Recently I have been reading Cthulhu Apocalypse by Pelgrane Press. It is a role-playing game supplement about playing adventures after a terrible disaster has killed 99% of the human population. It has some clever ideas, like setting the campaign in 1936, and focusing more on the players still investigating things rather than have adventures to find food that day. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t play rpg’s, as it explores the apocalypse from some different angles.
One of those angles is the idea of maybe a natural disaster killing off humanity, and the monsters are slowly coming out to see what happened. It is a cool idea. The world is more of an empty graveyard with mysterious sights and sounds as opposed to a zombie world where hordes lurk everywhere. It is a lovely lonely idea.
It reminds me of one of the best all time apocalypse stories ever written. Called Footnotes on a Species Once Called Humanity, it was written by Derek Pegritz in 2006 and was posted in parts on his personal website. It takes place after Cthulhu has risen and his spawn are stomping around the earth. The narrator and his town has fled to a cave complex in the mountains. It protects them from being stepped on by giant monsters, but the psychic aura of the monsters reaches deep beneath the earth and drives most of them mad. Or maybe they went crazy because humanity was over and they were trapped in the dark. I don’t quite recall, but I do remember the narrator was alone and trying his best to keep his shit together. It was a stark nihilistic story and I loved it.
Isolation is something that appeals to me a lot but I have seen the negative effects it has on my psyche. My family was a hostile environment growing up, and even as an adult, I find myself avoiding sharing my feelings with others. It takes a lot for me to open up, it takes a lot for me to socialize and it takes a hell of a lot for me trust. My instinct is to avoid people, but when I am alone, I get depressed and fragile. Finding that balance is a struggle. I want to be that hermit in the lighthouse, but I know I need to be the friendly guy at the bar in order to stay sane.
So reading “Footnotes” was a weird mix of happy daydream and dreadful nightmare. Part of me envied the narrator’s ability to survive on his own wits and discretion while the other part of me agonized over the thought of being utterly alone without anyone to care whether you live or die. The character was in hopeless isolation, but hopeless isolation is sort of my natural habitat.
You can’t find the story online anymore. I have tried looking for other copies but there aren’t any. It almost feels appropriate. The story that has most imprinted my views on apocalypses and survivor stories has itself, not survived.