17 July 2017 ~ 5 Comments

DP Fiction #29B: “The Shadow Over His Mouth” by Aidan Doyle

Greetings From Transylvania!

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
7th July 2016.

I’m in vampire country! That’s right, I’m in Brasov, in Romania. Now that I’ve finished university, I’ve decided it’s time to take my food blog on the road.

I was supposed to start my adventure in Paris, but a storm meant my flight was diverted to Transylvania. The airline staff said it would be at least a week before flights to Paris resumed, so I’m going to make the most of my time in Eastern Europe.

Brasov has its own version of a Hollywood-style sign on the hill overlooking the city. It also has some really narrow alleyways that make Melbourne’s laneways look big. Nowhere to hide if the vampires come after you. 🙂

I had somehow gained the impression that Eastern European hostels are full of beautiful women trying to lure foreigners to gruesomely erotic deaths. Instead I found myself sharing a dorm room with a creepy old Dutch guy, who must have been more than fifty years old. The hideous actuality of his non-Euclidean snoring kept me awake all night.

Yesterday morning I went on a tour organized by the hostel. We visited Bran Castle, the so-called Dracula Castle, but it actually has little to do with Vlad Tepes, who inspired the Dracula legend. There were a couple of Spanish guys on the tour who had each brought along a set of plastic red vampire teeth to wear when posing for photos. The Dutch guy glared at them and kept muttering that nosferatu was no laughing matter.

I had arranged to meet the Spanish guys to go out for drinks in the evening, but they didn’t turn up. When I checked their dorm room, all of their stuff was gone, except for the red plastic teeth lying on top of their pillows. They could have at least told me they were checking out.

This morning I took the train to Sighisoara and had lunch at Casa Dracula, the house in which Vlad Tepes was born. It’s now a tourist restaurant. I know some food bloggers who refuse to eat in restaurants where anything on the menu is described with fewer than three adjectives, but I appreciate simple food. I had a steak skewered on a little wooden stake and covered in tomato sauce (ketchup for my North American readers). The meat was bloodier than I prefer and the sauce had an eldritch tang I couldn’t identify, but it’s not every day you get to eat a steak on a stake in Dracula’s house.

The Dutch guy was in the restaurant as well and glared at me while I was Instagramming the steak. Old people don’t understand the importance of documenting your meals. Unfortunately there was something wrong with my phone and the photos all came out blurry.

When I got back to Brasov, I went on a vampire walking tour. The Dutch guy was there again, but at least the guide was super cute. She had these indescribably quasi-hypnotic cerulean eyes that I could have stared at for immeasurable eons. Halfway through the tour, two guys in cloaks leaped from the roof of a building and landed next to the Dutch guy. Before anyone could even take a photo, the cloaks had dragged Dutchie down an alley. I wish the guide had given us some warning, so we had a chance to video the whole thing. I was expecting the Dutch guy to join us later, but he didn’t return. I guess the tour company must have planted him on the walk.

When I got back to the hostel all of the Dutch guy’s stuff was gone. I was pleased about the idea of getting a good night’s sleep, but I discovered an envelope and a book hidden under my pillow. The envelope was addressed to me and contained a letter penned in scarlet ink.

Dear Barry,
Dark forces are gathering. You must embrace your family’s legacy. Only you can stop an unholy alliance forming between Eastern Europe
‘s vampires and the protoplasmic fish people. If I fail in my mission to train you, use this book as your guide. 

The letter was unsigned.

The book bore the title, Eldritch Planet: A Guide to the World’s Arcane Secrets (Fifth Edition Completely Revised and Updated) and promised to reveal the places other tourists don’t go. It was bound in paper recycled from health food restaurant menus and exuded a blasphemous odor of stale kale. It contained reviews of exclusive hotels hidden deep in the Carpathian Mountains, antediluvian ruined temples untouched by mortal man for centuries, and restaurants with food so indescribably tasty that a single bite would drive lesser food bloggers insane. I found an entry on a restaurant in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that the book claimed was the world’s greatest seafood restaurant. I searched online and couldn’t discover any mention of Eldritch Planet or the restaurant. A restaurant that other people haven’t written about is a food blogger’s dream come true. It was then that I realized what my true destiny was. I will visit this restaurant, brave the monotonously aquatic nature of its menu, and upload photos of its meals to social media. As usual, I’d appreciate it if you share this post with your friends and family.

