Black Letter Day
by Ian Davey

Some days are worse than

A seething mass of hatred spread through the country like a fire, destroying everything in the path of its unholy conflagration. Time seemed to halt before its unstoppable swathe, and there was little anyone could do to stifle it. Hatred. The great destroyer had caught everyone unawares and now there was nothing left. Lucy had been there at the start. She witnessed its insignificant spawning in the hands of a man she had long admired. Hatred. She shivered.

Light was cutting through the darkness and bringing the dawn which seemed to arrive later and later as the night encroached increasingly on the day; soon, and it wouldn't be long, there would be no day at all. Just a memory of the day and flickering lights which merely held the memory of days. She should raise herself and go out. But the day was no longer a friend. It had been turned against them.

Existence now was blurry at best. People only survived if they could stay on the edge; the edge between fantasy and reality. That fine knife-edge. Lucy had found her passage, though it proved a difficult one. A route which bounced her between LSD and Mescaline. Just enough to keep her mind wandering too lose to reality. She shivered. Reality meant death. People who saw too much didn't live very long.

She thought back to the time before. When she had been an ambitious film student. When she had met a film director whom she adored but couldn't find it in herself to really love. He'd loved her though, as he was so often fond of professing. Hatred. She let the word slide unbidden across her tongue. How had he let it happen. If anything he was a good man, had always been a good man. Too much of a good man.

Georgio had never known where to stop. He had never known where the lines were, even if they were plainly visible to everyone else. She had admired him for his willingness to follow his art wherever it took him. There were no second measures with him, he wouldn't allow himself to be distracted. His art consumed his whole being. If there was something he wanted to express, he would express it. He was utterly honest. How she hated him; and yet, now that he was gone, she found herself loving him at the same time. The man who had brought hatred firmly into the present and let it destroy the world.

She lit a cigarette and watched the curls of smoke float towards the ceiling. It made her head buzz and she coughed brusquely. She had no idea what was in it. Something left by the previous occupant most likely. When they fled. The Irony. They all fled straight into the maw of what they were trying to avoid. She would have laughed. But every time she tried to laugh the tears came. Laughter had died. It had died the moment the hatred came.

Georgio's art films had never found a large audience, especially as he often made them overtly political. He considered his work a step onward from that of Jon-Luc Godard whom he saw as a paver of the way. If anything though, Georgio Francesci's work had been more manic than Godard's. His other obsession was literature. Not any literature in particular, just anything and everything that took his fancy. Lucy remembered how he had taken a similar attitude towards women, his one big weakness.

One facet of his literary explorations had been an interest in the weird; stories of strange rites and ancient forbidden gods. He had begun threading some of these ideas into his visual work, using it purely on an allegorical level to overlay the political undercurrents. The films were still criticised for being overtly political but Georgio didn't care. He had never concerned himself with critics of any kind. It was his vision that was all important.

When a vision overlapped his, and the occasions were rare, he would throw himself into an exploration of its limits. The idea of a forbidden tome picked up in some of the writings of Lovecraft and his later acolytes drew him in more than most. When he read some of the prevailing opinion that the Necronomicon was real, that Lovecraft had merely been expressing an ancient genetic knowledge, Lucy had known he wouldn't stop until he discovered it.

She had known, or at least thought she had known, that the book was nothing but a myth. An invention derived by Lovecraft, once thought to be based on Chamber's King in Yellow. It was an interest she had shared as well for a while, though for her it had been an entertaining way to pass the time, for Georgio it had been a way of life. Somehow, despite her beliefs that nothing would come of it, Georgio's insistence had one against the odds.

That was how they wound up outside a small shop on the outskirts of Athens. The shop itself was rather nondescript. It didn't hold an aura of age and mystery as such places were supposed to. There was nothing odd about it at all. Just a little shop. And they were expected to believe the shop housed the tome penned by the Mad Arab himself.

The man that let them in was strange enough, small and cramped, with a nervous twitch that Lucy found intensely irritating. Had she been alone she would have left immediately, but already Georgio was rushing forward to shake the man's hand, speaking in a rapid Italian she found it impossible to keep up with. His name was Antonio Merdetti, that much she could gather. Little else leaked to her from their conversation, but her interest was diverted elsewhere anyway.

