Friends, we have a duesey of a story for you today. Fred Lubnow has explored through deep time and deep Antarctic wastes to bring you back this tale of cosmic horror set in the Mountains of Madness.
From the Neo-Galactic Sacred Text of the Elder Things:
When the Elder Things arrived on Earth, it was nothing more than a steaming rock covered with oceans, lakes, and pools. Life was essentially comprised of loose aggregates of unicellular cells. Cyanobacteria were photosynthesizing, emitting copious amounts of toxic oxygen into the atmosphere. The Elder Things used this prokaryotic raw material to create more complex eukaryotic cells through endosymbiosis.
They then used these more complex cells to generate various forms of multi-cellular life; some are still in existence, most have gone extinct. However, all were small bundles of cells, passively floating in the organically enriched waters of the Earth. While the Elder Things used this biological material to initiate the forces of evolution, they were not content to work with Terran biomatter. The Elder Things wanted more. They wanted to create larger creatures that were useful relative to their needs and purposes.
(Original art by Steve Maschuck.)
Terran evolution was too slow and worked on the level of populations to create new species, not on the level of a single individual. Thus, some of the Elder Things desired to obtain some extra-dimensional biomatter and mix it with the Terran biomatter. Most of the Elder Things were very much against this, but a few brave (or foolish?) scientists pursued this endeavor. This project involved making contact with the semi-material entities that exist beyond the conventional eleven dimensions of this reality. So the Elder Scientists pieced together the rites and rituals from their own ancient texts, as well as those of other alien species that resided on Earth at that time. Almost one thousand years later, the scientists had developed a set of ritualistic protocols established to obtain the extra-dimensional biomatter: These made up the ceremony of Yog-Sothoth.
Four thousand Elder Thing scientists performed the ceremony over the course of ten Earth years. In the end, only 327 survived the ceremony, but Yog-Sothoth was pleased with the devotion and sacrifice of the scientists and thus rewarded them with a piece of its very essence.
This fragment of Yog-Sothoth was as close as one could get to the Keeper of the Gate’s biological manifestation within the eleven-dimensional universe of matter and energy, enough for the Elder Scientists to work with. It was the raw material they needed to start the forces of evolution on an individual level instead of at the population level. So, while Terran life waded through the mud and seas, pumping out oxygen and feeding on each other, the Elder scientists used the manifestation of Yog-Sothoth to create a highly flexible, adaptable organism that could evolve on an individual basis. This material was the precursor to the Shoggoth. It was the proto-Shoggoth.
The Elder scientists attemped a countless number of experimental variations before they finally created a stable, containable, and somewhat manageable form of proto-Shoggoth. Most of these variations were utter failures, never living at all. Some flopped and floundered for a short period of time and then died, but some finally survived and thrived. These survivors were large multi-cellular creatures that were far more complex than the bacteria and protoctista that ruled the Earth for billions of years.
However, their evolutionary engines were still churning only at the level of the population. The scientists were occasionally amused by their playthings and did not destroy them. Instead, they let them loose on the Earth, thinking they might serve as food or entertainment. At a minimum, they thought, these creatures would be an excellent experiment to perform on the slow and plodding process of Terran evolution on a global scale. So they released these creatures, which ultimately evolved into the animals, plants, and fungi that populated the Earth. Eventually, one branch of Terran life became the most successful group of animals. These were the dinosaurs, which reigned for hundreds of millions of years until they fell and their role usurped by mammals, first just tiny creatures but then becoming the dominant form of mega-faunal life. In turn, one particular group of mammals, the primates, branched off into homo habilus, then erectus, then Neanderthalensis, and finally homo sapiens, which rose to dominate the Earth and usher in the Anthropocene epoch.
Experimenting with the proto-Shoggoth allowed the Elder scientists to produce their own pliable forms of life that could evolve at the individual level during its own lifetime: the shoggoths, which they bred for slave labor. There was a price to pay beyond the sacrificial ceremonies to the Keeper of the Gate, however; the proto-Shoggoth was not just some sample of biological material to use and then discard when the scientists lost their interest. No—the proto-Shoggoth was an extension of the Being from beyond. Of Yog-Sothoth Itself.
When the Elder Scientists realized this, they realized it would not be enough simply to destroy the creatures—they had to contain them to prevent them from consuming the world and opening the way for Yog-Sothoth to come. To avoid this, they devised a means of containing the proto-Shoggoth and the aberrations it generated in our cosmic reality. Thus, the creature was contained and its threat suppressed by the establishment of a series of phased fields within our space-time, continuously shifting but stabilized on an inter-dimensional basis. This phased, inter-dimensional fluctuation within our spacetime reality was established beyond the Antarctic “Mountains of Madness” and the remnants of the proto-Shoggoth were sealed as a “slime layer” under the ice of the Antarctican continent.
