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The bilge of a streamer filled with Tcho-Tcho stowaways whose magic quarters and cleans their victims carcass before they begin to feast.

Just four days out of Rangoon, the SS Murnow‘s chief cook, a fastidious fellow nick-named “Dutch Pete,” to distinguish him from the Boatswain named “Spanish Pete,” was throwing an unholy fit about the stowaway who had ransacked his galley. Dutch Pete unlimbered a stream of profanity concerning the “heathen stink” he would have to scrub off the countertops and floors before the next meal could be prepared. And he wasn’t wrong. There was a stink all right, 3rd Engineer Bill Webb recognized it right off. It was the stink of the bilge. Down below the engines were all the condensation, engine oil, coal dust, and wastewater from the Murnow‘s coal-fired boiler settled in the bowels of the ship before it was pumped into the ocean. The accumulated filth left a greasy trail on the old ship’s wake. 

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Phantoms of No Man’s Land

The Phantoms look like gasmask clad German infantry, soaked with mud, blood, and human waste through their uniforms, sometimes carrying the detritus of the battlefield tangled in their gear and flesh. They are peppered with bullet and shrapnel wounds, sometimes tangled in sections of barbed wire. Beneath their heavy uniforms and helmets, their corpse-white skin shows the damage of war and possibly their reassembly from unmatched corpses. Their gas masks adhere to their skulls like skin and removing them leaves a wet, grinning skull and staring eyes.

The play The King in Yellow has been introduced to the oddest and most inaccessible of places. One of those was the blood and fecal churned mud in the trenches of the Western Front. As soldiers reached out for any talisman, mascot, or gris-gris that might protect them from the random, impersonal death that haunted the mazes of entrenchments that stretched from Switzerland to the sea, more than one man on leave stumbled upon the Yellow Sign. Some thought them to be a variation of the popular Buddhist swastika that was found in great numbers on either side of No Man’s Land. Others believe them to be a good luck charm of Arabic origin. Whether found in a shop or sent in the mail by worried and superstitious family or friends, the Yellow Sign was not unknown in the trenches. And where the Yellow Sign Goes, the play The King in Yellow is sure to follow. Perhaps the manuscript arrives at the battalion HQ via the post from an anonymous sender. A play that might be performed in order to alleviate the boredom that settles in between the gargantuan efforts to shift the front a mile or two east? Maybe the pages arrive as nothing more than wadded packing around a shipment of preserved food sent from the hole? In any event, the play is here now and Carcosa will soon follow.

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Alternative Armament for Shoggoths

It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter.

H. P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness (1931)

That’s the eye-witness description we find in “At the Mountains of Madness” for the terrible shoggoths, horrifying bio-engineered life-forms that H.P. Lovecraft name dropped in his other stories “The Thing on the Doorstep” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” However, their creators, the Old Ones (later rechristened Elder Things so as not to confuse them with the Great Old Ones) designed the shoggoths to be a kind of endlessly repurposable biological construction equipment. 

“Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes – viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells – rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile – slaves of suggestion, builders of cities – more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative!”

The shoggoths were an endlessly adaptable life form that could act as a crane, an earthmover, a bulldozer, steamroller, or even (one supposes) weapons of war when the Elder Things warred with some of the other early inhabitants of the Earth. They were never meant to be able to chose what shapes they took, that was for their masters to decide, but like the quoted passage says, they developed independent intelligence and an agenda all their own, quite reminiscent of the common sci-fi trope about artificially intelligent robots and computers gaining consciousness and turning on their creators. 

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The Dog Soldiers

Wars make warriors. But wars also make warriors into beggars. From the first time humans employed organized violence to impose their will upon their fellow men, injuries received by combat were seen as badges of honor. The history of each warrior’s successes and defeats is written in their flesh. Each missing limb, each furrowed scar is a story. Some stories are triumphs, others tragedies. Warriors have always faced the prospect of being eroded, whittled away until they can ultimately no longer serve the purpose for which they were created. More warriors than not end their careers not only unable to fight, but unable to work. Those most unfortunate end up even unable to care for themselves. In earlier times such men had to rely on the alms of their family and neighbors, with nothing but their injuries to testify to their service. The discarded warrior is all too common. Even in our enlightened time, with our vigorous social security net, gravely injured warriors are discarded. Before the end of the Second World War, the loss of an eye or an arm or a leg did not force the departure of a soldier, particularly officers, from their service. Today, any physical imperfection means an almost instant departure into civilian life. Many of these warriors do not make this transition smoothly. Loss of purpose. Loss of comradeship. Loss of structure and discipline. Many veterans still crave these things long after their forced departure from their adopted tribe.

The discarded warriors seek only to escape their exile. Some through vice, some through exceeding the expectations of their peers, some go looking for a new tribe, for a new mission. Others search for meaning, looking for god’s plan written in their wounds. Most, fortunately, find no meaning, no plan, no god. I say ‘fortunately,’ because the only thing worse than screaming questions into the silent void, is the day that the void finally answers back.

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The Father of War- Avatar of Nyarlathotep Adam Scott Glancy

Image is a dark image of the back of a male with black shards of glass surrounding him. He appears racked in fear.

Father of War
by Ian P. Duckett

“When Qassim pushed the metal vase over, shards of glittering black glass spilled out onto the floor. Qassim dipped his hand into the vase to see if old man Kassam had hidden his gold beneath shards. Just as Qassim started screaming, old Kassam pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head. He knew what was coming.”

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