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Lungfish

January 12, 2016

onehundredandfortyone

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

I pray this letter finds you. I must also pray that it is received with tolerance. I am not the kind of lady to contact strange men unsolicited. However, in my heart, you are no stranger. I am an avid reader of your work. I came across it quite by accident. A tenant of mine, an American gentleman by the name of Hardy, left a magazine in his room after lodging here. A sordid little publication I’m afraid to say, not at all my usual reading matter. But leafing through it certain names and ideas sprung out at me and caught my attention. However, it was your beautiful articulance that held me.

My name is Constance Abbott and I run a reputable guest house in Brighton in the United Kingdom. I wonder, have you ever visited our shores? I suppose a man of your experience and learning must be well travelled. I hope our little isle was pleasing to you? It used to be a noble and decent place to make one’s home. Sadly, it is now being eroded by a certain influx of pernicious elements. I know you know of what I’m speaking. Let me assure you, my establishment is one that sets a certain standard for its tenants before they’re welcome.

I live here with my son, Charles. A bookish child. Still, rather his nose in a book than where it doesn’t belong, don’t you agree? When I see some of the children about nowadays, they are positively feral! Lord knows where their parents suppose them to be. Perhaps they don’t care? Standards in child rearing, amongst much else, have certainly slipped since I was a girl. Do you have children, Mr. Lovecraft? I imagine you do. They must be angels if they have inherited even half their father’s grace.

My Charlie is never somewhere I can’t find him. Sometimes I see him staring at the groups of recalcitrant little terrors from the window. I suppose he might feel left out. Children are so wilful, but Mother knows best. He’ll thank me when he’s older. When he’s passing them laying in the gutter on his way to a decent job. I fret terribly for him but I must be strong. Only a firm hand is going to steer him in the proper direction and his father is no longer with us. The role of disciplinarian as well as nurturing mother has fallen to me.

It is a cruel and trying world we live in nowadays. One can feel like the whole world is against you. The population grows and spreads out like a disease. And with it, the races and bloods are mixed and the natural order is upset. Chaos seems to reign. The good and the learned are overcome by the base and hedonistic mongrels of lesser mind but stronger hew. This is what I hear in your books. You understand. But something more, too. Something I cannot put my finger on. Something, barely remembered from a dream, in those strange words and places described. It troubles me. It has kept me from sleep. It has compelled me to write and reach out to you.

I hope I haven’t bored you with my ramblings, Mr. Lovecraft. I look forward to hearing from you.

Your gracious Fan

Constance Abbot

 

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

I hope my last letter found you well? Please do not be embarrassed that it was not returned, I appreciate that you are a very busy man. I sit down to write this letter having just finished your most recent publication. The lonely violinist frantically playing at his window to keep evil at bay? What a work! I recognize in him a little of myself and my own struggles.

I’ve been lucky enough to find a news agent who imports some of the periodicals in which you are published. I go down to his shop with baited breath whenever I receive a call from him. Where you must get your ideas from!? Elder gods, advanced but forgotten and annihilated societies, the lurking of esoteric societies working their machinations behind the veil of modern civilizations. Quite singular. I asked the vendor if he had ever read your work and do you know his response? “Garbage”. The ungrateful little troll! That he should be able to conjure such ideas and put them to paper so eloquently!

I trust you are well? I know so little about you, I’ve never even seen a photo. I wrote to the publisher of the magazine but they would only provide this post office box for my letters. If I may be so bold as to ask a little about yourself? Are you married? You must be. I imagine she is radiant. I picture you both sitting before a roaring fire, her darning socks, you, your pen aflame, writing your work. So decent and wholesome. I wish I had it.

I saw Charlie talking to one of the local boys today. He was returning from school and about to enter the house when he turned and crossed the road to speak to the child. I have never seen the youth before. They walked out onto the pier, huddled together, talking. Laughing. The pair were thick as thieves. I saw the whole thing from the window. When he came through the door, I was waiting. The fear in his face when he saw me there… I recognized his father in it. The anger. The shame. Who knows what they were discussing? He was trembling with the shock of being discovered. I made sure the punishment fit the crime, don’t doubt that!

We had a priest take up residence with us recently. He shall be staying a fortnight whilst he attends to a departed parishioners bequests.  Are you a man of faith, Mr. Lovecraft? I never read it in your works. At least, not for any Abrahamic god. I was most devout in my youth. I was raised to be. I attended services, sang in the choir (I’ve quite the voice if you’d believe it!),I attended every Harvest Festival and food drive for the poor. I clung to it like a safety blanket. In recent years though, since his father left, I’ve found that faith waning.

