The Grave of Boundless Science
Part I: The Little Black BookTo those who have heard the story which I am about to relate to you, I have surely seemed quite firmly insane; and it is for this reason that I am so reluctant to describe the events which came to pass in those few weeks—several years ago—when I first saw that blasphemous doom-herald which, even now, I fancy I can see creeping across the blackness of space above. Even mentioning it, I shiver in the unnatural cold which seems to haunt me in these later years. But forgive me, dear reader, for it is not yet time for those speculations about what remains of my experience. It is best that I begin at the apropriate place in my tale—i.e. the beginning.
It began the day after my father died—having left me what little money and posessions he had in this world—as I was sifting through his antiquarian collection of books, research notes, and unpublished works. I had known for some time that, after his first few sucesses as a scientific journalist for one of the major info-relay services which operated on the ever-shifting and ever-outraged interpersonal connection networks, he had become strangely secluded and abnormal in manner. I knew not what it was that he was pursuing in those latter times, but as I sat in the cold and charnel steel box which formed the room in which he had lived out his final days, forcing my mind to stay focused on the tiny type before me instead of the foetid smell of decay which permiated the room—a last vestige of his loathsome final sickness—the pieces began to assemble themselves in my mind. Unwillingly, I allowed the amorphous shape which I had held his research in before collate into a sickening picture: he had become aware of some scientific malpractice which he was intent on rooting out—some tenebrous overstep of the line that bound humans to the natural order.
Among the pile of white paper and abstract-covered physical books (long since, in the outside world, replaced by thier electronic equivilants) I found an odd black notebook; its external texture indicating to my sensitive fingers the presence of burn-marks and char. Whether it had originally—in its younger days—had this black color was unknown to me, but it was now charcoal black. As I slowly hinged it open it seemed solid enough, and inside I found rows upon rows of the tight, tall handwriting which my father had cultivated. Unlike his other notes, however, which were usually either typed-up or written with such fastidious neatness that they might as well have been, this was sloppily written and hastily edited in the extreme. Already a drop of unease was mixing with the dread, where it lay in my stomach: this was an uncharacteristic sloppiness—what sort of fell secrets could be found in this small manuscript?
Inside the back cover, was written a short line: “Notes on elder things.” What this meant I had no idea. Much of the remaining contents of the book were alternately blotted out by water-stains and ink-runs, or burn marks and missing parts of pages. What little I could make out indicated that my father had traveled to a distant planet, Valoel, in order to acquire some sort of ancient book. So ancient, in fact, that only two copies were known to still exist: it seemed that through some combination of the decadent forgetfulness of the ensuing generations, and their arrogant assumption of its obsolescence, this book had fallen out of favor; and thereby out of reproduction into each new medium which the passing ages considered most fashionable. Subtle hints in these notes, relating to shadowy watchers and overheard comments, as well as unlucky and unlikely events, also suggested to me that there was a chance that some sort of active censorship against this mysterious manuscript was possible. I could not be certain, but I wondered if my father had considered this alternative as well.
Apparently this book pertained to many things which were no longer considered—by the time men had begun space flight and invented the Damocles Drive—to be true or real. Humans had pushed out the boundaries of their knowledge so far, and not found anything contrary to the methods of science and sane reason, so that anything that was as outside the bounds of these things as what this book suggested was considered rubbish without so much as an inspection. My father, an archaeologist at heart, knew better than to listen to the arrogance of college-educated men with narrow horizons, however. And so, he sought out the book—for he suspected from long-ago-heard rumors that it told of an endeavor similar to that which the scientists he was watching so carefully were trying to embark on. Infuriatingly, his notes seemed obscure to the point of obfuscation concerning the matter of what the endeavor actually was, and each time they came near the point at hand, they shied away, as if he was afraid to name what it was the scientists were attempting—but also, each time, he referenced a single page in this ancient book, which he denoted with a single bold ‘N.’
Nevertheless, and in spite of my preemptive attempts at dismissal, thoughts grew uncontrollably in my head. These strange circumstances under which my father had operated and died, the hints of vast organizations with incomprehensible power over human society, and the intimations of some tenebrous perversion of the scientific method—which could only be termed with that well-worn and wholly inadequate phrase “mad science”—conspired to leave me in great fear and concern. I had been, at first, tempted to continue my father’s research: whatever these scientists were doing was clearly untenable and must be stopped. But as the fear grew and I read more, forming a still amorphous but ever more terrifying image of the forces at play in this matter, that temptation was—at first—sapped out of me.
When I went I went home that night, to my small apartment in a tower not far from the one in which my father had lived his last days, I resolved to put the entire matter out of my mind—for one reason or another it had not come to any sort of fruition, and furthermore it was out of my hands and expertise: I was simply a clerk in a multiplanetary corporation and not an investigator of the unnatural. Alas, as I walked the lonely and shadowed streets of my hometown, I could not help thinking, in touches and flashes, about the matter that my father had been concerned with, and the little black book. The greater matter might be out of my range, but perhaps I owed something to my father? While I walked, the strange shadows formed by the electric lights which line the streets—lines of neon which followed the sidewalk’s curves—seemed to form sinister shapes; in the corner of my eye things seemed to dance on the smooth glass and metal buildings which surrounded me, and the concrete shapes which formed the road and its surroundings. I shook my head and continued walking—surely this was none of my concern. This would all look quite silly and harmless in the light of day, I was sure of it.
I entered my home some ten minutes after this final—or so I thought—decision to stay out of the wider matter; as I rode the small elevator up to my seventeenth floor apartment (a simple and cheap affair which was all I could afford in this city) my thoughts lingered on a new fear which had come to roost in my breast. What if my father’s illness was of intentional origin? The doctors had found it to be of an unusual nature and quite singularly incurable; they had very reasonably concluded in their diagnoses that it was of a natural origin—but perhaps my father’s research had seen him run afoul of those forces which had been hinted at in his notebook? The thought itself seemed to have been prompted by the same curious drive as had earlier made me desire to continue my father’s work in some manner, in spite of my fear and the danger. I could not identify what made me want to do this. Despite the unnameable nature of my drive, thoughts of my father’s demise and what I might do about it haunted me all the way to my bed, where I lay tossing and turning, strange images flashing before my imagination’s eye, and beneath my lids, as I attempted to fall asleep.
