Crouching Shoggoth, Hidden Penguin
My boots started to sink into the soft ground. I stopped suddenly, hoping nothing was close enough to hear. Squish squish. I moved further down into the cavern just barely visible ahead. A white shape loomed up all of a sudden. Heart pounding, I stepped back, lantern swinging. Flapping wings. Another screeching penguin flaps by in the darkness. A polished stone wall rears up just ahead, disappearing into the heights of the cavern. Another step forward, and I’m in a sort of arch, a tunnel of sorts between two buildings. Older than old, more ancient than ancient, yet nearly untouched by time. Towers, spires, pyramids glimpsed, vanishing in the distance.
This time, my only warning was a soft rustle, a scraping of skin and scales on stony ground. My mind slowed. A feeling of dread, of evil turned my legs into jelly. I slowly turned my head, knowing I did not want to see, but not being able to help it. Twice again the height of a man, and many times his width, the terror oozing its way towards me was beyond description. Fear turned my body into stone, and in moments this huge bulbous mass of teeth and eyes had me. I opened my mouth to scream.
* * *
“Amusement park?” I repeated. “Fair. Festival. Rides, carnival, merry-go-round.” He was gesturing animatedly, a cigar clutched in his left hand. “And this arctic-mountain ride?” Arik takes a deep puff from his cigar. “An ancient city, hundreds of millions of years old, buried under the ice in Antarctica. You’re an explorer, the ship runs aground, you explore a bit and you discover this relic of the past.” Arik Metzger is the cheerfully energetic founder of the Lovecraft Festival Group, (HPL-RPG) an organization that pays homage to horror author HP Lovecraft, with annual events themed from his writings. It’s a sunny afternoon, and we are sitting in an outdoor café near the seaport. He introduces me to his partner, Jimmy Branagh, the chief architect of this Antarctic ride, and longtime resident of New Babbage. The Lovecraft Festival Park is on Valetova Island, and has just opened (August 19th-25th) for a weeklong glory homage to HP Lovecraft. With a mischievous smile, Jimmy describes his pièce de résistance, the tour through the subterranean, subfreezing city of the Elder Things: a page taken right out of Lovecrafts At the Mountains of Madness. The courageous explorer is armed with nothing but a kerosene lantern to keep the darkness at bay, searching for lost comrades while avoiding feral penguins and shoggoths. “What exactly is this…shoggoth?” I ask. Jimmy grins wickedly. “Hell Incarnate.”
* * *
Three months later, on August 19th, The Lovecraft Faire readies for opening. It starts simply enough, although the main fairgrounds may strike you as a bit atypical. Charred and disfigured bodies in the street outside the decrepit insane asylum are the least noteworthy here.
The shops are selling strange artifacts – carnivorous plants proliferate, and enough cemeteries, tombstones and crypts to make a zombie blush. There’s a ferris wheel, a bigtop and other festival staples – all with Lovecrafts macabre twist.
Eventually, I find myself hunting through Jimmy’s wonder world. Within moments of being set upon by the terrifying shoggoths, the beasts disappear, allowing me to slowly catch my breath and marvel at the haunting beauty of this very alien city. I wander past shimmering portals and bizarre contraptions, and more penguins than I can count. Twice more I am attacked by the shoggoths, each time more terrifying than the last. Finally, I make my way back to the ladder, back to base camp and out of this freezing hellhole. Shivering with far more than cold, I am accosted by a grinning urchin waiting by the plane to take us back to the main fairgrounds.
“Didja like it?” Jimmy asks.
I smile back.
SirJedHerbit is the founder of Herbit Creations in Second Life. Arik Metzger (Arikthered) is the founder of HPL-RPG and is a member of Innsmouth Jimmy Brannagh is an urchin of New Babbage and one of the architects of this years At The Mountains of Madness ‘ride’ JubJub Forder is the creator of the “animatronic” Wandering Albino Penguins Anda (AnnieDae) built the Shoggoths Rosalie Fleury is our representative from the Autism National Committee (AutCom), which promotes and raises money for Autism awareness.
Thank you to all that helped make this event happen!