As some of you might have run across over the past few days, I've been pondering a Call of Cthulhu
campaign set in the late 1970's New York City. It started with this....
Hey shoggoth, go shoggoth, soul shoggoth, go shoggoth
Hey shoggoth, go shoggoth, soul shoggoth, go shoggoth
He met Cthulhu down in old R'lyeh
Eating some brains on the street
It said, hey Joe,
wanna give me your soul?
Itchy gitchy f'htagn
Itchy gitchy f'htagn
Eldritch tentacles from beyond
Elder God Cthulhu
Voulez-vous manger avec moi ce soir?
Voulez-vous manger avec moi?
And that spiraled into this story, which while not hitting Lovecraft's existential horror or madness, still would provide a fund prop to get characters in the story involved in the plot. Like, if Daniel somehow gets a copy of it and seeks out the characters. Or if the characters find the hidden temple and read it.
Let me also preface this by stating I don't endorse drug use anymore than I endorse following Elder Gods into long forgotten blasphemous temples.
I write this in hopes that it is not to be my last confession, my next action my last action. I leave this in hopes if anyone comes looking for me, they know what I endured these past few months.
I should begin where it began, as I danced the night away in Studio 54, enjoying the summer night of July 20th, 1979. While I had ventured out with my friend John, he was after his own pursuits once we made it beyond the velvet rope, leaving me doing lines with what I assumed was an underage hustler by the back bar. He was cute, and I was pondering asking him home to my walk up in the West Village.
His name was Daniel, he said, as the snow made me feel the throbbing beat of LaBelle coming through the sound system like a second pulse. He stuck his little spoon under my nose and dragged me onto the floor among the other bodies dancing at 128 BPM, gender mattering little as we all became nothing more than flesh and pleasure.
“Come home with me?” he whispered in my ear. I smiled and opened my mouth to begin negotiations on his asking price when a hand roughly grabbed me from behind, pulling me away from my little blond bombshell.
I turned to face a darker complected man with bloodshot, sunken eyes and a nose that looked like he'd been doing lines nonstop for a week. “Alex Pickman?” the man wheezed at me, his breath smelling of the chum I worked with at the zoo. “Ebony Pharaoh wishes to speak with you.” I shuddered. Ebony Pharaoh was rumored to be one of the bigger fish in the drug trade. Given I was not in debt to my dealer, and in all honesty not even sure the guy I buy my stuff from worked for Ebony, I was at a loss as to why this guy would want me.
“Um, I'm busy,” I told the guy, trying to turn back to Daniel. I wondered how this guy got past the notoriously difficult doormen and why the hell the bouncers weren't over here to get rid of this guy. I wondered if his disgusting flesh was going to leave stains on my leisure suit. I wondered where Daniel was, as I realized he wasn't there when I did manage to get turned around. The creep squeezed my should hard and turned me back around.
“I said, 'Ebony Pharaoh wishes to speak with you',” he repeated, his hand hitting my pain threshold. “That was not a request. If you wish to resist, I will pick you up and carry you out of here.”
Seriously, where the hell were the bouncers? I looked around and noticed that no one in the club was paying attention to me or my friend. Like we didn't exist. The man smiled, showing off chipped and yellowed teeth, a few gaps showing towards the back. “People never see what they don't want to know about,” the man said, as if reading my mind. “Now come.”
Seeing no other choice, I followed the goon, wishing that the snow wasn't passing so past. Normally, the bumps would have had me going all night. Seems being ripped away and intimidated kills the buzz.
Outside the studio, a black limousine awaited us. Goon opened the door to the back and motioned for me to enter. When I hesitated, goon shoved me in face first then slammed the door. As I regained my bearing and managed to haul my ass up on the seat, I realized I was facing a rather large and intimidating black man with very very white teeth. His bearing spoke of power and privilege, even as a sinister smirk crossed his lips. His very manner spoke promises of cruelty and sensuality, depending on how the mood struck him. The snow might have been wearing off, but I couldn't help noticing the arousal Daniel had brought out of me was nothing compared to the draw I felt for this guy.
“Hey baby, what's your sign?” I asked without thinking about it.
