I. An Unnamed Danger
It is a great mercy and a great pity that our human, fleshy bodies and minds, filled with oozing and settling effluence, bladders and shadow pockets, are entirely incapable of fully putting together all the true horrors of existence, such as that we are fleshy bodies filled with oozing, settling, bladders, pockets and horrors. Mostly we are filled with blood.
But our horror is not that we are filled with valves and pistons and all manner of grotesque viscera and fluids, but that we may one day lose them. It is a great irony that the moment we lose our blood, we seem to never really want it in the first place, and shun any and all pools of blood, despite the blood’s possible ability to transport oxygen to our organs with perfect efficiency. Were we to be so lucky to see blood rain freely from the heavens like manna, no doubt our foolish human minds would internally scream, and instead of rejoicing that lifeblood flows from the heavens, there would be instead a great number of gnashings of teeth and shrieks of terror. How foolish we are.
But I am not here to talk of blood falling from the heavens in some sort of miraculous godsend, for that has definitely not happened, and it is of no use to entreat me to speak of its possibility any further, because as I mentioned, it has definitely not happened, and also, because this is a piece of writing. It is neither a literary manifestation of a telephone or some form of static instant messenger. If you were to speak your answer at your screen now, for example, I would not hear it. The only way for me to hear it is for you to whisper it in the space between sleep and waking, when all our dreamscapes are enjoined in the screaming maw and utter silence of infinite nothing, and even then I might not get it. It may simply be swallowed by the inky blackness, or I might be otherwise engaged.
I am here, however, to connect several events that you may never have thought of connected – for I noticed their connection by pure chance, while glancing over the inky black pages of the Necronomicon, which you can find fragmented in most local newspapers. The words are scattered as a cypher throughout the pages known as “letters to the editor”. You may rest assured that shiver of apprehension that you feel as you read the letters is universal amongst all beings who know suffering. Those who feel nothing are not beings that we should associate with. Those who write those letters are gleaming black creatures, pulsing with the blood and breath of all the creatures they have slain in the dark of moonless nights.
I saw in these mixed and muddled letters what may seem to you a mere trifle – that a tree in a shopping mall was dying, and was without saviour. But when I saw this, I knew that our sleepy little hamlet was not quite so sleepy, nor quite so little. In the great scheme of things, beyond even the scope of the earth, our hamlet was in fact a great beacon in the darkness of space.
When I saw this story, I was shocked – trees, as we all know, are an important part of the carbon cycle. But that is not all – as we creatures of flesh are a part of the carbon cycle, we are also in some small part a part of the water cycle. In that same way trees are also a part of the shadow cycle, though rather thandepurify water, as we humans do, they filter out shadows and evils beyond our imagining, keeping us safe from the geometry and angles that we are incapable of understanding, the things that would turn us into dribbling fools and gibbering apes. Death would be a mercy from such suffering, and if we are turned to such madness, it is a mercy to be killed. We must kill even our friends and families if they are turned to such beasts. But I’m sure you all know this. It’s year three paranormal sciences.
I am here to tell you, however: the death of this tree was not merely a sign of negligence, but a manifestation of shadows and evils. Gnashing and gnawing may soon become a reality if we refuse to act.
Tremendously aged trees die of natural causes the world over. Trees also die of preternatural causes, and in doing so, they release what our tiny human minds might perceive as demons. But such a human naming is insufficient, for demons are beings beyond our imagining. This is that great mercy I mentioned in the first paragraph. Were we to see those beings as they truly were, our reaction might be as if we saw a man without skin, only magnified, without adesensitisation.
No, trees do not seal away demons. They seal away aliens. This word, too, is not particularly sufficient, but it is more sufficient than the crude word “demon”. We might see aliens in our minds eye as grey – but this is not true. Aliens are in fact black. Not in the sense that person could be black, mind you, but black in the sense that one day everything will become black. Black like the eventual heat death of the universe, which is inevitable. Lament. Black in the sense that all things devoid of essence become black. Lament. Black as in nutrient free poop. Lament.
