From Unknown Vistas
I have been reading the complete collection of H.P. Lovecraft. From the way things are going, it might be the only book I read this year. Nevertheless, I’ve been really enjoying it. I love his worldbuilding, his themes, and the motifs that keep popping up in all of his tales. So, I decided to write a short story inspired by his work. Let me know what you think. I have no doubt I’ll be writing more stories like this in the future.
For all of history, humans have examined the world and defined it, putting all of our collective discoveries into neat little boxes, styling ourselves as mechanics, presented with an unknown mechanism, and tasking ourselves with the solemn quest of identifying each particular cosmic piece, so that once each part is laid out and subjected to the microscope, the form and function of each will then be revealed. And once we’ve applied enough effort to this task, the true order of the universe will then be laid bare and humanity will be unmatched.
This is how we see ourselves, but what most don’t realize is that this grand notion of ourselves is a terrible lie. The truth is that there are things out there that hide just beyond the veil of human perception that would horrify us and inevitably bring about our downfall. If the scales were ever to fall and our eyes subjected to the horror that lingers, we would retreat back into our hovels, never to venture out into the cosmos again. We would see ourselves for what we really are, blind madmen, fumbling around in the dark, grasping at bits and baubles, jamming sharp rocks together in the hopes that they fit, until we’re snuffed out of existence by forces that barely acknowledge our existence.
For most of my life, I held true to the idea that the universe was a thing with definable edges. I was ever the realist, spending my days manning a modest practice in Ripley, Maine, fixing scrapes and prescribing meds to retirees. I had no interest in the divine. Suffering no mixture of Catholic guilt and familial duty, unlike my ex-wife, Imelda, who dutifully attended mass every Sunday. I never bothered myself with such inane pursuits. Instead, I ventured out on the pond just down the road and daydreamed. This was my church. This is where I found God.
For weeks, this practice of mine came and went as uneventfully as the lake itself, almost frozen in its existence. Then, last Sunday, something occurred. It wasn’t my usual custom to take my journal with me to the pond. I had been getting decent sleep the week before, after a nasty bout of extended insomnia. I felt my grip on reality strengthening, but some combination of luck and disorganization meant that I had it on me when I cast off from the lake’s shore, letting my pontoon gently drift along the still waters. I remember thinking to myself how quiet the world was that morning, no breeze to rustle the leaves and no songbirds to carry me off, yet before long I was out.
It was music that peaked my awareness first, a siren song seemingly born of the tunes sung by harpies long ago that would lead would-be explorers mortally astray. This ethereal seance led me deeper into the lake’s bowels, which had grown significantly in my dream state. As I drifted farther along those tepid waters, the eery tune grew stronger drawing me to its source below the surface. As I leaned over the edge of my boat to peer into the watery depths, I saw the image of a great city splayed out before me, now consigned to ruin by the waves. Still, the music grew stronger and stronger, drawing me below. As the cold water covered my skin, I swam as best I could, reaching a depth that was far beyond possibility for a lake this size and a swimmer as advanced in years as myself.
My feet eventually swept the lake floor, allowing me to stand upright with little effort. Water filled my lungs, but I could feel my body draw its needed oxygen, keeping me alive and allowing me to proceed further. The ancient city laid out before me—surely cast aside by some terrible tsunami or earthquake—was vast, with pathways linking to roads connecting to prehistoric boulevards, crisscrossing my entire field of view. Remnants of all sorts dotted the horizon, hinting at the hustle and bustle of a city of old. In the distance, almost defiantly, one structure towered above the rest. As I drew closer to this proud acropolis, the intricacies of it convinced me that this must be a temple. As I approached, the eerie tune swelled driving a spike of fear into my mind. All of this felt so real, so tangible, and yet at this moment I could feel my mind telling me that this was a dream. Looking back, if only I had retreated from that watery tomb, I would’ve been none the wiser. Nevertheless, I proceeded through the archway leading into the temple recesses.
The music I had been tracking was loud enough now to make out some repeated phrases, or at least groupings of sounds that seemed like words since the particular language was unfamiliar to me. As best as I can approximate, the lyrics went, “Akanth gacor doehs et rakeet. Hiranis jests entui,” over and over again. The repetition unnerved me, but I hadn’t long before I finally happened upon its source. Before me in a great hall, a gathering of figures moved wildly, darting in and around archaic pillars, jolting their limbs back and forth, grappling each other then letting go while that grim refrain echoed out, louder than ever.
Every instinct in my body careened for the other direction, yet I drew closer. My conscious wished for this all to end, screaming, “Wake up. Wake up. Wake up!” but my being had slipped from my control, my limbs joining in with the undulating mass until suddenly the throng stopped, silence penetrating the massive expanse. That’s when I saw the twisting, writhing, slumbering thing stir, its full countenance incomprehensible since I could only catch a glimpse of it amidst a mass of tentacles. Then, the great eye of this beast opened, taking in its subjects. I could do nothing else but lay prostrate in its presence, yet I could feel its callous gaze upon my back. It somehow knew me, though I be an ant, alive only by its good graces.
Some insane notion possessed me to lift my head and peer back for a brief moment, matching the tentacled leviathan’s gaze. What stared back at me was a visage surrounded by many maws and tentacles, miles long in length. As I continued to stare, drawing this singular moment out into oblivion, I could feel a rubbery appendage slipping around my chest, and then another and another around my neck and my face, and as it became harder and harder to breathe, my vision darkened…
…and then I woke up, a gasp of fresh crisp air filling my lungs, beads of sweat dotting my brow. Without another thought, I relayed what I had just experienced in my journal, as best as I could remember. I spent the next several days in a restless waking state, but it wasn’t until a week later that I decided to leave that cursed lake forever. That following Sunday morning, as I was sipping the last dregs of a terrible cup of coffee, I grabbed the remote. Before I could switch off the TV, I noticed a report that caught my eye. It talked of a peculiar creature, washed up on a beach in southern Australia, and as they showed it, I could feel the color drain in my face and the world grow hot and damp. It was the severed tentacle of that great and terrible creature in my dream.