Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Game Store: 'The Creeping Death'

 'The Creeping Death'

It starts with one field, on a foggy day. Flowers totally covered. No radiation content. A baffled man with a camera phone trying to make some sense out of it all.

The footage goes viral within a week, and there’s your hook. Your mages, your investigators, your Delta Green personnel, they pick this up and decide to have a look-see. They arrive to find the web intact, after five days. Rain glances off it, flows away; light barely passes through. The plant matter beneath the surface is dying. There is, as has been said, no radiation content, and after the fourth day, the ground began to turn cracked and grey and brittle beneath the covered acre or so of land.

It’s happened before, in Australia. The official story was that spiders did it, escaping from the floods that were ravaging the country. The truth - available through personal visit, archived (and classified) witness testimony, or careful scouring of the conspiracy blogs - is that the web came first, and the floods later. On a foggy night before the rains came down, the web descended over a vast swathe of Australia. It was impenetrable to water at first; the rainfall was guided to where it would start a flood, and only then did the web begin to break and splinter. Curiously, the ground beneath the webs was near-useless to farmers for the whole of the following year, and the animals that spent too much time in contact with the web have ailed. They have weakened. They sleep too much, and twitch even in waking, as though plagued by nightmares.

A suitcase is delivered to a police station in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and the contents prove most edifying. The goblin-in-the-bottle is indeed incinerated by a traditional healer (a Guardian of the Veil, or a member of the cult of Ulthar), but not before delivering a puzzling message, which finds its way onto the grapevine. “Two strands bind. Two bites drain. We are Hers.” The message is not revealed without contacting the healer (in person, by email after extended paranoid back-and-forth, or via astral projection), but should be buried among an assortment of dead ends culled by the players during their initial research.

Her name is Atlach-Nacha, although some prophets knew Her as Lolth or Ungoliant and hid Her in fantasy for all our sakes. She lairs in the space between the hemispheres of the brain, in the minds of every arachnophobe on God’s clean Earth. Her eternal work is the binding together of worlds in Her web, the devouring of them, the giving over of them to Her children. She wove Earth into her web long ago, but something has changed; some shift in the consciousness of humanity, the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning or the immanentising of the Eschaton or something like that.

The point is, She has noticed us again. This morsel on which She did Her work as the earliest humans were considering coming down from the trees has drawn one of Her myriad eyes. Perhaps She laid a clutch of Her eggs here, dream-spiders growing slowly, fed on a million tiny incidents of terror, and She has come to break their shells and set them free upon the universe. Perhaps the world is becoming something that no longer appeals to Her tastes, and the time has come to take what nourishment she can from it and move on. Perhaps She was merely leaving our meat to hang and mature, poisoned and polluted and irradiated like the mild decay in a twenty-one-day steak.

England, Australia, two years apart; Her mandibles are sunk into the world and are draining the life from it. Destroying the web in England is a start, slaughtering thousands of Her children. That will drive Her off for a time. In truth, though, She must be led to scuttle elsewhere. Perhaps humanity must dream of some other world, more to Her liking. Perhaps a confrontation in the astral plane is in order.

Perhaps She has and has always had a following who believe the world ready - in an unusual twist, it first apprehended Her true aspect in Australia, where Her children are at their strongest, and migrated to the opposite point on the world’s surface, and the cult must be stopped before they can guide Her to bite deep again.

Recommended soundtrack:

Recommended resources: arachnophobic players

Recommended systems: Mage (either version - in Awakening, the Guardians of the Veil are trying to hush this noise up, in Ascension the Technocracy’s blundering has made her notice that Earth is no longer what she used to be). Call of Cthulhu, obviously, especially with a Dreamlands component as the investigators move between worlds to burn away Her web. Changeling could work, on the same principle as the Ascension plotline. The idea that something about the world is changing means it’s fodder for Discordia! the RPG (but then, so’s everything).

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