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Author's note: A Lovecraftian short story nominated for the HCWC.

“Listen to me, listen to me, please! Yes, many may call me insane, they may call me crazy, but I swear I tell you that something horrible is coming to kill us all! You must believe me! Howard, or whatever is in Howard, is bringing that… thing to kill us all! You hear me? Kill us all! Yes, yes, I know the truth, the ugly, horrid, terrifying truth! I know what lurks under in the basement! I know! I know!

“I guess the thing has its roots in the year of 1991; the company that I worked for, Artimage Financial Products, had been poking its head into the United States. AFP had been born in the early 1900s in Britain, selling small vaults, locks, and typewriters, anything a bank would need to work properly, and somehow survived the depression by the name of “Artimage Financial Aid.” Anyhow, by the time of the late 1980s, AFP Corporate tried a shot at the American market. Banks were doing pretty well here, so AFP rushed the decision and by 1991, the office I worked at, Office 63, was up and ready under the management of a fine English ‘chap’ by the name of Howard Gerrell. Oh gosh, it hurts to think of him.

“Anyway, I was a broke college student by that time, and the prospect of a office job with consistent pay and easy promotions (They barely had anyone in the office to begin with, seeing that all their employees and corporate lived on were another continent.) I called the place on the phone and within a week I had gotten the job in sales. The new Office 63 and its accompanying warehouse were officially opened on February 23rd, 1992 at Miskatonic, Massachusetts.

“The first week of work was just what you’d expect at an office; phones ringing, papers printing, keyboards and mice clicking. It wasn’t until the second week that the strangeness began. I had a friend in that office; I’m not going to say her name for her family. She was an alumni from the same college as me, Missouri State, and in fact she had a bachelor’s degree too, in graphic design. She was planning to become some sort of online artist; strange, yes I know, but that was what she wanted to do. We worked on the same office floor in sales, and even though she had the infamously hard job in sales data and management, she was notorious for doodling on the computer's paint software. Now, I guess it was March 1st when she received the strange email. She had told me that Howard had asked to see her for a private meeting the next following day, she joked it was probably because he had found her doodles on the computer database. Now she and I carpooled to work everyday– I know it sounds like we were in love, but we had dated in grade school, and it didn’t work for us. Don’t let me get side-tracked, I only have a few hours left until they find me.

“Anyway, she wasn’t there in the morning. I guess she had simply carpooled with someone else, or perhaps she had taken a bus. I drove to work that day and she wasn’t there at the office either. She must be sick, I told myself. Oh gosh, Chloe, oh gosh.

“So, her absence went on for another week. Eventually, I confronted him on the her absence. How–him– had been strangely secretive as a boss. Apparently, the man had been so since his annual vacation to Louisiana a year before, the same vacation that, immediately after, he divorced his wife. I had seen the man only once, and that was in the first day as he sat at his office window, observing his underlings. When I actually visited for the first time his facial characteristics offset me. His face was thin and gaunt, the sallow, pale skin on his face stretched over his skull. His hair was thinning, and despite being at the age of 32, it was rapidly greying.

“‘Mr. Ward.’ He had sighed in his Irish accent. ‘You have come to me right when I do my most important work.’

“‘What work?’ His desk was empty, except some strange spills of congealed liquid. Howard froze for a second staring at me with his wide eyes.

“‘That is none of your business, Ward. Why did you come in here?’

“‘Uhm.’ His face had offset me and I had forgotten about her after seeing his strange face. I told him that she had been missing. He tried to reassure me, but he couldn’t with that sickly face. I went next to her parents house, and they said that she hadn’t visited yet that week at all. I drove to her house, and after knocking for 15 minutes, I knew. She was missing.

“The police immediately started an investigation upon her disappearance. I was one of the major suspects, along with her ex-fiance and How– him. My investigation was quite a long one, but I am most gracious of it; without the police keeping tabs on me, he would have tried to take me too. The ex-fiance had been broken up with her for quite a while now; nearly a year, so the prospect of him acting foul-play this long after their relationship ended sounded unreasonable; he would have done it sooner, while his flare for her still burned. Now the investigation for him, however, was very strange and a lengthy one. The police arrived at the office at 10:30pm, a time when only he was still working. The doors were locked, and after busting down the door, the investigators rushed into his office to find it completely clear; none of the strange objects and stains I had seen when I first met the man in person. After three months of investigation, the Missouri Bureau of Investigation called the query off, stating that she had simply ‘ran off in search of a better life to begin an art studio.’ While the public may have been satisfied with this solution, I knew something much more sinister was afoot.

