COVID-19 has swept across the globe overwhelming healthcare facilities and forcing governments to issue stay at home orders. While people shelter in place cars remain in driveways, gas stations become ghost towns, and refineries stand abandoned.
Stranger still experts are finding that our absence is having a side effect on the environment.
The nitrogen dioxide coating the world has faded revealing the continent of China beneath it. The smog blanketing the Los Angeles has lifted revealing the Hollywood sign. The fuel in the Venice canals has dissolved revealing the seafloor.
When I open my windows the noise pollution is gone. There are no horns from the intersection next to the apartment. No thumping subwoofers shaking the ground. No roaring Harleys from the highway. No jetliners to drown out the birdsong. There’s only the faintest hint of wind.
The neighborhood networking app Nextdoor is full of fox sightings. Herds of deer are grazing in cemeteries. Bald eagles are perching on powerlines. Nature is filling the vacancy left by humankind.
If we’ve ever wondered what our impact is on the environment the quarantine has given us the answer.
With fewer people burning fuel, laying fertilizer, and raising cattle there are fewer greenhouse gases. Without that stream of pollution we risk making the planet hospitable for creatures we’d rather remain underground. The longer things stay like this the greater the risk the old ones will rise again.
For eons the old ones have slumbered near the earth’s core, beneath sheets of stalactites, on beds of magma. Their mere yawns shake the caverns. Their mere movements create fault lines. These titans once ruled the land until changes in the air forced them into hibernation.
Still, they dream and their dreams manifest as delirium in lesser minds. Perhaps you’ve seen them in the lonely hours of your solitude. I know I have. With their bodies like great apes and faces like cuttlefish.
There’s Mother Hydra, the vengeance of the ocean. Father Dagon, the lord of the trenches. Then there’s deep ones, sharpening their tridents, waiting to surface. There’s Hastur, the unspeakable doom of Carcosa. Also known as the King in Yellow with his tattered robe of tentacles. There’s the Shoggoths trickling down the mountains of madness, as the ozone slowly heals above them.
Oh, and of course there’s Cthulhu. Imprisoned in the sunken city of R’lyeh with his legions in slime drenched pens. Cthulhu, the dreamer whose true domain is the astral plane. Cthulhu, whose island will rise again. Cthulhu, whose name you really shouldn’t say three times.
Throughout history these forgotten deities have scratched at the borders reality. Every time a depression forces folks to use less oil the old ones feel their bellies rumble. Every time a city lowers its carbon footprint it risks being stomped upon. Every time you bike when you could’ve driven you risk waking them.
Without a steady stream of emissions these entities will come. They will call down their progenitor: Yog-Sothoth, the sentinel of wormholes. When he arrives he’ll drape his tendrils over the horizon. The glowing orbs sagging from his skin will rival the scale of the moon. Then the children of Yog-Sothoth will feed on both our bodies and our minds.
In hindsight self-isolation will seem like Heaven. Sure, the cities will reopen, but the streets won’t be places you want to walk down. Not with the Esoteric Order of Dagon fishing for sacrificial lambs, flashing wavy daggers, gutting their catches in public fountains. Not with the Cult of Cthulhu stringing coper wiring through craniums, drawing down the lightning, lighting up expressions. Not with Bus-length Shoggoths swallowing pedestrians, leaving onlookers to watch victims dissolve through protoplasmic skin.
The economy might take off like a rocket, but it ain’t going to hit atmo. That’s for damn sure.
The old ones will show cosmic indifference to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Our unalienable rights will disappear overnight. Forget about the stock market. Forget about the epidemic. Forget about the climate. Without the safety net of nitrogen dioxide we will hurtle into the void.
Our suffering will be the punchline of a great cosmic joke and the old ones will never stop laughing. That’s why it’s our duty to go forth and start polluting. We must shovel coal into volcanoes, have a few more three mile islands, and double fist aerosol cans. Do it not just for your children, but for your children’s children.
For it is only after we’ve filled the air with toxins that we’ll be spared the wrath of the old ones.
Just in time for Halloween, comes four flash fiction stories about classic monsters in compromising positions. Each one is dark, fiendish, and a bit more risqué than my usual fare, but those aren’t the only things they have in common…
Dracula Gets a Checkup
Dracula worked the thermometer between his canines. When he took it out it read seventy-degrees. The mirror over the sink hung open, reflecting an indentation where the vampire was sitting. He slammed it shut.
