Authors: Tim Dedopulos,John Reppion,Greg Stolze,Lynne Hardy,Gabor Csigas,Gethin A. Lynes
An Eldritch Tribute to H. P. Lovecraft
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An Eldritch Tribute to H. P. Lovecraft
Salomé Jones, Editor
To my mom, who let me read Lovecraft as a kid.
~ Salomé Jones
by Leeman Kessler
Hello, I’m Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
That’s how I begin each of my “Ask Lovecraft” YouTube episodes, anyway. There are two good reasons for it. The first is that I don’t much look or sound like the Old Gentleman, so I need to alert people to just what they are watching. The second reason, however, is more nebulous, more sacramental. By invoking Lovecraft’s name in a ritual manner, I take on a piece of his numinous essence. If I called my program “Ask an Early 20th Century Gentleman” it would hardly resonate with people as it does.
For some time now, the names of Lovecraft and of his most infamous creation have been words of power. Their use is linked with a whole host of assumptions, emotions, and controversies. There are times when we risk diluting these words, and reducing them to well-worn memes or meaningless clichés.
But not today. Not in this collection.
In this anthology, you will find stories that are perfectly enjoyable tales of the dark and the uncomfortable. Yet, brought together to huddle around the tenebrous banner of the Lord of R’lyeh, they take on a new light and gain blasphemous powers denied to them on their own. In the sickly, phosphorescent glow of this new context, these stories not only share in the legacy of Lovecraft’s work, but also add to it. Lovecraft invited artists and writers to play with his themes, his creations, and his nightmares – and that invitation has opened a door to unimaginable realms of delight and terror for us all.
So read on, and discover tales of dystopian despair, genealogical horror, aquatic apocalypses, and so much more. They will make you long for relief, yet drive you eagerly to read ever on. The book is called a tribute – another word that has been watered down in recent years, in the service of mawkish sentiment. In truth, it should evoke images of conquest and of spoils, of kneeling before cyclopean monuments in awe and trepidation. That is how these writers have knelt, and the world is all the more strange and better for it.
As always, I’m Leeman Kessler.
by Piers Beckley
Glay was there, of course. Sitting in the middle of the front row, intent on the empty stage, curly hair atop emaciated body, thin face a collection of hard angles. He leaned towards the front of the lecture theatre, throbbing with excitement, like he could hardly wait to get to the microphone and make the announcement himself. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she knew they’d be sparkling.
Paul leaned across to her from the adjacent chair. “When’s it going to start?”
“Any moment. Just...” Rebecca put a finger to her lips. “Shh.”
He leaned back again. “This, you drag me out of the office for. I had death gods. Death gods!”
The banner on the wall was sky blue, with the new logo picked out in white. Super Large Collider. A simplified overhead view of the site, three letters on top. They’d made the C match up with the loop beneath the Earth, miles across. Rebecca wondered how much the marketroids had charged for that one. A few hundred Euros a day apiece, a few weeks of work. Plenty.
The director walked in, and a hush fell across the room as everyone waited to see what she was going to say.
“Have they switched it on yet?” Paul,
Rebecca shhed him again.
The director talked at them for a while. New, higher-powered beams. More tera-electron-volts than had ever been fired down an enormous vacuum-filled (or air-emptied, Rebecca thought) tube before. Power unlimited, more data, more particles, more glimpses into the mind of God.
Rebecca let the words wash over her, watching Paul from the corner of her eye instead. He shifted in the uncomfortable chair. “What are you looking at?”
She could see a few journalists scattered across the hall recording the speech. A couple on audio recorders, a few on iPhones. There weren’t that many other theorists there. The collider was old news, now. Switching it back on at higher power was food for science geeks only, and the we’ll-all-be-eaten-by-black-holes silly season stories barely rated a paragraph at the bottom of page eight.
Then the director was done, and it was time for wine and canapés.
In the centre of the collision chamber was a sphere twenty metres in diameter. The top half poked out above the gridded metal floor which divided the chamber in two. An inspection hatch, dogged shut, gave the only access to its interior. On either side, the magnet-lined pipes which fed the beams into the sphere snaked off into the darkness in a several-mile-long circular conduit through stone. A low hum permeated the room, building slowly.
Boots clanged on metal stairs. Then a fumbling of keys in the lock, and a whispered instruction to hush followed by two sets of giggles. Then the door opened, and they fell in, kissing.
“So this is where the magic happens?” asked Paul, after breaking for air. That set them both off for a while.
“Kind of.” An enormous crack of sound filled the chamber, leaving it silent. “There. Magic.”
“That’s all there is to it?”
She gave him a gentle push. “What do you mean, all? That’s fifteen tera-electron-volts, that is. That, buddy, is science.”
