Divide By Zero by Joshua Goudreau

In them, we see our future, and that of the entire cosmos: order crumbling into chaos, life shriveling into death. Divide by zero.

– Monte Cook “The Inevitable Fall Of Humanity”
page 214 of The Call Of Cthulhu d20

Part One: Green’s Hamlet

Fallon was a bright boy when Gordon took him in. Though Fallon was only three years old he was a quick learner and seemingly unafraid of anything. The small enclave of Green’s Hamlet learned very quickly that their healer, Gordon, had taken in the boy and none were surprised. Gordon had always had a kind heart.

The boy wandered out of the desert dirty and naked. He seemed to not notice that he was caked in grime and filth. He didn’t speak, only stared with an unnerving and penetrating glare. He was brought to Gordon to be checked over. Gordon cleaned him and clothed him and gave him food and a warm bed.

After a time he began to talk to Gordon. It seemed that he had never learned to speak English. Once he picked up a few words he soon was speaking fluently. When he showed an aptitude to learn Gordon taught him all he could.

When he turned five he had his first episode. He would walk around Gordon’s hut rambling in a language Gordon couldn’t understand. Sometimes he would scribble in the dirt of the floor. Lines that curved and arced over themselves in a manner that made Gordon dizzy to look at. When Fallon first had drawn on the floor Gordon made to wipe it away and was viciously attacked. Each time the episode ended Fallon would collapse and when he woke, often hours later, he never remembered. In those times were the only times he showed fear. Often he would cry on his father’s shoulder for hours until he was able to sleep again.

Gordon dismissed the behavior as the result of deep-rooted trauma that Fallon carried from whatever had happened to him in the desert. The episodes became even more disturbing when Fallon started to speak in the language that Gordon had taught him. He babbled about a world beyond sight. A great, ghost city named Carcosa waiting for it’s new inhabitants. Hali, a tremendous lake of blood fueling infernal machines. A chosen brotherhood walking the earth. And an eye, named Aldebaran, always watching, waiting for the return.

While Gordon continued to dismiss the rantings as delusional behavior he was very unnerved by the nightmares he would have after hearing the words. He dreamt of great gulfs of space spinning about him, swallowing him, then an eye, floating in the abyss, unblinking and always watching.

When Fallon turned ten years old the rantings stopped as suddenly as they began. He was still predisposed to violence and his penetrating glare was always present. His nature seemed pleasant until his eyes fell upon someone. People said they would receive great headaches when he watched them.

Still the people of Green’s Hamlet took him in as one of their own. Though he was, as they said, a little off, they still accepted him. Never did they speak out about him or claim he was anything other than the old man Gordon’s son.

For lack of a more suitable calling Fallon followed his father’s path as a healer. Gordon was very old by the time Fallon came of age and was ready to be his own man. Fallon had never ventured far from the walls of Green’s Hamlet into the rocky mountains that surrounded them so it was little surprise that he wanted to stay and take his father’s place.

On the day the traveler arrived great, black storm clouds rolled across the wasteland and covered Green’s Hamlet. Rain poured from the sky and flooded the parched earth pouring in rivers down into the valleys. As torrential as the downpour was no wind or thunder accompanied the storm. The people felt that the storm was unnatural and shuttered their homes tightly.

The wandered arrived at the north gates and screamed until a guard noticed him and allowed him admittance. He made his way directly to the inn house and demanded drink and lodging. He traded the pelts of mountain coy dogs for his stay. He would lean over and speak at length to anyone unfortunate enough to attract his attention. He spoke of rivers of blood. Pillars of smoke lifting the carrion stench of the dead to the skies. He spoke of an eye.

Gordon intercepted him as soon as he was able. The man seemed revealed that someone was listening willingly. Gordon sequestered himself away with the wanderer for hours. When he emerged the man seemed exhausted and slept. Gordon, however, was red-eyed and frantic looking.

He sent a runner from the town, south. He came into the hut he still shared with Fallon and spoke franticly.

“We’re leaving at the earliest possible convenience.” He said, his voice hoarse.

“What do you mean we’re leaving?” Fallon asked, confused at his father’s sudden change of character.

“Do as you’re told Fallon.” Gordon snapped. “This is urgent. I’ll explain on the road. We must depart at sun up. I expect you to have your things together.”

With that he left. Confused and unsure Fallon packed what little he needed into a pack and tried to sleep the rest of the night. Gordon returned some time later and packed a bag.

Fallon was unaware he had actually fallen asleep when Gordon shook him awake. Gordon looked in better fare then he had the night before but he still seemed harried. They spoke very little as they assembled their things and made sure they were ready to depart.

While the sun was only a faint glow over the mountains in the east Gordon and Fallon left Green’s Hamlet on foot, heading toward the glow. They walked all day and Gordon spoke little. When questioned he spoke in short sentences as if the words themselves were precious. He only said that they needed to reach Freehold. If they got there then he would explain everything. However, their very survival depended on reaching Freehold as quickly as possible.

The remainder of the day was completely uneventful. Fallon felt like he would collapse under the oppressive desert sun. The only respite came in the form of the shade cast from the mountains surrounding them. The road led lower out of the mountains as they traveled until by the end of the day they were in rolling foothills. All day Gordon never slowed. He walked tirelessly, intent only on his destination.

