My expectations of this story were low for no other reason than the title. Something about the name “Machu Hampacchu” just doesn’t work for me. It’s the kind of name I’d expect to see in a satirical Lovecraft story about a ruined city of pig worshipping luchadores. That’s probably just me, and I’m happy to report that the title doesn’t do the story itself justice.
Louise Sorensen takes us back to the Deodanth, a city of that ancient time in earth’s history when no-fooling Elder Things walked the planet and flew the not-so-friendly skies. Having killed an Elder Thing back in Issue Five, Darla decides to lay low for a while by guiding a small cadre of clueless Strangers – humans not of Deodanth to a ruined city on the slopes far below.
It doesn’t work.
It turns out that leaving a city lost in the mists of time by hiding out in the ruins of an even older city that was itself lost in the mists of that first city’s time is a lot like jumping out of a leaking boat into the safety of the waiting jaws of an alligator. Or perhaps that should be the waiting jaws of a frog god. Darla and her companions run afoul of the things worshipped by the people of that ruined city, which in fine tradition means waking a slumber god.
As with many of the Eldritch Earth stories of Issue 5, The Toads of Machu Hampacchu is kind of hard to follow. Not for the plotting or the events, but by dint of the sheer alienness of the setting. Told in the first person by a native of the strange time and place, the descriptions of the setting and events are chock full of holes borne of the assumption that you know what Darla is talking about despite the eons between her writing and your reading. It lends the story an airy dreaminess that enhances the weirdness of the story in a completely natural way. Louise’s writing here reminds me a lot of that of Dominika Lein’s. If you’re read her works, you know what I mean.
That dreamy quality also takes what could have been a cliched resolution of the showdown at the end of the tale and turns it into something uncannily unknowable. Sure, twas beauty that slayed the beast, but in a way that makes just enough sense to be understood without making enough sense for it to feel natural.
And that’s a nice spin on the elder days.