The Two Doors
A Perfectly Brewed Cup of Tea
“A perfectly brewed cup of tea can’t fix everything.”
The trickster god Nyarlathotep’s manner was subdued as he handed his daughter tea in a pretty cup decorated in swirls of silver with orange flowers and brown leaves.
“But for a few wonderful moments, it feels as if it can,” the girl postulated.
Yadira looked like the same innocent girl just approaching womanhood that Nyarlathotep had known a day ago. Her smile was sweet, her black-coffee hair flowed in the same wild, thick mass of waves. She had the same thirst for adventure, and her warm, dark eyes were as brimful as ever with adoration and trust for her sire.
Nonetheless, Nyarlathotep noted a new truth behind his daughter’s eyes. She could not hide it from him, try though she may. He wished he could erase the knowledge casting its shadow over his child’s benevolent soul.
Yadira noticed the sadness in her father’s eyes.
“Papa, even you could not prevent my awareness of the dishonorable intentions of men such as Strok’aik Zuugrods forever,” she admonished. “I know you wish that I could forget the disgust I felt with his leering eyes undressing me and the way the bile rose in my throat with his foul breath on my face when he tried to tear my clothes off. Please know that I was never afraid. I knew what he would do, and I knew that I had the upper hand. Now his corpse is a disemboweled statue serving as a warning to other would-be warlords believing it is their right to use the bodies of women and girls as an apparatus to satisfy their despicable lusts.”
“I was not afraid for your safety, my rosebud,” Nyarlathotep reassured his daughter. “I am fully aware of your lofty magical strengths and more than confident in your ability to defend yourself against the likes of Zuugrods. I am simply saddened that you had to feel his sick desires invading your psyche and that you were forced to make your first kill.”
“You avoided exposing me to this knowledge for as long as you could, Father,” Yadira soothed. “Come now, let us not wallow in regret. I hope you have not forgotten what tomorrow is.”
“Oh, is it a special day of some sort?” Nyarlathotep teased.
The merriment in her sire’s eyes delighted Yadira and she played along with the joke.
“It most assuredly is,” she admonished. “Someone ought to find a beautiful crystal or two for his daughter’s arrival anniversary, and perhaps give her some gold and silver chains for her to hang the crystals on that she might wear them as a necklace.”
“I think this fortunate fellow’s daughter might enjoy conducting a search for her own crystals,” Nyarlathotep suggested.
Frog Pudding and Dilapidated Doorways
“Now, what is the perfect gift for a darling daughter’s one thousand one hundred and eleventh arrival anniversary?” Nyarlathotep mused. “Oh, I know! Every daughter enjoys a good bowl of frog pudding and a jolly journey through dilapidated doorways!”
Nyarlathotep waved his right hand with a flourish. A bowl of bubbling lime-green pudding brimming with a multitude of multicolored frogs appeared. As the Outer God bowed to present the treat to his daughter, he made an upward motion with his left hand, and two doors appeared.
Nyarlathotep sat beside Yadira, conjuring up his own bowlful of frog pudding. Yadira poked at the nebulous mixture with her spoon.
“These aren’t real frogs, are they, Father?” she inquired.
“That is up to you, my love,” Nyarlathotep replied. “Should you wish, this bowl could be filled with a culinary delight. Currently, it is a lime chocolate pudding filled with jelly frogs. However, with a wave of your hand, it could become a small biosphere, and we could find a world where it would grow and thrive.
“Could we do both?” Yadira inquired. “I would enjoy consuming a lovely lime chocolate pudding with jelly frogs, and then I would like to find a happy world where we could make bubbling swamps filled with colorful frogs.”
“Done!” Nyarlathotep agreed. “We will enjoy our jelly frog pudding, then we will set out on a journey to find the perfect world with a nice, murky swamp for a rainbow of frogs. You will choose which doorway to go through, my dear. After all, it is your special day.”
“Father, we have never celebrated an arrival anniversary for you,” Yadira noted.
“That is because the day I arrived does not exist on any calendar,” Nyarlathotep explained. “My sire is a seething mass of primordial chaos and not much the sort of being to celebrate such niceties as arrival anniversaries.”
“Then we will simply celebrate your arrival anniversary on the same day as we celebrate mine,” Yadira decided.
“An excellent plan. I am in full agreement. Well, I am done with my frog pudding and my tea. Whenever you are ready, you may choose a dilapidated door for you and me.”
Yadira stood looking back and forth between the doors for a long time. She danced and twirled between them, touching one, then the other.
“Papa, I can’t choose!” she fretted. “Can you give me a hint of which door is better?”
Nyarlathotep shrugged, feigning consternation although his eyes twinkled merrily.
“I cannot, my dear, for the choice isn’t mine to make. I harvested sparks of the best wishes from your mind, mixed them together in my spell, and conjured these portals. I suggest that you let the doors help you. Think your wish or say it aloud, then touch the doors and let them guide you.”
