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The Flying Polyps, or Polypous Race, were a malevolent alien race described in the 1936 short story The Shadow Out of Time by the late H.P. Lovecraft.
The Flying Polyps first came to Earth in the early Cryogenian period 750 million years ago.
The Flying Polyps were amorphous beings described to be semi-polypous, and composed of matter only partly of this world. They often lapsed in and out of visibility, but could be recognized by the shrill whistling sounds which accompanied them. They had no eyes and required no light to navigate, as their other senses were powerful enough to pierce material obstructions. They had no wings, but were capable of flight, and apparently had control over the winds, although when moving overland they left five-toed tracks of considerable size. Conventional weaponary was largely ineffective in combating the Polypous Race, but they were vulnerable to certain kinds of electrical energy. Their intelligence as a race is debatable, but their minds were too strange to be understood by most other races.
After arriving on Earth from other planets in the Solar System, they soon asserted themselves as predators and expanded their territory greatly, building for themselves black cities made of great basalt towers. They attempted to colonise the early oceans, but were defeated by the Elder Things (how this was managed is unknown) and remained confined to the land from then on. About 500 million years after the arrival of the Polyps, a race called the Great Race of Yith transfered their minds to a soft-bodied Earth species, and succeeded in using electrical weapons to drive the Flying Polyps into hiding deep in the bowels of the Earth. The strangeness of the Polyp's minds prevented the Great Race from performing similar mind-transfers with them.
However, the Polypous Race did not require light, and found that the eternally dark caverns suited them better than the surface had. Beneath the surface their numbers increased steadily, and after a series of wars, they finally managed to destroy the Great Race. Although many managed to escape by transfering their minds into the far future. After their final war the Flying Polyps returned to the caverns, and over great expanses of time their numbers waned for unknown reasons, until after hundreds of millions of years they were finally extinct on Earth and the refugee consciousnesses of the Great Race could safely transfer to a beetle-like species in the far future. According to The Shadow Out of Time, however, we are currently living in an era where small numbers of Polyps still remain in basalt cities deep underground, and the Great Race will only return millions of years in the future, after Humanity is gone and the beetle-like species has taken over.
In other media
- A pair of flying polyps appear as bosses towards the end of the game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
- A flying polyp also appears in the 2009 short film Elder Sign by the writer/director Joseph Nanni.