Category Archives: XXI. QUICKENING

Week 107

XXI. QUICKENING

The reporter stood on the edge of a beautiful bluff. Out in the distance, small, white-topped, rocky islands dotted the grey sea.

The wind tossed her dark hair, but her eyes stayed locked on the camera. “Scientists are at a loss,” she said into the microphone.

“While there are many theories as to what’s causing the phenomena, no definitive explanation has been found, with no sign of one to come.”

The cameraman zoomed in on the reporter as he walked forward and then panned down over the cliff edge: The beach was a writhing black mass.

“All along the west coasts of North and South America, billions—if not trillions—of insects of all variety have massed on the beaches.

“It is believed that literally every insect is attempting to reach the western shores, and the consequences have been devastating.”

Orbiting above, Queen Mantis shifted awareness from one part of her compound eyes to another, scanning the hundreds of monitors before her.

Each showed scenes of mass chaos. Great hurricanes of winged insects tore through thousands of acres of farmland, turning it into wasteland.

Colossal torrents of beetles, spiders, and ants gushed through city squares, causing mass hysteria and panicked violence.

All over the Earth, the insekt hordes, so long alone, were straining to be near their Queen. The brood ship was terribly close.

Mantis looked down: An underling was scuttling around her legs, dripping yellow pheromone—another update from the bridge.

They were mere hours away from the coordinates Mila had provided. Sensors had detected an undersea fortress deep in the Tian Shan mountains.

Mantis also knew there was activity inside it, but that was all the Hive Mind saw. The Queen’s mandibles twitched as she thought of Mila.

Mantis did not completely trust the meat thing, of course, stinking of self-preservation as Mila did. Still, there was opportunity.

Ultimately, Mantis understood it did not matter whether it was or wasn’t the Order’s stronghold. The Earth would fall. As would Cthulu.

The Hive was inevitability itself, like a biological black hole. The Green Mother saw a pretarsus stomping on a face . . . forever.

Back on Earth, the news crew finished shooting. The cameraman took a last look over the cliff edge, then turned to the reporter.

He frowned. “I worked Darfur and Afghanistan, and this is the worst thing I ever saw. Maybe those doomsday cults are right.”

“Some of them are,” the reporter said She stepped toward the cameraman, then smiled as she stepped closer again. “Mine is.”

“For Cthulu!” She lunged forward. The cameraman reeled back, stepped over the edge of the cliff, and they both fell into the swarm below.

Week 108

Putin stared at the Doggie Doo Vacuum and thought of C-4. He looked at the “All Great Men Have Mustaches” T-shirt and thought of Stalin.

With a growl he flung the Sky Mall catalog across the room and turned to gaze out the window. “What is wrong with me?” he wondered bitterly.

Of course he knew intellectually that his admiration for Stalin, like virtually all his other beliefs, was manufactured in the White Room.

Yet when he’d seen the man … he’d been rendered frozen, impotent. It was more than shock at seeing a dead man alive. Something was stuck.

Putin reached for his tumbler of vodka, finished it in one gulp, and poured another. Across the aisle, Snowy anxiously watched her master.

Of course she’d seen Putin withdrawn, aloof. He was a taciturn man. But there was something different this time—something unstable.

Snowy turned back to the topographic maps spread before her and tried to focus. She had to learn the terrain where they’d be fighting.

Up on the plane’s third floor, Black Ops was in the TV room preparing for battle in his own way—watching back-to-back episodes of Dr. Who.

“Just a couple more and I’ll get serious,” he told himself before burying his face in a bucket of popcorn.

In the sky 200 miles ahead, Kanye sat in the Technicon Ixion wearing a pair of Oculus Rift goggles and watching a simulation of his life.

Arianna Huffington looked at him in disgust. She couldn’t contain herself. “Kanye, why are you watching virtual reality of your own life?”

Without taking off the goggles, Yezee responded, “ ‘Cause my life is dope and I do dope shit. Why would I pretend to be someone else?”

Antonosky hated them both. He hated everyone in the Order, but was being careful with his thoughts because Huffington was around.

