Alice at R'lyeh
Alice at R'lyeh
by Murray Ewing

"What a curious thing," said Alice

"One might easily lose one's balance,"

As she walked through the labyrinthine tangles

Of the sea-risen city's impossible angles

"One must call this place most non-Euclidean,"

Alice mused, in the mathematical idiom,

"I feel lost in black seas of infinity...

"I do hope I shan't be too late for tea!"

Soon she came to an odd sort of door

Which might have been set in the floor

On its surface was carved — a Jabberwock?

"And who might answer if I were to knock?"

So she took herself on an unrectangular stroll,

("What rabbit might emerge from this size of hole?")

Round the lintel, the threshold and jambs of that portal

("It won't be pink-eyed, and it may not be mortal.")

Said Alice, "I've been faced with such problems before,

"Although then, I recall, it was a much smaller door,

"And I had a Drink-Me drink I could take,

"And a key made of gold, and an Eat-Me cake.

"I've been through a mirror — beyond the silvered pane —

"And though I'm not sure I could do that again,

"I should certainly not be defeated by this!"

(Alice thought herself quite the adventuress.)

At that moment came wand'ring a gentlemanly man

Somnambulistically pond'ring a book in his hand

He stopped beside Alice and, raising his finger,

Said, "By this door it does not do to linger!

"For I know of what waits in the darkness below

"Know of, as nightmares may lead one to know

"It's a Thing such as must shun the light of the day

"For this is the nightmare corpse-city R'lyeh!"

"What Thing?" questioned Alice, and Lovecraft ('twas he)

Shook his lantern-jawed head at her curiosity

"As you ask, and so you will not be tempted to look

"I will read you a passage from my commonplace book:

"I have written," he said, "for so dreamed it have I:

"'That which is not dead may eternal lie!'"

"It may lie," said Alice, "but I find it uncouth —

"I was always taught to do my best to tell the truth!"

Lovecraft, unperturbed, turned a page or two to find

The passage that he hoped would change this little lady's mind

While Alice turned her ear towards that door set in the ground

She thought she'd heard a distant stirring sound...

"'If I say my somewhat extravagant imagination,

"'Yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon

"'And'," quoted Lovecraft, "'a human caricature'" —

"Of its precise nature," Alice said, "you seem unsure" —

"'A pulpy and tentacled head,'" he progressed,

"'Surmounted a body, both scaled and grotesque!

"'And flapped,'" he continued, "'rudimentary wings.'"

"Rudimentary?" "Rudimentary!" And that settled the thing.

"'A mountain walked or stumbled!'"

("Or perhaps," put in Alice, "it gyred and it gimbled?")

"Astir after years to be measured, most strictly,

"In vigintillions! (That's ten to the sixty-three.)

"But this monster is merely the mask of what's worse —

"The faceless monstrosity of the cold universe!

"The meaninglessness of our bleak situation

"The smallness of Man amidst dark obfuscation!"

"What you say," ventured Alice, "may be true, in its way,

"Though with 'nonsense' for 'meaninglessness', if I may

"And for 'bleak', I'd put 'curious', for it seems so to me

"That the world's full of wonders, not monstrosity.

"And 'smallness'? Why, small I have been, on occasion

"And also quite large, yet I'm of the persuasion

"That best is being middle-sized, like I am

"So instead have the 'perfect-middle-sizedness of Man'.

"If you please, Mr Lovecraft, I'll venture to prove

"(And I hope that you won't think me forward or rude)

"That the way that you look at the world is quite wrong

"My argument, truly, is not overlong:—

"Caterpillars are dopy, and Hatters are mad,

"And the Mouse and the mournful Mock Turtle are sad,

"And the White Rabbit's late, and the Red Queen is vexed

"And 'Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?'"

"What kind of an argument is that?" Lovecraft cried

"A nonsensical argument," Alice replied,

"For if it's all nonsense, or meaninglessness

"You can take your conclusions any way you think best!"

"I prefer logic and reason," he sighed

Alice swished her skirts and said, "Oh, so do I

"For logic and reason, it must surely be said,

"Say that meaning is not in the world, but one's head."

"That's easy for you to say, little girl,

"You're fictional — you don't have to live in the world!"

"I agree, Mr Lovecraft, that may well be true,

"But, as to being fictional, now, so are you!"

At that moment, with Lovecraft about to reply,

A "nasty slopping sound" came from deep down behind

Those gargantuan doors, which then queerly recessed

And gave out a smoky tenebrousness

Then up from that "darkness almost material"

It lumbered, slobberingly immemorial —

Cthulhu, not dead, nor now dreaming, arose

"I perceive," noted Alice, "that he's wearing no clothes!"

"It lives!" Lovecraft howled against the winds that wracked the world

"This is no time for social niceties, young girl!

"Run! Don't look back! Close your mind up to its taint!

"As for me, I must sit down, I think I'm going to faint!"

But as Cthulhu's flabby paws reached out to pick up Alice

A smile appeared in the air, a toothy white abyss,

And then a pair of yellow eyes, and pricked-up furry ears

The Cheshire Cat said, "Just what are you planning, Cthulhu dear?"

"To eat her? Eat them both? Gobble them down like juicy mice?

"It hardly proves your point, you know, and besides, it isn't nice.

"Remember, dear, that fantasists are notoriously hard to swallow

"And fictional girls are worse: they disappear, and leave you hollow!"

Cthulhu roared and raged in a violent display

"Oh, save me," said the Cat, quite bored, "That's what you always say!"

"Ph'nglui!" Cthulhu gibbered, "R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"

"Language!" warned the Cheshire Cat, then to Alice, "I beg your pardon."

"Now go back to your dreaming bed," the Cat said to Cthulhu

And, grumbling nonsense, that's just what the giant monster did do

Then Alice sighed, and brushed her skirts, and flattened down her hair

(For it had started to stand up). "That gave me quite a scare!"

Then Lovecraft woke. "It's gone!" he said. He was quite pale and shaken.

"I feared for my sanity, and was promptly overtaken!"

The Cheshire Cat still grinned its grin from ear to brindled ear

"Oh, you ca'n't help that," it quietly purred, "we're all mad here."

Then the grin of the Cheshire Cat slowly widened

Till its chortlewidth spanned the entire horizon

Then was gone. Lovecraft dabbed his forehead with a cloth.

"I think that was no cat, but the daemon Azathoth..."

"It is time," Alice said, "to wake up and go back home."

"But shall you wake, or shall I?" Lovecraft said, with a moan

"If I wake, you're a dream — and if you wake, then it's me!"

She took his hand. "We shall awake simultaneously."

Then, "Once upon a time," she said, and "Happily ever after,"

And "Meaninglessness is nonsense, when it's taken without laughter,

"And laughter is what people do, so let us do it quick

"To wake us up, and make us laugh, I have a limerick:—

There was an old young man from Providence

Who, considering the scientific evidence,

Said, "If only we knew,

"How to add two and two

"We'd think it better to live on in ignorance!"

"How true," Lovecraft said, and allowed himself a smile

Both awoke, and that weird locale was silent for a while —

Until you, who'd thought yourself just the reader of this rhyme

Realised you'd been left stranded in this nightmare for all time!

The Cheshire Cat's head
Alice at R'lyeh
Murray Ewing.co.uk Murray Ewing.co.uk
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