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Authors: Silvia Moreno-Garcia,Paula R. Stiles

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Historical Lovecraft: Tales of Horror Through Time

BOOK: Historical Lovecraft: Tales of Horror Through Time
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HISTORICAL LOVECRAFT: TALES OF HORROR THROUGH TIME

Edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Historical Lovecraft
Copyright © 2011 Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles.

Individual stories copyright © 2011 originating authors.

Meddy Ligner, “Found in a Trunk from Extremadura”, first published as “Manuscrit Trouvé dans une Malle d’Estremadure” in
HPL 2007
. © 2007. Translated from the French by Paula R. Stiles. “Ahuizotl” translated from the Spanish by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Cover illustration: Francisco Rico Torres

Cover and interior design: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication 

Historical Lovecraft [electronic resource] : tales of horror through time / edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. 

Type of computer file: Electronic monograph in HTML format. Issued also in print format. ISBN 978-0-9866864-3-6 

1. Horror tales, American. 2. Horror tales. I. Stiles, Paula R. (Paula Regina), 1967- II. Moreno-Garcia, Silvia 

PS648.H6H57 2011a 813'.0873808 C2011-901093-3

Published by Innsmouth Free Press, April 2011. Visit www.innsmouthfreepress.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Ancient History

The God Lurking in Stone, Andrew Dombalagian 

The Seeder From the Stars, Julio Toro San Martin 

Deus ex Machina, Nathaniel Katz 

If Only to Taste Her Again, E. Catherine Tobler

Shadows of the Darkest Jade, Sarah Hans 

The Chronicle of Aliyat Son of Aliyat, Alter S. Reiss 

Middle Ages

Silently, Without Cease, Daniel Mills 

The Good Bishop Pays the Price, Martha Hubbard 

The Saga of Hilde Ansgardóttir, Jesse Bullington 

An Interrupted Sacrifice, Mae Empson 

Pralaya: The Disaster, Y.W. Purnomosidhi 

The City of Ropes, Albert Tucher 

Modern Era

Inquisitor, William Meikle 

The Far Deep, Joshua Reynolds 

City of Witches, Regina Allen 

Ahuizotl, Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas 

An Idol for Emiko,Travis Heermann 

The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins, Molly Tanzer 

Black Leaves, Mason Ian Bundschuh 

The Second Theft of Alhazred’s Manuscript, Bradley H. Sinor 

Ngiri’s Catch, Aaron Polson 

What Hides and What Returns, Bryan Thao Worra 

Black Hill, Orrin Gray 

Amundsen’s Last Run, Nathalie Boisard-Beudin 

Red Star, Yellow Sign, Leigh Kimmel 

Found in a Trunk from Extremadura, Meddy Ligner 

INTRODUCTION

T
he inspiration for this anthology came to us easily. We have an interest in history and historical fiction. One of us has completed a PhD in Medieval History on the Knights Templar (Paula) and the other spends a vast amount of time reading about Prehispanic Mexico and the Tudor period (Silvia). And history, of course, is an important element in Lovecraft’s stories, whether it comes in the shape of the
Necronomicon’s
false provenance or allusions to New England’s 17th-century witchcrazes. To Lovecraft, a tainted past is the rotten core from which present-day horror germinates.

Lovecraft comes from a long line of New England writers of dark fiction, both before and after him, including the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and Stephen King. New England of his time possessed a sinister history full of paranoid Puritans, hatchet-wielding daughters, dour and isolated farmers, and Cape Verdean whalers with connections extending across the seven seas (hence his obsession with the ocean). Lovecraft was also fascinated by the “long view” of weird fiction that was popular in his time, extrapolating frightening pasts for humanity that extended back to the Paleolithic and even further.

In this volume, we decided to take that interest in history, in the past, which Lovecraft’s stories show, but to jump back in time instead of anchoring the tales in the present.

We received vast amounts of tales set in Victorian England, because that seemed the setting de rigueur, and at one point, despaired that we might have to change the title of this volume to ‘Cthulhu With a Cravat and a Top Hat’. Soon, however, stories with other locations and time periods began to trickle in. Eventually, we assembled 26 stories, two of them translations from French and Spanish, set in ancient Egypt, Prehispanic Peru, Stalin’s Russia, and many more places, and ranging from the Neolithic to the early 20th century.

