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Literature / The City of Never

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"I do not wish to find out too much, for fear of becoming another inevitable casualty of death or madness or something worse in the Lovecraftian tale this has become."
Entry #33

The City of Never is a Lovecraftian horror web novel written by lordoftheclownsnote . It can be read here. It is the first full-length entry in The Never Mythos.

Onolo is a quaint Mexican village located off the coast of Salina Cruz. It isn't particularly remarkable, and the residents live in normalcy, with disturbances to the peace — rare occasions like the attack of a mad spree killer in 2000 — seldom known. In May of 2001, however, a strange slab appears on the beach, drawing the attention of some of the residents, and this heralds the sudden appearance of a horrific, shapeless beast which rampages through the village. As the village recoups, an amnesiac man who only remember his name as “Mr. Bright” washes up on the shore, bringing news of an alternate dimension he was trapped in he calls the City. Stranger and stranger things start happening to Onolo, and Onolo soon finds itself in a struggle against horrifying odds against this strange alternate dimension — with a terrible secret held deep within the realm of the City that may threaten the rest of the universe if it should ever be learned.

The work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Michael's parents fit this description; his mother was an apathetic alcoholic Michael suspected may have been insane, and his father was a domineering bear of a man who raped his wife on more than one occasion. Thankfully, little of the actual behavior seems to have been directed directly at Michael, but Michael's uprising led to his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Action Survivor: Most of the characters in the story fit this description as they try and survive through the City's repeated attacks on Onolo — every protagonist in the story is some manner of normal, completely unremarkable human, many of whom turn out to have previous ties with the City itself.
  • Affably Evil: Faye is avuncular with everyone he talks to and converses with people like old friends, even after revealing his true colors. This, if anything, only underscores how comfortable he is with his own murderous insanity.
  • And I Must Scream: Mark's situation. He's mutated into a Humanoid Abomination by the Consultant, in agony but unable to die. As Mark still retains the mind of an infant, this is made all the worse as he can't comprehend what's happening to him. This applies to his sister Crystal, as well, who's been tortured to the point where her body is mangled, broken, and partially rotting, yet she's still completely alive and aware of everything that's happened to her up until this point.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Many of the City's creatures are trying to emulate Earth-based animals. Most of them are horribly deformed and alien — one example of this, the Mollusc, is a creature that can vaguely be linked to an ammonite but is closer to a horrific, throbbing pile of flesh covered in keratinous growths.
  • Anyone Can Die: By the end of the story, Mark, Crystal, Edison, Christian, Daniel, the entirety of the City, Joe, Lucia, and Harold have all definitely kicked the bucket. Faye, Katrina, and Alessa may also have joined them, and Michael has absorbed the power of a god to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, ultimately losing his physical form in the process.
  • Apocalypse How: Draynak is aiming for a Class Z with the only planned remnants being himself and the Emperor, a goal Lucia takes advantage of.
  • Arc Words: “Home is where the heart is” and “I'll see you where the roses are red,” the former referring to Draynak's seal in an image of Daniel's house and the latter referring to the "paradise" set up by the City. To a lesser extent, “We will never cease.”
  • Astral Projection: Of a sort with the Seers. Although it's never referred to as astral projection, the basic concept remains the same; splitting one's mind from the body through the connection of a cosmic force called the Remeditary to wander around the world separate from the physical body.
  • Ax-Crazy: The few human antagonists generally embody this:
    • Joe Candy eventually becomes this, allowing the decaying state of Onolo to elevate him from mere off-putting eccentricity to full-on murderous insanity as he lets his obsession with the strange slab control him.
    • Welter Faye is a more subtle but still prominent example of this; a man who isn't openly violent and even friendly, but a man who is positively obsessed with the destructive capabilities of the City and tries to exploit said chaos to the fullest regardless with a giant smile on his face.
    • Lester Craw in the backstory, a schizophrenic who was driven to homicidal grief after the suicide of his lover and savagely murdered several people through Mexico as a result.