I have done my research, in the state library, reading about the history of this tree, reading about the history of the suburb, about its affluence. Rich beyond imagining, this suburb is filled with people who make money, who spend money, and sadly, people who respond letters to the editor. This is all the confirmation I need to know that this suburb is in fact a shrine of shadows, filled not with people, but with beings who subconsciously write the cypher of the Necronomicon in their letters to the editor. Their irate status is not as it appears. They are not rich, disgruntled and privacy loving humans, but hissing bat creatures that have no soul. No shadow is deeper than that cast by a resident of Blurnside.
A deeper shadow, still, resides under the earth, sealed away by this tree, which is years old, its trunk engorged by riches that the shadow cycle bestows upon it, engorged by the evil it seals away. Underneath resides a being, this much I knew, simply by the tree’s age, but I could find no books on the subject. I had found the names of many books in the state library which might give a name to the unnameable horror that lies sealed by this tree, but all of them, when I had tried to find them, were missing – presumably destroyed by the hissing bat creatures of Blurnside, assuming that their gibbering forms could congeal for long enough to enter the threshold of a library before they must once again, feed.
All I know is that there is a being, sealed underneath Blurnside, and the creatures who live in the suburb are shrieking gibbering bat monsters pay homage. They hide it in capitalist consumerism, but in the corner of your eye you might see a person look at the tree intently, you might see a person lift their wrists, and you might forget that they slash their wrists and bleed not red blood, but a thick black substance, like tar, only with a putrid stench. This is why the tree withers.
No-one remembers, because they do not want you to remember. They can make you forget.
Their leader is a politician. He would have you think he is human, but I have found literature that suggests otherwise. He is more than a slavering bat beast. He is what we might call the devil incarnate. He would have you believe he has children – but these poor things are kept against their will. The demon’s name is Christoph Payne.
II. A Diary of a Stranger
I was fortunate to find one fragment of a book, hidden in between the pages of another book in a different section. I had been reading up on the supernatural, in the hopes that though I may not name the horror underneath Blurnside, I might still be able to vaguely guess and prepare myself, though preparation might only be suicide. It was wedged between the pages of another book named The Unspeakable Gibbering Horror Oh God, Jesus Christ. The fragment was without title, as far as I could tell, the letters not printed, but scrawled in a slanted script in red ink. What follows is what I found:
— and as one of the oldest suburbs Blurnside is filled with families older than any other. The lineage of many can be traced back to the first settlers, but for some there are no bloodlines at all. They simply seem to be.
1909 March 19th
There is a great terror in the streets, though what it is, I cannot say. All I speak to seem to profess their lack of knowledge, but their eyes speak a volume of difference. In some eyes I see fear and terror, and in others I see a cold and gleaming anger.
I was talking to an old man named Christoph P. who many know as a man about town, and I asked him how long he had lived here, and he had answered evasively, and when I asked him about the mysterious disappearance of babies, he had looked me in the eyes with a coldness I knew that was inhuman. He spoke, and I heard words, but also heard something else, like an almost silent scream on the edge of hearing. A horrible murmuring. When he stopped speaking, I shivered. When he left my presence, I vomited black bile.
I have asked others about the disappearance of the children, but they seem ignorant. When I went back to my dearest wife, Margaret, she no longer seemed to remember that we had ever had a child, though she seemed filled with an unspeakable sadness. Oh God! Am I the only one who remembers having a baby at all?
At night shadows surround our house. The shriek and scream, and my wife and I cling to each other in the night. Lately, however, she clings less tightly. She seems just as afraid, but less willing to fight.
I have found a place that I dare not go at night, and I can barely stand during the day. It is near the main street, in an abandoned spot. It vibrates, pulses. I know there is something underneath.
