Eugenia and the
The formation looked like lime jello cast without the benefit of a mould. It changed shape as it thought. It was always changing shape and always in motion. Djho (pronounced JToe) raised himself on a hundred pseudopods (sometimes two hundred) and drifted like an enormous aerial jellyfish.
Djho was intelligent. He understood curiosity, jealously and other emotions But did not know fear. He was about to learn it now, suddenly and without warning. Djho was sick, physically and psychologically, since that accursed artefact of alien magic had come into his existence.
He thought, "I've opened the forbidden gateway. No one can summon demons and remain unscarred." Djho shuddered at the terrible recollection of the white horror and its familiar that answered his call. Fortunately the precautions he had taken held. For the moment he was safe But only for the moment. It might return at any moment. Djho knew that he should have tried to destroy it but, how? The very elements from which the thing was composed were alien and defied analysis. Beyond all doubt, it was a rectangle, something only theoretical in nature. It lay before him and shimmered with a light that was an intrusion in his universe. Equally mind-searing, it was solid; something only theoretically possible. Modern science with all the miracles it was capable of performing, could never produce such an object.
Though unlike anything Djho had ever known, he realised that it contained an alphabet by the frequency and configuration of the symbols. One in particular occurred many times. "Necronomicon." He was overwhelmed at the thought of the blasphemous intelligences that were capable of producing such symmetry.
He told himself, "I must know more. I must learn the source of this evil."
He drew his pentacle in the greatest secrecy. Though Djho was a powerful wizard, and much experienced in dark magic, the unholy ritual made him nauseous. Fortunately for his sanity, the pentacle he executed was asymmetrical. Djho could not have survived the straight lines, the perfect circle and the points. Each critical location was marked by the light of a corpse fungus. He uttered sacrilegious enchantments in the language used only by priests and wizards.
Thereupon, horror of all horrors, a dreadful white abnormality formed. Then another creature of a colour that defied description. He opened the gateway to hell and two demons responded to his call.
The first was formed of two irregular spheres, the smaller of which was on top. A strange growth gathered where the spheres met and moved from side-to-side in responses to the motions it made. Occasionally an appendage entangled itself in the growth. The demon stood upright on two of its appendages. In a smaller extremity, it clutched a transparent object containing a putrescent white liquid. The demon raised the transparent object and placed the smaller end into the top of its spheres. Djho guessed that it was absorbing the solution. He retched, his own vital fluids were white.
"Guardian spirit," he prayed, "protect me. I've summoned a vampire."
The second and smaller of the demons evidently was a subservient. It stood on four appendages and moved a fifth to and fro in some incomprehensible purpose. Two embers glowed in its upper part. The part divided exposing a number of sharp white stalactites. It uttered a sound that froze Djho's viscera. A merciful oblivion spared him further agony and he fell into a swoon. Before unconsciousness overcame him the white demon uttered a noise that he attempted later to reconstruct. Though its meaning defied him, the utterance when transformed from a sound into a visualisation and matched against the letters in the rectangle appeared to be.
"Look, Annette, it's Cthulhu."
The sound produced by the subservient did not match anything.
* * * * *
The nether regions were neither as dark or as cold as Djho supposed them to be. The white demon, who was known as "Eugenia" in her own dimension, reclined on a low flat surface known as a "floor" and perused a book. The book breathed evil. Black from ancient sorceries, its crumbling pages exuded an odour of decay and unspeakable rituals. It was the infamous Necronomicon of the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred. After the completion of the dreadful work, Abdul had put out his own eyes so that he never would be tempted to exercise the dreadful knowledge it contained ... or so the rumour went. Abdul tended to be forgetful so that what was retained in his .memory was no menace to humanity .
The familiar that accompanied Eugenia everywhere was curled on the floor in a semicircle with its fifth appendage stretched out inviting its Being stepped on by an unwary foot. From time to time, Eugenia raised the transparent object to the orifice known as a mouth" and partook of the fluid known as "milk".
