“Houses Under the Sea” (2003)

Caitlin R. Kiernan’s short dark fantasy story Houses Under the Sea introduces the charismatic academic-turned-Lovecraftian-cult-leader Jacova Angevine:

When I close my eyes, I see Jacova Angevine.

I close my eyes, and there she is, standing alone at the end of the breakwater, standing with the foghorn as the choppy sea shatters itself to foam against a jumble of gray boulders. The October wind is making something wild of her hair, and her back’s turned to me. The boats are coming in.

I close my eyes, and she’s standing in the surf at Moss Landing, gazing out into the bay, staring towards the place where the continental shelf narrows down to a sliver and drops away to the black abyss of Monterey Canyon. There are gulls, and her hair is tied back in a ponytail.

I close my eyes, and we’re walking together down Cannery Row, heading south towards the aquarium. She’s wearing a gingham dress and a battered pair of Doc Martens that she must have had for fifteen years. I say something inconsequential, but she doesn’t hear me, too busy scowling at the tourists, at the sterile, cheery absurdities of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and Mackerel Jack’s Trading Post.

“That used to be a whorehouse,” she says, nodding in the direction of Mackerel Jack’s. “The Lone Star Cafe, but Steinbeck called it the Bear Flag. Everything burned. Nothing here’s the way it used to be.”

She says that like she remembers, and I close my eyes.

And she’s on television again, out on the old pier at Moss Point, the day they launched the ROV Tiburon II.

And she’s at the Pierce Street warehouse in Monterey; men and women in white robes are listening to every word she says. They hang on every syllable, her every breath, their many eyes like the bulging eyes of deep-sea fish encountering sunlight for the first time. Dazed, terrified, enraptured, lost.

All of them lost.

I close my eyes, and she’s leading them into the bay.

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