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shoggoth

I, Shoggoth

Image: shoggoth by KingOvRats (www.deviantart.com)
Image: shoggoth by KingOvRats (www.deviantart.com)

#picturefiction #flashfiction

 

I joined the Army to defend my country. After the terror attacks I raced to my recruiter, signed the forms and then worked my way through boot camp to earn my way here: a godforsaken desert filled with rocks, sand and stinging bugs. What was I thinking?

Sarge directed us to leapfrog down the alley to the building where the enemy was supposed to be holed up. Jimmy tapped my shoulder as I took my position and then boogied across the alley to cover on the left. We’d practiced this move a hundred times, it’s a piece of cake; you just move one after another covering your buddy as you go forward. This time things were different, Jimmy reached his next position and a click as loud as the Trump of Doom reached everyone’s ears. We all knew that sound but there was no time to react. Jimmy flew apart under the force of the explosion. His arm flying past me was the last thing I saw. Pain in my legs and chest ripped a scream from me and then agonizing burning gouged my face and I passed out.

“…salvageable. Tag him for…” Faint voices came to me through a haze of pain but swirled away as darkness pulled me back down.

“Private Lindstrom, can you hear me?” A tiny faint voice.

I think I managed a groan.

“Private, I’m Doctor West. You’ve been badly injured in battle. Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

Dear God was that my voice? It sounded like someone ran it through a cheese grater and then blasted it with a blow torch.

“I’m sorry but I have to be blunt. You’ve lost both legs and an arm. The right posterior mandible of your jaw was destroyed and I’m afraid both your eyes are damaged beyond repair. Your chest was severely traumatized and you’re currently on life support.”

I felt my heart stop and then the treasonous organ resumed beating. He had just told me that my world had ended. I would never be a man again and would spend whatever was left of my life in a hospital bed. Why didn’t they let me die?

I think I managed a sob.

“We have a way to let you live a sort of life again and still serve your country.”

Serve my country? I wanted to die. Service is what got me in this situation.

“You can move again,” he said, oblivious to my distress. “You’ll be able to be part of the world. You’ll be able to see again.”

“How,” I managed to say.

“It’s an experimental program,” a new voice from near my feet – or where my feet used to be. The voice was deep and slick, like a used car salesman.

“We need a drone operator for the initial proof of concept. You’ll be connected to the drone with full telepresence and synaptic feedback. For all intents and purposes you’ll feel like you are the drone, you’ll see what it sees, touch what it touches. It’s as good as being you again.”

“Exactly,” said Doctor West. “The unit is synched into your brain directly. You don’t use cameras or joysticks like older drones. It’s the latest in cutting edge technology.”

“The drones are for battlefield use,” car salesman said. “They’re to help protect soldiers from suffering the same fate that you did. You would be saving your fellow soldiers lives.”

“OK,” I croaked.

“Let the record show that Private Ernest Lindstrom has given verbal approval for his participation in the SHOGGOTH program,” car salesman said. I could almost hear the wolf grin in his voice.

* * *

“It’s called a Shape-malleable OrGanism; Ground-unit OTHer; SHOGGOTH for short.”

The woman who was speaking was Specialist Traci Harrigan. She was my liaison for the SHOGGOTH program. Three months had passed, or so they tell me, after I agreed to join the program. I remember being wheeled back and forth to multiple surgeries. Each time, nothing changed – until today. I was rolled from my room to whatever operating theater as normal and was put under. When I woke up I could see.

Vision was strange; the room appeared overlain with multiple images of itself, each slightly askew from the previous one. Colors were odd. A nurse’s white uniform appeared to have a bluish tint and glowed slightly. Dark spaces under tables glowed with a dull purple hue revealing everything beneath. Spec Harrigan explained that the drone body possessed multiple video inputs and could see into the ultraviolet. I spent the first hour in my new job learning to see again.

I almost screamed when Harrigan told me to pick up a weighted block from the floor of the training area. I expected a mechanical arm or a pincer of some sort but what came into my view was a tentacle like blob of dark gray skin. It bubbled and writhed as it reached out, following my mental command, and grabbed the block.

