“The horrible conclusion which had been gradually obtruding itself upon my confused and reluctant mind was now an awful certainty. I was lost, completely, hopelessly lost in the vast and labyrinthine recesses of the Mammoth Cave.”

These are the opening words of H.P. Lovecraft’s short horror story The Beast in the Cave, written when the father of cosmic horror was only fourteen. These same words open my interactive fiction adaptation of the story, which I strove to keep as faithful as possible.

In fact, the game uses the actual text of the story, which is now in the public domain, wherever possible and by making the right choices you can essentially experience a complete retelling of the story. With the other story branches, I tried to stay as true to the story and Lovecraft’s antiquarian-stylings as possible. My hope is that someone less familiar with the work will not be able to tell which writing was me and which was H.P.

Once you’ve played the game, read on below for some spoilerific discussion.

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Pretty spooky, right? Although it is more conventional horror than a lot of Lovecraft’s writing, which often features strange dream vistas and powerful cosmic entities, The Beast in the Cave does anticipate one theme of Lovecraft’s later works: human degeneration. While this theme sometimes takes a more sinister racially-focused tone, which clearly reflected Lovecraft’s own unfortunate views on race, this undertone is absent from The Beast in the Cave. Instead, here, human degeneration is a result of complete and utter isolation.

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The scariest part of the story is truly that any human, including us the reader, could too become a monster if we were kept alone in utter darkness.