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Greetings From Bucharest

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
10 July 2016

I’m in Bucharest now, heading south towards Macedonia. (Would you believe one of my exes broke up with me because I didn’t prefix the country’s name with Former Yugoslav Republic of?) This time I’m sharing a room with a wide-eyed German man who looks as though he escaped from the set of Hipsters Gone Wild, a creature more beard than man.

I’ve only stayed in a few hostels, but I’ve already met more than my fair share of eccentric characters. Presented for your edification is the:

Youth Hostel Wandering Monster Table
Roll 1d8
1 – A German complaining about the hostel’s lack of cleanliness.
2 – A bemused Japanese who speaks little English.
3 – An Australian who wants to tell you about his fuckin’ sick pub crawl.
4 – An American worshipping at the altar of Rick Steves.
5 – A Canadian who has covered every inch of their luggage in Canadian flags.
6 – A young woman terrified to talk to anyone because she has watched one too many Liam Neeson films.
7 – A guy who refuses to eat at any restaurant mentioned in a tourist guide because he wants an “authentic” experience.
8 – People having sex in the communal showers.

I wanted to get some sleep, but the manic German almost had a fit when he saw my copy of Eldritch Planet.

“Where did you get that book?” he hissed.

“A friend gave it to me,” I told him.

“It’s a trap!” the German pronounced. “They’re sending you to your doom.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You don’t have any idea what’s going on, do you? You haven’t peered beyond the veil that separates the realm of man from the beasts that lurk in the shadows. Everything changed after some of the Eastern European countries changed their immigration laws. Now most foreigners need a letter of invitation before they can get a visa.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“They’re inviting visitors into the country. That renders them powerless against vampires. The whole of Eastern Europe is crawling with bloodsuckers. And now they’re trying to make an alliance with the deep ones. They’ve decided that keeping forbidden texts hidden is counterproductive when they want more accursed creatures to walk the earth. Their goal is to spread dark and terrible knowledge as far as possible, so they’re trying to take control of people with social media influence.”

The German was quite mad, but it was nice to be recognized as a blogger of some import.

“They’re going to lure you to Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe,” the German said.I had kept my destination a secret. I was going to ask how he knew, but the swarthy hostel manager came into our room. “There’s a phone call for you,” he said to the German. The German followed him out of the room.

I waited ten minutes for him to come back, but then a wild ululation echoed throughout the hostel.

I dashed out of my room. A Korean man emerged from the bathroom, looking shocked. I’ve encountered some unspeakably eldritch hostel bathrooms in my travels, but I suspected something more was going on.

“He’s dead,” the Korean man said.

The swarthy hostel manager appeared. “Go back to your rooms, everyone. I’ll clean up the mess.”

It turns out Bucharest has a bad problem with wild dogs. A dog got into the hostel and killed the German guy while he was taking a dump. What a way to go!

I went back to my room and made sure the door was shut and the window locked. I didn’t get any sleep that night. I kept hearing squeaking sounds in the darkness, as though there were rats in the walls.

I made sure to give the hostel a one-star review on Trip Advisor. From now on I’m going to stay in hotels, even if it does blow my budget.

Please share this post with your friends and family.

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Greetings from Lake Ohrid

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
10 July 2016

Traveling by bus in Eastern Europe feels as though you are crossing an unimaginable abyss of time and space, but I finally made it to Lake Ohrid and checked into a hotel in a lakeside village.

I went for a walk along the shore in the late afternoon and looked for the restaurant. I tried asking some of the locals for directions, but they muttered at me in a primitive, guttural language and hurried on their way. It’s not good enough. These days if you want to attract tourists, people need to speak English.

I persevered and eventually found The House of Fin. The restaurant was housed in a rudely fashioned Cyclopean building, but Eldritch Planet claims it’s the world’s greatest seafood restaurant. Since it was early and I was the only customer, I got a table with a great view of the lake.

The waiter was a pale-skinned man with bulbous eyes and an elongated head. A most peculiar odor clung to him, as though he had doused himself in cheap cologne, but at least he spoke English. He handed me three menus – the main menu, the wine list and the squid menu. I’m not a big fan of tentacles, so I focused on the main menu.

“Is it legal to eat penguin in Macedonia?” I asked.

The waiter nodded. “Our friends from Antarctica bring us the freshest penguins. They are lightly steamed and served with a garnish of kale.”

Goddamn kale has even made it to Macedonia. “You have toad in the hole on the menu? Doesn’t that have sausages in it?”

“That’s the British version.” The waiter smiled. “Our toad in the hole is more authentic.”

“What do you recommend?” I asked.

