LP: Grotesque by The Fall
2004 Earmark EA40038DLP, Gatefold, Double LP
Favorite Track: All of them as this is one of my favorite albums, but for the sake of hard decisions: The N.W.R.A.
LP: Grotesque by The Fall
1980 Rough Trade Rough 18
Favorite Track: Now that I have an original, I will add English Scheme to my list of favorites
*To amuse and test myself, I slipped every single track title from Grotesque and the two singles that came out with it into the story. Some stick out like a sore thumb because, of course, I would choose the album with the song title C’n’C s-Mithering. [which means Cash and Carry S(tore)/(top) Mithering (mothering)]
When the police came for the remainders of my roommate, they did not believe me when I told them about the city hobgoblins. They said I was totally wired on meth, grotesque, a real sicko. Although one aging cop with steel eyes remarked I could have been a visionary artist if I had chosen a different medium than the human body. I reiterated about the hobgoblins. What was left of J. Temperance was carried out in four separate plastic baggies. The cop dusting the coffee table hurled into the whorls of fine black powder scattered across the glass surface. I was lead outside into the stabbing sunlight for the first time in four days. The paddy wagon smelled of bum piss. I struggled. They wouldn’t listen to me about the hobgoblins. They exist. I know you know. You have seen their hunched shapes moving about the darkness in the corner of your eyes. You have heard their ancient fingernails scrap rust off the pipes. You have heard their sharp teeth chew off the lights.
I am innocent. You are too if you believe me.
I put up a notice on the apartment’s bulletin board for a new roommate and it was answered within the hour. My impression of J. Temperance was that he was a solid, dependable man of frugal habits and possessing an intrinsic sympathy for minding his own business. Often his beaked-nose and black plastic frames were buried in a thick book while he read in the orange lounger by the living room window. I appreciated this silence and this respect for my own personal space as I had recently quit my job as a librarian to take up the study of occult magic. My interest in the field had peaked suddenly one wintry night when I was re-shelving books in our stacks and I found a curiously bound folio in the wrong spot. The book was 32 centimeters by 50, the yellowed pages clipped to fit under the cover, and a worm-eaten purple cloth emitted a dank odor. There was no title or publication page, however, on the bottom of a blank page, cribbed handwriting (most likely old batty Mrs. Applebaum, the former cataloging librarian who left a few years ago when her husband caught consumption) declared it W.M.C.-Blob 59. I knew not what this titled alluded to, if it alluded to anything real or imaginary at all, however the following pages were a palimpsest of arcane text, blasphemous diagrams, and the same handwriting elucidating on some of the more enigmatic sentences. I took it home to study. I had some understanding of dark magic every since my wife died.
Only once did J. Temperance disturb me in my work. The morning rain had ruined my constitution in the park. Perturbed, I lit a candle and sat in the orange chaise, rain tapping on the glass in a steady cadence. I had moved Temperance’s book to the coffee table so I had room to sit down and put my feet up as I unrolled a piece of parchment that I had discovered in a secret flap at the back of W.M.C.-Blob 59. The handwriting was not cribbed, but large, loopy and obviously written with an old quill pen. A few drops of what at the time I imagined was black ink had blotted out certain words in the text. It was titled How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ and I shrugged it off as an amateur attempt at a satirical poem. But after answering my telephone and insisting that I was sick (I had yet to quit at this point), I settled back in the seat and read it again. This time I notice the mystical qualities of the poem. What I had previously read as satire had an alternative interpretation like a sigil that opened different locks in a treasure chest depending on what key was inserted. The poem was instead a component list for casting a magic spell.
But what kind of magic? The author gave no specifics on the nature of spell transcribed. I did not hesitate. My tongue felt numb and velutinous as I tried to pronounce the odd syllables and guttural words. My face drained of heat and color. Lights flickered inside the apartment as a gust of intense wind rattled the shutters. I had wanted to stop speaking halfway through but I could not control myself. I had just uttered the last word when J. Temperance threw open the door, his pea coat soaked through and dripping on the black and white rug. He was drunk like I had never seen him. Rent was due tomorrow.
“Whadda you doing in my chair?”
I dropped the parchment when I stood up to appease him. I could smell his breath, an unpleasant odor of rye and bitters, and the collar of his white shirt was stained. He cracked his knuckles and I had noticed for the first time they were inked with the letters “The N.W.R.A.” I had an image of him down by the docks hauling in nets of dead fish by the hundreds, smoking vile cigarettes with unsavory types, and whispering sedition between large frothy mugs. He had respected my need to privacy so well I had learned next to nothing about him. Where my conception of him as a fisherman came from I cannot say but point at some pulp horror story I may have read in my youth.
“Pay your rates, you said…my chair…my book…your rates are ridiculous. How can a man survive? How can a man? The container drivers make nothing I tell you. Nothing.”
