This little tale which has no title, was not in any part influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. Nope, no sir, nothing to do with his fictional creations at all. Yes, I am a bad liar. I’ve written a few horror pastiches quite influenced by H.P. and his Mythos. This one is fairly standard fair with a basic setup and conclusion. It includes death, insanity, unrequited love and Winnie the Pooh bears. What more could you want? Enjoy. Ia Ia!
by Paul Darcy
I fancy myself rather a good shot with a rifle. So imagine my surprise when, from a mere fifty yards, I unloaded a full magazine clip of .308 hollow points into my friend’s back and she continued into the woods with only a slight wobble. Oh don’t get me wrong, I am not a violent man, but extraordinary circumstances can transform the most tranquil of animals into ravaging beasts.
But I am starting this from the end and really should begin at the beginning like all good stories. As I mention good stories, Winnie the Pooh comes to my mind. The reason, I suppose, is that I have shot up quite a few of them in my day. You see Winnie the Poohs make superb targets for sighting my rifle. They are bright orange and red, easy to see against forest browns and greens, relatively small for that added bit of challenge at two hundred yards, and explode into a cloud of synthetic fluff when properly shot. And best of all they only cost a dollar ninety-nine at Toys R US so I can afford lots of them. Now where was I. Oh yes, starting at the beginning of the story.
I suppose I really should mention my friend’s name since she is the main cause for my altered personality. Her name was Lenore. I know what you are thinking, Edgar Allan Poe and all that, but this Lenore was nothing of the sort. She was tall, well muscled and had a degree in child psychology and a great love of reading. We used to talk a lot when we first met, but that slowly changed. We were never intimate with one another, and I did so wish we could have been, but I was not her type in that way and I did not press the matter upon her. We were simply good friends, until the end when I knew she was beyond all help.
Now you are thinking I shot her because of unrequited love and that I hated her for that. But that assumption on your part would be incorrect, though I would be lying if I continued to say I felt no hatred for her and that which had drawn her away from me. The truth is I shot her in the back for exactly the opposite reason. I loved her dearly and wanted to end her slide into eternal damnation that I knew she was descending into. But I fear one magazine clip of hollow point .308 bullets was not enough. I am saddened by that. I wished now that I’d had a rocket launcher.
I can imagine you the reader now believing me to be mad. The unreliable narrator in first person leading you astray, completely unhinged, reality distorted beyond recognition, mind a giggling mass of falsely excited neurons firing incorrectly causing no end of havoc upstairs. Well, maybe I am now, but I was not then and was not when I aimed at her spine from the edge of the woods and repeatedly pulled the trigger. But that brings us right back to the end again. How my mind stays glued to that moment and I apologize for repeating it. Let me try beginning at the beginning once more.
Lenore and I met many years ago in a coffee shop. I was serving, she was reading Winnie-The-Pooh. I have always loved that bear, even though I have a propensity for blasting his orange hide into clouds of fluff (it is purely financial believe me they are somewhat cheaper than good rifle targets), and the sight of her sipping a cup of coffee I had prepared while enjoying that silly bear’s adventures lured me to her. But now I travel too far back in time. Let me say it took more that just one book and one cup of coffee for us to become acquainted, and for years afterward we enjoyed each other’s company as friends.
Now I will recall to you the first time I knew things were not going right for Lenore to try and help explain my uncharacteristically violent actions. I was busy cleaning my gun when I heard a gasp of breath from Lenore across the table from me as though she were in some distress. Upon looking up I saw her close a musty old book, the look upon her face one I could not recall seeing before. Are you okay, I asked her hesitating in my task of buffing my barrel. She merely nodded and the strange look of indescribable glee faded from here visage like fresh ink washing from a page in the rain. When I asked her what she was reading, thinking it to be some old first edition of children’s stories, she became most elusive and placed it back in her bag and would not tell me the title, though I did glimpse a part of it.