It was at the end of the disastrous Miskatonic Pabodie-Dyer Expedition in 1930-31 when humanity had its first glimpse of the proto-Shoggoth. The existence of Shoggoths was hinted at and known by a few sub-groups of humanity, but none knew of the proto-Shoggoth until that faithful expedition in 1931. Danforth was the first human, at least the first human in recorded history, to actually have seen the proto-Shoggoth as it temporarily bubbled out of the Antarctic ice. Just the sight of that thing attempting to phase out of its inter-dimensional prison damaged his sanity and perception of reality. He looked beyond the Mountains of Madness, where the Elder Scientists contained the thing.
The Starkweather-Moore Expedition of 1931-32, followed up by the Pabodie-Dyer Expedition, had no success in finding the strange city or even the Mountain of Madness themselves. Part of this was attributed to the bad weather, which limited the time available to investigate and formally survey the locations identified by Pabodie-Dyer. But part of it was also attributed to seismic activity, since at least part of the area identified by the Pabodie-Dyer Expedition appeared to have collapsed. Obviously, this region of Antarctica experienced some major seismic activity sometime between the two expeditions. No attempt was made to venture beyond the Mountains of Madness, again largely due to the severe weather and so the Starkweather-Moore Expedition came back from Antarctica with little to show but with their sanity intact.
It was not until the early 1980’s that another expedition to the region occurred. The Macready-Childs Expedition of 1982 was not academic in nature. Instead, it was a small, preliminary, geological survey team searching for possible underground reserves of oil and natural gas under the continent. While the original Antarctic Treaty signed in 1959 banned any military activity on that continent, there was talk about expanding the treaty to include banning commercial mining. Before the United States would sign any such addendum to the existing treaty, they wanted some information on the existing oil and gas reserves, as well as the relative feasibility of its extraction. Thus, the Macready-Childs Expedition of twelve men was funded by three major energy companies.
The expedition surveyed large areas of the continent’s upper plateau, adjacent to the partially collapsed area designated as the Mountains of Madness. However, similar to the Starkweather-Moore Expedition, no lost cities were found. At this point in history the tales of the Miskatonic Pabodie-Dyer Expedition were deemed the hallucinations of men under incredible amounts of psychological and environmental stress. Topographic and geologic data were collected at the foothills of the Mountains of Madness over the Antarctic summer of 1982. With only one month to go before they had to leave the continent and five days into the survey of the foothills, the expedition reported collecting some endemic biological samples that would revolutionize the theory of cell biology, microbial ecology and symbiosis. To those who were old enough to remember, this sounded chillingly familiar to the initial Antarctic radio transmissions from the Pabodie-Dyer Expedition. In less than 72 hours after the Macready-Childs Expedition radio transmission from the foothills, nothing was ever seen or heard from any member of that expedition.
Documents were hidden, families were compensated and a tale of a freak storm of biblical magnitude was generated to explain the unexplainable. After the complete disappearance of the 1982 Macready-Childs Expedition, no additional expeditions were planned for the region of Antarctica known as the Mountains of Madness. That is until 2008 when the demand for petroleum hydrocarbons in the United States shifted fear to desperation. The gas fields of northern Pennsylvania were being developed and extracted, deep ocean drilling was at an all-time high, and the United States became the leading generator of fossil fuels, but it still was not enough. Thus, a joint venture between Permian Energy Technologies and Penn State’s GeoEnergy Group, with supplemental funding provided by the Innsmouth Foundation, was planned and scheduled for the first 21st century expedition to the base of the Mountains of Madness.
Although sunny, the temperature was still only 15oF, about five degrees lower than the average summer temperature in the Antarctic. There was a slight wind but there always seemed to be wind blowing through the canyon this time of year.
The dark, sleek helicopter landed on the pad. It had two large yellow letters on each side, IF. While the pilot stayed in the copter, a small, thin man left and approached the camp. Even in his Antarctic outfit and storm goggles, the man’s unusually large and bulging eyes were apparent. Two people met the man as he approached the camp’s largest structure.
“Welcome to the bottom of the world Mr. Marsh. How was your journey?” asked the gentlemen in an orange climate suit.
“Like everyone else’s,” replied Marsh. “Can we go inside to talk?”
