Online Fiction

The Frigid Ilk of Sarn Kathool

The wizened and sagacious wizard Sarn Kathool had put behind him all the whims and errant passions of youth, and in his estimation it was time the Earth did likewise. He had seen an end to the warm spring days of Hyperborea’s juvenescence, and knew the coming age of glaciation would unavoidably end this early flowering of man’s innate capacity to fling forth what all agreed were the highest achievements of civilization (never counting those ruins of prehuman megaliths occasionally excavated from the ancient lava fields of Voormithadreth as anything more than the uncouth, accidental conglomerations of mindless ophidians). Humankind’s autumn was inarguably upon it; winter would be harsh for the species; and Sarn Kathool squandered no opportunity to instruct his captive acolytes and inform his squirming visitors that none but he were prepared for the grinding doom that at this and every moment bore down upon them from the northern reaches of Polarion: a demonic glacier. Read More

The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft

“Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness.”

—“The Outsider,” H.P. Lovecraft

Douglas sits alone at the side of the house, waiting for the Aunts to call him in, alert to the slightest creak of the front door or to one of their hard-toed shoes sounding upon the porch. They cannot see him from inside the house, so he always has time to hide the magazine, shoving it into the crawlspace along with the rest of his collection. There is a trace of autumn in the Sunday evening air, and the summer-blanched leaves of the old sycamores send a rustling shade over the crumbling pages he turns so slowly and savoringly. The paper feels soft and rough as a kind of leafy bark, not dissimilar to the earth where he crouches and thumbs through his issues of Weird Tales again and again.

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Pokky Man

A Film by Vernor Hertzwig

VERNOR HERTZWIG

FILMMAKER

In 2004 I was contacted by Digito of America to review some film footage they had acquired in litigation with the estate of a young Pokkypet Master named Hemlock Pyne. While I have occasionally played boardgames such as Parchesi, and various pen and paper role playing games involving dwarves and wizards, in vain hopes of escaping the nightmare ordeals that infest my soul, I was hardly the target audience for the global phenomenon of Pokkypets. I knew only the bare lineaments of the young man’s story—namely that he had been at one time considered the greatest captor of Pokkypets the world had ever known. Few of these rare yet paradoxically ubiquitous creatures had escaped being added to his collection. But he had turned against his fellow trainers, who now hurled at him the sort of venom and resentment usually reserved for race traitors. The childish, even cartoonish aspects of the story, were far from appealing to me, especially as spending time on a hundred or so hours of Pokkypet footage would mean delaying my then-unfunded cinematic paean to those dedicated paleoanthropologists who study human coprolites or fossil feces. But there was an element of treachery and tragedy that lured me to look more carefully at the life and last days of Hemlock Pyne, as well as the amount of money Digito was offering. I found the combination irresistible.

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Leng

Expeditionary Notes of the Second Mycological Survey of the Leng Plateau Region

Aug. 3                                                            
No adventurer has ever followed lightly in the footsteps of a missing survey team, and today’s encounter in the Amari Café did little to relieve my anxiety.  Having arrived in Thangyal in the midst of the Summer Grass Festival, which celebrates the harvest of Cordyceps sinensis, the prized caterpillar fungus, we first sought a reasonably hygienic hotel in which to stow our gear. Lodging accomplished, Phupten led me several blocks to the café—and what a walk it was! Sidewalks covered with cordyceps! Thousands of them laid out to dry on tarps and blankets, the withered little hyphae-riddled worms with their dark fungal stalks outthrust like black mono-antennae, capped with tiny spores (asci). Everywhere we stepped, an exotic specimen cried out for inspection. Never have I seen so many mushrooms in one place, let alone the rare cordyceps; never have I visited a culture where mushrooms were of such great ethnic and economic importance. It is no wonder the fungi are beloved and appreciated, and that the cheerful little urchins who incessantly spit in the street possess at their tongue-tips (along with sunflower hulls) the practical field lore of a trained mycologist; for these withered larvae and plump Tricholoma matsutake and aromatic Boletus edulis have brought revivifying amounts of income to the previously cash-starved locals.  For myself, a mere mushroom enthusiast, it was an intoxicating stroll. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like for my predecessors, treading these same cracked sidewalks ten months ago.

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Jane

The first we knew of the travelers was the tinkling of our falcon’s silver bell. She landed on our Father’s glove, and he leant his whiskered cheek against her beak. When he raised his head there was a look in his eyes I had not seen before.

