My name is Benjamin Tarram, but I prefer to be called Bennie. I was fourteen when the climax of this story occurred, but it really all started long before that.
I am the youngest of three children; my sisters are named Ellen and Suzanna. As children we lived with our parents Alexander (or Lex, as he preferred to be called) and Gwendolyn (although she would always ignore you if you called her anything but Gwen) and our maternal grandmother Agnetha Chambers, or Grannie Agnetha as we called her, having been sternly warned never to dare call her Grannie Aggie. Although our father was known to call her Aggie behind her back, though never to her face.
I guess this story is really about Grannie Agnetha, more than anything else. She lived with us from as far back as I can remember, right up until I left home at the age of nineteen. I never did know her real age, although she seemed well over a hundred to Eli, Suzie and I, even before we were old enough to start school (though Eli and Suzie both started a year or two before me).
Apart from her almost mummy-like, shrivelled complexion, and twisted, claw-like hands, the thing I remember most about Grannie Agnetha is her jewellery. She seemed to be almost a walking jewellery shop, with gaudy glass and plastic trinkets dangling from her ears, from her neck in long chains, some of which dangled down to her knees like the beads that Julie Andrews wore in Thoroughly Modern Milly. And, of course, her hands were covered with tawdry rings, up to half-a-dozen on a single finger. Some of the glass baubles were almost as big as hens' eggs and had to be fakes; as my father, Lex, loved to point out. But Grannie Agnetha always became furious at this, insisting that her jewels were all genuine.
"Family heirlooms passed down through the Chambers family for generation after generation, some of them for hundreds, or even thousands of years," I remember her insisting when I was about ten or eleven.
"Nonsense, the settings on them are plastic so they can't be any earlier than the 1940s," insisted Lex.
"Plastic, bah!" shouted Grannie Agnetha. "These jewel all predate plastic."
"All right then, Bakelite," said my father, more to tease Grannie Agnetha than to make any real concession to her. Turning toward my mother, Gwen, he added: "Besides, some of those 'rocks' are so large they'd put to shame, for size if not quality, anything owned by Liz Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor. So if the gems are real the old gypsy must be the richest woman on Earth."
Grannie Agnetha glared at father as we all giggled at her expense. Finally she pointed a withered finger at him as though pointing the bone and warned in a stern voice (which only made us titter even more): "Watch out Alexander Tarram or I will put a spell on you!"
"Turn him into a frog, Grannie Agnetha," teased Suzie and we almost busted a gut laughing.
All the women in the Chambers, Charlton, and Tarram side of our families since time immemorial are said to have been witches. And a few of them even were put to death during the madness of the Salem Witch hunt hysteria in America. But father's only reaction was to say, "Decked out in all that tacky glass and plastic, the old girl looks more like a Gypsy queen than she does a witch!"
But despite our father's sarcasm, Grannie Agnetha was the favourite person of all three of us children. In my case because she was the strangest person whom I knew then (in those days there was not as many Ayatollah Khameini's or Gaddafi's as there are today, and what few there were, were kept well out of the sight of children). In the case of Eli and Suzie because of her tawdry baubles.
Of course as a boy, in those days before GI Joe and other dolls for boys, I was not encouraged to show my fascination for her tacky jewellery. But Grannie Agnetha would gladly dress up my two sisters in seemingly mountains of her baubles, and they would run squealing through the house, looking like plastic or aluminium Christmas trees, to the amusement of our mother, Gwen, and the chagrin of our father Lex who would remark, "It looks like the latest generation of Tarram women are going to grow up to be Gypsies too!"
But lest it seems as though I am wasting too much time, I will get right down to the crux of the story. It all concerns one particular piece of Grannie Agnetha's jewellery.
It was one of the largest of Grannie Agnetha's gems. It was a large hexagon stone, almost the size of a grown woman's hand, a bright translucent blue in colour. It had an ornate, seemingly real gold setting. This was the one gem in Grannie Agnetha's vast collection that really held me enthralled. For years I tried to get my parents, or Grannie Agnetha to tell me the history of the jewel. But, despite its apparent expensiveness, both my parents insisted that it was just another "chunk of glass or plastic", and would hush my grandmother if she ever seemed likely to contradict them. This in itself surprised me, since usually they would allow her to ramble on and on about her "precious" jewellery, even if they would snicker and call it "Her K-Mart treasures". But for some perplexing reason they would almost pounce on her if she even seemed to be about to talk of what I gradually came to think of as her "one true jewel".