When Fallon felt near collapse he asked Gordon if they could stop. Instead of answering Gordon’s head snapped up and looked to the east, along the road. Fallon listened but could hear nothing but the whine of the wind through the hills. Then, slowly at first, he head a low rumble approaching. Then he saw dancing lights on the road. Gordon spun on him and grasped him about the shoulders, looking deeply into his eyes.

“You must flee, my child.” He said, his voice rising in panic. “Run into the hills and do not turn back. Do not even look over your shoulder to see what has happened. Just run as fast as you can. Run, Fallon.”

The sounds rumbled closer and the lights grew brighter.

“Run!” Gordon screamed.

Fallon turned and ran as fast as he could into the sandy hills. The rumble reached Gordon and Fallon slowed. He paused a moment to catch his breath and slowly crept back toward the road. He climbed slowly up one of the hills near the road and peered over.

In the road he saw Gordon surround by what appeared to be desert raiders. Their dusty leather clung tight to their muscular forms. They had pulled their vehicles close to Gordon and pointed their harsh lights at him. Even at the distance Fallon was at the deep rumble of the engines was disturbing. Five of the large figures stood and spoke harshly though Fallon could not understand their words.

All of the raiders were armed with various types of firearms and sported vicious looking armor. Fallon was sure that their appearance was as much for intimidation as it was for practicality.

Slowly his eyes shifted to one of the buggies in the back of the formation. It was a low vehicle with an exposed black frame. There were two seats in the front, behind the engine and in the back there was one seat. In that seat sat a lanky figure in a concealing robe.

The figure sat motionless, completely covered in its dusty, pale robe. Fallon’s head began to hurt as he looked at the figure. The robed individual then moved. Ever so slowly it’s head pivoted around to point in Fallon’s direction. Beneath the great, tattered hood was a space of nothingness darker than shadow. Fallon’s head flooded with a white hot pain. With the pain came barely discernable visions of great vistas of alien architecture. Then a great, unblinking eye filled his mind. Slowly, ever so slowly, it turned toward him in the great gulf that it sat.

He threw himself back down the hill, stifling a scream. He tumbled down to the rocky ground and stopped. In a rush panic flooded into him, filling every part of his body.

Then he ran.

He ran like he had never run before. He ran as fast as his legs would carry him. He ran beyond the point of exhaustion. As he ran he heard a single peal of thunder break the silence of the night. He didn’t slow though he was sure he probably screamed. He finally stopped his hurried flight when the sun began to crest the eastern horizon.

Part Two: Freehold

Fallon sat atop a sandy knoll with his head on his knees as the sun rose before him. After a time he stood and walked back in the direction of the road and the last place he saw Gordon. It took him most of the day and the sun was nearly behind the western mountains when he reached the road again.

He peeked carefully over a nearby hill, looking down on the road, to make sure there was no danger before he walked down to it. Some of the sand of the road was stained a dark brown and there were several tire tracks but otherwise there was no sign of what had happened the night before.

The tire track continued along the road in the direction of Green’s Hamlet so Fallon looked that way. That was the first time he noticed the pillar of thick, black smoke rising high into the sky. It was a massive plume that reached as high as the eye could see in the still air of the day. The smoke came from precisely the direction of Green’s Hamlet. Fearing the worst, Fallon turned and walked toward Freehold.

He moved away from the road and walked east in the hills, paralleling the road. He did not want to run into the bandits that he had encountered. His father had been intent on reaching Freehold so he knew he would have to go there if he wanted answers. He knew he couldn’t go home.

He wept while he walked beneath the harsh, desert sun. He wept for his fallen father, nobly standing against the fearsome raiders. He wept for the hundreds dead in Green’s Hamlet. People he had grown up with. Fine people who never bothered anyone and kept to themselves. After much of the day, they sorrow gave way to something deeper, something darker. The sorrow fell deeper into Fallon and folded out to become a burning fury. An intense rage, focused at the barbarians that had slaughtered the only people he ever cared for.

After two days of walking Fallon was nearly out of water. Then, as the sun was dipping low he crested a ridge and saw the barter town of Freehold. He moved back onto the road so as not to arouse suspicions from the border guards.

The tall, fabricated walls were faded and pitted from exposure to the sun and wind. The gate stood open, flanked by two armed men. Fallon looked at them closely, seeing that their armor and weapons were probably just as effective, if not more so, then the bandits but was so much more subtle. They watched and sized up Fallon but did not bother him as he passed through.

The streets of the town were bustling with activity as people moved to and fro, engrossed in whatever tasks they had. The streets were narrow and crowded with street hawkers who shouted at anyone who passed by. Fallon kept to the middle of the streets so as to avoid the notice of the hawkers.

Fallon entered the third inn he came to because the sun was now down and the activity on the streets was dying quickly. He felt uncomfortable in a strange place after hours so he ducked inside. The inn was a tall, adobe structure with an iron sign outside proclaiming it was The Gaslight. On either side of the sign were two small flames fueled by copper pipes running out of the wall.

