September 2018

Once again, our friends at Oscoda Smoked Meats will be manning their barbecue station from 12am until they run out of meat! Today’s selections are:

-Roast dry-rub flank of Celephaïs ghoul, $5/lb.
-Elder Thing wings with shoggoth braze, $20/doz.
-Deep One caviar side dish, $10/bucket.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen demand, pulled night-gaunt sandwiches and scrambled shoggoth and eggs are not available.

Halloween is just around the corner and our artisan pumpkins will help you celebrate! Whether you are decorating, piemaking or simply displaying with these pumpkins, you’ll find that their non-Euclidean forms and colors that exist outside the spectrum of sanity are the perfect taste of the gibbering madness beyond the veil that your Halloween party needs! They are sustainably grown and harvested cruelty-free by the Mi-Go, the fungi from Yuggoth whom no mortal camera can capture.

Fall is upon us, and with it the last batch of artisanal local honey! Gardner Farms Honey is on sale this week, and devotees agree that, although seemingly grey and inedible, it actually helps dull the pain and horror of the unknowable alien beyond even as it corrupts mortal flesh! Try it on toast.

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RANGE SAFETY OFFICER: We call this scenario ‘Invasion of the Coffee Snatchers.’ You are returning from your favorite coffee watering hole when a ship full of Arcturian males in rut lands nearby, mistaking the odor of your fresh java for female pheromones.

[The RSO gestures DOWNRANGE, where several CARBONITE CUT-OUT SILHOUETTE targets have been erected on either side of an ADAMANTIUM RAY-SHIELDED BARRIER.]

RSO: You will hold your death ray, loaded to division electron discharge capacity, in your dominant hand while holding a cup of coffee in your left hand. You will then engage the targets on the left in order of priority. After that, you may discard the coffee cup to engage the targets on the right. You will receive a one-second penalty to your overall time for hitting the carbonite outside the target area or the magnetically sealed berm. Any questions?

DEATH RAY SHOOTER #1: May I overcharge my death ray?

RSO: This is a no-overcharge course for today’s competition. Overcharging, resonance cascade, CP violation, and positron bolts are not allowed. They will result in immediate disqualification.

DEATH RAY SHOOTER #2: Will there be coffee in the cup?

RSO: The cup is empty, donated to us by our friends at Arcturus Coffee.

DEATH RAY SHOOTER #3: Do I need to draw my death ray from concealment?

RSO: Concealment is optional unless you are shooting in the Pocket Death Ray category.

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The machine lets me go deeper, more lucid than I have ever been even in waking life. I am aware of every blade of grass waving in a breeze that exists only in my subconscious mind, every pebble in the worn concrete beneath my feet that was lovingly imported from the darkest of my elementary school days.

Everything seems strange because I am at a child’s height, yet seeing with adult eyes. When it was long ago, there were no thick blades of grass hungrily pushing between asphalt cracks; the city was not yet so decrepit. We had aged together.

An eternal twilight burns overhead, and I feel giddy. It is what I once felt at that height, the joy of a world bursting at its seams with possibilities, stories under every stone. Yet it is also a mix of adult giddiness, of the feeling of time slipping through outstretching fingers like hourglass sand, the looking back at what may never have been through the rosy lens of what might have, if only.

And in, among all that, the machine shows me what I long suspected: a dark hollow, always hovering at the edge of even my dream-tinged perceptions. That darkness has a depth I scarce suspected, and waiting at its bottom…things my lucid mind saw fit to banish to realms of abstraction. A confrontation with the negative essence of myself: that which made my by being rejected, minimized, despised.

The door was open, the machine held it wide, and every halcyon dream-path had as its corollary a path down that ill-winded road, should I choose to take it.

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“I’m telling you, I didn’t order a package,” said the owner of #5298 Richard Rd. “What would I even get that was that small?”

“Jewelry, maybe? A USB cable?” I held up the tiny package, which barely filled my palm. “Look, it says this address and requires signature confirmation, okay? If I don’t get it delivered and signed for, I might be fired.”

“And I’m not signing for some mysterious tiny little package I didn’t order!” countered Mr. 5298. “If CPS is gonna fire its drivers for that, well, that’s their problem, not mine!”

The door slammed in my face, and I trudged back to the waiting truck. Before I got there, I heard a small voice call to me from below.

“Aye, is that me package you got there, lad?”

I looked down, started, and saw an extremely tiny person standing at a little door in the hillside. No more than a few inches tall, he waved me down.

“Did you order a…signature confirmation CPS delivery?” I set the package on his “doorstep.”

“That I did lad! Dinnae ken why they got the address wrong, but it inna first time it’s happened an it wilna be the last.” He signed on the dotted line in comically tiny script with a quill pen.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what did you order?” I said.

“Ach, tis just a micro HDMI cable so I can watch the Netflix in better resolution,” the tiny man said. “The normal ones willna fit in me house, ye ken? Hard enough finding a smallscreen plasma that’d fit, but I dinnae think the cable would bollocks it up! Many thanks to ye.”

He tottered inside with the package in his arms and returned with a pair of quarters under his arm, dinner plates to him. “Here,” he added. “Something for your troubles, lad.”

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Our first warning should have been when the squirrels started screaming.

You’ve heard their chittering howls before if you live in a place with trees, and they usually only go at it when they are having disputes with each other over affairs only rodents understand. But that month, they began making the noises almost nonstop, pausing only to sleep. It was terribly maladaptive on their part, broadcasting themselves like that. The local cast of predators, from cats to birds of prey, soon took to eating the things in mid-scream.

