1770: Popo, Star Spawn of Cthulhu- Chapter 1Posted: May 23, 2017
Title: Popo, Star-Spawn of Cthulhu
Author: William Ungerstein Fmerigo
Topic: H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos
URL: Chapter 1
Critiqued by AdmiralSakai and Guard-Novitiate Psk’nyor “Nina” C’hon
Hello hello, all you patrons, and welcome to my first riff as an official member of the Library of the Damned!
“Good for… you, I guess. But if this doesn’t mean you’re finally going to write my cameo into Y’ha-nth’lei Minute like you promised, I really can’t be bothered to give a flying glub.”
You know, there are other characters in the UNITYverse aside from yourself…
Well, a few days ago I confirmed that there is indeed a ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ section to fanfiction.net, and it’s… well, really about what you’d expect. The status of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos as one of the earliest formal ‘shared’ canons that any writer could contribute to, coupled with a writing style that was… well, both very distinctive and kind of formulaic has guaranteed the existence of droves of solidly OK superficial imitators.
And then there’s this story, by William Ung… *squints at username and tries to find the vowels* umm… William. I give you “Popo, Star-Spawn of Cthulhu”.
Actually, that makes a fair amount of sense.
“Wrong Popo, buddy.”
An ordinary anime-esque high-schooler dies, and is brought back to life by Cthulhu himself as a pawn in a game far greater than she could ever imagine.
“Anime-esque” is a term that should be applied to drawings, not people. And certainly not literature. I have a feeling we’re going to be in for a tough ride.
“Ok, so, I’m totally down with Great Cthulhu reviving you stupid flat-faces to use as his pawns, but wouldn’t… I dunno, Donald Trump or somebody be more appropriate? The amount of damage a secondary schooler can do is, in absolute terms, still pretty glubbing limited.”
So you’ve heard of Donald Trump, but not any of the Star Treks beyond the original.
It began as a simple story. A tale of abandonment.
Once, there was a girl named Popo.
“Well, I’ll give the story credit, we’re only two lines in and we’ve already gotten to the horror part. What sick fuck names their offspring Popo?!”
Apparently it is an actual name… from the Crow tribe in North America… Somehow I doubt that was what the author was thinking of, however.
On the outside, many would find her similar to the stereotypical high schooler. She had friends, she talked with them, had a good time in school, and then went home to do whatever she did.
*The Admiral suddenly manifests a mauve scarf, thick plastic-framed glasses, and an E-cigarette.*
Pfeh. Having friends? And talking to them? Yes, just a walking stereotype, that one. How utterly plebeian.
It was everyone’s own business what they did, and she was okay with that.
Unfortunately, she died because of this.
“She died because it was everyone’s own business what they did?”
No, she died because she accepted the concept that it was everyone’s own business what they did. Weren’t you paying attention?
“Oh. Right. That makes so much more sense, thanks.”
Her parents weren’t home, probably off on vacation again, and her part-time jobs weren’t enough to pay for the mortgage bills that came in every now and then, never mind the utilities.
“Do her parents not have jobs? How are they paying for their vacation?”
Or are they just forcing Popo to pay the bills herself because their one goal in life is to make Cinderella’s stepmother look like the Partridge Family?
So she’d begun skipping meals to try to pay for it. This worked. For a while. Eventually, she began to starve to death,
And Child Protective Services are… nowhere to be found.
“Couldn’t she at least, like, move in with one of the friends she supposedly talks to?”
but it wasn’t starvation that killed her. It was probably the crushing loneliness, the feeling of depression, and her incessant nightmares that her parents had left her for the last time.
Worst of all, she died knowing that they had.
INNNNNNNNNNNN MY SCAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALES…”
But, of course, there is more to the story.
Popo’s father, as it happens, was actually her stepfather. Her mother had encountered her real father long ago as part of a cult she had been in, for a brief time during her twenties. She had left, but their relationship would stay the same. But her father was somewhat… unique.
“… I smell a Cthulhus Ex Machina on the way…”
Humans getting it on with Great Old Ones, Elder Gods, Outer Gods, and other high-ranking inhabitants of the Cthulhu Mythos (and producing offspring therewith) is actually fairly common in various Lovecraft-inspired stories- it’s used a lot in the Call of Cthulhu tabletop system as a way to give scenarios a boss that’s strong enough to pose a serious challenge but not as overpoweringly strong as an actual GOO or god. For reasons that should be obvious I think that’s complete bullshit and have found various ways around it, but I guess I can’t really take this story to task for it.