The next morning, I embarked on my day to day activities under the gray light of the polluted sky which hung somberly over the city outside. During my breakfast I had spent some not insignificant time thinking about the conclusions which my previous day had led me to, and the grief at the loss of my estranged but still loved father seemed in my imagination to swirl about my room like a spectral vapor of unknown origin. It was in this atmosphere that I recalled my final speculation of the night before—and as I continued the rest of my routine I could not help but develop it; it was all too enticing a mode of thinking for one such as myself, for I had oft been told during my childhood years that my imagination was altogether too fertile for my own good. I resolved that, in order to do right by my father’s memory, I would return to look at his old writings after my job was finished for the day—I still had to pack the items up, in any case, which was my original mission in visiting his abode.
I rode silently down the building’s elevator, having walked down the airy and lonely corridor—open to the city sky—that stretched in a worm-like labyrinthine shape past all the doors on the seventeenth floor. All was silent as a tomb, for although I had been assigned a strangely high floor, it was well known that this tower (as most of the others were) was largely empty; Terra was a dying planet in the grip of a strange and terrible and vast economic cancer which, like my father’s sickness, was possibly the work of intention. The sepulchral silence did not bother me ordinarily, but on a day such as this I could not help but fancy that the people that had lived here, too, were victims of the same strange disease.
Out of the tower in broad daylight again, I could see the cracked concrete, studded and broken by twisting brown weeds, that made up most of the ground-level structures; the roads were almost useless in places, so full of potholes and cracks, bulging with uncut and unhindered roots like wooden tentacles, that it was common knowledge that any navigation system was worse then useless in the city. Above ground level I could see, as I raised my head to look at the sky and gauge the weather, the steel and glass constructions, contorted fantastic shapes wrought—it seemed—by the fevered dreams of mad architects. There were strange blown-glass tubular shapes, and twisting, spiraling shapes, pyramids and rounded rectangles and knife-like buildings. Each shape, I had been assured when I had first moved here, was designed in such a way as to most efficiently route the wind through the city, to cool the streets and slow down storm winds; it was a form of artificial weather control which I had always considered unnatural, if less so than that used by other cities on other planets. The sky above and around everything, that omnipresent cap under which everything else existed—or had for a thousand billion years until man had left the ground to which he ultimately belonged—was gray and flat; the sky was slightly clouded over its entirety so that, like a Perlin noise map, everything was various lighter or darker shades. Nothing was very dark nor very light, in such a way that air itself seemed permeated by an empyrean and sourceless light: the sun was invisible. I trudged on, after taking in the familiar surroundings, the brief hope that the outside would dispel my fears and waking fever-dreams dashed.
The bulk of the day that followed—mired in paperwork and bureaucratic excess as it was—did little to dispel my overarching sense of unease and fear; I continued throughout the entire day thinking about what I might find in and what I would do with my father’s collection of research. A creeping suspicion also began to overtake my cogitation during the course of my menial tasks and inane human interactions: was I really, in the final analysis, doing this in order to find out some undiscovered fact regarding my late father’s illness? Or was I, in my own secretive way, fooling myself—as a cover for an endeavor so much more dark and sinister: that of investigating that nameless experiment which even now might still be furtively continuing on its evil course? At the mere touch of this intimation—which I had only begun suggesting to myself out of suspicion, my entire self-analysis reeled; for the purposes of continuing—for whatever reasons that may be—I irresponsibly decided that this could not be the case. It would soon be come apparent, in the coming weeks, that this was indeed the case, and that I had hit upon and shied away from a truth—as I would do many times later. Unlike those madness-inducing truths, however, which I still refuse to speculate concerning (having had enough of speculation for the remainder of my lifetime), acknowledging this truth might well have saved me the entire indescribable adventure on which I was about to embark.
Simultaneous with the conclusion of the work-hours, which I had been bridling against for the last hour of my shift—watching the lugubriously slow clock which hung upon the wall—I quickly rose from my cubicle-enclosed seat and its matching desk, and began to stride out of the building. Although my work shift was done and my duties complete, it was always at this hour that my superior—a tall and crooked man of disproportionately sized cranium—would attempt to catch me in the process of leaving: always he held some new task or extra work which I would be compelled to do. I could never comprehend the strange forces within his small mind which engendered him to do this, especially at the exact time that he did—for I had been sitting, nigh-idly, for the past hour or so; yet when I was about to leave, that was his time to strike.
This time, however, my extra haste—and perhaps my mood, which could well have been plain upon my face—deterred him, and I could see him staring after me with his black eyes from within his sequestered office in the corner of the open floor. I proceeded down the wide and slippery stairs (always coated with some noisome substance which no one could seem to identify—it was my pet theory that it was a form of effluent from the floors above) which must be used in that building in lieu of the elevator, turning over in my mind the little black book which had haunted my dreams the night before, and slowly assembling a plan.
Once I had left the building, I turned my steps in the direction of the low, windowless building which contained my father’s office—although I could not see it yet due to its short stature compared to the surrounding spires, I knew nevertheless which direction I had to take. During the course of this walk, I saw precious few people, and those that I did see looked sickly and dispirited; they portrayed the state of my own—and the city’s—spirit so well that I wondered if I looked similarly sallow and forlorn. Finally I arrived at the low, steel, windowless rectangular form which constituted the building that was my destination. I wondered, as I entered it for the second time through the only door which admitted passing through, what purpose its windowless configuration could possess; surely it was not originally meant for human habitation: to live without natural light in that manner was inhuman—fit only, perhaps, for mole-creatures.
These gloomy thoughts hung over me as I arrived at the door to the office, a rounded affair whose bottom edge stood more then a foot from the hall floor’s surface. The identification pad inset at head-height on the door recognized me without difficulty, and the door clicked open—allowing a slight sigh of air to escape from the inner room—and I pushed against the door slowly to open it. Just before I was about to step in, I noticed a strange warping of the metal rim around the door which I had not noticed upon my approach. It indicated a strange violence which had been done to the door, as if to access the bolt which hid behind that flange of metal; at first I dismissed it as simply an unknown damage which likely more reflected the building’s oppressive age then some nefarious purpose, but as I entered the room I knew that this sinister hint must be more recent: for, as I surveyed the contents of the room it was clear that someone else had been here.
The stool that I had sat on in my studies was knocked on its side a few feet from the table—which had been, it seems, bumped aside on accident—on which the papers I had been surveying still sat. These papers, however, were in a state of intense and singular disarray, some backwards, some forwards, some crumpled or in a few rare cases, ripped. I knew that I would have to inspect those items further in order to ascertain the extend of the damage, or if anything was missing, but what immediately sprung to my awareness was the fact that the little burnt book was gone. A strange panic crept up from my shoes and, through my gut, into my heart and finally into my brain, whence in a frenzy of fear I reacted—finally unfrozen from my shocked assessment—by dashing about the room searching for any sign of the book. This was counter-productive in the long run, as I further mixed and disturbed all the other things which the room contained (a small shelf and a bed), upsetting and erasing all possible clues as to who might have done this. Suffice it to say, I made my situation strictly worse and did not succeed in finding the black notebook, which was nowhere to be found.
