ribbon was a small purple piece of fabric around my badge. Made it look a bit better, feel a bit better.

“Get rid of it.” he followed up, staring over the strikers. “We need one face, one motion unbroken if we’re going to stem this tide. If they smell a fracture, they’ll surge.”

Cursing a little, I took off the ribbon, stuffing it beneath the jacket. The strikers didn’t look eager for blood yet, but a quick toss would fix all that. I scanned for the cap, for Robinson. He would start getting them riled up and then it would be a matter of –

A violin string cut across my thoughts, suddenly and shrilly. Plugging my ears, I looked back and saw Robinson shouting something and a flaming bottle go flying. I fell to my knees as the violin chords rang up and down, ranging as best they could. When I managed to stand, I saw the barricade burst, as a car went flying.

I crawled quickly as the car was carried into the warehouse, shattering wood. I grabbed a billy club and turned to see utter chaos. They hadn’t broken before a wall of black coats. No, I saw teamster and Pinkerton hurling stones, breathing fire. I saw crimson eyed men taking clubs to scaly strikers. There was a rushed, blood pumping music in the air, the sounds of a whole orchestra declaring battle and blood. The wind ran through the rafters, the sea churned and in the distance I saw lightining crackle.

Angel of Fire

And above the mess, I saw it. A form like a man, with a sword and shield, eyes of fire and wings covered in blades. It was a blazing red angel of death, staring down at me with black eyes that bled white. Like a conductor, it gestured over the blood shed and brought the flames to crescendo before turning to me. And then he pointed his sword at me.

The rest of that day is a crimson blur. When it was over, the hope for a more peaceful solution was stomped out. A fire roared to life, after the Molotov, sweeping through most of the harbor. Emergency crews tried their best, but were beset constantly by delays, by set backs that made no sense. Rides that should have taken seconds took hours. Streets seemed to shrink and grow, or run in circles. Engines would send out water, only to have it fall short by ten feet, and move sluggishly as they brought it closer. In the end, the fire burned itself out, and the flooding ended the ashes.

We lost any contracts with the city after that fiasco. It wouldn’t be long until there weren’t anymore Pinkertons, just the left overs doing independent work anyway. Some of us, me included, still wore the black uniform and silver shield though.

The independent route wasn’t much different then before. When you wear the tattered remains of a uniform, the people that higher you are the kind who respect the effort. Even if it wasn’t all the same black anymore, with patches of dark grey and blue sewn on, it carried the same weight as before. The uniform filtered jobs, kept them to what would have been expected. Old standbys would hire me for the old jobs. When they passed on, their sons and daughters might ask me to look into some rabble rousing or missing goods. None of the new bloods were much intreasted, not for a long time. The occasional exception was the rare man or woman who was of means but wasn’t satisified until they looked like proper elder statesman of the town.

And it was one of these that bought my attention one late rainy night. It wasn’t proper rain, not yet, but the occasional dripping down from the sky, kisses from heaven they would say. It was annoying, yes, a rhythm at the back of the mind, but not to unbearable. Not yet anyway.

The young man who answered the door looked like he would die of even that little bit of rain. He was a scrawny man, with round bags under his eyes like an overworked racoon. Looked an absolute mess, even in a button up. The loosely hanging red tie didn’t help matters.

After we went through the pleseantries of trading names, Louis Howell lead me to his study. A large map of town was against the wall, with pinned newspaper clippings covering a good third of it. Red and blue lines ran between them, making an sort of spider web going out. Star charts were sitting beside them, noted with quickly scribbled dates. Howell lead me over to it, where a centeral gold pin sat in the middle.

“So, here it is.”

“Here what is?” I asked, looking it over. I had met a few crazies before. They weren’t the kind you wanted to do regular business with. Unstable.

“What I need you to look into. See, these occurrences? Pot holes, flooding, fires?” he said, pointing at the newspaper clippings and photos. “Their echoing out from this spot, or echoing to it. They go out one way,” he continued, tracing a ride line out of the city, stopping at the farm, “and come in another.”