He looked sceptical.
“Or it might just be a big crack of sound. I won’t know until I look at it.” She opened her handbag and pulled out the recorked bottle of wine she’d stashed at the reception. “Drink?”
They sat down next to each other on the metal staircase, leaning against the riser, his arm warm around the small of her back. Rebecca pulled the cork from the bottle and took a long slug from it, passed it to Paul who did the same.
“We’re not supposed to come down here,” she said. “But I like to, sometimes. When there’s no one around. To get away from it all, to just think. Up there, in the office, it’s just numbers. Down here, every ten minutes, the beams collide and this is where it hits. We’re looking back in time to the moments just after the big bang, when there’s nothing but particle soup. And somewhere in there is what I’m looking for. You can see it in the numbers, the numbers are what it all comes down to. But I like to get close to the heart of it. Coming down here every so often helps me to remember what’s really going on. Maybe that last one was a new Higgs boson. Coming into existence for the first time. Just for me.”
He squeezed her tight. “I love it when you talk science.”
“How many do you need?”
“All of them. A dozen. A hundred. More. A thousand Higgs, all for me and Glay, running into the future. A million more, just for me.”
“That many?” he asked.
He passed her the bottle and she took another chug.
“This is car crash physics. We throw things together and see what comes out. It could be anything. But whatever it is, whatever revelations come out of that chamber, every day we know a little more about why and how we are who we are. Every collision getting me just a little bit closer to the end.” She upended the bottle. Nothing. “All done.”
He pulled her close, nibbled at her ear. It tickled, slightly. “Or we could get closer to each other?” he asked.
And they did.
Glay sat on his battered old office chair, while Rebecca looked at the screen over his shoulder.
“Tell me you don’t see it,” he said.
She could, though. “A hundred and sixty-three?”
There it was, 38 GeV above where it should be. Above where anything had been before.
“It’s not just miscalibrated...”
He swiped the trackpad, brought another graph into play. The Higgs sat there at 125, same as it ever was. Maybe a little low. Well within the bounds of experimental error.
“All as it should be. I’ve crunched the data several times, and it keeps coming up with the same result. I want you to cross-check it for me. Then again. And again.”
“And if it is for real, it’s on our watch. Confirm it, and let’s throw it out there. Why are you even still here?”
She went back to her own workstation and got back to work.
Later that night, after the first round of fucking but before the second had got going in earnest, she talked about work.
“A new kind of boson.”
“Aye aye, cap’n. There he was, walking the Planck.” She waited for the laugh. “Oh, you’re rubbish. That would have killed in the office. Because...”
He put a finger to her lips. “It’s all right. I don’t need the lols.” She nipped gently at the finger with her teeth, and he quickly withdrew it. “All right, all right! Be gentle with me. So it’s a big deal.”
“It’s a big deal.”
“So what’s next?”
She rolled over onto her side, turfing him off her arm and facing him. “We try and find out more. Lock down the figures, make sure everything’s where it ought to be. If it’s real, and we haven’t screwed up the figures then, well.” She grinned. “It’s a write-your-own-ticket deal.”
“Aren’t you the clever one?”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
“So, go on then. What is it?”
“Well, it looks like another quark,” she said. “But it’s enormous, way bigger than anything we’ve seen before. We thought it might be another state of the Higgs, but that doesn’t really make any sense either. And if it’s a graviton, that blows the Standard Model to pieces.” She stopped, trying to will the excitement into him. “This is genuinely going to change the world.”
“Heigh-ho,” he said.
“Everything changes. From one moment to the next, we’re breathing, living, eating, shitting. Dying. No such thing as a constant.”
“Us. We’re a constant.”
“Yeah, maybe us.”
He started kissing her neck then, and the conversation stopped.
The data kept coming in. Rebecca imagined the beams powering up high, the crack as they collided, showering new particles to shimmer and disappear within an instant.
Glay looked at the board and scratched his head. “It doesn’t make any damn sense at all.”
She sipped her black coffee, waited for the call to action.
Regular as clockwork. She took her coffee with her to the corkboard. Glay had tacked a dozen graphs showing the collision data across it.
“You rechecked the calibration?” he asked.
Rebecca nodded. “Today. And yesterday. And twice the day before.”
He stared at the corkboard as if he was willing it to give up his secrets. “This one’s different too.”
“One thirty-eight,” she said. “Point three. Solid, measurable. Fact.”
“But it makes no sense.”
“What about the Americans, have they...”
“No. Our colleagues in Texas have yet to see even a single one of our new mystery particles. Let alone two dozen, and what’s more, that’s two dozen with completely different signatures.”
She sipped her coffee. “So we can’t publish.”
