SHOGGOTHS & SHIBBOLETHS: Thirty Handy Dandy Survival Tips For Better Living in a Lovecraftian Universe
These are some helpful hints for the hapless individual who may find himself trapped inside of a Lovecraftian universe. The following unsolicited advice and homespun homilies are offered only as a gesture of good faith and as a public service announcement.
It has been said that temptation resisted is a true sign of character. Perhaps so, but it's also a primary indicator of who makes it to retirement age. Not that it really matters - as you'll see, oblivion does carry some collateral benefits. Consider yourself forewarned, smarty-pants:
1) If you find yourself in a position to inherit or otherwise acquire your ancestral estate (castle, manse, manor house, whatever), resist the temptation. Especially if it's built on a promontory overlooking a primordial bog or has a warren of subterranean tunnels of untold antiquity beneath it. Simply trust in the knowledge that your ancestors had more common sense than you do and abandoned the family seat for a damned good reason. Don't even go there on holiday with your girlfriend in an attempt to impress her. Or, for that matter, even try to shill it off onto some poor, unsuspecting potzer. No reputable real estate agency will handle the account (which is to say that nine out of ten will). We don't care if it does make Buckingham Palace look like a tool shed. Just call in the air strike and have it napalmed.
2) If, whilst dreaming, you find your dream-self descending a long, winding flight of steps toward a gate of shimmering, ethereal beauty, immediately turn around, run back upstairs and chuck the Silver Key. Take the slow coach to Celephaïs and settle for a nice, sleazy wet dream featuring a seraglio of choice super-models instead. Trust me on this one: the final outcome will be far more salutary to your long-term mental stability. I promise you.
3) Never read anything written by anyone who was reputed to be insane and was publicly dismembered by invisible demons in the presence of reliable witnesses.
4) Now, a word about the Necronomicon: twenty-four generations and thousands of victims later, do you really believe that you're the one who'll be able to harness its awesome destructive powers? Get a grip on reality you dolt, that's like letting a toddler tinker with an H-bomb. Do the world a favour, dude: put the energy drink down, back away from the Miskatonic University Orne Library Special Collections Room and check out something closer to your own reading level . . . . like say, Hairy Pothead and the Bong of Doom, Frog and Toad Get Naked Together Again, Furious George Goes Postal, Siegfried and Roy's Scratch 'N' Sniff Circus Book, Gangsta Pooh of Crackhouse Lane, Walt Disney's Herpes the Love Bug, Little Whorehouse on the Prairie, Son of Sam I Am, Horton Humps a Twhat, Thomas the Suicidal Train Engine, Lemony Snicket: An Endless Parade of Mind-Numbing Sequels, Mr. Roger's C.I.A. Sniper Colouring Book, or, perhaps, Martin Scorcese's Sesame Street. And no more talk about scanning the Necronomicon and publishing it on the internet either, fanboy. In case you haven't been keeping up on current affairs, George W. Bush, Jr. was Leader of the Free World. More than one apocalypse in a lifetime is serious overkill, wouldn't you agree?
5) If an artifact ever comes into your possession that is clearly inscribed in a language hitherto unknown by linguistic scholars, composed of a material unrecognized by geologists or metallurgists and is clearly not the work of human hands, just toss the damned thing away. And the ornate box it came in too, just to be on the safe side. Then go home and wash your hands. You'll be glad you did.
6) Break-off relations with anybody who frequently uses the following terms in their correspondence: "Crawling-Chaos", "Lurker-at-the-Threshold", "Goat-of-a-Thousand-Young", "eldritch", "æon-shadowed", "fungoid", "dæmoniacal", "cyclopean", "piping", "gibbous" or "compassionate conservative" - especially if any of these words are used in combination with one another or in conjunction with learned references to such demented, forbidden texts as the Necronomicon, De Vermis Mysteriis, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Books of Eibon, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Cultes des Goules, Saducismus Triumphatus, Dæmonolatreia, Berlitz's Guide to Ponape, Non-Euclidean Architecture for Dummies or anything written by Ann Coulter. In case you haven't already gotten the message: these guys are bad news for your continued welfare. Strike them off your Holiday Season gift-giving roster. Believe me, you'll be happy you did (and pray that there's no payback for the snub later on . . . .).
