Aesop http://sett.com/aesop Memes are people; humans aren't en-us Wed, 13 Dec 2017 20:15:34 +0000 http://sett.com Sett RSS Generator Tales from Miskatonic part 11 (the end!) http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-11-the-end She shook Adam’s shoulder, but he was nearly comatose, and did not respond. She shook Jim where he sat, and he looked up at her, his eyes wide with fear. He called her “Mother” in Yiddish, and though she didn’t hear it, his thoughts and fears seemed to penetrate her, be transmitted to her as though carried on the breeze like normal words. She tried to speak to him, but ordinary speech was completely canncelled out byt the maelstrom surrounding them. The anti gravity probe was humming louder than a typhoon, and the whirling of the portal was like a hurricane, with only Marcia in the eye of it. Molly grabbed Jim by his shoulder and hoisted him to his feet. He grabbed his cane with a shaking hand and looked her in the eyes. She stared into his for a long moment, then turned towards the platform where the Ellorys, husband and wife, were waiting.

Marcia’s soul continued its long, slow journey towards them. It had grown in apparent size. It started out a tiny dot, like a star in the ordinary night sky, but was growin as it grew ever closer. It looked to be nearly upon them now, judging by its apparent size - it looked to be about the size of a grown woman, seen from the distance of the end of the portal device. Molly and Jim moved forward, Jim leaning on Molly for support.

Marcia’s soul hit the portal, and a shockwave ran through Miskatonic University. Jim screamed in pain, and it was almost visible. Molly looked down, and blood was pouring from underneath the scarf he was using as a makeshift bandage. Jim let go of her shoulder and fell to thr ground in agony. His foot and toes were pulled horribly upward towards his knee, the tendon which worked to counteract that motion completely severed. He grabbed his leg, eyes closed, mouth open in wordless agony, screaming in pain and horror. But then, through some miracle of willpower, of concern for things greater than himself, he reached with one blood stained hand into his pocket and pulled out the necklace, and handed it to Molly.

Molly looked at it, the grey metal covred in ffresh, slick red blood, with a queer glowing green stone in the center of the symbol, how strange that she had not noticed that before, made eye contact with him for a moment, just long enough to show him that she knew what she needed to do - at least, as well as any of them could know - and moved up the steps towards the platform with the Elloriesys and their terrible machines.

Marcia’s soul had reached the portal, and now there was a terrible fight to get it through. James Ellory, not content to let the machine continue wihtout his hands on the controls, was wrestling with them, as they were physically wrenched from his grasp with the strength of wthe forces involved, and there was a terrible screeching, screaming sound, like metal being torn, or glass sliding against glass, or a slowed down recording of glass shattering, as the very fabric of space bent, warping all that was visible, ast the forces that strained to pull Marcia’s soul back from its terrible journey. Molly reached the platform and struggled to move towards James Ellory, her motion hindered at every turn by the terrible winds and the flying objects that were being picked up by the wind, made lighter by the gravitational distortions, and hurled in circles around the platform. The eye of the storm was shrinking. Centered around Marcia, it now barely included James and the control panel.

After what seemed an eternity of Sisyphean struggle, Molly reached the eye of the storm. She stumbled forwards, losing her balance now that she no longer had to fight against the wind, and stumbled right up to the body of Marcia Ellory on its slab. James Ellory turned, noticing her for the first time, and screamed an unearthly “NO!”, the first human sound anyone had been able to hear since the trio had entered the room. He left the controls and lunged at Molly. He tackled her hard, driving her into the floor with all of his old man’s bulk. Her head hit the cement of the platform floor hard, and she saw a bright flash, and hthen her vision was filled with blinking stars, and blurred. James Ellory was screaming at her, telling her she couldn’t have his Marcia, she couldn’t stop him now, not when he was so close, didn’t she understand, he’d never have another opportunity like this, the stars wouldn’t align this way for another 170 years, and he’d be dead himself by then, and no one would be abletto save Marcia! Didn’t she understand! Didn’t she?

He was sobbing at this point, holding her down in a hug as much as a pin, looking down at her, tears flowing freely from his eyes, dropping onto her face. Her vision was mostly restored at this point, and so it was reflect in her widening eyes that James Ellory saw his successs. Marcia’s soul broke through the barrier, came into the room, was absorbed by the machine, and funneled ddown via wires into the device strapped to Marcia’s brain. When it came onto this sideo f the portal, the false colors disappeared, but still, somehow one could sense its presence. James followed its progress with his eyes, and then stood and walked over to his beloved’s side, and looked down at her face, and waited. He couldn’t tell if his heart was beating so fast that it all blurred together or if had stopped beating entirely, but somehow, whatever the case was, he stood there, waiting, waiting, for a sign of life from his beloved. “Please…” he whispered.

Marcia coughed, her eyelids fluttered, and then she opened her perfect green eyes, and looked into his. James Ellory’s heart broke for the second time in his life, though the reason, and the effect, was quite the opposite this time around. She reached up with one delicate hand to stroke his face, and then grabbed the side of his cheek and pulled him towards her for a kiss.

Before their lips could touch, she coughed, pulled back, coughed again, more violently, and started wretching. James grabbed her by the shoulders, not willing to let her go, certain that if he could just hold her tight enough this time, she couldn’t leave him again. She wretched once more. With a sickening pop, her jaw unhinged, her jawbone detached from the pairs of sockets that normally held it in place. The muscles were stretched horribly. From somewhere deep inside her, something was writhing, visible through her skin, and now, visible from within her throat.

Out of her mouth poured a singl impossibly large tentacle. It was a covered in wet, slimy spittle, and stank of rotting fish. It was long, impossibly long, larger than her body, and James Ellory recoiled in horror, but refused to let go. It was pink, with a bubly skin like a rash, and when it twisted its underside towards him, he saw that it did not have suckers like any earthly squid or octopus, but instead had a series of clapping, grasping, pinching crustacean claws. James Ellory looked up in horror at the portal in the sky, and saw that Azathoht, in his infinite mutations, had taken a form with skin like a rash and an enormous shell covering the bulk of its its body, revealing only a series of tentacles, the largest of which was reaching out towards the portal, touching, and seemingly cut by it such that a cross section was visible. And in the center of it all, there was that terrible rectangular-pupiled eye, watching. James Ellory screamed, and looked back at his beloved Marcia, and screamed some more. The tentacle reached out and wrapped around him, and the two of them floated through the air towards the portal. James never stopped screaming, but he never screamed louder than when the tentacle finally broke his grasp on Marcia’s shoulders and flung him bodilty towards the portal.

His body hit the portal and slumped down dead, like a bird hitting a window, and fell to the ground, with a wet, all too rganic splat. However, briefly visible, a new, man-sized shape of Dark Matter sped towards Azathoth, beginning its infinite journey.

The body of Marcia Ellory, however, remained, with a now nearly 50 meter tentacle writhing around the room. Molly got to her feet. She moved towards what had been Marcia, with the medallion, the Elder Sign, outstretched in front o her, warding off the tentacle. It lunged forward and around her, encircling her, but notuching her. Still, the bulging part of the portal, where the tentacle was coming through, seemeed to be growing, and while Molly was protected, and able to restrain the tentacle, there was more of it every second, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could hold it off. Then she heard a loud banging, groaning, and the screech of metal on metal, and turne,d and she saw Adam, glorious, brute force Adam, too stubborn to die, kicking the control panel for all it was worth. He was putting dents in it, and had broken several levers and displays,but didn’t seem to be damaging its core function. Then something, some motion out of the corner of bothe their eyes, caught their attention. Crawling forward on his arms was Jim, pushing his cane ahead of him. He had been calling for Adam’s attention for some time now, but the wind had prevented him from hearing. Now that he saw, Jim tossed his cane forwad, Adam deflly caught, it and swung it with all his might at the cntrol panel. With the first swing, the top of the panel flew off, revealing the wiring underneath. Adam stuff the cane in, hooked as many wires as he could under the handle, and pulled them out. Sparks fewl, a jolt of electricty arced forth from the panel, the portal shuddered and flickered, and started to close. The bolt of electrciity hit Adam square in the cest and launched him across the room and into the wall, where he slumped, his shirt blackened, hireleasing hwhhipss of dark smoke.The tentacle writhed in agony and panic, the crab-form of Azathoth almost seeming to shudder, as the portal slowly closed on it. But there was nothing that could be done. The Elder Sign prevented Azathoth’s tentacle from affecting Molly, and it was doubtful if it could have repaired the panel, even given time and free reign (though the thought was horrifying). In a surge of desparate vindictiveness, the tentacle lashed out at Jim, throwing him across thr oom. He slammed into the wall legs first, both of them crumpling beneaht him, as Molly cried out in fear and horror and agonizing empathy for her lover Adam and one of her best friends, Jim. Soon the portal reached the width of the tentacle, and then when it closed further, started slicing into the tentacle, thinner than any razor. When it closed completely, the tentacle flopped to the floor, all light fled the room, and Molly collapsed.

