Once upon a time, I was a child, and I read fantastic tales of the secret lives of stuffed animals. There are many such tales in THE LITERATURE, that repository of news, history, research, rumor, wonder tales, and drollery, as well as RECEIVED WISDOM FROM THE ANCIENT AND RESPECTED ELDERS. Usually these stories consist of tales of derring-do, facing one’s fears, and altruistic deeds (see THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, for example). There are also blood curdling tales, the stuff of nightmares. One such tale whispers of Cthulhu, an immensely powerful, dead (or undead, or possibly unalive) entity from beyond the stars. Cthulhu is said to be ageless (does this go with being dead?), indestructible, and to have a house in R’lyeh where he lies dreaming, when not driving hordes of hapless victims to gibbering madness and self-destruction. These tales can be discovered in various portions of L-Space.*
Then, wandering around the internet, I came across a tale of plush Cthulhu. As I read it (warning: it is profusely illustrated), my hair made a herculean effort and, bursting open its barrette, each particular hair stood on end, reaching straight up to the ceiling. Dread Cthulhu is able to take on a disturbingly cute plushy form! It can invade stuffed animal land! A dangerous and rare specimen! I had to have one! What could possibly go wrong?? Under the influence of this horror story, I procured a plush Cthulhu of my very own. Usually the squishy-soft Sleeper of R’lyeh dangles from my bookshelf, in a state of somnolence, or perhaps suspended animation. Lest hunger pangs awaken it, I occasionally sacrifice small stuffed animals – it was slowly savoring and absorbing a grippy koala as recently as last week.
Then, this morning, arriving early at the park for wolf watch with participants in the Fantastic Beasts and How To Train Them Seminar, I got a frantic call from Kimber. Normally Kimber would be out of town on weekends at this time of year. It is tax season, when she lives a double life: a dedicated fox curator during the week, but morphing into a superhero on the weekend, helping law-abiding citizens keep at bay the descendants of Erik the Awful, who work as special agents for the Destroying Angel Repossession Company (a.k.a. the I. R. S.). This weekend, though, she was here helping with the seminar.
Her call sent ice through the marrow of my bones. Though I could have sworn I left my office door securely latched last night, somehow Plush Cthulhu had wakened and gotten out. Worse, so had Gypsum. They were facing off in the Fox Garden. Neither of them was likely to back down, since they are much of a size. Tentacles abristle, Dread Plush Cthulhu spread his wings in the wan and sickly morning sun. His pale shadow was vaster than it should be. (Kimber estimated the shadow’s wingspan was a good 24 inches wide.) But Gypsum, at whose approach wolves (or at least Kanti) panic and flee, was undaunted. His tail ploofed into a mighty plume, and, with eyes aflame, Gypsum whiffled through the tulgey garden, disdaining to burble as he came. The two rushed upon each other and Gypsum’s teeth went snicker-snack as he seized the eldritch horror from beyond the stars and rent it asunder. He left Cthulhu dead (possibly – further confirmation is required) and with its head he responded to Kimber’s calls, and went galumphing back into the airlock of the fox habitat. He carried the head around and around, no doubt looking for a battlement to set it on, as a trophy display. Kimber watched for the right moment and, distracting him with a road killed squirrel, purloined the loathsome, fluffy head of Cthulhu. (It has button eyes which may not be safely swallowed by small children or animals – parents and zookeepers beware!)
The rest of the day was frabjous. Kimber and the Interns danced and sang Callooh! Callay! as they set about cleaning up the spilled ichor that sprayed and spurted from defeated Cthulhu when Gypsum unseamed him from nave to chaps. Gypsum spent the rest of the day looking beamish, and basking, with a squirrel bulge in his belly. He could not be bothered to get up and do training or threaten any wolves out for a stroll on the Loup Trail.
In the end we cannot say whether dread Cthulhu is undeniably and reliably dead, or indestructible, or capable of being permanently de-constructed, as when ripped asunder by our redoubtable Gypsum, but one thing is certain: Even if he can’t be killed, dread plush Cthulhu can be put to grave inconvenience!
(Dread Cthulhu promises to resume Sleeping-in-R’lyeh services shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy this retelling of The Call of Cthulhu, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.)
* L-space, short for library-space, is the ultimate portrayal of Pratchett’s concept that the written word has powerful magical properties on the Discworld, and that in large quantities all books warp space and time around them. The principle of L-space revolves around a seemingly logical equation; it is an extension of the ‘Knowledge is Power’:
Books = Knowledge = Power = (Force x Distance^2) ÷ Time.
Large quantities of magical and mundane books create portals into L-space that can be accessed using innate powers of librarianship that are taught by the Librarians of Time and Space to those deemed worthy across the multiverse. Because libraries with enough books to open a portal are often large and sprawling, those venturing into L-space may not necessarily know that they have arrived. The floor and ceiling of L-space follow the floor and ceiling of the library used to access it; the best example of this is that the central dome of Unseen University‘s library is “always overhead” (Guards! Guards! – all quotes in this article come from this book). In every direction and as far as the eye can see bookshelves stretch off, meaning the nature of any walls are unknown.
Alternatively, it can be said that L-space manifests in our world in those obscure, hidden bookstores that, logic and the laws of physics insist, cannot possibly be as large on the outside as they appear on the inside. Somehow, after scraping one’s shoulders against the improbably small door, one finds one’s self turning one unseen corner after another, seemingly going on forever into further and more obscure sections as yet unobserved by human eyes. The town of Hay-on-Wye, known for having more bookshops per square mile than anywhere else in the world, contains many examples of this, and may be a substantial access point to L-space. Essentially, all bookstores are potentially infinite in extent; gateways into literary hyperspace: “[a] good bookshop is just a genteel black hole that knows how to read.”
Because L-space links every library, it is possible to reach any one of these throughout space, time and the multiverse. This means that there are potentially other forms of data storage other than books as it represents every library anywhere. Additionally, one can read any book ever written, any book that will be written at some point and books that were planned for writing that were not, as well as any book that could possibly be written. The first Reader in Invisible Writings was Ponder Stibbons, whose job it was to get Hex to trawl virtually through L-space (which involved a huge amount of simultaneous spell-casting, beyond the ability of any human wizard) looking for fragments of these possible books.
Citation: http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/L-space (Note: the usual caveats, about not ending your search for knowledge with the various wiki databases, but going on to search out the original manuscripts on which they base their changing and repeatedly edited publications. If there is any chance you will wander into L-Space during your search, it is well to carry a pack containing (but not limited to) some trail mix, a bottle of water, fresh socks, matches, a canoe paddle, and perhaps a transformer tool. Be sure you know where your towel is. Keep calm and carry on, or, for any wolves, foxes, and coyotes reading this article, keep calm and carrion.
With apologies to William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, H. P. Lovecraft, and Sir Terry Pratchett**, and a tip of the hat to Frank Baum, Ray Stevens, and Douglas Adams**.
**Whom we hope would all be mildly tickled.