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Tender Resignation

Dear Michael,

I am writing to tell you I’ve decided to cease being your copywriter. Our relationship has spanned four years and three continents, but with this last batch of writing I must say enough is enough. I truly regret this step, but feel it necessary in light of your recent personal changes. Please do not take this resignation as an end to our friendship or a cessation of my warm feelings for you. I very much do care for your well being still. It is this concern that leads me to end our professional relationship.

I feel I must explain the change in my disposition, because it must seem very abrupt and frivolous from your end. Certainly, it is abrupt. Abrupt as the recent change in your writings, Michael. I was never given very much work in the way of simple errors. You have minded your grammar like a Latin scholar, and for that I was always grateful. But the sudden downturn in your language is quite frightening, Michael. It feels as though your mind has begun fraying at the seams. You must tell me, in all confidence as your friend, whether this is related to some foreign substance you’re abusing. When you go from writing phrases like this:

Purple grow the lilacs on the sweet down-wind of the river banks.

To

Yattering madly like a spindle(?) piercing the chattering brook[…] ripped, ripped apart from time and surface and all knowledge accrued by man…

You understand my concern, don’t you? It’s barely a sentence, much less a coherent thought. You did not detail your adventures in full, but I fear you may have run afoul of some less-than-savory types in your travels.

My concern lies also with your personal safety. I know it sounds ridiculous coming from a homebody such as myself, but trawling the Arabian desert for a nameless city that may never have existed seems too much risk for too little gain. You tell me of Iram of the pillars and lost Sarnath, but what I see is baseless superstition. Star charts and scraps of myth are no replacement for sturdy boots and a good company of men. I have no wish to scold you like a mother, but you do give me reason for grief. I believe your risk also bleeds over to me. You were the one who had me fetch that blasted Din of Cicadas or whatever they call it from the academic library. You had me translate passages and send them out to you. You were the one who got me removed from the dean’s list at the school library after decades of loyal service. You had to have known, Michael, the dreadful reputation of that book even if I did not.

And on the subject of dreadful, I must say my stomach can no longer take any of your bloody descriptions. The sacrifice and befoulment of a dog, the fate of your camel, the pilloried thief, all these are just too much. Your readers are interested in the grit and dust of the trail, do you think they need to hear how your guide’s feet split open with black cankers after walking unshod on the “parched ground”? Do you think men at their gentlemen’s clubs want to hear the bloodcurdling history of reptilian ur-men over their morning coffee? Why such focus on the ailment of your friend Mahmoud, who swole and split like a puff-ball in punishment for showing you a certain trail? They are truly terrible events, and my heart bleeds for you, but they are entirely inappropriate for your usual format and far more suited to the pulps.

And on that note, I must ask whether there is any truth to what you write. You tell me:

The blasted thing curled above Price’s men, yawning through so many wretched mouths like an abomination dredged up from the deepest depths of the sea. The men slept on unaware as the monster unfurled in the night wind, sending so many tendrils to tap and sup from their unconscious bodies until the men were drained into sacklike ruins. Oh but the true terror comes not from that night, but the next morning when Price returned to see his men and one by one the husks called out to him by name

Michael, I must ask this as your friend and editor—how do you know this if you were not there? You claim Price destroyed by the wraiths of his own men, how did you learn of this scene, then? And how can you so clearly envision the activity of the nameless city-dwellers, those reptilian beasts of such unkind intellect, how can you see them crawling about the city when they have been dead for eons? I worry for your health, my friend. Either you have become a prodigious liar in your travels or the heat has addled your brain. I do not believe a facetless ruby can show you such visions, that mystic humbug is something a fakir would sell for the price of a watch.

I really request that you entertain my concerns, Michael, even if only for a moment. Your mental state worries me, when you produce such scenes as this:

Corpse-down, gathered through many wretched midnight excursions, padded the altar made of brass feathers and noxious amber ornaments. The priest passed the lamp flame over his hand once, twice, and it was then I realized that his flesh was not bandaged but that his very flesh was swaddled. Nimbly as a factory girl, he reached out and plucked Burrows’ eyes from their sockets, replacing them with a shiny serpentine stone each.

And this:

The moonlight took on an infections quality. I could feel my skin roil beneath it, as if the very touch of the light itself were changing me. The hole in the sky seemed to laugh at my eye’s feeble attempts to make sense of the where and how of it. Now that the priest had shed his robes I could see his true form was that of the hideous things that crawled endlessly from low doorways and stairs at impossible angles. From my bound position I could only watch as Price’s life fluid formed a river that flowed upwards from the basin, up into the Stygian depths of that hole which was no longer a hole but a kind of un-moon…

I worry as your friend and as a fellow professional. Such graphic scenes flow from only the most perverse of imagination. You, from a good family and solid education, should not be penning these scenes. I do not need to hear about the flensing of your left foot, the removal of your ears, nor the grueling attempt at tattooing your back. I do not appreciate being told you are at death’s door, saying you leave these pages as your last will and testament as you are too weak to hike back to the nearest outpost. It is a cruel fiction to spin, Michael, as you must have survived long enough to post these pages to me. A note is all I ask, an inclusion in your thoughts however dark they may be, telling me you are well.

