In continuation of our bimonthly theme here at Gathering Books – Circus, Carnivale, and Paranormal Twists – we bring you a special short story edition featuring one of the greatest storytellers of our time: Neil Gaiman. I don’t know about me being a hardcore fan but I definitely love this man. I enjoy his dark novels as well as his bizarre short stories. I came upon this short story by accident. This was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, a celebrated horror and science fiction writer. Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend! =)
Cthulhu, they call me. Great Cthulhu.
Nobody can pronounce it right.
Are you writing this down? Every word? Good. Where shall I start — mm?
Very well, then. The beginning. Write this down, Whateley.
I was spawned uncounted aeons ago, in the dark mists of Khhaa’yngnaiih (no, of course I don’t know how to spell it. Write it as it sounds), of nameless nightmare parents, under a gibbous moon. It wasn’t the moon of this planet, of course, it was a real moon. On some nights it filled over half the sky and as it rose you could watch the crimson blood drip and trickle down its bloated face, staining it red, until at its height it bathed the swamps and towers in a gory dead red light.
Those were the days.
Or rather the nights, on the whole. Our place had a sun of sorts, but it was old, even back then. I remember that on the night it finally exploded we all slithered down to the beach to watch. But I get ahead of myself.
I never knew my parents.
My father was consumed by my mother as soon as he had fertilized her and she, in her turn, was eaten by myself at my birth. That is my first memory, as it happens. Squirming my way out of my mother, the gamy taste of her still in my tentacles.
Don’t look so shocked, Whateley. I find you humans just as revolting.
Which reminds me, did they remember to feed the shoggoth? I thought I heard it gibbering.
I spent my first few thousand years in those swamps. I did not like this, of course, for I was the colour of a young trout and about four of your feet long. I spent most of my time creeping up on things and eating them and in my turn avoiding being crept up on and eaten.
So passed my youth.
And then one day — I believe it was a Tuesday — I discovered that there was more to life than food. (Sex? Of course not. I will not reach that stage until after my next estivation; your piddly little planet will long be cold by then). It was that Tuesday that my Uncle Hastur slithered down to my part of the swamp with his jaws fused.
It meant that he did not intend to dine that visit, and that we could talk.
Now that is a stupid question, even for you Whateley. I don’t use either of my mouths in communicating with you, do I? Very well then. One more question like that and I’ll find someone else to relate my memoirs to. And you will be feeding the shoggoth.
We are going out, said Hastur to me. Would you like to accompany us?
We? I asked him. Who’s we?
Myself, he said, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, Tsathogghua , Ia ! Shub Niggurath, young Yuggoth and a few others. You know, he said, the boys. (I am freely translating for you here, Whateley, you understand. Most of them were a-, bi-, or trisexual, and old Ia! Shub Niggurath has at least a thousand young, or so it says. That branch of the family was always given to exaggeration). We are going out, he concluded, and we were wondering if you fancied some fun.
I did not answer him at once. To tell the truth I wasn’t all that fond of my cousins, and due to some particularly eldritch distortion of the planes I’ve always had a great deal of trouble seeing them clearly. They tend to get fuzzy around the edges, and some of them — Sabaoth is a case in point — have a great many edges.
But I was young, I craved excitement. “There has to be more to life than this!”, I would cry, as the delightfully foetid charnel smells of the swamp miasmatised around me, and overhead the ngau-ngau and zitadors whooped and skrarked. I said yes, as you have probably guessed, and I oozed after Hastur until we reached the meeting place.
As I remember we spent the next moon discussing where we were going. Azathoth had his hearts set on distant Shaggai, and Nyarlathotep had a thing about the Unspeakable Place (I can’t for the life of me think why. The last time I was there everything was shut). It was all the same to me, Whateley. Anywhere wet and somehow, subtly wrong and I feel at home. But Yog-Sothoth had the last word, as he always does, and we came to this plane.
You’ve met Yog-Sothoth, have you not, my little two-legged beastie?
I thought as much.
He opened the way for us to come here.
To be honest, I didn’t think much of it. Still don’t. If I’d known the trouble we were going to have I doubt I’d have bothered. But I was younger then.
As I remember our first stop was dim Carcosa. Scared the shit out of me, that place. These days I can look at your kind without a shudder, but all those people, without a scale or pseudopod between them, gave me the quivers.
The King in Yellow was the first I ever got on with.
The tatterdemallion king. You don’t know of him? Necronomicon page seven hundred and four (of the complete edition) hints at his existence, and I think that idiot Prinn mentions him in De Vermis Mysteriis. And then there’s Chambers, of course.
Lovely fellow, once I got used to him.
He was the one who first gave me the idea.
What the unspeakable hells is there to do in this dreary dimension? I asked him.
He laughed. When I first came here, he said, a mere colour out of space, I asked myself the same question. Then I discovered the fun one can get in conquering these odd worlds, subjugating the inhabitants, getting them to fear and worship you. It’s a real laugh.
Of course, the Old Ones don’t like it.
The old ones? I asked.
No, he said, Old Ones. It’s capitalized. Funny chaps. Like great starfish-headed barrels, with filmy great wings that they fly through space with.
Fly through space? Fly? I was shocked. I didn’t think anybody flew these days. Why bother when one can sluggle, eh? I could see why they called them the old ones. Pardon, Old Ones.
What do these Old Ones do? I asked the King.
(I’ll tell you all about sluggling later, Whateley. Pointless, though. You lack wnaisngh’ang. Although perhaps badminton equipment would do almost as well). (Where was I? Oh yes).
What do these Old Ones do, I asked the King.
Nothing much, he explained. They just don’t like anybody else doing it.
I undulated, writhing my tentacles as if to say “I have met such beings in my time”, but fear the message was lost on the King.
Do you know of any places ripe for conquering? I asked him.
He waved a hand vaguely in the direction of a small and dreary patch of stars. There’s one over there that you might like, he told me. It’s called Earth. Bit off the beaten track, but lots of room to move.
That’s all for now, Whateley.
Tell someone to feed the shoggoth on your way out.