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Surfacing

Inspired by the 3400-year-old palace from a mysterious kingdom surfacing in Iraq during drought

An eldritch creature lives within an ancient, submerged temple

The desk phone on the old wooden desk rang with a shrill chime, causing Ahmed to jump slightly.  He couldn’t remember the last time that phone had rang, in the age of mobile phones.  He momentarily marveled that it was even still in service.  

“Department of Antiquities” he answered into the handset, then listened intently to the caller, his eyes going wide.  He pulled out a battered notebook and fumbled for a pen.  “Wait, please… say that  again, but more slowly.”  He jotted down the information relayed by the thick Hindi accent on the phone.  “And this is where, again?” he asked, again jotting down key information.  “Yes, thank you – I am very glad you called.  We will send someone out right away.” he said.  “Yes I understand that it may be there only briefly.  I thank you, yes.” he said, returning the phone to it’s dusty cradle and pulling out his mobile as he sat at his laptop.  

“Doctor Puljiz, yes, it is Ahmed.” he said, typing frantically into his computer.  “What is the most up to date satellite survey images we have of the Tigris, Mosul dam area?” He entered more information into the computer.  “Yes, that’s it, it’s coming in now-” 

He stopped, staring at the screen.  He saw the familiar path of the legendary Tigris river, normally a dark blue-black ribbon stretched across the ocean of desert sand, looked like barely a thread, the water levels drastically reduced by the years-long drought, but Ahmed had never seen anything like this.  The water levels seemed much lower than he had ever witnessed, and due to those levels the river was revealing secrets long lost to time. 

The satellite photo, even without the high resolution render that would take another hour to complete, clearly showed a large rectangular object in the middle of the tigris, and based on the current image scale, it was massive – hundreds of feet on a side.  He was staring, lost in the image, when he heard the voice on the phone and placed it back to his ear.  

“Yes, yes I’m seeing it.  I don’t think we have anyone in the vicinity, there’s nothing there – or at least that’s what we thought.” he scratched his head, trying to calculate how long it would take him and a small team to get there.  “I have no idea what era it could be from, no – we’ve never encountered anything like it.  We need to get there ASAP and at least start investigations before the waters rise again.” He found himself bouncing with excitement at the possibilities.  

The team reached the site twenty hours later, as the sun began to rise over the landscape.  It was already hot, and would only get hotter in the blistering sun that had already baked the riverbed solid, so that the team could drive down the steep embankments and get their Land Rovers close enough to the ruins to begin unleading gear.  It was mildly frightening, seeing how deeply submerged the area they drove upon was, normally, if the river was actually full, but that was exactly why the structure they sought was now uncovered.  

Ahmed had the team begin to set up the command tents first, to ensure they had shade and some protection from the heat and desert winds before the day’s heat was at its peak.  The team was assembled very quickly, due to the nature of the situation, and was mostly grad students, with one other staff archeologist, Perkins, who was only available because he missed his flight to Oslo the previous day.  

As the team started setting up, Ahmed and Perkins made their way to the ruins.  They were actually bigger than Ahmed had expected, based on the satellite photos, and fortunately they were so remote it looked like they were the first ones there and would not have to contend with looters.  Ahmed could clearly see the walls, two meters thick and at least five meters high in some areas.  He could see carvings still clearly visible on the sun-backed walls that had been submerged in the darkness of the Tigris for millennia.  

“Perkins…” he called out to the other archaeologist.  “Do you see this?  I can’t identify it.” He pointed out an elaborate series of characters and the remains of a bas relief.  “I was thinking it could be Mittani, but these characters are all wrong.” 

“It’s not Egyptian either.” Perkins said, looking closely.  He took a brush from his kit and gently brushed off the characters.  “I’m not sure.” he shook his head and examined the wall more.  “And these carvings, what could these represent?” He highlighted carvings midway up a wall, and Ahmed stared at them, perplexed.  It showed a scene of what appeared to be worshippers lined up in reverence or supplication to some deity, as was common with much of the art from these kinds of temples, but this deity was… disturbing.  It was huge, with exaggerated features and what could only be described as wholly alien or monstrous features.  