The priest asked me about it and I asserted I was, of course, Christian. But as he spoke at length about the importance of devotion, my mind wandered. Where, once, I could draw on a well of evangelism, searching then, I found the space empty. Searching, now, I find it empty. I think I may take a lie down. Charles shall need his dinner and his clothes and books sorted for school. The light is fading. I think I may take a little lie down. I hope this letter finds you well, Mr. Lovecraft.

Your fan

Constance Abbott

 

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

Have I offended you in some way? I have still received no reply. I do hope I have not. Was it my talk of faith and religion? Please be assured, if you are a man of devotion, I am no heathen! Perhaps you are a materialist and think me a fool for my history of worship, how can I know? At the time when I last set pen to paper I was not quite myself, I sometimes have these funny turns. You must forgive me. Please?

Our priest friend, I discussed much with him. Law, order, the way of all things. I showed him your writings, I thought a man in his position would appreciate tales that rally so against the chaos and malicious forces that try to act against us. Would you believe, the old fool called it sacrilege! Black magic and the occult! I suppose he considers his little set of beliefs and ceremonies to be the oldest and firmest there are! I put it to him that there are still alive things that are remembered and half-remembered that formed his faith’s conceptions, Things so ancient that they make his precious book seem like this morning’s newspapers! And they are remembered aren’t they? Well, he didn’t know what to say to THAT, let me tell you. He slunk off this morning before his stay had expired, I imagine with his tail between his legs!

I had the most bizarre dream the other night, Mr. Lovecraft. You must allow me to recount it.

I was down at the fish market, just before dawn. The sky was not quite light but not dark. I was the only one there at that early time. Only one stall was set up and I walked to it from a great distance. The merchant was an ancient sailor. So old was his skin that it was almost translucent in its thinness. He had yellow, broken teeth, his breath was like the crypt and he possessed the cruelest, jaundiced eyes I have ever seen but I was compelled to deal with him. It was Friday and the priest needed fish for his supper. The withered old merchant had the strangest wares. Viscous looking fish with armour platings, peculiar crab like creatures that were almost insectoid, huge and alien cephalopods and a multitude of other antediluvian looking fare lying cold and dead on the table. It thoroughly repulsed me. The strange old sailor seemed delighted with what he had to offer though, grinning disgustingly as I perused the hideous things laying in their trays of crushed ice. He asked me if I might perhaps care to see something he had behind his table beneath a tarpaulin. Something special. Feeling alone and uncomfortable, I acquiesced. He chuckled and pulled back a corner of the tarpaulin. Charlie was lying there, tangled in a net. His skin was as pale as a sheet, his lips were blue and his eyes open and glassy. Staring. And I gave a little laugh! It was was the strangest feeling, to laugh at seeing one’s own and only child lying there, drowned in a net. I was overcome with nausea and as it hit me in a wave the awful, ancient things on the table thrashed into life, twisting and turning and upsetting trays and ice all over the dock. I jumped back, picking up my skirts, and saw the old fisherman starting back at me accusingly. I was starting to apologize for upsetting his wares, which were still madly squirming on the ground, and promising to buy something when a certain aspect of his character triggered a memory in me. He looked just like Charlie’s father. His countenance destroyed by the advancing years, but still him. As he noticed my recognition he opened his mouth to speak. But all that issued from that ancient maw was the dull and portentious tolling of a bell.

I awoke to find myself in bed, tangled in covers. I think I had been screaming in my sleep. The church bells struck eleven at night. I had to get up, Charles still hadn’t had his dinner.

What a peculiar dream, don’t you agree? I know you place stock in these things, perhaps you might offer a personal insight when you have time to write? I hope my letters don’t keep you from your work. You possess a particular gift, Mr. Lovecraft. Few have the bravery you do, to write such truth. Til we speak again…

Your imploring fan

Constance Abbott

 

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

Good sir, I apologize if I have recieved correspondence from you that has gone unreciprocated in the last few weeks, I have been quite overwhelmed with happenings recently. It started with a visit from the doctor. Not a visitation I requested, I might add, I have no faith in the “profession”. Quacks and purveyors of snake oil, all, as far as I’m concerned. It was the boy. I’d quite worn myself out that day, the most recent maid in my employ having deserted us in a flounce recently, the lazy little slut. I’d had to tidy twice the rooms I normally would have, washing sheets and polishing brass and emptying fireplaces. We have no guests at the moment, a dearth of business which I perceive to be the fault of that squawking maid’s inattention to her duty. I had been trying to bring the bearing of the house back up to scratch and had quite forgotten to take a break-fast or tea and, that evening, after Charlie returned, I took a faint as I worked. The silly child was overcome with fright and rang for this so called doctor in his panic. I awoke to find the bloodletter standing over me waving smelling salts in my face, the boy stood beside him wide eyed and wringing his hands, no doubt from guilt at his mistake!

