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THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS

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Zodiac
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« on: February 27, 2007, 12:58:39 am »

* THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS

H.P. Lovecraft


I

Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at
the end. To say that a mental shock was the cause of what I inferred--
that last straw which sent me racing out of the lonely Akeley farmhouse
and through the wild domed hills of Vermont in a commandeered motor at
night--is to ignore the plainest facts of my final experience.
Notwithstanding the deep things I saw and heard, and the admitted
vividness the impression produced on me by these things, I cannot prove
even now whether I was right or wrong in my hideous inference. For
after all Akeley's disappearance establishes nothing. People found
nothing amiss in his house despite the bullet-marks on the outside and
inside. It was just as though he had walked out casually for a ramble
in the hills and failed to return. There was not even a sign that a
guest had been there, or that those horrible cylinders and machines had
been stored in the study. That he had mortally feared the crowded green
hills and endless trickle of brooks among which he had been born and
reared, means nothing at all, either; for thousands are subject to just
such morbid fears. Eccentricity, moreover, could easily account for his
strange acts and apprehensions toward the last.

The whole matter began, so far as I am concerned, with the historic
and unprecedented Vermont floods of November 3, 1927. I was then, as
now, an instructor of literature at Miskatonic University in Arkham,
Massachusetts, and an enthusiastic amateur student of New England
folklore. Shortly after the flood, amidst the varied reports of
hardship, suffering, and organized relief which filled the press, there
appeared certain odd stories of things found floating in some of the
swollen rivers; so that many of my friends embarked on curious
discussions and appealed to me to shed what light I could on the
subject. I felt flattered at having my folklore study taken so
seriously, and did what I could to belittle the wild, vague tales which
seemed so clearly an outgrowth of old rustic superstitions. It amused
me to find several persons of education who insisted that some stratum
of obscure, distorted fact might underlie the rumors.

The tales thus brought to my notice came mostly through newspaper
cuttings; though one yarn had an oral source and was repeated to a
friend of mine in a letter from his mother in Hardwick, Vermont. The
type of thing described was essentially the same in all cases, though
there seemed to be three separate instances involved--one connected
with the Winooski River near Montpelier, another attached to the West
River in Windham County beyond Newfane, and a third centering in the
Passumpsic in Caledonia County above Lyndonville. Of course many of the
stray items mentioned other instances, but on analysis they all seemed
to boil down to these three. In each case country folk reported seeing
one or more very bizarre and disturbing objects in the surging waters
that poured down from the unfrequented hills, and there was a
widespread tendency to connect these sights with a primitive,
half-forgotten cycle of whispered legend which old people resurrected
for the occasion.

What people thought they saw were organic shapes not quite like any
they had ever seen before. Naturally, there were many human bodies
washed along by the streams in that tragic period; but those who
described these strange shapes felt quite sure that they were not
human, despite some superficial resemblances in size and general
outline. Nor, said the witnesses, could they have been any kind of
animal known to Vermont. They were pinkish things about five feet long;
with crustaceous bodies bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membranous
wings and several sets of articulated limbs, and with a sort of
convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antennae,
where a head would ordinarily be. It was really remarkable how closely
the reports from different sources tended to coincide; though the
wonder was lessened by the fact that the old legends, shared at one
time throughout the hill country, furnished a morbidly vivid picture
which might well have coloured the imaginations of all the witnesses
concerned. It was my conclusion that such witnesses--in every case
naive and simple backwoods folk--had glimpsed the battered and bloated
bodies of human beings or farm animals in the whirling currents; and
had allowed the half-remembered folklore to invest these pitiful
objects with fantastic attributes.

The ancient folklore, while cloudy, evasive, and largely forgotten
by the present generation, was of a highly singular character, and
obviously reflected the influence of still earlier Indian tales. I knew
it well, though I had never been in Vermont, through the exceedingly
rare monograph of Eli Davenport, which embraces material orally
obtained prior to 1839 among the oldest people of the state. This
material, moreover, closely coincided with tales which I had personally
heard from elderly rustics in the mountains of New Hampshire. Briefly
summarized, it hinted at a hidden race of monstrous beings which lurked
somewhere among the remoter hills--in the deep woods of the highest
peaks, and the dark valleys where streams trickle from unknown sources.
These beings were seldom glimpsed, but evidences of their presence were
reported by those who had ventured farther than usual up the slopes of
certain mountains or into certain deep, steep-sided gorges that even
the wolves shunned.

There were queer footprints or claw-prints in the mud of
brook-margins and barren patches, and curious circles of stones, with
the grass around them worn away, which did not seem to have been placed
or entirely shaped by Nature. There were, too, certain caves of
problematical depth in the sides of the hills; with mouths closed by
boulders in a manner scarcely accidental, and with more than an average
quota of the queer prints leading both toward and away from them--if
indeed the direction of these prints could be justly estimated. And
worst of all, there were the things which adventurous people had seen
very rarely in the twilight of the remotest valleys and the dense
perpendicular woods above the limits of normal hill-climbing.

It would have been less uncomfortable if the stray accounts of these
things had not agreed so well. As it was, nearly all the rumors had
several points in common; averring that the creatures were a sort of
huge, light-red crab with many pairs of legs and with two great batlike
wings in the middle of the back. They sometimes walked on all their
legs, and sometimes on the hindmost pair only, using the others to
convey large objects of indeterminate nature. On one occasion they were
spied in considerable numbers, a detachment of them wading along a
shallow woodland watercourse three abreast in evidently disciplined
formation. Once a specimen was seen flying--launching itself from the
top of a bald, lonely hill at night and vanishing in the sky after its
great flapping wings had been silhouetted an instant against the full
moon

These things seemed content, on the whole, to let mankind alone;
though they were at times held responsible for the disappearance of
venturesome individuals--especially persons who built houses too close
to certain valleys or too high up on certain mountains. Many localities
came to be known as inadvisable to settle in, the feeling persisting
long after the cause was forgotten. People would look up at some of the
neighbouring mountain-precipices with a shudder, even when not
recalling how many settlers had been lost, and how many farmhouses
burnt to ashes, on the lower slopes of those grim, green sentinels.

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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2007, 12:59:17 am »

But while according to the earliest legends the creatures would
appear to have harmed only those trespassing on their privacy; there
were later accounts of their curiosity respecting men, and of their
attempts to establish secret outposts in the human world. There were
tales of the queer claw-prints seen around farmhouse windows in the
morning, and of occasional disappearances in regions outside the
obviously haunted areas. Tales, besides, of buzzing voices in imitation
of human speech which made surprising offers to lone travelers on roads
and cart-paths in the deep woods, and of children frightened out of
their wits by things seen or heard where the primal forest pressed
close upon their door-yards. In the final layer of legends--the layer
just preceding the decline of superstition and the abandonment of close
contact with the dreaded places--there are shocked references to
hermits and remote farmers who at some period of life appeared to have
undergone a repellent mental change, and who were shunned and whispered
about as mortals who had sold themselves to the strange beings. In one
of the northeastern counties it seemed to be a fashion about 1800 to
accuse eccentric and unpopular recluses of being allies or
representatives of the abhorred things.

As to what the things were--explanations naturally varied. The
common name applied to them was "those ones," or "the old ones," though
other terms had a local and transient use. Perhaps the bulk of the
Puritan settlers set them down bluntly as familiars of the devil, and
made them a basis of awed theological speculation. Those with Celtic
legendry in their heritage--mainly the Scotch-Irish element of New
Hampshire, and their kindred who had settled in Vermont on Governor
Wentworth's colonial grants--linked them vaguely with the malign
fairies and "little people" of the bogs and raths, and protected
themselves with scraps of incantation handed down through many
generations. But the Indians had the most fantastic theories of all.
While different tribal legends differed, there was a marked consensus
of belief in certain vital particulars; it being unanimously agreed
that the creatures were not native to this earth.

The Pennacook myths, which were the most consistent and picturesque,
taught that the Winged Ones came from the Great Bear in the sky, and
had mines in our earthly hills whence they took a kind of stone they
could not get on any other world. They did not live here, said the
myths, but merely maintained outposts and flew back with vast cargoes
of stone to their own stars in the north. They harmed only those
earth-people who got too near them or spied upon them. Animals shunned
them through instinctive hatred, not because of being hunted. They
could not eat the things and animals of earth, but brought their own
food from the stars. It was bad to get near them, and sometimes young
hunters who went into their hills never came back. It was not good,
either, to listen to what they whispered at night in the forest with
voices like a bee's that tried to be like the voices of men. They knew
the speech of all kinds of men--Pennacooks, Hurons, men of the Five
Nations--but did not seem to have or need any speech of their own.
They talked with their heads, which changed colour in different ways to
mean different things.

All the legendry, of course, white and Indian alike, died down
during the nineteenth century, except for occasional atavistical
flareups. The ways of the Vermonters became settled; and once their
habitual paths and dwellings were established according to a certain
fixed plan, they remembered less and less what fears and avoidances had
determined that plan, and even that there had been any fears or
avoidances. Most people simply knew that certain hilly regions were
considered as highly unhealthy, unprofitable, and generally unlucky to
live in, and that the farther one kept from them the better off one
usually was. In time the ruts of custom and economic interest became so
deeply cut in approved places that there was no longer any reason for
going outside them, and the haunted hills were left deserted by
accident rather than by design. Save during infrequent local scares,
only wonder-loving grandmothers and retrospective nonagenarians ever
whispered of beings dwelling in those hills; and even such whispers
admitted that there was not much to fear from those things now that
they were used to the presence of houses and settlements, and now that
human beings let their chosen territory severely alone.

All this I had long known from my reading, and from certain folk
tales picked up in New Hampshire; hence when the flood-time rumours
began to appear, I could easily guess what imaginative background had
evolved them. I took great pains to explain this to my friends, and was
correspondingly amused when several contentious souls continued to
insist on a possible element of truth in the reports. Such persons
tried to point out that the early legends had a significant persistence
and uniformity, and that the virtually unexplored nature of the Vermont
hills made it unwise to be dogmatic about what might or might not dwell
among them; nor could they be silenced by my assurance that all the
myths were of a well-known pattern common to most of mankind and
determined by early phases of imaginative experience which always
produced the same type of delusion.

It was of no use to demonstrate to such opponents that the Vermont
myths differed but little in essence from those universal legends of
natural personification which filled the ancient world with fauns and
dryads and satyrs, suggested the kallikanzarai of modern Greece, and
gave to wild Wales and Ireland their dark hints of strange, small, and
terrible hidden races of troglodytes and burrowers. No use, either, to
point out the even more startlingly similar belief of the Nepalese hill
tribes in the dreaded Mi-Go or "Abominable Snow-Men" who lurk hideously
amidst the ice and rock pinnacles of the Himalayan summits. When I
brought up this evidence, my opponents turned it against me by claiming
that it must imply some actual historicity for the ancient tales; that
it must argue the real existence of some queer elder earth-race, driven
to hiding after the advent and dominance of mankind, which might very
conceivably have survived in reduced numbers to relatively recent times
--or even to the present.

The more I laughed at such theories, the more these stubborn friends
asseverated them; adding that even without the heritage of legend the
recent reports were too clear, consistent, detailed, and sanely prosaic
in manner of telling, to be completely ignored. Two or three fanatical
extremists went so far as to hint at possible meanings in the ancient
Indian tales which gave the hidden beings a nonterrestrial origin;
citing the extravagant books of Charles Fort with their claims that
voyagers from other worlds and outer space have often visited the
earth. Most of my foes, however, were merely romanticists who insisted
on trying to transfer to real life the fantastic lore of lurking
"little people" made popular by the magnificent horror-fiction of
Arthur Machen.
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2007, 01:00:17 am »

II

As was only natural under the circumstances, this piquant debating
finally got into print in the form of letters to the Arkham Advertiser;
some of which were copied in the press of those Vermont regions whence
the flood-stories came. The Rutland Herald gave half a page of extracts
from the letters on both sides, while the Brattleboro Reformer
reprinted one of my long historical and mythological summaries in full,
with some accompanying comments in "The Pendrifter's" thoughtful column
which supported and applauded my skeptical conclusions. By the spring
of 1928 I was almost a well-known figure in Vermont, notwithstanding
the fact that I had never set foot in the state. Then came the
challenging letters from Henry Akeley which impressed me so profoundly,
and which took me for the first and last time to that fascinating realm
of crowded green precipices and muttering forest streams.

Most of what I know of Henry Wentworth Akeley was gathered by
correspondence with his neighbours, and with his only son in
California, after my experience in his lonely farmhouse. He was, I
discovered, the last representative on his home soil of a long, locally
distinguished line of jurists, administrators, and
gentlemen-agriculturists. In him, however, the family mentally had
veered away from practical affairs to pure scholarship; so that he had
been a notable student of mathematics, astronomy, biology,
anthropology, and folklore at the University of Vermont. I had never
previously heard of him, and he did not give many autobiographical
details in his communications; but from the first I saw he was a man of
character, education, and intelligence, albeit a recluse with very
little worldly sophistication.

Despite the incredible nature of what he claimed, I could not help
at once taking Akeley more seriously than I had taken any of the other
challengers of my views. For one thing, he was really close to the
actual phenomena--visible and tangible--that he speculated so
grotesquely about; and for another thing, he was amazingly willing to
leave his conclusions in a tenative state like a true man of science.
He had no personal preferences to advance, and was always guided by
what he took to be solid evidence. Of course I began by considering him
mistaken, but gave him credit for being intelligently mistaken; and at
no time did I emulate some of his friends in attributing his ideas, and
his fear of the lonely green hills, to insanity. I could see that there
was a great deal to the man, and knew that what he reported must surely
come from strange circumstance deserving investigation, however little
it might have to do with the fantastic causes he assigned. Later on I
received from him certain material proofs which placed the matter on a
somewhat different and bewilderingly bizarre basis.

I cannot do better than transcribe in full, so far as is possible,
the long letter in which Akeley introduced himself, and which formed
such an important landmark in my own intellectual history. It is no
longer in my possession, but my memory holds almost every word of its
portentous message; and again I affirm my confidence in the sanity of
the man who wrote it. Here is the text--a text which reached me in the
cramped, archaic-looking scrawl of one who had obviously not mingled
much with the world during his sedate, scholarly life.
R.F.D. #2,

Townshend, Windham Co., Vermont.
May 5,1928

Albert N. Wilmarth, Esq.,
118 Saltonstall St.,
Arkham, Mass.


My Dear Sir:

I have read with great interest the Brattleboro Reformer's
reprint (Apr. 23, '28) of your letter on the recent stories of strange
bodies seen floating in our flooded streams last fall, and on the
curious folklore they so well agree with. It is easy to see why an
outlander would take the position you take, and even why "Pendrifter"
agrees with you. That is the attitude generally taken by educated
persons both in and out of Vermont, and was my own attitude as a young
man (I am now 57) before my studies, both general and in Davenport's
book, led me to do some exploring in parts of the hills hereabouts not
usually visited.