The more they kept her quiet about it, the more the gem haunted me, until one day I managed to raise the subject to my grandmother when both of my parents were out of the house.
After a few moment's hesitation, Grannie Agnetha led me to her bedroom, took the jewel from her (to my young eyes) almost suitcase-sized jewellery box and said, "This stone is a space-crystal."
"Space crystal?" I asked, staring at her in wonderment.
"That's right," confirmed Grannie Agnetha. "A gem from the collection of one of the Elder Gods on far away Yuggoth."
When I foolishly asked my father about this, as soon as my parents came home a couple of hours later, he hit the roof, and said (loud enough for Grannie Agnetha to hear), "For the last two hundred years, hucksters have been making a fortune by selling shiny baubles of painted glass as space crystals or meteorite gems. The only thing from space in this house is the great empty space between your grandmother's ears."
"Nonsense!" shrieked Grannie Agnetha, glaring as my mother and sisters giggled, for the first time in the eight years that I had known her, bothering to raise her voice to my father. "This is a space crystal stolen from the private collection of Shub-Niggurath, the Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young; the Black Goat with a Thousand Young. The demon wife of Hastur the Not-To-Be-Named One. A She-Devil, married to Hastur to seal a dark pact between the Devils and the Great Old Ones many aeons ago."
"Well, if he's the Not-To-Be-Named One, I wish he wouldn't be. At least in this house," said my father; drawing giggles from my mother and two sisters, and a livid glare from Grannie Agnetha.
"The space-crystal has been in my family for over three hundred years!" insisted Grannie Agnetha. With this my grandmother turned and stormed off to her room, obviously satisfied that she had won the argument, and truth to tell at the very least she had convinced me.
After this I did everything that I could to get her to let me see the gem again, but after the run-in with my father she refused to show it to me, or even tell me why not, until two years later she finally said:
"The blue stone was stolen by my great-great-grandmother, also called Agnetha Chambers, at the time of the Salem Witch hunts in America. Old Aggie was reported to have used her witch powers to escape the Grand Inquisitor and to have found herself trapped on the planet Yuggoth. A doom-cursed planet whose inhabitants use the planet's seven contradicting dimensions to create their cities in such bizarre forms that the mere sight of them would drive the most avant-garde Earth architect over the brink into stark, raving insanity.
"Old Aggie was trapped on this planet and found herself confronted by such atrocities as Atlach-Nacha, the Spider-goddess; the Mistress of the Web. Azathoth, the blind idiot god; an amorphous blight of confusion, which blasphemes & bubbles in the centre of all infinity. Byagoona the faceless one. The serpent-bearded Byatis. The repulsive, elephant-headed Chaugnar Faugn. The Crawling Chaos, a shifting, undulating mass, twice the size of the largest oak -- with a greenish, sickly cast. At the base of which protruded small strands, resembling branches and twigs, which can extend to its worshippers and burrow into them to draw the life-essence out of them. Promising power, it brings only destruction. Meteor-born Glaaki. Father Yig. Etepsed-Egnis, who wars with Cthulhu for control of The Great Old Ones. Othuyeg and his consort Gzxtyos. Itaqui, the Walker on the Wind, whom none but his worshippers may look upon him without certain death. He is a dark anthropomorphic outline against the sky. A manlike, yet bestial silhouette, striding both in low icy mists & high stratocumulus, gazing down with carmine stars for eyes, leaving webbed footprints in the snow. The American Indians call him Wendigo. He carries his victims with him in the sky; and howling wind sounds indicate his presence. Koth. Golgoroth. Lloigor another creature of the air -- whose presence is indicated by howling wind sounds. They were the star beings of Mu in Pacific twelve to twenty thousand years ago. They once lived among men & dominated them and have the ability to amputate limbs without causing death and did so frequently to punish. Shellazen Matti, the oracle daughter of Great Cthulhu. Nyarlathotep the Messenger of the Great Old Ones, the Demon Messenger; the God of Resurrection, the Black Messenger of Karneter, the Mighty Messenger, the Stalker among the Stars, the Lord of the Desert, the Master of Evil, the Dark One, the Dweller in Darkness, the Blind Faceless One, the Howler in the Night, the Haunter of the Dark, the Blind Ape of Truth in ancient Egypt. He resembles a life-sized sphinx with the body of a hyaena & the wings of a vulture with talons & claws. Upon his squatting bestial body rests a massive anthropomorphic head, bearing the ominous triple crown of the gods; not a man, not a beast, with no face only a curious cone-like head. He has tentacle-like appendages, also several hand-like growths. He is a gigantic amorphous, protoplasmic mass whose physical form is in constant flux; travelling in time & space and making a noise like howling wind when there is no wind. He fears only Cthugha and before his appearance comes a band of blinding light & wind-like howling. He can take on human form and is said to appear within the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. Nygotha, the Dweller in Darkness; the Thing that should not be; a dark wave of iridescent blackness, neither liquid nor solid, a frightful gelatinous mass, a pseudopod of blackness elongated from a central mass. And many more walking, slinking, slithering abominations, some too foul to even contemplate.