“I decided that night that I was going to do my own investigating upon her disappearance. Near the end of shifts, instead of packing up and leaving for my small one-room apartment, I stayed and sifted through the endless amounts of filing cabinets and countless secretive databases for something; anything. I was near giving-in when I finally found the file sloppily placed in the computer’s trash bin; it was a record for a material transfer for Miskatonic Universities’ copy of the Nicron. Apparently, this book was the scriptures of a madman’s discoveries in dark magics and spells. Perhaps that held the key! I pulled from my computer and began rushing through the office in search of this dark volume, pulling open drawer and cabinet, bin, and container. In my mad rush around the office, I attracted the attention of someone.

“‘Mr. Ward?’ It was him. He had stood right behind me, I remember the chill that his presence had given me, every word that slipped through his grey lips. ‘What has compelled you to rip open every cabinet and container in my office?’ I hadn’t planned for this.

“‘Uh, I-I forgot where I placed my keys.’ He wasn’t convinced. He stood silent for a minute, and, as if something had whispered into his ear, a look of understanding spread over his face.

“‘You will find your keys in the drawer at your desk. Then, you may go home.’ He strode out of the office area and into the elevator, to the second floor; warehousing. I gave out a long, relieved sigh. I had escaped, and also knew where the Nicron was; on the same floor he was going to protect. That dark volume was located in warehousing.

“I stopped my evening adventures for a while; he was on my scent, and couldn’t let him know the same person who was a close friend to her also knew about the Nicron. I went to the Miskatonic University Library to see what I could learn. I dared not ask about the Nicron as to chance being thrown out of the library; I would know soon enough. I poured through hours of the Miskatonic News, searching, hoping for a hint, when I saw it. A young man about a year younger than I sat at the couches clutching an out-of-town newspaper headed: ‘Hospital morgue robbed; 15 cadavers robbed at South Missouri Medical.’ I quickly bought the paper form the man and began reading;

“‘South Missouri Medical Hospital has reported that 15 of their 32 cadavers in their morgue have gone strangely gone missing. The bodies, which were all accounted for the day before, were all those of their prime age and hadn’t died of illness. The robbery is suspected to have happened between 11:15 and 12:30, though exact time is unknown, as hospital security systems had gone down at 11:00. No photo or videos were recording at the time of the robbery, and so far the sparse DNA samples only match those of a Caucasian female.’ The article went on to list all the names of the bodies that were robbed. But I didn’t care about that, disturbing as it was. No, what caught my attention was on the specifics on the robber. A mysterious Caucasian female? That sounded almost like her!

“I didn’t believe my superstitions at first; she wouldn’t possibly do something as morbid and horrible as morgue-robbing. But it all fit together too well; a Caucasian woman goes missing after having a meeting with a man obsessed with dark magic, and the same week a morgue is robbed by an unknown Caucasian female, I couldn’t argue the events weren’t linked together in some dark and strange way.

“I finally mustered enough courage to continue my search for the Nicron. Yes, the warehouse was huge, but my insatiable urge to know, to see what he was doing compelled me to continue. I sectioned off the warehouse into parts; east, west, north, south. Each day during lunch I would pilfer through one of the sections until I had to go home; I didn’t want to attract more attention from him. Eventually, I found it. It was nestled in between two boxes, neatly wrapped in plastic. I quietly rushed to my car, and unwrapped the old and deteriorating book. A moth-eaten, discolored ribbon poked through the damp pages. The page the ribbon had marked read;

“‘He knows all, sees all, understands all. We cannot comprehend him, he comprehends all. He has spoke to many over the vast stretches of time and space. Many have seen him as a god, Allah. But he is no god. He is not the only one, but he is the only one that communicates with our pathetic species. Those who seek his divine presence shall be merited all the wisdom and knowledge the dark cosmos has to offer. He knows the beginning, the middle, the end. He waits in his dimension, biding his time until we foolishly set him free so he may unleash all of his dark kin.

“‘He is Yargotharth, the All-Knower, the Knower All.

“‘Yargotharth, eit riyth yargth, eit yargth riyth.’

“What was I to make of these strange letters? Yargotharth was a foreign and chilling name to me, and none of the information described in the excerpt from the Nicron seemed natural. If the scriptures of this madman were to be correct, would that mean that all religions of the earth are just different cultures interpretation of this malevolent beast? No, I told myself, it was impossible. These are just a madman’s ramblings, the same way a child says there are monsters in their closet. But whatever How– he was going to do was. Yes, Officer, I know I should have told the police, but I reasoned that he would once again hide the Nicron and her like he did the first time, and this time he would surely know it was me. No, I needed proof, proof that he was insane, that she was innocent (That thought still hung in my mind.). I planned a stakeout in the office; packing a bag full of flashlights, digital cameras, and lockpicks. Near 7:30, closing time, I stared at the clock, but this time not waiting to leave, but to investigate. 7:45 rolled around, the official closing time.