I placated him with a friendly pat on the shoulder. Now that he mentioned it, I could smell the diesel on his clothes. The fish smell must have been my imagination. He seemed to be sobering despite slurring his nonsensical fragments together.
“You shouldn’t have moved my…containers full of…my book. I keep it there for a reason. Don’t let the…don’t let the…containers…touch it…what is that there?”
Temperance scooped up the spell parchment with his greasy long-fingered hands. He turned it over and read with unbalanced eyes. I told him it was a bit of nonsense some patron left behind in an old library book but he wailed as the lights flickered again. He began to stomp through the apartment knocking ashtrays, lamps, and magazine racks over as he frantically searched for a missing object. In the kitchen, I heard him open the cupboard door below the sink and let loose another spine-shivering wail. Before I could move, he came back into the living room and seized the front of my shirt.
“You didn’t summon those hobgoblins, did ya? Are you a bloody frickin’ moron?”
“Hobgoblin? What are you going on about–”
“They are not innocent. Everyone always goes on about them…my book…being innocent. Playful creatures. But they aren’t. Not when they are hungry…hungry. We need clothes…socks…socks to banish them. Quick, give me your socks.”
J. Temperance looked at me with red, sorry eyes. Locks from his sandy hair fell into a point down the bridge of his aquiline nose. Gently, he began to snore. It took me a couple of minutes to lug his weight into his bedroom and tuck him in. I rolled him on his side and, partly out of whimsy, placed a sock on his face. When I reached my bedroom, the lights flickered a third time and the fishy odor permeated from underneath the floorboards. All night I heard the scampering of tiny legs and whispered laughter until I woke up with a sweat upon my forehead. At last, around four A.M., I found peace in slumber with a sock over my own face.
I met Mrs. Gloria Applebaum at the library on what would turn out to be my last day of employment. I must confess that I lied when I suggested I quit when it should be quite obvious that I was canned. Mrs. Gloria Applebaum was a large lady, but strong and fast. Who could forget her flat feet dodging the stacks of accumulated library material with the agility of a ballerina? She wore her usual vermilion cashmere sweater, grey slacks, and brown loafers, which there were rumors she had written down the Dewey Decimal System on the heels during her certification exam. Mrs. Applebaum greeted me with a firm handshake and followed me into my office. I shut the door against the regular commotion of lunch hour traffic. She sat in front of the desk rummaging through her purse with apparent ease.
“Gloria, I thank you for coming out on such short notice. It has been three years, yes? And poor Reginald, he was a good man. You must miss him very much.”
She nodded and went back to investigating her purse.
“I just have a matter of minor importance that shouldn’t take more than a minute or two of your time. I believe you to be an expert on such matters.”
“I quit the library. You are the expert now, Charles–”
“This is not a library matter. Although its origins can be found here at the library. With this book.”
I did not expect her reaction when I pulled from my desk drawer the battered copy of W.M.C.-Blob 59. Her purse dropped to the floor spilling its contents of keys, lipstick and powder, change, and small, round curios of a silver material. Her face was ashen.
“Where did you find that?”
“Here. In the stacks. There are many curious notes written by someone other than the author. You, perhaps?”
“What is this book, Gloria?”
“An English scheme. A prank. By a very serious, foolhardy boy.”
“This is no joke, Mrs. Applebaum. I have read it and read it correctly and I know it to be a very serious book. But there is an aspect of it that I just don’t quite grasp. If you could provide me some more information.”
“You shouldn’t have messed with. I suggest you put it back in the basement and be done with it,” then her shrewd eyes squinted together for a minute, “You summoned them, didn’t you?”
I crossed my legs, “Summoned what precisely?”
“City hobgoblins. I don’t suppose the country kind can travel so far from the meadows.”
“Gloria, I have always known you as a frank and serious lady rooted in reality. Folklore and superstitions are purely for the unfit and–”
“You never did have a grasp of the bigger picture, Charles. Always looking at the wall instead of the window. There are forces larger than us and there are forces smaller. Quite smaller, but no less powerful. I am quite shocked to learn you have discerned anything from that book with your ornery short-sighted world view. You probably smirk at the mention of hobgoblins. That makes them hungry. That makes them play their worst pranks.”
“Forces greater and smaller? Gloria, that reminds me of one of the lines in the book I did not quite understand. You see, I have a far better understanding of the occult than you give me credit for. The last few days I have made it my raison d’etre, if you will. The real difference between you and I have always been I kept my mouth shut instead of letting it make my co-workers think I am mental. Now tell me,” I found the passage that had troubled me, “what does this mean: “After Yig, after Shudde M’ell and the Cthonians below our feet, in the deeper crevices and steam vents play the mischievous wee-folk who answer only to Yhob.” It is about the hobgoblins, right? But what language is Yig from? Is Shudde M’ell an object, a magical incantation, a sphere of existence? Is Yhob some sort of deity?”