The common room of the inn was a wide open space only moderately full of patrons and relatively well lit. The floor was constructed of stout, wooden planks and the scattered tables and chairs were made of the same wood. The bar was made of the same adobe as the walls and dominated one of the walls. Swinging doors behind entered into what looked like a kitchen of sorts. Two serving people moved steadily around, talking, filling mugs and taking orders.

Fallon moved across the room to the bar and sat on one of the worn stools. A grizzled looking man moved down to him as he sat and looked at him with an apathetic and unshaved face.

“What can I do for you?” He asked in a voice as rough as his image.

“I’d like to negotiate some boarding.” Fallon said softly.

“Well, if you ain’t got no Freehold coinage then you can forget it.” The man said, wavering slightly.

Fallon guessed by the smell of him that he had been sampling some of his own product. He knew he was going to need to barter because he had no Freehold currency. However, he knew he couldn’t get any coins because Gordon had been the one carrying their trade goods.

“I can work.” Fallon said quietly.

“Can ya?” The man said eyeing him. “Well, ya can clean tomorrow. How much depends on ya tab.”

“Agreed.” Fallon said. “I’d like some water and a single room. I’ll probably be staying a few days so I’ll need meals also. I can work in the mornings but I’ll need afternoons to attend to my business.”

“Sounds good.” The man said extending his hand. “My name’s Thomas and this here’s my place.”

Fallon shook it and was not surprised that the man’s touch was as rough as everything else about him. The man turned and shouted for a pitcher of water and soon one of the servers brought it out and set it on the bar before Fallon.

After a few quiet drinks he retired to the room that had been provided for him. The room was above the common room and was small. The cot against one wall had a coarse straw mat on it. Fallon didn’t complain, he just placed the water pitcher on the small table and washed his hands. Afterward he blew out the single candle and went to sleep.

The following morning Fallon worked under Thomas’ direction cleaning the common room. Mostly it was sweeping and moping the planks where there had been several drunks the night before. After cleaning Thomas gave him some coinage for doing more then was necessary. Fallon thanked him, ate breakfast and left, informing him that he would be back some time in the afternoon and would like the same room. Thomas told him not to worry, the room and a fine meal would be waiting for him when he returned.

Fallon spent the next few hours orienting himself with the town. He had only visited it once when he was fairly young so he remembered little. He remembered the raucous market in the center of the town and being accosted by an overly enthusiastic vendor. After that incident he had declined venturing with Gordon on his regular trips with the traders.

That marketplace seemed more bearable now that he was older. After he was familiar with the layout and atmosphere of the town he purchased some kind of dried meat on a stick from a street vendor and set about his task. The meat was salty and stung his mouth as he ate it but he was hungry and had spent all of the meager coinage that Thomas had given him on it. He ate it without complaint though it was salted past the point of tasting anything else.

After his lunch he went to every tavern and spirits house he could find asking questions about Gordon and bandits with a companion in dusty, yellow robes. As night approached he had gathered no information at all. Discouraged, he returned to The Gaslight.

Thomas was sympathetic that he had not been successful and had one of the serving maids, a scarred girl named Kelly, bring him a steaming plate of fried meat and boiled vegetables. With it he drank water. He always drank water because he disliked the disconnected feeling that came with various alcoholic brews. He felt disconnected enough from the world around him without adding to it.

Well after dark when he was nearly done his meal and about to retire to his room he became aware that two men stood on the other side of his table. He looked up at the two powerfully built men. Their skin was rough and tanned. They were dirty and wore unconventional clothing. Both of them had several tattoos of intricate and spiraling design.

Looking at them Fallon knew instantly who they were. While he had not seen or remembered any specific faces he knew well enough that these men were two of the bandits that had killed Gordon. They stared, unblinking at him with wicked grins on their faces.

Without breaking eye contact with them Fallon rose slowly to his feet. He saw the men were both armed with automatic rifles so his movements were slow and deliberate. He began to move sideways to the table when he saw a tension of muscles in one of the men’s chest and arm. As the arm moved to grab the assault rifle Fallon ran fast and hard.

The gun spit thunder and fire across the common room and ripped gaping holes in people and woodwork. Fallon dove over the bar as the bullets tore through the air around him. Bottles stacked decoratively on shelves behind the bar shattered and exploded raining sour smelling liquor down on him.

He landed on the hard floor and saw what remained of Kelly splattered across the adobe. She had caught a bullet in the head and it had torn the entire side of her face away. Her one, unblinking eye stared at him. The shooting stopped and Fallon looked around for something to fight back with. Then his eyes fell on it.

“We need him alive you stupid fuck!” On of the men yelled, presumably not the one that had been doing the shooting.

Fallon listened carefully. The last of the surviving patrons had run screaming into the street so the common room was quiet. Fallon listened to their hardened, leather boots thump on the floor with each slow step. They were moving closer to the bar and Fallon waited.

When they were nearly close enough to see over the bar Fallon stood up. He rushed to his feet and spun at them. The shotgun in his hands roared to life and tore into one of the gunmen. It turned his entire right shoulder and a large portion of his chest into a chunky mess that splattered behind him. Fallon dropped back down as the other man ducked to the side.

