Nicholas Dahdah

The October Featured Writer is Nicholas Dahdah

You can email Nicholas at: lomqn@knology.net

Nicholas Dahdah

by Nicholas Dahdah

McDonnell heard a rap on the door of the cemetery house, and waited until he sipped the first of his evening coffee before opening it. There was an eager-looking young man on the stoop, about in his mid-twenties.

“Excuse me, do you know where lot five, group two eighty-one is?” The young man’s voice displayed a southern accent.

McDonnell smiled to himself. He knew that address. “You mean H.P Lovecraft’s grave?”

The kid smiled. “Yeah, I guess you get asked that a lot here.”

“Gimme a minute and I’ll meet you out back.”

McDonnell gathered his coffee together, and slipped out into the service jeep the cemetery provided for him. He never thought he’d see this much action at Swan Point Cemetery, at any cemetery really, but then he'd never heard of Howard Phillips Lovecraft either. Of all the senators, congressmen, and governors buried here, it was some old Sci-Fi writer who took the cake as the most famous person interred beneath these grounds.

McDonnell waited out back for a few minutes, and didn’t think the kid would show up at first. Oh well, more time to myself.

He sipped a little more of the brown liquid. Soon, the kid appeared, and got into the jeep. McDonnell drove ahead, circling around the huge front gates and down the central path. He took him past huge obelisks that reached fifteen feet into the sky, elaborate headstones decorated with angels looking over their departed flock. There was hardly a small, uninteresting headstone in sight, but most were swallowed up by the grandness surrounding it.

Finally they arrived at Howard’s little slice of Heaven, the obelisk facing them. The kid almost hopped out of the car, a little camera clutched in his fingers. “You don’t mind if I take a picture, do you?” he chimed, hefting the device.

“Actually, I do mind. They don’t like that kind of thing around here.”

“Oh,” the kid said, replacing the imager, seeming to be not fazed in the least. “So, this is it, huh?”

“Yeah, this is it, though he’s not buried right here, but somewhere close by.”

“Lovecraft is hidden because some people tried to dig him up once, right?”

McDonnell nodded his head. “About fifteen years ago now, the security guard on duty found the grave excavated the next morning. They never found who did it, why they did it, or why they just gave up. They didn’t steal the body.”

“Were you working here then?”

“No, I’ve only been working here about five years now.”

The kid crossed his arms. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the stone. “Are you a big fan?”    

“Never read him. I heard of him, didn’t imagine the following he had. I tell ya, I’ve met people from all over the world who come here to see him, and that’s how I learned all about H. P. Lovecraft. Where’re you from, by the way?”

The kid smiled. “I’m from Tennessee; I guess my accent gave it away?” 

McDonnell broke a smirk. “It kinda sticks out.”

“Lovecraft had quite a life, didn’t he?”

“I suppose so. He was a sad, lonely soul who had seen too much death in his life. He went…” McDonnell made a finger at his head and spun it around, the kid nodding in agreement. “He was even confined to the Butler psychiatric hospital, right down the road.”

“I’d heard that.”

McDonnell smiled. “He wanted to be a great scientist, an astronomer if I’m not mistaken, but he struggled with math in and couldn’t get a degree in it; hell, he couldn’t even get a high school diploma. He turned to his writing, where he expressed his frustration in his work, by almost demonizing science, and having an ‘unknowable cosmic secret’ that drives people insane. Surprisingly, this didn’t go over well with the pulp readers in the twenties and thirties. Still, he managed to develop a small, but devoted following of other young authors, writing a plethora of letters than consumed far too much of his time and drove him deeper into poverty. He contracted colon cancer and battled it for several years until it took his life in nineteen thirty-seven. He was forty-seven at the time.”

The kid was staring at McDonnell, a big dopey grin on his face. “And you said you weren't a Lovecraft fan.”

“I’m not; it’s just after hearing Lovecraft’s story so many times, I can’t forget it.”