I must close with a complaint that seems minor in the face of other worries, and it is this: the figure you had shipped to me is disturbing. I set it on the piano and now the cat refuses to go near it. I have looked the figure up in Makepiece’s Guide to Egyptology, and no such creature exists in their pantheon. The green stone it is fashioned from must be some lead derivative, for being too near it gives me dreadful headaches.

Please return, Michael, to civilization and me. Cease these fancies and collect your artifact. I will no longer entertain your follies, but I will provide a bed and a hot cup of tea should you ever be in my city.

Yrs,

Terrence Q. Chase

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Mister Seahorse

He hadn’t wanted to return to the beach

the memory swilled inside him like a poison, never far, ready to clench his body in remembrance of pain, lash its tongue across his life to let him know:

it happened

he hadn’t wanted to go back to work

but they would notice. weeks of gastric upset, of furtive glances and hiding his oozing nipples, but absence was the one thing he could not, would not be able to explain to his coworkers. to avoid clenching when asked the old saw: what did you do for vacation? to lie as he ran his tongue over his teeth, still tasting iron and salt, tasting her, and smiling blandly: went to the beach.

he hadn’t wanted to get out of the car.

he could see from the road the distance he had swum, and now the image made acid back up in his throat. so far, so foolish. there were signs warning of riptide, but that hadn’t been the danger. the danger had been his own misplaced heroism, his idiot impulse to save and be seen. to look up and see what looked like a woman out on the rocks.

he hadn’t wanted to go on living

but something made him do it. he considered taking his own life, before he even considered a doctor, but both trains of thought were abandoned. if he forgot about it, it was like it never happened

except it did

he hadn’t wanted to set foot on the sand

he supposed the first mermaid must’ve been Venus, arising from the foam of Uranus’s severed head to set one virgin white foot on the shore. born of sea-foam, like the later daughters of Neptune, immutable, intractable,

fecund

he hadn’t wanted to swim out

too far at first because he feared the riptide. now he missed the world where the worst thing he had to worry about was getting dragged out to sea. a world where the mass he saw on the rocks, far from shore, looked a bit like a woman lounging on her side. where he, caught up in a playfully mythic spirit, called out to her. a world that ended shortly before “she” shifted, and he saw that the figure was only the top of something very, very, very big

he hadn’t wanted to come back

but there was nothing left. it was harder and harder to hide his growing bulk from his coworkers, excuse away the frequent abdominal pain, the vivid red slashes that decorated his back and buttocks as if something had grasped him to stop him thrashing—

he hadn’t wanted to get back in the water

but he did. he shed his shirt and shorts, kicking off his shoes in the tide. he half-hoped there was someone around to see him, someone who would call the police and arrest this indecent exposer, but he was alone. as he began to tread water, alone. as he fell into a simple breast stroke, alone. as the rip tide pulled him not out to sea, but to a familiar gathering of rocks, alone. as the pain became unbearable, alone.

and, as he gave birth in a tide of red foam, he wondered if they would call it Venus.

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Excerpt from a Romance novel that would never be published in a million years

Redmond knelt by Eutricia, burying his face in the mohair shawl she had draped over her knees against the oncoming twilight chill. Trisha had dressed for the warm of the day; a violet silk dress with an empire waist, the bustle removed for convenience. Her cane wheelchair had been parked in the middle of the parapet, silk cushions arranged decorously around her fine waist. He stared off to the nuclear orange of the setting sun, manly parti pris preventing him from shedding tears, yet he was weeping inside.

“But why,” he whispered, “why, Trisha? Why will you not assent to our engagement?”

His warm Memphis drawl trickled through his schooled diction like butter over a piece of fine sourdough toast.

Trisha sighed, tears prickling the corners of her almond-shaped eyes like fine diamonds. The lady opened her eyes to regard him, auburn eyelashes fanning out over her fine creamy skin. Her eyes were fine amethyst marbles, protruding and glistening with sorrow. Her fine fiery mane had been arranged in a waterfall over her left shoulder, it too gleamed in the light. Suddenly Redmond was in awe of how beautiful she was, how fine and delicate, her hands perched upon her knee like two fine porcelain squids.

“Redmond,” she sighed, “I am not disinclined to you, in any way, but…” she worried one ruby lip between pearly white teeth.

Redmond felt his southern blood boil and seethe.

“But what? What is left that could keep us apart?”

He stuck one calloused cowherd’s hand beneath her chin, but she turned her head and kept her violet gaze averted.

“You may be a yank,” he said, “and a Marsh at that, but you’re a woman first and foremost, and blood as red as mine could use a few drops of blue.”

Trisha snuffled into her fine linen handkerchief. Her bosom rose and fell like the eternal sea which lay below their feet, a scant thirty feet beneath the parapet. If Trisha so wished, he would hurl himself into the raging surf, let his bones co-mingle with the cry of the seabirds and the sand of the deep.

