's 2016 Horror Write-off:

They Don't Have Tentacles

Submitted by Brendan Cleary

Eddie tapped his pencil on the black and white head of a elder god.

It was an impressive looking sketch, large and menacing, sharp, strangely human eyes, a mouth of angry teeth and tendrils, and a strong bull like neck that tapered off into nothingness.

He had been working for a week now on this project, and this was all that he had accomplished, the head. 

Hell, he hadn't even finished that yet, it was still rough, filled with pencil marks and formative lines that needed to be erased. Raza-Markith, the ruler of the end, the disciple of corruption, the one who scratches the stars, the elder god to end all elder gods, was currently a disembodied head on a slightly stained piece of paper.

Eddie stared at the sketch, Raza stared back. He just couldn't understand it, he had done pictures of the guy hundreds of time, from depictions of him towering over the Cosmo's for eldritch horror anthologies, to chibi versions of him for custom T-Shirts.

He noticed that, while many people knew the name, and could recognize him if they saw a picture, most people didn't know where Raza came from. For most people, Raza was just another iconic symbol for horror and fear, no different from Vampires or Werewolves. 

Raza's creator, W.L. Stewart, never lived long enough to see his creation commercialized. He died in the mid 40's in an asylum.

He wasn't incarcerated there though; he was visiting the asylum for research on a story and was killed after he told one of the patients that he was interviewing that there "neurosis weren't interesting enough".

Eddie had to admit, Stewart was kind of a dick. He was absurdly racist, even in a time where racism was the norm, and he was every type of -phobic imaginable. And if you were aware of his views, it was hard to not see his stories of "Strange beings trying to destroy our culture" in a different light.

Eddie had found that it was easier to just separate the man from his work. It also helped that most of his clients had no idea of the characters racist origins.

For many years, the works of Stewart floundered in obscurity, only known by those in occult and pulp fiction circles. It wasn't until the 90's that Stewart breached the mainstream with one of his characters making an appearance on the cult cartoon show, Lyle Lufkin's Ludicrously Lavish Locker, a surprisingly dark show meant for kids that had the main character Lyle finding a different object in his locker every week. In one episode titled "What's wrong with Raza?", he finds a idol to Raza that slowly drives him insane, the episode ends with him attempting to sacrifice one of his classmates to Raza.

It was a strange show. But because of the success of the show, it was Raza, who Stewart only wrote one story about, who became the mascot of Stewart's pantheon.

They wouldn't let you do that on TV nowadays, thought Eddie, who was a man in his early 40's who hadn't watched cartoons since the early 90's.

Creative commons is a wonderful thing, he thought. Any man or woman interested in attracting a certain subset of nerds just needed to call the right person and they could have the alleged image of a cosmic god on whatever merchandise they choose. Recently, a snack company that Eddie loved had started using Rasa in their advertisements. Eddie wasn't sure how successful the campaign was, but he was glad they were using him; it validated his work, in a strange way.

Because his depiction of Raza, as a muscular blue skinned humanoid with seven eyes, and a face full of tentacles, had basically become the default depiction of the guy, Eddie got a good 70% of Raza commissions, and he also got a good number of commissions for some of Stewarts less well known gods. 

He was doing pretty well for himself, all things considered. He was able to make illustrating his full time job, which was a fantasy that even as a kid he thought was impossible, and he had a swanky apartment that had a great view of the cities skyline that he used as reference whenever he got a commission for Rasa to rampage through a metropolis, which was surprisingly often.

Who would of thought drawing the creations of a long dead xenophobe would be so profitable?

Well it was profitable, that would all changed if he continued having artist block.

Maybe he just needed a drink, or maybe a walk, just something to get his mind off of this. But he realized that he couldn't afford to take a break. Two or three days ago sure, but now, he couldn't afford to waste a single minute.

He had to start drawing now. His brain knew it, his body knew it, so why didn't his hand? Why was he finding it impossible to draw? Drawer's block, was that even a thing? 

With nothing else to do, he started to rotate the paper, hoping that maybe seeing it from a different angle could incite his creativity. Maybe he could think outside the box for this one, maybe this was his brain's way of telling him to get out of his comfort zone.