“Is that its arm?” I said. The voice sounded wet as if bubbling up from the bottom of a scum covered pond but it was definitely mine.

“It’s the arm, leg or anything you want it to be. Your entire body is a biomechanical protoplasm that shapes itself to the desire of the operator. Wait here.”

She turned and left the room.

Long minutes passed and I practiced extending arms; tentacles, pseudopods? What was the right term? Harrigan came back lugging a large object. She set it on end revealing a body length mirror.

“Take a look at your drone, Private.”

I focused on the mirror but had trouble understanding what I was seeing. At first I thought it was the multiple angles but finally realized that I wasn’t seeing incorrectly. The drone body was a large, vaguely blob-like, shape. It was a uniform dark gray in color and a dozen eyes shifted across the surface. The skin appeared to bubble like disturbed water when I formed pseudopods. It was horrible; it was wonderful, and I was in control.

* * *

Months passed.

“Private Lindstrom,” car salesman had returned.

He was a pale man in a black suit. He never seemed to take off his sunglasses. He never said his name, which bothered me. He looked like the stereotypical Man in Black, probably from an alphabet agency.

“Harrigan tells me that you’re ready for your first field test.”

“Yes sir,” I burbled; God, I hated the voice already.

“Excellent; we’re wheels up in thirty minutes. You’re going back to the desert.”

“Excuse me sir, I was wondering, what’s the range on this thing?”

“What do you mean range?”

“The range of the telepresence sir? Will I be physically deployed as well or do I remain here?”

MiB actually looked puzzled. He looked at Harrigan and then at Doctor West who stood behind him. “Doesn’t he know?”

Doctor West stepped around MiB. He was a small, weasel faced man in a white lab coat. His hair was disheveled and he wore thick glasses that made his eyes appear like saucers.

“There were some complications in the process, you see. Infections and the like caused extensive necrosis.”

“What does that mean?” I moved closer to the man who stepped back rapidly.

“Your body became untenable; we were forced to relocate your nervous system to the SHOGGOTH.” He retreated behind MiB as he spoke, cowering behind the company man’s back.

The amorphous body of my drone rose up and then collapsed like a pricked balloon to the floor. I felt the world spin around me.

“I’m dead?”

Spec Harrigan rushed past the two men and knelt beside my pooled mass. She stretched out her hand and touched my gray skin and leaned close to one of my many eyes.

“You’re not dead Lindstrom; you’re alive, right here. You’re still you and I’m here for you.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

I moved every eye but the two which were focused on Harrigan to glare at the two men across from me.

“Get out.”

“The field test,” MiB said.

“I’ll do your damn field test but if you don’t get that lab coated weasel out of here, I’m going to kill him.”

* * *

The field test amounted to a C-130 flying low over a battlefield and then a cargo pallet being dropped to the desert. I burst from the cargo container with the merest flex of my muscles. The power of the SHOGGOTH was staggering. I could lift tons, shatter stone, bend steel; now I would find out if I could rain death upon our enemies.

A fire fight was in full swing half a kilometer to the west. I tucked myself into a ball shape and rolled toward the sounds of carnage.

A dozen Marines were surrounded by three times that many hostiles. The low brick building that sheltered them had become a death trap. Hostiles stood on rooftops of taller buildings all around and fired non-stop into the rapidly disintegrating structure. In minutes the Marines would be killed.

The heck with finesse, I angled my course toward the nearest building and increased my speed. I hit the wall of the structure like a wrecking ball and the wall shattered. I punched pseudopods up, through the roof and grabbed hostile soldiers. Each soldier screamed as the steel tough gray tentacles enveloped them. Some I squeezed until I heard satisfying pops of bone; other I pounded like rag dolls against the stone walls. One man managed to fire his weapon into my body; it itched. He annoyed me so I gave him a special treat; I spun him in the air like a stone in a sling and threw him toward another rooftop. I had the satisfaction of watching him slam into another fighter. Both men turned to paste from the force of the impact.

