Nathan's Laserium: Phalanx Heresies

Nathan and I decided a good way to spur creativity would be to issue each other challenges.  To that end he gave me ten words with the instructions to use them all in an original piece of writing.  And in true Nathan form (and in true me form) he took up his own challenge brilliantly and completed his story long before I did mine.  (I am a gold medal procrastinator.  Nathan is just genius.)  The words he gave were: apocrypha, feign, balance, phalanx, carve, benthic, callous, vespers, compass, and trespass.  I know, right?  Here, then, is Nathan's brand new original submission to his own Laserium...


Phalanx Heresies

They say a map isn't a map unless it has two things: a scale and a North arrow. Otherwise it's just a picture. Maybe a diagram if you want to be generous.

The criteria for scripture is a little more vague. Divine inspiration would probably do it but you see the problem. Every "holy" book out there claims to be the one true and accurate revelation of the one true and actual god and all the rest are pure blasphemy, or at best, mere apocrypha.

One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that The Phalanx Heresies of the Spiroform Ammonite are undeniably a forgery, a hoax undoubtedly perpetrated by a lesser disciple of Lovecraft. The original copy was supposedly salvaged from a sunken Phoenician vessel, but archeologists quickly determined that the ink was of a type not invented until 1654 and the parchment was carbon dated to sometime in the last hundred years or so.

It purports to be the theology and teleology of a god of the deeps, a benthic nightmare in a nautiloid shell named Mim. Mim the Spiroform Ammonite. The theology is simple enough- Mim both creates and devours the world in equal measure, a balance preserved so long as proper obeisance is paid her. The teleology part claims that this is the true purpose of plate tectonics, to eventually bring about an end to all life as she devours the crust into her callous calcareous shell, when the aforementioned obeisance inevitably falls short.

No one pays it much mind. A whole lot of mumbo about a jumbo shrimp, the old joke goes. I have to feign disdain for it even as I complete my doctoral thesis on it. I can summarize my life's work, the past decade of grinding study and abject poverty, thusly: of course it's real. Not only is it the one True Scripture, but it is also a map. No scale or compass, but a map nonetheless. Turns out if you are an ammonite who swims backwards (when you're not busy being extinct, that is) then your maps are going to be drawn in that weird spirograph inside-out cartographic style that makes geography students go insane. Literally insane hee haha!  And you're not going to be so much interested in where North is, but how deep you are. Bathymetry.

So that's how you find an extinct god. Or at least, her temple. You study the contour lines and where the lines intersect, a map-making no-no that applies equally underwater as above ground, easy peasy, you go investigate that anomaly. If you think it's easy to get the oceanography department to lend their bathysphere to a Religious Studies doctoral candidate, well, then I guess you are a person who gets the words "borrow" and "steal" mixed up all the time. I know I do! But if you're going to trespass on an underwater doomsday cult then grand theft submarine doesn't seem so bad.

To protect you, I'm not going to give any coordinates or details you might use to try and retrace my steps. It was a standard-issue deep sea dive just like you saw on Jacques Cousteau's Wonderful World of Disney or whatever it was called. Let's just say I made it in time for Vespers. Or as they call it, The Inalterable Finality of Ultimate Destruction. Kind of like Xmas, but with more apocalypse.

My favorite passage from the Phalanx Heresies: "Woe to you. Yes, you. You too, over there hiding. Woe all around to everybody! For none may escape the many tentacles of the Spiroform Ammonite in her displeasure. She shall carve a new shell for herself out of the very bones of the earth. You don't even have to kneel. You just have to die. This Inalterable Finality of Ultimate Destruction will be so inalterable that she doesn't even mind revealing unto you her secret weakness for bright lights, for such things don't even exist in the crushing pressures of her boudoir. Hide, if you can. Varshnathex (Ammonite word for Jupiter) should be safe. Maybe." It goes on like that, but you get the picture.

If this were any other story, my fight with Mim's acolytes, a Boschian collection of lanternfishes, megalodons, giant squids, yeti crabs and other things as yet undiscovered by science (not to mention some things that science would deny could even exist in this universe), would be turned into epic poems and songs and put on golden records and blasted off in a space probe to Varshnathex and beyond. But they were just gnats in my way. Oh yeah I forgot to tell you I outfitted the bathysphere with all sorts of awesome weapons that I got from the Religious Studies war museum.

Anyway. I entered the sanctum of Mim. She was there. She was huge. She was wroth. Impossible multitudes of tentacles wriggled and squirmed, pulsed and burrowed. I could feel the rumblings of tectonic plates as they struggled free of their moorings upon the Earth's mantle. For a moment, I despaired. But then I remembered my ultimate weapon. Headlights!
Reader, I harried Mim.

When it was over, I parked the submarine in in its berth, left a little note apologizing for the ammonite goo, and went back to my tiny office in the Religious Studies department to hand in my thesis. Strictly speaking, much of it was no longer true but I think I'll still earn the doctorate. It'll say Philosopher of Religious Studies but I'll know it's really a PhD in saving the world.

You're welcome.


- Nathan Waddell  (@nathanwaddell1 on Twitter)