This story first appeared in Curios and Conundrums Volume 3 Issue 3 from The Mysterious Package Company
To the casual observer, Arkham was like any other seaside town. It had four churches, a university, and a sanitarium. But it’s what Arkham didn’t have that set it apart. Arkham had never been visited by an elder god!
Across the country, cities were subjected to the unspeakable horrors of the Ancient Ones. But not Arkham. Everyone wondered: how did they do it? What was the town’s secret?
Inspector Timm was a paranormal investigator in Arkham. He was courageous and clever, but whenever he had trouble parsing the labyrinthine twists of a maddening cosmic intellect, he knew precisely what to do. He put on his trench coat and went home to dinner, where his 10-year-old son Miskatonic would delay humankind’s inevitable and eternal ruin, usually by asking one question.
But who on Earth would ever believe that?
Only adults called Inspector Timm’s son by his real name, Aloysius. Everybody else called him Miskatonic. That’s because he spent most of his free time in the rare books room at Miskatonic University, studying the occult. The boy’s head was so full of arcane and forbidden lore that everyone said he was like a walking university, and so the name stuck.
That evening was supposed to be egg-and-sausage night in the Timm household, but Mrs. Timm had unexpectedly prepared chicken vindaloo.
“That’s a favourite of mine!” declared Miskatonic as he eagerly pulled up his chair. But when he saw his father absent-mindedly swirling his fork around, Miskatonic knew his dad was stumped by something.
“Left-eye McCready’s championship baseball glove was stolen from Bing Hopewell’s sporting goods store by Gn’ak Throm the Unfathomable,” said Mr. Timm eventually.
“Bing’s Sports? That old musty hive?” asked Mrs. Timm. “Who would steal anything from there?”
Miskatonic gave a significant whistle.
“Man alive! Left-eye McCready was the best player in the league, Mom! That baseball glove must be worth a fortune. One score like that, and a thief’d be set for life!”
Mrs. Timm shrugged. “What I don’t know about baseball could probably fill an entire stadium!” she mused. Satisfied with the vapidity of her quip, she turned slightly in her chair and stared at the wall. Hours became seconds, and eternities melted away as Mrs. Timm gazed through time and space into impossible and unheard-of dimensions in which humankind’s place in the universe abounded with meaning and purpose, and in which Mr. Timm made his own goddamned dinner.
“Luckily, the glove was insured,” continued Mr. Timm. “Still, Bing seems pretty shaken up by the whole thing.”
“Mr. Hopewell protected that glove with his incomprehensibly small and insignificant life, Dad. How did a cosmic creep like Gn’ak Throm get his loathsome tentacles on it?”
“Bing says that a group of hooded figures conjured forth the squamous shapelessness of that unutterably hideous entity right in the middle of his store!” At this, Mr. Timm and Miskatonic both dropped their cutlery and tore into the details of the crime.
“But no Great Old One was ever successfully summoned in Arkham, Dad! You sure see to that! How did it happen?”
“Bing says the occultists drew the elder sign right on the carpet in his store, near the crossbows.” Miskatonic leaned in to listen more closely as Mr. Timm continued. “Bing found a conjuring implement on each point of the star: a torn book, a tin bell, a gold coin, a lock of hair, an iron snuffer, and a piece of driftwood in the shape of a human hand. He collected the items in a banker’s box to show me. He says Gn’ak Throm consumed the rapturously grateful summoners in an orgy of fire, and then snatched the prized baseball glove before vanishing back into the nameless void!”
Just then, there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Timm left to answer it, and returned to the dining room with Suzie Spencer. As the neighbourhood’s queen bee, Suzie was the only kid who could stand up to Squints Puncher, the town bully. She occasionally acted as Miskatonic Timm’s bodyguard. Suzie had never really been the same since she and Miskatonic had unbound the Anatidaenomicon, and Suzie had read aloud the unutterable incantation from within its tenebrous pages. Her saucer-like eyes now glazed over with the stupefied horror of knowing the unknowable, and she glided, wraith-like, to the dinner table.
“How nice of you to join us! Have a seat, dear. A good helping of this, and you’ll be tickety-boo,” said Mrs. Timm naively, scooping hot curry onto Suzie’s plate.
“One little duck,” droned Suzie in a spooky monotone.
“No, dear. It’s chicken,” replied Mrs. Timm. “And don’t be shy to ask for more.”
“Two little ducks,” replied Suzie, gripping the plate with both hands until her knuckles turned white.
“Miskatonic and his father were just discussing a case. Sorry for interrupting, boys.”
“I found the scene of the summoning just where Bing had described it,” continued Mr. Timm. “No trace of the occultists, of course, but I can’t see any other explanation for what happened to that baseball glove.”
Miskatonic put his head down and closed his eyes. An ethereal aura emanated from his shoulders, and deep in the ground below them, Mr. Timm could faintly perceive a low and unwholesome thrumming. He knew Miskatonic was about to ask his One Question.
At last, the boy raised his head.
“I’ve seen different interpretations of the elder sign in various forbidden tomes at the university library, Dad. What did the sign on the floor of the sporting goods store look like?”
“A duck and a crutch,” offered Suzie in her catatonic state. The family did their best to ignore her.
“Well, it was a warped pentagram with a flaming eye in its centre.”
“Bingo!” declared Miskatonic Timm, rising from his seat. “Dad, I know where that missing baseball glove is, and it’s not in the inescapable grasp of a foetid Stygian cephalopod!”
How did Miksatonic Timm solve the mystery? Click to find out!
Bing Hopewell said that he had recovered six conjuring items, one from each point of the elder sign. But Miskatonic Timm remembered that a pentagram only has five points. It was clear to him that Mr. Hopewell made the entire incident up, and had stolen his own prized baseball glove to cash in on an insurance claim. None of it really mattered, of course, because a week later the entire town’s architecture was distorted to indescribable non-euclidian proportions, as the elder goddess Fnakah twisted Arkham and everything in it into deranged, demoniac spires that pierced and penetrated one another as a throbbing monument to her perverse and immortal glory.
NOTE: Peppered throughout the story are bits of British bingo slang, which interact with a bingo card that ships with the Curios and Conundrums issue to spell a secret code word, which plays into a larger mystery.