“Redmond!” she cried, “oh Redmond, I do love you! I can say that now without any reservation of my heart. But you and I…are a different kind.” Fine teardrops like purified seawater caressed their way down her cheeks.

Redmond felt the bristling that arose whenever a man caused grief to a woman, the heat that meant he was wiling to fight any man for a lady’s honor, even himself.

Redmond clenched his muscular neck and stood. He ran his hands through his raven hair, tossing it wilder than even the sea beneath them.

“My gawd,” he bellowed, “what could it be? Your family? That withered old crone of a matriarch? Passion such as ours cannot be contained by rules Trisha!”

Trisha gave a small cry. Color rose in her cheeks. The sight of her man in such a state often inflamed her into a passion, Redmond imagine he could already smell the gentle musk of her femininity.

He knelt again, bringing himself eye to eye with her. He covered her fine porcelain hand with his own.

“Trisha,” he drawled, “say the word and we shall flee this estate, right now. Let nothing restrain our love! We shall roam through the wildernesses, making passionate love like doe and buck.”

Trisha sought refuge behind her hands. “But…what about my chair? I could burden upon you to bundle it up and down stairs!”

“I’ll carry you!” he bellowed. Trisha let out a little gasp. Warmth flushed her neck, fine rose dusting her porcelain skin. “I’ll carry you slung upon my back like a bow, over endless terrain without tire. I shall worship your body every night, making you a bed of soft beaver pelts and rubbing tallow into your feet to keep them supple! I’ll make obsidian knives and hunt elk with my bare hands, all to bring you sustenance! We’ll live off the land, rutting like beasts with only the wind for company and the sky for shelter.”

“O, Redmond,” Trisha swooned.

Redmond could no longer deny the effect the lady was having on him, even in his riding breeches. His ladyfriends back in Memphis had reassured him that he was quite impressive, now he allowed his full girth to expand within the confines of his stiff cotton breeches. The lady gasped demurely, shading her blush with one hand. Redmond took her hand in his and held it emphatically.

“There must be no more secrets between our bodies,” he told her, before capturing her rosebud mouth beneath his own.

Trisha swelled and heaved beneath him like a tiny sea. Her breasts were confined within her silk corset, his calloused hands made quick work of the lacing. Redmond’s injury from riding earlier in the day wasn’t the only thing that was throbbing. He scooped Trisha up with a squeal of protest or delight, he cared not which, and brought her to the carved stone bench that anointed the parapet. He strew Trisha out like straw, delighting in her windswept beauty.

“O, Redmond!” she gasped again. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkled like fine violet wine, even her flawless mane had been knocked askance. Redmond was wearing a simple white pullover shirt whose collar was bound by three shell buttons, he unbuttoned them and then ripped the rest of it open, eliciting a gasp of delight from his lady. His physique would put some of the Greek statuary in her father’ study to shame, he mused for a moment on whether she had educated herself on the finer mysteries of malehood by their marble gaze.

He took her in, ruffled and lovely, a sculpture of creamy porcelain and auburn silk, of amethyst and sparkling white pearls. The smell of her femininity was overwhelming, for a moment he mistook it for a seaborne breeze.

“What?” she gasped, “oh, what is it Redmond? Why do you stare so?”

“I’m looking at the purdiest sight a man ever did see.” Redmond told her.

“Oh Redmond,” she gasped, “you’ve made me so happy!”

Something slippery twined around one leg. He looked down.

Her bottom limbs, once concealed by the skirt, now writhed free in her passion. The lady had sixteen tentacles of finest jade green, they pulsed with rugose passion as she bit her full lips.

“Oh Redmond!” she cried, “Redmond, you make me feel like a woman!”

 

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Boman

The shaman of the hill people prodded a pot with one finger. The hill people called themselves “All-in-one” because the founder had been enlightened from his body by the very sight of god. The shaman’s name was Boman, because he was born in the fifth month. He had started a fire of twigs in an earthen pot and laced with semi-lethal herbs and bits of shell in order to create a call point. He put his mouth slightly into the pot.

“Can you hear me?” he called, “I was saying…hello?”

Contact with god had been sketchy as of late. Boman scratched his privates, scrotal piercing clacking against his fingernails, and plotted what to do next.

God did not live very far away, but was hard of hearing.  Boman prodded the fire with his finger one more time and then gave up on it, leaving it to burn itself out. He had been participating in what he found a lively discussion, over the new widow in the village and how many years she had left before becoming pendulous.
Several warriors passed him on the path and nodded out of deference. They squeezed to the side as he passed, so as not to step on his shadow and become poisoned. When Klee the messenger came winging to his hut, Boman was relaxing with a mug of hot root water prepared by his youngest girl-wife.

“Father,” Klee gasped, “visitors from another place.”

Boman motioned him to sit. It was not polite to be seen in too much of a hurry when addressing a shaman.

“Perhaps this was a dream,” he offered, “or some kind of sunspell. You may be tired from overwork.”