He traced a set of pot holes in and out along the red-blue line, then a flood, then a riot. First, a mugging. Then, down the street, a day later, a murder. At the end? A pair of riots, that trickled back towards his gold pin as thieves and murderers.

“And? There’s plenty of problems these days. What’s specially about these?” I asked, leaning over the star charts.

“They line up, they line up you see, with not only the dates, but some odd phenomenon. Each occurred roughly contemporaneous with the alignment of a star over a specific spot. Further, witnesses all reported strange distortions or an in ability to remember the incidents.” He said, turning with a manic look.

How do you tell a man that we call that being drunk?

“Anyway, the circumstances aside, I don’t know what exactly is happening. But it’s getting worse. The amount coming towards the spot has increased over the years, three fold. And the events are accelearting.”

“Oh really? Well, alright, you want me to poke around the place?” I ask, checking the address. Yuri’s house. An oddity, but she’d been quite a while. To be honest, at the time, I didn’t know if it was hers anymore.

“Exactly! Find out if there’s anything suspicious there, you know, machines or noises or something?”

“Hmph, and how do you expect me to do that without breaking and entering?” I said, looking at a photo that had a clear condemned sign over the house in question. That answered the Yuri question nicely.

“I’ll pay triple your hourly for breaking and entering.” He said quickly.

And so I drove down the road with some tools to engage in the highly legal practice of breaking into a house condemned by the state. The rain had gotten to the point of real, proper rain by now, to the point of clouding up my windows.

It was after I flicked on the washers that I first felt the earth shake. For a moment I thought it was the busted bottom of the old thing, caught on a rock again. But now, the rising and falling of the ground was definite, if slow at first. I brought the car to a stop when the road broke apart in front of me.

As I stepped outside, I felt a warm wind coming from the great crevasses, like ovens opened beneath the earth. There was a sound of trumpets and organ horns ringing in the street. In the light of the cracks, I saw people running. Assuring myself I had my piece, I kept going on foot, no matter what happened.

The crazy was onto something and now a sense of civic pride compelled me to find out what. I tried to walk along the roads, but the fog was growing thicker and thicker. The invisible symphony continued as I got closer to the iron gate, forms rising out of the ground with limp limbs and glowing eyes. The heavens seemed to glow with a dim green haze.

The door was open, but I had to duck to avoid the bending and swaying frame. The door frame was piping and whistling like steam as it moved and appeared to rend. I got through with only a sharp whack to the back.

The inside walls of the old Yuri house had all been torn down. There were still some structural supports, but the entire place was open to the eye to see. Strings ran up and down the entire structure, attached to a bows that sawed across them. Great bellows across the sides pushed wind over flutes and through trumpets. A dozen hammers whacked piano strings, a forge of unearthly music. A small phalanx of record players played recorded voices into a heavenly choir. And in the center, at a small panel with switches and knobs, was Ms. Yuri.


“Ma’am, what are you doing?” I shouted over the orchestration. The waves of sound were near deafening, the whole place shaking and heaving with even the most delicate of notes. Ms Yuri didn’t notice.

I grabbed a billy club and turned to one of the strings. If she wasn’t going to listen, I’d need to stop this. It was tearing everything apart. And hey, maybe we could get some answers. But when I brought the club down on the string, it bent backwards and snapped. My hands, so close, felt numb just being that close, the blood painfully resuming it’s flow when I yanked it away.

“That’s not going to stop it, Ron.” Ms. Yuri said, flicking another switch. “Something this big can’t just be smashed up.”

“Oh, so you can hear what I’m saying! Great. What the hell are you doing?” I shouted, my words drifting against the tidal wave she was moving.

“I can hear so much more than your voice. I can hear you. I can hear it all, and its time to add a few notes to song.” Ms. Yuri continued , flicking another switch. A fire flared up outside. I could see people screaming and running about, the city crumbling apart. But I couldn’t hear it. In this house, there was only music. And Ms. Yuri’s voice.

