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May 16, 2012 / Daniel

Silent Night

[2325 words, rated G]

“Marshall Bivins 791 Collierville Rd”
The mailbox stood alone beneath a gray autumn sky, crisp brown leaves swirled around it and past it.

Marshall pulled the door open on the downward hinged and scooped out the contents; a magazine full of color photographs of sweaters, a few holiday cards from friends and relatives, and a single hand-addressed envelope, tattered and worn, with no return address. He closed the box and examined the letter.

It appeared as though it had been in the post for quite some time, maybe years. It was not addressed to him. It was not addressed to anyone, evidently, judging by the jumble of multicolored ink stamp marks stating “Return To Sender” as well as different penmanships reading “Not At This Address”.

“Gary Highborn, Collierville”, it seemed, was a difficult man to locate.

Deciding rather than to return the item back into the post, which seemed to be yielding nothing productive, Marshall opened the letter and read.

“Gary,

My dear and honored friend, I contact you in a moment of desperate and urgent import. I pray that you’ll forgive my forgoing of particulars of friendly etiquette and allow me to proceed directly to the matter at hand.

I am deathly, gravely ill. I am writing to you to share with you a secret that I have carried for years. Along with this letter, you should be in receipt of a shipment. In that crate you will find a statue of approximately three feet in height; a Chinese Imperial guardian lion. It must be handled with care, as if it were a brittle and fragile object spun from threads of glass. It is my most treasured possession. Store this lion safely away, and keep it from the knowledge of others, all the days of your life.

If that is all which is made known to you, and if you follow my instruction without wavering, you will have done well, and need worry no further, but as my strength remains, permit me to go on as far as I can manage. I feel it only right that you know the reasons why this statue is so important, any why the secret must be kept. I realize that given my state of health, and my hurried manner of approach, you may determine for yourself that I’ve taken leave of my senses. If you don’t yet think that, you soon will, as, health willing, I reveal to you all that I have to share.

Allow me to go directly to the most ridiculous portion of the matter, so as to have it out right away. There is no point in delay, for waiting will bear no weight in your perception of how silly of a thing you will think it to be.

I can confirm wholly and completely that the person, or thing, you know as Santa Claus does indeed exist, and is quite real, and living near the northern pole of the Earth on which you live.

I do not expect you to believe me at this mere mention. No sane man would, but, please, know it all in total before you judge any portion in part, for the horrible truth that I must share with you is far more difficult to believe than what I have just now revealed.

This thing, this person, this “Santa” as the world would reckon, does live and does work among hundreds, if not thousands of helpers, small beings of endless effort, “elves”, as you would assume. They toil away making toys, this much, too, is true as I have come to know.

Would that I could end there, my dearest friend, having confirmed to you and to the world the truth of the joyous facts that children believe, and which parents lie to foster. Would that I did not know the other task, the unspeakable task, that this man, this entity, has his helpers endeavor. Would that a single mistake had never happened. Would that this cycle of secret had never begun its spiral. But alas, it was begun, and now I must ensnare you, as it did me, as it dictates, turn by turn.

You must know how I came upon this secret, else I fear that without divulging the connected events, you may not come to believe all that I tell, and thereby not come to bear the secret that you must bear. All would be lost, thus, and so, you must know as much as I can relate.

In my younger days, I spent many hours roaming the woods near my home in northern Illinois. Sometimes hunting, sometimes just exploring. Being among the endless randomness of trees somehow made me feel in touch with life in a way nothing else really did.

One day, when walking well to the north and west of my home, perhaps eight to ten miles, I happened upon an old houseplace on the land of my neighbor, Anthony Riddell. Riddell had never lived there, being the owner of the acreage, and likely would not have known of the place, as his family were from Wisconsin, and not of local ilk. Little was left of the former structure there, but the brick chimney remained standing, along with the hearth, which would, of course, have been inside the home there. Daffoddils grew where the front end of the home and front walk would have been, under the blanket of brown leaves now there.

Such houseplaces fascinated me, like puzzles of the past. Sometimes in exploring, one could find artifacts that hint at the lives of those that once passed through. Indeed, this place was no different, for strolling around and kicking up the leaves with my foot did at one point reveal a discarded bottle with a half-rotten cork remaining in its neck. Thumbing away the dirt, I could read a portion of the label, enough to make out the name “Frederick Mendelheim”. Mendelheim’s home now felt a little more real to me, although no one I’m familiar with had any recollection of the Mendelheims or their fate.

Among the fieldstone that formed the chimney was one block much larger than the rest, which was positioned at the left front corner of the hearth. This stone was cracked, and appeared hollow. As I looked, I noticed that the capping stone of the hearth was loose, having also been cracked, allowing moss to have grown in and widened the crevice. I wiggled the cracked slab free, and looked inside the hollow hearthstone.

What I found inside that hearth changed the course my life forever. What I found there will now change yours forever as well. Mendelheim’s secret, Gary, my honored friend, is what we keep. We are brothers, now, under the weight of this burden.

Within the cold crypt that was Mendelheim’s hearth, I found a thin book, which was a partial diary of Fredrick Mendelheim’s days in his own hand. Also there, handbound book of tattered pages, fat with folded and tucked papers, scrawled through and through with impeccable penmanship.