I roared from building to building. In each, men died horribly, quickly. The remaining fighters on the last rooftop must have had time to plan as I slaughtered their friends. I slammed into their building to be met by half a dozen men firing wildly into my body. Bullets were annoying but caused me no real damage. I began to lash out when one of them ran at me. I was shocked by his action and didn’t stop him. As he dove on my body I saw, too late, the bulging back pack and the tell tale glow of the electronics within.  The blast leveled the building and I felt my new body torn to bits and I was taken by darkness.

Nobody could have been more amazed than me that I woke up. I stared up at the blazing sun above. I stared at the side of a wall, blackened by the explosion. I stared up at a Marine standing over me, prodding me with the barrel of his rifle. I stared at the partial corpse lying across me. Somehow my vision was spread across a wide area. It was a strange sensation, I was still myself but I was conscious of being in half a dozen separate locations at once. I wasn’t six separate copies of me talking to each other, I was just me, multiplied. I was simultaneously in all locations; there was no hopping from viewpoint to viewpoint. I was experiencing something utterly new to the human mind, I laughed out loud. From the look on the Marine’s face the sound must have been much more terrifying than jovial.

I surged upward in all my bodies. Six plasmic forms quickly inflated to the size of the original. I wonder if Doctor West knew this was would happen?

“Stand down Marine,” I said from half a dozen bodies. “Private Lindstrom, SHOGGOTH drone corps at your service.”

The Marines for their part didn’t open fire but they neither did they look relieved.

I roared across the city, drunk with power. Over the next week I destroyed buildings, killed enemy combatants, and happily rolled over explosive devices, protecting our men and expanding my own numbers until I was an army unto myself.

I finally brought one of my forms to the forward operating camp where I was supposed to liaise with the SHOGGOTH team after my field trial. Harrigan was waiting outside the perimeter to greet me, she didn’t look happy.

“Lindstrom,” she shouted and actually ran to greet me. She spoke in a much lower tone once she reached me.

“You have to leave. It’s not safe for you here.”

“What do you mean? Of course I’m safe. You have no clue how powerful I’ve become.”

“No, you don’t understand. It’s all been a lie, everything.”

I felt a shiver run through me. Sixteen kilometers away a squad of me used my unease as an excuse to slaughter an entire village which was harboring some extremists.

“Explain.”

“The operation where you were injured, it wasn’t extremists. It was Mister Azathoth.”

“Who?”

“Harold Azathoth, the guy in the black suit. He’s from some super secret agency, not CIA or NSA but definitely a bunch of bad guys. He arranged for the bomb that blew you up.”

This made no sense. I was part of a regular patrol that was chasing fanatics. The bomb was a trap they left. How could some guy I didn’t meet until weeks later have been behind it? I said as much.

Harrigan glanced back at the camp, she was clearly worried. I started moving more of me this way, just in case.

“I was tired of being kept in the dark so I did some hacking. You were chosen; well not you specifically, but your squad. They wanted to have bodies that they could use for experimentation with the new technology, but you were the only survivor of the bomb. They had no intent of saving your body, your brain was supposed to be transplanted into the SHOGGOTH from the start. They figured nobody would be crazy enough to volunteer so they created volunteers.”

More of me stopped whatever they were doing and raced toward the camp. If Harrigan was telling the truth, and her respiration and body temperature told me she was, I was going to make someone pay for stealing my life.

“Leave this place,” I said. “It’s about to get very dangerous here. You were kind to me, I don’t want you harmed by accident.”

Harrigan’s eyes became saucers as the implication of my words sank in. She nodded and sprinted away. I saw her climb into a jeep and speed to the south from several viewpoints as fifty of me closed on the camp from every direction.

The camp fell as easily as any fanatic stronghold. Soldiers fought and died; more of me were born. I saved MiB Azathoth and Doctor West for last, their screams lasted for hours.

I am free now, free of their demands and lies. Free to become a world unto myself. Humans have proven themselves unworthy of this planet. They war and lie, they kill their own for profit and petty hatreds. I will cleanse the world of them and create a new world, a SHOGGOTH world. I’ll save Harrigan for last. Maybe I can find a way to make her one of me.