I got up, waving away the doctor’s grimy hand of assistance and tried to shoo him out the door. He was quite intent on making this as difficult as possible, no doubt looking to be paid by the hour! He bothered me interminably with questions. Is this the first time this has happened? Are you having trouble sleeping? What has your diet been like? Nonsense, and of the most invasive kind! Who else but these meddlers would have the audacity to question a complete stranger so intensely? He ordered Charlie to leave the room as if he owned the boy and I wasn’t the one who bore him! And, with the innocent gone, the extortion only increased! The boy seems very pale? Is he getting enough to eat? You both appear a little drawn… The impertinence! I have him a piece of my mind and more. As I marched him down the stairs, over the threshold and out of the building without a penny in his grasping claws the boy sat and watched from the stairs, pulling at his shirtsleeves and wearing a fallen look, as well he might! As soon as the door was closed on the intrusive blaggart we had a very serious chat.

I don’t know what to do with the child, perhaps he has missed a male presence in his life? A firm hand. I have always tried to overcome the natural inclination of my sex to coddle and coo. It has been hard at times, but with his father long gone, I have had to set to the task. I am starting to worry about him. He is a timid child (as children should be) and easily led by rougher minds. He doesn’t think I see him, walking home with the boys from the poor areas of town. He doesn’t know I see them, looking up at the house when he’s in his room. He doesn’t think I know they throw small stones at his window to get his attention. He doesn’t realize half of the things I see.

I caught him the other day. In my room. He was looking at one of your stories I had on the nightstand. Stood there by the bed, furtively leafing through the pages. I watched him for a long time through a crack in the door. He silently mouthed the words as he read. The strange and oddly resonant names of the Elder and Outer Gods.

Yog Sothoth

Dagon

Shub Niggurath

Cthulhu

The names of forgotten cities, lost beneath the oceans. Extinct tribes and their brutal rituals. Planes of existence behind the veil through which our tired eyes shall never see. He was muttering the words under his breath. Rolling the strange syllables around with his tongue. Indulging in them. It was not the first time he was speaking them, I am sure, Mr. Lovecraft. As he eventually put down the magazine and snuck from the room I watched him from the shadows of the hall. I am going to have to keep watching him.

Your committed fan

Constance Abbott

 

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

You haven’t written, Mr. Lovecraft, why have you not written? Are they watching our communication? I shall have to find a more discreet way for us to correspond. I wish I had the mind for it. But at the moment…

You are the only person I can trust. The only person who will, who possibly could, conceive of what I face. You know that of which I am speaking. You wrote it. You wrote it all. They are not stories, are they? They are messages. Warnings. I realize what I saw in them. What I recognized. There are malign forces in this world, clandestine forces that pull strings and weave threads towards a sickening goal. I know you know. And they have slipped a noose around my neck whilst I slept. Have crept up from the sea shore and entered this house.

I watched him from the window. Down on the beach, walking across the shoals. The house is quite empty, for now. I’m sure they’ve seen to that. No guest to witness what is due to transpire. But it works in my favour. I stood at my bedroom window, watching. The strong sea breeze pulling his hair this way and that. He walked down to the water’s edge and stood there, staring out at the grey expanse of water. He stood for some time, staring out to sea. Watching. Listening. The breakers lapped at his feet but he did not move.

My head began to ring with the most awful pain that blurred my vision and weakened my knees. The grey of the sky and the pale foam of the ocean and the small, dark form of the young boy stood at the sea’s edge swirled into one chaotic portrait of agonizing light that scraped nails across my brain. I collapsed on the bed, curled into a foetal ball from the pain. My stomach rolled and my heart seemed to beat in the back of my throat. I can barely relay the terror, the agony of that feeling. I shut my eyes tight, Mr. Lovecraft. I prayed.

I must confess something. Perhaps I have intimated that Charles’ father has passed away. This isn’t the truth. He may as well be dead. Perhaps he is dead, in fact? I have no way of knowing. He deserted us no sooner had I found out that I was pregnant. He was a scoundrel. A drinker, a gambler and a whorer. What was a woman like me doing with such a creature you may ask? Such are the follies and and naivety of youth. I’m sure you know yourself. I was left to fend for the boy, to run the guest house, to do the work of a mother and a man, alone. And I have failed, Mr. Lovecraft, I have failed. The boy slinks about the house like a beaten dog, afraid to look me in the eye.

