H.P. Lovecraft is best known in the Digimon fandom as the inspiration for the Dark Ocean episode of 02 and a good deal of Tamers. Yet it occurs to me that his stories, which typically describe the discovery of unearthly monsters and things which should not be driving men to madness, have a certain commonality with Digimon Adventure, although the tone is completely different.
This fic is a homage to his writing, and an exploration of that similarity.
I had investigated my brother's disappearance for the three years since I obtained my professorship, yet I knew no more about it than I had when I was a baffled little girl of eight years, until a letter from a Professor Takenouchi of Folklore, from a certain university in Kyoto arrived at my doorstep. His own daughter had disappeared in similar circumstances that August 1st so many years before, but he offered little in the way of concrete evidence, merely a strange inscription in some bizarre and ancient mode of writing I was told translated to "Mon" and a suggestion to contact Yukio Oikawa of Odaiba in person, for "the internet was not safe from their eyes."
I had almost crumpled the message, for the suggestion in itself seemed wholly strange, but the very fact that he had bothered with the post office illuminated the sincerity with which he held this view. Oikawa's residence was not far from my hometown in the neighborhood of Hikarigaoka (a name which had led to no shortage of puns on my own, Hikari Yagami, when I was younger) – but Odaiba had become host to a strange fog since the incident, and a part of me feared to venture there.
Yet with my brother's fate, and that of Sora Takenouchi still wrapped in mystery, I was duty-bound to venture further.
It was on the way out of my apartment that I would first encounter the monsters, although I had not understood it at the time. Despite its golden tail ring, inscribed with letters even I could not recognize, and its large yellow gloves, I believed it to be nothing more than a white housecat. Surely, its owner was an eccentric one, but I must admit to not knowing everyone in my own apartment, and I thought nothing more of the feline until it tried to kill me.
I had barely turned in time to see it jump five feet in the air and its outstretched claw – long, black, and recalling a lion or leopard far more than the common housecat I believed I was faced with – make a slash towards my neck. I swiftly ducked and ran down the stairs with a brisk speed to which I was completely unaccustomed. Only when I reached the ground floor did I realize that the cat was nowhere in sight; given the speed and jumping ability it had earlier displayed, had it wanted me dead badly enough to pursue me, I would not be around to recount these and later events. Perhaps it had simply reconsidered, or it feared exposure, as though a woman bleeding severely from a cat's slash would have provoked anything other than confusion.
Travel to Odaiba itself passed without incident, but when I exited the train station I found the fog which had covered that island for the prior three years to have somehow completely dissipated. Had I not seen it from a distance on a visit to Tokyo Tower a year ago, I would have doubted whether there was ever any fog at all, or if it was merely a hoax foisted by the news media on an unsuspected public. Yet my meeting with Yukio Oikawa would give me far, far more to doubt.
The story he related to me was implausible, and the enthusiasm with which he told it as disturbing as the facts which he related. Computer technology was not the mere development of Babbage and Turing and Cold War research and development; this was little more than a cover story. The technologies which had revolutionized our age had been made possible by somehow manipulating a pathway to a parallel world, filled with countless monsters beyond human comprehension. Moreover, for reasons at which Professor Oikawa could only surmise, which I suspected to be the digital revolution itself, the barrier which had long separated the worlds had begun to break down.
He then showed a picture from the terrorist attack on Hikarigaoka bridge in my childhood, which had been pinned on the Japanese Red Army, who to this day continue to deny responsibility – a denial I had thought less than convincing. Yet his photo of the two beasts could not be dismissed as something else, as the blurry photos of cryptozoologists and other conspiracy enthusiasts so often were. Image manipulation was a possibility, but it would have required not only an expert, but one with a frankly inhuman imagination, one who could both fool Professor Oikawa and find a way to draw such strange creatures and make them fit in so perfectly with the surroundings. Perhaps I simply believed him because it meshed with a distant, now half-awakened childhood memory.
One of the creatures was a giant orange reptile, reminiscent of older depiction of the tyrannosaurids, with blue stripes and a brown horned helmet; its size had not been seen on land since the Mesozoic, and its color scheme, an orange much brighter and out of place than any tiger, likely never existed even then. The other was a creature one could liken to a parrot, if parrots had been as tall as dinosaurs; nothing that big could possibly fly, yet its wings seemed to show no other function. Yet its claws bore more resemblance to New Zealand's extinct predatory birds, and its white helmet seemed entirely out of place in this world. They had fought each other from opposite sides of the bridge, and their ferocious battle, not any terrorist organization, I am certain had been responsible for its destruction.