“That’s a new one to me.” Ahmed responded.  “The deities of this era were typically human or human with animalistic features, but this… And is that a whip, or…” he stared at the carvings and then started following them down the massive wall.  “Look here – that same creature, and the worshippers seem to be building something?” 

“This temple?” Perkins asked.  “Wait, no – look, that seems to be a representation of, is that the underworld?” 

“Not a representation I’m familiar with.  It seems more like subterranean, based on these figures – not supernatural, but look, there’s some kind of gateway represented here?” Ahmed said.  “This is…” 

“This is groundbreaking.” Perkins said with excitement.  “This may be a completely undiscovered civilization, buried beneath the waters, undisturbed for countless centuries.” 

“We should get the photographic gear.” Ahmed said, “We need to catalog all of this immediately.  We have no way of knowing when this will be reclaimed by the river, and due to the normal flow of water I doubt we would be able to investigate once the water returns.” 

“Ahmed!” Perkins called out.  Ahmed thought his colleague was staring at a new section of wall, but suddenly realized it was not a wall, but a massive doorway, framed with heavy carved blocks.  A doorway with a heavy door with the same pale color as the heavy blocks, but made out of something else entirely.  

“What is this?” Ahmed asked, pressing his hand to the surface of the door.  “It isn’t wood, but it doesn’t feel like stone either.  It’s oddly cool.”  As he pressed his hand to the surface, there was a low grinding sound and the door swung slowly open, stopping after a foot.  There was a cool, damp wind that blew out of the opening, which was bathed in a heavy darkness on the other side of the door.  The archeologists looked at one another.  

“We need to get the equipment.” Ahmed said.  

“Just a quick look!” Perkins said, squeezing carefully through the gap in the open doorway, turning on an ultra bright LED flashlight.  He stopped as soon as he entered, frozen in place.  

“What do you see?” Ahmed asked, but there was no response.  He could see the flashlight beam bouncing off a far wall, moving slightly.  

“Perkins.” he called, more forcefully.  “Perkins, what do you see?”  Getting no response, he followed his colleague through the portal, turning on his own flashlight. 

“Perkins!” he said, walking up to the man, who still had not moved.  He was staring up, and Ahmed realized his hand was shaking, the bright LED beam jittering in the pitch darkness.  He followed Perkins’ gaze across the room and up, to where the LED beam pierced the shadowy temple.  He saw the beam of light glint off something large and shiny, something round.  He made a step towards the round object, but the movement froze him in place as something enormous… blinked.  

A Spiritual Awakening

I’m not sure I can really write this properly – it’s all in my head, the thoughts and ideas coming fast and spinning wildly – but I have an understanding that I never really had before, concepts of divinity and spirituality and religion that I never really considered before yesterday.  I’ll try to start at the beginning, if there is a beginning for a thing like this.

I’ve been very upset and dismayed lately related to the attacks in France and Beirut and so many people’s reactions of fear and ignorance and hatred.  Seeing elected officials, even candidates for president saying they want to stop refugees from coming to america, or only letting the Christian refugees in, or registering and monitoring the Muslims…  It’s all driven not only by fear, but by ‘religion’; this group thinks God wants them to kill that group; this other group must discriminate against those guys because an old book ‘maybe’ tells them to by one interpretation; this group says that this plot of land was given to them by God and so they must kill everyone who believes otherwise, and somehow all these groups have complex reasons why all these religious texts that say ‘love one another’ don’t apply to EVERYONE, just the people that look / behave / believe the same thing they do…   It’s upsetting, and it’s destroying the world.  That was my first big epiphany… religions that, objectively, are supposed to lift people up and help the needy and their communities, help bring people together, have somehow gotten to the point where they are literally destroying the world.  Religion is being used to tear apart countries, destroy communities, ignore planetary destruction like climate change, and so much more.  So that was my first true eye opening epiphany, and it happened while I was driving to the grocery store.

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So Necronomicon Providence 2015 has come and gone, and it was truly amazing – we had such a great time!  The panels were excellent, with some of our favorite authors and content creators giving great talks, and events like live recordings from HPLHS, H P Lovecraft Literary Podcast, and Lovecraft eZine.  The convention was very well run too – I particularly liked the way they set up the vendor room this year, versus setting the vendors up in the hallways like the last event.

