Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Lovecraft Exercise

I recently finished a novell by H.P. Lovecraft, "At the Mountain of Madness". Lovecraft was a writer in early 20th century who wrote commercial horror for pulp mags and the like. He's as influential in the Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy camp as say, Edgar Allen Poe, or almost as much. He writes in a florid style, usually taking about thirty pages what can be said in two. But he has a style, and it can be quite interesting to read.

In an effort to build my writing skills, I wrote a short story that hopefully does a good job imitating his voice. I initially thought to make it Lovecraftian and humourous, but was not equal to the task, so I give you this instead:

Culling Beans

A most hated day. When a hellspawn intelligence dreamt up a nameless horror, then bent the world and willed it into existence. It burst forth from the lowest places of Hell, from the depths of the Lakes of Fire. It was a day that will burn in my mind as the day I undid the world.
     But it was not a day unto itself. No, it was a nadir of my four decades on this earth. Toiling and plowing the fields of knowledge. Hoping that my sweat and strife would bear fruit for me and my hungry, yet lacking, intellect.
     The striving ending with miserable failure, having to bear the acceptance to a mediocre institution. My failed papers. My failed relationships, when there were any. My tenure at this hated research group. Little more than a gopher for the luminaries who walk these halls. A footnote in the annals of academic pursuit!
     I see now, I see how that pulled at me, whipped at me to go the forgotten regions, to the places forbidden by God and by Science. Forbidden by the most primal instincts of man. Indeed, to pull from the very maw of that unseen and ancient terror. To try and lift something from the Abyss to the Halls of man.
     The folly!
     I think now, how it was so easy. After all, the Geology Group wasn't doing anything with them, simple lima beans. Ancient, of course, found in some pocket of strata. The details evade me now. Geology being a far cry from my passion of Botany.
     The Geology Group should have pushed this onto the best and brightest of the Botany Group. But they couldn't be bothered, they had their own lights to follow. Their own paths to blaze. How they rue the day they let a small mind such as myself clutch at that most hated treasure.     
     Upon examing the seeds, I found quite quickly how they had strange inscriptions on them. Hideous, yet stunning in their complexity. Carved by no human hand, and never seen, until then, by any human eye. The sight, I'll admit, made me cry out, even before I knew what I was looking at. Something in that reptilian brain of mine knew immediately. Something deep under all this thinking and wanting and scheming brain recognized I should have smashed those seeds. Then and there.
     And yet. And yet I was intrigued.
     They were surely ancient. Pre-history, pre-human to be sure. Could such etchings be made from natural process of pressure and heat? Maybe some of the Geology boys were having a joke at my expense. That seemed the least likely. Not because they wouldn't do it, but because the carvings were too hideouslly detailed. They spoke of eternal evil. Before you think my prattling that of a dangerous, unstable mind, my lab partner, Thompson, thought the same thing. He refused to work on them with me. Which didn't stop him from suggesting that perhaps I should plant them. See what happens.
     We would all soon see what ruin that would bring.
     How cruel the Fates were to me. To pair me with a partner who would stoke my desire for greatness, and provide, in his own way, the catalyst for all of our undoing.     
     And so I sent a message via our pneumatic systems, asking the Geology group if they might explain the carvings. They never got back to me. Too busy deep in their studies, or off on another trip, to be sure. In any case, they knew who I was, and most likely prioritized my queries accordingly.
     Would I have planted those accursed beans if I had known? I'm not sure. Perhaps that reptilian warning would manifest itself in action, and I would store away the beans, never to be seen again. Or more likely, the urgent desire to find and do anything of value for the field of Botany would have excoriated me ruthlessly until I relented and did something with those beans.
     Oh accursed, hateful day. The day I turned on the lamps. And every day I watered those beans.
     First there was joy. Who could know a failures joy on realizing all his inequity, all his painful failings could be wiped away by one significant discovery? I was overjoyed. Small red sprouts came forth not one week after the strict watering regime. It had been quite the work to recreate the pH and salinty, the proper balance that must have occured when these beans first found the earth.
     I didn't notice, or cared not to notice, that out the leading stem of each plant there oozed what looked very much like blood.
     A month passed.
     The plants were hideous. Frightening. I was glad to be in the basement, close to the boiler. Thompson had thankfully, or perhaps unluckily enough, been promoted. Not here 3 months and he had found the first run on the ladder. While I still toiled, seven years unrewarded. Perhaps if he was still with me he would have stopped my experiment. The plants were veiny, red, bulbous things. Only the smallest trace of green touched these gory horrors, sprouting, thrusting into the air.
     Soon, I noticed that they moved.
     It was small, imperceptible, but they did seem to pulse. Their veins pulsed ever so slightly. Did I know even then that something dark was afoot? That soon I would be staring at mortality as it counted my last days? Perhaps I did know. But I was powerless to resist. Where the carvings on the seeds frightened me, the plants horrified me, froze my heart and mind into blindness. I could not, would not see what was in front of me.
     Weeks passed, in a hazy, nightmarish daze. I would still water the plants, but with my eyes closed. I could not look at them. Worst, I felt that perhaps, they would not be looked upon. But every day clawed at me with a terror I could not breathe, a terror I would not admit to myself. A terror that ravaged my dreams until I could not sleep.
     And then, that hateful day. The most hateful day.
The plants spoke.
     My eyes flew open in wide eyed surprise, and on seeing the abomination, narrowed to abject fear. It was no longer a plant. Where the seedling was there stood now a five legged arthropod of some sort. Not unlike a crab from the darkest recesses of our nightmares. It's eyes were the on long stalks, and held an ancient, ruthless wisdom in them. To my further surprise, I saw how the eyes had been the lima beans. The beast had grown from the earth, eyes first. When it blinked, I could see faint tracings of those nameless carvings, those terrible, soul killing carvings. Five eyestalks ended in three to seven eyes each. They blinked independentally of each other. As if being a being of five different minds. On the main body were five mouths, each one armed with needle like teeth, each one speaking in turn.
     The plant inquired as to where it was and why. I told it what, in halting words to be sure, what was happening, what I was trying to do. I asked it what it was. It asked to be taken to head. Those who were in charge. It could see, in it's terrible intelligence, that I was a mere lackey to those that mattered.
And so I arranged a meeting. After much incredulity and scorn.
     I've inserted a transcript on the discussion between the Director and the Monstrosity.

