For All Who Have Known Unnamable Cosmic Horror
Mike looked nervously at the other three people in the room. One was in the corner, doing something he couldn’t quite make out. One seemed to be playing an elaborate game involving his thumbs in between occasionally glancing at him. The third sat stock still in her small plastic chair. She had been sitting there since Mike had arrived, about twenty minutes early.
This wasn’t what he had expected. Of course, he had no idea what he should have expected; the newspaper ad that brought him here had been very brief. “Support Group Meeting Thursday For All Who Have Known Unnamable Cosmic Horror. 7:30, Wednesday Rosamund J Pike Community Center, room 302. Please Be Human.”. Nothing more. Still, it had been enough.
The door swung open and two women entered. One seemed very confident and open. She surveyed the room from the door while the other walked quickly to her seat, crossing her arms and legs as if to contract.
“Raymond, what are you doing?” the confident one asked, sitting next to the small one.
The man in the corner turned around and Mike saw the object he had been using was a small metal protractor. “Just checking.”
“I think now might be a good time to try some of the coping techniques the group has been talking about…”
“As soon as I’m sure they all add up.” He pulled a chair closer to him and stood up on it to reach the corner at the top. The other five people in the room watched, disinterestedly.
“You can’t measure the angles of every room you go into…”
“No, but I’m supposed to feel extra safe in this one, aren’t I?”
The woman paused. “…All right, carry on. I see we have a new face this week!”
Mike had not been looking forward to this moment, but he met it boldly. “Um… hi. I’m Mike.”
The others took stock of him. He was dressed in loose-fitting clothes that looked like they had been worn for at least a few days. He had a stubbly beard that was obviously the result of neglect rather than fashion sense and but very sharp, piercing eyes that almost seemed to look past you rather than at you.
“Welcome! My name’s Jenny. I’m the head moderator of this group.”
“And it’s really a group for people who’ve encountered…” Mike paused. “You know… what it said in the ad?”
“That’s right,” Jenny answered. “I formed this group after my own experience with…” The confident, pleasant affect dropped for a moment.
“You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to,” the woman next to her reminded her, gently touching her arm.
“No, it’s important for me to not to let myself compartmentalize it. I started this group after being the only survivor of the Raz-Kingman expedition.”
Mike’s eyes widened. “You don’t mean the ill-fated Raz-Kingman expedition? But the papers said-“
“What they wanted to believe. Poor fools thought it was a temple… Only I understood what it really was… Anyway, when I got back, I spent a year or so in an institution muttering in the Ancient Language. But I slowly started getting better. Mostly thanks to the support from my lovely wife, Rita.”
Rita smiled and nodded. “I deciphered some drawings she made in her own blood on the walls. She doesn’t remember that, of course, but it was what lead to my own… horrible fate.” Her voice was softer and seemed less used than Jenny’s.
“I’m so sorry…” Jenny whispered.
“It wasn’t your fault. It only used your hands for Its purposes.”
She nodded. “Thank you, sweetie. Anyway. the two of us having each other just meant so much to our recovery that… well, we had to try and provide that for others. And that’s how this space came about. I do the talking. She does the keeping me together.”
“It’s Euclidean!” Raymond proudly announced, dropping into a chair. “It’s just as perpendicular as last week! Assuming those are lines, that is…” He twisted around and squinted suspiciously at the wall.
“Hey,” said the man sitting next to Raymond, his nervous expression suddenly becoming a broad, happy smile. “You know what I always tell myself when I’m afraid a space might be Non-Euclidean? I say, this again? Are You-Kiddean? Get it? Kiddean? Clidean?”
“Pretty good, Jake,” said Raymond blankly. Jake laughed uproariously at his own joke.
“We like to encourage laughter around here,” Jenny explained, hurriedly. “It works especially well for Jake. But if you’d prefer not to have anyone joke about your… experience, well, of course we’ll respect that.”
“You don’t have to explain everything to him,” said Rita. “He’s clearly still got some memories…”
“I just want him to be comfortable…”
Mike nodded at Jake. “Humor helps, eh?”
“Well, you know what they say. Humanity’s knowledge is a pitiful fragment of dust buffeted by a sea of the unknown and unknowable that cares nothing for him!”
He burst out laughing again while the rest of the room remained silent. For a second, the laughter became strangely high pitched and frenetic before he nervously caught himself and quieted down.
“That was the bad kind of absurdity, wasn’t it?” he said, embarrassed.
“This is a safe space,” Jenny reassured him. “It’s okay.”
Mike turned towards the last member of the group, a younger woman dressed in jeans and a hoodie, who still hadn’t moved at all. “What about you? What’s your name?”
Her eyes locked with his. “In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness, you will see it.”
Mike looked towards Rita and Jenny. “Did I… say something wrong?”
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” said Jenny, shaking her head. “That’s all she says.”
“Which is fine,” Rita added. “Everyone moves at their own pace.”
“We think her name is Advocate Memorial,” Jenny finished. “But that might just be the name of the hospital she got the bracelet from. She lives with us for now.”
“We dropped her off here while we got dinner.”
“In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness, you will see it.”