Before the convention I had an idea – I had a number of books by authors and editors I really enjoy, like Joe Pulver and Ramsey Campbell, and I thought it might be cool to get them autographed.  It was a big stack of books, though, and there are other content creators like Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey and Leeman Kessler who don’t really have books out, and I wanted to get their signatures as well.  To solve this dilemma I created a big leather bound book full of crisp parchment pages – if you’re at a Lovecraft convention, why not go big, right?  I wound up getting all the signatures I really wanted, and some additional authors who I just met at the convention as well.  The whole thing came out great, all the people I asked to sign seemed genuinely happy to do so, and some even did artwork!  Continue Reading »

As a family, we love TV and home entertainment – LOVE it.  Big screen HDTV, premium cable, XBox, Blu-Ray, NetFlix, we like it all.  We have age appropriate shows we love to watch as a family, like MythBusters, Face-off, My Cat From Hell, Too Cute, etc…  and we have our ‘grownup’ shows like Sleepy Hollow, Lost Girl, Game of Thrones, and Castle that we watch after the 8 year old goes to bed.  

Our cable bill – a Verizon ‘bundle’ containing HD Cable, premium channels (HBO, etc..) 25MB Fios internet, and home phone, was around $200 a month.  We started looking at how much we were spending versus other options and the value is gave us, we came to a the realization that were were paying a LOT for services that we barely used, and that over 90% of what we normally watched was available in a variety of other much less expensive ways.  

The first thing we did was looking at everything we normally watch and then looked for alternate ways of getting that content.  For most of it, that was easy – most of the shows we like are available on HuluPlus or other online streaming sources.  This meant that dropping cable was certainly do-able, with some adjustments.  

We also did some research on pricing – we found out that our 25MB cable was listed as $45 a month in our ‘Bundle’, but Verizon doesn’t even offer 25MB service outside of a bundle, so to drop cable we’d have to change our internet.  There was a 50MB standalone service for $70 a month, which was a little more expensive than we hoped, but still a significant savings month over month.

We looked at setting up alternate services, too.  We’ve had NetFlix streaming for years, which I think is the best entertainment value you can get for $, and we also have Amazon Prime streaming, since we shop a lot with Amazon, and they do have a decent selection of free content as well.  For this experiment, we also subscribed to HuluPlus for another $8 a month, as a way to get most of our normal viewing content.  

For hardware we already had a ChromeCast as well as a Sony Blu-Ray player that also included IP TV services – that’s how we typically watch NetFlix and Amazon Prime.  We also added AppleTV to the mix, for $99, as this has a simpler interface than the BD player, includes PBS (for Sherlock!) and allows us to buy specific season passes for the shows we really want to watch.  We also bought an HD antenna to get local broadcast stations, as we should have a strong signal here, but it seems that either the antenna or the receiver in our TV is defective, as we haven’t been able to get that working.  

Based on the current setup, our savings is a little over $100 moth over month, for about $1200 a year.  We’ll add a few subscriptions through iTunes – we already added the current season of Mythbusters for $20, and we’re planning on adding Game of Thrones when that’s available.  The monetary savings is great, but there’s another bonus we’re seeing as well – instead of just flipping channels until we come across some random, mediocre show, we’re now looking at multiple options and choosing the one that we’re most interested in seeing, adding quality as well as value.  Also, we’re doing something that we rarely did earlier – if we don’t really feel like watching anything, we’re turning off the TV and doing more constructive things (like blog posts).  

The only real challenge so far has been the antenna issue, which isn’t that big a deal.  For anything we can’t stream on Hulu or Apple TV, like SyFy shows, I can plug my laptop into the home theater HDMI ad watch shows that way.  It’s an interesting experiment, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other habits start to change now that we’ve cut to cord.  

 

His First Halloween

As the last rays of sun dipped behind the old brick warehouses and shuttered homes along the tracks, a pair of wet, rheumy eyes peered out from a crack between the grey boards, their red irises seeming to glow in the fading light. A dull, raspy voice slipped through the darkened interior, starting out as a whisper, but excitement and anticipation raising its volume unexpectedly.