1910 May 15th
My wife is dead. One night she simply left, when the screaming and shrieking was at its peak, and she never returned. There were no screams from her, but there was a crescendo in the unearthly shrieks, and then a sudden hush. I have not been visited again by the beings. I haven’t slept since, either.
Christoph visited my house again. He seems younger than before. He visits every day, and the visits seem more and more aggressive, as if he wants something from me. I cannot give to him what he wants, for I know not what he wants. When he speaks, I know he is asking for something, even if he is simply mentioning the weather. There is something on the edge of hearing.
Nobody remembers my wife. There was no funeral. There was no body.
1910 May 17th
Mr. Payne came again today. I slammed the door in his face. The whole house shook as if there were an earthquake, and the sunlight dimmed. My disgust with Payne was overridden for my concern for my fellow man, but when I opened the door to see if he was okay, where he stood were simply some scorch marks.
I visited the abandoned site today. There is a small crack in the earth where the darkness seems to seep. It needs to be covered up. Having a basic school education, however, I know that I will have to plant a tree there, as they grow fat through the absorption of shadow essence, as we are all taught in grade five preternatural sciences.
1910 May 20th
I have planted the tree. For the first time in months, I slept. It was brief however, for I was awakened by the shrieking. They have come back. They have come for me.
1910 July 8th
They still come. They will not be silenced. I will be strong. Christoph hadn’t visited for the longest time. Now he visits daily. Sometimes more. I say that he has visited far too frequently, but he ignores me, and tries to enter the threshold. I do not let him in.
1910 August 1st
I have held out for the longest time. I have found out the name of their god. It is no god. It is a demon. It is a beast. It cannot be pronounced by human tongues. It is an evil name. Kphlupthy. That this name was ever put to paper, may God forgive me.
Tonight, I walk out, without fear, to join my wife. May this journal be of use to another if my safeguard should fail.
It storms outside, but it is nothing to the storm inside.
This is what I read, in horror, as I made the connections between our time and his. It was the same Christoph that lived then that lives now. Suckling on the blood of babes, he has been given power as a politician. And worst of all, the tree that has lasted a full century can no longer seal away the great power of the beast who now has a name – Kphlupthy.
When I tried to pronounce it, all I made was a foolish farting sound, like a raspberry, only it was an inky black raspberry, but not like poop kind of inky black. Like godless, soulless inky black raspberry. This unpronounceable name was the name of the beast that was sealed underneath the tree – and I had to stop it.
I also had to wonder at how lucky I was, that all the information I needed had been found in the one spot, and also by pure chance. It was as if divine providence had sent it to me. Were there benevolent forces, just as there were evil, inky black forces?
No. No there were not. It was just completely and utterly luck. I don’t even know why I posed the question. We’ve also been over my ability to answer your questions. We are alone in this universe, except that we are bothered by evil preternatural forces, so we are not alone when we would very much rather be alone, much like a bullied child in a school yard, only the bullies are shadow best terrors whose bullying consists of simply being the screaming maw of infinity.
What question arises now is how to deal with the death of the tree? I had no choice but to investigate for myself the very spot that the journal spoke of. At night, for if the journal is to believed, that is when the place is most potent. Also, I feel it may add a sense of urgency. What follows will be what happens there.
III. The Call of My Duty
I entered the Blurnside Shopping Centre at night with relative ease. A steady stream of people were entering, only they weren’t people. They were the gibbering bat beasts that I have given mention to in previous chapters. Fortunately for me, their ignorance of how other bat beasts behave allowed me to blend in by a simply flapping of my arms, some general slavering, and plenty of gibbering.
The steady stream lead exactly where I expected it to lead, and each bat beast in turn gibbered at the foot of the tree as if it were an altar to which they must pay homage. In their gibbering language I had no doubt that Kphlupthy was an easy word to speak, for I heard no farting sounds come from their mouth, nor from their buttholes. This is not to say that they did not stink.