“It’s a shame he died before he was popular, never knowing of all the devoted fans he would have, not knowing he got what he finally wanted. I just wish I could tell him how much he means to me, to all of us.” The kid smiled one last time, then said, “I can find my way back; I can walk.”

McDonnell was left alone at the grave as the young man wandered away. This was the thing that puzzled McDonnell so much: how could a dead man you never met mean so much to you? Yeah, Lovecraft’s work was inspiring, but still, he was just a dead author.

Eventually McDonnell returned to the grave-keeper’s house, where he extracted a slim volume of Louis L’amore and plunged into the depths of the wild west. He had to do something to pass the dark hours from midnight until six.

He had lied to the kid. He had read some of Lovecraft’s stories, like “The Rats in the Walls” and they weren’t his thing. Yeah, “The Rats in the Walls” was well written, but…well damn it…it was creepy. And that’s saying something from a guy who works the literal graveyard shift. 

All that stuff about ‘inevitable doom’ and ‘forbidden knowledge’ really got under his skin. He had asked numerous fans why they liked that stuff, and the best answer he got was, “Well, it’s somewhat comforting to think your problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. It puts things in perspective of the grand, cosmic scheme.”

To each his own: sick minds gotta relate to somebody, right? He much preferred the comfort of L’amore’s rough justice on the American frontier.

Working this job got him reading again. His shift began at five in the afternoon, and at seven he locked up the gates to close the cemetery to the public. He didn’t like the way the TV blotted out sounds from around the cemetery; he might not be able to hear grave robbers sneaking around. And that was the other thing: he’d worked for several cemeteries, but he’d never had to contend with the very real threat of grave robbing.

Suddenly he heard some scuffling around outside. Looking up from his book, he realized that somehow so much time had passed that it was now midnight. The sound was too loud to be squirrels or birds, or even deer. McDonnell gathered his flashlight, gun and taser together, and ventured out into the darkness.

He left the light off as he scuttled among the graves, feeling guilty as he stepped on the dead. Oh well, freedom is the price of security, right? He caught sight of what looked like several people gathered around, where else, the headstone of Ol’ Howie Lovecraft. Isn’t there anyone else these freaks can bother?

He hid behind one of the larger obelisks, wanting to get a better look before he took action. There were three people were huddled over the grave, with mounds of dirt piled about their feet. He could see a couple of shovels swinging in and out of the pit they’d managed to excavate.

He clicked on his flashlight, and charged down the hill, trying to shine his light in their faces so he could get a look at them. “Hey, you creeps!”

At the light’s bright torch, they scattered. He couldn’t see their faces for the hoods coming out of their black robes. He was able to grasp the garmented limb of one of them as he tried to flee, tearing at the cloth. A curved blade gleamed white in the moonlight and McDonnell’s eyes grew wide as the figure slashed at him, drawing a stripe of red from his forearm. He immediately loosened his grip and allowing the shadow to blend with all the others as they ran away.

McDonnell stood in the dark courtyard, shifting his head around, looking for some sign of what just happened. If it wasn’t for his bleeding arm, he might’ve just imagined it.

He made his way back to the grave-house, tended to his arm, and called the real police, keeping his gun close to him until they arrived. He told the cops the situation, and added, “They might be back; y’know how these freaks work.”


McDonnell slept easy the next day, his dreams uninvaded by monstrous visions. He made day-time love to his wife, and by four-thirty, he was ready to go to the cemetery. He fought the providence traffic, more frustrated with it than with some black-clad occultist fantasy. He finally arrived at the grave-house.

He passed the time until dark. Suddenly there was the sound of breaking glass. McDonnell cursed the darkness. He could hear rocks began pelting the house, each pane of glass breaking to the floor. A shadow fell over his eyes, and he fell out of the world.


McDonnell awoke outside, his arms held high as he was being dragged through the cemetery, his head lolling from side to side. What the Hell? he thought as they passed the towering obelisks. He could see the men were not only carrying him, but were also carrying a dead dog.

