The Cow of Cthulhu

On the morning of the unfathomable event, I, Robert Joseph Edgerton III, was awaken from a fitful slumber by a heavy knock upon my bed chamber door.

“Bobby Joe,” my mother said. “You’d best get out of that bed and get to breakfast. Those chores ain’t gonna to do themselves.”

I wiped a crust of sleep from the corner of my eye. My faithful feline companion Applejack stretched and then leapt from my feather-stuffed mattress. Applejack and I had spent my sleeping hours exploring the Dreamlands city of Ulthar, using sleep techniques promoted by my renowned professors. My feline guide had escorted me on a tour of the legendary village where no man may kill a cat.

‘Twas but the first day of the annual Spring equinoctial sabbatical enjoyed by the students of Miskatonic University, that prestigious if unorthodox institution where I had pursued my studies of forbidden knowledge for the last four years.

A thunderous knock reverberated through the walls of my bed chamber, followed by a voice that matched its vulgar intensity. My father ordered me to remove my posterior from my down mattress or face the insertion of his boot in to said posterior.

Newly energized, I rose from my bed and retrieved my student copy of the dread Necronomicon from my night stand. I had hoped that the mysterious book would provide the basis for my graduate research. Applejack waited at the door, slinking through as I opened it. She beat me to the kitchen, where she broke her fast on a saucer of milk.

I sat at the kitchen table, groggy from my lack of sleep. I opened the writings of Abdul Alhazred to the place where my exhaustion had suspended the previous night’s study. My grandfather, who lived with my parents on their Flint Hills ranch, read the morning newspaper. I examined the front page from across the table, but seeing no mention of Cthulhu’s rise, I quickly lost interest.

My classmates spent their Spring holiday searching the Gulf of Mexico for R’lyeh, where it was said the elder god Cthulhu waited in slumber for his release. Recent research had uncovered a strange cult, rumored to be composed of Mayan ancestors, who knew the ceremonial acts that could awaken and release Cthulhu’s insanity upon this wretched realm. I had been unable to procure the necessary funds for a trip to the strange place known as Cancún, but I hoped to join my esteemed mentor Dr. William Dyer on his summer archaeological dig in the mountains of Antarctica. The study of such a place could only be a success.

My grandfather watched through a raised eyebrow as I removed the top from the salt shaker and poured its contents on the table’s dark mahogany surface. He shook his head as I reproduced signs and sigils from the Necronomicon by tracing my finger through the white pile. I practiced my chants as I drew.

My mother, who had been occupied by her duties at the stove top, scolded me. “Bobby Joe, I’m not gonna be the one cleaning up that mess. You’d best get that salt off the table before your daddy sees it. Poppy, are you just gonna let him sit there and do that nonsense?”

“Ain’t my kid,” my grandfather said, burying his face behind the paper. “Love him to death, but he ain’t my problem.”

I swept the offending granules into my palm and then discarded them in to the trash receptacle. As I did, my father entered the room, tugging his John Deere trucker cap over his brown forehead. In my entire life, I had only seen him without that particular piece of headwear on Sundays and Christian holidays.  In a feat of domestic timing that I could never fully comprehend, my father always sat down just as my mother finished cooking his bacon and eggs. Their marital routine was as dependable as the movement of the constellations.

My father picked up the empty salt shaker. “We out of salt?”

My grandfather looked at me over his paper, but said nothing.

“Must’ve used it up,” my mother said, wiping her greasy hands upon her white apron. “I’ll get some from the pantry.”

My father selected a dark, crispy strip of bacon and took a large bite. As he chewed, he buttered his toast. “Bobby Joe, I’m gonna need you out in the pen today. Buttercup’s about to pop with that calf.”

I sighed. “Father, I have a lot of research to do—“

“Me, too.” His look froze me. “I got a man in Salina that’s gonna take that mean ass bull off my hands. That leaves you with Buttercup. You gonna make Poppy do it with his arthritis?”

“Her name is Yog-sothoth,” I said, sounding a bit more put out than I had planned.

My grandfather chuckled, and my father stopped chewing.

I poked at the bulbous yoke of my fried egg with a fork. “You told me I could name her.”