A third demon entered the room. It was larger than either of them. It made a noise that translated into: "I say there, young lady, isn't it time you graduated to a drinking glass. You're eighteen months old, you know."
Eugenia replied without looking up. "I like the taste of rubber."
The largest of the demons occupied a place in the social hierarchy known as "grandfather, a position of much prestige but little remuneration. He persisted.
"Well, how about a gradual break? None of this cold turkey stuff. I've been told that plastic nipples are all the rage."
"They taste like sparrow droppings."
Grandfather was pleased, The younger generations affiliated with his name were usually far more graphic.
I suppose this is as good a place as any to introduce myself. I am Eugenia's grandfather and of late I'd noticed a morbid swing of interest to magical themes on Eugenia's part. I can't tell black magic from white but it struck me that an eighteen months old child ought to be playing with dolls. The book she perused was of an intimidating character and I found myself wondering exactly what kind of leather it was bound in. My imagination was running away with me. She read my mind.
"It's plastic. Leather is too expensive."
I will admit to being a little let down. "How did this hideous and unholy work come to be in your possession? Do you realise there are only four known copies of this blasphemy in the Nervetonic University Archives and they are kept under lock and keys?"
"I used your library card. There are also six copies in the Parkham Collection, ten in the private library of Angelo Busoni, four in the Library of Congress and two in the Christian Astrology reading room."
As her grandfather, I was entrusted with certain moral responsibilities concerning her upbringing. The least I could do was to make my displeasure known.
"What is a sweet, lovely, young lady like you doing with such an unwholesome and repellent tome?"
My voice was stern and brooked no nonsense.
"I was comparing it against the condensed edition that was recently released by Barley Books.""
My memory flew back to another time when her endeavours from an equally ancient and disreputable volume had laid out the entire family with unspeakable agonies. This had been my wife's book of recipes handed down from her side of the family, which at one time must have included the Borgias. June is the lady who has shared my name and fortunes for twenty-five years. I made up my mind that Abdul's masterpiece was going to find its way into the incinerator at the first opportunity.
Eugenia has an inquiring mind and I could visualise her stocking up on blue chalk and corpse fat candles and. . . I did not view the prospect of releasing the Arab's unspeakable, unutterable monsters on a world already surfeited with horrors,' with anticipation. Too, burning corpse fat candles produce a dreadful stench. I didn't relish the prospect of bringing my Irish Valkyrie down on my neck.
The first thing to do was to draw Eugenia's attention away from the book.
I reminded her, "Haven't you forgotten something?"
Again without looking up, she asked, "What?"
"It's twenty minutes past seven. The John Pickman Show goes on in ten minutes."
She did not display her usual enthusiasm. Normally she staked out proprietary rights in front of the television a good ten minutes before John Pickman started his magical extravaganza.
"Mr. Scarsi says he's a fake."
The shock of this revelation did not floor me.
"Who is Mr Scarsi? "
"He's an old man who works at the Nightmare Brick Company. Mr. Scarsi is a real wizard. He showed me how to make things disappear."
I was intrigued. "Your grandmother must have been one of his pupils. You ought to see what she can do to my paycheque."
"I mean it for real. A week ago, I put the family Necronomicon in the middle of a pentacle I'd drawn and it vanished after I said the things he taught me. He promised to show me how to make it reappear when he has the time."
I heard myself saying, "The family what?" I didn't have the faintest idea what she meant.
"The Necronomicon. It was in your book collection between The Cape Cod Bartender's Guide and the Fruit Fly Control Manual."
Memory returned. "Oh!"
Years ago, while in the navy, I had stepped into a Bowery Book Store. Mostly to avoid the rain. The proprietor had been desperately in need of fifty cents for a pint of wine. Book dealers drink only the best. He had wanted to get wet and I had wanted to get dry so a bargain was struck.