The old professor broke down soon after, madly raving about his own desire to enter and explore the digital world and wailing of his jealousy of my brother. Convinced that I would obtain no more useful information from him, I soon took my leave, only to hear him yell "Pipimon, I'm so sorry!" in a sudden moment of lucid regret from a distance, seconds before my train home arrived.
I did not know who Pipimon was, nor had he deigned to communicate a word about him to me in his lengthy earlier explanations. It was most likely that his connection with this creature (if it indeed was a creature, and not simply a man with an unusual name) was a personal one, but that was as much as I could know.
He had, however, given me a lead – and it was my very home.
I returned to my apartment to find a strange device on my computer table, a beaten-up, silvery white item which bore some resemblance to an old gameboy or perhaps a virtual pet. In shape, it would have been rectangular, except that its designer had replaced the corners with sharp, internal curves as though to deprive it of a convex shape. I fiddled absentmindedly with the buttons, and it shone suddenly to my surprise with more brightness than any flashlight, television, or computer and indeed more than I thought possible for an LCD screen. Panicked and half-blinded, I pressed the button again, and to my relief it turned off.
An internet search for the phrase "Hikarigaoka bridge" and the word "terrorist" – my one lead – led me so far into nowhere that the absence itself was surprising, as though I was searching for information on an illegal topic in a totalitarian state. Apart from the news articles describing the incident at the time, which showed such extreme similarity that they not only seemed to cover the same event, but to be the same article rewritten once for every major news organ in Japan, there was nothing. No survivors testimonies (which should not have surprised me, if there had truly been no casualties) no witness accounts, not even casual mentions years later on the internet from people in the area. I had thought briefly of inspecting the bridge itself, but this was wholly outside my field of knowledge; even had it been the day after the incident, nothing except the giant bird's feathers would have let me discern a monster battle from a bombing. And by now the bridge had been rebuilt and traversed so many times that any evidence was long gone.
Yet it was here that my elder brother had disappeared from, here where these strange and eldritch monsters had chosen to do battle. If there was a clue anywhere, it was here! With great frustration I tightly grasped the strange device on my computer's desk, then witnessed a dazzling light and passed out.
I awoke outside in a strange land, surrounded by purple and green trees and vegetation, against the backdrop of a tall mountain and a sky that looked as if it was painted by watercolors. The device which had carried me here had stopped shining, but it had come with me, so I clipped it to my waistband; it was too important to ignore. Apart from a wholly modern, completely out of place, and of course unplugged vending machine in the distance, there was no sign that this land had ever been touched by human civilization.
Round creatures about the size of soccer balls, but with eyes and various features which seemed randomly placed on their bodies to distinguish them from their compatriots, bounded by me as I walked through the brush. Some could claim a horn, others a plant growth or a jelly shape; one was black in color and another yellow. The creatures shied away from me, whispering in strange and monstrous voices, but I heard what sounded a great deal like the word in my own language for human.
With no compass to point the way north, each direction was as good as any other, and my curiosity carried me in the direction of the vending machine. It was a normal vending machine, containing normal selection of sodas; the only oddity I noticed, apart from the obvious in its location, was a tiny work of graffiti, written near the bottom in green ink, containing some sort of runic table, which among many other strange symbols contained a rune I recognized from my feline assassin's tail ring.
The machine could not possibly have been functioning in such a strange land, but I had grown thirsty over the course of the day, and this thirst for a moment overwhelmed my sense of logic. I inserted a small amount of change and pressed the button for a can of cola, and the entire front wall of the machine plummeted to the ground, revealing not a selection of drinks but a hollowed-out shell, and the monster who had taken this machine as its home. I soon screamed as loudly as I had since my childhood, not so much for the vending machine collapsing in front of me as for the monster's disgusting visage.
In form, the creature resembled a slug or a snail, but it was about the size of the average housecat. Its green body was the color of sewage, with deep purple specks dotting its body, and tall, white but perpetually bloodshot stalk eyes atop its head. Its mouth was enormous and contained teeth fit for a piranha, and it was open to let its no less large, red tongue drag in front of it along the ground.
