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THE CALL OF CTHULHU

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Author Topic: THE CALL OF CTHULHU  (Read 169 times)
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« 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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