Monday, September 26, 2005

 

The Call of Cthulhu

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The Call of Cthulhu
H.P. Lovecraft
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Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a
survival... a survival of a hugely remote period when...
consciousness was manifest, perhaps, in shapes and forms
long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing
humanity... forms of which poetry and legend alone have
caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters,
mythical beings of all sorts and kinds...
- ALGERNON BLACKWOOD


I. THE HORROR IN CLAY

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability
of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We
live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas
of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.
The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have
hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together
of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas
of reality and of our frightful position therein, that we shall
either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly
light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of
the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form
transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survival in
terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a
bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the
single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I
think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse,
like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an
accidental piecing together of separated things - in this case
an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I
hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out;
certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so
hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too, intended to
keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would
have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.

My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926-7
with the death of my great-uncle, George Gammell Angell,
Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Angell was widely
known as an authority on ancient inscriptions, and had
frequently been resorted to by the heads of prominent
museums so that his passing at the age of ninety-two may be
recalled by many. Locally, interest was intensified by the
obscurity of the cause of death. The professor had been
stricken whilst returning from the Newport boat; falling
suddenly, as witnesses said, after having been jostled by a
nautical-looking negro who had come from one of the queer
dark courts on the precipitous hillside which formed a short
cut from the waterfront to the deceased's home in Williams
Street. Physicians were unable to find any visible disorder,
but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure
lesion of the heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a
hill by so elderly a man, was responsible for the end. At the
time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly
I am inclined to wonder - and more than wonder.

As my great-uncle's heir and executor, for he died a
childless widower, I was expected to go over his papers with
some thoroughness; and for that purpose moved his entire set
of files and boxes to my quarters in Boston. Much of the
material which I correlated will be later published by the
American Archaeological Society, but there was one box
which I found exceedingly puzzling, and which I felt much
averse from showing to other eyes. It had been locked, and I
did not find the key till it occurred to me to examine the
personal ring which the professor carried always in his
pocket. Then, indeed, I succeeded in opening it, but when I
did so seemed only to be confronted by a greater and more
closely locked barrier. For what could be the meaning of the
queer clay bas-relief and the disjointed jottings, ramblings
and cuttings which I found? Had my uncle, in his latter
years, become credulous of the most superficial impostures?
I resolved to search out the eccentric sculptor responsible for
this apparent disturbance of an old man's peace of mind.
The bas-relief was a rough rectangle less than an inch
thick and about five by six inches in area; obviously of
modern origin. Its designs, however, were far from modern
in atmosphere and suggestion; for, although the vagaries of
cubism and futurism are many and wild, they do not often
reproduce that cryptic regularity which lurks in prehistoric
writing. And writing of some kind the bulk of these designs
seemed certainly to be; though my memory, despite much
familiarity with the papers and collections of my uncle, failed
in any way to identify this particular species, or even hint at
its remotest affiliations.

Above these apparent hieroglyphics was a figure of
evidently pictorial intent, though its impressionistic execution
forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to be
a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form
which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my
somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous
pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I
shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy,
tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with
rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole
which made it most shockingly frightful. Behind the figure
was a vague suggestion of a Cyclopean architectural
background

The writing accompanying this oddity was, aside from a
stack of press cuttings, in Professor Angell's most recent
hand; and made no pretension to literary style. What seemed
to be the main document was headed 'CTHULHU CULT'
in characters painstakingly printed to avoid the erroneous
reading of a word so unheard-of. This manuscript was
divided into two sections, the first of which was headed
'1925 - Dream and Dream Work of H. A. Wilcox, 7 Thomas
St., Providence, R. I.,' and the second; 'Narrative of Inspector
John R. Legrasse, 121 Bienville St., New Orleans,
La., at 1908 A. A, S. Mtg. - Notes on Same, & Prof. Webb's
Acct.' The other manuscript papers were all brief notes,
some of them accounts of the queer dreams of different
persons, some of them citations from theosophical books and
magazines (notably W. Scott-Elliott's Atlantis and the Lost
Lemuria), and the rest comments on long-surviving secret
societies and hidden cults, with references to passages in
such mythological and anthropological source-books as
Frazer's Golden Bough and Miss Murray's Witch-Cult in
Western Europe. The cuttings largely alluded to outré mental
illness and outbreaks of group folly or mania in the spring of
1925.

