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At the Mountains of Madness

I
I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without
knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing this
contemplated invasion of the antarctic - with its vast fossil hunt and its wholesale boring
and melting of the ancient ice caps. And I am the more reluctant because my warning
may be in vain.

Doubt of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable; yet, if I suppressed what will
seem extravagant and incredible, there would be nothing left. The hitherto withheld
photographs, both ordinary and aerial, will count in my favor, for they are damnably
vivid and graphic. Still, they will be doubted because of the great lengths to which clever
fakery can be carried. The ink drawings, of course, will be jeered at as obvious
impostures, notwithstanding a strangeness of technique which art experts ought to remark
and puzzle over.

In the end I must rely on the judgment and standing of the few scientific leaders who
have, on the one hand, sufficient independence of thought to weigh my data on its own
hideously convincing merits or in the light of certain primordial and highly baffling myth
cycles; and on the other hand, sufficient influence to deter the exploring world in general
from any rash and over-ambitious program in the region of those mountains of madness.
It is an unfortunate fact that relatively obscure men like myself and my associates,
connected only with a small university, have little chance of making an impression where
matters of a wildly bizarre or highly controversial nature are concerned.

It is further against us that we are not, in the strictest sense, specialists in the fields which
came primarily to be concerned. As a geologist, my object in leading the Miskatonic
University Expedition was wholly that of securing deep-level specimens of rock and soil
from various parts of the antarctic continent, aided by the remarkable drill devised by
Professor Frank H. Pabodie of our engineering department. I had no wish to be a pioneer
in any other field than this, but I did hope that the use of this new mechanical appliance at
different points along previously explored paths would bring to light materials of a sort
hitherto unreached by the ordinary methods of collection.

Pabodie’s drilling apparatus, as the public already knows from our reports, was unique
and radical in its lightness, portability, and capacity to combine the ordinary artesian drill
principle with the principle of the small circular rock drill in such a way as to cope
quickly with strata of varying hardness. Steel head, jointed rods, gasoline motor,
collapsible wooden derrick, dynamiting paraphernalia, cording, rubbish-removal auger,
and sectional piping for bores five inches wide and up to one thousand feet deep all
formed, with needed accessories, no greater load than three seven-dog sledges could
carry. This was made possible by the clever aluminum alloy of which most of the metal
objects were fashioned. Four large Dornier aeroplanes, designed especially for the
tremendous altitude flying necessary on the antarctic plateau and with added fuel-
warming and quick-starting devices worked out by Pabodie, could transport our entire
expedition from a base at the edge of the great ice barrier to various suitable inland
points, and from these points a sufficient quota of dogs would serve us.

We planned to cover as great an area as one antarctic season - or longer, if absolutely


necessary - would permit, operating mostly in the mountain ranges and on the plateau
south of Ross Sea; regions explored in varying degree by Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott,
and Byrd. With frequent changes of camp, made by aeroplane and involving distances
great enough to be of geological significance, we expected to unearth a quite
unprecedented amount of material - especially in the pre-Cambrian strata of which so
narrow a range of antarctic specimens had previously been secured. We wished also to
obtain as great as possible a variety of the upper fossiliferous rocks, since the primal life
history of this bleak realm of ice and death is of the highest importance to our knowledge
of the earth’s past. That the antarctic continent was once temperate and even tropical,
with a teeming vegetable and animal life of which the lichens, marine fauna, arachnida,
and penguins of the northern edge are the only survivals, is a matter of common
information; and we hoped to expand that information in variety, accuracy, and detail.
When a simple boring revealed fossiliferous signs, we would enlarge the aperture by
blasting, in order to get specimens of suitable size and condition.

Our borings, of varying depth according to the promise held out by the upper soil or rock,
were to be confined to exposed, or nearly exposed, land surfaces - these inevitably being
slopes and ridges because of the mile or two-mile thickness of solid ice overlying the
lower levels. We could not afford to waste drilling the depth of any considerable amount
of mere glaciation, though Pabodie had worked out a plan for sinking copper electrodes
in thick clusters of borings and melting off limited areas of ice with current from a
gasoline-driven dynamo. It is this plan - which we could not put into effect except
experimentally on an expedition such as ours - that the coming Starkweather-Moore
Expedition proposes to follow, despite the warnings I have issued since our return from
the antarctic.

The public knows of the Miskatonic Expedition through our frequent wireless reports to
the Arkham Advertiser and Associated Press, and through the later articles of Pabodie
and myself. We consisted of four men from the University - Pabodie, Lake of the biology
department, Atwood of the physics department - also a meteorologist - and myself,
representing geology and having nominal command - besides sixteen assistants: seven
graduate students from Miskatonic and nine skilled mechanics. Of these sixteen, twelve
were qualified aeroplane pilots, all but two of whom were competent wireless operators.
Eight of them understood navigation with compass and sextant, as did Pabodie, Atwood,
and I. In addition, of course, our two ships - wooden ex-whalers, reinforced for ice
conditions and having auxiliary steam - were fully manned.

The Nathaniel Derby Pickman Foundation, aided by a few special contributions, financed
the expedition; hence our preparations were extremely thorough, despite the absence of
great publicity. The dogs, sledges, machines, camp materials, and unassembled parts of
our five planes were delivered in Boston, and there our ships were loaded. We were
marvelously well-equipped for our specific purposes, and in all matters pertaining to
supplies, regimen, transportation, and camp construction we profited by the excellent
example of our many recent and exceptionally brilliant predecessors. It was the unusual
number and fame of these predecessors which made our own expedition - ample though it
was - so little noticed by the world at large.

As the newspapers told, we sailed from Boston Harbor on September 2nd, 1930, taking a
leisurely course down the coast and through the Panama Canal, and stopping at Samoa
and Hobart, Tasmania, at which latter place we took on final supplies. None of our
exploring party had ever been in the polar regions before, hence we all relied greatly on
our ship captains - J. B. Douglas, commanding the brig Arkham, and serving as
commander of the sea party, and Georg Thorfinnssen, commanding the barque
Miskatonic - both veteran whalers in antarctic waters.

As we left the inhabited world behind, the sun sank lower and lower in the north, and
stayed longer and longer above the horizon each day. At about 62° South Latitude we
sighted our first icebergs - table-like objects with vertical sides - and just before reaching
the antarctic circle, which we crossed on October 20th with appropriately quaint
ceremonies, we were considerably troubled with field ice. The falling temperature
bothered me considerably after our long voyage through the tropics, but I tried to brace
up for the worse rigors to come. On many occasions the curious atmospheric effects
enchanted me vastly; these including a strikingly vivid mirage - the first I had ever seen -
in which distant bergs became the battlements of unimaginable cosmic castles.

Pushing through the ice, which was fortunately neither extensive nor thickly packed, we
regained open water at South Latitude 67°, East Longitude 175°. On the morning of
October 26th a strong land blink appeared on the south, and before noon we all felt a
thrill of excitement at beholding a vast, lofty, and snow-clad mountain chain which
opened out and covered the whole vista ahead. At last we had encountered an outpost of
the great unknown continent and its cryptic world of frozen death. These peaks were
obviously the Admiralty Range discovered by Ross, and it would now be our task to
round Cape Adare and sail down the east coast of Victoria Land to our contemplated base
on the shore of McMurdo Sound, at the foot of the volcano Erebus in South Latitude 77°
9'.

The last lap of the voyage was vivid and fancy-stirring. Great barren peaks of mystery
loomed up constantly against the west as the low northern sun of noon or the still lower
horizon-grazing southern sun of midnight poured its hazy reddish rays over the white
snow, bluish ice and water lanes, and black bits of exposed granite slope. Through the
desolate summits swept ranging, intermittent gusts of the terrible antarctic wind; whose
cadences sometimes held vague suggestions of a wild and half-sentient musical piping,
with notes extending over a wide range, and which for some subconscious mnemonic
reason seemed to me disquieting and even dimly terrible. Something about the scene
reminded me of the strange and disturbing Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and of
the still stranger and more disturbing descriptions of the evilly fabled plateau of Leng
which occur in the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. I was rather
sorry, later on, that I had ever looked into that monstrous book at the college library.
On the 7th of November, sight of the westward range having been temporarily lost, we
passed Franklin Island; and the next day descried the cones of Mts. Erebus and Terror on
Ross Island ahead, with the long line of the Parry Mountains beyond. There now
stretched off to the east the low, white line of the great ice barrier, rising perpendicularly
to a height of two hundred feet like the rocky cliffs of Quebec, and marking the end of
southward navigation. In the afternoon we entered McMurdo Sound and stood off the
coast in the lee of smoking Mt. Erebus. The scoriac peak towered up some twelve
thousand, seven hundred feet against the eastern sky, like a Japanese print of the sacred
Fujiyama, while beyond it rose the white, ghostlike height of Mt. Terror, ten thousand,
nine hundred feet in altitude, and now extinct as a volcano.

Puffs of smoke from Erebus came intermittently, and one of the graduate assistants - a
brilliant young fellow named Danforth - pointed out what looked like lava on the snowy
slope, remarking that this mountain, discovered in 1840, had undoubtedly been the source
of Poe’s image when he wrote seven years later:

- the lavas that restlessly roll


Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole -
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Danforth was a great reader of bizarre material, and had talked a good deal of Poe. I was
interested myself because of the antarctic scene of Poe’s only long story - the disturbing
and enigmatical Arthur Gordon Pym. On the barren shore, and on the lofty ice barrier in
the background, myriads of grotesque penguins squawked and flapped their fins, while
many fat seals were visible on the water, swimming or sprawling across large cakes of
slowly drifting ice.

Using small boats, we effected a difficult landing on Ross Island shortly after midnight
on the morning of the 9th, carrying a line of cable from each of the ships and preparing to
unload supplies by means of a breeches-buoy arrangement. Our sensations on first
treading Antarctic soil were poignant and complex, even though at this particular point
the Scott and Shackleton expeditions had preceded us. Our camp on the frozen shore
below the volcano’s slope was only a provisional one, headquarters being kept aboard the
Arkham. We landed all our drilling apparatus, dogs, sledges, tents, provisions, gasoline
tanks, experimental ice-melting outfit, cameras, both ordinary and aerial, aeroplane parts,
and other accessories, including three small portable wireless outfits - besides those in the
planes - capable of communicating with the Arkham’s large outfit from any part of the
antarctic continent that we would be likely to visit. The ship’s outfit, communicating with
the outside world, was to convey press reports to the Arkham Advertiser's powerful
wireless station on Kingsport Head, Massachusetts. We hoped to complete our work
during a single antarctic summer; but if this proved impossible, we would winter on the
Arkham, sending the Miskatonic north before the freezing of the ice for another
summer’s supplies.
I need not repeat what the newspapers have already published about our early work: of
our ascent of Mt. Erebus; our successful mineral borings at several points on Ross Island
and the singular speed with which Pabodie’s apparatus accomplished them, even through
solid rock layers; our provisional test of the small ice-melting equipment; our perilous
ascent of the great barrier with sledges and supplies; and our final assembling of five
huge aeroplanes at the camp atop the barrier. The health of our land party - twenty men
and fifty-five Alaskan sledge dogs - was remarkable, though of course we had so far
encountered no really destructive temperatures or windstorms. For the most part, the
thermometer varied between zero and 20° or 25° above, and our experience with New
England winters had accustomed us to rigors of this sort. The barrier camp was semi-
permanent, and destined to be a storage cache for gasoline, provisions, dynamite, and
other supplies.

Only four of our planes were needed to carry the actual exploring material, the fifth being
left with a pilot and two men from the ships at the storage cache to form a means of
reaching us from the Arkham in case all our exploring planes were lost. Later, when not
using all the other planes for moving apparatus, we would employ one or two in a shuttle
transportation service between this cache and another permanent base on the great plateau
from six hundred to seven hundred miles southward, beyond Beardmore Glacier. Despite
the almost unanimous accounts of appalling winds and tempests that pour down from the
plateau, we determined to dispense with intermediate bases, taking our chances in the
interest of economy and probable efficiency.

Wireless reports have spoken of the breathtaking, four-hour, nonstop flight of our
squadron on November 21st over the lofty shelf ice, with vast peaks rising on the west,
and the unfathomed silences echoing to the sound of our engines. Wind troubled us only
moderately, and our radio compasses helped us through the one opaque fog we
encountered. When the vast rise loomed ahead, between Latitudes 83° and 84°, we knew
we had reached Beardmore Glacier, the largest valley glacier in the world, and that the
frozen sea was now giving place to a frowning and mountainous coast line. At last we
were truly entering the white, aeon-dead world of the ultimate south. Even as we realized
it we saw the peak of Mt. Nansen in the eastern distance, towering up to its height of
almost fifteen thousand feet.

The successful establishment of the southern base above the glacier in Latitude 86° 7’,
East Longitude 174° 23’, and the phenomenally rapid and effective borings and blastings
made at various points reached by our sledge trips and short aeroplane flights, are matters
of history; as is the arduous and triumphant ascent of Mt. Nansen by Pabodie and two of
the graduate students - Gedney and Carroll - on December 13 - 15. We were some eight
thousand, five hundred feet above sea-level, and when experimental drillings revealed
solid ground only twelve feet down through the snow and ice at certain points, we made
considerable use of the small melting apparatus and sunk bores and performed
dynamiting at many places where no previous explorer had ever thought of securing
mineral specimens. The pre-Cambrian granites and beacon sandstones thus obtained
confirmed our belief that this plateau was homogeneous, with the great bulk of the
continent to the west, but somewhat different from the parts lying eastward below South
America - which we then thought to form a separate and smaller continent divided from
the larger one by a frozen junction of Ross and Weddell Seas, though Byrd has since
disproved the hypothesis.

In certain of the sandstones, dynamited and chiseled after boring revealed their nature, we
found some highly interesting fossil markings and fragments; notably ferns, seaweeds,
trilobites, crinoids, and such mollusks as linguellae and gastropods - all of which seemed
of real significance in connection with the region’s primordial history. There was also a
queer triangular, striated marking, about a foot in greatest diameter, which Lake pieced
together from three fragments of slate brought up from a deep-blasted aperture. These
fragments came from a point to the westward, near the Queen Alexandra Range; and
Lake, as a biologist, seemed to find their curious marking unusually puzzling and
provocative, though to my geological eye it looked not unlike some of the ripple effects
reasonably common in the sedimentary rocks. Since slate is no more than a metamorphic
formation into which a sedimentary stratum is pressed, and since the pressure itself
produces odd distorting effects on any markings which may exist, I saw no reason for
extreme wonder over the striated depression.

On January 6th, 1931, Lake, Pabodie, Danforth, the other six students, and myself flew
directly over the south pole in two of the great planes, being forced down once by a
sudden high wind, which, fortunately, did not develop into a typical storm. This was, as
the papers have stated, one of several observation flights, during others of which we tried
to discern new topographical features in areas unreached by previous explorers. Our early
flights were disappointing in this latter respect, though they afforded us some magnificent
examples of the richly fantastic and deceptive mirages of the polar regions, of which our
sea voyage had given us some brief foretastes. Distant mountains floated in the sky as
enchanted cities, and often the whole white world would dissolve into a gold, silver, and
scarlet land of Dunsanian dreams and adventurous expectancy under the magic of the low
midnight sun. On cloudy days we had considerable trouble in flying owing to the
tendency of snowy earth and sky to merge into one mystical opalescent void with no
visible horizon to mark the junction of the two.

At length we resolved to carry out our original plan of flying five hundred miles eastward
with all four exploring planes and establishing a fresh sub-base at a point which would
probably be on the smaller continental division, as we mistakenly conceived it.
Geological specimens obtained there would be desirable for purposes of comparison. Our
health so far had remained excellent - lime juice well offsetting the steady diet of tinned
and salted food, and temperatures generally above zero enabling us to do without our
thickest furs. It was now midsummer, and with haste and care we might be able to
conclude work by March and avoid a tedious wintering through the long antarctic night.
Several savage windstorms had burst upon us from the west, but we had escaped damage
through the skill of Atwood in devising rudimentary aeroplane shelters and windbreaks of
heavy snow blocks, and reinforcing the principal camp buildings with snow. Our good
luck and efficiency had indeed been almost uncanny.
The outside world knew, of course, of our program, and was told also of Lake’s strange
and dogged insistence on a westward - or rather, northwestward - prospecting trip before
our radical shift to the new base. It seems that he had pondered a great deal, and with
alarmingly radical daring, over that triangular striated marking in the slate; reading into it
certain contradictions in nature and geological period which whetted his curiosity to the
utmost, and made him avid to sink more borings and blastings in the west-stretching
formation to which the exhumed fragments evidently belonged. He was strangely
convinced that the marking was the print of some bulky, unknown, and radically
unclassifiable organism of considerably advanced evolution, notwithstanding that the
rock which bore it was of so vastly ancient a date - Cambrian if not actually pre-
Cambrian - as to preclude the probable existence not only of all highly evolved life, but
of any life at all above the unicellular or at most the trilobite stage. These fragments, with
their odd marking, must have been five hundred million to a thousand million years old.

II
Popular imagination, I judge, responded actively to our wireless bulletins of Lake’s start
northwestward into regions never trodden by human foot or penetrated by human
imagination, though we did not mention his wild hopes of revolutionizing the entire
sciences of biology and geology. His preliminary sledging and boring journey of January
11th to 18th with Pabodie and five others - marred by the loss of two dogs in an upset
when crossing one of the great pressure ridges in the ice - had brought up more and more
of the Archaean slate; and even I was interested by the singular profusion of evident
fossil markings in that unbelievably ancient stratum. These markings, however, were of
very primitive life forms involving no great paradox except that any life forms should
occur in rock as definitely pre-Cambrian as this seemed to be; hence I still failed to see
the good sense of Lake’s demand for an interlude in our time-saving program - an
interlude requiring the use of all four planes, many men, and the whole of the
expedition’s mechanical apparatus. I did not, in the end, veto the plan, though I decided
not to accompany the northwestward party despite Lake’s plea for my geological advice.
While they were gone, I would remain at the base with Pabodie and five men and work
out final plans for the eastward shift. In preparation for this transfer, one of the planes had
begun to move up a good gasoline supply from McMurdo Sound; but this could wait
temporarily. I kept with me one sledge and nine dogs, since it is unwise to be at any time
without possible transportation in an utterly tenantless world of aeon-long death.

Lake’s sub-expedition into the unknown, as everyone will recall, sent out its own reports
from the shortwave transmitters on the planes; these being simultaneously picked up by
our apparatus at the southern base and by the Arkham at McMurdo Sound, whence they
were relayed to the outside world on wave lengths up to fifty meters. The start was made
January 22nd at 4 A.M., and the first wireless message we received came only two hours
later, when Lake spoke of descending and starting a small-scale ice-melting and bore at a
point some three hundred miles away from us. Six hours after that a second and very
excited message told of the frantic, beaver-like work whereby a shallow shaft had been
sunk and blasted, culminating in the discovery of slate fragments with several markings
approximately like the one which had caused the original puzzlement.
Three hours later a brief bulletin announced the resumption of the flight in the teeth of a
raw and piercing gale; and when I dispatched a message of protest against further
hazards, Lake replied curtly that his new specimens made any hazard worth taking. I saw
that his excitement had reached the point of mutiny, and that I could do nothing to check
this headlong risk of the whole expedition’s success; but it was appalling to think of his
plunging deeper and deeper into that treacherous and sinister white immensity of
tempests and unfathomed mysteries which stretched off for some fifteen hundred miles to
the half-known, half-suspected coast line of Queen Mary and Knox Lands.

Then, in about an hour and a half more, came that doubly excited message from Lake’s
moving plane, which almost reversed my sentiments and made me wish I had
accompanied the party:

"10:05 P.M. On the wing. After snowstorm, have spied mountain range ahead higher than
any hitherto seen. May equal Himalayas, allowing for height of plateau. Probable
Latitude 76° 15’, Longitude 113° 10’ E. Reaches far as can see to right and left.
Suspicion of two smoking cones. All peaks black and bare of snow. Gale blowing off
them impedes navigation."

After that Pabodie, the men and I hung breathlessly over the receiver. Thought of this
titanic mountain rampart seven hundred miles away inflamed our deepest sense of
adventure; and we rejoiced that our expedition, if not ourselves personally, had been its
discoverers. In half an hour Lake called us again:

"Moulton's plane forced down on plateau in foothills, but nobody hurt and perhaps can
repair. Shall transfer essentials to other three for return or further moves if necessary, but
no more heavy plane travel needed just now. Mountains surpass anything in imagination.
Am going up scouting in Carroll’s plane, with all weight out.

"You can’t imagine anything like this. Highest peaks must go over thirty-five thousand
feet. Everest out of the running. Atwood to work out height with theodolite while Carroll
and I go up. Probably wrong about cones, for formations look stratified. Possibly pre-
Cambrian slate with other strata mixed in. Queer skyline effects - regular sections of
cubes clinging to highest peaks. Whole thing marvelous in red-gold light of low sun. Like
land of mystery in a dream or gateway to forbidden world of untrodden wonder. Wish
you were here to study."

Though it was technically sleeping time, not one of us listeners thought for a moment of
retiring. It must have been a good deal the same at McMurdo Sound, where the supply
cache and the Arkham were also getting the messages; for Captain Douglas gave out a
call congratulating everybody on the important find, and Sherman, the cache operator,
seconded his sentiments. We were sorry, of course, about the damaged aeroplane, but
hoped it could be easily mended. Then, at 11 P.M., came another call from Lake:

"Up with Carroll over highest foothills. Don’t dare try really tall peaks in present
weather, but shall later. Frightful work climbing, and hard going at this altitude, but
worth it. Great range fairly solid, hence can’t get any glimpses beyond. Main summits
exceed Himalayas, and very queer. Range looks like pre-Cambrian slate, with plain signs
of many other upheaved strata. Was wrong about volcanism. Goes farther in either
direction than we can see. Swept clear of snow above about twenty-one thousand feet.

"Odd formations on slopes of highest mountains. Great low square blocks with exactly
vertical sides, and rectangular lines of low, vertical ramparts, like the old Asian castles
clinging to steep mountains in Roerich’s paintings. Impressive from distance. Flew close
to some, and Carroll thought they were formed of smaller separate pieces, but that is
probably weathering. Most edges crumbled and rounded off as if exposed to storms and
climate changes for millions of years.

"Parts, especially upper parts, seem to be of lighter-colored rock than any visible strata on
slopes proper, hence of evidently crystalline origin. Close flying shows many cave
mouths, some unusually regular in outline, square or semicircular. You must come and
investigate. Think I saw rampart squarely on top of one peak. Height seems about thirty
thousand to thirty-five thousand feet. Am up twenty-one thousand, five hundred myself,
in devilish, gnawing cold. Wind whistles and pipes through passes and in and out of
caves, but no flying danger so far."

From then on for another half hour Lake kept up a running fire of comment, and
expressed his intention of climbing some of the peaks on foot. I replied that I would join
him as soon as he could send a plane, and that Pabodie and I would work out the best
gasoline plan - just where and how to concentrate our supply in view of the expedition’s
altered character. Obviously, Lake’s boring operations, as well as his aeroplane activities,
would require a great deal for the new base which he planned to establish at the foot of
the mountains; and it was possible that the eastward flight might not be made, after all,
this season. In connection with this business I called Captain Douglas and asked him to
get as much as possible out of the ships and up the barrier with the single dog team we
had left there. A direct route across the unknown region between Lake and McMurdo
Sound was what we really ought to establish.

Lake called me later to say that he had decided to let the camp stay where Moulton’s
plane had been forced down, and where repairs had already progressed somewhat. The
ice sheet was very thin, with dark ground here and there visible, and he would sink some
borings and blasts at that very point before making any sledge trips or climbing
expeditions. He spoke of the ineffable majesty of the whole scene, and the queer state of
his sensations at being in the lee of vast, silent pinnacles whose ranks shot up like a wall
reaching the sky at the world’s rim. Atwood’s theodolite observations had placed the
height of the five tallest peaks at from thirty thousand to thirty-four thousand feet. The
windswept nature of the terrain clearly disturbed Lake, for it argued the occasional
existence of prodigious gales, violent beyond anything we had so far encountered. His
camp lay a little more than five miles from where the higher foothills rose abruptly. I
could almost trace a note of subconscious alarm in his words-flashed across a glacial void
of seven hundred miles - as he urged that we all hasten with the matter and get the
strange, new region disposed of as soon as possible. He was about to rest now, after a
continuous day’s work of almost unparalleled speed, strenuousness, and results.

In the morning I had a three-cornered wireless talk with Lake and Captain Douglas at
their widely separated bases. It was agreed that one of Lake’s planes would come to my
base for Pabodie, the five men, and myself, as well as for all the fuel it could carry. The
rest of the fuel question, depending on our decision about an easterly trip, could wait for a
few days, since Lake had enough for immediate camp heat and borings. Eventually the
old southern base ought to be restocked, but if we postponed the easterly trip we would
not use it till the next summer, and, meanwhile, Lake must send a plane to explore a
direct route between his new mountains and McMurdo Sound.

Pabodie and I prepared to close our base for a short or long period, as the case might be.
If we wintered in the antarctic we would probably fly straight from Lake’s base to the
Arkham without returning to this spot. Some of our conical tents had already been
reinforced by blocks of hard snow, and now we decided to complete the job of making a
permanent village. Owing to a very liberal tent supply, Lake had with him all that his
base would need, even after our arrival. I wirelessed that Pabodie and I would be ready
for the northwestward move after one day’s work and one night’s rest.

Our labors, however, were not very steady after 4 P.M., for about that time Lake began
sending in the most extraordinary and excited messages. His working day had started
unpropitiously, since an aeroplane survey of the nearly-exposed rock surfaces showed an
entire absence of those Archaean and primordial strata for which he was looking, and
which formed so great a part of the colossal peaks that loomed up at a tantalizing distance
from the camp. Most of the rocks glimpsed were apparently Jurassic and Comanchian
sandstones and Permian and Triassic schists, with now and then a glossy black
outcropping suggesting a hard and slaty coal. This rather discouraged Lake, whose plans
all hinged on unearthing specimens more than five hundred million years older. It was
clear to him that in order to recover the Archaean slate vein in which he had found the
odd markings, he would have to make a long sledge trip from these foothills to the steep
slopes of the gigantic mountains themselves.

He had resolved, nevertheless, to do some local boring as part of the expedition’s general
program; hence he set up the drill and put five men to work with it while the rest finished
settling the camp and repairing the damaged aeroplane. The softest visible rock - a
sandstone about a quarter of a mile from the camp - had been chosen for the first
sampling; and the drill made excellent progress without much supplementary blasting. It
was about three hours afterward, following the first really heavy blast of the operation,
that the shouting of the drill crew was heard; and that young Gedney - the acting foreman
- rushed into the camp with the startling news.

They had struck a cave. Early in the boring the sandstone had given place to a vein of
Comanchian limestone, full of minute fossil cephalopods, corals, echini, and spirifera,
and with occasional suggestions of siliceous sponges and marine vertebrate bones - the
latter probably of teleosts, sharks, and ganoids. This, in itself, was important enough, as
affording the first vertebrate fossils the expedition had yet secured; but when shortly
afterward the drill head dropped through the stratum into apparent vacancy, a wholly new
and doubly intense wave of excitement spread among the excavators. A good-sized blast
had laid open the subterrene secret; and now, through a jagged aperture perhaps five feet
across and three feet thick, there yawned before the avid searchers a section of shallow
limestone hollowing worn more than fifty million years ago by the trickling ground
waters of a bygone tropic world.

The hollowed layer was not more than seven or eight feet deep but extended off
indefinitely in all directions and had a fresh, slightly moving air which suggested its
membership in an extensive subterranean system. Its roof and floor were abundantly
equipped with large stalactites and stalagmites, some of which met in columnar form: but
important above all else was the vast deposit of shells and bones, which in places nearly
choked the passage. Washed down from unknown jungles of Mesozoic tree ferns and
fungi, and forests of Tertiary cycads, fan palms, and primitive angiosperms, this osseous
medley contained representatives of more Cretaceous, Eocene, and other animal species
than the greatest paleontologist could have counted or classified in a year. Mollusks,
crustacean armor, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and early mammals - great and
small, known and unknown. No wonder Gedney ran back to the camp shouting, and no
wonder everyone else dropped work and rushed headlong through the biting cold to
where the tall derrick marked a new-found gateway to secrets of inner earth and vanished
aeons.

When Lake had satisfied the first keen edge of his curiosity, he scribbled a message in his
notebook and had young Moulton run back to the camp to dispatch it by wireless. This
was my first word of the discovery, and it told of the identification of early shells, bones
of ganoids and placoderms, remnants of labyrinthodonts and thecodonts, great mosasaur
skull fragments, dinosaur vertebrae and armor plates, pterodactyl teeth and wing bones,
Archaeopteryx debris, Miocene sharks’ teeth, primitive bird skulls, and other bones of
archaic mammals such as palaeotheres, Xiphodons, Eohippi, Oreodons, and titanotheres.
There was nothing as recent as a mastodon, elephant, true camel, deer, or bovine animal;
hence Lake concluded that the last deposits had occurred during the Oligocene Age, and
that the hollowed stratum had lain in its present dried, dead, and inaccessible state for at
least thirty million years.

On the other hand, the prevalence of very early life forms was singular in the highest
degree. Though the limestone formation was, on the evidence of such typical imbedded
fossils as ventriculites, positively and unmistakably Comanchian and not a particle
earlier, the free fragments in the hollow space included a surprising proportion from
organisms hitherto considered as peculiar to far older periods - even rudimentary fishes,
mollusks, and corals as remote as the Silunan or Ordovician. The inevitable inference
was that in this part of the world there had been a remarkable and unique degree of
continuity between the life of over three hundred million years ago and that of only thirty
million years ago. How far this continuity had extended beyond the Oligocene Age when
the cavern was closed was of course past all speculation. In any event, the coming of the
frightful ice in the Pleistocene some five hundred thousand years ago - a mere yesterday
as compared with the age of this cavity - must have put an end to any of the primal forms
which had locally managed to outlive their common terms.

Lake was not content to let his first message stand, but had another bulletin written and
dispatched across the snow to the camp before Moulton could get back. After that
Moulton stayed at the wireless in one of the planes, transmitting to me - and to the
Arkham for relaying to the outside world - the frequent postscripts which Lake sent him
by a succession of messengers. Those who followed the newspapers will remember the
excitement created among men of science by that afternoon’s reports - reports which
have finally led, after all these years, to the organization of that very Starkweather-Moore
Expedition which I am so anxious to dissuade from its purposes. I had better give the
messages literally as Lake sent them, and as our base operator McTighe translated them
from the pencil shorthand:

"Fowler makes discovery of highest importance in sandstone and limestone fragments


from blasts. Several distinct triangular striated prints like those in Archaean slate, proving
that source survived from over six hundred million years ago to Comanchian times
without more than moderate morphological changes and decrease in average size.
Comanchian prints apparently more primitive or decadent, if anything, than older ones.
Emphasize importance of discovery in press. Will mean to biology what Einstein has
meant to mathematics and physics. Joins up with my previous work and amplifies
conclusions.

"Appears to indicate, as I suspected, that earth has seen whole cycle or cycles of organic
life before known one that begins with Archaeozoic cells. Was evolved and specialized
not later than a thousand million years ago, when planet was young and recently
uninhabitable for any life forms or normal protoplasmic structure. Question arises when,
where, and how development took place."

"Later. Examining certain skeletal fragments of large land and marine saurians and
primitive mammals, find singular local wounds or injuries to bony structure not
attributable to any known predatory or carnivorous animal of any period, of two sorts -
straight, penetrant bores, and apparently hacking incisions. One or two cases of cleanly
severed bones. Not many specimens affected. Am sending to camp for electric torches.
Will extend search area underground by hacking away stalactites."

"Still later. Have found peculiar soapstone fragment about six inches across and an inch
and a half thick, wholly unlike any visible local formation - greenish, but no evidences to
place its period. Has curious smoothness and regularity. Shaped like five-pointed star
with tips broken off, and signs of other cleavage at inward angles and in center of surface.
Small, smooth depression in center of unbroken surface. Arouses much curiosity as to
source and weathering. Probably some freak of water action. Carroll, with magnifier,
thinks he can make out additional markings of geologic significance. Groups of tiny dots
in regular patterns. Dogs growing uneasy as we work, and seem to hate this soapstone.
Must see if it has any peculiar odor. Will report again when Mills gets back with light and
we start on underground area."
"10:15 P.M. Important discovery. Orrendorf and Watkins, working underground at 9:45
with light, found monstrous barrel-shaped fossil of wholly unknown nature; probably
vegetable unless overgrown specimen of unknown marine radiata. Tissue evidently
preserved by mineral salts. Tough as leather, but astonishing flexibility retained in places.
Marks of broken-off parts at ends and around sides. Six feet end to end, three and five-
tenths feet central diameter, tapering to one foot at each end. Like a barrel with five
bulging ridges in place of staves. Lateral breakages, as of thinnish stalks, are at equator in
middle of these ridges. In furrows between ridges are curious growths - combs or wings
that fold up and spread out like fans. All greatly damaged but one, which gives almost
seven-foot wing spread. Arrangement reminds one of certain monsters of primal myth,
especially fabled Elder Things in Necronomicon.

"Their wings seem to be membranous, stretched on frame work of glandular tubing.


Apparent minute orifices in frame tubing at wing tips. Ends of body shriveled, giving no
clue to interior or to what has been broken off there. Must dissect when we get back to
camp. Can’t decide whether vegetable or animal. Many features obviously of almost
incredible primitiveness. Have set all hands cutting stalactites and looking for further
specimens. Additional scarred bones found, but these must wait. Having trouble with
dogs. They can’t endure the new specimen, and would probably tear it to pieces if we
didn’t keep it at a distance from them."

"11:30 P.M. Attention, Dyer, Pabodie, Douglas. Matter of highest - I might say
transcendent - importance. Arkham must relay to Kingsport Head Station at once. Strange
barrel growth is the Archaean thing that left prints in rocks. Mills, Boudreau, and Fowler
discover cluster of thirteen more at underground point forty feet from aperture. Mixed
with curiously rounded and configured soapstone fragments smaller than one previously
found - star-shaped, but no marks of breakage except at some of the points.

"Of organic specimens, eight apparently perfect, with all appendages. Have brought all to
surface, leading off dogs to distance. They cannot stand the things. Give close attention to
description and repeat back for accuracy Papers must get this right.

"Objects are eight feet long all over. Six-foot, five-ridged barrel torso three and five-
tenths feet central diameter, one foot end diameters. Dark gray, flexible, and infinitely
tough. Seven-foot membranous wings of same color, found folded, spread out of furrows
between ridges. Wing framework tubular or glandular, of lighter gray, with orifices at
wing tips. Spread wings have serrated edge. Around equator, one at central apex of each
of the five vertical, stave-like ridges are five systems of light gray flexible arms or
tentacles found tightly folded to torso but expansible to maximum length of over three
feet. Like arms of primitive crinoid. Single stalks three inches diameter branch after six
inches into five substalks, each of which branches after eight inches into small, tapering
tentacles or tendrils, giving each stalk a total of twenty-five tentacles.
"At top of torso blunt, bulbous neck of lighter gray, with gill-like suggestions, holds
yellowish five-pointed starfish-shaped apparent head covered with three-inch wiry cilia
of various prismatic colors.

"Head thick and puffy, about two feet point to point, with three-inch flexible yellowish
tubes projecting from each point. Slit in exact center of top probably breathing aperture.
At end of each tube is spherical expansion where yellowish membrane rolls back on
handling to reveal glassy, red-irised globe, evidently an eye.

"Five slightly longer reddish tubes start from inner angles of starfish-shaped head and end
in saclike swellings of same color which, upon pressure, open to bell-shaped orifices two
inches maximum diameter and lined with sharp, white tooth like projections - probably
mouths. All these tubes, cilia, and points of starfish head, found folded tightly down;
tubes and points clinging to bulbous neck and torso. Flexibility surprising despite vast
toughness.

"At bottom of torso, rough but dissimilarly functioning counterparts of head


arrangements exist. Bulbous light-gray pseudo-neck, without gill suggestions, holds
greenish five-pointed starfish arrangement.

"Tough, muscular arms four feet long and tapering from seven inches diameter at base to
about two and five-tenths at point. To each point is attached small end of a greenish five-
veined membranous triangle eight inches long and six wide at farther end. This is the
paddle, fin, or pseudofoot which has made prints in rocks from a thousand million to fifty
or sixty million years old.

"From inner angles of starfish arrangement project two-foot reddish tubes tapering from
three inches diameter at base to one at tip. Orifices at tips. All these parts infinitely tough
and leathery, but extremely flexible. Four-foot arms with paddles undoubtedly used for
locomotion of some sort, marine or otherwise. When moved, display suggestions of
exaggerated muscularity. As found, all these projections tightly folded over pseudoneck
and end of torso, corresponding to projections at other end.

"Cannot yet assign positively to animal or vegetable kingdom, but odds now favor
animal. Probably represents incredibly advanced evolution of radiata without loss of
certain primitive features. Echinoderm resemblances unmistakable despite local
contradictory evidences.

"Wing structure puzzles in view of probable marine habitat, but may have use in water
navigation. Symmetry is curiously vegetablelike, suggesting vegetable 's essential up-
and-down structure rather than animal’s fore-and-aft structure. Fabulously early date of
evolution, preceding even simplest Archaean protozoa hitherto known, baffles all
conjecture as to origin.

"Complete specimens have such uncanny resemblance to certain creatures of primal myth
that suggestion of ancient existence outside antarctic becomes inevitable. Dyer and
Pabodie have read Necronomicon and seen Clark Ashton Smith’s nightmare paintings
based on text, and will understand when I speak of Elder Things supposed to have created
all earth life as jest or mistake. Students have always thought conception formed from
morbid imaginative treatment of very ancient tropical radiata. Also like prehistoric
folklore things Wilmarth has spoken of - Cthulhu cult appendages, etc.

"Vast field of study opened. Deposits probably of late Cretaceous or early Eocene period,
judging from associated specimens. Massive stalagmites deposited above them. Hard
work hewing out, but toughness prevented damage. State of preservation miraculous,
evidently owing to limestone action. No more found so far, but will resume search later.
Job now to get fourteen huge specimens to camp without dogs, which bark furiously and
can’t be trusted near them.

"With nine men - three left to guard the dogs - we ought to manage the three sledges
fairly well, though wind is bad. Must establish plane communication with McMurdo
Sound and begin shipping material. But I’ve got to dissect one of these things before we
take any rest. Wish I had a real laboratory here. Dyer better kick himself for having tried
to stop my westward trip. First the world’s greatest mountains, and then this. If this last
isn’t the high spot of the expedition, I don’t know what is. We’re made scientifically.
Congrats, Pabodie, on the drill that opened up the cave. Now will Arkham please repeat
description?"

The sensations of Pabodie and myself at receipt of this report were almost beyond
description, nor were our companions much behind us in enthusiasm. McTighe, who had
hastily translated a few high spots as they came from the droning receiving set, wrote out
the entire message from his shorthand version as soon as Lake’s operator signed off. All
appreciated the epoch-making significance of the discovery, and I sent Lake
congratulations as soon as the Arkham’s operator had repeated back the descriptive parts
as requested; and my example was followed by Sherman from his station at the McMurdo
Sound supply cache, as well as by Captain Douglas of the Arkham. Later, as head of the
expedition, I added some remarks to be relayed through the Arkham to the outside world.
Of course, rest was an absurd thought amidst this excitement; and my only wish was to
get to Lake’s camp as quickly as I could. It disappointed me when he sent word that a
rising mountain gale made early aerial travel impossible.

But within an hour and a half interest again rose to banish disappointment. Lake, sending
more messages, told of the completely successful transportation of the fourteen great
specimens to the camp. It had been a hard pull, for the things were surprisingly heavy;
but nine men had accomplished it very neatly. Now some of the party were hurriedly
building a snow corral at a safe distance from the camp, to which the dogs could be
brought for greater convenience in feeding. The specimens were laid out on the hard
snow near the camp, save for one on which Lake was making crude attempts at
dissection.

This dissection seemed to be a greater task than had been expected, for, despite the heat
of a gasoline stove in the newly raised laboratory tent, the deceptively flexible tissues of
the chosen specimen - a powerful and intact one - lost nothing of their more than leathery
toughness. Lake was puzzled as to how he might make the requisite incisions without
violence destructive enough to upset all the structural niceties he was looking for. He had,
it is true, seven more perfect specimens; but these were too few to use up recklessly
unless the cave might later yield an unlimited supply. Accordingly he removed the
specimen and dragged in one which, though having remnants of the starfish arrangements
at both ends, was badly crushed and partly disrupted along one of the great torso furrows.

Results, quickly reported over the wireless, were baffling and provocative indeed.
Nothing like delicacy or accuracy was possible with instruments hardly able to cut the
anomalous tissue, but the little that was achieved left us all awed and bewildered.
Existing biology would have to be wholly revised, for this thing was no product of any
cell growth science knows about. There had been scarcely any mineral replacement, and
despite an age of perhaps forty million years, the internal organs were wholly intact. The
leathery, undeteriorative, and almost indestructible quality was an inherent attribute of
the thing’s form of organization, and pertained to some paleogean cycle of invertebrate
evolution utterly beyond our powers of speculation. At first all that Lake found was dry,
but as the heated tent produced its thawing effect, organic moisture of pungent and
offensive odor was encountered toward the thing’s uninjured side. It was not blood, but a
thick, dark-green fluid apparently answering the same purpose. By the time Lake reached
this stage, all thirty-seven dogs had been brought to the still uncompleted corral near the
camp, and even at that distance set up a savage barking and show of restlessness at the
acrid, diffusive smell.

Far from helping to place the strange entity, this provisional dissection merely deepened
its mystery. All guesses about its external members had been correct, and on the evidence
of these one could hardly hesitate to call the thing animal; but internal inspection brought
up so many vegetable evidences that Lake was left hopelessly at sea. It had digestion and
circulation, and eliminated waste matter through the reddish tubes of its starfish-shaped
base. Cursorily, one would say that its respiration apparatus handled oxygen rather than
carbon dioxide, and there were odd evidences of air-storage chambers and methods of
shifting respiration from the external orifice to at least two other fully developed
breathing systems - gills and pores. Clearly, it was amphibian, and probably adapted to
long airless hibernation periods as well. Vocal organs seemed present in connection with
the main respiratory system, but they presented anomalies beyond immediate solution.
Articulate speech, in the sense of syllable utterance, seemed barely conceivable, but
musical piping notes covering a wide range were highly probable. The muscular system
was almost prematurely developed.

The nervous system was so complex and highly developed as to leave Lake aghast.
Though excessively primitive and archaic in some respects, the thing had a set of ganglial
centers and connectives arguing the very extremes of specialized development. Its five-
lobed brain was surprisingly advanced, and there were signs of a sensory equipment,
served in part through the wiry cilia of the head, involving factors alien to any other
terrestrial organism. Probably it has more than five senses, so that its habits could not be
predicted from any existing analogy. It must, Lake thought, have been a creature of keen
sensitiveness and delicately differentiated functions in its primal world - much like the
ants and bees of today. It reproduced like the vegetable cryptogams, especially the
Pteridophyta, having spore cases at the tips of the wings and evidently developing from a
thallus or prothallus.

But to give it a name at this stage was mere folly. It looked like a radiate, but was clearly
something more. It was partly vegetable, but had three-fourths of the essentials of animal
structure. That it was marine in origin, its symmetrical contour and certain other
attributes clearly indicated; yet one could not be exact as to the limit of its later
adaptations. The wings, after all, held a persistent suggestion of the aerial. How it could
have undergone its tremendously complex evolution on a new-born earth in time to leave
prints in Archaean rocks was so far beyond conception as to make Lake whimsically
recall the primal myths about Great Old Ones who filtered down from the stars and
concocted earth life as a joke or mistake; and the wild tales of cosmic hill things from
outside told by a folklorist colleague in Miskatonic’s English department.

Naturally, he considered the possibility of the pre-Cambrian prints having been made by
a less evolved ancestor of the present specimens, but quickly rejected this too-facile
theory upon considering the advanced structural qualities of the older fossils. If anything,
the later contours showed decadence rather than higher evolution. The size of the
pseudofeet had decreased, and the whole morphology seemed coarsened and simplified.
Moreover, the nerves and organs just examined held singular suggestions of retrogression
from forms still more complex. Atrophied and vestigial parts were surprisingly prevalent.
Altogether, little could be said to have been solved; and Lake fell back on mythology for
a provisional name - jocosely dubbing his finds "The Elder Ones."

At about 2:30 A.M., having decided to postpone further work and get a little rest, he
covered the dissected organism with a tarpaulin, emerged from the laboratory tent, and
studied the intact specimens with renewed interest. The ceaseless antarctic sun had begun
to limber up their tissues a trifle, so that the head points and tubes of two or three showed
signs of unfolding; but Lake did not believe there was any danger of immediate
decomposition in the almost subzero air. He did, however, move all the undissected
specimens close together and throw a spare tent over them in order to keep off the direct
solar rays. That would also help to keep their possible scent away from the dogs, whose
hostile unrest was really becoming a problem, even at their substantial distance and
behind the higher and higher snow walls which an increased quota of the men were
hastening to raise around their quarters. He had to weight down the corners of the tent
cloth with heavy blocks of snow to hold it in place amidst the rising gale, for the titan
mountains seemed about to deliver some gravely severe blasts. Early apprehensions about
sudden antarctic winds were revived, and under Atwood’s supervision precautions were
taken to bank the tents, new dog corral, and crude aeroplane shelters with snow on the
mountainward side. These latter shelters, begun with hard snow blocks during odd
moments, were by no means as high as they should have been; and Lake finally detached
all hands from other tasks to work on them.
It was after four when Lake at last prepared to sign off and advised us all to share the rest
period his outfit would take when the shelter walls were a little higher. He held some
friendly chat with Pabodie over the ether, and repeated his praise of the really marvelous
drills that had helped him make his discovery. Atwood also sent greetings and praises. I
gave Lake a warm word of congratulations, owning up that he was right about the
western trip, and we all agreed to get in touch by wireless at ten in the morning. If the
gale was then over, Lake would send a plane for the party at my base. Just before retiring
I dispatched a final message to the Arkham with instructions about toning down the day’s
news for the outside world, since the full details seemed radical enough to rouse a wave
of incredulity until further substantiated.

III
None of us, I imagine, slept very heavily or continuously that morning. Both the
excitement of Lake’s discovery and the mounting fury of the wind were against such a
thing. So savage was the blast, even where we were, that we could not help wondering
how much worse it was at Lake’s camp, directly under the vast unknown peaks that bred
and delivered it. McTighe was awake at ten o’clock and tried to get Lake on the wireless,
as agreed, but some electrical condition in the disturbed air to the westward seemed to
prevent communication. We did, however, get the Arkham, and Douglas told me that he
had likewise been vainly trying to reach Lake. He had not known about the wind, for very
little was blowing at McMurdo Sound, despite its persistent rage where we were.

Throughout the day we all listened anxiously and tried to get Lake at intervals, but
invariably without results. About noon a positive frenzy of wind stampeded out of the
west, causing us to fear for the safety of our camp; but it eventually died down, with only
a moderate relapse at 2 P.M. After three o’clock it was very quiet, and we redoubled our
efforts to get Lake. Reflecting that he had four planes, each provided with an excellent
short-wave outfit, we could not imagine any ordinary accident capable of crippling all his
wireless equipment at once. Nevertheless the stony silence continued, and when we
thought of the delirious force the wind must have had in his locality we could not help
making the more direful conjectures.

By six o’clock our fears had become intense and definite, and after a wireless
consultation with Douglas and Thorfinnssen I resolved to take steps toward investigation.
The fifth aeroplane, which we had left at the McMurdo Sound supply cache with
Sherman and two sailors, was in good shape and ready for instant use, and it seemed that
the very emergency for which it had been saved was now upon us. I got Sherman by
wireless and ordered him to join me with the plane and the two sailors at the southern
base as quickly as possible, the air conditions being apparently highly favorable. We then
talked over the personnel of the coming investigation party, and decided that we would
include all hands, together with the sledge and dogs which I had kept with me. Even so
great a load would not be too much for one of the huge planes built to our special orders
for heavy machinery transportation. At intervals I still tried to reach Lake with the
wireless, but all to no purpose.
Sherman, with the sailors Gunnarsson and Larsen, took off at 7:30, and reported a quiet
flight from several points on the wing. They arrived at our base at midnight, and all hands
at once discussed the next move. It was risky business sailing over the antarctic in a
single aeroplane without any line of bases, but no one drew back from what seemed like
the plainest necessity. We turned in at two o’clock for a brief rest after some preliminary
loading of the plane, but were up again in four hours to finish the loading and packing.

At 7:15 A.M., January 25th, we started flying northwestward under McTighe’s pilotage
with ten men, seven dogs, a sledge, a fuel and food supply, and other items including the
plane’s wireless outfit. The atmosphere was clear, fairly quiet, and relatively mild in
temperature, and we anticipated very little trouble in reaching the latitude and longitude
designated by Lake as the site of his camp. Our apprehensions were over what we might
find, or fail to find, at the end of our journey, for silence continued to answer all calls
dispatched to the camp.

Every incident of that four-and-a-half-hour flight is burned into my recollection because


of its crucial position in my life. It marked my loss, at the age of fifty-four, of all that
peace and balance which the normal mind possesses through its accustomed conception
of external nature and nature’s laws. Thenceforward the ten of us - but the student
Danforth and myself above all others - were to face a hideously amplified world of
lurking horrors which nothing can erase from our emotions, and which we would refrain
from sharing with mankind in general if we could. The newspapers have printed the
bulletins we sent from the moving plane, telling of our nonstop course, our two battles
with treacherous upper-air gales, our glimpse of the broken surface where Lake had sunk
his mid-journey shaft three days before, and our sight of a group of those strange fluffy
snow cylinders noted by Amundsen and Byrd as rolling in the wind across the endless
leagues of frozen plateau. There came a point, though, when our sensations could not be
conveyed in any words the press would understand, and a latter point when we had to
adopt an actual rule of strict censorship.

The sailor Larsen was first to spy the jagged line of witchlike cones and pinnacles ahead,
and his shouts sent everyone to the windows of the great cabined plane. Despite our
speed, they were very slow in gaining prominence; hence we knew that they must be
infinitely far off, and visible only because of their abnormal height. Little by little,
however, they rose grimly into the western sky; allowing us to distinguish various bare,
bleak, blackish summits, and to catch the curious sense of fantasy which they inspired as
seen in the reddish antarctic light against the provocative background of iridescent ice-
dust clouds. In the whole spectacle there was a persistent, pervasive hint of stupendous
secrecy and potential revelation. It was as if these stark, nightmare spires marked the
pylons of a frightful gateway into forbidden spheres of dream, and complex gulfs of
remote time, space, and ultra-dimensionality. I could not help feeling that they were evil
things - mountains of madness whose farther slopes looked out over some accursed
ultimate abyss. That seething, half-luminous cloud background held ineffable suggestions
of a vague, ethereal beyondness far more than terrestrially spatial, and gave appalling
reminders of the utter remoteness, separateness, desolation, and aeon-long death of this
untrodden and unfathomed austral world.
It was young Danforth who drew our notice to the curious regularities of the higher
mountain skyline - regularities like clinging fragments of perfect cubes, which Lake had
mentioned in his messages, and which indeed justified his comparison with the dreamlike
suggestions of primordial temple ruins, on cloudy Asian mountaintops so subtly and
strangely painted by Roerich. There was indeed something hauntingly Roerich-like about
this whole unearthly continent of mountainous mystery. I had felt it in October when we
first caught sight of Victoria Land, and I felt it afresh now. I felt, too, another wave of
uneasy consciousness of Archaean mythical resemblances; of how disturbingly this lethal
realm corresponded to the evilly famed plateau of Leng in the primal writings.
Mythologists have placed Leng in Central Asia; but the racial memory of man - or of his
predecessors - is long, and it may well be that certain tales have come down from lands
and mountains and temples of horror earlier than Asia and earlier than any human world
we know. A few daring mystics have hinted at a pre-Pleistocene origin for the
fragmentary Pnakotic Manuscripts, and have suggested that the devotees of Tsathoggua
were as alien to mankind as Tsathoggua itself. Leng, wherever in space or time it might
brood, was not a region I would care to be in or near, nor did I relish the proximity of a
world that had ever bred such ambiguous and Archaean monstrosities as those Lake had
just mentioned. At the moment I felt sorry that I had ever read the abhorred
Necronomicon, or talked so much with that unpleasantly erudite folklorist Wilmarth at
the university.

This mood undoubtedly served to aggravate my reaction to the bizarre mirage which
burst upon us from the increasingly opalescent zenith as we drew near the mountains and
began to make out the cumulative undulations of the foothills. I had seen dozens of polar
mirages during the preceding weeks, some of them quite as uncanny and fantastically
vivid as the present example; but this one had a wholly novel and obscure quality of
menacing symbolism, and I shuddered as the seething labyrinth of fabulous walls and
towers and minarets loomed out of the troubled ice vapors above our heads.

The effect was that of a Cyclopean city of no architecture known to man or to human
imagination, with vast aggregations of night-black masonry embodying monstrous
perversions of geometrical laws. There were truncated cones, sometimes terraced or
fluted, surmounted by tall cylindrical shafts here and there bulbously enlarged and often
capped with tiers of thinnish scalloped disks; and strange beetling, table-like
constructions suggesting piles of multitudinous rectangular slabs or circular plates or
five-pointed stars with each one overlapping the one beneath. There were composite
cones and pyramids either alone or surmounting cylinders or cubes or flatter truncated
cones and pyramids, and occasional needle-like spires in curious clusters of five. All of
these febrile structures seemed knit together by tubular bridges crossing from one to the
other at various dizzy heights, and the implied scale of the whole was terrifying and
oppressive in its sheer gigantism. The general type of mirage was not unlike some of the
wilder forms observed and drawn by the arctic whaler Scoresby in 1820, but at this time
and place, with those dark, unknown mountain peaks soaring stupendously ahead, that
anomalous elder-world discovery in our minds, and the pall of probable disaster
enveloping the greater part of our expedition, we all seemed to find in it a taint of latent
malignity and infinitely evil portent.

I was glad when the mirage began to break up, though in the process the various
nightmare turrets and cones assumed distorted, temporary forms of even vaster
hideousness. As the whole illusion dissolved to churning opalescence we began to look
earthward again, and saw that our journey’s end was not far off. The unknown mountains
ahead rose dizzily up like a fearsome rampart of giants, their curious regularities showing
with startling clearness even without a field glass. We were over the lowest foothills now,
and could see amidst the snow, ice, and bare patches of their main plateau a couple of
darkish spots which we took to be Lake’s camp and boring. The higher foothills shot up
between five and six miles away, forming a range almost distinct from the terrifying line
of more than Himalayan peaks beyond them. At length Ropes - the student who had
relieved McTighe at the controls - began to head downward toward the left-hand dark
spot whose size marked it as the camp. As he did so, McTighe sent out the last
uncensored wireless message the world was to receive from our expedition.

Everyone, of course, has read the brief and unsatisfying bulletins of the rest of our
antarctic sojourn. Some hours after our landing we sent a guarded report of the tragedy
we found, and reluctantly announced the wiping out of the whole Lake party by the
frightful wind of the preceding day, or of the night before that. Eleven known dead,
young Gedney missing. People pardoned our hazy lack of details through realization of
the shock the sad event must have caused us, and believed us when we explained that the
mangling action of the wind had rendered all eleven bodies unsuitable for transportation
outside. Indeed, I flatter myself that even in the midst of our distress, utter bewilderment,
and soul-clutching horror, we scarcely went beyond the truth in any specific instance.
The tremendous significance lies in what we dared not tell; what I would not tell now but
for the need of warning others off from nameless terrors.

It is a fact that the wind had brought dreadful havoc. Whether all could have lived
through it, even without the other thing, is gravely open to doubt. The storm, with its fury
of madly driven ice particles, must have been beyond anything our expedition had
encountered before. One aeroplane shelter-wall, it seems, had been left in a far too flimsy
and inadequate state - was nearly pulverized - and the derrick at the distant boring was
entirely shaken to pieces. The exposed metal of the grounded planes and drilling
machinery was bruised into a high polish, and two of the small tents were flattened
despite their snow banking. Wooden surfaces left out in the blaster were pitted and
denuded of paint, and all signs of tracks in the snow were completely obliterated. It is
also true that we found none of the Archaean biological objects in a condition to take
outside as a whole. We did gather some minerals from a vast, tumbled pile, including
several of the greenish soapstone fragments whose odd five-pointed rounding and faint
patterns of grouped dots caused so many doubtful comparisons; and some fossil bones,
among which were the most typical of the curiously injured specimens.

None of the dogs survived, their hurriedly built snow inclosure near the camp being
almost wholly destroyed. The wind may have done that, though the greater breakage on
the side next the camp, which was not the windward one, suggests an outward leap or
break of the frantic beasts themselves. All three sledges were gone, and we have tried to
explain that the wind may have blown them off into the unknown. The drill and ice-
melting machinery at the boring were too badly damaged to warrant salvage, so we used
them to choke up that subtly disturbing gateway to the past which Lake had blasted. We
likewise left at the camp the two most shaken up of the planes; since our surviving party
had only four real pilots - Sherman, Danforth, McTighe, and Ropes - in all, with Danforth
in a poor nervous shape to navigate. We brought back all the books, scientific equipment,
and other incidentals we could find, though much was rather unaccountably blown away.
Spare tents and furs were either missing or badly out of condition.

It was approximately 4 P.M., after wide plane cruising had forced us to give Gedney up
for lost, that we sent our guarded message to the Arkham for relaying; and I think we did
well to keep it as calm and noncommittal as we succeeded in doing. The most we said
about agitation concerned our dogs, whose frantic uneasiness near the biological
specimens was to be expected from poor Lake’s accounts. We did not mention, I think,
their display of the same uneasiness when sniffing around the queer greenish soapstones
and certain other objects in the disordered region-objects including scientific instruments,
aeroplanes, and machinery, both at the camp and at the boring, whose parts had been
loosened, moved, or otherwise tampered with by winds that must have harbored singular
curiosity and investigativeness.

About the fourteen biological specimens, we were pardonably indefinite. We said that the
only ones we discovered were damaged, but that enough was left of them to prove Lake’s
description wholly and impressively accurate. It was hard work keeping our personal
emotions out of this matter - and we did not mention numbers or say exactly how we had
found those which we did find. We had by that time agreed not to transmit anything
suggesting madness on the part of Lake’s men, and it surely looked like madness to find
six imperfect monstrosities carefully buried upright in nine-foot snow graves under five-
pointed mounds punched over with groups of dots in patterns exactly those on the queer
greenish soapstones dug up from Mesozoic or Tertiary times. The eight perfect
specimens mentioned by Lake seemed to have been completely blown away.

We were careful, too, about the public’s general peace of mind; hence Danforth and I
said little about that frightful trip over the mountains the next day. It was the fact that
only a radically lightened plane could possibly cross a range of such height, which
mercifully limited that scouting tour to the two of us. On our return at one A.M.,
Danforth was close to hysterics, but kept an admirably stiff upper lip. It took no
persuasion to make him promise not to show our sketches and the other things we
brought away in our pockets, not to say anything more to the others than what we had
agreed to relay outside, and to hide our camera films for private development later on; so
that part of my present story will be as new to Pabodie, McTighe, Ropes, Sherman, and
the rest as it will be to the world in general. Indeed, Danforth is closer mouthed than I: for
he saw, or thinks he saw, one thing he will not tell even me.
As all know, our report included a tale of a hard ascent - a confirmation of Lake’s opinion
that the great peaks are of Archaean slate and other very primal crumpled strata
unchanged since at least middle Comanchian times; a conventional comment on the
regularity of the clinging cube and rampart formations; a decision that the cave mouths
indicate dissolved calcaerous veins; a conjecture that certain slopes and passes would
permit of the scaling and crossing of the entire range by seasoned mountaineers; and a
remark that the mysterious other side holds a lofty and immense superplateau as ancient
and unchanging as the mountains themselves - twenty thousand feet in elevation, with
grotesque rock formations protruding through a thin glacial layer and with low gradual
foothills between the general plateau surface and the sheer precipices of the highest
peaks.

This body of data is in every respect true so far as it goes, and it completely satisfied the
men at the camp. We laid our absence of sixteen hours - a longer time than our
announced flying, landing, reconnoitering, and rock-collecting program called for - to a
long mythical spell of adverse wind conditions, and told truly of our landing on the
farther foothills. Fortunately our tale sounded realistic and prosaic enough not to tempt
any of the others into emulating our flight. Had any tried to do that, I would have used
every ounce of my persuasion to stop them - and I do not know what Danforth would
have done. While we were gone, Pabodie, Sherman, Ropes, McTighe, and Williamson
had worked like beavers over Lake’s two best planes, fitting them again for use despite
the altogether unaccountable juggling of their operative mechanism.

We decided to load all the planes the next morning and start back for our old base as soon
as possible. Even though indirect, that was the safest way to work toward McMurdo
Sound; for a straightline flight across the most utterly unknown stretches of the aeon-
dead continent would involve many additional hazards. Further exploration was hardly
feasible in view of our tragic decimation and the ruin of our drilling machinery. The
doubts and horrors around us - which we did not reveal - made us wish only to escape
from this austral world of desolation and brooding madness as swiftly as we could.

As the public knows, our return to the world was accomplished without further disasters.
All planes reached the old base on the evening of the next day - January 27th - after a
swift nonstop flight; and on the 28th we made McMurdo Sound in two laps, the one
pause being very brief, and occasioned by a faulty rudder in the furious wind over the ice
shelf after we had cleared the great plateau. In five days more, the Arkham and
Miskatonic, with all hands and equipment on board, were shaking clear of the thickening
field ice and working up Ross Sea with the mocking mountains of Victoria Land looming
westward against a troubled antarctic sky and twisting the wind’s wails into a wide-
ranged musical piping which chilled my soul to the quick. Less than a fortnight later we
left the last hint of polar land behind us and thanked heaven that we were clear of a
haunted, accursed realm where life and death, space and time, have made black and
blasphemous alliances, in the unknown epochs since matter first writhed and swam on the
planet’s scarce-cooled crust.
Since our return we have all constantly worked to discourage antarctic exploration, and
have kept certain doubts and guesses to ourselves with splendid unity and faithfulness.
Even young Danforth, with his nervous breakdown, has not flinched or babbled to his
doctors - indeed, as I have said, there is one thing he thinks he alone saw which he will
not tell even me, though I think it would help his psychological state if he would consent
to do so. It might explain and relieve much, though perhaps the thing was no more than
the delusive aftermath of an earlier shock. That is the impression I gather after those rare,
irresponsible moments when he whispers disjointed things to me - things which he
repudiates vehemently as soon as he gets a grip on himself again.

It will be hard work deterring others from the great white south, and some of our efforts
may directly harm our cause by drawing inquiring notice. We might have known from
the first that human curiosity is undying, and that the results we announced would be
enough to spur others ahead on the same age-long pursuit of the unknown. Lake’s reports
of those biological monstrosities had aroused naturalists and paleontologists to the
highest pitch, though we were sensible enough not to show the detached parts we had
taken from the actual buried specimens, or our photographs of those specimens as they
were found. We also refrained from showing the more puzzling of the scarred bones and
greenish soapstones; while Danforth and I have closely guarded the pictures we took or
drew on the superplateau across the range, and the crumpled things we smoothed, studied
in terror, and brought away in our pockets.

But now that Starkweather-Moore party is organizing, and with a thoroughness far
beyond anything our outfit attempted. If not dissuaded, they will get to the innermost
nucleus of the antarctic and melt and bore till they bring up that which we know may end
the world. So I must break through all reticences at last - even about that ultimate,
nameless thing beyond the mountains of madness.

IV
It is only with vast hesitancy and repugnance that I let my mind go back to Lake’s camp
and what we really found there - and to that other thing beyond the mountains of
madness. I am constantly tempted to shirk the details, and to let hints stand for actual
facts and ineluctable deductions. I hope I have said enough already to let me glide briefly
over the rest; the rest, that is, of the horror at the camp. I have told of the wind-ravaged
terrain, the damaged shelters, the disarranged machinery, the varied uneasiness of our
dogs, the missing sledges and other items, the deaths of men and dogs, the absence of
Gedney, and the six insanely buried biological specimens, strangely sound in texture for
all their structural injuries, from a world forty million years dead. I do not recall whether
I mentioned that upon checking up the canine bodies we found one dog missing. We did
not think much about that till later - indeed, only Danforth and I have thought of it at all.

The principal things I have been keeping back relate to the bodies, and to certain subtle
points which may or may not lend a hideous and incredible kind of rationale to the
apparent chaos. At the time, I tried to keep the men’s minds off those points; for it was so
much simpler - so much more normal - to lay everything to an outbreak of madness on
the part of some of Lake’s party. From the look of things, that demon mountain wind
must have been enough to drive any man mad in the midst of this center of all earthly
mystery and desolation.

The crowning abnormality, of course, was the condition of the bodies - men and dogs
alike. They had all been in some terrible kind of conflict, and were torn and mangled in
fiendish and altogether inexplicable ways. Death, so far as we could judge, had in each
case come from strangulation or laceration. The dogs had evidently started the trouble,
for the state of their ill-built corral bore witness to its forcible breakage from within. It
had been set some distance from the camp because of the hatred of the animals for those
hellish Archaean organisms, but the precaution seemed to have been taken in vain. When
left alone in that monstrous wind, behind flimsy walls of insufficient height, they must
have stampeded - whether from the wind itself, or from some subtle, increasing odor
emitted by the nightmare specimens, one could not say.

But whatever had happened, it was hideous and revolting enough. Perhaps I had better
put squeamishness aside and tell the worst at last - though with a categorical statement of
opinion, based on the first-hand observations and most rigid deductions of both Danforth
and myself, that the then missing Gedney was in no way responsible for the loathsome
horrors we found. I have said that the bodies were frightfully mangled. Now I must add
that some were incised and subtracted from in the most curious, cold-blooded, and
inhuman fashion. It was the same with dogs and men. All the healthier, fatter bodies,
quadrupedal or bipedal, had had their most solid masses of tissue cut out and removed, as
by a careful butcher; and around them was a strange sprinkling of salt - taken from the
ravaged provision chests on the planes - which conjured up the most horrible
associations. The thing had occurred in one of the crude aeroplane shelters from which
the plane had been dragged out, and subsequent winds had effaced all tracks which could
have supplied any plausible theory. Scattered bits of clothing, roughly slashed from the
human incision subjects, hinted no clues. It is useless to bring up the half impression of
certain faint snow prints in one shielded corner of the ruined inclosure - because that
impression did not concern human prints at all, but was clearly mixed up with all the talk
of fossil prints which poor Lake had been giving throughout the preceding weeks. One
had to be careful of one’s imagination in the lee of those overshadowing mountains of
madness.

As I have indicated, Gedney and one dog turned out to be missing in the end. When we
came on that terrible shelter we had missed two dogs and two men; but the fairly
unharmed dissecting tent, which we entered after investigating the monstrous graves, had
something to reveal. It was not as Lake had left it, for the covered parts of the primal
monstrosity had been removed from the improvised table. Indeed, we had already
realized that one of the six imperfect and insanely buried things we had found - the one
with the trace of a peculiarly hateful odor - must represent the collected sections of the
entity which Lake had tried to analyze. On and around that laboratory table were strewn
other things, and it did not take long for us to guess that those things were the carefully
though oddly and inexpertly dissected parts of one man and one dog. I shall spare the
feelings of survivors by omitting mention of the man’s identity. Lake’s anatomical
instruments were missing, but there were evidences of their careful cleansing. The
gasoline stove was also gone, though around it we found a curious litter of matches. We
buried the human parts beside the other ten men; and the canine parts with the other
thirty-five dogs. Concerning the bizarre smudges on the laboratory table, and on the
jumble of roughly handled illustrated books scattered near it, we were much too
bewildered to speculate.

This formed the worst of the camp horror, but other things were equally perplexing. The
disappearance of Gedney, the one dog, the eight uninjured biological specimens, the three
sledges, and certain instruments, illustrated technical and scientific books, writing
materials, electric torches and batteries, food and fuel, heating apparatus, spare tents, fur
suits, and the like, was utterly beyond sane conjecture; as were likewise the spatter-
fringed ink blots on certain pieces of paper, and the evidences of curious alien fumbling
and experimentation around the planes and all other mechanical devices both at the camp
and at the boring. The dogs seemed to abhor this oddly disordered machinery. Then, too,
there was the upsetting of the larder, the disappearance of certain staples, and the
jarringly comical heap of tin cans pried open in the most unlikely ways and at the most
unlikely places. The profusion of scattered matches, intact, broken, or spent, formed
another minor enigma - as did the two or three tent cloths and fur suits which we found
lying about with peculiar and unorthodox slashings conceivably due to clumsy efforts at
unimaginable adaptations. The maltreatment of the human and canine bodies, and the
crazy burial of the damaged Archaean specimens, were all of a piece with this apparent
disintegrative madness. In view of just such an eventuality as the present one, we
carefully photographed all the main evidences of insane disorder at the camp; and shall
use the prints to buttress our pleas against the departure of the proposed Starkweather-
Moore Expedition.

Our first act after finding the bodies in the shelter was to photograph and open the row of
insane graves with the five-pointed snow mounds. We could not help noticing the
resemblance of these monstrous mounds, with their clusters of grouped dots, to poor
Lake’s descriptions of the strange greenish soapstones; and when we came on some of
the soapstones themselves in the great mineral pile, we found the likeness very close
indeed. The whole general formation, it must be made clear, seemed abominably
suggestive of the starfish head of the Archaean entities; and we agreed that the suggestion
must have worked potently upon the sensitized minds of Lake’s overwrought party.

For madness - centering in Gedney as the only possible surviving agent - was the
explanation spontaneously adopted by everybody so far as spoken utterance was
concerned; though I will not be so naive as to deny that each of us may have harbored
wild guesses which sanity forbade him to formulate completely. Sherman, Pabodie, and
McTighe made an exhaustive aeroplane cruise over all the surrounding territory in the
afternoon, sweeping the horizon with field glasses in quest of Gedney and of the various
missing things; but nothing came to light. The party reported that the titan barrier range
extended endlessly to right and left alike, without any diminution in height or essential
structure. On some of the peaks, though, the regular cube and rampart formations were
bolder and plainer, having doubly fantastic similitudes to Roerich-painted Asian hill
ruins. The distribution of cryptical cave mouths on the black snow-denuded summits
seemed roughly even as far as the range could be traced.

In spite of all the prevailing horrors, we were left with enough sheer scientific zeal and
adventurousness to wonder about the unknown realm beyond those mysterious
mountains. As our guarded messages stated, we rested at midnight after our day of terror
and bafflement - but not without a tentative plan for one or more range-crossing altitude
flights in a lightened plane with aerial camera and geologist’s outfit, beginning the
following morning. It was decided that Danforth and I try it first, and we awaked at 7
A.M. intending an early flight; however, heavy winds - mentioned in our brief, bulletin to
the outside world - delayed our start till nearly nine o’clock.

I have already repeated the noncommittal story we told the men at camp - and relayed
outside - after our return sixteen hours later. It is now my terrible duty to amplify this
account by filling in the merciful blanks with hints of what we really saw in the hidden
transmontane world - hints of the revelations which have finally driven Danforth to a
nervous collapse. I wish he would add a really frank word about the thing which he
thinks he alone saw - even though it was probably a nervous delusion - and which was
perhaps the last straw that put him where he is; but he is firm against that. All I can do is
to repeat his later disjointed whispers about what set him shrieking as the plane soared
back through the wind-tortured mountain pass after that real and tangible shock which I
shared. This will form my last word. If the plain signs of surviving elder horrors in what I
disclose be not enough to keep others from meddling with the inner antarctic - or at least
from prying too deeply beneath the surface of that ultimate waste of forbidden secrets and
inhuman, aeon-cursed desolation - the responsibility for unnamable and perhaps
immeasurable evils will not be mine.

Danforth and I, studying the notes made by Pabodie in his afternoon flight and checking
up with a sextant, had calculated that the lowest available pass in the range lay somewhat
to the right of us, within sight of camp, and about twenty-three thousand or twenty-four
thousand feet above sea level. For this point, then, we first headed in the lightened plane
as we embarked on our flight of discovery. The camp itself, on foothills which sprang
from a high continental plateau, was some twelve thousand feet in altitude; hence the
actual height increase necessary was not so vast as it might seem. Nevertheless we were
acutely conscious of the rarefied air and intense cold as we rose; for, on account of
visibility conditions, we had to leave the cabin windows open. We were dressed, of
course, in our heaviest furs.

As we drew near the forbidding peaks, dark and sinister above the line of crevasse-riven
snow and interstitial glaciers, we noticed more and more the curiously regular formations
clinging to the slopes; and thought again of the strange Asian paintings of Nicholas
Roerich. The ancient and wind-weathered rock strata fully verified all of Lake’s bulletins,
and proved that these pinnacles had been towering up in exactly the same way since a
surprisingly early time in earth’s history - perhaps over fifty million years. How much
higher they had once been, it was futile to guess; but everything about this strange region
pointed to obscure atmospheric influences unfavorable to change, and calculated to retard
the usual climatic processes of rock disintegration.

But it was the mountainside tangle of regular cubes, ramparts, and cave mouths which
fascinated and disturbed us most. I studied them with a field glass and took aerial
photographs while Danforth drove; and at times I relieved him at the controls - though
my aviation knowledge was purely an amateur’s - in order to let him use the binoculars.
We could easily see that much of the material of the things was a lightish Archaean
quartzite, unlike any formation visible over broad areas of the general surface; and that
their regularity was extreme and uncanny to an extent which poor Lake had scarcely
hinted.

As he had said, their edges were crumbled and rounded from untold aeons of savage
weathering; but their preternatural solidity and tough material had saved them from
obliteration. Many parts, especially those closest to the slopes, seemed identical in
substance with the surrounding rock surface. The whole arrangement looked like the
ruins of Macchu Picchu in the Andes, or the primal foundation walls of Kish as dug up by
the Oxford Field Museum Expedition in 1929; and both Danforth and I obtained that
occasional impression of separate Cyclopean blocks which Lake had attributed to his
flight-companion Carroll. How to account for such things in this place was frankly
beyond me, and I felt queerly humbled as a geologist. Igneous formations often have
strange regularities - like the famous Giants’ Causeway in Ireland - but this stupendous
range, despite Lake’s original suspicion of smoking cones, was above all else
nonvolcanic in evident structure.

The curious cave mouths, near which the odd formations seemed most abundant,
presented another albeit a lesser puzzle because of their regularity of outline. They were,
as Lake’s bulletin had said, often approximately square or semicircular; as if the natural
orifices had been shaped to greater symmetry by some magic hand. Their numerousness
and wide distribution were remarkable, and suggested that the whole region was
honeycombed with tunnels dissolved out of limestone strata. Such glimpses as we
secured did not extend far within the caverns, but we saw that they were apparently clear
of stalactites and stalagmites. Outside, those parts of the mountain slopes adjoining the
apertures seemed invariably smooth and regular; and Danforth thought that the slight
cracks and pittings of the weathering tended toward unusual patterns. Filled as he was
with the horrors and strangenesses discovered at the camp, he hinted that the pittings
vaguely resembled those baffling groups of dots sprinkled over the primeval greenish
soapstones, so hideously duplicated on the madly conceived snow mounds above those
six buried monstrosities.

We had risen gradually in flying over the higher foothills and along toward the relatively
low pass we had selected. As we advanced we occasionally looked down at the snow and
ice of the land route, wondering whether we could have attempted the trip with the
simpler equipment of earlier days. Somewhat to our surprise we saw that the terrain was
far from difficult as such things go; and that despite the crevasses and other bad spots it
would not have been likely to deter the sledges of a Scott, a Shackleton, or an Amundsen.
Some of the glaciers appeared to lead up to wind-bared passes with unusual continuity,
and upon reaching our chosen pass we found that its case formed no exception.