Well, I take that back. Here’s how Lovecraft describes the human/Yog-Sothoth hybrid Wilbur Whateley in The Dunwich Horror:
Above the waist it was semi-anthropomorphic; though its chest, where the dog’s rending paws still rested watchfully, had the leathery, reticulated hide of a crocodile or alligator. The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certain snakes. Below the waist, though, it was the worst; for here all human resemblance left off and sheer phantasy began. The skin was thickly covered with coarse black fur, and from the abdomen a score of long greenish-grey tentacles with red sucking mouths protruded limply.
Their arrangement was odd, and seemed to follow the symmetries of some cosmic geometry unknown to earth or the solar system. On each of the hips, deep set in a kind of pinkish, ciliated orbit, was what seemed to be a rudimentary eye; whilst in lieu of a tail there depended a kind of trunk or feeler with purple annular markings, and with many evidences of being an undeveloped mouth or throat. The limbs, save for their black fur, roughly resembled the hind legs of prehistoric earth’s giant saurians, and terminated in ridgy-veined pads that were neither hooves nor claws. When the thing breathed, its tail and tentacles rhythmically changed colour, as if from some circulatory cause normal to the non-human greenish tinge, whilst in the tail it was manifest as a yellowish appearance which alternated with a sickly grayish-white in the spaces between the purple rings. Of genuine blood there was none; only the foetid greenish-yellow ichor which trickled along the painted floor beyond the radius of the stickiness, and left a curious discoloration behind it.
Does any of that sound like a stereotypical high school girl to you?
If you answered ‘yes’ then you either need a lot more medication or a whole lot less, I’m really not sure which.
So, let us go back to Popo for a while.
“Did we ever really leave?”
Popo was a confused mess, at the moment. She was having issues with translucency. That is, she was not used to being dead, and existing as nothing but a soul. Typical, for a first-timer.
*Nina smacks AdmiralSakai across the back of the head.*
Hey, what was that for?!
“You know glub well what that was for.”
She was crying, and her spectral tears fell through her nonexistent hands and onto the floor.
So, ghost tears are nonsolid to her hands, but not to the floor. That makes sense…
Typically when stories include ghosts or other immaterial entities I am able to put aside obvious questions like why they are wearing clothes and how they are able to get traction to move, but those issues become increasingly hard to ignore when the story produces these sorts of blatant inconsistencies!
“Fear not, my child,” the voice of her father spoke from above. “You shall live again. It is not your time to die.”
“Who… who are you?” Popo managed to say through her tears.
Cthulhus ex Machina. I thought we went over this.
“Why would any of this happen?”
“I’m starting to wonder that myself.”
“My child, there is much you need to learn. But, for now, return. It is time for the war to begin. It was inevitable, but to protect this planet’s current dominant species, we must send champions instead.
Because if there’s one thing that Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones care about even more than their own supremacy, it’s protecting human life and property.
*The Admiral and Nina turn to stare at each other for several seconds before both dissolve into uncontrollable laughter.*
You shall be mine, desperate one. My child, the Daughter of the Great Cthulhu, you shall reign above this land with a fist of steel. You must.”
You know, the other thing about GOO-human hybrids being pretty common in the Mythos is that, well, they’re actually pretty common. Meaning that being a Daughter of the Great Cthulhu doesn’t actually make you all that fucking special.
“More than that, out of all these hybrids why would Great Cthulhu pick this worthless motherglubber to be His champion? Wouldn’t a powerful sorcerer be more capable of actually doing shit? Or a trained soldier? Or, well, someone who at least owns a gun?”
Popo awoke slowly, and realized something was different as soon as she got dressed for school.
Well, the whole being a ghost thing probably has something to do with that…
She was more plump than before.
Last she’d looked, she was practically just skin and bones. Now, she was more of what was considered an ‘ideal’ body type,
… of course she is.
and if anything was actually wrong, it was just that she was slightly chubbier around the waist than she would’ve preferred, but not even noticeably so. Though her body’s changes weren’t really visible above her clothes, the difference was considerable.
Huh. Guess we now know how the author likes his women.
“Girls. How the author likes his girls. Since this one’s hardly even into adolescence yet.”
Oddly so in bust size, she noted,
Fucked-up glubbin’ mammals.”
Normally this is the part where I’d make some sort of crack about you being a racist Deep One, but really at the moment I’m right there with you.
but quickly moved on to the other differences she saw in her appearance in the mirror.
She was taller, and her blue eyes had become green. And… she noticed her hair had been tinted somewhat green at its roots, like it had been oversaturated with seawater or, more likely, something just very similar. And the whites of her eyes were somewhat… blueish.
