Report on Miskatonic Expedition to Wondercon
  On Location    March 30, 2016     Eric Larkin

 

One of our employees, Dorje from Tibet, a grad student who moonlights with us mostly on weekends, stumbled into the store Tuesday morning, looking half wild, covered in blood and clutching this odd logbook. He was part of a team sent out on a special project most of the staff knew nothing about on Monday, and this is the first we’d heard from him. Apparently, the “project” was not much of a success. Prob only our top brass staff knows what was going on, but here I present the single – rather lengthy – log entry for your examination.

 

The Field Journal of Professor Albert Smelderson, MU, Arkham, Massachusetts on special assignment to Los Angeles, California, etc.

 

Foolishly, and in spite of all extravagantly strenuous warnings against the plan, The Last Bookstore in fateful partnership with Miskatonic University bankrolled and staffed a research expedition to a rumored HP Lovecraft “discussion” or “panel” at Wondercon at the Los Angeles Convention Center, on the 25th of March in the year 2016. As seems to happen with every recorded Miskatonic U endeavor, we lost contact with our party, after their last transmission Friday evening. Over the next few days, we continued our futile attempts to raise them on our two-way wireless radioset, growing ever more fearful as strange and distant noises could be heard in the skies and echoing down the long alleyways of southern downtown Los Angeles. There were whisperings amongst the natives who fled the region blindly in almost every direction of vaguely humanoid beasts of unknown colors, wielding weapons of a plasticky texture, arrayed in familiar yet oddly altered garments. These were said to wander in and out of the Convention Center of Los Angeles, seemingly without aim but posing often for mutual assessment and ceremonial engagement. This, of course, left us with no doubt that our researchers were lost or – at best – trapped somewhere in the cavernous monolithic halls of that wretched basilica of doom.

 

By Monday morning, we had lost all hope for our imperiled colleagues’ unaided return, and, amidst a chorus of “I told you so”s and “You’re what?!”s, we formed a rescue party on the Last Bookstore’s rooftop landing strip, boarded our last remaining Dornier aëroplane and began our dread-full mission, with little hope of success, but only the courage of desperation and pity for our surely beyond-hope associates. Our stomachs were in knots during the flight, our blood chilled as our minds overworked the little information we had until those imaginings nearly cowed us to turn the plane right around and return home, in shame but at least alive and sane. Since the Last Bookstore is only a few blocks from the Convention Center of Los Angeles, the flight was not lengthy, maybe 2 minutes – so we were there before we could even discuss the matter. Upon landing, we were charged an outrageous amount of American dollars for parking. Our boxes of Clif Bars – our only provisions – were confiscated, over our strenghty but flaccid protestations. Such wicked misfortune before we’d even entered the broad, formless structure pushed the nerves of many in our party to a tightness near breaking. And once inside the building, near starved as we were after our stress-filled journey, and lacking Bars of Clif or any other kind, with which to steady our blood sugars, the mere sight of corndogs at the towering price of 6 dollars was enough to send several of our party screaming, half-naked into the darkness. We could do nothing to stop them. We pressed on.

 

Very broad, very carpeted. photo Michael Dunn

Very broad, very carpeted, very empty.  photo Michael Dunn

We climbed broad, carpeted stairs until we stood before the doors to the main area of convention, noting the emptiness of what must have been chaotic and din-filled only a day earlier and marvelled at the unholy forces which could fill and unfill such spaces seemingly at will. There was not a living being anywhere to be seen, except for the corndog guy. What horrors – in sight and sound – must have scarred those spaces: we were speechless amongst ourselves. When we noticed our sherpa was examining a program or guidebook, we quickly retrieved it from his fumbling, uncomprehending hands. He pointed thickly down an impossibly long walkway, lit only thru the floor to ceiling windows which covered one side. The fool did not understand our situation. We carefully and expertly poured over this program, searching for any possible clue that could aid us in our search for the unfortunate members of our expedition, secretly hoping we were not simply following in their doomed footsteps. After some time, we found precisely what we were looking for: a listing entitled “Describing the Indescribable: Adapting the Works of HP Lovecraft” followed by the mysterious “515B”. We spoke of this outloud, amongst ourselves, while the idiot sherpa continued to gesture towards the aforementioned hallway. Our geographer, Dr. Torbinov theorized that the number-code might be a locating symbol and discovered a map-like page in the program. This was the key to unlocking the non-euclidean dimensions of the hellish structure. From this intelligence, we compared our location to where we estimated we were on the map, and conjectured that we needed to walk in the direction of the previously indicated walkway, which would indeed lead to the meeting rooms of the so-called West Hall. Our stalwart but slow sherpa seemed to roll his eyes as we proceeded on our course but we did not know if this was a reaction of fear or reluctance to further labour.