“Can we go now? Dad, can we go? It’s dark out, you said we could go when it got dark!”
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Better late than never – I am very happy to announce my newest creative venture – Mysterious Observations in Providence! This is a bit of an experiment in modern information-age storytelling that takes the form of an alternate-reality blog. The main character, Chad Martens, has inherited a mysterious steamer trunk from his recently deceased grandfather, and with that has also inherited a supernatural mystery stretching back more than four generations!

The story is being told in ‘real-time’, with new posts to the blog multiple times per week as the protagonist experiences bizarre and potentially otherworldly events, is tormented by nightmarish dreams, and continues to learn more about this dark family legacy.

Unlike a standard narrative, ‘Mysterious Observations in Providence’ uses a multi-media format to engage the reader fully into the story and the experience. Blog posts will include not only narrative writing, but also unique photographic evidence spanning over 100 years, video evidence, photos and scans of antique documents and letters, specially created props, and even original artwork to add to the realism and the drama.

The setting is modern day Providence and East Providence Rhode Island, and the overall narrative is based on Lovecraftian mythology and the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton smith and others.

The website is http://orderofdagon.org and the first post that starts the whole thing is http://orderofdagon.org/2013/08/18/ so you can start from the beginning.

This is a really fun venture with help from a number of people (see ‘About’ section for current credits) and I’m sure fans of supernatural fiction and horror will enjoy experiencing the tale as it is told…

Blue Star Fallen

This flash fiction piece made the final round in the 2010 Escape Artists national fiction contest.

European astronomers saw it first; a dim, cobalt-blue star with a color and position that made it immediately clear that it was something new and different.

It was little more than a curiosity at first – not many people took notice until it began to steadily grow brighter, soon visible to amateur star gazers, and within a month it was clearly visible to the naked eye on clear nights, a blazing blue beacon shimmering in the evening sky. That’s when the fears began to spread, slowly and quietly in office gossip and coffee shop discussion. ‘What if’ became the question that everyone – and no one – wanted answered. Continue Reading »

The Shoggoths Next Door

Jeremy stared in horror out his second floor bedroom window at the house next door, the red ‘sold’ sign still swinging in the grassy front yard. He saw what looked like a long, black, slime-covered tentacle or some other alien appendage slip out of sight into the side door, then saw the door shut with a quick snap.
“Mom, I think our new neighbors might be monsters!” he called down the hallway. His mother poked her head out of the bathroom, yellow cleaning gloves on her hands.
“Jeremy that’s very rude. They’re brand new to the neighborhood and they moved here from someplace very far away. They may be different from us but I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Lovecraft are very nice people. You really need to be more polite – what would they think of us if they heard that kind of talk?” Continue Reading »

Haunter at Hogwarts

My name is Ronald Weasley, and while the major events of our fourth year at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry may be well known – especially those events associated with the tri-wizard tournament and the rise of the dark lord Voldemort – there were other events, witnessed only by a select few, which would prove far more dire. Had I myself not witnessed these events first hand, I would assume any who recalled them as I do to be mad – and in truth, even now I fear that I have gone mad in the recalling of all that has transpired. Continue Reading »

Civic Duty

Alex stood silent by the roadbed, Samantha beside him.  There was a light rain coming down from the heavy, dark sky, the promise of more severe weather hanging on the breeze like a tattered flag on a rusted flagpole.  There were other people here as well, of course, looking out at the road and the gathering of civil servants and road construction crew, glaring at the huge yellow machines sitting bloated and silent, just waiting for the order to start, waiting for the fire to be lit in their monstrous metal bellies so they could lurch forward on treads and wheels and rollers and devour and crush and create.

Nobody was smiling.  Nobody was even looking at one another.  Eyes panned across the scene like robotic security cameras, viewing the scene flatly but not actually seeing it.  Not registering it.  Alex could tell which of the others were there for the same reason he and Sam were there.   It was the look in their eyes.  That glassy, dead look.  The look he now saw reflected in the mirror every morning, the look he saw in Samantha’s eyes in the all too brief moments when they actually met each other’s gaze now. Continue Reading »