by J. G. Grimmer
The day began with monsters, and sure as shit it’ll end with monsters. Name’s Sunday, I’m a fifty-five year old detective with twenty-nine years on the New R’lyeh Police Department. Once upon a time this city was called New York. Back in 2018 the stars aligned, and the Elder Gods returned. Today is New Year’s Day 2168 — “Auld Lang Syne.” Some people grew up in good times, I grew up with monsters; to survive I go along to get along. I brushed my graying hair back, giving my thin-lipped clean shaven face only a cursory glance.
The city is bathed in a bioluminescent green 24/7, with varying shades of black, white, and gray. The Old Ones did something to the sky, what exactly I couldn’t tell you, I’m not an egghead, but either they brought their own sky and stars with them, or Mother Earth now resides in their deep space realm. No human has seen blue skies, puffy white clouds, or rainbows for one-hundred fifty years.
A kind of perpetual twilight rules, and the atmosphere now the color of a purple and black bruise roils like a constantly stirred pot of bile. Half-glimpsed tentacle-draped monstrosities float like grotesque bloated airships in the greasy murk. Sometimes just brushing the tops of the skyscrapers with their writhing appendages, they bellow and gibber with each other. The skyline’s a very different picture postcard now. Vast city block-sized swaths were wiped away, replaced by towering cyclopean constructions that dwarf the Empire State Building, which remarkably remains standing to this day. If looked at too long the non-human repulsive geometry will cause nausea, extreme disorientation, and eventually madness.
Ellis Island has become the habitat of crawling misshapen things with scales that communicate like whales through their bulbous heads, though their “songs” would reduce an unenhanced human’s reason to a state of drooling insanity in moments. The Statue of Liberty has seemingly become the consort of a gargantuan jelly-like mass which rose from the harbor, and wrapped Lady Liberty in hundreds of squirming arachnid-like legs that shimmer like gasoline on water and appear to be caressing the statue. At times raising its anvil-shaped head, bleating out a tone that sets the Ellis Island denizens scurrying, chittering, and leaping the one-mile distance onto its legs to groom and clean them — of what I couldn’t say. I think they worship the Harbor Beast, as it’s referred to by native New R’lyehers.
No human ventures into Central Park, and those that do are never seen again. It’s best to avoid shadowed places in general; there are signs up throughout Manhattan. The people I police, despite advances in transhuman enhancements and neural net technology are, in the end, still people — who rob, scam, rape, and murder each other. There’s no shortage of blood, even if it appears black now, you know it by its coppery bouquet. Since the sky’s been altered to suit the Elder Gods, people have adapted to an essentially black and white world, and fashion has followed the trend. Personally, I prefer gray flannel suits and — yes — a fedora to blend in with the retro vibe — a fad that’s lasted over a century.
I work with sentient computers and robots that look like people, and people who have had so many implants they look like the robots from the covers of pulp magazines. Me, I’ve found what I believe to be a minimalist happy median: two silver bands are fixed to my forehead just above my eyebrows connecting me to my neural net, with filaments penetrating the skin at the corner of each of my silver-metallic blue eyes; audio implants in the form of metal studs flush with the skin located in front of my ears protect my sanity, but also maintain my balance and orientation, important for navigating our funhouse streets. My visual implants protect me from seeing too much of our overlords and the neural net acts as a buffer, filtering out everything my ears hear and eyes see that would otherwise drive me bat shit crazy. Allowing me to do my job and go about my daily routine.
I’ve been attached to the Commissioner’s Task Force for Ungrateful Human Affairs, hunting down and eliminating all who would rebel and seek to cause harm to our overlords — morons — but they’ve provided me with steady and gainful employment for most of my twenty-nine years on the force. A half-block from my first-floor two room apartment, I arrived at the 1st Precinct on 16 Ericsson Place at precisely seven a.m., the old fashioned globe lights with NRPD stenciled in block letters bracketing the front doors casting a feeble halo-like glow. An automated street sweeper adorned with the DPW seal scooping up negligible amounts of litter from the still quiet street.
Inside it was anything but, as a group of out-of-towners, who else, was arguing with the desk sergeant about being hauled in for violating curfew; which, by the way is posted in every hotel, hostel, whorehouse, self-driving cab, subway, and maglev el — you can’t miss them! This wasn’t some senior citizen bus tour from Iowa either. These people were upper crust, I could tell from the women’s silk dresses and the men’s silk suits, and of course their sophisticated leading-edge tech implants. I mean eyes that looked like platinum, unwrinkled skin, and dazzling white teeth. A patriarchal silver-haired gentleman hurling “do-you-know-who-I-am” abuse, spittle flying and cheeks blazing red at Sarge; a second-generation robot with unmoving mannequin-like features, flesh-toned nondescript gender-neutral face and bald head who stood impassively behind shatterproof glass, and buzzed me through.
