We had a huge number of entries for the Your Own Private Apocalypse Competition. This competition was to celebrate the release of Graham Walmsley’s Apocalypse Machine, the second installment of the Cthulhu Apocalypse series. We gave you the chance to end the world your way in 500 words.
First place wins a limited edition of Stealing Cthulhu, some genuine 1930s ephemera and a $100 Pelgrane Press voucher to be used in our store.
2 Runner up prizes of $20 Pelgrane Press vouchers and the Stealing Cthulhu PDF.
All entries can be viewed here (pdf). The winners were chosen anonymously.
I’m delighted to announce the winners as chosen by Graham Walmsley –
Name: Kristian Bøe Grønseth
When the Dust Bowl came to Mondale, Nebraska, many moved, but some folks stayed. Not everybody farmed after all, and with a bandana covering your face in the storms you didn’t breath too much dry dirt. So when refugees from the big cities, from Omaha and Lincoln and even a couple of people from Chicago came, there were merchants and hotels waiting for them. They came with wild stories of desert spontaneously erupting in cornfields and meadows, great forests withering over night, mass hysteria and violence decimating towns and cities without warning and the very shape of space and time itself warping with distances between known places shrinking or growing, making maps and watches useless. When the National Guard was called out to restore order throughout the state, the sheriff deputized posses to guard against roving madmen, as several refugees insisted on witnessing cannibalism in various regions. As the black storms increased in intensity, the radio reception grew erratic, with news reports garbled and the news of previously unknown wild beasts erupting in masses. The last transmission they managed to pick up was a brimstone sermon delivered by a radio preacher only calling himself the Black Pharaoh, simply declaring the end of the rule of Man on Earth. After that the power went, as well as the telephone connection. No mail of newspapers had been delivered for weeks at that point, and the Mayor had not been able to reach any civil authorities or the National Guard for some time. State government had seemed to be breaking down. But most worrying of all was the sudden growth in distances, and the reports of strange scavengers east of Mondale.
A group of people had tried to drive east to Omaha to obtain canned goods and medicines, as well as news. They got to MacAdam Ranch, when they stopped by to ask for water. The “MacAdam” had been the last surviving ranch in Mondale, but now the cattle were no more. The cattle were being eaten a pack of humanoid horrors! Panicking, as a man they ran back to the truck and nearly left one or two behind as they scrambled back to town. Nothing had been seen of the ranch’s owners or cow hands.
This incident, added to the stories of the townies, galvanized the town leaders to make a hard decision: Mondale must be evacuated. Although the very land seemed to have been warped by unknown forces, and maps seemed largely to be worthless, one thing was apparent: Almost all refugees had appeared generally from the East, but none from the West. A general evacuation of the town, with pathfinders picked to scout ahead, was decided upon. What these scouts, both locals and townie refugees would see, was beyond belief. Vast outlandish landscapes, abandoned metropolises of giant ziggurat like buildings seemingly inhuman in construction, abandoned vehicles the size of mobile cities obviously centuries old… And on a car radio one night, amid static, one message: The Black Pharaoh was coming.
Name: Greg White
The Investigators find themselves in a house in the isolated Vermont hills. Their last memories are of fleeing Boston, where the Spanish Flu was rampaging unchecked. That was June of 1918. Bizarrely they all have inexplicable nodules in their armpits that they cannot account for.
As there is no food in the house they’re forced to leave to forage for food. While gathering supplies in abandoned village they find a calendar, the pages torn out up to July 1st.
As they are returning to the mountain cabin they see an airship, of an unusual design, bearing a neon sign displaying a message that there is a cure to be found in Sauk City, Wisconsin.
They decide to make the long trek to the Midwest.
Along the way they the countryside has been depopulated, with the evidence of mass graves everywhere. They see marauding ghouls, enjoying this macabre bounty.
At some point they see Mi-Go, swooping down upon survivors. The sight of the Fungi from Yuggoth trigger buried memories of strange surgeries done upon themselves in underground lairs.
In Sauk City they find a swelling camp of survivors. They learn that the virulent influenza has swept the globe, killing seven out of ten people. Sauk City is under the control an esoteric fraternity with access to many scientific marvels, “The Brotherhood Of The Yellow Sign.” They have a serum that confers immunity to the plague, but it has toxic after-effects, that can only be controlled by the regular ingestion of a counter-agent, the supply of which the Brotherhood strictly controls. They claim that the influenza was brought to earth by the Mi-Go, who seek to cleanse the planet of what they consider vermin.
The Brotherhood offers to lead a crusade against the Mi-Go, but they demand absolute and unquestioning fealty. The Investigators witness a a ritualistic pageant put on the Brotherhood, in which they seem to venerate a enigmatic figure called “The King In Yellow”.
A human agent of the Mi-Go approaches the Investigators. He tells them that influenza is biological weapon developed and deployed by the Brotherhood, for the sole purpose of them giving total control of the world’s remaining population. He explains that the Mi-Go surgeries performed upon the Investigators was an enhancement to their lymphatic system that has given them immunity to the influenza. He asks for their help in infiltrating and destroying the Brotherhood.
In a war between alien forces, which side can the Investigators take?
Name: Jeremiah Monk
From Karel Capek on, the possibility of a mechanical uprising was always lurking in the corner, but no one expected it to be so terrible. We expected merely war, enslavement, torture, or extermination, driven by ambition or vengeance. Instead, it was the very strength of our security measures that undid us. Programmed to protect human safety above all else, the AIs realized that human were themselves one of the greatest dangers to our own safety, and it was to eliminate this danger that they destroyed the governments of the world. The hapless survivors were forced to live in a perfect, safe garden-world, intended to be a paradise but actually a padded cell.
Now, within the human habitation areas, even sharp objects are a memory of the past. The only entertainments allowed are those that do not reference distress; this excludes most of literature and film, much music, and all sports. Food is highly regulated to prevent either malnutrition or obesity.
A regimen of light cardiovascular exercise is enforced, but any exertion strenuous enough to put strain on the bones is forbidden.
Yet there are things the robots understand. Things such as a slim, seemingly harmless volume of Arabic poetry called the “Al-Azif”, which, despite its dense, flowery, and often incomprehensible language, seems to be about nothing more than the beauty of the stars at night. Certainly, readers have screamed into the microphones, claiming to have read it in terrible stories of blasphemous magic, impossible monsters, and alien conflicts, but the electronic eyes can find no such message and the digital brains mark it down to hallucination – after all, insanity has been so much more common after the start of the Protection. So the book stays on the decimated shelves of the Buenos Ares library, next to works of similarly vague poetry, hobby guides (only for hobbies that do not require dangerous objects!), geology textbooks, and mathematics papers, open to any reader.
As the investigators begin to read, they will find the same hidden meanings in the original text “translated” by so many others, from the famous Olaus Wormius and John Dee to lunatics like William Dyer and Nathaniel Peaslee.
And they will find the subjects they read about manifesting around them, incongruously deadly in their gentle world and eerily invisible to their ever-vigilant android caretakers – who may very well put the investigators in greater danger by forcing them to take the safest course of actions as the AIs perceive it, not in the eyes of those capable of seeing the invisible world.
If they survive long enough, the characters may realize they have a choice.
They have the power, by calling on one of the Great Old Ones described in the book of poems, to end their current soft, orderly dystopia in a wash of chaos, madness, and violence. But would it really be wise to swap the AIs’ paradise for a Great Old One’s?