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Fri, 17 Jan 2014 16:00:02 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-11-the-end
Tales from Miskatonic part 10 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-10 They opened it cautiously, and found themselves in a huge hemispherical chamber. There was an enormous telescope pointing up and out of a gap in the ceiling, but it was no ordinary telescope, and it was not peering into ordinary space. The portal device, having found Marcia’s soul, was now moving on to the next stage of Ellery’s plan, with him at the controls. The small, searching portals were no longer enough. They were enough to look through, but not enough to draw anything through, and while the soul is made of Dark Matter and therefore does not interact normally with regular matter, it does occupy space, and a sufficiently large portal needed to be opened. The not-a-telescope was stirring, whirring, winding up. It sounded like a propeller for a plane, moving in slow motion, but gaining speed. A blue and purple pin prick, which it had been looking through, was growing ever wider. The noise from the the spinning was growing louder, and louder, and soon was overwhelming - Jim, Molly, and Adam were unsure if they would be able to hear each other even yelling their loudest. The portal was growing wider and wider, and soon it was larger than the end of the telescope, and a terrible and beautiful mass of colors could be seen through it. They were looking deeper into space than any man had ever seen before, and for a moment all four of them paused, their breath taken away.

Adam looked back at the other two, with an expression of “What do we do now? What is this?” on his face. Jim shrugged, but Molly pointed to the side and yelled wordlessly into the roar.

Standing to the side, madly maneuvering the device, and standing guard over the body of his beloved wife Marcia, was Professor James Montgomery Ellery. He saw them come in, and half wanted to invite them over to share in his triumph, and half wanted to guard his prize like a jealous animal. A tiny portion of him was concerned for Marcia’s modesty. But before any of them could do anything, the portal in the sky tore open. The writhing blue and purple boundary rushed off in every direction, moving to fill the sky. From their vantage point, they couldn’t tell if it had encircled the observatory, or if it had filled the entire sky. Regardless, the ordinary night sky, of darkness and astronomically distant stars, was gone.

In its place stood an impossibly large writhing mass - pale pink, like the bloody froth coughed up by someone stabbed in their lungs, purple, like a bruise that had been cut open, green, like a gangrenous limb, yellow, like a thousand suns, orange, like the flesh of a man baked to death in the desert, and tan, like the desert he died in, black, a blackness that was to the night sky like the night sky was to a black paint, and silver, like Judas had been paid, melted and poured over him, and colours no one had ever seen before, and if they lived a happy life, never would see, and the whole thing bubbling, writhing, like a corpse being boiled, like a body in Outer Space being pulled apart by the vacuum, and disgustingly, like bubble gum, being popped by a young child (none who saw it would ever again be able to see someone chew gum without retching), wriggling like the skin of a corpse underneath which writhed a million maggots, reforming, like the skin of a mimic octopus trying to blend into a Hieronymous Bach painting, forming protrusions, pseudopods, flegella, like a monstrous bacterium, and for a moment one could almost believe that it was simply an incredibly vivid close up of a bacterium, and the thought was strangely comforting somehow, but then it formed an eye, a single, enormous, fully formed eye, horribly yellow and black, with a rectangular pupil, looking into the distance, above the poor, pathetic humans watching it, but then it turned, the eye turned, it turned towards them, and they saw it, and it saw them, it saw them, Ia! Ia! Azathoth! Azathoth, the blind idiot god at the center of all universes! Azathoth, of the mad pipers! Azathoth! Azathoth! Ia! Ia! Azathoth, ad'neh uulam bl'geth zaa, klthoth ylthnagh g'gyaa, gr'vyelth daug'lth! Ia, k'zrul Azathoth, z'relg ikdal zaktaldat! Ia! Ia! Azathoth, ylmna Yog-Sothoth kl’drr, ylmna Shub-Niggurath kl’drr, ylmnon Nyarlothotep, Nyarlothotep, Nyarlothotep kl’drr!

From out of the shadows stepped a tall, deathly thin man with a long, pointed beard. Only Molly saw him, out of the corner of her eye, and her vision was swimming to the point that she could hardly be sure what she was seeing. Jim dropped his cane, and fell to the floor, babbling in Hebrew. Adam vomited.

Professor James Montgommery Ellery stood at the gate. He was the gatekeeper, he was the keymaster, and he would open the gate, and he would have his wife back, and no one could stop him. Nothing and no one could possibly prevent his ultimate victory now. He flipped a switch, and all of a sudden the entire portal was bathed in false colors. Swarming in front of the monstrosity were an endless, nearly indistinguisheable sea of souls. But one stood out from all the others. One, bathed in angelic blue false light, was the sould of his beloved Marcia. And he would have her back. He turned on the anti-gravity probe.

A shudder ran through the entirety of Miskatonic University, and even out into surrounding Arkham, Massachusettes. It was recorded as a bizarre anomoly by seismological probes as far away as Washington, but quickly forgotten. Inside of the room, its bizarreness could not be overestimated. It hummed, louder and loudoer. Everything felt lighter. Molly watched in strange fascination as a box in the corner of the room slowly lifted off of the ground. She turned towards Professor Ellroy, who had been her friend.

She tried to yell to him, but even if he could have heard her he would not have responded. He was absorbed, body, mind, and soul, in the task at hand. The piercing, invisible beam of reverse gravity pulsed through the portal and into space, where it strode forward, pushing and pulling on the souls, and on the very writhing mass of Azathoth itself, as he aimed it, cautiously, but as quickly as cautioun would allow, towards the blue light marking hise beloved Marcia. He found it! He found her! He locked on to her soul, flipped a switch, clamped the steering mechanism in place, and stepped back. The blue light of Marcia’s soul stopped its spiralling descent towards Azathoth, and then started climbing, upwards, out of the terrible gravitational grip of that monstrosity, that horrible thing, was that really the afterlife? Was that really the final destination of all things which died in this galaxy? And if it was, what happened to them once they reached Azathoth? He had read once that it was hypothesized that time was distorted by gravity, and so from the perspective of an astronaut falling towards a black hole, the fall would never end, they would just grow ever interminably closwer, never reaching their inevitable destination. If this was what was at the center of the galaxy, what sort of creatures were black holes? Was that what we had to look forward to when we died? Falling towards Azathoth for all eternity? The universe supposedly hatd a time when it would end, either through a decayed heat death, or a reverse of the Big Bang, a collapse back into a single point, potentially to restart, either looping forever, or starting a new universe fresh. Ellery found the latter idea comforting. But if time was distorted by gravity in this way, what did that mean would happen from the point of view of the souls, stuck in that impossible trap of a gravity well that was the sight of Azathoth? And what would happen to the Dark Matter at the end of tis universe’s life? If the universe reallly did restart infinitely, never truly beginning or ending, were we surrounded by an infinity of tormented souls, being sucked into whatever new creature took Azathoth’s role in the new universe that was created when the old one died? For that matter, what sort of matter was Azathoth made of?

If he was truly the thing at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, he should have been made of Dark Matter, if the astronomical conjectures and calculations were correct, and before this moment there had been little reason to doubt them. Yet he had been visible from the start, before the false colours had been applied. What was he made of? Was he truly made from ordinary matter, the same sort that made up any other living creature? If that was so, what did his soul look like?

The Dark Pharoah stepped out of hiding and strode across the room, walking on air, towards James and Marcia Ellory. He stooped to stroke her cheek, before moving over to where James Elllory was standing, and bent over to whisper into his ear.

Molly tracked his motion with her eyess, barely able to move her head. The further away from her he got, and especially the moment that his gaze broke from hers, she felt better, more in control of herself. The pain in the bites on her arms and legs returned, replacing the cold numness that had suffused through her, and she was grateful for it. It grounded her in the ordinary world where she was a human mortal, a woman, with a body, pain, pleasure, and other things that can be expierenced for certain by the hairless apes which are humans, but which are much less certain for their immaterial souls. She had somehow gotten a sense for what was happening above, what sort of monstrous events were transpiring, and when she saw the body of teh woman on the table, she realized what Ellory must be doing. She was torn: she could feel his loss, his pain, his rage at the maddening, endless, uncaring universe,as though emotions were traversing the room in place of sound, and yet she knew that what was happening now was infinitely dangerous. Not just for them, but as she could not see the scale of the hole in the sky, she could not be certain how far it encompassed, what fraction of the world now looked up into Azathoth’s terrible, singular eye.

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Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:00:01 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-10
Tales from Miskatonic part 9 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-9 Jim was explaining what he had read to Adam and Molly. “You said you thought this thing was really old, right? Were you joking? I know you’re better at telling how old something is than I am,” he said, handing the necklace to Adam. “Yeah, just ask that Jewish girl we met that night we stayed in Innsmouth, how old was she? Fourteen?” he giggled, taking the necklace. Molly looked at Jim and cocked an eyebrow. Jim rolled his eyes. “Do you know how hard it is to find Jewish girls? If I find one in a small town, I’m going to try to take advantage of my luck. Not of her, of course,” he said, when Molly shot him an even more disapproving look. “I mean, it’s not taking advantage of her if she’s into it, right?” he asked. “Yeah, but whew, man, I would think that with that nose you would have noticed she smelled like fish!” Adam replied. This time it was his turn to get a disapproving stare from Molly. “I could smell it all the way from my, uh, separate hotel room, which I was staying in, separately” he lied unconvincingly. “If you two pigs are done swapping disgusting war stories and reminiscing about past conquests, what exactly is this thing?” she asked, taking the necklace from Adam.