 

Interminable hallway. photo Fabio Santana

Interminable hallway. photo Fabio Santana

The walkway was interminable, but with much persistence, we reached its end and stood aghast at the appearance of many more rooms and silvery excalators which reached high, to an entirely second floor. The sherpa was halfway up these odd, moving stairs without hesitation and we were forced to call him back with much exasperation. He returned reluctantly, with a seeming look of disbelief as he pointed up and to the right, chattering mindlessly. We ignored him, searching this open area for clues as to our next possible direction. At last, again comparing the map to all visible landmarks, we determined that the most logical direction – though everything we had seen in this unworldly and terrible place had defied logic – was to move up the excalators and in a general direction to the right. As we set out, not at all confident of our course of action, the sherpa gave us a strange, almost blank look. We ignored him.

 

From this second floor area, we could now see that the doors were numbered! We followed these to the right until we found a group of rooms with a sequence in the 500s. We knew we were moving in the same direction our expedition had gone – but to what? We did not know. At last we approached the door of a chamber labeled 515B, just as we had seen in the guidebook. Our hearts pounded in our chests as we stood outside our final destination. We hesitated, not knowing what possible evil could be waiting inside – perhaps not wanting to know and even thinking it was not too late to turn back. At last, one of our party, a Mr Barnett – perhaps the most frightened of us, beads of sweat rolling down his forehead, pools of yellow liquid collecting mysteriously around his shoes – with a choked cry burst through the door and took a sort of kung fu pose at the edge of the blackness within the room. The rest of us clustered around the door, cautiously, to see if anything terrible would happen to Barnett. A room, with a not especially high ceiling seemed to stretch into nothingness, dark as it was, only a few chairs within sight, a few feet away, upturned carelessly. We were discussing our next move, when that damned sherpa switched on the lights, and we were met with a sight the likes of which I am reluctant to now record in this… record. But I know that any warning I give without explanation will be ignored, as I am sure this fully detailed and substantiated report will in any case be, so alas, I must tell what we saw.

 

Chairs as far as the eye could see, at least as far as the other end of the room, which was at least a fathom longer than it was high, many of them overturned or in piles – piles of chairs! – though you could still make out the neatly ordered rows whose shape they had once formed, trisected by once elegant aisles, now twisted and ruined by who knows what forces. And at the front of the room, a raised dais, as long as the center of the room, with tables along its length and chairs, again up-turned and the whole assembly flanked by screens! This hellish disorder tested our already frayed nerves and threatened our wills with breakage. It was a few moments before we were able to proceed towards the front of the room. Stepping over the human remains which covered and stained much of the carpeted floor and inconveniently blocked the easiest lines of approach, one question pulsed in our heads, though we dared not say it outloud: What were those screens for? We had to know, and would long rue the destructive curiosity of our overly scientific minds.

Meanwhile, our idiot sherpa busied himself with the dead, moving to each one in turn, grasping, for some reason, the wrist between his fingers or placing his fingers on their necks – if a neck there still was. Whatever is that fool doing? We whispered amongst ourselves, and thought it best to let him continue with his primitive rituals, while we moved bravely but haltingly towards the raised dais and its inexplicably large and flanking screens.

Those must be three feet wide! Someone said.

Get ahold of yourself! Steady! Came the rejoinder.

 

At last we stood before the long raised platform and could see now that draped across its half-collapsed length – that is, the middle and far left tables spilled towards each other, the far right table askew with some chairs missing and others scattered in a most violent fashion – we could clearly see scattered papers, small computer machines, wires and microphones in an indescribable tangle, “Wondercon” signage in woeful disarray, and seven dead men slumped in varying directions and attitudes. Blood covered everything if not in puddles then in artless streaks and dots. Corresponding to each corpse was a decorative name plate.

 

From behind us and across the room, the sherpa called out sharply. We turned, and he was gesturing towards a man he had apparently pulled up into a sitting position against a wall.

My god – that looks like Talbert, the paleogeographist from the expedition!

Surely he is dead, though.

Of course. He must be. It’s been at least 2 days.

In disgust we waved the sherpa off, and turned back to the work at hand.

 

We began at the far left, examining the body positioned roughly and indescribably behind the nameplate upon which was written the words “Kevin McTurk”. We confirmed with the program we had found that McTurk was a panelist, a “creature effects artist and director” – chilling monickers to say the least. There were notes under what must have once been his hand, now flayed to the elbow – indeed, long sections of what was left of the man were flayed, as if razor-sharp fans had whipped him from every direction. The notes were mostly illegible, covered in blood, but what could be made out read “Dayjob – Hellboy, X-men, Ironman, blah blah. Puppets FTW. Lovecraft-inspired, gothic, Victorian, M.R. James – Mill at Calder’s Inn – Vimeo. I love puppets. Puppets puppets.” We could not make anything of it.