What I saw were letters in a queer script and they appeared hand etched into the spine as well. They were P-N-A-K something or other. Didn’t even appear English to me, though I was pretty sure Lenore knew only the one language having never mentioned to me an ability with others. I didn’t think too much more about it and continued my polishing.
I would have forgotten all about that book if it hadn’t become an obsession with Lenore. It seemed every time I met with here near the end she had it with her. And after that first night she had wrapped that book in a plain cover so I could not see its true cover again. I would never have thought a book could be so engrossing, but I must confess that once I start ‘Lord Of The Rings’, nothing stopped me from finishing it. But this was different, this was true obsession and I was somewhat disturbed to be displaced so easily by a book and for so long as days and then weeks went by.
I suppose I should paint a picture for you of the location of our innocent rendezvouses. Lenore had a cottage some miles north of Brattlewater, the town we both lived in, left to her by some distant relative, she said. He had died several months before and left her sole ownership of the property. It was lovely there bordering an old pine forest, secluded, tranquil. The countryside was hilly and a beautiful clear blue stream trickled down beside the cottage from the forests edge some fifty yards from the porch. It was beside the stream just outside the cottage where I loaded my clip of hollow points and took aim, but I digress again. My apologies.
By now you should at least be getting a sense of my growing concern. I can’t relay to you the number of times she poured over the book and even took to wandering through the pine forests as though searching for something. I would walk with her in the woods most days, but she paid me little heed, her eyes searching, looking back in her book, searching again. When I would ask her what she sought, I would receive cold stares and shrugs. So I learned to keep to myself in her company on those strolls and on occasion let her go on her own. I myself would find a place I could safely engage in target practice, venting my frustrations by filling Winnie full of holes. It was at this time I began practicing more head shots on the stuffed bears and I suppose this was a direct outpouring of my growing concern for Lenore and my growing hatred of that accursed book which was removing her from my attentions.
I find it difficult now not to write about my hatred of that book. It was not only that it absorbed so much of Lenore’s time, but it gave me a physical revulsion such as tomato worms or eels. I put a plan in place to get hold of it and if not destroy it at least gain some insight into what it was that so compelled my friend to read it. One night at the cottage, while I believed Lenore to be asleep in her room, I stayed up hoping to creep in and steal the book for a time returning it once I had my look. Oh, but I forgot to tell you. It was a one bedroom cottage. I would sleep on the couch, while Lenore would sleep in the room’s only bed. Never was I invited in, and I never asked. Now where was I.? Oh yes, trying to steal a look at that accursed book if I could.
I crept to her door and was about to turn the knob when I could suddenly hear Lenore talking softly, though it was no language I could understand. She may have been dreaming , muttering incoherently, I could not tell but dared not open the door now for fear of waking her and being caught entering her room unbidden. I listened more closely and the words she spoke sounded like German or Russian or something, but not speaking anything other than English myself I wasn’t really sure what it could be. I was duly startled, for as I have mentioned before, I was quite certain Lenore could not speak any other language than English. At least all during the four years we had known each other she had never mentioned it. Maybe she had learned it from the book, but I had never heard her speak in such a way before while reading it. I stood at the door transfixed, trying to make sense of her muttering.
I could recognize only a few words which sounded English to me though probably were not. I though I heard her utter the word ‘goat’, and ‘young’ and something about a shrub or a ziggurat. It was clearly making no sense to me and after a time she stopped. I was so disturbed by this episode that I gave up my pursuit of the book that night and resolved myself to try again another time. No other time would come though as two days later I shot Lenore in the back, but before then I need tell you of the terrible day before, for it was the worst day of my life and drove me to the brink of despair for Lenore and in ending her life I had hoped to save her from some unfathomable hell.
The last day. I shudder to think about it and am not even sure I can coherently piece together what did occur, though occur it did I am sure. The day dawned steely overcast, the clouds like great cotton wads covered in gun oil. Bleak it was and my mood was dark as well for I had not been able to sleep properly this last night after Lenore stopped talking in the room the evening before. I thought there was a storm in the early morning with faint thunder rumblings, but no water was on the ground outside though the clouds tthreatened rain. I was up preparing breakfast when the door to Lenore’s room creaked open and she came out smiling, clutching the book to her breast like it was a lover’s letter. My hatred of the book almost compelled me to grasp it from her and fling it to the ground stomping it into dust, but I stayed my hand and continued beating the eggs instead.