I had not noticed, but several babies – not human babies, fortunately – were thrown onto the tree trunk, shrieking and gibbering like their parents. They seemed to be able to speak the gibbering bat people language, only they sounded smaller and insignificant. In order to blend in, when the time came, I gibbered at the foot of the tree, too, and then stood aside, waiting for the steady stream of gibbering bat people to step aside.
Finally, the stream became a trickle, until finally there was but one gibbering bat-being left. Or, at least, I had thought it was a gibbering bat-being until he was standing at the foot of the tree, and instead of wings, he held aloft his human arms, though there was something decidedly inhuman about him.
It was my first time seeing him in the flesh, but I knew instantly it was Christoph Payne. In the shadow of the night he seemed older than the TV made him look, but when he spoke, his voice was no less unearthly, no less eerie, and higher than such a body’s voice should be.
“Kphlupthy,” he shrieked, rather than gibbered, in a revelation that not all hellions speak gibberish. “Rise! Now! Kphlupthy! Rise! Now!”
For a few minutes it seemed like this three word rhetoric would continue until the end of time, echoing against the chamber of my skull, unimpeded by the mass of flesh within, penetrating that cerebral matter at angles heretofore unknown, but finally a deathly hush entered the glen, and everyone, besides Christoph Payne, lay prostrate, as if worshiping the tree. Or Christoph. Not wishing to be noticed, I followed suit.
His arms still aloft, Christoph produced a knife, perhaps from his sleeve, and commenced slicing at his wrists. There was a decided artfulness to it, and even with such little light, it was possible to see such geometry in his cuts, such precision, that I knew there was something more than political suicide to each slice. Blood ran down his sleeves, and slowly but surely began to drip on the earth surrounding the tree. Each drip pierced the utter silence, echoing in the mall like only unearthly blood can. It was accompanied by an odor so foul that the presence of fecal matter might be a blessing. Was it from the blood? Yes, I answered my own question, remembering that this was a short story, not a telephone.
I had no time to ponder telephones before the situation began to change, however. Christoph was no longer holding his hands aloft. Or rather, his hands were still aloft, but they were no longer where they once were. A grinding noise, like stone upon stone, now drowned out the sound of the dripping of blood, and it seemed as if Christoph was sinking into the Earth. Truly, however, there seemed to be a mechanism, pulling Christoph down, like some sort of elevator. It was now that the host of bodies around me began to rise, and with an imperceptible whispering, began to urge each other on, to follow Christoph into the depths of the Earth.
Every fibre of my being wished to run, wished to escape, but to do such a thing would mean death, would mean my life was forfeit. My horror must grow before it might diminish. So I too stood up, and whispering gibberish, as quietly as possible, I joined the queue, last, but for one follower of Christoph.
The odor that hat hit my nostrils before grew in pungency, and I wished to vomit, but no other follower seemed bothered, so I had to swallow not simply fear, but the rising bile that accompanied it. We shuffled slowly to the entrance of the hole, which appeared to be a circular set of steps, without a centre. The centre must have been where Christoph slid down, and we were to follow him by foot.
I know not how long we walked down those stairs, but it was a time that I wish banished from my memory, the shuffling of the feet, the low imperceptible bat-gibbering. The walls were adorned with writings I did not recognise, in shapes I did not recognise. I know many of the languages of this world, and I know that the writing belonged to none of them. Every now and then, we passed a landing with a door. A low moaning came from some, silence from others, shrieks from the worst. But there was no light to see in through the barred holes in the doors.
There was, however, a dull greenish glow to the stairwell itself, revealing the faces of the hooded figures in our line. I recognised faces, bat-like, but still human enough to pass out in the daylight. Each of them was sharper than the other. I was surrounded by the financial elite, the ones who ran the council, the ones whose business was so secretive. There were a few faces I didn’t recognise, and I thanked my stars that I was second to last, so that I may remain among them unnoticed.
Finally, when the odor was at its most foul, we reached the bottom, and standing in the centre of the stair well to greet us was Christoph. He was as naked as can be – I dare not say the day he was born, for I am certain he was not born as you or I.
