The Statement of Paxton Blaine
In 1931 I graduated, with modest honors, from Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, and for some months thereafter, sought gainful employment without success. It was my intention to continue my studies and seek a degree upon the completion of my thesis, which was concerning obscure cult-survivals in certain parts of the East. Very much research remained undone, however, and employment in those Depression years was scarce and seldom remunerative; since I required part-time employment, my search was futile.
At length, however, I noticed an item in the personal columns of the Arkham Advertiser, placed therein by Dr. Enos Harker. He offered a comfortable subsistence and free room and board in his home for a private secretary able to organize his notes and prepare a manuscript for publication. The opportunity seemed nothing less than a godsend, and I applied forthwith.
Dr. Harker had rented a seaside house, barely more than a cottage, on Cairn's Point. Once a fashionable oceanfront resort for the wealthy merchants and older families of the seaport town, the neighborhood was largely deserted by now, and even rather desolate. But the streetcar connected the suburb with the downtown area, and it was not difficult to find my way.
My potential employer was an unusual figure of a man in his late sixties, I assume. Inclined to corpulence, he affected a severe clerical suit of drab black, and even a clerical collar. I soon discovered that he was, or had been (I never quite learned which) a preacher in one of the more obscure of the Pentecostal sects; a missionary, in fact, who had spent many years in India and parts of Burma and Tibet. Portions of his face and hands were curiously swathed in surgical bandages, and he informed me at our first meeting that he suffered from a skin condition similar to scofula or eczema, for which a local physician was treating him. It was this disability that necessitated the hiring of someone to handle the paperwork, for I gathered that it was his hands which were most seriously affected by the disease.
"Blaine, Blaine," he murmured, with a slight, thoughtful frown. "I wonder if you are by any chance a relative of Dr. H. Stephenson Blaine of the Sanbourne Institute of Pacific Antiquities, in Santiago, California?"
"I have that honor," I acknowledged, "for he is my uncle."
"Excellent, excellent!" Dr. Harker made reply, in that oddly hushed, almost whispering voice of his, which made me wonder, a bit squeamishly, if his peculiar affliction had not somehow affected his vocal cords as well as his face and hands. "I have read a monograph or two of his. A scholar of some reputation, I believe."
Our conversation soon terminated. Dr. Harker seemed to be satisfied with my credentials and I was, as I have already stated, happy with the terms of his employment. I was to begin
my work the following Monday. We parted and I returned to my small flat on Parker Street in a mood of considerable elation.
Over the following weekend, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be wise to look up my employer in the various reference works available to the library at Miskatonic, which I did. He had been a graduate of the Byram Theological Seminary in Kingsport with a Doctorate in Theology, had traveled and lectured widely, and, as I have already remarked, spent many years as a missionary in the East. An amateur anthropologist of some note, he had published a number of papers on certain aspects of Asian archaeology and upon certain of the cults of the Far East, which interested me greatly, as my own interests, of course, lay much in that area of study.
Apparently an explorer of some repute, he had penetrated into portions of Inner Asia seen by few white men, and was one of the first to explore the ruined stone city of Alaozar in the Sung region of Burma, and had traveled extensively, it would seem, in the more northern parts of Tibet.
All these things made me certain that we should enjoy a mutually profitable and interesting relationship.
Why, then, did I feel an uneasy qualm that warned me to shun this unusual personage?
A qualm almost to be named with the name of ... fear.
My tasks were simple enough, and did not require extensive labor. Until his progressive disability had robbed my employer of the fullest used of his hands, he had been compiling notes towards a scholarly work of great length and complexity. It became my primary duty to take down by dictation further data as he gave it in his soft, weak voice, and also to journey to the library of Miskatonic University and the Kester Library in nearby Salem for further research.
Many of the books I delved into for this purpose were tomes I had already consulted in the course of preparing my own thesis. I refer to certain volumes such as the Unassprechlichen
Kulten by the German occultist, Von Junzt, the Comte d'Erlette's Cultes des Goules, Von Heller's Black Cults, the original German text of the Unter-Zee Kulten, and the heavily expurgated treatise, Le Culte des Morts. I had also to look into the abhorrent pages of the old Necronomicon of Alhazred for certain references to a singular corpse-eating cult in a place called Leng.