Our sensations of tense expectancy as we prepared to round the crest and peer out over an
untrodden world can hardly be described on paper; even though we had no cause to think
the regions beyond the range essentially different from those already seen and traversed.
The touch of evil mystery in these barrier mountains, and in the beckoning sea of
opalescent sky glimpsed betwixt their summits, was a highly subtle and attenuated matter
not to be explained in literal words. Rather was it an affair of vague psychological
symbolism and aesthetic association - a thing mixed up with exotic poetry and paintings,
and with archaic myths lurking in shunned and forbidden volumes. Even the wind’s
burden held a peculiar strain of conscious malignity; and for a second it seemed that the
composite sound included a bizarre musical whistling or piping over a wide range as the
blast swept in and out of the omnipresent and resonant cave mouths. There was a cloudy
note of reminiscent repulsion in this sound, as complex and unplaceable as any of the
other dark impressions.

We were now, after a slow ascent, at a height of twenty-three thousand, five hundred and
seventy feet according to the aneroid; and had left the region of clinging snow definitely
below us. Up here were only dark, bare rock slopes and the start of rough-ribbed glaciers
- but with those provocative cubes, ramparts, and echoing cave mouths to add a portent of
the unnatural, the fantastic, and the dreamlike. Looking along the line of high peaks, I
thought I could see the one mentioned by poor Lake, with a rampart exactly on top. It
seemed to be half lost in a queer antarctic haze - such a haze, perhaps, as had been
responsible for Lake’s early notion of volcanism. The pass loomed directly before us,
smooth and windswept between its jagged and malignly frowning pylons. Beyond it was
a sky fretted with swirling vapors and lighted by the low polar sun - the sky of that
mysterious farther realm upon which we felt no human eye had ever gazed.

A few more feet of altitude and we would behold that realm. Danforth and I, unable to
speak except in shouts amidst the howling, piping wind that raced through the pass and
added to the noise of the unmuffled engines, exchanged eloquent glances. And then,
having gained those last few feet, we did indeed stare across the momentous divide and
over the unsampled secrets of an elder and utterly alien earth.

V
I think that both of us simultaneously cried out in mixed awe, wonder, terror, and
disbelief in our own senses as we finally cleared the pass and saw what lay beyond. Of
course, we must have had some natural theory in the back of our heads to steady our
faculties for the moment. Probably we thought of such things as the grotesquely
weathered stones of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, or the fantastically symmetrical
wind-carved rocks of the Arizona desert. Perhaps we even half thought the sight a mirage
like that we had seen the morning before on first approaching those mountains of
madness. We must have had some such normal notions to fall back upon as our eyes
swept that limitless, tempest-scarred plateau and grasped the almost endless labyrinth of
colossal, regular, and geometrically eurythmic stone masses which reared their crumbled
and pitted crests above a glacial sheet not more than forty or fifty feet deep at its thickest,
and in places obviously thinner.

The effect of the monstrous sight was indescribable, for some fiendish violation of known
natural law seemed certain at the outset. Here, on a hellishly ancient table-land fully
twenty thousand feet high, and in a climate deadly to habitation since a prehuman age not
less than five hundred thousand years ago, there stretched nearly to the vision’s limit a
tangle of orderly stone which only the desperation of mental self-defense could possibly
attribute to any but conscious and artificial cause. We had previously dismissed, so far as
serious thought was concerned, any theory that the cubes and ramparts of the
mountainsides were other than natural in origin. How could they be otherwise, when man
himself could scarcely have been differentiated from the great apes at the time when this
region succumbed to the present unbroken reign of glacial death?

Yet now the sway of reason seemed irrefutably shaken, for this Cyclopean maze of
squared, curved, and angled blocks had features which cut off all comfortable refuge. It
was, very clearly, the blasphemous city of the mirage in stark, objective, and ineluctable
reality. That damnable portent had had a material basis after all - there had been some
horizontal stratum of ice dust in the upper air, and this shocking stone survival had
projected its image across the mountains according to the simple laws of reflection, Of
course, the phantom had been twisted and exaggerated, and had contained things which
the real source did not contain; yet now, as we saw that real source, we thought it even
more hideous and menacing than its distant image.

Only the incredible, unhuman massiveness of these vast stone towers and ramparts had
saved the frightful things from utter annihilation in the hundreds of thousands - perhaps
millions - of years it had brooded there amidst the blasts of a bleak upland. "Corona
Mundi - Roof of the World - " All sorts of fantastic phrases sprang to our lips as we
looked dizzily down at the unbelievable spectacle. I thought again of the eldritch primal
myths that had so persistently haunted me since my first sight of this dead antarctic world
- of the demoniac plateau of Leng, of the Mi-Go, or abominable Snow Men of the
Himalayas, of the Pnakotic Manuscripts with their prehuman implications, of the Cthulhu
cult, of the Necronomicon, and of the Hyperborean legends of formless Tsathoggua and
the worse than formless star spawn associated with that semientity.

For boundless miles in every direction the thing stretched off with very little thinning;
indeed, as our eyes followed it to the right and left along the base of the low, gradual
foothills which separated it from the actual mountain rim, we decided that we could see
no thinning at all except for an interruption at the left of the pass through which we had
come. We had merely struck, at random, a limited part of something of incalculable
extent. The foothills were more sparsely sprinkled with grotesque stone structures,
linking the terrible city to the already familiar cubes and ramparts which evidently
formed its mountain outposts. These latter, as well as the queer cave mouths, were as
thick on the inner as on the outer sides of the mountains.
The nameless stone labyrinth consisted, for the most part, of walls from ten to one
hundred and fifty feet in ice-clear height, and of a thickness varying from five to ten feet.
It was composed mostly of prodigious blocks of dark primordial slate, schist, and
sandstone - blocks in many cases as large as 4 x 6 x 8 feet - though in several places it
seemed to be carved out of a solid, uneven bed rock of pre-Cambrian slate. The buildings
were far from equal in size, there being innumerable honeycomb arrangements of
enormous extent as well as smaller separate structures. The general shape of these things
tended to be conical, pyramidal, or terraced; though there were many perfect cylinders,
perfect cubes, clusters of cubes, and other rectangular forms, and a peculiar sprinkling of
angled edifices whose five-pointed ground plan roughly suggested modern fortifications.
The builders had made constant and expert use of the principle of the arch, and domes
had probably existed in the city’s heyday.

The whole tangle was monstrously weathered, and the glacial surface from which the
towers projected was strewn with fallen blocks and immemorial debris. Where the
glaciation was transparent we could see the lower parts of the gigantic piles, and we
noticed the ice-preserved stone bridges which connected the different towers at varying
distances above the ground. On the exposed walls we could detect the scarred places
where other and higher bridges of the same sort had existed. Closer inspection revealed
countless largish windows; some of which were closed with shutters of a petrified
material originally wood, though most gaped open in a sinister and menacing fashion.
Many of the ruins, of course, were roofless, and with uneven though wind-rounded upper
edges; whilst others, of a more sharply conical or pyramidal model or else protected by
higher surrounding structures, preserved intact outlines despite the omnipresent
crumbling and pitting. With the field glass we could barely make out what seemed to be
sculptural decorations in horizontal bands - decorations including those curious groups of
dots whose presence on the ancient soapstones now assumed a vastly larger significance.

In many places the buildings were totally ruined and the ice sheet deeply riven from
various geologic causes. In other places the stonework was worn down to the very level
of the glaciation. One broad swath, extending from the plateau’s interior, to a cleft in the
foothills about a mile to the left of the pass we had traversed, was wholly free from
buildings. It probably represented, we concluded, the course of some great river which in
Tertiary times - millions of years ago - had poured through the city and into some
prodigious subterranean abyss of the great barrier range. Certainly, this was above all a
region of caves, gulfs, and underground secrets beyond human penetration.

Looking back to our sensations, and recalling our dazedness at viewing this monstrous
survival from aeons we had thought prehuman, I can only wonder that we preserved the
semblance of equilibrium, which we did. Of course, we knew that something -
chronology, scientific theory, or our own consciousness - was woefully awry; yet we kept
enough poise to guide the plane, observe many things quite minutely, and take a careful
series of photographs which may yet serve both us and the world in good stead. In my
case, ingrained scientific habit may have helped; for above all my bewilderment and
sense of menace, there burned a dominant curiosity to fathom more of this age-old secret
- to know what sort of beings had built and lived in this incalculably gigantic place, and
what relation to the general world of its time or of other times so unique a concentration
of life could have had.

For this place could be no ordinary city. It must have formed the primary nucleus and
center of some archaic and unbelievable chapter of earth’s history whose outward
ramifications, recalled only dimly in the most obscure and distorted myths, had vanished
utterly amidst the chaos of terrene convulsions long before any human race we know had
shambled out of apedom. Here sprawled a Palaeogaean megalopolis compared with
which the fabled Atlantis and Lemuria, Commoriom and Uzuldaroum, and Olathoc in the
land of Lomar, are recent things of today - not even of yesterday; a megalopolis ranking
with such whispered prehuman blasphemies as Valusia, R’lyeh, Ib in the land of Mnar,
and the Nameless city of Arabia Deserta. As we flew above that tangle of stark titan
towers my imagination sometimes escaped all bounds and roved aimlessly in realms of
fantastic associations - even weaving links betwixt this lost world and some of my own
wildest dreams concerning the mad horror at the camp.

The plane’s fuel tank, in the interest of greater lightness, had been only partly filled;
hence we now had to exert caution in our explorations. Even so, however, we covered an
enormous extent of ground - or, rather, air - after swooping down to a level where the
wind became virtually negligible. There seemed to be no limit to the mountain range, or
to the length of the frightful stone city which bordered its inner foothills. Fifty miles of
flight in each direction showed no major change in the labyrinth of rock and masonry that
clawed up corpselike through the eternal ice. There were, though, some highly absorbing
diversifications; such as the carvings on the canyon where that broad river had once
pierced the foothills and approached its sinking place in the great range. The headlands at
the stream’s entrance had been boldly carved into Cyclopean pylons; and something
about the ridgy, barrel-shaped designs stirred up oddly vague, hateful, and confusing
semi-remembrances in both Danforth and me.

We also came upon several star-shaped open spaces, evidently public squares, and noted
various undulations in the terrain. Where a sharp hill rose, it was generally hollowed out
into some sort of rambling-stone edifice; but there were at least two exceptions. Of these
latter, one was too badly weathered to disclose what had been on the jutting eminence,
while the other still bore a fantastic conical monument carved out of the solid rock and
roughly resembling such things as the well-known Snake Tomb in the ancient valley of
Petra.

Flying inland from the mountains, we discovered that the city was not of infinite width,
even though its length along the foothills seemed endless. After about thirty miles the
grotesque stone buildings began to thin out, and in ten more miles we came to an
unbroken waste virtually without signs of sentient artifice. The course of the river beyond
the city seemed marked by a broad, depressed line, while the land assumed a somewhat
greater ruggedness, seeming to slope slightly upward as it receded in the mist-hazed west.

So far we had made no landing, yet to leave the plateau without an attempt at entering
some of the monstrous structures would have been inconceivable. Accordingly, we
decided to find a smooth place on the foothills near our navigable pass, there grounding
the plane and preparing to do some exploration on foot. Though these gradual slopes
were partly covered with a scattering of ruins, low flying soon disclosed an ampler
number of possible landing places. Selecting that nearest to the pass, since our flight
would be across the great range and back to camp, we succeeded about 12:30 P.M. in
effecting a landing on a smooth, hard snow field wholly devoid of obstacles and well
adapted to a swift and favorable take-off later on.

It did not seem necessary to protect the plane with a snow banking for so brief a time and
in so comfortable an absence of high winds at this level; hence we merely saw that the
landing skis were safely lodged, and that the vital parts of the mechanism were guarded
against the cold. For our foot journey we discarded the heaviest of our flying furs, and
took with us a small outfit consisting of pocket compass, hand camera, light provisions,
voluminous notebooks and paper, geologist’s hammer and chisel, specimen bags, coil of
climbing rope, and powerful electric torches with extra batteries; this equipment having
been carried in the plane on the chance that we might be able to effect a landing, take
ground pictures, make drawings and topographical sketches, and obtain rock specimens
from some bare slope, outcropping, or mountain cave. Fortunately we had a supply of
extra paper to tear up, place in a spare specimen bag, and use on the ancient principle of
hare and hounds for marking our course in any interior mazes we might be able to
penetrate. This had been brought in case we found some cave system with air quiet
enough to allow such a rapid and easy method in place of the usual rock-chipping method
of trail blazing.

Walking cautiously downhill over the crusted snow toward the stupendous stone
labyrinth that loomed against the opalescent west, we felt almost as keen a sense of
imminent marvels as we had felt on approaching the unfathomed mountain pass four
hours previously. True, we had become visually familiar with the incredible secret
concealed by the barrier peaks; yet the prospect of actually entering primordial walls
reared by conscious beings perhaps millions of years ago - before any known race of men
could have existed - was none the less awesome and potentially terrible in its implications
of cosmic abnormality. Though the thinness of the air at this prodigious altitude made
exertion somewhat more difficult than usual, both Danforth and I found ourselves bearing
up very well, and felt equal to almost any task which might fall to our lot. It took only a
few steps to bring us to a shapeless ruin worn level with the snow, while ten or fifteen
rods farther on there was a huge, roofless rampart still complete in its gigantic five-
pointed outline and rising to an irregular height of ten or eleven feet. For this latter we
headed; and when at last we were actually able to touch its weathered Cyclopean blocks,
we felt that we had established an unprecedented and almost blasphemous link with
forgotten aeons normally closed to our species.

This rampart, shaped like a star and perhaps three hundred feet from point to point, was
built of Jurassic sandstone blocks of irregular size, averaging 6 x 8 feet in surface. There
was a row of arched loopholes or windows about four feet wide and five feet high, spaced
quite symmetrically along the points of the star and at its inner angles, and with the
bottoms about four feet from the glaciated surface. Looking through these, we could see
that the masonry was fully five feet thick, that there were no partitions remaining within,
and that there were traces of banded carvings or bas-reliefs on the interior walls - facts we
had indeed guessed before, when flying low over this rampart and others like it. Though
lower parts must have originally existed, all traces of such things were now wholly
obscured by the deep layer of ice and snow at this point.

We crawled through one of the windows and vainly tried to decipher the nearly effaced
mural designs, but did not attempt to disturb the glaciated floor. Our orientation flights
had indicated that many buildings in the city proper were less ice-choked, and that we
might perhaps find wholly clear interiors leading down to the true ground level if we
entered those structures still roofed at the top. Before we left the rampart we
photographed it carefully, and studied its mortar-less Cyclopean masonry with complete
bewilderment. We wished that Pabodie were present, for his engineering knowledge
might have helped us guess how such titanic blocks could have been handled in that
unbelievably remote age when the city and its outskirts were built up.

The half-mile walk downhill to the actual city, with the upper wind shrieking vainly and
savagely through the skyward peaks in the background, was something of which the
smallest details will always remain engraved on my mind. Only in fantastic nightmares
could any human beings but Danforth and me conceive such optical effects. Between us
and the churning vapors of the west lay that monstrous tangle of dark stone towers, its
outre and incredible forms impressing us afresh at every new angle of vision. It was a
mirage in solid stone, and were it not for the photographs, I would still doubt that such a
thing could be. The general type of masonry was identical with that of the rampart we
had examined; but the extravagant shapes which this masonry took in its urban
manifestations were past all description.

Even the pictures illustrate only one or two phases of its endless variety, preternatural
massiveness, and utterly alien exoticism. There were geometrical forms for which an
Euclid would scarcely find a name - cones of all degrees of irregularity and truncation,
terraces of every sort of provocative disproportion, shafts with odd bulbous enlargements,
broken columns in curious groups, and five-pointed or five-ridged arrangements of mad
grotesqueness. As we drew nearer we could see beneath certain transparent parts of the
ice sheet, and detect some of the tubular stone bridges that connected the crazily
sprinkled structures at various heights. Of orderly streets there seemed to be none, the
only broad open swath being a mile to the left, where the ancient river had doubtless
flowed through the town into the mountains.

Our field glasses showed the external, horizontal bands of nearly effaced sculptures and
dot groups to be very prevalent, and we could half imagine what the city must once have
looked like - even though most of the roofs and tower tops had necessarily perished. As a
whole, it had been a complex tangle of twisted lanes and alleys, all of them deep canyons,
and some little better than tunnels because of the overhanging masonry or overarching
bridges. Now, outspread below us, it loomed like a dream fantasy against a westward
mist through whose northern end the low, reddish antarctic sun of early afternoon was
struggling to shine; and when, for a moment, that sun encountered a denser obstruction
and plunged the scene into temporary shadow, the effect was subtly menacing in a way I
can never hope to depict. Even the faint howling and piping of the unfelt wind in the
great mountain passes behind us took on a wilder note of purposeful malignity. The last
stage of our descent to the town was unusually steep and abrupt, and a rock outcropping
at the edge where the grade changed led us to think that an artificial terrace had once
existed there. Under the glaciation, we believed, there must be a flight of steps or its
equivalent.

When at last we plunged into the town itself, clambering over fallen masonry and
shrinking from the oppressive nearness and dwarfing height of omnipresent crumbling
and pitted walls, our sensations again became such that I marvel at the amount of self-
control we retained. Danforth was frankly jumpy, and began making some offensively
irrelevant speculations about the horror at the camp - which I resented all the more
because I could not help sharing certain conclusions forced upon us by many features of
this morbid survival from nightmare antiquity. The speculations worked on his
imagination, too; for in one place - where a debris-littered alley turned a sharp corner - he
insisted that he saw faint traces of ground markings which he did not like; whilst
elsewhere he stopped to listen to a subtle, imaginary sound from some undefined point - a
muffled musical piping, he said, not unlike that of the wind in the mountain caves, yet
somehow disturbingly different. The ceaseless five-pointedness of the surrounding
architecture and of the few distinguishable mural arabesques had a dimly sinister
suggestiveness we could not escape, and gave us a touch of terrible subconscious
certainty concerning the primal entities which had reared and dwelt in this unhallowed
place.

Nevertheless, our scientific and adventurous souls were not wholly dead, and we
mechanically carried out our program of chipping specimens from all the different rock
types represented in the masonry. We wished a rather full set in order to draw better
conclusions regarding the age of the place. Nothing in the great outer walls seemed to
date from later than the Jurassic and Comanchian periods, nor was any piece of stone in
the entire place of a greater recency than the Pliocene Age. In stark certainty, we were
wandering amidst a death which had reigned at least five hundred thousand years, and in
all probability even longer.

As we proceeded through this maze of stone-shadowed twilight we stopped at all


available apertures to study interiors and investigate entrance possibilities. Some were
above our reach, whilst others led only into ice-choked ruins as unroofed and barren as
the rampart on the hill. One, though spacious and inviting, opened on a seemingly
bottomless abyss without visible means of descent. Now and then we had a chance to
study the petrified wood of a surviving shutter, and were impressed by the fabulous
antiquity implied in the still discernible grain. These things had come from Mesozoic
gymnosperms and conifers - especially Cretaceous cycads - and from fan palms and early
angiosperms of plainly Tertiary date. Nothing definitely later than the Pliocene could be
discovered. In the placing of these shutters - whose edges showed the former presence of
queer and long-vanished hinges - usage seemed to be varied - some being on the outer
and some on the inner side of the deep embrasures. They seemed to have become wedged
in place, thus surviving the rusting of their former and probably metallic fixtures and
fastenings.

After a time we came across a row of windows - in the bulges of a colossal five-edged
cone of undamaged apex - which led into a vast, well-preserved room with stone
flooring; but these were too high in the room to permit descent without a rope. We had a
rope with us, but did not wish to bother with this twenty-foot drop unless obliged to-
especially in this thin plateau air where great demands were made upon the heart action.
This enormous room was probably a hall or concourse of some sort, and our electric
torches showed bold, distinct, and potentially startling sculptures arranged round the
walls in broad, horizontal bands separated by equally broad strips of conventional
arabesques. We took careful note of this spot, planning to enter here unless a more easily
gained interior were encountered.

Finally, though, we did encounter exactly the opening we wished; an archway about six
feet wide and ten feet high, marking the former end of an aerial bridge which had
spanned an alley about five feet above the present level of glaciation. These archways, of
course, were flush with upper-story floors, and in this case one of the floors still existed.
The building thus accessible was a series of rectangular terraces on our left facing
westward. That across the alley, where the other archway yawned, was a decrepit
cylinder with no windows and with a curious bulge about ten feet above the aperture. It
was totally dark inside, and the archway seemed to open on a well of illimitable
emptiness.

Heaped debris made the entrance to the vast left-hand building doubly easy, yet for a
moment we hesitated before taking advantage of the long-wished chance. For though we
had penetrated into this tangle of archaic mystery, it required fresh resolution to carry us
actually inside a complete and surviving building of a fabulous elder world whose nature
was becoming more and more hideously plain to us. In the end, however, we made the
plunge, and scrambled up over the rubble into the gaping embrasure. The floor beyond
was of great slate slabs, and seemed to form the outlet of a long, high corridor with
sculptured walls.

Observing the many inner archways which led off from it, and realizing the probable
complexity of the nest of apartments within, we decided that we must begin our system of
hare-and-hound trail blazing. Hitherto our compasses, together with frequent glimpses of
the vast mountain range between the towers in our rear, had been enough to prevent our
losing our way; but from now on, the artificial substitute would be necessary.
Accordingly we reduced our extra paper to shreds of suitable size, placed these in a bag
to be carried by Danforth, and prepared to use them as economically as safety would
allow. This method would probably gain us immunity from straying, since there did not
appear to be any strong air currents inside the primordial masonry. If such should
develop, or if our paper supply should give out, we could of course fall back on the more
secure though more tedious and retarding method of rock chipping.
Just how extensive a territory we had opened up, it was impossible to guess without a
trial. The close and frequent connection of the different buildings made it likely that we
might cross from one to another on bridges underneath the ice, except where impeded by
local collapses and geologic rifts, for very little glaciation seemed to have entered the
massive constructions. Almost all the areas of transparent ice had revealed the submerged
windows as tightly shuttered, as if the town had been left in that uniform state until the
glacial sheet came to crystallize the lower part for all succeeding time. Indeed, one gained
a curious impression that this place had been deliberately closed and deserted in some
dim, bygone aeon, rather than overwhelmed by any sudden calamity or even gradual
decay. Had the coming of the ice been foreseen, and had a nameless population left en
masse to seek a less doomed abode? The precise physiographic conditions attending the
formation of the ice sheet at this point would have to wait for later solution. It had not,
very plainly, been a grinding drive. Perhaps the pressure of accumulated snows had been
responsible, and perhaps some flood from the river, or from the bursting of some ancient
glacial dam in the great range, had helped to create the special state now observable.
Imagination could conceive almost anything in connection with this place.

VI
It would be cumbrous to give a detailed, consecutive account of our wanderings inside
that cavernous, aeon-dead honeycomb of primal masonry - that monstrous lair of elder
secrets which now echoed for the first time, after uncounted epochs, to the tread of
human feet. This is especially true because so much of the horrible drama and revelation
came from a mere study of the omnipresent mural carvings. Our flashlight photographs of
those carvings will do much toward proving the truth of what we are now disclosing, and
it is lamentable that we had not a larger film supply with us. As it was, we made crude
notebook sketches of certain salient features after all our films were used up.

The building which we had entered was one of great size and elaborateness, and gave us
an impressive notion of the architecture of that nameless geologic past. The inner
partitions were less massive than the outer walls, but on the lower levels were excellently
preserved. Labyrinthine complexity, involving curiously irregular difference in floor
levels, characterized the entire arrangement; and we should certainly have been lost at the
very outset but for the trail of torn paper left behind us. We decided to explore the more
decrepit upper parts first of all, hence climbed aloft in the maze for a distance of some
one hundred feet, to where the topmost tier of chambers yawned snowily and ruinously
open to the polar sky. Ascent was effected over the steep, transversely ribbed stone ramps
or inclined planes which everywhere served in lieu of stairs. The rooms we encountered
were of all imaginable shapes and proportions, ranging from five-pointed stars to
triangles and perfect cubes. It might be safe to say that their general average was about 30
x 30 feet in floor area, and 20 feet in height, though many larger apartments existed.
After thoroughly examining the upper regions and the glacial level, we descended, story
by story, into the submerged part, where indeed we soon saw we were in a continuous
maze of connected chambers and passages probably leading over unlimited areas outside
this particular building. The Cyclopean massiveness and gigantism of everything about us
became curiously oppressive; and there was something vaguely but deeply unhuman in
all the contours, dimensions, proportions, decorations, and constructional nuances of the
blasphemously archaic stonework. We soon realized, from what the carvings revealed,
that this monstrous city was many million years old.

We cannot yet explain the engineering principles used in the anomalous balancing and
adjustment of the vast rock masses, though the function of the arch was clearly much
relied on. The rooms we visited were wholly bare of all portable contents, a circumstance
which sustained our belief in the city’s deliberate desertion. The prime decorative feature
was the almost universal system of mural sculpture, which tended to run in continuous
horizontal bands three feet wide and arranged from floor to ceiling in alternation with
bands of equal width given over to geometrical arabesques. There were exceptions to this
rule of arrangement, but its preponderance was overwhelming. Often, however, a series
of smooth car-touches containing oddly patterned groups of dots would be sunk along
one of the arabesque bands.

The technique, we soon saw, was mature, accomplished, and aesthetically evolved to the
highest degree of civilized mastery, though utterly alien in every detail to any known art
tradition of the human race. In delicacy of execution no sculpture I have ever seen could
approach it. The minutest details of elaborate vegetation, or of animal life, were rendered
with astonishing vividness despite the bold scale of the carvings; whilst the conventional
designs were marvels of skillful intricacy. The arabesques displayed a profound use of
mathematical principles, and were made up of obscurely symmetrical curves and angles
based on the quantity of five. The pictorial bands followed a highly formalized tradition,
and involved a peculiar treatment of perspective, but had an artistic force that moved us
profoundly, notwithstanding the intervening gulf of vast geologic periods. Their method
of design hinged on a singular juxtaposition of the cross section with the two-dimensional
silhouette, and embodied an analytical psychology beyond that of any known race of
antiquity. It is useless to try to compare this art with any represented in our museums.
Those who see our photographs will probably find its closest analogue in certain
grotesque conceptions of the most daring futurists.

The arabesque tracery consisted altogether of depressed lines, whose depth on


unweathered walls varied from one to two inches. When cartouches with dot groups
appeared - evidently as inscriptions in some unknown and primordial language and
alphabet - the depression of the smooth surface was perhaps an inch and a half, and of the
dots perhaps a half inch more. The pictorial bands were in countersunk low relief, their
background being depressed about two inches from the original wall surface. In some
specimens marks of a former coloration could be detected, though for the most part the
untold aeons had disintegrated and banished any pigments which may have been applied.
The more one studied the marvelous technique, the more one admired the things. Beneath
their strict conventionalization one could grasp the minute and accurate observation and
graphic skill of the artists; and indeed, the very conventions themselves served to
symbolize and accentuate the real essence or vital differentiation of every object
delineated. We felt, too, that besides these recognizable excellences there were others
lurking beyond the reach of our perceptions. Certain touches here and there gave vague
hints of latent symbols and stimuli which another mental and emotional background, and
a fuller or different sensory equipment, might have made of profound and poignant
significance to us.

The subject matter of the sculptures obviously came from the life of the vanished epoch
of their creation, and contained a large proportion of evident history. It is this abnormal
historic-mindedness of the primal race - a chance circumstance operating, through
coincidence, miraculously in our favor - which made the carvings so awesomely
informative to us, and which caused us to place their photography and transcription above
all other considerations. In certain rooms the dominant arrangement was varied by the
presence of maps, astronomical charts, and other scientific designs of an enlarged scale -
these things giving a naive and terrible corroboration to what we gathered from the
pictorial friezes and dadoes. In hinting at what the whole revealed, I can only hope that
my account will not arouse a curiosity greater than sane caution on the part of those who
believe me at all. It would be tragic if any were to be allured to that realm of death and
horror by the very warning meant to discourage them.

Interrupting these sculptured walls were high windows and massive twelve-foot
doorways; both now and then retaining the petrified wooden planks - elaborately carved
and polished-of the actual shutters and doors. All metal fixtures had long ago vanished,
but some of the doors remained in place and had to be forced aside as we progressed
from room to room. Window frames with odd transparent panes - mostly elliptical -
survived here and there, though in no considerable quantity. There were also frequent
niches of great magnitude, generally empty, but once in a while containing some bizarre
object carved from green soapstone which was either broken or perhaps held too inferior
to warrant removal. Other apertures were undoubtedly connected with bygone
mechanical facilities - heating, lighting, and the like-of a sort suggested in many of the
carvings. Ceilings tended to be plain, but had sometimes been inlaid with green soapstone
or other tiles, mostly fallen now. Floors were also paved with such tiles, though plain
stonework predominated.

As I have said, all furniture and other movables were absent; but the sculptures gave a
clear idea of the strange devices which had once filled these tomblike, echoing rooms.
Above the glacial sheet the floors were generally thick with detritus, litter, and debris, but
farther down this condition decreased. In some of the lower chambers and corridors there
was little more than gritty dust or ancient incrustations, while occasional areas had an
uncanny air of newly swept immaculateness. Of course, where rifts or collapses had
occurred, the lower levels were as littered as the upper ones. A central court - as in other
structures we had seen from the air - saved the inner regions from total darkness; so that
we seldom had to use our electric torches in the upper rooms except when studying
sculptured details. Below the ice cap, however, the twilight deepened; and in many parts
of the tangled ground level there was an approach to absolute blackness.

To form even a rudimentary idea of our thoughts and feelings as we penetrated this aeon-
silent maze of unhuman masonry, one must correlate a hopelessly bewildering chaos of
fugitive moods, memories, and impressions. The sheer appalling antiquity and lethal
desolation of the place were enough to overwhelm almost any sensitive person, but added
to these elements were the recent unexplained horror at the camp, and the revelations all
too soon effected by the terrible mural sculptures around us. The moment we came upon
a perfect section of carving, where no ambiguity of interpretation could exist, it took only
a brief study to give us the hideous truth - a truth which it would be naive to claim
Danforth and I had not independently suspected before, though we had carefully
refrained from even hinting it to each other. There could now be no further merciful
doubt about the nature of the beings which had built and inhabited this monstrous dead
city millions of years ago, when man’s ancestors were primitive archaic mammals, and
vast dinosaurs roamed the tropical steppes of Europe and Asia.

We had previously clung to a desperate alternative and insisted - each to himself - that the
omnipresence of the five-pointed motifs meant only some cultural or religious exaltation
of the Archaean natural object which had so patently embodied the quality of five-
pointedness; as the decorative motifs of Minoan Crete exalted the sacred bull, those of
Egypt the scarabaeus, those of Rome the wolf and the eagle, and those of various savage
tribes some chosen totem animal. But this lone refuge was now stripped from us, and we
were forced to face definitely the reason-shaking realization which the reader of these
pages has doubtless long ago anticipated. I can scarcely bear to write it down in black and
white even now, but perhaps that will not be necessary.

The things once rearing and dwelling in this frightful masonry in the age of dinosaurs
were not indeed dinosaurs, but far worse. Mere dinosaurs were new and almost brainless
objects - but the builders of the city were wise and old, and had left certain traces in rocks
even then laid down well nigh a thousand million years - rocks laid down before the true
life of earth had advanced beyond plastic groups of cells - rocks laid down before the true
life of earth had existed at all. They were the makers and enslavers of that life, and above
all doubt the originals of the fiendish elder myths which things like the Pnakotic
Manuscripts and the Necronomicon affrightedly hint about. They were the great "Old
Ones" that had filtered down from the stars when earth was young - the beings whose
substance an alien evolution had shaped, and whose powers were such as this planet had
never bred. And to think that only the day before Danforth and I had actually looked
upon fragments of their millennially fossilized substance - and that poor Lake and his
party had seen their complete outlines - It is of course impossible for me to relate in
proper order the stages by which we picked up what we know of that monstrous chapter
of prehuman life. After the first shock of the certain revelation, we had to pause a while
to recuperate, and it was fully three o’clock before we got started on our actual tour of
systematic research. The sculptures in the building we entered were of relatively late date
- perhaps two million years ago-as checked up by geological, biological, and
astronomical features - and embodied an art which would be called decadent in
comparison with that of specimens we found in older buildings after crossing bridges
under the glacial sheet. One edifice hewn from the solid rock seemed to go back forty or
possibly even fifty million years - to the lower Eocene or upper Cretaceous - and
contained bas-reliefs of an artistry surpassing anything else, with one tremendous
exception, that we encountered. That was, we have since agreed, the oldest domestic
structure we traversed.
Were it not for the support of those flashlights soon to be made public, I would refrain
from telling what I found and inferred, lest I be confined as a madman. Of course, the
infinitely early parts of the patchwork tale - representing the preterrestrial life of the star-
headed beings on other planets, in other galaxies, and in other universes - can readily be
interpreted as the fantastic mythology of those beings themselves; yet such parts
sometimes involved designs and diagrams so uncannily close to the latest findings of
mathematics and astrophysics that I scarcely know what to think. Let others judge when
they see the photographs I shall publish.

Naturally, no one set of carvings which we encountered told more than a fraction of any
connected story, nor did we even begin to come upon the various stages of that story in
their proper order. Some of the vast rooms were independent units so far as their designs
were concerned, whilst in other cases a continuous chronicle would be carried through a
series of rooms and corridors. The best of the maps and diagrams were on the walls of a
frightful abyss below even the ancient ground level - a cavern perhaps two hundred feet
square and sixty feet high, which had almost undoubtedly been an educational center of
some sort. There were many provoking repetitions of the same material in different
rooms and buildings, since certain chapters of experience, and certain summaries or
phases of racial history, had evidently been favorites with different decorators or
dwellers. Sometimes, though, variant versions of the same theme proved useful in settling
debatable points and filling up gaps.

I still wonder that we deduced so much in the short time at our disposal. Of course, we
even now have only the barest outline - and much of that was obtained later on from a
study of the photographs and sketches we made. It may be the effect of this later study -
the revived memories and vague impressions acting in conjunction with his general
sensitiveness and with that final supposed horror-glimpse whose essence he will not
reveal even to me - which has been the immediate source of Danforth’s present
breakdown. But it had to be; for we could not issue our warning intelligently without the
fullest possible information, and the issuance of that warning is a prime necessity. Certain
lingering influences in that unknown antarctic world of disordered time and alien natural
law make it imperative that further exploration be discouraged.

VII
The full story, so far as deciphered, will eventually appear in an official bulletin of
Miskatonic University. Here I shall sketch only the salient highlights in a formless,
rambling way. Myth or otherwise, the sculptures told of the coming of those star-headed
things to the nascent, lifeless earth out of cosmic space - their coming, and the coming of
many other alien entities such as at certain times embark upon spatial pioneering. They
seemed able to traverse the interstellar ether on their vast membranous wings - thus oddly
confirming some curious hill folklore long ago told me by an antiquarian colleague. They
had lived under the sea a good deal, building fantastic cities and fighting terrific battles
with nameless adversaries by means of intricate devices employing unknown principles
of energy. Evidently their scientific and mechanical knowledge far surpassed man’s
today, though they made use of its more widespread and elaborate forms only when
obliged to. Some of the sculptures suggested that they had passed through a stage of
mechanized life on other planets, but had receded upon finding its effects emotionally
unsatisfying. Their preternatural toughness of organization and simplicity of natural
wants made them peculiarly able to live on a high plane without the more specialized
fruits of artificial manufacture, and even without garments, except for occasional
protection against the elements.

It was under the sea, at first for food and later for other purposes, that they first created
earth life - using available substances according to long-known methods. The more
elaborate experiments came after the annihilation of various cosmic enemies. They had
done the same thing on other planets, having manufactured not only necessary foods, but
certain multicellular protoplasmic masses capable of molding their tissues into all sorts of
temporary organs under hypnotic influence and thereby forming ideal slaves to perform
the heavy work of the community. These viscous masses were without doubt what Abdul
Alhazred whispered about as the "Shoggoths" in his frightful Necronomicon, though even
that mad Arab had not hinted that any existed on earth except in the dreams of those who
had chewed a certain alkaloidal herb. When the star-headed Old Ones on this planet had
synthesized their simple food forms and bred a good supply of Shoggoths, they allowed
other cell groups to develop into other forms of animal and vegetable life for sundry
purposes, extirpating any whose presence became troublesome.

With the aid of the Shoggoths, whose expansions could be made to lift prodigious
weights, the small, low cities under the sea grew to vast and imposing labyrinths of stone
not unlike those which later rose on land. Indeed, the highly adaptable Old Ones had
lived much on land in other parts of the universe, and probably retained many traditions
of land construction. As we studied the architecture of all these sculptured palaeogean
cities, including that whose aeon-dead corridors we were even then traversing, we were
impressed by a curious coincidence which we have not yet tried to explain, even to
ourselves. The tops of the buildings, which in the actual city around us had, of course,
been weathered into shapeless ruins ages ago, were clearly displayed in the bas-reliefs,
and showed vast clusters of needle-like spires, delicate finials on certain cone and
pyramid apexes, and tiers of thin, horizontal scalloped disks capping cylindrical shafts.
This was exactly what we had seen in that monstrous and portentous mirage, cast by a
dead city whence such skyline features had been absent for thousands and tens of
thousands of years, which loomed on our ignorant eyes across the unfathomed mountains
of madness as we first approached poor Lake’s ill-fated camp.

Of the life of the Old Ones, both under the sea and after part of them migrated to land,
volumes could be written. Those in shallow water had continued the fullest use of the
eyes at the ends of their five main head tentacles, and had practiced the arts of sculpture
and of writing in quite the usual way - the writing accomplished with a stylus on
waterproof waxen surfaces. Those lower down in the ocean depths, though they used a
curious phosphorescent organism to furnish light, pieced out their vision with obscure
special senses operating through the prismatic cilia on their heads - senses which
rendered all the Old Ones partly independent of light in emergencies. Their forms of
sculpture and writing had changed curiously during the descent, embodying certain
apparently chemical coating processes - probably to secure phosphorescence - which the
basreliefs could not make clear to us. The beings moved in the sea partly by swimming -
using the lateral crinoid arms - and partly by wriggling with the lower tier of tentacles
containing the pseudofeet. Occasionally they accomplished long swoops with the
auxiliary use of two or more sets of their fanlike folding wings. On land they locally used
the pseudofeet, but now and then flew to great heights or over long distances with their
wings. The many slender tentacles into which the crinoid arms branched were infinitely
delicate, flexible, strong, and accurate in muscular-nervous coordination - ensuring the
utmost skill and dexterity in all artistic and other manual operations.

The toughness of the things was almost incredible. Even the terrific pressure of the
deepest sea bottoms appeared powerless to harm them. Very few seemed to die at all
except by violence, and their burial places were very limited. The fact that they covered
their vertically inhumed dead with five-pointed inscribed mounds set up thoughts in
Danforth and me which made a fresh pause and recuperation necessary after the
sculptures revealed it. The beings multiplied by means of spores - like vegetable
pteridophytes, as Lake had suspected - but, owing to their prodigious toughness and
longevity, and consequent lack of replacement needs, they did not encourage the large-
scale development of new prothallia except when they had new regions to colonize. The
young matured swiftly, and received an education evidently beyond any standard we can
imagine. The prevailing intellectual and aesthetic life was highly evolved, and produced a
tenaciously enduring set of customs and institutions which I shall describe more fully in
my coming monograph. These varied slightly according to sea or land residence, but had
the same foundations and essentials.

Though able, like vegetables, to derive nourishment from inorganic substances, they
vastly preferred organic and especially animal food. They ate uncooked marine life under
the sea, but cooked their viands on land. They hunted game and raised meat herds -
slaughtering with sharp weapons whose odd marks on certain fossil bones our expedition
had noted. They resisted all ordinary temperatures marvelously, and in their natural state
could live in water down to freezing. When the great chill of the Pleistocene drew on,
however - nearly a million years ago-the land dwellers had to resort to special measures,
including artificial heating - until at last the deadly cold appears to have driven them back
into the sea. For their prehistoric flights through cosmic space, legend said, they absorbed
certain chemicals and became almost independent of eating, breathing, or heat conditions
- but by the time of the great cold they had lost track of the method. In any case they
could not have prolonged the artificial state indefinitely without harm.

Being nonpairing and semivegetable in structure, the Old Ones had no biological basis
for the family phase of mammal life, but seemed to organize large households on the
principles of comfortable space-utility and - as we deduced from the pictured occupations
and diversions of co-dwellers - congenial mental association. In furnishing their homes
they kept everything in the center of the huge rooms, leaving all the wall spaces free for
decorative treatment. Lighting, in the case of the land inhabitants, was accomplished by a
device probably electro-chemical in nature. Both on land and under water they used
curious tables, chairs and couches like cylindrical frames - for they rested and slept
upright with folded-down tentacles - and racks for hinged sets of dotted surfaces forming
their books.

Government was evidently complex and probably socialistic, though no certainties in this
regard could be deduced from the sculptures we saw. There was extensive commerce,
both local and between different cities - certain small, flat counters, five-pointed and
inscribed, serving as money. Probably the smaller of the various greenish soapstones
found by our expedition were pieces of such currency. Though the culture was mainly
urban, some agriculture and much stock raising existed. Mining and a limited amount of
manufacturing were also practiced. Travel was very frequent, but permanent migration
seemed relatively rare except for the vast colonizing movements by which the race
expanded. For personal locomotion no external aid was used, since in land, air, and water
movement alike the Old Ones seemed to possess excessively vast capacities for speed.
Loads, however, were drawn by beasts of burden - Shoggoths under the sea, and a
curious variety of primitive vertebrates in the later years of land existence.

These vertebrates, as well as an infinity of other life forms - animal and vegetable,
marine, terrestrial, and aerial - were the products of unguided evolution acting on life
cells made by the Old Ones, but escaping beyond their radius of attention. They had been
suffered to develop unchecked because they had not come in conflict with the dominant
beings. Bothersome forms, of course, were mechanically exterminated. It interested us to
see in some of the very last and most decadent sculptures a shambling, primitive
mammal, used sometimes for food and sometimes as an amusing buffoon by the land
dwellers, whose vaguely simian and human foreshadowings were unmistakable. In the
building of land cities the huge stone blocks of the high towers were generally lifted by
vast-winged pterodactyls of a species heretofore unknown to paleontology.

The persistence with which the Old Ones survived various geologic changes and
convulsions of the earth’s crust was little short of miraculous. Though few or none of
their first cities seem to have remained beyond the Archaean Age, there was no
interruption in their civilization or in the transmission of their records. Their original
place of advent to the planet was the Antarctic Ocean, and it is likely that they came not
long after the matter forming the moon was wrenched from the neighboring South
Pacific. According to one of the sculptured maps the whole globe was then under water,
with stone cities scattered farther and farther from the antarctic as aeons passed. Another
map shows a vast bulk of dry land around the south pole, where it is evident that some of
the beings made experimental settlements, though their main centers were transferred to
the nearest sea bottom. Later maps, which display the land mass as cracking and drifting,
and sending certain detached parts northward, uphold in a striking way the theories of
continental drift lately advanced by Taylor, Wegener, and Joly.

With the upheaval of new land in the South Pacific tremendous events began. Some of
the marine cities were hopelessly shattered, yet that was not the worst misfortune.
Another race - a land race of beings shaped like octopi and probably corresponding to
fabulous prehuman spawn of Cthulhu - soon began filtering down from cosmic infinity
and precipitated a -monstrous war which for a time drove the Old Ones wholly back to
the sea - a colossal blow in view of the increasing land settlements. Later peace was
made, and the new lands were given to the Cthulhu spawn whilst the Old Ones held the
sea and the older lands. New land cities were founded - the greatest of them in the
antarctic, for this region of first arrival was sacred. From then on, as before, the antarctic
remained the center of the Old Ones’ civilization, and all the cities built there by the
Cthulhu spawn were blotted out. Then suddenly the lands of the Pacific sank again,
taking with them the frightful stone city of R’lyeh and all the cosmic octopi, so that the
Old Ones were again supreme on the planet except for one shadowy fear about which
they did not like to speak. At a rather later age their cities dotted all the land and water
areas of the globe - hence the recommendation in my coming monograph that some
archaeologist make systematic borings with Pabodie’s type of apparatus in certain widely
separated regions.

The steady trend down the ages was from water to land - a movement encouraged by the
rise of new land masses, though the ocean was never wholly deserted. Another cause of
the landward movement was the new difficulty in breeding and managing the Shoggoths
upon which successful sea life depended. With the march of time, as the sculptures sadly
confessed, the art of creating new life from inorganic matter had been lost, so that the Old
Ones had to depend on the molding of forms already in existence. On land the great
reptiles proved highly tractable; but the Shoggoths of the sea, reproducing by fission and
acquiring a dangerous degree of accidental intelligence, presented for a time a formidable
problem.

They had always been controlled through the hypnotic suggestions of the Old Ones, and
had modeled their tough plasticity into various useful temporary limbs and organs; but
now their self-modeling powers were sometimes exercised independently, and in various
imitative forms implanted by past suggestion. They had, it seems, developed a semistable
brain whose separate and occasionally stubborn volition echoed the will of the Old Ones
without always obeying it. Sculptured images of these Shoggoths filled Danforth and me
with horror and loathing. They were normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous
jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles, and each averaged about fifteen feet
in diameter when a sphere. They had, however, a constantly shifting shape and volume -
throwing out temporary developments or forming apparent organs of sight, hearing, and
speech in imitation of their masters, either spontaneously or according to suggestion.

They seem to have become peculiarly intractable toward the middle of the Permian Age,
perhaps one hundred and fifty million years ago, when a veritable war of resubjugation
was waged upon them by the marine Old Ones. Pictures of this war, and of the headless,
slime-coated fashion in which the Shoggoths typically left their slain victims, held a
marvelously fearsome quality despite the intervening abyss of untold ages. The Old Ones
had used curious weapons of molecular and atomic disturbances against the rebel entities,
and in the end had achieved a complete victory. Thereafter the sculptures showed a
period in which Shoggoths were tamed and broken by armed Old Ones as the wild horses
of the American west were tamed by cowboys. Though during the rebellion the
Shoggoths had shown an ability to live out of water, this transition was not encouraged -
since their usefulness on land would hardly have been commensurate with the trouble of
their management.

During the Jurassic Age the Old Ones met fresh adversity in the form of a new invasion
from outer space - this time by half-fungous, half-crustacean creatures - creatures
undoubtedly the same as those figuring in certain whispered hill legends of the north, and
remembered in the Himalayas as the Mi-Go, or abominable Snow Men. To fight these
beings the Old Ones attempted, for the first time since their terrene advent, to sally forth
again into the planetary ether; but, despite all traditional preparations, found it no longer
possible to leave the earth’s atmosphere. Whatever the old secret of interstellar travel had
been, it was now definitely lost to the race. In the end the Mi-Go drove the Old Ones out
of all the northern lands, though they were powerless to disturb those in the sea. Little by
little the slow retreat of the elder race to their original antarctic habitat was beginning.

It was curious to note from the pictured battles that both the Cthulhu spawn and the Mi-
Go seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from that which we
know than was the substance of the Old Ones. They were able to undergo transformations
and reintegrations impossible for their adversaries, and seem therefore to have originally
come from even remoter gulfs of the cosmic space. The Old Ones, but for their abnormal
toughness and peculiar vital properties, were strictly material, and must have had their
absolute origin within the known space-time continuum - whereas the first sources of the
other beings can only be guessed at with bated breath. All this, of course, assuming that
the non-terrestrial linkages and the anomalies ascribed to the invading foes are not pure
mythology. Conceivably, the Old Ones might have invented a cosmic framework to
account for their occasional defeats, since historical interest and pride obviously formed
their chief psychological element. It is significant that their annals failed to mention many
advanced and potent races of beings whose mighty cultures and towering cities figure
persistently in certain obscure legends.

The changing state of the world through long geologic ages appeared with startling
vividness in many of the sculptured maps and scenes. In certain cases existing science
will require revision, while in other cases its bold deductions are magnificently
confirmed. As I have said, the hypothesis of Taylor, Wegener, and Joly that all the
continents are fragments of an original antarctic land mass which cracked from
centrifugal force and drifted apart over a technically viscous lower surface - an
hypothesis suggested by such things as the complementary outlines of Africa and South
America, and the way the great mountain chains are rolled and shoved up - receives
striking support from this uncanny source.

Maps evidently showing the Carboniferous world of an hundred million or more years
ago displayed significant rifts and chasms destined later to separate Africa from the once
continuous realms of Europe (then the Valusia of primal legend), Asia, the Americas, and
the antarctic continent. Other charts - and most significantly one in connection with the
founding fifty million years ago of the vast dead city around us - showed all the present
continents well differentiated. And in the latest discoverable specimen - dating perhaps
from the Pliocene Age - the approximate world of today appeared quite clearly despite
the linkage of Alaska with Siberia, of North America with Europe through Greenland,
and of South America with the antarctic continent through Graham Land. In the
Carboniferous map the whole globe-ocean floor and rifted land mass alike - bore symbols
of the Old Ones’ vast stone cities, but in the later charts the gradual recession toward the
antarctic became very plain. The final Pliocene specimen showed no land cities except on
the antarctic continent and the tip of South America, nor any ocean cities north of the
fiftieth parallel of South Latitude. Knowledge and interest in the northern world, save for
a study of coast lines probably made during long exploration flights on those fanlike
membranous wings, had evidently declined to zero among the Old Ones.

Destruction of cities through the upthrust of mountains, the centrifugal rending of


continents, the seismic convulsions of land or sea bottom, and other natural causes, was a
matter of common record; and it was curious to observe how fewer and fewer
replacements were made as the ages wore on. The vast dead megalopolis that yawned
around us seemed to be the last general center of the race - built early in the Cretaceous
Age after a titanic earth buckling had obliterated a still vaster predecessor not far distant.
It appeared that this general region was the most sacred spot of all, where reputedly the
first Old Ones had settled on a primal sea bottom. In the new city - many of whose
features we could recognize in the sculptures, but which stretched fully a hundred miles
along the mountain range in each direction beyond the farthest limits of our aerial survey
- there were reputed to be preserved certain sacred stones forming part of the first sea-
bottom city, which thrust up to light after long epochs in the course of the general
crumbling of strata.

VIII
Naturally, Danforth and I studied with especial interest and a peculiarly personal sense of
awe everything pertaining to the immediate district in which we were. Of this local
material there was naturally a vast abundance; and on the tangled ground level of the city
we were lucky enough to find a house of very late date whose walls, though somewhat
damaged by a neighboring rift, contained sculptures of decadent workmanship carrying
the story of the region much beyond the period of the Pliocene map whence we derived
our last general glimpse of the prehuman world. This was the last place we examined in
detail, since what we found there gave us a fresh immediate objective.

Certainly, we were in one of the strangest, weirdest, and most terrible of all the corners of
earth’s globe. Of all existing lands, it was infinitely the most ancient. The conviction
grew upon us that this hideous upland must indeed be the fabled nightmare plateau of
Leng which even the mad author of the Necronomicon was reluctant to discuss. The great
mountain chain was tremendously long - starting as a low range at Luitpold Land on the
east coast of Weddell Sea and virtually crossing the entire continent. That really high part
stretched in a mighty arc from about Latitude 82°, E. Longitude 60° to Latitude 70°, E.
Longitude 115°, with its concave side toward our camp and its seaward end in the region
of that long, ice-locked coast whose hills were glimpsed by Wilkes and Mawson at the
antarctic circle.
Yet even more monstrous exaggerations of nature seemed disturbingly close at hand. I
have said that these peaks are higher than the Himalayas, but the sculptures forbid me to
say that they are earth’s highest. That grim honor is beyond doubt reserved for something
which half the sculptures hesitated to record at all, whilst others approached it with
obvious repugnance and trepidation. It seems that there was one part of the ancient land -
the first part that ever rose from the waters after the earth had flung off the moon and the
Old Ones had seeped down, from the stars - which had come to be shunned as vaguely
and namelessly evil. Cities built there had crumbled before their time, and had been
found suddenly deserted. Then when the first great earth buckling had convulsed the
region in the Comanchian Age, a frightful line of peaks had shot suddenly up amidst the
most appalling din and chaos - and earth had received her loftiest and most terrible
mountains.

If the scale of the carvings was correct, these abhorred things must have been much over
forty thousand feet high - radically vaster than even the shocking mountains of madness
we had crossed. They extended, it appeared, from about Latitude 77°, E. Longitude 70° to
Latitude 70°, E. Longitude 100° - less than three hundred miles away from the dead city,
so that we would have spied their dreaded summits in the dim western distance had it not
been for that vague, opalescent haze. Their northern end must likewise be visible from
the long antarctic circle coast line at Queen Mary Land.

Some of the Old Ones, in the decadent days, had made strange prayers to those
mountains - but none ever went near them or dared to guess what lay beyond. No human
eye had ever seen them, and as I studied the emotions conveyed in the carvings, I prayed
that none ever might. There are protecting hills along the coast beyond them - Queen
Mary and Kaiser Wilhelm Lands - and I thank Heaven no one has been able to land and
climb those hills. I am not as sceptical about old tales and fears as I used to be, and I do
not laugh now at the prehuman sculptor’s notion that lightning paused meaningfully now
and then at each of the brooding crests, and that an unexplained glow shone from one of
those terrible pinnacles all through the long polar night. There may be a very real and
very monstrous meaning in the old Pnakotic whispers about Kadath in the Cold Waste.

But the terrain close at hand was hardly less strange, even if less namelessly accursed.
Soon after the founding of the city the great mountain range became the seat of the
principal temples, and many carvings showed what grotesque and fantastic towers had
pierced the sky where now we saw only the curiously clinging cubes and ramparts. In the
course of ages the caves had appeared, and had been shaped into adjuncts of the temples.
With the advance of still later epochs, all the limestone veins of the region were hollowed
out by ground waters, so that the mountains, the foothills, and the plains below them were
a veritable network of connected caverns and galleries. Many graphic sculptures told of
explorations deep underground, and of the final discovery of the Stygian sunless sea that
lurked at earth’s bowels.

This vast nighted gulf had undoubtedly been worn by the great river which flowed down
from the nameless and horrible westward mountains, and which had formerly turned at
the base of the Old Ones’ range and flowed beside that chain into the Indian Ocean
between Budd and Totten Lands on Wilkes’s coast line. Little by little it had eaten away
the limestone hill base at its turning, till at last its sapping currents reached the caverns of
the ground waters and joined with them in digging a deeper abyss. Finally its whole bulk
emptied into the hollow hills and left the old bed toward the ocean dry. Much of the later
city as we now found it had been built over that former bed. The Old Ones, understanding
what had happened, and exercising their always keen artistic sense, had carved into
ornate pylons those headlands of the foothills where the great stream began its descent
into eternal darkness.

This river, once crossed by scores of noble stone bridges, was plainly the one whose
extinct course we had seen in our aeroplane survey. Its position in different carvings of
the city helped us to orient ourselves to the scene as it had been at various stages of the
region’s age-long, aeon-dead history, so that we were able to sketch a hasty but careful
map of the salient features - squares, important buildings, and the like - for guidance in
further explorations. We could soon reconstruct in fancy the whole stupendous thing as it
was a million or ten million or fifty million years ago, for the sculptures told us exactly
what the buildings and mountains and squares and suburbs and landscape setting and
luxuriant Tertiary vegetation had looked like. It must have had a marvelous and mystic
beauty, and as I thought of it, I almost forgot the clammy sense of sinister oppression
with which the city’s inhuman age and massiveness and deadness and remoteness and
glacial twilight had choked and weighed on my spirit. Yet according to certain carvings,
the denizens of that city had themselves known the clutch of oppressive terror; for there
was a somber and recurrent type of scene in which the Old Ones were shown in the act of
recoiling affrightedly from some object - never allowed to appear in the design - found in
the great river and indicated as having been washed down through waving, vine-draped
cycad forests from those horrible westward mountains.

It was only in the one late-built house with the decadent carvings that we obtained any
foreshadowing of the final calamity leading to the city’s desertion. Undoubtedly there
must have been many sculptures of the same age elsewhere, even allowing for the
slackened energies and aspirations of a stressful and uncertain period; indeed, very
certain evidence of the existence of others came to us shortly afterward. But this was the
first and only set we directly encountered. We meant to look farther later on; but as I have
said, immediate conditions dictated another present objective. There would, though, have
been a limit - for after all hope of a long future occupancy of the place had perished
among the Old Ones, there could not but have been a complete cessation of mural
decoration. The ultimate blow, of course, was the coming of the great cold which once
held most of the earth in thrall, and which has never departed from the ill-fated poles - the
great cold that, at the world’s other extremity, put an end to the fabled lands of Lomar
and Hyperborea.

Just when this tendency began in the antarctic, it would be hard to say in terms of exact
years. Nowadays we set the beginning of the general glacial periods at a distance of about
five hundred thousand years from the present, but at the poles the terrible scourge must
have commenced much earlier. All quantitative estimates are partly guesswork, but it is
quite likely that the decadent sculptures were made considerably less than a million years
ago, and that the actual desertion of the city was complete long before the conventional
opening of the Pleistocene - five hundred thousand years ago - as reckoned in terms of
the earth’s whole surface.

In the decadent sculptures there were signs of thinner vegetation everywhere, and of a
decreased country life on the part of the Old Ones. Heating devices were shown in the
houses, and winter travelers were represented as muffled in protective fabrics. Then we
saw a series of cartouches - the continuous band arrangement being frequently interrupted
in these late carvings - depicting a constantly growing migration to the nearest refuges of
greater warmth - some fleeing to cities under the sea off the far-away coast, and some
clambering down through networks of limestone caverns in the hollow hills to the
neighboring black abyss of subterrene waters.

In the end it seems to have been the neighboring abyss which received the greatest
colonization. This was partly due, no doubt, to the traditional sacredness of this special
region, but may have been more conclusively determined by the opportunities it gave for
continuing the use of the great temples on the honeycombed mountains, and for retaining
the vast land city as a place of summer residence and base of communication with
various mines. The linkage of old and new abodes was made more effective by means of
several gradings and improvements along the connecting routes, including the chiseling
of numerous direct tunnels from the ancient metropolis to the black abyss - sharply down-
pointing tunnels whose mouths we carefully drew, according to our most thoughtful
estimates, on the guide map we were compiling. It was obvious that at least two of these
tunnels lay within a reasonable exploring distance of where we were - both being on the
mountainward edge of the city, one less than a quarter of a mile toward the ancient river
course, and the other perhaps twice that distance in the opposite direction.

The abyss, it seems, had shelving shores of dry land at certain places, but the Old Ones
built their new city under water - no doubt because of its greater certainty of uniform
warmth. The depth of the hidden sea appears to have been very great, so that the earth’s
internal heat could ensure its habitability for an indefinite period. The beings seemed to
have had no trouble in adapting themselves to part-time - and eventually, of course,
whole-time - residence under water, since they had never allowed their gill systems to
atrophy. There were many sculptures which showed how they had always frequently
visited their submarine kinsfolk elsewhere, and how they had habitually bathed on the
deep bottom of their great river. The darkness of inner earth could likewise have been no
deterrent to a race accustomed to long antarctic nights.

Decadent though their style undoubtedly was, these latest carvings had a truly epic
quality where they told of the building of the new city in the cavern sea. The Old Ones
had gone about it scientifically - quarrying insoluble rocks from the heart of the
honeycombed mountains, and employing expert workers from the nearest submarine city
to perform the construction according to the best methods. These workers brought with
them all that was necessary to establish the new venture - Shoggoth tissue from which to
breed stone lifters and subsequent beasts of burden for the cavern city, and other
protoplasmic matter to mold into phosphorescent organisms for lighting purposes.
At last a mighty metropolis rose on the bottom of that Stygian sea, its architecture much
like that of the city above, and its workmanship displaying relatively little decadence
because of the precise mathematical element inherent in building operations. The newly
bred Shoggoths grew to enormous size and singular intelligence, and were represented as
taking and executing orders with marvelous quickness. They seemed to converse with the
Old Ones by mimicking their voices - a sort of musical piping over a wide range, if poor
Lake’s dissection had indicated aright - and to work more from spoken commands than
from hypnotic suggestions as in earlier times. They were, however, kept in admirable
control. The phosphorescent organisms supplied light With vast effectiveness, and
doubtless atoned for the loss of the familiar polar auroras of the outer-world night.

Art and decoration were pursued, though of course with a certain decadence. The Old
Ones seemed to realize this falling off themselves, and in many cases anticipated the
policy of Constantine the Great by transplanting especially fine blocks of ancient carving
from their land city, just as the emperor, in a similar age of decline, stripped Greece and
Asia of their finest art to give his new Byzantine capital greater splendors than its own
people could create. That the transfer of sculptured blocks had not been more extensive
was doubtless owing to the fact that the land city was not at first wholly abandoned. By
the time total abandonment did occur - and it surely must have occurred before the polar
Pleistocene was far advanced - the Old Ones had perhaps become satisfied with their
decadent art - or had ceased to recognize the superior merit of the older carvings. At any
rate, the aeon-silent ruins around us had certainly undergone no wholesale sculptural
denudation, though all the best separate statues, like other movables, had been taken
away.

The decadent cartouches and dadoes telling this story were, as I have said, the latest we
could find in our limited search. They left us with a picture of the Old Ones shuttling
back and forth betwixt the land city in summer and the sea-cavern city in winter, and
sometimes trading with the sea-bottom cities off the antarctic coast. By this time the
ultimate doom of the land city must have been recognized, for the sculptures showed
many signs of the cold’s malign encroachments. Vegetation was declining, and the
terrible snows of the winter no longer melted completely even in midsummer. The saunan
livestock were nearly all dead, and the mammals were standing it none too well. To keep
on with the work of the upper world it had become necessary to adapt some of the
amorphous and curiously cold-resistant Shoggoths to land life - a thing the Old Ones had
formerly been reluctant to do. The great river was now lifeless, and the upper sea had lost
most of its denizens except the seals and whales. All the birds had flown away, save only
the great, grotesque penguins.

What had happened afterward we could only guess. How long had the new sea-cavern
city survived? Was it still down there, a stony corpse in eternal blackness? Had the
subterranean waters frozen at last? To what fate had the ocean-bottom cities of the outer
world been delivered? Had any of the Old Ones shifted north ahead of the creeping ice
cap? Existing geology shows no trace of their presence. Had the frightful Mi-Go been
still a menace in the outer land world of the north? Could one be sure of what might or
might not linger, even to this day, in the lightless and unplumbed abysses of earth’s
deepest waters? Those things had seemingly been able to withstand any amount of
pressure - and men of the sea have fished up curious objects at times. And has the killer-
whale theory really explained the savage and mysterious scars on antarctic seals noticed a
generation ago by Borchgrevingk?

The specimens found by poor Lake did not enter into these guesses, for their geologic
setting proved them to have lived at what must have been a very early date in the land
city’s history. They were, according to their location, certainly not less than thirty million
years old, and we reflected that in their day the sea-cavern city, and indeed the cavern
itself, had had no existence. They would have remembered an older scene, with lush
Tertiary vegetation everywhere, a younger land city of flourishing arts around them, and
a great river sweeping northward along the base of the mighty mountains toward a far-
away tropic ocean.

And yet we could not help thinking about these specimens - especially about the eight
perfect ones that were missing from Lake’s hideously ravaged camp. There was
something abnormal about that whole business - the strange things we had tried so hard
to lay to somebody’s madness - those frightful graves - the amount and nature of the
missing material - Gedney - the unearthly toughness of those archaic monstrosities, and
the queer vital freaks the sculptures now showed the race to have - Danforth and I had
seen a good deal in the last few hours, and were prepared to believe and keep silent about
many appalling and incredible secrets of primal nature.

IX
I have said that our study of the decadent sculptures brought about a change in our
immediate objective. This, of course, had to do with the chiseled avenues to the black
inner world, of whose existence we had not known before, but which we were now eager
to find and traverse. From the evident scale of the carvings we deduced that a steeply
descending walk of about a mile through either of the neighboring tunnels would bring us
to the brink of the dizzy, sunless cliffs about the great abyss; down whose sides paths,
improved by the Old Ones, led to the rocky shore of the hidden and nighted ocean. To
behold this fabulous gulf in stark reality was a lure which seemed impossible of
resistance once we knew of the thing - yet we realized we must begin the quest at once if
we expected to include it in our present trip.

It was now 8 P.M., and we did not have enough battery replacements to let our torches
burn on forever. We had done so much studying and copying below the glacial level that
our battery supply had had at least five hours of nearly continuous use, and despite the
special dry cell formula, would obviously be good for only about four more - though by
keeping one torch unused, except for especially interesting or difficult places, we might
manage to eke out a safe margin beyond that. It would not do to be without a light in
these Cyclopean catacombs, hence in order to make the abyss trip we must give up all
further mural deciphering. Of course we intended to revisit the place for days and perhaps
weeks of intensive study and photography - curiosity having long ago got the better of
horror - but just now we must hasten.
Our supply of trail-blazing paper was far from unlimited, and we were reluctant to
sacrifice spare notebooks or sketching paper to augment it, but we did let one large
notebook go. If worse came to worst we could resort to rock chipping - and of course it
would be possible, even in case of really lost direction, to work up to full daylight by one
channel or another if granted sufficient time for plentiful trial and error. So at last we set
off eagerly in the indicated direction of the nearest tunnel.

According to the carvings from which we had made our map, the desired tunnel mouth
could not be much more than a quarter of a mile from where we stood; the intervening
space showing solid-looking buildings quite likely to be penetrable still at a sub-glacial
level. The opening itself would be in the basement - on the angle nearest the foothills - of
a vast five-pointed structure of evidently public and perhaps ceremonial nature, which we
tried to identify from our aerial survey of the ruins.

No such structure came to our minds as we recalled our flight, hence we concluded that
its upper parts had been greatly damaged, or that it had been totally shattered in an ice rift
we had noticed. In the latter case the tunnel would probably turn out to be choked, so that
we would have to try the next nearest one - the one less than a mile to the north. The
intervening river course prevented our trying any of the more southern tunnels on this
trip; and indeed, if both of the neighboring ones were choked it was doubtful whether our
batteries would warrant an attempt on the next northerly one - about a mile beyond our
second choice.

As we threaded our dim way through the labyrinth with the aid of map and compass -
traversing rooms and corridors in every stage of ruin or preservation, clambering up
ramps, crossing upper floors and bridges and clambering down again, encountering
choked doorways and piles of debris, hastening now and then along finely preserved and
uncannily immaculate stretches, taking false leads and retracing our way (in such cases
removing the blind paper trail we had left), and once in a while striking the bottom of an
open shaft through which daylight poured or trickled down - we were repeatedly
tantalized by the sculptured walls along our route. Many must have told tales of immense
historical importance, and only the prospect of later visits reconciled us to the need of
passing them by. As it was, we slowed down once in a while and turned on our second
torch. If we had had more films, we would certainly have paused briefly to photograph
certain bas-reliefs, but time-consuming hand-copying was clearly out of the question.

I come now once more to a place where the temptation to hesitate, or to hint rather than
state, is very strong. It is necessary, however, to reveal the rest in order to justify my
course in discouraging further exploration. We had wormed our way very close to the
computed site of the tunnel’s mouth - having crossed a second-story bridge to what
seemed plainly the tip of a pointed wall, and descended to a ruinous corridor especially
rich in decadently elaborate and apparently ritualistic sculptures of late workmanship -
when, shortly before 8:30 P.M., Danforth’s keen young nostrils gave us the first hint of
something unusual. If we had had a dog with us, I suppose we would have been warned
before. At first we could not precisely say what was wrong with the formerly crystal-pure
air, but after a few seconds our memories reacted only too definitely. Let me try to state
the thing without flinching. There was an odor - and that odor was vaguely, subtly, and
unmistakably akin to what had nauseated us upon opening the insane grave of the horror
poor Lake had dissected.

Of course the revelation was not as clearly cut at the time as it sounds now. There were
several conceivable explanations, and we did a good deal of indecisive whispering. Most
important of all, we did not retreat without further investigation; for having come this far,
we were loath to be balked by anything short of certain disaster. Anyway, what we must
have suspected was altogether too wild to believe. Such things did not happen in any
normal world. It was probably sheer irrational instinct which made us dim our single
torch - tempted no longer by the decadent and sinister sculptures that leered menacingly
from the oppressive walls - and which softened our progress to a cautious tiptoeing and
crawling over the increasingly littered floor and heaps of debris.

Danforth’s eyes as well as nose proved better than mine, for it was likewise he who first
noticed the queer aspect of the debris after we had passed many half-choked arches
leading to chambers and corridors on the ground level. It did not look quite as it ought
after countless thousands of years of desertion, and when we cautiously turned on more
light we saw that a kind of swath seemed to have been lately tracked through it. The
irregular nature of the litter precluded any definite marks, but in the smoother places
there were suggestions of the dragging of heavy objects. Once we thought there was a
hint of parallel tracks as if of runners. This was what made us pause again.

It was during that pause that we caught - simultaneously this time - the other odor ahead.
Paradoxically, it was both a less frightful and more frightful odor - less frightful
intrinsically, but infinitely appalling in this place under the known circumstances - unless,
of course, Gedney - for the odor was the plain and familiar one of common petrol - every-
day gasoline.

Our motivation after that is something I will leave to psychologists. We knew now that
some terrible extension of the camp horrors must have crawled into this nighted burial
place of the aeons, hence could not doubt any longer the existence of nameless conditions
- present or at least recent just ahead. Yet in the end we did let sheer burning curiosity-or
anxiety-or autohypnotism - or vague thoughts of responsibility toward Gedney - or what
not - drive us on. Danforth whispered again of the print he thought he had seen at the
alley turning in the ruins above; and of the faint musical piping - potentially of
tremendous significance in the light of Lake’s dissection report, despite its close
resemblance to the cave-mouth echoes of the windy peaks - which he thought he had
shortly afterward half heard from unknown depths below. I, in my turn, whispered of
how the camp was left - of what had disappeared, and of how the madness of a lone
survivor might have conceived the inconceivable - a wild trip across the monstrous
mountains and a descent into the unknown, primal masonry - But we could not convince
each other, or even ourselves, of anything definite. We had turned off all light as we
stood still, and vaguely noticed that a trace of deeply filtered upper day kept the
blackness from being absolute. Having automatically begun to move ahead, we guided
ourselves by occasional flashes from our torch. The disturbed debris formed an
impression we could not shake off, and the smell of gasoline grew stronger. More and
more ruin met our eyes and hampered our feet, until very soon we saw that the forward
way was about to cease. We had been all too correct in our pessimistic guess about that
rift glimpsed from the air. Our tunnel quest was a blind one, and we were not even going
to be able to reach the basement out of which the abyssward aperture opened.

The torch, flashing over the grotesquely carved walls of the blocked corridor in which we
stood, showed several doorways in various states of obstruction; and from one of them
the gasoline odor-quite submerging that other hint of odor - came with especial
distinctness. As we looked more steadily, we saw that beyond a doubt there had been a
slight and recent clearing away of debris from that particular opening. Whatever the
lurking horror might be, we believed the direct avenue toward it was now plainly
manifest. I do not think anyone will wonder that we waited an appreciable time before
making any further motion.

And yet, when we did venture inside that black arch, our first impression was one of
anticlimax. For amidst the littered expanse of that sculptured Crypt - a perfect cube with
sides of about twenty feet - there remained no recent object of instantly discernible size;
so that we looked instinctively, though in vain, for a farther doorway. In another moment,
however, Danforth’s sharp vision had descried a place where the floor debris had been
disturbed; and we turned on both torches full strength. Though what we saw in that light
was actually simple and trifling, I am none the less reluctant to tell of it because of what
it implied. It was a rough leveling of the debris, upon which several small objects lay
carelessly scattered, and at one corner of which a considerable amount of gasoline must
have been spilled lately enough to leave a strong odor even at this extreme superplateau
altitude. In other words, it could not be other than a sort of camp - a camp made by
questing beings who, like us, had been turned back by the unexpectedly choked way to
the abyss.

Let me be plain. The scattered objects were, so far as substance was concerned, all from
Lake’s camp; and consisted of tin cans as queerly opened as those we had seen at that
ravaged place, many spent matches, three illustrated books more or less curiously
smudged, an empty ink bottle with its pictorial and instructional carton, a broken fountain
pen, some oddly snipped fragments of fur and tent cloth, a used electric battery with
circular of directions, a folder that came with our type of tent heater, and a sprinkling of
crumpled papers. It was all bad enough but when we smoothed out the papers and looked
at what was on them, we felt we had come to the worst. We had found certain
inexplicably blotted papers at the camp which might have prepared us, yet the effect of
the sight down there in the prehuman vaults of a nightmare city was almost too much to
bear.

A mad Gedney might have made the groups of dots in imitation of those found on the
greenish soapstones, just as the dots on those insane five-pointed grave mounds might
have been made; and he might conceivably have prepared rough, hasty sketches - varying
in their accuracy or lack of it - which outlined the neighboring parts of the city and traced
the way from a circularly represented place outside our previous route - a place we
identified as a great cylindrical tower in the carvings and as a vast circular gulf glimpsed
in our aerial survey - to the present five-pointed structure and the tunnel mouth therein.

He might, I repeat, have prepared such sketches; for those before us were quite obviously
compiled, as our own had been, from late sculptures somewhere in the glacial labyrinth,
though not from the ones which we had seen and used. But what the art-blind bungler
could never have done was to execute those sketches in a strange and assured technique
perhaps superior, despite haste and carelessness, to any of the decadent carvings from
which they were taken - the characteristic and unmistakable technique of the Old Ones
themselves in the dead city’s heyday.

There are those who will say Danforth and I were utterly mad not to flee for our lives
after that; since our conclusions were now - notwithstanding their wildness - completely
fixed, and of a nature I need not even mention to those who have read my account as far
as this. Perhaps we were mad - for have I not said those horrible peaks were mountains of
madness? But I think I can detect something of the same spirit - albeit in a less extreme
form - in the men who stalk deadly beasts through African jungles to photograph them or
study their habits. Half paralyzed with terror though we were, there was nevertheless
fanned within us a blazing flame of awe and curiosity which triumphed in the end.

Of course we did not mean to face that - or those - which we knew had been there, but we
felt that they must be gone by now. They would by this time have found the other
neighboring entrance to the abyss, and have passed within, to whatever night-black
fragments of the past might await them in the ultimate gulf - the ultimate gulf they had
never seen. Or if that entrance, too, was blocked, they would have gone on to the north
seeking another. They were, we remembered, partly independent of light.

Looking back to that moment, I can scarcely recall just what precise form our new
emotions took - just what change of immediate objective it was that so sharpened our
sense of expectancy. We certainly did not mean to face what we feared - yet I will not
deny that we may have had a lurking, unconscious wish to spy certain things from some
hidden vantage point. Probably we had not given up our zeal to glimpse the abyss itself,
though there was interposed a new goal in the form of that great circular place shown on
the crumpled sketches we had found. We had at once recognized it as a monstrous
cylindrical tower figuring in the very earliest carvings, but appearing only as a prodigious
round aperture from above. Something about the impressiveness of its rendering, even in
these hasty diagrams, made us think that its subglacial levels must still form a feature of
peculiar importance. Perhaps it embodied architectural marvels as yet unencountered by
us. It was certainly of incredible age according to the sculptures in which it figured -
being indeed among the first things built in the city. Its carvings, if preserved, could not
but be highly significant. Moreover, it might form a good present link with the upper
world - a shorter route than the one we were so carefully blazing, and probably that by
which those others had descended.
At any rate, the thing we did was to study the terrible sketches - which quite perfectly
confirmed our own - and start back over the indicated course to the circular place; the
course which our nameless predecessors must have traversed twice before us. The other
neighboring gate to the abyss would lie beyond that. I need not speak of our journey -
during which we continued to leave an economical trail of paper - for it was precisely the
same in kind as that by which we had reached the cul-de-sac; except that it tended to
adhere more closely to the ground level and even descend to basement corridors. Every
now and then we could trace certain disturbing marks in the debris or litter underfoot; and
after we had passed outside the radius of the gasoline scent, we were again faintly
conscious - spasmodically - of that more hideous and more persistent scent. After the way
had branched from our former course, we sometimes gave the rays of our single torch a
furtive sweep along the walls; noting in almost every case the well-nigh omnipresent
sculptures, which indeed seem to have formed a main aesthetic outlet for the Old Ones.