“You ask many dangerous questions, Charles, and questions I cannot provide answers for even if I knew them. Take one of these and keep it near you. It won’t do much, but you need all the help you can get.” She pressed one of the small silver curios into my hand as she stood up. At the door frame, she paused, “If you believe as much as you claim you do, for my sake Charles dear, keep your socks on.”
Returning home, J. Temperance was not in his room or in the apartment at all. For three days and nights, I huddled in my lounger re-reading puzzling sections of occult lore. I found few suggestions in any of the weird tomes I had borrowed from various university libraries around the city before my termination. From Joseph Bolden’s Cryptonicionary, I saw a horrible artistic representation of a Cthonian that set my teeth quivering for hours. In the Age Before Time, I pieced together odious implications about a snake cult in the Southwestern part of the United States that may have worshiped Yig. And, finally albeit I still try to hinder that memory from being recalled as I sit here in my cell, I learned of Yhob and the fate of the universe. I had read fervently for three days and nights, but I could not sleep for the strange shadows that played against my walls despite my efforts to block out all light from the living room. The water pipes made eerie sounds as if an undead symphony held a concert hall in the un-rented apartment below me. Every time my eye lids began to flutter, I heard the quiet grumblings of a thousand squeaky, elderitch voices babbling in an unknown language. At last, my exhaustion could hold no longer and I fell asleep, book in hand, on the stiff cushion of my chair, silver curio around my neck and both feet in blue cotton socks.
J. Temperance woke me with an aggressive slamming of my door. He had a new face in hell, lit from three days of alcoholic soirees with perhaps a bit of a gramme friday injected between pubs. His voiced was slurred and terrible, his body trembling for breath from dehydration and exhaustion. One of his boots was unlaced revealing a bare ankle.
“Putta block in it, Wizard of the Unholy Cloth! Are they here? Are they hiding? You didn’t think I knew…I knew. You didn’t think I was…Yhob…watching…I was watching. You. Flipping through those obscene books…muttering dark prayers…and demonic hymns. I…am going…Zerk…to stop…you…Thnk…C’n’C-S mithering, you Satanist!”
I had attempted to mollify him but I saw it was to no use. He held an axe in his hand taken from the wood shed out back. Outside, a gale screamed and pushed on the windows so that the shutters swung back and forth heavily against the side of the apartment. Temperance twisted his head, his arm lowering the blade toward the rug. I sprang at him the same moment the lights went out with the sound of fragmenting glass. I sucked in my breath in the cold dark as I collided with him and we tumbled off the door and onto the ground. For a moment, I thought the axe blade was stuck in me, but the pain in my ribs was too dull to be serious. So I told myself. I heard the scampering legs and no doubt J. Temperance did too because he slurred screams or screamed slurs, I could not really tell. My fingers found the wooden handle, but Temperance’s jerking boot caught my shoulder and I dropped it somewhere. The rug muffled its fall. In the corner of my eyes, I saw small pointed shadows like tiny figures in hats hopping about the shadows. I shook my head and cursed myself. I crawled across the floor searching for the axe.
There was a heavy noise and Temperance’s long legs began to thump on the floor with sickening regularity. There was an audible slicing sound followed by a popping like a kitchen knife cutting open a bag of air. Wet air, I thought, as something covered me and a pair of boots flew over my head. I found the axe halfway embedded in my chaise. W.M.C.- Blob 59 had been split in half. A bright flash of lightning temporarily lit the room. By the entrance way to the kitchen I saw a pair of legs bent at a hideous angle, bare feet pointing at the ceiling with missing toes. I bellowed and swung the axe but it was darkness again and the crazy whisperings and crooked phantasms of tiny people had disappeared.
That is all I can remember. There is no point reiterating my arrest and trial. I was quite catatonic which is probably why I landed in Arkham Asylum instead of prison. But a prison of the mind is the same as physical captivity, is it not? This torment is just one more stage in their prank. They could have killed me that night the same way as they did J. Temperance. Perhaps the curio did save me. Perhaps it marked me. Gloria was right. They are vile tricksters of the night.
The head psychologist has not been here for a week. Our last session had frustrated him as I continued to mention Yig, Cthonians, the city hobgoblins and their Lord Yhob. He ended it by stating the police had found no record of a Mrs. Gloria Applebaum in the city or any of the surrounding family farms. He spoke of hallucinations and multiple personalities. I told him about the tome I found in the library and he merely walked out the door. So now I sit in my padded cell, listening for them. They sounds of their hairy feet get louder every day. The light bulb in the ceiling seems a bit dimmer. And yesterday, the white-clothed attendants came for my socks.