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THE CALL OF CTHULHU

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« on: February 27, 2007, 12:29:59 am »

* THE CALL OF CTHULHU

H.P Lovecraft


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was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn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.
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2007, 12:30:54 am »

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 aesthetes from other towns.
Even the Providence Art Club, anxious to preserve its conservatism, had
found him quite hopeless.

On the occasion 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.
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2007, 12:32:01 am »

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.
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 12:32:41 am »

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
connection 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 down 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.

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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2007, 12:34:33 am »

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 of a hidden lake unglimpsed by mortal sight, in which dwelt a
huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes; and squatters
whispered that bat-winged devils flew up out of caverns in inner earth
to worship it at midnight. They said it had been there before
D'Iberville, before La Salle, before the Indians, and before even the
wholesome beasts and birds of the woods. It was nightmare itself, and
to see it was to die. But it made men dream, and so they knew enough to
keep away. The present voodoo **** was, indeed, on the merest fringe of
this abhorred area, but that location was bad enough; hence perhaps the
very place of the worship had terrified the squatters more than the
shocking sounds and incidents.

Only poetry or madness could do justice to the noises heard by
Legrasse's men as they ploughed on through the black morass toward the
red glare and muffled tom-toms. There are vocal qualities peculiar to
men, and vocal qualities peculiar to beasts; and it is terrible to hear
the one when the source should yield the other. Animal fury and
orgiastic license here whipped themselves to daemoniac heights by howls
and squawking ecstacies that tore and reverberated through those
nighted woods like pestilential tempests from the gulfs of hell. Now
and then the less organized ululation would cease, and from what seemed
a well-drilled chorus of hoarse voices would rise in sing-song chant
that hideous phrase or ritual:

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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2007, 12:35:22 am »

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

Then the men, having reached a spot where the trees were thinner,
came suddenly in sight of the spectacle itself. Four of them reeled,
one fainted, and two were shaken into a frantic cry which the mad
cacophony of the **** fortunately deadened. Legrasse dashed swamp water
on the face of the fainting man, and all stood trembling and nearly
hypnotised with horror.

In a natural glade of the swamp stood a grassy island of perhaps an
acre's extent, clear of trees and tolerably dry. On this now leaped and
twisted a more indescribable horde of human abnormality than any but a
Sime or an Angarola could paint. Void of clothing, this hybrid spawn
were braying, bellowing, and writhing about a monstrous ring-shaped
bonfire; in the centre of which, revealed by occasional rifts in the
curtain of flame, stood a great granite monolith some eight feet in
height; on top of which, incongruous in its diminutiveness, rested the
noxious carven statuette. From a wide circle of ten scaffolds set up at
regular intervals with the flame-girt monolith as a centre hung, head
downward, the oddly marred bodies of the helpless squatters who had
disappeared. It was inside this circle that the ring of worshippers
jumped and roared, the general direction of the mass motion being from
left to right in endless Bacchanal between the ring of bodies and the
ring of fire.

It may have been only imagination and it may have been only echoes
which induced one of the men, an excitable Spaniard, to fancy he heard
antiphonal responses to the ritual from some far and unillumined spot
deeper within the wood of ancient legendry and horror. This man, Joseph
D. Galvez, I later met and questioned; and he proved distractingly
imaginative. He indeed went so far as to hint of the faint beating of
great wings, and of a glimpse of shining eyes and a mountainous white
bulk beyond the remotest trees but I suppose he had been hearing too
much native superstition.

Actually, the horrified pause of the men was of comparatively brief
duration. Duty came first; and although there must have been nearly a
hundred mongrel celebrants in the throng, the police relied on their
firearms and plunged determinedly into the nauseous rout. For five
minutes the resultant din and chaos were beyond description. Wild blows
were struck, shots were fired, and escapes were made; but in the end
Legrasse was able to count some forty-seven sullen prisoners, whom he
forced to dress in haste and fall into line between two rows of
policemen. Five of the worshippers lay dead, and two severely wounded
ones were carried away on improvised stretchers by their
fellow-prisoners. The image on the monolith, of course, was carefully
removed and carried back by Legrasse.