Maybe one of those bright young things from last night was into holistic skincare. He or she could’ve covered a zit in garlic. It could’ve run down his or her neck. Maybe he or she played a little too rough, threw out a tendon and rubbed garlic on to keep the inflammation down. Maybe it was still on his or her breath when he or she swapped tongues. That’s the trouble with masked affairs, you never know what you’re going to get.
Lying on the exam table, Dracula replayed the masquerade in his head. He did an inventory of everyone he’d touched and everyone who’d touched him. He counted bodies on his fingers. The longer he waited the heavier his eyes got. When he woke up the walls were covered in plastic.
A doctor stood over him in a hazmat suit. “Mr. Alucard?”
Dracula sat up.
The doctor flipped through a chart. “It’s not food poisoning.”
Dracula sighed. His bright red eyes traced the borders of the hermetic bubble. “What’s all this then?”
The doctor ran his glove down a long list. “When the blood work came back, you tested positive for a couple of things.”
Dracula examined his hand. “It’s not silver poisoning is it?”
All those buckles and gags from last night, he’d just assumed they were stainless steel.
The doctor consulted his chart. “Argyria? No, but you did test positive for diphtheria, malaria, measles, polio, and typhoid fever, but it was the smallpox that got you on the CDC’s radar.”
Dracula stroked his chin.
“Mr. Alucard, have you visited any virology labs recently?”
Dracula shrugged. “Not that I can recall.”
The doctor’s mask did little to conceal his skeptical squint. “Think on it. There’s two places you could’ve contracted it. Maybe you can remember if the guards spoke English or Russian?”
Dracula twiddled his talons. “I haven’t been to the motherland in a long time.”
The doctor nodded. “Okay, that narrows it down. Do you recall wandering into any subterranean layers sometime this week?”
Dracula clicked his nails together. “The bondage dungeon might have been underground.”
“I was blindfolded, escorted by a choke chain through a field of glass, nails, and razor wire.” Dracula shook his head. “All and all, it was a pretty tepid affair.”
The doctor nodded matter-of-factly. “Do you think you might have come into contact with any bodily fluids at this gathering?”
Dracula chuckled. “Might have? I was swimming in them.”
The doctor tapped his fingers to the muzzle of his mask. “Now this is important, do you think any blood might have gotten into your mouth?”
Dracula looked to his feet. They dangled over the exam table. “Well, I do partake from time to time.”
The doctor dropped his chart. “How long have you been drinking blood?”
Dracula tilted his head back and forth. “Since, maybe say, the rise of the Ottomans.”
The doctor threw his hands up, walked to the border of the bubble, and turned on his heel. “Mr. Alucard, you might not want to give me a straight answer, but the CDC will want to know all about your bondage and bloodletting gathering. If you can’t tell me where it was, can you at least tell me the name of the group who was running it?”
Dracula was already shaking his head when the answer came to him. He snapped his fingers. “The Aristocrats.”
Frankenstein’s Monster inquires about his Donors
Victor watched the monster gaze beyond the balcony. The creature seemed less interested in the village below than the stars above. “Father, where did I come from?”
Victor joined his creation. He swirled a large glass of wine. “I thought that was self-explanatory. You were stitched together from dead bodies.”
The monster squeezed his forearm, feeling for the place where the threading linked it to his bicep. “Yes, but where did these pieces come from?”
Victor gurgled the wine in his mouth, before gulping it down. “Well son, there once was a family of traveling performers…”
The parents were escape artists and magicians, while the children specialized in gymnastics and juggling.
They wandered from town to town, chasing traveling circuses. Every time they caught up with one they performed for the management and every time they were left in the dust behind the caravan. Until one day the father came up with an act so stupendous he knew the next traveling show would have to hire them.
Back then, I was not the surgeon I am today. I’d spent my residency giving first aid to carnies: treating animal bites, scorched throats, and unspeakable sexual maladies. I happened to be in the management’s office when the traveling family came.
The father was a born hustler, promising fear, intrigue, and titillation while his wife, son and daughter stood with frozen smiles behind him. Management tapped his pocket watch. That’s when the father reached into his sack and pulled out a pair of axes. We examined the blades while his family brought out axes of their own.
