The Thing About West Holpry
A Walk in the Wild West End
“That’s the thing about this city.”
The crone’s voice was barely audible, but her companion would have known her thoughts even if she had not spoken. From a superficial viewpoint, she was an unremarkable woman of medium height and build with a countenance that none would consider comely.
The crone had cultivated her appearance to call as little attention as possible to herself, her wild gray hair and the deep lines on her face shielding her from the nuisance of having to parry the undesired thrusts of lust from men too thick to pick up on obvious physical cues of disinterest and with egos so bloated with entitlement that even an outright declaration of disgust was met with persistence. Yadira Root had better things to do than engage in demeaning mating dances with would-be rapists.
Despite her attempts to render herself invisible, Yadira possessed a charisma that could not be ignored. The set of her jaw and the look in her eyes revealed that this crone was not someone to be trifled with. Besides, Yadira could never content herself with drab attire. Her dramatic robes were a source of enjoyment for a soul who had known great strife. She was particularly fond of the robe she now wore, which depicted swirling galaxies adrift in the endless Universe.
“What about this city?”
Yadira’s companion was a tall, striking-looking man with long black hair, a swarthy complexion, and angular features. He wore a royal blue suit that befitted his regal carriage.
The pair shared eyes the color of outer space and a powerful, platonic bond. It was apparent that anyone who messed with one would face the wrath of the other. To those unfamiliar with them, they might appear to be a mother and son, an aunt and nephew, or, perhaps, an elder sister and younger brother.
“It’s a rotting corpse and it was even while it lived, Father. This planet is corrupt to its core and its noxiousness continues to leech into the Cosmos. Would that it had been destroyed when the small star caused itself to go nova as it glutted itself on its companion’s energies. Alas, no, Zecor remains intact, bathed in the gamma rays of its dead suns.”
“Oh, Yadira,” Nyarlathotep sighed, putting his arm around his daughter’s shoulders, drawing her close, and kissing the top of her head as he had done from the time she was born. “You have known far more of misery and destruction than anyone should. I am so sorry.”
“There is no need for apology, Father, you know that,” Yadira chided gently, linking her arm in Nyarlathotep’s. “Well, where shall we walk to in the eternal night? Shall we go to the palace, or should we head for the Ktenology center where the bodies of the foolish king, his idiot followers, and his final victims lay, preserved forever by the peculiar effects of this sepulchral world?”
“Let us go to the art museum,” Nyarlathotep suggested. “I’ll conjure us a pot of Oxal and a plateful of Ghigmoin, and we can restore the gallery to its one-time glory.”
“Do you not suppose that we ought to be addressing the problem at hand, Father?” Yadira wondered.
“My dear, distracting ourselves from the problem at hand is the wisest course of action,” Nyarlathotep explained. “As we cheer ourselves by rebuilding the gallery and renewing the paintings and sculptures, our minds will work in the background to generate a solution to the problem, or, at least, to show us the most likely trail down which the solution lies. Do not tell me that you can no longer be tempted by a delightful platter of Ghigmoin flavored with sweet Khains or savory Vaarqils.”
“I could not tell you that,” Yadira replied, laughing despite her resolve to appear stoic. “You know me all too well, Father. The Cosmos could be tearing apart at the seams, and I would gladly sit down to a pot of Oxal and a platter of Ghigmoin with you. If you throw in a few Ef’air for good measure, you will have offered a bribe that I cannot possibly refuse.”
“You drive a hard bargain, dear daughter, but it is my function to grant wishes, and granting your wishes always brings me the greatest delight. Besides, you rarely ask for anything. I ask but one thing of you now as we stroll to our destination. Notice the beauty wherever you may be, my Yadira, even in this devastated place. Look how the algon-lamps continue to glow many millennia after the destruction of corporeal life on this world. Marvel at how they find a source of sustenance even in this depleted atmosphere. They are a marriage of natural resources and advanced technology. The algon are peaceful survivors absorbing whatever energy surrounds them and turning it to light.”
“The algon are beautiful and resilient,” Yadira agreed, gazing at the softly glowing moss-worlds within the shady lamps. The plants had acclimatized to the death of their solar system. They now absorbed and processed the deadly radiation that surrounded them in their world of eternal night. “The dead suns no longer produce light for them to photosynthesize, but they have adapted, and now they are this world’s source of light. Do you agree that it is wise to be like the algon, Father?”
“To a point,” Nyarlathotep concurred. “But we are not algon, are we? The algon adapt. We may adapt to certain things, but we are also catalysts and resisters. We are deities of change, my Yadira. We must accept all that comes with that honor, both good and bad.”
“You’re a deity,” Yadira retorted with a sideways smile, a teasing glint in her eye. “I am simply the snarkiest sorceress to sail the stellar winds and grant wishes to desperate souls.”