So, apparently tapping into your deepest, darkest hidden nature as the unnatural offspring of a sanity-blasting Great Old One… makes you prettier. Good to know!
“Not only prettier, but I can’t help but notice certain qualities actual humans don’t usually have, but still show up a lot in those… annie-mays?”
You know, I took kind of a lot of flack from Serketry (who did most of the behind-the-scenes balancing, mechanics development and playtesting) when I toned down the monstrous elements of the Deep Ones, Serpent People, and other sentient Mythos species in the UNITYverse. I just thought the more gruesome versions looked silly and like they lacked the requisite mobility/dexterity to use complex tools, but he pointed out how easy it is to slide into making them specifically more attractive as a cheap way to get players to see them as more sympathetic (the fact that this was about the time I started experimenting with adding nonhuman characters as romance options in a few scenarios might have had something to do with it, too).
Now, whenever he pesters me about it I can just show him this and remind him that things could be much, much worse.
She sighed, and brushed her teeth, grabbed her bags, and went to school.
As you do following a near-death experience.
“Say, Popo?” one of her friends asked her as they walked. “You seem… different.”
“Do I?” Popo responded. “I feel fine.”
“That might be it, actually.” They bit their lip. “I mean, I don’t know, you’re usually more… listless? Depressed? Something like that.”
Popo beamed. “No, I’m perfectly great!”
“Well that scene added a whole glubbing lot.”
So, does this friend get… you know, a name? A description? A hobby? Anything?
Though, of course, nothing ever comes without complications. Popo was aware of the changes herself, as well as the being that had granted them. It was called Cthulhu. It had called itself her father, and had told her to prepare for a war.
Isn’t this how civil unrest started in Uganda?
She’d asked the school library for any reference materials on strange religions of the world, as the experience, to her, had been quite religious, and so far, was coming up with nothing.
“Hey.” Another student sat down beside her, and began to read. They were quite interested in whatever they were reading, but after a moment, they looked over at Popo’s book, and then at the frustration on her face.
Oh. Good. Another nameless, faceless, quite possibly sexless “student” to keep track of!
“Or possibly the same one from before, I can’t really tell.”
“Um, you looking for something?” she asked.
“A god called Cthulhu,” Popo responded matter-of-factly. “I’ve heard things about him recently.”
The other student gave a nod of approval. “I see. The name’s Hanako, by the way.
Oh! Hey! A name!
“So… is all of this supposed to be going on in Japan? I sort of assumed it was America because there’s no glubbin’ setting whatsoever!”
Nice to meet you. And anyways, if you’re looking for Cthulhu, don’t bother with the non-fiction section if you just want an overview. That stuff’s esoteric. Look under L-O-V. Lovecraft, specifically. The guy wrote stuff based on this, but it’s pretty accurate, and it’ll give you a good overview.”
“You know about Cthulhu?”
Hanako giggled. “Let’s say I’ve heard things about him recently.”
Having the (fictional) works of H. P. Lovecraft exist inside his own Cthulhu Mythos raises any number of incredibly thorny ontological questions:
- How do you decide on a coherent canon when the works that define that canon are also fictionalized and therefore error-prone accounts in-universe?
- Where, if he didn’t make it up, did Lovecraft get his information, and why did he decide to publish it as fiction the way he did?
- How do you deal with historical evidence of a clear, fictional writing process surrounding Lovecraft’s works?
- To what degree are Lovecraft’s contemporaries and imitators canonical, and what happens when they contradict each other?
- How do you let characters go through any measure of challenge and intrigue to learn about the Mythos when very key points are part of general pop culture, and how can they even take things like Cthulhu seriously when they’re already internet memes?
- If, like in the UNITYverse, there are coverups and conspiracies dedicated to keeping the Mythos secret, why did “They” ever allow Lovecraft to be published in the first place?
How much do you want to bet that Popo, Star-Spawn of Cthulhu addresses exactly none of these issues?
She continued reading her book for a while, but eventually, the bell sounded. Break period was over.
As Popo was about to stand, Hanako stood up suddenly.
“Dagon shall prevail in this sea, but thanks for trying, foul Cthulhu-spawn,” Hanako whispered into Popo’s ear, before skipping away.
Ok, heavy-flippered fish metaphors aside, why is an agent of Father Dagon insulting an agent of Great Cthulhu? Father Dagon is our leader and our closest connection to Great Cthulhu- the two of them competing for dominance makes about as much sense as your human Pope trying to usurp your human Jesus!”