“I didn’t think you’d come up with such a fool name.” My father took a bite of his toast. “Hell, I thought you might show some interest in the ranch. Some responsibility would be good for you. Get you out of those books and out in the pasture.”

I set down my fork. “I’ll have you know that Yog-sothoth is the gate—“

My grandfather cackled madly and then stood, folding his newspaper. “Oh, shit,” he muttered, wiping tears from his eyes. He continued laughing as he left the room. My father’s face bloomed red.

He pointed at me with his fork. “I’m glad you know about gates. There’s one on Buttercup’s pen. Finish up, and get out there. You could use the sun. You’re pale as death.”

After consuming my breakfast, I retreated to my room. My spirits were dark, and as I thought of my classmates sailing upon the Mexican coastal waters, I whispered the chant that would be the cornerstone of their ceremonies. “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

I dressed in the clothing of a native rancher: blue jeans, t-shirt, boots, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. I’d never felt comfortable in such garb, even as a child raised upon the vast, rocky prairies of the Flint Hills. I wore a “Case IH” shirt, a jab at my father. He was as much a John Deere man as he was a Methodist. Wearing anything with Case on it was roughly the equivalent of converting to Catholicism. My grandfather bought the shirt for me in high school, just to needle him. I stepped outside to find the sky dark and pregnant with the promise of rain.

Yog-sothoth was confined inside the barn. I found her laying on her side in the pen. The birthing process had begun prior to my arrival, and a slimy appendage had already appeared. The cow pulsated and squirmed, looking over her shoulder at me, as if I could share any wisdom on the subject of how to give birth to a calf.

“Easy, Yog—Buttercup—you can do it, girl.” I struggled to keep my voice even, but it shook with trepidation. I had not witnessed such an event since I entered the hallowed halls of Miskatonic University. I was disgusted, yet the scene was as warmly familiar as a well-tended hearth.

The cow mooed in apparent acceptance of my presence and continued to breathe deeply. A flash of lightning illuminated the appearance of a second appendage, covered in slimy white discharge.  Thunder rumbled above the barn, and the rest of the livestock grew nervous. Yog-sothoth continued on with her duty, pushing the strange slime-covered parasite out of her body. She called out in pain as the bottom half of her offspring squirmed on the pen floor.

Rain pattered upon the barn roof, slowly developing in to a steady downpour. The lightning and thunder reached a crescendo. Adrenaline coursed through my veins, sending my heart in to a flutter. The temperature dropped, and I shivered.  I watched Yog-sothoth’s progress. With a final call, accented by a nearby strike of lightning, her progeny dropped free. A steaming pile of placenta followed.

“Good girl,” I said, slipping forward to check on the status of the calf. Another flash of lightning illuminated not a hoof, but a scaly green claw. The tentacle-like appendage that had made the first appearance was, in fact, a tentacle, one of many that decorated the elongated face of the newborn creature.

The slimy beast was about the size of a human toddler. I lifted it from the ground. Yog-sothoth didn’t seem to mind. Having accomplished her task of bringing the thing in to the world, she was pre-occupied with devouring the placenta.

The creature seemed to be wrapped in some sort of dark leather cocoon. As I peeled it open, I found that they were actually wings, like a bat’s, folded over a slimy green body. I gazed upon its eyes. Something in my mind snapped, and I knew the horrible truth.

Chuckling like my grandfather, I carried the infant god Cthulhu out in to the open air. Lightning and thunder fought battles around us. The rain soaked my clothing, wilting the cowboy hat on top of my head. I held Cthulhu beneath his arms and raised him to the war-torn sky. A tiny, high-pitched roar found its way through the mass of tentacles as the tiny god stretched his black wings. I could not stop laughing.

Thousands of miles away, my classmates searched the Gulf of Mexico for evidence of the Elder Gods. Yet, I found one in a Flint Hills cow. Cthulhu was glorious in his awfulness. I began to recite his chant, but quickly realized that it no longer made sense. Cthulhu no longer slept in R’lyeh. He had awoken in Kansas.

I couldn’t wait until my father got home. It would drive him mad.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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