He offered to throw in the entire set consisting of "de Vermis Mysteries, Book of Eibon, Unaussprechlichen Kulten" and the hateful "Thesaurus de Avernus" for five Bucks. But I had wanted only to get dried out, not cleaned out, so had politely refused the offer. The book travelled home with me without ever being opened. After all, what do Mad Arabs know about literature? I hadn't especially cared for the Bartenders' Guide either as every recipe seemed to call for a clam.
Finally, I said, "Which one of Lovecraft's unspeakable and unutterable abominations were you contemplating materialising?"
She took me seriously. "They aren't so unspeakable and unutterable as unpronounceable. Try dropping names like Cthulhu, Yog-Sohoth and Shug-Niggurath in mainstream conversation." Eugenia pronounced the first one as "Koo-Thul-Chew." I didn't recognise it and the names of several chewing tobaccos ran through my mind before grasping her meaning.
"I wouldn't even dream of it." And then a terrifying thought struck me.
"Most pentacles are drawn in blue chalk on solid surfaces. Exactly where did you draw the one you made the Necronomicon vanish in?"
"On the cellar floor."
"I think we're lucky your grandma hasn't ventured down there yet. Tomorrow at the very first chance, you will completely erase all traces of this art work. You and Mr. Scarsi aren't the only ones capable of raising hell. Your grandmother can do it without any thaumaturgical assistance whatever."
I chose that moment to blink and right before my eyes, she and Annette faded out of sight like two wisps of smoke. I blinked but that did not make them return.
Being Italian and residing in an Italian neighbourhood, or almost one, was helpful. The houses alternated between a crook and a cop and all I had to do was to skip my next door neighbour. Being in that rare category of belonging to neither demographic group... that is, I was Italian but I didn't practice it, gossip was fairly divided as to what I actually was.
One: I was an undercover cop.
Two: I was an undercover crook. But a successful one because I wasn't in jail.
Three: A few crossed themselves whenever I appeared.
I entered Lt. Howard Barella's house without too much in the way of preliminary such as ringing the bell or knocking. We were close pals ... at any rate, he had stopped trying to put me in Jail. However, I sent in a "Hey, Howie!" ahead of me. He was in the kitchen indulging in a white shirt special. That is, cottage cheese, oatmeal and milk. I called it a "white shirt special" because if he spilled anything on himself, it wouldn't show.
He impaled me with a steely policeman's gaze before I could open my mouth and asked: "When is young Albert going to marry Jamie?" Jamie was his daughter.
I assured him, "Young Albert is strictly a playboy type. He is going to cast her aside when he's finished trifling with her."
He heaved a sign of relief and said "Thank God! For a while I thought there was a possibility of having you as a brother-in-law."
"'You wouldn't want Junior as Jamie's husband. He's a weirdo. Instead of stripped down broads, he has pictures of stripped down engines on his walls."
The pleasantries were now out of the way and he asked, "To what do I owe the honour of this visit?"
He meant, "What the hell do you want?"
I went into great detail. Lt. Barella deserved more credit than I was willing to give him, It was largely due to his presence that our neighbourhood was as uneventful as it was. And he was one of the very few who could tell when I was serious and when I wasn't He decided I was serious. He listened without interrupting and when I finished, reached for his jacket.
"Just for the hell of it, let's take a look at your house." He hadn't finished his oatmeal so I knew he was impressed.
I ushered him into the living room and remarked, "This is where they disappeared."
He examined the area carefully but no more than I'd done. I suspected he was looking for trap doors.
Next, we went into the cellar under the living room. Eugenia's pentacle was still there waiting for the next load of garbage to dispose of in the fourth dimension. Each of the five points was decorated with a black candle. Evidently she had extinguished them after she returned.
Barella looked at the candles. Candle making was Jamie's hobby. He said, "'This looks like Jamie's work. She's got a mould exactly like that one... with the wax runnels going down the sides. Though to my knowledge, she 's never made a black candle before."