Ideas popped into his head fully formed, even though he knew he had come up with them on the spot, they felt like they've been nesting in his brain for years.

He thought about getting rid of the eyes, after all, there was no guarantee that Raza even had them, There was never any mention of Raza's eyes in any of Stewart's mythos series after all. Then again, there were barely any concrete descriptions of Raza's. The narrators in Stewart's tales were usually too terrified to describe him. 

He felt tired suddenly. Maybe it was the fact that he hadn't slept in 24 hours; maybe he was crashing from all of those energy drinks he had been chugging.

Whatever the reason for it was, he was tired, and as much as he wanted to fight it, he couldn't help but lower his head on his desk (he had slept in worst places), close his eyes and let sleep envelop him.

He woke up in a field that smelled like overripe flowers. It had a strange color, somewhere in between purple and green. The sky was a pale yellow pink that bought to mind the look of raw chicken.

His first assumption was that this was a dream, a rather vivid dream, and a surprisingly calm dream for him. Most of his dreams started and ended with something being blown up. For someone who made his livelihood off the eldritch, Eddie's dreams were rarely this weird.

"Having trouble comprehending what's happening, Eddie? Get used to that feeling. It's going to be a recurring theme in our conversation." A thin voice said.

The speaker emerged from a dense peach colored cloud of spores slowly, with the confidence and self-assurance of a recently crowned king.

It was slender and bony, looking vaguely like a skeleton that had been shrink-wrapped in lunchmeat. But human skeleton didn't have such pronounced hip bones, or such long spines.

Its skin was flawless, the same shiny texture of a mannequin, if a little bit slimier, and a little bit closer to the consistency of gum than a store mannequin.

It's face was equally blank, and this was the part of their body where the mannequin comparison, that Eddie had weirdly fixated upon, was most apt. It's face was rather minimalistic, with only two holes for nostrils and a small flap for a mouth, surrounding It's neck was a cowl of fungi, seeming to sprout from it's upper back

Eddie looked at the being, his body felt heavy as he gazed upon it and he felt the strangest urge to kneel, as if the only logical response to seeing such a powerful, otherworldly being was to worship at their feet.

"Who are you?" 

The being smiled with teeth shaped into spirals. "My name is Raza, and I believe you are quite familiar with me, Eddie."

Eddie had a hard time comprehending this. He had dreamed of Raza before, one of his most fondly remembered dream involved him on a bowling team with Raza and an assortment of elder gods, but his dream version of Raza were always very similar to his drawings, he didn't understand why he would dream of a Raza that looked more like a decaying corpse than a powerful god. 

"I know, I know. You're confused, aren't you? That's completely natural, you have just discovered that the being you have made your livelihood depicting is not only real but has been severely misinterpreted. I understand if you need to take a moment to process this.

"You're Raza? The big tentacle monstrosity that I make a living out of drawing? You're telling me... that you're him?"

The being claiming to be a made up god sighed. "Oh, wonderful. I forgot all about the misgendering. Yes, I am Raza; through I am not a he. My gender is based on ideas and philosophies that cannot be articulated in your tongue, so I guess I have to pick one of your genders to identify myself with. While the idea of gender being binary is quite archaic to my kind, if I had to make a choice, I more closely identify with the female pronoun. I feel a connection to it, a strange sort of nostalgia. In my mortal form, before we ascended, the gender I identified with then was my species equivalent of it.

"Ascension?" Doubts about this being a dream started to swirl in Eddies mind.

Raza bought a hand to their face. "Oh how clumsy of me, I'm introducing you to so many advanced concepts and ideas and I haven't even properly introduced myself."

"Uh, yeah you did, you told me who you were, Raza." Eddie still had a hard time addressing the skeletal creature as Raza.

Raza laughed, it sounded like hissing gas. "No, not quite. I did not give you my full introduction, the same one I gave to Stewart so many years ago, the one that he refused to repeat in his introductory piece for me because he complained that it was to long. That didn't stop him for going on a ten page long rant of how people that looked different from him were scary in that same story. I will give you my title, the one that has been carved into every planet that worships me, the one that I gave to myself on my rebirth."