This particular volume is as notorious as it is rare, and its rarity is nigh fabulous. Generally kept under lock and key, my connections among the faculty of the University gave me free
access to the damnable volume, although some of the ravings I glimpsed within its thickly-written pages were to haunt my dream thereafter.
In general, my employer was seeking references to a cult or tribe called the "Tcho-Tcho people," rumoured to linger on in certain of the more inaccessible parts of jungled Burma and in Leng -- wherever Leng was supposed to be, for I could not find it in any atlas. They were believed to worship gods or devils with names like "Zhar" and "Lloigor," but so little about them was known for certain, that many authorities seemed to consider them to be merely legendary.
I was also to search for any and every reference to Leng itself; to a certain Tcho-Tcho lama who veiled his visage behind a mask of yellow silk and dwelt in a "prehistoric" stone monastery; to Inquanok, which seemed to be both a people and a place, the place being adjacent to the plateau of Leng; and to certain sea-divinities or maritime demons with uncouth names like "Cthulhu," "Idh-yaa," "Zoth-Ommog," "Yeb," "Ghatanothoa," "Ubb, Father of Worms," "Ythogtha," and so on.
None of this research was particularly demanding of my time, but it was oddly disturbing. This was not only because my own researches had led me to many of these same sources, but because of certain events in the recent past which were still whispered about by the townspeople, but which had been hurriedly hushed up in the newspapers -- the effect being that no one quite knew whether they were wild fable or contained a germ of horrible truth.
What really happened in the old Tuttle house on Aylesbury Road near the Innsmouth Turnpike, and why was the account published in the local papers so oddly cursory? For what reason did Federal agents dynamite and burn several blocks of decaying waterfront tenements in nearby Innsmouth back in the winter of 1927-1928, and why did a U. S. submarine discharge torpedoes into the underwater chasm off Devil's Reef? And what really happened to Bryant Hoskins in that cabin in the woods to the north of Arkham, that led to his death as a raving madman in the County Sanatorium in March 1929?
Nobody really knew; or, if they knew, they didn't speak of it.
And why was Enos Harker so interested in this obscure, damnably ancient mythology?
Some of the information I extracted from the old, crumbling books excited my employer to a pitch of feverish intensity. For example, I returned from one such trip to the library at Miskatonic, with two quotations which seemed to me to be little more than innocuous, but which kept him up all night, pawing through his sheaves of notations with those bandaged hands of his, muttering under his breath, the visible portions of his features flushed with unhealthy and febrile exultation. For the sake of me, I could not guess why!
The first passage from the Necronomicon read thusly: "It was from fabled Sarkomand the Tcho-Tcho people first came into the Waking World, that time-forgotten city whose ruins bleached for a million years before the first true human saw the light of day; and its twin titan lions guard eternally the steps that lead down from the Dreamland into the Great Abyss, whereover Nodens reigns as Lord, and the Night-Gaunts that serve Him, under dread Yegg-ha, their master."
The second was a fragmentary ritual, apparently quoted from another source, which went thusly: "Aye, was it not written of old in R'lyeh that the Deep Ones await their followers, and we must not fail to be present at the Great Awakening? It is written that all shall arise and join with them, we who carry the Emblem and those who have merely looked upon it. From the ends of the earth cometh the Summons and the Call, and we dare not delay. For in watery R'lyeh Great Cthulhu is stirring. Shub-Niggurath! Yog-Sothoth! Ia![umlaut over "a"] The Goat with a Thousand Young! Are we not all Her children?"
When I delivered these notes to Enos Harker he virtually snatched them from my hand, holding the pages close to his face (for his eyesight had recently grown weakened, perhaps due to the progressive degeneration caused by his disease), and scanned them with fierce intensity.
"Of course!" he mumbled in that weak voice of his. "From Sarkomand they came ... all the way to the Sung plateau, to build their ghastly stone city in the jungles! I should have guessed it from --" but here his voice broke off and he glared at me with wary suspicion, almost as if he thought me spying upon some private thing. Then he went into a screened front room, which faced on the beach, to scan the notes in private.
When I retired, a little past midnight, his light was still burning.