"Maybe there 's something going on between them," I asked, "Have they been any thicker than usual? Maybe you've detected a conspiratorial air?"
"Jamie is crazy about Eugenia and they're always together. I can never tell when they're planning a stickup or talking about boys... the way they clam up and giggle when I enter a room."
I told him, "They do that deliberately to make older people feel uncomfortable."
Barella asked for a copy of the yellow pages and I dug one up for him. First he looked under masons. Then contractors, equipment and supplies. Finally he set the book down. "There' s no brickyards listed in the Hicksville area." He had known that before checking. Next he ran through the white pages. "There's no Scarsi either."
I told Barella, "I think he only works there. From Jeannie's talk, I got the impression it's fairly close."
Barella used the phone twice. The first call to Jamie confirmed his suspicions.
"She made the corpse fat candles," Then he noticed my expression. "She used goose fat." Barella hung up. "She says a corpse fat candle is a corpse fat candle whether the fat comes from a chicken, a goat or a man. They blended the fat with beeswax and lampblack. No, she doesn't know where the Brickyard is and she's never met Scarsi."
This time Barella dialled the eighth precinct. An industrial map revealed three masonry supply outlets and one brickyard.
"You wouldn't even know they were in business," said the desk sergeant. "They're open evening to dawn. Have you ever heard of crazier hours? The patrol cop says he's never seen anything trucked away. The same pallets of bricks have been sitting there for months. He thinks they're only for show."
Barella thanked the sergeant and turned to me. "I would say that is the place. Within easy walking distance for Jeannie and so obscure few people know about them. I wonder what their racket really is."
The lieutenant had me stop the Hackmobile in front of a late hours stationary store while he went in. He was gone only a few minutes. When he returned, he was carrying the paperback edition of the Necronomicon.
He explained, "I need some briefing in this black magic crap."
We got lost twice thanks mainly to Barella but eventually we did arrive at the brickyard. Scarsi gave an impression that he'd arrived from the old country fifteen minutes before we pulled up in front of his office. But of course it must have been longer than that. For one thing, he wore a button extolling the innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti. The suit he wore could have been described as bluebottle green ... it made me think of Gorgonzola. No doubt he had worn it back in Sicily during a previous century. His flesh had receded back onto his frame until it resembled a coat of paint' Three or four hairs stood in varying degrees of uprightness on his otherwise naked skull like badly driven nails in a ballroom floor.
He was arranging salami, provolone, tomatoes and lettuce onto a sundered loaf of Italian bread. A salt and pepper shaker, each large enough to powder a baby with stood within easy reach. A Diablo cigar smouldered sullenly in an ash tray emitting odours every bit as gruesome as a corpse fat candle, Scarsi did not look like a wizard, he looked like a coat tree.
He asked, before Barella could take out his credentials, "What's up, flatfoot?"
Something about the way Barella answered made me think that Scarsi would need every bit of magic he could summon if the lieutenant got him out alone.
"You're a wizard; tell us."
I stepped in quickly, if not to throw oil on troubled waters then at least Italian balm. "I'm Jeannie' s grandfather. Something has happened to her."
He was all attention. I went through the happenings again and concluded with, "You're responsible for having aroused her interest in magic. You are morally obligated to assist us."
He shook his head. "No, no... I did nothing to arouse her interest in magic. If you have an aptitude for it, it'll surface no matter what. But I do have a moral obligation; we were pals so to speak. She told me that she'd been watching the John Pickman show and that she found it compelling regardless of the fact that he is a fake." His voice was serious. "However, she may be in trouble -lots of it. Someone or something called her. That is why she disappeared."
Scarsi threw on a cap that looked disreputable at its best. He added, "We can't do anything here. Let us hope the pentacle she shaped is still undisturbed. I have a feeling we are going to need it" He groped around in a cabinet for some more black candles and put them in a bag. "Corpse fat candles are used only once so that the ones on her pentacle are useless unless you have a power failure."