“I don’t know,” said Jim. “That is, I don’t know what culture it’s from. It seems to clearly be a warding amulet of some kind. The paper,” he handed it to Molly, “is written originally in Arabic, but then translated to Greek. The Arabic looks like an old style that I’m not familiar with,” “Is there any style of Arabic you are familiar with?” interjected Adam. “No,” replied Jim, which sent Adam into a fit of giggles, “but still, it looks really old to me. I can’t read Arabic, but I have seen it, and this looks different. Similar, but different. It could just be a form of cursive I haven’t ever seen before, but still, it’s kinda weird. And who knows if the necklace itself is even Arabic originally? And the Greek, well, that’s from probably the 15th century, so not ancient, but certainly not made down the street by the lady running the antique shop as a promotional flyer. How old do you think the necklace is, Adam?” Adam straightened up and regained a semblance of seriousness. “I don’t know.” Jim stared at him, waiting for more explanation, then gestured for him to go on. “It’s weird, man. The casting method is practically primeval. If this were made out of bronze and you told me it was from the bronze age, I would believe you. But it’s not made out of bronze. It looks like, I dunno, weird steel or pewter or something, but it looks way too old to be steel, and it doesn’t feel like pewter. It looks a lot older than 15th century. If I knew where the lab was in here,” he gestured at the unnaturally arranged Miskatonic University, “then maybe I could analyze it, figure out what it’s made from, figure out when it was made. But without that, I dunno. It’s weird,” he stopped gesticulating with the nub of reefer and took a much-improved hit from it. “Do you want the rest of this? I think it’s almost done,” he said, offering it to Molly and Jim. Molly turned it down, but Jim accepted it, took another short puff, licked his fingers, put it out, reached over the broken bust of the current Dean, now crusted with Adam’s dried blood, and stuck it in between the statue’s lips. “You look like you could use that, Dean ol’ boy. You’ve got something there,” he said, rubbing his own forehead. Adam and Molly laughed and Jim smiled, appreciating the relative normalcy in the midst of the sea of violent weirdness they had been tossed into. All of a sudden, something occurred to him. “Hey,” he asked, turning back to the others. “Have either of you seen Professor Ellery lately?”

Professor James Montgomery Ellery, loyal husband to Marcia Jessica Ellery, pushed open the broad double doors leading into the observatory. His beloved Marcia lay where she had left him. Where he had left her. He had set her there, and then gone off to… find the vial, so he could correct his mistake. He checked a panel on the controls. Her internal temperature was ninety seven degrees and rising steadily. He took the vial and syringe out of his pocket, loaded the former into the latter, pushed all of the air out of it, and inserted it expertly into the large vein on her inner right thigh. He depressed the plunger, and the miracle fluid started its motion into her veins. By some weird mechanism of its own, which only Professor James Ellery and Doctor Herbert West understood, the liquid pulled and climbed, pushing itself through her veins. It was even now finding the other formula, rooting it out, and destroying it. James watched his beloved Marcia as her veins turned from a hideous green-black to a more natural blue, and her skin slowly regained its previous warm pink color, from the horrible green that it had been. Her eyes he did not yet dare look at. West’s formula had been incredibly useful, but come at such a psychological cost. To have Maria so close at hand-Marcia, not Maria, Marcia, Marcia-and yet to not be able to look on her as she was in life, but instead this hideous mockery. Her green eyes had been turned the darkest, solidest black he had ever seen. They were dry in death, and so they did not even reflect light shone upon them, they did not glisten as a living person’s eyes, of any color, do - they were a horrible, constant, matte black. And so he had shut her lids before freezing her, and so he did not yet dare to open them again. Still, one thing that he did appreciate about West’s formula, is that it had driven away every last trace of the horrible, puffy, pink redness that had choked her so. It would have driven James made if he had had to see Marcia that way. His beloved Marcia, done in in such a manner…. but now of all times was not the moment to dwell on the past. He leaned forward to kiss her. She was warm again. She had so hated being cold, and she was warm again, and soon she would be able to feel it. He did not know what space felt like, but his intuition told him that it must be a horrible, clawing cold, a thousand times worse than the highest mountaintop. And soon he would rescue her from that. He could almost swear he could feel her breath on his lips. He leaned ever closer, and was about to make contact, when a sudden, jarring ringing came from his pocket, at the same moment that a similar clanging came from the control panel. He jumped backwards, momentarily startled to the point of not remembering what that sound meant, when he remembered. He took the radio controlled alarm out of his pocket and pressed the button that stopped its ringing, then tossed it aside, and did the same thing with the main control panel. The radio controlled alarm did not actually stop ringing, though the main one did, and by now his attention was completely absorbed by what he had to do next. The machine, this wonderful, blessed machine, had found his Marcia’s soul.

Adam, Jim, and Molly all looked up at one another, then down the hall. A ringing not unlike a telephone was coming from the next room. They looked at each other again, looked back down the hall, and then got to their feet and started heading towards the door.

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Tue, 14 Jan 2014 16:00:01 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-9
Tales from Miskatonic part 8 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-8 Jim hobbled down the hall, and heard shouting in a thick southern accent from his right. He pushed open the first door on his right, which led to a large room. The shouting only continued for another moment, but he was confident it was coming from the north this time. This room he recognized. It was one of his favorite parts of the University that he didn’t study - a skeleton of an enormous, extinct, monstrous lizard dominated the center of the room, curved as in a pose from life, its face and gaping mouth pointing towards the door Jim had entered from. In smaller glass cases around the walls were a series of relatives of the great beast, from various aeons of primordial pre-history. The terrible thunder lizard in the center of the room always fascinated him. How could such a huge, powerful creature, which had existed for so long, not have become intelligent? Man, a much weaker creature, a hairless ape, had existed for so short a time comparatively, and had accomplished so much more, or so it seemed. He always wondered if there were secret dinosaur civilizations, which had been wiped clean off the Earth in some terrible cataclysm, leaving behind no evidence we had yet been able to discover, like the fabled Hyperboreans. In his wilder imaginings, he dreamed of an advanced dinosaur civilization and what might have taken them from the planet. Perhaps something changing in the atmosphere, or foreknowledge of some terrible tragedy had convinced them to move to another, more habitable world? That was the answer he liked the best, but the one he found most convincing - conditional on dinosaurs having civilization, of course, a laughable premise - was that they had invented one or more terrible super weapons and turned them on each other in the ultimate climax of some long forgotten, pointless tribal conflict, and wiped the entire Earth clear of all trace of their great civilizations. It was a metaphor that he liked to employ when urging pacifism to others. After the Great War, ludicrously called the War to End All Wars, and which he secretly feared was simply the First Great War, he was more afraid than ever that the next Great War might mean the end of humanity. All of these thoughts came rushing back to him as he hobbled around to the other side of the corpse of the Tyrant Lizard. He turned to give it one last look before moving into the next room. Its jaws gaped back at him. He stared at it for a long moment, hardly daring to breathe. A warm, moist wind slowly started to move towards him, full of the stench of rotted meat. He gasped and fell backwards through the door and into a hallway. The pieces of glass still on his back dug into him viciously. The skeleton reared downwards, pointing its head towards the door like a fox trying to dig a rabbit out of a hole. Jim kicked the door shut with his good leg and then pushed against it with his cane and struggled to his feet, propping the handle of his cane under the door handle, in an attempt to jam the door and keep it closed. A distant, echoing roar was all the evidence that remained of what he had just seen, and nothing seemed to try to break through. He looked around the hallway he was in. It was full of toppled wooden pillars which looked like they had once supported marble busts, which were now on the floor. Halfway down the room, lying facedown and not moving, was Adam. Jim started towards him, stopped, and turned to retrieve his cane. He paused, hesitating for a moment.

Molly burst through the door to Jim’s side. He jumped in surprise, grabbed his cane, and swung it towards her. She deftly stepped back so that it swung by harmlessly and yelled “Whoah there cowboy! Hold your horses, it’s just me!” After his initial reflex, he calmed down and relaxed, putting his cane back to its customary use. “You could take somebody’s head off with that thing. Would’ve been useful a minute ago, maybe I should get me one of those,” she gestured at the bite marks covering her sleeves and pants, pulling up one sleeve to demonstrate that the extraordinarily long teeth had pierced through and into her flesh. Then she noticed the dried blood on his head and the scarf tied around his ankle. “Oh you poor dear, what happened to you while I was getting bit by demon squirrels?”

“Did you hear that thunderbolt about twenty minutes ago? I was over there in Professor Rice’s office when it struck just outside. The window exploded, and, well, apparently this is what happens when windows explode on you. I’m basically okay, more or less,” he replied. “Over there?” Molly asked, pointing in the direction he had. “Yeah,” he replied. “But I was over there,” she said, pointing in the opposite direction, “and the lightning was right outside of the window where I was too. I guess greenhouses are made out of tougher stuff than normal glass, lucky for me. I didn’t have to deal with any broken glass,”
“Maybe there was more than one bolt of lightning..?” Jim offered. “No, I think we would have heard that. I think-I think-” she started, before finally seeing Adam and rushing over to see if he was still alive. “Oh thank God, he’s still breathing,” she said after putting her ear next to his mouth. She touched him on the cheeks, and when he moaned slightly, she started repeating his name. “Adam, Adam, wake up, you’ve got to wake up dear, there you go, oh thank God,” she said when he opened his eyes and made a confused “whuh?” sound. She hugged him tight, which he groaned in response to, and then she stood up, holding onto his hand. “Come on, up you get, darling,” she said, smiling through her tears. “Ah! No!” he cried, snatching his hand out of hers and crawling backwards away from her. “No! This isn’t real! This isn’t real!” he cried out. He picked up a chunk of statue and scrambled to his feet. “Stay away from me! I’m going to wake up, I’m going to wake up, this isn’t real, I’m going to wake up,” he started repeating to himself.
“Adam? Adam, dear, what are you talking about, Adam? This is real, I’m real, what are you talking about?” Molly was on the verge of tears. Physical danger she could handle, and her own upset mental state, but Adam not trusting her… she had trust issues, namely that if someone didn’t trust her, that felt like a complete betrayal, and she couldn’t handle that, not now, not from him.