It had by now become quite obvious to me that my employer's health was failing very rapidly, although I still did not understand the nature of his complaint. I knew that a local physician, a Dr. Sprague, had been treating his scrofula -- or whatever it was -- with zinc ointment and with a substance called cortisone, then generally unavailable, as it was still in the experimental stage of being tested and had not yet been released to the general market.
None of the medications seemed to halt the spread of the skin condition. In addition, his features became bloated and puffy, and his person, which had been normally corpulent when I had first begun working with him, soon became grossly obese. He had difficulty in walking at times, and gradually the white bandages spread over his swollen, pasty visage until he was virtually masked with bandages, like an Egyptian mummy. There was also a peculiar smell about him that was singularly repulsive ... a nauseating stench, as of seawater gone foul and rancid, or like the bloated, rotting corpse of some marine creature exposed to the harsh air and the cruel sun.
But perhaps I exaggerate. The cottage stood so close to the empty deserted beach that the salt wind penetrated every part of it, and the reek of the stagnant seawater in the tidal pools and among the gaunt rocks filled my nostrils night and day. Besides, Dr. Harker's weeping wounds and odorous ointments accounted for his unusual smell.
Harker became increasingly dependent upon me for many of the small necessities of everyday life. It was no trouble for me to ride my bicycle into the edge of town and buy groceries, nor to wash the dishes and remove the garbage and handle his bills as already I was handling his correspondence.
This correspondence ranged all over the world, for Enos Harker was continually in touch was certain scholars in places like France, Peru, India, and even China, who had made a special study of the weird old mythology that had become his life's work. This mythology, by the way, had as its central belief the notion that the earth had been visited by strange and demonic intelligences from other worlds and galaxies, and even from beyond the Universe itself, from the very remotest of ages, long before the evolution of humankind. Not being made of matter as we know it, these "Ancient Ones" or "Old Ones," as they are known, were deathless and unaging.
Æons before man, they were pursued to this part of space and time by their former masters, a race known as "the Elder Gods." A titanic conflict ensued, and at its terminus, the
Elder Gods were victorious over the rebels who had been their former servants. Unable to destroy the Old Ones, they imprisoned them with powerful spells -- and, in particular, with a potent talisman called "the Elder Sign" -- and in their charmed imprisonment they, presumably, rage and roar to this latter day, for all the world like the Fenris Wolf and the Midgard Serpent in Norse legends.
They are served, even in their imprisonment, however, by their minions or subject races, few of which are to be considered even remotely human. The devils which mostly concerned Enos Harker were the sea-entities, Cthulhu and Ythogtha and the rest; their minions are called the Deep Ones and the ancient books of this system of superstition describe them shudderingly as huge and bloated things, half froglike, half snakelike, partly squamous and partly rugose, with ghastly protuberant eyes, and gills.
The Tcho-Tcho people, also among his prime interests, are followers of another group of divinities, not sea-elementals at all. They are associated with the "shunned and evil" plateau of Leng, which some texts discuss as though located in "the black heart of Secret Asia," and elsewhere mentioned as near the South Pole. This doubtless makes as little sense to the reader as it did to me at the time.
But there was an uncanny coherence to all of this: on the surface it seemed a mad, chaotic jumble of nightmarish legend, but underneath it all was a basis of something sinister, age-old and time forgotten ... but hideously suggestive.
For who would expect myths centuries, even millennia, old to concern themselves with intelligent creatures from other planets, distant stars, remote galaxies, or weird dimensions beyond the three we know?
Most of the correspondence concerned a particularly rare book called the R'lyeh Text, for which my employer was searching with a furious need that went far beyond mere scholarly or scientific curiosity, and approached the proportions of a fixation.
Copies of this curious old book, while rare, were not unknown; indeed, several redactions (for the book had never been printed and existed only in manuscript copies, furtively circulated between the members of obscure cults) were to be found right here at the Miskatonic. The problem was that, while the R'lyeh Text was written in the letters of the common alphabet, the language itself was no longer known or understood. It apparently consisted of rituals or invocations to the devil-gods of this mythology, which were read or chanted aloud by their worshippers, hence they needed only to pronounce the uncouth verses, but did not really need to understand what they meant.