Sitting on the old and creaking bed which stood in the corner, across from the table, I considered my position. This new event struck me as a strange coincidence. For to whom had I told, or even breathed a word to, or even hinted at, concerning these new investigations which I intended to carry out, or fears that I had? In addition it was quite plain that I knew nothing—or very little—that could be damaging to the nefarious purposes of those scientists that my father had stalked so to the detriment of his health. For these reasons it was doubtful that what had happened here was a response to anything that I knew or had done. In all likelihood, I therefore concluded, this was some plan that had been set in motion by word—carried through some shadowy and vast spy network—of my father’s untimely death. The event only served to confirm, however, the dark liklihood that my father's death was nothing natural at all.
In spite of my probable safety, I could feel panic welling up and mixing with the dark sludge of my other emotions in my bowels; the mixture of grief, suspicion, fear and panic created an impression of vast and eldritch shapes—organizations of men, yes, but also the things that galvanized those, which must be beyond human ken—which moved beyond the limits of my knowledge and understanding: great machines and organizations without care for my very existence which nonetheless effected me. Once the moment passed, I was overwhelmed with a sense of urgency: I must understand the greater part of this whole. I could no longer hide behind the vague fears and suspicions of my father nor the comforting lie that my planned investigation was simply about knowing what had happened to my father. I had to know everything. I had to discover it all!
For the next few days, a sort of foggy frenzy overtook me. I don’t know exactly what I was doing during that time, in retrospect, but quickly it came about that I had booked a trip to Valoel as part of a plan to track down whatever leads I could concerning any of the information which my father was investigating. I do not remember much of those days at all; and it seemed that I operated in a sort of dream state, much indeed like that of a somnambulist. It came to light not long after, moreover, that I had actually ceased to work at my previous place of employment—either I had been fired or I had quit, the paperwork was unclear and my boss’ body was found dead not too long after I had left Terra. I spent much of this time bent over my portable computer console in my father’s living space. I might, in actual fact, have taken up my residence there, although it was impossible to be sure.
The inexplicable loss of most memory had a singular exception: I vividly remember the research work that I had undertaken simultaneously with preparing to leave the planet. The curious little notebook, as I have noted before, seemed not actually to be of prime importance—strangely enough, considering the lengths to which whoever had stolen it must have gone to obtain it. What was missing, in terms of specific information, seemed only to be a myriad of references to the mysterious unnamed manuscript, ’N', each somewhat cryptic—as far as I could recall—and a precious few notes on word definitions or translation issues from what seemed to be Arabic. What was left in his notes were several names of various scientists, a few locations of outposts and unmarked spacial coordinates of no known significance which I could apprehend.
The following week was taken up completely by the flight on a cheap (and therefore slow) cargo craft which I had booked to Valoel. Once I was safely deposited upon firm and trustworthy ground, I immediately proceeded to a pre-made reservation on Valoel—a dingy hotel some miles from the main port city—and began researching using the networks. I sat in the dark and dingy square of my apartment, curtains drawn over the floor-to-ceiling glass windows which looked out over nothing but bleak ice and rock, hunched in front of the glowing sepia light of the vertical rectangle (shaped like a piece of A4 paper) which stood in its ethereal thinness at an angle on the desk before me. In order to avoid drawing attention to myself, I took what privacy precautions I could and moreover disguised my searches through some sort of indirection; therefore instead of searching directly for the names of the men whom I was looking for on this planet, I searched instead for major museums. Once I obtained those results, I looked for people who had been consulted for one reason or another of some expertise; this brought up a list of men of some archaeological renown. I was in quest of some information on the book, largely because following up on my father’s research outside of the little black book required infiltration and detective skills which I was not yet confident I possessed the ability to master—at this juncture I was hoping I would be able to recover what had seemed to be the culmination of his work in describing what the scientists were actually doing.
Finally I was able to locate, in what hopefully seemed to be a relatively innocuous manner, the first of the men which my father had listed as contacts: a certain PhD by the name of Leonard Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton specialized in ancient mythology and mythological texts of the pre-“modern” age—that “modern” age which was so termed before spaceflight came about and what the common public would call the modern time truly began. He appeared to take up office in a small provincial university by the name of Dewhurst College of Ancient Sciences—a strange and oddly specific institution which seemed dedicated to the specific type of research which might be taken up by graduate students and which aligned with the overall business of this planet. This university, and the town with which it shared its name were, according to the navigational metadata attached to his address, not too far from where I had taken up my temporary residence.
The geography of the area around the port city of Anghor Thom was quite strange indeed, upon further inspection: the city itself was situated upon an icy, hostile plateau almost a mile above sea-level; this made it useful for traffic from the space station above to the ground, but also made it quite difficult to live there. Most of the public meeting areas were under domes which insulated them and maintained the heat with a minimum of energy expenditure, while the buildings formed short, low egg-like domes with only a few floors (usually less then ten) connected by covered bridges of square or half-cylindrical shapes. The next populated areas—among them Dewhurst and the hotel in which I resided—were more then a mile away from that high plateau, scattered in strangely specific circular collections not far away. Looking at the map, I found it odd that every single town or city or populated area was, in aggregate, perfectly circular—the buildings situated so that the shape of the entire affair was circular, but not only that: the buildings themselves would be of strange rounded shapes in order to make the outline even more perfect—although perhaps it was some simple cultural oddity.
I decided to attempt to use the time that I had gained between my arrival and tomorrow morning—when I would set out in order to meet Doctor Hamilton—by researching the history of Valoel itself; after all it could do no harm to be more familiar with the local mores and customs. In addition, if found my interest piqued by the strange architectural quirks which led these people to found odd gibbous constructions of such an abnormal nature. This process of research yielded surprisingly little. This planet was, by all accounts, a simple outpost founded to investigate the cyclopean alien ruins which had been found in its solar system; while the planets on which these actual ruins were to be found had acidic atmospheres probably productive for what had—in elder times—resided there, Valoel (the only named planet of the system, as was the proper naming scheme of the Federated Colonies of Humankind). Valoel did not have any major exports or imports, and from what I could glean the total extent of its population did not spread out more then fifty miles from the central port city; it was difficult to decide if the poverty of this planet was why they did not expand, or if the fact that they made no attempt to explore and expand on their own planet was the reason for their poverty. Although Valoel itself was largely a rocky, cold wasteland which precluded the natural growing of life, thanks again to that rocky and asteroid-pocked surface it was nearly guaranteed to have valuable metals waiting to be mined.