The first half of the principal manuscript told a very
peculiar tale. It appears that on 1 March 1925, a thin, dark
young man of neurotic and excited aspect had called upon
Professor Angell bearing the singular clay bas-relief, which
was then exceedingly damp and fresh. His card bore the
name of Henry Anthony Wilcox, and my uncle had recognized
him as the youngest son of an excellent family slightly
known to him, who had latterly been studying sculpture at
the Rhode Island School of Design and living alone at the
Fleur-de-Lys Building near that institution. Wilcox was a,
precocious youth of known genius but great eccentricity, and
had from childhood excited attention through the strange
stories and odd dreams he was in the habit of relating. He
called himself 'psychically hypersensitive,' but the staid folk
of the ancient commercial city dismissed him as merely
'queer'. Never mingling much with his kind, he had dropped
gradually from social visibility, and was now known only to a
small group of aesthetes from other towns. Even the Providence
Art Club, anxious to preserve its conservatism, had
found him quite hopeless.

On the occasion of the visit, ran the professor's manuscript,
the sculptor abruptly asked for the benefit of his host's
archaeological knowledge in identifying the hieroglyphics on
the bas-relief. He spoke in a dreamy, stilted manner which
suggested pose and alienated sympathy; and my uncle
showed some sharpness in replying, for the conspicuous
freshness of the tablet implied kinship with anything but
archaeology. Young Wilcox's rejoinder, which impressed my
uncle enough to make him recall and record it verbatim, was
of a fantastically poetic cast which must have typified his
whole conversation, and which I have since found highly
characteristic of him. He said, 'It is new, indeed, for I made it
last night in a dream of strange cities; and dreams are older
than brooding Tyre or the contemplative Sphinx, or garden-
girdled Babylon.'

It was then that he began that rambling tale which
suddenly played upon a sleeping memory and won the
fevered interest of my uncle. There had been a slight earth-
quake tremor the night before, the most considerable felt in
New England for some years; and Wilcox's imaginations had
been keenly affected. Upon retiring, he had had an
unprecedented dream of great Cyclopean cities of Titan blocks
and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and
sinister with latent horror. Hieroglyphics had covered the
walls and pillars, and from some undetermined point below
had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation
which only fancy could transmute into sound, but which he
attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble
of letters 'Cthulhu fhtagn'

This verbal jumble was the key to the recollection which
excited and disturbed Professor Angell. He questioned the
sculptor with scientific minuteness; and studied with almost
frantic intensity the bas-relief on which the youth had found
himself working, chilled and clad only in his nightclothes,
when waking had stolen bewilderingly over him. My uncle
blamed his old age, Wilcox afterward said, for his slowness
in recognizing both hieroglyphics and pictorial design.
Many of his questions seemed highly out of place to his
visitor especially those which tried to connect the latter with
strange cults or societies; and Wilcox could not understand
the repeated promises of silence which he was offered in
exchange for an admission of membership in some widespread
mystical or paganly religious body. When Professor
Angell became convinced that the sculptor was indeed
ignorant of any cult or system of cryptic lore, he besieged his
visitor with demands for future reports of dreams. This bore
regular fruit, for after the first interview the manuscript
records daily calls of the young man, during which he related
startling fragments of nocturnal imagery whose burden was
always some terrible Cyclopean vista of dark and dripping
stone, with a subterrene voice or intelligence shouting
monotonously in enigmatical sense-impacts uninscribable
save gibberish. The two sounds most frequently repeated
are those rendered by the letters 'Cthulhu' and 'R'lyeh.'

On 23 March the manuscript continued, Wilcox failed to
appear; and inquiries at his quarters revealed that he had
been stricken with an obscure sort of fever and taken to the
home of his family in Waterman Street. He had cried out in
the night, arousing several other artists in the building, and
had manifested since then only alternations of unconsciousness
and delirium. My uncle at once telephoned the
family, and from that time forward kept close watch of the
case; calling often at the Thayer Street office of Dr Tobey,
whom he learned to be in charge. The youth's febrile mind,
apparently, was dwelling on strange things; and the doctor
shuddered now and then as he spoke of them. They included
not only a repetition of what he had formerly dreamed, but
touched wildly on a gigantic thing 'miles high' which walked
or lumbered about. He at no time fully described this object
but occasional frantic words, as repeated by Dr Tobey,
convinced the professor that it must be identical with the
nameless monstrosity he had sought to depict in his dream
-sculpture. Reference to this object, the doctor added, was
invariably a prelude to the young man's subsidence into
lethargy. His temperature, oddly enough, was not greatly
above normal; but the whole condition was otherwise such as
to suggest true fever rather than mental disorder.