“We’re the rulers of the Earth, why don’t we buy full-size snack bags?” he asked aloud, opening his third tiny packet of pretzels.

No one answered. George Takei had headphones on and was watching Downton Abbey. Kissinger and Cheney were necking under a blanket.

“Seriously,” Antonosky went on, “We have multiple underground fortresses, we’re in a luxury jet, and I can’t get a can of Pringles?”

“Shouldn’t you be flying the plane?” growled the Red Tsar. “Autopilot, your Heinous,” replied Antonosky, ripping open a tiny bag of peanuts.

Back on the Pal’s K-7, Murder Cat was growing impatient. He’d already spent two hours in the gym, and an hour on the scratching post.

Now he was staring at a box of catnip. Sometimes he liked to get a little loose before combat. Catnip helped, but he knew Putin disapproved.

Suddenly, the intercom clicked on. “Eeeee-ooooow. Sceee-sceee-beep!” Murder Cat never had any idea what Peaches and Herb were saying.

Then Putin came on the PA. “Ten minutes!” Murder Cat leapt to a window, but clouds obscured his view. The future remained unclear.

Week 109

The monastery of the Monks of Tian Shan sat high in the mountains, far beneath the jets flying above—between earth and heaven.

The monks had roused themselves from their silent routines, and now spent their days in preparation for the coming of Cthulu.

They knew the Time of Devouring was very nigh. They felt the rumblings as the Old One stirred in Its sleep in the City of R’lyeh.

They had seen the omens, the signs and portents, and the fulfillment of Prophesy. But there also were things they did not understand.

One day the novice who swept the lintel of the main entrance found a being asleep there. It was like an animal, and yet not an animal.

The being was wounded in body and in spirit, and the novice brought it inside.

The Head Priest was called to see the creature, and confirmed it was not part of any known prophesy.

He told the novice to give it food and water, while he meditated on what it meant. After three days, he announced his decision.

“We are the devotees of the Old One, and we have waited millennia for Its return. We have preserved the knowledge and Prophesy of It.

“All our knowing comes from Cthulu, but it is not the way of Cthulu to tell us everything. There are things we were not meant to know.

“As the Devouring gets closer, we will see many things we do not understand. This is to be expected. When this happens, we will accept it.

“We must accept this creature as a Messenger of the Devouring; we must care for it until it recovers, and then learn from it.”

All the monks bowed in assent. The novice who had found the creature took it to the cell reserved for guests and made it comfortable.

In the days that followed, the creature remained in its cell, quietly meditating, as the monks’ activity became more frantic.

For as long as any of them could remember, life in the monastery had gone on unchanged, with incense and chanting, meditation and ritual.

The monks knew the monastery to be the repository of the knowledge of Great Cthulu, of the Prophesies, and of the Great Devouring to come.

Each monk had considered himself to be a part of the monastery in the same way that each individual bee is a part of the hive.

Each had expected to live, to keep the knowledge of Cthulu, to die, and to be replaced by another in an unbroken line until the end of time.

Almost none of them had considered the possibility that THEY might be the ones to witness time’s ending.

At first they had been ecstatic at the realization that they were among the chosen. But then they began to think about what this would mean.

Their chanting began to have an anxious edge as, more and more, the Elder God sent them his dreams of total destruction of their world.

Week 110

Mila glanced again at the Phenom’s instrument panel; they were nearing the coordinates the Order had given her to pass on to Mantis.

It had been a long flight, at the very limit of the jet’s range. She looked wearily at the mountains stretching below—and then she saw it.

On the edge of a valley with a lake in the center was a strange plateau with a gigantic drawing of an insect—a preying mantis.

Mila stared at the image in awe. She’d seen photos of the Nazca lines, high in the mountains of Peru, images visible only from the air.

Clearly, Mantis had created these drawings as signals for their landing parties, thousands of years ago—the last time they’d invaded Earth.

They’d constructed this plateau as a landing pad. It would be easy to put down the Phenom here … But then what? Mila sighed.

