Swords v. Cthulhu is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as it shambles toward its summertime publication we’re going to be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Our next teaser is from Michael Cisco’s “Non Omnis Moriar” [Not All of Me Will Die], which is a sequel to “The Very Old Folk” by H.P. Lovecraft. As with the best follow-ups to the master’s tales, Cisco doesn’t seek to one-up the original or explain away its mysteries; instead, he uses it as a springboard for his own brand of profound dread, both existential and intimate.
Propraetor Marcus Foslius Felix awoke on the kalends of November to find himself acting proconsul for Hispania Citerior. On being acquainted with the reasons for this change, his first act was to appoint Publius Rutilius Grumio legatus of the twelfth legion, and by noon a thousand men were already scaling the pathway Libo’s party had taken into the mountains. They found the spot where their horses had been tied, and did not like the way some of the hoofprints were scuffed, as if the horses had been dragged on braced legs. The dogs found a patch of soil soaked in blood, not far off the track, but no body. It was as if someone had been run down and killed here, and the corpse picked up and taken away.
The trail led, as expected, up a narrow way, folded into a notch in the mountain. Libo’s party had marched through here the night before, up into a dense, but small, stand of trees, and had not come out. Nor had they come back. A large body of men would have torn up and marked the loose, rocky soil of the slopes, but there was no sign that they had left the path. If they had been ambushed, where were their bodies, the blood, the cast-off helmets, the broken gear? It was impossible; they had gone into that copse of trees, they had not come out, they had not retreated, and their bodies did not lie dead beneath the trees.
Grumio sent word back to Pompelo and marched deeper into the mountains.
Four days later, he returned with six captives: all of them Vasco shepherds who looked nothing like the other kind of people, whom Libo’s party had been seeking. The most prominent Vascones contended with Grumio indefatigably to save the lives of these captives and eventually, by going to Felix himself, managed to win clemency for all but one, who was crucified for failing to give adequate warning to Libo and his men. The remaining five, all very much the worse for wear, were quietly remanded to the custody of their own families.
Grumio had been compelled to admit that he had not been able to turn up a single one of the other kind of people. He had not even managed to discover the remains of any of the bonfires that eyewitnesses had reported seeing on that night, burning on the mountain tops…
For the rest, get Swords v. Cthulhu from Stone Skin Press
Michael Cisco is the author of many novels, including The Divinity Student, The Great Lover, and The Narrator. His stories have appeared in The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, Blood and Other Cravings, Lovecraft Unbound, Black Wings vol 1, and Aickman’s Heirs, among other titles. His latest novel is ANIMAL MONEY. Michael Cisco lives and teaches in New York City.