On 2 April at about 3 P.M. every trace of Wilcox's malady
suddenly ceased. He sat upright in bed, astonished to find
himself at home and completely ignorant of what had
happened in dream or reality since the night of 22 March.
Pronounced well by his physician, he returned to his
quarters in three days; but to Professor Angell he was of no
further assistance. All traces of strange dreaming had
vanished with his recovery, and my uncle kept no record of
his night-thoughts after a week of pointless and irrelevant
accounts of thoroughly usual visions.

Here the first part of the manuscript ended, but references
to certain of the scattered notes gave me much material for
thought - so much, in fact, that only the ingrained
scepticism then forming my philosophy can account for my
continued distrust of the artist. The notes in question were
those descriptive of the dreams of various persons covering
the same period as that in which young Wilcox had had his
strange visitations. My uncle, it seems, had quickly
instituted a prodigiously far-flung body of inquiries amongst
nearly all the friends whom he could question without
impertinence, asking for nightly reports of their dreams, and
the dates of any notable visions for some time past. The
reception of his request seems to have been varied; but he
must at the very least, have received more responses than
any ordinary man could have handled without a secretary.
This original correspondence was not preserved but his
notes formed a thorough and really significant digest.
Average people in society and business - New England's
traditional 'salt of the earth' - gave an almost completely
negative result, though scattered cases of uneasy but formless
nocturnal impressions appear here and there, always
between 23 March and 2 April - the period of young Wilcox's
delirium. Scientific men were little more affected, though
four cases of vague description suggest fugitive glimpses of
strange landscapes, and in one case there is mentioned a
dread of something abnormal.

It was from the artists and poets that the pertinent answers
came, and I know that panic would have broken loose had
they been able to compare notes. As it was, lacking their
original letters, I half suspected the compiler of having asked
leading questions, or of having edited the correspondence in
corroboration of what he had latently resolved to see. That is
why I continued to feel that Wilcox, somehow cognizant of
old data which my uncle had possessed, had been
imposing on the veteran scientist. These responses from
aesthetes told a disturbing tale. From 28 February to 2 April
a large proportion of the dreams being immeasurable the stronger
during the period of the sculptor's delirium. Over a fourth of
those who reported anything, reported scenes and half-sounds
not unlike those which Wilcox had described; and
some of the dreamers confessed acute fear of the gigantic
nameless thing visible towards the last. One case, which the
note describes with emphasis, was very sad. The subject, a
widely known architect with leanings towards theosophy
and occultism, went violently insane on the date of young
Wilcox's seizure, and expired several months later after
incessant screamings to be saved from some escaped denizen
of hell. Had my uncle referred to these cases by name instead
of merely by number, I should have attempted some
corroboration and personal investigation; but as it was, I
succeeded in tracing down only a few. All of these, however,
bore out the notes in full. I have often wondered if all the
objects of the professor's questioning felt as puzzled as did
this fraction. It is well that no explanation shall ever reach
them.

The press cuttings, as I have intimated, touched on cases
of panic, mania, and eccentricity during the given period.
Professor Angell must have employed a cutting bureau, for
the number of extracts was tremendous, and the sources
scattered throughout the globe. Here was a nocturnal suicide
in London, where a lone sleeper had leaped from a window
after a shocking cry. Here likewise a rambling letter to the
editor of a paper in South America, where a fanatic deduces a
dire future from visions he has seen. A dispatch from
California describes a theosophist colony as donning white
robes en masse for some 'glorious fulfilment' which never
arrives, whilst items from India speak guardedly of serious
native unrest towards the end of March. Voodoo orgies
multiply in Haiti, and African outposts report ominous
mutterings. American officers in the Philippines find certain
tribes bothersome about this time, and New York policemen
are mobbed by hysterical Levantines on the night of 22-23
March The west of Ireland, too, is full of wild rumour and
legendry and a fantastic painter named Ardois-Boonot
hangs a blasphemous Dream Landscape in the Paris spring
salon of 1926. And so numerous are the recorded troubles in
insane asylums that only a miracle can have stopped the
medical fraternity from noting strange parallelisms and
drawing mystified conclusions. A weird bunch of cuttings,
all told; and I can at this date scarcely envisage the callous
rationalism with which I set them aside. But I was then
convinced that young Wilcox had known of the older
matters mentioned by the professor.

