She came into his life the way his cats crept into his lap. One day he was alone, had been alone for years, his life and his home empty of anyone but himself and a few friends who didn’t visit all that often anyway. And then at some point he realized she had been there for a while, in his house, in his bed, in every part of his life, having accomplished the transition so subtly that he could never say exactly when or how it had occurred.
(BEING, EARLY ENTRIES FROM
THE SECRET ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF PHOTOGRAPHY)
Chief Secretary of the Ministry of
Photographic Arcana, Correspondent of No
Few Academies, Devoted Husband, &c.
“Alas! That this speculation is somewhat too refined to be introduced into a modern novel or romance; for what a denouement we should have, if we could suppose the secrets of the darkened chamber to be revealed by the testimony of the imprinted paper!”
— William Henry Fox Talbot
Among his nightmares was a bulldozer driven by the so-called Doctor Dodo. Its growling worried his sleep; he muttered that it should go away, leave him to rot in peace in the Fombeh settlement, but his griping made no difference. He could hear it all the way from the paved edge of San Désirée, tearing up the ragged gardens, crushing cardboard roofs and walls to pulp, pushing the screams of the destitute ahead of it like so many cattle. There were not enough cattle left in all of Bamal, however, to make such a din. It almost woke him.
Expeditionary Notes of the Second Mycological Survey of the Leng Plateau Region
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.
The plan must have come to Rog fully formed that first morning, as he stepped off the elevator into the lobby of Szilliken Sharpenwright and saw the old soldier newly stationed there in his omnichair between the potted silk ferns and the coffee tables.
“Oh. My. God. I am in love.”
“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.
The One and Only Entry in Shendy’s Journal
Dabney spits his food when he’s had too much to think. Likki spins in circles till her pigtails stick out sideways from her blue face, and she starts choking and coughing and eventually swallows her tongue and passes out, falling over and hitting me and cracking the seals on my GeneKraft kit and letting chimerae out of ZZZ-level quarantine on to the bare linoleum floor! Nexter reads pornography, De Sade, Bataille, and Apollinaire his special favourites, and thumbs antique copies of Hustler which really is rather sweet when you consider that he’s light-years from puberty, and those women he gloats and drools over would be more than likely to coo over him and chuck his chin and maybe volunteer to push his stroller, though I’m exaggerating now (for effect) because all of us can walk quite well; and anyway, Nex is capable of a cute little boner, even if it is good for nothing except making the girls laugh. Well, except for me. I don’t laugh at that because it’s more or less involuntary, and the only really funny things to me are the things people do deliberately, like giving planarian shots to a bunch of babies for instance, as if the raw injection of a litre of old braintree sap can make us model citizens and great world leaders when we finally Come of Age. As you might have guessed by now, when I get a learning overload I have to write. It is my particular pornography, my spinning-around-and-passing-out, my food-spitting response to too much knowledge absorbed too fast; it is in effect a sort of pH-buffering liver in my brain. (I am informed by Dr Nightwake, who unfairly reads over my shoulder from time to time – always when, in my ecstatic haste, I have just made some minor error – that “pH in blood is buffered by kidneys, not liver”; which may be so, but then what was the real purpose behind those sinister and misleading experiments of last March involving the beakers full of minced, blended and boiled calf’s liver into which we introduced quantities of hydrochloric acid, while stirring the thick soup with litmus rods? In any event, I refuse to admit nasty diaper-drench kidneys into my skull; the liver is a nobler organ far more suited to simmering amid the steamy smell of buttery onions in my brain pan; oh well-named seat of my soul!) In short, writing is the only way I have of assimilating all this shit that means nothing to me otherwise, all the garbage that comes not from my shortshort life but from some old blender-brained geek whose experiential and neural myomolecular gnoso-procedural pathways have a wee bit of trouble jibing with my Master Plan.
Bad news for the janitor; good luck for Dr. Malikudzu. Sometime in the middle of the night-shift, after a fight with Max the supervisor over who was to empty biohazard bins in the animal experimentation labs, young Mr. Coover let go his already slender grip on discretion and began unadvisedly opening random drawers in the offices of the principal investigators. He had seen too many bad things peeking at him emptily from the plastic shrouded hollows of the laboratory bins; he wanted to know what got into the heads of these doctors to make them go after living meat the way they did. Drawer after drawer yielded nothing but paper and paperclips, the occasional stash of change for the vending machines, stale fragments of pastry. But finally, in the office of one Dr. Malikudzu, he came upon a cache of tiny liquor bottles, of the sort distributed by airlines. With a grin he settled back in the squeaky office chair, unscrewed the cap on a vodka bottle, and tipped the contents down his throat, never noticing that the paper seal on the neck of the bottle had already been broken.
“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.
(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.