Baby Cthuluh pt 2. Fiction to fact

When Elgie returned, it was with helpful and unhelpful news. Dogs did indeed know stories about such tunnels running under the city. Indeed, they should really be thought of as pipes, because they were known to be full of water which was pumped along them. The unhelpful news was that no one knew where they started or ended, or where the pump was and why it was pumping. There were stories, however, about a large octopus-type creature – some said with human legs, and some that it was in fact a dragon – that travelled around the London sewers, and speculation that it also used these pipes.

“Well we can rule that out,” said Deidre. “There’s nothing like that in the history books”.

“On the contrary. Percy has recently seen such a creature swimming in the canal. OK I know he’s not the most reliable witness, but Gruff says that many narrow-boat dogs have also seen it in the past few weeks. You’d better tell Mr. Bladon about it”.

Deidre plucked up courage and they descended to the street. She sometimes wondered whether she should stop humouring Elgie, but she was far too fond of him. So she was amazed when instead of snorting with derision, Mr. Bladon exclaimed,

“How have you heard about Baby Cthuluh? We’d better not start spreading stories about it being back. We’d be stirring up a right hornets’ nest. I’m going to fill this hole in right now and say no more about it.”

“Baby Cthuluh? What’s that? Is it dangerous?”

“Not as long as it stays in the tunnels and canals. If it gets into the Thames, it could grow to hundreds of feet long. We have to act fast and contain it.”

Later that afternoon Elgie was back with Gruff on his boat, now moored at the Isle of Dogs. He was keeping an eye on a lock. Every time a boat came through onto the river, Gruff would dive under and make sure that it was the only thing to exit. It was dangerous work, but Gruff was up to it. Sure enough, he eventually came to the surface looking alarmed.

“Elgie, you’ll have to help me. Baby Cthuluh is trapped in the lock. It followed that boat in but luckily it didn’t get through before the lock closed”.

The water in the lock seemed to be boiling, and from time to time a green creature could be discerned, sometimes by a tentacle, sometimes a clawed foot, and sometimes even a wing. But eventually the murky water calmed and, almost comically, the creature lifted its head and began to tread water. Then it began to speak!

“Oh please let me out! I won’t do anything bad. I just need to grow my wings big enough to fly back to my home planet Vhoorl and join my kind. I got left behind when they went because I was too small. I’ve been working hard to grow big enough and I’ve been keeping the canals clean for you by filtering water and recycling it through the pipes”.

“Did you build the pipes?” asked Elgie

“Yes, my race are sewage workers. We travel the galaxies looking for gainful employment in this vital service industry. Londoners don’t want to clean the sewers, and given that there are no anarchists to do it yet,* we provide vital migrant labour. But the Council refused to pay us what we were owed, so we left but, like I said, I got left behind.”

It is difficult for even such determined dogs as Elgie and Gruff to open lock gates, so Elgie fetched Deidre and, swearing Mr Bladon to secrecy about who Baby Cthuluh really was, they cranked the lock gates open and the creature, extending its wings and waving it tentacles excitedly, spilled out into the Thames with a ‘Wheeeeee!”. It was growing to an enormous size even as they watched.

Later that night, Deidre, Elgie, Mr. Bladon (who added his voice to the general complaining about the tight-fisted council), Percy, and Lulu and her girlfriend Lady, witnessed an incredible spectacle from Gruff’s boat. Gruff had baked some potatoes in his stove and everyone warmed their hands and paws, and drank gin. Soon enough, bright green lights under the water rose quickly to the surface and revealed themselves as a luminescence covering the no-longer Baby Cthuluh, now an awe-inspiring creature some two hundred feet long. As it unfurled its wings and took to the skies it uttered a deafening call of thanks to its new friends, and in a flash, it was gone.

Lulu and Lady went off to a club, and Elgie and the humans walked Percy home. But Deidre could not sleep. She had taken one of her history books to bed. That always kept her awake anyway, but she had been searching without success for any reference to the events that had taken place. She had suddenly sat bolt upright. Cthuluh was not, indeed, recorded in historical documents, but was nonetheless real in a sense. It was the creation of the as yet almost unknown American author of horror-fiction, H. P. Lovecraft.

“There’s something very wrong with this 1928”, was the last thought she had before finally slipping into a troubled sleep.

*(The question anarchists get most tired of answering is, “If no one had to work for money, who would clean the sewers?”).