“I’m not going to be mere maggot meal, a memorial waiting for worms.” She said slowly, looking up at me. “Jack’s gone, everyone goes. Everyone. But not me. I’m not staying and waiting for that nonsense to take me. I heard it, that first day. A missing note, a sudden disharmony, can’t you hear it?”

“Lea, that’s insanity.” I said, backing up a bit.

“Insanity is taking any option but this one. There’s a choir, an orchestra, a whole symphony waiting for me out there. And I will add myself in, I will join that immortal, invisible, eternal melody.”

“Your killing people, Lea. You’ve…you’ve kiled people.” I said, it slowly settling in, the lines crossing in my head. Even before she spoke back, I gave up on that line of reasoning. You don’t cause the damage Lea had, you don’t break roads and collapse buildings, start fires and ignite riots, if ‘you’ve killed people’ was going to stop you.

“I’ve ended a few lines, yes. To make room for mine. You can’t just expect something to fit, without making room. Listen to it, Ron? Can’t you hear it, waiting for me? So close, so close and I’ll be free.”

For the first time, there was a sound from outside the house. A clap of thunder shook the very ground. A couple more followed, and soon it was a growing drumbeat.

A good man would have tried talking her down, maybe. Trying some reason or something. I, for my part, tried shooting her where she stood.

The bullet melted before my eyes into drops of iron on the floor.

“The world hears me, Ron, and it would rather me not stop my singing.” She said, smiling through the lines of strings. “You can’t break this. You can’t overpower all this, not with your voice or that old rickety horn. This is the cosmic song. You are barely a single note in front of all this.”

I turned out the door again. It was shaking and shifting so much that it was almost a blur. I looked at the chords again, strumming along as they went. I had one left card to play.

Even without anything else, a normal piano string could do a nasty number on you if it suddenly sprung free. Its thin and durable and thus very sharp. I weighed exactly how numb I would get if I got close. How much momentum would I need. See, a bullet didn’t work, but that might not mean much. Slow something down fast enough, and it collapses. But if it’s just thick, I might be able to push through and do something …more serious.

So I slowly walked towards it, lowering my shoulder to better bear the weight of the song. It was immense, as I pushed through it. It was mountain, it was valleys, it was fire and freezing. I felt my body bruise as I got within a foot of the strings, I felt rashes and pains spread in a few inches. I nearly buckled, my legs bending and my knees crying out for relief. I forced my hands forward, even as the blood seemed to stop flowing to my palms.

With my last bit of strength, I grabbed the strings. I held them so tight my knuckles were white. And then, since my arms were exhausted, I yanked my back. A giant lever, I failed to break a single string, my hands still resting on the strings.

But I heard the note I had made resonate through the house. A sudden disunity. The burden was a little lighter. I yanked again. And again. With each yank, each out of step note, each effort, the song weakened.

“What are you doing?” Lea shouted suddenly. “Stop that! Stop that now! If you damage it now, who knows what will–”

And then, at last, I pulled one free. With a loud snap, a piano wire was tore free, cutting deep into my hand and then my back. I toppled over in pain, face down as the ground quaked.

The rolling thunder didn’t stop. It was one long clap, that went on forever. The shining in the sky continued, all the colors of the world. It glared down still, I could feel it on my back. The ground churned, waves of dirt and stone rising and falling as my consciousness faded.

I woke up in an empty lot. The city around me was broken, heaps of rubble instead of buildings. As I stood, the pain in my back flared up and pushed my back down. Looking around, I saw a few people pulling themselves out of the rubble. The dock was gone, utterly consumed by the water that had come nearly to the small house. Everything around was ground down.

I grabbed a cane and tossed off the torn up remains of my Pinkerton coat. It wasn’t any use anymore, as I limped around, gesturing for people to help me move some of the large pieces. It was all rubble for now. But it’d get better.

This story has a problem of pace still, and I feel that my lead isn’t active enough. The conspiracy theorist at the end would work better folded into the main character, and more intreactions with Yuri would help. Adding some smaller incidents and a more concrete main story before the ‘twist’ would be better as well. But that is all the time I had with this one.


Next week, we’ll examine places you should never go, never build on, lest it be haunted.

