The Cthulhiad

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The Cthulhiad is a collection of short horror/macabre stories and comics written and illustrated by Gareth Sleightholme (some of which are published by Iron-Shod Ape).

To read the stories in order, rather than as they were posted, use the Chapter links in the column to the right.

The Story so far…

Nine people are dead.

Harry Running

Nine people discovered miles apart, both geographically and socially. Some murdered, some reported suicides, some cannot be explained at all.

Yet as Detective Inspector John Malham is slowly coming to realise, every one of these cases may in fact be linked by yet one more death,

…another apparent suicide; yet this time, one with no body on the slab.

And so the question is…


…who was Harry? And what the hell DID he do for a living? Even his friends aren’t sure it seems.

…and how many more bodies will pile up while Malham struggles to pull the threads of a case he really doesn’t want together?


Shapers – Book 1 – The Box

In the chill morning air the crude figure of a man is taking shape.

His final form as yet unclear, he grimaces through his stick-stiff beard and visored-helm as he struggles to be born beneath the iron blade and tempered blows of the wood worker’s mallet.

Small wooden flakes, little bits of “not-man”, fall like spinning seedpods from his unfinished body as it emerges from the thick, oak doorframe, descending gently to the ground where a large grey-muzzled hound lays half asleep, its heavy jowl pressed against the gently shuddering door surround.The dog, undisturbed until now by the blows of the craftsman’s hammer, suddenly lifts its head. Sniffing the air it lets out a grumbling whine, and with the reluctance of an old man struggles to its feet, dragging itself from the dim firelight of the house and into the foggy morning daylight that illuminates the Svear settlement.

The hound is no longer young, and his hips creak and grind like the spars of an abandoned ship on mornings like this. Yet as it pushes its still muscular frame into a run it feels a little of its past vitality return.

Heading down the dirt slope through the quickening village, it avoids the boardwalks where it can and scrabbles across them with great clawed feet where it cannot.

Now, with purpose, loping past a pair of young women burdened with water-pails, then leaping over an abandoned, yet still smoking camp fire. Shoving its way past children and knocking into the early morning inhabitants; barking all the while as if to sound an alarm.

The animal seems to draw the eyes, cries and pointed fingers of the entire waking village, until finally, with nowhere left to run, it reaches the estuary shore and begins to whine and pace, stepping in and out of the water as if unable to contain itself, as if able to smell something coming in under the mist with the morning tide.

For the past few days, by the edge of the river and on the heath-land close to the low walled border of the village, a tented shanty town has been developing. A group of men, denizens of the various small encampments welcome a pair of new arrivals, a father and son who have arrived by land from the south in two covered wagons.

Smoke drifts across the ground from fires both in and outside of the other waking households. While below, by the waters edge, a dozen or so small boats are moored by several rough wooden jetties that stretch into the lapping water.

Three larger ships have been dragged onto the shingle beach, warships, long-ships, dragon-ships, their serpent headed prows stowed away so as not to offend the local spirits of river and shoreline. One of the three, still with its striped awnings pulled over its midsection has a light within, still showing signs of habitation.

Close by a group of children playing by the waters edge stop mid game, one of them points out the dog to his grandfather who leans on his staff gossiping with the washerwomen at the shoreline. Turning the old man nods and whispers to another young lad by his side, who runs back along the path taken by the frantic hound, away and up the slope he runs, toward a large house built upon the higher ground that lay a little way from the shore.

The house, in truth a meeting hall as much as a living space, dominates the settlement of Thingsalla, a settlement which stretches from the brow of a long low hillside in the east and down toward the edge of the wide river.

As the boy reaches the great longhouse a large heavy cloaked man checks his pace. The man, the shorter of two guards posted before the door to the house is armed with a spjot, a tall spear of ash, tipped with a broad leafed blade. Shifting the weapon skilfully into the path of the youngster his cloak moves aside revealing a coat of mail and a sword hanging from a sheath slung across his broad chest. The boy points back to the old man by the water and with his assailant distracted, ducks beneath the spear of the disgruntled looking guard, disappearing inside.

Moments later the boy reappears from the doorway of the great hall, a huge, scarred and grey bearded man at his side whose mere presence causes the guards to straighten.