A third item was there, Gary. And I’m afraid you’ll know what this item is when I mention it in the slimmest of detail. I’m afraid, Gary, that you’ll know it because I know you’re familiar with the works stored in the library at Miskatonic University. I know you’re familiar with the notes the Dyer expedition to Antarctica. I know you’re familiar Thurston’s papers. And, God help us all, I know you’re familiar with the one book, which I refuse to mention by name. I’m afraid, Gary, that I need only say that the third item was a statuette crafted of what appeared to be, but wasn’t exactly, some type of soapstone, for you to know what I’d found.

I read it all; both Mendelheim’s diary as well as the ancient book. God have mercy upon my soul, upon my sanity, for knowing these things.

In brief, as I feel the weakness encroach, I’ll sum up the critical portions of Mendelheim’s notes.

When Frederick was a child, he received a gift at Christmas that neither of his parents, Staley nor Adalle, had acquired. It was a mystery for the Mendelheim family that went without solution. That gift was a grotesque misshapen image in the form of a statuette of oddly green soapstone. The thing was so hideous that Frederick’s father decided it was of an un-Godly origin, and should be destroyed, but no matter of force or friction could scuff it or break it. In the end, it was kept, but never touched; its unsettling form hidden away from view.

The book was deemed harmless by Staley after a quick thumbing, and Frederick was allowed to keep and read the tome. It was by this book that the secrets of things best left unknown were laid bare unto Frederick. It was by this book that the terrible truth crept out of its safe places, and that it leaked its darkness into the light of the world.

Frederick was able to deduce quickly that the gift of the statuette and the book was the result of what must have been a chain of errors that resulted in the drastic mistake of allowing not only the statuette near the book, but both to be packaged together and bundled in with the parcels intended to be delivered out that year. The things he read were never intended for anyone to know, chief among them, the terrible truth that lies beneath the ice, and the terrible lie that keeps a peaceful world safe from the return of the High Priest of the Great Old Ones themselves.

I’ve done all but connect the final dots for you at this point, Gary. As unknowable as these facts may seem, as far as your ability to accept things unbearable can be stretched, surely the chill of truth will soon creep into your bones. You can feel it now, and if you listen, you can hear that horrible howling, that ancient piping tune, and the pounding drums of those that would wait years uncounted.

That book was the diary of this creature, this being; the diary of Santa Claus, revealing the mysteries of the frozen tundra that should never be proven nor disproven, that should never be.

They are Shoggoths, Gary. Shoggoths, that mined the cyclopean ruin that was the vast and stately city found by the expedition in the Antarctic. The Old Ones made them build, made them dig. And dig they did. They dug vast networks of tunnels and caverns throughout the crust of the Earth. Dyer and his expedition never grasped the expanse of it, the endless thousands of miles of caverns. Caverns and passages, Gary, that connect the ruined city, connect it, God help us, to other cities of the ancients that filtered down from the stars, untold millions of years before recorded history. The other cities, Gary, sunk beneath the oceans, only by luck of accident, by the depths of the waters, cutting off the ancients from their psychic links to the Elders in the stars.

My strength diminishes, but I must go on, for you must know the truth, the severity of the secret that you keep.

R’lyeh, my dear friend, R’lyeh, the city of the High Priest himself, the terrible and unfathomable Cthulhu is connected, God Almighty.

The Old Ones had the Shoggoths connect the cities by way of tunnels. Tunnels never mentioned, never spoken of, never recorded, not even in the book of books itself. Not even Carter knew this. Not even Carter.

If you have not yet guessed, I must bear the horrific truth to paper, for you must know, and I must be sure you know. The Shoggoths did not vanish, as Dyer and his expedition had concluded. They lived on, and they live today, and they work enslaved as they always have.

When the cities were complete, when R’lyeh was crowned, the tunnels were dug connecting them all. Once the work was complete, the shepherd of Shoggoths, the one that drove their labor for years unimaginable, returned to the city in the south, whereupon he discovered it abandoned. He had been left behind. His rage was unbound. His loyalty had gone unseen, and his work had gone unused.

Shunning his brotherhood, and cursing the High Priest himself, the shepherd of Shoggoths set out, then, to seal off the caverns, to prevent the cities of the Old Ones from ever rising again, to entomb R’lyeh forever.

The shepherd of Shoggoths enslaved the herd once again and systematically sealed the tunnels, the caverns, they had just completed, with ice, backfilling every inch, every mile, until all the ancient cyclopean cities were cut off, until R’lyeh was trapped.

And here we are, Gary, in the most ridiculously unacceptable outcome. The shepherd of Shoggoths, the Santa Claus, toiling his herd year-round, keeping them occupied, keeping the cities of the Old Ones sealed, keeping R’lyeh from ever rising. It is by him alone that we remain safe from the rise of the High Priest Cthulhu. It is by him alone that Cthulhu will ever lie motionless in the tomb of R’lyeh.

And it is by you alone, now, my dear and honored friend, that the secret is safe. For, should the secret ever become known, and the shepherd be discovered, R’lyeh would then be unearthed by the idiot scientists, hungry to know, hungry to discover truths.

Keep this secret, Gary, and one day, before you pass on, locate a trusted guardian and bring him into the brotherhood.

Keep the Guardian Lion safe as well, for embedded within it are the only evidence of this knowledge; Mendelheim’s diary, the diary of the shepherd of Shoggoths, and the statuette that cannot be destroyed. Should these things be found, all will be lost, and R’lyeh will rise again.

I am spent. Success, dear brother.”

Marshall Bivins folded the letter and tucked it back into the tattered envelope.

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