anthology, Broken Eye Books, cosmic horror, Cthulhu, horror, HP Lovecraft, Lovecraftian, Nyarlahotep, science fiction, Scott Gable, The Call of Cthulhu, The Five Hundred Days of Ms. Between, time travel, Tomorrow's Cthulhu, transhumanism
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
If the above quote (from HP Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”) is correct, then the dread entity known as Google is destined to “open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
Enter Tomorrow’s Cthulhu. The new anthology features my short story “The Five Hundred Days of Ms. Between” and many more. The book’s blurb says:
Super science. Madness. Transhumanism.
This is the dawn of posthumanity. Some things can’t be unlearned.
Gleaming labs whir with the hum of servers as scientists unravel the secrets of the universe. But as we peel away mysteries, the universe glances back at us. Even now, terrors rise from the Mariana Trench and drift down from the stars. Scientists are disappearing—or worse. Experiments take on minds of their own. Some fight back against the unknown, some give in, some are destroyed, and still others are becoming… more.
You can purchase the Kindle edition of the anthology right now. You can also pre-order soft cover and hardcover editions of the book over at Broken Eye Books. Bellow is teaser of my story. It’s my first crack at a time travel story . . . or is it?
“The Five Hundred Days of Ms. Between” (excerpt)
by Joshua Alan Doetsch
Can’t feel my legs. So I slither along the ground, toward the audient window, humming that song. I hear the wet-velcro rip of the thousand hands rending flesh. I see her through the window. That mocking grin.
The first thing Ms. Between said to me was, “I’m a mad woman with a lab.” The second thing she said was that I could leave at any time with no obligation. The third thing was that there could be no questions—questions would cause her and her offer to evaporate. I believed absolutely in that, so she handed me the murder weapon.
No, wait. That’s not the beginning. I don’t remember exactly when it began—some time after Ms. Between came out of our touchscreens. Everyone has seen her Tech Talk videos and all their terrible wonder. Yet nobody knows where she broadcasts from. No one ever meets Ms. Between.
But I did.
She provided no name, only an address. She said he had done a bad thing. Said he deserved it. I swallowed all of my wriggling questions.
The Nameless Man looked old and kindly. He had one eye and smiled as he slept. Oh how I wish he had tossed with moaning guilt. Everyone sleeps more soundly since the symbionts.
Hesitating, I stood over the Nameless Man’s bed for an hour. With the speed of a carnivorous plant, I took out the dagger. It was carved from bone and coated in lacquer that gave it a greenish hue. I raised the dagger over my head and held it there, squeezing the leather-wrapped handle. Another half hour. My arm ached. I bit my inner cheek and tasted copper. Ms. Between had said I could leave at any time.
No, Val, Lailah pleaded from inside me. You must not do this.
Lailah is my dedicated symbiont.
“Have to,” I rasped.
The Nameless Man startled. His eye opened. I brought the dagger down. I’ve never been good with knives. It took many tries. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry,” I said until I was nothing but tears and snot.
“Lailah,” I said when it was over, “now.”
Her coils tightened in my gut. No, Val. Don’t make me. Don’t make me.
“We have to, Lailah. Please.”
I felt her sigh and shiver. Her tendril came out the port in my wrist to snake down into the Nameless Man’s mouth. His symbiont would not live long without him, but it might have stored recent memories in synaptic backup. Through Lailah, I felt its distress. Not a dedicated symbiont, not even a thought interface. How lonely. Just a silent worm. But I don’t judge. I recognize my privilege.
As Lailah devoured the other symbiont, I put the wet dagger into a plastic bag. Ms. Between had handed it to me just before telling me the rules of time travel. It was preposterous. Time travel couldn’t exist.
I committed murder on the off chance that I was wrong.