Being a cop isn't easy. Especially not in Arkham. Our asylum's got to be the most famous in the country, and almost every one of the crazies locked up in there has had to go through me first. It's the same thing every day, you know? The force makes an arrest, I've gotta hear the newest nutball of the day's crazy rant, maybe get attacked once every other week just to make things interesting, and then put all their nonsense into clean, boring paperwork for the judge to look through.
Every time we send another one away, I tell myself "That's it! We're done. This is the last one." We must have locked up half of Arkham by now. There can't be any more crazies left, right? But no matter what we do, little kids will still disappear at night. And I still hear stories about the freaky shit that happens within the prestigious halls of Miskatonic University. Hey, you got a light? Thanks.
Anyway, as I was saying, fuck Arkham. I'm only still there because of the peanuts you get on a policeman's salary. If I could, I'd move away. Not like to Innsmouth or anywhere like that. That'd be just as bad. No, I'd move somewhere far. As far away from Arkham as possible. If that R'lyeh place the cultists talked about was real, I'd start packing. Then I wouldn't even need to be in the same goddamned dimension as Arkham. Dead serious.
Oh, right, the cultists. That's what you wanted to talk to me about, wasn't it? I'm sorry, I'm a rambler. Well, it had started just like any other day. A little better than a usual day, actually. I showed up at the station a little later than usual. I wasn't scheduled to patrol the streets until later that night, and that's how I like it. Sure, the really bad crazies come out at night, but so do the whores.
Anyway, I walk into the station, and I see a whole bunch of crazies in robes cuffed up. I don't know, must have been at least twenty of them. One of the officers, Howard, he wipes some sweat off his forehead, catches sight of me, and heads toward me. Howard's a nice guy, but he gets a little too into his work. He tells himself "I'm a policeman! People depend on me to bring order!" crap like that. No offense to Howard, but if he's the one responsible for order in Arkham, he's not doing a good job. But anyway, the guy's nice to have a smoke with when he's off duty, but if he tells you to do something, he's gonna expect it done perfectly. So I wasn't too excited when he started heading my way.
"What the hell is this?" I asked him. "A speakeasy bust?"
"Like the chief would let us take down the speakeasy," he laughed to himself. "It's a cultist ring."
"Cultist ring?" I repeated. It's not a phrase that comes up too often in everyday conversation, you know?
"Yeah, a cultist ring. Weird voodoo shit. I don't even know how to describe it. There was dancing, and fire, and dead bodies, and...it was the craziest thing I ever saw." That's when I knew this wasn't a typical case. "Craziest thing I ever saw," Howard said. That's not a phrase he'd toss around lightly. I met Howard fighting in the trenches, so if this was the craziest thing he ever saw, that meant it had topped the fucking Great War.
"What was it all about?" I ask him.
"That's your job," he says to me. He wanted me to interrogate every last one of those cultists. All by myself. I was tempted to take my piece and shoot myself in the head right there. Then he says "Be sure to ask them about this," and gives me this statue.
You know it? Yes, that's right! The statue of the freaky octopus thing. Did I think it was weird? Sure. I think Picasso's weird too. That's art for you. Didn't really faze me. So they send me into a room with the first cultist. He didn't look like I expected. I thought it was going to be some kind of hick, but he looked presentable. Aside from the robe and how he'd just had the tar beaten out of him by the police, I mean. He was young, too. Couldn't have been over twenty-five. I took a sip from my cup of coffee. This is great, I tell myself. I'm expected to ask a whole bunch of crazies about something I have no clue about. Howard could barely even begin to describe this cultist stuff, and he's the one who had seen it. What chance did I have? So anyway, I take a good look at the statue in my hand. It was actually kind of pretty, you know. If it wasn't evidence I might have kept it. I set it on the table, just slightly out of his reach.
"Do you-" I say to him. I only get two words in, and he starts shouting gibberish at me. Yeah, yeah, that was it. "Cthulhu fhtagn." I didn't react to it. Wasn't the first time a crazy babbled at me, and it wasn't the last either. I just look straight at him, calm as I can be, and I ask him "Do you want to tell us what was going on when we found you?"
And he tells me the story. I've got a feeling you know what it is already. He told me all about the Great Old Ones, and the evil underwater city, and the blind idiot god, and how when the stars were ready the little guy on the statue will show up and kill us all. By the time he finished his story, I didn't feel so good. My hands started shaking. Spilled coffee all over my shirt. I thought I had figured it all out, but hearing this Cthulhu stuff made me think good and hard about the world around me. You know why that is? Because it was the most bullshit story I had ever heard in my life!
Wait, what are you doing? Don't leave. You showed up to my house uninvited to hear what I had to say, so you'd better well let me finish. It's a long ride to here from Providence, and I know you don't want to have come this way for nothing. Now listen, I know you're upset about everything I've said. I'm sorry I can't answer your questions. I don't know who Professor Angell is. Only professors I know are those creepy old Miskatonic fucks who diddle little boys in their spare time. I haven't had any strange dreams lately, at least no stranger than usual. I wouldn't know about the arrests made by any department but my own, especially all the way over in New Orleans. I've never heard of a boat called the Vigilant in my life, and I've got no clue what a Necronomicon is. But there's one question I think I can answer for you. A question that you're not asking, but maybe you should. What the hell makes a guy join some crazy devil cult like this anyway? Oh, you're right, it's part of something primal, but probably not what you're thinking.