Inside the window of the shop, Merdetti had an awesome collection of beautiful carved figurines. So while she had pondered the delicate finely wrought carvings, Georgio had made a deal and acquired what he was looking for. She considered buying one of the figurines, but upon noticing the price tags, she quickly reconsidered.

Lucy had glanced only half-interested at Georgio as he closed the deal. His face held within it something she had never noticed before. She looked down at the thick leather-bound book (at least she had hoped it was leather, now she had her doubts) and felt herself quiver as if someone had strolled over her grave. Georgio was ready to leave and she was glad. This little shop with its strange owner was beginning to get to her. Outside Georgio showed her what he had got, not the original as he had hoped, but rather Feery's Notes on the Necronomicon. Though that, of course, was enough, as she was later to discover. Damn him.

When they got back to London she had thrown herself back into her active lifestyle. Her trip with Georgio had left her feeling sullied, and a few weeks of mindless hedonism was the only way she would feel fresh and alive again. She enjoyed her time away from him, and was quite happy to leave him with his beloved book. While she was away he called in some professor from Brichester University to do some work on translation.

They spoke on the phone occasionally, mostly when she relaxed in a state of partial undress after a wild night out; so she didn't often make sense of what he was telling her until she awoke sober in the morning. He'd told her about the professor, a man named Pickman. Georgio had said the professor had acted as if he had already seen the original book upon which Feery's Notes was partially based; but when pushed, he had denied it.

Lucy had found herself caught in a sudden pique, and an emotion coming from somewhere deep within made her slam the phone down. She dragged herself up the stairs and into a hot bath. Later than night the phone rang again but she ignored its insistent cries. She was tired of hearing about Georgio's book, the progress he was making, the sound of his voice and especially his increasingly clumsy come-ons. He seemed to be changing and it was a change she didn't like. All because of that book. She realised she didn't believe in him anymore, wondered in fact if she ever had.

She didn't go back to him for several months, and when she did she found him looking rather wasted. As if he was surviving solely on drugs, though the legal kind, not the stuff her system was now being flooded with. The first thing she did was make him eat, got him back on his feet again. And all the time he rambled on about the translation. It had been completed and he was planning to use it. As the central thread of his new movie. A collage of images inspired by the incredibly baroque text.

That Georgio intended going ahead with the project she had no doubt. He was actually storyboarding it this time, which made a difference. Usually he worked straight from his head. The sketches at that stage were looking a bit Rollinesque, lots of blood and female nudity. It seemed to have little to do with the subject matter, but she could see he planned to juxtapose the images with other scenes of incredible bleakness. Alien planetscapes were unfolding before her eyes and his sketches were incredibly realistic. They seemed to draw upon memories she couldn't quite bring to the surface of her mind. There was no way his budget was going to spread to that though.

Lucy awoke and found the evening was drawing in already. She swore and stumbled into the kitchen. She found a syringe, used but still pretty clean and filled it from an ampoule with shaking hands. She tied a band around her wrist and had to tap several times before she found a vein, it was getting harder and harder as time went on.

"I hate you, Georgio Francesci," she gasped and surrendered to the needle.

She lay back as colours exploded in front of her eyes. Watching as the evening filled her new home, she could hear strange lilting music and it wasn't inside her head. Every night it drew nearer. Always she moved on when she heard it. Perhaps this time she should stay. Perhaps it wasn't so dangerous to be mad.

She dreamt of Georgio, of the last time she saw him, and the last few moments were as nightmarish as the reality. She was thrown awake, gasping in a cold sweat. She could still see Georgio's blazing eyes in her mind's eye. A sound made her concentrate more fully on her surroundings. The music was closer than she had ever heard it before. It would be at the other end of town, coming from the direction of Lichford, a nearby village. She still had time to get away should she decide to.

Lucy had slept through most of the day. It was now two in the afternoon and already the sky was darkening. She had no desire to go out during the night, but her doze had wasted most of the daylight. The new way of things had puzzled her in some ways, in the way she had been pushed closer to the child she had once been. She could remember hating the dark, with a hatred grown purely from fear, but as she had grown older the fear had diminished and eventually vanished. Until the stage when she realised she loved the night and everything it offered. Now the fear was back though, and unlike when she was a child, her life now was spent alone. The remaining people she knew rarely made good company, so she suffered her fears in silence with no one to comfort her.