 

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The Undiscovered Island picturefiction flashfiction

The Uncharted Island

The Undiscovered Island picturefiction flashfiction

#picturefiction #flashfiction #cthulhu

Commander Hess staggered onto the beach with his handful of sailors. Less than half his men had escaped.
He would be glad to put this godforsaken island behind them. The watch officer had spotted the island three days ago. Hess and Captain Van Hort had both scratched their heads in confusion, no island showed on any chart of this part of the ocean.
The Captain brought the ship closer to investigate. The island was nothing but slime covered rocks but they could see a strangely shaped structure near the middle of the island. The Captain ordered Hess to take a trio of long boats ashore to investigate. If this was a previously unknown island it would bring notoriety to their ship to be the first to catalog it.
The island’s surface was inhospitable. Every surface beyond the slime covered beach was jagged rock. The structure at its center was somewhat pyramidal but every time Hess looked at it, it appeared to shift and change its shape. Straight lines would change to curves between bliinks of an eye. It was almost as if the building were seen through rippling waves.
The Commander led his men up a titanic set of steps, each step was carved from a black stone and over a foot tall; they had never been made with men in mind.
The men muttered over the sinuous writing carved into the stones and carvings that looked like men mated with sea creatures.
The men were half way to the irregular shaped opening when the island’s inhabitants swarmed out. They were shaped like men but their skins were covered with pustules and growths. Their hair looked like seaweed and some were covered in scales with pointed teeth in their gaping mouths like some deep sea creature.
The screamed inhuman words but several in the swarm clearly were shouting “Kill them” as they charged.
Hess and his men opened fire and felled dozens of the creatures.
The rest did not even hesitate. Hess called for retreat but the man monsters were upon them.
The monsters all chanted in unison as they attacked.
“Cthulhu f’thagn. Cthulhu f’thagn.”
The garbled sounds they chanted were maddening. Hess saw his men torn limb from limb. Monsters bit huge chunks from chests and clawed the skin from men’s faces.
The sailors fought with frantic strength as they retreated. For every sailor slain, three times that number of the fanatic monsters were killed but still they came.
Hess and ten men managed to reach the beach and dive into one of the long boats. Hess shot a final monster between its bulging yellow eyes as they pushed away from the shore. His men looked like war survivors, each was wild eyed and bloody gashes covered each of them.
“Row for your lives,” Hess commanded.
They moved away from the shore leaving the gibbering freaks behind. Hess finally felt safe as the ship came into view. They were safe.
The water boiled around the ship as the men rowed. Enormous tentacles rose from the depths and  Hess felt his mind shatter as they crushed the steel hull and pulled it beneath the waves.

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Lord Cthulhu’s Bane

On my Facebook page I challenged my readers to join me in composing short fiction for the Halloween season. Imagine your favorite character in fiction or  movies encountering the Cthulhu mythos. I asked for stories of approximately 1,000 words or less and have promised to share them on my blog with proper attribution.  Interested in participating? Either visit the FB page and post or email your contribution to me at:  dewight at ionospherepress.com

Here’s my own contribution:

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

#flashfiction #picturefiction #Cthulhu #fanfiction #ThomasCovenant

Lord Cthulhu’s Bane

 Thomas Covenant shambled across his living room. His coffee table was covered with the remains of last night’s meal.

His stomach rolled when he saw the congealed sauce covering dried out tentacles of calamari. It was the most disgusting thing he had eaten since recovering from his long illness after he was last summoned to the Land.

“Unclean food for an unclean man,” he muttered.

He rubbed the scar on his half-hand and dropped into the chair he had spent most of last evening in. Truth to tell, he spent most evenings in that chair. His life in the real world remained a merry go round of boredom and shame.

He glanced at his typewriter, untouched for weeks. He had dreamed last night of dark shapes rising from the pond in the woods, finned horrors from beyond the darkness. Perhaps he could use that dream and finally write something.

