Note: This story is a response to H. P. Lovecraft’s short story, The Call of Cthulhu
The first occasion upon which I am able to recall that peculiar blend of danger, dread, and magnetic attraction that was soon to cause the embarkation of many a close friend of mine to the vast seas came very near my intellectual awakening. I was at the University of Oxford, preparing to extend my study of the ancient Latin language for another year, when I discovered, among the many relics of my Professor’s bureau, a minuscule statuette.
The material of the statuette was in itself odd, as it weighed much in comparison to its size; perhaps, regarding my past in hindsight, suggesting the magnitude of its scope. Its color was a murky black-green and seemed to shift in the light, causing one feature to leap out in focus and then another. Recalling my memory now through the haze of time and the bending of space I find it quite tiresome and difficult to bring those features to the forefront of my mind, but as I greatly desire to share my experience of the so-called “Call of Cthulhu”, I shall endeavor to do so.
I recall the statuette’s one great eye, staring out from the center of its creased face, its membranous wings fully extended from its back, and most strongly, its clawed hand extended towards me. These three emblems, as I call them, of the Great Ones, appeared to me at once horrific and fascinating. Through my studies of ancient cultures at Oxford, I had perchance encountered many a strange and altogether disturbing rite or two, but never had I held such a visceral reminder of their influence in mine own hand. After staring at the statuette for what seemed to me like several minutes, an inescapable urge gripped me and I found myself reaching out with my left hand to touch the wing of the creature.
Contrary to its material, the wing was soft and I could have sworn that I touched a feather or two, but my impressions of its physicality were fleeting at best, because in that one instant, the Great Call of Cthulhu reached out across the void and broadcasted in thick, swamping waves. Falling to my knees, I struggled to hold onto the essence of myself as the Great Call swarmed every cell of my brain and laid its sticky hands on me.
I later learned that a similar experience was felt among other, sensitive sorts (“twats” by any other name in Oxford) across the campus. The phenomenon was attributed to the very real “stress crisis” that the university was currently undergoing— but I digress. As I have previously stated, speaking in tongues across time and space is a strenuous labor, and if it were not for my burning desire to proffer an explanation of the worldwide phenomena that have been causing such a panic, I would have spared the effort entirely.
The Great Call of Cthulhu was neither the bellow of a beast, nor the screech of a human, but a painful recombination of the two. Its timbre drove me to my knees from its force and its pitch caused me to scream a terrified response— the human body’s natural reaction to extreme pain and panic.
For such was the nature of Cthulhu’s Call— It oozed the dark shadows of the mind’s own horrors, it woke the perverse and twisted desires of man’s heart of hearts, and it dominated the submissive cave man who still dwelt in eternal terror of night and the endless darkness of space. With such a call reverberating through my mind, is it any wonder that I curled unto myself and sought only to escape the pain and fear, rather than use my human wiles and blind animal instinct to free myself from this torture? Alas, I did not. The statuette remained clutched in my Devil’s Claw, and the Great Call reverberated inside me as long as Cthulhu spoke.
The Great Call did end, but the world after its expression seemed altogether a different place. When my eyes opened to Oxford once more, the geometry of the place was askew, off-kilter, in a way that confounded my educated mind, and caused my small bud of courage to wither.
I tumbled to the open window and gazed onto the open court below, where moments ago students had been hurrying to class and others had been basking in the surprise sun of March. Now the light was a pale green, mixing with grey where the light beams hit the sides of the buildings. The light itself had twisted, no longer following the laws of physics, but wormed its way where it willed, twisting into shapes only Picasso or Pollock could have imagined. The shape of the buildings swam before my eyes, some parts lowering in a fell swoop, others bits, like the clock tower, spiralled higher into the sky like the rotating pole of a barber. I could feel my stomach turn at the sight, and I vomited down. I was relieved that the distortions of physics did not apply to my physical body— for the moment at least— but I vomited a second time as I saw the vomit transform into cubic shapes and fly across the courtyard to splat into pancakes on the across window.