Jim stepped forward, leaning even more heavily on his cane than usual. He looked Adam dead in the eye and said “Adam, I don’t know what you saw earlier. I saw some pretty crazy shit myself. I’m sure Molly did too,” Molly nodded, tears flowing down her face, “But think. Was this what you saw? Was it us? Or was it something else?” Adam looked from one to the other fearfully, still expecting the other shoe to drop, for this to be another trick. But Jim was right. Jim had never been there before, and Molly had woken him up in a different way this time. He also hadn’t gotten to look up her skirt. That thought, so incongruous when juxtaposed with all of the horror he had been exposed to, broke his fear, and he dropped the hunk of marble, starting crying, and ran forward into Molly’s waiting arms. “It’s you, it’s really you, oh thank God it’s really you,” he said, stroking Molly’s hair. He looked over at Jim, who was trying to look away and not look away at the same time, and mouthed “thank you.” It had been years since Jim had seen Adam cry, and it moved him a great deal. He mouthed back “you’re welcome,” winced, and reached up to the back of his head and pulled out another small bloody chunk of glass. Adam briefly panicked and pulled Molly’s head back painfully sharply, looking at her eyes and face, reassuring himself that it was real, that she was real, that she was okay, that it wasn’t all an illusion. Satisfied that she was real, he leaned in to kiss her, but she held up a finger to stop him. “I’m not sure you want to do that right now. I had to bite a demon squirrel earlier, and a lot of its blood got in my mouth, and I’m sure that’s not sanitary. If it isn’t, no sense in me giving you anything I caught, right?” Adam nodded dumbly. “Demon.. squirrel?” he asked. “Yeah, I was meaning to ask you about that,” Jim added, interjecting himself into the conversation with a cough.

She looked from one man to the other. “It’s… a long story. I was in the greenhouse, and there were all these little black… things, and they attacked me, and well, I bit one of them and that seemed to scare them off,” she said as she pulled down her sleeve to reveal some of the strange bite marks on her arms. They were beginning to look infected. “Yeah, maybe you should get one of these. I’ve had a lot to deal with, but I didn’t have to bite any demons,” Jim said, brandishing his cane like a caricature of an impoverished knight. She laughed, as did Adam. He slipped his arm around her waist. Jim said “So you said the greenhouse was right through here?”, gesturing at the door she had entered through “Yes,” she responded, “but I think there is something very weird going on here,” “Oh really?” Jim responded mockingly, “I hadn’t noticed!” “No, I mean, not just what’s happening with the storm and the… demon squirrels, but I think the whole school has been rearranged. I don’t think this is any building I’ve been in before. Have you guys?” she asked the men. “No,” responded Adam. “Yes,” responded Jim. They looked at him in surprise. “Well, parts of it are. I found Professor RIce’s office, and the dinosaur room from the museum is through that door, he said pointing with his cane at the door he had entered the statuary corridor from, “but those aren’t usually in the same building. And some of these rooms I’ve never seen before. I think you’re right, I think the school has been… rearranged somehow. And maybe some things have been pulled in from… somewhere else,” he added ominously. Adam and Molly breathed a sigh of relief at this. Somehow it was better to know that this thing that was happening, whatever it was, however horrible it was, was actually happening, and that it wasn’t just their imagination. Adam especially appreciated knowing he wasn’t going crazy. Jim reached the door to the greenhouse. “Now to test a part of that theory,” he said, and opened the door and stuck his head through. He looked around for a moment, then shut the door again, then repeated the process. “Yep, that’s still the greenhouse,” he said, and then hopped over to the door leading to the dinosaur room and opened that. He immediately slammed it shut, cutting short a thunderous roar, like a malicious, hungry train heading towards you, and said “And that’s still the dinosaur room. So it looks like whatever it is that’s rearranged the school is done, and this is the new arrangement. Looks like, anyways,” He looked around the room. ”What happened in here, Adam?” Adam glanced around at the broken statues and said sheepishly “I knocked the statues over, and one of them hit me on the head.” Jim and Molly stared at him, looked at each other, and stared at him again. Both of them burst out laughing. After a moment of this, all three friends were laughing uproariously, tears streaming down their faces. Molly leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor, Jim sprawled on his stomach on the floor so that no weight was on his leg and his glass-studded skull wouldn’t touch anything, and Adam crouched on the floor where he was standing, and then transitioned to sitting. The three friends lay there like that, laughing and crying, terrified out of their wits, but desperately grateful to be alive, and happier than they had ever been to be together. “Here,” said Jim, sitting up and fishing around in his pocket. “I got this off Jeremiah,” Molly and Adam gave him blank looks, “The Negro groundskeeper? He’s really quite nice, you should talk to him some time. Anyways, he calls it a reefer. It’s kind of like a cigarette, only a lot better. I think we all could really use it right now,” he stuck the joint in his mouth, pulled out his zippo and lit it, took a drag, then handed it to his left to Adam. Adam didn’t normally smoke, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so he took a puff. “No, not like a cigar, you’ve got to hold it in your lungs,” Jim instructed. Adam did, for a moment, before coughing it out and handing the reefer to Molly, who took a long, expert drag and handed it back to Jim, who gave her an impressed and inquisitive look. “There are a lot of Negroes down South, and I’m sure I know some who are just as interesting as your fancy Northern ones,” she explained. Jim nodded, took another hit off of it, and handed it to Adam. It continued in this fashion for some time, until Jim remembered the necklace and the scrap of parchment, and pulled them out of his pocket.

Professor Ellery was getting desperate. The incessant piping, which he had found soothing earlier, had started to be irritating a few rooms ago, and by this point was growing downright maddening. It had grown in pitch and volume, and its insane tempo was almost tempting him to dance, but the motions it imbued him with no longer led him so confidently to the room he sought. He had taken more than one false turn, opening doors into dead ends. He was growing worried. What would happen if he couldn’t find the observatory in time? What would become of Maria? Had anything happened to her while he was gone? How could he have been so stupid as to forget to bring the formula, that was what had inspired this whole mess, but of course that was West’s fault, his formulas were horribly flawed, and Ellery’s suspicions in that aspect were confirmed when, just a year after West had given him the first vial, he had disappeared under most mysterious circumstances. Ellery thought he had something to do with Halsey’s death, but that wasn’t his problem, that was West and Halsey’s to deal with, the only thing that concerned Ellery was Maria, that was all, Maria, no, Marcia! Her name was Marcia, not Maria, what was he thinking, how could he say Maria? He didn’t know anyone named Maria. A simple slip of the tongue, that’s all, he’s just so concerned with getting this right, he has to prove his theories, he has to get Maria back, he has to, Maria, with her… brown, hair? And red eyes?

He stopped dead in his tracks. He raised his hands to the sides of his head. They trembled as he put them to his ears. He stood, rocking in place, chanting something he had read in that most forbidden of books, the one that had taught him the most, the one where its author the mad Arab, had spoken of a drug-fueled mystic seeing a shoggoth here on Earth during an astral projection, which had taught him how to seek out Nyarlothotep during his dreams, the fabled Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred. The thin piping rose to a crescendo, and then broke.

Silence.

He lowered his hands from his ears. He was going to the observatory, to save the life of his wife, Marcia Jessica Ellery, who had black hair, and green eyes. He turned on his heels ninety degrees to his right, and strode forward confidently.

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Sun, 12 Jan 2014 16:00:02 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-8
Tales from Miskatonic part 7 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-7 Professor Ellery wandered the halls in a daze, moving on autopilot the way that a non-lucid dreamer does while asleep. He somnambulated from one room to the next, moving purposefully, never rethinking, always in motion, until he came to the room he was searching for: his own office. There, on his desk, lying in a circle of moonlight framed by the parting clouds, was the vial he was looking for. He picked it up, opened a drawer and retrieved an empty syringe in a carrying case, checked to make sure he had all of the components necessary, and strode out of the room. As he was leaving it, a thunderous explosion boomed from nearby, and the window shattered inwards. He closed the door just in time to keep the pieces of broken glass from colliding with him, and strode forward purposefully, not looking back even for a moment. He was driven. He was a man with a plan, a man in love, a man with mad, intense purpose, and nothing would keep him from his mission.

Jim hobbled out of the room he formerly thought of as Professor Rice’s office, and now thought of as “the Glass Pit.” He held tight to his crutch in one hand, and had clutched in the other the scrap of paper. He found himself in a study hall, a long, empty table with chairs on all sides, used for review sessions. He sat down and finished reading the paper while he picked glass out of his hair.

Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, doofus,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into a gaping, shattered head, her face completely destroyed, her brains leaking out of the front of her face and onto their clasped hands.

Jim sat, struggling with the translation of the paper. “A most ancient… sorry, no, elder, charm or sign, to use to stopper/prevent/block the movement through a passage/gate/portal by anything… not of the old world? No, that’s old and not of this world. That’s interesting. It almost looks like the Greek translator had trouble with the Arabic here. God I wish I knew Arabic, maybe I should take that next semester,” he muttered to himself as he pulled Adam’s gift from his pocket and laid it next to the parchment. The parchment clearly had a depiction of the amulet on it. It was very precisely the same, in all possible ways, down to what looked like scratches and dings in it. There were a few extra marks on Jim’s necklace, but it was also the case that every mark on the one the parchment showed was also on his necklace. The material looked like pewter. If that was the case, he should be able to squish it pretty easily. He pinched it between his fingernails, and no dent appeared. Okay, well, that means it has a low lead content, it could still be pewter. It certainly doesn’t look like steel or silver. And if the dates on this thing are accurate, it would have been a pretty big deal o make it out of steel. He put it between his molars and bit down on it until he felt like he was about to do damage to his teeth, and then took it out and wiped it on his sleeve to dry it off. No marks at all.

