43: In the Labyrinth of Nyarlathotep

Thursday 16 June 1925: Masks of Nyarlathotep

Innocent Queen Nitocris: Masks of Nyarlathotep
Innocent Queen Nitocris

The leering spluttering face of an ass; the steely cold teeth-filled grimace of a crocodile; the frenzied squealing hissing fury of a hyena: With every blink of his eyes, these terrors are propelled through the darkness towards Professor Fock on frantic human bodies. Breaking all the rules of caution in such a dangerous location, the Professor lights a cigarette, inhaling deeply. The nicotine reaching his brain momentarily suppresses the traumatic flashback and he is briefly able to relax his grip on the M16 to remove the Lucky Strike from his mouth and exhale a cloud of smoke into the darkness.

Fear has become so tangible that every scar and wound Fock has received in recent years – in particular the terrible burns from the abhorrent skin monster in Constantinople – begin to pulse and speak of the end that awaits him. An end that promises only icy hypnotic terror and an endless spiral of determined and relentless pain. Inevitability? The impending sense of dread and the Damocles sword of an inescapable end only have meaning to a man who is not fighting for his life. The true enemy is inactivity: Every moment of indecision, every brief rest to catch a breath of stagnant subterranean air is a moment where the horrors can tighten their razor wire net around Wesley’s train of thought.

Why now? Where did the first cracks in this solid scientific mind first appear? After all that has happened, fear starts to gain the upper hand now? Surely the terror of the Bloody Tongue, the J’akota, the Bloated Woman or any of the other rationality-destroying incomprehensibly horrendous insane monstrosities should have done the job long before now? Or is it finally the sum of all this madness? Critical mass has been reached and the machinery in place to process a constant stream of insanity has finally overloaded?

For the Professor, this is a new development. Normally, his dispassionate and scientific powers of observation would simply detach from the reality of the present and follow a well-trained and practiced pattern of documentation, categorization and identification. Now, however, the foundations of a house built on theoretical knowledge have begun to crumble. Like a termite infestation, the solid material has been gradually weakened and consumed, leaving a hollow shell of which the merest touch will cause it to collapse in a pile of powdery dust with no trace of its former existence remaining. Against all reason and experience, the investigators are trapped in a labyrinth populated with nightmares. But Professor Fock is trapped in two labyrinths: And from the labyrinth of his mind there can be no escape.

The bodies of the mutated monsters lie scattered on the floor of the cavern where they fell. Wesley examines one of the bodies and his knowledge of natural history defies all reason by revealing that they are “natural” beings. No surgery, no mutation. They are the “Children of the Sphinx”.

The investigators are about 200’ below ground level at this point. Simon asks Trixie to look at the Girdle. Is anything happening with it? “I haven’t noticed anything, honey!”

The direction the party is heading in is South-East. They have been on their feet for hours now. Gupta Singh is exhausted. Time to take a break. Gupta and Joe enter one of the side passages in search of a place of rest. The tunnel has been roughly tunneled. Old intermingled hand marks and claw marks have hewn the walls.

Suddenly Trixie whispers to Simon: “Westerners coming!”

There is some movement – it sounds like they are carrying something heavy… “Brace yourselves!” Hisses Simon. An electric torch comes into view. Whoever is coming is moving quietly and slowly. It is someone in Arabic dress.

Trixie shouts: “We will decimate you! Now!”

A voice answers: “It is here! I have it for you!” (a middle class accent).

Simon: “Are you from the Clive expedition?”

Irma: “Name yourself!”

A weather beaten face is revealed.

Myles Shipton-Connington: “I’m not your enemy. Is that you Grand? Myles Shipton-Connington. I am here on investigations. I may be a fool for coming here but how can a man have the head of an animal! Miss La Belle, I assure you I am not your enemy! I was following Omar Shakti, the High Priest! What the Devil is this place? May I approach?”

Simon Grand: “Yes.”

Myles is wearing a linen shirt, some basic equipment and a pistol. He looks Arabic at first glance but when looked at more closely he is clearly an Englishman.

Grand: “Well Myles, you have bitten off more than you can chew.”

Myles Shipton-Connington:“So it would seem but when I discovered who the Cult of the Black Pharaoh are I decided I had to do something. I am the military attaché at the Embassy in Cairo. Curiouser and curiouser.”

Grand: “Well you chose the wrong rabbit hole this time, Alice.”

Myles Shipton-Connington:“I went to all the good schools but none of them helped.”

Irma: “Where were you in the Great War?”

Myles Shipton-Connington: “Passchendaele. Gas, old boy. Not a pleasant thing. Captain, I was. Bally fool right at the fore. Gas almost did for me! Nasty business and all that.”

Irma’s psychology check reveals some irregularities in Myles’ statements…

Grand: “This will be dangerous. If you are not up to it, go back now.”

Myles Shipton-Connington: “By Jove, is that Donelly? Proud military record! Famous!”

Donelly throws him a couple of Mills grenades. Myles catches them with a cricketer’s ease.

Myles Shipton-Connington: “I was assigned to shadow Shakti. I work better alone. If I live up to your expectations…”

Singh: “Well the more the merrier I say!”

Myles: “Why Gupta Singh! A credit to all colonials!”

Singh: “Welcome aboard (you bloody British bastard)!”

Something drips onto Myles’ shoulder. It is warm.

Myles Shipton-Connington:“Erm, look up will you chaps? I seem to have got blooded somehow.”