She remembered how Georgio had seemed rejuvenated -- surprisingly so. She had met him in the cafe on South Street and barely had she sat down when he was overwhelming her with his great idea. He had decided to wait until he had raised sufficient funds to make the film. His usual backers weren't enough; this time he wanted a slice of Hollywood money. He spoke of the Feery book, and of the time he had spent with the book upon which it was based. It turned out the Professor did have access to the actual Necronomicon, the copy held in the British Museum. Pickman had been reticent at first, but once he was sure of Georgio's plans, he allowed him into his confidence. Georgio had managed to get copies of actual extracts from the ancient book itself.

So he had come up with his great promotional scheme which would ensure he received the funding he needed. At a greatly reduced cost, a publishing friend of his had printed one thousand copies of a volume made up of extracts from the Necronomicon; as well as passages from the Feery book to pad it out a bit. It was this patched together volume he was to use in his film. Georgio had reached into his bag and withdrew one of the copies. The leather binding was carved with grotesque imagery which somewhat mirrored Bosche's visions of hell. He explained how they were based on illustrations in the original text. In raised letters, centred on the cover of the book was its title, Francesci's Cult of the Necronomicon. Which also happened to be the title of the film. Copies of the volume had been sent to all the top Hollywood studios.

Lucy had examined the book and though it was nice enough she had been slightly unimpressed. She remembered thinking that if that was his ultimate promotional gimmick he was likely to be very disappointed by the response. She hadn't said anything, though, and when the time came, to her extreme surprise, it worked. Very quickly the money had started rolling in. It seemed that somehow the book and its contents had cut through the Hollywood veneer and found a deep vein of enthusiasm. Once the money was in, Georgio wasted no time in beginning the filming. He wanted the Francesci family name to be on everyone's lips. In short he had been bitten by the popularity bug and wanted his film to be the biggest in history.

Lucy wondered if at any point she could have stopped him. If there was a moment when he could have been forced to stray from the path he was set upon. But she knew, that short of killing him, she could not have done anything. There was no point letting guilt consume her when there were already countless other things out in the night which would quite happily do the same.

The filming itself was rather unusual, as Georgio had it split into two parts. The conventional art of filmmaking went ahead in the public gaze as always. The top British special effects units worked nonstop on the most outlandish creations, and upon creating scenes of such alien strangeness that the fact they were merely film sets and not reality was extremely comforting. While work upon these images commenced, Georgio worked privately -- once his directorial duties were over -- on the audio track to the film. The latter, however, was shrouded in secrecy. H0e would allow no one to attend any of these sessions.

Lucy wondered what the machinery of Hollywood would do when Georgio planted the film in their midst. They were bound to be disappointed; it was going to cost a fortune, yet Georgio's film was going to remain an art house movie. A film consisting solely of images and a voice-over; no dialogue, little action. She still couldn't understand why they had bought it. The film simply couldn't sell. How could the book possibly have made that much impression? There was a warning in that question, though a very oblique one, which Lucy hadn't seen the relevance of until it was too late. She had never attempted to read the book itself, merely left it on her shelf, where it might still be for all she knew. Francesci's Cult of the Necronomicon. If only he could know.

The date for release of the film had loomed and the Hollywood marketing machine was in full swing. Francesci's name was everywhere and the film hadn't been completed yet. Already the moral guardians were out in force, going for the wrong targets as usual, but accidentally right for the first time in history. Though when the moment came, they were the first to break down and help bring in the new order. It wasn't unexpected; for their kind of morality was so often built on their own puritanical view of the world, based on their own form of twisted superiority. Lucy might almost have found it funny, but for the sheer terror of it all.

She jolted back to the present. Her reminiscences often went that far, only to stop before what she now considered her own personal black letter day, but one which enveloped the whole of civilisation. She could rarely face what happened next and didn't want to now.