My reward for my insolence was a sharp backhand to the cheek that knocked me into the blackened window. “The elder one,” the man replied, with a voice as smooth as Crisco. Something in that voice told me he wouldn't brook any more insolence on my part.
The man picked up a cigar, lit it with a wooden match, then continued to stare at me, sizing me up. I was half wondering if I wasn't about to be the next victim of some Son of Sam shit when he finally spoke again. “Alex Pickman. We meet at last.” He tapped his cigar in the ashtray. “I have need of you.”
“You have one hell of a way of showing it,” I replied, rubbing my swelling cheek.
He glared, although this time there was no slap coming. “Your dealer, who also works for me, tells me you work in the Central Park Zoo.”
“One of my clients has.... special needs. One of which I think you can help me with.”
I stared at him blankly. Yeah, I worked for the zoo. But I wasn't that high up the food chain. Most of what I did was prevent small children from trying to get in the cages and feed the animals after hours.
“Specifically, I have need of two of the penguins you currently have in residence.”
My eyes widened a bit. The penguins were a special display, brought in for the entertainment of the masses who had no idea exactly how bad the birds actually smell.
“A breeding pair to be precise. And if you get them and bring them to me, I will reward you handsomely. Refuse or fail me, and not even the fish in the East River will recognize you.”
“How am I supposed to get them to you?” I asked, my brain reeling a the thought of trying to get two of the smelliest creatures on the Earth out of a fairly secure area without anyone noticing.
“When you have them in your possession, meet me in the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Egyptian display. You must be there at midnight. You have 3 days.”
“But...how am I supposed to get into a locked museum with 2 noisy and stinky birds?” I sputtered.
“I will give you two invocations,” the man said. “To pass unseen, merely say 'Et non videbitis me'. To get the penguins to come with you, 'Sequêris me'.” Think you can remember those?”
I repeated the invocations, as the thundered through my mind like the disco beats had been what seemed like an eternity ago. There was no way I would forget them.
“Those only work under the cover of darkness when the stars are out,” the man said. “I shall see you within 3 days.” He motioned for the door.
I got out and dusted off as the limo accelerated down West 54th. I turned to re-enter the club, and the bouncers stopped me.
“What makes you think you're going in?” the beefy one said, glaring at me.
“Et non videbitis me,” I uttered. The man's face went blank for a moment, then he looked past me and went to the next person trying to get in. I walked back in to the Studio, where Sylvester was currently singing. I noticed again that people didn't seem to notice my prescence as I began to explore the confines of the area. I caught sight of Daniel by the back bar, by huimself, nursing a drink. I made my way across the floor and tapped his shoulder.
“Oh there you are!” he giggled, as he suddenly noticed my arrival. “That was a long bathroom trip!”
I laughed. “Sorry, sometimes it happens. You were saying, before I had to run?”
“I was going to ask if you wanted to come home with me,” Daniel said. “I live down in the Bowery.”
“It might be better if you come home with me,” I said, smiling. “I'm a bit closer.”
“I don't know. I was warned not to go home with strange men.”
Not feeling much for negotiating a trick, I instead tried out Ebony Pharaoh's second invocation. “Sequêris me.”
Daniel's eyes clouded over and he began to follow behind me as I walked out the door.
We had a night of delights before I sent him home the next morning and began plotting to get the penguins free.
* * *
I managed to liberate the breeding Emperor Penguins on the second night after my meeting with Ebony Pharaoh. I wish there was a more exciting story to tell about that in what will probably be my last confession, but I really just took my time doing the feeding and then used both invocations to get the two birds to follow me out of the park and to the museum. It wasn't that far of a wlk over to the museum, where I found that passing unnoticed seemed to also affect the locks of the doors. I made my way towards the Egyptian exhibit, where I tapped goon on his shoulder to break the spell.
He turned, and a few days had not improved his stench. “Follow me, Alex,” he wheezed, leading me to Ebony Pharaoh, who was standing in front of the Temple of Dendur. Only it looked... different. Whole. Not the ruin I remembered from the opening of the exhibit. Whatever strange Magic Ebony Pharaoh had given me had more to it than I thought possible.
“Ah Alex!” Ebony exclaimed, seemingly genuinely pleased to see me arrive with birds in tow. “Let me grab your friends and do what I must do with them in the tenple. When I return, you shall have your reward for such good and prompt service.”
