’Twas the night before Chanukah, and all through the planet, not a creature was stirring except for the Elder God Cthulhu who was waking up from his eons-long slumber. And as the terrible creature awakened in the city of R’lyeh, deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, and wiped drool from his face-tentacles, all the usual signs heralded the upcoming apocalypse in the outside world: mass hysteria, cats and dogs living together, and cable repairmen arriving to their appointments within the designated three-hour window.

“This will not do,” said Chanukah Henry. “I will not have the world ending on my watch, not during the Festival of Lights.”

“This sounds like a serious problem,” said Henry’s father the brain surgeon at the dinner table after they lit the menorah. “Maybe let The Guy in the Red Suit handle it?”

‘Chanukah’ Henry Rabinowitz bristled at the mention of Nick. Henry lived in his parents’ basement and put up with the litany of complaints from his mother by day while trying to launch his chosen career of spreading the Chanukah cheer by night. Nick, on the other hand, lived in a mansion and dated supermodels and rode jet skis and everyone inexplicably loved him, despite his propensity for breaking and entering into people’s homes via their chimneys.

Henry pushed the matzo ball in his soup around with a spoon. “Absolutely not, Dad. Nick already has the best movies and songs and holiday specials and all the pretty ladies wanting to sit on his lap. All Chanukah has is that terrible Adam Sandler song. We need a great modern Chanukah story, and averting the apocalypse would do nicely.”

“I don’t know,” said his father. “This seems an awful lot like a Christmas yarn to me. ‘The Very Cthulhu Christmas’ even sounds like a better alliteration than ‘The Very Cthulhu Chanukah’.”

“I’ve been reading about this Cthulhu,” said Henry’s mother. “With his death cultists and his bad temper and his hideous face, he sounds just like Bertha Sheynson from the temple. And what’s with the irrelevance of humanity? My husband the brain surgeon is very important. And my son the schlimazel, well he could be important one day, too. Still, going to an underwater city alone at night sounds dangerous.”

Henry steeled himself against his mother’s usual monologue aimed at making him stay home, but she surprised him.

“You go out there and you make us proud, son. Just don’t forget to wear a hat. And some mittens.”

Feeling very verklempt, Henry put on his blue-and-white robe and set out for the South Pacific. He rounded up a group of shoggoths and quickly resolved their human resources problem (or rather, their shoggoth resources problem) by putting the red-nosed shoggoth in charge, because nothing works better than elevating the employee nobody likes to mid-level management. The subdued shoggoths pulled his ’84 Cadillac and he made it to the green slimy vaults of R’lyeh in no time.

He walked through the chilly cavernous halls of the corpse-city and was very glad to have listened to his mother and brought his hat. Finally, he was face to face with Cthulhu.

“Not cool,” he told the Elder God, “initiating an apocalypse on the first night of Chanukah. Between that and H.P. Lovecraft’s well-documented views, people might draw certain conclusions.”

“What? It’s not like that,” said Cthulhu. “I’m a progressive and forward-thinking being, and I’m disdainful of all of humanity equally! Besides, I don’t even feel like destroying anyone just now. I’d rather go back to sleep, but the neighborhood got so noisy with Godzilla and those Kaiju from the Pacific Rim gallivanting about. And I’m bored. Do you know how hard it is to get ESPN down here?”

“I can keep you entertained,” said Chanukah Henry. “We can spin the dreidel.” He withdrew the four-sided spinning top from his pocket.

“I don’t know,” said Cthulhu, examining the dreidel. “Gods aren’t supposed to play dice with the universe.”

“Nothing so dramatic,” said Henry. “We can play for this Chanukah gelt.” He produced a bag of chocolate coins.

It was a Chanukah miracle: the game most people can’t tolerate for more than twenty minutes at a time lasted for eight days and eight nights until Cthulhu was bored back into deep sleep.

Chanukah Henry saved everyone and became a celebrity, yet he never let the fame and fortune go to his head. The world was now his oyster, but Henry still kept kosher.

Alex Shvartsman’s very first publication was at EDF, back in 2010. Since then, his short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Nature, IGMS, and many other venues. His adventures so far have included traveling to over 30 countries, playing a card game for a living, and building a successful business. Alex resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and son. His published fiction is linked at www.alexshvartsman.com.

This story originally appeared in print in Galaxy’s Edge magazine.
We made a special exception to the no-reprints rule for it.

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