The late Professor William Dyer wrote that
"the nightmare, plastic column of fetid black iridescence, oozed tightly
onward through its fifteen-foot sinus, gathering unholy speed and driving
before it a spiral, rethickening cloud of pallid abyss vapor. It
was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train a shapeless
congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads
of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all
over the tunnel-filling front that bore down on us, crushing the frantic
penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind
had swept so evilly free of all litter. Still came that eldritch,
mocking cry: 'Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!'"
his arcane and fantastical description of the
entity which drove Dyer and his assistant Danforth back from the brink
of discovering the abyss of the Elder Ones of prehistory may not be so
fantastical after all. Myths of Shoggoths--those
amorphous, protoplasmic abominations--have appeared in a variety of eras
and civilizations. They are spoken of with great reverence in the
Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred in Book Two, Chapter Two within in the tale
of Alhazred's encounter with the Afrasiab and the book of S'gg'ha, and
again in Chapter Seven, Part Six in the alchemical and extrasensory instructions
on the creation and control of Shoggoths. They are mentioned vaguely
in the Pnakotic Manuscripts, fragment CXXIII, in connection with great
Kadath in the Cold Waste. There is a reference to them in the rituals
of the Cthulhu cult reprinted in the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of Friedrich
von Junzt. To understand the origin and impact of the myth or reality
of these horrifying amorphous monstrosities, it is necessary to carefully
review the records Dyer brought back from Antarctica in 1931.
Among the bas-relief sculptured wall records
left by the Elder Ones in their abandoned city on the Antarctic superplateau.
Elderian mythology holds that the Elder Ones, on planets they inhabited
prior to arriving in our solar system, had gone through mechanical and
electronic ages just as mankind has. But mechanisms such as automobiles
and airplanes are of little use for creatures that live mainly underwater,
walk fast on land, and fly through the air. But during those ages, they
did develop the science of artificially manufacturing the building blocks
of life their own form of genetic engineering.
Upon arriving on our then landless, sea-swept
planet and finding little life at all, the Elder Ones manufactured their
own food, using the basic building blocks of life available to them under
the sea and the scientific techniques they had brought with them.
As they began to think of building a permanent colony on the planet, they
developed tools to do work which they were unable or unwilling to, such
as cutting and maneuvering huge stone blocks. Later man would create
machines of metal like tractors and cranes to do his work. The Elder
Ones, on the other hand, created 'machines' by reshaping or mutating organic
substance into an animals capable of fulfilling a necessary function such
a stone cutting or earth moving. Of these 'organic machines' the most impressive
and useful form were called the Shoggoths of which Abdul Alhazred, the
mad author of the Necronomicon, swears that none were ever bred on this
planet, that only dreamers drugged on a certain alkaloidal herb could have
conceived them, that they are the invention of primitive myth. The
records Dyer discovered seem to tear away the mad Arab's attempts to hide
the horrific facts.
The actual formula for creating a Shoggoth,
or the basic building blocks of the genetic structure, have been lost.(1)
Apparently the undersea Elder Ones were able to manipulate deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA) and cytoplasm to create self-duplicating, clear cellular creatures
which were electrically charged to cling to others of their kind. Some
of this creation process was performed by the physical manipulation of
The Elder Ones had developed a special telepathic
sense. Their five-lobed brains, connected to fine cilia which radiated
out of their heads, could produce a form of radio wave capable of either
agitating the cellular material into specified arrangements. With
this sense they were able to do the detailed and microscopic processes,
such as encoding the DNA. The Elder Ones carefully encoded the beings both
a lack of self initiative and the ability to transmogrify on command.
Once encoded, these masses of cellular material
would cling together forming a semifluid, viscous, transluscent colloid,
much the way tiny sea creature join together to create a coral or jellyfish.
In their static state these colonies of cells would appear as a rubbery
fifteen-foot spheroids (fifteen feet apparently being the natural balance
between gravity, atmospheric pressure, and cohesion). These spheroid Shoggoths,
therefore, had a constantly shifting shape and volume. But they held
the ability to reform into entities with the imitation of the form, organs,
processes, and actions of other lifeforms.
