About R’lyeh: Those Things I Will Tell Your Child
I was telling my second-generation niece, Rilynn there in pink pajamas, that her name sounds like R’lyeh. She is only five. “No,” she tells me back. The child lives with her parents in the country not very far from where I was born.
Rilynn explains to me, “They don’t rhyme.”
I tell her something incomprehensible; something even a smart little girl her age would not yet understand. I say, “The consonants don’t have to rhyme. The words just have to sound the same.”
“Nuh-ahh,” she replies and in that moment, I conclude she must know what I am talking about, or she has a solid idea.
“I’ll tell you a rhyme about the sunken city of R’lyeh.”
“What?” Rilynn peeps and jumps up from the Living Room floor. The little blond thing pops onto her bare feet like she does forty times forty times a day, She joins me opposite a laminated coffee table small enough that the girl might rest her elbows on stacked magazines atop the surface. She does not relax and instead regularly shifts her inconsequential weight between her feet.
Late on my cue, I recite, “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
Rilynn’s mother yells at me. “Matt!”
And Rilynn admits, “That rhymes.”
“It’s a poem,” I beg the mother. The woman’s name is Brenda – for the purpose of my narrative. I admit I have de-purposed the names of other relatives for the sake of that same said narrative. So, there is my first confession.
I cite for Brenda, “HP Lovecraft wrote that in his short story Call of Cthulhu.”
“One of those old stories?” she wonders knowingly.
“A great old one,” I say. “It’s like a hundred years old.”
Rilynn interrupts us when she demands from both the only adults in the room, “I want to hear the story.”
Her father is at work, delivering packages, and the girl is an Only-child. Her mother, Brenda again, hovers on the threshold between this room and another. The grown woman frowns at me. She issues a warning. “I have heard about you.”
“Probably from my sister-in-law,” is my answer. “She is a religious nut.”
Brenda admits, “Holly does now wear the Shield of David and a Cross around her neck.”
While I nod she explains, “But she lives there in Wister Town with your brothers and sisters… and your mother… and you can go back to your home in California. Don’t cause trouble.”
“I am an old man.”
Brenda denies my factual report. “You look twenty-five.”
My automatic response lists, “Exercise, eat right…”
“You look younger than me.”
“It’s what you read,” I then support.
Rilynn stomps her naked soles and whines. “I want to hear a story!”
“Okay,” her mother condones. “Your Uncle Matt can tell you one.”
“About R’lyeh?” I inquire from Brenda while simultaneously her daughter claps.
Brenda states, “Nothing about death or monsters or anything gross.”
I stammer, “Well…”
The woman stops me. “There was an earthquake the last time you were there in Wister Town – an earthquake in south-central Wisconsin. And you said a house walked away – monsters came out of the hole it made.”
“It was a story…”
“It makes no difference, bad things happen when you tell bad stories.”
“Bad?” I do wonder aloud. Despite what critics will say, I withhold judgment on myself for that judgment would end me and my very life. And hypocritical with my skepticism, I tell Brenda, “There is no difference between religion and being superstitious.”
“The earthquake started fires that burned down half of Wister Town!”
“I never talked about that,” I counter.
“Small blessing,” Brenda supposes above her breath.
“I’ll tell you what,” I proposition, “I’ll clean it up. And I’ll try not to be creepy or scary.”
Grinning at Rilynn I paraphrase, “Sunk somewhere in the South Pacific ocean, a corpse-city called R’lyeh…”
“Matt,” screeches her mother.
“It’s in the story, I didn’t write it,” I present for my defense.
“It’s the same difference.” Brenda states once more, “No dead things or death.”
“Okay, that was only an adjective. It was about a city but no more. That’s the last one and I can tell Rilynn about R’lyeh.”
“Yes,” the small girl screams and she claps her hands together again and harder.
I grumble loud enough for Brenda to overhear. “It won’t be exciting.”
“Just make it fun,” she answers me. “Keep her attention for an hour or so.”
Observing Rilynn squirm while she stands on her feet, I tell the girl’s mother, “I’ll last for a couple minutes.”
