“The Call of Cthulhu”
“The Call of Cthulhu”, a grotesque horror short story, is probably H.P. Lovecraft’s best known. It speaks about horrors too great for the human mind, as seen through the eyes of the Bostonian anthropologist Francis Wayland Thurston as he slowly unravels the truth about the entity known as Cthulhu, and the cult and mythos surrounding it.
The story begins when Francis, as his sole heir, inherits the entire estate of his great uncle George Gammell Angell, a professor of semitic languages at the Brown University. He comes across mentions of Cthulhu when he goes through his research, and discovers a clay bas-relief depicting a creature resembling “an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature” simultaneously. Upon reading through his great uncle’s notes he slowly pieces together information about an ancient worldwide cult surrounding a horrendous cosmic entity, said to be resting at the bottom of the ocean. As he pieces together the final bits of information, he begins to fear for his life.
The short story carries a heavy feeling of impending doom, and conveys a strong fear of the unknown. It’s a great read for anyone interested in sci-fi and horror.
“The Rats in the Walls”
“The Rats in the Walls” is another popular short story by H.P. Lovecraft.
It is about a descendant of the De la Poer family who recently lost his son in WWI. Grief stricken, he decides to move to England and renovates the Exham Priory, an abandoned monastery that belonged to his ancestors. He moves in when the renovations are complete, and soon begins to hear the sound of rodents scurrying in the night. Expressing his concerns to friends and servants, he discovers that only himself and his seven cats are able to hear it. Mouse traps are sprung, but catch nothing. His cat (who bears a very unfortunate name) leads him to the basement, where he discovers an ancient room that appears to have been used for rituals. As he delves deeper into the past of his ancestors, he discovers secrets that has him walking out a different man.
I think this is a great read, especially since some things are left open to interpretation. Be advised that depending on the version you’re reading it may contain some racist language (namely, the name of the narrator’s cat). The story is the kind that stays with you for a while after you read it.
“He” is one of Lovecraft’s less popular works, but probably one of my favorites. Our narrator is a young poet that recently moved to New York and is experiencing a healthy amount of culture shock. He is fed up with the city and finds it to be very unwelcoming, but enjoys wandering the streets during the night, observing the architecture by the light of the moon. One night he meets a mysterious man that seems to be from a different time. The man offers to show him the secrets of the city, and he is led through a poorly lit neighborhood, and ends up somewhere that doesn’t quite belong to his own time.
This story, like many of Lovecraft’s other works, renders a strong feeling of fear of the unknown. In this case, the unknown is the distant future and past. There is also the suggestion of dark magic and rituals, another recurring theme in Lovecraft’s stories.