  • Benevolent Precursors: The Seers were ancient, perfect beings roughly equivalent to the Yith who built a peaceful utopia through the knowledge they gained by connecting to the Remeditary and sending their mental avatars all across the Teraverse to glean knowledge — a race one of the gods decided wasn't quite perfect enough and ended up accidentally destroying in the process due to her obsession.
  • Back from the Dead: Michael ultimately returns from the dead and gains Resurrective Immortality in the process, due to him being a half-Seer who awakened his powers coincidentally beforehand.
  • Belated Happy Ending: Heavily, heavily downplayed considering everyone else is dead, but Eliza and Hansel some of the only two survivors in the story, are shown to have made it out and seem to be quite happy in their cameo in And to All a Good Night.
  • Big Bad: Ultimately, everything bad that happens in the story is through the manipulations of Draynak, who sets up the entire plot and all of Lucia's actions in order to free itself from its seal.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Many of the City's creatures vaguely resemble bugs. Notable is are the slug-beings, which are described as being as large as a cat, and the Needler, which is essentially a Giant Spider.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Michael's smug and full of himself, but beneath that is an individual who's been shaped into who he is now through a horrid childhood. As the story goes on, he wanes out of this behavior.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The whole of the Teraverse is saved and the plots of Lucia are stopped forever, but it is a colossal Pyrrhic Victory for the denizens of Onolo; the entire village is destroyed and most of its populace slaughtered with the few that remained now having no identity in the real world, the Hopper family is completely dead as is Christian, Mathilda has lost her daughter with heavy implications she passes over the Despair Event Horizon as a result, and Hansel is left penniless and struggling to keep on in a shabby apartment in Toronto. Adding to this, the Emperor of Ashen Rain is still completely unstopped, and the chances of fighting back against it should it ever discover Earth are just about non-existent. However, Michael's also managed to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence with intention of using his new powers to defend the universe, and Hansel is well on the road to rebuilding his life finally free of the City – with potential help from Eliza as well, who closes the book asking to talk to Hansel.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Michael's glasses are broken halfway through the story, and when he awakens as a Seer, his vision's completely blurred out. He's not helpless without them, but it's enough to force him to use his Seer avatar – which can see normally – to search Onolo during the attack.
  • Body Horror: What the Consultant does to Crystal and Mark. Crystal's been implicitly violated with leeches, her body is partially rotting, and a mold-like substance has started to grow on her. Mark has been mutated into a hulking, hairy thing with the mind of an infant. Both are in agony by the time Daniel finds them.
  • Break the Haughty: Michael goes through this as the story proceeds, although he makes good of it to become a better person.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Michael's seen to be a talented writer, but he's devoid of passion and mainly lives his days complaining about the world in his journal and living off his dreams.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Faye is unnaturally hyper for a man his age and reacts with delight to the City, describing the abominations as “cute.” Turns out he's a much darker take on this than usual.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What Lucia does to its “candidates.”
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Naturally, as a direct and unsubtle send-up to the Cthulhu Mythos. A quiet, unassuming village is attacked by horrible, incomprehensible creatures, with no seeming possible way to stop them. Ultimately, though, the story tends more to a subversion toward the end, if not quite Lovecraft Lite, deconstructing many of the native tropes and the the nihilistic overtones of the genre.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Several die this way; people are torn in half, gruesomely eaten or smashed by the City's creatures, dissolved from the inside-out, or, in Crystal's case, tortured, raped, half-mutated, and finally killed after her body is made host to Draynak.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: What Michael went through in his youth isn't pretty, and doubles as his Freudian Excuse.
  • David vs. Goliath: The final battle. The small, cut-up teenager Alessa Hopper, versus the Nigh-Invulnerable fallen goddess Lucia. Alessa wins.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Daniel crosses this after Mark's death and is ultimately driven to suicide because of it. Mathilda, too, is heavily hinted to break right after Katrina dies.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The entire plot and all the misery in it can be tied back to one. Lucia, or the Shadows' Consultant, became the life-hating sadist she is ultimately revealed to be because her sisters cast her down from godhood because Lucia was using her powers to torture everything under her for her amusement. In response, Lucia decided to get back at her sisters by murdering every living thing in existence.
  • Driven to Suicide: After the mutation and ultimate death of his children, Daniel is driven to suicidal grief and asks Draynak to kill him. Draynak obliges.