“Kphlupthy welcomes you!” he shrieked. “He welcomes you into his bosom! Tonight is the night that he shall rise, and we who have served him may die first! How benevolent and kind our master is! All praise Kphlupthy!”
His body was covered with markings – markings made in his flesh. It seemed his face was the only place that there was no markings, but he soon changed this, by bringing the knife to his face and cutting underneath his cheeks some further insignias.
He then ushered us into a short corridor, where in stone sconces lay torches, but not torches I was familiar with. They were animated not by electricity, as far as I could tell, and if I were a less informed man, I might guess they were some sort of radiation affected metal. But their glow was too bright and too clear for any such type of metal, and they produced little to no heat, so far as I could tell, for even in the depths of the earth, where we are nearer to the Earth’s core, it was chilly, and I wished to hug myself. My pursuant, however, also being my observer, kept my hands at my side.
Promptly, the corridor terminated. And at the end… Dear reader, I wish that this were not so… at the end of the corridor I saw my nightmares manifest.
IV. The Coo of Kphlupthy
At the end of a corridor was a chamber, an amphitheatre which sloped into a central well, where there was no stage, but a being, and I dare say that this being was the very Kphlupthy that Christoph had wailed about. When our bat host saw it, they shuddered, not with fear, but with some unearthly delight. My shudder of horror, therefore went unnoticed.
To describe Kphlupthy would be my last desire, but I must describe what I saw that perhaps in the describing the madness it inflicts might be lessened.
Dear reader, in that amphitheatre I saw something that should be beyond description, but is summarised by its multitude of features. Imagine two great mounds of flesh, pressed together, like two spheres attempting to be one. In its conjoinment, it looks like one single fleshy sphere, but broken along its centre. Imagine, too, in the centre of that fleshy, broken sphere, deep within that crevasse, a wound – its mouth. From this wound, a dreadful odor was billowing forth, along with a noxious gas, which was clearly visible, from its brown smoggy cloud. All along the crack, too, were tentacles, thin and wiry, like moving fleshy hairs. Its eyes, I could only surmise were either at the top, covered by the shroud that hid the origin of the cleft in that sphere of flesh, or towards its termination below, where the flesh wrinkled together to cover what was certainly where it must keep its legs. I surmised that the eyes must lay somewhere under those folds of flesh, made lazy by the lack of light, grown weak through lack of need.
The most horrible thing of all was that the thing seemed to have no muscle – it simply wiggled from side to side – though it did this infrequently. If it did have muscles, it was where it pulled its flesh in, at its sides, where, had there been a horizontal crevasse, it might make a wicked smile with two gigantic dimples.
My form was shuddering as each follower was summoned forth, beginning with the first, and the second, ad so on. Ushered forth by Christoph, they slowly approached the mass of flesh that was Kphlupthy, and began to climb, slowly and surely, pulling and pinching at the mound of flesh. They looked like mice compared to the massive form of Kphlupthy, and they pulled themselves up through the flesh like vermin. The line was shortening, and it was almost time for me to be called forth before I saw the first of the followers climb into the creature’s mouth.
One by one the creature engulfed them with not so much as a sigh, and finally it was terror that made me act. When it was finally my turn to stand forth, I turned and grappled with the bat-man behind me. Eerily, I met no resistance – it was as if I was wrestling with a skeleton. And when I placed what I suspected was a mortal blow, the bat-man with which I was fighting fell with a clatter. Not as a body, but as a pile.
Christoph’s attention was still on the line, and so he saw my struggle. Though he was directing the line, his attention broke away from his duties as he made off to deal with me. For a moment he stood stock still, with merely his arms pointed at me. Then he opened his mouth and he shrieked his unearthly shriek. He said no words, but I knew that it was a call for the host of bat-beings around me to have me put to death, to be thrown into Kphlupthy’s mouth against my will.
