"Do you have a Lovecraftian story of humor you want to publish in an anthology?" said my friend Scott Elliott. Scott's friend and publisher of anthologies, Alex Shvartsman of UFO Publishing was short on stories for his anthology. He posted a call on Facebook: "My invited authors delivered shorter stories than I anticipated and I still have room for a couple more, but the turnaround time is really short. I'm looking for Lovecraftian humor stories for THE CACKLE OF CTHULHU anthology." And I said, "Oh, I wish! Thank you for thinking of me. No time to quickly write up something." Then I thought about it and said, "Unless...do you think I should buckle up and write up something? I could. I read all of Lovecraft..." and then I thought, "Fuck it. I'll do it. Just for fun."
I wrote it in three days, in the evenings, after writing the chapter outline for ZHANNA. The deadline was December 31st. Scott graciously offered his time and edited it for me, and voila, I've sent it off, the very first story I've ever submitted anywhere, and of course I got my very first rejection, which was so funny and so true, I fell off my ball reading it (Alex said it was totally cool to share it with you guys, as I said you'd get a good laugh out of it):
Thanks for the chance to read this story. Unfortunately it isn't a fit for The Cackle of Cthulhu and I will have to pass.
I thought the story was quite good and wildly imaginative, and the voice reminded me a little of Jonas Jonasson's (whose work I highly recommend if you haven't read him.) However, I would not in any way shape or form consider this to be funny. Not even as dark humor. Sure, the image of Cthulhu on a tricycle is amusing, but between the attempted abortion, devouring cockroaches and cats, and finally eating its mother, this was probably the darkest story I've read in a while. You should definitely be seeking to place this with the horror and dark fantasy markets, but I'm not the right editor for it.
Sorry about the bad news, and good luck with your writing projects in 2017!
Since then we've spent close to an hour chatting with Alex, and I want to go to New York and meet and chat some more, and as a result of this whole thing, you get to read the story here, and I will also add it to my Short Story Collection. Which is growing. One day, when there are enough stories, I will publish it as a book. Well then, here you go.
Cthulhu on a Tricycle
A Short Story by Ksenia Anske
Cthulhu looked three years old, and he was riding a tricycle.
Exactly three months ago, on a sunny April morning, his mother Bobbie Bungey had a strange cosmic dream before she woke up pregnant with a rapidly growing fetus in her belly. However it got there, she had no idea. The last time she had sexual relations was in January at her cousin’s wedding with an inebriated individual by the name of Franky Frocatlev, whose face she couldn’t remember (never mind how she met him or where he went since).
She tried getting rid of the fetus by taking a very hot bath and banging on her abdomen with both fists. When that didn’t work, she tried suctioning it out with an inverted vacuum hose. No luck. Finally, she jumped off the roof of her loathsome unpainted wooden house that she had inherited from her long-dead parents. To her immense disappointment, instead of stalling the growth process, she only accelerated it, and upon landing on the bed of green, slimy vines below, with a stupendous cry and an unbearable pain in her pelvis, she ejected a hideous creature that plopped on the ground and with a rubbery squeak proceeded crawling to the pond where it dunked its octopus-like head and took great gulps of stale, cloudy water. At the sight of this horror, poor Bobbie fainted. When she came to, the sun has set, and the baby was gone.
She found it in the kitchen, eating something looking suspiciously like a cockroach. It didn’t exactly chew it; it simply slurped it up between the many wriggling feelers that comprised its face. While she stood in the door, holding on to the jamb for dear life and contemplating what to do next, the baby opened the fridge, pulled out a styrofoam tray full of chicken breasts, ripped open the plastic wrap with one sharp claw, and happily devoured the contents, then mopped up the juice on the floor by sticking its face to the linoleum and swishing it around in circles, snuffling in content. Bobbie worked hard on keeping the contents of her stomach down, then made herself turn the thing over. It felt cold and scaly to touch.
“It’s a boy,” she said. She’d forgotten she had a voice.
“Cthulhu fhtagn,” the boy squeaked in response, and burped. A foul stench of putrefaction washed over Bobbie’s face. No matter. She had been through worse before, when Dana Anne locked her up in the mortuary and turned off the light, and she had to grope her way out, bumping into naked corpses and sinking her hands into the hollows and cavities of their stiffened flesh.
Holding Cthulhu at a safe distance, she washed him, wrapped him in a blanket, and put him to sleep, and for the next three months, after quitting her nursing school on the pretext of uterine cancer, which was not far from the truth, fed him raw meat in increasing quantities, all the while watching with astonishment the process of his rapid maturation. What normal babies took a year to do, Cthulhu mastered in days. Today he was three months old, though he looked all three years, and on the last of her savings Bobbie bought him a tricycle to keep him from chasing Jenkin, the fat family cat she also inherited from her long-dead parents, which, so far, had miraculously managed to escape Cthulhu’s claws, unlike the rats, the squirrels and the birds in the backyard.