II. THE TALE OF INSPECTOR LEGRASSE

The old matters which had made the sculptor's dream and
bas-relief so significant to my uncle formed the subject of
the second half of his long manuscript. Once before, it
appears Professor Angell had seen the hellish outlines of
the nameless monstrosity, puzzled over the unknown
hieroglyphics, and heard the ominous syllables which can
be rendered only as 'Cthulhu'; and all this in so stirring and
horrible a connection that it is small wonder he pursued
young Wilcox with queries and demands for data.

This earlier experience had come in 1908, seventeen
years before when the American Archaeological Society
held its annual meeting in St Louis. Professor Angell, as
befitted one of his authority and attainments, had had a
prominent part in all the deliberations, and was one of the
first to be approached by the several outsiders who took
advantage of the convocation to offer questions for correct
answering and problems for expert solution.

The chief of these outsiders, and in a short time the focus
of interest for the entire meeting, was a commonplace-looking
middle-aged man who had travelled all the way from
New Orleans for certain special information unobtainable
from any local source. His name was John Raymond
Legrasse, and he was by profession an inspector of police
With him he bore the subject of his visit, a grotesque,
repulsive, and apparently very ancient stone statuette whose
origin he was at a loss to determine.

It must not be fancied that Inspector Legrasse had the
least interest in archaeology. On the contrary, his wish for
enlightenment was prompted by purely professional
considerations. The statuette, idol, fetish, or whatever it was,
had been captured some months before in the wooden
swamps south of New Orleans during a raid on a supposed
voodoo meeting; and so singular and hideous were the rites
connected with it, that the police could not but realize that
they had stumbled on a dark cult totally unknown to them,
and infinitely more diabolic than even the blackest of the
African voodoo circles. Of its origin, apart from the erratic
and unbelieveable tales extorted from the captured
members, absolutely nothing was to be discovered; hence the
anxiety of the police for any antiquarian lore which might
help them to place the frightful symbol, and through it track
down the cult to its fountain-head.

Inspector Legrasse was scarcely prepared for the
sensation which his offering created. One sight of the thing
had been enough to throw the assembled men of science into
a state of tense excitement, and they lost no time in crowding
around him to gaze at the diminutive figure whose utter
strangeness and air of genuinely abysmal antiquity hinted so
potently at unopened and archaic vistas. No recognized
school of sculpture had animated this terrible object, yet
centuries and even thousands of years seemed recorded in its
dim and greenish surface of unplaceable stone.

The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to
man for close and careful study, was between seven and
eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship.
It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline,
but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass
of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws
on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This
thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural
malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence,
and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or
pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips
of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat
occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the
doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge
and extended a quarter of the way down towards the
bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent
forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the
backs of huge fore-paws which clasped the croucher's
elevated knees. The aspect of the whole was abnormally
lifelike, and the more subtly fearful because its source was
so totally unknown. Its vast, awesome, and incalculable
age was unmistakable; yet not one link did it show with
any known type of art belonging to civilization's youth - or
indeed to any other time.

Totally separate and apart, its very material was a
mystery; for the soapy, greenish-black stone with its
golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled
nothing familiar to geology or mineralogy. The characters
along the base were equally baffling; and no member
present, despite a representation of half the world's expert
learning in this field, could form the least notion of even
their remotest linguistic kinship. They, like the subject and
material, belonged to something horribly remote and distinct
from mankind as we know it; something frightfully
suggestive of old and unhallowed cycles of life in which our
world and our conceptions have no part.

And yet, as the members severally shook their heads and
confessed defeat at the inspector's problem, there was one
man in that gathering who suspected a touch of bizarre
familiarity in the monstrous shape and writing, and who
presently told with some diffidence of the odd trifle he knew.
This person was the late William Channing Webb, professor
of anthropology in Princeton University, and an explorer of
no slight note.

