404: The Dream Quest of Unknown PagePosted by Howard Phillips | General
My fateful tale started on the night of October 31st, inside my small apartment. The encounter, which I have never recounted to anybody, happened when I woke up to my cat circling my feet. I fell asleep in front of my computer again. This is nothing unusual. It has been happening for the past month or so. But at that moment, I realized that something was out of the ordinary.
They say that cats can see what the human eyes cannot. They can feel what mere mortals cannot feel. And for a while, my cat simply sat there just staring at me. This, too, was nothing abnormal—that is, until he leapt from his post and ran, frightened, out of the room.
My cat saw the thing before I did. And if I had half his mind or wits, I would have ran too. But my all-too-human nature to satiate my own curiosity was overwhelming. I needed to see what the cat saw. I needed to know what it was that frightened him so. My interest overpowered all my logical fears, and I urged a backward glance.
It was then that an unnamable specter appeared before me. A mass of black, illuminated by my computer’s screen. It was murmuring words that were beyond my comprehension and was reaching out a rotten looking limb towards me. This was the last thing I saw before I blacked out, fainting from shock.
The following morning, I awoke with a start. My heart was still racing when I moved to get up from where I had fallen; willing myself to believe that the encounter was nothing but a bad dream. Something conjured up from the depths of my own overactive imagination. I must admit, I was near madness before the thing manifested; it was work. Work had pushed me to the edge.
It was then that I remembered what I had been working on before the specter appeared. A monster of a website that I had been perfecting for months, writing line after line of code, losing sleep and barely seeing anyone else aside from my cat. Forgetting the eldritch horror that manifested itself in my room just hours prior, I ran back to my computer, tripping over a puddle of an unknown substance, and inhaling the stench from it causing me to feel nauseous as I reached my desk.
But that was not the worst of it. As I sat down, my eyes went wide in fear as I gazed upon my computer screen. Along its edges were dark fungus-like growths which were still spreading even as I watched. Fear had me frozen in my seat, almost as if the thing was spreading along my arms, keeping me where I was. That was when I noticed the manuscript beside my screen, upon it were words I did not recognize.
“Phnglui mglwnafh Cthulhu Rlyeh wgahnagl fhtagn”
Fear had me in its grip, but I refused to back down. I have to check if my work is still intact—if I had managed to save it before I fell asleep. Slowly and carefully, I began to wipe the fungus from my screen, with each wipe came a silent prayer for my work to have survived. Things became clearer and clearer as minutes passed by, but the stench only grew stronger and stronger.
Then I saw it. My code! It was intact and untouched. My scream of joy could have woken up the entire neighborhood, but I did not care. In that moment, not even fear could hold me back. And so I continued with the work, even with bloodshot eyes, and an empty stomach. I typed and typed until the page was filled, the seemingly antiquarian language from earlier temporarily gone from my mind.
The sun had already gone down by the time I was done. I even tested it out and the website was working perfectly! I had succeeded and overcame my fear. Nothing could stop me now.
At least, that was what I wanted to believe. I got up from my seat and moved to the bed, noticing that my cat had crawled to the very corner of the room with every inch of his hair standing on end. He was making a noise unlike anything I had heard before; frightened or angry, it was difficult to tell. Just as I approached him to check if he was okay, my eyes fell upon the glowing screen of my computer. I let out a terrified scream as I watched long, dark tentacles reaching out from beyond that small square.
I couldn’t move again. I could only watch in stunned silence as it neared me, wrapping around my ankles and dragging me into the screen before I could fight back. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in an abysmal place. No light could be seen and everything was cold, so very cold. Every breath I took was filled with the stench from earlier. It was only after some minutes that I felt the darkness around me move, brushing past my arm. I fell back, but it was everywhere.
Then it took shape. Monstrous. Nothing that could have come from this world. I ran, but my feet couldn’t take me far enough from it. Exhausted, I fell on what I believe to be the ground and found my only hope for salvation.
A keyboard, covered in the same fungus that was on my computer, lay close enough for me to reach. I grabbed it, and though I knew nothing of the horror that towered before me, I did what anyone else would have done at the time.
I pressed DELETE.
I can’t remember how many times I did it, but I pressed the key as many times as it took to remove the monster from my sight. When I opened my eyes again, it was gone and I was back in my room. The night had gotten deeper and my room was dark, save for the moonlight that illuminated my darkened screen.
Then, I felt it. My heart dropping.
I rushed to my desk, but it was too late. Everything I had been working on, every line of code I had written, it was all gone. Deleted and wiped from this plane. My cat approached me apprehensively and all I could do was hold him close as I wept for my loss. Out of desperation, I typed out the website URL, just to see if somehow, my code had not disappeared after all. That this was nothing but a very vivid dream.
However, what loaded was nothing but a blank page. I ran out of my house, the cat in my arms, the moment I saw what was written on it.
“Phnglui mglwnafh Cthulhu Rlyeh wgahnagl fhtagn”