I ran. Up the amphitheatre steps I leapt, two, three, four at a time, until I was at the opening of the corridor. I started running, to get to the stairwell, but the other creatures must have been faster than I had thought, because a creature was upon me before I knew what was happening.
It was light, which was fortunate, but it still had grip, still pulled and clawed at me, trying to strangle me from behind. It was all I could do to claw at the lack of flesh. I rammed my back against the walls of the corridor, and for a moment I thought I was lost – until I found myself face to face with one of the hideous green torches. I pulled it from its sconce and swung at the centre of my back, where the creature was pulling and clawing, and it was on the third strike that the strength of the body seemed to disappear, and the bones clattered to the ground. I was still draped in the cloth, but I threw it from my body, and began to run once more.
I started up the steps, leaping them as I leapt the amphitheatre steps – until I came to the first landing. A gnashing came from within the door, and struck by genius, I cleft the door’s lock in two with my torch, and it swung open. I did not wait around to see what lay within, but I hoped that what gnashed at me might gnash at my pursuants, or even at the horrendous being below, Kphlupthy.
So it went for only Gods know how long, as I stopped every now and then to break a lock or swing at a creature behind me. The attacks grew less and less frequent, and I had thought myself free when I saw the light above me, the grey light of dawn, but when my head broke the surface of the Earth, my final trial had begun.
From the centre of the stairwell rose Christoph, still naked, still covered in ancient runes. As I took my final step, out into the open air, where the wilted tree stood, magnificent and ancient, Christoph leapt upon me.
I threw him off, easily, and as the ground sealed itself once more, we circled each other, each unwilling to strike, each unwilling to run.
“There are others,” he hissed. “Even if you stop me, you will never stop the rise of Kphlupthy! Others will offer themselves at the gaping maw of Kphlupthy!”
I shook my head. “I will stop you. I will stop them.” It sounded foolish, but I had just bested an entire host of enemies. How strong could darkness really be? About as strong as those gibbering bat-people, I suppose. We’ve been over the questions thing.
“And when you die? What then? Who will stop us then?”
“Others,” I said simply. “Others will know of this horror, the horror which you serve.”
“Which many politicians serve,” added Christoph Payne, pointedly. “But people shall never know of this unshakable truth,” he said, “for you shall never live to speak it!”
With this final statement, he leapt at my throat, and I, caught off guard, watched the torch I had been holding, clatter uselessly away. It was merely a struggle now, between two beings, and though I knew myself to be the stronger of the two of us, Christoph was still slick with his malodorous blood, which seeped angrily from his wounds.
I scratched and scrabbled, hoping to gain some purchase, but it was hopeless. My world began to dim. I was glad, though, that in my last moment, I may still be killed in the world of the light, rather than the horrible dungeon that lay below. That I may not live to see the horrors should Kphlupthy rise to power, guided by politicians such as Christoph Payne. Hopelessness had struck.
And then, suddenly, the pressure around my throat ceased, as Christoph was thrown from my body. Prostrate as I was, I could not see what had happened – but when I stood up, it was evident what had happened.
In our tussle, we had knocked against the tree – and the tree, guardian for a century, guarded even in death, for jostled by Christoph and I, the dropped a weakened bough, and that bough had struck its final blow upon Christoph Payne.
The body lay beneath the bough, spasming nudely, until finally, the spasms ceased. I could scarcely have believed my eyes, had I not already seen the horrors below the earth. Instead of remaining a prostrate corpse, the body disintegrated into ash, and though there was no breeze, the ashes blew away.
Shivering in the cold morning light, I resolved that the world had to know, had to be able protect itself from this danger. I would come back to this place at a later date, where I would plant a new tree, where Kphlupthy would remain sealed as long as I lived. But I could not help but feel my resolve tremble, could not help but feel the madness of the night nestle itself further in the recesses of my mind, feel the image rise once more when I heard the Earth rumble with what I could only guess to be the coo of Kphlupthy.