The first book I remember seeing on the Sterling family bookshelf, possibly between "Ivanhoe" and "The Outline Of History", was the Omnibus of Science Fiction.

The first story I ever read was "The Rag Thing"; a cautionary tale about a down and out man named Skelty, who chain-smoked in bed, unaware that a filthy rag beneath that same bed had been going through fantastic chemical changes, as it lay unseen for months at a time. The rag finally makes it's presence known when Skelty reaches down to extinguish his nth cigarette only to find he has stuck it into an unexpected moistness that quickly becomes a flaming horror; grabbing his hand, writhing and flipping up his arm, wrapping itself around his screaming face before he even has a chance to realize the mistake that takes his life, or repent the choices that may have led to such an ignominious end.

Though I was also introduced to H.P. Lovecraft at that time, it was Skelty that flashed through my mind as I found myself wondering what would happen if some kid parked where no one would notice - much less object to - and huffing Carbona, got his bag too close to some burning incense, as the cops do, in fact, pull up in response to a nosy housewife awake at 3 AM.

"Throttlable consciousness" and the chemicals that bring it about, though it can be traced back to Oracles whose bodies were "taken over by the God Apollo" is a tough sell, and ultimately - like so much in life - you have to be there. The results of my attempts to know "what Gods know", by seeing for myself, are the basis for the other TOL TALES; the discovery of Thuluene by the Third Reich in T2D: TEST TO DESTRUCTION. The actual substance huffed by one of the two survivors in a pre-Ridley Scott remake of the ANDROMEDA STRAIN, where Skelty and his journal reappear to tie together other various fragments that champion the un-championable.

Tales that lead the reader to better things to do at 3 in the morning.

Though I ultimately went with Lovecraft, and choose to have my readers "be there" at the end of FLYBY; my own addition to the Cthulhu Mythos, here is the opening to my update of the first story that made sure I was never the same after I read it.

Remember, the mistake of King Leonidus was not in seeking out the Oracle. It was letting the Priests translate Her Vision for him.

Perhaps the true King seeks the Vision himself.

 

The Bag Thing

The Bag Talks. The Bag Teaches. The Bag shows what you might never see otherwise.

The Bag DOES NOT Giveth and Taketh away. The Bag is just a bag.

The Bag will not urge you on, and it will not tell you to stop. It will wait. Wait for you to decide which diametrically opposed choice to make, which unknown action to take.

The Bag is just a bag, waiting for one who knows; one who would know more.

Skelty knew that. He'd known it since High School... quite a few schools back. He looked once again at what he'd just written, recognizing both the truth and uselessness of it, and closed his journal. But not before he crossed out the original title; with it's visions of a flaming plastic horror wrapping and flapping up his arm, and wrote in the new one... in pen.

 

The Bag That Wouldn't Die.