I was directed toward such studies by the queer old tales I used to
hear from elderly farmers of the more ignorant sort, but now I wish I
had let the whole matter alone. I might say, with all proper modesty,
that the subject of anthropology and folklore is by no means strange to
me. I took a good deal of it at college, and am familiar with most of
the standard authorities such as Tylor, Lubbock, Frazer, Quatrefages,
Murray, Osborn, Keith, Boule, G. Elliott Smith, and so on. It is no
news to me that tales of hidden races are as old as all mankind. I have
seen the reprints of letters from you, and those agreeing with you, in
the Rutland Herald, and guess I know about where your controversy stands
at the present time.

What I desire to say now is, that I am afraid your adversaries are
nearer right than yourself, even though all reason seems to be on your
side. They are nearer right than they realise themselves--for of
course they go only by theory, and cannot know what I know. If I knew
as little of the matter as they, I would feel justified in believing as
they do. I would be wholly on your side.

You can see that I am having a hard time getting to the point,
probably because I really dread getting to the point; but the upshot of
the matter is that I have certain evidence that monstrous things do indeed
live in the woods on the high hills which nobody visits.
I have not seen any of the things floating in the rivers, as reported,
but I have seen things like them under circumstances I dread to repeat.
I have seen footprints, and of late have seen them nearer my own home
(I live in the old Akeley place south of Townshend Village, on the side
of Dark Mountain) than I dare tell you now. And I have overheard voices
in the woods at certain points that I will not even begin to describe
on paper.

At one place I heard them so much that I took a phonograph
therewith a dictaphone attachment and wax blank--and I shall try to
arrange to have you hear the record I got. I have run it on the machine
for some of the old people up here, and one of the voices had nearly
scared them paralysed by reason of its likeness to a certain voice
(that buzzing voice in the woods which Davenport mentions) that their
grandmothers have told about and mimicked for them. I know what most
people think of a man who tells about "hearing voices"--but before you
draw conclusions just listen to this record and ask some of the older
backwoods people what they think of it. If you can account for it
normally, very well; but there must be something behind it. Ex nihilo
nihil fit, you know.

Now my object in writing you is not to start an argument but to
give you information which I think a man of your tastes will find
deeply interesting. This is private. Publicly I am on your side,
for certain things show me that it does not do for people to know too
much about these matters. My own studies are now wholly private, and I
would not think of saying anything to attract people's attention and
cause them to visit the places I have explored. It is true--terribly
true--that there are non-human creatures watching us all the time; with
spies among us gathering information. It is from a wretched man who, if
he was sane (as I think he was) was one of those spies, that I got a
large part of my clues to the matter. He later killed himself, but I
have reason to think there are others now.

The things come from another planet, being able to live in interstellar
space and fly through it on clumsy, powerful wings which have a way of
resisting the aether but which are too poor at steering to be of
much use in helping them about on earth. I will tell you about
this later if you do not dismiss me at once as a madman. They
come here to get metals from mines that go deep under the hills,
and I think I know where they come from. They will not hurt us
if we let them alone, but no one can say what will happen if we
get too curious about them. Of course a good army of men could
wipe out their mining colony. That is what they are afraid of.
But if that happened, more would come from outside--any number
of them. They could easily conquer the earth, but have not tried
so far because they have not needed to. They would rather leave
things as they are to save bother.

I think they mean to get rid of me because of what I have
discovered. There is a great black stone with unknown hieroglyphics
half worn away which I found in the woods on Round Hill, east of here;
and after I took it home everything became different. If they think I
suspect too much they will either kill me or take me off the earth to
where they come from. They like to take away men of learning once in
a while, to keep informed on the state of things in the human world.

This leads me to my secondary purpose in addressing you--namely,
to urge you to hush up the present debate rather than give it more
publicity. People must be kept away from these hills, and in
order to effect this, their curiosity ought not to be aroused any
further. Heaven knows there is peril enough anyway, with promoters and
real estate men flooding Vermont with herds of summer people to overrun
the wild places and cover the hills with cheap bungalows.

I shall welcome further communication with you, and shall try to
send you that phonograph record and black stone (which is so worn that
photographs don't show much) by express if you are willing. I say "try"
because I think those creatures have a way of tampering with things
around here. There is a sullen furtive fellow named Brown, on a farm
near the village, who I think is their spy. Little by little they are
trying to cut me off from our world because I know too much about their
world.

They have the most amazing way of finding out what I do. You may
not even get this letter. I think I shall have to leave this part of
the country and go live with my son in San Diego, Cal., if things get
any worse, but it is not easy to give up the place you were born in,
and where your family has lived for six generations. Also, I would
hardly dare sell this house to anybody now that the creatures have
taken notice of it. They seem to be trying to get the black stone back
and destroy the phonograph record, but I shall not let them if I can
help it. My great police dogs always hold them back, for there are very
few here as yet, and they are clumsy in getting about. As I have said,
their wings are not much use for short flights on earth. I am on the
very brink of deciphering that stone--in a very terrible way--and
with your knowledge of folklore you may be able to supply the missing
links enough to help me. I suppose you know all about the fearful myths
antedating the coming of man to the earth--the Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu
cycles--which are hinted at in the Necronomicon. I had access to a copy
of that once, and hear that you have one in your college library under
lock and key.

To conclude, Mr. Wilmarth, I think that with our respective studies
we can be very useful to each other. I don't wish to put you in any
peril, and suppose I ought to warn you that possession of the stone and
the record won't be very safe; but I think you will find any risks
worth running for the sake of knowledge. I will drive down to Newfane
or Brattleboro to send whatever you authorize me to send, for the
express offices there are more to be trusted. I might say that I live
quite alone now, since I can't keep hired help any more. They won't
stay because of the things that try to get near the house at night, and
that keep the dogs barking continually. I am glad I didn't get as deep
as this into the business while my wife was alive, for it would have
driven her mad.

Hoping that I am not bothering you unduly, and that you will decide
to get in touch with me rather than throw this letter into the waste
basket as a madman's raving, I am

Yrs. very truly, Henry W. Akeley

P.S. I am making some extra prints of certain photographs taken by
me, which I think will help to prove a number of the points I have
touched on. The old people think they are monstrously true. I shall
send you these very soon if you are interested.

H. W. A.
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 01:01:23 am »

It would be difficult to describe my sentiments upon reading this
strange document for the first time. By all ordinary rules, I ought to
have laughed more loudly at these extravagances than at the far milder
theories which had previously moved me to mirth; yet something in the
tone of the letter made me take it with paradoxical seriousness. Not
that I believed for a moment in the hidden race from the stars which my
correspondent spoke of; but that, after some grave preliminary doubts,
I grew to feel oddly sure of his sanity and sincerity, and of his
confrontation by some genuine though singular and abnormal phenomenon
which he could not explain except in this imaginative way. It could not
be as he thought it, I reflected, yet on the other hand, it could not
be otherwise than worthy of investigation. The man seemed unduly
excited and alarmed about something, but it was hard to think that all
cause was lacking. He was so specific and logical in certain ways--and
after all, his yarn did fit in so perplexingly well with some of the
old myths--even the wildest Indian legends.

That he had really overheard disturbing voices in the hills, and had
really found the black stone he spoke about, was wholly possible
despite the crazy inferences he had made--inferences probably
suggested by the man who had claimed to be a spy of the outer beings
and had later killed himself. It was easy to deduce that this man must
have been wholly insane, but that he probably had a streak of perverse
outward logic which made the naive Akeley--already prepared for such
things by his folklore studies--believe his tale. As for the latest
developments--it appeared from his inability to keep hired help that
Akeley's humbler rustic neighbours were as convinced as he that his
house was besieged by uncanny things at night. The dogs really barked,
too.

And then the matter of that phonograph record, which I could not but
believe he had obtained in the way he said. It must mean something;
whether animal noises deceptively like human speech, or the speech of
some hidden, night-haunting human being decayed to a state not much
above that of lower animals. From this my thoughts went back to the
black hieroglyphed stone, and to speculations upon what it might mean.
Then, too, what of the photographs which Akeley said he was about to
send, and which the old people had found so convincingly terrible?

As I re-read the cramped handwriting I felt as never before that my
credulous opponents might have more on their side than I had conceded.
After all, there might be some queer and perhaps hereditarily misshapen
outcasts in those shunned hills, even though no such race of star-born
monsters as folklore claimed. And if there were, then the presence of
strange bodies in the flooded streams would not be wholly beyond
belief. Was it too presumptuous to suppose that both the old legends
and the recent reports had this much of reality behind them? But even
as I harboured these doubts I felt ashamed that so fantastic a piece of
bizarrerie as Henry Akeley's wild letter had brought them up.

In the end I answered Akeley's letter, adopting a tone of friendly
interest and soliciting further particulars. His reply came almost by
return mail; and contained, true to promise, a number of Kodak views of
scenes and objects illustrating what he had to tell. Glancing at these
pictures as I took them from the envelope, I felt a curious sense of
fright and nearness to forbidden things; for in spite of the vagueness
of most of them, they had a damnably suggestive power which was
intensified by the fact of their being genuine photographs--actual
optical links with what they portrayed, and the product of an
impersonal transmitting process without prejudice, fallibility, or
mendacity.

The more I looked at them, the more I saw that my senous estimate of
Akeley and his story had not been unjustified. Certainly, these
pictures carried conclusive evidence of something in the Vermont hills
which was at least vastly outside the radius of our common knowledge
and belief. The worst thing of all was the footprint--a view taken
where the sun shone on a mud patch somewhere in a deserted upland. This
was no cheaply counterfeited thing, I could see at a glance; for the
sharply defined pebbles and grassblades in the field of vision gave a
clear index of scale and left no possibility of a tricky double
exposure. I have called the thing a "footprint," but "claw-print" would
be a better term. Even now I can scarcely describe it save to say that
it was hideously crablike, and that there seemed to be some ambiguity
about its direction. It was not a very deep or fresh print, but seemed
to be about the size of an average man's foot. From a central pad,
pairs of saw-toothed nippers projected in opposite directions--quite
baffling as to function, if indeed the whole object were exclusively an
organ of locomotion.

Another photograph--evidently a time-exposure taken in deep shadow
--was of the mouth of a woodland cave, with a boulder of, rounded
regularity choking the aperture. On the bare ground in front of, it one
could just discern a dense network of curious tracks, and when I
studied the picture with a magnifier I felt uneasily sure that the
tracks were like the one in the other view. A third pictured showed a
druid-like circle of standing stones on the summit of a wild hill.
Around the cryptic circle the grass was very much beaten down and worn
away, though I could not detect any footprints even with the glass. The
extreme remoteness of the place was apparent from the veritable sea of
tenantless: mountains which formed the background and stretched away
toward a. misty horizon.

But if the most disturbing of all the views was that of the
footprint, the' most curiously suggestive was that of the great black
stone found in the Round Hill woods. Akeley had photographed it on what
was evidently his study table, for I could see rows of books and a bust
of Milton in the background. The thing, as nearly as one might guess,
had faced the camera vertically with a somewhat irregularly curved
surface of one by two feet; but to say anything definite about that
surface, or about the general shape of the whole mass, almost defies
the power of language. What outlandish geometrical principles had
guided its cutting--for artificially cut it surely was--I could not
even begin to guess; and never before had I seen anything which struck
me as so strangely and unmistakably alien to this world. Of the
hieroglyphics on the surface I could discern very few, but one or two
that I did see gave rather a shock. Of course they might be fraudulent,
for others besides myself had read the monstrous and abhorred
Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; but it nevertheless made
me shiver to recognise certain ideographs which study had taught me to
link with the most blood-curdling and blasphemous whispers of things
that had had a kind of mad half-existence before the earth and the
other inner worlds of the solar system were made.

Of the five remaining pictures, three were of swamp and hill scenes
which seemed to bear traces of hidden and unwholesome tenancy. Another
was of a queer mark in the ground very near Akeley's house, which he
said he had photographed the morning after a night on which the dogs
had barked more violently than usual. It was very blurred, and one
could really draw no certain conclusions from it; but it did seem
fiendishly like that other mark or claw-print photographed on the
deserted upland. The final picture was of the Akeley place itself; a
trim white house of two stories and attic, about a century and a
quarter old, and with a well-kept lawn and stone-bordered path leading
up to a tastefully carved Georgian doorway. There were several huge
police dogs on the lawn, squatting near a pleasant-faced man with a
close-cropped grey beard whom I took to be Akeley himself--his own
photographer, one might infer from the tube-connected bulb in his right
hand.

From the pictures I turned to the bulky, closely-written letter
itself; and for the next three hours was immersed in a gulf of
unutterable horror. Where Akeley had given only outlines before, he now
entered into minute details; presenting long transcripts of words
overheard in the woods at night, long accounts of monstrous pinkish
forms spied in thickets at twilight on the hills, and a terrible cosmic
narrative derived from the application of profound and varied
scholarship to the endless bygone discourses of the mad self-styled spy
who had killed himself. I found myself faced by names and terms that I
had heard elsewhere in the most hideous of connections--Yuggoth, Great
Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, YogSothoth, R'lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth,
Hastur, Yian, Leng, the Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign,
L'mur-Kathulos, Bran, and the Magnum Innominandum--and was drawn back
through nameless aeons and inconceivable dimensions to worlds of elder,
outer entity at which the crazed author of the Necronomicon had only
guessed in the vaguest way. I was told of the pits of primal life, and
of the streams that had trickled down therefrom; and finally, of the
tiny rivulets from one of those streams which had become entangled with
the destinies of our own earth.

My brain whirled; and where before I had attempted to explain things
away, I now began to believe in the most abnormal and incredible
wonders. The array of vital evidence was damnably vast and
overwhelming; and the cool, scientific attitude of Akeley--an attitude
removed as far as imaginable from the demented, the fanatical, the
hysterical, or even the. extravagantly speculative--had a tremendous
effect on my thought and judgment. By the time I laid the frightful
letter aside I could understand the fears he had come to entertain, and
was ready to do anything in my power to keep people away from those
wild, haunted hills. Even now, when time has dulled the impression and
made me half-question my own experience and horrible doubts, there are
things in that letter of Akeley's which I would not quote, or even form
into words on paper. I am almost glad that the letter and record and
photographs are gone now--and I wish, for reasons I shall soon make
clear, that the new planet beyond Neptune had not been discovered.

With the reading of that letter my public debating about the Vermont
horror permanently ended. Arguments from opponents remained unanswered
or put off with promises, and eventually the controversy petered out
into oblivion. During late May and June I was in constant
correspondence with Akeley; though once in a while a letter would be
lost, so that we would have to retrace our ground and perform
considerable laborious copying. What we were trying to do, as a whole,
was to compare notes in matters of obscure mythological scholarship and
arrive at a clearer correlation of the Vermont horrors with the general
body of primitive world legend.

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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2007, 01:02:41 am »

For one thing, we virtually decided that these morbidities and the
hellish Himalayan Mi-Go were one and the same order of incarnated
nightmare. There was also absorbing zoological conjectures, which I
would have referred to Professor Dexter in my own college but for
Akeley's imperative command to tell no one of the matter before us. If
I seem to disobey that command now, it is only because I think that at
this stage a warning about those farther Vermont hills--and about
those Himalayan peaks which bold explorers are more and more determined
to ascend--is more conducive to public safety than silence would be.
One specific thing we were leading up to was a deciphering of the
hieroglyphics on that infamous black stone--a deciphering which might
well place us in possession of secrets deeper and more dizzying than
any formerly known to man.