“Nice try, but I fear there is no escaping your destiny,” the grinning Nyarlathotep countered. “You are the offspring of the son of primordial chaos and the daughter of Fate. You are the best of the best, Yadira. This awesome responsibility is both a gift and a curse.”
“Existence is filled with indiscriminate mixtures,” Yadira noted as she and her father approached West Zecor’s once-stately art museum. “Consider, for instance, the blessing-curse of our power to grant wishes. Our actions save lives but destroy worlds. We are endlessly sought after by desperate souls because of our power, and we are hated and feared for that same power. My soul is haggard, crushed by the persistent procession of seekers coaxing me with treasure that I have no use for or, worse, offering up kissable nothings that I find utterly distasteful.”
“Your temperament is similar to your mother’s,” Nyarlathotep remarked. “When I first met Nathicana, the troubles of the Cosmos weighed heavy on her gentle soul. It brought me great joy to ease her burden.”
“Mother’s temperament was softer than mine,” Yadira remarked. “I have no patience for petty tyrants with inflated egos. Do you recall how that fool Qweh tried to bribe me by offering me my own empire replete with all the luxury I could dream of? I reminded him in no uncertain terms that if I desired an empire or luxury, I could have such with the blink of my eyes, a twitch of my nose, a snap of my fingers, or a wave of my hand. He was truly one of the most ignoble and ignorant individuals that we have dealt with, do you not agree?”
“True, but even he had his moments. He did, after all, commission the creation of this museum.”
“Ondina was the force behind that. The sweet princess wished to give hope to the realm’s many artistic failures, making them feel if only for a moment as if their futile efforts might count for something.”
“Everyone wishes to be immortal. Those whose works reside eternally in this museum mausoleum were granted a measure of immortality when their pieces became part of West Holpry’s celebrated art collection. People like believing in the pretends, Yadira. And, as you know, sometimes things that appear to be fabrications are actually doorways to different realities.”
“Everyone wishes to be immortal, yet those who are immortal often wish that they were not,” Yadira mused. “There may be something to be said for having a lifespan so short that one never loses innocence. It is impossible to maintain uncorrupted hope and belief once pain, loss, and injustice have become a part of life. When one has lived as long as we have, a hardness forms around a heart pierced by a dagger that can never be removed. Oh, dear, I am sure that you must despair of this conversation. Let me try things your way. Look at the algon that have escaped their globes and climbed the walls. They resemble drawings made from phosphorescent chalk.”
“I appreciate the appearance of the colonies that have formed along the walls where water drips and streams from the roof,” Nyarlathotep agreed. “There are those who would say that the algon are weeds that need to be eliminated, but this would certainly be a dull world without the beauty of the algon. This colony is a striking shade of juniper, while its neighbor has taken on a hue of opalescent iris. Has it occurred to you, my daughter, that we may have answered Zecor’s prayer to be free of the two-legged parasites that colonized it? The psychic screams of tortured phantasms grow fainter with the passage of time.”
As she and her father passed through the doors of the museum, Yadira could recall the grand celebration on the day of its opening. On that occasion, the precocious twelve-year-old Princess Ondina ran to her with outstretched hands as she walked through the door.
“Isn’t it marvelous, Madam Yadira?” the young sovereign gushed, resplendent in her burgundy dress. “The building itself is a splendid treasure, and it houses treasure beyond measure in the form of peerless artwork. I daresay, there is nothing like it anywhere in the Universe, and it would never have been so exceptional without your father’s help. Yours too, of course, but…”
“My dear, I know just what you’re saying,” Yadira laughed, clasping Ondina’s hands and allowing herself to twirl about as if she were a hopeful teenage girl and not an immortal being as old as time itself. “It is true that my father is an architect like no other.”
“You can see the love that he put into his work,” Ondina praised. “This building is a living thing. It will live forever and ever, bringing joy to its guests long after I am gone. Qweh thought that it should be named for me since it was my idea, but I felt that it should simply be called the West Holpry Museum of the Arts and that it rightfully belongs to all the people of West Holpry. Come, let us look at some of the wonderful pieces, and then you and I can sit down and enjoy a cup of Oxal and a platter of Ghigmoin if you have time.”
“I always have time for you, my Princess,” Yadira replied with a smile.
“Remember how brightly the suns’ light shone through the windows on the day the museum opened?” Yadira asked her father as the pair stood in the main lobby of the darkened structure. “Ondina’s smile outshone both the suns. It was one of the few times in her life that she was genuinely happy. She was so pleased to be able to give this gift to the people.”
Nyarlathotep wiped away the tear that ran down his daughter’s weathered cheek.
“Let us repair it in her honor,” he suggested.
“The light will never again shine through the windows as it did on that day.”
“No, but the algon will provide new light. Ondina was right that art is hope. Look around you, my dear. Hope has survived.”