Professor Webb had been engaged, forty-eight years before,
in a tour of Greenland and Iceland in search of some
Runic inscriptions which he failed to unearth; and whilst
high up on the West Greenland coast had encountered a
singular tribe or cult of degenerate Eskimos whose religion, a
curious form of devil-worship, chilled him with its deliberate
bloodthirstiness and repulsiveness. It was a faith of which
other Eskimos knew little, and which they mentioned only
with shudders, saying that it had come down from horribly
ancient aeons before ever the world was made. Besides
nameless rites and human sacrifices there were certain queer
hereditary rituals addressed to a supreme elder devil or
tornasuk; and of this Professor Webb had taken a careful
phonetic copy from an aged angekok or wizard-priest, expressing
the sounds in Roman letters as best he knew how. But
just now of prime significance was the fetish which this cult
had cherished, and around which they danced when the
aurora leaped high over the ice cliffs. It was, the professor
stated, a very crude bas-relief of stone, comprising a hideous
picture and some cryptic writing. And as far as he could tell,
it was rough parallel in all essential features of the bestial
thing now lying before the meeting.

These data, received with suspense and astonishment by
the assembled members, proved doubly exciting to Inspector
Legrasse; and he began at once to ply his informant with
questions. Having noted and copied an oral ritual among the
swamp cult-worshippers his men had arrested, he besought
the professor to remember as best he might the syllables
taken down amongst the diabolist Eskimos. There then
followed an exhaustive comparison of details, and a moment
of really awed silence when both detective and scientist
agreed on the virtual identity of the phrase common to two
hellish rituals so many worlds of distance apart. What, in
substance, both the Eskimo wizards and the Louisiana
swamp-priests had chanted to their kindred idols was something
very like this - the word-divisions being guessed at
from traditional breaks in the phrase as chanted aloud;

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

Legrasse had one point in advance of Professor Webb, for
several among his mongrel prisoners had repeated to him
what older celebrants had told them the words meant. This
text, as given, ran something like this:

'In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.'

And now, in response to a general urgent demand, Inspector
Legrasse related as fully as possible his experience
with the swamp worshippers; telling a story to which I could
see my uncle attached profound significance. It savoured of
the wildest dreams of myth-maker and theosophist, and
disclosed an astonishing degree of cosmic imagination
among such half-castes and pariahs as might be least
expected to possess it.

On 1 November 1907, there had come to New Orleans
police a frantic summons from the swamp and lagoon
country to the south. The squatters there, mostly primitive
but good-natured descendants of Lafitte's men, were in the
grip of stark terror from an unknown thing which had stolen
upon them in the night. It was voodoo, apparently, but
voodoo of a more terrible sort than they had ever known;
and some of their women and children had disappeared
since the malevolent tom-tom had begun its incessant
beating far within the black haunted woods where no
dweller ventured. There were insane shouts and harrowing
screams, soul-chilling chants and dancing devil-flames;
and, the frightened messenger added, the people could
stand it no more.

So a body of twenty police, filling two carriages and an
automobile, had set out in the late afternoon with the
shivering squatter as a guide. At the end of the passable
road they alighted, and for miles splashed on in silence
through the terrible cypress woods where day never came.
Ugly roots and malignant hanging nooses of Spanish moss
beset them, and now and then a pile of dank stones or
fragments of a rotting wall intensified by its hint of morbid
habitation a depression which every malformed tree and
every fungous islet combined to create. At length the
squatter settlement, a miserable huddle of huts, hove in
sight; and hysterical dwellers ran out to cluster around the
group of bobbing lanterns. The muffled beat of tom-toms
was now faintly audible far, far ahead; and a curdling
shriek came at infrequent intervals when the wind shifted.
A reddish glare, too, seemed to filter through the pale
undergrowth beyond endless avenues of forest night.
Reluctant even to be left alone again, each one of the cowed
squatters refused point-blank to advance another inch
towards the scene of unholy worship, so Inspector
Legrasse and his nineteen colleagues plunged on unguided
into black arcades of horror that none of them had ever
trod before.

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

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

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

Then the men, having reached a spot where the trees
were thinner, came suddenly in sight of the spectacle itself.
Four of them reeled, one fainted, and two were shaken into
a frantic cry which the mad cacophony of the orgy fortunately
deadened. Legrasse dashed swamp water on the
face of the fainting man, and all stood trembling and nearly
hypnotized with horror.
In a natural glade of the swamp stood a grassy island of
perhaps an acre's extent, clear of trees and tolerably dry. On
this now leaped and twisted a more indescribable horde of
human abnormality than any but a Sime or an Angarola
could paint. Void of clothing, this hybrid spawn were
braying, bellowing and writhing about a monstrous
ringshaped bonfire; in the centre of which, revealed by
occasional rifts in the curtain of flame, stood a great granite
monolith some eight feet in height; on top of which,
incongruous in its diminutiveness, rested the noxious carven
statuette. From a wide circle of ten scaffolds set up at regular
intervals with the flame-girt monolith as a centre hung, head
downward, the oddly marred bodies of the helpless squatters
who had disappeared. It was inside this circle that the ring of
worshippers jumped and roared, the general direction of the
mass motion being from left to right in endless bacchanale
between the ring of bodies and the ring of fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.
Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the
memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy
of their return.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark, frail, and somewhat unkempt in aspect, he turned
languidly at my knock and asked me my business without
rising. When I told him who I was, he displayed some
interest; for my uncle had excited his curiosity in probing
his strange dreams, yet had never explained the reason for
the study. I did not enlarge his knowledge in this regard,
but sought with some subtlety to draw him out.