Oh God, this isn’t a Lovecraftian short-story, it’s a Jack Chick tract!
Hanako smiled and waved at her, before continuing out of the library, her book in hand.
It was entitled Ocean Cults of the Midwest: Dagon and Company.
“Ocean Cults of the Midwest”, huh?
So does anybody else see the problem with this?
And so, the plot thickened.
Not really. It kind of just tied itself into knots.
The war Cthulhu spoke of was likely between factions of these cults, Popo concluded. The existence of a god of that sort, never mind her being the daughter of that god, would be a massive issue for her if the other ones existed too.
Yeah, struggles between unholy forces for dominion over the Earth do tend to be rather problematic.
She had no idea what this war would entail, but it was likely to be unforgiving to beginners.
I mean, there’s like 80 different ways to provoke an attack of opportunity!
And the changes to her body likely had some larger significance than she had initially been able to see.
Classes were over for the day, but Popo was still in her classroom, just sitting down. Technically, she was supposed to be working at the nearby Burgermaster now, but she was allowing herself some time off. Specifically because she didn’t figure overworking herself again to be a great idea. Plus, she felt sort of queasy. The sunset shone over the hills out the window, and Popo felt that watching it was a wonderful way to spend time. Even if she was technically still in class after hours. Most, if not all of the teachers had left, though, so it was probably fine.
“Still here too, Cthulhu-spawn?” Hanako stood in the doorway to the classroom, leaning against the edge of the sliding door. She smiled, though there was an almost sarcastic edge to it this time.
“I hate to break it to you, Hanako, but I am completely clueless as to the machinations of this ‘Cthulhu’,” Popo said.
No, that’s the author.
“Whoa, that’s out of character.
“Wait, Popo has a character?”
Aren’t you the happy, popular girl? You’ve got no problems.”
Apart from the whole parental abandonment and starvation thing, anyway.
“Wait, Popo was supposed to be popular?”
Hanako laughed. “But here you are, talking to me like some holed-up genius.”
“I’m more well-spoken when I’m not in public, as I’m sure you’re not surprised to find.”
Hanako nodded. “Makes sense.
No it doesn’t.
But, if you’ve no idea what Cthulhu’s up to, we can make an alliance.
Since having zero communication with the figure you’re making decisions on the behalf of clearly qualifies you to do that.
Normally, Lord Dagon and Cthulhu are warring over control of the seas, but… if we make an alliance, that might change, at least for a while. C’mon, we’re their representatives. We’ll fight off anyone who challenges it together.”
“I think it’d be easy for Dagon to get the better of that. Your aggressiveness seems… almost desperate. So Dagon is losing?” Taking Hanako’s shocked facial expression as confirmation, Popo continued. “And that means an alliance would be useless to my ‘patron’. Or parent, in this case.”
“Ah, same here. Hanako, the Daughter of Dagon, Lady of the Deep Ones.”
“Wait, when did Father Dagon become the Lady of the Deep Ones?”
Careful… don’t provoke the sleeping eldritch giant that goes by the dread name Tumblr.
Hanako smiled, wider than a human should be able to. “And you are Popo, Spawn of Cthulhu, the Cancerous Tentacled Blemish on the Cosmos, Birther of Maggots and Vermin.
Is that her actual last name? If so, I think we’ve finally found a Sue to give Enoby Dark’nesse Dementia Raven TATA Way a run for her money.
Your family’s got a reputation among their kind, see. Not many of Cthulhu’s kin enjoy what he’s doing.
A mere priest, asserting more control on this Earth than any other? That’s not exactly normal. Lord Dagon’s pissed, Azathoth is stirring, and rumor has it that Hastur is coming back from the cosmos with a champion of his own.”
“I assume that’s bad?”
“Sounds like just another day in the UNITYverse to me.”
“Bad? You’re talking about Hastur. Our patron’s kind… no, our kind, tend to be immature, arguing over the least dispute. Hastur is the one who got sick of it and left.
I wonder if he riffs the other Great Old Ones?
He’s so intelligent that he can use his relatively low power at 100% efficiency, which makes him quite a bit stronger than most.
Which means… what, exactly? Are we talking about Hastur’s actual energy output and how much wattage he’s losing to black-body radiation? Or am I gonna have to break out the Scouter and see which of the Old Ones are under or over nine thousand?
“Oh, fuck, numbers! It burnsssssssssss!“
Well, you’re a big help…
Since he left, he’s conquered universes. I’d be thankful that he’s lightyears away, except I’ve no idea how fast he can move.” Hanako stopped leaning against the door, and began walking towards Popo. “So, it’s probably time to make sure Lord Dagon controls everything before Hastur gets authorized to participate in the war.”