Examined at headquarters after a trip of intense strain and
weariness, the prisoners all proved to be men of a very low,
mixed-blooded, and mentally aberrant type. Most were seamen, and a
sprinkling of Negroes and mulattoes, largely West Indians or Brava
Portuguese from the Cape Verde Islands, gave a colouring of voodooism
to the heterogeneous cult. But before many questions were asked, it
became manifest that something far deeper and older than Negro
fetishism was involved. Degraded and ignorant as they were, the
creatures held with surprising consistency to the central idea of their
loathsome faith.

They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages
before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the
sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea;
but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first
men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and
the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden
in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time
when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city
of R'lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again
beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready,
and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.

Meanwhile no more must be told. There was a secret which even
torture could not extract. Mankind was not absolutely alone among the
conscious things of earth, for shapes came out of the dark to visit the
faithful few. But these were not the Great Old Ones. No man had ever
seen the Old Ones. The carven idol was great Cthulhu, but none might
say whether or not the others were precisely like him. No one could
read the old writing now, but things were told by word of mouth. The
chanted ritual was not the secret--that was never spoken aloud, only
whispered. The chant meant only this: "In his house at R'lyeh dead
Cthulhu waits dreaming."

Only two of the prisoners were found sane enough to be hanged, and
the rest were committed to various institutions. All denied a part in
the ritual murders, and averred that the killing had been done by Black
Winged Ones which had come to them from their immemorial meeting-place
in the haunted wood. But of those mysterious allies no coherent account
could ever be gained. What the police did extract, came mainly from the
immensely aged mestizo named Castro, who claimed to have sailed to
strange ports and talked with undying leaders of the cult in the
mountains of China.

Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the
speculations of theosophists and made man and the world seem recent and
transient indeed. There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the
earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the
deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean
stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time
before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the
stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of
eternity. They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought
Their images with Them.
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2007, 12:36:10 am »

These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether
of flesh and blood. They had shape--for did not this star-fashioned
image prove it?--but that shape was not made of matter. When the stars
were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but
when the stars were wrong, They could not live. But although They no
longer lived, They would never really die. They all lay in stone houses
in Their great city of R'lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty
Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might
once more be ready for Them. But at that time some force from outside
must serve to liberate Their bodies. The spells that preserved them
intact likewise prevented Them from making an initial move, and They
could only lie awake in the dark and think whilst uncounted millions of
years rolled by. They knew all that was occurring in the universe, for
Their mode of speech was transmitted thought. Even now They talked in
Their tombs. When, after infinities of chaos, the first men came, the
Great Old Ones spoke to the sensitive among them by moulding their
dreams; for only thus could Their language reach the fleshly minds of
mammals.

Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around tall
idols which the Great Ones showed them; idols brought in dim eras from
dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again,
and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive
His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to
know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free
and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside
and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the
liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and
revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a
holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate
rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow
forth the prophecy of their return.

In the elder time chosen men had talked with the entombed Old Ones
in dreams, but then something happened. The great stone city R'lyeh,
with its monoliths and sepulchres, had sunk beneath the waves; and the
deep waters, full of the one primal mystery through which not even
thought can pass, had cut off the spectral intercourse. But memory
never died, and the high-priests said that the city would rise again
when the stars were right. Then came out of the earth the black spirits
of earth, mouldy and shadowy, and full of dim rumours picked up in
caverns beneath forgotten sea-bottoms. But of them old Castro dared not
speak much. He cut himself off hurriedly, and no amount of persuasion
or subtlety could elicit more in this direction. The size of the Old
Ones, too, he curiously declined to mention. Of the cult, he said that
he thought the centre lay amid the pathless desert of Arabia, where
Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched. It was not
allied to the European witch-cult, and was virtually unknown beyond its
members. No book had ever really hinted of it, though the deathless
Chinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of
the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which the initiated might read as they
chose, especially the much-discussed couplet:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

Legrasse, deeply impressed and not a little bewildered, had inquired
in vain concerning the historic affiliations of the cult. Castro,
apparently, had told the truth when he said that it was wholly secret.
The authorities at Tulane University could shed no light upon either
cult or image, and now the detective had come to the highest
authorities in the country and met with no more than the Greenland tale
of Professor Webb.