Klee thrust forward his wrist. “Is that a dream, father?”

Around his wrist was a string of beads, much like the traders from China had brought in Boman’s father’s generation. They were cherry-red rocailles, poorly manufactured. They still had razor edged mold-lines . He clucked his tongue. “Traders?”
“No.”

Boman grunted. “I should think not, with material quality like this. Do they require photographs?”

Klee dug into his chin as a sign of disagreement.

“Well,” Boman said, “what did we do to warrant attention?”

“They were headed for god’s hill, father. I saw them.”

Boman swept up a handful of bones from his last meal, cracked them in hand, and threw them into the lamp beside himself. The flames turned red, and he nodded in satisfaction.

Boman stood and patted Klee. “You are good to tell me this. Go home and worry not.”

Klee fled again along the messenger’s path and Boman was served dinner by Boul, his man-wife.

The next morning he lounged beside the chicken coop, scratching the flies from his skin and pondering philosophical questions, such as whether a man who imagined up children could be held accountable for not providing adequate lands for his dream-brood. He wondered whether god would side with the man, or his dream-wives.

A boom reverberated throughout the jungle, felt more than heard, displacing birds from the trees. Boman did not stir.

Later that afternoon, he tried summoning god again. He caught a primate from the trees and strangled its screaming throat with his bare hands. He slit the abdomen and in it he crammed squash seeds, sulfur, and a human tooth. The corpse kicked for a while, and the sacred words he had written on the ground beneath it glowed faint blue in the sun, but nothing else was forthcoming. Boman wiped a quantity of snot from his nose with his forearm and dawdled his heels in the heat. The new widow crossed his yard on her way to the well, still dressed in purple mourning clothes. He grinned and offered her his maleness. Good things lay in the future.

That night his wives went to the community hut to weave their festival skirts. Boman lured a bright jungle fowl from the trees with sweet words and then cooked it with his breath. The supper was good, but could have used salt. As he sucked the last drippings from his fingers, a man whiter than flint stone burst into the clearing.
He was tall, with hair of bright yellow and eyes like the summer sky. He was dressed inappropriately for the region, in a tan suit of short sleeves and pants that only exposed his skin to the insects. His white flesh had been bitten to pinkness already.

The man spotted Boman and stumbled toward him. “g’d,” he gasped, “gee-zus, g’d. Halp.”

He tripped and fell prone before the shaman, a dreadful social faux pas, but Boman supposed outsiders weren’t used to the niceties of civilized company.

“May I be of assistance?” he asked politely.

The man babbled nonsense syllables. “Anth-row-pollo-jist, dock-tor. Eydol. Ecks-sped-isshun. Kawl halp.”
Boman wondered if he understood the people’s language. Maybe he didn’t even speak a language, and tossed out imitative chirps like a monkey. The white man suddenly sat up unnaturally straight, eyes and mouth drawn open to the spilling point. Boman watched with mild interest as the man suddenly jackknifed into a series of convulsions, spitting froth and sounds that sounded very much like words but weren’t. the man sprawled out full length and was suddenly still. Boman passed gas and scratched himself again.

The man sat up again, body oddly limp as if hanging from something invisible. Blue aether spilled from his orifices, and his movements were jerky, unnatural.

“Now,” he said, “what is this about a widow?”

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Book report by Aiden Rigby, age 7

I am Aidan Rigby I am 7 and this is my book report

necrowombicon

This is a drawing of daddy’s book I took for the report. He does not know I took the book but I promise to give it back right after I finished. It is made of leather and kind of stinks but it’s got a funny little face on it.

Daddy brought this book home when I was five. Mommy said your not bringing that in here and he said yes I am and she says over my dead body you basturd. Mommy went to sleep for a while after that.

The book is hard to read cause its not written in American but after awhile I could read it anyway but there are lots of big words I keep having to look up like squamous, which is the name of my new pet worm. Dady couldn’t read the book either at first but my grnapa taught him how.

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My granpa smells like too much aftershave and used to bring me bags of licorise but then he went to sleep for a while. Now mommy talks with granpa’s voice and she teaches daddy about the book too. It’s pretty much the same as it was before, they even still jump on the bed Saturday night and but daddy isn’t so happy about it.

Reading this book makes my head ache because the words won’t stay on the page and the book smells kind of funny like that time I held a magnifying glass on a Barbie. Daddy says it will open a door, I guess because the bathroom door gets sticky sometimes and won’t open.sometimes the words make a face and it talks to me and says that if we team up we can beat my granpa. I like that because I don’t think it’s fair that he always wins at chess.

The book doesn’t have animals or knock-knock jokes which I like, but it does have pictures even though some of them are scary and have people bits. The words are very boring and it was probably written by someone in a boring suit with a brown tie. I would give this book a big fat D for dumb, because it doesn’t try to teach me anything useful and it keeps making screaming noises. If you liked this book you’re probly boring too, and you’d probly also like a fork in the eye.

necrowombicon2

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7 Bites of Lovecraft

Rot

The first thing that hits him is the smell. The stench of shit that somebody tried to cover up with a sugary-sweet votive candle. It makes his eyes sweat. He gags, “Jesus,” into his sleeve. Their quarry is, ironically, nowhere near the toilet. Poor bastard swelled ten times his size, and weighs as much as a basketball. The petroglyph’s cord punctures skin, lets out a swell of gas like an exclamation. He does throw up then.