“What about your pilot?” asked the woman in a bright blue climate suit. “Perhaps he would like to warm up or get a drink…”
“I did not come all this way to discuss the creature comfort needs of my pilot,” said Marsh. “He’s fine. Can we go inside?”
The three members of the camp entered the building with Marsh following close behind. Once inside they all took off their goggles and put down their hoods. With his goggles off, Marsh’s bulging eyes were even more apparent. The other tried not to stare at his eyes or the slight ashy, green complexion of the skin.
Parker, the man in the orange climate suit turned to Marsh. He had a three day beard but his hair was a neatly cropped buzz cut. “Ms. Shaw will show you to the control room so you can get a project update and watch the survey work in progress.”
Shaw had shoulder length, bright red hair with a milky white complexion. “Please follow me Mr. Marsh,” she said, giving Parker a quick look of raised eyebrows, turning away from the outer door. Parker warned her that Marsh, like many of the people he has met from the Innsmouth Foundation had a particular look, such as bug eyes and skin rashes. While Marsh had these traits they did not seem as extreme as some of the other representatives of the IF organization.
“Tell me Ms. Shaw,” said Marsh. “Are you with the oil company or a scientist?”
Shaw smiled at this. It was almost like being asked which football team you belong to. “I’m a geologist with Kingsport College doing a sabbatical at Penn State for a year, studying climate change. How about you and IF?”
“IF has a number of interests in the Antarctic, including energy extraction and additional scientific studies, which is why its paying for approximately a third of the expedition’s costs.”
Shaw was about to ask another question when they reached the end of the hallway and turned to the left. They entered the main control room of the camp’s research building. A gentleman dressed in partially opened snow gear noticed them as soon as they enter the room. He had grey shaggy hair with a large mustache and walked right up to Marsh with his hand extended.
“Mr. Marsh, we finally meet face to face. I’m Dr. Edward Goldman of PET,” he said as he shook his hand.
“Dr. Goldman, it is a pleasure to meet you as well. How are the preparations for the drilling in Section 45F?” asked Marsh as he surveyed the action in the control room.
“Actually, we are ahead of schedule by about four days,” said Goldman. “The weather has been on our side for last two weeks.”
“Really?” said Marsh as a look of surprise flashed over his gaunt face. “When do you think they will commence drilling?”
“Probably late this afternoon, within two hours,” said Goldman proudly. “The first cores should be extracted by midnight. We have a supplemental team leaving for the drill site in about twenty minutes. You can join them if you like in one of the track vehicles…”
“Two hours? You will start drilling in two hours,” Marsh cut in with a worried look on his face.
“Yes, we thought you would be happy,” said Goldman. “Ms. Shaw will oversee the collection of the ice cores as well as their packing and transport once they have been removed. Meanwhile the oil folks will remain on site and begin sending their meters down the holes to assess for the potential presence of energy reserves such as gas and oil. Similar to fraking, they may even do some small-scale horizontal drilling….”
“I must leave at once,” Marsh cut in once again. He pulled a two-way radio from his pocket, hit a button and immediately over the line a voice croaked, “What is it?”
“Gas up the copter now Thoth, we are leaving as soon as we can.”
“Already?” barked the voice on the radio. “We just got here,”
“Just do it,” said Marsh.
“You’re leaving? Now?” said Goldman in a loud and astonished voice. “I thought you IF people would be thrilled with this progress. You are the guys who selected this God forsaken place. I didn’t even think we would be able to establish a camp let alone actually collect samples and now on the eve of bringing the first cores back to the camp you want to leave?”
At this point Goldman was clearly agitated. Once he started raising his voice everyone stopped working and stared at him and Marsh.
“I am leaving within the hour,” Marsh replied in a calm voice. “I need to report your progress to IF immediately and I need to get to McMurdo to do that.”
Marsh turned to leave but caught Shaw staring at him. “Ms. Shaw, would you like to join me?”
Shaw was stunned and a bit embarrassed. “Me … me? Why would I want to go with you? I have been preparing for over a year to receive these cores. My post-doctorate is riding on these cores. I can’t just leave.”
“Alright,” Marsh said with a sigh. He felt a touch of pity but knew he had to go and couldn’t say anything else. “Good-bye Ms. Shaw. Good-bye Dr. Goldman.” With that, Marsh simply left the control room.
After about 20 seconds of silence Goldman said, “What a weirdo. I will never get use to those IF people. Or understand them. Flies down the bottom of the world, finds out we are moving ahead of schedule and instead of sticking around to examine the first cores, which they are paying for, decides he has to leave.”