The more that the world did not conform to nature, the more my brain ached. I could feel madness slipping in like the third cousin of a cross-eyed slug mated with the jagged-toothed shadow monster of my childhood. I squeezed both my fists, and the sudden pain in the one alerted me to the fact that I still held the statuette in my hand. Filled with an immediate revulsion, I opened my fist to prepare to launch the detestable stone, whom I blamed for my entire bout of insanity— which I was convinced this was— but when I opened my hand and gazed down at my palm, the laws that had governed my world up until now seemed once again to have been perverted.
For there, rather than the monstrous creature I had first beheld in my Professor’s office, was the only beautiful thing to remain in this World of Cthulhu. Admiration swelled in my breast and I felt such a yearning for hope and safety as I had ever held in my short life. The statuette gained heat in my palm and light, pure and linear, gathered around it in concentrated rays. A blinding light emanated from my palm and I turned away, unable to bear the pain of the illumination.
I once more opened my eyes when the flash had dissipated. My body registered the restoration of nature’s balance before I did in its sudden calmness and its muscle relaxation. My mind, however, and my eyes, were fixed upon the figure that now stood before me, having emerged from mine own palm.
This creature, unlike the reviling statuette that I had discovered, was already deeply familiar to my consciousness. To see it was not a matter of seeing the unknown unknowns of the dark pits of existence, but to see one’s dreams made flesh. The vague longings of the heart that pierce the apathy and fear of one world, and transport one to another had been freed from their prison, and I had been permitted to stand before such a dream.
I still had not said a word, but remained standing in the Being’s presence. An aura exuded from Her that rendered the twisting forms of the Cthulhu into the linear geometry of my youth and this alone was enough to appease my mind and to allow it to settle back into its well-trod tracks of order.
And yet……Despite the familiarity with which I endowed this Being, the light that emanated from Her was alien to my eyes. Even as I registered this and even as my brain began to run towards panic, She extended her wings and let out a Great Ululation.
The Great Ululation pierced my ears and the rays of sound launched through my body and traveled across the world and back; a challenge to the Great Call of Cthulhu.
At last She closed Her mouth and turned to stare at my prone body, which was quivering from the strain it had been subject to. Trapped on the floor, as it were, by my body’s weakness, I at last permitted myself to make a sketch of Her in my mind.
The closest creature that Earth had to offer in Her image was that of the archangel Gabriel. Or perhaps the fallen Lucifer was closer to the concealed energy. An angel was a poor word to capture Her essence, but in my petty defense, it is all that the English language may summon. Her great wings were feathered thickly, a soft down in the inner layers and a sharp sheath on the outer. Her figure was that of a human female, but seemed to shift continuously between ages and our so-called races a thousand times a minute, until nothing was certain except that She was female, and that She had chosen to appear human for the sake of us. But as She leaned in towards me, it was Her face that drew my eyes. For besides its great and terrible beauty, a bloodied white cloth stretched across where a human’s eyes would have rested. Once I noted this, my mind and heart suddenly burned to know what lay beneath, despite feeling that it might be the death of me.
Almost as if She had heard the request crying out in my mind, She knelt down and placed Her clawed hands on either side of my head and commanded through sheer presence that my eyes remain locked.
Slowly the white cloth began to unravel before my eyes and I eagerly traced the gradual reveal of Her face with great anticipation.
The cloth collapsed in a pile of threads, and the Eye of the Great She was revealed to me.
At this point in my tale it becomes impossible to adequately convey the depths of what my soul endured. Professor Angell, whose uncle had unwittingly revealed the truths of these Great Mysteries to him, prefaced his experience of the Great Ones with a plea for a return to his prior ignorance, and a claim that humanity, when faced with the Unraveling of the Revelation, would either turn mad or retreat into the safety of ignorant darkness. I speak this across the boundaries of space and time to the remaining humanity who survived the Great Call of Cthulhu and even now may be either enslaved to the Great One, or else have rejected his revelation and have rent asunder the knowledge that brought them thus far. I make a case for the Call of the She and for the Truths which She has revealed to me. I fled into that deadly light which Angell feared, and perhaps I am indeed mad. But to be enveloped by the wings of the Great She and driven mad by Her light is that which I would willingly undergo once more for the sake of Her alone.