Cthulhu Listens to the Beach Boys
The original Pet Sounds recordings go missing
after a blank-faced man in mirrored sunglasses
breaks into the Capitol Records archives in Hollywood,
drives to the pier at Santa Monica,
and throws them, frisbee-style, into the ocean.
The disks waft through the waters of the Pacific
to settle gently into a nest of undulating arms.
Cthulhu’s only method of playing them is a hi-fi
he spat out like a seed after consuming
the cargo ship Marine Sulphur Queen off the Florida coast.
The mere act of placing the records
on the spindle, setting down the needle,
and watching the turntable begin to rotate
transports him back to Vhrool, the planet of his birth.
How its nauseating double-axis spin rocked him
to sleep, to dreams of emptiness and calming fire.
He hums along with Brian’s sunny
soprano in “You Still Believe in Me.”
As he wails the final plaintive line—
“I wanna cry-y-y-y-y”—an oil
tanker splits above the Great Barrier Reef,
its cargo spooling out across the waves.
The opening of “God Only Knows,”
the expanding bubble of French horn
floating above the staccato harpsichord,
reminds him of Idh-yaa.
Her teeth biting into his scales,
the green-wet gleam of her flat sides,
their lust collapsing a nearby cluster of stars.
On a whim, he transports five devotees, chanting
in a dark room in Massachusetts, to his deep-sea vault
and turns them into marine worms,
watching them wriggle over dark rocks
to the rhythm of sleigh bells.
He wishes he could claim responsibility for the shards
of The Beach Boys’ souls lodged in the vinyl.
But that was a lucky accident, a studio recording
assistant who happened to be a recent acolyte
of the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
He wanted the original tapes because “Good Vibrations”
didn’t end up making it onto the album.
It’s his favorite song—not because the theremin
sounds like the swooping cries of star-spawn at dusk—
but because when he listens to the Boys sing,
their voices layered like geological strata,
all those long i’s and ah’s stretch
like mouths open in an endless scream.
He drinks their horror, their triumph,
their abject fear and worship,
and it tastes like cinnamon and copper sulfide.
In separate bedrooms, Brian, Mike, and Al
wake in a cold sweat from dreams of dead
but never-dying Dennis and Carl,
while the Great Old One stops the record with one obsidian claw,
turning his ear as the echoes of “Sloop John B” decay
along the twisting halls of R’lyeh.
When she’s not teaching or editing, Kate Lechler writes about genetically-engineered unicorns and dragons from a lawn chair in her carport in Oxford, Mississippi. Her work has appeared in Podcastle, Fireside Fiction, and Arsenika, among other places. Find her at katelechler.com, or @katelechler on Twitter.