  • Eldritch Abomination: This trope is analyzed and ultimately deconstructed. The book takes a thorough look at just how much humanity pales to beings like that of the City, and, as it's revealed, no matter how horrible the beings of the City may be, there's always something worse, and there always will be something worse. It also explores a perspective not often seen by giving us a fair look at things from the abomination's pPOV, and the troubles it has with comprehending beings of such insignificant stature in the universe.
  • Eldritch Location: The titular City fits this trope in absolute spades; a world explicitly said to run on significantly different sets of physics than Earth, the City is mainly comprised of endless, winding labyrinths that change at random, with cities of odd towers comprised of colors imperceptible to the human eye, random mirages that look like neighborhoods on Earth, and populated by monstrous beings with no conception of morality or even death.
  • Evil All Along: Faye turns out to be a chaos-obsessed anarchist.
  • Expy: Many of the eldritch creatures in the story are deliberately based on creatures from the original Cthulhu Mythos, with many of the monsters likened to pre-existing creatures by Michael and further confirming the intention of the resemblance.
    • The Passenger resembles Ghatanothoa, a large, amorphous entity who's very visage is a Brown Note capable of instantly killing or driving to madness anyone who looks at it. Michael also likens its appearance to that of Eihort from Ramsey Campbell's stories.
    • The Mollusc resembles Tsathoggua; a sedentary, immobile, disgusting creature with control over powerful, near-invulnerable creatures that do their bidding — the formless spawn for Tsathoggua, and the slag-behemoths for the Mollusc.
    • The Needler visually resembles Atlach-Nacha, a spider-like abomination from the mind of Clark Ashton Smith, but its role is actually equivalent to Shub-Niggurath, a fertile being that produces and mothers an entire host of smaller entities it nourishes with its inner energies.
    • The Priest is somewhat more obscure, but it represents Cthulhu; a being explicitly shown to serve as the high priest of higher forces and arguably the most powerful and well-known of the City's creatures barring the Consultant.
    • The Shadows' Consultant is representative of Nyarlathotep, serving directly as the emissary of the eldritch forces. Further adding to this, not only does the Consultant take the form of multiple avatars to which to further its goals — those seen being the Consultant and "Shaw Sultan" — but it's also explicitly the most human-like and sadistic of the eldritch creatures, fully capable of conversing with and manipulating humans for its own designs. Ultimately, the connotations become even more apparent when it's revealed the Consultant isn't the emissary of the City's creatures, but rather Draynak, who itself is the in-story equivalent of an Outer God.
    • Draynak itself is Yog-Sothoth, down to initially appearing as a gathering of "sleek, iridescent spheres," which is how Yog-Sothoth is usually presented, naming two of its own names as "the Gate" and "Aforgomon," both canonical avatars of Yog-Sothoth, and existing as an entity which once held the entirety of reality's knowledge within its endless mind. Parts of its dialogue are also direct shout-outs to its conversation with Randolph Carter in Through the Gates of the Silver Key.
    • The greatest Eldritch Abomination in the setting, the Emperor of Ashen Rain, is Azathoth; a primordial being older and stronger than even Draynak that exists outside the universe, turning everything around it into a mesh of horrible, incomprehensible chaos. It's even name-dropped as a "daemon sultan" by Draynak itself, which itself is one of Azathoth's many names in the Mythos.
  • Eye Scream: Crystal's right eye has been overgrown with a pink, fleshy mass by the time Daniel finds her.
  • Facial Horror: Crystal's face is not exempt from the mutation.
  • Fingore: Daniel suffers this in his nightmare, with some other creature in the City itself viciously maiming and breaking his fingers.
  • Foreshadowing: Two particularly pronounced instances of this through the use of paintings:
    • Daniel has a painting of Ivan the Terrible in his room that freaks out his children. Guess what Ivan was famous for doing to one of his own kids?
    • Another occurs right after Daniel wakes up, with the arrival of the eccentric scientist Welter Faye being preceded by Daniel seeing a very conspicuous painting of Satan right by his bedside. Entirely appropriate to Faye's true demeanor.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Played with. Faye is usually a feminine name, but Faye insists on being called by it anyways. “Faye” is actually his last name; his first name is the decidedly-more masculine Welter.