About two weeks later, the noise stopped. There were no more squirrels about; they had all fled or been eaten, with a few found limp after apparently having yowled themselves to death. If we’d had any sense, we would have followed, screaming after our own fashion.

But we didn’t. And, soon enough, we found what they had been howling about.

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So a baker bought a big Tupperware to transport sweet treats without crushing them. Their assistant saw this and said “I’ve seen some strange thing in my day, but that takes the cake.”

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It is a principle well-understood on the plains of Laïs that light is deadly. Early mornings are safe, as are twilights, and the best days of all are cloudy. But the piercing light that illuminates the prairies there, which emanates from the great and cruel star of Køs which was set there when its reality was carved from the dream by the Nameless Ones…

Sometimes, the light simply illuminates. Sometimes, it burns. Often, it kills. The effect of stepping into any given shaft of light can be as unpredictable as any sea.

So thence the Black City of Korton. The folk there signed a compact with the Nameless Ones when the great and cruel Køs was hung above them, trading immunity to its rays for total darkness. Thus, every light in the city is extinguished upon entering, and every facet of life is lived in total blackness. One can cast one’s eyes up to the sky to see the great towers of Korton silhouetted, or down to the banks of the River Kort to see them reflected as onyx. Many newcomers do.

The people of Korton, its long-term residents, have developed ways to go without sight. It is therefore a dangerous place for the sighted, who are easily set upon by gangs of toughs that operate by touch and sound rather than sight.

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Various folk helped the Dark on its way. While this might seem insane on its face, they each did so for their own short-sighted reasons. Some saw the Dark as a weapon to use against their enemies. Some saw it as a way to make money. Many, of course, lied to themselves about what they were doing, if in fact they knew that the Dark had any hand in their actions at all.

But the end result was the same. The Dark only cared for one thing, the thing that it had obsessed over since the first guttering sparks had arisen: extinguishing every last light. Those folk, themselves creatures of light, failed to see that in aiding the Dark they were simply buying themselves the privilege of being extinguished last.

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Not long after the hunting lodge of Sarmej struck out and devastated the village of Ilajescu, a strange traveler appeared. He was clean and well-spoken enough that many took him for another noble or well-heeled member of the Imperial bureaucracy–notions that he did little to dispel. The stranger said that word of Ilajescu’s tragedy had reached him, and that he, a former soldier in the Imperial army, was willing to aid the villagers in striking back. He would do this without recompense, he said, and would feed the town with provisions purchased from their neighbors.

While some were skeptical of his generosity, the stranger nevertheless found an enthusiastic audience in the grieving folk. He aided them in building basic fortifications, making passable weapons and armor from farming implements, and drilling them in basic formation fighting. The process took all winter, but in the spring, the denizens of Ilajescu were ready for their attack.

Approaching Sarmej from the north, a group created a diversion to draw its inhabitants out while another moved in to cut off their retreat. Seven villagers died, but at the end of the savage combat all five of the Sarmej hunters lay dead. Other than being rather pale and finely clothed, they seemed rather ordinary nobles save for the quality of their weapons, which was extreme. The stranger congratulated the townsfolk on their feat and bade them to camp for the night, promising to help them occupy the lodge at first light. When some from Ilajescu insisted on entering Sarmej at once, the stranger argued persuasively that it might be booby trapped and that it would be better to have the light of day to make their investigations. The townsfolk reluctantly agreed, though one or two of them still stole into the lodge to collect small items in the dark.

The next morning, the stranger had vanished–and with him the lodge and the bodies of the dead. Only a stone foundation remained. And over the next month, every villager who had managed to acquire something from Sarmej–a weapon, a trinket, even a bit of stone–was burgled. Those who had hidden their treasures well and retained them soon wished they had not, for a terrible wasting sickness took them before the year’s end.

By the conclusion of the affair, Ilajescu was severely depopulated and was abandoned not long after. The great hunting lodge of Sarmej was never seen again.

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As long as the inhabitants of the tiny, isolated Carpathian hamlet of Ilajescu had any folk memory, the great hunting lodge of Sarmej had existed on the great forested berg to the south. Smoke could occasionally be seen rising from it on clear days, and still nights often revealed lights within, but the people of Ilajescu never ventured near the lodge all the same.

The people who occasionally lived there were known to dress finely, speak rarely, and kill intruders on sight. The Imperial governor and his lackeys always dismissed these concerns when they were raised, noting that the lodge’s inhabitants were free nobles of good standing, but they were always noncommittal about the nobles’ actual names and titles. By the time of Emperor Francis, the Imperial authorities refused to acknowledge the lodge at all.

Ilajescu remembered, though, as a villager would be murdered every few years for straying too close to Sarmej, an unfortunate circumstance not helped by the local youth who viewed a successful trip to and from the remote lodge to be a worthy feat of manhood and test of mettle. But if the mysterious nobles of Sarmej caught an intruder, they would return, at best, with a harrowing tale of being pursued and shot at.

Eventually, after a night of heavy drinking following a successful harvest, a group of youths set out for Sarmej with the intention of breaking in and taking something from it as proof of their feat. Not one of the eight youths was ever seen again, and the following evening, the inhabitants of Sarmej attacked Ilajescu itself. Bearing flaming brands and dressed in dark clothing, they targeted the homes of the eight and burned them to the ground. A large part of the harvest was also destroyed, as were the five townsfolk who attempted to fight back.

No one was able to see the figures clearly, and the Sarmej attackers never uttered a sound.

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