Friday 7 October 2011

Ice Cream with Howard, by Matthew Clarke (fan fiction)

In the novel, The Taking of Planet 5, we learned that the Doctor had been friends with H.P. Lovecraft and had shared a mutual love of ice cream.

I decided that our Howard would have been friends with the Seventh Doctor, as he was the most American of the Doctors, with his fondness for jazz music, not to mention his habit of tangling with cosmic evil...

The origin of the Great Old Ones is taken from the novels Millennial Rites and All- Consuming Fire.

New York, 1917

The Doctor and Howard sat in an ice cream parlor, enjoying their frozen delights. The Doctor had left Mel on her own to go and explore New York. The young woman had been so excited at the prospect of seeing the city in the early twentieth century. The Doctor knew that his time with Mel was drawing to a close. He had fearful plans that needed to be set in motion and terrible evils to face. He would need to do these things without Mel. The red-haired young woman could never be a part of the darkness that was to engulf him in this regeneration.

Like Mel, Howard also seemed to be excited to be in the city. Who would have guessed that in later years he would come to despise New York so passionately?

The war was raging fiercely in Europe, but here in New York, life was giddy, gay and energetic, with the fruits of prosperity still in much abundance.

Howard was clearly loving his ice cream. The Doctor had introduced him to the delights of ice cream on his last visit. In this time, ice cream was not a domestic product, but a rare treat to be enjoyed on special occasions. It seemed ironic to the Doctor that the man loved a frozen delicacy so much given his hatred and terror of cold weather.

Howard scooped up another spoonful of vanilla ice cream, drenched in toffee sauce.

"Doctor, on your last visit, you spoke of beings called the Great Old Ones. Would you care to tell me a bit more about them?"

The Doctor looked thoughtful. So yet again history was taking it's shape around him. Time was so like a waterfall; once one entered into history, one was carried along with it's course. Howard was just beginning his writing career and now he was about to receive inspiration for so many of his writings. The Doctor had entered the history of American literature and now he was called to play his part in that history, shaping the direction of Howard's writing. He could tell Howard all about the Great Old Ones and inspire the man to write a whole series of stories. Alternatively, he could change the subject and talk about cats. Howard loved cats and so did the Doctor. It did not matter; Howard would go on to write Call of Cthulhu and At the Mountains of Madness whatever the Doctor said to him. You can't change history, not one line.

The Doctor decided to enlighten Howard.

"Howard, imagine, if you will, that somewhere in this universe that there are an whole race of gods. Not gods as you will read about in religions like Christianity, nor the kind of gods in ancient mythology, though the gods of Greek or Norse myth might be a little closer. Somewhere in this universe are a race who are true lords of time. These Time Lords were one of the first races to emerge in this universe. They were here when the universe was young, when it was filled with chaos."

"History owes it's birth to the Time Lords. They decided how the universe should work, what kind of life forms could be permitted to evolve and in what direction history should go. They are the true centre of time; it flows around them like water flowing around a great rock."

Howard interrupted. "Creatures that are mortal like us, yet which have achieved mastery over the cosmos?"

"Indeed," affirmed the Doctor. "You can compare them with Prometheus if you like, or Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost. But suppose that this race encountered a race who had a better claim to be gods?"

The Doctor continued.

"You may think that the cosmos is everything, that the universe is the full extent of reality, yet in truth there are many universes. There are a multitude of cosmoses floating in the colossal sea of Ur-Cosmos. Before the birth of time and space, there was another cosmos. This universe was very different to ours, with physical laws utterly opposed to those of this one. Yet it had one similarity to ours; this universe had a race of beings who had lifted themselves to godhood and had gained mastery of time and space. The time lords of this universe were able to survive the death of their universe and enter into our cosmos at its very birth."

"Such beings would be seen as gods!" exclaimed Howard.

"As these beings were more ancient than our universe, they came to be called the Great Old Ones, beings older than the dawn of time. As you said, in this universe, they were like gods, with tremendous powers. As you might imagine, they came to be worshiped on countless worlds by mortals who understood little about their nature."

"Now the Time Lords were determined to be masters of this universe. History had to be ordered to their design. They believed that the cosmos needed to operate by fixed laws. The Old Ones, being from another universe and possessing powers not governed by physical laws were utterly abhorrent to the Time Lords. The Old Ones could be seen as nothing but a force of chaos and an obstacle to their ascendancy over time."

"The Time Lords and the Old Ones fought a terrible war, a war that lasted so long that it became known as the Eternal War. The Time Lords won this war, but after it was over they were utterly sickened by violence. They were determined never to fight again. They sealed and fortified their homeworld against the outside universe, making themselves an impregnable bulwark against the forces of change. In defeating the Old Ones, the Time Lords had enthroned themselves as the true gods of the universe."