Few scholars, if any, could read the "R'lyehian" language, and it was for some of those that Enos Harker was so desperately searching ...
I have previously alluded to the strange mystery surrounding the death of Bryant Hoskins, who died in 1929. While the case attracted considerable attention in the public press, the
authorities seemed to have hushed the whole affair up, but it had taken place so very recently, that there were still people about who possessed information concerning what really happened in that secluded cabin in the woods north of Arkham.
By purest chance, one day about six months after I began my employment as the secretary of Enos Harker, a clue to the mystery came to light. A muckraking journalist on one of the less
reputable Boston papers began digging into the case, and turned up a sensational story which most people, I suspect, dismissed out of hand as wild speculation.
But one item emerged from the newspaper story which sent my employer into a frenzy of excitement. Young Hoskins had been employed at the Miskatonic in the capacity of private secretary to the Director of the Library, Dr. Cyrus Llanfer. In July of 1928, the Library had received, as part of the Tuttle Bequest, not only a priceless copy of the R'lyeh Text, but a document in what was believed to be Amos Tuttle's own hand called the R'lyehian Key. The very existence of which went unnoticed for some time, until Bryant Hoskins chanced upon it by accident. It had been found at the end of another manuscript volume, something called the Celaeno Fragments.
It would seem that the late Amos Tuttle had been one of those few scholars on earth who was still able to decypher the mysterious, ancient language in which the R'lyeh Text was written, for his R'lyehian Key was none other than a glossary of the ancient language, together with some speculations on verb-forms and grammatical structure.
Hoskins, who had become fascinated by the mysterious Text, spent the last months of his life translating it into English. The labor had broken his health, both in mind and body, but when he was taken away to die raving in the asylum, the manuscript of his version of the Text was salvaged from the cabin.
According to the reporter's account, the "Hoskins Translation" now reposed in the secret shelves of the Miskatonic University Library.
And thither I went, bright and early, the early next morning.
I was ushered into Dr. Llanfer's office, and he greeted me amicably enough, for we had had dealings over the past few months, during which my employer had sought access to the Necronomicon and other books. While these abhorrent old volumes are strictly forbidden to the general public, they are accessible to qualified scholars of good repute. Indeed the Mediaeval Metaphysics Course students at the Miskatonic often consulted the books.
"So, Blaine," Llanfer began, "you wish, or more correctly Dr. Harker wishes, to borrow the Hoskins Translation from the library?"
I confirmed this.
"I have been observing your line of research for some time now and I must confess that I do not like the direction it is taking. We at the Miskatonic are used to such requests, but the recent attempted thefts at the library, and other matters which I won't go into, have taught us to be cautious with regard to these texts. As you may know, there is only one manuscript copy of Hoskins Translation."
"You have reason to believe that Dr. Harker will mistreat the document?"
Llanfer smiled weakly. He was not talking to an errant student with a book beyond its expairy date, Dr. Harker had a formidable reputation. "You misunderstand me," he said after a pause. "I mean only that I would prefer to keep the manuscript within the University grounds, for safe keeping. If Dr. Harker wishes to peruse it here then I would be amenable."
"But you must be aware that the Doctor is not physically well, and finds mobility difficult?"
"That is a shame," Llanfer lied, "but I would be derelict in my duty to the University not to safeguard its assets."
I sighed, "Would you make a photostat copy, then? Dr. Harker will pay for it."
"I will look into the matter," was Llanfer's noncommittal answer.
It was mid-day when I stepped off the chugging county bus at Cairn's Point. The day was bright and clear, warm, with a cooling sea-breaze washing off the water. I decided to go for a short walk before returning to the close atmosphere of Harker's house. The sand along the beach was fine and yellow-white, soft under foot, and bespecked with shells, sea-weed and driftwood. Nearer the cliffs great spurs of rock rose from the sand like beached leviathans. They glistened with tidal pools and damp fronds of seaweed. I could see well why this had once been a popular resort, and looking towards a row of crumbling white beach-houses, with flaking paint and broken pains, I could imagine why the fun fairs and motion picture palaces had absorbed people's leisure time instead.