Why am I doing this? he thought. Sure, this thing is probably a (remarkably skillful) reproduction, but even if it is, why am I trying to damage it to prove that? And what if it’s not? This is probably a valuable artifact, and it might be of interest to the University. In fact, I know it is, Professor Rice had this paper on his desk! I could show it to him when the break is over, I’m sure he’d be fascinated. So why was I trying to destroy it? What was I afraid of?

He shook his head and a piece of bloody glass fell out of his hair and onto the parchment. “Oh. Right,” he said out loud. “Too bad you can’t stop lightning from entering a window, eh, mr portal-plugger?” he said, addressing the necklace. He brushed the glass off the parchment, tried his best to dab the blood up with his sleeve, and stood up. He momentarily considered putting the sheet back in Professor Rice’s office/the Glass Pit, and then decided against it, rolled it up, and stuck it in his jacket pocket. He was about to do the same with his necklace when he thought better about it. He shrugged and put the necklace on. As he did so, his tinnitus faded - he had been hearing an awful, thin whining, like somebody continuously blowing a single note out of a flute, which he had attributed to his ears recovering from the thunder. He was glad to have it stop. He grabbed his cane and hobbled slowly into the corridor to search for the others, making judicious use of the wall as support. He wondered which would be better; to have his cane and his leg, complete with glass injury, or to just have the glass injury and an otherwise normal leg, and no cane? He used counter factuals like this to try to cheer himself up, and this was one of the few times it actually worked.

Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, lazy bones,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into an empty, eyeless skull where her face should have been.

Tiny mouths filled from edge to edge with teeth like needles, filling the mouth completely, not just on the normal jawbone arch, gave quick, sharp bites on Molly’s legs and ankles. The creatures were darting in and out of range quicker than she could see, with sounds like someone rapidly breathing through a straw. It was like being mauled by piranhas: none of the bites individually were very bad, but there were just so many of them, and they were so fast… she stumbled backwards, trying to kick at them, and unwittingly moved under a tree. A dozen more jumped down on her quicker than she could see, quicker than it seemed gravity should be able to move them. They were darker than the shadows and it seemed like she had only been able to see them when the lightning had struck because they were the one thing not illuminated. While jumping down on her from the tree had allowed them to get more bites in on her arms and torso, it proved to be a fatal mistake. She grabbed one by its strange, icy tail - its fur felt like flexible slivers of glass - and slammed it into the tree. With a sound more like a popping than a snap, something inside it broke, and it went limp. All of a sudden, the attacks stopped. She looked at the creatures surrounding her. She waved the corpse of their comrade at them. “Yah, y’all don’t want none o’ this, do yah? Ah’ve et squirrel befoah and ah’ll do it again yeh little rat bastahds!” She waved the corpse again and moved it towards her mouth, baring her teeth. The animals bared their teeth as well, and reared back. For a moment, they stood like that, in a standstill. Then Molly followed through on her bluff and bit into the tiny animal. She immediately regretted it - its fur felt even worse on her lips than in her hand, and when she pierced the skin, a glowing blue liquid that tasted like even more bitter bile spewed forth. Something like a gasp seemed to echo from the creature’s living companions, and then they one by one rapidly closed their mouths and disappeared into the darkness with a shwooping sound. When they were all gone and she had waited long enough to be confident they weren’t stalking around her for a sneak attack, she threw the corpse down, spit out as much of the hair and strange blood as she could, and picked the rest out of her mouth. One of the needle-like hairs had actually gone clear through her lip. Strangely enough, it didn’t hurt, and the spot where it had been didn’t seem to have a hole that she could find with her fingers when she probed her lip with them. She spat some more, until she felt she wasn’t getting any more of the blood out of her mouth, looked around (where did the corpse go?), wiped her hands on her pants, said “Well. That’s a bit more like it, then, isn’t it. Chin up, that’s a good lass,” and exited the greenhouse.

Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, sleepy head,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into a dark, bottomless hole to nowhere, a gaping, endless void where her face should have been.

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Fri, 10 Jan 2014 16:00:02 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-7
Tales from Miskatonic part 6 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-6 Professor James Ellery, Adam, Molly, and Jim left the lecture hall and entered a hallway. It seemed oddly incongruous with the door they had just left, and extended out further than expected. Molly looked around, confused, and picked a door at random to go in. Adam shouted after her “Wait! I don’t think-” but she was through the door and into the other room already. Adam hurried after her. When Professor Ellery took a different turn, Jim started to follow him, then turned around and started to follow Adam and Molly, then turned around again. “Wait! I don’t think she would split up. Something weird is… where did you guys all go?” he shouted, to no response. He turned back in the direction Molly and Adam had gone. A door down the hall that way was swinging in place. Jim hobbled that way and opened the door and passed through.

The portal device had been scanning the skies for a full day at this point. To do this, it had opened a series of small portals, looked through them, shut them down - or at least, it was supposed to - readjusted itself, and repeated the process, each time narrowing in on its target. In the process, the local geometry of the normal, every day world of matter near the portal device, had grown warped. Things had rearranged themselves. Doors led to places they hadn’t before, and it was only through the merciful inability of the human mind to directly observe the world as it is - our senses filter out an enormous amount of information that we could not deal with if we were forced to process it all - that this had not been immediately obvious. The picture painted on the mind by the brain-eye team was one of a building with incongruous rooms, a patchwork collection of places picked up and dropped together from various parts of the local geography - all throughout the University. This was just the closest-to-sane approximation that the human brain could come up with. The truth was something far worse, and utterly incomprehensible. The degree that they did not comprehend it, the wandering students did not suffer.

Adam was beginning to panic. He was increasingly certain that this was not any building he had seen on campus before, and he had started to recognize individual rooms as he ran heedlessly through the maze, searching for Molly. His prized willpower and determination were the only things keeping him from a full panic, and he was uncertain what he would do if he found an exit before he found Molly. He moved headlong through hallway after hallway, a storage room, a student lounge, a room containing fossils, seemingly lifted from the museum, a wing of the library, and then into a corridor containing busts of all the Deans of previous years. He stopped to catch his breath and see if he could recognize anything around him, when lightning struck perilously close by. He jumped in fright, bumped into one of the pedestals carrying a bust, set it to wobbling, and started a chain reaction. The pillars fell, knocking each over like dominoes. He ran around the room, trying to catch them, and when the last one teetered on top of the tallest pedestal behind him, he did not see it, and when it fell, the granite model of the current Dean’s head colliding with his own, it hit him harder than any football player had. His knees buckled and he blinked away stars, trying to retain consciousness.

Molly opened the dark wooden door into a lush greenhouse. Small animals she couldn’t quite see rustled in the undergrowth and the branches overhead. She strode through the garden. She’d known that Miskatonic had a greenhouse, but she hadn’t ever been inside it before. She hadn’t even been sure where it was. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that its location didn’t make much sense, architecturally. The great glass wall seemed like it butted up against where another room was, if she remembered the layout of the hall correctly. Either that or there was a door in the hall which didn’t lead anywhere. But whatever, she wasn’t going to question it, she was just enjoying the warmth and foliage. And if she got to play with the squirrels she could hear moving about, then all the better. She loved small, dumb animals - she joked that was why she liked Adam so much. She spent some time admiring the trees before realizing that she was alone in the room. “Adam? Jim? Professor Ellery? Er, sorry, James?” she called out, but got no response. Just then, a thunderous crack of lightning flashed down, just outside the great glass window. She was facing away when it hit, and the light from it poured into all of the nooks and crannies that before had been barely lit by the heat lamps used to keep the greenhouse warm in the winter. She saw, in stark relief, that there were no squirrels in the room, and the things that were there had iridescent, rectangular pupils, and far too many teeth.

Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, dumbo,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into a horribly deformed slab of flesh barely recognizable as a face. The mouth was more vertical than horizontal, perpetually drooling, only one eye was visible, and the nose was very nearly a smear. It tried to smile at him.