Lucy gathered her few things and prepared to go out and meet the dusk. The music was growing too loud for comfort and already she could feel its tendrils of melody easing their way into her brain. She was being called back to the source, somewhere she had no desire to go. The chill outside air helped her fortify herself against enticement, heading instead in the opposite direction. Away from Lichford, a place with had always filled her with discomfort. She could remember it as part of the England of her childhood, as a dark place which overlapped the general lucid atmosphere of the country as a whole. It always had an undercurrent of fear, something that came from the lake at its centre, which always appeared as pitch, even on the brightest of days. The place itself had always looked outwardly charming, but underneath had been a sense of brooding darkness which a child could pick up. Adults, though, loved its quaint otherworldly atmosphere, a living example of an England which had faded with the industrial revolution.

By the time she reached the outskirts of Easingham it was dark, and again she wondered at what amounted to a need to continually come back here. She had spent most of her early adult life trying to escape, yet always she was drawn back. As if this place alone held any comfort for her. Its comfort now was tinged with bad memories, yet it still offered an illusion of stillness in her life which was by necessity nomadic. She worried a great deal about her own survival, that her stock of drugs was running low, that there was no use in running as there were no places left to run to.

She sensed rather than heard the giant approaching footfalls and froze on the spot. The source of the footfalls couldn't possibly know she was there. It was far too large to notice any noise she might be making, and she wasn't carrying a light. The bulk of the thing caused the ground to shake. Lucy dropped to the ground and made herself as small as possible. There was tree cover, but it was too far away, all she could do was remain still and hope. Lucy thought for a moment that it was one of the harmless creatures that still stagger about at night. She tensed when she saw an outline ... it was a Shoggoth.

During the daylight hours they vanish, but at night they are everywhere. Too often had she tried, without avail, to block the sounds of a Shoggoth feeding on an unfortunate victim; mostly worshippers of the world's new masters but occasionally people like her. People who had once tried to stay sane, but quickly realised their very sanity was a beacon to the ancient forces which had overtaken their lives. So that left them with two choices: true insanity, which amounted to a short lived form of slavery; or drugged insanity, just enough to blur the edges of clarity and avoid the psychic tendrils of the Old Ones and their slaves.

Of these, the Shoggoths were most feared; strange creatures of the sea warped to become creatures of the land. Great slavering beings which were eternally hungry, both for flesh and the consciousness of those held within it. If it were one of the Old Ones shambling past in the night Lucy would not stand a chance, but fortunately the Shoggoths themselves weren't quite so sensitive.

It was at too great a distance to notice her, provided it was alone. With their immense size and shambling gait they shouldn't be too much of a problem; but appearances were deceptive. They had the ability to make short bursts of speed which could outrun most earthborn mammals, and they were incredibly intelligent. Frighteningly so. Lucy knew that if it did notice her, even at this distance, she wouldn't stand a chance. She watched it as it advanced across the ground, avoiding the wooded mass of trees which would have fallen beneath its great mass anyway. Used to the sight of them as she was, they still filled her with an incredible fear bordering on absolute terror. There was nothing in her conscious or subconscious mind which could have prepared her for the sight of these creatures and the dramatic effect they had on the country she had once considered her home. Nothing of which remained.

There was no consistency in the shape of the Shoggoths. Every one was different, some startlingly so. Gradually they were evolving into deadlier killing machines as the Old Ones learned how to better create them for the new environment, an environment which was slowly being changed to more suit their needs. Lucy had already noticed how the very air seemed to be altering, there was a sulphurous aspect to it which hadn't been their before. She also tiring faster than ever before, as if the oxygen in the air was growing less. She was sure it had something to do with the immense tower which grew over what once was London, the source of all their misery.

The Shoggoth before her still didn't have proper legs, it seemed to struggle forward on a multitude of tentacles, still reminiscent of the sea creature it once was. Though what seas these things had swam in she couldn't imagine. It glistened with an awful damp sheen and was shaped something like a horrendously oversized rat, though there was no sense of separate limbs or body parts, or even a head; merely one grotesque, gigantic whole. There seemed to be no part of its surface that wasn't in some way alive, the manic destructive creativity of the Old Ones had shaped it to be the personification of death itself, and in it they had revealed themselves as not truly evil, but rather suffering from an endless cosmic insanity. How else could you describe a race who would take civilisations, subvert and then destroy them, turn the homes of these civilisations into quagmires which couldn't support any form of life at all. Making it necessary for them to move on themselves, to other planets, other civilisations. To create another temporary foothold from which to fight another single battle in a war which had lasted countless eons. A war which had most likely long ceased to have any meaning except the introverted insanity of war itself.