I walked along the beach toward Harker's house, with the intention of coming in through the back. I had not often come this way and so I was surprised to see a strange pattern in the sand behind the house, among the dunes. It was a series of curving lines in the sand, evidently man-made, linking several half-buried small grey stones. In the spaces sectioned off by the lines, symbols were drawn, resembling Arabic, or Occult symbols. I stopped to look at one of the stones. It was about the size of a silver dollar, of polished green-grey stone, with some form of symbol scratched or carved into it. I dug it from
its bed of sand and was puzzled to notice that it had five "arms" so that the whole thing formed a kind of star about as wide as my palm. I instantly thought of my reading of the Necronomicon and its mention of star-shaped grey stones called "the stones from Mnar." Who had put them here, and why? Had Harker been making the pattern around the house? I pocketed the stone with the intention of showing it to Harker later and
then went in through the back door.
The moment he heard movement Enos Harker rushed to the kitchen. He grabbed me with dirty, bandaged hands, and shook me slightly with eagerness.
"Now, boy," he said, eyes wide, and beads of sweat standing out of his forehead, "did you get the Text?"
I explained to him my meeting with Dr. Llanfer, but Harker became more agitated as my account progressed.
"You should have got it!" he whispered hoarsely, over and over. Then he added, "I haven't got long now. They've almost finished fattening me up!" And he gave an insane wheezing laugh.
He didn't answer, so I continued with the narrative until I reached the subject of the photostat. Harker perked up at the word.
"Yes, yes, I'll pay for it!" he croaked.
"It is done!" I added, and like a conjurer pulled a stapled manuscript from my coat. He grabbed the photostat copy of the Hoskins Translation and rushed to the study, with a strange rolling gait. Holding the manuscript close to his myopic eyes he began to scan each line, hurriedly, occasionally pausing to return to a word or phrase, then carrying on, flipping over page after page with growing agitation.
"I shouldn't have moved the stones, but I didn't let them go," he mumbled as he flicked pages. "You would think they would let a man off for a simple mistake. I wouldn't have done it if I had known. But no, they can't forgive anyone. Sometimes I wonder --"
He fell silent for a moment.
"But I'll cheat them yet," he said, with remarkable force. "The book is my last chance -- the ritual of warding is here somewhere. How do you think the Tcho-Tcho priests avoided their
wrath when they turned to worship of the Old Ones? But I couldn't locate it without the Key! You've got to understand what the book says in order to find the right ritual. But now ..."
I sat nearby as the day wore on. Occassionally he would ask me to fetch a book from the shelf, then I would watch as he cross-referenced some portion of the manuscript. The sun was just beginning to set when Enos Harker turned the last page, he flicked back through the manuscript in constination, as if he might have missed what he was looking for in the rush.
"It's not there!" he moaned, letting the manuscript slip from his fingers. "It's not there! Damn Hoskins for a weakling! Damn him! He didn't finish the translation -- he didn't reach the
ritual I need!"
He sank back into a seat and clamped his bandaged hands over his face. I sat down in silence and waited knowing, and half fearing, that there would be more. The patch of red, dusk light from the windows crept a few inches across the floor before Harker spoke again.
"Tomorrow you must get the Key and copies of the last hundred pages from the R'lyeh Text. The ritual has to be in those last pages. We will make a translation ourselves -- we must!"
All but this last had been spoken in a flat whisper, the pitch rose sharply at the end, and I felt pity for the man deprived of his goal by a fluke of Fate. We sat again in silence for a while, whilst Enos Harker regained his composure.
"You must think I am mad," he said wearily, "but if you knew you would understand that I am not."
"Then why do you not tell me?" I asked reasonably. He paused for a moment weighing up my request.
"I have not told you before because I feared that I might involve you, in some way, in my own ghastly fate. But I see now that you are already involved and that I cannot make matters worse by telling you the whole story. It should not touch you. You have done nothing wrong. My mistake was one of ignorance.
"When I was younger I traveled widely in the East. I worked as a missionary in some of the most remote spots in the world. In some I was the first white man to be seen by the natives. In others I was but the latest in a long line. I had a keen interest in theologies, and became aware of the existance of a secret religion underlying many primitive religions. But it is in Burma in 1926 when my story effectively starts.