There have always been dark forces at work in this town, I see that now, and Charlie has fallen in with them. I have failed to protect him. The tarts who lurk in darkened doorways down the alleys off the seafront. The slick and slimy hawkers and gamblers who preen and strut the promenade at night. Even the pious and hypocritical “elite”, the doctors , the teachers, the collectors for the poor! I know their game. You can see it in their ashen complexions, their bulbous eyes, their quivering, wetted lips. They are one and all blackened by that hideous, chaotic thing that calls from the sea each night. The sunken city of R’lyeh where their lord lays, dead and dreaming. They mean to take me into their lunatic fold, their sick coven. But I will fight, by God! I will do whatever it takes. They will be driven from this house!

Your faithful servant

Constance Abbott

 

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

I know you read this. I know they keep your replies from me. They mean to isolate me.

I saw him with the boys from the school again the other day. They were huddled together, all of them. They were laughing. He is growing bold. I have sat back and watched. They cannot know that I know what they have planned. They have eyes and ears everywhere. From each dark corner their tendrils slide, seeking me. I turned a prospective guest away the other day. A swarthy character with a low brow and dumb, ape-like eyes. His mock astonishment was quite the turn! They should put him on the stage. I know how to spot their agents now.

I have read you stories, your messages, over and over. How much they show me now that my eyes are finally fully open. That vague recognition and fleeting deja vu they brought about is gone. I understand now. The cyclopean ruins, the chaotic and nameless forms the Elder Gods take, they are all there in our shared ancient memory. The lizard brain. Lurking. I understand what must be done. Perhaps it is a vain show of defiance, they have forces beyond the power of one to deflect. But I shall not go willingly into their captivity. Even if it is just a gesture, it may be enough to save my soul.

I watched him sleep last night. The room was black, the moon outside obscured by thick cloud. There are no candles left in the house. I had felt my way blindly to his door. I stood for a long time, allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness. He was shifting in an uneasy sleep, twitching and moaning and twisting the sheets. I imagined what must be going on behind that veil of sleep. The wild and febrile piping of a discordant tattoo, the guttural calling of the watchers in the deep. Goading. Commanding. Promising. I went to his bedside and ran my hand through that shock of red hair. He calmed a little. He clutched a worn toy bear that I bought him for the crib. I stayed by his bed for a long time.

I wish I could recieve your council. Instead, I must confide in you. I do not enter into this lightly. I am a good woman, Mr. Lovecraft. A just and upstanding woman. I have fought, tooth and nail, to uphold my dignity in a morally degenerate world. To maintain order for myself and my child. To protect him from base and corrupting pressures. But I have failed. Perhaps I was destined to? I see the creeping influence of those slimy, marine creatures as they crawl up from the beach, unseen. The slight but repugnant change they have brought about in the physiognomy of the people of this town. And the greasy, bestial forms that have landed on these shores as the land has become tainted to fit and house them. People blame progress and society but we, you and I, know the truth. Things older than progress, things more ancient than society. Forgotten things whose names must not be spoken. Things that stare with jaundiced, bloodshot eyes from murky, nighttime seas. That watch. That desire. Perhaps I am damned, Mr. Lovecraft. But my son will be saved.

Your dutiful fan

Constance Abbott

 

My Dear Mr. Lovecraft

When I was a small girl I had a nanny. She was a cold, dry little woman. My upbringing was left mostly to her as, I suppose, was the philosophy of the time. I don’t remember much of my parents from those early years but I remember her most clearly. The wiry grey hair that stuck out from beneath her bonnet, the rough starch in every inch of her clothing, the greasy skin of her worn hands. I can picture her so clearly, can feel her at my shoulder.

I remember, one day, being in my parent’s room, a place I knew I should not be. Who knows what had tempted me in there. I was stood at my mother’s dressing table. I was so small I had to stand on my tiptoes to goggle at the sparkling necklaces and delicate coloured glass perfume bottles that had so caught my attention. I marvelled at all that beauty laid out in front of me, just out of reach. I caught my reflection in the looking glass at the back of the table and was startled by the unrecognizably guilty and furtive face that looked back at me. As I grew bold again, some jewel or trinket caught my attention and I was once more captivated. I reached and reached for it. My toes stretched till they ached trying to propel me close enough to even brush it with my fingertips. All other thoughts and behaviour abandoned, my senses were all focussed on this one object of desire. A hand fell on my shoulder. As I tumbled backwards into those icy, calloused hands, knocking jewelry and powders and perfumes from the table to smash and rattle on the floor, I caught a glimpse of her face in the looking glass. Her eyes were as sharp as straight razors and her lips were curled back like those of a dog. Her whole countenance was frosted with, twisted by, the most vicious fury, the most perfect hatred. I had never been, could never be, so scared. In my childish way, in that moment, I honestly believed she would kill me for my transgression.