After a time which seemed to stretch into infinity Lucy realised it was safe for her to move on again. The small patch of woodland beckoned her and she retreated into its welcoming depths. She still needed to be on the lookout, for Shoggoths were not the only dangers to infest the night. There were people as well, the insane followers of the Old Ones. The few that had worked for the Old Ones before the cataclysm were most dangerous, for they had been rewarded with an insanity to dwarf the later acolytes; many were warped beyond recognition and possessed great unearthly powers. Professor Stanley Pickman numbered amongst them, she was sure. He must be high up in the echelons of the new power structure.

The wood offered a false safety at best, for the trees were beginning to die. Upper branches were few and far between, the lower ones often rotting and covered in a mottled fungus. Still, some cover was better than no cover at all. At the other side of the wood, was the Easingham River, the source of the lake in Lichford. She would have to cross it, but that didn't worry her. Once she was across the Easingham River she would be out of immediate danger. Thirlston would only be a matter of forty minutes away, and beyond Thirlston was Exeter. She wouldn't go all the way to Exeter, rather towards Somerset. A few days before her arrival in Easingham she had met a man who had told her of Glastonbury's significance, something she was willing to believe in.

Glastonbury had always meant something, ever since she was a child she had known of the power that place held over all in the ancient land it guarded. Older even than the Christianity brought by the invaders. It was a place which had always concealed its origins, but if anywhere in England retained the magic that might respond to this invasion it would be that ancient Tor, itself apparently a key to unlock the power of another of England's great monuments, an ancient circle of stones. It might take her weeks to get there, but Lucy was determined she would. Glastonbury was a place she would always associate with that troubled man who had crossed her path, revealing in a shambolic confused manner the solace it might offer her. She had asked him to join her, but he had been terrified, and she had seen the strain merely talking to her had caused him.

He had been a victim before the cataclysm, she recognised it in his eyes; already the victim of insanity. Now he suffered in an insignificant corner, as he always had, but this time before a bludgeoning insanity which overwhelmed even his. She frightened him, she knew, because the light of sanity was still visible in her eyes, even if externally she was a mess. A man whose insanity had finally saved him had no desire to throw himself in with the sane.

The water level in the Easingham River was low so she crossed it easily, though she was pleased when she could collapse on the opposite bank. Whether imagination or not, she had felt mysterious slippery shapes brush her calves in the river, and the idea of spending any longer in the river than she had to sent a shiver through her. She lay still for a while, not wanting to get up. Before she knew it she was thinking of Georgio again, and his excitement when his film was finally premiered. She had been there of course, in an Armarni dress purchased especially for the occasion. It had been an exciting day, and the air of expectation had been almost tangible. Lucy had felt slightly out of her depth. It wasn't every day you went to a Royal Premiere. The monarch was there, as were a couple of the other minor Royals. To Lucy it had finally felt as if she had reached the place she had always aimed for. A dream come true, at least for a while. Still, she had enjoyed it while it lasted.

Francesci's Cult of the Necronomicon was to be given a simultaneous world wide release on July 4th. Though on the 1st were the two premieres, the American one in LA, and the European one in London. Lucy and Georgio attended the latter one. The atmosphere of tension had lasted up until the final opening of the curtains, when seated in the gallery, Lucy had finally witnessed the opening scenes of the film.

It was just as she imagined, yet somehow the film had an entrancing aspect which held her attention during its entire duration. She wasn't alone. The entire audience seemed singularly unable to move from their seats. Everyone remained where they were from the opening credits to the moment the curtains finally closed on the film at the end. Even now Lucy couldn't explain what it was, perhaps some primitive magic (or maybe even a science) had held the audience within its spell. She found to her surprise that she could remember very little afterwards, that after viewing it the images she had witnessed were draining from her consciousness faster than water down a plug-hole. She found it easier to remember Georgio's original set of drawing board sketches. Lucy had been, however, filled with a great sense of well-being, as if she had just devoured an exceptional meal. These emotions, too, were shared by the rest of the audience, and Georgio was grinning at her. The face of someone revelling in his success. Somehow Lucy had found it repugnant. She faintly remembered his voice, mingling with the enchanting imagery of the film, as it mouthed the words from that book he had thrown together. Much of it in some strange non-language, or at least no language she had ever heard. There had been the occasional English phrase, but nothing which stuck in her mind.

