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Title: A Blinking Light up on the Mountains of Madness (Chapter 3 of 5)
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale/Cthulhu Mythos
Author: tikistitch
Rating: M
Characters/Pairings: Cecil/Carlos, Telly the Barber, John Peters (you know, the farmer), the City Council, Big Rico, Intern Dana, various characters from Lovecraft
Warnings: AU. Cursing
Word Count: ~30,000
Summary: 1930s-era AU (yes, really). Carlos, an impoverished graduate student attending Miskatonic University, joins an expedition to the Antarctic. But the explorers get more than they bargained for when they stumble upon a weird lost civilization.
Notes: At the end.





Carlos sat down in a fully equipped radio station. He would never in his wildest dreams have expected Cecil to be broadcasting from a place as nicely furnished as this. Along with the modern equipment there were troops of eager interns waiting to serve. Carlos refused Cecil's offer of food, as he had just eaten, so Cecil instead ordered up cookies and hot chocolate. The cocoa, when it arrived, appeared to be spiked with something a bit stronger than chocolate, but Carlos found he didn't much care.

“So, let's get down to business!” said Cecil, slapping a pair of headphones onto a slightly flustered Carlos. Before he could even ask if the microphone was live, Cecil had swung around and clicked a switch on his control panel. “Welcome to Night Valhal-La! Listeners, I have a special show today. As you know, we have some intrepid Arctic explorers now in our midst. And today is is my rare honor to speak with their strong-jawed leader, Carlos! Hello, Carlos!”

“Um, I'm not-” Carlos started, but thought the better of it. “Um. Hello, Cecil.”

“Carlos, I understand that you are looking for a friend.”

Carlos leaned forward, towards the microphone. “Yes, Gedney! He disappeared somewhere around the mountain pass-”

“Would you describe him as a good friend?” Cecil interrupted.

“What?”

“A good friend?” Cecil was leaning forward, seemingly attending on Carlos’s every word.

“Well, yes. I suppose so.”

“As in, ‘Why no, we're just good friends?’” Cecil accompanied the inquiry with a chuckle and a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Huh? He's a colleague.”

Cecil perked up. “All right then. So, the question that's been burning on all our minds, are you married?”

“Uh, no.”

“Engaged? Seeing someone? Perhaps having a torrid affair?”

Carlos’s palms had begun to perspire. “What?”

“Which one? The engagement, or the torrid affair? You can tell me.”

Carlos looked around, trying to divine the unspoken jest. “None of them!” he finally answered.

“Well, good. And now, to more important matters.”

Carlos didn't comment, but only thought, thank goodness.

“Your hair.”

“Um...?”

“How do you get it so perfect? I mean, do you wake up, and it's like that, or do you have to take special care?”

Carlos put a hand in his hair, which had scandalized Dyer by growing to touch his collar. “It's just … nothing special.”

“Well, let's take some phone calls now.”

“You have … telephones?” Carlos asked lamely. Well, it made sense, if they had a radio program he reasoned, they probably had telephones. His grandmother back home didn’t even have one: they had to go downstairs and use a neighbor’s party line.

“Here's our first call, from Old Woman Josie! Hi, Josie!” Cecil cut the microphone and leaned close to Carlos. “She talks to angels,” he whispered.

“Hello, Cecil,” came an aged voice. “I have a question about Carlos.”

“Well, that's convenient, because he's sitting right here!”

“Is it true that he smells of lavender?”

To Carlos's infinite distress, Cecil suddenly leaned over very close and took a healthy whiff. He grinned. “Oh, lovelier than lavender, I'd say. He smells of promises and rainbows!”

“That's very nice,” said Josie. “And so handsome!”

“He’s perfect,” mooned Cecil. “And how are the angels today, dear?”

“They're very good. They’re helping mow the scrub grass. They say hello.”

Carlos had risen to his feet. He had grown supremely annoyed by the ludicrous interview, and he needed to get back to camp before it got too late. He pulled off the headphones and placed them on the board. “Cecil, I don't think-”

“Sooooo, Carlos the Scientist. What did you think of the Old Ones?”

Carlos was lost for words. He grabbed the headphones once more and sat down. “The Old Ones?”

Cecil steepled his hands, looking shrewd. “Yes, the ones your dreary Prof. Lake dredged up. Not terribly pleasant, are they?”