III

Toward the end of June the phonograph record came--shipped from
Brattleboro, since Akeley was unwilling to trust conditions on the
branch line north of there. He had begun to feel an increased sense of
espionage, aggravated by the loss of some of our letters; and said much
about the insidious deeds of certain men whom he considered tools and
agents of the hidden beings. Most of all he suspected the surly farmer
Walter Brown, who lived alone on a run-down hillside place near the
deep woods, and who was often seen loafing around corners in
Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Newfane, and South Londonderry in the most
inexplicable and seemingly unmotivated way. Brown's voice, he felt
convinced, was one of those he had overheard on a certain occasion in a
very terrible conversation; and he had once found a footprint or
clawprint near Brown's house which might possess the most ominous
significance. It had been curiously near some of Brown's own footprints
--footprints that faced toward it.

So the record was shipped from Brattleboro, whither Akeley drove in
his Ford car along the lonely Vermont back roads. He confessed in an
accompanying note that he was beginning to be afraid of those roads,
and that he would not even go into Townshend for supplies now except in
broad daylight. It did not pay, he repeated again and again, to know
too much unless one were very remote from those silent and
problematical hills. He would be going to California pretty soon to
live with his son, though it was hard to leave a place where all one's
memories and ancestral feelings centered.

Before trying the record on the commercial machine which I borrowed
from the college administration building I carefully went over all the
explanatory matter in Akeley's various letters. This record, he had
said, was obtained about 1 A.M. on the 1st of May, 1915, near the
closed mouth of a cave where the wooded west slope of Dark Mountain
rises out of Lee's swamp. The place had always been unusually plagued
with strange voices, this being the reason he had brought the
phonograph, dictaphone, and blank in expectation of results. Former
experience had told him that May Eve--the hideous Sabbat-night of
underground European legend--would probably be more fruitful than any
other date, and he was not disappointed. It was noteworthy, though,
that he never again heard voices at that particular spot.

Unlike most of the overheard forest voices, the substance of the
record was quasi-ritualistic, and included one palpably human voice
which Akeley had never been able to place. It was not Brown's, but
seemed to be that of a man of greater cultivation. The second voice,
however, was the real crux of the thing--for this was the accursed
buzzing which had no likeness to humanity despite the human words which
it uttered in good English grammar and a scholarly accent.

The recording phonograph and dictaphone had not worked uniformly
well, and had of course been at a great disadvantage because of the
remote and muffled nature of the overheard ritual; so that the actual
speech secured was very fragmentary. Akeley had given me a transcript
of what he believed the spoken words to be, and I glanced through this
again as I prepared the machine for action. The text was darkly
mysterious rather than openly horrible, though a knowledge of its
origin and manner of gathering gave it all the associative horror which
any words could well possess. I will present it here in full as I
remember it--and I am fairly confident that I know it correctly by
heart, not only from reading the transcript, but from playing the
record itself over and over again. It is not a thing which one might
readily forget!
(Indistinguishable Sounds)

(A Cultivated Male Human Voice)

...is the Lord of the Wood, even to...and the gifts of the men of
Leng...so from the wells of night to the gulfs of space, and from the
gulfs of space to the wells of night, ever the praises of Great
Cthulhu, of Tsathoggua, and of Him Who is not to be Named. Ever Their
praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Ia!
Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!

(A Buzzing Imitation of Human Speech)

Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

(Human Voice)

And it has come to pass that the Lord of the Woods, being...seven
and nine, down the onyx steps...(tri)butes to Him in the Gulf,
Azathoth, He of Whom Thou has taught us marv(els)...on the wings of
night out beyond space, out beyond th...to That whereof Yuggoth is the
youngest child, rolling alone in black aether at the rim...

(Buzzing Voice)

...go out among men and find the ways thereof, that He in the Gulf
may know. To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told.
And He shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe
that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock...

(Human Voice)

(Nyarl)athotep, Great Messenger, bringer of strange joy to Yuggoth
through the void, Father of the Million Favoured Ones, Stalker among...

(Speech Cut Off by End of Record)

Such were the words for which I was to listen when I started the
phonograph. It was with a trace of genuine dread and reluctance that I
pressed the lever and heard the preliminary scratching of the sapphire
point, and I was glad that the first faint, fragmentary words were in a
human voice--a mellow, educated voice which seemed vaguely Bostonian
in accent, and which was certainly not that of any native of the
Vermont hills. As I listened to the tantalisingly feeble rendering, I
seemed to find the speech identical with Akeley's carefully prepared
transcript. On it chanted, in that mellow Bostonian voice..."Ia!
Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!..."

And then I heard the other voice. To this hour I shudder
retrospectively when I think of how it struck me, prepared though I was
by Akeley's accounts. Those to whom I have since described the record
profess to find nothing but cheap imposture or madness in it; but could
they have the accursed thing itself, or read the bulk of Akeley's
correspondence, (especially that terrible and encyclopaedic second
letter), I know they would think differently. It is, after all, a
tremendous pity that I did not disobey Akeley and play the record for
others--a tremendous pity, too, that all of his letters were lost. To
me, with my first-hand impression of the actual sounds, and with my
knowledge of the background and surrounding circumstances, the voice
was a monstrous thing. It swiftly followed the human voice in
ritualistic response, but in my imagination it was a morbid echo
winging its way across unimaginable abysses from unimaginable outer
hells. It is more than two years now since I last ran off that
blasphemous waxen cylinder; but at this moment, and at all other
moments, I can still hear that feeble, fiendish buzzing as it reached
me for the first time.

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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2007, 01:03:42 am »

"Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!"

But though the voice is always in my ears, I have not even yet been
able to analyse it well enough for a graphic description. It was like
the drone of some loathsome, gigantic insect ponderously shaped into
the articulate speech of an alien species, and I am perfectly certain
that the organs producing it can have no resemblance to the vocal
organs of man, or indeed to those of any of the mammalia. There were
singularities in timbre, range, and overtones which placed this
phenomenon wholly outside the sphere of humanity and earth-life. Its
sudden advent that first time almost stunned me, and I heard the rest
of the record through in a sort of abstracted daze. When the longer
passage of buzzing came, there was a sharp intensification of that
feeling of blasphemous infinity which had struck me during the shorter
and earlier passage. At last the record ended abruptly, during an
unusually clear speech of the human and Bostonian voice; but I sat
stupidly staring long after the machine had automatically stopped.

I hardly need say that I gave that shocking record many another
playing, and that I made exhaustive attempts at analysis and comment in
comparing notes with Akeley. It would be both useless and disturbing to
repeat here all that we concluded; but I may hint that we agreed in
believing we had secured a clue to the source of some of the most
repulsive primordial customs in the cryptic elder religions of mankind.
It seemed plain to us, also, that there were ancient and elaborate
alliance; between the hidden outer creatures and certain members of the
human race. How extensive these alliances were, and how their state
today might compare with their state in earlier ages, we had no means
of’ guessing; yet at best there was room for a limitless amount of
horrified speculation. There seemed to be an awful, immemorial linkage
in several definite stages betwixt man and nameless infinity. The
blasphemies which appeared on earth, it was hinted, came from the dark
planet Yuggoth, at the rim of the solar system; but this was itself
merely the populous outpost of a frightful interstellar race whose
ultimate source must lie far outside even the Einsteinian space-time
continuum or greatest known cosmos.

Meanwhile we continued to discuss the black stone and the best way
of getting it to Arkham--Akeley deeming it inadvisable to have me
visit him at the scene of his nightmare studies. For some reason or
other, Akeley was afraid to trust the thing to any ordinary or expected
transportation route. His final idea was to take it across country to
Bellows Falls and ship it on the Boston and Maine system through Keene
and Winchendon and Fitchburg, even though this would necessitate his
driving along somewhat lonelier and more forest-traversing hill roads
than the main highway to Brattleboro. He said he had noticed a man
around the express office at Brattleboro when he had sent the
phonograph record, whose actions and expression had been far from
reassuring. This man had seemed too anxious to talk with the clerks,
and had taken the train on which the record was shipped. Akeley
confessed that he had not felt strictly at ease about that record until
he heard from me of its safe receipt.

About this time--the second week in July--another letter of mine
went astray, as I learned through an anxious communication from Akeley.
After that he told me to address him no more at Townshend, but to send
all mail in care of the General Delivery at Brattleboro; whither he
would make frequent trips either in his car or on the motor-coach line
which had lately replaced passenger service on the lagging branch
railway. I could see that he was getting more and more anxious, for he
went into much detail about the increased barking of the dogs on
moonless nights, and about the fresh claw-prints he sometimes found in
the road and in the mud at the back of his farmyard when morning came.
Once he told about a veritable army of prints drawn up in a line facing
an equally thick and resolute line of dog-tracks, and sent a
loathsomely disturbing Kodak picture to prove it. That was after a
night on which the dogs had outdone themselves in barking and howling.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 18, I received a telegram from
Bellows Falls, in which Akeley said he was expressing the black stone
over the B. & M. on Train No. 5508, leaving Bellows Falls at 12:15
P.M., standard time, and due at the North Station in Boston at 4:12
P.M. It ought, I calculated, to get up to Arkham at least by the next
noon; and accordingly I stayed in all Thursday morning to receive it.
But noon came and went without its advent, and when I telephoned down
to the express office I was informed that no shipment for me had
arrived. My next act, performed amidst a growing alarm, was to give a
long-distance call to the express agent at the Boston North Station;
and I was scarcely surprised to learn that my consignment had not
appeared. Train No. 5508 had pulled in only 35 minutes late on the day
before, but had contained no box addressed to me. The agent promised,
however, to institute a searching inquiry; and I ended the day by
sending Akeley a night-letter outlining the situation.

With commendable promptness a report came from the Boston office on
the following afternoon, the agent telephoning as soon as he learned
the facts. It seemed that the railway express clerk on No. 5508 had
been able to recall an incident which might have much bearing on my
loss--an argument with a very curious-voiced man, lean, sandy, and
rustic-looking, when the train was waiting at Keene, N. H., shortly
after one o’clock standard time. The man, he said, was greatly excited
about a heavy box which he claimed to expect, but which was neither on
the train nor entered on the company’s books. He had given the name of
Stanley Adams, and had had such a queerly thick droning voice, that it
made the clerk abnormally dizzy and sleepy to listen to him. The clerk
could not remember quite how the conversation had ended, but recalled
starting into a fuller awakeness when the train began to move. The
Boston agent added that this clerk was a young man of wholly
unquestioned veracity and reliability, of known antecedents and long
with the company.

That evening I went to Boston to interview the clerk in person,
having obtained his name and address from the office. He was a frank,
prepossessing fellow, but I saw that he could add nothing to his
original account. Oddly, he was scarcely sure that he could even
recognise the strange inquirer again. Realising that he had no more to
tell, I returned to Arkham and sat up till morning writing letters to
Akeley, to the express company and to the police department and station
agent in Keene. I felt that the strange-voiced man who had so queerly
affected the clerk must have a pivotal place in the ominous business,
and hoped that Keene station employees and telegraph-office records
might tell something about him and about how he happened to make his
inquiry when and where he did.

I must admit, however, that all my investigations came to nothing.
The queer-voiced man had indeed been noticed around the Keene station
in the early afternoon of July 18, and one lounger seemed to couple him
vaguely with a heavy box; but he was altogether unknown, and had not
been seen before or since. He had not visited the telegraph office or
received any message so far as could be learned, nor had any message
which might justly be considered a notice of the black stone’s presence
on No. 5508 come through the office for anyone. Naturally Akeley joined
with me in conducting these inquiries, and even made a personal trip to
Keene to question the people around the station; but his attitude
toward the matter was more fatalistic than mine. He seemed to find the
loss of the box a portentous and menacing fulfillment of inevitable
tendencies, and had no real hope at all of its recovery. He spoke of
the undoubted telepathic and hypnotic powers of the hill creatures and
their agents, and in one letter hinted that he did not believe the
stone was on this earth any longer. For my part, I was duly enraged,
for I had felt there was at least a chance of learning profound and
astonishing things from the old, blurred hieroglyphs. The matter would
have rankled bitterly in my mind had not Akeley’s immediately
subsequent letters brought up a new phase of the whole horrible hill
problem which at once seized all my attention.


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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2007, 01:04:29 am »

IV

The unknown things, Akeley wrote in a script grown pitifully
tremulous, had begun to close in on him with a wholly new degree of
determination. The nocturnal barking of the dogs whenever the moon. was
dim or absent was hideous now, and there had been attempts to molest
him on the lonely roads he had to traverse by day. On the second of
August, while bound for the village in his car, he had found a
tree-trunk laid in his path at a point where the highway ran through a
deep patch of woods; while the savage barking of the two great dogs he
had with him told all too well of the things which must have been
lurking near. What would have happened had the dogs not been there, he
did not dare guess--but he never went out now without at least two of
his faithful and powerful pack. Other road experiences had occurred on
August fifth and sixth; a shot grazing his car on one occasion, and the
barking of the dogs telling of unholy woodland presences on the other.

On August fifteenth I received a frantic letter which disturbed me
greatly, and which made me wish Akeley could put aside his lonely
reticence and call in the aid of the law. There had been frightful
happening on the night of the 12-13th, bullets flying outside the
farmhouse, and three of the twelve great dogs being found shot dead in
the morning. There were myriads of claw-prints in the road, with the
human prints of Walter Brown among them. Akeley had started to
telephone to Brattleboro for more dogs, but the wire had gone dead
before he had a chance to say much. Later he went to Brattleboro in his
car, and learned there that linemen had found the main cable neatly cut
at a point where it ran through the deserted hills north of Newfane.
But he was about to start home with four fine new dogs, and several
cases of ammunition for his big-game repeating rifle. The letter was
written at the post office in Brattleboro, and came through to me
without delay.

My attitude toward the matter was by this time quickly slipping from
a scientific to an alarmedly personal one. I was afraid for Akeley in
his remote, lonely farmhouse, and half afraid for myself because of my
now definite connection with the strange hill problem. The thing was
reaching out so. Would it suck me in and engulf me? In replying to his
letter I urged him to seek help, and hinted that I might take action
myself if he did not. I spoke of visiting Vermont in person in spite of
his wishes, and of helping him explain the situation to the proper
authorities. In return, however, I received only a telegram from
Bellows Falls which read thus:

APPRECIATE YOUR POSITION BUT CAN DO NOTHING TAKE NO ACTION YOURSELF FOR
IT COULD ONLY HARM BOTH WAIT FOR EXPLANATION

HENRY AKELY

But the affair was steadily deepening. Upon my replying to the
telegram I received a shaky note from Akeley with the astonishing news
that he had not only never sent the wire, but had not received the
letter from me to which it was an obvious reply. Hasty inquiries by him
at Bellows Falls had brought out that the message was deposited by a
strange sandy-haired man with a curiously thick, droning voice, though
more than this he could not learn. The clerk showed him the original
text as scrawled in pencil by the sender, but the handwriting was
wholly unfamiliar. It was noticeable that the signature was
misspelled--A-K-E-L-Y, without the second "E." Certain conjectures
were inevitable, but amidst the obvious crisis he did not stop to
elaborate upon them,

He spoke of the death of more dogs and the purchase of still others,
and of the exchange of gunfire which had become a settled feature each
moonless night. Brown’s prints, and the prints of at least one or two
more shod human figures, were now found regularly among the claw-prints
in the road, and at the back of the farmyard. It was, Akeley admitted,
a pretty bad business; and before long he would probably have to go to
live with his California son whether or not he could sell the old
place. But it was not easy to leave the only spot one could really
think of as home. He must try to hang on a little longer; perhaps he
could scare off the intruders--especially if he openly gave up all
further attempts to penetrate their secrets.