Worship

Bodies kink and judder before him. Even without the lasers it would be surreal. His contact is fishing mushrooms from a plastic baggie, dealing to a bunch of suburb kids disguised as ravers. He lowers his balaclava and yells –side hall, men’s room—as if he could be heard over the beat. The contact has more than ears, though. Even when their deal is done, he’s not sure what he saw. The kids stand still as he leaves, mouths open like turkeys in the rain, breathing spores like smoke.

Incunabula

The antiquarian smiles and slops tea over the sides of a Wedgewood cup. It’s a good brew, smells of stiff poison. He’s almost sad he won’t get to drink it. There, the man’s finger points, there and there. There are books, yes, but then anything can be a book. He eyes the paperweight as Latin texts are thrust beneath his nose and fingers his watch. Sigils older than Rome creep under glass. Sometimes meaning transcends language.

Virus

Some thoughts spread like wildfire. Others like pox. He catches a little tune on the train to Providence and nearly loses himself to it. It’s everywhere right now. Such a catchy beat nobody notices the tribal rhythm beneath it, the hungry harmonies. He takes a pill to drown it out, but others aren’t so lucky. He disembarks to the news of a rash of sleeping sickness.

Sermon

The worm that walks is a friendly fellow if you catch him in the right mood. He’s got a smooth pitch and a firm yet yielding handshake. He’s got a healthy following, a good portion of the middle United States leaves their homes to camp hungry and destitute on the road with him. His poison is the unadulterated truth, and leaches into everything.

Museum

Light glints from cases of Jasper and Calcite while the sign before him proclaims this limestone block to be the largest Crinoid specimen found in the basin. The odd eye-shaped marks along the stern apparently hadn’t disturbed the man who unearthed them, though presumably they hadn’t blinked as they do now. He walks out with a heavier coat and the theft is never solved.

End

The word apocalypse means “rending of the veil,” not the end of all things, he tells her, but she is in no mood to bandy semantics. Something immeasurably huge parts the distance and she screams with her whole body, a primal scream that recalls ancestors just beginning to walk upright. He finds her lovelier than anything then, and would give much to preserve this moment just like it is. The sky vomits a blind sun and his wish is granted.

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Your Turn in the Barrel

Perkins straightened his body into the triangular formation favored by the army for pushups and took a long, deep breath.

“Okay.”

As he spoke, his words exhaled as steam. That could not be helped. The lower half of his body was threatening to go numb. That also couldn’t be helped.

“Okay,” he said again, “all right, then. Um…yes. Could you angle yourself just a little—” a sudden, cruel hilarity struck him. Angle. Ha. Perkins pulled another breath deep into his lungs, practically choking on salt spray.

“Courage, brothers!” that queer duck, Marsh, paced the rock above them. He shouted inspirational slogans to the men, promise of riches for duties fulfilled. Easy for him to say, his tryst had been with a tropical tart with hips like a betel nut, nevermind the gills.

“I’m sorry, miss…” his courage failed at the thought of pronouncing one of Their names, “could you raise your hips a bit more?”

Golden, slit-pupiled, inscrutable eyes stared unblinking at his awkward body. Whatever it was was shaped just enough like a woman that he couldn’t pretend he was just fucking a flounder like McGee two rocks over. Lucky bastid.

A mouth gaped and choking syllables escaped while it…she ran a webbed hand down his face. It was cold and slick. He realized she was inquiring after his health. He found himself blushing.

“No, no,” he said, “there’s no problem, I’m…it’s just…there’s never been an audience.”

He wondered if those godless heathens had this problem. Performance anxiety, came to the best of us. His upper half, oddly, began to sweat.

Marsh was suddenly in view, bastard snug up in an oilskin and sou’wester hat.

“Is there a problem, Daniel?”

Perkins thought about thanking him not to use his Christian name. Instead he said, “Look, there ain’t any other way to do this?”

“You know very well, Daniel, her kind live in conditions totally, ah, unfathomable to you. You would not survive the coupling.”

“Then can’t she go on land? She’s built like a crooked longshoreman.”

There was a weezing burble from his date, though he couldn’t tell if it was offense or merely air escaping. Right on cue, a freezing tide deluged them, wetting Perkins to the armpits. He let out a gasp like he’d been kicked in the balls.

“It must be done here Perkins, it must be done now. They were very specific.” Marsh’ voice had the insistent edge of a Methodist minister. “If you want to share in the wealth, you must share in the work.” And with that, the Cap’n was off.

“Sorry about that,” he said to his date. Her eyes had gone filmy, now they wiped clear—vertically. He was suddenly fascinated.

“Um…” he said, “yes.”

