Saturday, 8 May 2010

Cthulhu’s Dark Cults: “The Nature of Faith” by Oscar Rios

In my forth profile on the various stories appearing in Cthulhu’s Dark Cults, I’m going to focus on Oscar Rios and his tale “The Nature of Faith”.

Oscar is probably today’s most prolific writer for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. He has appeared in several Chaosium monographs including his own Ripples from Carcosa and The Ravenar Saga. He then appeared twice in Miskatonic River Press’ first publication, Tales of the Miskatonic Valley. He was then asked by Miskatonic River Press to join the team as a staff writer and associate editor, and ever since he has been churning out material at a phenomenal speed.

Oscar lives in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area. By day he is the assistant manager for a crematory in Astoria, Queens. He is also a happily married husband and father of two.

“The Nature of Faith” is Oscar’s first foray into fiction writing. In his novella he takes us into the haunts of Lovecraft Country and the town of Dunwich. His inspiration was the Keith Herber classic gaming supplement, H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich. Oscar has this to say about his contribution:

“I was thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of this collection, but I wanted to explore a different aspect of the traditional mythos story. I wanted to write a love story because who does that? I also wanted to explore one of the most harmless cults in the Cthulhu Mythos, the Believers of Dunwich. Lastly, I wanted to delve into the struggle between modern and ancient, between urban and rural, between scientific discovery and metaphysical balance. The main characters in this story are people firmly grounded in one of these two camps; one a professor of ancient history and the other member of the Believers cult.

“The inspiration for this story came when I was in Catholic grade school. In science class we were learning about evolution and two periods later we learned about creation in our religion class. Our young minds struggled to decide which was right. The title of the story, “The Nature of Faith” is something said by my science teacher at the time while discussing this difficult topic.”
An extract from the story follows:

Oscar Rios

Dunwich, Massachusetts, United States, 1927

The spring storm swept up the coast, covering all of New England in thick clouds and pouring rain. In the hills of Dunwich this was a good thing. Farmers had smiled as they looked out over their newly planted fields of pumpkin, corn and wheat, reassured that their crops would get a right proper soaking. As the storm raged through the night, some of that smile faded as they moved to lock their doors. Strange things sometimes moved out of the Dunwich Hills on nights like this.

Visible only in the infrequent lightning flashes, a filthy, ragged creature stood motionless in the pouring rain. After a moment, it shook itself off, eyes darting about in confusion. It muttered to itself, then crept out of the wilderness and entered Dunwich Village.

With long white hair matted to its body, claws caked with earth, the creature moved with purpose, stealthy on its bare feet towards the home of Andy and Mildred Tanner. Rattling the back door but finding it locked, it nimbly scaled a nearby tree, climbed across an overhanging branch to a window on the second floor. Effortlessly, it reached out, opened the window and shimmied into the darkened room, closing the window behind it.

Once inside, the creature let out a long sigh, shaking out its soaking wet hair with its hands, and began fumbling for the light switch. Crash! Down came a ceramic shaving cup and the straight razor beside it, shattering loudly as it struck the floor.

Down the hall the sleeping couple sat bolt upright. They listened, hearing the sounds of movement from their bathroom. Andy Tanner crept out of bed, moved to his closet and loaded his shotgun with salt shot. He waved for his wife to remain in the room. She shook her head mouthing the word “No”. Together, hearts racing, they crept down the hall.

They halted, hearing water filling the sink. Holding the weapon steady Andy cried out. “Al’rite now, ye come outta there this instant. This here’s private property. No funny business now, I’ve got a gun.”

Slowly the door opened. In the lit doorway was a girl, soaking wet in a filthy sundress. Her white hair matted, her pale skin splattered with mud like some crazed feral thing. Then she smiled, her ice blue eyes shone with mirth. “Yer not gunna shoot me, are ye Andy? Beside, it’s just rock salt. It won’t really hurt me, just sting like the dickens.”

The shotgun instantly lowered, the pair relaxed for a moment, but only for a moment.

“Damn it Gerdy, I couldda shot ya! What the hell are you doin?” Andy asked.

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