Crazy Crawfish and Mushy Mud Pies
Yadira danced and twirled before the doors, closed her eyes tightly, crossed her fingers, whispered her wish, then pressed her palms to each door. After a moment, she giggled, turning to look at Nyarlathotep.
“Papa, the doors are telling me their secrets,” she explained. “I am sure that their secrets are very serious to them, but they sound awfully silly to me.”
“Do you have permission to share their secrets with me?” Nyarlathotep inquired.
“I do. The tattered door on the left with the peeling blue paint is telling me about foaming oceans and secret potions, and twirly birds and twinkled toes.”
“I see,” Nyarlathotep mused. “And what of this zany door on the left with its somewhat unfortunate verdigris hue? Of what things does it whisper to you?”
“It is speaking of crazy crawfish and mushy mud pies, and of vibrant verbena and alabaster artichokes,” Yadira tittered.
Regaining her composure, the young sorceress turned to her father with a serious expression on her face.
“Both doors are salty, Father. They lead to salty worlds. But where the door on the right leads to a massive sphere renowned for its glorious oceans, the door on the left leads to a compact world brimful of salt marshes and bubbling mudflats with scattered garden oases. I believe it may be an abandoned agricultural outpost.”
“Do you suppose that we should go through the door on the left and see what there is to discover?” Nyarlathotep inquired.
“I do!” Yadira agreed, bouncing, and clapping her hands. “Come along, Father! We may have found the perfect home for our marsh of rainbow frogs.”
Yadira turned the pink, egg-shaped handle on the verdigris door. A humid breeze wafted the smell of salt and loam into the room.
Father and daughter joined hands and strode through the portal to learn what discoveries awaited them on the other side.
“If there were any world where I supposed that I would find crazy crawfish and mushy mud pies, it would be this world,” Nyarlathotep speculated.
With a wave of his hand, the Cosmic Trickster’s elegant blue silk suit and shiny black wing-tip shoes transformed into rugged explorer’s garb. The god’s long, black hair was restrained in a neat ponytail and he wore a battered fedora.
Yadira twirled in a perfect pirouette. Her white embroidered blouse and burgundy velvet skirt transformed into an outfit nearly identical to her father’s.
“I think we’re ready to find a swampy home for our rainbow frogs,” Nyarlathotep declared.
A Swampy Sanctuary
Father and daughter walked until they arrived at a vast, shallow marsh. Yadira scanned the area, detecting leeches and a vast quantity of insects.
“What do you think, my dear?” Nyarlathotep inquired. “Is this place a suitable home for the frogs?”
“I believe so, but I must discuss it with the frogs,” Yadira decided. “Set them here before me, Father, and we will have a meeting.”
Yadira lined up the rainbow jelly frogs on a piece of waterproof cloth. She spoke to them in a guttural language, sounding very much like a frog herself.
“Dear friends, I believe that I have found a fine home for you,” Yadira croaked in Frog Language. “But I must have your input before I bring you to life and leave you here. I would not want to let you down.”
Yadira outlined the pros and cons of life in the swampy world. She stated that she couldn’t guarantee that things would be wonderful or that the frogs’ species would live forever, but given the sorts of things that frogs enjoy, this world seemed like a good place. Nyarlathotep smiled wistfully, thinking of the qualities his daughter shared with her lost mother.
After several minutes of palaver with the frogs, Yadira grinned gleefully.
“The frogs say that they love this place, Papa,” she announced. “They tell me that it is nicely warm, murky, and not at all cramped. Before them is marsh as far as the eye can see, and behind them is a thick, protective forest. Let us float them in the water, and I will bring them to life.”
“I agree with the frogs,” Nyarlathotep concurred. “This is a place of serenity. There isn’t a building or sidewalk to be found, and you have chosen a place free of greedy fish.”
“That is one of the reasons why I selected this place, Father,” Yadira explained. “There are grand fish in the roaring stream that feeds this marsh, but the multitude of roots dissuades them from invading. This place is also thick with insects because the fish can’t get in to consume them. The frogs will help bring the insect population under control. I’m happy that we are sorcerers, for if we didn’t have our protective field, we would be itchy for ages from all the insect bites.”
“Then let us release the frogs,” Nyarlathotep agreed. “I wonder if you think this place might benefit from a few butterfly dragons. They are among my favorite creatures of the Dreamlands.”
“One thing at a time, Father,” Yadira admonished gently. “Let us not get ahead of ourselves. Dear froggy friends, welcome to the first day of the rest of your lives in your new home!”
Yadira waved her hands and rainbow beams blazed forth from her palms, bringing the colorful jelly frogs to life.
Twisted Oak Paths and Blooming Breezes
There was a tremble in the swamp as supple bodies slipped to and fro in the water and frolicked in their new home. They clamored about the feet of the young sorceress who had bestowed this opportunity upon them. Yadira lovingly wished each little frog well before releasing it back into the marsh.