Writing Akeley at once, I renewed my offers of aid, and spoke again
of visiting him and helping him convince the authorities of his dire
peril. In his reply he seemed less set against that plan than his past
attitude would have led one to predict, but said he would like to hold
off a little while longer--long enough to get his things in order and
reconcile himself to the idea of leaving an almost morbidly cherished
birthplace. People looked askance at his studies and speculations and
it would be better to get quietly off without setting the countryside
in a turmoil and creating widespread doubts of his own sanity. He had
had enough, he admitted, but he. wanted to make a dignified exit if he
could.

This letter reached me on the 28th of August, and I prepared and
mailed as encouraging a reply as I could. Apparently the encouragement
had effect, for Akeley had fewer terrors to report when he acknowledged
my note. He was not very optimistic, though, and expressed the belief
that it was only the full moon season which was holding the creatures
off. He hoped there would not be many densely cloudy nights, and talked
vaguely of boarding in Brattleboro when the moon waned. Again I wrote
him encouragingly but on September 5th there came a fresh communication
which had obviously crossed my letter in the mails; and to this I could
not give any such hopeful response. In view of its importance I believe
I had better give it in full--as best I can do from memory of the
shaky script. It ran substantially as follows:

Monday

Dear Wilmarth

A rather discouraging P. S. to my last. Last night was thickly
cloudy--though no rain--and not a bit of moonlight got through.
Things were pretty bad, and I think the end is getting near, in spite
of all we have hoped. After midnight something landed on the roof of
the house, and the dogs all rushed up to see what it was. I could hear
them snapping and tearing around, and then one managed to get on the
roof by jumping from the low ell. There was a terrible fight up there,
and I heard a frightful buzzing which I’ll never forget. And then there
was a shocking smell. About the same time bullets came through the
window and nearly grazed me. I think the main line of the hill
creatures had got close to the house when the dogs divided because of
the roof business. What was up there I don’t know yet, but I’m afraid
the creatures are learning to steer better with their space wings. I
put out the light and used the windows for loopholes, and raked all
around the house with rifle fire aimed just high enough not to hit the
dogs. That seemed to end the business, but in the morning I found great
pools of blood in the yard, besides pools of a green sticky stuff that
had the worst odour I have ever smelled. I climbed up on the roof and
found more of the sticky stuff there. Five of the dogs were killed--
I’m afraid I hit one myself by aiming too low, for he was shot in the
back. Now I am setting the panes the shots broke, and am going to
Brattleboro for more dogs. I guess the men at the kennels think I am
crazy. Will drop another note later. Suppose I’ll be ready for moving
in a week or two, though it nearly kills me to think of it.

Hastily--Akeley

But this was not the only letter from Akeley to cross mine. On the
next morning--September 6th--still another came; this time a frantic
scrawl which utterly unnerved me and put me at a loss what to say or do
next. Again I cannot do better than quote the text as faithfully as
memory will let me.
Tuesday

Clouds didn’t break, so no moon again--and going into the wane
anyhow. I’d have the house wired for electricity and put in a
searchlight if I didn’t know they’d cut the cables as fast as they
could be mended.

I think I am going crazy. It may be that all I have ever written
you is a dream or madness. It was bad enough before, but this time it
is too much. They talked to me last night--talked in that cursed
buzzing voice and told me things that I dare not repeat to you. I heard
them plainly above the barking of the dogs, and once when they were
drowned out a human voice helped them. Keep out of this, Wilmarth--it
is worse than either you or I ever suspected. They don’t mean to let me
get to California now--they want to take me off alive, or what
theoretically and mentally amounts to alive--not only to Yuggoth, but
beyond that--away outside the galaxy and possibly beyond the last
curved rim of space. I told them I wouldn’t go where they wish, or in
the terrible way they propose to take me, but I’m afraid it will be no
use. My place is so far out that they may come by day as well as by
night before long. Six more dogs killed, and I felt presences all along
the wooded parts of the road when I drove to Brattleboro today. It was
a mistake for me to try to send you that phonograph record and black
stone. Better smash the record before it’s too late. Will drop you
another line tomorrow if I’m still here. Wish I could arrange to get my
books and things to Brattleboro and board there. I would run off
without anything if I could but something inside my mind holds me back.
I can slip out to Brattleboro, where I ought to be safe, but I feel
just as much a prisoner there as at the house. And I seem to know that
I couldn’t get much farther even if I dropped everything and tried. It
is horrible--don’t get mixed up in this.

Yrs--Akeley

I did not sleep at all the night after receiving this terrible
thing, and was utterly baffled as to Akeley’s remaining degree of
sanity. The substance of the note was wholly insane, yet the manner of
expression--in view of all that had gone before--had a grimly potent
quality of convincingness. I made no attempt to answer it, thinking it
better to wait until Akeley might have time to reply to my latest
communication. Such a reply indeed came on the following day, though
the fresh material in it quite overshadowed any of the points brought
up by the letter nominally answered. Here is what I recall of the text,
scrawled and blotted as it was in the course of a plainly frantic and
hurried composition.
Wednesday

W--

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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2007, 01:05:11 am »

Your letter came, but it’s no use to discuss anything any more. I
am fully resigned. Wonder that I have even enough will power left to
fight them off. Can’t escape even if I were willing to give up
everything and run. They’ll get me.

Had a letter from them yesterday--R.F.D. man brought it while I
was at Brattleboro. Typed and postmarked Bellows Falls. Tells what they
want to do with me--I can’t repeat it. Look out for yourself, too!
Smash that record. Cloudy nights keep up, and moon waning all the time.
Wish I dared to get help--it might brace up my will power--but
everyone who would dare to come at all would call me crazy unless there
happened to be some proof. Couldn’t ask people to come for no reason at
all--am all out of touch with everybody and have been for years.

But I haven’t told you the worst, Wilmarth. Brace up to read this,
for it will give you a shock. I am telling the truth, though. It is
this--I have seen and touched one of the things, or part of one of the
things. God, man, but it’s awful! It was dead, of course. One of the
dogs had it, and I found it near the kennel this morning. I tried to
save it in the woodshed to convince people of the whole thing, but it
all evaporated in a few hours. Nothing left. You know, all those things
in the rivers were seen only on the first morning after the flood. And
here’s the worst. I tried to photograph it for you, but when I
developed the film there wasn’t anything visible except the woodshed.
What can the thing have been made of? I saw it and felt it, and they
all leave footprints. It was surely made of matter--but what kind of
matter? The shape can’t be described. It was a great crab with a lot of
pyramided fleshy rings or knots of thick, ropy stuff covered with
feelers where a man’s head would be. That green sticky stuff is its
blood or juice. And there are more of them due on earth any minute.

Walter Brown is missing--hasn’t been seen loafing around any of
his usual corners in the villages hereabouts. I must have got him with
one of my shots, though the creatures always seem to try to take their
dead and wounded away.

Got into town this afternoon without any trouble, but am afraid
they’re beginning to hold off because they’re sure of me. Am writing
this in Brattleboro P. 0. This may be goodbye--if it is, write my son
George Goodenough Akeley, 176 Pleasant St., San Diego, Cal., but don’t
come up here. Write the boy if you don’t hear from me in a week, and
watch the papers for news.

I’m going to play my last two cards now--if I have the will power
left. First to try poison gas on the things (I’ve got the right
chemicals and have fixed up masks for myself and the dogs) and then if
that doesn’t work, tell the sheriff. They can lock me in a madhouse if
they want to--it’ll be better than what the other creatures would do.
Perhaps I can get them to pay attention to the prints around the house
--they are faint, but I can find them every morning. Suppose, though,
police would say I faked them somehow; for they all think I’m a queer
character.

Must try to have a state policeman spend a night here and see for
himself--though it would be just like the creatures to learn about it
and hold off that night. They cut my wires whenever I try to telephone
in the night--the linemen think it is very queer, and may testify for
me if they don’t go and imagine I cut them myself. I haven’t tried to
keep them repaired for over a week now.

I could get some of the ignorant people to testify for me about the
reality of the horrors, but everybody laughs at what they say, and
anyway, they have shunned my place for so long that they don’t know any
of the new events. You couldn’t get one of those rundown farmers to
come within a mile of my house for love or money. The mail-carrier
hears what they say and jokes me about it--God! If I only dared tell
him how real it is! I think I’ll try to get him to notice the prints,
but he comes in the afternoon and they’re usually about gone by that
time. If I kept one by setting a box or pan over it, he’d think surely
it was a fake or joke.

Wish I hadn’t gotten to be such a hermit, so folks don’t drop
around as they used to. I’ve never dared show the black stone or the
Kodak pictures, or play that record, to anybody but the ignorant
people. The others would say I faked the whole business and do nothing
but laugh. But I may yet try showing the pictures. They give those
claw-prints clearly, even if the things that made them can’t be
photographed. What a shame nobody else saw that thing this morning
before it went to nothing!

But I don’t know as I care. After what I’ve been through, a
madhouse is as good a place as any. The doctors can help me make up my
mind to get away from this house, and that is all that will save me.


Write my son George if you don’t hear soon. Goodbye, smash that record,
and don’t mix up in this.

Yrs--Akeley

This letter frankly plunged me into the blackest of terror. I did
not know what to say in answer, but scratched off some incoherent words
of advice and encouragement and sent them by registered mail. I recall
urging Akeley to move to Brattleboro at once, and place himself under
the protection of the authorities; adding that I would come to that
town with the phonograph record and help convince the courts of his
sanity. It was time, too, I think I wrote, to alarm the people
generally against this thing in their midst. It will be observed that
at this moment of stress my own belief in all Akeley had told and
claimed was virtually complete, though I did think his failure to get a
picture of the dead monster was due not to any freak of Nature but to
some excited slip of his own.

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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2007, 01:06:01 am »

V

Then, apparently crossing my incoherent note and reaching me
Saturday afternoon, September 8th, came that curiously different and
calming letter neatly typed on a new machine; that strange letter of
reassurance and invitation which must have marked so prodigious a
transition in the whole nightmare drama of the lonely hills. Again I
will quote from memory--seeking for special reasons to preserve as
much of the flavour of the style as I can. It was postmarked Bellows
Falls, and the signature as well as the body of the letter was typed--
as is frequent with beginners in typing. The text, though, was
marvellously accurate for a tyro’s work; and I concluded that Akeley
must have used a machine at some previous period--perhaps in college.
To say that the letter relieved me would be only fair, yet beneath my
relief lay a substratum of uneasiness. If Akeley had been sane in his
terror, was he now sane in his deliverance? And the sort of "improved
rapport" mentioned...what was it? The entire thing implied such a
diametrical reversal of Akeley’s previous attitude! But here is the
substance of the text, carefully transcribed from a memory in which I
take some pride.
Townshend, Vermont, Thursday, Sept. 6, 1928.

My dear Wilmarth:--

It gives me great pleasure to be able to set you at rest regarding
all the silly things I’ve been writing you. I say "silly," although by
that I mean my frightened attitude rather than my descriptions of
certain phenomena. Those phenomena are real and important enough; my
mistake had been in establishing an anomalous attitude toward them.


I think I mentioned that my strange visitors were beginning to
communicate with me, and to attempt such communication. Last night this
exchange of speech became actual. In response to certain signals I
admitted to the house a messenger from those outside--a fellow-human,
let me hasten to say. He told me much that neither you nor I had even
begun to guess, and showed clearly how totally we had misjudged and
misinterpreted the purpose of the Outer Ones in maintaining their
secret colony on this planet.

It seems that the evil legends about what they have offered to men,
and what they wish in connection with the earth, are wholly the result
of an ignorant misconception of allegorical speech--speech, of course,
moulded by cultural backgrounds and thought-habits vastly different
from anything we dream of. My own conjectures, I freely own, shot as
widely past the mark as any of the guesses of illiterate farmers and
savage Indians. What I had thought morbid and shameful and ignominious
is in reality awesome and mind-expanding and even glorious--my
previous estimate being merely a phase of man’s eternal tendency to
hate and fear and shrink from the utterly different.

Now I regret the harm I have inflicted upon these alien and
incredible beings in the course of our nightly skirmishes. If only I
had consented to talk peacefully and reasonably with them in the first
place! But they bear me no grudge, their emotions being organised very
differently from ours. It is their misfortune to have had as their
human agents in Vermont some very inferior specimens--the late Walter
Brown, for example. He prejudiced me vastly against them. Actually,
they have never knowingly harmed men, but have often been cruelly
wronged and spied upon by our species. There is a whole secret cult of
evil men (a man of your mystical erudition will understand me when I
link them with Hastur and the Yellow Sign) devoted to the purpose of
tracking them down and injuring them on behalf of monstrous powers from
other dimensions. It is against these aggressors--not against normal
humanity--that the drastic precautions of the Outer Ones are directed.
Incidentally, I learned that many of our lost letters were stolen not
by the Outer Ones but by the emissaries of this malign cult.

All that the Outer Ones wish of man is peace and non-molestation
and an increasing intellectual rapport. This latter is absolutely
necessary now that our inventions and devices are expanding our
knowledge and motions, and making it more and more impossible for the
Outer Ones’ necessary outposts to exist secretly on this planet. The
alien beings desire to know mankind more fully, and to have a few of
mankind’s philosophic and scientific leaders know more about them. With
such an exchange of knowledge all perils will pass, and a satisfactory
modus vivendi be established. The very idea of any attempt to enslave
or degrade mankind is ridiculous.

As a beginning of this improved rapport, the Outer Ones have
naturally chosen me--whose knowledge of them is already so
considerable--as their primary interpreter on earth. Much was told me
last night--facts of the most stupendous and vista-opening nature--
and more will be subsequently communicated to me both orally and in
writing. I shall not be called upon to make any trip outside just yet,
though I shall probably wish to do so later on--employing special
means and transcending everything which we have hitherto been
accustomed to regard as human experience. My house will be besieged no
longer. Everything has reverted to normal, and the dogs will have no
further occupation. In place of terror I have been given a rich boon of
knowledge and intellectual adventure which few other mortals have ever
shared.

The Outer Beings are perhaps the most marvellous organic things in
or beyond all space and time-members of a cosmos-wide race of which all
other life-forms are merely degenerate variants. They are more
vegetable than animal, if these terms can be applied to the sort of
matter composing them, and have a somewhat fungoid structure; though
the presence of a chlorophyll-like substance and a very singular
nutritive system differentiate them altogether from true cormophytic
fungi. Indeed, the type is composed of a form of matter totally alien
to our part of space--with electrons having a wholly different
vibration-rate. That is why the beings cannot be photographed on the
ordinary camera films and plates of our known universe, even though our
eyes can see them. With proper knowledge, however, any good chemist
could make a photographic emulsion which would record their images.