At first they simply passed their axes back and forth, like hot potatoes, but then they started heaving them, working themselves up to a fluid motion. Soon the entire family was juggling.
When the first blade slipped it claimed the young man’s arm. Fluid shot out of the wound in angry bursts. The boy bit his lip without making a sound. His father instructed him to use the pain. The lad powered through until he collapsed. We figured it was part of the act, because the others kept their axes in play without so much as batting an eye at their fallen family member.
It wasn’t long before an ax chopped off the daughter’s leg. Now she must have been a tightrope walker in an earlier incarnation of their show, because she hobbled along on one foot without missing a beat. Her fresh stump sprayed blood into management’s spectacles. He worked the droplets in his fingers, tasting them.
I’d suspected blood tubes and prosthetic limbs, but when the stench of rotten meat hit, I doubted my hypothesis.
When the young woman collapsed her parents kept her remaining blade in play. They now had six between them. The few seconds where they kept those axes flying were truly amazing, but it wasn’t long before the father had lopped off his wife’s head and her ax flew straight into his sternum.
Management sat petrified, realizing he’d witnessed something authentic and not some macabre magician’s trick.
My horror was overtaken by my desire. Here I’d been paying grave robbers for fresh corpses when four of them were delivered to my doorstep. The family might not have been the best performers, but they were generous donors.
I was already wrapping up the bodies when the father reached out and grabbed my ankle. Blood gushed over his lips as he drew his last breath.
I don’t know why, but I had to ask him, “What were you planning on calling this grizzly act?”
He smiled faintly and opened his arms wide. “The Aristocrats.” Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
The monster peeled back his sleeve to examine his skin He spotted the scars where the axes left their impressions. “Father, I don’t like this story very much.”
Victor nodded into his wine. “You know son, I don’t like you very much.”
The Hunting of the Wolfman
The Wolfman ran through the forest. His pursuers were hot on his heels, breaking twigs, hooting, and hollering. What they lacked in strategy they made up for in numbers. He’d never backed away from a fight before, but there were so many of them in the clearing.
Spotting silhouettes in the moonlight the Wolfman had taken them for a heard of deer. Charging headlong he watched as they stood on their hindquarters. Spinning around he realized he was surrounded by bipedal beasts much like himself.
Their human frames had paws, claws, and big furry ears, but they weren’t werewolves. They were werelions, weretigers and werebears.
A pair of ears rose from the underbrush, followed by whiskers, and big buck teeth. It looked like a giant rabbit feeding on a fox. It was clear, the food chain didn’t apply here.
The Wolfman felt a breeze on his neck. He turned to find a weregiraffe looming over him. He fled before the creature’s hooves could come crashing down.
The Wolfman sprinted downhill. When he heard the sound of rushing water, he thought he was in the clear. There was secret path across the river. Soon the rapids would be between him and his pursuers.
The Wolfman searched the riverbank for a bridge of rocks beneath the water. That’s when a werezebra tackled him. The zebra held him down as a werepig undid his belt.
All of his pursuers rushed out of the woodwork, but rather than snap at his jugular, they feasted on the sight of him. The werezebra bent the Wolfman over as the werepig pulled down his pants. The crowd gasped.
The Wolfman felt his tail wagging in the breeze, a nervous reaction to the situation.
The creatures bickered.
“How is he doing that?”
“Maybe it’s animatronic.”
“Do you recognize that costume?”
“Are you sure this guy’s a furry?”
“If he is, he’s not a member.”
“He’s got to be, we rented every camp ground from the highway to the river.”
The Wolfman snarled. Slobber oozed from his fangs. The werezebra let go.
The Wolfman spun around and bit the pig’s snout clean off. He thought he’d taste blood marinating the raw pork he’d bitten into, instead he tasted cotton. He spat it out when he spotted a wire frame sticking out.
Scanning the other monsters the Wolfman spotted zippers, sneakers, and open butt flaps. The man in the pig costume shuffled back to the group.
The Wolfman tucked his tail between his legs and cleared his throat. “You think I’m a member? Member of what? What do you sick people call yourselves?”
They all spoke in unison. “The Aristocrats.”
Cthulhu Crashes the Monster Mash
The nightwatchman shivered beneath the blanket. One side of his hair was black, the other had gone white. From where I stood his head looked like a Yin-Yang.
