QSFer Marie Cardno has a new FF paranormal romance out: How to Get a Girlfriend (When You’re a Terrifying Monster).
Life is tough when you’re an eldritch abomination.
Trillin isn’t technically a person. She’s a tiny breakaway piece of consciousness from the all-devouring Endless, doomed to eventually rejoin it. But when a human witch stumbles into her world, Trillin suddenly has a new reason to figure out individuality–one shape-shifting tentacle at a time.
Sian is sure important magical discoveries are just around the corner, if she can just get her portals to work reliably. Reaching the dimension of the Endless without being eaten on sight is a dream come true, and Sian is determined to explore every bit of it. For science, of course, not for the strangely adorable life-form who keeps popping up and trying to… flirt?
But Trillin’s world can be a dangerous place, and keeping Sian safe might risk drawing the attention of the Endless itself–which will swallow Trillin up along with all her dreams of humanity. Together, can this unlikely duo escape the Endless, figure out the optimum number of appendages, and maybe even find love?
How to Get a Girlfriend (When You’re a Terrifying Monster) is a sweet, low-heat F/F sapphic romance between a witch scientist and a shape-shifting Cthulhu monster. HEA guaranteed!
In the constantly changing void of the Endless Dimension, there is no such thing as people. There is only one person – or perhaps ‘being’ would be a better word. The constant, hungering entity that both is and fills the entire dimension: the Endless itself. Fragments of the Endless sometimes fracture off, spattering free like bubbles in a galactic pot of porridge, but they are quickly absorbed again, and anything they learnt or thought or felt while they were separated is gobbled back up into the hungering one-ness.
Except for one.
She didn’t remember how it had happened. One moment, she hadn’t been anything at all; the next, she was. She had edges. Something between the Endless and this new, separate thing that was her. And with those edges and this new her-ness, a sudden and desperate desire not to be sucked back into eternal, omniscient obscurity.
The Endless wanted her back, no question about that. But she (she! An individual!) was still very small, and as long as she didn’t do anything particularly noticeable, it was apparently difficult for the Endless to notice her.
The first time an interdimensional portal opened into the Endless, she thought it would provide good cover. The portal was very noticeable; next to it, she was even more likely to be overlooked. Even when the Endless manifested enormous eyeballs to peer at the portal, its gaze slid over her as though she didn’t exist.
She didn’t pay much attention to the portal the first few times it popped in and out of existence after that. It was enough that it attracted attention away from her, as she experimented with her edges and what she could do with the body – her body – inside them.
The Endless was full of shapes. It made and remade itself constantly, and fragments of it were forever sloughing off, devouring one another, and being reabsorbed by the whole again. She remembered a lot of the shapes from when she’d been part of the Endless, but none of them were right, and not just because it turned out to be very difficult to make your own shape when there was only you to make it.
None of the shapes she remembered were her. She didn’t even really know what she was going to be, yet, but she was fiercely, confusedly jealous of it. And each experimental skin and limb and sensory apparatus brought her closer to herself.
One day, just as she had succeeded in creating a tentacle and was waving it around, the portal flared. The rippling surface between the five points that outlined its shape against the Endless changed colour as a shadow formed at its centre. The shadow darkened, grew larger, and something pushed through from the other side.
Not something. Her edges sparked. A … a someone.
A someone with a flattish, paleish face, one blunt nose, two lidded eyes and a crest of dark hair. The bottom half of her face split, but not like aspects of the Endless split, forming and reforming along seams that changed position from moment to moment. This was an existing hole in the face, stretching wide as she stepped through the portal. Stepped through on legs. A body! A living body that moved through the world without changing its form!
She was suddenly, horribly self-conscious. She manifested another eyeball on the end of her tentacle and used it to look down at herself. Her body was … not like the newcomer’s. It had too many limbs, to start with. Small skittery limbs. She’d made a lot for practice, but now they were too many.
And her body had too many eyes, too, if the two the newcomer had were the number people were meant to have.
And a tentacle.
The newcomer didn’t have any tentacles.
She skittered down until only her tentacle-eye was visible over the solid surface in front of the portal. From there, she watched as the strange new being twisted its head this way and that, its mouth still stretched wide and its eyes darting around as though it were searching for something.
“Fantastic,” the creature breathed, and stepped back through the portal.
Her heart thudded. She suddenly had a heart to thud. It seemed to fill her entire body.
All at once, she knew two things.
First, she needed to make herself a new body. Something more like the urgently, wonderfully active creature she had just seen.
Second … she had to see that creature again.
Despite being separated from the Endless, the fragment still had its memories. At least, as many of them as could fit in her far smaller mind. She rifled through them as the portal dimmed. Before long, she found what she was looking for.
The portal-creature was what was known as a human.
The Endless had lots of memories of humans. Most of them were consumed memories from when a part of the Endless had split off, large enough to have its own goals and be able to carry them out. Usually, when a piece of the Endless got that big, its goals involved breaking through to another dimension and turning the inhabitants into mindless thralls. And the dimension where these humans lived was a particular favourite.
This did make it difficult for her to figure out what humans were like, given most of the memories involved screaming.
Marie Cardno lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where she spends most of her time hiding from gale-force winds. How to Get a Girlfriend (When You’re a Terrifying Monster) is her first book.