In a short time I became convinced of his absolute
sincerity for he spoke of the dreams in a manner none
could mistake. They and their subconscious residuum had
influenced his art profoundly, and he showed me a morbid
statue whose contours almost made me shake with the
potency of its black suggestion. He could not recall having
seen the original of this thing except in his own dream
bas-relief, but the outlines had formed themselves in-
sensibly under his hands. It was, no doubt, the giant shape
he had raved of in delirium. That he really knew nothing
of the hidden cult, save from what my uncle's relentless
catechism had let fall, he soon made clear; and again I
strove to think of some way in which he could possibly have
received the weird impressions.

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

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

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

One thing which I began to suspect, and which I now fear
I know, is that my uncle's death was far from natural. He fell
on a narrow hill street leading up from an ancient waterfront
swarming with foreign mongrels, after a careless push from a
negro sailor. I did not forget the mixed blood and marine
pursuits of the cult-members in Louisiana, and would not be
surprised to learn of secret methods and poison needles as
ruthless and as anciently known as the cryptic rites and
beliefs. Legrasse and his men, it is true, have been let alone;
but in Norway a certain seaman who saw things is dead.
Might not the deeper inquiries of my uncle after encountering
the sculptor's data have come to sinister ears? I
think Professor Angel1 died because he knew too much, or
because he was likely to learn too much. Whether I shall go
as he did remains to be seen, for I have learned much now.

III. THE MADNESS FROM THE SEA

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

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

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

MYSTERY DERELICT FOUND AT SEA

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

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

The Vigilant left Valparaiso 25 March, and on 2 April was
driven considerably south of her course by exceptionally
heavy storms and monster waves. On 12 April the derelict
was sighted; and though apparently deserted, was found
upon boarding to contain one survivor in a half-delirious
condition and one man who had evidently been dead for
more than a week.

The living man was clutching a horrible stone idol of
unknown origin, about a foot in height, regarding whose
nature authorities at Sydney University, the Royal Society,
and the Museum in College Street all profess complete
bafflement, and which the survivor says he found in the cabin
of the yacht, in a small carved shrine of common pattern.

This man, after recovering his senses, told an exceedingly
strange story of piracy and slaughter. He is Gustaf Johansen,
a Norwegian of some intelligence, and had been second mate
of the two-masted schooner Emma of Auckland, which sailed
for Callao 20 February, with a complement of eleven men.

The Emma, he says, was delayed and thrown widely south
of her course by the great storm of 1 March, and on 22
March, in S. Latitude 49º 51', W. Longitude 128º 34',
encountered the Alert, manned by a queer and evil-looking
crew of Kanakas and half-castes. Being ordered
peremptorily to turn back, Capt. Collins refused; whereupon
the strange crew began to fire savagely and without warning
upon the schooner with a peculiarly heavy battery of brass
cannon forming part of the yacht's equipment.

The Emma's men showed fight, says the survivor, and
though the schooner began to sink from shots beneath the
waterline they managed to heave alongside their enemy and
board her, grappling with the savage crew on the yacht's
deck, and being forced to kill them all, the number being
slightly superior, because of their particularly abhorrent and
desperate though rather clumsy mode of fighting.

Three of Emma's men, including Capt. Collins and First
Mate Green, were killed; and the remaining eight under
Second Mate Johansen proceeded to navigate the captured
yacht, going ahead in their original direction to see if any
reason for their ordering back had existed.

The next day, it appears, they raised and landed on a small
island, although none is known to exist in that part of the
ocean; and six of the men somehow died ashore, though
Johansen is queerly reticent about this part of his story and
speaks only of their falling into a rock chasm.

Later, it seems, he and one companion boarded the yacht
and tried to manage her, but were beaten about by the storm
of 2 April.