The result is a collection of stories that span the world and the centuries, and which we hope Lovecraft and historical fiction enthusiasts alike will find as unique and exciting as we do. Enter our eldritch time machine … if you dare.

— Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

ANCIENT HISTORY

THE GOD LURKING IN STONE

Andrew Dombalagian 

W
hen I found him, flies were buzzing across Marduk’s vacant face. He sat without shade by the river’s bank. He stared down at the sand around him. Already, the hot morning had begun to bake his back into a reddish sore. My brother would not know to move out of the heat, even if his skin began to blister.

Marduk did not twitch a single muscle until I stood right next to him. He turned his dim, grey eyes towards me. After slow, grinding thought within his head permitted him to remember who I was, he cracked a simpleton’s grin. When his mouth opened, two gadflies flew out, freed from their toothy prison.

“Tigranes, look. Look what I make.”

He pointed to the squat heap of silt and clay before him. I could not recall anything that had ever excited Marduk as much as the terraced hill built at his feet.

“Mother was worried that wild dogs had eaten you, her idiot son, and here you are, playing in the sand like a child.”

“From my dreams, Tigranes. Gods showed me. Showed me big villages. Full of temples. Like this. This one.”

“Why would the gods bring visions to a fool who burns his eyes by staring at Utu’s radiance in the sky? You could not see a serpent crawling towards you, much less visions from the gods.”

“The shapes. Gods show me shapes. Can’t make them. Hard. Hard to make. I can’t copy. They look scary. Have you seen, brother? Do gods show you? Do you see cities?”

“What are you babbling about now, Marduk?”

“I belong to gods. Oonana says that. She says I belong to gods. That why they show me. They show me ‘cause I am theirs.”

The crazed crone had spread more nonsense to his feeble mind. The gods had allowed Oonana to live to eat the bread of forty-and-two harvests. Our neighbours claimed that her withered body stored the grain of wisdom. All of her ravings were inane and fit only for an unfit mind.

The truly wise ones were the ones who had abandoned Marduk in the rugged uplands. Father should never have brought Marduk into our home. He should have left him on the hillside for the dogs and vultures.

Mother always commanded me to bring him along when I guarded Father’s flocks with sling and staff. I would leave Marduk on the grassy hill and tell him to brain any wild dogs that came near. I told Marduk that the wild dogs were brown and that father’s hounds were grey. No matter how many times I told him, his thick head would not remember. Marduk had once smashed the skull of father’s favourite she-hound.

“Come on, now. We need to get to the square.”

I hauled Marduk to his stumbling feet and set him walking home. As he shambled up the verdant hill rising from the river, I looked down at his trivial construction on the bank. Marduk had piled and shaped the clay into a series of heaped squares. Each level was smaller than the last, creating a series of tiers that escalated to the pinnacle. At the top was perched a mockery of our village altar, left empty of its rightful shrine.

From the top of the hill, Marduk called out for me. He did not see that my foot had trampled his temple into nothingness.

The nomadic traders had come early from the cedar forests to the west. Traditionally, our village would have reaped the harvest before the traders’ arrival. There would be stores of grain, animal skins, dried meat, and pots of fermenting beer to offer. In exchange, we would get tools of sharp stone and exotic woods, preserved fruits, and goods that had seen the distant sea.

But harvest was still days away. There was little to barter with and everyone was in a rush to amend this plight. Alongside our neighbours, my entire family was hurrying in the fields to reap, slaughter and store so we could trade before the caravan departed. With our family so busy, we were sent to market to barter for a few important things.

My eldest sister, Ishara, admired herself in the polished surface of the obsidian mirror held by one of the nomadic traders. She turned and posed, coaxing the string of blue stones around her neck to look their most appealing. The cloth she knelt upon cradled nothing but useless adornments and trinkets.

“These are not the things our family needs.”

“Tigranes, I have already gotten the flint blades, dried figs and salt that father asked for. I finished my tasks, even with Oonana bothering me.”

“What did that hag want?”

“She was casting warnings about a man travelling with the caravan. She claims he is a wicked sorcerer from far to the south. He carries a long blade that brightly shines, but it is not made from flint or obsidian. Oonana says he walks with wild beasts that kneel before him and lick his feet like servants.”