He sang, “I was doing my rounds, late last night. When something moved into my flashlight. A creature from the lagoon began to rise. And suddenly to my surprise…”
Then he stopped.
Detective Greywood shined his light in the watchman’s eyes. The poor bastard didn’t blink.
Detective Greywood snapped his fingers. “This is how he’s been answering all our questions. We ask, he takes a few minutes to compose a verse, then he sings. It doesn’t matter if anyone’s around to hear it.”
The watchman perked up. “He did the mash, he did the monster mash. He did the mash, it was a graveyard smash–”
Detective Greywood tugged me out of earshot. “You don’t want that knocking around in your head all day.”
“Was there a verse about a lagoon in the original song?”
“No, I think he’s trying to tell us the assailant emerged from the pond.”
“And the victims?”
Detective Greywood pointed to three sets of tire tracks. “I’m betting these lead to a hole in the fence.”
We followed the tracks to three mountain bikes. One was handlebars deep in the muck, one was wrapped around a headstone, and one was dangling from a willow tree.
“I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” Detective Greywood pointed to a statue in the distance.
Its robes were brown with blood. There were cracks in its sides. Someone had driven severed arms into the granite. The statue’s wings lay in the grass next to its head. Its face had been replaced, presumably, by the heads of all three of our victims. I say, “presumably,” because they were wearing masks.
Detective Greywood tilted his gaze back. “It’s not every day you see a totem pole made from Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman.”
I didn’t realize my teeth were chattering until I tried to speak. “It’s got eight arms, like Ganesha.”
Greywood chuckled, “Or an octopus.” He slapped on a pair of latex gloves and pulled something out of one of their hands. “Yoink.”
It was encrusted with blood. I didn’t realize it was a video camera until he opened the viewfinder.
While Greywood watched the video, I investigated the scene behind the statue. There was a makeshift alter made from pizza trays and beach towels, fragments of candles sticking out of wax puddles, and an ancient book. Its leather binding was warped. It almost looked like a face.
“Detective Greywood, I found something.”
Greywood stepped around with his head in the camera. He shut it the moment he spotted the book. “Well well well, old leather face, we meet again.” He pressed his radio. “Call the bomb squad, tell them we need the remote disposal unit.”
“What is that?”
“The remote disposal unit is a robot with tiny metal arms.”
I shook my head. “No, that.”
“That’s the Necronomicon: an account of the old ones and the means to summon them. Open that up and we’ll have tentacles up are asses within the hour.”
“What are you talking about?”
Detective Greywood sighed. “The elder gods created humanity as a punchline to an elaborate joke. Every so often, they like to get into people’s faces and do a little insult comedy.”
I shook my head. “I’m still not following.”
“That book is full of heckles by Abdul Alhazred. Read them and you’ll find yourself in the old one’s spotlight. If the watchman’s song is true those kids summoned one of the ancient water beings.”
Greywood slid the camera into an evidence bag. “These boys were filming themselves reading from it, probably as a framing device for a video full of graveyard BMX tricks.”
A strong gust upended the book. It skipped across the graves and fell open at my feet. The arcane script was so large I could see it from where I was standing.
I still don’t know why I thought I’d understand those words if I read them aloud, but I did. “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
Detective Greywood drew his weapon. “You stupid son of a bitch!”
The cemetery shook. Headstones shot out of the ground like corks. Steam rose from the pond as it boiled over. Tentacles shot out from the water. They wrapped around tree trunks, pulling something up from the depths. Water splashed across the crime scene. A giant figure blotted out the sun.
“Down here, you squid faced bastard!” Detective Greywood kept shooting until he’d emptied his clip.
The book washed up onto my shoes. I felt the pages flipping at my ankles, compelling me to read further. So I did.
“The outer ones, the old ones, and the sunken ones will come together, a cosmic collective of indescribable power, and you shall know terror by its true moniker: the Aristocrats.”
After getting a lot requests for prints of my art I decided to open a store on REDBUBBLE where you can find prints and a whole lot more.
What if someone combined the corporate jargon of a Craigslist job posting with the sprawling mythos of H.P. Lovecraft? It would look something like this.
Necronomicon Translator Wanted (Arkham)
Rapidly growing upstart looking to build buzz around tome of forbidden knowledge, The Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead. Job seekers should have a positive attitude, and be versed in ancient Arabic, Greek, and Latin. We want people who are excited to work with mould ridden manuscripts. People who like to solve puzzles, to piece together the fragments of unspeakable incantations. People with the mental resilience to withstand the inherent dangers that come with studying these texts.