Jim opened the door and found himself in a professor’s office. He recognized it as the office of Professor Warren Rice, his professor of classical languages. He had been in this office many times before, when trying to get help understanding Greek. This wasn’t how he normally got there, though. That hallway didn’t normally lead to this room. Jim wished desperately for a sense of normalcy, and it was perhaps that impulse which made him pick up the copy of T. E. Lawrence’s translation of the Odyssey from the cluttered desk. Underneath it, he saw a scrap of parchment, with a familiar five pointed sigil on it, and a number of handwritten notes. Not picking it up, Jim walked around the table and sat down in the desk. He spread the papers out from around it, and brought his face closer to it to examine it it - it was written primarily in Arabic, but there were notes in Greek surrounding it. The Arabic he had no chance at understanding, but the Greek he could at least try to struggle his way through. “Something about… a barrier? A stopper?” he asked the air, speaking to himself. “A stopper, not quite like a bathtub stopper, that’s βούλωμα, and this is σταματών, it specifically stops… motion through a πύλη, what does that mean, um, a door? No, that’s πόρτα, this is… a gate? A crossing? It’s like a pylon, at the front of an Egyptian temple. Wait, I think it means a porta-” his words were cut short by the thunderous bolt of lightning behind him. It was unfortunate that he was on that side of the desk and couldn’t use it as shelter, but fortunate that his back was turned and he was sitting in Professor Rice’s large, solid backed chair, because the large plate glass window exploded at the force of the lightning bolt. Imploded, really, sending huge shards of razor sharp glass flying into the room. Blades of nearly invisible silicon embedded themselves in the chair behind him, and sliced at his arms, the top of his head, and ears. Everything that wasn’t in the shadow of the chair was in danger. He was frozen by shock and stood stock still for a long moment after the blast, as his sight returned to him - even facing away from it, the room had been blindingly illuminated - and he got a sense of the injuries that had befallen him. His left ear was sliced nearly in two. His arms had mostly superficial cuts on them. His hair had small chunks of glass embedded through them and into his scalp, and he could tell he was bleeding from there. His good leg was untouched, by some miracle that he immediately said a silent “danken G-t!” for, but his bad leg had a number of small cuts on it and a single, large piece of glass embedded an inch deep into his calf. He sat back into the chair gingerly, making sure not to sit in any glass, and reached down and grabbed the sliver of glass. His leg felt oddly numb. He could see the Achilles’ Tendon standing out against his atrophied muscles. The glass had barely missed it. If he wasn’t careful pulling it out, he would permanently injure himself. “Oh no,” he said out loud, sardonically, “If I mess this up, I might not ever walk normally again!” With that, he pulled the piece of glass out in one quick motion and threw it across the room. His leg muscle relaxed; his tendon was fine. He grabbed Professor Rice’s scarf from off the hat stand in the corner, shook it and ran his fingers over it to ensure it wasn’t full of pieces of broken glass (it had a few, which he removed), and wrapped it around his leg as tightly as it could. It made a poor, porous impromptu bandage, but it was better than nothing. He got to one foot, grabbed his cane (which was covered in nicks, but still fully functional, and hobbled out of the room, taking great care that his stock feet not get cut on the shards of glass littering the room. “I understand, you thought I was taking it for granted, I was having too easy of a time walking and so you just wanted to make sure I appreciated it, is that it?” he asked the heavens in a mocking tone.

Adam woke up with Molly standing over him, her hands on her hips. He had a not unpleasant view of her from this angle, and he was glad she wasn’t quite so “forward thinking” as to wear skirts. “Come on, up you get, dork,” she said, reaching down and grabbing his hand. He looked down at the rubble in the hallway and let her help him up. “You’ll have to pay for what you did here,” she said. He was looking down and away from her face while he was standing up, but as she said that, he looked up and into something like the exploded innards of a clock, gears horribly gnashing against each other, springs taught beyond their ability to hold tension, all grinding, grinding incessantly, drawing him in towards it, like it wanted to kiss him.

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Thu, 09 Jan 2014 16:00:01 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-6
Frozen http://sett.com/aesop/frozen Frozen! Everybody's talking about Frozen at the moment, and I just saw it last night so I thought I would chime in.

The Good: The themes of the movie are interesting and innovative, especially for a Disney Princess film. There are a ton of excellent subversions of Disney tropes. Elsa works as an excellent metaphor for depression and/or being a lesbian. The characters are all fun, interesting, and sympathetic. Even the talking snowman is considerably less annoying than I expected. The animation is what you would expect, which is to say, very good. In particular the ice and snow are gorgeous. The whole thing moves along at a breakneck pace, there's certainly never a dull moment. It's great to see a Disney Princess who is actually the protagonist and isn't just there to be rescued. Anna and Elsa are destined to be classic characters, and the family love theme is dealt with splendidly.

The Bad: the plot is fairly weak. Anna and Elsa don't really have particularly interesting visual design, especially with regards to their (extremely similar) faces. I mean, I know they're Disney Princesses, and I know they're sisters, but really, they look way too similar to each other and to the archetype of a, well, Disney Princess. The world is hinted at being interesting, but isn't nearly as developed and explored as I've come to expect from Disney. This is certainly no Aladdin or Robin Hood or Beauty and the Beast. There are bits of the plot that... don't really make sense, and seem to contradict each other?

Most disappointing, though, is the music! The opening song ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FVfTxNqRWE ) sets a fantastic bar, being thematic, powerful, and having a rather unique sound that looked like it would define the feel of the movie. Instead, all of the subsequent songs, especially Let It Go ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk ) which is to Frozen as Circle of Life is to Lion King and Tale as Old as Time is to Beauty and the Beast, is just really bland insipid pop with a few obvious mistakes in terms of lyrics and instrumentation (the lady with ice powers sings "Let it go, let it go, I am one with the wind and ____" Guess what word goes in the blank. "Snow"? Haha nope, it's "sky"!). None of the music in the movie inspired me or moved me at all, which is actually kind of impressive given how much I liked and cared about the characters!

However, when all is said and done, the thing that is interesting and important about Frozen is the characters and the significant reinterpretation of the Disney tropes. And it succeeds quite marvellously at those.

Also, it's preceded by an animated Mickey Mouse short (!) which is actually really good and had me laughing out loud at more than one point (!!). Disney seems to be going all out to synthesize their history and the new form they want to have going forward into the future. It's interesting to watch, to say the least.

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Tue, 07 Jan 2014 21:40:41 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/frozen
My winter outfit http://sett.com/aesop/my-winter-outfit A few years ago, I got into the idea of personal style expressed through clothing. My current winter outfit is probably my favorite of all the outfits I've ever had. It not only looks good, but every piece of it tells a story. I think that the clothing you wear is a grea]]>

A few years ago, I got into the idea of personal style expressed through clothing. My current winter outfit is probably my favorite of all the outfits I've ever had. It not only looks good, but every piece of it tells a story. I think that the clothing you wear is a great way of putting yourself in the mindset of being the kind of you that you want to be, and of showing that to others. It's often neglected by people, especially nerds, and it shouldn't be.

I'm gonna go through my outfit now now, from head to toe.

My hat is just a warm hat that I bought on the street here in Brooklyn. If I could find it, I would be wearing my Hungarian old man hat, but alas I cannot.

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Tue, 07 Jan 2014 19:13:31 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/my-winter-outfit
Tales from Miskatonic part 5 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-5 Doctor Allen Halsey, Dean of the Medical School at Miskatonic University, had told him of someone who had theories similar to his own. Halsey was a narrow minded fool who had thought Ellery’s theories implausible, (what little he knew of them; Ellery was careful not to share his full ideas with small minds. Only Marcia had known their full extent), but he had told Ellery about someone else who may prove useful. Ellery stalked out of the hospital on borrowed crutches, his twisted leg rendered near useless, and when he got to the nearest pay telephone and found the man’s number and address (so close by! Please, God, let this work!), and he called him, and the man answered, and as soon as he understood the situation he rushed over in his car, picked up Ellery from the phone booth, and took him back to the hospital, and then Ellery went back inside and insisted on seeing the body that had been Marcia Ellery alone, and that was when he injected her corpse with the syringe he had been given by Herbert West.

The knowledgeable reader may have an expectation as to what will happen next, but he is encouraged to keep it private lest he spoil things for others. He will also likely find that he was mistaken. This was not the reagents made by West in his later career, which would work their full, though fatally flawed, effect on their own. This was only a preservative. But my god, what a preservative.

Later that day, Ellery was allowed to take the body of his beloved Marcia home. West helped him to move her. West was interested, preternaturally interested, and Ellery, in a fit of protectiveness, snarled at him to stay away from her if he knew what was best for him, and West decided that it was best to leave Ellery to his own investigations, and to keep an eye on him from afar, as one does with academic rivals.

Ellery set up an elaborate facility in his house to care for the now vacant body of his beloved. He kept it cold, far below freezing, in a container he commissioned for just this purpose, in the cellar of his house. The reagent prevented any freezing of the blood, lymph, vitreous humor, or other bodily fluids. Her corpse was preserved better than any other corpse in history had been. A Pharaoh would have been jealous. Alarms were rigged to the room; if a change of even one half of one degree occurred in the temperature, Ellery would be notified, much less if anyone had opened the chamber door. Ellery had kept her there for four long, agonizing years, as he set up what was needed. His other experiments fell by the way side. He stopped taking on assistants; he couldn’t entrust what he was doing to anyone else, it was far too valuable. He read forbidden books far more often than before. Indeed, it seemed they were the only kind of book he read these days. He even fell behind in his reading of the journals of Chemistry, and had to give up his position as an editor on one and a reviewer on three others. His dreams, wherein he had been a passive or perhaps active observer, he now took on the role of an active seeker. He sought out new locations, new peoples, new individuals to question and learn from. Interrogate, really. He was desperate for any knowledge that he felt would aid in his attempts. In his dreams he spoke with many creatures. Fungus based beings that reminded him of the stories of the Abominable Snow-Men, and which complimented him on his preservation technique, and told him they could have helped him if he had come to him before she died, but that now they were as helpless as he. Beings shaped like Yule trees that referenced conversations yet to happen and could not remember ones that had already occurred. A man in a yellow cloak who seemed to delight in his suffering. He glimpsed a series of bubbling spheres whose size he could begin to estimate - it could have been the smallest bit of froth in a beer, or the largest thing he had ever seen - until one of the spheres passed in front of a star and blotted it out, and another passed behind it at the same time, and he saw it was larger than any sun. And then one day he heard a thin piping, and met in his dreams a tall, dark man, dressed like unto a Pharaoh, who finally told him what he wanted to hear. The thing called Nyarlothotep told James Ellery the location of Heaven.