He sighed and put his hand on my head and said, —Jane, go tell your mother we have visitors.

I walked across the wet grass to the house, and I heard him whispering to the bird as he clipped the leash to the silver varvels in her leather jesses. He climbed the porch and set her on her perch, and sat beside her in his rocking chair, oiling his glove and watching the bamboo thicket through the afternoon, while I stayed inside and played with little Anna to keep her out of mother’s way. Read More

Flight Risk

They brought Foster to the boy by a route of back alleys and parking garages, changing him from car to car several times, until eventually, although he’d thought he knew the city very well, he found himself uncertain of his whereabouts. They were near the airport, he knew that much. Condemned buildings, empty shops, and the rumbling pall of jet trails over all. A massive extension of the runways planned, this part of the city had known it was doomed; the exodus occurred before delays set in. A perfect place to hide the boy without seeming to hide him.

The final car, a black sedan with dented doors and fenders thinned by rust, drew to a stop at the rear of a building that had too many windows to be a warehouse, too few to be a residence. The man riding shotgun stepped out and opened the door. Foster slid from his seat in back, clutching his worn black bag to his gut. Along the alley, tips of garbage poked through humps of snow. There was just enough warmth in the air to carry a threat of the sourness and rot waiting beneath the ice. A black wrought iron gate swung open in the rear of the building, and a third man, large and heavy browed, appeared there, beckoning. Foster recognized features of gigantism, but felt no thrill at the fact that he was seeing his first giant. Read More

The Vicar of R’lyeh

“Let anything be held as blessed, so that that be well cursed.”
– Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers

Glorious afternoon, warm and breezy among green hills dotted with sheep. Looking down from his sylvan lounging spot upon the village with its twin spires, Geoffrey heard a mournful bell coming from the towers of Barchester Cathedral, and almost immediately thereafter noted a small dark shape making its way across the dewy grass from the open doors of the church. A faint distortion followed the pedestrian, as if air and earth were curdling in its wake. He blinked away the illusion, but the feeling of oppression grew until he clearly saw that yes, ‘twas the vicar coming toward him with some message he suddenly felt he did not wish to hear. Meanwhile, the tolling of the bell had grown appalling. As the little man struggled up the hillside, he seemed to expand until his shadow encompassed the town itself. Abruptly the vicar stood before him, the pale features of the meek country parson tearing into soft and writhing strands like the points of a wormy beard. The vicar scowled, revealing five segmented ridges of bone, teeth akin to the beak of a sea urchin. Geoffrey did not wish to hear the vicar speak, but there was no stopping his ears.

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Sweetmeats

At first little Hugh thought it was rats. Rats in the wall by his head, down low on the floor where his mattress lay. He had seen them often enough, darting down the hall to the kitchen, coming upon their nests in the narrow crawlspace where he sometimes went for privacy. He imagined their curved teeth gnawing away, almost the same stained yellow color as the crumbly plaster they chewed. Read More

An Evening’s Honest Peril

Sitting at the entrance to the Tomb of Abomnis, dangling her legs like tempting morsels over the dark and moaning stony mouth, Jinrae thought she saw the head of a black-haired man rise into view at the crest of the hilltop behind her. She leapt to her feet with her sword drawn and ready.

Echoing her startled cry, a raven swept up and over her, flapping twice and then gliding toward a distant tumble of faint brownish buildings in the middle distance.

Stop jumping at shadows! she told herself. Read More

Evaluation of the Hannemouth Bequest

(A.k.a. Hannemouth Self-Configurable Combinatorial Array)

CAVEAT RE ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE:

This report is provided for purposes of oral history only, as much of the evidence contained herein is purely anecdotal, and unverifiable at this point.  Incomplete copies of insurance and expense reports relating to the loss of a company car were found in the files of IBM’s Northrop Account Liaison, dated mid-1970’s, however it is impossible ascertain whether the car might have been lost some ordinary way (either stolen or abandoned under awkward circumstances), or whether it came to harm as alleged in the documents.  These notes were compiled from an informal oral history, namely the oft-recounted tales of Charles Messraunt, a colorful former employee of IBM who was eventually released from employment after increasingly common episodes of erratic behavior, poor mental health, and allegations of substance abuse.  Messraunt’s official notes of the Hannemouth Bequest Self-Configurable Array are no longer to be found in any known record depository, if they were ever filed in the first place; and Messraunt himself faded from the historical record after several sightings as a street-person in the Northern California town of Garberville.

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