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Sing Me A Song

This week’s prompt: 39. Sounds—possibly musical—heard in the night from other worlds or realms of being.

The Resulting Story: The Earth Shakes
Mr. Lovecraft here proposes something like a much older notion: The music of the spheres. The world presented by this notion is not too alien: It is a world guided by rhythms and motions of music. You hear this talk, for instance, when angelic groups are referred to as choirs. The cyclical nature of the world, as observed, makes analogs to music not terribly hard. The Music of the Spheres refers to the music that all of creation makes, including other worlds and realms such as Heaven and Hell.

This concept has a great deal of pull in fantasy works. The grandfather of Fantasy, Tolkien, incorporated music into the creation mythos of Middle Earth. The Valar sing forth the world, and evil comes from the discord produced by a single singer. The communal element of music and a choir is fundamental to the image: there is a notion of participation in a greater whole.


Of course, other works of mythology have used the singer in other ways. Orpheus, the most famous musician of note, was a gifted singer. So gifted that he moved the lord of the dead to cry and show mercy. Such was Orpheus, that he sang even as his head drifted down the river. Orpheus during his life played so well, he drowned the sirens. Orpheus’s rites, carried forward into his mysteries, were universal in tone, dealing again with themes of revival and cosmic connections.



This is the main folklore I will use as the beginning. The other story is that of Krishna, a famed god of India, or demigod, who as a child would engage in the song and dance. Krishna lures the milkmaids of the local village out, and they engage him in a dance that lasts (via Krishna’s manipulation) over a billion years. Krishna’s dance lacks Orpheus’s tragedy and Orpheus’s personal tragedy, but it connects on the level of passion and intimacy among the gods. This power to shape and reshape is key to music.

Fantasy of course is familiar with the notion of magical music in the form of magic harps and bards.

Orpheus’s story begins with not only his marriage, but the death of his wife in his wedding. Notably, she dies fleeing a satyr, a wild man who is filled with lust and passion. In flight she gets bitten by a viper.

Orpheus’s mourning cries move all the nymphs and then world wept with him. The gods directed him to Hades. There he descended and sang to charm the lord of that place and his wife. Such was Orpheus’s singing that the punishment of Tarturus for a moment paused. And all listened mourning. And so Hades sent Eudryice out, on the condition that Orpheus never look at her until they reached the sunlight lands.

But Orpheus looked. And so was doomed.

And such was his second grief that he wandered and gave up all the gods, save his father Apollo. But once while worshiping, he is assailed by Maenads, worshipers of Dionyosous. They slay him for his impeity to the god of revelry, and he sings as he washes away. Women, who he had sworn off, assailed his head with stones and sticks as it drifted. But these would not hurt. So the women descended on him and tore at his flesh, ending his journey.

There is something then of the Apollo versus Dionysous, revelry versus civilization, light versus darkness, cthonic versus celestial to the myth. And that, along with the theme of passion, is of key interest to our story.

The power of music to lure and bend is common to both this story, the story of Krishna, and of course the Pied piper. It’s effect on man and beast alike. It is a power that reaches into minds and souls, that bends even the unbendable.

I would write thus about a musician motivated by passion. I would write about a woman motivated by a lost passion even—but not motivated to recover or resurrect her lost Lenore. That is something done too often, particularly with female villains. No, I have a better aim.

The notion of escaping death is perhaps better. Remember when I mentioned the often refferred to Choir Invisible? The immortal chorus of angels? The place of gods? I think this is where our woman is headed. Not to revive her husband, but rather to raise herself from that terrible fate that befall men and women alike.

A humanities response to the more scientific minded hubris, then.

Further, in the vein of pulp that makes up my blood now, I think she won’t be the main character. Or rather, not the character who’s view we share. Rather, we should examine from a secondary character rooting out what has happened. After all, when toying and perfecting the divine song, strange things are no doubt going to result.

There will be a trail of clues through the years, until at last the confrontation comes. That is when, I think, the Orphean magic must work. The dead then will rise, frightful as they are, to the call of the divine song. Calamity and apocalypse surrounds the final show down.

