“Let us have a little fun with this place, Yadira,” Nyarlathotep suggested to his daughter, spinning in a rapid pirouette, and trading his sharp royal blue ensemble for a zoot suit composed of wild patches of colors and patterns seamlessly woven together. “The good Princess Ondina wished for this gallery to be a place where visitors could leave their cares behind. As you have observed, each of these paintings is the gateway to a wonderful world, but none of these worlds is our world. Let us create a gateway to our very own world. How do you think that it should look?”
Yadira sprang to her feet in a surprisingly spry manner for an impossibly ancient crone. She giggled with glee as she waved her hands, creating a vast canvas on the wall before her.
“I can’t decide on the frame, Father,” she reported. “What are your thoughts? Should it have an elegant or a rustic appearance? Should it appear old or new, green or blue, metal or wood, what would be good?”
“Since this is to be our combined world, I think that I should choose one attribute and you the next until we are satisfied with our efforts. I think the frame should be ornately carved wood if you agree.”
“Rustic and ornate at once, I concur. I believe that a muted gold would be the correct shade.”
“Absolutely! We do not wish for the gold in the frame to outshine the gold of the sun or suns in our world’s skies. I feel this should be a green and pleasant world. The Zoogs like green and I intend to invite a few of them to serve as guards.”
“An excellent choice, Father. There should be a lovely house near the center of the painting, the sort of place where one could invite guests for tea.”
“Splendid! Now, I believe there must be a fence with a gate surrounding the house. Nothing terribly intimidating, mind, but one should not look at our house and think that they could simply walk right in and help themselves to whatever they desire. One must go through the gate to get to the door, and before one can approach the door, they must check in with the Zoogs at the gate. I think that a nice hellhound or two would be a fine addition to the property, but I grant that they might frighten away guests.”
“The hellhounds should remain subtly in the background,” Yadira agreed. “What season should it be, Father? I was thinking spring or summer because I believe that our painting should have plenty of flowers.”
“A lovely spring scene, most definitely,” Nyarlathotep concurred, and though he smiled broadly, his eyes sparkled with tears. “Spring or early summer, yes. As you know, my love, I first met your mother at the time between winter and spring in the gardens of Zaïs. A more beautiful scene I have never seen—ah, but you have heard this story many times before.”
The Spring Garden
“Yes, but I could hear it a million times more,” Yadira encouraged, drying the tears from her father’s dark eyes. “Do tell me again, Father, and as you speak, I will paint a lovely cottage surrounded by a glorious garden and a secure but not intimidating fence, just as you like. Making your wishes come true makes mine come true as well, for my fondest wish is for your happiness.”
Nyarlathotep embraced Yadira, then stood to one side as he told his tale. As he spoke, Yadira’s hands performed an intricate dance before the canvas, and a new world took shape. It was not an imitation of the world that Nyarlathotep described, but a descendant thereof.
“As you know, I arrived in Zaïs near the end of the winter season, Redaj. Your mother informed me that winters in Zaïs were mild, and there were some plants that preferred the cooler weather, such as the lovely frost-drops resembling crystalline snowflakes.”
“I believe we should have a mountain of eternal winter in the background of our springtime cottage,” Yadira reasoned. “As one gets close to the mountain, they can see frost-drops scattered over the landscape.”
“The frost-drops in our new world will ever acclaim the glory of Yadira the Winter Sorceress,” Nyarlathotep praised, causing a gentle blush to rise in the crone’s weathered cheeks. “In the time between seasons on Zaïs, the frost-drops were preparing for slumber while the white nephalotë were beginning to awaken. The world was muted, but not in a grim fashion. It was like looking out at a garden through a lace curtain as the sun rises on a slightly overcast morning following a rainstorm.”
“I intend for the light to change in our painting according to the time of day,” Yadira revealed. “If this is to be a real, living world, the light must not be static.”
“Agreed,” Nyarlathotep acknowledged. “Your attention to detail is one of your most notable attributes. How many rooms shall the cottage have?”
“All the important ones,” Yadira replied. “A sitting room, a kitchen, a library, a bedroom for you, a bedroom for me. I suppose the cottage should also contain a magical privy for the mortals who visit. Something I have greatly appreciated about being a descendant of deities is the fact that any food or drink I consume is simply absorbed. Waste products are a terrible nuisance. The Zoogs do their business discreetly in the garden, but humanoid waste is an appalling matter. Fortunately, I have magic at my disposal to tend to the problem of waste disposal.”
Nyarlathotep and Yadira began to chuckle and were soon roaring with laughter. The mirthful immortals collapsed into chairs beside a table near the painting to compose themselves.
