When I began asking for story inspiration, the first response came from one of my aunts, and I knew I had to make the story special. Her prompt was simple–Walter, an English coastal town in the 1960s, and aging–and at first I wasn’t sure where it would take me. I held onto it for a few days, and it slowly took on a few faces….
The first placed Walter as a collector of magical artifacts, and somehow he would be a keeper of many mystical items that have appeared–or will appear–in this year’s NaNo stories, but I wasn’t convinced this was the right story. And as I mulled it over, my memory rearranged the prompt (without my realizing it) and it was no longer just an “English coastal town,” but a “New England coastal town.”
That town–through a bit of investigation that included some research into life in the 1960s–became Newport, Rhode Island, and I was a little cheap by setting it mostly inside her house so I didn’t have to worry about the many minute details that would require more than day’s reading to properly actualize.
And, yes, I said “her”–the main character became a woman named Daphne, and Walter was now her ailing father, and–spurred on by my fantasy literature class and lingering remnants of H.P. Lovecraft still in the back of my mind, of course the New England landscape mingling in there with it–this story begged me to be a Cthulhu tale.
Now my biggest complaint with “The Call of Cthulhu” is its overt racism and lack of any female roles, so I wanted to do something to reclaim the story from these failings. I planned to include an African American character, and I did, but her role became minimal as the story fell deeper into Daphne’s experience with this sleeping god–and her father, initially intended to be suffering from some sort of mental deterioration, became rather level-headed and the aging theme slipped away entirely. Then, as the story wore on, I found myself feeling it wanted to be a Cthulhu story, but just wasn’t–and then, as I submerged myself in the hyperbolic geometry Lovecraft imagined (such a pleasant excursion for a math major as myself), I found the horror coming to life before me.
And now that I’ve written THE END, I find my blood pumping so violently I can barely sit still long enough to write this. Indeed, if this same horror is conjured upon reading it, perhaps it deserves to stand among the Cthulhu stories–indeed, it was the lingering plausibility of evil’s closeness that made my mind inept at releasing its hold upon me when I finished the last page, and if my story reaches that same abyssal, hopeless end, then perhaps I have achieved my goal in emulating Lovecraft’s terror in a contemporary way.
It isn’t much to read, but I hope this small passage stirs the fear for you, too:
Daphne turned the dial on the stove and, after a few soft clicking sounds, the sparks caught, fire leapt up, and she turned down the flame.
Her husband came back, folding the cloth as he did, and pressed its cold dampness into her forehead. A bead of water trickled down her a cheek, and before he could catch it, the droplet reached the corner of her mouth. Her tongue lapped it aside, and it filled her mouth with an acrid taste, her nostrils with the scent of dust and rot. A great shudder worked its way up from her stomach to her shoulders, and Daphne started to sob.
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