“You told me they built the city.”

Cecil brushed an imaginary dust speck from the sound board. “I didn't exactly say that.”

“Well, then, who did?”

“Wellllll, if you want to get technical, it was the Shoggoths.”

“Shoggoths?”

“Yes, their slaves. Nasty stuff.”

“Nastier than the Old Ones?”

“They staged a rebellion at some point, and now even the Old Ones are petrified of them.”

“Are they still around? The Shoggoths?”

“There are a few here, deep underground. We leave them alone. Mostly they took off for Tundra Bluffs.”

“That other mountain range in the distance?”

“Yes, and I think we'd all say, good riddance.”

Finding Cecil in a chatty mood, Cecil searched his memories. “You had said before our Erebus camp had been erected over a graveyard. The Old Ones?”

“Yes. And you dug them up. Not a move I would have made, if I may editorialize a bit.”

Carlos thought about this one for a while. “But they were still alive, weren't they?”

“Well, you saw them for yourselves. I mean, who can tell, dead or alive? They smell equally bad, either way!”

Carlos's mind reeled. “There were others. Other bodies, down in the cavern. Dyer and Lake were going to pull them out.”

Cecil tilted his head, arching an eyebrow. “That's interesting.”

“Cecil?”

“Well, I hate to use this radio program as a platform for my personal views....”

“But?”

“Not something that I would necessarily see as a wise course. Just speaking as a disinterested observer.”

Carlos was at the microphone. “Dyer! Lake! If any of you can hear me, listen to me, don't do it. It's dangerous. Leave the Old Ones, and get out of there! Please!”

“Ah, an impassioned plea. That was very dramatic, Carlos. Thank you!”

Carlos just nodded, hoping against hope that someone was listening, and that they would actually heed his warning.

“And here's a reminder, Night Valhal-La is squaring off against those weasels from Tundra Bluffs this evening. Go and cheer on our boys, because Tundra Bluffs is a bunch of nit-wits.” Cecil snapped off a switch on the sound board and removed his headphones. “That was aces!” he told Carlos. “You're going to be a snazzy addition to our little community.”

“I'm not staying,” said Carlos, who was already standing. He strode to the door of the recording booth and let himself out.

“But, you've hardly even got to know us,” said Cecil, who was following hot on his heels.

“Cecil, my camp is in danger! I need to go and help them.”

“You don't like us?”

“I like you just fine Cecil.” Carlos had reached the door of the studio, one hand grasping the handle.

“Really?” Cecil slipped between Carlos and the door, batting his eyes. “You're not just shining me? Because, my heart is easily broken.” Cecil held his hands over his chest, and mimed the pump of a heart.

“I need to get back.” And with that, carefully stepping around the overwrought radio host, Carlos left the building, bustling out into the streets of Night Valhal-La.

“But, you can't fly in this weather!” Cecil called after him. “It's too dangerous!”

“What weather? There's not a cloud in the-”

Thunder crashed.

Carlos stood out in the middle of the suddenly pouring rain, glaring.

Cecil flicked open an umbrella, which for some reason he happened to have in his hand, and held it up over Carlos's head.

“Looks like you'll have to spend the night. Come on, I'll give you a ride.”

Eyeing Cecil suspiciously, Carlos sighed and followed him around to the back of his studio.

“Aw, come on, don't be sore, Carlos. We've set up a nice place for you above your laboratory.” They came around the corner, and Carlos was once again taken aback, for an old jalopy was parked there.

“You have automobiles here?” asked Carlos.

“Well, of course. It's just a flivver, but it does the trick. Hop in!” Cecil fired up the engine. The car bucked and backfired a couple of times, and then finally lurched into gear, and they were off, Cecil hurtling down the narrow streets and byways at a reckless rate of speed. Several citizens were forced to leap out of the way, but no one seemed put off, and in fact, several picked themselves up out of the mud and happily yelled “Hi, Cecil!” after the car.

They finally came to a tire-squealing halt at a building out in back of Big Rico's. “Once you get settled, we can take in a quick dinner,” Cecil assured him.

Carlos peevishly refused Cecil's offered umbrella, so entered the structure dripping wet. He was cursing and shaking out his coat when Cecil flipped a light switch.

Carlos let out a breath.