Brenda nods and vanishes beyond the doorway. Rilynn leans completely over the table, lifting her legs off the floor, and she whispers nearer my ear. “Are you gonna talk about dead things?”
“No,” I chuckle. “I’m going to tell you who lives in R’lyeh – the city beneath the ocean. Cthulhu cannot die.”
“Catsup!” Rilynn announces and leaves me disorientated. I swim with my thoughts atop the ruins of an undersea R’lyeh. Yet the city itself is not ruined and appears as it had newly built eons ago. Erected in my imagination, the immense construction merely threatens to topple.
Finally able to comprehend my niece, I try correcting the young child. “Cthulhu. Ka-thoo-loo.”
“Ka-choo,” answers Rilynn. “Ka-choo-choo.”
“Ka,” I started to say again then decided my effort was futile. I play with the girl. “Ka-choo,” I repeat with an exaggerated exhalation. I wipe an imaginary expulsion from beneath my nose.
Rilynn laughs and she repeats the word until I believe she makes herself truly sneeze. She refuses to acknowledge the genuine rivulet that has run down and clung on her upper lip. “Does he come out?” my niece asks me. “Is R’lyeh like his house?”
The strange question makes me wonder if the girls has already heard the story. “Is R’lyeh like his house? As a matter of fact, it is. Ka-choo-choo is big, he’s huge.”
“Say it right,” Rilynn requests. “I can’t say it, but you can say his name right.”
“He can only come out when the stars are right,” I educate the impressionable mind. “The thing is, the stars will never be right.”
“Why,” Rilynn pouts. She looks sad for real.
“Well,” I say making preparations, “There is a difference between where the stars were when he came to our planet and where they are now.”
“Because space is expanding.”
The distress on Rilynn’s face reflects the frustration I experience as I try to explain impossible concepts to a five-year old brain. “Cthulhu was originally an extra-dimensional being. He was an Outer God until he was trapped on Earth and he became a Great Old One. They don’t really understand how our three dimensions work.”
“Because, where they come from, they can be anywhere at once, be everywhere. Their space doesn’t move.”
“Matt,” Brenda declares. “You’re confusing her. I’m confused.”
“I’m confused trying to explain it.”
“Make it simple,” the mother begs me. “Or else I will get questions I can’t answer.”
“Okay,” I consent. “Cthulhu can’t come out. Besides there are Elder signs everywhere.”
“Older signs?” Rilynn questions.
“Close: Elder signs, like the elderly. They grow in nature, you can see them in the tree branches, the veins in leaves and even the veins under your skin. HP Lovecraft drew a picture of it.”
“Can I see it?”
I hesitate. “It might be hard to find. Let me draw a picture for you. Do you have paper and something to draw with?”
Rilynn runs away laughing. The girl returns in an instance with a single clean sheet of typing paper and a handful of red and blue crayons. A green wax stick had fallen from her grasp whilst she had come but Rilynn never paused and retrieve it. She presents to me my requested tools.
“Draw Ka-too-loo,” she insists.
The request frightens me without explanation, so I stall. “I thought you wanted to see the Elder Sign.”
“Yeah, but draw Him first.”
“Oh,” I stutter. “You should never summon Cthulhu without an Elder Sign. What happens if he demands a sacrifice?”
“Matt?” Brenda inquires of me.
The woman startles me as if I have been caught speaking the unspeakable. I scuttle my argument against a juvenile and I decide what comes next. “Let me show you the Elder Sign. Then I will draw Cthulhu.”
Before Rilynn objects, I sketch together six broad hashes, making the red image of a branch. Three twigs project from its top, two from below. Rightward on the picture, two opposite twigs reflect each other as would a mirror. The second bottom twig appears sprout from the branch in the space between the two remaining leftward twigs on top.
“Humph,”Brenda says looking over my stooped and sketching upper half. She tells me, “It looks like something you would find in nature.”
“Who put it there?” Rilynn asks.
Dissuaded against trying to explain the Outer Gods again, I reply to the girl and her mother, “We’ll make your one aunt happy and say God put it there. And he looks just like Santa Claus.”
Unafraid now that I have constructed a ward for my protection, I intercept any awkward confusion and I say, “Here is what Cthulhu looks like.”