“It was strange,” said Shaw. “I wonder why he asked me to go with him.”
“Oh, he was sweet on you Shaw,” said Goldman as he turned toward his staff. “Alright people, let’s make sure the cameras are up and running at both at the field station and on the ridge. We have about 24 hours before the first set of cores reach the station.”
It was about two hours later that the wind completely stopped. Everyone at the main station noticed it. The field crew at the drilling site noticed it as well, in spite of the noise generated by the drilling equipment. This was this first time in almost three months that the wind stopped.
It was about 1:30 a.m. when the first ice core was completely extracted and an in-situ examination was initiated. At this time, the secondary crew was in the control room but Shaw was still there. She was nodding off for a minute or two but every moment she was awake she focused on the field station cameras. Still no wind.
Suddenly from the feed came screams and flashes of color and movement. Shaw jumped out of her seat and stared at the screen. She couldn’t make anything out but from the screams and noises it sounded like the field station was under attack. She looked at Terry, the station manager currently on duty. Terry was yelling into the mike, trying to get someone, anyone at the field camp to respond and tell them what was going on; after about three minutes of on-screen chaos the video and audio feeds went out. Ten minutes later everyone at the camp awake and started to notice the return of the wind, at least in sound. You could hear the wind both inside and outside, in spite of the fact that the flags and windsocks were not fluttering. Even though you could hear the wind, you could not feel or sense it. Over the course of fifteen minutes the sound of the wind increased to near painful levels. In fact, the wind started to sound more like a train. That is when the chaos hit the main camp.
In less than four days the IF helicopter returned and landed at the ruins of the main camp. Once it touched down, Thoth the pilot again waited in the helicopter while five people emerged to inspect the mess. All but one had a slight Innsmouth look to them. Marsh and Dr. Bloch, the only one without the strange Innsmouth taint expect for some slight webbing between his fingers, led the way followed by a woman and two men. The woman had long, stringy black hair, bulging eyes with only a slightly green complexion, unlike Thoth the pilot whose face could be mistaken as that of a grouper’s. She was carrying a large wooden box engraved with strange carvings and glyphs. In contrast, Bloch was carrying a smooth, dark, metal box with a handle on the top. Bloch was thin, almost gaunt, with extremely light skin and jet black hair. The other two men were on either side of the woman; one was short and slightly overweight, while the other was very tall and lean. Both had the same slight-Innsmouth appearance of the woman and Marsh. All were wear sun goggles. While there was no wind, the sun reflecting off the pure white snow was almost blinding.
“Not much left,” said the short, round man.
Marsh turned to him and said in a low voice, “no shit.”
Bloch turned to face all four. “This is what remains of the main camp, correct? So that means the drill site must be beyond that ridge,” said Bloch and he turned and pointed to the East.
“That’s it,” answered Marsh as he stared down at something on the ground. He walked pass Bloch and picked up some shredded pieces of a bright blue climate suit. There were small spots of frozen, bright blood on the remnants of the suit.
Marsh sighed, muttering to himself, “I asked her to come with us.”
“What was that?” asked Bloch.
“Nothing,” said Marsh. “Just a little advice I gave someone who didn’t take it.”
“Well,” sighed Bloch, “Stop lamenting over past actions and concentrate on our immediate objective.
Bloch turned to woman holding the wooden box and asked, “How is our little friend in the box?”
She closed her eyes for the few seconds, opened them and said, “Curious about the current situation.”
Yes, aren’t we all,” replied Bloch. He then raised his voice to make sure everyone knew he was talking to the group as a whole. “Alright, keep your eyes and ears open. Lenore is going to release her little companion to see if we can find what we are looking for.”
Everyone then turned to Lenore, who then bent down and put the box on the snow. She unlocked a series of side latches and cracked the box open a few inches. Lenore got down to the ground and started whispering into the box.
One of the other men with Dr. Bloch turned to him. “Excuse Dr. Bloch, do you want Lou and I to….”
“SShhh Bud, please. Lenore needs to concentrate if we want her friend to accomplish its task. This may take some time.”
After about fifteen minutes whatever was in the box slithered out. It was black, viscous and shiny and flowed like congealed jelly over the snow. Once completely out of the box and in the sunlight it stopped flowing. It looked like a black pancake about a foot in diameter. No one moved a muscle as it sat there making a high pitched whistling noise, which echoed through the canyon. After a few minutes everyone noticed that its shiny black color was slowly being replaced by a bright green. In addition, the high whistling was phasing into an almost humming sound.
“What’s it doing,” whispered Bud.