There was something in those words that made me not want to trust him. “Why don't I join you, instead?” I asked.
“There are some things men of your stature aren't mean to know, Alex,” he replied, poisoned honey dripping from every syllable. “Trust me, it's better for you to remain here.”
An idea formed in my mind. “Ok. But if you're not back in 20 minutes, I'm coming in after you.”
Ebony smiled, “I should not be that long about my business.” With that, he and Goon caught the attention of the penguins and entered the temple. As soon as I thought the were out of sight, I again said “Et non videbitis me” and followed them in.
As I had seen from outside, the temple was no longer the ruin it had once been, as now it was nothing but dark and mouldy smelling. It also seemd to be following a decending angle, rather than the flat plain I remember from before. I walked as silently as I could, scared that they could hear me following them into darkness.
As a strange eldritch light began to illuminate the halls, I had a feeling I was no longer in New York. Or at least not in the New York I knew. Faint at first, I began to catch glimpses of a tableau of strange fishlike creatures in relief on the red walls that made me sick in the green light. As the light brightened further in, I caught sight of pillars made of what looking like squid holding the celieng up, with none of the pillars reaching at an angle any sane engineer would use. In fact, the whole thing resembled a nightmare as I entered a great hall. Here, the walls glowed red, with strange caterpillars producing more of the hideous eldritch light. Ahead of me, I could see Ebony and his good in front of a large altar with what appeared to be an framed oval of pure obsidian behind it. A large book sat on the altar. Figuring that being seen at this point would be a very bad idea, I crept as close as I dared and hid behind one of the tentacled pillars.
As I peered out, I heard Ebony's voice echoes out throught the great hall in a language that sounded much like the one I'd head some guy named Eddie use at some event at The Warlock Shop my friend John had dragged me to a few years back. Only when that guy Eddie talked like that, there was intensity, but not malice. When Ebony spoke them, I sensed a mix of both. And as I watched, my two penguin friends began to sqwack in terror as their tiny bodies trembled. As the tremors increased, the penguins began to grow before my eyes, flrsh ripping as they turned into 10 foot tall monstrosities with sores and gashes lining their bodies. One word from Ebony silenced them, even if they still trembled in terror. Ebony reached up, growing in size to match them somehow, and used his hand to pluck the penguin eyes out of their heads. He then turned to the book and read off another incantation, the language again burning into my brain as in the obsidian oval, snow covered white mountains began to form. As he finished his incantation, he herded the penguins into the picture and he and I and Goon watched as the penguins waddled off into that strange place. Ebony then turned to Goon.
“Your service is finished, old man.” Ebony began another chant, and I watched as Goo started collapssing in a pile of ichor and viscera and plasma in front of my eyes. Within a minute, he was nothing but a pile of festering goo seeping into the floor in front of the heretical altar.
And then Ebony caught my eyes. I should have known I couldn't hide from a being such as he, using magic he himself had taught me.
“And now you, Alex Pickman,” Ebony intoned, as his skin began to grow scales and his feet became like hooves, “I offer you your reward, here in one of the temples to Alhazred's madness and prophecy. With the Necronomicon here as my witness, know this, Alex Pickman. Among your tribe, a new plague lurks within your blood, and fear of it and of your tribe shall lead to more chaos and suffering. As your reward, I spare you from that fate of dying by inches over the course of years, and instead give you a shorter death of dehydradtion and starvation here in a place that no longer really exists.”
He cackled at me, then invoked aonther set of burning words before vanishing out of existance.
Terror ringing through my veins, I headed towards the exit, only to find no place where I had entered this temple of profanity. I looked at the portal the penguins had walked into, only to find it back to being black obsidian. The goo on the floor that had been Goon was my only company.
And now, here in this place, after however many hours of days of trapped, I write this testimony in my blood as best as I can on the blank leathery pages in the back of what Ebony called the Necronomicon. I may yet die down here, and I can only hope someone finds my body and avenges me on Ebony Pharaoh. But before I surrender to that last gasp, I shall try one last thing. I shall repeat the words that burned my brain and try to enter that white waste where the penguins went in the great hopes that escape and rescue might be found within the mountains. Daniel, if you ever see this, forgive me. God, if you exist, forgive me.