Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Here are some more of my 2016 entries to the HP Lovecraft micro-fiction contest.
March 15th, 1937.
They had given him drugs. Morphine, for the pain, but it didn’t work on him like the doctors had thought it would. It numbed the agony and seemed to anesthetize his body, but his brain was as keen as it had ever been. Even as a child the author’s mind was far superior than his body. Now his mortal form laid slump on the hospital gurney, his mind roam free to review the past.
In the last thirty days he has spent in the Jane Brown Memorial Hospital he had often contemplated his past. It was the first full month since he had been a teenager that he had not written something. He thought over and over about his successes and of his failures. From his perspective he seemed to have more of the latter than the former. He thought of the stories he had burned in the old Franklin stove, deeming them unworthy to be seen by others. Would a different reader have seen them as odious as he had? Would different eyes seen something more akin to Poe or Machen?
And what of Sonia? She would not know of his finial fate until his demise. Would she feel betrayed, when she would learn that her life in California with her new husband was in fact a sham? That despite his assertions to the contrary, he had never submitted the finial divorce papers. He didn’t have the heart too. If only, like those long lost manuscripts, he had not relegated her love to the fire.
His mind would often turn to the fairy tales and Greek legends that his beloved grandfather had told him as a child, before death had taken the old man. His intellectual mind could take no solace with the thought of seeing him again. Lying in his death bed he understood why people believed in an unproven and unlikely benevolent God. He was almost jealous of the masses that seemly enjoyed replacing reason with faith. In the end he knew these comforting stories where just that fairy tales.
Ironically the only comfort he felt in his declining moments was from a black orderly. Every day Otis would come and bath him. He would speak soothingly and patiently to him. But not consentingly like the nurses. The man would tell the patient about the weather outside or about his family. He would ask Howard questions, and quietly continue his chores as if he were listening to the reply. In his last moments of his life Lovecraft had to challenge some of the views on people whose skin were difrent than his.
Though the drugs dimmed the pain he could feel the cancer as if it were moving through his lower intestines. Like some tentacled outer god burrowing though his abdomen. The dark disease was similar to the monstrosities he’d written about. It was indifferent to its host. It was as if the thing that was killing was independent of his body, not his own rebellious cells turning on him mutating into a form that was toxic to his own body. He had become like one of his own characters, like Arthur Jermyn or Robert Olmstead, betrayed by his own genetics. The thought brought a bemused smirk to the dying man’s face.
Then he gasped, and Lovecraft’s eyes flutter one last time. Darkness.
March 15th 1937, was of course the day Lovecraft died. This story was inspired by what I think was the greatest of all cosmic horror stories, Katherine Porters The Jilting of Granny Weatherall. This story which is a staple of 10th grade text books everywhere, tells the story of an old woman who suffered many indignities through her life, including being abandoned at the altar, by her first love. Only at her death to find out that there is no god, the ultimate abandonment. Written seven years before his death there is no evidence that I know of that Lovecraft read it, but I think he would have liked it and it was certainly aligned with his own atheist opinions.
The part about the black orderly is totally fictions. But many HPL fans hope and believe he would have changed his opinions on races if he had lived longer. I tried to embody this idea with the addition of Otis. In a lot of ways this is the heart of the story, but on the submitted draft I had to leave it out because of the word count.
Message from Space.
It is estimated nearly a billion viewers, around the world, tuned into watch the blonde in the green dress. “This is Bree Susskind for CNN. Though still unconfirmed, rumors have been circulating that the President of the United States, will shortly arrive and confirm that NASA had received the first confirmed message from another planet. If it is true may be the most important announcement ever made from the White House Press room.” She paused for a moment and touched her ear, getting some additional information from sources off camera. “To fuel the speculation about extraterrestrial communication, before the President’s announcement we will h ear form Dr. Jonas Hertzog the acting director of NASA.”
Hertzog looked like the stereotypical absentminded professor. He had a mat of cotton white hair that looked like it hadn’t been combed in a week. He wore a threadbare brown suit two decades out of style and a wrinkled beige dress shirt, his plain black tie looped around his neck loosely like an inverted noose. He looked up from the podium. “I have been authorized to tell you that an hour ago I meet with the President and played for him the first confirmed message from an extraterrestrial intelligence. This is concrete evidence that we are not alone in the universe. The message comes from a massive exo-planet around the star Fomalhaut, in the consolation Piscis Austrinus, approximately twenty-five light years from the earth. I can also confirm we have been to interpret the message, but the president has asked for the honor to share that message with you the people of Earth…So with no further ado, I give you the President of the United States of America, to present the first message from outer space.”
There was thunderous applause that ceased when the President entered. His hair was unkempt, his eyes burning with the wild flame of madness, blood apparently not his own ran from his mouth down his cheek. He grabbed the podium and began to yell. “My fellow American, I bring to you the first of many messages from our space masters… Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh Wgah’nagl fhtagn!” Then the leader of the Free World, began to chant in an alien and diabolical language.
Screams flooded the White House Press room. Reporters, aids and Secret Service agents turned on each other, and nearly a billion people went mad.
All I will say about this one is it is less insane than out current election cycle.