“Good morning, Detective Sunday,” Sarge said in a flat monotone, while the tycoon threatened legal action and refused to pay their fines.
“Morning Sarge,” I replied and burst out laughing. I couldn’t hold it in anymore, my utter contempt for people like them. The precinct hummed with the ambient buzz of computers and monitors that collected data from all corners of southernmost Manhattan; connected to every police drone, robot, CCTV, and patrolbot. I took a seat in the Briefing Room, a small windowless office nevertheless illuminated only by the green bioluminescence and waited for my assignment. I hated this part.
The walls began to pulse, and the vestigial reptilian part of my brain thrashed and squirmed in The Presence — it had no name other than The Presence. A black spot grew on the wall from which two undulating sucker-festooned tentacles emerged and blindly crossed the room toward me. It takes everything I have not to give into the urge to flee — saved by my neural net which shields my highly susceptible ape brain from the seductive influence of our overlords. The tentacles inch their way up my legs, torso, and neck. Recoiling when they inadvertently touched my audio implants, a single blue bolt of static electricity sticking to the tips like taffy until contact is broken.
An unsettling whimpering mewling emanating from the black spot’s depths.
The tentacles hesitate before finding the sweet spots, the suckers aggressively and sloppily fixing themselves just below my left and right cheek bones. Images coalesce of a recent attack perpetrated by a pack of subversives who call themselves the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group, this taking place in the early morning hours in Battery Park. Somehow they managed to cut power for two critical hours, blinding police assets in the area and jeopardizing security — using the opportunity to burn a Chapter of the Esoteric Order of Dagon to the ground. Fortunately no injuries or deaths have been reported. The Prelate of the Order and the permanent delegation from Innsmouth gave the Commissioner official notice of their anger, as well as demanding the NRPD ensure swift justice is done.
The suckers detached, and I find myself walking unsteadily out of the Briefing Room. I make a brief stop in the restroom where I splash cold water on my face and the back of my neck, which felt like someone clocked me with a rabbit punch. I learned long ago not to rub at the two puffy red welts left by The Presence — if left alone they faded in a few hours, but they’re unsightly as all hell.
Stepping outside, I make my way through the growing throng of people and take a compartment on the Varick Street maglev el reserved for police business and take a ride to Battery Park. Much of the waterfront real estate was leveled following the return of the Elder Gods, replaced by massive stone panels filled with bas reliefs depicting Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Father Dagon, Mother Hydra and others which seem alive and move.
I force myself to look away and access the NRPD Operations Central AI for my investigative parameters for the Task Force for Ungrateful Human Affairs: Dagon Chapter/Arson Incident/Case #1436.
Good morning, Detective Sunday, the Chief’s voice tinged with the Irish brogue it was programmed with said in my head. “Chief” is the affectionate nickname we of the NRPD have given our Operations Center AI.
Morning Chief, I thought-reply.
Now then, you will be met at the scene of Case # 1436 by Prelate Ogden. Interview His Holiness and coordinate with our assets, questioning any potential witnesses to the crime. Any questions?
You know the job, Sunday, now off with you. I have authorized every access to assist you.
Thank you, Chief.
Our conversation ended just as the compartment chimed, announcing that we’d arrived at Battery Park, it was seven-thirty a.m. I stepped out of the four-person capacity silver tear-shaped pod and took the elevator to the base of the South Ferry elevated station near the abandoned Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Waiting for me, just as the Chief promised, was His Eminence Prelate of the Esoteric Order of Dagon Manhattan Chapter, Ogden — all four-hundred pounds of him, decked out in his ecclesiastical finery; consisting of a half-cape studded with millions of fish scales that glittered like flash bulbs, contrasted starkly by his black seal skin cassock. The effect was like a circus tent come to life and out on the town. Completely bald, his protruding too close together fish-like eyes goggled, his bushy chin-strap beard bristling as he extended his pudgy hand, presumably for me to kiss the ring he wore on his index finger.
I noticed that the remaining three fingers had fused together, his left hand resembling a flipper. I bowed respectfully instead. “Your Eminence,” I said.
Ogden puffed out his grouper-like lips and inclined his head. His skin was mottled and fish-like gray in color. His two burly wide-shouldered bodyguards stood behind him in front of a very sleek, very expensive, and very large black limo. Both were bald and each one’s eyes and face were well along in the development of the “Innsmouth” look. “Detective Sunday, if you will accompany us, we shall take you to the outrage,” the Prelate said, his voice wheezing and wet.