She looked up to the sky, and began chanting the following words. "I am the goddess that makes the universe decay, my blood has fertilized millions of worlds and my flesh has transformed trillion of life forms. My followers and worshippers incubate deep within the living, waiting patiently for their host's deaths so they can sprout from their remains and spread my teachings through spores and mitochondria."

Around her, the landscape seemed to ripen and then rot, turning from an unnaturally bright red to a pitch dark black in a matter of seconds, hills and mountains began to deflate and melt as yellow, thick, gas was released from deep within them.

"I am the natural state of the universe, death, decay, and corruption. I am the patron saint and guardian of the misunderstood life that blooms from the ashes."

The rotting landscape froze; pieces of dust became motionless, the endless cycle of death and rebirth ceased. Raza turned her eyeless face towards him.

"And the man you worshipped ignored all that and turned me into a racist metaphor for immigration."

The landscape resumed motion, the sky began blistering, resembling a time-lapse video of a corpse being devoured by nature.

"N-now lets get one thing straight I do not worship the guy, I think he's an abhorrent human being, I don't-"

"Don't act like you're guilt free, Eddie. Stewarts depictions of us is filled with disinformation and primitive beliefs, and you helped spread that disinformation to the public, you were gleeful in it, you were proud of it."

"I couldn't have known." Eddie protested, still not sure if this was actually happening. "How was I supposed to know?"

"That was our intention with contacting Stewarts, Eddie. If all had gone well, we would not be having this conversation, and you would know us as your rightful gods. He was supposed to let people know that we were gods, he wasn't supposed to act like we were his own creation."

People claiming ownership of your work, Eddie could relate. It was important that Eddie contextualized this encounter with his own experiences; it made this whole exchange a lot more manageable.

"He used our image as a vessel for his backwards, misinformed beliefs. We gave him just a small glimpse of our power, let him know who we are and what we were capable of, and he twisted it to conform to his sheltered world view."

Eddie felt a strange gnawing on his hands, and looked down to see them rotting away, bits of them dropping off his body as if they were pieces of a well burned marshmallow, he watch as they plopped onto the ground and merged, acting as fertilizer.

He screamed, but Rasa did not care.

"He was our preacher Eddie. He was one of the few of your world at the time that we thought seemed susceptible to our influences. The preacher is supposed to be a mouthpiece. They exist to spread are beliefs, not spread their own. Stewart used us, made us his puppets on this world, and now that he is dead, now that we have finally found ourselves unoccupied with the assault of the line eaters, we can finally focus on, as your clients would call it, "rebranding"."

As quickly as it fell off, Eddie's hand reformed, the lump on the ground that was once his hand did not disappear, bulbous flowers began to sprout out of the mound that was once his hand.

"Once again, I am getting ahead of myself. I should explain exactly how we spread knowledge of our existence."

"For every world we think is worthy we pick a preacher, someone who we feel is worthy, or at least has the mental fortitude, to learn and teach others of are existence. In some worlds, the inhabitants become faithful students, building massive organic temples out of their own bodies and terraforming their planets to resemble an amalgamation of all of our faces. But in other worlds, the preacher is branded a heretic and killed before they can even introduce the inhabitants to the concept of "Eye Sharing".

A small spot in the ground, which had the color of burnt toast that had gone bad, rose up six inches and it's top unfurled, revealing a small picture. Raze took the picture, and the lump of ground descended.

"But Stewart was an interesting case. Somehow, he managed to get people to learn of us, but was unable to get anyone to believe in us. I think it takes a special person to mess up that badly, don't you agree?"

She absentmindedly ripped off a piece of her self and threw it to the wind, where it drifted along lazily like some sort of flesh seed.

"We have become iconic here, Edward. People worship us here, like others world. But this worship is different; it gives us no power, as their worship is merely artificial. The ones on your world that say they worship us or prey to our name are inauthentic. And even if they did, even if they were sincere in their worship and held rituals in our name and even if they did dress in clothes fashioned of rot and decay, their worship would mean nothing to us. As the version of us that has been planted in your species conscious is so far removed from our true selves that it would be like praying to a completely different set of entities. You can see that this is quite the predicament."

"What do you... want me to do?" The ground he was standing on was in an endless cycle of decay and rebirth.

"You are already doing it, Eddie. Drawing us as we truly are."