“I turned off the lights in the employee break room and camped there until the lights switch off at 11:00. Of course, my five hour-long stakeout in the breakroom eventually led to boredom, and I finally gave in to my adventurous spirit and began patrols around the office. Now, an office isn’t very frightening during day hours, with all the people working, typing, calling. However, when silence covers the office like a thick sheet of snow, when all you hear is your own footsteps and the quiet hum of the heater, an office becomes a very disturbing place. However, that silence was broken when he walked into the office I was patrolling.

“It’s miraculous he didn’t notice me as he hobbled and rasped to the elevator. However, he wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by her. Yes, her! But how she had changed! Her face, much like his, had thinned; her skin was sallow, and hair, greying. I have no idea where she had been hiding, but it didn’t matter. They walked silently to the elevator, and he punched in for floor B, the basement. Just as I regained myself, the lights went off.

“I have no idea what allowed me to muster enough strength to go down into the basement, but whatever did I wish never came. I could have left the office, I could have lived my short life out until it came. But, no I was a fool. I took the stairs; the elevator would be too obvious. I slowly creeped down the stairwell, careful that my steps didn’t echo down the long spiraling staircase that stretched four-stories. As I reached the basement level, my feet sunk into a strange, congealed liquid that stuck to my office loafers. It seemed like the same substance that had covered his desk when I first met him. I switched off my small flashlight and slowly opened the door. More of the liquid flooded into the stairwell, and I waded through. An impenetrable pitch-black darkness lay over the room that no light could cut through.

“I was only a few steps into the basement when the noise began. A slow, wet rasping, as if a giant lung was trying to breath while submerged. I walked past the boiler and to the door at the end of the hall. A small, flickering light emitted from the door’s window, barely enough for my eye to register as light. When I finally reached the door, what lay behind it was unworldly, unholy, unnatural. Ho-ward and her sat in candlelight right next to the beast. It was more liquid than solid; a floating pool of dark-like organelles floated in a cell. A thin, grey membrane held the liquid in shape. Tentacles protruded all over from the thing. But worst of all was the pulsating; it contracted and squeezed like a human heart, the skin stretching and rippling each pulse.

“I realized that this beast was made of cadavers; the orbs were the neural tissue. It dawned on me. That… that… thing was an euclidean body of Yargotharth. I stood, frozen in fear and shock. A tentacle from Yargotharth shot out to him. He and her stood still, motionless for a moment, then turned to me, a fire of pure hate in their eyes. I fell back, scrambling to the door as he and she opened the bulkhead door. In attempt to pull myself up, I broke off a pipe and cut my arm. Clutching the pipe, I opened the stairwell door and jammed the pipe in the handle. I ran up the stairs, now no longer caring about learning anything and being secretive, just wanting to escape.

“I heard the basement door burst open; How-ard and her interaction with the unnatural must have given them unnatural abilities of strength. I rushed into the office floor, and ran to the exit doors. The doors were locked, but I couldn’t give in. I slammed into the glass. The office door opened behind me, but I didn’t dare look back. The glass was nearly broken but they were nearly upon me. I felt their cold, clammy hands barely miss my neck as I fell through the broken glass. I was cut, my arm broken from breaking the glass, and covered in glass shards, but pure adrenaline and urge to survive pushed me on into my car. My pursuers limped behind me, the glass having cut them all over, and their own fall having pulled their legs, but the fire in their eyes was still there. That’s when it all went up in flames.

“Pure luck. It was pure luck the random events that had led to the destruction of Yargotharth’s terrestrial body. The pipe I had broken was a gas line, and as I made my frenzied escape from the basement, it seeped through the hallway to the single candle lit right next to the body of Yargotharth. The explosion at the office you heard only four hours ago? That was a result of a series of the most fortunate events that have saved humanity from utter destruction, at least for a while. The fireball distracted the followers of Yargotharth for a while as I made my escape, but it wasn’t long before I heard in my apartment the familiar rasping of him. I escaped through the fire escape, and rushed to this hotel on foot; my car was going to easily be recognized. I rented a room here and then I called you, officer. Yes, I know I sound crazy, but officer, you are the only one who can stop these people! You must tell the government of this horror! Undoubtedly, there are more followers of Yargotharth and other beings like he! We must stop them! You hear me? We must, or we face destruction!

“Wait, quiet down, I think I hear him. By gosh, that’s his rasping! They're here! Douse the light! The light!”

Credited to Cason Nichols