STORIES IN THE KEY OF LOVECRAFT:
Forever ‘Till The End Of Time
Al Bruno III
I must be quick because I am not sure how much time I have left.
It all began the same week that my divorce from Deborah became final. She called me and begged that I come to the house we had shared for over a decade. Just a visit, that was all she wanted. I patiently told her again that there was no hope of a reconciliation.
Reconciliation, however, was the furthest thing from her mind. She told me she had uncovered an original draft of The Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation. I admit this news surprised and intrigued me. My former wife and I were both academics, experts in the fields of archeology and history; but while I made my living from teaching, Deborah had turned her attention to pure research.
Perhaps that was why she had collected accolades while I had collected dalliances with graduate students.
“Who else but you,” she had said, “who else but you could appreciate this?”
Curiosity won out over common sense and the next night I took the hour long drive to Arkham. As each mile passed my excitement faded and my dread grew. My parting with Deborah had been angry and tearful. I knew that even now, despite everything, she still loved me. Every relationship is like that in the end, with one party caring for the other more; the worshipper and the worshipped.
I found that both my former home and former wife had suffered a swift decline. The lawn was overgrown, the mail and newspapers unclaimed. Deborah herself looked tired and light-starved. She had gained weight, yet her face had become gaunt.
She had barely shut the door behind me before she began talking franticly, stumbling over her words in an effort to tell me everything at once. I had seen her in such frenzies before, discoveries like this caused her to succumb to a kind of madness. Regardless of such considerations I will admit I was impressed. Her researches into the connections between Sumerian and Polynesian mythology had led her to a new understanding of the disturbing legends of Ythogtha and his offspring Ubb the father of worms. Her work would force the academic world to reconsider everything it knew about the Xothic legend cycle.
Each room of the house was a chaos of old books and hastily scrawled notes. There were maps of the ancient and modern worlds tacked on the walls, patterns had been drawn along and through the oceans and continents.
Instead of leading me to her study she asked me to follow her down to the basement.
A foul odor assaulted me as I descended the stairs. Deborah had somehow managed to tear up the concrete floor of the basement. The soil she had revealed was black and uneven, it reeked of sewage and rot. Before I could question her about this I saw an object sitting alone on a long metal table in the center of the room.
It was the kind of idol that we had both read descriptions of over the years. The kind of idols that missionaries had taken care to destroy. Nothing like this was supposed to have survived into the modern age. I should have been excited but instead I felt a cold dread settle around me. The effigy was no more than a foot tall and made from a yellowish stone that gleamed like it might be exuding some kind of sickly inner moisture. This Plathelminthe-like image could only be that of Ubb, the father of worms.
“Ubb is immortal among his kind,” Deborah explained, “raised up by Ythogtha to live and crawl and know. So if he is immortal why were kings and shamans sacrificed to him?”
I backed away from her, afraid of the way her eyes had lit up when she said the word sacrificed. How irrational had she become?
She drew closer to me, reaching out. Her fingertips were darkly stained. “Can’t you see? Ubb ingests but does not digest. He is merciful.”
Was it my legs quaking beneath me or something more? Even now I cannot say.
“How could you love someone else when I can give you forever?”
My revulsion turned to violence and I pushed her away. She fell backwards into the damp dirt and in doing so revealed what had been carelessly buried there.
I have no memory of fleeing what had once been my home or of screaming in the streets until I fainted dead away.
The rest of my story is public knowledge. The authorities were alerted and a search of the house revealed nearly a dozen bodies. Deborah and the statue were never found, considering her final words to me I am not at all surprised.
In the weeks since I have kept to myself, answering whatever questions the authorities might have and refusing all visitors- reporters and old friends alike. Each night I drink myself to sleep hoping to quell the dreams which now haunt me. Those dreams of a great flatworm-like thing burrowing purposefully through the Earth’s mantle and waiting for the stars to be right.
In that dream I am bodiless and weightless, I float close enough to see every detail of its churning body. It glows with an internal bioluminescence. It is blind yet it sees. It is called the father of worms yet it leaves a trail of young in its wake.
The middle of the thing’s body is swollen and translucent. I can see the shapes that crowd there, half-mummified and unmistakably human, generations of lords and wise men.
This is Ubb and he sees me. I have been marked. Despite knowing this I do not have the courage to take my own life, to choose oblivion over the fate I know awaits me.
Someday soon the father of worms will reach out and drag me down through miles of Earth to join Deborah and together we will live forever in the belly of the beast.