I have been to Art School and I have always been naturally drawn to doodling, so much I am more talented with a blunt pencil than any other drawing implement. Knowing so, my sketch immediately takes form. The representation of Cthulhu is a simple image of an octopus – one octopus with eight radial tentacles in place of the head of a primate. Although I do not provide any scale, this abomination is larger than King Kong.
I say primate because I have often seen paintings of the Great Old One in which He has a spine and four limbs besides a pair of colossal membranous wings. Those four jointed appendages always terminate with five clawed digits, these usually webbed. Rilynn reacts to my visual interpretation.
“Matt?” Brenda cautions me. “I don’t want her awake tonight.”
“It’s okay, the Elder sign…”
“Stupid,” Rilynn states in verdict. Her mother shakes her head.
“It’s okay,” I presage again. “There is another Elder Sign. August Derleth made it – he was a cheese-eater, just like us. He was from Wisconsin – Sauk City.” Having revealed an alternative, I start drawing a second archaic symbol on the same one sheet of typing paper.
“You know, August Derleth was the first guy who published HP Lovecraft. He wrote stories, too. He also wrote about a lot more than horror.”
“There,” I tell Rilynn and her mother. The second Elder Sign comes presented to them as a blue, five-pointed star. A red eye engulfed in red flames flickers at its center. “The star is actually supposed to be green, but Rilynn dropped that color on the floor.”
“Get it later, sweetie,” Brenda absently tells the girl.
I boast in tangent. “Now that would scare Klingons.”
“What are Klingings?” Rilynn asks me.
My outrage is a showy mockery. “Brenda, your daughter is eight years old and still no Star Trek?”
The mother ends the silence that follows my lacking an excuse. Brenda asks me a serious question. “How did you learn about this?”
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly at first. “Read?”
“You should write about it when you go home. Did you and why not?”
“It wasn’t in my stars,” I tell her in accordance to the mythos we discuss. Brenda does not understand. She probably won’t until I do write down something. I let the woman know, “There are tons of other authors who could tell you the stories. I’ve got something parallel, but it’s about what happens in Wister Town.”
“I know,” Brenda moans. Before the woman runs out of that same breath, she tells her daughter, “Put on warm clothes, we’re going to that toenail of a town… like Uncle Matt calls it. Let’s visit your great grandma.”
Once Rilynn is busy upstairs getting dressed, and Brenda and I are alone, I make a cordial appeal to the woman. “Brenda, my nephew would never allow it, your husband would forbid that you ever speak to me…”
The woman steps back from me but she does not flee. Snared by curiosity strengthened by her agnosticism – her disbelief in a Creator that she confessed against long before – Brenda listens to my corrupt words.
“You are right, I will be young until I die. I will die young at the age of one hundred and twenty-five. Rilynn can remain young, too, but she must know. The earlier, the better.”
“My daughter is not going to visit you in California,” she tells me. Knowing who I am and being closer to my family than I physically am or ever was, my in-law, Brenda, has heard all my other relatives have rejected my similar notions.
“What is in California?” she nibbles still. I expected she would ask before I had come two thousand miles to visit her family.
“The sun,” I say generically. “That’s where it stays, and its home was made for the Divine. There is power in California – power for those who know how to tap it. There is more power there than in that hole in Wister Town.”
“The Jews sense it, and the Mormons. That’s why they are there. There are big cults and Moonies and Scientologists and Jehovah Witnesses – you name it. They crawl down from the palm trees. They all feel the secret power so few people can actually ever know.”
The woman I speak with gnaws her bottom lip. When she soon starts shaking her head, I promise, “Rilynn will know more than me. She will see the future. Maybe she will see R’lyeh.”
When my words cease to make impact, I escalate the strength available to the female child. “She will foresee every consequence of every action she takes. And she will know there is only one course through life. The sun is the root of all religion. Praise Hastur.”
Once I am shut out of the house, I warn Brenda, “Hastur has corrupted in the American Midwest – the power of the sun does not manifest in cows. All of that is Egyptian perversion. The providence here is made base and unhealthy! Defiled and there is no protection. There is no God. We still live blind in the Age of Babylon.”
– END –
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