"I had a mission in the Sung district of Burma, although not, I hasten to add, on the plateau itself. I am told that there is a plateau on which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his Lost World. I would not be have been surprised to learn that it was the Sung Plateau. A nasty place, even the valley natives would not go near it. I had been settled there for some months when the Hawks Expedition passed through, intent on conquering the plateau. Later that day I was summoned by a villager. Half way up through the foothills I came upon the site of a ghastly massacre. The whole Hawks Expedition had been savagely cut to pieces. Some of the bodies had pieces missing. I did what I could, and we buried them. The villagers muttered darkly for days. Then we heard the explosion from the plateau. I endeavoured to go and look. None of the natives would come with me, they feared that the explosions were the stirrings of Zhar. You know the name from your readings, and that will tell you something about why the place is shunned. According to the natives Zhar slept beneath the Lake of Dread on the plateau. But it is was not this myth alone which caused the region to be shunned. A tribe of brutish savages lived there. Legend held that they were born from the Seeds of Zhar, but whatever the truth, this tribe was brutal and merciless. In the region they are called 'Tcho-Tcho' -- the destructive sorcerers. Yes, they are the same creatures referred to in the Necronomicon, and they appear in the R'lyeh Text also, and other books. They were almost certainly the slayers of the Hawks Expedition. They may even be the 'corpse-eating cult' alluded to in the Necronomicon.
"Anyway, eventually I managed to climb to the top. There was a depression there, like a giant dried-up moat and on a raised central area was Alaozar -- a great stone city or, rather, the ruins of one. I explored the city and as I did so I was curious to notice that scattered about on the ground were thousands of star-shaped stones. So I picked a few of them up. There were thousands of them, they wouldn't miss a dozen or so. I thought they might have been a type of currency, but they were too cumbersome -- then a symbol of citizenship? You will have guessed what they were -- the star-stones of the Elder Gods. That was my mistake -- I did not know that they had been placed there to keep Zhar from waking. But something knew I had moved them. They must have some kind of warning device, I don't know what, but something. 'Up from Sarkomand' the book says, 'the Tcho-Tcho people came from the Great Abyss!' Were they there to worship Zhar or to guard him from people like myself? And why did they not remove the star-stones, isn't that what the Necrononicon says the servants of the Great Old Ones are supposed to do? I cannot say. Maybe they became decadent over the years and started to worship their prisoner? Who can say? I didn't find a single living soul in Alaozar, just the smell of corruption and strange fleshy masses scattered around. The Tcho-Tcho of Sung were extinct.
"When I got back to the valley tribe and showed them the star-stones they shunned me -- demanded that I take them back -- said it was bad medicine. Finally they ran me out of the
"At first I traveled the Far East, giving the matter little thought, save to find out more about these ancient survivals. Three months later my disease started to manifest itself. Soon after I identified the stones and realised what I had done. I went to Tibet to seek the Veiled Lama and see if he knew how I could lift this curse. But the Tibetan plateau has its own secrets. I was a hunted man the moment I set foot there, and only just fled with my life.
"I returned to the States in 1927. Knowing of the Miskatonic's reputation I settled in Arkham hoping the ancient writers could give me the information which no living man knew. I think I prolonged things by moving around so much: they couldn't keep a track on me, but once I settled in one place their agents surrounded me. I am a prisoner here. I would take the stars back, but I'm old and ill and the journey would kill me, believe me. They won't let me get away with moving the stones -- they are not kind gods. You can't be kind and confront the Great Old Ones and defeat them at their own game. They were ancient when the universe was young, what do the Elder Gods know of compassion! That is why I am cursed and why they will kill me soon. For five years I have been wasting away, and that was only them playing with me. See what they've done to me!'
At this Enos Harker peeled opened his shirt and peeled away his bandages. Most of his skin came away with the bandages, stuck there by scabby pus, the raw flesh of his belly which was revealed was bloated, greasy with pustulent, weeping sores and stinking of decay. My feelings were a mixture of disgust and compassion. To have lived for years while you rotted away from the inside was a horrible thought.
"I know my final doom is near." Harker said, buttoning up his shirt. "I can feel them! Maybe it will not come tonight. The pattern might keep it away."
"Good god!" I shouted, leaping up from my seat. "I forgot about the pattern! Then it is your doing?"