As I was saying, this guy had rattled off a story about this giant octopus man, and he was as sure about it as if he was telling me his own name. Even for Arkham, this was crazy. I stared at the guy for a long time, and I started thinking. He seriously believes all of this. Why? For years my job was pretending to listen to what the crazies had to say, then sending them off to the asylum, never to be seen again. I never gave a shit about who they were or where they came from. As far as I cared, they were just a part of Arkham. This town's made of roads, it's made of houses, it's made of the university, and it's made of crazies. But the Cthulhu story...I couldn't treat that as normal, especially when the station's packed with people who think the same thing. These are all human beings. They were children once. And they have stories.
"Why did you join this cult?" I ask him. He stares at me, scowling, and then he speaks.
"Because the time for Cthulhu's reawakening is..."
"I heard that part already!" I interrupt. "I want to hear about you. What's your name?" His face started to soften up a bit there.
"Phil," he said quietly. "Phil Dunwich."
"Dunwich, eh? Like the town? You from there?"
"No. I've lived in Arkham my whole life." I start smiling here. The big bad cultist's starting to open up.
"Really?" I say. "What do your parents do for a living? Maybe I know them."
"Maybe you do," he says, so weakly I could just barely hear him. Soon he opens up to me. His father died when he was just a kid. Afterwards his mother went crazy, and he suffered the worst of it. Maybe they're together at the asylum now. Anyway, eventually his mom's locked up, and Mr. Dunwich is an adult without a childhood, without a guide. He's wandering the darker parts of Arkham, and eventually the cult finds him.
I open the door, and Phil's taken by two cops, never to be seen again. I looked at him as he was dragged away. He wasn't smiling, of course. Nobody smiles when they're carted off to the asylum, but when I looked at his face there was a certain something in his eyes. He looked almost...relieved. Howard comes toward me.
"Did you find anything out, Grass?" he asks.
"Oh, I found out quite a bit." I don't say anything more than that. I know he'd lose his shit if I told him what I asked about. "Bring in the next cultist."
I spent that whole day listening to them. Really listening, not the fake shit I usually did to crazies. I know figuring this out doesn't really make me a genius, but it turns out happy, well-adjusted people don't go joining devil cults. Every last one of them had been screwed-over. These were the people that, for who knows why, the world decided they needed to suffer. There were rape victims, beggars, parents who lost their children to Arkham's famous kidnappings. A woman who lost her husband in the war. Some of them ended up there after something small, though maybe it wasn't so small to them. One of the guys joined the cult after some bitch decided she wanted nothing to do with him. And one of them was an accountant who just got sick of doing the same old shit again. It's all sort of funny, isn't it? I've spent my whole life ignoring the crazies, just being one more stop in their shitty life. But if things had went just a little differently, for me and for them, maybe I'd be in the asylum and they'd be outside. It's amazing what being screwed over can do to you. All it takes is for your life to head the wrong way just once, and you could be making sacrifices to some crazy octopus god.
It was night by the time I had finished. I called Howard outside for a smoke. I try looking as relaxed as I can. I didn't want him to know I was exhausted. He lights up, then looks up into the sky.
"The stars are nice," he says to me quietly.
"Real nice," I said back. You know, I don't think I ever stopped to just take a look at the stars before that night. Not since I was a kid, anyway.
"So did you find out what that cult was doing?" Howard asks me. I blow a puff of smoke into the air.
"They were being crazy, Howard," I tell him. "It's nothing to act surprised about. You know damn well what it's like in this town."
"I've never seen anything like that before, though. I mean...Christ, what drives man to do some crazy cult shit like that?"
"Christ," I say to myself. Now, here comes the important part. I look right back at Howard, and I say to him "Why do you believe in Jesus?" The cigarette nearly fell out of his mouth. I guess there's no way to ask a question like that without looking like an ass.
"W...Well," he stammers. "I believe that the Bible is..."
"But why do you believe?" I ask him again. "People wouldn't make a big deal about it unless there was something personal involved. What is it?"
"Well...comfort, I suppose," he says to me. "I think the idea of God caring for us all is...comforting."
"Yeah, me too," I tell him. I'm back to looking at the stars now. "I guess there's more than one kind of comfort, though. That's where the cultists came from." Howard's angry at me now. He's trying to hide it, but he is.
"What the hell does that mean?" he asked. And I explain.
"The cultists are ordinary people, Howard. They were ordinary people, and then something came around that they couldn't handle. That's why they think this...this thing is out there." I reached into my pocket and pulled out the statue. "They want it to be real. They want some huge monster to show up and destroy everything, because as far as they're concerned it'd be an improvement."
So there's my story. Hope it helps you on your investigation, whatever it is you're looking for. I may not be a genius, but I know where this cult comes from. It comes from something primal, something as old as man itself: unhappiness. There's plenty of reasons for it. Maybe it's the oldest emotion of them all. What's that? Well, I guess fear is a kind of unhappiness, isn't it?
Before you go, I've got one thing to say. A little confession. I know it sounds crazy, but I think I'm one of them. I still think the story's a load of crock, but...I kind of do want to see this Cthulhu guy. I really would want him to wake up. It beats another day in Arkham.