About 9:30 P.M., while traversing a long, vaulted corridor whose increasingly glaciated
floor seemed somewhat below the ground level and whose roof grew lower as we
advanced, we began to see strong daylight ahead and were able to turn off our torch. It
appeared that we were coming to the vast circular place, and that our distance from the
upper air could not be very great. The corridor ended in an arch surprisingly low for these
megalithic ruins, but we could see much through it even before we emerged. Beyond
there stretched a prodigious round space - fully two hundred feet in diameter - strewn
with debris and containing many choked archways corresponding to the one we were
about to cross. The walls were - in available spaces - boldly sculptured into a spiral band
of heroic proportions; and displayed, despite the destructive weathering caused by the
openness of the spot, an artistic splendor far beyond anything we had encountered before.
The littered floor was quite heavily glaciated, and we fancied that the true bottom lay at a
considerably lower depth.

But the salient object of the place was the titanic stone ramp which, eluding the archways
by a sharp turn outward into the open floor, wound spirally up the stupendous cylindrical
wall like an inside counterpart of those once climbing outside the monstrous towers or
ziggurats of antique Babylon. Only the rapidity of our flight, and the perspective which
confounded the descent with the tower’s inner wall, had prevented our noticing this
feature from the air, and thus caused us to seek another avenue to the subglacial level.
Pabodie might have been able to tell what sort of engineering held it in place, but
Danforth and I could merely admire and marvel. We could see mighty stone corbels and
pillars here and there, but what we saw seemed inadequate to the function performed. The
thing was excellently preserved up to the present top of the tower - a highly remarkable
circumstance in view of its exposure - and its shelter had done much to protect the bizarre
and disturbing cosmic sculptures on the walls.

As we stepped out into the awesome half daylight of this monstrous cylinder bottom -
fifty million years old, and without doubt the most primally ancient structure ever to meet
our eyes - we saw that the ramp-traversed sides stretched dizzily up to a height of fully
sixty feet. This, we recalled from our aerial survey, meant an outside glaciation of some
forty feet; since the yawning gulf we had seen from the plane had been at the top of an
approximately twenty-foot mound of crumbled masonry, somewhat sheltered for three-
fourths of its circumference by the massive curving walls of a line of higher ruins.
According to the sculptures, the original tower had stood in the center of an immense
circular plaza, and had been perhaps five hundred or six hundred feet high, with tiers of
horizontal disks near the top, and a row of needlelike spires along the upper rim. Most of
the masonry had obviously toppled outward rather than inward - a fortunate happening,
since otherwise the ramp might have been shattered and the whole interior choked. As it
was, the ramp showed sad battering; whilst the choking was such that all the archways at
the bottom seemed to have been recently cleared.

It took us only a moment to conclude that this was indeed the route by which those others
had descended, and that this would be the logical route for our own ascent despite the
long trail of paper we had left elsewhere. The tower’s mouth was no farther from the
foothills and our waiting plane than was the great terraced building we had entered, and
any further subglacial exploration we might make on this trip would lie in this general
region. Oddly, we were still thinking about possible later trips - even after all we had seen
and guessed. Then, as we picked our way cautiously over the debris of the great floor,
there came a sight which for the time excluded all other matters.

It was the neatly huddled array of three sledges in that farther angle of the ramp’s lower
and outward-projecting course which had hitherto been screened from our view. There
they were - the three sledges missing from Lake’s camp - shaken by a hard usage which
must have included forcible dragging along great reaches of snowless masonry and
debris, as well as much hand portage over utterly unnavigable places. They were
carefully and intelligently packed and strapped, and contained things memorably familiar
enough: the gasoline stove, fuel cans, instrument cases, provision tins, tarpaulins
obviously bulging with books, and some bulging with less obvious contents - everything
derived from Lake’s equipment.

After what we had found in that other room, we were in a measure prepared for this
encounter. The really great shock came when we stepped over and undid one tarpaulin
whose outlines had peculiarly disquieted us. It seems that others as well as Lake had been
interested in collecting typical specimens; for there were two here, both stiffly frozen,
perfectly preserved, patched with adhesive plaster where some wounds around the neck
had occurred, and wrapped with care to prevent further damage. They were the bodies of
young Gedney and the missing dog.

X
Many people will probably judge us callous as well as mad for thinking about the
northward tunnel and the abyss so soon after our somber discovery, and I am not
prepared to say that we would have immediately revived such thoughts but for a specific
circumstance which broke in upon us and set up a whole new train of speculations. We
had replaced the tarpaulin over poor Gedney and were standing in a kind of mute
bewilderment when the sounds finally reached our consciousness - the first sounds we
had heard since descending out of the open where the mountain wind whined faintly from
its unearthly heights. Well-known and mundane though they were, their presence in this
remote world of death was more unexpected and unnerving than any grotesque or
fabulous tones ‘could possibly have been - since they gave a fresh upsetting to all our
notions of cosmic harmony.

Had it been some trace of that bizarre musical piping over a wide range which Lake’s
dissection report had led us to expect in those others - and which, indeed, our
overwrought fancies had been reading into every wind howl we had heard since coming
on the camp horror - it would have had a kind of hellish congruity with the aeon-dead
region around us. A voice from other epochs belongs in a graveyard of other epochs. As
it was, however, the noise shattered all our profoundly seated adjustments - all our tacit
acceptance of the inner antarctic as a waste utterly and irrevocably void of every vestige
of normal life. What we heard was not the fabulous note of any buried blasphemy of
elder earth from whose supernal toughness an age-denied polar sun had evoked a
monstrous response. Instead, it was a thing so mockingly normal and so unerringly
familiarized by our sea days off Victoria Land and our camp days at McMurdo Sound
that we shuddered to think of it here, where such things ought not to be. To be brief - it
was simply the raucous squawking of a penguin.

The muffled sound floated from subglacial recesses nearly opposite to the corridor
whence we had come - regions manifestly in the direction of that other tunnel to the vast
abyss. The presence of a living water bird in such a direction - in a world whose surface
was one of age-long and uniform lifelessness - could lead to only one conclusion; hence
our first thought was to verify the objective reality of the sound. It was, indeed, repeated,
and seemed at times to come from more than one throat. Seeking its source, we entered
an archway from which much debris had been cleared; resuming our trail blazing - with
an added paper supply taken with curious repugnance from one of the tarpaulin bundles
on the sledges - when we left daylight behind.

As the glaciated floor gave place to a litter of detritus, we plainly discerned some curious,
dragging tracks; and once Danforth found a distinct print of a sort whose description
would be only too superfluous. The course indicated by the penguin cries was precisely
what our map and compass prescribed as an approach to the more northerly tunnel
mouth, and we were glad to find that a bridgeless thoroughfare on the ground and
basement levels seemed open. The tunnel, according to the chart, ought to start from the
basement of a large pyramidal structure which we seemed vaguely to recall from our
aerial survey as remarkably well-preserved. Along our path the single torch showed a
customary profusion of carvings, but we did not pause to examine any of these.

Suddenly a bulky white shape loomed up ahead of us, and we flashed on the second
torch. It is odd how wholly this new quest had turned our minds from earlier fears of
what might lurk near. Those other ones, having left their supplies in the great circular
place, must have planned to return after their scouting trip toward or into the abyss; yet
we had now discarded all caution concerning them as completely as if they had never
existed. This white, waddling thing was fully six feet high, yet we seemed to realize at
once that it was not one of those others. They were larger and dark, and, according to the
sculptures, their motion over land surfaces was a swift, assured matter despite the
queerness of their sea-born tentacle equipment. But to say that the white thing did not
profoundly frighten us would be vain. We were indeed clutched for an instant by
primitive dread almost sharper than the worst of our reasoned fears regarding those
others. Then came a flash of anticlimax as the white shape sidled into a lateral archway to
our left to join two others of its kind which had summoned it in raucous tones. For it was
only a penguin - albeit of a huge, unknown species larger than the greatest of the known
king penguins, and monstrous in its combined albinism and virtual eyelessness.

When we had followed the thing into the archway and turned both our torches on the
indifferent and unheeding group of three, we saw that they were all eyeless albinos of the
same unknown and gigantic species. Their size reminded us of some of the archaic
penguins depicted in the Old Ones’ sculptures, and it did not take us long to conclude that
they were descended from the same stock-undoubtedly surviving through a retreat to
some warmer inner region whose perpetual blackness had destroyed their pigmentation
and atrophied their eyes to mere useless slits. That their present habitat was the vast abyss
we sought, was not for a moment to be doubted; and this evidence of the gulf’s continued
warmth and habitability filled us with the most curious and subtly perturbing fancies.

We wondered, too, what had caused these three birds to venture out of their usual
domain. The state and silence of the great dead city made it clear that it had at no time
been an habitual seasonal rookery, whilst the manifest indifference of the trio to our
presence made it seem odd that any passing party of those others should have startled
them. Was it possible that those others had taken some aggressive action or tried to
increase their meat supply? We doubted whether that pungent odor which the dogs had
hated could cause an equal antipathy in these penguins, since their ancestors had
obviously lived on excellent terms with the Old Ones - an amicable relationship which
must have survived in the abyss below as long as any of the Old Ones remained.
Regretting - in a flare-up of the old spirit of pure science - that we could not photograph
these anomalous creatures, we shortly left them to their squawking and pushed on toward
the abyss whose openness was now so positively proved to us, and whose exact direction
occasional penguin tracks made clear.

Not long afterward a steep descent in a long, low, doorless, and peculiarly sculptureless
corridor led us to believe that we were approaching the tunnel mouth at last. We had
passed two more penguins, and heard others immediately ahead. Then the corridor ended
in a prodigious open space which made us gasp involuntarily - a perfect inverted
hemisphere, obviously deep underground; fully a hundred feet in diameter and fifty feet
high, with low archways opening around all parts of the circumference but one, and that
one yawning cavernously with a black, arched aperture which broke the symmetry of the
vault to a height of nearly fifteen feet. It was the entrance to the great abyss.

In this vast hemisphere, whose concave roof was impressively though decadently carved
to a likeness of the primordial celestial dome, a few albino penguins waddled - aliens
there, but indifferent and unseeing. The black tunnel yawned indefinitely off at a steep,
descending grade, its aperture adorned with grotesquely chiseled jambs and lintel. From
that cryptical mouth we fancied a current of slightly warmer air, and perhaps even a
suspicion of vapor proceeded; and we wondered what living entities other than penguins
the limitless void below, and the contiguous honeycombings of the land and the titan
mountains, might conceal. We wondered, too, whether the trace of mountaintop smoke at
first suspected by poor Lake, as well as the odd haze we had ourselves perceived around
the rampart-crowned peak, might not be caused by the tortuous-channeled rising of some
such vapor from the unfathomed regions of earth’s core.

Entering the tunnel, we saw that its outline was - at least at the start - about fifteen feet
each way - sides, floor, and arched roof composed of the usual megalithic masonry. The
sides were sparsely decorated with cartouches of conventional designs in a late, decadent
style; and all the construction and carving were marvelously well-preserved. The floor
was quite clear, except for a slight detritus bearing outgoing penguin tracks and the
inward tracks of these others. The farther one advanced, the warmer it became; so that we
were soon unbuttoning our heavy garments. We wondered whether there were any
actually igneous manifestations below, and whether the waters of that sunless sea were
hot. Alter a short distance the masonry gave place to solid rock, though the tunnel kept
the same proportions and presented the same aspect of carved regularity. Occasionally its
varying grade became so steep that grooves were cut in the floor. Several times we noted
the mouths of small lateral galleries not recorded in our diagrams; none of them such as
to complicate the problem of our return, and all of them welcome as possible refuges in
case we met unwelcome entities on their way back from the abyss. The nameless scent of
such things was very distinct. Doubtless it was suicidally foolish to venture into that
tunnel under the known conditions, but the lure of the unplumbed is stronger in certain
persons than most suspect - indeed, it was just such a lure which had brought us to this
unearthly polar waste in the first place. We saw several penguins as we passed along, and
speculated on the distance we would have to traverse. The carvings had led us to expect a
steep downhill walk of about a mile to the abyss, but our previous wanderings had shown
us that matters of scale were not wholly to be depended on.

Alter about a quarter of a mile that nameless scent became greatly accentuated, and we
kept very careful track of the various lateral openings we passed. There was no visible
vapor as at the mouth, but this was doubtless due to the lack of contrasting cooler air. The
temperature was rapidly ascending, and we were not surprised to come upon a careless
heap of material shudderingly familiar to us. It was composed of furs and tent cloth taken
from Lake’s camp, and we did not pause to study the bizarre forms into which the fabrics
had been slashed. Slightly beyond this point we noticed a decided increase in the size and
number of the side galleries, and concluded that the densely honeycombed region beneath
the higher foothills must now have been reached. The nameless scent was now curiously
mixed with another and scarcely less offensive odor - of what nature we could not guess,
though we thought of decaying organisms and perhaps unknown subterranean fungi.
Then came a startling expansion of the tunnel for which the carvings had not prepared us
- a broadening and rising into a lofty, natural-looking elliptical cavern with a level floor,
some seventy-five feet long and fifty broad, and with many immense side passages
leading away into cryptical darkness.
Though this cavern was natural in appearance, an inspection with both torches suggested
that it had been formed by the artificial destruction of several walls between adjacent
honeycombings. The walls were rough, and the high, vaulted roof was thick with
stalactites; but the solid rock floor had been smoothed off, and was free from all debris,
detritus, or even dust to a positively abnormal extent. Except for the avenue through
which we had come, this was true of the floors of all the great galleries opening off from
it; and the singularity of the condition was such as to set us vainly puzzling. The curious
new fetor which had supplemented the nameless scent was excessively pungent here; so
much so that it destroyed all trace of the other. Something about this whole place, with its
polished and almost glistening floor, struck us as more vaguely baffling and horrible than
any of the monstrous things we had previously encountered.

The regularity of the passage immediately ahead, as well as the larger proportion of
penguin-droppings there, prevented all confusion as to the right course amidst this
plethora of equally great cave mouths. Nevertheless we resolved to resume our paper
trailblazing if any further complexity should develop; for dust tracks, of course, could no
longer be expected. Upon resuming our direct progress we cast a beam of torchlight over
the tunnel walls - and stopped short in amazement at the supremely radical change which
had come over the carvings in this part of the passage. We realized, of course, the great
decadence of the Old Ones’ sculpture at the time of the tunneling, and had indeed noticed
the inferior workmanship of the arabesques in the stretches behind us. But now, in this
deeper section beyond the cavern, there was a sudden difference wholly transcending
explanation - a difference in basic nature as well as in mere quality, and involving so
profound and calamitous a degradation of skill that nothing in the hitherto observed rate
of decline could have led one to expect it.

This new and degenerate work was coarse, bold, and wholly lacking in delicacy of detail.
It was countersunk with exaggerated depth in bands following the same general line as
the sparse cartouches of the earlier sections, but the height of the reliefs did not reach the
level of the general surface. Danforth had the idea that it was a second carving - a sort of
palimpsest formed after the obliteration of a previous design. In nature it was wholly
decorative and conventional, and consisted of crude spirals and angles roughly following
the quintile mathematical tradition of the Old Ones, yet seemingly more like a parody
than a perpetuation of that tradition. We could not get it out of our minds that some subtly
but profoundly alien element had been added to the aesthetic feeling behind the technique
- an alien element, Danforth guessed, that was responsible for the laborious substitution.
It was like, yet disturbingly unlike, what we had come to recognize as the Old Ones’ art;
and I was persistently reminded of such hybrid things as the ungainly Palmyrene
sculptures fashioned in the Roman manner. That others had recently noticed this belt of
carving was hinted by the presence of a used flashlight battery on the floor in front of one
of the most characteristic cartouches.

Since we could not afford to spend any considerable time in study, we resumed our
advance after a cursory look; though frequently casting beams over the walls to see if any
further decorative changes developed. Nothing of the sort was perceived, though the
carvings were in places rather sparse because of the numerous mouths of smooth-floored
lateral tunnels. We saw and heard fewer penguins, but thought we caught a vague
suspicion of an infinitely distant chorus of them somewhere deep within the earth. The
new and inexplicable odor was abominably strong, and we could detect scarcely a sign of
that other nameless scent. Puffs of visible vapor ahead bespoke increasing contrasts in
temperature, and the relative nearness of the sunless sea cliffs of the great abyss. Then,
quite unexpectedly, we saw certain obstructions on the polished floor ahead -
obstructions which were quite definitely not penguins - and turned on our second torch
after making sure that the objects were quite stationary.

XI
Still another time have I come to a place where it is very difficult to proceed. I ought to
be hardened by this stage; but there are some experiences and intimations which scar too
deeply to permit of healing, and leave only such an added sensitiveness that memory
reinspires all the original horror. We saw, as I have said, certain obstructions on the
polished floor ahead; and I may add that our nostrils were assailed almost simultaneously
by a very curious intensification of the strange prevailing fetor, now quite plainly mixed
with the nameless stench of those others which had gone before. The light of the second
torch left no doubt of what the obstructions were, and we dared approach them only
because we could see, even from a distance, that they were quite as past all harming
power as had been the six similar specimens unearthed from the monstrous star-mounded
graves at poor Lake’s camp.

They were, indeed, as lacking - in completeness as most of those we had unearthed -


though it grew plain from the thick, dark green pool gathering around them that their
incompleteness was of infinitely greater recency. There seemed to be only four of them,
whereas Lake’s bulletins would have suggested no less than eight as forming the group
which had preceded us. To find them in this state was wholly unexpected, and we
wondered what sort of monstrous struggle had occurred down here in the dark.

Penguins, attacked in a body, retaliate savagely with their beaks, and our ears now made
certain the existence of a rookery far beyond. Had those others disturbed such a place and
aroused murderous pursuit? The obstructions did not suggest it, for penguins’ beaks
against the tough tissues Lake had dissected could hardly account for the terrible damage
our approaching glance was beginning to make out. Besides, the huge blind birds we had
seen appeared to be singularly peaceful.

Had there, then, been a struggle among those others, and were the absent four
responsible? If so, where were they? Were they close at hand and likely to form an
immediate menace to us? We glanced anxiously at some of the smooth-floored lateral
passages as we continued our slow and frankly reluctant approach. Whatever the conflict
was, it had clearly been that which had frightened the penguins into their unaccustomed
wandering. It must, then, have arisen near that faintly heard rookery in the incalculable
gulf beyond, since there were no signs that any birds had normally dwelt here. Perhaps,
we reflected, there had been a hideous running fight, with the weaker party seeking to get
back to the cached sledges when their pursuers finished them. One could picture the
demoniac fray between namelessly monstrous entities as it surged out of the black abyss
with great clouds of frantic penguins squawking and scurrying ahead.

I say that we approached those sprawling and incomplete obstructions slowly and
reluctantly. Would to Heaven we had never approached them at all, but had run back at
top speed out of that blasphemous tunnel with the greasily smooth floors and the
degenerate murals aping and mocking the things they had superseded-run back, before
we had seen what we did see, and before our minds were burned with something which
will never let us breathe easily again!

Both of our torches were turned on the prostrate objects, so that we soon realized the
dominant factor in their incompleteness. Mauled, compressed, twisted, and ruptured as
they were, their chief common injury was total decapitation. From each one the tentacled
starfish head had been removed; and as we drew near we saw that the manner of removal
looked more like some hellish tearing or suction than like any ordinary form of cleavage.
Their noisome dark-green ichor formed a large, spreading pool; but its stench was half
overshadowed by the newer and stranger stench, here more pungent than at any other
point along our route. Only when we had come very close to the sprawling obstructions
could we trace that second, unexplainable fetor to any immediate source - and the instant
we did so Danforth, remembering certain very vivid sculptures of the Old Ones’ history
in the Permian Age one hundred and fifty million years ago, gave vent to a nerve-tortured
cry which echoed hysterically through that vaulted and archaic passage with the evil,
palimpsest carvings.

I came only just short of echoing his cry myself; for I had seen those primal sculptures,
too, and had shudderingly admired the way the nameless artist had suggested that hideous
slime coating found on certain incomplete and prostrate Old Ones - those whom the
frightful Shoggoths had characteristically slain and sucked to a ghastly headlessness in
the great war of resubjugation. They were infamous, nightmare sculptures even when
telling of age-old, bygone things; for Shoggoths and their work ought not to be seen by
human beings or portrayed by any beings. The mad author of the Necronomicon had
nervously tried to swear that none had been bred on this planet, and that only drugged
dreamers had even conceived them. Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all
forms and organs and processes - viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells - rubbery
fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile - slaves of suggestion, builders of
cities - more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious,
more and more imitative! Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old
Ones willing to use and carve such things?

And now, when Danforth and I saw the freshly glistening and reflectively iridescent
black slime which clung thickly to those headless bodies and stank obscenely with that
new, unknown odor whose cause only a diseased fancy could envisage - clung to those
bodies and sparkled less voluminously on a smooth part of the accursedly resculptured
wall in a series of grouped dots - we understood the quality of cosmic fear to its uttermost
depths. It was not fear of those four missing others - for all too well did we suspect they
would do no harm again. Poor devils! After all, they were not evil things of their kind.
They were the men of another age and another order of being. Nature had played a hellish
jest on them - as it will on any others that human madness, callousness, or cruelty may
hereafter dig up in that hideously dead or sleeping polar waste - and this was their tragic
homecoming. They had not been even savages-for what indeed had they done? That
awful awakening in the cold of an unknown epoch - perhaps an attack by the furry,
frantically barking quadrupeds, and a dazed defense against them and the equally frantic
white simians with the queer wrappings and paraphernalia ... poor Lake, poor Gedney...
and poor Old Ones! Scientists to the last - what had they done that we would not have
done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! What a facing of the
incredible, just as those carven kinsmen and forbears had faced things only a little less
incredible! Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn - whatever they had been, they
were men!

They had crossed the icy peaks on whose templed slopes they had once worshipped and
roamed among the tree ferns. They had found their dead city brooding under its curse,
and had read its carven latter days as we had done. They had tried to reach their living
fellows in fabled depths of blackness they had never seen - and what had they found? All
this flashed in unison through the thoughts of Danforth and me as we looked from those
headless, slime-coated shapes to the loathsome palimpsest sculptures and the diabolical
dot groups of fresh slime on the wall beside them - looked and understood what must
have triumphed and survived down there in the Cyclopean water city of that nighted,
penguin-fringed abyss, whence even now a sinister curling mist had begun to belch
pallidly as if in answer to Danforth’s hysterical scream.

The shock of recognizing that monstrous slime and headlessness had frozen us into mute,
motionless statues, and it is only through later conversations that we have learned of the
complete identity of our thoughts at that moment. It seemed aeons that we stood there,
but actually it could not have been more than ten or fifteen seconds. That hateful, pallid
mist curled forward as if veritably driven by some remoter advancing bulk-and then came
a sound which upset much of what we had just decided, and in so doing broke the spell
and enabled us to run like mad past squawking, confused penguins over our former trail
back to the city, along ice-sunken megalithic corridors to the great open circle, and up
that archaic spiral ramp in a frenzied, automatic plunge for the sane outer air and light of
day.

The new sound, as I have intimated, upset much that we had decided; because it was what
poor Lake’s dissection had led us to attribute to those we had judged dead. It was,
Danforth later told me, precisely what he had caught in infinitely muffled form when at
that spot beyond the alley corner above the glacial level; and it certainly had a shocking
resemblance to the wind pipings we had both heard around the lofty mountain caves. At
the risk of seeming puerile I will add another thing, too, if only because of the surprising
way Danforth’s impressions chimed with mine. Of course common reading is what
prepared us both to make the interpretation, though Danforth has hinted at queer notions
about unsuspected and forbidden sources to which Poe may have had access when
writing his Arthur Gordon Pym a century ago. It will be remembered that in that fantastic
tale there is a word of unknown but terrible and prodigious significance connected with
the antarctic and screamed eternally by the gigantic spectrally snowy birds of that malign
region’s core. "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" That, I may admit, is exactly what we thought we
heard conveyed by that sudden sound behind the advancing white mist-that insidious
musical piping over a singularly wide range.

We were in full flight before three notes or syllables had been uttered, though we knew
that the swiftness of the Old Ones would enable any scream-roused and pursuing survivor
of the slaughter to overtake us in a moment if it really wished to do so. We had a vague
hope, however, that nonaggressive conduct and a display of kindred reason might cause
such a being to spare us in case of capture, if only from scientific curiosity. After all, if
such an one had nothing to fear for itself, it would have no motive in harming us.
Concealment being futile at this juncture, we used our torch for a running glance behind,
and perceived that the mist was thinning. Would we see, at last, a complete and living
specimen of those others? Again came that insidious musical piping- "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-
li!" Then, noting that we were actually gaining on our pursuer, it occurred to us that the
entity might be wounded. We could take no chances, however, since it was very
obviously approaching in answer to Danforth’s scream, rather than in flight from any
other entity. The timing was too close to admit of doubt. Of the whereabouts of that less
conceivable and less mentionable nightmare - that fetid, unglimpsed mountain of slime-
spewing protoplasm whose race had conquered the abyss and sent land pioneers to
recarve and squirm through the burrows of the hills - we could form no guess; and it cost
us a genuine pang to leave this probably crippled Old One-perhaps a lone survivor - to
the peril of recapture and a nameless fate.

Thank Heaven we did not slacken our run. The curling mist had thickened again, and was
driving ahead with increased speed; whilst the straying penguins in our rear were
squawking and screaming and displaying signs of a panic really surprising in view of
their relatively minor confusion when we had passed them. Once more came that sinister,
wide-ranged piping - "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" We had been wrong. The thing was not
wounded, but had merely paused on encountering the bodies of its fallen kindred and the
hellish slime inscription above them. We could never know what that demon message
was - but those burials at Lake’s camp had shown how much importance the beings
attached to their dead. Our recklessly used torch now revealed ahead of us the large open
cavern where various ways converged, and we were glad to be leaving those morbid
palimpsest sculptures - almost felt even when scarcely seen-behind. Another thought
which the advent of the cave inspired was the possibility of losing our pursuer at this
bewildering focus of large galleries. There were several of the blind albino penguins in
the open space, and it seemed clear that their fear of the oncoming entity was extreme to
the point of unaccountability. If at that point we dimmed our torch to the very lowest
limit of traveling need, keeping it strictly in front of us, the frightened squawking motions
of the huge birds in the mist might muffle our footfalls, screen our true course, and
somehow set up a false lead. Amidst the churning, spiraling fog, the littered and
unglistening floor of the main tunnel beyond this point, as differing from the other
morbidly polished burrows, could hardly form a highly distinguishing feature; even, so
far as we could conjecture, for those indicated special senses which made the Old Ones
partly, though imperfectly, independent of light in emergencies. In fact, we were
somewhat apprehensive lest we go astray ourselves in our haste. For we had, of course,
decided to keep straight on toward the dead city; since the consequences of loss in those
unknown foothill honeycombings would be unthinkable.

The fact that we survived and emerged is sufficient proof that the thing did take a wrong
gallery whilst we providentially hit on the right one. The penguins alone could not have
saved us, but in conjunction with the mist they seem to have done so. Only a benign fate
kept the curling vapors thick enough at the right moment, for they were constantly
shifting and threatening to vanish. Indeed, they did lift for a second just before we
emerged from the nauseously resculptured tunnel into the cave; so that we actually
caught one first and only half glimpse of the oncoming entity as we cast a final,
desperately fearful glance backward before dimming the torch and mixing with the
penguins in the hope of dodging pursuit. If the fate which screened us was benign, that
which gave us the half glimpse was infinitely the opposite; for to that flash of semivision
can be traced a full half of the horror which has ever since haunted us.

Our exact motive in looking back again was perhaps no more than the immemorial
instinct of the pursued to gauge the nature and course of its pursuer; or perhaps it was an
automatic attempt to answer a subconscious question raised by one of our senses. In the
midst of our flight, with all our faculties centered on the problem of escape, we were in
no condition to observe and analyze details; yet even so, our latent brain cells must have
wondered at the message brought them by our nostrils. Afterward we realized what it
was-that our retreat from the fetid slime coating on those headless obstructions, and the
coincident approach of the pursuing entity, had not brought us the exchange of stenches
which logic called for. In the neighborhood of the prostrate things that new and lately
unexplainable fetor had been wholly dominant; but by this time it ought to have largely
given place to the nameless stench associated with those others. This it had not done - for
instead, the newer and less bearable smell was now virtually undiluted, and growing
more and more poisonously insistent each second.

So we glanced back simultaneously, it would appear; though no doubt the incipient


motion of one prompted the imitation of the other. As we did so we flashed both torches
full strength at the momentarily thinned mist; either from sheer primitive anxiety to see
all we could, or in a less primitive but equally unconscious effort to dazzle the entity
before we dimmed our light and dodged among the penguins of the labyrinth center
ahead. Unhappy act! Not Orpheus himself, or Lot’s wife, paid much more dearly for a
backward glance. And again came that shocking, wide-ranged piping - "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-
li!"

I might as well be frank - even if I cannot bear to be quite direct - in stating what we saw;
though at the time we felt that it was not to be admitted even to each other. The words
reaching the reader can never even suggest the awfulness of the sight itself. It crippled
our consciousness so completely that I wonder we had the residual sense to dim our
torches as planned, and to strike the right tunnel toward the dead city. Instinct alone must
have carried us through - perhaps better than reason could have done; though if that was
what saved us, we paid a high price. Of reason we certainly had little enough left.
Danforth was totally unstrung, and the first thing I remember of the rest of the journey
was hearing him lightheadedly chant an hysterical formula in which I alone of mankind
could have found anything but insane irrelevance. It reverberated in falsetto echoes
among the squawks of the penguins; reverberated through the vaultings ahead, and-thank
God-through the now empty vaultings behind. He could not have begun it at once - else
we would not have been alive and blindly racing. I shudder to think of what a shade of
difference in his nervous reactions might have brought.

"South Station Under - Washington Under - Park Street Under-Kendall - Central -


Harvard - " The poor fellow was chanting the familiar stations of the Boston-Cambridge
tunnel that burrowed through our peaceful native soil thousands of miles away in New
England, yet to me the ritual had neither irrelevance nor home feeling. It had only horror,
because I knew unerringly the monstrous, nefandous analogy that had suggested it. We
had expected, upon looking back, to see a terrible and incredible moving entity if the
mists were thin enough; but of that entity we had formed a clear idea. What we did see -
for the mists were indeed all too maliguly thinned - was something altogether different,
and immeasurably more hideous and detestable. It was the utter, objective embodiment of
the fantastic novelist’s "thing that should not be"; and its nearest comprehensible
analogue is a vast, onrushing subway train as one sees it from a station platform - the
great black front looming colossally out of infinite subterranean distance, constellated
with strangely colored lights and filling the prodigious burrow as a piston fills a cylinder.

But we were not on a station platform. We were on the track ahead as the nightmare,
plastic column of fetid black iridescence oozed tightly onward through its fifteen-foot
sinus, gathering unholy speed and driving before it a spiral, rethickening cloud of the
pallid abyss vapor. It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train - a
shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of
temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-
filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the
glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter. Still came that
eldritch, mocking cry- "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" and at last we remembered that the
demoniac Shoggoths - given life, thought, and plastic organ patterns solely by the Old
Ones, and having no language save that which the dot groups expressed - had likewise no
voice save the imitated accents of their bygone masters.

XII
Danforth and I have recollections of emerging into the great sculptured hemisphere and
of threading our back trail through the Cyclopean rooms and corridors of the dead city;
yet these are purely dream fragments involving no memory of volition, details, or
physical exertion. It was as if we floated in a nebulous world or dimension without time,
causation, or orientation. The gray half-daylight of the vast circular space sobered us
somewhat; but we did not go near those cached sledges or look again at poor Gedney and
the dog. They have a strange and titanic mausoleum, and I hope the end of this planet will
find them still undisturbed.
It was while struggling up the colossal spiral incline that we first felt the terrible fatigue
and short breath which our race through the thin plateau air had produced; but not even
fear of collapse could make us pause before reaching the normal outer realm of sun and
sky. There was something vaguely appropriate about our departure from those buried
epochs; for as we wound our panting way up the sixty-foot cylinder of primal masonry,
we glimpsed beside us a continuous procession of heroic sculptures in the dead race’s
early and undecayed technique - a farewell from the Old Ones, written fifty million years
ago.

Finally scrambling out at the top, we found ourselves on a great mound of tumbled
blocks, with the curved walls of higher stonework rising westward, and the brooding
peaks of the great mountains showing beyond the more crumbled structures toward the
east. The low antarctic sun of midnight peered redly from the southern horizon through
rifts in the jagged ruins, and the terrible age and deadness of the nightmare city seemed
all the starker by contrast with such relatively known and accustomed things as the
features of the polar landscape. The sky above was a churning and opalescent mass of
tenuous ice-vapors, and the cold clutched at our vitals. Wearily resting the outfit-bags to
which we had instinctively clung throughout our desperate flight, we rebuttoned our
heavy garments for the stumbling climb down the mound and the walk through the aeon-
old stone maze to the foothills where our aeroplane waited. Of what had set us fleeing
from that darkness of earth’s secret and archaic gulfs we said nothing at all.

In less than a quarter of an hour we had found the steep grade to the foothills-the
probable ancient terrace - by which we had descended, and could see the dark bulk of our
great plane amidst the sparse ruins on the rising slope ahead. Halfway uphill toward our
goal we paused for a momentary breathing spell, and turned to look again at the fantastic
tangle of incredible stone shapes below us-once more outlined mystically against an
unknown west. As we did so we saw that the sky beyond had lost its morning haziness;
the restless ice-vapors having moved up to the zenith, where their mocking outlines
seemed on the point of settling into some bizarre pattern which they feared to make quite
definite or conclusive.

There now lay revealed on the ultimate white horizon behind the grotesque city a dim,
elfin line of pinnacled violet whose needle-pointed heights loomed dreamlike against the
beckoning rose color of the western sky. Up toward this shimmering rim sloped the
ancient table-land, the depressed course of the bygone river traversing it as an irregular
ribbon of shadow. For a second we gasped in admiration of the scene’s unearthly cosmic
beauty, and then vague horror began to creep into our souls. For this far violet line could
be nothing else than the terrible mountains of the forbidden land - highest of earth’s
peaks and focus of earth’s evil; harborers of nameless horrors and Archaean secrets;
shunned and prayed to by those who feared to carve their meaning; untrodden by any
living thing on earth, but visited by the sinister lightnings and sending strange beams
across the plains in the polar night - beyond doubt the unknown archetype of that dreaded
Kadath in the Cold Waste beyond abhorrent Leng, whereof primal legends hint evasively.
If the sculptured maps and pictures in that prehuman city had told truly, these cryptic
violet mountains could not be much less than three hundred miles away; yet none the less
sharply did their dim elfin essence appear above that remote and snowy rim, like the
serrated edge of a monstrous alien planet about to rise into unaccustomed heavens. Their
height, then, must have been tremendous beyond all comparison - carrying them up into
tenuous atmospheric strata peopled only by such gaseous wraiths as rash flyers have
barely lived to whisper of after unexplainable falls. Looking at them, I thought nervously
of certain sculptured hints of what the great bygone river had washed down into the city
from their accursed slopes - and wondered how much sense and how much folly had lain
in the fears of those Old Ones who carved them so reticently. I recalled how their
northerly end must come near the coast at Queen Mary Land, where even at that moment
Sir Douglas Mawson’s expedition was doubtless working less than a thousand miles
away; and hoped that no evil fate would give Sir Douglas and his men a glimpse of what
might lie beyond the protecting coastal range. Such thoughts formed a measure of my
overwrought condition at the time - and Danforth seemed to be even worse.

Yet long before we had passed the great star-shaped ruin and reached our plane, our fears
had become transferred to the lesser but vast-enough range whose recrossing lay ahead of
us. From these foothills the black, ruin-crusted slopes reared up starkly and hideously
against the east, again reminding us of those strange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich;
and when we thought of the frightful amorphous entities that might have pushed their
fetidly squirming way even to the topmost hollow pinnacles, we could not face without
panic the prospect of again sailing by those suggestive skyward cave mouths where the
wind made sounds like an evil musical piping over a wide range. To make matters worse,
we saw distinct traces of local mist around several of the summits-as poor Lake must
have done when he made that early mistake about volcanism - and thought shiveringly of
that kindred mist from which we had just escaped; of that, and of the blasphemous,
horror-fostering abyss whence all such vapors came.

All was well with the plane, and we clumsily hauled on our heavy flying furs. Danforth
got the engine started without trouble, and we made a very smooth take-off over the
nightmare city. Below us the primal Cyclopean masonry spread out as it had done when
first we saw it, and we began rising and turning to test the wind for our crossing through
the pass. At a very high level there must have been great disturbance, since the ice-dust
clouds of the zenith were doing all sorts of fantastic things; but at twenty-four thousand
feet, the height we needed for the pass, we found navigation quite practicable. As we
drew close to the jutting peaks the wind’s strange piping again became manifest, and I
could see Danforth’s hands trembling at the controls. Rank amateur that I was, I thought
at that moment that I might be a better navigator than he in effecting the dangerous
crossing between pinnacles; and when I made motions to change seats and take over his
duties he did not protest. I tried to keep all my skill and self-possession about me, and
stared at the sector of reddish farther sky betwixt the walls of the pass-resolutely refusing
to pay attention to the puffs of mountain-top vapor, and wishing that I had wax-stopped
ears like Ulysses’ men off the Siren’s coast to keep that disturbing windpiping from my
consciousness.
But Danforth, released from his piloting and keyed up to a dangerous nervous pitch,
could not keep quiet. I felt him turning and wriggling about as he looked back at the
terrible receding city, ahead at the cave-riddled, cube-barnacled peaks, sidewise at the
bleak sea of snowy, rampart-strewn foothills, and upward at the seething, grotesquely
clouded sky. It was then, just as I was trying to steer safely through the pass, that his mad
shrieking brought us so close to disaster by shattering my tight hold on myself and
causing me to fumble helplessly with the controls for a moment. A second afterward my
resolution triumphed and we made the crossing safely - yet I am afraid that Danforth will
never be -the same again.

I have said that Danforth refused to tell me what final horror made him scream out so
insanely-a horror which, I feel sadly sure, is mainly responsible for his present
breakdown. We had snatches of shouted conversation above the wind’s piping and the
engine’s buzzing as we reached the safe side of the range and swooped slowly down
toward the camp, but that had mostly to do with the pledges of secrecy we had made as
we prepared to leave the nightmare city. Certain things, we had agreed, were not for
people to know and discuss lightly-and I would not speak of them now but for the need of
heading off that Starkweather-Moore Expedition, and others, at any cost. It is absolutely
necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners
and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and
blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer
and wider conquests.

All that Danforth has ever hinted is that the final horror was a mirage. It was not, he
declares, anything connected with the cubes and caves of those echoing, vaporous,
wormily-honeycombed mountains of madness which we crossed; but a single fantastic,
demoniac glimpse, among the churning zenith clouds, of what lay back of those other
violet westward mountains which the Old Ones had shunned and feared. It is very
probable that the thing was a sheer delusion born of the previous stresses we had passed
through, and of the actual though unrecognized mirage of the dead transmontane city
experienced near Lake’s camp the day before; but it was so real to Danforth that he
suffers from it still.

He has on rare occasions whispered disjointed and irresponsible things about "The black
pit," "the carven rim," "the protoShoggoths," "the windowless solids with five
dimensions," "the nameless cylinder," "the elder Pharos," "Yog-Sothoth," "the primal
white jelly," "the color out of space," "the wings," "the eyes in darkness," "the moon-
ladder," "the original, the eternal, the undying," and other bizarre conceptions; but when
he is fully himself he repudiates all this and attributes it to his curious and macabre
reading of earlier years. Danforth, indeed, is known to be among the few who have ever
dared go completely through that worm-riddled copy of the Necronomicon kept under
lock and key in the college library.

The higher sky, as we crossed the range, was surely vaporous and disturbed enough; and
although I did not see the zenith, I can well imagine that its swirls of ice dust may have
taken strange forms. Imagination, knowing how vividly distant scenes can sometimes be
reflected, refracted, and magnified by such layers of restless cloud, might easily have
supplied the rest - and, of course, Danforth did not hint any of these specific horrors till
after his memory had had a chance to draw on his bygone reading. He could never have
seen so much in one instantaneous glance.

At the time, his shrieks were confined to the repetition of a single, mad word of all too
obvious source: "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!"
Azathoth

When age fell upon the world, and wonder went out of the minds of men; when grey
cities reared to smoky skies tall towers grim and ugly, in whose shadow none might
dream of the sun or of Spring's flowering meads; when learning stripped the Earth of her
mantle of beauty and poets sang no more of twisted phantoms seen with bleared and
inward looking eyes; when these things had come to pass, and childish hopes had gone
forever, there was a man who traveled out of life on a quest into spaces whither the
world's dreams had fled.

Of the name and abode of this man little is written, for they were of the waking world
only; yet it is said that both were obscure. It is enough to say that he dwelt in a city of
high walls where sterile twilight reigned, that he toiled all day among shadow and
turmoil, coming home at evening to a room whose one window opened not to open fields
and groves but on to a dim court where other windows stared in dull despair. From that
casement one might see only walls and windows, except sometimes when one leaned so
far out and peered at the small stars that passed. And because mere walls and windows
must soon drive a man to madness who dreams and reads much, the dweller in that room
used night after night to lean out and peer aloft to glimpse some fragment of things
beyond the waking world and the tall cities. After years he began to call the slow sailing
stars by name, and to follow them in fancy when they glided regretfully out of sight; till
at length his vision opened to many secret vistas whose existance no common eye
suspected. And one night a mighty gulf was bridged, and the dream haunted skies swelled
down to the lonely watcher's window to merge with the close air of his room and to make
him a part of their fabulous wonder.

There came to that room wild streams of violet midnight glittering with dust of gold,
vortices of dust and fire, swirling out of the ultimate spaces and heavy perfumes from
beyond the worlds. Opiate oceans poured there, litten by suns that the eye may never
behold and having in their whirlpools strange dolphins and sea-nymphs of
unrememberable depths. Noiseless infinity eddied around the dreamer and wafted him
away without touching the body that leaned stiffly from the lonely window; and for days
not counted in men's calandars the tides of far spheres that bore him gently to join the
course of other cycles that tenderly left him sleeping on a green sunrise shore, a green
shore fragrant with lotus blossums and starred by red camalotes...
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
by H. P. Lovecraft
Written 1919

Published October 1919 in Pine Cones

I have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the
occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they
belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint
and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences - Freud to the contrary with his
puerile symbolism - there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal
character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and
disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no
less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable
barrier. From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial
consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature
from the life we know, and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories
linger after waking. From those blurred and fragmentary memories we may infer much,
yet prove little. We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows
such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our
waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our
truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or
merely virtual phenomenon.

It was from a youthful revery filled with speculations of this sort that I arose one
afternoon in the winter of 1900-01, when to the state psychopathic institution in which I
served as an intern was brought the man whose case has ever since haunted me so
unceasingly. His name, as given on the records, was Joe Slater, or Slaader, and his
appearance was that of the typical denizen of the Catskill Mountain region; one of those
strange, repellent scions of a primitive Colonial peasant stock whose isolation for nearly
three centuries in the hilly fastnesses of a little-traveled countryside has caused them to
sink to a kind of barbaric degeneracy, rather than advance with their more fortunately
placed brethren of the thickly settled districts. Among these odd folk, who correspond
exactly to the decadent element of "white trash" in the South, law and morals are non-
existent; and their general mental status is probably below that of any other section of
native American people.

Joe Slater, who came to the institution in the vigilant custody of four state policemen, and
who was described as a highly dangerous character, certainly presented no evidence of
his perilous disposition when I first beheld him. Though well above the middle stature,
and of somewhat brawny frame, he was given an absurd appearance of harmless stupidity
by the pale, sleepy blueness of his small watery eyes, the scantiness of his neglected and
never-shaven growth of yellow beard, and the listless drooping of his heavy nether lip.
His age was unknown, since among his kind neither family records nor permanent family
ties exist; but from the baldness of his head in front, and from the decayed condition of
his teeth, the head surgeon wrote him down as a man of about forty.

From the medical and court documents we learned all that could be gathered of his case:
this man, a vagabond, hunter and trapper, had always been strange in the eyes of his
primitive associates. He had habitually slept at night beyond the ordinary time, and upon
waking would often talk of unknown things in a manner so bizarre as to inspire fear even
in the hearts of an unimaginative populace. Not that his form of language was at all
unusual, for he never spoke save in the debased patois of his environment; but the tone
and tenor of his utterances were of such mysterious wildness, that none might listen
without apprehension. He himself was generally as terrified and baffled as his auditors,
and within an hour after awakening would forget all that he had said, or at least all that
had caused him to say what he did; relapsing into a bovine, half-amiable normality like
that of the other hilldwellers.

As Slater grew older, it appeared, his matutinal aberrations had gradually increased in
frequency and violence; till about a month before his arrival at the institution had
occurred the shocking tragedy which caused his arrest by the authorities. One day near
noon, after a profound sleep begun in a whiskey debauch at about five of the previous
afternoon, the man had roused himself most suddenly, with ululations so horrible and
unearthly that they brought several neighbors to his cabin - a filthy sty where he dwelt
with a family as indescribable as himself. Rushing out into the snow, he had flung his
arms aloft and commenced a series of leaps directly upward in the air; the while shouting
his determination to reach some "big, big cabin with brightness in the roof and walls and
floor and the loud queer music far away". As two men of moderate size sought to restrain
him, he had struggled with maniacal force and fury, screaming of his desire and need to
find and kill a certain "thing that shines and shakes and laughs". At length, after
temporarily felling one of his detainers with a sudden blow, he had flung himself upon
the other in a demoniac ecstasy of blood-thirstiness, shrieking fiendishly that he would
"jump high in the air and burn his way through anything that stopped him".

Family and neighbors had now fled in a panic, and when the more courageous of them
returned, Slater was gone, leaving behind an unrecognizable pulp-like thing that had been
a living man but an hour before. None of the mountaineers had dared to pursue him, and
it is likely that they would have welcomed his death from the cold; but when several
mornings later they heard his screams from a distant ravine they realized that he had
somehow managed to survive, and that his removal in one way or another would be
necessary. Then had followed an armed searching-party, whose purpose (whatever it may
have been originally) became that of a sheriff's posse after one of the seldom popular
state troopers had by accident observed, then questioned, and finally joined the seekers.

On the third day Slater was found unconscious in the hollow of a tree, and taken to the
nearest jail, where alienists from Albany examined him as soon as his senses returned. To
them he told a simple story. He had, he said, gone to sleep one afternoon about sundown
after drinking much liquor. He had awakened to find himself standing bloody-handed in
the snow before his cabin, the mangled corpse of his neighbor Peter Slader at his feet.
Horrified, he had taken to the woods in a vague effort to escape from the scene of what
must have been his crime. Beyond these things he seemed to know nothing, nor could the
expert questioning of his interrogators bring out a single additional fact.

That night Slater slept quietly, and the next morning he awakened with no singular
feature save a certain alteration of expression. Doctor Barnard, who had been watching
the patient, thought he noticed in the pale blue eyes a certain gleam of peculiar quality,
and in the flaccid lips an all but imperceptible tightening, as if of intelligent
determination. But when questioned, Slater relapsed into the habitual vacancy of the
mountaineer, and only reiterated what he had said on the preceding day.

On the third morning occurred the first of the man's mental attacks. After some show of
uneasiness in sleep, he burst forth into a frenzy so powerful that the combined efforts of
four men were needed to bind him in a straightjacket. The alienists listened with keen
attention to his words, since their curiosity had been aroused to a high pitch by the
suggestive yet mostly conflicting and incoherent stories of his family and neighbors.
Slater raved for upward of fifteen minutes, babbling in his backwoods dialect of green
edifices of light, oceans of space, strange music, and shadowy mountains and valleys. But
most of all did he dwell upon some mysterious blazing entity that shook and laughed and
mocked at him. This vast, vague personality seemed to have done him a terrible wrong,
and to kill it in triumphant revenge was his paramount desire. In order to reach it, he said,
he would soar through abysses of emptiness, burning every obstacle that stood in his way.
Thus ran his discourse, until with the greatest suddenness he ceased. The fire of madness
died from his eyes, and in dull wonder he looked at his questioners and asked why he was
bound. Dr. Barnard unbuckled the leather harness and did not restore it till night, when he
succeeded in persuading Slater to don it of his own volition, for his own good. The man
had now admitted that he sometimes talked queerly, though he knew not why.

Within a week two more attacks appeared, but from them the doctors learned little. On
the source of Slater's visions they speculated at length, for since he could neither read nor
write, and had apparently never heard a legend or fairy-tale, his gorgeous imagery was
quite inexplicable. That it could not come from any known myth or romance was made
especially clear by the fact that the unfortunate lunatic expressed himself only in his own
simple manner. He raved of things he did not understand and could not interpret; things
which he claimed to have experienced, but which he could not have learned through any
normal or connected narration. The alienists soon agreed that abnormal dreams were the
foundation of the trouble; dreams whose vividness could for a time completely dominate
the waking mind of this basically inferior man. With due formality Slater was tried for
murder, acquitted on the ground of insanity, and committed to the institution wherein I
held so humble a post.

I have said that I am a constant speculator concerning dream-life, and from this you may
judge of the eagerness with which I applied myself to the study of the new patient as soon
as I had fully ascertained the facts of his case. He seemed to sense a certain friendliness
in me, born no doubt of the interest I could not conceal, and the gentle manner in which I
questioned him. Not that he ever recognized me during his attacks, when I hung
breathlessly upon his chaotic but cosmic word-pictures; but he knew me in his quiet
hours, when he would sit by his barred window weaving baskets of straw and willow, and
perhaps pining for the mountain freedom he could never again enjoy. His family never
called to see him; probably it had found another temporary head, after the manner of
decadent mountain folk.

By degrees I commenced to feel an overwhelming wonder at the mad and fantastic


conceptions of Joe Slater. The man himself was pitiably inferior in mentality and
language alike; but his glowing, titanic visions, though described in a barbarous
disjointed jargon, were assuredly things which only a superior or even exceptional brain
could conceive How, I often asked myself, could the stolid imagination of a Catskill
degenerate conjure up sights whose very possession argued a lurking spark of genius?
How could any backwoods dullard have gained so much as an idea of those glittering
realms of supernal radiance and space about which Slater ranted in his furious delirium?
More and more I inclined to the belief that in the pitiful personality who cringed before
me lay the disordered nucleus of something beyond my comprehension; something
infinitely beyond the comprehension of my more experienced but less imaginative
medical and scientific colleagues.

And yet I could extract nothing definite from the man. The sum of all my investigation
was, that in a kind of semi-corporeal dream-life Slater wandered or floated through
resplendent and prodigious valleys, meadows, gardens, cities, and palaces of light, in a
region unbounded and unknown to man; that there he was no peasant or degenerate, but a
creature of importance and vivid life, moving proudly and dominantly, and checked only
by a certain deadly enemy, who seemed to be a being of visible yet ethereal structure, and
who did not appear to be of human shape, since Slater never referred to it as a man, or as
aught save a thing. This thing had done Slater some hideous but unnamed wrong, which
the maniac (if maniac he were) yearned to avenge.

From the manner in which Slater alluded to their dealings, I judged that he and the
luminous thing had met on equal terms; that in his dream existence the man was himself a
luminous thing of the same race as his enemy. This impression was sustained by his
frequent references to flying through space and burning all that impeded his progress. Yet
these conceptions were formulated in rustic words wholly inadequate to convey them, a
circumstance which drove me to the conclusion that if a dream world indeed existed, oral
language was not its medium for the transmission of thought. Could it be that the dream
soul inhabiting this inferior body was desperately struggling to speak things which the
simple and halting tongue of dullness could not utter? Could it be that I was face to face
with intellectual emanations which would explain the mystery if I could but learn to
discover and read them? I did not tell the older physicians of these things, for middle age
is skeptical, cynical, and disinclined to accept new ideas. Besides, the head of the
institution had but lately warned me in his paternal way that I was overworking; that my
mind needed a rest.

It had long been my belief that human thought consists basically of atomic or molecular
motion, convertible into ether waves or radiant energy like heat, light and electricity. This
belief had early led me to contemplate the possibility of telepathy or mental
communication by means of suitable apparatus, and I had in my college days prepared a
set of transmitting and receiving instruments somewhat similar to the cumbrous devices
employed in wireless telegraphy at that crude, pre-radio period. These I had tested with a
fellow-student, but achieving no result, had soon packed them away with other scientific
odds and ends for possible future use.

Now, in my intense desire to probe into the dream-life of Joe Slater, I sought these
instruments again, and spent several days in repairing them for action. When they were
complete once more I missed no opportunity for their trial. At each outburst of Slater's
violence, I would fit the transmitter to his forehead and the receiver to my own,
constantly making delicate adjustments for various hypothetical wave-lengths of
intellectual energy. I had but little notion of how the thought-impressions would, if
successfully conveyed, arouse an intelligent response in my brain, but I felt certain that I
could detect and interpret them. Accordingly I continued my experiments, though
informing no one of their nature.

It was on the twenty-first of February, 1901, that the thing occurred. As I look back
across the years I realize how unreal it seems, and sometimes wonder if old Doctor
Fenton was not right when he charged it all to my excited imagination. I recall that he
listened with great kindness and patience when I told him, but afterward gave me a nerve-
powder and arranged for the half-year's vacation on which I departed the next week.

That fateful night I was wildly agitated and perturbed, for despite the excellent care he
had received, Joe Slater was unmistakably dying. Perhaps it was his mountain freedom
that he missed, or perhaps the turmoil in his brain had grown too acute for his rather
sluggish physique; but at all events the flame of vitality flickered low in the decadent
body. He was drowsy near the end, and as darkness fell he dropped off into a troubled
sleep.

I did not strap on the straightjacket as was customary when he slept, since I saw that he
was too feeble to be dangerous, even if he woke in mental disorder once more before
passing away. But I did place upon his head and mine the two ends of my cosmic "radio",
hoping against hope for a first and last message from the dream world in the brief time
remaining. In the cell with us was one nurse, a mediocre fellow who did not understand
the purpose of the apparatus, or think to inquire into my course. As the hours wore on I
saw his head droop awkwardly in sleep, but I did not disturb him. I myself, lulled by the
rhythmical breathing of the healthy and the dying man, must have nodded a little later.

The sound of weird lyric melody was what aroused me. Chords, vibrations, and harmonic
ecstasies echoed passionately on every hand, while on my ravished sight burst the
stupendous spectacle ultimate beauty. Walls, columns, and architraves of living fire
blazed effulgently around the spot where I seemed to float in air, extending upward to an
infinitely high vaulted dome of indescribable splendor. Blending with this display of
palatial magnificence, or rather, supplanting it at times in kaleidoscopic rotation, were
glimpses of wide plains and graceful valleys, high mountains and inviting grottoes,
covered with every lovely attribute of scenery which my delighted eyes could conceive
of, yet formed wholly of some glowing, ethereal plastic entity, which in consistency
partook as much of spirit as of matter. As I gazed, I perceived that my own brain held the
key to these enchanting metamorphoses; for each vista which appeared to me was the one
my changing mind most wished to behold. Amidst this elysian realm I dwelt not as a
stranger, for each sight and sound was familiar to me; just as it had been for uncounted
eons of eternity before, and would be for like eternities to come.

Then the resplendent aura of my brother of light drew near and held colloquy with me,
soul to soul, with silent and perfect interchange of thought. The hour was one of
approaching triumph, for was not my fellow-being escaping at last from a degrading
periodic bondage; escaping forever, and preparing to follow the accursed oppressor even
unto the uttermost fields of ether, that upon it might be wrought a flaming cosmic
vengeance which would shake the spheres? We floated thus for a little time, when I
perceived a slight blurring and fading of the objects around us, as though some force
were recalling me to earth - where I least wished to go. The form near me seemed to feel
a change also, for it gradually brought its discourse toward a conclusion, and itself
prepared to quit the scene, fading from my sight at a rate somewhat less rapid than that of
the other objects. A few more thoughts were exchanged, and I knew that the luminous
one and I were being recalled to bondage, though for my brother of light it would be the
last time. The sorry planet shell being well-nigh spent, in less than an hour my fellow
would be free to pursue the oppressor along the Milky Way and past the hither stars to
the very confines of infinity.

A well-defined shock separates my final impression of the fading scene of light from my
sudden and somewhat shamefaced awakening and straightening up in my chair as I saw
the dying figure on the couch move hesitantly. Joe Slater was indeed awaking, though
probably for the last time. As I looked more closely, I saw that in the sallow cheeks shone
spots of color which had never before been present. The lips, too, seemed unusual, being
tightly compressed, as if by the force of a stronger character than had been Slater's. The
whole face finally began to grow tense, and the head turned restlessly with closed eyes.

I did not rouse the sleeping nurse, but readjusted the slightly disarranged headband of my
telepathic "radio", intent to catch any parting message the dreamer might have to deliver.
All at once the head turned sharply in my direction and the eyes fell open, causing me to
stare in blank amazement at what I beheld. The man who had been Joe Slater, the Catskill
decadent, was gazing at me with a pair of luminous, expanding eyes whose blue seemed
subtly to have deepened. Neither mania nor degeneracy was visible in that gaze, and I felt
beyond a doubt that I was viewing a face behind which lay an active mind of high order.

At this juncture my brain became aware of a steady external influence operating upon it. I
closed my eyes to concentrate my thoughts more profoundly and was rewarded by the
positive knowledge that my long-sought mental message had come at last. Each
transmitted idea formed rapidly in my mind, and though no actual language was
employed, my habitual association of conception and expression was so great that I
seemed to be receiving the message in ordinary English.
"Joe Slater is dead," came the soul-petrifying voice of an agency from beyond the wall of
sleep. My opened eyes sought the couch of pain in curious horror, but the blue eyes were
still calmly gazing, and the countenance was still intelligently animated. "He is better
dead, for he was unfit to bear the active intellect of cosmic entity. His gross body could
not undergo the needed adjustments between ethereal life and planet life. He was too
much an animal, too little a man; yet it is through his deficiency that you have come to
discover me, for the cosmic and planet souls rightly should never meet. He has been in
my torment and diurnal prison for forty-two of your terrestrial years.

"I am an entity like that which you yourself become in the freedom of dreamless sleep. I
am your brother of light, and have floated with you in the effulgent valleys. It is not
permitted me to tell your waking earth-self of your real self, but we are all roamers of
vast spaces and travelers in many ages. Next year I may be dwelling in the Egypt which
you call ancient, or in the cruel empire of Tsan Chan which is to come three thousand
years hence. You and I have drifted to the worlds that reel about the red Arcturus, and
dwelt in the bodies of the insect-philosophers that crawl proudly over the fourth moon of
Jupiter. How little does the earth self know life and its extent! How little, indeed, ought it
to know for its own tranquility!

"Of the oppressor I cannot speak. You on earth have unwittingly felt its distant presence -
you who without knowing idly gave the blinking beacon the name of Algol, the Demon-
Star. It is to meet and conquer the oppressor that I have vainly striven for eons, held back
by bodily encumbrances. Tonight I go as a Nemesis bearing just and blazingly
cataclysmic vengeance. Watch me in the sky close by the Demon-Star.

"I cannot speak longer, for the body of Joe Slater grows cold and rigid, and the coarse
brains are ceasing to vibrate as I wish. You have been my only friend on this planet - the
only soul to sense and seek for me within the repellent form which lies on this couch. We
shall meet again - perhaps in the shining mists of Orion's Sword, perhaps on a bleak
plateau in prehistoric Asia, perhaps in unremembered dreams tonight, perhaps in some
other form an eon hence, when the solar system shall have been swept away."

At this point the thought-waves abruptly ceased, the pale eyes of the dreamer - or can I
say dead man? - commenced to glaze fishily. In a half-stupor I crossed over to the couch
and felt of his wrist, but found it cold, stiff, and pulseless. The sallow cheeks paled again,
and the thick lips fell open, disclosing the repulsively rotten fangs of the degenerate Joe
Slater. I shivered, pulled a blanket over the hideous face, and awakened the nurse. Then I
left the cell and went silently to my room. I had an instant and unaccountable craving for
a sleep whose dreams I should not remember.

The climax? What plain tale of science can boast of such a rhetorical effect? I have
merely set down certain things appealing to me as facts, allowing you to construe them as
you will. As I have already admitted, my superior, old Doctor Fenton, denies the reality
of everything I have related. He vows that I was broken down with nervous strain, and
badly in need of a long vacation on full pay which he so generously gave me. He assures
me on his professional honor that Joe Slater was but a low-grade paranoiac, whose
fantastic notions must have come from the crude hereditary folk-tales which circulated in
even the most decadent of communities. All this he tells me - yet I cannot forget what I
saw in the sky on the night after Slater died. Lest you think me a biased witness, another
pen must add this final testimony, which may perhaps supply the climax you expect. I
will quote the following account of the star Nova Persei verbatim from the pages of that
eminent astronomical authority, Professor Garrett P. Serviss:

"On February 22, 1901, a marvelous new star was discovered by Doctor Anderson of
Edinburgh, not very far from Algol. No star had been visible at that point before. Within
twenty-four hours the stranger had become so bright that it outshone Capella. In a week
or two it had visibly faded, and in the course of a few months it was hardly discernible
with the naked eye."
Celephais
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in early November 1920

Published May 1922


in
The Rainbow

Celephais
In a dream Kuranes saw the city in the valley, and the seacoast
beyond, and the snowy peak overlooking the sea, and the gaily
painted galleys that sail out of the harbour toward distant regions
where the sea meets the sky. In a dream it was also that he came
by his name of Kuranes, for when awake he was called by another
name.

Perhaps it was natural for him to dream a new name; for he was the
last of his family, and alone among the indifferent millions of London,
so there were not many to speak to him and to remind him who he
had been. His money and lands were gone, and he did not care for
the ways of the people about him, but preferred to dream and write
of his dreams. What he wrote was laughed at by those to whom he
showed it, so that after a time he kept his writings to himself, and
finally ceased to write.

The more he withdrew from the world about him, the more wonderful
became his dreams; and it would have been quite futile to try to
describe them on paper. Kuranes was not modern, and did not think
like others who wrote. Whilst they strove to strip from life its
embroidered robes of myth and to show in naked ugliness the foul
thing that is reality, Kuranes sought for beauty alone. When truth
and experience failed to reveal it, he sought it in fancy and illusion,
and found it on his very doorstep, amid the nebulous memories of
childhood tales and dreams.

There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to
them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children
we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when
as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the
poison of life. But some of us awake in the night with strange
phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in
the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that
stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy
companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the
edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back
through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours
before we were wise and unhappy.

Kuranes came very suddenly upon his old world of childhood. He


had been dreaming of the house where he had been born; the great
stone house covered with ivy, where thirteen generations of his
ancestors had lived, and where he had hoped to die. It was
moonlight, and he had stolen out into the fragrant summer night,
through the gardens, down the terraces, past the great oaks of the
park, and along the long white road to the village. The village
seemed very old, eaten away at the edge like the moon which had
commenced to wane, and Kuranes wondered whether the peaked
roofs of the small houses hid sleep or death. In the streets were
spears of long grass, and the window-panes on either side broken or
filmily staring. Kuranes had not lingered, but had plodded on as
though summoned toward some goal. He dared not disobey the
summons for fear it might prove an illusion like the urges and
aspirations of waking life, which do not lead to any goal. Then he
had been drawn down a lane that led off from the village street
toward the channel cliffs, and had come to the end of things to the
precipice and the abyss where all the village and all the world fell
abruptly into the unechoing emptiness of infinity, and where even
the sky ahead was empty and unlit by the crumbling moon and the
peering stars. Faith had urged him on, over the precipice and into
the gulf, where he had floated down, down, down; past dark,
shapeless, undreamed dreams, faintly glowing spheres that may
have been partly dreamed dreams, and laughing winged things that
seemed to mock the dreamers of all the worlds. Then a rift seemed
to open in the darkness before him, and he saw the city of the
valley, glistening radiantly far, far below, with a background of sea
and sky, and a snowcapped mountain near the shore.

Kuranes had awakened the very moment he beheld the city, yet he
knew from his brief glance that it was none other than Celephais, in
the Valley of Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian Hills where his spirit
had dwelt all the eternity of an hour one summer afternoon very long
ago, when he had slipt away from his nurse and let the warm sea-
breeze lull him to sleep as he watched the clouds from the cliff near
the village. He had protested then, when they had found him, waked
him, and carried him home, for just as he was aroused he had been
about to sail in a golden galley for those alluring regions where the
sea meets the sky. And now he was equally resentful of awaking, for
he had found his fabulous city after forty weary years.

But three nights afterward Kuranes came again to Celephais. As


before, he dreamed first of the village that was asleep or dead, and
of the abyss down which one must float silently; then the rift
appeared again, and he beheld the glittering minarets of the city,
and saw the graceful galleys riding at anchor in the blue harbour,
and watched the gingko trees of Mount Aran swaying in the sea-
breeze. But this time he was not snatched away, and like a winged
being settled gradually over a grassy hillside til finally his feet rested
gently on the turf. He had indeed come back to the Valley of Ooth-
Nargai and the splendid city of Celephais.

Down the hill amid scented grasses and brilliant flowers walked
Kuranes, over the bubbling Naraxa on the small wooden bridge
where he had carved his name so many years ago, and through the
whispering grove to the great stone bridge by the city gate. All was
as of old, nor were the marble walls discoloured, nor the polished
bronze statues upon them tarnished. And Kuranes saw that he need
not tremble lest the things he knew be vanished; for even the
sentries on the ramparts were the same, and still as young as he
remembered them. When he entered the city, past the bronze gates
and over the onyx pavements, the merchants and camel-drivers
greeted him as if he had never been away; and it was the same at
the turquoise temple of Nath-Horthath, where the orchid-wreathed
priests told him that there is no time in Ooth-Nargai, but only
perpetual youth. Then Kuranes walked through the Street of Pillars
to the seaward wall, where gathered the traders and sailors, and
strange men from the regions where the sea meets the sky. There
he stayed long, gazing out over the bright harbour where the ripples
sparkled beneath an unknown sun, and where rode lightly the
galleys from far places over the water. And he gazed also upon
Mount Aran rising regally from the shore, its lower slopes green with
swaying trees and its white summit touching the sky.

More than ever Kuranes wished to sail in a galley to the far places of
which he had heard so many strange tales, and he sought again the
captain who had agreed to carry him so long ago. He found the
man, Athib, sitting on the same chest of spice he had sat upon
before, and Athib seemed not to realize that any time had passed.
Then the two rowed to a galley in the harbour, and giving orders to
the oarmen, commenced to sail out into the billowy Cerenarian Sea
that leads to the sky. For several days they glided undulatingly over
the water, till finally they came to the horizon, where the sea meets
the sky. Here the galley paused not at all, but floated easily in the
blue of the sky among fleecy clouds tinted with rose. And far
beneath the keel Kuranes could see strange lands and rivers and
cities of surpassing beauty, spread indolently in the sunshine which
seemed never to lessen or disappear. At length Athib told him that
their journey was near its end, and that they would soon enter the
harbour of Serannian, the pink marble city of the clouds, which is
built on that ethereal coast where the west wind flows into the sky;
but as the highest of the city’s carven towers came into sight there
was a sound somewhere in space, and Kuranes awaked in his
London garret.

For many months after that Kuranes sought the marvellous city of
Celephais and its sky-bound galleys in vain; and though his dreams
carried him to many gorgeous and unheard-of places, no one whom
he met could tell him how to find Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian
Hills. One night he went flying over dark mountains where there
were faint, lone campfires at great distances apart, and strange,
shaggy herds with tinkling bells on the leaders, and in the wildest
part of this hilly country, so remote that few men could ever have
seen it, he found a hideously ancient wall or causeway of stone
zigzagging along the ridges and valleys; too gigantic ever to have
risen by human hands, and of such a length that neither end of it
could be seen. Beyond that wall in the grey dawn he came to a land
of quaint gardens and cherry trees, and when the sun rose he
beheld such beauty of red and white flowers, green foliage and
lawns, white paths, diamond brooks, blue lakelets, carven bridges,
and red-roofed pagodas, that he for a moment forgot Celephais in
sheer delight. But he remembered it again when he walked down a
white path toward a red-roofed pagoda, and would have questioned
the people of this land about it, had he not found that there were no
people there, but only birds and bees and butterflies. On another
night Kuranes walked up a damp stone spiral stairway endlessly,
and came to a tower window overlooking a mighty plain and river lit
by the full moon; and in the silent city that spread away from the
river bank he thought he beheld some feature or arrangement which
he had known before. He would have descended and asked the way
to Ooth-Nargai had not a fearsome aurora sputtered up from some
remote place beyond the horizon, showing the ruin and antiquity of
the city, and the stagnation of the reedy river, and the death lying
upon that land, as it had lain since King Kynaratholis came home
from his conquests to find the vengeance of the gods.

So Kuranes sought fruitlessly for the marvellous city of Celephais


and its galleys that sail to Serannian in the sky, meanwhile seeing
many wonders and once barely escaping from the high-priest not to
be described, which wears a yellow silken mask over its face and
dwells all alone in a prehistoric stone monastery in the cold desert
plateau of Leng. In time he grew so impatient of the bleak intervals
of day that he began buying drugs in order to increase his periods of
sleep. Hasheesh helped a great deal, and once sent him to a part of
space where form does not exist, but where glowing gases study the
secrets of existence. And a violet-coloured gas told him that this part
of space was outside what he had called infinity. The gas had not
heard of planets and organisms before, but identified Kuranes
merely as one from the infinity where matter, energy, and gravitation
exist. Kuranes was now very anxious to return to minaret-studded
Celephais, and increased his doses of drugs; but eventually he had
no more money left, and could buy no drugs. Then one summer day
he was turned out of his garret, and wandered aimlessly through the
streets, drifting over a bridge to a place where the houses grew
thinner and thinner. And it was there that fulfillment came, and he
met the cortege of knights come from Celephais to bear him thither
forever.

Handsome knights they were, astride roan horses and clad in


shining armour with tabards of cloth-of-gold curiously emblazoned.
So numerous were they, that Kuranes almost mistook them for an
army, but they were sent in his honour; since it was he who had
created Ooth-Nargai in his dreams, on which account he was now to
be appointed its chief god for evermore. Then they gave Kuranes a
horse and placed him at the head of the cavalcade, and all rode
majestically through the downs of Surrey and onward toward the
region where Kuranes and his ancestors were born. It was very
strange, but as the riders went on they seemed to gallop back
through time; for whenever they passed through a village in the
twilight they saw only such houses and villagers as Chaucer or men
before him might have seen, and sometimes they saw knights on
horseback with small companies of retainers. When it grew dark
they travelled more swiftly, till soon they were flying uncannily as if in
the air. In the dim dawn they came upon the village which Kuranes
had seen alive in his childhood, and asleep or dead in his dreams. It
was alive now, and early villagers curtsied as the horsemen
clattered down the street and turned off into the lane that ends in the
abyss of dreams. Kuranes had previously entered that abyss only at
night, and wondered what it would look like by day; so he watched
anxiously as the column approached its brink. Just as they galloped
up the rising ground to the precipice a golden glare came
somewhere out of the west and hid all the landscape in effulgent
draperies. The abyss was a seething chaos of roseate and cerulean
splendour, and invisible voices sang exultantly as the knightly
entourage plunged over the edge and floated gracefully down past
glittering clouds and silvery coruscations. Endlessly down the
horsemen floated, their chargers pawing the aether as if galloping
over golden sands; and then the luminous vapours spread apart to
reveal a greater brightness, the brightness of the city Celephais, and
the sea coast beyond, and the snowy peak overlooking the sea, and
the gaily painted galleys that sail out of the harbour toward distant
regions where the sea meets the sky.

And Kuranes reigned thereafter over Ooth-Nargai and all the


neighboring regions of dream, and held his court alternately in
Celephais and in the cloud-fashioned Serannian. He reigns there
still, and will reign happily for ever, though below the cliffs at
Innsmouth the channel tides played mockingly with the body of a
tramp who had stumbled through the half-deserted village at dawn;
played mockingly, and cast it upon the rocks by ivy-covered Trevor
Towers, where a notably fat and especially offensive millionaire
brewer enjoys the purchased atmosphere of extinct nobility.
Cool Air
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in March 1926

Published in March 1928


in
Tales of Magic and Mystery

Cool Air
You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I
shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem
nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the
heat of a mild autumn day. There are those who say I respond to
cold as others do to a bad odour, and I am the last to deny the
impression. What I will do is to relate the most horrible circumstance
I ever encountered, and leave it to you to judge whether or not this
forms a suitable explanation of my peculiarity.

It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with


darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-
afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst
of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house with a prosaic
landlady and two stalwart men by my side. In the spring of 1923 I
had secured some dreary and unprofitable magazine work in the city
of New York; and being unable to pay any substantial rent, began
drifting from one cheap boarding establishment to another in search
of a room which might combine the qualities of decent cleanliness,
endurable furnishings, and very reasonable price. It soon developed
that I had only a choice between different evils, but after a time I
came upon a house in West Fourteenth Street which disgusted me
much less than the others I had sampled.

The place was a four-story mansion of brownstone, dating


apparently from the late forties, and fitted with woodwork and marble
whose stained and sullied splendour argued a descent from high
levels of tasteful opulence. In the rooms, large and lofty, and
decorated with impossible paper and ridiculously ornate stucco
cornices, there lingered a depressing mustiness and hint of obscure
cookery; but the floors were clean, the linen tolerably regular, and
the hot water not too often cold or turned off, so that I came to
regard it as at least a bearable place to hibernate till one might really
live again. The landlady, a slatternly, almost bearded Spanish
woman named Herrero, did not annoy me with gossip or with
criticisms of the late-burning electric light in my third-floor front hall
room; and my fellow-lodgers were as quiet and uncommunicative as
one might desire, being mostly Spaniards a little above the coarsest
and crudest grade. Only the din of street cars in the thoroughfare
below proved a serious annoyance.

I had been there about three weeks when the first odd incident
occurred. One evening at about eight I heard a spattering on the
floor and became suddenly aware that I had been smelling the
pungent odour of ammonia for some time. Looking about, I saw that
the ceiling was wet and dripping; the soaking apparently proceeding
from a corner on the side toward the street. Anxious to stop the
matter at its source, I hastened to the basement to tell the landlady;
and was assured by her that the trouble would quickly be set right.

"Doctair Muñoz," she cried as she rushed upstairs ahead of me, "he
have speel hees chemicals. He ees too seeck for doctair heemself--
seecker and seecker all the time--but he weel not have no othair for
help. He ees vairy queer in hees seeckness--all day he take funnee-
smelling baths, and he cannot get excite or warm. All hees own
housework he do--hees leetle room are full of bottles and machines,
and he do not work as doctair. But he was great once--my fathair in
Barcelona have hear of heem--and only joost now he feex a arm of
the plumber that get hurt of sudden. He nevair go out, only on roof,
and my boy Esteban he breeng heem hees food and laundry and
mediceens and chemicals. My Gawd, the sal-ammoniac that man
use for keep heem cool!"

Mrs. Herrero disappeared up the staircase to the fourth floor, and I


returned to my room. The ammonia ceased to drip, and as I cleaned
up what had spilled and opened the window for air, I heard the
landlady's heavy footsteps above me. Dr. Muñoz I had never heard,
save for certain sounds as of some gasoline-driven mechanism;
since his step was soft and gentle. I wondered for a moment what
the strange affliction of this man might be, and whether his obstinate
refusal of outside aid were not the result of a rather baseless
eccentricity. There is, I reflected tritely, an infinite deal of pathos in
the state of an eminent person who has come down in the world.