She handed the picture to him with her strangely jointed claws. The picture was moving and changing, it was a sketch of rasa that was being drawn in real time, he watched in amazement as the drawing took shape and developed. 

It was not the blue muscular, tentacle, Raza that Eddie was used to, it was depicting the true Raza, in all her rotting glory.

Something about the art style seemed familiar. "Is this..."

"Yes, you are drawing us as we truly are. As you're dreaming mind gazes on me, your waking mind draws what it sees, unaware that it is drawing from reality. When you wake up, you will not remember this conversation, you will think that you have come up with a brand new original take on the mythos. And that is fine Eddie, we do not want you to be a follower, just want you to make it easier to recruit ones."

The full impact of this revelation did not have time to fully sink in, as Eddie felt his skin becoming to tight for his skull and his mind become more concerned with not suffocating.

"This has been a long time coming Eddie, don't think you're the only one we've targeted. Throughout your world, thousands of like-minded artists and writers are going through the same thing you are going through. Not all of them are being visited by me, I can only manifest myself in so many minds at once, some have the honor of meeting the one you know as Grash, others will get to hear the reality shifting melodies of the bather of sound. I am not the most understanding of my siblings, but this meeting could have gone a lot worse."

Eddie was too concerned with the shrinkage of his skin to notice what she was saying. "What is... oh god what is happening to me!"

Raza was unsurprised, "Yes, exposure to our proxy worlds will do that to mortals. If it makes you feel better, you wont remember any of this. That includes the pain."

Eddie's wild scrapings were having no effect on removing his skin, as the skin on his fingers had overcome his fingernails. Every hole and protrusion on his skin was covered.

Rasa kneeled beside him, and patted him on the head gently. "Just so we're clear, I'm not doing this. This is just your natural reaction to being in a place it shouldn't be. Your body is panicking, freaking out, it's doing things it shouldn't and it's so terrified that it's doing even more things it shouldn't. So, don't blame this on me. Okay Eddie?"

Eddie tried to say "please send me back, please wake me up." But found it difficult to do without a mouth.

"I would love to do that Eddie, really I would. But... I cant until your waking self finishes the drawing. If I woke you up now, that would sever the link."

She turned back; Eddie could tell a part of her was enjoying this. "Your body can only take so much pain before it becomes normalized. After a thousand years of this or so, you will start to enjoy it. I'm not implying you will stay here long enough for that to happen, but time does flow differently here, wouldn't surprise me if you perceive millennia to pass before you finally awaken. Of course, that's a worse case scenario, lets hope you are a fast drawer Eddie."

She left Eddie to be devoured by a thousand screaming hands.

The next day he stumbled into his clients desk, pale and weary, he plopped the drawing of the true Raza on her desk.

"Here you go... sorry I haven't returned any of your c-calls... I was hit with inspiration and-"

"What is this?" She asked, picking the picture off her desk "Is this supposed to be Raza?"

"...Yes" He said nervously, for a second panic and doubt overwhelmed him. 

"It's... actually, it's quite good. Sorry, I didn't mean to sound so surprised it's just... I wasn't expecting something so different, especially not from you."

"I was thinking of ways I could subvert the standard Rasa designs while still staying true to the character. There's a lot of stuff about Raza's appearance that W.L. kept vague, and I wanted to draw a Raza that, while not typical, didn't contradict any of Stewarts descriptions." A small part of him knew that everything he just said was a lie. 

She quickly texted someone, and handed the picture back to Eddie. "I. Love. It." She said, tapping her desk with every word. "This is just the kind of thing we're looking for Ed, it's the kind of thing are fans are looking for to. They want something new, they want a fresh take on the Stewart mythos, and this is certainly fresh."

"How would you like to do a whole series for us? Your version of all of Stewarts pantheon."

"That would be..." For a second, he wanted to say no, but that thought soon disappeared. "That would be wonderful!"

"Great! Just one thing through" She laughed apologetically. "I don't want to seem like a hypocrite or anything, but I think we need... at least one thing to make it recognizable as Raza."


"Could you just add a few nasty looking tentacles coming out of his mouth?"

He remembered the endless rot, he remembered feeling the colony of insects that flourished in his dead body for millennia, and he remembered what it felt like to experience the heat death of the universe. 

"No... they don't have tentacles."