The feverish interest aroused at the meeting by Legrasse's tale,
corroborated as it was by the statuette, is echoed in the subsequent
correspondence of those who attended; although scant mention occurs in
the formal publications of the society. Caution is the first care of
those accustomed to face occasional charlatanry and imposture. Legrasse
for some time lent the image to Professor Webb, but at the latter's
death it was returned to him and remains in his possession, where I
viewed it not long ago. It is truly a terrible thing, and unmistakably
akin to the dream-sculpture of young Wilcox.

That my uncle was excited by the tale of the sculptor I did not
wonder, for what thoughts must arise upon hearing, after a knowledge of
what Legrasse had learned of the cult, of a sensitive young man who had
dreamed not only the figure and exact hieroglyphics of the swamp-found
image and the Greenland devil tablet, but had come in his dreams upon
at least three of the precise words of the formula uttered alike by
Esquimaux diabolists and mongrel Louisianans? Professor Angell's
instant start on an investigation of the utmost thoroughness was
eminently natural; though privately I suspected young Wilcox of having
heard of the cult in some indirect way, and of having invented a series
of dreams to heighten and continue the mystery at my uncle's expense.
The dream-narratives and cuttings collected by the professor were, of
course, strong corroboration; but the rationalism of my mind and the
extravagance of the whole subject led me to adopt what I thought the
most sensible conclusions. So, after thoroughly studying the manuscript
again and correlating the theosophical and anthropological notes with
the cult narrative of Legrasse, I made a trip to Providence to see the
sculptor and give him the rebuke I thought proper for so boldly
imposing upon a learned and aged man.

Wilcox still lived alone in the Fleur-de-Lys Building in Thomas
Street, a hideous Victorian imitation of seventeenth century Breton
Architecture which flaunts its stuccoed front amidst the lovely
colonial houses on the ancient hill, and under the very shadow of the
finest Georgian steeple in America, I found him at work in his rooms,
and at once conceded from the specimens scattered about that his genius
is indeed profound and authentic. He will, I believe, some time be
heard from as one of the great decadents; for he has crystallised in
clay and will one day mirror in marble those nightmares and phantasies
which Arthur Machen evokes in prose, and Clark Ashton Smith makes
visible in verse and in painting.

Dark, frail, and somewhat unkempt in aspect, he turned languidly at
my knock and asked me my business without rising. Then I told him who I
was, he displayed some interest; for my uncle had excited his curiosity
in probing his strange dreams, yet had never explained the reason for
the study. I did not enlarge his knowledge in this regard, but sought
with some subtlety to draw him out. In a short time I became convinced
of his absolute sincerity, for he spoke of the dreams in a manner none
could mistake. They and their subconscious residuum had influenced his
art profoundly, and he shewed me a morbid statue whose contours almost
made me shake with the potency of its black suggestion. He could not
recall having seen the original of this thing except in his own dream
bas-relief, but the outlines had formed themselves insensibly under his
hands. It was, no doubt, the giant shape he had raved of in delirium.
That he really knew nothing of the hidden cult, save from what my
uncle's relentless catechism had let fall, he soon made clear; and
again I strove to think of some way in which he could possibly have
received the weird impressions.

He talked of his dreams in a strangely poetic fashion; making me see
with terrible vividness the damp Cyclopean city of slimy green stone--
whose geometry, he oddly said, was all wrong--and hear with frightened
expectancy the ceaseless, half-mental calling from underground:
"Cthulhu fhtagn", "Cthulhu fhtagn."