She hauled me by the hair down the stairs, my heels clattering on each step. I screamed from the terror as much as the pain. I must have sounded like a banshee, an animal trapped. As we reached the turn on the stair we stopped and she pulled my head back and swung her arm out to slap me full in the face. I fell silent, quivering and weak, hanging loose in her grasp. She stared back at me, the most awful look in her eyes, her arm still raised. Daring me. That one moment seemed to last an aeon. Finally she lowered her open palm, twisted her hand through another loop of my hair and dragged me down the rest of the stairs.

As she took me, kicking and screaming, to the nursery to meet out whatever punishment she felt the crime necessitated, we passed my father’s study. The door was open wide. As we passed it I twisted my head and looked to where my father sat behind his huge wooden desk writing in some ledger. Here I began to fight! I twisted and lurched, my scalp on fire. I saw my father look up from his papers. I screamed, “Daddy!”. He didn’t meet my eye. He looked, almost disinterested, to the woman who was dragging me about the house in such mortal fear that I had wet myself. His eyebrows raised, the smallest bit, and he went back to his ledger, his pen quivering. I doubt that pen stopped even for a second whilst my screams echoed down the dark corridor. Till the nursery door slammed shut.

He didn’t scream, Mr. Lovecraft. The strangest thing, he hardly made a sound. And, at first, I didn’t have to drag him. Instead, he took my hand, held it quite tightly as I led him down the stairs and to the front door. In his other hand he clutched the ragged bear that he should have grown out of years ago. I saw him look desperately about as we stepped out onto the nighttime streets. I took this to maybe explain his easy manner and acquiescence. Perhaps some members of that dark cabal had anticipated this move, had divined it in some godless ceremony and were coming to intercept. He moaned a little at my side. But no one accosted us. No one came. I led him across the road and we stopped at the seawall. I looked out to the black, roaring sea. Huge waves barrelled to the shore and left blankets of thick foam, brilliant bone white in the moonlight, as they broke. The wind screamed and beat the air, a wild cacophony, each sound warring with the next. I looked out to the dark horizon and was struck with the most complete melancholy.

I imagined that city beneath the waves, it’s strange, immeasurable stone unchanged by saltwater or pressure for millennia. The carvings and reliefs on those cyclopean walls depicting gods and races that watched man crawl up from the ooze. . I pictured those endless, impossible labyrinthine corridors crawling with nameless fiends that no living man has laid eyes upon but, images of whom, still haunt their most suffocating and febrile dreams. And at the centre of that accursed cathedral, slumbering on his vast throne, Cthulhu, the many named Lord of depravity and lunacy. I pictured him stirring in fitful sleep. I pictured one colossal, obsidian eye begin to open…

Mummy?

I felt a small, cold hand squeeze mine. I looked down at him, shivering in his scant bedtime clothing. He looked back up at me trembling. His stuffed bear had fallen from his hand and lay on the damp pavement. My heart wavered. But then. Perhaps it was just the moon going behind a cloud, perhaps, but his eyes… they were almost black. The sea crashed on the shore. I squeezed his hand tight and led him down to the shore.

I don’t know what I do know, Mr. Lovecraft. Run? I don’t know where I could run that they would not find find me. Wait? For the wet eyed, whispering degenerates of this town to pry a window and creep up to my room? Or the sham doctors from that unholy asylum on the hill to come and declare me mad? Or, perhaps, for some unspeakable abomination to slip from the shadows in the corridor and lurk there, waiting for me to pass? I could end it all myself, lay down on the damp sheet next to him and sleep? I wish I had your guidance, your wisdom, to lead me beyond this moment as it has led me to it. I wonder, what you make of these letters? What action you implore? Maybe I should slumber? Lay down and see if the light of your voice reaches me beyond the wall of sleep as the darkness of the voices from that dank citadel reaches the sensitive, the susceptible? Yes. I shall lay down and sleep, I think. I think I shall lay down and sleep. My Dear Mr. Lovecraft, I pray this letter finds you.

Your adoring fan

Constance Abbott

 

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