It is eight long years now since my command entered Nomad's Ridge, blazers flaming, trackers portentously beeping, with the intention of seeking out and annihilating a supposed base colony of Otherworlders which had holed up there in a clandestine camp. Their origins were well known by then; no-one disputed the truth as conveyed by that now-legendary pulp writer who saw himself as an antiquarian Anglophile. Fans of weird literature had always reveled in stories by the master; atmospheric, involving stories of interstellar dominating entities, the Old Ones. No one seriously imagined, as they shivered plentifully in the early 20th Century, that they were based on a fantastic yet horrendous reality.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Providence's most famous son, described in his yarns the entities of Yog-Sothoth, the key, gate and guardian of the gate; mighty sleeping Cthulhu who no longer lies dreaming in the stygian seas of R'lyeh; blind, blaspheming, bubbling Azathoth; the Black Goat,
Shub-Niggurath; and a myriad of others, none of which were from his own imagination. The majority of Lovecraft's human characters were fictitious, however, as were his many settings and scenarios, but that hideous pantheon of black deities was fact, and fact alone.
Perhaps the most interesting and confusing thing about the writings of Lovecraft [and his followers, many of whom had the genuine knowledge] is that he completely failed to mention, through choice or lack of knowledge, the first species of interstellar thing which would quietly invade our world. For it wasn't Nyarlathotep or Hastur who first made their presence known, nor was it Cthugha, Shudde-M'ell or Ithaqua, who walks on the wind; it was not a single entity, no matter how sprawling and omnipresent that entity may be, but a whole ravening horde of malevolent alien creatures, millions, perhaps billions of grotesque solid-matter apparitions, each one no larger than a common housefly.
If anyone, before the invasion of 2083, had managed to contemplate such a happening, then they would have been surely bewildered by the shocking and very melodramatic manner in which Earth learned of their arrival.
The first reports flashed across news-screens around the globe as billions of people watched agape; a group of astronomers working aboard the Hubble IV interstellar telescope had identified a moving mass, at first thought to be an extremely uncommon dust-cloud, heading towards Earth from the direction of the Betelgeuse cluster. As the cloud drew nearer, at amazing speeds, it became hideously apparent that it was a seething mist of life, and the results of extensive heat and infrared sensors were broadcast on a thousand different radio wavebands, viewed on ten thousand different television monitors, and hard-copied from a million global net-printers.
These results were astonishing and indisputable; man's first encounter with life beyond Earth was about to occur -- in fifty-eight days, the scientists correctly reckoned -- when that living cloud of alien insects bore down on our world with who knew what consequences.
At first, there was much debate on how the things survived in the total vacuum of space. No satisfactory answer was found, but the focus soon altered to the more important points. Would the swarm actually come to the Earth, or would they simply pass by? Would our protective atmosphere annihilate the creatures as they attempted ingress? Were there more creatures to follow, larger creatures?
As time continually demands, those fifty-eight days of speculation, disbelief, fear and curiosity passed. But, to answer the first question above, the alien insects did not. And neither did our planet's shield deter them, for the intense heat and pressure of our invisible spherical walls posed no further problem for the pests as did the gulfs of space.
As for the third question; were there larger "creatures" to follow? Yes. Yes, there were . . .
So it was that the insects came down over the continent of Asia, and at the height of noon, three mere hours after their arrival, the light and heat of the sun had been blocked from India, the U.S.S.R, Japan, China and the rest of the area, the sheer multitude of the insidious beings blocking out all that our saviour Sol could offer.
Yet still they came, their numbers increasing by the second, and the scope of their gathered mass extended to bring unscheduled night to Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan and Thailand. That was the day when the entire planet became very, very worried. Communications were effected, of course, as the insects caused great stress to our radio waves as they remained motionless in a black flapping gulf high in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, everyone with access to a television, newsreel machine, radio, net-linked terminal or printer-fax knew of the invasion, and whatever their place upon the surface of the world, they worried their relevant worries.
The inhabitants of Asia, who had direct immediate access to the occurrence -- they had only to view the darkness or feel the cold, were understandably the most distressed and believed that the invaders would at any second swoop down upon their homelands. Those of Eastern Europe, Australasia, and Northern Africa feared that very soon they, too, would have a new sky. Elsewhere in the world, in England, America and Canada, particularly, stoic scientists predicted that the incoming hordes would continue until they brought total night to every inch of the planet. This was not an earthquake, the pessimists said, it was not a flood, or a volcano, or some localised impending disaster where you could escape from the area. This was world domination of the highest order, and the best professors of physics and mathematics believed that in just eighteen hours from their "first-contact" with our atmosphere, the combined mass of the flying vermin would totally surround it.