It was row upon row of gleaming test tubes, graduated cylinders, beakers, bunsen burners, centrifuges and microscopes. There was an entire pantry full of reagents and solutions, everything clearly labeled. There were sinks for washing and tubes that blew gas and oxygen. There were fume hoods and a spectrophotometer and a calorimeter and a gas chromatograph.

“This is- This is-” Carlos lacked for words. He turned, and Cecil was there, holding up a lab coat.

“I hope this fits!” said Cecil, his eyes shining.

Despite his annoyance at being dripping wet, in addition being trapped in Night Valhal-La for the night, Carlos decided it would be polite to try on the coat, especially since Cecil seemed so eager. In fact, it fit perfectly, almost as if it had been made especially for him. Which, he suspected, it had.

Cecil immediately began fussing with Carlos's lapels. “Well, that seems to be serviceable,” he said, brushing off an imaginary speck of dust.

“It's perfect, Cecil.” Carlos looked around. “This is all really amazing.”

“It's for you.”

“It can't be all for me.”

“Why not? We've been waiting for you!”

Carlos found he was too tired to argue. At Cecil's urging, he headed upstairs, where he found he second floor had been converted to a cozy living area. He set his bag down on the bed, and then sat down beside it for a moment, head in hands, suddenly missing his grandmother and his cousin. He missed Pabodie and Gedney and even Dyer and Danforth and the rest. He wondered for a moment if he would ever see them again, but then told himself to buck up and stop moping. He went to the sink and washed his face, and then ventured back downstairs, where Cecil was eagerly awaiting him. He started to remove his lab coat, but Cecil wouldn't hear of it, insisting, “They'll all want to see!”

Cecil took Carlos's elbow and marched him over to Big Rico's, where for some reason someone had now laid out a red carpet under a large awning, and, despite the weather, several townspeople had gathered around. “Is there some event here tonight?” Carlos whispered.

“There is indeed!” said Cecil.

“Carlos!” shouted one of the citizens. And then there was a lot of waving and yelling, and someone stuck a piece of paper and a pen at Carlos.

“Sorry?” asked Carlos.

“Autograph,” Cecil whispered.

Carlos signed the paper, and the person who had offered it, a teenaged girl, jumped up and down and emitted a shriek. She ran over to show it to her friends, and they all squealed, hopping up and down in excitement.

“Carlos! Over here!” A flashbulb went off in Carlos's eyes, dazzling him for a moment. “Leann Hart, Night Valhal-La Daily Journal. Do you have any comments for our readers, Carlos?”

“Uh, the laboratory is … very nice?”

There were more shouts and more flashbulbs, and more papers shoved his way. Carlos was not quite certain where someone had gotten a very nice 8 x 10 glossy head shot, but signed it anyway. At last, Cecil tugged his elbow, hurrying Carlos inside Big Rico's. “Leann and her print journalism,” Cecil muttered, shaking his head. “It's on its way out of course.”

“Hello, Cecil. Carlos,” said a voice, and for a moment, Carlos wondered why Big Rico was wearing women's clothing.

“This is Mrs. Big Rico,” said Cecil.

“Oh, er, pleased to meet you, Mrs, er, Big.”

“Pleasure,” rasped Mrs. Big Rico. She really did resemble her husband, even down to the mustache, although her voice was a tad lower. “Come right dis way,” she told them, lumbering off to a somewhat secluded table in the back.

“Now,” said Cecil, opening the dinner menu once they were alone again. “What would we like?”

“I haven't brought any money,” Carlos told him.

Cecil leaned over, patting Carlos's hand reassuringly. “Don't worry, baby. It's my treat.”

Carlos left his menu untouched. “I'm sorry. Cecil, this feels like....”

“A date?” asked Cecil hopefully. Carlos frowned. “Oh, no no no no no,” said Cecil. “Um, unless you want it to be?”

Just at that moment, and before Carlos could form his answer, Big Rico himself approached the table. “Well, look at you two kids, out for a night on the town!”

Carlos looked between Big Rico and Cecil.

“What'll it be?” asked Rico.

“I'll just have my usual,” said Cecil.

Carlos opened his menu and scanned through for something recognizable. Kudzu salad? Boiled platypus innards? Yak rump à la king? “Uhh. Do you have anything like … an omelet?” he tried.

“Omelet?” rumbled Big Rico?

“Well, yes. Like a nice three egg omelet.”

