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Authors: Matthew Carpenter,Steven Prizeman,Damir Salkovic

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Occult

A Lonely and Curious Country

BOOK: A Lonely and Curious Country
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A LONELY AND

CURIOUS COUNTRY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TALES FROM THE LANDS OF LOVECRAFT

EDITED BY MATTHEW CARPENTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Ulthar Press

700 Metacom Avenue, Warren, RI 02885

http://www.ultharpress.com/

 

First Edition

Copyright 2015 by Ulthar Press

All material is copyrighted by individual authors or artists and used with their permission.

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the creators.

 

Cover design by Steven Prizeman

Ulthar Press logo by Mike Corley

ISBN:  978-0692501962

 

 

CONTENTS

 

Introduction | Matthew Carpenter              

 

The Dreamer of Nothingness | Steven Prizeman              

 

Paudie O'Brien and the Bogman | Seán Farrell             

 

Turn on, Tune in, Infiltrate, Disrupt | K H Vaughn

 

Down Through Black Abysses | Pete Rawlik

 

Project Handbasket | Rebecca Allred

 

Incense and Insensibilty | Christine Morgan

 

Salt Water Bodies | Susan Hicks Wong

 

Interrogation | Damir Salkovic

 

Radical Division | Jonathan Titchenal

 

Igawesdi | Cliff Biggers             

 

After Birth | Brian M. Sammons & Jamie D. Jenkins

 

Rehab | Kevin Wetmore

 

Unsung Heroes | Don Webb

 

The Litany of Yith | Brett Davidson              

 

The Third Oath of Dagon | Robert M. Price

 

Down By the Highway Side | Paul R. McNamee              

 

In the Forest, with the Night | Aaron J. French

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Matthew Carpenter

“When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country.

“The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, and the wild weeds, brambles and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; while the sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation.” – H. P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror”

 

If he expected his work to be remembered at all, perhaps the best H. P. Lovecraft might have hoped for was to be recalled as an author by a few fans of pulp publications. World domination would have astonished him. But, more than 75 years after his death, that is what we see. His influence is inescapable in science fiction and horror literature, his creation Cthulhu is iconic and even fans who never read the old gent’s stories themselves are familiar with the basics of Lovecraftian horror. Others have speculated on the whys and wherefores about this explosion of interest in all things Lovecraft, be it the fulfillment of the early promise of the Internet in terms of connecting groups of fans, the rise of materialism in popular thought or the influence of artists who have been influenced themselves by Lovecraft such as Guillermo Del Toro and Stephen King. I first read Lovecraft in the early 1970s in the old Lancer paperbacks, and I have followed this avalanche of Cthulhu Mythos fiction with emotions running from bemusement to disbelief. Ever since I was in eighth grade I have voraciously consumed Lovecraftian fiction. Even as recently as 2010 I could with some certainty say that I had read almost every single Lovecraftian novel, single author collection or anthology available. Very little escaped me. Now, however the task is hopeless. The pace of publication has exceeded anyone's ability to read all of it. Over the last five years more than 50 Cthulhu Mythos story anthologies have been published; this does not include such genres as comic books, novels or children’s books. Even more remarkable is the change in character and quality in what we read today. In the 1970s most of what was written was derivative pastiche. The prototypical Lovecraftian story had a new tome added to the Eldritch Library, a listing of the entire pantheon of mythos entities and a reiteration of a well-worn plot. Today authors are not content to echo Lovecraft; they use his themes and monsters as a springboard into new horizons. Cosmicism, as popularized by Lovecraft, reflects the uneasy and insignificant place of humanity in a vast indifferent universe, and is used to create horrors that perturb even modern readers inured to daily reminders of the fragility of existence in the daily news. Even if familiar entities or locations are used, today's writers do not feel bound by the structures created by Lovecraft and perhaps made rigid by Derleth. What else is striking is that the quality of writing has now become astonishingly good. Previously anyone could include a few whippoorwills, a chanted “iä iä” or two, mention the Necronomicon, and hope to see print. Now in almost every venue where Lovecraft is spoken the prose glitters like jewels. Before it was almost unthinkable that Elizabeth Bear could win the Hugo Award for “Shoggoths in Bloom.” Now no one blinks an eye when Charlie Stross wins the same award for his novella “Equoid,” that details a plausible explanation for Shub Niggurath. When Sam Gafford of Ulthar Press approached me with the idea of editing another Cthulhu Mythos anthology I hesitated for a moment. All of my publications have been in medical journals. And then I thought here was a chance to discover something new and wonderful, and share it with fans like me who can't get enough mythos fiction. Why not take advantage of a burgeoning popularity of Lovecraft and the remarkable improvement in the quality of writers to explore some new byways? We placed few restrictions on submissions for the book you are now reading. We wanted to hear from new writers, established writers, anybody interested in the Cthulhu Mythos. All we asked was they not deliver us a pastiche. We wanted our authors to take that wrong fork just past Dean’s Corners, sending us to some new location in Lovecraft country. All I had hoped for was a few worthy new additions to the ever expanding Lovecraft circle. I was flabbergasted by the excellence of the stories we received. We agonized over which ones to include but I think you will be very happy with the results. Here are 17 never before published tales of horror and madness. Some are set in the familiar environs of Innsmouth or Miskatonic University. Some take us to places we’ve never been. All are new, and none is like any of the others. Get ready to be surprised and disturbed. Turn the lights in the house down, nestle into your favorite reading chair with a cup of hot tea by your side. You may find adding a wee nip of medicinal brandy will help. As the shadows press in and silence descends, allow yourself to be transported into that lonely and curious country we love so well. Apart from having a few chills and the seeds for future nightmares, you will return from this book just fine…probably.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dreamer of Nothingness