I went to sleep that night drained of many of the negative emotions which I had experienced on Terra—the grief had run its course already and now that I was far away from the place of my father’s death the fear had faded; what kept me up this night was something far more lively and simple: excitement. I was indeed more then ready to begin actually investigating the things which had now haunted me for four days.
Rain—great deluges of it—was the predominant impression I had when I woke up. I sat up on the white, crisp and surprisingly clean sheets of the perfectly square bed which separated me minimally from the floor only a few inches below it; I was woken up by the abscence of my two pillows, which I seemed to have thrown on the floor during the course of my tossing and turning the previous night. The plan sepia walls around me were the same color as the still-glowing terminal screen which sat in its tilted position on the desk across the room from—and above—me on the desk; the terminal’s light, a portal into some luminous dimension, cast a quadrilateral shape on the wall above me. I wondered idly how I could have slept with that glaring light on, while I listened to the rain pattering against the still curtained glass window to my left. My eyes roved the room again, finding a strange sort of comfort in its cold and cleanly lines and satisfying utilitarian emptiness. A small sigh escaped my lips, and I raised my wrist in order to peer through a sleepy haze at the thin digital wristband (barely more then a bracelet) which showed me the time in calligraphic numbers. It was 0730 hours—a nice, round number to wake up at, which left me more than enough time to catch the only subway from this secluded area to the town of Dewhurst.
I had finished my breakfast, got dressed, showered, and packed up what little I had brought with me to the hotel with still an hour to spare before I had to get to the subway; although I was tempted to remain in the tiny town that surrounded the hotel, there really wasn’t much for me to do there, and if I got too caught up in something I might find myself having forgotten the subway altogether. These considerations suggested that I should head directly to the subway station on the edges of this tiny group of buildings without delay, and that is exactly what I did; the subway station in question was easy to find—a tall red-glowing neon sign stood above the small domed entrance which covered the downward stairs which led to the platform. I forged my way through the rain, my white light-ringed and clear umbrella lighting the way for me under the dark storm-clouds which roiled and crashed with lightening above. The air was unnaturally cold for liquid water to still exist—I could see my breath as a white mist puffing out before me—so that I began to suspect that what was raining down was not equivalent to Terra’s hydrogen dioxide at all.
When I arrived at the station’s protuberant entrance, the area surrounding it was bathed in a red glow from the needle which projected out of the center of the dome, composed of several upward pointing neon lights. The needle itself held up a wide sign with the simple inscription: “SUBWAY” on it. The sparse and twisted bramble and the rocks which were covered by the running liquid—whatever it was—which rained down from the heavens were all brightened by effulgence of the lights above, and after the darkness I had walked through I had to squint my eyes painfully; sensing the light as well, my umbrella shut off its inbuilt lighting. I descended into the darkened depths of the underground subway system.
Beneath the ground, in the dank and furtive-seeming half-circle which—extruded—formed the tunnel that curved away both to my left and right, I found an antique autonomous subway car. It was lighted by old fluorescent light bulbs which flickered and the doors hung slightly awry in their slid-open position. Everything around my was slightly damp in the way only underground chambers can be, and slightly dirty around the edges. I stood on a metal-surfaced foundation of concrete, which ended abruptly a few yards away and dropped off to the level where the track could be found. The subway car itself was tall enough that even from its lowered position resting on the track, its floor was level with the surface upon which I stood. To my left there was the single furnishing of the whole underground cavern: a small and very decrepit terminal of the old inductive touch screen type. I walked over to it, the gravel and grime on my shoes crunching and leaving smears on the metal surface under them, and pressed my wristband against its side where the standard NFC receiver would be placed; after a few seconds of waiting for this to work, I realized that I would instead have to manually enter my billing address and ten digit PIN. After the somewhat painful and most certainly archaic process which followed, I entered the subway, and the doors slid to a creaking and dubiously solid close behind me. Once I had found a seat, the whole car shuddered and shrieked and then raised up a little bit on its magnetic field-cushion and then shot off in the direction of Dewhurst.
The rapid pace of the ride all but threw me out of my seat, and I found it supremely shocking; not only had I not expected such an antiquarian device to have so much life in it, but the few remaining subways which were in operation on old Terra were not allowed to go nearly so fast. I briefly considered that those subways had actually been slowed down because of their state of disrepair, before I remembered that this subway was likely in an even worse condition—and that it was equally probable that the nature of its current speed indicated that someone had forgotten to do likewise. This did little to calm my nerves.
When I finally arrived at the Dewhurst College of Ancient Sciences, which was a surprisingly new collection of long and low buildings clustered in a fearful huddle around a central tower, I had an immense feeling of relief and also of nervousness—both emotions which stemmed from a simple fact: I had committed to seeing this (mis)adventure through, and completed the first step in that journey. Following the spoken directions of my wristband, I soon found myself at the door of Dr. Leonard Hamilton’s office in one of the central buildings. Each building looked exactly the same in most ways—they were all metal half-cylinders with wind turbines in rows atop their roofs and thin, high-up windows—but there was clear signage and holographic maps located about the premises so that even without my wristband’s directions it would not have been hard to find his place of work. His was one of the rare offices with a door that lead directly to the external world, and upon this door I rapped my knuckles timidly at first and then more firmly. A few seconds later I could hear the sounds of shuffling and a moment later, a short, thin, bearded and bespectacled man appeared before me, his ruddy and unfriendly visage staring straight into mine.
Part II: Eldritch ThingsFollowing a second of simply assessing me—looking me up and down in the most coldly calculating manner possible—Dr. Hamilton had clearly decided that I was not a threat or a waste of time, and irritably inquired what my business was. As I stood, shielded from the rain by the low arch of an awning which protruded from the side of the building (marring, I thought, its geometric perfection), considering how I would respond to such a question. After almost—but not quite—enough time had passed to render the pause awkward, I responded by stating that I was in search of a specific antique text that spoke about elder and beings and the various experiments associated with them. I did not know quite enough to be sure if this was a sufficient explanation, but it was all I could offer without putting myself at risk too obviously.