Dr. Bloch whispered back, “feeding. Or more appropriately photosynthesizing.”
After the living pancake completed its color change to green, Lenore extended an arm to it. As quick as lightning it became a ball and rolled up her arm and sat on her shoulder. Once it sat on her shoulder, she started whispering to it again.
As the minutes wore on Lou was getting nervous, thinking about things. Finally, Lou said, “Dr. Bloch, once we collect the, uh, sample, what will stop It from killing us and leaving Antarctica?
“It can’t leave. It’s bound to the continent. That’s how it was introduced into our reality. The measures taken by the Elder Things ensured that it could never leave, as long as Antarctica is intact.”
“Uh, excuse me sir, but what do you mean by measures?” asked Lou.
Bud sighed and nudged his friend, “he means spells, don’t you Dr. Bloch. Measures are the spells those Elder Things used, right?”
Bloch smiled at the two of them, “if you want to use hermetic terms, yes.”
Marsh chimed in. “He means magic. He means describing it as magic instead of science.”
Bloch turned his smile from Lou and Bud to Marsh. “Correct. You’ve always seemed to have a better understanding of your heritage’s operations.”
Bloch turned back to the others. “Specifically, there are a series of multi-dimensional energy fields that were cultivated and stabilized long ago by the Elder Things to physically contain “It” as you say, in select areas of the continent. Thus, while It can bubble up into our reality in or on particular areas of the continent, It can’t fully manifest Itself. In a way, It’s trapped in a series of dimensional doorways to a variety of realities, with ours being only one. This is why we landed here at the main camp instead of the drilling site.”
Marsh chimed in with a pretty good idea where this was going. “So we’re safe here just outside of the camp since this is the edge or boundary of the field, while the drill site is within the field. That is why you were very specific on the location of the main camp site and kept the actual drill site a secret until the camp was established, right?”
“Correct,” replied Bloch.
“But how did you know the exact location of these energy fields and doorways?” asked Marsh.
“Some of the information comes from ancient text with the aid of the Elder Thing mind we have contained back at the asylum, identifying the location of the energy fields and inter-dimensional doorways on the continent with the use of the predicted locations of the moon, planets and some local stars. However, some of the scant information collected during the past expeditions turned out to be extremely useful in cross-referencing at least a few of these locations.”
“So that means if we landed at the drill site It could get us there, right?” asked Lou with an obviously nervous pitch to his voice.
“Yes,” said Bloch. “The drilling gave It something interesting to investigate. We used It’s curiosity to our advantage. The main camp is a marker at the edge of the field so we know where to look for it.”
“All those people. Dead. Just for the collection of a sample,” muttered Marsh in a low voice.
Bloch was about response to Marsh’s comment when the little green mass on Lenore re-formed into a ball, rolled off her shoulder and moved in a northeast direction.
In an excited voice Lenore said, “Saporangia has found It. Let’s go.”
“I didn’t know the owners named them,” whispered Lou to Bud.
Bud gave Lou and annoyed look and said, “come one let’s follow her.”
They all followed the rolling ball of living tissue for about 50 meters. It then stopped next to a small pile of debris, where it re-formed itself into an amoeboid-like thing that stood about half a meter off the snow on a series of five pseudopods. It then resumed it high pitch tittering.
When all five of them reached Saporangia, Lenore knelt down in the snow and started caressing the top of it. “It’s there, underneath this pile of stuff. Be careful removing the debris. It’s aware we are here.”
Bloch began removing some of the garbage off the pile. When he noticed no one was helping him he turned to the group. “Well come on Lou and Bud. You too Marsh. Help me move this material.”
The three Innsmouth men reluctantly assisted Bloch in removing the material off the pile.
After a few minutes when the majority of the material was cleared, Marsh stopped and said, “I see It. I see It. It’s here.”
Bloch moved him out of the way, removed a few more boards so everyone could see it. Lenore stood up and everyone let out a gasp at about the same time. Saporangia stood motionless in its amoeboid state.
The thing under the debris was a cream colored ungulating pool of slime with hundreds of bluish tinged cilia. At this point about eighty percent of the pool was exposed with the remaining twenty present still hidden under some debris. No one was going to get near It to remove any more debris.
Everyone felt a strong sense of fear and paranoia. It was as though at any moment the ground would open up into a vast pit of slime or that the stars themselves would come crashing down to Earth. And yet, in this grip of anxiety, there was a small sense of awe and wonder.
The off-white pool was constantly seething; the color and texture of It was in a chaotic flux. After a few minutes Bloch broke the silence.