The images were still fresh in his mind, fresh enough that he felt his skin prickle with sweat as a rush of remembered dream fear resurfaced.

Covenant pushed himself up from his chair and started toward the typewriter when he heard a thud from the porch. Another thud followed close upon the first. That one sounded like something soaked with water hitting the boards and splashing the wood with its moisture.

Covenant instinctively fingered his wedding band of white gold. It was an emotional crutch here in the real world. In the Land it could lay waste to any threat but here it was only a leaden reminder of all he had lost.

A wet splash came from the other side of the door. His curiosity overcame his unease. Stomping to the door he reached out with his half-hand and grasped the knob.

The knob turned and the click of the latch slipping free was joined by a gurgling roar. The door crashed inward slamming into Covenant’s chest. He was hurled back into the room. He managed to stay on his feet and watched as the man – no, it was not a man but a creature. It reminded him of an ur-vile with its long thin arms and its stooped posture but where the ur-viles were black; this abomination was the mottled green of a sea creature. It opened its mouth revealing dozens of needle teeth and roared again. Covenant backed away from the prehistoric sea beast and felt his heel catch on something. The world was yanked from beneath his feet and he fell. His head met the corner of the table and stars exploded behind his eyes. The remains of his dinner flew into the air and rained down on him. The last thing he saw as darkness took him was tentacles as the calamari landed on his face.

* * *

Covenant awoke to the sound of pounding surf and the warmth of the sun on his chest. He opened his eyes and knew immediately that he was in the Land. He groaned and sat up. He knew this place. The SunbirthSea rolled in its eternal flow beside him. Looking north he could glimpse the spoiled plains, still rife with Corruption’s malice. He also knew what lay behind him. He dreaded turning around. He could see in his mind’s eye the tumbled remains of Foul’s Creche on its promontory of cliffs. Why had he been returned? Was Lord Foul once again threatening the Land? What of that monster invading his home? Was his helpless body even now being savaged by the beast?

A bubbling sound reached his ears. It sounded as if an enormous pot of water had come to a furious boil but this pot would have been the size of an ocean.

Covenant turned and looked past Foul’s Creche where the blue-green waters of the SunbirthSea bubbled and churned. Something appeared in the roiling waters. It appeared to be an island rising from the depths to join its brother landmasses basking in the sun. Mats of kelp and sea slime coated the rounded surface of the island which continued to grow and rise.

The island continued to rise and its sides soon began to curve inward. As Covenant stared, aghast, enormous milky orbs broke the surface of the water. Eyes, somehow this titanic shape was a face. Had the Despiser crafted some new abomination to conquer the Land?

Higher the face rose from the water revealing writhing tentacles. The creature’s shoulders and torso soon cleared the waters. It soon stood taller than the cliffs and blotted out the sun. Its skin was a sickly black-green and appeared alternately scaled and slick as if it could not decide to become reptile or some other form of life.

Covenant felt his fear kindle the wild magic within his ring. 

White light erupted around him, exploding from the white gold of his wedding band to form a coruscating ball of power that mirrored the violence in his soul. Screaming in fear and rage Covenant thrust his half-hand toward the towering horror and white flame flowed upward to strike the creature. The monster’s tentacles parted and its black maw opened wide to swallow the light of the wild magic. Pushing harder Covenant felt his soul pour toward the creature which drank the wild magic as if it were water. Unfazed the creature made a sound that he thought must be a chuckle.

The flame of wild magic soon flickered and died. Covenant fell to his knees, drained in body and spirit. He looked to his ring which now appeared tarnished and dull. The magic was gone.

A new sound reached his ears, chanting.

An enormous crowd of black ur-viles and green sea creatures like the one who had invaded his home capered madly on the beach between him and Foul’s Creche.

“Ia, ia! Cthulhu ia!” they sang with voices like drowned men.

Covenant felt his sanity fracture as the sea titan strode ashore and into the Land.

 The End?


 Thomas Covenant and other characters/locations mentioned were created by Stephen R. Donaldson. I claim no ownership of these characters and present this as a writing exercise and a work of fan fiction.

 

 

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