The blood is warm… But there is nothing there. The investigators freeze and listen. No one hears anything. Everyone stays still. Seconds pass. Minutes. Nothing. Blood with no source. Another side tunnel appears. This is the 7th we’ve passed.

The investigators continue. The tunnel is heading North-East. No unusual tracks. Shod footprints. Back and forth. This is a strange and unreal place. Continuing, the party eventually reaches a T-junction. Decision time. Donelly ascertains that there are no different tracks here either.

Gupta sneaks forward but sees torchlight below and on the same level within a very large chamber. Maybe pillars in the way? Man-made light. Gupta tells Irma and the pair sneak up to observe the chamber again. Light is behaving strangely but the investigators can’t figure out why… Irma goes back and explains the situation to the others. Some concern about Myles. Natalja can only sneak very slowly because of her injury.

Joe makes his way to the front.

Natalja: “I accept death. I have Soviet mentality.”

All the investigators, including Myles, creep up to the passageway. Gupta and Irma sneak to the entranceway to get a better view. Across the expanse of the chamber, two guards can be seen. Pillars that look like trees rise into the high ceiling. The whole chamber is decked with black marble. A sickly red light rises from the staircase guarded by two children of the sphinx. There is also a large altar with an Egyptian style sarcophagus on it. There is also a bridge with two thrones on it and stele obelisks. To their horror, Irma and Gupta realize that the treetops of the pillars may actually be moving… The chamber is so huge that its edges are beyond the sight of the investigators. There may be a large pit or hole in the distance. We are on a kind of dais. Irma goes to the right followed by Joe and Myles. Gupta to the left with Simon and Trixie. Wesley and Natalja stay at the entrance to offer cover. There are more of the Children milling around near the altar. Speaking a language the investigators do not recognize.

Once closer, Irma decides to throw a grenade at the two guards by the stairs. The rest offer cover. There are more of them up there and they spot Gupta and start shouting! They charge Gupta shoots one and Simon finishes him off. Trixie also fires! Weird animal noises. Wesley shoots from the back and hits one on the dais. Natalja is covering his back. Simon kills the last one charging towards us. Gupta is busy reloading his Thomson. There is some kind of jewelled phaoraonic figure on the dais. Confusion amongst the Children of the Sphinx. Myles shoots at one of the Children of the Sphinx and finishes him off with his second shot! Good shooting, Limey! More animalistic grunting can be heard. There are more of them coming. Both parties move up, with Irma’s group heading towards the strange raised bridge.

Coming from round the side a figure appears. Irma throws a grenade. It detonates with deadly accuracy and wipes out a group of them, with Joe and Myles mopping up. The Children of the Sphinx behind the throne have ducked down. Gupta sees that the water in the black pool is rippling strangely. As if something is in there… Irma and Joe gun down another one of the monster cultists, a second falls unconscious from his injuries.

Four of the Children of the Sphinx charge up the stairs, Wesley guns three of them down while Gupta, instead of throwing his grenade in the water, he throws it at the two survivors charging towards him. They are obliterated.

Meanwhile, Irma, Myles and Joe have reached the sarcophagus…

Gupta throws a second grenade into the black pool and the remains of bodies and thousands of leeches are blasted into the air. It appears that prisoners are sacrificed in the water! Hideous!

Gupta joins the others by the sarcophagus while Simon and Trixie make it to the green bridge. Behind it there is a hole in the floor. It is a large hole and it is black. There is also another door at the end of the bridge. It opens into a narrow passageway, like one of the rough-hewn ones found before.

Inside the sarcophagus there is a mummy wearing a beautiful golden necklace and crown. Joe begins stabbing the mummy with his magical knife. The crown is immune to damage by the magical knife. Not a scratch. The mummy can be destroyed and Joe is close to destroying it. He then sets it on light: It burns.

Many footsteps and grunting can be heard approaching. Time is running out…

Wesley also hears moving and animal noises from a long way off. But they are getting closer.

Wes: “Be ready, we have company.”

Natalja: “I think time for cigarette now, no?”

Wes: “Care for a Lucky Strike? Best smoke in the whole of the US.”

At the sarcophagus Gupta takes the crown and Joe takes the necklace.

Gupta: “I’m sure the necklace will look very nice on you Mr. Donelly, sir. The jewels match the color of your eyes, sir.”

Irma throws a grenade on the first group to charge through the door: Mass carnage.

Stragglers on the bridge are picked off. Gupta mows down three more with the Tommy Gun. Natalja and Wesley decide not to stay in an exposed position and move to join the others at the sarcophagus.

Everyone runs for the bridge.

Irma: “This will be a great place for our last stand!”

The throne is covered in pictograms of sex, violence and other hideous images. On one of the thrones has the hieroglyphs Nyarlathotep on it. Simon suddenly has a thought: What about the hole, is that where Nyarlathotep comes from?

Suddenly a hideous guttural roar emanates from the hole. The investigators are gripped by terror.

As the last of the investigators, Natalja and Wesley reach the level of the bridge; a huge roar can also be heard from the opposite side of the chamber.

A trap? A last stand? Is this the end that Professor Fock is beginning to see before his eyes as if it is a living, breathing thing? There is a glint in the eyes of Shipton-Connington, as he clasps his grenade, a glint that reminds the quantum-chemist of his first taste of danger from a time so distant as to make its validity questionable.

Journal Wesley

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