Under the control of their Elderian masters,
the Shoggoths would mutate temporarily into whatever shape was required
for a specific task. Often these shapes were horrificly large and
multifaceted. But sometimes they would be simply directed to ape the form,
organs, and appendages of their masters. In this, the Shoggoths were able
to even recreate Elderian vocal chords. It is, therefore, most likely
that the eldritch, mocking cry "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" reported by Dyer
and Danforth may be both the sound of the Elder Ones and of the demoniac
Shoggoths. The Shoggoths had no other model for language other than
that of their creators.(2)
Incredibly plastic and incredibly powerful,
these imitation creatures were the perfect beasts of burden, slaves, and
builders, making possible the vast and imposing undersea Elderian cities.
The Shoggoths were easily controlled by the Elder Ones, much the way a
queen ant or bee controls her hive. Through their genetically encoded
programming and telepathic contact, learned their functions quickly.
As the Elder Ones expanded their colony out
of the seas and onto the newly formed continent of earth, the protoplasmic
material was also used to create a wide variety of surface life forms animal
and vegetable, marine, terrestrial, and aërial. Unfortunately,
this explosion of Elderian creativity led to uncontrolled evolution in
some of the more benign of these new creatures. Those creations which posed
a threat were mechanically exterminated. The undersea Shoggoths were,
for the moment, almost forgotten, merely janitors and service creatures
to the small pockets of deep-sea Elder Ones.
As other alien forms found the planet, a long
period of warfare began with the Elder Ones battling such newcomers as
the Great Race, Cthulhu and his spawn, and the Fungi from Yuggoth. During
this period, the Shoggoths began to mutate on their own. This may
be due to the use of Shoggoths in warfare where a natural instinct for
independent survival began to emerge in the loathesome creatures.
Whatever the cause, the Shoggoths began to evolve independently as they
reproduced by means of fission. This evolution included the acquisition
of a semistable brain with a dangerous degree of accidental intelligence.
They began to self-model themselves independent of the Elder Ones, both
in forms implanted by past suggestion and imitative of the new alien life
In the extended eons of the wars, as the sculptures
sadly confessed, much of the art and science of creating new life from
inorganic matter had been lost. As peace returned, the Elder Ones
had to depend on the remolding of forms already in existence. The
change in the Shoggoths presented a formidable problem. With the
loss of the genetic engineering capability, the destruction of the Shoggoths
was impossible. And without full control over the Shoggoths, the
now-complex sea Elderian world would become impossible. After the
wars, the Elder Ones began elaborate experiments on the Shoggoths to prevent
the loss of control over these creatures without great success.
In the middle of the Permian Age, the Shoggoths
turned upon their masters, lashing out first in random attacks and, later,
in full scale riot and warfare. Horrifying images of this war can
be found in the bas-reliefs of the antarctic Elderian city, often centering
upon the headless, slime-coated fashion in which the Shoggoths typically
left their slain victims. Dyer, who witnessed Elder Ones who had
died at the 'hands' of a Shoggoth, said that though "mauled, compressed,
twisted, and ruptured as they were, their chief common injury was total
decapitation. From each one the tentacled starfish head had been removed....
The manner of removal looked more like some hellish tearing or suction
than like any ordinary form of cleavage. Their noisome dark-green
ichor formed a large, spreading pool; but its stench was half overshadowed
by the newer and stranger stench, here more pungent than at any other point
along our route." It is also noted that the Shoggoths, when killing
in skirmish or single combat, often left a slimy epitaph over their foe's
body, in the very language of the Elder Ones themselves, indicating the
rapid ability to learn which had developed in them.
The Elder Ones retailiated with curious weapons
of molecular and atomic disturbance. Ultimately, after great devastation,
they achieved complete victory over their former slaves. With the
balance of power and trust shifted, the relationship between the Shoggoths
and their masters never returned to its former equalibrium. During
the wars, the Shoggoths had shown an ability to live out of water.