“But with no-one to see it save for us.”
“Maybe that’s enough. We will make this place a haven for us and a home for hope in this corrupted world, as Ondina wished for it to be. Ah, here is a fine table. With a few repairs, it will be as good as new.”
Nyarlathotep waved his hand. A ball of light surrounded the unstable table. It rose into the air as the ravages of time disappeared, settling lightly to the floor. Nyarlathotep repaired two chairs in the same fashion. With a snap of his fingers, a group of algon gathered into a globe, providing a warm, soothing glow. He set the globe on the table and proceeded to conjure a steaming pot of Oxal, and a tray filled with pastries. Freshly conjured china completed the perfect place setting.
Tea and Memories
“Father, I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Yadira praised, reaching for a sweet Ghigmoin wafer as her father poured the Oxal.
“Nor I without you,” Nyarlathotep responded. “Do let us never find out.”
“Zecor did not have to end this way,” Yadira mused.
“It would have ended one way or another. Had Qweh been allowed to live, the attack he unleashed on the Eastern faction would have devastated the planet. He would have invaded other worlds and spread his poisonous philosophies. More worlds would have fallen. The fate of Zecor is tragic but billions of lives were spared by its fall.”
“We granted his wish for great magical power.”
“Indeed. This is our function. Oh, do you remember Ghigmoin with Agzoil, my pet? It has been eons since I enjoyed this culinary delight!”
“Agzoil was Ondina’s favorite,” Yadira recalled. “It was a lovely plant, a bush with emerald leaves and green berries that turned indigo when they were ready to harvest. When she was young, Ondina delighted in making jelly from the berries. As she grew older, I felt that she mostly did so out of kindness because the people appreciated the Agzoil jelly that she gave them as a gift. I watched the light die in Ondina’s eyes as she matured. That’s the thing about this city. It was filled with so much beauty, so much potential, but that potential was so badly corrupted that now it is only filled with death. The damned Ktenology center towers over everything else, and nothing could be more appropriate.”
“The Ktenology center may tower over everything else, but we can make this building shine brighter than any other, continuing to be a beacon of hope as Ondina wished.”
“Do you remember the crowds that gathered the day this place opened?” Yadira asked. “All the people wanted to see the wonderful new museum of art. Qweh, of course, took all the credit, bragging about how he wished to preserve and celebrate the culture of West Holpry, but everyone knew that Ondina was the driving force behind its existence. Many of the people hoped that one day, Qweh would fall and Ondina would assume power.”
“Many, but there were too many that were loyal to Qweh to fully tip the scales. Let us get to work, Yadira. We have many marvelous creations to mend.”
Yadira laughed and clapped her hands as her father levitated, spun about, and restored a grand painting three stories high to its former glory. She drew her finger over the lines in another painting, drawing color back into the pastoral scene. The glowing algon made its way along the walls, forming phosphorescent frames around the paintings as the pair worked.
“These paintings are gateways to the past, Father,” Yadira noted.
Hollow Hills and March Mist
Nyarlathotep settled gracefully to the floor beside his daughter and put his arm around her shoulder.
“To the past, the present, and the future,” he noted. “To other dimensions and realities. Bloody brilliant, my dear! These hollow hills and March mist may lead us to the answers we seek. With the Daughter of Fate restored to her rightful place in space and time, the Cosmos may once again know balance.”
“Our brilliant Ondina has restored hope from beyond the grave,” Yadira realized. “She was too good for this world, Father, and far too good for her wretch of a brother. Can you imagine wanting to copulate with your own sister, a girl barely out of childhood? He was a foul fiend, one of the worst that we’ve dealt with.”
“Ondina was a treasure and Qweh wished to possess her,” Nyarlathotep postulated. “And, perhaps, he wanted to suppress her as well because he feared that one day, she would overthrow him if she were allowed to realize her full potential.”
“Being female, there is a factor that I am aware of that even you with all your power and knowledge miss,” Yadira remarked. “Qweh enjoyed the idea of intercourse with his virgin sister because it would allow him to completely possess and subjugate her. Men like Qweh do not desire an equal partner. They desire ownership and control. That’s the thing about this city. It has Qweh’s stink all over it because he was an insecure predator who left his mark everywhere.”
“Then let us continue to remove his mark and undo the damage we ourselves did,” Nyarlathotep advised. “We will rebuild until West Holpry shines with the hope that Ondina had for it.”
Nyarlathotep is the creation of H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in his 1920 story of the same name.
Nathicana is the creation of H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in his 1927 poem Nathicana.
Sunday Writing Prompt
Start your story with the line, “That’s the thing about this city…”
Write a story that takes place in the same building but in two very different time periods.
Set your story in a major city that your character has a love-hate relationship with.
Words for Wednesday