Replotting The Thing On The Roof

The original idea, straight from my notebook:

Why not... - steal the plots of those "Lovecraft Mythos" failed stories &
rewrite/update 'em as my own? Why not indeed!

I knew this would be challenging so I told myself I'd use the very first story in the anthology Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, which contains some of the pulpiest pulp published. The first story, Robert Howard's "The Thing on the Roof," I outlined below.

Clearly, TTOTR is a completely failed story.

In my replot, I only held onto two elements of the original: the Honduran setting, and the idea of a hidden/lost/mysterious temple. I used some background I still have in my head (archaeologists, ancient Mayan cultures) and my own interest in plotted dramatic stories. Here's the first draft of the new plot, straight from my notebook:

Backstory: "Security forces" (mercenaries) dispatched to Guatemaula to hunt down narcoterrorists in the jungle. One assassination squad finds an ancient temple hidden in the jungle. They've seen a dozen already and would've ignored this one, too, but it looked different than the rest. One whole section was clean -- meticulously picked clean of vines, lichens, etc. Capt. Franklin et. al. are here to track down and eliminate a village-elder type -- a small-time politician who's somehow offended the govt.

When they find this village (called the Old Place by the locals, just map coordinates to outsiders) it's full of strangely degenerated people. Twisted, deformed as if by long exposure to toxic radiation [total Lovecraft strophe!]. Mercs catch a few (Valentine gets bitten on the arm) and burn the village, take the head man in the forest, torture them to talk about the temple. The 3 villagers all die screaming in some unknown dialect. The headman chants ceaselessly until Red can't stand it anymore and shoots him in the head.

All the villagers have fled into the forest, so the squad investigates the temple. Pull down vines, hack away with machetes. Try to find a way in and can't. Spencer disappears in the middle of the night -- they never find a trace of him.

Capt. Franklin is convinced there's something valuable in the temple -- if they can't find an entrance, who can? They hike out to the dig site near Copan for medical supplies (Valentine needs antibiotics) and for a translator.

The squad infiltrates the camp in the middle of the night and holds everyone at gunpoint. [present action begins here] Take Dr. Vincenza (threatening to shoot a laborer every 5 minutes until she's ready to go), meds, supplies and some old dynamite, and head for the temple.

Reversal: Dr. Susan Vincenza starts most powerless and Capt. Franklin most powerful. Power structure inverted.

Dr. Vincenza goes from pacifist to murderer (she's surrounded by ruthlessness, by the jungle). From revealing info to hiding info. She's like Gretel in Hansel and Gretel.

Go thru forest. Valentine getting sicker. L-shaped ambush of drug smugglers, Dr. Vincenza hobbled and guarded.

Approaching temple. Nightmares. They know they're getting closer.

Find Spencer's tortured, mutilated body. Or maybe he's still alive? (Note: find later [otherwise they'd take revenge on the villagers when they encountered them]).

To village. Dr V can speak to villagers.

Temple. Dr. V works on translation. Greatest leader inside. Capt. F wants to blow it open but V convinces him not to (converting priceless artifacts to scrap?). Says she thinks the villagers might know a way in, or at least can shed some light on the problem.

She meets w/villagers, tells tehm how to attack the squad, what to do, when, etc. She does this in the presence of the guards, but in the Ch'orti' dialect no one else can speak. She gathers the villagers w/prybars and at her signal they attack the soldiers, overwhelm them. Capture Capt. F. He begs for mercy (wounded?) and V offers him the same mercy he gave the village headman.

V stays, surveying and documenting. Becomes the head of the tribe.

Epilogue: 2006
Strange degenerate tribe discovered deep in the jungle, led by a white woman. Temple. A few pieces of rusty equipment. Further research required.
So, there I have some of the characteristics of a Lovecraft story: a mysterious, ancient temple. Degenerate people. No monsters in this draft.

I don't usually plan this much before writing a short story. I was only able to break out of the mold of my process because I viewed this story as an exercise rather than a "real" story.