I turned and fled in the opposite direction, only for another of its bizarre race to pop up in front of me from the ground; I wondered just how many surrounded me, but it was here that I lost all hope of escape.
It was then that the first beast I met spoke, and despite the strange runes often associated with these monsters, its spoken language was a fluent and unaccented Japanese: "Don't you want to find your brother?"
With those words, at once I remembered my mission and lost all desire to escape. If this abomination, whatever it was, actually knew a way to find my brother, I had no choice but to swallow my fear. And it was the only lead I had in this strange place. "Yes. Where is he?" I asked, not thinking to wonder how it knew of my mission, and hoped the creature would not take advantage of the desperation in my voice.
"Beneath the earth, held captive in Mugendramon's city," the beast answered. It gave its name and the name of its people alike as Numemon, and related a tale of awful slavery which I would like to call as alien as the rest of our world. The details differ, for sanitation work has rarely been paired with slavery in our own history, and their ability to do this task rested on a disgusting association with fecal matter possessed on earth only by microbes and certain insects. But the tale of being worked to death by a cruel overseer and never seeing the sun was all too familiar, and my instinct of compassion overrode my disgust at the visage of the depraved abominations I then hoped to save.
I wondered then what cruel torments my older brother faced; he was clearly not a Numemon, and lacked the unnatural talents and tolerances of that species. But the story I was related mentioned that when the sewers were cleaned, they would merely be moved to the generators, to join slaves of other species in generating electrical power through manual labor – a woefully inefficient way of doing so. I wondered if their technology was truly so far behind our own that they could only generate electricity through manual labor, or if sadism, not energy, was this Mugendramon's true purpose. Regardless of the villain's motivations, turning these iron wheels in a chain-gang was something a prisoner of our race, with our strong arms and opposable thumbs, was entirely capable of doing, and the thought frightened me even more than this monstrous world.
Too terrified for him to be reluctant, I agreed to ally with these beasts against a far crueler monster, and together the three of us (for I was not in truth surrounded; this had merely been a clever ruse) set out for Mugendramon's city.
An hour's journey later, I entered a monstrous, bizarre imitation of every metropolis on Earth. Great monuments from all around the Earth from the Roman Colosseum to the Sears Tower were packed together in a city which defied all semblance of rational urban planning. It was a Trantor or a Coruscant packed into about a hundred square miles, patrolled and inhabited by half-mechanized dragons and walking, empty tanks and gray floating gears.
But I would have no chance to comprehend the enormity of its architecture, for I had come to rescue a prisoner, and my brother, the creatures assured me, was not being held captive on the surface. The Numemon led me into the sewers, through a network of tunnels vaster and more disturbing than the catacombs of Paris, filled with graffiti in that strange alphabet of that world accompanied by elaborate frescoes of war. And our journey had become all the longer than even this maze implied, for more than a few times we were forced to take longer routes which my green and fecal allies assured me were free of the slave patrols.
After so many twists and turns that I wondered if I had found the labyrinth of Minos in this strange and digital world, at the next lengthy corridor I saw the Numemon shudder so much that I wondered if they were about to melt. When I saw the mechanical beast before me, I realized that something had gone horribly wrong.
I can not hope to do its appearance justice, nor do I wish to do so, for the sight of it still vividly haunts my dreams. It was silver in color, but red at the joints. It looked as if someone had crossed a tank with a mobile suit, and then slapped a mechanized dragon's head on it; the "dra" syllable in its name certainly recalled a dragon. Two enormous cannons towered above its head, but its whole body was covered in an arsenal of weapons, from claws on its limbs to an array of smaller guns anywhere god or nature (for I know not what force could create such an awful creature) could find room to place one.
"You have done well to bring her to me, Numemon," Mugendramon spoke, and its enormous cannons began to light up in my direction. Its voice was so robotic that I know not if it spoke in appreciation or mockery, nor can I tell you if the Numemon were truly resistance fighters, or if this was a story they had concocted to capture me for their emperor.