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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2007, 12:36:55 am »

These words had formed part of that dread ritual which told of dead
Cthulhu's dream-vigil in his stone vault at R'lyeh, and I felt deeply
moved despite my rational beliefs. Wilcox, I was sure, had heard of the
cult in some casual way, and had soon forgotten it amidst the mass of
his equally weird reading and imagining. Later, by virtue of its sheer
impressiveness, it had found subconscious expression in dreams, in the
bas-relief, and in the terrible statue I now beheld; so that his
imposture upon my uncle had been a very innocent one. The youth was of
a type, at once slightly affected and slightly ill-mannered, which I
could never like, but I was willing enough now to admit both his genius
and his honesty. I took leave of him amicably, and wish him all the
success his talent promises.

The matter of the cult still remained to fascinate me, and at times
I had visions of personal fame from researches into its origin and
connections. I visited New Orleans, talked with Legrasse and others of
that old-time raiding-party, saw the frightful image, and even
questioned such of the mongrel prisoners as still survived. Old Castro,
unfortunately, had been dead for some years. What I now heard so
graphically at first-hand, though it was really no more than a detailed
confirmation of what my uncle had written, excited me afresh; for I
felt sure that I was on the track of a very real, very secret, and very
ancient religion whose discovery would make me an anthropologist of
note. My attitude was still one of absolute materialism, as l wish it
still were, and I discounted with almost inexplicable perversity the
coincidence of the dream notes and odd cuttings collected by Professor
Angell.

One thing I began to suspect, and which I now fear I know, is that
my uncle's death was far from natural. He fell on a narrow hill street
leading up from an ancient waterfront swarming with foreign mongrels,
after a careless push from a Negro sailor. I did not forget the mixed
blood and marine pursuits of the cult-members in Louisiana, and would
not be surprised to learn of secret methods and rites and beliefs.
Legrasse and his men, it is true, have been let alone; but in Norway a
certain seaman who saw things is dead. Might not the deeper inquiries
of my uncle after encountering the sculptor's data have come to
sinister ears? I think Professor Angell died because he knew too much,
or because he was likely to learn too much. Whether I shall go as he
did remains to be seen, for I have learned much now.


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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2007, 12:37:51 am »

III. The Madness from the Sea

If heaven ever wishes to grant me a boon, it will be a total
effacing of the results of a mere chance which fixed my eye on a
certain stray piece of shelf-paper. It was nothing on which I would
naturally have stumbled in the course of my daily round, for it was an
old number of an Australian journal, the Sydney Bulletin for April 18,
1925. It had escaped even the cutting bureau which had at the time of
its issuance been avidly collecting material for my uncle's research.

I had largely given over my inquiries into what Professor Angell
called the "Cthulhu Cult", and was visiting a learned friend in
Paterson, New Jersey; the curator of a local museum and a mineralogist
of note. Examining one day the reserve specimens roughly set on the
storage shelves in a rear room of the museum, my eye was caught by an
odd picture in one of the old papers spread beneath the stones. It was
the Sydney Bulletin I have mentioned, for my friend had wide
affiliations in all conceivable foreign parts; and the picture was a
half-tone cut of a hideous stone image almost identical with that which
Legrasse had found in the swamp.

Eagerly clearing the sheet of its precious contents, I scanned the
item in detail; and was disappointed to find it of only moderate
length. What it suggested, however, was of portentous significance to
my flagging quest; and I carefully tore it out for immediate action. It
read as follows:

MYSTERY DERELICT FOUND AT SEA

Vigilant Arrives With Helpless Armed New Zealand
Yacht in Tow. One Survivor and Dead Man Found Aboard. Tale of Desperate
Battle and Deaths at Sea. Rescued Seaman Refuses Particulars of Strange
Experience. Odd Idol Found in His Possession. Inquiry to Follow.