Just then the door burst inward. Fallon popped open the breech of the shotgun and the smoking cartridge ejected onto the floor. He slapped another into the chamber and snapped the weapon shut.

“Drop the gun!” A voice shouted.

“Drop it now!” Added another only a moment later.

In the direction of the bandit Fallon heard a clatter, presumably of the assault rifle landing on the floor. Fallon peeked over the bar and as he had suspected he saw four people wearing the uniform of the militia guard. Fallon slowly stood holding the shotgun away from him. The four all held various firearms leveled at the room and he did not want to get shot. Two of them spun on him.

“Drop it!” One shouted.

Fallon carefully placed the shotgun on the bar and stepped away from it. Then more guards showed up with weapons drawn. The original four moved forward. Two grabbed hold of the bandit and began to tie his hands behind his back. The other two moved toward Fallon, one with a length of rope. Thomas then tentatively stepped out of the kitchen with his hand unthreateningly held out before him.

“Sirs.” He said. “This here is Fallon, he’s been staying here a few days. I saw what happened and those two men there attacked him. Frankly I’m surprised he’s still alive. The shotgun’s mine, I keep it here behind the bar.”

One of the more recently arrived guards stepped forward and holstered his weapon.

“Okay, Thomas, if you’ll vouch for him.” He said in a deep baritone before turning to Fallon. “I’m Captain Gerard. We’re going to take this one into custody. You can stay here so long as you don’t try to leave town until this is figured out.”

“I don’t plan to.” Fallon said.

Gerard looked around the room and then closely at the dead bandit. He examined him and his tattoos.

“Do you recognize him?” Fallon asked.

“Nope.” Gerard said.

He stood and motioned around the room.

“I’ll have some people come and take care of this mess.” He said.

With that he turned and walked out with the guards who had the bandit in custody. About a dozen guards stayed and talked quietly among themselves. Thomas offered them drinks to pass the time and they all happily accepted. Fallon retired to his room with few words.

The following morning Fallon descended the stairs to see that over the course of the night whoever Gerard had sent to clean up had done beautifully. Besides the large chunks taken out of the adobe walls and hardwood bar the common room look mostly like it did when Fallon first entered. Thomas tried to forgive Fallon his tab but he insisted on helping mud the walls.

By the time lunch rolled around the place was looking almost as good as new again. Grace, the remaining serving girl, brought them plates of food while helping the smaller than usual lunchtime crowd. Thomas said that it would probably be a few weeks before business was back to normal. He didn’t seem worried.

After they finished and sat quietly for a rest when someone entered. She was a striking red haired woman with an exaggerated hourglass figure. Her hips seemed to lead her wherever she went though her hard eyes were ever watchful. Her face was hardened and had a vicious scar on one cheek. Hanging from both of those expressive hips was a handgun. She was dressed simply in dusty jeans and a plain, black button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up past her elbows. Her long hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail. She scanned the room and when her eyes fell on Fallon she walked across toward him. She tucked a pair of black sunglasses in her breast pocket and stopped before his table. Thomas stared, barely keeping his jaw closed.

“You must be Fallon.” She said in a hard voice.

Fallon nodded as he eyed her suspiciously.

“My name’s Shelly.” She continued. “I was friend of Gordon’s.”

Fallon was shocked. He didn’t know Gordon had friends outside of Green’s Hamlet, especially someone like this girl. As Fallon studied her he realized that she wasn’t as young as he had first assumed. While not as old as Gordon, she was at least twice Fallon’s age. He knew that Gordon was coming to Freehold for a reason and now he suspected the reason was standing before him.

“I’ve been looking for you.” Fallon said.

She sat down, studied them both for a moment before she started talking. She had known Gordon for many years, since she was Fallon’s age. They were close but never in a sexual manner. She received a messenger a few days prior from Green’s Hamlet saying that they would be arriving in a few days and they needed somewhere to stay. He didn’t explain much but he mentioned that there was a lot of danger. When she learned that there was someone named Fallon asking about Gordon she tracked him down. She assumed because he was alone in town and Gordon hadn’t made it. She said that staying at The Gaslight was not safe as had been proven the night before. She said he could stay at her place.

Fallon told her everything that happened with the traveler and the bandits on the road. She hung her head though she admitted that she had already suspected the truth.

“Gordon was my friend.” She said soberly. “I’ll do whatever I can to help you find his killers. I swear my life on it.”

Fallon nodded accepting her help somberly and graciously.

“I don’t even know where to go from here.” Fallon admitted. “I was hoping you’d have more answers.”

“Well,” She said. “one of those dusty bastards is sitting in lockup across town. Why don’t we go have a chat with him?”

“How do you propose we do that?” Fallon asked.

“Captain Harris down at the lockup is a friend of mine. C’mon.” She said standing.

Fallon shrugged and stood up. He didn’t have any better ideas. She paid Thomas for her drinks and perched her black sunglasses back on her angled nose. She swung her hips around and strode toward the door with Fallon in tow.

“We’ll stop by my place and then head over to the lockup.” She said as they walked out into the sun.

Her place turned out to be a small apartment in an adobe building above a small shop that sold nothing Fallon could identify. The interior was dark and well organized. She handed him a lever action shotgun and a holster that fitted to his back.

