Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Great Monster

One of the central conceits of H. P. Lovecraft's Mythos corpus is that there are these ancient and very powerful beings that exist out in the universe. They aren't hostile to humanity, they're just indifferent. But their power makes that indifference into a mortal threat.

While coming up to the door of my apartment a few days ago, I met a spider. As happens from time to time, he'd spun his web across the gap between the wall of the building and this post that runs between the balcony and the roof. Right in a space that I have to pass through in order to get to my door. So I come home, and find myself face to face with an arachnid, who that morning had likely marveled at its good fortune in finding such prime and unoccupied real estate.

Needless to say, that turned out to be a colossal error in judgment; and the end of one web, since I had no intention of winding up with it all over my face, hair and shirt.

And in that moment, I kind of understood how Mr. Lovecraft intended Cthulhu and company to interact with humanity. I had nothing against the spider. It simply had the misfortune to build a web in a spot that I needed to pass through. I wouldn't be surprised if it never even saw me clearly. From its point of view, there may have been somewhat of a strange, localized darkening of the sky, and then catastrophe struck. (The spider did survive. But if one can be traumatized, there's a spider therapist about to make a killing.)

I'd once read an interesting story about ants managing to communicate with humans and being able to ask favors; and how horribly wrong that could go. And that's a pretty good analog for how cultists might find their interactions with the Elder Gods. But the interaction with the spider speaks to what life in that world can suddenly be like for the rest of the inhabitants. The ones for whom life is normal until they find themselves face to face with a force so much greater than themselves that they can't even perceive it properly, that destroys their works and maybe even lives out of sheer indifference to their fates.

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