The doctor’s eyes widened briefly, and then narrowed as he began a closer inspection of me; while he did this I desperately attempted to avoid looking shifty and suspicious—but that is a very hard thing to do when someone is looking at one in the way Hamilton was at that moment looking at me. After another long silence, he seemed to come to some sort of decision, for he grasped the front of my jacket with a vice-like grip and pulled me into his office. I barely had time to press the retraction button on my umbrella to avoid it being bent by the passage through the door, which was altogether too narrow for it. The inside of his office was absurdly brightly lit with a creamy yellow effulgence that reminded me of whole butter—the kind that a diligent antiquarian could still find in pictures from hundreds of years ago; the windows high up in the walls (nearly, but not entirely overhead) cast amorphous, globular and prismatic shadows that were faint against the over-bright walls but added a sense of ever-shifting instability to everything the room contained. Speaking of what the room contained, it was filled by various artifacts and objects of unknown nature: stacks of manuscripts and tablets, shelves filled with books and loose papers and binders, multiple antique globes of various planets; moreover the clutter was not limited to physical objects—I soon noted that the impression of blinding light which the room gave my eyes was not solely due to the overpowering globe-lamp above, but because of the overabundance of garishly colored holograms projected from the walls of the room. I checked overhead and was unsurprised to find eye- and body-tracking receivers in order to have the wall-displayed holograms give a superior appearance of three-dimensionality and responsiveness. Upon inspecting the old doctor’s hands as he slowly made his way behind his door-facing desk and cleaned up some of his papers confirmed my assessment: I could see the half-gloves on his hands which enabled the trackers to understand with accuracy his finger movements.
When he had finally finished cleaning up his affects and could pay attention to me without—presumably—experiencing great embarrassment at his unkempt surroundings, the old man sat down and turned to face me with an inquisitive but also somewhat wary look on his ruddy face. Partially hidden behind the terminal screen to his left I could see a bottle which could only by liquor—which neatly explained his skin color and overall manner, although he seemed quite capable of rational functioning; either he had not drank much yet or he was very good at hiding how much he had drunk. In any case, I really did need his help, so when he inquired in a sharp voice why I had specifically referred to my area of interest as “elder,” I immediately decided that it would be both a waste of time and energy and an unnecessary strain of whatever goodwill he might hold for me, to attempt circumlocution. With this in mind—and the fact that he had helped and been trusted, apparently, by my father—I embarked on telling him what little there was of my story to tell.
When I finished my story, he sat for a second before leaning towards me, steepling his fingers, and—in the least-quiet whisper I had heard or ever will hear—told me that I should not be pursuing this business. This, as near as I can remember it, is what he said:
“Son, I knew your father—a little, at least, and perhaps as much as anybody but his wife could know him—and so I helped him because I knew that whether I helped him or not, he would continue to pursue the matter; he was not a man to be deterred. But what undid him in the end, as you rightly surmise, was his quest—whether the sickness is a result of what he encountered or some human-engineered revenge or neither. If by not helping you I can deter you now, I will not help you.”
I sat there, silent for a moment—all my fear and apprehension suddenly returning with the dawning understanding of what sort of thing I had undertaken. This old man’s statement was of the most chilling kind of finality which was not malicious nor obstinate but instead some kind of noble compassion: not what I had expected from a drunken professor in a dead-end job only still held because of tenure. Worse, it forced upon me a final choice that I was not sure I could make—and that I was sure I would regret no matter which option I chose. I could either essentially promise that I would never stop until I died or finished this project, or I had to stop right here and find out nothing more; what sort of choice was that? How could I honestly say what was necessary to get him to tell me what I wanted him to, without assuring him that I would not ever leave this matter be—when previously I had always kept the coward’s (or wise-man’s) way out as an option? And if I did not do that I would regret it for the rest of my life. It was an impossible, cruel choice that this man had imposed on me.
I told him I wanted the information, and if I didn’t get his help—well—I’d find someone else.
The old man sighed, and—without any attempt to hide the action—reached behind his terminal and took a long drink from the bottle of liquor. After taking a moment to refocus on me, and wiping the residual liquid from his beard, he began his explanation in a slightly more inebriated voice.
“At one point I knew what it was the scientists your father was shadowing were doing. I was, after all, the person who gave him the book that held that knowledge, and he was kind—or cruel—enough to share the knowledge with me. However, I was tortured by that fact and in the end had a little chip installed in my head—” here he tapped the back of his head, just below the base of his skull, where I could see a small barcode stamped “—which suppressed the memory. I still have constant fear and anxiety, however. They warned me, too. The told me the feelings and the unconscious knowledge wouldn’t go away. Well,” he said with a sigh, “that’s what this is for, I suppose.” At this, he took a swig of his drink. Then he returned to his speech: “I still know where the book is, though. We don’t really know what its called; the title has long since been lost to time, but its referred to in my circles as Manuscript N.”
At the mention of the terrible reason for his alcoholism, and the disgusting, unnatural modification which he had subjected himself to—cranial augmentation was frowned upon for a reason, and the very prospect of modifying my mind in such a way sent shivers down my spine—I was filled with a sense of foreboding. The whole room seemed to fall dim, and I felt faint. A rocking sensation wafted over me, as if I was underwater in the sea, carried back and forth by slow but unimaginably powerful waves. It was a few seconds before I could collect myself again. When I had, I asked him where I might find this eldritch manuscript and if he might lead me to it. He responded emphatically that while he would provide me with information concerning the whereabouts of the manuscript, he would most certainly not lead me there himself: he had already had more then his fill of the whole matter, and was ready to wash his hands of the whole matter—which, he said, seemed to be disturbingly heritable. Across the half-octagonal metal desk, he slid a small, vantablack square; as I picked it up, my fingers spasmed in surprise, nearly dropping it on the floor: it was unearthly in its icy temperature. When I had reaffirmed my grip on the data chip, I pressed it against my wristband and let the wireless NFC data transfer complete, before I attempted to offer it back to him. He refused to take it back, and in fact requested that I destroy it on the spot: once I had gone to the place he did not want anyone going there again, or following me afterwards; moreover he no longer wished to carry the responsibility of knowing anything which might lead him or another down the hideous path which my father and I followed. I thanked him and left quietly, and as I passed out of the door to the shelter of the awning, I peered backward through the still-open door, to see Dr. Leonard Hamilton taking another drink from his bottle—the patter and drizzle of rain lent an almost unutterable sadness to the moment.
