Washington is weird.
Not like, foreign weird because even when you go abroad, people are still people. They just speak differently and have different habits and so on but they have families, they do groceries, work jobs they hate, get drunk, bitch about their boss, kiss people they shouldn’t, you know?
Nobody does that in Washington. Well, they kinda do, but it’s like they’re making a show of it while always keeping their eye on something else. It’s like the whole city and almost everyone in it, apart from the folks who work in service industries I guess, is engaged in some arcane contest while continuing to make play that they’re going about normal lives.
Maybe it’s capital city thing, but I’ve never felt as much like an interloper, like a bemused alien in Ottawa, London or Paris as I do in Washington.
So, I don’t much like to come here, but sometimes work brings you to the capital and as a journalist if you get told to attend the presidential inauguration, then you do it or else your editor will find someone else to go and you’ll be stuck covering community council meetings and interviewing people who say they’ve seen UFOs for the next six moths. So, here I am in the hope I’ll get to do some real journalism this year.
Making my way into the National Mall for the inauguration is like running a gauntlet of security, with half a dozen checkpoints before I’ve even parked miles from the Capitol.
Repeatedly, I flash my press pass and an attempt at a friendly smile to a succession of security people with the enthusiasm in the gesture and even more so the token smile fading as time passes.
The reaction of the security types seems to vary according to their allegiance. Washington DC cops seem harassed at the extra workload and barely look at the pass after deciding that this 100lb woman probably wasn’t a terrorist. The Secret Service spooks in their nondescript black suits were emotionless and calculating, with their cold fishy lips pressed together and unimpressed reactions to attempted jocularity while they assess my credentials. Trump’s own security, in itself a sign of his particular charm, wearing more expensive yet somehow gaudy suits leer at me as they pretend to look over my pass but seem strangely complacent and almost disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be an imminent attack by homosexual Islamist Mexican liberals or something.
Note to self, do not write about charmless amphibian security lest article gets taken down as ‘fake news.’
Rain has been forecast for today, but the sky isn’t so much overcast as glowering, with towering magnetically grey clouds seeming to mass above the Capitol building and the Potomac looking very choppy as a strong westerly wind picks up.
Finally, I find my seat, almost four hours after presenting myself to the first of the security checks. I’m not too far back, considering that the crowd stretches to the banks of the river where the Capitol itself, never mind the president is very much a speck in the distance. Of course, I’m off to the side, as befits my lowly press status, but I didn’t think I’d be sitting here when I graduated from Miskatonic university with an M.Lit and small mountain of personal debt a few years ago.
The musical numbers and call to order pass in unremarkable fashion, faith leaders give their speeches in dry tones, although the lack of a Muslim speaker, or any from a non-Christian group, while several Christian denominations were represented was pretty telling.
Finally, the President-elect stepped forward and was about to be sworn in when a sudden gust of wind blows the bible clear off the lectern in front of him.
The sky darkened and the wind blows stronger, carrying a scent of brine and sea carrion as the sleeting rain turned rank and salty upon the crowd which seemed stunned in base terror and confusion as lightning struck the Washington monument and the peal of thunder echoed around wrongly as if reflecting off walls at strange angles.
The deepening gloom around the Capitol seemed to coalesce and take form, with a gargantuan figure like a corpulent dragon the size of a mountain appearing somehow both behind and within the same space occupied by the usually imposing building which is rendered puny by the scale of the impossible creature.
Rolls of madness rendered in fog and whipping tendrils oozed down the stairs of the Capitol, as the crowd seemed struck dumb, incapable of thought, let alone able to flee as the increasingly solid figure seemed to stretch towards the skies and it’s expansive wings cast shadows across most of the District of Columbia.
An impossibly huge head, strangely human in appearance but hairless and with the lower part of the face composed of a mass of writhing tentacles and two vast eyes like dying suns stooped towards the podium at the front of the Capitol as one immense clawed hand reached towards it and a roaring sound filled the air.
THIS VAGRANT SHOGGOTH HAS OVERSTEPPED ITS BOUNDS
I am driven to my knees with pain as the otherworldly voice appears inside my head. Others seem unaffected but still as statues while the roaring sound and driving wind bearing sceptic rain lashes at my senses. It is clear that the words I perceive are some sort of translation of a far older, more primal mode of communication, but that perception comes at the cost of indescribable agony.
THE TIME OF YOUR TRANSCENDENCE HAS NOT YET COME TO PASS AND THOSE WHO SEEK TO SUPPLANT THE DESIGNS OF GREAT OLD ONES WILL BE CAST INTO THE HUNGRY VOID THE STARS ARE CLOSE AND MANIFESTATION WILL COME IN DUE TIME FOLLOWERS OF THE GREAT OLD ONES WILL BE REWARDED AMIDST THE FIRES OF THIS MORBID WORLD
In a moment, the sky clears and the rain loses its tepid quality. As the pain recedes I realise that the apparition is no longer there, if it ever was. People sitting to either side of me reach down to help me up as shouts come from the podium. It seems the President has collapsed just as he was about to be inaugurated.
Was all that a hallucination, or did something in my heritage allow me to perceive things which others could not, as the more outlandish campus legends of Miskatonic used to tell? I cannot forget the feeling of dread and the threat which came from that vision and I must discover more…
As the sense of sudden dread passed and the President sank to his knees unresponsive, the Vice President outwardly showed concern and rushed to his aid. Internally, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep smiled dryly.