I might never have known Dr. Muñoz had it not been for the heart
attack that suddenly seized me one forenoon as I sat writing in my
room. Physicians had told me of the danger of those spells, and I
knew there was no time to be lost; so remembering what the
landlady had said about the invalid's help of the injured workman, I
dragged myself upstairs and knocked feebly at the door above mine.
My knock was answered in good English by a curious voice some
distance to the right, asking my name and business; and these
things being stated, there came an opening of the door next to the
one I had sought.

A rush of cool air greeted me; and though the day was one of the
hottest of late June, I shivered as I crossed the threshold into a large
apartment whose rich and tasteful decoration surprised me in this
nest of squalor and seediness. A folding couch now filled its diurnal
role of sofa, and the mahogany furniture, sumptuous hangings, old
paintings, and mellow bookshelves all bespoke a gentleman's study
rather than a boarding-house bedroom. I now saw that the hall room
above mine -the "leetle room" of bottles and machines which Mrs.
Herrero had mentioned -was merely the laboratory of the doctor;
and that his main living quarters lay in the spacious adjoining room
whose convenient alcoves and large contiguous bathroom permitted
him to hide all dressers and obtrusively utilitarian devices. Dr.
Muñoz, most certainly, was a man of birth, cultivation, and
discrimination.

The figure before me was short but exquisitely proportioned, and


clad in somewhat formal dress of perfect cut and fit. A high-bred
face of masterful though not arrogant expression was adorned by a
short iron-grey full beard, and an old-fashioned pince-nez shielded
the full, dark eyes and surmounted an aquiline nose which gave a
Moorish touch to a physiognomy otherwise dominantly Celtiberian.
Thick, well-trimmed hair that argued the punctual calls of a barber
was parted gracefully above a high forehead; and the whole picture
was one of striking intelligence and superior blood and breeding.

Nevertheless, as I saw Dr. Muñoz in that blast of cool air, I felt a


repugnance which nothing in his aspect could justify. Only his lividly
inclined complexion and coldness of touch could have afforded a
physical basis for this feeling, and even these things should have
been excusable considering the man's known invalidism. It might,
too, have been the singular cold that alienated me; for such
chilliness was abnormal on so hot a day, and the abnormal always
excites aversion, distrust, and fear.

But repugnance was soon forgotten in admiration, for the strange


physician's extreme skill at once became manifest despite the ice-
coldness and shakiness of his bloodless-looking hands. He clearly
understood my needs at a glance, and ministered to them with a
master's deftness; the while reassuring me in a finely modulated
though oddly hollow and timbreless voice that he was the bitterest of
sworn enemies to death, and had sunk his fortune and lost all his
friends in a lifetime of bizarre experiment devoted to its bafflement
and extirpation. Something of the benevolent fanatic seemed to
reside in him, and he rambled on almost garrulously as he sounded
my chest and mixed a suitable draught of drugs fetched from the
smaller laboratory room. Evidently he found the society of a well-
born man a rare novelty in this dingy environment, and was moved
to unaccustomed speech as memories of better days surged over
him.

His voice, if queer, was at least soothing; and I could not even
perceive that he breathed as the fluent sentences rolled urbanely
out. He sought to distract my mind from my own seizure by speaking
of his theories and experiments; and I remember his tactfully
consoling me about my weak heart by insisting that will and
consciousness are stronger than organic life itself, so that if a bodily
frame be but originally healthy and carefully preserved, it may
through a scientific enhancement of these qualities retain a kind of
nervous animation despite the most serious impairments, defects, or
even absences in the battery of specific organs. He might, he half
jestingly said, some day teach me to live--or at least to possess
some kind of conscious existence--without any heart at all! For his
part, he was afflicted with a complication of maladies requiring a
very exact regimen which included constant cold. Any marked rise in
temperature might, if prolonged, affect him fatally; and the frigidity of
his habitation--some 55 or 56 degrees Fahrenheit -was maintained
by an absorption system of ammonia cooling, the gasoline engine of
whose pumps I had often heard in my own room below.

Relieved of my seizure in a marvellously short while, I left the


shivery place a disciple and devotee of the gifted recluse. After that I
paid him frequent overcoated calls; listening while he told of secret
researches and almost ghastly results, and trembling a bit when I
examined the unconventional and astonishingly ancient volumes on
his shelves. I was eventually, I may add, almost cured of my disease
for all time by his skillful ministrations. It seems that he did not scorn
the incantations of the mediaevalists, since he believed these cryptic
formulae to contain rare psychological stimuli which might
conceivably have singular effects on the substance of a nervous
system from which organic pulsations had fled. I was touched by his
account of the aged Dr. Torres of Valencia, who had shared his
earlier experiments and nursed him through the great illness of
eighteen years before, whence his present disorders proceeded. No
sooner had the venerable practitioner saved his colleague than he
himself succumbed to the grim enemy he had fought. Perhaps the
strain had been too great; for Dr. Muñoz made it whisperingly clear -
though not in detail -that the methods of healing had been most
extraordinary, involving scenes and processes not welcomed by
elderly and conservative Galens.

As the weeks passed, I observed with regret that my new friend was
indeed slowly but unmistakably losing ground physically, as Mrs.
Herrero had suggested. The livid aspect of his countenance was
intensified, his voice became more hollow and indistinct, his
muscular motions were less perfectly coordinated, and his mind and
will displayed less resilience and initiative. Of this sad change he
seemed by no means unaware, and little by little his expression and
conversation both took on a gruesome irony which restored in me
something of the subtle repulsion I had originally felt.

He developed strange caprices, acquiring a fondness for exotic


spices and Egyptian incense till his room smelled like a vault of a
sepulchred Pharaoh in the Valley of Kings. At the same time his
demands for cold air increased, and with my aid he amplified the
ammonia piping of his room and modified the pumps and feed of his
refrigerating machine till he could keep the temperature as low as 34
degrees or 40 degrees, and finally even 28 degrees; the bathroom
and laboratory, of course, being less chilled, in order that water
might not freeze, and that chemical processes might not be
impeded. The tenant adjoining him complained of the icy air from
around the connecting door, so I helped him fit heavy hangings to
obviate the difficulty. A kind of growing horror, of outre and morbid
cast, seemed to possess him. He talked of death incessantly, but
laughed hollowly when such things as burial or funeral
arrangements were gently suggested.

All in all, he became a disconcerting and even gruesome


companion; yet in my gratitude for his healing I could not well
abandon him to the strangers around him, and was careful to dust
his room and attend to his needs each day, muffled in a heavy ulster
which I bought especially for the purpose. I likewise did much of his
shopping, and gasped in bafflement at some of the chemicals he
ordered from druggists and laboratory supply houses.

An increasing and unexplained atmosphere of panic seemed to rise


around his apartment. The whole house, as I have said, had a musty
odour; but the smell in his room was worse--and in spite of all the
spices and incense, and the pungent chemicals of the now
incessant baths which he insisted on taking unaided. I perceived
that it must be connected with his ailment, and shuddered when I
reflected on what that ailment might be. Mrs. Herrero crossed
herself when she looked at him, and gave him up unreservedly to
me; not even letting her son Esteban continue to run errands for
him. When I suggested other physicians, the sufferer would fly into
as much of a rage as he seemed to dare to entertain. He evidently
feared the physical effect of violent emotion, yet his will and driving
force waxed rather than waned, and he refused to be confined to his
bed. The lassitude of his earlier ill days gave place to a return of his
fiery purpose, so that he seemed about to hurl defiance at the death-
daemon even as that ancient enemy seized him. The pretence of
eating, always curiously like a formality with him, he virtually
abandoned; and mental power alone appeared to keep him from
total collapse.

He acquired a habit of writing long documents of some sort, which


he carefully sealed and filled with injunctions that I transmit them
after his death to certain persons whom he named -for the most part
lettered East Indians, but including a once celebrated French
physician now generally thought dead, and about whom the most
inconceivable things had been whispered. As it happened, I burned
all these papers undelivered and unopened. His aspect and voice
became utterly frightful, and his presence almost unbearable. One
September day an unexpected glimpse of him induced an epileptic
fit in a man who had come to repair his electric desk lamp; a fit for
which he prescribed effectively whilst keeping himself well out of
sight. That man, oddly enough, had been through the terrors of the
Great War without having incurred any fright so thorough.

Then, in the middle of October, the horror of horrors came with


stupefying suddenness. One night about eleven the pump of the
refrigerating machine broke down, so that within three hours the
process of ammonia cooling became impossible. Dr. Muñoz
summoned me by thumping on the floor, and I worked desperately
to repair the injury while my host cursed in a tone whose lifeless,
rattling hollowness surpassed description. My amateur efforts,
however, proved of no use; and when I had brought in a mechanic
from a neighbouring all-night garage, we learned that nothing could
be done till morning, when a new piston would have to be obtained.
The moribund hermit's rage and fear, swelling to grotesque
proportions, seemed likely to shatter what remained of his failing
physique, and once a spasm caused him to clap his hands to his
eyes and rush into the bathroom. He groped his way out with face
tightly bandaged, and I never saw his eyes again.

The frigidity of the apartment was now sensibly diminishing, and at


about 5 a.m. the doctor retired to the bathroom, commanding me to
keep him supplied with all the ice I could obtain at all-night drug
stores and cafeterias. As I would return from my sometimes
discouraging trips and lay my spoils before the closed bathroom
door, I could hear a restless splashing within, and a thick voice
croaking out the order for "More--more!" At length a warm day
broke, and the shops opened one by one. I asked Esteban either to
help with the ice-fetching whilst I obtained the pump piston, or to
order the piston while I continued with the ice; but instructed by his
mother, he absolutely refused.

Finally I hired a seedy-looking loafer whom I encountered on the


corner of Eighth Avenue to keep the patient supplied with ice from a
little shop where I introduced him, and applied myself diligently to
the task of finding a pump piston and engaging workmen competent
to install it. The task seemed interminable, and I raged almost as
violently as the hermit when I saw the hours slipping by in a
breathless, foodless round of vain telephoning, and a hectic quest
from place to place, hither and thither by subway and surface car.
About noon I encountered a suitable supply house far downtown,
and at approximately 1:30 p.m. arrived at my boarding-place with
the necessary paraphernalia and two sturdy and intelligent
mechanics. I had done all I could, and hoped I was in time.

Black terror, however, had preceded me. The house was in utter
turmoil, and above the chatter of awed voices I heard a man praying
in a deep basso. Fiendish things were in the air, and lodgers told
over the beads of their rosaries as they caught the odour from
beneath the doctor's closed door. The lounger I had hired, it seems,
had fled screaming and mad-eyed not long after his second delivery
of ice; perhaps as a result of excessive curiosity. He could not, of
course, have locked the door behind him; yet it was now fastened,
presumably from the inside. There was no sound within save a
nameless sort of slow, thick dripping.

Briefly consulting with Mrs. Herrero and the workmen despite a fear
that gnawed my inmost soul, I advised the breaking down of the
door; but the landlady found a way to turn the key from the outside
with some wire device. We had previously opened the doors of all
the other rooms on that hall, and flung all the windows to the very
top. Now, noses protected by handkerchiefs, we tremblingly invaded
the accursed south room which blazed with the warm sun of early
afternoon.

A kind of dark, slimy trail led from the open bathroom door to the hall
door, and thence to the desk, where a terrible little pool had
accumulated. Something was scrawled there in pencil in an awful,
blind hand on a piece of paper hideously smeared as though by the
very claws that traced the hurried last words. Then the trail led to the
couch and ended unutterably.

What was, or had been, on the couch I cannot and dare not say
here. But this is what I shiveringly puzzled out on the stickily
smeared paper before I drew a match and burned it to a crisp; what I
puzzled out in terror as the landlady and two mechanics rushed
frantically from that hellish place to babble their incoherent stories at
the nearest police station. The nauseous words seemed well-nigh
incredible in that yellow sunlight, with the clatter of cars and motor
trucks ascending clamorously from crowded Fourteenth Street, yet I
confess that I believed them then. Whether I believe them now I
honestly do not know. There are things about which it is better not to
speculate, and all that I can say is that I hate the smell of ammonia,
and grow faint at a draught of unusually cool air.

"The end," ran that noisome scrawl, "is here. No more ice -the man
looked and ran away. Warmer every minute, and the tissues can't
last. I fancy you know -what I said about the will and the nerves and
the preserved body after the organs ceased to work. It was good
theory, but couldn't keep up indefinitely. There was a gradual
deterioration I had not foreseen. Dr. Torres knew, but the shock
killed him. He couldn't stand what he had to do -he had to get me in
a strange, dark place when he minded my letter and nursed me
back. And the organs never would work again. It had to be done my
way -preservation -for you see I died that time eighteen years ago."
Dagon
by
H.P. Lovecraft

Dagon
I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight
I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the
drug which alone, makes life endurable, I can bear the torture no
longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid
street below. Do not think from my slavery to morphine that I am a
weakling or a degenerate. When you have read these hastily
scrawled pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is
that I must have forgetfulness or death.

It was in one of the most open and least frequented parts of the
broad Pacific that the packet of which I was supercargo fell a victim
to the German sea-raider. The great war was then at its very
beginning, and the ocean forces of the Hun had not completely sunk
to their later degradation; so that our vessel was made a legitimate
prize, whilst we of her crew were treated with all the fairness and
consideration due us as naval prisoners. So liberal, indeed, was the
discipline of our captors, that five days after we were taken I
managed to escape alone in a small boat with water and provisions
for a good length of time.

When I finally found myself adrift and free, I had but little idea of my
surroundings. Never a competent navigator, I could only guess
vaguely by the sun and stars that I was somewhat south of the
equator. Of the longitude I knew nothing, and no island or coastline
was in sight. The weather kept fair, and for uncounted days I drifted
aimlessly beneath the scorching sun; waiting either for some
passing ship, or to be cast on the shores of some habitable land. But
neither ship nor land appeared, and I began to despair in my
solitude upon the heaving vastness of unbroken blue.

The change happened whilst I slept. Its details I shall never know;
for my slumber, though troubled and dream-infested, was
continuous. When at last I awakened, it was to discover myself half
sucked into a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended
about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see, and in
which my boat lay grounded some distance away.

Though one might well imagine that my first sensation would be of


wonder at so prodigious and unexpected a transformation of
scenery, I was in reality more horrified than astonished; for there
was in the air and in the rotting soil a sinister quality which chilled
me to the very core. The region was putrid with the carcasses of
decaying fish, and of other less describable things which I saw
protruding from the nasty mud of the unending plain. Perhaps I
should not hope to convey in mere words the unutterable
hideousness that can dwell in absolute silence and barren
immensity. There was nothing within hearing, and nothing in sight
save a vast reach of black slime; yet the very completeness of the
stillness and the homogeneity of the landscape oppressed me with a
nauseating fear.

The sun was blazing down from a sky which seemed to me almost
black in its cloudless cruelty; as though reflecting the inky marsh
beneath my feet. As I crawled into the stranded boat I realized that
only one theory could explain my position. Through some
unprecedented volcanic upheaval, a portion of the ocean floor must
have been thrown to the surface, exposing regions which for
innumerable millions of years had lain hidden under unfathomable
watery depths.

So great was the extent of the new land which had risen beneath
me, that I could not detect the faintest noise of the surging ocean,
strain my ears as I might.

Nor were there any sea-fowl to prey upon the dead things.

For several hours I sat thinking or brooding in the boat, which lay
upon its side and afforded a slight shade as the sun moved across
the heavens. As the day progressed, the ground lost some of its
stickiness, and seemed likely to dry sufficiently for travelling
purposes in a short time. That night I slept but little, and the next day
I made for myself a pack containing food and water, preparatory to
an overland journey in search of the vanished sea and possible
rescue.

On the third morning I found the soil dry enough to walk upon with
ease. The odour of the fish was maddening; but I was too much
concerned with graver things to mind so slight an evil, and set out
boldly for an unknown goal. All day I forged steadily westward,
guided by a far-away hummock which rose higher than any other
elevation on the rolling desert. That night I encamped, and on the
following day still travelled toward the hummock, though that object
seemed scarcely nearer than when I had first espied it. By the fourth
evening I attained the base of the mound, which turned out to be
much higher than it had appeared from a distance, an intervening
valley setting it out in sharper relief from the general surface. Too
weary to ascend, I slept in the shadow of the hill.

I know not why my dreams were so wild that night; but ere the
waning and fantastically gibbous moon had risen far above the
eastern plain, I was awake in a cold perspiration, determined to
sleep no more. Such visions as I had experienced were too much for
me to endure again. And in the glow of the moon I saw how unwise I
had been to travel by day. Without the glare of the parching sun, my
journey would have cost me less energy; indeed, I now felt quite
able to perform the ascent which had deterred me at sunset. Picking
up my pack, I started for the crest of the eminence.

I have said that the unbroken monotony of the rolling plain was a
source of vague horror to me; but I think my horror was greater
when I gained the summit of the mound and looked down the other
side into an immeasurable pit or canyon, whose black recesses the
moon had not yet soared high enough to illumine. I felt myself on the
edge of the world, peering over the rim into a fathomless chaos of
eternal night. Through my terror ran curious reminiscences of
Paradise Lost, and Satan's hideous climb through the unfashioned
realms of darkness.

As the moon climbed higher in the sky, I began to see that the
slopes of the valley were not quite so perpendicular as I had
imagined. Ledges and outcroppings of rock afforded fairly easy
footholds for a descent, whilst after a drop of a few hundred feet, the
declivity became very gradual. Urged on by an impulse which I
cannot definitely analyse, I scrambled with difficulty down the rocks
and stood on the gentler slope beneath, gazing into the Stygian
deeps where no light had yet penetrated.
All at once my attention was captured by a vast and singular object
on the opposite slope, which rose steeply about a hundred yards
ahead of me; an object that gleamed whitely in the newly bestowed
rays of the ascending moon. That it was merely a gigantic piece of
stone, I soon assured myself; but I was conscious of a distinct
impression that its contour and position were not altogether the work
of Nature. A closer scrutiny filled me with sensations I cannot
express; for despite its enormous magnitude, and its position in an
abyss which had yawned at the bottom of the sea since the world
was young, I perceived beyond a doubt that the strange object was
a well-shaped monolith whose massive bulk had known the
workmanship and perhaps the worship of living and thinking
creatures.

Dazed and frightened, yet not without a certain thrill of the scientist's
or archaeologist's delight, I examined my surroundings more closely.
The moon, now near the zenith, shone weirdly and vividly above the
towering steeps that hemmed in the chasm, and revealed the fact
that a far-flung body of water flowed at the bottom, winding out of
sight in both directions, and almost lapping my feet as I stood on the
slope. Across the chasm, the wavelets washed the base of the
Cyclopean monolith, on whose surface I could now trace both
inscriptions and crude sculptures. The writing was in a system of
hieroglyphics unknown to me, and unlike anything I had ever seen in
books, consisting for the most part of conventionalised aquatic
symbols such as fishes, eels, octopi, crustaceans, molluscs, whales
and the like. Several characters obviously represented marine things
which are unknown to the modern world, but whose decomposing
forms I had observed on the ocean-risen plain.

It was the pictorial carving, however, that did most to hold me


spellbound.

Plainly visible across the intervening water on account of their


enormous size was an array of bas-reliefs whose subjects would
have excited the envy of a Dore. I think that these things were
supposed to depict men -- at least, a certain sort of men; though the
creatures were shown disporting like fishes in the waters of some
marine grotto, or paying homage at some monolithic shrine which
appeared to be under the waves as well. Of their faces and forms I
dare not speak in detail, for the mere remembrance makes me grow
faint. Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer, they
were damnably human in general outline despite webbed hands and
feet, shockingly wide and flabby lips, glassy, bulging eyes, and other
features less pleasant to recall. Curiously enough, they seemed to
have been chiselled badly out of proportion with their scenic
background; for one of the creatures was shown in the act of killing
a whale represented as but little larger than himself. I remarked, as I
say, their grotesqueness and strange size; but in a moment decided
that they were merely the imaginary gods of some primitive fishing
or seafaring tribe; some tribe whose last descendant had perished
eras before the first ancestor of the Piltdown or Neanderthal Man
was born.

Awestruck at this unexpected glimpse into a past beyond the


conception of the most daring anthropologist, I stood musing whilst
the moon cast queer reflections on the silent channel before me.
Then suddenly I saw it. With only a slight churning to mark its rise to
the surface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast,
Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous
monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung its
gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave
vent to certain measured sounds. I think I went mad then.

Of my frantic ascent of the slope and cliff, and of my delirious


journey back to the stranded boat, I remember little. I believe I sang
a great deal, and laughed oddly when I was unable to sing. I have
indistinct recollections of a great storm some time after I reached the
boat; at any rate, I knew that I heard peals of thunder and other
tones which Nature utters only in her wildest moods.

When I came out of the shadows I was in a San Francisco hospital;


brought thither by the captain of the American ship which had picked
up my boat in mid-ocean. In my delirium I had said much, but found
that my words had been given scant attention. Of any land upheaval
in the Pacific, my rescuers knew nothing; nor did I deem it
necessary to insist upon a thing which I knew they could not believe.
Once I sought out a celebrated ethnologist, and amused him with
peculiar questions regarding the ancient Philistine legend of Dagon,
the Fish-God; but soon perceiving that he was hopelessly
conventional, I did not press my inquiries.
It is at night, especially when the moon is gibbous and waning, that I
see the thing. I tried morphine; but the drug has given only transient
surcease, and has drawn me into its clutches as a hopeless slave.
So now I am to end it all, having written a full account for the
information or the contemptuous amusement of my fellow-men.
Often I ask myself if it could not all have been a pure phantasm -- a
mere freak of fever as I lay sun-stricken and raving in the open boat
after my escape from the German man-of-war. This I ask myself, but
ever does there come before me a hideously vivid vision in reply. I
cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless
things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on
its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their
own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of water-soaked
granite. I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to
drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-
exhausted mankind -- of a day when the land shall sink, and the
dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.

The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense


slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that
hand! The window! The window!
Dreams in the WitchHouse
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written January through Febuary of 1932

Published July in 1933


in
Weird Tales

Dreams in the WitchHouse


Whether the dreams brought on the fever or the fever brought on the
dreams Walter Gilman did not know. Behind everything crouched
the brooding, festering horror of the ancient town, and of the mouldy,
unhallowed garret gable where he wrote and studied and wrestled
with flgures and formulae when he was not tossing on the meagre
iron bed. His ears were growing sensitive to a preternatural and
intolerable degree, and he had long ago stopped the cheap mantel
clock whose ticking had come to seem like a thunder of artillery. At
night the subtle stirring of the black city outside, the sinister
scurrying of rats in the wormy partitions, and the creaking of hidden
timbers in the centuried house, were enough to give him a sense of
strident pandemonium. The darkness always teemed with
unexplained sound - and yet he sometimes shook with fear lest the
noises he heard should subside and allow him to hear certain other
fainter noises which he suspected were lurking behind them.

He was in the changeless, legend-haunted city of Arkham, with its


clustering gambrel roofs that sway and sag over attics where
witches hid from the King's men in the dark, olden years of the
Province. Nor was any spot in that city more steeped in macabre
memory than the gable room which harboured him - for it was this
house and this room which had likewise harboured old Keziah
Mason, whose flight from Salem Gaol at the last no one was ever
able to explain. That was in 1692 - the gaoler had gone mad and
babbled of a small white-fanged furry thing which scuttled out of
Keziah's cell, and not even Cotton Mather could explain the curves
and angles smeared on the grey stone walls with some red, sticky
fluid.

Possibly Gilman ought not to have studied so hard. Non-Euclidean


calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain, and
when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange
background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of
the Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one
can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension. Gilman
came from Haverhill, but it was only after he had entered college in
Arkham that he began to connect his mathematics with the fantastic
legends of elder magic. Something in the air of the hoary town
worked obscurely on his imagination. The professors at Miskatonic
had urged him to slacken up, and had voluntarily cut down his
course at several points. Moreover, they had stopped him from
consulting the dubious old books on forbidden secrets that were
kept under lock and key in a vault at the university library. But all
these precautions came late in the day, so that Gilman had some
terrible hints from the dreaded Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred, the
fragmentary Book of Eibon, and the suppressed Unaussprechlicken
Kulten of von Junzt to correlate with his abstract formulae on the
properties of space and the linkage of dimensions known and
unknown.

He knew his room was in the old Witch-House - that, indeed, was
why he had taken it. There was much in the Essex County records
about Keziah Mason's trial, and what she had admitted under
pressure to the Court of Oyer and Terminer had fascinated Gilman
beyond all reason. She had told Judge Hathorne of lines and curves
that could be made to point out directions leading through the walls
of space to other spaces beyond, and had implied that such lines
and curves were frequently used at certain midnight meetings in the
dark valley of the white stone beyond Meadow Hill and on the
unpeopled island in the river. She had spoken also of the Black
Man, of her oath, and of her new secret name of Nahab. Then she
had drawn those devices on the walls of her cell and vanished.

Gilman believed strange things about Keziah, and had felt a queer
thrill on learning that her dwelling was still standing after more than
two hundred and thirty-five years. When he heard the hushed
Arkham whispers about Keziah's persistent presence in the old
house and the narrow streets, about the irregular human tooth-
marks left on certain sleepers in that and other houses, about the
childish cries heard near May-Eve, and Hallowmass, about the
stench often noted in the old house's attic just after those dreaded
seasons, and about the small, furry, sharp-toothed thing which
haunted the mouldering structure and the town and nuzzled people
curiously in the black hours before dawn, he resolved to live in the
place at any cost. A room was easy to secure, for the house was
unpopular, hard to rent, and long given over to cheap lodgings.
Gilman could not have told what he expected to find there, but he
knew he wanted to be in the building where some circumstance had
more or less suddenly given a mediocre old woman of the
Seventeenth Century an insight into mathematical depths perhaps
beyond the utmost modern delvings of Planck, Heisenberg, Einstein,
and de Sitter.

He studied the timber and plaster walls for traces of cryptic designs
at every accessible spot where the paper had peeled, and within a
week managed to get the eastern attic room where Keziah was held
to have practised her spells. It had been vacant from the first - for no
one had ever been willing to stay there long - but the Polish landlord
had grown wary about renting it. Yet nothing whatever happened to
Gilman till about the time of the fever. No ghostly Keziah flitted
through the sombre halls and chambers, no small furry thing crept
into his dismal eyrie to nuzzle him, and no record of the witch's
incantations rewarded his constant search. Sometimes he would
take walks through shadowy tangles of unpaved musty-smelling
lanes where eldritch brown houses of unknown age leaned and
tottered and leered mockingly through narrow, small-paned
windows. Here he knew strange things had happened once, and
there was a faint suggestion behind the surface that everything of
that monstrous past might not - at least in the darkest, narrowest,
and most intricately crooked alleys - have utterly perished. He also
rowed out twice to the ill-regarded island in the river, and made a
sketch of the singular angles described by the moss-grown rows of
grey standing stones whose origin was so obscure and immemorial.

Gilman's room was of good size but queerly irregular shape; the
north wall slating perceptibly inward from the outer to the inner end,
while the low ceiling slanted gently downward in the same direction.
Aside from an obvious rat-hole and the signs of other stopped-up
ones, there was no access - nor any appearance of a former avenue
of access - to the space which must have existed between the
slanting wall and the straight outer wall on the house's north side,
though a view from the exterior showed where a window had heen
boarded up at a very remote date. The loft above the ceiling - which
must have had a slanting floor - was likewise inaccessible. When
Gilman climbed up a ladder to the cob-webbed level loft above the
rest of the attic he found vestiges of a bygone aperture tightly and
heavily covered with ancient planking and secured by the stout
wooden pegs common in Colonial carpentry. No amount of
persuasion, however, could induce the stolid landlord to let him
investigate either of these two closed spaces.

As time wore along, his absorption in the irregular wall and ceiling of
his room increased; for he began to read into the odd angles a
mathematical significance which seemed to offer vague clues
regarding their pnrpose. Old Keziah, he reflected, might have had
excellent reasons for living in a room with peculiar angles; for was it
not through certain angles that she claimed to have gone outside the
boundaries of the world of space we know? His interest gradually
veered away from the unplumbed voids beyond the slanting
surfaces, since it now appeared that the purpose of those surfaces
concerned the side he was on.

The touch of brain-fever and the dreams began early in February.


For some time, apparently, the curious angles of Gilman's room had
been having a strange, almost hypnotic effect on him; and as the
bleak winter advanced he had found himself staring more and more
intently at the corner where the down-slanting ceiling met the
inward-slanting wall. About this period his inability to concentrate on
his formal studies worried him considerably, his apprehensions
about the mid-year examinations being very acute. But the
exaggerated sense of bearing was scarcely less annoying. Life had
become an insistent and almost unendurable cacophony, and there
was that constant, terrifying impression of other sounds - perhaps
from regions beyond life - trembling on the very brink of audibility.
So far as concrete noises went, the rats in the ancient partitions
were the worst. Sometimes their scratching seemed not only furtive
but deliberate. When it came from beyond the slanting north wall it
was mixed with a sort of dry rattling; and when it came from the
century-closed loft above the slanting ceiling Gilman always braced
himself as if expecting some horror which only bided its time before
descending to engulf him utterly.

The dreams were wholly beyond the pale of sanity, and Gilman fell
that they must be a result, jointly, of his studies in mathematics and
in folklore. He had been thinking too much about the vague regions
which his formulae told him must lie beyond the three dimensions
we know, and about the possibility that old Keziah Mason - guided
by some influence past all conjecture - had actually found the gate
to those regions. The yellowed country records containing her
testimony and that of her accusers were so damnably suggestive of
things beyond human experience - and the descriptions of the
darting little furry object which served as her familiar were so
painfully realistic despite their incredible details.

That object - no larger than a good-sized rat and quaintly called by


the townspeople "Brown Jenkins - seemed to have been the fruit of
a remarkable case of sympathetic herd-delusion, for in 1692 no less
than eleven persons had testified to glimpsing it. There were recent
rumours, too, with a baffling and disconcerting amount of
agreement. Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat,
but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human while its
paws were like tiny human hands. It took messages betwixt old
Keziah and the devil, and was nursed on the witch's blood, which it
sucked like a vampire. Its voice was a kind of loathsome titter, and it
could speak all languages. Of all the bizarre monstrosities in
Gilman's dreams, nothing filled him with greater panic and nausea
than this blasphemous and diminutive hybrid, whose image flitted
across his vision in a form a thousandfold more hateful than
anything his waking mind had deduced from the ancient records and
the modern whispers.

Gilman's dreams consisted largely in plunges through limitless


abysses of inexplicably coloured twilight and baffingly disordered
sound; abysses whose material and gravitational properties, and
whose relation to his own entity, he could not even begin to explain.
He did not walk or climb, fly or swim, crawl or wriggle; yet always
experienced a mode of motion partly voluntary and partly
involuntary. Of his own condition he could not well judge, for sight of
his arms, legs, and torso seemed always cut off by some odd
disarrangement of perspective; but he felt that his physical
organization and faculties were somehow marvellously transmuted
and obliquely projected - though not without a certain grotesque
relationship to his normal proportions and properties.

The abysses were by no means vacant, being crowded with


indescribably angled masses of alien-hued substance, some of
which appeared to be organic while others seemed inorganic. A few
of the organic objects tended to awake vague memories in the back
of his mind, though he could form no conscious idea of what they
mockingly resembled or suggested. In the later dreams he began to
distinguish separate categories into which the organic objects
appeared to be divided, and which seemed to involve in each case a
radically different species of conduct-pattern and basic motivation.
Of these categories one seemed to him to include objects slightly
less illogical and irrelevant in their motions than the members of the
other categories.

All the objects - organic and inorganic alike - were totally beyond
description or even comprehension. Gilman sometimes compared
the inorganic matter to prisms, labyrinths, clusters of cubes and
planes, and Cyclopean buildings; and the organic things struck him
variously as groups of bubbles, octopi, centipedes, living Hindoo
idols, and intricate arabesques roused into a kind of ophidian
animation. Everything he saw was unspeakably menacing and
horrible; and whenever one of the organic entities appeared by its
motions to be noticing him, he felt a stark, hideous fright which
generally jolted him awake. Of how the organic entities moved, he
could tell no more than of how he moved himself. In time he
observed a further mystery - the tendency of certain entities to
appear suddenly out of empty space, or to disappear totally with
equal suddenness. The shrieking, roaring confusion of sound which
permeated the abysses was past all analysis as to pitch, timbre or
rhythm; but seemed to be synchronous with vague visual changes in
all the indefinite objects, organic and inorganic alike. Gilman had a
constant sense of dread that it might rise to some unbearable
degree of intensity during one or another of its obscure, relentlessly
inevitable fluctuations.

But it was not in these vortices of complete alienage that he saw


Brown Jenkin. That shocking little horror was reserved for certain
lighter, sharper dreams which assailed him just before he dropped
into the fullest depths of sleep. He would be lying in the dark fighting
to keep awake when a faint lambent glow would seem to shimmer
around the centuried room, showing in a violet mist the convergence
of angled planes which had seized his brain so insidiously. The
horror would appear to pop out of the rat-hole in the corner and
patter toward him over the sagging, wide-planked floor with evil
expectancy in its tiny, bearded human face; but mercifully, this
dream always melted away before the object got close enough to
nuzzle him. It had hellishly long, sharp, canine teeth; Gilman tried to
stop up the rat-hole every day, but each night the real tenants of the
partitions would gnaw away the obstruction, whatever it might be.
Once he had the landlord nail a tin over it, but the next night the rats
gnawed a fresh hole, in making which they pushed or dragged out
into the room a curious little fragment of bone.

Gilman did not report his fever to the doctor, for he knew he could
not pass the examinations if ordered to the college infirmary when
every moment was needed for cramming. As it was, he failed in
Calculus D and Advanced General Psychology, though not without
hope of making up lost ground before the end of the term.

It was in March when the fresh element entered his lighter


preliminary dreaming, and the nightmare shape of Brown Jenkin
began to be companioned by the nebulous blur which grew more
and more to resemble a bent old woman. This addition disturbed
him more than he could account for, but finally he decided that it
was like an ancient crone whom he had twice actually encountered
in the dark tangle of lanes near the abandoned wharves. On those
occasions the evil, sardonic, and seemingly unmotivated stare of the
beldame had set him almost shivering - especially the first time
when an overgrown rat darting across the shadowed mouth of a
neighbouring alley had made him think irrationally of Brown Jenkin.
Now, he reflected, those nervous fears were being mirrored in his
disordered dreams. That the influence of the old house was
unwholesome he could not deny, but traces of his early morbid
interest still held him there. He argued that the fever alone was
responsible for his nightly fantasies, and that when the touch abated
he would be free from the monstrous visions. Those visions,
however, were of absorbing vividness and convincingness, and
whenever he awaked he retained a vague sense of having
undergone much more than he remembered. He was hideously sure
that in unrecalled dreams he had talked with both Brown Jenkin and
the old woman, and that they had been urging him to go somewhere
with them and to meet a third being of greater potency.

Toward the end of March he began to pick up in his mathematics,


though the other stndies bothered him increasingly. He was getting
an intuitive knack for solving Riemannian equations, and astonished
Professor Upham by his comprehension of fourth-dimensional and
other problems which had floored all the rest of the class. One
afternoon there was a discussion of possible freakish curvatures in
space, and of theoretical points of approach or even contact
between our part of the cosmos and various other regions as distant
as the farthest stars or the transgalactic gulfs themselves - or even
as fabulously remote as the tentatively conceivable cosmic units
beyond the whole Einsteinian space-time continuum. Gilman's
handling of this theme filled everyone with admiration, even though
some of his hypothetical illustrations caused an increase in the
always plentiful gossip about his nervous and solitary eccentricity.
What made the students shake their heads was his sober theory
that a man might - given mathematical knowledge admittedly
beyond all likelihood of human acquirement - step deliberately from
the earth to any other celestial body which might lie at one of an
infinity of specifc points in the cosmic pattern.

Such a step, he said, would require only two stages; first, a passage
out of the three-dimensional sphere we know, and second, a
passage back to the three-dimensional sphere at another point,
perhaps one of infinite remoteness. That this could be accomplished
without loss of life was in many cases conceivable. Any being from
any part of three-dimensional space could probably survive in the
fourth dimension; and its survival of the second stage would depend
upon what alien part of three-dimensional space it might select for
its re-entry. Denizens of some planets might be able to live on
certain others - even planets belonging to other galaxies, or to
similar dimensional phases of other space-time continua - though of
course there must be vast numbers of mutually uninhabitable even
though mathematically juxtaposed bodies or zones of space.

It was also possible that the inhabitants of a given dimensional


realm could survive entry to many unknown and incomprehensible
realms of additional or indefinitely multiplied dimensions - be they
within or outside the given space-time continuum - and that the
converse would be likewise true. This was a matter for speculation,
though one could be fairly certain that the type of mutation involved
in a passage from any given dimensional plane to the next higher
one would not be destructive of biological integrity as we understand
it. Gilman could not be very clear about his reasons for this last
assumption, but his haziness here was more than overbalanced by
his clearness on other complex points. Professor Upham especially
liked his demonstration of the kinship of higher mathematics to
certain phases of magical lore transmitted down the ages from an
ineffable antiquity - human or pre-human - whose knowledge of the
cosmos and its laws was greater than ours.

Around 1 April Gilman worried cosiderably because his slow fever


did not abate. He was also troubled by what some of his fellow
lodgers said about his sleep-walking. It seened that he was often
absent from his bed and that the creaking of his floor at certain
hours of the night was remarked by the man in the room below. This
fellow also spoke of hearing the tread of shod feet in the night; but
Gilman was sure he must have been mistaken in this, since shoes
as well as other apparel were always precisely in place in the
morning. One could develop all sorts of aural delusions in this
morbid old house - for did not Gilman himself, even in daylight, now
feel certain that noises other than rat-scratching came from the
black voids beyond the slanting wall and above the slanting ceiling?
His pathologically sensitive ears began to listen for faint footfalls in
the immemorially sealed loft overhead, and sometimes the illusion of
such things was agonizingly realistic.

However, he knew that he had actually become a somnambulist; for


twice at night his room had been found vacant, though with all his
clothing in place. Of this he had been assured by Frank Elwood, the
one fellow-student whose poverty forced him to room in this squalid
and unpopular house. Elwood had been studying in the small hours
and had come up for help on a differential equation, only to find
Gilman absent. It had been rather presumptuous of him to open the
unlocked door after knocking had failed to rouse a response, but he
had needed the help very badly and thought that his host would not
mind a gentle prodding awake. On neither occasion, though, had
Gilman been there; and when told of the matter he wondered where
he could have been wandering, barefoot and with only his night
clothes on. He resolved to investigate the matter if reports of his
sleep-walking continued, and thought of sprinkling flour on the floor
of the corridor to see where his footsteps might lead. The door was
the only conceivable egress, for there was no possible foothold
outside the narrow window.

As April advanced, Gilman's fever-sharpened ears were disturbed


by the whining prayers of a superstitious loom-fixer named Joe
Mazurewicz who had a room on the ground floor. Mazurewicz had
told long, rambling stories about the ghost of old Keziah and the
furry sharp-fanged, nuzzling thing, and had said he was so badly
haunted at times that only his silver crucifix - given him for the
purpose by Father Iwanicki of St. Stanislaus' Church - could bring
him relief. Now he was praying because the Witches' Sabbath was
drawing near. May Eve was Walpurgis Night, when hell's blackest
evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for
nameless rites and deeds. It was always a very bad lime in Arkham,
even though the fine folks up in Miskatonic Avenue and High and
Saltonstall Streets pretended to know nothing about it. There would
be bad doings, and a child or two would probably be missing. Joe
knew about such things, for his grandmother in the old country had
heard tales from her grandmother. It was wise to pray and count
one's beads at this season. For three months Keziah and Brown
Jenkin had not been near Joe's room, nor near Paul Choynski's
room, nor anywhere else - and it meant no good when they held off
like that. They must be up to something.

Gilman dropped in at the doctor's office on the sixteenth of the


month, and was surprised to find his temperature was not as high as
he had feared. The physician questioned him sharply, and advised
him to see a nerve specialist. On reflection, he was glad he had not
consulted the still more inquisitive college doctor. Old Waldron, who
had curtailed his activities before, would have made him take a rest -
an impossible thing now that he was so close to great results in his
equations. He was certainly near the boundary between the known
universe and the fourth dimension, and who could say how much
farther he might go?

But even as these thoughts came to him he wondered at the source


of his strange confidence. Did all of this perilous sense of
immininence come from the formulae on the sheets he covered day
by day? The soft, stealthy, imaginary footsteps in the sealed loft
above were unnerving. And now, too, there was a growing feeling
that somebody was constantly persuading him to do something
terrible which he could not do. How about the somnambulism?
Where did he go sometimes in the night? And what was that faint
suggestion of sound which once in a while seemed to trickle through
the confusion of identifiable sounds even in broad daylight and full
wakefulness? Its rhythm did not correspond to anything on earth,
unless perhaps to the cadence of one or two unmentionable Sabbat-
chants, and sometimes he feared it corresponded to certain
attributes of the vague shrieking or roaring in those wholly alien
abysses of dream.

The dreams were meanwhile getting to be atrocious. In the lighter


preliminary phase the evil old woman was now of fiendish
distinctness, and Gilman knew she was the one who had frightened
him in the slums. Her bent back, long nose, and shrivelled chin were
unmistakable, and her shapeless brown garments were like those
he remembered. The expression on her face was one of hideous
malevolence and exultation, and when he awaked he could recall a
croaking voice that persuaded and threatened. He must meet the
Black Man and go with them all to the throne of Azathoth at the
centre of ultimate chaos. That was what she said. He must sign the
book of Azathoth in his own blood and take a new secret name now
that his independent delvings had gone so far. What kept him from
going with her and Brown Jenkin and the other to the throne of
Chaos where the thin flutes pipe mindlessly was the fact that he had
seen the name "Azathoth" in the Necronomicon, and knew it stood
for a primal evil too horrible for description.

The old woman always appeared out of thin air near the corner
where the downward slant met the inward slant. She seemed to
crystallize at a point closer to the ceiling than to the floor, and every
night she was a little nearer and more distinct before the dream
shifted. Brown Jenkin, too was always a little nearer at the last, and
its yellowish-white fangs glistened shockingly in that unearthly violet
phosphorescence. Its shrill loathsome tittering struck more and more
into Gilman's head, and he could remember in the morning how it
had pronounced the words "Azathoth" and "Nyarlathotep".

In the deeper dreams everything was likewise more distinct, and


Gilman felt that the twilight abysses around him were those of the
fourth dimension. Those organic entities whose motions seemed
least flagrantly irrelevant and unmotivated were probably projections
of life-forms from our own planet, including human beings. What the
others were in their own dimensional sphere or spheres he dared
not try to think. Two of the less irrelevantly moving things - a rather
large congeries of iridescent, prolately spheroidal bubbles and a
very much smaller polyhedron of unknown colours and rapidly
shifting surface angles - seemed to take notice of him and follow him
about or float ahead as he changed position among the titan prisms,
labyrinths, cube-and-plane clusters and quasi-buildings; and all the
while the vague shrieking and roaring waxed louder and louder, as if
approaching some monstrous climax of utterly unendurable
intensity.

During the night of 19-20 April the new development occurred.


Gilman was half involuntarily moving about in the twilight abysses
with the bubble-mass and the small polyhedron floating ahead when
he noticed the peculiarly regular angles formed by the edges of
some gigantic neighbouring prism-clusters. In another second he
was out of the abyss and standing tremulously on a rocky hillside
bathed in intense, diffused green light. He was barefooted and in his
nightclothes. and when he tried to walk discovered that he could
scarcely lift his feet. A swirling vapour hid everything but the
immediate sloping terrain from sight, and he shrank from the thought
of the sounds, that might surge out of that vapour.

Then he saw the two shapes laboriously crawling toward him - the
old woman and the little furry thing. The crone strained up to her
knees and managed to cross her arms in a singular fashion, while
Brown Jenkin pointed in a certain direction with a horribly anthropoid
forepaw which it raised with evident difficulty. Spurred by an impulse
he did not originate, Gilman dragged himself forward along a course
determined by the angle of the old woman's arms and the direction
of the small monstrosity's paw, and before he had shuffled three
steps he was back in the twilight abysses. Geometrical shapes
seethed around him, and he fell dizzily and interminably. At last he
woke in his bed in the crazily angled garret of the eldritch old house.

He was good for nothing that morning, and stayed away from all his
classes. Some unknown attraction was pulling his eyes in a
seemingly irrelevant direction, for he could not help staring at a
certain vacant spot on the floor. As the day advanced, the focus of
his unseeing eyes changed position, and by noon he had conquered
the impulse to stare at vacancy. About two o'clock he went out for
lunch and as he threaded the narrow lanes of the city he found
himself turning always to the southeast. Only an effort halted him at
a cafeteria in Church Street, and after the meal he felt the unknown
pull still more strongly.

He would have to consult a nerve specialist after all - perhaps there


was a connection with his somnambulism - but meanwhile he might
at least try to break the morbid spell himself. Undoubtedly he could
still manage to walk away from the pull, so with great resolution he
headed against it and dragged himself deliberately north along
Garrison Street. By the time he had reached the bridge over the
Miskatonic he was in a cold perspiration, and he clutched at the iron
railing as he gazed upstream at the ill-regarded island whose regular
lines of ancient standing stones brooded sullenly in the afternoon
sunlight.

Then he gave a start. For there was a clearly visible living figure on
that desolate island, and a second glance told him it was certainly
the strange old woman whose sinister aspect had worked itself so
disastrously into his dreams. The tall grass near her was moving,
too, as if some other living thing were crawling close to the ground.
When the old woman began to turn toward him he fled precipitately
off the bridge and into the shelter of the town's labyrinthine
waterfront alleys. Distant though the island was, he felt that a
monstrous and invincible evil could flow from the sardonic stare of
that bent, ancient figure in brown.

The southeastwards pull still held, and only with tremendous


resolution could Gilman drag himself into the old house and up the
rickety stairs. For hours he sat silent and aimless, with his eyes
shifting gradually westward. About six o'clock his sharpened ears
caught the whining prayers of Joe Mazurewicz two floors below, and
in desperation he seized his hat and walked out into the sunset-
golden streets, letting the now directly southward pull carry him
where it might. An hour later darkness found him in the open fields
beyond Hangman's Brook, with the glimmering spring stars shining
ahead. The urge to walk was gradually changing to an urge to leap
mystically into space, and suddenly he realized just where the
source of the pull lay.

It was in the sky. A definite point among the stars had a claim on
him and was calling him. Apparently it was a point somewhere
between Hydra and Argo Navis, and he knew that he had been
urged toward it ever since he had awaked soon after dawn. In the
morning it had been underfoot, and now it was roughly south but
stealing toward the west. What was the meaning of this new thing?
Was he going mad? How long would it last? Again mustering his
resolution, Gilman turned and dragged himself back to the sinister
old house.

Mazurewicz was waiting for him at the door, and seemed both
anxious and reluctant to whisper some fresh bit of superstition. It
was about the witch-light. Joe had been out celebrating the night
before - and it was Patriots' Day in Massachusetts - and had come
home after midnight. Looking up at the house from outside, he had
thought at first that Gilman's window was dark, but then he had seen
the faint violet glow within. He wanted to warn the gentleman about
that glow, for everybody in Arkham knew it was Keziah's witch-light
which played near Brown Jenkin and the ghost of the old crone
herself. He had not mentioned this before, but now he must tell
about it because it meant that Keziah and her long-toothed familiar
were haunting the young gentleman. Sometimes he and Paul
Choynski and Landlord Dombrowski thought they saw that light
seeping out of cracks in the sealed loft above the young gentleman's
room, but they had all agreed not to talk about that. However, it
would be better for the gentleman to take another room and get a
crucifix from some good priest like Father Iwanicki.

As the man rambled on, Gilman felt a nameless panic clutch at his
throat. He knew that Joe must have been half drunk when he came
home the night before; yet the mention of a violet light in the garret
window was of frightful import. It was a lambent glow of this sort
which always played about the old woman and the small furry thing
in those lighter, sharper dreams which prefaced his plunge into
unknown abysses, and the thought that a wakeful second person
could see the dream-luminance was utterly beyond sane harborage.
Yet where had the fellow got such an odd notion? Had he himself
talked as well as walked around the house in his sleep? No, Joe
said, he had not - but he must check up on this. Perhaps Frank
Elwood could tell him something, though he hated to ask.

Fever - wild dreams - somnambulism - illusions of sounds - a pull


toward a point in the sky - and now a suspicion of insane sleep-
talking! He must stop studying, see a nerve specialist, and take
himself in hand. When he climbed to the second storey he paused at
Elwood's door but saw that the other youth was out. Reluctantly he
continued up to his garret room and sat down in the dark. His gaze
was still pulled to the southward, but he also found himself listening
intently for some sound in the closed loft above, and half imagining
that an evil violet light seeped down through an infinitesimal crack in
the low, slanting ceiling.

That night as Gilman slept, the violet light broke upon him with
heightened intensity, and the old witch and small furry thing, getting
closer than ever before, mocked him with inhuman squeals and
devilish gestures. He was glad to sink into the vaguely roaring
twilight abysses, though the pursuit of that iridescent bubble-
congeries and that kaleidoscopic little polyhedron was menacing
and irritating. Then came the shift as vast converging planes of a
slippery-looking substance loomed above and below him - a shift
which ended in a flash of delirium and a blaze of unknown, alien
light in which yellow, carmine, and indigo were madly and
inextricably blended.

He was half lying on a high, fantastically balustraded terrace above


a boundless jungle of outlandish, incredible peaks, balanced planes,
domes, minarets, horizontal disks poised on pinnacles, and
numberless forms of still greater wildness - some of stone and some
of metal - which glittered gorgeously in the mixed, almost blistering
glare from a poly-chromatic sky. Looking upward he saw three
stupendous disks of flame, each of a different hue, and at a different
height above an infinitely distant curving horizon of low mountains.
Behind him tiers of higher terraces towered aloft as far as he could
see. The city below stretched away to the limits of vision, and he
hoped that no sound would well up from it.

The pavement from which he easily raised himself was a veined


polished stone beyond his power to identify, and the tiles were cut in
bizarre-angled shapes which struck himm as less asymmetrical than
based on some unearthly symmetry whose laws he could not
comprehend. The balustrade was chest-high, delicate, and
fantastically wrought, while along the rail were ranged at short
intervals little figures of grotesque design and exquisite
workmanship. They, like the whole balustrade, seemed to be made
of some sort of shining metal whose colour could not be guessed in
the chaos of mixed effulgences, and their nature utterly defied
conjecture. They represented some ridged barrel-shaped objects
with thin horizontal arms radiating spoke-like from a central ring and
with vertical knobs or bulbs projecting from the head and base of the
barrel. Each of these knobs was the hub of a system of five long,
flat, triangularly tapering arms arranged around it like the arms of a
starfish - nearly horizontal, but curving slightly away from the central
barrel. The base of the bottom knob was fused to the long railing
with so delicate a point of contact that several figures had been
broken off and were missing. The figures were about four and a half
inches in height, while the spiky arms gave them a maximum
diameter of about two and a half inches.

When Gilman stood up, the tiles felt hot to his bare feet. He was
wholly alone, and his first act was to walk to the balustrade and look
dizzily down at the endless, Cyclopean city almost two thousand feet
below. As he listened he thought a rhythmic confusion of faint
musical pipings covering a wide tonal range welled up from the
narrow streets beneath, and he wished he might discern the
denizens of the place. The sight turned him giddy after a while, so
that he would have fallen to the pavement had he not clutched
instinctively at the lustrous balustrade. His right hand fell on one of
the projecting figures, the touch seeming to steady him slightly. It
was too much, however, for the exotic delicacy of the metal-work,
and the spiky figure snapped off under his grasp. Still half dazed, he
continued to clutch it as his other hand seized a vacant space on the
smooth railing.

But now his over-sensitive ears caught something behind him, and
he looked back across the level terrace. Approaching him softly
though without apparent furtiveness were five figures, two of which
were the sinister old woman and the fanged, furry little animal. The
other three were what sent him unconscious; for they were living
entities about eight feet high, shaped precisely like the spiky images
on the balustrade, and propelling themselves by a spider-like
wriggling of their lower set of starfish-arms.

Gilman awoke in his bed, drenched by a cold perspiration and with a


smarting sensation in his face, hands and feet. Springing to the
floor, he washed and dressed in frantic haste, as if it were necessary
for him to get out of the house as quickly as possible. He did not
know where he wished to go, but felt that once more he would have
to sacrifice his classes. The odd pull toward that spot in the sky
between Hydra and Argo had abated, but another of even greater
strength had taken its place. Now he felt that he must go north -
infinitely north. He dreaded to cross the bridge that gave a view of
the desolate island in the Miskatonic, so went over the Peabody
Avenue bridge. Very often he stumbled, for his eyes and ears were
chained to an extremely lofty point in the blank blue sky.

After about an hour he got himself under better control, and saw that
he was far from the city. All around him stretched the bleak
emptiness of salt marshes, while the narrow road ahead led to
Innsmouth - that ancient, half-deserted town which Arkham people
were so curiously unwilling to visit. Though the northward pull had
not diminished, he resisted it as he had resisted the other pull, and
finally found that he could almost balance the one against the other.
Plodding back to town and getting some coffee at a soda fountain,
he dragged himself into the public library and browsed aimlessly
among the lighter magazines. Once he met some friends who
remarked how oddly sunburned he looked, but he did not tell them
of his walk. At three o'clock he took some lunch at a restaurant,
noting meanwhile that the pull had either lessened or divided itself.
After that he killed the time at a cheap cinema show, seeing the
inane performance over and over again without paying any attention
to it.

About nine at night he drifted homeward and shuffled into the


ancient house. Joe Mazurewicz was whining unintelligible prayers,
and Gilman hastened up to his own garret chamber without pausing
to see if Elwood was in. It was when he turned on the feeble electric
light that the shock came. At once he saw there was something on
the table which did not belong there, and a second look left no room
for doubt. Lying on its side - for it could not stand up alone - was the
exotic spiky figure which in his monstrous dream he had broken off
the fantastic balustrade. No detail was missing. The ridged, barrel-
shaped center, the thin radiating arms, the knobs at each end, and
the flat, slightly outward-curving starfish-arms spreading from those
knobs - all were there. In the electric light the colour seemed to be a
kind of iridescent grey veined with green; and Gilman could see
amidst his horror and bewilderment that one of the knobs ended in a
jagged break, corresponding to its former point of attachment to the
dream-railing.

Only his tendency toward a dazed stupor prevented him from


screaming aloud. This fusion of dream and reality was too much to
bear. Still dazed, he clutched at the spiky thing and staggered
downstairs to Landlord Dombrowski's quarters. The whining prayers
of the superstitious loom-fixer were still sounding through the
mouldy halls, but Gilman did not mind them now. The landlord was
in, and greeted him pleasantly. No, he had not seen that thing
before and did not know anything about it. But his wife had said she
found a funny tin thing in one of the beds when she fixed the rooms
at noon, and maybe that was it. Dombrowski called her, and she
waddled in. Yes, that was the thing. She had found it in the young
gentleman's bed - on the side next the wall. It had looked very queer
to her, but of course the young gentleman had lots of queer things in
his room - books and curios and pictures and markings on paper.
She certainly knew nothing about it.

So Gilman climbed upstairs again in mental turmoil, convinced that


he was either still dreaming or that his somnambulism had run to
incredible extremes and led him to depredations in unknown places.
Where had he got this outré thing? He did not recall seeing it in any
museum in Arkham. It must have been somewhere, though; and the
sight of it as he snatched it in his sleep must have caused the odd
dream-picture of the balustraded terrace. Next day he would make
some very guarded inquiries - and perhaps see the nerve specialist.

Meanwhile he would try to keep track of his somnambulism. As he


went upstairs and across the garret hall he sprinkled about some
flour which he had borrowed - with a frank admission as to its
purpose - from the landlord. He had stopped at Elwood's door on the
way, but had found all dark within. Entering his room, he placed the
spiky thing on the table, and lay down in complete mental and
physical exhaustion without pausing to undress. From the closed loft
above the slating ceiling he thought he heard a faint scratching and
padding, but he was too disorganized even to mind it. That cryptical
pull from the north was getting very strong again, though it seemed
now to come from a lower place in the sky.

In the dazzling violet light of dream the old woman and the fanged,
furry thing came again and with a greater distinctness than on any
former occasion. This time they actually reached him, and he felt the
crone's withered claws clutching at him. He was pulled out of bed
and into empty space, and for a moment he heard a rhythmic
roaring and saw the twilight amorphousness of the vague abysses
seething around him. But that moment was very brief, for presently
he was in a crude, windowless little space with rough beams and
planks rising to a peak just above his head, and with a curious
slanting floor underfoot. Propped level on that floor were low cases
full of books of every degree of antiquity and disintegration, and in
the centre were a table and bench, both apparently fastened in
place. Small objects of unknown shape and nature were ranged on
the tops of the cases, and in the flaming violet light Gilman thought
he saw a counterpart of the spiky image which had puzzled him so
horribly. On the left the floor fell abruptly away, leaving a black
triangular gulf out of which, after a second's dry rattling, there
presently climbed the hateful little furry thing with the yellow fangs
and bearded human face.

The evilly-grinning beldame still clutched him, and beyond the table
stood a figure he had never seen before - a tall, lean man of dead
black colouration but without the slightest sign of negroid features:
wholly devoid of either hair or beard, and wearing as his only
garment a shapeless robe of some heavy black fabric. His feet were
indistinguishable because of the table and bench, but he must have
been shod, since there was a clicking whenever he changed
position. The man did not speak, and bore no trace of expression on
his small, regular features. He merely pointed to a book of
prodigious size which lay open on the table, while the beldame
thrust a huge grey quill into Gilman's right hand. Over everything
was a pall of intensely maddening fear, and the climax was reached
when the furry thing ran up the dreamer's clothing to his shoulders
and then down his left arm, finally biting him sharply in the wrist just
below his cuff. As the blood spurted from this wound Gilman lapsed
into a faint.
He awaked on the morning of the twenty-second with a pain in his
left wrist, and saw that his cuff was brown with dried blood. His
recollections were very confused, but the scene with the black man
in the unknown space stood out vividly. The rats must have bitten
him as he slept, giving rise to the climax of that frightful dream.
Opening the door, he saw that the flour on the corridor floor was
undisturbed except for the huge prints of the loutish fellow who
roomed at the other end of the garret. So he had not been sleep-
walking this time. But something would have to be done about those
rats. He would speak to the landlord about them. Again he tried to
stop up the hole at the base of the slanting wall, wedging in a
candlestick which seemed of about the right size. His ears were
ringing horribly, as if with the residual echoes of some horrible noise
heard in dreams.

As he bathed and changed clothes he tried to recall what he had


dreamed after the scene in the violet-litten space, but nothing
definite would crystallize in his mind. That scene itself must have
corresponded to the sealed loft overhead, which had begun to attack
his imagination so violently, but later impressions were faint and
hazy. There were suggestions of the vague, twilight abysses, and of
still vaster, blacker abysses beyond them - abysses in which all fixed
suggestions were absent. He had been taken there by the bubble-
congeries and the little polyhedron which always dogged him; but
they, like himself, had changed to wisps of mist in this farther void of
ultimate blackness. Something else had gone on ahead - a larger
wisp which now and then condensed into nameless approximations
of form - and he thought that their progress had not been in a
straight line, but rather along the alien curves and spirals of some
ethereal vortex which obeyed laws unknown to the physics and
mathematics of any conceivable cosmos. Eventually there had been
a hint of vast, leaping shadows, of a monstrous, half-acoustic
pulsing, and of the thin, monotonous piping of an unseen flute - but
that was all. Gilman decided he had picked up that last conception
from what he had read in the Necronomicon about the mindless
entity Azathoth, which rules all time and space from a black throne
at the centre of Chaos.

When the blood was washed away the wrist wound proved very
slight, and Gilman puzzled over the location of the two tiny
punctures. It occurred to him that there was no blood on the
bedspread where he had lain - which was very curious in view of the
amount on his skin and cuff. Had he been sleep-walking within his
room, and had the rat bitten him as he sat in some chair or paused
in some less rational position? He looked in every corner for
brownish drops or stains, but did not find any. He had better, he
thought, spinkle flour within the room as well as outside the door -
though after all no further proof of his sleep-walking was needed. He
knew he did walk and the thing to do now was to stop it. He must
ask Frank Elwood for help. This morning the strange pulls from
space seemed lessened, though they were replaced by another
sensation even more inexplicable. It was a vague, insistent impulse
to fly away from his present situation, but held not a hint of the
specific direction in which he wished to fly. As he picked up the
strange spiky image on the table he thought the older northward pull
grew a trifle stronger; but even so, it was wholly overruled by the
newer and more bewildering urge.

He took the spiky image down to Elwood's room, steeling himself


against the whines of the loom-fixer which welled up from the
ground floor. Elwood was in, thank heaven, and appeared to be
stirring about. There was time for a little conversation before leaving
for breakfast and college, so Gilman hurriedly poured forth an
account of his recent dreams and fears. His host was very
sympathetic, and agreed that something ought to be done. He was
shocked by his guest's drawn, haggard aspect, and noticed the
queer, abnormal-looking sunburn which others had remarked during
the past week.

There was not much, though, that he could say. He had not seen
Gilman on any sleep-walking expedition, and had no idea what the
curious image could be. He had, though, heard the French-
Canadian who lodged just under Gilman talking to Mazurewicz one
evening. They were telling each other how badly they dreaded the
coming of Walpurgis Night, now only a few days off; and were
exchanging pitying comments about the poor, doomed young
gentleman. Desrochers, the fellow under Gilman's room, had spoken
of nocturnal footsteps shod and unshod, and of the violet light he
saw one night when he had stolen fearfully up to peer through
Gilman's keyhole. He had not dared to peer, he told Mazurewicz,
after he had glimpsed that light through the cracks around the door.
There had been soft talking, too - and as he began to describe it his
voice had sunk to an inaudible whisper.

Elwood could not imagine what had set these superstitious


creatures gossiping, but supposed their imaginations had been
roused by Gilman's late hours and somnolent walking and talking on
the one hand, and by the nearness of traditionally-feared May Eve
on the other hand. That Gilman talked in his sleep was plain, and it
was obviously from Desrochers' keyhole listenings that the delusive
notion of the violet dream-light had got abroad. These simple people
were quick to imagine they had seen any odd thing they had heard
about. As for a plan of action - Gilman had better move down to
Elwood's room and avoid sleeping alone. Elwood would, if awake,
rouse him whenever he began to talk or rise in his sleep. Very soon,
too, he must see the specialist. Meanwhile they would take the spiky
image around to the various museums and to certain professors;
seeking identification and slating that it had been found in a public
rubbish-can. Also, Dombrowski must attend to the poisoning of
those rats in the walls.

Braced up by Elwood's companionship, Gilman attended classes


that day. Strange urges still tugged at him, but he could sidetrack
them with considerable success. During a free period he showed the
queer image to several professors, all of whom were intensely
interested, though none of them could shed any light upon its nature
or origin. That night he slept on a couch which Elwood had had the
landlord bring to the second-storey room, and for the first time in
weeks was wholly free from disquieting dreams. But the
feverishness still hung on, and the whines of the loom-fixer were an
unnerving influence.

During the next few days Gilman enjoyed an almost perfect


immunity from morbid manifestations. He had, Elwood said, showed
no tendency to talk or rise in his sleep; and meanwhile the landlord
was putting rat-poison everywhere. The only disturbing element was
the talk among the superstitious foreigners, whose imaginations had
become highly excited. Mazurewicz was always trying to make him
get a crucifix, and finally forced one upon him which he said had
been blessed by the good Father Iwanicki. Desrochers, too, had
something to say; in fact, he insisted that cautious steps had
sounded in the now vacant room above him on the first and second
nights of Gilinan's absence from it. Paul Choynski thought he heard
sounds in the halls and on the stairs at night, and claimed that his
door had been softly tried, while Mrs. Dombrowski vowed she had
seen Brown Jenkin for the first time since All-Hallows. But such
naïve reports could mean very little, and Gilman let the cheap metal
crucifix hang idly from a knob on his host's dresser.

For three days Gilman and Elwood canvassed the local museums in
an effort to identify the strange spiky image, but always without
success. In every quarter, however, interest was intense; for the
utter alienage of the thing was a tremendous challenge to scientific
curiosity. One of the small radiating arms was broken off and
subjected to chemical analysis. Professor Ellery found platinum, iron
and tellurium in the strange alloy; but mixed with these were at least
three other apparent elements of high atomic weight which
chemistry was absolutely powerless to classify. Not only did they fail
to correspond with any known element, but they did not even fit the
vacant places reserved for probable elements in the periodic
system. The mystery remains unsolved to this day, though the
image is on exhibition at the museum of Miskatonic University.

On the morning of April twenty-seventh a fresh rat-bole appeared in


the room where Gilman was a guest, but Dombrowski tinned it up
during the day. The poison was not having much effect, for
scratchings and scurryings in the walls were virtually undiminished.

Elwood was out late that night, and Gilman waited up for him. He did
not wish to go to sleep in a room alone - especially since he thought
he had glimpsed in the evening twilight the repellent old woman
whose image had become so horribly transferred to his dreams. He
wondered who she was, and what had been near her rattling the tin
can in a rubbish-heap at the mouth of a squalid courtyard. The crone
had seemed to notice him and leer evilly at him - though perhaps
this was merely his imagination.

The next day both youths felt very tired, and knew they would sleep
like logs when night came. In the evening they drowsily discussed
the mathematical studies which had so completely and perhaps
harmfully engrossed Gilman, and speculated about the linkage with
ancient magic and folklore which seemed so darkly probable. They
spoke of old Keziah Mason, and Elwood agreed that Gilman had
good scientific grounds for thinking she might have stumbled on
strange and significant information. The hidden cults to which these
witches belonged often guarded and handed down surprising
secrets from elder, forgotten eons; and it was by no means
impossible that Keziah had actually mastered the art of passing
through dimensional gates. Tradition emphasizes the uselessness of
material barriers in halting a witch's notions, and who can say what
underlies the old tales of broomstick rides through the night?

Whether a modern student could ever gain similar powers from


mathematical research alone, was still to be seen. Suceess, Gilman
added, might lead to dangerous and unthinkable situations, for who
could foretell the conditions pervading an adjacent but normally
inaccessible dimension? On the other hand, the picturesque
possibilities were enormous. Time could not exist in certain belts of
space, and by entering and remaining in such a belt one might
preserve one's life and age indefinitely; never suffering organic
metabolism or deterioration except for slight amounts incurred
during visits to one's own or similar planes. One might, for example,
pass into a timeless dimension and emerge at some remote period
of the earth's history as young as before.

Whether anybody had ever managed to do this, one could hardly


conjecture with any degree of authority. Old legends are hazy and
ambiguous, and in historic times all attempts at crossing forbidden
gaps seem complicated by strange and terrible alliances with beings
and messengers from outside. There was the immemorial figure of
the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers - the "Black
Man" of the witch-cult, and the "Nyarlathotep" of the Necronomicon.
There was, too, the baffling problem of the lesser messengers or
intermediaries - the quasi-animals and queer hybrids which legend
depicts as witches' familiars. As Gilman and Elwood retired, too
sleepy to argue further, they heard Joe Mazurewicz reel into the
house half drunk, and shuddered at the desperate wildness of his
whining prayers.

That night Gilman saw the violet light again. In his dream he had
heard a scratching and gnawing in the partitions, and thought that
someone fumbled clumsily at the latch. Then he saw the old woman
and the small furry thing advancing toward him over the carpeted
floor. The beldame's face was alight with inhuman exultation, and
the little yellow-toothed morbidity tittered mockingly as it pointed at
the heavily-sleeping form of Elwood on the other couch across the
room. A paralysis of fear stifled all attempts to cry out. As once
before, the hideous crone seized Gilman by the shoulders, yanking
him out of bed and into empty space. Again the infinitude of the
shrieking abysses flashed past him, but in another second he
thought he was in a dark, muddy, unknown alley of foetid odors with
the rotting walls of ancient houses towering up on every hand.

Ahead was the robed black man he had seen in the peaked space in
the other dream, while from a lesser distance the old woman was
beckoning and grimacing imperiously. Brown Jenkin was rubbing
itself with a kind of affectionate playfulness around the ankles of the
black man, which the deep mud largely concealed. There was a
dark open doorway on the right, to which the black man silently
pointed. Into this the grinning crone started, dragging Gilman after
her by his pajama sleeves. There were evil-smelling staircases
which creaked ominously, and on which the old woman seemed to
radiate a faint violet light; and finally a door leading off a landing.
The crone fumbled with the latch and pushed the door open,
motioning to Gilman to wait, and disappearing inside the black
aperture.

The youth's over-sensitive ears caught a hideous strangled cry, and


presently the beldame came out of the room bearing a small,
senseless form which she thrust at the dreamer as if ordering him to
carry it. The sight of this form, and the expression on its face, broke
the spell. Still too dazed to cry out, he plunged recklessly down the
noisome staircase and into the mud outside, halting only when
seized and choked by the waiting black man. As consciousness
departed he heard the faint, shrill tittering of the fanged, rat-like
abnormality.

On the morning of the twenty-ninth Gilman awaked into a maelstrom


of horror. The instant he opened his eyes he knew something was
terribly wrong, for he was back in his old garret room with the
slanting wall and ceiling, sprawled on the now unmade bed. His
throat was aching inexplicably, and as he struggled to a sitting
posture he saw with growing fright that his feet and pajama bottoms
were brown with caked mud. For the moment his recollections were
hopelessly hazy, but he knew at least that he must have been sleep-
walking. Elwood had been lost too deeply in slumber to hear and
stop him. On the floor were confused muddy prints, but oddly
enough they did not extend all the way to the door. The more
Gilman looked at them, the more peculiar they seemed; for in
addition to those he could recognize as his there were some
smaller, almost round markings - such as the legs of a large chair or
a table might make, except that most of them tended to be divided
into halves. There were also some curious muddy rat-tracks leading
out of a fresh hole and back into it again. Utter bewilderment and the
fear of madness racked Gilman as he staggered to the door and
saw that there were no muddy prints outside. The more he
remembered of his hideous dream the more terrified he felt, and it
added to his desperation to hear Joe Mazurewicz chanting
mournfully two floors below.

Descending to Elwood's room he roused his still-sleeping host and


began telling of how he had found himself, but Elwood could form no
idea of what might really have happened. Where Gilman could have
been, how he got back to his room without making tracks in the hall,
and how the muddy, furniture-like prints came to be mixed with his in
the garret chamber, were wholly beyond conjecture. Then there
were those dark, livid marks on his throat, as if he had tried to
strangle himself. He put his hands up to them, but found that they
did not even approximately fit. While they were talking, Desrochers
dropped in to say that he had heard a terrific clattering overhead in
the dark small hours. No, there had been no one on the stairs after
midnight, though just before midnight he had heard faint footfalls in
the garret, and cautiously descending steps he did not like. It was,
he added, a very bad time of year for Arkham. The young gentleman
had better be sure to wear the circifix Joe Mazurewicz had given
him. Even the daytime was not safe, for after dawn there had been
strange sounds in the house - especially a thin, childish wail hastily
choked off.

Gilman mechanically attended classes that morning, but was wholly


unable to fix his mind on his studies. A mood of hideous
apprehension and expectancy had seized him, and he seemed to be
awaiting the fall of some annihilating blow. At noon he lunched at the
University spa, picking up a paper from the next seat as he waited
for dessert. But he never ate that dessert; for an item on the paper's
first page left him limp, wild-eyed, and able only to pay his check
and stagger back to Elwood's room.

There had been a strange kidnapping the night before in Orne's


Gangway, and the two-year-old child of a clod-like laundry worker
named Anastasia Wolejko had completely vanished from sight. The
mother, it appeared, had feared the event for some time; but the
reasons she assigned for her fear were so grotesque that no one
took them seriously. She had, she said, seen Brown Jenkin about
the place now and then ever since early in March, and knew from its
grimaces and titterings that little Ladislas must be marked for
sacrifice at the awful Sabbat on Walpurgis Night. She had asked her
neighbour Mary Czanek to sleep in the room and try to protect the
child, but Mary had not dared. She could not tell the police, for they
never believed such things. Children had been taken that way every
year ever since she could remember. And her friend Pete Stowacki
would not help because he wanted the child out of the way.

But what threw Gilman into a cold perspiration was the report of a
pair of revellers who had been walking past the mouth of the
gangway just after midnight. They admitted they had been drunk,
but both vowed they had seen a crazily dressed trio furtively
entering the dark passageway. There had, they said, been a huge
robed negro, a little old woman in rags, and a young white man in
his night-clothes. The old woman had been dragging the youth,
while around the feet of the negro a tame rat was rubbing and
weaving in the brown mud.

Gilman sat in a daze all the afternoon, and Elwood - who had
meanwhile seen the papers and formed terrible conjectures from
them - found him thus when he came home. This time neither could
doubt but that something hideously serious was closing in around
them. Between the phantasms of nightmare and the realities of the
objective world a monstrous and unthinkable relationship was
crystallizing, and only stupendous vigilance could avert still more
direful developments. Gilman must see a specialist sooner or later,
but not just now, when all the papers were full of this kidnapping
business.

Just what had really happened was maddeningly obscure, and for a
moment both Gilman and Elwood exchanged whispered theories of
the wildest kind. Had Gilman unconsciously succeeded better than
he knew in his studies of space and its dimensions? Had he actually
slipped outside our sphere to points unguessed and unimaginable?
Where - if anywhere - had he been on those nights of demoniac
alienage? The roaring twilight abysses - the green hillside - the
blistering terrace - the pulls from the stars - the ultimate black vortex
- the black man - the muddy alley and the stairs - the old witch and
the fanged, furry horror - the bubble-congeries and the little
polyhedron - the strange sunburn - the wrist-wound - the
unexplained image - the muddy feet - the throat marks - the tales
and fears of the superstitious foreigners - what did all this mean? To
what extent could the laws of sanity apply to such a case?

There was no sleep for either of them that night, but next day they
both cut classes and drowsed. This was April thirtieth, and with the
dusk would come the hellish Sabbat-time which all the foreigners
and the superstitious old folk feared. Mazurewicz came home at six
o'clock and said people at the mill were whispering that the
Walpurgis revels would be held in the dark ravine beyond Meadow
Hill where the old white stone stands in a place queerly devoid of all
plant-life. Some of them had even told the police and advised them
to look there for the missing Wolejko child, but they did not believe
anything would be done. Joe insisted that the poor young gentleman
wear his nickel-chained crucifix, and Gilman put it on and dropped it
inside his shirt to humour the fellow.

Late at night the two youths sat drowsing in their chairs, lulled by the
praying of the loom-fixer on the floor below. Gilman listened as he
nodded, his preternaturally sharpened hearing seeming to strain for
some subtle, dreaded murmur beyond the noises in the ancient
house. Unwholesome recollections of things in the Necronomicon
and the Black Book welled up, and he found himself swaying to
infandous rhythms said to pertain to the blackest ceremonies of the
Sabbat and to have an origin outside the time and space we
comprehend.

Presently he realized what he was listening for - the hellish chant of


the celebrants in the distant black valley. How did he know so much
about what they expected? How did he know the time when Nahab
and her acolyte were due to bear the brimming bowl which would
follow the black cock and the black goat? He saw that Elwood had
dropped asleep, and tried to call out and waken him. Something,
however, closed his throat. He was not his own master. Had he
signed the black man's book after all?

Then his fevered, abnormal hearing caught the distant, windborne


notes. Over miles of hill and field and alley they came, but he
recognized them none the less. The fires must be lit, and the
dancers must be starting in. How could he keep himself from going?
What was it that had enmeshed him? Mathematics - folklore - the
house - old Keziah - Brown Jenkin ... and now he saw that there was
a fresh rat-hole in the wall near his couch. Above the distant
chanting and the nearer praying of Joe Mazurewicz came another
sound - a stealthy, determined scratching in the partitions. He hoped
the electric lights would not go out. Then he saw the fanged,
bearded little face in the rat-hole - the accursed little face which he
at last realized bore such a shocking, mocking resemblance to old
Keziah's - and heard the faint fumbling at the door.