The genus is unique in its ability to traverse the heatless and
airless interstellar void in full corporeal form, and some of its
variants cannot do this without mechanical aid or curious surgical
transpositions. Only a few species have the ether-resisting wings
characteristic of the Vermont variety. Those inhabiting certain remote
peaks in the Old World were brought in other ways. Their external
resemblance to animal life, and to the sort of structure we understand
as material, is a matter of parallel evolution rather than of close
kinship. Their brain-capacity exceeds that of any other surviving
life-form, although the winged types of our hill country are by no
means the most highly developed. Telepathy is their usual means of
discourse, though we have rudimentary vocal organs which, after a
slight operation (for surgery is an incredibly expert and everyday
thing among them), can roughly duplicate the speech of such types of
organism as still use speech.

Their main immediate abode is a still undiscovered and almost
lightless planet at the very edge of our solar system--beyond Neptune,
and the ninth in distance from the sun. It is, as we have inferred, the
object mystically hinted at as "Yuggoth" in certain ancient and
forbidden writings; and it will soon be the scene of a strange
focussing of thought upon our world in an effort to facilitate mental
rapport. I would not be surprised if astronomers become sufficiently
sensitive to these thought-currents to discover Yuggoth when the Outer
Ones wish them to do so. But Yuggoth, of course, is only the
stepping-stone. The main body of the beings inhabits strangely
organized abysses wholly beyond the utmost reach of any human
imagination. The space-time globule which we recognize as the totality
of all cosmic entity is only an atom in the genuine infinity which is
theirs. And as much of this infinity as any human brain can hold is
eventually to be opened up to me, as it has been to not more than fifty
other men since the human race has existed.

You will probably call this raving at first, Wilmarth, but in time
you will appreciate the titanic opportunity I have stumbled upon. I
want you to share as much of it as is possible, and to that end must
tell you thousands of things that won’t go on paper. In the past I have
warned you not to come to see me. Now that all is safe, I take pleasure
in rescinding that warning and inviting you.

Can’t you make a trip up here before your college term opens? It
would be marvelously delightful if you could. Bring along the
phonograph record and all my letters to you as consultative data--we
shall need them in piecing together the whole tremendous story. You
might bring the Kodak prints, too, since I seem to have mislaid the
negatives and my own prints in all this recent excitement. But what a
wealth of facts I have to add to all this groping and tentative
material--and what a stupendous device I have to supplement my
additions!

Don’t hesitate--I am free from espionage now, and you will not
meet anything unnatural or disturbing. Just come along and let my car
meet you at the Brattleboro station--prepare to stay as long as you
can, and expect many an evening of discussion of things beyond all
human conjecture. Don’t tell anyone about it, of course--for this
matter must not get to the promiscuous public.

The train service to Brattleboro is not bad--you can get a
timetable in Boston. Take the B. & M. to Greenfield, and then
change for the brief remainder of the way. I suggest your taking the
convenient 4:10 P.M.--standard-from Boston. This gets into Greenfield
at 7:35, and at 9:19 a train leaves there which reaches Brattleboro at
10:01. That is weekdays. Let me know the date and I’ll have my car on
hand at the station.

Pardon this typed letter, but my handwriting has grown shaky of
late, as you know, and I don’t feel equal to long stretches of script.
I got this new Corona in Brattleboro yesterday--it seems to work very
well.

Awaiting word, and hoping to see you shortly with the phonograph record
and all my letters--and the Kodak prints--

I am

Yours in anticipation,
Henry W. Akeley

TO ALBERT N. WILMARTH, ESQ.,
MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY,
ARKHAM, MASS.
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2007, 01:06:49 am »

The complexity of my emotions upon reading, re-reading, and
pondering over this strange and unlooked-for letter is past adequate
description. I have said that I was at once relieved and made uneasy,
but this expresses only crudely the overtones of diverse and largely
subconscious feelings which comprised both the relief and the
uneasiness. To begin with, the thing was so antipodally at variance
with the whole chain of horrors preceding it--the change of mood from
stark terror to cool complacency and even exultation was so unheralded,
lightning-like, and complete! I could scarcely believe that a single
day could so alter the psychological perspective of one who had written
that final frenzied bulletin of Wednesday, no matter what relieving
disclosures that day might have brought. At certain moments a sense of
conflicting unrealities made me wonder whether this whole distantly
reported drama of fantastic forces were not a kind of half-illusory
dream created largely within my own mind. Then I thought of the
phonograph record and gave way to still greater bewilderment.

The letter seemed so unlike anything which could have been expected!
As I analysed my impression, I saw that it consisted of two distinct
phases. First, granting that Akeley had been sane before and was still
sane, the indicated change in the situation itself was so swift and
unthinkable. And secondly, the change in Akeley’s own manner, attitude,
and language was so vastly beyond the normal or the predictable. The
man’s whole personality seemed to have undergone an insidious mutation
--a mutation so deep that one could scarcely reconcile his two aspects
with the supposition that both represented equal sanity. Word-choice,
spelling--all were subtly different. And with my academic
sensitiveness to prose style, I could trace profound divergences in his
commonest reactions and rhythm-responses. Certainly, the emotional
cataclysm or revelation which could produce so radical an overturn must
be an extreme one indeed! Yet in another way the letter seemed quite
characteristic of Akeley. The same old passion for infinity--the same
old scholarly inquisitiveness. I could not a moment--or more than a
moment--credit the idea of spuriousness or malign substitution. Did
not the invitation--the willingness to have me test the truth of the
letter in person--prove its genuineness?

I did not retire Saturday night, but sat up thinking of the shadows
and marvels behind the letter I had received. My mind, aching from the
quick succession of monstrous conceptions it had been forced to
confront during the last four months, worked upon this startling new
material in a cycle of doubt and acceptance which repeated most of the
steps experienced in facing the earlier wonders; till long before dawn
a burning interest and curiosity had begun to replace the original
storm of perplexity and uneasiness. Mad or sane, metamorphosed or
merely relieved, the chances were that Akeley had actually encountered
some stupendous change of perspective in his hazardous research; some
change at once diminishing his danger--real or fancied--and opening
dizzy new vistas of cosmic and superhuman knowledge. My own zeal for
the unknown flared up to meet his, and I felt myself touched by the
contagion of the morbid barrier-breaking. To shake off the maddening
and wearying limitations of time and space and natural law--to be
linked with the vast outside--to come close to the nighted and abysmal
secrets of the infinite and the ultimate--surely such a thing was
worth the risk of one’s life, soul, and sanity! And Akeley had said
there was no longer any peril--he had invited me to visit him instead
of warning me away as before. I tingled at the thought of what he might
now have to tell me--there was an almost paralysing fascination in the
thought of sitting in that lonely and lately-beleaguered farmhouse with
a man who had talked with actual emissaries from outer space; sitting
there with the terrible record and the pile of letters in which Akeley
had summarised his earlier conclusions.

So late Sunday morning I telegraphed Akeley that I would meet him in
Brattleboro on the following Wednesday--September 12th--if that date
were convenient for him. In only one respect did I depart from his
suggestions, and that concerned the choice of a train. Frankly, I did
not feel like arriving in that haunted Vermont region late at night; so
instead of accepting the train he chose I telephoned the station and
devised another arrangement. By rising early and taking the 8:07 A.M.
(standard) into Boston, I could catch the 9:25 for Greenfield; arriving
there at 12:22 noon. This connected exactly with a train reaching
Brattleboro at 1:08 p.m.--a much more comfortable hour than 10:01 for
meeting Akeley and riding with him into the close-packed,
secret-guarding hills.

I mentioned this choice in my telegram, and was glad to learn in the
reply which came toward evening that it had met with my prospective
host’s endorsement. His wire ran thus:

ARRANGEMENT SATISFACTORY WILL MEET ONE EIGHT TRAIN WEDNESDAY DONT
FORGET RECORD AND LETTERS AND PRINTS KEEP DESTINATION QUIET EXPECT
GREAT REVELATIONS

AKELEY

Receipt of this message in direct response to one sent to Akeley--
and necessarily delivered to his house from the Townshend station
either by official messenger or by a restored telephone service--
removed any lingering subconscious doubts I may have had about the
authorship of the perplexing letter. My relief was marked--indeed, it
was greater than I could account for at the time; since all such doubts
had been rather deeply buried. But I slept soundly and long that night,
and was eagerly busy with preparations during the ensuing two days.

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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2007, 01:07:39 am »

VI

On Wednesday I started as agreed,. taking with me a valise full of
simple necessities and scientific data, including the hideous
phonograph record, the Kodak prints, and the entire file of Akeley’s
correspondence. As requested, I had told no one where I was going; for
I could see that the matter demanded utmost privacy, even allowing for
its most favourable turns. The thought of actual mental contact with
alien, outside entities was stupefying enough to my trained and
somewhat prepared mind; and this being so, what might one think of its
effect on the vast masses of uninformed laymen? I do not know whether
dread or adventurous expectancy was uppermost in me as I changed trains
at Boston and began the long westward run out of familiar regions into
those I knew less thoroughly. Waltham--Concord--Ayer--Fitchburg--
Gardner--Athol--

My train reached Greenfield seven minutes late, but the northbound
connecting express had been held. Transferring in haste, I felt a
curious breathlessness as the cars rumbled on through the early
afternoon sunlight into territories I had always read of but had never
before visited. I knew I was entering an altogether older-fashioned and
more primitive New England than the mechanised, urbanised coastal and
southern areas where all my life had been spent; an unspoiled,
ancestral New England without the foreigners and factory-smoke,
bill-boards and concrete roads, of the sections which modernity has
touched. There would be odd survivals of that continuous native life
whose deep roots make it the one authentic outgrowth of the landscape--
the continuous native life which keeps alive strange ancient memories,
and fertilises the soil for shadowy, marvellous, and seldom-mentioned
beliefs.

Now and then I saw the blue Connecticut River gleaming in the sun,
and after leaving Northfield we crossed it. Ahead loomed green and
cryptical hills, and when the conductor came around I learned that I
was at last in Vermont. He told me to set my watch back an hour, since
the northern hill country will have no dealings with new-fangled
daylight time schemes. As I did so it seemed to me that I was likewise
turning the calendar back a century.

The train kept close to the river, and across in New Hampshire I
could see the approaching slope of steep Wantastiquet, about which
singular old legends cluster. Then streets appeared on my left, and a
green island showed in the stream on my right. People rose and filed to
the door, and I followed them. The car stopped, and I alighted beneath
the long train-shed of the Brattleboro station.

Looking over the line of waiting motors I hesitated a moment to see
which one might turn out to be the Akeley Ford, but my identity was
divined before I could take the initiative. And yet it was clearly not
Akeley himself who advanced to meet me with an outstretched hand and a
mellowly phrased query as to whether I was indeed Mr. Albert N.
Wilmarth of Arkham. This man bore no resemblance to the bearded,
grizzled Akeley of the snapshot; but was a younger and more urbane
person, fashionably dressed, and wearing only a small, dark moustache.
His cultivated voice held an odd and almost disturbing hint of vague
familiarity, though I could not definitely place it in my memory.

As I surveyed him I heard him explaining that he was a friend of my
prospective host’s who had come down from Townshend in his stead.
Akeley, he declared, had suffered a sudden attack of some asthmatic
trouble, and did not feel equal to making a trip in the outdoor air. It
was not serious, however, and there was to be no change in plans
regarding my visit. I could not make out just how much this Mr. Noyes--
as he announced himself--knew of Akeley’s researches and discoveries,
though it seemed to me that his casual manner stamped him as a
comparative outsider. Remembering what a hermit Akeley had been, I was
a trifle surprised at the ready availability of such a friend; but did
not let my puzzlement deter me from entering the motor to which he
gestured me. It was not the small ancient car I had expected from
Akeley’s descriptions, but a large and immaculate specimen of recent
pattern--apparently Noyes’s own, and bearing Massachusetts license
plates with the amusing "sacred codfish" device of that year. My guide,
I concluded, must be a summer transient in the Townshend region.

Noyes climbed into the car beside me and started it at once. I was
glad that he did not overflow with conversation, for some peculiar
atmospheric tensity made me feel disinclined to talk. The town seemed
very attractive in the afternoon sunlight as we swept up an incline and
turned to the right into the main street. It drowsed like the older New
England cities which one remembers from boyhood, and something in the
collocation of roofs and steeples and chimneys and brick walls formed
contours touching deep viol-strings of ancestral emotion. I could tell
that I was at the gateway of a region half-bewitched through the
piling-up of unbroken time-accumulations; a region where old, strange
things have had a chance to grow and linger because they have never
been stirred up.

As we passed out of Brattleboro my sense of constraint and
foreboding increased, for a vague quality in the hill-crowded
countryside with its towering, threatening, close-pressing green and
granite slopes hinted at obscure secrets and immemorial survivals which
might or might not be hostile to mankind. For a time our course
followed a broad, shallow river which flowed down from unknown hills in
the north, and I shivered when my companion told me it was the West
River. It was in this stream, I recalled from newspaper items, that one
of the morbid crablike beings had been seen floating after the floods.

Gradually the country around us grew wilder and more deserted.
Archaic covered bridges lingered fearsomely out of the past in pockets
of the hills, and the half-abandoned railway track paralleling the
river seemed to exhale a nebulously visible air of desolation. There
were awesome sweeps of vivid valley where great cliffs rose, New
England’s virgin granite showing grey and austere through the verdure
that scaled the crests. There were gorges where untamed streams leaped,
bearing down toward the river the unimagined secrets of a thousand
pathless peaks. Branching away now and then were narrow, half-concealed
roads that bored their way through solid, luxuriant masses of forest
among whose primal trees whole armies of elemental spirits might well
lurk. As I saw these I thought of how Akeley had been molested by
unseen agencies on his drives along this very route, and did not wonder
that such things could be.

The quaint, sightly village of Newfane, reached in less than an
hour, was our last link with that world which man can definitely call
his own by virtue of conquest and complete occupancy. After that we
cast off all allegiance to immediate, tangible, and time-touched
things, and entered a fantastic world of hushed unreality in which the
narrow, ribbon-like road rose and fell and curved with an almost
sentient and purposeful caprice amidst the tenantless green peaks and
half-deserted valleys. Except for the sound of the motor, and the faint
stir of the few lonely farms we passed at infrequent intervals, the
only thing that reached my ears was the gurgling, insidious trickle of
strange waters from numberless hidden fountains in the shadowy woods.

The nearness and intimacy of the dwarfed, domed hills now became
veritably breath-taking. Their steepness and abruptness were even
greater than I had imagined from hearsay, and suggested nothing in
common with the prosaic objective world we know. The dense, unvisited
woods on those inaccessible slopes seemed to harbour alien and
incredible things, and I felt that the very outline of the hills
themselves held some strange and aeon-forgotten meaning, as if they
were vast hieroglyphs left by a rumoured titan race whose glories live
only in rare, deep dreams. All the legends of the past, and all the
stupefying imputations of Henry Akeley’s letters and exhibits, welled
up in my memory to heighten the atmosphere of tension and growing
menace. The purpose of my visit, and the frightful abnormalities it
postulated struck at me all at once with a chill sensation that nearly
over-balanced my ardour for strange delvings.

