Fanfiction + Commentary, Popular Genres Assignment Two

Old newspaper articles littered my office, I was trying to read one of the articles but my eyes blurred over the lines and after a while, the words looked jumbled together. It was about a man who visited a little town called Innsmouth about twenty years ago, he instigated a Government investigation into the town but disappeared shortly after and was declared missing by state police. 

I had gone through stacks of articles and transcripts of that same missing person case –  a few conspiracy theories as well. Over the years this case has been opened and closed numerous times, no concrete evidence was ever found so the case was never solved. Some reasonable people claimed he drowned, others with less realistic claims thought he joined the creatures under the sea and those creatures took over the town as well. Those were the kinds of claims I ignored completely. Sea creatures. Unless you’re talking about a new species of pufferfish then those kinds of claims were absurd.

My office door was pushed open, revealing Tobias smiling slyly. Broad-shouldered and wearing his classic brown trench coat, he placed a thick folder, containing more articles and papers, on the edge of my desk. 

“This is boring,” I tell him. Can I be assigned a different case?

Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Cold cases don’t reopen very often and we need our best to handle it.” Which was a clear contradiction because I heard him telling other officers and detectives that I should have stayed in Med School.

“Nothing happens in Innsmouth.” It’s been almost 20 years since this guy went missing. He’s probably dead. 

He raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t look convinced. 

“C’mon, small towns always have issues, a few missing people don’t make them any special.” He flipped through the file I was going through and picked out an image of the person he’s hoping I’ll find. After working with him for the last few years I learned that he has a thing for small-town mysteries. He was from a small town himself and got interested in detective work after he helped a neighbour solve where their lambs ran away. Turns out the lamb was butchered and eaten by another neighbour.

“Besides,” I continued, “Innsmouth is a sea-side town, this guy was from the suburbs, he probably drowned somewhere off the coast, maybe he got curious about the sea – city folk are like that, too snobby and think they know everything, walked into the sea, tried to swim and then realised he couldn’t fight the currents as he drowned, pretty old case as well, attitudes were different back then.” I paused for a moment to check if he was paying attention, and he was to my surprise and signalled for me to keep telling him my deduction.

“The town is practically empty and locals testified that he was just passing through, and he stayed at a hotel, not in someone’s guest room. That proves that he didn’t know anyone from there, so there couldn’t have been any foul play involved, so murder is already out of the question.”

He laughed at my conclusion. “See you are one of our best.” False praise “But seriously, how can you be so sure that he didn’t know anyone there just by reading all these case briefs? For all we know he had a secret lover there – city folk can be like that right?” I thought I trained you better, was what he was really trying to say. 

“Because there’s no evidence of foul play,” I replied matter-of-factly and slightly annoyed.

“Exactly, there’s no evidence. Go find it.” He lost his slight playfulness and threw the folder he was holding back on my desk.

And that’s how I ended up driving myself to Innsmouth for the long weekend. On the passenger seat, I had a list of a few people of interest. They’re probably long gone, but Tobias always told me to walk down every lane, and if there’s a dead-end, walk down another lane. So that’s what I was going to do.

The man I’m looking for had stayed at a hotel called the Gilman House for a short time. The lobby was decorated with a round looking chandelier which vaguely reminded me of a lighthouse, calling you home, it shone bright and was almost blinding to look at. The rest of the lobby had dark stormy blue wallpaper, there were paintings on the walls depicting strange humanoid figures with octopus tentacles crawling out the mouth. Very quaint for a sea-side town.

The receptionist mentioned that this hotel was supposedly haunted, my case files said the same thing. Weird noises and ghosts creeping down the halls at night were reported by numerous ex-hotel guests. I dismissed her story immediately. Regardless, the receptionist still told me that if I wanted to check into a different hotel I was welcome to do so. She was a middle-aged lady, she had a few wrinkles on her face but somehow still looked youthful. She had some sea emerald green paint splattered on the tips of her hands, it was, after all, a long weekend, she must be getting ready to celebrate later this evening. “Strange people live here now,” she warned, “don’t come crying to me if something happens.”

“I’ll be fine,” I smiled and walked up the creaky stairs to my room.

Sleep was the only thing I could think off after the long drive, and my sleep was almost uninterrupted that night. In a dreamy haze at around 3 am, I somehow woke up to the sound of footsteps and marching outside my window. Pulling the curtains aside, the moon gleamed into my room engulfing everything in a cold blue-white light. I saw a mob of people gathered on the street in front of me, in blue-grey fish scale outfits with sharp, pointed fins.

Rolling my eyes, I crawled back into bed whilst trying to recall the last time I ever went to a parade. 