Jenkin had seem to sense at once that the baby was evil. His fur stood on end the morning he returned to the house. He slunk into the bedroom, hopped on the bed and hissed at the ugly, stinky thing that prominently occupied his pillow. Cthulhu clearly didn’t appreciate such a rude awakening and reached for Jenkin’s tail just as Jenkin snapped his jaws around Cthulhu’s wrist. The noise that escaped the baby’s throat caused Bobbie’s heart to implode and her stomach turn a full three hundred and sixty degrees in an instant. By the time she reached the bedroom, hastily wrapped in a robe, her hair dripping, her feet leaving puddles of sudsy water on the creaky parquet, Cthulhu victoriously held Jenkin in one fist, dangling him upside down by the tail. It was a game to him, and the cat’s pitiful cries were discordant against the sound of Cthulhu’s inhuman cackling. Bobbie had no choice but to watch the feelers close around Jenkin’s head, then his fat furry body, and then the paws trying to claw their way out in Jenkin’s feeble attempt to preserve his feline dignity and his short, comfortable life. The last to go was the tail: Cthulhu slurped it up like a long spaghetti, and when his dark, beady eyes shifted to Bobbie and took her in, she didn’t like the hungry gleam in them. Bobbie took a step backward, at which Cthulhu laughed so hard his scaly skin bristled, his feelers smacked, and in a jet of fetid, gooey drool, he disgorged the poor creature, half-alive with fright, right at Bobbie’s feet. Then he slid off the bed and crept on all fours to the kitchen, without a backward glance.
Since this unfortunate incident, Jenkin’s continued presence could only be attributed to the food and perhaps a need for revenge. Cthulhu chased him lazily and without much vigor, as he preferred smaller animals that didn’t require him to stretch his mouth quite so, but Jenkin calculated his every approach, teasing the hideous offspring and jumping out of reach at the last possible moment. Jenkin’s erratic behavior and acute distress roused the neighborhood cats to the danger lurking in Bobbie’s house. They congregated on the walls, peering in from the height of eight feet at the lumbering, burbling oddity that took its pleasure in eating rats and afterward splashing in the muddy pond waters.
No toys interested Cthulhu; they always ended up in a heap of chewed up wood and broken plastic. The tricycle, however, was a stroke of genius. Bobbie has noticed that circular motion has mesmerized the boy, in particular, anything spinning. He watched her twirl the spoon in her coffee, whisk the eggs, wipe the table in large, energetic circles, and when she peered closer at him, she thought she saw in his dark, brooding eyes the mighty eddying of the cosmos itself. The illusion lasted perhaps a fraction of a blink. It was enough. It gave her an idea.
The moment Cthulhu laid his eyes on the tricycle, he was on top of it and pedaling as though he’s been doing it all his life. The result of this innocent purchase was unpredictable and escalated rapidly in the next twenty-four minutes.
Pale and trembling with both horror and excitement, Bobbie retreated from the boy happily riding around and around the backyard to her car, where she plopped in a seat with a stifled sigh and for some time stared at her ghastly reflection in the rearview mirror. She wiped the cold sweat from her brow, and nodded with the determination steeled by three months of suffering and many sleepless nights. She looked awful. She had lost twenty pounds, though in the back of her mind it made her deliriously happy. What wouldn’t she give to see the look on Dana Anne’s face! Alas. Her friends long ceased trying to reach her over the telephone, and she shopped at night to avoid bumping into anyone who might question her: she didn’t have the answers. Today, she emptied the last of her savings account, and tomorrow she faced either starving while watching Cthulhu devour the rest of the food, or abandoning him, her first and only baby. Her hands were shaking and her eyes were wet, but she felt brave, and that was good. She turned the key in the ignition, let the car idle. She could do this. She knew she could.
Cthulhu stopped and stared at her through the windshield. Above him, on the thick wooden fence the cats sat motionless in a furry tableau. Bobbie waved to him weakly, and he continued riding around, each time coming closer to the car, until he finally stopped by the driver’s door and said the only words that he has uttered since birth.
“Mommy is here,” said Bobbie with the voice she didn’t know she owned. “My little twinkie wants something?”
“All right. No need to be so impatient. Mommy is coming in a moment, sweetie pie.”
The blow to the door was such that it shook the car, briefly lifting it off the ground. Bobbie startled; her heart pounded fiercely. She had neglected to bring any kind of a weapon, even a kitchen knife was better than nothing, but now it was too late. The strong, sharp claw has wrenched the door open, and the awful octopus-head was inches away from her heaving chest. The feelers writhed and tangled into a pulsing, undulating cluster, and with rising horror Bobbie surmised what her boy was demanding of her.
“Mommy will give you chicken, babycakes! Would you like some chicken?”
If it was possible to name that which was borne on Cthulhu’s face as an expression, then it was an expression of disgust accompanied with hungry gulping noises. Bobbie regretted her decision for the next eighteen minutes. She had no time to think; her conscience had taken a hike. She pushed the rubbery body off the tricycle, sprang out of the car, picked up creeping Jenkin off the ground and with a clumsy shove threw him at Cthulhu’s face. On instinct the hissing mouth and the extended claws clamped fast to the tentacles, and it seemed to Bobbie a victory. She was wrong, of course, and she should’ve known better. In a sickening wriggle of noisome feelers, first Jenkin’s head disappeared, then his body, then his paws. The last to go was the tail, and Bobbie knew this time Jenkin was gone for good.