My guide must have noticed my disturbed attitude; for as the road
grew wilder and more irregular, and our motion slower and more jolting,
his occasional pleasant comments expanded into a steadier flow of
discourse. He spoke of the beauty and weirdness of the country, and
revealed some acquaintance with the folklore studies of my prospective
host. From his polite questions it was obvious that he knew I had come
for a scientific purpose, and that I was bringing data of some
importance; but he gave no sign of appreciating the depth and awfulness
of the knowledge which Akeley had finally reached.

His manner was so cheerful, normal, and urbane that his remarks
ought to have calmed and reassured me; but oddly enough. I felt only
the more disturbed as we bumped and veered onward into the unknown
wilderness of hills and woods. At times it seemed as if he were pumping
me to see what I knew of the monstrous secrets of the place, and with
every fresh utterance that vague, teasing, baffling familiarity in his
voice increased. It was not an ordinary or healthy familiarity despite
the thoroughly wholesome and cultivated nature of the voice. I somehow
linked it with forgotten nightmares, and felt that I might go mad if I
recognised it. If any good excuse had existed, I think I would have
turned back from my visit. As it was, I could not well do so--and it
occurred to me that a cool, scientific conversation with Akeley himself
after my arrival would help greatly to pull me together.

Besides, there was a strangely calming element of cosmic beauty in
the hypnotic landscape through which we climbed and plunged
fantastically. Time had lost itself in the labyrinths behind, and
around us stretched only the flowering waves of faery and the
recaptured loveliness of vanished centuries--the hoary groves, the
untainted pastures edged with gay autumnal blossoms, and at vast
intervals the small brown farmsteads nestling amidst huge trees beneath
vertical precipices of fragrant brier and meadow-grass. Even the
sunlight assumed a supernal glamour, as if some special atmosphere or
exhalation mantled the whole region. I had seen nothing like it before
save in the magic vistas that sometimes form the backgrounds of Italian
primitives. Sodoma and Leonardo conceived such expanses, but only in
the distance, and through the vaultings of Renaissance arcades. We were
now burrowing bodily through the midst of the picture, and I seemed to
find in its necromancy a thing I had innately known or inherited and
for which I had always been vainly searching.

Suddenly, after rounding an obtuse angle at the top of a sharp
ascent, the car came to a standstill. On my left, across a well-kept
lawn which stretched to the road and flaunted a border of whitewashed
stones, rose a white, two-and-a-half-story house of unusual size and
elegance for the region, with a congenes of contiguous or arcade-linked
barns, sheds, and windmill behind and to the right. I recognised it at
once from the snapshot I had received, and was not surprised to see the
name of Henry Akeley on the galvanised-iron mailbox near the road. For
some distance back of the house a level stretch of marshy and
sparsely-wooded land extended, beyond which soared a steep,
thickly-forested hillside ending in a jagged leafy crest. This latter,
I knew, was the summit of Dark Mountain, half way up which we must have
climbed already.

Alighting from the car and taking my valise, Noyes asked me to wait
while he went in and notified Akeley of my advent. He himself, he
added, had important business elsewhere, and could not stop for more
than a moment. As he briskly walked up the path to the house I climbed
out of the car myself, wishing to stretch my legs a little before
settling down to a sedentary conversation. My feeling of nervousness
and tension had risen to a maximum again now that I was on the actual
scene of the morbid beleaguering described so hauntingly in Akeley’s
letters, and I honestly dreaded the coming discussions which were to
link me with such alien and forbidden worlds.

Close contact with the utterly bizarre is often more terrifying than
inspiring, and it did not cheer me to think that this very bit of dusty
road was the place where those monstrous tracks and that foetid green
ichor had been found after moonless nights of fear and death. Idly I
noticed that none of Akeley’s dogs seemed to be about. Had he sold them
all as soon as the Outer Ones made peace with him? Try as I might, I
could not have the same confidence in the depth and sincerity of that
peace which appeared in Akeley’s final and queerly different letter.
After all, he was a man of much simplicity and with little worldly
experience. Was there not, perhaps, some deep and sinister undercurrent
beneath the surface of the new alliance?

Led by my thoughts, my eyes turned downward to the powdery road
surface which had held such hideous testimonies. The last few days had
been dry, and tracks of all sorts cluttered the rutted, irregular
highway despite the unfrequented nature of the district. With a vague
curiosity I began to trace the outline of some of the heterogeneous
impressions, trying meanwhile to curb the flights of macabre fancy
which the place and its memories suggested. There was something
menacing and uncomfortable in the funereal stillness, in the muffled,
subtle trickle of distant brooks, and in the crowding green peaks and
black-wooded precipices that choked the narrow horizon.

And then an image shot into my consciousness which made those vague
menaces and flights of fancy seem mild and insignificant indeed. I have
said that I was scanning the miscellaneous prints in the road with a
kind of idle curiosity--but all at once that curiosity was shockingly
snuffed out by a sudden and paralysing gust of active terror. For
though the dust tracks were in general confused and overlapping, and
unlikely to arrest any casual gaze, my restless vision had caught
certain details near the spot where the path to the house joined the
highway; and had recognised beyond doubt or hope the frightful
significance of those details. It was not for nothing, alas, that I had
pored for hours over the Kodak views of the Outer Ones’ claw-prints
which Akeley had sent. Too well did I know the marks of those loathsome
nippers, and that hint of ambiguous direction which stamped the horrors
as no creatures of this planet. No chance had been left me for merciful
mistake. Here, indeed, in objective form before my own eyes, and surely
made not many hours ago, were at least three marks which stood out
blasphemously among the surprising plethora of blurred footprints
leading to and from the Akeley farmhouse. They were the hellish tracks
of the living fungi from Yuggoth.

I pulled myself together in time to stifle a scream. After all, what
more was there than I might have expected, assuming that I had really
believed Akeley’s letters? He had spoken of making peace with the
things. Why, then, was it strange that some of them had visited his
house? But the terror was stronger than the reassurance. Could any man
be expected to look unmoved for the first time upon the claw-marks of
animate beings from outer depths of space? Just then I saw Noyes emerge
from the door and approach with a brisk step. I must, I reflected, keep
command of myself, for the chances were that this genial friend knew
nothing of Akeley’s profoundest and most stupendous probings into the
forbidden.

Akeley, Noyes hastened to inform me, was glad and ready to see me;
although his sudden attack of asthma would prevent him from being a
very competent host for a day or two. These spells hit him hard when
they came, and were always accompanied by a debilitating fever and
general weakness. He never was good for much while they lasted--had to
talk in a whisper, and was very clumsy and feeble in getting about. His
feet and ankles swelled, too, so that he had to bandage them like a
gouty old beef-eater. Today he was in rather bad shape, so that I would
have to attend very largely to my own needs; but he was none the less
eager for conversation. I would find him in the study at the left of
the front hall--the room where the blinds were shut. He had to keep
the sunlight out when he was ill, for his eyes were very sensitive.

As Noyes bade me adieu and rode off northward in his car I began to
walk slowly toward the house. The door had been left ajar for me; but
before approaching and entering I cast a searching glance around the
whole place, trying to decide what had struck me as so intangibly queer
about it. The barns and sheds looked trimly prosaic enough, and I
noticed Akeley’s battered Ford in its capacious, unguarded shelter.
Then the secret of the queerness reached me. It was the total silence.
Ordinarily a farm is at least moderately murmurous from its various
kinds of livestock, but here all signs of life were missing. What of
the hens and the dogs? The cows, of which Akeley had said he possessed
several, might conceivably be out to pasture, and the dogs might
possibly have been sold; but the absence of any trace of cackling or
grunting was truly singular.

I did not pause long on the path, but resolutely entered the open
house door and closed it behind me. It had cost me a distinct
psychological effort to do so, and now that I was shut inside I had a
momentary longing for precipitate retreat. Not that the place was in
the least sinister in visual suggestion; on the contrary, I thought the
graceful late-colonial hallway very tasteful and wholesome, and admired
the evident breeding of the man who had furnished it. What made me wish
to flee was something very attenuated and indefinable. Perhaps it was a
certain odd odour which I thought I noticed--though I well knew how
common musty odours are in even the best of ancient farmhouses.


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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2007, 01:08:40 am »

VII

Refusing to let these cloudy qualms overmaster me, I recalled
Noyes’s instructions and pushed open the six-panelled, brass-latched
white door on my left. The room beyond was darkened as I had known
before; and as I entered it I noticed that the queer odour was stronger
there. There likewise appeared to be some faint, half-imaginary rhythm
or vibration in the air. For a moment the closed blinds allowed me to
see very little, but then a kind of apologetic hacking or whispering
sound drew my attention to a great easy-chair in the farther, darker
corner of the room. Within its shadowy depths I saw the white blur of a
man’s face and hands; and in a moment I had crossed to greet the figure
who had tried to speak. Dim though the light was, I perceived that this
was indeed my host. I had studied the Kodak picture repeatedly, and
there could be no mistake about this firm, weather-beaten face with the
cropped, grizzled beard.

But as I looked again my recognition was mixed with sadness and
anxiety; for certainly, his face was that of a very sick man. I felt
that there must be something more than asthma behind that strained,
rigid, immobile expression and unwinking glassy stare; and realised how
terribly the strain of his frightful experiences must have told on him.
Was it not enough to break any human being--even a younger man than
this intrepid delver into the forbidden? The strange and sudden relief,
I feared, had come too late to save him from something like a general
breakdown. There was a touch of the pitiful in the limp, lifeless way
his lean hands rested in his lap. He had on a loose dressing-gown, and
was swathed around the head and high around the neck with a vivid
yellow scarf or hood.

And then I saw that he was trying to talk in the same hacking
whisper with which he had greeted me. It was a hard whisper to catch at
first, since the grey moustache concealed all movements of the lips,
and something in its timbre disturbed me greatly; but by concentrating
my attention I could soon make out its purport surprisingly well. The
accent was by no means a rustic one, and the language was even more
polished than correspondence had led me to expect.

"Mr. Wilmarth, I presume? You must pardon my not rising. I am quite
ill, as Mr. Noyes must have told you; but I could not resist having you
come just the same. You know what I wrote in my last letter--there is
so much to tell you tomorrow when I shall feel better. I can’t say how
glad I am to see you in person after all our many letters. You have the
file with you, of course? And the Kodak prints and records? Noyes put
your valise in the hall--I suppose you saw it. For tonight I fear
you’ll have to wait on yourself to a great extent. Your room is
upstairs--the one over this--and you’ll see the bathroom door open at
the head of the staircase. There’s a meal spread for you in the
dining-room--right through this door at your right--which you can
take whenever you feel like it. I’ll be a better host tomorrow--but
just now weakness leaves me helpless.

"Make yourself at home--you might take out the letters and pictures
and records and put them on the table here before you go upstairs with
your bag. It is here that we shall discuss them--you can see my
phonograph on that corner stand.

"No, thanks--there’s nothing you can do for me. I know these spells
of old. Just come back for a little quiet visiting before night, and
then go to bed when you please. I’ll rest right here--perhaps sleep
here all night as I often do. In the morning I’ll be far better able to
go into the things we must go into. You realise, of course, the utterly
stupendous nature of the matter before us. To us, as to only a few men
on this earth, there will be opened up gulfs of time and space and
knowledge beyond anything within the conception of human science or
philosophy.

"Do you know that Einstein is wrong, and that certain objects and
forces can move with a velocity greater than that of light? With proper
aid I expect to go backward and forward in time, and actually see and
feel the earth of remote past and future epochs. You can’t imagine the
degree to which those beings have carried science. There is nothing
they can’t do with the mind and body of living organisms. I expect to
visit other planets, and even other stars and galaxies. The first trip
will be to Yuggoth, the nearest world fully peopled by the beings. It
is a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system--unknown to
earthly astronomers as yet. But I must have written you about this. At
the proper time, you know, the beings there will direct
thought-currents toward us and cause it to be discovered--or perhaps
let one of their human allies give the scientists a hint.

"There are mighty cities on Yuggoth--great tiers of terraced towers
built of black stone like the specimen I tried to send you. That came
from Yuggoth. The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the
beings need no light. They have other subtler senses, and put no
windows in their great houses and temples. Light even hurts and hampers
and confuses them, for it does not exist at all in the black cosmos
outside time and space where they came from originally. To visit
Yuggoth would drive any weak man mad--yet I am going there. The black
rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges--
things built by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the beings
came to Yuggoth from the ultimate voids--ought to be enough to make
any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane long enough to tell what he
has seen.

"But remember--that dark world of fungoid gardens and windowless
cities isn’t really terrible. It is only to us that it would seem so.
Probably this world seemed just as terrible to the beings when they
first explored it in the primal age. You know they were here long
before the fabulous epoch of Cthulhu was over, and remember all about
sunken R’lyeh when it was above the waters. They’ve been inside the
earth, too--there are openings which human beings know nothing of--
some of them in these very Vermont hills--and great worlds of unknown
life down there; blue-litten K’n-yan, red-litten Yoth, and black,
lightless N’kai. It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsathoggua came--you
know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic
Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved
by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.

"But we will talk of all this later on. It must be four or five
o’clock by this time. Better bring the stuff from your bag, take a
bite, and then come back for a comfortable chat."

Very slowly I turned and began to obey my host; fetching my valise,
extracting and depositing the desired articles, and finally ascending
to the room designated as mine. With the memory of that roadside
claw-print fresh in my mind, Akeley’s whispered paragraphs had affected
me queerly; and the hints of familiarity with this unknown world of
fungous life--forbidden Yuggoth--made my flesh creep more than I
cared to own. I was tremendously sorry about Akeley’s illness, but had
to confess that his hoarse whisper had a hateful as well as pitiful
quality. If only he wouldn’t gloat so about Yuggoth and its black
secrets!

My room proved a very pleasant and well-furnished one, devoid alike
of the musty odour and disturbing sense of vibration; and after leaving
my valise there I descended again to greet Akeley and take the lunch he
had set out for me. The dining-room was just beyond the study, and I
saw that a kitchen elI extended still farther in the same direction. On
the dining-table an ample array of sandwiches, cake, and cheese awaited
me, and a Thermos-bottle beside a cup and saucer testified that hot
coffee had not been forgotten. After a well-relished meal I poured
myself a liberal cup of coffee, but found that the culinary standard
had suffered a lapse in this one detail. My first spoonful revealed a
faintly unpleasant acrid taste, so that I did not take more. Throughout
the lunch I thought of Akeley sitting silently in the great chair in
the darkened next room.

Once I went in to beg him to share the repast, but he whispered that
he could eat nothing as yet. Later on, just before he slept, he would
take some malted milk--all he ought to have that day.

After lunch I insisted on clearing the dishes away and washing them
in the kitchen sink--incidentally emptying the coffee which I had not
been able to appreciate. Then returning to the darkened study I drew up
a chair near my host’s corner and prepared for such conversation as he
might feel inclined to conduct. The letters, pictures, and record were
still on the large centre-table, but for the nonce we did not have to
draw upon them. Before long I forgot even the bizarre odour and curious
suggestions of vibration.