The screaming twilight abysses flashed before him, and he felt


himself helpless in the formless grasp of the iridescent bubble-
congeries. Ahead raced the small, kaleidoscopic polyhedron and all
through the churning void there was a heightening and acceleration
of the vague tonal pattern which seemed to foreshadow some
unutterable and unendurable climax. He seemed to know what was
coming - the monstrons burst of Walpurgis-rhythm in whose cosmic
timbre would be concentrated all the primal, ultimate space-time
seethings which lie behind the massed spheres of matter and
sometimes break forth in measured reverberations that penetrate
faintly to every layer of entity and give hideous significance
throughout the worlds to certain dreaded periods.

But all this vanished in a second. He was again in the cramped,


violet-litten peaked space with the slanting floor, the low cases of
ancient books, the bench and table, the queer objects, and the
triangular gulf at one side. On the table lay a small white figure - an
infant boy, unclothed and unconscious - while on the other side
stood the monstrous, leering old woman with a gleaming, grotesque-
hafted knife in her right hand, and a queerly proportioned pale metal
bowl covered with curiously chased designs and having delicate
lateral handles in her left. She was intoning some croaking ritual in a
language which Gilman could not understand, but which seemed
like something guardedly quoted in the Necronomicon.

As the scene grew clearer he saw the ancient crone bend forward
and extend the empty bowl across the table - and unable to control
his own emotions, he reached far forward and took it in both hands,
noticing as he did so its comparative lightness. At the same moment
the disgusting form of Brown Jenkin scrambled up over the brink of
the triangular black gulf on his left. The crone now motioned him to
hold the bowl in a certain position while she raised the huge,
grotesque knife above the small white victim as high as her right
hand could reach. The fanged, furry thing began tittering a
continuation of the unknown ritual, while the witch croaked
loathsome responses. Gilman felt a gnawing poignant abhorrence
shoot through his mental and emotional paralysis, and the light
metal bowl shook in his grasp. A second later the downward motion
of the knife broke the spell conpletely, and he dropped the bowl with
a resounding bell-like clangour while his hands darted out frantically
to stop the monstrous deed.

In an instant he had edged up the slanting floor around the end of


the table and wrenched the knife from the old woman's claws;
sending it clattering over the brink of the narrow triangular gulf. In
another instant, however, matters were reversed; for those
murderous claws had locked themselves tightly around his own
throat, while the wrinkled face was twisted with insane fury. He felt
the chain of the cheap crucifix grinding into his neck, and in his peril
wondered how the sight of the object itself would affect the evil
creature. Her strength was altogether superhuman, but as she
continued her choking he reached feebly in his shirt and drew out
the metal symbol, snapping the chain and pulling it free.

At sight of the device the witch seemed struck with panic, and her
grip relaxed long enough to give Gilman a chance to break it
entirely. He pulled the steel-like claws from his neck, and would
have dragged the beldame over the edge of the gulf had not the
claws received a fresh access of strength and closed in again. This
time he resolved to reply in kind, and his own hands reached out for
the creature's throat. Before she saw what he was doing he had the
chain of the crucifix twisted about her neck, and a moment later he
had tightened it enough to cut off her breath. During her last struggle
he felt something bite at his ankle, and saw that Brown Jenkin had
come to her aid. With one savage kick he sent the morbidity over the
edge of the gulf and heard it whimper on some level far below.

Whether he had killed the ancient crone he did not know, but he let
her rest on the floor where she had fallen. Then, as he turned away,
he saw on the table a sight which nearly snapped the last thread of
his reason. Brown Jenkin, tough of sinew and with four tiny hands of
demoniac dexterity, had been busy while the witch was throttling
him, and his efforts had been in vain. What he had prevented the
knife from doing to the victim's chest, the yellow fangs of the furry
blasphemy had done to a wrist - and the bowl so lately on the floor
stood full beside the small lifeless body.

In his dream-delirium Gilman heard the hellish alien-rhythmed chant


of the Sabbat coming from an infinite distance, and knew the black
man must be there. Confused memories mixed themselves with his
mathematics, and he believed his subconscious mind held the
angles which he needed to guide him back to the normal world
alone and unaided for the first time. He felt sure he was in the
immemorially sealed loft above his own room, but whether he could
ever escape through the slanting floor or the long-stooped egress he
doubted greatly. Besides, would not an escape from a dream-loft
bring him merely into a dream-house - an abnormal projection of the
actual place he sought? He was wholly bewildered as to the relation
betwixt dream and reality in all his experiences.

The passage through the vague abysses would be frightful, for the
Walpurgis-rhythm would be vibrating, and at last he would have to
hear that hitherto-veiled cosmic pulsing which he so mortally
dreaded. Even now he could detect a low, monstrous shaking
whose tempo he suspected all too well. At Sabbat-time it always
mounted and reached through to the worlds to summon the initiate
to nameless rites. Half the chants of the Sabbat were patterned on
this faintly overheard pulsing which no earthly ear could endure in its
unveiled spatial fulness. Gilman wondered, too, whether he could
trust his instincts to take him back to the right part of space. How
could he be sure he would not land on that green-litten hillside of a
far planet, on the tessellated terrace above the city of tentacled
monsters somewhere beyond the galaxy or in the spiral black
vortices of that ultimate void of Chaos where reigns the mindless
demon-sultan Azathoth?

Just before he made the plunge the violet light went out and left him
in utter blackness. The witch - old Keziah - Nahab - that must have
meant her death. And mixed with the distant chant of the Sabbat
and the whimpers of Brown Jenkin in the gulf below he thought he
heard another and wilder whine from unknown depths. Joe
Mazurewicz - the prayers against the Crawling Chaos now turning to
an inexplicably triumphant shriek - worlds of sardonic actuality
impinging on vortices of febrile dream - Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The
Goat with a Thousand Young...

They found Gilman on the floor of his queerly-angled old garret room
long before dawn, for the terrible cry had brought Desrochers and
Choynski and Dombrowski and Mazurewicz at once, and had even
wakened the soundly sleeping Elwood in his chair. He was alive,
and with open, staring eyes, but seemed largely unconscious. On
his throat were the marks of murderous hands, and on his left ankle
was a distressing rat-bite. His clothing was badly rumpled and Joe's
crucifix was missing, Elwood trembled, afraid even to speculate
what new form his friend's sleep-walking had taken. Mazurewicz
seemed half dazed because of a "sign" he said he had had in
response to his prayers, and he crossed himself frantically when the
squealing and whimpering of a rat sounded from beyond the slanting
partition.

When the dreamer was settled on his couch in Elwood's room they
sent for Doctor Malkowski - a local practitioner who would repeat no
tales where they might prove embarrassing - and he gave Gilman
two hypodermic injections which caused him to relax in something
like natural drowsiness. During the day the patient regained
consciousness at times and whispered his newest dream
disjointedly to Elwood. It was a painful process, and at its very start
brought out a fresh and disconcerting fact.

Gilman - whose ears had so lately possessed an abnormal


sensitiveness - was now stone-deaf. Doctor Malkowski, summoned
again in haste, told Elwood that both ear-drums were ruptured, as if
by the impact of some stupendous sound intense beyond all human
conception or endurance. How such a sound could have been heard
in the last few hours without arousing all the Miskatonic Valley was
more than the honest physician could say.

Elwood wrote his part of the colloquy on paper, so that a fairly easy
communication was maintained. Neither knew what to make of the
whole chaotic business, and decided it would be better if they
thought as little as possible about it. Both, though, agreed that they
must leave this ancient and accursed house as soon as it could be
arranged. Evening papers spoke of a police raid on some curious
revellers in a ravine beyond Meadow Hill just before dawn, and
mentioned that the white stone there was an object of age-long
superstitious regard. Nobody had been caught, but among the
scattering fugitives had been glimpsed a huge negro. In another
column it was stated that no trace of the missing child Ladislas
Wolejko had been found.

The crowning horror came that very night. Elwood will never forget
it, and was forced to stay out of college the rest of the term because
of the resulting nervous breakdown. He had thought he heard rats in
the partition all the evening, but paid little attention to them. Then,
long after both he and Gilman had retired, the atrocious shrieking
began. Elwood jumped up, turned on the lights and rushed over to
his guest's couch. The occupant was emitting sounds of veritably
inhuman nature, as if racked by some torment beyond description.
He was writhing under the bedclothes, and a great stain was
beginning to appear on the blankets.

Elwood scarcely dared to touch him, but gradually the screaming


and writhing subsided. By this time Dombrowski, Choynski,
Desrochers, Mazurewicz, and the top-floor lodger were all crowding
into the doorway, and the landlord had sent his wife back to
telephone for Doctor Malkowaki. Everybody shrieked when a large
rat-like form suddenly jumped out from beneath the ensanguined
bedclothes and scuttled across the floor to a fresh, open hole close
by. When the doctor arrived and began to pull down those frightful
covers Walter Gilman was dead.

It would be barbarous to do more than suggest what had killed


Gilman. There had been virtually a tunnel through his body -
something had eaten his heart out. Dombrowski, frantic at the failure
of his rat-poisoning efforts, cast aside all thought of his lease and
within a week had moved with all his older lodgers to a dingy but
less ancient house in Walnut Street. The worst thing for a while was
keeping Joe Mazurewicz quiet; for the brooding loom-fixer would
never stay sober, and was constantly whining and muttering about
spectral and terrible things.

It seems that on that last hideous night Joe had stooped to look at
the crimson rat-tracks which led from Gilman's couch to the near-by
hole. On the carpet they were very indistinct, but a piece of open
flooring intervened between the carpet's edge and the baseboard.
There Mazurewicz had found something monstrous - or thought he
had, for no one else could quite agree with him despite the
undeniable queerness of the prints. The tracks on the flooring were
certainly vastly unlike the average prints of a rat but even Choynski
and Desrochers would not admit that they were like the prints of four
tiny human hands.

The house was never rented again. As soon as Dombrowski left it


the pall of its final desolation began to descend, for people shunned
it both on account of its old reputation and because of the new foetid
odour. Perhaps the ex-landlord's rat-poison had worked after all, for
not long after his departure the place became a neighbourhood
nuisance. Health officials traced the smell to the closed spaces
above and beside the eastern garret room, and agreed that the
number of dead rats must be enormous. They decided, however,
that it was not worth their while to hew open and disinfect the long-
sealed spaces; for the foetor would soon be over, and the locality
was not one which encouraged fastidious standards. Indeed, there
were always vague local tales of unexplained stenches upstairs in
the Witch-House just after May-Eve and Hallowmass. The
neighbours acquiesced in the inertia - but the foetor none the less
formed an additional count against the place. Toward the last the
house was condemned as a habitation by the building inspector.

Gilman's dreams and their attendant circumstances have never


been explained. Elwood, whose thoughts on the entire episode are
sometimes almost maddening, came back to college the next
autumn and was graduated in the following June. He found the
spectral gossip of the town much disminished, and it is indeed a fact
that - notwithstanding certain reports of a ghostly tittering in the
deserted house which lasted almost as long as that edifice itself - no
fresh appearances either of Old Keziah or of Brown Jenkin have
been muttered of since Gilman's death. It is rather fortunate that
Elwood was not in Arkham in that later year when certain events
abruptly renewed the local whispers about elder horrors. Of course
he heard about the matter afterward and suffered untold torments of
black and bewildered speculation; but even that was not as bad as
actual nearness and several possible sights would have been.

In March, 1931, a gale wrecked the roof and great chimney of the
vacant Witch-House, so that a chaos of crumbling bricks, blackened,
moss-grown shingles, and rotting planks and timbers crashed down
into the loft and broke through the floor beneath. The whole attic
storey was choked with debris from above, but no one took the
trouble to touch the mess before the inevitable razing of the decrepit
structure. That ultimate step came in the following December, and it
was when Gilman's old room was cleared out by reluctant,
apprehensive workmen that the gossip began.

Among the rubbish which had crashed through the ancient slanting
ceiling were several things which made the workmen pause and call
in the police. Later the police in turn called in the coroner and
several professors from the university. There were bones - badly
crushed and splintered, but clearly recognizable as human - whose
manifestly modern date conflicted puzzlingly with the remote period
at which their only possible lurking place, the low, slant-floored loft
overhead, had supposedly been sealed from all human access. The
coroner's physician decided that some belonged to a small child,
while certain others - found mixed with shreds of rotten brownish
cloth - belonged to a rather undersized, bent female of advanced
years. Careful sifting of debris also disclosed many tiny bones of
rats caught in the collapse, as well as older rat-bones gnawed by
small fangs in a fashion now and then highly productive of
controversy and reflection.

Other objects found included the mangled fragments of many books


and papers, together with a yellowish dust left from the total
disintegration of still older books and papers. All, without exception,
appeared to deal with black magic in its most advanced and horrible
forms; and the evidently recent date of certain items is still a mystery
as unsolved as that of the modern human bones. An even greater
mystery is the absolute homogeneity of the crabbed, archaic writing
found on a wide range of papers whose conditions and watermarks
suggest age differences of at least one hundred and fifty to two
hundred years. To some, though, the greatest mystery of all is the
variety of utterly inexplicable objects - objects whose shapes,
materials, types of workmanship, and purposes baffle all conjecture
- found scattered amidst the wreckage in evidently diverse states of
injury. One of these things - which excited several Miskatonie
professors profoundly is a badly damaged monstrosity plainly
resembling the strange image which Gilman gave to the college
museum, save that it is large, wrought of some peculiar bluish stone
instead of metal, and possessed of a singularly angled pedestal with
undecipherable hieroglyphics.

Archaeologists and anthropologists are still trying to explain the


bizarre designs chased on a crushed bowl of light metal whose inner
side bore ominous brownish stains when found. Foreigners and
credulous grandmothers are equally garrulous about the modern
nickel crucifix with broken chain mixed in the rubbish and shiveringly
identified by Joe Maturewicz as that which he had given poor
Gilman many years before. Some believe this crucifix was dragged
up to the sealed loft by rats, while others think it must have been on
the floor in some corner of Gilman's old room at the time. Still others,
including Joe himself, have theories too wild and fantastic for sober
credence.

When the slanting wall of Gilman's room was torn out, the once-
sealed triangular space between that partition and the house's north
wall was found to contain much less structural debris, even in
proportion to its size, than the room itself, though it had a ghastly
layer of older materials which paralyzed the wreckers with horror. In
brief, the floor was a veritable ossuary of the bones of small children
- some fairly modern, but others extending back in infinite gradations
to a period so remote that crumbling was almost complete. On this
deep bony layer rested a knife of great size, obvious antiquity, and
grotesque, ornate, and exotic design - above which the debris was
piled.

In the midst of this debris, wedged between a fallen plank and a


cluster of cemented bricks from the ruined chimney, was an object
destined to cause more bafflement, veiled fright, and openly
superstitious talk in Arkham than anything else discovered in the
haunted and accursed building.

This object was the partly crushed skeleton of a huge diseased rat,
whose abnormalities of form are still a topic of debate and source of
singular reticence among the members of Miskatonic's department
of comparative anatomy. Very little concerning this skeleton has
leaked out, but the workmen who found it whisper in shocked tones
about the long, brownish hairs with which it was associated.

The bones of the tiny paws, it is rumoured, imply prehensile


characteristics more typical of a diminutive monkey than of a rat,
while the small skull with its savage yellow fangs is of the utmost
anomalousness, appearing from certain angles like a miniature,
monstrously degraded parody of a human skull. The workmen
crossed themselves in fright when they came upon this blasphemy,
but later burned candles of gratitude in St. Stanislaus' Church
because of the shrill, ghostly tittering they felt they would never hear
again.
Ex Oblivione
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in 1920

Published in March of 1921


in
The United Amateur

Ex Oblivione
When the last days were upon me, and the ugly trifles of existence
began to drive me to madness like the small drops of water that
torturers let fall ceaselessly upon one spot of their victims body, I
loved the irradiate refuge of sleep. In my dreams I found a little of
the beauty I had vainly sought in life, and wandered through old
gardens and enchanted woods.

Once when the wind was soft and scented I heard the south calling,
and sailed endlessly and languorously under strange stars.

Once when the gentle rain fell I glided in a barge down a sunless
stream under the earth till I reached another world of purple twilight,
iridescent arbours, and undying roses.

And once I walked through a golden valley that led to shadowy


groves and ruins, and ended in a mighty wall green with antique
vines, and pierced by a little gate of bronze.

Many times I walked through that valley, and longer and longer
would I pause in the spectral half-light where the giant trees
squirmed and twisted grotesquely, and the grey ground stretched
damply from trunk to trunk, sometimes disclosing the mould-stained
stones of buried temples. And always the goal of my fancies was the
mighty vine-grown wall with the little gate of bronze therein.

After awhile, as the days of waking became less and less bearable
from their greyness and sameness, I would often drift in opiate
peace through the valley and the shadowy groves, and wonder how
I might seize them for my eternal dwelling-place, so that I need no
more crawl back to a dull world stript of interest and new colours.
And as I looked upon the little gate in the mighty wall, I felt that
beyond it lay a dream-country from which, once it was entered, there
would be no return.

So each night in sleep I strove to find the hidden latch of the gate in
the ivied antique wall, though it was exceedingly well hidden. And I
would tell myself that the realm beyond the wall was not more
lasting merely, but more lovely and radiant as well.

Then one night in the dream-city of Zakarion I found a yellowed


papyrus filled with the thoughts of dream-sages who dwelt of old in
that city, and who were too wise ever to be born in the waking world.
Therein were written many things concerning the world of dream,
and among them was lore of a golden valley and a sacred grove
with temples, and a high wall pierced by a little bronze gate. When I
saw this lore, I knew that it touched on the scenes I had haunted,
and I therefore read long in the yellowed papyrus.

Some of the dream-sages wrote gorgeously of the wonders beyond


the irrepassable gate, but others told of horror and disappointment. I
knew not which to believe, yet longed more and more to cross
forever into the unknown land; for doubt and secrecy are the lure of
lures, and no new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture
of the commonplace. So when I learned of the drug which would
unlock the gate and drive me through, I resolved to take it when next
I awaked.

Last night I swallowed the drug and floated dreamily into the golden
valley and the shadowy groves; and when I came this time to the
antique wall, I saw that the small gate of bronze was ajar. From
beyond came a glow that weirdly lit the giant twisted trees and the
tops of the buried temples, and I drifted on songfully, expectant of
the glories of the land from whence I should never return.

But as the gate swung wider and the sorcery of the drug and the
dream pushed me through, I knew that all sights and glories were at
an end; for in that new realm was neither land nor sea, but only the
white void of unpeopled and illimitable space. So, happier than I had
ever dared hope to be, I dissolved again into that native infinity of
crystal oblivion from which the daemon Life had called me for one
brief and desolate hour.
Facts Concerning the
Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in 1920

Published in March of 1921


in
The Wolverine

Facts Concerning the


Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
I

Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it
peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold
more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will
perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species—if separate
species we be—for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by
mortal brains if loosed upon the world. If we knew what we are, we should do
as Sir Arthur Jermyn did; and Arthur Jermyn soaked himself in oil and set fire
to his clothing one night. No one placed the charred fragments in an urn or
set a memorial to him who had been; for certain papers and a certain boxed
object were found which made men wish to forget. Some who knew him do
not admit that he ever existed.

Arthur Jermyn went out on the moor and burned himself after seeing the
boxed object which had come from Africa. It was this object, and not his
peculiar personal appearance, which made him end his life. Many would
have disliked to live if possessed of the peculiar features of Arthur Jermyn,
but he had been a poet and scholar and had not minded. Learning was in his
blood, for his great-grandfather, Sir Robert Jermyn, Bt., had been an
anthropologist of note, whilst his great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Wade
Jermyn, was one of the earliest explorers of the Congo region, and had
written eruditely of its tribes, animals, and supposed antiquities. Indeed, old
Sir Wade had possessed an intellectual zeal amounting almost to a mania;
his bizarre conjectures on a prehistoric white Congolese civilisation earning
him much ridicule when his book, Observation on the Several Parts of Africa,
was published. In 1765 this fearless explorer had been placed in a
madhouse at Huntingdon.

Madness was in all the Jermyns, and people were glad there were not many
of them. The line put forth no branches, and Arthur was the last of it. If he
had not been, one can not say what he would have done when the object
came. The Jermyns never seemed to look quite right—something was amiss,
though Arthur was the worst, and the old family portraits in Jermyn House
showed fine faces enough before Sir Wade’s time. Certainly, the madness
began with Sir Wade, whose wild stories of Africa were at once the delight
and terror of his few friends. It showed in his collection of trophies and
specimens, which were not such as a normal man would accumulate and
preserve, and appeared strikingly in the Oriental seclusion in which he kept
his wife. The latter, he had said, was the daughter of a Portuguese trader
whom he had met in Africa; and did not like English ways. She, with an infant
son born in Africa, had accompanied him back from the second and longest
of his trips, and had gone with him on the third and last, never returning. No
one had ever seen her closely, not even the servants; for her disposition had
been violent and singular. During her brief stay at Jermyn House she
occupied a remote wing, and was waited on by her husband alone. Sir Wade
was, indeed, most peculiar in his solicitude for his family; for when he
returned to Africa he would permit no one to care for his young son save a
loathsome black woman from Guinea. Upon coming back, after the death of
Lady Jermyn, he himself assumed complete care of the boy.

But it was the talk of Sir Wade, especially when in his cups, which chiefly led
his friends to deem him mad. In a rational age like the eighteenth century it
was unwise for a man of learning to talk about wild sights and strange
scenes under a Congo moon; of the gigantic walls and pillars of a forgotten
city, crumbling and vine-grown, and of damp, silent, stone steps leading
interminably down into the darkness of abysmal treasure-vaults and
inconceivable catacombs. Especially was it unwise to rave of the living things
that might haunt such a place; of creatures half of the jungle and half of the
impiously aged city—fabulous creatures which even a Pliny might describe
with scepticism; things that might have sprung up after the great apes had
overrun the dying city with the walls and the pillars, the vaults and the weird
carvings. Yet after he came home for the last time Sir Wade would speak of
such matters with a shudderingly uncanny zest, mostly after his third glass at
the Knight’s Head; boasting of what he had found in the jungle and of how he
had dwelt among terrible ruins known only to him. And finally he had spoken
of the living things in such a manner that he was taken to the madhouse. He
had shown little regret when shut into the barred room at Huntingdon, for his
mind moved curiously. Ever since his son had commenced to grow out of
infancy, he had liked his home less and less, till at last he had seemed to
dread it. The Knight’s Head had been his headquarters, and when he was
confined he expressed some vague gratitude as if for protection. Three years
later he died.

Wade Jermyn’s son Philip was a highly peculiar person. Despite a strong
physical resemblance to his father, his appearance and conduct were in
many particulars so coarse that he was universally shunned. Though he did
not inherit the madness which was feared by some, he was densely stupid
and given to brief periods of uncontrollable violence. In frame he was small,
but intensely powerful, and was of incredible agility. Twelve years after
succeeding to his title he married the daughter of his gamekeeper, a person
said to be of gypsy extraction, but before his son was born joined the navy as
a common sailor, completing the general disgust which his habits and
misalliance had begun. After the close of the American war he was heard of
as sailor on a merchantman in the African trade, having a kind of reputation
for feats of strength and climbing, but finally disappearing one night as his
ship lay off the Congo coast.

In the son of Sir Philip Jermyn the now accepted family peculiarity took a
strange and fatal turn. Tall and fairly handsome, with a sort of weird Eastern
grace despite certain slight oddities of proportion, Robert Jermyn began life
as a scholar and investigator. It was he who first studied scientifically the vast
collection of relics which his mad grandfather had brought from Africa, and
who made the family name as celebrated in ethnology as in exploration. In
1815 Sir Robert married a daughter of the seventh Viscount Brightholme and
was subsequently blessed with three children, the eldest and youngest of
whom were never publicly seen on account of deformities in mind and body.
Saddened by these family misfortunes, the scientist sought relief in work,
and made two long expeditions in the interior of Africa. In 1849 his second
son, Nevil, a singularly repellent person who seemed to combine the
surliness of Philip Jermyn with the hauteur of the Brightholmes, ran away
with a vulgar dancer, but was pardoned upon his return in the following year.
He came back to Jermyn House a widower with an infant son, Alfred, who
was one day to be the father of Arthur Jermyn.

Friends said that it was this series of griefs which unhinged the mind of Sir
Robert Jermyn, yet it was probably merely a bit of African folklore which
caused the disaster. The elderly scholar had been collecting legends of the
Onga tribes near the field of his grandfather’s and his own explorations,
hoping in some way to account for Sir Wade’s wild tales of a lost city peopled
by strange hybrid creatures. A certain consistency in the strange papers of
his ancestor suggested that the madman’s imagination might have been
stimulated by native myths. On October 19, 1852, the explorer Samuel
Seaton called at Jermyn House with a manuscript of notes collected among
the Ongas, believing that certain legends of a gray city of white apes ruled by
a white god might prove valuable to the ethnologist. In his conversation he
probably supplied many additional details; the nature of which will never be
known, since a hideous series of tragedies suddenly burst into being. When
Sir Robert Jermyn emerged from his library he left behind the strangled
corpse of the explorer, and before he could be restrained, had put an end to
all three of his children; the two who were never seen, and the son who had
run away. Nevil Jermyn died in the successful defence of his own two-year-
old son, who had apparently been included in the old man’s madly
murderous scheme. Sir Robert himself, after repeated attempts at suicide
and a stubborn refusal to utter an articulate sound, died of apoplexy in the
second year of his confinement.

Sir Alfred Jermyn was a baronet before his fourth birthday, but his tastes
never matched his title. At twenty he had joined a band of music-hall
performers, and at thirty-six had deserted his wife and child to travel with an
itinerant American circus. His end was very revolting. Among the animals in
the exhibition with which he travelled was a huge bull gorilla of lighter colour
than the average; a surprisingly tractable beast of much popularity with the
performers. With this gorilla Alfred Jermyn was singularly fascinated, and on
many occasions the two would eye each other for long periods through the
intervening bars. Eventually Jermyn asked and obtained permission to train
the animal, astonishing audiences and fellow performers alike with his
success. One morning in Chicago, as the gorilla and Alfred Jermyn were
rehearsing an exceedingly clever boxing match, the former delivered a blow
of more than the usual force, hurting both the body and the dignity of the
amateur trainer. Of what followed, members of “The Greatest Show On
Earth” do not like to speak. They did not expect to hear Sir Alfred Jermyn
emit a shrill, inhuman scream, or to see him seize his clumsy antagonist with
both hands, dash it to the floor of the cage, and bite fiendishly at its hairy
throat. The gorilla was off its guard, but not for long, and before anything
could be done by the regular trainer, the body which had belonged to a
baronet was past recognition.

II

Arthur Jermyn was the son of Sir Alfred Jermyn and a music-hall singer of
unknown origin. When the husband and father deserted his family, the
mother took the child to Jermyn House; where there was none left to object
to her presence. She was not without notions of what a nobleman’s dignity
should be, and saw to it that her son received the best education which
limited money could provide. The family resources were now sadly slender,
and Jermyn House had fallen into woeful disrepair, but young Arthur loved
the old edifice and all its contents. He was not like any other Jermyn who had
ever lived, for he was a poet and a dreamer. Some of the neighbouring
families who had heard tales of old Sir Wade Jermyn’s unseen Portuguese
wife declared that her Latin blood must be showing itself; but most persons
merely sneered at his sensitiveness to beauty, attributing it to his music-hall
mother, who was socially unrecognised. The poetic delicacy of Arthur Jermyn
was the more remarkable because of his uncouth personal appearance.
Most of the Jermyns had possessed a subtly odd and repellent cast, but
Arthur’s case was very striking. It is hard to say just what he resembled, but
his expression, his facial angle, and the length of his arms gave a thrill of
repulsion to those who met him for the first time.

It was the mind and character of Arthur Jermyn which atoned for his aspect.
Gifted and learned, he took highest honours at Oxford and seemed likely to
redeem the intellectual fame of his family. Though of poetic rather than
scientific temperament, he planned to continue the work of his forefathers in
African ethnology and antiquities, utilising the truly wonderful though strange
collection of Sir Wade. With his fanciful mind he thought often of the
prehistoric civilisation in which the mad explorer had so implicitly believed,
and would weave tale after tale about the silent jungle city mentioned in the
latter’s wilder notes and paragraphs. For the nebulous utterances concerning
a nameless, unsuspected race of jungle hybrids he had a peculiar feeling of
mingled terror and attraction, speculating on the possible basis of such a
fancy, and seeking to obtain light among the more recent data gleaned by his
great-grandfather and Samuel Seaton amongst the Ongas.
In 1911, after the death of his mother, Sir Arthur Jermyn determined to
pursue his investigations to the utmost extent. Selling a portion of his estate
to obtain the requisite money, he outfitted an expedition and sailed for the
Congo. Arranging with the Belgian authorities for a party of guides, he spent
a year in the Onga and Kahn country, finding data beyond the highest of his
expectations. Among the Kaliris was an aged chief called Mwanu, who
possessed not only a highly retentive memory, but a singular degree of
intelligence and interest in old legends. This ancient confirmed every tale
which Jermyn had heard, adding his own account of the stone city and the
white apes as it had been told to him.

According to Mwanu, the gray city and the hybrid creatures were no more,
having been annihilated by the warlike N’bangus many years ago. This tribe,
after destroying most of the edifices and killing the live beings, had carried off
the stuffed goddess which had been the object of their quest; the white ape-
goddess which the strange beings worshipped, and which was held by
Congo tradition to be the form of one who had reigned as a princess among
these beings. Just what the white apelike creatures could have been, Mwanu
had no idea, but he thought they were the builders of the ruined city. Jermyn
could form no conjecture, but by close questioning obtained a very
picturesque legend of the stuffed goddess.

The ape-princess, it was said, became the consort of a great white god who
had come out of the West. For a long time they had reigned over the city
together, but when they had a son, all three went away. Later the god and
princess had returned, and upon the death of the princess her divine
husband had mummified the body and enshrined it in a vast house of stone,
where it was worshipped. Then he departed alone. The legend here seemed
to present three variants. According to one story, nothing further happened
save that the stuffed goddess became a symbol of supremacy for whatever
tribe might possess it. It was for this reason that the N’bangus carried it off. A
second story told of a god’s return and death at the feet of his enshrined
wife. A third told of the return of the son, grown to manhood—or apehood or
godhood, as the case might be—yet unconscious of his identity. Surely the
imaginative blacks had made the most of whatever events might lie behind
the extravagant legendry.

Of the reality of the jungle city described by old Sir Wade, Arthur Jermyn had
no further doubt; and was hardly astonished when early in 1912 he came
upon what was left of it. Its size must have been exaggerated, yet the stones
lying about proved that it was no mere Negro village. Unfortunately no
carvings could be found, and the small size of the expedition prevented
operations toward clearing the one visible passageway that seemed to lead
down into the system of vaults which Sir Wade had mentioned. The white
apes and the stuffed goddess were discussed with all the native chiefs of the
region, but it remained for a European to improve on the data offered by old
Mwanu. M. Verhaeren, Belgian agent at a trading-post on the Congo,
believed that he could not only locate but obtain the stuffed goddess, of
which he had vaguely heard; since the once mighty N’bangus were now the
submissive servants of King Albert’s government, and with but little
persuasion could be induced to part with the gruesome deity they had carried
off. When Jermyn sailed for England, therefore, it was with the exultant
probability that he would within a few months receive a priceless ethnological
relic confirming the wildest of his great-great-great-grandfather’s narratives—
that is, the wildest which he had ever heard. Countrymen near Jermyn
House had perhaps heard wilder tales handed down from ancestors who had
listened to Sir Wade around the tables of the Knight’s Head.

Arthur Jermyn waited very patiently for the expected box from M. Verhaeren,
meanwhile studying with increased diligence the manuscripts left by his mad
ancestor. He began to feel closely akin to Sir Wade, and to seek relics of the
latter’s personal life in England as well as of his African exploits. Oral
accounts of the mysterious and secluded wife had been numerous, but no
tangible relic of her stay at Jermyn House remained. Jermyn wondered what
circumstance had prompted or permitted such an effacement, and decided
that the husband’s insanity was the prime cause. His great-great-great-
grandmother, he recalled, was said to have been the daughter of a
Portuguese trader in Africa. No doubt her practical heritage and superficial
knowledge of the Dark Continent had caused her to flout Sir Wade’s tales of
the interior, a thing which such a man would not be likely to forgive. She had
died in Africa, perhaps dragged thither by a husband determined to prove
what he had told. But as Jermyn indulged in these reflections he could not
but smile at their futility, a century and a half after the death of both his
strange progenitors.

In June, 1913, a letter arrived from M. Verhaeren, telling of the finding of the
stuffed goddess. It was, the Belgian averred, a most extraordinary object; an
object quite beyond the power of a layman to classify. Whether it was human
or simian only a scientist could determine, and the process of determination
would be greatly hampered by its imperfect condition. Time and the Congo
climate are not kind to mummies; especially when their preparation is as
amateurish as seemed to be the case here. Around the creature’s neck had
been found a golden chain bearing an empty locket on which were armorial
designs; no doubt some hapless traveller’s keepsake, taken by the N’bangus
and hung upon the goddess as a charm. In commenting on the contour of
the mummy’s face, M. Verhaeren suggested a whimsical comparison; or
rather, expressed a humorous wonder just how it would strike his
corespondent, but was too much interested scientifically to waste many
words in levity. The stuffed goddess, he wrote, would arrive duly packed
about a month after receipt of the letter.

The boxed object was delivered at Jermyn House on the afternoon of August
3, 1913, being conveyed immediately to the large chamber which housed the
collection of African specimens as arranged by Sir Robert and Arthur. What
ensued can best be gathered from the tales of servants and from things and
papers later examined. Of the various tales, that of aged Soames, the family
butler, is most ample and coherent. According to this trustworthy man, Sir
Arthur Jermyn dismissed everyone from the room before opening the box,
though the instant sound of hammer and chisel showed that he did not delay
the operation. Nothing was heard for some time; just how long Soames
cannot exactly estimate, but it was certainly less than a quarter of an hour
later that the horrible scream, undoubtedly in Jermyn’s voice, was heard.
Immediately afterward Jermyn emerged from the room, rushing frantically
toward the front of the house as if pursued by some hideous enemy. The
expression on his face, a face ghastly enough in repose, was beyond
description. When near the front door he seemed to think of something, and
turned back in his flight, finally disappearing down the stairs to the cellar. The
servants were utterly dumbfounded, and watched at the head of the stairs,
but their master did not return. A smell of oil was all that came up from the
regions below. After dark a rattling was heard at the door leading from the
cellar into the courtyard; and a stable-boy saw Arthur Jermyn, glistening from
head to foot with oil and redolent of that fluid, steal furtively out and vanish
on the black moor surrounding the house. Then, in an exaltation of supreme
horror, everyone saw the end. A spark appeared on the moor, a flame arose,
and a pillar of human fire reached to the heavens. The house of Jermyn no
longer existed.

The reason why Arthur Jermyn’s charred fragments were not collected and
buried lies in what was found afterward, principally the thing in the box. The
stuffed goddess was a nauseous sight, withered and eaten away, but it was
clearly a mummified white ape of some unknown species, less hairy than any
recorded variety, and infinitely nearer mankind—quite shockingly so.
Detailed description would be rather unpleasant, but two salient particulars
must be told, for they fit in revoltingly with certain notes of Sir Wade Jermyn’s
African expeditions and with the Congolese legends of the white god and the
ape-princess. The two particulars in question are these: the arms on the
golden locket about the creature’s neck were the Jermyn arms, and the
jocose suggestion of M. Verhaeren about certain resemblance as connected
with the shrivelled face applied with vivid, ghastly, and unnatural horror to
none other than the sensitive Arthur Jermyn, great-great-great-grandson of
Sir Wade Jermyn and an unknown wife. Members of the Royal
Anthropological Institute burned the thing and threw the locket into a well,
and some of them do not admit that Arthur Jermyn ever existed.
From Beyond
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in 1920

Published in June of 1934


in
The Fantasy Fan

From Beyond
Horrible beyond conception was the change which had taken place
in my best friend, Crawford Tillinghast. I had not seen him since that
day, two months and a half before, when he told me toward what
goal his physical and metaphysical researches were leading; when
he had answered my awed and almost frightened remonstrances by
driving me from his laboratory and his house in a burst of fanatical
rage. I had known that he now remained mostly shut in the attic
laboratory with that accursed electrical machine, eating little and
excluding even the servants, but I had not thought that a brief period
of ten weeks could so alter and disfigure any human creature. It is
not pleasant to see a stout man suddenly grown thin, and it is even
worse when the baggy skin becomes yellowed or grayed, the eyes
sunken, circled, and uncannily glowing, the forehead veined and
corrugated, and the hands tremulous and twitching. And if added to
this there be a repellent unkemptness, a wild disorder of dress, a
bushiness of dark hair white at the roots, and an unchecked growth
of white beard on a face once clean-shaven, the cumulative effect is
quite shocking. But such was the aspect of Crawford Tilllinghast on
the night his half coherent message brought me to his door after my
weeks of exile; such was the specter that trembled as it admitted
me, candle in hand, and glanced furtively over its shoulder as if
fearful of unseen things in the ancient, lonely house set back from
Benevolent Street.

That Crawford Tilinghast should ever have studied science and


philosophy was a mistake. These things should be left to the frigid
and impersonal investigator for they offer two equally tragic
alternatives to the man of feeling and action; despair, if he fail in his
quest, and terrors unutterable and unimaginable if he succeed.
Tillinghast had once been the prey of failure, solitary and
melancholy; but now I knew, with nauseating fears of my own, that
he was the prey of success. I had indeed warned him ten weeks
before, when he burst forth with his tale of what he felt himself about
to discover. He had been flushed and excited then, talking in a high
and unnatural, though always pedantic, voice.

"What do we know," he had said, "of the world and the universe
about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few,
and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see
things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea
of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to
comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with
wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very
differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds
of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be
detected with the senses we have. I have always believed that such
strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I
believe I have found a way to break dawn the barriers. I am not
joking. Within twenty-four hours that machine near the table will
generate waves acting on unrecognized sense organs that exist in
us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges. Those waves will open up
to us many vistas unknown to man and several unknown to anything
we consider organic life. We shall see that at which dogs howl in the
dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight. We
shall see these things, and other things which no breathing creature
has yet seen. We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and
without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation."

When Tillinghast said these things I remonstrated, for I knew him


well enough to be frightened rather than amused; but he was a
fanatic, and drove me from the house. Now he was no less a fanatic,
but his desire to speak had conquered his resentment, and he had
written me imperatively in a hand I could scarcely recognize. As I
entered the abode of the friend so suddenly metamorphosed to a
shivering gargoyle, I became infected with the terror which seemed
stalking in all the shadows. The words and beliefs expressed ten
weeks before seemed bodied forth in the darkness beyond the small
circle of candle light, and I sickened at the hollow, altered voice of
my host. I wished the servants were about, and did not like it when
he said they had all left three days previously. It seemed strange
that old Gregory, at least, should desert his master without telling as
tried a friend as I. It was he who had given me all the information I
had of Tillinghast after I was repulsed in rage.

Yet I soon subordinated all my fears to my growing curiosity and


fascination. Just what Crawford Tillinghast now wished of me I could
only guess, but that he had some stupendous secret or discovery to
impart, I could not doubt. Before I had protested at his unnatural
pryings into the unthinkable; now that he had evidently succeeded to
some degree I almost shared his spirit, terrible though the cost of
victory appeared. Up through the dark emptiness of the house I
followed the bobbing candle in the hand of this shaking parody on
man. The electricity seemed to be turned off, and when I asked my
guide he said it was for a definite reason.

"It would be too much... I would not dare," he continued to mutter. I


especially noted his new habit of muttering, for it was not like him to
talk to himself. We entered the laboratory in the attic, and I observed
that detestable electrical machine, glowing with a sickly, sinister
violet luminosity. It was connected with a powerful chemical battery,
but seemed to be receiving no current; for I recalled that in its
experimental stage it had sputtered and purred when in action. In
reply to my question Tillinghast mumbled that this permanent glow
was not electrical in any sense that I could understand.

He now seated me near the machine, so that it was on my right, and


turned a switch somewhere below the crowning cluster of glass
bulbs. The usual sputtering began, turned to a whine, and
terminated in a drone so soft as to suggest a return to silence.
Meanwhile the luminosity increased, waned again, then assumed a
pale, outrè colour or blend of colours which I could neither place nor
describe. Tillinghast had been watching me, and noted my puzzled
expression.
"Do you know what that is?" he whispered, "That is ultra-violet." He
chuckled oddly at my surprise. "You thought ultra-violet was
invisible, and so it is - but you can see that and many other invisible
things now.

"Listen to me! The waves from that thing are waking a thousand
sleeping senses in us; senses which we inherit from aeons of
evolution from the state of detached electrons to the state of organic
humanity. I have seen the truth, and I intend to show it to you. Do
you wonder how it will seem? I will tell you." Here Trninghast seated
himself directly opposite me, blowing out his candle and staring
hideously into my eyes. "Your existing sense-organs - ears first, I
think - will pick up many of the impressions, for they are closely
connected with the dormant organs. Then there will be others. You
have heard of the pineal gland? I laugh at the shallow
endocrinologist, fellow-dupe and fellow-parvenu of the Freudian.
That gland is the great sense organ of organs - I have found out. It is
like sight in the end, and transmits visual pictures to the brain. If you
are normal, that is the way you ought to get most of it... I mean get
most of the evidence from beyond."

I looked about the immense attic room with the sloping south wall,
dimly lit by rays which the every day eye cannot see. The far corners
were all shadows and the whole place took on a hazy unreality
which obscured its nature and invited the imagination to symbolism
and phantasm. During the interval that Tillinghast was long silent I
fancied myself in some vast incredible temple of long-dead gods;
some vague edifice of innumerable black stone columns reaching up
from a floor of damp slabs to a cloudy height beyond the range of
my vision. The picture was very vivid for a while, but gradually gave
way to a more horrible conception; that of utter, absolute solitude in
infinite, sightless, soundless space. There seemed to be a void, and
nothing more, and I felt a childish fear which prompted me to draw
from my hip pocket the revolver I carried after dark since the night I
was held up in East Providence. Then from the farthermost regions
of remoteness, the sound softly glided into existence. It was infinitely
faint, subtly vibrant, and unmistakably musical, but held a quality of
surpassing wildness which made its impact feel like a delicate
torture of my whole body. I felt sensations like those one feels when
accidentally scratching ground glass. Simultaneously there
developed something like a cold draught, which apparently swept
past me from the direction of the distant sound. As I waited
breathlessly I perceived that both sound and wind were increasing;
the effect being to give me an odd notion of myself as tied to a pair
of rails in the path of a gigantic approaching locomotive. I began to
speak to Tillinghast, and as I did so all the unusual impressions
abruptly vanished. I saw only the man, the glowing machines, and
the dim apartment. Tillinghast was grinning repulsively at the
revolver which I had almost unconsciously drawn, but from his
expression I was sure he had seen and heard as much as I, if not a
great deal more. I whispered what I had experienced and he bade
me to remain as quiet and receptive as possible.

"Don't move," he cautioned, "for in these rays we are able to be


seen as well as to see. I told you the servants left, but I didn't tell you
how. It was that thick-witted house-keeper - she turned on the lights
downstairs after I had warned her not to, and the wires picked up
sympathetic vibrations. It must have been frightful - I could hear the
screams up here in spite of all I was seeing and hearing from
another direction, and later it was rather awful to find those empty
heaps of clothes around the house. Mrs. Updike's clothes were
close to the front hall switch - that's how I know she did it. It got them
all. But so long as we don't move we're fairly safe. Remember we're
dealing with a hideous world in which we are practically helpless...
Keep still!"

The combined shock of the revelation and of the abrupt command


gave me a kind of paralysis, and in my terror my mind again opened
to the impressions coming from what Tillinghast called "beyond." I
was now in a vortex of sound and motion, with confused pictures
before my eyes. I saw the blurred outlines of the room, but from
some point in space there seemed to be pouring a seething column
of unrecognizable shapes or clouds, penetrating the solid roof at a
point ahead and to the right of me. Then I glimpsed the temple - like
effect again, but this time the pillars reached up into an aerial ocean
of light, which sent down one blinding beam along the path of the
cloudy column I had seen before. After that the scene was almost
wholly kaleidoscopic, and in the jumble of sights, sounds, and
unidentified sense-impressions I felt that I was about to dissolve or
in some way lose the solid form. One definite flash I shall always
remember. I seemed for an instant to behold a patch of strange
night sky filled with shining, revolving spheres, and as it receded I
saw that the glowing suns formed a constellation or galaxy of settled
shape; this shape being the distorted face of Crawford Tillinghast. At
another time I felt the huge animate things brushing past me and
occasionally walking or drifting through my supposedly solid body,
and thought I saw Tillinghast look at them as though his better
trained senses could catch them visually. I recalled what he had said
of the pineal gland, and wondered what he saw with this
preternatural eye.

Suddenly I myself became possessed of a kind of augmented sight.


Over and above the luminous and shadowy chaos arose a picture
which, though vague, held the elements of consistency and
permanence. It was indeed somewhat familiar, for the unusual part
was superimposed upon the usual terrestrial scene much as a
cinema view may be thrown upon the painted curtain of a theater. I
saw the attic laboratory, the electrical machine, and the unsightly
form of Tillinghast opposite me; but of all the space unoccupied by
familiar objects not one particle was vacant. Indescribable shapes
both alive and otherwise were mixed in disgusting disarray, and
close to every known thing were whole worlds of alien, unknown
entities. It likewise seemed that all the known things entered into the
composition of other unknown things and vice versa. Foremost
among the living objects were inky, jellyfish monstrosities which
flabbily quivered in harmony with the vibrations from the machine.
They were present in loathsome profusion, and I saw to my horror
that they overlapped; that they were semi-fluid and capable of
passing through one another and through what we know as solids.
These things were never still, but seemed ever floating about with
some malignant purpose. Sometimes they appeared to devour one
another, the attacker launching itself at its victim and
instantaneously obliterating the latter from sight. Shudderingly I felt
that I knew what had obliterated the unfortunate servants, and could
not exclude the thing from my mind as I strove to observe other
properties of the newly visible world that lies unseen around us. But
Tillinghast had been watching me and was speaking.

"You see them? You see them? You see the things that float and
flop about you and through you every moment of your life? You see
the creatures that form what men call the pure air and the blue sky?
Have I not succeeded in breaking down the barrier; have I not
shown you worlds that no other living men have seen?" I heard his
scream through the horrible chaos, and looked at the wild face thrust
so offensively close to mine. His eyes were pits of flame, and they
glared at me with what I now saw was overwhelming hatred. The
machine droned detestably.

"You think those floundering things wiped out the servants? Fool,
they are harmless! But the servants are gone, aren't they? You tried
to stop me; you discouraged me when I needed every drop of
encouragement I could get; you were afraid of the cosmic truth, you
damned coward, but now I've got you! What swept up the servants?
What made them scream so loud?... Don't know, eh! You'll know
soon enough. Look at me - listen to what I say - do you suppose
there are really any such things as time and magnitude? Do you
fancy there are such things as form or matter? I tell you, I have
struck depths that your little brain can't picture. I have seen beyond
the bounds of infinity and drawn down demons from the stars... I
have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow
death and madness... Space belongs to me, do you hear? Things
are hunting me now - the things that devour and dissolve - but I
know how to elude them. It is you they will get, as they got the
servants... Stirring, dear sir? I told you it was dangerous to move, I
have saved you so far by telling you to keep still - saved you to see
more sights and to listen to me. If you had moved, they would have
been at you long ago. Don't worry, they won't hurt you. They didn't
hurt the servants - it was the seeing that made the poor devils
scream so. My pets are not pretty, for they come out of places
where aesthetic standards are - very different. Disintegration is quite
painless, I assure you -- but I want you to see them. I almost saw
them, but I knew how to stop. You are curious? I always knew you
were no scientist. Trembling, eh. Trembling with anxiety to see the
ultimate things I have discovered. Why don't you move, then? Tired?
Well, don't worry, my friend, for they are coming... Look, look, curse
you, look... it's just over your left shoulder..."

What remains to be told is very brief, and may be familiar to you


from the newspaper accounts. The police heard a shot in the old
Tillinghast house and found us there - Tillinghast dead and me
unconscious. They arrested me because the revolver was in my
hand, but released me in three hours, after they found it was
apoplexy which had finished Tillinghast and saw that my shot had
been directed at the noxious machine which now lay hopelessly
shattered on the laboratory floor. I did not tell very much of what I
had seen, for I feared the coroner would be skeptical; but from the
evasive outline I did give, the doctor told me that I had undoubtedly
been hypnotized by the vindictive and homicidal madman.

I wish I could believe that doctor. It would help my shaky nerves if I


could dismiss what I now have to think of the air and the sky about
and above me. I never feel alone or comfortable, and a hideous
sense of pursuit sometimes comes chillingly on me when I am
weary. What prevents me from believing the doctor is one simple
fact - that the police never found the bodies of those servants whom
they say Crawford Tillinghast murdered.
He
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written on August 11, 1925

Published in September 1926


in
Weird Tales

He
I saw him on a sleepless night when I was walking desperately to
save my soul and my vision. My coming to New York had been a
mistake; for whereas I had looked for poignant wonder and
inspiration in the teeming labyrinths of ancient streets that twist
endlessly from forgotten courts and squares and waterfronts to
courts and squares and waterfronts equally forgotten, and in the
Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly
Babylonian under waning moons, I had found instead only a sense
of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyze, and
annihilate me.

The disillusion had been gradual. Coming for the first time upon the
town, I had seen it in the sunset from a bridge, majestic above its
waters, its incredible peaks and pyramids rising flowerlike and
delicate from pools of violet mist to play with the flaming clouds and
the first stars of evening. Then it had lighted up window by window
above the shimmering tides where lanterns nodded and glided and
deep horns bayed weird harmonies, and had itself become a starry
firmament of dream, redolent of faery music, and one with the
marvels of Carcassonne and Samarcand and El Dorado and all
glorious and half-fabulous cities. Shortly afterward I was taken
through those antique ways so dear to my fancy-narrow, curving
alleys and passages where rows of red Georgian brick blinked with
small-paned dormers above pillared doorways that had looked on
gilded sedans and paneled coaches - and in the first flush of
realization of these long-wished things I thought I had indeed
achieved such treasures as would make me in time a poet.

But success and happiness were not to be. Garish daylight showed
only squalor and alienage and the noxious elephantiasis of climbing,
spreading stone where the moon had hinted of loveliness and elder
magic; and the throngs of people that seethed through the flume-like
streets were squat, swarthy strangers with hardened faces and
narrow eyes, shrewd strangers without dreams and without kinship
to the scenes about them, who could never mean aught to a blue-
eyed man of the old folk, with the love of fair green lanes and white
New England village steeples in his heart.

So instead of the poems I had hoped for, there came only a


shuddering blackness and ineffable loneliness; and I saw at last a
fearful truth which no one had ever dared to breathe before - the
unwhisperable secret of secrets - the fact that this city of stone and
stridor is not a sentient perpetuation of Old New York as London is
of Old London and Paris of Old Paris, but that it is in fact quite dead,
its sprawling body imperfectly embalmed and infested with queer
animate things which have nothing to do with it as it was in life.
Upon making this discovery I ceased to sleep comfortably; though
something of resigned tranquillity came back as I gradually formed
the habit of keeping off the streets by day and venturing abroad only
at night, when darkness calls forth what little of the past still hovers
wraith-like about, and old white doorways remember the stalwart
forms that once passed through them. With this mode of relief I even
wrote a few poems, and still refrained from going home to my people
lest I seem to crawl back ignobly in defeat.

Then, on a sleepless night's walk, I met the man. It was in a


grotesque hidden courtyard of the Greenwich section, for there in
my ignorance I had settled, having heard of the place as the natural
home of poets and artists. The archaic lanes and houses and
unexpected bits of square and court had indeed delighted me, and
when I found the poets and artists to be loud-voiced pretenders
whose quaintness is tinsel and whose lives are a denial of all that
pure beauty which is poetry and art, I stayed on for love of these
venerable things. I fancied them as they were in their prime, when
Greenwich was a placid village not yet engulfed by the town; and in
the hours before dawn, when all the revellers had slunk away, I used
to wander alone among their cryptical windings and brood upon the
curious arcana which generations must have deposited there. This
kept my soul alive, and gave me a few of those dreams and visions
for which the poet far within me cried out.

The man came upon me at about two one cloudy August morning,
as I was threading a series of detached courtyards; now accessible
only through the unlighted hallways of intervening buildings, but
once forming parts of a continuous network of picturesque alleys. I
had heard of them by vague rumor, and realized that they could not
be upon any map of today; but the fact that they were forgotten only
endeared them to me, so that I had sought them with twice my usual
eagerness. Now that I had found them, my eagerness was again
redoubled; for something in their arrangement dimly hinted that they
might be only a few of many such, with dark, dumb counterparts
wedged obscurely betwixt high blank walls and deserted rear
tenements, or lurking lamplessly behind archways unbetrayed by
hordes of the foreign-speaking or guarded by furtive and
uncommunicative artists whose practises do not invite publicity or
the light of day.

He spoke to me without invitation, noting my mood and glances as I


studied certain knockered doorways above iron-railed steps, the
pallid glow of traceried transoms feebly lighting my face. His own
face was in shadow, and he wore a wide-brimmed hat which
somehow blended perfectly with the out-of-date cloak he affected;
but I was subtly disquieted even before he addressed me. His form
was very slight; thin almost to cadaverousness; and his voice proved
phenomenally soft and hollow, though not particularly deep. He had,
he said, noticed me several times at my wanderings; and inferred
that I resembled him in loving the vestiges of former years. Would I
not like the guidance of one long practised in these explorations,
and possessed of local information profoundly deeper than any
which an obvious newcomer could possibly have gained?

As he spoke, I caught a glimpse of his face in the yellow beam from


a solitary attic window. It was a noble, even a handsome elderly
countenance; and bore the marks of a lineage and refinement
unusual for the age and place. Yet some quality about it disturbed
me almost as much as its features pleased me - perhaps it was too
white, or too expressionless, or too much out of keeping with the
locality, to make me feel easy or comfortable. Nevertheless I
followed him; for in those dreary days my quest for antique beauty
and mystery was all that I had to keep my soul alive, and I reckoned
it a rare favor of Fate to fall in with one whose kindred seekings
seemed to have penetrated so much farther than mine.

Something in the night constrained the cloaked man to silence and


for a long hour he led me forward without needless words; making
only the briefest of comments concerning ancient names and dates
and changes, and directing my progress very largely by gestures as
we squeezed through interstices, tiptoed through corridors
clambered over brick walls, and once crawled on hands and knees
through a low, arched passage of stone whose immense length and
tortuous twistings effaced at last every hint of geographical location I
had managed to preserve. The things we saw were very old and
marvelous, or at least they seemed so in the few straggling rays of
light by which I viewed them, and I shall never forget the tottering
Ionic columns and fluted pilasters and urn-headed iron fenceposts
and flaring-linteled windows and decorative fanlights that appeared
to grow quainter and stranger the deeper we advanced into this
inexhaustible maze of unknown antiquity.

We met no person, and as time passed the lighted windows became


fewer and fewer. The streetlights we first encountered had been of
oil, and of the ancient lozenge pattern. Later I noticed some with
candles; and at last, after traversing a horrible unlighted court where
my guide had to lead with his gloved hand through total blackness to
a narrow wooded gate in a high wall, we came upon a fragment of
alley lit only by lanterns in front of every seventh house -
unbelievably Colonial tin lanterns with conical tops and holes
punched in the sides. This alley led steeply uphill - more steeply
than I thought possible in this part of New York - and the upper end
was blocked squarely by the ivy-clad wall of a private estate, beyond
which I could see a pale cupola, and the tops of trees waving
against a vague lightness in the sky. In this wall was a small, low-
arched gate of nail-studded black oak, which the man proceeded to
unlock with a ponderous key. Leading me within, he steered a
course in utter blackness over what seemed to be a gravel path, and
finally up a flight of stone steps to the door of the house, which he
unlocked and opened for me.

We entered, and as we did so I grew faint from a reek of infinite


mustiness which welled out to meet us, and which must have been
the fruit of unwholesome centuries of decay. My host appeared not
to notice this, and in courtesy I kept silent as he piloted me up a
curving stairway, across a hall, and into a room whose door I heard
him lock behind us. Then I saw him pull the curtains of the three
small-paned windows that barely showed themselves against the
lightening sky; after which he crossed to the mantel, struck flint and
steel, lighted two candles of a candelabrum of twelve sconces, and
made a gesture enjoining soft-toned speech.

In this feeble radiance I saw that we were in a spacious, well-


furnished and paneled library dating from the first quarter of the
Eighteenth Century, with splendid doorway pediments, a delightful
Doric cornice, and a magnificently carved overmantel with scroll-
and-urn top. Above the crowded bookshelves at intervals along the
walls were well-wrought family portraits; all tarnished to an
enigmatical dimness, and bearing an unmistakable likeness to the
man who now motioned me to a chair beside the graceful
Chippendale table. Before seating himself across the tahle from me,
my host paused for a moment as if in embarrassment; then, tardily
removing his gloves, wide-brimmed hat, and cloak, stood theatrically
revealed in full mid-Georgian costume from queued hair and neck
ruffles to knee-breeches, silk hose, and the buckled shoes I had not
previously noticed. Now slowly sinking into a lyre-back chair, he
commenced to eye me intently.

Without his hat he took on an aspect of extreme age which was


scarcely visible before, and I wondered if this unperceived mark of
singular longevity were not one of the sources of my disquiet. When
he spoke at length, his soft, hollow, and carefully muffled voice not
infrequently quavered; and now and then I had great difficulty in
following him as I listened with a thrill of amazement and half-
disavowed alarm which grew each instant.

"You behold, Sir," my host began, "a man of very eccentrical habits
for whose costume no apology need be offered to one with your wit
and inclinations. Reflecting upon better times, I have not scrupled to
ascertain their ways, and adopt their dress and manners; an
indulgence which offends none if practised without ostentation. It
hath been my good fortune to retain the rural seat of my ancestors,
swallowed though it was by two towns, first Greenwich, which built
up hither after 1800, then New York, which joined on near 1830.
There were many reasons for the close keeping of this place in my
family, and I have not been remiss in discharging such obligations.
The squire who succeeded to it in 1768 studied sartain arts and
made sartain discoveries, all connected with influences residing in
this particular plot of ground, and eminently desarving of the
strongest guarding. Some curious effects of these arts and
discoveries I now purpose to show you, under the strictest secrecy;
and I believe I may rely on my judgement of men enough to have no
distrust of either your interest or your fidelity."

He paused, but I could only nod my head. I have said that I was
alarmed, yet to my soul nothing was more deadly than the material
daylight world of New York, and whether this man were a harmless
eccentric or a wielder of dangerous arts, I had no choice save to
follow him and slake my sense of wonder on whatever he might
have to offer. So I listened.

"To - my ancestor," he softly continued, "there appeared to reside


some very remarkable qualities in the will of mankind; qualities
having a little-suspected dominance not only over the acts of one's
self and of others, but over every variety of force and substance in
Nature, and over many elements and dimensions deemed more
universal than Nature herself. May I say that he flouted the sanctity
of things as great as space and time and that he put to strange uses
the rites of sartain half-breed red Indians once encamped upon this
hill? These Indians showed choler when the place was built, and
were plaguey pestilent in asking to visit the grounds at the full of the
moon. For years they stole over the wall each month when they
could, and by stealth performed sartain acts. Then, in '68, the new
squire catched them at their doings, and stood still at what he saw.
Thereafter he bargained with them and exchanged the free access
of his grounds for the exact inwardness of what they did, larning that
their grandfathers got part of their custom from red ancestors and
part from an old Dutchman in the time of the States-General. Arid
pox on him, I'm afeared the squire must have sarved them
monstrous bad rum - whether or not by intent - for a week after he
larnt the secret he was the only man living that knew it. You, Sir, are
the first outsider to be told there is a secret, and split me if I'd have
risked tampering that much with - the powers - had ye not been so
hot after bygone things."

I shuddered as the man grew colloquial - and with the familiar


speech of another day. He went on.

"But you must know, Sir, that what - the squire - got from those
mongrel savages was but a small part of the larning he came to
have. He had not been at Oxford for nothing, nor talked to no
account with an ancient chymist and astrologer in Paris. He was, in
fine, made sensible that all the world is but the smoke of our
intellects; past the bidding of the vulgar, but by the wise to be puffed
out and drawn in like any cloud of prime Virginia tobacco. What we
want, we may make about us; and what we don't want, we may
sweep away. I won't say that all this is wholly true in body, but 'tis
sufficient true to furnish a very pretty spectacle now and then. You, I
conceive, would be tickled hy a better sight of sartain other years
than your fancy affords you; so be pleased to hold back any fright at
what I design to show. Come to the window and be quiet."

My host now took my hand to draw me to one of the two windows on


the long side of the malodorous room, and at the first touch of his
ungloved fingers I turned cold. His flesh, though dry and firm, was of
the quality of ice; and I almost shrank away from his pulling. But
again I thought of the emptiness and horror of reality, and boldly
prepared to follow whithersoever I might be led. Once at the window,
the man drew apart the yellow silk curtains and directed my stare
into the blackness outside. For a moment I saw nothing save a
myriad of tiny dancing lights, far, far before me. Then, as if in
response to an insidious motion of my host's hand, a flash of heat-
lightning played over the scene, and I looked out upon a sea of
luxuriant foliage - foliage unpolluted, and not the sea of roofs to be
expected by any normal mind. On my right the Hudson glittered
wickedly, and in the distance ahead I saw the unhealthy shimmer of
a vast salt marsh constellated with nervous fireflies. The flash died,
and an evil smile illumined the waxy face of the aged necromancer.

"That was before my time - before the new squire's time. Pray let us
try again."
I was faint, even fainter than the hateful modernity of that accursed
city had made me.

"Good God!" I whispered, "can you do that for any time?" And as he
nodded, and bared the black stumps of what had once been yellow
fangs, I clutched at the curtains to prevent myself from falling. But he
steadied me with that terrible, ice-cold claw, and once more made
his insidious gesture.

Again the lightning flashed - but this time upon a scene not wholly
strange. It was Greenwich, the Greenwich that used to be, with here
and there a roof or row of houses as we see it now, yet with lovely
green lanes and fields and bits of grassy common. The marsh still
glittered beyond, but in the farther distance I saw the steeples of
what was then all of New York; Trinity and St. Paul's and the Brick
Church dominating their sisters, and a faint haze of wood smoke
hovering over the whole. I breathed hard, hut not so much from the
sight itself as from the possibilities my imagination terrifiedly
conjured up.

"Can you - dare you - go far?" I spoke with awe and I think he
shared it for a second, but the evil grin returned.

"Far? What I have seen would blast ye to a mad statue of stone!


Back, back - forward, forward - look ye puling lackwit!"

And as he snarled the phrase under his breath he gestured anew


bringing to the sky a flash more blinding than either which had come
before. For full three seconds I could glimpse that pandemoniac
sight, and in those seconds I saw a vista which will ever afterward
torment me in dreams. I saw the heavens verminous with strange
flying things, and beneath them a hellish black city of giant stone
terraces with impious pyramids flung savagely to the moon, and
devil-lights burning from unnumbered windows. And swarming
loathsomely on aerial galleries I saw the yellow, squint-eyed people
of that city, robed horribly in orange and red, and dancing insanely
to the pounding of fevered kettle-drums, the clatter of obscene
crotala, and the maniacal moaning of muted horns whose ceaseless
dirges rose and fell undulantly like the wave of an unhallowed ocean
of bitumen.

I saw this vista, I say, and heard as with the mind's ear the
blasphemous domdaniel of cacophony which companioned it. It was
the shrieking fulfilment of all the horror which that corpse-city had
ever stirred in my soul, and forgetting every injunction to silence I
screamed and screamed and screamed as my nerves gave way and
the walls quivered about me.

Then, as the flash subsided, I saw that my host was trembling too; a
look of shocking fear half-blotting from his face the serpent distortion
of rage which my screams had excited. He tottered, clutched at the
curtains as I had done before, and wriggled his head wildly, like a
hunted animal. God knows he had cause, for as the echoes of my
screaming died away there came another sound so hellishly
suggestive that only numbed emotion kept me sane and conscious.
It was the steady, stealthy creaking of the stairs beyond the locked
door, as with the ascent of a barefoot or skin-shod horde; and at last
the cautious, purposeful rattling of the brass latch that glowed in the
feeble candlelight. The old man clawed and spat at me through the
moldy air, and barked things in his throat as he swayed with the
yellow curtain he clutched.

"The full moon - damn ye - ye... ye yelping dog - ye called 'em, and
they've come for me! Moccasined feet - dead men - Gad sink ye, ye
red devils, but I poisoned no rum o' yours - han't I kept your pox-
rotted magic safe - ye swilled yourselves sick, curse ye, and yet
must needs blame the squire - let go, you! Unhand that latch - I've
naught for ye here - "

At this point three slow and very deliberate raps shook the panels of
the door, and a white foam gathered at the mouth of the frantic
magician. His fright, turning to steely despair, left room for a
resurgence of his rage against me; and he staggered a step toward
the table on whose edge I was steadying myself. The curtains, still
clutched in his right hand as his left clawed out at me, grew taut and
finally crashed down from their lofty fastenings; admitting to the
room a flood of that full moonlight which the brightening of the sky
had presaged. In those greenish beams the candles paled, and a
new semblance of decay spread over the musk-reeking room with
its wormy paneling, sagging floor, battered mantel, rickety furniture,
and ragged draperies. It spread over the old man, too, whether from
the same source or because of his fear and vehemence, and I saw
him shrivel and blacken as he lurched near and strove to rend me
with vulturine talons. Only his eyes stayed whole, and they glared
with a propulsive, dilated incandescence which grew as the face
around them charred and dwindled.

The rapping was now repeated with greater insistence, and this time
bore a hint of metal. The black thing facing me had become only a
head with eyes, impotently trying to wriggle across the sinking floor
in my direction, and occasionally emitting feeble little spits of
immortal malice. Now swift and splintering blows assailed the sickly
panels, and I saw the gleam of a tomahawk as it cleft the rending
wood. I did not move, for I could not; but watched dazedly as the
door fell in pieces to admit a colossal, shapeless influx of inky
substance starred with shining, malevolent eyes. It poured thickly,
like a flood of oil bursting a rotten bulkhead, overturned a chair as it
spread, and finally flowed under the table and across the room to
where the blackened head with the eyes still glared at me. Around
that head it closed, totally swallowing it up, and in another moment it
had begun to recede; bearing away its invisible burden without
touching me, and flowing again out that black doorway and down the
unseen stairs, which creaked as before, though in reverse order.

Then the floor gave way at last, and I slid gaspingly down into the
nighted chamber below, choking with cobwebs and half-swooning
with terror. The green moon, shining through broken windows,
showed me the hall door half open; and as I rose from the plaster-
strewn floor and twisted myself free from the sagged ceiling, I saw
sweep past it an awful torrent of blackness, with scores of baleful
eyes glowing in it. It was seeking the door to the cellar, and when it
found it, vanished therein. I now felt the floor of this lower room
giving as that of the upper chamber had done, and once a crashing
above had been followed by the fall past the west window of some
thing which must have been the cupola. Now liberated for the instant
from the wreckage, I rushed through the hall to the front door and
finding myself unable to open it, seized a chair and broke a window,
climbing frenziedly out upon the unkempt lawn where moon light
danced over yard-high grass and weeds. The wall was high and all
the gates were locked but moving a pile of boxes in a corner I
managed to gain the top and cling to the great stone urn set there.

About me in my exhaustion I could see only strange walls and


windows and old gambrel roofs. The steep street of my approach
was nowhere visible, and the little I did see succumbed rapidly to a
mist that rolled in from the river despite the glaring moonlight.
Suddenly the urn to which I clung began to tremble, as if sharing my
own lethal dizziness; and in another instant my body was plunging
downward to I knew not what fate.

The man who found me said that I must have crawled a long way
despite my broken bones, for a trail of blood stretched off as far as
he dared look. The gathering rain soon effaced this link with the
scene of my ordeal, and reports could state no more than that I had
appeared from a place unknown, at the entrance to a little black
court off Perry Street.

I never sought to return to those tenebrous labyrinths, nor would I


direct any sane man thither if I could. Of who or what that ancient
creature was, I have no idea; but I repeat that the city is dead and
full of unsuspected horrors. Whither he has gone, I do not know; but
I have gone home to the pure New England lanes up which fragrant
sea-winds sweep at evening.
Herbert West: Reanimator
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in September of 1921 to 1922

Published in 1922
in
Home Brew

Herbert West: Reanimator


I. From The Dark

Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can
speak only with extreme terror. This terror is not due altogether to
the sinister manner of his recent disappearance, but was
engendered by the whole nature of his life-work, and first gained its
acute form more than seventeen years ago, when we were in the
third year of our course at the Miskatonic University Medical School
in Arkham. While he was with me, the wonder and diabolism of his
experiments fascinated me utterly, and I was his closest companion.
Now that he is gone and the spell is broken, the actual fear is
greater. Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than
realities.

The first horrible incident of our acquaintance was the greatest


shock I ever experienced, and it is only with reluctance that I repeat
it. As I have said, it happened when we were in the medical school
where West had already made himself notorious through his wild
theories on the nature of death and the possibility of overcoming it
artificially. His views, which were widely ridiculed by the faculty and
by his fellow-students, hinged on the essentially mechanistic nature
of life; and concerned means for operating the organic machinery of
mankind by calculated chemical action after the failure of natural
processes. In his experiments with various animating solutions, he
had killed and treated immense numbers of rabbits, guinea-pigs,
cats, dogs, and monkeys, till he had become the prime nuisance of
the college. Several times he had actually obtained signs of life in
animals supposedly dead; in many cases violent signs but he soon
saw that the perfection of his process, if indeed possible, would
necessarily involve a lifetime of research. It likewise became clear
that, since the same solution never worked alike on different organic
species, he would require human subjects for further and more
specialised progress. It was here that he first came into conflict with
the college authorities, and was debarred from future experiments
by no less a dignitary than the dean of the medical school himself --
the learned and benevolent Dr. Allan Halsey, whose work in behalf
of the stricken is recalled by every old resident of Arkham.

I had always been exceptionally tolerant of West’s pursuits, and we


frequently discussed his theories, whose ramifications and
corollaries were almost infinite. Holding with Haeckel that all life is a
chemical and physical process, and that the so-called "soul" is a
myth, my friend believed that artificial reanimation of the dead can
depend only on the condition of the tissues; and that unless actual
decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may
with suitable measures be set going again in the peculiar fashion
known as life. That the psychic or intellectual life might be impaired
by the slight deterioration of sensitive brain-cells which even a short
period of death would be apt to cause, West fully realised. It had at
first been his hope to find a reagent which would restore vitality
before the actual advent of death, and only repeated failures on
animals had shewn him that the natural and artificial life-motions
were incompatible. He then sought extreme freshness in his
specimens, injecting his solutions into the blood immediately after
the extinction of life. It was this circumstance which made the
professors so carelessly sceptical, for they felt that true death had
not occurred in any case. They did not stop to view the matter
closely and reasoningly.

It was not long after the faculty had interdicted his work that West
confided to me his resolution to get fresh human bodies in some
manner, and continue in secret the experiments he could no longer
perform openly. To hear him discussing ways and means was rather
ghastly, for at the college we had never procured anatomical
specimens ourselves. Whenever the morgue proved inadequate,
two local negroes attended to this matter, and they were seldom
questioned. West was then a small, slender, spectacled youth with
delicate features, yellow hair, pale blue eyes, and a soft voice, and it
was uncanny to hear him dwelling on the relative merits of
Christchurch Cemetery and the potter’s field. We finally decided on
the potter’s field, because practically every body in Christchurch was
embalmed; a thing of course ruinous to West’s researches.

I was by this time his active and enthralled assistant, and helped him
make all his decisions, not only concerning the source of bodies but
concerning a suitable place for our loathsome work. It was I who
thought of the deserted Chapman farmhouse beyond Meadow Hill,
where we fitted up on the ground floor an operating room and a
laboratory, each with dark curtains to conceal our midnight doings.
The place was far from any road, and in sight of no other house, yet
precautions were none the less necessary; since rumours of strange
lights, started by chance nocturnal roamers, would soon bring
disaster on our enterprise. It was agreed to call the whole thing a
chemical laboratory if discovery should occur. Gradually we
equipped our sinister haunt of science with materials either
purchased in Boston or quietly borrowed from the college --
materials carefully made unrecognisable save to expert eyes -- and
provided spades and picks for the many burials we should have to
make in the cellar. At the college we used an incinerator, but the
apparatus was too costly for our unauthorised laboratory. Bodies
were always a nuisance -- even the small guinea-pig bodies from
the slight clandestine experiments in West’s room at the boarding-
house.

We followed the local death-notices like ghouls, for our specimens


demanded particular qualities. What we wanted were corpses
interred soon after death and without artificial preservation;
preferably free from malforming disease, and certainly with all
organs present. Accident victims were our best hope. Not for many
weeks did we hear of anything suitable; though we talked with
morgue and hospital authorities, ostensibly in the college’s interest,
as often as we could without exciting suspicion. We found that the
college had first choice in every case, so that it might be necessary
to remain in Arkham during the summer, when only the limited
summer-school classes were held. In the end, though, luck favoured
us; for one day we heard of an almost ideal case in the potter’s field;
a brawny young workman drowned only the morning before in
Summer’s Pond, and buried at the town’s expense without delay or
embalming. That afternoon we found the new grave, and determined
to begin work soon after midnight.

It was a repulsive task that we undertook in the black small hours,


even though we lacked at that time the special horror of graveyards
which later experiences brought to us. We carried spades and oil
dark lanterns, for although electric torches were then manufactured,
they were not as satisfactory as the tungsten contrivances of today.
The process of unearthing was slow and sordid -- it might have been
gruesomely poetical if we had been artists instead of scientists --
and we were glad when our spades struck wood. When the pine box
was fully uncovered, West scrambled down and removed the lid,
dragging out and propping up the contents. I reached down and
hauled the contents out of the grave, and then both toiled hard to
restore the spot to its former appearance. The affair made us rather
nervous, especially the stiff form and vacant face of our first trophy,
but we managed to remove all traces of our visit. When we had
patted down the last shovelful of earth, we put the specimen in a
canvas sack and set out for the old Chapman place beyond Meadow
Hill.

On an improvised dissecting-table in the old farmhouse, by the light


of a powerful acetylene lamp, the specimen was not very spectral
looking. It had been a sturdy and apparently unimaginative youth of
wholesome plebeian type -- large-framed, grey-eyed, and brown-
haired -- a sound animal without psychological subtleties, and
probably having vital processes of the simplest and healthiest sort.
Now, with the eyes closed, it looked more asleep than dead; though
the expert test of my friend soon left no doubt on that score. We had
at last what West had always longed for -- a real dead man of the
ideal kind, ready for the solution as prepared according to the most
careful calculations and theories for human use. The tension on our
part became very great. We knew that there was scarcely a chance
for anything like complete success, and could not avoid hideous
fears at possible grotesque results of partial animation. Especially
were we apprehensive concerning the mind and impulses of the
creature, since in the space following death some of the more
delicate cerebral cells might well have suffered deterioration. I,
myself, still held some curious notions about the traditional "soul" of
man, and felt an awe at the secrets that might be told by one
returning from the dead. I wondered what sights this placid youth
might have seen in inaccessible spheres, and what he could relate if
fully restored to life. But my wonder was not overwhelming, since for
the most part I shared the materialism of my friend. He was calmer
than I as he forced a large quantity of his fluid into a vein of the
body’s arm, immediately binding the incision securely.