“I assume you know how to use one of those things?” She asked as he buckled the holster in place.

“Yeah.” He answered. “I used to go target shooting with some of the other kids from Green’s Hamlet. Usually we’d go down to the tunnels and shoot rats. If we didn’t then they’d get brave and come up the hill into town when there were enough of them”

He stuffed one of his belt pouches full of shells for the gun and refilled his water bladder. She gave him a spare pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes from the glare. He thanked her and they left.

The lockup was in a cylindrical metal building that, according the Shelly, used to be the body of a flying craft. In a small pavilion hut outside sat several of the green uniformed guards. Shelly spoke briefly with them and they opened the stout, wooden door.

The interior was cool and held four cells constructed from steel bars welded to the roof and floor. Only one of the cells was currently occupied. That was where they walked. In a heap in the corner laid the bandit more bruised then the last time Fallon had seen him.

He turned his head revealing swollen purple eyes and a lacerated cheek and lips. Blood was brown and caked around his cheek and chin where it had oozed and then dried. With one open eye he looked at them and panted.

“Welcome, my king.” He creaked out as they stood there and watched him.

“Where are your friends?” Shelly asked, ignoring his opening remark.

“Who needs friends?” He responded climbing to his feet.

“Tell us or last night’s treatment will pale in comparison to what they’ll do to you.” Shelly said, her eyes growing darker.

The bandit grabbed hold of the bars and threw his head back laughing hysterically. Fallon took a step back.

“Tell where to find your bandit friends and the guy in the yellow robe.” Fallon said, shouting over the man’s laughter.

Suddenly the man stopped and looked a Fallon. In his eyes was an inferno of excited fervor.

“You saw him?” The man asked, excited and amazed.

“Yeah.” Fallon said.

“Glorious isn’t he?” The man said growing slightly distant.

“Just tell us where to find him.” Fallon leaned closer.

The man smiled.

“Well, in that case.” The man said letting go of the bars and appearing quite normal. “If you want to find him all you have to is go east. When you reach the ocean there will be a bay. You’ll find your answers there.”

“Answers?” Fallon asked.

“Yes, all the truth you have ever sought.” The man answered. “The things you see. The wanderer that sent you and your adopted father running across the wasteland. The eye. Everything.”

The man walked backward from the bars and sat heavily back in the corner he had been in when they entered. Shelly began to go. Fallon just stood, struck, for a few moments until Shelly put a gentle hand on his arm.

“Come on.” She said softly. “We should go.”

With a nod he turned and followed her out of the lock up. They walked in silence back to her place. Fallon remained in a shocked silence for several hours. His thought kept drifting back to the eye. A giant, unblinking eye just hanging in space, watching and waiting for something.

Shelly told Fallon to stay in and drink plenty of fluids because he obviously didn’t feel well. She left to collect supplies for their journey. She said there were some ruins on the ocean four days due east of Freehold so that must be where the bandits were. She said they should set out first thing in the morning.

Fallon woke some time later. He noticed that the sky was dark and Shelly crouched near the window with one of her automatic pistols in hand. Then Fallon heard the gunshots and shouting that had awoken him. He stood from the blanket roll on the floor where he had been sleeping and crouched next to the window.

“This has been going on for about twenty minutes.” Shelly told him whispering. “They’re working their way in this direction.”

Fallon saw bandits, like the ones who had killed Gordon running through the streets, shooting anyone brave enough to venture out. Farther back he saw flames rising from building a few streets away. He looked back down to the street and saw the buggy that had been burned into his memory. The driver sat low and another bandit stood on the passenger’s seat shouting orders to groups of bandits that were kicking in each door and searching the building. In the single seat in the back of the buggy, slightly elevated above the front seats, rested the figure in the tattered robes.

The robes folded over, around and back in on themselves completely concealing the person wearing them. The figure’s head scanned slowly back and forth looking at the chaos around it. Then it’s head tilted up and looked at the window where Fallon and Shelly watched.

The blackness inside the hood stared right at him and then through him, probing every bit of his brain. He screamed and fell backward. All around him was a tremendous gulf of stars. He hung suspended in space, moving ever so slowly. Before him was the eye. As slowly as he moved toward it it turned. It’s giant gold iris focused on him. He threw his arms up to shield himself form the star sized eye, staring, beckoning him forth. He struggled but still it saw right to his core. His chest felt tight. He screamed again.

Part Three: Wasteland

Fallon rose high above a sprawling, cyclopean cityscape. Slowly the image faded out to an impossibly bright light. Then the light took on definition and he started to see a great blasted wasteland of sand and rocks in gently rolling hills. Immediately before him stood a shapely female figure holding binoculars to her eyes, scanning the horizon.

Above him the sun hung heavy and bright, baking him. He squinted against its light and sat up. He was sore all over. The stiffness in his muscles brought him back to reality. He remembered what had happened and he realized where he was. He remembered the bandits razing Freehold while systematically searching every building. His eyes scanned the figure before him and, try as he might, he was unable to resist admiring the figure though he knew it was Shelly. When he sat up and put on his sunglasses she turned and looked at him.