 

Steven Prizeman

 

 

Paris. May, 1968

Yves leaned back, tilting the café chair onto its rear legs, and exhaled a haze of smoke. He watched the gray dissipate slowly, revealing the clear, blue sky, dazzling in the afternoon sun. With his left hand he revolved the last of the pastis in his glass. Beside him, in his ears, yet again, were Anne-Marie and Eduard.

“I said:
‘Are you coming to the demonstration tomorrow?’

It was Anne-Marie. Yves plucked an answer from the air.

“What is the point of another demonstration until the objectives have been defined?
A demonstration without objectives is merely a crowd.

“A crowd…” Eduard’s lager-and-Gauloises breath was offensively close. “…is the spearhead of the proletariat. A crowd will tell you
its
objectives. Crowds don’t need to be led;
crowds lead
. Crowds don’t need manifestoes; the will of the crowd
is
the people’s manifesto.”

“Spoken like a true anarcho-syndicalist!” Yves said it with a smile, but he thought:
‘Christ! This again!’

Anne-Marie raked her fingers through her long, russet hair.

“Actually, the committee is meeting this evening to set out its demands.
Do come!
We need you, Yves. How can we build student-worker solidarity if even the students aren’t solid? Everyone else in Political Science is going.” She leaned close and whispered in his ear. “Claude’s anarchist friends have heard a rumor the riot police are going to try and reoccupy the Sorbonne. They’re stockpiling cobblestones and Molotovs. We can make love on my balcony while they fight below.”

“Perhaps. If the workers and students need me.” Yves had been to Anne-Marie’s apartment before – the balcony wasn’t high enough to be out of the tear gas. He didn’t fancy that, any more than having his skull cracked by the batons of those fascists in the CRS. Anne-Marie was quite suggestible, so he could probably get her to do the bourgeois thing: go indoors, close the windows, snuggle up. He drained his glass. Surely, this ought to feel more pressing? Was he actually feeling anything at all? Only in a very muffled way.

“You with us?
Hello?
” Eduard snapped his fingers in Yves’ face. “We’re talking about bringing down De Gaulle and his cronies and there you sit, puffing your Gitanes like you didn’t have a care in the world! What’s wrong with you today?”

“Nothing’s wrong. Not really. I was just…” Yves waved his cigarette vaguely toward the cloud it had created. “I was just watching how the smoke looks so dense for a moment – you can hardly see through it – then all at once it thins out and disappears, as if it had never been. And it suddenly struck me how much that’s like… life.”