This transition in the Shoggoths was not encouraged since their usefulness
on land would hardly balance the problem of managing them. Instead, the
majority of the Elderian population itself moved landward. And for
many eras the Shoggoths were successfully, though nervous, kept in servitude.
Then, suddenly, epic changes in the earth's
atmospheric climate endangered the surface existence of the Elder Ones.
First, a dramatic depletion of the earth's ozone during the wars wiped
out all saurian land life. Then the rapidly approaching Ice Age began
killing off the mammal population. To sustain and fortify the land cities
against these ecological reverses, the Elder Ones were forced to adapt
some of the amorphous and curiously cold-resistant Shoggoths to land life.
Ultimately, even this effort failed. The great river became lifeless and
the ice and snow made life in the land cities impossible. The Elder
Ones had no choice but the retreat to their former life under the sea.
They planned a great city in the watery, dark abyss under Antarctica itself.
To quarry the needed insoluble rocks from the honeycombed mountains, the
Elder Ones adapted the Shoggoths to breed stone lifters and subsequent
beasts of burden for the cavern city, and other protoplasmic matter to
mold into phosphorescent organisms for lighting purposes.
With this new breed of Shoggoth, the city in
the abyss rose rapily, itself mimicking the magnificent city above it.
These new Shoggoths were enormous in size and singular in intelligence.
Their greater brain capacity made them somewhat resistant to telepathic
control. The Elder Ones found themselves, more and more, having to
use spoken commands more than hypnotic suggestion.
As their Antarctic city disappeared under a
solid glacial blanket, the Elder Ones and their Shoggoth slaves, sealed
off their retreat and moved, lock, stock, and barrel into the Stygian,
But something must have gone terribly wrong
between the time the last Elder One slipped back into the black water and
1930 when Dyer and Danforth stumbled upon the rim of that abyss.
Something must have happened which drove the Elder Ones out of the magnficent
new city and back toward land, recarving hasty exits through the hills
and squirming desparately back into the frozen waste they had sought to
What this terrible catastrophe was we may never
know. What we do know is that the fleeing Elder Ones left behind
them a city badly bored with strange holes and decorated with a decadent
imtiation of Elderian art no Elder One could have conceived. It is
possible that the Shoggoths finally took their revenge and their freedom
violently. It is possible that they merely outnumbered and replaced
the Elder Ones and that the city is now merely a Shoggoth recreation of
Elderian life, with the Shoggoths themselves playing out the parts, forming
themselves in mock imitation of their creators, continuing the sculptures
with decadent, pseudo-Elderian images. And, perhaps, they still worship
that fearful thing in the westard mountains which Danforth glimpsed and
went mad. Perhaps the muttered, disjointed phrases Danforth uttered
to Dyer before he took his life give us a glimpse into this horrorifying
end of the Elder Ones: "The black pit," "the carven rim," "the proto-Shoggoths,"
"the windowless solids with five dimensions," "the nameless cylinder,"
"the elder Pharos," "Yog-Sothoth," "the primal white jelly," "the color
out of space," "the wings," "the eyes in darkness," "the moon-ladder,"
"the original, the eternal, the undying."
We would do well to listen to Abdul Alhazred
and Dyer, who said: "I had seen those primal sculptures, too, and had shudderingly
admired the way the nameless artist had suggested that hideous slime coating
found on certain incomplete and prostrate Elder Ones those whom the frightful
Shoggoths had characteristically slain and sucked to a ghastly headlessness
in the great war of resubjugation. They were infamous, nightmare
sculptures even when telling of age-old, bygone things; for Shoggoths and
their work ought not to be seen by human beings or portrayed by any beings."
Could the horror have spread beyond the city
of the abyss and the superplateau? Could the nauseous demoniac Shoggoths,
free at last, have returned to the surface to conqueor the burrows and
caverns of the last Elder Ones? Is it their insane piping, "Tekeli-li!
Tekeli-li!" not the wind but the Shoggoths themselves chanting maniacally
around the lofty mountain caves? Could they have invaded the very
heights of Kadath in the Cold Waste and annihilated the gods there, replacing
them with their own in the gods' image? If so, where will they head
next? What form will they take?