It came as a great surprise and an even greater relief, then, when after six hours of incoming insects bonding together in our skies, their ingress ceased, first to a trickle and then, to a universal sigh of relief, a complete stop. The cusp of the insect cloud had reached the edge of Indonesia in the East, and Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Somalia in the West. Now they simply remained, hovering in the sky, quivering like a vast stygian sea, but never moving any considerable distance in any direction. The world waited.
When twenty four more hours had passed and the aliens had failed to do anything else, the combined military organisations of the planet decided on a course of action. They would detonate a sonic boom in the midst of the cloud, a sharp blast of ultrahigh frequency noise; they would do this and then note the reaction. The boom was the incentive that the invaders had been waiting for.
The event happened at noon, Eastern Standard Time, and the people who lived beneath the clouded zone were instructed to remain in their homes, preferably in their cellars, if they possessed them. The strange capsule that contained the boom was launched at the stroke of twelve from a remote and, up until that moment, very secret military base in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet. Nineteen minutes after launch, the boom exploded on schedule only fifty metres below the bottom of the cloud.
There was another worldwide exclamation, this time a cheer, as the insects scattered from their solidly-held mass and their long hold on the skies faltered. No longer a solid, they split apart into their billions once again and flew off in every conceivable direction. Every direction, that is, except up.
In retrospect it is impossible to say accurately whether the sonic boom was the main cause of the splitting-up of the insect horde. Many commentators since that day have proffered that the insects were waiting for an assault upon them, the signal that would initiate their second stage of invasion. Whatever the present theories suggest, at that time the people of the Earth believed they had scored a great victory and they celebrated accordingly.
Over the next three days the insects continued to disperse and go their own way. They were, of course, tracked by the most sensitive radar systems, but after a while, when the cloud became clouds, and the clouds became swarms, and the swarms became clusters it was increasingly difficult to follow their movements, and when eventually they all separated out to individual specimens the task became impossible.
It was then thought that the creatures would spread themselves across the globe, on every continent, and become integrated with the rest of our native species, and that eventually specimens would be captured or be found dead and be studied. The first part of this prophecy came true for the insects did indeed disperse themselves everywhere, but never made their presence too conspicuous by appearing in swarms. They settled down in the jungles and the cities, in the deserts and the mountains, even in the sparsely-populated polar regions. Some reports even alleged them to have been spotted under the surface of the oceans, but never, not anywhere, in large groups.
Days passed. Weeks. The major portion of the population slowly lost interest in favour of a renewed political scandal, but many scientists and scholars carried on predicting, theorising, studying, and watching their habitats for signs of dead or injured insects of a species that had not been previously identified, each one of them hoping that they would be the first to capture a living one, or to find the first corpse. Alas, the insects were skillful at their vocation, for although they were sighted constantly, none were ever captured and no tiny corpses were ever found. It was as if they possessed great intelligence, always skillfully avoiding traps, and to that intrepid army who searched for their bodies, it seemed that they never died. Many of the searchers gave up, and public interest in the subject declined even more.
Then the stingings began.
It was almost three months after the dispersal of the great living cloud that the first stinging was thought to have taken place. Over the weeks that followed more and more people were stabbed briefly by a foe which quickly escaped the wrath of its victim. Slowly these events began to escalate and the insects were a news item again. It seemed that during the stingings from these curious creatures, a tiny amount of "venom" was injected in the victim's bloodstream, although after the initial and very brief pang of the actual contact with the insects, the victim felt no more pain. No constricting of the throat or airways, no fitting, blackouts or pulsing veins, none of the usual fevers which native venoms produced.
Thus, with no apparent danger, this news story also ceased in importance, and the month which followed was the last time that the insects and the future consequences of the insects were completely out of the news. During this time, many more people were stung, millions across the planet, but nothing came of it, save the never-certain knowledge that no one person was ever stung twice.
So it was only with rumour, gossip and natural communication that the true nature of the "venom" became known. The toxin may not have caused any physical debilitation, nor any mental strain, but it was very soon revealed to be delivering extraordinarily strange dreams to
the inhabitants of Earth.
Neighbours chatted over fences, friends and relatives over the telephone, radio chat-shows began to accumulate bizarre topical discussions. Everyone who communicated with another was amazed when their usually so personal and secluded nocturnal adventures that they experienced turned out to be so similar, perhaps identical, to that of their neighbour, relative or friend.