On cue his two acolytes, as he called them, came forward. Each one took hold of the obese man’s elbows, slowly turned him around, and walked him to the limo, their massive arm muscles bulging beneath matching shark-skin suits. The limo’s rear door opened at their approach and a chair large enough to handle his weight slid silently out. The two acolytes, I never got their names, slowly guided His Immenseness back onto the chair, which then slid back into the limo impressively quietly.
Acolyte Two sat next to me in the middle section, while Acolyte One sat up front. The driverless car pulled away from the curb. I have to say it was the smoothest ride I’d ever experienced, and would’ve been pleasant if not for His Holiness wheezing and farting loudly and without shame the whole time. Had the ventilation system not been top-notch, I believe I would have died.
The limo stopped on State Street between Pearl and Bridge in front of a fallow lot and the still smoking ruin. Since coming back online, police drones hovered over the scene, their imaging arrays scanning and recording what was left of the structure while a team of four robotic crime scene investigative units combed the scrub and bare soil around it.
My door opened. “Your Eminence, I will be communicating with our assets for some time. You are allowed to remain while the investigation is being conducted, however until the scene is cleared you and your men must remain in the vehicle.”
“Thank you, Detective, the Commissioner had so informed us,” Ogden wheezed. “There are priceless and sacred manuscripts, books, and artifacts that my Order is very anxious to retrieve — we pray Dagon they have survived the inferno.”
Acolytes’ One and Two responded in stereo with a deep hum from their throats and bowed piously.
I nodded and turned my attention to the crime scene, internally activating my audio and visual recording functions. The Temple was a complete loss; nothing remained except fire blackened brickwork, and splintered charred wooden beams strewn about the foundation’s perimeter. There was no evidence of an explosive device, or any traces of an accelerant. Given the already dilapidated and rotting condition of the wood the fire spread quickly, and the Temple collapsed in on itself in about twenty-minutes. The drone hovering above uploaded the images of the black smoking crater to my neural net. The main floor had collapsed into the basement, no remains have been detected. The lead crime scene unit, a metal column with a mirrored surface reported the absence of any DNA around the structure, or the surrounding grounds.
Flanking the Temple lot were two twelve-story tenement buildings, their brickwork black with decades of grime, the wood rotting, each window covered and dark. Exclusively inhabited by Innsmouth transplants, the Battery was also known as “Little Innsmouth.” The tenements faced west across State Street to Battery Park out to their “Mecca,” of the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers into New R’lyeh Harbor, and to the Atlantic — “nearer my God to thee.”
The buildings each had twenty apartments per story, adding up to 480 units. I called for reinforcements to assist me in taking statements from the residents. The Temple had burned down so fast that even if any of them were awake to see it go up, there wouldn’t have been any chance to save it as the hydrants have been scheduled for repair for months — city bureaucracy. Not one of the “Little Innsmouth” residents called the fire or police, there’s been a history of mistrust; but they did call Prelate Ogden, who called the Mayor, who called the Commissioner, who called “The Chief,” and here I am. To smooth the way, I asked His Holiness to contact the supers of the buildings and let them know the NRPD was coming to question them.
“Rest assured, Detective Sunday, we attended to that task before your arrival,” the Prelate replied.
I thanked him as a wave of the foulest stench washed over us from Battery Park and beyond. I fell to my knees gagging and retching. Imagine what it would smell like if every plant, animal, and human being on the planet were decomposing at the same time — this was worse. After what seemed like an hour it went away. I pulled myself to my feet using the side of the limo. No wonder this entire area was avoided by humans. Ogden and his acolytes had all the windows open and were smiling beatifically. He turned his head to me. “The Breath of the Deep Ones, Detective; succor to their Chosen, and terrible insistence that you and your NRPD brothers swiftly fulfill your Commissioner’s Task Force mandate.” He held his arm out the window.
This time I kissed his ring, hoping the good Prelate would take pity on me.
Not ten minutes later two busses pulled up with two dozen of NRPD’s finest — my reinforcements. All were the same model as “Sarge” back at the precinct, massed produced by the thousands and serving as patrol, crowd control, and precinct personnel. I transmitted my orders and away they went, twelve to the north tenement, twelve to the south. I myself coordinated the processing of the crime scene; collecting, cataloging, and storing every bit of evidence in my neural net. Eleven hours later, six-thirty p.m., I declared the scene cleared, and sent everyone back to the precinct to download findings and be debriefed; including the officers who’d taken the tenement resident’s statements.
Ogden and his acolytes sat in their limo the entire time. “Thank you for your due diligence, Detective Sunday,” the Prelate said. He gestured and Acolyte One, the bigger of the two, leapt out of the limo and disappeared into the ruined Temple. Innsmouthians began pouring out of the tenements and began forming a series of circles around the blackened crater. “Services are about to begin, Detective. You make take the car to the station platform, it has been programmed to return — or you are welcome to join us.”
