Teasers to Lovecraft: Asamatsu Ken

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today we turn our attention to Asamatsu Ken, who is both a prolific author and the foremost authority on all things Lovecraft in his native Japan. His tale “Glimmer in the Darkness”(translated by Raechel Dumas) entwines the extraterrestrial theories of John Keel with both Lovecraft’s Mythos and, more intriguing still, his biography…


The man who entered the café was dressed in a brand new black suit and wore a shiny derby. Over his left hand hung a pristine coat — also black — constructed of thick cloth. Among the shop’s patrons, only two noticed him: the waiter and a young man of nineteen years of age, who sat in the corner, relishing a bowl of ice cream. It was December 25, 1909, Christmas afternoon.

A swarthy Oriental — probably a Japanese, though possibly a Chinese — the man in black was of a sort clearly not permitted to enter a place like this. He wore a bewildered expression and glanced about restlessly, as though seeking someone’s assistance. The youth quietly raised his right hand and beckoned him over.

Appearing as though he had been rescued, the man at last removed his derby and approached the youth’s table.

“Er… I’m quite unaccustomed to shops like this.” The man seemed to be suffering from a respiratory illness, for he loosened his collar with a gasping wheeze. He asked the waiter, who had arrived to take his order, to bring him the same thing the youth was eating. Somehow or another, it appeared as though he didn’t know the term “ice cream.”

“Are you an Oriental?” the youth asked. If he were Japanese, he would by all means listen to him. Ah, the beauty of a haiku’s meter and moment, the strange folklore of Lafcadio Hearn. Were the man Chinese, he hoped to learn something of Daoist magic. The youth was a poet.

“Yes… no. I’m from Boston. Tiny Smith’s the name.”

“Mister… Tiny Smith?” The youth raised his brows. Being so tall in stature, the man was anything but slight. And Smith? Perhaps he was of mixed blood, part-Oriental and part-English.

“Well… uh, it’s…I have a government job.” As he said this the man pointed to a three-pointed insignia attached to the lapel of his business suit. In the center of the isosceles triangle was the image of an eyeball. The youth recognized the symbol. It was a Freemason’s mark. His Grandfather Whipple, who had died five years prior, had frequently shown it to him, when he was a young boy.

“A Boston Mason then?” the youth pondered as he gazed at the man’s swarthy visage.

Before long the waiter returned and placed the ice cream in front of Tiny, who picked up the silver bowl with both hands. He opened his mouth wide, as though to swallow it whole.

“Excuse me, but… you don’t use a spoon?”

“Huh?” Dabbing ice cream from around the perimeter of his mouth, the man raised his face.

“A spoon, a spoon,” said the youth, showing the man his small piece of silverware.

“Use this!”

“Huh? Ooooh, yes. Of course.” Tiny clumsily grasped the spoon and, restlessly turning his head to survey his surroundings, began downing his ice cream. As he watched Tiny, the youth developed a steadily swelling sense of anxiety, a feeling as though he were being slowly but steadily crushed. The man was somehow abnormal. Somehow… mad.

Mad.

You’re too ugly to go out in public! From somewhere his mother’s voice resonated. Howard! What a face! With your twisted nose and flattened chin…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Asamatsu Ken is a writer and anthologist born in Hokkaido and presently residing in Tokyo, Japan. His pseudonym, a Japanese rendering of “Arthur Machen,” reflects both his keen interest in the supernatural and his decidedly global literary tastes. Asamatsu was a 2006 nominee for the short story division of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award and is the editor of the four-volume Cthulhu Mythos anthology Lairs of the Hidden Gods. Also available in English is his novel Queen of K’n-Yan, as well as short stories appearing in Cthulhu’s Reign, The Mountains of Madness, and the 2011 charity anthology Kizuna: Fiction for Japan.

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