I have said that there were things in some of Akeley’s letters--
especially the second and most voluminous one--which I would not dare
to quote or even form into words on paper. This hesitancy applies with
still greater force to the things I heard whispered that evening in the
darkened room among the lonely hills. Of the extent of the cosmic
horrors unfolded by that raucous voice I cannot even hint. He had known
hideous things before, but what he had learned since making his pact
with the Outside Things was almost too much for sanity to bear. Even
now I absolutely refused to believe what he implied about the
constitution of ultimate infinity, the juxtaposition of dimensions, and
the frightful position of our known cosmos of space and time in the
unending chain of linked cosmos-atoms which makes up the immediate
super-cosmos of curves, angles, and material and semi-material
electronic organisation.

Never was a sane man more dangerously close to the arcana of basic
entity--never was an organic brain nearer to utter annihilation in the
chaos that transcends form and force and symmetry. I learned whence
Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history
had flared forth. I guessed--from hints which made even my informant
pause timidly--the secret behind the Magellanic Clouds and globular
nebulae, and the black truth veiled by the immemorial allegory of Tao.
The nature of the Doels was plainly revealed, and I was told the
essence (though not the source) of the Hounds of Tindalos. The legend
of Yig, Father of Serpents, remained figurative no longer, and I
started with loathing when told of the monstrous nuclear chaos beyond
angled space which the Necronomicon had mercifully cloaked under the
name of Azathoth. It was shocking to have the foulest nightmares of
secret myth cleared up in concrete terms whose stark, morbid
hatefulness exceeded the boldest hints of ancient and mediaeval
mystics. Ineluctably I was led to believe that the first whisperers of
these accursed tales must have had discourse with Akeley’s Outer Ones,
and perhaps have visited outer cosmic realms as Akeley now proposed
visiting them.

I was told of the Black Stone and what it implied, and was glad that
it had not reached me. My guesses about those hieroglyphics had been
all too correct! And yet Akeley now seemed reconciled to the whole
fiendish system he had stumbled upon; reconciled and eager to probe
farther into the monstrous abyss. I wondered what beings he had talked
with since his last letter to me, and whether many of them had been as
human as that first emissary he had mentioned. The tension in my head
grew insufferable, and I built up all sorts of wild theories about that
queer, persistent odour and those insidious hints of vibration in the
darkened room.

Night was falling now, and as I recalled what Akeley had written me
about those earlier nights I shuddered to think there would be no moon.
Nor did I like the way the farmhouse nestled in the lee of that
colossal forested slope leading up to Dark Mountain’s unvisited crest.
With Akeley’s permission I lighted a small oil lamp, turned it low, and
set it on a distant bookcase beside the ghostly bust of Milton; but
afterward I was sorry I had done so, for it made my host’s strained,
immobile face and listless hands look damnably abnormal and corpselike.
He seemed half-incapable of motion, though I saw him nod stiffly once
in awhile.

After what he had told, I could scarcely imagine what profounder
secrets he was saving for the morrow; but at last it developed that his
trip to Yuggoth and beyond--and my own possible participation in it--
was to be the next day’s topic. He must have been amused by the start
of horror I gave at hearing a cosmic voyage on my part proposed, for
his head wabbled violently when I showed my fear. Subsequently he spoke
very gently of how human beings might accomplish--and several times
had accomplished--the seemingly impossible flight across the
interstellar void. It seemed that complete human bodies did not indeed
make the trip, but that the prodigious surgical, biological, chemical,
and mechanical skill of the Outer Ones had found a way to convey human
brains without their concomitant physical structure.

There was a harmless way to extract a brain, and a way to keep the
organic residue alive during its absence. The bare, compact cerebral
matter was then immersed in an occasionally replenished fluid within an
ether-tight cylinder of a metal mined in Yuggoth, certain electrodes
reaching through and connecting at will with elaborate instruments
capable of duplicating the three vital faculties of sight, hearing, and
speech. For the winged fungus-beings to carry the brain-cylinders
intact through space was an easy matter. Then, on every planet covered
by their civilisation, they would find plenty of adjustable
faculty-instruments capable of being connected with the encased brains;
so that after a little fitting these travelling intelligences could be
given a full sensory and articulate life--albeit a bodiless and
mechanical one--at each stage of their journeying through and beyond
the space-time continuum. It was as simple as carrying a phonograph
record about and playing it wherever a phonograph of corresponding make
exists. Of its success there could be no question. Akeley was not
afraid. Had it not been brilliantly accomplished again and again?

For the first time one of the inert, wasted hands raised itself and
pointed stiffly to a high shelf on the farther side of the room. There,
in a neat row, stood more than a dozen cylinders of a metal I had never
seen before--cylinders about a foot high and somewhat less in
diameter, with three curious sockets set in an isosceles triangle over
the front convex surface of each. One of them was linked at two of the
sockets to a pair of singular-looking machines that stood in the
background. Of their purport I did not need to be told, and I shivered
as with ague. Then I saw the hand point to a much nearer corner where
some intricate instruments with attached cords and plugs, several of
them much like the two devices on the shelf behind the cylinders, were
huddled together.

"There are four kinds of instruments here, Wilmarth," whispered the
voice. "Four kinds--three faculties each--makes twelve pieces in all.
You see there are four different sorts of beings represented in those
cylinders up there. Three humans, six fungoid beings who can’t navigate
space corporeally, two beings from Neptune (God! if you could see the
body this type has on its own planet!), and the rest entities from the
central caverns of an especially interesting dark star beyond the
galaxy. In the principal outpost inside Round Hill you’ll now and then
find more cylinders and machines--cylinders of extra-cosmic brains
with different senses from any we know--allies and explorers from the
uttermost Outside--and special machines for giving them impressions
and expression in the several ways suited at once to them and to the
comprehensions of different types of listeners. Round Hill, like most
of the beings’ main outposts all through the various universes, is a
very cosmopolitan place. Of course, only the more common types have
been lent to me for experiment.

"Here--take the three machines I point to and set them on the
table. That tall one with the two glass lenses in front--then the box
with the vacuum tubes and sounding-board--and now the one with the
metal disc on top. Now for the cylinder with the label ‘B-67’ pasted on
it. Just stand in that Windsor chair to reach the shelf. Heavy? Never
mind! Be sure of the number--B-67. Don’t bother that fresh, shiny
cylinder joined to the two testing instruments--the one with my name
on it. Set B-67 on the table near where you’ve put the machines--and
see that the dial switch on all three machines is jammed over to the
extreme left.

"Now connect the cord of the lens machine with the upper socket on
the cylinder--there! Join the tube machine to the lower left-hand
socket, and the disc apparatus to the outer socket. Now move all the
dial switches on the machine over to the extreme right--first the lens
one, then the disc one, and then the tube one. That’s right. I might as
well tell you that this is a human being--just like any of us. I’ll
give you a taste of some of the others tomorrow."

To this day I do not know why I obeyed those whispers so slavishly,
or whether I thought Akeley was mad or sane. After what had gone
before, I ought to have been prepared for anything; but this mechanical
mummery seemed so like the typical vagaries of crazed inventors and
scientists that it struck a chord of doubt which even the preceding
discourse had not excited. What the whisperer implied was beyond all
human belief--yet were not the other things still farther beyond, and
less preposterous only because of their remoteness from tangible
concrete proof?

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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2007, 01:09:24 am »

As my mind reeled amidst this chaos, I became conscious of a mixed
grating and whirring from all three of the machines lately linked to
the cylinder--a grating and whirring which soon subsided into a
virtual noiselessness. What was about to happen? Was I to hear a voice?
And if so, what proof would I have that it was not some cleverly
concocted radio device talked into by a concealed but closely watched
speaker? Even now I am unwilling to swear just what I heard, or just
what phenomenon really took place before me. But something certainly
seemed to take place.

To be brief and plain, the machine with the tubes and sound-box
began to speak, and with a point and intelligence which left no doubt
that the speaker was actually present and observing us. The voice was
loud, metallic, lifeless, and plainly mechanical in every detail of its
production. It was incapable of inflection or expressiveness, but
scraped and rattled on with a deadly precision and deliberation.

"Mr. Wilmarth," it said, "I hope I do not startle you. I am a human
being like yourself, though my body is now resting safely under proper
vitalising treatment inside Round Hill, about a mile and a half east of
here. I myself am here with you--my brain is in that cylinder and I
see, hear, and speak through these electronic vibrators. In a week I am
going across the void as I have been many times before, and I expect to
have the pleasure of Mr. Akeley’s company. I wish I might have yours as
well; for I know you by sight and reputation, and have kept close track
of your correspondence with our friend. I am, of course, one of the men
who have become allied with the outside beings visiting our planet. I
met them first in the Himalayas, and have helped them in various ways.
In return they have given me experiences such as few men have ever had.

"Do you realise what it means when I say I have been on thirty-seven
different celestial bodies--planets, dark stars, and less definable
objects--including eight outside our galaxy and two outside the curved
cosmos of space and time? All this has not harmed me in the least. My
brain has been removed from my body by fissions so adroit that it would
be crude to call the operation surgery. The visiting beings have
methods which make these extractions easy and almost normal--and one’s
body never ages when the brain is out of it. The brain, I may add, is
virtually immortal with its mechanical faculties and a limited
nourishment supplied by occasional changes of the preserving fluid.

"Altogether, I hope most heartily that you will decide to come with
Mr. Akeley and me. The visitors are eager to know men of knowledge like
yourself, and to show them the great abysses that most of us have had
to dream about in fanciful ignorance. It may seem strange at first to
meet them, but I know you will be above minding that. I think Mr. Noyes
will go along, too--the man who doubtless brought you up here in his
car. He has been one of us for years--I suppose you recognised his
voice as one of those on the record Mr. Akeley sent you."

At my violent start the speaker paused a moment before concluding.
"So Mr. Wilmarth, I will leave the matter to you; merely adding that a
man with your love of strangeness and folklore ought never to miss such
a chance as this. There is nothing to fear. All transitions are
painless; and there is much to enjoy in a wholly mechanised state of
sensation. When the electrodes are disconnected, one merely drops off
into a sleep of especially vivid and fantastic dreams.

"And now, if you don’t mind, we might adjourn our session till
tomorrow. Good night--just turn all the switches back to the left;
never mind the exact order, though you might let the lens machine be
last. Good night, Mr. Akeley--treat our guest well! Ready now with
those switches?"

That was all. I obeyed mechanically and shut off all three switches,
though dazed with doubt of everything that had occurred. My head was
still reeling as I heard Akeley’s whispering voice telling me that I
might leave all the apparatus on the table just as it was. He did not
essay any comment on what had happened, and indeed no comment could
have conveyed much to my burdened faculties. I heard him telling me I
could take the lamp to use in my room, and deduced that he wished to
rest alone in the dark. It was surely time he rested, for his discourse
of the afternoon and evening had been such as to exhaust even a
vigorous man. Still dazed, I bade my host good night and went upstairs
with the lamp, although I had an excellent pocket flashlight with me.

I was glad to be out of that downstairs study with the queer odour
and vague suggestions of vibration, yet could not of course escape a
hideous sense of dread and peril and cosmic abnormality as I thought of
the place I was in and the forces I was meeting. The wild, lonely
region, the black, mysteriously forested slope towering so close behind
the house; the footprint in the road, the sick, motionless whisperer in
the dark, the hellish cylinders and machines, and above all the
invitations to strange surgery and stranger voyagings--these things,
all so new and in such sudden succession, rushed in on me with a
cumulative force which sapped my will and almost undermined my physical
strength.

To discover that my guide Noyes was the human celebrant in that
monstrous bygone Sabbat-ritual on the phonograph record was a
particular shock, though I had previously sensed a dim, repellent
familiarity in his voice. Another special shock came from my own
attitude toward my host whenever I paused to analyse it; for much as I
had instinctively liked Akeley as revealed in his correspondence, I now
found that he filled me with a distinct repulsion. His illness ought to
have excited my pity; but instead, it gave me a kind of shudder. He was
so rigid and inert and corpselike--and that incessant whispering was
so hateful and unhuman!

It occurred to me that this whispering was different from anything
else of the kind I had ever heard; that, despite the curious
motionlessness of the speaker’s moustache-screened lips, it had a
latent strength and carrying-power remarkable for the wheezing of an
asthmatic. I had been able to understand the speaker when wholly across
the room, and once or twice it had seemed to me that the faint but
penetrant sounds represented not so much weakness as deliberate
repression--for what reason I could not guess. From the first I had
felt a disturbing quality in their timbre. Now, when I tried to weigh
the matter, I thought I could trace this impression to a kind of
subconscious familiarity like that which had made Noyes’s voice so
hazily ominous. But when or where I had encountered the thing it hinted
at, was more than I could tell.

One thing was certain--I would not spend another night here. My
scientific zeal had vanished amidst fear and loathing, and I felt
nothing now but a wish to escape from this net of morbidity and
unnatural revelation. I knew enough now. It must indeed be true that
strange cosmic linkages do exist--but such things are surely not meant
for normal human beings to meddle with.

Blasphemous influences seemed to surround me and press chokingly
upon my senses. Sleep, I decided, would be out of the question; so I
merely extinguished the lamp and threw myself on the bed fully dressed.
No doubt it was absurd, but I kept ready for some unknown emergency;
gripping in my right hand the revolver I had brought along, and holding
the pocket flashlight in my left. Not a sound came from below, and I
could imagine how my host was sitting there with cadaverous stiffness
in the dark.

Somewhere I heard a clock ticking, and was vaguely grateful for the
normality of the sound. It reminded me, though, of another thing about
the region which disturbed me--the total absence of animal life. There
were certainly no farm beasts about, and now I realised that even the
accustomed night-noises of wild living things were absent. Except for
the sinister trickle of distant unseen waters, that stillness was
anomalous--interplanetary--and I wondered what star-spawned,
intangible blight could be hanging over the region. I recalled from old
legends that dogs and other beasts had always hated the Outer Ones, and
thought of what those tracks in the road might mean.

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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2007, 01:12:05 am »

VIII

Do not ask me how long my unexpected lapse into slumber lasted, or
how much of what ensued was sheer dream. If I tell you that I awakened
at a certain time, and heard and saw certain things, you will merely
answer that I did not wake then; and that everything was a dream until
the moment when I rushed out of the house, stumbled to the shed where I
had seen the old Ford, and seized that ancient vehicle for a mad,
aimless race over the haunted hills which at last landed me--after
hours of jolting and winding through forest-threatened labyrinths--in
a village which turned out to be Townshend.

You will also, of course, discount everything else in my report; and
declare that all the pictures, record-sounds, cylinder-and-machine
sounds, and kindred evidences were bits of pure deception practiced on
me by the missing Henry Akeley. You will even hint that he conspired
with other eccentrics to carry out a silly and elaborate hoax--that he
had the express shipment removed at Keene, and that he had Noyes make
that terrifying wax record. It is odd, though, that Noyes has not ever
yet’ been identified; that he was unknown at any of the villages near
Akeley’s place, though he must have been frequently in the region. I
wish I had stopped to memorize the license-number of his car--or
perhaps it is better after all that I did not. For I, despite all you
can say, and despite all I sometimes try to say to myself, know that
loathsome outside influences must be lurking there in the half-unknown
hills--and that, those influences have spies and emissaries in the
world of men. To keep as far as possible from such influences and such
emissaries is all that I ask of life in future.