The Morrison Co.'s freighter Vigilant, bound from
Valparaiso, arrived this morning at its wharf in Darling Harbour,
having in tow the battled and disabled but heavily armed steam yacht
Alert of Dunedin, N.Z., which was sighted April 12th in S. Latitude
34°21', W. Longitude 152°17', with one living and one dead man aboard.

The Vigilant left Valparaiso March 25th, and on April 2nd was
driven considerably south of her course by exceptionally heavy storms
and monster waves. On April 12th the derelict was sighted; and though
apparently deserted, was found upon boarding to contain one survivor in
a half-delirious condition and one man who had evidently been dead for
more than a week. The living man was clutching a horrible stone idol of
unknown origin, about foot in height, regarding whose nature
authorities at Sydney University, the Royal Society, and the Museum in
College Street all profess complete bafflement, and which the survivor
says he found in the cabin of the yacht, in a small carved shrine of
common pattern.

This man, after recovering his senses, told an exceedingly strange
story of piracy and slaughter. He is Gustaf Johansen, a Norwegian of
some intelligence, and had been second mate of the two-masted schooner
Emma of Auckland, which sailed for Callao February 20th with a
complement of eleven men. The Emma, he says, was delayed and thrown
widely south of her course by the great storm of March 1st, and on
March 22nd, in S. Latitude 49°51' W. Longitude 128°34', encountered the
Alert, manned by a queer and evil-looking crew of Kanakas and
half-castes. Being ordered peremptorily to turn back, Capt. Collins
refused; whereupon the strange crew began to fire savagely and without
warning upon the schooner with a peculiarly heavy battery of brass
cannon forming part of the yacht's equipment. The Emma's men showed
fight, says the survivor, and though the schooner began to sink from
shots beneath the water-line they managed to heave alongside their
enemy and board her, grappling with the savage crew on the yacht's
deck, and being forced to kill them all, the number being slightly
superior, because of their particularly abhorrent and desperate though
rather clumsy mode of fighting.

Three of the Emma's men, including Capt. Collins and First Mate
Green, were killed; and the remaining eight under Second Mate Johansen
proceeded to navigate the captured yacht, going ahead in their original
direction to see if any reason for their ordering back had existed. The
next day, it appears, they raised and landed on a small island,
although none is known to exist in that part of the ocean; and six of
the men somehow died ashore, though Johansen is queerly reticent about
this part of his story, and speaks only of their falling into a rock
chasm. Later, it seems, he and one companion boarded the yacht and
tried to manage her, but were beaten about by the storm of April 2nd,
From that time till his rescue on the 12th the man remembers little,
and he does not even recall when William Briden, his companion, died.
Briden's death reveals no apparent cause, and was probably due to
excitement or exposure. Cable advices from Dunedin report that the
Alert was well known there as an island trader, and bore an evil
reputation along the waterfront, It was owned by a curious group of
half-castes whose frequent meetings and night trips to the woods
attracted no little curiosity; and it had set sail in great haste just
after the storm and earth tremors of March 1st. Our Auckland
correspondent gives the Emma and her crew an excellent reputation, and
Johansen is described as a sober and worthy man. The admiralty will
institute an inquiry on the whole matter beginning tomorrow, at which
every effort will be made to induce Johansen to speak more freely than
he has done hitherto.


This was all, together with the picture of the hellish image; but
what a train of ideas it started in my mind! Here were new treasuries
of data on the Cthulhu Cult, and evidence that it had strange interests
at sea as well as on land. What motive prompted the hybrid crew to
order back the Emma as they sailed about with their hideous idol? What
was the unknown island on which six of the Emma's crew had died, and
about which the mate Johansen was so secretive? What had the
vice-admiralty's investigation brought out, and what was known of the
noxious cult in Dunedin? And most marvellous of all, what deep and more
than natural linkage of dates was this which gave a malign and now
undeniable significance to the various turns of events so carefully
noted by my uncle?