 

We moved to the next horribly mangled figure whose nameplate read “Pete Von Sholly“. Again we consulted our program which was now moist with nervous perspiration. Yes, it was he, the artist of Lovecraft Illustrated and storyboardist of The Mist. More mysteries. Our sphincters tightened in dread and confusion. Instead of notes, we found here a blood-stained sketchbook. On it was scribbled a cartoonish likeness of the famous writer Stephen King. From this visage was drawn a speech bubble that said “Lovecraft opens the door a crack.” Odd. Below this pictographic was etched in pencil – with firm and confidently shaped letters – the phrase “Lovecraft was not a hermit. HE TRAVELED.” One of our party impulsively reached out to the sketchbook and turned the page. None of us could move in time to stop him. The horrors we saw there, I will not record here – but it must suffice that they were an unholy blend of terror and silliness. One imagines a baited hook. I shudder at the memory. Sanity is that fragile, nearly translucent, barrier between what we know and what we must not learn or… something like that.

 

Without hesitation, we turned away from what was Von Sholly and examined the next human form. “Paul Komoda” was the name, and from our program “creature design, The Thing” and another sketchbook, with images so warped in design, so twisted in a biology that should be familiar, nay, mundane to anyone with even a modicum of medical training – but after two or three pages, our own Dr. Ranford broke and collapsed in a faint. Members of our party mumbled thoughtlessly as we compulsively viewed page after page of the horrible images: It’s like HR Giger, but worse, This is the guy from Cthulhu Sex magazine, and so on. Finally, I myself found the strength to pull the Komoda head down onto the page, with a terrible splash, effectively making impossible further perusing of the wretched, un-human art. The spell broken, we moved on.

 

Thankfully, no sketchbooks could be found here at the place of the former “Leslie Klinger“, only a few notes and a large volume entitled The New Annotated HP Lovecraft. Our party muttered Ahhh that guy in unison, which elicited a nervous chuckle. We remembered from our extensive research the name and the work of this unfortunate figure, now a bloody pile of filleted torso and apparently cracked, leaking skull. So much fluid!  We all thought. Presumably. We took a moment of silence, meditating on the loss to humanity of this editor and annotator of the highest possible quality. On his notepad, we thought we could make out the words “Lovecraft is difficult to film because he deliberately uses vagueness to ‘describe the indescribable'”. We all nodded in assent. And below that, “Most of Lovecraft’s protagonists do not need to be male.” This one confused us. What else would they be? Dogs? Philodendrons?

 

Once again that busybody sherpa shouted at us harshly. He had dragged two more bodies against the wall, and – in some trick of the light – they looked as if they were drinking water from the sherpa’s canteen. That one on the right looks like Peabody. And I recall the other one, a mechanic, I think. Poor souls. Our admittedly foggy minds could not make sense of the manic twitterings of our otherwise reliable guide. He used to be so helpful.

 

We left Klinger in situ, not out of disrespect but out of desperation to continue our search for answers as to what stark fate had doomed our earlier expedition. This next heap of former humanity was called “Cody Goodfellow”, a writer of some sort: “The Rapture of the Deep and Other Lovecraftian Tales” read our program. There was a notebook with a few scribblings, in between smears of blood: “Elements of horror: Existentialism – Meaninglessness – Lack of empathy. Horror does not want to be mainstream. Women can be Lovecraft protags because they are similar to people – got laugh, winner, use again.” These we passed over quickly, and came to a few pages of arcane symbology and the title “Esoteric Order of Dagon, archbishop, SP chapter – Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast notes.” A slight whimper came from one of us. Could this Goodfellow have been the dangerous fulcrum of the party’s destruction? We continued our examination of the dais.

 

The next ex-person was “Frank Woodward”. There was no book of sketches or of notes. Instead, there was an open computer machine, the foldable kind, whose cover had a plastic sticker that read “I [heart] HPLFF-SP” We did not know what this meant. The one part of Woodward’s remains not turned inside out was a single finger, which was resting tentatively on the right mouse button of the machine. It could wait many aeons now, for life had left it in its ready but powerless position of never ending potentiality.

 

The last of the dead slumped impossibly over a podium. We knew not how it supported itself, until we noticed that from below the nipple line, there was no body: it looked as if it had been sheared clean off and was nowhere in sight. The name plate said “Aaron Vanek”. There was a small stack of index cards, the topmost read “Hi, I’m Aaron Vanek, founder of the H P Lovecraft Film Festival, San Pedro.”

Again, in unison,  Ahhh HPLFF-SP…

Suddenly, one of our party exclaimed, Stop! Fool!

