The Deep Ones and the Madness of Crowds (Part One)
"I could not but feel that some noxious marine mind had declared a war of extermination upon all the solid ground" - HP Lovecraft, The Crawling Chaos
The Deep Ones
The Overlords of Childhood's End hide their true form for the first 50 years of their benevolent space brother stewardship, calculating that a half century of alien new order will be sufficient to overthrow millennia of religious patterning and superstition. It almost is. But there is still shock at their appearance: barbed-tail, horns and leathery-wings, like the demons of discarded faiths. The classic imagery of a demon had been a prefigurement imprinted upon humanity at the revelation of its doom, and cast back through race memory as an instance of reverse causation.
It would be bad enough if Clarke were right, though his godlike aliens had the grace of intellect and empathy even as they took Earth into receivership. Lovecraft's gelatinous, slobbering gods, not so much. And it's Lovecraft I worry about, and his Deep Ones dreaming.
Narrating the IMAX documentary Deep Sea, Johnny Depp's first words are to assure us we're not watching science fiction, and the creatures are not from another planet. The creatures are jellyfish, and the assurance that this is our own world fails to comfort me. Their biomass now surpasses ocean vertebrates, and are found in staggering quantities where they have never been seen in number before, because we have sickened the waters with overfishing and the climate is trending towards conditions unseen since the Carboniferous Era.
Complexity is the product of cooling, a process observable on every order of scale. The world we recognize and of which we're a part is the product of a climate mild enough to encourage diversity and intricacy. Brainless and simple jellies thrive in warm waters, and catastrophic warming means devolution of the seas back into primordial soups. The new plague of jellies appears as a harbinger of the end of the world we know from out of the world we didn't: from out of Deep Time. From slime, back to slime.
Billions of luminescent mauve stingers, "in a dense pack of about 10 square miles and 35 feet deep," wiped out Northern Ireland's only salmon farm last November. "In 30 years, I've never seen anything like it," said Northern Salmon's Managing Director John Russell. "It was unprecedented, absolutely amazing. The sea was red with these jelly fish and there was nothing we could do about it, absolutely nothing." This is more than three months old and you may have already forgotten the report, but is there a rival to this horror in all of Lovecraft's fiction? More than three months on and I still can't shake it, and it's at least worthy of the signs and wonders of a blind idiot god.
Translucent, mutable and iridescent, 98% water and almost entirely not there, a jelly is perhaps as close to a phantom as a creature can be and yet still belong to the material realm. In this respect at least it transcends the material, and gives great metaphor for the ineffable and alien yet familiar Other. Which may partly account for why they're seen these days in even less likely places than off the coast of Ireland. The sky above, for instance.
In October 2005, Bolivian Gustavo Ponce reported something above the town Oruro that was so foreign to his frame of reference that at first he refused to believe what he was seeing:
"It was a very strange and shiny figure that could be seen through the binoculars. I went ahead and took out my camcorder to videotape the UFO in the sky. As the camera zoomed toward the object, I could how it was breaking down into a shape resembling a jellyfish or something like it. It was very strange."
He added that the object was flying over the eastern part of the city and that it was the first time he had ever seen such an object, having never had previous visual contact with a UFO. [Newspaper] La Patria visited Ponce's home to see the images captured by his camcorder, attesting to the fact that the shining object broke down into a full circumference, adopting the shape of a jellyfish.Last June, a "jellyfish-shaped UFO" was seen over Shanghai. And from Sidney, British Columbia:
I stepped outside at 9:10 PM, to have a smoke and saw a bright orange ball of light heading south directly at me on September 9, 2007. My wife came out and we watched it pass overhead. I grabbed the binoculars and we both had multiple turns viewing it. My wife describes it as an "orange jellyfish" that I agree with looked like that to me too but it had a structure to the leading edge of the sphere like a crescent. It was very brilliant, pulsated and jiggled slightly. It looked like a glowing orange jellyfish and flew south over Sidney at a increasing rate of speed dimming from view.
Four days later, while Greg Lauver was driving through the Colorado town of Durango:
While driving through town on US Highway 550 on September 13, 2007, I saw an object like a glowing diamond filled with countless strands of yellow-white light at 4:50 PM. Each strand was a string of countless beads of gleaming white, all of which floated in a transparent medium which permitted the sky color to pass through yet also glowed faintly due to its contents. It reminded me of a spectacular back-lit picture of a live jellyfish by National Geographic.
Then most recently, and famously, the Stephenville UFO.
Witness Erath County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan describes his January 12, 2008 encounter:
I watch this thing in the police video and it appears to be some type of aerial object that is round. It changes from white to these different colors. The police officer says, ‘Keep watching,’ and I watched for approximately another eight minutes. And then this thing, right in front of my eyes, changes and it looks almost like a jellyfish. I compare it maybe even to a parachute – and now a very bright white. The green and blue and red is no longer flashing. It holds that shape for probably two minutes. And then to my surprise, it changes vertically like a line straight up and down.The deeper a Lovecraft protagonist delves towards the realm of the Deep Ones, beneath the banal surface order of things, the closer he draws to madness. There's no bargaining; no appeal to reason or mercy. It's a doomed commitment to seek out pitiless truth that will either kill the hero or render him senseless. Devotion to the dumb lords is no escape. Devotion's only reward is the privilege of being eaten first.