“Dear me, we’ll get nothing accomplished if we sit here laughing like lunatics,” Nyarlathotep snorted. “I must say, there is nothing like a discussion of elimination to lighten the mood to ludicrous levels.”
Cantaloupe Louie and Nettles for Nellie
“I have been considering which Zoogs to invite to our garden,” Nyarlathotep reported as he and Yadira returned to the painting. “I think that Cantaloupe Louie would be a fine leader. He is sensible and loyal. Of course, Louie wouldn’t be happy without his best friend Nellie. We ought to have nettles for Nellie in the garden. She uses them to make marvelous tinctures and tonics.”
“Then I will include a patch of nettles for Nellie,” Yadira agreed. “Since our new home is to be home for the Zoogs who agree to assist us, I insist that they should feel at home. I believe that the Zoogs should have a comfortable burrow of their own in the field beyond our home. In the burrow, there must be huggable snuggies for any Zooglings born to our helpers.”
Yadira painted a cutout area revealing the Zoog burrow in the field behind the cottage. There was a gathering area, a nursery, a larder, and an earthen archway leading into darkness.
“I feel that we can trust the Zoogs to come and go as they please,” Yadira reasoned.
Nyarlathotep agreed as he painted tiny roots extending from the world above into the warren.
“Indeed. The Zoogs to whom we offer this new position have proven themselves loyal and will deal with any potential traitors in their own fashion. If said traitors are fortunate, or, perhaps, unfortunate, I will open my heart and grant their deepest wishes. Fortunately, Zoogs tend to be cleverer than the humanoid species. They love bright, shiny things, and there are some among them who would sell their own younger brother or their smallest thumb-sucking sister for a brilliant bauble, but few of them are fool enough to believe that they can outsmart the deity who can see into their dreams and know the truth within their heart.”
“I will place a patch of spicy tonic pumpkins here in the autumn fields near the base of the Winter Mountain,” Yadira suggested, painting deep green leaves and small, pretty pumpkins in hues of gold, orange, and red. She sprinkled the gourds with shimmering splashes of gem dust. “There is no finer cure for frosted foreheads on a cold autumn morning than a hot spiced tonic pumpkin toddy or latte. I am sure that Nellie of the Nettles would be inclined to agree.”
“I think that you will agree that one cannot have autumn gardens without apple trees,” Nyarlathotep noted as he gleefully painted an apple orchard with fruits of many colors at the base of Winter Mountain. “In any season, I relish apple cider. Spring, summer, winter, fall, cider is my weakness, and I heed its call.”
Yadira laughed and clapped her hands, the expression on her weathered face that of a delighted young girl rather than a weary immortal. She had heard her father speak that rhyme countless times, and because it always brought a smile to his face to say it, her heart filled with joy to hear it. Upon seeing his daughter’s delight, the Cosmic Trickster conjured two glorious red apples and handed one to Yadira. They sat at a nearby table, admiring their work as they ate.
“Few things delight the heart like a good apple,” Nyarlathotep professed, and Yadira agreed. “But you know the situation. One bad apple spoils the barrel and all. The rot from the bad apple spreads to each of its fellows until you have a barrel of worthless apples.”
Mastering Math of Spoiled Apples
“I always did enjoy a good mathematical puzzle,” Yadira mused, watching her father dab a dribble of apple juice from the corner of his mouth with a burgundy silk handkerchief. “Consider, for instance, the ways in which a bad apple spoils the other apples. Now, with apples, this is an easy equation, for an apple is simply a fruit. It does not concentrate or manipulate, nor does it plot or scheme. The rot simply spreads from one apple to another, and you’ll enjoy neither pies nor cider from these spoiled fruits. Still, they can serve the purpose of becoming mulch. With sentient beings, the matter is more complex, for there is more than one way for them to be corrupted.”
“Agreed,” said Nyarlathotep. “The blight can cause the mind touched by it to become corrupt in the same way as the vector. Take this world, for instance. Qweh’s sycophants believed that following him would bring them power of their own, so they allowed the wickedness within their souls to take them over. But there were many among the populace who detested Qweh and his wicked ways. Their lives were curtailed by the rightful belief that opposing the tyrant would result in loss of livelihood, and, quite likely, loss of life. So, although they committed no direct evil, they became unwilling accessories to evil by not opposing Qweh’s actions.”
“None dared oppose Qweh and his loyalists directly, but there were many who opposed him in subtle ways,” Yadira recalled. “Ondina was key among these, and she had her own group of loyalists. But determined though she was, Ondina was but one young girl whose spirit became broken by all the brutality she witnessed.”
“Nonetheless, Qweh was a fool to think that Ondina would ever belong to him,” Nyarlathotep remarked. “She gave in to his demands because she realized that she could not help the people if she enraged him to the point of killing her. She despised him and he knew it. He was torn between his desire to destroy her and his desire to possess her.”