It seemed that there were many dreams, but all had a common atmosphere to them; strange, alien, appealing, yet repugnant, and every sleeper woke from these night-visions with an intense feeling of approaching dread.
People reported swimming, limblessly, under incredibly vast stretches of water, and carousing slowly and meticulously through the arches and aisles of arcane subterranean cities, not sunken and abandoned like fabled Atlantis, but in active, working order, inhabited by greeny-blue amphibious creatures, and showing every sign that they were constructed under the waters many millions of years ago; cities with names of forgotten antiquity like R'lyeh, Y'ha-nthlei and Klah'lok-yha.
Others said they had swam through the stars, not just through space, but actually through the stars. They reported passing through a myriad of colours and sounds, brightness and dark, feeling intense pangs of hate, fear, loathing and then homeliness, peace and tranquillity. Upon waking they wrote names such as Koth, Nas'sai, Hyperborea, El'yis-sa, Tind'ala and Yith in their diaries, never knowing what they meant.
All over the world people were dreaming of impossible vistas that should never have existed, but do; fathomless gods and entities which defy any sane description; such lands as Tash, See'kar'lam and a hundred others which were ravaged by a hideous ever-hungry empire, those kingdoms now being cold and lifeless wastes. Innocent dreamers who had never had an outré thought in their life awoke during the night reciting inexplicable chants and couplets and everywhere you wandered it was impossible to escape the constant chattering of Nyarlathotep, Tsathoggua, Klarkash-Ton, Great Cthulhu, Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath and Dagon.
The worldwide consensus was that something very primal, cosmic and sinister was occurring on the planet. Something which had only just begun.
It was mere days after those esoteric names and titles were given attempts of pronunciation on news programmes that Mr. Howard Phillips Lovecraft appeared in the headlines, almost 150 years after his death. The man was but a pulp writer, but due to considerable efforts of his admirers his work had flourished in the latter half of the 20th Century and -- to fans of the genre -- he was a very famous and adored author with many millions of fans across the world. It is a fitting tribute to his talent that his work was still being avidly read, collected and imitated when the Invasion began. It did not take long for his fans to reach the news, and as soon as they had pointed out the content of the man's stories, the public, the scientists, and the newsmen jumped upon them.
"It seems that Lovecraft was less of a fiction writer than was previously thought," was the general outcome of these actions, much to the amazement of both his fans and those who had never heard of him. He was given the moniker of "The New Nostradamus," and those Lovecraft connoisseurs who had read all of his works many times became instant celebrities, with people paying more attention to their words than to those of qualified authorities.
"Great Cthulhu is surely awake," said one of them on a popular prime-time television current-affairs show. "He will be stretching himself to our world, and his kin will soon follow. The Old Ones have returned and have used certain species under their direct command -- those insects we had -- to prepare us, so that those of us who wish to serve him may do so. All others will not survive. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! 'In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.' No more! This is truly the end of our world."
Talk of this nature flourished, and Lovecraft's stories were read by more people in one month than had ever read him before. Advertisements -- and pleas -- appeared everywhere inquiring about the occult tomes mentioned in his work, the train of thought being that if those select few copies of the Necronomicon and the other "fabled" books were brought to public attention, then perhaps some way of repelling the invading forces could be found. Alas, anyone who possessed such books was keeping them quite safe, and only mimicking and useless junk books emerged. Nothing could be done.
With great apprehension, mankind awaited the arrival of whatever things would follow the insect-horde; many took their own lives, many prayed to their own God for mercy, all the time never really believing in him anymore. The world stood still. And while they waited they failed to notice that the second plague of invaders was already arriving.
While the mass of the general public had been worrying, watching the television programmes and listening to the Lovecraft fans and the scientists, there were others -- quite a considerable number of others -- who had been waiting for Cthulhu's Awakening for thousands of years. The dark insane knowledge that they carried had been passed from one generation to the next, and was never written down for fear of the outside world locating their magic. These were the cults, the secret societies, the extremely clandestine orders that possessed and concealed incredible relics of ages and worlds long gone. The Esoteric Order Of Dagon, Yegg-Ha's Silver Religion, The Society of Azathoth, Knights Of the Golden Flame, The Keepers Of Necros, The R'lyeh Hierarchy. They stretched across the globe: the isolated jungles of South America, the hermetic mountain regions of Tibet, the backstreet alleys of the Middle East, the English coastal towns and the sprawls of the American metropoli. They were everywhere, yet they were nowhere.