We want individuals with good organizational skills, expert multitaskers capable of micro managing multiple realities. Self-starters who perform well under times of increased workload, and prolonged madness. Help us build a platform from the ground up. We want someone who is passionate about raising brand awareness of the coming darkness.
We want tag lines for the end times. We want to see our hashtags written in blood. We want someone on the cutting edge of the ceremonial dagger. Someone with vision, and by vision of course, we’re referring to the rising blood tide washing away the known world in a new era of delirium.
The ideal candidate has already had a dream about this position. They heard the call of Hastur echoing on howling winds. They saw the pallid mask emerge from phantasmagorical depths. They watched the black stars rise over Carcosa. They felt the yellow sign sear through their flesh, branding their very bones. They awoke with joyful tears, and bloodied hands, cackling at the revelation that we are all but the punchlines of the Old One’s elaborate joke.
Candidates must love working with people, have extroverted personalities, and be eager to form lasting relationships. Must have excellent interpersonal and interdimensional skills. Must be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and telepathically. Candidates should have a background in social media, networking, and astral projection.
We want individuals with winning mindsets, eager to succeed in a constantly shifting ecosystem.
Your duties will be to oversee parchment translation, marketing support, and the shoggoth servants that roam the labyrinth halls of Necropolis. You’ll run a web crawler to index the crawling chaos of Nyarlathotep, the Pharaoh behind the firewall. This is a great job for people looking to improve their networking skills. This position serves as a liaison to the denizens of K’n-yan, the tombs of R’lyeh, and the dark throne of Azathoth at the center of chaos.
We work in an open office built on terrifying vistas of reality. Our corporate culture is modeled after the Esoteric order of Dagon. This means our brainstorming sessions result in actual storms, and our problem-solving sessions have a death toll. We’re looking for team players who thrive in a group environment. People who will embrace the opportunity to contribute creatively, independently, and sexually, offering their flesh to the Deep ones and the many fins of Father Dagon.
Candidates must be punctual. Work days begin with peer recognition, a declaration of goals, and a ritual sacrifice to Mother Hydra. Together, we give fearless feedback, exchange pointers on best practices, and discuss positive client experiences. We encourage individuals to tell us what they wish to improve on, what they wish to learn, and what they wish to behold once Yog-Sothoth lifts the veil from the dark portal separating us from the looming cosmic dread.
We believe that our employees are our family, that collaboration multiplies opportunity, that together we can threaten the very integrity of the universe.
Cthulhu lies on the ocean floor deep in slumber. We need self motivated individuals to give him a little poke, to decipher enough arcane script to bring his mass of tentacles to our shores. We require exceptional verbal and written communication skills, and a technical proficiency in blasphemy. We want individuals who think like entrepreneurs, who will dive into the black sea of infinity from the placid island of ignorance. Individuals who don’t wait for Cthulhu to rise, they swim out to meet him.
It’s that proactive approach that empowers our translators to work on their personal development with minimal supervision. It’s the simplicity of our credo that inspires this growth. That’s because there’s just three core competencies: the Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be.
“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” Will you be the one to give him a wake up call?
Do you have good time-management skills, a strong morale, and an even stronger work ethic? Are you looking for an exciting career opportunity in the extremely private sector? Are you outspoken about stretching the boundaries of human consciousness? Do you want to abandon the hallow vestibules of man’s domain? Do nocturnal insects whisper profane truths to you? When you close your eyes, do you see the King in Yellow parting the nameless mist on the path to the Red Death? Can you drink the Kool-Aid without asking what’s in it?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above we need to talk!
Must submit to a background check into your past lives with onsite regression hypnotherapist
Must have references that can attest to your whereabouts during every international tragedy that took place during your lifetime
Must be willing to relocate to our subterranean headquarters beneath the ruins of Babylon
Valid Pilot’s license
Ability to write CSS, HTML5, Flash, and ancient Sumerian
* Location: Arkham, Massachusetts
* Compensation: The privilege of being one of the first to be devoured by the dark lord Cthulhu
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster
* do NOT contact us with unsolicited services or offers
* Start Date: You’ve already begun