Elgie meets Lawrence of Arabia

The other great thing about the past is meeting people who are famous for doing all sorts of hilarious things which made little sense in 2328. Elgie had developed this ‘thing’ about T.E. Lawrence. It wasn’t just the enigmatic life and tragic death (which hadn’t happened yet; Elgie had to keep remembering not to talk about things that hadn’t happened yet) but the fact that Lawrence had been born in a place called ‘Tremadog’. Elgie liked that very much. After whatever really happened in Arabia, and joining and being kicked out of the Airforce under the name ‘Ross’, and re-joining as ‘Shaw’ and being stationed in India, in 1928 Lawrence had been sent back to England when rumours had spread that he was learning Pashtun in order to lead a coup in Afghanistan. Lawrence was now living in a hut in Chingford, so Elgie got the train out of Liverpool Street to take a look. After trotting up a few dead-ends, he found a slightly built man with tousled blond hair, looking a lot younger than his actual forties, grovelling around outside a hut.

“Watcha doing mister?” (Elgie tried the cheeky-chappie approach, which had served him so well on many occasions, masking his actual razor sharp perception).

“The bloody council want to kick me off my land! I’m setting booby traps for when they come. Want to help?”.

T. E. Lawrence on his favourite bike“Yessir!”. Elgie jumped up and down with excitement.

“Right, help me with this tripwire. I’m going to rig the door to my motorcycle shed”. Elgie spied an immaculately maintained Brough Superior SS 100 in a corrugated iron shelter. “I’ll blow anyone sky high that tries to lay a hand on it”. The man had clearly lost the plot, and helping a celebrity commit murder was way outside of what the chronoloper should be doing.

“Er…actually it’s time for my favourite wireless programme and so I’ll be off, if it’s all the same to you”.

“Righto. Nice to meet you. I don’t get many visitors…although no one will believe I met a talking dog”, Lawrence exclaimed.

“They won’t believe quite a lot of what you say… Oh, and motorbikes…very dangerous things. I don’t think you should be riding them”.

“Oh, but I like danger very much!”, said Lawrence.

“You might … hurt someone.”

“I promise I’ll be careful”.

What a palaver!

“What exactly do you do when I’m not here, Elgie?” cried Detective Dalloway, somewhat aghast.

“I run around whimpering because you left. And pee-ing and poo-ing all over the office to ease my emotional pain”.

“Yes, I can see that! But why? I told you I’d only been gone ten minutes in your time”.

“A twentieth-century century dog wouldn’t know you were coming back. I’m faking separation anxiety. I’m trying to blend in, don’t you know?”.

Elgie didn’t like to admit that he had enjoyed it too. It wasn’t Detective Dalloway’s fault that her trusty canine sidekick wasn’t able to travel between the inter-war twentieth century and their own twenty-ninth century like she could. But he didn’t like to be taken for granted.

It had been a serious error to transport a talking dog through time in the first place. It had been his idea though, to accompany his mistress when she added a little spice to the slight boredom of their peaceful and plentiful anarchist future by chronoloping to 1928. But no dog had chronoloped before, let alone a talking one, and for some reason he couldn’t get back. Not that they hadn’t tried, but twice he had singed his dainty-but-distinguished beard in the failed attempt. They had agreed that he would wait behind in the twentieth century until their time-defying specialists could figure something out. So here he was, in a private investigators office in 1928, feeling rather guilty about the mess, truth be told.

The office of Deidre DallowayDeirdre, on the other hand, was having the time of her life, posing as a sleuth for hire. Not that she was actually all that interested in solving crimes. She was even less enthusiastic about following people around to see if they were having affairs and all that sordid stuff. After all, from reading and watching fiction-media from the period, it was clear that most P.I. adventures merely started with that sort of unpleasantness and that it quickly gave way to something far more interesting. In fact, she made a point of frequently failing to actually solve what she’d been hired for, and following Elgie’s nose from the case itself towards something far more intriguing. As a result, she usually didn’t get paid. It wasn’t as though she needed the money; like several thousand other people from her future, she just liked dipping into the illogical chaos of the pre-anarchist world. Yes, she was a tourist, come to gawp and dabble, just because the version of the twenty-ninth century future she inhabited was, well, a little too neat and tidy. She was here strictly to have fun, but increasingly also to keep Elgie out of the sort of scrapes he got into when she left him to it…

Dogs playing snooker…Like that time when Elgie misunderstood a twentieth-century cultural reference and invited some dogs in a pub to dress up as people and play snooker. The dogs just lay there under tables looking bored, and after a while the barman had kicked him out anyway because he hadn’t ordered anything and appeared to have just wandered in from the street…which he had. Luckily Detective Dalloway had that moment emerged from a basement where someone was pressing apples, and managed to persuade the barman against calling the Dog Catcher; it wouldn’t be the last time Elgie would narrowly avoid the clutches of Mr Wellbeloved.