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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2007, 12:38:58 am »

March 1st--or February 28th according to the International Date
Line--the earthquake and storm had come. From Dunedin the Alert and
her noisome crew had darted eagerly forth as if imperiously summoned,
and on the other side of the earth poets and artists had begun to dream
of a strange, dank Cyclopean city whilst a young sculptor had moulded
in his sleep the form of the dreaded Cthulhu. March 23rd the crew of
the Emma landed on an unknown island and left six men dead; and on that
date the dreams of sensitive men assumed a heightened vividness and
darkened with dread of a giant monster's malign pursuit, whilst an
architect had gone mad and a sculptor had lapsed suddenly into
delirium! And what of this storm of April 2nd--the date on which all
dreams of the dank city ceased, and Wilcox emerged unharmed from the
bondage of strange fever? What of all this--and of those hints of old
Castro about the sunken, star-born Old Ones and their coming reign;
their faithful cult and their mastery of dreams? Was I tottering on the
brink of cosmic horrors beyond man's power to bear? If so, they must be
horrors of the mind alone, for in some way the second of April had put
a stop to whatever monstrous menace had begun its siege of mankind's
soul.

That evening, after a day of hurried cabling and arranging, I bade
my host adieu and took a train for San Francisco. In less than a month
I was in Dunedin; where, however, I found that little was known of the
strange cult-members who had lingered in the old sea-taverns.
Waterfront scum was far too common for special mention; though there
was vague talk about one inland trip these mongrels had made, during
which faint drumming and red flame were noted on the distant hills. In
Auckland I learned that Johansen had returned with yellow hair turned
white after a perfunctory and inconclusive questioning at Sydney, and
had thereafter sold his cottage in West Street and sailed with his wife
to his old home in Oslo. Of his stirring experience he would tell his
friends no more than he had told the admiralty officials, and all they
could do was to give me his Oslo address.

After that I went to Sydney and talked profitlessly with seamen and
members of the vice-admiralty court. I saw the Alert, now sold and in
commercial use, at Circular Quay in Sydney Cove, but gained nothing
from its non-committal bulk. The crouching image with its cuttlefish
head, dragon body, scaly wings, and hieroglyphed pedestal, was
preserved in the Museum at Hyde Park; and I studied it long and well,
finding it a thing of balefully exquisite workmanship, and with the
same utter mystery, terrible antiquity, and unearthly strangeness of
material which I had noted in Legrasse's smaller specimen. Geologists,
the curator told me, had found it a monstrous puzzle; for they vowed
that the world held no rock like it. Then I thought with a shudder of
what Old Castro had told Legrasse about the Old Ones; "They had come
from the stars, and had brought Their images with Them."

Shaken with such a mental resolution as I had never before known, I
now resolved to visit Mate Johansen in Oslo. Sailing for London, I
reembarked at once for the Norwegian capital; and one autumn day landed
at the trim wharves in the shadow of the Egeberg. Johansen's address, I
discovered, lay in the Old Town of King Harold Haardrada, which kept
alive the name of Oslo during all the centuries that the greater city
masqueraded as "Christiana." I made the brief trip by taxicab, and
knocked with palpitant heart at the door of a neat and ancient building
with plastered front. A sad-faced woman in black answered my summons,
and I was stung with disappointment when she told me in halting English
that Gustaf Johansen was no more.

He had not long survived his return, said his wife, for the doings
at sea in 1925 had broken him. He had told her no more than he told the
public, but had left a long manuscript--of "technical matters" as he
said--written in English, evidently in order to guard her from the
peril of casual perusal. During a walk through a narrow lane near the
Gothenburg dock, a bundle of papers falling from an attic window had
knocked him down. Two Lascar sailors at once helped him to his feet,
but before the ambulance could reach him he was dead. Physicians found
no adequate cause the end, and laid it to heart trouble and a weakened
constitution. I now felt gnawing at my vitals that dark terror which
will never leave me till I, too, am at rest; "accidentally" or
otherwise. Persuading the widow that my connection with her husband's
"technical matters" was sufficient to entitle me to his manuscript, I
bore the document away and began to read it on the London boat.