“I think that Qweh got what he deserved,” Yadira concluded as she followed her father back to the painting with her apple core in hand. “He now roams the Cosmos as one cluster of energy in an energy colony joined forever to his simpering toadies. Just as he was in life, he is a fool surrounded by idiots, driven eternally by his thirst for power and hunger for vengeance.”
“The bigger the chip on the shoulder, the harder they fall,” Nyarlathotep agreed. “It’s a fine kettle of fish indeed. I fear that things do not turn out well for those who encounter Qweh and his lackeys directly, but there isn’t much to be done about it. We can’t be all things to everyone, Yadira, and there are certain rules that even deities are bound by. It is time for us to rest and replenish ourselves in our new world of eternal spring and summer bordered by autumn and winter. Now, do you remember the story I told you about the night your mother asked me to stay in the Gardens of Zaïs with her?”
“Of course I do,” Yadira recalled, her eyes going misty as she gripped her father’s hands. “You told me how she gently took your hand and said to you, ‘Nyarlathotep, mine be?’ And you looked into her hopeful eyes and replied, ‘thine ever will I be, Nathicana, and thine alone.’ We will be reunited with her, Father, and we will dwell in the new world that we have built together.”
The Land of Eternal Spring
“Let us declare our allegiance to our new world,” Nyarlathotep suggested. “Mine be this wondrous home, and we and all creatures that dwell therein shall live in peace.”
“Mine be this glorious home, a place of inspiration, renewal, and flowers as far as the eye can see,” Yadira declared. “Shall we go there now, Father?”
Nyarlathotep clasped his daughter’s hand, and the pair closed their eyes and stepped forward. The frame surrounding the painting glowed. As father and daughter floated into the image, Nyarlathotep dropped his apple core, which was quickly populated by a colony of glowing algon. The algon nourished the apple’s seeds from which phosphorescent sprouts sprang.
Had anyone been looking at the painting, they would have seen Nyarlathotep and Yadira dancing joyfully in their garden. Nyarlathotep conjured a shovel and dug a hole, into which Yadira dropped her apple core. The Cosmic Trickster’s hands danced as he summoned a collection of clouds, and a gentle rain began to fall. Father and daughter strolled hand in hand to their cottage.
“Your mother will be impressed with that tree, I think” Nyarlathotep speculated. “I have commanded it to blossom every morning and by evening there will be apples for all. Any surplus can be taken to the Enchanted Wood.”
“Will the tree sleep during the night, Father?” Yadira teased.
“Likely not. Such a fine tree will no doubt become home to a variety of splendid creatures. A tree such as this will take it upon itself to protect its family. Now, let us have some tea and a calm discussion of our next steps before we invite our lively Zoogs to join us in our new world.”
“Those who come to reside in the tree and those who enjoy its bounty of golden apples will protect the tree in gratitude,” Yadira stated.
“What makes you believe that the tree will bear golden apples, my pet?” Nyarlathotep inquired as the pair entered the cottage. He waved his hand and a steaming pot of tea and two place-settings appeared upon the kitchen table. “The apples that I conjured for us were red.”
“Silly Father,” Yadira laughed, embracing her sire. “You may have colored the apples red, but I well recognize the flavor of the golden apples of the sun.”
“Can’t pull the wool over your eyes,” Nyarlathotep conceded as he poured the tea. “You are too canny by far.”
“You can sometimes, but you have to get up pretty early,” Yadira laughed. “Oh, it’s a shame we won’t be able to stay here long, but we must return to our search for Mother. When the sun breaks through the clouds, I’ll call some bees to come to our garden and make honey, and some bees to bumble about, and butterflies to make everything wonderful and bright. For although the flowers are beautiful, this place is a little too quiet. When all I hear is my own thoughts, I find myself unable to think clearly.”
“The song of the birds, the buzz of the bees, and the whisper of butterfly wings will make a marvelous symphony,” Nyarlathotep agreed. “Then we will invite the Zoogs, and when darkness falls, we will listen for the secrets that the night breeze may whisper to us while we rest.”
Nyarlathotep is the creation of H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in his 1920 story of the same name.
Nathicana, the Gardens of Zaïs, Dzannin, and the white nephalotë are the creations of H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in his 1927 poem Nathicana.
The Zoogs are the creation of H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in his 1927 story “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
The Golden Apples of the Sun references both the 1953 short story collection by Ray Bradbury and the 1899 William Butler Yeats poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus.” Bradbury prefaced his book with the final three lines from the poem.
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
The Daily Spur
Putting My Feet in the Dirt
Write a story where flowers play a central role.
Submitted on 25 March 2021.