We turned in time to see but too late to stop Captain Granville – our pilot – from pressing down on Woodward’s finger, the one in repose over the machine button.

I… must… know !  

And in that instant the screens on either side of the dais, with an ethereal crack, sparked to life. We stumbled backwards partly from fear, but also from an unresisted need to see those screens.

 

A face appeared after a few seconds, and almost instantly distorted, as if burned in flame. The sound also twisted out of mysteriously hidden speakers like a miasma – we could just barely make either out.

Hey Wondercon- I’m Sean O’Reilly – sorry I couldn’t be there with you, but we’re working hard on Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, our animated feature. Big news – we just signed Ron Perlman and Christopher Plummer – so we’re burning the midnight oil to get ready –

The screen distorted and we chattered excitedly – I love that guy – then we heard the words

… sneak preview – Check it out – 

And we saw on those screens animation! A boy was receiving an obviously evil book from his mother – covered as it was with star-shaped symbols and strange geometric shapes – such as anyone with the smallest experience with such matters would shun reflexively – as she spoke the words Sure, you can read that before bed – We gaped in horror. What followed on those screens I will not repeat, but we breathed exhausted sighs of relief when the screens finally stopped, a black odorous smoke coming from what we assumed were some type of blown-out circuits or overtaxed wiring.

 

We reeled for all we had seen. We looked at each other and then reeled again. When the sherpa’s voice cut thru our haunted stupor, Johnson cracked. He pulled out his pistol and approached the man, now bandaging the wounds of one of the fallen. Finally, we heard his words clearly, as he repeated over and over Not dead! Not dead! But Johnson’s nerve had snapped beyond re-splice-ability. He stepped heavily over the bodies still on the floor, brandishing the weapon at the sherpa. The rest of us realized with a start that our native laborer had been searching the fallen for the still-living and was trying to find and save members of our original team. But before we could shout at Johnson and before he could fire his pistol, there came from outside the room – though it seemed to vibrate the walls and floor from every direction – a noise that we had never heard before, halfway between the shriek of a carrion bird and the grinding of metal. We soiled ourselves, to a man. As far as I could tell. But I’m pretty sure.

 

Without hope of escape and clinging to the thinnest remnants of dignity, if not courage, we slowly filed out to meet our fate like men, plus the sherpa. Once outside, we saw in the open space at the far reach of the hallway, an arc of… things. Alive, yet unlike any beings known to science. We walked towards them, as they seemed to both wait and call to us. Slowly, we recognized what they were, scarcely believing our eyes and questioning each other sotto voce:

Could it be?

Surely it is not possible…

You gotta be fucking kidding me…

Elder Things. Eight of them, in a half circle.

 

 

Elder One/Thing. They don't look particularly dangerous, but just try dissecting one. art Kurt Komoda

Elder Thing. They don’t look particularly dangerous, but just try dissecting one. art Kurt Komoda

From whence, who knew? But surely they had wrought the destruction we had seen in the meeting room 515B. Had they been unearthed far below the surface of downtown Los Angeles and emerged here, perhaps summoned by that Archbishop of Dagon, Cody Goodman? Had they brazenly entered the Convention Center, unnoticed amongst the hoards of bizarrely attired attendees or maybe sporting press passes? Did they crawl out of those screens like in a Japanese movie?

Johnson lept forward, with foolhardy courage, and emptied his pistol to no effect. As one of the Elder Things bisected our man with the swipe of a wing, we bolted for the excalator, shoving each other like the animals our fear had made us.

 

It is difficult to write these words not only because I am teetering precariously on the edge of insanity but because I am running at top speed down a corridor. There is ample light, but the constant motion of my legs and the swaying of my torso, which is necessary in order to maintain balance, makes it nearly impossible to form legible letters on the page. Oh – another of the creatures has appeared in front of us, and we are forced to stop. The sherpa has picked up a stanchion and is courageously wielding it like a club against the Beast which is not a beast, so clear was its superior intelligence. You could just tell it would be capable of great architectural achievement, for instance. I turn now to face those who were behind us and oh god they are closing fast. I wish I had a Clif–

 

And that’s the end of it. There are blood stains and such, the pages are a bit torn, but otherwise the book is in surprisingly good shape. I suppose we can make it avail to anyone who wants to take a look. Pretty cool, if you’re into Lovecraft. I’m def gonna check out that Film Fest at the end of April. Oh, and Dorje will be alright. He’s shaken, but they grow’em tough, up there in the Himalayas. Besides that log book, he also dragged that stanchion all the way back to the store. I guess he was in pretty severe shock. Its end was covered in a smelly, thick, dark-green fluid. We chucked it.

 

Expedition

 

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