It was when Lucy tried to recall the images she had the greatest difficulty. She had a strong sense of their connection with the words Georgio had mouthed, even the ones in the odd guttural language he kept slipping into. There had been many images of the sea, she could remember that, and scenes that could only be the imagined landscapes of different planets and stars. Not only scenes, but inhabitants to go with them, though of all the things it was those inhabitants she had the most difficulty recalling. If not the greatest of all films ever made, Georgio Francesci had certainly managed to make one of the most oblique. She told him so and he had looked surprised, telling her how he considered it his most coherent film to date, the one which most had a sense of parts working together as a whole. All the while their conversation went on, Lucy could see Professor Pickman sitting to one side, a particularly deep grin spread permanently across his face. It wasn't the sort of grin she would expect to see, not the grin of someone satisfied by a great piece of art, rather the grin of a man knowing that something greater was at stake. Afterwards she tried to play down that realisation in her own mind, that it was an invented memory set down after the events, but she knew deep down that it wasn't so. Pickman's grin was the first glimpse she had of the darkness that was to absorb them all.

The three days leading up to the general release went very strangely, though at the time none of the events seemed particularly related. The premiere had proved extremely successful. All the usual pundits were spreading praise on it, and the news showed pictures of the smiling celebrities leaving the cinema, who waved and heaped casual praises on the wonderful piece of art they had witnessed. So the buzz never died down.

A story lower down in the news had also caught Lucy's attention. On the night of the premiere a mysterious light had been seen in the Crouch End area of London. Nothing that would normally make the news, but shortly afterwards a riot broke out in the same area and lasted throughout the night. It was revealed in the early morning news that all the residents of Crouch End had mysteriously vanished during the night, that not one of the actual residents remained. Though there were injuries and a number of arrests, none of the rioters had disappeared that night; some when questioned spoke of the strange light, but none could hint at its origins.

Lucy had found the whole story strangely unnerving. It was not the only unusual news story that gained airtime over those few days. Lucy missed most of the others though, for she left London and returned to Easingham, despite Georgio's wish that she be with him when the film was finally launched. She had no desire to see the film again, once had been quite enough. And besides, a visit to her elderly mother was long overdue.

The quiet of Easingham had a subduing effect on her and she found herself slipping back into the easy life of her childhood. An illusion she still kept close to her heart. She had seen the reports on the news, of the run up to the launch of the film; though as she had guessed, no real coherent view of the film had yet come to light. The film critics which had been the main staple of the televisual view of the cinema, unable to explain the film, were left to stumble with woolly generalised statements of its artistic merits.

The day itself went quietly enough. She joined her mother for tea in the garden in the afternoon, and by the time night fell she was back inside leisurely watching the television. As usual there was nothing much on, but it helped keep her in touch with the mundanities of life. The night of the premiere was already fading into the distance, as if it had taken place in another life, to another person. She was about to make her mother a cup of tea when the first tremor made her halt. It was a shock as tremors were very rare in England, especially of that magnitude. A picture had actually fallen off the wall and smashed, leaving her mother in a panic. Before she knew it the house had fallen into blackness. A power cut. She stepped outside just as the second tremor hit them, closely followed by a third. Outside was total darkness, of a sort she hadn't seen for an incredibly long time. She went back inside and helped her mother find some candles. They lit them and laid them about the house. The thin glow of the candles helped somewhat against the darkness, but they had to make sure they were well propped up. They didn't want any future tremors to knock them over. After sitting in silence in the darkness for a while, and after Lucy had attempted to phone the Electricity Company, but found the line dead, they retired to bed.