Big Rico raised a bushy eyebrow. “I don't know if you could finish a whole three eggs.”

“Perhaps our guest is hungry?” said Cecil. “Celebrity takes it out of you!”

“What if I bring you one egg to start with?” the restaurateur asked Carlos.

“Sure,” said Carlos, thinking maybe they were short on provisions. He only wanted to be polite. Big Rico collected the menus and hurried off. His wife was soon back with two glasses of brandy.

“Armagnac,” said Cecil. “I think you will find it amusing.”

Carlos took a generous gulp of his. He found he needed a drink. “Cecil, how did you know I was coming?”

“Well of course you were coming. We've needed a scientist here for so long. Because, you know, science, right?”

Well, that made as much sense as anything.

Mrs. Big Rico was back with two steaming platters. She placed a broiled portabello swimming in some kind of red sauce in front of Cecil. And then, for Carlos, there was a fried egg, sunny side up, approximately the size of one of the hubcaps on Cecil’s flivver.

“That's … an egg?” asked Carlos, staring at the giant thing, which was actually overhanging the serving platter.

“You should see da chicken,” rasped Mrs. Big.

Carlos looked down at the acres and acres of egg staring back at him. “Hot sauce?” he asked.

Mrs. Big handed him a bottle, and then tromped off.

Carlos shook red lashes of hot sauce onto his single, mammoth egg while Cecil cut off a delicate bite of mushroom. “Mmm, bloody, the way I like it,” said Cecil. “How's the egg?”

Carlos stared at Cecil for a moment, but then decided, from what he'd seen of the menu, bloody mushrooms were probably right there beside the somewhat melted geodes. “It's, um, enough for my whole family for a week.”

“You don't like it?” asked Cecil, eyes wide, a bit of mushroom poised on the end of his fork.

“Oh, no, no, it's wonderful.” To prove his point, Carlos crammed a large dollop of egg into his mouth. Actually, it was quite good. But he also managed to swallow a bolus of hot sauce, and ended up coughing. He grabbed his drink and downed it.

Big Rico was by at just that moment and refilled their glasses. “Everything OK?” he inquired.

“Aces,” coughed Carlos.

“It's so good to have a scientist here with us at last!” said Big Rico, before once again disappearing.

Carlos bathed his throat in more alcohol because, well, what the hell? “Why do you fellows need a scientist?”

“Well, why does anybody need a scientist, really?” Cecil swirled his brandy and cocked his head. “We're really no different from any small town anywhere else in the world I suppose. Well, maybe except for the shoggoths, and occasional attacks of flesh-eating fungus. But other than that!”

“Flesh-eating fungus?” asked Carlos. The egg was actually quite good, but the brandy was better. “By the way, have you heard from that intern, Byrd? The one you sent to look for Gedney?”

“Oh, yes, he disappeared.”

“What?”

Cecil waved a dismissive hand. “Yes, it happens a lot with interns. Probably stumbled into a fissure in the crust of the earth, or got sucked into another dimension.”

“Can you locate him?”

“I wouldn't worry. I've sent Intern Shackleton to look for him.” He flipped open his menu, dabbing his chin with a cloth napkin. “Would you care for dessert? They have a really lovely imaginary ice cream tart here!”

“Maybe just coffee?” Carlos stopped to wonder how many glasses of brandy he had tossed back. His head was swimming. “I want to get an early start tomorrow.”

'Yes, lots to do!” said Cecil.

“I need to get going back to my camp.”

But Cecil was looking at something on the wall behind Carlos. “We could watch the moonrise!”

Carlos was still feeling a little muzzy when they left Big Rico's. The crowd had gone, thankfully, and the sky had cleared. The sky was full of stars. Cecil strolled over to where his car was parked and hopped up to sit on the trunk. Carlos leaned on the fender beside him.

Cecil pointed up to the sky. “I like watching the great void.”

The moon was cresting the horizon, and they sat and watched until it had pulled even with the flashing Big Rico's sign. Cecil shifted, and Carlos looked down at where he was sitting beside him. Cecil's pale, long-fingered hand was placed there on the fender. Carlos gazed at the fine markings traced there on his skin, and felt an odd urge to clasp it in his own. He shook his head. That was silly. He was going to wake up tomorrow, bright and early, get to his plane, run another search for Gedney, and then hurry back to Erebus camp and warn them about the Old Ones.