Across the rocky shore, others had finished up and sat huddled into themselves or, in McGee’s case, enjoyed a triumphant smoke. There was tomato soup waiting for him on the stove at home. Soup and dry trousers.

“Not that you’re not a lovely…” he decided he couldn’t finish that sentiment. “I just don’t seem to be able to—”

With a gesture resembling a shrug, the fish-thing reached down a slippery paw and did something complicated that made him shout and hew against her, emptying himself in the course of a minute.

“Jesus…” he gasped, “God.” He caught her staring at him and smiled sheepishly. “I mean…”

She dove, seeming to dissolve like oil.  Perkins was left standing with his dingle hanging out of his waders, feeling slightly empty.

A month later, Marsh was up and pacing on the rocks again, pontificating on how the deep ones needed their “superior puritan blood.” Perkins thought they probably just wanted to laugh themselves sick at the sight of so many sheep-white bollocks shriveling in the North Atlantic.

He’d picked kelp floaters and arranged them into a crude bouquet. When his lady surfaced he tried the only French phrase he knew.

“Bonjour demoiselle,” he said, “pouvez-vous lécher…”

The fish-woman had surfaced holding an antiquated bottle of thick amber glass. He tasted it and found it to be bourbon.

“That’s a lass,” he said with a grin.

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Do they need chlorine?

“I’ll meet you through the doors of sleep,” she said.

After the accident I buried her eyes in the desert and headed out west. Seemed the logical thing to do.

You know California was all ocean? Anyone claiming to find a dinosaur bone in the Mojave valley is a goddamn liar.

I found their street front. The brethren were looking a little on the raggedy side, their habits didn’t quite cover their gills.

“Here,” I said, flipping the old almanac their way, “keep the change.”

Burnt motor oil and fish tacos smell surprisingly like grief.

I sat on the hood of my car and watched the sea seethe. Funny how the sun never runs away when you want it to.

I found a working girl watching me. She was a slight thing of pipe cleaners, red hair. Shy.

“I came out here to be in movies,” she tells the floor.

“Aren’t we all?” I ask.

Something like a shuggoth doesn’t leave a skeleton, only a bald, bare patch of oily space where it used to be. Damn nuisances. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live with ‘em.

For our first date, she took me all the way back.

“I kind of really wanted you to see this,” she says. Dimple in her cheek.

The universe explodes with a sound like “meh.”

I wake up and spit out seawater. My AC never kicked in. That was LA.

Her dad had his ashes scattered in ‘Nam by a pretty hooker. She made me promise not to divide her up so much that she could never come back together. The car did that for me, neatly.

Sometimes I wonder what I would be if I had finished twelfth grade.

Just for funsies, I smoke an entire pack of camels. Homeless dude dressed like a Santa pimp glares at my selfishness. A cop shows up and rattles the fence tines. Do I look homeless?

85 miles to Bodega bay, and my car transcends without me. I sit on my hood with her under my arm. Try to make her voice. “Hush.”

Around Thursday, I realize I haven’t slept in 78 hours. Depth perception goes. Coffee won’t do it anymore. Where is magnetic south?

A dream in the desert is like God touching my tongue. The whisperer shows me a rock where water lives. To stave off death, I cram peyote down my gullet for the trip. It barely makes a dent.

UCLA has their dig here. Some wag found what he called a tyrannic cephalopod. I know God is dead. But God leaves no fossil.

Some of her family walked with kinked necks. She had trouble closing her eyes. I loved her, for all that she was.

The world hasn’t made sense for approximately four days.

I get caught sneaking in under cover of afternoon. They rip her out from under my arm and let her escape into the desert air. My tears dried up somewhere around Texas.

I dream of water. There is a crater when I wake up. Some, somewhere, smiles for no particular reason.

I’m chapped. If there’s anything worth living for between here and a smoking wreck in New Jersey, speak now or forever hold your piece.

I wonder if heaven has a swimming pool.

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There Goes the Neighborhood

“The worst thing,” Scott Rutherford started in like a foghorn set to ‘nag’, “THE worst thing is the lack of respect. For us. The community.” He warmed to his subject, turningto his captive audience of NA members. “we can’t let this slide just because they’re foreigners.”

To Scott’s credit, the word did not come out as it would had Jake’s father said it: two-syllable, dull: furriners. The implication oozed behind it just the same, though.

Jake raised his hand and spoke at the same time., “Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t they from Kingsport?”

He was ignored.

A ruddy-complexioned fat man whose name always escaped Jake leaned forward and, with the weight of a criminal verdict, hissed, “They’re letting their lawn go to seed.”

“Really,” Jake said, “my god. The poor children.”

This earned him an appraising look from Scott, who Jake was fairly sure did not understand sarcasm as a concept.

The vote was 26-1 to send their neighbors the dreaded orange slip(“not a pink slip obviously and orange is such a happy color. More of a tangerine than safety orange.”) about yard transgressions, one of many unauthoritated slips Jake dubbed “the passive-aggressive rainbow.” God help their new neighbors should orange give way to fireball fuchsia.

