Short Story Review: “In the Sacred Cave” by Lois H. Gresh

2 of 5 stars.

Unpacking true history through the layers of folklore and archaeological evidence filtered through the biased truths of the historical victors has been an ongoing challenge to academia. The folklore itself often incorporates lost levels of supernatural and early religious influence worthy of fantasy. Here, historic hints along with lore of the Incas and pre-Incas meld with Lovecraftian mythos to depict a dark and fantastic look at the sacred spaces of the pre-Incan cultures. The pre-Incan is anachronistically and deeply infused with Lovecraftian mythos. One common characteristic that they do correctly share is the dysmorphic transformation of humans into something beastly and more ancient, if not eternal.

Chicya, a Quechua-speaking Incan, has spent her young life exploring her Andean mountains. She finds herself captured and tended to by hideous clay-like creatures that hint at human characteristics. Creatures shift from being clay pots to alive and back again over the course of days. As she emerges from her own delirium, she finds that her own body is starting to transform . . .

Tying the pre-Incan folklore aspect to Lovecraftian mythos is jarringly abrupt as it comes in a late realization to the protagonist. So, too, does a proof-less realization that the transformations are also indicative of a mutated small pox virus introduced by the Spanish centuries earlier. Science-based “realizations” without testing or use of the scientific process are the antithesis of science, and awkwardly shift the genre toward sci-fi. Leaving the transformations within the realm of supernatural pre-Incan lore could have made for a smoother tale.

This tale appears in the New Lovecraftian anthology, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran. I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Necrotic Cove”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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