“I need to get going,” said Carlos, standing up. He was still a little wobbly from the brandy.

“I'll walk you over,” Cecil offered. It was only a few paces to the laboratory door, but Carlos shrugged it off. It certainly wasn't the strangest thing that had happened today.

They paused by the threshold. “This is me,” Carlos said somewhat lamely as Cecil stood there looking expectant.

“Uh-huh,” said Cecil.

“Well, good night,” said Carlos, finally thrusting out a hand to shake.

Looking a little disappointed, Cecil grasped his hand. “See you tomorrow?”

Carlos only grunted in reply. He turned and entered the laboratory, making his way up to his temporary quarters to the sound of Cecil's dodgy car backfiring and then roaring off, where he would certainly almost run down some more pedestrians.

He tugged off his clothing and fell deeply asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He slept soundly, his dreams narrated by a sweet, comforting voice that enveloped him.

He was awakened early the next morning by the sound of a frantic knocking on his door. He pulled on some pants and hurried downstairs. “Cecil,” he muttered grumpily as he threw open the door. What nerve! He hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet!

“You're Carlos the scientist?” asked the couple who stood there, neither of whom, it should be added, was Cecil.

“Uh, yes. Yes I am,” answered Carlos, who suddenly felt half naked because, basically, he was. Unfortunately, his clothing was all upstairs, so he grabbed his lab coat off a hook and wrapped it around himself like a bathrobe.

“Can you help us?” the man asked. “Our daughter has been taken!”

The mother began to weep piteously. “I'm afraid we'll never see her again!” she wailed.

“Oh, uh. There, there,” said Carlos, awkwardly reaching out to pat her on the back.

“Please! We know you’re a scientist. Could you assist us?” asked the father. “We'd be eternally grateful!”

“Well, um, I'll try. So, what exactly happened?” Carlos mind reeled to bottomless pits and fissures and alternate universes, all the things that Cecil had mentioned.

“She's been kidnapped by the penguins!”

“The … penguins?”

Carlos heard a car horn, “A-oo-ga!” It was Cecil, pulling up in his backfiring flivver.

“Oh, Cecil, you're here!” said the father, running towards the car.

“Carlos said he'll help us!” sobbed the mother.

“Uhhhhh,” said Carlos definitively.

“Hop in!” said Cecil, opening the door. “I'll give you all a ride!”

“Uh, I should probably get dressed...” Carlos muttered.

“Nonsense, it's a balmy day,” said Cecil, yanking him into the passenger seat while the parents piled into the back. “All strapped in?” he asked, and then, without waiting for an answer, roared off, down street and alleyway, to the location of the forbidden penguin park.

They all hopped over the fence, Carlos feeling completely ridiculous, and approached a large, crumbling stone structure. This building was completely covered in the weird hieroglyphics Carlos had noted before on other structures in Night Valhal-La. Cecil told the parents to wait by the car while he and Carlos ventured inside. There was a circular ramp sloping downwards in a spiral pattern, and they proceeded downwards. Cecil had been telling the truth about one thing: it was a warm day, and it got warmer the further down they ventured.

At the bottom of the ramp Cecil grabbed a torch from one of the sconces and gestured for Carlos to follow him. “Now, be sure and stay quiet,” he whispered. “We don't want to disturb them.”

Carlos was concentrating on the floor, being careful where he placed his bare feet, so he simply nodded and grunted, “Uh-huh.”

“Carlos!” he heard Cecil whisper, as if in warning.

“Hrm?” But by then Carlos had bumped into a large, white stone column. A large, feathery stone column.

He looked up.

It was no column.

Emitting a small shriek, he stumbled backwards, and into Cecil's arms. Cecil covered Carlos's mouth and yanked him backwards.

“Cecil, what the fuck is that?” whispered Carlos, gesturing furiously at the eight foot tall monstrosity standing before them.

Cecil nodded towards it, and Carlos watched in horror as it turned around to face them. The monstrous thing was an enormous … penguin. And albino penguin, to be more precise. It stared at them with pure white eyes, and then waddled off.

“Didn't it see us?”

