March 10, 2009

The Pets of Tindalos

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

* Chalmers made sure that his rooms were free of pentagons, because only thus could he keep out the hamsters of Tindalos;

* Chalmers made sure that his rooms contained no parabolas, because he feared the Vietnamese pot bellied pigs of Tindalos;

* Chalmers used a putty knife and some plaster to eradicate all trapezoids from his rooms. He did this to keep out the garter snakes of Tindalos;

* Chalmers eliminated all polygons of n sides, where n is any integer greater than 5, in order to bar entry to the ducklings of Tindalos;

* Chalmers checked his rooms for hyperbolas (there weren't any) because he feared the anoles of Tindalos;

* Chalmers would have destroyed all traces of ellipses in his rooms, to protect himself from the baby chicks of Tindalos, but he forgot.

The end

* With apologies to the late Frank Belknap Long.

October 9, 2008

Bah, bah black goat

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

I scream
the musical breath of trees
their limb-rending dance

That dang thousand-legged monster, squatting in the woods out past Coaling. Been there since the tornado went through, or maybe the storm released it from some Paleolithic prison. Started small, at any rate, and the first I saw of it was a peculiar letter to the newspaper from some feller lived out that way. Not really a letter, it was a haiku. Kind of disturbing. I remember thinking he must have been on some kind of hallucinogen. I had a professional interest; trained as a forester at Auburn, though I work as a real estate appraiser now. So I drove out there on my next day off, those winding roads, overhung with trees, they make Midwesterners claustrophobic. Not me, but something about the woods that day did make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I parked out by Lake Lurleen and walked the trail that goes all the way around. It's been closed since the tornado; part of it got blown away, they claim. The trees tossed in a stiff breeze that didn't penetrate to ground level. I didn't see any washouts, the path was clear, but I did hear distant shouting, or singing; maybe chanting, carried on that unfelt wind. I struck off uphill into the woods, but never did find where the sound was coming from. Started to get dark and I began to hear things shuffling in the leaves. Sounded too big to be coons or possums. I got spooked, headed back home.

oak-leaf crown
on her belly the ebon
hoof and snout of God

It all fell apart after that. The freakish weather, people cleared out or disappeared, something happening in the woods west of the lake, two deputies gone out to investigate but they never come back. Sheriff wouldn't do nothin' after that. I went out there again myself. Looking for something, the heart of this thing, its root cause. Oh yeah, I found it. Found the little clearing, the black hoofprints burned into the dirt, and all the time the trees moving in a wind I couldn't feel. Found the Mother too, poor thing; think I was supposed to. I'll do for her as I can, and what I must, when it's her time. I have seen the future, and I know what side my bread is buttered on. My advice? Go to ground. Stay out of the woods.

the Young come
and they will hunger
Iä, Shub-niggurath, baby

The end

September 5, 2008

Dinner out in the Yucatan

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Rowena blew dust from the stone tablet.

"Look here." She pointed at some blurred characters.

"I can't read them," I replied, "these are pre-Mayan. No one can read this script."

"I know," she replied, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. "But last night I dreamed about a stone city. I read this inscription on a temple gate. Listen."

As she recited the alien syllables I felt that I almost understood them, that I knew the dread city of which she spoke.

I clapped my hands over my ears. "Stop!"

"People stood around an altar. A priest cut out your heart with a gold knife. The heart was given to me." I looked at her, but she turned away. "I ate it. You were dead."

"We should leave,” I said. “Now."

I seized her arm, but she slipped out of my grasp, darting through a door that gaped nearby. I ran after her. She eluded me among the shafts of light and darkness. When I came to a courtyard I was surprised to see her standing there beside a stone table the height of her chest.

"This is the place," she whispered, "this is where I saw you slaughtered."

"That was a dream."

Even as I said this I thought I remembered the scene she had described, and I felt something stir within me. Her sorrowful expression changed to one I could not interpret.

I was on my back. I tried to tell her that I needed food, that I felt hungrier than I ever had, but no words came. I sat up. I caught her hands and tried to explain, but she would not listen, trying to pull free, and shouting. I gave up on talk. There was no time for that now. Hunger was all I had, my vision shrank to a blurry point, and I could do nothing but fill my belly.

I came to my senses on the open hillside. My shirt was wet. The sun set in a welter of crimson and ragged shreds of cloud. A couple of Mayan youths in shorts and dirty shirts stood near. I called to them, but when they approached me their faces changed and they fled. I struggled to my feet, felt the awful hunger returning. Maybe the young men would give me food. I stumbled after them in the gathering dusk.

The end

July 24, 2008

An Abruptness of Gulls

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

The rain-slicked cobblestones.
The pleasure girl, and what she saw.
The pallid man and his burden.
The unwelcome attentions of hired guns.
A dock, and what was moored there.
A cabin, and what was hurled there.