  • Good Parents: Mathilda and Daniel towards their respective children. This tragically doesn't work for them — in Daniel's case, his failure to protect his children drives him to suicide, and the latter is all but implied to fall into irreversible despair after her daughter Katrina dies.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Emperor of Ashen Rain, the being responsible for originally corrupting Draynak, is the greatest, most powerful Eldritch Abomination in the story, but it doesn't play any direct role in the story until the climax, where it attempts to get into the City upon Draynak's unsealing.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Alessa and Katrina fight off the Consultant to give Hansel and Mathilda a chance to escape the City — and they possibly die managing to finally defeat the Consultant once and for all.
  • Improvised Weapon: Alessa uses the broken-off rod of an arm rail to fight off Lucia in the final battle.
  • Immune to Bullets: The Consultant isn't so much as harmed by a point-blank shotgun blast in the chest.
  • Jerkass: Edison is rough, abrasive, insensitive, foul-mouthed, and seems to care little about anyone else but him. He softens a bit when he finds Crystal and Mark.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Christian and Michael. The former's impatient and sharp-tongued, but truly does care about his people, and Michael's not so much a jerk as he is hopelessly cynical – something he starts to wean himself out of as the book progresses.
  • The Juggernaut: The Shadows' Consultant is an absolute tank of a creature that slugs off a shard of glass to the neck, two shotgun blasts point-blank to the body and later having the same shotgun smashed on its head with enough force to break it, and every other attempt to directly attack it without so much as any visible damage. Even as Lucia, she still manages to shrug off having her neck snapped and a bar of sharp metal to the face — it takes the powers of a being capable of unmaking reality itself to finally destroy her.
  • Kill the Cutie: The adorable, timid Crystal Hopper is cruelly tortured and raped into becoming the host for Draynak, which ultimately leads to her death the moment it possesses and mutates her form. This, alongside the death of his other child Mark, is the catalyst for Daniel's suicide.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Michael has completely become this at the end, realizing that life is indeed worth fighting for, but at the same time, everything changes and nothing lasts forever — including eldritch gods like Draynak.
    Michael: Are we all doomed? By the whim of some other inconceivable god, or perhaps an apocalypse wrought by our own hubris? You bet your cosmic ass, Draynak. But as long as we're still fighting the good fight... I think we deserve a chance to face the future as much as anyone else in this Teraverse of ours.
  • Lamprey Mouth: The Needler is described as having this, also being likened in-universe to the Sarlaac.
  • The Lost Lenore: Leandra is this to Daniel, killed by Lester Craw a year before the book starts.
  • Mercy Kill: Daniel does this to Mark on Edison's advice, Mark having been mutated into a nightmarish, pained horror by the Consultant.
  • Mind Screw: The City's structure in a nutshell. Between endlessly changing labyrinths, the laws of physics not applying in the least, quaint neighborhoods without any sound, and Michael finding what appears to be the sun in one of the expeditions – which isn't built up on – the City seems to intentionally defy all logic.
  • Monster Progenitor: The Needler is this to the slug-beings, even being likened in-universe to Yog-Sothoth for its role in the mothering of other eldritch creatures.
  • Neck Snap: Christian attempts to snap Lucia's neck. It doesn't work.
  • Nominal Hero: Edison is only helping to fight against the City to seek revenge on it for its destruction of St. Howard's. Aside from that, he's needlessly caustic to everyone else.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Draynak seeks to destroy the entirety of the Teraverse to continue existing forevermore, and Lucia creates the conflict of the story by exploiting this desire to free Draynak and allow it to annihilate reality out of hatred for all life. Faye becomes this as well through his attempt to stop Michael from confronting Draynak.
  • Orifice Invasion: A particularly horrifying instance revealed with the Consultant. Those leeches it has a fondness for? Are a key factor in the ritual needed to free Draynak, which the Consultant employs by allowing the leeches to penetrate every orifice its candidates have to impregnate them with a spawn Draynak possesses.