“They're blind,” Cecil explained. “Been living underground for centuries. They eyes wasted away.” He narrowed his violet eyes. “I thought, as a scientist, you would realize this.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Let's get moving, shall we? The nesting ground is up ahead.” Carlos and Cecil crept ahead and peered around inside a wide open doorway. Cecil raised the torch, and Carlos beheld a nesting pair, tending to their young. The babies in this case were the size of the normal penguins Carlos had seen. They continued down the hallway, looking into another doorway, and then another.

“Over there!” said Carlos, pointing to the corner of one of the rooms. Indeed, these enormous penguin parents were tending to a human child, who didn't look amused at the prospect of being fed a live, still flapping fish.

Cecil and Carlos retreated back around a corner, where they spoke in hushed voices. “What should we do?” asked Cecil.

“Well, I don't know! Don't you have penguin herders or something?”

“No.”

“Can you....?” Carlos mimed a shotgun.

“No, we can't harm them in any way. We can't even upset them!”

“Why not?”

“These are the Elementary Penguins. They belong to the Old Ones.”

“The Old Ones live here?”

“What do you think dwells on the lower levels?” Cecil pointed to the floor, and for the first time, Carlos noticed the trail of five-sided footprints leading and down the hallway.

Carlos felt a shiver run down his spine. He grabbed the torch from Cecil and went back to the nesting room to have another look around. Cecil went along with him, standing on tiptoe to peer over Carlos's shoulder.

Carlos hunkered down, chin in hand, thinking hard. Cecil crouched down next to him. “What is it?”

“Cecil, I'm a little fuzzy on my avian biology, but I have a hypothesis. I need tissue from both birds to confirm it, back at the lab.”

Cecil smiled and picked up a handful of feathers which had fallen the doorway. “Will these do?”

Carlos nodded, and they headed back to the car. The parents were very reassured when Cecil and Carlos told them their child was fine, and with a lurch, they were thundering back to the lab. While Cecil took the parents to Big Rico’s to wait, Carlos immediately began to slice the feathers to prepare them for examination.

Cecil returned to find Carlos hunched over a microscope. “What have you discovered?”

“All of these cell samples from the feathers contain both X and Y chromosomes. I believe that both of the penguins in that nesting pair are male!”

“Oh, how interesting.”

“You see what that means?”

Cecil looked mystified. “One of them will have to puzzle out how to dance backwards?” he asked brightly.

“Cecil, they can't have an egg.”

Cecil straightened up, crossing his arms defiantly. “And why not? That isn't fair, is it?”

Carlos stood up as well, waving his hands. “No, Cecil. I mean, they can't biologically produce an egg of their own.”

“Oh.”

“I believe that may be why they've kidnapped the child!”

“Ohhhhh. Neat! You're sooo smart, Carlos.”

Carlos sighed.

“So, what should we do?” asked Cecil.

Carlos stood and thought for a while. He could see the Big Rico's sign flashing on and off outside the window. “I have an idea!”

Cecil and Carlos returned to the penguin park, carrying an egg fresh from Big Rico's pantry.

It was as big as a bowling ball. And nearly as heavy.

“How big are the chickens here, anyway?” asked Carlos as he cradled the egg on his lap over in the passenger seat.

“They sometimes trample the cows.”

“And eight foot albino penguins,” said Carlos, shaking his head. This was indeed an intriguing part of the world.

“You should see the hummingbirds here.” Cecil screeched to a halt near the penguin park building.

“I'll place this in the nest while you grab the child,” Carlos told Cecil as they once again ventured down the ramp. He paused upon hearing an odd sound, somewhere between a thump and a slither. “What's that?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Oh?”

“Probably just one of the Old One waking up and coming to take great vengeance on anyone who's been disturbing his Elementary Penguins.”

Carlos blanched. “We have to get down there. Hurry!”

They hastened down the ramp, quickly as they could with the large, heavy egg, and crept to the nesting grounds of the kidnappers. They found the child was being guarded by only one bird, which had, apparently, fallen asleep. “Penguins snore?” asked Carlos.

“I thought you knew these things, being a scientist,” said Cecil.

“Well, it's never come up. You give them the egg, I’ll get the child.”

Cecil nodded. Moving as silently as possible, and with the terrible step-slither, step-slither sound of the Old One growing ever louder and nearer, they approached the sleeping penguins.

The child woke up and sighed. As Cecil placed the egg on the floor, Carlos held a finger to his lips. The child was curled up beneath the feet of the towering penguin. Carlos gestured to Cecil, who nodded. On the count of one, two, three, Carlos grabbed the child just as Cecil pushed Big Rico's huge chicken egg in its place. The penguin shrugged, and Cecil and Carlos held their breath, but then it went back to snoring.