From their devout religions and learnings they had recognised the sign of the insect-cloud for what it was and had quickly set about their tasks of opening the Gates through which They shall pass. The rituals had been easy to perform, and the chants, recitings and invocations posed no problems for these learned ascetics, whose very existence relied upon their adeptship with the words. While the world worried and waited, these cults brought forth the second part of Armageddon.
It was intensely clear to the invokers, that the Old Ones themselves would not emerge first, but merely watch proceedings until they were deemed suitable. The first things which the ancient deities would deliver to earth -- excepting the amphimultus insects from the dying system of Hr'a-lath -- were complete flesh-and-blood creatures called tnataths, tentacled beings, much like gargoyles but with improper and extra limbs. These creatures were deposited through the Gates all over the world and soon made their presence felt by running amok wherever they chose. They stood erect at seven feet tall, with a tentacle-span of over fifteen feet. At will, they could also use their two primary appendages to propel themselves at considerable speed through the air, a technique devastatingly fatal when they charged at human beings.
Following the tnataths came the amorphous shoggoths, the Ib-basts, the pteradactyl-like Atc'har, the abominable wild men of Mi-Go, the zoogs, the Faugns . . .
The war had truly begun.
If you were to compare any of the three World Wars with the massive conflict the people of Earth waged against the Cthulhoid invaders, they would seem almost like playground scuffles. The land became ravaged by hideous beasts that had never before been imagined, governments collapsed, communications took a great tumble. Millions died, while those that managed to survive grouped together and took unsecure refuge beneath the crust of Mother Earth. Civilizations crumbled and barbarity set in, with man turning against his fellow man in his desperate state of fear.
It took a considerable time, great expense and massive loss of life for the national organisations to at last amalgamate and form a whole, the Consolidated Military Corporation, the CMC, and to draw up plans of retaliation and defence.
It would have been impossible, even had there been sufficient time, for an international referendum to take place to establish if the general public desired to use nuclear force, so the CMC reinvigorated the nuclear program on its own authority. Nuclear force had been abandoned for good after the Third Global War, but now it was absolutely necessary to bring out the illegal weapons from where they had been concealed.
Nukes and mini-nukes were used quite successfully in many areas where the population and spread of the Otherworlders were known to be intense. Much of Mexico was destroyed in one memorable assault, and North and South America are now only connected by a narrow isthmus of barren, almost lifeless land.
Skirmishes continued to take place, although after the Mexico nuke, and the massive loss of human life, those dangerous devices were used only on rare occasions. Much more common now, seven years after the great insect cloud, were elite assault and defence teams, armed with
flame-throwers, grenades, sonic-booms, and high-output automatic rifles. These squads swarmed across the countries; initially they simply swept across all the land with the intent of destroying all Otherworlders they encountered. Some of these teams survived this first stage, but many did not. Those that did return were reassigned to new task forces and sent out on hazily-informed missions to annihilate specific colonies.
I, myself, was one of those soldiers, and after several successful assaults, I gained captaincy of a task force of my own.
My first mission was to Nomad's Ridge.
Nomad's Ridge was a solid cliff-face at the end of a long valley in the Pennine area of England. Our data from the CMC said that many sightings of various creatures had been reported disappearing into a cavernous wall in the cliff, and never coming out again. There was also a tiny note which read "Non-Mortal Manifestations," which informed me that, of the many brief appearances of the Old Gods which now occurred frequently throughout the world, several such occurrences had been witnessed at Nomad's Ridge.
Detailed description of what happened out there is not for an account such as this, but for an essay of the future. All that it is necessary to record is that one of the Old Gods had indeed made his central lair in Nomad's Ridge, and that the thousands of creatures within that labyrinthine cavern allowed only myself and two others to escape, while the other nineteen soldiers befell terrible but mercifully abrupt deaths.
I have now brought this brief history to the present, and can rest myself knowing that at least one record of events exists. I only hope that there will be a future for humanity where my report can be studied. For the moment, this war-wrecked world is in constant chaos, with neither side showing any particular signs of universal victory and neither side considering surrender.
For future scholars of history, looking down the years at this great and unexpected war, they will have to discover other accounts as well as my own. Only other hands can tell of individual events, be they victories or defeats, and my greatest hope is that many people like myself will take the time away from the front line to record their experiences for the benefit of future generations.
No doubt there will be many tales to tell, and although their authors will probably remain anonymous, any future peoples of Earth will owe them a great cultural debt.
I, myself, have chronicled how the Great Cthulhu War began, and now I must return to the fight, if it is to have any chance of ending.
Created: March 12, 1999; Updated: August 9, 2004