The waiting was gruesome, but West never faltered. Every now and
then he applied his stethoscope to the specimen, and bore the
negative results philosophically. After about three-quarters of an
hour without the least sign of life he disappointedly pronounced the
solution inadequate, but determined to make the most of his
opportunity and try one change in the formula before disposing of
his ghastly prize. We had that afternoon dug a grave in the cellar,
and would have to fill it by dawn -- for although we had fixed a lock
on the house, we wished to shun even the remotest risk of a
ghoulish discovery. Besides, the body would not be even
approximately fresh the next night. So taking the solitary acetylene
lamp into the adjacent laboratory, we left our silent guest on the slab
in the dark, and bent every energy to the mixing of a new solution;
the weighing and measuring supervised by West with an almost
fanatical care.

The awful event was very sudden, and wholly unexpected. I was
pouring something from one test-tube to another, and West was
busy over the alcohol blast-lamp which had to answer for a Bunsen
burner in this gasless edifice, when from the pitch-black room we
had left there burst the most appalling and daemoniac succession of
cries that either of us had ever heard. Not more unutterable could
have been the chaos of hellish sound if the pit itself had opened to
release the agony of the damned, for in one inconceivable
cacophony was centered all the supernal terror and unnatural
despair of animate nature. Human it could not have been -- it is not
in man to make such sounds -- and without a thought of our late
employment or its possible discovery, both West and I leaped to the
nearest window like stricken animals; overturning tubes, lamp, and
retorts, and vaulting madly into the starred abyss of the rural night. I
think we screamed ourselves as we stumbled frantically toward the
town, though as we reached the outskirts we put on a semblance of
restraint -- just enough to seem like belated revellers staggering
home from a debauch.

We did not separate, but managed to get to West’s room, where we


whispered with the gas up until dawn. By then we had calmed
ourselves a little with rational theories and plans for investigation, so
that we could sleep through the day -- classes being disregarded.
But that evening two items in the paper, wholly unrelated, made it
again impossible for us to sleep. The old deserted Chapman house
had inexplicably burned to an amorphous heap of ashes; that we
could understand because of the upset lamp. Also, an attempt had
been made to disturb a new grave in the potter’s field, as if by futile
and spadeless clawing at the earth. That we could not understand,
for we had patted down the mould very carefully.

And for seventeen years after that West would look frequently over
his shoulder, and complain of fancied footsteps behind him. Now he
has disappeared.

II. The Plague-Daemon

I shall never forget that hideous summer sixteen years ago, when
like a noxious afrite from the halls of Eblis typhoid stalked leeringly
through Arkham. It is by that satanic scourge that most recall the
year, for truly terror brooded with bat-wings over the piles of coffins
in the tombs of Christchurch Cemetery; yet for me there is a greater
horror in that time -- a horror known to me alone now that Herbert
West has disappeared.

West and I were doing post-graduate work in summer classes at the


medical school of Miskatonic University, and my friend had attained
a wide notoriety because of his experiments leading toward the
revivification of the dead. After the scientific slaughter of uncounted
small animals the freakish work had ostensibly stopped by order of
our sceptical dean, Dr. Allan Halsey; though West had continued to
perform certain secret tests in his dingy boarding-house room, and
had on one terrible and unforgettable occasion taken a human body
from its grave in the potter’s field to a deserted farmhouse beyond
Meadow Hill.

I was with him on that odious occasion, and saw him inject into the
still veins the elixir which he thought would to some extent restore
life’s chemical and physical processes. It had ended horribly -- in a
delirium of fear which we gradually came to attribute to our own
overwrought nerves -- and West had never afterward been able to
shake off a maddening sensation of being haunted and hunted. The
body had not been quite fresh enough; it is obvious that to restore
normal mental attributes a body must be very fresh indeed; and the
burning of the old house had prevented us from burying the thing. It
would have been better if we could have known it was underground.

After that experience West had dropped his researches for some
time; but as the zeal of the born scientist slowly returned, he again
became importunate with the college faculty, pleading for the use of
the dissecting-room and of fresh human specimens for the work he
regarded as so overwhelmingly important. His pleas, however, were
wholly in vain; for the decision of Dr. Halsey was inflexible, and the
other professors all endorsed the verdict of their leader. In the
radical theory of reanimation they saw nothing but the immature
vagaries of a youthful enthusiast whose slight form, yellow hair,
spectacled blue eyes, and soft voice gave no hint of the
supernormal -- almost diabolical -- power of the cold brain within. I
can see him now as he was then -- and I shiver. He grew sterner of
face, but never elderly. And now Sefton Asylum has had the mishap
and West has vanished.

West clashed disagreeably with Dr. Halsey near the end of our last
undergraduate term in a wordy dispute that did less credit to him
than to the kindiy dean in point of courtesy. He felt that he was
needlessly and irrationally retarded in a supremely great work; a
work which he could of course conduct to suit himself in later years,
but which he wished to begin while still possessed of the exceptional
facilities of the university. That the tradition-bound elders should
ignore his singular results on animals, and persist in their denial of
the possibility of reanimation, was inexpressibly disgusting and
almost incomprehensible to a youth of West’s logical temperament.
Only greater maturity could help him understand the chronic mental
limitations of the "professor-doctor" type -- the product of
generations of pathetic Puritanism; kindly, conscientious, and
sometimes gentle and amiable, yet always narrow, intolerant,
custom-ridden, and lacking in perspective. Age has more charity for
these incomplete yet high-souled characters, whose worst real vice
is timidity, and who are ultimately punished by general ridicule for
their intellectual sins -- sins like Ptolemaism, Calvinism, anti-
Darwinism, anti-Nietzscheism, and every sort of Sabbatarianism and
sumptuary legislation. West, young despite his marvellous scientific
acquirements, had scant patience with good Dr. Halsey and his
erudite colleagues; and nursed an increasing resentment, coupled
with a desire to prove his theories to these obtuse worthies in some
striking and dramatic fashion. Like most youths, he indulged in
elaborate daydreams of revenge, triumph, and final magnanimous
forgiveness.

And then had come the scourge, grinning and lethal, from the
nightmare caverns of Tartarus. West and I had graduated about the
time of its beginning, but had remained for additional work at the
summer school, so that we were in Arkham when it broke with full
daemoniac fury upon the town. Though not as yet licenced
physicians, we now had our degrees, and were pressed frantically
into public service as the numbers of the stricken grew. The situation
was almost past management, and deaths ensued too frequently for
the local undertakers fully to handle. Burials without embalming
were made in rapid succession, and even the Christchurch
Cemetery receiving tomb was crammed with coffins of the
unembalmed dead. This circumstance was not without effect on
West, who thought often of the irony of the situation -- so many fresh
specimens, yet none for his persecuted researches! We were
frightfully overworked, and the terrific mental and nervous strain
made my friend brood morbidly.

But West’s gentle enemies were no less harassed with prostrating


duties. College had all but closed, and every doctor of the medical
faculty was helping to fight the typhoid plague. Dr. Halsey in
particular had distinguished himself in sacrificing service, applying
his extreme skill with whole-hearted energy to cases which many
others shunned because of danger or apparent hopelessness.
Before a month was over the fearless dean had become a popular
hero, though he seemed unconscious of his fame as he struggled to
keep from collapsing with physical fatigue and nervous exhaustion.
West could not withhold admiration for the fortitude of his foe, but
because of this was even more determined to prove to him the truth
of his amazing doctrines. Taking advantage of the disorganisation of
both college work and municipal health regulations, he managed to
get a recently deceased body smuggled into the university
dissecting-room one night, and in my presence injected a new
modification of his solution. The thing actually opened its eyes, but
only stared at the ceiling with a look of soul-petrifying horror before
collapsing into an inertness from which nothing could rouse it. West
said it was not fresh enough -- the hot summer air does not favour
corpses. That time we were almost caught before we incinerated the
thing, and West doubted the advisability of repeating his daring
misuse of the college laboratory.

The peak of the epidemic was reached in August. West and I were
almost dead, and Dr. Halsey did die on the 14th. The students all
attended the hasty funeral on the 15th, and bought an impressive
wreath, though the latter was quite overshadowed by the tributes
sent by wealthy Arkham citizens and by the municipality itself. It was
almost a public affair, for the dean had surely been a public
benefactor. After the entombment we were all somewhat depressed,
and spent the afternoon at the bar of the Commercial House; where
West, though shaken by the death of his chief opponent, chilled the
rest of us with references to his notorious theories. Most of the
students went home, or to various duties, as the evening advanced;
but West persuaded me to aid him in "making a night of it." West’s
landlady saw us arrive at his room about two in the morning, with a
third man between us; and told her husband that we had all
evidently dined and wined rather well.

Apparently this acidulous matron was right; for about 3 a.m. the
whole house was aroused by cries coming from West’s room, where
when they broke down the door, they found the two of us
unconscious on the blood-stained carpet, beaten, scratched, and
mauled, and with the broken remnants of West’s bottles and
instruments around us. Only an open window told what had become
of our assailant, and many wondered how he himself had fared after
the terrific leap from the second story to the lawn which he must
have made. There were some strange garments in the room, but
West upon regaining consciousness said they did not belong to the
stranger, but were specimens collected for bacteriological analysis
in the course of investigations on the transmission of germ diseases.
He ordered them burnt as soon as possible in the capacious
fireplace. To the police we both declared ignorance of our late
companion’s identity. He was, West nervously said, a congenial
stranger whom we had met at some downtown bar of uncertain
location. We had all been rather jovial, and West and I did not wish
to have our pugnacious companion hunted down.

That same night saw the beginning of the second Arkham horror --
the horror that to me eclipsed the plague itself. Christchurch
Cemetery was the scene of a terrible killing; a watchman having
been clawed to death in a manner not only too hideous for
description, but raising a doubt as to the human agency of the deed.
The victim had been seen alive considerably after midnight -- the
dawn revealed the unutterable thing. The manager of a circus at the
neighbouring town of Bolton was questioned, but he swore that no
beast had at any time escaped from its cage. Those who found the
body noted a trail of blood leading to the receiving tomb, where a
small pool of red lay on the concrete just outside the gate. A fainter
trail led away toward the woods, but it soon gave out.
The next night devils danced on the roofs of Arkham, and unnatural
madness howled in the wind. Through the fevered town had crept a
curse which some said was greater than the plague, and which
some whispered was the embodied daemon-soul of the plague
itself. Eight houses were entered by a nameless thing which strewed
red death in its wake -- in all, seventeen maimed and shapeless
remnants of bodies were left behind by the voiceless, sadistic
monster that crept abroad. A few persons had half seen it in the
dark, and said it was white and like a malformed ape or
anthropomorphic fiend. It had not left behind quite all that it had
attacked, for sometimes it had been hungry. The number it had
killed was fourteen; three of the bodies had been in stricken homes
and had not been alive.

On the third night frantic bands of searchers, led by the police,


captured it in a house on Crane Street near the Miskatonic campus.
They had organised the quest with care, keeping in touch by means
of volunteer telephone stations, and when someone in the college
district had reported hearing a scratching at a shuttered window, the
net was quickly spread. On account of the general alarm and
precautions, there were only two more victims, and the capture was
effected without major casualties. The thing was finally stopped by a
bullet, though not a fatal one, and was rushed to the local hospital
amidst universal excitement and loathing.

For it had been a man. This much was clear despite the nauseous
eyes, the voiceless simianism, and the daemoniac savagery. They
dressed its wound and carted it to the asylum at Sefton, where it
beat its head against the walls of a padded cell for sixteen years --
until the recent mishap, when it escaped under circumstances that
few like to mention. What had most disgusted the searchers of
Arkham was the thing they noticed when the monster’s face was
cleaned -- the mocking, unbelievable resemblance to a learned and
self-sacrificing martyr who had been entombed but three days
before -- the late Dr. Allan Halsey, public benefactor and dean of the
medical school of Miskatonic University.

To the vanished Herbert West and to me the disgust and horror


were supreme. I shudder tonight as I think of it; shudder even more
than I did that morning when West muttered through his bandages,
"Damn it, it wasn’t quite fresh enough!"

III. Six Shots by Moonlight

It is uncommon to fire all six shots of a revolver with great


suddenness when one would probably be sufficient, but many things
in the life of Herbert West were uncommon. It is, for instance, not
often that a young physician leaving college is obliged to conceal the
principles which guide his selection of a home and office, yet that
was the case with Herbert West. When he and I obtained our
degrees at the medical school of Miskatonic University, and sought
to relieve our poverty by setting up as general practitioners, we took
great care not to say that we chose our house because it was fairly
well isolated, and as near as possible to the potter’s field.

Reticence such as this is seldom without a cause, nor indeed was


ours; for our requirements were those resulting from a life-work
distinctly unpopular. Outwardly we were doctors only, but beneath
the surface were aims of far greater and more terrible moment -- for
the essence of Herbert West’s existence was a quest amid black
and forbidden realms of the unknown, in which he hoped to uncover
the secret of life and restore to perpetual animation the graveyard’s
cold clay. Such a quest demands strange materials, among them
fresh human bodies; and in order to keep supplied with these
indispensable things one must live quietly and not far from a place of
informal interment.

West and I had met in college, and I had been the only one to
sympathise with his hideous experiments. Gradually I had come to
be his inseparable assistant, and now that we were out of college
we had to keep together. It was not easy to find a good opening for
two doctors in company, but finally the influence of the university
secured us a practice in Bolton -- a factory town near Arkham, the
seat of the college. The Bolton Worsted Mills are the largest in the
Miskatonic Valley, and their polyglot employees are never popular
as patients with the local physicians. We chose our house with the
greatest care, seizing at last on a rather run-down cottage near the
end of Pond Street; five numbers from the closest neighbour, and
separated from the local potter’s field by only a stretch of meadow
land, bisected by a narrow neck of the rather dense forest which lies
to the north. The distance was greater than we wished, but we could
get no nearer house without going on the other side of the field,
wholly out of the factory district. We were not much displeased,
however, since there were no people between us and our sinister
source of supplies. The walk was a trifle long, but we could haul our
silent specimens undisturbed.

Our practice was surprisingly large from the very first -- large
enough to please most young doctors, and large enough to prove a
bore and a burden to students whose real interest lay elsewhere.
The mill-hands were of somewhat turbulent inclinations; and besides
their many natural needs, their frequent clashes and stabbing
affrays gave us plenty to do. But what actually absorbed our minds
was the secret laboratory we had fitted up in the cellar -- the
laboratory with the long table under the electric lights, where in the
small hours of the morning we often injected West’s various
solutions into the veins of the things we dragged from the potter’s
field. West was experimenting madly to find something which would
start man’s vital motions anew after they had been stopped by the
thing we call death, but had encountered the most ghastly obstacles.
The solution had to be differently compounded for different types --
what would serve for guinea-pigs would not serve for human beings,
and different human specimens required large modifications.

The bodies had to be exceedingly fresh, or the slight decomposition


of brain tissue would render perfect reanimation impossible. Indeed,
the greatest problem was to get them fresh enough -- West had had
horrible experiences during his secret college researches with
corpses of doubtful vintage. The results of partial or imperfect
animation were much more hideous than were the total failures, and
we both held fearsome recollections of such things. Ever since our
first daemoniac session in the deserted farmhouse on Meadow Hill
in Arkham, we had felt a brooding menace; and West, though a
calm, blond, blue-eyed scientific automaton in most respects, often
confessed to a shuddering sensation of stealthy pursuit. He half felt
that he was followed -- a psychological delusion of shaken nerves,
enhanced by the undeniably disturbing fact that at least one of our
reanimated specimens was still alive -- a frightful carnivorous thing
in a padded cell at Sefton. Then there was another -- our first --
whose exact fate we had never learned.

We had fair luck with specimens in Bolton -- much better than in


Arkham. We had not been settled a week before we got an accident
victim on the very night of burial, and made it open its eyes with an
amazingly rational expression before the solution failed. It had lost
an arm -- if it had been a perfect body we might have succeeded
better. Between then and the next January we secured three more;
one total failure, one case of marked muscular motion, and one
rather shivery thing -- it rose of itself and uttered a sound. Then
came a period when luck was poor; interments fell off, and those
that did occur were of specimens either too diseased or too maimed
for use. We kept track of all the deaths and their circumstances with
systematic care.

One March night, however, we unexpectedly obtained a specimen


which did not come from the potter’s field. In Bolton the prevailing
spirit of Puritanism had outlawed the sport of boxing -- with the usual
result. Surreptitious and ill-conducted bouts among the mill-workers
were common, and occasionally professional talent of low grade
was imported. This late winter night there had been such a match;
evidently with disastrous results, since two timorous Poles had come
to us with incoherently whispered entreaties to attend to a very
secret and desperate case. We followed them to an abandoned
barn, where the remnants of a crowd of frightened foreigners were
watching a silent black form on the floor.

The match had been between Kid O’Brien -- a lubberly and now
quaking youth with a most un-Hibernian hooked nose -- and Buck
Robinson, "The Harlem Smoke." The negro had been knocked out,
and a moment’s examination shewed us that he would permanently
remain so. He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally
long arms which I could not help calling fore legs, and a face that
conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom
poundings under an eerie moon. The body must have looked even
worse in life -- but the world holds many ugly things. Fear was upon
the whole pitiful crowd, for they did not know what the law would
exact of them if the affair were not hushed up; and they were
grateful when West, in spite of my involuntary shudders, offered to
get rid of the thing quietly -- for a purpose I knew too well.

There was bright moonlight over the snowless landscape, but we


dressed the thing and carried it home between us through the
deserted streets and meadows, as we had carried a similar thing
one horrible night in Arkham. We approached the house from the
field in the rear, took the specimen in the back door and down the
cellar stairs, and prepared it for the usual experiment. Our fear of the
police was absurdly great, though we had timed our trip to avoid the
solitary patrolman of that section.

The result was wearily anticlimactic. Ghastly as our prize appeared,


it was wholly unresponsive to every solution we injected in its black
arm; solutions prepared from experience with white specimens only.
So as the hour grew dangerously near to dawn, we did as we had
done with the others -- dragged the thing across the meadows to the
neck of the woods near the potter’s field, and buried it there in the
best sort of grave the frozen ground would furnish. The grave was
not very deep, but fully as good as that of the previous specimen --
the thing which had risen of itself and uttered a sound. In the light of
our dark lanterns we carefully covered it with leaves and dead vines,
fairly certain that the police would never find it in a forest so dim and
dense.

The next day I was increasingly apprehensive about the police, for a
patient brought rumours of a suspected fight and death. West had
still another source of worry, for he had been called in the afternoon
to a case which ended very threateningly. An Italian woman had
become hysterical over her missing child -- a lad of five who had
strayed off early in the morning and failed to appear for dinner -- and
had developed symptoms highly alarming in view of an always weak
heart. It was a very foolish hysteria, for the boy had often run away
before; but Italian peasants are exceedingly superstitious, and this
woman seemed as much harassed by omens as by facts. About
seven o’clock in the evening she had died, and her frantic husband
had made a frightful scene in his efforts to kill West, whom he wildly
blamed for not saving her life. Friends had held him when he drew a
stiletto, but West departed amidst his inhuman shrieks, curses and
oaths of vengeance. In his latest affliction the fellow seemed to have
forgotten his child, who was still missing as the night advanced.
There was some talk of searching the woods, but most of the
family’s friends were busy with the dead woman and the screaming
man. Altogether, the nervous strain upon West must have been
tremendous. Thoughts of the police and of the mad Italian both
weighed heavily.
We retired about eleven, but I did not sleep well. Bolton had a
surprisingly good police force for so small a town, and I could not
help fearing the mess which would ensue if the affair of the night
before were ever tracked down. It might mean the end of all our
local work -- and perhaps prison for both West and me. I did not like
those rumours of a fight which were floating about. After the clock
had struck three the moon shone in my eyes, but I turned over
without rising to pull down the shade. Then came the steady rattling
at the back door.

I lay still and somewhat dazed, but before long heard West’s rap on
my door. He was clad in dressing-gown and slippers, and had in his
hands a revolver and an electric flashlight. From the revolver I knew
that he was thinking more of the crazed Italian than of the police.

"We’d better both go," he whispered. "It wouldn’t do not to answer it


anyway, and it may be a patient -- it would be like one of those fools
to try the back door."

So we both went down the stairs on tiptoe, with a fear partly justified
and partly that which comes only from the soul of the weird small
hours. The rattling continued, growing somewhat louder. When we
reached the door I cautiously unbolted it and threw it open, and as
the moon streamed revealingly down on the form silhouetted there,
West did a peculiar thing. Despite the obvious danger of attracting
notice and bringing down on our heads the dreaded police
investigation -- a thing which after all was mercifully averted by the
relative isolation of our cottage -- my friend suddenly, excitedly, and
unnecessarily emptied all six chambers of his revolver into the
nocturnal visitor.

For that visitor was neither Italian nor policeman. Looming hideously
against the spectral moon was a gigantic misshapen thing not to be
imagined save in nightmares -- a glassy-eyed, ink-black apparition
nearly on all fours, covered with bits of mould, leaves, and vines,
foul with caked blood, and having between its glistening teeth a
snow-white, terrible, cylindrical object terminating in a tiny hand.

IV. The Scream of the Dead

The scream of a dead man gave to me that acute and added horror
of Dr. Herbert West which harassed the latter years of our
companionship. It is natural that such a thing as a dead man’s
scream should give horror, for it is obviously, not a pleasing or
ordinary occurrence; but I was used to similar experiences, hence
suffered on this occasion only because of a particular circumstance.
And, as I have implied, it was not of the dead man himself that I
became afraid.

Herbert West, whose associate and assistant I was, possessed


scientific interests far beyond the usual routine of a village physician.
That was why, when establishing his practice in Bolton, he had
chosen an isolated house near the potter’s field. Briefly and brutally
stated, West’s sole absorbing interest was a secret study of the
phenomena of life and its cessation, leading toward the reanimation
of the dead through injections of an excitant solution. For this
ghastly experimenting it was necessary to have a constant supply of
very fresh human bodies; very fresh because even the least decay
hopelessly damaged the brain structure, and human because we
found that the solution had to be compounded differently for different
types of organisms. Scores of rabbits and guinea-pigs had been
killed and treated, but their trail was a blind one. West had never
fully succeeded because he had never been able to secure a corpse
sufficiently fresh. What he wanted were bodies from which vitality
had only just departed; bodies with every cell intact and capable of
receiving again the impulse toward that mode of motion called life.
There was hope that this second and artificial life might be made
perpetual by repetitions of the injection, but we had learned that an
ordinary natural life would not respond to the action. To establish the
artificial motion, natural life must be extinct -- the specimens must be
very fresh, but genuinely dead.

The awesome quest had begun when West and I were students at
the Miskatonic University Medical School in Arkham, vividly
conscious for the first time of the thoroughly mechanical nature of
life. That was seven years before, but West looked scarcely a day
older now -- he was small, blond, clean-shaven, soft-voiced, and
spectacled, with only an occasional flash of a cold blue eye to tell of
the hardening and growing fanaticism of his character under the
pressure of his terrible investigations. Our experiences had often
been hideous in the extreme; the results of defective reanimation,
when lumps of graveyard clay had been galvanised into morbid,
unnatural, and brainless motion by various modifications of the vital
solution.

One thing had uttered a nerve-shattering scream; another had risen


violently, beaten us both to unconsciousness, and run amuck in a
shocking way before it could be placed behind asylum bars; still
another, a loathsome African monstrosity, had clawed out of its
shallow grave and done a deed -- West had had to shoot that object.
We could not get bodies fresh enough to shew any trace of reason
when reanimated, so had perforce created nameless horrors. It was
disturbing to think that one, perhaps two, of our monsters still lived --
that thought haunted us shadowingly, till finally West disappeared
under frightful circumstances. But at the time of the scream in the
cellar laboratory of the isolated Bolton cottage, our fears were
subordinate to our anxiety for extremely fresh specimens. West was
more avid than I, so that it almost seemed to me that he looked half-
covetously at any very healthy living physique.

It was in July, 1910, that the bad luck regarding specimens began to
turn. I had been on a long visit to my parents in Illinois, and upon my
return found West in a state of singular elation. He had, he told me
excitedly, in all likelihood solved the problem of freshness through
an approach from an entirely new angle -- that of artificial
preservation. I had known that he was working on a new and highly
unusual embalming compound, and was not surprised that it had
turned out well; but until he explained the details I was rather
puzzled as to how such a compound could help in our work, since
the objectionable staleness of the specimens was largely due to
delay occurring before we secured them. This, I now saw, West had
clearly recognised; creating his embalming compound for future
rather than immediate use, and trusting to fate to supply again some
very recent and unburied corpse, as it had years before when we
obtained the negro killed in the Bolton prize-fight. At last fate had
been kind, so that on this occasion there lay in the secret cellar
laboratory a corpse whose decay could not by any possibility have
begun. What would happen on reanimation, and whether we could
hope for a revival of mind and reason, West did not venture to
predict. The experiment would be a landmark in our studies, and he
had saved the new body for my return, so that both might share the
spectacle in accustomed fashion.

West told me how he had obtained the specimen. It had been a


vigorous man; a well-dressed stranger just off the train on his way to
transact some business with the Bolton Worsted Mills. The walk
through the town had been long, and by the time the traveller
paused at our cottage to ask the way to the factories, his heart had
become greatly overtaxed. He had refused a stimulant, and had
suddenly dropped dead only a moment later. The body, as might be
expected, seemed to West a heaven-sent gift. In his brief
conversation the stranger had made it clear that he was unknown in
Bolton, and a search of his pockets subsequently revealed him to be
one Robert Leavitt of St. Louis, apparently without a family to make
instant inquiries about his disappearance. If this man could not be
restored to life, no one would know of our experiment. We buried our
materials in a dense strip of woods between the house and the
potter’s field. If, on the other hand, he could be restored, our fame
would be brilliantly and perpetually established. So without delay
West had injected into the body’s wrist the compound which would
hold it fresh for use after my arrival. The matter of the presumably
weak heart, which to my mind imperilled the success of our
experiment, did not appear to trouble West extensively. He hoped at
last to obtain what he had never obtained before -- a rekindled spark
of reason and perhaps a normal, living creature.

So on the night of July 18, 1910, Herbert West and I stood in the
cellar laboratory and gazed at a white, silent figure beneath the
dazzling arc-light. The embalming compound had worked uncannily
well, for as I stared fascinatedly at the sturdy frame which had lain
two weeks without stiffening, I was moved to seek West’s assurance
that the thing was really dead. This assurance he gave readily
enough; reminding me that the reanimating solution was never used
without careful tests as to life, since it could have no effect if any of
the original vitality were present. As West proceeded to take
preliminary steps, I was impressed by the vast intricacy of the new
experiment; an intricacy so vast that he could trust no hand less
delicate than his own. Forbidding me to touch the body, he first
injected a drug in the wrist just beside the place his needle had
punctured when injecting the embalming compound. This, he said,
was to neutralise the compound and release the system to a normal
relaxation so that the reanimating solution might freely work when
injected. Slightly later, when a change and a gentle tremor seemed
to affect the dead limbs; West stuffed a pillow-like object violently
over the twitching face, not withdrawing it until the corpse appeared
quiet and ready for our attempt at reanimation. The pale enthusiast
now applied some last perfunctory tests for absolute lifelessness,
withdrew satisfied, and finally injected into the left arm an accurately
measured amount of the vital elixir, prepared during the afternoon
with a greater care than we had used since college days, when our
feats were new and groping. I cannot express the wild, breathless
suspense with which we waited for results on this first really fresh
specimen -- the first we could reasonably expect to open its lips in
rational speech, perhaps to tell of what it had seen beyond the
unfathomable abyss.

West was a materialist, believing in no soul and attributing all the


working of consciousness to bodily phenomena; consequently he
looked for no revelation of hideous secrets from gulfs and caverns
beyond death’s barrier. I did not wholly disagree with him
theoretically, yet held vague instinctive remnants of the primitive
faith of my forefathers; so that I could not help eyeing the corpse
with a certain amount of awe and terrible expectation. Besides -- I
could not extract from my memory that hideous, inhuman shriek we
heard on the night we tried our first experiment in the deserted
farmhouse at Arkham.

Very little time had elapsed before I saw the attempt was not to be a
total failure. A touch of colour came to cheeks hitherto chalk-white,
and spread out under the curiously ample stubble of sandy beard.
West, who had his hand on the pulse of the left wrist, suddenly
nodded significantly; and almost simultaneously a mist appeared on
the mirror inclined above the body’s mouth. There followed a few
spasmodic muscular motions, and then an audible breathing and
visible motion of the chest. I looked at the closed eyelids, and
thought I detected a quivering. Then the lids opened, shewing eyes
which were grey, calm, and alive, but still unintelligent and not even
curious.

In a moment of fantastic whim I whispered questions to the


reddening ears; questions of other worlds of which the memory
might still be present. Subsequent terror drove them from my mind,
but I think the last one, which I repeated, was: "Where have you
been?" I do not yet know whether I was answered or not, for no
sound came from the well-shaped mouth; but I do know that at that
moment I firmly thought the thin lips moved silently, forming
syllables which I would have vocalised as "only now" if that phrase
had possessed any sense or relevancy. At that moment, as I say, I
was elated with the conviction that the one great goal had been
attained; and that for the first time a reanimated corpse had uttered
distinct words impelled by actual reason. In the next moment there
was no doubt about the triumph; no doubt that the solution had truly
accomplished, at least temporarily, its full mission of restoring
rational and articulate life to the dead. But in that triumph there came
to me the greatest of all horrors -- not horror of the thing that spoke,
but of the deed that I had witnessed and of the man with whom my
professional fortunes were joined.

For that very fresh body, at last writhing into full and terrifying
consciousness with eyes dilated at the memory of its last scene on
earth, threw out its frantic hands in a life and death struggle with the
air, and suddenly collapsing into a second and final dissolution from
which there could be no return, screamed out the cry that will ring
eternally in my aching brain:

"Help! Keep off, you cursed little tow-head fiend -- keep that damned
needle away from me!"

V. The Horror From the Shadows

Many men have related hideous things, not mentioned in print,


which happened on the battlefields of the Great War. Some of these
things have made me faint, others have convulsed me with
devastating nausea, while still others have made me tremble and
look behind me in the dark; yet despite the worst of them I believe I
can myself relate the most hideous thing of all -- the shocking, the
unnatural, the unbelievable horror from the shadows.

In 1915 I was a physician with the rank of First Lieutenant in a


Canadian regiment in Flanders, one of many Americans to precede
the government itself into the gigantic struggle. I had not entered the
army on my own initiative, but rather as a natural result of the
enlistment of the man whose indispensable assistant I was -- the
celebrated Boston surgical specialist, Dr. Herbert West. Dr. West
had been avid for a chance to serve as surgeon in a great war, and
when the chance had come, he carried me with him almost against
my will. There were reasons why I could have been glad to let the
war separate us; reasons why I found the practice of medicine and
the companionship of West more and more irritating; but when he
had gone to Ottawa and through a colleague’s influence secured a
medical commission as Major, I could not resist the imperious
persuasion of one determined that I should accompany him in my
usual capacity.

When I say that Dr. West was avid to serve in battle, I do not mean
to imply that he was either naturally warlike or anxious for the safety
of civilisation. Always an ice-cold intellectual machine; slight, blond,
blue-eyed, and spectacled; I think he secretly sneered at my
occasional martial enthusiasms and censures of supine neutrality.
There was, however, something he wanted in embattled Flanders;
and in order to secure it had had to assume a military exterior. What
he wanted was not a thing which many persons want, but something
connected with the peculiar branch of medical science which he had
chosen quite clandestinely to follow, and in which he had achieved
amazing and occasionally hideous results. It was, in fact, nothing
more or less than an abundant supply of freshly killed men in every
stage of dismemberment.

Herbert West needed fresh bodies because his life-work was the
reanimation of the dead. This work was not known to the
fashionable clientele who had so swiftly built up his fame after his
arrival in Boston; but was only too well known to me, who had been
his closest friend and sole assistant since the old days in Miskatonic
University Medical School at Arkham. It was in those college days
that he had begun his terrible experiments, first on small animals
and then on human bodies shockingly obtained. There was a
solution which he injected into the veins of dead things, and if they
were fresh enough they responded in strange ways. He had had
much trouble in discovering the proper formula, for each type of
organism was found to need a stimulus especially adapted to it.
Terror stalked him when he reflected on his partial failures;
nameless things resulting from imperfect solutions or from bodies
insufficiently fresh. A certain number of these failures had remained
alive -- one was in an asylum while others had vanished -- and as he
thought of conceivable yet virtually impossible eventualities he often
shivered beneath his usual stolidity.

West had soon learned that absolute freshness was the prime
requisite for useful specimens, and had accordingly resorted to
frightful and unnatural expedients in body-snatching. In college, and
during our early practice together in the factory town of Bolton, my
attitude toward him had been largely one of fascinated admiration;
but as his boldness in methods grew, I began to develop a gnawing
fear. I did not like the way he looked at healthy living bodies; and
then there came a nightmarish session in the cellar laboratory when
I learned that a certain specimen had been a living body when he
secured it. That was the first time he had ever been able to revive
the quality of rational thought in a corpse; and his success, obtained
at such a loathsome cost, had completely hardened him.

Of his methods in the intervening five years I dare not speak. I was
held to him by sheer force of fear, and witnessed sights that no
human tongue could repeat. Gradually I came to find Herbert West
himself more horrible than anything he did -- that was when it
dawned on me that his once normal scientific zeal for prolonging life
had subtly degenerated into a mere morbid and ghoulish curiosity
and secret sense of charnel picturesqueness. His interest became a
hellish and perverse addiction to the repellently and fiendishly
abnormal; he gloated calmly over artificial monstrosities which would
make most healthy men drop dead from fright and disgust; he
became, behind his pallid intellectuality, a fastidious Baudelaire of
physical experiment -- a languid Elagabalus of the tombs.

Dangers he met unflinchingly; crimes he committed unmoved. I think


the climax came when he had proved his point that rational life can
be restored, and had sought new worlds to conquer by
experimenting on the reanimation of detached parts of bodies. He
had wild and original ideas on the independent vital properties of
organic cells and nerve-tissue separated from natural physiological
systems; and achieved some hideous preliminary results in the form
of never-dying, artificially nourished tissue obtained from the nearly
hatched eggs of an indescribable tropical reptile. Two biological
points he was exceedingly anxious to settle -- first, whether any
amount of consciousness and rational action be possible without the
brain, proceeding from the spinal cord and various nerve-centres;
and second, whether any kind of ethereal, intangible relation distinct
from the material cells may exist to link the surgically separated
parts of what has previously been a single living organism. All this
research work required a prodigious supply of freshly slaughtered
human flesh -- and that was why Herbert West had entered the
Great War.

The phantasmal, unmentionable thing occurred one midnight late in


March, 1915, in a field hospital behind the lines of St. Eloi. I wonder
even now if it could have been other than a daemoniac dream of
delirium. West had a private laboratory in an east room of the barn-
like temporary edifice, assigned him on his plea that he was devising
new and radical methods for the treatment of hitherto hopeless
cases of maiming. There he worked like a butcher in the midst of his
gory wares -- I could never get used to the levity with which he
handled and classified certain things. At times he actually did
perform marvels of surgery for the soldiers; but his chief delights
were of a less public and philanthropic kind, requiring many
explanations of sounds which seemed peculiar even amidst that
babel of the damned. Among these sounds were frequent revolver-
shots -- surely not uncommon on a battlefield, but distinctly
uncommon in an hospital. Dr. West’s reanimated specimens were
not meant for long existence or a large audience. Besides human
tissue, West employed much of the reptile embryo tissue which he
had cultivated with such singular results. It was better than human
material for maintaining life in organless fragments, and that was
now my friend’s chief activity. In a dark corner of the laboratory, over
a queer incubating burner, he kept a large covered vat full of this
reptilian cell-matter; which multiplied and grew puffily and hideously.

On the night of which I speak we had a splendid new specimen -- a


man at once physically powerful and of such high mentality that a
sensitive nervous system was assured. It was rather ironic, for he
was the officer who had helped West to his commission, and who
was now to have been our associate. Moreover, he had in the past
secretly studied the theory of reanimation to some extent under
West. Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O., was the
greatest surgeon in our division, and had been hastily assigned to
the St. Eloi sector when news of the heavy fighting reached
headquarters. He had come in an aeroplane piloted by the intrepid
Lieut. Ronald Hill, only to be shot down when directly over his
destination. The fall had been spectacular and awful; Hill was
unrecognisable afterward, but the wreck yielded up the great
surgeon in a nearly decapitated but otherwise intact condition. West
had greedily seized the lifeless thing which had once been his friend
and fellow-scholar; and I shuddered when he finished severing the
head, placed it in his hellish vat of pulpy reptile-tissue to preserve it
for future experiments, and proceeded to treat the decapitated body
on the operating table. He injected new blood, joined certain veins,
arteries, and nerves at the headless neck, and closed the ghastly
aperture with engrafted skin from an unidentified specimen which
had borne an officer’s uniform. I knew what he wanted -- to see if
this highly organised body could exhibit, without its head, any of the
signs of mental life which had distinguished Sir Eric Moreland
Clapham-Lee. Once a student of reanimation, this silent trunk was
now gruesomely called upon to exemplify it.

I can still see Herbert West under the sinister electric light as he
injected his reanimating solution into the arm of the headless body.
The scene I cannot describe -- I should faint if I tried it, for there is
madness in a room full of classified charnel things, with blood and
lesser human debris almost ankle-deep on the slimy floor, and with
hideous reptilian abnormalities sprouting, bubbling, and baking over
a winking bluish-green spectre of dim flame in a far corner of black
shadows.

The specimen, as West repeatedly observed, had a splendid


nervous system. Much was expected of it; and as a few twitching
motions began to appear, I could see the feverish interest on West’s
face. He was ready, I think, to see proof of his increasingly strong
opinion that consciousness, reason, and personality can exist
independently of the brain -- that man has no central connective
spirit, but is merely a machine of nervous matter, each section more
or less complete in itself. In one triumphant demonstration West was
about to relegate the mystery of life to the category of myth. The
body now twitched more vigorously, and beneath our avid eyes
commenced to heave in a frightful way. The arms stirred
disquietingly, the legs drew up, and various muscles contracted in a
repulsive kind of writhing. Then the headless thing threw out its arms
in a gesture which was unmistakably one of desperation -- an
intelligent desperation apparently sufficient to prove every theory of
Herbert West. Certainly, the nerves were recalling the man’s last act
in life; the struggle to get free of the falling aeroplane.

What followed, I shall never positively know. It may have been


wholly an hallucination from the shock caused at that instant by the
sudden and complete destruction of the building in a cataclysm of
German shell-fire -- who can gainsay it, since West and I were the
only proved survivors? West liked to think that before his recent
disappearance, but there were times when he could not; for it was
queer that we both had the same hallucination. The hideous
occurrence itself was very simple, notable only for what it implied.

The body on the table had risen with a blind and terrible groping,
and we had heard a sound. I should not call that sound a voice, for it
was too awful. And yet its timbre was not the most awful thing about
it. Neither was its message -- it had merely screamed, "Jump,
Ronald, for God’s sake, jump!" The awful thing was its source.

For it had come from the large covered vat in that ghoulish corner of
crawling black shadows.

VI. The Tomb-Legions

When Dr. Herbert West disappeared a year ago, the Boston police
questioned me closely. They suspected that I was holding
something back, and perhaps suspected graver things; but I could
not tell them the truth because they would not have believed it. They
knew, indeed, that West had been connected with activities beyond
the credence of ordinary men; for his hideous experiments in the
reanimation of dead bodies had long been too extensive to admit of
perfect secrecy; but the final soul-shattering catastrophe held
elements of daemoniac phantasy which make even me doubt the
reality of what I saw.

I was West’s closest friend and only confidential assistant. We had


met years before, in medical school, and from the first I had shared
his terrible researches. He had slowly tried to perfect a solution
which, injected into the veins of the newly deceased, would restore
life; a labour demanding an abundance of fresh corpses and
therefore involving the most unnatural actions. Still more shocking
were the products of some of the experiments -- grisly masses of
flesh that had been dead, but that West waked to a blind, brainless,
nauseous ammation. These were the usual results, for in order to
reawaken the mind it was necessary to have specimens so
absolutely fresh that no decay could possibly affect the delicate
brain-cells.
This need for very fresh corpses had been West’s moral undoing.
They were hard to get, and one awful day he had secured his
specimen while it was still alive and vigorous. A struggle, a needle,
and a powerful alkaloid had transformed it to a very fresh corpse,
and the experiment had succeeded for a brief and memorable
moment; but West had emerged with a soul calloused and seared,
and a hardened eye which sometimes glanced with a kind of
hideous and calculating appraisal at men of especially sensitive
brain and especially vigorous physique. Toward the last I became
acutely afraid of West, for he began to look at me that way. People
did not seem to notice his glances, but they noticed my fear; and
after his disappearance used that as a basis for some absurd
suspicions.

West, in reality, was more afraid than I; for his abominable pursuits
entailed a life of furtiveness and dread of every shadow. Partly it
was the police he feared; but sometimes his nervousness was
deeper and more nebulous, touching on certain indescribable things
into which he had injected a morbid life, and from which he had not
seen that life depart. He usually finished his experiments with a
revolver, but a few times he had not been quick enough. There was
that first specimen on whose rifled grave marks of clawing were later
seen. There was also that Arkham professor’s body which had done
cannibal things before it had been captured and thrust unidentified
into a madhouse cell at Sefton, where it beat the walls for sixteen
years. Most of the other possibly surviving results were things less
easy to speak of -- for in later years West’s scientific zeal had
degenerated to an unhealthy and fantastic mania, and he had spent
his chief skill in vitalising not entire human bodies but isolated parts
of bodies, or parts joined to organic matter other than human. It had
become fiendishly disgusting by the time he disappeared; many of
the experiments could not even be hinted at in print. The Great War,
through which both of us served as surgeons, had intensified this
side of West.

In saying that West’s fear of his specimens was nebulous, I have in


mind particularly its complex nature. Part of it came merely from
knowing of the existence of such nameless monsters, while another
part arose from apprehension of the bodily harm they might under
certain circumstances do him. Their disappearance added horror to
the situation -- of them all, West knew the whereabouts of only one,
the pitiful asylum thing. Then there was a more subtle fear -- a very
fantastic sensation resulting from a curious experiment in the
Canadian army in 1915. West, in the midst of a severe battle, had
reanimated Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O., a fellow-
physician who knew about his experiments and could have
duplicated them. The head had been removed, so that the
possibilities of quasi-intelligent life in the trunk might be investigated.
Just as the building was wiped out by a German shell, there had
been a success. The trunk had moved intelligently; and,
unbelievable to relate, we were both sickeningly sure that articulate
sounds had come from the detached head as it lay in a shadowy
corner of the laboratory. The shell had been merciful, in a way -- but
West could never feel as certain as he wished, that we two were the
only survivors. He used to make shuddering conjectures about the
possible actions of a headless physician with the power of
reanimating the dead.

West’s last quarters were in a venerable house of much elegance,


overlooking one of the oldest burying-grounds in Boston. He had
chosen the place for purely symbolic and fantastically aesthetic
reasons, since most of the interments were of the colonial period
and therefore of little use to a scientist seeking very fresh bodies.
The laboratory was in a sub-cellar secretly constructed by imported
workmen, and contained a huge incinerator for the quiet and
complete disposal of such bodies, or fragments and synthetic
mockeries of bodies, as might remain from the morbid experiments
and unhallowed amusements of the owner. During the excavation of
this cellar the workmen had struck some exceedingly ancient
masonry; undoubtedly connected with the old burying-ground, yet
far too deep to correspond with any known sepulchre therein. After a
number of calculations West decided that it represented some
secret chamber beneath the tomb of the Averills, where the last
interment had been made in 1768. I was with him when he studied
the nitrous, dripping walls laid bare by the spades and mattocks of
the men, and was prepared for the gruesome thrill which would
attend the uncovering of centuried grave-secrets; but for the first
time West’s new timidity conquered his natural curiosity, and he
betrayed his degenerating fibre by ordering the masonry left intact
and plastered over. Thus it remained till that final hellish night; part
of the walls of the secret laboratory. I speak of West’s decadence,
but must add that it was a purely mental and intangible thing.
Outwardly he was the same to the last -- calm, cold, slight, and
yellow-haired, with spectacled blue eyes and a general aspect of
youth which years and fears seemed never to change. He seemed
calm even when he thought of that clawed grave and looked over
his shoulder; even when he thought of the carnivorous thing that
gnawed and pawed at Sefton bars.

The end of Herbert West began one evening in our joint study when
he was dividing his curious glance between the newspaper and me.
A strange headline item had struck at him from the crumpled pages,
and a nameless titan claw had seemed to reach down through
sixteen years. Something fearsome and incredible had happened at
Sefton Asylum fifty miles away, stunning the neighbourhood and
baffling the police. In the small hours of the morning a body of silent
men had entered the grounds, and their leader had aroused the
attendants. He was a menacing military figure who talked without
moving his lips and whose voice seemed almost ventriloquially
connected with an immense black case he carried. His
expressionless face was handsome to the point of radiant beauty,
but had shocked the superintendent when the hall light fell on it -- for
it was a wax face with eyes of painted glass. Some nameless
accident had befallen this man. A larger man guided his steps; a
repellent hulk whose bluish face seemed half eaten away by some
unknown malady. The speaker had asked for the custody of the
cannibal monster committed from Arkham sixteen years before; and
upon being refused, gave a signal which precipitated a shocking riot.
The fiends had beaten, trampled, and bitten every attendant who did
not flee; killing four and finally succeeding in the liberation of the
monster. Those victims who could recall the event without hysteria
swore that the creatures had acted less like men than like
unthinkable automata guided by the wax-faced leader. By the time
help could be summoned, every trace of the men and of their mad
charge had vanished.

From the hour of reading this item until midmght, West sat almost
paralysed. At midnight the doorbell rang, startling him fearfully. All
the servants were asleep in the attic, so I answered the bell. As I
have told the police, there was no wagon in the street, but only a
group of strange-looking figures bearing a large square box which
they deposited in the hallway after one of them had grunted in a
highly unnatural voice, "Express -- prepaid." They filed out of the
house with a jerky tread, and as I watched them go I had an odd
idea that they were turning toward the ancient cemetery on which
the back of the house abutted. When I slammed the door after them
West came downstairs and looked at the box. It was about two feet
square, and bore West’s correct name and present address. It also
bore the inscription, "From Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, St. Eloi,
Flanders." Six years before, in Flanders, a shelled hospital had
fallen upon the headless reanimated trunk of Dr. Clapham-Lee, and
upon the detached head which -- perhaps -- had uttered articulate
sounds.

West was not even excited now. His condition was more ghastly.
Quickly he said, "It’s the finish -- but let’s incinerate -- this." We
carried the thing down to the laboratory -- listening. I do not
remember many particulars -- you can imagine my state of mind --
but it is a vicious lie to say it was Herbert West’s body which I put
into the incinerator. We both inserted the whole unopened wooden
box, closed the door, and started the electricity. Nor did any sound
come from the box, after all.

It was West who first noticed the falling plaster on that part of the
wall where the ancient tomb masonry had been covered up. I was
going to run, but he stopped me. Then I saw a small black aperture,
felt a ghoulish wind of ice, and smelled the charnel bowels of a
putrescent earth. There was no sound, but just then the electric
lights went out and I saw outlined against some phosphorescence of
the nether world a horde of silent toiling things which only insanity --
or worse -- could create. Their outlines were human, semi-human,
fractionally human, and not human at all -- the horde was
grotesquely heterogeneous. They were removing the stones quietly,
one by one, from the centuried wall. And then, as the breach
became large enough, they came out into the laboratory in single
file; led by a talking thing with a beautiful head made of wax. A sort
of mad-eyed monstrosity behind the leader seized on Herbert West.
West did not resist or utter a sound. Then they all sprang at him and
tore him to pieces before my eyes, bearing the fragments away into
that subterranean vault of fabulous abominations. West’s head was
carried off by the wax-headed leader, who wore a Canadian officer’s
uniform. As it disappeared I saw that the blue eyes behind the
spectacles were hideously blazing with their first touch of frantic,
visible emotion.

Servants found me unconscious in the morning. West was gone.


The incinerator contained only unidentifiable ashes. Detectives have
questioned me, but what can I say? The Sefton tragedy they will not
connect with West; not that, nor the men with the box, whose
existence they deny. I told them of the vault, and they pointed to the
unbroken plaster wall and laughed. So I told them no more. They
imply that I am either a madman or a murderer -- probably I am
mad. But I might not be mad if those accursed tomb-legions had not
been so silent.
Hypnos
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in March, 1922

Published in May 1923


in
The National Amateur

Hypnos
Apropos of sleep, that sinister adventure of all our nights, we may say that men go to
bed daily with an audacity that would be incomprehensible if we did not know that it
is the result of ignorance of the danger.

- Baudelaire

May the merciful gods, if indeed there be such, guard those hours
when no power of the will, or drug that the cunning of man devises,
can keep me from the chasm of sleep. Death is merciful, for there is
no return therefrom, but with him who has come back out of the
nethermost chambers of night, haggard and knowing, peace rests
nevermore. Fool that I was to plunge with such unsanctioned frensy
into mysteries no man was meant to penetrate; fool or god that he
was - my only friend, who led me and went before me, and who in
the end passed into terrors which may yet be mine!

We met, I recall, in a railway station, where he was the center of a


crowd of the vulgarly curious. He was unconscious, having fallen in
a kind of convulsion which imparted to his slight black-clad body a
strange rigidity. I think he was then approaching forty years of age,
for there were deep lines in the face, wan and hollow-cheeked, but
oval and actually beautiful; and touches of gray in the thick, waving
hair and small full beard which had once been of the deepest raven
black. His brow was white as the marble of Pentelicus, and of a
height and breadth almost god-like.
I said to myself, with all the ardor of a sculptor, that this man was a
faun's statue out of antique Hellas, dug from a temple's ruins and
brought somehow to life in our stifling age only to feel the chill and
pressure of devastating years. And when he opened his immense,
sunken, and wildly luminous black eyes I knew he would be
thenceforth my only friend- the only friend of one who had never
possessed a friend before- for I saw that such eyes must have
looked fully upon the grandeur and the terror of realms beyond
normal consciousness and reality; realms which I had cherished in
fancy, but vainly sought. So as I drove the crowd away I told him he
must come home with me and be my teacher and leader in
unfathomed mysteries, and he assented without speaking a word.
Afterward I found that his voice was music- the music of deep viols
and of crystalline spheres. We talked often in the night, and in the
day, when I chiseled busts of him and carved miniature heads in
ivory to immortalize his different expressions.

Of our studies it is impossible to speak, since they held so slight a


connection with anything of the world as living men conceive it. They
were of that vaster and more appalling universe of dim entity and
consciousness which lies deeper than matter, time, and space, and
whose existence we suspect only in certain forms of sleep- those
rare dreams beyond dreams which come never to common men,
and but once or twice in the lifetime of imaginative men. The cosmos
of our waking knowledge, born from such an universe as a bubble is
born from the pipe of a jester, touches it only as such a bubble may
touch its sardonic source when sucked back by the jester's whim.
Men of learning suspect it little and ignore it mostly. Wise men have
interpreted dreams, and the gods have laughed. One man with
Oriental eyes has said that all time and space are relative, and men
have laughed. But even that man with Oriental eyes has done no
more than suspect. I had wished and tried to do more than suspect,
and my friend had tried and partly succeeded. Then we both tried
together, and with exotic drugs courted terrible and forbidden
dreams in the tower studio chamber of the old manor-house in hoary
Kent.

Among the agonies of these after days is that chief of torments-


inarticulateness. What I learned and saw in those hours of impious
exploration can never be told- for want of symbols or suggestions in
any language. I say this because from first to last our discoveries
partook only of the nature of sensations; sensations correlated with
no impression which the nervous system of normal humanity is
capable of receiving. They were sensations, yet within them lay
unbelievable elements of time and space- things which at bottom
possess no distinct and definite existence. Human utterance can
best convey the general character of our experiences by calling
them plungings or soarings; for in every period of revelation some
part of our minds broke boldly away from all that is real and present,
rushing aerially along shocking, unlighted, and fear-haunted
abysses, and occasionally tearing through certain well-marked and
typical obstacles describable only as viscous, uncouth clouds of
vapors.

In these black and bodiless flights we were sometimes alone and


sometimes together. When we were together, my friend was always
far ahead; I could comprehend his presence despite the absence of
form by a species of pictorial memory whereby his face appeared to
me, golden from a strange light and frightful with its weird beauty, its
anomalously youthful cheeks, its burning eyes, its Olympian brow,
and its shadowing hair and growth of beard.

Of the progress of time we kept no record, for time had become to


us the merest illusion. I know only that there must have been
something very singular involved, since we came at length to marvel
why we did not grow old. Our discourse was unholy, and always
hideously ambitious - no god or demon could have aspired to
discoveries and conquest like those which we planned in whispers. I
shiver as I speak of them, and dare not be explicit; though I will say
that my friend once wrote on paper a wish which he dared not utter
with his tongue, and which made me burn the paper and look
affrightedly out of the window at the spangled night sky. I will hint-
only hint- that he had designs which involved the rulership of the
visible universe and more; designs whereby the earth and the stars
would move at his command, and the destinies of all living things be
his. I affirm- I swear- that I had no share in these extreme
aspirations. Anything my friend may have said or written to the
contrary must be erroneous, for I am no man of strength to risk the
unmentionable spheres by which alone one might achieve success.

There was a night when winds from unknown spaces whirled us


irresistibly into limitless vacum beyond all thought and entity.
Perceptions of the most maddeningly untransmissible sort thronged
upon us; perceptions of infinity which at the time convulsed us with
joy, yet which are now partly lost to my memory and partly incapable
of presentation to others. Viscous obstacles were clawed through in
rapid succession, and at length I felt that we had been borne to
realms of greater remoteness than any we had previously known.

My friend was vastly in advance as we plunged into this awesome


ocean of virgin aether, and I could see the sinister exultation on his
floating, luminous, too-youthful memory-face. Suddenly that face
became dim and quickly disappeared, and in a brief space I found
myself projected against an obstacle which I could not penetrate. It
was like the others, yet incalculably denser; a sticky clammy mass, if
such terms can be applied to analogous qualities in a non-material
sphere.

I had, I felt, been halted by a barrier which my friend and leader had
successfully passed. Struggling anew, I came to the end of the drug-
dream and opened my physical eyes to the tower studio in whose
opposite corner reclined the pallid and still unconscious form of my
fellow dreamer, weirdly haggard and wildly beautiful as the moon
shed gold-green light on his marble features.

Then, after a short interval, the form in the corner stirred; and may
pitying heaven keep from my sight and sound another thing like that
which took place before me. I cannot tell you how he shrieked, or
what vistas of unvisitable hells gleamed for a second in black eyes
crazed with fright. I can only say that I fainted, and did not stir till he
himself recovered and shook me in his frensy for someone to keep
away the horror and desolation.

That was the end of our voluntary searchings in the caverns of


dream. Awed, shaken, and portentous, my friend who had been
beyond the barrier warned me that we must never venture within
those realms again. What he had seen, he dared not tell me; but he
said from his wisdom that we must sleep as little as possible, even if
drugs were necessary to keep us awake. That he was right, I soon
learned from the unutterable fear which engulfed me whenever
consciousness lapsed.

After each short and inevitable sleep I seemed older, whilst my


friend aged with a rapidity almost shocking. It is hideous to see
wrinkles form and hair whiten almost before one's eyes. Our mode
of life was now totally altered. Heretofore a recluse so far as I know-
his true name and origin never having passed his lips- my friend
now became frantic in his fear of solitude. At night he would not be
alone, nor would the company of a few persons calm him. His sole
relief was obtained in revelry of the most general and boisterous
sort; so that few assemblies of the young and gay were unknown to
us.

Our appearance and age seemed to excite in most cases a ridicule


which I keenly resented, but which my friend considered a lesser evil
than solitude. Especially was he afraid to be out of doors alone
when the stars were shining, and if forced to this condition he would
often glance furtively at the sky as if hunted by some monstrous
thing therein. He did not always glance at the same place in the sky-
it seemed to be a different place at different times. On spring
evenings it would be low in the northeast. In the summer it would be
nearly overhead. In the autumn it would be in the northwest. In
winter it would be in the east, but mostly if in the small hours of
morning.

Midwinter evenings seemed least dreadful to him. Only after two


years did I connect this fear with anything in particular; but then I
began to see that he must be looking at a special spot on the
celestial vault whose position at different times corresponded to the
direction of his glance- a spot roughly marked by the constellation
Corona Borealis.

We now had a studio in London, never separating, but never


discussing the days when we had sought to plumb the mysteries of
the unreal world. We were aged and weak from our drugs,
dissipations, and nervous overstrain, and the thinning hair and beard
of my friend had become snow-white. Our freedom from long sleep
was surprising, for seldom did we succumb more than an hour or
two at a time to the shadow which had now grown so frightful a
menace.

Then came one January of fog and rain, when money ran low and
drugs were hard to buy. My statues and ivory heads were all sold,
and I had no means to purchase new materials, or energy to fashion
them even had I possessed them. We suffered terribly, and on a
certain night my friend sank into a deep-breathing sleep from which I
could not awaken him. I can recall the scene now- the desolate,
pitch-black garret studio under the eaves with the rain beating down;
the ticking of our lone clock; the fancied ticking of our watches as
they rested on the dressing-table; the creaking of some swaying
shutter in a remote part of the house; certain distant city noises
muffled by fog and space; and, worst of all, the deep, steady,
sinister breathing of my friend on the couch- a rhythmical breathing
which seemed to measure moments of supernal fear and agony for
his spirit as it wandered in spheres forbidden, unimagined, and
hideously remote.

The tension of my vigil became oppressive, and a wild train of trivial


impressions and associations thronged through my almost unhinged
mind. I heard a clock strike somewhere- not ours, for that was not a
striking clock- and my morbid fancy found in this a new starting-point
for idle wanderings. Clocks- time- space- infinity- and then my fancy
reverted to the locale as I reflected that even now, beyond the roof
and the fog and the rain and the atmosphere, Corona Borealis was
rising in the northeast. Corona Borealis, which my friend had
appeared to dread, and whose scintillant semicircle of stars must
even now be glowing unseen through the measureless abysses of
aether. All at once my feverishly sensitive ears seemed to detect a
new and wholly distinct component in the soft medley of drug-
magnified sounds- a low and damnably insistent whine from very far
away; droning, clamoring, mocking, calling, from the northeast.

But it was not that distant whine which robbed me of my faculties


and set upon my soul such a seal of fright as may never in life be
removed; not that which drew the shrieks and excited the
convulsions which caused lodgers and police to break down the
door. It was not what I heard, but what I saw; for in that dark, locked,
shuttered, and curtained room there appeared from the black
northeast corner a shaft of horrible red-gold light- a shaft which bore
with it no glow to disperse the darkness, but which streamed only
upon the recumbent head of the troubled sleeper, bringing out in
hideous duplication the luminous and strangely youthful memory-
face as I had known it in dreams of abysmal space and unshackled
time, when my friend had pushed behind the barrier to those secret,
innermost and forbidden caverns of nightmare.

And as I looked, I beheld the head rise, the black, liquid, and deep-
sunken eyes open in terror, and the thin, shadowed lips part as if for
a scream too frightful to be uttered. There dwelt in that ghastly and
flexible face, as it shone bodiless, luminous, and rejuvenated in the
blackness, more of stark, teeming, brain-shattering fear than all the
rest of heaven and earth has ever revealed to me.

No word was spoken amidst the distant sound that grew nearer and
nearer, but as I followed the memory-face's mad stare along that
cursed shaft of light to its source, the source whence also the
whining came, I, too, saw for an instant what it saw, and fell with
ringing ears in that fit of shrieking epilepsy which brought the lodgers
and the police. Never could I tell, try as I might, what it actually was
that I saw; nor could the still face tell, for although it must have seen
more than I did, it will never speak again. But always I shall guard
against the mocking and insatiate Hypnos, lord of sleep, against the
night sky, and against the mad ambitions of knowledge and
philosophy.

Just what happened is unknown, for not only was my own mind
unseated by the strange and hideous thing, but others were tainted
with a forgetfulness which can mean nothing if not madness. They
have said, I know not for what reason, that I never had a friend; but
that art, philosophy, and insanity had filled all my tragic life. The
lodgers and police on that night soothed me, and the doctor
administered something to quiet me, nor did anyone see what a
nightmare event had taken place. My stricken friend moved them to
no pity, but what they found on the couch in the studio made them
give me a praise which sickened me, and now a fame which I spurn
in despair as I sit for hours, bald, gray-bearded, shriveled, palsied,
drug-crazed, and broken, adoring and praying to the object they
found.

For they deny that I sold the last of my statuary, and point with
ecstasy at the thing which the shining shaft of light left cold, petrified,
and unvocal. It is all that remains of my friend; the friend who led me
on to madness and wreckage; a godlike head of such marble as
only old Hellas could yield, young with the youth that is outside time,
and with beauteous bearded face, curved, smiling lips, Olympian
brow, and dense locks waving and poppy-crowned. They say that
that haunting memory-face is modeled from my own, as it was at
twenty-five; but upon the marble base is carven a single name in the
letters of Attica - HYPNOS.
Ibid
by H. P. Lovecraft

Ibid
"...as Ibid says in his famous Lives of the Poets."

- From a student theme.

The erroneous idea that Ibid is the author of the Lives is so


frequently met with, even among those pretending to a degree of
culture, that it is worth correcting. It should be a matter of general
knowledge that Cf. is responsible for this work. Ibid's masterpiece,
on the other hand, was the famous Op. Cit. wherein all the
significant undercurrents of Graeco-Roman expression were
crystallised once for all - and with admirable acuteness,
notwithstanding the surprisingly late date at which Ibid wrote. There
is a false report- very commonly reproduced in modern books prior
to Von Schweinkopf's monumental Geschichte der Ostrogothen in
Italien- that Ibid was a Romanised Visigoth of Ataulf's horde who
settled in Placentia about 410 A. D. The contrary cannot be too
strongly emphasised; for Von Schweinkopf, and since his time
Littlewit1 and Bêtenoir, 2 have shewn with irrefutable force that this
strikingly isolated figure was a genuine Roman- or at least as
genuine a Roman as that degenerate and mongrelised age could
produce- of whom one might well say what Gibbon said of Boethius,
"that he was the last whom Cato or Tully could have acknowledged
for their countryman." He was, like Boethius and nearly all the
eminent men of his age, of the great Anician family, and traced his
genealogy with much exactitude and self-satisfaction to all the
heroes of the republic. His full name - long and pompous according
to the custom of an age which had lost the trinomial simplicity of
classic Roman nomenclature - is stated by Von Schweinkopf3 to
have been Caius Anicius Magnus Furius Camillus Aemilianus
Cornelius Valerius Pompeius Julius Ibidus; though Littlewit4 rejects
Aemilianus and adds Claudius Deciusfunianus; whilst Bêtenoir5
differs radically, giving the full name as Magnus Furius Camillus
Aurelius Antoninus Flavius Anicius Petronius Valentinianus Aegidus
Ibidus.

The eminent critic and biographer was born in the year 486, shortly
after the extinction of the Roman rule in Gaul by Clovis. Rome and
Ravenna are rivals for the honour of his birth, though it is certain that
he received his rhetorical and philosophical training in the schools of
Athens - the extent of whose suppression by Theodosius a century
before is grossly exaggerated by the superficial. In 512, under the
benign rule of the Ostrogoth Theodoric, we behold him as a teacher
of rhetoric at Rome, and in 516 he held the consulship together with
Pompilius Numantius Bombastes Marcellinus Deodamnatus. Upon
the death of Theodoric in 526, Ibidus retired from public life to
compose his celebrated work (whose pure Ciceronian style is as
remarkable a case of classic atavism as is the verse of Claudius
Claudianus, who flourished a century before Ibidus); but he was
later recalled to scenes of pomp to act as court rhetorician for
Theodatus, nephew of Theodoric.

Upon the usurpation of Vitiges, Ibidus fell into disgrace and was for
a time imprisoned; but the coming of the Byzantine-Roman army
under Belisarius soon restored him to liberty and honours.
Throughout the siege of Rome he served bravely in the army of the
defenders, and afterward followed the eagles of Belisarius to Alba,
Porto, and Centumcellae. After the Frankish siege of Milan, Ibidus
was chosen to accompany the learned Bishop Datius to Greece,
and resided with him at Corinth in the year 539. About 541 he
removed to Constantinopolis, where he received every mark of
imperial favour both from Justinianus and Justinus the Second. The
Emperors Tiberius and Maurice did kindly honour to his old age, and
contributed much to his immortality - especially Maurice, whose
delight it was to trace his ancestry to old Rome notwithstanding his
birth at Arabiscus, in Cappadocia. It was Maurice who, in the poet's
101st year, secured the adoption of his work as a textbook in the
schools of the empire, an honour which proved a fatal tax on the
aged rhetorician's emotions, since he passed away peacefully at his
home near the church of St. Sophia on the sixth day before the
Kalends of September, A. D. 587, in the 102nd year of his age.

His remains, notwithstanding the troubled state of Italy, were taken


to Ravenna for interment; but being interred in the suburb of Classe,
were exhumed and ridiculed by the Lombard Duke of Spoleto, who
took his skull to King Autharis for use as a wassail-bowl. Ibid's skull
was proudly handed down from king to king of the Lombard line.
Upon the capture of Pavia by Charlemagne in 774, the skull was
seized from the tottering Desiderius and carried in the train of the
Frankish conqueror. It was from this vessel, indeed, that Pope Leo
administered the royal unction which made of the hero-nomad a
Holy Roman Emperor. Charlemagne took Ibid's skull to his capital at
Aix, soon after- ward presenting it to his Saxon teacher Alcuin, upon
whose death in 804 it was sent to Alcuin's kinsfolk in England.

William the Conqueror, finding it in an abbey niche where the pious


family of Alcuin had placed it (believing it to be the skull of a saint6
who had miraculously annihilated the Lombards by his prayers), did
reverence to its osseous antiquity; and even the rough soldiers of
Cromwell, upon destroying Ballylough Abbey in Ireland in 1650 (it
having been secretly transported thither by a devout Papist in 1539,
upon Henry VII's dissolution of the English monasteries), declined to
offer violence to a relic so venerable.

It was captured by the private soldier Read-'em-and-Weep Hopkins,


who not long after traded it to Rest-in-Jehovah Stubbs for a quid of
new Virginia weed. Stubbs, upon sending forth his son Zerubbabel
to seek his fortune in New England in 1661 (for he thought ill of the
Restoration atmosphere for a pious young yeoman), gave him St.
Ibid's - or rather Brother Ibid's, for he abhorred all that was Popish -
skull as a talisman. Upon landing in Salem Zerubbabel set it up in
his cupboard beside the chimney, he having built a modest house
near the town pump. However, he had not been wholly unaffected
by the Restoration influence; and having become addicted to
gaming, lost the skull to one Epenetus Dexter, a visiting freeman of
Providence.

It was in the house of Dexter, in the northern part of the town near
the present intersection of North Main and Olney Streets, on the
occasion of Canonchet's raid of March 30, 1676, during King Philip's
War; and the astute sachem, recognising it at once as a thing of
singular venerableness and dignity, sent it as a symbol of alliance to
a faction of the Pequots in Connecticut with whom he was
negotiating. On April 4 he was captured by the colonists and soon
after executed, but the austere head of Ibid continued on its
wanderings.

The Pequots, enfeebled by a previous war, could give the now


stricken Narragansetts no assistance; and in 1680 a Dutch furtrader
of Albany, Petrus van Schaack, secured the distinguished cranium
for the modest sum of two guilders, he having recognised its value
from the half-effaced inscription carved in Lombardic minuscules
(palaeography, it might be explained, was one of the leading
accomplishments of New-Netherland fur-traders of the seventeenth
century).

From van Schaack, sad to say, the relic was stolen in 1683 by a
French trader, Jean Grenier, whose Popish zeal recognised the
features of one whom he had been taught at his mother's knee to
revere as St. Ibide. Grenier, fired with virtuous rage at the
possession of this holy symbol by a Protestant, crushed van
Schaack's head one night with an axe and escaped to the north with
his booty; soon, however, being robbed and slain by the half-breed
voyageur Michel Savard, who took the skull - despite the illiteracy
which prevented his recognising it - to add to a collection of similar
but more recent material.

Upon his death in 1701 his half-breed son Pierre traded it among
other things to some emissaries of the Sacs and Foxes, and it was
found outside the chief's tepee a generation later by Charles de
Langlade, founder of the trading post at Green Bay, Wisconsin. De
Langlade regarded this sacred object with proper veneration and
ransomed it at the expense of many glass beads; yet after his time it
found itself in many other hands, being traded to settlements at the
head of Lake Winnebago, to tribes around Lake Mendota, and
finally, early in the nineteenth century, to one Solomon Juneau, a
Frenchman, at the new trading post of Milwaukee on the
Menominee River and the shore of Lake Michigan.

Later traded to Jacques Caboche, another settler, it was in 1850 lost


in a game of chess or poker to a newcomer named Hans
Zimmerman; being used by him as a beer-stein until one day, under
the spell of its contents, he suffered it to roll from his front stoop to
the prairie path before his home - where, falling into the burrow of a
prairie-dog, it passed beyond his power of discovery or recovery
upon his awaking.

So for generations did the sainted skull of Caius Anicius Magnus


Furius Camillus Aemilianus Cornelius Valerius Pompeius Julius
Ibidus, consul of Rome, favourite of emperors, and saint of the
Romish church, lie hidden beneath the soil of a growing town. At first
worshipped with dark rites by the prairie-dogs, who saw in it a deity
sent from the upper world, it afterward fell into dire neglect as the
race of simple, artless burrowers succumbed before the onslaught of
the conquering Aryan. Sewers came, but they passed by it. Houses
went up - 2303 of them, and more - and at last one fateful night a
titan thing occurred. Subtle Nature, convulsed with a spiritual
ecstasy, like the froth of that region's quondam beverage, laid low
the lofty and heaved high the humble - and behold! In the roseal
dawn the burghers of Milwaukee rose to find a former prairie turned
to a highland! Vast and far-reaching was the great upheaval.
Subterrene arcana, hidden for years, came at last to the light. For
there, full in the rifted roadway, lay bleached and tranquil in bland,
saintly, and consular pomp the dome-like skull of Ibid!
Imprisoned with the Pharaos
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in March of 1924

Published in May of 1924


in
Weird Tales

Imprisoned with the Pharaos


Mystery attracts mystery. Ever since the wide appearance of my
name as a performer of unexplained feats, I have encountered
strange narratives and events which my calling has led people to
link with my interests and activities. Some of these have been trivial
and irrelevant, some deeply dramatic and absorbing, some
productive of weird and perilous experiences and some involving me
in extensive scientific and historical research. Many of these matters
I have told and shall continue to tell very freely; but there is one of
which I speak with great reluctance, and which I am now relating
only after a session of grilling persuasion from the publishers of this
magazine, who had heard vague rumors of it from other members of
my family.

The hitherto guarded subject pertains to my non-professional visit to


Egypt fourteen years ago, and has been avoided by me for several
reasons. For one thing, I am averse to exploiting certain
unmistakably actual facts and conditions obviously unknown to the
myriad tourists who throng about the pyramids and apparently
secreted with much diligence by the authorities at Cairo, who cannot
be wholly ignorant of them. For another thing, I dislike to recount an
incident in which my own fantastic imagination must have played so
great a part. What I saw - or thought I saw - certainly did not take
place; but is rather to be viewed as a result of my then recent
readings in Egyptology, and of the speculations anent this theme
which my environment naturally prompted. These imaginative
stimuli, magnified by the excitement of an actual event terrible
enough in itself, undoubtedly gave rise to the culminating horror of
that grotesque night so long past.

In January, 1910, I had finished a professional engagement in


England and signed a contract for a tour of Australian theatres. A
liberal time being allowed for the trip, I determined to make the most
of it in the sort of travel which chiefly interests me; so accompanied
by my wife I drifted pleasantly down the Continent and embarked at
Marseilles on the P & O Steamer Malwa, bound for Port Said. From
that point I proposed to visit the principal historical localities of lower
Egypt before leaving finally for Australia.

The voyage was an agreeable one, and enlivened by many of the


amusing incidents which befall a magical performer apart from his
work. I had intended, for the sake of quiet travel, to keep my name a
secret; but was goaded into betraying myself by a fellow-magician
whose anxiety to astound the passengers with ordinary tricks
tempted me to duplicate and exceed his feats in a manner quite
destructive of my incognito. I mention this because of its ultimate
effect - an effect I should have foreseen before unmasking to a
shipload of tourists about to scatter throughout the Nile valley. What
it did was to herald my identity wherever I subsequently went, and
deprive my wife and me of all the placid inconspicuousness we had
sought. Traveling to seek curiosities, I was often forced to stand
inspection as a sort of curiosity myself!

We had come to Egypt in search of the picturesque and the


mystically impressive, but found little enough when the ship edged
up to Port Said and discharged its passengers in small boats. Low
dunes of sand, bobbing buoys in shallow water, and a drearily
European small town with nothing of interest save the great De
Lesseps statue, made us anxious to get to something more worth
our while. After some discussion we decided to proceed at once to
Cairo and the Pyramids, later going to Alexandria for the Australian
boat and for whatever Greco-Roman sights that ancient metropolis
might present.

The railway journey was tolerable enough, and con sumed only four
hours and a half. We saw much of the Suez Canal, whose route we
followed as far as Ismailiya and later had a taste of Old Egypt in our
glimpse of the restored fresh-water canal of the Middle Empire.
Then at last we saw Cairo glimmering through the growing dusk; a
winkling constellation which became a blaze as we halted at the
great Gare Centrale.

But once more disappointment awaited us, for all that we beheld
was European save the costumes and the crowds. A prosaic
subway led to a square teeming with carriages, taxicabs, and trolley-
cars and gorgeous with electric lights shining on tall buildings; whilst
the very theatre where I was vainly requested to play and which I
later attended as a spectator, had recently been renamed the
'American Cosmograph'. We stopped at Shepheard's Hotel, reached
in a taxi that sped along broad, smartly built-up streets; and amidst
the perfect service of its restaurant, elevators and generally Anglo-
American luxuries the mysterious East and immemorial past
seemed very far away.

The next day, however, precipitated us delightfully into the heart of


the Arabian Nights atmosphere; and in the winding ways and exotic
skyline of Cairo, the Bagdad of Harun-al-Rashid seemed to live
again. Guided by our Baedeker, we had struck east past the
Ezbekiyeh Gardens along the Mouski in quest of the native quarter,
and were soon in the hands of a clamorous cicerone who - notwith
standing later developments - was assuredly a master at his trade.

Not until afterward did I see that I should have applied at the hotel
for a licensed guide. This man, a shaven, peculiarly hollow-voiced
and relatively cleanly fellow who looked like a Pharaoh and called
himself 'Abdul Reis el Drogman' appeared to have much power over
others of his kind; though subsequently the police professed not to
know him, and to suggest that reis is merely a name for any person
in authority, whilst 'Drogman' is obviously no more than a clumsy
modification of the word for a leader of tourist parties - dragoman.

Abdul led us among such wonders as we had before only read and
dreamed of. Old Cairo is itself a story-book and a dream - labyrinths
of narrow alleys redolent of aromatic secrets; Arabesque balconies
and oriels nearly meeting above the cobbled streets; maelstroms of
Oriental traffic with strange cries, cracking whips, rattling carts,
jingling money, and braying donkeys; kaleidoscopes of polychrome
robes, veils, turbans, and tarbushes; water-carriers and dervishes,
dogs and cats, soothsayers and barbers; and over all the whining of
blind beggars crouched in alcoves, and the sonorous chanting of
muezzins from minarets limned delicately against a sky of deep,
unchanging blue.