It was a simple, rambling thing--a naive sailor's effort at a
post-facto diary--and strove to recall day by day that last awful
voyage. I cannot attempt to transcribe it verbatim in all its
cloudiness and redundance, but I will tell its gist enough to show why
the sound the water against the vessel's sides became so unendurable to
me that I stopped my ears with cotton.

Johansen, thank God, did not know quite all, even though he saw the
city and the Thing, but I shall never sleep calmly again when I think
of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space,
and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream
beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager
to loose them upon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave
their monstrous stone city again to the sun and air.

Johansen's voyage had begun just as he told it to the
vice-admiralty. The Emma, in ballast, had cleared Auckland on February
20th, and had felt the full force of that earthquake-born tempest which
must have heaved up from the sea-bottom the horrors that filled men's
dreams. Once more under control, the ship was making good progress when
held up by the Alert on March 22nd, and I could feel the mate's regret
as he wrote of her bombardment and sinking. Of the swarthy cult-fiends
on the Alert he speaks with significant horror. There was some
peculiarly abominable quality about them which made their destruction
seem almost a duty, and Johansen shows ingenuous wonder at the charge
of ruthlessness brought against his party during the proceedings of the
court of inquiry. Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured
yacht under Johansen's command, the men sight a great stone pillar
sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47°9', W. Longitude
l23°43', come upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy
Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance
of earth's supreme terror--the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh, that
was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome
shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu
and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last,
after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams
of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a
pilgrimage of liberation and restoration. All this Johansen did not
suspect, but God knows he soon saw enough!

I suppose that only a single mountain-top, the hideous
monolith-crowned citadel whereon great Cthulhu was buried, actually
emerged from the waters. When I think of the extent of all that may be
brooding down there I almost wish to kill myself forthwith. Johansen
and his men were awed by the cosmic majesty of this dripping Babylon of
elder daemons, and must have guessed without guidance that it was
nothing of this or of any sane planet. Awe at the unbelievable size of
the greenish stone blocks, at the dizzying height of the great carven
monolith, and at the stupefying identity of the colossal statues and
bas-reliefs with the queer image found in the shrine on the Alert, is
poignantly visible in every line of the mates frightened description.

Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something
very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing
any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions
of vast angles and stone surfaces--surfaces too great to belong to
anything right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible
images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it
suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He said that
the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and
loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. Now an
unlettered seaman felt the same thing whilst gazing at the terrible
reality.

Johansen and his men landed at a sloping mud-bank on this monstrous
Acropolis, and clambered slipperily up over titan oozy blocks which
could have been no mortal staircase. The very sun of heaven seemed
distorted when viewed through the polarising miasma welling out from
this sea-soaked perversion, and twisted menace and suspense lurked
leeringly in those crazily elusive angles of carven rock where a second
glance showed concavity after the first showed convexity.
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2007, 12:40:31 am »

Something very like fright had come over all the explorers before
anything more definite than rock and ooze and weed was seen. Each would
have fled had he not feared the scorn of the others, and it was only
half-heartedly that they searched--vainly, as it proved--for some
portable souvenir to bear away.

It was Rodriguez the Portuguese who climbed up the foot of the
monolith and shouted of what he had found. The rest followed him, and
looked curiously at the immense carved door with the now familiar
squid-dragon bas-relief. It was, Johansen said, like a great barn-door;
and they all felt that it was a door because of the ornate lintel,
threshold, and jambs around it, though they could not decide whether it
lay flat like a trap-door or slantwise like an outside cellar-door. As
Wilcox would have said, the geometry of the place was all wrong. One
could not be sure that the sea and the ground were horizontal, hence
the relative position of everything else seemed phantasmally variable.

Briden pushed at the stone in several places without result. Then
Donovan felt over it delicately around the edge, pressing each point
separately as he went. He climbed interminably along the grotesque
stone moulding--that is, one would call it climbing if the thing was
not after all horizontal--and the men wondered how any door in the
universe could be so vast. Then, very softly and slowly, the acre-great
lintel began to give inward at the top; and they saw that it was
balanced.