Heaven is in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists know, or will know it, as an inordinately dense and large conglomeration of Dark Matter. Souls, being also made of Dark Matter, are unable to touch anything made of normal matter, once the life-force connecting them uniquely to a single brain is severed. The energy from this severing, like that of splitting an atom, pushes on them - it breaks them free of whatever orbit they were in, and then they are pulled towards the largest object around. In the Milky Way, that is the enormous cluster of Dark Matter at its heart. That is where the soul of every living creature that dies in our galaxy goes: the enormous Black Hole at the center of the Galaxy. That is Heaven.

Nyarlothotep told James Ellery other things as well. He told him how to make a device which would let him see to the center of the galaxy. Like a great telescope - and indeed, he built it by building attachments for the Miskatonic University observatory’s telescope - except that this would not merely magnify the things visible in the distance by means of the light particles which were already traversing to them. Instead, this creation would open a portal from where it was to the location upon which it spied. This would allow one to directly observe the center of the galaxy. The portal would not allow for the transmission of ordinary matter - only Dark Matter, and ordinary light. This meant there was effectively no danger in opening the portal: the air wouldn’t be sucked out of the room, nothing on our end could end up in the center of the galaxy. All that could happen is that we could observe, and that something could come here from there.

The next device that James Ellery built using his dream-given inspiration was one which could allow for the momentary cancellation of gravity, and even the induction of gravity in a different direction. It was horribly difficult, expensive, and inefficient. It had taken him enormous, agonizing efforts to be able to make it able to pull 22 grams at Earth gravity rates. But damn the costs, Ellery was going to put all of his effort and resources into it, and all of Miskatonic University’s, if that was what was needed. Given that he had canceled his other experiments, his total budget was only slightly larger than it had been in previous years, and the administration had not yet noticed that he had stopped publishing. The head of the astronomy department, for his part, had objections to the bulky equipment taking up space in his beloved observatory, but when Ellery shared with him some dream-given insights into the structure of deep space, which careful observation confirmed (though Ellery of course did not say the source of his startlingly accurate conjectures), then he changed his tune. Insights like that did not come along often, and they were well worth sacrificing some storage space and the occasional night on the telescope.

And this was one of those nights. Ellery knew that in order for the portal device to work, for its strange beams to successfully reach the center of the galaxy, an enormous number of celestial bodies needed to be alignment. He had finished the dream-inspired gravity device - the probe, as he had taken to calling it - over two years ago. He had then taken to working on modifying his electro-magnetic brain stimulation devices and attaching feeds for them to the combined probe and portal device. They would be attached to the brain of Marcia’s corpse, and then their feeds would be receiving data from the probe. The stars would align, the portal device would open the portal to the center of the galaxy, the probe would find Marcia’s soul, cancel the gravity pulling it in towards that most final of resting places, and slowly, gently, pull it back into her body. A complicated apparatus of electrodes surrounded her body, which was being warmed back up to 98.6 degrees fahrenheit (though still with West’s preservatives inside of it, so it could stand the warmth without decay). A few electrical needles even punctured her skin and were inside of her muscles, but Ellery comforted himself and assuaged his guilt at this desecration of her body by repeating to himself that needles were used in medical procedures all the time, and that he knew she could handle the pain - she had pierced her own ears so that she could wear the ear rings he had bought her, when he had thought that she would look good in them but hadn’t realized that her ears were unpierced. They had been massaging her muscles electrically, making them twitch and limber up, strengthening and flexing them, preparing them to be a worthy vessel of her mind once again. She was naked, to give the machines the best possible access to her body, but her favorite outfit was lying gently folded over a chair nearby. It had been professionally cleaned just a few days prior. Everything was in preparation. Last night, Eller had turned the portal device on. It didn’t generate the portal immediately, it took time to warm up, power on, and search the heavens for the location it was intended to be aligned to, and then within that to search for her soul. The souls being swept towards the center of the galaxy were made of Dark Matter, and so of course were invisible to the eyes of mere mortals, beings composed of ordinary matter. So Ellery had hooked up the scanning mechanism of the portal device directly to Marcia’s brain. Everyone’s brain is uniquely attuned to their soul - this is why your soul controls your body, and not another, and no one else controls your body - and so by allowing itself to be guided by her brain, the scanner could automatically find her soul, sorting it out from the billions and billions of others that must be working their way towards that great and terrible mass in the center of the galaxy.

Today was the day when the heavenly bodies would align, when the stars are right. Today was that day. The hour was approaching. Ellery had a small radio controlled device in his pocket that would sound when the portal device had identified her soul, which was why he felt comfortable doing inconsequential things like eating pastry with students. The reason he had left her side at all was because, in all of his concerns about her soul, the portal, and the devices, he realized he had forgotten something crucial: the reagent to counter the preservative that West had given her! The preservative, which had kept her body in pristine condition all this time, was something that no living human should have to endure. The reagent that he had developed, building off of West’s work, would flush West’s from her system, and leave her body as regenerated and invigorated as possible. If it worked as it should, it would not only remove all of the toxins in West’s formula, but also leave her body fulfilled and restored to health. She should wake up feeling like she had taken a long nap and eaten a hearty meal. Ellery had forgotten to bring the formula with him, and so he had gone home to search for it, not found it, and was now looking for his office to search for it there. Something seemed strange about his mood. He realized that with the alignment of the planets and stars coming so soon, he ought to have felt panicked, to be horribly upset with himself at having forgotten something so important, but a strange calm had descended on him. He moved as though in a dream. A thin piping, like an uncanny, monotonous flute, was ringing in his ears. He couldn’t remember where he had heard it, but it was thoroughly stuck in his head, and its unearthly tune soothed him in some odd way, giving him the sensation that the universe was aligning itself along his purposes. Nothing could stand in his way.

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Tue, 07 Jan 2014 16:00:02 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-5
Tales from Miskatonic part 4 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-4 Professor Ellery thought of himself as an honest man, though he had to admit to himself that he had just lied to the students. What’s done is done, that’s true, but to say it cannot be undone, that is something else entirely. It is far from certain that what was considered irrevocable in years past must continue to be so in the future. He was aware of recent discoveries showing that a mold - a mold! - might well be able to eliminate most diseases. He had no doubt that one day polio would be cured. These views were not uncommon among learned men. Indeed, in the modern era, to consider anything permanent and ever lasting seemed a sign of an outdated and antiquated world view, or of a weak or ignorant intellect unaware and unobserving of the incredible progress being made in every field of Science, as well as in culture and society at large. The automobile and assembly line had already begun to change the face of the nation’s economy; what learned man thought that their progress would stop where it was now, or stop at the arbitrary borders of nations? None, no one could possibly think such a thing and still be considered a reasonable man. Why, then, did so many of them have their thoughts stop at still other arbitrary borders? What was it about their minds that made them unable to correlate all its contents and follow them to their natural, logical conclusion, and join him in his beliefs and aspirations? Before the invention and discovery of the chemicals used in the embalmer’s arts, the body of a loved one would surely decay as fast as any other meat. But now it could be preserved, almost indefinitely! And it had been demonstrated to the satisfaction of surely anyone who cared to look that electricity, when applied to the limbs of a live man or a dead man alike, made them twitch and leap about as surely as any intentional motion, albeit significantly more clumsily. Who then could doubt that the mind controlled the body by means of electrical stimulation? A motion, a flow of electrons carried from the brain via the nerves to the muscles, made more precise by the tiny size of the nerves and their ability to be layered precisely within the muscles, unlike their crude approximation with electrodes - what more was needed to explain how the brain controlled the body?

What remained, then, was to determine how the mind controlled the brain. Some men, mechanistic, deterministic atheists, of a sort that Prof. Ellery found distasteful, considered there to be no such separate thing as a mind. They thought that what was perceived as a mind was simply the operations of an incredibly complex machine. Their explanations of this he might have perhaps found convincing, were it not for a number of objections he had argued at length with some of them. How could one explain qualia, then? The subjective experience of a mind, which surely did not extend beyond the body during waking life, but which seemed to wander through this world and others during sleep? Who had not dreamed of unknown Kadath, so vivid in sleep, so inaccessible when waking, yet surely no less real than the waking world? Who had not had signs sent to them in sleep, visions of the future, of distant galaxies unseen as yet by waking man, of great alien beings dancing in the darkness to mad, soundless piping? James Ellery had long been fascinated by dreams, and kept a dream journal which he wrote in every morning immediately upon waking. He had started this as a young man shortly before going to University, and had found that after a week he could always remember his dreams, whereas before he had often forgotten them within a few minutes of waking. A few weeks later he had become able to lucid dream-to have dreams wherein one realizes one is dreaming, and is able to control oneself. This seemed to him so eerily similar to the primitive concept of so-called “astral projection” that he felt he had no choice but to read more on the subject. He had attended Miskatonic for his education, in part because he had formed a friendly relationship with some of the faculty, his father being a friend of Dr. Allen Halsey, the aged Dean of the Medical School, and in part to gain access to the locked vaults of the forbidden section of the library, which contained numerous books that he had discovered, in his research concerning astral projection, as rarely but influentially cited primary documents on the subject. Upon becoming a student, he had read all that he could gain access to without arousing suspicion, which to his frustration was not all of them. When he graduated with honors, went to a different Massachusetts university to attain his doctorate, and then returned to Miskatonic as first an adjunct and then tenure track and now full Professor, he had access to all of the books he wished, and plenty of time to read them (thank heavens for hard working lab assistants; he only needed to describe the setup of experiments and then could almost leave them be).