“The king prawns in yellow sauce are my personal favorite,” the waiter replied. “The jellied eel is superlative, and of course one must try our local specialty, the deepfish.”

“There aren’t any prices on the menus,” I pointed out. I hate being ripped off in tourist scams.

“Our prices are most reasonable,” the waiter assured me.

I would have preferred actual numbers, but I decided to trust him. In my travels I’ve learned that the more you are open to people, the more they will give you in return. “I’ll have the eel and the deepfish.”

It was a good decision. The jellied eel’s flesh was so tender and so bursting with flavor that explosions of indescribable ecstasy ricocheted around my mouth.

The deepfish was served on a bed of lettuce and glowed with a pale, green luminescence. “Why is the fish glowing?”

“Our chef’s special sauce,” the waiter replied.

Other bloggers would have fled in abject terror at effulgent fish, but I’m brave enough to try things beyond their limited comprehension. I took a bite of the deepfish.

The flavor was vaster and more primal than anything experienced by man since the decadent Gods of Taste walked upon this earth. My mouth achieved a state of transcendence and I was transported beyond the realm of food bloggers to a time before the Age of Social Media. I dwelled a long time in that place, savoring each bite and the unbridled flavor that coursed through my newly potent body.

“We are going to prepare a special dessert for you,” the waiter said after I finished the deepfish.

The deepfish had been so filling. “I couldn’t possibly eat another thing.”

“You must try it,” the waiter said. “It will blow your mind. It will take some time to prepare, so please be patient.”

“Of course.”

I’m so excited about my discovery that I wrote this post while I’m waiting for dessert. The food here deserves to be shared with the world. I might even be able to get a book deal. Barry Lovecraft Presents The Secrets of the House of Fin.

Please share this post with your friends and family.

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Help!

Posted by Barry Lovecraft

10 July 2016

OMG! OMG!

I’m locked in the bathroom. Please, you have to send help!

The waiter wheeled out a huge coffin-like covered dish. I thought there was no way I was going to be able to eat all of what was under there. Then he opened the lid.

The image of the creature beneath has been forever seared into my mind. I fear I shall never experience a single moment of peace ever again, knowing there are things like that in our world.

The squid-like creature was a mass of writhing tentacles bathed in an unearthly eldritch light and emitted a malodorous, pungent, fetid odor. Most terrible of all was its swarthy human-like face. Its unutterably hideous eyes stared at me with a malignant purpose. A vast alien intelligence, against which no spiritual firewall could hope to withstand, probed the inner reaches of my mind.

The pustule-covered tentacles reached for me.

I leaped from my chair and dashed to the bathroom, locking myself within.

There is a terrible knocking at the door. I fear my time on this earth is almost at an end. Please share this post with the relevant law enforcement agencies.

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Melbourne Gathering

Posted by Barry Lovecraft
10 August 2016

I’m sorry for the silence and the website problems. There was an issue with my host, but that’s been resolved. I’m back in Melbourne again. Some of you might think travel has changed me, but I’m still the same Barry Lovecraft you knew. Travel opens your mind to new possibilities and lets you perceive formerly hidden realities. The only reason I look a little different is that I now have a mustache. Any suggestions that it is because I have something to hide will be treated with the contempt they deserve. I’m going to prepare a special banquet to share my newfound knowledge of the culinary arts. A feast that will never be forgotten. Please tell all your friends and family that they need to attend. I must gather all my followers.

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Story © 2017 by Aidan Doyle

Art © 2017 by Sonya Craig

 

Author’s Note: I was having a discussion with a friend about how there were so many Lovecraft parodies around.  The conversation later moved on to the topic of restaurant reviews and I decided that a Lovecraftian food blogger would make an interesting character.

 

Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. His short stories have been published in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Fireside. He has been shortlisted for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and XYZZY awards. He has visited more than 100 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea.

 

 

 

 


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5 Responses to “DP Fiction #29B: “The Shadow Over His Mouth” by Aidan Doyle”

  1. Amanda 20 July 2017 at 7:08 pm Permalink

    Loved this so much, Aidan.

  2. Jane Routley 21 July 2017 at 6:20 pm Permalink

    Marvellous. Great story!

  3. Richard Leis 24 July 2017 at 1:55 pm Permalink

    Really funny and creative mash-up. Loved the links, too.

  4. Ronnie Smart 24 July 2017 at 5:43 pm Permalink

    A very amusing story. Excellent. It is sprinkled with an absolute plethora of Lovecraft, Hostel and Dracula references. My only (minor) qualm is that ‘eldritch’ is used a bit too liberally.


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