They tiptoed out of the nesting room, Carlos carrying the child in his arms, both looking back over their shoulders at the sleeping parent.

Unfortunately, they stumbled right into the other father penguin, who had just come to the door bearing a large, flopping fish in its beak.

There was a short interval of silence.

And then the mammoth penguin began to flap its wings and shriek, “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!”

The step-slither got louder, as other penguins also emerged and began to shriek. “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!”

“Carlos?”

“Yes?”

“Run!”

And so they did, hastening out of the nesting area, down the hall and then the exhausting climb up and up and up the ramp, slick, cold stone beneath Carlos's still bare feet, as he hadn't even paused to put on shoes at the lab, he was still half naked underneath the lab coat.

And, for some ungodly reason, he was laughing.

They arrived at the car and Carlos somehow got in with the child in his lap, and after a couple of the loudest backfires he's ever heard, they plunged off into the city. Carlos held the tiny girl tightly to him, crying with laughter and relief. Cecil smiled as he maneuvered the car in front of Big Rico's, and then the parents were outside, grabbing their baby, and they were surrounded by other happy townspeople, but somehow Carlos knew Cecil's bright smile was just for him.

Just for him.

And then he heard it: a noise overhead overhead. Carlos peered up into the sky. The transport aeroplane was flying over the town. “Cecil! They've found us!” he exclaimed. “They must have heard your broadcast.”

Cecil was gazing up as well, his expression guarded.

“Come on! They must be landing nearby. Cecil?” Carlos's was already clutching the door handle of Cecil's car. Cecil, looking wistful, climbed in and started to drive, but slower, it seemed, than was his usual reckless pace.

“Cecil?”

“Mmm.”

“What was that sound the penguins were making?”

“Oh! Tekeli-li?”

“Yes! It sounded almost like a chant.”

“It was. They're a little like parrots. They'll call back what they've heard. That's the cry of the Old Ones. And … the Shoggoths.” He shivered.

“That's interesting.” Carlos wondered why his friend had grown suddenly colder. Cecil was his friend, wasn’t he? It seemed the nearest thing to describe their unlikely acquaintanceship. “Oh, here they are!” They had reached the edge of the city just as the transport plane descended from the sky above and put down to earth near Carlos's light aircraft.

Cecil screeched to a halt just beside where the plane had taxied to a halt. Carlos was out of the car in an instant, Cecil lingering behind.

The door opened, and Danforth stumbled down the steps. He fell to his knees, and vomited on the ground.

“Danforth?” asked Carlos, his hand on the man's back.

“Well, hello to you too,” said Cecil, who was back leaning against the car.

“Carlos! What is the meaning of this!” barked Dyer, who was just exiting the plane behind Danforth.

Carlos stood up, peering into empty the plane. “Is that everybody?” he asked, feeling a fear grip him. He had been praying that they had heard the radio broadcast and evacuated. But how could they, with the transport plane here?

“Well, of course it’s just us. What did you expect, the whole camp running after you?”

Carlos stared at the empty doorway in disbelief. “But … you're in grave danger. Didn't you hear the broadcast?”

“I should say not. We had no time for such nonsense! Pabodie called us up on the wireless, babbling that you'd been spirited away by some madman with a radio broadcast.”

“That would be me,” offered Cecil, raising a hand.

Pointedly ignoring Cecil, Dyer glared at Carlos. “Imagine my surprise to find you here in this … this dissolute state!”

Carlos looked down at himself, and suddenly remembered he was wearing only his trousers and a laboratory coat. He gulped. “Oh, but there's an explanation.”

“It damned well better be a good one.”

“We were helping the child,” he said, looking back at Cecil for confirmation. “She was kidnapped by penguins!”

Dyer's glare only intensified. “And where the deuce is Gedney? Wasn't that the point of this enterprise?”

“Oh,” said Carlos, once again looking back at Cecil. “We sent an intern after him, and then when he didn't return, we sent another intern.” His face colored, and he cringed internally as he wondered if he sounded half as pathetic as he suddenly felt.

“We don't have time for nonsense,” sniffed Dyer. “We will get our samples, and then we will return swiftly to base camp.”

