Storytime with KBC: The Bloop
Greetings, students of the surreal! Kentucky Blue Clay here once again. I’ve gotta warn you, ol’ Tuck’s not having a great day. This afternoon I’m slumming it in the present, having lunch downtown with a buddy of mine. Good food, good company, I was having a great time, until I came back outside and found a damn parking ticket on my windshield! I mean, yeah, technically I was parked in a red zone, and had two wheels up on the sidewalk, and my tabs are, like, crazy expired. And sure, I could just hop back to before I got the ticket and move the car, but come on! It’s the principle of the thing! I work for the goddamn Brotherhood, and there should be some freakin’ perks to that! Ugh.
Ever feel like you just need to get away from it all? You could do worse than the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility. It’s a spot on the pack ice in the Arctic Circle that’s about 400 miles from the North Pole. You could trek across nearly 700 miles of icy nothing in any direction without hitting land. Down south you’ve got the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility, where a plastic bust of Vladimir Lenin stares out across the frozen wastes—the only visible sign remaining of an old Soviet research station. If you happen to stop by, dig your way down to the station proper and sign the golden guest book.
And then there’s Point Nemo—an unremarkable spot in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean with a thousand miles of water on every side. You can’t get more alone than this. It’s the most remote place on Earth. And in 1925, it’s where the world nearly ended.
Say hi to Howard Phillips Lovecraft. In life he was a largely unsuccessful writer of pulp horror. His tales of indescribable cosmic horrors and tentacular starborn monstrosities were a bit much for contemporary readers. It wasn’t until well after he’d died—young and penniless—that his work was truly appreciated. These days, he’s considered one of the most influential authors of the twentieth century. Too little, too late—am I right, Howie?
Lovecraft’s story The Call of Cthulhu introduced the most famous of his creations by far: the ancient squid-headed monster god Cthulhu, who slumbers inside his temple at R’lyeh, a sunken island in the southern Pacific Ocean (I know, I see it too. Don’t get ahead of me). If you’ve heard of Lovecraft at all, it’s probably due to Cthulhu. You can’t get three clicks into the Internet without coming across a mashup of ol’ tall-and-tentacley and some random pop culture icon, to varying degrees of awesomeness.
The Call of Cthulhu is presented as a fictional account of Cthulhu’s awakening, and subsequent unwakening. The narrator details a manuscript, penned by his late uncle. The first section describes his uncle’s encounters with an artist named Wilcox, and the young man’s terrible dreams of dead languages and eldritch horrors. The second deals with a New Orleans detective, and a hideous idol recovered during a police raid of a primitive, animalistic ritual deep in the Louisiana bayou. In the final section, the narrator undertakes his own investigation into the fate of the lost schooner Emma, and the memoirs of its sole survivor that detail an encounter with the awakened Great One himself.
Now don’t get me wrong, The Call of Cthulhu is decidedly a work of fiction. But the fact is, the creepy little dude got more right than he did wrong. Near as we can tell, the story is inspired by the actual ship’s log of the ill-fated merchant vessel Emily Rose, and Lovecraft’s own nightmares during the same period of time. Some folks have an inborn ability to perceive the terrors that exist outside of our universe, and Lovecraft was one of the more sensitive. I don’t know if he just vibrated at the right frequency or what, but Lovecraft saw the truth of the world. There are things out there in the space between spaces—a crawling chaos that probes the paper-thin walls of our reality. Sometimes it finds a weak spot where it can break through, and Point Nemo is one big-ass weak spot. Now I’m not saying there’s for sure a squid-dragon named Cthulhu napping under the waves there, but there’s definitely something down there that defies human comprehension, and Cthulhu’s as good a name for it as anything. But more to the point, that something rose up from this weak spot during the Spring of 1925. And that something had the potential to bring about the end of the world, but, for whatever reason, chose not to.
Full disclosure: the Cthulhu event caught the Brotherhood with their pants down. There was clearly some mystical weirdness going on around the world at the time, but they had no idea that something of this magnitude was happening right under their noses. This time they were lucky. Next time they’d be prepared. A network of seismometers and hydrophones was put in place to constantly monitor the conditions in the Point Nemo region, and a rapid response air base was established on Siple Island off the Antarctic coast, with a fleet of supersonic bombers kept fueled and ready to launch at a moment’s notice. Each one packed with a mystical payload designed to smack Cthulhu’s snooze button for another couple millennia. Next time R’yleh decided to rise, they’d be ready.
In 1997, all of the preparation paid off. They got a hit. A big one. Not just the Brotherhood either—hydrophones all around the world picked up a LOUD-ass signal originating from the Point Nemo area. In fact, here. Give it a listen:
Freaky, right? Marine biologists determined the sound, dubbed “the Bloop,” to be biological in origin, but based on the frequency and volume of the signal its source would have to be larger than any animal ever discovered. The Brotherhood didn’t wait around for the civilians to put it on the endangered species list. Within an hour of detection, the men and women of Chapter Theta Three—the “Squid Squad”—were circling their target and blasting the holy hell out of the re-emerging R’lyeh. Whatever crazy hoodoo was packed into those bombs seems to have done the trick. There hasn’t been a non-Euclidian peep out of the place ever since.
Oh, you might have read recently that modern analysis of the Bloop has shown it to be the sound produced by calving icebergs. Suuuure it is—wink, wink! On a related note, the Brotherhood’s found that it never hurts to have a few civvie scientists in your pocket to point things in a less cosmically horrific direction.
So there you go. Just one of the countless times the Brotherhood has saved the world from complete and utter destruction. You’re welcome, planet Earth. And yet, after all we’ve done for you, you still insist on dictating where an agent of the Brotherhood can and can’t park his goddamn car! Well you know what? Maybe next time we won’t be able to save the world, because instead of being out in the field fighting back the forces of Evil, we’ll be stuck in traffic court contesting our tickets and trying to get our cars out of impound! Congratulations, Parking Enforcement Officer Linda Hansen! You could have caused the Apocalypse! Think about that while you’re tooling around town in your three-wheeled failmobile!
Yay for cosmic horror!
Seriously now, I think it’s a cool idea that Lovecraft’s dreams actually had some truth behind them.
Btw, although I know that many of Lovecraft’s stories (for example, The Statement of Randolph Carter) were inspired by a dream, I’m not sure whether Call of Cthulhu was as well? Does anyone know more about that?
It started as artistic license on my part. As it turns out though, the first section of Lovecraft’s story, dealing with an antiquarian examining a modern bas-relief of ancient design, is derived from an entry from his Commonplace Book that was itself a transcription of a dream he’d had in 1920. So the dates don’t quite work, but it was closer to the truth than I’d realized when I wrote it.