The Hackmobile, otherwise known as the "Millennium Turkey", had suffered a flat during our conference. Scarsi gave us a demonstration of his thaumaturgical capabilities that did little to rouse my confidence in him as a magician. His right hand performed a mystical gesture and then he held his nose tightly and blew. The tire remained flat.
"What do we do now? " I asked.
"You reach into the trunk and put on the spare."
Two things kept me from breaking every speed regulation in the book. One: the "Turkey" rarely could be coaxed to go over forty miles an hour. Two: our house was so close that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to build up speed anyhow. As an added consideration, Barella was there with his book of tickets waiting to hand me one. All the fugs and muss was wasted. We tramped into the living room and Eugenia and Annette were clustered in front of the television absorbed in a grade B vampire flick.
"We saw Koo-thul-Chew," she told us.
Three gown men stood speechless with relief. Scarsi picked her up.
"Dear baby, you've probably been closer to hell than Nero, Sade and Rais put together. I want you to tell us everything that happened."
She balked. "Where's our sandwich? You promised."
The whole thought was so unreasonable that I imagined Scarsi was manipulating her. After all, Jeannie was safe now and he figured he'd may as well get a free sandwich out of it.
He explained, "'I was working on it when your grandfather and this gentleman walked in on me. We will take care of it right away if your grandfather has the magical ingredients. He looked at me.
In that respect I'm a bit of a magician too. It just happened that June had stocked the large white rectangle known as the refrigerator with a fresh supply of tasty cold cuts. Once in the kitchen, I demonstrated my prestidigatory prowess by lavishly sprinkling brownish granules from an opaque container into boiling water. This produced a delicious fluid known as "coffee". Barella forgot about the cottage cheese and dove in like a coal stoker on a locomotive.
Eugenia recited while we ate. "He looked like a jellyfish floating in air but the tendrils were thicker and they'd shorten or fuse into one another or they'd all disappear. Then he looked like a Frisbee with a hairy perimeter." Scarsi and Barella proved conclusively that eating and listening didn't interfere with one another. She went on, "The tendrils would reappear and he used them to swallow air with. You could see a doughnut shape rising up inside the tendrils and travel to his head. I think he had a vent system inside his head and he used the gases to move around with." Jeannie concluded with, "Suddenly he sank to the floor as if stricken and we both were back."
Scarsi grumbled, "It sounds as if he fainted."
The long silence was finally broken by Scarsi, who spoke in a dreamy voice.
"Once upon a time, there lived a writer named Howard Phillips Lovecraft who created a universe outside this one. Using great care and logic, he peopled it with creatures that could conceivably exist under the circumstances he invented."
"In his stories, degenerate cults or individuals, using magic, would open gateways to these creatures and admit one into our world ... usually with dire consequences to the callers. What Jeannie describes is suggestive of a sunless world with very little gravity."
I interrupted. "If that were the case, the creature could scarcely have been floating on air ... or swallowing it. Lack of gravity means lack of atmosphere . . air."
"I'm sure Jeannie is using the word 'air' in its generic sense, a gas of some sort. The thing could not be floating in a vacuum. I'll stick my neck out farther and suggest that this world doesn't rotate in an orbit but remains stationary. I base this reasoning on the structural peculiarity of Eugenia's Cthulhu."
"One: such a state of physical fluctuation precludes a bone structure. Two: the fact that it floats is indicative of a very low gravity. Mind you," he looked at me, "I didn't say 'no gravity', I said 'low gravity'.
"My guess that this planet is motionless is based on the apparent lack of wind which rotation would produce. Such a creature as fragile as it gives an impression of being, could not exist, much less evolve in an environment containing even a moderate breeze."
"In any kind of wind, it would not be able to exercise any control over its own actions. It would be blown about like a vapour. Such a means of locomotion as Eugenia implied, could not be used. It could not compete with undisciplined velocity as represented by winds.