7) Ruthlessly jettison from your circle of associates any artists, youthful prodigies of uncanny precociousness or university professors steeped in arcane lore, occult knowledge, obscure linguistics, non-Euclidean geometry or astrophysics. These people quite simply know far too much for their own good . . . . or yours. They're also a real social liability at parties, bar-mitzvahs and weddings. Announce your untimely demise in the local obituary column and then slink out of town under cover of night without paying the next month’s rent. Do it now before it's too late.
8) Any electronic equipment you bring along for the purpose of artificially enhancing your sensitivity to and/or recording unknown inter-dimensional phenomena will only increase the likelihood of you going stark raving mad and/or getting eviscerated. Just stick with a torch if you really must be able to see where you're going . . . . and even then it's often ill-advised. Take our word on it: ignorance is bliss.
9) Do try to avoid fainting when confronted by unspeakable cosmic entities. It jeopardizes the mission, it's unmanly and bad social form to boot. Always exercise tact, discretion and professional courtesy towards your university colleagues: shower frequently and wear adult rubber diapers while in the field during an expedition. Daily applications of Grecian Formula are also a welcome, classy touch.
10) Get it into your thick skull that you have no right mucking about with meteorites or any other extraterrestrial phenomena. You're not Steve McQueen and this isn't the set of The Blob. Leave the scientific analysis to the experts. Stay out of harm's way and hope that the egghead set is the first one to buy the farm. The Gardner Farm, that is.
11) Advanced theoretical trigonometry, fried calamari, poor Latin syntax and witchcraft are a dangerous combination. Bear this in mind.
12) Better yet, avoid the sciences altogether. A special suggestion to war veterans with plans to enter the mortuary sciences: please stay out of the field of cryogenics and biochemistry as they relate to the study of life extension. Folks who fiddle around with human longevity usually find their own cut prematurely short. Let this be a lesson to you.
13) Kindly refrain from playing atonal music on antique instruments. You’ll be asking for far more than an Excedrin industrial-strength migraine if you play Schoenberg, Webern or Karlheinz Stockhausen on the viol. In addition, please be aware that playing pop ballads performed by William Shatner or Heino have been scientifically proven to rend the fabric of space/time. Lou Reed’s album, Metal Machine Music must also be singled out as particularly dangerous as it has been linked to abnormal pineal gland metastasis. Irritated neighbours and nocturnal visits from the local constabulary will be the least of your worries as other critics in other neighbouring dimensional spheres have been known to inflict far worse than bad notices upon the musically maladroit. Expect to take your final curtain call allegro con brio, mia caro. And that's the name of that tune, baby. Ciao.
14) Don't be cheap. Invest in a really good pair of quality, brand-name running shoes. It may clash with your vintage three-piece suit and fedora, but hey, that's the breaks, kiddo. Trust me on this one: you'll thank me later.
15) Purchase a .45 calibre semi-automatic pistol loaded with hollow-tip cartridges for only select situations: if somebody you know claims to have been dispossessed of his/her mind and inhabited by an alien intelligence - ice them. You're doing him/her/it a favour . . . . not to mention yourself and everyone else on this dimensional plane of existence. Likewise, if you ever suspect that your own mind has been displaced by another entity, do not hesitate to splatter your own brains out against the nearest convenient wall. It's all for the best because you're going to go down slow and ugly anyway. Besides, alien possessions aren't covered by your current health insurance provider. Avoid the cost, stress and aggravation. Don't procrastinate. Do yourself in now.
16) In all other situations such ordnance will be useless, so leave it at home. It's awkward, illegal, heavy, expensive to purchase, annoying to maintain, you'll incur the added extra cost of having your tailor let out your jacket for C & C and besides, you'll only drop it in a paroxysm of terror, uncontrollable nausea, nervous collapse or your reckless, headlong flight to safety anyway.