"Old Aggie was enslaved for nearly two-hundred years to Shub-Niggurath, forced into servitude to the monstrous Queen of the Great Old Ones. During that time, however, she aged but a few days and might have lived for millennia serving the blasphemous Goat Queen. Except that one day she happened upon the Blue Crystal of Yuggoth and found that by staring into it she could will herself from place to place. After nearly a hundred years of trial and error, somehow without ever being detected by Shub Niggurath, or the other Great Old Ones, she managed to propel herself back to Earth. And found herself back at the witch trials in Salem. Although she had spend three centuries on Yuggoth, on Earth only moments had past. Before she could use the crystal to take her away again she was shot dead by one of the court bailiffs, terrified of her vanishing and appearing. Later when her artefacts were handed over to her daughter, Corinne, the blue crystal was amongst them.
"In the three hundred years since it has remained locked in the custody of the most senior Chambers witch. Which at this time is me," finished Grannie Agnetha.
"But haven't the Great Old Ones ever tried to get it back?" I asked.
"Oh yes. For the last three centuries the possessors of the blue crystal have been haunted by horrid dreams and waking nightmares of Yuggoth, Shub-Niggurath and blind, shambling Shoggoths as the Goat Queen tries to will them to use the blue crystal to return to Yuggoth with her stolen treasure."
Although the thought of this possibility horrified me, at the age of ten it also enthralled me and far from scaring me away from the gem, it only made me covet it even more.
"Goat Queen, bah," said my father in contempt when I foolishly related Grannie Agnetha's story to him. "The only Goat Queen is that old goat Aggie."
"Quiet, Lex," warned Gwen, doing her best to look sternly at Suzie, and Elli as they giggled at our father's sarcasm.
For four years I secretly coveted the jewel, until one day when I was fourteen, I crept into my grandmother's room and stole the gem. Then, for fear she might return and discover me with it, I sneaked off to my own room to examine my treasure in private.
For nearly an hour I was content to merely hold the gem, gazing into the deep blue crystal, trying to conjure images of exotic places like France, New York, China into the blue crystal to see if I could transport myself there in the twinkling of an eye as Grannie Agnetha insisted was possible.
For a long time nothing happened, then finally the image of an exotic city did seem to be appearing in the blue crystal. At first it was just a cloudy mist, then as I had seen occur in crystal balls on TV, the clouds began to slowly clear to reveal a towering city with great peaks and spires.
For a moment I hesitated, not quite knowing what I intended to do next, when I sensed a presence behind me. Looking around hurriedly, I saw my father Lex standing in the bedroom doorway, staring into the room at me.
"Benjamin, what are you...?" he began, stopping in mid sentence, to stare at me in horror, as he realised what I held in my hand.
"Give me that!" commanded my father, running across to reach for the blue gemstone.
Instinctively I closed my hand upon the jewel and at the moment that my hand closed over the cold blue crystal, my father's hand closed around my wrist.
As my hand clamped shut around the blue stone it began to pulse, thrump-thrump-thrumping like a beating heart. Then the bedroom mysteriously began to darken and my head began to swim, until after a few seconds the room began to lighten again.
Except that we were no longer standing inside a room, but outside on open terrain.
A terrain where immense rugose cones three metres high, with bases three metres wide proliferated. Cones composed of ridgy, scaly, semi-elastic matter; sporting from their tips four flexible, cylindrical limbs, each at least thirty centimetres thick, of similar substance but more flesh-like than the cones themselves; limbs which had the ability to expand & contract, sometimes to the length of the cones. Two of these limbs were terminated in enormous claws; a third had a crest of four red, trumpet-like appendages. The fourth ended in a great yellow globe sixty centimetres in diameter, in the centre of which was three enormous eyes, darkly opalescent. Eyes which could turn in any direction. Their strange heads were crowned by four slender grey stalks, carrying flower-like appendages, as well as, from their nether side, eight sinuous, elastic tentacles, moss green in colour, which seemed to be constantly agitated by serpentine movement, expanding and contracting, lengthening and shortening and whipping around as if with a life independent of the sluggish cones.