It was evening by the time I had found my way to the opposite end of the small town of Dewhurst, and the rain had receded somewhat, leaving a faint iridescence in the air from what I could only assume was liquid vapor; this vapor also invaded my nostrils with its noisome stench. The vapor crawled with unnatural heaviness over the dry, squamous, channeled and caked obsidian rock of the planet’s surface like a furtive animal of some daemonic spiritual substantiation. The farther I trudged from the circular perimeter of the town, the more rugged the cracked and upward-angled plates of rock began to get, and the more brambles and bushes (which grew taller in these parts) could be found growing in the regolith-filled cracks. It was often a laborious effort to surmount some of the geological formations as I followed the straight line directions that my ocular implants indicated in dim red lines (set to contrast against the black rock, they reminded me of lava flows); oftentimes I wished that instead of a longitude-latitude and destination identification code, the data chip had provided a more complete route. In any case, I was glad to have the full use of both of my hands again, having retracted and folded my umbrella and replaced its—now small and cylindrical—form back into my black coat’s pocket.
I began to feel a creeping, spectral fear grow up and down my spine as night fell and I had not yet obtained my destination—how long would this endeavor continue to take? What manner of thing might I find here, and could I deal with it in the darkness of (for all I knew, by the time I arrived) midnight? Would it be wiser to wait until the following dawn? While I crawled over the stony formations, which had steadily grown in size and seeming complexity as I progressed, I came to the conclusion that however fearful meeting some unknown destination in the dark grip of night might be, remaining in this fog-haunted landscape, with its indescribable cyclopean shapes—which seemed almost to become, in my imagination, architectures—was infinitely worse. I forged on for several hours as the fear grew within me, as well as the sharp and almost burning sensation of being watched by some sapient thing.
Once I had arrived at the final destination, night had completed its fall in a thick and Stygian blanket over the horizon. I switched my ocular implants to night vision mode, but even then the darkness was so complete that there was little starlight for them to pick up and convert or enhance. I could see not much more than spectral outlines in gray; not even the hands that I waved before my face were more than ghostly tracings which flitted back and forth like necrotic fairies. Meanwhile, the feeling of being watched had subsided as I entered what appeared to be a circular ridge of rock which, in a fifteen foot radius, surrounded my desolate destination; its abscence, however, did nothing to alleviate my lurking fears, which only increased at the loss of so obvious a sign of my own fallibility: before, I could tell myself that the feeling was simply a side-effect of the darkness and mysteriousness of my quest, but now I had to wonder why it had stopped and whether there had been something accurate to my intuitions.
A few moments of rest sufficed to make me feel as prepared as I could ever feel, and I subsequently turned my attention to the rocky formation and what was contained within it. The ground all around the destination coordinates rose slowly and gradually at first, forming a sort of hump like that of an insect bite, but at a distance fifteen feet (as I have already mentioned) from the position itself, the ground suddenly curved up in a perfectly geometrical circle of roughly two feet high. In the very center of this circle, at the coordinates, was a perfectly vertical pit roughly wide enough for two men to descend. I switched on my umbrella light, which cast a meager glow a few feet around me, and pointed its inadequate beam down the pit’s throat. It was a useless endeavor: the light faded only a few feet in and left the rest in an equally Stygian blackness to the night that surrounded me—I had no way of knowing how deep the pit was, or how it ended. Circling the edge, however, was a concerningly narrow staircase, which spiraled around the edge of it, until it reached what seemed to be the bottom. Something fundamental disturbed me about these stairs—besides the obviously dangerous descent and mysterious destination—which I could not place for a moment, until I realized: the stairs were hideously disproportionate: altogether too tall and short for anything like human feet, or human legs; judging also by the erosion which had worn on them, leaving small cracks, a soft dusting of crumbled stone, and rounded corners, these steps were clearly some sort of antediluvian construction of some race that had been here before. The very thought both excited me beyond telling—there were very few indications of sentient alien life in the entire known space—and simultaneously even more concern.
At that very moment, as my speculation took me to elder times and vertigo-inducing thoughts and my imagination ran wild, I heard a ululating cry rend the air. I jerked in surprise, the sudden stimulus causing me to drop my umbrella down the pit as I stared up and around me, peering out into the distant horizon. When I had turned nearly one hundred and eighty degrees around from my original facing-direction, I saw what could only be described as two multifaceted orbs suspended in the vapor which, even in the nightly cold, still flowed and shifted across the ground. They were horrifying, gibbous eyes like that of an blasphemously gigantic insect. They reflected the starlight so efficiently that, even without the help of my ocular implants, they could be seen as if glowing in the darkness, staring out at me like two circular collections of eyes. I stared into them, their brightness and iridescence causing strange perspective and shape-shifts for my night-adjusted augmented eyes. They did not seem to be moving any closer, nor did the shape which they were attached to—visible only as a displacement in the fog surrounding it—seem to shift at all: the whole creature could have been mistaken for some awful statue if the pupils didn’t move. Oh, the pupils! Why did I look so intently? As I looked I realized that these eyes were not convex at all: the size of dinner plates, they were also concave, bending inward into whatever head they might have been affixed to; and not only this, but that each facet was its own separate eye! Each of the hundreds of parts of the concave aperture was a separate, turning, looking white eye with its own black pupil. Each of these eyes was somehow stuffed together into a gigantic eye composed of something a composite eye should not be constructed out of. Without hesitation, I turned my back on the accursed nameless thing and practically threw myself down the stairs of the pit, guided by the faint and dimming light from the stars as my eyes picked it up, following the curling, curling winding stairs downwards in the safe—oh that ironic word!—embrace of darkness. Just to be away from that looking staring creature!
My quick, pattering footsteps down the eldritch stone stairs echoed back and forth in the tube as I descended for what must have been a few minutes at least. By the time I reached the abnormally manufactured charnel room—which opened out into a perfectly level, flat on top and strangely textured on bottom, circular chamber—the sky above me was nothing but a tiny pinhole. Down in what must have been the depths of the ground, I was expecting it to be far too dark for my ocular implants to make any sense of it, but when I actually reached the end of the staircase I found that the edges of the circular room were coated in a strange fungus which glowed with a strange green light. I had never thought that a glowing color itself could be described as “dark” but that was the only way I can describe the light which filled the circular chamber: a dark chartreuse color. Because of its strange and honestly indescribable darkness, the light did not so much illuminate the room as flatly describe it. The picture which remains in my mind to this day is that of a green colored pencil outline on black paper, but even that does not really approximate what my eyes were perceiving at that moment. Once I had assessed my environs, I took a few stumbling steps forward before I collapsed on the ground and breathed a shaky sigh-gasp of relief. There was nothing in this room—I could see every edge from my current position, because the “light” did not seem to fade with distance—and I could rest for a moment, more confidant in my safety. I would deal with the haunting problem of my return to the surface world when it came time to deal with it.