     Unknown : It's curious that I was not exterminated the minute my first sprouts were evident.
     Director : We are not a warring and uncultured race. We desire to learn, to grow.
     Unknown : Ah, just as I suspected. I was designed to have contact with such a species. Those advanced far enough in science to not attack me outright while I, or any of my brothers and sisters, grew.
     Director : That's a relief. Your intentions are, peaceful then.
     Unknown : Not in so many words.
     Director : What would you say your role is then?
     Unknown : I have many names, in your language, I am the Balancer, or the Peace Bringer.
     Director : Most comforting.
     Unknown: I am also known as the Culler.
     Unknown : Planted many aeons ago in your planet's crust. We were placed to germinate and grow. But only when a truly advancing race had sprouted, and would not eat us or destroy us as we grew, were we to reach our full maturity. Our masters abhor competition. So we were made to feed on, well, your brains. Well developed, large, and full of all those nutrients that only a well evolved brain would have.
     Director : *screams*

Transcript ends, naturally enough. And then that monstrosity proceeded to suck the brains out of the Director. It's intelligence far exceeded all of us. Using some sort of psychokinesis, it was able to lock down the entire Institute, and proceed to very slowly, to suck the brain stuffs of all the greatest minds, and all the not so greatest minds. It is to my horror then, that my mediocre mind has saved me from having my brains sucked from my skull.
     I am the last of the Institute. The last, not so great mind. Locked in the final door. I'm of no delusion that I shall live this out. The Monstrosity needs me though. Needs me to gain contact with the rest of the world. It's told me that it has urges to spread it's spore throughout the world, and rid the Earth of all brains. I'm promised a quick death if I cooperate.
     But it's been a slow death all these years. A slow, plodding death. And so I send this last diary, this last piece of evidence that although I undid the world, there might still be hope. The pneumatic tubes should take this far enough away.
     For the Monstrosity is in talks with the general who oversees this Institute. The general who has his finger on the button, so to speak. To nuke us to high heaven should any of the many experiments we are conducting go awry. And awry they have. But the general doesn't know. Couldn't know.
     But he's suspcious. Suspicious of all things new, all things revelatory, inspecting everything that comes from the Institute should it be blemished by Soviet idea. Few of the bright stars here thought of the general's influence. But I saw it. Being of inferior intellect, I was keenly aware of any and all obstacles that might hinder my work from being noticed. Those of more prodigious talent never worried. Didn't need t worry. Didn't censure out any comments in their research that might hint at their findings 'helping the average working man', or comb through their communique for any rantings against big money donors. I did. Or I did for them.
     The Monstrosity gets hints from me. Little tidbits of information it needs to fool the general. To remove the lockdown on the Institute. For it wasn't soon after the rampage started that one of the scientist hit the panic alarm and locked down the entire campus.
     The Monstrosity is asking me what to tell the general. What happened. The general knows that we were run over by something. The last message said as much. It just didn't say what. I couldn''t say, the Monstrosity, of course, who would believe it?     
     I told the monster to say the only word that would assure the safety of the world.


andrea said...

When all else fails...I wonder if commies actually feel subliminal fingers of accusation pointing at them as it happens! Also something I've oftened wondered: do communists refer to themselves affectionately as commies?..Like: "Hey, how's it going my commie bretheren?" NO?! Okay...anyway nice job niteowl!

Niteowl said...

You have a strange obsession with our Communist Enemies!!! Perhaps you are a Red yourself?! If so, you'll never work again in Hollywood, ya hear me!? Ya hear me!?

And thanks!

The Nighthawk said...

I thought you handled the writing style well, and gave some appropriately disturbing imagery. :)

It was a Good Read(tm).