“Samples?” asked Carlos.

“We aim to get a Shoggoth.”

“I'd advise you to bring a bucket,” snarked Cecil.

“And you're supposed to be Cecil?” asked Dyer. Danforth, who looked pale and shaky, had finally heaved himself to his feet.

“Supposed to be, and am.”

“Why a bucket?” asked Carlos, who was beginning to feel ill.

Cecil glared at Danforth. “Going for a Shoggoth? The bucket will be to bring back the bits of you we can salvage.”



The ride back into town was as quiet as it was uncomfortable. Cecil let them all off at the laboratory. Dyer and Danforth went inside, but Carlos lingered a bit.

Cecil hadn't gotten out of the car. He sat in the driver's seat, facing ahead, not looking at Carlos.

“Cecil,” said Carlos, who went to lean an arm on the top.

“Mmm.”

“Look, I don't want there to be any misapprehension. Of my intentions.”

“Your intentions?”

“The laboratory is wonderful. This whole town – everybody is wonderful.”

“Yes? But?” Cecil had turned his head, his eyes already full of betrayal.

“After we get Prof. Dyer's, uh, sample, I'm going to go back with him. Where I belong.”

Cecil stiffened, turning his head to stare straight ahead. “Goodbye, Carlos,” he said softly.

“Cecil-”

But the car, giving a backfire, sped away, and Carlos was left alone. “Damn.” He kicked at a rock on the ground, remembering too late that he was barefoot, and stubbed his toe.

He went inside the laboratory, where Dyer was already absorbed in his notes. Danforth still looked ill. “Would you like to wash your face?” Carlos asked him. Danforth nodded gratefully, and Carlos led him upstairs. He indicated the sink, and then began rummaging around for a clean shirt.

“He's mad, you know.”

Carlos looked up. Danforth was staring at him, his face dripping. Carlos handed over a towel. “Who's mad?”

“Dyer.”

Carlos sat down on his bed. “Why do you say that?”

“He- He's jealous of Lake's finds. The Old Ones. And even the mountains! He was already simmering mad, and then we heard that radio broadcast where Cecil called you the head of the team. Threw him off.”

“I thought he said you hadn't heard the broadcast?”

Danforth waved his hand. “He listens to every word. He told everybody we were coming after you and Gedney, but we came to get his blasted Shoggoth. He wants to make a name for himself.”

“Then why didn't he bring Pym? His journalist?”

“Doesn't trust him. He doesn't trust anyone anymore, except me. Because Papa is basically bankrolling this expedition.” Danforth sat down on the bed next to Carlos.

“You've dug up some more Old One carcasses?”

“Yes. The smell is horrific. It's driving the dogs mad.”

Carlos scratched under his chin. “The camp is in danger. We need to get them out of there.”

“Dyer is not leaving without his Shoggoth.”

“Why is he gotten so focused on it?” It made little sense, Carlos thought, his mind stretching back to the interview. Cecil had barely mentioned them it seemed.

“He's been reading the Necronomicom. He didn't tell anyone, but he was sure some of those old, cursed things must be down here. Well, he got his wish.”

Carlos sighed. It wouldn't be easy, but he had to be decisive, since Danforth was in bad shape. “We'll get one then.”

“You've seen them?”

“No. But we've seen an Old One.”

“Oh God no. A living one?”

“Well, almost. It was approaching us. But we got away! We'll be fine. We'll manage this.”

“How?”

“We'll improvise,” said Carlos wishing he felt half as confident as he tried to sound.



Notes for this chapter: the radio station interns, in case you hadn't already guessed, are all named after polar explorers.


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( 2 rants — Rant incoherently )
zsomeone
Nov. 17th, 2013 08:12 pm (UTC)
We gave a goose chicken eggs once because she really wanted to hatch something and I kept eating all her eggs. Goose eggs are really good. So she hatched 5 chicks, and within a week they were all dead and we didn't give her any more eggs.
No birds in my story were 8' tall or albino.

I'm still not seeing right, but misreading this stuff doesn't really make it weirder. Like the angels were helping scrub the grass.
tikific
Nov. 17th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
The giant albino penguins are lifted directly from Lovecraft. I frankly couldn't think of anything so weird.

I like angels scrubbing the grass. Keeps 'em out of trouble, I say!
( 2 rants — Rant incoherently )