How can such things be? How can something so impossibly vast, so impossibly monstrous, so impossibly, insanely hostile to life exist on our world? Even I can scarcely believe that such horrors could truly threaten all we know and hold dear, but I've discovered evidence of their existence. I know they're out there. I know they're coming.
My name is unimportant. I live in and work for the city. I am actually something of an explorer. I travel far and wide each day, looking for treasures, information, food -- anything, really, that could potentially benefit those of us who live in the city. It's hard work. Often, it's exhausting and dangerous work. But I don't mind it. I enjoy exploring, the smell of the earth and the air, the rustle of the wind and the leaves and the grass. It's not a perfect life, but it's a good one, and I'm making a difference for my people.
Only a few days ago, life was normal for me. I was roaming very far from home -- even farther than usual. I knew that it would be difficult for me to return home before nightfall, but I pushed on, willing to endure a night in the wilderness, under whatever cover I could scavenge. The day was beautiful and warm--a perfect day for walking, and I felt invigorated to be alive, outdoors, and hiking through the unmapped countryside.
But soon I came over a small hill and immediately knew I had to be on my guard. Off in the distance was another city. There was no way to tell how they would treat strangers, so I was lucky I had not met one of their own scouts yet. Many cities survive by war and bloodshed, invading rival cities, stealing their property, and killing and enslaving as many of their inhabitants as possible. I could observe for a few moments, to learn as much as I could about their army and resources, but this was vitally important information. I had to return home quickly -- perhaps our cities would never come into conflict, perhaps we would need to field an army of our own, either to repel an invasion or to beat the other city to the punch. But that was not my decision to make.
I hadn't watched long -- not long enough yet to even guess at the city's population, strength, or intentions--but without warning, the atmosphere itself seemed to change. The ground below shook, dislodging rocks and gravel, sending grains of sand rolling down the hill at my feet like tiny cartwheeling acrobats. The sun itself seemed dimmer.
And before I even knew what was happening, the Thing was upon us all.
It loomed out of the sky -- I can still barely conceive of how large it was--hundreds? Thousands of times larger than I? It was larger than the entire city--how could that be possible? It was so colossal, so unimaginably immense that my mind simply couldn't perceive it in its entirety -- a limb here, an eye there, and the rest sprawling and spiraling beyond where my eyes could see.
Gibbering and keening shrilly, the Thing uprooted mighty trees with its flabby tentacles and began stabbing them into the city itself, gouging the heart of the city open, massacring scores of the city's workers with each stroke. The army poured out, panicked, confused, and tried to defend the city, but the Thing barely noticed their attacks. They all died by the hundreds, some buried in rubble, some cruelly crushed, seemingly at the Thing's leisure, between its terrible tentacles and pitiless claws.
More quickly than I could have believed, the city was reduced to a ruin, and the Thing rose to its full, towering height, howling with malign delight. I don't think it even realized that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bodies stained its evil clotted appendages. As it began to lumber off toward wherever its foul den was, I felt that I perceived something new, something that pushed the horror to an even greater level. I turned and ran as fast as I could, heedless of all obstacles in my path, heedless of the scattered survivors of the massacre behind me, heedless of all but returning to my home.
In retrospect, I should have been more careful as I made my retreat. A horror like that -- who could possibly imagine what it might be able to sense? It could have detected my terror-stricken flight and returned to destroy me. Even worse, it could have traced the path I took to my own city. I could have doomed my own people just by returning to them. But I never thought of caution as I fled. I was, quite honestly, nearly mad with terror. Sensible thought was impossible for me -- I was operating solely on instincts that drove me to return to the illusory safety of my home.
As it turns out, I was lucky. The Thing didn't kill me. It didn't follow me home. But it's still out there. The evidence of the devastated city was enough to persuade my people that my mad story was true, that the threat was real, and we have begun to make our own preparations in case the unthinkable ever comes after us. My people are confident and brave, but I must admit that I harbor doubts about their ability to withstand the monster, should it ever attack. They haven't seen the Thing in the flesh, as I have. They don't have nightmares of its rampage. Against a foe so insanely immense, so impossibly powerful, so breathtakingly evil, is there any way we can stand against it?
And I have not told my people everything I learned about the Thing. If they knew what I had perceived just before I fled from the shattered city, I fear they would lose all hope and surrender to madness and despair. I already know that we are all ultimately doomed, but I can't bring myself to kill their hopes with the truth. You see, before the Thing had shambled away from the ruined city, it had emitted some sort of piercing cry -- and its call had been answered! The reply came as if from far away, and the Thing immediately abandoned its bloody revel and dutifully stomped away in the direction of the other call -- as if the Thing were subservient to some greater, more impossibly vast elder Thing -- as if it were a mere child being summoned from its playtime by its horrific parent!
"Mitchell, what on earth have you been doing?"
"Been smashing ants."
"Smashing ants? What for?"
"It's fun, Mom."
"Smashing ants is not fun, young man. Look at you! You look half eaten alive! Did you let those ants bite you?"
"Just on my arms. It don't even sting much."
"You just wait. I'm sure it will soon. Come on, let's get some soap and water and Bactine on those arms."
"Can't we eat first, Mom? I'm starving!"
"I'm not going to let you get crushed ants all over the kitchen table. Let's go get washed up, right now."