His reading had convinced him fully of at least one thing: that the concept of a “soul” pointed at a real, tangible thing. Tangible may seem like a poor choice of words, but he was convinced it was not. There was a real, actual, physical reality to the soul. Others had done experiments and determined that it even had a precise mass: 21 grams! The soul was not made of the same sort of material as everyday matter. It was not made of protons and electrons. It could not be held in one’s hands. But the soul is hardly the only physical thing that that is true of. Oortz and Zwicky have conjectured that there is a sort of “dark matter”, invisible to humans, incapable of touching ordinary matter, but which still exerts a gravitational pull that can be felt by ordinary matter. Perhaps this is the stuff souls were made of? Professor Ellery was not an expert astrophysicist, he could not say the hypothesized properties of dark matter for certain, but he had consulted with those who were. He had his own theories, as well. If this is what souls are, then it must have electro-magnetic properties. We know already that the body is controlled by electricity, and the body by the brain, and the brain by the soul. This must mean that the soul is either able to exert electrical or magnetic forces (for really, they are the same) on the body, or that the brain has some sort of organ able to sense the soul, and which the soul can interact with it by. But given that the brain, such as it is, seems to be made entirely of ordinary matter, and that surely the brain cannot be directly controlled by means of gravity - if the gravity around one’s head were to change regularly, that would surely be a hair-raising experience! This left either the nuclear forces or the electro-magnetical. The nuclear forces it seemed clear to Ellery were not the ones responsible. Those only showed up either in the molecular interactions of regular quotidien chemistry, or in the unimaginably small-scale forces of the particles making up the atom. These it seemed to Ellery were both too small and too large to be the mechanism of action for the soul. They were too small, they could only affect the very smallest of components in their immediate vicinity, and they were too large - fine control like the motion of electricity necessary for control of the muscles seemed impossible, given the huge amounts of energy needed to break or form their bonds. This, combined with the pre-existing evidence of the fact that muscles were controlled by electricity, led Professor Ellery to the conclusion that the means by which the soul harnessed the body and set it into motion were most likely to be the electro-magnetic forces. And so that was where he concentrated his investigations.

With the aid of some students eager for extra credit, even if that meant being the subject of strange science, he had performed a series of experiments. Though they seemed to straddle the divide between chemistry and biology, he had his tenure now and could do as he liked. Plus, he had other, more mundane experiments being performed by his assistants, and as long as he kept churning out publications at a regular rate, the University didn’t mind what he did. Indeed, his papers soon became so well received that he found himself moving up the ladder, and with the retirement of his predecessor, he found himself Chair of the Chemistry Department. Though he now had almost unfettered freedom and a budget large enough to perform any experiment he wanted, he still kept the true nature of his beliefs secret to nearly all, save his wife Marcia. He knew from bitter experience that talk of astral projecting and of using science to study souls was not well received, in the scientific or theological communities. There were some in the esoteric circles he occasionally visited that took to his work, but they were usually far too ignorant to be of any help or interest to him.

The experiments he performed were as such: he built a series of contraptions which would hook onto a person’s head. There were two types. The first contained electrodes placed in various parts around the head, which, when the device was hooked to the control panel he had developed, allowed for the conductance of electricity throughout the brain. The second device was quite similar, save that it used magnetic field generators instead of electrical ones. In this instance, a powerful, well organized magnetic field was directed through various parts of the brain, again at the control of the panel that he had developed.

The results were astonishing. Depending on the location, intensity, and which end was north and which end south (for the magnets; the electrical equivalent was which end was a cathode and which an anode), he was able to implement a wide variety of effects. At first these were only the very crude: he actually knocked his guinea pig unconscious with his first effort. Soon it became more precise, though still only destructive (the fact that all the harmful effects seemed negative was one point he was eternally grateful for. He doubted if even tenure could save him if he had killed a student). By stimulating precise areas, he was able to increase or decrease ability in certain fields, such as arithmetic. Most fascinatingly, he could induce temporary blindness. One of the most fascinating aspects of this, and which to him seemed sure evidence that he had demonstrated the separateness, the divisibility of the soul and the body, was that after a great deal of tinkering, he could induce what was perceived by the explicit, verbal mind, as being blindness - that is, if asked, the student would declare they could see nothing - but which seemed to the body to be regular sighted ability! He discovered this by accident one day, when he dropped the wrench he was using to adjust the panel, and the supposedly blind patient’s arm jerked out of the way. He tested if further, eventually going so far as to show them a picture, say of a cat, ask them what it was (“I can’t tell, I can’t see anything”) and then asking them to draw it. While still insisting the entire affair an exercise in nonsense - how could one draw something without knowing what it was or being able to see it? - they still produced legible, if crude, drawings of a cat. The drawings were always imitations of the one shown. This told him that the thing which was doing the drawing was the body itself, which could see, and could hold a pen, but could not access the mind - the soul - ‘s conception that it was a drawing of a cat, and so could not draw a different cat, or the same cat from a different angle. These effects persisted no matter what variables he attempted to control for, and he continued his experiments until he became overwhelmingly convinced that he was on to something powerful, incredible, and fundamental. He did not have any definite, practical applications of this yet, but he was certain they would come, and in the meantime, he was sure that his findings were going to revolutionize the way in which the body and mind were understood by science.

He had finally decided that he had enough data to write up what he had been doing and submit it to a prestigious academic journal, and was out on the town celebrating with his wife, when it happened. They had eaten at a new seafood restaurant that had opened recently and which her friends had been telling her was wonderful. She had had crab for the first time in her life. She had always wanted to try crab. During the meal she felt slightly uncomfortable, but tried to hide it - this was a special night celebrating his accomplishment, and she did not want to tarnish it in any way. Eventually it became too much for her to conceal, and when he asked her what the matter was and she told him, he cut their dinner short so as to take her home to rest. As they were walking home, hand in hand as they always did, she collapsed in his arms. This was no mere faint. He held her, cried out to her, called for help, and laid her down in the street and did the chest-compression exercises he had seen as a means for rescuing her. Her breathing came in ragged gasps, growing every fainter. Her face was swollen and covered in red hives. Her whole body was swelling, filling her well tailored clothes grotesquely. When the chest compressions failed, and no one answered his cries for help, he picked her up - he, a man crippled by polio, picked up his wife, who weighed two stone more than him and had stood a head higher - and ran with her six city blocks to the hospital. By the time he got there his mangled leg was an agonizing inferno of fire and needles, like knives heated in a kiln and shoved through him at every angle. He hardly noticed. He carried her in to the hospital, where the nurses and doctors leapt up and took her from him, and as he collapsed he refused to answer questions about himself, and would only tell them what had happened to her. He lost consciousness when she was being wheeled away into the emergency room.

He awoke the next day in a hospital bed, his leg re-set into a brace. He had dreamed that the two of them were walking along when a horrible, red tentacled monster, with skin like a rash and a shell covering its body, its tentacles covered in claws, had grabbed her and pulled her away from him into Outer Space. She screamed for him to help her as she was dragged away, until she reached the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, where the lack of pressure robbed her of her voice and made her blood vessels expand horribly, puffing out her body and tinting it a terrible bloody color. He screamed her name until she disappeared. When he regained consciousness, for a brief, blissful moment he thought that she had never really died, that the entire day before had been part of his dream. Then he realized she wasn’t lying next to him, and that he was in a hospital bed, instead of his traditional four-poster mahogany that she had chosen for them during their engagement. He cried out for a doctor, and a nurse ran into the room to ask what was the matter. He tried to clamber out of bed, but his leg was bound in place and he stumbled. He asked over and over where Marcia was, whether she was okay, what had happened, what had happened, what happened, but this nurse didn’t know. She hadn’t been there when he had arrived with Marcia, she didn’t even know he was there on behalf of his wife. How could she not know? How could it not be plain that Marcia was the most important thing here, in this hospital, on this whole planet? In all of the planets, on all of the worlds in all of the universe, Marcia was the most important thing, how was that not obvious? The nurse went and found the doctor who had admitted Marcia. When he entered, Professor James Montgomery Ellery saw the look on his face, and he knew that Marcia Jessica Ellery nee Schwartz, Marcia of the black hair and green eyes, Marcia who knew the only place he was ticklish, Marcia who could always beat him at chess, Marcia who made apple pies even better than his mother, Marcia who was 3/4ths done with her first novel that would surely have been a hit even if they had had to publish it under his name, but now it would never be done, he couldn’t finish it, he couldn’t write fiction, he didn’t understand how, he didn’t even know the ending, she had insisted that she wouldn’t tell him until she had written it, Marcia, Marcia, his beloved Marcia, this fool of a Doctor was trying to tell him that he would never see her again, that he would never get to speak with her or hold her and feel her hold him back, that she was cold and would always be cold (she hated the cold! She always wore two sweaters, even indoors!), that she would never be warm, that he would never again hear her laugh, this Doctor, who does he think he is, what medical school did he go to, he’s a quack, obviously a lunatic, James Ellery was also a Doctor, he should be let in to see her, what do you care if he has a Doctorate in chemistry, he’s done things with living and dead organisms that your feeble mind could not even comprehend much less invent on your own, let him, let him in, let him see her, for all of the mercy in God’s creation, let him see her one last time!

And then he did, and he broke down and cried, and would have cried forever if he had not remembered something very important.

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Sun, 05 Jan 2014 16:00:02 +0000 http://sett.com/aesop/tales-from-miskatonic-part-4