"Infinity Cannon." The twin enormous cannons lit up, and I searched in vain for somewhere to duck behind or dive out of the way, but the width of the blast of golden light made that impossible. I suspect it to have been nuclear energy, and the attack a miniature atomic bomb, although I can not prove so much as the existence of a nuclear force in such a bizarre dimension. Suffice it to say that the two Numemon beside me were engulfed, and when the blast cleared all that remained were specks of green dust floating away. Had they truly been resistance, it was a heroic death; had they betrayed me, they had been betrayed in kind. And yet somehow, I had survived the attack.
My body now glowed with white light – not the light of the cannons, but some other force entirely, either some strange property of humans in this world, or more likely the light of the device on my waist which had brought me here. A different light shone down on me from the outside, for the ceiling of the sewer itself had been obliterated by that blast.
The feline who had made an attempt on my life this morning also suddenly emerged when the cannon blast cleared. It became apparent at this point that it had followed me all the way to this world, for many of the strange noises I had attributed to the sewers found a new explanation in the sound of its paws. Yet it had ceased to be hostile; its claws pointed not my way, but towards this city's infinite dragon warlord.
"You are not needed here, Tailmon. The Numemon have ensured this girl will die despite your failure." Tailmon kept her mouth shut, but strode boldly towards the light radiating from my body, and became engulfed with its strange and transformative power. She emerged as an angel crossed with a beautiful woman, clad in white with golden breastplates and eight shining wings. A silver helmet covered her eyes, but she did not seem in the least blinded as she stood, crossed her arms, and froze the dragon in a pink cross of light. For once in this world, I had met someone warm, someone almost human. She gathered me in her arms with a surprising strength; her build was more that of a supermodel than a warrior. With a warning to flee before Mugendramon could recover, the angel woman carried me into the sky.
"Why did you try to kill me?" I had asked, as the angel returned me to the ground, on the outskirts of a lake with a land bridge reaching to an abandoned trolley-car of human make in its center. I wondered when it had been lost, and how many passengers had been lost inside; had that story been covered up like Hikarigaoka? But a quick glimpse showed that it was empty, and at this point I had little wish to learn anything further about this world.
"Because I lacked the courage to fight back," she had answered. "Mugendramon had ordered me to assassinate you, and I had complied. I'm so sorry."
"Have you heard of any others of my kind?" I asked, wondering how to phrase it, but relieved to find someone in this world I could speak with to a modicum of comfort; a true ally.
"Yes. Yagami Taichi, Ishida Yamato, Takenouchi Sora, Tachikawa Mimi, Kidou Jyou, Takaishi Takeru, and Izumi Koushiro," she listed off the names of my brother and the other six children lost at Hikarigaoka so many years before.
"Do you know what became of them?"
"I do not," she admitted, with a touch of sorrow in her voice. "Because the facts have become so intermingled with rumors. One day they're about to be liberating this city, the next they are said to have died ten years ago. Their exploits – what few I have verified as true to begin with - have become legends, and their stories are known to all. I hope they will someday save this world."
"I hope so too," I blurted out. It was the polite thing to say, after all, but it was still a more pleasant thought than my brother's death at the hands of some monster as a young child. Yet it had been twenty years since they had arrived. If they survived, they had likely become warlords in this place, more monster than man. If they were heroes of monsters, I wanted no part of it.
"Join me. Join your brother. And together we will save this world."
Tears began to flow from my eyes. She was a kind woman, she had saved my life, and she seemed so out of place in this world of monsters. But I wanted no part of this world's madness, even if it would find me my brother. "I want to go home."
I am grateful that a helmet covered this angel-woman's eyes, for all I saw of her tears was a slight touch of liquid streaming down her cheeks. "Press the bottom right button on your digivice and you will return home."
I unclipped the device from my waist, having only now learned its name, then hurriedly pressed its button and returned to my apartment.
I confess it is with the greatest of guilt that I abandoned my savior, but I am convinced that it was surely for the best that the digital world has been sealed away. I have the utmost sympathy for Professor Takenouchi, my parents, and everyone else who lost children or siblings to that eldritch place, yet I truly believe whoever censored the news of the Hikarigaoka battle has spared humanity from a colossal horror. If your search for information on the digital world has brought you here, I implore you to search no further, lest you too be dragged into its madness.
For I am twice lucky to have avoided it. It was only by the grace of Tailmon and her bizarre transformation into an angel that I survived my own search into the digital world. And had I not caught a cold and stayed home from camp on August 1st, 1999, I would have shared my brother's awful fate, whatever it may be.
- Yagami Hikari