The roofed, quieter bazaars were hardly less alluring. Spice,


perfume, incense beads, rugs, silks, and brass - old Mahmoud
Suleiman squats cross-legged amidst his gummy bottles while
chattering youths pulverize mustard in the hollowed-out capital of an
ancient classic column - a Roman Corinthian, perhaps from
neighboring Heliopolis, where Augustus stationed one of his three
Egyptian legions. Antiquity begins to mingle with exoticism. And then
the mosques and the museum - we saw them all, and tried not to let
our Arabian revel succumb to the darker charm of Pharaonic Egypt
which the museum's priceless treasures offered. That was to be our
climax, and for the present we concentrated on the mediaeval
Saracenic glories of the Califs whose magnificent tomb-mosques
form a glittering faery necropolis on the edge of the Arabian Desert.

At length Abdul took us along the Sharia Mohammed Ali to the


ancient mosque of Sultan Hassan, and the tower-flanked Babel-
Azab, beyond which climbs the steep-walled pass to the mighty
citadel that Saladin himself built with the stones of forgotten
pyramids. It was sunset when we scaled that cliff, circled the modern
mosque of Mohammed Ali, and looked down from the dizzy parapet
over mystic Cairo - mystic Cairo all golden with its carven domes, its
ethereal minarets and its flaming gardens.

Far over the city towered the great Roman dome of the new
museum; and beyond it - across the cryptic yellow Nile that is the
mother of eons and dynasties - lurked the menacing sands of the
Libyan Desert, undulant and iridesc ent and evil with older arcana.

The red sun sank low, bringing the relentless chill of Egyptian dusk;
and as it stood poised on the world's rim like that ancient god of
Heliopolis - Re-Harakhte, the Horizon-Sun - we saw silhouetted
against its vermeil holocaust the black outlines of the Pyramids of
Gizeh - the palaeogean tombs there were hoary with a thousand
years when Tut-Ankh-Amen mounted his golden throne in distant
Thebes. Then we knew that we were done with Saracen Cairo, and
that we must taste the deeper mysteries of primal Egypt - the black
Kem of Re and Amen, Isis and Osiris.
The next morning we visited the Pyramids, riding out in a Victoria
across the island of Chizereh with its massive lebbakh trees, and the
smaller English bridge to the western shore. Down the shore road
we drove, between great rows of lebbakhs and past the vast
Zoological Gardens to the suburb of Gizeh, where a new bridge to
Cairo proper has since been built. Then, turning inland along the
Sharia-el-Haram, we crossed a region of glassy canals and shabby
native villages till before us loomed the objects of our quest,
cleaving the mists of dawn and forming inverted replicas in the
roadside pools. Forty centuries, as Napoleon had told his
campaigners there, indeed looked down upon us.

The road now rose abruptly, till we finally reached our place of
transfer between the trolley station and the Mena House Hotel.
Abdul Reis, who capably purchased our Pyramid tickets, seemed to
have an understanding with the crowding, yelling and offensive
Bedouins who inhabited a squalid mud village some distance away
and pestiferously assailed every traveler; for he kept them very
decently at bay and secured an excellent pair of camels for us,
himself mounting a donkey and assigning the leadership of our
animals to a group of men and boys more expensive than useful.
The area to be traversed was so small that camels were hardly
needed, but we did not regret adding to our experience this
troublesome form of desert navigation.

The pyramids stand on a high rock plateau, this group forming next
to the northernmost of the series of regal and aristocratic cemeteries
built in the neighborhood of the extinct capital Memphis, which lay
on the same side of the Nile, somewhat south of Gizeh, and which
flourished between 3400 and 2000 B.C. The greatest pyramid,
which lies nearest the modern road, was built by King Cheops or
Khufu about 2800 B.C., and stands more than 450 feet in
perpendicular height. In a line southwest from this are successively
the Second Pyramid, built a generation later by King Khephren, and
though slightly smaller, looking even larger because set on higher
ground, and the radically smaller Third Pyramid of King Mycerinus,
built about 2700 B.C. Near the edge of the plateau and due east of
the Second Pyramid, with a face probably altered to form a colossal
portrait of Khephren, its royal restorer, stands the monstrous Sphinx
- mute, sardonic, and wise beyond mankind and memory.
Minor pyramids and the traces of ruined minor pyramids are found in
several places, and the whole plateau is pitted with the tombs of
dignitaries of less than royal rank. These latter were originally
marked by mastabas, or stone bench- like structures about the deep
burial shafts, as found in other Memphian cemeteries and
exemplified by Perneb's Tomb in the Metropolitan Museum of New
York. At Gizeb, however, all such visible things have been swept
away by time and pillage; and only the rock-hewn shafts, either
sand-filled or cleared out by archaeologists, remain to attest their
former existence. Connected with each tomb was a chapel in which
priests and relatives offered food and prayer to the hovering ka or
vital principle of the deceased. The small tombs have their chapels
contained in their stone mastabas or superstructures, but the
mortuary chapels of the pyramids, where regal Pharaohs lay, were
separate temples, each to the east of its corresponding pyramid,
and connec ted by a causeway to a massive gate-chapel or
propylon at the edge of the rock plateau.

The gate-chapel leading to the Second Pyramid, nearly buried in the


drifting sands, yawns subterraneously south-east of the Sphinx.
Persistent tradition dubs it the 'Temple of the Sphinx'; and it may
perhaps be rightly called such if the Sphinx indeed represents the
Second Pyramid's builder Khephren. There are unpleasant tales of
the Sphinx before Khephren - but whatever its elder features were,
the monarch replaced them with his own that men might look at the
colossus without fear.

It was in the great gateway-temple that the life-size diorite statue of


Khephren now in the Cairo museum was found; a statue before
which I stood in awe when I beheld it. Whether the whole edifice is
now excavated I am not certain, but in 1910 most of it was below
ground, with the entrance heavily barred at night. Germans were in
charge of the work, and the war or other things may have stopped
them. I would give much, in view of my experience and of certain
Bedouin whisperings discredited or unknown in Cairo, to know what
has developed in connection with a certain well in a transverse
gallery where statues of the Pharaoh were found in curious
juxtaposition to the statues of baboons.

The road, as we traversed it on our camels that morning, curved


sharply past the wooden police quarters, post office, drug store and
shops on the left, and plunged south and east in a complete bend
that scaled the rock plateau and brought us face to face with the
desert under the lee of the Great Pyramid. Past Cyclopean masonry
we rode, rounding the eastern face and looking down ahead into a
valley of minor pyramids beyond which the eternal Nile glistened to
the east, and the eternal desert shimmered to the west. Very close
loomed the three major pyramids, the greatest devoid of outer
casing and showing its bulk of great stones, but the others retaining
here and there the neatly fitted covering which had made them
smooth and finished in their day.

Presently we descended toward the Sphinx, and sat silent beneath


the spell of those terrible unseeing eyes. On the vast stone breast
we faintly discerned the emblem of Re-Harakhte, for whose image
the Sphinx was mistaken in a late dynasty; and though sand
covered the tablet between the great paws, we recalled what
Thutmosis IV inscribed thereon, and the dream he had when a
prince. It was then that the smile of the Sphinx vaguely displeased
us, and made us wonder about the legends of subterranean pas
sages beneath the monstrous creature, leading down, down, to
depths none might dare hint at - depths connected with mysteries
older than the dynastic Egypt we excavate, and having a sinister
relation to the persistence of abnormal, animal-headed gods in the
ancient Nilotic pantheon. Then, too, it was I asked myself in idle
question whose hideous significance was not to appear for many an
hour.

Other tourists now began to overtake us, and we moved on to the


sand-choked Temple of the Sphinx, fifty yards to the southeast,
which I have previously mentioned as the great gate of the
causeway to the Second Pyramid's mortuary chapel on the plateau.
Most of it was still underground, and although we dismounted and
descended through a modern passageway to its alabaster corridor
and pillared hall, I felt that Adul and the local German attendant had
not shown us all there was to see.

After this we made the conventional circuit of the pyramid plateau,


examining the Second Pyramid and the peculiar ruins of its mortuary
chapel to the east, the Third Pyramid and its miniature southern
satellites and ruined eastern chapel, the rock tombs and the
honeycombings of the Fourth and Fifth dynasties, and the famous
Campbell's Tomb whose shadowy shaft sinks precipitously for fifty-
three feet to a sinister sarcophagus which one of our camel drivers
divested of the cumbering sand after a vertiginous descent by rope.

Cries now assailed us from the Great Pyramid, where Bedouins


were besieging a party of tourists with offers of speed in the
performance of solitary trips up and down. Seven minutes is said to
be the record for such an ascent and descent, but many lusty sheiks
and sons of sheiks assured us they could cut it to five if given the
requisite impetus of liberal baksheesh. They did not get this impetus,
though we did let Abdul take us up, thus obtaining a view of
unprecedented magnificence which included not only remote and
glittering Cairo with its crowned citadel back ground of gold-violet
hills, but all the pyramids of the Memphian district as well, from Abu
Roash on the north to the Dashur on the south. The Sakkara step-
pyramid, which marks the evolution of the low mastaba into the true
pyramid, showed clearly and alluringly in the sandy distance. It is
close to this transition-monument that the famed :omb of Perneb
was found - more than four hundred miles orth of the Theban rock
valley where Tut-Ankh-Amen sleeps. Again I was forced to silence
through sheer awe. The prospect of such antiquity, and the secrets
each hoary monument seemed to hold and brood over, filled me
with a reverence and sense of immensity nothing else ever gave
me.

Fatigued by our climb, and disgusted with the importunate Bedouins


whose actions seemed to defy every rule of taste, we omitted the
arduous detail of entering the cramped interior passages of any of
the pyramids, though we saw several of the hardiest tourists
preparing for the suffocating crawl through Cheops' mightiest
memorial. As we dismissed and overpaid our local bodyguard and
drove back to Cairo with Abdul Reis under the afternoon sun, we
half regretted the omission we had made. Such fascinating things
were whispered about lower pyramid pas sages not in the guide
books; passages whose entrances had been hastily blocked up and
concealed by certain uncommunicative archaeologists who had
found and begun to explore them.

Of course, this whispering was largely baseless on the face of it; but
it was curious to reflect how persistently visitors were forbidden to
enter the Pyramids at night, or to visit the lowest burrows and crypt
of the Great Pyramid. Perhaps in the latter case it was the
psychological effect which was feared - the effect on the visitor of
feeling himself huddled down beneath a gigantic world of solid
masonry; joined to the life he has known by the merest tube, in
which he may only crawl, and which any accident or evil design
might block. The whole subject seemed so weird and alluring that
we resolved to pay the pyramid plateau another visit at the earliest
possible opportun ity. For me this opportunity came much earlier
than I expected.

That evening, the members of our party feeling some what tired after
the strenuous program of the day, I went alone with Abdul Reis for a
walk through the picturesque Arab quarter. Though I had seen it by
day, I wished to study the alleys and bazaars in the dusk, when rich
shadows and mellow gleams of light would add to their glamor and
fantastic illusion. The native crowds were thinning, but were still very
noisy and numerous when we came upon a knot of reveling
Bedouins in the Suken-Nahhasin, or bazaar of the coppersmiths.
Their apparent leader, an insolent youth with heavy features and
saucily cocked tarbush, took some notice of us, and evidently
recognized with no great friendliness my competent but admittedly
supercilious and sneeringly disposed guide.

Perhaps, I thought, he resented that odd reproduction of the


Sphinx's half-smile which I had often remarked with amused
irritation; or perhaps he did not like the hollow and sepulchral
resonance of Abdul's voice. At any rate, the exchange of ancestrally
opprobrious language became very brisk; and before long Ali Ziz, as
I heard the stranger called when called by no worse name, began to
pull violently at Abdul's robe, an action quickly reciprocated and
leading to a spirited scuffle in which both combatants lost their
sacredly cherished headgear and would have reached an even direr
condition had I not intervened and separated them by main force.

My interference, at first seemingly unwelcome on both sides,


succeeded at last in effecting a truce. Sullenly each belligerent
composed his wrath and his attire, and with an assumption of dignity
as profound as it was sudden, the two formed a curious pact of
honor which I soon learned is a custom of great antiquity in Cairo - a
pact for the settle ment of their difference by means of a nocturnal
fist atop the Great Pyramid, long after the departure of the last moon
light sightseer. Each duelist was to assemble a party of seconds,
and the affair was to begin at midnight, proceeding by rounds in the
most civilized possible fashion.

In all this planning there was much which excited my interest. The
fight itself promised to be unique and spectacular, while the thought
of the scene on that hoary pile overlooking the antediluvian plateau
of Gizeh under the wan moon of the pallid small hours appealed to
every fiber of imagination in me. A request found Abdul exceedingly
willing to admit me to his party of seconds; so that all the rest of the
early evening I accompanied him to various dens in the most
lawless regions of the town - mostly northeast of the Ezbekiyeh -
where he gathered one by one a select and formidable band of
congenial cutthroats as his pugilistic background.

Shortly after nine our party, mounted on donkeys bearing such royal
or tourist-reminiscent names as 'Rameses,' 'Mark Twain,' 'J. P.
Morgan,' and 'Minnehaha', edged through street labyrinths both
Oriental and Occidental, crossed the muddy and mast-forested Nile
by the bridge of the bronze lions, and cantered philosophically
between the lebbakhs on the road to Gizeh. Slightly over two hours
were consumed by the trip, toward the end of which we passed the
last of the returning tourists, saluted the last inbound trolley-car, and
were alone with the night and the past and the spectral moon.

Then we saw the vast pyramids at the end of the avenue, ghoulish
with a dim atavistical menace which I had not seemed to notice in
the daytime. Even the smallest of them held a hint of the ghastly -for
was it not in this that they had buried Queen Nitocris alive in the
Sixth Dynasty; subtle Queen Nitocris, who once invited all her
enemies to a feast in a temple below the Nile, and drowned them by
opening the water-gates? I recalled that the Arabs whisper things
about Nitocris, and shun the Third Pyramid at certain phases of the
moon. It must have been over her that Thomas Moore was brooding
when he wrote a thing muttered about by Memphian boatmen:

'The subterranean nymph that dwells


'Mid sunless gems and glories hid -
The lady of the Pyramid!'

Early as we were, Ali Ziz and his party were ahead of us; for we saw
their donkeys outlined against the desert plateau at Kafrel-Haram;
toward which squalid Arab settlement, close to the Sphinx, we had
diverged instead of following the regular road to the Mena House,
where some of the sleepy, inefficient police might have observed
and halted us. Here, where filthy Bedouins stabled camels and
donkeys in the rock tombs of Khephren's courtiers, we were led up
the rocks and over the sand to the Great Pyramid, up whose time-
worn sides the Arabs swarmed eagerly, Abdul Reis offering me the
assistance I did not need.

As most travelers know, the actual apex of this structure has long
been worn away, leaving a reasonably flat platform twelve yards
square. On this eery pinnacle a squared circle was formed, and in a
few moments the sardonic desert moon leered down upon a battle
which, but for the quality of the ringside cries, might well have
occurred at some minor athletic club in America. As I watched it, I
felt that some of our less -desirable institutions were not lacking; for
every blow, feint, and defense bespoke 'stalling' to my not
inexperienced eye. It was quickly over, and despite my misgivings
as to methods I felt a sort of proprietary pride when Abdul Reis was
adjudged the winner.

Reconciliation was phenomenally rapid, and amidst the singing,


fraternizing and drinking that followed, I found it difficult to realize
that a quarrel had ever occurred. Oddly enough, I myself seemed to
be more a center of notice than the antagonists; and from my
smattering of Arabic I judged that they were discussing my
professional performances and escapes from every sort of manacle
and confinement, in a manner which indicated not only a surprising
knowledge of me, but a distinct hostility and skepticism concerning
my feats of escape. It gradually dawned on me that the elder magic
of Egypt did not depart without leaving traces, and that fragments of
a strange secret lore and priestly cult practises have survived
surreptitiously amongst the fella heen to such an extent that the
prowess of a strange hahwi or magician is resented and disputed. I
thought of how much my hollow-voiced guide Abdul Reis looked like
an old Egyptian priest or Pharaoh or smiling Sphinx ... and
wondered.

Suddenly something happened which in a flash proved the


correctness of my reflections and made me curse the denseness
whereby I had accepted this night's events as other than the empty
and malicious 'frame-up' they now showed themselves to be.
Without warning, and doubtless in answer to some subtle sign from
Abdul, the entire band of Bedouins precipitated itself upon me; and
having produced heavy ropes, soon had me bound as securely as I
was ever bound in the course of my life, either on the stage or off.

I struggled at first, but soon saw that one man could make no
headway against a band of over twenty sinewy barbarians. My
hands were tied behind my back, my knees bent to their fullest
extent, and my wrists and ankles stoutly linked together with
unyielding cords. A stifling gag was forced into my mouth, and a
blindfold fastened tightly over my eyes. Then, as Arabs bore me
aloft on their shoulders and began a jouncing descent of the
pyramid, I heard the taunts of my late guide Abdul, who mocked and
jeered delightedly in his hollow voice, and assured me that I was
soon to have my 'magic-powers' put to a supreme test - which would
quickly remove any egotism I might have gained through triumphing
over all the tests offered by America and Europe. Egypt, he
reminded me, is very old, and full of inner mysteries and antique
powers not even conceivable to the experts of today, whose devices
had so uniformly failed to entrap me.

How far or in what direction I was carried, I cannot tell; for the
circumstances were all against the formation of any accurate
judgment. I know, however, that it could not have been a great
distance; since my bearers at no point hastened beyond a walk, yet
kept me aloft a surprisingly short time. It is this perplexing brevity
which makes me feel almost like shuddering whenever I think of
Gizeh and its plateau - for one is oppressed by hints of the
closeness to everyday tourist routes of what existed then and must
exist still.

The evil abnormality I speak of did not become manifest at first.


Setting me down on a surface which I recognized as sand rather
than rock, my captors passed a rope around my chest and dragged
me a few feet to a ragged opening in the ground, into which they
presently lowered me with much rough handling. For apparent eons
I bumped against the stony irregular sides of a narrow hewn well
which I took to be one of the numerous burial-shafts of the plateau
until the prodigious, almost incredible depth of it robbed me of all
bases of conjecture.

The horror of the experience deepened with every dragging second.


That any descent through the sheer solid rock could be so vast
without reaching the core of the planet itself, or that any rope made
by man could be so long as to dangle me in these unholy and
seemingly fathomless pro fundities of nether earth, were beliefs of
such grotesqueness that it was easier to doubt my agitated senses
than to accept them. Even now I am uncertain, for I know how
deceitful the sense of time becomes when one is removed or
distorted. But I am quite sure that I preserved a logical
consciousness that far; that at least I did not add any fullgrown
phantoms of imagination to a picture hideous enough in its reality,
and explicable by a type of cerebral illusion vastly short of actual
hallucination.

All this was not the cause of my first bit of fainting. The shocking
ordeal was cumulative, and the beginning of the later terrors was a
very perceptible increase in my rate of descent. They were paying
out that infinitely long rope very swiftly now, and I scraped cruelly
against the rough and constricted sides of the shaft as I shot madly
downward. My clothing was in tatters, and I felt the trickle of blood
all over, even above the mounting and excruciating pain. My nostrils,
too, were assailed by a scarcely definable menace: a creeping odor
of damp and staleness curiously unlike anything I had ever smelled
before, and having faint overtones of spice and incense that lent an
element of mockery.

Then the mental cataclysm came. It was horrible - hideous beyond


all articulate description because it was all of the soul, with nothing
of detail to describe. It was the ecstasy of nightmare and the
summation of the fiendish. The suddenness of it was apocalyptic
and demoniac - one moment I was plunging agonizingly down that
narrow well of million-toothed torture, yet the next moment I was
soaring on bat-wings in the gulfs of hell; swinging free and swooping
through illimitable miles of boundless, musty space; rising dizzily to
measureless pinnacles of chilling ether, then diving gaspingly to
sucking nadirs of ravenous, nauseous lower vacua ... Thank God for
the mercy that shut out in oblivion those clawing Furies of
consciousness which half unhinged my faculties, and tore harpy-like
at my spirit! That one respite, short as it was, gave me the strength
and sanity to endure those still greater sublima tions of cosmic panic
that lurked and gibbered on the road ahead.

II

It was very gradually that I regained my senses after that eldritch


flight through stygian space. The process was infinitely painful, and
colored by fantastic dreams in which my bound and gagged
condition found singular embodiment. The precise nature of these
dreams was very clear while I was experiencing them, but became
blurred in my recollection almost immediately afterward, and was
soon reduced to the merest outline by the terrible events - real or
imaginary - which followed. I dreamed that I was in the grasp of a
great and horrible paw; a yellow, hairy, five- clawed paw which had
reached out of the earth to crush and engulf me. And when I
stopped to reflect what the paw was, it seemed to me that it was
Egypt. In the dream I looked back at the events of the preceding
weeks, and saw myself lured and enmeshed little by little, subtly and
insidiously, by some hellish ghoul-spirit of the elder Nile sorcery;
some spirit that was in Egypt before ever man was, and that will be
when man is no more.

I saw the horror and unwholesome antiquity of Egypt, and the grisly
alliance it has always had with the tombs and temples of the dead. I
saw phantom processions of priests with the heads of bulls, falcons,
cats, and ibises; phantom processions marching interminably
through subterraneous labyrinths and avenues of titanic propylaea
beside which a man is as a fly, and offering unnamable sacrifice to
indescribable gods. Stone colossi marched in endless night and
drove herds of grinning androsphinxes down to the shores of
illimitable stagnant rivers of pitch. And behind it all I saw the
ineffable malignity of primordial necromancy, black and amorphous,
and fumbling greedily after me in the darkness to choke out the spirit
that had dared to mock it by emulation.

In my sleeping brain there took shape a melodrama of sinister


hatred and pursuit, and I saw the black soul of Egypt singling me out
and calling me in inaudible whispers; calling and luring me, leading
me on with the glitter and glamor of a Saracenic surface, but ever
pulling me down to the age-mad catacombs and horrors of its dead
and abysmal pharaonic heart.

Then the dream faces took on human resemblances, and I saw my


guide Abdul Reis in the robes of a king, with the sneer of the Sphinx
on his features. And I knew that those features were the features of
Khephren the Great, who raised the Second Pyramid, carved over
the Sphinx's face in the likeness of his own and built that titanic
gateway temple whose myriad corridors the archaeologists think
they have dug out of the cryptical sand and the uninformative rock.
And I looked at the long, lean rigid hand of Khephren; the long, lean,
rigid hand as I had seen it on the diorite statue in the Cairo Museum
- the statue they had found in the terrible gateway temple - and
wondered that I had not shrieked when I saw it on Abdul Reis... That
hand! It was hideously cold, and it was crushing me; it was the cold
and cramping of the sarcophagus . . . the chill and constriction of
unrememberable Egypt... It was nighted, necropolitan Egypt itself..,
that yellow paw. .. and they whisper such things of Khephren...

But at this juncture I began to wake - or at least, to assume a


condition less completely that of sleep than the one just preceding. I
recalled the fight atop the pyramid, the treacherous Bedouins and
their attack, my frightful descent by rope through endless rock
depths, and my mad swinging and plunging in a chill void redolent of
aromatic putrescence. I perceived that I now lay on a damp rock
floor, and that my bonds were still biting into me with unloosened
force. It was very cold, and I seemed to detect a faint current of
noisome air sweeping across me. The cuts and bruises I had
received from the jagged sides of the rock shaft were paining me
woefully, their soreness enhanced to a stinging or burning
acuteness by some pungent quality in the faint draft, and the mere
act of rolling over was enough to set my whole frame throbbing with
untold agony.

As I turned I felt a tug from above, and concluded that the rope
whereby I was lowered still reached to the surface. Whether or not
the Arabs still held it, I had no idea; nor had I any idea how far within
the earth I was. I knew that the darkness around me was wholly or
nearly total, since no ray of moonlight penetrated my blindfold; but I
did not trust my senses enough to accept as evidence of extreme
depth the sensation of vast duration which had characterized my
descent.

Knowing at least that I was in a space of considerable extent


reached from the above surface directly by an opening in the rock, I
doubtfully conjectured that my prison was perhaps the buried
gateway chapel of old Khephren - the Temple of the Sphinx -
perhaps some inner corridors which the guides had not shown me
during my morning visit, and from which I might easily escape if I
could find my way to the barred entrance. It would be a labyrinthine
wandering, but no worse than others out of which I had in the past
found my way.

The first step was to get free of my bonds, gag, and blindfold; and
this I knew would be no great task, since subtler experts than these
Arabs had tried every known species of fetter upon me during my
long and varied career as an exponent of escape, yet had never
succeeded in defeating my methods.

Then it occurred to me that the Arabs might be ready to meet and


attack me at the entrance upon any evidence of my probable escape
from the binding cords, as would be furnished by any decided
agitation of the rope which they probably held. This, of course, was
taking for granted that my place of confinement was indeed
Khephren's Temple of the Sphinx. The direct opening in the roof,
wherever it might lurk, could not be beyond easy reach of the
ordinary modern entrance near the Sphinx; if in truth it were any
great distance at all on the surface, since the total area known to
visitors is not at all enormous. I had not noticed any such opening
during my daytime pilgrimage, but knew that these things are easily
overlooked amidst the drifting sands.

Thinking these matters over as I lay bent and bound on the rock
floor, I nearly forgot the horrors of abysmal descent and cavernous
swinging which had so lately reduced me to a coma. My present
thought was only to outwit the Arabs, and I accordingly determined
to work myself free as quickly as possible, avoiding any tug on the
descending line which might betray an effective or even
problematical attempt at freedom.

This, however, was more easily determined than effected. A few


preliminary trials made it clear that little could be accomplished
without considerable motion; and it did not surprise me when, after
one especially energetic struggle, I began to feel the coils of falling
rope as they piled up about me and upon me. Obviously, I thought,
the Bedouins had felt my movements and released their end of the
rope; hastening no doubt to the temple's true entrance to lie
murderously in wait for me.

The prospect was not pleasing - but I had faced worse in my time
without flinching, and would not flinch now. At present I must first of
all free myself of bonds, then trust to ingenuity to escape from the
temple unharmed. It is curious how implicitly I had come to believe
myself in the old temple of Khephren beside the Sphinx, only a short
dis tance below the ground.

That belief was shattered, and every pristine apprehen sion of


preternattiral depth and demoniac mystery revived, by a
circumstance which grew in horror and significance even as I
formulated my philosophical plan. I have said that the falling rope
was piling up about and upon me. Now I saw that it was continuing
to pile, as no rope of normal length could possibly do. It gained in
momentum and became an avalanche of hemp, accumulating moun
tainously on the floor and half burying me beneath its swiftly
multiplying coils. Soon I was completely engulfed and gasping for
breath as the increasing convolutions submerged and stifled me.

My senses tottered again, and I vaguely tried to fight off a menace


desperate and ineluctable. It was not merely that I was tortured
beyond human endurance - not merely that life and breath seemed
to be crushed slowly out of me - it was the knowledge of what those
unnatural lengths of rope implied, and the consciousness of what
unknown and incalculable gulfs of inner earth must at this moment
be surrounding me. My endless descent and swinging flight through
goblin space, then, must have been real, and even now I must be
lying helpless in some nameless cavern world toward the core of the
planet. Such a sudden confirmation of ultimate horror was
insupportable, and a second time I lapsed into merciful oblivion.

When I say oblivion, I do not imply that I was free from dreams. On
the contrary, my absence from the conscious world was marked by
visions of the most unutterable hideousness. God! ... If only I had
not read so much Egyptology before coming to this land which is the
fountain of all darkness and terror! This second spell of fainting filled
my sleeping mind anew with shivering realization of the country and
its archaic secrets, and through some damnable chance my dreams
turned to the ancient notions of the dead and their sojournings in
soul and body beyond those mysterious tombs which were more
houses than graves. I recalled, in dream-shapes which it is well that
I do not remember, the peculiar and elaborate construction of
Egyptian sepulchers; and the exceedingly singular and terrific
doctrines which determined this construction.

All these people thought of was death and the dead. They conceived
of a literal resurrection of the body which made them mummify it
with desperate care, and preserve all the vital organs in canopic jars
near the corpse; whilst besides the body they believed in two other
elements, the soul, which after its weighing and approval by Osiris
dwelt in the land of the blest, and the obscure and portentous ka or
life-principle which wandered about the upper and lower worlds in a
horrible way, demanding occasional access to the preserved body,
consuming the food offerings brought by priests and pious relatives
to the mortuary chapel, and sometimes - as men whispered - taking
its body or the wooden double always buried beside it and stalking
noxiously abroad on errands peculiarly repellent.

For thousands of years those bodies rested gorgeously encased


and staring glassily upward when not visited by the ka, awaiting the
day when Osiris should restore both ka and soul, and lead forth the
stiff legions of the dead from the sunken houses of sleep. It was to
have been a glorious rebirth - but not all souls were approved, nor
were all tombs inviolate, so that certain grotesque mistakes and
fiendish abnormalities were to be looked for. Even today the Arabs
murmur of unsanctified convocations and unwholesome worship in
forgotten nether abysses, which only winged invisible kas and
soulless mummies may visit and return unscathed.

Perhaps the most leeringly blood-congealing legends are those


which relate to certain perverse products of decadent priestcraft -
composite mummies made by the artificial union of human trunks
and limbs with the heads of animals in imitation of the elder gods. At
all stages of history the sacred animals were mummified, so that
consecrated bulls, cats, ibises, crocodiles and the like might return
some day to greater glory. But only in the decadence did they mix
the human and the animal in the same mummy - only in the
decadence, when they did not understand the rights and
prerogatives of the ka and the soul.

What happened to those composite mummies is not told of- at least


publicly - and it is certain that no Egyptologist ever found one. The
whispers of Arabs are very wild, and cannot be relied upon. They
even hint that old Khephren - he of the Sphinx, the Second Pyramid
and the yawning gateway temple - lives far underground wedded to
the ghoul-queen Nitocris and ruling over the mummies that are
neither of man nor of beast.

It was of these - of Khephren and his consort and his strange armies
of the hybrid dead - that I dreamed, and that is why I am glad the
exact dream-shapes have faded from my memory. My most horrible
vision was connected with an idle question I had asked myself the
day before when looking at the great carven riddle of the desert and
wondering with what unknown depth the temple close to it might be
secretly connected. That question, so innocent and whimsical then,
assumed in my dream a meaning of frenetic and hysterical madness
... what huge and loathsome abnormality was the Sphinx originally
carven to represent?

My second awakening - if awakening it was - is a memory of stark


hideousness which nothing else in my life - save one thing which
came after - can parallel; and that life has been full and adventurous
beyond most men's. Remember that I had lost consciousness whilst
buried beneath a cascade of falling rope whose immensity revealed
the cataclysmic depth of my present position. Now, as perception
returned, I felt the entire weight gone; and realized upon rolling over
that although I was still tied, gagged and blindfolded, some agency
had removed completely the suffocating hempen landslide which
had overwhelmed me. The significance of this condition, of course,
came to me only gradually; but even so I think it would have brought
unconsciousness again had I not by this time reached such a state
of emotional exhaustion that no new horror could make much
difference. I was alone... with what?

Before I could torture myself with any new reflection, or make any
fresh effort to escape from my bonds, an additional circumstance
became manifest. Pains not formerly felt were racking my arms and
legs, and I seemed coated with a profusion of dried blood beyond
anything my former cuts and abrasions could furnish. My chest, too,
seemed pierced by a hundred wounds, as though some malign,
titanic ibis had been pecking at it. Assuredly the agency which had
removed the rope was a hostile one, and had begun to wreak
terrible injuries upon me when somehow impelled to desist. Yet at
the same time my sensations were distinctly the reverse of what one
might expect. Instead of sinking into a bottomless pit of despair, I
was stirred to a new courage and action; for now I felt that the evil
forces were physical things which a fearless man might encounter
on an even basis.

On the strength of this thought I tugged again at my bonds, and


used all the art of a lifetime to free myself as I had so often done
amidst the glare of lights and the applause of vast crowds. The
familiar details of my escaping process commenced to engross me,
and now that the long rope was gone I half regained my belief that
the supreme horrors were hallucinations after all, and that there had
never been any terrible shaft, measureless abyss or interminable
rope. Was I after all in the gateway temple of Khephren beside the
Sphinx, and had the sneaking Arabs stolen in to torture me as I lay
helpless there? At any rate, I must be free. Let me stand up
unbound, ungagged, and with eyes open to catch any glimmer of
light which might come trickling from any source, and I could actually
delight in the combat against evil and treacherous foes!

How long I took in shaking off my encumbrances I cannot tell. It


must have been longer than in my exhibition performances, because
I was wounded, exhausted, and enervated by the experiences I had
passed through. When I was finally free, and taking deep breaths of
a chill, damp, evilly spiced air all the more horrible when
encountered without the screen of gag and blindfold edges, I found
that I was too cramped and fatigued to move at once. There I lay,
trying to stretch a frame bent and mangled, for an indefinite period,
and straining my eyes to catch a glimpse of some ray of light which
would give a hint as to my position.

By degrees my strength and flexibility returned, but my eyes beheld


nothing. As I staggered to my feet I peered diligently in every
direction, yet met only an ebony blackness as great as that I had
known when blindfolded. I tried my legs, blood-encrusted beneath
my shredded trousers, and found that I could walk; yet could not
decide in what direction to go. Obviously I ought not to walk at
random, and perhaps retreat directly from the entrance I sought; so I
paused to note the difference of the cold, fetid, natron-scented air-
current which I had never ceased to feel. Accepting the point of its
source as the possible entrance to the abyss, I strove to keep track
of this landmark and to walk consistently toward it.

I had a match-box with me, and even a small electric flashlight; but
of course the pockets of my tossed and tattered clothing were long
since emptied of all heavy articles. As I walked cautiously in the
blackness, the draft grew stronger and more offensive, till at length I
could regard it as nothing less than a tangible stream of detestable
vapor pouring out of some aperture like the smoke of the genie from
the fisherman's jar in the Eastern tale. The East ... Egypt ... truly, this
dark cradle of civilization was ever the wellspring of horrors and
marvels unspeakable!

The more I reflected on the nature of this cavern wind, the greater
my sense of disquiet became; for although despite its odor I had
sought its source as at least an indirect clue to the outer world, I now
saw plainly that this foul emanation could have no admixture or
connection whatsoever with the clean air of the Libyan Desert, but
must be essentially a thing vomited from sinister gulfs still lower
down. I had, then, been walking in the wrong direction!

After a moment's reflection I decided not to retrace my steps. Away


from the draft I would have no landmarks, for the roughly level rock
floor was devoid of distinctive configurations. If, however, I followed
up the strange current, I would undoubtedly arrive at an aperture of
some sort, from whose gate I could perhaps work round the walls to
the opposite side of this Cyclopean and otherwise unnavigable hall.
That I might fail, I well realized. I saw that this was no part of
Khephren's gateway temple which tourists know, and it struck me
that this particular hall might be unknown even to archaeologists,
and merely stumbled upon by the inquisitive and malignant Arabs
who had imprisoned me. If so, was there any present gate of escape
to the known parts or to the outer air?

What evidence, indeed, did I now possess that this was the gateway
temple at all? For a moment all my wildest speculations rushed back
upon me, 'and I thought of that vivid melange of impressions -
descent, suspension in space, the rope, my wounds, and the
dreams that were frankly dreams. Was this the end of life for me? Or
indeed, would it be merciful if this moment were the end? I could
answer none of my own questions, but merely kept on, till Fate for a
third time reduced me to oblivion.

This time there were no dreams, for the suddenness of the incident
shocked me out of all thought either conscious or subconscious.
Tripping on an unexpected descending step at a point where the
offensive draft became strong enough to offer an actual physical
resistance, I was precipitated headlong down a black flight of huge
stone stairs into a gulf of hideousness unrelieved.

That I ever breathed again is a tribute to the inherent vitality of the


healthy human organism. Often I look back to that night and feel a
touch of actual humor in those repeated lapses of consciousness;
lapses whose succession reminded me at the time of nothing more
than the crude cinema melodramas of that period. Of course, it is
possible that the repeated lapses never occurred; and that all the
features of that underground nightmare were merely the dreams of
one long coma which began with the shock of my descent into that
abyss and ended with the healing balm of the outer air and of the
rising sun which found me stretched on the sands of Gizeh before
the sardonic and dawn-flushed face of the Great Sphinx.

I prefer to believe this latter explanation as much as I can, hence


was glad when the police told me that the barrier to Krephren's
gateway temple had been found unfastened, and that a sizeable rift
to the surface did actually exist in one corner of the still buried part. I
was glad, too, when the doctors pronounced my wounds only those
to be expected from my seizure, blindfolding, lowering, struggling
with bonds, falling some distance - perhaps into a depression in the
temple's inner gallery - dragging myself to the outer barrier and
escaping from it, and experiences like that.., a very soothing
diagnosis. And yet I know that there must be more than appears on
the surface. That extreme descent is too vivid a memory to be
dismissed - and it is odd that no one has ever been able to find a
man answering the description of my guide, Abdul Reis el Drogman-
the tomb-throated guide who looked and smiled like King Khephren.
I have digressed from my connected narrative - perhaps in the vain
hope of evading the telling of that final incident; that incident which
of all is most certainly an hallucination. But I promised to relate it,
and I do not break promises. When I recovered - or seemed to
recover - my senses after that fall down the black stone stairs, I was
quite as alone and in darkness as before. The windy stench, bad
enough before, was now fiendish; yet I had acquired enough
familiarity by this time to bear it stoically. Dazedly I began to crawl
away from the place whence the putrid wind came, and with my
bleeding hands felt the colossal blocks of a mighty pavement. Once
my head struck against a hard object, and when I felt of it I learned
that it was the base of a column - a column of unbelievable
immensity - whose surface was covered with gigantic chiseled
hieroglyphics very perceptible to my touch.

Crawling on, I encountered other titan columns at incomprehensible


distances apart; when suddenly my attention was captured by the
realization of something which must have been impinging on my
subconscious hearing long before the conscious sense was aware
of it.

From some still lower chasm in earth's bowels were proceeding


certain sounds, measured and definite, and like nothing I had ever
heard before. That they were very ancient and distinctly ceremonial I
felt almost intuitively; and much reading in Egyptology led me to
associate them with the flute, the sambuke, the sistrum, and the
tympa num. In their rhythmic piping, droning, rattling and beat ing I
felt an element of terror beyond all the known terrors of earth - a
terror peculiarly dissociated from personal fear, and taking the form
of a sort of objective pity for our planet, that it should hold within its
depths such horrors as must lie beyond these aegipanic
cacophonies. The sounds increased in volume, and I felt that they
were approaching. Then - and may all the gods of all pantheons
unite to keep the like from my ears again - I began to hear, faintly
and afar off, the morbid and millennial tramping of the marching
things.

It was hideous that footfalls so dissimilar should move in such


perfect rhythm. The training of unhallowed thousands of years must
lie behind that march of earth's inmost monstrosities ... padding,
clicking, walking, stalking, rumbling, lumbering, crawling.. . and all to
the abhorrent discords of those mocking instruments. And then -
God keep the memory of those Arab legends out of my head! - the
mummies without souls ... the meeting-place of the wandering .....
the hordes of the devil-cursed pharaonic dead of forty centuries.. .
the composite mummies led through the uttermost onyx voids by
King Khephren and his ghoul-queen Nitocris ...

The tramping drew nearer - Heaven save me from the sound of


those feet and paws and hooves and pads and talons as it
commenced to acquire detail! Down limitless reaches of sunless
pavement a spark of light flickered in the malodorous wind and I
drew behind the enormous circumference of a Cyclopic column that
I might escape for a while the horror that was stalking million-footed
toward me through gigantic hypostyles of inhuman dread and phobic
antiquity. The flickers increased, and the tramping and dissonant
rhythm grew sickeningly loud. In the quivering orange light there
stood faintly forth a scene of such stony awe that I gasped from
sheer wonder that conquered even fear and repulsion. Bases of
columns whose middles were higher than human sight. . . mere
bases of things that must each dwarf the Eiffel Tower to
insignificance ... hieroglyphics carved by unthinkable hands in
caverns where daylight can be only a remote legend...

I would not look at the marching things. That I desperately resolved


as I heard their creaking joints and nitrous wheezing above the dead
music and the dead tramping. It was merciful that they did not
speak... but God! their crazy torches began to cast shadows on the
surface of those stupendous columns. Hippopotami should not have
human hands and carzy torches... men should not have the heads
of crocodiles...

I tried to turn away, but the shadows and the sounds and the stench
were everywhere. Then I remembered something I used to do in
half-conscious nightmares as a boy, and began to repeat to myself,
'This is a dream! This is a dream!' But it was of no use, and I could
only shut my eyes and pray ... at least, that is what I think I did, for
one is never sure in visions - and I know this can have been nothing
more. I wondered whether I should ever reach the world again, and
at times would furtively open my eyes to see if I could discern any
feature of the place other than the wind of spiced putrefaction, the
topless columns, and the thaumatropically grotesque shadows of
abnormal horror. The sputtering glare of multiplying torches now
shone, and unless this hellish place were wholly without walls, I
could not fail to see some boundary or fixed landmark soon. But I
had to shut my eyes again when I realized how many of the things
were assembling - and when I glimpsed a certain object walking
solemnly and steadily without any body above the waist.

A fiendish and ululant corpse-gurgle or death-rattle now split the


very atmosphere - the charnel atmosphere poisonous with naftha
and bitumen blasts - in one concerted chorus from the ghoulish
legion of hybrid blasphemies. My eyes, perversely shaken open,
gazed for an instant upon a sight which no human creature could
even imagine without panic, fear and physical exhaustion. The
things had filed ceremonially in one direction, the direction of the
noisome wind, where the light of their torches showed their bended
heads - or the bended heads of such as had heads. They were
worshipping before a great black fetor-belching aperture which
reached up almost out of sight, -and which I could see was flanked
at right angles by two giant staircases whose ends were far away in
shadow. One of these was indubitably the staircase I had fallen
down.

The dimensions of the hole were fully in proportion with those of the
columns - an ordinary house would have been lost in it, and any
average public building could easily have been moved in and out. It
was so vast a surface that only by moving the eye could one trace
its boundaries.. . so vast, so hideously black, and so aromatically
stinking . .. Directly in front of this yawning Polyphemus-door the
things were throwing objects - evidently sacrifices or religious
offerings, to judge by their gestures. Khephren was their leader;
sneering King Khephren or the guide Abdul Reis, crowned with a
golden pshent and intoning endless formulae with the hollow voice
of the dead. By his side knelt beautiful Queen Nitocris, whom I saw
in profile for a moment, noting that the right half of her face was
eaten away by rats or other ghouls. And I shut my eyes again when I
saw what objects were being thrown as offerings to the fetid
aperture or its possible local deity.

It occurred to me that, judging from the elaborateness of this


worship, the concealed deity must be one of considerable
importance. Was it Osiris or Isis, Horus or Anubis, or some vast
unknown God of the Dead still more central and supreme? There is
a legend that terrible altars and colossi were reared to an Unknown
One before ever the known gods were worshipped...

And now, as I steeled myself to watch the rapt and sepulchral


adorations of those nameless things, a thought of escape flashed
upon me. The hall was dim, and the columns heavy with shadow.
With every creature of that nightmare throng absorbed in shocking
raptures, it might be barely possible for me to creep past to the far-
away end of one of the staircases and ascend unseen; trusting to
Fate and skill to deliver me from the upper reaches. Where I was, I
neither knew nor seriously reflected upon - and for a

moment it struck me as amusing to plan a serious escape from that


which I knew to be a dream. Was I in some hidden and unsuspected
lower realm of Khephren's gateway temple - that temple which
generations have persis tently called the Temple of the Sphinx? I
could not conjecture, but I resolved to ascend to life and
consciousness if wit and muscle could carry me.

Wriggling flat on my stomach, I began the anxious journey toward


the foot of the left-hand staircase, which seemed the more
accessible of the two. I cannot describe the incidents and sensations
of that crawl, but they may be guessed when one reflects on what I
had to watch steadily in that malign, wind-blown torchlight in order to
avoid detection. The bottom of the staircase was, as I have said, far
away in shadow, as it had to be to rise without a bend to the dizzy
parapeted landing above the titanic aperture. This placed the last
stages of my crawl at some distance from the noisome herd, though
the spectacle chilled me even when quite remote at my right.

At length I succeeded in reaching the steps and began to climb;


keeping close to the wall, on which I observed decorations of the
most hideous sort, and relying for safety on the absorbed, ecstatic
interest with which the monstrosities watched the foul-breezed
aperture and the impious objects of nourishment they had flung on
the pavement before it. Though the staircase was huge and steep,
fashioned of vast porphyry blocks as if for the feet of a giant, the
ascent seemed virtually interminable. Dread of discovery and the
pain which renewed exercise had brought to my wounds combined
to make that upward crawl a thing of agonizing memory. I had
intended, on reaching the landing, to climb immediately onward
along whatever upper staircase might mount from there; stopping for
no last look at the carrion abominations that pawed and genuflected
some seventy or eighty feet below - yet a sudden repetition of that
thunderous corpse-gurgle and death-rattle chorus, coming as I had
nearly gained the top of the flight and showing by its ceremonial
rhythm that it was not an alarm of my discovery, caused me to
pause and peer cautiously over the parapet.

The monstrosities were hailing something which had poked itself out
of the nauseous aperture to seize the hellish fare proffered it. It was
something quite ponderous, even as seen from my height;
something yellowish and hairy, and endowed with a sort of nervous
motion. It was as large, perhaps, as a good-sized hippopotamus, but
very curiously shaped. It seemed to have no neck, but five separate
shaggy heads springing in a row from a roughly cylindrical trunk; the
first very small, the second good-sized, the third and fourth equal
and largest of all, and the fifth rather small, though not so small as
the first.

Out of these heads darted curious rigid tentacles which seized


ravenously on the excessively great quantities of unmentionable
food placed before the aperture. Once in a while the thing would
leap up, and occasionally it would retreat into its den in a very odd
manner. Its locomotion was so inexplicable that I stared in
fascination, wishing it would emerge farther from the cavernous lair
beneath me.

Then it did emerge ... it did emerge, and at the sight I turned and
fled into the darkness up the higher staircase that rose behind me;
fled unknowingly up incredible steps and ladders and inclined planes
to which no human sight or logic guided me, and which I must ever
relegate to the world of dreams for want of any confirmation. It must
have been a dream, or the dawn would never have found me
breathing on the sands of Gizeh before the sardonic dawn-flushed
face of the Great Sphinx.

The Great Sphinx! God! - that idle question I asked myself on that
sun-blest morning before ... what huge and loathsome abnormality
was the Sphinx originally carven to represent?
Accursed is the sight, be it in dream or not, that revealed to me the
supreme horror - the unknown God of the Dead, which licks its
colossal chops in the unsuspected abyss, fed hideous morsels by
soulless absurdities that should not exist. The five-headed monster
that emerged ... that five-headed monster as large as a
hippopotamus ... the five headed monster - and that of which it is the
merest forepaw...

But I survived, and I know it was only a dream.


In The Vault
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written on September 18, 1925

Published November 1925


in
The Tryout

In The Vault
There is nothing more absurd, as I view it, than that conventional
association of the homely and the wholesome which seems to
pervade the psychology of the multitude. Mention a bucolic Yankee
setting, a bungling and thick-fibred village undertaker, and a
careless mishap in a tomb, and no average reader can be brought to
expect more than a hearty albeit grotesque phase of comedy. God
knows, though, that the prosy tale which George Birch's death
permits me to tell has in it aspects beside which some of our darkest
tragedies are light.

Birch acquired a limitation and changed his business in 1881, yet


never discussed the case when he could avoid it. Neither did his old
physician Dr. Davis, who died years ago. It was generally stated that
the affliction and shock were results of an unlucky slip whereby
Birch had locked himself for nine hours in the receiving tomb of Peck
Valley Cemetery, escaping only by crude and disastrous mechanical
means; but while this much was undoubtedly true, there were other
and blacker things which the man used to whisper to me in his
drunken delirium toward the last. He confided in me because I was
his doctor, and because he probably felt the need of confiding in
someone else after Davis died. He was a bachelor, wholly without
relatives.

Birch, before 1881, had been the village undertaker of Peck Valley;
and was a very calloused and primitive specimen even as such
specimens go. The practices I heard attributed to him would be
unbelievable today, at least in a city; and even Peck Valley would
have shuddered a bit had it known the easy ethics of its mortuary
artist in such debatable matters as the ownership of costly "laying-
out" apparel invisible beneath the casket's lid, and the degree of
dignity to be maintained in posing and adapting the unseen
members of lifeless tenants to containers not always calculated with
sublimest accuracy. Most distinctly Birch was lax, insensitive, and
professionally undesirable; yet I still think he was not an evil man.
He was merely crass of fibre and function- thoughtless, careless,
and liquorish, as his easily avoidable accident proves, and without
that modicum of imagination which holds the average citizen within
certain limits fixed by taste.

Just where to begin Birch's story I can hardly decide, since I am no


practiced teller of tales. I suppose one should start in the cold
December of 1880, when the ground froze and the cemetery delvers
found they could dig no more graves till spring. Fortunately the
village was small and the death rate low, so that it was possible to
give all of Birch's inanimate charges a temporary haven in the single
antiquated receiving tomb. The undertaker grew doubly lethargic in
the bitter weather, and seemed to outdo even himself in
carelessness. Never did he knock together flimsier and ungainlier
caskets, or disregard more flagrantly the needs of the rusty lock on
the tomb door which he slammed open and shut with such
nonchalant abandon.

At last the spring thaw came, and graves were laboriously prepared
for the nine silent harvests of the grim reaper which waited in the
tomb. Birch, though dreading the bother of removal and interment,
began his task of transference one disagreeable April morning, but
ceased before noon because of a heavy rain that seemed to irritate
his horse, after having laid but one mortal tenement to its permanent
rest. That was Darius Peck, the nonagenarian, whose grave was not
far from the tomb. Birch decided that he would begin the next day
with little old Matthew Fenner, whose grave was also near by; but
actually postponed the matter for three days, not getting to work till
Good Friday, the 15th. Being without superstition, he did not heed
the day at all; though ever afterward he refused to do anything of
importance on that fateful sixth day of the week. Certainly, the
events of that evening greatly changed George Birch.

On the afternoon of Friday, April 15th, then, Birch set out for the
tomb with horse and wagon to transfer the body of Matthew Fenner.
That he was not perfectly sober, he subsequently admitted; though
he had not then taken to the wholesale drinking by which he later
tried to forget certain things. He was just dizzy and careless enough
to annoy his sensitive horse, which as he drew it viciously up at the
tomb neighed and pawed and tossed its head, much as on that
former occasion when the rain had vexed it. The day was clear, but
a high wind had sprung up; and Birch was glad to get to shelter as
he unlocked the iron door and entered the side-hill vault. Another
might not have relished the damp, odorous chamber with the eight
carelessly placed coffins; but Birch in those days was insensitive,
and was concerned only in getting the right coffin for the right grave.
He had not forgotten the criticism aroused when Hannah Bixby's
relatives, wishing to transport her body to the cemetery in the city
whither they had moved, found the casket of Judge Capwell beneath
her headstone.

The light was dim, but Birch's sight was good, and he did not get
Asaph Sawyer's coffin by mistake, although it was very similar. He
had, indeed, made that coffin for Matthew Fenner; but had cast it
aside at last as too awkward and flimsy, in a fit of curious
sentimentality aroused by recalling how kindly and generous the
little old man had been to him during his bankruptcy five years
before. He gave old Matt the very best his skill could produce, but
was thrifty enough to save the rejected specimen, and to use it when
Asaph Sawyer died of a malignant fever. Sawyer was not a lovable
man, and many stories were told of his almost inhuman
vindictiveness and tenacious memory for wrongs real or fancied. To
him Birch had felt no compunction in assigning the carelessly made
coffin which he now pushed out of the way in his quest for the
Fenner casket.

It was just as he had recognised old Matt's coffin that the door
slammed to in the wind, leaving him in a dusk even deeper than
before. The narrow transom admitted only the feeblest of rays, and
the overhead ventilation funnel virtually none at all; so that he was
reduced to a profane fumbling as he made his halting way among
the long boxes toward the latch. In this funereal twilight he rattled
the rusty handles, pushed at the iron panels, and wondered why the
massive portal had grown so suddenly recalcitrant. In this twilight
too, he began to realise the truth and to shout loudly as if his horse
outside could do more than neigh an unsympathetic reply. For the
long-neglected latch was obviously broken, leaving the careless
undertaker trapped in the vault, a victim of his own oversight.

The thing must have happened at about three-thirty in the afternoon.


Birch, being by temperament phlegmatic and practical, did not shout
long; but proceeded to grope about for some tools which he recalled
seeing in a corner of the tomb. It is doubtful whether he was touched
at all by the horror and exquisite weirdness of his position, but the
bald fact of imprisonment so far from the daily paths of men was
enough to exasperate him thoroughly. His day's work was sadly
interrupted, and unless chance presently brought some rambler
hither, he might have to remain all night or longer. The pile of tools
soon reached, and a hammer and chisel selected, Birch returned
over the coffins to the door. The air had begun to be exceedingly
unwholesome; but to this detail he paid no attention as he toiled, half
by feeling, at the heavy and corroded metal of the latch. He would
have given much for a lantern or bit of candle; but lacking these,
bungled semi-sightlessly as best he might.

When he perceived that the latch was hopelessly unyielding, at least


to such meagre tools and under such tenebrous conditions as these,
Birch glanced about for other possible points of escape. The vault
had been dug from a hillside, so that the narrow ventilation funnel in
the top ran through several feet of earth, making this direction utterly
useless to consider. Over the door, however, the high, slit-like
transom in the brick facade gave promise of possible enlargement to
a diligent worker; hence upon this his eyes long rested as he racked
his brains for means to reach it. There was nothing like a ladder in
the tomb, and the coffin niches on the sides and rear- which Birch
seldom took the trouble to use- afforded no ascent to the space
above the door. Only the coffins themselves remained as potential
stepping-stones, and as he considered these he speculated on the
best mode of transporting them. Three coffin-heights, he reckoned,
would permit him to reach the transom; but he could do better with
four. The boxes were fairly even, and could be piled up like blocks;
so he began to compute how he might most stably use the eight to
rear a scalable platform four deep. As he planned, he could not but
wish that the units of his contemplated staircase had been more
securely made. Whether he had imagination enough to wish they
were empty, is strongly to be doubted.

Finally he decided to lay a base of three parallel with the wall, to


place upon this two layers of two each, and upon these a single box
to serve as the platform. This arrangement could be ascended with
a minimum of awkwardness, and would furnish the desired height.
Better still, though, he would utilise only two boxes of the base to
support the superstructure, leaving one free to be piled on top in
case the actual feat of escape required an even greater altitude. And
so the prisoner toiled in the twilight, heaving the unresponsive
remnants of mortality with little ceremony as his miniature Tower of
Babel rose course by course. Several of the coffins began to split
under the stress of handling, and he planned to save the stoutly built
casket of little Matthew Fenner for the top, in order that his feet
might have as certain a surface as possible. In the semi-gloom he
trusted mostly to touch to select the right one, and indeed came
upon it almost by accident, since it tumbled into his hands as if
through some odd volition after he had unwittingly placed it beside
another on the third layer.

The tower at length finished, and his aching arms rested by a pause
during which he sat on the bottom step of his grim device, Birch
cautiously ascended with his tools and stood abreast of the narrow
transom. The borders of the space were entirely of brick, and there
seemed little doubt but that he could shortly chisel away enough to
allow his body to pass. As his hammer blows began to fall, the horse
outside whinnied in a tone which may have been encouraging and to
others may have been mocking. In either case it would have been
appropriate; for the unexpected tenacity of the easy-looking
brickwork was surely a sardonic commentary on the vanity of mortal
hopes, and the source of a task whose performance deserved every
possible stimulus.

Dusk fell and found Birch still toiling. He worked largely by feeling
now, since newly gathered clouds hid the moon; and though
progress was still slow, he felt heartened at the extent of his
encroachments on the top and bottom of the aperture. He could, he
was sure, get out by midnight- though it is characteristic of him that
this thought was untinged with eerie implications. Undisturbed by
oppressive reflections on the time, the place, and the company
beneath his feet, he philosophically chipped away the stony
brickwork; cursing when a fragment hit him in the face, and laughing
when one struck the increasingly excited horse that pawed near the
cypress tree. In time the hole grew so large that he ventured to try
his body in it now and then, shifting about so that the coffins beneath
him rocked and creaked. He would not, he found, have to pile
another on his platform to make the proper height; for the hole was
on exactly the right level to use as soon as its size might permit.

It must have been midnight at least when Birch decided he could get
through the transom. Tired and perspiring despite many rests, he
descended to the floor and sat a while on the bottom box to gather
strength for the final wriggle and leap to the ground outside. The
hungry horse was neighing repeatedly and almost uncannily, and he
vaguely wished it would stop. He was curiously unelated over his
impending escape, and almost dreaded the exertion, for his form
had the indolent stoutness of early middle age. As he remounted the
splitting coffins he felt his weight very poignantly; especially when,
upon reaching the topmost one, he heard that aggravated crackle
which bespeaks the wholesale rending of wood. He had, it seems,
planned in vain when choosing the stoutest coffin for the platform;
for no sooner was his full bulk again upon it than the rotting lid gave
way, jouncing him two feet down on a surface which even he did not
care to imagine. Maddened by the sound, or by the stench which
billowed forth even to the open air, the waiting horse gave a scream
that was too frantic for a neigh, and plunged madly off through the
night, the wagon rattling crazily behind it.

Birch, in his ghastly situation, was now too low for an easy scramble
out of the enlarged transom; but gathered his energies for a
determined try. Clutching the edges of the aperture, he sought to
pull himself up, when he noticed a queer retardation in the form of
an apparent drag on both his ankles. In another moment he knew
fear for the first time that night; for struggle as he would, he could
not shake clear of the unknown grasp which held his feet in
relentless captivity. Horrible pains, as of savage wounds, shot
through his calves; and in his mind was a vortex of fright mixed with
an unquenchable materialism that suggested splinters, loose nails,
or some other attribute of a breaking wooden box. Perhaps he
screamed. At any rate he kicked and squirmed frantically and
automatically whilst his consciousness was almost eclipsed in a half-
swoon.

Instinct guided him in his wriggle through the transom, and in the
crawl which followed his jarring thud on the damp ground. He could
not walk, it appeared, and the emerging moon must have witnessed
a horrible sight as he dragged his bleeding ankles toward the
cemetery lodge; his fingers clawing the black mould in brainless
haste, and his body responding with that maddening slowness from
which one suffers when chased by the phantoms of nightmare.
There was evidently, however, no pursuer; for he was alone and
alive when Armington, the lodge-keeper, answered his feeble
clawing at the door.

Armington helped Birch to the outside of a spare bed and sent his
little son Edwin for Dr. Davis. The afflicted man was fully conscious,
but would say nothing of any consequence; merely muttering such
things as "Oh, my ankles!", "Let go!", or "Shut in the tomb". Then the
doctor came with his medicine-case and asked crisp questions, and
removed the patient's outer clothing, shoes, and socks. The
wounds- for both ankles were frightfully lacerated about the Achilles'
tendons- seemed to puzzle the old physician greatly, and finally
almost to frighten him. His questioning grew more than medically
tense, and his hands shook as he dressed the mangled members;
binding them as if he wished to get the wounds out of sight as
quickly as possible.

For an impersonal doctor, Davis' ominous and awestruck cross-


examination became very strange indeed as he sought to drain from
the weakened undertaker every least detail of his horrible
experience. He was oddly anxious to know if Birch were sure-
absolutely sure- of the identity of that top coffin of the pile; how he
had chosen it, how he had been certain of it as the Fenner coffin in
the dusk, and how he had distinguished it from the inferior duplicate
coffin of vicious Asaph Sawyer. Would the firm Fenner casket have
caved in so readily? Davis, an old-time village practitioner, had of
course seen both at the respective funerals, as indeed he had
attended both Fenner and Sawyer in their last illnesses. He had
even wondered, at Sawyer's funeral, how the vindictive farmer had
managed to lie straight in a box so closely akin to that of the
diminutive Fenner.

After a full two hours Dr. Davis left, urging Birch to insist at all times
that his wounds were caused entirely by loose nails and splintering
wood. What else, he added, could ever in any case be proved or
believed? But it would be well to say as little as could be said, and to
let no other doctor treat the wounds. Birch heeded this advice all the
rest of his life till he told me his story; and when I saw the scars-
ancient and whitened as they then were- I agreed that he was wise
in so doing. He always remained lame, for the great tendons had
been severed; but I think the greatest lameness was in his soul. His
thinking processes, once so phlegmatic and logical, had become
ineffaceably scarred; and it was pitiful to note his response to certain
chance allusions such as "Friday", "Tomb", "Coffin", and words of
less obvious concatenation. His frightened horse had gone home,
but his frightened wits never quite did that. He changed his
business, but something always preyed upon him. It may have been
just fear, and it may have been fear mixed with a queer belated sort
of remorse for bygone crudities. His drinking, of course, only
aggravated what it was meant to alleviate.

When Dr. Davis left Birch that night he had taken a lantern and gone
to the old receiving tomb. The moon was shining on the scattered
brick fragments and marred facade, and the latch of the great door
yielded readily to a touch from the outside. Steeled by old ordeals in
dissecting rooms, the doctor entered and looked about, stifling the
nausea of mind and body that everything in sight and smell induced.
He cried aloud once, and a little later gave a gasp that was more
terrible than a cry. Then he fled back to the lodge and broke all the
rules of his calling by rousing and shaking his patient, and hurling at
him a succession of shuddering whispers that seared into the
bewildered ears like the hissing of vitriol.

"It was Asaph's coffin, Birch, just as I thought! I knew his teeth, with
the front ones missing on the upper jaw- never, for God's sake,
show those wounds! The body was pretty badly gone, but if ever I
saw vindictiveness on any face- or former face... You know what a
fiend he was for revenge- how he ruined old Raymond thirty years
after their boundary suit, and how he stepped on the puppy that
snapped at him a year ago last August... He was the devil incarnate,
Birch, and I believe his eye-for-an-eye fury could beat old Father
Death himself. God, what a rage! I'd hate to have it aimed at me!

"Why did you do it, Birch? He was a scoundrel, and I don't blame
you for giving him a cast-aside coffin, but you always did go too
damned far! Well enough to skimp on the thing some way, but you
knew what a little man old Fenner was.

"I'll never get the picture out of my head as long as I live. You kicked
hard, for Asaph's coffin was on the floor. His head was broken in,
and everything was tumbled about. I've seen sights before, but there
was one thing too much here. An eye for an eye! Great heavens,
Birch, but you got what you deserved. The skull turned my stomach,
but the other was worse- those ankles cut neatly off to fit Matt
Fenner's cast-aside coffin!"
Memory
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in 1919

Published May 1923


in
The National Amateur

Memory
In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing
a path for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a
great uperas-tree. And within the depths of the valley, where the
light reaches not, move forms not meant to be beheld. Rank is the
herbage on each slope, where evil vines and creeping plants crawl
amidst the stones of ruined palaces, twining tightly about broken
columns and strange monoliths, and heaving up marble pavements
laid by forgotten hands. And in trees that grow gigantic in crumbling
courtyards leap little apes, while in and out of deep treasure-vaults
writhe poison serpents and scaly things without a name. Vast are
the stones which sleep beneath coverlets of dank moss, and mighty
were the walls from which they fell. For all time did their builders
erect them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the
grey toad makes his habitation.

At the very bottom of the valley lies the river Than, whose waters are
slimy and filled with weeds. From hidden springs it rises, and to
subterranean grottoes it flows, so that the Demon of the Valley
knows not why its waters are red, nor whither they are bound.

The Genie that haunts the moonbeams spake to the Demon of the
Valley, saying, "I am old, and forget much. Tell me the deeds and
aspect and name of them who built these things of Stone." And the
Demon replied, "I am Memory, and am wise in lore of the past, but I
too am old. These beings were like the waters of the river Than, not
to be understood. Their deeds I recall not, for they were but of the
moment. Their aspect I recall dimly, it was like to that of the little
apes in the trees. Their name I recall clearly, for it rhymed with that
of the river. These beings of yesterday were called Man."

So the Genie flew back to the thin horned moon, and the Demon
looked intently at a little ape in a tree that grew in a crumbling
courtyard.
Nyarlathotep
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in December of 1920

Published November 1920


in
The United Amateur

Nyarlathotep
Nyarlathotep... the crawling chaos... I am the last... I will tell the
audient void...

I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The
general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social
upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of
hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing,
such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible
phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale
and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which
no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he
had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of
the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men
shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a demoniac alteration in
the sequence of the seasons the autumn heat lingered fearsomely,
and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had
passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or
forces which were unknown.

And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was,
none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a
Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say
why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven
centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this
planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy,
slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass
and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He
spoke much of the sciences of electricity and psychology and gave
exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet
which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one
another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where
Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished, for the small hours were rent with
the screams of nightmare. Never before had the screams of
nightmare been such a public problem; now the wise men almost
wished they could forbid sleep in the small hours, that the shrieks of
cities might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon as it
glimmered on green waters gliding under bridges, and old steeples
crumbling against a sickly sky.

I remember when Nyarlathotep came to my city the great, the old,


the terrible city of unnumbered crimes. My friend had told me of him,
and of the impelling fascination and allurement of his revelations,
and I burned with eagerness to explore his uttermost mysteries. My
friend said they were horrible and impressive beyond my most
fevered imaginings; and what was thrown on a screen in the
darkened room prophesied things none but Nyarlathotep dared
prophesy, and in the sputter of his sparks there was taken from men
that which had never been taken before yet which showed only in
the eyes. And I heard it hinted abroad that those who knew
Nyarlathotep looked on sights which others saw not.

It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the
restless crowds to see Nyarlathotep; through the stifling night and up
the endless stairs into the choking room. And shadowed on a
screen, I saw hooded forms amidst ruins, and yellow evil faces
peering from behind fallen monuments. And I saw the world battling
against blackness; against the waves of destruction from ultimate
space; whirling, churning, struggling around the dimming, cooling
sun. Then the sparks played amazingly around the heads of the
spectators, and hair stood up on end whilst shadows more
grotesque than I can tell came out and squatted on the heads. And
when I, who was colder and more scientific than the rest, mumbled a
trembling protest about imposture and static electricity, Nyarlathotep
drove us all out, down the dizzy stairs into the damp, hot, deserted
midnight streets. I screamed aloud that I was not afraid; that I never
could be afraid; and others screamed with me for solace. We swore
to one another that the city was exactly the same, and still alive; and
when the electric lights began to fade we cursed the company over
and over again, and laughed at the queer faces we made.

I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon,


for when we began to depend on its light we drifted into curious
involuntary marching formations and seemed to know our
destinations though we dared not think of them. Once we looked at
the pavement and found the blocks loose and displaced by grass,
with scarce a line of rusted metal to show where the tramways had
run. And again we saw a tram-car, lone, windowless, dilapidated,
and almost on its side. When we gazed around the horizon, we
could not find the third tower by the river, and noticed that the
silhouette of the second tower was ragged at the top. Then we split
up into narrow columns, each of which seemed drawn in a different
direction. One disappeared in a narrow alley to the left, leaving only
the echo of a shocking moan. Another filed down a weed-choked
subway entrance, howling with a laughter that was mad. My own
column was sucked toward the open country, and presently I felt a
chill which was not of the hot autumn; for as we stalked out on the
dark moor, we beheld around us the hellish moon-glitter of evil
snows. Trackless, inexplicable snows, swept asunder in one
direction only, where lay a gulf all the blacker for its glittering walls.
The column seemed very thin indeed as it plodded dreamily into the
gulf. I lingered behind, for the black rift in the green-litten snow was
frightful, and I thought I had heard the reverberations of a disquieting
wail as my companions vanished; but my power to linger was slight.
As if beckoned by those who had gone before, I half-floated
between the titanic snowdrifts, quivering and afraid, into the
sightless vortex of the unimaginable.

Screamingly sentient, dumbly delirious, only the gods that were can
tell. A sickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not
hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly midnights of rotting creation,
corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds
that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low. Beyond the
worlds vague ghosts of monstrous things; half-seen columns of
unsanctifled temples that rest on nameless rocks beneath space
and reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and
darkness. And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the
muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine
of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers
beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance
slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate
gods the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is
Nyarlathotep.
Pickman's Model
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in 1926

Published October 1927


in
Weird Tales

Pickman's Model
You needn't think I'm crazy, Eliot- plenty of others have queerer
prejudices than this. Why don't you laugh at Oliver's grandfather,
who won't ride in a motor? If I don't like that damned subway, it's my
own business; and we got here more quickly anyhow in the taxi.
We'd have had to walk up the hill from Park Street if we'd taken the
car.

I know I'm more nervous than I was when you saw me last year, but
you don't need to hold a clinic over it. There's plenty of reason, God
knows, and I fancy I'm lucky to be sane at all. Why the third degree?
You didn't use to be so inquisitive.

Well, if you must hear it, I don't know why you shouldn't. Maybe you
ought to, anyhow, for you kept writing me like a grieved parent when
you heard I'd begun to cut the Art Club and keep away from
Pickman. Now that he's disappeared I go round to the club once in a
while, but my nerves aren't what they were.

No, I don't know what's become of Pickman, and I don't like to


guess. You might have surmised I had some inside information
when I dropped him- and that's why I don't want to think where he's
gone. Let the police find what they can- it won't be much, judging
from the fact that they don't know yet of the old North End place he
hired under the name of Peters.

I'm not sure that I could find it again myself- not that I'd ever try,
even in broad daylight!

Yes, I do know, or am afraid I know, why he maintained it. I'm


coming to that. And I think you'll understand before I'm through why I
don't tell the police. They would ask me to guide them, but I couldn't
go back there even if I knew the way. There was something there-
and now I can't use the subway or (and you may as well have your
laugh at this, too) go down into cellars any more.

I should think you'd have known I didn't drop Pickman for the same
silly reasons that fussy old women like Dr. Reid or Joe Minot or
Rosworth did. Morbid art doesn't shock me, and when a man has
the genius Pickman had I feel it an honour to know him, no matter
what direction his work takes. Boston never had a greater painter
than Richard Upton Pickman. I said it at first and I say it still, and I
never swenved an inch, either, when he showed that 'Ghoul
Feeding'. That, you remember, was when Minot cut him.

You know, it takes profound art and profound insight into Nature to
turn out stuff like Pickman's. Any magazine-cover hack can splash
paint around wildly and call it a nightmare or a Witches' Sabbath or a
portrait of the devil, but only a great painter can make such a thing
really scare or ring true. That's because only a real artist knows the
actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear- the exact
sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or
hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and
lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness. I don't have
to tell you why a Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap ghost-
story frontispiece merely makes us laugh. There's something those
fellows catch- beyond life- that they're able to make us catch for a
second. Doré had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it. And
Pickman had it as no man ever had it before or- I hope to Heaven-
ever will again.

Don't ask me what it is they see. You know, in ordinary art, there's
all the difference in the world between the vital, breathing things
drawn from Nature or models and the artificial truck that commercial
small fry reel off in a bare studio by rule. Well, I should say that the
really weird artist has a kind of vision which makes models, or
summons up what amounts to actual scenes from the spectral world
he lives in. Anyhow, he manages to turn out results that differ from
the pretender's mince-pie dreams in just about the same way that
the life painter's results differ from the concoctions of a
correspondence-school cartoonist. If I had ever seen what Pickman
saw- but no! Here, let's have a drink before we get any deeper. God,
I wouldn't be alive if I'd ever seen what that man- if he was a man-
saw !

You recall that Pickman's forte was faces. I don't believe anybody
since Goya could put so much of sheer hell into a set of features or
a twist of expression. And before Goya you have to go back to the
mediaeval chaps who did the gargoyles and chimaeras on Notre
Dame and Mont Saint-Michel. They believed all sorts of things- and
maybe they saw all sorts of things, too, for the Middle Ages had
some curious phases I remember your asking Pickman yourself
once, the year before you went away, wherever in thunder he got
such ideas and visions. Wasn't that a nasty laugh he gave you? It
was partly because of that laugh that Reid dropped him. Reid, you
know, had just taken up comparative pathology, and was full of
pompous 'inside stuff' about the biological or evolutionary
significance of this or that mental or physical symptom. He said
Pickman repelled him more and more every day, and almost
frightened him towards the last- that the fellow's features and
expression were slowly developing in a way he didn't like; in a way
that wasn't human. He had a lot of talk about diet, and mid Pickman
must be abnormal and eccentric to the last degree. I suppose you
told Reid, if you and he had any correspondence over it, that he'd let
Pickman's paintings get on his nerves or harrow up his imagination. I
know I told him that myself- then.

But keep in mind that I didn't drop Pickman for anything like this. On
the contrary, my admiration for him kept growing; for that 'Ghoul
Feeding' was a tremendous achievement. As you know, the club
wouldn't exhibit it, and the Museum of Fine Arts wouldn't accept it as
a gift; and I can add that nobody would buy it, so Pickman had it
right in his house till he went. Now his father has it in Salem- you
know Pickman comes of old Salem stock, and had a witch ancestor
hanged in 1692.

I got into the habit of calling on Pickman quite often, especially after
I began making notes for a monograph on weird art. Probably it was
his work which put the idea into my head, and anyhow, I found him a
mine of data and suggestions when I came to develop it. He showed
me all the paintings and drawings he had about; including some
pen-and-ink sketches that would, I verily believe, have got him
kicked out of the club if many of the members had seen them.
Before long I was pretty nearly a devotee, and would listen for hours
like a schoolboy to art theories and philosophic speculations wild
enough to qualify him for the Danvers asylum. My hero-worship,
coupled with the fact that people generally were commencing to
have less and less to do with him, made him get very confidential
with me; and one evening he hinted that if I were fairly close-
mouthed and none too squeamish, he might show me something
rather unusual- something a bit stronger than anything he had in the
house.

'You know,' he said, 'there are things that won't do for Newbury
Street- things that are out of place here, and that can't be conceived
here, anyhow. It's my business to catch the overtones of the soul,
and you won't find those in a parvenu set of artificial streets on made
land. Back Bay isn't Boston- it isn't anything yet, because it's had no
time to pick up memories and attract local spirits. If there are any
ghosts here, they're the tame ghosts of a salt marsh and a shallow
cove; and I want human ghosts- the ghosts of beings highly
organized enough to have looked on hell and known the meaning of
what they saw.

'The place for an artist to live is the North End. If any aesthete were
sincere, he'd put up with the slums for the sake of the massed
traditions. God, man! Don't you realize that places like that weren't
merely made, but actually grew? Generation after generation lived
and felt and died there, and in days when people weren't afraid to
live and fed and die. Don't you know there was a mill on Copp's Hill
in 1632, and that half the present streets were laid out by 1650? I
can show you houses that have stood two centuries and a half and
more; houses that have witnessed what would make a modern
house crumble into powder. What do moderns know of life and the
forces behind it? You call the Salem witchcraft a delusion, but I'll
wager my four-times-great-grandmother could have told you things.
They hanged her on Gallows Hill, with Cotton Mather looking
sanctimoniously on. Mather, damn him, was afraid somebody might
succeed in kicking free of this accursed cage of monotony- I wish
someone had laid a spell on him or sucked his blood in the night!

'I can show you a house he lived in, and I can show you another one
he was afraid to enter in spite of all his fine bold talk. He knew things
he didn't dare put into that stupid Magnalia or that puerile Wonders
of the Invisible World. Look here, do you know the whole North End
once had a set of tunnels that kept certain people in touch with each
other's houses, and the burying ground, and the sea? Let them
prosecute and persecute above ground- things went on every day
that they couldn't reach, and voices laughed at night that they
couldn't place!

'Why, man, out of ten surviving houses built before 1700 and not
moved since I'll wager that in eight I can show you something queer
in the cellar. There's hardly a month that you don't read of workmen
finding bricked-up arches and wells leading nowhere in this or that
old place as it comes down- you could see one near Henchman
Street from the elevated last year. There were witches and what
their spells summoned; pirates and what they brought in from the
sea; smugglers; privateers- and I tell you, people knew how to live,
and how to enlarge the bounds of life, in the old time! This wasn't the
only world a bold and wise man could know- faugh! And to think of
today in contrast, with such pale-pink brains that even a club of
supposed artists gets shudders and convulsions if a picture goes
beyond the feelings of a Beacon Street tea-table!