“No. We can’t publish. We can’t publish a damn thing.” He stood there, brooding. “Let’s get another board in. We’ll do it by energy levels, rearrange the graphs. See if we can pull out a pattern.” He looked at her. “What are you waiting for this time? Let’s look at this from a different angle.”
She bought flowers from the garage on the way home. When she came through the door Paul looked at them and said, “Do you need forgiving for something?”
Rebecca laughed. “Not this time. Come on, get your coat on, you’ve pulled.”
“Let me put them in some water first.”
They went to Giancarlo’s again. Chardonnay and a pizza with a touch too much garlic. Rebecca held up her glass for him to clink.
“What’s the occasion? Did I miss an anniversary?” He sounded slightly cautious.
“No, I just thought we could do with cheering up. It’s a bloody nightmare in the office at the moment.”
Paul flashed that grin of his, the one she liked. “I knew there was something up.”
“The particles we’re discovering – they’re not coming in at the same levels.”
“So they should. They can’t just change. Which means there’s something wrong with the equipment. This place, this collider, all these billions of Euros have been wasted.”
“At least it’s not our money,” he said.
“Yes, but it’s my career. So it’s going to be our money. Hell, we don’t even know what’s changed. If we did, we could just take the damn thing apart and fix it.”
“You’ll fix it,” he said. “I know you.”
“Maybe.” She took a gloomy mouthful of buttery wine.
“Could be worse. You might have to give a talk about the Peruvian gods of death and madness.”
“What’s their opinion on marmalade?”
He looked at her for a moment, confused.
“Paddington Bear? Don’t tell me you don’t know about Paddington. Likes marmalade? Comes from Darkest Peru? What do they teach you people these days?”
He looked down at that, studying the tablecloth for a moment before raising his gaze again. He drew on the cloth with his finger as he spoke.
“There doesn’t seem to be much writing on them. And none about marmalade. Just an oral tradition. What there is, is basically: The gods are all over the world, and only human sacrifice will appease them.”
She drank. “Come on, that’s just old nonsense. Anyway, aren’t you the one saying we have to judge a culture by their own standards? So they liked a bit of the old human sacrifice every now and then, like the Aztecs. Perfectly normal.”
He frowned. “I don’t know... It’s different. Somehow. Most human sacrifice, there’s a point, you know? Make the sun rise, make the crops grow, make the gods smile down on you, turn their backs on your enemies. But these... nothing. When Eleanor asked them why their ancestors killed, she was told because that’s what you do for the gods. It’s just what they expect. No rhyme or reason to it. Just... because.”
“What do you expect. They’re gods. Let’s eat.”
“That’s what they said.”
The office was filled with red string. Glay was in the middle of it, ducking and weaving through the web. “Come on then, don’t just stand there gawping. Work to do!”
“What are you doing?”
He grinned that mad grin at her. “This is an unusual phenomenon.”
“I can see that.”
“Requires an unusual methodology! Look, duck through here.” He gave her his hand and they threaded under the weave. “As the data comes in, it goes on the wall over there. The length of the wall here represents time, and recorded energy goes up against the vertical. On the opposite wall, the other fundamental particles. The thread shows the pattern.”
She moved closer. “They’re showing the same data as they always did.”
“But the figures for this one keep changing – look, see the way these threads cross?”
Five threads, crossing each other randomly as far as Rebecca could tell. “I’m not seeing it.”
“You just have to look harder! Grab yourself some drawing pins from the table, and we’ll add today’s data.” He stood up, framed by red. “The pattern’s there, I’m sure of it. We just need to clarify things. Make them stand out more.”
“I need some coffee,” she said.
“Go on, then! Charge us up! Let’s crack this thing.” He interlaced his fingers and pushed his palms towards her, and she heard the bones in his fingers click.
Rebecca walked through a dark city. A few moments ago – when? – Paul had been with her. Now she was alone.
The buildings were half-ruined, and the sky was black. It had to be daytime because the sun was out, she could see it (and why didn’t it burn out her eyes, she was looking straight at it, how could she do that?) and the sky was black.
But even beyond the black sky, beyond the yellow sun, she could feel the stars looking down on her.
“Paul?” She walked down the empty street. “Paul?”
But there was no response.
It’s just a nightmare. I’ll wake up in a moment.
So that was fine. Just a nightmare.
Not like you’ve not had nightmares before. That last time, the time that you swore you’d never eat so much brie before bed again? It’s just like that, only no robots this time.
Just another boring old nightmare.
She felt cold. Had she felt the cold in a nightmare before, or was this new? Maybe she’d just always dressed warm in dreams before, so she wouldn’t have even noticed if she’d been dreaming of the cold.