"Its toughest physical component is probably a very fine envelope that holds it together. Very likely, it senses by a form of radar such as that used by bats. I could not even guess if it can distinguish colour.
"Because of its very weak physical structure, I think we can eliminate such things as buildings or machinery as appurtenances of its civilisation. It undoubtedly is intelligent.
"It should not remain nameless so let us christen it, as Jeannie suggested, Cthulhu is undoubtedly the one who found the Necronomicon she made disappear during an exercise in magic. He is undoubtedly curious about the origin of this object. If you conclude he is curious, then you will have to concede that he is intelligent. Curiosity is an intellectual component. A beast is not curious in an analytical sense.
"Cthulhu is probably attempting to discover more about what must be to him a staggering circumstance. And, incidentally, is in his own right, a very powerful wizard too."
"He must have become overwhelmed and lost consciousness when Jeannie and Annette materialised in front of him. This broke his control and Jeannie and Annette were able to return.
"Eugenia's Necronomicon has its own characteristics, peculiar to the world originating it. Cthulhu is using it in the same manner in which footprints can be followed back to their point of origin. It is up to us to erase this trail by retreiving that Necronomicon. Without it, he has no focal point for his enchantments and would not be able to locate our universe. And, it is imperative that he not locate and enter our world!"
Scarsi finally stopped. The sandwiches and coffee were demolished. It raised Scarsi's reputation as a magician because he proved conclusively that it was possible to eat twice his weight without losing his timing or a syllable while he ate.
Barella cleared his throat. "You think we're in danger, eh?"
"Not for a moment! All the danger is to Cthulhu. Imagine suddenly having to bear what would amount to hundreds of pounds of pressure, our normal gravity, pressing in on every inch of his body. If by some inconceivable means, he survived this awful pressure, he would be rent to pieces by the winds like tissue paper in a hurricane. I cannot permit it. The gateway must be closed before he attempts entry."
In the cellar, Scarsi continued his dissertation. "Jeannie's Necronomicon is on the other side of the pentangle." He pointed to the floor. "I'm going to go through and bring it back. The sooner the better."
Remembering the incident of the tire, I was skeptical about his success. Scarsi seemed confident enough and I guess that's the secret of the whole thing. He replaced Jeannie's candles with new ones. Barella lit them with his cigarette lighter. I'll admit to being curious as to why he carries one as he doesn't smoke. Annette ate up the discarded candles; evidently she was partial to goose fat.
Scarsi posed heroically inside the pentacle. With studied nonchalance, as if he had just refused the blindfold from the firing squad commander, he bent over and lighted another Diabalo cigar from a corpse fat candle. The stench made me wonder if the candles were all that was made from corpse fat.
"I'll be right back," Scarsi promised. And he vanished.
* * * * *
Djho hovered over the mysterious artifact. He was puzzled. There appeared to be a point of light and a dreadful odour emanating from it. The light became brighter and the stench stronger. Hastily he backed away. At a safe distance, he gulped fresh gasses into his system to flush out the dreadful odour. Suddenly, another of the demons stood before him. This one was larger than the two he had encountered before. It had appeared without being called.
Something smouldered and a fiery gleam came from the end of a tube it held in the smaller of its two spheres. The demon bent as if it were hinged and with the upper two of its appendages, effortlessly picked up the rectangle as if it were weightless. Djho had tried unsuccessfully to move it.
Abruptly, it was gone. The demon vanished and with it, as strangely as it had arrived, vanished one of the greatest mysteries of all time.
At a later date, he confided everything to Djk (pronounced Jack). Djk was one of his closest friends and a thaumaturgical associate. They communicated by intertwining tendrils.
Djk chided him. "I'm surprised at you. The answer is so obvious that it should havestruck you at once. You mistook natural markings of a repetitious pattern for an alphabet. The square object was actually the demon's egg."
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