The next morning I made the effort to talk to some locals and maybe find a few people on my person of interest list. I wasn’t optimistic, this case was old, people die, people move out, whatever evidence Tobias thinks might still be here is long gone. So, the goal was to actually just find out more about the town – Innsmouth isn’t exactly popular with tourists, but nonetheless, according to the witness testimonies I had back in my office, there is something strange about this town. Unfortunately, the testimonies were old and vague on the details, I have no idea what they meant by ‘strange’, were the people strange? The buildings? What was so abnormal about Innsmouth? The town looked normal to me. 

Looking around I found the local grocery store, my reports stated that the police investigated a few leads here, back when the case was fresh. They didn’t get very far, they found out about an Innsmouth local, Zadok, who had talked to the missing man. However, he was the kind of guy who warned passersby about human-like sea monsters and the imminent destruction of the world. Climate change. He was right about the imminent destruction part. Regardless, Zadok could have been useful to the investigation, especially since he knew about the missing man, and since it was also rumoured that he disappeared around the same time the man went missing. But the previous investigators didn’t think he was important to their case and wrote him off as unreliable. I made a mental note to check later if there was any missing person case filed for Zadok.

I ended up walking to the seaside and took in the salty sea air as the cold waves washed over my feet. This was another open-and-shut case. The man drowned. Zadok could be the only person who could confirm this but finding him was another issue entirely. Other than that, this case is really not that complicated. After reading and listening and analysing all those police documents, drowning is the only reasonable explanation.  

Sighing, I walked deeper into the sea and stopped when the water reached my knees. I saw something glimmer in the water just in front of me. Pearls maybe? Innsmouth was known for fishing and seafood, there could be clams here. I walked in deeper into the sea, the waves splashing harshly at my waist, soaking my clothes.

My phone started ringing furiously in my hand just as I was about to lean down and pick up the pearl. It was Tobias no doubt, most likely calling me to check for any leads or updates on the case. I let the call go to voicemail and leaned close to the water surface, I was so sure that I had seen something shine in the haze below the sea.

My eyes widened and dropping my phone in haste I ran back to my car as fast as I could, but the heaviness of my wet clothes slowed me down.

This fanfiction was inspired by The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft (1936). Lovecraft wrote his story in the first person POV so, his narrator is the only person who knows the full story, and everyone else knows nothing about what happened in Innsmouth. My fanfiction is an outsider’s perspective of what happened to Lovecraft’s narrator and I attempted to incorporate both of Volger’s (1998) character archetypes and mythic narrative structures into my fanfiction. 

Concerning Volger’s (1998) character archetypes, the hero of my fanfiction is the unnamed narrator. I portrayed her as someone who has zero interest in the case – that was her character flaw, all the evidence of what happened to Lovecraft’s narrator was in front of her, yet her ignorance and disinterest prevented her from discovering the truth, until the very end. I decided to combine the roles of the mentor and the herald into one character which is the male detective, Tobias. The vagueness of his relationship with the narrator (Are they friends? Are they strictly colleagues?) made their interactions a little bit more interesting since his intentions could be interpreted in different ways. But, Tobias’ main role was to motivate the hero to engage more with the community and to be her call to action. The threshold guardian was the old lady who worked at the hotel reception. Her warning to the narrator to go stay somewhere else was important in the sense that she symbolizes the change from natural to the supernatural – all the strange things start happening after her warning. Since Vogler’s (1998) character archetypes state that the shadow character can wear different masks, they are represented by the Innsmouth locals. The locals have a close relationship with Deep Ones, while by day they seem like ordinary townspeople, by night they morph into sea creatures. I ultimately decided not to include a shapeshifter character or a trickster character into my fanfiction mainly because I didn’t want to over-complicate the story.

Volger’s (1998) mythic structure was easier to incorporate than his character archetypes; according to his theory Act Two is the longest with around 50% of the story spent on it and 25% respectively spent on Act One and Three. However, I focused a little more than necessary on Act 1 because my fanfiction is picking up the story twenty years after the events that occurred in Lovecraft’s original story. So, I wanted to establish the main character and background a little bit more for the reader’s benefit. In Act Two the narrator’s character flaw becomes more prominent because essentially it is that character flaw which is preventing her from solving the case – fans of Lovecraft’s story will pick up the easter eggs which signal that the town has been taken over by the Deep Ones. So, the reason why it may not seem like she faced any obstacles in the story is because her character flaw is actually the largest obstacle she has to face. That is why Act Three wraps up pretty quickly because once she sees the Deep Ones swimming up to the surface, she realises that all the strange things she’s encountered in Innsmouth was real and runs back to the ordinary world with that information. 

Ultimately, I managed to incorporate some Volger’s (1998) theories into my writing but not to a large extent as I had combined a few elements together and didn’t include others. 

Reference List:

Lovecraft, H. P. (1936). The Shadow over Innsmouth. Visionary Publishing Company.

Vogler, C. (1998). The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions

Shradha Chand
Fanfiction: 1499 Words
Commentary: 566 Words (Excluding References)

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