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Author Topic: THE CALL OF CTHULHU  (Read 169 times)
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Posts: 4530

« 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

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 479', W. Longitude
l2343', 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

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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