“GOOs need ‘authorization’ to fight in wars?”
Great, now I’m imagining the terrors from beyond the stars sitting around in an office somewhere with binders full of intelligence reports, trying to find evidence of Hastur’s production of yellowcake uranium to present to a panel of fat, balding Congressterrors.
And, as she walked, she changed. Her eyes bulged, her skin turned to deep blue scales, and she grew larger. Much larger. She took up much of the room between the floor and ceiling. When it was done, she was almost like the Little Mermaid, if the Little Mermaid was a blue fish-like monstrosity with eyes that concentrated chaos energy from around the air around themselves.
Hmm. Overall that’s not half bad. Aside from the whole ‘chaos energy’ bit, of course. What does that even mean? Is this going to turn into a Sonic the Hedgehog crossover? Is she going to hit Popo with a fully-charged Chaos Blast?
Popo looked on in horror as this violent transformation occurred.
“Instead of, you know, running away.”
“Oh,” said Hanako’s transformed self. “Looks like little Popo hasn’t even seen one of us before. Never mind transformed herself. That makes this easy. Though I doubt Cthulhu will let you die that easily, he’s still in R’lyeh taking his sweet time napping, so I’ll take my chances.”
Popo stood, and turned to face Hanako.
“Oh? What’s this?” Hanako giggled. “You’re.. standing up to me?”
“I have faith in Cthulhu.
“Why? You’ve only known about Him for maybe six hours!’
I have to have it, because that’s the best chance I have.”
That’s incredibly sad.
“Faith in a god you’ve never met. A god you could quite possibly be stronger than. Great One DNA obliterates human DNA, you know.
“So why do you look like a glubbing human?”
I’m half-Deep One because of Lord Dagon’s bastardized heritage,
but Cthulhu is something else entirely. You may think human, but you’re a Great One.
No, not really. She’s a Mediocre One at best.
I’ll bet you’ll unlock your power as you slowly realize how your species thinks.
Sounds like a good way to get new powers as the plot demands.
But he’s still telling you nothing, and hasn’t for seventeen years. Pathetic. Well, whatever. I can kill you either way.” Hanako reached her hand out and grabbed Popo by the throat, with little resistance.
“Well why didn’t you do that FIVE GLUBBING PARAGRAPHS AGO?”
She would have spared us some inane dialogue, at least.
Popo noticed, perhaps a little too late, the sharp claws attached to the hands of Hanako’s Deep One form. And as the grip around her throat tightened…
Hanako’s shadow began to vibrate,
“Oh, crap, of all the times to get an incoming call…”
before rising up slightly. Patterns appeared within it, almost like television static. They were nearly completely random, maybe entirely random, and they flowed over the surface of the liquid shadow blob that was extending from Hanako’s shadow. And then, suddenly, it flowed into a humanoid shape, and splashed its hand over Hanako’s back. She screamed as a black corruption quickly ate away at her body.
In seconds, she was nothing but dust on the floor.
You might even say that she was… Da-gone.
The shape slowly swirled into various geometric shapes, before splashing down on the floor into a puddle, before rising up again, this time in a completely human form.
Well that was unnecessarily complicated.
It was a short girl wearing a black hoodie over a white shirt of some sort, with a pair of track pants below. Her hair was a pure white that made snow look dark.
No. Not impressed.”
“Hello, Daughter of Cthulhu,” she spoke. “As part of the alliance between Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu,
“The what now?”
Just roll with it.
I have come to help you.” The girl bowed. “My name is Natasha, Daughter of Nyarlathotep.
“… Because why the glub not?”
Why are all of the champions of the Mythos female?
“Why are they all living in the same, like, ten-klick area?”
Christ, the Great Old Ones must be nearly as lazy as this writing!
I am also known as the Mistress of Plague, after my application of the powers bestowed upon me by my lineage.”
Oh, your patron is an entity referred to in mythology as the Black Pharaoh who is most famous for manifesting as a black cloud that could only come out at night and was repelled by streetlights? And he gave you the power to to jump out of other people’s shadows and dissolve them with darkness? Well, clearly this must be a plague-related ability!
She straightened herself, quickly. “How may I be of service?”
Well, you can start by trying to reign in some of this goddamn pointless exposition, as there’s a whole other chapter to this story and I’m already bumping up against wordcount limits.
Come back next time to witness… well, really not a lot other than a bunch of Cthu-Sues sitting around and talking theology.