From that time till his rescue on the 12th, the man
remembers little, and he does not even recall when William
Briden, his companion, died. Briden's death reveals no
apparent cause, and was probably due to excitement or
exposure.

Cable advices from Dunedin report that the Alert was well
known there as an island trader, and bore an evil reputation
along the waterfront. It was owned by a curious group of
half-castes whose frequent meetings and night trips to the
woods attracted no little curiosity; and it had set sail in great
haste just after the storm and earth tremors of 1 March.

Our Auckland correspondent gives the Emma and her crew
an excellent reputation, and Johansen is described as a sober
and worthy man.

The admiralty will institute an inquiry on the whole
matter, beginning tomorrow, at which every effort will be
made to induce Johansen to speak more freely than he has
done hitherto.

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

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

That evening, after a day of hurried cabling and
arranging, I bade my host adieu and took a train for San
Francisco. In less than a month I was in Dunedin: where,
however, I found that little was known of the strange cult-
members who had lingered in the old sea taverns.
Waterfront scum was far too common for special mention;
though there was vague talk about one inland trip these
mongrels had made, during which faint drumming and red
flame were noted on the distant hills.

In Auckland I learned that Johansen had returned with
yellow hair turned white after a perfunctory and inconclusive
questioning at Sydney, and had thereafter sold his cottage
in West Street and sailed with his wife to his old home in
Oslo. Of his stirring experience he would tell his friends no
more than he had told the admiralty officials, and all they
could do was to give me his Oslo address.

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

Shaken with such a mental revolution as I had never
before known, I now resolved to visit Mate Johansen in Oslo.
Sailing for London, I re-embarked at once for the Norwegian
capital; and one autumn day landed at the trim wharves in
the shadow of the Egeberg.

Johansen's address, I discovered, lay in the Old Town of
King Harold Haardrada, which kept alive the name of Oslo
during all the centuries that the greater city masqueraded as
'Christiania.' I made the brief trip by taxicab, and knocked
with palpitant heart at the door of a neat and ancient
building with plastered front. A sad-faced woman in black
answered my summons, and I was stung with disappointment
when she told me in halting English that Gustaf
Johansen was no more.

He had not long survived his return, said his wife, for the
doings at sea in 1925 had broken him. He had told her no
more than he had told the public, but had left a long
manuscript - of 'technical matters' as he said - written in
English, evidently in order to safeguard her from the peril of
casual perusal. During a walk through a narrow lane near
the Gothenburg dock, a bundle of papers falling from an attic
window had knocked him down. Two Lascar sailors at once
helped him to his feet, but before the ambulance could reach
him he was dead. Physicians found no adequate cause for the
end, and laid it to heart trouble and a weakened constitution.

I now felt gnawing at my vitals that dark terror which will
never leave me till I, too, am at rest; 'accidentally' or
otherwise. Persuading the widow that my connection with
her husband's 'technical matters' was sufficient to entitle me
to his manuscript, I bore the document away and began to
read it on the London boat.

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

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

Johansen's voyage had begun just as he told it to the vice-
admiralty. The Emma, in ballast, had cleared Auckland on 20
February, and had felt the full force of that earthquake-born
tempest which must have heaved up from the sea-bottom the
horrors that filled men's dreams. Once more under control,
the ship was making good progress when held up by the Alert
on 22 March, and I could feel the mate's regret as he wrote of
her bombardment and sinking. Of the swarthy cult-fiends on
the Alert he speaks with significant horror. There was some
peculiarly abominable quality about them which made their
destruction seem almost a duty, and Johansen shows ingenuous
wonder at the charge of ruthlessness brought against
his party during the proceedings of the court of inquiry.
Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured yacht
under Johansen's command, the men sight a great stone
pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47º 9', W.
Longitude 126º 43', come upon a coastline of mingled mud,
ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing
less than the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror-
the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh, that was built in
measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome
shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great
Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and
sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts
that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called
imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of
liberation and restoration. All this Johansen did not
suspect, but God knows he soon saw enough!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the
Thing could surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully
up, he resolved on a desperate chance; and, setting the
engine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed
the wheel. There was a mighty eddying and foaming in the
noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher
the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the
pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the
stern of a demon galleon. The awful squid-head with
writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy
yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly.

There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy
nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand
opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler would not put
on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid
and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a
venomous seething astern; where - God in heaven! - the
scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was
nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its
distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus
from its mounting steam.

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

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

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

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

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