"Yes, it is a warding. It will not stop them, but it will keep them at bay for a while. Until I find that formula."
"But I have one of the stones!"
Enos Harker's dim, watery eyes widened horribly at my words. With a pitiful yell he lumbered for the window. He looked out at the darkness for a moment, then turned on me. "They're coming! My God, give me the stone -- they're coming!"
I put my hand in my pocket to retrieve the star-stone. There was a noise, like the crash of thunder, drowning out the Doctor's next words, and the house started to shake. I was knocked off balance and fell to the floor. When I looked up I could barely believe my eyes.
The room was filled by something. I cannot quite say what it was, but it was most like strange forks of lightning flashing about, or the flashes of color one sees when one closes one's eyes, or the scratches that occasionally dance about on a motion picture. These shapes were something like that, but they were real -- three dimensional -- in the room with us. Harker stood in the middle of the room, waving his hands about as if trying to "shoo" them away, muttering in his hoarse whisper. The shapes plucked at his clothing, pulled at his sagging flesh. And -- for a ghastly moment -- I thought I saw grinning faces form in the red lightning streaks.
Convinced that the vengeance of the Elder Gods was upon him Harker dashed out of the room. I clambered to my feet. I found that I was still holding the star-stone in my hand. The shapes were still in the room, dancing gleefully about in convoluted circles, spearing out fingers of flame which touched at the papers. I held the star-stone above my head and ran for the door. The shapes shifted away, as if blown on the the air disturbed by my passing. But I sensed that they were following and looking round I found that we were not yet safe. The shapes glided effortlessly through the walls, arching and dividing, rejoining, as they rolled after us.
Out on the beach Harker was scrabbling in the sand, gathering up the star-stones from the magic pattern I had ruined. Storm clouds darkened the sky leaving only one patch of stars -- Orion.
"I can still hold them off," he was screeching to himself, "if I can make a new web."
I paused on the threshold of the beach-house as the red shapes glided past me. The sand of the pattern started to rise up off the beach, and encircle Harker, while he shuffled the star-stones with some mad purpose. The sand swirled about him, joining the dance of the red shapes. Perhaps they were dancing, or perhaps they were fighting, how could I judge. Again Harker was on his feet, fighting his way through the waves of sand, shouting, "No!"
He headed for the sea, as if he could swim from them, or be protected by submerging himself, and I thought of his interest in the sea-elementals, the Deep Ones. But as his feet touched the surf, the lightning struck out as the water and the sea boiled. They caught him -- those shapes -- lifted him shaking into the air, ripping away his cloths and his skin, leaving a mangled red figure, screaming that he was on fire. Then abruptly it stopped, the thing which had been Enos Harker fell, splashing into the sea and was lost to sight. The shapes vanished at the same instant, the sand fell with a sigh back onto the earth, and the sea quieted to a slight whisper. An eerie silence descended over the night, and the stars appeared through the clouds.
I think I know now why Alhazred says that the Elder Gods came to earth in the form of "Towers of Flame." They are not merciful gods and it is well that mankind knows little of them.
When it was all over I ran to fetch Dr. Sprague, and after fruitlessly hunting for Harker's body we summoned the police. I felt it prudent to tell everyone that Harker, clearly in a state of mental unbalance, had gone swimming shortly before that freak storm struck. Doctor Sprague confirmed his mental and physical abnormality and others confirmed the storm.
Four days later they found the waterlogged remains of Enos Harker floating on the tide. It must, the coroner said, have been washed continuously against the rocks, for its flesh had been almost completely scraped from the bone. I was happy to let them think this. It prevented a lot of awkward questions. But just recently I thought I had better make a true record of events -- just in case.
That night has been on my mind ever since I started to lose my voice. Dr. Sprague has suggested that Harker's illness might have been contagious at the end, but I know the truth. I shouldn't have used the star-stone to ward them off, it was a mistake. If I knew how many stones Enos Harker had taken I might be able to take them back. I walked into the surf where Enos died and recovered eight star-stones, but that won't be enough for them to let me go. As for the chant in the R'lyeh Text, I have yet to find it.
I thought I had better write the account of Enos Harker's strange doom down on paper ... before I lose the use of my hands, too.
Created: August 11, 1997; Updated: August 9, 2004