“Sounds like the sort of muck that Marduk might believe. No wonder he hangs around the old woman with the other tiny children. It would be fitting, if only he weren’t twice their size and with half their cunning.”

“Don’t you ever tire of abusing him? No wonder he disappears from you all the time.”

“Where did he go this time? He was just here.”

“I wish you fortune finding him again.”

“Don’t waste your wishes. I’m not going to waste my effort on Marduk again. If the gods want him, I will leave him to them.”

Ishara and I brought home the goods Mother and Father wanted before harvest. No one raised an eyebrow at Marduk’s absence. Our parents, siblings, cousins, and other relations had supper without even noting that my supposed-brother was missing. Everyone felt burdened to have him beneath our roof. I was merely the one with the daring to admit this disgust.

I was awakened that night by whisperings that flittered down from above. I did not want to confront what was waiting for me, but if I did not attend to my troublesome duties, everyone would wake up and be furious. Our family did not care about what Marduk did as long as I kept him from bringing shame to our house.

Marduk had raised the ladder reaching up from the common room through the exit in the roof. Climbing up after him, there on the roof, I found my useless sibling sitting under the soft, pale glow of Nanna’s throne. His body swayed like a brittle reed in the dry wind. He was speaking in hushed tones, even though there was not another body to be seen.

My reaction was baffling. On a normal night, I would have tossed a pebble at his head to break Marduk from his dullard’s trance. This night, however, I crept closer to listen in on his mutterings. His voice was thicker, and his words were not those of a man with the addled mind of a child.

“One thousand pillars will rise from the southern sands. They will glitter with gold and jewels for centuries before they are swallowed by the merciless deserts of oblivion. Why should Irem’s fate be other than that fallen city with no name? The reptile and serpent men no longer crawl and slide through those narrow halls and arcades of nameless antiquity.

“This servant race will know the destructive touch of ages before all is through. Cyclopean megaliths beyond their comprehension have already crumbled or sunk into strange eons. These primitives’ mud bricks and reeds cannot even survive the paltry river floods that are outside of their pitiful strength to control. The ziggurats and pyramids that will awe their mewling descendants have not even germinated in the dreamy minds of their artists, yet the decay of those low wonders is already written.

“These clans bicker over rocks and stones to fashion into tools. Cults and armies have already danced in the tallest mountains and deepest forests with blades of iron and stranger metals, calling for the glory of their Old Ones. These people scratch and claw at the dirt and sand like the beasts they have hardly risen from. They have only begun to label the heavens with their meaningless words, ignorant of the true names of the beings chained to those damned spheres.”

Here, in Marduk’s incessant, unnatural ranting, I found myself peering over his shoulder. He sat much like he did that morning on the river’s bank. However, rather than a childish construction of clay, an oddly-shaped hunk of smooth stone sat before him.

The stone was large, larger than Marduk should have been able to carry onto the roof. Of its shape, I cannot say anything for certain. My first impression was one of a stout spire of cut stone, standing straight in the air with its peak reaching the level of my seated brother’s seared eyes. With each tilt of my head, however, it seemed to bow and sway. One moment, it appeared to bend outward, only to deceive me with the appearance of its five sides curving inward on themselves.

The lines, dots, and curls carved into those smooth surfaces were a puzzle. Oonana had often spoken of painted etchings in distant caves. But while the crazed miller woman had described images of men and beasts, these designs mimicked nothing but their own irrelevant forms. I would have believed Marduk himself might have carved this stone from his own senseless imagination, but where would he have found the tools and presence of mind to do so?

My idiot brother seemed to share some secret, not just with this stone, but with luminescent Nanna on high. When the light of Nanna’s pearly glow caught on the contours of those carvings, I suspected that they moved and flowed like river water, creating new designs and patterns. In these shifting shapes, hints of colour twinkled in my eyes. The colours of twilight, rush fronds, goat’s blood, dried barley, and others I could not name, shimmered like illusions along the edges of those graven lines.

Suddenly, I realized that Marduk was pulling on my arm. He was frenetically trying to seize my attention. In shock and disgust, I shoved him away, sending him sprawling like a turtle on its back.