Donovan slid or somehow propelled himself down or along the jamb and
rejoined his fellows, and everyone watched the queer recession of the
monstrously carven portal. In this phantasy of prismatic distortion it
moved anomalously in a diagonal way, so that all the rules of matter
and perspective seemed upset.

The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That
tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts
of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst
forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the
sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping
membraneous wings. The odour rising from the newly opened depths was
intolerable, and at length the quick-eared Hawkins thought he heard a
nasty, slopping sound down there. Everyone listened, and everyone was
listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly
squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into
the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness.

Poor Johansen's handwriting almost gave out when he wrote of this.
Of the six men who never reached the ship, he thinks two perished of
pure fright in that accursed instant. The Thing cannot be described--
there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial
lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic
order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the
earth a great architect went mad, and poor Wilcox raved with fever in
that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky
spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right
again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of
innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years
great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.

Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned.
God rest them, if there be any rest in the universe. They were Donovan,
Guerrera, and Angstrom. Parker slipped as the other three were plunging
frenziedly over endless vistas of green-crusted rock to the boat, and
Johansen swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which
shouldn't have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if
it were obtuse. So only Briden and Johansen reached the boat, and
pulled desperately for the Alert as the mountainous monstrosity flopped
down the slimy stones and hesitated, floundering at the edge of the
water.

Steam had not been suffered to go down entirely, despite the
departure of all hands for the shore; and it was the work of only a few
moments of feverish rushing up and down between wheel and engines to
get the Alert under way. Slowly, amidst the distorted horrors of that
indescribable scene, she began to churn the lethal waters; whilst on
the masonry of that charnel shore that was not of earth the titan Thing
from the stars slavered and gibbered like Polypheme cursing the fleeing
ship of Odysseus. Then, bolder than the storied Cyclops, great Cthulhu
slid greasily into the water and began to pursue with vast wave-raising
strokes of cosmic potency. Briden looked back and went mad, laughing
shrilly as he kept on laughing at intervals till death found him one
night in the cabin whilst Johansen was wandering deliriously.

But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could
surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a
desperate chance; and, setting the engine for full speed, ran
lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mighty
eddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted
higher and higher the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against
the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of
a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came
nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on
relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy
nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened
graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an
instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and
then there was only a venomous seething astern; where--God in heaven!
--the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously
recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened
every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.

That was all. After that Johansen only brooded over the idol in the
cabin and attended to a few matters of food for himself and the
laughing maniac by his side. He did not try to navigate after the first
bold flight, for the reaction had taken something out of his soul. Then
came the storm of April 2nd, and a gathering of the clouds about his
consciousness. There is a sense of spectral whirling through liquid
gulfs of infinity, of dizzying rides through reeling universes on a
comets tail, and of hysterical plunges from the pit to the moon and
from the moon back again to the pit, all livened by a cachinnating
chorus of the distorted, hilarious elder gods and the green, bat-winged
mocking imps of Tartarus.

Out of that dream came rescue--the Vigilant, the vice-admiralty
court, the streets of Dunedin, and the long voyage back home to the old
house by the Egeberg. He could not tell--they would think him mad. He
would write of what he knew before death came, but his wife must not
guess. Death would be a boon if only it could blot out the memories.

That was the document I read, and now I have placed it in the tin
box beside the bas-relief and the papers of Professor Angell. With it
shall go this record of mine--this test of my own sanity, wherein is
pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced together again. I
have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even
the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be
poison to me. But I do not think my life will be long. As my uncle
went, as poor Johansen went, so I shall go. I know too much, and the
cult still lives.

Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone
which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is
sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April
storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay
around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been
trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world
would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end?
What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness
waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering
cities of men. A time will come--but I must not and cannot think! Let
me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put
caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.


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