“’Bout time you came around.” She said, handing him a canteen.

He eagerly drank the water and felt his head clear and the ache in his muscles lessen.

“What happened?” He asked dryly.

“Well, we were sitting there then all of a sudden you start screaming like your getting tortured.” She explained. “Then you were out cold. The guys in the street all came at the building just then so I grabbed you and our stuff and made a run for it. I dropped about a dozen of them on my way out and lost them in the hills. I don’t think we need to worry about them following us right now but I think Freehold’s done for.”

Fallon turned to look over his shoulder and saw a massive pillar of black smoke rising high into the sky where it was finally broken up by the wind. He had seen a similar pillar of smoke after the very same bandit had visited Green’s Hamlet. He knew that meant they were probably the only survivors.

He took another drink of water and climbed to his feet. He waited to make sure the spinning in his head would stop and it eventually did. Moving around felt good as the stiffness in his muscles faded.

Shelly had chosen to stop on a hilltop cluttered with several large boulders that afforded good cover from sight yet a commanding view of the surrounding area. Sitting on the ground next to one of the rocks rested the two heavy satchels that they had prepared for the journey the night before. Fallon’s had the holster and shotgun that Shelly had given to him strapped to it. He wondered exactly how she had managed to carry both satchels plus his unconscious form and still be able to fight effectively enough to flee more than a dozen bandits all well armed and vicious. She was obviously every bit, if not more so, capable then she seemed.

“We should get going.” He said as he stretched again. “I doubt it’s real safe here.”

“No,” She said. “we’re still too close to Freehold. You sure you’re good to go?”

“Yeah.” He answered. “Moving will make me feel better.”

She shrugged and put her binoculars away. Fallon replaced the holster on his back and hefted his satchel. He took another drink of water and walked down the hill next to Shelly.

The following two days of walking were uneventful as they trekked across the open countryside parallel to the crumbling asphalt highway. The mountains gave way to rolling hills of sand and stone as they moved east. They found no fresh water on their journey but they had departed with ten days worth each so they assumed they would be fine for the journey.

After the sun fell behind the mountains at their back they continued walking, relishing the cool comfort. Shelly found a low grotto in the side of a small hill that she thought would be fine for the night. They hunkered down and relaxed after a day on their feet. They talked in low voices when they heard the roar of engines on the road. The engines approached and then died nearby.

Slowly and cautiously they crept from their hiding place and moved toward the place where the engines had shut off. As they approached the road they heard dozens of voices chanting in unison. The language was a bizarre one that they didn’t understand but it made their heads swim to hear it. The climbed a large boulder and laid flat to look out at the scene before them.

The ground around the highway was mostly wide and flat and this stretch was no exception. A group of nearly three dozen bandits danced methodically around a giant, blazing bonfire. The flames danced and jumped almost in unison with the revelers. In a ring around them were their vehicles. The vehicles were a collaboration of motorcycles, buggies and trucks all in various states of wear.

“Inus juktarat fistonus aldebaran!” The bandits screamed as they jumped and writhed.

Parked behind the others on the opposite side of the fire was the three-seated buggy that Fallon had seen twice now. He pointed it out to Shelly. In the back sat the robed man.

“There he is.” Fallon said, pointing.

“Where?” Shelly asked. “I don’t see him.”

“Sitting in the back of the buggy.” He explained.

She looked hard and then turned to look at Fallon.

“There’s nobody in that buggy, pal.” She said.

He looked again and saw the figure clearly, illuminated by the flickering orange light of the fire.

“He’s right there.” Fallon said.

Shelly just shook her head. He looked again. The figure’s head began to move in his direction. With a gasp he ducked and slid down the back of the boulder to land on his feet behind it. Shelly landed next to him.

“You really didn’t see him?” Fallon asked, frightened.

“No.” She said shaking her head. “There was nobody in that buggy.”

He stood and thought for a moment.

“You sure you’re all right?” She asked, her voice filled with concern.

He nodded.

“Yeah.” He answered. “Let’s get going. I’d like to get ahead of them.”

She nodded and they continued walking well into the night and well away from the strange ritualistic dancing and chanting of the bandits. By the time they stopped the moon had moved across the expanse of sky and stars and was nearly setting in the west. When they laid down their sleep was restless and filled with strange visions of alien landscapes.

The next two days were uneventful. Shelly had decided to move away from the road into the wilderness and move toward the ruins from a different angle. She was afraid of running into the bandits again before they had a chance to see what was at the ruins.

Around midday of the fourth day of their journey they crested a rise and saw the vast expanse of blue water that made up the ocean. The ground became less rocky and sported scrubby yellow grass that grew thicker as they neared the coast. To the northeast they saw the tall blocky spires of the ruins. Shelly said that it was once a great city. Nobody knew what had happened and why nobody lived there anymore.

As the day wore on and the great stone and metal towers grew closer they passed over the ruins of the city. Holes in the ground that were once homes, bits of broken masonry and stretches of black asphalt. When the sun fell they were very near the great spires that sat atop a hill on the south side of a bay. They stopped in a large concrete structure that still stood though mostly filled with sand. The interior was mostly sand blown in by the wind but at random places were bits of twisted metal rising from the otherwise smooth sand.