To keep above pulp, however, we want a harmony of two themes. Our villianness is formed of Gothic works, passion and hubris, loss and despair, pride and madness. Then what of our protagonist?

I think if the one wants power by joining something greater and bending it to her whims, then a protagonist may be one who has suffered in reverse. This is not one to be admired, of course, nor followed. But a person who is purely function who seeks to escape and become an individual perfectly parallels a person who seeks power at the cost of individuality and sanity. We will have to work out the details later.

I would be remiss not to mention where this prompt seems to have gone, in Lovecraft’s own work. The Music of Eric Zann has clear inspirations here.

So check that out, after our story comes out, and tell us about your own! What did you hear, from those distant outer spheres singing into this world?

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Birds and the Bees

This Week’s Prompt:32. As dinosaurs were once surpassed by mammals, so will man-mammal be surpassed by insect or bird—fall of man before the new race.

The Resulting Story: Gil’s Gone

So, we have a couple wonderful things to talk about! So many horrifying ideas. I have worked with this concept before, for my own pre-society purposes, but I’ll try a different route than last time I touched on this one. We’ve talked about cyclical surpassing and ages a few times already, here and here. But now we have the notion of a much grander movement: an entire kingdom replacement. And this is new.
It is firstly an almost apocalyptic notion. The surpassing of the dinosaurs was their complete extinction, and the arrival of (eventually) a level of organization and planning that was utterly alien at the time. If there are any reptilian civilizations, they are so utterly obliterated as to be effectively non-existent. The horror of the future advancing suddenly on a viewer, and the world rendered unrecognizable, is often a reactionary thing.

The deep seated fear of the passage of time is common in Lovecraft, and in this it takes a biological form. The powers of the future will not only out pace us in prominence and intelligence, but they will also forget what to us seems so grand and powerful. We talked about that with Ozymandias here.

Now, insects and birds do share a few common components worth examining as horror authors. Both are occasionally impressive group animals. Both are often shockingly more intelligent then they seem, crows being quite ingenious and ants practicing almost human levels of sophist action in architecture, planning, and agriculture. Neither has a terribly expressive mouth and far less expressive eyes, an important aspect of the alien and horrifying.

Birds are less …strange, relatively speaking. Alot of their strangeness I know is thanks to this wonderful comic artist humon, who outlined the mating styles and courting of a number animals and is a fun resource for strange or alien ideas of romance or the like. Birds do flock, and of course there is the famous war they waged documented by the amazing Alfred Hitchcock (and the…admirable recreation by Birdemic). They are a bit more rife with folkloric and mythological imagery, however, and such things are my favorite to talk about.


Races of intelligent birds brings to mind first the Tengu birds of Japan. The tengu are, at varying times, aggressive demons, angry ghosts, dangerous protectors, and mountain spirit. They often are practices of ascetic arts. They also often tricked, as mischievous spirit are, and well versed in sword play.


The next notion is that of the Garuda Garuda bird, who is a flaming bird that nearly destroyed the Naga. As a group of entities, it is exclusive to Buddhism. In Buddhism the Garuda has wings many miles wide that cause hurricane wings when flapped. Such vast and cosmic creatures border on that existential fear of wind and weather, and would be worth additions beside things like the Great Old Ones in terror they inspired. They could likewise level mountains, and warred with the Naga frequently, sometimes taking human form.


Insects, however, are far far more bizarre. The sheer variety of terrors they inspire is astounding. From vast organizations to small scale assaults, insects are frightful characters. I’d detail all of them, but Tom Waits did it better here:

There is some folklore precedent for insects ‘taking over’. In myth, there are the Myrmidons who are (despite human appearances) born of ants. These legendary soldiers, renowned for their discipline, served beside Achilles at Troy and were among the finest in the world. Bee’s have an even more impressive history. Three bee maidens gave Apollo his famous prophetic gift in Greece. The San people of the Kalahari tell of a dead bee becoming the first human after falling into the ground as a seed. In Hindu myth, the form of a bee was used to kill the demon king Arunasura, who could not be slain by bipeds or quadrupeds.