“They say that their kind are called the Qix,” Yadira revealed. “I like that name. It’s simple and rather fun.”
“It does roll off the tongue with ease,” Nyarlathotep agreed. “I think it defines the frogs nicely. It’s a name that’s friendly and just a bit cheeky.”
“Let us not leave this world right away, Father,” Yadira suggested. “Let us explore the twisted oak paths of the forest and enjoy the blooming breezes. We have time, don’t we?”
“As much time as you like,” Nyarlathotep agreed. “It’s your arrival anniversary, so you get to choose.”
“Our arrival anniversary,” Yadira reminded her father. “Remember, I told you that you could share it with me. Did Mother have a special arrival anniversary?”
“Like me, your mother came to be in an indefinable time and not in the usual way,” Nyarlathotep explained. “You grew in her womb, as is the norm for humanoids.”
“But even though we look human, we aren’t,” Yadira pondered.
“Indeed. Humanoids are a prolific and troublesome species. The humanoid form evolved as restless celestial and infernal spirits bonded psychically with creatures possessing similar intellectual patterns. They certainly created an awful mess, and it is up to us to try and balance their errors. When I first met your mother, she was terribly weary from her eternal attempts to heal the broken lives of so many unhappy souls.”
“But you assisted her, Father, and she began to thrive again. And now you have me to assist you, both in granting wishes and helping you find Mother again.”
“I could not have asked for a better daughter,” Nyarlathotep praised. “You embody the best qualities of your mother and me. I wish I could protect you from the inevitable ugliness and suffering in the Universe, but even I am not able to prevent sadness or to shield you from it. The best I can do is offer you moments of respite such as we are enjoying today.”
“That is quite good enough, Father,” Yadira soothed, taking her sire’s hand. “Today for us may be as a thousand years for mortal beings. We will be where we are needed when we are needed, yet we can never be everywhere.”
“Right you are, my love. Even immortals have their limitations.”
“I hope that this world lasts billions of years, Father, and I hope that humanoids never come here. I want the frogs and other animals to have long and happy lives.”
A Final Search
“Let us explore a little longer and see what else we can find in this world,” Yadira suggested. “Then, perhaps, we can end our arrival anniversary day by playing with the Nightgaunts and ghouls in the Underworld on the Peaks of Thok. I do enjoy being the niece of the Nightgaunts. There again, perhaps we should pay a visit to Grandmother Yibb-Tstll in the Jungle of Kled so I can meet my newest aunties and uncles. I think they turn out a bit nicer when I’ve had the chance to imprint on them while they are still quite young, don’t you?”
“I quite agree with you,” Nyarlathotep replied. “The Nightgaunts who are fortunate enough to meet you while they are still in their infant stage are more reasonable and less brutal than some of their elder siblings. Still, neither your grand-dam nor your grand-sire are exactly the sort that one can take tea with, are they?”
Nyarlathotep smiled at his own joke and Yadira laughed.
“No, they certainly are not,” she agreed. “And, honestly, I don’t have much to say to them. They sometimes speak to me in my dreams, but I have no desire to listen. You are ever so much kinder and wiser. Nonetheless, I would enjoy having a tea party with my newest little aunties and uncles. They are such darling living shadows.”
“Then let us make our way to the Jungles of Kled,” Nyarlathotep proposed. “You can imprint on your newest batch of aunties and uncles and I will see if I can trick your grandmother into revealing anything useful. There is a lesson to be learned from your grandmother, you know.”
“What lesson is that Papa?” Yadira inquired as her father waved his hand, creating a gate to the Dreamlands.
“That nearly everything serves a purpose and sometimes a thing of great beauty can spring from a quite unappealing source. Your grandmother serves a purpose. She observes all of space and time from her vantage point at the center of the cosmos. Your mother inherited from her the ability to observe all of space and time. Unlike your grandmother, however, your mother bestowed benefaction. Your grandmother confers retribution.”
“I would think that Grandmother ought to be able to guide us to Mother,” Yadira postulated. “If she sees all, surely she must be able to see where Mother is.”
“She claims that she cannot. I believe that you are old enough to hear the unalloyed truth, Poppet. Your grandmother is a self-serving bitch, but it behooves me to keep the peace with her.”
Hand in hand, father and daughter stepped through the magical portal into the Land of Dream.
Nyarlathotep is the creation of H.P. Lovecraft, initially appearing in his 1920 story of the same name.
Yibb-Tstll is the creation of Brian Lumley, initially appearing in his 1971 story, “Rising with Surtsey.”
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This chapter was inspired by the Write a story about someone who’s extremely impulsive — or extremely indecisive prompt. Yadira is an 1100-year-old immortal being at this point in the story, possessing wisdom and power that the average eleven-year-old child does not have. However, when her father offers her an exciting choice with no clear hint at which door is better, she is as indecisive as any eleven-year-old girl would be.
The story was submitted to the A character stands in front of two doors. Write a story about what happens after they choose one to enter prompt on 27 May 2021.