He wasn’t surprised as they brought him to Lovecraft’s grave. “He’s not buried there,” McDonnell said.

“That was a lie to keep us away,” one of the robed men said. “As you can see, Lovecraft is here.”

The grave was fully excavated with a black coffin sitting in its granite sarcophagus. McDonnell could only hang in their grasp and stare as they formed a circle around the excavated box. One reached into the pit and flung the lid open, revealing the withered bones in the moth-eaten tuxedo. The white rictus grin stared up at them from beneath the empty eye sockets.

Long black fingers, like those of a spider lanced from the binding’s pages and into the coffin, fastening themselves about Lovecraft’s dead body. McDonnell knew would come next, but couldn’t hide his horror as they slit the dog’s throat, nearly severing its head as gallons of blood poured out, falling upon the inky tendrils and oozing down to the rotted body, the blood re-filling the dead tissues. The lances seemed to pull the blood from the dog’s body, forcing it further into Howard, until it could pull no more. Now Lovecraft’s body was full, dead skin with a deathly pallor, but illuminated with the forces of life. At the apex of this reinvigoration, the eyes snapped open.

Lovecraft reached his arm to the lid, and hauled himself out of his coffin, his eyes searching at the cultists. He emerged from the pit, and they fell to their knees, their fingers stretched to their master.

The leader approached him, humbly removing his hood and revealing his bald head. “Master…servant of the old ones…we have brought you back from slumber in the everlasting void. We ask that you lead us, guide us to our destiny with that which true believers must be gifted with."

Lovecraft swung his head around, his re-animated eyes alighting upon the two captured men, and finally settling on McDonnell. “Who is this?” the New-England accent hissed.

“He is the keeper of this cemetery, and will be your sacrifice if you want him to die.”

“You would take a life, an innocent one at that, in my name?”

The moonlight glinted off the Leader’s smiling teeth. “The grave-keeper can reach the Plutonian Shore if you we kill him for you.”

The once-dead eyes bored into the man. “There is no salvation; none I ever spoke of.”

“But…there must be!”

“I have been through the black voids of nothingness, and I promise you there is nothing beyond our meager understanding of the universe.”

The Leader’s eyes were wide with unknowable horror, his voice stammering, “The magics! How do you stand before me if there are no magics?”

“Fool!” Lovecraft spat. “Magic is just science we can’t understand.”

The Leader’s face betrayed his bewilderment. “That can’t be! It’s not true!”

A light sprang forth from Lovecraft’s finger, radiating on the Leader’s body, spreading to each cultist like chain lightning. Their mouths uttered an indescribable wail of pain as white patterns of ethereal energy were drawn from their bodies. Each follower rode the lightning wave into the sky and disappeared.

Freed, McDonnell dropped to the ground. He looked up from the dirt, leaving the comfort of ignorance behind to look upon the pallid form of a man long dead. Lovecraft considered him, his large face moving side to side as McDonnell got to his feet.

“You didn’t kill me!” McDonnell marveled.

“The others are not dead, just removed,” the Yankee accent hissed, “but you tried to protect my grave.”

“After you died, your fame increased,” McDonnell said. “Most people aren’t crazy like these guys. I’ve met people from all over the world who came to visit your grave. They want to honor you, not to desecrate you.”

The eyes crinkled even more in the fleshy cage of that long face, and Lovecraft stepped back into the pit, opened his coffin lid, and looked back at McDonnell one last time. “Tell them I am honored.”

He sunk into the coffin, pulling the lid closed with a final boom.

McDonnell glanced around at the scarred earth and the scattered dirt around the grave. “I’m going to have some explaining to do in the morning.”

Nicholas Dahdah is a 20-year old student studying to be a marine biologist. He's trying to live off of his writing, which sucks because he’s giving his best stuff away for free.

He once became a Dictator in Uganda where his full title eventually became His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Nicholas Dahdah, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular. His reign was not well received.