“Lenore, please ask your friend to initiate the transfer.”
Lenore let out a deep sigh and got back on her hands and knees and whispered to the small amoeboid.
Marsh moved closer to Bloch and whispered, “are you sure this is safe?”
Bloch turned and looked Marsh directly in the eyes with no hint of irony or flippantness. “No. I’m not sure this is safe but we will find out shortly.”
After Lenore was done speaking to Saporangia, it walked up to the pool and extended a pseudopod. The pool immediately stopped ungulating and a three meter column shot up into the air. It was blood red and appeared to be slowly rotating. Everyone froze. Both creatures began to hum an irregular cadence. Saporangia then touched the pool with its pseudopod.
There was a blinding flash of light for a quick second and then both creatures were flashing multiple colors like ctenophores in the ocean. A few second later the shimmering flashes of light stopped, Saporangia was once again a bright green, while the pool was its original off-white. In an extremely unusual move, the small Shoggoth walked over to Dr. Bloch, raised one pseudopod to the height of his face and opened like a fleshy flower. In the middle of the flower was a small, off-white cylinder of living tissue.
Not knowing what quite to do, Bloch slowly raised his gloved hand and took the 20 cm cylinder from Saporangia. It felt heavier than he thought it should and it wobbled in his hand like a concealed tube of cream colored pus. Saporangia retracted its extended pseudopod and resumed its original amoeboid appearance. Bloch slowly knelt to the ground. As he did he said, “Lou, bring my storage container over and open it.”
Lou picked the container up, slowly walked toward the Doctor, sat it down next to him, opened the five latches and quickly backed away.
Not taking his eyes off the fleshy cylinder, Bloch slowly opened the lid and placed it the container. There was no reaction. He then slowly closed the lid and placed his hand on top of the container. It began to glow, there was a loud clicking sound and a small panel flipped over revealing three small solar panels.
“What the hell is that thing you just put into that box?” asked Marsh.
“It’s a piece of another part of reality,” sighed Dr. Bloch. “It was originally a trade. However, now it’s the result of the evolutionary machinations of the proto-Shoggoth that has run for over several billion years. What I have collected is essentially a sample of the Primal White Jelly. I think we are the first sentient beings in this reality to accomplish such a goal.”
“What’s with the box?” asked Marsh.
“It keeps our friend in stasis, using a generated set of magnetic fields. The solar panels on top provide the energy needed to maintain the fields on a consistent basis. The fields will keep our friend in dominancy”
“How do you know it will work?” asked Marsh.
“The technology was developed specifically by IF and is based on over 1,000 years of research your people have conducted on Shoggoths.”
“Research on Shoggoths, not that Primal White Jelly thing you have. So I ask you again, how do you know that box will work? Asked Marsh.
“I don’t Mr. Marsh,” said Bloch as he stood up and faced him. “Let’s call it an experiment.”
“You mean to tell me that…” started Marsh who was interrupted by the shouts of Lenore. “Saporangia! Where are you going? Come here.”
Everyone turned to look at Lenore. She was on her knees with an arm extended toward the amoeboid Shoggoth.
Bloch walked toward her. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure, said Lenore with a look of concern. “The mental link between Saporangia and myself seems to be cut. We can’t communicate and it’s not responding to my command to come back to me.”
The amoeboid Shoggoth finally started moving; however, it was toward the proto-Shoggoth pool and not Lenore.
“Saporangia! Come here!” shouted Lenore.
“You may want to let it go,” said Bloch.
“You don’t understand. Saporangia has been in my family line for over five generations. I can’t go back to Innsmouth without it. Saporangia!” Lenore stood and started walking toward the small amoeboid Shoggoth as it walked toward the viscous pool.
Once Saporangia was immediately adjacent to the pool, the proto-Shoggoth extended a small, shimmering filament that penetrated the Shoggoth.
Lenore bent over and reached toward the Shoggoth. “Come on Saporangia. Time to go home.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea…” began Bloch as Lenore picked up the Shoggoth. As soon as she touched Saporangia, the off-white pool release a high pitched scream, started to boil over and released hundreds of the thin, semi-transparent filaments that covered both the Shoggoth and Lenore.