She had to face the one fact she’d been avoiding the entire flight: She had no plan. She had no plan, and she had no allies.

The Order was finished with her; if they captured her, they’d torture her again—or worse. With a shudder, she remembered the Commander.

Then she thought regretfully of George Takei. He had been kind … but only in service of the Order, she reminded herself bitterly.

Now she’d betrayed Mantis by leading them here, right where the Order wanted them—and Mantis had never been merciful.

Putin would be following her, too, along with that damned menagerie of his. His Excellency, President of the Federation! Mila frowned.

But she was a trained KGB agent, one of the best! Always she’d thought of something, whenever she’d been in a bad situation, always…

She felt an odd sensation, and looked down. C-4 was bumping her cold dog nose against Mila’s ankle, trying to get her attention.

“What?! What do you want?” she snarled. “Yip yap! Yap yap yap!” C-4 barked, happy to see Mila looking at her.

The wretched thing was probably hungry. Or thirsty. Or wanted a walk. Or wanted to play. What the hell did Putin see in Poodles?

Mila flicked her foot and sent C-4 tumbling across the cockpit. The little dog rolled to her feet, wagging happily, as if it were a game.

The Order’s Ixion floated in for a landing, a speck on the plateau below. Mila continued circling in the Phenom; she was nearly out of fuel.

She thought back to her early training, trying to remember something that could help her, but without any sense of urgency.

She felt a curious sense of detachment; she felt nothing, really, except for a slight annoyance as Putin’s Poodle began yapping again.

High in the sky above, she heard a deep humming that became a deafening roar: Putin’s K-7 was approaching. C-4 yapped more excitedly.

“Fuck it,” Mila said.

Week 111

Down the lakeshore southward from the plateau, in the monastery overlooking the mountain pass, the monks feared they were going mad.

They had never seen airplanes. The sight of the jets in the sky above, their engines roaring like monstrous storms, terrified them.

The younger monks—and some older ones, too—ran screaming through the halls. The High Priest saw that discipline was breaking down.

Then Putin’s enormous Kalinin K-7, Battleship of the Skies, came into view over the mountains. The High Priest fell weeping to the ground.

As the K-7 rumbled over the mountain pass, Putin spotted the Order’s jet parked on a plateau with a gigantic drawing of a preying mantis.

Snowy saw her master jump as if he’d received an electric shock. Then Putin noticed Mila’s Phenom circling low over the lake.

“What is she doing?” he said out loud. If only Pulpo Paul were there to tell them what Mila was planning now!

Inside the Phenom, the movement of some of the monks running down the path away from the monastery caught Mila’s eye.

She brought the jet around and set the autopilot on a course heading directly toward the monastery’s outer wall.

Putin and Snowy watched together as the Phenom dipped low over the water. “If she doesn’t pull up, she’s going in the lake!” Snowy cried.

Just then, they saw something small drop from the jet, hitting the water with a splash.

Snowy had heard the screams of dying animals, but they were nothing compared to Putin’s scream as he realized what had happened.

The noble War Bear ran to the intercom. “Abort the landing! Abort the landing! Turn back over the lake! C-4 is in the water!”

When they heard Snowy’s announcement, Murder Cat and Black Ops raced to the cockpit. “I’ll take the controls!” Murder Cat shouted.

“Peaches! Or Herb! Whichever, I dunno! If we get low enough, can one of you drop into the lake and rescue C-4?”

“Scree-yee-yee-eh-eh!” cried one of the narwhals. Murder Cat and Black Ops looked at each other. The Tiger shrugged and took over.

To bring such an enormous plane so low without losing lift challenged all Murder Cat’s skill. Probably no one else could have succeeded.

Peaches—or Herb—dropped from the K-7 into the lake and began swimming like a fish, even though s/he was a mammal.

Meanwhile, Mila closed her eyes just before the Phenom hit the monastery wall.

Though there wasn’t much fuel, there was enough for the plane to explode in a ball of flame, raining fire down the side of the cliff.

With flames in the background, Herb (or Peaches) triumphantly lifted the limp body of little C-4 above the waters of the dark lake.