“Brother. I called you. You stared at rock. You did not hear. I called you.”

His witless speech had reasserted dominance over his empty mind. Had I really been staring for so long at that stone? Perhaps demons of night had been playing a jest on my mind, filling it with false sensations. I resolved that my brother’s bizarre speech and the oddities of this stone were all products of my weary thoughts.

“Why did you bring that rock onto our roof?”

“My rock. I got from market.”

“You actually traded something of value for this useless hunk of rock?”

“No. Gave to me.”

“Who gave it to you?”

“Trader from South. Oonana talk about him. He had big knife. It was shiny. I could see faces in it. Oonana say he has magic. She say he has many faces. She call him ‘faceless’. What she mean? How he be faceless? I saw his face. Only one face. I see no wings.  Oonana say he flies. At night, he flies. But no wings. She call him ‘Pharaoh’. Oonana say means ‘king’. Black Pharaoh. Black King from South. Why king be trader?”

“You are the only fool in town who listens to her lies. Now help me push this rock off of our house. Father will be mad if he finds it on his way to the fields in the morning.”

“Don’t push! My rock! Black Pharaoh gave me! Don’t break!”

“Keep your voice down. Everyone will be furious if we raise a commotion. Fine. You can stay up here with your rock. I am bringing the ladder down after me. You can stay up here all night with your rock and that crazy woman’s stories. If your rock tells you to fly like that trader, go ahead. Just jump off the roof, flap your arms like a hawk, and you will fly away from me.”

When Utu reclaimed the sky throne from Nanna, Marduk was not to be found. When we all climbed out to finish bringing in the harvest, my idiot brother and his rock were both gone from the roof. I did not see him sitting on any of the neighbouring roofs adjoining our house and none of the other families climbing out from their homes noticed anything amiss.

I peered down the front of our house. It was the only wall bordering on the lane and was adorned with only narrow, high-set windows. Father lowered the outside ladder to the ground. There was no trace of a rock, or a rock-head, having fallen to the earth.

Father and our uncles led the flocks out of the town walls. The he-beasts among them would be slaughtered. Their skins would be scraped clean then stretched out on the roof, pinned down by heavy stones, and left in Utu’s light to dry. We would not be able to tool the bones and horns into anything useful before the traders left. We would have to make do with what we could get for the hides and meat.

Mother, Ishara, and I marched out into the fields alongside our cousins. We carried long knives and sickles made from new flint to cut down the wheat and barley. We worked until Utu’s throne sat at its baking zenith before resting. A cousin brought forth a basket of brown bread and a goatskin bag filled with fresh milk.

While we ate in the shade of uncut stalks, Oonana approached. She ignored the tides of sweat running down her frail body. Her violent raving could not be abated by heat or hunger.

“The Southern Trader has gone. He left in the night. He flies south to the land of the great river. Beneath the sandstone gaze of a man-lion, in bright robes, he is worshipped by cults that proclaim him their dark god. He leaves behind his vile curse! Where he walks, madness and destruction follow! Even if every knee bent in honour at the town altar, no respite of the gods would protect us!”

Interrupting her wild gesticulations, Oonana looked squarely at me. A twisting, terrifying fire danced in her eyes. The crone rushed forward, charging like an enraged beast. She kicked me to the ground and flailed at my chest with clawing hands. Amid shrieks and curses, her fingers tore at my skin. With her savagery, Oonana sent every heron and toad into flight from the scene of chaos.

Mother and Ishara tried to pull the old woman from me, but with uncanny strength, the hag pushed them into the barley. I grabbed the flint sickle beside me and swung in a powerful arc. The freshly sharpened blade sank deeply into her flank. Stunned by the wound, Oonana staggered away.

Onlookers had collected, drawn by the sounds of the skirmish. Oonana shoved her way through the crowd, casting aside everyone that offered her a hand. She ran to the river and tumbled down the grassy banks into the rich waters.

The beast had been lying in wait for this meal. When Oonana fell splashing into the dark water, a great, toothy reptile rose up to claim her. The monster snapped its jaws down upon the doomed old woman and dragged her into the wide depths.

BOOK: Historical Lovecraft: Tales of Horror Through Time
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