When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country.
Even a traveller from space may wonder at the air of desolate dilapidation, the gorges of problematic depth, and the air of ancient mystery that seems to brood over the too-thick forests.
Deep below, two such travellers were making their way through a damp and drafty tunnel, with only the glow of the abnormally puffy fungus, and a small hand torch, to light their way.
"Who would have thought that we would end up here?" fretted Tragan. "Earth, of all places! Miserable little planet, no decent hunting, idiotic natives, completely cut off from the vast tapestry of interstellar art and leisure."
Avva patted his back - well actually, somewhat lower than his back. "Let's not be glum. What you have seen on the surface does not begin to approach the riches and wonders of the Earth's depths. Did you ever think that there would be a Sast hive here, for example?"
"You said it wasn't a Sast hive, but a neural pattern reflection, what does that mean?"
"Think of myself and them as sisters and brothers under the soul, not of the flesh. They shall be like the Sast, but changed from being born and raised on Earth. The light of our mind had shone here and they have grown towards that light. Do you understand?"
"I certainly don't-"
They were both interrupted by a sound; squelching, as though something vast and gelatinous was being slopped over the rocks ahead of them. Avva tilted her torch up.
What she illuminated was vast and white, covered with flickering colours. Great masses of its flesh rose and bubbled and sank back down, as it undulated and pulsed without ever moving from where it clung.
"What is that?" whispered Tragan.
"That, Tragan, is a shoggoth." Avva's voice was warm. "Pellucid and variable, endlessly inventive, splendid hunting partners, and matchless prey. You will find, Tragan, that, Tragan? Tragan!"
Avva shook Tragan's elbow and he turned his face to her, startled; his own pulsing flesh nearly matched that of the shoggoth. Avva read the colours rippling across it and winced.
"Tragan, whether you realise it or not, you're flirting. Stop that! You'll break its heart."
The shoggoth wriggled in a most loathsome fashion, and turned an incandescent shade of pink.
Then voices came from around the side of the shoggoth, and footsteps. Tragan stepped forward; he knew English and Avva did not, though she assured him that she knew the recognition codes of these pseudo-Sast and would be able to gain them entry.
The people who approached there were short, apparently Human females. Twins, Tragan thought: both had the same red curly hair, blue eyes and pale skin. He stepped forward and said, "Greetings from Sast PrimeHive 09 AA Thet. We come in peace."
Avva followed this with a liquid flow of syllables that apparently made sense to the two Earth women. They smiled, and one said, "Greetings to you and our home is yours. Welcome to JHive North American Division 13 OO Bokk."
"We have a ship," translated Tragan. "We need to get it moved to safety."
One of the women answered, "We shall move it. But come; let us see to your pleasure."
Tragan kept grumbling to himself, with only Avva to appreciate it, about damp tunnels and cold shale and living underground like a Trigunian moss rat. He ignored the several strangely slanted passageways they went through, except for the last, because as he stepped through the exit he felt a twisting that somehow reminded him of the jump to hyper.
"What was-" and Tragan was silenced.
The rough gravel floor of the tunnel sloped downwards in front of them, and faded into soft blue-green grass. The grass was interlaced with tiny periwinkle flowers that opened and closed in rhythm. Ahead, as far as the eye could see, were gentle hills covered with the same grass and trees whose branches twined into spirals. And between the hills were broad rolling valleys, rushing rivers, and narrow stone roads. Here and there peering out from under the trees were houses and what might be temples. It was a world, a world all of itself under the Earth, and the sky glowed with a steady yellow-green illumination.
The scene should have been bucolic; instead it was immensely and powerfully strange. There was a creeping tension in the air, a suggestion that the angles that the stone walls formed were not quite angles of normal geometry, and that the Gods worshipped in the temples in the distance were not like any other Gods.
Avva sighed. "Is this spacious enough for you, my sweet?"
Tragan did not reply, but he stepped back and slipped an arm around Avva's shoulders. She leaned into his side.
As they and their guides walked down the sloping meadow, to where a vehicle drawn by particularly large and lumpy amphibians awaited, Tragan again translated what Avva was saying.
"I bring news of a new contract. We are to send an emissary to a place and a time where a new species is being created, to influence its destiny for all time. Our contract is with the Doctor, the last of the Time Lords. He tried this mission - and he failed. We must go to work beside him, and see that things go differently."
One of the women hopped onto the front of the wagon, and the other stared at them both, her face turning pale for some reason. Tragan sniffed to himself. How could you even tell what these people were thinking when the only colours they turned were red, pink and white?
"A difficult contract. We shall have to step softly," she said.
NOTES ON THE TALE:
The character of Tragan the Naglon originated in the BBC audio drama/novel "The Paradise of Death" by Barry Letts; my own imaginings of what happened to him after the 'official' history, and how he met Avva, are captured in "A Pair of Dice."
Thanks to "The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage", by Midori, for being invaluable bondage reference material. Keep a copy tied to your coffee table!