Hakon looks toward the river as the old man gestures to the dog with his staff, then shouts.

“The animal smells them… they’re coming!”

“And not before time.” the Jarl mumbles under his breath.

Then giving the young boy a hearty smack on the shoulder, his voice booming, shouts.

“Send the word lads! Tovi and Bryn are down river!  Prepare the quayside, we must celebrate and honour our friends! TOVI AND BRYN ARE RETURNED TO US!

With that he strides back into his house.

The old man gestures excitedly to the children who run off in all directions echoing the cry of their chief.


The Mermaid/Copenhagen – part 3

A Postscript –

The Cthulhiad: – “The Mermaid”

“I’ve loved so many times and I’ve drowned them all
From their coral graves, they rise up when darkness falls
With their bones they’ll scratch the window, I hear them call

Stay with me under these waves, tonight
Be free for once in your life tonight”

“Nightmares By The Sea” – Jeff Buckley

“You look different every time
you come from the foam-crested brine
It’s your skin shining softly in the moonlight

So until your blood runs to meet the next full moon
your madness fits in nicely with my own, with my own
Your lunacy fits neatly with my own
my very own
We’re not alone”

“Sea Song” – Tears For Fears

– September 13th, 2004

Harry, 55 degrees 41 minutes North, 12 degrees 34 minutes East.

As a child watching Danny Kaye singing on the TV, even much later as a relatively well travelled young man, I had always pictured Copenhagen to be further north, somewhere out on the mainland peninsula’s northern tip; close to where I now know the town of Skagen sits.

So it was with surprise that on my first trip to Denmark, almost a decade ago, that I found myself on the eastern coast of an island, closer in fact to Sweden than to my imagined destination. On that occasion, I recall, I had been filled with a heady enthusiasm that I had at last arrived in the greater “Viking” homeland.

I had in my youth developed a deep-rooted admiration for those great northern warrior-traders, I suppose it lingers still. Yet I had read so much and tasted so little of many places in those days.

Regardless, it was no doubt the ancient Norns, chuckling to themselves at their spinning wheel, that this time had lent a hand in my much less direct approach to this “salty old queen of the sea”; my flight not only being delayed but also diverted.

I arrived in Malmo, on the Swedish mainland, sometime after midnight and took a taxi straight to a hotel on the south side of the city, it came well recommended by the jaw-droppingly tall, yet equally pretty assistant at the special baggage counter. Over the years I’ve stayed in grand hotels and I’ve stayed in hostels, I rarely notice the difference if I’m working. All I want is a hard bed with a clean duvet and a bathroom with a decent power-shower. The hotel picked for me by the girl had both. I freshened up and then read myself to sleep.

A nightmare, in which I stumbled, blind with a dog snapping at my heels, woke me early the next morning. My heart was still pounding as I sat hunkered-down in the shower, the very real sensation of falling and the sound of the dog’s barks and yelps, and in the distance horns blowing, lingering even as I checked out of the hotel.

The mist coming off the Baltic had turned the early morning streets to monochrome. I checked the time on my mobile and decided to clear my head with a walk rather than getting a cab directly to the station. As I walked I thought I saw the mist-softened silhouette of a windmill, bringing back a fond memory of a sunnier, less portenteous day in the Dutch town of Zaandam.

002i – The Lance

Oxford, England, January 25th, 2001

So where did the ship take him…?

x The Worm page 007The writer does not say with certainty, he descends into ………… mystery and leaves us with three possibilities….

He suggests that the ship was the vessel of seraphs made manifest and so un-harmful to Georgius’ human eyes and mind, and in it they raised him to heaven with song and the light of sword of flame, a living man brought before the face of god, as Enoch and Elijah before him, there to prepare him to be that true knight of the lord we envisage in the legends that have come down to us.

x The Worm page 008

Others interpretations are that he took passage upon the mysterious ship back to the land of his father, and that of his father’s father; and there walked high into the mountains to a sanctuary dedicated by those of the early faith. Here he learned not only of the tenets and lore of his faith, but armed himself with other hidden secrets of the world held in that enclave, including the knowledge of arms…

Harry – It’s funny, that’s what I normally tell people I did…

Father Mac – There is time aplenty yet for us all to take that particular path my friend…