With all this folklore, where to go with our monsters? Well, that depends a great deal on how we tell this story. There is the obvious way: as the apocalypse occurs, in rapid action. After all, the dinosaurs were quickly overcome, weren’t they? We could frame it as an alien invasion from within, a sudden hostility of the planet to mortal presence. Except…that’s not what happened to the dinosaurs. Sure, the death of the lizard kings was rapid. But the rise of mankind took millions of years to occur.

Such a vast scale is hard to communicate in a narrative. We could take on a sort of historical view, as a text book instead of as a disaster movie. But that borders on the dull unless done exceptionally well.. A mix of the two, as is the style of Planet of the Apes (which also features a humanity overcome and displaced by another species) could work, following the human survivors in an essentially alien world.

That latter seems the best. It allows an alien setting, amongst a reshaped world, while avoiding the time displacement. The plot is less obvious, but fleeing the new arrivals should not be hard to write as a starting point. Surviving to some safe place (which is invariably, it seems, not safe) is a common enough idea, although it tends to be used only in the few centuries after the apocylpse has touched down.

A nice alternative to the sanctuary narrative might be a rescue narrative. While maybe a little more upbeat (at least possibly) then horror is normally, being captured and held by alien forces for unknown (and given our monsters place in the line of history, perhaps unknowable) purpose is terrifying in it’s own right. And for good reason.

There is a stability we, as a species, insist upon. We are the top of the food chain among things we can see, particularly in Western ‘civilized’ societies. The Netsilik and other Inuit peoples, who rely much more on animals and hunting for survival then domestic animals, ascribe the reverse. We can hunt, only because the animals pity us. Such a notion is utterly alien to the world of Western theology and philosophy, beyond a few possible exceptions of animal nobility and particularly naturalistic philosophers.


Threatening stability, rendering humanity another animal, puts our fear of chaos and ourselves on center stage. The uncertainty between our kinship with animals (such as cats and dogs) and our…well, feasting on them (as in cattle and sheep) and a general fear that we are not much more than them. There is a very of subordination of place in the cosmos (a common concern in Lovecraft’s) as well as the creation of alien terrain. For, the dinosaurs did not give way merely to humanity, but to all mammals as the apex predators and herbivores. How strange a world, where the chief forest hunter is not the wolf by a flock of hawks or peacocks. What adaptations would they have to help them prey on their new food?

Some of these are starting to form into concrete concepts, with new venues of perception and awareness available to the great garuda birds that is lost to us. The way to traverse between stars and worlds, the way into minds and souls, a race so much more aware and intelligent then we that the comparison would be as if brutes were to call their burrows shining metropoli. There is something…terrifying in beholding something so aware as to look down upon mankind, and I think a rescue of sorts from whatever occult experiments such vast things wish to preform on such small creatures. And there is a lack of avian monsters in the mythos…

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The Fantastic Fae From Faraway!

This Week’s Prompt: 24. Dunsany—Go-By Street. Man stumbles on dream world—returns to earth—seeks to go back—succeeds, but finds dream world ancient and decayed as though by thousands of years.

This Week’s Story: Part 1, Part 2

This prompt brings many things to mind. For starters, we have Dunsany again! We talked at length about him here, for those uninformed. Great author, and all of his works are available online. Go-By Street included!

And Go-By Street is…interesting as an inspiration, since it is a sequel to the Idles of Yann. I will spare you the summation, since the basic premise is outlined in the rest of the prompt. And what a prompt. We have a reversal of a folkloric trope here: Fairyland.

Do not mistake the lands of the fae for kind ones, however. Distant though they are, the fae are a capricious lot. Even when they intend the best, they often do harm. The most famous harm, and one that this bears more than a passing resemblance to, is the habit of changelings. Fae will, for a variety of reasons, make off with a child who isn’t properly guarded by iron (or cold iron, to distinguish from steel). They replace the child with one of their own who is elderly, or a wooden doll.


