“The Dyer Report” – Scientific Flash Fiction From the H.P. Lovecraft Cosmos

“Your career is going south, so you might as well, too.”

That’s how all this started. Dr. Yaeger had thought me mad or stupid to believe something so outlandish as the Dyer Report but I saw what she couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. It didn’t matter now, in the ice caves at the bottom of the world. If one allowed for the errors of early modern geology and biology in 1931, Dyer and company knew what they were doing.

No one would accompany me, whether to Antarctica in general or to the cave I chose in particular. Breaking rule one of spelunking, I went in alone at the foot of Erebus. After several hundred feet, I turned off my flashlight to see what the place looked like on its own. As my eyes adjusted, a dark radiance came to my notice. I had no way to know if it was a type of glowing algae, light filtering through the ice above, or the result of cosmic rays striking the largest crystal lens on Earth.

Other caves had already yielded a bounty of new life forms, 20 phyla, a 10% increase in the catalogue of life at one swoop, though all of it related to known biota. But none had entered this, the deepest of the caves. Through some unknown source, wind sang and howled through it at odd hours when the air was still outside. I could hear it now, a bass piping in harmony with itself. And thus I found my feet moving to the rhythm of the dark band leader, the hard training of a marching musician still embedded. The primordial god’s dark heartbeat led me deeper, downward, and inward, to the warmer realms of volcanic heat.

Shedding my outer layers of clothing, I continued onward, still relying on the soft glow from around me. As I came to the beginning of rock, the strange radiance was replaced with the umber glow of distant lava. The ground, though coarser than the ice tunnel, was firmer for the first stretch. The distant heat animated wisps of steam around me as the floor became slightly sticky with heated rock, as it seemed then.

At length I came to a wide cavity, the worm-path ending, or beginning, in a wide ledge that ran the space’s circumference. Below, I saw what I had come to see. They were real. Dyer was far more right than he could have known. Leaping, frolicking, trilling among the ledges and islands of solid rock were the protean monstrosities I had expected. Widely differing in size, the multinucleate masses cavorted in the light and proved to be the source of the strange piping heard above. Dyer did not name them save in conjecture. He was not entirely certain that he saw one and poor Danforth never said much of anything. I have no doubts.

I have seen the Shoggoths at the bottom of the world.

And I will return for them.

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Inspired by the science article: “A hidden oasis for life in Antarctica’s volcanic ice caves