Fallon lifted one and pulled it free. It was painted green and seemed surprisingly intact. Shelly came over and stood next to him as he brushed it clean. On one side of the warped metal was white lettering that they could understand. In plain print it read: Welcome To Boston.

Part Four: Boston

When they awoke the following morning a stiff on shore breeze cooled the area but blew clouds of sand and dust everywhere. Fallon had slept restlessly feeling a deep sense of urgency and desire to travel toward the heart of the city. He was awake before the rise of the sun so he sat atop a crumbling concrete pillar and watched it rise over the sparkling blue of the water. Shelly was awake only a little while after it rose.

She felt comfortable following Fallon’s draw into the crumbling spires and broken highway. Spanning, seemingly at random, above them were great metal bridges covered in rust with pieces of broken highway hanging from them. Tunnels and holes dotted the landscape and there were several sinkholes where the ground had given way and the city collapsed down into itself.

Eventually they came to a wide area amidst the hollow, towering buildings. The buildings making up the expanse were low, compared to the surroundings and all constructed from dusty brick. The grounds of the area were covered in thick and wild vegetation. Fallon led them deep into the brick and ivy jungle. Once in the shade the air was cooler and the sun didn’t seem so harsh. Fallon walked to one of the buildings and stopped. It once had great windows that provided a commanding view of the grounds but they were now shattered by the creeping foliage littering the ground around the base of the building with glittering shards.

Shelly carved her way through the vines and plants to access the interior. They reached inside and saw that it was a wide lobby filled with crumbling furniture. In the rear was a stairway that descended down into the depths of the building. This is where Fallon was drawn.

Shelly insisted they stop for lunch, as it was nearly midday. Fallon wasn’t hungry but he ate the dried meat anyway. He felt consumed, as if his very life depended on it, to descend those stairs. After they ate Fallon led them down. The basement of the building was filled floor to ceiling with shelves. The shelves were packed with books and stacks of paper. The paper was brittle to the touch and often crumbled when they tried to read it. Windows set high into the walls allowed a dim, dusty light inside. In the back of the room was a massive steel door with red, block printing on it. It read: PRIVATE. NO ADMITTANCE.

Fallon reached forward and turned the doorknob. With a loud creak of hinges unused for eons the door swung open revealing a room similar to the one behind them only much smaller. Hesitantly they stepped over the threshold. As soon as he was inside he knew that this was where he was supposed to be going.

They scanned the books on the shelves and quickly saw that several had titles in languages that they didn’t understand. Enough to fill their time, however, were written in English.

They got to work studying the books. It seemed only minutes that Shelly developed an excruciating headache and decided to let Fallon read for a time. Instead she searched out the English language books, put them on a rusty cart she found and wheeled stacks of them over to Fallon. He eagerly devoured every bit of information he could get.

He couldn’t understand what any of these tomes had to do with Gordon, as they all seemed to predate the city they were in. They told stories of ancient creatures and dead religions. One told the story of a great race that squandered their power and fell into ruin. They slumbered awaiting an opportunity to rise and return to their celestial home.

Then Fallon found what appeared to be the journal of a man who had been charged with keeping these tomes. He told of his brotherhood collecting the ancient works into one location to protect the world from them. He seemed plagued by strange visions of otherworldly visitors to the vault. Near the end he told of a great calamity that befell the world. He said it was as the Mad Arab Abdul Al-Hazred had foretold thousands of years before. The Great Old Ones were rising and walking free upon the face of the world. A great rift appeared in the skies and formless chaos began to spew forth as they stepped through. But then something unexplainable happened. The gate suddenly slammed shut, trapping those few remaining here. Infuriated they began to fight among themselves, apparently blaming each other. The world was laid to waste as they fought. The last entry tells of a plague of madness that seemed to effect everyone and the people too began to kill each other. He tells of a mob outside the university library driven to slaughter everything in their path. Then there were no more entries.

Fallon set the journal down and rested his head. Truth had been revealed to him but it was not what he had expected. He now knew, better than anyone else what had happened to the world. Once it was a fertile and green planet where humans ran free and happy. They had achieved a glorious civilization that then got laid to waste by creatures from another world.

Slowly he realized that Shelly was standing before him speaking urgently to him. As he came back to reality he heard the roar of engines outside. He jumped up and drew his shotgun.

“Pay attention, Fallon.” Shelly said.

“Sorry.” He responded.

The engines cut out and the muffled sound of voices could be heard outside.

“There’s hundreds of them.” Shelly explained. “They’re everywhere I can see out the windows. It’s almost dark so I don’t think they’re gonna be going anywhere.”

Above them they heard the thump of dozens of pairs of boots. They seemed to be simply milling around upstairs. Fallon and Shelly, with weapons drawn moved over to the stairwell and waited. After close to half an hour the room was nearly black from encroaching night. The voices and foot falls upstairs seemed disinterested in the stairs.

“Maybe if we’re quiet they won’t notice us.” Fallon said.

“I think that’s the only chance we have.” Shelly responded.