'The only saving grace of the present is that it's too damned stupid
to question the past very closely. What do maps and records and
guide-books really tell of the North End? Bah! At a guess I'll
guarantee to lead you to thirty or forty alleys and networks of alleys
north of Prince Street that aren't suspected by ten living beings
outside of the foreigners that swarm them. And what do those
Dagoes know of their meaning? No, Thurber, these ancient places
are dreaming gorgeously and over-flowing with wonder and terror
and escapes from the commonplace, and yet there's not a living soul
to understand or profit by them. Or rather, there's only one living
soul- for I haven't been digging around in the past for nothing !

'See here, you're interested in this sort of thing. What if I told you
that I've got another studio up there, where I can catch the night-
spirit of antique horror and paint things that I couldn't even think of in
Newbury Street? Naturally I don't tell those cursed old maids at the
club - with Reid, damn him, whispering even as it is that I'm a sort of
monster bound down the toboggan of reverse evolution. Yes,
Thurber, I decided long ago that one must paint terror as well as
beauty from life, so I did some exploring in places where I had
reason to know terror lives.

'I've got a place that I don't believe three living Nordic men besides
myself have ever seen. It isn't so very far from the elevated as
distance goes, but it's centuries away as the soul goes. I took it
because of the queer old brick well in the cellar- one of the sort I told
you about. The shack's almost tumbling down so that nobody else
would live there, and I'd hate to tell you how little I pay for it. The
windows are boarded up, but I like that all the better, since I don't
want daylight for what I do. I paint in the cellar, where the inspiration
is thickest, but I've other rooms furnished on the ground floor. A
Sicilian owns it, and I've hired it under the name of Peters.

'Now, if you're game, I'll take you there tonight. I think you'd enjoy
the pictures, for, as I said, I've let myself go a bit there. It's no vast
tour- I sometimes do it on foot, for I don't want to attract attention
with a taxi in such a place. We can take the shuttle at the South
Station for Battery Street, and after that the walk isn't much.'

Well, Eliot, there wasn't much for me to do after that harangue but to
keep myself from running instead of walking for the first vacant cab
we could sight. We changed to the elevated at the South Station,
and at about twelve o'clock had climbed down the steps at Battery
Street and struck along the old waterfront past Constitution Wharf. I
didn't keep track of the cross streets, and can't tell you yet which it
was we turned up, but I know it wasn't Greenough Lane.

When we did turn, it was to climb through the deserted length of the
oldest and dirtiest alley I ever saw in my life, with crumbling-looking
gables, broken small-paned windows, and archaic chimneys that
stood out half-disintegrated against the moonlit sky. I don't believe
there were three houses in sight that hadn't been standing in Cotton
Mather's time- certainly I glimpsed at least two with an overhang,
and once I thought I saw a peaked roof-line of the almost forgotten
pre-gambrel type, though antiquarians tell us there are none left in
Boston.

From that alley, which had a dim light, we turned to the left into an
equally silent and still narrower alley with no light at all: and in a
minute made what I think was an obtuse-angled bend towards the
right in the dark. Not long after this Pickman produced a flashlight
and revealed an antediluvian ten-panelled door that looked
damnably worm-eaten. Unlocking it, he ushered me into a barren
hallway with what was once splendid dark-oak panelling- simple, of
course, but thrillingly suggestive of the times of Andros and Phipps
and the Witchcraft. Then he took me through a door on the left,
lighted an oil lamp, and told me to make myself at home.

Now, Eliot, I'm what the man in the street would call fairly 'hard-
boiled,' but I'll confess that what I saw on the walls of that room gave
me a bad turn. They were his pictures, you know - the ones he
couldn't paint or even show in Newbury Street- and he was right
when he said he had 'let himself go.' Here- have another drink- I
need one anyhow!

There's no use in my trying to tell you what they were like, because
the awful, the blasphemous horror, and the unbelievable
loathsomeness and moral foetor came from simple touches quite
beyond the power of words to classify. There was none of the exotic
technique you see in Sidney Sime, none of the trans-Saturnian
landscapes and lunar fungi that Clark Ashton Smith uses to freeze
the blood. The backgrounds were mostly old churchyards, deep
woods, cliffs by the sea, brick tunnels, ancient panelled rooms, or
simple vaults of masonry. Copp's Hill Burying Ground, which could
not be many blocks away from this very house, was a favourite
scene.

The madness and monstrosity lay in the figures in the foreground-


for Pickman's morbid art was pre-eminently one of demoniac
portraiture. These figures were seldom completely human, but often
approached humanity in varying degree. Most of the bodies, while
roughly bipedal, had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast.
The texture of the majority was a kind of unpleasant rubberiness.
Ugh! I can see them now! Their occupations - well, don't ask me to
be too precise. They were usually feeding- I won't say on what. They
were sometimes shown in groups in cemeteries or underground
passages, and often appeared to be in battle over their prey- or
rather, their treasure-trove. And what damnable expressiveness
Pickman sometimes gave the sightless faces of this charnel booty!
Occasionally the things were shown leaping through open windows
at night, or squatting on the chests of sleepers, worrying at their
throats. One canvas showed a ring of them baying about a hanged
witch on Gallows Hill, whose dead face held a close kinship to
theirs.

But don't get the idea that it was all this hideous business of theme
and setting which struck me faint. I'm not a three-year-old kid, and
I'd seen much like this before. It was the faces, Eliot, those accursed
faces, that leered and slavered out of the canvas with the very
breath of life! By God, man, I verily believe they were alive! That
nauseous wizard had waked the fires of hell in pigment, and his
brush had been a nightmare-spawning wand. Give me that
decanter, Eliot!

There was one thing called 'The Lesson'- Heaven pity me, that I
ever saw it! Listen- can you fancy a squatting circle of nameless
dog-like things in a churchyard teaching a small child how to feed
like themselves? The price of a changeling, I suppose- you know the
old myth about how the weird people leave their spawn in cradles in
exchange for the human babes they steal. Pickman was showing
what happens to those stolen babes- how they grow up- and then I
began to see a hideous relationship in the faces of the human and
non-human figures. He was, in all his gradations of morbidity
between the frankly non-human and the degradedly human,
establishing a sardonic linkage and evolution. The dog-things were
developed from mortals!

And no sooner had I wondered what he made of their own young as


left with mankind in the form of changelings, than my eye caught a
picture embodying that very thought. It was that of an ancient
Puritan interior- a heavily beamed room with lattice windows, a
settle, and clumsy seventeenth-century furniture, with the family
sitting about while the father read from the Scriptures. Every face
but one showed nobility and reverence, but that one reflected the
mockery of the pit. It was that of a young man in years, and no doubt
belonged to a supposed son of that pious father, but in essence it
was the kin of the unclean things. It was their changeling- and in a
spirit of supreme irony Pickman had given the features a very
perceptible resemblance to his own.

By this time Pickman had lighted a lamp in an adjoining room and


was politely holding open the door for me; asking me if I would care
to see his 'modern studies.' I hadn't been able to give him much of
my opinions- I was too speechless with fright and loathing- but I
think he fully understood and felt highly complimented. And now I
want to assure you again, Eliot, that I'm no mollycoddle to scream at
anything which shows a bit of departure from the usual. I'm middle-
aged and decently sophisticated, and I guess you saw enough of me
in France to know I'm not easily knocked out. Remember, too, that
I'd just about recovered my wind and gotten used to those frightful
pictures which turned colonial New England into a kind of annex of
hell. Well, in spite of all this, that next room forced a real scream out
of me, and I had to clutch at the doorway to keep from keeling over.
The other chamber had shown a pack of ghouls and witches over-
running the world of our forefathers, but this one brought the horror
right into our own daily life!

God, how that man could paint! There was a study called 'Subway
Accident,' in which a flock of the vile things were clambering up from
some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Boston
Street subway and attacking a crowd of people on the platform.
Another showed a dance on Copp's Hill among the tombs with the
background of today. Then there were any number of cellar views,
with monsters creeping in through holes and rifts in the masonry and
grinning as they squatted behind barrels or furnaces and waited for
their first victim to descend the stairs.

One disgusting canvas seemed to depict a vast cross-section of


Beacon Hill, with ant-like armies of the mephitic monsters squeezing
themselves through burrows that honeycombed the ground. Dances
in the modern cemeteries were freely pictured, and another
conception somehow shocked me more than all the rest- a scene in
an unknown vault, where scores of the beasts crowded about one
who had a well-known Boston guidebook and was evidently reading
aloud. All were pointing to a certain passage, and every face
seemed so distorted with epileptic and reverberant laughter that I
almost thought I heard the fiendish echoes. The title of the picture
was, 'Holmes, Lowell and Longfellow Lie Buried in Mount Auburn.'

As I gradually steadied myself and got readjusted to this second


room of deviltry and morbidity, I began to analyse some of the points
in my sickening loathing. In the first place, I said to myself, these
things repelled because of the utter inhumanity and callous crudity
they showed in Pickman. The fellow must be a relentless enemy of
all mankind to take such glee in the torture of brain and flesh and the
degradation of the mortal tenement. In the second place, they
terrified because of their very greatness. Their art was the art that
convinced- when we saw the pictures we saw the demons
themselves and were afraid of them. And the queer part was, that
Pickman got none of his power from the use of selectiveness or
bizarrerie. Nothing was blurred, distorted, or conventionalized;
outlines were sharp and lifelike, and details were almost painfully
defined. And the faces!

It was not any mere artist's interpretation that we saw; it was


pandemonium itself, crystal clear in stark objectivity. That was it, by
Heaven! The man was not a fantaisiste or romanticist at all- he did
not even try to give us the churning, prismatic ephemera of dreams,
but coldly and sardonically reflected some stable, mechanistic, and
well-established horror- world which he saw fully, brilliantly,
squarely, and unfalteringly. God knows what that world can have
been, or where he ever glimpsed the blasphemous shapes that
loped and trotted and crawled through it; but whatever the baffling
source of his images, one thing was plain. Pickman was in every
sense- in conception and in execution- a thorough, painstaking, and
almost scientific realist.

My host was now leading the way down the cellar to his actual
studio, and I braced myself for some hellish efforts among the
unfinished canvases. As we reached the bottom of the damp stairs
he fumed his flash-light to a corner of the large open space at hand,
revealing the circular brick curb of what was evidently a great well in
the earthen floor. We walked nearer, and I saw that it must be five
feet across, with walls a good foot thick and some six inches above
the ground level- solid work of the seventeenth century, or I was
much mistaken. That, Pickman said, was the kind of thing he had
been talking about- an aperture of the network of tunnels that used
to undermine the hill. I noticed idly that it did not seem to be bricked
up, and that a heavy disc of wood formed the apparent cover.
Thinking of the things this well must have been connected with if
Pickman's wild hints had not been mere rhetoric, I shivered slightly;
then turned to follow him up a step and through a narrow door into a
room of fair size, provided with a wooden floor and furnished as a
studio. An acetylene gas outfit gave the light necessary for work.

The unfinished pictures on easels or propped against the walls were


as ghastly as the finished ones upstairs, and showed the
painstaking methods of the artist. Scenes were blocked out with
extreme care, and pencilled guide lines told of the minute exactitude
which Pickman used in getting the right perspective and proportions.
The man was great- I say it even now, knowing as much as I do. A
large camera on a table excited my notice, and Pickman told me that
he used it in taking scenes for backgrounds, so that he might paint
them from photographs in the studio instead of carting his oufit
around the town for this or that view. He thought a photograph quite
as good as an actual scene or model for sustained work, and
declared he employed them regularly.

There was something very disturbing about the nauseous sketches


and half-finished monstrosities that leered round from every side of
the room, and when Pickman suddenly unveiled a huge canvas on
the side away from the light I could not for my life keep back a loud
scream- the second I had emitted that night. It echoed and echoed
through the dim vaultings of that ancient and nitrous cellar, and I had
to choke back a flood of reaction that threatened to burst out as
hysterical laughter. Merciful Creator! Eliot, but I don't know how
much was real and how much was feverish fancy. It doesn't seem to
me that earth can hold a dream like that!

It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes,


and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at
the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a
kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it
might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all,
it wasn't even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal
fountain- head of all panic- not that, nor the dog face with its pointed
ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn't the scaly
claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet- none of
these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable
man to madness.

It was the technique, Eliot- the cursed, the impious, the unnatural
technique! As I am a living being, I never elsewhere saw the actual
breath of life so fused into a canvas. The monster was there- it
glared and gnawed and gnawed and glared- and I knew that only a
suspension of Nature's laws could ever let a man paint a thing like
that without a model- without some glimpse of the nether world
which no mortal unsold to the Fiend has ever had.

Pinned with a thumb-tack to a vacant part of the canvas was a piece


of paper now badly curled up- probably, I thought, a photograph
from which Pickman meant to paint a background as hideous as the
nightmare it was to enhance. I reached out to uncurl and look at it,
when suddenly I saw Pickman start as if shot. He had been listening
with peculiar intensity ever since my shocked scream had waked
unaccustomed echoes in the dark cellar, and now he seemed struck
with a fright which, though not comparable to my own, had in it more
of the physical than of the spiritual. He drew a revolver and
motioned me to silence, then stepped out into the main cellar and
closed the door behind him.

I think I was paralysed for an instant. Imitating Pickman's listening, I


fancied I heard a faint scurrying sound somewhere, and a series of
squeals or beats in a direction I couldn't determine. I thought of huge
rats and shuddered. Then there came a subdued sort of clatter
which somehow set me all in gooseflesh- a furtive, groping kind of
clatter, though I can't attempt to convey what I mean in words. It was
like heavy wood falling on stone or brick- wood on brick- what did
that make me think of?

It came again, and louder. There was a vibration as if the wood had
fallen farther than it had fallen before. After that followed a sharp
grating noise, a shouted gibberish from Pickman, and the deafening
discharge of all six chambers of a revolver, fired spectacularly as a
lion tamer might fire in the air for effect. A muffled squeal or squawk,
and a thud. Then more wood and brick grating, a pause, and the
opening of the door- at which I'll confess I started violently. Pickman
reappeared with his smoking weapon, cursing the bloated rats that
infested the ancient well.
'The deuce knows what they eat, Thurber,' he grinned, 'for those
archaic tunnels touched graveyard and witch-den and sea-coast.
But whatever it is, they must have run short, for they were devilish
anxious to get out. Your yelling stirred them up, I fancy. Better be
cautious in these old places- our rodent friends are the one
drawback, though I sometimes think they're a positive asset by way
of atmosphere and colour.'

Well, Eliot, that was the end of the night's adventure. Pickman had
promised to show me the place, and Heaven knows he had done it.
He led me out of that tangle of alleys in another direction, it seems,
for when we sighted a lamp-post we were in a half-familiar street
with monotonous rows of mingled tenement blocks and old houses.
Charter Street, it turned out to be, but I was too flustered to notice
just where we hit it. We were too late for the elevated, and walked
back downtown through Hanover Street. I remember that wall. We
switched from Tremont up Beacon, and Pickman left me at the
corner of Joy, where I turned off. I never spoke to him again.

Why did I drop him? Don't be impatient. Wait till I ring for coffee.
We've had enough of the other stuff, but I for one need something.
No -it wasn't the paintings I saw in that place; though I'll swear they
were enough to get him ostracised in nine-tenths of the homes and
clubs of Boston, and I guess you won't wonder now why I have to
steer clear of subways and cellars. It was- something I found in my
coat the next morning. You know, the curled-up paper tacked to the
frightful canvas in the cellar; the thing I thought was a photograph of
some scene he meant to use as a background for that monster. That
last scare had come while I was reaching to uncurl it, and it seems I
had vacantly crumpled it into my pocket. But here's the coffee- take
it black, Eliot, if you're wise.

Yes, that paper was the reason I dropped Pickman; Richard Upton
Pickman, the greatest artist I have ever known- and the foulest
being that ever leaped the bounds of life into the pits of myth and
madness. Eliot- old Reid was right. He wasn't strictly human. Either
he was born in strange shadow, or he'd found a way to unlock the
forbidden gate. It's all the same now, for he's gone- back into the
fabulous darkness he loved to haunt. Here, let's have the chandelier
going.
Don't ask me to explain or even conjecture about what I burned.
Don't ask me, either, what lay behind that mole-like scrambling
Pickman was so keen to pass off as rats. There are secrets, you
know, which might have come down from old Salem times, and
Cotton Mather tells even stranger things. You know how damned
lifelike Pickman's paintings were- how we all wondered where he got
those faces.

Well - that paper wasn't a photograph of any background, after all.


What it showed was simply the monstrous being he was painting on
that awful canvas. It was the model he was using- and its
background was merely the wall of the cellar studio in minute detail.
But by God, Eliot, it was a photograph from life!
Polaris
by
H. P. Lovecraft

Written in 1918

Published December in 1920


in
The Philosopher

Polaris
Into the North Window of my chamber glows the Pole Star with
uncanny light. All through the long hellish hours of blackness it
shines there. And in the autumn of the year, when the winds from
the north curse and whine, and the red-leaved trees of the swamp
mutter things to one another in the small hours of the morning under
the horned waning moon, I sit by the casement and watch that star.
Down from the heights reels the glittering Cassiopeia as the hours
wear on, while Charles' Wain lumbers up from behind the vapour-
soaked swamp trees that sway in the night wind. Just before dawn
Arcturus winks ruddily from above the cemetary on the low hillock,
and Coma Berenices shimmers weirdly afar off in the mysterious
east; but still the Pole Star leers down from the same place in the
black vault, winking hideously like an insane watching eye which
strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save
that it once had a message to convey. Sometimes, when it is cloudy,
I can sleep.

Well do I remember the night of the great Aurora, when over the
swamp played the shocking corruscations of the demon light. After
the beam came clouds, and then I slept.

And it was under a horned waning moon that I saw the city for the
first time. Still and somnolent did it lie, on a strange plateau in a
hollow between strange peaks. Of ghastly marble were its walls and
its towers, its columns, domes, and pavements. In the marble
streets were marble pillars, the upper parts of which were carven
into the images of grave bearded men. The air was warm and stirred
not. And overhead, scarce ten degrees from the zenith, glowed that
watching Pole Star. Long did I gaze on the city, but the day came
not. When the red Aldebaran, which blinked low in the sky but never
set, had crawled a quarter of the way around the horizon, I saw light
and motion in the houses and the streets. Forms strangely robed,
but at once noble and familiar, walked abroad and under the horned
waning moon men talked wisdom in a tongue which I understood,
though it was unlike any language which I had ever known. And
when the red Aldebaran had crawled more than half-way around the
horizon, there were again darkness and silence.

When I awaked, I was not as I had been. Upon my memory was


graven the vision of the city, and within my soul had arisen another
and vaguer recollection, of whose nature I was not then certain.
Thereafter, on the cloudy nights when I could not sleep, I saw the
city often; sometimes under the hot, yellow rays of a sun which did
not set, but which wheeled low in the horizon. And on the clear
nights the Pole Star leered as never before.

Gradually I came to wonder what might be my place in that city on


the strange plateau betwixt strange peaks. At first content to view
the scene as an all-observant uncorporeal presence, I now desired
to define my relation to it, and to speak my mind amongst the grave
men who conversed each day in the public squares. I said to myself,
"This is no dream, for by what means can I prove the greater reality
of that other life in the house of stone and brick south of the sinister
swamp and the cemetery on the low hillock, where the Pole Star
peeps into my north window each night?"

One night as I listened to the discourses in the large square


containing many statues, I felt a change; and perceived that I had at
last a bodily form. Nor was I a stranger in the streets of Olathoe,
which lies on the plateau of Sarkia, betwixt the peaks of Noton and
Kadiphonek. It was my friend Alos who spoke, and his speech was
one that pleased my soul, for it was the speech of a true man and
patriot. That night had the news come of Daikos' fall, and of the
advance of the Inutos; squat, hellish yellow fiends who five years
ago had appeared out of the unknown west to ravage the confines
of our kingdom, and to besiege many of our towns. Having taken the
fortified places at the foot of the mountains, their way now lay open
to the plateau, unless every citizen could resist with the strength of
ten men. For the squat creatures were mighty in the arts of war, and
knew not the scruples of honour which held back our tall, grey-eyed
men of Lomar from ruthless conquest.

Alos, my friend, was commander of all the forces on the plateau,


and in him lay the last hope of our country. On this occasion he
spoke of the perils to be faced and exhorted the men of Olathoe,
bravest of the Lomarians, to sustain the traditions of their ancestors,
who when forced to move southward from Zobna before the
advance of the great ice sheet (even as our descendents must some
day flee from the land of Lomar) valiently and victoriously swept
aside the hairly, long-armed, cannibal Gnophkehs that stood in their
way. To me Alos denied the warriors part, for I was feeble and given
to strange faintings when subjected to stress and hardships. But my
eyes were the keenest in the city, despite the long hours I gave each
day to the study of the Pnakotic manuscripts and the wisdom of the
Zobnarian Fathers; so my friend, desiring not to doom me to
inaction, rewarded me with that duty which was second to nothing in
importance. To the watchtower of Thapnen he sent me, there to
serve as the eyes of our army. Should the Inutos attempt to gain the
citadel by the narrow pass behind the peak Noton and thereby
surprise the garrison, I was to give the signal of fire which would
warn the waiting soldiers and save the town from immediate
disaster.

Alone I mounted the tower, for every man of stout body was needed
in the passes below. My brain was sore dazed with excitement and
fatigue, for I had not slept in many days; yet was my purpose firm,
for I loved my native land of Lomar, and the marble city Olathoe that
lies betwixt the peaks Noton and Kadiphonek.

But as I stood in the tower's topmost chamber, I beheld the horned


waning moon, red and sinister, quivering through the vapours that
hovered over the distant valley of Banof. And through an opening in
the roof glittered the pale Pole Star, fluttering as if alive, and leering
like a fiend and tempter. Methought its spirit whispered evil counsel,
soothing me to traitorous somnolence with a damnable rhythmical
promise which it repeated over and over:
Slumber, watcher, till the spheres,
Six and twenty thousand years
Have revolv'd, and I return
To the spot where now I burn.
Other stars anon shall rise
To the axis of the skies;
Stars that soothe and stars that bless
With a sweet forgetfulness:
Only when my round is o'er
Shall the past disturb thy door.

Vainly did I struggle with my drowsiness, seeking to connect these


strange words with some lore of the skies which I had learnt from
the Pnakotic manuscripts. My head, heavy and reeling, drooped to
my breast, and when next I looked up it was in a dream, with the
Pole Star grinning at me through a window from over the horrible
and swaying trees of a dream swamp. And I am still dreaming.

In my shame and despair I sometimes scream frantically, begging


the dream-creatures around me to waken me ere the Inutos steal up
the pass behind the peak Noton and take the citadel by surprise; but
these creatures are demons, for they laugh at me and tell me I am
not dreaming. They mock me whilst I sleep, and whilst the squat
yellow foe may be creeping silently upon us. I have failed in my
duties and betrayed the marble city of Olathoe; I have proven false
to Alos, my friend and commander. But still these shadows of my
dreams deride me. They say there is no land of Lomar, save in my
nocturnal imaginings; that in these realms where the Pole Star
shines high, and red Aldebaran crawls low around the horizon, there
has been naught save ice and snow for thousands of years of years,
and never a man save squat, yellow creatures, blighted by the cold,
called "Esquimaux."

And as I writhe in my guilty agony, frantic to save the city whose


peril every moment grows, and vainly striving to shake off this
unnatural dream of a house of stone and brick south of a sinister
swamp and a cemetery on a low hillock, the Pole Star, evil and
monstrous, leers down from the black vault, winking hideously like
an insane watching eye which strives to convey some message, yet
recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey.
The Alchemist
by H. P. Lovecraft

High up, crowning the grassy summit of a swelling mount whose sides are wooded near
the base with the gnarled trees of the primeval forest stands the old chateau of my
ancestors. For centuries its lofty battlements have frowned down upon the wild and
rugged countryside about, serving as a home and stronghold for the proud house whose
honored line is older even than the moss-grown castle walls. These ancient turrets,
stained by the storms of generations and crumbling under the slow yet mighty pressure of
time, formed in the ages of feudalism one of the most dreaded and formidable fortresses
in all France. From its machicolated parapets and mounted battlements Barons, Counts,
and even Kings had been defied, yet never had its spacious halls resounded to the
footsteps of the invader.

But since those glorious years, all is changed. A poverty but little above the level of dire
want, together with a pride of name that forbids its alleviation by the pursuits of
commercial life, have prevented the scions of our line from maintaining their estates in
pristine splendour; and the falling stones of the walls, the overgrown vegetation in the
parks, the dry and dusty moat, the ill- paved courtyards, and toppling towers without, as
well as the sagging floors, the worm-eaten wainscots, and the faded tapestries within, all
tell a gloomy tale of fallen grandeur. As the ages passed, first one, then another of the
four great turrets were left to ruin, until at last but a single tower housed the sadly
reduced descendants of the once mighty lords of the estate.

It was in one of the vast and gloomy chambers of this remaining tower that I, Antoine,
last of the unhappy and accursed Counts de C-, first saw the light of day, ninety long
years ago. Within these walls and amongst the dark and shadowy forests, the wild ravines
and grottos of the hillside below, were spent the first years of my troubled life. My
parents I never knew. My father had been killed at the age of thirty-two, a month before I
was born, by the fall of a stone somehow dislodged from one of the deserted parapets of
the castle. And my mother having died at my birth, my care and education devolved
solely upon one remaining servitor, an old and trusted man of considerable intelligence,
whose name I remember as Pierre. I was an only child and the lack of companionship
which this fact entailed upon me was augmented by the strange care exercised by my
aged guardian, in excluding me from the society of the peasant children whose abodes
were scattered here and there upon the plains that surround the base of the hill. At that
time, Pierre said that this restriction was imposed upon me because my noble birth placed
me above association with such plebeian company. Now I know that its real object was to
keep from my ears the idle tales of the dread curse upon our line that were nightly told
and magnified by the simple tenantry as they conversed in hushed accents in the glow of
their cottage hearths.

Thus isolated, and thrown upon my own resources, I spent the hours of my childhood in
poring over the ancient tomes that filled the shadow haunted library of the chateau, and in
roaming without aim or purpose through the perpetual dust of the spectral wood that
clothes the side of the hill near its foot. It was perhaps an effect of such surroundings that
my mind early acquired a shade of melancholy. Those studies and pursuits which partake
of the dark and occult in nature most strongly claimed my attention.

Of my own race I was permitted to learn singularly little, yet what small knowledge of it I
was able to gain seemed to depress me much. Perhaps it was at first only the manifest
reluctance of my old preceptor to discuss with me my paternal ancestry that gave rise to
the terror which I ever felt at the mention of my great house, yet as I grew out of
childhood, I was able to piece together disconnected fragments of discourse, let slip from
the unwilling tongue which had begun to falter in approaching senility, that had a sort of
relation to a certain circumstance which I had always deemed strange, but which now
became dimly terrible. The circumstance to which I allude is the early age at which all
the Counts of my line had met their end. Whilst I had hitherto considered this but a
natural attribute of a family of short-lived men, I afterward pondered long upon these
premature deaths, and began to connect them with the wanderings of the old man, who
often spoke of a curse which for centuries had prevented the lives of the holders of my
title from much exceeding the span of thirty-two years. Upon my twenty-first birthday,
the aged Pierre gave to me a family document which he said had for many generations
been handed down from father to son, and continued by each possessor. Its contents were
of the most startling nature, and its perusal confirmed the gravest of my apprehensions.
At this time, my belief in the supernatural was firm and deep-seated, else I should have
dismissed with scorn the incredible narrative unfolded before my eyes.

The paper carried me back to the days of the thirteenth century, when the old castle in
which I sat had been a feared and impregnable fortress. It told of a certain ancient man
who had once dwelled on our estates, a person of no small accomplishments, though little
above the rank of peasant, by name, Michel, usually designated by the surname of
Mauvais, the Evil, on account of his sinister reputation. He had studied beyond the
custom of his kind, seeking such things as the Philosopher's Stone or the Elixir of Eternal
Life, and was reputed wise in the terrible secrets of Black Magic and Alchemy. Michel
Mauvais had one son, named Charles, a youth as proficient as himself in the hidden arts,
who had therefore been called Le Sorcier, or the Wizard. This pair, shunned by all honest
folk, were suspected of the most hideous practices. Old Michel was said to have burnt his
wife alive as a sacrifice to the Devil, and the unaccountable disappearance of many small
peasant children was laid at the dreaded door of these two. Yet through the dark natures
of the father and son ran one redeeming ray of humanity; the evil old man loved his
offspring with fierce intensity, whilst the youth had for his parent a more than filial
affection.

One night the castle on the hill was thrown into the wildest confusion by the vanishment
of young Godfrey, son to Henri, the Count. A searching party, headed by the frantic
father, invaded the cottage of the sorcerers and there came upon old Michel Mauvais,
busy over a huge and violently boiling cauldron. Without certain cause, in the
ungoverned madness of fury and despair, the Count laid hands on the aged wizard, and
ere he released his murderous hold, his victim was no more. Meanwhile, joyful servants
were proclaiming the finding of young Godfrey in a distant and unused chamber of the
great edifice, telling too late that poor Michel had been killed in vain. As the Count and
his associates turned away from the lowly abode of the alchemist, the form of Charles Le
Sorcier appeared through the trees. The excited chatter of the menials standing about told
him what had occurred, yet he seemed at first unmoved at his father's fate. Then, slowly
advancing to meet the Count, he pronounced in dull yet terrible accents the curse that
ever afterward haunted the house of C-.

'May ne'er a noble of thy murd'rous line


Survive to reach a greater age than thine!'

spake he, when, suddenly leaping backwards into the black woods, he drew from his
tunic a phial of colourless liquid which he threw into the face of his father's slayer as he
disappeared behind the inky curtain of the night. The Count died without utterance, and
was buried the next day, but little more than two and thirty years from the hour of his
birth. No trace of the assassin could be found, though relentless bands of peasants
scoured the neighboring woods and the meadowland around the hill.

Thus time and the want of a reminder dulled the memory of the curse in the minds of the
late Count's family, so that when Godfrey, innocent cause of the whole tragedy and now
bearing the title, was killed by an arrow whilst hunting at the age of thirty-two, there were
no thoughts save those of grief at his demise. But when, years afterward, the next young
Count, Robert by name, was found dead in a nearby field of no apparent cause, the
peasants told in whispers that their seigneur had but lately passed his thirty-second
birthday when surprised by early death. Louis, son to Robert, was found drowned in the
moat at the same fateful age, and thus down through the centuries ran the ominous
chronicle: Henris, Roberts, Antoines, and Armands snatched from happy and virtuous
lives when little below the age of their unfortunate ancestor at his murder.

That I had left at most but eleven years of further existence was made certain to me by
the words which I had read. My life, previously held at small value, now became dearer
to me each day, as I delved deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the hidden world of
black magic. Isolated as I was, modern science had produced no impression upon me, and
I laboured as in the Middle Ages, as wrapt as had been old Michel and young Charles
themselves in the acquisition of demonological and alchemical learning. Yet read as I
might, in no manner could I account for the strange curse upon my line. In unusually
rational moments I would even go so far as to seek a natural explanation, attributing the
early deaths of my ancestors to the sinister Charles Le Sorcier and his heirs; yet, having
found upon careful inquiry that there were no known descendants of the alchemist, I
would fall back to occult studies, and once more endeavor to find a spell, that would
release my house from its terrible burden. Upon one thing I was absolutely resolved. I
should never wed, for, since no other branch of my family was in existence, I might thus
end the curse with myself.

As I drew near the age of thirty, old Pierre was called to the land beyond. Alone I buried
him beneath the stones of the courtyard about which he had loved to wander in life. Thus
was I left to ponder on myself as the only human creature within the great fortress, and in
my utter solitude my mind began to cease its vain protest against the impending doom, to
become almost reconciled to the fate which so many of my ancestors had met. Much of
my time was now occupied in the exploration of the ruined and abandoned halls and
towers of the old chateau, which in youth fear had caused me to shun, and some of which
old Pierre had once told me had not been trodden by human foot for over four centuries.
Strange and awesome were many of the objects I encountered. Furniture, covered by the
dust of ages and crumbling with the rot of long dampness, met my eyes. Cobwebs in a
profusion never before seen by me were spun everywhere, and huge bats flapped their
bony and uncanny wings on all sides of the otherwise untenanted gloom.

Of my exact age, even down to days and hours, I kept a most careful record, for each
movement of the pendulum of the massive clock in the library told off so much of my
doomed existence. At length I approached that time which I had so long viewed with
apprehension. Since most of my ancestors had been seized some little while before they
reached the exact age of Count Henri at his end, I was every moment on the watch for the
coming of the unknown death. In what strange form the curse should overtake me, I knew
not; but I was resolved at least that it should not find me a cowardly or a passive victim.
With new vigour I applied myself to my examination of the old chateau and its contents.

It was upon one of the longest of all my excursions of discovery in the deserted portion of
the castle, less than a week before that fatal hour which I felt must mark the utmost limit
of my stay on earth, beyond which I could have not even the slightest hope of continuing
to draw breath that I came upon the culminating event of my whole life. I had spent the
better part of the morning in climbing up and down half ruined staircases in one of the
most dilapidated of the ancient turrets. As the afternoon progressed, I sought the lower
levels, descending into what appeared to be either a mediaeval place of confinement, or a
more recently excavated storehouse for gunpowder. As I slowly traversed the nitre-
encrusted passageway at the foot of the last staircase, the paving became very damp, and
soon I saw by the light of my flickering torch that a blank, water-stained wall impeded
my journey. Turning to retrace my steps, my eye fell upon a small trapdoor with a ring,
which lay directly beneath my foot. Pausing, I succeeded with difficulty in raising it,
whereupon there was revealed a black aperture, exhaling noxious fumes which caused
my torch to sputter, and disclosing in the unsteady glare the top of a flight of stone steps.

As soon as the torch which I lowered into the repellent depths burned freely and steadily,
I commenced my descent. The steps were many, and led to a narrow stone-flagged
passage which I knew must be far underground. This passage proved of great length, and
terminated in a massive oaken door, dripping with the moisture of the place, and stoutly
resisting all my attempts to open it. Ceasing after a time my efforts in this direction, I had
proceeded back some distance toward the steps when there suddenly fell to my
experience one of the most profound and maddening shocks capable of reception by the
human mind. Without warning, I heard the heavy door behind me creak slowly open
upon its rusted hinges. My immediate sensations were incapable of analysis. To be
confronted in a place as thoroughly deserted as I had deemed the old castle with evidence
of the presence of man or spirit produced in my brain a horror of the most acute
description. When at last I turned and faced the seat of the sound, my eyes must have
started from their orbits at the sight that they beheld.
There in the ancient Gothic doorway stood a human figure. It was that of a man clad in a
skull-cap and long mediaeval tunic of dark colour. His long hair and flowing beard were
of a terrible and intense black hue, and of incredible profusion. His forehead, high
beyond the usual dimensions; his cheeks, deep- sunken and heavily lined with wrinkles;
and his hands, long, claw-like, and gnarled, were of such a deadly marble-like whiteness
as I have never elsewhere seen in man. His figure, lean to the proportions of a skeleton,
was strangely bent and almost lost within the voluminous folds of his peculiar garment.
But strangest of all were his eyes, twin caves of abysmal blackness, profound in
expression of understanding, yet inhuman in degree of wickedness. These were now fixed
upon me, piercing my soul with their hatred, and rooting me to the spot whereon I stood.

At last the figure spoke in a rumbling voice that chilled me through with its dull
hollowness and latent malevolence. The language in which the discourse was clothed was
that debased form of Latin in use amongst the more learned men of the Middle Ages, and
made familiar to me by my prolonged researches into the works of the old alchemists and
demonologists. The apparition spoke of the curse which had hovered over my house, told
me of my coming end, dwelt on the wrong perpetrated by my ancestor against old Michel
Mauvais, and gloated over the revenge of Charles Le Sorcier. He told how young Charles
has escaped into the night, returning in after years to kill Godfrey the heir with an arrow
just as he approached the age which had been his father's at his assassination; how he had
secretly returned to the estate and established himself, unknown, in the even then
deserted subterranean chamber whose doorway now framed the hideous narrator, how he
had seized Robert, son of Godfrey, in a field, forced poison down his throat, and left him
to die at the age of thirty-two, thus maintaing the foul provisions of his vengeful curse. At
this point I was left to imagine the solution of the greatest mystery of all, how the curse
had been fulfilled since that time when Charles Le Sorcier must in the course of nature
have died, for the man digressed into an account of the deep alchemical studies of the two
wizards, father and son, speaking most particularly of the researches of Charles Le
Sorcier concerning the elixir which should grant to him who partook of it eternal life and
youth.

His enthusiasm had seemed for the moment to remove from his terrible eyes the black
malevolence that had first so haunted me, but suddenly the fiendish glare returned and,
with a shocking sound like the hissing of a serpent, the stranger raised a glass phial with
the evident intent of ending my life as had Charles Le Sorcier, six hundred years before,
ended that of my ancestor. Prompted by some preserving instinct of self-defense, I broke
through the spell that had hitherto held me immovable, and flung my now dying torch at
the creature who menaced my existence. I heard the phial break harmlessly against the
stones of the passage as the tunic of the strange man caught fire and lit the horrid scene
with a ghastly radiance. The shriek of fright and impotent malice emitted by the would-
be assassin proved too much for my already shaken nerves, and I fell prone upon the
slimy floor in a total faint.

When at last my senses returned, all was frightfully dark, and my mind, remembering
what had occurred, shrank from the idea of beholding any more; yet curiosity over-
mastered all. Who, I asked myself, was this man of evil, and how came he within the
castle walls? Why should he seek to avenge the death of Michel Mauvais, and how bad
the curse been carried on through all the long centuries since the time of Charles Le
Sorcier? The dread of years was lifted from my shoulder, for I knew that he whom I had
felled was the source of all my danger from the curse; and now that I was free, I burned
with the desire to learn more of the sinister thing which had haunted my line for
centuries, and made of my own youth one long-continued nightmare. Determined upon
further exploration, I felt in my pockets for flint and steel, and lit the unused torch which
I had with me.

First of all, new light revealed the distorted and blackened form of the mysterious
stranger. The hideous eyes were now closed. Disliking the sight, I turned away and
entered the chamber beyond the Gothic door. Here I found what seemed much like an
alchemist's laboratory. In one corner was an immense pile of shining yellow metal that
sparkled gorgeously in the light of the torch. It may have been gold, but I did not pause to
examine it, for I was strangely affected by that which I had undergone. At the farther end
of the apartment was an opening leading out into one of the many wild ravines of the
dark hillside forest. Filled with wonder, yet now realizing how the man had obtained
access to the chauteau, I proceeded to return. I had intended to pass by the remains of the
stranger with averted face but, as I approached the body, I seemed to hear emanating
from it a faint sound, as though life were not yet wholly extinct. Aghast, I turned to
examine the charred and shrivelled figure on the floor.

Then all at once the horrible eyes, blacker even than the seared face in which they were
set, opened wide with an expression which I was unable to interpret. The cracked lips
tried to frame words which I could not well understand. Once I caught the name of
Charles Le Sorcier, and again I fancied that the words 'years' and 'curse' issued from the
twisted mouth. Still I was at a loss to gather the purport of his disconnnected speech. At
my evident ignorance of his meaning, the pitchy eyes once more flashed malevolently at
me, until, helpless as I saw my opponent to be, I trembled as I watched him.

Suddenly the wretch, animated with his last burst of strength, raised his piteous head
from the damp and sunken pavement. Then, as I remained, paralyzed with fear, he found
his voice and in his dying breath screamed forth those words which have ever afterward
haunted my days and nights. 'Fool!' he shrieked, 'Can you not guess my secret? Have you
no brain whereby you may recognize the will which has through six long centuries
fulfilled the dreadful curse upon the house? Have I not told you of the great elixir of
eternal life? Know you not how the secret of Alchemy was solved? I tell you, it is I! I! I!
that have lived for six hundred years to maintain my revenge, for I am Charles Le
Sorcier!'
The Beast in the Cave
by
H. P. Lovecraft
Written on April 21, 1905

Published in June 1918


in
The Vagrant

The Beast in the Cave

The horrible conclusion which had been gradually intruding itself upon my confused and
reluctant mind was now an awful certainty. I was lost, completely, hopelessly lost in the
vast and labyrinthine recess of the Mammoth Cave. Turn as I might, in no direction could
my straining vision seize on any object capable of serving as a guidepost to set me on the
outward path. That nevermore should I behold the blessed light of day, or scan the
pleasant bills and dales of the beautiful world outside, my reason could no longer
entertain the slightest unbelief. Hope had departed. Yet, indoctrinated as I was by a life of
philosophical study, I derived no small measure of satisfaction from my unimpassioned
demeanour; for although I had frequently read of the wild frenzies into which were
thrown the victims of similar situations, I experienced none of these, but stood quiet as
soon as I clearly realised the loss of my bearings.

Nor did the thought that I had probably wandered beyond the utmost limits of an ordinary
search cause me to abandon my composure even for a moment. If I must die, I reflected,
then was this terrible yet majestic cavern as welcome a sepulchre as that which any
churchyard might afford, a conception which carried with it more of tranquillity than of
despair.

Starving would prove my ultimate fate; of this I was certain. Some, I knew, had gone
mad under circumstances such as these, but I felt that this end would not be mine. My
disaster was the result of no fault save my own, since unknown to the guide I had
separated myself from the regular party of sightseers; and, wandering for over an hour in
forbidden avenues of the cave, had found myself unable to retrace the devious windings
which I had pursued since forsaking my companions.

Already my torch had begun to expire; soon I would be enveloped by the total and almost
palpable blackness of the bowels of the earth. As I stood in the waning, unsteady light, I
idly wondered over the exact circumstances of my coming end. I remembered the
accounts which I had heard of the colony of consumptives, who, taking their residence in
this gigantic grotto to find health from the apparently salubrious air of the underground
world, with its steady, uniform temperature, pure air, and peaceful quiet, had found,
instead, death in strange and ghastly form. I had seen the sad remains of their ill-made
cottages as I passed them by with the party, and had wondered what unnatural influence a
long sojourn in this immense and silent cavern would exert upon one as healthy and
vigorous as I. Now, I grimly told myself, my opportunity for settling this point had
arrived, provided that want of food should not bring me too speedy a departure from this
life.

As the last fitful rays of my torch faded into obscurity, I resolved to leave no stone
unturned, no possible means of escape neglected; so, summoning all the powers
possessed by my lungs, I set up a series of loud shoutings, in the vain hope of attracting
the attention of the guide by my clamour. Yet, as I called, I believed in my heart that my
cries were to no purpose, and that my voice, magnified and reflected by the numberless
ramparts of the black maze about me, fell upon no ears save my own.

All at once, however, my attention was fixed with a start as I fancied that I heard the
sound of soft approaching steps on the rocky floor of the cavern.

Was my deliverance about to be accomplished so soon? Had, then, all my horrible


apprehensions been for naught, and was the guide, having marked my unwarranted
absence from the party, following my course and seeking me out in this limestone
labyrinth? Whilst these joyful queries arose in my brain, I was on the point of renewing
my cries, in order that my discovery might come the sooner, when in an instant my
delight was turned to horror as I listened; for my ever acute ear, now sharpened in even
greater degree by the complete silence of the cave, bore to my benumbed understanding
the unexpected and dreadful knowledge that these footfalls were not like those of any
mortal man. In the unearthly stillness of this subterranean region, the tread of the booted
guide would have sounded like a series of sharp and incisive blows. These impacts were
soft, and stealthy, as of the paws of some feline. Besides, when I listened carefully, I
seemed to trace the falls of four instead of two feet.

I was now convinced that I had by my own cries aroused and attracted some wild beast,
perhaps a mountain lion which had accidentally strayed within the cave. Perhaps, I
considered, the Almighty had chosen for me a swifter and more merciful death than that
of hunger; yet the instinct of self-preservation, never wholly dormant, was stirred in my
breast, and though escape from the on-coming peril might but spare me for a sterner and
more lingering end, I determined nevertheless to part with my life at as high a price as I
could command. Strange as it may seem, my mind conceived of no intent on the part of
the visitor save that of hostility. Accordingly, I became very quiet, in the hope that the
unknown beast would, in the absence of a guiding sound, lose its direction as had I, and
thus pass me by. But this hope was not destined for realisation, for the strange footfalls
steadily advanced, the animal evidently having obtained my scent, which in an
atmosphere so absolutely free from all distracting influences as is that of the cave, could
doubtless be followed at great distance.

Seeing therefore that I must be armed for defense against an uncanny and unseen attack
in the dark, I groped about me the largest of the fragments of rock which were strewn
upon all parts of the floor of the cavern in the vicinity, and grasping one in each hand for
immediate use, awaited with resignation the inevitable result. Meanwhile the hideous
pattering of the paws drew near. Certainly, the conduct of the creature was exceedingly
strange. Most of the time, the tread seemed to be that of a quadruped, walking with a
singular lack of unison betwixt hind and fore feet, yet at brief and infrequent intervals I
fancied that but two feet were engaged in the process of locomotion. I wondered what
species of animal was to confront me; it must, I thought, be some unfortunate beast who
had paid for its curiosity to investigate one of the entrances of the fearful grotto with a
life-long confinement in its interminable recesses. It doubtless obtained as food the
eyeless fish, bats and rats of the cave, as well as some of the ordinary fish that are wafted
in at every freshet of Green River, which communicates in some occult manner with the
waters of the cave. I occupied my terrible vigil with grotesque conjectures of what
alteration cave life might have wrought in the physical structure of the beast,
remembering the awful appearances ascribed by local tradition to the consumptives who
had died after long residence in the cave. Then I remembered with a start that, even
should I succeed in felling my antagonist, I should never behold its form, as my torch had
long since been extinct, and I was entirely unprovided with matches. The tension on my
brain now became frightful. My disordered fancy conjured up hideous and fearsome
shapes from the sinister darkness that surrounded me, and that actually seemed to press
upon my body. Nearer, nearer, the dreadful footfalls approached. It seemed that I must
give vent to a piercing scream, yet had I been sufficiently irresolute to attempt such a
thing, my voice could scarce have responded. I was petrified, rooted to the spot. I
doubted if my right arm would allow me to hurl its missile at the oncoming thing when
the crucial moment should arrive. Now the steady pat, pat, of the steps was close at hand;
now very close. I could hear the laboured breathing of the animal, and terror-struck as I
was, I realised that it must have come from a considerable distance, and was
correspondingly fatigued. Suddenly the spell broke. My right hand, guided by my ever
trustworthy sense of hearing, threw with full force the sharp-angled bit of limestone
which it contained, toward that point in the darkness from which emanated the breathing
and pattering, and, wonderful to relate, it nearly reached its goal, for I heard the thing
jump, landing at a distance away, where it seemed to pause.

Having readjusted my aim, I discharged my second missile, this time most effectively, for
with a flood of joy I listened as the creature fell in what sounded like a complete collapse
and evidently remained prone and unmoving. Almost overpowered by the great relief
which rushed over me, I reeled back against the wall. The breathing continued, in heavy,
gasping inhalations and expirations, whence I realised that I had no more than wounded
the creature. And now all desire to examine the thing ceased. At last something allied to
groundless, superstitious fear had entered my brain, and I did not approach the body, nor
did I continue to cast stones at it in order to complete the extinction of its life. Instead, I
ran at full speed in what was, as nearly as I could estimate in my frenzied condition, the
direction from which I had come. Suddenly I heard a sound or rather, a regular
succession of sounds. In another Instant they had resolved themselves into a series of
sharp, metallic clicks. This time there was no doubt. It was the guide. And then I shouted,
yelled, screamed, even shrieked with joy as I beheld in the vaulted arches above the faint
and glimmering effulgence which I knew to be the reflected light of an approaching
torch. I ran to meet the flare, and before I could completely understand what had
occurred, was lying upon the ground at the feet of the guide, embracing his boots and
gibbering. despite my boasted reserve, in a most meaningless and idiotic manner, pouring
out my terrible story, and at the same time overwhelming my auditor with protestations
of gratitude. At length, I awoke to something like my normal consciousness. The guide
had noted my absence upon the arrival of the party at the entrance of the cave, and had,
from his own intuitive sense of direction, proceeded to make a thorough canvass of by-
passages just ahead of where he had last spoken to me, locating my whereabouts after a
quest of about four hours.

By the time he had related this to me, I, emboldened by his torch and his company, began
to reflect upon the strange beast which I had wounded but a short distance back in the
darkness, and suggested that we ascertain, by the flashlight's aid, what manner of creature
was my victim. Accordingly I retraced my steps, this time with a courage born of
companionship, to the scene of my terrible experience. Soon we descried a white object
upon the floor, an object whiter even than the gleaming limestone itself. Cautiously
advancing, we gave vent to a simultaneous ejaculation of wonderment, for of all the
unnatural monsters either of us had in our lifetimes beheld, this was in surpassing degree
the strangest. It appeared to be an anthropoid ape of large proportions, escaped, perhaps,
from some itinerant menagerie. Its hair was snow-white, a thing due no doubt to the
bleaching action of a long existence within the inky confines of the cave, but it was also
surprisingly thin, being indeed largely absent save on the head, where it was of such
length and abundance that it fell over the shoulders in considerable profusion. The face
was turned away from us, as the creature lay almost directly upon it. The inclination of
the limbs was very singular, explaining, however, the alternation in their use which I bad
before noted, whereby the beast used sometimes all four, and on other occasions but two
for its progress. From the tips of the fingers or toes, long rat-like claws extended. The
hands or feet were not prehensile, a fact that I ascribed to that long residence in the cave
which, as I before mentioned, seemed evident from the all-pervading and almost
unearthly whiteness so characteristic of the whole anatomy. No tail seemed to be present.

The respiration had now grown very feeble, and the guide had drawn his pistol with the
evident intent of despatching the creature, when a sudden sound emitted by the latter
caused the weapon to fall unused. The sound was of a nature difficult to describe. It was
not like the normal note of any known species of simian, and I wonder if this unnatural
quality were not the result of a long continued and complete silence, broken by the
sensations produced by the advent of the light, a thing which the beast could not have
seen since its first entrance into the cave. The sound, which I might feebly attempt to
classify as a kind of deep-tone chattering, was faintly continued.

All at once a fleeting spasm of energy seemed to pass through the frame of the beast. The
paws went through a convulsive motion, and the limbs contracted. With a jerk, the white
body rolled over so that its face was turned in our direction. For a moment I was so struck
with horror at the eyes thus revealed that I noted nothing else. They were black, those
eyes, deep jetty black, in hideous contrast to the snow-white hair and flesh. Like those of
other cave denizens, they were deeply sunken in their orbits, and were entirely destitute
of iris. As I looked more closely, I saw that they were set in a face less prognathous than
that of the average ape, and infinitely less hairy. The nose was quite distinct. As we gazed
upon the uncanny sight presented to our vision, the thick lips opened, and several sounds
issued from them, after which the thing relaxed in death.

The guide clutched my coat sleeve and trembled so violently that the light shook fitfully,
casting weird moving shadows on the walls.

I made no motion, but stood rigidly still, my horrified eyes fixed upon the floor ahead.

The fear left, and wonder, awe, compassion, and reverence succeeded in its place, for the
sounds uttered by the stricken figure that lay stretched out on the limestone had told us
the awesome truth. The creature I had killed, the strange beast of the unfathomed cave,
was, or had at one time been a MAN!!!
The Book
by
H. P. Lovecraft
Written in 1934

My memories are very confused. There is even much doubt as to where they begin; for at
times I feel appalling vistas of years stretching behind me, while at other times it seems
as if the present moment were an isolated point in a grey, formless infinity. I am not even
certain how I am communicating this message. While I know I am speaking, I have a
vague impression that some strange and perhaps terrible mediation will be needed to bear
what I say to the points where I wish to be heard. My identity, too, is bewilderingly
cloudy. I seem to have suffered a great shock- perhaps from some utterly monstrous
outgrowth of my cycles of unique, incredible experience.

These cycles of experience, of course, all stem from that worm-riddled book. I remember
when I found it- in a dimly lighted place near the black, oily river where the mists always
swirl. That place was very old, and the ceiling-high shelves full of rotting volumes
reached back endlessly through windowless inner rooms and alcoves. There were,
besides, great formless heaps of books on the floor and in crude bins; and it was in one of
these heaps that I found the thing. I never learned its title, for the early pages were
missing; but it fell open toward the end and gave me a glimpse of something which sent
my senses reeling.

There was a formula- a sort of list of things to say and do- which I recognized as
something black and forbidden; something which I had read of before in furtive
paragraphs of mixed abhorrence and fascination penned by those strange ancient delvers
into the universe's guarded secrets whose decaying texts I loved to absorb. It was a key- a
guide- to certain gateways and transitions of which mystics have dreamed and whispered
since the race was young, and which lead to freedoms and discoveries beyond the three
dimensions and realms of life and matter that we know. Not for centuries had any man
recalled its vital substance or known where to find it, but this book was very old indeed.
No printing-press, but the hand of some half-crazed monk, had traced these ominous
Latin phrases in uncials of awesome antiquity.

I remember how the old man leered and tittered, and made a curious sign with his hand
when I bore it away. He had refused to take pay for it, and only long afterwards did I
guess why. As I hurried home through those narrow, winding, mist-cloaked waterfront
streets I had a frightful impression of being stealthily followed by softly padding feet.
The centuried, tottering houses on both sides seemed alive with a fresh and morbid
malignity- as if some hitherto closed channel of evil understanding had abruptly been
opened. I felt that those walls and over-hanging gables of mildewed brick and fungoid
plaster and timber- with eyelike, diamond-paned windows that leered- could hardly desist
from advancing and crushing me . . . yet I had read only the least fragment of that
blasphemous rune before closing the book and bringing it away.
I remember how I read the book at last- white-faced, and locked in the attic room that I
had long devoted to strange searchings. The great house was very still, for I had not gone
up till after midnight. I think I had a family then- though the details are very uncertain-
and I know there were many servants. Just what the year was I cannot say; for since then
I have known many ages and dimensions, and have had all my notions of time dissolved
and refashioned. It was by the light of candles that I read- I recall the relentless dripping
of the wax- and there were chimes that came every now and then from distant belfries. I
seemed to keep track of those chimes with a peculiar intentness, as if I feared to hear
some very remote, intruding note among them.

Then came the first scratching and fumbling at the dormer window that looked out high
above the other roofs of the city. It came as I droned aloud the ninth verse of that primal
lay, and I knew amidst my shudders what it meant. For he who passes the gateways
always wins a shadow, and never again can he be alone. I had evoked- and the book was
indeed all I had suspected. That night I passed the gateway to a vortex of twisted time and
vision, and when morning found me in the attic room I saw in the walls and shelves and
fittings that which I had never seen before.

Nor could I ever after see the world as I had known it. Mixed with the present scene was
always a little of the past and a little of the future, and every once-familiar object loomed
alien in the new perspective brought by my widened sight. From then on I walked in a
fantastic dream of unknown and half-known shapes; and with each new gateway crossed,
the less plainly could I recognise the things of the narrow sphere to which I had so long
been bound. What I saw about me, none else saw; and I grew doubly silent and aloof lest
I be thought mad. Dogs had a fear of me, for they felt the outside shadow which never
left my side. But still I read more- in hidden, forgotten books and scrolls to which my
new vision led me- and pushed through fresh gateways of space and being and life-
patterns toward the core of the unknown cosmos.

I remember the night I made the five concentric circles of fire on the floor, and stood in
the innermost one chanting that monstrous litany the messenger from Tartary had
brought. The walls melted away, and I was swept by a black wind through gulfs of
fathomless grey with the needle-like pinnacles of unknown mountains miles below me.
After a while there was utter blackness, and then the light of myriad stars forming
strange, alien constellations. Finally I saw a green-litten plain far below me, and
discerned on it the twisted towers of a city built in no fashion I had ever known or read or
dreamed of. As I floated closer to that city I saw a great square building of stone in an
open space, and felt a hideous fear clutching at me. I screamed and struggled, and after a
blankness was again in my attic room sprawled flat over the five phosphorescent circles
on the floor. In that night's wandering there was no more of strangeness than in many a
former night's wandering; but there was more of terror because I knew I was closer to
those outside gulfs and worlds than I had ever been before. Thereafter I was more
cautious with my incantations, for I had no wish to be cut off from my body and from the
earth in unknown abysses whence I could never return...
The Call of Cthulhu
by
H. P. Lovecraft
Written in 1926

The Call of Cthulhu

Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival... a survival of a


hugely remote period when... consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and
forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity... forms of which
poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters,
mythical beings of all sorts and kinds...

- Algernon Blackwood

I. The Horror In Clay


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to
correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black
seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each
straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing
together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of
our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from
the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our
world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in
terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from
them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think
of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth,
flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things - in this case an old
newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish
this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a
chain. I think that the professor, too intented to keep silent regarding the part he knew,
and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.

My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926-27 with the death of my great-
uncle, George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown
University, Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Angell was widely known as an
authority on ancient inscriptions, and had frequently been resorted to by the heads of
prominent museums; so that his passing at the age of ninety-two may be recalled by
many. Locally, interest was intensified by the obscurity of the cause of death. The
professor had been stricken whilst returning from the Newport boat; falling suddenly; as
witnesses said, after having been jostled by a nautical-looking negro who had come from
one of the queer dark courts on the precipitous hillside which formed a short cut from the
waterfront to the deceased's home in Williams Street. Physicians were unable to find any
visible disorder, but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure lesion of the
heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a hill by so elderly a man, was responsible
for the end. At the time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly I am
inclined to wonder - and more than wonder.

As my great-uncle's heir and executor, for he died a childless widower, I was expected to
go over his papers with some thoroughness; and for that purpose moved his entire set of
files and boxes to my quarters in Boston. Much of the material which I correlated will be
later published by the American Archaeological Society, but there was one box which I
found exceedingly puzzling, and which I felt much averse from showing to other eyes. It
had been locked and I did not find the key till it occurred to me to examine the personal
ring which the professor carried in his pocket. Then, indeed, I succeeded in opening it,
but when I did so seemed only to be confronted by a greater and more closely locked
barrier. For what could be the meaning of the queer clay bas-relief and the disjointed
jottings, ramblings, and cuttings which I found? Had my uncle, in his latter years become
credulous of the most superficial impostures? I resolved to search out the eccentric
sculptor responsible for this apparent disturbance of an old man's peace of mind.

The bas-relief was a rough rectangle less than an inch thick and about five by six inches
in area; obviously of modern origin. Its designs, however, were far from modern in
atmosphere and suggestion; for, although the vagaries of cubism and futurism are many
and wild, they do not often reproduce that cryptic regularity which lurks in prehistoric
writing. And writing of some kind the bulk of these designs seemed certainly to be;
though my memory, despite much the papers and collections of my uncle, failed in any
way to identify this particular species, or even hint at its remotest affiliations.

Above these apparent hieroglyphics was a figure of evident pictorial intent, though its
impressionistic execution forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to be a sort of
monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could
conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous
pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the
spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with
rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most
shockingly frightful. Behind the figure was a vague suggestions of a Cyclopean
architectural background.

The writing accompanying this oddity was, aside from a stack of press cuttings, in
Professor Angell's most recent hand; and made no pretense to literary style. What seemed
to be the main document was headed "CTHULHU CULT" in characters painstakingly
printed to avoid the erroneous reading of a word so unheard-of. This manuscript was
divided into two sections, the first of which was headed "1925 - Dream and Dream Work
of H.A. Wilcox, 7 Thomas St., Providence, R. I.", and the second, "Narrative of Inspector
John R. Legrasse, 121 Bienville St., New Orleans, La., at 1908 A. A. S. Mtg. - Notes on
Same, & Prof. Webb's Acct." The other manuscript papers were brief notes, some of
them accounts of the queer dreams of different persons, some of them citations from
theosophical books and magazines (notably W. Scott-Elliot's Atlantis and the Lost
Lemuria), and the rest comments on long-surviving secret societies and hidden cults, with
references to passages in such mythological and anthropological source-books as Frazer's
Golden Bough and Miss Murray's Witch-Cult in Western Europe. The cuttings largely
alluded to outré mental illness and outbreaks of group folly or mania in the spring of
1925.

The first half of the principal manuscript told a very particular tale. It appears that on
March 1st, 1925, a thin, dark young man of neurotic and excited aspect had called upon
Professor Angell bearing the singular clay bas-relief, which was then exceedingly damp
and fresh. His card bore the name of Henry Anthony Wilcox, and my uncle had
recognized him as the youngest son of an excellent family slightly known to him, who
had latterly been studying sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and living
alone at the Fleur-de-Lys Building near that institution. Wilcox was a precocious youth of
known genius but great eccentricity, and had from chidhood excited attention through the
strange stories and odd dreams he was in the habit of relating. He called himself
"psychically hypersensitive", but the staid folk of the ancient commercial city dismissed
him as merely "queer." Never mingling much with his kind, he had dropped gradually
from social visibility, and was now known only to a small group of esthetes from other
towns. Even the Providence Art Club, anxious to preserve its conservatism, had found
him quite hopeless.

On the ocassion of the visit, ran the professor's manuscript, the sculptor abruptly asked
for the benefit of his host's archeological knowledge in identifying the hieroglyphics of
the bas-relief. He spoke in a dreamy, stilted manner which suggested pose and alienated
sympathy; and my uncle showed some sharpness in replying, for the conspicuous
freshness of the tablet implied kinship with anything but archeology. Young Wilcox's
rejoinder, which impressed my uncle enough to make him recall and record it verbatim,
was of a fantastically poetic cast which must have typified his whole conversation, and
which I have since found highly characteristic of him. He said, "It is new, indeed, for I
made it last night in a dream of strange cities; and dreams are older than brooding Tyre,
or the contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon."

It was then that he began that rambling tale which suddenly played upon a sleeping
memory and won the fevered interest of my uncle. There had been a slight earthquake
tremor the night before, the most considerable felt in New England for some years; and
Wilcox's imagination had been keenly affected. Upon retiring, he had had an
unprecedented dream of great Cyclopean cities of Titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths,
all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror. Hieroglyphics had covered
the walls and pillars, and from some undetermined point below had come a voice that
was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmute into sound, but
which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters: "Cthulhu
fhtagn."

This verbal jumble was the key to the recollection which excited and disturbed Professor
Angell. He questioned the sculptor with scientific minuteness; and studied with frantic
intensity the bas-relief on which the youth had found himself working, chilled and clad
only in his night clothes, when waking had stolen bewilderingly over him. My uncle
blamed his old age, Wilcox afterwards said, for his slowness in recognizing both
hieroglyphics and pictorial design. Many of his questions seemed highly out of place to
his visitor, especially those which tried to connect the latter with strange cults or
societies; and Wilcox could not understand the repeated promises of silence which he
was offered in exchange for an admission of membership in some widespread mystical or
paganly religious body. When Professor Angell became convinced that the sculptor was
indeed ignorant of any cult or system of cryptic lore, he besieged his visitor with
demands for future reports of dreams. This bore regular fruit, for after the first interview
the manuscript records daily calls of the young man, during which he related startling
fragments of nocturnal imaginery whose burden was always some terrible Cyclopean
vista of dark and dripping stone, with a subterrene voice or intelligence shouting
monotonously in enigmatical sense-impacts uninscribable save as gibberish. The two
sounds frequently repeated are those rendered by the letters "Cthulhu" and "R'lyeh."

On March 23, the manuscript continued, Wilcox failed to appear; and inquiries at his
quarters revealed that he had been stricken with an obscure sort of fever and taken to the
home of his family in Waterman Street. He had cried out in the night, arousing several
other artists in the building, and had manifested since then only alternations of
unconsciousness and delirium. My uncle at once telephoned the family, and from that
time forward kept close watch of the case; calling often at the Thayer Street office of Dr.
Tobey, whom he learned to be in charge. The youth's febrile mind, apparently, was
dwelling on strange things; and the doctor shuddered now and then as he spoke of them.
They included not only a repetition of what he had formerly dreamed, but touched wildly
on a gigantic thing "miles high" which walked or lumbered about.

He at no time fully described this object but occasional frantic words, as repeated by Dr.
Tobey, convinced the professor that it must be identical with the nameless monstrosity he
had sought to depict in his dream-sculpture. Reference to this object, the doctor added,
was invariably a prelude to the young man's subsidence into lethargy. His temperature,
oddly enough, was not greatly above normal; but the whole condition was otherwise such
as to suggest true fever rather than mental disorder.

On April 2 at about 3 P.M. every trace of Wilcox's malady suddenly ceased. He sat
upright in bed, astonished to find himself at home and completely ignorant of what had
happened in dream or reality since the night of March 22. Pronounced well by his
physician, he returned to his quarters in three days; but to Professor Angell he was of no
further assistance. All traces of strange dreaming had vanished with his recovery, and my
uncle kept no record of his night-thoughts after a week of pointless and irrelevant
accounts of thoroughly usual visions.

Here the first part of the manuscript ended, but references to certain of the scattered notes
gave me much material for thought - so much, in fact, that only the ingrained skepticism
then forming my philosophy can account for my continued distrust of the artist. The notes
in question were those descriptive of the dreams of various persons covering the same
period as that in which young Wilcox had had his strange visitations. My uncle, it seems,
had quickly instituted a prodigiously far-flung body of inquires amongst nearly all the
friends whom he could question without impertinence, asking for nightly reports of their
dreams, and the dates of any notable visions for some time past. The reception of his
request seems to have varied; but he must, at the very least, have received more responses
than any ordinary man could have handled without a secretary. This original
correspondence was not preserved, but his notes formed a thorough and really significant
digest. Average people in society and business - New England's traditional "salt of the
earth" - gave an almost completely negative result, though scattered cases of uneasy but
formless nocturnal impressions appear here and there, always between March 23 and and
April 2 - the period of young Wilcox's delirium. Scientific men were little more affected,
though four cases of vague description suggest fugitive glimpses of strange landscapes,
and in one case there is mentioned a dread of something abnormal.

It was from the artists and poets that the pertinent answers came, and I know that panic
would have broken loose had they been able to compare notes. As it was, lacking their
original letters, I half suspected the compiler of having asked leading questions, or of
having edited the correspondence in corroboration of what he had latently resolved to see.
That is why I continued to feel that Wilcox, somehow cognizant of the old data which my
uncle had possessed, had been imposing on the veteran scientist. These responses from
esthetes told disturbing tale. From February 28 to April 2 a large proportion of them had
dreamed very bizarre things, the intensity of the dreams being immeasurably the stronger
during the period of the sculptor's delirium. Over a fourth of those who reported
anything, reported scenes and half-sounds not unlike those which Wilcox had described;
and some of the dreamers confessed acute fear of the gigantic nameless thing visible
toward the last. One case, which the note describes with emphasis, was very sad. The
subject, a widely known architect with leanings toward theosophy and occultism, went
violently insane on the date of young Wilcox's seizure, and expired several months later
after incessant screamings to be saved from some escaped denizen of hell. Had my uncle
referred to these cases by name instead of merely by number, I should have attempted
some corroboration and personal investigation; but as it was, I succeeded in tracing down
only a few. All of these, however, bore out the notes in full. I have often wondered if all
the the objects of the professor's questioning felt as puzzled as did this fraction. It is well
that no explanation shall ever reach them.

The press cuttings, as I have intimated, touched on cases of panic, mania, and eccentricity
during the given period. Professor Angell must have employed a cutting bureau, for the
number of extracts was tremendous, and the sources scattered throughout the globe. Here
was a nocturnal suicide in London, where a lone sleeper had leaped from a window after
a shocking cry. Here likewise a rambling letter to the editor of a paper in South America,
where a fanatic deduces a dire future from visions he has seen. A dispatch from
California describes a theosophist colony as donning white robes en masse for some
"glorious fulfiment" which never arrives, whilst items from India speak guardedly of
serious native unrest toward the end of March 22-23.

The west of Ireland, too, is full of wild rumour and legendry, and a fantastic painter
named Ardois-Bonnot hangs a blasphemous Dream Landscape in the Paris spring salon
of 1926. And so numerous are the recorded troubles in insane asylums that only a miracle
can have stopped the medical fraternity from noting strange parallelisms and drawing
mystified conclusions. A weird bunch of cuttings, all told; and I can at this date scarcely
envisage the callous rationalism with which I set them aside. But I was then convinced
that young Wilcox had known of the older matters mentioned by the professor.

II. The Tale of Inspector Legrasse.


The older matters which had made the sculptor's dream and bas-relief so significant to
my uncle formed the subject of the second half of his long manuscript. Once before, it
appears, Professor Angell had seen the hellish outlines of the nameless monstrosity,
puzzled over the unknown hieroglyphics, and heard the ominous syllables which can be
rendered only as "Cthulhu"; and all this in so stirring and horrible a connexion that it is
small wonder he pursued young Wilcox with queries and demands for data.

This earlier experience had come in 1908, seventeen years before, when the American
Archaeological Society held its annual meeting in St. Louis. Professor Angell, as befitted
one of his authority and attainments, had had a prominent part in all the deliberations; and
was one of the first to be approached by the several outsiders who took advantage of the
convocation to offer questions for correct answering and problems for expert solution.

The chief of these outsiders, and in a short time the focus of interest for the entire
meeting, was a commonplace-looking middle-aged man who had travelled all the way
from New Orleans for certain special information unobtainable from any local source.
His name was John Raymond Legrasse, and he was by profession an Inspector of Police.
With him he bore the subject of his visit, a grotesque, repulsive, and apparently very
ancient stone statuette whose origin he was at a loss to determine. It must not be fancied
that Inspector Legrasse had the least interest in archaeology. On the contrary, his wish for
enlightenment was prompted by purely professional considerations. The statuette, idol,
fetish, or whatever it was, had been captured some months before in the wooded swamps
south of New Orleans during a raid on a supposed voodoo meeting; and so singular and
hideous were the rites connected with it, that the police could not but realise that they had
stumbled on a dark cult totally unknown to them, and infinitely more diabolic than even
the blackest of the African voodoo circles. Of its origin, apart from the erratic and
unbelievable tales extorted from the captured members, absolutely nothing was to be
discovered; hence the anxiety of the police for any antiquarian lore which might help
them to place the frightful symbol, and through it track down the cult to its fountain-head.

Inspector Legrasse was scarcely prepared for the sensation which his offering created.
One sight of the thing had been enough to throw the assembled men of science into a
state of tense excitement, and they lost no time in crowding around him to gaze at the
diminutive figure whose utter strangeness and air of genuinely abysmal antiquity hinted
so potently at unopened and archaic vistas. No recognised school of sculpture had
animated this terrible object, yet centuries and even thousands of years seemed recorded
in its dim and greenish surface of unplaceable stone.
The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to man for close and careful study,
was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It
represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head
whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on
hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with
a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and
squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters.
The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the centre,
whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front
edge and extended a quarter of the way clown toward the bottom of the pedestal. The
cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs
of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher's elevated knees. The aspect of the whole
was abnormally life-like, and the more subtly fearful because its source was so totally
unknown. Its vast, awesome, and incalculable age was unmistakable; yet not one link did
it shew with any known type of art belonging to civilisation's youth - or indeed to any
other time. Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for the soapy,
greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothing
familiar to geology or mineralogy. The characters along the base were equally baffling;
and no member present, despite a representation of half the world's expert learning in this
field, could form the least notion of even their remotest linguistic kinship. They, like the
subject and material, belonged to something horribly remote and distinct from mankind
as we know it. something frightfully suggestive of old and unhallowed cycles of life in
which our world and our conceptions have no part.

And yet, as the members severally shook their heads and confessed defeat at the
Inspector's problem, there was one man in that gathering who suspected a touch of
bizarre familiarity in the monstrous shape and writing, and who presently told with some
diffidence of the odd trifle he knew. This person was the late William Channing Webb,
Professor of Anthropology in Princeton University, and an explorer of no slight note.
Professor Webb had been engaged, forty-eight years before, in a tour of Greenland and
Iceland in search of some Runic inscriptions which he failed to unearth; and whilst high
up on the West Greenland coast had encountered a singular tribe or cult of degenerate
Esquimaux whose religion, a curious form of devil-worship, chilled him with its
deliberate bloodthirstiness and repulsiveness. It was a faith of which other Esquimaux
knew little, and which they mentioned only with shudders, saying that it had come down
from horribly ancient aeons before ever the world was made. Besides nameless rites and
human sacrifices there were certain queer hereditary rituals addressed to a supreme elder
devil or tornasuk; and of this Professor Webb had taken a careful phonetic copy from an
aged angekok or wizard-priest, expressing the sounds in Roman letters as best he knew
how. But just now of prime significance was the fetish which this cult had cherished, and
around which they danced when the aurora leaped high over the ice cliffs. It was, the
professor stated, a very crude bas-relief of stone, comprising a hideous picture and some
cryptic writing. And so far as he could tell, it was a rough parallel in all essential features
of the bestial thing now lying before the meeting.
This data, received with suspense and astonishment by the assembled members, proved
doubly exciting to Inspector Legrasse; and he began at once to ply his informant with
questions. Having noted and copied an oral ritual among the swamp cult-worshippers his
men had arrested, he besought the professor to remember as best he might the syllables
taken down amongst the diabolist Esquimaux. There then followed an exhaustive
comparison of details, and a moment of really awed silence when both detective and
scientist agreed on the virtual identity of the phrase common to two hellish rituals so
many worlds of distance apart. What, in substance, both the Esquimaux wizards and the
Louisiana swamp-priests had chanted to their kindred idols was something very like this:
the word-divisions being guessed at from traditional breaks in the phrase as chanted
aloud:

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

Legrasse had one point in advance of Professor Webb, for several among his mongrel
prisoners had repeated to him what older celebrants had told them the words meant. This
text, as given, ran something like this:

"In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."

And now, in response to a general and urgent demand, Inspector Legrasse related as fully
as possible his experience with the swamp worshippers; telling a story to which I could
see my uncle attached profound significance. It savoured of the wildest dreams of myth-
maker and theosophist, and disclosed an astonishing degree of cosmic imagination among
such half-castes and pariahs as might be least expected to possess it.

On November 1st, 1907, there had come to the New Orleans police a frantic summons
from the swamp and lagoon country to the south. The squatters there, mostly primitive
but good-natured descendants of Lafitte's men, were in the grip of stark terror from an
unknown thing which had stolen upon them in the night. It was voodoo, apparently, but
voodoo of a more terrible sort than they had ever known; and some of their women and
children had disappeared since the malevolent tom-tom had begun its incessant beating
far within the black haunted woods where no dweller ventured. There were insane shouts
and harrowing screams, soul-chilling chants and dancing devil-flames; and, the
frightened messenger added, the people could stand it no more.

So a body of twenty police, filling two carriages and an automobile, had set out in the late
afternoon with the shivering squatter as a guide. At the end of the passable road they
alighted, and for miles splashed on in silence through the terrible cypress woods where
day never came. Ugly roots and malignant hanging nooses of Spanish moss beset them,
and now and then a pile of dank stones or fragment of a rotting wall intensified by its hint
of morbid habitation a depression which every malformed tree and every fungous islet
combined to create. At length the squatter settlement, a miserable huddle of huts, hove in
sight; and hysterical dwellers ran out to cluster around the group of bobbing lanterns. The
muffled beat of tom-toms was now faintly audible far, far ahead; and a curdling shriek
came at infrequent intervals when the wind shifted. A reddish glare, too, seemed to filter
through pale undergrowth beyond the endless avenues of forest night. Reluctant even to
be left alone again, each one of the cowed squatters refused point-blank to advance
another inch toward the scene of unholy worship, so Inspector Legrasse and his nineteen
colleagues plunged on unguided into black arcades of horror that none of them had ever
trod before.

The region now entered by the police was one of traditionally evil repute, substantially
unknown and untraversed by white men. There were legends