Yeah, Write #324. Black Pharaoh in the Morning

Black Pharaoh in the Morning

The air is strange against my skin. The current carries damp salt, cold sea and warmth like the breath of a stranger sliding up the back of my skirt, uncomfortable but not entirely unwelcome. The night passed too cool and quiet, my sleep was too thin and loose. I don’t feel rested but my body feels anticipatory anxiousness.

The way the dim sun struggles to make a show of dawn feels ominous. I’m nervous.

In the street, things don’t feel much better. Construction workers and street dudes all mill around looking pensive and trying to hide it behind wilted banter.

Everything is so strange and slightly off. I can feel my baby hairs fuzzing up and the urge to free my hair and run gibbering secret words is so strong I have to stop and breathe. Remind myself why I am here. Reassign the feel of the air from tenebrous to only another lukewarm summer morning.

This is not when the stories say it will happen. In the tales, it comes in the deep of night. There is madness and incantations. The Stygian alienist should awaken the chosen with his strange words and the air should reek of the void.

The stories lie.

I was born or made with the  R’lyehian mark already in my flesh. with the sweet malodorous putrefying  blue candy smell in my mouth. I move through the world with my human face and I wait and work and hold some tiny sliver of hope that my knowledge will come to use.

I am not afraid, but I am tired. This damp that ruins my hair and makes my body ache only serves to remind me how far from Hadoth I am. I am forlorn. I am singular. I am Nephren-Ka, I am the Crawling Chaos and mine is the duty to do the will of the Outer Gods. I know this. I am also Black and woman. I am dangerous on the Earth and beyond it, mornings like this I have to remind myself that I am no victim of weather and messy edges.

“Mornin’ Cactus.”

I don’t like strange men speaking to me. I smile and I know he calls me Cactus because he thinks it is a cute way to comment on my hair.

“Fm’latgh.”

As I step away, his screaming overtakes the traffic noise and he runs into the street clawing at his clothes until he is bare chested. His skin turns red and starts to bubble, he looks like a hot dog and I smile more.

I, am he of a Thousand Forms. I am in flesh what drives White men to gibbering madness and terror that tightens their trigger fingers. I am The Nightmare.

Around me, the morning erupts in chaos. The man burning from within writhes and sings the song of the damned, people are running around the intersection like confused insects and the crash and thump of cars running into each other and the tired damp morning is rendered glorious.

I let down my hair and fluff it until it is a dark halo around my head. All is right and beautiful.

A warm current kisses the backs of my thighs under my skirt as I turn to spread my effulgent accursed joy. As he is loaded into the ambulance, the boiling man holds the EMT close and speaks between clenched teeth, his breath hot and fetid with the terror of one who has been touched by my hand.

“I failed to see Nyarlathotep has come.”

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For those not familiar with Lovecraft see here for vocab help.

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On Lovecraft, horror, holy shit racism and writin thangs.

I first read a Lovecraft story more than twenty years ago as a young teenager. I cut my reading novels teeth on horror and discovering Lovecraft was like finding a new home.

Except, I couldn’t really be home because Lovecraft was racist as fuck.

Like holy fuckballs even when I was a “colorblind” young teen in a  super white environment and friends told me it was racist, holy fuck he was SO FUCKING RACIST…ahem.

At that age I was way better at compartmentalizing the racism and just kind of hunching my shoulders and getting through it because I fell in pure love with the mythos Lovecraft created. Elder Gods? Squiddy nightmares? All those words he used to denote the madnesses and things?

Fuck to the yeah.

So fast foward a bit.

In my 20s I wrote some Lovecraft influenced fiction with some friends. We used Lovecraft’s mythos as a bit of a blueprint and went wild. We created new races of monster, we played with noir and vampire horror and things.

Move ahead to the last couple of years. I have had this deep desire to write Lovecraftian type fiction with my own flavor. So that means a lot of POC, a lot of genderbending, the gay, lots of things.

My problem has been as it has been with returning to writing horror at all was how to get my shit in there, without feeling gross.

If you’ve been here for a while you already know I am a horror fanatic. I am a horror nerd of epic proportions. From basic fan squee to gettin real nerdy about the psychology of horror and shit once I get going it’s hard to get me to stop.

Horror from the industry side, so much racism, sexism and grossness when I dipped my toes in and lurked a lot of the industry side message boards and things I just got sickened and gave it all up.

Evidence of this can be found in my bucketload of novella drafts, notes and ideas.

Part of how I function as a writer means that I can’t always write through everything. And for years I could not write things that were horror or related because all I could think of was all the bullshit.

Also, at that time I was still really into the idea that mainstream publication was the way to legitimacy as a creator.

Fuck that.

Now that my position on legitimacy and industry bullshit has changed I am walking back into writing horror.

Going back to my Lovecraft story I have been nursing this idea of the Nyarlathotep.

Uh, it’s gonna get real nerdy from here on out. Fair warning.

So Nyarlathotep is canonically a “dark” Egyptian man, a salesman type. Showboaty.  This bit from Wikipedia is pretty relevant to the vision I am playing with:

Nyarlathotep, however, is active and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being, usually a tall, slim, joyous man. He has “a thousand” other forms, most of these reputed to be maddeningly horrific. Most of the Outer Gods have their own cults serving them; Nyarlathotep seems to serve these cults and take care of the deities’ affairs in their absence. Most of the gods use strange alien languages, but Nyarlathotep uses human languages and can be mistaken for a human being.

Okay so in my vision Nyarlathotep is reborn into the modern world and has come to fuck shit up. She in my head looks something like this man but a woman:

egyptian

So you know not Hollywood’s EVERYONE EVER WAS WHITE version.

Incidentally, I frequently use google image search so I can have a picture in my head for a character or setting etc. We’ll discuss it another time.

There is my Nyarlathotep.

Being that she’s Egyptian dealing with (in that story) an American, I mention she speaks slowly. I use that not only to give the reader a downlow clue to slow down but because every Egyptian I’ve ever known speaks very quickly.

When I got the idea my Nyarlathotep was more fast talking greasy type but the slowed down type I find scarier.

Now the language. Lovecraft was very wordy. Not that I can’t be a windbag on occasion but, I wanted to cut it down.  Chill it out a little and modernize it without losing some of the great language he used.

A fine line to walk.

Lovecraft has a very particular vocabulary. See this list for reference.

I worked really hard to put in some of that Lovecraft vocabulary so that my fellow lovers of the Elder Gods would be like, oh I see what you did there. And other folks would just get the creeps. See here from the above link:

The best-known R’lyehian fragment comes from HPL’s story, “The Call of Cthulhu:”

ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

HPL translates this as, “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming.” Using this dictionary, however, a more literal translation is, “Dead, yet dreaming, Cthulhu waits in his palace in R’lyeh.”

My goal with this piece was to take a very small box *parameters of Yeah, Write*, a concept *Nyarlathotep*, remove the racism, add in my flavor and see if I could keep it sexy and creepy. Mainly because I like sexy and creepy.

I feel like I succeeded in my goals.

This is also why Clive Barker is such a huge influence on me. I really love when there is the sensual terror and erotic body horror in scary stories.

Now my Nylarthotep is not scary but I got some creep in there.

I realized I need to gently get back into the scary.

Next time I do a Lovecraft thing, I might take a new direction. Maybe some straight up erotica that isn’t necessarily tentacle porn.

SO yeah.

See I told y’all I nerd real hard. This is not even the tip of the iceberg with my nerding.

But I’ll stop now.