They moved quietly back into the vault and closed the door. Together they covered the windows with whatever they could find. Eventually they had them blacked over and risked lighting two candles. For lack of anything better to do they went back to work.

Fallon picked up a book entitled The King In Yellow and opened it. On the front page was a symbol of three hooks attached to each other at the base. He was stopped as his blood ran cold. The symbol was identical to the tattoo worn on the forehead of each of the bandits. He opened the book and read on.

The King In Yellow, the nameless king, harkened from a distant world and was said to strike madness into those he chose with but a simple touch. He was worshipped as a god by humans of a secret brotherhood all bearing the Yellow Sign. Fallon shivered. He got the unnerving sensation that he was being watched. An eye was upon him.

He looked up from the book and saw only the flickering shadows of the vault. Far in the back he saw the glow of Shelly’s candle as she set about her task of collecting books. He wasn’t sure how many times she had come back with more books. He wasn’t even sure how much time had gone by since the bandits arrived. Though he knew now that they were more than mere bandits. They were the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, chosen of the Yellow King, infused with the blood of the Lake Hali serving their master’s will and wishing for the honor of being chosen to live among the living architecture of the great city of Carcosa.

Then the shadows shifted and floating figure moved forward only half lit in the flickering candle flame. Fallon immediately recognized it as the figure in the tattered yellow robes. He set his book aside and stood as it floated smoothly down the narrow path between the shelves. Fallon stepped forward and met it as it entered the light of his candle. It simply hovered before him.

In the back of his mind he felt a clammy touch as if cold fingers had just grasped his brain. An oppressive whisper filled his mind.

Welcome, my son. It spoke. I am glad you have arrived.

“Who are you?” Fallon asked, his voice cracking and already knowing who stood before him.

You have read the tome, you know who I am. I am Hastur, the King in Yellow. It explained. When the gates opened and my brethren rose from their slumber I too waited to exit this wretched world. The humans closed the gates, though we didn’t know who had done it at the time. We fought viciously and laid waste to this planet in the process. Not all of us survived the conflict. I am one of the fallen.

However, I saw my fall before we woke in a dream and sent out my essence so I could one day return. That essence became you, Fallon. You are my son, my spirit and my salvation.

Fallon stumbled backward and tipped the table he had been sitting next to, spilling books on the floor.

The star Aldebaran has been watching this world and waiting for my return. You have seen it and it has seen you. Accept what you are and become me.

Hesitantly Fallon reached forward toward the floating robes. His fingers touched the course material and his vision flashed. He saw the eye, floating in space watching the events that were unfolding. It was waiting for its master just like the slavering marauders upstairs. Fallon wrapped his fingers around a fold in the robe and tugged. It pulled forward and fell lifeless to the floor as if there had never been a body inside it. Slowly and purposefully he put the robes over his shoulders. He wrapped the sash around his waist. The tattered robes were as cold as the vacuum of space inside but Fallon found comfort in that. He drank it up.

Shelly trotted up the rows of shelves and slowed when she saw Fallon standing with his back to her wearing a robe that she had never seen before. He heard her approach and looked over his shoulder at her. She shivered and took a step back when she saw the golden gleam of his eyes and the jaundice tint to his skin. He turned full to her and she watched as the shadows of his face grew as if the darkness inside the robe were slowly swallowing him.

Slowly and purposefully he reached one yellowed hand forward. She was too stunned to move. Every muscle in her body was locked in terror. His hand brushed her forehead and she was thrown to the floor as if struck by a tremendous blow. She writhed and screamed. Above and around them the Brotherhood raised a wild howl to the sky.

She staggered to her feet. Her forehead felt scorched and burning and bore the Yellow Sign. She ran, screaming from the vault and then from the building as her sanity seeped from her leaving an almost discernable trail. The Brotherhood upstairs and around the building did not stop her, they simply howled and screamed like the madmen they were for their King had returned.

7 Responses to “Divide By Zero by Joshua Goudreau”

  1. Nickolaus A. Pacione Wrote:

    You really need to get this out there to a few magazines because this is pretty damned good. You got a voice in this sort of thing.

  2. Joshua Goudreau Wrote:

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I’ve written quite a bit of other material and I am working on my second novel though this is my only Mythos specific story. Aleister’s inclusion of this story has inspired me to write more, however.

  3. JJ Burke Wrote:

    This is the first exposure I’ve had to the King in Yellow story, but I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere. A good Temple debut—give us more!

  4. Joshua Goudreau Wrote:

    Okay, I will. Once I finish up my second novel I will write another Mythos story.

  5. Nickolaus Pacione Wrote:

    I got a Mythos novella out there right now and will be released by Naked Snake Press. I started out entirely as a Cthulhu Mythos author but now I spanned out to doing ghost stories and science fiction, then sometimes a scary nonfiction story or two.

  6. Odo hellhammerin Wrote:

    Interesting story. This is the first of any stories i have read that qualify as a cthulhu Mytho (or the lot of ’em)that was not in first person, in took me a while before i realised it was post apocolyptic, the boston sign brought that to my atention. Write more of this kind.

  7. Bfwnov Wrote:

    good work. starts slow but get quite gripping at the latter part. especially Lovecraftian in several descriptions of locations both real and imaginary.

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