Tremors of various strength kept waking them during the night, and Lucy found herself sharing her mother's sense of terror. What was going on? This just didn't happen in England. A tremor, on rare occasions, but that many? When she did finally sleep she did so only fitfully and was barraged by countless strange dreams whenever she did manage to drift off. They were inspired by the film, what her subconscious had found within the film, and it was as if her mind joined with millions of others, bringing together the disjointed fragments of Francesci's work and forming the whole he had suggested was there all along. There weren't just images either, but the words as well. Especially the outré words he had spoken in that presumably ancient and forgotten language. The sleepers drew together in a great invisible web of dream energy, repeating the images and words in a mantra which grew stronger and stronger until all she could feel was the mantra, and it drew others within its grasp, people across the world -- as soon as they slept they found themselves welcomed into the whole, becoming part of a great call to something outside the conventions known as reality. Lucy felt less and less as the call begin to absorb her sense of self, but her awakening came like a shock of ice cold water; her mother was shaking her awake.

The woman looked pale, white as the driven snow. Her breath came in rasps and she weakly held out her hand to her daughter. Of all her memories this was one of the most difficult. Lucy had shook herself out of her dream and immediately raised herself to help her mother. The early morning light was filtering through the net curtains and she was able to guide her to the bed, laying her down and trying to lull her with soft words. As soon as she saw she was comfortable she rushed downstairs to the phone, but the line was still down. She could barely decide what to do, she had to dress and go for help, once she had checked on her mother again. Lucy bounded up the stairs and stopped in her tracks at the entrance to the room. It was already too late. She walked over to the peaceful form and closed her eyelids, halting for a moment before bursting into tears, though later that day they became tears of relief when she realised what her mother had managed to avoid. That through her death she had saved Lucy from being drawn into the general insanity, and saved herself from a life she wouldn't have been able to stand.

For when Lucy had finally stepped outside, what awaited her filled her to the core with horror. On the horizon, in the direction of London, stood an immense and grotesque tower. Then the realisation struck her. It wasn't just in the direction of London, it was London. A city hundreds of miles away which she shouldn't be able to see. One which had been gathered up and shaped into a gigantic mass which reached an impossible distance into the sky. She had no idea then what the sight meant, instead believed that she was suffering an illusion or that a sudden insanity brought on by the death of her mother had overwhelmed her, but now she knew the truth, truth which had taken on a greater aspect of horror when it finally came to light.

Unable to lie still any longer, Lucy gathered herself to her feet and tightened her possessions about her. Glastonbury was still a great distance away and to get there she had to walk in the direction of that grotesque tower: the source of the cataclysm. Even in the dark she could feel its brooding presence, a hideous unnatural finger pointing its defiance at the sky, a defiance of nature and all things natural.

There had been many dark days between the day of the cataclysm and the day she had finally set herself on the path to Glastonbury.

Days when she had been sure she would never get out of this alive, something she still couldn't be sure of. The tower would stand as a constant reminder on her journey of what she had to lose if she failed. It seemed strange to draw inspiration from such a horrific thing, something formed by the dark science of the Old Ones themselves. A construction of mingled stone and flesh, the inhabitants of that once great city becoming one with the mass of concrete that had been their lives. Trapped forever, and still alive, inside the swaying, breathing citadel of the Old Ones. Lucy knew its name: Bh'Yhlun. The black city which stood at the centre of the world, and slowly but surely dragged the world to its level of degradation. She knew she could have become a part of it, that she might still become a part of it. That trapped somewhere in that mass of twisted flesh was Georgio Francesci, and if her wishes could become reality, Pickman as well -- though she knew he was abroad somewhere, doing his master's work.

As she strolled through the fields, their crops rotting where they lay, she made herself a promise. That she would dedicate her life to ending the reign of Bh'Yhlun, and that the names of the Old Ones would never pass her lips in worship, rather in loathing as they were cast back from whence they came. It may be too late to try and fight against the new way of things. She may not have been brought up to act with an adequate sense of determination, but it didn't matter. Hope lay eternal and its resting place was Glastonbury.

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© 1997 Edward P. Berglund
"Black Letter Day": © 1997 Ian Davey. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1997 Old Arkham Graphics Design. All rights reserved. Email to: Corey T. Whitworth.

Created: June 27, 1997; Current Update: August 9, 2004