Jake and his wife Hazel pulled into their #8 Neo-Dutch colonial, terra-cotta shingled, “bright heather” Olympic paint house that night, and Jake marveled at the sheer uselessness of it all. The “yard” of the house(something his grandfather would have scoffed at) barely superseded the house itself, more like green welcome mat. He was close enough to hear Glen and Phyllis Glenfidditch every time the whoopee train pulled into the station.

“…and it’s one thing not caring whether your neighbors hear,” he called to the bedroom, “but they leave the window open while they do it. And the lawn thing? Jeezus.”

Hazel’s mild reprove carried even from the king-sized posturepedic bed: “well, it’s what we signed up for. Extra security, extra-nice looking neighborhood. It’s all part of the bargain.”

Hazel had filled to the brim with mild platitudes around the time they moved into this place. He had a sneaking suspicion it was to cover the fact that she only moved them here to pacify her parents, still grandchildless.

Jake probed a thin patch on his scalp and wondered if this place wasn’t aging him prematurely.

“Security’s one thing,” he said, coming out of the bathroom and clicking the light off behind him, “but when a group of full-grown adults are ready to filet a man over the state of the grass in his yard—”

Hazel made her cross-eyed kitty face, her signal that she no longer cared for the discussion, and said, “ugh, give it a rest, already. My head hurts.”

My soul hurts, Jake almost said back and bit his tongue. Her moue developed into a smile and she patted the bed beside her.

“C’mon, loverboy,” she whispered breathily, “I hear there’s a big, bad, burglar on the loose and I need some comfort.”

That night, astride his wife of three years and trying to maintain an erection, Jake wondered if this place wasn’t making him dull, too.

Scott had been a volunteer fireman for twenty-five years, owned a landscaping firm that he’d founded with his bare hands, and had boxed in high school. If he gave any sign that the Sycamore Crescent Neighborhood Association was not the best use of his talents, Jake had never seen it.

He eyed the offending yard the next day from his Subaru, “on his way to work.” He left early on weekdays now, before Hazel got into reality TV mode.

The family that had moved in were reclusive, to say the least. No one had seen anyone but the (Father? Oldest brother? Gimp?) man who had signed the rent agreement since they’d moved in. Their stuff had arrived before them, unloaded by taciturn, hirsute men who had grunted at nosy questions.

For a second, he could see a stiff-necked, thin-lipped face peer from behind a cloth curtain near the front door. Jake lifted his hand. The curtain dropped.

Peculiar-looking bunch, if he was anything to go by. If he had ever stood up straight, he might be taller than even Scott, but the man curled over himself like a shrimp cocktail, peering up at everyone past the bridge of his nose.

The lawn looked crispy. Jake shook himself and left before things got ugly.

At dusk he returned. Scott was ostensibly watering his begonias when he walked past, though he was so otherwise occupied they might as well have had gills.

“There,” he nodded toward the yard, trembling with passion, “completely brown.”

“I dunno, Scott,” Jake kidded, “seems more like a festive ochre or even a mustard.”

A pained look passed over Scott’s still-handsome features. “No matter where it is on the chart, it means only one thing.”

“Yield to pedestrians?”

A puzzled look graced Scott’s brow. “No, Jacob. Death. Pretty soon they’ll pass the point of no return, have to re-sod the whole thing. Cost a pretty penny.” The look on his face clearly indicated that the crime of not listening to your neighbors on the omnipresent subject of lawn care carried with it a just penalty. Jake had to restrain himself from thwapping Scott upside the head with his ridiculous watering wand. The fact that he still seemed to consider Jake a confidant after reporting his unauthorized trash bins and incurring him a fee of $180 for contract breach showed that the shuttle had left radio contact long ago.

Suddenly Scott straightened upright, hose sinking in his fist. “My Gosh.” He said, and Jake withheld a snicker. “What is he—no.”

Jake looked up at what hideous infraction his neighbors were committing. The man had strode with lopsided gait to the curb and was now in the process of securing the ties of a safety-orange garbage bag that stood on the curb.

Something inside Scott broke. “No.” he whispered with deathly finality. He snapped into a businesslike stride, chin out like the prow of a ship.

“No,” he called before him, “I’m sorry—no! Yes you! Come back here, please!”

Jake watched Scott barge primly into the neighbor’s yard, walking up to where the man had paused in  a half-turn, regarding Scott out of dead wet eyes. A small but intense conversation was carried out, with much furious gesturing on Scott’s part, and dull regard from the other man. Jake noticed the mailbox now had a name. Gilman. Funny. He did look a bit fishy, now that he thought about it. Didn’t seem to be too big on blinking, either.

With the slow, gradual ease of a tai chi move, Gilman made his first contribution to the conversation with a sweeping gesture towards the still-open front door. Scott’s posture said he’d be delighted, thank you, and quick-marched towards the front door, buttocks firmly clenched together. Gilman followed with no apparent hurry.