Lenore started to scream but it did not last long. The filaments began to feed on Lenore and the Shoggoth cell by cell but at an extremely fast rate. Within the span of a minute all of the living tissue of Lenore and the Shoggoth was pumped into the proto-Shoggoth through the thin series of filaments. All that was left was a small puddle of blood and ichor where Lenore stood. However, the pool continued to boil over. In fact, the agitated boiling increased in an accelerated rate with thin and thick filaments flailing in the air. Eyes, mouths, mandibles, claws, tentacles and other appendages unknown to Terran life started to appear on the surface of the sickly, off-white pool. In addition, the surface of the pool itself started to rise off the ground through a series of strange stump-like limbs, while tentacles began to emanate from these limbs and squirm onto the snow.
“Now it’s time to leave,” said Bloch and he turned and briskly walked away from the proto-Shoggoth as it continued to increase in both height and mass.
Marsh got on the two-way radio. “Thoth, we have to leave now! Get the copter going!”
“All right,” croaked Thoth.
At this point all four were running toward the copter as the blades started to slowly rotate. Meanwhile, the frothing, creamy-white cylinder, withering with tentacles, cilia and pseudopods flaying about, continued to increase in size and started a high-pitch wail that echoed through the canyon. By the time the group jumped into the helicopter, the thing was over 10 meters tall and continuing to growth.
Once in the copter everyone put their headsets on. “Mr. Thoth, please get us out of here and head due west away from the energy field!” shouted Bloch.
By the time the helicopter was off the ground, the thing was over 20 meters and continued to grow, throwing out tentacles and pseudopods in all directions. A series of thinner tentacles pushed out of the top of cylinder, all completely covered with eyes, ocelli and other organs used to process information on light and movement. The high pitch wail slowly started to change into a deep, booming moan.
Everyone in the helicopter stared out of the windows in absolute horror at the thing except for Thoth who concentration was only on the sky ahead of him. He knew if he looked back, they would all be doomed.
It didn’t matter if they had their headsets on or off, the loud and deep moan rattled through their minds. Lou and Bud fell to the floor of the copter while Marsh curled into a ball in his seat. Thoth started screaming as he flew the copter, trying to drown the moaning out of his own mind.
The real terror settled into every soul once they felt the helicopter suddenly jerk back. Thoth was screaming at the top of lungs and continued to push the throttle all the way down, however, at this point everyone realized that they were not moving forward and the thing had hold of the copter in some manner.
The only person who was not affected was Dr. Bloch. He scrambled to the back of the copter and opened a large gray metal box. Bloch pulled out a dart gun and several small vials, each encased in a small metal cage with a steel needle-like tip. After shaking each vial, he quickly inserted them into the dart gun and headed to the smaller side door of the copter.
“Strap yourselves in or hold onto something!” yelled Bloch as slung the dart gun over his shoulder and used some of the copter’s inner cabin belts to pin himself to the wall. He then opened one of the windows and a rush of air pushed him back. Fortunately the cabin belts held him in place; otherwise the blast of cold air would have knocked him down. From this angle he could not see where or how the thing was holding onto the copter. All Bloch could see was a large, wiggling mass of multi-colored tentacles and filaments flaying in the air. Suddenly, the copter buckled and began to tilt with the tail pointing down. Anything that wasn’t bolted down flew to the back of the copter. Everyone continued to cry and scream, feeling the presence of the thing pushing into their psyche, feeding on their thoughts and memories. Everyone felt this intrusion of the mind except Bloch.
As the copter continued to shudder in mid-air, it started to pitch to the east and Bloch got a better look at the thing. The main body was still a massive cylinder column extending to the heavens toward the chopper. The tentacles, cilia and other unknown appendages were whipping around in different directions, flashing a variety of colors. Bloch knew that if one panicked it would be easy to get lost and disoriented in those colors, so he concentrated on the off-white cylinder that was growing toward them. At this point it was about almost 25 meters tall and about 40 meters away from the copter.
Bloch could now see the top of the damn thing, which was also covered with flaying appendages. However, he could also see a number of openings or holes that seemed to be mouths. Some had sharp teeth or crushing mandibles, while others had smaller tentacles coming out of them. The tip of these tentacles had smaller mouths or sucking mouthparts like some giant aphid.
Bloch aimed the dart gun at one of the larger mouths with no tentacles and fired three vials; two of the three vials appeared to enter the mouth while the third one hit one of the larger tentacles. As soon as the darts hit the thing, the low moans went back to the high pitch shrieks. All of the tentacles immediately withdrew, like a polyp or sea anemone including the ones holding onto to the copter. Bloch noticed as he closed the window that the large tentacle hit with the dart did not retract like the others. Instead, it broke off the main body and fell to the ground, shattering like it was made of ice or some other fragile material in spite of hitting only snow.