When my frantic story sent a sheriff’s posse out to the farmhouse,
Akeley was gone without leaving a trace. His loose dressing gown,
yellow scarf, and foot-bandages lay on the study floor near his corner.
easy-chair, and it could not be decided whether any of his other
apparel had vanished with him. The dogs and livestock were indeed
missing, and there were some curious bullet-holes both on the house’s
exterior and on some of the walls within; but beyond this nothing
unusual could be detected. No cylinders or machines, none of the
evidences I had brought in my valise, no queer odour or
vibration-sense, no foot-prints in the road, and none of the
problematical things I glimpsed at the very last.

I stayed a week in Brattleboro after my escape, making inquiries
among people of every kind who had known Akeley; and the results
convince me that the matter is no figment of dream or delusion.’
Akeley’s queer purchase of dogs and ammunition and chemicals, and the
cutting of his telephone wires, are matters of record; while all who
knew him--including his son in California--concede that his
occasional remarks on strange studies had a certain consistency. Solid
citizens believe he was mad, and unhesitatingly pronounce all reported
evidences mere hoaxes devised with insane cunning and perhaps abetted
by eccentric associates; but the lowlier country folk sustain his
statements in every detail. He had showed some of these rustics his
photographs and black stone, and had played the hideous record for
them; and they all said the footprints and buzzing voice were like
those described in ancestral legends.

They said, too, that suspicious sights and sounds had been noticed
increasingly around Akeley’s house after he found the black stone, and
that the place was now avoided by everybody except the mail man and
other casual, tough-minded people. Dark Mountain and Round Hill were
both notoriously haunted spots, and I could find no one who had ever
closely explored either. Occasional disappearances of natives
throughout the district’s history were well attested, and these now
included the semi-vagabond Walter Brown, whom Akeley’s letters had
mentioned. I even came upon one farmer who thought he had personally
glimpsed one of the queer bodies at flood-time in the swollen West
River, but his tale was too confused to be really valuable.

When I left Brattleboro I resolved never to go back to Vermont, and
I feel quite certain I shall keep my resolution. Those wild hills are
surely the outpost of a frightful cosmic race--as I doubt all the less
since reading that a new ninth planet has been glimpsed beyond Neptune,
just as those influences had said it would be glimpsed. Astronomers,
with a hideous appropriateness they little suspect, have named this
thing "Pluto." I feel, beyond question, that it is nothing less than
nighted Yuggoth--and I shiver when I try to figure out the real reason
why its monstrous denizens wish it to be known in this way at this
especial time. I vainly try to assure myself that these daemoniac
creatures are not gradually leading up to some new policy hurtful to
the earth and its normal inhabitants.

But I have still to tell of the ending of that terrible night in the
farmhouse. As I have said, I did finally drop into a troubled doze; a
doze filled with bits of dream which involved monstrous
landscape-glimpses. Just what awaked me I cannot yet say, but that I
did indeed awake at this given point I feel very certain. My first
confused impression was of stealthily creaking floor-boards in the hall
outside my door, and of a clumsy, muffled fumbling at the latch. This,
however, ceased almost at once; so that my really clear impressions
begin with the voices heard from the study below. There seemed to be
several speakers, and I judged that they were controversially engaged.

By the time I had listened a few seconds I was broad awake, for the
nature of the voices was such as to make all thought of sleep
ridiculous. The tones were curiously varied, and no one who had
listened to that accursed phonograph record could harbour any doubts
about the nature of at least two of them. Hideous though the idea was,
I knew that I was under the same roof with nameless things from abysmal
space; for those two voices were unmistakably the blasphemous buzzings
which the Outside Beings used in their communication with men. The two
were individually different--different in pitch, accent, and tempo--
but they were both of the same damnable general kind.

A third voice was indubitably that of a mechanical utterance-machine
connected with one of the detached brains in the cylinders. There was
as little doubt about that as about the buzzings; for the loud,
metallic, lifeless voice of the previous evening, with its
inflectionless, expressionless scraping and rattling, and its
impersonal precision and deliberation, had been utterly unforgettable.
For a time I did not pause to question whether the intelligence behind
the scraping was the identical one which had formerly talked to me; but
shortly afterward I reflected that any brain would emit vocal sounds of
the same quality if linked to the same mechanical speech-producer; the
only possible differences being in language, rhythm, speed, and
pronunciation. To complete the eldritch colloquy there were two
actually human voices--one the crude speech of an unknown and
evidently rustic man, and the other the suave Bostonian tones of my
erstwhile guide Noyes.

As I tried to catch the words which the stoutly-fashioned floor so
bafflingly intercepted, I was also conscious of a great deal of
stirring and scratching and shuffling in the room below; so that I
could not escape the impression that it was full of living beings--
many more than the few whose speech I could single out. The exact
nature of this stirring is extremely hard to describe, for very few
good bases of comparison exist. Objects seemed now and then to move
across the room like conscious entities; the sound of their footfalls
having something about it like a loose, hard-surfaced clattering--as
of the contact of ill-coordinated surfaces of horn or hard rubber. It
was, to use a more concrete but less accurate comparison, as if people
with loose, splintery wooden shoes were shambling and rattling about on
the polished board floor. Of the nature and appearance of those
responsible for the sounds, I did not care to speculate.

Before long I saw that it would be impossible to distinguish any
connected discourse. Isolated words--including the names of Akeley and
myself--now and then floated up, especially when uttered by the
mechanical speech-producer; but their true significance was lost for
want of continuous context. Today I refuse to form any definite
deductions from them, and even their frightful effect on me was one of
suggestion rather than of revelation. A terrible and abnormal conclave,
I felt certain, was assembled below me; but for what shocking
deliberations I could not tell. It was curious how this unquestioned
sense of the malign and the blasphemous pervaded me despite Akeley’s
assurances of the Outsider’s friendliness.

With patient listening I began to distinguish clearly between
voices, even though I could not grasp much of what any of the voices
said. I seemed to catch certain typical emotions behind some of the
speakers. One of the buzzing voices, for example, held an unmistakable
note of authority; whilst the mechanical voice, notwithstanding its
artificial loudness and regularity, seemed to be in a position of
subordination and pleading. Noyes’s tones exuded a kind of conciliatory
atmosphere. The others I could make no attempt to interpret. I did not
hear the familiar whisper of Akeley, but well knew that such a sound
could never penetrate the solid flooring of my room.

I will try to set down some of the few disjointed words and other
sounds I caught, labelling the speakers of the words as best I know
how. It was from the speech-machine that I first picked up a few
recognisable phrases.
(The Speech-Machine)

"...brought it on myself...sent back the letters and the record...
end on it...taken in...seeing and hearing...damn you...impersonal
force, after all...fresh, shiny cylinder...great God..."

(First Buzzing Voice)

"...time we stopped...small and human...Akeley...brain...saying..."

(Second Buzzing Voice)

"Nyarlathotep...Wilmarth...records and letters...cheap imposture..."

(Noyes)

"...(an unpronounceable word or name, possibly N’gah-Kthun)
harmless...peace...couple of weeks...theatrical...told you that
before..."

(First Buzzing Voice)

"...no reason...original plan...effects...Noyes can watch Round
Hill...fresh cylinder...Noyes’s car..."

(Noyes)

"...well...all yours...down here...rest...place..."

(Several Voices at Once in Indistinguishable Speech)

(Many Footsteps, Including the Peculiar Loose Stirring or Clattering)

(A Curious Sort of Flapping Sound)

(The Sound of an Automobile Starting and Receding)

(Silence)

That is the substance of what my ears brought me as I lay rigid upon
that strange upstairs bed in the haunted farmhouse among the daemoniac
hills--lay there fully dressed, with a revolver clenched in my right
hand and a pocket flashlight gripped in my left. I became, as I have
said, broad awake; but a kind of obscure paralysis nevertheless kept me
inert till long after the last echoes of the sounds had died away. I
heard the wooden, deliberate ticking of the ancient Connecticut clock
somewhere far below, and at last made out the irregular snoring of a
sleeper. Akeley must have dozed off after the strange session, and I
could well believe that he needed to do so.

Just what to think or what to do was more than I could decide After
all, what had I heard beyond things which previous information might
have led me to expect? Had I not known that the nameless Outsiders were
now freely admitted to the farmhouse? No doubt Akeley had been
surprised by an unexpected visit from them. Yet something in that
fragmentary discourse had chilled me immeasurably, raised the most
grotesque and horrible doubts, and made me wish fervently that I might
wake up and prove everything a dream. I think my subconscious mind must
have caught something which my consciousness has not yet recognised.
But what of Akeley? Was he not my friend, and would he not have
protested if any harm were meant me? The peaceful snoring below seemed
to cast ridicule on all my suddenly intensified fears.

Was it possible that Akeley had been imposed upon and used as a lure
to draw me into the hills with the letters and pictures and phonograph
record? Did those beings mean to engulf us both in a common destruction
because we had come to know too much? Again I thought of the abruptness
and unnaturalness of that change in the situation which must have
occurred between Akeley’s penultimate and final letters. Something, my
instinct told me, was terribly wrong. All was not as it seemed. That
acrid coffee which I refused--had there not been an attempt by some
hidden, unknown entity to drug it? I must talk to Akeley at once, and
restore his sense of proportion. They had hypnotised him with their
promises of cosmic revelations, but now he must listen to reason. We.
must get out of this before it would be too late. If he lacked the will
power to make the break for liberty. I would supply it. Or if I could
not persuade him to go, I could at least go myself. Surely he would let
me take his Ford and leave it in a garage in Brattleboro. I had noticed
it in the shed--the door being left unlocked and open now that peril
was deemed past--and I believed there was a good chance of its being
ready for instant use. That momentary dislike of Akeley which I had
felt during and after the evening’s conversation was all gone now. He
was in a position much like my own, and we must stick together. Knowing
his indisposed condition, I hated to wake him at this juncture, but I
knew that I must. I could not stay in this place till morning as
matters stood.

At last I felt able to act, and stretched myself vigorously to
regain command of my muscles. Arising with a caution more impulsive
than deliberate, I found and donned my hat, took my valise, and started
downstairs with the flashlight’s aid. In my nervousness I kept the
revolver clutched in my right hand, being able to take care of both
valise and flashlight with my left. Why I exerted these precautions I
do not really know, since I was even then on my way to awaken the only
other occupant of the house.

As I half-tiptoed down the creaking stairs to the lower hall I could
hear the sleeper more plainly, and noticed that he must be in the room
on my left--the living-room I had not entered. On my right was the
gaping blackness of the study in which I had heard the voices. Pushing
open the unlatched door of the living-room I traced a path with the
flashlight toward the source of the snoring, and finally turned the
beams on the sleeper’s face. But in the next second I hastily turned
them away and commenced a catlike retreat to the hall, my caution this
time springing from reason as well as from instinct. For the sleeper on
the couch was not Akeley at all, but my quondam guide Noyes.

Just what the real situation was, I could not guess; but common
sense told me that the safest thing was to find out as much as possible
before arousing anybody. Regaining the hall, I silently closed and
latched the living-room door after me; thereby lessening the chances of
awakening Noyes. I now cautiously entered the dark study, where I
expected to find Akeley, whether asleep or awake, in the great corner
chair which was evidently his favorite resting-place. As I advanced,
the beams of my flashlight caught the great centre-table, revealing one
of the hellish cylinders with sight and hearing machines attached, and
with a speech machine standing close by, ready to be connected at any
moment. This, I reflected, must be the encased brain I had heard
talking during the frightful conference; and for a second I had a
perverse impulse to attach the speech machine and see what it would say.

It must, I thought, be conscious of my presence even now; since the
sight and hearing attachments could not fail to disclose the rays of my
flashlight and the faint creaking of the floor beneath my feet. But in
the end I did not dare meddle with the thing. I idly saw that it was
the fresh shiny cylinder with Akeley’s name on it, which I had noticed
on the shelf earlier in the evening and which my host had told me not
to bother. Looking back at that moment, I can only regret my timidity
and wish that I had boldly caused the apparatus to speak. God knows
what mysteries and horrible doubts and questions of identity it might
have cleared up! But then, it may be merciful that I let it alone.

From the table I turned my flashlight to the corner where I thought
Akeley was, but found to my perplexity that the great easy-chair was
empty of any human occupant asleep or awake. From the seat to the floor
there trailed voluminously the familiar old dressing-gown, and near it
on the floor lay the yellow scarf and the huge foot-bandages I had
thought so odd. As I hesitated, striving to conjecture where Akeley
might be, and why he had so suddenly discarded his necessary sick-room
garments, I observed that the queer odour and sense of vibration were
no longer in the room. What had been their cause? Curiously it occurred
to me that I had noticed them only in Akeley’s vicinity. They had been
strongest where he sat, and wholly absent except in the room with him
or just outside the doors of that room. I paused, letting the
flashlight wander about the dark study and racking my brain for
explanations of the turn affairs had taken.

Would to Heaven I had quietly left the place before allowing that
light to rest again on the vacant chair. As it turned out, I did not
leave quietly; but with a muffled shriek which must have disturbed,
though it did not quite awake, the sleeping sentinel across the hall.
That shriek, and Noyes’s still-unbroken snore, are the last sounds I
ever heard in that morbidity-choked farmhouse beneath the black-wooded
crest of haunted mountain--that focus of transcosmic horror amidst the
lonely green hills and curse-muttering brooks of a spectral rustic land.

It is a wonder that I did not drop flashlight, valise, and revolver
in my wild scramble, but somehow I failed to lose any of these. I
actually managed to get out of that room and that house without making
any further noise, to drag myself and my belongings safely into the old
Ford in the shed, and to set that archaic vehicle in motion toward some
unknown point of safety in the black, moonless night. The ride that
followed was a piece of delirium out of Poe or Rimbaud or the drawings
of Dore, but finally I reached Townshend. That is all. If my sanity is
still unshaken, I am lucky. Sometimes I fear what the years will bring,
especially since that new planet Pluto has been so curiously discovered.

As I have implied, I let my flashlight return to the vacant
easy-chair after its circuit of the room; then noticing for the first
time the presence of certain objects in the seat, made inconspicuous by
the adjacent loose folds of the empty dressing-gown. These are the
objects, three in number, which the investigators did not find when
they came later on. As I said at the outset, there was nothing of
actual visual horror about them. The trouble was in what they led one
to infer. Even now I have my moments of half-doubt--moments in which I
half-accept the scepticism of those who attribute my whole experience
to dream and nerves and delusion.

The three things were damnably clever constructions of their kind,
and were furnished with ingenious metallic clamps to attach them to
organic developments of which I dare not form any conjecture. I hope--
devoutly hope-that they were the waxen products of a master artist,
despite what my inmost fears tell me. Great God! That whisperer in
darkness with its morbid odour and vibrations! Sorcerer, emissary,
changeling, outsider...that hideous repressed buzzing...and all
the time in that fresh, shiny cylinder on the shelf...poor devil...
"Prodigious surgical, biological, chemical, and mechanical skill...

For the things in the chair, perfect to the last, subtle detail of
microscopic resemblance--or identity--were the face and hands of
Henry Wentworth Akeley.


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