  • Posthumous Character: Many characters who receive recurring mentions throughout the book are long dead. The most prominent of these is the village of St. Howard's, which was destroyed by the City five years prior to the attack on Onolo and serve to drive both Edison and Faye's obsession with the City.
  • Reality Bleed: The City's slowly leaking into Onolo, and as it does so, odd things start to happen to Onolo, culminating in it being anchored out of temporal existence. This had previously happened with St. Howard's.
  • Sanity Slippage: Surprisingly downplayed given the nature of the story; Hansel is driven to the edge after years of wandering through the City and has a Freak Out upon returning to Earth, and Daniel nearly goes mad after looking at the Passenger, but both ultimately manage to retain their sanity.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: While Draynak isn't exactly evil so much as draconian and incomprehensible in its motives, it still poses a threat to all of reality — a threat that isn't actively put into motion until Lucia frees it in the fourth part of the story.
  • Ship Tease: Sharp eyed readers will note some between Alessa and Katrina. Which turns out to pay off as the two confess their love for one another later on.
  • Shrinking Violet: Subverted with Edison. Edison is built up as a nervous, panicky, shy man and is even name-dropped as having the reputation of a shrinking violet — then he opens his mouth for the first time and proceeds to curse up a storm while viciously attacking Daniel on his idealistic beliefs. Katrina on the other hand is a shy little sweetheart, and Crystal Hopper is incredibly shy and awkward.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Profanity in the story is fairly liberal, but Edison manages to beat out everyone else in this department, sandwiching almost everything he says between a Cluster F-Bomb. Granted, Edison is a jumpy, paranoid mess and it seems to be a way for him to relieve anxiety.
  • Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism: Michael and Mathilda discuss this at one point, and the story itself analyzes the concepts in the ending, with Michael realizing people suffer if one is too idealistic or too cynical about the ever-changing future. Fittingly, the story itself lands somewhere smack dab in the middle of the scale; Michael gets an optimistic if bittersweet ending as Earth's guardian, Daniel's ultimate fate is as soul-crushingly depressing as possible for the genre, and the few that are left are generally just left to move on with uncertainty in their futures either way.
  • Spiders Are Scary: The Needler is a flaming, house-sized arachnidian creature that is constantly producing eldritch slugs and leeches from its body, and is one of the most lethal, terrifying creatures in the City alongside the Passenger.
  • Surreal Horror: Mind Screw is abound and the monsters are decidedly non-conventional.
  • The Sociopath: Faye. He feigns amiability with Christian in order to get closer to the City, and although he's pleasantly affable to everyone even after revealing his true colors, he has no compunction attempting to brutally kill someone.
  • Tragic Monster: What Mark ultimately becomes. Daniel is forced to put him down to relieve his suffering.
  • Transformation Horror: The unlucky bastards who end up mutated by the City (most notably Crystal and Mark) undergo this.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The beings of the City aren't malign in the least and are implied to not even be actively destructive. They're confused and frustrated by the existence of humanity and its morals, and everything they do is a direct result of Lucia's manipulations, which is ultimately for a plot that will ultimately destroy both of their worlds.
  • Walking Spoiler: Quite a few characters qualify due to the twist-heavy nature of the story, but likely the biggest of them is Draynak, the Big Bad of the story and the eldritch god trapped within the City.
  • Wham Line: Several.
    • The revelation of Mr. Bright's identity through a journal Daniel finds:
      Catalog of Dr. Hansel Brighterson (written 2021): A Study into the Remeditary and the City
    • In Chapter 13:
      That was it. The body's name was Michael. Michael Wilford Seer.
    • Faye's betrayal:
      On Faye's face, Michael could see nothing but pure, inhuman evil.
    • Likely the biggest one is the revelation of Draynak's existence, the being behind Lucia and the entire plot as a result.
      Lucia: Rise, Draynak. Your bond shall hold you no longer.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the final battle, Welter Faye is nowhere to be seen, even though the last we see of him is him being dragged unconscious but most likely alive into another dimension.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Consultant is introduced attempting to kill Alessa and Katrina in its first scene, and shortly thereafter kills an entire family, including a child. This isn't getting onto its horrible torture of Crystal and the infant Mark.