“This Human Form” (2014) by Lyndsey Holder

(A BUZZING IMITATION OF HUMAN SPEECH)

Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!
—H. P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness”

You call me black, but I am beyond black. I am the space between the stars, the darkness that lies on the edge of your dreams, the sound of death in small spaces.

You say I am from the woods, but my woods contain no trees or birds, no peaceful sounds of wind and stream, no quiet rustle of delicate creatures. My forest pulsates, vibrates, glistens. […]

You call me a goat, and sometimes I am.
⁠—Lyndsey Holder, “This Human Form” in Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath

More of a prose-poem or an invocation than a short story, Lyndsey Holder’s “This Human Form” reminds me of “The Elder Sister-like One, Vol. 1” (2016) by Pochi Iida (飯田ぽち。)“Red Goat, Black Goat” (2010) by Nadia Bulkin, and “Cthulhu Sex (ahem!)—a poem—” (1998) by Katherine Morel. Works that take inspiration from the Mythos, but don’t lean heavily on them; they forge their own lore, not bound by any convention of the Mythos and yet still strongly connected to it thematically.

Holder’s first-person account is only implicitly that of the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, reveling more in sensation and imagery than any concrete connections to any other story in the Mythos. The connection is stronger by association: the story is in a Mythos anthology, which makes the imagery more apparent. But stick this story in a dark fantasy or horror magazine and would people still get it? Would their minds still make the connection? Probably not, if they weren’t already initiated in Mythos-lore and familiar with Shub-Niggurath, her aspects and attributes. But they could still enjoy the story.

“This Human Form” is exemplary of how in a largely disorganized way, the Mythos has evolved organically into something which the SCP wiki has done by considered design. While it has been said there is no canon to the Mythos, it would be more accurate to say there is no one canon. Certainly, Lovecraft’s Dreamlands stories are fairly consistent in themselves, as are Ramsey Campbell’s Severn Valley tales, Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow stories, W. H. Pugmire’s Sesqua Valley, Charles Stross’ the Laundry Files, etc. Peter Rawlik has curated a canon centered around “Herbert West—Reanimator,” and Shane Ivey has spent considerable time doing much the same with the Delta Green setting.

Most of these works are independent, interconnected, sometimes conflicting. Myths do that. Conflict, arguably, might even be essential to the Mythos: it forces the reader to engage with it, to juggle different concepts, maybe try to reconcile them.

There is on thing you do not call me: mother. My body has sent a thousand children into this world, a thousand mewling, crawling things, suckling and whining, slithering down silvery dream-threads into the soft comfort of your warm beds.
—Lyndsey Holder, “This Human Form”

It is rare to get a first-person take from a Mythos entity, although far from unknown. Neil Gaiman famously did it with I, Cthulhu, or, What’s a Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing in a Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)? (1987) (later publications have quite reasonably shortened this to “I, Cthulhu”). Gaiman’s take, of course, is a quiet taking of the piss. The idea of Cthulhu addressing the user is the main joke. For Mythos entities that are largely defined as ineffable and unknowable, the first-person narrative rather kills the mystery…unless, as Holder does, the meat of the text is salacious, sensation-driven, and suggestive. Making telling feel like showing.

Lyndsey Holder’s “This Human Form” was published in Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath (2014). Her other Mythos fiction includes “Parasitosis” (2015) and “Chosen” (2015).


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

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