17) Shun fog, mist, shadows and anything or any place that reeks of decaying corpses, mouldering crypts, ectoplasmic putrescence, overripe sushi, unspeakable depravity or the Tea Party. Avoid frequenting primeval forests, caves, bogs, swamps, salt marshes, cemeteries, charnel houses, laboratories, abandoned mansions, unconsecrated churches visited by Glenn Beck, converted Masonic halls, stuffy attics comprised of strange angles, glens, hollows, grottoes, ancient temples, ruins, monoliths, sacrificial altars, sarcophagi, catacombs, dank basements, G.O.P. convention halls of the damned, abattoirs and blasted heaths. Bypass darkened pantries, stinky root cellars, subterranean tunnels, airport toilet stalls frequented by U.S. senators, inter-dimensional portals, malodourous wharves, mausoleums, murky tide pools, crystalline labyrinths, unhallowed telephone booths, tourist kiosks and outhouses of the Pre-Georgian Period that have acquired a sinister local reputation.
18) Never travel to the following destinations, particularly for exploratory or antiquarian purposes: rural New England or any obscure seaside town or city in America that can be described as more than three centuries old and cannot be found on a modern map. Furthermore, Australia, Antarctica, certain precincts of Paris, Egypt, Texas and Micronesia or any place previously submerged or currently below the ocean's surface that might ever have been within close proximity of the sunken city of R'lyeh is simply out of the question. If you live in any of these places, move away immediately. And don't leave a forwarding address.
19) If you happen to find yourself on the Plateau of Leng or some such far-flung, exotic locale, do not drink the water or sample the local cuisine. Chances are the F.D.A. has no jurisdiction there.
20) Anything naval or boat-related is a bad idea. If, however, you insist on a luxury cruise and your liner is torpedoed by a German U-boat, don't allow yourself to be picked-up and saved. Rest assured that such a humane gesture will not result in a happy ending for you. Taunt the crew and be machine-gunned in the water. Or just go down with the boat as originally intended. Either way, it's your choice. Besides, the gesture does carry with it a certain defiant, Douglas Fairbanks-esque élan. You'll be fondly remembered by the survivors whilst dying with the perverse satisfaction of knowing that you gave the sub commander a massive guilt trip. So there.
21) Fly-fishing, water skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving on vacation . . . . Have you been paying attention at all?
22) Avoid flying your single-engine Cessna on Halloween, Walpurgisnacht or the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Flocks of low-flying, migrating night gaunts can present a serious hazard to your continued safety and to those of your passengers.
23) Never trust computer repairmen, cable TV technicians, public relations mavens, spin doctors, press secretary Svengalis or advertising/marketing gurus with a charismatic, yet uncanny demeanor, a lean, ascetic frame, a pronounced Egyptian accent and eyes that are obsidian pools of infinity.
24) Fix the electronic buzzing sound on your telephone answering machine greeting. It sends the wrong message to callers.
25) Resist the impulse to maintain a journal. The only people who write about things that happen to them are the people to whom ghastly things are about to happen. Don't become another statistic. Skip the diary, Francine.
26) Choose your future profession wisely: never manage an aquatic amusement park or seafood restaurant franchise. There may come the day when you'll rue the decision as you can never be too certain whose kids you've just kidnapped, exploited or fed to fat, pink, loudmouthed tourists. Remember: paybacks can be a real bitch . . . .
27) Shoggoths are willful creatures by nature, being highly resistant to basic house training and stupid pet tricks. They will not roll over and play dead or fetch your newspaper for you, let alone engulf your enemies on command. Just ask the last owner. He's spending the next three hundred years in its gullet being slowly digested. Don't push your luck: buy a cat if you're that lonely and must own a pet.
28) Never perform any manner of genealogical research or investigative work into your own family's history. Let sleeping dogs (or, if you prefer, shoggoths) lie. I promise, you won't like what you uncover. Guaranteed.
29) If you happen to have relatives of Innsmouth stock it's considered de rigueur for you to keep a pair of swim trunks packed at all times. On this point of etiquette, home aquariums and fishing equipment are considered in very poor taste, whilst amoeba-shaped, in-ground swimming pools are merely retro-kitsch. Don't even consider a subscription to Field and Stream Magazine or mounting any fishing trophies.
In case this point has escaped your notice, no matter where you turn, no matter what you do, you're thoroughly, utterly screwed . . . . the stars are coming into the correct alignment . . . . R'lyeh will rise again soon . . . . so, kick back, pour yourself a tall glass of suds and relax. In the meantime, to fully savour the effect of your inconsequentiality in a vast, meaningless and uncaring cosmos may I suggest that you take up radio astronomy as a hobby? Life does suck, now doesn't it?
Copyright 2006 © Curt C. Chiarelli