“We appreciate your contributions, Advocate,” said Jenny, smiling.
“You know,” Jake started, “that reminds me of a joke! Why do they call eternal nothingness the void? Because you should a-void it!”
As he was starting to laugh, Advocate cut him off. “In the Darkness you will see it. In the Silence you will hear it. ”
Jenny smiled and pumped her fists. “Advocate! You’re reordering your words now??”
Advocate remained perfectly still. “In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness you will see it..”
“That’s such a breakthrough! You should be proud of yourself!”
“In the Silence you will hear it-“
“That’s the kind of thing that group therapy really facilitates,” Jenny explained as she finished. “Which is why we’re happy to have you. Anyway, do we wanna start?”
At those words, Raymond suddenly turned his attention from the room. “Wait, wait, wait. How do we know he’s not… one of them?”
“Raymond, we’ve talked about this,” Jenny said, sternly. “In this group, we ask each other to trust and support each other. We can’t just assume everyone is… one of them.”
“If you’re human the way you claim,” Raymond said, clapping his hands together and leaning towards Mike, “you won’t mind answering a few questions. First, name at least three foods you’ve eaten.”
“You don’t have to answer anything” Jenny assured him.
“No, it’s fine,” said Mike, shifting his weight in the chair again. “I like spaghetti… grilled cheese… and… microwave burritos. I’ve been eating a lot of those lately actually. I haven’t had much energy to cook.”
Raymond nodded. “I like spaghetti too. Do you like yours rare, medium or well done?”
“Would it help if I told you my story?”
Jenny smiled. “Would it help you?”
“I’ll just… I’ll tell it. It’ll be good. If you’re still suspicious after I’m done, then, we’ll figure that out.”
Raymond nodded and leaned back in his chair. “I’ll listen.”
“Nothing like a good story to take your mind off the condition of manki- I mean, relax,” said Jake, and giggled nervously.
“All right,” said Jenny, slightly reluctant. “After this we’ll do highs and lows.”
“In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness you will see it,” Advocate agreed.
“Thank you. It all started when I was researching a prehistoric cult that archaeologists had found evidence of in New England. It was quite an unusual situation… the new artifacts they were digging up seemed to have no relation to either the art or the mythology associated with the area. The central image was a snake. But when I got to the town, the archaeologists I was going to meet were gone. And the town was full. I was told there was a mushroom gathering festival…”
“Oh, it’s a fungoid story…” groaned Raymond, rolling his eyes.
Mike looked at Raymond, puzzled. “I’m sorry… what?”
“Oh sorry to skip ahead. Was the monstrosity fungoid? How fungoid was it? Pretty fungoid, right? Ugh, what a cliche!”
“Raymond, are you saying there aren’t people who are driven mad by fungoid monstrosities?” Jenny said, glaring slightly.
“Well… sure. But… it’s just such a stereotype! I mean… what’s next? A ritual of blood sacrifice older than history itself?”
“There’s a reason stereotypes are stereotypes,” Rita added. “I’ve met a lot of great people whose first experience with unnamable horror was fungoid.”
“Also you shouldn’t interrupt” added Jake. “It’s spore taste!” He laughed.
“Fine. Go ahead.”
“Anyway, there were mushrooms all over the town. Odd glowing ones. And I started to notice-“
“Did you get it? Spore taste?”
“It was good. Anyway, I also noticed they all wore gloves. At least on the left hand. And then, that night, I heard chanting.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Be quiet, Raymond!” Jenny snapped.
“It woke me from a nightmare. I went out and there were mushrooms everywhere… they glowed red, and they led me towards the forest. And the chanting. And I saw the people, shedding their clothes and revealing bodies covered in black mold. Their flesh had been eaten away and replaced with something.. else. As they gathered around, they offered the blood of my colleagues to… it wasn’t a snake. Maybe they thought it was a snake but it was just one tendril of a massive, fungoid…”
He curled into a ball and started to breathe heavily.
“Well, I thought that was a perfectly wonderful story,” said Jenny. “Thank you for sharing.”
Raymond crossed his arms. “More like thank you for lying…”
“You’ll have to excuse him,” Jenny explained. “He had a ] bad experience with a person he’d been married to for six years turning out to be… well, you know. Obviously, he’s a little sensitive around the topic.”
“I’m getting better,” Raymond muttered, defensively. “I called my sister yesterday.”
Jenny beamed. “That’s wonderful! That’s been a goal of yours for months!”
“I wasn’t brave enough to test her though, so I still don’t know if she’s… But we did talk. It was nice. I was glad we talked. I liked hearing her voice. Or… something like it, anyway.”
“I guess we’re doing highs and lows now. Highs and lows are anything particular good or bad that’s happened to you recently!”
“I have a low,” said Jake. “One of my friends keeps trying to tell me that accepting Jesus will solve all my problems. I tried to tell her that the fantasy that good can be as strong as evil in the world will perish with our useless race, but I think she didn’t get it…” He chortled, lowly.
“Do you have any highs, Advocate?”
“In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness you will see it,” said Advocate.