When Subtly Is Secondary To “Screw The Fae”

The replaced child dies soon, and the stolen mortal suffers whatever fate the fae has in mind. Sometimes it is noble, as Oberon and Titianna’s during Midsummer’s Night Dream. Of course other times it is sinister. Fae are always in need of servants, you see. Even in Arthurian tales, there are stories of fae making off with brides and cattle of mortal lands, and taking them into their misty home.

The other story, and the more direct parallel to our prompt, is that of the traveler who comes to the Fae unawares. He falls in love with the extravagance, partakes of its food and perhaps falls in love with a woman. And then, one day, for whatever reason he decides to leave. This…never goes well. Typically, a condition is placed. The most famous is he must never leave his horse. And if or when he does, he will find age and time lost catch him. He is then rendered to dust.

The fate of faerie gold is likewise dim, turning to leaves upon returning. Beautiful steeds become donkeys. The gifts of the fae are only valuable in their realm, and like dreams, they fade in the realm of mortals. The nature of the fae (immortal, naturalistic, romantic, and captivating but fleeting) has captured imaginations of British authors for a good deal of time, and many a case they have played the role of the dead for cases like Sir Orfeo (the name may ring a bell).


The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania, by Sir Joesph Noel Paton

On the positive end, the Queen of Elfland supposedly granted Thomas the Rhymer prophecy and other gifts. The Faeire Queene ( an epic poem of truly vast proportions) grants also the eponymous character status as a benevolent entity. The authorities in the fae realms tend to be more fickle, but these diamonds cannot be left out.
The mingling of medieval and pre-Christian thought have given the fae the odd place as “not demons, but not angels” in some literature. The origin sometimes given is angels unwilling to revolt or remain loyal (a characterizations perhaps rooted in dreams as paradise, but mortal. Or the fae’s own complex nature). Other times, the fae owe great debt to those below, and pay tithe of seven men and women to the Enemy yearly (again, yes, this is familiar to a certain Greek fable).
The dream world of the fae is therefore, to say the least, complicated. Other similar stories include Rip Van Winkle and the last knight of Charlemagne, who dose off only to find the world shifted centuries in their sleep. The existential dread, then, of one’s world changing while one ‘rests’ is old. Waking up to an unfamiliar place is perhaps, however, a good deal better than sleeping into one.
For dreams are often places of fantasy and desire. Dreams, dreams are escape from reality-as-prison. Even nightmares are escape for more mundane and decaying terrors. Dreams decaying into derelict and destitute ruins is …disheartening. What could so destroy the land of fancy?


Asgardseien by Peter Nicolai Arbo

This pursuit raises perhaps one last story of the fae. The hunt. Oh the Wild Hunt. Trumpeting they come, on the clouds and riding dark horses. Sometimes, they are fae. Sometimes they are the souls of the damned, doing the devils due. Sometimes they are spirits of storm, laughing in thunder. The Wild Hunt is always a terror, bearing pestilence and power. They make off with souls to the land of fae or the dead, and their leader is often the Grim One, the Allfather of the land (Odin to the Norse, Arthur in Brittany) or a particularly cursed man (Count Hackleburg, oddly enough).

The fae version has a unique touch, however. As they draw close, the footsteps sound more distant. As the victim escapes, they sound closer. Thus, the prey runs itself ragged, and rests in the time of emergency. The fae rider is often the color of storm clouds (Dark grey or pitch black). The force of chaos perhaps could be the source of the age and ruin in the dreamland.
Mention must be made of the more obvious notion (albeit after this prompt was written): Narnia. For those unfamiliar…go read Narnia. I don’t really have other advice. It likewise has time skips between visits to a fantastic realm by accident. Go read it. It’s no Dunsany, but Lewis is a decent writer for the most part, with bits of brilliance when he remembers he’s not writing theology.


I love pictures of old authors in black and white. Have you noticed yet?

Structure is heavily preset in the prompt, but I will suggest one theme/scene that occurs in a favorite modern show of mine. That is, the realization that this is a shifted time isn’t simply another land is the recognition by a small child who is now an old man. Otherwise, the structure works out as described above. I have an idea for this work, and with regards to that I will keep my own counsel.