We’ve got a special treat for GeekDad readers over the next two weeks, as we’ll be hosting author Jonathan Wood’s serialized story, “The Nyarlathotep Event.” The story itself is based in the world of his recently released debut novel, No Hero—the Lovecraftian urban fantasy that dares to ask, what would Kurt Russell do?
I first met Jonathan about four years ago, and we’ve bonded over rearing kids, falling in love with video game characters, and a mutual love of RPGs. In other words, he’s a certified GeekDad!
Stay tuned tomorrow for the second installment!
The Nyarlathotep Event :: Case File #1 :: Performance
The Oxford Playhouse. Now.
For the record, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when you went wrong if a woman with a Laura Ashley dress and blood-stained teeth is rhythmically beating your head against the floor. Just so you know.
Ten minutes before
Here’s a treat: a night out at the theater courtesy of work. All expenses paid. The only catch—I might have to gun down the performer halfway through.
See this is the problem with working for shadowy government agencies. There’s always rough to go with the smooth. Yes, you get to enjoy an evening of ancient Egyptian magics, but it is being performed by an interdimensional avatar called Nyarlathotep who hales from a dimension representing humanity’s collective fears. Silver lining meet cloud.
Still, just another night out for Agent Arthur Wallace of MI37.
The niggling familiarity of the the name Nyarlathotep clears up as soon as he steps out on stage. Lovecraft. Whoever summoned him, named him after a gibbering literary horror.
Which, I feel, should inform my plan. Except the only plan I seem to remember old Lovecraft providing was running howling into the night, so I’m not sure how helpful that’s going to be.
Nyarlathotep stands seven feet tall, wrapped in blood red rags. They hang from his shoulders like a cloak. They wreathe his face. Red mist billows about his feet, spills into the theater, spreads out over feet and ankles. People in the front row let out odd barking sounds—the terrifying inbred cousin of laughter. And I’m pretty sure Nyarlathotep’s not told any jokes yet.
And screw evaluating the situation. I reach for my gun.
Nyarlathotep opens his mouth.
There are no words. His mouth moves. Sounds emerge. But it is something beyond speech. Something more profound. Some kinesthetic reflex of bile and horror.
The buzzing of flies. The stench of rotting meat filling my nose my mouth. Burning my throat. I gag. Heave up bile. A liquid scream. Pins in my arms. Needles, and nails, and shards of glass. The grind of cigarette against skin. My brain is burning, melting, is fecal matter sloshing in my skull.
And still his mouth stretches behind reams of cloth. And on and on pours out the filth. Into me.
My gun. I need-
I grab for the thing with numb fingers. Atrocities flicker at the edges of my vision. A noise like a kettle boiling rising, rising, up, and up like an itch I need to reach into my brain to scratch.
Somehow I get the gun loose. I half see it out of one eye, through filters of horror and peeling flesh. I try to sight Nyarlathotep, but I might as well be trying to shoot the moon.
Screw it. I pull the trigger.
The muzzle’s thunderclap hits me like water to the face. Abruptly I’m just a man on his back in a theater, waving a gun about, while around me everyone goes insane.
Men and women are on all fours. They roll in fights. Some screw. Some scream.
On stage, Nyarlathotep stands, arms wide, welcoming it all. The conductor of this pageant of madness. And, Lovecraft old buddy, running and screaming does seem like a good idea right about now.
On the other hand, that’s not what I get paid to do. So I stand. I steady my gun. I draw a bead on the bastard. I think about how I should probably change careers.
Which is exactly the moment the woman in the Laura Ashley number clotheslines me around my throat and brings me down.
My gun scatters. I scrabble at her, coughing and choking, trying to pry her off me. She seizes my head. Slams it onto the floor. Crash. Crash. The room spins. Crash.
Which brings me to the point where I’m left wondering if I’m going to have the time to enumerate all the mistakes I’ve made before my head gives way.
Just another night out for Agent Arthur Wallace of MI37.
Read the next installment, The Nyarlathotep Event: Case File #2: Rescue.