Raymond leaned forward. “So, Mike, where’d you meet that archaeologist friend of yours?”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “Raymond…”
“It’s fine. It was on a dig she did in Florida. We’ve met a few times.”
“You do digs?”
“I’m a professor of prehistoric studies, Columbia University.”
“How’d you get to New England?”
“I have a high,” Rita interrupted. “I used Google Maps to go to a cafe to meet a friend. It’s the first time I’ve used a map since…” She trailed off.
“You’re so amazing, sweetie…”
“What color is your car?”
“Are there any more-“
“What’s the make?”
“Are there any-“
“Where’s your hometown?”
“Any more highs or-”
“In the Silence you will hear-“
“LOWS. Are there any more highs or lows?”
There was a brief silence, during which Jenny catching her breath was very noticeable.
“I have a joke…” offered Jake.
“I have a question,” Mike said.
“Let’s go with the question first,” said Jenny, nodding to Mike.
“I just wanted to ask… is this actually helpful?”
There was another silence. This one was absolute.
“What do you mean?” asked Jenny.
Mike shrugged. “Just… before I commit myself to coming here, I need to know if it’s really helpful. Because it doesn’t exactly look that way…”
“What do you mean?” Jenny asked, flatly.
“I mean, no offense, but just talking for a moment about how it looks… I mean, you keep talking about how coming together helps you all rebuild your life or whatever, but how many of you have done that at all? You’re all rejoicing over managing the most basic things in the world. One of you does nothing but tells jokes and can’t even do that really, one of you is so paranoid he carries his own protractor, and one of you…”
“In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness you will see it.”
“Yeah. Again, just being totally honest here, what makes you think any of this is helping? It seems more like you’re all just coming together every few days and wallowing in your own crazy together.”
“Would it be better to wallow in it alone?” asked Jenny, in a very small voice.
“Okay, that last comment was a little… mean spirited. I’m sorry for that. I’m just saying, maybe you should be getting help from someone who can actually help you rather than just coming together every week and confirming that you’re all still sad. You know?”
Jenny bit her lip. “I understand your concern.”
“There’s no need to be sad, everyone!” said Jake. “I’ll tell a joke! How many undead horrors does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None! Undead horrors proliferate in the darkness! Get it?”
“Not the time, Jake,” said Jenny.
“I’ll take this one,” said Rita. She turned towards Mike. “I understand your concern,” she began. “I understand it, but you’re wrong. You’re wrong because we can help each other. We can provide something for each other than no one else can. Understanding. We understand each other. We know why we react the way we do. And we all need that because even the smartest doctors and the nicest friends can’t do that. If they did, they’d be us.”
“So where’s all this progress you’re supposedly helping each other make?” Mike sneered, leaning forward aggressively.
“You’ve seen it. Do we look like the lucky ignorant? Maybe not. But are our lives better than they were last week? Last month? Last year? Yes. If you can’t see that, maybe this isn’t the place for you.”
“You’re kicking me out? All I was saying was-“
“She’s not kicking you out.” Jenny interrupted. “I’m kicking you out. Unless you apologize now and commit to some serious changes in behavior.”
“I was just being hones-“
“Hey, Mike,” Raymond interrupted. “Can I ask you one more question?”
Mike rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure.”
“That archaeologist you mentioned. Where’d you meet?”
“We went to college together. Are you done?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
Collectively, the room sighed in understanding and relief.
“What’s wrong?” Mike asked, suddenly suspicious. The others in the group refused to meet his eyes. “What’s with all of you?”
“The first time you said it was on a dig,” Jenny explained.
Mike’s expression dropped. “Oh.”
“I’m sure you’ll understand that entering this space under false pretenses is a violation of our rules.” She picked her backpack up from behind the chair and opened it.
“I care nothing for your rules.” As Mike spoke, the voice coming out of him started to sound less human and to have less and less to do with the motion of his lips. “Your supposedly safe spaces will avail you nothing. You have seen too much to live like the other sheep before their slaughter. Only we can help you now. Accept us. Become us. Walk as we guide you. Talk as we guide you. Only then will you know-“
“As head of this space, I am authorized to instigate disciplinary actions against those who violate our rules.”
She removed the pistol from the backpack and discharged it three times into Mike’s chest.
Mike staggered, then fell back on the ground, browned blood and a foamy yellow substance oozing out of the holes in his body. Mike had been dead for some time. Now, his body was useless to the thing he had surrendered to.
Jake smiled. “Well, I guess this wasn’t the group for him, but it was worth giving it a shot!”
“You did that one last time,” said Rita.
Jenny put away the gun. “Maybe we should skip to closing thoughts?”
“In the Silence you will hear it. In the Darkness you will see it.”
“Sounds like a good note to close on. Wanna go hang out or something?”
Rita nodded. “Sounds good. Despite this, Raymond, you still need to trust people more…”
“I know, I know. Just… ” He gestured vaguely at the oozing body on the floor, then put on his coat.
Together, the five walked out into the treacherous night.
My name is Lillie Franks. I am a writer and playwright from Chicago. “For All Who Have Known UnnamableCosmic Horror” is a Lovecraft pastiche set in a support group for characters who have been driven mad by cosmic horrors