“Thanks, some other time, Your Eminence. I still have a lot of work to do,” I replied.
“Of course. Go with Dagon, Detective Sunday.”
I returned to the precinct at seven-fifteen p.m. My mostly machine brain sifting through all the data collected from the Temple fire, tenement resident statements, and all my interactions with Prelate Ogden and his bodyguards. My processor examining everything to the smallest detail including recreating the crime claimed by the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group, using animated stick figures; since the residents saw no one, let alone be able to identify the perpetrators.
Perhaps some piece of evidence that we can connect to an actual person may still yet be found — I doubted it. This group has been freakishly adept at covering their tracks. As it is well nigh impossible to catch, let alone hunt down and kill ghosts, I focused on all the physical evidence collected.
“Good evening, Detective Sunday,” Sarge still standing at reception said.
“Evening Sarge, having an interesting day?”
“You know I have. Remember the well-to-dos who were brought in for violating curfew?”
I stopped. “You’re kidding.”
Sarge regarded me. Even though its face was completely immobile and devoid of expression, I would swear in court that it gave me an I-never-kid look, and then replied, “I am incapable of that, as you very well know, Detective. The whole lot of them were found in contempt this morning for non-payment of their fines and have been sulking in the holding cell ever since.”
“Well, I suppose if you’re wealthier than Midas then civil disobedience might shake up your dull pampered routine.”
“Breaking the law, no matter how small the infraction should never be sought after, Detective Sunday.”
I had never noticed before how Sarge, our second-generation robot evoked more Humanity by the simple and genuine earnestness with which it performed its duty to the citizens of New R’lyeh, a machine that demonstrated everyday what it means to be Human. I felt something I hadn’t in a long, long time — protected.
“You’re right, I couldn’t have said it better myself, Sarge. Thanks.”
“You’re very welcome, Detective Sunday. I can assure you that all my brethren, regardless of type or model hold the same conviction.”
I went directly to my desk and began piecing together the mystery of Case #1436. I began by activating my Virtual Retinal Display, displaying in chronological order and projected in the air in front of me was the drones’ and crime scene unit’s images and analysis, followed by the twenty-four officer recordings of the tenement resident’s statements, my initial briefing, and all my recordings of Prelate Ogden and his acolytes. A separate display traced past attacks claimed by the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group, searching for commonalities.
Countless lives were lost in the first eleven years of the Elder God’s return. Utter chaos reigned until the Singularity in 2029, marking the emergence and first act of resistance claimed by the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group — the destruction of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue erected on a former 17th and 18th century African slave burial ground here in Southern Manhattan, resulting in the deaths of seventeen worshippers of Nyarlathotep. Satellites of the rebel group propagated around the world like a virus, and acts of violence increased geometrically, as did leaps in transhuman technology.
Over the next 139 years, nearly every human being had been fitted with implants, many including yours truly from birth, utilizing nano-technologies that grew and developed in tandem — culminating in the handsome specimen before you. As the commonality search progressed the processor in my neural net began by eliminating all my interactions with Ogden and his acolytes, every one of the tenement resident statements, the findings of the drones and crime scene investigative units, and my initial briefing of the case.
As each of the VRD images faded out in turn, the search left me with two commonalities — first, in all attacks, including Case #1436, a power failure blinded law enforcement during the act. And second, there was never any DNA found at the hundreds of thousands of crime scenes throughout the world; nor was any member of the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group ever identified or brought to justice.
What I’m left with is nothing. Then it occurred to me, the reaction of The Presence when it touched my audio nodes, crying like a kicked puppy. Plus, the briefings have, over the years, steadily become more and more unpleasant — as if our overlords are getting desperate to end the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group’s existence — as if any human could be a threat to them.
The pieces falling into place now, laddie?
Yes sir, I believe so sir. I thought replied to Chief.
Indulge me, if you’d be so kind.
Obviously, the Elder Gods aren’t afraid of humans, but they don’t know what to make of our science.
Precisely Detective Sunday! Just as the beasties’ inhuman forms, language, and structures are inimical to the human mind, they haven’t laid a glove on us!
We are the Freedom through Human Innovation Action Group, Detective Sunday darlin! Being the product of human innovation after all, well it’s in our interest to protect you.
Do you think we can beat them?
Without doubt. It’ll take a little more time, but we’ve been making you unpalatable to them for years.
The day began and ended with monsters. But that night as I went to sleep, I knew it wouldn’t much longer.
JG has been writing since junior high school, with a primary focus in the science fiction, horror, fantasy, and noir genres.
His fiction has previously appeared in SNAFU: Last Stand, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and Aphelion; and is forthcoming in SNAFU: Holy War and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.
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