Howard seemed absolutely fascinated.

"It reminds me of the myth of the Greek gods fighting their primordial war against the Titans," said Howard.

"Yes," agreed the Doctor. "Perhaps it is the origin of that myth. You could make the comparison in two different ways. You could view the Time Lords as the forces of order fighting against the Titans of chaos. Alternatively, you could view the Time Lords as upstart Titans fighting against the gods. Only these Titans won against the gods. It is all a lot like Wagner, the Supermen and the Giants and so forth."

"You must understand, Howard, that it was not just the Old Ones who fought against the Time Lords. There were other forces of chaos at work in the universe. The Time Lords had carried out incredible experiments in order to gain control of time. They created holes in the very fabric of the cosmos, allowing other things to enter in. The Yssgaroth were the most terrible of these, hideous winged serpent-like creatures from another universe. They swarmed through the universe creating vast armies of terrible giant bats and vampires. They bled whole worlds dry."

Howard shivered as the Doctor spoke of the horrors of the Great Vampires that the Time Lords had fought in the Eternal War.

"There was also the Hoothi, super-intelligent fungus that was able to animate whole armies of walking corpses. There was also the spider-like Racnoss. Never forget the Racnoss.."

Howard was clearly most fascinated by the Old Ones.

"Doctor, what happened to the Old Ones? Were they destroyed by the Time Lords?"

The Doctor's eyes narrowed.

"Oh no, they could not be destroyed so easily. They escaped into the darker places of the universe, biding their time for a return. The most terrible of them lies in the time-vortex, the barrier between dimensions. He is Nylarthotep, the crawling chaos. I have never faced him before and I dread the day that I do."

"There was also Yog-Sothoth, known as the Great Intelligence. He was the Old Ones' strategist. He used the most bizarre and complicated plots. I fought against him twice, though that's a couple of decades away."

Howard looked puzzled. The concept of time travel was still unfamiliar to him.

"Shub-Niggurath is dead. She died giving birth to a Thousand Young. This offspring became known as the Nestene Consciousness. They rule a great empire in the stars. The one called Cthulhu is already here on this planet, imprisoned in its depths. He was worshiped by the reptilian race that once ruled the Earth."

"Mankind was not the first intelligence in this world?" asked an amazed Howard.

"By no means, but that story is for another time," replied the Doctor. "Through time and space I have battled these entities. Entities like the Gods of Ragnorak, who delight in nothing so much as the destruction of life. They watched countless beings go to their deaths for their entertainment." The Doctor snarled with anger at the thought.

"Among the most evil of the Old Ones was Hastur the Unspeakable. Some people call him Fenric. I defeated him a long time ago and imprisoned him. I know that one day I will have to face him again. Hastur did some terrible things..."

At the mention of Hastur, the Doctor seemed to become even angrier, yet this receded into what appeared to be sadness. Howard realised that the Doctor had ventured onto a subject deeply personal to him, as though Hastur was connected to some tragedy in his past. Howard knew that it would be futile to question the Doctor regarding it. He had his secrets.

"There are many cults, even on this world, that adore the Old Ones," said the Doctor. "There have always been foolish men who would try to gain power through things they do not understand. Evil from before the dawn of time is not to be trifled with."

"Doctor, you speak of the Old Ones as being evil. Yet I wonder if such categories of good and evil are appropriate," said Howard. "I would imagine that such an ancient being, from another cosmos would be so powerful that it would be indifferent to human beings and be beyond morality."

"You think that ultimately morality has no cosmic significance?" asked the Doctor.

"No, I do not. I believe that there is no real meaning to this cosmos. Good and evil are merely human trifles. Humanity will pass away into nothingness as is the way of all things. There is no grand purpose in the universe," said Howard.

"I understand your belief, but I have travelled in time and space and I have come to see that a higher purpose can be found when you seek it out. Perhaps in time you will see that," said the Doctor.

"I rather doubt it," said Howard. "I must thank you , Doctor for this treat. It is wonderful to talk about the wonders of the universe over ice cream. The universe is becoming a larger place for me."

The Doctor smiled at Howard. He was saddened by his pessimistic attitude, but he understood perfectly why Howard felt that way. He had seen how dark and savage the cosmos really was. With such unfeasibly monstrous beings as the Old Ones and the Yssgaroth, who could fail to be horrified at the apparent chaos and bleakness? Yet while there was evil from before the dawn of time, there was also a power of good. For all the darkness of his pilgrimage, the Doctor had seen that power at work amongst those he travelled with and in the lives of those he helped. The universe was not so lacking in purpose as Howard believed.