The room that surrounded my was unnaturally smooth and geometrically perfect in every way, and reminded my of the similar circle which seemed to guard the perimeter of the entrance. the side-walls of the tube or pit which led down here gave out a foot above my head, letting the spiraling staircase descend to the center of the room without support except for its own structure. Although the overall shape of the room was geometrically perfect, and did not seem to have suffered any erosion or wear, the floor was strangely channeled, bumped, and textured, and the walls were coated with the aforementioned furry fungus. As I sat on the foot of the stairs and looked about myself, a sneaking suspicion came upon me: the floor was not just strangely textured; there was a pattern to it. I stared hard—causing a headache which I predicted would transmogrify into a migrate later—with eye-strain, as I peered down and attempted to ascertain the whole pattern of the floor. A moment later, it came together for me: the floor was covered in an impossibly intricate bass-relief decoration! It spiraled away from the foot of the stair, in a distinct track as an ancient optical compact disc’s bit inscriptions might. Except these were not simple bits that were inscribed on these tracks: it was some sort of manuscript—writing—formed in an eldritch alphabet which I was certain no scholars of modern universities could comprehend. This inscription had remained here, carved by some elder fore-claimers which had taken residence on this planet (it was impossible to say if they were natives) since time immemorial.
Some outer impulse overcame my inhibitions and exhaustion, and I stood slowly as if hypnotized—the beginning of the track of inscriptions coincided with the end of the stairs, and revolved around in a similar way as the stairs had, so I began following the track, peering down in the daemonic light at the script as I followed it. A strange madness began to overtake me as I peered at the hideous, distorted characters of this ancient script: something about them was so contrary to human logic and sensibilities, so offensive to aesthetics that it was almost immoral to comprehend them. Interspersed with this detailed writing, however, was something much worse: pictures were also embossed on the floor. These pictures were of the landscape outside, some subconscious thing in the lizard brain which still remained in my mind told me, but if I actually looked at them with the rational gaze of a human being they were nothing but fevered distortions of strange lines and figures. Finally I arrived at the edge of the room, where the strange track widened and abruptly ended at the wall. The final picture, preceded by more of that evil writing, was of what I could only assume were the insectoid creatures which I had fled from not so long ago: concave dish-like composite eyes that should not be allowed by nature to exist marked the things as something recognizable to my traumatized brain.
In a flash a sudden urge came upon me to kill myself: bash my head against the rocks and I would never have to think of these things again. The sweat embrace of death and the release of nothingness! I struggled with this thought—which became, at its apogee, nearly unutterable and unpreventable—for several minutes, bracing myself against the wall with both hands or clutching my head as I was racked with spasmed sobs. I do not know what allowed me to continue when to my conscious mind what I wanted most in this world was to throw myself into the void and be done with it all, but when I finally collected myself—although I’m not sure it was the same self as what started the journey—I began inspecting the wall where the track had ended. There must be a way inside, or out of the room; some more place to go: I still had not found anything resembling what I expected by a “manuscript,” let alone something that the old man would have expected me to be able to read; what I knew of ‘N’ indicated that it was an Arabic manuscript, after all.
Looking at the fungus-covered wall before me, I noticed that the walls of the space were not, in fact, smooth either: the fungi themselves, as a coating, gave that appearance, for the partially amortized the differences in height that further bass relief sculptures made upon the walls. I spasmodically clawed away the veinous strands of moss, and stared and what I revealed. A great, leaden blanket of dissapointment dropped onto me with the weight of a thousand planets: what was inscribed on the wall was more of that evil script and nothing more. Suddenly, as if in reaction to all that had come before—all the emotions that I had felt, a great surge of hatred for this whole endeavor crashed over me. Why was I even here? Why had I continued—after all the clear warnings? This was exactly the end I should have expected to come to in the beginning: trapped in some madness inducing crypt, pursued by blasphemous creatures of the Night. What a foolish man I was; what a blockhead! And for what was I doing this? My own idle quest for knowledge and my vain delusions of vengeance and through both, grandeur. I was worse than a simple fool—I was a narcissist, brought to my end by my intrinsic characteristics and my own moral failings. I balled my fist, reeled back, and punched the wall with all my strength.
Fully expecting to break my hand against it, I was thrown off balance when my hand passed through the wall with little resistance. I wheeled forward, spinning my arms, and a small and embarrassingly feeble cry escaped my lips as I pitched forward and fell through the wall. An icy, watery feeling swept over me as I passed through, like one feels when you go through a nigh-frozen waterfall—except the pressure was back against me, like I was falling through a net. In a moment, preceded by a ripping sound, I was lying face first in a perfectly smooth, square room—clearly recently carved out, and not by the circle- and spiral-obsessed elder aliens. Behind me, was what I saw now to be a portable hologram emitter with its corresponding (now destroyed) net—and in the center of the brightly lit room: a pedestal with a book resting atop it.
Part III: The Blackness of Space AboveI stood up and rushed to the pedestal and the book which it raised up. The book was a narrow, delicate-looking obsidian box, roughly—I estimated—size of a slender paperback book of the kind which might still be found in the libraries of some worlds. I hesitantly reached out a finger to touch it, but a strange hesitation—an unconscious reluctance—stopped me; there was something wrong here: this was no ancient manuscript, clearly no antiquarian artifact of which there were only one or two copies left in the entire known universe. This was an alien thing, perfect in shape and freshness, black as a data chip yet somehow radiating a slight heat: it was, in fact, skin temperature. If the room had been a normal temperature I might not have noticed this, but in the cold of what must have been early dawn, it was unnatural in the extreme. Now that I looked around more, I noticed a few burn marks on the floor: the signs of something having been burned and then the remaining cinders stamped out and vacuumed up. Suddenly, it became all to clear what had happened here: someone had found their way here before me—and just like with the little blackened notebook, they had taken away any information I might have had.
I looked back at the strange object on the pedestal. What might this be? They had not left a replacement object in my room, so what was their game now? I walked over to the pedestal slowly again, from where I had been standing over the burn marks, contemplating. I forced myself to reach out and touch the loathsome thing. Closer, now, I noticed a circular logo inscribed into the front in razor-thin gold: something like a moon in one of its phases—gibbous. When my hand made contact with it, the whole shape of the thing became amorphous in a sudden moment, as if my contact with it had shattered some surface-tension and set the entire structure in flux. The shape suddenly shot out and impaled me through the chest with a thousand fine hairs. Each time one stabbed through me, I felt a cold pinprick, and then nothing. Finally the bulk of the thing’s mass had formed a sort of unconnected pincushion, and I began to fall backwards onto the floor, shocked into paralysis and unable to correct my fall.