Elephantine Night Gaunts and winged-serpentine monstrosities hopped, stepped, flew, then shambled in turn across the bizarre twisted plains of Yuggoth, a bleak and desolate wasteland, broken up in places by great, ugly craters, great gaping chasms in the surface of the planet, where one portion of the planet failed to meet up with the next. A consequence of the eerie asymmetry of Yuggoth, whose seven physical dimensions all contradicted and competed with each other rather than adding and building together.
Hairy, tentacled masses of swirling, foaming protoplasmic obscenity slithered, slunk and slued along, effortlessly crossing gaping planetary rifts, which went down as far as the eye could see, revealing the absence of any molten core in the planet.
Spellbound by this revelation, I stood staring down into one of the gaping planetary rifts, heedless of the dangers that swirled and slithered around me. Hardly even aware of my father (although he was gripping my wrist hard enough for it to hurt), until I heard him cry out from terror.
Turning to look behind me, to my horror, I saw two rugose cones and a blind, lumbering Night Gaunt moving toward us.
Instinctively I tried to take the blue space-crystal into both hands in the hope of conjuring up an image of my home in Footscray. But my father's grip held my hand still. So, with the cones and other abominations slither-slinking toward us, I had to reach across with my other hand to grasp the stone, desperately trying to ignore the base-drum beating of my own heart as I tried to conjure us both to safety. However, sweat from my palm coated the blue stone, slickening it, prevent me from seeing inside. So, carefully I took a clean handkerchief from my pocket with my free hand and trying my best to stay calm began to rub down the livid blue gem until it began to shine with an almost supernatural life, as the slithering monstrosities bore down on us.
Hearing shrill, pig-like squealing from behind me I tried not to look round, but despite my best intentions turned and saw a large, red-purple creature, five metres tall, part goat, part devil as Grannie Agnetha had said, stalking toward us, arms held out toward us almost like the Frankenstein monster.
"Give it to it, son!" shrieked my father in obvious terror. And I realised the creature was demanding the blue crystal.
"No!" I shrieked trying to pull my hand from my father's grasp to stop him giving the stone to Shub-Niggurath.
"Give it to it and they'll let us alone!" shrilled my father, sounding barely sane.
"Nooooooooooo, we need it to get back home!" I shouted, not really knowing if this was true. Doing my best to hold onto the blue crystal, despite my father's determination to force me to drop it, I began to stare hard into the semi-translucent centre of the stone.
I had nearly given up all hope as the abominations slithered to within inches of us when finally the an image began to appear in the centre of the crystal. Once more it started out as a thin, filmy mist, then began to take on the outline of Melbourne Town. Then as I concentrated fiercely the image began to localise until it had narrowed to the western suburbs where I lived.
"Noooooooooo!" shrilled my father and I felt him jerked from my grasp. Looking round despite my determination not to lose the image within the crystal, I saw Lex being held by what I can only describe as a green blob of jelly with great tentacles, parrot-like beaks and seemingly a thousand eyes set at random around its swelling, bulging mass.
Racing across I grabbed my father's right hand as the tentacles of the creature encircled his left arm and waist and concentrated on the image of Footscray in the western suburbs, like I have never concentrated before.
"Nooooooooooo!" shrieked my father again. But even as he shrieked the air began to darken again, and although I could still hear the slither-slop-crawling of a myriad monstrosities in the dark, my fear was gone as the murky darkness began to clear again and we were returned to the safety of our own living room.
Even today I can recall the terror of seeing the slithering obscenities bearing down on my father Lex and I.
"We're home, dad, we're home!" I cried in delight turning to where I thought my father stood beside me.
As shrill screams began to ring out deafening me, at first I thought it was my mother and sisters. Then as I felt myself falling into darkness again, this time a dead faint, I realised the screams came from me.
Even today I can clearly recall the shocked screams of my mother, my two sisters, and myself, at the sight of my father lying dead upon the bedroom floor, in a pool of his own blood. Or rather as much of my father as I had managed to pull free from the grasp of the green blob as I came through: his right hand, head, neck, and torso down to just above the belly button. His lower body was nowhere in sight.
© Copyright 2010
Philip Roberts, Melbourne, Australia