Jake ate risotto with stir-fried asparagus that night and kept one eye out the window, but still he did not see Scott leave the Gilman’s. He hoped he wasn’t being too rough on the newcomers. It had been an adjustment for them, too, moving into what amounted to a silicon valley ant farm from their apartment lives. He had a sneaking suspicion Hazel hated as much as him, the gawkers, the nosers, everybody in everybody’s business, but in her world this was the natural progression for people their age. Grow up, get job, lose all personality, move to suburb.

“Fuck this,” he said to the mirror the next morning, as he did every morning now, “fuck it, fuck them, fuck him.” He lathered his reflection away.

That morning as he backed the SAAB from the driveway, he noticed Gilman out in his yard for the first time since the move. He was watering an oddly verdant patch on the lawn with a ridiculous-looking water wand. The lush growth was suspiciously human-shaped.

Jake had no idea how long he’d sat there until Gilman turned to look at him. Neither spoke. Then, slowly, Jake raised his hand and curled it into a thumbs-up. Gilman cocked his head to the side, gazing levelly at him, before raising his hand in a mirrored gesture. His thumbs were barbed by nail-thin claws.

Waving merrily, Jake drove to work.

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With Apologies to Mr. Lovecraft

…and another thing, Fatima. If that cat shits in my shoes one more time I’m boiling him alive. I don’t care that he was a gift from your brother, I’m…what? No, don’t write this down!

–Abdul Alhazred
Pages excised from the Al Azif

Beyond a veil whose rifting would rend us asunder lies an abyssal plane of every atavistic nightmare known to man. I’m talking about really sick shit. It’s so vast and horrible I can’t really give a physical description, which kinda saves on nouns. From this ethereal horror, we turn to Simon Danford, just your average WASP-y Brown undergraduate. Danford had no idea what he was in for when he checked out that book of Arcane Magicks…which, I mean, come on. Arcane Magicks? Walked right into that one.

Simon Danford climbed the long, vista-laden path to his Gothic architectural home, tiptoeing past the scary brown people who had the nerve to rub their non-Anglophonic languages and cultures in his face, up to his student apartment. There, he kicked aside the hot plate and plunged into the tome. Long did he shudder at all the vaguely-described horror, icy were the chills going up his spine, full was his bladder. Each successive page filled him with a building terror until he reached the most accursed page.

There, after the grocery list someone had left in as a bookmark, he saw the most unholy of creatures in a hideous woodcut probably made from pine. The crude arrangement of limbs and eyes looked like God had reached into the reject box of evolution to decorate his hangover cupcakes. Simon vomited neatly in a nearby mug and kept reading for some reason. He read that this unholy terror, whose name had more consonants than a Russian stripper, could only be summoned by a complex mathematical equation, with imaginary numbers and all that jazz. Luckily he had never made it past Algebra 2, and thought himself safe. The fool! The foolish fool!

That night as he slept he dreamt that he wept and crept along a seaside ruint that seethed like an egg in a microwave, but there was no Brillo pad big enough to contain the baked-in horror of the rocks! For there, crouched in the ruins, was that monster oh too hideous to describe, but let’s try it anyway.

Simon took one look at that hideous, loathsome, rugose, tumescent, fermented, squamous, incandescent, ferrous, begrimed, venomous, feculent, diseased, boorish, uncouth, malodorous, rakish, eldritch, slatternly, salacious, titillating, unctuous, repellant, millipedal, hydroponic, suggestive, heinous creature and screamed himself awake.

Lo, did he sigh to see the sea from his apartment window, but O! The horror when he found his hands stained with chalk and, upon the cheap fiberboard they’d installed under the Berber he found those selfsame marking from his dream! The poor lad screamed so hard he fell into a faint, and, recovering from that faint, he fell into another faint, for who was before him but that selfsame creature from his dream, not the one with the dog wearing lipstick but the crazy evil one! And he passed out and peed himself and when he came to the monster was gone and we as a reader aren’t sure whether the monster was real or if it was just a product of his malaise. And that’s good writing, right there. It’s like that one Roman Polanski movie, the one before the one with Jack Nicholson. R-something. Revenge? No, damnit, this is going to bug me.

I tell you all of this, for I AM THAT BOY!

…wait, crap, did I tell you he had an illegitimate child? And the curse, did I get to that? Aw, hell, I don’t have time to rewrite this, I’m being stalked by a being of unimaginable horror and—yes, yes I’m getting to that—he keeps reading over my shoulder and making a general nuisance of himself. What? No, that juice is for Travis. No we don’t have any bacon, would you just sit down and stop getting into stuff? I’m trying to fulfill my writerly compunction to put down every possible word until you drag me off to some unknown horror. No, we don’t have cable…I don’t care that Wings is on, we can’t afford…well, you can just pay the hundred-dollar hookup fee then, I have to eat…no, we can’t ask Travis, technically I’m not even on the lease, you’re gonna get me in—wait, don’t shake that

______________

These papers were found buried under the sediment of cat dander and coffee stains in the writer’s student apartment. The floor was all chalky and the police found a red substance on these papers, forensic testing proved it to be jam.

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