The copter violently lurched forward with Thoth still full on the throttle. A few minutes later they were moving away from energy field and while the thing could not physically reach the copter, everyone except Bloch could still hear It calling to them, echoing in their minds. In fact, Thoth was still screaming even after they broke free; Bloch had to move to the open cockpit and put his hands on Thoth’s shoulders to talk him down through the headgear.
After Thoth was calm, Bloch turned to the others and spoke through the headgear. “Is everyone alright?”
Marsh uttered a huge sigh of relief. “How the hell did we get out of that? What was that you shot at it?”
“It was a heterogeneous mixture of several selected strains of archaebacteria that have symbiotic relationships with the protozoans that inhabit the guts of a number of animals including termites, cows and people. When cultured together these organisms produce a family of synergistic compounds that Shoggoths find unpleasant to say the least.”
“How the hell did you come up with that?” asked Marsh.
“Again, the Elder Thing mind we are in possession of has been a wealth of information.”
“But you said that those bacteria were for Shoggoths. How did you or your source know it would work on that thing down there?” asked Lou.
“It didn’t know,” said Bloch pulling out a small notebook and writing. “Let’s just call it a successful experiment that tested a hypothesis.”
“Alright. That’s it. I was going to wait until we got back to the U.S. but I can’t,” said Marsh over the headgear for the others to hear. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I should have joined the others in Y’ha-Nthlei over a decade ago and I…”
Bloch looked up from his notebook. “But your experiences with the outside world makes you uniquely qualified for these types of situations. That is why the Research Council of the Innsmouth Foundation selected you for this type of work,” said Bloch.
“I don’t care. I want to join the others,” said Marsh. “I stopped taking the drug about two weeks ago. I can already feel some of the changes coming on.”
Bloch unstrapped himself, walked over to Marsh and started examining his eyes and neck. While it was barely visible, there was a slight trace of gill slits coming in. “You shouldn’t have done this without telling me. You should have come to me. We could have scaled back the dosage rate slowly. Cutting your system off from the drug after all of these years could have resulted in a dangerous shock to your body.”
Marsh turned his head and looked Bloch directly in his eyes. “Cut the bullshit doctor. You wouldn’t have helped me off the drug. You would have convinced me to continue to work for IF. I am sick of doing this, sick of this world. Use Potter as my replacement. He is more tied to the Earth than the Sea and doesn’t feel the pull of the ocean the way I do.”
“Alright,” said Bloch. “Alright Marsh. Just do me a favor and let me monitor your progress through the transformation since you will be the first one off the drug.”
Marsh laughed. “A scientist through and through. Alright doctor. Let’s make a deal. You can poke and prod me as long as you promise me two things. First, promise me that I won’t end up a lab rat or fish in this case, in your asylum in Pennsylvania. Second, tell me why we came over 8,000 miles to the bottom of the world, sacrificed all of those people, and almost got ourselves killed, all for you to collect a sample of that extra-dimensional goo?”
“Since Thoth’s transformation will be complete in a few months and Bud and Lou will be working for me full time at the asylum, I think and I tell everyone.”
“Its research I have been working on for IF for the last five years. As the spark for the ascension of Terran evolution from the microbial world into conscious, I needed a sample of the Primal Jelly for some experiments on reverse endosymbiosis,” said Bloch.
“Experiments,” said Marsh. “All those people, dead for your experiment.”
“Like you said Marsh, people. Not our kind.”
“And what about Lenore? She was one of us, of our kind. What about her and her pet.”
Bloch sighed. “An unfortunate situation. I was fairly certain that her pet would be assimilated in exchange for the sample but I did not expect It to take her. I suppose that is why it became so agitated.”
Marsh laughed. “Well if that was It agitated, I would hate to see It really pissed off. Well Doctor, I hope it was worth it.”
Bloch looked up from his notebook and stared out the window. “So do I, Mr. Marsh. So do I.”
It had no understanding of Its existence through the various phases and realities of the universe, nor of the enormous spans of times It has experienced. It had no emotion or means to communicate with the things, organic, inorganic or otherwise, that interacted with It. It only had a sense of self that was beyond the limitations of time, space and dimension. While It could not perceive what just occurred at that moment in the Antarctic, It did recognize that part of Itself was separated from that part that has been contained on the continent. This separation of self gave it a semi-cognitive state of being, which provided a potential means of escaping the Elder Ones prison. While It did not know how It would break free of Antarctica, It recognized that the opportunity was created with the separation of self. And since It had no concept of time, Its patience was unbounded. It would eventually merge into Its complete self again and when It did, It would be free of Its Antarctic prison.