I asked if she would take breakfast and she refused, saying she must go for a walk in the woods. She did not even bother to change from her robe but headed straight from the cottage and off towards the pines. By this point I had beaten the eggs into such a froth they were all but useless as food, so I left them in the bowl and followed Lenore out of the cottage intent on finding out where she was headed and why. For a long time I followed Lenore, at first trying to remain hidden ashamed of my stealth, but later more daring as I could tell she was so focused on her path she knew nothing other than her immediate surroundings. I think a times she was talking in that strange language again as well.
After some two hours she had traveled deeper into the woods than I had ever gone before and ascended a hill strangely dotted with stunted and misshapen pines. Lenore crested the hill and was lost to my sight and it was then that the day truly turned into the worst of my life. From the top of the hill I heard a sound, but unlike to anything in my memories. No beast, no bird, no thing of this earth I swear could make that guttural chirruping noise and my blood froze in my veins like liquid nitrogen. I thought then that a wind had sprung up for I could hear what sounded like the creaking of pines, but the air was still. Suddenly the sound of that infernal chirruping stopped, and I heard Lenore yelling in ecstacy the language she had uttered in the night. One line clearly I heard her yell above the creaking, ‘Ia Ia Shub-Niggurath Goat of a Thousand Young’, whatever in the hell that meant, but the rest I could not clearly decipher. Soon after she was moaning loudly. But Lenore was not moaning in pain, but great pleasure and I was unsure of what I should do. What abomination was giving my Lenore such unequal pleasure, pleasure she would never receive from me. Whatever was taking place on that hilltop I burned with jealousy inside to stop it. But I was unable to overcome my fear of what I may see and in my haste to follow I had left my rifle back at the cottage.
I wandered back to the cottage and checked my gun over and over again. In my mind I had already committed the act of murder many times. My body was yet to act it out but once.
Close to dusk I heard the door to the cottage open. My gun was unloaded but I clutched it to me with fear. In strode Lenore, but not Lenore. How to explain. That it was Lenore’s body I could have no doubt for I new ever curve, every mole, every single hair and its shade upon her head and these things had remained unaltered, but that was the extent of similarity to my good friend Lenore. Her gait, her manners, her aura if you will was completely alien and I shuddered in revulsion at what I had seen my Lenore transformed into. That bloody book was no longer with her, but somehow a part of her now and when she looked at me and smiled I thought I would die.
Her look, it was one of love, but not love of me but of what I could do for her in some grotesque manner I dared not imagine. She beckoned to me and said, ‘come Ralf, join with me and the great goat of the woods’. She dropped her robe to the ground and I saw for the first time her naked beauty which I had always been denied and was almost overcome with pent up desires. But my loathing of that which was not Lenore, merely using her body, revolted me utterly. She beckoned me again and left the cottage leaving the door open.
I was paralyzed for a few minutes, hardly able to breathe, but I did act as you already know in the end. I hastily grabbed up a box of hollow points and my rifle and followed Lenore outside. She was almost at the woods edge. I could not let her go to that thing in the woods. I could not lose her to it. Don’t you see, I had no choice in the end. Though it broke my heart I took aim and pulled the trigger until the gun bucked no more but only clicked impotently. But still she carried on, wobbling only, into the woods, to it, away from me. And so I have come to the true end of the tale.
After the deed I ran to the edge of the woods in tears, hoping and fearing to find Lenore dead by my hand at its edge. But what I found was nothing but pine trees and shrubs. I know she is with it, this great goat, and can bear it no longer. Curse that foul spawn of hell, Shub-Niggurath and her thousand young. Make it now a count of one thousand and one and be done with it.
I have cleaned and oiled my gun one last time and chosen a single flawless bullet. I will not be one thousand and two.