She didn’t remember how she got back in the car. She sat staring-it was a sight to behold.
It seemed as though the entire feline population of the neighborhood has launched an attack on the hateful monster who ate their beloved Jenkin. Like delirious fiends they launched at him in a screeching, hissing mass of fur and limbs, the shrill cacophony of their mewling voices raising hairs on Bobbie’s neck and forearms. She dimly heard the neighborhood dogs join in on the madness, yowling and barking, and she thought them stupid, just making noise, when the cats were the smart ones, going in for the kill.
Cthulhu laboriously spun around to greet the multitude of his adversaries. The thick rubbery appendages on his back spread out into a pair of bat-like wings, and his arms extended to the sides and upward, catching the first unfortunate animal in mid-flight. With frightening speed, the entire bundle of his facial feelers opened up into a hellish writhing flower, and in less than a second the whole cat disappeared, followed by a prolonged and satisfied belch. The green miasma issuing from Cthulhu’s gullet obscured Bobbie’s vision for a moment; when it cleared, the scene that presented itself to her eyes caused Bobbie to question the soundness of her mental state. The poor creatures had hardly any time for protest, whether by sounding their agony or by scratching at Cthulu’s claws, which were infinitely more powerful and sharp then their furry appendages. One by one Cthulhu swept them into his noxious mouth, and the more of them he consumed, the faster he grew. Bobbie thought he might’ve passed for a ten-year-old, in the unlikely event some lost stranger chanced to look into her yard at this very moment and make such an observation before losing his mind.
On the twentieth cat Cthulhu grew another foot, and on the thirtieth another. When the earth around him was nothing more than a trampled slime of mud-soaked dying vines and the patches of fur scattered about and fluttering with each of his exhalations, when the last of the cats had been devoured, bones and all, and the fortunate few upon witnessing this terrible carnage were wise enough to flee, at that moment Cthulhu stood at his full height, and Bobbie knew that her life lay in her hands and in the power of her beaten up Volkswagen.
“Come on, baby. Don’t fail me now.”
She shifted the gears and floored the gas. For an unbearable second suspended in space and time, the tires squealed, and Bobbie’s shaking hands slipped off the wheel under Cthulhu’s questioning gaze. Then the rubber caught on the cracked, dusty asphalt, and the Volkswagen jerked and revved forward, slamming into the puzzled, abominable perversion that had once been lodged fast in Bobbie’s uterine walls.
Bobbie never knew that the sound of tearing flesh and crunching bones could give such an immense satisfaction.
She stopped the car inches away from her garage, shifted in reverse, and backed over the grotesque remains squashed in a jelly. She rode over it at least a dozen times, ignoring the bumping and the nauseating, squelching sounds, making sure the thing was really dead.
It took her another four minutes to collect herself and step out of the car. There was no question that her beloved Volkswagen was ruined, but it was worth it. What remained of the demon was nothing more than foaming brine, the venomous stench hanging low above it in tongues of green vapor. Bobbie knocked her head back and laughed hysterically at the sky, the mental strain to keep herself sane at last loosening and letting go of her anguish. In another minute she was wiping her tears and catching her breath, and in another she heard a nasty sound akin to that of oozing froth and bubbling oil. She glanced at her feet and froze in utter, unexplainable horror. The nasty slush drew itself together drop by drop and recombined into a form she came to loathe: Cthulhu stood and spread his tentacles wide apart in what her reeling mind recognized as an attempt at a smile. She’d never seen what lay beyond; her son afforded her the pleasure. The ghastly hole was ragged, singed at the edges and covered with slime. It opened up into a darkness that was impossible to describe, as human language had no capacity to absorb the space so devoid of matter, so ancient, so cosmic. Bobbie glimpsed revolving stars and nameless skies, measureless aeons of time and nightmarish dreams. She was drawn to it, it called on her, it commanded.
“Cthulhu fhtagn,” she heard herself say and fell to her knees.
It was a considerable effort for Cthulhu to swallow his mother. He labored hard at it, until even the heels of her shoes have vanished in his hellish maw. He straightened his back, a fully grown creature, and in two strides crossed the lawn to the pond. The waters seethed, rose around him, licked his pulpy body; the earth shuddered; what little noise there was stilled in the summer night. And from the depths of the churning black oily substance rose walls of Cyclopean architecture made from greenish stone. The diabolic figure squatted ominously on what looked like a pedestal, reached down and caught an object from the ground before the vastness of rock bore him skyward on top of a colossal monolith; it obliterated the pond, Bobbie’s house and most of the street.
Those who had enough time to see the queer, abnormal edifice before they were smothered, noted a peculiar silhouette of dragon-octopus form. It wasn’t the fantastic shape of said monstrosity that had them enthralled, it was the incongruous activity it enjoyed.
It was riding a tricycle.
P.S.: Tell me if you have decoded the character names. Because they are hiding something in them. Very cleverly. Or so I was hoping when I wrote this.