I frantically clawed at the black things, but the seemed to have become spectral and insubstantial; I need not have tried, however, as a moment later they began to progress through my body and met at the other side of me, nearer to the wall. All this took a single moment—so that I had not even completed my fall before the things had gone through me. Once they were, I could move again and I stopped my fall with a shaky hand against the pillar, gasping for breath. I looked up at where the thing now was and cried out in horror.
What I saw is extremely hard to describe—it is far beyond the words in English or any other language which would be used to describe it; its true description so incomprehensible, so utterly mad and ingenious, that it is completely unutterable. What I remember was the foremost impression of blackness, for the thing had completely taken over the wall in front of me, subsuming the exit and the side of the room entirely. The very fact of its impossible increase in mass and size boggled my mind—but what was worse, was that while it remained black, it seemed to be bubbling. At random intervals, some organ would manifest; I only hope members were what I thought they were—distorted, disproportionate, hideous imitations of my own organs and limbs. Great mouths opened out of nothing, and then closed into nothing just as fast, revealing sometimes a throat and sometimes the internal organs of an alien’s understanding of human anatomy. Great distorted livers and intestines snaked out of the thing (all so black they seemed to suck in the very light itself) and the intestines swiftly changed purposes into thin tentacles, which reached out with shivering individual purpose. Everything that the creature seemed to manifest would be quickly twisted into some new and unnatural purpose before being dismissed again. The whole thing seemed to be attempting—as I watched—to use the structures which it had observed in its cruel passage through my very body to construct some new form for itself. Suddenly, a great arm like my own erupted with horrible suddenness toward me—at first proportioned like a human arm pointed straight out, but as it extended it became more like a tentacle with a human hand on the end—great humanlike muscles curling and twisting and splitting on its outside: this thing had no concept of skin!
I screamed with all my lungs, and made a desperate motion to avoid this thing’s hand, but there wasn’t much I could do: it dominated the tiny space. Finally the fingers closed around my head, and the fingers changed into long snaking organs of their own, which shrunk into thin filaments and wound their way into my ears. Everything went blank, and I had a sense of some vast and cold intelligence—so far beyond what could be called “living” in any sense that the ape-descendants that we are could understand, yet in its own slowly grinding vastly patient, indescribably naive way it was more alive than anything else. A question formed in my head, just as I was at the limits of terror before my mind shattered. In answer, a slow and grating thought wormed its way like an invasive tapeworm into my maddened brain: “shoggoth.” I remained conscious for only a moment thereafter before the sweet embrace of unconsciousness befell me.
When I woke up, I felt devoid of all emotions—as if I had been taken to the edge of human endurance and my capability to feel anything below that level had been deadened entirely; this was, unfortunately, not to last, and I would feel so much more in the coming years. I made my slow and stiff way up the stairs, hunger-pangs gnawing away inside me. I had a moment’s pause before I crested the edge of the pit, wondering if the daemonic insectoids would still be waiting for me. But I no longer feared them: I had seen an eldritch monster much eviler than they, now.
To my surprise, it was still midnight. I came to the conclusion that I had only been unconscious for a few moments at the maximum, judging from the time that my wristband indicated. I pulled my black leather coat closer to me and stared up into the sky. I did not expect to see something, but what I actually saw would haunt me even more than the horrors I had recently perceived: I saw, not more than a hundred meters from me, a great spire arise suddenly, as if out of nowhere. No natural nor human process could construct something so huge in such a short span of time, and nothing would produce a monolith of the nature which I observed: it was built out of distorted, strangely pieced together bones, held together by pulsating, shifting muscles and strands of skin and ligaments. The entire thing, filled with strange organs which did not make any sense, rose black against the starlit sky, my ocular implants only allowing me to see the barest outlines—for which I am grateful. After an indeterminate pause, the entire object seemed to shift its surface slightly, and then it rose into the air. Silently, smoothly, the entire construction seemed to be drawn into the air. As it rose, I tilted my head back to see where it went—I could only see it at this point by virtue of where its pitch-black, writhing bulk blotted out the stars. Then, suddenly, it expanded and then accelerated out of view.
If someone asked me in which direction the shoggoth went, I could not say—it did not seem to go in a direction that I could understand by eyesight. If I said “up,” that would only be correct insofar as it did seem to go higher, somehow. But it did not go “up.” Perspective seemed to suddenly break, like a brittle piece of wood, and it seemed to grow larger as it moved away; it seemed to go both faster and time seemed to slow, so that in net I felt myself frozen yet the thing seemed to move even faster than before. Then, with a mind-searing flash of light, it was gone.
I will be honest with you, dear reader. I do not know really what that thing was. I have spent every day of my life since that time looking for the other copy of the ancient manuscript which I had been in quest of, and on which I lay my desperate hopes of understanding. I have come to know that it was called the Necronomicon, written by the insane Abdul Alhazred. I have wasted away, eating little and sleeping less, and spending what meager fortune my father had left me, seeking out this book in the vain hope that there might be some insight to be found within it concerning the defeat of this ancient, eldritch being which we humans have reinvented. But that is, I am afraid, not to be: something so intelligent, so adaptable, so alive is beyond the bounds of humanity’s capability to defeat.
It seems that the mental suppressor cognitive augmentations did Dr. Hamilton little good in the end: the local police sect found him dead the same night that the shoggoth learned enough to escape the planet, having electrocuted himself to death using his own holographic apparatus’ power supply. At first, I was a suspect, but that was quickly dismissed, much to my great fortune—such as anything I have experience can be termed “fortune.”
For a long time after this incident, while I pursued the other Necronmicon, I idly considered getting a similar cognitive augmentation and moving somewhere far, far away from anything that might involve me in eldritch adventures again. I forced myself not to act on that wish for years, while I still held hope that some information might be found that would give humanity a chance to survive when the strange doom-herald returned. But the reason I am telling you this story, reader, is because I have now received certain information from a reliable source that the Necronomicon is completely obliterated by whatever secret scientific cult resurrected the hideous monster. Now that my quest is finally over, I have gotten a black-market appointment for the modifications which I require—but I wanted to make sure that this tale remained with someone.
Now, if you will excuse me, the time is getting late, and I have an appointment to attend. Good day.