“Life?” Eduard was too surprised to inject the word with his usual venom. Just for a moment. “
Life!
Stone me!” He drained his vodka chaser and slammed the glass on the iron table. “You need to sort yourself out, mate! I thought you existentialists were meant to be engaged, not bourgeoisly indifferent.
‘Life! Ooh! It’s all floating away!’
Stone me! You sure it’s just tobacco in that cigarette? You smell of hash, come to think of it.”

“I thought it was poetic.” Anne-Marie murmured the reassurance softly, before adding: “You do smell of pot, Yves. This really isn’t the time for it.”

Eduard’s mockery switched to English as his fingers flicked two V-shaped peace signs: “‘
Hey, man! Far out! Drop out, man! Is cool!’
I keep telling you, Yves: dropping out is the antithesis of engagement. The Man is perfectly happy for you to sit on your arse and smoke dope. Just so long as you let him run things his way.”

“It isn’t pot,” Yves protested. “It’s my new apartment.” The smoke that came out this time was more ragged. “I’m stuck on the sixth floor, right at the top of the building, and there are some Arabs on the floors below – Algerians, I think.” He saw Anne-Marie and Eduard open their mouths and moved quickly to head them off. “
Arabs are fine; Algerians are fine
– but some of them must be smoking a hell of a lot of dope. There’s always this weird odor in the room. It seems to filter up through the floor and rise up the side of the building, too, because it wafts in through the window – especially at night. It gives me strange dreams; I haven’t been sleeping properly.” He took a drag, anxious now, earnest. “What’s galling is that I’ve only got the one window and it’s nailed shut. The shutter outside is closed, too. I don’t get any light or any air. It might as well be bricked up.”

“I would have thought that’d be right up your street,” Eduard snorted. “Struggling philosopher-writer in his lonely garret.
The new Camus!
Why did you have to move there, anyway? You’ve made things very difficult for Claude and me. If we don’t get a new lodger by the end of the month your share of the rent will fall on us.” And then he was straight into his defender-of-the-downtrodden persona. “One window that doesn’t open? Bad air? No light? Your landlord’s a capitalist all right! Want me to have a word?”

“No, no!” Yves made placatory gestures. “I don’t want any trouble – the whole reason I went there was I needed some peace.” Eduard and Claude argued every night and each had his own clique of friends who came round to join in. And all the students in the adjacent rooms, and floors, and down the street, and across it, acted likewise. The new apartment was cheaper, too. Much, much, cheaper. “Just let me handle it. Once I’ve fixed the window, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“Where did you say it was?” Anne-Marie lit another cigarette and picked a loose strand of tobacco from her lips. “Are you going to invite us round?”

“Rue d’Auseil. You’re welcome whenever you like, of course.”

“Rue d’Auseil?”
Anne-Marie’s brow creased. “Where’s that?”

“It’s about a twenty-five minute walk from here; a couple more from the university. It’s in that odd little district – I don’t know what it’s called. You know that dirty river – it must be a tributary of the Seine – dark and scummy-looking? It’s lined with a lot of rundown warehouses that don’t look like they’ve been used since the war, and some factories that still do something or other.”

“I know!”
Eduard wagged a finger. “That whole area’s a health hazard. Stinks! I pity the exploited who have to work in those factories – must ruin their health. That’s why you need workers’ control of production, otherwise…”

“Anyway…” Yves pressed on. “…there’s an old stone bridge across the river, and it leads to a lot of narrow, cobbled streets – they’re quite confusing, if you don’t know the area.”
‘And to me,’
he thought.
‘And I’ve been there almost two weeks!’
“They go uphill. It really gets quite steep – flights of steps and everything – and the Rue d’Auseil is the highest and steepest of all. It’s closed to traffic, of course – and it’s a dead end. Just stops at a high brick wall covered in ivy. Anyway, my apartment is in the third house from the top – but it’s much taller than any of the other houses, so it’s the highest point in the area. Sometimes it feels like the highest point in the city – Eiffel Tower included.”

“There must be a magnificent view,” said Anne-Marie.

BOOK: A Lonely and Curious Country
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