A father and his grief.
The bloodhound and a soiled dress.
The alley's end.
And what was found there.

An abruptness of gulls.
The sameness of days.
A rocking of swells.
An eternity in the dark cabin.

A dockside tavern and a looseness of tongues.
An open palm and the readiness of coin.
A ship, most excellent and speedy.
A pursuit and the hope of rescue.

A port, the shining sand, a singing in the trees.
The tendrils that writhe.
Calls that echo and reply.
The narrow and winding path.
A bicep gripped by a tall man's hand.
An ancient rune-carven stone.
An intonation of Words.
A flowering of crimson.
The opening of a Door.

The silence of leaves underfoot.
An imposition of tendrils.
The virtues of tempered steel.
The silence in a clearing.
Some consequences of tardiness.
A buzzing of flies.
The stickiness of that which remains.
A gathering interest of crows.

The end

For Fritz Leiber

June 18, 2008

The Pantry

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

(Being an account of the true events culminating in the disappearance of Ms. M-----, of Lawrence, Kansas, May 15, 1987.)

"There's a giant squid in the pantry."

"I thought you hated calamari."

"No! It's alive. Or, well, I think so. It's making a creepy noise. Anyway, get rid of it. Please?"

Aron sighed, tossed the newspaper on the floor, and levered himself out of the armchair. He opened the pantry door, but he didn't see anything unusual, except that awful domestic burgundy Cele's mother had brought. Certainly not a giant squid.

"I'm sorry, Cele, there's nothing here." He wasn't sorry. He didn't like squid.


Aron was at work and Cele was all keyed up. She couldn't watch TV. Her eyes constantly strayed to the pantry door. She had to get away. She ran out to the back yard, but there was nothing to do. The laundry wasn't dry and she had already weeded the rock garden. She found herself at the pantry again. The door thrummed.

She yanked it open. An eye the size of a serving platter blinked slowly, its iris a piercing blue-green.


She stood before a door, a huge, ancient door bound with bronze. The door swung open and she realized she was underwater. She swam in, swam faster and faster down a long corridor. Dread and eagerness both swelled within her. She heard distant chanting. Then she was in a huge room where a giant with the head of a squid sat on a throne. He stood and came towards her. She could not move.

She sat up, drenched in sweat and staring wildly. She was at home in bed, her husband sleeping beside her, there was a thing in the pantry, it was 2:30 in the morning. She got up and padded into the kitchen. She rested her hand on the knob of the pantry door. No, this was insane, it really was. She needed to call the shrink as soon as her office opened. Cele let go of the door and turned away. But her hand was still on the door. It opened. Muscular arms wrapped around her; rows of suckers clamped tightly to her skin. She was lifted up and carried into the pantry.


"Cele...? Honey? That's funny." He couldn't find her anywhere. Aron looked in every room of the house. The car was in the garage. There was no note. He opened the pantry. A faint fishy scent? No, nothing. Nothing at all.

The end

August 27, 2007

Advanced Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath IV: Citadel of the Ghoul®

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

His eyes are shut, but he's clicking faster now, he's in the zone, the trance engendered by playing a repetitive game well mastered. And now the veil parts and he sees the stair, sets foot on the topmost step, begins his descent.

Long time he climbs, ever downward amidst sepulchral gloom, and he can hear the chittering of the ghouls in the vast space below him. He is no longer aware of his hands, clicking the mouse, only of the dreamworld.

The air is colder here, and he puts his hands in his pockets, his breath forming evanescent puffs of white. At length he sees a glimmering in the red-litten mirk, but it does not seem to be the expected buttery yellow lamplight of the charcoal burners' village, where he will spend the night.

Disturbingly, the light flickers and, as he draws nearer, assumes a distinctly rosy hue. He smells smoke. In the village he finds the charcoal burners scattered, their huts charred. From the smell, some of the charcoal burners remain in the ruins of their dwellings. He searches, following the paths where survivors fled, trampling their gardens of rare black lilies in hasty flight. Under the eaves of the forest stands Hando, gracious host of previous visits to the dream lands.

"Are you all right, old friend? Who did this?" The traveler demands.

Hando shakes his head. "The ghouls, no longer satisfied with their habitual pungent fare, prey upon the living. My whole family." He cannot go on.

The traveler swears by the bones of his father, resting quietly beneath the groves of lemon trees near Lasturion the Enduring, on the far shore of the inner sea, that he will not rest until a terrible vengeance has been wreaked on the kingdom of the flesh eaters.


"Doctor, he was up here when the power... I called, but he didn't answer. He didn't answer." For a few moments she could not go on. "After a while I came upstairs. I found him slumped over the keyboard, his hand still clicking and moving the mouse. I tried to pry his hand off the horrid thing! I couldn't. I turned off the computer, but his hand still moves, and he will not wake."